“Please Help This Vet” by Gianna Russo

Red light at the corner of Hillsborough and Florida Avenues

His sign’s propped by his VFW cap.
I’m muttering at the red light.
Clouds are grey bellies slung over the belt
of cityscape and wind swipes the street,
riffling his long grey hair, pages of his paperback.
It might be Going After Cacciato or Catch 22.
A face that battered, he may have seen Saigon that last day,
Americans swooped from the hotel roof,
copters returning like jittery swallows.

I was too young for sit-ins, the Washington march.
I drew peace signs on my cheeks, teased my hair to a ‘fro.
But the first poet I knew humped Hamburger Hill,
sliced though bamboo like so many wrists.
His poems were gristled with jungle beauty.
He drank himself numb before every reading.

Here, at the light,
this vet sets back up his blown-down sign,
hunches on the curb, glasses slipping down his nose.
Should I believe the surrender of his tee?
So hard to know about folks on the street,
the broken sandals.
What if I held out a dollar?

Why do I ignore the wind-thrashed sky,
his book pages flailing as I drive on by?

Gianna Russo is the author of the full-length poetry collection, Moonflower (Kitsune Books), winner of a Florida Book Awards bronze medal, and two chapbooks, including one based on the art work of Vermeer, The Companion of Joy (Green Rabbit Press). Russo is founding editor of YellowJacket Press, (www.yellowjacketpress.org ), Florida’s publisher of poetry chapbook manuscripts. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has published poems in Ekphrasis, Crab Orchard Review, Apalachee Review, Florida Review, Florida Humanities Council Forum, Karamu, The Bloomsbury Review, The Sun, Poet Lore, saw palm, Kestrel, Tampa Review, Water-Stone, The MacGuffin, and Calyx, among others. In 2017, she was named Best of the Bay Local Poet by Creative Loafing. She is assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University, where she is editor-in-chief of Sandhill Review and director of the Sandhill Writers Retreat. 

“Courting Wonder” by Martina Reisz Newberry

You have to be amenable to Wonder.
You have to read the spaces between the words
as well as the text and you have to see that
where you step may be earth scattered over with
a magic loess.

You have to believe that hands as well as eyes
let you see souls; lips as well as fingertips
heal. You have to believe that the God of the
White Tiger is the God of you, that demons
live in every lie ever told, in every
day of loneliness come to any living creature.

You have to discern that a voice is a bin
that holds, folds and releases tears, fury, glee.
When you have faith in these things, astonishment
will visit your doorstep and there will be an
unstinting flight to your days, burning stars
in your dreams.

​Martina Reisz Newberry’s recent books: NEVER COMPLETELY AWAKE (Deerbrook Editions), and TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME (Unsolicited Press). Widely published, she was awarded residencies at Yaddo Colony for the Arts, Djerassi Colony for the Arts, and Anderson Center for Disciplinary Arts.

 

Martina lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Brian.

 

“The Last Train” by Will Reger

Sister, we are in an ancient place, that last
station where the living change trains.
Everyone comes here, tired of living,
ready to lay it all down, ready to be done,
or confused how they came here so soon.
It is you with the transfer ticket, dear, not me.
After you board I will travel on alone,
swing back this way some other time.
Your body jerks and rumbles with shut down.
The train you need picks up speed.
Everyone on the platform feels the power
and starts to gather up their things,
unaware — no baggage car on this train.
I would gather you once more if I could.
Your eyes are two pools of puddle water.
A last light reflects in each, like hope,
like the promise of Science or God, or like
a star falling across the sky, sparking love.

Will Reger is a founding member of the CU (Champaign-Urbana) Poetry Group (cupoetry.com), has a Ph.D. from UIUC, teaches at Illinois State University in Normal, and has published most recently with Front Porch Review, Chiron Review, and the Paterson Literary Review. His first chapbook is Cruel with Eagles. He is found at https://twitter.com/wmreger — or wandering in the woods playing his flute.

 

“Dia de los Muertos” by Mel Goldberg

Think of death
as an old friend who will provide
a place for your shriveled body

Think of death
as a sidewalk taco stand
serving agua fresca in paper cups

Think of death
as the Iquitos airport,
the open-air thatched roof lean-to.

Think of death
as a lover who whispers
as you turn and look away

Every relationship contains loss,
every touch holds pain
of death’s exquisite dreadful moment

The words of death’s
exquisite dreadful moment are contained
in all the poetry in the world 

*Also known as Día de Muertos, the celebration originated in central and southern Mexico. Those who celebrate it believe that at midnight on October 31, the souls of all deceased children come down from heaven and reunite with their families on November 1, and the souls of deceased adults come visit on November 2.

Mel Goldberg taught literature and writing in California, Illinois, and Arizona. He and artist, Bev Kephart traveled throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico for seven years, settling in Ajijic, Jalisco. Mel has published on line and in print in The UK, The US, Mexico, and Australia.

“Elegy for Shura” by Diane G. Martin

“What is that beautiful game?”
“It’s not important.
All those who knew how to play
are either dead, or have
long since forgotten.” “Even you?”

“Especially me.”
“Is it ivory?” “Only bone.
The ivory game
was sold during hard times. Too
bad, yes, but it matters

not if no one plays.” “Teach me,
Shura.” “I do not remember.
And anyway, what is the point?
Then with whom shall you play?”
“I’ll teach someone else.”

“Did you ever hear the one
about the old Odessan
Jew who drove to town…”
“You can’t divert me so cheaply.
Now back to the game. Shame

on you for using such a ruse!
I expected better,” I grin.
“You ask too much; I’m dying.
I’ve no energy
for whims. So, join me at the sea

again this year and then we’ll see.”

Diane G. Martin, Russian literature specialist, Willamette University graduate, has published work in numerous literary journals including New London Writers, Vine Leaves Literary Review, Poetry Circle, Open: JAL, Pentimento, Twisted Vine Leaves, The Examined Life, Wordgathering, Dodging the Rain, Antiphon, Dark Ink, Gyroscope, Poor Yorick, Rhino, Conclave, Slipstream, and Stonecoast Review.

“Teeth” by Sara Eddy

The neighbors’ child wanders into my yard
unannounced to play on the old swing set.
I know her mama will be along, but I go out
with a sigh to make sure she doesn’t
break her head or wander further.
I say hello.
She doesn’t answer; she is full of beans
and evil intent–she is like Loki’s best girl
and she needs watching carefully.
I say whatcha doin today
and she sucks her lips into her mouth
around her teeth
preparing for something, sparking
her eyes at me like she’s ready
to leap at my throat
I take a step back as
she pulls those lips apart and holds
them gaping with her fingers
exposing her fangs
so she can threaten me with the real reason
she has ventured to my yard:
a loose tooth.
She puts her tongue against it and pops
it toward me, letting it hang on a thread
dangling like a dead mouse by its tail.
With a wave of nausea I leave her
to her trickster god’s care
and scurry to the house
feeling curious distress. Why,
why are teeth so upsetting when
they aren’t in our mouths? Fallen out
teeth and punched out teeth
pulled teeth and rotted teeth
the roots of nerve and blood
going back perhaps ages and ages
to when this would be a death sentence:
You lose your teeth, you cannot eat, you die.

Sara Eddy is a writing instructor and tutoring mentor at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts.  Her poems have appeared recently in Forage, Parks & Points, and Damfino, along with Terrapin Press’ anthology The Donut Book.  She lives in Amherst, Mass., with three teenagers, a black cat, and a blind hedgehog.