by Madeleine Feola | Poetry | Spring 2021

Ava Chessum, Grace

the betta fish is regrowing his fins. they come back frayed and translucent, the slightest edge
shimmering the water around him. we had steeped him in antibiotics that turned the tank green, 
dredged the life from his pores. whatever was eating him alive. 

living is an ugly thing, I’ve learned. at the frayed ends of it you’re making phone calls and
buying medicine. paying hospital bills. 

oh god but it’s tremulous and yours. 

my life used to be large enough to drown in— a cup of blood, a pillar of salt. is this what getting
better feels like? cutting down the heavy flesh that killed you slowly, that made you, until you hit
the bone? 

these days I’m that kind of slender. I walk home in the dark, peering into the corner spaces of 
people who are not me. the cooks locking up, walking past the quiet shadows of tables and
chairs, the boyfriends waiting outside, awkward hands in their pockets. these things mean more
to me now—more than me, maybe, more than you.  



by Dorothy Levine | Poetry | Spring 2021

Ava Chessum, Lemons

Mama picks up maple leaves and ties stems together
the same motion used to tie my shoes and undo necklace knots
her rings shine against dry, freckled skin.
“Isn’t this cool?” She shows the gap between her teeth.
“Yes, very cool.” I smile.
I feel her love seeping through
as she points out each tree to identify.
She wants to plant knowledge in my head
so when I walk through these same trees
lonely and homesick
I know what is around me:
ginkgo, sweetgum, maple—a red one, not sugar—
horse chestnut.
“This one is called an Ohio buckeye,” I tell her.
We pick out two buckeyes 
one for her to take back on her plane
to rest on her nightstand and shrivel up to its hardened core
and one for me, to keep in a pocket until it’s forgotten.
But for now, she holds both in her palm.