Meghan DePeau, Sarabjeet Garcha, Howie Good, Calvin Holder, Quinn Carver Johnson, Selina A. Mahmood, DS Maolalai, Brad Rose, Rolf Samuels, Claudia Serea, & Steve Straight
Laura M. Kaminski
F. John Sharp
José Angel Araguz
F. J. Bergmann
about the editors
The Note by Dale Wisely
I am a psychologist and a mental patient. I've been known to introduce myself as such when I give talks on mental health topics, which I do frequently. I figure if we are ever going to defeat the stigma around mental illness, we have to stand up.
I am prone to episodes of depression. Mercifully, my episodes are typically brief and not severe. But I have a diagnosis and I am treated for it. I am mentally ill.
There is a sort of cultural joke that mental health professionals are themselves pretty nutty people. At best. Psychologists and psychiatrists are almost always portrayed on TV and in movies as buffoons, or self-important squirrels. No one can even count how often TV and movies have featured sexual relations between therapist and patient. At least one famous fictional psychiatrist was known to pair human liver with fava beans and Chianti. Personally, I'm not crazy about fava beans. I also don't know what a Chianti tastes like.
While I object to the way therapists are depicted in fictional media, there's no reason for therapists to deny the idea that therapists are themselves among the largest consumers of mental health care. As a group, we probably have personal histories—depression, trauma, family issues— that got us interested in mental health early on.
Then there are artists, in general, and poets, perhaps, in particular. We all know the story there. We all know how much mental illness winds its way through the lives and the work of artists and writers. We all know that far too many die from complications of mental illness.
After years of decline, suicide rates among youth are rising. Some of what is behind that are increases in depression and anxiety among young people. Suicide rates among teenage girls are at a 40-year high, as has been reported in the media. Easy to miss from those reports is that teenage boys are still much more likely than girls to die by suicide. And, so are adults. The parents of those teenagers— and their grandparents— are still considerably more likely to die by suicide.
(Ok. So. I'm sure all the writers whose work is featured in this issue are, as they read this, so very glad I decided to introduce the issue with this grim topic. Sorry, guys!)
I am just moved today to write this and to reach out. If you are doing poorly, find a way to be relentless in getting good care. If you get a squirrel for the first therapist, get another one. If the first antidepressant doesn't help— or doesn't help enough— at the current dose, talk to your doctor about increasing the dose or going to another medication. Tell someone you trust that you are struggling and ask for support. If you are currently doing well, write yourself a letter, encouraging yourself to get help, and tuck it away for some time that maybe you're not doing as well.
It is Anno Domini 2018. Our brothers and sisters are under siege. We are all needed. Stay alive.
I see hope form here a box of words
Lit from within; something nestled
In the coil of letters, stirring, glinting
Behind the rustling black ink shreds.
He might blush
If you show him a poem
Might make him angry
Just by being
Close at hand
He might flush
Then narrow his eyes
To close the book.
A House in Wales
Floating on its own slow ripple
In the land
The house exhales
The fog of human breath
Exuded through the walls
Sucked in through stone pores.
Cab drivers always turn around and ask me,
“Where you going?” There are times
I think about going back. But I don’t go.
What I saw just doesn’t make sense—a woman
who looked sort of like Emily Dickinson,
in a sinister black pinafore, standing at the window
with the alphabet prowling around her.
Do you realize how dangerous that was?
So dangerous I lost a shoe while fleeing.
Down Among the Dust
The closest baseball fields to my Milan house are just west, beyond the last street of houses. The fields separate those buildings from woods beyond. The fields form a middle space, domesticated nature. Three ball fields for the young, the Little Leaguers. On a map, the fields look like three accordion fans placed on the ground by three little maids from school in The Mikado. The closest field is also the biggest. It’s a four-minute walk from the house, seven when Polly dawdles, sniffs, does her business. Standing at the plate of that field, facing northwest, a right-handed hitter might pull a ball down the left-field line and lose it in the trees that run all the way to 14th Street, where the houses resume.
When I was in my twenties, still reporting stories and not policing or repairing them, I sat in the bleachers at these West Milan fields, covering a Little League championship. I did not then live just down the street. What teams played that day I don’t recall. I suppose I could dig through files and find that story if I cared to. I haven’t fully buried my reporter past in my copyediting present. In those days, less of a preservationist, I didn’t keep notes long. Those events were not mine. And I think differently now about their very status as events. Outside the fiction of a ball field, what are sports but pseudo-events? A triple does not exist outside of a ball game. Off the field, it’s only marking out three-quarters of a box.
In that Little League championship, I remember that a testosterone-advanced boy bowled over a chubby catcher, bowled him over with a slide so hard that it knocked him out. The catcher held onto the ball, the ump called the man-child out, and parents cheered while the boy catcher lay splayed and unconscious behind the batter’s box. The man-child stood sobbing nearby, a pizza parlor advertised on his hunching back. The catcher came to. The man-child wept on. His sobbing never earned a sentence, word, or letter in my newspaper story.
The man-child is, must be, a man now. Maybe he still lives around here. Perhaps he found a woman to forgive him for being the brute he thought himself that day. Perhaps they have made little people of their own to care for, to introduce to baseball, to take to the plastic slide next to the Presbyterian church and play, just play.
I held my parents,
each one under one arm
and pulled them up
onto my lap,
the way you’d hold
They were so light,
and I was wondering,
How can my father be so light?
How can my mother—like a sparrow?
I held them for as long as I could.
And they were light.
At 3 a.m.
I stand under the bare trees,
listening to the bird that asks,
Is it here?
Overhead, two planes fly
in the cold wind palace,
and scattered icebergs show their bellies,
drifting across the sky.
And I don’t move
for a long time,
waiting for a sign,
a great swoosh,
a satisfying falling into place,
like cracking bones.
Can you hear it?
Hear it? asks the bird.
Shut up, I answer.
I know it’s coming.
After the long illness called winter
Small open mouths that sing,
swallowing pain whole,
they grow on battlefields
and on abandoned land,
unfurling red dresses
from the dead’s eyelids.
Some call them wounds,
weeds of eternal love
painted on money,
or flapping on flags.
They write their own small history
and give themselves to wind,
heads held by hairy stems
and paper-dry skin
so easy to snap
and spill on the ground
the sleepy, black
Someday, I’ll get to it—
get to my oracular bit revolving
in the ionospheric orbit.
Up there, I’ll unburden your soul
of all earthly information,
buff up the silence
of cosmic bodies twinkling
away into eternity, and
soothsay the evolution
of a world not governed by
your words till then. Climb
out of planetary plans to be
embowered by desires
which have achieved
I smiled at the curling ribbon
that dangled from the balloon it
was as it rose overhead, beyond
my reach. I forgot to pull it
down. Instead, I kept tying my shoe,
chopping the onions, something that
seemed to matter in that moment.
I can’t help but wonder now, as I sit
with this blank page, whether that poem
mattered, whether it might drift
back down for someone else, someone
who will reach for that wisp of ribbon.
I Lost a Poem
It’s New Year’s Day and
not only is it a full moon,
but it’s so full that everyone
says it’s super. I wake up
and can’t explain the
in my chest until I see
a story on the news:
the moon tonight is
going to be so big that
no matter where you go,
you can’t escape its
pull, like the tides
tugging at your heart.
Super Moon, 2018
Quinn Carver Johnson
Before I was fired, I completed the empathy training workshop. It wasn’t so bad, especially since I came out swinging. Now, whenever you call, I pretend that I can’t hear you. It’s a law of physics, like the conservation of energy. Last night, I noticed the grass was black and silent in the moonless dark, but the trees were listening, so I went to bed. At first, I slept calmly, like a placid swimming pool poised under a pitch-black sky. Later, I woke up like a parachute that failed to open. Since Bobbi Rae asked me, "What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done to someone that you don’t regret?" I’ve worn my typical Rorschach face. Of course, I’d prefer to wander around like a lazy sentence well-enunciated, but in this deadly weather, what I choose to confess depends on the geometry of the clouds. If you’re careful, the future perpetually awaits. Go to it now, like a contrite pilgrim. It calls out to the weary traveler, "I’m sorry, this won’t happen again."
at the branches
and the water of the leaves
feeling the bend
of the wood
it will hold them
going through a poem
at 2 a.m.
and deleting all
of the capital letters
except for when I say "I"
and the P
like these little reductions
ripping off breadcrumbs
Poetry as a visual medium
Soul is like an idiot on the town green,
dressed in odd clothes that make people keep
their distance, can float a spider on a head
of beer and read the future, slippery though it is.
A promiscuous thing, flirting with a succession
of lives, soul takes the long, long view,
a tack that compresses moments
into diamonds. Linked without thinking
to the anima mundi and all its brethren,
soul stays attached to us by a thin silk thread,
feeling the vibration of our mortality.
At night, soul walks back through the town green,
slapping the side of its head, laughing
at a joke we’re not sure we want to hear.
she says it brightly,
like a dressed word—
yes, that i am too,
but i don’t menacingly
brandish my marker
in others’ faces.
they converted you
Selina A. Mahmood
● with the stretches
of empty hours
laid at my feet
● with keeping
unbreathing at bay.
● with leaving
every story unfinished,
waiting for you to
finish it for their eyes.
● with leaving
& enough doubt.
● with the how long
and in how many
places can you
it has to do with that.
what it has to do with
Selina A. Mahmood
Meghan DePeau’s work has appeared in Right Hand Pointing, One Sentence Poems, Connecticut River Review, Common Ground Review, and Freshwater. She won CGR’s annual poetry contest in 2016. She also received the Outstanding Young Poet Award and won the annual writing contest at Manchester Community College in 2016.
Sarabjeet Garcha is a bilingual poet and an editor, translator and publisher. He is the author of three books of poems, including Lullaby of the Ever-Returning (Poetrywala, 2012) and a collection in Hindi, besides two books of translations. His new collection, A Clock in the Far Past, is forthcoming from Dhauli Books.
Howie Good is the author of The Loser's Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize and forthcoming from Thoughtcrime Press, and Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements, winner of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry.
Calvin Holder lives with his wife, daughter and dog, near Stroud, a mist-shrouded outpost of la bohème, in Gloucestershire.
Quinn Carver Johnson was born and raised on the Kansas-Oklahoma border. He is currently a freshman at Hendrix College where he is pursuing a degree in English with a focus in Creative Writing. His work has been published in journals such as Dragon Poet Review and The White Ash Literary Magazine.
Selina A. Mahmood is in her final year of medical school and has published a collection of poetry. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/selina-mahmood
DS Maolalai returned to Ireland after four years away, now spending his days at a medical supply company and his nights drinking wine. His first collection, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden, was published in 2016 by the Encircle Press. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Brad Rose is the author of a collection of poetry and flash fiction, Pink X-Ray, and five chapbooks of poetry and flash fiction, all from Right Hand Pointing/White Knuckle Press: Democracy of Secrets, Coyotes Circle the Party Store, Dancing School Nerves, An Evil Twin is Always in Good Company, and Away with Words.
Rolf Samuels lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where he teaches English at Viterbo University. “Slide” belongs to a longer narrative, Prospects, in which a Moline copy editor recounts a failed romance and tracks the decline of his profession and his position.
Claudia Serea’s poems and translations have appeared in Field, New Letters, Gravel, Apple Valley Review, and many others. She published four poetry collections, most recently Nothing Important Happened Today (Broadstone Books, 2016). Serea co-hosts The Williams Readings in Rutherford, NJ, and she is a founding editor of National Translation Month.
Steve Straight’s books include The Almanac (Curbstone/Northwestern University Press, 2012) and The Water Carrier (Curbstone, 2002). He is professor of English and director of the poetry program at Manchester Community College, in Connecticut.