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Poetry Summer 2022    fiction    all issues

Cover of Poetry Summer 2022


Joanne Monte
& other poems

Holly York
Still When I Reach for the Leash
& other poems

Anne Marie Wells
Catholicism Still Lingers in a Concrete Poem
& other poems

D.T. Christensen
Coded Language
& other poems

Laura Faith
& other poems

Abigail F. Taylor
Winter in Choctaw
& other poems

Natalie LaFrance-Slack
& other poems

Nicole Sellino
iii. moving, an interruption
& other poems

Gilaine Fiezmont
In Memoriam / Day of the Dead
& other poems

Sheri Flowers Anderson
On Being A Widow
& other poems

RJ Gryder
& other poems

William S. Barnes
to hatch
& other poems

Suzannah Van Gelder
& other poems

Sam Bible-Sullivan
The Dying Worker’s Soliloquy
& other poems

Hills Snyder
Eclipse (July 4, 2020)
& other poems

Lauren Fulton
Birth Marks
& other poems

David Sloan
& other poems

Nancy Kangas
Dry Dock Cranes of Brooklyn Navy Yard
& other poems

Noreen Graf
In Attendance
& other poems

Jim Bohen
Nothing Tea
& other poems

Thomas Baranski
Let us name him dread and look forward
& other poems

Joanne Monte

Anniversary, 2019:
Sant’anna Di Stazzema

In memory of Concetta Maria
and those who died


Another milestone, my aunt tells me,

three-quarters of a century, and yet the memory

of it never slips into an emptiness,

never more than disappears.

The language hasn’t changed, nor the trees this August,

the lawn splurging abundantly with weeds.

But this is what we know of peace, a gentle breeze

that blossoms in the moment.

Whenever she speaks, I try to understand,

her English still coated under a heavy accent

even after all these years, but I manage

to string the syllables into words, the words into phrases.

The barns were burned, she says; the livestock

were tortured and slaughtered by the few

who had only sought to drive their spears

into a body of blood and flesh. But the animals

did not run, they did they not fight back and kill.

It’s that distant thread to the animal in us,

clothed in human form, so perhaps the animals

simply took pity on them, rendering them inhuman.


Almost everything reverberates in total recall

like a breeze fluttering through the leaves.

The spirit transforms into another spirit

between the then and now, echoing the memories

of the same event. She wishes

that she could hold them in her hands like a ball

that she could throw into a field of tall grass,

forget where it lands. But it was she who had landed

beneath her mother when the bullets shot a long line

of buttonholes into the flesh and bone

of every woman and child there. A massacre—

blood gushing out like a red tidal wave over the few

wearing the blackest swastikas. An enemy stealing

more fortune than thieves, killing more

than just the shadows. DONE, they claimed,



She remembers the barn, an old scythe

propped against the wall that somehow caught the eye

of the light filtering in from the hayloft window.

She remembers her mother turning her back on the guns;

how she wrapped her body around her like a robe—

the same as she did on those nights when they sat fireside,

the war peering through the window as her mother

told her stories about love. But love speaks

in a visual language to a child just as hatred does in war.

It was in the soldiers’ eyes, she says.

That’s where it begins, where a child knows to look.

She saw the iris in the soldiers’ eyes kindle a bloody orange,

the pupils bursting into tiny flames. The only love she felt

was in her mother’s arms tightening around her waist

like a belt that held her securely in place.

The last thing she had seen before she and her mother fell

was the scythe. What did it mean, that scythe? Why,

she asks, would she even remember it?


Eighty-one years are sewn tightly into every wrinkle

in her face, into every strand of hair that she coiled

into a topknot. How much longer will she live to remember

a child too bruised to crawl out of a graveyard?

Every anniversary, she would sit for an hour or two

among imaginary headstones, as she is now,

and wait for the sun to casually wander down

to the horizon where the light would soon begin to dash

like a child into the dark. She would watch the moon

as it would sometimes rise in full, crowned in a glow of citrine

high above a metropolis of stars. The sky at night.

It would always remind her of that day in the war

when she learned how to focus her eyes so that she could see

in the dark. A star would emerge as the supreme sparkler,

the one and only to fire asterisks into that space

where so many others were pulled at the end of their lives.


After all these years, she still remembers

her mother’s face; remembers her mother’s eyes,

warm and dark like a double shot of espresso

that would sometimes spill over her lashes at the mere whisper

of her husband’s name. He had joined a brigade of partisans

to rip out the swastikas, wring out the black shirts

and hang them upside down on the clothesline to dry.

Gone for months into the dark, a secret plan for disruption,

tying their hope to the boxcars of victory.

She remembers her mother telling her in a voice

that was a soft blend of almond and flowers to not ask

about Papa. You must never speak of him, no, not to anyone.

That was the day when the air was littered with ash,

when the blood and bone were all too fragile.

When at last her father returned, it was to a fog of smoke

that hung like laundry on a line that went from house

to house, from barn to barn. A stillness

of where he would find the dead, the fallen women,

infants not yet reaching the canal of childbirth.

Where there had been a house, a terminal of children

lay smothered in ashes. The church, drained of its color,

lost its effect, the pews were used for burning,

corpses tossed onto a funeral pyre. Never again

had there been a time in her life that was as dangerous,

she tells me, her withered fingers slipping through

her mother’s beads, dangling a silver Crucifix.

The enemy had left it behind along with all the useless

and unsparing things their hands had done.


Someone had carried her away from the barn,

away from the cold stiffness of her mother’s arms.

Her father had found the scythe, used it to cut through

to the deeper roots of survival. She would leave behind the hills

and the olive trees, the spirit of the flesh in the empty fields

and step into the foreground of a new geography,

mapping the distance into tomorrow. It’s where she would find

an aisle of sunlight, the perfume and the flowers of a world

that was no longer invisible. And yet, the light has never strayed

from the memory. It keeps its presence; its shadow,

a brushstroke on the calendar, always linked to the country

she never went home to and to the life she never lived.


A child at the age of ten, with your hand in your father’s,

you left your home, the ghostlike chill of a Tuscan village

lying between the broad-shouldered hills and the sea,

the olive trees and the stone. The war was several years

over by then and the past, having been buried

beneath the anguish of monuments, was never meant to stray

from the starting point of another story.

And so you remember the home that you left as a shrine

with its poetry and its art, its lullabies of love, its mirror

of memories that hung on the wall, often reflecting

the grief in your father’s eyes that had forever widowed

his heart. For years, he smelled the smoke in the olive trees,

the toasted straw in the barn where the women and children

fell, saw the ash and debris of what had been real,

ever so fragile, land in the foreground. It’s what a war

will do, he told you, those daily reminders that are visibly lit

and recurring. And yet, on the day of departure,

with your hand in your father’s, you stood on the deck

of the ship, its horn, a blaring bassoon, awakening the moment

to be lived, as far as it would take you from the wet rope

and sea salt—and the simple charms you might have packed

with whatever else had been put into your baggage.

America, Home, Freedom

of the bells, the words your father had spoken

in your native tongue until his voice was mute.

It burned from hunger, a wartime eruption,

burned from a spirit digging for hope

beneath the rising peaks of ash. Yet this new home,

had in its English translation a bedrock austerity: tenements,

fire escapes, alleyways and trash cans, the asphalt

and pavement, all beyond salvation, longing for the nutrients

of the soil, the fresh Tuscan green of the olive groves

you had run through as a child—the rareness of things lost.

It’s where the rays of the sun will try to squeeze through,

shell shocked by brick and mortar, the yellow hydrants,

laundry hung out on the line where the anatomy of streets,

in full dress, are attached to the nametags

of their own “little” country. And yet, there’s a sense

of permanence, embodied in nostalgia, a trusted unity

among the poorest and the most common, invisibly shadowed

and fearing to speak of a greater desire in this new land.

But it’s here, that your ancestral mothers and grandmothers

will take you in, show you where in the pews of a church

you can pray when no one else is there. And always

through the tolling of the bells, a life interrupted,

the tiny haloes of the votive candles flicker with the hope,

the promise, and the dream of a world unknown.

Joanne Monte is a poet, novelist and editor. She is the author of a poetry collection entitled The Blue Light of Dawn, which received The Bordighera Poetry Prize. She has received several awards, including a Pushcart nomination. Many of her poems deal with human rights issues, some of which were judged as a finalist and semi-finalist in such competitions as Princemere, The Jack Grapes Poetry Award, Palette Poetry and The New Millennium Writing Award. She is also the author of a highly reviewed novel, The Day to Eternity.

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