My New House Guest

“Interior With a Mirror,” oil on canvas, by Vilhelm Hammershoi, c. 1907.

by Cecil Morris

Grief stands shirtless in boxers at my fridge
and looks as cold air spills over his feet.
He eats all the ice cream, even the frost-
crusted rocky road of uncertain age.
He puts the nearly empty milk carton
back, lets my Special K go stale for want
of closing, spills his sunflower seed shells
on the couch and lets them sift down between
the cushions. He drops damp towels on carpet,
on bed, ignores the smell of mildew rising,
will not clean the bathroom or do dishes
or vacuum. He builds me tiny black holes
and scatters them through my day, surprises,
he says, so I know that he still loves me.

Cecil Morris is a retired high school English teacher. He has poems appearing in The Ekphrastic Review, New Verse News, Rust + Moth, The Sugar House Review, Willawaw Journal, and elsewhere.

Echocardiogram

“The Mother,” oil on canvas, by Elizabeth Nourse, 1888.

by Karen Paul Holmes

The sonographer’s cool transducer slides
across jellied skin. She watches
my heart’s movie projected by sound waves—
a stranger peering beyond the curtain
of my body into me.

Grief’s dirges must resonate
like a basso temple bell, casting
Rorschach inkblots of loss onto her screen.
Old anger thumps red, hard,
jealousy flaunts a jagged green scar—
does the technician raise an eyebrow?
She has seen it all before.
Surely there’s a balance of light,
a melodic throb: birthing a daughter,
attending the opera in a cashmere shawl.

I feel oddly intimate with this woman
who wrapped me in a heated blanket
because she knew the room was cold.
She’s the type who could give comfort
with a soft-bosomed embrace.
Perhaps her heart strums a duet with mine.
I hum a little tune from within.

“Echocardiogram” originally appeared in Iodine Poetry Review.

Karen Paul Holmes won the 2023 Lascaux Prize in Poetry and received a special mention in The Pushcart Prize Anthology. She has two books: No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich). Poetry credits include The Writer’s Almanac, The Slowdown, Verse Daily, Diode, and Plume.

College Freshman

“Black Brook,” oil on canvas, by John Singer Sargent, 1908.

by Susan Trofimow

My daughter’s car remains
parked in our driveway
as it has each day for the past
two months. Her keys idle
in a tray by the door.

This morning, beyond our fence,
parents in their usual routine—
a trail of butterfly backpacks
and superhero shirts, all moving
in the same direction.

While I make coffee, the autumn sun
brightens her car’s small body, easing
its dents and scrapes, reflecting
off the dark windows,
each one sealed tight.

Susan Trofimow is a writer currently living in Boston, MA. Her work can be found in various journals including Atticus Review, 8 Poems, Parentheses Journal, Whale Road Review, Rattle, and other publications.

 

Watching You Nap Beneath a Faded Quilt

“A Pair of Boots,” oil on canvas, by Vincent van Gogh, 1887.

by Angela Chaidez Vincent

The body is past tense.
It’s here, but
it’s already happened:
softened bones of the hip,
veins, branches blue with cold.
So I wasn’t surprised to learn
that dust is mostly skin cells,
particles of you and me
that float in winter sunlight.
Over time, a worn boot falls
to its side and the clock
in the shape of a breast
makes no more sound at night.
Dust covers everything
we’ve ever touched
as if to say, somehow,
it remembers us.

“Watching You Nap” originally appeared in Bellevue Literary Review.

Angela Chaidez Vincent writes poetry and fiction and has a background of livelihoods in engineering, mathematics, and programming. Her poetry has appeared in North American Review, 32 Poems, and Bellevue Literary Review, among others. She lives in Fresno, California with her wife, Lisa. Her debut poetry collection, Arena Glow, is forthcoming in February 2024. Online at angelachaidezvincent.com.

Not

“The Young Carpenter,” oil on canvas, by Fredrik Kolsto, 1886.

by B. Fulton Jennes

On Saturdays, our father loaded
his disappointment of daughters
into the back of the Chevy
and drove to the hardware store,
alleging a need for
glazier’s putty, galvanized screws,
a longer plumbing snake.

What he needed, really,
was to be among men—
men who smelled of sawdust and turpentine,
who worked with cold-cracked hands,
who holstered claw hammers
in ready loops on the seams on their pants,
whose talk was as straight and gravity-true
as a plucked plumb-bob line.

While we three plunged our hands
into bins of roofing nails
or collected fanned hands
of paint-chip cards,
he stood, arms akimbo,
rocking from heel to ball,
punctuating loud chatter
with louder guffaws,
fraternizing with men who did not
sit behind desks all week,
aping their spitting, their sweating,
their swearing—
longing to belong.

Our father did not belong,
not there, not anywhere,
not really: he was an outlier who
knew things, recalled things—
an almanac of esoterica.
He could retell Civil War battles
as if he had stood
at the edge of Antietam,
knew the gauges of railroads and guns,
could name the craters of the moon,
the rifts and trenches of seas,
the genus and species of every
native New England tree.

What he did not know
was how to love and be loved
by this churning trilogy of little girls,
this Ezekiel’s Wheel
of elbows and knees,
not devils but not sons,
not damnation but neither
a deliverance from aloneness,
from standing at the edge
of Antietam, day after day,
not a Yankee, not a Rebel,
not dead, not quite alive.

“Not” originally appeared in Connecticut River Review.

B. Fulton Jennes is Poet Laureate of Ridgefield, CT. Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies, and her collection Blinded Birds (Finishing Line Press) received the 2022 International Book Award for a poetry chapbook. Her poem “Glyphs of a Gentle Going” was awarded the 2022 Lascaux Prize.

Sunday Morning

“The Poet Vinje’s Home Plassen in Telemark,” oil on canvas, by Christian Skredsveg, 1887.

by John Glowney

And the gray patches of sky over the house today
are nothing that a fresh coat of paint and some lilacs
wouldn’t fix.

Violets, tulips, fuchsia nicely arranged
in the cloud-beds,

and the sun, a slovenly ex-con
wandering the rooms after breakfast
looking for cigarettes.

And the wind blowsy in the trees
cluttering the air with the smell of fresh mown grass
and gasoline
and sparrows
like the change in your trousers scattered
on a patch of sidewalk.

No politics, just a silence so clear
you could polish it,

or maybe somebody could sing it,
some gorgeous voice
like a breeze

drifting off an old-fashioned record,

floating all day
above the scuff of static.

John Glowney is a graduate of the University of Michigan. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Narrative Magazine, Catamaran, The Baltimore Review, Cider Press Review, Rattle, and elsewhere. He is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize, Poetry Northwest’s Richard Hugo Prize, and the Poetry Society of American’s Robert H. Winner’s Memorial Award. He lives in Seattle.

Metastasis

“By the Sick Sister,” oil on canvas, by Maurycy Minkowski, 1905.

by Ja’net Danielo

Someone I love is dying & that is why I’m at Home
Depot, in the grout aisle, unable to choose between

charcoal & platinum, trying to decide if marked space
between tiles is what I want. Our lives are a series

of black gaps. Someone I love is dying & this is what
I say to myself, not knowing what it means. Today,

a Ukrainian woman told Russian soldiers to fill
their pockets with seeds, so sunflowers would grow

from their dead bodies & this is hope somehow like
paper cranes that dangle from the ceiling of the Todd

Cancer Pavilion, where bald & breastless women wait
to be called. And I want to know, when did cranes

stop being birds? When is a thing no longer itself?
3000 miles from here, in the Living Museum

at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, patients
paint their demons, twist torment into wire

sculpture in the old kitchen hall-now-art-studio—
across the street from Hillside Diner, a stainless-steel

lunch car I spent Saturday mornings as a child. Silver
dollar pancakes, blueberry compote, my father’s

BLTs. Someone I love is dying & the sharp chalk
of dinner mints spooned from the register’s shiny tin

bowl swirls on my tongue, where I turn the word
metastasis, fold & crease it into a poem & I wonder if this

is what the Greeks meant by transformation. I tell myself
it doesn’t matter how things become other, that the dark

space between is nothing more than some before now lost
to us, that there is only what is: Hillside Diner is a Denny’s.

Paper cranes are not birds. There are flowers in bone
just waiting to bloom.

“Metastasis” originally appeared in This Body I Have Tried to Write.

Ja’net Danielo is the author of the chapbooks This Body I Have Tried to Write, winner of MAYDAY Magazine‘s 2022 Micro Chapbook Poetry Contest, and The Song of Our Disappearing (Paper Nautilus, 2021). A recipient of a Professional Artist Fellowship from the Arts Council for Long Beach and the Telluride Institute’s Fischer Prize, her poems have appeared in SWWIM Every Day, Parentheses Journal, The Shore, Mid-American Review, Radar Poetry, and elsewhere. She teaches at Cerritos College and lives in Long Beach, CA, where she facilitates Word Women, a free virtual poetry workshop and retreat series for women and gender nonbinary writers. You can find her at jdanielo.com.

Capturing the Scent of Rain

“April Showers, Napa Valley,” oil on canvas, by Jules Tavernier, c. 1800.

by Karen Paul Holmes

A perfumery in India has bottled the fragrance

Our ancestors taught us to love
the scent because we need rain
to survive

to raise gardens—golden squash
lima beans, red tulips

to ripple lakes, cleanse us
under blue-white waterfalls
to lick wet lips, to drink in, soothe us

sing to us: the trickling down
windows, patter songs
on tin roofs, on fallen leaves.

Scientists cannot capture love
nor prove it but have found
the scent of rain:

an oil they named petrichor
—from the Greek petra (stone)
and ichor (ethereal blood of gods)—
released
when raindrops touch porous stone

birthing pinpoint bubbles
which fizz like champagne
lift the essence
blood of the stone—into the wind

to our senses. The elixir deepens
when the land is dry and rain is light:
Scent and sound intoxicate lovers.

And during drought
there’s still a dab behind the ear
or in the hollow
above the wishbone.

Karen Paul Holmes has two poetry books, No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin, 2018) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich, 2014). Her poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, The Slowdown, and Verse Daily. Publications include Diode, Plume, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. In 2022, Holmes was the Tweetspeak Poetry “Poet Laura” and a finalist for the Lascaux Review Prize in Poetry.

Lullaby for My Brother

“Breton Brother and Sister,” oil on canvas, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1871.

by Carmen Fought

When I listen for your heart
I listen with my hands,
I listen with a hand on your chest
with my eyes closed, the way a river
carving its way through a canyon listens,
the way a room listens
to the temperature as it gets colder
the way a penitent in a cathedral
listens to the stained glass

I listen hoping for a hailstorm,
or a tiled floor
for a needle sewing even stitches,
a book closing on a chapter
and then another
and then the last one

Instead I hear
the hoofbeats of terrified horses
the flickering of a candle as it throws
a shadow on the wall
a bumblebee trapped under a glass

I want to hear plants breaking the soil
one by one in neat rows
Instead I hear God
putting the moon to bed

Carmen Fought is a Professor of Linguistics who teaches at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. She is the author of several books on language and identity, most recently Language and Gender in Children’s Animated Films (2022, Cambridge University Press) which focuses on the representation of gender in Disney and Pixar. Her poems have been published in Gyroscope Review and in the collection Written Here: The Community of Writers Poetry Review 2021.

What to Make of a Diminished Thing

“Child Feeding Her Pets,” oil on canvas, by Gaetano Chierici, 1872.

by Laura Ruby

after Robert Frost

When Izzy was dying, she curled up
in an old box underneath the table saw
in the basement. Not a message, surely,
but then she was always the smart one,
the one who spent the first four months
of kittenhood dodging cars and raccoons,
cruel boys with thorns for brains and bitter
old women bearing bowls of anti-freeze,
while her adopted sister perfected the art
of the hairball on my living room rug.
Once I lured her inside, Izzy never wanted
to leave. But she would sit and watch
my husband rip and build, stain and seal
for hours, bright eyes measuring
every turn of the screwdriver and thrust
of the plane, how a hammer works
both ways.

People ask how I feel these days but
my tongue is both too sharp and too tender.
In short: I am a walking pickle. To shamble
around the block, I wear a baseball cap with
fake hair glued to the back and my neighbors
pretend it isn’t absurd. Cats have better methods
of making their peace with what fails, what falls.
Like them, I hide. In the middle of the night,
I writhe alone on the bathroom floor. It’s cooler
there, for one thing, and quiet. This box contains
me until the drama of the body fails to surprise.
Even pain needs a little perspective, I tell
the tiles, the toilet. The word “fine”
can mean anything when chiseled from
a shattered mouth.

But somewhere in the world, a ragged kitten
barely escapes the screaming wheels of a truck.
She crimps herself under a bush, heart a buzzing
saw. The earth is soft, the branches hold her close.
Her own hunger hums like a power line as she
imagines what marvels she could build
if only she had the right tools.

A two-time National Book Award Finalist, Laura Ruby writes fiction and poetry for adults, teens and children. She is the author of the Printz Medal winning novel Bone Gap, as well as Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All. Her short fiction for adults has appeared in The Florida Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, and Nimrod International, among others, and her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Diode Poetry Journal, Sugar House Review, The Dallas Review, The Nassau Review, Passengers Journal, and elsewhere. She is on the faculty of Queens University’s MFA program and Hamline University’s MFAC program. She makes her home in the Chicago area.