Two Poems by Caitlin Grace McDonnell

For Malachai
     after Lucille Clifton
 
Yes, we named you
even though we couldn’t
agree to bring you
into the world. Move
to California with me,
he said. Ride my dick,
he said. This is the worst
thing I’m gonna do in
my whole life, he said,
but no part of me
wants to take this
journey with you.
How do you think
you’re gonna do it,
he said, pinning
me up against a wall,
huh, how. Ask what
help you can get,
my friend said.
We find the question
inappropriate, they said.
We don’t know what
strabismus is the
Kaiser clinic said.
They might not
make you start
right away, he said
in his sleep, What?
I asked, awake and
worrying alone.
At the book-signing,
he said. I mean,
at the abortion, he said,
and turned his back as
I got up to write it down.
Malachai, I wanted you
but one day, coming
down the mountain,
when I realized
it was too late for
the chemical way,
I felt you growing
like witchgrass, like
something wild
and unwanted, like
the shadow of me
inside of me. I could
not say the words:
I want an abortion,
so the Berkeley
women’s health
clinic practitioners
didn’t know what
to do with me, are
you sure you’ve
considered all
your options, they
said in the small
room made by
old tapestries, yes,
I said. I can’t say
it but I think you
should do it anyway.
Can you hold me
down, I asked, in
case my body
struggles. Yes, they
said, working that day
for free for me,
their young tan arms
in soft cotton across
my thighs, holding hands.
You’re not pregnant
anymore, the doctor said,
who was famous,
apparently, for giving
abortions back
when it was hard
to get them, like
it is again now,
dark curtain like
a cervix closing,
like a phone’s dial-tone,
like the man whose seed
sprouted in you turning,
like the grey men
in suits, counting bills.
When will I feel better?
I asked the friend,
home and emptied
like a dried rind,
like wildflowers,
like something free.
When you have a baby
she said, which was
true for her, and maybe
true for me. This is how
it happened for me.
Nothing easy.
Everything painful
Everything exactly
as it should be.
 

Animal Bodies
 
What now that the small
animals are outside
my belly. Tight chest
with four chairs,
congress around
the heart. Shame
is the black dog
in the crate, daughter
menstruating on
the hotel fold-out couch,
deep in her screens.
Can an aloe plant die?
Because I think I killed
something that thrives
in thirst and desert sun.
Sometimes I wonder
what I have to give.
Thank you, my mom
said, twice, as I was
leaving her in rehab.
Once in my ear as
I kissed her head, the
other over text with
whatever permanence
that holds. I want to
say sorry for something
I said to her the second
day. I’m sorry I didn’t
walk slowly with you
last summer. Caught
between her 81-year-old
pace, my daughter’s at
12, and the small black
dog of indeterminate age
who leaps like a raw
nerve at other beings
and then retreats, as
if to say, love me quick
before you might kill
me. As if to say love
is terrifying. As if to say
here is the only thing
I know how to do.
All the animals
emptied, there is just
a body, occipital ridge
tight from sudden impact,
years of carrying healthy
humans. I picture my
skeleton, frayed and
yellowed but still
surrounded by white
light, oceans of purple.
I no longer see the bones
inside those I love. I
strive to stay still with
the wetness of their eyes.
I strive to touch the
animals that live
outside my frame
when they wake in
the night forgetting
how to breathe.
There’s no secret to it,
just the hand
and they begin
to calm. To let the
beasts that reside
inside retreat, to
let the small body
be just a body.
 


Caitlin Grace McDonnell was a New York Times Poetry Fellow at NYU where she received her MFA. She has published poems and essays widely, including a chapbook, Dreaming the Tree (2003) and two books of poems, Looking for Small Animals (2012) and Pandemic City (2021) She lives with her daughter and teaches writing in New York City. 

Guest Editor Hyejung Kook’s poems have appeared in POETRY MagazineDenver QuarterlyPrairie Schooner, Glass: A Journal of PoetryPleiades, and elsewhere. Other works include an essay in Critical Flame and a chamber opera libretto. Born in Seoul, Korea, she now lives in Kansas with her husband and their two children. Learn more at her website.

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Two Poems by Elizabeth A. Frank

Just Getting Started
 
We are rubbing our hands together
like sticks, we are pacing the room,
we are breathing in sputters, in gusts,
never sure if the words in our heart
will form sparks when we speak
or fall flat and mute to the floor.
We are summoning the boldness to stand
out loud, to leave our shelter
(there’s no risk of being extinguished
if you’ve never burned alight).

We are stumbling in the dark
proclaiming with each small step
we are worth this time and the courage
we clench in our fists.
We are fighting what is,
struggling toward what may be,
knowing we hold the power
to become a flame, our voices
strong and soft enough
to sing this glint into fire.



Womanifesto
 
I am not your
hot-house orchid
pink, feathery, propped
on stakes. I am
no longer easy
to crush or ignore.
I am a thick oak
limbs sky-high, endless
roots buried deep.
I am the sky, streaked
with moods and shades
vast with blue. I am
all the birds
calling out forests
of anger and joy.
I can not be held
in your hand, shoved
in your stiff pocket.
I am no longer small
or still or soft
enough. I am no longer
your little girl.


Elizabeth A. Frank is a poet and artist drawn to the interplay of written and visual arts. Her poems have appeared in Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing and This Present Former Glory: An Anthology of Honest Spiritual Literature. She posts on Instagram @glint_into_fire and lives near Boston.

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso ReviewHarbor Review’s chapbook prize is named in her honor. She expects her next collection, The Book of Stolen Images (Meadowlark) to be out in a few months.

I’ll Leave It at That                 by James Diaz

What are birds
In the night
If not air's flat iron
Of bone, the river's mercy
Sings, a darker cadence— 
Do you know
The place I mean
No trains run there
There are no birds to speak of.
 
At first glance the world is always terrifying
Then beautiful, then terrifying again– 
Where do they put all of the things we've seen
After we go, who will speak of the snow
That fell across our life
In perfect layers of mute blue hush
 
It's dark
Here. It is morning.
It is almost as it never was.
 
I was happy to have seen
What little of the world I saw.
Pain gave me more than it took.
 
There was never enough beauty
For any of us.
 
I could say more
But the words don't feel right.
I'll leave it at that.




James Diaz is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger (Indolent Books) and All Things Beautiful Are Bent (Alien Buddha) as well as the founding editor of Anti-Heroin Chic. Their work has appeared in Thrush Poetry Journal, Corporeal, Rust + Moth, and Cleaver Magazine. They reside in upstate New York.

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso ReviewHarbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor. She expects her next collection, The Book of Stolen Images (Meadowlark) to be out in a few months.

A Shovel for Those of Us Who Transcribe Legacy on Cotton for We Know               by  Jermaine Thompson

Jermaine Thompson has publications in The Pinch, Memorious, Whale Road Review, Southern Indiana Review, and New Letters. He is an educator who learned language from big-armed women who greased their skillets with gossip and from full-bellied men who cursed and prayed with the same fervor in Louisville, Mississippi.

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.

Two Poems by R.B. Simon

(Re)Incarnation

Like all birds, mythical or not,
there is an egg.
Inside, darkness.  An ember.
Days uncounted, for days are of no
consequence, as the fiery sliver
        	lies within its yolk of ash.
It is no easy thing, birthing, when all
you remember is the close and dark;
yet driven by body’s demand for burning, white-hot
beak demanding exit, a sudden influx of oxygen
as flaming wings spread wide, at once aloft.
In the end, what makes one a phoenix is not
just the fire, but the flight.




Promised

It’s been an interminable winter
sun held close behind jealous
grey clouds. Icy mud trails into
my foyer, remnant of the
filthy season. But day lilies
spike their yellow-green limbs
though last year’s leaves, defiantly
pointing towards spring.
And on the warmest day yet,
I slip one shy foot out of my boot,
place it on the greening ground,
seeking the warm heartbeat
of a summer I know
must come eventually.

R.B. Simon is a queer artist and writer of African and European-American descent. She has been published inmultiple literary journals, and her chapbook, The Good Truth, was released by Finishing Line Press in July 2021. She currently lives in Madison, WI with her spouse, daughter, and four little dogs. 

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.

Spontaneous Resurrection          by James Evans

I caught a cab downtown to the service
to see what had become of my friend, the fierce
 
fighter whom I dearly knew. I never believed
she would be gone for long: by nightfall
 
she would splinter the box, disrupt the soil,
swallow the stone. It is the only way she has ever known.
 
I’ve since seen her in the market, glimpse her on the street. She’s
always an evasive blur, our eyes never meet. I’ve heard her echo
 
on dark winter nights, smelled her on a spring
breeze. I’ve witnessed her in autumn, the falling
 
of the leaves. I’ve felt her on a summer
day, the presence of her heat. I’ve tasted her in a glass
 
of water, when lip and liquid meet. I’ve touched the softness
of her cheek, over and over in my mind. I’ve been rocked
 
by her thunder, time after time. To appreciate the spark
of her lightning, one must understand the electricity 
 
of the sublime.  



James Evans is a writer of short fiction and poetry from central Kentucky. James enjoys spending time with his fiancée Jen & their three daughters (four daughters if including the cat—we do), cooking, and collecting books. He is a graduate of Kentucky State University and Bluegrass Community & Technical College.

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.

Blues Signs                   by Roy Beckemeyer                 

Here is the sign of the mockingbird—insight,
a story of failed devotion.
Here is the sign of the poorwill—midnight
oratorio, a tale of emotion.
 
Here you entwine her sorrow
into your daily, your weekly routine.
Here you consign tomorrow
to correct failings, be the go-between.
Here you resign to borrow,
to go off the rails, do the unforeseen.
 
Here is the sign the scales of this court leave justice
preempted, torn apart, disjoint.
Here the sign of failure and discord leaves just this:
empty worn-out heart, disappointment.

Roy J. Beckemeyer’s latest book is Mouth Brimming Over (Blue Cedar). Stage Whispers (Meadowlark) won the 2019 Nelson Poetry Book Award. Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press) contains ekphrastic poems inspired by artists’ depictions of angels. Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. Beckemeyer has designed and built airplanes, discovered and named fossils of Palaeozoic insect species and has once traveled the world. Beckemeyer lives with and for his wife of 60 years, Pat, in Wichita, Kansas. 

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.

Two Poems by Jo Angela Edwins

 July 4, 2022
 
 
The homemade sign draped from the railing
of the interstate overpass
had twisted over itself in the wind.
 
I could see the word “no,” the word “body,”
and so many dark lines between
that were the building blocks of letters.
 
Letter is a word in this language
that can mean a symbol of a sound
or a message sent to someone you can’t see.
 
In a matter of seconds I drove beneath
this message that no one could read,
this banner of words that made no clear sound.
 
Still, someone spent the time to speak
before the wind stole the sound of a voice.
Someone bought the canvas and the rope and the paint.
 
Nothing in this maddening life is free.

“The Girls He Had Been Involved With”
                 —a quote from an interview included in a program entitled The Butcher 
                     Baker: Mind of a Monster about an Alaskan serial killer 

 
How a retired cop on a true crime show
described the women murdered
by a serial killer who made pastries by day
and killed dancers and runaways at night.
 
He murdered at least seventeen women
and came close to killing others.
 
This poem isn’t very poetic, and no one should care.
 
Just remember that the killers live in a world
that reminds them in one way or another each day
that women are girls, that girls are expendable,
that raping us and slitting our throats
is no more and no less than “being involved” with us.
 
So we carry our keys like a weapon.
 
So we keep our lights burning all night.




Jo Angela Edwins has published poems in various venues, including recently in Bracken, Inscape, and Mom Egg Review. Her chapbook Play was published in 2016. She lives in Florence, SC, where she serves as poet laureate of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina and teaches at Francis Marion University.

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s chapbook prize is named in her honor.

Quicksilver by Hyejung Kook

Quicksilver


dear Mercury
god of travelers
thief and cheat

born hungry like us
often assuming
human guise

might your face
be among those fleeing
persecution famine war

even if he or she is
mortal the divine
still quickens within

so hear me
most human of the gods
guide of souls

liar and trickster
grant us your cunning
your silver tongue

your swiftness
grant us safe passage
in life as well as death

Hyejung Kook’s poems have appeared in POETRY Magazine, Denver Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Pleiades, and elsewhere. Other works include an essay in Critical Flame and a chamber opera libretto. Born in Seoul, Korea, she now lives in Kansas with her husband and their two children.“Quicksilver” was written for Kundiman’s Migration Postcard Poem Project and also appears on Kook’s personal website.

Guest Editor, José Faus is a founder of the Latino Writers Collective. His writing appears in numerous anthologies. His chapbook This Town Like That was released by Spartan Press. His second book of poetry The Life and Times of Jose Calderon was published by West 39 Press.

Two Poems by pauLA neves

holy water (the second coming of drought)

monday night. i’ve traveled to the house where i grew up. where my parents once lived apart, and still do. where my mother once lived alone, and still does. to check on her dogs that now are my cats. her tenants have been caring for them while she’s been in portugal for a month. i hire a pet sitter instead. once if not twice a week i check in on things. my therapist says that’s a good thing. i let the dogs out. i play with the cats, who play dead cerberus. i put on my running shoes. i head for the park, where i played tennis with my brother during summer vacations. or strolled sunday mornings instead of being in church. this humble municipal acreage is my lot. this summer has been unrelentingly dry and hot. in this winter that is like dogs and cats. a drought is upon us and we say so what? it’s may and october and the romance is dog shit and dried leaves. blue-eyed tony kisses dark-eyed maria on a nearby bench. only the irish have moved out to bergen county and we’re following suit. few of us remember what’s what: tony and maria met in a factory. tony and maria actually just met. tony and maria are both portuguese. they started before my father left? someone hasn’t told us yet. how to look for water in a drought. how to be divining rod and arc. i wonder as i sprint. why the twilight is perfect. i’m rounding the path at a clip. why is the twilight perfect? i finish, and the haze and heat that have built up all day grant me the serenity to notice what can’t. and for all that a single line of sweat rolls down my back, moisture too salty too little too late. to save the trees or myself. don’t hold it against me or them. 
at least

a small victory
is righting the garbage cans

after they’re emptied
before wind does its number

casts them in the road
by then it’s too late

cars swerve or hit them
not self driving yet

and what am i missing
but the sense of that sharp

ghost limb of January 
satellites say

this winter still is
try not to notice

walk to the dollar store
pick out new readers

someone works there
looks like my cousin

without glasses on
shows his aunt how to use debit

on the tap machine
says of course you are welcome

she jokes in an accent
he’s not really my nephew

but i’m not blind yet
and the ghost limb  

stops hurting 
finally i think

paulA neves is a Newark native, author of the poetry chapbook capricornucopia: the dream of the goats (2018), and co-founder of Parkway North Productions, which produced the award-winning documentary “The Remedy” about two NJ hip hop artists/musicians. neves received the 2020 NJ Poets Prize from the Journal of NJ Poets. Follow @itinerantmuse. 

Guest Editor, José Faus is a founder of the Latino Writers Collective. His writing appears in numerous anthologies. His chapbook This Town Like That was released by Spartan Press. His second book of poetry The Life and Times of Jose Calderon was published by West 39 Press.