Tag Archives: Finishing Line Press

Painting Itself Red by Kim Baker

The job of the poet is to render the world – to see it and report it without loss, without perversion. No poet ever talks about feelings. Only sentimental people do. 

~Mark Van Doren 

Everything here is red,
adorning scores of farmhouses, barns, and doors.
The Wandering Moose Café and train station.
The post office and Stage Coach Tavern.

I wonder about a town that paints itself red.
Insinuates a crimson theology in an indomitable land
of evergreen groves, gray stone walls, and
the righteous white of every Congregational Church.
Perhaps the inhabitants strayed away 
from shades of specters and blending in 
when Dr. Dean built Red Mill in 1750.
Maybe they needed cerise to rival the Gold family
or hollyhock to stand out up on Cream Hill.
In some towns, maybe red is a fetish,
the iconic covered bridge representing everything.

I compose on one of the many red benches
spread here along the Housatonic River,
perfect places for poets and other lovers,
searching for an unsentimental shade.
The cardinal gone from the maple tree.
The wheelbarrow waiting for spring.
The brick of my heart.

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

split pea soup by Jan Ball

Just after we were married, you tried to make
split pea soup at my parents trailer in Wisconsin
but the split peas wouldn’t soften; still, musty
smells mixed with the piney fragrance from outdoors
stimulated our appetites–probably the split peas
were on the pine wood shelf in the little country store
with the squeaky screen door for years, but you wanted
to make split pea soup on vacation in the Dells.

Tonight, the green peas I substitute for yellow ones
aren’t soft yet but I can smell the flavors blending:
like so many years ago, onions, ginger, apple and
sweet potato left over from Thanksgiving, with
coriander, cumin and turmeric. But there is no hurry.
You aren’t home yet and Lake Michigan outside
the window is conducive to navy blue reflection.
When you do return, finally, I’ll add the tart lime juice
and acidic tomatoes before serving to the simmering soup
for a contrast of flavors.

Jan Ball has had 325 poems published in various journals including: Atlanta Review,
Calyx, Chiron, Mid-America Review, Nimrod and Parnassus, in Australia, Canada,
Czech Republic, England, India and The U.S.. Jan’s three chapbooks and full
length poetry collection, I Wanted To Dance With My Father, are available from
Finishing Line Press and Amazon.

Finally Going to Tell You about the Staircase Ghost by Luanne Castle

When my baby said peaches, peaches,
I put the can into the opener.
Its lid rose on the machine’s arm.
The peaches smelled peachy-spice
and curled into little moons.
My son gummed his peaches, sloshing
juice from his mouth’s ends.
I washed out the can and then saw
what I had missed in my loving him
like water into wine. The cool blond
of pear slices on the Del Monte label.
The membrane between here
and there can separate as an unexpected
wind swishes silk draperies apart.

Here’s another one.
You might not have noticed.
You could have been standing
at the base of the stairs,
seen a woman in a long shift hesitate.
What was happening was this.
My foot reached for the next step,
and in that instant a ghost
passed through my chest
on its way downstairs.  It didn’t
move out of the way for me,
didn’t care that I knew it existed.
We both went our separate ways,
my path leading me to this moment
where I tell my tiny limitless tales.

Luanne Castle’s Kin Types (Finishing Line), a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was a finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Award.  Her first poetry collection, Doll God (Aldrich), was winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, she studied at University of California, Riverside (PhD); Western Michigan University (MFA); and Stanford University.  Her writing has appeared in Copper Nickel, TAB, Glass, Verse Daily, and other journals.

Maybe It was Spring by Luanne Castle

or winter
and there were nine girls or seven.
Certainly it was overnight church camp
when we formed a second
skin around Lacy
with our fingertips.
What happened wasn’t a dream unless
a mass dream dreamed en masse.
We were one organism,
the skin we made stretched
tautly like a drumhead, lifting
up the girl Lacy, a musical offering.
Our song flowed in and from us,
all seven or nine, with Lacy the melody.
But one of us must have felt an itch
and discovered she was separate
and, doing so, withdrew her touch.
An epidemic followed
from this undoing until Lacy’s body
shared many points
of contact with the floor.
I remember looking under her
just before and noting
her two inches above it all
though of course that is ridiculous
because it wasn’t a dream.


Luanne Castle’s Kin Types (Finishing Line), a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was a finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Award.  Her first poetry collection, Doll God (Aldrich), was winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, she studied at University of California, Riverside (PhD); Western Michigan University (MFA); and Stanford University.  Her writing has appeared in Copper Nickel, TAB, Glass, Verse Daily, and other journals.

Elegy with Ice Cream by Kathy Nelson

            ―Travis Leon Hawk

A man fits a contraption
onto a wooden pail, fills it with ice.
The child turns the handle as easily

as her Jack-in-the-box but soon
grows bored and runs to play
in the dappled shade of July.

This the man who, as a boy, teased
white fluff from the knife-edges
of cotton bolls under summer sun

till his fingers bled. Once, he spied
a rattler coiled between his feet.
He wants her to understand how

hardship built this good life, how
readily dust could blow again, how
quickly flak jackets could come back.

He calls her to him, teaches―add salt
to the ice, keep the drain clear, turn
the crank without haste, without desire.

Her small shoulder stiffens. He grips,
labors with his own broad forearm,
churns the peach-strewn cream.

Kathy Nelson (Fairview, North Carolina) is the author of two chapbooks―Cattails (Main Street Rag, 2013) and Whose Names Have Slipped Away (Finishing Line Press, 2016). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Asheville Poetry Review, The Cortland Review, Tar River Poetry, Broad River Review, and Southern Poetry Review.

Gleeful by Christina M. Rau

The joy of cows
roadside sitting
standing together—
as if I’d never seen cows.
As if they are exotic.
I suppose to some, they are.
To others, sacred.
Once at the Atlanta Zoo
a keeper told me to think
of giraffes as giant cows,
head’s the same just a different height.

Giraffes are roadside somewhere
but not here. Down here there
are the cows, the green green grasses,
the flowers in blankets of maroon
white purple yellow
billowing blossoming blooming
for miles stretched ahead.

Christina M. Rau is the author of the sci-fi fem poetry collection, Liberating The Astronauts (Aqueduct Press, 2017), which won the SFPA 2018 Elgin Award, and the chapbooks WakeBreatheMove (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and For The Girls, I (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). She also writes for Book Riot about all things book-related. In her non-writing life, when she’s not teaching yoga, she’s watching the Game Show Network.  http://www.christinamrau.com

Portrait of My Mother by Kathy Nelson

My mother sits in profile on the photographer’s stool,
one arm draped over crossed knees, the other behind her.
White crinoline and ruffles. Classic pose. Scuffed shoes.

She is taking that single breath between girl and woman.
The ripening plum of her mouth. The start of softness
above the narrow velvet ribbon of her empire waist.

Nights, she listens from her bed to slamming doors,
the late thunder of tires on oyster shells in the drive.
Or her mother rouses her from sleep, commands her

to yell her father’s name from the car, embarrass him―
he and his tart carousing at the open-air bar. She’s
a conscript in her mother’s war. What she longs for―

her father’s love. He’s bound to his pocket flask.
Mornings, she sits at the piano, as her mother requires,
plays scales and études. Duty over desire. I want to break

the glass over the portrait, let her out. I want to tell her:
set the house on fire, let them wonder if you drowned
in the canal, run away to Kathmandu in your scuffed shoes,

Kathy Nelson (Fairview, North Carolina) is the author of two chapbooks―Cattails (Main Street Rag, 2013) and Whose Names Have Slipped Away (Finishing Line Press, 2016). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Asheville Poetry Review, The Cortland Review, Tar River Poetry, Broad River Review, and Southern Poetry Review.

Annual Self-Preservation Scrutinization by M. Kaat Toy

Checking our revered account balances, we see if last year’s resolutions have been cost effective or has their security been breached by the contorted cycles of our junkie brains that love to rob while renouncing free offerings as too repressive? Though it’s hard to climb the ladder of satisfaction with the tractor treads of military tanks, our logic brains persistently denounce actions unacceptable to their wills such as polishing the auras of all the mystical animals, raising their knavish energy and opening doorways to the higher realms. Because the practical alone is dangerous and the spiritual alone is ineffective, the twin clowns of war and thunder mock our arrogance and our wrath, tossing watermelons down on us from their rainy mountain where the fastidious knights we dispatch to guard the holy grail of the rigid little goals we set for ourselves corrode in the clouds.

M. Kaat Toy (Katherine Toy Miller) of Taos, New Mexico, has published a prose poem chapbook, In a Cosmic Egg (2012), at Finishing Line Press, a flash fiction book, Disturbed Sleep (2013), at FutureCycle Press, novel selections, short stories, flash fiction, prose poetry, creative nonfiction, journalism, and scholarly work.

“December” by Sharon Scholl

i

The cottonwoods come down
last among the shedders,
come in piles like leather napkins
folded brown and gold.
Wind swirls them into speckled hills,
mattresses for leaping children.
I’ve watched the cutting loose
as each twig cast its fate on air,
the whole like silent snow,
space a-flutter with gentle death.

ii

There are things we can’t hold onto,
joys that slip from our bodies
at the stroke of time.
They float quietly away
beyond the comfort of grief. We pull
them from our minds, bend over them
like firelight, warming old bones
in the radiance of what used to be.

Sharon Scholl is a retired college professor of humanities and international studies. Her recently published chapbooks include Summer’s Child (Finishing Line Press) and EAT SPACE (Poet Press). She convenes A Gathering of Poets, critique group of a dozen local poets celebrating our twelfth anniversary.

“Advent” by Lynda Fleet Perry

~ for Mark

From the farm’s back field the wind is rising
as we walk, holding hands, to cut our tree
in the crisp night air. The moon is rising

over the skeletal tips of branches, forking
into the gathering dark. We can see,
from the farm’s back field, the wind rising

by the way the old cedar moans, tossing
its now-black foliage, as if to shake free.
On this solstice night, the moon’s rising

arc holds Venus—glimmering and winking—
at celestial arms’ length. They’re married
above the farm’s back field—wind rising

as if to rush the inevitable coupling
of sickle and orb, a brilliant zenith
of this longest night. The moon is rising

higher. Now we can see the tree, leaning
crookedly, our Yule pine, its shadow spindly
in the moon’s silver light.  Night has risen
over the farm’s back field. The wind still rises.

Lynda Fleet Perry is the author of a chapbook of poems, At Winter Light Farm, published by Finishing Line Press in 2011. Her work has been published in Blackbird, Defunct, qarrtsiluni, New Zoo Poetry Review, and other journals. She received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and daughter, and works as a writer and communications manager for a botanical garden. 

Advent by Carol Barrett

My mother prepares for winter
Two hummingbirds
Dally on the tip-top rung,
Tomato trellis in patio garden

Two hummingbirds
Take in the crisp, falling air
Tomato trellis in patio garden,
A quiet, temporary lair

My mother takes in crisp air
Arranges winter coats
In her quiet, temporary lair
Thinks of my father, waiting

She arranges winter coats,
Wonders will she need them
Thinks of my father, waiting
His voice, his warm embrace

She wonders will she need
The books, the vases, teacups
His voice, his warm embrace —
She has enough to make it through

The books, the vases, teacups
Can go for another spring
She has enough to make it through
Look! Come watch the hummers

What can go for another spring
Can be boxed and sent away
Look! Come watch the hummers
Whirring, first snow on golden leaves

Soon all will be boxed and sent away
My father calling from the garden,
Whirring, first snow on golden leaves
My mother preparing for winter

Carol Barrett holds doctorates in both clinical psychology and creative writing. She coordinates the Creative Writing Certificate Program at Union Institute & University. Her books include Calling in the Bones, which won the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press, Drawing Lessons from Finishing Line Press, and Pansies, a work of creative nonfiction, from Sonder Press. Her poems have appeared in JAMA, Poetry International, Poetry Northwest, The Women’s Review of Books, and many other venues.

 

“Directions Back to Childhood” by Judith Waller Carroll

Turn left at the first sign of progress
and follow the old highway
along the Stillwater River.
When you hear the whistle of the train,
take a right and cross the covered bridge
that leads to the rodeo grounds
where the silver-maned bronc
caused so much havoc the summer you were ten
and the ghost of your grandfather’s jeep
rests behind the bleached-out grandstand
choked with blackberries.
As you round the corner into town,
there’s a white picket fence
laced with lilacs. Walk through the gate.
You’ll see a blue and white Western Flyer
lying on its side in the middle of the sidewalk.
It will take you the rest of the way.

Judith Waller Carroll is the author of What You Saw and Still Remember, a runner-up for the 2017 Main Street Rag Poetry Award, The Consolation of Roses, winner of the 2015 Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press Poetry Prize, and Walking in Early September (Finishing Line Press).

“The Road” by Carla Schwartz

The road of asphalt, still covered in winter’s detritus,
the road of lined up houses that part for a parade,
the road of school, of church, of aqueduct.

I travel the road by bicycle, by the side of the road, the shoulder,
my shoulders, a little hunched,
my thumbs resting on break hoods.

The road of large brass sewer covers,
of small round or square plates for gas, for water,
where the road dips and rises like a pillow.

The road of potholes, of layers of asphalt,
eaten away by salt,
successive thaws and freezes.

The road of roadkill — headless rabbits, flattened turtles, snakes,
sparrows, and turkey plumes spread like a headdress
in the middle of the road.

On the road, I listen, keep a watch for glass, for dips.
On this road, the shoulder narrows, then widens,
my pace slows down as I ride uphill.

At an intersection, on the road,
metal eyeglass frames, squashed and skewed,
one lens missing, the other shattered.

Carla Schwartz is a poet, filmmaker, photographer, and blogger. Her poems have appeared in many journals. Her second collection of poetry, Intimacy with the Wind, is available from Finishing Line Press or Amazon.com. Find her debut collection, Mother, One More Thing (Turning Point, 2014) on Amazon.com.  Her CB99videos youtube channel has 1,700,000+ views. Learn more at carlapoet.com, or wakewiththesun.blogspot.com or find her @cb99videos.

 

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Barnwork We Didn’t Talk Much About by Charles A. Swanson

Manure was the word we used, or barnyard
muck. Not that manure was elegant,
but more so in the cattle stalls.

I still remember Christmas holidays,
the manure spreader parked,
ready, between two open doors,

and long-shafted pitch forks,
one with four tines, one with five,
the wood worn smooth in the handles,

the metal burnished and gleaming,
and the litter (isn’t that a nice word)
mixed with hay coming up in layers,

almost like thin-rolled well-baked pastry.
Cow manure smells sunny
compared to pig. Cows eat grass,

breathe grass, pass grass,
and something, though faint, lingers
of clover and sun and vegetable life.

Outside, around the doors, where sweet rain
fouled manure—imagine such a thing!—
the cows’ stomping and milling

made a black mess, a true muck—
this is what shit looks like, I always
think, even now, something fetid,

fecal, foul, black as tar, suck-
deep and miry. I walked through that,
too, as barefoot country boys do,

in summertime. But in winter,
straining to pry and peel up
a thin layer, a towel-length sheet

of cow manure, I sang (whenever,
I could find, a breath, between forking,
and tossing) every Christmas carol I knew.

Charles A. Swanson teaches English in an Academy for Engineering and Technology.  Frequently published in Appalachian magazines, he also pastors a small church, Melville Avenue Baptist in Danville.  He has two books of poems:  After the Garden, published by MotesBooks, and Farm Life and Legend, from Finishing Line Press. 

 

 

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.