howard_huber
Badger Claw Necklace
by Howard Huber

He showed-up unannounced in August
in an old yellow Chevy Nova we’d never seen before
for eight months he had been self medicating
with a cocktail of veterinary drugs
purchased for the cows

The next day my little brother and I went with him
in search of harness leather
to make a rig for two green ponies
to drive a cart fashioned from bicycle parts,
but he never could break them
and punched one when it nipped my hand

He took us to an air show
and told a young mother how beautiful her daughter was
with her long eyelashes,
and how she looked like his daughters
who both grew up to be stewardesses
but the kid was a boy

On the way home we got lost
and backed up a cloverleaf on the interstate.

While we waited at a cross buck
for an indifferent train to pass
he drove down the hill next to the road
and asked a confused driver
if we could park in the shade of her car

He rolled cigarettes with one hand, and drove with the other
my poor brother, in the backseat, had to poop
I think granddad was afraid to pull off the highway
because he told my brother to go on the piece of cardboard
that served as the floor mat

That night I overheard him telling mom about the time
when he was my age
and slipped climbing in to the stock tank
to swim with his brothers
the rusty edge cut deep into his groin

He took a bath the night before he left
mom sent me in to scrub his back
it startled him, not because he was naked
but because he was silently crying
i told him that my mom said he liked to have his back scrubbed
he leaned forward, and sobbed as I gently washed his strong shoulders
It’s OK Granddad, I said, we’ll come visit soon.

That summer I was really into Native American lore
and wanted to make a necklace out of bear claws

the plastic ones they sold at the hobby shop didn’t look real

he told me that badgers have big claws like a bear

a few days after he left, a putrid box came in the mail
bearing the postmark of an Iowa town I’d never heard of
inside were two badger’s feet, neatly wrapped in a handkerchief

Grandma had him committed, before the package even arrived

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: Taken in 1981 at my grandparents’ farm in Iowa when I was six.

huber1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Howard Huber is a poet from Duluth, Minnesota. After a decade of study and travel, he lives on a small farm with his wife and children. His writing explores the grotesque in search of beauty. As a professional firefighter, he has no shortage of subject matter or time.

summers
My Grandparents’ House
by Susan Beall Summers

I was the baby, a solitary child,
with a brother and sister,
much older.
While they were at school,
I spent my days traipsing in and out
of my grandparent’s house,
gathering locust shells,
torturing petunias with my caresses
until their petals wilted,
digging, climbing,
running with their big dog,
making mud pies, cakes, cookies,
casseroles with twigs, rocks, leaves.
my bare feet, knees and hands, always dirty.
My hair a rat’s nest of tangles.
Filled with imagination
and great curiosity,
I acted out entire scenes from shows
playing all parts
with my imaginary friends,
Nancy and Robbie.
I was slightly envious of spoiled Nancy,
she was always dressed so neatly,
was pretty, and had nice dolls
she wouldn’t share.
Mostly, Robbie played male roles like daddy, soldier, husband
and could easily be mother, sister, beauty contestant.
He was flexible that way.
He was also a fast runner
and won almost every race.
I helped Granddaddy in his garden where he
planted several hills of strawberries just for me.
We picked briar berries from the bushes by the dirt road
and musk grapes from the fence.
Granddaddy always had a piece of fruit for me
and Grandmama would sometimes
bring me a chocolate milk from her job as lunch lady.
I didn’t know lonely or bored only freedom, tall pines,
dirt roads, fresh berries, and love.

PHOTOGRAPH: Family photo of Susan Summers, approximately age 3, taken by her sister, Deborah Beall Chance.

summers-bio-photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Beall Summers has been writing poetry from a young age. Her first collection of poetry, Friends, Sins & Possibilitieswas published in 2011 by DreamersThree Press. Currently, she is a video journalist for Texas Nafas on Channel Austin public access television. She is an active Austin poet, member of Austin Poets International, Austin Poetry Society, and Writer’s League of Texas. She is also a ghostwriter and editor. Her poems appear in Ilyas Honey, Texas Poetry Calendar, Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku and Haiga, Harbinger Asylum, Baylors Beall House of Poetry, Small Canyons Anthology, Austin Poet Internationals Di-Verse-City, Silver Birch Press, and others. Visit her at www.tidalpoolpoet.com.

Susan Allston Street1
Childhood Study: Fires Late August
by Susan Rich

Awake in the middle of the night,
we listen to the grass crackle, to the new world of evacuate.

Like monkeys we’d screech as the trees go pop—

yellow candelabras, we saw and then not.
Now danger enters our capillaries

for the first time, the ladder trucks and sirens

seem like small toys compared
to the neighbor’s fire-fangled trees.

What lit-up between us that summer—

three sisters sleeping like barn cats, I can’t say—
except for a time camaraderie

warmed the souls of our feet, our robes

remaining intact for one season—
before it all burned away.

SOURCE: Originally published in the author’s collection Cloud Pharmacy (White Pine Press, 2014).

PHOTOGRAPH: The author, dressed for Halloween, age three (Brighton, Massachusetts).

Susan - Rosanne Olson

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Rich is the author of four collections of poetry, including Cloud Pharmacy, named a runner-up for the Julie Suk Award, and The Alchemist¹s Kitchens, named a finalist for the Foreword Prize and the Washington State Book Award. Her other books include Cures Include Travel, and The Cartographer¹s Tongue, winner of the PEN USA Award for Poetry and the Peace Corps Writers Award. She is a recipient of fellowships and awards from Artists Trust, the Fulbright Foundation, and The Times Literary Supplement of London. Rich¹s poems have appeared in the Harvard Review, New England Review, and The Southern Review. Visit her at susanrich.net.

Author photo by Rosanne Olson.

Mark Lee Webb Child Larger
Christmas Smelled Like a Wet Donkey
a prose poem by Mark Lee Webb

Mom took me with her over Christmas break to the beauty parlor. I didn’t want to go—it was a lot different than the barber shop, and being a guy, well, you know, all them women. So I snuck out, and I saw this old man sometimes came down our street in June selling strawberries. Back then he had a beard that was mostly yellow around his mouth on account of he smoked. Kept a pack of Pall Malls in his shirt pocket, and if you asked him real nice he’d blow smoke rings. Had a cart pulled by a donkey. Showed up on our street in summer shouting strawberries straw-bear-rees but I never saw no one’s mom come out to buy. Anyway, out back the beauty parlor I saw the same old man, but he’s in a Santa suit and his beard turned all white on account of ice covering his whiskers. The donkey’s got fake antlers, and the old man’s giving kids twenty-five cent rides down the corner and back. I went inside and asked Mom if I could have a quarter, but she said no, which was OK what with that donkey being all wet and smelling so bad, and the old man he couldn’t even blow no smoke rings on account of his beard being so cold.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The photo was taken when my family lived on Rosemont Court in Louisville, Kentucky, around 1963. The setting for the poem is that same time period and is based on actual events —  the “old man” used to sell strawberries from a donkey-drawn cart during the summer, and during the holidays he gave “reindeer” rides down an alley behind a beauty parlor just a few blocks away.

Mark Lee Webb HiRes1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Lee Webb resides in Kentucky. He’s Editor and Publisher of A NARROW FELLOW Journal of Poetry. Mark presented his newest poetry book, WHATEVERITS, at the 2014 University of Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture. Finishing Line Press published it in 2014. His other book of poems, The Weight of Paper (ELJ Publications), was also published in 2014.

Mathews
One Day At A Time
by David Mathews

     “One Day At A Time”
     Alcoholics Anonymous slogan

I guess we’re leaving
before he gets back home.
I helped my mom look
for change in the couch for the bus.
She grabs my sisters.
I grab the go-quick bag
stashed under the bed
for last minute late-night trips
to grandma’s, friends, or shelters.

The streets at night scare me.
We pass people staggering or swaggering
with booze in paper bags or fighting with women.
Some stare at us. The bus seems to always take forever.

One time, my stepdad drove slowly
as we walked down the street,
in his rusty Dodge Dart,
with a busted muffler,
with his One Day At A Time bumper sticker,
with a plastic St. Christopher on the dash—
first trying to sweet talk
my mom with slurred speech,
then snapping with curses and threats.

Now when we stay hidden
for a few days, I fear hearing
that Dodge’s muffler down the street.

The bus always seemed to take forever.
Today was full of trouble.
What’s tomorrow I don’t know.
I can’t worry about what I can’t control.
All I can do is look for change in the couch,
grab the stashed clothes, and wait for the bus.

But I will always be hearing a broken muffler.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: This photo was taken in 1984 with my sister Sarah — back when I was a Cubs fan. That year, the Cubs tanked in the NLCS to the Padres — that was the start of my defection to the White Sox.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This was one of my first poems.

mathews1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Mathews earned his MA in Writing and Publishing at DePaul University, where he studied under Richard Jones. His work has appeared in Eclectica Magazine, After Hours, One Sentence Poems, CHEAP POP, OMNI Reboot, Word Riot, Silver Birch Press, and Midwestern Gothic. A life-long Chicagoan, and he currently teaches at Wright College and College of Lake County. His poem “Where Did That Come From?” was nominated for Best Of The Net 2014 by Electica Magazine.

William Reichard, age 5
Untitled Story (Poor)
by William Reichard

The shuttered bar’s wall collapses, falls into the Laundromat.
Dirty clothes for days and nowhere to wash the oversized blankets,
the heavy quilts stitched from remnants of Grandmother’s dresses.
Winter is coming so they get out the lath and heavy plastic.
I knew families who lived like that, broken windows patched
with canvas tarps, frozen breath forming clouds in the unheated kitchen.
I knew families who depended on the meat their men would hunt
each autumn. No game meant nothing to eat, shame-faced trips
to the food shelves. A semblance of strength trumped the cries
of a hungry child, and I would see those kids in the school hallways,
pale and thin, lacking breakfast and focus. I was one of those kids,
could always spot my kind, missing dead fathers, mothers
eaten up by poor pay at local factories. Someone might ask:
how poor are you? But you could not say, not to teachers,
not to friends. Silence equaled strength, the ability to deny yourself
everything. Those houses are empty now, bankrupt or abandoned,
farmsteads unable to support any family. I see them on my way
to visit my elderly mother. The animals take over, and trees grow up
through kitchen floors. Upper bedrooms become apiaries, full of birds
and owls that eat the birds, and bats sequestered in every corner.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age five.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I grew up in poverty, and that’s had an indelible impact on my life and my writing. I’ve tried, over the years, to address this experience as best I can. Those of us who’ve endured poverty tend to carry it with us for the rest of our lives. It’s always there, like a quiet ghost, ready to speak.

reichardABOUT THE AUTHOR: William Reichard is the author of four poetry collections. His new chapbook, As Breath in Winter, will be published by MIEL Press in June 2015, and his next full-length collection, Two Men Rowing Madly Toward Infinity, will be published by Broadstone Books in spring 2016.

Mom_Dad_Marcie
Honey
by Marcie Eanes

“Honey” was the first name
I called my Daddy
until age three,
I sat firmly perched
on Honey’s broad shoulders
whenever I was worn out from walking.
Hair styled in a single ponytail
My outfits were usually chosen by him.
Mom and he could never agree
on what I should wear
So both changed my clothes
whenever I was with the other.
An only child in those days,
I even modeled in a few fashion shows.
Storybook readings before goodnight dreams,
All felt safe in my world

On the day I was taught to say the word “Daddy’”
Mom and he took turns
saying it in front of me.
I would cast it aside,
but he stood firm
Little by little that word
replaced “Honey.”

One cold November day,
on the same date similar to Daddy’s birthday,
Mom and Daddy introduced
a doll-like person wrapped
inside a soft, small blue blanket.
Peeking inside its folds,
both showed me
my new brother.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: ThIS photo is one I look at daily. I’m sitting between my parents, Bennie and Dorothy Eanes. I’m four years old and Mom’s expecting the first of my three brothers. I remained the only daughter.. My parents are both in their twenties when this picture was taken. Daddy died at age 45, and mom at age 51. My parents never lost that youthful glow as expressed through the lens of the camera on the day this picture was taken. I cherish many rich memories of our lives as family.

eanes

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Marcie Eanes is an independent journalist and poet. She is the author of Cameo, a memoir exploring growing up in Wisconsin to living in a Los Angeles convent and reinventing herself from reporter to traveling poet. Her two poetry collections, Sensual Sounds and Passion’s Zest, implore readers to live life to the fullest. Marcie’s work appears in numerous anthologies. She’s also worked for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Grand Rapids Press newspapers. Her writings have appeared in Essence and Seventeen magazines. A graduate of Marquette University , Marcie resides in Racine, Wisconsin.

barryharris_1955
State Road 13
by Barry Harris

Riding back from a Thanksgiving Sunday town
in a fifty-two Packard
leaving the pumpkins and apples
appropriately in two places,
the town and my child’s mind
as I ride farther down the road into a new moment.

The November sun hanging at the edge
of the brown dirt farmland.
My father slowly driving and telling
of some other sunset years past
and I not yet thinking I could hold
all the knowledge of the sky in my small head.

That road aimed straight as a lance
between two towns except for one gracious curve,
a mile-long tender arc
which I loved for its simple feeling of change.
Along the way corn shocks stood like field sentinels
among the dim-lighted homes and derelict schoolhouses
standing like Hoosier shipwrecks.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author in his elementary school photograph at age seven in 1955.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written remembering Saturday afternoon drives with my father to my grandmother’s house about 20 miles away down Indiana State Road 13.

barry_harris

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barry Harris is editor of the Tipton Poetry Journal and has published one poetry collection, Something At The Center. Barry lives in Brownsburg, Indiana, and is retired from Eli Lilly and Company.  A graduate of Ball State University with a major in English, Barry was founding editor of Tipton Poetry Journal, which has been published in print and online versions since 2004. In 2009, he helped found Brick Street Poetry, Inc., a nonprofit organization that now publishes Tipton Poetry Journal, hosts Poetry on Brick Street, and sponsors poetry-related events. His poetry has appeared in Saint Ann’s Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Night Train, Hiss Quarterly, Cherry Blossom Review, Flying Island, Lily, The Centrifugal Eye, Flutter Poetry Journal, Wheelhouse Magazine, Houston Literary Review, Snow Monkey and Writers’ Bloc, and in these anthologies: Twin Muses: Art and Poetry and From the Edge of the Prairie.

Mary & Ann Primiano-Rock. Ctr_1
Wearing My Best
by Mary Leonard

I’m wearing my best, a blue cotton
Mother embroidered with cross-stitches,
bordered with rickrack. It’s June.
I dry my hair on the back porch
brushing my curls upside down
until they shine silver in the window,
my face a dark negative. Mother, always late,
powders her nose and plays with lipsticks.
Jubilee Cherry, Bermuda Coral? Not wanting
to miss the 10:25, I swirl on one Capezio toe
and announce, in the voice of my sister,
Coral for our movie star! Mother picks
a pique bolero, searches
for her keys and money hoarded
from her household allowance. I hold
the screen door, urging her on,
while watching groceries delivered
to Mr. Graham who rises
from his patio chair and with high-held glass
waves in the boy from Gristede’s.
I only imagine the inside of a house
I will never enter.

The train’s cool straw seats soothe my legs.
Women board at Bronxville and I envy
their smooth blonde flips, their leather purses.
To eavesdrop on their gossip, I curl small,
like a rabbit. Mother makes lists:
sheets from the white sale at Altman’s,
lingerie, something crisp and white for sister,
a dress from Bloomingdale’s basement,
and my hair cut at Best & Co.
The conductor calls out the stations,
each syllable a song
Tuck a hoe Tuck a hoe

The train sways, hypnotizes
and as we rise above city streets,
my eyes flicker, close, open to scenes
from old-time movies: large women making beds
with billowy white sheets, thin men in undershirts
cooling on stoops.

In Altman’s we march straight past the jewelry
to brass escalators. On Floor Two, Lingerie,
I enter a cave of lace and silk
and feel the satin of scenes
only glimpsed in Doris Day movies.
Mother and I examine the sale table, touching, opening,
searching for the gown we’ll know when we see it.
We both circle my sister’s wedding, I copying
brides from magazines, Mother adding to the trousseau
and her own dreams. We find two,
not too frilly, no décolletage, white and pristine.
Mother checks the fabric, the seams, showing me
at nine what the inside of a garment should look like,
and I see my mother, not much older than me,
sewing in dark rooms, lit only by sequins.

On a double decker Fifth Avenue bus, I memorize
cabbage roses on wide picture hats
and pale lilacs burdening the sides of bowlers.
We pull the cord at St. Patrick’s, visiting quickly,
only lighting one candle before leaving incense
for Main Floor perfume. In Best’s waiting room,
windowed to Rockefeller Center, I watch and want
to build my own skyscraper with blocks,
but feel too shy, too old, easier to snuggle
close to Mother. Mr. Joseph cuts
my bangs two inches above my eyes, complains
about my curls, too many, too thick,
and I wish for straight hair he could turn
with his curling iron. I hold tight
to my pink and white balloon, Best & Co.,
ignoring whispers of cute from huddled salesgirls.

At Schrafft’s the waitress wears all black, even her oxfords,
only her white apron and red curls distancing her
from Sister Pauline. We always order BLT’s on toast,
tea for mother, a black-and-white soda for me.
I save the ice cream for Mother’s stories, today, her wedding,
not the ruffled organdy dress, not the white gardenias,
but after, climbing the steps on West Forty-Eighth,
Dad’s brothers draped like mannequins around the table,
the windows, uncurtained, gray with the smoke of cigars,
and a silence she had never known. Mother’s eyes glaze,
but I’m too young for the words she needs. I squirm
in my seat and whisper, Let’s leave.

At Bloomingdale’s we find six print dresses, cheap,
in Mother’s size. We laugh like school girls
when the dress is too tight or the ruffles bigger
than Mother’s head. We find one, a pastel,
that makes Mother look like
the movie star she should be,
but it’s overpriced. She decides to send it C.O.D.,
saving on the tax, but doesn’t feel right, I know,
so I don’t insist on French crullers,
only orange lifesavers for the train ride home,
the time we review the day, peeking at purchases,
wishing we didn’t leave behind the pink peignoir.
Mother says, after the wedding, she’ll shop just for me.
I dream of a camel hair coat, of penny loafers, of blonde hair.

My eyes close and open: a dark man resting
on a window sill lifts a can to his lips, my father
on our back porch hammers at a loose board,
reaches for his beer, and across our street, the Grahams
hold tightly to glasses of iced tea.
I step onto their patio, awnings flutter.

The conductor chants
Crest wood Crest wood
I am cold. I hold my mother’s hand.

SOURCE: “Wearing My Best” was published in the author’s chapbook A Girl (Pudding House in 2007).

PHOTOGRAPH: The authors as a child on a shopping trip with her mother.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I loved shopping with my mother when I was a kid, and in this poem wanted to capture that unique experience of the late fifties — but I was also interested in what it was like living in suburbia and not fitting in. When we went shopping and on the train, I felt very close to my mother and very protected from the elitism of Westchester. I think the first draft started in a workshop at Bard College.

Mary 1Reading-Yonkers, NY, 5-17-2014-No 2_1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Leonard is an Associate of the Institute for Writing and Thinking at Bard College. She has published four chapbooks of poetry at 2River, Pudding House, Antrim House Press and RedOchreLit. Her work has appeared in many journals, such as the Naugatuck Review, Red River, Earth’s Daughters, Hubbub, and most recently in Chronogram and Blotterature. She is working on a new chapbook Living In the Hyphen and a novel, Italian Ice.

eknoian
Serious Child, Quiet and Shy
by Barbara Eknoian

I look at the black and white snapshot
and I know the day I became that way.
I was supposed to smile
when they said “cheese.”
All I could manage was a soulful look.

I looked pretty in my new outfit
wearing my first white
patent leather Mary Janes.
My hat had a turned-up brim.
Its color eludes me.
Everything is gray in the snapshot.

My mother cooked farina that morning,
but my brother wanted corn flakes instead.
Suddenly, my father picked up
a glass milk bottle and cracked it
over my mother’s head.

Glass shattered at my feet.
My mother shrieked
as milk dripped down
onto her face and shoulders.

I posed later with my little brother.
I don’t know the color
of his short pant suit.
I only know that it was
Easter Sunday, cloudy and gray.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age 2-1/2 with her younger brother Robert.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: At our writing workshop, Donna Hilbert, our leader, suggested that we try composing a poem with our left hand. This incident, was residing in my memory bank, and I just wrote what had happened. I was not quite five years old, my brother, almost four years old, when my father exploded and shocked us by his behavior. It was Easter week and we would be getting chocolate bunnies. All of a sudden in that scary moment, I was catapulted to a grownup’s world. Thank God my mom was not seriously injured, only dazed. Whenever I feel very happy, I’m afraid something bad is about to happen, which has been my experience over the years.

barbara_eknoian

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Barbara Eknoian’s work has appeared in Pearl, Chiron Review, RE)VERB, and Silver Birch Press’s Silver, Green, Summer anthologies, Half New Year Poetry Collection, and Self-Portrait Poetry Collection,Your Daily Poem, and Cadence Collective on line. She has received two Pushcart Prize nominations and is a member of Donna Hilbert’s poetry workshop in Long Beach, California. Her first young adult novel Chances Are: A Jersey Girl Comes of Age, and her poetry book Why I Miss New Jersey are available at Amazon. She is currently working on a generational novel.

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