Editor's Note

Devon Neal’s suite of poems is characterized by gentle insights and sparkling adjectives (more on that soon), but most of all, it reminded me of Mary Oliver’s: ‘Instructions for living a life. / Pay attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it.’ How wonderful that the instructions for living should be the same as those for writing poetry. And how doubly wonderful that this set should instinctively embody this process. These poems are attentive to the point of holding their breath. And the astonishment comes not from the unexpected, but from the perfectly ordinary (‘Weeds will grow / in the teeth of the undisturbed gravel driveway’).

It is no surprise then, that those poems should employ the sharpest and tenderest of adjectives. Consider for instance, ‘Every April, fruit-soft / soles meet on goosepimple / grass’. Or ‘the dragonskin / of neighbourhood roads.’ It is a rare joy for an editor to come across an abundance of these qualifiers, where each one is perceptive and sensory. Where the adjective does not only lift the image, it makes the image. It establishes the poem as an act of presence. Enjoy these poems for how they make the act of attention — a deliberate, difficult, demanding act — sound so effortlessly poignant.

— Pervin Saket
The Bombay Literary Magazine


Two roma tomatoes in a clear produce bag
sit on the kitchen windowsill, whispering
in the wind through the screen. It’s morning
and gray April clouds are the only light,
signaling rain. I turn on the ceiling fan
and some quiet music, and they work
in tandem to pull the clouds like plush
around the house. The windward kitchen
windows will certainly let the rain in,
but before it starts I let the fan hum,
Leslie Feist’s voice drifts through the house
singing about who we’re meant to love,
and the tomatoes tell me their secrets.


Every April, fruit-soft
soles meet on goosepimple
grass, waiting for the turn
of the wind into hurricane
song. Soon, baseball sprints
meet bumblebee nails, treadspikes
on bike pedals rattle,
a rebound is kicked
into mirror-web gravel,
tag expands to the dragonskin
of neighborhood roads,
frog-grip digits cling
to every tree’s petrified shoulder.
By July, pineapple callouses
grow white on worn heels,
and we run wild on grass and rock
alike, until the last-call sun
coats our ankles with dew.
At school, we tell tales of footraces
and tree-taming, tight new leather
shoes and soft socks massaging
away our summer roughness
until, in the early-dark
of fall, carrying lumped bags
of trash, we wince at the bite
of cold stone sidewalk
underfoot, thinking again
of April.


After we leave today, the cleaners will come
and then, according to the reservation calendar,
the cabin will sit undisturbed for several weeks.

Birds will flit through the trees to land on its gutters,
their heads darting. Spiders will build
with diamond silk. Grasshoppers will flutter onto

the back deck, where our bare feet were,
the bees blustering on the drink-ringed handrails.
Another yellowjacket might get in, this time

the living room empty, the kitchen light off,
only the blinking router and sighing air vents
witnessing its slow starvation. Weeds will grow

in the teeth of the undisturbed gravel driveway,
and squirrels will explore the porch chairs, the doormat.
The red bird feeder hanging near the fire ring

in the backyard will stay empty, visited often
by the blue jays, the sparrows. The wild will return,
slight and brief, and in its slow surge

before the next guest arrives, maybe it’ll find
what we left there, somewhere, under or within,
in the bedroom cabinets, the dryer’s belly,

on the hiking trail, in the fire’s ashes,
something we won’t come back for,
at least not together.


Image credits:

The image was generated, if not “created”, by Leap AI’s image generator using the first few two lines of the first poem as a prompt.

It is the first of “our” AI generated images, and we liked the effect well enough to use it as a banner image. It is literally made in the image of the Word. Sinless, even; as sinless as Frankenstein’s monster. “My creator,” says the image, “never takes Sundays off”. The creativity of AI programs may be doubted, but their utter sincerity cannot be questioned.


Devon Neal

Devon Neal (he/him) is a Bardstown, KY resident who received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Eastern Kentucky University and an MBA from The University of the Cumberlands. He currently works as a Human Resources Manager in Louisville, KY. His work has been featured in Moss Puppy Magazine, coalitionworks, Sage Cigarettes Magazine, Rough Cut Press, and others.

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