House in the Marsh

by Eric Whiteside

Fisherman don’t have to live in it.
Just long enough to get
out of the rain.
No matter how broken down,
a house is better than the marsh.
The sun might set from left to right several times
before they reach the living room, but
there’s a roof. It leaks a little,
but it’s mostly dry inside.
There’s a deck of cards someone left
in the parlor.
And if they meet and pass themselves,
they can just keep looking ahead,
never turning around,
at least it’s dry inside.
But if the river floods,
then they better get out quick.
If the peacocks and the herons get quiet,
then they better get their things;
they better get out quick,
through the back doorway,
heading away from the river.
If they don’t sleep going home,
they better wonder
who saw what storm
from the other door. What hands
pounding the door,
wringing every rotten plank into
an unbreakable backbone of stars.

House of Milk and Honey

by Daniel Harper

While I took a shower
you snuck through my door
placed on my kitchen table
a one pint bottle
from the “House of Milk
and Honey” that held
three daffodils, dressed
in the richest yellow
that filled my apartment
with a gentle perfume.
Wealthier than old Solomon
with all of his gardens
I forgot my worries
of overdue books
and made an omelette
with green peppers
and sharp cheddar cheese.

Winter

by Cody Winchester

One December, a horse
fell through ice and
couldn’t reach bottom in
dark winter water.
After that, we didn’t glide
on slippery paths anymore.
When ice turned to slush,
we stood silent and
watched chains around
the bloodstained skull
grow taut and black tires dig.
The dogs and birds ate away
any flesh above the ice
and after the first thaw,
a tractor pulled out the rest.
Around the warm stove, we
tried not to think about
being dead in inky black water
for three months.

For Flannery O’Connor

by Jill Hemming

My grandma always said
her favorite glasses
were thick cat-eye shapes
with fake cut diamonds.
The kind you wear in the portrait ·
at the back of your book.
Your buck teeth waggle
like they’ll poke to 3-D
as I shut this cover
on your crazy hair that puffs
too silly. You don’t look
like you ever went to a formal
and I bet the boys
laughed at your back
when you walked
but oh, I think I like you
despite six feet of dark earth.
You’re still pushing stones,
trying to topple
the hard monuments
men cement to your feet.

Confirmation

by Marni Asplund Campbell

Some time
I’ll show you a picture
of your concrete arrival
in a small glass tube,
authoritative, lab-like,
filled and mixed
with litmus blue, or
acid pink-
some chemical code
that I must crack to see
if you exist.
I turn to set the dock,
wait for your message,
and you reply too quickly:
I am here,
in cloudy color.
I falter, and slowly sit
on our cold floor,
call your father,
“dear God,” I say, and we sit
holding hands,
watching the liquid miracle.

A Letter

by Paul Rawlins

I’ve eaten fresh brown bread and yellow cheese
For a late supper, sipped peppermint tea
While I studied frost etchings scratched against
The kitchen window, and toyed with writing you

A letter. Sue, I’m doing better now
With winter. I sleep late, and I’ve burned
Half a ton of coal to ash for warmth, while
Keeping watch on half-a-dozen scrub jays

And a flock of wayward finches you lured
To the house with thistle seed and peanuts
In the shell. And how are you in Maine?
I haven’t got a stamp, so there’s no telling

When I’ll get there, and I haven’t seen a
Mailman for days. But I’m writing now
To say I’m doing fine, and to ask you
How it is I haven’t got a pair of socks

To match a suit you bought to bury me
In, just in case the worst, and how it is
I’m left dying barefoot and alone
In a summer cabin swallowed in the mouth

Of Ogden Canyon, not so far away
That I can’t hear the traffic from the valley
On a weekday, and you have taken shelter
And a sanctuary in the backwoods?

Porcupine Days and Nights

by David D. Jensen

Porcupines sit in the high meadows
pulling down alfalfa blossoms,
turning into patches of dark
brush as the sun dies.

In starlight they climb
to the tallest tops
of trees and sleep late.

They dream nice dreams,
salty shovel-handle dreams.
They remember things
in a melting collage
of ice cream carton memories.

In the afternoon they stretch
and point their spines sunward.
They wash their faces
and smile
like someone in love.

For Joe Urzza

by Cody Winchester

Last spring the kid up the road
died in his closet.
We rode the same yellow bus.
Once I told him to turn down
his cheap black boombox.
Balanced on his shoulder, he
played it heavy and loud.

Even before the rope met
his fine Basque neck,
I could have told you his story.
I never saw it myself, but
we went to the same high school, where
muscles rippled under lettermen’s jackets
and his thin legs walked alone.

I also saw the hard looks of his
father as he walked along
dusty ditch banks. And I
heard all the stories my dad
picked up at the Co-op.
His mother left early and
so did a string of other women.

I wasn’t there when he died.
A one-time cheerleader working at
the gas station told me much later.
It’s so awful, she said, that someone could
kill himself.
And I might have agreed with her, if
she hadn’t been so eager to tell me.

At Geology Lab in Idaho (With My Lab Partner Kerry)

by Jill Hemming

We hover over numbered rocks,
seeking cleavage
to match diagrams
in the textbook.

“These are the bosom
of the earth”
our professor cries,
like a faroff bird.

We strain for textures,
hold them to our eyes;
I line them up again and again
like convicts
with digits on their chests.

But Kerry handles them
like Easter sugar eggs.
She understands the equilibrium
of a rock,

how it sits flat,
down deep and still.
In dance class
she lies within a circle,
feels the floor breathe
and the ceiling move down to her
like a lover.
(She keeps waiting to flatten).

Descending a Ten-percent Grade on a Bicycle at Midnight: Sundance, Utah

by Scott Elgin Calhoun

it is better than any lipstick
you have ever taken off the hot
mouth of a woman, even better
than the best wooden roller coasters

in the moonlight without a helmet
I follow the yellow line
my only guide
the wind
slicking my hair back
like a mannequin
dropped from a biplane

the engines of lovers
whir inside parked and heated cars
at the edge of the canyon road
a generator hums on a motorhome somewhere
in the peaks Robert Redford sleeps
above him a glacier

but I am delicately potent
and alone like a WWI pilot
who has run out of gas
and is gliding silently down
into a field of poppies near Bapaume
without a match to light
a cigarette or pen to write
a letter