“Snow Day” by Janet Reed

This new dog lifts one cold paw
into the glove of her warm belly,

eyes asking why abandon
a blanket of down for one of snow.

I tug her leash and pull on
past the school and church

in line with a wedge of geese
honking I-told-you-sos overhead,

their taunts like those I remember
after bent-arm hangs and volleyball,

pecking order lines at gym mirrors,
high-school beauties with blue eye shadows

and sharp tongues holding forth
on the faces behind them,

a Simon Says of trash talk,
one girl forward, another back.

I cared too much once, not wanting
to be the lone goose on the back row.

Those dance queens, like me,
must think about those long-ago days,

before wrinkles creased our eyes
before nipples perky in vanity bras

drooped in the folds of our nightgowns;
youth and beauty double-crossed us all.

We lucky ones lived to suffer our losses.
We have what we made of things.

I have this wind sharp against my cheek,
the joy of found time in a snow day,

the love of this dog that trusts me
to lead her on until she understands.

Janet Reed teaches writing and literature for Crowder College in Missouri.  She is a Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging flower child whose poems reflect conversations she has with voices in her head.  She is a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has been published and is forthcoming in multiple journals, and she is currently at work on her first chapbook.

 

“November, 1993” by Jenn Powers

a row of blue lockers, hatred typewritten
on strips of paper, soft
edges
from breath, salt. traces
of pencil shavings, crushed
chalk, mop water, dirty
trays of hot lunch,
grinding teeth.
sophomore year, strangers
floating down roads—hallways—
snowflakes circling midnight
headlights—hide
behind the curtain. they mock
no one believes
local tragedies. can’t
stop shaking
for a permanent
snow day

Jenn Powers is a writer and photographer from New England. She is currently writing a CNF memoir and her most recent work is published or forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Jabberwock Review, The Pinch, Gulf Stream Lit Mag, and Raven Chronicles, among others. Please visit www.jennpowers.com.

“The Last Massacre in My Lonely Notebook” by David Spicer

Solitude isn’t a gate that opens.
 –Norman Dubie

I volunteered for the nightshift,
so don’t surprise me, Emma,
with your tribe of goats.
I can’t sleep, and if I could,
I’d dream of standing
on a snow-topped mountain
to view the valley below.
Emma, I need solitude,
not couriers from Eros
or a copper cup
filled with black coffee.
I’d rather watch reruns
of Alfalfa and his gang
chasing geese or wait
for angels to hold umbrellas
for me—I doubt if I’d
leave with them: my soul
has too many scars,
and gunshots on the beach
don’t help. God, I miss
the lack of terror now.
Windmills circle in my ears,
and I need to call a shrink,
but my throat is a cipher.
No, I want my black bones
to heal, ice to drop from the sky
like frozen tears, and a vase filled
with scarlet pimpernel adorning
the window sill. Then I could
savor a slice of pumpkin pie
before I write of the last Indian
massacre in my lonely notebook.

David Spicer has had poems in Alcatraz, Gargoyle, Third Wednesday, Reed Magazine,  PloughsharesThe American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. The author of Everybody Has a Story and four chapbooks, he is scheduled to have From the Limbs of a Pear Tree (Flutter Press) released in the Fall of 2017.

“Change of Heart” by Marian Shapiro

Suppose – no decisions
could be changed, no fates
rearranged,
nothing broken, nothing
needing repair –
where
would I be then? And you?

Marian Kaplun Shapiro is the author of a professional book, Second Childhood (Norton, 1988),  a poetry book, Players In The Dream, Dreamers In The Play (Plain View Press, 2007) and  two chapbooks: Your Third Wish, (Finishing Line, 2007); and The End Of The World, Announced On Wednesday (Pudding House, 2007). A Quaker and a psychologist, her poetry often embeds the  topics of peace and violence by addressing one within the context of the other. A resident of Lexington, she is a five-time Senior Poet Laureate of Massachusetts. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2012.

“Where the Peaches Are Always Ripe” by Kim Baker

And then a knife
lifting skin from a peach
paring away the succulence
as if fruit never bruises
and she lost the rhythm
for just a moment
the aroma taking her back
that summer
his skin
her sublime laughter

And then the knife did what knives will do
continued cutting
even when she was already bleeding
down to her very bone
and she is alone
his heart stopped long ago
long before this peach
this knife

Her children never understood why
she wouldn’t come live with them
preferred to make her own bed
and lie in the fragrance of what was

So that all she can do in this existential minute
is watch the bright red of her life
flow through her fingers
stain her apron
empty her of all she knew
watch it descend

like a staircase to another place
where the peaches are always ripe
and she can swallow them whole
because wasting the skin
the pit of grace
is just too human

When she isn’t writing poetry about big hair and Elvis, Kim works to end violence against women. A poet, playwright, photographer, and NPR essayist, Kim publishes and edits Word Soup, an online poetry journal that donates 100% of submission fees to food banks. Kim’s chapbook of poetry, Under the Influence: Musings about Poems and Paintings, is now available from Finishing Line Press.

“Dikaryote” by Yu-Han Chao

Just because we pierce our septa,

           know how to wield a Mr. Softee

                      as well as sit on one

doesn’t give you the right to call us

           the d word.

We may not have PhDs in Oral,

           but we’ve two years of training

                      (plus two years of Spanish)

           will eat anybody,

                      could pass as hetero.

So what if we scissor and fuse our roots,

           fruit,

           fertilize each other’s eggs?

We spend our entire lives treated like halves, not wholes

How dare you call our favorite non-clone daughter halfie

           or the d word

                      she just barely reconciled our genes

By the time she has her first O (brief, nearly dies of the p)

           her heart, worn on her basidium,

                      will break into four pieces

                      not quarters but pulsing halves

should they land in the right place,

           sprout into

meandering, scissoring hyphae,

continue this figure-eight cycle ad infinitum.

Yu-Han Chao was born and grew up in Taipei, Taiwan. She received her
MFA from Penn State, taught at UC Merced, and is working towards a
degree in nursing. The Backwaters Press published her poetry book, and
her short story collection is forthcoming with Red Hen Press. Her
website is http://www.yuhanchao.com.

“The Muggy Night Air” by Kristen Ruggles

There is an alley I walk
with my dog in the late
evening, between two
buildings that have
turned their backs on
one another.

Through the cracks in
refrigerator box porches, green
blades of long grass reach
through and point at
the yellowed light that
gives the night a
jaundiced feeling
and illuminates my
mental state.

Those fingers reach for
Me, prisoners
trapped in wooden cells,
much like the inhabitants
of shoe-box homesteads
behind protected wooden boundaries.

They reach their
hands through to me, asking
for one last connection
before the executioner
with his scythe takes
their heads for crimes
against their own nature.

Kristen Ruggles is an adjunct professor in the First Year Writing Program at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi.  She is pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing in Eastern Kentucky University’s Bluegrass Writing Studio.  She has been published in the Sagebrush Review and the Rat’s Ass Review.