Pantoum for Altar Call
On a Saturday afternoon, bury me at the altar,
as an offering to your god. Let it be
a bargaining for burdens under salted earth.
Leave my ashes scattered and watch them turn into a tree.
As an offering to your god, let it be
heard, the loudness of change on bare
leaves. My ashes scatter, watch them turn into a tree,
their roots gnarled and unruly. Your prayer
heard the loudness of change on bare
back, twisted and deeply immovable,
they’re rooted, gnarled and unruly. Your prayer
to hang my bones from the rafters and call them beautiful.
Back then you were twisted and deeply immovable,
a bird perched on purple pulpit. Watching your daughter
hang her bones from the rafters, do you call them beautiful,
on a Saturday afternoon, or bury her at the altar
A. Benét is an emerging poet from California. She is a lover of literature with a weakness for coffee and the color of burnt clay. Her work is featured in The Origami Review, Onwords Press, and forthcoming in The Acorn Review. You can, sometimes, find her on Twitter @benetthewriter.
for example tear all the paper money into confetti
give me gold bars & pearls & ordinary rocks w/ flecked quartz to swindle the unsuspecting
give me knife & a sensitive scale to the thousandth of a gram
(b/c I can’t rewrite all the world’s rules)
(b/c pizza hut takes turquoise but not refunds)
& a calloused thumb with woodgrained print to reject the knife’s initial advances
& soon thereafter my palm is a reliquary of riches
& soon thereafter I cannot make exact change unless tendering soap or salt
a traveler asks whether it’s easier to slice a ruby or blood
a small fist tattoos the inside of my ribcage
skin as vitrine for veins
& with that my ledger of precious things rendered incomplete
The Pastor’s Prayer
bless me with the wayward deacon his handkerchief damp w/ sweat other sins his eyes that dart when he hears rods of gold lord you are more costly than gold soft twin gazelles give me his undershirt worth more lord you are more precious than silver than all the paper checks piled plate high give me pews bereft of blue-haired saints trade me for overalls and aprons hot breath that demands reciprocity o bless me with a tongue fluent in folk psalms coated in ash lord you are more beautiful than
coal diamonds o get thee behind me lily-handed bride stealer ye who finds city sanctuary bless me with a man who has rough grip treat me like jacob o lord drag me wrestle me lord your love is deep as the sea hold me under let the creek empty itself against me backwoods Pentecost of one pull me up bless me with a voice like a trumpet prepare me for the coming wedding day capable of announcing more than a timid rapture
The Economy Shares Advice: Guide to Grief
let the coffee burn a minute longer
purchase all the porcelain creamer cows in town
shatter all but one against the driveway
congratulations fresh pockmarks dig for tar
congratulations confetti that scratches for blood
congratulations antiques roadshow will seek out what remains
to smash to destroy to explode to implode to undo to annihilate
to replace one ritual with commodity
to imagine a heart could crack & not hemorrhage
to retain in spite of
once you gulped so ravenously your mouth dropped its membrane robe
you can’t replace convection-warmed hands with entropy
no cup is so white you keen on reflex
Jason Fraley is a native West Virginian who lives and works in Columbus, OH. Prior and forthcoming publications include Quarter After Eight, DIAGRAM, Jet Fuel Review, I-70 Review, Copper Nickel, West Trade Review, and Forklift OH.
THE TAMING OF OUR FATHERS
and the joints crack beneath
the weight of their broken promises
I can’t lobby for his love
mother [you have made me
a summer of brine] what’s worse
they know twice as much as we
who cry and jaunt under aurora
because the hazy lily sings
for the shipwrecked wilderness
of holding on to time
I want to say you are
responsible for everything in me
even when the tears hurt
I could lock him under the floorboards
and tell him to wait for me
until I get home from work
tethered to the handiwork
the house made him its slave
when the plane flies too low
he ducks his head
and I want to tell him
how thick the floors are
Keep me funky,
follow me to the hole
whether the weather
be holy or whole
for you, be near,
my little cucumber,
my megalomaniacal jujube.
Carted off in a zipped
black bag through the
lobby’s front door, my baba’s
body began its journey.
“When I die it’ll go to your
aunt and father fifty-fifty.”
I pretend I do not see it.
The routine is cratering
the center of my brain,
lasting forever in the language
of matchboxes and paperweights
or the furthest thing from the truth,
my little koala.
A LETTER TO FAMILY MEMBERS WHO WON’T SPEAK TO ME
thrust to completion
years of burgeoning gristle
because I spoiled
as in you thought
I deserved violence
like someone for whom
the fear of god had never
but there is no god
in this family
Asher Baumrin (he/him) was raised on Lenape and Wappinger land, now Manhattan, and has poems published in Epigraph Magazine,
S/WORD, The Syzygy Poetry Journal, Words & Whispers, and The Write Launch, among other places. He studied philosophy and law and now works as a public defender in The Bronx while raising two cats, Lola and Flynn, with his partner.
[After Van Gogh]
This still life, thrilling, speaks to me.
This vase reflects my life,
though not so long left for me, perhaps.
Poppies and daisies;
up-rush of stalks and blooms
and in the midst, as always, I perceive
a pretty face, kissable lips,
oh, so many eyes
and at the side, spilling low,
the advanced weeds, precocious,
running out of time,
they seed and flop in contrast, dying,
kept as truthful sacrifice;
their wilted trash.
And though the master is long gone,
his picture is not still:
This, the bulging frame trembles to contain;
red brush marks painted rudely;
flowers, wounded, their mouths
stippled entrances to voids.
Clive Donovan is the author of two poetry collections, The Taste of Glass [Cinnamon Press] and Wound Up With Love [Lapwing] and is published in a wide variety of magazines including Acumen, Agenda, Crannog, Prole, Sentinel and Stand. He lives in Totnes, Devon, UK. He is a Pushcart and Forward Prize nominee for 2022’s best individual poems.
Water Come Back to Me
I once read that at the end
of the world there would be birdsong.
I see the end in silence, a scene from my past:
standing on a jetty in rural Taiwan
I was young and running
away or towards, this was before
my bones started to break
because once in motion, I couldn’t stop.
Then, I went past heads bent over crops
when by 4 am the sun was already blazing
and I felt the heat surge behind me with every step
until halted by the jetty’s jagged finger raised to sea
as if the ocean could be hushed. And though I place this point
in past, I don’t know what happens after.
There is an edge to my memory that blurs
into the haze of that same watery horizon.
How many places would I travel
in beauty surrounded, but thinking
of whatever ahead I couldn’t see,
finding in the eternity of sky a void,
venturing to the opposite side
of the world only to stare distantly back at myself.
I took you on this journey
which is now neither end nor beginning
because even in the jetty of poem I can’t rest
in any moment, just observe how
to run and run to the cusp of wanting
is to trace by eye a single bird as it sails through clouds,
to watch it falter, soar, and then, when close enough to touch,
burst into voiceless flock.
Jenny Boyar is a medical writer and holds a PhD in English from the University of Rochester. A Fulbright recipient, she has published poetry with Choefpleirn Press and her academic work has appeared in a variety of journals; she has also served as a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. She lives in St Petersburg, Florida.