radioactive by Sam Rose

radioactive

we take the afternoon off work to visit the nuclear
medicine department at the hospital
and in the evening I try to access some feeling and I ask myself

if I cry, will that help flush the radiation out of my body?
or will it just give the bags under my eyes a buttercup glow
as if my pupils had become suns

stop
I say
stop
It was just a CT scan, just a tiny amount of radiation
and you are just melodramatic
you are just a girl, not spiderman
and nothing is happening

but that’s what burns

by Sam Rose

Twitter: @writersamr

Editor’s Note: The fractured lines and words of this poem perfectly encapsulate the uncertainty inherent in dealing with illness and the medical treatment that can feel more like a machine than healing. 

This Is Not My Story by Yvonne Zipter

This Is Not My Story

I am weeping in the kitchen, cutting tomatoes for dinner.
My wife comes into the room and asks what’s made me cry.
They showed a boy, I sob, and then must stop because I am weeping
again. I am weeping for a boy on the news. He is ten and walking
along a caliche road. Alone. He is walking along a gravel road
in La Grulla, Texas, ten and walking in a desert, not another soul
in sight until a border patrol guard sees him. The boy is ten,
and though he wears a Batman t-shirt and hooded jacket
like any ordinary boy, he is not ordinary. Four hours alone
in the desert, a Nicaraguan boy abandoned in the night
by the migrants he was traveling with, and he is sobbing so hard,
his chest heaves beneath the face of a cartoon character. And I
am sobbing with him, crying because he is ten and alone,
and I know that fear, the fear of solitude, the fear of never
being found, though I was never abandoned, let alone in a desert.
And then the pain of knowing his fear asks all of my other pain
to join it, and I am crying for my dead mother, for my cancer,
for the way the world tries to divide me and the boy, me
and his parents in Nicaragua, because of the color of our skins.
But this is not my story. I am not lost. I am in my kitchen,
safe, with someone to hold me while I weep, someone
to kiss away my tears. This is a story of desperation,
of a boy, looking for safety and a kitchen full of light and food
and love, looking for someone to hold him while he weeps.

by Yvonne Zipter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YvonneZipterWrites
Instagram: @yvonnezipter
Twitter: @YvonneZipter


Editor’s Note
: This poem’s conversational tone emphasizes the empathy of the speaker, bringing the trauma of understanding up from the darkness and into the light.

Plans by M.J. Iuppa

Plans

Listen. I can’t explain what we’ve been through.
This year of isolation has made us slightly mad.
All of us wishing we could sleep a hundred days
in the crease of a rugged mountain and wake
somehow stronger than before we were given
this wager—
. . . . . .To survive learning the hard way isn’t a joke.

We look out our windows, full of whatever
weather is happening, and dream of being
swept up by a steady wind that comes from
far away. We think this is a good plan—we
want to be safe but stand ready with our next
move. We’re living behind masks. All anyone
sees is our pupils—those corridors, narrowing
or dilating in response to what we need to do.

Whose plan was that?

Someone who stays up late into the night.
Someone who promises everything will be perfect.
Someone who believes you have what you need.

Listen. We are not ones to say: all bets are off.

by M.J. Iuppa


Editor’s Note
: The speaker’s voice in this poem is strong and direct, drawing the reader into the imagery that describes the unbalance people feel while living through a difficult time in history.

From the archives – Lascaux Horse by Ciaran Parkes

Lascaux Horse

Where are you heading to, Lascaux horse,
rust and bonfire coloured, running
across the eggshell coloured postcard?
Never mind if your legs appear too thin

to bear your weight, they were never meant to.
You were born like this, caught between the earth
and sky, under someone’s moving
fingers clutching clay and charcoal, lit

by uncertain fire light, so you seem
to move in and out of shadows, one
of Plato’s ideal creatures, not needing
anything more than this to be alive

and permanent. On the other side
of the postcard, words of love and greeting
from years ago, in some unknown hand.

by Ciaran Parkes

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, April 21, 2017

photo is in the public domain

Hallelujah This Sky by Victoria Melekian

Hallelujah This Sky

Working downtown today, clouds
in every window of the high rise
across the way: big white ones
vast enough to house God

and sweet baby Jesus, all of heaven’s
angels and saints. I’m telling you,
it’s a miracle sky, sky in a Bible,
sky so gorgeous it can fix anything

that ails you, and it’s reflected
in every single window
on all twenty-four floors of the building
across from me, a colossal glass cloud

there to behold. The attorneys drone:
question, answer, question, answer.
I take down every do you recall, isn’t it true,
pursuant to, but I want to stop

the deposition and applaud this sky.
Hallelujah this sky. Devour this sky.
Stuff myself with pure white fluffiness,
slip clouds into their transcript.

by Victoria Melekian

Editor’s Note: The central image of this poem is perfectly highlighted by the careful enjambment between stanzas which grabs the reader’s attention—not so easy to do with something as ephemeral as how clouds feel.

When My Mother Forgets the Word for Dahlia by Robin Turner

“Picking a favorite dahlia is like going through a button box.”
—from The Old Farmers Almanac

When My Mother Forgets the Word for Dahlia

it is February. It is the last day of her 84th year,
the latest day in this ruthless unspooling of days,
of pandemic lockdown, its cruel isolation
and winter, all the gardens covered over,
all our lives fallow, fallow. When my mother forgets

the word for dahlia, tall flower as familiar to her as a daughter,
its name soft as psalm on the tongue, it is yet another day
of all the distances between us—every long year apart,
every rocky geography, every hurt forgiven and not
forgiven. And in that instant every distance opens wide

its spacious arms as every distance collapses and gathers, as dahlia waits
snug in its button box to be found, tucked just out of memory’s reach until it passes
like miracle into me, blossoming into speech— dahlia, I say through the phone
and into my mother’s frustrated silence, her solitary sorting, sorting, sorting.

I give her back the beloved, the favorite flower, the one
she knows but can no longer name. When my mother forgets
the word for dahlia, I drive in a blinding rain to the wizened women
at the nursery called Blue Moon. They will know. They will
know the flower I have come for.

by Robin Turner

Robin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: The imagery and repetition in this spectacular poem effortlessly supports the heartrending emotional narrative with dignity and a hint of the desperation felt by the speaker.

Round Pond by Kelley J. White

Round Pond

Always twilight. I pull the heavy oars
through dark water until we balance,
cool air and water, night stilling, silent,
but for the living web of insect song spun
to our skin. We could hear a fly
settle on the face of the pond, hear the fish
rise to meet it, the still circles of each rise
ringing out until each fish’s hunger met
our wooden boat and quavered back.

Night birds dipped, smooth swallows,
flickering bats; no human sound
but the shipped oars dripping and
the shirr, shirr, shirr as my father gathered
the line in his palm for the cast,
the quick run-out as the trout pulled taut,
the moonlit silver dulling in the dark creel.

My father knew each hatch, which mayflies
lived for only one night’s flight, or two,
or three, or five. He knew the larva
and the nymphs, each swimming, clinging,
crawling stage. He’d catch a chrysalis
on the net’s edge to watch the rough husk split
then dry and enter air. So many white wings.

He’d lean a moment, the lit match quick
against his young face, the cigarette cupped,
match shaken, his hands brisk to tie a leader
or untangle a knot. I wet a finger. No wind.
Moon. I lay on the bottom of the drifting
boat, rocking, palms open to stars, so many
risings, light, sound, circles, whispers of fish,
my father dim in the bow, casting and reeling in,
my whispering breath, the water gentling,
lapping, and he rowed us swiftly home.

by Kelley J. White, from After Frost (CyberWit)

Editor’s Note: The absolute stillness of the imagery in this poem is broken only by the quiet movement of life flowing out of the water and then fading back into the depths, which is a lovely way to remember someone.

From the archives – Beauty by JR Solonche

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beauty

From my room down the hall,
I can hear the mathematics
professor getting emotional
about an equation, and I ask
myself how someone can get
so worked up about what isn’t real,
an abstraction, nothing but what?
Signs and symbols. A scribble.

Oh, I say to myself. To him
it is a poem, a formal one,
every word in place, every rhyme
perfect, every stanza exact. Poor man.
He, too, must pound the beauty deep in
with his fist. Every time. Every damn time.

by JR Solonche

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, April 25, 2018

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

1726 Cantata by Korie Beth Brown

1726 Cantata

I walk down the path to your house, my feet tapping
a 4/4 rhythm. The sound says goodbye.
I don’t want to hear that melody. I want you to heal,
your voice to accompany mine as we grow old together.
I stop at the end of the sidewalk. Like Lot’s wife, I turn. Your window
is dark. You lie inside, all best friend without a working liver
growing quieter and slower. Soon you will leave the orchestra.
I will be alone, my life’s chorus depleted.
It’s hard to keep focused. I want to sing a sad solo.
Others are also affected by your death and life. I hear
the rustling of leaves. The tree next to me will be here
next week, but you probably won’t.
I get in the car. I’ll stay overnight at a friend’s
whose religion tells us rejoice, you’re just shy of heaven.
I can’t mouth that tune. I would ask your opinion
but you are busy with a different threnody.

How will I keep singing by myself?

Your house recedes in the rear-view mirror, its music replaced
by the hum of the car, the swell of traffic
the changing orchestration
of life from here on out.

by Korie Beth Brown

Editor’s Note: This lament threads nostalgia and grief together into one song because letting go of a loved one is neither easy nor simple.

A Purple Poem by Praniti Gulyani

A Purple Poem

there is a purple poem
on my mother’s neck
that my father writes for her
every full moon night
instead, most poets write on paper
but my father writes on mother’s skin
she smiles, she says she doesn’t mind
says, the purple poem is truly
a thing of pride and beauty
yet, she keeps it covered, carefully
with the ends of her dupatta, shielding it
says, she’s scared of it being looked at
by the evil eye

there is a purple poem
on my mother’s hand
that father writes for her
every full-moon night
instead, most poems have words
but its a shape poem, my mother insists
sits me down before the computer
makes me look at some
but does not ask me to write one
I wonder why

there is a purple poem
on my mother’s forehead
that my father writes for her
every full-moon night
instead, it has not been written tenderly
upon the softness of paper
with a gliding quill
it has been pummeled, pushed—
slapped, and smashed
probably the way, mom punches walnuts
into the dough of our winter cake
so that the walnut stays
I think father also wishes
for this purple poem
to permanently stay

there is a purple poem
on my mother’s feet
that my father writes for her
every full-moon night
and tonight, as I reach out,
my fingers measuring the dark
ensuring my steps are silent
I tread with caution
so as to not arise her
I touch this purple poem
which she says, is a treasure—
an honor, a privilege, a boon
and even at times, a wife’s pride
her sleep-crusted eyes flicker open
she winces.

by Praniti Gulyani

Editor’s Note: The repetition of the imagery in this poem gives it an almost sing-song cadence while also emphasizing the emotional difficultly of the narrative.