End of Tunnel

Broker’s Pick
Diane Webster


Photo Credit: Carlos Sá/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

What if at the end
of the tunnel was a mirror?
Scary sight of a woman
staring back until I see
it’s me; scary anyway.

I touch myself to convince
I am real or imagined hoping
I don’t feel a real hand
at the end of reflected fingers.

But then trapped as much as
a chained door in fairy tales.
Go back? Stay here?
Unless I believe, I believe
mirror is reflection liquid,
and all I have to do is meet myself,
merge myself, come out
on the other side,
other side of the tunnel.

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Diane Webster’s goal is to remain open to poetry ideas in everyday life, nature or an overheard phrase and to write. Diane enjoys the challenge of transforming images into words to fit her poems. Her work has appeared in Home Planet News Online, North Dakota Quarterly, Talking River Review and other literary magazines. Email: diaweb[at]hotmail.com

Two Poems

Poetry
Carla Scarano D’Antonio


Photo Credit: Ann/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

My Mother

Last night I dreamed of my mother,
her soft light touch on my face.
She said, I had some free time and came here.
I was melting in her tenderness
under the touch of her smooth old fingers,
her cheerful voice moved,
almost in tears.
Why did you come here?
What happened?
But she didn’t reply,
only her love surrounded me
as if it was the last time.
And I drank it
with dry lips.

 

Hospital Nights

I cannot say you weren’t there,
I have a clear memory you were present the whole night.
You are here,
all the nights after my three caesarean cuts.
You cuddle the new born babies—
(boy, girl, boy)
curled up and soft like kittens—
feed them with sugared water,
tuck them in the hospital cradle,
hold their tiny hands, stroke their upturned nose,
their faces are like apples.
You watch me, containing your excitement, slightly worried.
I doze, in and out of the anaesthetic
grip on sleep,
already recovering.
The babies are all right,
I am all right.
You were there, my mother,
you are here.

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Carla Scarano D’Antonio obtained her MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University and has published her creative work in magazines and reviews. Her short collection Negotiating Caponata was published in July 2020. She was awarded a PhD on Margaret Atwood’s work at the University of Reading in April 2021. Email: scaranocarla62[at]gmail.com

Three Poems

Poetry
David Sapp


Photo Credit: Tony Hall/Flickr (CC-by)

Courtroom

It was the same wooden sound
As the pews at Saint Vincent,
The same complaint of arthritic joints,
The same burnished surface
Slipping beneath my fingertips,
The same lemony redolence of polish
And something more: the stale
Remnants of previous tears,
Rage, fear, despair, finality.

The wood of the courtroom
Did not evoke the same assurance of
Or comfort in salvation or redemption
As in the church nor a reason to gaze
Upward at predictable but reliable
Narratives in stained glass—
Where my mind might wander
Over Mother Mary and the Trinity.

In the passage from witness room,
A heavy door to witness chair,
I looked at none of them,
I acknowledged none of them,
I resented all of them,
Mother, father, lawyers, judge,
As I was merely a utensil—evidence
To confirm the tawdry domestic
Details in their melee over children.

Initially, an anxious young man,
My responses were wooden. And then,
I suddenly comprehended the battle
Over my little sister’s sanity—
And why young men are willing,
Eager, to be led off to war,
To die on a distant, obscure shore.
Their idealism and purpose is pure.

 

Blackberries

I am astonished
By the skepticism
As they walk past
This abundance.
At the edge of the meadow,
The nice young couple
Afford me an overly
Generous berth,
An eccentric old man
In a funny hat, bent
Picking wild blackberries,
A mess for my wife’s
Breakfast. Berries, berries,
Everywhere berries,
Who wouldn’t covet
These berries flying plump
On vines, irresistible,
These roly-poly cherubs?
In their indifference,
These two could not know
That with this plethora,
Daring the pricks of thorns,
I am ecstatic in nostalgia:
Fifty years ago,
My aunts would stop
Their day for berries.
In her flowered cotton dress,
Aunt Martha gathered
Cousins, pails, and
Grandpa’s dog, Henry,
To make a morning of it,
Chatting happily,
Scheming preserves,
Pies, cobblers, crisps,
Blackberry jam spread
Over warm bread,
A poignant memory
Of a ripe summer day
In the heart of winter.

 

Solitary Temperaments

Where the trail turns
Further into the woods,
Densely lush and leafed,
Where encounters are infrequent,
Dainty hooves pierce the dirt.
Long-legged creatures, two
Does, wander into my path,
Heads high, ears keen,
Eyes wide and wary,
Their lean flanks rippling.
And two young women,
Runners for the team,
Sprint by, flash a chary glance,
Shoes sucking the mud,
Their lean thighs rippling.
Apparently, we are the odd pair,
The lonesome fox and I.
She’s up early, darting about,
Crimson piercing viridian,
And pauses. Our mutual
Astonishment turns to
A fleeting, unabashed regard,
Each as curious over the contrast:
My bright neon-yellow jacket,
Her ruddy red coat—
Black socks fashionable in June.
Our hearts beat faster
As we are slightly skittish
Over our chance rendezvous.
“Why, how do you do?”
And then there’s a recognition:
We are as reclusive as the other,
Disinclined to apologize
For solitary temperaments.

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David Sapp, writer, artist, and professor, lives along the southern shore of Lake Erie in North America. A Pushcart nominee, he was awarded Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Grants for poetry and the visual arts. His poems appear widely in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. His publications include articles in the Journal of Creative Behavior, chapbooks Close to Home and Two Buddha, a novel Flying Over Erie, and a book of poems and drawings titled Drawing Nirvana. Email: danieldavidart[at]gmail.com

Four Poems

Poetry
DS Maolalai


Photo Credit: Gauthier Delecroix/Flickr (CC-by)

Snores

they come rolling,
floating
like storm-
broken ships
with masts
and with rigging
hung ragged.

the wind
blowing hard
through a long-
empty mine shaft,
catching spars
sawed through, wet
rot and woodworm.
it’s pleasant
by no means; all
twisting treed
orchards and smashed
by car crashes
but still,
I do love it.

I do:
Chrys, lying
with her mouth half open,
her hand
against her cheek
making dimples with the fingers
like a lady
checking the freshness of a pear.
out of her mouth,
incongruous,
these sounds
like slaughtered animals.

I love it.
I do. it’s the sort of thing
I love.

 

A weathered down hill of a mountain

his mind was the landscape
just south of the city—
it was dull, disappointing,
blunt and unimpressive.
something which didn’t
get sunsets behind it
and wouldn’t have known

if it had. and his life was the same—
was a weathered down hill
of a mountain—god he was awfully
dull. he drank and he talked
about drinking quite often.
and lived in a flat
overlooking the river
with this woman he liked
and who liked him.

he could play the piano
in a dull sort of way.
knew paul simon songs.
knew elton john songs.

 

Threat

driving to work
on the N4 this morning
and I cut someone
accidentally off.
got home about five,
checked the letterbox—
out fell three fingers
like curled frozen shrimp.

 

Walking the bruise

a fine night,
and peaceful. rising
3am—wanting a cold
glass of water
and walking the bruise
as it flows
with midnight
through our kitchen—
deep blue, falling
through uncurtained windows;
some mixture of yellow
and the black which makes
blue. I thumb off the faucet,
go back to the bedroom.
stand by our window
in blue silhouette. in bed,
my girlfriend stirs
and pulls her feet under
the covers. and in
through the window
night comes with a rush.
when she wakes
I’ll be gone: just
the shape of a shadow,
outlined by the breeze
of this mild
winter night.

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DS Maolalai has been nominated nine times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle Press, 2016) and Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019). Email: diarmo90[at]live.ie

North Haven, Sunday

Poetry
Nathaniel Krenkel


Photo Credit: Jim McDonough/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

You were leaving on the last ferry
Down to Portland to see old friends
And so,
While you were at work
I packed the car with your bag, put a can of seltzer
Between the seats
Then walked to the terminal
To purchase your ticket
I stopped at the gallery
Susan was hanging her collage show
We talked about juxtaposition, John Cage, Elvis and
How beautiful water damage can be
Afterward, I waited on the porch, listening to the rain
And then I saw you
Walking up Mills Street
Your work shoes making you taller than I’m used to
I saw you first
But soon after you waved
I said, I got your ticket
And you said something kind
I think it might be fun to write a crime novel
Or paint a wall pink
Or unfollow everyone
But for now, I’ll stay sitting on the cushion you made
And imagine you
Out on the water, in the middle of the bay, in the rain
Looking at pictures of the kids on your phone
Or just looking out at the grey swells
Thinking about nothing except the smallest of things
Like what a bird does
Once its belly is full.

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Nathaniel Krenkel runs a small record label. He is a graduate of Bowdoin College, grew up in a small town in Utah, spent time in Glasgow, Scotland and NYC, and currently lives in Portland, Maine. Email: nate[at]team-love.com

Five Poems

Baker’s Pick
Russell Rowland


Photo Credit: June Marie/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

On Hold

Shadows lengthen, hours since I shaved;
the tune da capo, recorded fib recycles:
“Your call is important to us.”

In our meetinghouse, a higher call:
we celebrate recurring Advents and Lents
together—lections of patient attendance.

Once, my newly-licensed daughter
dared drive in a whiteout, to reunite
with her boyfriend. Awaiting her message
of arrival, each minute was worth my life.

When she was at Speare Memorial
for what would be Emma by caesarean,
no news was not good news. Before
my own eyes I aged into a grandfather.

Holding the phone to alternate ears today,
I had started doubting providence,
death’s distance, when the ditty cut off.
“This is Shelly, how may I help you?”

 

Sorority

Along the Tilton-Sanbornton town line
live two of Ted’s former wives: divorcee
and widow. One each side of the line.

Sometimes the women meet and pass
on walks along the dividing dirt road—
civil in address. They don’t really have
the same Ted in common. Awkward
subject. But no noses up or anything.

Whose husband he might be in heaven
depends on what you believe about
a lot of things, divorce and heaven
included (Jesus addressed that one).

Bereavement and court decree are two
valleys walked alone, to reach in time
greener pastures, more tranquil waters,
the lines fallen in pleasant places.

Ted learned more than some men
about women, but took it all with him.

There is a drawer in a hope chest
for what worked with one of his wives,
the Sanbornton landfill for what
didn’t work with the other, and a plot
in Tilton where Ted can think it over.

 

Ignored by a Chickadee

Among snubs collected in a life
of putting myself out there, this

is minor: a black-capped extravert
pecks diligently at the leaf mold
within a pace of my hiker’s boots,
ignoring me and my propensities.

Weighed against fall’s fat storage,
I am of course nothing—plus
in a crisis there are always wings.

This discipline of standing still
long enough gives other dwellers
in the arboreal city time to forget
I’m here: in nature the motionless

is invisible. Chipmunks overrun
your boots. A fox comes sniffing
right up to your trouser leg. It is
a great blessing, but hunters use it.

Leaves become eyes, the chickadee
flutters up to safety, when I move
along, aware I’m loved back home.

 

Grampy
for Emma

I am Grampy and a rock.
Climb up, agile granddaughter,
I won’t roll out from under you.

Gaze in my eyes,
as into an ornamental Easter egg.
You see the Garden earth once was,

unless I begin to weep—
then you’ll watch a Deluge make
the world anew, for animals and you.

Put up with my voice—
you will hear old funny songs
you catch yourself humming in bed.

Take hold of my hand—
I emptied it of wealth, of pretty things
like rings. Your hand was all it wanted.

I am Grampy, cannot
help it. I was born with whiskers.
Gracious years intended me for you.

Walk beside me, watch
for surprises I can already see—
the grown-up lady you, the absent me.

You made me Grampy.
But for you I would be browsing
store shelves for a name.

 

The Keeper Leaf

Hands held, they stroll fall’s litter
of colors. The ostensible conceit—
due diligence here helping to hide
a nervousness that often precedes
some expected consummation—

is to identify and take back home
to a bedroom only one of them
has slept in before tonight, a leaf:

an unsurpassable representative
of fall’s foliage at absolute peak.

Each contender is discarded for
the next and next, more brilliant
to the vacillating tastes of youth,

the search itself mostly pretense
that two heads are not obsessed
with intimate liberties at night,
pleasure’s forever-elusive peak;

that whatever drew them close
could never prove ephemeral,
its aftermath just barren limbs;
a dead leaf nothing much at all.

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Seven-time Pushcart Prize nominee Russell Rowland writes from New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, where he has judged high-school Poetry Out Loud competitions. Recent work appears in Poem, The Main Street Rag, and U.S. 1 Worksheets. His latest poetry book, Wooden Nutmegs, is available from Encircle Publications. Email: russellrowland15[at]gmail.com

Two Poems

Beaver’s Pick
Jenny Hockey


Photo Credit: Donnie Ray Jones/Flickr (CC-by)

Weaned

Submerged in our north-facing bath
I remembered you’d had no evening feed.

Tummy to sheet in your cot,
by then you were soundly asleep

and so they were over for good
my long damp hours in big white bras,

so soon in our years of making a start.

 

Lost for Words

Miss Stanage is usually mute, lies on her bed
being ninety—a swaddle of plaid blanket,
a long, thin shape. It haunts me

now I’ve seen them wheeling Elsie
to the morgue, careful to block
the view of the armchair-bound,

nags me like the question of how well
you and I are not getting on
and whether I should leave,

of whether I can complete
my research on old age
that no one has funded

and what to do about my shoes
that make me sound like Matron
and frighten staff on a sly puff break.

Miss Stanage rarely speaks—
I go round scouring the sinks,
suddenly mute when she asks me:

‘So what are your special interests in life?’

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Jenny Hockey lives in Sheffield, UK. She belongs to Tuesday Poets, Hexameter, The Poetry Room and Living Line – with poems in magazines such as The North, Magma, The Frogmore Papers and Orbis. She retired from Sheffield University as Emeritus Professor of Sociology to write and read more poetry and in 2013 received a New Poets Award from New Writing North. Oversteps Books published her debut collection Going to Bed with the Moon in 2019. Twitter: @JHockey20 Email: j.hockey[at]sheffield.ac.uk

Two Poems

Poetry
Timothy Pilgrim


Photo Credit: Bemep/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Montana Watercolor

I dip my brush, paint a depression
turned from fawn to gray,
beyond the wheat, next farm down.

Re-dip, add old age, barn, weathered,
sagging—rafter rot most likely—
roof caved. Good lives faded

like Big Sky mist, a still-white,
blizzard-frozen, drifted to edge,
off canvas, across road, piled on fence.

My plan—four paintings, montage,
a single homestead gone to ruin.
These two, large, plus hope,

gold sun-streak daubed small
through corral, past manure pile
to muddy stream. Last, the ravine,

willowed, wending, steep. Chickens,
sheep, strayed, the moving van,
blackest black. Children, inked waves

from truck bed, huddled in back.
Memory complete, almost dry,
I rinse my brush, put it away.

 

Grief

from the loss of her
comes over me in waves,
a tsunami intent on some island

already struggling to stay
above sea level after a convoy
of icebergs melt by. Or like a tidal bore

not holding its breath twice a day,
headed upriver, murky torrent
choking sawgrass, anemic, half dead

from salt left to cake both banks.
Or, perhaps, disbelief any sun will rise,
casually dispense heat sufficient

to dry blood, the grieving heart
pinned like her wet virus mask
on some tattered clothesline—

in wait for a wolf to lope by,
pause at the scent, leap,
rip red, run, feast.

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Timothy Pilgrim is a Montana native, Pacific Northwest poet and 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee. He has over five hundred acceptances from journals such as Seattle Review, Santa Anna River Review, Windsor Review, San Pedro River Review, Hobart, Toasted Cheese and The Bond Street Review. He is the author of Mapping Water (2016) and Seduced by Metaphor (2021). Email: pilgrimtima[at]gmail.com

Ironing Day

Poetry
Vicki Mandell-King


Photo Credit: Sid/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

In bygone days, it was not just this drudgery
that could make a housewife want to run away.

Still, this is a weighty thing—

the heat, the steam, the heft of the iron,
the effort to press down,
smoothing out to crispness.

But today, Jane tells me she will
wash and iron new sheets for company.

When I protest that lovemaking,
and all the snores and dreams
in the toss and turn of night
will wrinkle and rumple them—

she scoffs, Then why dust, why mop?

After a pause, she turns pensive, adding
in her matter-of-fact way of speaking true,
It’s the small things that bring pleasure.

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Vicki Mandell-King has been writing poetry most of her life, even during a thirty-year career as an Assistant Federal Public Defender. Her poetry has been published in numerous respected journals. She has three published collections, titled: Tenacity of Lace, Shrinking into Infinite Sky, and Hurry, Open the Gates. Her fourth collection, Singing My Pockets Empty, is in the process of publication by Main Street Rag. Email: vmkengage[at]hotmail.com

Four Poems

Poetry
Joanne Holdridge


Photo Credit: Thirteen of Clubs/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Giving This Back

In my grandmother’s kitchen
alone with you
you cut my hair.
Trembling with fear, not desire
I stumble through the words
while your hands linger in my hair
brush against my shoulders
make this haircut one long
painful seductive act.

I tell you I don’t want
to suck you off in the back
of your van, in your apartment
when your wife is out
anywhere at all anymore.
Except those aren’t the words
I use because I’m fourteen
and I don’t know what to call
what you made me do
only know that with you
I feel like a dry chewed-on bone
buried in hole after hole
hidden and alone.

You put your hands over your heart
say you’re crushed, you’re hurt
can’t believe I won’t
anymore, you still want me
and I feel guilty, trapped in your pain
even while my mouth is glad
it won’t have to touch you anymore.
When you finally put your scissors away
pull your keys out of your pocket
head out to the driveway and your van
you say I remind you of the Dylan song
“Just Like a Woman,” how I break
just like a little girl.

I’ve carried this memory, humped it
swam leagues underwater with it
hurtled it out into space
only to have it return like a honing beacon
but now finally I’ll say out loud
what I have long known
of course, I broke just like a little girl
I was a girl, I broke.

 

Accidents, After the Fact

A woman driving and talking on her cell phone
almost hits me while I’m on my bike
I stop in time instead and fly,
judging by the bystanders’ reactions,
spectacularly over my handlebars
not a bad way to go all things considered

amazingly I’m barely hurt
just torn jeans, scrapes, bruises
glasses stuck in my left cheek
my husband takes me to the ER
where they are kind and efficient
my face only needs a couple of stitches

all lucky and a gift I report to my baby brother
while he grills me in our father’s voice
on how exactly this happened
makes me show him with a fork and knife
where I was, where the car was, how precisely
I ended up with my face in the street

explaining to my brother’s satisfaction
much more time consuming than falling was
but he can’t seem to stop asking
so desperate is he to find some way to undo it
affix blame, rationally understand
why I wasn’t more damaged

until I can hear like a hive of bees
my father muttering to himself over and over
why he didn’t finish college, hire the right contractor,
fix the retaining walls before they collapsed, all the ways
he could have not gotten my mother pregnant with me
after she was

 

One Step Ahead

Moving to Florida for the winter
convinced my grandmother she might
not have to die after all

the sun was still strong there
leaves thick and green
grapefruits hung heavy on the trees
“Mortality,” she whispered, hanging tight
to my smooth hands with her knobby arthritic fingers
“might not be what I’d imagined,” I nodded

wanted to ask what she meant
but she had already dropped my hands
shrugged off the rumors of sickness and death

and slipped away to drive her boat of a Chevy Impala
as close to the sea as she could without
actually stopping or getting her feet wet

 

To My Grandfather All These Years Dead

When you saw me standing at the end of the dock
new in my womanhood, sure I was alone
you didn’t call to me from the porch
or tell me to put my clothes back on
but watched me strip them off
and stand for a moment or two
debating whether to get wet or not
then the clean dive into cool water

For years I wished you had said something
told me my body was my own
that you regretted silently watching
but telling me later not to let my grandmother
catch me doing that kind of thing
but now I feel only wet-eyed gratitude
at least once before you died
you saw me and didn’t turn away

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Joanne Holdridge lives in Arlington, MA and has recently published poems in Coal City Review, Illuminations, New American Writing, Poem, Talking River Review, and Willow Review. She has work forthcoming in Mudfish and The Midwest Quarterly and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Prior to Covid-19, she spent winters on skis in northern NH and taught poetry and literature classes to ESL students at Bunker Hill Community College for thirty years. Email: joanne[at]meltzer.net