Category Archives: Poetry

Ashtabula, Ohio: The Biker

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BY ELIZABETH DEVORE

This poem is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project.

The bike wobbles as he turns his head
to say hello to the girl and her dog
and the handlebars swerve the way they do
the first time the training wheels come off, but
he’s been riding for seventy years now.

Once, he could throw a paper and hit
the front door of every customer on his route,
one hand on the bars, the other swinging up
over his head, fingers following the paper
towards the stoop, but now
he must keep both hands gripped firm
just to stay upright.

Once, he could ride to the lake with a pretty girl
perched on the front, her auburn hair blowing
into his eyes, her giggles filling the air
as they coasted down the hill, but now
he has to concentrate on lifting his own heavy knees
with each rotation of the pedals.

Once, he could ride on the road with cars whizzing
while his children weaved down the walk beside him
on their way to the Squire Shoppe Bakery
for donuts each Saturday, but now
the cars threaten his stability and he must shift
back to the spot his children vacated years ago.

Elizabeth Devore teaches English at Kent State University at Ashtabula. She loves exploring her harbor neighborhood with her dog and meeting the retirees who have spent their lives making this city a place she has come to love.

Carp at the Gates

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BY RENNY GOLDEN
 
They have been swimming for years
silver and fat, gulping everything
until they can leap beyond themselves,
beyond breath, into a brightness
that pierces them as if for moments
they meet God who kisses them,
but if they linger
in their spinning jump they will
die of God, of blue dangerous air.

If startled, they fly from the river
eight feet into sky. Is it a defiance
or a demonstration of their fate,
these bully swimmers who devour
plankton, eat their way to eminence
—yet destined for pain when they hit
the electric fences that punish them
away from the great lakes.

Thirty-seven miles from Chicago’s watershed,
they are coming, a team of acrobats
with pink mouths as big as fists.

They come from Mississippi, through the Illinois
by way of Chinese rice paddies. One thousand years
and they are still coming wild, fierce
as a locust plague, drunk with their collective swarm.
 

(Corinne) Renny Golden was a Pushcart nominee in 2016. Her book, Blood Desert: Witnesses 1820-1880, won the WILLA Literary Award for poetry 2011, was named a Southwest Notable Book of the Year 2012, and a Finalist for the New Mexico Book Award. The Old Woman and the River is coming in 2019 from University of New Mexico Press. She’s been published and anthologized widely including in the following journals: Water~Stone; International Quarterly; Literary Review; Dogwood; Main Street Rag; Windhover; Able Muse; Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review; Split This Rock; Nagatuck River Review; Crosswinds.  

In Spite of Debris, Offal, Trash, Detritus

Goldfish Freshwater Fish Scale Fish Scales 

BY RENNY GOLDEN
 
A miracle of goldfish still flicker like
sunlit coins through dark matter.

This river asks for so little,
sings beneath Bascom bridges.

It’s Prairie Wolf Slough’s Gloria
of marsh marigold, pale geranium,
trout lily, swamp buttercup.

Clothed in its liquid vestment,
raiment where deer and fox
drink and mark the hours.

     A river that remembers
     vast woodlands, meadows
     flaming in the silence marking time.

     This is the otter’s prayer
     a ballet of plunges and dives.
     The mallard’s dark procession

on silk waters, then sudden flight
across dawn’s flare where sky holds
them to perfect blue roads.

     They do not see the presence that enfolds them,
     so intimate their animal trust.

 

(Corinne) Renny Golden was a Pushcart nominee in 2016. Her book, Blood Desert: Witnesses 1820-1880, won the WILLA Literary Award for poetry 2011, was named a Southwest Notable Book of the Year 2012, and a Finalist for the New Mexico Book Award. The Old Woman and the River is coming in 2019 from University of New Mexico Press. She’s been published and anthologized widely including in the following journals: Water~Stone; International Quarterly; Literary Review; Dogwood; Main Street Rag; Windhover; Able Muse; Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review; Split This Rock; Nagatuck River Review; Crosswinds.  

An Elegy for the Lost Athens Sixty-two

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BY DOM FONCE

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Dom Fonce is an undergraduate English major at Youngstown State University. His work has either been published in or is forthcoming in issues of 3Elements Review, Obra/Artifact, West Texas Literary Review, the Magnolia Review, UnLost Journal, and others. He enjoys highlighting the lore of Ohio with his writing.

Settings

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BY LARRY NARRON

 

1. TURN

Someone insists there’s a setting
for making the pages sound
as if my fingers were turning them.

2. VOICE CONTROL

A grandfather clock strikes low
under my tongue, dissolves
crushed syllables poured
into capsules.

3. SLEEP MODE

Once, I dreamed I was
a connoisseur of misfortune,
an avid collector of lies.


Larry Narron’s poems appear or are forthcoming in
HOBART, The Brooklyn Review, Whiskey Island, Berkeley Poetry Review, Phoebe, The MacGuffin, The Boiler, and other journals. They’ve been nominated for Best of the Net and Best New Poets. Originally from Southern California, Larry currently lives in Northern Michigan, where he serves as a literacy coach for elementary school students in the Village of Pellston via AmeriCorps. He is the nonfiction editor of Dunes Review.

Scentless Smoke

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BY JOHN BRADLEY 

 

On the railroad bed
            now paved nature trail
the coyote stops, peers not at

            but through me
into some past or future
            where, behind a bush

I crouch, panting.
            When it slinks off
into the too silent

            woods, a slip
of scentless smoke, no coyote
            was ever here.

           
           

John Bradley once lived two blocks from Lake Superior in Duluth. Now he lives an hour and a half west of Lake Michigan in DeKalb, Illinois. His poems been published in the American Poetry Review, Caliban, the Diagram, Hotel Amerika, the Kerf, Shadowgraph, and other journals. He is the author of seven books of poetry and prose, the most recent is Erotica Atomica, just released by WordTech. 

What the Lake Said

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BY JOHN BRADLEY 

 

I once lived in a house made of frozen blocks of Lake Superior.
You trained a muskrat to walk on a leash and recite poetry.

Each time I gave our address it came out with a frozen fish.
When the landlord knocked on the door, we hid in the bathtub giggling.

We hung a poster over the bed of a rhino made from armadillos.
There was a hole cut in the bedroom floor to let the lake breathe.

All the food tasted like salted fish, even the ice cream, you said.
We tore pages from the dictionary and made vocabulary birds.

I dreamed Bob Dylan was a Trappist monk who ravaged our rutabagas.
You wore a coat made from many an Albanian flag until you didn’t.

For your birthday, I built a tiny piano out of nails and dog fur.
One morning, we found sheep eating the carpet in the pantry.

Afternoons, we could see an eye chart on a downtown office wall.
Late at night, the lake spoke in creak and chirr, rasp and crow.

           
           

John Bradley once lived two blocks from Lake Superior in Duluth. Now he lives an hour and a half west of Lake Michigan in DeKalb, Illinois. His poems been published in the American Poetry Review, Caliban, the Diagram, Hotel Amerika, the Kerf, Shadowgraph, and other journals. He is the author of seven books of poetry and prose, the most recent is Erotica Atomica, just released by WordTech. 

Excuses Minnesota Child Uses to Get Out of Swim Lessons While Going Through Her Fear-of-Water-and-Obsessed-with-Dying-Before-She’s-Ready Phase

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BY ASH GOEDKER 

Last time you said there’s cabins north
nowhere near water or
heaven, or me –

Ever hear of the Boundary Waters
Lake of the Woods
Lake Winnibigoshish
Child Lake Lake Watch Me Do a Flip
You Can’t Make Me Lake
Lake Looks Like a Lady
Grave Lake Holy Name Lake
Ice Cracking Lake Big
Too Much Lake
Lake of Fire
Like My Back Door?

I’m still training
in the Lord’s Army,
and if I drown
out,

You won’t
get a postcard –

not from me.

Ash Goedker hails from Northern Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She received her MFA in poetry at the University of Idaho where she was also the Editor-in-Chief at Fugue. She currently teaches at Nicholls State University. She was the winner of the University of Idaho’s Academy of American Poets Prize, and was a finalist in the 2016 Indiana Review ½ K Prize. Her poems have been published in Indiana Review, Midwest Review, Third Point Press, velvet-tail, and others. 

The Children’s Blizzard

– January 12, 1888

Snow falls in Gunfighter Flag 15-2

BY ASH GOEDKER 

“jaw firm, talus and tarsus intact:
the body’s perfect alphabet beneath the snow.”
– Corrie Williamson, “Remains”

I.

Some mornings we never expect the devil
out for our chimneys: days in January
sun warms the Midwest,
dissolving winter. Everyone out
of their soddies and shops. Nosing the sky
as we all do in a thaw. We come
from a long line of leaving
lamps and fireplaces burning.
We grow to taste the cedar.
That burn,
                  a blur, drives us –

        can       you      imagine

nothing
pressing
your time
                  but temperature?

II.

                  Dropped
within a few minutes

                  18 degrees:

III.

              A disaster people named
after their own children: Arnie,
                                              Evelyn,
                  Harold,

        James,               Myla –

snowbanks bearing
more children
than schooldays.

IV.

Can you imagine the air 
thin in their throats?
Their bodies loosened
to a gallop on the winding
roads, the come ons,
the can’t catch mes.

Ash Goedker hails from Northern Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She received her MFA in poetry at the University of Idaho where she was also the Editor-in-Chief at Fugue. She currently teaches at Nicholls State University. She was the winner of the University of Idaho’s Academy of American Poets Prize, and was a finalist in the 2016 Indiana Review ½ K Prize. Her poems have been published in Indiana Review, Midwest Review, Third Point Press, velvet-tail, and others.

 

Our Father

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BY ASH GOEDKER 

(who many debate art in some version of heaven and on
earth) give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us
our capering. This city blushes when it gets ahold of the hands
of another night, when it wears dawn like the tulle it was cut out
to wear. Father, forgive those who trespass the tinsel we all know
and love that you’ve braided into your hair. And hallowed be
your wish I wish you forgave in yourself. You deny your origin
of temptations, an old photograph of Chicago, that green river
prancing around March like heaven and earth. Like art. This city
rubbed down to utterly rare finds. This makes you want to fall
from kingdom come, thy will be done and write those back home
to say, I believe in the hot beef sandwiches here. The rush
of sky-scrapers celebrate your marriage to this city, witness
postcards flooding in like our hips dripping with skirts
and sweat in all corners of a dance hall. The wind is your
necklace. The pigeons toss bread crumbs and bear your ring.
And I’m in an apartment with a view of this Great Lake,
of a man or a woman. I could be in love. Love a man or woman
you, Father, deny yourself. And you will write home from here.

 

Ash Goedker hails from Northern Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She received her MFA in poetry at the University of Idaho where she was also the Editor-in-Chief at Fugue. She currently teaches at Nicholls State University. She was the winner of the University of Idaho’s Academy of American Poets Prize, and was a finalist in the 2016 Indiana Review ½ K Prize. Her poems have been published in Indiana Review, Midwest Review, Third Point Press, velvet-tail, and others.