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.  

Friday, 30 September 2022

 

ESTATE SALE

by Lorri Ventura


A cluster of dust-covered Hummels
Surround a Japanese puzzle box
Hand-knitted sweaters in toppling piles
Reek of cigarette smoke

Stacks of carnival glass dishware
Playfully cast prisms on faded walls
Dozens of boxes bulge with books
And sheet music

Sepia photos
With curled edges
Share unsmiling faces
Long gone

Crowds of barterers
Seek the adrenalin rush
They get from
Successful low-balling
For items they can resell
At a profit

Memory-triggering tchotchkes
More trash than treasure
Vestigial remains of a priceless life


* * * * *

Lorri Ventura is a retired special education administrator living in Massachusetts. She is new to poetry-writing. Her poems have been featured in several anthologies, in Red Eft Journal, and in Quabbin Quills.
She is a two-time winner of Writing In A Woman's Voice's Moon Prize.


Thursday, 29 September 2022

 

A CONGREGATE FAMILY SHELTER     

by Lorri Ventura
 

Signs taped on every windowsill
Reminders to please not toss
Dirty diapers out on the lawn
Toilet paper kept in locked cabinets
Permission required to access a roll
Eight families sharing one kitchen
A screaming match triggered by
A soup ladle's disappearance
Eleven children sniffle and sneeze
With a shared head cold
A little girl turns somersaults
On a graffiti-bedecked This End Up couch
As two toddlers, arms linked, share a lollipop
On a frayed carpet in front of a TV
Watching "Paw Patrol" at full volume
And a boy caped in a bath towel
Tears up and down the hallway
The world's cutest Superman
A young woman plants a bouquet
Of sleepy kisses
On her baby's head
Grease stains on her red Arby's apron
Nighttime descends
A mother forms a comma around her child
On the cot they share
And falls asleep
Dreaming of a world in which a full-time job
Stocking Walmart shelves
Pays enough for an apartment
And for selfhood


* * * * *

Lorri Ventura is a retired special education administrator living in Massachusetts. She is new to poetry-writing. Her poems have been featured in several anthologies, in Red Eft Journal, and in Quabbin Quills. She is a two-time winner of Writing In A Woman's Voice's Moon Prize.

 

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Guilty

by Vicki Iorio


The doctor says my daughter’s curved spine is pressing
on her heart

the way she pressed on mine when she was inside me.
10 years-old, sitting on the crinkly examination table
she looks at me like this is my fault.

I always blame everything on her father’s family.
The spear side—his sickly father, his crazy mother.

We don’t have scoliosis in our family,
my mother says when I tell her the diagnosis.

Until her bones fuse
my daughter wears a brace all through high school that
cages her like Scout in her Halloween ham costume.

My daughter’s doctor carries a Chanel bag
I promise my daughter I will buy her one
when her years of treatment are done, as if I can afford this luxury.

Bones fused, college bound with her Chanel bag,
I make a planter of the cage
to memorialize the curve.

At Kleinfeld’s while my daughter is being fitted for her wedding gown
Olga, the scary Russian seamstress, her mouth full of pins,
tells me my daughter is crooked.

My daughter, fairy tale princess in crystals and peau de soie
breaks my heart.


* * * * *

Vicki Iorio is the author of the poetry collections Poems from the Dirty Couch (Local Gems Press), Not Sorry (Alien Buddha Press), and the chapbooks Send Me a Letter (dancinggirlpress) and Something Fishy (Finishing Line Press). Her poetry has appeared in numerous print and on-line journals including The Painted Bride Quarterly, Rattle, poets respond online, The Fem Lit Magazine, and The American Journal of Poetry. Vicki is currently living in Florida, but her heart is in New York.