Friday, 7 October 2022

Moth Wings

by Laura Ann Reed

When are we going home, he asks
like a child who’s had enough
of the windy beach,
the playground swings
and slide. 
He’s dying of pneumonia
and a failing heart.  
Propped up in bed
between pale green walls
he glides in and out of delirium.  
I take his hand, the skin cool and dry,
tissue-thin. 
At the window a tiny moth
batters himself
like a dusty saint
against the pane.
I rise from my father’s bedside
and go to the window
where I stare out at a starless night.
From across the room he calls,
Sweetheart, when?
as if the way out or in
is glassy and brief—
a wingbeat.


* * * * *

A different version of "Moth Wings" was o
riginally published in Third Wednesday.

Laura Ann Reed taught modern dance and ballet at the University of California, Berkeley prior to working in the capacity of leadership development trainer at the San Francisco headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Here work has been widely anthologized and published in literary journals. Her chapbook, Shadows Thrown, is slated for publication by SunGold Editions. A San Francisco Bay Area native, Laura currently resides with her husband in western Washington.


Thursday, 6 October 2022

How We Get the Final Word

by Laura Ann Reed


These bookshelves of voices
pleading to be heard
remind me of my mother
who asked before she died
if I’d given any thought to writing.
You express yourself so well,
she said, you really should. That shocked me. 
I’d never had the slightest chance
to express myself with her. She’d cut me off
or finish my sentences and move to another topic
when I’d try to tell her how I saw the world.
But she asked again
and I said, Yes, that’s my plan.
I kept my answer brief, so she couldn’t interrupt.
Oh, Laura, that makes me glad,
she said. A second shock.
When was she ever pleased
about the steps I took to create a life apart from her?
What do you intend to write,
she asked. I paused a moment,
then said, My memoirs.
The room where we were sipping tea
filled with stillness, like the aftermath of earthquakes
or tidal waves. I should have kept it to myself,
my plan to write about her once she died.
I didn’t mean to tell her, but I couldn’t hold it back—
the fact I’d get the final word.


* * * * *

"How We Get the Final Word" was originally published in Verse-Virtual.

Laura Ann Reed received a dual BA in French/Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently completed Master’s Degree Programs in the Performing Arts and Psychology. She was a dancer in the San Francisco Bay Area prior to assuming the role of Leadership Development Trainer at the San Francisco headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She and her husband now reside in western Washington. Her work has been anthologized in How To Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, and has appeared or is forthcoming in MacQueen’s Quinterly, The Ekphrastic Review, and Willawaw, among other journals.  


Wednesday, 5 October 2022

 

FAIRY TALE

by Jacquelyn Shah


Journey
None of that packed-boxcar stuff—
the trip to the ball’s in a carriage
with tufted cushions, windows draped in velvet. 
Every passenger has room to stretch.
Footmen gossip, telling tales in ready ears
of many-splendored-things. No one questions
lilies overwhelming the interior. 

Ball
Champagne  laughter  lobster  oysters
lace & brocade   goblets & trays   curtsies & bows   
In high-polished boots & rhinestone tiaras
couples swirling to Chopin, Opus 53, A-flat major.
But the dance floor is sticky & littered
with needles of glass 
when midnight strikes.
Red feet run!
Too late . . . a hunched figure fattens in shadows,  
teeth tearing at orange shells.


Everafter
Front stoop   fenced yard  
tuna and bruises 
bed & broom  bed & pot  bed & church  
bed oven  bed toilet  bed bed bedpan 
chain of open mouths   gleaming knife   iron steaming 
beer & set jaw  
A hunched figure shines boots, praying
to that old sniper-in-the-sky, tanked & callous  
gluing yellow stars each night on a big black page.


* * * * *

Jacquelyn “Jacsun” Shah, iconoclast, pacifist, has an A.B.–English (Rutgers U); M.A.– English (Drew U); M.F.A. and Ph.D.–English literature/creative writing–poetry (U of Houston). Her publications include chapbook: small fry; full-length book: What to Do with Red; and poems in journals––RhinoGyroscope Review, Woven Tale Press, Unlost Journal, Blue UnicornPlath Profiles, et al. She was the winner of Literal Latté’s 2018 Food Verse Contest.


Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Death and Football

by Hayley Mitchell Haugen

 
On his eighty-third birthday my parents’ neighbor
had a simple lunch, poured himself a highball,
retired to the den for the Bengals game,
and stopped breathing.
 
When his wife discovered him, she did what her heart
told her – called the paramedics, who arrived
with their epinephrine and defibrillators, to revive
the pulse that failed him.
 
Medicine took over, then, and Covid forbade
the family their visits. They waited outside
the hospital, received news of the ventilator
and therapeutic hypothermia; three days later,
they were told to come, to say goodbye.
 
I’d spent my adolescence in that good man’s house,
best friends as I was with his daughter, Suzie.
We’d disturbed his sleep with slumber party antics,
hogged his woodsy-smelling hot tub, made a mess
in his kitchen, frying wontons. Once, inexplicably,
we hid a burnt burger patty in the utensil drawer.
 
He was a patient, forgiving man. I like to think
Joe wasn’t quite there for those tearful good-byes,
that he’d already quietly left us, the taste of good bourbon
on his tongue, the pleasure of a well-made pass,
the last thing on his mind.


* * * * *

Hayley Mitchell Haugen is a Professor of English at Ohio University Southern. Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light from Main Street Rag (2018) is her first full-length poetry collection, and her chapbook, What the Grimm Girl Looks Forward To is from Finishing Line Press (2016). Her latest chapbook, The Blue Wife Poems, is available from Kelsay Books (September 2022). She edits Sheila-Na-Gig online and Sheila-Na-Gig Editions. 
 

Monday, 3 October 2022

Blue Wife in the kitchen

                                                                   by Hayley Mitchell Haugen


only threw meat that one time
when the burgers burnt so badly
their black edges crumbled,
as gritty as tile grout. The smoke

alarm wailing, the toddler screeching,
she smashed the blue Fiestaware
on the countertop, sent those
over-grilled bastards rolling

across the stove. “God damn cooking,”
she cried, hurtling a charred disc
past her husband’s quiet shudder
in the dining room. She crumpled,

then, amongst the weight
of her ordinary domesticity:
the meal planning, the grocery shopping,
the cooking, the cleaning.

I hate those women, she thought,
the ones who make it look so easy,
who adore their Instant Pots and pin
recipes to their browser tabs, the ones

who don’t wilt a little every time
a child asks, “What’s for dinner?”
Her woes spilled over like last week’s
chili as the sun set beyond her kitchen

curtains. She hoped her family
might offer some comfort, a release
from her anxiety, but she knew
they looked on and saw only
her foolishness, knew

she would still have to feed them.


* * * * *

"Blue Wife in the kitchen" is part of Hayley Mitchell Haugen's new collection The Blue Wife Poems (Kelsay Books, September 2022).

Hayley Mitchell Haugen is a Professor of English at Ohio University Southern. Light & Shadow, Shadow & Light from Main Street Rag (2018) is her first full-length poetry collection, and her chapbook, What the Grimm Girl Looks Forward To is from Finishing Line Press (2016). Her latest chapbook, The Blue Wife Poems, is available from Kelsay Books (September 2022). She edits Sheila-Na-Gig online and Sheila-Na-Gig Editions. 


Sunday, 2 October 2022

Voices

by Linda Rhinehart


We talk past one another
Voices rings of smoke drifting into the twilight
Whose ends never quite meet
To form a circle;
You make patterns with your pipe
Mirages on the faded porch
And I trace your words
With the end of my cigarette
Teeth-ravaged, hard worn
Trying to see magic where there might be none


Saturday, 1 October 2022

Girlhood

by Marda Messick


I remember my girl body
the summer before eleven
when I loved horses
and mooned around the stable,
head full of the Black Stallion.

My secret desire
was for Ned to kiss Nancy Drew
in the next book.  

This was before I bled.
I knew about the blood
from a pamphlet with flowers,
and my mother packing 
pads like bandages
and the belt thing
in my camp trunk, just in case.

She would buy me a training bra
before the first day of school.

I remember my girl body
and the man in the barn. 
The dirty old man.
Manure and whiskey reek.
Mouthing my little breasts,
putting his finger in.

It didn’t occur to me to kick him
and run like the wind. Or tell.

Instead, I thought, 
really I thought, 
“Poor man he must be so lonely.”

Now, I think,
“The bastard must be so dead.”


* * * * *

Marda Messick is a poet and accidental theologian living in Tallahassee, FL, on land that is the ancestral territory of the Apalachee Nation. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Christian Century, Verse-Virtual, Delmarva Review, and other journals.