Patrick T. Reardon (left) and his brother David in 2002
Finding pain
by Patrick T. Reardon

You ask me if,
in writing about my
suicide-brother, I
find peace.

You ask me if
I find a clearing in
the forest where,
amid bird-song, the
sunlight shafts across
my face.

I have found a
jungle on a steep
hill rising to a
mountain and a
mountain top, a
rainstorm and then
blizzard, a whirlwind,
and, at the peak, stingy
air and greedy cold and a
panorama of the Earth spread
for me as
if I were an asthmatic,
hypothermic god, as
if I were again the baby fighting
my way blindly from the dark, as
if I were the
giver of birth, as
if I were the cribbed
infant with no words and a
dread
dream, as
if I were, like all of us, Job
raging out at the Almighty in
the knowledge of death and
the schooling of pain, and
stretching
out to grab
the sorrow-
encrusted
joy
of breathing,
for as
long as
breath
comes.

PHOTO: Patrick T. Reardon (left) with his brother David. From the book Requiem for David (Silver Birch press, 2017).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Well, since the February publication of my book of poems centered on the suicide of my brother David, many people wonder if I’ve found peace through the process of writing and publishing the work.  The answer is very complicated, and that’s what I tried to address in this poem.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon is the author of Requiem for David, a collection of poems (Silver Birch Press, 2017).  His Pump Don’t Work blog is at patricktreardon.com.

Chicago-area residents, join Patrick T. Reardon and author Barbara Mahany as they discuss Patrick’s new poetry collection Requiem for David and the questions it raises about grief, family, religious faith, and the choices that each of us makes at every step along the path of our lives. The event will take place on Friday, 3/24/17, 6:30 p.m., at City Lit Books, 2523 N. Kedzie Blvd., Chicago, IL 60647.

 In Requiem for David, Patrick wrestles with the suicide of his brother David, and the pain they shared as children and adults, and the tight bond of affection that the brothers shared with each other and with their other 12 brothers and sisters. Sandra Cisneros calls Requiem for David “the heart’s howl,” and Haki Madhubuti compares the collection to the work of poet-priest Daniel Berrigan.

“Detail by razor-sharp detail, perception by vivid perception, recollection by haunting recollection, Patrick T. Reardon’s  Requiem for David gathers into the force of a cri de coeur.”
–Stuart Dybek

Patrick T. Reardon’s eight books include Faith Stripped to Its Essence, a literary-religious commentary on Shusaku Endo’s famed novel Silence. Reardon worked for 32 years as a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, specializing in urban affairs, and is now writing a book about the impact of the elevated railroad Loop on Chicago.  His essays and poems have appeared frequently in American and European publications. His book reviews have twice won the Peter Lisagor Award for arts criticism.  He has lectured on Chicago history at the Chicago History Museum.

 Barbara Mahany is an author and freelance journalist in Chicago, who writes these days about stumbling on the sacred amid the cacophony of the modern-day domestic melee. She was a reporter and feature writer at the Chicago Tribune for nearly 30 years. Mahany’s first book, Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door, has been called “a field guide into the depths of your holiest hours.” Publishers Weekly picked it as one of the Top 10 religion books for 2014, fall crop. In her forthcoming book, Motherprayer: Lessons in Loving, due out in April, Mahany turns her attention to the sacred mysteries of mothering.

WHAT: Launch for Requiem for David by Patrick T. Reardon

WHEN: Friday, March 24, 2017 – 6:30pm

WHERE: City Lit Books

2523 N. Kedzie Blvd., Chicago, IL 60647

Craven
Where are the teeth I slipped under my pillow?
by Jackie Craven

For every loss, a coin
embossed with the pained profile
of George Washington, lips stretched tight
over his own dental misfortunes.
Hardly a fair exchange.

It would take a fleet of fairies
to flit from child to child
carting sacks of silver
and a million molars
rattling like tiny skulls. Or
a mother with a talent
for keeping secrets.

I expected to find 20 jagged bits
of me in her keepsake drawer,
along with shards of china, a lock
of hair, a lover’s letter. She hid
them well, or lost them,
the way she lost eyesight, appetite,
and the names of flowers.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, at eight  hiding what’s missing behind an uncertain smile.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I believed in the tooth fairy longer than most children, and was usually quite happy to yank out pieces of myself in exchange for a visit. The mystery! The excitement! Today I get a similar thrill from writing poetry, but the monetary rewards are usually less.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jackie Craven has poems published in New Ohio Review, Nimrod, River Styx, Salamander, Water~Stone Review, and other journals. Her 2016 chapbook, Our Lives Became Unmanageable, won the Fabulist Fiction award from Omnidawn. She works as journalist covering architecture, literature, and the arts. Visit her at JackieCraven.com or on Facebook at JackieCravenWrites.

sliding board 001
Wax Paper Slide
by Wanda Morrow Clevenger

Narrow streets of this town past
intersect a simple grid grown slow
to encroach on steadfast fields
of family names
but for a park named for one name
and the big bargain-buy building
and an upshot of sprawling vinyl siding
tucked in southern reaches to supervise
corporate fed manicured lawns.

On one narrow street found
blindfolded
red brick double-deckers form
a hobbled oval of life and limb
encased in egg-shell white interior
―grass painted 1950s kelly.
Once flat, kindergarten triangle roofs
search satellite skies.

And my heart fell at the missing
playground; even the basketball court
made way for a patriotic
plastic play palace.
A lone square of dirt marked
the drop spot
of the silver slide slicked
with Mom’s wax paper.

I reached
to touch the clothesline
cross pole where
David Ray climbed
that one summer,
sitting far above me
like some archangel singing
“Dock of the Bay.”

SOURCE: First published in The Holiday Café (July 2, 2014).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The sliding board at the housing project where I grew up sat about 15 feet from our kitchen door. This photo, circa 1959, shows me with my three older sisters. If you look closely the old wooden seat swing set is visible in the background. The single story units also in the background had slightly pitched roofs but the two story units (where we lived) had flat tops where assorted balls and Frisbees were held captive until once a year a maintenance man climbed up to toss them down to us children.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Wanda Morrow Clevenger
is a Carlinville, Illinois, native. Over 428 pieces of her work appear in 149 print and electronic publications. Her nonfiction “Big Love” was nominated for 2016 Best of Net by Red Fez literary journal. Her poem “When I Loved You” was commended by the judges in the 2015 Lost Tower Publications “The Double Happiness Love Completion.” Her debut book This Same Small Town in Each of Us (Edgar & Lenore’s Publishing House) was released in October 2011. Visit her magazine-type blog, updated at her erratic discretion, here.

Lawrence 1983 photo
Dear Lost Love of My Life
by Kathleen A. Lawrence

          1982

You had dark longish hair
and so did I. Your eyes were the color
of milk chocolate truffles.
Your skin like hot caramel sauce.
When you wrapped your arm around
my white shoulders we looked like
a hot fudge & caramel vanilla bean sundae.

You used to count my freckles as we lay around
naked listening to “Only the Good Die Young”
on my portable cassette player.
I giggled shyly and fibbed when I said
no one had ever done that before.
It only mattered that you were connecting
each dot and studying my body.

You were full of sweet kisses and
compliments which I thought
would never end. I always believed you’d
forever be tracing my skin with your fingertips
like I was some beautiful, rare relief map.
But summer burned some insecurities
into my head, and I worried.

          1983

You had to go West for a few months,
and I tried to convince myself
you were my brave explorer and
I was your modern-day pioneer woman.
I was going to be mature and wait
and keep myself busy getting a tan
and eating Garcia’s pizza and drinking draft beer.

But I couldn’t be more than I was,
which was very twenty-four
and nervous that you at thirty-one
would grow tired of me. How long could I
really be captivating to you? You, however,
would always be so fascinating you’d be
frozen in time as my proverbial one that got away.

I dumped you. But it was me that lost.
I spent the next thirty years living and loving
in my life but it was never the same
as it was during our hot summer of showers,
and wind chimes, and long-distance phone calls
when they still really meant something.
And you had to pay for them.

          2012

Thirty years passed without warning.
We both finished school, married our rebounds,
had our respective happy children,
and forever wondered. But when I lost
my marriage I tried to never think about you.
Ignorance wasn’t bliss; it made me
want to take cover . . . it was safe.

I tried to keep my “what ifs” locked away
in my memory box of ID bracelets,
Pink Floyd T-shirts, bandannas, and two-piece
bathing suits. My ’80s and you were over.
The ERA didn’t make it despite my efforts
and neither did we. Now, in my early 50s I’d lost
the time or need to lounge naked pondering life.

But when you started chasing me on Facebook,
that started to change. I got nervous again,
like the first time you stopped by my dorm room
and asked if I wanted to play frisbee. (Did I really
look like I wanted to play frisbee?) What a curious
boy-man you were. Always so upbeat, full of affection,
and eager to ply me with frozen margaritas and a dance.

When you friended me on Facebook I blushed.
When you posted me a meme I smiled.
I looked for you every time I logged on,
and swooned with every new message alert.
I was young again but with a freckled face now
filled with experience. I didn’t have my chicken legs
any more, as you used to call them, and my eyes were less blue.

But my heart was bigger now along with my hips.
And you seemed immediately enamored of both.
It was like 360 months hadn’t separated us. It was as if
109,507 days without your touch, brown eyes, and wide smile
made me grow up too, something I was always reluctant to do.
That seems to have made all the difference. I’m more
loving and kind. I finally have the patience to wait for what I need.

          2017

I lost you once. Many summer moons ago.
I found you twice, twice in August, 3 decades apart.
I’m no mathematician, and you teach English,
but I think those numbers look good.
So I’m gonna hold on tight this time, and let you
kiss me without warning. You can bring me cheese platters
and green seedless grapes with the stems trimmed.

You can write me beautiful notes for the next 30 years
and more. You can laugh at my jokes even though
I know you didn’t hear me. You can brush my still long hair
and wear your dragon shirts. Because we are we.
Wonderfully seasoned, particular, and experienced loving we.
Gratefully, I’ll never be so young and careless with you again.
I’ll never, ever risk losing you again.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Happy and hanging out at university in the early 80s in an embroidered peasant blouse.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My approach for this poem was to write something that really captured the importance of what I lost and remained missing over half of my adult life. My graduate school fling was a love I never forgot but lost for a long time. I hoped to convey the fun we had as young loves and the magic that seemed to reappear once we found each other again. It sounds so cliché and trite but since we typically aren’t the kind of people that fall into these patterns it actually has been refreshingly ironic that we did.

Lawrence bio photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathleen A. Lawrence’s poems appeared recently in Rattle’s Poets Respond, Eye to the Telescope, Silver Birch Press, haikuniverse, and New Verse News. A poem in Altered Reality Magazine was nominated for a 2017 Rhysling Award from the Science Fiction Poetry Association. She was a Poet of the Week at Poetry Super Highway in January 2017.

tara turner
My Girlfriend
(Found 36 Years Later)
by Ananya S Guha

A pebble in dark
school’s steps in dark
after movies.
Lemonades, girls from
neighbouring school,
plaited hair. Glances and side looks
Letters passed slyly. Coquettish
looks across the hall, eluding the GRIM
Nun’s strictures.
My new girlfriend
good figure, Anglo Indian.
School days over.
My petite girl lost.
Thirty-six years later
she writes on social network,
”Do you remember?”
I meet her in a guest house.
”Has he changed?” husband mumbles.
No, no. She has. She is grandma.
Lost and found. Thirty-six years later.
Like me. Still alive.
The mantra of finding.
Her face, niggling photo frame
in shaded corner of mind.
Ponytails. Grey frock.

IMAGE: “Middle Ground” by Tara Turner. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

guha

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ananya S. Guha lives in Shillong in North East India. He has been writing and publishing poetry in English for 31 years.

Jen&cat-Lodi House
The Ring
by Jennifer Lagier

My first husband slipped
the honeymoon gift,
a tiny gold band,
onto my little finger.
I wore it ten years,
through good times and bad,
sickness and health.

After our traumatic divorce,
I used my settlement
to buy a run-down old house,
spent days pulling weeds,
pruning roses,
patching and painting
crumbling plaster.

One night while bathing
after hours of hard work,
I discovered the pinkie ring
had disappeared,
fretted, but let it go
like everything else
I had relinquished.

Months later, while
turning compost,
it magically reappeared
among potato peels,
coffee grinds,
rotten grass clippings.

I took it as a sign,
benediction of my new life,
renovated home,
flourishing friendships,
flowering garden.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, 1981, in my restored Lodi farmhouse. Taken by Bill Rickard.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I thought about the theme of “Lost and Found,” I remembered a time of uprooting and upheaval in my life—going through a wrenching divorce and starting over on my own. At that time, I lost everything, including my ring, but discovered self-sufficiency and the satisfaction of independence. Rediscovering my lost ring was a karmic affirmation that I was on the right path.

jen-20161

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Lagier has published 13 books, taught with California Poets in the Schools, and helps coordinate Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Her newest books are Scene of the Crime (Evening Street Press), Harbingers (Blue Light Press), and Camille Abroad (FutureCycle). Forthcoming: Like a B Movie (FutureCycle Press, 2018). Visit her at jlagier.net.

Author photo by Laura Bayless. 

gowalking pedometer
Another Art: In Hungary
by Susanna Rich

                For my Elizabeths

1

Misplacing is easy: Where is my Droid
jammed with winged statues of naked women
and selfies with lovers on metro escalators?

Ah, yes, raveled up in the Imperial tape measure
I brought to tabulate how my waist
takes to poppy seed palacsinta,

Bull’s Blood merlot, Bird’s Milk Egg Creams.
Keys go on forays, of course, shoes,
glasses, the pen I was just using, the other sock.

But then I lose my GOWalking pedometer,
a 1½” X 2½” gray thingie I clamp
onto the tongue of my Nike’s

to calibrate how far I traipse—
176 steps up to Fisherman’s Bastion;
synagogue to basilica; museum, museum,

museum to terminal market—
pendulum marking my course,
keeping score of my days.

2

It hurts to lose it—small trochaic
kathumping on my foot—

magic rattle assuring me:
my steps matter enough.

I retrace my steps, eyes low to cobblestones—
back over the Chain Bridge

to the stone lions with missing tongues,
for which the sculptor committed suicide;

through the cavernous Gellért spa,
with its frightening echoes

and limping white robes—
looking hurt into people’s faces.

It was too trivial to matter (until it did),
mass-produced in a China I’ll never know,

five-buck WalMart impulse—
eminently replaceable through the web.

3

Might as well have been
the hand of the child I never had,
my estranged sister phoning me—

all the things-I’ll-never-have glitches
around which I mold myself
like a storm around its eye.

The young waitress at the Coyote Pub—
For when you’re hungry as a wolf—
calls out to me as I sulk by:

You left something. Here.
Gray thing—heartbeats, feet,
bridges, time itself—reprieved.

Momentary joy: a stranger turned sister,
a foreign country become home
and I into the child found.

But what to do, where go,
now that I’m untethered
to what’s lost?

SOURCE: “Another Art” first appeared in Literary Bohemian.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Another Art” was inspired during MY Fulbright residency in Budapest, 2005.

Rich

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Susanna Rich
is a bilingual Hungarian-American, a Fulbright Fellow in Creative Writing (Hungary), a Collegium Budapest fellow, and a Distinguished Professor of English at Kean University (New Jersey). An Emmy Award nominee, Susanna is founding producer and principal performer at Wild Nights Productions, LLC. Her repertoire includes the one-woman poetry musical Shakespeare’s *itches: The Women Talk Back and ashes, ashes: A Poet Responds to the Shoah. Susanna is author of three poetry collections, Surfing for Jesus, Television Daddy, and The Drive Home. Visit her at wildnightsproductions.com.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photograph was taken with Jucika, the Falcon, in Fisherman’s Bastion (Budapest, Hungary).

Photo by Morton D. Rich. 

Toner
Snow Duck on the Ides
by Sally Toner

I see the stone creation, smaller than
my neuropathic hand. All thumbs, I stop
and fumble a shot. He’s pocked, throat slit by sleet
and sun, but once upon a time his beak
was bright, the yellow of daffodils that cry
beside him. They’re already dead, whether
cased in glass from weather or man.
The flowerpot man on the corner flashes
with flags on the Fourth of July—a Santa hat
in December; when wind or rowdy kids
destroy, they fix him to resemble human
form again. The duck is different; his grief
is real, compounded and ignored, like poison
in the veins, until the statue, now
a stranger to himself, stares at me,
black spotted face reminding in a whisper
of precipitation, “I’m still here.”

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The Snow Duck (a reflection of the author at present) — March 14, 2017.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Most “lost and found” stories are from a person’s past, but this one literally happened this week. On a very cold, short walk to try and counteract the effects of chemotherapy, I came upon a lawn ornament I have never seen the countless times I’ve been down this path before. It was 70 degrees just last week. There’s no reason why it should be this cold this time of year, and I found myself falling into that self pity trap because I couldn’t even make it halfway around a route I jogged six months ago. Then, walking backwards against the wind, I saw the snow duck and stopped to take a picture. I wondered how long he’d been there, unnoticed. Then it occurred to me that, when awful things happen, we can become unrecognizable even to ourselves. In the end, though, the tiny statue reminded me that, no matter what form I may take in the present, “I’m still here.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sally Toner
is a high school English teacher and mother of two who has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for over 20 years. Her work has appeared in Gargoyle Magazine, The Delmarva Review, and The Great Gatsby Anthology published by Silver Birch Press. You can follow her on Twitter @SallyToner.

Me_Cam
I’ve Lost Your Name
by Michael Minassian

I’ve searched my notebooks & journals
from that summer in England,
surprised your name does not appear anywhere.

At the top of each page
I had noted the date & time
but soon abandoned commenting
on the weather or affairs
of the heart both real & imagined.

I remember the night you & I
sat next to each other
in the tiny theatre along the bank
of the Cam river; you pressed your leg
against my thigh while we watched
an experimental troupe butcher Macbeth —
two actors playing all the roles.

On the walk home, we exchanged
stories punctuated with long pauses
like a string of commas
hidden in some alternate text;
later, you told me about
your dead father & the sister he damaged
beyond repair, you said, then squeezed
my hand, & let go, running up the stairs.

In the morning, you were gone;
piled up on your bed were your copies
of Dante & Shakespeare; the note I wrote
inviting you to the play pressed
between them like the border
to a foreign country not found on any map.

PHOTO: Self-portrait of author in Cambridge, England (1996).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Minnasian’s poems have appeared recently in such journals as The Broken Plate, Exit 7, The Meadow, Redactions, and Third Wednesday. He is also a Contributing Editor for Verse-Virtual, an online magazine. Amsterdam Press published a chapbook of his poems entitled The Arboriculturist in 2010.