Free Verse with Vera Ignatowitsch
By Different Boats
I care not a whit for my ancestry
or the look of my great
grandfather as a boy.
I find no comfort in faces
or names like mine.
I do not cling to the cluster of genes
carried across the waters in blue-eyed
vessels without my vote.
But give me a gorilla, now
there’s a face I can relate to,
the way he looks me straight
in the eye behind the glass
and makes me see there’s a link
I can feel down to my bones,
though we got here by
Gene Twaronite is a Tucson poet, essayist, and children’s fiction writer. He is the author of nine books. His poetry book Trash Picker on Mars was the winner of the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Arizona poetry.
South China, Maine
The death of my uncle is a kitchen story,
rinsed by my grandmother’s hands
in a sink full of blood-stained clothing,
a story where a man remembers himself, high water
on his mind, a story for the back room,
moving from match to pipe smoke, sipped
with Kentucky Gentlemen, cracked
with peanuts, penny pinochle, pegged along
with Gin Rummy, a story placed like a hot stone
under the blankets, at the foot of the bed,
told after the cousins are carried to sleep
lit by lamps, a myth without exposition,
without denouement, a story weary with rolling r’s,
fried clams caught in the throat, a sprinkle of saw dust
on a dance floor, a big band tuning their instruments,
a story for the cupola buzzing with black flies,
a story that burns the bottoms of biscuits,
seasoned with lullabies, lost in its own moral,
a story cut out of South China Lake ice, a child
drowned during his baptism, a circular narrative, circling back
to my uncle, cider drunk on a Saturday night, just returned
from boot camp, launching his car into a light pole
over Parameter Hill.
But if the story must begin, it must begin
with a long line of ghosts: Mary Cinderella Black
poisoning her firstborn, her husband Osma dead with fever,
five bearded uncles marched off to the Civil War,
Hattie May Dodge falling off a hobbled horse in a snowstorm,
Isaac and Hadie Bradstreet and their fourteen children,
shut in a burning barn, Margaret England struck dumb
and riding a child’s bike, and the first ghost, John Dow,
stepping off of the boat, a wasp landing on his bible.
Eddie Dowe is a teacher and poet living in Virginia Beach, Virginia. His chapbook, I Have to Tell You Something, will be published by Kelsay Books in May, 2021.
Thank You for the Madness
Have I always been an abacus?
Must I arrange my magnitude like this?
I apply illness like a topical cream,
testing which borders are semipermeable
and may allow seeping through. Here
my unforgiving feet dangle off the edge
of the bed. Open jars of pills face me
like gaping mouths of birds waiting
for nourishment. If I were healthier
there would be more connections to make.
There used to be some allure
in porous thought, the haze of inebriation fraying
strings of narrative thread, fingerprinting the night
from the window of the Saint-Paul. I know this.
People call productions of sickness beautiful
because it’s unthinkable to justify them any other way,
because it’s such a relief to be banal.
Again the wheel of history turns—
how parents say “bye-I-love-you” each morning
as they leave, and one may grow up thinking
that they could never be decoupled,
that love is inescapably linked with goodbye.
Leela Srinivasan is an MFA student at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of a psychological poetry collection, which served as her undergraduate honors thesis at Stanford University.
Her again. She must be some goddess
or other: those sun-dipped curls, those
fire-brushed cheeks. What is she thinking?
What would any deity reduced to a crinkled
scrap of paper think? How dare the wind
rip off my fingers! Who do those hooligan
clouds think they are smearing raindrops
down my frock? That whimsical gaze
summoning a lover from an ancient fable.
She’s promising to raise her hem ruffle by ruffle
if only he’d plummet into the present, tear her
out of this godforsaken advertisement
which no one ever stops to read, anyway.
I don’t blame her. Who’d want to be trapped
amid the pandemonium of modern life
if there were another way? What woman
in her right mind would choose to rise
with the sun, count the fruit of other people’s
labor for dollars a day when she could
enjoy a palace in the sky, a chest full
of fine clothes, a hot spring to bathe in?
A tangle of lovers scuffling for her favor.
Why would I risk my life crossing
these congested streets when a chariot could
whisk me above the clouds in nanoseconds?
A goddess would never settle for cheap beer,
Chinese take-out, reality show reruns.
She’d scorch the pile of good-for-nothing exes
festering in the stickiest corner of my mind.
She’s daring me to take her down.
Smash my phone, which won’t stop blinking,
against this crumbling cement wall.
Shrug off my life like a starched suit.
Pierce this century with a thousand
blinding arrows. Let the crazed rats race
until kingdom come and run the other way.
Julie Weiss’s debut chapbook, The Places We Empty, is forthcoming by Kelsay Books in July, 2021. Recent work appears in Praxis Magazine, Kissing Dynamite, The Blue Nib, and others. She lives in Spain with her wife and two young children.
My pen flowed, cold ink
into the skin, signing away
our life. What is it
about permanence and paper?
I thought I was numb to it —
that all we’d shared
had long been set aside,
all we’d lost been grieved,
but in some corner of my brain
there lived yet more sorrow,
like an opportunistic thief ransacking
my house of feigned indifference.
My hand reversed the dance,
unclinked the flutes, turned bubbles
into vapor as ink bled into paper,
cut through my icy trance.
Betsy Mars is a poet, photographer, and publisher. Her work has appeared widely, and she is eagerly awaiting the release of In the Muddle of the Night (Arroyo Seco Press), co-authored with Alan Walowitz. She loves animals better than Starbucks.
Standing in a circle, they discuss the errors
their children are making as parents,
and in spite of the mistakes,
the perfection of their grandkids.
You watch the grandmothers sway,
from side-to-side, one foot to the other.
It’s a reflex, a habit they say, caused by
all those years of rocking babies to sleep,
of comforting a sick child.
It’s a gentle waltz, with no apparent music,
insinuated into our ancestors from time spent
in ancient trees swaying in the slow breeze
of an eon-old African evening.
A dance more primal than Salome
shedding seven veils — a pattern of steps
that draws you back to memories of warm arms
and the soft silk pillows of women’s breasts —
your small sleepy head at peace.
Published in Near Death/Near Life, Prolific Press, 2015.
Dennis Maulsby’s poems and short stories have appeared in numerous journals and on National Public Radio. His commercially published books include Near Death/Near Life, Free Fire Zone, Winterset, The Fantasy Works, and The House de Gracie. His website is www.dennismaulsby.com.
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