Kate Mulvaney Leaves Her Handprint in the Mud | Jack B. Bedell

Whenever she crosses the swamp,
she stops every quarter mile
to press her palm into the mud

at the base of palmettos. She knows
the swamp’s dead will rise up
toward the warmth she leaves,

the fan of her fingers glowing
in their dark heaven. Whatever there is
to learn from these depths

she draws toward the surface,
prays for it to follow her home
and spill itself out of the nets

she casts in her dreams, all open-eyed
and mouthing the sharp air.

 


Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s work has appeared in Southern ReviewBirmingham Poetry ReviewPidgeonholesThe ShoreCotton XenomorphOkay DonkeyEcoTheoThe HopperTerrainsaltfront, and other journals. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, 2018). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.

Kate Mulvaney, Shrivening | Jack B. Bedell

Sometimes women from town tie up
to her dock with fish still fresh
from the water. Before they can tell her

what they need, she slices the fish
from jaw to tail, pulls its organs out
through the gash, and squeezes

its heart. There’s usually enough blood
to draw crosses on all the women’s
brows, enough twitch left

in the fish to last through her prayers.
Garfish are best for this, their blood
old and patient from waiting

in the deepest waters, its stain
thick enough to stay the night.

 


Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s work has appeared in Southern ReviewBirmingham Poetry ReviewPidgeonholesThe ShoreCotton XenomorphOkay DonkeyEcoTheoThe HopperTerrainsaltfront, and other journals. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, 2018). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.

the Witch Cave | Aiden Heung

The tomato-field trembled as my grandma
sunk her hoe like a scalpel into the soil.
The upturned earth un-petaled
beside her feet, laying bare
the darkness that looked like fecundity.
The cut scent of the rain came wet
towards her and besmirched her hands.
Behind her, the peak towered majestically,
girdled with clouds that dissipated
in the bright sun. And a cave hid beneath.
It was the witch cave, she said.
那是巫婆洞
A place where sorrow was revved
into delight as the dead stayed
but as another form. She knew it well
the day she shoveled open the mountain slope
and buried my grandpa there, like a seed.
所以我爷爷在洞里面?I asked.
She bent to pick up a fallen tomato;
her weight oppressing the air,
then came the susurrus of leaves.
That was how I remembered her,
a woman hunched over branches and the fruit
of life in her hands, red
like the lantern on our eaves.
I didn’t know if she was crying.

Years later
we buried grandma in a different city;
we didn’t know better,
we could’ve placed her in the cave,
But adults never believed children.

Now as I place the framed photo
of my grandparents on the wall,
the same mountain sun comes
almost twenty years late to my room,
so bright and dazzling

I have to close my eyes.

 


Aiden Heung is a poet born and raised on the edge of Tibetan Plateau. He holds an MA in literature from Tongji University in Shanghai. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in numerous online and print magazines including Cha: An Asian Literary JournalLiterary ShanghaiVoice & Verse, The Shanghai Literary ReviewNew English ReviewMekong ReviewThe Raw Art Review among many other places. He was shortlisted for the 2020 Doug Draime Poetry Prize and he was also awarded the 2019 Hong Kong Proverse Poetry Prize.

He can be found on twitter @AidenHeung.

Augur of Winter at Home | Keith Moul

Bones lie in mud; tendons strap their decay.
Live wings crowd gray skies with beats,
punishing crests of the dominant species.

The scrap for food occurs under trees
as rings accrete inside protective bark.
Cloudy-eyed insects burrow into leaf mold.

Curtain drains vein away under mounds.
Raindrops freshen shrubs like eyelashes
creating utter relief for a heated mind.

 


Keith Moul writes poems and takes photos, doing both for more than 50 years. He concentrates on empirical moments in time, recognizing that the world will be somewhat different at the same place that today inspires him. His work appears around the world. Besides this reprint of his 2012 book Beautiful Agitation, also scheduled for 2020 release is New and Selected Poems: Bones Molder, Words Hold.

Extinction | J.L. Lapinel

Frost tree tips huddle, shoulders touching
and tiny lights slip between sleeping branches while
nature’s silken body reclines in icy sleep
Gritted paths swerve to catch feet of
ancient dirt, crawfish stone and mud
the haunting rocks of fern and dust
flat, fill hollow spores with slanted thoughts

The locusts and hillside are dense with forgetting
We grip the blood of earth to see what more
we can push between our fingers
Light follows us into damp and quiet places
Under rays of darkness that stick
Under our nails
and lead to doors that pound with that threat
of danger coming through feet of
wanton anger

The hollow echo of a pipe bounces
somewhere
Scraping and dragging along pavement
as a jet exhausts
through the sky
a needle sewing
through the clouds, trailing silt ashy signatures

That damp air pushes dead leaves
along the brown grass patchwork of mud and dead percussions
and in the streets of orange musk
bipeds lift their lashes to eat the memory of tomorrow
a myopic buffet
While a quiet whispers the forgetting
to eyes and lips and teeth that part to
callously remember the forgotten words and
understand them anew

 


J.L. Lapinel is a poet and educator. Her work appears in Minnie’s Diary Anthology, Impressions: A Collection of Poetry, Quill Books, Front Runner Quarterly, Wide Open Magazine, The Cambridge Collection, The North American Poetry Review, Odessa Poetry Review, Minetta Review, The Tin Penny. Her poem Little People was nominated for 2019 Pushcart Prize.

She is an MFA candidate at UMass Amherst and is very much enjoying living in New England after having lived half of her life in and around New York.

too late | Michael Estabrook

I’m back in the Northfield Avenue house
in the driveway
no one’s here it’s dark
but the doors are open
I go in the side door and call out
turn on lights stick
my head in Kerry’s room
but of course he’s not in there
at his desk or ironing
and the dining room is a clutter
living room too
there’s a barbell in the kitchen
that’s odd
the old dial phone still on the wall
by the hallway
no door leading upstairs
where’s Kerry dammit
not the same
nothing’s the same
without my brother Kerry
he took an alternate path in life
could’ve been happier
if he finished college, married Pam
but too late for that now
too late

 


Michael Estabrook has been publishing his poetry in the small press since the 1980s. Hopefully with each passing decade the poems have become more clear and concise, succinct and precise, more appealing and “universal.” He has published over 20 collections, a recent one being The Poet’s Curse, A Miscellany (The Poetry Box, 2019).

A Walk in the Rain | Gareth Culshaw

There’s gull rain outside and it weighs down leaves.
I put on my boots and take an afternoon walk.
A lapwing oars the fields sky as it comes in for spring.
Black blobs of Jackdaws speckle the low crop field.

A squirrel races through the branches tries to catch up
yesterday. Puddles gather around me. But I keep on
walking. This road leads somewhere, though
the cambers ache away my energy,

I keep on going. I hope to find the end.

 


Gareth Culshaw lives in Wales. His first collection came out in 2018 by Futurecycle called The Miner. In 2020, his second collection, A Bard’s View, is released. He is an MFA student at Manchester Met. Also nominated for Best of the Net.

On Visiting Passchendaele | Edward Ashworth

You may think that they watch over you—
ancestors, martyrs killed too young.
But there is no living they walk among.

Remembered solely where coins tinkle
In the funds of merchants whose eyes twinkle
With the promise for profit off the dead—
There lies their deathbed.

Fields of mud became prosperous towns
Where children’s fairs and games
Make for better-sounding names
Than the ever-silent burial grounds
of Passchendaele.

You may believe in the power of marble stone
Or in the shadows of the spiritual unknown
But in Ieper lies the intolerable truth:
They are not there, and they have never been
Ever since war put an abrupt end to their youth.

There is no hope, or ghost of theirs to be seen
They are gone;
and this is it.

 


Edward Ashworth was born in Corsica but gained an interest in British history & culture after teaching himself English. He has been awarded several prizes by the French Ministry of Education and the French National Veteran Office for his work on the First and Second World War.

Airman | Gale Acuff

After they bury me, anyway my
body, I’ll be underground in a box
called a coffin and in some decent clothes
for a change with my eyes shut and my hands
folded, and looking, if I can look at all,
and seeing God, at first my soul will be
in Heaven and getting judged and then it goes
—or I do—to Hell or gets to hang in
Heaven but I’m not counting on that and
as for my body, and even the folks
called undertakers or morticians, they
work at the funeral home, the basement
I bet, not even they can keep me whole
forever and I wonder if I’ll get
to experience my soul splitting my
body and drifting up to Heaven, but
at some churches they say nix, you’ve got to
wait until the Judgement Day and shoot up
to the sky to meet Jesus there, bungee
jumping-like but in reverse or may
-be like Commander Cody rocketing
skyward so I look forward to that and
to learn if I can get goose bumps and not
even have a body to feel ’em, now
that’s what I call an afterlife. Meanwhile

every night, when I turn the light off and
slither into bed, or is it crawl, I
lie on my back and practice for the time
which might not even be what you’d call time
at all when I’ll be dead and they’ll undress
me and wash me and do all the other
things to me to fix me up for death, I
even cross my hands or is it wrists, good
thing that someone will do what I can’t do
for myself, you don’t get much more helpless
than dead I guess, unless you’re a baby
maybe when you still have a newborn life
to lose, but sometimes I can’t make it ’til
the dawn, I wake up thirsty or I need
to pee or both, I usually pee
first, I have a system, it’s hard to be
-lieve that one day it will end and so will
I, at least as I know me. If I do.

 


Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Chiron Review, McNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008).

He has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.

The Impossible Decision | Rob McKinnon

Protracted years of drought
led to unsurmountable debts
that gnawed destructively
and decayed relationships.

Obsessive routines
of checking climate predictions
that never forecasted the treasured rain
needed to break the dread.

Repairs undone mounted
essential fodder almost depleted
livestock grew unbearably thinner
crops failed to progress,
patience broken.

Extended family history
of demanding toil and lengthy days
created generational pressure
on weary minds,
thoughts of leaving
seemed like a betrayal.

Government assistance
would only lead to more time
but not more hope
which had evaporated
like the sparse showers
on the scorched ground.

Breaking point reached
when the weighty burdens
became intolerable
and no change in the weather was likely.

A previous impossibly imagined decision
is made to leave the land.

 


Rob McKinnon lives in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia. His poetry has previously been published in ‘From the Ashes – A poetry anthology in support of the 2019-2020 Australian Bushfire relief effort’ Maximum Felix Media, The Wellington Street Review, Sūdō Journal, Sage Cigarettes Magazine, Re-Side Magazine, Nightingale & Sparrow Literary Magazine, Black Bough Poetry, Dissident Voice, Tuck Magazine and InDaily.