The Edge of the World by Michael Hettich
Let’s imagine a woman could walk to the edge
of the world as we know it, sit down there to rest
and look out over what we think of as nothing
while she waits for her husband to arrive with the supplies.
Or perhaps she doesn’t wait and just keeps walking,
wondering whether she might simply disappear.
She’s the kind of woman gives a dollar to the homeless guy
as though it’s just a loan; she’s the kind of person
who gathers up stray cats and takes them to the pound
so the wild birds will be safe in her garden.
Now she walks into nothing at the edge of the world,
and it’s not what you’d expect from the stories of conquistadores
hacking out the jungle for its gold. No, she finds herself
sitting in a cafe drinking cappuccino
and talking to someone who looks like he could be
a door into a room full of light, in a house
so perfect she’d dissolve there, or explode like tiny bubbles
in a glass of champagne, as her husband stands confused
back at the edge there, calling her name
until he gives up, turns around and goes home
to find someone like her, someone he doesn’t know
though everything about her is familiar, as though
he’ll never wake again. And so he lives by dreaming.
Michael Hettich’s recent book of poems, Systems of Vanishing, was published in 2014. Other books include The Animals Beyond Us (2011) and Like Happiness (2010). A new book, The Frozen Harbor, is forthcoming. His work has appeared widely in journals.
Tragedy in Eight Tracks by Janet Reed
We 70s children miscalculated.
We thought green shag carpets,
baby blue Pintos, and 8-track tapes
would survive the fire and rain of our love trains
We danced the Crocodile Rock,
Inhaled, rocked leisure suits and platform shoes
go-go boots and hotpants in double knit.
Cheap weed, black lights, dead heads
Skynard and Freebird, free base, free lunch--
we walked into those parties forever young.
We held time in a bottle and diamonds
glazed the skies of our disco balls.
We smoked in the boy’s room,
held the feeling, kept believing
we had our fathers’ tigers by the tails,
their black ties bricks in our walls.
Even if someone saves my life tonight,
these lyrics slur worse on repeat
than a drunk on a 2 a.m. bender.
Moral Moon Boots are pastiche
without catharsis we didn’t find,
“Stayin’ Alive” on compact disc
blew the breakers, darkened our discos.
Not even Goodwill wants our polyester.
Plastics 1,3,6, and 7 cause cancer.
Those tigers have us in their teeth.
Time is an hourglass not a bottle:
the truth we didn’t learn bites us.
Janet Reed is a recent second-place winner in Common Ground Review’s poetry contest judged by Patrick Donnelly and a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chiron Review, Common Ground Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Avalon Review, I-70 Review, and others. She is at work on her first collection and teaches writing and literature for Crowder College in Missouri.
Fight Delay by M.A. Istvan Jr.
Despite what the ringside sportscasters say,
the champ is not stalling his entrance show,
rapper-assisted, to unnerve and cool down
the number-one-ranked beast of a contender.
Alone, he throws haymakers at the mirror.
He sits rocking, blocking the stadium booms.
He cries and rocks on the toilet, trying to free
the sore-to-touch gut loaded, early this week,
with bananas, prunes, melons, fiber drinks
to stimulate a nice clearing in the first place.
The worst, he thought, was the bout turning
non-title from his failure to make weight.
But worse was now: sciatic-pulsing bowels
that yesterday’s all-in move of raw castor oil
was to free. And now his wife is at the door.
M. A. ISTVAN JR., a high-strung poet of veering moods, is a professional philosopher by day. His crooked nose—a hereditary feature stronger than the jutting ribs, the unhinged jaw, and the alcoholism—is the most conspicuous of what is really a full-bodied crookedness common to the male and female members of the Istvan clan. Perhaps his zaniest project in the works is an introductory textbook concerning the philosophy of the Five-Percent Nation, the Nation of Gods and Earths. The textbook aims to lay out the Five-Percenter take on the key topics of metaphysics: modality, freedom, mind-body relationship, time, personal identity, properties, and God.
Progress by Sandra Oceguera
The therapist left a voicemail.
I feel as if that’s progress.
At least I reached out.
Her voice is on my phone.
Sandra Oceguera is a resident and public servant in Las Vegas, Nevada. She contributes to numerous zines, art, and community projects and can frequently be seen being awkward at local comic shops.
Litany by Anthony DiPietro
“But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.”—Billy Collins
You are earth: your hands dig in sand
at the wet edge of ocean and beach.
Sweat gathers in your clothes and hair,
your red beard. You say, Smell that salt!
Then, you are seafood: whole-belly clams,
fried oysters, their grease on your tongue.
And you also taste artisan cheeses and chocolate-
covered berries, drink wine. You are appetite itself.
I am all the dizzy senses, in motion
dancing after you, a leaf that skips
along the gravel path that winds the park.
When you cycle, I’m the wheels, the pumping pedals.
Left alone, I’m pages of a book, a shelf
of books, in fact, a library. I’m the dark
in the library when everyone’s gone home.
I’m the sleeping dog, but never the barking dog.
I spare my throat. I am not the bed
you suppose, sheets with pink cotton blossoms.
I am honey hardened in a mason jar
in the cupboard. I’m no thunder, but I am the sound
of rain through an open summer window.
I am the window, too, and the load-bearing beams
of a house. And you are its walls, its doors
that swing and slam, and today,
you are closed.
Anthony DiPietro is a New England native who worked for 12 years in nonprofit organizations on issues such as violence, abuse, and income inequality. In 2016, he moved to Long Island and joined Stony Brook University as a candidate for a creative writing MFA. A graduate of Brown University with honors in creative writing, his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Assaracus, The American Journal of Poetry, The Southampton Review, Anomaly, Rogue Agent, Talking River, and The Good Men Project.
Moving by Ingi House
In the galleries of cities,
hydrogen is replaced with halogen,
I catch myself searching
for what I have walked away from.
Looking for pieces of flat land,
the shocking loneliness of the plains
echoing my own isolation
from the very dirt that gave rise to my form.
All I find are steel beams
where waving wheat should form
canopies of golden skies.
Ingi House is an archivist and has written on archival topics. She has published poetry in RMB Journal, Dual Coast and NOUS. Originally from the Midwest, she is trying out both coasts to see which one is best. She loves words and hope they love her back. Contact her on Twitter @IngiHouse.
Gone Baby Gone by Julie Gates
The death-o-meter is charged and full of life today.
As I waste more hours of my life
Sitting in the lab testing waiting area
A man, scarecrowed, brittle, shredding, skin chartreuse and chalk ivory splotches,
Shuffles slowly by, in tiny angling steps, with a skeleton arm
Resting on the shoulder of his plump wife
Who is brown, confident, loud, and stuck to her cell phone.
Even things made of stone can crumble into bits,
Especially without the attention of careful restoration.
A woman with greasy, thin, gray-brown hair, balding
Has wedged her girth into a chair opposite me
And smiles at the little Hispanic baby all decked out in pink, lace, bows,
And uncontrollable verve for life
And then turns her cold sweat beet red face to the side
To ward off the next tidal wave of hell
Writhes, grits her teeth, smashes her black-blue eyelids closed
And a drop of water slithers down her tired face.
Through the electric open doors comes a beautiful young nurse
Lips bright red, skin perfectly brown, smooth, decorated with bangles of gold
And hands with no visible veins, blinged, bejeweled, blinding,
Driving the wheelchair of a small gray man
Who is fading, shrinking, ghosting
On the way to the treatment
That won’t save him.
Julie Gates is an Associate Professor of English in the Department of English and Modern Languages at Angelo State University, where she is the director of the English Education program, and has worked with colleagues since 2002 on the annual ASU Writers Conference in Honor of Elmer Kelton, conducting the conference interview with Terrance Hayes in 2009, and chairing the conference for 2 years when Mary Karr (2010) and Art Spiegleman (2011) were the featured writers. Dr. Gates has published poetry in Amarillo Bay, Blue Bonnet Review, Carcinogenic Poetry, Concho River Review, Voices de la Luna, Visions with Voices, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, and Red River Review .She has presented poetry and creative nonfiction at the South Central Modern Language Association Conference, the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers Conference, and the Langdon Review Weekend.
Notes from the Nursing Home by Dana Chiueh
After Laura Kasischke
smooth as a memory:
the slippery lies we ran our tongues over
and over and over in our mouths
like rock candy, polishing worn
enough to believe in
our own, old gravity;
dizzy with distortion;
here’s the truth about perfection:
memories are born jagged and
we stitch up the sides, hating the fray.
real memories come out sandpaper.
enough to wear and be worn down
Athena: my dreams come fully formed
after splitting headaches
and I never stop questioning their legitimacy
an imposter memory. water, on the other hand
turns all stones smooth with time.
and every memory inevitably causes a beautiful
hurt, jagged piercing edges
to be worth the remembering.
Dana Chiueh submitted this poem as part of our Visual Prompt Quarterly Contest and received an honorable mention for her work.
Conditional by Susan Comninos
Place the conditional at the close
Of a sentence, if you like
To make people think
You are open
Susan Comninos’ work has appeared in Rattle, the Harvard Review Online, Subtropics, The Malahat Review, Hobart, Southern Humanities Review, The Common, The Tishman Review, The Good Men Project, Spoon River Poetry Review, J Journal, and The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. In 2010, Cominos won the Yehuda Halevi Poetry Contest run by Tablet magazine and last Last year won a Tishman Review Staff Favorite prize; a VQR Writers' Conference Scholarship award; and a Poets Respond (to the news) contest run by Rattle.
Default Setting by Nancy Devine
I am simply there.
Looking out from her eyes.
This is what I must resist:
How fifteen phone calls
go unanswered. The dialing,
the pushing of buttons,
for voice to ride air waves
as if they were draped
Choice is looking away,
listening to something else,
pulling myself in
as if I were a shadow
reunited with its source,
along my peripheral vision,
when the test pattern
because of snow
if you could shock
bring back intention
from its familiar edge.
Nancy Devine teaches high school English in Grand Forks, North Dakota where she lives. Her poetry, short fiction and essays have appeared in online and print journals. She is the author of a chapbook of poems, The Dreamed, published by Finishing Line Press in 2016. Her poem "Default Settings" was a submission in one of our Visual Prompt Contests.