Michael Opperman, Donora Hillard, Suzanne Roberts,

Home | The Last Issue | Submissions | Achieve: 2004-2009 | Essays

Michael Opperman lives and work in Minneapolis. His work has appeared in the Coe Review, New Hampshire Review, Maverick Magazine, Dislocate, and MARGIE Review. He was a finalist for the Marjorie J. Wilson Prize for Best Poem Contest and winner of the Academy of America Poets James Wright Prize for Poetry.
December, Sunday, Christmas Lights, Coffee

In the drum pull from sleep,
the slip of your body's air from the bed,
my eyes find first the blue blur
of a string of lights that drape the windows.

The wind
is tempting the walls, the paper on the front steps.
Your smile is immaculate.  And your eyes have
a stillness that is startling.

My attention is immature, a halting pushing thing
memorizing the length of your thumbnail. 
The way your red hair turns around
on itself in the clip holding
it to your head.

So what gets us here?  The fear of disclosure,
the slow whine of a mind shaken by memory.
Yesterday and a mile ago and a movie I once saw.

None of it adds up to a bushel or a foot-pound.

A wooden box of papers, explanations, half-maps
to a dairy farm and a rusting truck frame.  It looks
like no one has lived here for years. And we back
out the driveway, shift into first and take the hill.

The easiest thing is to forget the listening presence.
To leave this piece or that piece alone, quiet
under the fingers –

never asking what is it
that is moving your eyes? 

Christmas Night Thinking About A Summer Rain

We know it as an absence.  The translucent vacancy
where a sparrow's wings held the sky
like concrete.  The everyday – that second world –
is heavy on our chests, suggesting
what might be – but really isn't –
Step out onto the enclosed porch
during a dead-on summer downpour
    and you think that you know something
    that you will never forget.

The sky is the color of birth. 

But you forget.  With a terrible aggression
    like a kind of tenderness.  The ache
icing your ribs is washed away before the afternoon
is no longer afternoon. 
What was exchanged for a first knowledge is transfigured.
A part of your skull
again.  A part of each hand.
A piece of leg and stomach
and spleen and spine.  Coded into your arteries as memory.

Remember, you think.  Remember.  This is important. 
You only retain the words, the map back
but not the town – an elusive hamlet where all roads do not lead.

No Rome.  No great American city killing its poor.  No clover-leafed
four lane highway singing with buzzing rubber.  Driving up to a stoplight
defibrillating above an intersection, you remember only the ache.

Not its cause. 
Donora Hillard is the author of Exhibition (Gold Wake Press, 2008), Romance (Maverick Duck Press, 2008), Bone Cages (BlazeVox [books], 2007), and Parapherna (dancing girl press, 2006).  Her fiction, lyric memoir, and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Night Train, Pebble Lake Review, Segue, and many other publications.  She has taught writing at Harrisburg Area Community College, King's College, and Penn State University, and she presently teaches English, journalism, and speech courses near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She recently completed a poetry collection entitled Theology of the Body, a feminist response to the teachings of Pope John Paul II, St. Paul, and other religious figures.


So, many ask, will there be sex in heaven?
~~ Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners

Praise you lest I never rest beside you in your city, seizing
as ice falls against us.

It will leave us cold to the bone, a reminder of our fracture,
and if I can't find words,

know I tried, the event paralyzed, my tears both running and
freezing at the source.
Suzanne Roberts is the author of three poetry collections, Shameless (Cherry Grove, 2007), Nothing to You (Pecan Grove Press, 2008), and Plotting Temporality (forthcoming from Red Hen). She was recently named "The Next Great Travel Writer" by National Geographic's Traveler Magazine. She holds a doctorate in Literature and the Environment from the University of Nevada-Reno and currently teaches English at Lake Tahoe Community College.


Walking Christmas Morning

Santa Margarita, California


Crows caw, circle the cold blue sky.

A woman yells to her son,

Read the instructions. I’m busy,

sits on the porch with a coffee

cup and cigarette, looks out

at nothing. We walk by, and I wave

without thinking. She smiles and calls,

Merry Christmas. Organ music resounds

from the nearby church. Silent night.

A van is parked on the dirt drive.

Three stickers decorate its bumper—

In-N-Out Burger, a metallic American Flag,

a third reads, You Can’t Be Pro-abortion

and Catholic. A red neon sign reflects

in the tinted windows—suseJ sevaS

An Australian Shepherd forces

her face through wooden slats

of a fence. A man holds a Coors can,

contemplates the broken hinge.

A calico crosses the dead lawn,

ignores the squirrels chattering

across the wire. Our old dog limps,

no longer pulls at her leash. You

no longer reach for my hand.


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