Kerry Trautman: “Context”

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Context
“Different musics respond to knocked-on silences”  –Sarah Gridley

Outside air becomes glass when
Spring’s first red-wing

blackbird shudders its voice
into the chilled void—

the song to be lost
come July with its

humid white-noise
of crickets, honeybees

and cardinals.
My toddler’s

cry of no-no ping-pongs
off midnight bedroom

walls in small eruptions
of panicked confusion,

and just as I wake
enough to step from quilts,

I know already
nothing is there.

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About the Author, Kerry Trautman: I am a poetry editor for Red Fez, and my work has appeared in various anthologies and in journals, including The Fourth River, Gasconade Review, Midwestern Gothic, Paper & Ink, Third Wednesday, and Think Journal. My poetry books are, Things That Come in Boxes (Kingcraft Press 2012,) To Have Hoped (Finishing Line Press 2015,) Artifacts (NightBallet Press 2017,) and To Be Nonchalantly Alive (Kelsay Books 2020.)

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Image Credit: Digital remixing of an illustration from A History of North American Birds. Boston :Little, Brown,1905. biodiversitylibrary.org/page/12887556. Creative Commons License 2.0.

Joe Milazzo: “absolute clearance”

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absolute clearance

one crewman is singing
as he sucks the old cellulose
(basically paper one contractor tells
me as if balancing the enormous sphere
of his expertise on the tip of this detail)
out of the attic so his buddies
(so I assume) can start
doing their remediation for us

later I hear him laughing
the laugh of a thin man
pitched high but languid
the space between each “ha”
a left foot working the sostenuto
almost as if he were laughing
at the reflex itself (maybe all the
involuntary stuff sardined
in the rising and falling of a chest) (maybe
the deus ex machina dancing
behind laughter’s stunts)

their day is done once
they’ve blown in new snow
drifts of fiberglass to hide
our home’s irregularities and
obstructions and penetrations
waiting for the crew chief
(one of those chummy guys
covered in pale orange fur who
we’ve never seen not
wearing shorts) to come
and inspect their work their talk
turns theological at least I hear
them talking about god as if
they know him (or it) or maybe
they’re gossiping about a pastor
who fleeced a woman of her
powerball jackpot but I think
their conversation is less a matter
of bullshitting and more one
of apologetics or anagnorisis (shut
doors sheetrock that needs to be
depopcorned and my own Sisyphean
posturing crossing up any interpretation)
but I think someone is under some
pretty terrible conviction
maybe the thin laugher has strayed
or keeps aligning himself with
error and his friends are endeavoring
to steer him from perdition baptizing
him in the mold and rodent pheromones
(shit and piss) that as briefly
ago as this morning (before
these men showed up on our doorstep)
were hanging above our jitters
our foreplay our role-playing our time
in front of the TV and now
to pad their hours they’re sweeping
out of our garage into the alley
and from there who knows where

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About the Author: Joe Milazzo is the author of the novel Crepuscule W/ Nellie, two volumes of poetry — The Habiliments and Of All Places In This Place Of All Places — and several chapbooks (most recently, @p_roblem_s). He is an Associate Editor for Southwest Review and the Founder/Editor-In-Chief of Surveyor Books. Joe lives and works in Dallas, TX, and his virtual location is http://www.joe-milazzo.com.

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Image Credit: Mike Whye ” ATTIC, SOUTHEAST POST AND THREE BEAMS IN CENTER AREA OF ATTIC, LOOKING SOUTHEAST. – Fort Leavenworth, Building No. 17, 20-22 Sumner Place, Leavenworth, Leavenworth County, KS”  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Lorraine Caputo: “Weekend’s End”

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WEEKEND’S END

When the sun
is six fingers from
the western horizon

The waves of high tide
break faster, the surfers
pack their boards home

Partiers pay their bills
take a last slug of beer
& leave, sand skirting around
pick-up tires & music

Moto-taxis wait
at the malecón crossroads
for town-bound fares

Some families
yet bathe in the
silvered waters

Along the grey-sand beach
a neighbor farmer
herds his cattle
to evening pasture

The sun, now five fingers
from that horizon
slips behind a cloud,
the breeze rises

Four fingers from that horizon
a long moto-rickshaw loads up
a family’s plastic chairs,
cooler, inflatable boat
& heads up the road

Two fingers
The beach now
nearly deserted,
the high tide’s flotsam foam
wavers & sand castles crumble
in the breeze

One finger, the sun grows
& deepens to a brilliant orange,
its rays coloring the
receding tide

& now the sun deepens
to coral, sinking
beyond dulled waters

until it disappears
the pale rose clouds fading

as dusk closes in

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About the Author: Wandering troubadour Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator and travel writer. Her works appear in over 250 journals on six continents; and 18 collections of poetry – including On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019) and Escape to the Sea (Origami Poems Project, 2021). She also authors travel narratives, articles and guidebooks. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She journeys through Latin America with her faithful travel companion, Rocinante (that is, her knapsack), listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her travels at: www.facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer or https://latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com.

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Beach Sunset” 2020

Alex Z. Salinas: “Auditorium”

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Auditorium 

I dreamt I was invited to Vladimir Nabokov’s
Auditorium to read some poems & impart
One piece of advice to his advanced English
Students—as in, they all possessed diverse
British accents—& I was jittery, butterflies in
My stomach, my face oleaginous (an adjective
My geology professor friend once used to de-
Scribe that vampiric doofus Ted Cruz) & upon
Conclusion of my reading, Nabokov cleared his
Throat as if to say, Now onto the business about
The 1 piece of advice, Salinas, & all I could
Muster in all my oleaginous splendor was,
“People suckle on doom & gloom’s teat less
Pleasurably than you think”—less so advice &
More so self-help spewed into a mirror,
Refracted as a monochrome rainbow—to
Which Nabokov’s students stood & clapped
Thunderously, whistled, wanted more, begged
“Encore! Encore!” & it was clear I was finally
Accepted by academia, I’d punctured the dubious
Membrane of the ivory tower, & then I glanced at
Nabokov who sipped from a bottle of Diet Coke,
The flesh around his eyes slack & bored, an un-
Tended mausoleum sculpted from an iceberg.

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About the Author: Alex Z. Salinas is the author of two full-length poetry collections from Hekate Publishing: WARBLES and DREAMT, or The Lingering Phantoms of Equinox. He holds an M.A. in English Literature and Language from St. Mary’s University. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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More by Alex Z. Salinas:

Pen Dream

Neruda in Six Haikus

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Image Credit: “AUDITORIUM, LOOKING TO SCREEN – Hamilton Field, War Department Theater, Between Main Entrance Road & North Oakwood Drive, Novato, Marin County, CA ” The Library of Congress

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: Digitally enhanced illustration excerpted from the Biodiversity Heritage Library. South African botany London, Longmans, Green,1922. biodiversitylibrary.org/page/37736321 Creative Commons License 2.0.

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