Unmoored, by Mary Redman
Since you left,
I’ve lost fifteen pounds
with no effort at all.
Eating when the clock says
it’s time, but never hungry,
I fill my belly,
feel it roiling, uneasy
as a savage
on the verge of nausea,
gripping the rail
of my existence
as if letting go
would send me
into the abyss.
eludes me, hopeless
If my lids should drop
in some lapse
I startle awake,
Only Ambien offers relief,
four hours, never more.
With the sun,
I slip a Xanax underneath my tongue,
swallow it with orange juice
check the chart
of every dose
I take to soften
the sharp edges
keep me on an even keel.
I log my grief on reams
of paper lined
to keep me focused.
I write in circles
never quite arriving anywhere,
and yet the calendar
suggests that time has passed.
I pore over accounts
of others who’ve survived
the same shipwreck.
With every effort
to free myself
from vertigo, put one foot
in front of another.
this poem is not
about my father’s death
when I was sixteen.
He did not choose
to leave me
unprepared for life alone,
guessing what I should
and now it seems somehow
in my mind.
Mary Redman is a retired high school English teacher who supervises student teachers for University of Indianapolis part-time and volunteers for a number of organizations in the Indianapolis community. Mary has lived all but two years of her long life in Indiana and has great appreciation for the Midwest. She has had poems published in Bangor Literary Journal, Flying Island, Northwest Indiana Literary Review, Snapdragon: a Journal of Healing, Tipton Poetry Journal, So It Goes, and Saint Katherine Review. One of her poems received a Pushcart nomination in 2019.
A Liquidation of the Portraits of the Saints, by Cal Freeman
for Larry Larson
Your eyes were the glass of another city’s buildings the last day I saw you.
You’d become a drug addict, you said, a realization that came while
taking an extra pill that afternoon and watching the flurries drift down
the street like avid businessmen. The tremor in your hand quieting
with the first payload, you were a gaunt face in a cold pool of coffee.
They’d carved out half your left lung to get the cancer and prescribed
oxycodone while radiating your lungs and vocal cords, but it had been months
since you needed pills for pain. This was to be kept strictly between
you and me, but it’s true, and impossible, anyway, to libel even the newly dead.
I picked up your Gibson J-45 and strummed the chords to a new song. Fret three
was a cicatrix of grime where your middle finger pressed to make a G,
30 years of that in smoky stage lights. You kept a Gatorade bottle full of vodka
next to your volume pedal, nobody wise that it wasn’t water. That guitar thirsted
in arid Michigan’s late-winter, the furnace coughing on at intervals, its finish spidered
like a mess of varices. The health of things no more than the hum of mahogany
and spruce, lungs, gallbladder, bone bridge, brain, heart, and spleen (a splenetic cadence
to your voice) despite what we believe. The hook was, “Just another disappearing thing,”
erstwhile Detroit, bars with silt-smeared windows where you cut your teeth
picking sad songs on a Guild 12-string while your friend Eddie McGlinchey sang
ballads about those Irish heroes of ’16 whose portraits you’d later paint.
That last gig we played together in January you sang better with half a lung than I ever will.
You said you were proud of me and asked if you could pat me on the chin,
adding that Bob Gibson had patted you on the chin at the Raven Club in 1963 after realizing
you’d mastered his finger-picking technique (pinch, thumb, pointer, thumb, middle, thumb,
that measured thump on alternating bass strings). Bob Gibson who’d destroyed his talent
with heroin and amphetamines, who even after kicking never got right again.
They say the frontal lobe irredeemably changes. Too much is irredeemable.
Can I pat you on the chin? You who knew everything about the faces
of flawed saints and bitter heroes. You’d just painted Father Solanus Casey
for perhaps the seventh time. You said his expression carried knowledge
from another plane. This version featured a halated Blessed Mother in the foreground
with a backlit Calvary nearly vanishing the way a phosphene behind a closed eyelid
can turn consciousness sacramental. It didn’t matter to you that it was good.
Nothing mattered much those final weeks. They auctioned off your instruments
and artwork at the wake. The afternoon light bleared through the open door
bald as a single-payload pill each time a mourner came to buy a piece.
Two Babies, by Vali Hawkins-Mitchell
The first dead body she ever saw was a perfect looking baby in a hospital crib.
His eyes were unmoving slits.
She was 15. A volunteer Candy Striper.
Standing in his darkened room, her soft body also turned to grey stone.
The coroner’s shoes squeaked as he carried out the small leather case.
She walked home in the dark.
Vali Hawkins-Mitchell works and writes from her office across the street from the Honolulu Zoo where she is a disaster and trauma responder. Her books, poetry, essays, non-fiction, and creative fiction have been published in literary journals such as Sky Island Journal, Spank the Carp (upcoming) Star82Review, and Blink-ink. For more about Vali’s writing and art go to: http://www.valihawkinsmitchell.com
The Waiting Room, by Vali Hawkins-Mitchell
He said hello.
I said hello.
He mentioned weather.
I mentioned weather.
Then we were quiet.
He said Viet Nam.
I said New York.
He mentioned wounds.
I mentioned wounds.
Then we were quiet.
He said Agent Orange.
I said Twin Towers.
He said wars don’t always end.
I said there will be more.
Then we were quiet.
Eyes So Dark, by Joanne Gram
You cannot see where her pupils start
A comment from those early years
not meant to fill a heart with joy
but question why you’re here with
all those differences
But brushing past potential tears
Pushing kindness toward small minds
and their fears
Finding deeper souls growing
from my own root stock
Eyes of my own children
reflection answering reflection
They pat my cheeks with chubby hands
They look into dark eyes and smile
In eyes so dark they see themselves
curled safely in my vision
Joanne Gram writes poetry in Lansing, Michigan. With an MPA, she previously wrote a number of academic articles for presentation at an annual international conference. Now, she focuses on more creative pursuits.
Scar, by Jan Ball
We sailed popsicle sticks along
the cracks in the alley before we
knew about Kon Tiki rafts or
Polynesian dugout canoes-young
buccaneers on the north side of
Chicago when dads and older
brothers washed their Studebakers
on Saturday afternoons creating
rivers for our makeshift boats and
bad boys like Dickie Sweeney and
Knute Granowski, who went to public
school, started fires in the few stone
fire pits in the Oakley Street alley
and once accidentally flicked some
burning ash on my left shin so that
I ran home crying; my mother was
as shocked as if she’d seen a corpse
in our backyard when she wiped
the skin off my leg with the ash
so that she slapped me for playing
with fire, which probably just gave
her another reason for berating me,
anyway, then she asked Marilyn
Schmidt, the best runner on the block
who had accompanied me home, to
buy burn ointment, not butter as we
usually dabbed on burns, but Mother
and I still walked to the hospital
emergency room where they said it
wasn’t too bad after they wrapped
clean white bandages around my leg
with cool, steady fingers as if they
loved me and I still have that small
Roman coin of a scar on my left shin
but I never sailed popsicle sticks
in the alley again.
by Jan Ball
Women were attracted to him
on the dance floor, especially at Polish
weddings when he’d glide with Mom
in his polished Sunday shoes and call out:
under the influence, tipsy, crocked,
inebriated, lit, plastered, sloshed,
tanked, wasted, boozed up, feeling
no pain, three sheets to the wind,
tight, seeing double, wiped out–
however you want to say drunk.
A cousin posted black and white photos
on facebook recently and it all came back,
like a boomerang hitting the side of my head;
in the photos, my dad and mom
sitting on a floral sofa with my twin sister
and me, my dad’s face with the brilliant eyes,
his mouth in that smirk,
ready to say something hurtful,
call us Crisco, followed by fat in the can,
ha-ha, in the voice and look
that still make me tremble like
the Faye Dunaway character in Chinatown.
My twin sister posts on Facebook: They have such
but then she didn’t join a convent
after high school and hide for seven years.
379 of Jan Ball’s poems appear in journals such as: Calyx, Orbis, UK,
Parnassus and Phoebe, internationally and in the U.S. Jan’s three
chapbooks were published with Finishing Line Press as well as her first
full-length poetry collection, I Wanted to Dance with My Father. Orbis,
England, nominated one of her poems for The Pushcart in 2020 and
Constellations nominated her in 2021 and twice so far for The Best of the Net.
The Luxury of a Gravesite by Agnes Vojta
My mother and I carry out the rituals
of grieving. We visit the cemetery,
lay last week’s wilted roses
in the compost, fill the vase, leave
fresh bouquets – a testament
to remembrance. Next year,
when the ground has settled,
we will plant perennials.
In dad’s study, I trace his search
for roots. Baptisms and deaths.
My great-grandmother’s life
in three handwritten pages. Letters
from the grandfather I never knew.
A map of a mass grave in Russia, 1942
A battlefield in Poland, 1914.
My grandma and her mother
never got to lay flowers
on their husband’s graves.
Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T and hikes the Ozarks. She is the author of Porous Land, The Eden of Perhaps, and A Coracle for Dreams (Spartan Press). Most recently, she has been collaborating with eight other poets on the book Wild Muse: Ozarks Nature Poetry (Cornerpost Press, 2022.) Her poems have appeared in a variety of magazines; you can read some of them on her website agnesvojta.com.
Trash Can Lid,
by Renee Williams
Once again, the lid attached to my mother’s trash can has become loosened.
Like all of us, falling apart due to misuse and rough handling.
It’s not the fault of the garbage crew, in a hurry and racing toward the end of day.
The old plastic has just become fragile, suffers from neglect, part of a busy day, functioning,
like we all do…
moving on that trajectory,
doing what needs to be done.
But we don’t throw it away.
It still has life to it, some bit of use, so we keep it.
Like we keep each other, tending to the cuts, and the scrapes, and the bloody arms.
Oh, how frail is that thin skin!
We ignore our own lives, scoff at the high blood pressure, downplay the headaches
and just do what needs to be done, as we always do.
I have black tape on my grocery list, Mom tells me. I need to fix the lid.
But she doesn’t need it, really.
Are you seriously telling me that my father doesn’t have duct tape? I ask her.
I know my father has it in that mammoth, man-cave of a garage, amid the wrenches, pliers,
levels, vacuum attachments, shop vacs, bolts, screwdrivers, nails, air guns, etc.
Even though he’s been gone close to a year now, silently I ask him to guide me.
I find it, of course.
Gorilla tape: strong, black as night, sturdy enough to patch any abrasion.
Just not enough to mend our hearts.
I Blink for a Miracle, by Sandra Rivers-Gill
What is unintentionally torn
can be a mended blessing,
a battle scar folded just below
the field of vision.
My eyes have a way of running—
unremembering the finer details.
On the verge of clarity,
I blink for a miracle.
How many times have I
almost rubbed grace loose
attempting to ease the ache
of seeing by faith and not by sight?
A YouTube ophthalmologist affirms,
We can rub our eyes blind.
But my cornea is already thin and there lies the rub,
like Peter walking on water. I blink.
The doctor is always in. My eyes
are a screen of tests, a betrayal of blurs
benchmarking my squinted tasks—
the imperfection of natural vision.
There is forever a remedy to wear
and I keep it in my arsenal.
The tiny scar is my rear view.
How I see now is the miracle.
A native of Ohio Sandra Rivers-Gill is a writer, performer, and playwright. Her poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies, including ONE ART, Poets Against Racism, Common Threads, Poetry X Hunger, Passager Books, Death Never Dies, Kissing Dynamite, Mock Turtle, and Braided Way Magazine.
Not Today. Not Today. by Carol Krauss
She mostly resides in my left hip.
Content to jab dirty little fingers
into the femoral head. Scrape her
talons along the acetabulum.
On occasion, if she feels particularly
brazen, she may slither out and slide
down my left knee. Or feel the need
to ride shotgun on my shoulder.
I know fear and pain, I once taught
Junior high. Worked at the Sears jewelry counter
one Christmas Eve. I come from sturdy stock.
My grandfather was baptized
in the Ohio River winter waters
and teethed on Buzzard Roost Knob.
So when the temperatures drop and swelling
begins, like the 1985 floods, I reach deep
into the pantry, beyond the cobwebs and pickled okra.
Unscrew that Mason jar. Take a long sip to cut the pain.
Not today, Arthritis. Not today.
Carol Parris Krauss (she, her) is a mother, teacher, and poet from Portsmouth, Virginia. She enjoys using place/nature as theme vehicles. Her poetry can be found at Dead Mule, Louisiana Literature, Scrawl Place, The Skinny Poetry Journal, Story South, the South Carolina Review, Susurrus, Hastings College Plainsongs, Escape into Life, and Broadkill Review. She was honored to be recognized as a Best New Poet by the University of Virginia Press. In 2021, she won the Eastern Shore Writers Association Crossroads Contest and her chapbook Just a Spit Down the Road was published by Kelsay Books. She can be found @CarolKrauss3(twitter).
When You Try to Make Something Sad Look Pretty
by Juliet Cook
Swarming inside the outdated coffins,
the insects reshape themselves
into shrapnel that have lost
Whether or not they’re flying, you can’t
swallow the whole swarm.
You also can’t dissolve dementia.
You are the pallbearer wearing high heels
even though you never cared very much
for high heels. They are now sewn on
to the bottom of your feet.
Unable to be removed
from the unwanted, you wobble haphazardly,
drop things compulsively,
your spiked coffee spills itself
into the coffin. It was an accident
until it was too late. The body
in the coffin expands then melts away
like a giant ice cube shaped like a witch
whose brain has died
itself into a different color.
Juliet Cook is brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, and dark red explosions. She is drawn to poetry, abstract visual art, and other forms of expression. Her poetry has appeared in a peculiar multitude of literary publications. You can find out more at http://www.JulietCook.weebly.com.
Cold Dreams by Debbie Cutler
visions of the past, unresolved
they bare my soul
and force me to the surface
a snake slithering toward me
intruders armed, in my old Alaska home
the stalk of a serial killer
lights that don’t turn on
where I can’t release
the poison inside me
I always wake
then turn on my computer
about the scars—
kicked to the curb at 17
another girl moved into my home
she needed love, my mom explains
wears my prom dress.
Battle wounds from marriage
that never heal
even though he killed himself
can’t hurt me anymore
except at night
where he comes often
Still, I’m safe now
alive in Missouri
far away from my past
where no one can touch me
except in sleep.
Awake, I stare out my window
at winter’s moon
dark and dreary
old and cold
like the dreams that never
In the Constellation of Cancer
by Mary Sexson
I am floating untethered
through the scope
of your illness, an old star
rising on the edge
of your galaxy, passing
its nebulas and dwarf stars,
we knew the names of
when we were young.
Now I am an astronaut
and you a diminished star system
on the brink of losing your light.
But I am fastened
to your burning core
and we still hover within
our own Milky Way,
the one we have mapped
and know our way through,
here in the second quadrant
of the Northern Hemisphere.
I need this familiar place, if I
am to guide you through it
while you close your eyes
against the pain, against the futility
that seems to underscore it.
If we are to cross
this island universe that has held us
throughout our time, I have to know
which way is up.
Mary Sexson is author of the award-winning book 103 in the Light, Selected Poems 1996-2000 (Restoration Press) and co-author of Company of Women, New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press). Her poetry has appeared in Tipton Poetry Journal, Lion’s Den Press, Laureate, Hoosier Lit, Flying Island, New Verse News, Grasslands Review, and Last Stanza Poetry Journal, among others. She has recent work in Reflections on Little Eagle Creek, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Last Stanza Poetry Journal Issue #10. Sexson’s newest work is in The Indianapolis Review. Finishing Line Press will publish her manuscript, Her Addiction, An Empty Place at the Table, in 2023. Sexson’s poetry is part of the INverse Poetry Archives for Hoosier Poets. She has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize.
better to go to waste, than to your waist
by Amanda Nicole Corbin
my mother bequeaths me
this rallying cry in the kitchen
from a generation whos only echoing it
from a generation who only enforced it
a half-eaten donut in my hand
pre-apple innocence dripping down my spine
while the demon come to enter my mirror
wraps his hands around my shoulders,
his finger threatening to tickle my throat:
he tattoos my tastebuds with his flirty media voice
the unmistakable aftertaste of guilt
from a snack i dont dying need.
twenty years later,
my mother offers me a tardy palate cleanser
in way of olive branch acknowledgement:
how victorias secret deserves the backlash
for feeding a machine meant to starve.
Amanda Nicole Corbin has had her short form poetry and prose published in a variety of magazines and journals including Thrice Fiction, Nano Fiction, the Notre Dame Review, and more. She currently lives in Columbus, Ohio and spends her time writing, drawing, and playing Magic the Gathering.
Everything Must Go
by Tony Brewer
I went to the store the other day to replace my arm.
It had been hurting for a few months
and I saw an ad in a magazine about the new models
that can crush cans and slice tomatoes and julienne fries
like a Cuisinart and then retract and fold and hold
a child’s delicate hand moments later.
I might like one of those. And the one I had hurt.
But the arm store was out of stock.
All they had were attachments, like aerodynamic elbow fins
and spindly fingers I know I’d snap off in a door slam.
All the salespeople had arms, of course, but they were no help.
I checked next door at the leg store
and those stilted cocksure merchants laughed
and said What, you wanna look like a freak?
They only cared about speed and shapely calves anyway
and I already got all that covered.
So I’m walking home dejected, unconsciously flexing,
when I hear Psst! Hey, buddy, come ’ere!
And there in the shadow of an alley stood an arms dealer.
And he was a good one. He said I understand your predicament.
You got money and demand. They got no supply.
It’s a rough time now. Sour market. Bad economy. Caveat emptor.
The pit of his arm was whispering all this in my ear.
He had a nice, custom bicep. All tricked out.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know arms could do that
and I had done a lot of research.
I allowed him to take me aside.
We stood next to a dumpster and a dripping water pipe
and he continued to pitch me appendages,
lefts and rights, though they all looked the same
lying there inert in his display case.
This one is for gardening and it has a power scoop.
This one can microwave — it’s really really small.
Finally we got to a few that interested me.
One that could play charades with the other arm
and one that sprouted skin tags and moles and long rogue hairs.
Very realistic. I liked that.
Arms with switchblade fingers and blunderbuss wrists
and extra elbows or quills for hair, eh, I don’t know.
I really just wanted one that could hug
as well as connect my wrist to my shoulder,
and hold and touch, and lift and work my fingers.
You know, the usual. But without the pain.
I said I can do all that now but it hurts.
So I need a new, painless arm.
The dealer said So a replacement, not an upgrade?
Nobody does that anymore I guess.
Use an arm till it wears out
and then get another one just like it.
The guys at the arm store were shocked too.
As if I were trying to destroy their way of life.
I said Yeah just an arm please.
Just like this one. Like mine.
I don’t want to kill anybody and I’m not into gardening.
The dealer said You’re one of those masturbators then?
I could not deny that, but before he could
pull some perverted arm out
of that infinite case of his I stopped him
and said I don’t think you understand.
My arm hurts but it’s mine.
He said To some people that’s the only way
you can tell you’re alive. Pain and possession.
I said You can’t really show off an arm by itself though
because it’s attached to everything else.
He said Yeah but these new models nowadays. Whew!
If you practice you can detach them very quickly.
We went back and forth like this for a while,
in an alley next to a dumpster.
The pipe was still there but had stopped dripping.
Him trying to sell me arms I didn’t need.
Me explaining why I wanted a new old arm.
You don’t repair arms do you? I finally asked.
He laughed and said Nobody fixes arms anymore.
Profit margin’s too low. Cheaper to junk it, buy a new one.
So I thanked him and shook his hand.
It was a really nice one but awfully flashy
and I think that’s exactly why he had it.
Then I got out of there fast.
My arm still hurt but it was mine.
Everything stops hurting eventually,
one way or another.
I jammed my hand so deep
it ripped a hole in my pocket
and everything I had in there spilled
down my one good leg and out onto the street.
Tony Brewer is from Bloomington, Indiana. His latest books are Pity for Sale (Gasconade Press, 2022) and psithurism (Last Lights Press, 2022). He is also a frequent collaborator with experimental music collective Urban Deer. More at tonybrewer71.blogspot.com.
Divining, by Roberta Schultz
You lean into loss
like a dowsing rod. Ribs slat
down toward red sand.
You sing through that ring
in your ears and shuffle feet
to follow the pulse.
Verbs scrape at scars,
peel pale layers
from dark skin.
Strange poems rattle
from wounds this deep. They skitter
wry songs like stones tossed
into a dry well.
You bend crafted lines into
folds, file them away
Like taxes, folds file
them away. You bend crafted
lines into a dry well.
Wry songs— like stones tossed
from wounds this deep—they skitter.
Strange poems rattle
from dark skin, peel pale
layers. Verbs scrape at scars.
To follow the pulse
in your ears and shuffle feet,
you sing through that ring
down toward red sand
like a dowsing rod.
Ribs slat. You lean
Whitewater, by Roberta Schultz
The last words we speak
gurgle over the phone
from your hospital bed.
Your husband’s family
laughs casually in
I hear your pinched throat gush
are they coming? as he pushes
the receiver into your hand.
He assures me that you
will be home
I want to hear your lips channel
plans for a next day when we
cast sister babble behind
Something about behave.
Something about rest.
Something about wait
for our own wake.
Something I will reel in
I cannot fish goodbye
Roberta Schultz, author of four chapbooks and one full-length collection of poetry, is a songwriter, teacher, and poet from Wilder, KY. She writes some of her songs on a mountain in North Carolina. She is co-founder of the Poet & Song House Concert Series with her Raison D’Etre trio mates. You can find out way more than you’d ever want to know about her at these websites:
robertaschultz.com and raison3.com