As the Story Goes by Kory Wells

—After reading “Insignificant Beginnings” by Vandana Khanna

Before I was born, in a city that loves
the taste of marshmallow pies,
a sign: a Gypsy peddler, jangling

pans and fortunes, telling
me to move, move, to grow
ever restless of the same view.

My mother, nourished
nine months by Burger King,
on the day of my birth ate an apple

ripe as her small womb.
She would need the doctor,
curse his knife. My father,

just back from service,
all square shoulders and cleft
chin, searched for the job

that would keep him from us
hours and holidays, swearing
duty, food on the table.

These facts melt warm and familiar
as spun sugar on my tongue.
But I started longer ago, as a ship

that lost its way. As the rain
and muck of a wilderness trail.
As the shelter of a cave.

As a place called Sugar Fork,
where bats at twilight once circled
and swirled like Cherokee dancers,

where against a sky darker
than spent earth, stars floated
like manna, a hope that never fell.

 

 

 

Kory Wells is author of HEAVEN WAS THE MOON, a poetry chapbook from March Street Press. When she’s not writing, Kory advocates for the arts, democracy, afternoon naps, and other good causes. A two-time finalist for the Rash Award for Poetry and winner of the 2016 HeartWood Broadside Series, her work appears in ASCENT, POEM, UNSPLENDID, THE SOUTHERN POETRY ANTHOLOGY, and other publications. Kory lives near Nashville and mentors poetry students in the low-residency program MTSU Write. She recently founded a reading and open mic series, Poetry in the Boro. Read and listen to more of her work at korywells.com. Connect with Kory on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

Weeds by Lana Bella

Wind calms as the sky’s eyes
ferries my departure in velvet
and damp clouds, when echoes
of peppering rain tear the rille
of my barb-wired stems.

Picture me: proud, frantic girl
perching where the metronome
ticks, eyes misfire neural path-
ways, fingers outgrow daffodils
osmosing my monolith of light.

Into the wet I stroke my green
triceps bending to the point of
stress, while my skin tethers
up nodes and collars, leaning
as it does, like propeller taking
down a piece of sky.

 

A three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Lana Bella is an author of three chapbooks, Under My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016), Adagio (Finishing Line Press, 2016), and Dear Suki: Letters (Platypus 2412 Mini Chapbook Series, 2016), has had poetry and fiction featured with over 300 journals, 2River, California Quarterly, Chiron Review, Columbia Journal, Otoliths, Poetry Salzburg Review, San Pedro River Review, The Ilanot Review, The Writing Disorder, Third Wednesday, Tipton Poetry Journal, among others.

Lana resides in the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a mom of two far-too-clever frolicsome imps.

Baseball in June by Jake Young

In the moonlight,
each boy casts a shadow
on the field where two teams
play in the Tournament
of Champions. Dressed
in their uniforms,
knee-high socks, and lucky hats
stained with sweat,
the boys chew gum
or sunflower seeds,
spitting the shells
onto the dugout floor.
A new inning begins,
and the infielders run
onto the diamond. Their cleats
scrape the dirt,
kicking up dust that mixes
with the smell of leather,
grass, and French fries
from the food stand.
Their fathers—off-duty firemen,
construction workers, teachers—
all shout from the bleachers,
eager for the crack of a ball
against a bat, the footrace to first,
the satisfying slap
of a baseball caught
in the pocket of a glove.
This afternoon, at the bar,
I ran into George, who’d played
little league with me as a kid.
On my way out,
he told me I was the best
second baseman he’d ever seen—
“Nobody gave up their body
the way you did,” he said.
He remembered how I took
baseballs to my chest, my chin,
how I would lay out
and throw myself at the ball.
He asked if I’d kept my old glove,
the one his dad had oiled for me,
and fixed when the leather straps broke.
George’s dad had understood
I wouldn’t play with any other glove.
I told George I still have that mitt,
and he pointed at me
with his beer, and said, “I know.”
Some things we just can’t live without.

 

Jake Young received his MFA from North Carolina State University, and after a hiatus working at a winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, currently attends the PhD program in creative writing at the University of Missouri–Columbia. His most recent work appears or is forthcoming in Miramar, Fjords Review, Poecology, pacificREVIEW, and The Commonline Journal. In 2014, Jake attended the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. He also serves as the poetry editor for the Chicago Quarterly Review.

Imagined Scenario 13: Birth Mom and Dad’s Last Night Out by Tom Holmes

It’s Saturday night,
dad hoists and sharpens
his spear, mom spreads grease

paint on her pregnant belly,
climbs into her robe.
I punch her inner navel.

In her last performance,
she watches a crack
open in the stage’s floor.

Stage right, dad plays
the blind guard and thumps
his spear. She readies

her soliloquy. An ant drags
a piano into the stage
crack and bangs out

“Bolivar Blues,”
as she begins
her death-in-love speech

and steps on the crack.
I kick her left lung
to elevate her speech,

she coughs and spreads
her legs to prepare
for labor. Dad firms

his spear-hold stance.
I drop out screaming.
The ant pulls out

a brandy snifter
for me, and primes
it with loose change.

She bleeds on my
ruptured afterbirth,
collapses and drowns

the music and herself.
Dad lights half a cigarette
backstage and exits

to the back alley.
The next day’s reviews
announce the performance

as grand. I grow up
a lighting man, adopted
by the theater,

casting shadows
into cracks, listening
for my cue.

 

 

Tom Holmes is the founding editor of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics, and author of three full-length collections of poetry, most recently The Cave, which won The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013, as well as four chapbooks. His writings about wine, poetry book reviews, and poetry can be found at his blog, The Line Break. Follow him on Twitter:@thelinebreak

Atlantis by Bruce Sager

Who could
have guessed
that the myth
was a prediction,

that history
would speak
of floors of gold
and the men
who traded futures
upon them?

Who could foresee
the eels of gridlock,
striped bass gliding
the Upper East Side,
seaweed choking
the gutters?

Who could foretell
the mutable colors
of traffic lights
covered in coral,

who could divine
what it would take
to snuff that torch
like an iron candle?

 

Bruce Sager’s poetry has gained publication through competitions judged by Billy Collins, Dick Allen and William Stafford. His newest work, The Indulgence of Icarus — a book-length poem! (sounds scary, but an easy read) — was recently released by Echo Point, and is henceforth available through Amazon, as is Famous, which was awarded the 2014 William Matthews Poetry Prize.

Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy by Anna Weaver

“My cup runneth over.”
~ Psalm 23

Because my mother preferred the King James,
my sister and I learned at bedtime
to lisp like Puritans. We were made-eth
to lie down and led-eth along the rhythm
of her favorite verse—with little idea
what could be comforting about rods
or staffs, no matter who they belonged to.

A child of the flatlands, I had never seen
a valley, and I was more afraid of shadows
than of death. Too young for enemies,
I would imagine a lonely dinner,
prepared by my mother’s shepherd
(who probably floated) for a fearless
and oily haired version of myself.

Yea, though the Lord and his house
were confusing, at least the ending
made good sense because I had a babysitter
named Shirley with a bright laugh
and kind face, who I could join in my mind
with Goodness and Mercy like a trio
of back-up singers—comfort in the dark
behind my nervous solo, something
for which, even today, I could earnestly
and honestly pray.

 

Raised in Oklahoma, Anna Weaver lives in North Carolina with her two daughters. Her poems have appeared in Connotation Press, One, O-Dark-Thirty, and elsewhere. A self-described open mic tourist, she has performed in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

First Time by Tre G

the first time
I saw a dead body
absent a coffin
it lay on an empty stage
void of concert,
as if a band
danced its way
off the hardwood floor
of its face
never had i seen
brown skin
so white
open curtain eyelids
displayed blown bulbs
he
playing audience
to our displays of wonder
swollen mouth
open
spoke only
in buzzing fly
lifeless
in a swamp
behind a high school
fist clenched around lighter
as if anticipating
an opportunity
to plead for an encore

Camden, NJ  native  Tre G. is a husband, father, and poet. Tre G. has performed at universities, grade schools, and halfway houses across the nation.  He is the 2010 Loser Slam Grand Slam Champion,  2013 Nuyorican Grand Slam Champion and appeared on seasons 3 and 5 of TVOne’s Verses & Flow as well as Russell Simmons All Def Poetry on Youtube. You can find out more about him here: www.facebook.com/tglinx,  @tre_g_poet, http://poeticallylive.wix.com/tre-g-poet

Lacrymogène by Mike Alexander

Even after a full bottle
of St. Sulpice,

it shouldn’t be hard to find
La Place de la Concorde.

Suivez les nuages du gaz lacrymogène.
Follow the trail of tears wept

on the barricades,
or at the altars of ATMs.

The bartenders are on strike,
because their union is in league

with the swizzlestick union,
which is part of the readymade

coffeemill birdcage makers union,
which itself falls under the auspices

of the apothecaries union,
which covers the mixing of paint,

the mixing of metaphors,
the defjam mix, comparative

mixologies, etc. The tour guides,
respectable poets, are between poems,

just now. Billy Collins starts to sound
like Lawrence Ferlinghetti, after

a few rounded glasses of red.
The cobblestones are old,

but the Beaujolais is very new.
It has arrived, like the right idiom

in your mouth at the right time,
quand on parle comme un vrai chien,

the way a true dog says Je t’aime
to a bottle left tearfully dry.

 

P & J Poetics, LLC, published Mike Alexander’s first full-length collection, RETROgrade. His chapbook, We Internet in Different Voices (Modern Metrics), is available through EXOT books. His poems have appeared in Rattle, River Styx, Borderlands, Bateau, Measure, Raintown Review & other journals.

Fragments by Geraldine Mac Donald

“I’ll bet that woke you up,” I hear the doctor say over my grunting as he yanks the cystoscope from my bladder. I feel it scrape along the urethra in every aching millimetre. Why’s he so jovial, I wonder.

“Looks good,” he says, while I try to man-up and not cry. “Was probably just an infection. I’ll write you a prescription before you leave.”

Leave. That’s exactly what I’d intended all along. Have a little fun. Learn the language well enough to put it on my curriculum vitae, right there beneath top-of-the-class and hot-as-Latino-hell, and then adios amigos!

At the beginning I’d warned her with the standard protocol. I told her I was leaving when my fellowship was done. I had no intentions of marrying anyone in this country. My plans were set like cured cement and they didn’t include her. But that was before. Before she brightened sterile hallways and sweetened free weekends and warmed cold sheets in rented apartments.

Before my mother met her.

Did she do it on purpose? You have to ask, right? Questions whisper. Is it even mine?

These are the thoughts that distract me while I take the long way home around English Bay, calculating just how much everything had suddenly, instantaneously, changed.
Bladder cancer, no. Fatherhood, yes?

I’ve always detested kids. Pediatrics was never going to be my first choice. I’d rather deal with an adult coughing up bacteria-riddled sputum than a crying child in a wet diaper. So when they called her with the results I knew, even before she turned pale and hung up the phone, that my choices no longer mattered.

“It’s either twins or I’m further along than we thought,” she said as the room swayed.
I’d felt earthquakes before but this one was different. Was she threatening me with twins when I was barely able to contemplate one?

One: I silently prayed for one being the lesser of two evils. And I envisioned the conversation I’d have with the attendant when checking in at the airport on my way home next year.

“Sir, you’re only allowed two bags.”

“How about two bags, a foreign wife, an unplanned child, and all the baggage that goes along with them?”

“That’ll cost extra, sir.”

There had to be a right thing to say at that moment, something honest and helpful, but it wasn’t yet in my lexicon. I hadn’t been here long enough to adopt that sort of innate diplomacy.

“Is it mine,” was apparently not the right thing to say. It was an honest question, yes, but not helpful.

They were the longest nine months of my being, filled with the expected ups and downs of unexpected pregnancy: a wartime rife with the kind of turmoil that is hard to claim victory over until your very last enemy is left breathless and begging for mercy at your feet. But Change begs mercy to no man, and Victory is just another name for Acceptance.

I slept while she sat in the living room re-reading yesterday’s news and pretending that she wasn’t terrified by the storm of contractions wracking her body. I ate, showered, and read another article in The New England Journal of Medicine while she systematically, minute-by-minute, changed everything there was to change about my life.

Time. Taxi. The room was ready, like a hotel, with dimmed lights and soft music. Did she want an epidural? No. Why not? Where I come from women of our social class pre-order epidurals and plan their c-sections weeks in advance, marking it on their calendars as if it were a date out to the theatre. They wear lipstick to the operating room. Fathers stand aside and watch from behind walls of sheets.

So what was I doing standing here rubbing her back with numb hands, holding up her leg so she could push more effectively, wiping away tears with a soft towel and kissing her forehead to ease her pain? Did her water finally break? Is that meconium-staining? Hurry-up, can’t she push any harder? Faster. Quicker. I need to see my child. Is it? What’s his APGAR? Nine. He’s perfectly healthy. He’s perfect.

We’ll give him my name of course. It’s right. It’s best. It’s what we do. I need to call my family now. They’ll want to know.

And there it was, the fragment of self I thought I’d somehow lost, cloaked by the everyday way we go about owning our decisions, facing Change as friend not foe; broken into smaller pieces and left to set in a colourful mosaic where the fractions make it whole.
He’s twenty-three now, still perfect, and the other three followed close behind, equally right; like a small band of home-grown warriors all draped in the colours of two flags and ready to stand for what they know.

We’ll help them if we can, together.

Pediatrics was never going to be my specialty.

 

Geraldine MacDonald was born and raised in Ontario, Canada and holds a Bachelor of Nursing Science Degree from Queen’s University. She presently writes fiction in different genres and creative nonfiction in short form. Her first fiction novel for young adults, Sumac Summer, was released in December 2015 with rave reviews. Print editions are currently available through the author at http://www.winterwindpress.ca or in the following brick and mortar stores: Novel Idea in Kingston and Books Galore and More in Port Perry, Ontario. Digital editions area available through http://www.amazon.com http://www.amazon.ca and http://www.kobobooks.com in global territories. Her second novel, a YA action/adventure, is planned for release in autumn of 2016. Geraldine resides in Kingston, Ontario with her spouse, their four children, and one very spoiled dog.