Sun on My Back – a poem by Maria Kornacki

Sun on My Back
 
Holler from a distance
hhh-ear the voice’s elastic echo
stretch for the sun as long
 
as lungs expand 
and 
hang pregnant
 
belly howling, beckoning 
forehead throbbing
sweat shining like HoneyCrisp 
 
apples, the savory juices of summertime. 
It’s the hunger to roam, stratospheric 
air simmers down into the soil, the deeper 
 
into the dwindling night
worn shoes stumble. Breathe in grass 
with exhausted feet, exhale through the ears, 
 
forests have elderly eyes and reaching limbs
like a grandparent letting you in, listen
to crickets tapping like trumpets, 
 
lured by starlit steps 
luminescent lines and
glowing symmetry, you 
 
may lose grip and slip 
into the sticky tar of darkness, 
a dead, starless sky of absence,
 
an itch to stop is swatted on the neck,
senseles clock, 
the sun’s brimming face
 
setting into bed, not settling,
still rolling ember down
a naked back like a golden robe
 
unfolding new specks, now you
cease digging arduously 
holes in the head. Crickets
 
hop and
frogs croak, singing to you 
the nursery rhyme cycles of day
 
without nebulous haze
as they ride steady rhythms,
you listen 
 
to their circadian songs 
on the moonstruck road
rubble between rubber 
 
and as for the sun,
she is a rebel with good intentions
on the run 
 
and it’s only a matter of time
until she comes back 
around.

Maria Kornacki graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a BA in Creative Writing. Her work has been featured in Sonder Midwest, Local Wolves, Remington Review, and Genre: Urban Arts No.8 Print. She’s working on the manuscript for her first poetry book. 

the whip-poor-will chimes – a poem by Natalie Callum

the whip-poor-will chimes 
 
The oaks and pines swallow me 
             as I walk into the woods. The air is spiced and
                          tangy, a single breath of bloom 
 
and death against my skin. Sprawling moss and
             outstretched ferns absorb me
                          in their belly of green; enzymes digest 
 
my guises. Aged trees, wooden bodies 
             crossing in the canopy, groan 
                          at guard. The whip-poor-will chimes and I—
 
Cellar spiders float on glimmering
             tines; copperheads, camouflaged, 
                          glide—and I—
 
The whip-poor-will chimes
             and I—
                          I can no longer spin
 
or molt this haunted, 
             holy skin. The whip-poor-
                          will chimes.


Natalie Callum is a writer and poet living between St. Louis, Missouri and Wyoming. When she is not writing, she can be found outside free climbing and exploring with her much beloved husband. 

Phenomenal – a poem by Stephanie V Sears

 Phenomenal 
 
Across Italy’s Romanesque lines 
between Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas 
saints seed themselves in ploughed fields, 
silt with mysticism  
the blood of builder and artisan, 
dash rebellion over the crepuscular  
hours of the two flanking shores. 
They thrive on terracotta hills 
as wild as poppies, 
as persistent as weeds, 
their ignited souls branding 
the clement sky 
with a tirade of wings. 
They come of age  
impulsive and beautiful. 
  
A see-through grove of trees  
gloves a crest 
with a lace mitten of sun and shade. 
There the top branches 
entwine with tender silence, 
far, far distance nears  
and bequeaths humility. 
Magnified fragments of the world  
touch the heart of penitence. 
Animals become disciples. 
 
Light slips into satin, 
shows to advantage 
barrel-vaulted woods 
sheep-cropped slopes 
ivy niches of romance 
where rock admonishes 
in fresh trickles: 
“Poverty kill the flesh!” 
 
They grow old from unsolved mysteries 
cradling sacrifice like progeny 
to whom they continue  
to serve miracles like gelati.  

Stephanie V Sears is a French and American ethnologist (Doctorate EHESS, Paris 1993), free-lance journalist, essayist and poet whose poetry recently appeared in The Deronda Review, The Comstock Review, The Mystic Blue Review, The Big Windows Review, Indefinite Space, The Plum Tree Tavern, Literary Yard, Clementine Unbound, Anti Heroin Chic, DASH, The Dawn Treader. The Strange Travels of Svinhilde Wilson published by Adelaide Book 2020.

Point taken – a poem by Christopher M James

Point taken
 
Luang Phor Sod Dhammakayaram Temple, Ratchaburi
 
So
do I collapse in my finery
at the first notes of Nessun Dorma.
Or stir a memory, compulsively,
to sip courage from a pot of years.
Or have my crowd raise its arm
for justice in a street.
 
He tells me,
pain is but a book to be read.
 
The dagger in my back does not belong there;
it’s a roaming radio wave. Adjust the dial.
How do I know this?
Each time it shifts place slightly,
unaware what it’s looking for, like
the random frisking at some frontier. 
And yes, let it rummage, I’ve packed 
my own bags, am bringing nothing in.
Rather, I should ask questions of my own:
What is the pain looking for?
What will it say when it’s found nothing? 
How can it explain that 
to the long queue forming behind?
Every question has it chasing ghosts, 
my mind the moving target.
 
Pain is a thief, he says
as I sit awhile cross-legged before him,
 
and posture the law.
Turn like the labourers, rice-pickers         
crammed into an open Toyota truck, staring
backwards at the landscape behind,
falling softly away.
 
 

Christopher M James, a dual British/French national and retired HR professional, lives near Paris. He has published in Aesthetica, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Journal …. and in numerous anthologies (Live Canon, WoLF, Canterbury Poet of the Year, Verve, Dempsey & Windle …). In the past three years, he has been a prizewinner in numerous competitions (Sentinel, Yeovil, Stroud, Poets meet Politics, Wirral, Hanna Greally, Maria Edgeworth, Earlyworks…). He is also a musician, a translator and, some would say, a failed journalist.

Permeable – a poem by Christopher M James

 
Permeable
 
Each New Year
the watering ceremony
on all the Buddha statues.
Crowds spill over
holding bowls fragranced
with flame of the wood, yellow
gardenia, cape jasmin…
for the righting
 
of thought, deed and word
from the swell of the past.
I pitch forward to the front
to come out in the wash,
use two lotus flower stems
to dab the drops
awkwardly, fastidiously,
in the spirited jostling
 
as if finely patting
with small swabs, like
a pointillist painter
honing in, out, in
for a clear perspective,
like
the burns patient I was,
the nurse I’m becoming.
            
 

Christopher M James, a dual British/French national and retired HR professional, lives near Paris. He has published in Aesthetica, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Journal …. and in numerous anthologies (Live Canon, WoLF, Canterbury Poet of the Year, Verve, Dempsey & Windle …). In the past three years, he has been a prizewinner in numerous competitions (Sentinel, Yeovil, Stroud, Poets meet Politics, Wirral, Hanna Greally, Maria Edgeworth, Earlyworks…). He is also a musician, a translator and, some would say, a failed journalist.

The Nature of Things – a poem by Peggy Hammond

The Nature of Things
 
Our lives, spirals,
grooves in soft earth
like those behind a plow
in freshly-turned field, 
 
each path unique but similar,
a labyrinth we all follow.
Our mothers, the starting point.
Our loves and losses become
details etched in stones 
lining our walk,
leading to the stopping point 
where a final breath holds itself
at journey’s end.
 
Perhaps we are like water
hurtling toward, then over the falls.
That we are allowed even once
to crash into pools,
curl ourselves around rocks,
and overflow banks 
is enough.
 
 

Peggy Hammond’s poetry is featured or forthcoming in The LyricistOberon PoetryHigh Shelf PressSan Antonio ReviewInkletteWest Trade ReviewRogue AgentGinosko Literary Journal, and Trouvaille Review.  Her full-length play A Little Bit of Destiny was produced by OdysseyStage Theatre in Durham, North Carolina.

After She Gets Her Braces Off – a poem by Elizabeth Crowell

AFTER SHE GETS HER BRACES OFF
 
my daughter sits with her seatbelt on,
pigtail up, pulling her lips up
to the rear-view mirror's small island
that glimmers in the November sun.
 
She opens and closes her mouth,
snapping her teeth together each time.
She looks left, right, at each side
of her beautiful, freckled face,
 
She goes back over the years,
fifth grade, the palette expander,
medieval torture device, and then
the brackets and brands as she grew.
 
Years of metal have gone 
and now, an ivory flash.
Oh, the teeth are slimy, she reports,
wagging her thick, pink tongue across them. 
 
Those years I sat in the waiting room
with its pictures of speckled trout,
Maine cliffs, a scout in olive knee socks
leaning on a stick over a mountain.
 
Of course, I was afraid of straightening her out,
did not mind at all that her bite bent,
would change nothing about her,
but it is not that way, of course.
 
There are reasons we cannot stay
exactly as we are, and she grins so widely
perhaps she thinks
today is the end of that.
 
 

Elizabeth Crowell was born and raised in New Jersey.  She has a B.A. in English from Smith College and an M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia University.  She has taught high school and college English.  She lives outside Boston with her wife and two children.  

Her work has been included in The Bellevue Literary Review, where it has twice won the non-fiction prize, Tishman ReviewRaven’s Edge and most recently Levee.  

Teresa’s Vision – a poem by Cynthia Sowers

IV.             Teresa’s Vision
 from 'Saints' Tales: Dialogues in Solitude'

There was really nothing:
A nothing described,
In so many words,
As a smooth space, 
Featureless, bland,
So you would know;
A smooth space – 
In a manner of speaking –
The present and evasive wall
Approached by a hand.
 
Because there was nothing to see,
I returned to the primitive sense:
Lifted, extended,
A greeting –
The magical figure
Turned at that very moment,
Without alteration,
To a gesture of grief:
Symmetrical always; 
Speechless.
 
But you, ardent and willful Teresa,
Shouted “Look at me!”
You, O passionate Teresa,
Saw.

Cynthia Sowers was a Senior Lecturer at the Residential College of the University of Michigan until retirement in 2019. Five of her poems were published in the inaugural issue of the Solum Journal (Fall 2020). https://cynthiasowers.rc.lsa.umich.edu/

(from) the shell of things – poetry by Jacob Stratman

from the shell of things

                      *

He searches for a word—the color
of the rice fields here in October,
Chuseok day.  Golden seems most accessible,
 
easily connected to the wheat fields
he’s seen in Kansas, but not the color
of the gold-finch in March, newly arrived
 
from winter.  Not the sandy blond hair
of his son waving in front of him
on this narrow road between the fields.
 
Crayola might suggest orange, yellow,
maize, or dandelion, maybe golden-
rod or sunglow when the day is bright
 
like this one, but the rice field resists
the only language he can offer. 
Yellow perhaps is the color a child
 
or a foreigner might choose.  He throws
his hands out in front of him over these fields
and pleads for a color, a chosen word
 
for a finished season, for the only
harvest of the year on this tiered hillside
near the sea under the blue sky—the same
 
blue that answers prayers, responds to chants
and petitions, that lunges, that rests,
that hugs every living thing at its end.
 

Jacob Stratman’s first book of poems, What I Have I Offer With Two Hands, is a part of the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade, 2019). His most recent poems are forthcoming in The Christian CenturySpoon River Poetry Review, Salt Hill, Bearings Online, and Ekstasis.  He lives and teaches in Siloam Springs, AR.

Lucky – a poem by Susan Michele Coronel

LUCKY

My thoughts linger 
on the hem of my purple dress. 
 
I am not a perpetual witness to failure 
but a doppelganger uncovering roots –
 
source of connection and remembrance.
Sometimes I traverse the road between heaven and hell, 
 
strumming “So Long Marianne” on a beat-up guitar 
or fingering prayer beads. 
 
I don’t recognize family portraits in the hall, 
blue light turning faces olive and sullen. 
 
I listen to myself whistling. 
It’s not a matter of chance, 
 
not a question of who, what, where, why 
or when, but the other w — wonder—
 
whipping around the windowsill 
as Earth spins into dawn. 
 
I bathe in morning light 
with a full view of the chapel. 
 
I am not my own worst enemy.
I am a lucky lady holding out a finger for a bird. 

Susan Michele Coronel is a NYC-based poet and educator. She has a B.A. in English from Indiana University-Bloomington and an M.S. Ed. in Applied Linguistics from the City University of New York. Her poems have appeared in publications including Prometheus Dreaming, Hoxie Gorge Review, Ekphrastic Review, Passengers Journal, Street Cake, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Newtown Literary, and HerWords.