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Two Poems by James White

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Time is a surgeon

I am a spoke.
Turning clockwise, not
at all the wiser.
Choices dig their roots into
soil without my consent but I
water them anyway.
A mossy and rotted
wheel rooted to the ground but I
keep turning anyway.
Here we are.

I am a cloud.
Sitting in the sky
to watch another
offset planet rotate.
The offset offers novelty
but I am still manmade,
still tethered to the dirt
by choices I did or
did not make.

I am a child.
When I watch the clouds
instead, I just want to thrash
in the mud and pull
all the roots up. I’ve made
so many dirty decisions.
Never happy where I am
because that means I am
stopped. Sitting still
in a temper tantrum, the roots
won’t die when I’ve chosen
to uproot them.

I am a circle.
There’s a golden ratio in me
sketched beneath my skin.
Would I do it
all again for in-progress
pencil marks, eraser
pulp, and torn paper?
Rashes from the long
hike to the molten core
of my choices.
Shattered
and assembled
and shattered
and assembled.

I sit at a table with dioramas
of my life. The roots
aren’t roots anymore.
Plastic dolls and play-doh warn
me of the wheel
that turned till
it could turn no
more. Would I do it
all again when I am clockwise
and counter,
an offset axis,
an air balloon
still tethered?

Check my pulse to feel
it beat backwards.
Would I do it all again?
Yes.
Let the root break my skin.
Yes.
I set myself in motion.

I am jealous of koalas

After we gave up, we went
to the zoo. I stared at myself
in the reflection of glass
cages, ashamed I couldn’t tell you
I hated being
there with you.

You talk to me
about essential oils. I think about
eucalyptus. At a tourist gift shop,
I bought a shot glass.
The smell of eucalyptus will remind
me of us, broken at the zoo.

I know each leaf is filled with poison,
pulled from the Pacific. They’d kill
the koala if the koala
didn’t have a trained gut
over thousands and thousands
of years.

A core diet comprised
of risk. I’d never be brave
enough to stomach it, so I eat
the hot dog you bought me
because you don’t remember
I’m a vegetarian.

The koala can spot the caltrops
on the road, churn them in their gut
easy as pie, blue as sky.
In the grove, happy
as a clam, eating its poison,
absentmindedly solid in itself.

James (Jay) White is a queer poet whose works represent his emerging love for poetry that is quirky and expressive while reflecting on family, identity, and the natural world. Jay earned his BA in Communications from the University of Maryland and lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.


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

Three Poems by Susan Notar

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Thirst, Greece

From a photo by Herbert List, 1939

A slender forearm in shadow
elbow on a table
fingertips contemplating a tumbler of ouzo
index finger raised from the glass.
Beckoning, stretching?

Another full tumbler awaits
on a café tray.
Beyond, the sea stretches
in placid waves.

Does a waiter rest
in the late afternoon
sipping ouzo before the dinner rush
snacking on a slab of briny feta
to offset the cool anise?

Or perhaps a lover
his partner set sail
leaving the other tumbler
forever full?

Already he thirsts
for love made in mornings
afternoon swims
sunbathing on hot salty rocks.

But still the drink refreshes.

Laura Petrie Reimagined

Laura Petrie was played by Mary Tyler Moore on the iconic Dick Van Dyke television show in the 1960’s.

What if Laura Petrie
didn’t just don her pearls
her 1960’s tight polyester slacks
and make Tater Tot casserole at night for Dick and their son Ritchie.

What if sardonic one-liners
and flipping the ends of her hair in that brown Jackie-O bob weren’t all she was good at.

What if Laura Petrie was a hit woman.

What if in her underwear drawer
stashed under those pointy bras and slips
or better yet among her feminine hygiene products was a Glock.

What if Laura dropped Ritchie off at school in one of those brown-paneled station wagons with the gun under the front seat
drove into the city
for her assigned hit
wearing white gloves
and returned at night in time
to make Dick a dry martini.

What if she really liked
taking just the right aim
and thought about it
when she used her feather duster or mopped the floor.

What if other women
like me
like you
also have secrets we keep
despite our perfectly pedicured feet our well-sculpted eyebrows.

The last time I saw Basra

Flying into Basra
fire plumes raked the horizon
the land a moonscape of dirt and rage.

The door of the plane opened
a maw of 120-degree air
angry, hungry, looking
for other victims to claim.

We sported dun-colored body armor
a third of my bodyweight
our blood type
in masking tape
emblazoned on our chests
helmets with chin straps
sweat a limpid stream between flattened breasts.

At night, in containerized housing units
with cracked linoleum floors and antiseptic air
we tried to sleep
through the whap whap whap lullaby
helicopter blades cutting the air
the roar of planes taking off and landing.

The last time I saw Basra
I looked at a map
saw where I was
on a dusty airbase
nestled between Kuwait and Iran
where the iron smell of blood
was in the air
and it could be mine.

Susan Notar has flown over Iraq wearing body armor and makes a mean beurre blanc sauce. Her work has appeared in a number of publications including GyroscopeArtemisBurningwordWritten in ArlingtonPenumbraThe Forgotten River an Anacostia Swim Club member anthologyWhat Lies Beyond the Frame, and Joys of the Table:  An Anthology of Culinary Verse.  She works for the U.S. State Department helping vulnerable communities in the Middle East.

Image by Will Shenton, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Three Poems by Serena Agusto-Cox

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When You Want to Stay

Plug my wound.
Gauze sops blood.
Tug my body —
electric current to my chest —
Tether my soul —
soft hand to my heart —
Draw my mind —
your words call.
Catch my breath.
Breathe into my lungs.
Wisp of me leaves
lips warm with you.

Piano

I.

It was only yesterday, I saw her in her housecoat,
Like the doll beneath my bedsheets,
I swam in her melody.
The sound from strings, breathless winds
swirled around me. She smiled.
Her feet barely touched pedals,
the echo carried notes through her body, my ears.
Her gnarled knuckles barely bent,
her fingers still touched keys.
The crows stretched their feet,
sleep fell from her eyes.
I turned on the radio, an accompaniment began.
A flowing composition written without a pen.
Like flowers swaying in the garden,
I twirled, barely tall enough to see her dancing fingers.

II.

At the organ, she massaged her stiff knuckles;
her fingers lightly rested on ivory, smooth and white.
Reacquainted with her friend, fingertip to fingertip;
she hummed low and high,
sitting by him in congregation.
The “C” resonated,
Brass pipes sang,
voices from the choir,
a simple hymn.

III.

Steinway sits in the breezeway
covered in dust.

A spring afternoon,
she floats in, sits on the bench.
Ivories hammered by oak;
she beats her fingers down.
Scales the key to drum,
fades to the end of a song,
echoes pass –
a melody only Beethoven can hear.
Silence bound to memory and loose metal strings.
Her Steinway waits to play,
I don’t have the strength.
Today, in waning light,
she floats through breezeway.

Dedicated to the memory of my nana, Aune Mullen.

Family History
For Mikko Hakko

Boys racing down Boston streets,
bananas in exhaust pipes, loud raucous laughter.
No desire to break rules,
drive a sports car, speed over hills,
I felt left behind by their history.

Quiet. Typewriter clickety-clack,
at the four-person kitchen table in summer sun.
My nana cracked eggs, mixed batter, latticed pies.
I wove stories on pages with rubbed-out errors.
Stacks rose with the warmth of the oven.

Surface relationships over the internet beg
for cultivation. Dig deep, an unexpected history,
a great-great-great-grandfather unearthed.

A Finnish poet, his words unfamiliar to me,
we hold hands over my line breaks.

Serena Agusto-Cox was one of the first featured poets of the DiVerse Gaithersburg reading series in Maryland. Poems are in The Magnolia Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Dissonance Magazine, Mothers Always Write, Bourgeon, and elsewhere. Work appears in the This Is What America Looks Like anthology, Mom Egg Review’s Pandemic Parenting issueThe Plague Papers digital anthology, H.L. Hix’s Made PricelessLove_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens, and Midge Raymond’s Everyday Book Marketing. She also runs the book review blog, Savvy Verse & Wit, and founded Poetic Book Tours to help poets market their books.


Image: Jean-François Garneray, La Leçon de Piano, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Two Poems by Bradley James McElligott

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the circle by the college

the red, red wine has seeped into the carpet,
too deeply to be sucked up now.
no
help is on the way.
we know this like we know the
weight of the moon
on any given night.
we know the Time between the echoes over our crude cave walls,
our murals of stories and days and nights and lives
far from prudent.
this ought to be science and psychology
though it could turn out to be the dichotomy.
it could turn out that
Heart and Mind
are not so hostile.
what we know is that sirens follow the bottles
after we hollow them.
we shatter them for self-replication purposes.
the photo frames lean and lilt,
chandeliers sway that way and this,
and it is all so topsy-turvy that the circus runs, pleads to
join us.
neighbors spectate from the safety of the sidewalk.

oh, honey,
this cannot be good but this cannot
be the end.

health is horror

the vitamin section of the department store is like the butcher shop,
picking and choosing which cuts fit my appetite, my moods, my company.
to walk down that aisle like commitment and fidelity,
to stay even between the shelves
like finding the balance between the vicissitudes of creative mania and the bore of health.
it is all such an expense,
yet the capsules are as colourful as candy
and the dissolvents are rites of passage to good prosperity
like billboards for developing condos.
i read the names of what i am lacking
like the extravagant happenings of weekend nightlife as i go to bed early.
ten and twenty and forbid fifty years from now,
what will i need?
will it be calcium or serotonin,
dope or some all natural dopamine?
will it even matter if the biotene makes my corpse hair and nails gleam?
next week, will i still carry this hunger for clean living
like the tablets in this shopping basket?
the information and all intensive purposes is stifling air to breathe in,
one and the inevitable next,
vitamin C supplement or not,
i forgot to check.
at least there is a semblance of sustenance
to recognize the toll on the organs, the mind and the emotion —
my life as half a dozen pills to swallow whole.
ill-tempered freewheeling through the parking lot as if i stole them.

A recovering alcoholic, bulimic and poet whose work has appeared in Wingless Dreamer and in the upcoming issue of Coffee People Zine, Bradley James McElligott was born and raised in the suburbs of Oshawa Ontario, Canada at the local skateparks and dive bars. To deal with mental illness, insecurity and mistakes made growing up, he now writes about them.


Image: Pixabay, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Three Poems by Sarah DeCorla-Souza

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When We Were Young

Each moment was thick,
pearled into droplets,

not yet thinned.
The clink of dishes. The rustle

of hymnal pages turning. Dust motes
hovering in a sunbeam. The back door opening

and opening. A shower of crabapple petals
falling. The first time I shaved my legs

and pressed a Lego to my skin.
A clutch of girls at the mall.

The scent of cinnamon buns
and perfume. We no longer remember

their maiden names. Now,
there is bric-a-brac, wainscoting,

soffits and baseboards, granite
countertops, vinyl siding.

Now, there’s an ice shelf over the eves,
A sluice of snowmelt rushing above us. I cradle

my newest child,
still in shock at her lightness

The Things We Have Survived

My love, in all our years together
how many times did the world end?
We measured the years in popes,
presidents, every apocalypse,
every unveiling, the authorities trembling,
high water, hell, all the impossible things.
We woke up in the future
And the world is stranger now,
every line defined,
the leaves rimmed with sunlight.
Today I learned “apocalypse” means “unveiling.”
Today I learned the end is not the end

Today I pulled the curtains back
and let the light in.

Grown
That last night, as you lay in bed,
re-learning every corner of your childhood
bedroom, the old dolls bent and silent,

the ceiling cracks etched like a map,
headlights flashed past your window
and a rectangle of light
skimmed your wall one last time.
The packed boxes cast looming shadows
on the blue cornflower wallpaper

as the light anointed them
like the hand of a priest
baptizing a child, or blessing soldiers
before battle. In the morning
you left home, and were born again
into real life, the throng of the city,
the crush of the highway,
The authorities scheming in the citadel,
the preachers thundering,
your newborn’s first piercing cry,
your wan reflection in the polished surface
of the boardroom conference table.

Sarah DeCorla-Souza’s poetry has appeared in Pensive, Innisfree, JMWW, Conte, and other journals. She lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband and four children, where she works as a graphic designer. She is also an Associate Editor for the literary magazine Dappled Things.


By Phil Nash from Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 & GFDLViews, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons