Ground Elder (love, invasive)
Before I even looked it up, figured out what to do as it spread into the lawn, you put it into my sandwich, told me just as I took a bite. “It’s like spinach,” you said, “and it’s commonly grown in Germany. To think we could have had salads all summer.” To think you had one blanket when I first slept over. It barely covered us, so long ago. To think you’re in the corner of all my poems, thriving in the shade. Clever, sly—ground elder produces a new shoot with every cut, the gardening sites say—I fuck up over and over, but they say it’s nearly impossible to eradicate.
Raising a Child with No Family in Town, This Rough Blazing Star
So few grow wildflowers, so who would understand its woody corm which is often confused with a bulb? But cut the corm in half and you’ll see it’s as solid as a potato, an “underground storage unit” that helps it survive drought. Bulbs, on the other hand, are all layers: Grandma and Grandpa at the soccer game the day he scores, or pulling up on Easter morning, drawing out our best parenting at dinnertime simply by watching, assuring us he’s OK, he’s a normal boy, because what do we know? Only sweat bees visit the purple buttons on a whorled stem, late on a Tuesday in August.
My Life as a Notebook–Chapter IV
I envied the envelopes on the next shelf. Commercial. Manilla. Pocket, banker, and wallet. Aways in high demand, bought in bulk, flying off the shelves. Seeing the world. Europe. Australia. The Department of Motor Vehicles. Insurance companies. What I envied most about envelopes was how they knew where they were from, where they were going. I had no idea where I was meant to be. I always seemed to be lost here, there, anywhere and everywhere. At night the lights went out. Sometimes a cleaner came, and I felt the brisk flutter of a feather duster brush across my face.
My Life as a Notebook–Chapter III
Business is quiet. There seems to be less and less customers these days. A rumour is circulating that the mall is scheduled to shut down, get demolished. A spider overheard the property manager talking on the phone to his brother. “It’s happening.” Yesterday a mother and child wandered along the aisle. The child raised a hand and pointed at me. “A note boat.” The mother laughed, and corrected the child. “No, it’s called a notebook.” But I preferred the term note-boat over notebook. I am a vessel, far off at sea, carrying my blank pages to the nearest shore.
She thought of ways she could cryovac her early memories of him. If she could fit them into little squares of plastic and suck the air out, they might keep fresh for years. There was the first moment she’d seen him at the theatre mouthing the protagonist’s lines; the time he’d put his arm around her, warming a long strip of her green silk shirt; how he’d squeeze her so hard her ribs would ache; the way the scarlet shell of toffee apples cracked against their teeth; their favourite fried rice with pineapple and snow peas; and the time he told her she was thrillingly beautiful. Now, as he walked ahead pointing at the “architectural marvels”, his voice sounded like a tour guide’s and the subtle inflections she used to dwell on were stretched by the wind. “This is living history,” he said, gesturing at ancient public baths and a small fifteenth-century tower. She wanted him to take her to their modern hotel and sit in the marble bath, pushing his feet against hers. She imagined their thoughts rising in helium speech bubbles above their heads, and her holding them down to suck out the air.
Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington
Not wanting you to leave, I freeze the escaping moment. It’s a spray-on foam that holds this chosen instant—when your toes slide out from under satin sheets. I send your cab away and return to the bedroom. There we are, still mouthing our goodbyes, like a freeze-frame from a poorly-acted movie—though stains appear where the foam has brushed your face. I pour champagne and tidy you again. Another can enables “scene re-entry”, so I disperse it like fly-spray about the room and we watch ice skating, just as we did before, the coupe glass brimming in your hand. In the early hours I tuck the sheets, remembering to pull the doona from its cover. Instructions say, “No less than twenty separate frozen moments”. This is number twelve. I ask your name.
Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington
Sisyphus at Noon
That’s something to look forward to, no shadows, though it was marvelous before noon and afterwards, finding all sorts of colors in even the smallest shadows he rolled the boulder past─a pebble’s oblong shadow with blues and greys (a little yellow at one edge), or a dead bird’s longer wider shadow with a greenish-grey stroke close to the feathered rise of folded wings. Ah noon, to pay closer attention to the smashed insects on the boulder, insects he hadn’t seen in the boulder’s path. To mourn them, study them, Zeus’s intricate creatures. And it’s at noon he puts as much of himself as possible into the palms of his hands: to bring as far as he can, within himself, the contact, the contours: smooth inches, and linear stony ridges often gathered in pairs, then shallow irregular depths where the boulder lost chips because he’d pushed it over rocks, and these piercing edges that make him remember knives.
When asked how many of his books he has read, he asks if that means how many books he has read in their entirety. Yes, the interrogator replies, I suppose that is my question. Do you want to know how many of them I’ve reread, he asks. Not really. Or how many of them I could point to and talk to you for at least five minutes about their contents? No, that is not my question. Or how many that you see here and in the other rooms, with only their spines showing, that I could describe with regard to what is on their covers without pulling them out─which would be both a test of my memory and something of a commentary on the books’ cover designers? No, no, no. What about how many of them I would recommend to you as “must reads”? Okay, I withdraw my question. After the interrogator has left, the bibliophile turns to me. I’ve kept silent the whole time. They’re not just my past, he says, they’re my future. Of course I keep getting more.
Natalie Tomlin’s writing has appeared in Belt, Dunes Review, Essay Daily, The Hopper, Split Rock Review, and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated for Best of Net, the Pushcart Prize, and was selected as notable in The Best American Essays. She is the author of a chapbook of prose poems, The Sound a Car Door Makes (Michigan Writers Cooperative Press 2023).
Jason Heroux was the Poet Laureate for the City of Kingston from 2019 to 2022. He is the author of four books of poetry: Memoirs of an Alias (2004); Emergency Hallelujah (2008); Natural Capital (2012) and Hard Work Cheering Up Sad Machines (2016). His recent books include the short fiction collection Survivors of the Hive (Radiant Press, 2023) and an upcoming book of prose poems Like a Trophy From the Sun (Guernica Editions, 2024). He lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
Cassandra Atherton is a widely anthologised, award-winning Australian prose poet and Professor of Writing and Literatuere at Deakin University. She is a commissioning editor of Westerly magazine, series editor for Spineless Wonders Microlit anthologies and associate editor at MadHat Press (USA). Paul Hetherington is Emeritus Professor of Writing at the University of Canberra. He has written or edited 44 creative and critical books and numerous academic chapters and articles. He is co-founding editor of the international online journal Axon: Creative Explorations. He founded International Poetry Studies at his university in 2013, and also founded the international Prose Poetry Project in 2014. They co-authored Prose Poetry: An Introduction (Princeton University Press, 2020) and co-edited the Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry (Melbourne University Press, 2020). Cassandra and Paul are co-writing a book, Ekphrastic Poetry: An Introduction for Princeton UP.
Rupert Fike’s second collection of poems, Hello the House, won the Haas Poetry Prize and was listed as one of the “Books All Georgians Should Read, 2018” by The Georgia Center for the Book. His poems have appeared in The Sun, The Southern Poetry Review, A&U America’s AIDS Magazine, The Flannery O’Connor Review, Scalawag, 2RiverView, The Buddhist Poetry Review and others. He is the author/editor of Voices from The Farm, an account of life on a spiritual community in the 1970s, and he also has a poem inscribed in a downtown Atlanta plaza.
John Levy lives in Tucson. His most recent book is 54 poems: selected & new (Shearsman Books, 2023).