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Other notable work by Rusty BarnesTeisha Dawn Twomey and Mary Benson.

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Timothy Gager-

Eulogy for “Dying Suddenly”

The boil on my back doesn’t know what dependence is.
The burn on my face is for me to see only

You are a bone I broke, arm dangled in a sling
Then I felt like eating what I killed, so I did

In the morning, a cigarette sandwich,
Coffee with sugar, because bitter I know

the cost of running my car straight into
a stanchion, the repairs will make me stronger

You were slumped over in bed, lips white, I protest
I never hunted an insect with a semi-automatic

The television turned on at 3:45 a.m.
something woke me that day. I knew

_______________

Tales Which Moved Me

I was never so stirred when surrounded
by death, you say, he, most imperative

the brother, who held the family together,
ODed plus Timmy, Stevie, Buddy shattered

the week with tiers of the departed,
I remain timeworn without comfort,

zilch—you and I filled the voids
with soft hips pushing at moroseness

pinned against a wall, smooth
perfection; the stroke of eye-shadow,

I watch your irises open faintly, the blooms
burst deep, into me, you’ve opened wider

_______________

Upon Leaving

We can split peas into little bites
feed the fish, walk on the grass

we all cry for approval, acceptance
is shelter, we take risks, we love

people who don’t love us
hide it in context, we go the

separate ways we lie
on a bed of nails all set.

I shalt not want a hammer
to cut my food. Accept the truth

like a sharp wind, the cold razor rain
in your face, finally opens up

Remember the shark tank?
I swam with the blood dripping in.

_______________

When We Talk About Love

We talk about the wrong things
We think about the other

young girls we danced with,
They must be desperate

Let me sell it to you
Sell you something of yours

There’s 13 steps you took
Then became lukewarm

the best kind of love, isn’t regular
it is with a cleaning lady, a mailman

Want to see something?
It’s how you kill the slugs

It’s how you plan to fly away
into a negligent nonexistent role

In the future, you will go home
to take a bath, we’re all unconscious

unhappy enough to smash rocks
over the heads of unwilling lovers

or denim wearing cheaters at a bingo parlor.
Did you clap when she cried out victorious?

Did you drink whiskey and keep fishing
when the body of a girl washed ashore?

A dummy near the water, built
an electric fence to keep our thoughts

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Timothy Gager is the author of eleven books of short fiction and poetry. His latest, The Thursday Appointments of Bill Sloan, (Big Table Publishing) is his first novel. He hosts the successful Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts for over thirteen years and is the co-founder of Somerville News Writers Festival. His work appears in over 300 journals, of which ten have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has been read on National Public Radio.

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Rusty Barnes-

The View from Earth

If you were in space and you looked back
my love might be the biggest thing you see.

Fuck that Chinese wall and the trails
of Conestoga wagons in the midwest,

you could look just south of anywhere
and witness the mass of shooting clouds

and the triphammered horn of my heart break-
ing the bowl of soup the sea has become.

It says to you don’t leave don’t fly away
the things you part with as you leave earth

matter just as much as asteroids which shake
off pollen and continue on their merry way toward

planetary destruction, just ask the Tungusku
forest how nothing will grow in the impact

crater that is more like a radioactive no-fly
zone but what I’m saying is don’t die love

ever: make it so the cosmos knows your name
shoot it out in big bright lights so that when

you look at Alpha Centauri and feel that bigness
and muchness, come back to little earth. Look for

the guy standing next to the ocean in Revere
Massachusetts, the big one with the gray beard

and the perfect children and watch as he pledges
to give you everything all over again if he can

if you don’t leave and he don’t leave and the oceans
stay wet you might stand to see another lifetime

as codfish or snappers or even the tiny amoebas
tickling the anemone or giving the shark another

remora to support. The point is he said don’t wink
out like a star but be with me again and again, just again.

_______________

Earthquake

God is a liar. When an earthquake splits
the earth’s skin in front of you

the only recourse is to move or to invoke
some long-forgotten hope in an afterlife.

Plate tectonics will dictate the length
and severity of your punishment,

that not-so-silent and hardly penitent
prayer to the saint protector Emygdius.

Successful or not you may as well
piss on your fingers and call it rain

for all the good it will do. Both root
and branch will tremble, we’re told,

the very rocks break under the thundercrack
yet you will find no surcease in the after-

life. There are ways to die and then there
are ways. If the earth moves under your

feet don’t write a song about it. Prepare
yourself for a permanent vacation where

skulls and bony points finger you to sleep,
where the moons are mere dust reflecting

fire so far over you your breath fails to
catch you can think of welcomes suitable

to your new home, not of fire and saltpeter
and the bare ends of sanity but a place

where every day your toes crack the surface
of earth and you fall forward only for forever.

_______________

Poem on a Misremembered Line From Donald Ray Pollock

I sat underneath an apple tree
reading while my father and brother
forced a rebuilt transmission into
our old Ford Fairlane. Rotten green
apples littered the ground where
I stood. I remembered my mother
and Aunt Mary skinning a buck
hung from the same small tree,
my mother dressed in a headscarf
and a thrift-store letterman’s jacket
trimming the white-gray fat and tossing
it into the trees for the swallows and blue jays.
It was her job and later mine to shoot
the squirrels that stole the suet,
those scrapping skinny beggars who
took whatever they could find.

In my mind I am twelve years old though
I know that can’t be right because we
had the Fairlane in my mid-teens.
I picked up my girlfriend Theresa
in it and took her to the Fireman’s
Carnival in Southport. So long ago,
but it seems like yesterday and now
another memory: a fat woman sitting
on the hood of that same Fairlane at
Packard’s Pond in a suit too small to hide
her beauty.I got depressed because those
pearly pubes were as close as I had gotten
to the real thing at sixteen.The gap between
her thighs.How hot the memory remains.

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Rusty Barnes is a novelist and poet living in Revere MA. His latest book of poems is called I AM NOT ARIEL, and his latest novel is called RIDGERUNNER.

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Teisha Dawn Twomey-

Two men sit in a nursery

a baby swaddled in soft pink
reaches for them and everyone

and no one raises their hasty hands
at different times, two right hands

then two left ones drop from
their lofty visions like collapsing day

dreams she will continue to stumble towards men
their age. Drunk, she is a blind, deaf, and dumb

to their departure. Without genetic sampling;
the ground has rushed up to meet her face first.

She knows what kind of woman she is—
both captured and defended, in one

swift motion, by and by,
against and against

her fathers.

_______________

Ode to April

I should have been regretful but brimmed
wildly, had that deep run-off thing,

rich in my knowing I was dead
right inside, collapsing daily in the yard,

fingers sunk deep in the cool dark, digging
up strange earthworms I needed. I could say it

happened some ordinary day: I woke up
one Sunday morning and it was gone. I left

a note on your pillow. These things happen
in a familiar way. I envisioned each footstep

trailing from mudroom into your office.
I wiped my raw feet on a welcome mat–

HOME, as the screen door clicked
behind me. The whole world

had been tugging, in December
I’d known. April, it was time.

I was praying then, coming clean
to you. Last time we’d been fishing,

you pressed your ear to my barrel belly.
I begged, please, you, you bait the line.

_______________

Contraction

There is a cabinet with no bones,
a tiny dog shrinks at his bowl.

It is bare. If you become small
you get less of everything.

The cupboard holds on to a wall,
the wall holds down the floor.

The floor has a hole in it
A trap fills with a cave in

of muscle and bone. The dog needs
and paws, belly hollow as a drum

beating the dog, who gets less.
The world’s full of this

sound, the humming contraction,
a song of rats throbbing,

behind walls, their tiny hearts
holding tight to bare cupboards.

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Teisha Dawn Twomey received her MFA in Poetry at Lesley University. She is the poetry editor for Wilderness House Literary Review.

Her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous print, as well as online poetry publications.

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Mary Benson-

Stopping at an Old Friend’s Apartment Complex

Her mother stood on the rim
of the bathroom sink, smoking
through the ceiling vent

beside the living room smothered
with curtains, the carpet collecting
rent, the answering machine plugged
at the foot of the couch

flicking red messages from
a father who never lived there
and we’d lie on the tufted grass

in front of Building Three
smoking butts from her mom’s purse,
blowing ringlets into the black

of some high school winter
when everything seemed to suck—
I’d count the cars filling

and leaving the lot while she,
stuffed in an orange jacket,
counted the lit windows

turning off one by one.

_______________

The Dish Soap

Our dinner plates dimmed
like clouded moons.

My mother watered down
the soap until the red
oozed pink on the soiled sponge.

My father’s work shirts slouched
in a pile at the corner
of the kitchen table. I sat beside them
long past dinner— avoiding

the full glass of milk beside
my elbow fogged
with stains. the white
tainted with apple-juice

bruises, rusted well-water.
Bills and old receipts
leaned like weathered buildings
on the back kitchen sill,

and I stared out that window:
the moon a yellow tablet,
fizzing.

_______________

Apology in a Drugstore

I’m sorry I stole
The last tube of Crushed
Crimson Lipstick. Sorry
I bagged groceries instead

of going to prom,
sorry my stubbornness
lasted too long. Being a dark girl

wasn’t easy. You weren’t
cut out for the turmoil without
cause, the quiet spells. I don’t resent
you for that, and I’m sorry

I threw up your birthday
Cake. Sorry I ran your mother’s
treadmill to wire, counting to 500
while you watched sit-coms—
Sorry I left you to the dank
internal rooms of hips and breasts
while my body regressed,

wasting with no logic
other than the urge to scare them.
There are so many apologies
I want to tell the back of your head

but you’re wearing flowers; I still
wear all black. I still breathe
nicotine while you buy Clorox
for your kitchen floor,

but today I’m going to buy lipstick:
not shove it up the sleeve of my sweater.
See, I’ve grown too.

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Mary Benson’s writing often stems from  service industry jobs and a working class upbringing in rural New Hampshire. She currently lives in Somerville, MA, and earned her MFA in poetry from Lesley University.  Her work has appeared in Fried Chicken and Coffee.

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