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Overnight at Manuel Antonio
by Gaylord Brewer

1.

There is a price to pay
for a beach paradise,
not merely cramped hours
on bus or the cost
of entry. The price
of everything
outside the boundary,
every huckster and
very special deal, amigo.
Price of sleep, of security.
But as 12 years ago,
floating naked at 7:10 a.m.,
sharing sky only
with brown pelicans
and sand with hermit crabs,
warmth swaying
and holding me, I can
afford this and more.

2.

There is a price to pay
for a balcony seat
over orchestra of sea.
In wallet, tired legs.
I’ve it all to myself—
except a family of parrots;
one pair of aracaris
perched, considering;
a single shy agouti
sniffing out a snack of fruit.
Flamed horizon,
coast, cloud, sun
demand full attention.
For brief, infinite hour
I breathe each moment
without want or
complaint, until the world’s
edge is dark again.

 

What I Know of Killing
by William Stratton

What there is to be heard—
usually in rattles, gasps, rasps
or of a body in slowing motion
on whatever ground there is;

for me usually the tall, dead grass
and brown leaves and snow and each
having held one sound in particular
for just this moment, a sudden harsh rustle,
and then quite a lot of nothing—

is heard all at once and sticks with you
imperfectly, in such a way as you might
question if you had heard it at all,
was that a gurgle you might say
or had I stepped in mud or breathed
once from a deep place and forgotten,

or played the sound over again until
it had become something else,
the way the sound of children playing
becomes geese flying overhead, or
the passing of cars might become
the low murmur of conversation

in the next room. Nothing ever
forgives you for killing it, not even
things in great pain, as when I came
upon the deer which had lived more
than a day with a bullet in its belly
and without front legs, I saw only
fear and felt only pity, but a hard pity

of resignation, of knowledge and action
and I had to forgive myself for not
finding it sooner, or finding the man
who had done this to force a reckoning.
The deer did not thank me. In the last
seconds it tried to pull itself from the bloodied
pine needle floor and hump away.

 

Detonate
by Caitlin Bailey

There were always things to tell you.

The way it would be if we buttoned
any particular button. How I would
spend the year holding back a sneeze.
How the orange puckered
in the drawer, a shriveled bomb.

We wanted everything:
bodies gabled or bent over with joy.

It was easy to forget the wires
geometried through the house.
The dark powder along the baseboards.
I looked ahead and
saw only

you: a bright suture in a lined palm.

 

Daughter
by Karin Wraley Barbee

I am holding my hardened daughter at the campfire,
at dawn. The first to pass.

Her father a hornet bumping against a window.
My speech, practiced then scattered to the bank.

I am bending now, watching my father at the pond—
a spoon bent over a bowl.

Now a clothesline spinning.
A mouse begging.

I sit by the fire. My father stands,
and a shovel.

I am prostrate. Roadside
the fields wave, flat, endless.

I am waving, also. My hat on the horizon
as it leaves.

She is now a soft mudbank,
little pebble.

We move along,
another powerline,
another bridge.

 

Nothing Happened
by Luiza Flynn-Goodlett

One afternoon you batter geodes
open under the swing set, the next
stare at mud-splashed saddle shoes

as you scramble out of the woods.
After shapes before, carves the meat
off an hour, severs muscle from bone.

It’s not the daily churn that compresses
ribs, shapes us like the vessel raised
from a clump of clay. No, it’s the sort

that shatters the glacier into floes.
How easy if it marked, horror-movie
style, streaked white down your braid;

but you look identical, though you’re
a shadow, a double. So they ask—Did
we overreact? Do you even remember?

 

Speech Recognition Software Poem
by Kristen Roach

translated from the English by Microsoft Corporation

This powdery languish
Calls from my lips unrecognized
By your coyly mechanisms.
What the canary do you think
My kitchen might come from?
I said, what dictionary do you
Think my diction might come from?

Just goes to show
How her to miss you are,
To eat only things together
Based whatever your of familiar.
No poetry that you felt us, only
Traders the blank sheet of blue sky.
But I keep telling you, filling out to page
Keep rattling hill lumps of black

No longer a fool can compose
The physical what I have to say;
It just come out a way and mean it.
But even sore, a few other lips
Move the way to fight
To hear myself correctly
What they expect to understand,
Despite what words I hear my head
Coming out no.

 

The Dream Talks
by Lisa Fay Coutley

In its sleep we’re the beached boat
            with the hole in its hull    or you are

the wooden wheel in the dirt hole I am
            trying to fill   or the leak just born

of the faucet is somehow holy & we are
            the forgotten prayer   I keep yelling

stitch my stars again to the top of your hat
            then turn away just as rain begins

to clap through the trees    echoed voice
            miles crying   don’t   don’t   don’t

make a fool of me to the birds you can’t
            stand this steady drip    this man

with half a tongue playing the smooth flesh
            of his cheek   so I am the cheek

so you are the gentle hand   so we remember
            just as we are the dream sinking

the prayer    him clucking his song    his singing
            means nothing if nobody listens.

 

The Betta Fish, Christmas
by Julie Danho

We have three choices,
he said: kill it, let it die slowly
in the small, cold bowl,
or fork over for a tank
with a heater and filter. The store
had said the half-gallon size
was fine, but not according
to the hours he spent online
after buying this last-minute gift.
Head in his hands, he vowed
not to bring it back in the cup
it had been kept and sold in,
said he’d rather crush it
than watch it suffer, than let
our daughter see it float
dead in days or weeks.
It had been a long hard year.
Our axis had moved enough
that we could expect land
and step on water instead.
This fish was a tiny red
problem. It barely moved.
We placed the bowl on the desk
as we decided the worth
of its life. Bred for beauty,
the betta would fight another
male to the death. But this fish
would not. It would be
only as we said. We looked
at him like a painting until
it came time for bed.

 

 
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