Maryfrances Wagner: “Dreaming Through Covid”

.

50402460188_a050fa2bfe_o

.

.

Dreaming Through Covid

Most nights I dream of the dead,
my mother telling me, my father agreeing,

that we all feel afraid sometimes.
That’s what the counselors tell us.

I rescued a dog but she bit my friend.
Someone is dreaming about her daughter.

I want my mother to come back
to dream about me.

I stand in a crowd and everyone offers me
caviar, wine, and crisp crusts with smoked salmon.

Will someone come to get me when I die?
Today my nephew called to say he dreamed

about his Nonny and Papa, about going
to their house on Sunday, but I wasn’t there.

He said that he didn’t want me to die
until I gave him Nonny’s red sauce recipe.

Today the peace plant unfurled two new
cupped white heads, shiny and perfect.

Only two days ago, I considered, its leaves
tiresome, moving it downstairs.

.

.

About the Author: Maryfrances Wagner’s books include Salvatore’s Daughter, Light Subtracts Itself, Red Silk (Thorpe Menn Book Award for Literary Excellence), Dioramas, Pouf, The Silence of Red Glass, and The Immigrants’ New Camera. Poems have appeared in New Letters, Midwest Quarterly, Laurel Review, Natural Bridge, Voices in Italian Americana, Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (Penguin Books), Literature Across Cultures (Pearson/Longman), Bearing Witness, The Dream Book, An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation), et.al. She co-edits I-70 Review and served as Missouri’s Individual Artist of the Year for 2020.

.

Image Credit: Illustration excerpted from the Biodiversity Heritage Library. South African botany London, Longmans, Green,1922. biodiversitylibrary.org/page/37736321

Damian Rucci: “For the Parking Lot Kids”

.

.

.

For the Parking Lot Kids

Don’t listen to what they say;
you know the ones, the beautiful,
the clean faced, the scornful eyed
yuppies whose parent’s blood money
bought them a lease on the good life.

Their path was never meant for you,
their bridges are made with gold,
their teeth are porcelain, their homes are warm,
they have never met the world as a stranger.
But you’re still out there, in that parking lot,

burying your dreams with pitchers of disbelief—
doing the same shit with the same people
like you weren’t meant to cast a shadow,
living a life that you never agreed to
makes you greet death as nothing but a fool.

Even grains of sand are lifted by the wind,
even bad seeds can grow in fertile soil,
even the damned can be forgiven—
but you’ll let another day pass, won’t you?
Tell yourself you’ll start tomorrow?
Tell yourself that you need a plan?
You don’t make your appointment with destiny
you just make sure that you show up.

The only thing worse than fear is regret,
sitting on the fence your whole life just leaves you sore
there’s a world beyond this damn parking lot
hell is already filled with men who have never tried
there’s a fire in your belly, so what’s stopping you?

.

.

About the Author: Damian Rucci is the unofficial poet laureate of every 711 in New Jersey. His work has recently appeared on gas station bathroom stalls throughout the Midwest. He is probably banned from your local bar but you can find him on Twitter @damianrucci or at damian.rucci@gmail.com

.

More By Damian Rucci:

One For Cory

Hound Speak

Melancholy and the Afterglow

.

Image Credit: John Margolies “The Barrel, 6th Avenue, Devils Lake, North Dakota” (1980) The Library of Congress (public domain)

John Dorsey: “Scott Wannberg Prays for Rain”

.

.

.

Scott Wannberg Prays for Rain

because he has to be doing
something up there
besides playing shuffleboard
& singing duets with john prine

he says harry crews
sucked all of the air
out of the room
reading one of his poems
croaking like a frog
who had gainesville
by the throat

saying something about how
he ate all the good flies
in a dancehall

that was never
meant
to last.

.

.

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), and Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020). 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.

.

More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

.

Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Rainbow and complex clouds form after many inches of rain over several days near Stockton, California ” (2012) The Library of Congress

Aarik Danielsen: “Prefilled Communion Cup”

.

gri_850998_b004_f001_001

.

.

Prefilled Communion Cup

I break the seal
constraining the body of Christ,
finger the wafer like a gambler
handles his last chip.
This one’s gonna payout
or bust me for good.

“Do this in remembrance of me …”
I let it ride.

“In the same way Jesus took the cup …”
I finish the juice in a single swallow,
and feel the blood of Christ
pass greedy lips,
skate across stale breath,
settle in my purgatory gut.
Shot, meet chaser.

Liquid courage
to walk out into the world and bet it all,
believing in something
—anything—
for another day.

.

.
About the Author: Aarik Danielsen is the arts editor at the Columbia Daily Tribune in Columbia, Missouri and teaches at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He writes a weekly column, The (Dis)content, for Fathom Magazine, and has been published at Image Journal, Plough, Entropy, EcoTheo Review, and more.

.

Image Credit: William Butterfield “Qu’Appelle Church: communion plates and chalices” [Canada], 1892. Digital images courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Jason Ryberg: “Dreams of Empty Houses”

.

service-pnp-habshaer-ca-ca2200-ca2263-photos-182931pv

.

.

Dreams of Empty Houses

Time is always calling
or dropping by (without calling)
at all the wrong goddamn times,

always unexpectedly just coming around
and turning up at the absolutely most
inconvenient and inappropriate moments,

inviting itself in and over-staying its welcome,
bumming all your cigarettes and beers,
using up the minutes on your phone and finally

leaving you, this time, with nothing but
a useless ring of keys, a head full of
crack-pot schemes, a vague sense of having
forgotten or misplaced something, and,

for some strange reason, dreams of empty
houses and apartments where you just can’t
be sure you’ve ever been in, let alone
maybe even lived once.

.

.

About the Author: Jason Ryberg is the author of thirteen books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders, notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors. He is currently an artist-in-residence at both The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s and the Osage Arts Community, and is an editor and designer at Spartan Books. His latest collection of poems is The Ghosts of Our Words Will Be Heroes in Hell (co-authored with Damian Rucci, John Dorsey, and Victor Clevenger, OAC Books, 2020). He lives part-time in Salina, KS with a rooster named Little Red and a billygoat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also many strange and wonderful woodland critters.

.

More by Jason Ryberg:

Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner

Sometimes the Moon is Nothing More than the Moon

All of the Above

.

Image Credit: Robert Hicks “VIEW OF BUILDING 54. BEDROOM. FACING NORTH. – Winehaven, Rectangular Three-Bedroom-Plan Residence, Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot, Richmond, Contra Costa County, CA” (1996) The Library of Congress

Lisa Creech Bledsoe: “The Magician’s Handbook

.

.

.

The Magician’s Handbook

 

1.

Twelve years old, heads together. Impatiently unbraiding the twisted paper fuses of a Black Cat half brick, fingers smeared with charcoal. Then: mailbox, culvert, tin can, matchbox cars exploded. We sliced open smoke bombs and bottle rockets, argued Spy vs Spy, dueled with matches. We smelled of saltpeter and sulphur and pumped the air with both fists, exactly who we dreamt of being.

 

2.

The spies. Costumes, possibly dresses. Funny, mad, bold. Could have been anything. Amazing recuperative powers.

 

3.

In the basement below the silversmith’s shop was a magician’s working studio. I would have sneaked down, too. When the Great War was over, the sneak sawed a woman in half. Everything changed.

 

4.

The woman. Tied by wrists, ankles, and thin, pale neck, locked into a coffin, holy blessed mother.

 

5.

“As an effect it has a neatness about it,” said a magician-in-residence at Imperial College’s department of surgery.

 

6.

They begged to see the pretty lady dismembered live. “Watch her face closely; even she doesn’t mind! Perhaps it only tickles.” Suddenly everyone wanted a woman to be the one subjected to ropes, saws, knives, bullets. She wore less and less, smiled more and more.

 

7.

He once famously invited a well-known military leader and suffragette to be the woman sawn in two. She had studied law but wasn’t allowed to practice. She had been imprisoned for shouting for voting rights for women. Imprisoned over and over again. She declined to be roped and tied, locked up and sawn in two. She knew about war.

 

8.

The spies alternated winning and losing.

 

9.

Some of them had feet of dazzling turquoise, or red. Landing on decks of sailing ships, they were easily captured and eaten. The English name booby was based on the Spanish slang bobo, meaning stupid.

 

10.

Of all the heavens and the earth, there are no animals that live always and only in the air. We must land somewhere. At sea, few choices.

 

11.

Pills, screens, couples, marathons, atoms. Things get divided, sometimes with illusions maintained. It has been a season of loss. You & I: we are still here.

 

12.

Unable to escape, a magician sawed himself in half.

.

.

About the Author: Watched by crows and friend to salamanders, Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a hiker, beekeeper, and writer living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of two full-length books of poetry, Appalachian Ground (2019), and Wolf Laundry (2020). She has new poems out or forthcoming in The Blue Mountain Review, American Writers Review, Sky Island Journal, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Red Fez, and River Heron Review, among others.

.

More by Lisa Creech Bledsoe:

Some Revelation is at Hand

.

Image Credit: “Harry Houdini, king of cards” Chicago : National Pr. & Eng. Co., [1895] Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

K. Andrew Turner: “We still call it the Strawberry Patch”

.

unnamed

.

.

We still call it the Strawberry Patch

Sketches of fruit succulent
half-remembered
    like picking strawberries
    in the summer with Mom
the cool New England breeze
perfect and each berry
ripe, juicy, and sweet.

Math, calculations adjacent
to red, faded like the fields
south of the 210—now an
outdoor strip mall.
    Numbers like ledgers of
sales, the taxes more money
than strawberries can bring.

for the art Strawberry Fields by Melissa Macias

.

.

About the Author: K. Andrew Turner writes literary and speculative fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. He teaches and mentors creative writers near Los Angeles, where he lives, works, and writes in the San Gabriel Valley. He is the Publisher of East Jasmine Review and a freelance editor. You can find more at his website: http://www.kandrewturner.com

.

Image Credit: Melissa Macias “Strawberry Fields”

Poetry Soundbite: A Reading and Interview with John Dorsey

.

.

.

Welcome to AIOTB Magazine’s second Poetry Soundbite, an on-going series of poetry readings and interviews. For this edition, we welcome John Dorsey, who will read from his book Sick, a collaborative collection of poems with Daniel Crocker. Dorsey’s poems explore growing up with cerebral palsy and the challenges he faced in an era before our present day accommodations for young people with disabilities.

.

.

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 Press, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019),Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020) and The Prettiest Girl at the Dance (Blue Horse Press, 2020. 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.

John Brantingham: Five Poems About the Santa Ana Winds

.

.

.

Still for a While

We get a Santa Ana
and wake to streets
full of branches
and trash and a palm tree

that’s crashed down
through the wrought iron fence
around the city yard.
Today, the air is still

for a while, but the winds
always come back,
or they have so far.
The train tracks are

covered in tumbleweeds.
This air that has come down
from the highland deserts
smells clean.

.

.

.

.

News of the Weather

The first weather report I get
is when the airport shifts
its flight pattern directly over us,
and I know the winds are coming.
The breaks in our conversation
as the engines pass above
soon become natural and unnoticed
unless one of us points them out.
The eucalyptus across the train tracks
looks shaggy today. I wonder
what it will look like tomorrow.

.

.

.

.

Just Us

The flags on top of the tax service
and immigration building are torn
to feathers by the Santa Ana winds,
and that feels like a metaphor

for something, but I’m not sure what.
The winds have always felt
more symbol than real to me.
They’re so dry they suck

the water right out of you.
We can see for miles across
the normally smoggy sky, and at night
we get stars. All of these things

might mean something like someone
is out there telling us something
with great clarity that I could see
except that I am limited to being just who I am.

.

.

.

.

Baldy Winds

After the winds
have died down
here in the valley,
they are still rising
a mist of snow
blowing it off the top
of Mt. Baldy,
which I can see
headed straight up
Euclid Avenue.
It’s still early
on a Sunday morning,
and I’m the only one
out in the world
made clean
by the Santa Anas.
The dawn has no transition
through filtered air.
One moment it’s night,
and the next it’s full day.

.

.

.

.

The New Neighbors

When the Santa Ana picks up,
some long haul truckers
pull off the freeways
and park in the neighborhood.

We can see their cabs
in the pale blue lights
of their computers
as they wait out the winds.

When we walk the dog
down the street in the evening,
we invade their space.
This is now their backyard.

.

.

About the Author, John Brantingham: I was the first poet laureate of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, and my work has been featured in hundreds of magazines and in Writer’s Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016. I have eleven books of poetry and fiction including my latest fiction collection Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). I teach at Mt. San Antonio College.

.

Image Credit: Impressions of Southern California by Chase Dimock

Larry Smith: “Grief into Mourning”

.

.

.

Grief into Mourning     

I.
      “Wildflowers don’t care where they grow.”
         -Dolly Parton

A friend has abandoned me
after 40 years, and not
for the first time. Once for five years.
Inside his wall of darkness he has
spit me out like spoiled milk,
and I can’t reach across
to explain. His back turned
he curses my name as he
throws down their phone.
Yet I know he cannot help it.
There is no sin here, only sorrow
and sickness, a grief-pain I carry
inside my head and heart.

And so, I write this to myself
to mourn. In quiet breath
I close my eyes to see his
wounded face in a mirror,
look deep inside his hurt eyes
and step forward to embrace
his figure, as we stand together
breathing forgiveness.

II.
With the taste of grief swelling
my tongue I remember past hurt
keeping us apart. A cherry pie
left out for weeks that I eat with
spoiled milk alone at night.

You said you could never forgive
and so, I walked away, burying it
like a dead child till now
I stare it in the face, swallow regret
and forgive us both.

III.
Placing each stone
beside the bench
where dead friends once sat.

Wild geese overhead
echo their names.

.

.

About the Author: Larry Smith is the editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio, also the author of 6 books of fiction and 8 books of poems, most recently The Pears: Poems. A retired professor of humanities, he lives and works along the shores of Lake Erie in Huron, Ohio.

.

More By Larry Smith:

No Walls

Union Town

At The Country Store

.

Image Credit: Frances Benjamin Johnson. “Bell Flower (campanula)” [between 1915 and 1935] image courtesy of the Library of Congress