All posts by Lisa Hase-Jackson

Driving to the Blackberry Valley Transfer Station on Inauguration Day

Greenville, South Carolina, January 20, 2009

by Gilbert Allen

Maybe a seven-minute ride. Turns out
a lot of us white guys are here today,
pickups mostly, stuck with American flags
like Band-Aids over bumpers, back windows,
in honor of the history behind us.

Hauling two months of litter and beer bottles
from my blue luxury sedan, I must
appear to be a lost investment banker
hiding the bender he’s still getting over.
The guy beneath the HERITAGE NOT HATE
cap smiles. “Looks like you had yourself a time.”

He smells like he’s biodegradable.
I toss Buds into the dumpster, one by one,
so he’ll gimp off before my box is empty.

It works. It’s only me, as I repop
my trunk, and drag bag to the garbage bays
to fortify the artificial hill.
Mission Accomplished. Although I’ll be back,
sooner or later, with another load
of crap my cat and I want to be rid of,
filling what cavities our land still holds.

Gilbert Allen lives in Travelers Rest, SC, from where he frequently proceeds south (and north) on I-85. He’s the author of five collections of poems, including Driving to Distraction (Orchises, 2003), which was featured on The Writer’s Almanac and Verse Daily. Since 1977 he’s taught at Furman University, where he’s currently the Bennette E. Geer Professor of Literature.blog

High Noon at the Hopi Gas Station

John Nizalowski

Spring/Summer 2018

Reservation dogs
of uncertain breed
sleep in the gas
station parking lot.
A stiff hot wind
blows empty packs
of Camels, Hershey
bar wrappers, and
an empty Coors can
across the rippling tar.
Low, flat-bottomed
cumulous clouds rest
on the sky’s glass pane,
reflecting the red sands
of the desert below.

To the south, ancient
stone cities stand atop
narrow bluffs and solid
mesas. Old priests with
parrot feather staffs
celebrate deep, dusty
time in secret kivas.
Every day is a god,
each star a prayer.

While here at the station,
the register dials up the
cost in digital numbers –
99 cent Coke, three
dollars in corn chips,
and twenty-five in
gasoline – the smell
of colonial commerce.

 

John NizalowskiJohn Nizalowski is the author of four books: the multi-genre work Hooking the Sun; two poetry collections, The Last Matinée and East of Kayenta; and Land of Cinnamon Sun, a volume of essays. Nizalowski has also published widely in literary journals, most notably Under the Sun, Weber Studies, Puerto del Sol, Slab, Measure, Digital Americana, and Blue Mesa Review. Currently, he teaches creative writing, composition, and mythology at Colorado Mesa University.

Before the Sting

by Lynn Marie Houston

Winter 2016

The postman leaves a cage of babies,
angry ones who rattle, buzz, and hum,

babies who are hungry, who kick segmented legs
through the open spaces in a metal screen.

I feed them generous blasts of sweetwater
from a spray bottle, I mother them. I shake them

out of a hole in the shipping box and into
the hive I’ve made. Within weeks,

the foragers are already teenagers
wearing orange, pink, and white

from the yard’s blooms. As I lean in close
to watch them leave the hive and return with

nectar and pollen, one of them passes too close,
entangles herself in my hair. I feel her wings

against my scalp, legs tugging fine strands,
the painful knot of us—mother and child.


Lynn Marie Houston PoetLynn Marie Houston
holds a Ph.D. from Arizona State University. Her first collection of poetry, The Clever Dream of Man (Aldrich Press 2015), won the 2016 Connecticut Press Club prize for creative work and went on to take 2nd place in the nationwide competition sponsored by the National Federation of Press Women. Poems and essays by her have appeared in journals such as Painted Bride QuarterlyOcean State ReviewWord RiotSqualorly, and many others.

Lady Akuaro

by Garuda Love

I am river flesh and willow-bone
undulating along the banks of the Chattahoochee
whose mud waters and iron scent
cleave to my skin. My tears salt
the mud, pebbles and clay
river weeds, and moccasin’s nests. I am a tangle
of weed and snake. My venom, a sweet drip.
Honey-thighed, I float, like a lotus.

The men, they come to me.
From the cobbled brick streets
they come, the soldiers, whose musky lips
suck embers from cigarettes, and clamp the rims
of shot-glasses filled with honey-whiskey and gin.
In red-eyed rooms, they roll their muscled tongues
around shouts and groans. The young girls dance
and whisper dead promises into their vacant ears.
In their voices, I float, like a lotus.

The men, they come. After “last call,” after the exchange
of coin and flesh, some young warrior
or battle-weary corpse, strays
from the blood-brick streets, he ambles
through bracken, moss-skinned branches weeping
quail feathers onto his head. Guided by rumor
or jasmine and camphor simmering

Garuda LoveGaruda Love is completing her BFA at Goddard College. Her writing has appeared in Recovery Today Magazine. She is working with Dead Kennedys drummer D.H. Peligro on a screenplay adaptation of his autobiography, Dreadnaught: King of Afro-Punk. Raised in rural Alabama, Garuda now lives in Los Angeles.

Witness

by Kevin Carey

It’s the first warm
day of spring
and I feel like the world
is waking around me.
I stop raking
and watch the fat kid on his bike
toss a newspaper to the driveway
and the guy next door waves
to a pick up truck speeding by,
loud rock and roll evaporating
down the block,
and I hear a faint scream
from a slightly open window
and there’s garlic cooking somewhere
and tires rolling on
the highway beyond,
one set after another,
and there’s a kid I once knew
bouncing a basketball
on the playground,
he is five feet tall
with an un-tucked Celtics jersey
over his shorts to his knees,
he is standing at half court
looking toward the tilted half-moon backboard
yelling over and over again,
“can I get a witness.”

Kevin CareyKevin Carey teaches in the English Department at Salem State University. He has published two books – a chapbook of fiction, The Beach People, from Red Bird Chapbooks (2014) and a book of poetry, The One Fifteen to Penn Station, from Cavankerry Press, N.J. (2012). He co-directed and produced a 2013 documentary film about New Jersey poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan called All That Lies Between Us and is currently working on a documentary about Salem poet Malcom Miller. A new collection of poems, Jesus Was a Homeboy, (also from Cavan Kerry Press) is due out in the fall of 2016. Kevincareywriter.com

Before the Rust

by April Salzano

Summer 2014

The neighborhood playground has been eaten,
oxidized and abandoned. What was
never a good neighborhood is now worse.
One swing and a crooked slide sit at the bottom
of a hill that used to seem steep. We made a game
of shoving our bicycles down riderless,
watching their front wheels turn, head southwest,
wobble, then crash, spokes spinning slower
as they lay on their sides, dead horses, defeated.
I was trying to kill mine so I could have a ten-speed.
That was the year my mom gave me her purple
sunglasses as a birthday present
because she couldn’t afford anything else. The glasses
folded up and fit into a small, circular zipper case.
My shock outweighed my gratitude and I am sorry
to say I did not hide it from her. I had already
been stealing her cigarettes, the long, brown
ones or the ultra thin white variety with flowers
on the filter. My sisters and I smoked, the youngest
only pretending to inhale. That year our mother
was a single parent. She knew poverty
was better than being beaten. There was nothing
she wanted then that she did not already have.

April SalzanoRecent two-time Puschart nominee, April Salzano teaches college writing in Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband and two sons. She recently finished her first collection of poetry and is working on a memoir on raising a child with autism. Her work has appeared in Poetry Salzburg, The Camel Saloon, Blue Stem, Writing Tomorrow and Rattle.

Evening in Haidar’s Basement

Marlin M. Jenkins

Spring/Summer 2015

When I give him that look, he asks why I think it’s weird for him to rap along with the radio. He looks back at his game on the TV as I shake my head, place my hand on his shoulder. We were the first in school to begin to grow beards. We will order pizza with halal pepperoni; he will ask about my mother, what it was like for her to re-marry. My mother has not made Arabic food since she converted and met her husband at church. His mother rolls grape leaves on the front porch, wet like his gelled hair. She whispers to the neighbors. When he asks his questions, he stares into the hybridity in my arteries. I stare at the hair on his arms, compare the tight curls on my head, the curve of his nose.

Poet Marlin JenkinsMarlin M. Jenkins was born and raised in Detroit, graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, and will be attending University of Michigan’s MFA program this fall. His writings have found homes in River Styx, Yemassee, and Midwestern Gothic, among others. You can find him online at marlinmjenkins.tumblr.com and @Marlin_Poet.

What Shoes Do

Mary Catherine Harper

Summer 2017

I hated my mother sometimes
as all good girls do,
because there were too many
pairs of unused shoes
in her closet, hoarded there,
a heart beating only for itself.

But how could love be measured
by the amount of dust falling
on thirteen pairs of red shoes,
I chided myself.

I loved my mother,
most of the time,
remembering we both breathe
the same early morning air
with such relish,
before worrying over
the weather the day might bring,
this as all farm women
in my family are apt to do.

And apt to stare into the mirror,
where my skin has taken on the
texture of dried leather,
like that single pair of shoes
left in the garden,
untended, splitting open.

And apt to exaggerate
the count of shoes
and the texture of memory,
gaps where the past should be,
that oblique place
I cannot quite describe,
except to say it was small,
cramped with the clutter
of at least a hundred high heels
and no clear faces.

 

Mary Catherine HarperMary Catherine Harper, a Southwest Kansas drylands native, lives at the confluence of the Auglaize and Maumee in Ohio. She organizes the annual SwampFire Retreat for artists and writers in Angola, Indiana, and has poems in The Comstock Review, Cold Mountain Review, Old Northwest Review, Pudding Magazine, SLAB, MidAmerica, and New England Review. Her “Muddy World” won the 2013 Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, and her chapbook, Some Gods Don’t Need Saints, was recently published.

When I Wore a Yellow Polka Dot Dress

by David Huddle

In the George Wythe High School auditorium,
at “The Boys’ Beauty Contest” in 1958,
I played to the rowdy crowd

as best I could but got only nervous laughs,
a couple of jeers, and mostly
tepid applause.

But here’s what I remember–how serious
Mary Sawyers was helping me
put on my make-up,

Nancy Umberger stuffing my bra with gym socks,
Sarah Parsons grieving over how wrong
my ballet flats

looked with that dress.  T.W. Alley,
our All-State tackle who’d got
his front teeth knocked

out that year–a 260 pound bawdy slut
who turned her back to the audience
and shook it–won,

and every single one of us teenage queens
knew T. deserved it, but still–
and I don’t know why nobody

ever talked about it–backstage, us boys
changing back to the sex
we were used to

and even the girls who’d helped change us–
we were all kind of quiet
and sad.

David Huddle‘s most recent books are Nothing Can Make Me Do This, a novel, and Black Snake at the Family Reunion, a collection of poems.  He’s a native of Ivanhoe, Virginia, and he makes his home in Burlington, Vermont.

What I Remember

by Carl Boon

August 6, 1945

It was the brightest morning in many days.
I saw the factory smoke
from the kitchen window
drifting east toward Fukuyama.

My daughter had cleaned the windows
on Saturday. We’d grown displeased
with the soot, what the firebombs
brought from Myoshi and Shobara.

I was putting the breakfast dishes away.
Sakura was listening to the radio.
I told her I’d cut her bangs,
for I believed the heat of summer

had made them long, and her wrists
brushed them often from her eyes,
her father’s eyes. He was dead at 8:17
under a lathe in the lumber factory,

lucky, I suppose, because he never felt
that rush of wind, the cup
that crushed Sakura’s jaw, the monsoon
that killed us again in September.

Carl BoonCarl Boon lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey. Recent or forthcoming poems appear in Posit, The Tulane Review, Badlands, JuxtaProse, The Blue Bonnet Review, and many other magazines.