Tiffany Troy: “A Thank You Card”

A Thank You Card


	I.

The Friend told the Nurse that he believed in her
in the lengthy walk

they took along the river:
How could you think of me as duplicitous?

The river intensified the nausea,
but most of all, the guilt

that no black forest cake or clam chowder could ever fix.
Soon, she realized that the only one of them she trusted,

who cared so much about patients dying 
from the higher-ups’ cover-ups,

was following a wrought script, which read Break Her.
She could no longer look herself in the mirror.

Can’t this wait till normal business hours?, he asked.
People are fucking dying!



	II.

Her Friend was two persons in one: 
a kind Friend and a cold Doctor.

The Nurse protested that people were dying.
You are being too sensitive. Can’t you move on? 

As her Friend lied through his teeth,
the Nurse sought to sweep mines with her toes.

She ate mounds of chocolate instead of lunch.
Her Mama took away the chocolate box and cooed.

Still the helplessness gnawed at her spirit.
She goaded, she pleaded, she even threatened— 

everything but falling to her knees and kowtowing. Still her Friend
didn’t budge, calling it an interpersonal conflict-turned

legitimate concern a three-hour walk later.
She couldn’t coat her upset with honey. 



         III.

Poor communication: the compass rose
to which she was pinned, when wasn’t the problem

that she made herself too clear? Her Friend took her back
to the emerald green house, blindfolded.

She was slapped for not finding the bedroom, knocked out 
for complaining about the faulty mental map.

The Friend fed her the elixir of comfort 
as she grew dependent on his friendship. 

The Doctors removed her first by removing her from the practice group,
then by creating a new group without her.

She realized No prayer will ever do anything, if the bureaucrat
is leading the decent human in you by the nose.

Inexperienced and unattuned to the industry, she said No
to her Friend’s pills for the third time and prayed.



	IV.

Her Friend cursed just like Master
who planned the future with Odyssean cunning.

Her Friend took long, fast strides. He bent low 
to help the patients to their feet

while the other Doctors stood by.
The Friend told the Nurse he could never say what he meant:

when he was her only way out of this double bind maze.
She wasn’t blind to the little favors he did for Mama

which disoriented her. If only he could stop his off-script 
kindness, was that too part of the game?

Towards the end, the Nurse got her friend a card
with scorpion grass the grey-blue of his eyes.

Nowadays, she imitates his style and signs off:
In kindness and with respect.



	V.

This will most likely be our last meeting as friends
because I can no longer trust you.

The Nurse put the card away in her drawers
before taking it out and putting it back again.

The grey-blue petals: her Friend and the patients.
She downed Mama’s earl grey with too much cream.

She didn’t say this to her Friend, but 
she would still jump the lake

if drowning was his happily ever after. 
But she couldn’t wave the white flags.

She must stay sane, to listen to that ever-louder clangor, 
to see with her eyes that vain duplicity.

The blue bells bloom and shred
her soul into card-stock pieces.

About the Author: Tiffany Troy is an interviewer and reviewer. Her interviews and reviews are published/ forthcoming from The Adroit Journal, The Cortland Review, The Los Angeles Review, EcoTheo Review, and Tupelo Quarterly, where she serves as an associate editor.

Image Credit: Hilma af Klint “Evolution, No. 13, Group VI” (1908) Public Domain

Mike James: “Quotations”

Quotations


1.
As a boy in a small village
In the shadow of a short mountain
I asked an old man
The very oldest I knew
Why the world is the way it is.
He told me, “It was always like this. 
Even on the first day.”

2.
 An insomniac friend confided,
“I fall asleep quickly if someone
Is watching, attentively. 
That’s the only thing
That works. My first wife 
Thought it sweet for 
A few years.”

3.
One woman to another
In a check-out grocery line:	
“I don’t know what he wants 
From me, except 
That one thing.

Lately, I think 
His heart is a fist.” 

4.
After a few drinks
Talk turns to 
Nightmares.
Recent ones with dog teeth. 
Childhood ones which never left. 
           “Some dreams wake me up
When credits roll at the end.”

5.
“I’m afraid,” she says, 
“I’m always afraid. I think about 
Calling on angels for help. Then I remember 
I don’t know one angel’s name.”

About the Author: Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. He has published in numerous magazines, large and small, throughout the country. His poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), and Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog.)  In April, Red Hawk published his 20th collection, Portable Light: Poems 1991-2021.

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Cholla Garden” (2021)

John Dorsey: “The History of Rivers”

The History of Rivers

a car with one headlight
bobs and weaves its way through the mud
looking for a pair of missing glasses
what good are they anyway
we can never see where we’re going
only where we’ve been
floods of emotion like this
are only supposed to happen once a century
but we can’t see our way past the rocks
everything only seems to come into focus 
after we get out of the water
& raise a glass to the spirits 
resting in capsized riverboats 
that you’ll never find squinting in the sunlight
listening to the words of that lonesome whippoorwill 
singing some far fetched river song.

About the Author: John Dorsey lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory, (Epic Rites Press, 2013), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016) and Shoot the Messenger (Red Flag Poetry, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019), Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020), Afterlife Karaoke (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2021) and Sundown at the Redneck Carnival, (Spartan Press, 2022).. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize. He was the winner of the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. He may be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com.

Image Credit: Frances Benjamin Johnston “Potomac River” (1898) Public domain image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Cheryl A. Rice: “Infrequent Flyer”

Infrequent Flyer

Mesmerized even thru tears as the 
twelve-seater circled above Newburgh Airport, 
lights of the Beacon Bridge glittered like a strand 
of café lights over the Hudson. It was December. 
I had spent five days in Florida watching my father, 
skinny as he was as a kid, lie drowsy and confused, 
hospital bed in the usual hospital setting, white 
waffled blankets, white sheets, white paper cups, 
white pitchers of white water, white nurses in 
white nylon pantsuits trying to reassure me that 
dark was not hiding behind every closet door. 
His lungs, three-thousand miles of old road
paved with auto body chemicals and memory of 
Marlboro Lights, were collapsing under the
weight of time, waves of tropical light. 
Weeks had passed, and the lungs insisted on 
closing like balloons with a carnival leak, 
My parents, the Peter Pan and Wendy of
our neighborhood, if Peter had succumbed for a moment
to Wendy’s mothering charms and they’d left his
misfits behind to make their own Neverland,
their own lost boys and girls. 
They improvised life, fueled with impulse 
and recreational hormones. Some 
success, some memorable failures. 
He flew, he always flew, often higher than 
the proverbial kite. She cried, got work
when he could not, would not, supported 
his dusty flights of fancy, and now brought 
him spaghetti, American cheese melted on top, 
his favorite food, to supplement the hospital’s 
rancid menu. She visited daily, only a few blocks
from their final paradise, made us the bearer 
of her news, old and new. 

And my plane before landing circled the airport 
like Peter on a final flight, enjoying the view
he’d taken for granted for so long, 
thinking the journey would never end. 
We curled into a landing strip, I dried my 
eyes. My Beloved waited for me at the gate. 
We went to a barbeque joint to celebrate, 
see the live broadcast of a play his 
coworkers built the sets for, another trip
to Neverland and back. 
We left halfway thru, my heart never, never having 
landed, still up there in the stars, 
dreading the morning. 

About the Author: Cheryl A. Rice’s poems have appeared in Home Planet News, Misfit Magazine, and Trailer Park Quarterly, among others. Recent books include Love’s Compass (Kung Fu Treachery Press), and Until the Words Came (Post Traumatic Press), coauthored with Guy Reed. Her blog is at: http://flyingmonkeyprods.blogspot.com/. Rice lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “LAX Window” (2021)

Dan Raphael: “A thread of Winter”

A Thread of Winter


sun sends frost into the grass and soil
wind is waiting for the dog to drop the ball 

those late night moments when a stretch of freeway
is empty and resents the next vehicle that comes through
but the road can’t change fast enough to assert its will

other times the freeway is so full and heavy
nothing moves and the earth beneath it
dreams of being a river and swimming inside itself

as the river knows without dreaming that
for much of winter, several threads of frozen water
tangle through it, unable to cohere or slow anything

yes heat rises, but in winter cold starts at the top 
walking to and from high school in winter, i could
generate heat in the center of my chest and have it
flow outwards, never spent enough time in heat
to generate cold, or a wind that trickles out my pores
not breath, a snack I can walk through
legless walking, how this body could fly
and land safely

what if our solar system was too hot
and we needed the opposite of the sun
to make earth cool enough to live on

what if the only places to live on this planet
were at the equator, what new ways
would we divide time, how would we
vary our wardrobes, what would be
peak vacation times, our birthdays
would be our personal new years

what if the only places to live on this planet
were at the equator, would I get adventurous
or systematically imaginative

About the Author: dan raphael’s poetry collection In the Wordshed will published by Last Word Press this November. More recent poems appear in Fireweed, Trampoline, Rasputin, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal and Unlikely Stories. Most Wednesdays dan writes and records a current events poet for The KBOO Evening News.

Image Credit: Ferdynand Ruszczyc “Winter Tale” (1904) Public domain image courtesy of Artvee

Jaclyn J. Reed: “I Can’t Bring Myself to Birth You Yet”

I Can’t Bring Myself to Birth You Yet

By Jaclyn J. Reed

The world is not ready for you. Neither am I.

I’m not the woman I wanted to be at 27. I’m still learning to reread my story without reliving it, to write a better tomorrow without losing today, drowning in yesterday, obsessing over what may – more likely, may not – cross my path. I don’t yet know how to replace my broken parts without ending up in pieces – to keep despair from decaying into despondence. Even if I can call myself sane, what then? Where do I fit in when each morning I wake, watch the news, wonder if our country still stands? If, when I find it does, I’m disappointed, frustrated, exhausted by the convenience afforded deviants with deep pockets keeping us apart?

My mother raised me to do / be / experience more than her, so I trek life the long way round, ease into things, cross my T’s and dot my I’s, say please and thank you and apologize – own my shit. Where her wings were built of distressed leather and aluminum, she built mine from steel; knew life would temper me, the way it tempers us all, the way it will temper you.

I do not want to temper you. I want to coddle you when no one else will, lend you my calm when the world gets too big, too polluted, too unfair. Not to shield you from modernity or harsh eventualities, just equip you for real life, provide weapons for an arsenal I hope you’ll never have to use.

You must choose the hills you die on carefully and be brave enough to let things go. Take on midterms, toxic masculinity, racism and bigotry, erratic hormones, and palatine adults with a pleasing smile, a daring gaze, a quick wit. As quick as your draw, if they still wish to fight. You’ll learn that coming to the table cannily creates more conflict than it solves, that intolerance must be intolerable if we want justice / peace / equity. There’s a whole world outside your bubble, and the truth is: people are usually better than they believe themselves to be. Your peers’ personas on playgrounds – virtual and in the real – just shadows on cave walls, more fearsome than the ones projecting them, the children just as dazed and disheartened as you will be.

You’ll be from a different generation than me, see things I haven’t, pick up tricks that took me eons to grasp. You’ll grow up too fast. All I ask is that you take up space and build boundaries of rose bushes, not bricks. Know what you deserve, trust yourself enough to accept it. Being yourself is a constant effort, as is any love – so much harder than hate, so much easier to waste. Do not define yourself by ideas and ideals; such idyllics always let you down. Question your perspectives, the filters through which you experience, the trauma in which you are rooted, the moments that make up your foundation. People change so often, and why shouldn’t they when life grows stranger by the hour?

Fluidity is how humanity survives. I’ll do my best to help you flow, teach you how to move again after long pauses, how to wake up the day after devastation and reintroduce yourself in the mirror without shattering the glass. And when inevitably you cut yourself, I will be there to help you embrace the scar.

But first the world and I have to stop falling apart.

About the Author: Jaclyn J. Reed received her MFA in Writing from Carlow University and her BA in English from the University of Pittsburgh. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Adelaide, Northern Appalachia Review, The Sunlight Press, and Prime Number Magazine, among others. She works in e-commerce merchandising and lives across the way from a Hershey’s Reese’s factory.

Image Credit: Mary Cassatt “Susan Comforting the Baby” (1881) Public Domain image courtesy of Artvee

Oscar Moreno: “Fathers”

FATHERS

Your father used
to gasp after every drink
of water, now his ghost
has possessed you
to fill the silence

with his breath. And with every bite
you swallow of birthday
cake, with every scent
of burnt wax, the same scars
and moles emerge, the skin
wrinkles in all the same
directions. And now, after every
drop of water
I swallow,
I gasp.

About the Author: Oscar Moreno is a Mexican writer and filmmaker from the bordertown of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. He co-wrote the thriller “Kaz” with Njue Kevin for Kenyan television. His short stories have been published in literary magazines and journals such as Levadura and The Wire’s Dream Magazine. His novel, “Hedgehogs” is slated to be published by FlowerSong Press in Winter 2022. He’s currently in post-production of “Ente”, his first feature film as a director.

Image Credit: Willem Claesz Heda “Dessert, still life with cake, wine, beer and nuts” (1637)

Sterling Warner: “Anthropomorphic Junkyard”

Anthropomorphic Junkyard

Frigidaires, washers, dryers & sinks
lay side by side, on top, or beneath

water heaters, ovens, bar-b-cue pits
& microwaves—some of them

waste away, relenting a lifetime
without celebrity or a past beyond

energy efficiency—utility taken
for granted unless natural gas lines break,

electric coals burn out, or freon pipes
leak; gloved hands load imperfect devices

in truck beds, trailers & trunks— toss them
sans ceremony: brusquely, rudely, callously

smashed by buckets, crushed under backhoe
wheels, picked up and dropped in heaps

that creak as sunlight heats & expands metal
wail as wind passes through hanging glass doors

sheltering rats day & night, providing refuge
from feral dogs & cats always on the chase

untamed creatures appreciative of blazing sky shade,
predatory animal protection, a rain & snow sanctuary

before transfer stations load rubble & dispose it
in empty asbestos mines at the earth’s core.

About the Author: A Washington-based author, educator, and Pushcart nominee for poetry, Warner’s works have appeared in many international literary magazines, journals, and anthologies such as  Street Lit., The Ekphrastic ReviewAnti-Heroin Chic, The Fib Review,  and Sparks of Calliope. Warner also has written seven volumes of poetry, including Without Wheels, ShadowCat, Memento Mori: A Chapbook Redux, Edges, Rags & Feathers, Serpent’s Tooth, and Flytraps (2021)—as well as. Masques: Flash Fiction & Short StoriesCurrently, he writes, hosts virtual poetry readings, and enjoys retirement. 

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Desert Junk Art” (2021)

Renwick Berchild: “Newspaper on Rainy Day”

Newspaper On Rainy Day 

Woven. The news today is a patchwork of a human breath. 
Rivers swell with rain. The boughs of timber steadily clap. 

In the wetted dulcet, flumes break then wilt. A denouement 
occurs in the pulling on of seagreen socks. Toes push.
 
Flash! Animation to filament. Tungsten and argon converge 
dancing as spindly mayflies in rapid mating before death.
 
Following the taut yarn to each end; “Engineers say Boeing 
Managers pushed to limit safety tests”; “Shoreline man gets
 
55 years for exploiting girls online”; to another string, alas; 
“Man burned at White House”; “Lots of little bits of plastic
 
wind up inside us”; “Opioid crisis comes to school”. Regret. 
Doubt. Concentrate the emotion until the bulb pops black.
 
The window cascades a drumming, an imbroglio of sounds. 
Susurrous and murmurous. Tinkling. A howl rushes by inured
 
to the violence of people performing. The yowl expounds. 
Torrents, arid scapes. Waters lurching and trees aflame.
 
Paste the clippings along the wall and try to oust the ghosts. 
Veiled, bucolic odors of the immediate world start to return. 

Circling insects. Droplets begin short burps and gulps. 
The ink and paper seem to decompose, life is recontained
 
in the light seeping, in the bright outdoor backdrop rolling 
out a dewy virescent carpet—how cold was the island there?
 
That past, where I concluded nothing but rapacity and cloud? 
Soil in the bed, I make way to the hillside of things rising. 
              “Woman wakes after 27 years unconscious”.

About the Author: Renwick Berchild is half literary critic, half poet. She is lead editor of Green Lion Journal and writes at Nothing in Particular Book Review. Her poems have appeared in Porridge Mag, Headline Press, Whimperbang, Free Verse Revolution, Vita Brevis, Streetcake, and other e-zines, anthologies, and journals. She was born and raised on the angry shores of Lake Superior, and now lives in a micro-apartment in Seattle, WA. Find more of her work at www.renwickberchild.com

Image Credit: Harris & Ewing “Newspapers coming off press” (1936) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress