Coin Laundry

by Chloé Firetto-Toomey

Boxed rows of black drums,
vortexes, perfectly contained—proof
you can force a circle into a square.

I am satisfied, stuffing five machines
instead of just one,
saving time—bending the continuum.

I’m reading in the corner nested in the Y of wall and window
when Mum calls. Her voice bright as a bleached shirt,
as high-noon across the Atlantic with no land in sight.

She talks fast, her words quick birds, warblers,
trying to quell my nerves, soften my edges
but longing is a hardened sphere.

My therapist said anger masks sadness.
I hold the phone from my ear—her voice thins
and when we hang up, I want to hide

within those spinning black drums
or in the thin stitched lines of this poem. Above the dryers,
a lady in a Spanish soap opera pretends to cry.

Two fast kids chase each other, jolt the dry-cleaning counter,
their sneakers squeak the tiles and their mother doesn’t care.
The thing I know about coin laundries is that nobody cares

if I weep to the humming machines—black mirrors or hurricane eyes—
nobody cares if I fold all my clothes into seven rubbish bags,
nobody cares if I write:

Longing is an image of her at the kitchen table in the oven’s light.


Chloé Firetto-Toomey is a British-American poet and essayist living in Miami Beach, FL. She has an MFA degree from Florida International University , where she served as Poetry Editor for Gulf Stream Magazine and where she taught Introduction to Creative Writing and Creative Nonfiction. She currently serves as an Author Assistant at InnerLasting Lit Arts. A two-time finalist in Tupelo Quarterly's Prose Open Contest and a finalist in Diagram's chapbook contest, she won the 2017 Christopher F. Kelly Award for Poetry and the 2020 Scotti Merril Award for Poetry. Her most recent chapbook of poems, Little Cauliflower, was published in 2019 by Dancing Girl Press.

Two Poems (Peregrine Falcon in Disintegration Loop | Stellar’s Jay in Teller’s Bay)

Peregrine Falcon in Disintegration Loop

by Stephen Scott Whitaker

Perry grinned. Grinning, Perry went to work and watched
A man get crushed by a fist as big as a state. A fist
As big as a statement to fact: a blue ocean event
Will happen in my lifetime. In my lifetime a fist
Big as the sun will smash through ice and make
The earth over in its fiery image. Perry put on sunscreen
And grinned and worked and sanitized his workstation
And took his mood enhancers and sat down when Perry
Felt tired. Perry felt tired because his work was punching
Numbers for the state, filing all of its crimes and rhymes
And rhymes and crimes. Perry grinned and went home
On the train where someone sowed their hate and took
Everyone hostage with her speech which was free
And without consent. Perry grinned and took a hit
Of the newest vape and cruised the socials, a kind
Of devotion. Perry likes and tweets and upvotes with hollow
Gut that nothing matters and matters matter little,
And Perry goes home, slack-jawed and eye walled
And drinks and drinks and talks up his face
In the bathroom mirror. When he looks into his reflection
He can see, in his pupil, a great pine spear
Rising above a body of water. A body of water
Reflected in the eye. In his eye a body of water.
And his body a body of wings and great flapping,
High above the bay he feels drawn, he feels high
As a falcon in the trees, watching for prey, watching
Its whole life for something to snatch from the sky.


 

Stellar's Jay in Teller's Bay1

by Stephen Scott Whitaker

Each year Teller’s Bay swallows up the coastal forest and fields. 

Teller’s Bay, full of wind broken pines grey up to the crown because Teller’s Bay does not play inside the lines and steps up the beach and into the woods to listen to Steller’s Jay, a riot of them, squawking and investigating grey trunks for beetles, for ants, for caterpillar feasts among the breeze down pine shatters and shrub leaves that are soaked with Teller Bay’s tidal foam from where Teller’s Bay rolled in and reached and reached and reached into the wood, dark and brambled, to see the brassy blue birds yelling at each other, Look! Look at this! And This! And This! The squawking and screaming Steller’s Jay nesting in the pines along Teller Bay. The ocean, the ocean wants to play, wants to see the bright blue birds with salt eyes, and hear with thousands of bubbling ears on seafoam, on the crest of a wave, Look! Look at this! And This! And This!

 


1A small bay on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Each year Teller’s Bay swallows up the coastal forest and fields. Pine trees and soybeans are the usual victims of the salt wash.


Stephen Scott Whitaker (@SScottWhitaker) is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the managing editor for The Broadkill Review. Whitaker is a teaching artist with the Virginia Commission for the Arts, an educator, and a grant writer. His poems have appeared in Fourteen Hills, The Shore, Wraparound South, Oxford Poetry, Crab Creek Review, & The Citron Review, among other journals. He is the author of four chapbooks of poetry and a broadside from Broadsided Press. Mulch, his novel of weird fiction is forthcoming from Montag Press in 2021. 

Doña

by Mary Teresa Toro

Rocking, slowly rocking,
fanning herself more from habit than from heat,
la doña sits on the balcón,
thinking of the old days -
of fiestas, bodas, and bautizos.
remembering her family, so many, so long gone,

She fans herself and rocks
waiting to join them…

fan open
             click, swish…
fan closed
               swish, clack

rocking, remembering,
absently fanning herself .
The creaking rhythm of the rocker and swishing of the fan
create a pleasant harmony,
the music of her life now that she is old and waits,
remembering…

“Every fine lady must have a fine fan,”
he had written on the card in the box
decorated with their monogram,
initials as entwined as their lives would soon be.

The fan was made of the finest ivory,
intricately carved with filigrees and gold leaf on each rib,
the lace and ribbons of purest white,
as she and he had been,
she for him alone and he for her.
The ribbons and lace are now frayed and
yellowed with age,
the ivory carvings smooth with wear,
the gold leaf worn away

Yet it is with her always,
as it had been through labor and childbirth,
parties, school plays, her daughter’s wedding, and
the funeral of her son -
dead in a war fought for a country not his own,
a place of sand and heat and death,
with no sapphire blue ocean, no tropical breeze,
a land far from their beloved Borinquén,

click, swish…
            swish, clack

Essential pointers at family gatherings,
more discrete than fingers,
or so the doñas thought

the fans would flick
             open… click, swish…
                         close…swish, clack,

the symphony of openings and closings,
cooling their faces but not their tongues.

click, swish…
            swish, clack…

the whispers, quiet laughs and smiles
all hidden behind their dainty handheld screens.

As the doñas gossiped,
their men played dominos and drank Don Q or cerveza Corona,
the clicking fans echoing the clacking tiles.
The banter of long friendships was broken only by
the occasional slap of a winning ficha.
The men laughed watching their wives,
wondering who was being roasted like a lechón,

knowing it was better to attend these reuniones
than to be the topic of conversation.

click, swish…
            swish, clack

She held it at his funeral,
not to cool herself, for
she felt the chill of loneliness already pressing in,
but as a memory in her hand-
used then to shield not laughter, but the tears of parting.

She packed it carefully when she moved to her daughter’s house.
She brought only the fan and two sillónes, his and hers,
which sit here now, side by side, as always
She reaches for his hand,
finds only the cool wooden arm worn smooth by his palm.
She sighs and rocks …
                       remembering …
                                                     waiting…

fanning herself more from habit than from heat…

click, swish…
            swish, clack

 


Mary Teresa Toro is a late bloomer baby boomer who just achieved her lifelong goal of receiving a bachelor's degree in English Language and Literature. She will begin her quest for an MFA in writing in January 2021. Although she is seventy-one years old, her motto is ¡INDY! (I'm Not Dead Yet). Mary Teresa lives in Central Florida with Frank, her husband of over fifty years, and Bitsie, a ten pound mix of daschund and mystery.

 

Two Poems

Blue I (1916)

by Clair Dunlap

after Georgia O’Keeffe

the midwest begins to smell like tidal flats. i look in the snow and find the sea stars—all of the indigo ones we lost from the ocean. fell themselves comet-like down into winter. water too warm so they found the cold. a wild act of self-preservation. that’s what the headlines might read if anyone still believed in magic. problem is, the spring puddles will all be dry soon, the stars just simply haven’t learned this yet. each afternoon i go out and peel them from the shelves of trash they cling to, from the unwavering greyed ice. i set the tanks up to run special like a small ocean. some sit out in pyrex bowls like tide pools, the glass the color of an anemone. makes the stars feel at home. i next-day deliver bull kelp, ochre as a bruise, to blanket them in. i smear fluorescent uni along the rims of the bowls and watch them thrust their stomachs against the glass to eat. they must miss the challenge of opening the shells, but this is the only way i can love them: pricking my fingers on an urchin’s purple.

still, they begin to fade in color and lumens, their tens of legs softening.

i could promise them a taste of real salt breeze, the same thing i promise myself, but me and the stars all know the limitations. i carry the bowls into the street and we all rest in the comfortable air, april’s sun shining. each of us melting.

 


 

On Cougar Mountain

by Clair Dunlap

in the better life, we are so lucky
as to be the ferns growing amid the moss along the tree trunks.
we have never heard the clanging of a snow plow’s blade
across ice & concrete. we have never known a view touched

by gasoline and guns. we are intimately familiar
with green.

when we shut our eyes there is only the color of the mountain at a distance—
a purpleblue not otherwise named

outside the instant of its presence under the eyelid’s soft memory.

here the salmon are fat and good

and fished right.

here the orcas come home predictably, the babies growing

from placental red to white in time.

none of their mothers have ever carried their bodies postpartum

for weeks on end.

an unthinkable tragedy is simply unthinkable.

here the ocean doesn’t know oil.

from the tree trunk, we all watch the downy woodpecker or the barred owl

(taller than we might have imagined it). we hear the hum of bees

and wind and water farther off. no one invented the word highway.

if we are lucky enough to be born on the far side of the trunk

maybe we see the coastline. at the very least—

by which i mean, in the better version—

i feel its salted mist along my body.

and this is all i know,
and it is so, so good.


Clair Dunlap grew up just outside Seattle, Washington, and is the author of In the Plum Dark Belly (2016). Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in The Oakland Review, The Hopper, The Swamp Literary Journal, Hobart, Glass, and more. She currently lives in the Midwest.

Out of Reach

by Jesica Davis

The subterranean lake never goes away,
the fact of squishy socks and wet toes.

Remembering                       that how fast you sink
can be a measure of presence. A damp metric.

Though its shores may advance and recede,
some years more haunted, dripping           than others,

it would be a mistake to disown all those
soggy ghosts, their weighted, freight loads

of memory and forked roads —           to feel safe
from drowning just because today’s land

paces solid under feet. Do not forget: temporary.
In this dry season it may hide, it may not

be your turn to seek, but from that
chilly, tendriled grip           you are never

                                                                     out of reach.



Jesica Davis is a poet and technical writer originally from Chicago, currently not really living anywhere. She’s the Associate Editor for Inverted Syntax literary journal and her work has appeared in The Laurel Review, Zone 3, streetcake magazine, Stoneboat, Storm Cellar, and other venues. Jesica has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes. She studied poetry at the University of Illinois (as well as The New School, NYU, and Poets House), was the final Alice Maxine Bowie Fellow at Lighthouse Writers Workshop (2016-2017), and won the Tarantula Prize for Poetry (Pilgrimage Press, 2018). Sometimes she makes poemboxes, which sculpturally interpret her words. See jesicacarsondavis.net for more.

The Valley of the Latte

by Danielle P. Williams

I lie and say that I’m a resident

to get the local price.

What I really mean to say is:
I am native.

But $45 is better than $90, and

I’ve already paid my weight in loss.

This is the first time I see Guahån this way.
I feel the heat of August on my skin as our boat

bides along Talofofo and Ugum. Two villages, one river.

The calm middle between jungle and ancestry.

As we glide through the water, we throw
breadcrumbs to bait greedy, plump catfish.

Our guide weaves me a tiara of palms.
Places it on my head. He weaves a rose and

places it in my left hand. I look up and
gush at the terrain. Such lush green tropics

swelling into the sky. My cousin tells me she
tries to visit once a year to feel closer to the ancestors.

As we approach the CHamoru village I am taught
how to ask the taotaomona for permission:

Guella yan guello kao siña yu’ maloffan gi tano-miyu?
Ancestors can I pass through your land?

We step off the boat and watch as canoes are hand
crafted by Ulitao. Men in lavalavas, bare skin to

show us what they’re made of. They show us
basket weaving like I’ve never seen before:

kottot rice gift baskets, balakagk fanny pack baskets.
Hagug for your voyage off island, the Chamorro

tupperware of baskets. Baskets like crowns

on the heads of women. We are taught how

to make fire. How it starts from palm and stone.
We see the ancient latte stones lined up and

parallel as if to say, you can thrive here.
It is here I realize these stones shape people.

I see latte stones as home, as shelter, as altar
cratered limestone clutched in my hand, like

coral or something that used to be.


Danielle P. Williams is a poet from Columbia, South Carolina. She is a MFA candidate at George Mason University where she works as an Editorial Coordinator for Poetry Daily. She serves as the Poetry Editor for So To Speak, and is a 2019 Alan Cheuse MFA Fellow. She strives to write poetry that gives voice to unrepresented cultures and has a passion for understanding and connecting with the past. Danielle makes it a point to expand on the narratives and experiences of her Black and Chamorro cultures. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming online at The Pinch, Verse Daily, ucity review, Praxis Center, and more.

Two Poems

And so You Drift

by Daniel Romo

The fog collapses onto the sidewalk and no Midwest snow angel can compete with a mosaic of inner-city footprints. The thing about living by the beach but never so much as toeing the water is the thing about refusing to revisit depths that reside so close to the surface. During my lunchtime walk I overheard a kid tell another kid, You know why the ocean is so big? It’s because whales take up so much space and I knew a pathological liar who could fold his body so small, he was able to fit inside the tiniest granules of his truths. Our greatest fib is often wrapped our most intimate divulgence. It’s a little-known fact, the “spout” you see is not a fountain of water, but a stream of warm air being forced out of the whale’s lungs. It’s a littler-known fact that any man who wades out to sea all alone is the bravest and most buoyant person that there is.


Daniel Romo is the author of Apologies in Reverse (FutureCycle Press 2019), When Kerosene’s Involved (Mojave River Press, 2014), and Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013). His poetry can be found in The Los Angeles Review, PANK, Barrelhouse, and elsewhere. He has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and he is an Associate Poetry Editor at Backbone Press. He lives and teaches in Long Beach, CA. More at danielromo.net.


Ode to Sofa

by Jenica Lodde

My secret shame / I need to stay busy / don’t tell them you succumbed / say long day on the highway with a thumb out couldn’t catch a ride / say hot walk through dry desert / don’t say you gave up / I’ll say soul’s work / I’ll say bent feathers / took all day to get ‘em straight / engine trouble / I didn’t sleep /no / there was no one to call / at least I had something to fall back upon / nobody needs to know about us / now do they? / because you hold me up the way no one else can / you know how to be smooth / and you know when to keep quiet / I’ll say I was on an island / say I had a pedicure / I’ll cover for us / what do I love about you? / I’ve never seen you scowl / you give more than you take / I like your smooth legs / total collapse of the soul / and I didn’t hit the floor / that’s something / I’ll say I stayed in with a lover / I’ll say I wrangled three bears / I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail / does it even matter? / I was happy / in the end / I’ll say cozy bed and breakfast / I won’t say I was thinking / I won’t let them know I was sorting vapors / I need to be busy / it’s so bad to sit still / I won’t say / I’ve seen things / I won’t say hurt deep / I won’t say dinosaurs / stuck in a tar pit / nobody called / I didn’t have a dog to walk / but there you were / holding your arms out to me / and I needed comfort / I needed an easy place to settle my thoughts / I needed to take some time to let my spirit sync up with my head / you’re like a field where I can stretch out my arms / nobody saying all wrong / you took me in and I let you / the daytime birds are chirping needles into my brain / my sleep shook me hard / my time lying down sideways on you / only god knows how long it takes / to for a body to recover / chained down to a hard dream.


Jenica Lodde writes a lot of poems and most of them are about mental illness. Her poetry has been published in SWWIM, Gravel, IO, River and South Review, Wild Violet, Electric Rail, Word Fountain and others. She is currently writing a verse memoir about growing up in a bus. She also makes jewelry out of paper.

Fishing

by Jacob Nantz

First, tell your children they control the line.
Let them grip the reel, mimic the way you move,
the way you twist your body and flick your wrist
in an attempt to cast a perfect arc, a release so gentle

it appears autonomous in its flight, lands soft
as a waterfly. Note the ripples stretching outward
from the landing spot, a visible echo reaching back
to you. Accept this as a duty fulfilled.

Teach your children the power of patience, equal in power
to silence, breeders of suspense as the line sinks deeper,
slowly, as a mind does into memory. Do not discuss the chaos
beneath the surface, the river’s history, the men once stuck
in its mud—not yet. No need to mention what lures the fish:
a worm squirming in pain, appearing more alive in death,
the hook piercing its clitellum. What matters is the line
above water and the hands controlling it, holding it steady,

ready to curb any sudden tension. Do not labor over the
explanations of fish, the vast array of them swimming,
their healed nares from old casts, from fishermen who
caught and released. Instead, enjoy the quiet. Tell them
not to worry; surely they’ll catch something. Fish seldom learn
from mistakes, even the eldest of them. So when the float slips
beneath the surface, almost steals the rod from your child’s
hands, let the fish run and think he’s got it.

After yielding the feeling of freedom, snap back the rod
and set the hook, then reel. Fight until you pull him above
the surface, twisting and shaking like a man being dragged
into hell. Prohibit the fear of blood as you unlatch the gill,
and when your child begs to keep his catch, out of pride, don’t
suggest the fish can’t be kept for its habit of taking bait,
but note: some things are best kept alive and at a distance,
unconsumed, but visited enough to remember.

Mention you’ve seen this fish before. He has left his stains on you
and likely will again. Mention that it’ll feel good to catch him
some other day, to run your fingers over the same old scars,
even though you’d prefer to leave the damn thing in the grass,
out of the stream, writhing in dirt and drowning on air.


Jacob Nantz received his MA in Poetry from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Evansville Review, Gigantic Sequins, Sou’wester, and elsewhere. Born and raised in the Chicago area, he currently lives and writes near Washington D.C.

Un Rêve

by Amílcar Peter Sanatan

Lungs capsize instead of boats
we trained to whistle across the Atlantic.

Now the water has dried
the ocean is an open street in Port-de-Paix

without debts to the dark country

of tectonic plates, we cross

like ants on leaves in the little solitude
of seasons. All we carry are few bananas,

donkeys for the elderly, a language
on our tongues as life jackets:

this time, not knowing how to swim
does not mean we die.


Amílcar Peter Sanatan is a Ph.D. candidate in Cultural Studies at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus. His poetry has appeared in the Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, The Caribbean Writer, Cordite Poetry Review, Gutter, Interviewing the Caribbean, Moko Magazine, PREE Lit and Sargasso. Sanatan is an alumnus of The Cropper Foundation’s 10th Caribbean Creative Writers’ Residential Workshop. For over a decade, he has performed spoken word poetry and coordinated open mics in Trinidad and Tobago.