for Ann Lauterbach

The lamb couldn’t become an iamb
   much to my sorrow, much
to the lamb’s relief. My teacher said
   the ocean hid in anapests,
in the lull of the wave, in the lull
   of the prepositional phrase—
in dreams bright children drown
   diagramming sentences,
dependent on a dependent clause
   for rudder through the rapids,
mesmerized by the solar asterisk
   spinning in the eddy with the
gathering foam, dimly aware
   something remains to be said,
in a, of a, for a, with a, for a, of a, in a
   field of asphodel
their mothers
hear from the dark room’s open door
   in the middle of the night.
Or just one child. Just his mother.
   Just that bedroom an earthquake
could destroy, or a fire burn, just
   that room where, behind closed
eyes, the fire burns, the earth shakes,
   and not a book falls off the shelf,
and not a page is aflame, though
   in the air the scent is singe
of the moon on fire once again.
   In a cave a goddess in echoes
sobs at her son’s fate as her son
   walks into the ocean to wash
the blood from his wrath. Imagine
   in dactyls what the hand can do
it still can do and does worse
   than imagining can fathom.
It can be gentle, too. The mind
   couldn’t become pyrrhic,
much to my sorrow, much to my
   delight. The horse galloping
now in green trochees across the field
   also beds down in a meadow
unseen, its haunch flinching in dream.
   Quickened at external relations
the heart has its spondees that slow
   blood down into thought, slow
into memory so vivid it feels as you
   draw hand to chest your heart
might stop beating. But it’s just an idea
   of death. Not death itself. Not
that drone inside silence so different
   than chaos, like the blue-shift
of quasars inching backward through
   time, like the sun in bronze
on an ancient ring, or a bee hanging
   golden on a hook within the ash
within the urn. The pollen won’t
   quit gathering inside the poem.
Subject to what does not exist
   my teacher told me to submit.
The mind-wings hum in tune, in time.
   Mother, all I want is honey in a hive.

Copyright © 2018 Dan Beachy-Quick. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.


in exile, ganged up in this greenhouse of living ache
and want, shabby glassed-in room with a door propped open
by a dustpan under a scribbled please, keep locked,
underlined, underlined. Who wrote that, what guardian

of the wordless deep to abet these most patient other
bullies on their bright faded stalks breathing in
my carbon, giving back oxygen, not a gift, only something
to remind: the invisible exchange—love that first.

But trays and trays of dirt growing miniature time bombs,
tiny eyelids with a clamshell look, eyelashes if
brushed even slightly, they go for me. One clamps up
quick as I pull away. I’m its feed me right now,

I’m prey, then a total washout, too big for its wired-up little,
a tease. Slowly it reopens, resumes watch on this ocean
of sunlit muggy air, me swimming through my so important
afternoon to supper, to sleep. What to dream at night—

who knows how ruthless such a small empty creature
crazy to swallow all anything that happens by,
to give it a shot, a next world, a slow dissolve.
I have eyelids. I have eyelashes that shut down tight.

Copyright © 2018 Marianne Boruch. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.

He was painting the sky. Not painting images of sun and clouds on canvas—no, slapping paint across the sky itself. It was a painting en plein air on plain air.

There was a theory behind it, of course, a theory so big it didn’t matter anymore, a map the size of the territory.

Go tell it to the birds, he would say. But the birds didn’t care. They were flying nonchalantly through the sky, and he would paint them, too, the redbirds blue and the bluebirds red.

Of course, the paint would drip everywhere. But didn’t it always? That’s what the rag was for, and the little blade. As someone said: If art was not difficult, it would not be art.

The critics hadn’t found the right word for it yet. Not exactly realism, and not quite surrealism—not even subrealism. But he couldn’t wait for the critics to make up their minds. He just kept painting, while the sun was out.

At the end of the day, his work was done. He put away his paints, and the sun put itself away, and the clouds likewise. It was so dark he couldn’t see the grass around his feet, no longer green but a ground of many colors, still wet, like some kaleidoscope of dew.

Ah, what would he paint tomorrow? A seascape? He thought of the water, wave after wave, and his small brush dabbling in the shallows, stroking out into the deep.

Copyright © 2018 Elton Glaser. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.

Really nice meeting you sorry
I have to hurry off there’s this thing
happening this thing I must do
you too yes dying is the thing
everyone is not talking about it
why ruin karaoke night why discolor
the air between you and the bartender
hello what can I get for you
it’s miraculous we’re here and then
the world is yanked from us and then
time dismantles our bodies to dust
okay um can I help the next customer
see it would be awkward
let’s not bring it up mum’s the word
come on now we’ve still got
some living to do pick up that trumpet
I’ve got mine already never mind
we can’t play any instruments
the point is to make a sound
any sound in this endless parade
shimmering toward silence.

Copyright © 2018 David Hernandez. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.

In the diorama’s replica world
Artificial light mimics storm glow
On the stage set of a prairie

Wet sheets slouch on a clothesline
A tornado touches down
On the curved horizon of the backdrop

Still miles away
Debris and wind have not yet
Reached the here and now

Through the unglazed window
Of the makeshift shelter
A lit lamp sits on the sill

Behind it realia in viscous shadow
An ambiguous space where we are asked
To imagine a life is lived

Copyright © 2018 Eric Pankey. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.

I counted the water towers, I counted the active smokestacks.
These were the breadcrumbs I thought would lead me back. Now
I know it’s possible to drive so far we forget why we left, that the
journey continues even after the car breaks down. I used to think
I had no message, but the message is me—bloodshot and hungry,
spilled coffee down the front of my shirt. People of the future,
gather round. I have traveled through ink to greet you.

Copyright © 2018 Charles Rafferty. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.

     after Paul Klee

There are not enough shoes
in heaven
no matter what the song says—

which means feet will be
rationed soon
because God says so.

It was the curse of Midas
to know
what happened next,

however limited
however gold.
It was the curse of Jeremiah

to prophesy for the Lord
and regret it
even as he spoke, knowing

Damascus would burn
then Marathon,
Kabul, Jerusalem. Oh God

who taketh away the world,
who among us
could have declined heaven

even when we knew? Only
the meek
are blessed, the sorrowful—

only the secondary,
the poor and pocketless

without laces and aglets,
heels and soles,
eyelets and tongues.

Blessed are those who weep.
the hangdog, the hungry,

the angry, the upper
and lower,
the strapped, the welted.

Blessed those who have
no feet
for they shall see God’s

handiwork. Blessed be God
for whom
the word for world is shoe.

Copyright © 2018 Keith Ratzlaff. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.

This color was never stirred in a can.
It’s like the underside of God’s tongue.
The very thought of reproducing it
is like saying, I want this room
done in that woman’s laugh
after a joke that was only mildly funny
but you love the person who told it
and the one who laughed equally.
No, not remotely salmon; not sienna.
Not melon, I don’t care what stage
of ripeness. Tincture of fresh clay,
of linden tea plus one drop of clover honey?
No. It’s more like the glowy heart
in the opening credits of I Love Lucy
which was filmed in black and white
so you have to guess at its hue.
But that’s the color it would have been.
It’s like the imagined defying the real
in an unusually confrontational way.
Once you’ve seen it a kind of zen
descends like a cape over your shoulders.
You won’t always be trying to impress people.
I can’t believe how long you’ve lived here
without seeing it, though it lasts only
a few seconds every day about this time.
I saw it the very first night I moved here.
Stand over there, look toward the city
but only peripherally. This way,
don’t face it full-on; turn slightly left,
there, breathe shallowly. Look up
without tipping your head back. Now
you’re too tense, you’re not trying, no,
the light has changed it’s gone.

Copyright © 2018 J. Allyn Rosser. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.

My children have put on my shoes, the pair
of them, male and female we made them—

and boots with laces trailing; the shoes, mates—
the boy and girl not, often

contenders, all together now in this.
First, the single pair divided between them

without dispute, one shoe off, one shoe on,
feet lost in them, leg in up to the shin.

At the limp-and-drag pass in front of my chair,
I put my book down, but they turn away

before I can speak, kicking the footwear
into the corner and gone

back to the closet and back again in motley,
mad-shod, a singleton on each foot—

the separated twins of his sneaker and slipper,
her mismatch of sandals.

They crisscross the room, quickening the shuffle
to slam the heels on the floorboards,

not looking at me, not answering
to their names, intent on

the performance only, looking past
even each other, a flash of the whites of eyes

rolling, mouths open, the spooked-horse look,
and a few cries of half-stifled laughter,

but the fourth wall kept intact
as they discard onto the little mound

in the corner and race out to return
with two pairs undivided on each,

old loafers on her, but he’s gone formal:
processional glide of the long sedans

of gleaming black brogues, brougham
hearses. I am here I want to tell them, still here.

Copyright © 2018 Jason Sommer. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.

My beast made of gold is my vocation; it walks with me
and makes a peaceable sound. It has no wings and it has no clay.
I never touch it, if I can help it—though sometimes, knocked
roughly, I brush it by accident. That is when the pain comes
and the great poems cover their famished faces. Which is the true
prison: the church, the garden, the body, or the mind?
My beast doesn’t answer, but I detect a slight modulation
in its earthy hum. I cannot leave it and it, evidently, will
not leave me. I wish I had a cord with which to bind it up. Bless
the rain, which washes the eye clear and remembers nothing
but what we have discarded in the skies. It wraps my golden beast
in its wet hands. I want to return the earth’s broad phylacteries,
which it left in my care. This is the furthest I will get from love
and love’s children, adrift in the blue-eyed grass. My beast
prepares a place for me. It is not the place I wanted, but
I recognize myself in its contagious mysteries. Oh beast surrender
I call into the night’s tight coin. It remains beside me, unblinking.
It is a beast, and I am a man. Together we make our worship.

Copyright © 2018 G. C. Waldrep. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.