Mad Love by Chuck Taylor

to say a word for our common tabby cat,
to say a word for Oliver, senile now,
my friends say, inside always now too,
after the latest flap with a pack of dogs
chasing him to a hiding place it took
three days for him to come out of,
old gimpy arthritic cat who we found
in the garage after we bought the house,
cat who we named Spook at first because
you rarely saw the ninja warrior streaking
from the food dish we set under the
ping-pong table, but now an old purrer
of laps and sleeping on your head in bed,
Oliver, who has chosen me, out of some
cat irrational need, to love best,
though I never feed, though I have a
backyard dog I take for country walks
and have never liked cats, Oliver, lumbering
across the floor, those large doe eyes
looking up in mad love, begging an ear rub,
a neck scratch, Oliver, Oliver, you could love
my good mate, the one who bathes you
the one who pulls off your fleas
and trims your nails–but no, it’s me
and only me, could it be my fabulous
finger technique?–come on, give in,
the mute glowing cat orbs say,
let me on your lap, take this broken
love and learn to tolerate
so you learn to love–
for you are broken too, eh?
and mad like me for love

Chuck Taylor’s first book of poems was published by Daisy Aldan’s Folder Press in 1975. He worked as a poet-in-the-schools and as Ceta Poet in Residence for Salt Lake City.

The Year We Learned about Tet by Gary Finke

This morning, as if the past had unwrapped
Its greasy sack of regret, I am describing
How Cecil and I worked as punishment, how,
After we swept floors and hauled trash to give us
Humility we both needed, we were noisy with relief,
And yes, pride that we’d finished ten hours
For our case of petty, bad college behavior.
Because it was February, we’d worked
Something we called the “light shift,” returning
Our tools in near-dark and standing, for once,
Among men who worked each weekend at jobs
They’d never foreseen as boys, laborers
Who did what was necessary, the work
We wouldn’t be repeating, not if we
Used our brains to earn the future’s comfort.

Those men huddled inside cars they idled
Toward warmth, windshields clearing from the bottom
In rising moons.  From the back of campus,
It was sixteen blocks to where our friends were
Already lively with beer and music,
And whether it was the twilight cold or
The simple solidarity of work,
One car door opened as “Where to?” offer.
The two of us crowded beside that man
On a stiff bench seat, the heater full-blast
On our feet while Cecil gave directions
That stopped that driver early, spilling us
Into the just-beginning snow two blocks
From our Greek-lettered house, standing in front
Of the cheap apartments where locals lived
As if he wanted that maintenance man
To believe we were not the spoiled sons
Of distant fathers, able to manage discipline,
Gesturing in the flurries as if he was already
Enlisting, his war victim future so close he needed
To celebrate our small, unimportant work.

Gary Fincke’s latest collection, The Infinity Room, won the Wheelbarrow Books Prize for Established Poets (Michigan State, 2019). A collection of essays, The Darkness Call, won the Robert C. Jones Prize for Short Prose and was published by Pleiades Press in 2018.

 

Two Girls Sit on a Patchwork Couch by Chloe Kerr-Stein

Afternoons I visited her, and
beneath the rainfall on her roof
cotton blankets wrapped around us I
drank in each of her syllables. She helped me
find the right shape with my own tongue,
giving my hand a squeeze when I got one right.
Half my words were nonsense. She pretended not to notice.
I envied her vocabulary, and hoped one day I would be able to
jinx her with a word like inconsequential or trivial or barbaric and
know what it meant. You’ve probably guessed I
loved her. So I stuck around like the smell of
mulch in her backyard. I remember she took
me there once to smell the jasmine. She
never minded when I pronounced the word wrong
or forgot which flowers are feminine, so I thought she loved me back.
Pity me. Imagine the
quiet tears I shed when I finally
remembered the shape of those words.
She had helped me sound them out
thinking they were for someone else.
Time after time I practiced until the
vortex of sound opened up to me and on
Wednesday I told her I loved her and the
xenial melody of her voice responded
yes. That’s how you pronounce it.

Chloe Kerr-Stein will be studying Writing and Literature at UCSB in the fall. She has studied at the California State Summer School for the Arts and the Kenyon Young Writer’s Studio. She has been published in the 826 Quarterly, The Junkyard, and the Bay Area Book Festival’s Youth Poetry Anthology. 

A letter to M. F. K. Fisher about Thai leftovers in the morning by Ralph J. Long Jr.

Mary Frances

Six empty bottles stand witness to last night’s folly.
I should be past mornings where alcohol fueled
camaraderie brings pain and remorse. Cider, wine,
brandy have left only the soles of my feet without
complaint. The muted refrigerator light behind curry
stained boxes pierces, even my eyes are part of the
litany of distress. To soothe the morning, my friends
want the full American: Bloody Marys, coffee, eggs,
toast and bacon. I crave water, not the false reset of
vodka. The sounds of percolation and frying turn my
headache into a storm. I bless the soft rain that mutes
the high-pitched calls of songbirds. I fight the warm
allure of bed. Sleep must wait until suffering recedes.
Hope lies in the leftover containers of larb with fish
sauce and puckering lime; in tiny eggplants napped
with Thai basil, and chilies and lemongrass nestled in
noodles ready for a minute of microwave rejuvenation.
If only recovery was as easy as pressing start.

I’ll write about the Gravenstein blossoms soon,

Ralph J. Long Jr. is the author of the chapbook, A Democracy Divided (The Poetry Box, 2018). His work has appeared in Stoneboat Literary Journal, The Poeming Pigeon, The Avocet and the anthology Ambrosia: A Conversation About Food. He graduated from Haverford College and lives in Oakland California.

 

A Body in the Body of the Universe by Micki Blenkush

When I went hungry, I slept less.
Roused by hummingbirds at 4:00 a.m.
to add sugar to my blood.

Today, I rest to the luxury of dozing,
wait for news of our survival.  Slow bleed
of light around the shades,

my mind’s graffitied chug
like box cars on a train.
That my skin cracks open feels significant.

Forced air heat blasting through the vents.
I buy jugs of distilled water
to feed my humidifier, take too-long showers

mouth agape, inhaling the steam.
Persistent itch, abrasion with bullhorn,
subcutaneous alarm.

Micki Blenkush lives in St. Cloud, MN.  She was selected as a 2017-2018 Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series fellow in poetry and was a 2015 recipient of a Central MN Arts Board Emerging Artist Grant.  Her writing has recently appeared in: Cagibi, Typishly, and Crab Creek Review.

Then…as Now by KL Frank

Thought hands a world to you
separate as a head on a platter.
But shuffle awhile
through damp new grass
and warm wood chips,
stumble over errant rocks,
pocket a few illicit pine cones,
recreate scenes of
soaked papier-mâché drying,
skewer miniscule starchy
sugar lumps on sticks and sear
over charcoal fires, or
cook a few squashed
indecipherable meat patties
over propane until
severed images recede.
Now will become as then
when right hand and left hand
were joined at the spine.

Karin L. Frank’s poems have been published in various literary journals, such as the Rockhurst Review, the Mid-America Poetry Review, the North Dakota Quarterly and New Letters and in various science fiction venues, such as Asimov’s and Tales of the Talisman. No matter the genre, her poems speak women’s voices.

 

 

Loss by Sandy Feinstein

I keep thinking I’ll be able to see in the dark,
that moonrise or bright Venus will penetrate.
Maybe if I wash the grit from the windows
or open them in defiance of winter
stars could burst through,
shed light as they fall
through earth’s indifferent atmosphere
down, down down.

Not so much as a flicker’s left for me
from the arc of unplanned flights.
Stars die out of the sun’s spotlight
unremarked.
Perhaps Palomar finds a skyful
to name and number,
mathematically account for each.

Loss of a single light remains
forever
unmeasured,
immeasurable.
It’s not enough to know what stars do.

Sandy Feinstein’s poetry has appeared most recently in Maximum Tilt (2019); in the last three years, her work has appeared in Viator Project, Connecticut River Journal, Gyroscope, Colere, and Blueline, among others.