The float engages as the toilet’s tank
is filled. The sound of running water dies.
All noise of human bustle gone, the house
relaxes into weary creaks and sighs.
The trees outside are silent, with no wind
stirring their leaves. A sparrow in its nest,
I settle into sleep beneath the distant
rumble of a red-eye heading west.
The smoke detector’s indicator light
winks faintly overhead, its tiny sun
the only glow except the bedside clock
displaying unwatched minutes one by one.
My breathing scarcely stirs the coverlet.
With no external sound distracting me,
I listen to my nervous system play
its steady note – F above middle C.
O let my end be gentle as this night
as silent and enfolding. No more dawn --
let darkness rock me in its arms until
my heartbeat slows, then stutters, then is gone.
Reagan Upshaw lives in a town on the Hudson River 60 miles north of New York City and makes a living as an art appraiser, while gardening and keeping bees.
Brightening sky ignites
the cross, sheds jeweled light
on suffering skin and bone
in this dank church.
Light pours upon
our humble heads,
red, deep orange of a dying day,
or new day. Trapped
inside our dark
we merely stand and blink,
craving more than sunshine.
Elizabeth L. Merrick lives with her husband in Somerville, Massachusetts. Her poetry has appeared in journals including Green Hills Literary Lantern, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Front Porch Review. She has also authored publications in the field of mental health and addiction research, as well as a guidebook on Boston’s historic house museums.
for Carly Sachs
In my heart, there is a tree
called Chora, and when I visit
my heart--so rarely--the tree
stands up, unfurling her
branches like long whips
and the leaves rustling
open. I have to lean away
at first because she is massive
and tall, but then I come in
under her branches. She is rooted
in the earth’s molten core.
Her branches go everywhere,
connect to everything, caress
the sky. I feel shame
in denying her, not even knocking
at the door of my heart to see
if she is home. No one can take her
lightly, and I have not had time
to be serious. When I gave
birth to my daughter, my hips
clenched like a fist, and in the necessity
of life, my whole body
has been clenched. But that
is Chora, too, the strength
of the hour again and again
and always. Now, I want
to unclench, to rebalance, to welcome
the strong inner self it takes
bravery to recognize,
dedicated not to daily cares
but to the distance, that reaches
happiness and into and beyond death.
Nancy Knowles teaches English and Writing at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, OR. Her ghazal “Be Still” earned an honorable mention in the Oregon Poetry Association’s 2019 Spring Contest. She has published poetry in Toyon; Eastern Oregon Anthology: A Sense of Place; Torches n’ Pitchforks; War, Literature, & the Arts; Oregon East; and Willawaw Journal. Her poem “Sixth-Grade Homework” is available at http://wlajournal.com/wlaarchive/29/knowles.pdf and “The Only Eternal” at http://willawawjournal.com/category/journal/willawaw-journal-winter-2018-issue-5/page/5/
On the Brink of Tomorrow
Howden Pond, Hamlin NY
Leaning on my cherry-switch walking stick, looking
beyond yellow reeds and pearly everlastings, the pond’s
depth has shrunk, revealing its puckered banks where
belly tracks of beavers have worn a path to their estate
of young poplars that satisfy their hunger, reducing
trunks to pointed stakes; and at the water’s edge,
floating among the reeds, a few stripped branches
wait to be towed to the old den’s interior. Yet today,
construction isn’t anything more than the wind’s
ruffling of yellow leaves and the pond’s inky surface.
I am not a reflection here— not a striking shadow,
ready to prove this morning’s geometry— only
a set of eyes, wanting to travel without leaving
home— wanting to be standing here, tomorrow.
M.J. Iuppa’s fourth poetry collection is This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017). For the past 32 years, she has lived on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Check out her blog: mjiuppa.blogspot.com for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew.
Backyard High Wire Act
Ringling Brothers flying trapeze,
Circe de Soleil,
a granddaughter showing off gymnastic feats—
all rhythms of life captured between held breaths.
A performance this morning
outside my kitchen window
gave me pause:
bare, slender branches,
black, spindly outlines backed by
December dawn light
immersed in blue violet.
First one squirrel
racing with abandon
up the tallest maple, past the nest
distinguishable in silhouette
against the burgeoning sky, and soon
another close behind, and a third
following the leader in agile leaps
from fragile limb to limb, death-defying
connections mysteriously maneuvered
in spite of bobbing, bushy-tail weight.
Once on a tour a guard shouted "silencio"
nudging us on like cattle
in the overcrowded Sistine Chapel
where I craned my neck
hungry to see a spark,
to imagine the electric air
Michelangelo left there
between God's finger and Adam's.
Now, as the day quickens and long after
the squirrels disperse,
gossamer limbs dance in the breeze,
maple twigs reach to oak
and somewhere, a sacred
Linda Vigen Phillips‘ poems have appeared in The Texas Review, The California Quarterly, NC Poetry Society Award Winning Poems 2001, Wellspring, Main Street Rag, Independence Boulevard, and Windhover. She has two published YA novels in verse, Crazy and Behind These Hands. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband.
Estrogen ecstasy eschaton eschatological
Burning visions of the end of this world
Extirpation excision excelsior extinction deo
What is being? Being in itself, being in all
Of its sets of Heideggerian equivocation
Does being have a ground, an essence?
Ship of Souls
Sails over the dark dharma horizon
Slipping into the Dantesque dramaturgy
Of lithium lakes destabilized in Lethe
Why is there something rather than
Nothingness? Why is there life
Rather a formless void of darkness?
The universe shifts into multiplicities
Of multiverses, coreless essenceless
And infinities of nonlinear pythic paths
Rose Knapp (she/they) is a poet and electronic producer. She has publications in Lotus-Eater, Bombay Gin, BlazeVOX, Hotel Amerika, Fence Books, Obsidian, Gargoyle, and others. She has poetry collections published with Hesterglock Press, and Dostoyevsky Wannabe. She lives in Minneapolis. Find her on at roseknapp.net and on Twitter @Rose_Siyaniye
Grieve Well, Friend
May grief’s moon-round pebble imbue
thumb and forefinger with memories
that stitch your breath’s seams,
cut—honed like moon’s crescent—
through jellied platitudes.
May grief map your trek
past memories that light—
improbable—into your hands,
onto your tongue, then melt
fusing to skin and within.
And may those memories
bank a fire that smolders,
sheds mere shreds of warmth
for now, promises to dance
in the fullness of time.
Nancy K. Jentsch’s poetry has appeared recently in Thimble Literary Magazine, Tiferet, Zingara Poetry Review and in numerous anthologies. In 2020, she received an Arts Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Her chapbook, Authorized Visitors, was published in 2017 and her writer’s page on Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/NancyJentschPoet/
If You Want the Rainbow
—inspired by Dolly Parton’s infinitely wise words
“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow
you gotta put up with the rain.”
But storms can hit harder than any blow.
Just when you need relief, the skies will flow
and pummel you with tears and aches and pain.
The way I see it, if you want the rainbow,
kiss your hurts and hug them close. Above all, take it slow.
And breathe! Losing your shit cannot be called “a gain;”
your storms can hit harder than any blow!
Get wet. Jump in puddles toe-to-toe.
Take a stroll, hand-in-hand with a friend. This is sane.
The way I see it, if you want the rainbow,
thank the rain! It saturates you ‘til you know
you cannot get any wetter. Head inside. Get dry again
once storms have hit harder than any blow.
Towel off. Drink tea. Cuddle. Then work hard! And throw
aside the fears that you can’t take it. Let those wane.
The way I see it, if you want the rainbow,
know storms hit hard. They’re part of getting clean and letting go.
Amy Baskin‘s work is currently featured in Bear Review, River Heron Review, and is forthcoming in Pirene’s Fountain. She is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, an Oregon Literary Arts Fellow, and an Oregon Poetry Association prize winner. When she’s not writing, she matches international students at Lewis & Clark College with local residents to help them feel welcome and at home during their time in Oregon.
Tea Leaves in Confinement
Mornings are for finding words,
but the leaves in my tea
float orange and green
among the ginger, turmeric
dissolving in spoonsful of splendid honey.
This aroma sweetens the delicious quiet
punctuated by bursting pops of sap
from the old stove.
The mild whistle of the wind brushes
my windows. A seductress of play.
Mornings are best to write and amend
but the taste of tea lures me
the meadow with its brown brush
the long dark weight of Mount Emily
the nervous chirping of juncos under the hawthorn
their fleeting presence while they rummage the mullet
I placed early in the moon’s shadow.
During this plague, solitude is the gift.
Just like this morning’s tea.
Amelia Díaz Ettinger is a ‘Mexi-Rican,’ born in México but raised in Puerto Rico. She has two poetry books published, Learning to Love a Western Sky by Airlie Press, and a bilingual poetry book, Speaking at a Time by Redbat Press. A chapbook was released by Finishing Line Press in February, Fossils on a Red Flag. Currently, Amelia Díaz Ettinger is working on an MFA in creative writing at Eastern Oregon University.
I pray out loud too.
As dune grasses pray,
with their empty, crisp, quivers.
I’m bound, like anything else
alive in winter, to attempt survival.
Torn stem. Berries. Gull prints
lonesome for life’s evidence.
Sunlight pools, wilts leftover snow and
where sand shifts ground, I imagine
warm pockets. Contained. Underneath,
new stems heed nothing, not even cold.
Lauren Carlson is the author of a chapbook Animals I Have Killed which won the Comstock Writers Group chapbook prize in 2018. Her work has been published in Pleiades, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, The Windhover, and Blue Heron Review among others. She recently graduated with an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson, the first low residency program in the United States. https://laurenkcarlson.com/