Dream, Lines By Jack B. Bedell

Dream, Lines

In these dreams, my father stands
inside our front door frame,

storm screen swung open,
can of Falstaff sweating in his hand.

I am push-mowing the yard,
doing my best to keep my lines

straight, alternating dark
and light like a baseball field.

My work is slow, every dip
in the yard pulling the lines

off square, making fluid
what should be set hard.

The whole time, he watches
each pass, not a line showing

on his face. If he cares
whether my pattern holds tight,

I can’t tell from his sips of beer.
His eyes follow me, though,

and I know the cold air
spilling out the open door

means something, even
if my lines slant.

By Jack B. Bedell

Biography:

Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collections are Elliptic (Yellow Flag Press, 2016), Revenant (Blue Horse Press, 2016), and Bone-Hollow, True: New & Selected Poems (Texas Review Press, 2013). He has recently been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.

Sobriety: Days Two, Three By Marley Stuart

Sobriety: Days Two, Three

In my experience, the second day is hardest.
Day one is easy—after a binge, the knee-jerk
reaction kicks in. But the second night
there’s no reason to abstain other than to keep
the streak going. And the streak isn’t even long enough
to hold real weight. I shouldn’t be counting in days,
but nights. That’s when I’m forced to choose.

 

I shower early, cold, and get in bed.
I give up on a book and toss and turn.
My wife asks what’s the matter.
It’s the light of her phone—I can see it
even with my eyes closed. It’s the room, too hot.
It’s the sound of trains outside.
It’s none of this. I tell her, nothing.

My mind keeps going back to Bill.
Not long ago, a friend and I went over
with cards and beer, and Bill was delighted
it was Schlitz. Shlitz! He couldn’t believe it,
wiping bloodshot eyes behind glasses.
I knew he had two chips for two years sober,
but I asked anyway, you want one?

He tapped the top for two hands
before cracking it, and didn’t even drink
it all. We played bourré, let the pot build up.
No one won—my friend and I left without counting
our chips and took the ice chest with us.
The next time over there, Wild Turkey
in the cupboard. And then I got the text—Bill’s dead.

I sweat through the sheets, dream of big houses
with strangers in all the rooms. I get through
the next day. Now it’s night three.
Did I say the second was hardest?
That was so naïve.

By Marley Stuart

Biography:

Marley Stuart is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Xavier Review, L’Éphémère Review, and About Place. He lives in New Orleans with his wife.

Economies of Scale By Tobi Alfier

Economies of Scale

This, she learned her first day
at bartending school:
make six at once. You won’t need
to sell your soul in a bikini
for a decent job, your tips
will be to the moon and back,

just how you love
your kids and the man
who made them.
To the men with their ungainly
step, iron-toed boots, biceps
and lunchboxes passed

from their fathers, pictures
of fighters and pin-ups
in lids, a prayer on the bottom
for safe days and safe keeping,
she made Jack and Gingers
all night, five-thirty till close.

For the women, smooth and silky,
graceful as the sound of nightbirds
in dark trees along the river,
sadness a fable of loss on their faces,
she made perfect White Russians—
well vodka, Kahlua, real cream,

the same cream she’d pour
in their coffees before they were escorted
to anywhere. Where they came to a bar,
so did the men. She judged not.
She smiled, watched the night air
tremble with cold, pocketed their warm cash,

eyed the clock, listened
to pick-me-up tunes on the jukebox.
No one lingered in the doorway,
asked what she was doing later,
just like she wanted. Freed in the chinablue
moonlight she heads home, heart suing for peace.

By Tobi Alfier

Biography:

Tobi Alfier (Cogswell) is a multiple Pushcart nominee and a multiple Best of the Net nominee. Her current chapbooks include “Down Anstruther Way” (Scotland poems) from FutureCycle Press, and her full-length collection “Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where” is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).

Diagnosis By Meghan O’Hern

Diagnosis

I have borderline personality disorder,
at least that’s what the doctor says.

She explains the symptoms:
dissociative episodes, unstable self-image, self-harm
a checklist of my existence
walking the border of psychotic

It’s bipolar without mania
she says with a saccharine smile
I’m pretty sure that’s depression, but I don’t say anything

A too-bright pamphlet “Borderline Personality and YOU” is sitting in front of me
I flip through the pages
easily crosses lines between depression and anxiety
both neurotic and psychotic
written in colorful letters
as if that washes away the stigma

She hands me a prescription
in the same breath tells me medication may not work.
She lists the potential side effects and asks if I understand the diagnosis
I don’t, but I nod anyway.
Stumble home lost in sea storm speculation

Maybe google can make me feel less alone.
What causes borderline personality?
Treatment for borderline personality?

The search spits back calloused responses.
Trauma in childhood, heredity, neglect
Therapy. Hospitalization. Medication.

When I finally tell someone
he listens to the string of symptoms
agrees with the diagnosis.
I am swallowed by rage and sadness and confusion
he wasn’t supposed to agree with the doctors?

I’m not crazy, I just feel so much
Reminds me all the two a.m. calls to a suicide hotline aren’t healthy.
Promises me this isn’t a death sentence,
just a word for all this feeling.

By Meghan O’Hern

Biography:

Meghan O’Hern is a graduate of Bradley University’s English and Creative Writing Program. Their work centers on mental illness, identity and healing. More of their work can be found on facebook and tumblr at Meghan O’Hern Poetry.

Blue By Margaret Rozga

Blue

from swaths of open land,
a city on the lake, parks
where we swam until blue,
where milkweed flourished
and monarchs

from the day before
the music died, from Buddy Holly
and the Crickets’ Peggy Sue—
It seems so easy…Oh so doggone easy.

from the fear of my own shadow,
from being thought the shadow
of my two older sisters,
from shadowy characters
becoming politically powerful
from new high-rise developments over-
shadowing those once open public spaces

from standing with lights behind me
becoming a shadow
of the teacher I
used to be
from being
a whisper
of the voice
I used to have
from floating where
I used to swim

from reading and writing open places
from visiting a grave, a place
where questions lie buried, answers
maybe as well, answers I think
I have earned, answers
that flit like butterflies
quick into the blue

By Margaret Rozga

Biography:

Margaret Rozga has published four books, including Pestiferous Questions: A Life in Poems (2017), written with the help of a Creative Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society. Her poetry and essays have appeared recently in Whale Road Review, Mom Egg Review, Peacock Journal, and the Los Angeles Art News. She writes a monthly op-ed on social justice issues for Milwaukee Neighborhood News.

Anatomy of Grief By Katie Pukash

Anatomy of Grief

I pay to shoot guns in an alleyway.
Remember his tortured smile and magazine wrists.
I try to grow thyme, live with thirty one people and call myself stable.
I surround myself with cats and houseplants
and forget his last name.
I clip my nails too short and bleed into the sink.
I go to our pizza place and forget how much not crying hurts.
I taste your coke,
lick at your obituary.
I am lockdown, intoxicated tongue.
I demo a kitchen, a bathroom,
a heart.
Chip my knuckle.
Ruin my only mouth.

By Katie Pukash

Biography:

Katie Pukash is a poet based in Boise, Idaho. She has competed at two National Poetry Slams and has been previously published in Yay! LA, Breadcrumbs, and The Bitchin’ Kitsch, among others.

#7459 or The Last Known Photograph of Diane Arbus By Kate Wilson 

#7459 or The Last Known Photograph of Diane Arbus

Diane,
I have begun drinking cough syrup despite not having a cold
And dreaming of those days my old friends would do horse tranquilizers
Which is a barbiturate
Which I just learned is ketamine
Which, I suppose, is to say both ketamine and my name start with a K.
Why are you sitting in my bathtub, Diane?
It’s been two days, this was supposed to pass.
You cannot pull tragedy from our arms, Diane;
You cannot separate the blood from the anesthetic it is choking on.
If art was supposed to save you,
Why are you buried in a cemetery that doesn’t hold your name?
You were a photographer,
I guess it make sense you’d shoot
Yourself like this.
Diane, did you know your last photograph is an angel number?
Do you ever think about how water does not drown,
Even when it is full of humans?
Diane, do you ever think about your ex husband while you’re kissing that married man?
Do those hands still remember holding you? Or more importantly
Does your body remember holding those hands?
My girlfriend falls asleep in our bed,
And I wander the streets alone.
I do not think she notices.
I am tired of this skin.
Is your body still yours if you give it to the ground?
You cannot undark room yourself, Diane.
Depressive episodes are not camera obscures,
You cannot Vermeer yourself onto a new canvas.
In that final crescendo, did you realize
You were trying to undevelop yourself?
Did it work?

By Kate Wilson 

Biography:

Kate is from Mammoth Lakes, California. They have recently found a new home in Salt Lake City, Utah where they are working towards a BA in English and an MA in teaching. Kate is a Virgo with a Gemini rising & a Taurus moon. They love swing sets more than most people who love swing sets. They practice regular necromancy & are attempting to escape orbit. They have competed in poetry slams in Utah, Arizona, and Idaho and have toured in Idaho, Nevada, and California. They were also part of Westminster College’s CUPSI team, and competed in Chicago, Illinois.