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Mason Freeman Cut Jenkins Down

Frederick-Douglass Knowles II

He hung from an old hickory tree along the Mississippi
A uppity Nigguh seared in a Red Summer flame
His Oh Lawd! forsaken for a swig of moonshine
A sun god wrung for eyeballin’ the sun

A uppity Nigguh seared in a Red Summer flame
His innard ate earth under a disemboweled sky
A sun god wrung for eyeballin’ the sun
Charred loins stick-poked by children cloaked in Christianity

His innard ate earth under a disemboweled sky
Mothers cast quilts riverside to keep close eye
Charred loins stick-poked by children cloaked in Christianity
Minions mimicking their ghost-hooded inheritance

Mothers cast quilts riverside to keep close eye
A crow psalmed the blues to a metronome of cracked bone
Minions mimicking their ghost-hooded inheritance
While I gripped my shiv in the shallows of a stream

A crow psalmed the blues to a metronome of cracked bone
He hung from an old hickory tree along the Mississippi
While I gripped my shiv in the shallows of a stream
His Oh Lawd! forsaken for a swig of moonshine

Issue 10, 2018, pg. 19

His Last Name Mine

Frederick-Douglass Knowles II

I enter Cedar Grove’s office
and extend the slit of sunlight
peering through a cracked door
lock eyes with an old sexton
inscribing names of fallen souls.
I stammer hello. Utter the silent
K” in my last name. He flips
through an index of ancient files
brushes a layer of cumulus dust
from 1974, and engraves 56 R7 HK
onto the yellow surface of a Post-It.

I thank him for his time, slowly
exit his office and descend down
the hillside studying each pillar
in search of my father’s marker.
I pause in front of a pallid row
of ancient stone, flap the Post-It
over a cluster of ants, to unveil
the worn plaque of a Negroid
sailor. His last name mine.

Clouded tears recall the legacy
of an Airman recruit rigging chutes
for the USS Wright. A Native Son
swaying to Coltrane in Korean cafes
with cinnamon women, who never
choked on the plume of black smoke
sewn into his skin. Debating Truman’s
liberation of Yongsan that would churn
5 million Seouls into Korean dust.

Issue 10, 2018, pg. 18

In a Loss of Power

Jeffrey Hannah

Late July in Central Arkansas, the Delta
commanding her presence. Clouds rolling in dark and darker,
and the wind and sound of rumbles took over what we knew…
or whatever we thought we knew. The Blackjack Oaks in the
backyard littered their leaves not unnaturally, but unseasonal.
The power out for four to five hours… and no place to go.

The rain, with rhythmic change, felt as if a metronome led its fall.
Our doors open to let in the summer evening’s fading light.
You on the couch, reading… taking what was felt the
best use of time. Me sipping my drink, feeling a new
darkness coming on. Both feeling the turn of a world.
You and Me Alone. Together.

Issue 10, 2018, pg. 71

Estate Sale

Jeffrey Hannah

Four houses down from me an Estate Sale begins.
I watch through my window the pickups line up curbside, and
strangers entering what was once a home. A lamp, a couch, appliances…
Truck beds being filled and harnessed down with bungie.
The closing sound of rusted tailgates.

Only days ago was that house haunted with the living.
I didn’t know him. I didn’t know his loves or displeasures.
But I do know there were days I passed, walking the dog,
and saw him perhaps working in the yard or maybe even
carrying in some of the things that have now been auctioned.

So for the experience, I go and pose as if I was in the market.
A blonde woman, professionally dressed, answers a collector’s
question on the age of a grandfather clock. Strangers, uninvited,
moving methodically throughout a house not their own
telling themselves things they want to hear.

Issue 10, 2018, pg. 70


In Hiding

Mercedes Lawry

In the hollow
of the half-dark
swallow of moon

with the stink
of leaf mold,
glisten of snail.

like a spent iris
between weeping trees,

I look out
on wild filigree,
listening for

sounds beyond
and nighthawks,

risking small breaths
a moth wing
from silence.

Issue 9, 2017, pg. 74

Why to Forget

Celisa Steele

To sleep, you have to forget,
each night letting go
the grapes, the milk, the gin,
mouthwash and bread until the whole
grocery list unstitches. Then the news of wars
and the color of your hair, your daughter’s
age and red rain boots. Metronome,
mendicant, cruet, then every word
you’ve known. Even your name.

Everything you forget
lines the path to sleep —
breadcrumbs of unknowing
marking nameless streets.

As you wake,
retrace your steps,
relearn any fact
or wish you find
left untouched
by night’s ravenous birds.

Issue 9, 2017. pg. 17

Insomnia Study

Randolph Thomas

Each afternoon we took apart
the stacks of cots at the back of the room.
The teacher and her aides

handed out pillows and quilts, and we
lay on the cots for forty-five minutes
in silence

in the dark.
I lay awake while all the others slept
like I lie awake sometimes now

wondering what made me uneasy
even then, the voices
of the elders

whispery and muted
nursing their secrets
and the other children around me

content, trusting
in their sound napping
until the lights clicked back on,

until they rose, yawning,
as the cots and pillows
were gathered and put away.

Issue 9, 2017, pg. 10

Ghazal: The night undresses and

Jenna Bazzell

the moon lacquers the cloud shelf, the blooming weight
of crape myrtles. Fog pools. The telephone cables wait

for hawks to perch, to resemble what has passed: lonely
like the dead in the earth, like roots of saw grass waiting

for something else. Until then, I’ll remember I belong
to a family where loss looms inside grief with the weight

of utter ruin, of hail-battered foxglove collapsing. I pray
to what I am not: a cloud of gnats, a womb. My body waits,

wants to slip between mistakes. The hours filled with plumes
of smoke, the volume of fingernails. The unremarkable weight

of a glass door sliding shut. A mouth opening. For the room
to cave in, to stop raining. For tonight’s tight ball of red weight

to burrow inside me. Let it consume me. Let it smell
like burning plastic fumes. Tell me: What am I waiting

for here I haven’t for before? To resume tilling up old
stones, training legume runners. How long must I wait

to be forgiven? Instead, another gloomy day, another
broken broom handle, an empty jar to be weighted

against the dark. Your mouth is not a dead moon. A fawn
attempts to stand assuming it is able to hold up its own weight.

Issue 9, 2017, pg. 44

Even Words Fail to Protect You

Barbara Lawhorn

The moments of greatest
tenderness, you don’t share

with anyone. Your newly come
daughter, in the moments after

your husband abandons you both
for the Survivor season finale.

Breathing the world for only hours,
at your milk-stone breast, wordless hunger

and need unmet, unable to nurse. A howl
in you both, still there as she thresholds

to teenager. Umbilical cord. You scissor it,
again and again. Your favorite professor,

passenger side of the minivan you swore
you’d never own. Wise and sorrowful.

It’s not about you, he said, not unkindly, meaning
it all. All of it. He read aloud to another version

of you. Saved you from social work. Gently
questioned the idea of your marriage, so young

and twenty years later, as divorce unspools,
he seems an oracle. His words a mantra.

Under your son’s coiled rage, his heart
is a honeycomb. He has to fight you before

you can pour him into your lap. Before his love
is something he can’t contain. He is a jelly jar, shattered.

You can’t hold his immense sweetness.
Mama, he croons, half-song-half-sob.

The first man you invite into your bed—into your
body—into your brain, you love profoundly, expansively

and without question. Maybe you shouldn’t. You have been walking
without skin. Even words fail to protect you or articulate

what is between you—Steinbeck’s folded map, creased with use,
such letters written, thousands of miles and three months

traversed. You whisper he does not have to be
so gentle. Yes. Yes, I do. His stillness shakes you.

You press your ear to skin, listen
to the cadence of his heart, steady—

tires rotating on road as you slip
into sleep, child in the back seat.

Good-bye. Good-bye. Good-bye.

Issue 9, 2017, pp 36-37

Wind Through Corn

J. C. Reilly

Sure that they have trudged
this track twice already, she veers
left at a break in the rows
while her siblings keep straight.
Their low voices carry a bit on the wind,
“you’ll be sorrys” clutching
at her the way a stalk suddenly seems
to snap at her hair or snag her overalls.

Rustling flags of Gold Queen
leaves soon sweep husky chatter
deep into the maze, and for all the ears
around her, she can’t hear them now.
Younger, she might have panicked
at the dead ends, the impulsive corner
turns, the back-tracking sameness
of paths that promise escape but lure her
down corridors of glume-laden
tassels waving on endless stalks.

But now, as she comes to a clearing,
and stares overhead at horse white clouds
galloping across a too-blue-for-October sky,
the wind shaking the leaves
like a thousand rattlers blows a kernel
of truth her way: that she can’t be lost,
not she who draws earth energy
through her feet to her heart to her lungs,
and releases it back to creation
with breath and thanks
as every Sibley woman before her has done.

She breaks off a cob, peels away the floss,
and tosses it free. It glints like a flame,
like a faerie on a fresh burst of wind —
flying eastward, towards exit, towards home.

Issue 9, 2017, pg. 84