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Fire Country

by Rebecca Aronson

Beginning with a line from Tarfia Faizullah’s “West Texas Nocturne”

Because the sky burned, I had to unhinge
my sooty eyes from their lingering.

In the season of undoing, the tender heart-leaves
of the new are shredded

as soon as they arrive. Wind eats the view
and scalds a wrecked swath like a medieval dragon

as it moves across this land I’ve made
a home of. This is the land of the living,

despite what is buried here and the sand
with its urge toward erasure.

Everything is germinating,
and the horizon flares

with fires, distant and close, smoke
the color of sunglasses. I see

but my vision is skewed. Listen. I don’t want
to sound such yearning but the wind howls too

and means nothing by it. The hills are on fire
and the desert is on fire and the air is thick

with other people’s fires. And my own burning
is so small as to go unnoticed.

I am calling but the wind is busy
taking everything away.

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Boston Underwater by 2100

by Tana Jean Welch

The first time
we rode our bikes
            through the Boston Harbor Hotel’s arch,
                           a big band on the floating stage played
                                      a romantic swing burdened by trombones


and even though everything went to the rent,
the grandiosity of the hotel, the rotunda, the yachts in their slips


was our grandiosity—

                                      we were easily drinking
              champagne while discussing
              Dean Martin’s Ten Thousand Bedrooms


because our belief
                                        in love was earnest and all


we needed—


but now the stage is sinking
with the rest
of our created history:


wistful walks past Alexander Hamilton on Comm Ave,
            lavender lemonades in Copley Square,
                             the Union Oyster House, our initials carved in stall 19.



            Once the rain,
its tiny pressure on your scalp, like ants
                             passing the door of a tobacconist.


Now the superstorm, the surging tides.


Now you and I,
            the satiated bedroom guests we never were,
            (alongside the rest of the humans) wanting
                             more and more from the collapsing ground—



Now Faneuil Hall and every corner
where we met and kissed, where a thousand others met,
             conspired, or exchanged—


             each body believing
                             their plot point the most paramount,
                                        each forgetting history and story emerged


             from the same word:


                                                        Now and always forgetting
                              we build our cities to house myths,
                              our histories to house cities—



             Soon the sea
will claim this reclaimed land,
             sending these few fragments forever


to the drink. Leaving the cities, leaving
             our love


                                                        to become something else.


The World

by Steven Cramer

Balancing on his haunches, snapping at a stuffed frog I dangle above his jaws,
my Maltese’s front paws look puny as a kangaroo’s.   He can hold the position
for an astonishing 8 to 10 seconds.   If I were an honest parent, I’d explain to
him the futility of changing one’s nature—like trying to mate different species
of butterflies.   There he goes again, the little boxer . . . and here I go again,
remembering the June my rage overheated until it pounded music out of the
stereo with a mallet. Everyone I loved stopped their horseplay.   I saw two
futures—one a moonlit shoreline; one a diagnosis. There was a third future I
didn’t see.   Although I haven’t yet used the word “world,” when I do, I won’t
mean what that woman meant, index to her temple as she asked: how do you
bring the world into your thinking about art?
   That whole summer my black
razor-point pens, when laid side by side, looked like bodies in body bags.



by Lee Potts


Photos make us fools.

Not as light as a brittle brown leaf,
or a train ticket home,
but almost as likely
to lift up out of reckless fingers
into the wind, down the street.

We’ll lunge, chase, and occasionally catch up.


My sled’s steel runners,
father’s coat collar,
the fender of his car,
     in this old photo’s narrow range of Polaroid greys
        nailing down forever where light once was
        and was not,

all increasingly and always
farther away.


this is the last time

by Dujie Tahat

you’ll read this for the first time
& think this immigrant doesn’t flock
             like the rest of his sound,
                                                     but then again,
                                                     he’s cranking away
             at the Victrola & you’re about
to place your finger on the tip
             of your tongue
                                      shaped in the name of the song
                          which was only supposed to be
background music for this epithalamion,
             this dirge,
             this glow, this urge,
             this object permanence,
                          obscured by its chiaroscuro
             carrying on,
                                my wayward daughter
             one day will read this & it will mean something
                                                                   all over again.
                                                     I know
                              it’s a cheap trick—
             all this jostling & gesturing
into the wildness
             to see the line of a horizon
                                                        break yet again,
                                      but what can I say
that hasn’t been said or stolen
             into the night by an open car
humming on a highway already, sucking mouth
out of a sleeping child’s air
             like it wasn’t ever
                                           supposed to be there.



by Ruth Bavetta


I ride a perfect pain until
it becomes a painting on a wall,
a faraway rasp, sullen, sunk
in a soundless lake,
until my dreams
become an intricate embroidery
of colored stones
sewn into my pocket.


This poem has a highway in it

by Jennifer Stewart Miller


and it speeds upstate toward—
is it home if you’ve never lived there?
This poem merges, changes lanes, and exits—left, past the outlet mall,
then right. Mobile homes edge the road—and staggering barns.
Corn stubble pokes up through snow. A school bus brakes,

and a stop sign pops out. Two boys shuffle off, cross in front
of the poem and disappear. There’s barbed wire
strung here. And a story. Stories, really. Three children
wrenched from their mother—dead, they’re told, though
alive in an asylum they never find. The one sister, 17,

she drowns in a summer pond. There are purple hills, tall pines,
and silos in here, and field after field after field, forget about
dreams. Also a Dunkin’ Donuts, grids of solar panels,
a Ford dealership. We’re upstate, so a prison looms in this poem,
and rows of prison guards’ pickups. Steam escaping

a prison chimney, a river running under a bridge. My mother’s
in here, my stepfather, too—how he hugs women and girls
too close. As if asking: are you my mother? A shuttered restaurant
flies past, a motel without a single car in the lot. The old armory
rises up, a red light against dusk, a left turn. The tumor

on my stepfather’s neck and jaw fattens day after day—the consequence
of little mistakes. Six white horses commune around a mound of hay.
Fields offer up lone machinery: tractor, hay baler, mower, plow.
A dark blue silo. A burned-out house. Haloed by naked trees,
a neighbor’s trailer blazes with light. There are humans

I love in this poem, a rearview mirror—the long, rutted driveway
glazed with ice and age. The house in this poem, a step up
from ramshackle, wasn’t built all at once, but room by room.
Hundreds of acres, forests and fields. Two old bay horses, three ewes,
a hen and rooster, a border collie, a silver tabby. The humans in here

were children once. Things happened to them. They made
choices. This poem, too, makes choices. It gets things wrong.
And some things can never be put right. But there’s
mercy in here, tenderness. We cross in front of the poem,
we disappear. The poem goes on.


Rebecca Aronson’s books are Ghost Child of the Atalanta Bloom and Creature, Creature. She was a recipient of a Prairie Schooner Strousse Award, the Loft’s Speakeasy Poetry Prize, and a 2018 Tennessee Williams Scholarship to Sewanee. She has poems recently in South Florida Poetry Journal, Tishman Review, and others. She is co-founder and co-host of Bad Mouth, a series of words and music.

Colin Bailes lives in Richmond, VA, where he studies in the MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Hollins Critic, Rust + Moth, Whiskey Island, among others. He reads for Blackbird.

Ruth Bavetta’s poems have been published in Rattle, Nimrod, North American Review, Slant, Tar River Poetry, Spillway, and many others. She has published four books, and has work included in several anthologies. She writes at a messy desk with a view over the Pacific.

David Beebe was born in Grand Rapids, MI. His poetry has appeared in This Land Press, New Plains Review, 3288 Review, Tulsa Voice, and Art Focus Oklahoma. He currently works and writes in Tulsa, OK.

Claudia Buckholts received creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Massachusetts Artists Foundation, Hopwood Awards, and the Grolier Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in
Atlanta Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Harvard Magazine, Indiana Review, Minnesota Review, New American Writing, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, and other journals; and in two books, Bitterwater and Traveling Through the Body.


Nicole Callihan’s books include SuperLoop (Sockmonkey Press 2014), and the chapbooks: A Study in Spring (2015), The Deeply Flawed Human (2016), Downtown (2017), and Aging (2018). Her poems have appeared
or are forthcoming in Tin House, Sixth Finch, Painted Bride Quarterly, The American Poetry Review, and as a Poem-a-Day selection from the Academy of American Poets. Her latest project, Translucence, a dual-language, cross-culture collaboration with Palestinian poet Samar Abdel Jaber, was released by Indolent Books in 2018.


Robert Carr is the author of Amaranth, a chapbook published in 2016 by Indolent Books, and is a 2017 Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the Bellevue Literary Review, Radius Literary Magazine, Crab Orchard, Rattle, The Sonora Review, and others. He lives with his husband Stephen in Malden, MA, and serves as an associate poetry editor for Indolent Books and as deputy director for the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences in Massachusetts. Poetry, book reviews, and upcoming
events can be found at

Mary Leauna Christensen has lived in Southwest deserts, in kudzoinfested Appalachia, and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest. She received her MFA in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, and is an
assistant poetry editor for The Swamp and is the managing editor of Poetry Wolf Press. Her work can be found in Permafrost, Driftwood Press, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, among others.


Flower Conroy is the author of the chapbooks Facts About Snakes & Hearts; The Awful Suicidal Swans; and Escape to Nowhere. Her poetry has appeared/is forthcoming in American Literary Review, Prairie Schooner, Gargoyle, and others. She is the current poet laureate of Key West.

C.K. Coombs was raised in North Carolina. He spent two years as a missionary in Brazil, and then moved, only recently, to the high deserts of southern Utah. He is currently studying at Southern Utah University. He and his wife live in Cedar City and are expecting their first child in April.

Dorsey Craft holds degrees from Clemson University and McNeese State University. Her work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review; Fifth Wednesday; Forklift, Ohio; Mid-American Review; Ninth Letter; Notre Dame Review; and elsewhere. She is currently a PhD student in poetry at Florida State and the assistant poetry editor at Southeast Review.

Steven Cramer is the author of five poetry collections, including Goodbye to the Orchard (Sarabande, 2004)—named an Honor Book in Poetry by the Massachusetts Center for the Book—and Clangings (Sarabande, 2012). His work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Field, The Kenyon Review, The New England Review, The Paris Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. Recipient of an NEA fellowship and two grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, he founded and teaches in the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at Lesley University.

Robert Fillman is a senior teaching fellow at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, where he has edited the creative writing journal Amaranth and directed the Drown Writers Series. Recently, his poems have appeared in Cider Press Review, The Hollins Critic, Poet Lore, Rust + Moth, Salamander, Tar River Poetry, and other journals. Fillman’s poem “Dumping Leaves” was declared a winner in Third Wednesday’s 2017 annual poetry contest. In 2016, he won first prize in poetry at the Pennsylvania Writers Conference. Currently, he lives in eastern Pennsylvania with his wife, Melissa, and their two children, Emma and Robbie.

Jane Ann Fuller’s poems have appeared in Shenandoah, Aethlon, Grist, Fifth Wednesday, Atticus Review, Pikeville Review, Waccamaw, JMWW, Denver Quarterly, and others. She teaches at a small college in southeastern Ohio, and lives in the Hocking Hills. She is learning to play the fiddle.

Gail Goepfert has three passions—poetry, photography, and teaching— it’s hard to nail down a favorite. Currently, she is an associate editor of RHINO Poetry. Her books include A Mind on Pain and Tapping Roots. Get Up Said the World is forthcoming in 2019 by Červená Barva Press. Recently published in: Kudzu House, Stone Boat Review, Gravel, The Penn Review, and Beloit Poetry Journal.

Susan Grimm’s poems have been published in Poetry East, The Cincinnati Review, The Journal, and Blackbird. Her chapbook Almost Home was published in 1997. In 2004, BkMk Press published Lake Erie Blue, a full-length collection. In 2010, she won the inaugural Copper Nickel Poetry Prize. In 2011, she won the Hayden Carruth Poetry Prize and her chapbook Roughed Up by the Sun’s Mothering Tongue was published. She started blogging at The White Space Inside the Poem in 2012. In 2014, she received her second Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Grant.

Mary Hanrahan is a poet and artist living with PTSD. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Ashland University. Mary’s work appears in Modern Haiku, Frogpond Journal, Abstract Magazine, Bottle Rockets Press, Hedgerow, and in many other places. She likes to read obscure poetry while feeding the mangy raccoon living on her deck. Everything is a metaphor or so she likes to think.

Lisa Higgs’ third chapbook was published by Red Bird Chapbooks in 2018. Her poem “Wild Honey Has the Scent of Freedom” was awarded 2nd prize in the 2017 Basil Bunting International Poetry Prize from the Newcastle Center for the Literary Arts in the UK. She is poetry editor for Quiddity.

Natalie Homer has an MFA from West Virginia University. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in The Journal, Blue Earth Review, The Pinch, The Lascaux Review, Ruminate, Salamander, the minnesota review, and others. Her chapbook, Attic of the Skull, is available from dancing girl press.

Natalie E. Illum is a poet, disability activist, and singer living in Washington, DC. She is a 2017 Jenny McKean Moore Poetry Fellow, and a recipient of an 2017 Artists Grant from the DC Arts Commission as well as a nonfiction editor for The Deaf Poets Society Literary Journal. She was a founded board member of mothertongue, a women’s open mic that lasted 15 years. She used to compete on the National Poetry Slam circuit and was the 2013 Beltway Grand Slam Champion. Her work has appeared in various publications, and on
NPR’s “Snap Judgment.” Natalie has an MFA in creative writing from American University, and teaches workshops across the country. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter as @poetryrox.


Alyssa Jewell recently graduated from Western Michigan University where she is an assistant editor for New Issues Poetry and Prose. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2016, Colorado Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Lake Effect, Quarterly West, among other publications. She lives and teaches in Grand Rapids, MI.

Joseph Landi is a Philadelphia-based medical writer. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, North American Review, Tampa Review, Wisconsin Review, South Carolina Review, and Southern Poetry Review.

Kathryne Lim was born in Seoul, Korea and is from the American Southwest. She received an MFA in poetry from the University of New Mexico, and holds a master’s in clinical social work. She lives in Santa Fe, NM and is an instructor at Northern New Mexico College.

Michael Lynch lives Boston, where he is an MFA candidate at Lesley University. His poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Switchback, In Posse Review, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, and elsewhere. His chapbook Underlife and Portico (Aforementioned Productions, 2013) won the New England Poetry Club Jean Pedrick Award.

Michael Mark is a hospice volunteer and long-distance walker. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Bellevue Literary Review, Cimarron Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, Potomac Review, Rattle, River Styx, Spillway, Sugar
House Review, The Sun, Verse Daily,
and The Poetry Foundation’s American Life in Poetry. His poetry has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and the Best of the Net.


Peter H. Michaels’ poetry has been published by Barren Magazine. He wrote a poetry book review of Erin Hoover’s Barnburner that was published on PANK magazine’s blog. He was also the 2018 winner of the Burt Dall Fixed Form Poetry Contest at Anne Arundel Community College where he studied creative writing.

Jennifer Stewart Miller holds an MFA from Bennington College and a JD from Columbia University. Her poetry has appeared in Green Mountains Review, Harpur Palate, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poet Lore, Raleigh
and other journals. She’s a Pushcart nominee, and when she’s not off biking somewhere fun, lives in New York with her family and congenitally-deaf Dalmatian, Daisy.


Thomas R. Moore has published three books of poems: The Bolt-Cutters (2010), Chet Sawing (2012), and Saving Nails (2016). His work is represented in more than thirty literary journals and has been broadcast on Writer’s Almanac and American Life in Poetry. His poem “How We Built Our House” won a Pushcart Prize and publication in 2018 Best of the Small Presses Anthology. He currently serve as poet laureate for Belfast, ME.

Published in Poetry, Poetry Daily, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, Arts & Letters, Massachusetts Review, and numerous other literary journals, Mary Morris received the Rita Dove Award and has been invited to read at the Library of Congress. Her first book, Enter Water, Swimmer was recently published by Texas A&M University Consortium. Morris writes book reviews, teaches poetry, and lives in Santa Fe, NM.

John A. Nieves has poems forthcoming or recently published in journals such as: Beloit Poetry Journal, Sycamore Review, American Literary Review, Minnesota Review, Puerto del Sol, and Mid-American Review. His first book, Curio, won the Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award Judge’s Prize and came out in 2014. He is an assistant professor of English at Salisbury University. He received his MA from USF and a PhD from the University of Missouri.

Annmarie O’Connell’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Sixth Finch, Juked, Room Magazine, Verse Daily, Slipstream, SOFTBLOW, Vinyl Poetry, Thrush, Escape Into Life, 2River View, and many other wonderful journals. Her first full-length collection of poems, Your Immaculate Heart, was released with Trio House Press in 2016. Her third chapbook was released last year with Yellow Flag Press.

Lee Potts is a poet living in Philadelphia. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Painted Bride Quarterly, Gargoyle, Door is a Jar, Burningword Literary Journal, Saint Katherine Review, 8 Poems, and Amethyst Review. You can find more of his work at

Emily Ransdell is a two-time Pushcart nominee and has published poems in Poetry Northwest, Tar River Poetry, Poet Lore, The Cortland Review, and elsewhere She has been a finalist for the Rattle Prize and Ruminate Magazine’s Janet B. McCabe Poetry Award. She lives in Camas, WA.

Shannon Sankey’s poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming at the Academy of American Poets, Glass: A Journal of Poetry’s Poets Resist Series, Storyscape, SWWIM, Visible Poetry Project, Rogue Agent, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a 2017 Academy of American Poets University & College Prize. She holds an MFA from Chatham University, where she was the Whitford Fellow. She is the founder of Stranded Oak Press.

Derek Sheffield’s book of poems is Through the Second Skin (Orchises). He has new work forthcoming in AGNI, The Southern Review, and The Georgia Review. He lives with his family on the east slopes of the Cascades in Washington and is the poetry editor of

Brian Simoneau is the author of River Bound (C&R Press, 2014), which was chosen by Arthur Smith for the 2013 De Novo Prize. His poems have appeared in Cincinnati Review, The Georgia Review, Mid-American Review, RHINO, Southern Indiana Review, Third Coast, and other journals. He lives in Connecticut with his family.

Cody Smith is the 2018 Mississippi Review Prize winner in poetry. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Mississippi Review, The Raleigh Review, McNeese Review, among others. He is a creative writing PhD student at Florida State University. He is the founding editor of The Swamp and the author of the chapbook Delta Summers (Yellow Flag Press).

Christine Spillson received an MFA in nonfiction from George Mason University. Her work has appeared in publications such as Boulevard, Diagram, and The Rumpus. She teaches at Salisbury University.

Dujie Tahat’s is a Filipino-Jordanian immigrant living in Washington state. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Southeast Review, Narrative, Nashville Review, Shenandoah, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, The American Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere. Dujie has earned fellowships from the Richard Hugo House and Jack Straw Writing Program. He serves as a poetry editor for Moss and Homology Lit and cohosts The Poet Salon podcast. He got his start as a Seattle Poetry Slam Finalist, a collegiate grand slam champion, and Seattle Youth Speaks Grand Slam Champion, representing Seattle at HBO’s Brave New Voices.

R. Matt Taylor is a writer and part-time mechanic living on the outskirts of Los Angeles. His poems have appeared in RipRap and Main Street Rag, and in 2014 his first published short story was awarded a yearly Top Five prize by the editors of Narrative Magazine. From 2014 to 2016, he was a fellow in fiction writing at Chapman University under the tutelage of Richard Bausch. At present, he is completing an MFA in poetry at Warren Wilson College.


Anna Tillett holds a BFA in Illustration from Memphis College of Art. You can currently find her illustrating her next goofy idea and eating all the pizza in the Beehive State of Utah.

Lillo Way’s chapbook, Dubious Moon, the winner of the Hudson Valley Writers Center’s Slapering Hol Chapbook Contest 2017, was published in March, 2018. She is twice a 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her poems have appeared in New Orleans Review, Poet Lore, Tampa Review, The Briar Cliff Review, Tar River Poetry, Madison Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Poetry East, among others. Nine of Way’s poems are included in anthologies. Way has received grants from the NEA, NY State Council on the Arts, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation for her choreographic work involving poetry.

Tana Jean Welch is the author of Latest Volcano, winner of the 2015 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in The New York Times, The Southern Review, The Colorado Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and other national literary journals. Born and raised in Fresno, CA, she currently
lives in Tallahassee where she is assistant professor of Medical Humanities at the Florida State University College of Medicine.


Angelique Zobitz loves big hair, trap music, cowboy boots, community activism, and most especially, her husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs. Recent and forthcoming publications include, Glass: A Journal of Poetry—Poets Resist Series, So to Speak, SWWIM, Junto Magazine, Geeky Press’ Hoosier Lit anthology, Poets Reading the News, and others.

Holli Zollinger is a self-taught artist who has made a career of her talents: drawing, painting, and surface design. She is continually inspired by her surroundings living in the desert town of Moab, UT. She is highly motivated by
the art of creativity and incorporates the color, texture, and pattern she sees in the world around her. Holli’s work has been published and featured worldwide.

Contributors #18
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