R.T. Castleberry: “Just to Waste the Morning”

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Just to Waste the Morning

Too early for dogs barking,
for the train’s rolling whistle,
the sun is seized by night’s glassy course.
November rattles the sidewalk’s seam,
studio apartment windows above
a winter-shuttered pool.
Mealy apple, day old doughnuts for breakfast,
I’ll spend the day finding
the cheapest copy of a desired book,
a match for a print lost to breakup.

Stepping past grapefruit, dropped
and rotting on the sidewalk,
I wear a Bosque Redondo tourist tee
under a German greatcoat,
a twelve dollar haircut beneath a newsboy cap.
Unsteady on the landing,
optical illusions of cracked stone,
pebbled strip, rusty wrought iron
trip me up.
The clinic doctor’s instructions
rattle my last nerve.
Addresses and keys in hand,
like Son House striding his blues pony,
I’ll slake my sorrows in collection remains.

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About the Author: R.T. Castleberry is a widely published poet and critic. His work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Trajectory, Blue Collar Review, White Wall Review, The Alembic and Visitant. Internationally, Castleberry’s work has been published in Canada, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and Antarctica. Mr. Castleberry’s work has been featured in the anthologies, Travois-An Anthology of Texas Poetry, The Weight of Addition, Anthem: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen and You Can Hear the Ocean: An Anthology of Classic and Current Poetry.

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More By R.T. Castleberry:

Down Cold Lanes

July, Roadhouse Dinner

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Image Credit: ” VIEW OF SIDEWALK SHOWING IRON TILES – Cast Iron Sidewalk, 1907 North Seventh Street, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA” The Library of Congress

Susan Cossette: “She Waits Behind the Drapes”

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She Waits Behind the Drapes
-after Edvard Munch

 

Gaslit shadows from St. Cloud Street slip through the windowpane.
Unannounced, pecking at her bruised feet.

The otherness has begun.

Hallowed room bathed in crepuscular light,
Occupied only by shadow and impossible stillness. 

The nurses feed her warm chicken noodle soup,
Record vital signs.

She imagines her daughter lying beside her,
Warm breath, soft cheek.
The child remembers things she can no longer.
Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup,
Christmas mornings, drinking warm cocoa after ice skating.

The child is 1,368 miles away.
In her mind,
She is there—
A responsible mourner in training.

Prepared to face the menace,
Prepared to let the dead enter her,
A living organism of memories.

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About the Author: Susan Cossette lives and writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Author of Peggy Sue Messed Up (2017), she is a two-time recipient of the University of Connecticut’s Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust and Moth, Vita Brevis, Adelaide, Clockwise Cat, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Amethyst Review, Ariel Chart, Poetica Review, Crow & Cross Keys, Loch Raven Review, and in the anthologies Tuesdays at Curley’s and After the Equinox.

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Image Credit: Edvard Munch. “The Girl by the Window,” (1893). The Art Institute of Chicago. Public Domain

 

Gale Acuff: “Die and you go to Heaven or Hell says”

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Die and you go to Heaven or Hell says

our Sunday School teacher so I raise my
hand and ask What if I live forever
and my classmates laugh and I join them but
I’m a hypocrite, I was serious, don’t
tell me that no one out there in the world
hasn’t or maybe even isn’t, some
-one’s as old as the hills of Granny’s chest
or even older, Methuselah-old
but a lot more than that and I wonder
if that could be our teacher, too, she looks
25 but you never know and then
she says Gale, don’t be silly–now please
lead us in the Lord’s Prayer. God damn it.

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About the Author: Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Chiron Review, McNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008).

Gale has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.

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More by Gale Acuff:

Rub

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Image Credit: Ben Shahn “Sunday school, Penderlea Homesteads, North Carolina” (1937) Public Domain photo courtesy of The Library of Congress

Jason Ryberg: “Never Enough to Go Around”

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Never Enough to Go Around

6am, and the world is just about
to fire up again and

over across the way
there’s a black dog straining at its chain,
barking and barking at a starless black sky,

black sky fading to a sheet metal grey,
then, a pale powder blue,

hot black coffee starting to cool,

sixteen Redwing Blackbirds
sitting on a wire,

right above a rusted-out pick-up
that’s missing its front driver’s side tire.

A shoebox full of unopened letters,

a black pleather cowboy boot
sprouting yellow flowers,

a piece of notebook paper,
found in a copy of Don Quixote;
a long list of “things to do, Summer 2002
(#14- finish Don Quixote).”

And here, at the center of it all,
an old-school, wind-up alarm clock
chopping out our meager allotments of time
with a tiny, relentless, insectile sound.

Time;
just never enough of it to go around.

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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. 

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More by Jason Ryberg:

Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner

Sometimes the Moon is Nothing More than the Moon

All of the Above

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Fleener Chimneys, Lava Beds National Park” (2020)

Lisa Creech Bledsoe: “Some Revelation is at Hand”

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Some Revelation is at Hand

“We didn’t believe it ourselves at first. We took 10 years to confirm through experiments that the animals were really actually living without oxygen.” — Roberto Danovaro, deep-sea biologist

1.

What lives in me craves light. I close my eyes
and my arms are almost tree. This is a trick
I’ve only recently learned. My skin ticks
with sugars, sighs and swells toward sky.

Crow cups the air and mounts up—
the forest takes flight below.

I am working my way up the west ridge to sun,
hard going. The mountain forgives few missteps
and the consequences are dire up here, unwinged.

2.

Deep in the sea, miles beneath waves
lie dead zones of immense pressure, salt,
and airlessness. Also: tiny fringed cups, alive.
Making eggs, molting, tentacled.
A millimeter of lace in the anoxic dark.

Something like these also lived before
our atmosphere filled with oxygen.
Circles complete themselves.

3.

Emerging from woods to the exposed ridge
Crow stands on a branch, back to the light, wings
extended, warming.

I grab the next buckeye sapling and pull myself
one deer trail higher, laboring to breathe.

How fire rises in the lungs! Life labors toward
origin: to branch and flame and breath, or
sulphides and sediment and delicate waving fronds
built for the solace of crushing deeps.

4.

Crow’s shadow wavers on the forest floor
crosswhipped with shadows of twigs stripped
bare for winter.

I may never be bird. I study the path to wings
but don’t know what comes before. Yet once
we both swam and cleaved to darkness, forsaking air,
unknown to the blessing of sun and thermal, caught
in the widening gyre.

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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.

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Sunset in Klamath Falls” 2020

Leonard Kress: “Sedition”

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Sedition

Yes, I did the same thing once.
Eighteen, away from home, establishing
Discipleship—the monk Thomas Merton,
The critic of everything, Paul Goodman,

And the deadpan Buddhist, Suzuki.
Yes, some of my professors too,
Like the one whose son was soon
To go to jail resisting the draft

And the one whose Quaker leanings
Told us all to do the same. The fact
That his psychology consisted only
Of training rats to navigate a maze,

Grading us on our skill in doing so,
Made no difference. The only thing
To do, helpless as we were, ineffective
And frightened, was to disrupt

The student military exercises,
Our fellow classmates, including my roommate,
As they gathered and marched, presenting
Arms (no matter that their guns were

Carved from wood and merely ornamental).
They still paraded to the crowd gathered
In the stadium, and yes, in spite
Of uniforms their marching here

Helped them avoid the draft, and yes,
Except for a few hotheaded devotees
Of war (in theory), most treated it
Like marching band, the outfits, formations,

Comraderie, and break from calc and labs and comp.
Still, we painted our faces and donned rags
And feather dusters, whatever we could salvage
From storage closets in the dorm.

And someone handed me a ceremonial sword,
(Dull blade and fragile, awarded
For a patriotic declamation in high school)
And yes, there I was, whooping and bringing

Up the rear, rushing from behind the stands
And streaming in between the lines
Of bored and stiff cadets, who would
Have rather been tossing frisbees or

Choosing sides for touch football.
Yes, we ruined the ceremony and some Major
Shouted outrage, another of lesser rank rattled.
In the end, we simply wandered off,

Abandoned our arms beneath the bleachers
(Including the sword, whose owner planned
To toss it in the trash), after realizing
That none of our fellow students cared

About patriotism, or centuries old
Overwrought declarations about noble deeds.
And yes, pledge week had just begun,
Soon they’d be dancing drunk and passing out.

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About the Author: Leonard Kress has published poetry and fiction in Missouri Review, Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex and Walk Like Bo Diddley. Living in the Candy Store and Other Poems and his new verse translation of the Polish Romantic epic, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz were both published in 2018. Craniotomy Sestinas will appear in 2021. He teaches philosophy and religion at Owens College in Ohio. www.leonardkress.com

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Image Credit: INTERIOR VIEW, CLASSROOM WITH LECTURE STAND AND DESKS – Smith Hall, Capstone Drive at Sixth Avenue, Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County, AL. The Library of Congress

Wesley Scott McMasters: “Bathtub Madonna Washes” 

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Bathtub Madonna Washes

her face with holy water 
from the spigot  

blessed because her hands
lift the water to her face  

her hands which 
stirred soup for her son  

chicken and stars
(the stars taste better) 

hands which wiped down the table
to make room for coloring books 

hands which delivered soup two doors down
for a sister lost to breast cancer  

hands which have always looked
as though they belong to someone much older 

her hands which now begin to 
ache at the joints in the morning 

her hands which have a hard time
coming together in the mornings 

to pray for her son and her mother
to ask why she is so sad at night

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About the Author: Wesley Scott McMasters writes, teaches, and lives in east Tennessee just within sight of the Great Smoky Mountains with his dog, Poet (who came with the name, he swears). 

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Image Credit: Jack Delano “Field of beans on the farm of Gaetano Simone, Italian FSA (Farm Security Administration) client. Westville, Connecticut. Don’t know what the bathtub is for” (1940) Public Domain, The Library of Congress

 

 

Max Heinegg: “Service”

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Service 

He’d lifted crystal kernel husks, my malt-
mill’s sweet dust. By night, he must have
heard my antsy steps & fled
the basement’s leaky sink, his fountain.

The fridge’s back a flat, our wires a file
for his teeth. Gifted intermittence,
the current no deterrence.
Worse, his shit ubiquitous.

He brought friends; I bought poison.

We passed a season’s silence, until he fell
unseen—his scent revenged.

He’d wintered in our drafts, heard the girls’
laughter from the crawl space, eking
near our surfeit. Had he lazed
by the furnace in the catless calm, or
fretted each moment, an unnerved squatter?

Typing, my long teeth grind to keep my mind
safe from the point. I’ll speak for him:
the peaceful creatures especially have enemies.

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About the Author: Max Heinegg’s poems have appeared in Thrush, The Cortland Review, Nimrod, Columbia Poetry Review, and Tar River Poetry. He lives and teaches English in Medford, MA, and is also a singer-songwriter (whose records can be heard at www.maxheinegg.com) and the co-founder and brewmaster of Medford Brewing Company.

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More by Max Heinegg:

Open Letter to Ezra Beeman

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Image Credit: Herman Bencke “Two dogs chasing mouse through open case of champagne” (1878) Public Domain, The Library of Congress

Corey D. Cook: “Resurrecting Roadkill”

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Resurrecting Roadkill

The young fox
is on its side,
just off the road,
body intact,
coat pristine,
no evidence
of trauma,
could be resting
on the sun-warmed
shoulder,
the flame
of its tail
undiminished,
leaping up
with every gust
of wind,
each passing car.

The portly racoon
straddles
the centerline,
laid out
on its back,
front legs bent
at the elbow,
paws resting
above hips,
chin raised,
assuming
a superhero’s pose,
pool of blood
above its head
an opulent cape.

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About the Author: Corey D. Cook’s sixth chapbook, Junk Drawer, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Akitsu Quarterly, the Aurorean, Brevities, Cold Moon Journal, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Nixes Mate Review. Corey works at a hospital in New Hampshire and lives in Vermont.

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Image Credit: Catalogue North American mammals with drawings and proof of plates [1856?] Image Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library biodiversitylibrary.org/page/55581032

Jenna K Funkhouser: “Persephone”

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Persephone

and what now / shall I write?

the trees armor against obsession / they are lucid / never
drink anything but the rain / and when the rain sings
to them / in their beds / they call it god /

oh when you came / in a hail of arrows
and leaves / and the wild deer / that night lightning
reversed / swallows went north / fig trees forgot
to worship / the sun /

there were Aprils / shouting your name.

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About the Author: Jenna K Funkhouser is an author and nonprofit communicator living in Portland, Oregon. Her poetry has recently been published by the Oregon Poetry Association, Write Around Portland, and the Catholic Poetry Room, among others; her first book of poetry, Pilgrims I Have Been, was released in October 2020.

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Image Credit: Flore médicale Paris :Imprimerie de C.L.F. Panckoucke,1833-1835. Public Domain Image courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library