Free Verse with Vera Ignatowitsch
Look, photographs tell the
Or at least, the black and whites.
Dimples sweet and deep, not sunken,
new clothes to dress up elastic bodies,
mouths full of smiles, arms full of
Newlyweds, cutting buttercream cake.
Her hair in thick ringlets, his slicked
with gel, a contagious completion of
I imagine her dress was heavenly white.
I imagine Tomorrow in the back corner,
Love is a swelling of youth.
It’s Dinah Washington’s voice,
crooning a naïve melody.
Our love is here to stay, together
we’re going a long, long way.
I am not young but bloated on the past.
Possessed, choking on spirits, I run.
Beginning caves into end, and middle
Their home collapsed. Husband, wife,
and little ones falling through rotten
floorboards, no way to wipe the crumbling
dry wall from their faces.
I wanted to keep my love warm but they
occupy the rooms, bedroom, kitchen,
the rickety staircase, bursting with cautious
mumblings, haunting crevices.
The end is an empty beer bottle in his grip.
The end is her cradling pennies and neurosis.
I’m not wise, I lock my pictures in a drawer,
shoo away the ghosts, open the door to let
Mary Durocher is a sophomore at Marymount Manhattan College. She’s a creative writing and journalism student but her true passion has always been writing poetry.
The word of the day is copacetic.
I see my brother and me packing suitcases for our trip.
In the frame of the doorway my father stands.
“Everything copacetic?” he says.
One time I asked him where he learned that word.
“As a Marine,” and he told me about his service in the Korean War.
“It was tough,” he said.
In the end, I visited him at the hospital.
“Have some jello.” I held a spoon with a wobble of red before his face.
“Don’t want it.”
“You’ve got to eat, Dad.”
“I’m not hungry.” He pushed it away.
I sat by him from morning until shadows crossed his face.
Mostly he slept. Sometimes he asked what time it was.
I left at nine. The nurse called.
“Your father’s agitated. He wants to leave. Talking about a trip.”
“I’ll be there soon.”
I stand in the doorway of his hospital room.
He’s at the window,
wearing the blue bathrobe my sister gave him.
“It brings out your eyes,” she told him.
“Everything copacetic?” I say.
He turns and looks.
“It was tough,” he says.
I guide him to the bed and sleep in the chair beside him.
When I wake, I find that he has gone.
James Mulhern has published many times. In 2015 he was awarded a fully paid writing fellowship to Oxford University. That same year, a story was longlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize. In 2017, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
For My Sons, A Few Facts
One minute you’re saying, “No, thank you”
to a second helping of sweet potato pie—
a day later, you’re a goner. Listen, boys,
tomorrow morning you’ll think of things
you wish you’d said. Go, fix what’s broken.
Regret is blue and waits in a small room down the hall.
Victoria Melekian lives in Southern California. Her poems and stories have been published in various print and online journals. To read her work, visit http://victoriamelekian.com.
The Last Time I Had To See You
You sat them on an icy oak table—
the package of my father’s ashes—
like an old-fashioned box cake.
Your dusty, branch-colored fingers
gripped a pile of pearly white paper sheets
with the profiles of people you were to keep
until their relatives were ready
to let God keep them or send them
to the next place they should be.
Then I swore I could see my father’s ashes
throbbing through the box.
I thought he preferred
to be with drunks than with me.
I never got one call from him on a holiday.
I never got to know the strength
of his heart’s soul in a close embrace.
Why should I care about his ashes?
I remember the room space, an opened box
in the evening in a basement.
I remember I sat, stiff as new chopsticks.
My heart was cake, sunken in the center.
My eyes were acorns in a puddle.
Suddenly you said, “You can come back
for them another time if you like,”
and then drew on one of the sheets
the cost for holding remains of
a poor black man you do not know.
Victoria Hunter is from Pennsylvania. In October 2019, she appeared on the cover of Conceit Magazine. Her work has appeared in The Writer, Sparks of Calliope, WordFest Anthology, and other publications. She manages a YouTube channel dedicated to the craft of poetry.
The first and last thought to cling to before you fall
is that you cannot fall a little. You can open the
window above the gray sidewalk, the Amtrak rails,
the rippling Huron, just a little letting in a scattering
of tiny cold rain spikes, the tragic arias of hospital
traffic and the bellowing of the train. But you can
no more jump and plunge a few feet than you can
cling to this thought as you rush toward the pavement.
You are not an incorrigible tangle of weeds that can
survive being slightly uprooted, nor a fertile planet
that can thrive after being a smidgin laid waste.
You can no more flutter partway down than you can
be partially raped — no more catch yourself mid-fall
than can an infant tumbling out of its mother.
Timothy Robbins teaches English as a second language. He has published three volumes of poetry: Three New Poets (Hanging Loose Press), Denny’s Arbor Vitae (Adelaide Books) and Carrying Bodies (Main Street Rag Press). He lives in Wisconsin with his husband of 21 years.
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