String Theories — Bill Abbott

You pull the string and the whole reality
unravels.

Where is the science behind
A butterfly’s wings,
A meerkat’s leer,
An elephant’s picnic,
A snide stride down the staring contest
with a slothful skink?

Why does a pulled thread have to reveal
That the world is held together
By duct tape, fishing wire, wishes on stars,
Spit, bondo, and glue?

Why can’t society drop anchor
On a stability and kindness and
humanity
That would hold up to some string pulling?

And if it’s all so loosely bound, why not
Just pull all the strings at once
And see where we land?

Almanac Entry #218 — Janet E. Irvin

Two days of cloudy skies and sporadic rain, then
the sun returns, sends a beam across the back yard,
fires the geraniums squatting next
to the blistered Charleston bench. Still cool,
low 60’s at 7 a.m. The early morning dip
a predictable lull before the dog day begins.
In the garden, asters stretch knee-high, the dogwood
sets spring blooms, petunias and begonias burn
calendar-bright. It is August 6, the day the United States
dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, welding
mankind to fire and fury, to rage and ash.
On my knees, weeding, I am caught in a firestorm.
As a child, I learned to hide beneath my desk,
to shelter if the sirens blew, to spy mushroom clouds
blooming in the sky-blue air. Now, as summer blazes
across the land, beauty erupts in black-eyed Susans.
The scarlet cardinal flashes. Terrible beauty
and beautiful terror, radiant as flame, sear the day.
It is August 6, too late to hide, too hot to pray.

Collateral Damage — Betsy Hughes

Driftnets stretching, reaching wide and deep,
gather mammals in expansive swoops.
Sharks and dolphins thrashing in upsweep
are tangled, maimed, and choked by lines and loops.
When brought aboard, they are discarded, tossed.
Rare turtles and endangered species bleed
their red into the blue, forever lost,
the brutal bycatch of commercial greed.
Along the California coast, the quest
for swordfish casts a web of wanton waste.
This trawling practice snatches all the rest,
drags living beings in haphazard haste.
When fisheries fling forth their walls of death,
sea creatures large and small must gasp for breath.

Solstice — Maureen Fry

Wind bites, sucks my breath. I make my way
over barren fields crusted with ice, snow
bones buried deep in the furrows,
a maelstrom of leaves in the sky’s gray
paw. To the woods: silent, still. As day
shifts to monochrome, shadow on shadow,
I lose myself; the world’s mad spinning slows.
At the frozen creek, the sun’s last rays
fall keening through the trees. Now, a spark
of white, movement—a dying buck. Crown
of antlers, wild staring eye; overhead,
a red-tail screaming. At this dark
year’s long end, I slip into my nightgown
and wait for the turn, cold in my bed.

Grief at the Window — Kathy B. Austin

Grief stands at the window.
She is a little girl.
You don’t know her.
She does not look like you,
darker skin and hair,
perhaps Hispanic or Romanian,
a refugee from pain.
She has hidden herself
in your DNA for generations.
You have carried her
to school, to work, sat with her
watching TV.
Now she stares silently
out your bedroom window.
You watch her, amazed,
wanting to comfort her,
not knowing how,
and suddenly she is gone,
that is, you can’t see her,
but she will always be with you,
carried along carefully,
the child that she is,
within you.

Friday Night at the Gin Joint — Pete Mitas

Ginny’s pouring shots of gin
for the gints at the bar
as the music from the jukebox
swells out like Botox
while a pole dancing Pole-R bear
wearing a skirt made of grass
that barely covers her ass
teases the gints at the bar
when suddenly —
Dwight starts a fight
and Lee joins the melee
just before Lou ends the hullabaloo
and the cops shut the joint down
… again.

Fantasies — Arthur A. Molitierno

I am in the parking lot
I press the keyless entry
Every horn goes off
Everyone comes running
Everyone gets into my car
They come home with me
It is not crowded
In my driveway
I press the keyless garage door opener
Everyone presses theirs with me
Every garage door opens
They all close behind me
Everyone is happy that I am home
We are all the same family
There are no distant relatives
I answer the phone
It is not a telemarketer
It is my best friends
Everywhere the same conversation
The same voices
We all speak the same tongues
I communicate across continents
Everyone understands me
I ask, “How are you?”
They answer, “We are all fine”
I promise to call back
I turn on the television
Everywhere the same news broadcast
“No one died today
Details to follow
Now for our feature presentation
Without commercials”
I am on every channel
I am the silver screen
Everyone loves me
I do not need makeup
My lighting is perfect
Each side of my face is camera ready
I have no moles
My nose is not too long
Wide, pointed, or crooked
My ears are the proper width
I offend no one by being different
I am interviewed late at night
I am neither man nor woman
A particular color nor ethnic identity
I desire no particular sexual preference
Nor am I disabled
I go to everyone’s church
Am everywhere blessed
Equally from pulpit and pew
My patriotism is unquestioned
I have no credit cards
I owe no one and no one owes me
I do not need to save coupons
I show no difference of opinion
I am the same to everyone
I see who is watching me
They too are we
We are one
They and I are all we
We are all equally entitled
We vote in the same booth
I go to sleep
In my dreams
I walk with the dead
And they with me
We are not in an asylum of resentment
I awaken to my dead parents’ faces
I see them for the first time
Smiling before and as I was born
I hear their voices
I am smothered by their embraces
Their hearts pulse in my hands
Their laughter awakens me
The next day
I again wake to find
They are also dreaming of me

Dorothea Fisher (1916-2006) — Ashley Moor

I was born
backwards.
I was raised in a place
with no name
but I can still find it on a map.
The first words I wrote
as a child
were of Dorothea’s
funeral procession
and the brown linoleum
on her kitchen floor.
Now, I can’t seem to remember
her hands.
She grew up slow,
sifting the dirt with her hands.
Time moved against her
so gently.
Dorothea wasn’t scared
of the wind.
Dorothea died
two months before her 90th birthday.
I shut my eyes and smell
the rain from her front porch.
I close my eyes
to feel the open windows
of my childhood.
I remember buying ice cream
on the first day of Spring
at the cafe close by.
Why do we run from
what we know?
I want to find
all of the years
I misplaced under my fingernails.
I want to see
Dorothea standing in the kitchen.
I want to see
my mother happy.
Childhoods
lay dormant as death
but I have faith
that they find us
eventually—
face down in the debt we owe—
dark, dim,
hungry for summer.
I believe in the reincarnation
of Dorothea
because I have found myself again
in her ghost.
I found the South
embedded in the spine
and scripture of poetry,
back porches,
pink houses,
love on an acre of bones.
I stay up late
to write myself into the arms
of an existence like the one
of Dorothea.

On a Visit to Pittsburgh — Anne Randolph

I meet, after years of separation,
my best friend from childhood at a museum.
Brown bangs threaded with silver,
she wears a hot pink scarf, lights up
the grey day, dark eyes sparkling.
Our words become shovels,
unearthing children’s lives,
the wedding this summer at a winery,
50th high school reunions we aren’t
attending, her mother’s health.
Words fly like flocks of doves
crossing mountains in a painting.
But then I start to sink as if in a fog,
embarrassed I don’t remember her wedding when
she begins to outline her 40th anniversary
trip to Alaska. I remember only the face
of her father-in-law, but nothing else.
When she looks concerned, I summon
courage, ask if I attended her wedding.
Her face relaxes into a smile.
Yes, she replies, you were there.
I tremble, having discovered
what I never lost.

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers — Herbert Woodward Martin

You felt death roaming among fabled leaves,
among yellow flowers that broke
the flight of your assured breath;
a bee heavy with pollen attached to its rear
tumbling under its weight,
a burden too heavy to be borne.
For bee, bird, man, flying as a seed
means descent is the only way down.
There is nothing in this world
beyond the shotgun positioned
carefully in your mouth.

WHAT I FORGOT TO SAY

What I forgot to say

was that you were right.
The coldest day of the year is not the time
to bring home a puppy, but we did it, again.

Your advice is not so much ignored
as it is remembered inconveniently late in irrevocable situations.
This makes it prophecy of the awkward Cassandra type,
or the kind that you can only read in the bird’s entrails after it stops twitching.

You have been right, all along,

that I dream of being at the end of stacks of laundry or grading or dishes
as if they were dreams of falling from a great height where it is important to wake up
before discovering a blank surface

that there are mornings when I do not recognize the curve of my husband’s back
turned away from me in the sun slicing through the curtain
and days when I forget the color of my own eyes

that the memory of the well-loved dead is a phantom hand, long amputated,
still holding a remembered glass of wine which I absent-mindedly bring to my lips

far too often.

Listen, what I forgot to say—
there is an immature downy woodpecker
in the small woods where the dog and I walk.
I have seen him creeping down the side of the dead tree,
head cocked, listening for life beneath the bark.

Yesterday, we stopped for the booming thwock of bird skull against wood,
she on point, and I scanning for a flash of red against the gray sky, the dark gray trees.
The clamor came from nowhere and everywhere,
but we found the bird hiding in its own echo.

about the author
Amy Drees misses her last real writer’s group that met in Piqua, Ohio, many years ago. She now teaches constantly, and writes infrequently in the colder, flatter north of the state.

SOOT

When the demo crew went to work
on the burnt-out building,
the scent of soot was released
upon Main Street like spores,
reminding drivers-by of
a century of bones between brick walls.

The soot held the sweat of the pawn shop
owner, waking, haunted by
stories in his storefront below.
The fur of twelve cats fed that one last
time by the body of the old lady herself.
The spit of a black couple evicted
for walking too hard on their own floors.
The cigarette smoke, burnt toast
smack grit, Aqua Net,
Pine-Sol, Love’s Baby Soft,
bong smoke, bacon grease.

Trucks smashed and rumbled heaps into
other trucks that rumbled it all away
to where I don’t know, but soot
lingers there awaiting scrubbing
and a second chance at
holding somethings together.

about the author
A lifelong Ohioan, Kerry Trautman is a founder/admin of ToledoPoet.com and The Toledo Poetry Museum page on Facebook. She participates in events such as Artomatic 419, Back To Jack, and The Columbus Arts Festival, and she is a poetry editor for Red Fez. Her work has appeared previously in Mock Turtle Zine, as well as in Midwestern GothicAlimentum, The Coe Review, and several other journals and anthologies. Her chapbook To Have Hoped is available from Finishing Line Press. Her chapbook Artifacts, is forthcoming from NightBallet Press in 2017.

DAILY

Daily, I twist a valve and let my serotonin flow out onto the floor, an emotional biohazard.
Daily, I brush my teeth but refuse to make eye contact with the foaming rictus in the mirror.
Daily, I take an obscenely cold shower and stand in the jets until I feel completely numb.
Daily, I’ll drive into town, my consumer therapy, and buy something outlandish.
Daily, I water the rosemary on my window sill and feel tired.
Every morning, I wake up to a new ceiling.

about the author
Andrew Ellis is annoying, infuriating, agitating, provoking, engaging, encouraging, and all the things that make a person interesting. His work has appeared in TeenInk, Common Threads, and Ink, Sweat, & Tears (forthcoming). His photography has appeared in Photographer’s Forum. He lives in Ohio, and survives primarily off of Mountain Dew and peanut butter M&Ms.

SISTER

Sister, there’s a song in the pipes.
The discordant whistling that sings of aeons forgotten.
Can’t you hear the Breath?

Sister, they’ve always been with us.
The words of those that came before, dead but lingering still.
Can you feel their Presence?

Sister, they’ll never go away.
The ghosts of a past uncertain playing out what was.
Now you can see Them.

The future is unwritten.
We still have the choice.
The choice of the words we’ll leave behind,
The lingering song of the future’s past.

about the author
Colleen Freeze is a junior at Kettering Fairmont High School, and an editor of the school’s literary magazine, Aerie. She has had poems published in that publication two of the last three years, and hopes to do so again in her final year at Fairmont.

ARTISTS’ BLOCK

When I’m unable
to make a piece
that matches my own expectations

I bang my head
against a wall
loathing the awful creation

I’ll hate my life
and want to die
and think that all my skills suck

my canvas amounts
to nothing more
than an ugly pile of muck

I leave the room
determined to quit
when suddenly creativity ignites

I rush back in
only to find
my paintbrush has vanished from sight

about the author
Gemma Miller is a fifteen-year-old home-schooler in the ninth grade. Though most of her time goes to schoolwork, making art, and writing, she also enjoys playing piano, acting, reading, watching movies, and staying organized.

FORECLOSURE

Turning out. Over. Leaving. A turning
of the back. An act
of take-back, basementless
bungalow, base, off-base,
debased, dis-
respected. Scrubbed
clean of it, abrupt
finality, an exhale into cardboard boxes
flimsy as its timbers
and blocks left, her life, the body,
where she sat, the porch
where her kids sat. Anything
within reach, the line
of sun-dust piercing
the window, drilling into a heart
late afternoons in winter. Smallest
trinket, a spoon, the thin coating stuffed
into a grudging trunk, a greedy feeding
of a small expanse, every
floor-inch possessed, spilling onto seats
visible as an urging,
like a laden donkey on a long trek,
pots, pans, photos,
tied with rope. Stuffing,
stuffing it all under the tarp-
shroud. It is that easy.
A lifting like petals releasing
the stalk, floating to the ground
on a windless day, the point
in the music when,
just seconds ago you thought
you still heard it, but now
you’re not sure.

about the author
Grace Curtis’ book, The Shape of a Box, was published in 2014 by Dos Madres Press. Her chapbook, The Surly Bonds of Earth, was the 2010 winner of the Lettre Sauvage chapbook contest. Her work is in Sou’wester, The Baltimore Review, Waccamaw Literary Journal, Blood Orange Review, and others. www.gracecurtispoetry.com.

APRIL HAIKU

White porcelain skull
A paperweight for the damned
Fragile as a tooth

about the author
Rebecca Griswold was born in Omaha, Nebraska, but grew up in equal parts Scarborough, Maine and Cincinnati, Ohio. She was raised with a deep-rooted appreciation for poetry because of her family tree. After graduating from The University of Cincinnati, she spent years as an instructor before opening and operating an art studio in Cincinnati alongside her husband. Her work has appeared in Milk Money Magazine.

STAGES OF DECOMPOSITION

1. Fresh

So recent
the death is almost
Unrecognizable.
The stench hasn’t
settled
like the years before.
The wound is still bleeding
and we can’t yet make it
Stop.
Like the death that has
Unknowingly
Taken us All.

2. Bloat

And we all rise up
with the realization
of what has come upon us.
The slow suicide we
brought upon ourselves.
This violence
we Chose
by abstaining to make a choice
Now we all rise
as we all
Sink
Down.

3. Active Decay

Now we see it,
and it’s too late
to change
our course away from
Falling Apart.
We
Are
In
Pieces.
No Longer
Standing
United.

4. Advanced Decay

We can’t quite
Remember
what it was like
to
Fall.
to
Rise.
to
Stand.
We can’t quite
Remember
Ourselves.

5. Remains

The disappearance
of what was
is
Complete.
That which was
Is no longer.
Now They stand
where We stood.
As has always been.
This is the Cycle.
Life will always rise from the
Remains.

about the author
Colleen Freeze is a junior at Kettering Fairmont High School, and an editor of the school’s literary magazine, Aerie. She has had poems published in that publication two of the last three years, and hopes to do so again in her final year at Fairmont.

SNOWFLAKE

“I stood in the hollow doorway
and laughed for a time
as smoke danced on the edge
of my lonesome endeavors.”
This I wrote in repeated formation
as each line ran to the next

Eventually I was taken whole

The gutter, this life,
has captured
every secret I’ve ever held

It has tasted torrents of rain,
darkened snowflakes
(burnt to ash from broken stones),
which cut my hands often

I thought I’d seen the last of me

Like Jericho, I’ve been stripped,
poisoned, and tainted
with seeds as frail as you

Orchids rise
They sense my movement,
the cracks in my frozen mirror
hide from time’s wicked exposure

Bitter bitter snowflake
who melts on the windowpane

My spine collapsed because
its structure was denied

“I rang the doorbell
and silently moved
back to the street,
but I couldn’t hear
myself scream.”

Snowflake, mystic as you are,
I’ve changed my colors
to hide from your behavior

As you dance upon my skin,
we fade (one last time)
into the fire

about the author
Christy Lynne Trotter, a Dayton area resident, teaches English at Clark State Community College, and most recently, at Sinclair Community College. Her poetry has appeared in Mock Turtle Zine, and she has had a short story published in Flights. Christy’s short story work has also placed in a few local contests, and she freelances occasionally. In 2015, she wrote a profile on the city of Dayton for U.S. News and World Report.