Three poems by Chad Frame

David

Like the statue, slender
alabaster, curly locks,
the soft, full face
of youth, sublime
in stillness, yet each muscle
prepared to move—

We meet in the throb
of sound, neon-strobe
over the curves of you,
fragmented light pocks
the crowded room—wordless,
we come closer.

In a vinyl alcove booth,
pretending we are VIPs,
we speak of mutual love
of Neil Gaiman, characters
printed and drawn, of Tori
Amos, her elemental voice,

soft lips moving those few
moments they are not busy
pressed to mine, young
and ravenous. You stand,
hands on your hips, the back
of your neck, contrapposto—

you tell me tomorrow
you’ll be on a plane
home to Alaska, my arms
tight around you. I had
a northern lad. Well,
not exactly had…

We spill into yellow
sodium streetlight, wet July,
mutter quick promises,
and an idling cab steals you,
slinks into rain-blurred
Philadelphia—gone.

 

Andrew

Our first date with Slavoj Žižek,
a philosophy lecture, free

at the art museum, front row
in folding chairs sipping hot tea,

your idea of courtship. Charmed
by Žižek, deaf to everything

but the sound of his Slovene voice
slurring his words into thick stew,

shaggy grey face like a wire fox
terrier. I say I love you,

Žižek posits, pleased with himself,
only the way a poet does.

He says it again for effect.
Your eyes flash like slate blue diodes.

Later, you update your Facebook
with this quote as if it’s brilliant.

Of course a poet knows nothing
of love. I didn’t ride the train

here with a dog-eared book of Proust
for show. And you won’t hear from me

that I love you in any way,
even though I scan your soft lips

for an opening while Žižek
mutters, rational and empty.

 

Nick

You are on my back and we
are running and singing
for a while just like
any two people in love
might do on a Spring day,

pretending to be
a cartoon plumber
astride a green dinosaur
humming their chiptune theme
on a campus sidewalk

before a truck rushes by,
hurls cruelties out the window
easy as a flicked cigarette
sparking on the road
like steel off flint,

or a used condom
like a stepped-on slug,
or a Gatorade bottle
filled with two hundred miles
of warm piss—

but it’s none of these,
just a simple drive-by
with one word hitting us
like a Louisville slugger
off a tin mailbox. Faggots.

 

Chad Frame’s work appears in Rattle, Mom Egg Review, Barrelhouse, Rust+Moth, and other journals and anthologies, as well as on iTunes from the Library of Congress. He is the Director of the Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program and Poet Laureate Emeritus of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the Poetry Editor of Ovunque Siamo: New Italian-American Writing, a founding member of the No River Twice poetry improv performance troupe, and founder of the Caesura Poetry Festival and Retreat.

Three poems by Deborah Doolittle

Josephine Miles Discovers a Field with Fire Poppies

Where was the fire? All about,
the grass charred black
as a man’s hearth burns, dark as cinders.

Look in the forest or the woods,
in the field or chaparral,
and ask the spark what part it played

in all this pale profusion of fire
poppies, the eager outline of a meadow,
the art that yearns for something better.

 
In Other Words

Crows strut their
stuff along the margins
of the highways.

Our cars pass each
other like the two
proverbial ships at night.

Weekends, we slip
into that same rowboat
you dragged across the gravel.

The moon expands
and contracts in the waves
like a bellows.

Only the sheep
that leap the rail
get counted.

 
With Egrets

The air still smells
of summer, the wind
of the not so distant surf.

Herons divide the reeds
along the creek bank
where silvery fish hide.

At dusk, I gather
my own thoughts
like pollen and inhale.

Three poems by Kristin Garth

High School Drama

is a year you spend reluctantly, job for
females parents approve, English degree
they fund. Fecund, the community poor
half hour from wealth to which you are born. Feed
student actors when they stay after school.
One asks to lead meditation. You know
that student-led prayer’s approved in rules.
You pass a circle each morning of bowed
heads at the vestibule before the front
office door projecting communal pleas
towards Jesus their lord. To your student,
you say, “It’s no different as long as I leave.”
You give them ten minutes. Must have a snitch.
Your principal next week calls you a witch.

 
Witch Test

In small towns only known for poverty and balls,
you have to be careful in public school
halls when you dress all in black, chestnut hair falls
on cleavage you can’t hide. Sometimes the cruel
will want inside. Even the coach of the
best team in the state will offer his aid,
ask you out on a date. You do not be-
long here. Don’t understand. Speaks fingers splayed
against your cheek, very hands of local
infamy. Punched a player in the face
with impunity. Clear in his vocals
quid pro quo, English F’s you would erase
for players. As his mentee, your career blessed.
Failure is certain in any witch test.

 
Banishment

Five years before Columbine became more
than city inside of your mind (a state of teen-
age mental disease) you will plead before
adult bullies – a principal who leans
toward the football coach, black trench-coated
student actor clenched fist soaked in blood of
a running back, turn of play. Provoked
the wrong drama geek today, punched and shoved
the smaller ones who would report. Nothing
was ever done. Until the brawny lead in your
first play decides inaction is not okay, stings
more than a knuckle buried in a jaw. Ignore
your pleas, parity in their punishment.
Like witches, soon, he receives banishment.

 
Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Best of the Net & Rhysling nominated sonnet stalker. Her sonnets have stalked journals like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of sixteen books of poetry including Pink Plastic House (Maverick Duck Press), Crow Carriage (The Hedgehog Poetry Press), Flutter: Southern Gothic Fever Dream (TwistiT Press), The Meadow (APEP Publications) and Golden Ticket forthcoming from Roaring Junior Press. She is the founder of Pink Plastic House a tiny journal and co-founder of Performance Anxiety, an online poetry reading series. Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie) and her website kristingarth.com

Three poems by Margaret Adams Birth

Blackberry Picking

Bowing deeply before the brambles,
Mama shows me how
to do it—to stretch an arm, to reach
for the plumpest, the sweetest, the bumpiest berries,
black as Satan’s heart yet
refreshing as an innocent soul.

We climbed kudzu-covered earth,
fallen, half-rotten logs, and a web of
honeysuckle to get here; no
scent of sulfur could survive
the pungent detritus of pine decay atop Carolina clay
mingling with the cloying saccharine incense of all these blooms.

There’s something worshipful in what we’re doing, the
mother and her young disciple,
seeking, nearly kneeling,
as we attempt to distinguish among
the fruits within the weeds and
choose only the choicest for the meal we’ll soon share.

 
A Forest In Winter

Espresso trees
sway in the shadow of the Pleiades

under cover of new-moon night,
supplicant branches barren

after autumn’s harvest-time
seduction, when

fiery-colored leaves
danced a paso doble

full of heart, as if secure
in the now and the future times, come

what may; limbs now stripped
even yet stretch languidly,

comfortably, perhaps in the pleasure
of this night, and this sky,

and this place
in the universe.

 
Outside Looking In

Outside my bedroom window thirty years
ago, pine trees rose in a little grove
I’d once used as my play place—my imaginary palace
with fortified walls that barred entrance to evil warriors;
the long pine needles, sharp at their tips,
were my weapon of defense in fictional battles,
and my then-eighteen-year-old self still felt like a princess
with nothing but hopeful anticipation and dreams for my future.

Outside a dorm room window mere months
later, I knew there was nothing but barren Carolina clay
to break my fall—surely, to break my body—
were I to jump in an effort to escape
the clutches of a young wrestler determined to pin
me to his bed, to prove his manhood in his perverted
way; too late, I realized what would take place—
too late to save myself, too late to defend my dreams.

Outside my living room window, I see oak and maple trees
today, leaves a bleached shade of green
after nearly a full summer of sun, and I am trying
to be happy, and not to panic
as I prepare lists, and piles of laundry and supplies
for my now-eighteen-year-old adult-child—
I fight old fears from my own freshman year, and try to feel
nothing but hopeful anticipation and dreams for the future.

 

Margaret Adams Birth is the author of Borderlands (Finishing Line Press, 2016). Her poetry has also appeared in such journals as Riverrun, Ship of Fools, The New Voices (Trinidad and Tobago), Aldebaran, Atlantic Pacific Press, Purple Patch (England), White Wall Review (Canada), Mobius, Black River Review, Perceptions (her poem there a Pushcart Prize nominee), Blue Lake Review, All Roads Will Lead You Home, and The Wild Goose Poetry Review.

Americana by Marisa Silva-Dunbar

Americana

Longing for the desert days,
spending an afternoon with you, at the casino—
sleepy by the hotel waterfall.

I used to dream about your leather jacket
and mirrored sunglasses,
and how you once told me
that even you were beautiful.

You’re out on the dry roads
chasing firefly trails, and collecting sea glass.
Do you miss the old thrift stores with red window paint?

Where’s your whiskey heat?
The soft brown leather of the corner booth in the lounge?
The slow drags of your cigarette, and circles of smoke?

Memories playback on Super 8,
tangled in balloons and silver streamers,
flickering like an old neon sign.

 

Marisa Silva-Dunbar’s work has been published in 24 Neon Magazine, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Cabinet of Heed, and Marias At Sampaguitas. She is a contributing writer at Pussy Magic, and is part of the Legend City Collective. Her work is forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys, Ghost Heart Literary Journal, Sybil Journal, and The Charles River Journal. Marisa is the founder and EIC of Neon Mariposa Magazine. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @thesweetmaris.