Oh poets and their peonies! “As big as human heads” Jane Kenyon exalts, her pen heavy with extravagant language, enormous metaphors as big as life.
The perfume of such heady description smothers me, face-first in the reproduction of perfumed pistol and stamen. Yet it keeps the real makings of this craft at a distance.
Amongst poets, there’s a secret censorship of creation surrounding their beloved peonies— afraid too close they’ll catch the inner workings of such art.
Aware they’ll see, let’s be honest, the ants. Mary Oliver admits they exist. That something dark and alien spiders across this beauty.
She knows that a necessity for budding is this cutting, this eating. Knows that the cataract of leaves covering the bud must feed the hungry just enough. Must just hold back the swarm to unlock the flower’s form.
These thousand tiny bites release a poem as well. The flowering depends on it yet can also kill. So we unleash the ants but prevent such furtive legs from going too far within. Allow the justice of devouring so that the exquisite sweetness opens.
Inside any creation is a little taste of destruction. To pretend otherwise would be outrageous.
Amy Wray Irish (she/her/hers) grew up near Chicago, received her MFA from the University of Notre Dame, then fled the Midwest for Colorado sunshine. She has been published in Spit Poet Zine and Thought for Food; she has work upcoming in Progenitor and Chiaroscuro. Her third chapbook, Breathing Fire, won the 2020 Fledge Competition and is now available from MiddleCreek Publishing. For more information go to amywrayirish.com.
Along the cliffs of Ceann Sibéal herds of sheep graze, weighed down by crimped fleece.
Rough-hewn Celtic crosses, slathered in dust and moss, peek out from brittle underbrush.
A boat slices through still bay waters, inboard motor stirring up foam as the throttle is revved.
A gray dorsal fin approaches the vessel. With a barrel roll and flick of his flukes, Fungie the bottlenose dolphin launches
into the air, slips back under the surface, and reemerges to nuzzle starboard and port sides with his rostrum.
The Ring of Kerry is bathed in gold as Dingle’s red and white lighthouse guides Fungie back to the bosom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Sean Woodard (he/him) is a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Arlington. He also serves as the film editor for Drunk Monkeys. His creative works has appeared in NonBinary Review, The Cost of Paper Vol. 4, and Found Polaroids, among other publications. You may follow him at http://seanwoodard.com, Twitter @seanwoodard7326 and Instagram @swoodard7326.
Agnes Vojta’s full-length poetry collection, The Eden of Perhaps, finds itself welcomed into a lineage of poets existing in liminal spaces. In an early poem in the collection, What If, Vojta asks the reader “what if the answer is not here/there, either/or, but both, between, and?” In our society, plagued by othering, perfectionism, and divisiveness, Vojta’s poems continue to ask the right questions all throughout the collection.
I believe it is often the work of a poet to consider grey space. This may feel contrary to what someone thinks of when they think of a poet, self-assured and convicted, preaching their gospel or anti-sermon to an enraptured audience, but there is often more truth when a poet brings along a healthy sense of humility. Poets like John Brehm speak to and curate collections on impermanence. In a 2020 episode of the podcast Between the Covers, Pulitzer Prize recipient Natalie Diaz encourages the acknowledgement of not understanding, or even misunderstanding. Ocean Vuong, in his poem Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong shares with the reader “the most beautiful part of your body/ is where it is headed.” Many great poets have learned to walk the tight rope of transition, to balance on the line of maybe.
I was particularly stricken by Vojta’s poem, Atonement:
Sometimes I wish I belonged to a religion that practices confession.
I can walk in the forest and confess to the trees, kneel by the river and whisper to the water, stand in the field and shout to the sky – but who will pronounce me shriven?
I have to prescribe my own penance, whip my body to exhaustion to drown out the mind’s self-flagellation,
and wait for the unpromised peace.
Being raised Catholic, I am no stranger to this attitude of religious penance that Vojta brings forth in the four short stanzas of Atonement, but though she mentions at times she longs for this space of confession, she ultimately settles, or unsettles, in the uneasy space of waiting “for the unpromised peace.” Vojta’s style at times reminds me of the beloved American poet Mary Oliver. An iceberg—in the sense that often below the surface of the deceptively simple words is ten secret tons of depth. Vojta is something of an iceberg herself. In Atonement, she seems to remind us that religion may present us some feeling of closure, but where a truth lies is in understanding that no peace is promised. These are the words that could shake a world free of the imprisonment of ignorance and return us to a shared experience of unknowing.
The book is brimming with bop after bop. In Seeds of No Return, Vojta, in a kind of magic, bans “the word never” from her mind. In Accomplished Hamster, Vojta manages to turn the cute allegory of a hamster on its wheel into a dark social commentary on hopelessness. Vojta’s poems are no stranger to humor, but they wield it like a knife. In Greeting Cards They Don’t Make, Vojta stands on her soapbox to announce the world’s lack of a greeting card that appropriately states inside “I hope the bastard rots in jail.”
It seems to me that Vojta must live her life as a student to poetry, often passing through the world with dreamer’s eyes. Finding compassion in the dying words of the Mars rover, Vojta creates a beautiful eulogy for a robot in My Battery is Low and It’s Getting Dark. Vojta hoists a feminist fist of dissent that RBG would applaud throughout the collection, including a disruptive reworking of such classic, albeit dated, fairy tales as Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty.
What’s refreshing about Vojta’s Eden of Perhaps is that it is, in fact, a collection. The poems are in conversation with each other, coming together like a multitude of seeds in the juiciest most pungent pomegranate you’ve ever eaten, unapologetically dripping all over the blueprint of a broken society.
Having read Vojta’s poems, I find myself more willing to say “I don’t know” as I move through my daily life, and while this may sound like some kind of defeat to some, for me it’s a nice walk through the garden in an imperfect Eden that feels more real than anything that they are trying to sell us.
The Eden of Perhaps was published by Spartan Press and is available for purchase here.
Yes, Florida’s also in the South. Yes, we’ve been there. Yes, we’re planning to go there again, maybe this summer; no, we didn’t know anyone in that school, but yes, we all know someone in that school.
Yes, the kids are safe…well, not really safe. I talked to M this morning about what to do: whether to wait in the first fire alarm, how to listen in hallways, where to hide if she needed to.
Then I sent her to school with her cello and packed lunch as if this were normal.
As if I should be talking to her about survival, instead of test scores and school dances. As if any of us know what 6th grade is like when you’re worried about making it home alive. Yes, I say, I realize this is not normal. Yes is to say, I know the rest of the world doesn’t understand, and neither do we. No, I say, it won’t make anything change. It won’t end America’s love affair with guns because we’ve seen that we’ll let children die over and over again and that’s what it means.
I stop and think and almost finish. We’ll let children die before we run background checks. We’ll let children die before we stop automatic and armor-piercing and the hard-on for the NRA.
But I realize all those are just conditionals to the central fact, and the fact of the matter is America let’s its children die.
We’ve been letting them die.
I remember Columbine; I remember Sandy Hook. I remember all the stories in between and all the schools since.
Yes, I say, America.
Keri Withington (she/her) is an educator, vegan, and pandemic gardener. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Wild Word and Blue Fifth Review. She has published two chapbooks: Constellations of Freckles (Dancing Girl Press) and Beckoning from the Waves (Plan B Press). Withington lives with her husband, three children, and four fur babies in the Appalachian foothills. You can find her in Zoom classes for Pellissippi State, trying to turn her yard into an orchard, or on FB (@KeriWithingtonWriter).
his lips were purple and his breath was gone after I tried to blow it back inside of him but it blew my hair up over my crying eyes as I listened for his heart and checked for his pulse, a man so full of life the night before, but a heart attack woke him long enough to reach over to my bed to wake me up so I could save his life. I remained asleep as we both fell out onto the floor in between our beds his dead body pinning me into a rug burn that did not heal for weeks after his life force passed through mine and left me standing there, gazing at him there in the middle of the floor– done and over with and never again–until I realized his life force found refuge in mine when I heard him laughing inside of me.
Kevin Ridgeway is the author of Too Young to Know (Stubborn Mule Press) and nine chapbooks of poetry including Grandma Goes to Rehab (Analog Submission Press, UK). His work can recently be found in Slipstream, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Plainsongs, San Pedro River Review, The Cape Rock, Trailer Park Quarterly, Main Street Rag, Cultural Weekly and The American Journal of Poetry, among others. He lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.
a sketch of the 12 bar blues, approximate C major, central and key. now I play occasionally
in passing at a party – my close friends onto my limited repertoire but acquaintances somewhat impressed. especially since it seems I can improvise; just fiddle it a little with the left hand over pentatonic scales. that’s how you do it – learn how to play like it’s nothing. be casual – order in spanish and in french when you all go on holiday. know
how to wire a plug at the table. how to drive cars manual. spell certain words. play a little piano. how to write a poem about doing other things.
DS Maolalai (he/him) has been nominated eight times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)
Cipriano Ortega (they/them) has been fortunate enough to have their work recognized and shown both nationally and internationally. Cipriano strives to create works of art that probe the mind and make people question what they perceive as the normative. Whether that is shown in music, theater, visual art or some sort of culmination of all of the above; Cipriano enjoys blending all creative forms of expression. As a sociological artist, Cipriano deconstructs the worlds around them and observes it under a nihilistic perspective. As an indigenous POC, they also have no choice but to deal with colonialism head on by making it a daily practice to see the divisions we as a society create and continue to make the ‘normative.’
Caleb Ferganchick is a rural queer, slam poet activist, and author of Poetry Heels (2018). His work has been featured and published by the South Broadway Ghost Society (2020), Slam Ur Ex ((the podcast)) (2020), and the Colorado Mesa University Literary Review. He organizes the annual Slamming Bricks poetry slam competition in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and coaches high school speech and debate. An aspiring professional SUP surfer, he also dreams of establishing a queer commune with a river otter rescue and falconry. He lives in Grand Junction, Colorado. Website | Instagram | Twitter
Glass Cactus is a Denver-based screenwriting and filmmaking team.
Amanda E.K. is a queer writer, filmmaker and writing coach, and the former editor-in-chief of Denver, Colorado’s Suspect Press. She writes for Playlove and Out Front Magazine, teaches a weekly drop-in writing class, and she’s currently pitching her memoir about growing up in fundamentalist purity culture. Follow her on IG @amanda.ek.writer.
Jack Oberkirsch is a film/media composer from Denver, CO. His musical background is mostly comprised of playing drums and guitar in local and touring punk/hardcore bands. In the last few years however, he made a transition to composition and writing instrumental music. Of course, he still does play in a few local bands although things have slowed down in that field since COVID.
Working on The Pandemic In Pollyville has definitely been a challenge for Jack. With it being in the style of silent film, music has to cover the entirety of each episode which meant Jack had to write progressions and melodies that could carry the entire episode from start to finish. Also, the music used was very different in style from episode to episode so Jack had to tackle genres of music he had never attempted before to score some of the installments.