“The Long Journey Home” by Lisa Creech Bledsoe

“The two eight-legged ‘arachnidnauts’—which the station crew calls Gladys and Esmerelda—are settling in nicely aboard the orbiting lab, already weaving webs in their weightless new home.” —Mike Wall, Space.com senior writer, May 28, 2011

It was a turbulent ride, the liftoff,
but it was spring, the omens good and
the smell of Columbia’s burning long gone—
the fear redundant but still necessary.

They look weightless, faint pencil scribbles high
in the corners of my bathroom, rarely rearranging
even a single delicate leg. Whispers
uncoupled from gravity and a bellyful of
patience, knowing sometimes things go sideways.

We call them all Charlotte and hope for messages.

What started as guidelines, signal lines,
x-and-o-mark-the-spot became every day spinning,
every night dismantling the old. This is how
the chapel is made: no praise, no blame—
a language of presence and absence.

They flew to space again years ago,
spellcast beyond a fretful sky where
they spun their filigreed greetings, frozen
and drowning amid stars. I think of them

levitating, breathless, Nephila clavipes
refusing to come down for air. Everyone
had been left or taken unimaginably far away
where there’s no phone service, where we’d
lost the compass or ballast or some damn thing.

One day we’ll forget our acquaintance with gravity
and revolutions. What time is like, this day,
this night and another—the windows of our world
boarded over but light streaming out nonetheless.

Have you ever found old photos of family
you never knew existed? They have gone to the stars
over my house, where it’s impossibly black and filled
with beauty. They have not returned. Or
maybe they have, but it’s hard to see them, hovering
over our heads, the sky, the next outer
thing we never dreamed of, shining and holding us
in their golden arms.

Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a hiker, beekeeper, and writer, watched by crows and friend to salamanders, living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of two full-length books of poetry, Appalachian Ground (2019) and Wolf Laundry (2020). She has new poems out or forthcoming in The Blue Mountain Review, American Writers Review, Sky Island Journal, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Red Fez, and River Heron Review, among others. Website: https://appalachianground.com/

Two Poems by Felicia Nimue Ackerman

You Are Old, Father William

(originally appeared in The Los Angeles Times)

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And the money’s become very tight;
And yet you’ll spend anything not to be dead–
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I figured that old folks should die;
But, now that I’m perfectly sure that I’m one,
I do not see a good reason why.”

“You are old,” said the son, “as I mentioned before.
So consider your grandson’s position,
Since the money that keeps you away from death’s door
Could be used for his college tuition.”

“I am old,” Father William replied in a yell,
“But I’ve not taken leave of my wits!
I should croak so young Willie can go to Cornell?
Be off, or I’ll blow you to bits!”

Envying My Cat

(originally appeared in The Providence Journal)

When Lili seeks affection,
She only has to purr.
She never meets rejection.
Why can’t I be like her?

Felicia Nimue Ackerman is a professor of philosophy at Brown University and has had about 200 poems published in a wide range of places.

“Peregrine” by John Muro

You have forged a habitat from our own,
Reclaiming the deformed spaces carved
Into air; canyon walls of steel and concrete
And clouds drifting past in blue panels of glass.
All captured in the cold precision of your eyes,
Round and dark as rifle barrels, straddling
A lethal beak and talons of caution-yellow.
Everything about you shouts assassin, and so
The Egyptians fittingly named a deity after
You – Horus, god of vengeance – with
Gold flesh and plumage of flint blue and
Graywacke. And now, wandering falcon,
Urban sentinel, I watch you scale heights
In terrible torque becoming little more than
A pinprick; awaiting the hunting stoop when
You become an instrument of carnage folding
Back a tail as large as your body, and wings
Tucked using tears to shield divining eyes
From wind shear. Tercel diving in dominion
Like a trident blistering air and consuming
Space faster than sound to where death itself
Is dazed and abducted in a theater of raw conquest.

John Muro is a graduate of Trinity College, Wesleyan University, and the University of Connecticut. His professional career has been dedicated to environmental stewardship and conservation, and he has held several executive and volunteer positions in those fields. His first volume of poems, In the Lilac Hour, was published last fall by Antrim House and is available on Amazon. His poems have been published or will soon be published in Euphony, Clementine Unbound, Freshwater, Amethyst Review and elsewhere. John is a life-long resident of Connecticut.

“Learning Grace” by Dan Overgaard

I. His Energy

Pushed up like wheat by prairie energy,
he came uprooted in a holy wind
and tumbled west, blacktop to ministry
unrolling, congregations without end.
Then fragrant oceans called. Their spicy breath,
along with urgent verses, interrupted sleep
to pull them both—through sickness and in health—
by boat and ox-cart, elephant and Jeep.
Lord in the morning lit him with the Word,
with eloquent translations in the sun.
Small kids were wide-eyed at the white they heard,
and villagers would murmur in refrain.
      Blessed with assurance, restless after prayer,
      he plowed from dawn to grace, through foreign air.

II. Her Diagnosis

She couldn’t match a color with its word
or call our names whenever we would meet,
but she could hum a chorus to the Lord
and end that chorus on the proper beat.
She couldn’t write or read. If she had known,
these losses would have been a heavy cross.
She couldn’t pray. But drifting in her own
sweet way, she’d often pause to touch those she would pass.
She hiked around and round the cottage yard.
The gate was locked for safety. That same sun,
as all those years in Thailand, landed hard.
Ironically, it’s here she’s much more tan.
      Reading these indications on her face,
      we learned her diagnosis: Late Stage Grace.

Dan Overgaard was born and raised in Thailand. He attended Westmont College, dropped out, moved to Seattle, became a transit operator, then managed transit technology projects and programs. He’s now retired and catching up on reading. His poems have appeared in The Galway Review, Shark Reef, Willawaw Journal, As It Ought To Be Magazine, Glass Poetry: Poets Resist, The High Window, Canary Lit Mag, Shot Glass Journal, Allegro Poetry, Triggerfish Critical Review and other journals. Read more at: danovergaard.com.

“Overhead from Longing” by Judith Alexander Brice

To Charlie, April 19, 2017

Sometimes, your voice catches me
from beyond and overhead, from your longing
love—I think of your timbre,
the tremolo and cords it strikes, reminiscent
always of starlings, their cantabile speech,
as they learned to sing— no, talk, to Mozart.

Was it he who heard
and copied their joyful trance or they
who conveyed back his sweet noise
to wrap him in a swoon of song
so sonorous that he composed concertos,
so plangent that when he wrote his resplendent

masses, he was able to catch an audience
in rapt and full attention, swoop
his listeners into an evanescent murmuration 1
as dense and wide as the starlings,
when swiftly they disappear
into their wild and mysterious flight?

1. A “murmuration” refers to the phenomenon that results when hundreds, even thousands of starlings fly in swooping, intricately coordinated patterns through the sky.
first published by VerseWrights Journal (defunct)

Judith Alexander Brice is a retired Pittsburgh psychiatrist whose love of nature and acquaintance with illness inform much of her work. She has had over 80 poems published in journals and anthologies, including The Golden Streetcar, Voxpopulisphere, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Magnolia Review, and The Annals of Internal Medicine. Judy has received both Editor’s Choice and Honorable Mention Awards in The Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize, sponsored by The Paterson Literary Review. She has authored four poetry books: Renditions in a PaletteOverhead From Longing, Imbibe the Air, as well as (a chapbook) Shards of Shadows: A Covid Diary. The last two books were published in early 2021. One poem, “Mourning Calls,” set to music by Tony Manfredonia, can be heard on his web-site: https://www.manfredoniamusic.com/mourning-calls. The attached published poem was the title poem of Overhead From Longing.

Two Poems by Charissa Roberson

The Waystation

Hope built a home
Out of wooden walls and trust,
The muted gables shone
In a frosty silver dusk.
Far from the town
Lies a refuge in the trees;
Lay your burden down and shake out your frozen dreams.
Never fear the wind
Nor the cold that steals the light,
For the lanterns in our inn
Are rekindled every night.
Joy serves the ale
By a warming, wood-sweet fire;
Love will bring the meal, then refreshed you may retire.
Hope built a home
To relieve the journey’s miles;
So why press on alone?
Come in and rest a while.

Rock Collection

I find the music between tiny pebbles.
Trickling water, clear & cold,
Finding cracks in the riverbed.
The snowy quartz, the dark gray granite,
The plainest stones worn smooth & precious
By countless hours of tumbling drops.
I spent my childhood looking downward,
Fearing to miss just a single one
Of those distinct, intriguing chunks of nature,
Chipped off the block of the mountain’s face.
Even now I find my vision
Trailing from the skies above
To dirt & grass & truer things—
The song of stones, the words of springs.

“The Waystation” and “Rock Collection” first appeared in On Concept’s Edge.

Charissa Roberson is a student of Creative Writing and French at Roanoke College, with a minor in Screen Studies. Her previous work has been published in The Elevation Review, Burnt Pine Magazine, and NOVUS Literary Journal. When not writing, Charissa loves reading, spending time with friends and family, traveling, and playing her fiddle.

“The Kitchen Couch at 20 Inis Fáil” by Rebecca Myers

While other couches gazed at TV screens,
this one had alternative vocations.
It slouched beneath the weight of strays and teens,
bore the brunt of heavy conversations.
Firm enough so that we wouldn’t wallow,
Yet soft enough to cushion love’s first blows.
Gossip dropped between the seats was swallowed
whole, before Frank’s morning weather show.
Hash brown crumbs and hairballs from the pets
were hoovered up by Mary on the hour
and as the sun went down a stage was set,
with backing tracks of humming Triton shower
and scratched CDs frozen back to perfection,
for dancers doubled in glass door reflections.

Rebecca Myers is an Irish poet and performer originally from Dublin, currently living in Nelson, New Zealand. She makes up one half of the duo ‘A Pair of Poets’, who were awarded Best Script in the Nelson Fringe: Virtual Festival 2020. She has had her poetry published online on The Blue NibThe Lake Review and Wine Cellar Press as well as in print in Popshot Magazine. For Rebecca, poetry provides a welcome creative outlet from her day job as a lab technician. You can find some more of her work on her Instagram @beccy.myers.

“Cake with My Two-Year-Old Daughter” by John Hansen

I ask if she’s ready,
smiling, I raise my fork to hers
as if clinking for a toast.

She sits expectantly;
the predator salivates, pounces,
out to ambush sprinkles.

Her mouth, like a goldfish’s,
inhales a sliver of cake,
exhales extra to the plate.

I, not any neater, swallow con-
fectioner’s sugar down a wrong pipe, cough up
crumbs near her placemat.

Giggling a while, she watches
as I take another piece, attentive
only with what I will eat.

I take her on my lap, about to offer
a last bite, she grabs the chunk—splat!
Grin on her lips, cake on mine.

John Hansen received a BA in English from the University of Iowa and an MA in English Literature from Oklahoma State University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Summerset Review, Verse-Virtual, Trouvaille Review, One Sentence Poems, Eunoia Review, Amethyst Review, and elsewhere. He is English Faculty at Mohave Community College in Arizona. Read more at johnphansen.com.

“Oracle at the Airport” by Jan Wiezorek

I am going to the sun,
he shouts, with a vein-based
heart. Lift and move it

like bags no longer needed.
Looking up, I see the aisle
ahead, the architecture

of lonely souls en route,
as upturned heads view
a mausoleum dome,

where angels kiss foreheads,
across an ear, along hairlines
of goodbyes.

We do it to ourselves. Wrested
inside longing, fumble-footed
as brush along the path,

across the vale of tears, ridge
of jeans, butt of canyon,
promised land, peace.

We drop our bags
like taking a bow and enter
the moving walkway.

Jan Wiezorek writes from forests, lakes, and gardens in southwestern Michigan. His poetry has appeared in The London MagazineMinetta ReviewModern Poetry Quarterly Review, Broad River Review, Flint Hills ReviewGrey Sparrow Journal, and Caesura Online, among others. He wrote Awesome Art Projects That Spark Super Writing (Scholastic, 2011) and taught writing at St. Augustine College, Chicago.

“Potatoes, Brandy and Porter” by Mark B. Hamilton

Last night, all the porter froze
and several bottles broke.
The men now stack them exposed,
thawing the bitter beer that folk
favor as brewed from charred malt.
Quite good with apples and salt.

Visitors arrive with a warming sky:
3 Frenchmen from Portage des Sioux
with potatoes, fowl, meal and brandy
and women who sell breads, and sew.
The scene widens, the trading slows.
Exchanges become people we know.

The Captain delivers new canisters
of powder, then walks to the hill
with sextant, giving flints to hunters,
and swings the sun’s image until
reflected it sits on the mirror’s line,
the horizon more precisely defined.

He notes our position. He calculates
in time, and draws from tables in a book
the instrument’s angle, which takes
in plenty of columns when we look,
yet do not stay when he commences.
We go outside to replenish our senses.

The sun always shows us where we are.
It rises without the need for a bobble
of fine brass knobs that measure so far
the steed only Captain Clark can hobble.
Later, from Cahokia, the express returns.
In a letter from Captain Lewis we learn

he will arrive tomorrow. There being
more letters from Kentucky, and 8 cork
bottles of wine, and files for sharpening,
the Sergeant directs us back to work.
Captain Clark has received a soft, tough
durant, a felted cloth to wrap his cough.

Historical adaptation from “Wintering at Camp Dubois,” Vol. 2, pp. 166-167, The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, edited by Gary E. Moulton, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986. Poem first published in Weber–The Contemporary West, Spring 2020.

Mark B. Hamilton considers himself an environmental neostructuralist, working in forms to transform content, adapting from both the Eastern and Western traditions. A new eco-poetry volume, OYO, The Beautiful River: an environmental narrative in two parts, has been released by Shanti Arts, 2020. Recent poems have appeared in Weber—The Contemporary West, North Dakota Quarterly, Chrysanthemum, The Cider Press Review, and Naugatuck River Review, as well as abroad in Oxford Poetry, and Stand Magazine, UK. Please see: www.MarkBHamilton.WordPress.com