Who’d have thought she’d lay plastered on an asphalt death bed next to downtown
high rises & the No. 5 bus route? Her silvery armor — the skin of the moon.
Underbelly still warm, eyes like fish blink. Who said
armadillo would never scurry north? How little they knew about longing for flesh
and home. In their shiny bone coats our mammal brethren are slinking to Louisville,
Detroit, Saskatoon. At night they are slow
marching down alleys and side streets toward the Jersey Shore. Hungry, they sniff
at everything in sight; they point their long snouts in the direction of the dark blue
curve of the mesosphere and beyond to Larissa, the rubbly
misshapen fifth moon of Neptune. We are lost in the matrix of tablet and phone.
Meanwhile, in the grid of earth, oceans boil into storms. Rooftops in Barbuda drift
on storm surge like sailboats. Last year a brindled
coyote lurched down Lindell Avenue, screaming like a famished infant. I opened
the door anticipating a human, but there she was sizing me up like a bench judge.
Her cold stare like a funeral pyre.
Linda Bryant is a poet and journalist who lives in Berea, Kentucky, where she runs Owsley Fork Writers Sanctuary. She has been published in literary journals including Courtship of Winds, Whirlwind Review, Gateways, Serving House Journal, and Willawaw Journal. Bryant has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and has won two national fellowships for her writing.
Poem In Which I am Late for School
My seventy-one-year-old granddaddy and I
hop and skip all the way to school.
I am so happy with him towering above me.
What heaven to hop and skip to school.
His baldhead hides under his South Dakota fur cap—
the flaps tied tight under his whiskery chin.
He holds my small mittened hand
in his strong black leather glove.
Bright cold sun pierces the day.
He is old and slow.
I dart ahead to chase grackles
and come back for him.
We talk, chew dried grass stalks
We don’t step on any cracks.
A block from school we hear the bell ring.
Mrs. Starling is cross.
For punishment she says
I need to stay ten minutes after school.
I hate dumb Dick and Jane.
My favorites are my Betsy, Tacy and Tib.
After school the other children laugh.
Kids twist their scarves around their necks
and pull up their sleeves to put on their mittens.
On the scratched wood of the desktop
my folded hands shake with fury.
I look down at my pilled and frayed sweater.
The waist of my plaid skirt digs into my belly.
My teacher is no one.
Schoolbooks are awful.
Those children don’t matter.
The radiator spits and clanks.
Its hot dry air sticks in my throat.
I stare at the smudged grey blackboard
and taste chalk dust.
There’s nothing to be done for it.
The slow clock ticks slower.
I know tomorrow we will be late again.
When I Look Down at You From the Moon
and see your small face, the Dixie cup
of water in your hand, and the spotted
dog putting his paws on your knees—
I recognize you instantly although
the rest of my view is obscured by
tornados, billows of dust, leaves,
and rainclouds shaped like torpedoes.
And through all this—there you are—
small as a poppy seed. But I know it’s you!
I can even see your flip-flops, your crooked
smile, and the freckle above your left eye.
Dale Champlin is an Oregon poet with an MFA in fine art. She is the editor of
Verseweavers. Dale has poems published in The Opiate, Visions International,
Pif, and elsewhere. In 2019 She published her first collection The Barbie
Diaries. Two collections, Isadora and Callie Comes of Age are forthcoming.
I’ve made a study of
The smokers at the bus stop near the hospital,
Visitors, uneasy in street clothes, and patients
In gowns: It’s so easy to see what they want.
My father presents an object perhaps more salutary
For study. He fell ill in our finished basement.
When the princeling walked out into sunlight fourteen days
Later, my father renounced every life event previous
As wasted effort, walking away from suburbia,
Work and family, till he tasted Florida’s intercoastal.
I don’t know what my father wants. I chose smoke
Until I didn’t. I remember times when I couldn’t
Wait, bus trips, meetings. I’d like to ask him
The rewards of dailyness, how to open a door and trust
What walks through is enough. When I quit,
I lived for three days in a fog bank. At the end, I knew
I couldn’t go back, couldn’t feel that again. Look at my father,
Running seven miles from his front door to the beach;
His married neighbors bring him stuffed shells
and an invitation to swing. He transforms
The same as any con man. He couldn’t explain. It was easier
To study the smokers by the bus stop;
They’ve got as long as it takes for the next bus
To arrive. To ride someplace new or light
one cigarette off another and stay.
Matt Dube‘s poems have appeared in Interstice, Rattle, Minute Poetry, and elsewhere. He teaches creative writing and American lit at a small mid-Missouri university, and he reads submissions for the online lit mag Craft.
The buzzard doesn’t hit the windshield
so much as swim across, talons skittering,
tail feathers fanned, a swooping rush
of black, white and rust-brown –
the driver and I fling arms up and duck.
The vehicle swerves, but there’s no road,
no oncoming traffic, just flat hard-pack
where sand used to be and will come again.
The others in the backseat yell out,
want to know what’s happening,
but the buzzard disappears as abruptly
as it came. The driver clasps his turban,
no longer shy and distant, flashes me
a wide-eyed smile. We both hoot a laugh.
He will go back to looking ahead,
fingering wooden prayer beads looped
on the steering wheel, but the sands
have shifted. The ride is smooth.
Ann Farley, poet and caregiver for the elderly, is happiest outside, preferably at the beach. Her work has appeared in Verseweavers, KOSMOS, and Timberline Review, among others. She lives in Beaverton, OR, and she walks her dog every morning before dawn, whether it’s raining or not.
We Return to the Forest
Plagues of minivans descend like locusts
upon the blighted forests. Barefoot folk,
wearing thistles in their tangled hair
and chewing dandelion weeds, tuck geodes
into their flannel for luck. In dark thickets,
deer nuzzle pine needles, nervously worrying
about mass shooters at the farmer’s market.
Opossums sleep in their pebbly dens, dreaming
of Wall Street numbers and hand-pressed coffee.
Dragonflies buzz near the hikers, eager to hear
their speech so they, too, can learn the secrets
of agriculture. After sunset, the forest glows
with fireflies trying to replicate streetlights,
stop signs, the unearthly neon fire
of 24-hour convenience stores. A feral dog
who has spent all day sleeping in the bracken
now awakens. It wanders through the underbrush,
eating lizards and wishing it was asleep. Nearby,
something screams in the darkness and cries
for help. The dog growls but ignores the cry,
trying instead to remember if its dreams
were reality or the other way around.
In the Dark Field
In the dark field, the crickets gather
in their cathedral of dove bones.
Their sawblade hymns sweep the witchgrass
and gather in the pitch-pine’s needles.
They dream of angels—seraphim
with stag-beetle mandibles
and glittering masks of dragonfly eyes.
Their wings are spun of silk and ichor.
When the thunderstorm breaks,
the muddy earth swells. Worms writhe
up from the soft darkness into the rainwind—
silent, blind, terrified.
The field floods. The witchgrass turns
to seaweed. The dove bones break apart,
are borne away in bits. The crickets all drown.
You’d never know they’d been there.
Samuel T. Franklin is the author of two books of poetry: Bright Soil, Dark Sun (2019) and The God of Happiness (2016). A Best of the Net nominee, he resides in Bloomington, Indiana, where he enjoys making useful things out of wood scraps and losing staring contests to his cats. He can be found at samueltfranklin.com.