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Poetry Summer 2020    fiction    all issues

Poetry Summer 2020 cover


Cover Vecteezy

Rodrigo Dela Peña
If a Wound is an Entrance for Light
& other poems

Shellie Harwood
Early Evening, Late September
& other poems

William A. Greenfield
The Deacon’s Lament
& other poems

J. H. Hall
& other poems

Kimberly Sailor
Two Aphids
& other poems

Sugar le Fae
& other poems

Lauren Sartor
Shopping Cart Woman
& other poems

Nathaniel Cairney
Mushroom Hunting, Jackson County, Kansas
& other poems

Elisa Carlsen
& other poems

Daniel Gorman
The Boy Achilles
& other poems

Samara Hill
I Look for Her Mostly Everywhere
& other poems

Nicole Justine Reid
Returning to Sensual
& other poems

David Ginsberg
Butterfly Wings
& other poems

Katherine B. Arthaud
Café Sant Ambroeus
& other poems

George R. Kramer
Young Odysseus
& other poems

Amy Swain
In Praise of Trees
& other poems

Frederick Shiels
Bad October: 2016
& other poems

Matthew A. Hamilton
Summer of '89
& other poems

Chris Kleinfelter
Getting from There to Here
& other poems

Martin Conte
Ghazal for the Shipwrecked
& other poems

Natalie LaFrance-Slack
I Do Not Owe You My Beauty
& other poems

Susan Marie Powers
Dark Water
& other poems

Writer's Site

Natalie LaFrance-Slack

Carry the Weight

he comes home from

school with his heavy

tie-dye backpack

draped across skinny shoulders

walking with that slow

sixth grade swagger

carrying that slow stocky

sixth grade baby weight

with the weight of a world

on his shoulders as if

the world was a dumpster

behind a dirty McDonalds with

a thousand leftover Big Macs


a thousand extra large fries with

a thousand barrels

of fry grease poured

on top and lit on


like the world was the last herd of


being poached by a herd of


like the world was an Amazon forest set


he holds that weight like he’s


babies shot in kindergartens by

military grade weaponry bodies

torn to shreds

by bullets made for buildings

made for death

like he’s used his sixth grade body to hold

closed a classroom door

to pile on top of a killer

to hope he’s heavy enough to

hold him down

the way it holds him down

he holds it

like he carries

the state of Florida

Pulse. pulse. pulsing.

Sandy Hook

all of Colorado

fields of Columbine

Texas and

a couple hundred years of

brown people being told they aren’t


on their own lands

in the land of the free

like that rainbow tie-dye backpack is


and marriage equality

and the Supreme Court

and stilettos and

forbidden fake eyelash strips

peeled off a boy’s eyes before

he climbed back in the window

climbed into his bed in Brooklyn

in seventy-two

in Nashville

in two thousand two

in Rapid City

in twenty-twenty

like it weighs as much as

a woman’s right to choose

like he’s carrying Christine Blasey Ford’s

heavy holy testimony

like he’s carrying Brett Kavanaugh’s

heaping pile of shit

like that shit is on fire

like we ate too many animals

and now the whole planet

has the meat sweats

like we used to have dinner

prepared for us nightly by a

five star Michelin chef

and now we get a mayonnaise sandwich

like the adults have left the room

and blamed the millennials

barricaded the doors

run out of the school

loaded up on gasoline

sped in their cars

home to their weapons stockpile

where from the safety of their laptop

screens they’ll protest red flag laws

while waving white flags

and surrendering his future

he climbs into my

gas guzzling

soccer mom

full-sized van

and all four  res pop under

the Weight

and we are forced to walk

silently home

sloping shoulders

backpack swinging

and a quivering upper lip

me perched on his shoulders

overweight and

old as fuck

and him

knees crumbling

and palms bleeding

from the shrapnel

and his resolve

and the weight of

one thousand unmet promises

in a one thousand year war

where he’ll carry the bodies

where he’ll carry the Weight


my original son was born

Original sin stained and


at a hospital called


and middle-named


finger and heel

pricked with needles

smacked along the back

and told to cry

for the next ten years

he’d be told

over and over

to stifle the tears

harness the rage

take control of emotions


with grace

I relearned my own


was offered names for


was rebirthed into

a way of becoming


and proud

a weeping grace

ten years of

telling my brother

his love was unequal

to the contemptuous


codependent love

I clung to

while he sought safety

in the arms of boys who promised

a grace in the midnight

weeping for family

hoping for change

man up

we thought

but we were wrong

strength is in the breaking

tears rolling

hands shaking

lips open enough to

draw a breath from

another’s lungs

this love smacked me

along the back

and taught me to cry

I Do Not Owe You My Beauty

I do not owe you my beauty or

the youthful glow I collected

some summer on the shores of

Lake Superior

throwing fish hooks into open mouths

of well fed fish

throwing glances at boys on docks

and shorelines

shorts and sandals

grit in my mouth as I chewed my tongue to

a pulp asking for my

towel back

spit not swallow

swimsuit top

giggling boys snapping beach towels on

sandy asses

give me my name back

I do not owe you my beauty or

the coal dark sultry stare of well lined eyes

the club in Minneapolis

dance floor in Dakota

crotch rubbed against my shoulder

for eleven miles as he stood above me

on a Mexican street bus

the violent undressing of my

clothed body by his naked stare

hands wrapped around my neck

masturbating minds like exploring


I do not owe you my beauty

come sit on your knee and tell you about

me come sit on your lap and give you a kiss

come sit on your cock and tell you I want


call you daddy or master or a

long-drawn-out apology


my worth the width of the handprint

you left on my ass

pulling panties lined with pearls from my

palms as penance

remind me the rent is due

rename generosity

I do not owe you my beauty

the summons of Greek mythology the

rewriting of Wonder Woman the

sexualization of My Little Pony the all male

Ninja Turtles the scented washable markers

we used to line our lips as toddlers the

tragedy of Sylvia Plath the scent of a

woman the mother’s bargain the oldest

profession the dirtiest hotel room the

knowledge of escape routes the salad in

your teeth

I do not owe you my beauty

not my long silky hair

not my shaved legs or armpits

or lip

not the curve of my shoulder

my hip

the rise of my navel

forever forcing fuckably flatter the way

desire is spelled out



so I


everything undone and alone and not

worth it

I do not owe you my beauty

so when you ask for my tears

I let them fall bleating bleeding lemon from

puffy eyes

I ring the redness around them with black

as you like it

use a fifth grade highlighter to circle

every blemish

I resolve to lose my hair alongside my

father but do not wait for his to go pull

fistfulls from a bloody scalp

decorate with table salt in every wound

put an infants’ hairbow on every scab and

stare you down

every woman I know has

claw marks on the insides of her eyelids

let me tell you about beauty

when every eye closing is a slasher film

every eye opening is a slasher film

every cartoon is a slasher film

every pornography is a slasher film

harder faster better longer

every sleep is watching youth pass

every scream turned up loud enough

becomes indistinguishable from silence

it is possible I think that the trees are


top of their lungs

as they display beauty every autumn

every fall is a slasher film

every scream is caught so far back in the

throat you wrapped your hands around and

called sexy that we’ve put our hands up

unable to breathe

put on the jumpsuit

taken no bail

accepted the paradoxical prison

put on the shame

the escapism of ugly

before I will owe you my beauty


I do not owe you the least of me

the best of me

the bloody knees or baited breath

the heightened rent of being a woman

the terms of repayment

the mess of your stain

swallow don’t spit

the endless apologies



I do not owe you a goddamn thing

My Brother’s Engagement

my brother’s engagement is my first tattoo

18 years old

driving home from college

early morning hours

crashing on my parents’ sloping

living room couch

awaiting mom’s chemo results

dad sees the tramp stamp

symbol in the space between my

shirt and the waistband of my

flannel pajama pants

I hope that’s temporary

he says

and intakes his morning potassium

glass of orange juice

conservative news

my brother’s engagement is my sister’s

sexual assault

16 years old

walking to her car in an alley

early morning hours

disappearing into my parents’ blind eye

her quiet bedroom floor

awaiting a holy period

because what were you wearing

why were you walking downtown

shirt untucked and coat undone

icy winter down unzipped pants

no one needs to know

they think

while she dissolves into

a glass of addiction

conservative stares

my brother’s engagement is a son’s criminal


27 years old

driving record

read in court

all hours of the day

always taking cover in

my parents’ quiet kitchen

awaiting a custody battle

youngest brother buys my

parents a convertible in pleading bribery

to cover the bruises blossoming beneath

his girlfriends’ skintight dress

now he’ll get help

they say

how can they they bear witness to

glass breaking midnights

conservative apologies

my brother’s engagement is a hard pill to


64 years old

six years of relationship stability

fortyninethousandfourhundred hours

building handmade blocks of safety

a permanent home

awaiting their approval

when they visit and vacation in his comfort

call him for affirmation and expect gifts

weekly phone calls and letters

a comfortable sweater

we’re just blindsided

they say

it’s so hard to forgive this act of rebellion

stained glass commitment

conservative shame

my brother’s engagement is a sky-splitting


at 30 years old

the first healthy model of love I’ve seen

in countless hours of investigation

his is the story we’ve ached

to tell on the long drive home

awaiting the joyous way words

flow like waterfalls down the canyon

cut tributaries through what we’ve known

sprout flowers in rocky patches

light like a smile

we’ll forgive you

they say

sit stoically at the ceremony

drink monogrammed wine glasses

conservative celebration


we wrote our own vows

but I do not remember them

childish words from

children’s lips

while children grew



childish bellies

we pledged life or love or


like we knew what forever was

the morning of the wedding

I sliced the bottom of my

fourth toe on

a piece of broken mirror

some sort of

soul or sole


just south of the finger

on which I’d wear his ring

take his name

bear his children

betray him

leave him


do you think there should be

starter marriages

I ask him


three year mini commitments

so you know you know

before you vow you know

and he agrees


lined brow wrinkling

over blue brown eyes

that have betrayed me

left me

and returned

we wrote our own vows

but I do not remember them

I write this life

half spent in his arms

half spent running

half spent returning


Natalie LaFrance-Slack I am a mother. I am a storyteller. I have my father’s smile. I carry my mother’s laugh and loss around my eyes. I am sister to many; a long-time lover. I am lucky to have and to hold (open palmed, always willing to see where the wind blows and what is meant to go) the tender hope of a redemption story.

Dotted Line