Agnes Vojta – 2 poems

Ferrying Turtles

On the logs, the turtles dry in the sun:
cooters, map turtles, sliders.
As I approach, they drop, one by one,
into the river and swim away.

A box turtle is swept along,
bobs up and down, helpless,
wiggles her feet and stretches her neck,
trying to keep her head above water.

I reach her with my paddle,
scoop her up – she slides off with a splash
and floats further. Disappears
under a downed tree.

Reappears, struggling downstream.
I overtake her, grab her by the shell,
plop her into my kayak. Ferry her to the shore,
carry her inland to a patch of grass.

She takes off swiftly. No sign
of hesitation or bewilderment.
Some day she may tell the other turtles
about her encounter with God.


The One who Left

Like water flowing downhill,
letters now travel
only in one direction.

Life goes on for those who stayed;
a circle with one person missing
is still a circle.
The one who left floats,
fragile tethers frayed
by the teeth of time and distance.

After some years,
even the Christmas cards
remain unanswered.

Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T and hikes the Ozarks. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019) and The Eden of Perhaps (Spartan Press, 2020), and her poems have appeared in a variety of magazines. Her website is agnesvojta.com, and her facebook page is @AgnesVojtaPoetry.

Julie Sampson – 2 poems


So many winter poems

            

Angels and voices

in those infinite skies

suspended like twigs

over ice-green trees

behind the silver birch

above eaves and roofs –
            

a lichen language

only understood by the crowing child,

who, escaping indoor’s flashing screens

watches sky’s empty theatre ignite with stars –

Kay and Gerda’s glittering sleigh is whizzing past.

Arms extended to greet the cold, cocooned

within the sheltering fables of his wintry make-believe.

He escapes wind’s icicles.

            

Inside the overheated house

grownups chew finger-ends,

bite their lips

and tap each dawning line of every new poem

onto the lit-up screens.

This is the Crisis of their time

and they must let the algorithms spill out,

up and out of their system.

            

Hooray

            

It’s your next session of messy play –

just allow the app to crash

and put away the print

the parts of speech

the current issue of Poetry Review.

Leave Unfinished Business.

            

Listen instead to the thrum of blood inside your head

that inner pounding of the heart,

            

allow your pen to play by ear, watch it self-indulge –

the exotic prosodies,

irresistible the gravitational pull to the black hole

where the last surviving band of poets 

                                    play out their compulsions 

pulse them into the zone of singing singularity.

            

Julie Sampson edited Lady Mary Chudleigh’s Selected Poems, 2009 (Shearsman Books) and a poetry collection, Tessitura, was published by Shearsman, in 2014.  It Was When It Was When It Was was published by Dempsey & Windle, in 2018. Sampson’s work was highly commended in the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize, in 2019. 

Sean Padraic McCarthy – Fiction

A Late Winter Dusk

            

I went to Mass that Sunday.  My parents went in the morning, but I wasn’t up,so I walked on my own to the five o’clock. I cut through the Island Grove Park on my way. To get to the Island, from my side of town, you had to cross a long concrete bridge that spanned the pond.  It was a Civil War Memorial bridge with an enormous archway at the head of it, crested with a bronze eagle, as you reached the actual park.  Inside the park there was an old roundhouse bandstand, and a small swimming pond with a sandy beach. The Island had been a meeting/speaking place for abolitionists prior to the Civil War and several spots were marked for historical significance. It wasn’t really an island at all though, and if you cut through you would come out to the road that led to the church. 

The ground was crusted with frozen crumbled leaves, and a thin layer of winter sand.  I lit a cigarette with little fear that anyone would see me.  The drunks and kids and lifeguards would be around in the summer, the rumbling Park Department trucks, but not now.  Now it was mostly deserted. This time of year you usually only saw people walking their dogs up here.  I was now smoking pretty much every day, and I kept my cigarettes in the rock wall that separated our yard from the woods behind our house. 

I hadn’t seen Alistair nor Danny since we had exiled Chad, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to yet.  We had hung out with Chad for years, and now we had ruined him, ostracizing him from our group of friends. He had often been a bully himself, picking on the weaker kids, and I had thought I would enjoy seeing the tables turned on him, but I didn’t.  I just felt small.

I had spoken to Danny on the phone.  We were usually inseparable but he had said he had to spend the whole weekend helping his father do some work under their house.  The work was filthy, something to do with the toilet pipes and the septic tank—something was overflowing or leaking–and Danny’s father couldn’t fit beneath the house so he would send Danny under with five gallon buckets. Danny’s house always smelled like sewerage and apparently the project was an ongoing one. Winter or summer, Mr. Hurley would sit in his lawn chair, cigarette in one hand and Bourbon in the other, supervising, as he sent Danny in and out with the buckets. The eventual goal, Danny said, was to dig a trench and lay some pipe to drain the septic tank directly into the stream that ran by their home. You had to be careful doing it though, he said, because if the town caught you, it would mean a lot of trouble.

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Ryan Quinn Flanagan – 3 poems

Khopesh, Trim My Nails  

            

Broidered curvature spine,  

don’t let that blithering battle axe get you down,  

replete with well-stirred venoms, those same tired concoctions  

threatening nights eternal, a girding of endurance and intention,  

to see you off the crushing pestle-path,   

that teething trash compactor grind;   

Khopesh, trim my nails, a simple man’s pampering if you please,   

nothing of dormancy or permanence,  

a brief respite is in order having brambled the bush for so long;  

excavation will bury a man, the whistling ditch digger will not tell you this,  

nor that raccoon of an archeologist troweling through the leftovers again;   

I am sick and you can be ill –  

together we forage for sympathy or try for more luck apart,   

my brand-new grindhouse nails on sheepish pander-flush display.  

            

Connoiseur   

            

…something about a glass house casting no stones,  

but this connoisseur felt fit to judge,  

had elevated herself through the critical ranks with a specific carnage,  

pulling limbs from once full body, married into royalty,  

and what she said about your product was make or break,  

at least that is what everyone was made to believe,  

until someone did a little digging and found out she was an orphan,  

dropped off at a common convent for unwed mothers,  

nameless and poor as a pauper, so that her enemies pounced,  

old money puritans and an army of young snobbish upstarts   

waiting for her to stumble, all those she had torn apart  

on her way to the top and then the many infidelities on both sides  

began to surface and her marriage fell apart; the press there to capture  

each outburst at the camera as all those tan power suits began to seem  

more clunky and less like armour as the merciless “experts”   

continued to weigh in. 

            

The Cross-Eyed Gypsy  

            

Sciatica and greasy spoon short orders all aplomb  

and the cross-eyed gypsy appeared to be infatuated with a smoking cigarette   

just under his hulking crooked nose,   

almost lost there like some tourist asking directions   

and the way his bat-glazed eyes hung around in the earthy head shop doorway   

I began to think of those many paper-towels of self-absorption,   

entire veggie patches uprooted and sent to market, 

collarbones broken like human Christmas crackers out of season, 

monthly extortion envelopes drumming up business   

from business; pickpockets working in teams like flocks of pigeons   

using distraction and quick hands for bread   

and since I have never once voted for anything or anyone in this tired name brand land   

I am told I have no say by toll booth operator, tapas bar olives,   

imbecilic hairdressers lost to once sacred curls…  

Romania or Bulgaria?   

I watch the badge look to his hands  

then rifle through denim pockets as the cross-eyed gypsy   

keeps a close watch on his last mercy stick which has   

already burned halfway down to the filter. 

            

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Setu, GloMag, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review