June 17-23, 2024: Poetry from Jonathan Hayes and Karen Quickley

Send us your poetry. Click here for submission guidelines.

Jonathan Hayes

Jonathan Hayes lives in Oakland, California with his wife and their cat. He is the publisher of the long-running literary journal Over the Transom. His book, Ghetto Sunshine / Poems 1997 – 2023, is forthcoming this year. He is also the author of the book A Full Moon In Santa Cruz, and his street photography can be viewed on Instagram.

The following work is Copyright © 2024, and owned by Jonathan Hayes and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

You tell yourself…

You tell yourself you’re going to stop
It’s gotten to be too much and it’s time for a break

Maybe ten years

Twenty would be too many because you know
You can’t give up that much time to silence

And more importantly

You already told people you stopped
You’re clean

That’s the word on the street
Till dude came over to your place yesterday

And saw on your computer screen
The first draft of a new poem
You’re working on

About not being a Taylor Swift fan and
Something about walking around the Tenderloin District

You can’t stop
Even if you stop calling yourself a poet

You can’t stop writing it

Karen Quickley

Karen Quickley (formerly Schnurstein) is a budding poet and writer. Her poetry has appeared in The Galway Review, Steel Jackdaw, New Feathers Anthology, The Dawn Review, and elsewhere. More at karenquickley.net and apoetinlove.substack.com.

The following work is Copyright © 2024, and owned by Karen Schnurstein and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Little Brown Girl

After Christa Wolf’s “Divided Heaven”

In the beginning,
he stalked her,
tendering out of the brush,
closer and closer each day
’til that stick in his fist
could have caught her.

And for this,
she thought him chimerical.

Then came the dance—
she was just her puberty,
punch bubbles self,
’til he tweaked her arm
and dervished her out.

Snagged easy as doughnuts,
she nearly floated
away from the floor.

But he stiffened, sullening up.
He stared through her,
estranged by his lust.
“I don’t do this,”
he thought.

“Pretty hard, it must be,
acting like that,”
she said, thinking she’d sew him
right up.

But he stopped.
His cragginess dropped.
Those old pitty eyes melted
down to this malminess,
and he stroked her out
with his twittering hand
into that pastoral street.

He strollered her home, quiet,
like her arm in his was some tap.

Her breasts, Beefsteak tomatoes,
ready to drop. Her chest,
warm as some crotch.

And still he said nothing.
Still he quartered her in
through her gate.

Her mother, inside, peeked out
through the shutters.
“Sorry girl,”
she said, shaking her head.

On the stoop, dour orphan—
that doorknob bit into her hand
and she thought it was over…

“Do you think you could love me?”
he said.

And he left.
And she smiled like Eve
’til his shadow jigged slenderly off
to the corn.

She was sold.
So she invited him over for spatzle.
She let him touch her and kiss her;
she moved into his attic apartment;
she let him sleep
with her head
on his shoulder.

“My Little Brown Girl,”
he’d say,
“my savior, my rabbit,
you will be my wife
one day.
Little Brown Girl,
I’m young again.
You will be mine forever
one day.”

And she’d answer,
“Yes, Doctor Manfred,
Herr Father, Messiah—
my adam, my ticket,
my fate.”

He gave her a tortoise
instead of a ring.

And her mother, back home,
shook the pudding up
like her head—she said,
“Sorry girl,
a wife you’ll never be.
Not to him.”

Brown Girl went to work.
And at night while she was dormant,
Manfred awoke.
“Silly girl,”
he nibbled,
“a teacher you’ll never be.
You’ll never make it
out of the Works.”

But in April she grew an inch.
She went out,
tasted truffles
and Schnapps.

Next thing she’s bought her books.
Next thing and she’s clocked out of the foundry
for good.

Next thing, her messiah went West.

Then he wrote:
“It is heaven
here,” “I want
you,” and “Besides, the freedom and smokes
are cheap.”

She left after school dismissed.
In her nervous train,
she thought those eastern cows
crooned out to her, flying by
fast as lakes.

She thought sunflowers turned
their cheeks,
and heard swallows
whining her name
every crossing.

“My girl,”
he whispered, knock-kneed that she’d come.
And she felt that brown
grope her right up
to her scalp.

“Amazing,” she thought,
walking beside him again.
“My hand’s as proud
as a bachelor’s.”

They went out for coffee—
“To you,” he said,
his black cup up,
“and your silly mistakes
of the past.”

And she drank up the cream then
like luck.

He reached out
as she swung
through the door—but his thin hand missed,
or else she clippered off
from the wind of it.

Stepping out,
she turned East.
And it was understood.

“How is the tortoise?”
he asked.

“Amazingly well.”

“Feed her tomatoes,”
he said.

“I’ll try that.”

“Go,” he said.

And he crept back, slow,
to his desk and his books
in his dusky new house.
Dizzied, he scribbled,
“Sorry girl,”
like a sum or a reason.

But she was no sorrier
than a Hairstreak or Monarch
clubbing away
from her sac.

Subscribe to our weekly Newsletter: