north of oxford poetry

Two Poems by Guinotte Wise

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Poet Lariat
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I’m not a Poet Laureate
of even a one-horse Kansas town
But. I’m a Poet Lariat
which is a poet with some dusty duct-taped boots
who drew some bulls at the here and there
jackpot rodeos in towns you never drove through.
I was committed to my horses, you can say that
about me if nothing else.
They lived their lives at Wise Acres,
good lives, too. They liked me fine,
and I was so fond of them. Good feed,
pasture, shots and care and ten thousand
mile checkups, no harsh words.
They came to me and dipped their heads
into their halters, stood for the farrier,
stood while I put my foot in the stirrup,
and I cried when they died. And I was
there. They knew that, cold and rain and
storms. I owed them that and more. They
talked to me, and I, to them, if you know
what I mean. A poet lariat would know.
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The Spoon Lady
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Time honored spoon play is what she
orchestrates with washboard, tin cups,
a bell or two sometimes, but her spoons
are magic and her hands dip and fly as
her instruments of choice create a cadence
I wish I could make my words snap and
clack and emulate, the click, the tang, the
perfect flow and flourish, but also the
birdlike hands that follow through and dive
along the jingle and the arabesque of ring
and ping and flick of metal bowls caressing
her sleeve, the back of her balletic hand and
chattering clattering with decisive pops on
the backbeat continuous flashing magick of
an Appalachian family playing to survive
another winter another coal mine cave-in
head of household rises flatfoots slowly
at first, his arms seem to float for balance
and his heel and toe match the spoons as
he gains speed no expression on his face
he is propelled by spoons and centuries
and the eerie harmony of an entire family
escaping through Wildwood Flower and
a boy on banjo as big as himself. The
spoons sound like lovely skeletons.
Dancing.
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GWBARN3
Guinotte Wise writes and welds steel sculpture on a farm in Resume Speed, Kansas. His short story collection (Night Train, Cold Beer) won publication by a university press and enough money to fix the soffits. Five more books since. His fiction, essays and poetry have been published in numerous literary journals including Atticus, The MacGuffin, Southern Humanities Review,  Rattle and The American Journal of Poetry. His wife has an honest job in the city and drives 100 miles a day to keep it. (Until shelter in place order) Some work is at http://www.wisesculpture.com

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& Peacocks in Trees by Susana H. Case

peacocks
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& Peacocks in Trees
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& fog at night lingering
& a black bear with rope
strung through his snout
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& a boy pulling it
who offers to pose for photos
& what first seems
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to be furniture in a chai shop
but is a man
in rags asleep upright
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& a radio that plays only static
& everyone coughing coughing
& a tourist who brags in broken
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English of the fifty grams
of dope he smokes each day
& a night watchman
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who takes a bribe to unlock
a tower with a marble casket
& the Taj Mahal in moonlight
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before the workers shout
to open the massive doors
& the ghosts of suicides
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who jumped from the stairs
near the gateway
& the beggar who offers
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to leap into a well for rupees
who when I say no looks down
in disappointment
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photo--Susana H Case
SUSANA H. CASE is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Dead Shark on the N Train in 2020 from Broadstone Books. Drugstore Blue (Five Oaks Press) won an IPPY Award in 2019. She is also the author of five chapbooks, two of which won poetry prizes. Her first collection, The Scottish Café, from Slapering Hol Press, was re-released in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press. Poems by Case have appeared in Calyx, Catamaran, The Cortland Review, Portland Review, Potomac Review, Rattle, RHINO and many other journals. Case is a Professor and Program Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology in New York City.

Two Poems by Don Riggs

petals
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Archaic
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Yesterday when I was walking home
from making those essential purchases
that justify my walking out in the world,
and was listening to the trees seethe
with breath anticipating rain, I passed
a blossoming tree–after all, it’s spring–
suddenly caught up in a whirling wind
and I found myself surrounded by pink
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petals in a sudden dense flurry,
an unaccustomed sweet delicacy,
a fragrance meant ordinarily
for bees, to attract them to the nectar
that is the refined drink of the Greek gods
but the Greek gods are extinct now, so I
may as well get drunk on archaic fragrance.
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Last Wishes
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Back when he was my father-in-law, he
told my then-wife that if he ever lost
the use of his legs, he wanted to die.
Fortunately, or un-, he lost his mind
and saw strange spirits walking through the house
before that part of the brain that controls
the motor functions disintegrated.
When I last talked to Marta over the phone,
she and her mother were both exhausted
from packing all the furniture, dishes,
books, the machinery in Papa’s shop,
to be moved to the nursing home or sold.
That, and from caring for a sentient
metabolism without self control.
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  Don Riggs has been writing verses, if not poetry, since 1964, when he published some in The Pine Cone, newspaper of Pinecrest Elementary School. He has gone through periods of influence from Edward Lear to Longfellow to Dylan Thomas to James Wright to Emily Dickinson till now he writes ten syllables per line for fourteen lines. Count them! He writes each morning in the bath.
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Two Poems by William Taylor

sun-beneath-blanket-of-clouds-meghna

MEGHNA Meghna Art

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Blinking Beneath the Sun
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A little while back when they opened me up
to replace my faulty heart valve
and something went a little wrong, I don’t know.
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They installed the valve okay, but the two
chambers of my heart stopped talking
to each other and they had to give me
a temporary, and then a permanent pacemaker.
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I was semi-conscious when they installed the thing
and it was like listening to two guys at a discount
garage putting in a car battery:
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“Why you doing it that way? That’s not the way
I was taught to do it.”
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“That’s not how those wires go.”
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“O, fuck.”
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Anyway, I survived and I stand in front of the mirror
studying my scars. I don’t mind them as much
as I imagined I might.
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There’s, of course, the vertical one
from where they split apart my sternum,
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there’s a diagonal one on my upper chest
just below my left shoulder
where they put in the pacemaker
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and there are three little horizontal slits
where tubes protruded from my stomach.
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Most of the time I don’t think about it
but sometimes I remember that I am being kept alive
by some thing in my chest the size of an iPhone
that runs on batteries and wires
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and I freak out a bit.
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I feel like a Frankenstein
or a cyborg,
I feel like I’m already dead.
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I get nervous the same way
I get nervous when I fly
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because I think of how my life depends
upon some damnable contraption
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invented and slapped together by some random assholes.
Who’s to say they weren’t drunk or vengeful
or hungover when they tightened those screws?
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But then I get over it mostly because while I don’t
trust humans I trust god even less, so I figure
I’m as good as the next guy blinking beneath the sun
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waiting for his wires to snap or his
doohickey to sputter out for good
with all the warranties expired.
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Song
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We wait in the dark outside
the glow of trainwrecks
and the burning cities
we always knew
these things would find us
it’s just the broken sky
it’s just the fire singing
the only songs it knows
its just dust and bone
and the ghosts of the lonely
and forgotten swimming
through our blood
trying to make their way
back home
there’s nothing needs saving
that will be saved
it’s nothing worth mentioning
it’s just the way it was written
in sand and stone
and the last look on her face
things will be quiet again
like before we were born
that beautiful silence
darling you can cry
for as long as you wish
the weeping is just a moment
a moment is just forever
cling to me in the pretty rain
until the ancient sorrow
of everything finally
finds and reclaims us
as its own.
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newest bill2.5
William Taylor Jr. lives and writes in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco.  He is the author of numerous books of poetry, and a volume of fiction. His work has been published widely in journals across the globe, including Rattle, The New York Quarterly, and The American Journal of Poetry. He is a five time Pushcart Prize nominee and was a recipient of the 2013 Kathy Acker Award. Pretty Words to Say, (Six Ft. Swells Press, 2020) is his latest collection of poetry.
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Three Poems by Mary Shanley

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Blown Away
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Little leaf
you were blown away
so easily.
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In the end, you were so beaten down,
there wasn’t much of the earth element
remaining in you; glistening, you were
mostly spirit.
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With your last breath,
you exhaled and arose
into the arms of the golden
beings of light, who awaited
your arrival and greeted you
with songs of celebration and joy.
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I can no longer hug you
or hear your voice
but, believe you are safely
in the company of loved ones
who have already floated
out of their bodies, into pure
spirit.
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You no longer need to bear
the loneliness of the nursing home.
No longer captured by schizophrenia
and a wheelchair.
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Now, you fly free, with the Blakean
angels and guardian spirits who
accompany you through the spheres
to your
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place on the bardo thodol,
to your place in heaven,
to your place next to Mom.
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Beyond
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She travels beyond the narrows
of time and destination.
Bravely invoking the uncalculated
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journey, she watches it unroll before her,
like a Turkish rug.
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She is wearing a Dada t-shirt,
as she revolves around the earth.
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She doesn’t stop to consider the content
of her days. In the moment, boundless
possibilities
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form the trail she follows, unaided by compass
or companion.
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Watch, as her amazed eyes peer into
her deepest place.
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She calls each day forever.
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Her hands worship the immensity
of the deepest blue sky, a portal
into eternity.
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She counts blessings and adjusts
to reverses, allowing for support,
when needed.
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Along her enchanted road, when organic
connections are made, the presence of these
kindred spirits send a quiver of shimmering
energy down her spine.
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Posture of Defeat
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She was hunched over
like a woman with advanced
osteo of the spine – but that’s
not it. Her posture indicated
her psychological state. After
forty years of battling schizophrenia,
institutionalizations, shock treatments
and toxic medication, her delusions
finally won out; exercising
an erratic control over her personality
and her body..
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She has been entirely captured
by this vicious disease, allowed few
decisions. Her dyed black hair hangs lifeless,
her tongue droops over her lower lip, drooling;
her fingernails overgrown.
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It is a deep jungle; she is in there.
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Mary Shanley is a poet/storyteller, living in New York City with her wife.
She began publishing poetry at the behest of Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr
in 1984. She first published in Long Shot Magazine, co-founded by Allen
Ginsberg and Danny Shot. Since that time, she had had three books of poetry
published and one book of short stories.
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Four Poems by Annie Blake

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Graveyard Bodies Turn Over Every Hundred Years
for Ruby
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their green creek bellies like those of unremembered
vases    the twilight buttons up dusk and the honey
moon like a hand worn cardigan   the longevity of cemeteries
and winsome meadows   the house is a series of smiling saturdays
how her sniveling nooks shed their dark barked canoes   because i have forgotten
how water laughs   an effulgence in my mind
for once i felt a coruscation   life’s crackle   the turning over
of winter wood like the ploughing of a field   a nascent
conversation between funeral and pentecostal ghosts
whatever births have been carried through its threshold  how feathery
the cold wind feels when crossed   the unrailed bridges of childhood
the unreeling of middle life   a crisp ocean floor and the teetering of shadows owning up
to their merciless hiding places                                           seek
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How Autumn Burns The Maple Leaves 
for Evie
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for the forest fire boiled in the sky
night ocean   panoply of rose veined with flint
the sun marshmallow white   o winter willow
and her offering of golden hair   leaves of forgiving tongues
so thirsty they spawn the earth and drink
pigeon or stone-colored mist circling   streaming   my ghosts thawing
all at once  how they climb the hungry trees    east
sun sailing between the nests   nets like our woven hands
she has waited all these ungrateful years for me
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Saturday 
for Ruby
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for when i closed his eyes there was still a warmth
over his skin   i would never see him moving in my house
again   but i could finally see through him   how he was
the only reason his mother and father
married   so others wouldn’t talk   so he was never taken
away   because forcing herself into marriage was the only way
to free herself from her mother
i told my son some photos in frames are best covered by others
deaths were becoming more sensual
and more alive in me   conciliating closures and a hand sewing
of coffin hems   and i held their hands like the knot of two threads
and even though he was satiated with grain and under the ground
and our full cup of sleep   the sun outside the window   furnished
with its luxurious light the languishing fronds
how they wrap and curl like gift ribbon   cocoons   carried off
in the fall wind like aureate wings   i am enthusiastic about the habiliments
of hibernation   scent of a cake of soap   cave chimes
on the outside tinkle like rain   i once heard about people speaking
of the spring and the moon wallowing in the lake
so i aired out her body for the scent of mothballs was thick
and when i stood up my legs still dizzy   i remembered
it was saturday   how the walls of the world yawned and creaked
as the dawn hues dappled and even the shorn webs of our old
corn rooms were softened silk in milk
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Wedding Day 
for Frank
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those days lost   our newly molded faces as fine as waxed masks
the unbuttoning of the house of the last world   lest we forget
how my legs burned that day right up
to my chest   for forests do come to some   as clean-screened
and thick as the memory of the death feather tick   it’s true
that woods are haunted   that crows are a never ending expulsion
crown of feathers   their black robust bodies   how branches lay
their unagaped eggs for really they are hard unhatched
radicles in the mud   it is true some spend all their lives adjusting
wings no matter how peppery and cold
i dreamt i could walk where no steps had ever sunk or embossed
the ground   i dreamt i had a sweetness in my hand that even bees could
hang off
it is true that woods are haunted   even during the day
and how their thorns sting
in bed my body cracks like old kitchen tiles   for god’s perimeter
slides like a packet through the branches in my chest   listening
to the psalms sung from his red ticking knoll   his palm holds me
in deep sleep’s casement
my eyelashes   untangled legs of infant spiders like unbending
ferns   cushioning the light and an infiltration of womb’s eye   and everything
in my mind was milky even though the glass faced east   spoilt
shadows out of criss-crossed mist   unspinning their brilliant birth
for black feathers and wiry claws have been dispersed
from the dusky nooks of their hill willows   the day’s accoutrements
her dress is muslin white and unlike any other mourning i have ever known
bats upright and crooning   roosting on the ribs of a ship
as i dried and washed   i sat by the mansard window   and the mixtures
of the world like cotton threads hemming my skins   warm and
how they dapple under my clothes   life has her own sugary
hands   lithe fingers as eternal as keys and latches   children who were here
long before i was born   and their scent of wanted clothes
are transparent when they’re lifted   flitting
of a scintillating wheat meadow
so i waited for him to arrive   for a savior can be someone who merely
parks along the curb of the street   thaw the iron latch like a frozen
tongue and a door which can savor
you   the dripping of bees from our mouth
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annie blake autumn
Annie Blake (BTeach, GDipEd) is a divergent thinker, a wife and mother of five children. She commenced school as an EAL student and was raised and, continues to live in a multicultural and industrial location in the West of Melbourne. She enjoys experimenting with Blanco’s Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Logic to explore consciousness and the surreal and phantasmagorical nature of unconscious material. Her work is best understood when interpreted like dreams. She is an advocate of autopsychoanalysis and a member of the C G Jung Society of Melbourne, Australia. You can visit her on www.annieblakethegatherer.blogspot.com.au   and Log into Facebook | Facebook
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Philadelphia Pulp by Ezra Solway

reading term
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Philadelphia Pulp by Ezra Solway
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A homeless woman, crouching on the wet
Rittenhouse lawn, sniffs a donut.
Above her, a seedpod denotes.
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Vapors of Ribeye, from the cart
On Walnut, sails leeward to the sun.
And slips of grease dot the pavement.
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The bronze backside of William Penn,
As he gazes Northeast to the Elm
Of Treaty, is baking in the sun.
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Staring, in the left corner of the Barnes,
Van Gogh’s Postman wonders
When Spring will blink.
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If you ponder the pimples of a pineapple,
Fibonnaci. And before the gold
Casting of Philbert the Pig, a foundry.
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It’s easy to forget Reading Terminal
Market was once a Railroad.
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ezra
Ezra writes in Philadelphia where currently he’s an MFA candidate at Temple University. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and featured in Eunoia Review, Flash Fiction Magazine among others.
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Perforations by Colin Dodds

perf
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Perforations by Colin Dodds
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Overall,
the flaws reassure
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Parking lot, internet, all the things worse
for being new and clean
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Subdivision houses white and lined up like molars
Disguises for messiahs disquiet us
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Fantasy and coincidence move in tandem
A lapse in the logic of divine realtors lets a little reality in
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The Woolworth Building wears a veil
over her complicated face
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Stone staircases trace the horns of Moses
up the university hill, down the bright gold ravine
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At the lion boil, we get drunk on history—
imperial or apocalyptic, depending on your tastes
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“There is only one sun,” a mother tells her boy
feet light on wet concrete, outside a tanning salon
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Maybe no grand theory can unify all us assholes
The hand that cut us was neither neat nor thorough
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How it looks and how it feels are separate things
The difference between a ceiling and a roof
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Putting a plastic bride and groom on the waves
never made the sea a wedding cake
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colin
Colin Dodds is a writer with several acclaimed novels and poetry collections to his name. He grew up in Massachusetts and lived in California briefly, before finishing his education in New York City. He’s made a living as a journalist, editor, copywriter and video producer. Colin also writes screenplays, has directed a short film, and built a twelve-foot-high pyramid out of PVC pipe, plywood and zip ties. He lives in New York City, with his wife and daughter. You can find more of his work at www.thecolindodds.com
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In Medias Res by Charlie Brice

garage alley
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In Medias Res by Charlie Brice
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I come from the people whose potatoes went bad,
            whose land had been beaten by English dragoons,
and who had been abandoned by fat boys in Rome—
some dressed in red and a big one in white.
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I come from courage-sweat of firemen in Omaha
            who spoke in brogues and risked their lives
to save blazing futures—whose wives waited
in hopeless housedresses for them to come home to
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boiled dinners roiling with cabbage, carrots, turnips, salt pork,
            and what meat they could scrounge.
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I come from one fireman blown up in a gunpowder factory,
            identified by the scapular wound so tightly round his throat
they had to bury him with it. I come from his great
grandson, my Uncle Johnny, who so hated dimly lit restaurants that
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he would turn on the high beam of a foot-long black police flashlight
            to read the menu and bellow, “This place is too goddamned dark!”
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I come from a couple who got lost in a snowstorm
            in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1944 and never left.
I come from the prairie—it’s sweet smell of columbine in summer
            and from the perilous purity of its frozen abyss in winter.
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I come from a frayed baseball mitt stained with spit, smelling of leather,
            from a Ludwig oyster pearl drum set with Zildjian cymbals in the basement,
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and, in the backyard, from one tulip as red and true as a beating heart.
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brice
Charlie Brice is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), and An Accident of Blood (2019), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Sunlight Press, Chiron Review, Plainsongs, I-70 Review, Mudfish 12, The Paterson Literary Review, and elsewhere.
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