Kelli Simpson is the winner of the 2021 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest. Her work has appeared in Lamplit Underground, Green Ink Poetry, One Art Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. A mother, poet, and former teacher, she makes her home in Norman, Oklahoma.
The following work is Copyright © 2022, and owned by Kelli Simpson and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
There is night and there is day.
There is here and there is there.
There is I and there is Other.
These are truths so self-evident
that we leave them undeclared,
but what if
we finally let the world be round?
I sleep; you sow
You dream; I dare
another day in my little corner
of everywhere. Our everywhere.
Here and there is meaningless
when I inhale the dust of both
of our ancestors with every breath.
And, breathing you, what can be left
of I, but a lie that profits
the tellers and sellers
We all cradle a child like a miracle.
We all eat, fuck, die,
and “why” leaves its taste on every tongue.
Night and day.
Here and there.
I and Other.
I’ve fasted all night, and my eyes
are hungry for light to blind
the second sight of my bad dreams.
I crave blooms and birds to sing fifths and thirds –
that wild mix
Sing, world, sing!
Words emerge, not by will,
but by waiting.
Sounds shape syllables. Syllables
settle on my shoulders and whisper in my ears
Be gentle with the morning.
And, I am, for a moment, I am.
Soon enough, though, my eyes wander towards work.
There are weeds in the zinnias:
the tomatoes need water;
and it’s getting hotter by the minute.
I remember that there was a grackle in last night’s dream.
Feathers pressed flat against a pane of glass,
he was trapped and struggling to get outside.
Now, awake, I wonder at a blue sky
alive with flight –
black wings cutting through white clouds
like words on a page.
Layla Lenhardt is an Indianapolis based poet. She is Editor in Chief of 1932 Quarterly. She has been most recently published in The Light Ekphrastic, Quail Bell Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, and Pennsylvania Literary Journal. She is a 2021 Best of the Net nominee. Mother Tongue, her forthcoming book of poems, will be published by Main Street Rag Publishing. www.laylalenhardt.com.
The following work is Copyright © 2022, and owned by Layla Lenhardt and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
The dust on the windowsill sits in piles in the silent house,
rumpled bed sheets, like a shipwreck.
I am older now than you’ll ever get to be.
I parse out my dreams like a dissected raven,
hoping for a fledgling of a whisper, just to hear your voice.
Since you’ve been gone the trees have stopped shedding,
their pollen lies in tufts on the sidewalk like a dead baby bird.
You never got to see 30. I drive past your mother’s house
every time I’m in town. It’s the last place I saw you.
Last month I met a stranger at the bar.
He took me on a ride on his motorcycle,
and the entire time, I was steadfast in holding back tears.
The last time I was on a motorcycle, I was clutching your back,
leather on leather, as we parted the cornfields of Eastern PA.
On every sabbath, I put your picture on my altar
and unsheet my mirrors. I beg the universe to send me any type of sign
that you’re still with me somehow. I always believed in the gloaming
of my life, I’d find my way back to you. Back to the flowers you put in my hair,
when we sang in harmonies around bonfires.
I remember I was listening to a Graham Nash song
when I found out you died,
“Come to me now, rest your head for just five minutes,”
and the immediate imperious buckling of my knees that followed.
Since then, I have never listened to that song.
Since then, I have never wholly stood back up.
It’s not because I reached up
and tucked your hair behind
your ear in front of Michael
on Halloween, or the sex
in my truck in the tattoo shop
parking lot or that time
you were yellowed by the sun.
It’s the not knowing what to call you
to my coworkers. It’s mistaking
your silence for business. It’s the look
in your eye the night when
Max flew in. The buzz of a coil
machine. The creak and moan
of the stairs in your rental house
on Roslyn Street. The corner
of a condom wrapper
on your floor. How sleeping
next to you feels like a funeral.
That loving you is a pain
I enter alone.
Mary Beth Hines
Mary Beth Hines’s debut poetry collection, Winter at a Summer House, was published by Kelsay Books in November 2021. Her most recent poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction appear in Slant, SWWIM, Tar River Poetry, The MacGuffin, Valparaiso, and elsewhere. Her short fiction was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Visit her at www.marybethhines.com.
The following work is Copyright © 2022, and owned by Mary Beth Hines and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
On Barefoot Beach
His first widowed winter, Father flew south
to Florida, with me, surprised he agreed,
but he said he supposed that God’s light shone
more in some places, less in others, and south
seemed a better chance to catch what remained.
Evening-after-evening we sat on the shore
in our low-slung chairs, draped his worn
Navy blanket across our laps, sipped wine
and watched the sun drop, scanned the horizon
for the rumored flash of green.
Arm-in-arm on our last evening, we walked
into the water, let go, heads back and floated.
He closed his eyes, lips pursed in a pensive smile.
A minute, maybe five till he lost his legs.
I roused in time, clasped, and towed him in.
I am the blonde with the blue
wings swinging between the framed
edges of my yearbook photo
loco, the boys in my class tease, my hair
a billowing affair following
my beauty day at the mall
all ready for the mob at the Sheraton
beyond prom where we girls fall
between squalls of boyish men
muddled and mauled we call for more
menthols, mercy, mudslides, more
mix to fix the spinning
stars to the ceiling for another
hour more, a moment to make
a wish, a trick of light, the door
swings open to we are not
whores our voices scratched with sore,
all those scores kept and secrets
mourned for years I felt
no pain and nearly married
the boy I cried about most days
and nights back then when
I found someone to bury my blue-
tinted head in someone who
forevered me on his back in burning
black, my tiny skull inked between
his blades spiraling blue-tipped flame.
From “Winter at a Summer House,” Mary Beth Hines, 2021, Kelsay Books