Charles Coe is author of two books of poetry and his work has appeared in a number of literary reviews and anthologies. He is the winner of a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Charles’s poems have been set by a number of composers, and a short film based on his poem “Fortress” is currently in production by filmmaker Roberto Mighty. He was selected by the Associates of the Boston Public Library as a “BostonLiterary Light for 2014.” His novella, "Spin Cycles," was published in November, 2014 by Gemma Media.
A Poem for Happy Endings
The hero gets the girl.
The villain plunges to his doom;
his bitter face disappears in fire and smoke.
The estranged lovers embrace,
while violins cue the audience
to reach for tissues.
The script I wrote for my parents included
Father’s retirement scene: the crowded banquet
hall, speaker after speaker telling stories
filled with that rough humor
men use to disguise their love.
And then, the days fishing, tinkering with the
lawn mower, sitting on the porch with a western
novel, keeping a watchful eye on traffic.
The camera turns now to Mother; in a long shot
we see the little grey house with garden in back,
a small figure kneeling in the dirt, a big floppy hat
blocking the sun. She’s digging a hole for next petunia;
zoom in on a wrist fine-boned as a bird’s.
Who hands out the happy endings?
Who, late one night, stood outside
my parents’ home, gazed a moment at some
mark scrawled on the door, then just turned to walk away,
the sound of footsteps fading on the empty street?
Johnette Marie Ellis is a native Bostonian who found her way back home after several bouts in New York City. As a second year MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Emerson College, Johnette is looking for new strategies and questions to nurture a mission driven path. She worked in the non-profit sector for 10 years, serving primarily as a community builder and advocate for the redistribution of power and access through programs and policy. Now Johnette has her sights set on harnessing the power and influence of creativity as an educator and poet. Currently she works with emersonWRITES as a poetry teacher and as an instructor in Emerson’s First Year Writing Program.
i can’t imagine staying.
there’s so much of me in the soot
so much of me in the pissy alley.
moss is making way though.
the rootless warrior
loosening ground, dissolving rock.
still they keep making walkways
hard heads keep scraping the sky.
in september they removed the piece
of sidewalk with her name in it.
then we painted the walls ladybug red
a shade she would have liked for her nails.
she made me a city girl.
we would end up in bare feet
picking glass out of our toes though.
she wanted a rose garden in the alley
neighbors are planting cameras instead.
it’s been 5 years since we’ve had curtains
revealing the tomb
we’ve become - now we need them.
something small is rooting
in need of protection.
i’m still a little girl
Regie Gibson is a poet, songwriter, author, workshop facilitator, and educator. Gibson and his work appear in the film Love Jones, based largely on events in his life. In 1999 he performed for the award-winning Traffic Series at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater where he adapted the work of Kurt Vonnegut. In addition, he has performed at The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, and many other venues. Gibson is widely published in anthologies, magazines, and journals, such as Power Lines, An Anthology of Poetry along with Pulitzer-Prize winning poets Gwendolyn Brooks, Yosef Komunyakaa, and Lisel Mueller. His first full-length book of poetry, Storms Beneath The Skin, was released in 2001. Gibson has also taught, lectured and facilitated workshops.
Godholler // 1. n. A primal word. The first cry of creation. The sound from which all things manifest–––as in, Yes: the word his mother gave his father, in 1967, after he’d chased her for 8 years. Yes, there, in the cotton field, he, the father, wearing a halo of daysweat and dust. Yes: the word that became the kiss that became the tongue on the pulse that became the hand that turned up the transistor radio so Smokey Robinson and the Miracles could punctuate the newfound syllable with Ooooh, Baby, Baby becoming the baby they would have together, there, in that small Mississippi backwater they would soon leave for the promise of Chicago’s smokestacks and skyscrapers. 2. v. To loudly command with supreme and unquestioned authority––– as when the mother, like a carnival ventriloquist, sits with a deity on her knee making it mouth her “Thou Shalt Not’s”, or, when the father, fearing the son is gay, attempts to yell him into a “real man”. 3. n. The sound the boy, now a man with sons, attempts to muffle in his poetry.
Timothy Gager is the author of eleven books of short fiction and poetry. His latest, TheThursday 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 nine have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has been read on National Public Radio.
The Shutting Door
We are solid oak doors that shut
on our past, close on dead mothers,
sons, daughters. These doors swell
often, won’t open. One midnight
we walked towards woods, the moss
cold under our toes, as we were,
caught in the light for a moment;
a glimpse of half full. We are dim
lights on dark nights, sending out calls
to the wolves howling at the sun
because the moon hanging there,
yet never seems to hear them.
If I should need to step back to see
how you glow in this light,
illumination, I can be at one with that,
us, growing like violets in the dark.
Jennifer Martelli’s chapbook, Apostrophe, was published in 2011 by Big Table Publishing Company. She is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Most recently, her poetry has been published in Bop Dead City, Tar River Poetry, burntdistrict, Jersey Devil Press and Right Hand Pointing. She’s taught high school English and women’s literature at Emerson College. She’s an associate editor for The Compassion Project: An Anthology, and lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts with her family.
Pete Townshend’s Voice Behind Me, The Snowplow’s Blade Before Me
I’ve sent my husband down the cellar to play The Who
then Elvis Costello then Velvet Underground. Sent him
down with the cat. We’ll never leave that rotten decade,
I say. I’ve cooked all day, heavy fatty foods. Bought rock
salt, bags of it, poured it over my front steps as the plow
scrapes the dry street. My heart is drawn to what’s left on the pitch.
There’s barely enough snow to call it tv static. The street lamps’
strange ovals I confused with the moon, that little camel’s hump.
Don’t trust me. I am not trustworthy: not because I’m from this
angry state but because I like the closing in. The clouds
sag with the weight of snow. Like a uterine wall, they need to let go,
bleed out something cold, then we’ll see what’s left. If the sky
reflects an interior life, this is a dull one. Nothing toxic, nothing, not even
yoga or crystal has ever relieved me for long. An eye
is supposed to open in the middle of my brow. The snowy weight
hurts, gives me an ice spike, and I taste cold knives when I swallow.
Jonathan Mendoza is a spoken word artist/educator, musician, occasional filmmaker and student. He is a youth peer-leader and co-teacher in spoken word at the IBA Youth Development Program in Boston’s South End and is also a MassLEAP spoken word teaching-artist. He was a member and co-coach of two Louder Than A Bomb semi-finalist teams and competed with Emerson College’s 2014 CUPSI team in Boulder, Colorado. Jonathan is seriously addicted to art that helps positively transform individuals and communities.
On the Boston Marathon of 2014
Let this be progress.
Let this be moving.
Let this be fresh air and new days.
Let this be a moment separate from the last.
Let this be remembrance
Let this be sorrow.
Let this be knife-took-their-skin.
Let this be wake-up call.
Let this be spilt blood.
Let this be
Let this be terrorized beauty.
Let this be city strength through 50 homicides in a year.
Let this be cognizance.
Let this be empathy.
Let this be anything but forgetting.
Lewis Morris is a dork. He's also a multi-talented poet, writer, beatmaker, and MC. Lewis started writing at the age of eleven, and discovered poetry slam at age fourteen. Since then, he has performed at The Apollo Theater, The Smithsonian, TEDxBoston 2011, among many others. In college, Lewis founded The OFFICIAL MassArt Poetry Alliance, a student group that has sparked other colleges and universities in the area to build poetry scenes of their own. A skilled and trained educator, Lewis has taught at schools all over Massachusetts and beyond. His workshops are known for producing a high level of writing from every member who attends.
Danielle Jones-Pruett holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and is program coordinator for the Writers House at Merrimack College. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2014, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cider Press Review, and elsewhere. She is a recipient of a 2014 Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award.
She holds her breath as the pine box closes
on the tangled knot of her husband’s body.
After pounding nails into the packing crate,
she curtsies to the crowd, then watches
as they tie it shut. It takes six men
to pull it to the edge of the dock, frayed
rope almost breaking. They push
the box into the river, which drinks
him in, swallow by swallow. She waits.
Hundreds of times she saw him sink,
or dangle—straitjacketed—like an albino bat,
or stiff in his own grave, bound by chains,
face disappearing under clods of dirt.
There was always a moment—this time he won’t—
but then his hand scratched through earth,
or his head broke the barely visible line
of thin air. She envied these moments
of death, rebirth. Her job was to smile.
He sits in a red velvet armchair, wearing
the black robe she gave him on his last birthday.
The radio’s on, but she isn’t sure he’s listening:
his eyes are closed. In the small kitchen,
at the table for two, she’s mending his costume,
a row of straight pins in her mouth. Off season
there’s nothing to say. She holds one of his shirts
to light, admires her handiwork: the scar of stitches
barely visible on fine silk.
Jade Sylvan is one of the standout artists in the Boston Collectivist art movement. She's an award-winning, internationally-touring poet and nonfiction writer whose poetry and essays have been published in The Toast, BuzzFeed, PANK, and over twenty more journals, websites, and magazines. She's the author of the autobiographical novel Kissing Oscar Wilde (Write Bloody Press, 2013) and the poetry collection The Spark Singer (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2009). In 2012, she cowrote and starred in the feature film TEN (2014), and wrote the accompanying novel. Jade’s received artist grants from The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Vermont Studio Center, and Amethyst Arsenic, and was nominated “Best Poet” by the Boston Phoenix newspaper in 2013. Jade can be seen frequently getting up to queer feminist performative no-good on- and offstage in and around Cambridge.
You know how sometimes you’re in your twenties in America
You know how sometimes you’re in your twenties in America and you’ve learned every lesson you’re ever going to learn about ten times already, and you start to realize that’s what learning is, not answering questions, but finding ways to ask the same questions over and over again?
You’re twenty-one or twenty-nine and your heart’s been broken somewhere between four and twenty times-fetal-position-on-the-bathroom-floor broken, real-country-music broken-and you don’t know how you can ever be expected to go on like this for fifty more years and change.
You have scars. You’ve injured your body in ways that will never fully heal, and you realize you are slowly, incorrigibly sliding away from some physical perfection you imagine you must have possessed sometime in the distant past. Maybe when you were fourteen. Maybe the day you were born.
You’ve gone on and off your medication and the bottle. You’ve had your first marriage and maybe your first divorce, or maybe you’ve always broken things off or been broken off. You’ve screwed and you’ve made love. You’re pretty sure you know the difference now.
You’ve thought of suicide in a post-adolescent way at least once. Practically. Stoically. Without any late-night phone calls. Just sober in a dimly lit bedroom, weighing cons and pros.
Maybe you’ve changed your name or your gender and sometimes, if you’re not paying attention, you forget while filling out customs forms or grocery store reward card applications or your taxes and start to write those outdated letters and then, shaking your own head at itself, have to cross them out and start over. Maybe at that moment you recognize your fourteen-year-old self inside you somewhere, with black fingernail polish and matching rubber bands on her braces, and realize she’s been there all along, and she will always be there, and sometimes when you’re distracted she can sneak up to the surface of your skin just enough to slip her voice onto your paperwork.
You’ve lost god, or you’ve found Him. This hasn’t changed things as much as you’d hoped.
Maybe you’ve had a child and stared at its tubular body and limbs and twenty tiny perfect digits with awe and gratitude and terror, and you wonder what you did to trick the universe into believing you were smart or stable enough for this level of entrustment, and you realize that this is how your parents must have felt looking at you, quaking in their ridiculous retro fashions, and you can’t help but think of their parents quaking too with amazement in black and white or sepia, and their parents and theirs and all the way back to Adam and Eve or Lucy the Neanderthal and her mate, and how they all must have felt somehow the same staring down at their children, these pudgy defiances of entropy created without skill or logic or intention, by accident, flawlessly, and you think even the intelligent algorithm that sets bosons aspin must have its slip-ups and loopholes, and you think, in your most self-indulgent fantasias of personification, that the laws of motion themselves must feel uncertain at times, and maybe the gods, too, are making it all up as they go along, and maybe one day, when she’s in her twenties, you can posit this hypothesis to your child over beers, and she’ll listen and roll it over inside her perfect, separate skull, and respond with a perspective on all of it that you’ve never in your half-century of life even considered, and maybe this, her mouth which is not your mouth over the head of her beer, will finally, for a moment, make you feel unalone.