Tag Archives: #NationalPoetryMonth

Shorty’s Cellarette

by Robert Gibb

Kutztown, 1969

Winter 2017

When we left we ascended into the light,
sun- or street-, depending. Outside steps
like stairs of the ladder, its heavenly
two-way traffic. My first semester back
from the Air Force. At 15-cents a draft,
I could spend the night for what felt like
pennies on the dollar, all on the G.I. Bill.
A horseshoe-shaped bar. The low ceiling
of tobacco smoke that spread its cirrus
above us—locals mostly, including Evie
and Althea, townie sirens bee-hived
and bluejeaned since their 1950s teens.
The neon script of beer signs lit the walls
beside Norm the bartender’s warning,
“ONLY L.C.B. CARDS EXCEPTED,”
which elicited Shorty’s sorrowful tsk.
We slathered slices of ring-bologna
with umber mustard, ate red-beet eggs
whose purples bled into golden yolks.
We were treated to a non-stop jukebox
among whose offerings were the same
two songs—Hendrix wah-wahing his way
through “All Along the Watchtower”
and Marvin Gaye’s bewildered plaints
in “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.”
Just two of the deaths blocking the way
back to then. A third: the bar-wooed lover
I saw off and on again for years
(her last house surrounded by cornfields,
whose hair was the color of their silk).
A letter sent to me in care of the Cellarette
actually got there, addressed by a friend
from Texas, who had misplaced my own.
Kuttstown his misspelling. First Street,
which didn’t exist. The place a cynosure
all that winter into spring. I even got
a big hug from Shorty himself one day:
“I love you, you goddamned hippie,”
which I wasn’t really, though I let it pass,
heavened at the foot of the ladder.

Robert Gibb

Robert Gibb’s books include After, which won the 2016 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize, and Among Ruins, which won Notre Dame’s Sandeen Prize in Poetry for 2017. Other awards include a National Poetry Series title (The Origins of Evening), two NEA Fellowships, a Best American Poetry and a Pushcart Prize.

Humakind Needs Larger Birds

by Justin Jannise

Winter 2022

Humankind needs larger birds:
red-tailed hawks scaled up
to pterodactyl proportions;
twelve-story great white egrets,
spear-sharp bills puncturing
our roofs like giant stilettoes;
a helicopter hummingbird or two
always hovering, thirsty for us
to make just one wrong move.
We need more natural predators
to humble us into greater regret,
more meaningful action. We share
too little of the terrestrial burden
that camels, mules, and antelope
bear. Let the crow outgrow
our bomber planes. Let the great
horned owl outsmart us.
And let them be, as we are,
locked doors unto themselves,
their hearts grand ballrooms
of sinew and mystery, their brains
locomotive engines of synapse
and being their own worst enemy.

Justin Jannise is the author of How to Be Better by Being Worse, which won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from BOA Editions, Ltd., in April 2021. His poems have appeared in Best New Poets, Best of the Net, Copper Nickel, Yale Review, and New Ohio Review. Recently a recipient of the Imprint Verlaine Prize in Poetry and the Editor-in-Chief of Gulf Coast, Justin lives in Houston, where he is pursuing his Ph.D.

It’s Not Just the Cat

by Jessica Barksdale

Fall 2013

You find yourself lost in a city block, the same streets
where you ate hamburgers with your teenaged boys,
the greasy taste still on your tongue,
their boy teases, their young laughter in your ear.
And then you are idling at a stoplight in another city, in another block,
and you are pushing a second-hand stroller
up toward the grocery store to buy the food
you can barely afford.
Then you are speeding
in your 1972 Volkswagen squareback, the window open,
you laughing against the rush of air,
your friend speeding alongside
you in her Datsun, both on your way to the college
you will later flunk out of but now teach at,
the same road you drive on now,
window closed.
Here you are again, an unhappy,
married woman nearing middle age,
staring up at the Eiffel tower, not wondering how it was constructed,
but how you will leave your marriage.
The circles push you out and away,
pull you back,
you on a bench on the first platform,
Paris spread out like a picnic blanket,
a new husband beside you.


Jessica Barksdale is the author of twelve novels, including Her Daughter’s Eyes and The Instant When Everything Is Perfect. Her stories, poems, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Mason’s Road, The Coachella Review, So to Speak, and Salt Hill Journal. She is a professor of English at Diablo Valley College and teaches online novel writing for UCLA Extension.

Remnants

by Holly Day

Summer 2019

The snail shell lies on its side on the ground
empty save for a few dried curls of flesh, the weight
of something solid somewhere deep inside.

I place it in the middle of my palm, feel that sad, solid weight
what’s left of a snail tricked out of the shadows
by afternoon thunderstorms and cool, summer nights.

Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Plainsongs, The Long Islander, and The Nashwaak Review. Her newest poetry collections are A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press), In This Place, She Is Her Own (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), A Wall to Protect Your Eyes (Pski’s Porch Publishing), I’m in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.), and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy (Alien Buddha Press).

Equinox

by Jim Minick

Spring 2012

Again, I miss it,
the calendar sliding by,
yesterday a million years old,
today too late

so that equinox becomes
equidrops-equiknocks-equipox,
the equation   un   balanced,
equal sign tilted askew.

Meanwhile, the sun and stars
scroll across the sky in a language
we have forgotten, a dialect
embedded in our bodies.

Jim Minick is the author of The Blueberry Years, a memoir about one of the mid-Atlantic’s first pick-your-own, certified-organic blueberry farms, and winner of the Best Nonfiction Book of the Year from Southern Independent Booksellers Association. Minick is also the author of two books of poetry, Her Secret Song and Burning Heaven, a collection of essays, Finding a Clear Path, and editor of All There Is to Keep by Rita Riddle. Minick has won grants, awards, and honors from many organizations including the Southern Environmental Law Center, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Virginia Commission for the Arts, and Radford University, where he teaches writing and literature. His work has appeared in many publications including Shenandoah, Orion, San Francisco Chronicle, Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Conversations with Wendell Berry, The Sun, and Wind. Recently, his poem “I Dream a Bean” was picked by Claudia Emerson for permanent display at the new Tysons Corner/Metrorail Station. He lives in the mountains of Virginia with his wife and three dogs.