Friday, October 30, 2020

Stone Wall by Ronald Moran

Scoffing advice from any landscaper,
my father built a low stone wall
separating the part of our lot in back
that swooped down toward patches
of scrub and a creek from our slim
run of grass, when snakes began
sunning themselves on his newly
laid rocks during hot summer days:

copperheads and blacksnakes often
lying next to each other, sometimes
touring the flat area of our backyard,
boldly impervious to any restrictions
my father thought might obtained if he
built the wall with no help whatsoever.



Ronald Moran has published poems in a number of journals, including Asheville Poetry Review, Evening Street Review, North American Review, Northwest Review, Tar River Poetry, and Yankee. His last six books of poetry were published by Clemson University Press. He lives in Simpsonville, SC.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Response to a Planting by Ronald Moran

When I saw it sticking out of the dark
patch of mulch in my backyard, I knew
it had to have been planted by my fine
neighbors next door. They look out for me
as if I were incapable of doing anything
by myself in the vast domain of vegetation.
I agree.

Early next morning, I shaved, showered,
drank my juice, ate my banana, went out,
stood by the curb, stopped the first walker
I saw, asked her to view, 
then identify my planting. She called it 
a crepe myrtle.

I stood alone in the chill of the morning,
thinking, How come? Having always assumed
a crepe myrtle was a delicacy served only
to the elite for breakfast. Some time ago
I watered the plastic flowers under my mailbox
for several months, until the guy next door said
to stop.



Ronald Moran has published poems in a number of journals, including Asheville Poetry Review, Evening Street Review, North American Review, Northwest Review, Tar River Poetry, and Yankee. His last six books of poetry were published by Clemson University Press. He lives in Simpsonville, SC.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

We're All Getting On by Nancy Byrne Iannucci

          -for Keith Hufnagel

When I asked my brother
how far a walk it was from Mulberry
to 98 Orchard Street, he said,
"It’s one bunion and two corns away."

Hiding hurt with jokes is how he copes,
but I saw through his bushy bearded laugh,
and expensive Italian shoes. Me in my 1960s
Mary Janes came prepared

to do a Mr. Rogers switch on the way,
but that kind of pain never came. We
were en-route to see Keith,
and not see him at the same time,

dulling the usual splendor and chaos
of the Lower East Side. We walked
by a protestor preaching on Delancey,
guitarists, and squatters

all doing their thing, sitting next
to their signs, but the only messages
we could see were in curbs, ledges,
and traffic cones that once caught

his pop and style.
At every corner time ticked back
a click to when Manhattan
was his and theirs, a hum of bees

pushing through rush-hour streets,
making Lafayette Supreme back in 1995.
I was still wearing my Mary Janes
when we reached Orchard.

A crop of old familiar faces
greeted us, some sitting
on their boards,
others taking photos with Keith

who was smiling hanging on the gallery wall.
"This is the first time one of our friends
died of an illness and not drugs,"
Jones said, "we’re all getting on."



Nancy Byrne Iannucci is the author of Temptation of Wood (Nixes Mate Review 2018) and Toxic (dancing girl press 2021). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of publications including Gargoyle, Ghost City Press, Clementine Unbound, Dodging the Rain, Three Drops from a Cauldron, 8 Poems, Glass: A Journal of Poetry (Poets Resist), Hobo Camp Review, and Typehouse Literary Magazine. Nancy is a Long Island, NY native who now resides in Troy, NY where she teaches history at the Emma Willard School.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Weather Girl by Duncan Smith

Sitting here on my trailer’s stoop
waiting for the next tornado.

My Army Ranger rotates round the bed
stuffing his knapsack with everything he owns.
He’s off to his next deployment.
10% chance it’s another country;
90% chance another woman.

Tonight’s forecast calls
for another shift at the Mini-Mart.
Where my customers are mean,
the wage minimum,
the probabilities not
the ones you want.



Duncan Smith is a librarian-entrepreneur who lives and writes in Durham, NC. His essays, poetry and prose have appeared in Booklist, Broad River Review and The Crucible. A North Carolina native, he is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Absentee Ballot by Vera Kewes Salter

Decades ago I moved in with him
in an excess of passion and never left.
I lived my own life though I may
have overindulged his whims.

Today when I bring him his ballot,
he asks for the Argonwald 1916
letter opener my mother
gave him for his 41st birthday.

I pace as he slowly slits
the envelop and pulls out
the ballot and the second
envelope with stiff fingers.

He reads the instructions
and asks whether he should
fill in the circles straight
across the top.

I give him a pen and watch as
he slowly colors the bubbles,
eases the ballot into the secure
envelop and signs on a slant.

I tell him that today's date is
written 10.10.2020. I drive us
to the post office. How much
is love and how much duty?



Vera Kewes Salter was born in England to a family of refugees from Europe. She moved to the United States and married and raised a family here. She has recent publications in Writing in a Woman's Voice, Red Eft Review, Right Hand Pointing and Persimmon Tree.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Two Poems for a Late Friend by Robert Demaree

1.

Someone said that we have come
To Golden Pines to die.
My friend said: No—to live.
Well past 90, he played golf,
Wrote and recited
Long strands of verse,
Robert Burns and Robert Frost,
And his own wry take on the world he saw.

Soldier, actor, salesman,
Student, scholar, leader,
Husband, father, teacher, friend,
Adored by the grandchild in us all,
Deeply faithful to his school, his church,
To those who counted on him,
Spinner of yarns born of
A South Carolina growing up,
Child of a minister who held,
As our culture holds,
That he has gone now to a better place
Where he can speak of
Poetry and decency and grace
With those who precede him there.
For us, this place, this firmament
In which we dwell for now,
Has lost a star,
Shines less brightly
Than yesterday.

2.

The afternoon following the service
And the eulogists are at loose ends.
Intense that morning with texts
They wrote and read
To honor the professor,
Their mentor, their poet-friend,
They begin now to settle in
To the deep unendingness of his,
Of anyone’s, being gone.

What do we believe, they wonder,
What should we believe?
Could we be persuaded like Paul,
By Paul,
Is it a long, deteriorating sleep,
Or, one smiles to ask,
Should we play along,
Just in case, faith
A comfort to survivors?
Will we see the light
Jane Kenyon saw?
Guess we’ll find out.



Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders, published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Clouds by Howie Good

It’s late in the day,
and the clouds
are mischievously shaped

like swan boats,
ripples on a pond,
like a face whose once dear details
I’m trying to remember

and can’t.



Howie Good is the author of two new poetry collections, The Death Row Shuffle (Finishing Line Press, 2020) and The Trouble with Being Born (Ethel Micro-Press, 2020).

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Misanthrope's Talent by David Spicer

I’m not prejudiced, I hate everyone, my father liked
to say, and that includes me. I never asked him why:
maybe he failed in the jobs he worked at haphazardly,
for this short man had less patience than a bored judge,
but one task he undertook with a grace nobody matched,
the one skill other people envied? His penmanship,
imitated by sisters and brothers, daughters and sons,
customers marveling at the way he handled a fountain pen:
his stroke quick and sure as he wrote his name, the J
of his James looping like a sail on a white sea of paper,
the serifs on the gate of his initial H four fancy curling waves,
and the S of his surname a musical note that sang in silence,
he wrote his name with a statesman’s pride. Then, the man
who couldn’t love soared like John Hancock’s ghost.



David Spicer has published over seven hundred poems. Nominated for a Best of the Net four times and a Pushcart twice, he is author of six chapbooks and four full-length collections, the latest two are American Maniac (Hekate) and Confessional (Cyberwit.net). His fifth, Mad Sestina King, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Amputee #10 by Matthew Borczon

The amputee
worked hard
in the hospital.

Determined
to stand
when he
received his
medal.



Matthew Borczon is a poet and Navy sailor. He has published thirteen books of poetry and is included in numerous anthologies, journals and college textbooks. He is a sailor in the Navy reserve who recently returned from deployment to NYC to help fight the Covid-19 outbreak. He is married with four children.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Amputee #6 by Matthew Borczon

The soldier
asked me
if I knew
what happened
to his
boot.

He never
asked
about his
foot.



Matthew Borczon is a poet and Navy sailor. He has published thirteen books of poetry and is included in numerous anthologies, journals and college textbooks. He is a sailor in the Navy reserve who recently returned from deployment to NYC to help fight the Covid-19 outbreak. He is married with four children.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Amputee #4 by Matthew Borczon

Looking at
a Marine
with one
arm gone
and thinking
he was
pretty lucky

was the
day I
realized
I had
been in
Afghanistan
too long.



Matthew Borczon is a poet and Navy sailor. He has published thirteen books of poetry and is included in numerous anthologies, journals and college textbooks. He is a sailor in the Navy reserve who recently returned from deployment to NYC to help fight the Covid-19 outbreak. He is married with four children.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

What Is Wild by Jean Ryan

"I won't hurt you," I want to say
to the spider crouched in my shadow,
to the lizard ready to run,
to the finch startled from the feeder,
to the squirrel already gone.
I have tried, again and again:
whispering the words,
slowly offering my palm,
searching those glossy black eyes,
as if I will never learn
that what is wild wants only
my distance.



Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in coastal Alabama. Her debut collection of short stories, Survival Skills, was published by Ashland Creek Press and short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award. Lovers and Loners is her second story collection. She has also published a novel, Lost Sister, and a book of nature essays, Strange Company.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Shadow & Light by Carolynn Kingyens

Shadow:

He once called her
his better half –
before the arrival
of children,
the car payments,
and bankruptcy,
before the sex addiction,
the mistress,
and murder
in the middle of the night –
“a familicide,”
they called it
on the six o’clock news.

It always starts a seed,
a snag, some technicality –
a lust so small
you have to squint
to see it.

Light:


Now the heroes,
those firefighters,
who’d storm
the Twin Towers,
carrying the weight
of breath in tanks,
before climbing
an infinity of stairs
to an awaiting doom.

Or how that rookie cop,
the son of a veteran,
delivered a baby boy
in the backseat
of a beat-up Buick,
outside Vegas,
gently placing the
wet, screaming newborn
inside the warmth
of his coat,
before bringing him
close to the heart.



Carolynn Kingyens’ debut book of poetry, Before the Big Bang Makes a Sound (Kelsay Books), can be ordered through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Greenlight, Book Culture, and Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop. In addition to poetry, Carolynn writes narrative essays, book reviews, micro/flash fiction, and short stories. Her latest short story, "Fast Car," can be read here. She lives in New York City with her husband of almost 21 years, two beautiful, kind daughters, a sweet rescue dog, and a very old, chill cat.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Coupling (2008) by Carolynn Kingyens

I listened to you retell it,
the story of how we first met
to our new friends
from our new church.
I sat in silence
with my hands under the table,
wrapping my dirty, cloth napkin
around a small fist.

Your version of events
were tidy and clean,
when you said
you knew I was the woman
you were destined to marry
the moment you saw me
in your doorway,
punctual as always,
asking for Harrison,
my blind date,
and your perpetually late
roommate.

Our new friend, Allison,
cocked her head, cooing out
a falsetto's squeal
to her mute husband –
Isn't that romantic.

If she only knew our truth;
you had no interest
in wanting to marry me
the day I showed up
in your messy doorway
with empty chip bags and t-shirts
strewn across wood floors,
that it had nothing to do
with coupling.

I was ripe, hot,
willing to please -
not yet the bitch
you would later marry.

I was naïve in a white,
strapless sundress,
and long hair still shower-damp,
smelling of mint and clover.

I let you kiss my mouth,
my neck, my back
in your bedroom;
let you hide me
inside your closet
when Harrison rapped
on your door,
asking about a girl.



Carolynn Kingyens’ debut book of poetry, Before the Big Bang Makes a Sound (Kelsay Books), can be ordered through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Greenlight, Book Culture, and Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop. In addition to poetry, Carolynn writes narrative essays, book reviews, micro/flash fiction, and short stories. Her latest short story, "Fast Car," can be read here. She lives in New York City with her husband of almost 21 years, two beautiful, kind daughters, a sweet rescue dog, and a very old, chill cat.

Monday, October 5, 2020

I am hired after the management company is fired for not collecting the rent by Sharon Waller Knutson

The 19-year-old tenant
slides out from under
the Chevy leaking oil
in the driveway and
tosses his cigarette butt
on the lawn. Sorry
I can’t pay the rent
because I have car
payments
. I hand him
an eviction notice.

His 17-year-old wife
stomps bare foot. I don’t have time
for this. I’m late for my math
class, I’ve been puking
all morning, my poor
grandmother is on Social
Security and thanks to you
she is broke
. She slams
down a check on my desk.
By the way, she says, the faucet
is dripping
, but the plumber
says it works just fine.

The mayor calls and says
the city is paying their rent.
Why? I ask. He beat
her and left her pregnant
and penniless
. I look out
and see him changing a tire
flat as her belly as she
stands by the Chevy.
He is still here. The check
arrives in the mail.

The cigarette butts pile up
and oil drips in the driveway
daily as she tells me
about the termites, the ants,
the mice, the fried wires,
banging pipes. Something stinks.
I know something stinks
as the experts bill me
for their wasted time.

I’m stuck with them because
the rent checks keep coming
from the county, the state,
the Baptists, the Lutherans,
the Presbyterians, the Methodists,
the Mormons and the Unitarians.
My patience is as thin as her body
as she demands: Shampoo
my carpet before the baby comes
.
I tell her I’m the manager,
not the maid, and to stop bothering
me with her nonsense.

The due date arrives and departs
but there is no baby and no check.
I watch her empty her vacuum
bag in the front yard before
calling and shrieking: The carpet
and yard are filthy and I’m not
paying any rent until you clean it up
.
I know she’s run out of charities to con
and hand her an eviction notice.
She smirks. Legal Aid says you
can’t evict me for complaining
.



Sharon Waller Knutson, a retired journalist, writes poetry from her Arizona desert home. Her work has appeared in The Orange Room Review, Literary Mama, Verse-Virtual, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Your Daily Poem and The Song Is…. She is the author of five chapbooks: Dancing with a Scorpion, My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields, Desert Directions, They Affectionately Call Her a Dinosaur and I Did It Anyway.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

First Day 2020 by Jack Powers

On this early September morning the neighborhood is loud with children
posing for pictures in driveways, waving from bus steps, adjusting new masks,
nodding to the driver in gloves and shield, settling into Lysol-scented seats

and now parents wave as the yellow bus moves to the next driveway
and the scene repeats. Leaving pods of parents waving in the distance,
a lawn's length between them, the roar and stop, roar and stop receding

down the tree-lined road. No parades this year growing at each driveway
and pausing at street's end for the group photo of jostling children
scoping out the new year's pecking order, showing off new backpacks, lost teeth.

No parents mingling outside the school, inhaling the hope of a new year,
exhaling the sadness of a summer gone. No chatter as they return to their offices
and their errands past straggly tomato plants, weary-leaved maples and oaks.

This year they mourn in solitude or in pairs, take the steps back to their desks
and monitors, stopping first to wash their hands as they sing a little song.



Jack Powers is the author of Everybody’s Vaguely Familiar and has had poems in The Southern Review, The Cortland Review, Red Eft Review and elsewhere. He won the 2015 and 2012 Connecticut River Review Poetry Contests and was a finalist for the 2013 and 2014 Rattle Poetry Prizes. He recently retired from teaching special education in Redding, Connecticut. Visit his website: http://www.jackpowers13.com/poetry/.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Grin and Bear It by Martha Christina

My surviving sister tells me
she went alone to scatter
our older sister’s cremains
over the family plot where
our parents are buried, and
was surprised by a tiny angel
shining among the bits of
bone and ash; the pin
our mother gave our sister
as a birthday gift, years ago.

She pressed it into the soil
above our mother’s grave,
and left it there.

We are half a continent apart,
connected by FaceTime on phones
neither Alexander Graham Bell
nor our parents would recognize.
A toast, my sister suggests, and we
raise our glasses, hers in Indiana,
mine in Rhode Island. Here’s to
a better rest of the day
, she says,
and let’s grin and bear it.



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 Star 82 Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Tiny Seed Literary Journal's Pollinator Project. She has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press).

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Cookie-Cutter Dream by Martha Christina

We’re at the drinking 
fountain, just in from 
recess. My third-grade 
boyfriend’s wearing 
his Cub Scout uniform 
and opens the wallet he 
made at camp to show me 
a picture of his grandsons; 
two never-born boys 
with his red hair and freckles. 



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 Star 82 Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Tiny Seed Literary Journal's Pollinator Project. She has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press).