I overhear a boy humming “Jolene” while he practices long division

by Carolyn Oliver

and, sudden as a train’s blue note
—I know I don’t deserve it—
Dolly Parton becomes the president.

The West Wing’s garlanded in rhinestones, fringed
in bushels of Tennessee River pearls
while ambassadors wait on their whiskeys

because Dolly’s out in the Rose Garden
serenading troublemaker nuns and poll workers,
sunbathing marchers who need a rest,

and later there’ll be weddings on the portico
while sparrows feast on cornmeal flung
by drag queens shimmering in always golden-hour light.

In research labs they’re whistling, they’re twirling
their pipettes because there’s banana pudding
in the fridge, and they know Dolly’s working too:

today she’s sending picture books and wheelchairs
and antiretrovirals all across the heartland
and into every city, today she’s unraveling

acres of lace to wrap up every shivering mother,
today she’s going to call us darling
and we will believe, really believe, we are cherished

and no, not even the miracle of Dolly
can sway the wildfires, not even
her limpid soprano can dredge all rivers,

but let me tell you, since Dolly Parton became the president,
strawberries taste right again
and they’re ripe all year long.

Previously published in Limp Wrist (Issue 2 – Dolly, January 2021).

* Writing Prompt: Sometimes it’s difficult to reach for joy in our writing. Give yourself permission to imagine a circumstance—the more fanciful the better—that would bring joy to you and to your community. Describe this imaginary circumstance as if it’s entirely real.

All Summer Long

by Mary Ellen Redmond

Yesterday my sister made pesto
with basil so pungent
I wanted to kiss it.
Garlic, slippery oil,
in my blender like a processed frog.

Last night the full moon shone
reflecting a large swath across the pond.
I rose, walked to the shore
and buried my high school ring,
a photo of my ex and me,
and three wishes. Buried them all
in my grandmother’s lace handkerchief,
deep in the sand, their destiny
for the moon and tide to decide.

All summer I become myself again.

Today I plucked blackberries,
pregnant and ripe.
They hung heavy on their bush,
I stuffed them in my mouth greedily,
tongue and lips and fingers stained with blood,
dark purple smear on my clean white shirt.
I don’t care.

Dusk, and the ivy on my rafter thrives wildly – arms
reaching out to embrace me.
The light around the pond grows rosy,
air so thick and rich I want to cut it
like a strawberry pie.
My slice of sky.

All summer long I become myself once again.

Previously published in A Sense of Place: An Anthology of Cape Women Writers, edited by Anne Garton (Shank Painters Publishing, 2003).

* Writing Prompt: Write 10 sentences that begin with All summer… For the 11th sentence, write one that begins with All summer long… Write 11 more sentences the same way. Now go back and cross out the words All summer and All summer long. See what is left. Write a rough draft with what you have left. Rearrange their order. Or if there is one sentence that is compelling, take that sentence and free write on it.


Carolyn Oliver’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Indiana Review, Cincinnati Review, Radar Poetry, Shenandoah, Beloit Poetry Journal, 32 Poems, Southern Indiana Review, Cherry Tree, Plume, and elsewhere. She is the winner of the Goldstein Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review, the Writer’s Block Prize in Poetry, and the Frank O’Hara Prize from The Worcester Review. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her family. Online: carolynoliver.net.


Mary Ellen Redmond’s poems have appeared in The Drunken Boat, Free State Review, 5 AM, Comstock Review, Cape Cod Review, Rattle and The Cortland Review, but the publication she is most proud of is the poem tattooed on her son’s ribcage. A former slam poet, she represented Cape Cod at the National Poetry Slam Competition in Providence, RI. She has been featured twice on WCAI’s Poetry Sundays and her interview with poet Greg Orr was featured in The Drunken Boat. Her poem “Fifty-Six Days” earned her a Best of the Net Nomination in 2016. This is her twenty-seventh-year teaching English to middle and high school students. The Ocean Effect, her second chapbook, was published in 2014 by Finishing Line Press.