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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

Sugar le Fae


You can face your fears,

face facts, face an audience.

Here at the Mustard Seed,

we face merchandise

—face it forward

so customers can read

names, flavors, varieties.

Soymilk, vegan sushi, wine,

coffee station carafes,

condiments in the café.

Anything unsightly

is cleaned or carted away.

Customers don’t want

to know who made lunch,

what it takes to make it

into work each week.

A place where words are

turned, where you have to

face what you can’t

have—where facing it

means making it face you.

False Buddha

My body glows with the numb calm

of detachment. I’ve let it all go.

Rage. Envy. Especially of anyone

who can afford to shop here. I don’t want

their lives, churning with unresolved

trauma, coffee, and quinoa

(ethically sourced when it’s on sale),

their righteous, American guilt,

flash-fried, freeze-dried. I wipe cold sweat

from gluten-free, cashew-cheese

frozen pizzas. I ask easy questions:

Did you find everything okay, today?

Did you know bulk is 10% off on Tuesdays?

The answers don’t matter.

I do my best to banter. Bad jazz

blasts overhead. I double-bag 12-packs

of water. This is all so absurd.

I’ve chosen to stay, though no one

can see me floating here

cross-legged behind this register,

my gold robes licking the air like fire.

After the Lunch Rush

The lady with brain cancer

came through my line again today

in her knit cap and sweatpants,

apologizing for her cancer

if her manner seemed erratic,

leaving to milk and sugar

a coffee, while a line

of people waited.

Frustrated but patient,

I offered to carry her

groceries out to her car,

but she was taking the bus.

I wondered if cancer

had clarified or confused her,

counting out exact change.

Was it at last an answer

—a visceral resolve to live or

the sadness she’d been waiting for?


I don’t need to brag, but I’m a master bagger.

No one has to ask me to bag their meat

separately, or double-bag their walk home.

I bag all bottles sideways to distribute the weight.

While you confer with the card-reader,

I’m stacking strata in my head: a tarot spread.

First, the Two of Water Bottles, prostrate

on the bottom, overturned but unspilt.

Then the Fruits of Labor: apples, oranges,

cherry tomatoes, cotton candy grapes

washed invisible of their Brown toil.

Reversed: the Fruits of Labor are unsellable,

bruised or ugly—juiced or (rarely) fed to the staff.

The Four of Soup-Cups goes

below To-Go boxes floated soft as UFOs.

Reversed: these Paper Lanterns will. spill. lava.

And obviously, Cold attracts Cold.

Glass under Plastic under Paper under Bread.

My trainees can read carts like star-charts.

The same physics built the pyramids.

All those years of Tetris have finally paid off.

Liberty Head Nickel

Checking out a customer, I broke

a roll of nickels and out she fell.

I thought she was a peso

and set her aside till after the rush.

Her reverse was less corroded,

easier to read: a Roman V inside

a Greek wreath, circled by her owner’s

name: United States of America.

Only then did I notice her,

searching the shine for her cameo:

her scarred, hard edges of light,

that far-away look still discernible

in her upturned gaze, the suppleness

where nose meets cheekbone.

America, France, Rome—

Liberty was always Apollo in drag,

the lost Colossus of Rhodes;

Helios, god of the sun and prophesy,

crowned in spikes of light,

who straddled the harbor nude

till an earthquake shook him down.

Her proud countenance,

struck within earshot of the Civil War,

is visible only at a certain slant.

‘Liberty’ shorn from her coronet,

13 stars halo her loose hair.

And beneath her severed head,

the year, last number rusted-over.

Activist, musician, photographer, Radical Faerie, and prize-winning poet, Sugar le Fae (PhD) has taught English Composition and Literature for over 15 years; served as the Social Media Director (2012) and Poetry Editor (2013) of PRISM international (UBC); and published dozens of poems and essays across North America. Follow Sugar on Instagram @sugar_lefae.

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