The Bell Song
between the gaps of living, a bell rings clear—a pulse flows
from dirt to acknowledge that things are not as they once were.
what am I? space stretched upon skin and a mouth wild
in protest, in love—kneeling, am I devoted or a martyr?
if you tend to me, am I a garden or a wound? not an indecisive
shoreline, not folk songs of mild victories, not downcast gazes
or the sun drenched in shadow—old shadow—but strips
of nascent sparks. forgotten yet revered, sunrise made to
sprout in contrast to windswept branches, to bodily extremes—
not dust collecting in adhesives, not the chained or the unhappy.
the bell tolls, fluctuation of ropes along shimmery heights,
this is a good world—a land that prophesies and promises,
a smearing oil portrait that runs and runs and runs but never dries.
this is a fresh person—creature of sharpened throat but soft palm,
beneath the singing bell, I am a garden with earthy wounds.
there is a place for me here—I am unlearning the sentiment
of the misfit so I can bury myself into belonging. ear turns to sky,
the bell tolls no longer—I am so consumed by love, I am so alive.
Stefanie Lee is an ambitious 18-year-old writer from Montréal, Canada. Living with a physical disability called Nemaline Myopathy, she is currently pursuing a STEM-related collegiate degree in computer science. She was recently featured on Medmic.com for an interview regarding her poem about overcoming scoliosis. She hopes to share her unique worldview as a young disabled woman who continually seeks the beauty in every difficult situation.
Duffy Tries to Find a Way to Open Ocean
Through the Longest Ice-in in Ten Years
The moans came from his own throat. No,
the boat spoke. Floes nip and grind its wide
arc to slivers, a narrowing vee, and he,
eye wild as the wind across the queasy
unrest of the ice-in, steps away like some lost
Jesus walking this was-water, this hard bay.
My god my god. And as a child again
testing the teeter of brash ice, treads the wreckage
toward what little he can see: gauze
of brown shore through fog, the uneasy
breath of land and the bound sea
under which his cod are on the move,
a crab dies in an unchecked trap,
and what might as well be family sinks berg-deep.
Upstate New York writer Marilyn McCabe‘s poetry has won contests through AROHO, Word Works, Grayson Books, and NYS Council on the Arts. Collections of poems include Perpetual Motion and Glass Factory, and chapbooks Rugged Means of Grace and Being Many Seeds. Videopoems have appeared in festivals and galleries. She blogs about writing at Owrite:marilynonaroll.wordpress.com.
This year they are the size
of permanent marker dots left
on the bottom of weather charts
tracing the paths of smoke
from Canadian wildfires
hundreds of miles to the north.
Hazy mornings promise relief-
storm clouds that might come,
but stinging ash hovers in the fields.
Do you love me, Chicago?
You ask, does Chicago
And I say,
Chicago loves me
like a tight guitar solo,
fingers tap dancing rapid-fire
arpeggios that tattoo
the fretboard of my soul.
And you sneer, will Chicago
always be true?
And I yell back, listen,
Chicago will stick with me
like an Italian beef sandwich.
I feel the hot peppers in my dreams;
they wrench me out of bed,
dump me on the cold, hard floor.
I can tell you how I feel
Chicago’s love if you’d pay attention–
It tastes like stolen kisses in the back seat
of a Chevy sedan, her tongue
pressed tight against my lips.
I hear Chicago’s love,
in the cool spring breeze
blowing off Lake Michigan,
soothing my brow even
when she breaks my heart.
Frank C. Modica is a retired teacher and cancer survivor who taught children with special needs for over 34 years. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Dust Poetry, New Square, Sheila-Na-Gig, and Lit Shark. Frank’s first chapbook, What We Harvest, nominated for an Eric Hoffer book award, was published in the fall of 2021 by Kelsay Books. His second chapbook, Old Friends, was published this past December by Cyberwit Press.
The Harvest Moon Calls Us Again
Past halfway from equator to northern pole,
harvest moon drops so low it bounces across
the tops of the Douglas firs as it tries to lead
the crows in a song about the passing season.
The crows won’t sing, and we stay silent, too,
this season another surgery we did not want.
In the morning, anesthesia occluding the sun,
we send our tentative fingers out for bandage,
for incision ridge and furrow, for angry yellow-
red of tomatoes or betadine, for discoloration
of dismantling. We know something has been
removed. We feel the absence.
Appendix? Kidney? Belief in the arc of good
humor? We want it back, the summer corn,
the indolence of sun-soaked youth,
green sprouting, vigor of every appendage
and organ intact and ready.
Before we can
voice our plaintive suits or sound our laments,
impatient crows turn their backs on our loss,
dip their jet heads, and mount their wings.
They leave our ruined carcasses behind.
Going to the Palm Reader
My wife has been talking about seeing a palm reader
as a lark, she says, a goof, a game, kind of like checking
our horoscopes in the alternative weekly that’s filled
with dispensary ads—specials for doobie Tuesdays
and refer-a-friend and feel-good Fridays, one touting
their “ediblissables”—marijuana for the masses,
medicinal or recreational. She brings it up—
the palm reader—every time we pass the neon hand
in the window of the old house with the heavy curtains.
We are knocking on 70s door, our lives mostly
behind us and out of our hands, so I wonder what
she thinks this reader can discover in our creases
and callouses, what advice she (or he) can offer us.
Beware the icy steps? Shun the treacherous throw rugs
like disaster scattered beneath our feet? Steer clear
of busy streets, avoid left turns, and drive not
in twilight hours? No, that’s the advice
of the AARP Drive Safely course we had to take,
an earnest soporific that haunts me. Maybe
my wife imagines the chiromancer will find for her
a new man since I am clearly past my best-by date
and begin to resemble the carrot left too long
in the vegetable bin or the banana ready
for transubstantiation into bread or muffin.
When she thinks I have dozed off to my audio book,
she will take my hand in hers and trace the lines,
her fingertip a hound sniffing out a quarry’s path,
so slow, so gentle, circling the mounts on my palm
and nosing along the old ravines. I open
my eyes and look at her, at her hands first, then her face,
and she smiles and tells me I fell asleep. Maybe
she wants the palmist’s help divining the lost past,
recalling for her the sugar and salt of years gone.
Cecil Morris retired after 37 years of teaching high school English in Roseville, California, and now he tries writing himself what he spent so many years teaching others to understand and (he hopes) to enjoy. He has poems appearing or forthcoming in Ekphrastic Review, Hole in the Head Review, Rust + Moth, Sugar House Review, and other literary magazines.
From this bare outcropping of stone,
I watch the giddy river flee its headwaters
beneath a canopy of hardwoods and
mountain laurel before it spools in languor
and seeks to separate itself from itself
within a wide platter of basin then pauses
as if weighing life beyond the ledge,
but unable to walk itself back, it succumbs
and tumbles forth, like muffled thunder,
into the lower chasm where it cleaves
the surface, rises rudderless and presses
on in hurried torrent, singing itself south
in liquid bluster, flowing away past saplings
and the tousled underbrush, bearing vivid
fibers of moss-green stubble and tablets
of bark, softening soil and stone as it feels
its way forward, wrinkling the landscape
and staking its claim upon the earth.
The eyes can’t help but stop and settle
there – though – near the banks in the
slow drowse of foam and tea-stained
water collecting in oval eddies that
work their way towards – and then
away from – one another just the way
the water manages to gather itself
before remembering its path and
then moving on to marry with the
astonished and witless what’s-to-come.
Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize and, more recently, the Best of the Net Award, John Muro is a resident of Connecticut and a lover of all things chocolate. He has published two volumes of poems — In the Lilac Hour and Pastoral Suite — in 2020 and 2022, respectively. Both volumes were published by Antrim House, and both are available on Amazon and elsewhere. John’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Acumen, Barnstorm, Delmarva, River Heron, Sky Island, Valparaiso and Willawaw. Instagram: @johntmuro.