High in the Air
Last night on the news, I watched a building
collapse, twelve condominium floors only blocks
away from where I grew up. I recognized the street,
some hibiscus bushes, palm fronds swaying
in the air’s debris mixed with ocean current, all
of it wafting through the screen, humidifying
my hair, sweating my back to its bottom,
my five-year-old toes brushing a fallen coconut’s
husk in the carpet grass. Behind me
Daddy folds a peace sign pool towel over
his ten-speed’s bar, it’s plenty big,
and seats me on it, so the two of us
can ride the quiet Sunday streets, past
the corner house tented for termites,
over the Surprise Lake bridge where
Daddy lifts from his seat to pump
the pedals harder, and I’m sure his head
will touch a cloud he is so high in the air.
When we coast fast, I like watching his feet
free above the pedals and pretend we’re flying
over the stop sign, my elementary school’s
playground, the towel our magic carpet
my sweaty hands cling to in the morning’s
You Can Take the Girl Out
When we transferred here, no neighbors offered
cookies or recommended handymen, pigeons just
roamed our neighborhood’s apocalyptic-looking
streets, the four, sweating movers our only companions
that first day, our lawn a found-art installation
of empty, plastic bottles, while we listened for
young voices encouraging each other to race
to the stop sign, our own inside years silent
of such sounds.
Ten summers later, I still open the front door to
triple-digit days, hot wind deviling up dust mixed
with creosote, the unnatural quiet. I look both ways
as if I’m going to cross the street, and I remember
the garage, beyond its burning, aluminum shield,
perhaps buried under torn window screens we’ve always
stored, the Dorothy-inspired picnic basket you gifted
when I told you I missed summer, my favorite part
of Kansas growing up, fresh tomatoes and radishes
with salt, maybe a little butter, sun tea brewed
from the front porch, freshly-laundered sheets swaying
the clothesline and scenting our backyard where we
spread the blanket.
When you get home from work tonight, I’ll be holding
that basket, maybe I’ll put some crackers or beer inside,
a stuffed, Toto dog, soft and furry, peering out its top,
that dog, such a survivor, could probably handle this heat,
this desolation. When you suggest we move toward
the couch, that maybe I should release, your words soft
and wispy, my elbow will stiffen, I might grab duct tape
or Gorilla Glue, one of those extra-large, Costco bag
ties, just know that no matter how much I will sweat
or redden under the wicker’s hardness, my feet
will be rowed in sunflowers swinging east to west
throughout the day, their only turning back at night,
when they can no longer follow the sun’s rays.
Amy Lerman was born and raised on Miami Beach, moved to the Midwest for many years, and now lives with her husband and very spoiled cats in the Arizona desert, so all three landscapes figure prominently into her writing. She is residential English Faculty at Mesa Community College, and her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in Stonecoast Review, Rattle, Slippery Elm, and other publications. Her poem, “Why Is It?” was the inaugural winner of the Art Young Memorial Award for Poetry.
For Agnes Martin
I believe the virus has become the primary
If the virus didn’t exist?
This line of inquiry then merges with the holiday’s
insistent laughing Santa “motif”
(It almost disappears inside it)
(Who wants a drumstick!).
Whereupon brother finds
a rosary mixed in with his stuffing
during Christmas dinner . . .
I find a poinsettia blazing
in the 3 a.m. dark
governing the sideboard—
pastel-colored cups all dangling from their pegs
I keep such assorted daydreams
alphabetized these days
inside a colorful
while in Taos, New Mexico
I’ve been back in Indiana as long
as it takes to drag
the moon the length of one’s own grave
a legacy of
and deep habitation
the voice (lost in this wilderness)
that is indistinguishable
from trees burning
in the solemn yards
of my quarantining neighbors—
David Dodd Lee is the author of ten books of poetry, including one chapbook and two books of Ashbery erasure poems. Poetry and fiction have appeared in TriQuarterly, Copper Nickel, Willow Springs, and elsewhere. He is EIC of 42 Miles Press and Associate Professor of English Indiana University South Bend. His book of collages and erasures, Unlucky Animals, is forthcoming in 2023.
Poker Night, 1962
I took Marla home from the dance
at the high school and found a note
saying my parents were at the neighbors
playing poker. So I wander over.
Higby, the neighbor, offers me a drink
and I take some bourbon.
I sit down across the table
and over a place from the principal.
A big, blustery man working
on a glass of bourbon himself.
There must have been six, seven,
maybe eight people there playing
nickel, dime, quarter.
I do pretty well with low ball
and high-low split, breaking even
the rest of the time.
I notice that the principal’s
pile of change is going down
as mine increases.
He and a couple others are cleaned out
by midnight. His discomfort spills over,
his mood testy. There’s no one to target
and he can’t pick on me, it’s my territory.
It’s like watching a pressure cooker
and I wait for the steam to start
rushing from the valve on top.
Higby offers a loan and that adds to the heat.
It may be Friday night but these working folks
decide the game has gone on long enough.
Coats are put on, goodbyes are said
and we all head home.
Monday, at school, I nod to the principal
and he nods back.
Gary Lark’s most recent collection is “Easter Creek,” from Main Street Rag. Others include, “Daybreak on the Water,” “Ordinary Gravity,” “River of Solace,” “In the House of Memory,” “Without a Map,” and “Getting By.” His work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Catamaran, Poet Lore, Rattle, The Sun, Willawaw. https://garylark.work/
In My Imagination
–A Golden Shovel from Sandra Alcosser’s SWEAT:
Men with nibblers and tin snips buffing skins,
sanding curves under clamp lights.
In this dark elevator, the smell of sweaty men
poisons stale air as I hold my breath with
seconds left before I blow it. They are nibblers,
their eyes taking me in. Closing in and
claustrophobic, I imagine them rusty tin-
men in orange jumpsuits. The tall one snips
another’s French fry and I am buffing
the stainless door with my eyes, tattooed skin
shed in depths uncertain. The bell rings and I am sanding
the fourth floor with my feet. Muscleman curves
his lips into a grin and I am under-
neath him slapping thighs. I clamp
my legs around his waist haloed by the lights.
Laurie Kolp’s poems have appeared in the Southern Poetry Anthology VIII: Texas, Stirring, Whale Road Review, Rust + Moth, and more. Her poetry books include Upon the Blue Couch and Hello, It’s Your Mother. An avid runner and lover of nature, Laurie lives in Southeast Texas with her husband, three children, and two dogs.
Bits of paper go yellow, stain, still
like a white-whiskered dog snoring.
Few worth keeping. In spring cleaning
or down-sizing, most flutter
into the recycle bag. Then
my mother’s handwritten recipe for brownies
the letter on his business letterhead that my father
dictated to his secretary to type before he signed
signed it – first name, middle initial, last name as if
I were a customer needing a quote
four stanzas I wrote to my mother in rhymes
to put on her pillow when she was out for the night
when I was nine
my daughter’s letter about our cattle dog having killed a possum
on the back patio when I was out. Shoveling the matted-down
possum into the garbage…and two days later opening the
garbage can to find the possum fluffed up and very much alive
the letter from my friend who was dying,
each step down, toward hospice, in hospice,
a note that she slept 32 of every 40 hours.
My dream she died, email confirmation the next day.
A week later, the letter in her handwriting
to tell me what I’d meant to her with a label
on the envelope saying she gave these letters
to her children to mail when she was gone.
In the tons of paper shed daily, what these
Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet whose work appears widely in journals, anthologies and in five collections. Checkered Mates came out from Kelsay Books in 2021 and Let’s Hear It for the Horses from the Poetry Box in 2022. Website: triciaknoll.com