Banshee Wind by J. Thomas Burke
My wife clangs through the kitchen,
cleaning up after my breakfast. Crow
on the bare branch stares
in the window, but never caws
my name. His bird-head pivots
bringing one black eye
into full view. I am egg-scrambled
and potato-fried. My stomach
tumbles. Her cooking
is going to kill me. The damn gray wind,
ancient, a wailing spirit, rips through
the cinderblock. It shakes wrought-iron
fences because no wind has bones. I won't listen
to another second of unholy racket. Die
wind, I holler, but still the cry careens across
my concrete walls. A new howl
joins the din with such fury I twist
my neck toward—why
is the skillet arcing
down toward my head?
J. Thomas Burke is an MFA candidate studying poetry in the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans. He also serves as a poetry reader for the literary journal, Bayou Magazine. His work has most recently been accepted for publication in the journals Panoply, SPANK the CARP, and Gloom Cupboard.
Branch Points by Judy Salz
Wisps of grey hair escaping from beneath her knitted cap, the elderly woman drew her lap blanket up to her chest against the evening chill. Rocking on her front porch, her worn chair creaked as she gazed up at the nearly barren labyrinth of branches of the ancient oak illuminated by the rising moon. The year was nearing its end, and she took the moment to assess her life, also waning. Her mind, still agile, reached back to her youth.
Eighteen years old, she nestled her blond head against Mike’s shoulder in the front seat of his shiny new 1938 Ford. Lover’s Lane on Saturday night. What could be more romantic? The school year over, she looked forward to a summer of fun before starting college in the fall. Mike proposed that night, catching her by surprise. Marrying him, much as she loved him, would mean supporting his education, and giving up her dreams of a career and independence. With a heavy heart, she turned him down, and always wondered how her life would have evolved had she said yes.
At twenty-four, she held two job offers, one in each hand, her eyes darting uncertainly between them. One was in her home town needing little change in her life. The other was across the country requiring a new beginning, away from everything and everyone she knew. Was she brave enough? If she could leave Mike behind her, she thought, she could attempt something new. The decision was made, but also left her wondering what if.
The increasing chill in the air roused her from her musings. She shivered and wrapped herself more tightly in the blanket, knowing she should move inside, but not wanting to lose the moment, as she relived seminal events in her life.
Her patient, adoring husband of seven years cradled her in his arms on their sofa. Head on his shoulder, her silver streaked blond curls mingled with his salt and pepper crew cut.
His voice was somber. We need to talk, darling. We can’t conceive. We know that now. Do we remain childless or seek adoption? Are we too old in our forties?
Their decision was one she never questioned. Life without her daughter would have been unthinkable.
Momma, I’m pregnant. Her sixteen-year old daughter stood before her, tears flowing freely down her cheeks. What should I do?
I can’t answer that for you. Whatever you decide, I will support you. You’re the one who will have to be able to look yourself in the mirror for the rest of your life, knowing in your heart you did the right thing.
But I’ll always wonder what my life would have been like the
other way, Momma.
Yes, you will. Our lives are shaped by the choices we make.
Her old eyes traced a limb of the tree from its take off
point on the trunk. At first broad and straight, it began branching and narrowing, and she chose which to follow each time it split. She traced the bough to its end, the tallest and most frail reaching for the sky.
Time to come in, Grandma, she heard.
Smiling, she rose from her rocker, and entered the warmth of her family’s home. I’m so fortunate, she thought. I have no regrets.
Judy Salz, a semi-retired physician, uses her years of patient encounters and life experiences for inspiration. Her stories appear in Helen: A Literary Magazine, MUSED BellaOnline Literary Review, The Literary Nest, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, Gnarled Oak Online Literary Journal, Kevin MD, and others. Please visit her webpage at www.judysalz.com.
Her first novel, Worthy, follows two physicians and a hospital chaplain on their journeys toward redeeming their self- esteem. Their efforts succeed in achieving what was previously thought to be unachievable. It is set for release this November.
At the End of Autumn by Natalie Crick
I once watched you ripen like a grape
In the sun’s punishing heat,
Soaking blood into cloth,
Leaves spread under flames,
Flowers brown corpses
Floating face down,
Of billowing tongue.
Night fell down
Thicker and faster,
A purpling sky,
Secrets all bleeding,
The mouth of December
Robed in the cold crawl of it.
Then white noise.
Every cherry-tree skeleton
Aching for shelter,
All in wet catharsis.
I long for the cold harps of Autumn.
Natalie Crick, from the UK, has found delight in writing all of her life and first began writing when she was a very young girl.Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in a range of journals and magazines including The Chiron Review, Interpreters House, Ink in Thirds, Rust and Moth, The Penwood Review. Her work also features or is forthcoming in a number of anthologies, including Lehigh Valley Vanguard Collections 13. This year her poem, 'Sunday School' was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Claw by Catherine Moore
She is both the finder and the incubator of the bones. Without her, we lose our cries, our laughter, our shape. The skeletal story remains in disarray. She blindfolds her feet each day with shoes and sets forth and creates from the wrinkled skin of a divine sole. Where the bones are missing a story, she has spent time raking shells, sensing for rachises, and shaking ashes from her nose. How deeply this woman digs into the earth, looking for her toes and her paws.
Catherine Moore is the author of three chapbooks and the forthcoming “Ulla! Ulla!” (Main Street Rag Publishing). Her work appears in Tahoma Literary Review, Caesura, Tishman Review, Southampton Review, Still: the Journal, Mid-American Review and in various anthologies. Catherine holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and she teaches at a community college. She’s tweetable @CatPoetic.
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.