bright leaves


Bright Leaves
Kerri French
That season, the tobacco
bloomed early and we hoped
for rain, the ground so dry
and bright it hurt to walk
through grass. Our clothes
grew stiff along the clothesline
and we closed the barn
to ignore the drought,
the new harvest grasping
for color in the dark.
Across the country, the fields
emptied before the crop’s
leaves could spread,
each farm a shadow
of the air’s distortion.
It seemed the heat seized
the land, even us, and we
spoke of water only
when alone.

windows and mirrors


Windows and Mirrors
Rudy Francisco

There was a time in my life
when I couldn’t tell the difference
between a mirror and a window.

I could look into both
and see everything
but myself.

Photo by Michael on Unsplash



Oh, how painfully and recognizably true.

Rudy Francisco

On the day you couldn’t hold yourself together anymore,
you called for me, voice crackling like two sets of knuckles
before an altercation.

I found you, looking like a damaged wine glass.
I hugged your shatter, I cut all of my fingers
trying to jigsaw puzzle you back together.

When it was over,
you looked at the stains on the carpet
and blamed me for making a mess.

letter home


missing so many.

Letter Home
Fleda Brown
Grass River is a snake on the tongue.
You, love, a thousand miles down
the map, many turns. Meanwhile,
I am plunging ahead here through
forget-me-nots, marsh marigolds,
Joe Pye weed, and underneath,
the bright fur of mosses,
moss over moss, tangled, unspoken,
this great green marsh bleeding

Speckled trout line up
like knives under the falls; strings
of moss weave and pull, one
hard pull, everything part-
ing, everything in slits, peaks
of reflected light, teeth, laughter.
If you were here, it would be
just the same, only two,
taking on whole the foreign language
of the birds. It would cling
to nothing in us, and we would still
be hungry together, teeth, tongues.

Photo by Lyn C on Unsplash



Laurie Halse Anderson

idea cracked the seed’s shell
skull’s cell
burrowed through the muck
surrounding my self-measured casket
clawed blindly toward light

I can’t stand this
into I can’t stay here
through I should leave
swelled into
I want to leave
rose into a tidal wave
of I’m going

Photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash

the poet holds a gun


from The Poet Holds a Gun
Megan Fernandes

The bullet is a simple, adolescent heartache.
When guns go off around you, you wince like a single sheet
and nothing in your body has ever been so simultaneous
not even orgasm which is more like the hungry sea
meeting an Aeolian beach with their sweet
caper storms and lemon trees. An orgasm
has more surface area and salt than a gun.



Jane Hirshfield

Someone invented this.

If a person
pees on a wall so painted,
the pee splashes back,
wets the pants, soaks the shoes.

Surprise! the wall says.

Someone thought this a good solution.
Someone gave it a color.



Losing as Its Own Flower
Naomi Shihab Nye

What if we had just said, OK we lose.
How would they have treated us then? I ask my people, they gasp,
and all have different answers.
No, no, we can never give up.
Stay strong, keep speaking truth.
Truth unfolds in the gardens,
massive cabbages, succulent tomatoes,
orange petals billowing,
even when the drought is long.
Hang on tightly to what we have,
though just a scrap. The ancestors would be ashamed
if we gave up. The invaders said our land
was barren and sad.
They said we were anti-Semitic.
But we were Semites too.
What could we do?Giving up is different from losing.


In a way, we did lose. Where is everybody?
Scattered around the world like pollen.
Disappeared into the sunset.
Mingling with other cultures
in the great bubbling stew of the world.

See, we are good at that, why couldn’t we
have done better with our invaders?
They came pretending we were
an alien species. Said they had deep ties here,
some of them did, but what about ours?

Why couldn’t we all have ties?
They said God said.
(Always trouble.)

We replied, See the stone stoop of my house
with my rubbed footprints in it
after all these years?
See my shining key?

They said we made everything up.
We were crazy.
Is losing worse than being called crazy?

So we did lose. We lost our rhythm of regular living.

You want the page to be clean.
The day wide open, nobody suffering.
We lost our bearings, their voices
blew hard on us, trying to erase,
turning us inside out in their minds,

changing what we became.
Tried to make the world see us that way too.
We were the undeserving.
See what people do?
We could live up to their lies if
they made us crazy enough.
So we did lose.

Professors, educated students, best maker of maklouba,
math students of Gaza, embroiderers of the West Bank,
lemon vendors, grapefruit-growers,
artist who stayed in her room painting egg cartons
for so many days, where are you?
(She went to Italy.)

I too dream of Italy, France, Greece.
A village climbing a hill
where I’m not always looking back
over my shoulder,
eyes aren’t tipping to the sides
to catch approaching tanks and jeeps,
but this is my job.

Before speech, a baby makes a cat-cry.
Maybe I knew even then.
To document. To pay attention.
We wore striped T-shirts, they wore camouflage.
To be with my family on our ground.

If you live like a real human being –
that is the issue. Not winning and hunting others.
Not dominating.
Not sending your sewage their direction.
Did you know? Did you know they do this?
Not just refusing to lose.



Northeast Corridor
Cat Richardson

I’m on the horizon of a seven hour trip and it’s quiet.
A man walks across the early highway, the sun is almost up.
You’re far away and swimming. How many bodies of water
will I cross before I solve myself.

I’m going to a wedding. Being single is expensive,
especially at weddings. I try not to think about
the cost of my solitude. Mostly I like it here.

On the train, the terrain is still familiar, but soon
we’ll slide past the capital and then anything could happen.
I’m in a set of seats reserved for parties of two.
A man pacing the aisle is having the same dilemma
and the conductor is imminent. I can’t decide if I’ll be my gentle self
and move to sit next to a stranger. I can’t decide
how much of this matters. I can’t decide anything anymore.

I’m tired. The conductor has given me a pass. Maybe she saw into me,
that I’m headed to a hotel room alone, to a wedding alone,
that I stop myself from speaking more often than not. It’s hard to say
that I used to love someone, that now I might love someone else,
because I’m a coward. Squat buildings mile-mark the train’s progress.

Will it feel good to pass my childhood home and keep going?
Have I ever actually left? I catch myself asking permission, often
feel like I’m getting away with something.

Absence makes the heart grow absent. Do I love you
or the way you move through the world. Does it matter.
The landscape unlocks tree after tree. It makes itself just ahead of me.
The train slows so as not to outrun the physical world.