As we cross over the water, moon jellies
clap the causeway, filmy, phosphorescent,
Bolivar a black pearl of a bayou.
I swear I can smell the specters skimming
the seawall and salt-caked planking
of abandoned factories, Gulf air
so glutted with ghosts our tongues
turn gray. Dune plants plume like undines
in the lagoon and a tangle of tanzanite
colored nets dangle from the mosquito
fleets. We watch rapt as red-tailed hawks
rim the swampland, a black-necked
stilt cranes its bill, stalking the marsh,
and a yellow-crowned night heron screams,
the queen of the sea. Underbellies of sand-
dwelling sanderlings glimmer in the seagrass
where nettles swarm, this sin city a symphony
of tentacles and triple-digit heat, turbulent
whitecaps more sulphur than azure, rich
with gypsum and ocean jasper. Shorewinds
whip white horses lush on the water’s edge,
sea-rose oleanders overlay the inlet in a
lunatic fringe. Broadway shivers down
the spine of the island where Bettie’s brass-
bound souvenir box locks itself, clutching her
secrets like a prayer shawl, the ghosts of Galveston
little hat tricks rattling our brackish bones loose.
The summer before the great storm, the magicicadas sputter
and scrim, a whispered chorus chirring like wire brushes on snare
drums. This Baton Rouge brood of stragglers rises four years
early from their subterranean chambers, hatchlings bunching
in branches, nymphs cloaking themselves in crackling exoskeletons
to emerge immortal, imago, feeding on the xylem fizz of root
sap and molting into winged things. Let their tymbals throb,
a squeeze box of ribs buckling one after another in a glamorous
babble. My sisters and I spill onto the balcony, marveling
at the sea of sound, up close the caterwauling of a million cats,
the mating dance of an alien race, the lament of jilted lovers doomed
to sing their throats out, to rasp and dance and clamor until the room
is all on fire, red-eyed and green-skinned, wings as membranous
as embryos. Let us from our safe distance hear them shrilling
the word pharaoh over and over on a loop like a prayer. Enthralled
by their frenzy, let us choose the fugues to drag us from the deep.
Let the Pretenders hijack my world, flying into the townhouse
like pigeons from hell. But half a year later, let it be Stevie who
delivers me from my hospital bed with her cicatrix of black skirts,
a vespiary of veined wings reverberating through the ash
trees, limpid as vapors. Let the brood report back to the Muses:
This is the season she emerges. This is the year she’s reborn.
LeeAnn Olivier, MFA, is the author of the chapbooks Doom Loop Wonderland (The Hunger Press, 2021) and Spindle, My Spindle (Hermeneutic Chaos Press, 2016). Her poetry has appeared in The Missouri Review, Rockvale Review, Driftwood Press and elsewhere. Originally from Louisiana, LeeAnn now teaches English at a college in Fort Worth, Texas. She is a survivor of domestic violence and breast cancer. In December, LeeAnn went into acute liver failure due to a medication injury and received an emergency liver transplant. Much of her recent work explores the power of the natural world to aid in the healing process.
Elegy for Grit and Gumption
A shack with an overhead door,
a grimy window, an unspeakable john,
and a back door just because:
West Side Radiator—40 years an eyesore
to the city planners, the shop itself a hub for
errant vehicles and their owners who’d linger
for a cuppa and a chat with the self-made
host as congenial as his shop was antediluvian.
The upscalers’ disdain failed to penetrate
the thin walls buttressed by the affability
welling inside like an overheating radiator.
Only Death has managed that (hundreds mourning),
loosing the bellowing bulldozer of progress
to level the shop in a trice—a lifetime’s labor
reduced to a parking lot where cars line up like
lolling turtles as their radiators grumble and rust.
Darrell Petska is a retired university engineering editor. His poetry and fiction can be found in 3rd Wednesday Magazine, First Literary Review–East, Nixes Mate Review, Verse Virtual and widely elsewhere (conservancies.wordpress.com). A father of five and grandfather of six, he lives near Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife of more than 50 years.
What I Miss
–after Arianne True’s “Seattle Sonata”
It’s hard to be in love
with Portland these days. So much
is broken, disjointed, so little
makes sense. I still feel at home
in my neighborhood, though. The trees
in the park across the street still
whisper and tower and sway.
The London Plane trees still dance
their static ecstatic dance
in the early morning sun,
kick up their branches under the light’s
caress. Homeless men and women
still sleep on benches, tucked
under coats and tarps, still linger
while joggers and small children
in strollers pass.
Maybe what I miss
is my youthful optimism. I am not surprised
by the tents, the trash, the bike parts. I am
not surprised by the stumbling bodies,
the hopeless faces, the ragged clothing.
I am in shock that I am still living
in this neighborhood and that in real time
we seem unable to rescue real people,
help them pull together
the frayed edges
of their lives.
Vivienne Popperl lives in Portland, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in Clackamas Literary Review, Timberline Review, Cirque, Willawaw, About Place Journal, and other publications. She was poetry co-editor for the Fall 2017 edition of VoiceCatcher. She received both second place and an honorable mention in the 2021 Kay Snow awards poetry category by Willamette Writers and second place in the Oregon Poetry Association’s Spring 2022 contest “Members Only” category. Her first collection, A Nest in the Heart, was published by The Poetry Box in April, 2022.
I Want to Go (Home)
I do a search:
sixty-three of the songs in my library include home in the title.
(It’s not telling because I try not to talk about things
that make me feel like I’ve been scraped out or deveined,
not even to myself, not even to he–)
Once is coincidence, twice is an incident,
sixty-three times? That’s
(a hell of a pattern for a girl who won’t talk
won’t think won’t act why how do I wrap my fingers
around a number like that, make them stretch, make them hold,
how do I say–)
about what I expected, really.
I listen maybe two hundred times to each,
three hundred, more,
(it depends how many times
the sun has hurt me that day,
how many hours I’ve spent locked in a bathroom
wishing zombies would come and eat everyone else in the building)
I ask Google.
Still no zombies.
(Please shut up, please shut up, please be quiet
I am so tired of voices and music and fingers
attached to my hand that are not mine why–)
Is this all I will ever have? All I will ever want?
For the world to be quiet,
for a home that feels like a song that feels like home.
(I’ve heard that watching porn will make the reality of sex unsatisfying,
and I am afraid because–)
What if I never find it?
What if reality never measures up to the song
and I end up homeless in every building I inhabit
because none is enough to inspire sixty-three songs
about the moment I open the door.
Lindsay Regan teaches English Language Arts to ninth and tenth graders in western Washington. She has been writing since elementary school, and has long believed that words have their own magic.
Holy Radishes & Other Acts of Desperation
Close the drapes & cast a circle of salt.
(I am not a witch. I’m simply lonely.)
Call up your father’s ghost. He can hear
but he cannot answer back.
I am not a witch, I’m just lonely.
Perhaps that is the story of every witch.
My father will not answer back,
which is a shame. I have questions.
Perhaps that is the story of every witch:
bored & ignored. You can tap the power
of your shame. Write your questions
in that pretty notebook you’ve been saving.
Bored? Ignored? Try tapping the power
of Making Shit Up. O holy radishes,
O pretty notebook. Make sure you’re saving
fingernail clippings & menstrual blood
for Making Shit Up. Now hold the radishes
high, chant He will never hurt me again.
Toss fingernail clippings. Menstrual blood
helps us remember we are animals.
Chant He will never hurt me again.
Maybe he will, maybe he won’t—
but it helps our animal selves to hear it.
Shout it loud enough to snuff a candle out.
Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t.
He definitely will. I am not a witch.
Say what you wish, then snuff your candle out.
Cry until you have no salt. Open the drapes.
Years, years! This is what it has come to:
I mailed a letter & the answer was bored silence.
My father etc. would rather not read &
I honested myself out of his family photo.
My grandfather died & nobody told me.
I discover so much by accident.
My grandfather died & nobody told me.
What is a grandfather anyway?
Only a father’s father, right? How many do I need?
How many can I bore to death? Bye, Walter—
I didn’t get to tell you what you never asked
& your great-grandkids would not have played football.
How many do I need? This suitcase is small
so I choose my best books & the clock on the wall.
I’m not running—no one’s looking for me—
I am preparing for fire. If you don’t start one I will.
Might as well do something worth being blamed for.
I sold my father’s watch. He never owned a watch.
If you don’t start a daisy chain, I will.
Don’t try to keep me from ruthlessly flowering.
This isn’t his field. He never owned a field.
You will not find your copper coins here, grandfather.
You did not drop your silver watch here, father.
The only loose change in this field is me, face like a dime.
Erica Reid is a Colorado poet, editor, and critic. Her debut collection Ghost Man on Second won the 2023 Donald Justice Poetry Prize and will be published by Autumn House Press in early 2024. Erica’s poems will appear in Rattle, Birmingham Poetry Review, Colorado Review, and more. ericareidpoet.com