Caterpillars

By McKenzie Lynn Tozan

consider their bodies—each separate bead

a head—the string of brains arch

like drumming fingers, or rather,

the knuckles. survival

in a smaller form. or a child pouring out

onto a table, the wide mouth

of an incision. you left me open there, just leaves

& breath. I hear a clown, Puddles Pity Party like a dream

of black & white film

& song. he opens his mouth, wider

than most, & out comes the sounds

of a clarinet, a tuba, a bird launched

into the higher branches

of a tree until all you make out

is the red smudge against

barren branch, no more sense

of feather or blood, the mother lost

in the presence of crying child, father dwelling

on the sidelines. his voice

in my ears, feathers in my mouth,

the bark like an arrival

in my hand. life will make no more sense

than this. more powder. more song.

_________________________________________________________

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives and writes in South Bend, Indiana, where she works as the Departmental Secretary of English and World Language Studies at Indiana University South Bend, and remains closely affiliated with 42 Miles Press, New Issues Poetry and Prose, and Wolfson Press. She previously received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University, where she worked as the Layout and Design Editor for New Issues Poetry and Prose and as an Assistant Editor of Poetry for Third Coast. Her poems have appeared in Encore Magazine, Sleet Magazine, Rogue Agent, Thank You for Swallowing, Whale Road Review, The James Franco Review, The Birds We Piled Loosely, and Analecta; and her book reviews have appeared on her website and on The Rumpus. For more, please visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.

The Geography of Cursive Indentations on the Letter Pad On My Mother’s Desk After Her Death

By Jeff Burt

My fingers searched in the hidden treble clefs
of paper for words that had been written
on one page and pressed into another,

hidden in the geography of cursive indentations
like claws grasping by parentheses, fingertips
tracing scripts not made of ink but pencil,

not something well-flowed but scratched
hard, deep into vanilla paper,
strings of words in haste, need,

approximation, hunger, arches, loops,
whorls I bring back to understand,
to comprehend my mother’s compression.

_____________________________________________
Jeff Burt lives in California with his wife amid the redwood and two-lane roads wide enough for one car. He has work in Thrice Fiction, The Nervous Breakdown, Agave, Watershed Review, Amarillo Bay, work forthcoming in Per Contra. He was the featured summer issue poet of Clerestory, won the 2011 SuRaa short fiction award, and been nominated for a Best of the Net Award.

Shield

By Kathleen Flenniken

There’s little I can pack for you, no lucky charm
or incantation, only years and years of daily instruction

I hope you’ve heard. I’ll be the waving hand
and hesitation in the window, then I end

and the road begins. If you grow lonely for me,
rest your cheek on the breast of a gold grass hill

or the breast of a sand dune erased and rewritten
by the wind, look for the shape of me in an ocean swell

and decide that’s all you need,
and I’ll imagine the trinkets you leave behind

as a quieter version of you. If I can.
And with my long arm raise my shield,

larger than any moon, shining
because I’ve polished it in my mind

since before you were born.

Brooding

By Kathleen Flenniken
for my oldest

I stretch out on the stainless steel tray
that is this sleepless dark
and examine my own maternal sensors
tuned half a world away to your blinking light.

Imagine arrays of radio scanners spinning
while the blip that is you
strolls cobbled streets in Spain.
I read you very clearly.

Thank you for shifting one pair of underwear
from your suitcase to your carry-on
before we checked your bags and said goodbye.

What do I do with these feeler things
once they outlast their usefulness?
Like extra hands getting in the way.

Before you were born
I let go of your stroller in a dream
and watched you tumble off a cliff.
They were just emerging then.

Another Letter About the Weather

By Kathleen Flenniken

You still send letters though you are dead
and because you are free of the US Postal System
they arrive anytime—
in the car at a light as I watch an outnumbered mother
holding back her wound-up children from the street,
in the middle of Australian costume dramas,
or while I forage in the pantry shelves,
famished and not even hungry.

Here’s one now, praising me
for little songs I made up on the piano,
my lavishly romantic Valentines, and recalling
our annual excursion to the dog show
where once you let me eat a Twinkie
and we impersonated for each other
elaborately ponytailed and pompommed
groomers.

Every morning a letter arrives,
smelling of coffee and bacon
and plans for the day, describing the clouds
as you always did, but now
from the other side.

_____________________________________________________________
Kathleen Flenniken is the author of two poetry collections, Plume, a meditation on the Hanford Nuclear Site, finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award, and Famous, named a Notable Book by the American Library Association. Her honors include fellowships from the NEA and Artist Trust, a Pushcart Prize, and a 2015 residency at the Bloedel Reserve. She served as the Washington State Poet Laureate from 2012 – 2014. “Shield” previously appeared in Signs of Life, Facere, 2014; “Brooding” previously appeared in The Mom Egg; “Another Letter About the Weather” was previously published in Stringtown.

Into the Wilds

By Darlene Pagán

At the edge of the wetland, the boys
hand me weapons: a curly willow branch,

a clod of dirt, a handful of rocks. Voices
lowered, we make a racket tromping

through brush. It doesn’t matter
that the Yeti live in the Himalayas

and the Northwest is home to bigfoot,
or that neither one of them can pronounce

abominable snowman, or that the kid who swore
they lived behind our house stuffs eraser caps

with liverwurst. They believe the thing
is watching us, has a jaw like a shark,

and can tear a man in two with a swipe of its paw.
Do you believe? Have you seen one? Why are they so mean?

The librarian tells them, There’s no evidence.
Their bus driver insists, No one really knows.

A neighbor says he tracked prints while hunting
elk. His wife says he needs glasses, suggests

the Yeti aren’t mean, just protecting a way
of life, a habitat. The boys scowl, shaking

their heads. On a drive home I tell them,
Maybe it’s just protecting its babies. This they stop

to consider and after snacks and homework,
we’re ankle deep in sludge, wielding sticks,

and holding still as something in the distance
crunches leaves and snaps a branch. They freeze,

mouths falling open, eyes widening as they pull
rocks from their pockets, and whisper that I go first.

__________________________________________________________________

Darlene Pagán is the author of a chapbook of poems Blue Ghosts (Finishing Line Press 2011) and a full-length collection, Setting the Fires (Airlie Press 2015). Her poems and essays have appeared in many journals, including Field Magazine, Calyx, Hiram Poetry Review, and Literal Latté, and earned national awards and nominations for Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net. She teaches writing and literature at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. She loves the rain, the beach, swimming, hiking, and riding roller coasters with her sons.

Our First Pie

by Rage Hezekiah

Emma visits bearing apples,
a bushel from her Maine orchard,
 
and during her stay we bake our first pie.
I stand at the sink, running water over
 
ripe fruit in the colander, and she pulls
cutting boards from the cabinets. We drink
 
mulled cider as we slice, collecting cores
in a bowl for compost. In my mother’s kitchen
 
we sing and giggle, wiping our hands
on checkered aprons. She tells stories
 
about farm life: the lambing season last spring,
the blight that killed the heirloom tomatoes,
 
her plan for ridding the greenhouse
of hornworms. Dusting the rolling pin
 
with flour, we take turns leaning into the dough,
forming two circles for top and bottom crusts.
 
The house smells of cinnamon when we sit
cross-legged by the hearth, until the timer dings.
 
My mother comes home, and finds us proud
and pleased, celebrating our creation.
 
Standing in the doorway with her coat still on,
she frowns, What do you think, you invented pie?

___________________________________________

Rage Hezekiah is a former farmer, baker, and doula, who earned her MFA degree from Emerson College.  She was a finalist in the Hurston-Wright College Writers Contest and received an honorable mention in the Zero Bone Prize Poetry Contest. Her poems have appeared in Fifth Wednesday, and Glassworks, as well as other journals, and are forthcoming in Columbia Poetry Review, Chicago Quarterly Review and the minnesota review.  She recently co-translated her own work into Spanish to appear in Juana Ficción, a contemporary literary journal out of Cali, Columbia. Her writing has also been anthologized in Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out and was featured in the collection Wide Awake, Every Week: 52 Writers Share Their Aha! Moments

Unnamed

by Larissa Haynes

Dream Baby
I imagine you pink and downy-haired
But not peeking from a cloud
A cherub giggling on a baby shower card

Child before laughter before aim before turning
The world outside your misty vision uncreated
Child sleeping in my arms
Your pearled bud mouth a tiny seashape lost in a year
Your fingernails a flick of shine on the pink of shells
Your eyelids hold the secrets of creation hiding
Like the sky hides the cosmos

How long did you wait
Watching us busy ourselves with groceries and sleep and Netflix
With videogames and evenings at school
With dogs and dishes?
Did you fade away slowly
The dream drying up and releasing like dandelion fluff
To sail where? To nothingness?
To some other mother’s fresh yearning?
Did you end suddenly and cleanly like a soap bubble
Wink out of existence like a star no one knows is gone?

Is there a heaven for you, dear baby
Where you wait the signal that sends you
Birthed into imagining, conception before conceiving?

The onesie still in the closet
Dusty empty ghost
Selfish coward barren I cradle an empty grave.
________________________________________

Larissa Haynes grew up in Brookhaven, MS but now lives with her husband and dogs in southcentral Kentucky. She teaches in a rural high school and occasionally leaves work before dark. After grading essays to cello music, she will admit to even casual acquaintances that she’d give up a finger to ditch the rubrics and run a creative writing workshop all day.

After the Funeral

by Rasma Haidri

The moon, dumb
      as a stone in winter,
pulls like a tide,
      making me look
up, when I want
      to look away,
making me stop,
      when I want to breathe
my own breath again,
      tuck my soul back —
startling me
      like a naked breast,
pearly as
      the porcelain doorknob
in my mother’s house,
      where the blinds
stayed shut.
      Now the empyrean drapes
are thrown open,
      exposing me
to the moon’s
      glaring interrogation:
Where did she go?
      I wonder if she
hunkers just
      on the shadow side —

Mom, the moon
      haunts and taunts
me —
      Mom,
the moon
      is cruel
to me —
      Mom?
The sky
      has never been this empty.

______________________________________________
Rasma Haidri grew up in Tennessee and makes her home on the Arctic seacoast of Norway where she teaches English and does Reiki and stained glass. Her poems and essays can be found in anthologies by, among others, Puddinghouse, Seal Press, Bayeux Arts, Marion Street Press, The Chicago Review Press and Grayson Books; and in literary journals including Sycamore Review, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Passages North, Runes, Kalliope and I-70 Review. Her most recent poetry is forthcoming in, Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women and Songs for a Passbook Torch: Poems about Nelson Mandela. Distinctions for her writing include the Southern Women Writers Association Emerging Writer Award in creative non-fiction, and the Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Letters & Science Poetry Award. She is the author of three textbooks and is currently at work on a full-length poetry manuscript, a manual for meditative writing and a non-fiction children’s book about the Blackfoot people. More about her work can be found at www.rasma.org.

4/11

by Mary Margaret Alvarado

A new planet rings
A secret someone assembles

It has nothing to do with you
It is a comma, a medium green olive, a large plum, a small doll, a fist

You are the one who will open the door
You will open the door
& open the door, somehow

The old women with their old hands say
It will be like waterskiing

The rushes will pull you along

____________________________________
Mary Margaret Alvarado is the author of Hey Folly (Dos Madres). Her work has appeared recently in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wag’s Revue, The Boston Review, The Hairpin, The Point and The Rumpus. She teaches at the University of Colorado, plans literary events for Mountain Fold Books, mothers her daughters and farms her yard. She goes by her nickname, Mia.