Story Circle by David Bankson

By David Bankson

 

Tell of darkness in a coal miner’s heart,

balsam fir sapling surrounded by ancestors,

 

all the hearts of man expelling words

of warning. Say the house’s roof

 

is a den of illicit activity. Invoke

empty stone wells & death masks,

 

cracked teeth, a sunset stained with wine.

As another night ruptures in the throat,

 

scream the primal truth–though stories

are honey, let us grasp the barbed wire tonight.

She Left, but She Came Back by Alexandra Palmer

By Alexandra Palmer

 

The year we moved to Ohio, I noticed

she stopped painting her nails. On days she wore

her hair back (no ribbon, no curls),

I often used the word nice. Moths were getting warm

in the corners of our laundry, lazing in Josephine’s car seat,

nesting behind the throw pillows.

 

Yet, even on Monday evenings, we went driving.

She would turn on Rachmaninoff and blush.

 

That night she had fallen in with three cups of chamomile

tea, which she sipped for the aches. It was so late

she had let Tess out and back in again.

Those erratic spaniel ears, doused in slush, smacked her calves.

She toweled the dog dry and led her to bed.

It was long since her hands had sunk into hot water.

She didn’t see me come downstairs for an orange, a book,

to bring her to bed. From the living room, I heard her

sit down heavily, and the accent chair shhhed that I should wait.

 

On our mantle hung boughs of bald cypress, which she had clipped

several days after Thanksgiving. Their tang

collided with soot, cologneing her hair; gossip between

that ashy breath and the oily tree enticed her to come,

caress one of the green sleeves. She bent to it. The needles clung to her skin.

Bits of resin fondled her fingers, a shimmering, gamey balm.

Summons

Claudia Stanek

Woman summons fruit from heaven

and loses her knowledge of good when seeds fall.

Woman summons slaking rain

and her children forget how to swim.

Woman summons irresistible grace—

and someone’s child has to go.

Who.

Birches

Claudia Stanek

See, against the light? The body’s

landscape is marked by pain’s highway.

Fracture lies within. The glowing

Sea of the mind-stream twists itself

Into noir nano-second glass.

God plants you beneath birches.

Angels rattle the leaves in chant.

Bleach Bautismo

Mallory Dickson

I cut it, the long strips of curl shaped like zigzag scissors, dull blonde streaks like caramel laced through the ends of my almost-but-not-quite-black hair. Surviving months of Swim Team chlorine, hundreds of Cross Country ponytails, a car-crash-worthy breakup, I have clung to this hair for over four years. I don’t know if it defines me, or if I define it. Curly, definitely curly, although my first year at college has flattened and cooked my oceanic rulos into ripples in a lake. While she cuts she talks, this amiga latina with large hips like a sofa, hair baptized by blonde dye, black wing tips lifting off from the corners of her dark brown latina eyes. Washing over me, caressing me with the gentle shhhhhh of Castellano: I understand and I don’t. Who am I to cut off the past? Who am I not to? Is this symbolic shearing me, me shedding an old skin? She asks what color the new blonde streaks will be: dulce de leche, vanilla, musky smoke or cracked leather blonde? I find myself pointing to the platinum, shiny as a new vintage record, don’t-look-it-might-blind-you-blonde. Light as gringa skin, dipped in white chocolate, after the summer tan has rubbed off and we all resemble Snow White a little. That is too light she says, but I will take this plunge, this smell of bleach, this baptism of fire in Buenos Aires.

To My Younger Self, Who Begged For an Alf Poster

Jack Garcia III

JJ, do you remember unwrapping

that Alf poster one Christmas in California?—

back when Christmases involved real trees

but fake snow—not like the frosted Wasatch

that holds you in today, those mountains

disappearing into bright, colorless sky;

a smudged pencil drawing, half-erased

on toothy artist’s paper.

JJ, do you remember fearing

the thunderous night, light ripping across

Alf’s puppet-snout in the dark—rounded teeth

leering bone-white and dull? You screamed

and your father appeared, tore down

the poster-monster, held you close—

the smell of aftershave on his neck—drove

you to McDonald’s in the morning for hot

cakes and to play in the ball pit. Remember

sinking in slow-motion, letting round, primary

colors envelop you until everything

was dim with stillness? Don’t be afraid;

paper mountains will not fail you,

your father’s arms take many forms,

and the taped-up sky hangs dark with promise,

as if on pause, as you leap up and out

into the blinding future.

Manifold

Jonathon Egan

i took dissection once.

after

considering the scalpel in each hand,

i reverently approached the veil

of the temple of God

and gently pressed.

the skin

parted as skin does, layer

upon layer reflected – and

though i never appreciated

the soul,

bone saw in hand i confess

i found the seat of knowledge

a marvel even unblinking.

the maximal atlas of the man,

not pressed in six charts, authalic,

but splayed in all his glory.

Holy. Holy. Holy.

Conticinium/Alight

by Jonathon Egan

The first time it died, I was unprepared.

The dark curtain fell,

the heavens disrobed,

and I was bare before the trees

that leaned in suddenly, witnesses to

the final draughts of sunlight

spilling from the embers

into ash.

Startled by the numinous, a

last log then, meant for morning,

thrown in haste

to ward against the stars

and give me time to grow accustomed

to the honesty of dusk.

The second time it died, I was steeled.

Perseids to the northeast.

Mexico to the south.

The woodpeckers that rung the wood

so satisfyingly through the day

now asleep in fibrous cavities above me.

And underfoot: acorn caps, leaves, and

dust in piles on piles.

Now strongly tempted to remove my shoes, I

lift my eyes beyond the bower –

neck craning – to behold

not a burning bush,

but there, in worlds without number –

sounding with the last crickets in my ears and

pressing on the creases behind my knees –

a revelation in a whisper

teaching what will move and what will not.

Lady Stradivarius

by Tina Hawley

Silver plaited strings pull taut against

Her arching neck of golden wood. Her silhouette

Hums with chiseled grace, proving the master’s dream-drawn plan.

An orange sun setting in her aging complexion,

A ghost of gentility in her fading gloss.

Her faithful bow stands ready to speak,

His hair a thousand lines of gritty white resin

Trailing powdered footprints down his slender scarlet spine,

Melting like snow at a layman’s touch,

Sticking like sap to his fingers.

White presses to silver, skin presses to skin,

Reaching, a note’s caress births an unplumbed ocean.

I hear the waves crashing, rising, calling. I dive into the

Deep, filling my lungs with salted starlight.

In a song I will willingly drown.

US-395

by Miranda Clement

If LA didn’t exist there would be a lake,

not a field of solar panels and rundown gas stations— well

the gas stations might still be there.

But they would be for the boats.

The ones rich people might bring out on vacation.

And “Cartago: Population 92”

might of been “Cartago: Population 9,000”

If it weren’t for LA moving the water and moving on

from old spaghetti westerns and cowboy ghost towns

Owens Valley would be lined with cars on the side of its one highway,

tourist stopping to get their picture with the T-rex and Lemon House.

They’d know exactly where it was too.