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Two Poems by CL Bledsoe


after a song by Tool

If I can’t cry for you, how can I cry
for myself? Someday, they’ll find you,
lightning burned tongue, wings long pawned,
liver eaten by vultures, a ring of ashes around
your head. I haven’t passed more than a few
hours without your name on my lips. So much
is left to say. The cars never stop coming.
The crows argue in my chimney. No one
could hurt me so well if they didn’t love me.
The hours have to be filled somehow.
When I put her to bed, my daughter will say,
I love you. I’ll miss you. Goodnight. Does anyone
miss you? Stumbling into the night. So cruel,
you should wear sunglasses so no one
can see your eyes. Every day and forever.
I love you. I’ll miss you. Goodbye.

You’re Tougher Than a Bump of Raw Medicine
from a line by De La Soul

A ghost whose tie will never lie right.
A ghost with see-through teeth hoping to impress.
I’m trying to master the secret language
that only we speak, the language
of our bodies. You are a beautiful dream
I never want to wake from.

Four hours pass between glances.
Four hours pass and I can’t step away
from your voice. I need it like caffeine
in the morning, like the plans that keep
me hoping: this time. Let me soak in the warmth
from your smile and never know fear again.

Baby, you’re like the sunset after a hard
day, let me hold your face in my hands
until I grow solid. Let’s load up my battered
car, travel the country solving crimes. Let’s
climb the mountain of everything that’s fallen
away to lead us to these days. Let’s be happy,
baby we deserve it. It’s so close, I can see
it in your eyes.

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than thirty books, including the poetry collections Riceland, The Bottle Episode, and his newest, Having a Baby to Save a Marriage, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

Image: Ser Amantio di Nicolao, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Two Poems by Jessica Genia Simon



I have an urge to preserve
today, boil the remaining fruits
to their sticky sugars, remove

the pits and seeds, smash flesh
add pectin and lemon juice, pour
and seal, save the savor

for another day less soaked
in light, when I cannot find
warmth in any crevice or window
when every creek runs cold.

I will have one jar left
labeled, sealed on a shelf
so I can break open and taste
stone fruit in August heat.

Poem Waiting at a Car Dealership While my Wife Buys her Dream Truck

Tom, our salesman, says he’s worked
here 46 years, grew up in Raleigh, NC
during the “Jim Crow’” South, watched
Black soldiers come home from Vietnam
who could not dine with their White comrades
brought take out containers to their shared car.

Tom says his White neighbors were nice
enough. Relatives were savage
though, would chase him and his brother.
He learned to hide and wait till the mean folks
left, then the parents would invite the boys
inside for peanut butter crackers.

What an American affliction to fall in love
with a truck or SUV, the allure of a home
on wheels, in a country full of roads, acquire
dignity on credit. Tom said some customers
ask for a few minutes with their trade-in vehicle
to say goodbye, sees them talking to the car
with tears in their eyes.

He says, you really never know
until you walk in someone’s shoes.
Or four wheeled dreams.
He had a minivan once with his wife.
They sold it wholesale,
but first they raised their kids
took vacations in that car
parked in their driveway
for a private place to talk.

They spent the whole night
before the car went to the new buyer,
reminiscing, hoping it ends up with a good owner.

Jessica Genia Simon began writing poetry at age seven. As a teenager based in Rockville, MD, she competed and won a spot on the Brave New Voices D.C. National Youth Poetry Slam Team. She earned a B.A. in English and Textual Studies and Policy Studies at Syracuse University and her M.S. in Education from University of Pennsylvania. She works at a gun violence prevention nonprofit in D.C. and lives with her wife, daughter, and orange tabby cat in Silver Spring, Maryland. Built of All I Shape and Name (Kelsay Books, 2023) is her first poetry collection.

Image: PatríciaR, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One Poem by Sarah Kristensen

The Beckoning
One evening when the sky was a dark opal blue
And the gnarled trees
Swayed and bent in the deep wind,
The boxwood scented air and the
Ozoned mist dappled my skin.
I walked amid the graves, thinking of Dad,
And the soldier from World War I,
And the infant with the stone lamb for a grave,
And wondered – Where would I go?
Would I join them in another realm or
Another time and place?
Or were they truly ash and dust now,
Covered with dirt and grass and
Bouquets of faded flowers?
Then, for an instant I knew, as
I gazed into the opal blue and we merged.
I heard the wind and the mist, the sky and the moon.
They called to me, gently, quietly, from far away.
Then, I was back. Kneeling at my father’s grave, removing
The dead flowers, laying down the new.

Sarah Kristensen is a Washington, D.C.-based poet and short story writer. Her work has been published in Scattered Thoughts and Writer’s Digest. She is a graduate of American University.

Image: “Kullu Valley from Rohtang Pass 2, India” by Vyacheslav Argenberg under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Two Poems by Sean Felix

Sabbath I

Every moment,
in the waning sun
is christened with the possibility
of rest, with the knowledge
that another is worthy
of the green’s blessing,
with the delight of light diffused
beneath broad fig leaves.
In the garden box
bees alight on flowering mint,
as sparrows search the undergrowth
for something to add to their nest.
They never ask.
They do not need to—
for what is provided, is provided to all 
in the green’s stillness.

The Dancer

He said he does not like ballet.
But once the camera starts
he leaps and turns like the Nutcracker Prince, 
a rainbow blur of motion and intensity
in a Christmas pajama adorned performance.

The joy of movement and freedom 
radiates from his eyes with every turn. 
Each outstretched arm flourishes a hand 
reaching for the next possibility.
The thump of solidity in a little boy body 
each landing an announcement:
“Here I am!”
And though I may have forgotten it
there is no mistaking the moment of grace 
as his feet hit the ground
and he wraps his arms around his body
closes his eyes and spins,
not with abandon, but with the comfort of knowing
he is loved.

Sean Felix (he/his/him) is a citizen poet from Washington DC. His first book Did You Even Know I Was Here? was released in 2019, and he’s read with The Inner Loop and Poetry on the Pike literary reading series. He has published poems in Bloodroot Lit Journal, Sunday Mornings at the River Fall Anthology, and Beyond the Veil’s Mental Health Poetry Anthology and the Haiku Society of America’s Mentorship Student Anthology. Sean is a haiku poet, who practices a meditative practice of creating haibun from haiku. Listen to his podcast recording for The Inner Loop Radio, Taking Back Time, on Soundcloud or iTunes. Visit his website or follow him on Instagram.

Image: The Bee Dance – Die Bienentanz-Skulptur, Hohen Neuendorf bei Berlin by Sludge G under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Cheese by Chloe Yelena Miller


for L. C.

I want to write you a friendship poem
but it wants clichés:
calls in the middle of the night,
laughs over a late drink.

Instead there’s this cheese.
I ordered it affumicato (smoked) at the market,
felt brava speaking Italian.

But the aproned man cut down a giant,
stagionato (aged) cheese,
hung from the ceiling over a display
for tourists I scooted between
as I played the role of signora.

He sliced the cheese, chunks crumbling to the side.
I asked for only half,
he sighed.

I kept half of the half,
gave you the other quarter wrapped in plastic bags.
Enough for two meals!

You sent me a photo
of you and your husband
as big as the cliché I wanted to write
to ringraziarti
for you.

Chloe Yelena Miller’s poetry collection, Viable, was published by Lily Poetry Review Books (2021) and her poetry chapbook, Unrest, was published by Finishing Line Press (2013). Miller is a recipient of a 2020 and 2022 DC Arts and Humanities Fellowship (Individuals) grant. She teaches writing at American University, and Politics & Prose Bookstore, as well as privately. Miller is the co-founder of Brown Bag Lit; she teaches and organizes events for them. Contact her and read some of her work at www.chloeyelenamiller.com / https://twitter.com/ChloeYMiller

Image © 2023 Chloe Yelena Miller