Category Archives: Poetry

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

Elbow_Lake_Minnesota_2_(1)

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

1280px-Chicago_River_dyed_green,_focus_on_river

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.

Topographical and Domestic Survey of a Former Orchard, Farmington Hills, Michigan

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BY JOE HELMINSKI

 

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Joe Helminski lives in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and teaches at Oakland Community College. His work has appeared recently in The Tulane Review and online at Eunoia Review and Sweet Tree Review.


First Walk

1277

BY LAURINDA LIND

 

The first day we drove down to Syracuse

to put an hour between us and everyone

else and talk about what the hell was

happening. Walked in a park, pulled

out the reasons we shouldn’t and it

was something you said, there was

a tree behind you, it was spring and

in the branches I saw all there was

to see, seconds only before it faded.

 

We stood on a sidewalk and looked

at each other; stepped in. A car full

of college kids took the corner too fast

and they yelled out the window, get

a hotel, and we saw it would be worse

back home where we were a scandal

yet to spring. But we had been away

in ourselves where some psychotic

sayer was saying it could be worth it.

 

Laurinda Lind lives within swimming distance of Lake Ontario (assuming a slog through connecting swamps and creeks). Some poetry publications/ acceptances have been in Chautauqua, Comstock Review, The Cortland Review, Main Street Rag, Off the Coast, and Paterson Literary Review.


After the Rehearsal, We’re at Rex’s Roadhouse in St. Paul

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BY RODNEY TORRESON

where saddles hang from the rafters;
lassos brand the menus. If my friend Tom’s
feeling roped into this marriage, he doesn’t show it,
as he impersonates his profs at med school,
gets us laughing so hard our heads
are almost under the table
before coming up for air. But, later, behind
the restroom door, with its hearts and spades
and interlocking six-shooters,
Tom and I at the urinals, he stares at the wall
and says, “I won’t be at the church tomorrow.
Do what you want—stay away or show up.”

 

I feel like we’re the bad guys at the O.K. Corral
in a shootout with the Earp brothers.
“You should tell Robin, “I tell him, but wash my hands of it. “I can’t,” he says,
then it’s rock’n roll, with Tom drumming
the towel dispenser, singing the Bee Gees,
the song he’d wail and knuckle the table to
at the campus canteen when we were undergrads:
“I gotta get a message to you. Hold on, hold on.
One more hour and my life will be through,”
he sings through a grin.

 

Tom’s only message, though, is for me,
as I cringe for Robin’s family from Brooklyn,
friendly folks, not a woolly eye among them, who’d close
the great divide between the Midwest and the coast.
But the next day, without ceremony,
Robin’s plopped on the floor of the church vestibule,
family circling her in the aching off-limits,
her dress, hopped up on frills, looks more for mopping
than a sweep train, and I, standing around,
hands in my pocket, relieved I can’t reach her,
pretending to know nothing, and not once sensing
how a stone rubs up against the truth.

 

Rodney Torreson was the poet laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan from 2007-2010, He is the author of four books, his most recent, THE SECRETS OF FIELDWORK, a chapbook of poems published by Finishing Line Press in 2010. his two full-length books are A BREATHABLE LIGHT (New Issues Press) and THE RIPENING OF PINSTRIPES (Story Line Press). In addition, his work has appeared in many anthologies and literary journals, including THE BELOIT POETRY JOURNAL, LOUISVILLE REVIEW, POET LORE and TAR RIVER POETRY.

Windsor, Ontario: Mount Francis

Windsor Star Demo (2013)BY CASSANDRA CAVERHILL

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

For fourteen weeks
the grasses grew
so high they turned
to accidental prairies.

The union tossed bottles
and wire hangers
into the parks
to stop residents
from mowing down
their wages, confronting
scabs in the fields
as they pushed
through the tangles.

The artists threw
seed bombs
into empty lots and
erected official-looking
habitat signs along the edges,
hoping that the wildflowers
would stay once
the dust of
mediation settled.

On Central Ave
the picketers chain-smoked
along a trash heap
dubbed Mount Francis,
after the mayor—
a businessman

balancing budgets
post-recession—
while squawking seagulls
circled above signs sporting
“No 2-tiers!”
“No takeaways!”

As the auto factories
hemorrhaged jobs,
folks flocked west
to the oil sands,
leaving those who remained
to undercut each other
for what was left of
the middle,
collecting garbage
for a dollar per bag.

It took a hundred-and-one days
for resentments to peak,
for the divisions sown
to overrun the parks,
the pools, the pavement.

It took a hundred-and-two-days
for the politicians
to trim the wilderness
back into a shape
that could be
controlled;

for the workers
to take their concessions
and clear the streets
of rot and rats; and

for the pundits
to market our descent
as a model for cities
being bled dry.

Cassandra Caverhill is a poet from Windsor, Ontario. She currently lives and writes in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Dream in Which a Coonhound Reckons the World

an acrostic Redbone Coonhound poem

redbone-coonhound1

BY GEORGE KALAMARAS

Ran into the woods, dream after dream,
easily lost in the sorrow-well of human dross.
Damned if I didn’t find me a hound,
backwoods-bred, Scottish red, calling my name,
ordinary-like, as if it was natural for a dog to speak—
not with the mouth but through the eye.
Eerie. But kindly so. Ginseng-brain—‘sang. Foxfire-wide.

Could not have been more right. Could
only be fear fencing other fears. Conjugating—confiscating—my heart.
Only be split rails or river rock, stone-walling off the world.
Not that it mattered in the dream. Franz Kafka.
How could he be there? Dark. Brooding. Scribbling onto a coon-hide.
Ordinary-like. And so much of me I wanted to turn
under the earth, as a way to reinvent flower-shape and size.
Not this, not that, the yogi from India—suddenly seated in the sycamores—spoke into the
        leaves.
Didn’t matter. Knew it was best to follow the hound, deeper, more deeply, where I lay,
        lying, lied.

 

George Kalamaras, former Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014-2016), is the author of fifteen books of poetry, eight of which are full-length, including Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck, winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize (2011), and The Theory and Function of Mangoes, winner of the Four Way Books Intro Series (2000). He is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.

What Work Isn’t

dumpster

BY TRACY MISHKIN

You’re building a machine that turns everything
into a joke. Pallets, clotheslines, odd bits
of hose. Every project half-finished or never quite
begun. How is sodden carpet worth saving?

I yank weeds, snatch black plastic mats, and load
the wheelbarrow again. Sweat spatters my glasses.
When rain comes, I slog on. Junk limps
into the dumpster—bricks and rakes and bones
the dog has long abandoned.

When I ask for help, you say the grass is wet
and you are wearing sandals. Your asthma is acting up.
You fell asleep on the couch. You late
and lazy bastard. I should throw you in that dumpster,
change the locks, and make love to the silence.

 

Tracy Mishkin is a call center veteran with a PhD and a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Butler University. She is the author of two chapbooks, I Almost Didn’t Make It to McDonald’s (Finishing Line Press, 2014) and The Night I Quit Flossing (Five Oaks Press, 2016). 

The Answer to Your Question is, “Benevolence, Trees, and Horses”

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BY CAL FREEMAN

Considering a height that sheers
to concrete,
you remember that backyard elm from
your youth with its three forking boles,
how you’d lay a two-by-four
between them as a bridge
and move among the upper branches
on that precarious scaffolding
as if you couldn’t come to peril,
as if, looking down at the rounded backs
of garden stones, soul and providence
were givens. One night
as a summer storm approached,
you climbed to better hear
the dry leaves sing and to feel
the way the whole tree swayed
to keep from breaking, reaching
toward the fence line
and the dark ground. Years later
you took to horses in the same oblivious way,
bucked a dozen times into sand
and gravel and dirt, somehow never
busting a bone in any of those falls.
You’d read that trees speak
to each other through their roots, sharing sugars,
huddling against wind, and that their peril
was in being alone—they willfully
give us nothing and it might, after all,
be incorrect to speak of single trees—
suckers, widowmakers—but copses,
stands, and forests, whole subterranean
networks of roots and molds—
but isolated crowns in gales still resemble
the head of a panicked Arabian fleeing
your white-knuckled grip
and your shrill voice at a dead gallop.

 

Cal Freeman’s writing has appeared in many journals including Commonweal, The Cortland Review, The Journal, Passages North, and Hippocampus. He is the recipient of the Howard P. Walsh Award for Literature, The Ariel Poetry Prize, and The Devine Poetry Fellowship (judged by Terrance Hayes). He has also been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in poetry and creative nonfiction, as well as Best of the Net and Best American Poetry. His collection, Brother of Leaving, was published by Marick Press, and his chapbook, Heard Among the Windbreak, was published by Eyewear Publishing (London). Freeman’s book, Fight Songs, is forthcoming from Eyewear Publishing in the fall of 2017.