By Michael Thomas Ellis
He was a minor poet
bore meaning like a wound
to be dressed and bandaged
then peeked at
only when it began to itch.
There were balms for that condition
called writer’s groups
they could soothe some of the symptoms
but there really was no cure
for righteous was his rapture
Michael Thomas Ellis claims he has “nothing much to say.”
During a high school trip to France, I meet Her for the first time in Her climate-controlled chamber. Afterwards, a boy packing some hashish leads me to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, where we smoke, then he lies on top of me while I gaze up at the shivering canopy, thinking about how disappointing seeing the painting had been.
Several millennia later, as a phantom wandering the ashes, an urgency to encounter Her again overcomes me.
I ghost through every underground vault on Earth, searching.
Find Her at last, mouth now drawn into a corpse’s rictus.
Time has robbed Her of ambiguity.
Writer Tim Boiteau writes and lives near Detroit with his wife and son.
After my visit home that year, the gossip started.
I can see it still. You leaning in, eager. Mother whispering her villainous thoughts behind cupped palm.
“How strange they acted. Did you notice? They must be queer.”
When I phoned later, you slipped in this news with surgeon’s skill. You always savored any words she uttered against me.
I bent over then, to hold myself together, stunned, broken, as if my womb had split open, spilling blood.
Dianne Moritz writes poetry and books for kids. Her picture book, 1, 2, 3 BY THE SEA, was on Bank Street College’s “best book list of 2014.”
By Lee Robison
In the slow, urgent cadence of cattle,
the black cows
move again across a landscape
of yellow grass and snow
to where they last heard
the familiar bawl,
dumb to all but ache—
whether of teat or heart
we men cannot know,
though we watch
and have had familiar loves
that for a summer of time were
but are now but silence.
By Alanna Donaldson
His mother remembers something he does not remember. Once, he wouldn’t stop crying, so she put his basket outside and shut the door. Inside, exhausted, she fell asleep.
Forty years later she tells him what happened. She only wanted a moment’s peace, to hear herself think. She hadn’t known how tired she was. How can someone know that?
He understands the impulse; he has a baby of his own now. He tells her he forgives her. He doesn’t tell her about cold, or loneliness. He doesn’t tell her he has been shut out, waiting to come in, all his life.
Alanna Donaldson works in publishing and lives in the countryside, surrounded by small birds and short stories.
By Philip Hess
Have you ever been to a bonfire
Of acoustic guitars, strings pinging
Like when your spokes went out?
Once I went to a piano burn,
Keys and pedals already stripped,
Just the hulking dark shells set ablaze.
Another time when I lit an old drum,
The taut leather across the top
Swelled way up before bursting with a bang.
And whenever I torch a pile of scores,
I think of broiling wienies in the smoky flames
On a conductor’s stand turned skillet.
By David Berger
This morning I woke up invisible. It took a minute or two to get used to. Wife and kids away. Wow!
It’s freakin’ 50° outside, but I don’t care. Glass and dog shit on the sidewalk Who cares? I’m headed for that house nearby no one talks about. I knock on the door. The lady opens up and I slip by her.
For an hour, I watch girls do odd things with gentlemen. It gets boring rapidly.
Back on the street headed home, I bang into something hard. It’s another invisible person.
“Who is that?” I hear my wife say.
Dave Berger is a union organizer living in New York City. His wife is a “stupendous jazz singer.”