Apfelbaum by Laura J. Braverman

LAURA J. BRAVERMAN is a writer and artist. Her poetry has appeared in Levure Litteraire, Live Encounters, The BeZINE, California Quarterly, and Mediterranean Poetry. Her first collection of poetry, In the Absence of Defense Against Loss, will be published in 2019 by Cosmographia Books. She lives in Lebanon and Austria with her family.


Apfelbaum

For a long time I believed Martin Luther said these words:
Even if I knew tomorrow the world would go to pieces,
I would still plant my apple tree.
We shared a birthday, though his was 500 years before mine.

He would have spoken the words in my mother tongue. I use
them as an incantation, as defense against helplessness—

I imagine
our globe as little as twenty years from now—septic seas,
garbage dunes, drought and flood. My husband soothes me,

says creation moves in cycles regardless of the reckless
doings of our tribe. He sides with Heraclitus: World ever was,
and is,
an ever-living fire,
kindling and extinguishing according to measure.

But surely our wild hunger has sped things up.

Does the earth care for us?
We scrub pots after dinner, pick up our children’s Lego bricks.
We better Narcissus—leap headlong into the reflections
our digital screens hold up. We save manatees stranded in mud,

compose cantatas, dry rose petals in the sun;
we beg at intersections with matted hair and little siblings, knock
on closed car windows.
We fear the swollen legs of our father,
scratch butterflies with our fingernails on stonewalls,
line up for death.

Does the universe care for us?
I’ve come across a theory: the cosmos expected life,
prepared for consciousness, for us, from its very cradle—

hoped for apple trees and their tart, pesky harvest.

Advice for Saying Hello by Ace Boggess

ACE BOGGESS is an author of three books of poetry, most recently Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017), and the novel A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea Publishing, 2016). His fourth poetry collection, I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press. His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, RATTLE, River Styx, North Dakota Quarterly and many other journals. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.

 

Advice for Saying Hello

I’m the wrong person to ask—
heart in it, but not my voice.

If we haven’t met,
you’re the speck of a gnarled spider

dangling from a ceiling in the hall.
Legs atremble, I won’t approach,

might stare rudely or run away.
I’m paralyzed from the tongue up.

Should you encounter me,
please speak fast

before panic hides me in its cloak.
Tell me your name, your favorite film,

what songs play
on the soundtrack to your life.

Tell me how much you love
spaghetti & red wine,

the smell of frying eggs,
the color of anything

under a rain-gray sky.
I promise to listen, &

maybe then, I’ll have an answer
for the silence I wear

like a holiday sweater:
ugly, red, & pulled from a drawer

out of gratitude or duty
on yet another lonely, public eve.

Three Poems at 55 by Kelly King Walden

KELLY KING WALDEN blogs at kellylogos.net, which is also her Twitter handle (without the net:) She has raised children (4, one from Ethiopia) and mentors teens and college students. She created an ACT Prep business, which she runs, and writes on the side for various online magazines and a local magazine. She has only published one poem, at Plough Quarterly. She has a Master’s in English and has taught school and college in the past.

 

Padded Van
We were so packed into the van.
Every trip, just so many accouterments
needed, no matter where we were going.
My mother would bring a pillow and a full
size blanket because she was always cold
and wanted to be covered from head to toe.
Then there was a sweater or a big padded coat.
And her big computer with its fat padded case and
a big quilted bag to carry all the books and magazines
she thought she might read. And then there was the mini
back pillow for lumbar support. And she’d fill a little soft-sided
cooler with water and apples and nuts. And she insisted on an
extra blanket for anyone else who might get cold because it always
happened. We would complain about how crowded we all were, how
claustrophobic we felt with all this suffocating softness surrounding our
every move on every side. And on this trip, we were camping so my dad
had his pillow beside his seat, too, and I was sleeping on my pillow and my
sister had a big jacket hung up over her window because of the burning sun
darkening her already dark skin. And there wasn’t enough room in the back for
all the camping gear and food and bedding and suitcases so we had a couple of
rolled up sleeping bags on the floor between us in the back. And bulging out from
between the two middle seats were foam bed toppers and an extra, super-fat down comforter in case it got really cold one night AND two coats were stuck by our heads.
So when we had the wreck,
And went flying through the air and rolling over and over down the bank with the
blankets and coats and pillows and bags and comforters tumbling around us
like bedding in the heavy-duty dryer at the laundromat, it was a wild ride
and we were a little banged up, but we merely walked away
looking like pants and shirts that needed a little ironing.

 

When You Walked In
I was getting ready to leave
when you walked in the door.
I need to be somewhere soon,
but your unexpected arrival
halted my plans.
I rethink my agenda.
I can’t leave when I have the
unexpected gift of your presence
suddenly. I manufacture reasons
for hanging out in the same room
with you. Let’s see, what’s on my
list to do today? Oh, yes, clean
the kitchen windows, haha. I can
do a couple of them right now,
and just casually throw out some
conversation starters while I’m
hanging out. You are so focused
on what you are focused on. I try
to be focused on something else too.
But converse a little, too, at the
same time, you know, just casually.
About something maybe interesting.
Or just something.
Like tell you what I did this morning.
But that was nothing. Nothing
that you would find interesting.
But there was that one thing
I can mention. I can show you that one
thing.
But you’re so busy, so focused.
I don’t want to annoy you.
Can I at least
have a bridge sometimes? It can be
retractable. Or throw me a rope, maybe.
I just want to be one of the
islands in your archipelago.
I just want to be able
to cross over
sometimes
and see your eyes.

 

If Emily Had Children
The bustle in the house
the day the kids come home
Is the brightest tidying up,
the lightest of urgent work
in a stolid empty nest.
Irrational love precipitates
irrational effort
as tedious tasks stir energy.
I’m expecting life again –
the heart opens up
and the light comes in
illuminating soon filled rooms.
The stillness in the house
the day the kids leave
is a snaky place.
Trails of their presence creep
like vines through the house.
Mired in memories at every turn,
my heavy feet move from room to room.
The quicksand of sadness sucks me down.
The overgrowth of activity has left a fertility of memory
. . . A futility of memory.
If I strip their bed I strip their scent.
A grayness pervades the air and my soul
as I sweep up my Heart and put my Love away.

 

Native Son by Steve Werkmeister

Steve Werkmeister is an English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. He was born and raised in Nebraska and now resides in Olathe, Kansas, with his family. His first poetry collection, The Unauthorized Autobiography: Composed of Fragments, Distortions, Mythologies & Lies (PunksWritePoems Press), was published in fall 2016. He has a literature-focused blog at https://stevesofgrass.wordpress.com/, and you can find him on Twitter @SteveWerkmyster.

 

 

Native Son

 

When I was a kid,

every old Mexican I knew

 

claimed their family was

really from Spain,

 

had secret Jewish blood,

or was part Gypsy,

 

deftly denying

the obvious aboriginal roots.

 

It puzzled me, literally.

 

I understand why no one

wants to say my family

 

was shit on by the Aztecs,

& then the Spanish,

& then the French,

& then Americans.

 

No one wants to say

my family got so used to it,

 

we crossed the border

to get shit on here.

 

Everyone wants to be

 

the child Arthur pulling

sword from stone,

the baby in the manger,

the prince, not the pauper.

 

But I didn’t fit that, either,

being half & half, marginal

even among the marginals.

 

So here I am, just what

you see: a not-quite Mexican

writing, a not-quite German

writing, a not-quite American

writing, content to handle my

 

words like berries, to

tend most tenderly

 

my lines like rows, to spend

millennia crafting poems

 

just like the land that wrought me.

 

Track 16 by Benjamin Schmitt

Benjamin Schmitt is the Best Book Award and Pushcart nominated author of two books, Dinner Table Refuge (PunksWritePoemsPress, 2015) and The global conspiracy to get you in bed (Kelsay Books, 2013). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Sakura Review, Hobart, Grist, The Columbia Review, Two Thirds North, and elsewhere. You can read his scary stories for kids in the Amazon Rapids app. He lives with his wife and daughter in Seattle where he also reviews books, curates a reading series, and teaches workshops to people of all ages.

 

 

Track 16

 

Tonight you asked me

how a kid could just go bad

I told you about standing

at the magazine rack when I was twelve

pretending to read Auto Trader

while stuffing Playboys and cigarette cartons

down my pants to sell at a discount

in the halls of my Christian school

 

The soil can accept

the roots of a tree or the roots

can accept new soil

it doesn’t matter so much as the growth

roots and soil are familiar

and grow like the poem

spreading branches through the margins

of notebooks into computer hard drives

and then maybe even into the lap

of someone I will only curtly brush with words

 

But you kept on asking me

why only some grow

and others do not

and what they will

eventually grow into

 

Let’s hope our daughter never takes

thirty pills of Dramamine at once

going five miles an hour on the interstate

as a dog criticizes her driving

from the passenger seat

 

Sometimes the flashlights of adulthood

shine in childhood windows

police plant drugs on orphans

and take them away again

teenage Abrahams hold

stillborn Isaacs in courtrooms

handcuffs bark on the wrists of star athletes

young prostitutes commit suicide

in plaster casts of Taylor Swift songs

 

In darker years I learned

how to make a burrito in a towel

with Fritos and ramen noodles

while crackheads joked about raping me

somehow I loved you then

and felt you in the linoleum

ten years before we met

maybe the crimes hollowed me out

to hold the rainbow bones of your laughter

I guess what I’m trying to say is that

maybe bad kids grow beautiful loss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Portrait as Chicken Dinner by Erin Slaughter

Erin Slaughter is editor and co-founder of literary journal The Hunger, and the author of two poetry chapbooks: GIRLFIRE (dancing girl press, 2018) and Elegy for the Body(Slash Pine Press, 2017). You can find her writing in Prairie Schooner, Passages North, F(r)iction, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. Originally from north Texas, she is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University. Her first full-length poetry collection is forthcoming from New Rivers Press in 2019.

 

Self-Portrait as Chicken Dinner

 

She is a flocked hen going further

west. Like a rucksack slung

over the shoulder in an old

movie, what she contains is less

important than the visual.

 

When did she become afraid

of her own foolish cluck and scrape

away from the claw-footed earth?

 

For home is not a blank thing

that wanders. For shelter

is a wooden stake

through the heart.

 

And always that dead

ghost glazes her skin, thin

film ruddying feathers.

She names it love and gives up

on soap or articulating hurt.

 

Catalog her contents, blueprint for slicing

open: the cute, crumpled gizzard.

The menagerie of howls caged up

in her heart. When she is hollowed

 

like the animal ribs of a hundred

historical Thanksgivings,

it’s the handles that pierce

corn from either side to keep it

in place. All we cannot bear

to notice as the cob collapses

shucks and lifts its yellow,

 

brittle prayer to a hall of teething

mirrors. To a hallway of mirroring teeth.

Barista by Blaize Dicus

Blaize Dicus is a graduate student at the University of Central Oklahoma. His thesis questions genre by melding prose and poetry to tell one narrative that explores the influence of internal and external forces on identity.

 

Barista
She loves A$AP Rocky. She listens to every word her mother tells her. She cuts her curls short. She hears, You look like a boy now. She doesn’t care what her father says. She cries alone, in her Pottery Barn comforter. She cries with him, under a flea-infested Walmart fleece. She makes coffee for the pinstriped-crew-cut. She finishes her Psychology for Adults homework at two a.m. She orders herself a new sofa. She never sits on it. She just wanted to prove she really was Jennifer Garner with that stupid wishing-dollhouse. She makes a vanilla bean, two pumps caramel, three shots of expresso, no water safety-net for the nineteen year old nursing student. She never sees her again. She calls her brother, her expert, to ask if she should apply for other part-time jobs. She hangs her Associate’s degree on a nail she beat into the wall with her seventeen year old temper. She feels our dad’s boots on the hardwood floor. She waits until they stomp concrete. She knows he won’t tell her goodnight. She knows what he does in his man cave. She feels he’s gone. She feels safe. You can be anything you want unless the government tells you that you can’t. She doesn’t know what to do with her grandmother’s tits. She thanks the boys. She doesn’t get another job. She rolls her eyes while making a chai. She pauses to look—buzzed neck, pearl earrings, and a painted-purple lip. She wonders if she felt like her, too.

Electrostatic & Magic by Mitchell Nobis

Mitchell Nobis is a writer, an educator, and an aging pickup basketball player in Metro Detroit. A Philip Levine Prize semi-finalist, his work has appeared in English Journal and other publications. He co-authored Real Writing: Modernizing the Old School Essay, a book for writing teachers. Find him at @MitchNobis.
Electrostatic & Magic
Our atoms are
           99.9999999999996% empty,
yet here it all is, everything.
Here we are, empty.
Maybe that explains the anxiety that keeps us awake at night.
Here we are,
          0.0000000000004% matter
and the rest a wicked brew of
vacuum & abstraction,
our empty space filling itself at night
with…well,
maybe with magic.
Shitty magic, it would seem, but perhaps still magic.
Is that what keeps us up every night, dark & unknown
I’ll lie there, listening,
eyes closed to the dull streetlight seeping through the blinds,
feeling my heart thrum
like a train rumbling across America—
rumbling over tensions, rumbling through time,
keeping an eye on the trestles, praying they hold together,
trusting in the Science & Magic
of the train I ride.

Poetry by Josef Krebs

Josef Krebs has a chapbook published by Etched Press and his poetry also appears in Agenda, the Bicycle Review, Calliope, Mouse Tales Press, The Corner Club Press, The FictionWeek Literary Review, Burningword Literary Journal, the Aurorean, Inscape, Crack the Spine, The Cape Rock, Carcinogenic Poetry, The Bangalore Review, 521magazine, Organs of Vision and Speech, Tacenda, Former People, The Chaffey Review, The Bohemian, and The Cats Meow. A short story has been published in blazeVOX. He’s written three novels and five screenplays. His film was successfully screened at Santa Cruz and Short Film Corner of Cannes film festivals.

Here are three poems by Josef Krebs. We hope you find them as engaging and dynamic as we did.

 

And tremors that begin in your hand

And spread to the city

Are no longer a factor in the war that followed

The turmoil a mere residue now of unforgotten dreams

And ideological stubbornness

Or ignorance

The eyes that saw no longer hesitate to witness

But the images drip away barely burning into the soul anymore

As if taste buds had died along with retinal ganglion cells

In order to protect the no longer

And the no longer innocent

Alike

 

 

 

 

As the thesis of existence inoculates us to our last departure

I rapture over past

Memories of other

That no longer is

As if a moment had passed

Into past

A droplet reabsorbed into the collision between water and sky

That might come around and around

As distance becomes foreshortened into thesis and antithesis

With all lost from the let go get go

In order that a new race might emerge

 

 

 

 

Distance accounts for half the effect of inconclusive adaptability

As direct dialectic deception gives the perception of equality of opposites

When the balance is all off

And one should make a stand for something however simple and multilayered if not multi-angled

Or is all just perception and necessity of the moment

With no tense balance possible

Beyond the momentary interaction with those you love too much