The Smell of Heights

by Katarina Boudreaux

His eyes closed,
feet on automatic,
he lifted the child
and held him,
humming softly
a tune he heard
once in Rio
when he had
watched the sun
rise religiously
before the belly
came, the circles,
and now the ten
of fingers and toes
to trap him sweetly,
bitterly, late nights.

Katarina BoudreauxKatarina Boudreaux is a New Orleans based author, musician, dancer, and teacher. Her first novel, Platform Dwellers, is available from Owl Hollow Press. Alexithymia is available from Finishing Line Press and Anatomy Lessons from Flutter Press.

In the Beginning

by Susan Ludvigson

Fall 2019

Could it have been the very day we met?
It was, walking a long path through
the woods until the sun was down
and we talking, talking, words pushing
against each other softly, like nudges,
until it was wholly dark, long past
supper, past bedtime, before
you told me things I didn’t know how
to hear, before the shocks of your war
began to shade into horror.  But that day
turned night we made our way to a pool.
Shedding clothes in the dark,
as we entered, the elements
seemed to collude, water became
the warmth of air, and when
we became a single body,

it was what the diver I read today
described–ocean as vast as outer space.
The coral reefs he clung to might have been
ledges on planets, as close as he could come
to drifting among the stars, the way light
moved and flashed, and bright-hued fish,
plants swaying iridescent into his vision,
a kind of brilliance he hadn’t known
in any other realm.

Susan Ludvigson has published eight collections with LSU Press, received Guggenheim, Fulbright, NEA, and Rockefeller fellowships, and has published in Poetry, Georgia Review, Southern Review, Ohio Review, Atlantic Monthly, and others.  Wave As If You Can See Me, her new collection, comes out from Red Hen Press in Fall 2020.

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.