On Exoskeletons and Mammals by Max Orr

On Exoskeletons and Mammals

Every morning before sun washes the porch in pinks and yellows, I let the cat in. Most days he comes from the bushes, bounces off his paws up the steps, a low greeting rolling from the base of his throat like tires on gravel. But this morning he stopped to mew proudly over the lobster shell rotting on the welcome mat. It glowed red in the pre-dawn dark, buzzing with black flies.

I stared at this offering, so far from sea. This skeleton, ripped from the raw back of another, dragged through trash, and deposited at my doorstep. I thought of my own armor, of its softness in some places, of its hardness in others. I thought of the mornings when I push and pull an Emory board across the callouses coating palms and fingers, sanding away epidermis until what remains is just thick enough to keep the blood inside. It doesn’t take a fisherman or a grateful pet to drag me from the sea and lay me bare—only opposable thumbs and good intent.


About the Poet
Max Orr is an English teacher living with his cat and his climbing partner in Columbus, Ohio.

Two Poems by Deborah Davitt

They never left

When I dream,
my house spawns new rooms,
piled with belongings not my own.

Second kitchens and secret doors,
bedrooms crammed with unfamiliar furniture,
photographs of strange faces,
all fill me with dread.

But it’s the aquariums,
stocked with healthy fish,
(I’ve never fed them; how do they live?)
that make me wake screaming.

For I know that someone else is here,
and always has been.

And I wander the house waking,
looking for the doors
that aren’t there.


Past is Present

A game trail barely visible wends through
the dark woods;
Footsteps erode it over time into
a broader path.

The dirt track became the path to Grandma’s
house in the forest;
deemed too dangerous for younglings, parents
cut down trees, let light in.

This broader path beckoned commerce, settlers;
farmers cleared land and sowed it.
Wagon ruts invited accidents, so
cobbles smoothed the way to market.

The market became a town, the town changed
to a city, and the cobbles were paved;
but the road remembered deer tracks, paw prints,
and refused to move in a straight line.

Sitting there in their cars, the drivers sighed,
inhaling exhaust and cursing curves;
but some thought they could smell green leaves,
or the scent of fresh-cut hay.

And stuck in traffic, dreamed
the road’s memories,
of farms and dark woods.


About the Poet
Deborah Davitt grew up in Nevada, but earned her MA in English at Penn State, where she taught college composition. She currently lives in Houston, with her husband and son. Her poetry has garnered her Rhysling and Pushcart nominations, and has been published over twenty venues. Her short story work has appeared in IGMSCompelling Science Fiction, and other venues. For more about her work, please see www.edda-earth.com/bibliography.

Two Poems by Marsha Foss


Recall that morning
when there were so many feathers
blowing against the window
we weren’t sure for a minute
where we were or what the season was.
At first it seemed like snow,
but no, not in July.

Feathers, we mused. Maybe a firecracker
misfired and scattered a mourning
dove’s nest (dreadful thought).
Feathers, we laughed. Maybe they’d all come loose
from a goose-down pillow hung out to air,
carried away in a gust.

Recall over breakfast of coffee and eggs
it occurred to us that a fox
might have been in the hen house
but then we remembered we no longer
had any chickens in the coop
nor, sadly, children on the swings.
Recall how old we felt.

Recall toward evening we learned the swan
in the pond down the hill was dead.
Whoever aimed had probably not heard
the silver song amid her plummeting wings.
How sadder still than old were
fragile feathers blown against the window.


(A villanelle)

One by one the blue cups broke.
She watched them shatter
with little noise, but gone like smoke.

Her reveries evoke
a lively time of children’s patter.
One by one the blue cups broke.

Outside she listened to spring frogs croak
and raindrops splatter
with little noise, but gone like smoke.

Sometimes when she slept she woke
to hear the loud accusing chatter.
One by one the blue cups broke.

When air was thick enough to choke,
she thought she saw the ashes scatter
with little noise, but gone like smoke.

Cold, she donned a heavier cloak
and told herself it didn’t matter.
One by one the blue cups broke
with little noise, but gone like smoke.


About the Poet
Marsha Foss returned to her home state of Minnesota after 37 years in Maryland.  She has degrees from the University of Minnesota and Johns Hopkins University.  She lives in Saint Paul and enjoys being connected to the area’s amazingly vibrant writing community.  She has had pieces accepted by Glass: Facets of Poetry and Down in the Dirt.


Two Poems by Claudia M. Stanek

Ars Poetica

A kettle boils for lemon tea, its scent
remembered like the chalk
dust of grammar lessons
on a thundery afternoon.
Words steep into endless
weeks of punctuation and run-on
sentences left to boil themselves dry.
But tea is less beverage
than act of literate poise
better kept to the ceremonial.
Lemon dresses it. With a twist,
all is solved in the tongue of ritual.
Do not ask whose tongue.
Do not ask whose ritual.
Do not dilute lemon tea with milk.
Add sweetener, if you like.
It remains lemon tea.


Transparent Language

When you raise your eyes
To the punctuated sky, you see
Letters of all scripts, scattered
In mock collage.

When you shield your eyes
From the glory of the sun, you see
The random spatter of the words
That matter most on your palm.

When your eyes no longer see
Anything but a mist of light,
The magnifier that should illumine
Sentences will brand your hand.

When you wish you had never
Known sight, you will listen
For transparent clauses
But hear the lonely Braille of “I.”


About the Poet
Claudia M. Stanek’s chapbook, Language You Refuse to Learn, was a co-winner of Bright Hill Press’s 2013 annual contest. Her work has appeared in Bitterzoet, Ithaca Lit, Sweet Tree Review, Redactions, and Ruminate, among others. In 2010 Claudia was awarded a Writer’s Residency in Bialystok, Poland, where her work has been translated into Polish. Her poem “Housewife” was selected for a commissioned libretto by Judith Lang Zaimont for the Eastman School of Music’s 2009 Women in Music Festival. She holds an MFA from Bennington College. Claudia lives among the birches in East Rochester, NY with her rescued pets.

Two Poems by Heikki Huotari

The Stationary Point
a                                                                                                                         after reading Psalm 23

There needs to be a magic minimum because at both the end and the beginning there’s an infinite accrual and, God-given, it’s continuously differentiable. My enemies will envy me when I have table manners in their one-horse town, with knives and forks galore, what’s this one for, and manna only of my own.


Blind Spot

Hats do not just happen. Hats are caused by some one or some thing. The uncorrected full moon is a rosary, the rosary the opposite of entropy, the entropy the car of which the clowns do not come out. The muted trumpet plays a one-night, one-note samba, plays it soft. Some optic nerve you have – on endorsing one conceivable interpretation you’re implicitly dismissing all the others.


About the Poet
Heikki Huotari is a retired professor of mathematics. In a past century, he attended a one-room country school and spent summers on a forest-fire lookout tower. His poems appear in numerous journals, recently in Spillway and Diagram, he’s the winner of the 2016 Gambling the Aisle chapbook contest, and his first book, Fractal Idyll, will be published by After The Pause Press in Fall 2017.

Two Poems by Peter Grimes

Pillow Talk

He recalls another clothes-captured primal scene
of dream: he being he and she not she, they shrug
off their skins. For sure it’s what he wants
from others, what each one can’t give being she, he
needing others. For shame. Yet her underclothes read
the same. A clipped hedge like a lipless friend,
shaped in the high beams at driveway’s end, his icy
car sliding home. Tonight he greets the shrub,
pruned over a cavern to mimic fear, a duck,
raccoons rinsing claw-punctured apples, a grackle,
the topiarist gloats. When did she decide
the design of her groin? He crouches inside her
thighs, his prize spouting a tiny message—
preliterate mouse seeks friend, house for moving in.                      
Or through. No object of marvel, abject, half-
larval, he descends the hole toward the oldest place.
What are dreams but seizure, wings batting his craft,
a spaceship placebo, through wood and wormhole, trapped
and shuddering in cumuli of doubt, out
to land beside that same bed-warm human? Still
life. He flips on the mounted light, squints as he reads,
my wife. Garden of my shame, always it is you.


In Decision

I love all a little too plenty.
I’m like a plain sandwich fingered by mustard,
such density has me prancing, a geometer’s
cousin, struck by beauty others wrought

at random. It seems I cannot write mother,
who languishes daily in saloons,
her hair put up in cowboy couplets, without
begging for re-birth, a second
son. It seems my song is renowned
among the lowly, fingers crusted with spite
for a grip on the moment. I sing milk crates
lowing in the field, frog ponds spilling

into streams of you. The point of you,
perched in Spanish Influence, that Kingdom
of Kentuck, twenty-three miles and counting
pylons, as though they were planets


of the Sun. There is a grammar I cannot
parse, parched lips I suck. I speak
in mowing pitches of well-sown grass,
of waves, the lawn of landless ships.


About the Poet

Peter Grimes is an assistant professor of English at Dickinson State University. His fiction has appeared in numerous journals, including Narrative, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Mississippi Review, and Sycamore Review.

Three poems by Lana Bella

Today, she broke hard bread with
hands of need; breaths caverned
sugar pills beneath diphthongs;
cloven teeth piped of slumbering
toxicity. Alone, she hurt in fierce
company of a Milwaukee winter;
its salient plane carried pale over
the svelte heights of her wooden
house on stilts, taking the shape
of goblin wings. Held and rasping,
she expelled a shock of mist from
red-scorching cheroot, sidling past
the running chatter of wine with-
out purchase, weaving where hem-
lock walls exploded in yellow lines
of her life blazed in domestic script.


Red-Lace Dress
The shadows won’t have
anything for her this evening.
But, the woman in red lace
dress turned fair beneath
the dissonant chords of pale
Paris, like bleached penne.
Fingers raised to rouge-edge
undertone, lips devoured
pochette motes at the Louvre,
inviolable as the grief she
tried to starve into a swallow
glass. Tracing wrist where
scars kissed ribbed and easy,
she burned cold suffocation
until the knuckles swept
concrete, magnificently bent,
where ash of a slim Gauloises
felled as bright as mercury
through the grate, terribly still.


You thought of Eve near the sea
and heard the first blue line
train sparked to a stop.
You saw her with a Chilean sky,
charquican writhed in the pot,
comforted the dark-creased
hands from reaching out,
reaching for the rosewood box
of her baby boy’s ash. Sand dug
in eyes, cherubic refrains
tarred with spaces of his wake;
stilted fingers rose like darkness
perching, in strands the color
of felled leaves, reflecting grey in
the gleam of goose fat. Torn
from early pages of solemnized
years, you dreamed of the sealed
room in that house, of Eve’s
plaited hair spilled white like
poplar in seeding, every unslept
night kissed her at the temple,
turned up now as artifacts
for keep, where elegy consented
to smooth black the scenery.


About the Poet
Lana Bella is a four-time Pushcart Prize, five-time Best of the Net, & Bettering American Poetry nominee. She is an author of three chapbooks, Under My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016), Adagio (Finishing Line Press, 2016), and Dear Suki: Letters (Platypus 2412 Mini Chapbook Series, 2016). She has had poetry and fiction featured with over 450 journals, Acentos Review, Comstock Review, EVENT, Ilanot Review, Notre Dame Review, Rock & Sling, The Lampeter Review, The Stillwater Review, and Aeolian Harp Anthology, Volume 3.

Convolitions 2 by Kit Wienert

Convolitions 2
(Escapes and Attitudes)

Escape artists and
Copped attitudes

Wield forms of speech
That sound like they

Say or mean something
Worth repeating or

Unwittingly intuitive
Such as “Forgive me for

Speaking out of turn
But my bus just left

For downtown Milwaukee
And now I’m stranded

On its outskirts, no escaping.”
It’s true that I’ve since decided

To shut down feeling
In my unresponsive side

While what I think drifts
Up and away as the constant

Whiz and whir of traffic
Rushing by tears my hair,

Twists my neck, and numbs
My butt, which makes this

Fake injustice just another
Unknowable but inescapable

Attitude adjustment of
Battered body left behind.


About the Poet
Kit Wienert is a Chapel Hill poet whose latest book is Analogs of Eden. His out-of-print chapbooks include The Everywhere ProvinceThe Love UnitIncidental Musics and FictionsIdylls and Admonitions, and Doctrines of the Moment. His poems and other writings have appeared in The Lampeter MuseCredencesTellusThe PearlExquisite CorpseOyster Boy Review, and North Carolina Literary Review, as well as in the anthologies Sparks of Fire: William Blake in a New Age and Gathering Voices.

Two Poems by David Tuvell

Forward Plain


Begins as breath. Titter, sniffle.
The little voice. Unabridged, sans serif.


Dress it pretty, then. Skirt, bonnet.
Hushed as a comely girl.
Have her sit, play “Für Elise.”
A tidy scene, like a sentence
without vowels. Craft clarinets,
not whistles, my pet.
Music, not screaming.
Nothing is painful between the knobs,
crags of consonants.
How lovely, flutters and tumults
under an airtight veil.
The bride to be. Or,
what your bride might be.
Depending on tradition.


Sinuous, the hours.
Differences of tree and fruit
cradle days: nervous
grenadiers without targets.
Panic greets a whoosh, another
voice, around a kindled wick.
Frenetic cull of beastly
sounds, common threads. Fuses,
not clothes. Braided
lengths of pity, like absolution.


The blank pages welcome
any big bang: howling, breathy
charges, or calmly packed dummies,
birthing quiet, loose anatomies.


I hope you never come down,
from so high up on life’s stage.
The audience applauds any show
that pities sin’s lavish wages.

I hope you never come down
from what a pretty face I have,
and how I’ll just be handed
all the things you never had.

I hope you never come down,
again, long enough to feel
that piled-up need to butcher meat
until it looks the way you feel.

I hope you never come down,
so I’ll always feed you sugar,
ant-infested—plus a laugh—
for your diabetic coma.

About the Poet
David Tuvell has written poems appearing, or forthcoming, in Coe Review, Easy Street, Minetta Review, Mud Season Review, New Orleans Review, Steel Toe Review, and other publications. His Bachelor of Arts in English comes from Kennesaw State University, and he also studied substantially at the University of Florida. Outside of poetry, David’s path has been quite various, and he has made his way through things like information science, information technology, and labor.

Two Poems by Judith Skillman

Field of Statice
In July the bright ones come
from the ground.
Stars on rented stalks
cover strings of silver
strewn by elven-folk
who live for but a day.

Tell me any color—
sea lavender,
limonium, marsh-rosemary—
I tell you l believe
in any memory
come from water.

A sky full of foam,
a fire burning
down the hatchery,
that’s the madness of July.
Give me the herb,
the everlasting calyx.

Dry me a bouquet
and quiet the wind.
Let night put out
even the boldest blues,
the most outrageous purples
and dissolute creams.


The Jacarandas
I left them
on boulevards,
veiled figures wresting
purples from the earth,
the breeze stirring
a kind of trouble.

I left them
as I left my youth—
a memory vivid only
in dream. I left
with my fingers
crossed behind
my back, the countryside
dry and golden
or simply brown,
ready to catch fire
with the first strike
of lightning, the cigarette
thrown from an open window.

I left my inks
there as well,
and the pens. If you don’t
believe me there are stories
of other women
equally bereft.

About the Poet

Judith Skillman’s recent book is Kafka’s Shadow, Deerbrook Editions, 2017. Came Home to Winter is forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions later this year. Her poems have appeared in journals including PoetryFIELD, Cimarron Review, Shenandoah, and in anthologies including Nasty Women Poets, Lost Horse Press. She has been a writer in residence at the Centrum Foundation, and is the recipient of a 2017 Washington Trust GAP grant. Visit www.judithskillman.comjkpaintings.comhttps://www.facebook.com/judith.skillman