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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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