Maryfrances Wagner: “Love Should be More Like Yarrow”

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Love Should be More Like Yarrow

One small leaf will speed decomposition
of a wheelbarrow full of raw compost.

Its root secretions activate disease resistance
of nearby plants.  It intensifies

medical action of other herbs, a booster
that enhances the power of others. Meant

to heal, it staunches cuts and wounds, aids
colds, and fevers.  Blood cleanser.  Easer

of toothaches.  Drought tolerant.  Content
to live in pastures, embankments, roadsides,

waste ground, and from a ditch, it waves
to us with its feathery foliage and yellow blooms.

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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.

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More by Maryfrances Wagner:

Dreaming Through Covid

Losing Cousin Carolyn

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Image Credit: Digitally edited illustration from: Eclogae plantarum rariorum aut minus cognitarum Vindobonae :Sumptibus auctoris, typis Antonii Strauss …,1811-1844. Public Domain. Image courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library

Ruth Bavetta: “Spell to Name the Unnameable”

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Spell to Name the Unnameable

Light small fires against the screen
that separates close from distant.
Petition the sea tern to spin the compass,
the horse to silhouette the sky.
Burn mushrooms, magazines,
and mayberries salted with stars.
Balance rainbow upon rainbow
until there is no trace of longing,
no residue of what was lost.
Follow the red clay road
over the hill to an unspecified town
where the houses are unnumbered
and the answer lies buried
under the doorstone. Leave
your footprints leading away.

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About the Author: Ruth Bavetta’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Nimrod, American Poetry Review, Tar River Review, North American Review and many other journals and anthologies. Her books are Fugitive Pigments and Flour, Water, Salt (Futurecycle Press), Embers on the Stairs (Moon Tide Press), and No Longer at This Address (Aldrich Press). She has been a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee.

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More by Ruth Bavetta:

Wildfire

A Murder

Neon Boneyard

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Take Off Sunset” (2021)

Melody Wang: “When I Die, Liken Me to the Sparrow”

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When I Die, Liken Me to the Sparrow

Tread lightly near the clearing in fading
light; there is no telling which plants
contain pure poison nestled in
waxy-smooth petals and stems

Pretend not to notice striated pink-purple flowers
strewn about the forest floor — unsuspecting
creatures pulled from their nesting
place and tossed aside as an afterthought

Seek and find near a clump of irises: the cold
sparrow, cramped on its side, lurid flesh showing
more than it had in life, features oddly twisted and
sleep-softened eyes closed eternally

Revel in the sacred realization that it belongs
to the earth now, requiring neither proper burial
nor the slightest acknowledgment of the fact
that it is no longer among the living

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About the Author: Melody Wang currently resides in sunny Southern California with her dear husband. In her free time, she dabbles in piano composition and also enjoys hiking, baking, and playing with her dogs. She is a reader for Sledgehammer Lit and can be found on Twitter @MelodyOfMusings.

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More by Melody Wang:

All that My Mother Cultivates

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Image Credit: Illustration from “Coloured illustrations of British birds, and their eggs” London :G.W. Nickisson,1842-1850. Public Domain. Image courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library

Curtis Hayes: “Paradox”

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Paradox

The brilliance of the night sky
remains mostly hidden
over Los Angeles
with only the brightest stars
able to punch through the haze.
In the City of the Angels,
the dazzle of the cosmos
can only be seen
from the desert.

We were camping
deep in the Mojave,
the Milky Way above
glistening
more beautiful
than a thousand
cities of man.

We had pitched a tent
and a campfire, circled by stones
crackled and popped.
The October air was still warm
and we would instead
sleep outside,
the bed of my pickup
softened by army blankets
and unzipped sleeping bags.

We passed a bottle
looking out at the silent llano.
A shepherd rested next to her,
tired from the heat of the day.
Shooting stars crossed the sky,
so many that we stopped
calling them out.
She asked me if I thought
there were others out there
looking back at us.
I think there must be
I said quietly.
Do you think we’ll ever be able
To travel out there
And see?

I pictured miles of gravel roads
scattered houses peeling in the sun
rusted chain-link
dusty kids on dirt bikes
and the flags
that decorated the bumpers
of broken-down vehicles.
I thought about the Fermi Paradox
which is astronomer talk
for the theory that
any civilization
with the machines
needed to cross the expanse
would have burned itself out
before it could ever make the
final leap.

Her hair, golden in the firelight.
Stroking the dog
waiting for an answer.
The fire popped twice
sounding like the cap guns
I shot as a kid
and my voice
softly
Why would we want to be
anywhere
but right here.

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About the Author: Curtis Hayes has worked as a grip, gaffer, and set builder in TV and film production. He’s been a truck driver, a boat rigger, a print journalist and a screenwriter. 

He is the author of the non-fiction top-ten NYT bestseller, I Am Jesse James, and his first poetry collection, Bottleneck Slide, has recently been published by Vainglory Press.  His work has been featured in numerous anthologies and small press journals.

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Utah Sunset” (2021)

Samuel Prestridge: “Coyote”

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Coyote

The night before my 68th,  I dreamed

of walking a bookmarked scrap of land.

I saw a coyote following me.

He wasn’t threatening, just staring,

just sizing me up.  I didn’t want to

be sized up.  I walked the other direction.

He followed, ran to me, heeled.

We walked together.

I ignored him.  He stayed heeled.

We came to an abandoned stable, walked in.

I stopped in front of a stall.

The coyote climbed up the door,

arced his body across the gap, gracefully draped himself

              across my shoulders.

I stood there, not wanting to move, the coyote

snugged against me.  Maybe I worried

about fleas.  Maybe I was guarding his sleep.

               I don’t know how long I was still and quiet.  I don’t know

how time is measured there.

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About the Author: Samuel Prestridge lives and works in Athens, Georgia.  He has published or has forthcoming articles, poems, essays, and interviews in a wide range of publications, including Literary Imagination, Style, Appalachian Quarterly, Paideuma, Poem, The Southern Humanities Review, The Lullwater Review, The Arkansas Review, Autumn Skies, and Better Than Starbucks.

Regarding his approach to writing, he says, “I write poetry because there are matters that cannot be directly stated, but are essential to the survival of whatever soul we can still have.  Also, I’m no good at interpretive dance, which is the only other options that’s occurred to me.”

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Image Credit: Illustration taken from Wild animals of North America Washington, D.C.,The National geographical society[c1918] Public Domain. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Jason Baldinger: “hymn to groundhog day”

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hymn to groundhog day

this café is contrary
a strange anomaly in a land of diners
walls paper brick with watercolor mustangs
one calendar, two posters of the hulk
one hulk decal on the cooler
I wonder about the calendar to quality ratio
    an equation mastered in blue highways
then wonder how many hulk posters equal a calendar

the waitress says her son raises groundhogs
I don’t know what to say
maybe she’s fucking with me
I look deep in the hulk’s eyes
this year he has forty-two groundhogs
I say, that sure is a lot of groundhogs

bessemer tunnels and carbon snow
a few towns away
my mother’s family settled in the 1850’s
dropping the A and E
dropping the family crest
marrying into a family with a township named after them

a yellow sign juts from the snow in surrender
I miss the america I grew up in
I want to believe this is a statement
on a widening gap in equality
on the erosion of class
on the working persons giving everything away
on the ways we allow government to fail
     in not mandating social responsibility

instead, it’s another absurd conservative screed
about the good old days that never were
times when people went to church
family values happened and abortions didn’t

the stop signs have addendums
one says stop touching me
another stop, hump me
the last stop and dance
these winter messages so conflicted

I hunt frozen snakes along the kiskiminetas
here in the bleak of february
I fill myself with enough gray
to crush the restlessness that grows each snow

punxsutawney
ten hours after the groundhog
he saw his shadow
so did this town

there is no evidence this civilization
still tries to understand weather
through the eyes of animals

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About the Author: Jason Baldinger is from Pittsburgh and looks forward to roaming the country writing poems again. His newest books are A Threadbare Universe (Kung Fu Treachery Press) and The Afterlife is a Hangover (Stubborn Mule Press). A History of Backroads Misplaced: Selected Poems 2010- 2020 (Kung Fu Treachery) is forthcoming later this year. His work has been published widely across print journals and online. You can hear him read his work on Bandcamp and on lp’s by The Gotobeds and Theremonster.

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More Poetry by Jason Baldinger:

This Ghostly Ambience

It was a Golden Time

Beauty is a Rare Thing

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Image Credit: Image originally from The quadrupeds of North America. v.1. New York,V.G. Audubon,1851-54. Courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library. Public Domain.

Greg Field “White”

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White

Who can hold the color of the moon,
a porcelain saucer of sweet cream?
The curse of skin at times translucent,
blue veins like gold coursing through quartz.
Pink and red meat glow through with promise.
Its tide of tumbling spindrift seeking
to dissolve all else, to consume even people
poking along in the sand.
Wading through snow carrying thick black books
with tiny type flowing through pages
like marauding ants snapping at the air
they spread through forests and plains,
a seething blizzard that demands
of all falling under, the pure flag of surrender.

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About the Author: Greg Field is a writer, artist, and musician living in Independence, Missouri with his wife, poet Maryfrances Wagner.  His poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies to include New letters and Chiron Review.  His new book, from Mammoth Press, is Black Heart, which focuses on his Native American heritage.  He is a co-editor of the I-70 Review.  His paintings are in private collections all over the country.  He plays drums for the improvisational jazz band River Cow Orchestra.

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Image Credit: John Henry Twachtman “Snow” (public domain)

Sam Barbee: “Hybrid”

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Hybrid

After blight, our chestnut forests
rotted.  Their shadows now emerge,
suffering in furniture and mirror frames,
within unconsecrated slights of legend.

A ring of scientists now cross-breed
remaining Chestnuts with a Chinese genus,
conjuring a stubborn breed, not quite clones,
but another noble effort resistant to demise.

Wooden spooled crib where our grandchild lies
hosts our echo, a remnant thrashing
versus what life will offer, wandering on
with the deceased against what wind strikes down.

So much put asunder, crumbling stumps
rootless and toothless beneath heaven
in a forest felled in microscopic confusion,
among graves where the mighty stood.

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About the Author: Sam Barbee’s poems have appeared Poetry South, The NC Literary Review, Crucible, Asheville Poetry Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina, Georgia Journal, Kakalak, and Pembroke Magazine, among others; plus on-line journals Vox Poetica, The Voices Project, Courtland Review, and The New Verse News. 

His second poetry collection, That Rain We Needed (2016, Press 53), was a nominee for the Roanoke-Chowan Award as one of North Carolina’s best poetry collections of 2016.  He was awarded an “Emerging Artist’s Grant” from the Winston-Salem Arts Council to publish his first collection Changes of Venue (Mount Olive Press); has been a featured poet on the North Carolina Public Radio Station WFDD; received the 59th Poet Laureate Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society for his poem “The Blood Watch”; and is a Pushcart nominee.

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Image Credit: Illustration originally from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine.London ; New York [etc.] : Academic Press [etc.]. Image Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Public Domain

Sue Blaustein: “Rest In Peace”

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Rest in Peace

Forsythias come into bloom. Then magnolias.
This is the week it happens.

Early evening  – radio drivetime – I
head south on Holton Street.

The ad on the back
of the bus I’m following

is CALL 411-PAIN.
That’s easy to remember!

411 is kind of like 911, and PAIN
            is self-explanatory.

The whole bus – for this ad – is a puke pink.
Puke pink 411-PAIN. The bus and I

cross Auer Avenue, where a magnolia
            rules the northeast corner.

Timing! The blossoms, the bus, the blossoms…
            pink, puke pink, pink.

The tree fades in my rearview.
I still follow the bus, puke pink PAIN for my eyes.

For my ears and tender heart –
drivetime reports of celebrity deaths.

An NBA legend’s son lost at 33,
from asthma. Asthma? With all the drugs they have?

Steroids, non-steroids, inhalers…
On TV, asthma is vanquished. Or at least tamed. 

Then, an actor. He was in his eighties –
old enough to go. Notable because,

as the deejay explained, He played
Cousin Itt on the Addams Family. 

Rest in Peace, Cousin Itt.
The deejay spoke with respect, 

yet you could tell it was fun for him
to say Cousin Itt so solemnly.

Blossoms, a puke pink bus, 411 PAIN
for my eyes. And, for my ears

and sore heart Rest in Peace, Cousin Itt.
It gentled an April afternoon. 

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About the Author: Sue Blaustein is the author of “In the Field, Autobiography of an Inspector”. Her publication credits and bio can be found at www.sueblaustein.com. Sue retired from the Milwaukee Health Department in 2016, and is an active volunteer. She blogs for ExFabula (“Connecting Milwaukee Through Real Stories”), serves as an interviewer/writer for the “My Life My Story” program at the Zablocki VA Medical Center, and chases insects at the Milwaukee Urban Ecology Center.

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More by Sue Blaustein:

A Song for Harvest Spiders

A Song for Noise

The Old Ways

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Image Credit: Digitally enhanced illustration from “Annales de la Société royale d’agriculture et de botanique de Gand” Société royale d’agriculture et de botanique,1845-1849. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Creative Commons License 2.0.

 

 

Guy Elston: “Green”

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Green

The strawberry advertised itself
early, already edible (if not truly
ready) in late May.
I’d already been warned,
monitored when on the patio
where the planters sat: Hands off!
Berries need time to grow, Gub,
and care, like this little red one;
in a month he’ll be ruby-rosacea,
with a white seed in every pore.
Always time, always care; too late
for the one I’d kept tucked at the back
beneath a blanket of young leaf,
tart and still with its crunch.
Next summer, secret-sick, gut-
knotted, I’d pluck myself completely;
for now, I wiped my fingers
on my jeans and passed the salt.

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About the Author: Guy Elston is a British teacher and writer currently living in Toronto. His poetry has been included by The Moth, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Honest Ulsterman, Anthropocene, Rust + Moth and other journals. He was commended in the 2020 Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize.

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Image Credit: Digitally enhanced illustration from Flore d’Amérique,. Paris, Gihaut [1843-1846]. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library Creative Commons License 2.0.