Julianna McCarthy

When the Headlight Trail Crossing the Ceiling Wakes

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We check the clock & if it’s after the bars have closed
we sit up & listen for heavier wheels, for flashing
lights doubling down in the mirror red yellow
anywhere near next door or up a little & we shuffle
into shoes or boots, robes or coats over pajamas
or gowns & go out in the moonlight or deep dark with
the others huddled together throwing our shadows
like huge stalagmites against the trees. We say we tried
to call the house, we say we’re afraid it’s the mother,
the guest, the baby.

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Clint Margrave

My Therapist Says I Should Date Myself

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So I ask myself out on a Friday night.
“Just as friends,” I say.

We meet at a bar
by my place.

Everything goes smoothly,
we hit it off,
laugh hysterically,
until others begin to notice
and I realize
we’re too drunk.

“I’ve got an idea,” I say.
“Let’s take a walk.”

Down by the beach,
there’s a full moon. Couples pass
on bicycles.

“So what happened in your
last relationship?” I ask,
staring into the darkness
beyond the shore.

“I’d rather not talk about it.”

“Probably still raw,” I say.
“Though not like I’m person X.”

Later, back at the house,
I offer myself a cigarette.

“No thanks, I’m trying to quit.”
“Just one?”
“Oh, all right.”

We climb into bed
and in the morning,
wake up hungover,
full of remorse.

“When will I see you again?”
I ask, before downing
a glass of water.

“I hate commitments.”

“That’s okay,” I tell myself,
then unlock the front door.
“I’m not looking for
anything serious.”

Timothy Liu

Army of Me

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So what if he left a handprint
across my face, his grunt
fatigues sagging low emptied

of their belt. I used to sniff
his shoes, burrowed my nose
into worn leather uppers

with their tongues lolling out.
Ever felt the smallness
of your own two feet as you

tumbled through patches
of split-pea shag, rope burns
left on arms when no one else

was looking, genitals confused
with Gentiles—my father
like a blow-up Jesus all out

of prayers—legs up in the air?

Sue Lick

Catholic at the Holy Roller Church

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Oh God, I’m overdressed,
me in my slacks and sweater set,
matching necklace, earrings, watch,
flagrantly Catholic and out of place,
head full of incense and et cum spiritu tuo,
rosary beads still in my purse,
but my neighbor died and here I am.

Black chairs on concrete floor,
wooden stage up front, no Jesus,
just the giant word “Redeemed”
and my chiropractor tuning a red guitar.
Video screens project my neighbor’s face
as a teenager with long black hair,
not the gap-toothed blonde I knew.
The place is packed with families.
I sit in the back on the end, alone.

Yes, a Catholic who didn’t procreate
and didn’t bring a husband either. I know
they’re going to try to save my soul.
They can see the aching in my heart.
But first we sing “Amazing Grace”
with a rocking beat, words on the screen.
Folks raise their hands in ecstasy
as I clasp my fingers in a tight little knot,
mumbling words, looking around.

Amen, says my chiropractor.
Amen, we parrot back, and the pastor,
35 at most with rolled-cuff jeans
and a scraggly beard I long to trim,
preaches the good news, yells it in joy,
Gospel quotes projected on the screen.
He praises God for taking my friend away
to be with Him in heaven, hallelujah.
We all shout hallelujah back.

Her daughters celebrate her life.
They never say she died, they say
she transitioned, went to be with the Lord
and she prays for us all to be there, too.
Now the pastor wants to know who’s ready
to give their lives to Jesus Christ.
People raise their hands. I do! I do!
even the fat guy standing next to me.
I wonder: Does being Catholic count?
I squeeze my hands so tight they hurt.

Sydney Lea

Gravitas

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I complain to my neighbor I’ve got no time for another do-good committee,
but he insists. He insists by saying I’ll bring it “some gravitas.”
I smother the phone with my palm and snicker, recalling the tormented teachers
of My Boyhood, that doomed old republic. How would wine-sick Mr. Haas
react to such talk? For him, I invented an author, whose “little known works”
I wrote a theme on, and he gave me an A. Or Miss Dilson, thin-haired and wattled
English instructor– I let a grass snake wriggle out of my backpack
onto her floor– what might she think? Or above all poor Mr. Merrill,

first Latin instructor, on whom I pulled that slew of idiot tricks.
I guess he must have taught me gravitas. The word, I mean.
Would he connect its meaning to the punk who glued his desk’s drawers shut,
who festooned the bumper of his trail-worn Plymouth sedan with a string of cans,
and aped him exactly, if I say so myself, for my cynical sect of classmates?
Biggest cynic myself, I relied on his rage as diversion, impatient
as I was with all his lessons. I wince even now to think of that room:
the mustard-colored globe on a shelf, its intriguing African nations,

whose names, though I didn’t know it, would change; dust puffing from the trough of the blackboard;
the soporific swish of the janitor’s broom along the hallway;
syncopations from the blighted elm whose limb-tips always strummed
a pane when weather blew up from the east; the disheartening bouquet
from the basement kitchen, where invisible workers thumped around as they fixed
another bad lunch. I still see Mr. Merrill’s eyes as he glowered.
The eyes held something other than simple fury, or so I thought–
not that I cared. He was just an old man, if younger no doubt by years

than I am now. Like my father, he’d been in the European Theater,
so that as I write this I understand he knew things I’d never considered
and wouldn’t need to in later life. He may even have hoped I wouldn’t.
Whatever the case, he must have seen that I wouldn’t stay forever
what I seemed to be as I fidgeted there, sullen, restless, ruthless,
desperate to break away from that stuffy third-floor box, that cage,
its never-ending, meaningless sum, esse, fui, futurus.
One day I’d understand the look he fixed on me. It was grave.

Daniel Lawless

Between Heaven and Hell

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Granted, jet lag and three glasses of Sancerre for breakfast, but still.
Between Heaven and Hell lies Paris? And that tone—
Auchincloss-ian, or de Beauvoir channeling Thurston Howell III.
Though something about the Limoges gravy boats
Scuttled in an armoire in ratty little Le Jemmapes
Seemed to agree to it, and it stuck with me as we wobbled our way
Past bad rappers and Roma beggars on the sidewalk
With one leg tied back under their filthy skirts outside Chanel
To the Louvre, where un vioc with the faint lisp of the Languedoc
Roared Terrorriste! at a woman in hajib
Staring in wonder at David’s The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons.
Even the sky was yellow-gray in a windy downpour
Before it turned sunny in the Luxemburg Gardens
And kids’ upturned smiling faces appeared like cancelled stamps
In the shadows of twigs along the path.
Not to mention the cemeteries you insisted on spendy-taxiing to
Because each was “uniquely beautiful and monstrous”
(Which you also said of the cottages in Newport, by the way).
Monmartre, Montparanesse, Pere Lachaise
An hour before closing empty and about as inspiring as an Anglican church
On Tuesday. A slow march op one sodden allée and down the next
Until we found ourselves first like old giants – two fat gray-bearded Americans –
Lamenting the slim thighs of that bastard Géricault,
Then miniaturized, rolling rave-kids reflected fluorescent
As glow sticks in the algaed water collected in the serifs of pocked letters on the plinth
Petrichor, but beneath it something acrid caught in the backs of our throats.
Needles, kind tins of cat food, an empty wallet emblazoned
With pierced hearts. Until by God even the Devil himself — a Sonderkommando
In his black boots and striped jacket, humming “Notre Espoir” a la Chevalier.
Heaps of the day’s daffodils passing us on his grounds man’s cart,
Whispering on the way to the fire.

Anatoly Kudryavitsky

The Way of the Wings

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A caterpillar speaks in sunsets
and rain clouds.
It wishes it had wings
to wave away the sand of its dunes.

A chrysalis perceives a sunbeam
as a red alarm striking inside the cell.
Its night is filled with tiredness
like a silicone jar.

A butterfly enjoys moist-winged
wind kisses.
It prefers the foam of love
to the fleeting eyes of anger.

A butterfly hates the moment of landing
into an assessed value of what it is
and what it has done
with its life.