Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Many Happy Returns by Jackie Craven

Long before periwinkles appear, life is hoed
into tidy blue rows on the 1040 I prepare
for the government. Radiators hiss and sing of dividends—
ordinary or qualified? Sometimes I fill notebooks
with leaning towers of calculations. Sometimes
I work in the pixilated glow of a MacBook Air—
miles of depreciations before I sleep.
I am teaching myself Excel. I am watching crocuses
push through mud. Shall I itemize on Schedule A or settle
for the standard exemption? Beyond my window,
a weeping cherry tries to bud. For the first time in years,
I see the blooms spread wings. Every spring I used to fly
to my stepfather who dozed in his swivel chair,
feet submerged in statements and invoices,
coffee-stained receipts, pages torn from ledgers,
cancelled checks, insurance claims, photocopies
of my mother’s obituary, numbers clipped and bound
with rubber bands. He struggled over line 45—
How can a minimum have an alternative?—
and I thumbed through sepia folders,
stirring dust and the scent of cigars, racing
against a deadline we could never meet
because he was born on April 15.
Neighbors brought balloons and a frosted cake.
My sister called from the kitchen—
Just file for an extension. Blessed be the IRS
for granting us more time.



Jackie Craven is the author of Secret Formulas & Techniques of the Masters (Brick Road Poetry Press, forthcoming summer 2018). Her chapbook, Our Lives Became Unmanageable (Omnidawn, 2016), won the publisher's Fabulist Fiction Award. Recent poems appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Spillway, and elsewhere.
www.JackieCraven.com

Monday, April 16, 2018

Pageantry by Cindy Benabderrahman

In second grade,
my mother and her best friend
Rebecca took the shortcut
home from grade school,
fashioned a beauty pageant
from ribbons and flowers
they found in the trash out back
of Sweeney-Dodd's funeral home.

"In Memorium" and "Dear Husband"
sashayed home with lily-scented hair,
their pageant sashes sparkling with glitter.



Cindy Benabderrahman lives in Amsterdam, Ohio in a 19th-century company house with her husband, Oualid. She left K-12 education for a career in telecommunications, and she does freelance editorial work on the side. She is a mixed media artist and writer, and her work has been published in journals including Red Fez Review, Orange Room Review, and Arabesques.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Cow Creek Snow by Al Ortolani

I remember you running
through the curtain
that was the door to your
bedroom, and retrieving
a hatchet from under
your bed, just a fragment
of a memory, boys
with important plans
that required a small axe
to cull a clearing
along Cow Creek, sharpening
stakes into lances
for a rampart, or rather,
a redoubt.

I sent flowers to the funeral home
after a Facebook post, having read
that you were a grandfather,
retired from a lifetime
of sharpening stakes, from
tearing down and rebuilding
in a town we'd never considered
as boys. Along Cow Creek
in the dense vine-hung woods,
we found a fox skin in the snow,
you peeled it from the bone
with the hatchet's edge, the fox’s
red tail soft, windswept
in the winter sun.



Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His newest collection, On the Chicopee Spur, will be released from New York Quarterly Books in the Spring of 2018. Ortolani is the Manuscript Editor for Woodley Press in Topeka, Kansas, and directs a memoir writing project for Vietnam veterans across Kansas in association with the Library of Congress and Humanities Kansas.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

DNA by Al Ortolani

He's always been good to us
was a line my mother used
when referring to someone the family
could rely on. Her words
elevated them to an ally,
like the optometrist
who took payments for
eyeglasses, a little a month
squeezed out of my father's
teaching salary, or the owner
of the grocery store on Joplin Street
who ran an account,
paid once a month when the check
came in. It was a poor person's line,
a reference of respect to those
who didn't hold their position
like a clipboard of overdue slips,
or rustle a sheave of eviction notices.
My mother’s people were Irish,
forced from Kerry to Appalachia, then
from Kentucky to Missouri, finally,
scattering in Ancestry.com files.
The line was engrained in her DNA.
Field after field, they set
the plow-turned stones
in fences with narrow stiles.




Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His newest collection, On the Chicopee Spur, will be released from New York Quarterly Books in the Spring of 2018. Ortolani is the Manuscript Editor for Woodley Press in Topeka, Kansas, and directs a memoir writing project for Vietnam veterans across Kansas in association with the Library of Congress and Humanities Kansas.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Martha by Martha Christina

. . .the very last pigeon of her kind.

Suppose you shared a name
with the last passenger pigeon,

and suppose your husband,
though not named George,
had, like hers, died
in a facility where he
was thought to be safe
and getting good care.

Small wonder then
you’d also feel

. . .a barren relic of past abundance.



Martha Christina is a frequent contributor to Brevities. Longer work appears in Innisfree Poetry Journal, Naugatuck River Review, earlier postings of Red Eft Review, and most recently in the anthology Ice Cream Poems from World Enough Writers. She has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press).

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Call and Response by Martha Christina

I do the supper dishes alone,
after another supper alone;

Ellington’s Solitude, turned
down low on the CD player.

Over that aching music,
a male cardinal riffs

seven notes, and from
the distance: an answer.

One calls, one responds,
over and over, changing

solitude to just another
way of listening, until

the lingering light
of the new Spring fades,

and the cardinals’ voices,
like yours, fall into the dark.



Martha Christina is a frequent contributor to Brevities. Longer work appears in Innisfree Poetry Journal, Naugatuck River Review, earlier postings of Red Eft Review, and most recently in the anthology Ice Cream Poems from World Enough Writers. She has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Early Spring, Without You by Martha Christina

The pair of cardinals
you photographed
last fall returns
to the feeder.

Under the budding lilac:
a single mourning dove.



Martha Christina is a frequent contributor to Brevities. Longer work appears in Innisfree Poetry Journal, Naugatuck River Review, earlier postings of Red Eft Review, and most recently in the anthology Ice Cream Poems from World Enough Writers. She has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press).

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

playing it safe by J.J. Campbell

two dark souls
united for one
last ride that
hopefully ends
in a beautiful
death

there's a
revolution
at hand

and i'm tired
of playing it
safe

they only build
statues for people
on the wrong side
of history in the
south



J.J. Campbell (1976 - ?) is currently trapped in the suburbia, waiting for the revolution to begin. He's been widely published over the years, most recently at The Beatnik Cowboy, Mad Swirl and Horror Sleaze Trash. You can find him most days on his mildly entertaining blog, evil delights (
http://evildelights.blogspot.com).

Monday, April 9, 2018

Appropriating the Dance by Emily Strauss

White people shuffle sheepishly
in a circle following the leader
watching their feet, trying to sway
to catch the rhythm of a frame drum

three Modoc women in braids strike
at sunset, the yellow rays fingering
the far hills across the green hay fields
a fire built to lend smoky atmosphere.

White people circle, grinning
in solidarity, look— they're dancing
stepping on toes, trying to feel
the land's spirit, pretend they know

the words of the chant or the coming
night out on the desert while they retire
indoors, plug in the hair dryer, the drums
gone by then, echoes of a heart beat

lost on the smooth road back home.



Emily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. Over 400 of her poems appear in a wide variety of online venues and in anthologies, in the U.S. and abroad. She is a Best of the Net and twice a Pushcart nominee. The natural world of the American West is generally her framework; she also considers the narratives of people and places around her. She is a retired teacher living in Oregon.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Silent Retreat by Emily Strauss

A silent retreat— though some folks
can't resist writing notes all over the board—
'meet at 8 AM for a walk'
'the keishe was great-- try some'

or mouth whole conversations
to their friends, or even ask aloud—
'where do you find mugs?'
I try to scowl, need more practice

don't want to speak, nor even see
another person, nor hear a chair
dragged across a floor, or catch
a light on at night unless it's miles
away down the canyon or across a wide
valley, a far twinkling of a populated
land, a ship passing in the strait

silent retreat— air, birds, surf, bees,
especially the jays— calling, crying,
complaining, stealing whole figs
off the fence, begging, fighting
the only distraction but for sunset
when sometimes the sky turns
pink-orange-yellow over the sea
a solitary feast for a solitary day.



Emily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. Over 400 of her poems appear in a wide variety of online venues and in anthologies, in the U.S. and abroad. She is a Best of the Net and twice a Pushcart nominee. The natural world of the American West is generally her framework; she also considers the narratives of people and places around her. She is a retired teacher living in Oregon.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Third Connecticut Lake by Robert Demaree

He got the idea from John Irving
In A Prayer for Owen Meany:
Driving the length of New Hampshire,
To the end of U.S. 3,
At the border with Qu├ębec,
North of the notches,
Past the sites of grand hotels,
River towns, the paper mill,
The faded-paint dignity of
Hard-scrabble farms,
Into the remote woods,
Fishing camps, logging trails,
To a destination,
The Third Connecticut Lake,
Mist, forty-degree September morning,
Sometimes a fisherman or two,
Always a penetrating calmness
Announcing the difference
Between solitude and loneliness,
Why he does not go to Mexican restaurants
On mariachi night.



Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders, published in June 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club, and have appeared in over 150 periodicals. A retired educator, he resides in Wolfeboro, N.H. and Burlington, N.C.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Flying Standby by Robert Demaree

He remembers times
When a few people would board a flight
Without a pass,
Their patience, their sense of daring
Rewarded. He wonders
If salvation might be like that,
A few souls let on board
In the event that some of the
Elect failed to show.
He does not fly at all these days
But remembers also
Half-full planes,
Dimly lighted,
A weary cheerfulness,
Late at night, after a conference,
Changing in Memphis,
Young attendant smiles:
Open seating this flight.



Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders, published in June 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club, and have appeared in over 150 periodicals. A retired educator, he resides in Wolfeboro, N.H. and Burlington, N.C. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

the mathematics of distance and regret by John Sweet

not alive yet,
but getting there

eyes almost open, driving
north past collapsing barns and
empty pastures

smell of magnolias

smell of gasoline

considered telling my children
the truth but, in the end,
lies were easier

you learn to write
away from a thing

you approach it obliquely, from
a different direction entirely

the woman is
naked and beautiful

the trip is over

i sat there in the car waiting
for someone to come out
and greet me, but no
one ever did



John Sweet, b 1968, still numbered among the living. A believer in writing as catharsis. His latest collections include APPROXIMATE WILDERNESS (Flutter Press) and the limited edition HEATHEN TONGUE (Kendra Steiner Editions). All pertinent facts about his life are buried somewhere in his writing.