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Two Poems by Carol Poster

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Sheltering in Place

The desert wind outside my window howls.
Tree branches, desiccated by the rainless winter,
toss and rustle with eerily sibilant sounds.
The wind itself moans as it angles up the wash,
tenor crescendo diminishing to hollow baritone,
with crickets performing a monotonous percussion
in the background.
The wind shifts, striking my house head on.
The screen rattles against the sliding glass door.
I am fragile and alone.

Game Night

My friend’s parrot talks,
or at least whistles and squawks
over voice chat as our team kills
orcs, demons and even evil gods.
The video game over, my friend
drapes a towel over the cage
to calm the parrot to sleep.
I lie in bed, restless with the full moon
casting a stark white light into my room.
I draw a blanket over my head,
and with my eyes shaded
like the caged bird, sleep.

Carol Poster is the author of three chapbooks of poetry, most recently Returning to Dust (Finishing Line Press 2017), and verse translations from Latin, Classical Greek, and French.  She has also published three books of commercial nonfiction and currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where she works as a freelance writer and photographer. Her books can be found at: https://www.amazon.com/Carol-Poster/e/B001JRUYTA




Image by Sue in az – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2397970

Five Prose Poems by Laura Costas

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Ariadne Awakens

  She smoothed the creases in the bright blue sky, and when he arrived, there was barely time to clear the space between them of ash, coffee grounds, today’s paper, and flammable liquids scented of anise, of orange.
  Her dune, his dromedary; their islands with violet horizons. He carved her initials in a cloud.

Instrument

  There was lightning in the night, and this morning, pitching horses are in the branches of trees. Fragrance bursts from their wild-eyed blooms, and sound is shaking their semilunar leaves. In the sky, the sun is wrestling blanketing clouds. Either way, warmth awaits around the corner.
  Love is original, ours, or it’s a tool, lost.

Vine

  A snail stands motionless in the kitchen. She, a finite spiral of delicate, edible flesh with pleasure at the center, suggests but does not speak of egg and bone. There are birds imprisoned in the cupboard; weather fossilizes over the stove. In another room, named grains of sand flow past a narrow opening and back again. How long before the furling leaves trail slowly into the doorway and carry the plaster shadow into the light?

Spacecraft
for SM

  A doe the color of iron steps out of the dripping woods to place a finely wrought foot on the desert pavement of your sidewalk. You may offer your hand, but in it she will place a question that you can’t answer, try as you might.
  It’s a start. You pass an evening beginning at dusk amid smoke and conversation, effortless, ephemeral, yours, until, alert to the near-earth passing of an asteroid, she lifts her tail and sails.
  The hum of the Sun, who spent his entirety last night but is fully back again this morning—how does he do that?—will carry you on. Apply to Neptune for tears.

Lepidoptera

   On a pin, in a box, in a drawer, in a cabinet, in a dusty annex, there it is, your smile, the one upturned on both sides in symmetrical pleasure.
  A long-ago clerk handsomely quilled its number, 34, or 558, or whatever, and here today it sits, a lonely representative of its continent of gone-tomorrow wonders. Immortality is a lot to ask of a couple of square inches of pretty iridescence.
  If we gave our specimen a sky and a sun again, would it lift from its disenchanted inventory and join all its fellow wings who light momentarily on puddles and brilliant, perfect things and then are never seen again?
  What are you saving it for? Let us try.

DC native Laura Costas wonders if she is an artist often overtaken by words or a writer whose poems intermittently become pictures. She has won grants from the DC Commission on the Arts and the Montgomery County, MD Arts Commission, and an award from the American Institute of Graphic Arts. She is the author and designer of two books, Honest Stories published by DC’s Gut Punch Press, and the autonomously produced Fabulae, Tales for an Age of Ambivalence. These poems are from a forthcoming collection, Ariadne Awakens, Instructions for the Labyrinth.


Artwork by Laura Costas.

Three Poems by Bernardine Watson

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ANNIE

I. Lament for Annie

The pink door on Locust street
sits slightly ajar.
Once grand,
now suffering at the hands of too many strangers
who have no idea where they are going.

The vine covered church across the way
still casts an afternoon shadow on the sidewalk
as if nothing has changed,
yet twenty years and you are gone.

Am I the only one who knows
that there has been a disappearance?
A vanishing?
Am I the only one who remembers
what was behind the pink door:

Two rooms on the third floor
filled with the secrets and dreams
of a fragile black girl.
A girl with a distant smile
that never seemed anchored
in anything I could truly understand.
A soul longing to exist in some other place.

There are days when I take Locust street
just to stand in the church courtyard across the way,
searching for a time
that has fallen through the looking glass.
Watching as people walk through my memories of you
carrying away chips of pink paint
on the bottom of their shoes.

Oh Annie,
that door is always open
waiting
for
you.

II. Annie Speaks

Pink is no color for a door
that must withstand
the harshest elements,
the unseeing eye, the unfeeling hand.
How well I know this frailty,
having always craved the rarest tenderness,
the unattainable heart.

Imagine the pale, pale rose
near translucent with innocence,
too delicate for touch.

Have twenty years flown by so wingedly?
Here within the shadow of this hallowed place
time is nothingness. I am everywhere.
My secrets ride aside the wind.
My dreams ascend the vines toward
heaven.
Come. Walk with me across the courtyard
and know that I am home.

Please: A Soulful Sonnet

Do not swear you love me so unquenchably,
with verses blooming sweet and blooms as rare as truth.
So rare is truth, dear sir. I fear you do not love me as you swear!
For this, I dare not hold your tender gifts
too close to head or heart,
Or lay too long inside your outstretched arms.

What is this love to you, I ask?
Four letters? An ancient hieroglyph of spheres
and lines to tie and bind my mind, my very soul?
A bid to own my woman-ness,
that deep and cavernous mystery
in me that riles your rest and haunts you so?

I do not know. But I watch your favor turn to dust,
your fervor cool to almost nothingness when I am most myself.
So rare is truth.

THE DANCE 

Must I forever dance the bewildering labyrinth, 

wandering circles

ever widening   

searching for the starry heart? 

Sometimes I ride the dizzying pilgrimage to mecca, 

ascending sound and the shifting light. 

Sometimes the vortex sings my name, 

and I wonder if I must answer. 

Just yesterday, the vortex beckoned,  

swing low swing low— 

sowing my name 

into the roiling tempest.  

I sit at the brink of a reckless world, 

listening for the sound of circles widening,  

waiting for the labyrinth to flower   

within. 

Prior to taking a serious interest in poetry, Bernardine (Dine) Watson worked as a social policy writer for major foundations, nonprofits, and media organizations. She has written for The Washington Post, The Ford Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation and Stoneleigh Foundation. Dine’s poetry has been published in the Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Indian River Review, by Darkhouse Books, and by the Painted Bride Art Center.  She was a member of 2015-16 class of The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ the Poet in Progress Program, and the 2017 and 2018 classes of the Hurston Wright Foundation’s Summer Writers Week. Dine serves on DC’s Ward 4 Arts and Humanities Committee and on the selection committee for the Takoma Park Third Thursday poetry reading series. She’s read her poetry in venues throughout the DC metropolitan area with More Than A Drum Percussion Ensemble. Dine is a current member of DC Women Writers of Color.


Image by By I, Wildfeuer, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7671573

Two Poems by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

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Man Stands Outside the World

Perched not so high,
in squatty crouched gargoyle
position.

Man stands outside the world
and I am that man.

Rubbing a morning’s dew
from gushing gold
fingers.

A lone angled walking stick
rock-leaned out of its last thousand years.

Storm heavy over valley green.
My whisper, hideous rumour…
Clouds of ambitious breath
can’t help but leave.

The Bridge of Your Nose is Worth Crossing

The internet is said to house trolls.
With ugly weeping warts and their own URLs,
whatever those are.

I much prefer incarceration.
The way they replace the name I always forget
with a number I can’t remember.

That dumb steel clank of the bars dancing together.
Guilty in absentia.

Kafka is my favourite prisoner
because he confesses nothing to everyone.

You find that you keep reading,
offering outs to the author who never
takes them.

The bridge of your nose is worth crossing.
Traffic on either side and a half dozen Rubicons.

It’s pine needle gin and race records.
Derailment east of the Rockies.

That selfish clingy way she cries into your shoulder
as though her sadness will be there forever.

A single flicker of candlelight.
Tiny bags of almonds handed out
along the flightpath.

An army of mousetraps in the dark,
so you have to be careful.

On your way to the bathroom
and damn near anywhere else worth
travelling to.

Without a valid passport.
That open ocean way I step into the shower
and take on water.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Bourgeon, TheSongIs.., Cultural Weekly, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.


Image: DXR / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Build a Brother by Elizabeth Ashe

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Dear Brother,

I have not seen you in fifteen years.
I’m not sure how to miss you.
At first it was easy,
plug in your Super Nintendo
and sit down with a book –
our mutual way of hiding.
Lately it has been accidental,
like when our nephew Sean
played with your Legos.
You always made space ships,
I always made houses.
Sean has never heard your voice,
and I don’t know if he ever will.

I pulled you white plastic megaphone
out from a box, my last visit home;
hung it on a hook in the basement.
The metal lip amplified your voice,
reaching further than your arm.
Your voice became grit, pushed against the hallways.
Nothing worked to tame you,
not hearing the version I remembered –
Mom left Dad with both of us.
I remember the loaded station wagon.
You said you believed me, Mom fought for you.
I knew you did not want to live with Dad.
The dry echo of your voice lasted a year.

Pool Table

I.
I couldn’t reach the felt top
without jumping.
Yet, we tried to play,
one sticky sweet swelter
of an afternoon in Ramona.
He missed the pocket
and the ball hit me.
Instead of crying for Dad,
I picked one up and threw it at him.
It was payback;
I threw it wrong,
or he moved
and it made contact with his jaw.
His cries opened up the sky
and everyone was there.
Never, never throw something
heavy at your brother.
It could kill him.
It doesn’t matter that he started it,
or why. You’re older.
It’s only a ball.
You knew it would hurt.

II.
Mom took us to Woodfire Pizza
for Wednesday Dinner Nights.
It was more adult than Chuck E. Cheese,
full of arcade games, pool tables,
and she could get a beer.
I’m tall enough to reach the table now,
to manipulate or fail at the physics of cue
and trajectory, run a table for hours.
At least, for an hour.
Mom taught us how,
but only until the pizza arrives at our table,
too hot to eat.
We poke at it with soda straws
to cool it down, until she sends us off
on our own with a roll of quarters.
When we grew tired of pool,
I used a few coins for the bouncy ball machine.
He bought jawbreakers.

Hello

I didn’t say Hello.
I saw you today. Little brother, that scar
under your eyebrow has stretched
beyond its eight stitches.
You were seven when the hammock
flipped you onto the rock porch,
because Dad said the eighth stitch
was one knot to grow on, like candles.

It was Dad who I had to grow away from,
not you. As kids, you and I were different.
I read, could always out-run you,
raised rabbits and was shy with everyone.
You picked fights, got detention,
ran pigeon-toed and played Nintendo.
The last I heard, you asked a real estate agent
for help and she found Mom.

The agent you asked for help, found Mom,
who flew down to Palm Springs to get you.
It didn’t work. It never worked
and here I am at twenty-six, in the computer
section of Best Buy. You are ten yards away,
amidst customers on the hunt for deals.
I might as well be someone you have never met.
You haven’t seen me.

You haven’t seen me wait for your attention.
I messed up what I planned to say, the lie —
My photography needs a computer upgrade.
What do you have?
You probably thought I was tired or had a crush.
Your name tag doesn’t lie when I insisted I knew you;
I am your sister.

I’m your sister. You shook my hand,
something Dad would have you do.
Your shoulders slope too much for your height.
I said I was in town for Grandpa, was in the store
on the way to the border to take pictures in Tijuana.
You told me to stay put, we’d go for pizza and a beer.
You vanished into the storeroom and didn’t come back.
I didn’t say Hello.

Build a Brother

I have photographs of you,
but they are not real.
They have no breath; they are static
and posed in a sweater, a plastic fern smile.

What I know,
is a watercolor and crayon drawing
you made when you were ten.
When all the shit was reigning
and nothing helped.
After I kept you from jumping off the balcony.

Your neck is too long.
Your teacher or therapist said it is a symbol
for feeling out of body, out of control
and yet, constrained.

The portrait is you
with a buzz cut, cat ears, tears,
my blonde braids, a soccer ball,
Nintendo gamer keys
and a storm cracked sky.

It is almost
a momento mori
in a white wooden frame,
hung in mother’s office these 24 years.

Another Decade

Dear Brother,
It has been another decade.
Now you’re 36 and I have 40 in my sights.

I have hopes for you,
the kind a sister still has
for her kid brother,

hopes that formed as I tried
and failed to teach you to read.
Hopes that I cried away at 12.

There has not been a word, a like, a text,
since I went to see you at Best Buy.
When grandpa was still alive.

Mom has written you out of her will.
Not out of malice, or need to disavowal but because
she knows the odds are against her

to see you again. Odds against
us all reconnecting. Unless Dad dies.
And yet, she knows I’d do right by you.

So many years of her life went
into fighting to keep you. The last ten,
to build peace and security back into her life.

Elizabeth Ashe is a sculptor and poet, who earned her MFA from the Mount Royal School of Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and an MFA in creative writing from Chatham University. Her public art projects have been on view at the Bemidji Sculpture Walk, Sukkahwood Festival, Art All Night DC, and the H St Festival. Ashe’s poetry has appeared in Yellow Medicine Review, the Lavender Review, Vagabondage, and Badlands Literary Journal, among many others. Her work is included in Studio Visit Magazine, issue 46. Ashe lives in Washington, D.C., where she has an active studio practice. She is the Gallery Manager for DC Arts Center, and Exhibit and Event Technician at the Katzen Center, American University.

Image: Elbow Mountain by Elizabeth Ashe. Used by permission.