ARIZONA, LATE MAY

The sun renders the day

          speechless. The blue

palo verde props itself

          against the blitz.
A lone Wigeon paddles
     his pond,

          course run-off, bent

on encroachment. In the distance,

          mountains,
     umbery with arguing

tuffs create

          a jaw-bone. Fluffs

of brush on the hard-pack
     enkindle

a no-man’s land

and there is snow
     in Sedona.

     There are too few days
in the world, too few

          birds left
to call out their names. Too many

burnt chariots slipping
     through the narrow slats
of articulation, lifting

     whispers of dust. Too much
mourning

          and too much.

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.

 

DAVID’S PEGGOTTY

So three climbers
          on a footpath above

the tree line, the sun a-face,
          pose for a photo,

stair-stepped, tenuous
          like they could fall—

upshot of an op-shot—
          like a domino chain,

meaning not Fats, but fast.
          Accordingly, Thoreau

said luxuries hinder
          elevation. Elevation—

a fixed point measured
          into the heavens from

the base of a hoodoo by he
          who measures

a peak from the
          Googolplexian

footholds where the earth
          seems flat, Dead Sea flat,

sunken, where one needn’t
          bother with a floatie—

marked points, a laser
          pointer, an Irish setter,

pulse, altimeter,
          David’s Peggotty.

Lilacs are used as food
          by larvae of certain

species—Underwing,
          Scalloped Oak, Saras;

but, lilacs still smell
          like lilac, insinuate

themselves into. Reverie.
          Sweetness carried

onto a breeze. We
          grew up with it:

Peggotty, second mother
          to David,

the scent of lilac,
          against which he

measured the height,
          the fall, and how much

it would hurt.

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.

CONEY ISLAND

The kids wouldn’t hear
that the water

was too cold to swim,
not when it was their first glimpse

of a suggestion
of this old ocean, not when

a hundred others flopped
soaked bodies

waves to sand
to waves. Had I been

born a hundred years ago
I would have brought parasols

to fight lacily against
cloud-misted

July sun. But I was not, so
the boys’ shorts are soaked

thigh-high, and my daughter’s
dress waist-up. Laughter,

gulls, pop-music loudspeakers
honking cars

and these ancient waves wash the grit
of a day in the city

from our lungs
but with this decade’s ruckus.

about the author
A lifelong Ohioan, Kerry Trautman is a founder/administrator 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 in numerous journals and anthologies. Her chapbook To Have Hoped is available from Finishing Line Press. Her chapbook Artifacts is forthcoming from NightBallet Press in 2017.

SPRING FEVER

FRED KIRCHNER

—Saturday, February 27th, 36 degrees

The four-item dryer load spins through
a few quarters in Waynesville’s
only laundromat. Wool socks and
shoe inserts stick to the hot metal drum,
centrifugal force and cold Little Miami
River water holding them in place.

A barefoot man, alone, sits on a stool,
unwrapping his Subway, the bicycle parked
against the counter.

After ignoring pylons and the high
water sign, he ducked under the hilltop
backhoe blocking the road and pedaled
through swollen river overflow. Six inches
of current, wide as a valley,
flooded the low fields.

To thaw his stiffened knuckles
he puts down his lunch, walks to the dryer
on the cool cement floor, puts hands
on the warm glass circle and stares
into the dark, whirling vortex.

He loses a minute—or maybe a year—there
looking through its depths. There was a world
at the other end of the appliance portal
in which he almost believed.

During the 25 mile ride home
he will pass more farm fields—dirt-brown,
ready-to-turn—flecked with grey
remains of the harvest’s corn stalks,
edged by barren trees. For months,
winter’s sky has fit Ohio like an overcast
skullcap, stretched too thin
to keep out the icy wind.

about the author
Fred Kirchner has published a chapbook, Platform of an Unacknowledged World Legislator (Main Street Rag), and his poetry has also appeared in several anthologies—most notably, The Art of Bicycling: A Treasury of Poems (Breakaway Books). He is overjoyed that his cycling poetry’s in the same book as a poem by Marco Pantani, the last man to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year. Marco “Il Pirata” Pantani was one of the greatest climbers in cycling history—racing up the steepest alpine roads in Europe. Fred can make it to the top of Thruston Rd. hill in Oakwood.

THE MASTER OF MANHATTAN

EDWARD BOGGS

Michelangelo lived down the alley
where he tagged by night
and sipped cheap Merlot in the day
by the city where the lady stood tall
while striking a pose
and waiting for her ship to come in.

With no more than a sigh and a glance
he mocks her while his friend Julius
persuades him to pursue a greater calling.

Now he sells tie-dye T-shirts on the boardwalk
that some swear even the angels dare covet.

about the author
Edward G. Boggs has loved language and reading since a young age, and has carried that love into his adult years as a theater major. He has found writing to be his greatest expression and fulfillment of that purpose.

TRUCK STOP MORNING

BRENNAN BURKS

Grizzled men swollen
in scratched-leather
Carhartt jackets
standing in front
of giant engines
     idle
     rumbling

Huddled,
side-by-side
staring into Styrofoam
cups steaming

     the grit of road
     of factories
     of bodies
          churning

     on stiff and stained
     oiled hands
     smeared with shadows
     of a hard-earned past

Cracked faces
in the morning
light
Pockmarked
like abandoned
stone quarries

ground down
to a tired

          I do not understand

about the author
Brennan Burks writes poetry and fiction, and writes for the Dayton City Paper.

BISCUITS AND GRAVY

DAVID LEE GARRISON

Her side of the family had old fashioned names—
Caddus, Philander, Latitia, Ruby June—and hers

was one my great grandmother dreamed up.
Maizelle owned and ran The Q-Spot,

a greasy spoon with pool and foosball tables,
and people loved the place so much

she had to get a liquor license to keep parents
from sending kids there after school.

A hundred kinfolk came to the reunion
she hosted every August, when she deep fried

catfish her children caught in a nearby lake.
She and her eight siblings would stay up

most of the night singing and telling stories
and playing card games like “Spite and Malice,”

then get up and make biscuits and gravy.
Maizelle lost her first husband to cancer

and her first granddaughter to a gun,
so grief slowed her down, but nothing

stopped her. Her second husband, Stretch,
had been a relief pitcher for the White Sox,

and they went to ballgames all over the country.
A few months before she died, at ninety-eight,

Maizelle told me, “Something of the best that life
has to offer is in each day. Our job is to savor it.”

about the author
The poetry of David Lee Garrison has appeared nationwide in journals and anthologies, and two poems from his book Sweeping the Cemetery were read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. The title poem from his Playing Bach in the DC Metro was featured by Ted Kooser on his website, American Life in Poetry, and read on the BBC radio program, “Words and Music.”

FOSSILS OF OHIO

GWEN E. OWEN

When I cut the grass in tidy rows,
concentric squares and zigzags of green,
I step in and out of a hollow place
where something big once grew—
a maple maybe, or an elm.

The molecules are different in the air
above the hollow —looser, leaving room
for the tree that isn’t there,
and I step through like a spirit,
like I’m passing over a grave.

The ghost tree’s roots have long since
loosened their grip on the earth,
relaxing into soft arteries stretching
through soil that sighs and settles
a bit deeper each season.

Once there might have been
a fire pit hollowed here,
hushed figures huddled round
and smoke rising into the canopy,
a stream flowing where the road is now,
the sounds of crickets and cicadas
not so different from today;
a single arrowhead lost in tall grass.

Deeper yet, a mammoth may have
left a footprint pressed in mud,
where cold grey rain collects
and reflects a stormy sky,
and tiny birds splash and drink.

Oceans and ice beneath my feet.
The weak and the weary lie down to rest,
and don’t get up again.
Now sleeping bones in shrouds of stone
are lulled by the far off, far away hum
of my fossil-fueled mower,
and ancient smoky atoms
stick to my sweaty skin.

It seems the earth grows larger,
a new ring added each year,
a planetary snowball rolling downhill,
and the past is wrapped in cotton
like a fragile vase in storage.

Why don’t the years lift off in layers
drifting into space? Archaeologists
would trade their trowels for telescopes
and lift their faces to read history
in the sky.

I never stood in the shade of the tree,
or leaned against its trunk,
but I caretake this piece of green,
stepping in and out of the hollow
like a cupped palm, offering me today
and all the days beneath.

about the author
Gwen E. Owen is the Content Writer for the Dayton Metro Library, which means she writes content, and she’s quite content doing so. She lives in Kettering.

SORCERY

T.J. MCGUIRE

A     B      R      A     C    A    D     A      B      R      A
is a word that conjures rabbits from a
Black top hat by some white-gloved whackjoB
in a rented tux. Yet the word for me is a
Reminder of the way things seem to disappeaR
through misdirection; how childhood was
A sleight-of-hand coin trick, sleeved without A
promise of return; or how marriage can
Close people together within a prolonged toxiC
box, a casket that is sawed in half
And never reconnected. I think of abracadabrA
when candidates use deception with verbal
Dexterity, pledging the impossible at crowdeD
rallies full of slack-jawed voters. Are we
Astonished when every pledge has failed? Is A
magician booed or politician sued for
Boondoggling us?  We know what a whackjoB
is. But every four years expect vows like
Rabbits once missing to all faithfully reappeaR
with every con who waves a wand and says
A     B      R      A     C    A    D     A      B      R      A

about the author
T. J. McGuire is the author of the forthcoming chapbook Mid-life Chrysler (Alabaster Leaves Publishing) which is set for publication in December 2016. His work was recently selected as a finalist for the Slippery Elm Prize, and he is part of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop alumni for scholarships awarded to him by Mock Turtle Zine in 2014 and 2015. Works of his can be found in Slippery Elm, Mock Turtle Zine, The AWW Collection and Flights.

PRISM

COMMON CENTER

Instruments: 6-string acoustic, xaphoon, heavy chains, broom and sand paper, trash can
Key: G# Minor

(Introduction)

Built like a prism
Manifest division
Peeling through the air like a hawk on a hunt

Prose like the knows
Never really shows
Beating to the rhythm of a medicine drum

In the old ways they say

Catapulted sages
Ripping through the pages
Folding up the secrets like a fawn on the run

Slung like the departed
Wishes never started
Divided by the earth and the sky in your eye

In the old ways they say
You’ve got no sense
No sense
No sense of escape

(Interlude)

Man I’d like to show ya
Separate the old ya
Depart ya from the senses of what might have been

Shake you by the fault line
Send you to the surface
Disengage your doubts and all your might have beens

In the old ways they say
You change to live
And you live through change

Ra       Oh     Uuuu
No sense of escape

about the authors
One summer’s day, the ghost of an ancient samurai warrior crawled into Liam’s guitar. The other six showed up for an exorcism, but couldn’t get the darn thing out. We’ve been writing songs ever since.

HIBERNATION

KATHY B. AUSTIN

I bundled up my words
for the winter,
wrapping them in soft,
cozy quilts.
I sent them to bed,
not at all sure they would wake
with the sun,
or if they should.

But here they come,
yawning and sleepy,
staggering down the hallway
of my mind.
They don’t bother to ask
if I’ve missed them,
and I pretend
they were never gone.

about the author
Kathy Austin is a retired graphic designer from Dayton, Ohio. Her poems have appeared in The Writing Path I anthology published by the University of Iowa Press, the online Poppy Road Review, and various local publications such as Mock Turtle Zine and Flights. She has been featured and interviewed on Conrad’s Corner, WYSO 91.3, and enjoys giving poetry readings in the area. Her poetry will be included in the upcoming anthology, From the Tower. She has received awards for poetry from the Iowa Poetry Day Association and the Paul Laurence Dunbar Memorial Competition. She describes herself as a Buddhist, half-hippie tree-hugger who enjoys biking, Dharma center activities, guiding meditation, and hiking.

RIDING TO THE COUNTY LINE AFTER WORK

FRED KIRCHNER

—May 26th, low 80s, sunny and clear

The sun set behind
the Preble County Line,
an orange glo-ball staining the cirrus
wisps caressing the horizon.

I turned my back on its glory
after 25 blazing miles
to the corner of County Line
and Dayton-Farmersville Rd.

After making the right
to head east, the direction home,
the full moon ascended,
rising weakly above early corn.

For each degree the star fell, a satellite
rose. As the sun purpled and dimmed
below the land, the moon whitened
amidst the darkening blue.

They were opposite jewels
balanced on the wheeling sky.
What day’s harbinger burned away—
my sweat, my spit—the night globe

returned to me, curling mist into
shaded groves edging farm fields,
moistening the dry lump of my tongue.
Deer strolled across the road,

moonlight-addled, brown tails down.
Their whites sprang erect and they fled,
hearing chain spin through sprockets, my pedals
rotating the heavens from day to night.

about the author
Fred Kirchner has published a chapbook, Platform of an Unacknowledged World Legislator (Main Street Rag), and his poetry has also appeared in several anthologies—most notably, The Art of Bicycling: A Treasury of Poems (Breakaway Books). He is overjoyed that his cycling poetry’s in the same book as a poem by Marco Pantani, the last man to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year. Marco “Il Pirata” Pantani was one of the greatest climbers in cycling history—racing up the steepest alpine roads in Europe. Fred can make it to the top of Thruston Rd. hill in Oakwood.

Freedom Train

FREEDOM TRAIN 1976
VANESSA O’KELLEY

“Is this here freedom on the Freedom Train really freedom or a show again.”
—Langston Hughes

I was 7 in June of ’76
when my parents took me to see
the American Freedom Train in Archbold, Ohio.
A red, white, and blue train
to commemorate America’s Bicentennial,
a traveling exhibit of historical artifacts,
including Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Jesse Owens’ medals.

For 40 years I remembered,
only, standing under a blazing sun
in an endless line that snaked across a field toward
a shimmering mirage of red, white, and blue.
On a whim I decided to google it,
to verify my memory, maybe write a poem.

I discovered that for 40 years I have lived in ignorance
of another Freedom Train, another poem.
Like its descendant, the ’47 Freedom Train was integrated,
but only after Langston Hughes wrote
his scathing poem Freedom Train,
only after Paul Robeson read it out, loud
and proud, in his rich, booming god-voice.
In the South the ’47 Freedom Train did not stop.
The all-white board of trustees
heeded the call to integrate,
but stopped short of actually fighting for it.

I didn’t know this, at 7, while I waited to see Dorothy’s shoes.
My only black friends were on TV,
the Jefferson’s, the Sanford’s, the Evans,
Roger, Rerun, and Dwayne.

Now I know about the ’47 Train,
and I’ve heard Robeson read Hughes’ poem.
I lived, as a child, in an America
where the number of black families on TV peaked in 1976,
with black characters written by white writers.

I live, now, in an America,
where black lives still fight to matter, and
where white privilege is not having to learn any of this.

Antioch Writers’ Workshop Best in Show

about the author
Vanessa O’Kelley had a passion for writing as a child, no surprise for the daughter of an English professor. She was convinced that one day she’d be a writer, but that passion was sidelined by her love for movies. In 1997, she graduated from Wright State University with a B.F.A. in Motion Picture Production, and she has worked in either film preservation (Library of Congress) or film production (as as production designer, set decorator, or set dresser) ever since. Now that she has rediscovered her passion for writing, she intends to pursue the writing life every day, although she’s not quitting her day job just yet.

Road to Lake Malawi

Lori Gravley

The roads are barely paved
then gravel, then just dirt, unrelenting
and kicked up through
cab windows. Our driver
says he’s from the Lake
two hours outside the city
and stops to hug his sister.
Everything along the road is corn
green and upright in the sun.
Puffy white clouds sway overhead.
It could almost be Ohio,
home, but for the women we pass
their wooden hoes slung over shoulders
bags wrapped and balanced atop their heads.
And I said women, but many are girls
walking so upright I sit taller in my seat.
At the beach resort, there are no plows
only wood carvings and waiters in crisp suits
and on the beach dugout boats with fish
some still flapping against the boats
resisting the air. I photograph the boys
who’ve brought in the catch,
and I photograph the fish
and the miraculous boats
still holding the shape of their source
like the memory of some straight tree.
The boys balance wide legged
over the edges, only the fish ride inside
crowded one against another
on the bottom. Our driver chats
with first this fisherman then the next
and we don’t know Chichewa
so we don’t know that
he’s bargaining for fish
until he pulls the rope
and lets the five he’s picked
dangle against his thigh.
He holds it away, but still
some wetness finds its way
to his khakis. I wonder,
for a moment, if there’s a cooler in the trunk
if he’ll beg ice from the resort.
We find a little shop
just outside the grounds
and pose with carved crocodiles.
When we reach the taxi,
an aging Corolla, we find the fish
slung over the driver’s side mirror.
I wonder if he’ll close the windows,
but on the long trip back to town
the window stays down though I cannot
smell the fish, only, once in a while,
I see the tail twitching in the wind
the fish gliding against the green
of the car door, their mouths
open in the evening air.

Antioch Writers’ Workshop 1st Place Adult

about the author
Lori Gravley writes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. She earned her MFA from the University of Texas at El Paso. She has published poems in a variety of journals, recently including I-70 Review, Burningword, and Crack the Spine. She travels the world for her work as a USAID consultant, but her home is in Yellow Springs, Ohio. You can hear her read her own work and others’ on Conrad’s Corner at WYSO Public Radio (www.wyso.org). You can learn more about Lori at www.lorigravley.com.

After Flushing His First Muskrat

Cathryn Essinger

Since he is a modern dog who expects kibble
in his bowl and a bed from LL Bean, I open
Wikipedia and read to him about muskrats—

“semi aquatic rodents familiar to most inland lakes
and streams,” and he moves closer, panting
thoughtfully, so I continue. According to legend,

it was the muskrat who made the Earth, although
all of the other animals tried. It was only he who
could dive to the bottom of the primordial sea

and bring back enough mud (on his nose) to smear
on the turtle’s back where the earth then took shape.
And the dog thinks this is possible—he has seen

muskrats dive, and it is impressive, and he has seen
their dens stacked beside the stream like small cottages.
It’s the next part that worries him: “When the woman

fell from the sky, in her skirts were the seeds to grow
the trees, the corn, the grasses….” He has never seen
anyone fall from the sky, although he has watched

the woman stumble about at the edge of the stream,
crouching in the grass to return a turtle to the water,
and even bend over the fox, dead in the meadow,

to see if it could be brought back to life.
Mostly, he remembers the smell of wet musk in
his nostrils, the adrenaline rush as the animal

dove between his legs and slid into the current.
And then it was gone, leaving only the world that
he loves behind—the mud beneath his feet,

water pushing forward, the dizzying mix of sun
and shadow. Of course the story was true–
why would anyone doubt it? Just look around.

Antioch Writers’ Workshop 2nd Place Adult

about the author
Cathryn Essinger is the author of three prize winning books of poetry: A Desk in the Elephant House, My Dog Does Not Read Plato, and What I Know About Innocence. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of journals, from Midwest Gothic to The Southern Review, The Antioch Review and Poetry. She is a retired Professor of English and a member of The Greenville Poets, a small but well published poetry group that has been together for more than 25 years.

Papillae

Sarah Senne

We were the girls with—
tongues
that made mountains out of anthills
in the sandbox.
Our knees scraped with childhood stories
and Carolina sweat
sat on soft brows.
The world is made of grey-yellow here,
the world is shadow’s gold.

I remember the popsicles that—
stung
pearly children’s teeth and tongue
the world moving so. Slow.
Every weekday I would press my hands up to the glass
red and white and small,
beds of tulips bright below me.
We would pluck petals and hide them,
soft little secrets behind young tongues.

Antioch Writers’ Workshop 1st Place Youth Winner

about the author
Sarah Senne is finally sharing her writing after many years and many notebooks. She is eighteen years old and interested in writing, neuroscience, and photography.

Aniston

Brandon Feagle

Aniston—
I shall outlive this powerful rhyme
but lose my luster to muster my cartographic bluster throughout this unruptured eon
like old clockwork picking up grime whose ticking loses its time
whose life resembles the great preamble of the holy Greek Theoamble
my rusted heart still functionally beating
with a pace in mechanical peace.
My petroleum clogged lungs still reluctantly breathing
despite black blood from the earth beneath my feet rushing in
like an unaltered calculated release.
My enduring mind forever encrypted and leading
like an impeccable analytical engine centerpiece.
When the cool unforgiving metal
of my distasteful fists rests
upon my copper breast
and I shiver,
I wonder if this is what
my heart feels like underneath this bitter sinner
whose life resembles that of a winner?
For when frenetic battles lay waste to my metallic artistry
not an acute malfunction nor a devious device
shall wipe such a record from my preeminent memory.
Because man and machine can’t stand
the elites’ need of slave labor to build skyscrapers
whose mental mechanics adjusting my brain,
grease up my motor, tightening my chain.
When running all my life at the rate of steam power per hour to determine the success and
efficiency to that of the modulus of elasticity of the mind’s eye’s fully functioning pulley
does not interest me.
Although time may pass for some prevailing vogues
I will continually be dabbling in time-traveling
until grinding cogs, the enmity of deadly rogues,
and the unrelentless looking
stops me.
For I will live the obsession of my passion and longing
for an eternity.
Because this isn’t depression, it’s simply expression
awaiting its fate market resale rate
and my mind’s panels obscure my obscene circuitry
intercommunicating my tale so that it will atone and regale,
by the wise men of the old pale veil.
“The Story of the Victorian Automaton”
an unlikely phenomenon of
the mechanical gentleman’s
tick
tick
tick
Aniston.

Antioch Writers’ Workshop 2nd Place Youth Winner

about the author
Brandon Feagle is an artist who has produced pieces of art for nearly 5 years. During Brandon’s senior year, he produced many pieces of work. After graduating, he plans to attend Bowling Green University and major in Architecture.

Summer D’ruthers

Cecile Cary

Bumblebees drowse on the tall purple phlox
and wake to taste the nectar once again
its spicy scent wafts all along the rocks
that line the driveway leading to the garden
alive with native growth the insects relish
milkweed for Monarchs, boneset, and sweet Joe
Pye weed, blazing star, and spicebush
host to its namesake Swallowtail. Just now
I saw its midnight wings spread out upon
a bee balm blossom, fragile stamens bent.
A flutter of white spots and it was gone.
Birds feed on worms and seeds, but also have their bent
for certain flowers. The goldfinch go for black-
eyed Susans, hummingbirds make straight for red
of cardinal spires and the royal catch-
fly, orange trumpet vine, butterfly weed
and sometimes violet ironweed and phlox.
A gorgeous grafted bloom deserves its prize
but wingéd creatures choose with other eyes.

about the author
For many years, Cecile Cary taught English at Wright State University, specializing in Elizabethan literature, publishing articles and editing a book in that field. When she was a student, she published a few poems and has recently started to write them again. Last year, she won a prize in the Dayton Metro Library poetry contest.

Algebra

David Lee Garrison

We were about to be seniors
that summer night a gang of us drove
to the high school and spray-painted
Screw Hart
in the parking place reserved
for the algebra teacher.
Just as we finished,
one of our town’s two
unmarked police cars,
a green and white ’62 Ford,
swerved into the lot.

Scared breathless, I slumped
to one knee, envisioning
handcuffs, expulsion, parents.
Then I saw it was Mike,
a friend of ours whose father
owned the same kind of car.
He laughed when he saw
what we’d been up to
and realized how much terror
his unexpected arrival had caused,

but I trembled for a week.
Even now, in my sixties,
I bolt awake when I see
that Ford coming around
the corner of a nightmare.

about the author
David Lee Garrison taught Spanish and Portuguese at Wright State University for thirty years. Two poems from his book Sweeping the Cemetery were read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac, and the title poem from his Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro was featured by Ted Kooser in his syndicated newspaper column, American Life in Poetry.

I Am From

Latisha Ellis

I am from bikes laid out in the front yard while little bad-ass kids run around in the streets
where the only colors allowed in your crayon box are either red or blue
I am from the only way to make it is to dribble a ball, rap a line or run track
but I come also from strong black mothers raising their children making ends meet
where the air smells of cornbread and collard greens
and a boy named Trey plays basketball all day and night
I am from bullets spraying the ground like a rain shower
where supply and demand is weed, pills, and coke
and making it to 21 is too old to die too soon
when you turn around and there’s a gun to your back
where mothers miss meals so we kids never go hungry
where we break fire hydrants as a way to cool off
and it’s the dope dealers paying for formula and diapers and bibs
where 50 cents gets us a pop from the truck that sells ice cream
I am who I am ‘cause where I’m from made me
where we walk by faith and not by sight
I am from where I am, as you can see

about the author
Latisha Ellis is a spoken word artist who learns best from her elders and life’s experiences. She
dreams of speaking before an audience to share her words. She is 24 years old and currently
incarcerated at Dayton Correctional Institution until 2018.

Toddler Storytime

T.J. McGuire

Jacked up with enough sugar to power a fleet
of Super Sport V-8 Bentleys, hotrod toddlers
tear ass through the library and shriek like
Goodyear slick treads burning rubber.
The children’s area bursts into a J. R. R. Tolkien
meets M. C. Escher scene—complete with
hyperactive hobbits doing wind-sprints
up the walls and down and over the ceiling,
while parents struggle to collect their precious kiddies
who tornado through aisles like hellcats
eager to wreak havoc on innocent picture books.

Then—
I am called in like FEMA, a first responder
to tidy up the aftermath of storytime’s disaster;
pushing in chairs, re-leveling shelves,
pitching a soggy, slobbered-on board book,
one left by a mother who had lent it to her newborn
as a temporary teething ring.

An hour later, the library is a kid-free oasis;
a page out of Walden Pond.
I get behind the mule of my shelving cart;
plow the field beneath the hypnotic cicada buzz
of florescent ceiling lights.
The stacks become trees bearing Pink Lady apples;
the library an orchard.
And I am the farmer, satisfied by the sound of
barcode scanners chirruping like crickets,
the faraway mooing of cell phones vibrating on wood.
Even the soft clickety-clack of fingertips
typing on computer keys is water babbling over stones.
Soon I am a ground squirrel foraging Legos
like acorns off the forest floor,
contemplating the fiction and non-fiction
of minimum wage.

about the author
T.J. McGuire was the winner of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Memorial Poetry Prize in
2005. He is an Antioch Writers’ Workshop alumnus for scholarships awarded to him by
Mock Turtle Zine in 2014 and 2015. Multiple works of his can be found in Mock Turtle
Zine and Flights. He currently lives in Dayton, Ohio, with his wife and two daughters.

Little Kings

(Sights and Seasons Drinking with Reasons)
Christy Lynne Trotter

I always love the part of Fall
when leaves disappear—baring trees bald—
and when the sky ticks on
with impending shades of grey;
where sheets of rain cry on rooftops,
forcing gutters to clog.
I always laugh at the memory
of Dad cussing as he cleaned them out.
Soon, Fall would pass and Snow would show
its sly, white self, beckoning sleds and shovels.
But I much prefer the first week, of Fall, you know,
when leaves turn their colorful shades;
the air is brisk, crisp, and free.
The innocence of Mother Nature
remains playful, musical.
I like that week the best.
(It reminds me of my childhood.)

In those days of Fall,
Grandpa hiked his britches up,
and rested in his favorite
blue Lazy Boy rocker.
He’d grin as he lit a Camel unfiltered,
its smell mixing and mincing
with the wafts from Grandma’s
cabbage rolls—made with love from her
crooked, arthritic hands and fingers.
On days I’d visit,
we’d sit together, Grandpa and I,
and think in silent tandem.
In those days of Fall,
he never told me lies about the past
and false Springs.
(I figured out most of that on my own
by reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.)

Drinking with reasons that not even
the cool Summer grass I used to run
barefoot on can replace, time always seemed to
stand still back then.
Now it rushes by,
time,
escaping past river walls,
concrete beams,
paved highways we’ve all traveled too much on,
moving on to places I wish I could see,
I wish I could be.
Now I fear forgetting him,
forgetting her,
forgetting it all
(including the cabbage rolls).
But then there’s always the rain,
no matter the season.

Rain doesn’t only drizzle.
It pours like beer from the
Little Kings green bottles Grandpa drank from.
The closest I can find these days
are bottles of Rolling Rock.
The year he died,
a river flooded.
And now, decades later,
puddles remain,
hidden in the mysteries of a Fall that once was.
I don’t mind the water sometimes though,
especially when I step
from boundary to boundary—
season to season
(without britches hiked up);
because the likelihood of wet shoes
will guide me along the rest of my way.

Besides, Grandpa always used to say,
“You can’t get through life without a little wet pant leg.
If you come out dry, you didn’t do it right.”

about the author
Christy Lynne Trotter, born and raised in the Dayton area, works as an English adjunct at Clark State Community College and with STEM students in Springfield. Her work has appeared locally in previous editions of Mock Turtle Zine and Sinclair Community College’s Flights. When not educating on the finer points of academic writing, Christy Lynne loves pushing her audience to emotional boundaries with her short stories and poems. Her most recent freelance work can be found on U.S. News and World Report‘s website which includes a photo and information profile on the city of Dayton, ranked one of the best places to live in the United States.