The sea opens
before us. I don’t look back.
In this ocean, earth
and brush. Land—
this land. This
land, rolling, slowly
breaking against our shore. I am
not afraid. Our spirits wait
in ancient robes—we are
horses swim, black manes
floating. I understand
what it is to be close
and far. We were born
in water—now this. This vast
and arid sea,
unbroken by what it is
no longer. In the distance
dust rises like mist,
like fog, like God.
When Magnolias Bloom
-in memory of t.s.
I think of her when magnolias bloom—
the same blossom offering
to sky that filled the grounds
of youth. Fragmented memories
of her hands and pale eyes—her purpled
neck painted cream, flowers
round her casket. The words
we once exchanged, unatoned
in the infinite—
I didn’t know. I didn’t know
that death could come veiled, in the grim
night hands of another—
that time is but one ending.
The half-life haunts—like the bloom
that is cut before it ever fully
opens, ever touches
the warmth of setting sun, ever knows
the tenderness of gently
falling to green earth. I watch
the first magnolia open, purple
and cream blossom offered to sky,
and think how fragile this is—
that I should get to hold my husband’s hand, age
shining through our bodies like sunlight
and watch this—the slow and sacred
bloom of the magnolia.
Natalie Callum is a writer and poet living between St. Louis, Missouri and Wyoming. When she is not writing, she can be found outside free climbing and exploring with her much beloved husband. Her work has been published in Willawaw Journal and Amethyst Review.
Between Him and the World
—on the early death of Alex Leavens
Footsteps cross wet stones
in the streambed. Snowmelt
spills through moss and ferns.
I want his photograph and think—
I’ll just ask if I can take his portrait.
Too late I realize the impossibility.
We thought we saw him one night
at the base of the mountain,
following the trace of an elk.
He was reflected in a shiver of moonlight
shifting through clapping leaves.
We spotted him many times, but each time
wind revealed fog in the valley, a flock of birds
scattered by a red-tailed hawk,
the slinking shadow of a fox at daybreak.
We expect him to return,
ruby-crowned kinglets and I,
to read us a new poem.
He will always be the young woodsman
ruddy beside a bonfire, bright sparks rising
in a crackling spiral against black-green forest.
I have new gloves and a new hoe—
I plant eulogies. He was a sure-footed fisher,
a stalking panther, a salmon in the river.
He was a harrier with an adder in his talons
fighting a headwind. He was a canoe, a paddle,
the ripple in the wake.
My husband has come home from our oldest son’s house.
I don’t look at him until we are sitting down to lunch.
When I look it is as if he is ten years younger!
His eyebrows are trim. Where are the cobwebs
sprouting from his ears?
He is kempt! His grizzled hair looks almost blond,
smooth, sun kissed, like a surfer dude in a movie
from the seventies. I think Jeff Bridges,
Paul Newman—a straight Montgomery Clift.
His eyes are as blue as Frank Sinatra’s.
I gaze at his forearms and am reminded of Tom Volk
in fifth grade when the teacher had him clutch
the wires from a hand cranked generator
how his muscles bulged and twitched.
This is what sex must be like, I remember thinking.
Dale Champlin, an Oregon poet with an MFA in fine art, has poems in The Opiate, Timberline Review, Pif, and elsewhere. She is the editor of /pãn| dé | mïk/ 2020: An Anthology of Pandemic Poems from the Oregon Poetry Association. Her first collection The Barbie Diaries was published in 2019 with Just a Lark Books. Callie Comes of Age was published by Cirque Press in 2021. Three collections, Leda, Isadora, and Andromina, A Stranger in America are forthcoming. Her sentient android, Andromina, protagonist of ninety-four poems, declares, “I wax magnetic as chunky biker jewelry, yet am susceptible to innuendo.”
Ranch House Days
Good bye main road.
You’re traffic was enthralling,
but I’ve got to think on my own
for once, I’ll see you later–which
seems right to me now.
Sometimes you have to look out from your own porch
even if at the time it seems like you are wasting time.
After she hit the jackpot at the casino
she looked back and wondered if this is as good as it gets.
Disappointment arrives in so many flavors
which keeps us on our toes:
the missive arrives about our oeuvre,
not meant to be harsh,
but then again. . .
And if I kept longing for you
after you moved away,
the distance having grown usual,
like a gargantuan silence that becomes
like a perfect friend, taking and not pushing back.
Can’t I finally get it right for once?
After my soiree in town
where I saw that fetching woman,
I could have asked for her number,
but thought “Why should I?”
I mean, it always ends in tragedy.
I come back to my place.
I like it here. I can mow fields,
paint rooms, find my way to the creek
where water held underground
springs into light.
Dale Cottingham is of mixed race, part Choctaw, part White. He is a Breadloafer, won the 2019 New Millennium Award for Poem of the Year and is a finalist in the 2021 Midwest Review Great American Poetry Contest. He lives in Edmond, Oklahoma.
Another cold blast
fall hopes, chases me
indoors to toast
toes by wood stove’s
glow. My big dopey
dog remains outside,
sits and stares
across our open
fields. He waits
for summer sun,
long romps through
fields of hay. His
He knows nothing
of winter to come,
my hold on summer
a stick still grasped
in his slackening jaws.
Richard Dinges, Jr. lives and works by a pond among trees and grassland, along with his wife, one dog, three cats, and five chickens. SBLAAM, Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Journal, millers pond, and Pulsar most recently accepted his poems for their publications.