LA PETITE MORT
by Jason Gordy Walker
In flux, confined to grand ellipses, jaw relaxed,
the poet spoke to beings born on mountain paths
where life emits
a holy death. He gulped some words,
pulsating colors, chimes that brushed his fingertips.
His throat is sore now. Light a candle, friend. His eyes
will rupture, seeping cryptograms, those dated puzzles
for clever monks.
The ink creeps down his fingertips
while the sun behind his house reveals another glow,
the orb inside the skull that burns much brighter, fire
his art desires.
Dear confidante, become the poet
whose work may breathe your breath,
the martyr's blissful gasp.
Jason Gordy Walker, a staff member of Birmingham Poetry Review, teaches English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His poems have been published in Measure, Confrontation, Hawai'i Pacific Review, Think Journal, Town Creek Poetry, Cellpoems, and others. He has received scholarships from Poetry by the Sea, West Chester University Poetry Conference, and the Auburn Writers Conference.
WE SIT AT THE CORNER TABLE
by Francine Witte
because no one needs to see the end
of love. To the untrained eye, we are
romance, a cuddle of arms and shoulders
tucked off to the side, our love bunched
up in the restaurant’s elbow. But it’s not
an elbow, it’s more of a closing fist. The first
time you brought me here, this room
was an open hand, lifelines running every
which way. But now, you pour
a glass of wine, red as a heart stain.
We are silent, because after all this time,
what is there really left to say? You
crunch a crust of bread, I tap a fork
on the wine glass. I used to think that love
went out with a sonic boom, shaking you awake
at 4 a.m., but now I know better. The sound
of dying love is simple. A clatter of dishes,
and the conversation around us
of which we are no longer a part.
Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two flash fiction chapbooks. Her full-length poetry collection, Café Crazy, has recently been published by Kelsay Books. She is reviewer, blogger, and photographer. She is a former English teacher. She lives in NYC.
THE SCHOOL DESK ON LONG SERVICE
by Douglas Collura
Of the thousands I’ve served who read,
wrote, leaned on, slept on, and stuck
gum under me, I’m most honored
to have been wedged against the door
by the boy who fled into the classroom,
hid in the coat closet and bit down
on his knuckle not to be heard crying.
Douglas Collura is the author of the book, Things I Can Fit My Whole Head Into, which was a finalist for the 2007 Paterson Poetry Prize. He was also the 2008 First Prize Winner of the Missouri Review Audio/Video Competition in Poetry and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016. His work has been published in many periodicals and webzines.
The quality of care at nursing homes will be crucial as baby boomers age....
by Judith Kronenfeld
Who but the saints who kissed
the feet of lepers, and coolly looked
on carbuncles and ulcers
can love the ancients moldering
in their beds, their wattles—
pale and grainy as plucked
as they moan and writhe?
When they were the ghosts
of my far future, they were
papery and fluttery. They were
clean and removed. But now
so many of my friends decline—
the acute of mind wandering
and blubbering, the kind of heart,
not recognizing those
Who will look at me
as I once looked at my mind-dimmed
father, his ever-growing bulbous
nose, his liver spots, his shreds
of charm made dearer?
Who will remember who
I am, or touch me
with an ungloved hand,
or even love me abstractly,
in my own descent?
Judy Kronenfeld’s last three books of poetry are Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017), Shimmer (WordTech, 2012), and Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, 2nd edition (Antrim House, 2012)—winner of the 2007 Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, DMQ Review, Ghost Town, Rattle, and Valparaiso Poetry Review, among other journals. She is Lecturer Emerita, Creative Writing, UC Riverside, and an Associate Editor of Poemeleon.
LEARNING TO COUNT
for Franco: poet, professor, colleague
I reckon—when I count at all—
First—Poets—Then the Sun—
—Emily Dickinson #569
by Laura C. Wendorff
How did they reckon, I wonder,
those initiates of yours?
Slouched down in hard green plastic,
baseball caps pulled forward over their eyes,
for them, was it First—Packers—
Then my Gun—?
I picture you in the comp classroom,
your students fresh from tractors
and corn stubble,
football under lighted stadiums,
or the deep fryers of fast-food joints.
They’re expecting something
out of the whole college experience,
if only the golden glow
of Miller Lite on Second Street and
a pre-owned Chevy pickup
to take them to class.
It’s not like when you were in college
and words bloomed in late-night dorm rooms:
aesthetic, modernism, plethora, posy—
fresh bouquets of words every night,
prized and savored,
the way we appreciate curry added
to the tilapia soup—
not necessary, no,
but so pleasing nonetheless.
We taste words,
you wrote once about your classroom.
We read aloud, grabbing a sentence
as it comes by.
Were your students surprised
when you fed them tenacity,
anachronism, and pulchritude
(with maybe a side of incendiary)?
Did they enjoy tasting images, swirling
metaphors around in their mouths?
Did their very flesh
Turn into a great poem?
You rarely talk Po’ Biz or publishing.
Nor do you give the typical tips
on the construction of syllabi,
on classroom management.
Instead, you tell me about student papers
or the maple tree outside your office window.
In the fall, when that tree turns red,
you travel to Gays Mills
and bring back apples for your students.
Twenty years later
I wonder if I do as well,
If, like you, I have learned to count.
Laura C. Wendorff is professor of English, Ethnic Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. She has published poetry in several journals, including After the Pause, Bluestem, Minetta Review, Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine, Spillway, Temenos, and Wisconsin Poets Calendar.