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Poetry | October 2020

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Last Updated: 10/31/2020 9:32 am
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Epiphany

Loop of snake. Flax

drupe of a hawk
on the white cedar’s
longest arm. Two
swallowtail’s love
dance traces again
and again the bow
of infinity in the humid air.

I thought I would love
once, twice, precise
as a comet’s rare
streak across the heavens
in a human lifetime.

But here I am, dawn-struck,
wonder-hushed, seeing
my heart wasn’t saved or whole,
but made to be split open
like the milkweed pod,
and scattered.

—Sophie Strand


October Driveway

1
End of September cat walks down my driveway.
She has ended her hunt,
Disappears into the wood. The squirrels are gone.

2
My driveway in October is busy with:
Leaves
Squirrels.

3
Cat tracks in early October snow
Won't last long.
Morning squirrels scurry in my tire tracks.

4
Sunrise deer visit my late October driveway
Way before
Leaves and squirrels appear.

5

Cat in November will disappear.
The wood, the tracks, the hunt
Will all be gone.

6
October driveway
Is the passion of the season.
Squirrels know.

7
Squirrels and cat and leaves and deer
Will reappear
My next October driveway.

—Anthony G. Herles


Our Vendetta with Trees

"Want to know
why I love
eating broccoli?"
the boy asks.

His eyes go wide
as I verbalize
his answer.

I was a giant, too
once.

—Michael Vahsen


Deliver Us from this Department Store, Amen

My father throws up in the Sears parking lot
on the day we plan to shop for my communion dress.
I think God wants him dead.

It is Sunday afternoon, a baseball game static on the radio.
Our secondhand station wagon is nosed into a spot
overgrown with nettles and weeds.

In the shadow of the driver’s side door,
he is hunched on all fours. The reflection
of his altered face on display in the bumper’s rim.

He becomes undone behind the department store,
body pressed against hot pavement, hacking
until there is nothing left at the back of his teeth.

He rises, slow, from broken asphalt.
Wipes the corners of his mouth on his shirt.
Nods at the passenger seat.

Now you must learn how to pray.

—Samantha Spoto


Wrong Number

I am the bomb.
And by “the bomb” I mean I am some incendiary device
hell-bent on destruction.

I know this,
because I can hear the ticking as I walk down the hallway
to her room.

“There was another bat in the house”
I tell her.

My daughter is peering through the din of her
iridescent midnight bedroom
while I speak this hasty lie through lips that feel as cold
as my brother’s limbs grow.

just a few miles away.

Lips that lie because I awoke her with my screaming.
Though it seems like an echo now.

I am the bomb.
Because the night that phone rang,
it was mine.

Numb fingers find stored numbers,
familiar to me as family.
it goes:
Asher, Broderick, Carter.
ABC.
Three pieces of what used
to be five.

I am the bomb.
And with every passing ring the ticking grows louder until
I explode their phones,
and their quiet homes.
I gut their faith
and any hope they still had left.

My calls are over before the dispirited paramedics
can pull the needle from his ravaged arm.
It’s all business now, this shit ain’t new in my town.
Our beautiful, broken brother is dead.

This time there is no
simple solution.
No chasing this out the front door.
No quick and dignified death.

This bat is going to stick around for a while.

—Stephanie Carter


A Little Bite of Heaven

His little shack
Way out in the yonder
Grassland and weeping willows
Oak trees along the creek
Sky wide with a hazel dome

Blue-belly lizards on the sun rail
An occasional gopher snake

Sparrows darting around his stick garden
No one else but him on a wooden porch
Built for his rocking chair

He retired early to enjoy solitude
Drives forty miles to town
Mail and groceries once a month

Sometimes a hundred miles to the city
To walk the streets where he use to work
Then inside to the Valley’s Restaurant

An old friend there
With a young smile….

—Stephen Jarrell Williams


Yellow Leaves

The shiny Ginko tree
stood in its yellow gown
In the Fall and curtsied.

Accepting the dance with
the wind, it embraced some
very dark cloud shadows.

—Barbara Schoenberg


On a Distant Prospect of the Zen Mountain Monastery

I speed past you, silent one,
admire your far-off gaze tranquil as a sky lake,

and long for order in the jaws of desire
as the kids scream in the back seat.

—Thomas Festa


Pre-Pandemic Lust

I wish your eyes would /
Linger just a bit longer /
And undress me slow.

—Sage Higgins


Serendipity

If we could make it ours,
cut shapes
from the horizon
to form a patchwork
of mountains and trees
and use the clouds that billow above
as pillows,
I think we could be happy

—Meagan Towler


Thelma Z. Lavine

Thelma Z. Lavine, fascinating philosophy
Professor in college she said once that she
Had Infinite Husbands Thelma Z. Lavine told us that every
Single story has to have a beginning a middle
and of course an end. From there to here.
Most people begin with arriving or leaving
She said. If they arrive, they leave in the end.
Not me I said so many years ago.
If I like where I am I’m going to stay.
Well said Thelma Z. Lavine. You’d be wrong.

—Esther Cohen


Masks

 “Republicans don’t wear masks,
Democrats do. Sometimes
I wear a mask,
sometimes I don’t.”

—Taylor Steinberg


The Best Ones are the Crazy Ones

I’ve tried to love the good women.
The kind who talk about their day
with a vacant smile on their perfect lips,
who cook me delicious healthy
dinners and enjoy watching soap operas, while
resting their head on my shoulder.
The women who answer questions frankly,
honestly when I ask them.
Women who make me
feel content and confident.

But I always find myself going
back to the kind of women
who disappear some nights,
their phones switched off.
The type of women who will text me
the sexiest photographs when we’re apart
and then send them to others
when I’m in the shower.
Or the women who lie about
what they ate for lunch, who they met yesterday afternoon
and the men who are messaging them
while they are in bed naked with me.

The women who fake birth control or
are sleeping with me because
they’re still angry with their ex boyfriends
or their absent fathers.
The kinds of women who cheat with me and
then later cheat on me. The ones I have to warn
that they’re making a scene and
then they try and slap me, miss and
knock things that smash onto the floor.
That run off into the night threatening
to throw themselves off a bridge or
threatening to call the cops or both.
Or worse. The kind of woman,
I know, that’ll see me swing from
the end of a rope one day and
smile a little.

I could say I love these kinds of women
because I just can’t love myself. Maybe there
is some truth in that
but maybe it is
they’re just a euphoric kind of self harm
that I inflict on the ragged soul
instead of on the flesh.

—Stephen J. Golds


A Lesson from the Dog

He wolfs down his meal
And totters into the next room
Where he snuffles and wipes
His mutton chops vigorously
On the side of the footstool,
As if its sole purpose is to
Provide a napkin for the moist remains
Stuck to his whiskers.
Then he dashes into the next room,
Launches himself sideways
Onto the plush carpet, where he skids
To a stop. Rolling and thrashing about
On his back, he grunts the whole while.
Now he stands, shakes, and saunters
To his bed, tail wagging along the way.
Circling its soft confines,
He collapses in full contentment.
His exhale reminds me of what I sometimes forget:
A full belly, a place to lay your head,
And the company of those that love you
Are all you really need.

—Randy Sutter


you can feel it
subtle
soft
like when someone special
slips their fingers into yours,
caressing you
absently,
intimately.
that's fall, autumn,
time passing in adagio,
stepchild of summer.
a life lived in sunsets
and evensong,
twilight,
and moons
over harvest fields

—Thomas Riker


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