Edwin Torres

CELESTIAL SUITE: if I’m talking to you it’s because you can hear me

: : : NORTHERN STAR : : :


look at how I listen
to the wrong thing again
— disturbing a sky again
solstice calls
for more than feel-stice
action winter tea cup spiral
are you still with your love
who painted mine — what we say
to hear what we hear
— poetry can anything
if you let it —
wanna try to shadow twitch with tradition
look at how I listen
— to the wrong thing again


               — Sueñosima — when you see me — let me join this waking world —
driving for how long … and still no sun between these lines … for how many hours on the coast … with Spotify numbing … no singer’s lyric … no someone else … no summer sung at 4am … on a lonely highway … turn off and wait by the road … shuteye for a few winks
               — I’m all about the luminal
said the liminal … flatness is a virtue … for a dispossessed globe … let me close my eyes … and see if something else … comes to me … wants to enter … this prime season … of endless white lines … on a black year … past horizon … that gesture of … your turn now … to reach through what I’m given … not an ending … but a sequence



I liked living in the not-knowing
I liked the fog I was in
when I didn’t have a clue about you

there are fewer chances for mystery
as I move forward in my not-knowing
fewer moments of genuine void

that freefall is exhilarating
I wonder if that momentary arrival
in lack of ground

is made present
by the clearing
or by the letting


: : : SOUTHERN CROSS : : :

to be animal at the crossroads
to pack knowingly spare
to step inside the crevices by avoiding them
to reciprocate knowingly spare
to elevate ephemeral half-truths
scars of semiconscious attenuation

I had you in mind
the week is beginning or ending tonight, so I thought of you

the scent of your outline
mirror to mine, reach back
through a poem’s longest line, made longer to prove a point
honor the lost image
the forgotten form
once fleshed in spirit

we invent realities to explain our wants
the connective tissue of missing imperfections aligned
by the edges of our flight
if we were to scrape the burn impaled by our aim
by the faceless overture of awakening to creatures
we’ve never been

a crossing I visit
often, too many times, in midstride, I’m there
head turned, in each direction
crescent observers
me and my crossing, both of us, wondering
who moves who

Edwin Torres has taught and performed his multi-disciplinary bodylingo poetics for many years. He is editor of the inter-genre anthology, The Body In Language: An Anthology (Counterpath Press), and author of ten books of poetry including The Animal’s Perception of Earth (Doublecross Press), Xoeteox: the infinite word object (Wave Books), and Ameriscopia (University of Arizona Press). His work appears in Manifold Criticism, American Poets in The 21st Century: Poetics of Social Engagement, and Kindergarde: Avant Garde Poems for Children, among others.

Zach Savich

Will is Going To

Waited to send the card. Waiting for the flowers to press. All the
mysteries from the shelf stacked on the violets in a coffee filter
in the Dictionary of American Antiques (1952). An awmry is a pantry,
a bahut is an iron chest, a chromatrope is “a magic lantern’s slide.”
Pressed between marble soap (“reference is not to appearance of
the soap but to a ‘soap’ used to clean marble, a paste of lye and
whiting”) and massicot (“an ocher color derived from lead
oxide”). I’m assuming grief will wait, or still be arriving, or be
something else, whenever dry becomes preserved. Which is
slowed by my looking. And my leafing (“Leaf: Patterns of
pressed glass featuring a leaf with other elements: Leaf &
Flower, Leaf & Loop, Leaf & Dart, et cetera”). Leafing to
diversion, which becomes relevant, that is, grievous, as anything
will, to a point, in time (“Leaf silhouette: A large leaf, bearing a
scene in silhouette on the skeleton of the leaf itself. Such work
was achieved by removing the fleshy part of the leaf not required
by pricking it out with a needle point. This was the method to
1850s. Thereafter acid was used. Few examples survive.”). She’d
been building a bicycle, planning a trip. Had just made lasagna.
How to bear the scene.

Poesie of Defense

Skunk smell in everything freshening, everything coming back
Up at the tree-line, which is where they stop, where we come
from them, up, having been down in them, trees
Upon the vertical meadow
Passable hours
Parsley walls, the deer leave alone
Lest whatever road is down the road once we’re a few roads
down, a few roads out
The name for an hour after sunrise
The admissible sky a simple crossword, simple syrup, simpering
boil lanced
As Caligula made losing orators praise winners in elaborate
speech, they failed and had to scrub their speeches from
stones with their tongues, after writing them there
Employing precious ink, worth the waste, the emperor said, for
its bitter taste, for the look on each loser’s face
Day making its losing speeches, resignation first thing,
preemptive separation priming its pen on the stones
For the pleasure of the look of precious ink on stones, perhaps,
equivalent to the bitter valley of the taste

“Only Connect”

Chances are,
in most situations,
you’ll mostly respond
like most people do.
And feel the insufficiency
and indignity
of that. And in response
to that indignity,
judge others’
insufficiency. You won’t,
mostly, have a choice,
which is fine because
you mostly won’t remember
most things, which is fine
as long as you continue
learning or forgetting
faster. Much as
19th century
naturalists who couldn’t
account for this
beast here and also
there, or companionable
rocks, separated
by seas, explained a lot
with land bridges, you too
should assume expired
links between facts
you can’t recall. For instance,
isn’t it the crossing
that made the land a bridge,
and wouldn’t the water
on either side need to
have been, comparatively,
continuous if cartographers
preferred to claim those once-
divided gulfs remain
one form? Semantically
speaking, a parted sea
precedes the water’s
rise, as from ice
berg chunks sloughing trapped
polar fur onto a water
bottle factory’s grated
floor, while elsewhere
gathered plastics wreathe
a hermit’s floating perch, mangroves
shallowly ballasting duct-
tape strung pallets
camouflaged as trash
to draw brackish garbage birds,
migrating nowhere,
he’s taking his chances he can
live on?

Elegant Regrets

The eye gets wider, in pain. It’s looking for something.

The doorway you shelter in—it could be your house, you could live here, nothing else to be done. Or wait there long enough. It isn’t your house. Go on.

The eye closes tighter. To forge.

Say the storm starts in the petals. Down they go. Is the storm still in them? The storm that starts in the petals—but isn’t in the tree.

Over by the time you see.

Zach Savich is the author of eight books of poetry and prose, including Daybed (Black Ocean, 2018). He is co-editor of Rescue Press’s Open Prose Series and an associate professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Elizabeth Robinson


for Robert Kelly

The promise did not promise
to be beautiful.

The promise was of labor,
not virtue.

You perceive the grail: it attests
to its existence, but, as always,

refuses to disclose its whereabouts.
And somewhere you find a landscape,

deep in that landscape,
whose particulars are your birth.


You, sojourner, find a stained
rag there, a faded scarf

which you read. Could it
have been so long ago

that you learned to read?
When reading is place

bereft of location. When the scarf,
once green, became bluer.

None. Known. Nonce. Anon.
Anonymous. Anomalous.


You had, perhaps become exhausted
with the saying of it when

the mistake blossoms: exhaustion
is the cure

for reading, for mapping.
Talk, in the hidden place

becomes the work of itself.
A scarf, wadded and stuffed

into the mouth, is exhaled with
great force. See how it lofts


on the words like a cloud
as they move definitely

away from you. Broken
perception is a place, even

“home,” if you will. The work
was never meant to be ethical. A thing

becomes its own imperative most often
because you live there and you break it.

Extensive practice. When finally the eyes
fail to read the broken script, then:


yes. You, having so recently heard
of this thing called reading, essay it.

Error-ridden sentence verb subject
you topographical backwards, the

ruddy and green layers of it. In this
placeless specificity, you assay it. Never

a map but a disemboweling, discovery
joyously fractures what it finds, and

deeper. Deep blindness of the word.
Its glee. The work rummaging


itself, mine brought provisionally
to the surface, silt bubbling into

all streams. Ash caressing this
particular scape like a silk scarf.

The practice of intention is
its own discovery, wise and

iniquitous. “There once was a story,”
you read aloud,

and it undermined itself
in receipt of its recognitions.


Home or fire? Work
or reworking? If there were a door—

should there have been a door—
entry onto what? Reciprocity

means also exit. And after it all
burned down, haven’t you wondered

why it’s always the chimney
that still remains? One spark

or another as the unseeing eye
forces a blurred word to register, a glint


made specific by indeterminacy. The
promise offered itself like a body

you may, or may not, have declined. A shapely
word, swathed only in a blue scarf, whose

dimensions fall away before the scarf does.
Down the well or into the mine, up

the chimney. The promise whose articulation
is “poof,” whose word


lingers as an aroma in the air. You quaff it
through nose and mouth. Smoke, too, is the embodiment of what’s broken.

It fills the dislocated grail with its syrup. You

have always felt its sting in your throat, the hole in the cup

that breathes on your behalf.

Elizabeth Robinson is the author, most recently, of Rumor, from Parlor Press. Being Modernists Together is forthcoming in 2022 from Solid Objects. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Big Other, Denver Quarterly, Fence, New Letters, Plume, Scoundrel Time, and Posit.. With Jennifer Phelps, Robinson co-edited Quo Anima:innovation and spirituality in contemporary women’s poetry, published in 2019 by University of Akron Press.

Peter Leight

Private Time

When I cover my face

there’s more space.

I’m wearing my turtleneck,

underneath is the shell,

sitting on the bed

or in a chair

next to my desk—

please leave the furniture out of this.

Personally I’d like to live with somebody

who doesn’t even need to live

with anybody else,

I mean she actually wants to.

Touching my lips

and pulling them apart,

picking a little,

as when you deadhead the irises—

I don’t know why it takes me longer

than anyone else.

In a country of one

no borders.

There’s no one to give a gift to.

No need to close the door.

I’m not even sure why it’s taking me so long.

When I turn around there’s an empty space behind me that doesn’t even belong to me,

I’m leaving the keys to everything I need to open

in a drawer I’m not going to open,

I’m thinking it’s that simple.

Picking at my lips,

as if I’m making an opening

for the shadows passing over my lips like a border crossing

and the shadows falling in my lap like a rest period.

In a country of one

you don’t bother to knock.

And never hit reply,

Pulling back my lips to make an opening for the watery breath that pools in front of me

like a gift you give yourself

when you don’t have anything else to give.

City of Separation

In our city there are two sides that are separated. The other one is different, it’s so different it needs to be separate—we’re not even comfortable until we’re separated from the other side. I mean how different something is depends on what it’s different from. Breathing the same air, we have our air on this side, and they have theirs on the other side, have you noticed the way the same things are often in different places? It isn’t that far away, just on the other side of our side, touching but disconnected like cells in an ice tray—adjacence isn’t a substitute for attachment. We don’t actually know what it’s like, we’re not inspecting the other side or investigating on the other side, that’s not what it’s there for. It’s true, everybody says it’s a mess, it’s the messy side, they don’t even know when to stop on the other side—everybody says they would ruin our side if we let them, it’s the first thing that happens. Of course, we stay on our side and they stay on theirs—there are sacrifices on both sides. There are signs on both sides, although we don’t understand theirs, and they don’t understand ours. We don’t even speak to them. What would we say? Once we actually waited for them to come over to our side while they were waiting for us to come over to their side at the same time. Were we waiting together? I think it’s better from a distance, better when it’s a safe distance, no closer than we are right now, it’s better when they don’t know us at all and we don’t even know who they are.

City of Meeting

Every time you open the door in our city you’re in the middle of a meeting that continues without interruption as long as everybody is participating, like a program that keeps going as long as you’re watching. There’s a place for everyone in the meeting, to be honest the same place is reserved for everybody, like a pie chart that’s undivided, without a single wedge. You don’t need to be pre-qualified. You don’t have to sit and wait—everybody’s sitting down at the same time, as long as you need to sit down you sit in the front with everybody else who’s sitting with you in the front or in the back with everybody else who’s sitting with you in the back, it doesn’t even matter where you’re sitting as long as you’re sitting next to somebody. Nobody’s saying no you’re not, or not at all, you don’t have any secrets you’re not telling because you don’t need to. Of course you can only be helped when they know what’s wrong with you. Sitting on the edge of your seat to make sure you’re not missing anything, when you open the door the meeting has already started, it’s the kind of meeting that continues as long as everybody has something to contribute, it doesn’t even matter where you’re meeting when every place is a meeting place. Not waiting for anybody to take your hand or give you a hand, it’s not about you. Everybody has something interesting to contribute, as long as you’re contributing there’s nothing wrong with you—if you have something different to say it’s even more interesting, it contributes even more. Honestly it’s the kind of meeting that continues without interruption even if you’re not participating, it doesn’t even matter how long you’re attending the meeting, as in a program that doesn’t end when you stop watching.

Peter Leight’s poems have appeared in Paris Review, AGNI, FIELD, Beloit Poetry Review, Raritan, Matter, Posit, and other magazines.

Patrick Kindig

corona, n.

A small circle or disc
of light. A halo, a ring
around the moon. As in:
the moon’s corona is shining
tonight, it has a corona
that shines. Like glass
or a bright fish, often
prismatic. As in: the moon’s
corona is in the creek tonight,
a silver ripple. The creek
is carrying the moon the way
a man might carry a king.

corona, n.

A crown-like appendage
on the inner side of some
flowers, such as the daffodil
and the daffodil’s close
relations. Royal lips
kissing the air, poised
to pollinate. More stamen
than petal: meet the plant’s
cock. Shaped like
a tube, a trumpet, a prolapsed
rectum. Its function is distinct.
Its function is unknown.

corona (lucis), n.

A chandelier suspended
from the roof of a church:
crown (of light), light
(of God). Darkness
is a sin. As in: where pleasure
is taken (from God), where
the eye (of God) fails. See
curiosity: the lust of the eye.
In a clean, well-lit place,
there is no need for wonder.

corona, n.

A solar halo, mock
sun. A sun throwing
its voice. Anthelion:
a bright spot opposite
the sun. A bright spot
where the sun is not. A
sun dog. A light in the sky
chasing its tail. Heel,
sun; stay, sun. Get in
your crate, sun, and
do as you are told.

corona (radiata), n.

A mass of fibers in the brain
spread radially from capsule
to cortex. Made of white matter,
well-sheathed. A transit system
prone to stroke, stuttering
processionals, funerals
in the brain. A kind of crown
beneath the crown: kill it
and kill the king.

corona, n.

A luminous appearance in the gas
surrounding a conductor, a sheen,
a shining in the night, the night
a cloud of air, the air a jar of lightning
unlidded, unleashed, discharged
like a patient who has completed
treatment, a soldier, a religious
office performed secretively and
with care, a gesture electric enough
to make the heart beat faster, not
strong enough to cause a spark.

Patrick Kindig teaches writing and American literature at Indiana University. He is the author of the chapbook all the catholic gods (Seven Kitchens Press, 2019) and the micro-chapbook Dry Spell (Porkbelly Press, 2016), and his poems have recently appeared in Copper Nickel, Washington Square Review, Shenandoah, Columbia Poetry Review, and other journals.

Kylie Hough

If I’m Honest

If I’m honest, the sky feels different depending on where I stand. You eat chocolate cake before the movie begins. We all want freedom but I am too scared to ask and you are too stunted to know. I have the feelings I have. You label me a conspiracy theorist but I think the parts of you you don’t show sprout wheatgrass. The earth spins on its axis in a matterless universe and I would like to give it up. You don’t talk behind my back and from time to time we meet and embrace like old friends. I converse with dead people. You come to my thing and insist on paying for copy that wouldn’t exist without you. I brush my teeth and smile white foam when I think of you. There’s a space in your chest where my heart used to be before I gave it to the comma. I sign a blank page with the words, For You Love Me, because I believe in something. You don’t have the feelings you don’t have. I read somewhere that to love a thing means wanting it to live. If it can’t be scientifically proven, you won’t leave the bedroom. It’s the way of us, but if I’m honest, the pursuit of liberation is an oarless raft on a flooded highway.

The Problem with Eggs

I told you it works like eggs. You shrugged your shoulders, said you never knew. I thought, there are a lot of things you don’t know about eggs and guar gum and binding and being bound. You insisted you didn’t feel trapped and questioned me about why sex worked like eggs. Not the polysaccharide composed of two sugars whose composition you would have quizzed me on had I given you the chance. Guar gum is frequently used as a food additive in processed foods. I nodded because we were bound and I couldn’t articulate an answer, only watch you chew steak or tune into the voice in my head that whispered I needed the bathroom or to feign a headache or to go outside and shoo the Great Dane defaecating on our front lawn. None of which I did because it wasn’t my turn and if there was anything more to sleepwalking in clingwrap without a compass, I needed to explore it. Yesterday. Like an egg navigates the oiled sides of a wok there was this feeling I got with you. A join consists of two ropes. One lead from you to race, reach, rage toward me. A gypsy unawares. Last year. There was the way I placed you on the top shelf with the strawberry jam and the Jarlsberg. The way you encouraged me. With a look, you took me by the hand and led me up the carpeted stairwell to the waiting king bed. Splice with me, you said and I placed your hand between my thighs. Instead of thickening, though, you split. This is the problem with eggs.

Her Last De facto

Can you see you’re torturing yourself? he said. Yes, she thought and took his right leg and plucked it from its socket much like she would a carrot from her vegetable garden. She stuck it on a cardboard rectangle by a pane of glass beside a wooden frame on the kitchen counter. You’re not thinking of the future, he said and she raised an eyebrow because she was always thinking of how good it would feel to disarticulate him. She removed his left arm with a lurch and placed it beside his right leg. Do you hear yourself? he said, which was strange because all she ever heard was the sound of his voice. He collapsed into a bar stool, with the face of a chastised puppy, and patted the empty space beside him with his remaining hand. She smiled, took his right arm in her left hand and shook it until it plunged pool-like from his shoulder into her waiting lap. I give and you take, he said. She waggled a finger then took a hacksaw to his head. His left leg came away with a tug. She pondered his parts on the counter and poured herself a gin. Pieces of him she arranged into patchwork. You’re mad, he mouthed mounted on the wall, and to a future replete with framed men, she lifted her glass.

Kylie Hough studies Arts at UNE in Armidale, Australia. A Vice-Chancellor’s Scholar, in 2015 Kylie received the Lucy Elizabeth Craigie Award, the Richard B Smith Memorial Prize, and the Australian Federation of Graduate Women Inc. (AFGW) NSW (Armidale) UNE ARTS AWARD. She was a finalist in the Gertrude Stein Award in Fiction 2018 and is published with Feminartsy, the write launch, Verity LA, and Other Terrain. Kylie is a grateful recipient of a 2021 Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Award Mentorship in Fiction.

Michael Brosnan

from In the Meanwhile



Hey, Sunshine,

A day in the life is rarely
A Day in the Life.

This morning, I fell out of time again,
Wrote in the daylight, the dusk, the dark.

Satiation or Satisfaction? Satisfaction
Or Settlement? Settlement or Suffusion?

I’m still looking for the gate to the wild garden.
For the sonic code that unlocks the gate.

I’m telling you it’s confusing to be the difficult child,
The misaligned, willful one.

Write with kindled care:
Tempo. Temporary. Temporal.

Write: Capillarity.
In the tremulous mind, words spill

And run in the strangest rivulets
Through the foothills of easy disarray,

The blur of uncertainty
Banking the muddy river of thought.

Contemplate: the antonym of contempt
In a world so humanly torn.

Sometimes in the day in the life
You’ll find the life in the day.



Someone must take the dog out.
Someone makes excuses.

Someone feels the weather of sacrifice
Sliding over the salt marsh.

The dog watches and listens,
Lying in wait for command or invitation.

Someone dreams of playing the banjo.
Someone tries not to think of sugar and carbs.

Someone plays out in the mind a future moment
That will never come to pass.

Sunshine, here in the Meanwhile, time
Patiently waits for someone to hand out the agenda.

The dog watches the dog watcher,
Listens and sniffs. Ambivalence baffles.

She loves best the knotting of shoes, the quick zip of coats,
The creak of the opening door.



And in the Meanwhile, I want us to agree
There’s genius in kindness.

A quadriplegic I know dedicates his life
To helping the discarded children bleeding
In the cultural crosshairs
Practice the stubborn art of hope.

So many who would otherwise not get through
Get through, find society,
Have what indifference tried so slyly to deny.

The quadriplegic I know can’t get himself out of bed in the morning.
He needs people to pick him up, shower and dress him,
Feed him, comb his hair, drive him to work.
He is never alone. He can never be alone.
He can never hike in the woods. He has no secrets.
He can only smile, frown, talk, spit, laugh, rub his nose with a withered
He’s unfailingly kind and appreciative.
He was once an able-bodied young man, unafraid.
Every day, he meditates on goodness and joy.

Sunshine, the fractured sublimity here makes me cry some nights —
Especially when I sense my own pettiness,
Especially when I’m drinking alone in a winter-wrapped house,
Eating two-day-old cake and regretting many of my choices,
Fearing emptiness.



Sometimes hope expressed echoes back
As a kind of unintelligible blather.

Sometimes our need — voiced, carved, re-
Verberating in ink or paint — carries short of anywhere.

Sometimes the knoll feels
Like a knoll of grass and weeds and dirt and stone.

And, Sunshine, it’s fine to just stand there.
Or sit. Not say or do a thing.



I heard them talking about relevancy.

I heard the fury.

I heard them say so much is lamentable.

I heard the fury and the love.

I heard the straining chords of evolution in their bright longing.

I heard young voices not backing down.

Sunshine, I heard you talking to children in gentle tones.

I heard despair dissipating in the quiet resistance by the Don’t Walk sign.

I heard singing from the makeshift stages and their thousand shadows.

I hear it all again, now, here in the forest, re-rephrased in the silence

After the snow stops falling and holds the land gleamingly.



Switch and switch and switchback.

Who was the first person to connect a thin, tapered riding whip

To a change of mind or philosophy or toothbrush?

Who first named the near 180-degree turns on the mountain path?

Sunshine, today, I switch from a pen to a pencil.

Tomorrow, I’ll try again to imagine the person who first considered riding

A horse.

Soon, I’ll respectfully ask you to trade in our shared notion of progress

For one that will give future life a chance of discovering

Our bones and literature and rusted kitchen implements in the drowned


Michael Brosnan’s collection of poems, The Sovereignty of the Accidental, was published by Harbor Mountain Press in 2018. His poetry has appeared in Rattle, Confrontation, Borderlands, Prairie Schooner, Barrow Street, New Letters, the Moth, and more. He’s also the author of Against the Current, a book on inner-city education, and serves as the senior editor for Teaching While White.

V. Joshua Adams


They sent me to school in the great forest
planted by the timber company
where each morning the chaplain
would pray to the trees. There was a river somewhere
but I was afraid to go down to it
on account of the color of the water—
menacingly clear, as though all the silt
and leaves and branches and rocks
had no real contact with anything.
Things sat or floated on, that was it,
nothing mixed. I usually couldn’t find the river anyway
and was always getting lost in the woods
until the wardens came galloping on their Arabians
to bring me back for my punishment
of competitive knitting. I never won, or even made a hat
or scarf I would not be too embarrassed to wear,
and so when winter came
I was not only chastened but chilled.
That’s when you found me, staring at the stopped clock,
and showed me the way out: a ritual
where we locked the door, turned up the halogen lamps,
and stared at each other until we decided
which swimsuits most flattered our blanched bodies,
high-cut one pieces or string bikinis.
The parrot helped too, from his roost in the common room,
even if he only said things he had been trained to say:
What color. Be good. Wanna go. Wanna go.

Song, Chicago

Blood in the milk. Milk in the blood.

Stone my hair breath-sand,
heart-poison plum.

Up the creekbed, up the treebed,
guns, lots. Polished

brittleness was a face.
Thumbeye, thrust.

Sub-zero. Crows.

Blood in the milk. Milk in the blood.


Another Country (II)

In the elevator, in the Texas resto
on Queen St., they play all the hits
of Nineteen Ninety-Four.

Need: no art without passion. Need:
permanent revolt.

fastidious, self-doubt
can’t not, it’s in
it’s in the will.

Breakdance, blowtorch,
burning sensation.

Unhelmet the tone now.
Exchange is the mode,
our fold.

No outside, but we
can still be
as a rub and tug.

Clever chicken wrap,
that fantastic pink
came from the sink, love.

Revisionary Ratios

There’s a cost to this life, I’ll tally it up
said the scrap-meat, said the newsprint.

Carp come quick now, tricked now, pricked now.
Why should I pay for your bahn-dage, your mah-ssage?

Lace thigh-high and only so, oh Jesus-H, Viola,
you kid me with your pluck!

Flat lakes we go down in each night,
our lawns, sirs, shall outlive us.

My empire-builder chugs: pa-thump.
Those dying generations don’t die quick enough.

V. Joshua Adams is the author of a chapbook, Cold Affections (Plan B Press, 2018). Work of his has appeared or is forthcoming in Reed Magazine, Painted Bride Quarterly, Trampset, Mud Season Review, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. A former editor of Chicago Review, as well as a translator and critic, he teaches at the University of Louisville.

Chuck Wachtel

Sheltering In Place

I must say, that the peace the spirit needs is peace
not lack of war, but fierce continual flame.
—Muriel Rukeyser

And it’s only here and
now that we can make up
for lost time while the meter
is running and everything
is on hold

—Lewis Warsh, 11/9/1944 -11/15/2020,
for whom this poem is written


I cannot feel it in here, but the air rises,
gently, perhaps pushed by the exhaled breaths
of my daughter, sitting on the floor beside
the kitchen table, brushing the cat.

Are you getting used to it? Does the phrase apply?
Is there time, or some other means by which one thing
becomes another thing? Lewis, I miss
the substance of your presence. I am reading,

for the second time this morning, these
two sentences, written a hundred and ten years ago,
one right after the other, by Franz Kafka: “When
the breakfast noise dies down to the left of me,

the lunch noise starts up on the right.
Everywhere doors are being opened as if people
wanted to come crashing through the walls.”
And now, one after another, two light-gray, loosely-bound

clumps of cat hair skitter like tumbleweeds across
the plain of toast crumbs scattered on the plate
in front of the chair across from mine
where my daughter just had her breakfast, and now,

Lewis, I must say… it’s so quiet here, in this room
where we try to continue being who we still, mostly,
are: I want you here, with us, still sheltering in place
for the entire moment we hover in the serene eye

of this raging storm, until the witless idiot
once again begins pounding the wall on one side,
insisting his will is our will, while the plague starts in
whispering its toxic secrets against the other.

Chuck Wachtel is the author of the novels Joe The Engineer, The Gates, and 3/03; a collection of stories and novellas, Because We Are Here; and five collections of poems and short prose, most recently The Coriolis Effect and What Happens to Me. He lives in NYC, and is retired from, though still occasionally teaching in, the creative writing program at NYU.

JoAnna Novak


I think today of corners, how they allot space, and last
night my head was lower than soap on the drain. I
think today of corners, and last night I thought of
you. You taught me to hide. To hide to hear to sneak
down, duck the cellar door. Gold is stable; so am I.

From the dormer in the nursery, roof slanted as a
tithe, I watch Cheerful Chuck reroute a spout. He is
focused, tongue knotted in his cheek like a hickory
nut. Cheerful Chuck never stops, mason of
continency, caulks his cocoa-brown stripes, good
gutters are wide gutters, he says, $1569, fair price.

A slow accrual of wealth under a stratum of dying-
day-by-day magnolias. The rules of dividends crack
Bateman’s sidewalks, slanting the shabbiest historic

What if simplicity saves nothing? If my monochrome
chant is a mere red grunt? With a spine like a scythe,
I’m naked under this surplice, picking varnish off my

bad razor + bad blade = rufous stigmata.

I love your sense. I love your stability. I love your
advice. I love your father making furniture, joints
joists vices files ferries roses and fathers, were I a man
I’d be a father, shan’t I, shouldn’t I, someday: I know
nothing, I am trying to learn. I am not a novena,
prayerfully blank, not la edgish, embittered esposa,
getting easily drunk, painting foxes, teeth in denial, on
tall chests of drawers. Let me survive the hoard of
hand-me-downs and sentiment, the flinch and shrink
and scowl before savings. Do I look vegan? Slow-mo
in my flamboyance? What can I do?

Come here, come stay, come over. Bring your sloppy
dog, your stormy windbreaker, your animal crackers,
your scarab script. It’s no way to live. I want to drive
all over the country, too, look beyond the furniture. I
spent decades multi-hearsed by the market, you told
me, don’t do that. I have a spare bedroom. As many
as four coffins.

I heard the dresser topple at midnight. I nested till
morning. Up again, I was surrounded by black hills
and an enemy with busy lips and a tank to burn and
pockets stuffed with chips. Everyone went Pert ’n

What do you see, brown bear? What do you see,
purple cat? What do you need, black sheep?

, and As It Ought To Be

The floating hospital is leavened. And I am its
aproned mistress. Where bandages were, bread is now
ordinary. Levain. Mother. Bialy. Bagel. Bostock,
brioche, biscuit. Blue gloves are garbage. I am still not
sure what decadence I’m after, but I board and scoff
at the wharf, holding my French pin. Others are
rinsing curtains. Others are scrubbing shutters.
Together we are the gale in an ordinary machine.
Even the rain cleans, drenching metal awnings, where
spring birds build nests in the girders. Tell me to get
off the boat and I’ll bury my nose in a cookbook.
Check. Check. Fasting agreed with me, made me
limpid and vigilant. I laminated dough. I listened like
a nightingale. I could stay up for hours, overnights,
limewashed and fumigated, loyal and laboring.
Whence before I could barely spell adolescence,
whence before I was ravenous, yet I advanced along
the plank and called it a path, an El Dorado of rubies
and routine. “The more do I find work a necessity,” I
read, “the greatest of pleasures.”

JoAnna Novak’s debut memoir Contradiction Days will be published by Catapult in 2022. Her short story collection, Meaningful Work, won the 2020 Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Contest and will be published by FC2 in 2021. Her third book of poetry, New Life, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2021. The author of the novel I Must Have You, she is a co-founder of the literary journal and chapbook publisher, Tammy.