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A Tiny Crown

Martha McCollough

O Bug bug bug bug bug…
—John Hollander

Little musical hairdressers, His
favorites sing with nail and comb,
natter rhythmic clicksongs in His ear,

so many variations after the first
essay: pool skimmers to slide over
shady waters, little kitchen demigods

ruining the flour, nano-lumberjacks,
and you, assiduous worker, proud
to roll your ball of dung in the broad

field of His approving gaze: a God
so plainly fond of you if otherwise
unknowable, capricious, obscure.

Paradise

Christian Tanner

Christian Tanner Paradise
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Appalachia

Will Cordeiro

A woodchuck munches
on a bruised crabapple
beyond the clothesline
where we play badminton.
It wobbles off, past mulch

and duff, snout dabbling in
rough muckage. Dandelions
lush the lawn with blowsy
ghosts. A truck guzzles up
a fog of yellow dust. Mizzle

stuns our horse-pond. Knuckle
deep, seep jellies over periwinkles,
whole brindled bundles of them.
A backlit buckle of felled trees
now doubles in it. Autumn,

and my life is almost over.
No, it only feels that way. Really,
the overcast erupts in slender
tinsel. Fat glops of frog spawn
slurry. The faint light suffers.

The Hurried Valley

Brad Rose

Nearly died of too much weekend. Even if you have only one symptom, you’ve probably got the whole disease. Like a bloodhound who’s lost the scent, you have to learn to adjust your goals. I thought I saw a face in the trees, but it was just my pareidolia acting up. Bruegel or Bosch? It’s bad, but it won’t kill you. My half-sister arrived with a basket of rented food. Usually it doesn’t agree with me, but here in Purgatory Park, I feel like a total bro, for sure. That’s why I tell people, Appreciate each hand clapping in the applause. You never know when it’s going to be too late to benefit from exercise. But it’s a balancing act. Your heart beats all the time. Six of one, a half-dozen of the other. Pretty soon you’ve grown eyes in the back of your head and the mountains crawl toward you, like a hunter on his knees, the dark of the approaching valleys, black and smooth as a panther’s flank. You’d like to think they only toy with you, but you’ve never run as fast as you’re running now, panicked prey fleeing the valley of the shadow of death. By the way, aren’t those fantastic snakes? But don’t take my word for it. Decide for yourself. No rush.

In the Dawn

Ricky Ray

for John Berryman

Nobody in the dawn. It hasn’t yet assembled
 the people in its psalm.
If a voice has no body, does it need an ear?
 Does the blood carry
its own crosses as it flickers in the flesh
 in search of nothing,
the woman it is, a walking yard of graves?
 She is not for loving,
as if love were the sharp tip of purpose
 piercing, cutting away
the civilizations bacteria build on bone.
 But loving does fit in,
if fitting means being strung along an act
 of service: the guitar
talks back to the fingers, the world whispers
 to the living: touch
until the noise and feel coalesce, reveal
 the music made when
strings and fingers lock as lovers
 knocking the headboard
against the wall, a thousand times
 its rhythmic pulse
that gives the hour what it wanted when
 it made the bodies
and made them ache and put them together
 for love or what
might ever come of living in the dawn.

Willing

Devon Balwit

Eat me, I say. Bite me. Pincerslice into soft webbing. Champ cuspids. Beakpick to bone. Lift me, shake me, breakneck, side to side, side to side. Dogroll over my unthreading innards. Bury muzzle in bloodmuck. I offer myself. I drizzle a garnish.

if a body is bound

Kristen Renee Miller

i. if a body is bound

—yet is not a book
(weird inner stringing)
call it hate, sprung
from under sodden, salten
fear, a kind of failure
open, given

see—
one’s best hid under,
working, see—
I’m dust and full of sight

 

ii. if a body is bound

—but you’re here on invitation
dear, so we decorate
and minister

embitter these
in greater numbers, O—
behind this roar, a door

binary be shade again
send in the gradient
sea

 

iii. if a body is bound

—I’m right to object
to die of wonder
creating under unseen welts
and trending sins

a sister dies—
her object was
a little darkness
not a book
not in the usual sense

Meditation On an Unnamed Island

Jennifer Atkinson

No one asks who dropped the first shell,
when among the mangroves’ arched roots,
out of the heaps of oyster shells, fallen
and crushed to lime, the snags and shoals
of random tide-flung bits and silt-on-silt
accumulation, new land rises up.

We love the idea of the world as a sudden
paradise created whole on purpose for us
to lose by being human. Or the other idea
of the world as envisioned designed garden
toward which it studiously evolves.

Meanwhile, here on actual shell-by-shell-
by-mangrove created ground, the raccoon
philosopher turns her mind to pleasure,
to work—shucking oysters, digging clams,
combing her tail of fleas and burrs. All around

the rack and weave of mangrove, mudflats
marked with slicks and shallows, decomp
reverting and recombining. And overhead
the fish crow flies from bay to bayou,
the sun-silvered eel in its talons writhing
(what if it were?) in a sideways figure eight.

[Interactive Objects]

C. Kubasta

Both place-based and place-less, this is a poem of great disloyalty. These are interactive objects discolored by the touch of people’s hands.

It is time to look at the concentric rings of once-whole wood. Here is the drought that starved us out. Here, the fire that barely killed us.

We contract the disease that killed him —remember which salad dressing to order, but not the man we cherished like a vow.

designated hitler

Dylan Krieger

never trust a pitcher who refuses to hit his fair share, whether fair or foul, or else you’ll end up whispering your wedding vows to the outfield, cleaning up after the septic run-on sentence of your body—fainting spells, blood-caked toenails, rose-gold swellings jetting pus around the five-pointed star of your breast. different from the rest, he told you the story of how he became designated hitter in college, adopted a fake name you remember (perhaps wrongly) as tucker, and somehow mustered the guts to face each pitch stone-cold sober—swearing off the devil’s water, leafy greens and LS-dream fodder, not to mention children’s tylenol, atenalol, pain relievers one and all. that’s the kind of teetotaling ragdoll i would have let tattoo my forearm come fall, had the lager not robbed me of my faith in man and god. that’s the happy-go-lucky glad-hander who threw the first pitch in the dirt, so it wouldn’t hurt as much when its stitching ripped apart and left the earth

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