Natalli Amato is a poet, fiction writer, and journalist from upstate New York. She is the author of the poetry collection On a Windless Night and Burning Barrel (forthcoming from Finishing Line Press). Natalli was awarded the Edwin T. Whiffen Poetry Prize as an undergraduate at Syracuse University. Her poetry is deeply inspired by the North Country region of New York State where she grew up and continues to be drawn to. Her poetry has appeared in several anthologies and numerous literary publications, and she is a poetry reader for Carve Magazine. You can read her work at www.natalliamato.com
Describe a Life
Rebecca Brock earned her MFA through Bennington College. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Threepenny Review, Mothers Always Write, CALYX, Mom Egg Review, K’in and elsewhere. Idaho born, she is raising her two sons in Virginia. https://www.rebeccabrock.org/.
The surgery room, after the bustle and baby talk
of the prep, is a bright unremarkable surprise.
Also cold. Masks and hats looming. The old look older,
I assume, because I know the small look smaller,
the vulnerable—well, I am only allowed back
because I am the mother and the medical staff
are doing camaraderie, the wink and the nudge
and the friendly friendly fire before the undoing,
before repairing the undone. It is hard for me
to act as though it is not hard to be alive—
my boy is stiff and terrified and breathing quick,
willing himself to hold, to stay still.
Even still, he grimaces at the anesthesia mask,
and I reach to help hold it—
Well aren’t you useful, mom, someone says.
I mumble something back but that’s the whole of me—there—
holding the mask and he’s trying not to go under,
his eyes trying to open up against their closing,
he pants into the mask—fighting—
and I’m telling him—this child, this boy
whom I’ve taught everything from look both ways,
to pedal, pedal, pedal, to c-a-t cat, to 1 plus 1,
to wash your hands, brush your teeth, wash
your parts, don’t hug your friends so hard,
say please, say thank you, look people in the eye
when you speak—breathe, buddy, just breathe—
he fights until it seizes him,
the easy drift a hard crash.
I say what all the mothers must say: he’s really special
and find myself making thank you hands, pleading prayer
hands, please and thank you and God bless hands—
two of the nurses can’t meet my eyes, one is crying,
maybe other mothers
are tougher or maybe nurses
understand, more than most,
or maybe it was just him,
that last fight he gave before going out,
that spirit: its pulse and serve,
its oddity and fight.
George Franklin’s books of poetry include Traveling for No Good Reason (winner of the Sheila-Na-Gig Editions competition in 2018), Travels of the Angel of Sorrow (Blue Cedar Press), and Among the Ruins/Entre las ruinas (Katakana Editores), and he is the co-translator, along with the author, of Ximena Gómez’s Último día/Last Day (Katakana Editores). His poem “Agua” won the 2020 Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize, and his poems and essays have appeared in many journals, including The Woven Tale Press Magazine, The Wild Word, Broadsided Press, The Threepenny Review, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Salamander, Pedestal Magazine, Cagibi, and The American Journal of Poetry. He practices law in Miami and, prior to the pandemic, taught poetry workshops in Florida state prisons.
Their faces are soft, both Mary’s and Gabriel’s.
Their hands touch the world as light touches objects,
Gently, without force. Gabriel holds a stalk of lilies,
And the Madonna, who is not yet the Madonna,
Rests one hand on the pages of a book, the other
Over her heart as though to remind herself
That it still beats. She hasn’t noticed the angel.
He’s entered as wind enters from a hallway,
His wings dark and heavy, his gray robe creased
And bent out of shape like armor after a battle.
Behind the Virgin, a landscape, buildings on a hill,
A lone cloud, some mountains drawn crudely. This
Is the world outside the painting, a world
Different from the one held in place by the angel,
The Madonna. Bellini says to us, “Choose. There
Is the dullness of a dream, a landscape painted
With indifference, and here is the moment of
Becoming—every detail sharper than your eye
Can comprehend, the blush on the Virgin’s cheek,
The whiteness of her neck, the blue robe
That seems too large for her. What reality is
So real as these white lilies carried by the angel,
The fire-orange pollen that covers their stamens,
The angel’s hair that flies above his shoulders,
The same color, the same fire?
In the time it takes to draw a breath, the Virgin
Will look up, the angel will speak. Quick,
Choose before it’s too late.”
Paula J. Lambert is a literary and visual artist from Columbus, Ohio. She has authored several collections of poetry including The Ghost of Every Feathered Thing (FutureCycle 2022) and How to See the World (Bottom Dog 2020), finalist for the Ohioana Book Award. She has been awarded two Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council and two Greater Columbus Arts Council AITC Grants. She has twice been a resident of the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Lambert owns Full/Crescent Press, a small publisher of poetry books and broadsides, through which she has founded and supported numerous public readings and festivals that support the intersection of poetry and science, including Ohio’s annual Sun & Moon Poetry Festival.
Ars Poetica: Wild Geese
after Mary Oliver
If I said each bird I’ve used in a poem was a symbol
for something else—that preening was a metaphor
or hatching, or hefting a seed
in a beak specifically designed for that purpose—
do you see how the logic might offend the birds
themselves? How it condescends
even to humans
who ought to be better at seeing what the world lays bare
before us? We aren’t, of course. That’s why it’s so tempting
to burden the birds with being more than they are,
something meant to teach us, or sustain us,
to say even the sky must stand for something else,
freedom, maybe—which, nowadays
does feel like a lofty ideal, something out of reach,
something that, however we might aspire to it,
slips through our fingers,
illusion, a meanness,
The sky’s not even blue, you know.
We are, often enough.
And if sky’s not there, were the geese I heard honking
this morning—and I mean, loud, so I looked up to watch them pass—
just a dream, after all? Something I’d conjured?
But that might be me asking you if the geese were more
than geese, or less than,
and we’re right back where we started. What burden
do I place on birds for writing them down
when I only just happened to overhear them?
they were extraordinarily loud, the geese,
and they did seem to call to me
as much as to each other. I lifted my eyes
and whatever spirit is really did seem to soar
And by that logic, the wild geese did offer themselves
to my imagination
And it might be we’re meant to be lifted
by the birds: passerines, waterfowl, raptors. We might be
meant to lift each other. The geese have a long way to go
and might have been showing off.
I might have been part of what kept them awake
or kept them believing they could achieve their impossible journey.
Best, maybe, to see the birds as birds
and as something more. Best, maybe,
to see the world that way
and keep writing it all down. Best
to see this poem as something more than a poem.
Natalie Marino is an essayist, poet, and physician. Her work appears in Bitter Oleander, EcoTheo Review, Kissing Dynamite Poetry, Midway Journal, Moria Online, Oyez Review, and elsewhere. She was named a finalist in Sweet’s 2021 poetry contest. She lives in California with her husband and two daughters.
Not a Synonym for Spanish
Jennifer Martelli is the author of My Tarantella (Bordighera Press), selected as a 2019 “Must Read” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book and named as a finalist for the Housatonic Book Award. Her chapbook, After Bird, was the winner of the Grey Book Press open reading, 2016. Her work has appeared in Verse Daily, Iron Horse Review (winner, Photo Finish contest), On the Seawall, The Sycamore Review, and Poetry. Jennifer Martelli has twice received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for her poetry. She is co-poetry editor for Mom Egg Review.
Doc Martens 1460 Wild Botanica
What I want is that 8-eye boot with Goodyear welt lines on the sole.
I want the Backhand black leather and the overgrown wild flower print,
and all that pink and green flora and fauna. These boots dig in, webbed
all over with Datura, Poppy, Japanese Anemone, Poison Ivy, Foxglove.
And then the things that feed and crawl and fly: moth, scorpion, black
widow, wasp. I’d switch out the factory laces with loden green: a corset
going up each foot to the ankle. I want the criss-cross to show. Sometimes,
I want to smoke again and feel that hot toxin sting the bony roof of my mouth.
But I made a vow to never again buy leather: I’d love not to harm
any living thing though I still eat fat shrimp all curled over as if pain,
the sunny yolk inside a warm brown egg. I’ll buy eggs just to paint them.
I’ll smoke bees out of a hive to make honey and wax to burn down all night.
I’ll call the meat of a cow flesh just to ruin your meal. Here is the truth of these boots:
I want you to think they’re pretty, get close to me, believe me when I say I’m good.