The Virgin Mary Burns a Self-Portrait in Toast by Anna Ralls

The Virgin Mary Burns a Self-Portrait in Toast

I imagine the churches, their

pageants, their individual respective

marys, wearing blue

atop pale skin.  I pulled this strip

of barbed wire out of my bare heel

after a walk across the lawn.  I tap it

with my finger, and chip away

another crumb.  I think

of these midwestern marys, so

very new, like crisp corn.  Maybe a strand

of hair peeks out from a white head covering,

and it’s blonde, always blonde, or maybe

with a touch of strawberry,

like that willowy girl in Missouri who at sixteen is cast

as Mary for Christmas while her older sister, two inches shorter,

thirty-five pounds heavier, with auburn hair kept pixie cut,

picks with her fingernails at a wart on her right thumb.

I laugh, imagining them,

as I twist the wire,

burn my face darker

.                               into coarse bread.

About the Poet

Anna D. Ralls is an emerging writer from Columbia, MO. She is a graduate student at Oxford University, and her works are forthcoming or previously published in Contrary, Atticus, and Colorado Review. She currently lives in Bloomington, IN, and loves to spend her spare time singing opera with her husband.

Two Poems by Taylor Harrison Micks

Contest Between Harmony and Invention
The festival of lights is not about self knowing, or looking inward:
the flags strung up over the festival are a boat race more than
they are prayerflags, where by the docks we hear the harvestsong
from across the lake, and my throat is sore as if I sang it too.
And I tell you a sandpiper that I saw, reminded me of my own
lovemaking—his fleet-of-foot to the tide. Birdsteps, I can’t tell
if they’re cautious, following the tide where it swings, gone out
to where the dark waves are just a sound. Music of a garment
being torn, an orifice of the spirit closes with the stars overpowered
by the festival’s light. The sandpiper, called a curlew here,
becomes a shadow. Most dreams are gray like that, dreams I color-in
upon waking, but two of color, actually of dream color, came to me
last night and in the first, books piled high to the ceiling divided
us two. You lit a cigarette, said only desire could make us poor.
In the second, the wintercoats on the backs of chairs multiplied,
in every style, falling to the floor off the chairbacks like petals.

 

A Walk for Postage
Even I’m impressed at the jaunty tempo
mustered in my footfalls passed the assisted
living for folks in wheelchairs; always a few
puffing out front. I may be dizzy for love,
or dizzy for a provocateur. I see it
in the bobbing boughs. Of course I feel
it pout in my lungs. “Bazaar in a Jar”
is a church function apparently,
and the scalloped Art Deco makes one
wonder at the parishioners. Are they bashful?
Besmirched? — piling in the backseat
of a resurrection. Bleak overhead, the low
clouds in gradations of newsprint. Lonely
as a shepherdess, or however I might deign
to characterize a stranger, a woman in the park
dizzies herself — bowing and circling her tripod.
As though a mortal puncture has depressurized
my cabin, the shutterbug’s spaniel finishes
me in a mosaic gust of still-grain yellow leaves.
To have peace in giving away and receiving
is to become, oneself sacred. There was a limby
thistlebush the color of mica, its flowers demi-
secondeing up then low, floated away, lighter
than air at the touch of a yellow bird’s play
this morning, beholding flowers as though it
were me growing, them breathing. My eyes
dripped like fists.

 

About the Poet

Taylor Harrison Micks is a poet from Columbus, Ohio and an alumnus of Ohio State. He lives in Champaign, Illinois, studying for an MFA in Poetry at the University of Illinois, and has had poems published in Ninth Letter.

 

Adjustments by Aidan Coleman

 

Adjustments  

A cry swerves into sleep.

I fumble for an off switch.

*

A head nods and dips

like a buoy and floats away.

*

We wake towards

a bubbling inarticulacy.

 

About the Poet

Aidan Coleman’s two collections of poetry, Avenue and Runways and Asymmetry have been shortlisted for numerous national book awards in Australia. He writes Shakespeare textbooks and is a co-designer of the MOOC Shakespeare Matters with the AdelaideX project. His poems have been published in The AustralianThe AgeAustralian Book ReviewBest Australian PoemsThe Carolina QuarterlyPoetry Ireland Review and Virginia Quarterly Review. He lives in Adelaide.

Two Poems by John-Ivan Palmer

(Matrimony)

Massage Parlor Honeymoon
He was last seen heading toward
that chancel near the pipeline
in Dawson Creek.
Under a moonful of rumor
And a spoonful of dream
The guests arrived,
the trucker, the welder
the clone band drummer
and a guy covered in grease.
The doors were opened wide,
the guests were met
and all were expected to feast
with intentions black as crows
on a highway of flattened fur.
House rules, honey.
Here’s all the things we’re not going to do.
No kissing the bride,
nothing in the hair,
the lights stay on.
Can’t trust the likes of.
Now fork it over, you.
A necktie licked one wrist,
His belt welded the other
To a bed of unanswered questions.
Her tattoo was a sneer of boredom
On the biggest misunderstanding
That ever straddled a Sunday.
Thoughts to yourself, whatever
Your name is.
Ask nothing of stalled migration
Through unspoken want
And the torn fabric weaved
Of what was reached so deep for
In this glittering nave,
where secrets blow
like dust in the breath of forgetting.

(Sin)
Face Focus Burnhole

Here now in this brush
On this wet sheet

Full Moon stokes the rage
Of a whiskered queen,
A ship of fire
Plunges over the edge
Of a flat earth as
Full Moon sails through the tip
Of a ballpoint writing
To the news
Then cuts through the mail
To become the news
As reason and logic
Fall from the sky
In shattered parts.

Full Moon leans in the old arcade
Of the ticket taker’s wish

Lives in codes
Stamped on spoons
Magnetic strips, encrypted slips
And numbers carved in stone

Reckon your metered soul, Full Moon,
And book yourself in business class
Then fly through a careful choice of words

To that foreign land.
Press your gaudy finger
On the down button of chance
And descend to a level
Where you need a special card
To get off
Then kiss, breathe,
thrive, Full Moon
In everything you spawn
In everything you spill.

 

 

(Redemption)

 

About the Poet

John-Ivan Palmer’s literary work has appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Nth Position, Wild River Review, Wisconsin Review, New Oregon Review, and Other Voices. The Drill Press published his novel, Motels of Burning Madness, in 2009 and he has received the Pushcart Prize for fiction.

Four Poems by Karen An-hwei Lee

Dear Millennium, on the Nine Orders of Angels

Never easily recall the names, dear millennium, 
                                                of nine angelic orders –
first, ophanims in ocular celestial wheels, 
beryl-colored 
                                           ablaze to the unaided eye,
or else too close to the fire to see a forest aflame, 
                    blinded in a mentholated sequoia grove.
Second, who are the virtues – 
                                                celestially distinct 
                                from angelic hosts, third?  Seraphim, 
archangels, fourth and fifth.  Do you recall?
A dyslexic girl says,
                                     No-name angel at a taxi corral
rich enough in rags, hatless, without a suitcase, 
shone with a clean jaw.
                                                      I offered every penny
out of my purse.
Blessing me, he vanished, coins 
                                spinning light in light.  O heal me.
                                                           Selah.
On God and the Hydroponic System
1. In this millennium, we say, cloud-based
for an empyrean of shared data. 
2. Engineer of everything, God sees us 
                err in the same faults over and over 

on a disrupted shore of consciousness,
soul-engine wherein a weight is lifted 
                                                through the heart.
3.
In blindness, we do not confess our sins,
will not even circulate in recycled water  

or say yes
to yield – or combust.
4.
Hydroponically speaking, we cannot engineer
a system of grace on our own,
                                as an act of our will.

5.
God is a hydroponic engineer who aerates 
                      heads of butter lettuce
in aqueous solutions  
                                                out of nil.  Selah.
On the Proprioception of Beauty Not as Pharmakon  


On language as proprioception, or a ghosting sensation.  
                                                In other words, langue
    as embodied phenomenological experience, a glottal mesh  
          linguistically mediated.  Happiness, for instance – does it exist
autonomously, without estrogenic parole
                              in a hormonal rush of cherry blossoms? 
Say if the cherry blossoms vanish, the frothing corpus 
                                                                              disarrayed by El Ni
ño,
a tousled grove of seasonally affective moods, of absence 
                     as nonattendance or a privation of beauty?
      If caplets of pilled toxins reduce fever, shall we say this is febrifuge,     
                                         or rather, antipyretic?  Is beauty 
pharmakon for pharmakon, poison and cure?       A Quarterly with Salt, Ferries, and Light
A quarterly should vanish each season,
every three cardinal phases of the moon,
with reprints and back issues on request.
A quarterly etches a monsoon’s portfolio, tinkling brass as mini-cymbals for a band. A quarterly gladly plows up the mundane in an obituary, in memorarium. A quarterly is glued to a spine or a Japanese retchoso. A quarterly is ___.  A quarterly is bamboo. A quarterly accompanies ferry passengers.
A quarterly dispenses sagacious minerals,
sea-foam green, mixed with salt for a bath. A quarterly can be designed with glassine and wax with the engravings of a philatelist. A quarterly should offer quinks and inklings. A quarterly is not flung over the verandah.
A quarterly has a circulation of a thousand
or more.  Or less.  A quarterly eats quinces,
postcards.  Salt and light.   A quarterly  is a quarterly is a quarterly –

About the Poet

Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo 2012), Ardor (Tupelo 2008) and In Medias Res (Sarabande 2004)winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award. She authored a novel,Sonata in K (Ellipsis 2017).  Lee also wrote two chapbooks, God’s One Hundred Promises (Swan Scythe 2002) and What the Sea Earns for a Living (Quaci Press 2014). Her book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora: Literary Transnationalism and Translingual Migrations (Cambria 2013), was selected for the Cambria Sinophone World Series. Lee’s work appears in literary journals such as The American Poet, Poetry Magazine, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, IMAGE: Art, Faith, Mystery, Journal of Feminist Studies & Religion, Iowa Review, and Columbia Poetry Review and was recognized by the Prairie Schooner / Glenna Luschei Award.  She earned an M.F.A. from Brown University and Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, Lee is a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle.  Currently, she lives in San Diego and serves in the university administration at Point Loma Nazarene University.

Two Poems by Lee Landau

Lover Gone Away
Another love disappears, ghosts
echo loss, even derision.

The record holder for shortest affairs
I entreat these misalliances, small

Wonders of dreamscape over reality,
bones with no underpinnings to salvage.

Love or friendship slip away, the knot
always too tight or too loose to hold

Him to seasons, and this hearth where
love bolds and binds passion.

How to hold him close again
his feelings less than passionate?

I know this cooling off rattles
our soured relationship.

His departure, maybe preordained,
hugs the winter season, not me.

Snow shies away from ground, flakes
large but porous too damp to stick.

They disappear like him tumbled dry
of emotion, melted where once my tongue

Left flakes, each unique, my gift. Now
this scene thrives on empty –

Singes of farewell strike my tongue.

 

More Clouds 

White clouds, a pop-up box
of tissues, stain blue horizons—
white to pewter, stormy black.

Sly clouds translate
into hail, tornados, thunder.
Weathermen predict these odds.

nbsp;
They interpret content of clouds
like a novel, uncover piles
of once white towels now soiled,

ivory, crème, smudged
suspicions, just cloudy choices
to end this report.

Thanks to Wordsworth–
we weather clouds,
lonely, cumulus, ever
wandering.

 

About the Poet
Lee Landau writes with raw honesty and tenderness about interactions in a unique, personal landscape: her relationships with family, their dysfunctional backstories, and the many phases of grief that tumble through her poems and life. She addresses an internal audience of the departed, the dead and dying, and highlights unexpected losses.

Two Poems by Frederick Pollack

The Comedian
Letheredge, known as “that idiot,”
announces with his usual cheery
puerility that he wants to
“make something of his life.”
That fall the Club receives
a tinted photo from some ghastly
river town. (“Is that a crocodile?”)
Rotting docks, ragged somnolent people,
an X incised at the edge.
That’s where I sit. The local rum
has a toxic charm I should not be able
to resist if I tried. Supplies, I think,
are sorting themselves out, and we may be
off by All Souls’. Thus Letheredge

in his crabbed, childish hand;
the rest concerns his invaluable
man Gómez. Then, for a year,
nothing. At times we discuss
alerting some consul (“where?”)
or his family (“had he any?”).
Recollections of his follies become
fond but remain unspoken;
one senses we are saving them
for when he is known to be gone.

He returns one afternoon,
having lost several stone,
quite brown; he looks, not drawn so much
as having lately recovered.
The silliness
remains, but it’s hard,
in that hale frame, to tell if it’s less
or more. “Gómez got me
out of that hole. He carried me,
you know. I was damned lucky
to avoid gangrene. I gave him
enough money to set the family up
as local gentry!” But what, we ask,
were you doing there?

“I fell in. The undergrowth had rotted.
I was knocked out a moment,
and then, of course, I couldn’t stand.
Enough light filtered through that I could see
the murals. It’s apparently quite a find –
I’ll be written up! There’s a chieftain,
a king. He’s very red, sitting cross-legged
on a cushion, his hair is in
a top-knot, his index finger raised
as if he’s teaching;
his mouth is open. The people below him,
captives I guess, look quite
miserable. One especially – he’s staring
at his hand, something terrible
has been done to the nails, they’re dripping
widely separated drops of blood;
his mouth is open like the king’s.
And I thought – I was in pain, you know,
not thinking well – that they looked much alike,
except the king was fatter;
and that I resembled both of them,
though I couldn’t say which one more.”
Ode to Cereals
By the grace of hallowed dead,
unquestioning work, and our planes
and agents ever on watch, I will never –
to quote an old oath – be hungry again. Any
bike-ride under sketchy trees
in the new suburb is a drive in a new
car. Unexpected grace
descends, though the reassuring humdrum
remains, and there appear FROSTED FLAKES.

COUNT CHOCULA has the ahistorical,
timeless appeal of horror.
The brown of ancient stains, sublimed
by fresh arterial violet, spreads
as swiftly as electronics
from vaguely cellular platforms, bringing
adepts where they wish to go:
adolescence, the trans-parental realm;
and is the true milk of childhood.

Then, after the crazed mini-vampire
and all-accepting working-class
tiger, select spirits rally
to a pirate shorn of violence and the terror
of age: CAP’N CRUNCH. In his eyes
the glint of gold, the greed for it, are shared,
are generous. Gold is the special tang
in the taste, the spiky texture,
the dust at the bottom of the box.

Let there be no animadversions
about poison. With or without
blueberries, banana, satisfaction
follows the last or the last extra, “heaping,”
spoonful, clicks like a tab;
it’s a matter of digestion, of pacing,
and I lift my eyes to the clock.
About the Poet

Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness (Story Line Press), and a collection, A Poverty of Words (Prolific Press). Another collection, Landscape with Mutant, was published in 2018 by Smokestack Books (UK). Many other poems in print and online journals.

 

 

Two Poems by Eunha Choi

In the Land of Opaque Realities
Pondering in the land of opaque realities
Where facts are fictionalized
And the aberrant notion of post-truth
Emerges with despicable pomp
Asking the difference between
Fantasy conspiracy and utopia
incessantly on an increasingly
Silent confused bewildered crowd

To distribute due blame and shame
Distinctions among the three shout urgency
Urgent emergency potency now
Distinguish us, they unabashedly shout
Whipping each other to keep each discrete apart
Now, distinguish us to keep salutary distance from
The incipient catastrophe of language meaning
Everything and nothing all at once. One breath.

Strained drained now lethargic mind
Must be summoned this autumn night
When most sleep and some weep and few plot
Mind, distant and cool, leveled and constant
In an multiplying territory of transcending lies

Mind, wake now
From slumber dormant rhythm
of numbing requiems
Heed the towering voices of Brahms’s chorus
In his building German requiem otherwise
Follow the sharps and flats to draw the labyrinthine outside
From

Slumber distraction soul-slashing sameness
Where both the aesthete and philistine perish
Both in the name of unclassified art
Wake mind, emerge from phantom state
Rise susceptible to emanating gradations of
Warm icy lights generating placating
shrill sounds
Inhabiting the raspy silky blankets of skin
Grown parched and sullen gradually
Suddenly
Upon the nocturnal bright concealment
Of truth running frightened away from lies

 

 

Excess
Times of a putrid self-inflicted inability to say
.                                                        no
enough no more
                     have alas arrived. Where has the preference
for just balance scampered to?

Golden teeth through which bolstering lies

jump

like spigots filled with ancient venom

A bewildering taste for
                          the monstrous aberrant

conditions preserved conserved pickled for a long howl

in mouths palates once inclined for palette shade regularity

many are the names to call this existential, moral

malaise

even the burden to name has ceased to matter

whatever compass worked last year and the many

before doesn’t anymore
.                                             alarm sirens go off
all night and day: every single instant of the regulated
clock and the insensible mind

what is that?, mounting they ask

… thunderous silence strikes

we have lost the ability to name excess as well

doesn’t matter if you its excreting insides inhabit another word
the broken puncturing shell of another word

its greenish yellow with putrefied odor yanks quick allusion

.                       . to itself

 

About the Poet

Eunha Choi is an Adjunct Instructor at Lehman College. Situated where literature, cinema and philosophy meet and fail to meet, her research interrogates realism less as an aesthetic or literary form of representation than as an always in flux theory of the real and a model of critique. Her recent publication appears in Pacific Coast Philology, Confluencia, Ciberletras and Chasqui among others.


			

Nine Walking Dreams by Hilary Sallick

Nine Walking Dreams

1.
When suddenly
I wanted to speak to you
a thought appeared     on its own
free of context
I tried to imagine the rest
to make the fragment into a form
of communication
But nothing I was able to say
was what was necessary
It was then I began speaking
with fewer and fewer
words
2.
There was a shape
I wanted to copy in words
natural and glamorous
like a spider-web
graceful      not quite invisible
catching the light     dazzling with dew
It was a shape that could be named
It had a theme  an intention
a meaning visible in itself
Only by almost forgetting
the idea of such a form
was I able to begin
3.
I walked home
carrying two bags
In one      pomegranates   asparagus   wine
a weight of ease and richness
In the other   three books
reminding me of my leisure
how I could choose their offer
of a kind of power
to be found within
for good
In my eyes    more beauty
the willow
rising above the buildings
the little trees turning gold
In my mind    a voice
speaking to me   only to me
I was careful
of my carelessness
I guarded my delight
as I walked home
4.
What the very old person needs
is what the baby needs
and what we all need
So we can learn from them
They can show us
what matters
They don’t want what they don’t need
They want something more
than food water sleep touch
For the old man to need all this
from us
can be terrible
But it isn’t
Because he needs something more
What is it?
He needs to be seen
in his dreams
He needs to be remembered
5.
He composed this poem on the spot:
The dream was walking
It took one step
and another step
It kept going
the same two steps over and over
It came to a staircase
It took a step up    It took another step
And then      because—
because of the agony
of finding no meaning
to those same two steps repeating
it decided       to stop
6.
He told me:
Today I had a very disturbing experience
They came and took me away somewhere
It was a large amphitheater
completely dark
I didn’t know where I was
I didn’t have my billfold my credit cards
I was naked as a jaybird
Then in the darkness I heard my name called
It was terrifying
Other names followed
I connected it with an occasion honoring social scientists
who had made contributions to understanding the life course
They were going to ask me some questions
There was no one to help me
I couldn’t speak because there was no one to listen
I tried to ask for help
I tried
but there was no one
No, it wasn’t a dream!
It’s probably in The New York Times
I bet it’s in there
7.
I keep trying to really see the sky
because the day before he died
he looked in the direction of the window
for long minutes his eyes listening unafraid
and not wanting to interrupt I studied his face
then the vast blue sky
in silence       and the next day
I raised the blinds for him again      just in case his eyes
which were open unblinking fixed
could feel the light
because a tear ran out each corner
once or twice     and I didn’t know if it meant something
or nothing
because he couldn’t speak or chose not to or
was past speech
and because I want the sentence to lead me somewhere
as if the ending could be an answer
because the hour is here again and the blue
is shining through voluptuous clouds
I keep looking
8.
The chair is empty
For days no one has come to the table
moved the papers
written  a line
No one has raised the shades
looked out the cold window
No one has seen the sky from there
Through the eyes
of that room
There’s no touch no plan
no arranging
There’s no trying to begin
or end
It’s a useless room
No one uses it
Even so
the room is there
Behind the door
A chair a table three windows sky
9.
I walk in here
It’s the stillest room in the house
The door closes behind me
Light pours in
and warms the silence
in which I listen
in which nothing needs to happen
except
whatever happens
About the Poet
Hilary Sallick’s chapbook, Winter Roses, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press, and her poems have appeared recently in the Aurorean, Third Wednesday, and The Human Journal. She is an adult literacy teacher in Somerville, MA, and the vice-president of the New England Poetry Club.

Two Photos by Fabrice B. Poussin

If Only

 

In the Air of Beauty

 

About the Artist

Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. He is an author of novels and poetry and his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review and more than 170 other publications.