Maryfrances Wagner: “Dreaming Through Covid”

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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.

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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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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”

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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?

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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

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More By Damian Rucci:

One For Cory

Hound Speak

Melancholy and the Afterglow

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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”

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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.

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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.

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More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

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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

Agnes Vojta: “Waiting for news from the hospital”

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Waiting for news from the hospital

she is on her knees
scrubbing the kitchen tiles
square by grey square.
The dark lines of grout
meet at right angles.

She erases
a splatter of tomato sauce,
a dusting of flour,
a smear of mud,
scours

until the floor is so clean
she wants to lie down,
cheek to the cool tile,
and breathe
the faint lemon smell.

She wipes her forehead,
stands up and paces
the empty house
looking for something
else to clean.

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About the Author: Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T and hikes the Ozarks. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019) and The Eden of Perhaps (Spartan Press, 2020), and her poems have appeared in a variety of magazines.

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More By Agnes Vojta:

Legend

Sisyphus Calls It Quits

Flotsam

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Tiled Corner” (2021)

Aarik Danielsen: “Prefilled Communion Cup”

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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.

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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.

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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”

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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.

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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: 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

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The Magician’s Handbook

 

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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.

 

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

 

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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.

 

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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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More by Lisa Creech Bledsoe:

Some Revelation is at Hand

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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”

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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

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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

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Image Credit: Melissa Macias “Strawberry Fields”

Poetry Soundbite: A Reading and Interview with Agnes Vojta

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Welcome to AIOTB Magazine’s fifth Poetry Soundbite, an on-going series of poetry readings and interviews. For this edition, we welcome Agnes Vojta, a poet who grew up in Germany and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T and hikes the Ozarks. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019) and The Eden of Perhaps (Spartan Press, 2020), and her poems have appeared in a variety of magazines.

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More By Agnes Vojta:

Legend

Sisyphus Calls It Quits

Flotsam

Mike James Reviews Wave If You Can See Me By Susan Ludvigson

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Mike James Reviews

Wave If You Can See Me

By Susan Ludvigson

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In “How It Can Happen,” one of the first poems in this fine new collection, the narrator imagines death as Shakespeare’s “other country.”  She writes, “I go with you, / but not all the way to your destination. / I wait in a dark house while you are taken / to a secret location. / We knew this could happen.”

The last line is instructive because it hints at a foreshadowing which haunts so many of these poems. In poem-after-poem the narrator is never sure of what’s across the river, but she’s certain it’s bad. A bridge will suddenly give way. Flood waters will rise too quickly. The villagers at the next exit won’t be friendly.

The dread is natural since so many of the poems are concerned with the death of the poet’s spouse, novelist Scott Ely. Many are not elegies as much as they are re-imaginings of an old life and dream-like restructurings of the current one. In the wonderfully titled “You Could Be Drinking Faulkner’s Bourbon,” she pictures what her husband might be doing in that other country. The poem moves from image to image, then concludes with a leap of transcendence: “we tell ourselves we’d like to know / but knowing / puts a period on speculation / and we are opposed / even in esoteric theory / to endings.”

From a technical standpoint, the addition of the four words “even in esoteric theory” deepens the poem. If good writing is about surprising the reader, those words surprise by their placement. “Esoteric theory” may not be the most sonically pleasing phrase, but it serves well to play off the narrator’s “speculations” and to strengthen the poem’s conclusion. The narrator is not just opposed to death and all the sorrows death brings. The narrator is opposed to all finality, even of the most far flung variety.

For Ludvigson, mourning is not relentless. Death is to be accepted. If Ludvigson never imagines death as gentlemen caller the way Emily Dickinson did, neither does she shy away from placing a spot at the table for him to sit. The narrator in “Too Late” tries to take in both her dream life and her new life as she travels without fear. “In the new country, / I try to ask directions, tell someone / how far we are from home. / The man behind the counter nods / as if he understands.”

Throughout the collection, over many roads and many nights, an understanding is always sought. Some poems end with an epiphany. Other poems end with an image like a cocked gun.

Though the subjects are often wrenching, there’s a steadiness throughout this collection which is appealing. The poems are tough and sensuous, subtle and clear. And the book is structured so that each poem adds resonance to the one before it.

This is Ludvigson’s first collection in 14 years. That’s a long time for a poet who has published many books, with most appearing in three to four year intervals. What has she done during her long silence? Well, she has continued to appear in magazines like Poetry, Atlantic Monthly, and Georgia Review. She has taught and judged book contests and taken up painting after a lifetime of watching. And she has said goodbye to friends and to her husband all while taking note of, “stars / burning through the debris of history / like love burning through the dark of loss.”

Wave If You Can See Me, by Susan Ludvigson
Red Hen Press, 2020
Poetry, $15.95

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About the Author: Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. He has published in numerous magazines, large and small, throughout the country. His 18 poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), and Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), He has received multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations.

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More Reviews by Mike James:

Mike James reviews Mingo Town & Memories by Larry Smith

Mike James reviews “Dead Letter Office: Selected Poems” By Marko Pogacar

Mike James reviews Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader and Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney