Ed Hack: Again

( For A. P.)

What now do all the numbers say, the so-
called values doctors judge our bodies by—
our bodies, not the life we used to know,
the easy years when each day seemed to fly?
What do the numbers say about my mate,
the coffee-sweetened morning air we’ve known
the many years we’ve been each other’s fate,
discovering in love we shared the home
we didn’t dare to dream about? What were
the odds, since so much was a storm of loss,
so what I knew was pain, what pain conferred,
that everything meant nothing but its cost?
I’m waiting in the waiting room again.
The ocean pounding sand will never end. 

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Bucky Rea: Migration

Oklahoma dust migrated 
through clouds and jetstreams 
over prairies and the shoulders 
of glass and metal towers. 
It rests, exhausted dirt hitched 
onto truck beds, snuggled 
into chrome, Gulf bound. 
Louisiana swamp rain, pure 
as clouds and more clever, 
rumbles in tongue-hot to splatter 
and splatter flat drops against
every steel roof, sideview mirror, 
ball hitch, and license plate,
to push down the dust
into sewers, and grillwork, 
and dandylion yards. 
The rain moves across rice farms,
Hill Country, and pastures of cows. 
Behind, it leaves the Okie dust
broken, strangled in mud, 
and gasping by the roadside 
to bake.

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Liza Langrall: First Frost

From his hospital bed Dad told me,
Grapes are sweeter after the first frost.
He was fretting for his vines,
dreaming of them as nurses
preyed on his veins.
Late September there was no frost,
only a cold snap one night.
I stopped at his house to bring in his mail
and, on a whim, cut him a cluster—
carried the dark purple globes, bleeding,
down the hospital hall.
His eyes closed at the flavor. Perfect.
Spitting the seeds into the top of his fist.
Cut me some and I’ll make juice.
He was prone in bed with a blood drip
in his arm. He could not stay warm
or walk without help. I did not cut
him any more grapes,
nor tell him what I thought
would become of his vines
this year and next.
But I had not accounted 
for an Indian Summer.
Sunday, he came home to eat meatloaf
in yellow hospital socks and plastic wristbands.
His chewing was slow; we all waited.
Go pick me a bucket of grapes, he said.
The afternoon was a hot 84, but fall
had tinged the leaves of the walnuts
and sycamores. Under the grapevines,
the cloying fragrance was heavy.
Bees hummed, glutted with nectar,
their heads so buried in the flesh,
they had to be shaken free.
Dropping like rotten grapes,
they revived before hitting the ground
and flew off to a new cluster.
Our bucket grew heavy. Our feet crushed
the grapes the profligate vines
had cast off. We dragged our reaping
back to my father. His eyes gleamed.
Tomorrow, when I get my strength back—
I see now what we were living then:
the first frost of his last winter,
those golden afternoons, sweet pickings.
I still feel his sun-warmed cheek
receiving my kiss as he slept,
the grapes slowly molding in the fridge.
We drank all we could of him
until the hard, cold nights came,
and even then we had to be shaken free. 

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Mahailey Oliver: Steak and Shake: A Swapping of Teacher War Stories

The diner booths are dingy, red and cracked.
The flies are swarming. Smattered french fry grease
is splat on counters. Flat-screens fade to black.
It’s noontime and the conversations cease
as truckers stuff their faces with The Works.
Though I’ve been here three quarters of an hour
the staff all side-eye me—humongous jerks!
A boy trips by, his milkshake smelling sour.
Then there she is—the lady I’m waiting
to see: a former teachermotherfriend.
We eat and swap war stories, updating
until she must go back home. Lunch must end.
I guess it is the moments that we want
that pass much quicker than the ones we don’t.

For more on Mahailey Oliver, please see our Authors page.

Joshua Hamilton: Skinning

Rest my head on the memory
of your lap
during the week
of your absence – appetites
and logics enter, mingle.
Only when willed.
Hard, candy-like shell
crystallizes a dome
over slow anguish
intestinal compost.
Hours tempered in rainbow
then drip thin and expose
tire-skidded streaks of gravel.
Skin and sinew tear off,
hunter knife scraping edgewise
flattens evening.
Bleached cranium drops
into cotton folds.

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Elisa A. Garza: Katherine, Making the Most of Henry V

In 1415 Henry V of England, convinced he had claim to France by inheritance, invaded. Nearly five years later, he had defeated the French armies and took the princess Katherine as his bride to seal the treaty that recognized him as heir of France. 

An Invasion, An Offer 

At least he is young, she thinks. 
She would ask the messenger for his words, 
and to tell her his looks, the way he frowned, 
no laughed, at her father's meager offer. 
A few minor dukedoms! She already knows 
that he must have all or nothing. 

The War, the Wait 

Would he move over her, she wonders, 
as he now rides over France, slow, and sure 
only of a victorious outcome? 
Que magnifique! Surely he would make 
strong love after so much war? 
She is learning the English, 
to loosen her tongue from its heavy sounds, 
and blushes at the looseness to come. 


She feels his hands hot in hers, 
listens to his fractured French— 
he is nervous, bubbling like champagne! 
And she can only stare, 
think of the world they will make together, 
the waiting finally over.

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Elisa A. Garza: Philomela Reads Her Weave

"[s]he set up her threads on a barbarian loom and wove a scarlet design on a white ground, which pictured the wrong she had suffered." 
from Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book VI 

Procne, dear sister, into this cloth 
I have woven our sad story, 
but the white wool will dry your tears, 
as it has dried mine. 
I trust these images to you, 
worked on a crude loom 
built from twigs and vines 
pulled through the window. 
Remember our servant, old Oryia, 
how she taught even my stubborn fingers 
to weave a scene with grace? 
Her sharp voice comes back to me in chants: 
The weave tells the woman's life. 
The cloth reveals a woman's quality. 
How we laughed under her stern looks! 
Even her face would smile at such fine fabric, 
a weave smooth and pure as sand. 
You will recognize me in this work, 
in the tight squares of my weave. 

Do you perceive the royal ship and sails 
and your husband's cloak (scarlet against the white)? 
Father always wears stripes. 
I have also outlined myself with red, 
my tunic white with innocence. 
See your husband Tereus charm 
Father on bended knee? 
He convinces Father to allow a visit. 
Eager to see you, I hug my thanks. 
Now I know that the gods 
must be punishing us all. 
The omen of Mother's death is true— 
I have not escaped the tragedy of my birth. 

These red crescents show the ocean— 
our journey on a sea of blood. 
The tower rises, also colored red 
with the shame of Tereus's deeds. 
Sister, I did not know how to display his violence . . . 
I cannot even bear to think of it, 

his heaviness on top of me like a storm. 
Procne, I long to see your face. 
On the voyage, I dreamed of our talks, 
the walks we would take together, 
arms around each other's waists, 
our heads so close they touch. 
Oh, to be girls again, our only trouble 
setting the loom for our next tapestry. 

This next part is not as clear, 
but you must see: I screamed curses 
at your husband for his actions, 
and he cut out my tongue. 
This I show you, and how I bled 
and bled red from my mouth. 
I traded my jewelry for thread, 
and wove this sad message 
under twelve quarter moons. 
Dear sister, my story is told. 
Come quickly, for I am done with weeping.

For more on Elisa A. Garza, please see our Authors page.

Elisa A. Garza: Winter Beach

Padre Island

A man and a woman walk the sand 
only they and the gulls, 
the sky four shades of blue, 
horizon a white mist. 
They stand in surf 
under a rounding moon 
dull as an antique coin, 
sand sinking under their feet. 
If this was a romance, 
they would walk holding hands, 
then watch green waves collapse 
into smooth brown planes of glass. 
He would stand behind her 
and she would lean on him 
while the wind touched 
his face with her hair. 
If they were strangers, 
they would have walked 
from opposite directions, 
each stopping to watch 
the cawing gulls swoop, 
wind-jerked, over red guts, 
fight over silver heads 
left by a fisherman. 
If they crossed their arms 
into Xs tight and hard as pretzels, 
eyes closed to the gulls, to the blues 
and browns and whites of this scene, 
the wind would say good-bye 
for them, their mouths and ears 
closed to this beach, to each other. 
Neither knows how it is supposed to go.

For more on Elisa A. Garza, please see our Authors page.