Three poems by Karol Nielsen

Emergency Room Doctor

 

My college roommate and I were both divorced and single. She liked to go dancing so we could meet men. I was never as enthusiastic or optimistic. We went to a dance club on the Upper East Side and a tall, chiseled man with dreadlocks and deep brown eyes asked me to dance. D. was an emergency room physician who had dropped out of film school. He owned a duplex apartment in Gramercy Park where we ate Chinese take out and watched movies on his enormous TV. I felt like I was in a five star hotel. My friends approved of this beautiful, wealthy, accomplished man but he was a disappointment to me. He called me every other week to make plans and I had no word on Valentine’s Day. I was so agitated I doubled my usual six mile run in Central Park and finished my first unofficial half marathon. I was starving and went to a diner for an early dinner of scrambled eggs, home fries, and toast. Then a dozen red roses arrived and he called to invite me over. Not long after that, my writers group met at a restaurant in his neighborhood and I saw him walking down the street with another woman. I left a message that it wasn’t working out but he kept calling me for years until I moved across town an gave up my landline for good.

 

Marathon Runner

 

I ran loops around the Central Park reservoir while training for my first marathon and I kept passing the same man. I stopped for water at mile 16 and he stopped too and got my number. E. was training for a marathon, too. We went to brunch and he told me a long story about emigrating from Uruguay where he was a doctor, failing the medical exam after moving to the United States, working as a physical therapist, flirting with women to lift his depression, and losing his wife after she found lipstick in his collar. I went to his apartment in Queens and he had dozens of marathon race numbers on his bedroom wall. He said he had to be honest: he didn’t know if he could be faithful to me.

 

Abstract Artist

 

He used to run up to my car as I was pulling in to the apartment I was renting in an old carriage house in upstate New York. His mother lived in the main house with his brother and his girlfriend. The brothers hung out on the porch smoking pot and drinking beer. He made a t-shirt for me with a print of his abstract art. He had a girlfriend who was a local legislator but he still pursued me. He wore me down and we kissed on his mother’s porch. He had been a soldier stationed in Germany during the Gulf War and he seemed as wounded as if he had served in combat. He showed me photos with his short military haircut but now he wore his hair in a long ponytail like the hippies in Woodstock where I hiked a mountain every day. After we hooked up, he said he was going to break up with his girlfriend but he never did. When I questioned him, he said, “She’s a legislator! You’re just a writer.”

 

Karol Nielsen is the author of the memoirs Black Elephants (Bison Books, 2011) and Walking A&P (Mascot Books, 2018) and the chapbooks This Woman I Thought I’d Be (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and Vietnam Made Me Who I Am (Finishing Line Press, 2020). Her first memoir was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing in nonfiction in 2012. Excerpts were honored as notable essays in The Best American Essays in 2010 and 2005. Her full poetry collection was longlisted for the Terry J. Cox Poetry Award in 2021 and was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry in 2007. One poem was a finalist for the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize in 2021. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Guernica, Lumina, North Dakota Quarterly, Permafrost, RiverSedge, and elsewhere.

Four poems by Marisa Silva-Dunbar

Kintsugi

Once on the reiki table,
a healer saw through me—
could see the patterns
an obtuse young girl
carries in her veins and skin.

Her soft hands on my shoulder—
the master whispered every
time your heart is broken—
it heals, becomes stronger.

In the end, I didn’t fear
the damage you caused.
Once I left, I finally let the gold dust
and lacquer fill the cracks, chips—
spaces. I mended myself.

I am still filled with life and beauty.

 

Cavoli Riscaldati

Once was not enough. Tell me how lonely you must be—
how your life unraveled beyond recognition that this
seemed like a good idea. They are a mold you invited
into your life; they will not shape-shift into daisies
bursting with color and freshness. You know this.

You must savor the facade they’ve created for now;
swallow it down with a latte, and brioche. Wear
matching outfits so that you can believe you are one—
a soul split in two. Why else would you give them
a second chance? There is comfort in the lies you whisper
to yourself before sleep. Make this repetitive mistake count.

This is a beacon, a warning. You like the easiness—
retreat when you are asked to grow.

 

Self-deception

She’d return every Mercury Retrograde,
unaware of how closely she tied herself
to the stars—how the constellations wrapped
themselves around her. She was shackled
—just like the rest of us.

I anticipated her arrival every time
the Swift Planet spun backwards
through the heavens. I tracked
her path across the sky—
plotted her patterns with pushpins.

She pretends she ignored his siren’s call—
how she couldn’t resist one more chance

to woo him, make him swoon with desire.
She acts like she didn’t show up unannounced,
undress and spread her thighs asking for one more time.

 

 

Scarf

Sure footed in a brown corduroy bomber jacket,
slouchy boots, and teal scarf—the curled ends
of her dirty blonde hair, bounced with each stride.

And yes, this was still her mask, her fancy dress.
Chin up, and bulldozed those in her way. You’d expect
her to be the mother friend, the problem solver—
let me give you a pep talk to take on the world.

But it was a facade, and sometimes when it slipped
I saw this beautiful, young woman—messy and unsure,
but who knew she loved the scene where Amelie melts
into a puddle—a girl who will giggle and hold your hand

as we ran down the streets at night trying to catch
the bus back to our flat. Other times, when she was worried
we might steal her shine—she would give a sly smirk
just before her verbal jab pierced between the ribs.

At twenty, I couldn’t hold a light in my palms and whisper
I see you, and your fear. There is light enough for all; let us
illuminate one another and mend each other’s wounds.

 

Marisa Silva-Dunbar’s work has been published in Pink Plastic House, Sledgehammer Lit, Analogies & Allegories Literary Magazine, and Dear Reader. She has work forthcoming in ArLiJo, and The Bitchin’ Kitsch. Her second chapbook, “When Goddesses Wake,” was released in December, 2021 from Maverick Duck Press. Her first full-length collection, “Allison,” is forthcoming from Querencia Press. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @thesweetmaris.

Signs Point To Yes by Kristin Garth

Signs Point To Yes

I used to make life choices, (mostly should
I run?) with a formidable shake
of a white plastic icosahedron
afloat in dark blue alcohol. They make
ten positive responses so Mattel
wanted me to flee, only five negatives,
non-committals respectfully. Held
in desperate meek fingers, black orb that gives
such positive advice is programmed
to affirm my childlike whims, reactive
temperament. Pleased to be who I am,
where I landed — if just to plastic, passive,
at least not to men I shudder to recall.
I ran away with my Magic 8-ball.

 

Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Rhysling nominated sonneteer and a Best of the Net finalist. Her sonnets have stalked journals like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of many books of poetry including The Stakes (Really Serious Literature) and a short story collection You Don’t Want This. 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

Four poems by Megan Denese Mealor

Distance

I allowed you
to sail me over lake beds,
pull me up cliffs,
across broken bridges.
But I could not kiss you
with any trace of thunder,
even when the sun was
sinking into so many oceans.
You told me once
that there would never be
enough sky, but always,
always too many stars.
You wished you could
count them with your heart.
Love was the sacks
of luminous, worthless stones
you made me carry
up and down
blue mountains.

Previously published in Digital Americana, Fall 2012

Grown into the Atmosphere

You had grown into the atmosphere.

I felt your presence
in the invisible morning,
lilies sighing in heaps

on the kitchen table.

I peeled back the air
and blew breath into you,
like the fog that coats the sky in autumn.

Your eyes remained translucent.

Previously published in Belle Reve, March 2015

Now Lucid

What we took from each other
were not counterblows,
but inspiration and blue fire.

Diamonds line our memories
like sizzling constellations.

There will be no more of our
bareback alleyway love,
raw scars ripped open
on rippled shoulders,
mutiny in our mutuality.

We forge the illusions
of our idols, chant to gods
of earth, lust, lions, wars.

There are no more calamities
to weather our shivering nights,
no more bee stings to relish.

If we suffer at all,
we suffer in phantasms, chimeras,
paling next to statues.

If sedition ever spread
its incestuous seed
into the trenches
of our feral gardens,
our tatter would never
traverse the war.

Our malice melts history,
boasts itself in buoyant headlines
forged of burning gold.

We shallow our heartbeats
with gaudy show tunes
and campfire ghosts
from the embers
of childhood convolution.

We steady our heartbeats
with the whispers
of our grandmothers,
breathing endless farewells
through stubborn vintage phones.

Previously published in Zombie Logic Review, July 2017

Your Grandfather’s Cottage

This storybook depot
tells of tawdry baroque fires,
intangible bygones,
punch-drunk operas
embittered in brocade,
settled in sateen damask.

The texture of my shadow–
rawboned with jarring seams,
slavish in the shrieking embers–
rescinds itself in rare revolt.

A rococo relic trundle
imprisons passing passions
inside intricate poppies,
grape-thorned vines,
footboard ornament angels.

Lusty windows yawning,
renegade starlight makes
straight for our thunder,
for once believing everything.

Previously published in Neologism Poetry Journal, November 2017

Megan Denese Mealor echoes and erases in her native land of Jacksonville, Florida. A survivor of bipolar disorder, Megan often incorporates her kaleidoscopic emotions into her writing. Her poetry and short stories have been featured worldwide, most recently in Spillwords, Ginosko Literary Journal, The Stray Branch, and Eunoia Review. Nominated twice for the 2018 Pushcart Prize, Megan has authored two full-length poetry collections: Bipolar Lexicon (Unsolicited Press, 2018) and Blatherskite (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, 2019). Currently, Megan is studying English at the University of North Florida while caring for her autistic son and serving as a reader for several literary journals. She, her husband Tony, son Jesse, and three cats Trigger, Lulu, and Hobbes occupy a cavernous, yet cozy townhouse ornamented with ads for Victorian inventions.

Kinder Than The Sun by Linda M. Crate

kinder than the sun

insomnia broke me open one night,
and the moon beckoned me out;
so i walked out of the house
crept out like a well kept secret
fighting to be free—
made sure i didn’t creak any of the
stairs on my way in or out,
but i danced in the dew covered grass
to the song of the moon;
and she let the wind dance through
my hair as the crickets chirped
and a distant owl hooted—
years later a little red fox and i
would lock eyes beneath the moon,
and neither of us would let go;
both of us knowing there is magic in
the whisper of the moon—
a light that shines more kindly than the sun.

Linda M. Crate’s works have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies both online and in print. She is the author of ten published chapbooks, four full-lengths, and three micro-chaps. She has a novel, also, called Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Productions, June 2018).