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Poetry Summer 2015    fiction    all issues


Cover Hannah Lansburgh

Jennifer Leigh Stevenson
For Your Own Good
& other poems

Marianne S. Johnson
& other poems

Kate Magill
Nest Study #1
& other poems

Karen Kraco
& other poems

Matt Daly
Beneath Your Bark
& other poems

Paulette Guerin
& other poems

Hank Hudepohl
Crossed Words
& other poems

Alma Eppchez
At the Back of the Road Atlas
& other poems

Jim Burrows
At the Megachurch
& other poems

Rachel Stolzman Gullo
& other poems

Yana Lyandres
New York Transplant
& other poems

Heather Katzoff
& other poems

Tom Yori
& other poems

Barth Landor
What Is Left
& other poems

Abigail F. Taylor
Never So Still
& other poems

George Longenecker
Polar Bears Drowning
& other poems

Ben Cromwell
Sometimes a Flock of Birds
& other poems

Robert Mammano
the way the ground shakes
& other poems

Janet Smith
Rocket Ship
& other poems

Gina Loring
& other poems

J. Lee Strickland
Minoan Elegy
& other poems

Toni Hanner
Catching the Baby
& other poems

Janet Smith

Rocket Ship

Emery Park had a pretend rocket ship.

We walked there in the afternoon, and I,

legs straight, palms flat, dropped down

the metal slide onto the cold sand.

My mother made me wear dresses;

they fluttered up like frightened birds.

I wanted to walk by myself, but I was seven.

One man in a torn jacket stood by the fountain,

hands in his pockets, eyeing the merry-go-round.

“Don’t talk to him,” my mother said.

I wouldn’t even talk to the girl my age,

who held a sucker in her mouth as she

slid down after me. That was dangerous.

Later, we walked across the street

to Crawford’s Market. I stuck my hot, dry

hand deep into the barrel of hard candy.

The store clerk glowered over her counter.

Watch your children, a sign shaped like

a pointing finger warned.

I unwrapped the candy Mother bought me

one by one, placed each on my tongue,

and moved so the wrappers in my sweater

pocket rustled. A red disk burned my mouth.

I spat it on the sidewalk. That was wrong.

We walked home past the park, and my mother

grabbed my hand.. The rocket ship

exploded with boys, yelling and hitting.

Be Good

I once was pointed to the corner

of a room where the curtains swooned.

Red-eyed, hands tight as buds, I held

the pink tissue mother gave me.

She and father agreed, I was bad.

Dust motes drifting through daylight

fell on my head.

Puzzle box unlocked and smashed,

I moved into a fragment of myself.

Later they allowed me to set foot

where the lamps shone upon doilies

bright as lilies. Be good, they said.

The dark boughs of my woods still

thrash upon themselves.


My mother sewed the pockets

of coats. She called it piecework.

After her shift, she slept on top

of the bedspread in her clothes

so as not to mess the covers.

Then the bed was straightened.

We went to a coffee shop called Earl’s.

The meals came with cake or rice

pudding. She wore bright lipstick,

hairdo arrowed with bobby pins,

an ironed blouse with the dime store

brooch like a medal on her chest.

Practical daylight fell upon her things—

the nylon scarf, the curlers and the pins,

the pennies saved inside a jelly jar—

but it was the beige slip that slid

like a rattlesnake off the chair

onto the floor that scared me. She said

a slip stopped boys from looking

at the outline between your legs.

Smooth and supple as flayed skin,

the beige slip told me how my mother

became the red-lipped ghost. Listen,

she’d say, here’s a coupon, a hairnet,

a pad, a needle and some thread.

The dresser and the nightstand

each adorned with scarves depicting

rosebuds, bluebirds, a shepherdess,

and a leering doe with red lips.

Where was the interior life?

So many pockets, and nothing

but bare hands to hide. I was told

to never touch the sharp scissors

she had honed. She wore dresses

with no sleeves in summer, arms freckled,

warm, and fat as rising loaves.

The change on the dresser

never added up. The nylon briefs

and bras lay cool and folded

in a narrow drawer that stuck.

She smiled at me as if her mouth

held straight pins. Here’s a hanky,

a spare key, a dime for emergencies.

Stop eating cookies or you won’t eat

your dinner. There’s no one

now to accuse or defend her,

except me—her most loyal prisoner.

It Surprises You

It could be a cold Wednesday.

Moving your feet along the ground,

shouldering through the air

is pleasure. Your heart fastens

on a house you always pass

that now needs looking at.

You love the nape of your own neck.

When you were seven and wandered

from your parents’ sight,

this was how you saw the world:

every edge hardened with reality.

That’s why you drew lines

around the pictures before you filled

them in in your coloring book.

You begged for a pet, even a fish

or a bird, because you loved the world

and needed a body to put that in.

One day you stared out your bedroom

window: roofs, stars, moon,

the crowns of trees reached for you.

You were already falling.

The days dream us and the nights

wake in our ears. Today, sitting

at a desk or driving a car,

you wonder, what was all that childhood

longing about? When you enter

the black room of your aloneness,

nothing bad happens after all.

Nobody walks more solitary

than a child. You could ask now

for a piece of that slow waiting

that married you to your hunger.

An hour might spring on you with

a daydream hidden in its claws,

your old loneliness in its mouth.

Fireworks over Chain Lake

One July 4th I stayed at your house

on Chain Lake. We opened

two bottles of pinot noir and put

swimsuits on. Across the water,

fireworks exploded like cannons

aimed upon us. I woke at 3 AM

to rain splashing against the house.

You were asleep downstairs

in your wet swimsuit with the TV on.

When the first bursts exploded,

light fell like pollen on our heads.

We jumped up and down on the dock,

drunk and shouting. Why have we

waited so long to be found good enough?

As children we loved any tree,

any mountain, any sky.

Others appeared. They yelled for us.

We hid. We went hungry.

Janet Smith began college at thirty-five after a string of jobs in Yosemite National Park. She graduated with an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Minnesota in 2001. She is a past recipient of a Nevada Arts Board Fellowship in poetry and the Guy Owens Prize. Her first book of poetry, All of a Sudden Nothing Happened, was published in 2010. She is on faculty in the English Department at Lake Tahoe Community College.

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