Scott T. Hutchison

Issue 20

American Bittersweet

-United States Department of Agriculture/
Natural Resources Conservation Services

Summer foliage followed by
orange and red fruits, colorful berries
and arils, shrubby vines forming low
thick stands from root suckers,
clambering and climbing onto fences
and trees, broadly twining twisting
of the stem, creeping, fragrant small flowers
greenish-white or greenish-yellow in clusters
growing in rich or swampy woods
appearing weedy in disturbed areas
thickets, roadsides, field edges
can girdle and kill live plants
used for support, grows over
uprooting by force
of its massive weight

all parts are poisonous,
but for songbirds, ruffed grouse
pheasant and fox squirrel
who eat the fruits
used in dry flowers
winter decorations
twisting of the stem
leaves are glabrous
fruits, globose
seeds in bright scarlet
climbing bittersweet
false bittersweet
climbing orange-root

Source & Method

United States Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation Services. Straightforward information in their plant guide that, to my ear, sounded like music. Picked pieces, rearranged.

Scott T. Hutchison has work in The Georgia Review and The Southern Review. Poems are forthcoming in Appalachian Heritage, Concho River Review, Louisiana Literature, The Naugatuck River Review, Red Dirt Forum, Steam Ticket and Tar River Poetry. A new book of poetry, Moonshine Narratives, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing.

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Elisabeth Blair

Issue 20


Source & Method

With the erasure, I used whiteout and paint on a photocopy of a page from an unknown issue of National Geographic.

Elisabeth Blair‘s poems have recently appeared in Feminist Studies and cream city review. She has a chapbook, We He She/It (Dancing Girl Press, 2016) and leads the poetry workshop for the Burlington Writers Workshop (VT).


Erica Rothman

Issue 20

Into the darkness they go, the wise and the beautiful,
the tender and the kind.
The doctoring moment is over.

A child, then a man now a feather.
Mirrors of sleep.

Absence, it doth remove
the hours and days of everyday life.

I know but I do not approve.

Silence without color sound without smell,
only clouds, snow, a white business in the trees.

Something like life but only as dying is like life.
Silence with weeping.

O Moon
that sighs and shifts in its slumber.

I know but I do not approve.

Mirrors of sleep
and all we need of hell.

Bowing not knowing to what,
nothing left of me but smoke.
Between grief and nothing, I will take grief.

Source & Method

Cento. The contributors in order: Edna St Vincent Millay, Mary Jo Bang, Anne Stevenson, John Donne, Louise Glück, Donald Hall, Rita Dove, Joseph Brodsky, Emily Dickinson, WS Merwin, Deborah Garrison, William Faulkner

Erica Rothman is a former psychotherapist and documentary filmmaker. Her husband, Gary, died in 2018 after four months of marriage. Poetry had found its way into her life at previous transitions, and has been the most helpful form of art during this time of sadness and grief. Erica lives in North Carolina with Clover, the best dog ever.

Photo by Jim Strasma

The Albuquerque Prompt Group

Issue 20

collage by Janet Ruth

Homage to W.S. Merwin: Glosa in Six Voices
Based on “The Solstice”



They say the sun will come back
at midnight
after all
my one love

The ancients knew
and we can tell
from old ruins that
they say the sun will come back

I say
the sun is mine
at midnight

doesn’t it shine
when our backs are turned
when the moon takes the sky
after all

we depend on its light
flinging power
for me for all and for
my one love


but we know how the minutes
fly out into
the dark trees
and vanish

how incongruous
beach movie palms
travel poster palms
he from Princeton
from the harsh Northeast
fond of living in France
yet love makes its own matches
he spent years growing palms
but we know how the minutes

effervesce in air
how after a certain age
a month is gone in a child’s afternoon
sleep is seeded with lists
unfinished work and old regrets
his heart polishes phrases
while his mind tumbles
seed lists and planting schedules
they divert him
fly out into

the tropic afternoon
palm fronds louver sunlight
ocean clouds promise night rain
damaged acres await
take shovel and wheelbarrow
tall boots and gloves
work until
love calls dinner
as the sun scrolls down beyond
the dark trees

his endangered palm trees
shadow-makers at midday
keepers of symbol and magic
dark lace whispering
against high blue
work through back pain
make do with stiff fingers
as another afternoon whirls by
as the scarce sweet hours arrive
and vanish


like the great ohias and honey creepers
and we know how the weeks
walk into the
shadows at midday

all the serpents great and small
snakes basking on sun-drenched stones
at mid-day in high desert June
while piñon and chamisas persist
in their own country
like the great ohias and honey creepers

in their land of rain and fog
but here the seeds and spores
can lie dormant for years
waiting for sufficient snow and rain
a bountiful season
and we know how the weeks

months years go by
without publication
or any sort of demonstrable garden
though the daily work goes on
until the acequia flows the farmers
walk into the

verdant fields
mice grow fat on corn
snakes grow fat on mice
hawks fat on snakes
and bobcats seek the solace of
shadows at midday


at the thought of the months I reach for your hand
it is not something
one is supposed
to say

as one who anticipates the worst
I should have been thrilled
in an unsatisfying way I was
right but you were gone
I don’t know where nor do I ask
during the night I mistake the cat
and her movements through the house for you
one of your nocturnal trips to the bathroom
I flip to your side of the bed and check
at the thought of the months I reach for your hand

I reach for your hand
as if space were something we could carve out of air
and portion out in parcels
like love
we were never the type to expect much
and now and now
I’m happy for you
in whatever state you are
I guess I’m content as well
it is not something

about counting the daffodils each spring
so yellow they almost hurt
I no longer remember how many bulbs you planted
other plants are long gone
I’ve adopted a grow-or-it-goes attitude
never your approach
I muddle through my many lapses
one mistake
one is supposed

it’s kind of a lovely number
less dismal than zero
whiptail lizards flourish
without the need for a partner
besides you left me the cat
who spreads herself out like the bed is hers
time was we could finish each other’s sentences
it’s not sorry but love that is hard
to say


we watch the bright birds in the morning
we hope for the quiet
daytime together
the year turns into air

winter nights are dying
cold dark hours filled with brittle stars
balanced on a knife’s edge
we teeter on the precipice
look backward forward
between darkness and light
between anger and forgiveness
we watch the bright birds in the morning

as light begins its climb
above mountain peaks beginning
the reign of warm days
lit by that close-burning star
we leap from edge of gleaming blade
into a hot and howling wind
that blows us clean
we hope for the quiet

after the scouring sirocco sweeps past
leaving us raw but purified
wind fans embers
we shelter in the dark
scours to germination
the seed of change we plant in the sand
anticipating that we will share
daytime together

do not forget darkness or sharpness
send down roots in search of water
push up green tendrils in search of light
new season from old from brokenness
stardust and bright feathers grind potsherds
mix with water knead and pull up new vessels
earth tilts toward the sun
the year turns into air


but we are together in the whole night
with the sun still going away
and the year
coming back

I dream of humpback whales
a mother nurturing her calf
as killer whales chase
a threat
to us when apart
but we are together in the whole night

my dream collapses
under splendid sun of day
until cirrus clouds cover
and darken the sky like night
my dream repeats
with the sun still going away

in my new dream
of laden clouds you leave
never to return
I rumble in my sleep
wake to find you near
and the year

approaches a turn
from dark to light
sun rays spoke in a wheel
Orion changes position
a full night sky
coming back


-Deborah Coy (i), Faith Kaltenbach (ii), John Roche (iii),
Scott Wiggerman (iv), Janet Ruth (v), Gayle Lauradunn (vi)

Source & Method

The poem is a Glosa, each part composed by a different member of the Albuquerque Prompt Group, using a stanza from Merwin’s “The Solstice,” (Merwin’s words in italics). The associated collage was created by Janet Ruth from phrases and images in the poem.

The Albuquerque Prompt Group is a collective of six poets who meet twice a month to write to a poetry prompt, followed by a group critique. ‘Homage to W.S. Merwin’ is their first collaborative poem in three years of existence as a group.


David P. Miller

Issue 20

They Have the Same Political Accuracy
as Suicide Vests


You farm families and teachers and teamsters
and cops and cooks!
We don’t sit on our thumbs this time!
You rocking rollers. And holy rollers!
What are you thinking when you’re inducing
and seducing them with a gift basket
of teddy bears and soccer balls?
You teachers, staff, police, and chefs!
Are you ready for the Commander-in-Chief
to work our warriors and take off their Isis asses?
And the Holy Sacraments!

When one of our own is being crucified,
we did not see this thumb of our hands,
is it true?
When one of our own is falsely accused
of the hip accusation of the day,
wrongly accused of ass being assaulted,
this time I do not sit on my thumb,
is that right?
You roll and holy giants!
You download videos. And holy videos!

So they all go vegan. Wages and picket lines,
they’re not often discussed in purgatory, are they?
The blood of tanks and football balls,
wages and lines of hesitation,
are they not often discussed in purgatory?
Teachers and teams, as well as police and cooks,
they do not often discuss the torment they are?
You are tempted to seduce them
with a gift basket of bears and soccer balls.
You stimulate them, you walk feet
and feed them. So they are all vegan.
Don’t you guys think
that they’re like of the devil?

And I’m like oh man look,
me I call him up front,
and he’s holding the poster and I’m looking at it.
He doesn’t trust Americans to even change
our own lightbulb of our own choosing
and he’ll trust a death cult
in a world full of sprinkly fairy dust,
blown from atop his unicorn
as he’s peeking through a pretty pink kaleidoscope.
And I look like a man. I look like,
oh, I know him to the opposite side.

Well, and then, funny, ha ha, not funny,
but now, what they’re doing is wailing.
Now what they do is terrified,
they have triple the amount of fingers
pointing right back at them.
Now some of them even whisper, because
they will not be able to escape from the sauce.

So troops, hang in there, because
help’s on the way because
he, better than anyone, isn’t he known
for being able to command, fire!
Someone is not known to be able to command
because he is someone, in a world
full of flattened fairies flaming from his unicorn.

And we did not see this thumb of our hands,
when one of our crucified,
falsely accused of what the charge is
in the hips of the day. Right?
Haha. It’s not funny, Holy Roller!
Give me a break!
Let me rest! Forgive me!
Paraphernalia everywhere.

Source & Method

Excerpts from a speech by Sarah Palin 1) in verbatim transcription; 2) machine-translated into Persian, Korean, Arabic, or Russian, then back into English

David P. Miller’s collection, Sprawled Asleep was published in 2019 by Nixes Mate Books. His chapbook, The Afterimages, was published by Červená Barva Press.


Forest Ray

Issue 20

Lessons in Portuguese


To drink
He drinks
Ele bebe
He drank to forget the pain.
Ele bebia para esquecer a dor.

To cook
She cooks
Ela cozinha
She cooked as if nothing had happened.
Ela cozinhou como se nada tivesse acontecido.

To talk
We talk
Nós conversamos
We talked as if nothing had happened between us.
Nós conversamos como se nada tivesse havido entre nós.

To need, or require
You need
Você precisa
You need to get out of here before my husband arrives.
Você precisa sair daqui antes que o meu marido chegue.

Life is hard.
A vida é dura.

Source & Method

From the DuoLingo Portuguese course, lessons of which can feature unexpected phrases, whose utility, while questionable, are hard to forget.

Forest Ray is a freelance journalist and former paratrooper. He speaks Portuguese fluently, thanks in part to, or perhaps in spite of, DuoLingo.

Photo by Mohammad Saifullah

Matthew McEver

Issue 20

What Fans Are Saying About
the First TOOL Album
in Over a Decade


Everyone dropped what they were doing
and stared at my stereo.

This album cured my erectile dysfunction.
Tomorrow I start painting again.
The time signatures confused me
into becoming a motivational speaker.
I’m raising my children right.
Thank God I didn’t kill myself.

In high school, I was afraid of TOOL.
In Soviet Russia, we respect TOOL.
This is the feminine version of TOOL.

We waited thirteen years for this?
It’s Metallica’s St Anger, all over again.
I’m really sorry that I fought for this country.

No one cares about your feelings.
Your ignorance of TOOL is hilarious.
They’ve become Norse gods.

This, folks, is their Moby Dick, their Guernica,
their Sistine Chapel.
Walt Disney unfroze himself to hear this.

Source & Method

The lines are composed of phrases culled from the Facebook group, “TOOL Fans,” as well as Amazon customer reviews of Fear Inoculum.

Matthew McEver is a faculty member in the Department of English at the University of North Georgia where he teaches Creative Writing, Composition, and Multicultural American Literature. Last year, he was co-recipient of an Association of American Colleges and Universities Grant for integrating social justice themes into first-year writing courses, and he serves as an adviser for the university’s literary magazine, The Chestatee Review.

Photo by Mink Mingle