Poems by Anastasia Nicholas

farmer’s song

you are blue-collar, earthen-toned, taciturn;
unassuming, uninspired. stagnant. leisurely,
you lace me on like a leather boot.
it is nine in the afternoon. “no more,” you say. i wait:
watch you washing dishes, watching me, washing me
away. soon enough, we are done for the day
on a lazy ride in a blood-red pickup,
snake eyes swinging from the rearview mirror.
i am not troubled in the least by the mingled tones
of smoke and booze you exhale; i know
i’ll cease to notice soon enough.
i think of sugar, syrup, screen door slams:
mainly, how it used to be.

tomorrow, we rise to do it again.
the song remains the same: “let us be
sharecroppers today,” you say. we drape
ourselves in torn tatters and weathered frowns.
i think of the wolf laying down with the lamb
and wonder which of the two i am.
i like your hair when it most needs cutting,
and i like the way your hands assume
the texture of sanded wood,
but understand that it’s not easy for me
to sift through the sawdust, dress myself in rags.

what i like most of all is when we step out the back
and all i see, for miles, is a plain so flat i could fall off.
i plant myself squarely in your comfortable silence.
i never want to be like you.

 

elegy for a dead girl

i am not afraid of anything, save
cars, tall buildings, large canines,
spaces both open and enclosed.

in many ways, i am regressing.
whenever something like this happens, it is
retrograde to my ability to make decisions
or operate a motor vehicle.

i am wondering how alike we were:
if she ever hoped she wouldn’t wake up tomorrow morning
because her alarm clock ceased to work,
or the precise number of times she said to herself, aloud,
the precise combination of words “the worst is over,”
or if she lived to see the irony in it.
if she pushed her food around on her plate, cutting it into small pieces,
or if anyone noticed that she did it.
if we wore the same ball and chain.

it’s woefully characteristic of me to make this about myself,
but please understand that i view it as
a mere divergence of fate, an alternate ending.
initially, my overwhelming thought was of my mother,
who never knows where i am or who i’m with
and waits for me with placid unconcern.
i recall an ancient writing prompt: “what is your
‘i was the one that got away’ story?”
i can’t say it made me a sadder, wiser man
because the next day i did it all again.
we are all static characters; there is no scared straight.

it’s horribly vain, a baser part of human nature,
but sometimes it occurs to me (in a lingering, semi-
subconscious sort of way)
that i have the time she was cheated out of.
maybe i’ll write my kubla khan.
i didn’t go to the funeral, but that’s who i am.
i don’t think i’d go to my own funeral, if i could.
something about a great price for a small vice;
the central impression of this tragedy is one of waste.

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“Thursday Night Dinners” by Emma Crockford

 

The floorboards in the kitchen are warm
against our feet, familiar
from before we can remember.
You are snapping the wishbone,
and it feels as if it is my bones that are splintering,
slippery between the fingers of children.

This is the kind of death no one taught me how to mourn,
this halfway empty end to love,
scattered on dinner plates and dropped in the trash.

In the world I want to believe in,
when my fingers find yours under soapy dishes,
you do not let go.

On the drive home, your feet find the dashboard,
your dark hair a kite, your window rolled as far down as it will go.
I count the telephone poles we pass together
in the honeyed dark.

 

Poems by Marika Brooks

This Breathing

seething and
breathing
between these

sheeting
fleeting
weeping

these
sheeting
this breathing

between
these
sheets.

 

Innocent Heart

make me my innocent heart

be so quiet like the room is wrong

in each tiny bloom

your true touch shares kind

his world, mutual, want him

no sound across body moments

through tears between hands

gauge night terrors, receive nothing.

 

Tips

alabaster disaster
gold cobble stoned
              no where to run.

sins & smiles i recognize
crashing oversized into
              eternal thermal

acquaintance our farewell
this time and forever
              in frozen finger

              //
              tips.

“Relative Matter” by Sara Schraufnagel

We rarely sit with ourselves,
and see the struggle within us all 

Stop letting the concrete jungle
tuck you in at night
lower one leg at a time and remember that
pain is also your connection to the living

His shirt blew behind him
a flag in the wind, his desired last stand
His hands spread inches from the rain
and the window washer’s rope
that hangs above the 24th floor
He told me love was much more 
than a chemical within us all 
with a fancy name

Poems by Chloe Castay

I Had Not Lived

Amass the firm timber and sow the foundation
for the hovel compiled to bliss.
Four plain sides
and a hearth of ashlar,
to sustain the old hare when
the wren has flown away.

Walden Pond,
sophic eye of cold cobalt blue
bean-fields bestow their breath
until they are freed by
crystalline icicles exquisite.

Winter’s bite congeals
what the equinox restores.
The hermit seeks the philosopher’s call,
but it is wild and withdrawn.

I had not lived
until I found my soul,
a soul in the woods
forged profoundly and brave.

Transcendence the gift,
from Nature, the Host.

 

the monarchy of dusk

here the cult of ignorance reigns cardinal;
dressed in self-righteous garb
while faithful sip cyanide,
from the desert breast of civilization
and sing softly to the hegemon of dread

opinion amounts to insight, while the
egghead is martyred,
now the assaulted youth
see with only scorched and barren,
glassy eyes.

they worship their bodies,
because they have infected their minds.
parched them of truth,
and converted to pudgy fog.
now they cherish torches,
that burn the diseased womb of acumen.

oh, the squall is opulent,
raining acid on your tongue;
while minerva’s owl is shot down,
from the lurid sky
in the monarchy of dusk.

Poems by Jane Juran

Moravian Star Class

Seventy-two sharp-pointed
stained glass triangles.
One errant tip tore into my left knuckle.
It bled like hell, swelled.

I never went back to class
held onto the pieces for years
until U-haul boxes filled my X-terra.

My diamond ring would never fit back on
over the scar tissue.

Terminal

The time until you die
grips the top of my hand

grates my fingers against
puckered metal

collects skin and bone
shavings

into a soft pile
on the good China.

Poem by Carrie Zhang

Room in a Bedroom 

Branch sling on my heart. It’s so easy for black letters

                To get lost in white snow. These

Flies come skating out, sucking

               Plums and claret stuck on the walls.

A plastic telephone

               Hangs off its cradle, a closet flings

open, revealing wintry depths. All these years

               Flutter off the calendar, silver mail

On doors unopened,

               The ancestral calico thick as sound

Unheard.

Poems by Emily Alexander

i wish i spoke moon.

(inspired by Elegy Owed by Bob Hicok)

i wish i whispered clear nights, wove them
into shirt fabrics, wore them close to my collarbone.

i wish i had three hands and knew
where to put them, regardless of the time.

i am trying to learn something about the craters
of a kiss. about folding sky into a note in my pocket
that tells me where the middle is, because
there are already plenty of stories that start
like this. all moonbeams and mouths, nothing about

right now. it is mid-afternoon.
my body is something i have to remind myself of.
it is a stranger to bleed; knows only bruise.

my neighbors have a porch swing i have never seen anyone use.

i have three pairs of jeans i wear every week.

i brush my teeth in the morning and again at night, floss words from between them,

tiny versions of hold, definitions
of embrace, nothing spelled quite right.

i think i need an instruction manual three moons thick
so i can learn where to put my knees
when i watch the news.

so i can sweep the kitchen floor, do something
about the mold on the bathroom ceiling without peeling
back my skin to see what could fit there, like my body is a new house
without a moving van in the driveway,

listen: i want to always mean what i say.

like my mouth has never known
anything but clear night moon.

Casual 

It’s like this: he offers his body to me, and I take it
without asking where it’s been. We do this
to each other, fingertips whispering
through flesh, songs of steam
on car windows, soundless
mouths, sheets. This is a simple language,
straightforward: sighs, lines, thighs. He holds me
in place for the time it takes, bed rocking
like a boat anchored in storm. I do not know
of any safe harbors around here, so this
will have to do, his breath, my neck, regret
a distant shoreline I haven’t started
sailing towards yet. Look. I know that stuck
is not synonymous with stay. I have enough alleyways
in me without the complication of wanting
his abandoned building body
to hold pieces of my shipwreck. So I wake
first in the mornings, his face still
soft, open windows. I could almost love him
then, unanchored breath drifting
out of lips that know the place my secrets have slipped
through. Regardless of my mouth, still heavy
with broken boats. Regardless of my unkissed knees, wrists,
dark halls, cobwebbed closets. Regardless of his.

moscow, id

right now, 3 states away, the last of fall harvest
is settling into the chest of tractor
troughs. i remember watching wheat fields unraveling
like knobby knees and nervous
bodies. there was a time when that was
enough. when i only had one house, when the ground
didn’t count as one, when i knew staying
like tattoos know skin, despite the rest
of the body. i want to write a poem
about my father’s heartbeat, but
i don’t quite remember it. it’s been a long time since i fit
in his lap. listen, i have unlocked cities trying
to learn how to laugh without this deadbolt mouth,
and i am still shy. and i am always missing
someone. i know that right now in idaho,
light is pressing against grain silos as my mother
presses her fingertips into the piano. if this was enough,
i would still be there. if this was enough, i wouldn’t
think of home as a poem
about longing, about question marks, the pause
between notes. my own hands
pressing against a window in california.