TWO POEMS by Aaron Simm, Featured on Life As Activism

Scientist of The Lambs
Scientist on the western front
Scientist I’m hunting rabbits
Scientist speak no evil
Scientist not at the dinner table
Scientist after 11pm
Scientist curfew in effect
Scientist silent majority rules
Scientist not your voice in anger
Scientist secret ball gag
Scientist John Cage 4’33”
…read more

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DON’T BE A DRONE: Manipulating the Reader Through Pitch and Pace, A Poetry Craft Essay by Grant Clauser

Pacing in poetry can be used as a focusing technique. Both fast and slow pace equally have the ability to draw in a reader’s focus in slightly different, but complementary, ways. A sudden shift into high gear can raise our excitement or anxiety, while hitting the slow motion button compels us to look with greater scrutiny and concentration. Either way, pace is a kind of volume adjustment–by turning the volume of the poem up or down you force a shift of attention upon the reader.

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ASK JUNE: The Gossipy Dentist and the Avocado-Lover’s Lament

Yesterday night my husband and I got into a big fight. This morning I found an enormous, perfectly ripe avocado in our crisper and instead of saving half of it for him, as I usually do when we have a finite amount of fruits and veggies, I ate the whole thing myself. Was I wrong?

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TIME HEALS, EVEN YOUR DRAFTS: Three Key Realizations for Revising Your Novel, A Craft Essay by Wendy Fox

When I finally picked my novel up again, there were sections I didn’t even recognize as having written. It was the passage of time which showed me that I had a bigger problem with how the novel was built, and it was time that helped take me through a final revision that ultimately led to the manuscript getting placed. Being away from, and then returning to, a dormant work helped me come to three important realizations…

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DNA Hymn, poems by Annah Anti-Palindrome, reviewed by Johnny Payne

The disturbing cover art of DNA Hymn features a woman whose bloody mouth discharges what appear to be balloons, intestines, or giant molecules. The image seems apt for a collection of poems that freely disgorges both intelligence and emotional wisdom. This book by the semi-pseudonymous Annah Anti-Palindrome waxes conceptual to be sure, but not to the point where each individual poem is negated by an overarching Big Idea. In the introduction, the author explains that “resisting palindromes” derives from her mother’s morphine overdose and her desire as a daughter, both linguistic and existential, to break out of a legacy of violence. The first poem, “extraction,” fittingly takes an epidural as its footnote and birth as its subject: “tooth tile milk moon marrow . clock jaw limb socket hollow ./ split hair curl coil crescent . wet nest yolk part swallow .”

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TYPEWRITERS, BOMBS, JELLYFISH: ESSAYS by Tom McCarthy reviewed by William Morris

TYPEWRITERS, BOMBS, JELLYFISH: ESSAYS by Tom McCarthy New York Review Books, 288 Pages reviewed by William Morris I am writing this on Monday May 8, 2017, the night before Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish: Essays, a collection of the work of British writer Tom McCarthy, will be published. I checked my watch to be sure of the date, and found that it’s a day off. It claims today is the 7th. This small discrepancy is hardly worth noting, except as it pertains to McCarthy’s obsessive treatment of time in these essays. Time is an illusive business, a difficult thing to pin down, as it’s always moving out from under us. For McCarthy, time is a series of refrains and repetitions, arrests and elisions, and he turns to it again and again in this collection. McCarthy originally published or presented these essays as lectures, introductions to books, or accompaniments to art installations during … chop! chop! read more!

ATLANTIC HOTEL, a novel by João Gilberto Noll, reviewed by Robert Sorrell

“Love. Call me Love, the Word Incarnate.”

This is the closest that readers get to a name for the protagonist and narrator of João Gilberto Noll’s strange little book, Atlantic Hotel, recently translated into English by Adam Morris. The novel is set in Brazil in the 1980s, and over the course of the book, the unnamed narrator embarks on a beguiling and pointless quest through the country. At different points he will seem to be—or perhaps will be—an actor, a priest, an alcoholic, an invalid. Along the way, Noll will shade his experiences with touches of Don Quixote and Odysseus, hints of The Stranger and a taste of the pantomime and absurdity of Fellini’s early 1960s films (Noll’s unnamed narrator a believable stand-in for the existentially angsty characters usually played by Marcello Mastroianni).

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ASK JUNE: The Financier Fiancé, the Smoke-Soaked Dad, and the Bitterness of Life

I am five months pregnant. My partner and are both very happy about it. We have been together for several years and consider ourselves a stable couple. There is only one serious source of conflict right now: I gave up smoking a year ago when we decided to start trying to have a kid, and he still smokes. Lately the second-hand smoke has been making me sick to my stomach. He always goes out on the balcony when I ask him, unless it is raining or something. But he never just does it on his own. He does not have any plans to quit smoking, and I am worried about the baby. What should I do?

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THE LONG DRY, a novel by Cynan Jones, reviewed by Melanie Erspamer

Ultimately this is a beautiful little novel that leaves the reader reeling with the powerful emotions it manages to render in such a short space and with such sparse language. The simple storyline also gives leave for musings over possible symbolism. For example, what does the cow represent? Of course it could represent nothing in particular, simply a lost cow, one of the millions of small reasons we give ourselves to keep living purposefully each day.

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ASK JUNE: The Patronized Matriarch and the Evasive Vacationer

Dear June, The other day I called a local politician’s office to talk about an event they were hosting to sign people up for a senior discount program. The staffer who answered the phone chatted with me for a minute or two about one of the politician’s favorite causes, which I also support. Things were going fine until I mentioned that I was calling about the senior sign-up. “For a loved one?” she asked. As soon as I said “No, for me,” her tone changed completely—she switched into this saccharine, singsong, much louder voice and started talking way, way down to me. She asked me if I knew what photo I.D. was and, when I said I did, asked me if I thought a credit card was photo I.D. Before I managed to end the call she had reminded me twice to bring the I.D., and asked me if I … chop! chop! read more!

WHILE I WAITED: Traveling in Colombia and Ecuador, an essay by Sean James Mackenney

WHILE I WAITED Traveling in Colombia and Ecuador by Sean James Mackenney Rain hit hard, dirtying the white city of Popayán, Colombia. People took shelter underneath overlapping tin roofs, laughing as they ran in a rare display of urgency. Popayán is a sleepy city where people meander along quaint cobbled streets, acquaintances share an embrace in the main square, adults congregate in groups conversing with both ease and conviction, and children giggle and eat pineapple chunks and taffy from Styrofoam cups. I flashed a smile, looking at people for a reaction. I towered above them, yet still went unnoticed. I tried to involve myself in their joy but it wasn’t mine to share. I was a person of the outside, a dollar sign to some, completely irrelevant to most. I convinced myself of it. I gave a knowing nod and headed back to the hostel, hoisting my head upright to the … chop! chop! read more!

ASK JUNE: Dating the Milk Man and June’s Top 10 Poems

Dear June,   I read your letter from the woman whose date stole a bottle of rosemary from her cabinet, and I thought you could help me with my problem. Recently I went on a first date with a guy some friends set me up with. He took me to dinner at a very nice restaurant. Everything was going pretty well for a first date. I thought he was cute, if not super handsome, and we had some things in common as far as books and politics and basic life goals are concerned. But then came dessert. I ordered a slice of their famous chocolate cake with raspberry butter cream icing, and he said he would have the same. He asked me if I wanted more wine, and I said no and ordered tea. He ordered a large glass of milk! I was totally turned off by this. What do … chop! chop! read more!

BETWEEN TWO SKIES, a young adult novel by Joanne O’Sullivan, reviewed by Brenda Rufener

From the start, O’Sullivan pulls readers in with well-crafted characters and a beautifully painted setting. She drops the reader deep into the South with Hurricane Katrina looming offshore. The opening pages saturate us with the warmth, hospitality, and food that are so true to this geographical location. But we aren’t allowed to get too comfortable. Not with the bad weather reports and the life-changing storm churning at sea.

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LIKE DEATH, a novel by Guy de Maupassant, reviewed by Derek M. Brown

With Like Death, Richard Howard—poet, critic, essayist, and professor at Columbia University—offers a rendering of Maupassant’s Fort comme la mort that, I can only presume, retains all of the lyrical richness of the original, published in 1889. It also offers startling insight into the extent of Maupassant’s influence, which can be found in some of the 20th century’s most seminal works.

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WAYWARD HEROES, a novel by Halldór Laxness, reviewed by Tyson Duffy

Certain great writers fade from the American memory like condensation from a windowpane. The Icelandic novelist Halldor Laxness—he was once all the rage here—is one. He was considered something of an upstart, a genius, a social novelist, a fellow traveler of Upton Sinclair and Bertolt Brecht, and he often journeyed between Europe and America. A Marxist-Stalinist who was very critical of America, he was once important enough to attract the personal ire of J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI, who worked hard to impoverish Laxness by attempting to confiscate profits from his U.S. book sales, which were considerable.

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ASK JUNE: The Penitent Nitpicker and the Rosemary Thief

Dear June, In most ways I am a good mother, wife, and friend, but I realize that I am a bit critical and nitpicky. Even when I make an effort not to, I find myself suggesting that my (adult) daughter’s hair needs combing, or that my husband should stop starting every sentence with “So,” or that my weight-loss buddy should do more lifting and less swimming if she wants to see results. I really am working on keeping my mouth shut. But I fail often. How can I stop myself from giving so much advice? —Critical in Carolina Dear C in C, Funny question to ask an advice columnist! And, indeed, I may be the wrong person to ask because I have been told that I share your problem. But, then again, I may be just the right person if you want the empathy that comes from having walked down … chop! chop! read more!

ASK JUNE: The Cruelest Month and the Most Horrible Roommate

Dear June,

So many people I know get depressed in the winter. Some of them take medicine, and some use special lamps to mimic sunlight. Although I do not especially like being cold, or walking home in the dark, winter has never really bothered me. But for the last few years I have been feeling sad and restless and wondering what it all means and so on as soon as winter ends and spring comes around. I get all full of longing and I keep asking myself why, with the world so beautiful—I have a fellowship at a place where the birds twitter and the fruit trees blossom and the air is fragrant, the whole bit—I feel so antsy and blue. What do you think? Is it really true what they say about April being the cruelest month?

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NOCTURNAL, a poem by Jo-Ella Sarich, Featured on Life As Activism

When she arrived, the sun turned black
lead-rugged upon my ragged eyes
that marked the breast-pump’s watchful click.

But as she lay upon my chest
each night, the transcendental glow
the phosphor clock, the bobbing head
bred warmth beneath the surface rust.

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ASK JUNE: Two Students, Good and Bad

The problem is that I just got into my dream school, with great financial aid. My boyfriend was accepted at some good colleges, but none of them are within 500 miles of my dream school. The other problem is that I am not even sure I want to stay with Allston. I still love him, I guess, but there are lots of days when I would just as soon not see him. I get bored and then I feel guilty. What should I do? The world seems like such a mean dishonest place. Most men treat women like pieces of meat. And here I am with a kind, smart, respectful boy I know I can trust, and part of me just wants to leave him and break all my promises and go off to Massachusetts.

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DIARY ENTRY, by Arden Sawyer, Featured on Life As Activism

The year is 2017, and it is still young. Yet already it has managed to make me very concerned about how it will turn out as it grows older.

At present, I’m staying with my aunt Rebecca in her house in San Francisco, California, under the wing of her charity. The back of the drought has been broken by a glut of rain. Every night Rebecca watches the news. She watches the news of her own will and choosing, and I am simply there for it, experiencing its noise and light because I am in the same room while it plays. Rebecca is an American, by her own identification, and lives in America. I am simply here in it, situated physically in this spot on the earth, borrowing space in other people’s lives.

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ASK JUNE: The Cold-Hearted Writers Group and the Soft-Hearted Dog Daughter

I am in a writers’ workshop—some fiction, mostly poets—with a total membership of twelve, nine or ten of whom usually show up for our biweekly meetings. We have been meeting, with just a few changes in membership as people come to town, or leave town, or lose interest, for almost ten years now. One of our members, a founding member actually, has been creating problems for us because she almost always monopolizes the conversation. Ivy, as I will call her, is a wonderful poet and a good critic, but she loves to be the one who speaks first and she is forever interrupting people.

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THE RETURNS, a poem by Jenny Montgomery, Featured on Life As Activism

I’m a prairie mongrel, not a signal
I’m a tethered satellite, never floating away
I’m Florida, I’m underperforming
I’m drinking refined,
not eating my white valley
I’m neck and neck
I’m not anymore
I’m a cliché, not a rishi
I’m the boy crying, I forgive him
I’m a raving bitch
not the interpreter screaming, I love you

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HOW WE SPEAK TO ONE ANOTHER: AN ESSAY DAILY READER, edited by Ander Monson & Craig Reinbold, reviewed by David Grandouiller

How We Speak to One Another, which came out this month, is a book of essays on essays, on the Essay—that sprawling mountain of a form, reaching its roots into every fallow field. The reader sinks in to find Ander Monson digging his way: “I’d thought of my own essaying as mine work, a kind of solo exploration down here in the dark. But then one time I was chipping at a hunk of rock, watching my tool spark, and suddenly it broke through a wall and ran into another tunnel.” The tunnel is John D’Agata’s. This kind of encounter, told in one of Monson’s quirky conceits, is representative of the rest of the anthology. These essays are excavations in what the Catholic monk and writer Thomas Merton called (in his last address, just two hours before his death) the “interdependence of all living [and dying] beings.”

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MEGAPHONING, a poem by Blaize Dicus, Featured on Life As Activism

…The rivers evaporate, fill the sky with water, then fall again to soak the soil. Trees grow,
pines cedars, sturdy. A system designed to give what is needed; a system that burns
when poisoned….

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TWO FLASH PIECES by Marc Harshman

He walks under an onyx set of moons whose one good eye blinks like the cherry top called to that last moment in his old life. Yesterday, the warden warned the leaky faucet would not be tolerated, and so it became the last domino to topple, and how true they all fell.  Now he draws on his jeans under the mirror of clouds.  It was time to reset his watch, as well, the cheap Timex from Aunt Alice, set it to a more auspicious hour—perhaps Twelfth Night off Dame Street in a drawing room where they were dancing in quadrilles and pansy skirts.  Or to an hour of privacy where the fairy tale poet still searches vodka in the closed garage that tilts to Africa. 

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FOR THE LIFE OF YOU by Brandon Timm

The high-pitched animal cries of your boy come hurtling to you drunk at the breakfast table from the backyard and until you finally hear “Dad! Dad! Dad!” it’s only by that terminal “Dad!” when anything registers—those cries and yelps and weight of the sliding glass door as you wrench it open into the sharp February bluster that spreads against your arms and face, snow falling in the crushed heels of the shoes slid on like slippers before crossing your uneven deck. There he is, your boy, standing on a cheap, green-plastic, piece-of-shit chair holding his puppy’s leash untethered in a red glove.

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TWO POEMS by Marcia Roberts

along the pathway through live oak
and cedar trees ant trails lead
to dead cicadas and worms

I look for lichen-covered twigs
and a piece of prickly pear
to dry and paint on canvas

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Cici squints at Agatha’s toes, bunched together like an Indy 500 pile-up of smashed, shiny speed-racers. “And that’s why you wear socks in bed,” she says, leaning against the short kitchen counter as she points a slice of toast dripping with butter and honey at her wife’s feet. “It’s good you’re getting them looked at.”

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SNAKE by Nadia Laher

She found it under her bedside table curled like a sleeping black snake. She stared at it for a second, then grabbed it and ran back down the stairs, thinking maybe this would save them. But when she flung open the door he was already gone, and then it was just her squinting into the bright sunlight, holding an old belt in her hands like a sad wish.

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THE SONGS OF MY YOUTH by Nancy Hightower

Facebook has had one of those circulating memes, the ones that ask you to make lists that somehow make you feel nostalgic for a life you’re not sure you ever really had. The latest: list ten albums that influenced you as a teenager. Then: list ten albums that influenced you before you were a teenager. I do not make a list. Instead, I read your list, the choices that betrayed your rebellion or geekiness or prescient cool factor. I want to make my own list, but your list is better. I want to make my own list, but my throat catches as I hum songs I once took great pains to forget, songs that betray a disjointed yet emotionally accurate soundtrack.

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There was something about my smile the other kids didn’t like. Maybe it was the fear in it, the false bravado. Who knows what sets the wolf-pack off?

These days, I sit in my castle without really caring what anyone else thinks. I drink lattes in the morning, expensive scotches late into the evening. Sometimes there’s a needle to thread. I have a family and friends who like to drink with me.

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LETTER TO A POET by Jeanne Walker

Midnight ticks in a quiet lab around
one sleepy dork who, suddenly sits up,
hearing two black holes larger
than Manhattan as they merge to one
unimaginably extreme black nothing

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Black skin tastes better when
the wheat has already been
threshed; just a kiss. I watched her “paint
her face” from the field through the
window. Death bruises like a
tornado; the land is new. We had

only just arrived when the
tornado came and tore everything
up. Watch the eye sweep him up into

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ESCAMBIA by Donald Ryan

We pulled off at the fruit stand halfway between the hospital and the funeral home.

“The peaches are in season,” Father said to Mother in the passenger seat.

“It was just like he was sleeping,” my aunt said to herself in the back, her eyes never leaving the rear window.

With the exception of my aunt, we got out of the car. Mother leaned on the passenger door. Father examined the stacks of wicker baskets piled on the makeshift plywood table.

“How much for a bundle?”

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I flick brother’s ear;
say you could hide something
in here. Stonefruit maybe,

or the yolks we collect
from Narragansett. Our skin
yellow-like, hair both brush

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That afternoon at home, I am straddling my little brother, his arms pinned under the strength of my thighs, and I am spitting in his face while he screams. I let the spit drip slowly from my mouth onto his face, a long string of it, so he can see it coming. My mom sees it coming too and pulls me off him, sending me to my room. I get talked at for an hour by her and then another hour by my dad. You’re almost five years older than he is, they say. Someday, he’s going to be bigger than you, they say. What will you do then?

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—Time to step up to the plate, Jimbo.

—What’s for supper?

—You’re on deck, right? We all are. We each have to take our turn at bat.

—Them things carry rabies.

—Take our hacks and swing for the fences. Knock the cover off the ball. Go yard.

—I gotta tell you, Dwight, I ain’t entirely sure I—

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ON HOLD: by Elizabeth Morton

I can hold
my breath
for three minutes flat
in the superstore aisle
between woks
and waffle-irons
screaming catchphrases
in my head or
buying pillows
at the counter

like it’s underwater
wrong chemicals
in my lungs and
the jukebox

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When I first showed up the halo of my silhouette
dissolved like a jolly rancher

I began to put my mouth on every darkling
tried to eat away as much of it as I thought I could

After a couple of missing molars
I smeared my hand across my face

In a state of self-devour
I wore my bloodied ghost like a surgeon’s mask

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Margo is eight years old and she doesn’t care about the New Mexican heat, or the drought, or that it is dry and her lips are cracked and her skin is slick with sweat. Her hair sticks to her forehead and neck in thick, twine-like clumps. Her father smells like he always does: motor oil and cigarettes.

Her mother brings home a dog when she’s supposed to bring home milk. The black fluffball almost looks like a porcupine; it runs around the living room and chases around shards of gravel her father tosses, the ones gathered from the driveway. He sits on the couch. Margo sits next to him, silently wishing her father lets them keep the dog, certain he was too obstinate to let it be so.

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Leafing out, the trees blur in green mist,
celandine poppies bright fingerprints
at their feet. The persistent creek has hollowed dips,
roundels, arches into the limestone floor.
Waterleaf, twinleaf, spring beauties wander beside
blueeyed Mary, larkspur.
The trout lilies are mostly gone,
Jacobs-ladder has not yet arrived,
seersucker sedge returning, green fists
knocking along the slopes.
…read more

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FLORIDA MAN by Tyler Gillespie

And that spring a man beat his
94-year-old grandma
then ran off with her jewelry
and SUV. Judge set bail
at $77,000, said man cannot
ever contact her (in critical
condition). Week earlier
I had moved home, back in with
my own grandma. At 29,
hadn’t lived in Florida
for nearly six years. I heard
of this senior attack on
the six o’clock news.

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TIGER-BOY by C. Wade Bentley

I remember when the doctor first told me

the red-with-yellow-frosting sores on my legs

were something called impetigo, all I heard

was tiger, and I thought maybe I was morphing

into a tiger or that I would soon have tiger

superpowers or, at the very least, that I shared

the same awesome disease that tigers get. So

you’ll understand my disappointment when after

two weeks of my mother dabbing at scabs

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CARTOGRAPHY by Emily Paige Wilson

Morning makes itself bluer by the minute. Colder, too, as the temperature falls. In my friend’s apartment, we sit in her breakfast nook while the bay window lets in light. Steam rises from white plates, broccoli omelets and the scent of garlic and salt. My friend lists places in the tourist district we’ll visit today, leads me to an expansive map stretched across a wall. The Czech Republic’s outline etched in black. All the country’s borders linked and locked by land; the Vltava a thin, persistent reminder of thirst twisting through. She points to Malá Strana, the John Lennon Wall where people paint a layered collage of lyrics on brick.

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UNFINISHED by Peter Grandbois

If I opened my eyes
from this pretended sleep,
I wouldn’t be salting
the driveway before dawn,
though the snow stopped
and the air’s no longer freezing.
The trees would speak their silent
part. Swallows would arc
through the brightening sky.
And we would not be as we are.

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FUTURE ECOLOGIES by Madeleine Wattenbarger

Today’s look: be merciful
I gently suggest

that you check the earth on which you stand—
Ye are actually pretty rich

My friends, we have a job
Step aside Mother Earth

Vote or the dark happens
If it still happens, is this foreshadowing?

Do presidential candidates cry when traveling?
Politics is unfit for love

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A DIFFICULT WOMAN by Taylor Kobran

Well it should come as no shock to you, I’m sure, that on more than one occasion, I have been told I am a difficult woman.

If you’d been around longer, you would have found pretty quick that that’d be the truth, honey. You would have been embarrassed of me, like your little brothers, but maybe a little proud too, because us girls have to stick together.

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ALARM by Sandra Shaw Homer

When it became clear my grandmother could no longer live alone, I was the one who took the initiative to find a place for her, and I wanted it to be near me. She refused to go to the only facility in Albany, where she lived, because there was a patient there she intensely disliked, and she loathed the idea of going to Florida, near her two sons, so we found a “life-care” facility in a pretty, rural area outside Philadelphia. My sister, also nearby, handles our grandmother’s affairs while I visit and occasionally deal with the staff. This division of labor falls to each of us naturally, and I’m happy with my share.

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And then he won and we kept drinking about it, what else to do but keep drinking about it, and no one knew whether to stay or not, it was worse too because the alcohol wasn’t doing anything, and all I wanted was to be with Jean, but she was somewhere else, with someone else, so I had to go home alone, but first I bought groceries at the place that stays open all night, discount tuna salad, spelt bagels, cream cheese, and then walked south, not quite trusting the reality, a nameless void ahead of me, and my apartment was dead, it was dead quiet, and I hadn’t done dishes earlier which is the most depressing thing, and I unpacked my groceries, and put a bagel in the toaster, and then had to clean a knife to smear on the cream cheese

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DARK, DARKER by Jeevika Verma

dark, darker

when I frown
into this mirror
a depth takes
my forehead

inside there is a little white man

sitting straight
working hard
flipping through
pages used unused

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