There used to be a few compliments about the lovely complexion and more gentle teasing about blushing and several envious sighs about wanting rosy cheeks all of which I tried to ignore not knowing what to say even thank you seemed hard to enunciate because it is always awkward to have comments about your body and the things you cannot control but upon reflection I realize that if given a choice I would return to those remarks because they were meant if not always received as positive supportive words and while it is uncouth to seek external validation there are some crappy days when a nice comment would well be nice alas the roses in my cheeks stopped fading and grew ever brighter and broader now covering my entire face except for the area right around my eyes which remains blanched and my skin seems afire inflamed and irate no matter the hour although sometimes it’s worse and the flares singe my face and my spirit as coworkers and neighbors and the general public freely call out to me that it’s clear I spent time outdoors or I am sunburned or I am hopping mad or I am experiencing a cardiac event call 911 or I am soused down to my socks before noon or I am deeply ashamed or I am getting sick perhaps with the kind of illness that creates pustules and leaves pocks but it is none of those things just rosacea that gets stronger with age and while the rest of my body aches constantly nobody can see that and they stare at my face so I tried the meds and the creams and the poultices and the herbs and think about how it is vain to be worried about this and I have never had cosmetic work and I should embrace my difference because aren’t we all supposed to take a stand and be who we are so that the world will change and how many times have people been tortured and killed and hated for the color of their skin and my skin doesn’t subject me to any of that but I am embarrassed to say I had grown tired of the non-stop commentary like buzzing flies on a gaping uncovered wound but nothing tamed the fire so lasers it was and god damn those things hurt like a big fat rubber band the kind that used to bind the Sunday papers engorged with all those ads being flicked harshly against my already sensitive skin multiple times a second and I save up my tears because first it will get worse but then it will cool and with three maybe four probably five or more treatment sessions at hundreds of dollars a pop my face will not irritate those who look at it although the fires will continue to rage cooking anything on my face from the heat that flows below and within as I smile with a touch of pink
Sarah Bigham lives in Maryland with her kind chemist wife, three independent cats, an unwieldy herb garden, several chronic pain conditions, and near-constant outrage at the general state of the world tempered with love for those doing their best to make a difference. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, Sarah’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of great places for readers, writers, and listeners. Find her at www.sgbigham.com.
Even now you are mine, the scent
of you permeates our sheets.
This very minute you could walk away.
I know I am the cure to your malaise—
the only treatment for your ailment.
Our end so near to us flickers like a hologram.
Winters and winters and winters past—flurried
into a powder of snow. This was our life—
and now, how briefly we remain.
Would we ever have had enough? Do you
remember our meeting in the grocery store?
Do you remember dropping my bag
of groceries? Five dollars wasted—supplies
for an entire week. A dozen eggs smashed,
the peanut butter jar cracked in half,
enough rice for a wedding celebration,
a whole plucked chicken rolling on the blacktop.
After that things could only improve.
Do you remember our first touch?
Our lives shimmered before us like a mirage—
golden as we were then. This must be
what people mean when they say their lives
flashed before their eyes. Not as a precursor
to death but as a glimpse into the future.
Hold me now as you did then. Love me
but don’t look back.
Dale Champlin is an Oregon poet with an MFA in fine arts. She is the editor for
Verseweavers and director of Conversations With Writers. Dale has published in
VoiceCatcher, North Coast Squid, Willawaw Journal, Mojave River Press, The Opiate,
and other publications. In November, 2019 she published her first collection, The
Barbie Diaries, with Just a Lark Books.
You study me from the shotgun seat
making me squirm so I point to a cow
scratching her back against a telephone pole
with obvious bovine pleasure. Evening gives
Nevada a beauty it lacks when bright and hot.
We from the dripping green coast of California
might never fit here but love passing
where somehow life makes a different sense.
A longhorn beast blocks us, munches
grass from cracks in pavement.
I stop the van. We step out.
You’re gazing at me, not the munching cow
or the oncoming night of white clouds, charcoal sky
in silence made more so by the chirping of
a single cricket. We’re driving back roads to Boston
for jobs we don’t want but ought to try
for career, for good sense in a stone cold city.
Black-eyed susans line the lane like a fence.
I need to pee. Aim at some rocks
as it would seem a crime to pee on
flowers especially with you watching as you are.
“I might be pregnant,” you say. Your face, always lit,
by starlight brighter still. No breeze and yet
the telephone wires are singing, ringing.
Across the sky comes an orange flare,
too fast for a jet. I have time to say “Look!”
Silently the meteorite explodes, red fragments
dropping like stars toward earth.
“I sort of knew,” I say.
The moon appears from behind a mountain
silhouetting individual pines, a glow
advancing from tree to tree as it rises along the ridge.
We don’t care if that cow stays forever.
“Thank you, Lucy,” you whisper toward the beast
who in truth has no name but an ear tag.
Without a word we W-turn the awkward van
forward, back, forward, back on the narrow lane
and drive westward, drive home.
Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit. His latest book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast. He’s a pretty good carpenter and a crackerjack grandfather in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. joecottonwood.com
Ode to Night Poems
The many hands of possibility lift me from bed,
carry me out into the small hours as I rise and walk
to the back of the house, crack the window, let
night seep in, drop an orange extension cord out
onto stone pavings, hook a lamp under my elbow,
smell the cold night in the opened door
and walk out to the patio table.
I see the eyes of a sleepy cat under the azaleas,
plug in the lamp. There’s a thrill to the body
in this time of quiet and solitude, world’s work
hours of noir detectives and burglars, where, here,
gentle shadows through tall pines in mist gowns
of moonlight suggest, only, a larger world — this
time before time, time of elective mutism of
birds, except the owl, his soft call to other owls
the only noise above my lampshade’s cone of light.
Where night’s invisible heart sits so still on the earth
no one could want the sun to come, kill the ceiling
of silent stars, certainly not a poet with pen who
can see the past, imagine the future while a sleeping
cat dreams at the edge of lamplight — until daybreak’s
laughter at the corner school bus stop, the starter’s
brrr jump in a neighbor’s old car.
Steven Croft lives happily on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia on a property with virgin pines, live oaks, magnolias, palm trees and varieties of ground vegetation, all home to various species of birds and animals. He has recent poems in Sky Island Journal, Poets Reading the News, So it Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Third Wednesday, and San Pedro River Review.
Every hurricane season, I wonder
why I bought a house with no basement.
If I’d followed advice, I’d pluck
my eyebrows, quit picking at scabs.
I’d take the same pew week after week,
bow my head for penitential prayers.
I’d root out my obstinate weed tree,
(the mimosa), change filters, and
be, as Dad advised, inner directed.
I wouldn’t go out on my red bike,
clutch a handlebar with one hand,
wave cheerfully with the other.
A cock crows at the edge of town
where houses edge toward open fields.
Stop that sniveling, I tell myself.
My weed tree stubbornly sprouts
from its cut stump. I bought
an orange blaze vest, a warning
to hunters. But this heat says wait
the storm out, peel clothes off,
take shelter, drink pink lemonade.
Barbara Daniels lives in New Jersey. Her Talk to the Lioness is forthcoming from Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. Daniels’ poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, and elsewhere. In 2020 she received her fourth fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.