Home Blog

When Her Boyfriend Leaves by Steven Standage

When Her Boyfriend Leaves

the dense wooden door slams shut with only a few
centimeters of clearance from the cold tile floor,
forcing a gust of frigid air into the dimly lit residence

the moonlight creeps in;
painting blueish outlines, creating audaciously
amoebic shapes, encouraging our flippant behaviors

next to a deeply sunken window,
her spider-like fingers scan through the
stack of films for the one I let her borrow

a mechanical tray presents itself
and the disc disappears

the DVD player skips and my stupid heart follows,
suit, my suit is off in minutes;
have to undress for the part

the movie plays,
our play unfolds,
we interact so smoothly

we ignore the truth,
the truth be told,
we never watch the movie

hours later and daylight peaks
into an abode with much reverence
for a lover that isn’t me
lush bohemian curtains twist sunbeams
into an opaline kaleidoscope that
paints her gentle fingers with a shimmering hue

through its subtle doorsill spacing, the mahogany
threshold funnels a crisp spring breeze
into the iridescent glow of the bungalow

Sweet Home Alabama sits in the ejected disc tray,
waiting to go back home

the DVD logo searches for the corners of the screen
and while I lay awake and root for it to find it’s space
my mind searches for ways that we can possibly fit together

Steven Sandage is a poet based in Visalia, California. He began writing poetry in his early teens. Poetry allowed him the freedom to express himself without limits. He is majoring in Creative Writing at Fresno State University. His projected graduation year is 2024.

Image: User:Wanted, User:Ochro, CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Three Poems by Suzanne Frischkorn

So Much was Possible Then—
                     (after Ana Castillo)

before we had to take our shoes
    off to board a plane.
We overstayed, and were eyed
by a black cat across the street.
In two years—
In the shadows—
In the morning—
As the bus pulls out of the depot
    I see you again.
You, the ocean.
You, a secret.
    An old sage.
Like the scent of gardenia
beyond a wooden gate.
    It was that plain.


Overnight our neighbor’s beech tree
       swaps green for gold.

In this forest the first leaves
       spin to earth.

Leaves drop in flocks.
       Leaves drop like choreography.

Consider the forest
       who finds all this mundane.

The trees wonder at my
       wonder. Like Thoreau alone

in the distant woods I come
       to myself. Sacred, this green

corridor I rush to return to,
      I hesitate to leave.

           (after Charles Simic)

White moths
on the forsythia buds
they smother spring
mistake it for porch light

Suzanne Frischkorn’s fourth book of poems, Whipsaw, is forthcoming in 2024 from Anhinga Press. Her most recent book, Fixed Star, (JackLeg Press 2022) is a finalist for the 2022 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award. She is the recipient of The Writer’s Center Emerging Writers Fellowship for her book, Lit Windowpane, the Aldrich Poetry Award for her chapbook, Spring Tide, selected by Mary Oliver, an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, and a 2023 SWWIM Residency Award at The Betsy. Her writing is forthcoming in Latino Poetry: A New Anthology, edited by Rigoberto González (Library of America 2024) and A Mollusk Without a Shell: Essays on Self-Care for Writers (University of Akron Press 2024). She is an editor at $ – Poetry Is Currency, and serves on the Terrain.org editorial board.

Image: Eclipse Shadows by பரிதிமதி licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Four Poems by Mary Ann Larkin

Found Poem in Christmas Letter
From a Former Blond Bombshell

Our abilities shrink daily.
Dave is on his walker.
I am on oxygen.
We are often cranky.


I saw my golden-haired son
leap in a green meadow
and I wrote it down, how he leapt,
scribbled it in a book’s margin.
Later, I sat alone
in a field of goldenrod
and wrote that down too.
And when I went back to my life,
I told Barbara: “I think I wrote a poem.”
I read it to her—pages and pages
to my patient beautiful friend—
dead now for decades.
“Why,” she said, “it’s a hymn to goldenrod.”

I still see her grace, her gravity, her carefulness
as she listened, and, now, I play it all back:
the goldenrod and the listening,
Barbara’s blue eyes, her chin in her hand.
But even today, I can find no words
for that listening.
I need a metaphor,
the way everything sacred does
for what’s unsayable and rare,
for what floats just above speech,
for what lasts: hard and unearned.

Taking Adam to Visit Colleges

At first the Baby: His curls
his petulant lip
his lost pacifiers
his multitudinous desires
his vociferous determination.
He’s off his knees.
He’s on his feet.
He speaks: No, he says, No.
Slobber dribbles down his chin.
College beckons.

Now, the Mother: Her outstretched arms,
her patient brow. Kindness
brimming over, determined
not to swat him, exhausted
by her love, by his allergies,
his lost sweatshirt,
his 6’ 5” tantrums.
He was adorable once,
pink-cheeked and happy, she fantasizes.
She prays he’ll hide his cell phone,
make eye contact.
“I’m tired of this shit,” he bellows.
“My calculus is due Monday.
I’ve lost my book. My head hurts.
I’m going to work at Taco Bell.”

At last, the interviewer,
weary, desperate for a surprise:
The man-child tells him,
“I fell madly in love
with Chopin’s Etude, Opus, #44
the first time I heard it.”
“I don’t just want to study chemistry,”
the boy instructs, “I want
to make something new.”
The man, leaning back in his chair now,
nods, smiles: “Tell me,” he says.

Afterwards: The mother breathes.
The man-child speaks: “That guy
wasn’t too stupid. I’m hungry.”

What Gary Says

“I ain’t never been out of the country, Miss Mary,
and I’m 23 years old. I don’t want to go
to Jamaica or the Bahamas. Everyone
does that. I want to go to China. I want
to walk down the street in that strange country,
where I don’t know no one and no one knows me.
I want to feel myself, on my own,
to look at the strange letters
and not care what they mean. After that,
I can come home and be me. What do you think,
Miss Mary? Tell me, am I crazy to want to go
to China? Tell me?”

One wish may hide another, that picture
flashing on and off in your brain,
just when you think you know who you are,
that picture of your mother, doing it for pay
in your bed, the picture of your father forgetting
you, in a rented room, no school, no food,
no father. And if you could reach
the end of all wishes, would you find China?
A wish that’s cool and strange and welcome.
For surely, one can get to China and be free there,
the China of no past and no future.
The China where all of it never happened.

Mary Ann Larkin is the author of That Deep and Steady Hum (Broadkill River Press) and six poetry chapbooks. Her work has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, New Letters and numerous other journals and anthologies. She co-founded the Big Mama Poetry Troupe, based in Cleveland in the 1970s, which performed from Chicago to New York City. She attended Yaddo and the Jentel Foundation. A co-founder of Pond Road Press with her husband, Patric Pepper, they published Jack Gilbert’s Tough Heaven: Poems of Pittsburgh in 2006.

Image: Enyavar, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Two Poems by Lori Rottenberg

An Introduction

I was born from the undertow of empire,
tides of death that surge and recede.

I was born in a tent made of papers,
in countries with borders like sand castles.

What are you? my friends would ask.
I am PolishRussianGermanHungarianAustrian.

All my ancestors spoke Yiddish
and survival.

Some of the Ways I Might Not Have Been Born

A visa left on a polished bureau. No warning
from a stranger. A new American not papering
Berlin-born children as citizens. A secret
hole in a Belarussian chimney unbuilt
for Cossacks to overlook. The Bronx
couch of an aunt already here taken.
A small girl who wouldn’t cross the ocean.
A mother who was not blind
before she lost her sight.
An unsteady teen who said no
to a ghost.

A visa. A warning.
A stamped paper.
A chimney.
A couch.
A boat.

A choice.

Lori Rottenberg is a writer who lives in Arlington, Virginia. She has published poetry in many journals and anthologies, most recently in Minyan, Open: A Journal of Arts and Letters, The Jewish Writing Project, and Artemis. One of her poems was picked for the 2021 Arlington Moving Words competition to appear on county buses, and she served as a visiting poet in the Arlington Public Schools Pick-a-Poet program for over a decade. She is currently a Senior Instructor at George Mason University, where she teaches writing to international students and poetry to students in the Honors College. She is in her third year of studies at the George Mason University MFA Poetry program. Please see her website at lrottenberg.weebly.com for more information about her work.

Image: Normadic at English Wikipedia, User:Quistnix, बिजय पोख्रेल, and the PRC Government (as indicated in the file for the PRC passport), CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Verbal Escalation by James Lane

Verbal Escalation

Slowly, but surely I’ve been establishing
residency in your bedroom. I took out that
vacancy sign months ago. The services I’ve
received here are some of the best I’ve ever had.
I left a positive review in my phone’s notes

When we woke up in the morning I made you
late for work, but I did make you breakfast.
We listened to The Daily as per usual. This
guilty pleasure thing has become more than just
a thing. It’s been growing and I still am
puzzled by what we are.

I could narrate your life
Mesmerized by the routine
It’s simplified, but I crave it in mine
and when we finally go to bed
It’s 4am and the conversation is just ending

I start thinking, I can’t read your mind, but I can try.
Tapping into your psyche
Give me the rush that I need
Feed the verbal escalation to me
Now I need to know
Did I make the cut and did I make the team?

James Richard Lane, originally from Baltimore, MD, but has since lived in Denver, Philly, and NYC. James is a musician currently active in solo project Pelvis Presley and duo The Shaky Experience (Band). He’s a podcaster of the show The Shaky Experience (podcast) where he has interviewed Grammy award winners, Late Night talk show guests, as well as other notable creatives. He previously led a community currency called The BNote accepted at 250+ small businesses in Baltimore and currently is a board member with LetsBMore the Baltimore Timebank. He founded and curated Staycation Compilation, a series that donates 100% of its proceeds to public schools music programming. He previously hosted monthly music showcases in a travelers hostel featuring local and touring artists to perform in front of travelers visiting Baltimore. Fun facts: winner on The Price Is Right, been to all 50 states by 30, vegetarian since 2006, has had interviews featured in NME and Consequence Of Sound. IG: @JamesRichardLane TW: @JamesLanee 

Image: Santiago Rusiñol Romantic_Novel-Google_Art_Project