Issue 10 Table of Contents

Cover Art

Kade, Abby Rose Maurer

Back Cover Art

Homeless (San Diego, #1), Abby Rose Maurer

Poetry

Chord Progression: B, Annah Sidigu
as He Is, Lori Gravley
the Wedding Supper, 1962, Judy Johnson
the Cottage in July, 1965, Judy Johnson
Before I Eat, Lori Gravley
Crimson Unnamed, Sarasota Green
Conscription: in Love with Antagonists, Jake Sheff
Jealousy, Hali Cobb
Where the Wind Lives, Kathy B. Austin
Singing Shirley Smith, Shannon Kallmeyer
Careless with Calendars, Gina Marie Giardina
Living in an Age of Question Marks, Wes Bishop
Nocturnal Vision, Betsy Hughes
Mine, Jaylin Paschal
Family Dollar, David Lee Garrison
Winter in the Library, David Lee Garrison
Every Other Summer, Jaida Sterling
Breathing Fitzgerald, Heather Martin
from Hell to Breakfast, T.J. McGuire
Winter Retreat, Kathy B. Austin

Prose

in His Eyes, Tomovi Keoni
an Unexpected Warmth, Rae Niehaus
Lemonade Standing, Carolyn Hunter

Photography & Visual Art

Untitled #1, Dan Landis
the Mayan Undergod, Ben Riddlebarger
Study of a Man, Heather Lea Reid
Untitled #2, Dan Landis
Woodland Door, Tiffany Shaw-Diaz
into the Unknown, Jason Benning

Homeless (San Diego #1)

nupastel and pastel on paper
nupastel and pastel on paper

about the artist
Abby Rose Maurer is from Sidney, Ohio. A graduate from the University of Dayton, with a major in fine arts, she currently works as the gallery director at Stivers School for the Arts in Dayton, Ohio. Her work is a combination of drawing, printmaking, and painting. She also uses ceramics as a canvas for her drawings. www.abbyrosemaurer.com

Untitled #1

digital photography
digital photography

about the artist
Dan Landis has been interested in photography since, as a high school student, he did darkroom work at Logan Studios in downtown Dayton from 1969 to 1971. In this after-school job, Dan eventually learned to do assignment work, photographing high school events and sports. Currently, Dan is in his thirty-fifth year of teaching English at Northmont High School. Photography has always been a passion. Dan has been inspired by the work of Richard Avedon, Alfred Eisenstadt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and  Ansel Adams. He loves all genres of photography, and loves to try his hand at nature photography, landscapes, and architecture.  Dan lives in Kettering with his partner, Vicki Hendricks. See more of Dan’s work at landiscapes.com

Chord Progression: B

You’ll notice the air—
surprisingly sweet-smelling
from tufts of red (really lilac)
and white clover. Now there’s
a weed that would be useful but
for honeybees is saccharine—
is the last meal of the prisoner
pardoned posthumously.

Close your eyes, you’re in
a meadow, not Muir’s mountains
or Whiteley’s far-flung fairy-forests,
but a plot abandoned to sunlit fragrance.

Only the street song—vehicular humming;
freight train’s neighing; neighbors recycling
through fugues, rounds, new world symphonies,

Techno, rap, oldies (but never the violin concerto)—
off-white clutter of noise and littered pop bottles,
empty single-serving bags of corn and potato
chips, condom condemned to curb appeal,

like smoke over the colony, leave us
fog-brained and as venom-drained
as middle-aged pacifists.

about the author
Annah Sidigu is a poet, copy editor and songwriter currently residing in Dayton, Ohio. Her work has been published in Kenyon College’s student literary magazines, Hika and Persimmons. She and her dear friend, painter Edith Casterline, recently released the poetry and art chapbook of starshit, stardust and shooting stars.

as He Is

He curls on the green of the lawn,
rolled on his side, hands in prayer
beneath his head, a pillow.
He praises the soft ground.
Above him, the sky is the blue of the sky
that I painted on his ceiling when he was three.
Every night, I tucked him beneath those clouds.
Now, his long body curls
the way he had to curl inside me to stay contained
in this package of bone and skin.

I know that I should see him only as he is,
this present moment in him alive,
the strength of his body, fresh from a race.
When a woman says, “What a strong young man
you’ve become,” he pauses.
“He’s still a boy too,” I say, a laugh in my voice.
He nods his head, a small gesture,
without lifting it from the ground.
His eyes are closed.
I wonder, holding the image of him here
of baby, toddler, man,
if I hold those images all together,
all at once and wrap him in my thoughts,
is that a wound or a gift?

about the author
Lori Gravley lives just outside of Yellow Springs, Ohio. She earned her MFA in Poetry at the University of Texas at El Paso. Lori has published poems in the recent issue of Flights magazine, and has also been published in Nebo, Rio Grande Review, Poetry Motel and other small literary magazines  Recently, her non-fiction and photography was featured on The Pantone Project (120 & 423).

the Wedding Supper, 1962

For months the women gather
mother, grandmother, aunts, older cousins
to bake kiefle, buttery crescent shapes
filled with jam or nuts, the real treat,
though the wedding cake will seem to star.

After the service, the sit down dinner ended, cake cut,
the men folded wooden chairs, pushed them to the walls,
bride and groom dance, then separate,
the men, one by one paying to dance
with flushed girl-bride stuffing bills into her bra—
good luck—
before heading to the open bar upstairs
where schnapps and gossip flow
and the women once again kitchen-bound,
heat the spicy sausages and potatoes and kraut
for the midnight supper, unwrap trays of pastry
all that work, all that sweetness gone in an hour.

about the author
Native Ohioan Judy A. Johnson has lived in the Miami Valley for more than three decades. She is a freelance writer and a reference librarian at Clark State Community College. A member of a small writing group since the 1990s, she has written poems that have been heard on WYSO’s “Conrad’s Corner” and at Art and Poetry events at the Dayton Art Institute. Her book, A Week to Pray About It, a collection of meditations, was published by Cowley Publications in 2006.

the Cottage in July, 1965

Musty smell clings to sheets,
roaches run out of the toaster,
my mother screams and we laugh at her.
“It’s no vacation for me,” she says.
There’s a household to pack, hours in the car the kids
singing “Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall,”
laundry for three families, fish to clean—
bass, perch, pike, walleye—scales, guts, bones flying
the men—sunburnt and half drunk—returning each evening,
her son blowing up frogs,
her daughter floating into the rocks,
and all the while the accusing stares
of the stagheads on the walls,
nothing to do but watch a spider building her web,
at night, the fireflies, rising into the pines.

about the author
Native Ohioan Judy A. Johnson has lived in the Miami Valley for more than three decades. She is a freelance writer and a reference librarian at Clark State Community College. A member of a small writing group since the 1990s, she has written poems that have been heard on WYSO’s “Conrad’s Corner” and at Art and Poetry events at the Dayton Art Institute. Her book, A Week to Pray About It, a collection of meditations, was published by Cowley Publications in 2006.

Before I Eat

I sit in silence.
I imagine my edges
expand beyond my plate,
beyond my room,
the hotel,
the city,
the country.
I encompass even Africa
and don’t stop
until my borders
reach beyond stars.
I try to hold that.
I tell myself
that I deserve to eat.
I was made to enjoy the fruit of the earth,
its water,
the sweet cream of goat Camembert
and crunch of celery,
the juice of the peach,
warm cinnamon of my tea.
I try to hold myself
there, big as the universe,
but each bite draws me in
smaller and smaller.
By the time I open the bottom drawer
and draw the dark chocolate
from its wrapper,
quietly,
as if my mom might hear
and rush in to rip
the wrapper from my hand
and hide the chocolate somewhere
where my fat ass can’t find it,
I am small again,
unworthy of the good chocolate.

I wanted only a square or two,
but the bar is half gone
before the universe
pours back into me.

about the author
Lori Gravley lives just outside of Yellow Springs, Ohio. She earned her MFA in Poetry at the University of Texas at El Paso. Lori has published poems in the recent issue of Flights magazine, and has also been published in Nebo, Rio Grande Review, Poetry Motel and other small literary magazines  Recently, her non-fiction and photography was featured on The Pantone Project (120 & 423).

in His Eyes

Sometimes when you look into the mirror, the man’s eyes you’re looking into are not your own. They are the eyes of the person you must be to live your day-to-day life. A father, an employee, a hard-ass, a friend. All covered in the kind of manicured veneer that no one questions, that everyone knows not to question. But if you look deep enough, right into his eyes, you see the truth. You see yourself.

A little boy in brown eyes, sad and discouraged by the routine stresses. He looks back at you longingly, with all the hope you once had, urging you to follow your dreams and not clock in for another day of relentless boredom. You’ll drag him there again, won’t you? Driven by the honor and the dependability with which you have advertised yourself as capable.

It’s what makes people trust you, it’s what pays the bills, it’s what drains the happiness from that boy like honey from a bee’s hive. Out it drips, slowly pooling on the ground, collecting dead insects and soil until it’s no longer worth noticing. If you’re lucky, someone will step in it and nod at the potential it once had, before moving on.

It’s what makes a man a man. It’s what they call success and responsibility. It’s what you watch smother the child and do nothing to stop. It’s what you ignore like everyone else, until you find yourself in front of that mirror, looking into a stranger’s eyes, wishing the boy could come out and play.

Before you know it, those eyes well with tears, and the boy drowns in the sorrow.

about the author
Tomovi Keoni has had a head that won’t quit thinking for most of his life. Eventually, he learned to write and started putting it all down in text. Tomovi writes essays, op-eds, poetry, and short stories. When he decides to write something, he describes it as his mind being like a hallway full of broom closets.  When he opens a door, all sorts of stuff falls out, then he writes about what he sees. Sometimes there’s nothing, and he writes about that. Tomovi has a website with dozens of pieces, which he updates weekly. He’d love for you to go there and leave some comments. www.TomoviBlog.com

Study of a Man

color pencil on toned paper
color pencil on toned paper

about the artist
Heather Lea Reid’s artwork is born out of a love of personality and pattern. The resulting subject matter of her work is a mixture of figurative and pattern and design. For her, “art making gives me space to indulge in my romanticized admiration for thoughts, emotions, sciences and passions. I aspire to represent detailed and layered truths.” Reid graduated Magna Cum Laude from Wright State University with her BFA. She has painted professionally since in addition to organizing art exhibitions. Painting and drawing are her main disciplines.   Acrylic, gouache, and pencil are Reid’s favored mediums with surfaces of paper, canvas, and printed fabric. She lives in Dayton, Ohio, with her daughter and a large collection of fabric.

An Unexpected Warmth

“Jacob!” His mother’s voice carried from the landing. “It’s time to go!”

Jacob rolled his eyes. He set down the controller for his game, opting to leave the console on until he came back. There wasn’t enough time to save, and he didn’t want to lose his progress.

He pulled his coat from the closet. The sleeves were too short now. Muttering under his breath, he dropped it on the floor and grabbed a thick hoodie instead. He shuffled his feet down the stairs, reluctant to join his mother and two sisters, who waited all bundled up at the door.

“Where is your coat?” his mother said the minute he appeared.

He shrugged. “Doesn’t fit.”

She threw her hands up. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with you. If you end up freezing to death, don’t blame me.” She opened the door and walked out, his youngest sister in tow.

“I won’t freeze to death if we’re just walking to the car,” he grumbled.

He climbed into the front seat, buckling himself in while his mother got his sisters situated in the back. Outside, water was dripping off the icicles along the awning of the house. It was warming up; the snow might melt today. He’d wanted to go sledding with his friends in the afternoon, but it looked like that would be impossible now.

His mother started the car, backing out so fast that she almost ran into the mailbox. He could tell she was angry; she was always angry during the holidays. He’d never understand it. What was the point of running around if she didn’t even like it?

“Jake Jake,” his sister Susie, who was six, repeated from the back seat.

“What?”

“Mommy says you’ll take us to ride the train. Are you going to?”

He hunched further into his seat. “I don’t really want to.”

“I promised Jake would take you, didn’t I?” his mother cut in. “You don’t have to worry about that, Susie.”

He glared at his mother from the corner of his eyes.

“I saw that, Jacob. You can stuff that attitude of yours.”

He fought the urge to roll his eyes. His sisters were bouncing excitedly behind him. Well, it was more like Susie was getting Carrie wound up rather than them both being excited over the same thing. He wished he had brothers instead; they wouldn’t want to do things like ride fake trains at malls.

His mother pulled into the parking lot of the mall. It was packed full of people who all looked unhappy. He got out of the car while his mother helped the girls out. She handed him Susie’s hand. “Hold on to Susie and don’t let go of her,” she warned.

What was he, nine? Of course he knew not to let go of his sister—he was thirteen. His hand clenched around Susie’s.

Susie whimpered beside him. “Jake, too tight.”

“Sorry,” he said, loosening his grip.

His mother lifted Carrie into her arms and grabbed Susie’s other hand. “Let’s go,” she said, dragging them all forward.

The mall itself was teeming with people hurrying from store to store. When they reached the directory, his mother stopped and set Carrie down. “Jake,” she said. “Take your sisters over to the train. When they’re done, you can either come back here or let them wait in line for Santa.”

“Where are you going to be?” he asked.

“I’m going to shop for a while. Don’t go anywhere but those three places, you hear me?”

He nodded, half annoyed. If she’d let him get a cellphone, this wouldn’t be a problem. Then she could contact him once she was finished, and he wouldn’t have to stay in only three places. But he didn’t say any of that. Instead, he picked up his sisters’ hands and began walking toward the middle of the mall, where the train would be set up.

“Jake,” Susie complained, “you’re going too fast.”

He looked down at her and sighed. She was right; he was walking too fast. Carrie could hardly keep up. He tugged Carrie forward. “Stop looking around, dummy.”

“Don’t call her a dummy,” Susie said. “She’s a baby still.”

“She’s almost three,” he shot back. “And who’s the older one here anyway?”

“Just ‘cause you’re older doesn’t make you right.”

“Do you want to ride the train?”

“Yes!”

“Then don’t argue with me right now, okay? Otherwise I won’t let you ride the train.”

“Mommy said you had to.”

He rolled his eyes. “Mom’s not here.”

“But I’ll tell on you if you don’t.”

Carrie began jumping up and down excitedly, pointing toward the train that rolled by on its tracks. “It’s a big train! It’s a big train!”

“It’s a little train,” he said.

“Let’s go ride it, Carrie!” Susie exclaimed.

He stood in line with them until the train was free, then helped them into it. Shoulders slumping, he trudged his way over to a bench and sank down onto it. He didn’t remember if he’d ever wanted to ride the train like this; he thought his sisters, laughing and giggling, looked pretty stupid. He hoped that he never looked like that.

His sisters got off the train and came running up to him, both breathless and happy.

“Did you have fun?” he asked.

“Can we ride it again?” Susie’s eyes were bright.

“Again! Again!” Carrie echoed.

“Go get in line if you want to ride it again.”

“Yay!” they shouted in unison, then raced off to get back in line. He smiled in spite of himself; they looked really silly running around like that. His shoulders relaxed as he leaned back against the bench. Maybe he’d buy all of them a pretzel if they had time after this.

“What’s your name?” a high-pitched voice asked beside him.

Startled, he glanced down to see a small girl, who couldn’t have been much older than Carrie, staring up at him out of large blue eyes. She had a head full of curly hair and a curious expression on her face. Not knowing what else to say, he said, “Jacob.”

She hopped up onto the bench without even asking, and snuggled herself very close to his arm. “I’m Sophie!” she said brightly. She tilted her head, looking up at him, her eyes fluttering and a soft smile on her face. He stared at her, confused. “Can I sit here with you?”

“Uh, sure,” he said. Not that he could have stopped her if he wanted to.

“Why are you sitting here?” she asked. She was really articulate for a kid that young; even Carrie wasn’t speaking that much yet.

“I’m waiting for my sisters to get off the train.”

“Hmm,” she said.

“Sophie!” a voice called. “It’s time to go!”

“That’s my mommy,” she explained. He glanced over to where the voice was coming from to see what looked like her mom and grandma standing off to the side. Her mom was very pretty.

She hopped off the bench and grabbed his hand. “You should come home with me.”

“What?”

She tugged at his hand. “Come home with me!”

“Uh, sorry, I can’t. I have to wait for my own mom.”

She pouted. “I really want you to come.”

He laughed, a smile cracking out. “Sorry, maybe next time.”

“Promise?”

“Sure.”

He watched as she returned to her mom and grandma, who were both trying to hold in their laughter. He frowned thoughtfully.

Carrie and Susie bounded up to him. Feeling more patient, he asked, “Do you want to ride again?”

They shook their heads.

“I’m hungry,” Susie said.

He nodded. “All right, let’s go get a pretzel.”

“Really?”
As he walked, his sisters’ hands in his, he thought that maybe it hadn’t been such a bad outing. It wasn’t as fun as playing a video game, but it had been pretty funny.

He bought them each a pretzel, although he ended up not having enough change to get himself one. Susie offered him a bite of hers, which he took.

“Let’s find Mom,” he said.

Neither of the girls disagreed, and they returned to the directory where they’d first separated. His mother wasn’t there yet, so he found a bench for them to sit.

“Who was that girl who was talking to you?” Susie asked.

“What girl?”

“You know, when we were on the train.”

“Oh, just some kid.”

“She made you laugh.”

“Yeah, she was cute.”

Susie pouted. “You don’t ever laugh with me.”

“You jealous?” he teased, ruffling her hair.

“Me, too! Me, too!” Carrie tugged on his arm.

“Well, you’re my brother, not hers. What she’s doing talking to you anyway?” Susie crossed her arms.

“I’m so glad to know you care,” he said, but he put his arm around her shoulders anyway. “Look, she was just a funny kid. You’re the one who’s my sister. And you have to share me with Carrie anyway, remember?”

“Carrie’s different. She’s mine too.”

“You just don’t like sharing.”

Their mother appeared then, laden down with shopping bags. She looked frazzled and worn out, not at all like that little girl’s mother had.

She set the bags down in a heap. “Jake, you’ll have to help me carry them,” she said, breathing hard. “Did you take the girls to the train?”

“Yeah, they rode it twice. I bought them pretzels, too.”

She smiled warmly, and he felt better. “Thank you. That was really nice of you. Let’s go have lunch and then head home. I’m worn out for the day.”

He helped her gather up the bags. She lifted Carrie onto her hip, then grabbed Susie’s hand.

He looked up at his mother once they’d walked back out into the cool air. “Guess what, Mom.”

“What?”

“I got hit on by a kid Carrie’s age today.”

“Don’t say things like that! Where on earth did you learn that?”

“What’s ‘hit on’?” Susie asked suspiciously.

He grinned down at her. “That’s when—”

“Jacob! If you say another word, I’ll take all your games away from you!”

He didn’t want that, so he shut his mouth. But his mother was smiling, and he could see her shoulders shaking. She was fighting not to laugh, too. He looked down to hide his own smile.

“I’m hungry,” he said, allowing himself one tiny complaint.

“Well, where do you want to eat?”

“Somewhere good.”

“You can pick this time. Just don’t pick anywhere that your sisters won’t like.”

As they piled back into the car and drove away, he decided that he was glad he’d come.

about the author
Rae Niehaus has been making up stories since before she can remember. Her first short story was published in Independent Ink Magazine in 2013. She spends most of her time searching for hints of magic in the ordinary and, of course, writing whenever she can.

Crimson Unnamed

you have no right to know

how many times I will think about how
old she would be–if she would have his
blonde hair, blue eyes, cotton-candy spun lips
crow’s feet carved, as if drawn, to his dimples.

would she imitate his brooklyn accent?

his voice like glass; his open laugh, his yellow
temper or his lying? the police record rolled out
across zip codes, listing addictions.

i chose him and you didn’t
so it’s none of your business.

you may not choose for me

how many times it will take three days
to drive behind sunglasses, in circles
listening to that song on repeat, alone
surrounded by summer, but cold,
pink wine to cry yourself to bad dreams.

they whispered in samurai swords

piercing my heart, uterus, womb
as if I hadn’t bled deep enough
red, from these secret scars
into the invisible.

you have no right to know,
choose,
say
how it felt to be crimson.

i packed my bags and i’ll carry them.
but they are too heavy for your politics
and my old religion.

about the author
Sarasota Green lives in Dayton with a cat, a dog, and a fish, who all seem to get along fine.

Conscription: in Love with Antagonists

Madness is your ancient blood
reaching back, a will
power and magnetism, the result
of iron swirling in the core
of osmosis and Lent. Why overcome
the pull of your tribe that resides
in the memories
of oil and air? Reassume the august
(the bloodlust) consolation
for brevity: the magnitude.

Engaging the pianist
in hand-to-hand combat, you
recoil at the possibility
he’ll play his next concert
with your hands, he’ll nail them
to the sound of metrical
and meteorological law, as if all
you did was
disembowel him
with rhetoric. You do not wish to be eternally
neutered, nor do you wish to neuter
eternity; but if given the choice?

Lay down your ring
fingers, elections and reapers! Wake
the cock at dawn
with a whoop! Your bones
were forged in the meaningless
dance, your bonds are the fiery rain
in the dream-songs
of nothing, and nothing
trembles, and in this way
resembles
the scientist and poet, or what
we call Life.

about the author
Jake Sheff is a captain in the USAF currently training as a pediatrics resident physician. He’s married with a baby daughter and several rescue pets. His poems have been published widely online and in print, including at Pirene’s Fountain and Danse Macabre. His first chapbook, Looting Versailles, was recently released by Alabaster Leaves Publishing, and can be purchased on the publisher’s website or Amazon.com.

Jealousy

Stripped of my intelligence,
I feel inferior.
You are the cause
but I am to blame.
You have indirectly changed
my sense of being.
We are now in competition,
though you don’t know it.
Every A you get in Calculus,
I must get one of my own.
Even one point higher
on a test is a victory.
I must have more friends,
and I have to be liked
by every teacher
that likes you.
I try to be covert
in these operations.
I pretend that
none of this matters.
You’ll never know
just how much it all means
to me.
They say, “Keep your friends close
and keep your enemies closer.”

That must be why
you’re my best friend.

about the author
Hali Cobb is a Stivers student from Dayton, Ohio. She enjoys writing fiction and fantasy stories. She also loves photography. She is in the Creative Writing magnet at Stivers.

Where the Wind Lives

This is the wind’s home.
It does not belong to you,
or to the house you built,
or to the little trees you
planted in the yard
with their neat, circular borders.

The wind cracks branches
that plummet to the ground,
gouge the grass,
sprawl flat and lifeless.
Hanging pots and wind chimes
writhe and twist,
ring and clamor,
strain at flimsy chains.

The wind moans and screams
and howls; and the house
creaks, doors banging shut,
shutters whipping
against the windows,
and small bits of shingled roof
fly off, join the wind,
scoot down the yard,
slap against the fence.

Later, people open their doors,
wander onto the lawn,
slowly pick up debris,
drag out a ladder
to fix the roof.
They think the wind is gone.
The wind, meanwhile,
does what it wants.

about the author
Kathy B. Austin describes herself as a Buddhist, half-hippie tree-hugger who enjoys biking, Dharma Center activities, artistic pursuits, and talking to crows. Her poems have been published in numerous journals including Mock Turtle Zine, and have been read on Conrad’s WYSO.

Untitled #2

digital photography
digital photography

about the artist
Dan Landis has been interested in photography since, as a high school student, he did darkroom work at Logan Studios in downtown Dayton from 1969 to 1971. In this after-school job, Dan eventually learned to do assignment work, photographing high school events and sports. Currently, Dan is in his thirty-fifth year of teaching English at Northmont High School. Photography has always been a passion. Dan has been inspired by the work of Richard Avedon, Alfred Eisenstadt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and  Ansel Adams. He loves all genres of photography, and loves to try his hand at nature photography, landscapes, and architecture.  Dan lives in Kettering with his partner, Vicki Hendricks. See more of Dan’s work at landiscapes.com

Singing Shirley Smith

I watch my mom pull newspaper bags over
my grandma’s swollen once-feet bottoms,
Grandma’s mouth bleeding, chapped,
I hear Mom wince.

Nmh.
Hmmmh.

She is so tiny.
Everyone shrinks in hospital beds
chemo chairs. Mom reads Rebecca.
My aunt reads a real-life crime book.
I read a collection of Sedaris-approved authors’ short stories.
I grab Grandma a People. Her thumb
is too pointy with arthritis but she tries to look
like she’s reading, I guess.
For a minute.

While the guy next to us (Papaw
to a student of mine) sasses the nurse:
LET ME GO HOME! LISA, LET ME GO HOME!

Tired eyes bloody mouths chapped lips pointy thumbs—
why endure it?

I decide to drive up some sibling rivalry
instead of feeling sad.
Smiles at last.

about the author
Shannon Kallmeyer is a local English and drama teacher/mother of two.

Careless with Calendars

I met her in late September—
my shaky, my unsuspecting hello.
She was red wine with eyes like spring grass
that hypnotized me down
and into my chair.

Words were exchanged—simple, smooth, common
to the wide-eyed. And I was
wide-eyed. And I have been
ever since that first, that one—
a hand so close

I could feel its weight through the white sheet
of her sister’s basement bed. She was my October
cinnamon in March. Her lips,
pearls and poppies I could never have
my fill. And so,

I’ve thrown out many calendars
since that weight. I’ve tossed them
and so many other things down
and into landfills. Years
measured by names—

events jotted down like hope,
like anniversaries would come.
And here I was again.

A name on September, hoping
but likely knowing somewhere
that my wide-eyes were in the way.

She wasn’t the one. This wouldn’t last.
But I still tried, scraping the blade up
because it was autumn and without cinnamon,
without eyes that could hold me
and just know.

So I opened my shirt
and everything else so that she
could force me into ideas.
But I’m just not the type
to fit.

about the author
Gina Marie Giardina is a Technical Writer at Wright-Patterson Air
Force Base (WPAFB) and an adjunct English Instructor at Clark State
Community College. She is also active in WPAFB diversity initiatives and is
in the early stages of forming a Writing Club with local high school
students through anti-bullying non-profits GLSEN and Youth First (of PFLAG).
In her spare time, she enjoys walking in the Glen, hanging with friends at
local restaurants with yummy wine, writing in Woodland Cemetery, traveling,
and shooting hoops anywhere that has nets on rims.  She is also the mama of
two four-legged critters, Watson and Emerson.

Living in an Age of Question Marks

Winds shift while a ship on a sea of sand sails without compass.
“Where are the rules?” ask the readers kept down below,
away from the helmsman. “Where are the guides?”
The helmsman pays no attention.
She steers the ship from sand to stars, from sanctuary to ambiguity,
skimming over periods, cutting through exclamation points.
Islands of question marks abound, as passengers beg questions
on sun-dried lips. Those with legs accustomed to doubt
whistle a happy tune, while the certainty lovers
vomit through portholes and over rails.
“Where are we going?” they plead. From below, in the hold,
their cries are drowned by stellar winds

and the roar of the unknown.

about the author
Wes Bishop is a PhD student in American History at Purdue University. Before that, he taught with Project Read AmeriCorps in the greater Dayton area. He now lives with his wife Allison in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Nocturnal Vision

If humans have evolved from ancient apes,
can birds descend from dinosaurs I ask
as, slipping into dreams of scaly shapes,
I let my sleep’s unconsciousness unmask
whatever horrors haunt me in the night
and, shuddering, surrender to my fears
of whirring bats (phantasmagoric sight!),
of bestial fowl (swooping overseers!),
of hounding Harpies (terrible and black!),
hallucinations in a Hitchcock show
preparing for an avian attack
which may occur before I, waking, know
I am not prey, and specters fly away,
while dark revolves into the light of day.

about the author
Betsy Hughes taught English at The Miami Valley School for thirty years.  Her collection of sonnets entitled Breaking Weather was winner of the Stevens Poetry Manuscript Competition sponsored by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies and was recently published by NFSPS.  She is a member of the Wright Library Poets and the Dayton Poetry Circle.