“From Your Lover in the Middle East” by John Grey

2020 Pushcart Prize Nominee
2020 Best of the Net Nominee

I’m off to the hardware store
by way of Iraq and Syria,
then the dentist, in the family car
(okay so make that a jeep)
a hit-out at the local racquetball club
or a harrowing mission to the war zone.

I haven’t seen you in two months,
since the hot tub,
your nakedness supreme,
and greeting you with the word “Peace.”

The women I see on my travels
may be mysterious
but they’re fully clothed,
and just a little stiff.
and not forgetting their neglected smiles.

As for their hips –
I have a flag like that.
And their hair doesn’t pour.
I could easily thumbtack it to
the wall of my barracks.
You illuminate my dreams.
Their awkward, reticent bearing
wouldn’t make it through my first snore.

I wear a combat helmet.
I drive to the museum
where someone’s labored over what
they earnestly believed was beauty.
But, praying for flesh, they were stuck with sand.
The sculptors are either dead or in their dotage,
tribal elders, whose tribe has been
stolen out from under them.

That’s me piloting that blunt-nosed fighter.
Or watching the young woman drop her packages.
But I can’t help her.
Those boxes could be bombs.
And I’m working on the kind of chest
where majors could pin medals.
And I’m looking ahead to a day
like the one I’m looking back on.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in: That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly, with work upcoming in: Qwerty, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review, and failbetter.

“The Last Time I Had to See You” by Victoria Hunter

2020 Pushcart Prize Nominee
2020 Best of the Net Nominee

You sat them on an icy oak table–
the package of my father’s ashes–
like an old-fashioned box cake.

Your dusty, branch-colored fingers
gripped a pile of pearly white paper sheets
with the profiles of people you were to keep
until their relatives were ready
to let God keep them or send them
to the next place they should be.

Then I swore I could see my father’s ashes
throbbing through the box.
I thought he preferred
to be with drunks than with me.
I never got one call from him on a holiday.
I never got to know the strength
of his heart’s soul in a close embrace.

Why should I care about his ashes?

I remember the room space, an opened box
in the evening in a basement.
I remember I sat, stiff as new chopsticks.
My heart was cake, sunken in the center.
My eyes were acorns in a puddle.
Suddenly you said, “You can come back
for them another time if you like,”
and then drew on one of the sheets
the cost for holding remains of
a poor black man you do not know.

 

 

Victoria Hunter was born in Pennsylvania. She enjoys reading, gardening, singing, traveling, and looking at art. She was a distinguished writer for the Waco Cultural Arts Festival. Her poem, “The Woman You Never Tell Anyone You Know,” was on the shortlist for the Poetry Kit Online 2018 Summer Poetry Contest. She has two poems in the November 2019 issue of The Writers Magazine. Her work has also appeared in Wordfest Anthology, Bluehole Magazine, Crimson Feet, and others.

“Disgruntled Thoughts After a Fruitless Summer of Job-Hunting” by Linda Ferguson

2020 Pushcart Prize Nominee

My bitterness reveals itself – you see
it on my lips, my mouth a cold pinched fist.
This is not, of course, how I want to be –
like a fern, I long to unfurl in mist,
to blossom in fragrant night without sound –
or to transform from bud to vibrant peach
with a scarlet center – a zing – wrapped round
a core of impenetrability.
But no, I’m me – I spit, shuffle, choke, swat
when I want to buzz, skim, hover and wing
like a nectar-seeking bee, not the wasp,
with its lean stripes and its rapier sting –
turning with precision (a practiced art!)
I strike the tender flesh of my own heart.

 

Linda Ferguson is an award-winning, Pushcart-nominated writer of poetry, essays, and fiction. Her poetry chapbook, Baila Conmigo, was published by Dancing Girl Press. As a writing teacher, she has a passion for helping students find their voice and explore new territory.

“Lamp Legacy” by Stephen Mead

2020 Pushcart Prize Nominee
2020 Best of the Net Nominee

I filched my grandmother’s lamp from her front porch
a week after her funeral.  I was moving again,
but three years passed before I even used it.
Cracked at the brass base, the thing’s lima bean china
bristled within when first lit, &, on top, instead
of a shade there was some friend’s old fedora.

Is there any message from that glow of the 3-way bulb
shorting before blazing?

It knows of generations, owners, & houses.
It knows of conversations, traffic surf, bird whistles
& leaf sighs.  It has held them the way a surface
has held, congenial, this cord-wrapped vase,
these electric secrets spreading, encapsulating radiance…

Tonight on the floor by my bed of worn couch cushions,
steamy mug & spilled brushes, the lamp stands
as my grandmother once stood, humble & useful
while I paint all I can of these refracted windows…
such neon rippling & streaks of purple monochrome
now slowly fading as night blues to dawn…

Grandma, how can I hold them, set down with each stroke
what loses time & light?

Oh yes, I remember:
“Take this lamp, re-use tea bags & stamps”…
your cycle of advice resounding real & still
so maybe someday by lamplight again after another move
I will look at this painting, look, feel, and know:

those were the shadows, that was the wall.

 

A resident of NY, Stephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer.  Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online.  He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the health insurance. In 2014 he began a web page to gather various links to his published poetry in one place.

“Playing Tennis with My Ex” by Diane Elayne Dees

2020 Pushcart Prize Nominee

The wind keeps shifting, putting me off
balance. The sun obscures my view
on the deuce side, and I cannot see
the ball as I toss it. My serve, already weak,
is based more on hope than competence.
We cannot find a rhythm; we look like fools,
unable to keep the ball inside the lines,
powerless to hold on to an advantage.
He aces me, I pass him. I hit drop shots
because I know him: he will not ever move
forward. We break each other again and again;
he loses his sole, but goes on with the game.
He defeats me. We pack our belongings
and go our separate ways, not even bothering
to calculate our impressive collection of faults.




 

 

Diane Elayne Dees’s poetry has been published in many journals and anthologies. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana, also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women’s professional tennis throughout the world. Her chapbook, I Can’t Recall Exactly When I Died, is forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing House. Also forthcoming (Kelsay Books) is Diane’s chapbook, Coronary Truth.

“Cultivation” by Robert Nisbet

2020 Pushcart Prize Nominee

It being conference season (and an ugly one),
the two men, the ministers, have got away
this Sunday morning, to a roadside tavern,
there to plot, devise desired government.

They share a garden terrace with fat Amy,
the helping girl, who is potting out,
the manager keeping wary watch that she,
bending to the beds and trays of flowering life,
should stoop discreetly, lest her large rump
intrude upon the ministerial thought.

And such a government would aim to be inclusive.
Surely? That needs to be a manifesto thing….

Amy’s trowel eases the soil around the weeds,
which are loosened then plucked neatly free.

Inclusive, fair, must be the heart of the election pitch….

Now she is whittling away dead and decaying leaf,
sprucing, coaxing. Green fingers’ gift.

A reputation for unfairness is electorally…well, as we know…

Now she’s re-potting. Beds are scooped out gently,
fresh life eased in, built round, tamped down.

The manager hovers, still just taking care
that the ministry men are not incommoded,
but they, sipping at coffees with a whisky dash,
are quite relaxed, quite unaware of Amy’s presence.

 

 

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who lives about 30 miles down the coast from Dylan Thomas’s Boathouse. His poems have been published widely and in roughly equal measures in Britain and the USA, where he is a regular in SanPedro River ReviewJerry Jazz Musician and Panoply.