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Love & Ensuing Madness

The year is over; the collection is complete. We have amassed over 700 poems on the subject of love and lust and relationships and drunken sex and heartbreak. For the statisticians in the crowd, our final tally has 468 poems from women poets, and 245 from men for 65.6% and 34.4% respectively.

For the historians, the origin of the collection has to do with an email exchange with poet Martha Silano, in which I stated that I was getting a lot of love/relationship poems, mostly from women poets, and floated the idea that Rat’s Ass Review might be well served by a separate section which specialized in our varied attractions to one another. Her immediate response was “Women sex poems! I love the notion of a Ladies Getting It On dossier.” Martha’s well-timed encouragement was the Fiat lux! moment.

And now, 714 poems later, our work is done.

The poems are displayed chronologically, with the newest material at the top. If you have been to this site before and are a completist, you will need only read down until you hit familiar territory. If you have not been here before and are a completist, find a comfortable chair; you will be here a while.

Disclaimer: this page is not intended for children, nor for those adults whose view of individual liberty and freedom of expression would best suit them for life in 1630 Massachusetts or modern-day Syria. To the rest of you, we say Welcome. We also say that even the most broad-minded of you will probably find something here that makes you squirm, and not in a good way. And this is where we remind our readers that there is a reason why we named the magazine as we did.

 

Solomon, Susan One Heart

ONE HEART gouache on panel by Susan Solomon.

Susan Solomon (susansolomonpainter.com) is a freelance painter living in the Midwest. One of her happiest art accomplishments was designing the winning Sogn Blush wine label, which will debut in summer 2016 at Cannon River Winery in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.


(Browse the List of Poets)

Poems added January 7, 2017

Roy J. Adams

BOUT

His first move was a hesitant beat:
“Can you keep free some days of the week?”
Playfully grinning she swiftly decreed:

“Be he a Monday, Sunday or other day
man, I’ll merrily meet him whenever
I can provided, of course, he’s no ‘minute man!’”

Twigging to her parry he tried this thrust:
“How much of a he and for how long it may
be is probably up to she.” To which she

riposted progressively: “If its up to she
no problem there’ll be; her many admirers
all agree: she has an expansive history.”

To that he had no further feint and so
he murmured mellowly: let it be,
let it be, let it be.

OR…

I subtly threaten to break it off
trusting that she will entreat me
to stay. She doesn’t. Her casual
indifference undoes me: I must
go or sink to sorry servility
or
I might fake a heart that’s free
and she might feign not to see.

Roy J. Adams is an emerging poet with something over a dozen poems published or in the process including, most recently, those in Vallum Contemporary Poetry and in Feathertale. Several of his poems have won awards and subsequently appeared in anthologies.

List of Poets

Mikki Aronoff

LAYING OUT THE HAY

Mother’s mother slumped awkwardly
towards the floor from her reading chair –

maroon velvet bright where her bones
couldn’t throw shadows, a much touched

Buddenbrooks open at her feet, her face
buried in the crook of its yellowed pages.

Succumbed to her dear Herr Mann,
whom she favored over all.

She’d long ago waved a trilogy of
Death in Venice, The Magic Mountain

and the fatal Buddenbrooks in front of
my restless adolescent eyes –

her attempt to deflect my wet interest
in three well-thumbed volumes

of Henry Miller, pointed out
to me by my mother’s brother,

who left me in charge of his horses
one weekend when he went out

to dally, not sure his mother could
lay out the hay. His gloved right hand

swept the parlor’s air with a gift: Do
what you want, but don’t,
he pointed,

read these.

I DRESS UP FOR THE CIRCUS

come to me
he motions

let me twist your scarf
it’s cold outside

the sun
seven nights gone

purrs my husband
tucking in my tails

turns my body ‘round
three times

clucks as he takes
my hand, leads me

out to our tiny car
later in the tent

touching

Mikki Aronoff’s poems appear in House of Cards: Ekphrastic Poetry, Rolling Sixes Sestinas: an Anthology of Albuquerque Poets, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems, The Lake, 3ElementsReview, the Love & Ensuing Madness Collection of Rat’s Ass Review, Silver Birch Press, Legends & Monsters, and forthcoming in Rise Up Reviewand Eastlit. Retired, she finds herself dancing with words and pictures and is also involved in animal advocacy.  She has always loved rats.

List of Poets

Lana Bella

ASK ME ONE MORE TIME

Ask me one more time, darling,
when August lays its fragrant nest—
for in your name, the nightingale
comes to sleep, delicate as rose-
water cream.

Ask me one more time, darling,
when ocean vast blooms birds of sea—
for in your hands, the lightning
storm spins miles through prodigal
fingers.

Ask me one more time, darling,
when shadows take night’s warming
blanket—for in your eyes, the whole of
sapphire years turn to catch my open
sails.

For you, I stretch through veils of
borrowed harbor light, to taste rushes
of summer thirst darting on your skin
in a lei of larkspur blooms and violet
glow.

Here, down the graceful slopes that
spill to horizon, you wear your flesh like
a lost poem found, lips mark of stone
letters with voice whispers in water-
bloated wine.

So ask me one more time, darling,
how lust and pride at briny depths
that let us swim through tidal drags
where blue suds foam and grey dawn
breaks, would cup my ears to your
cold shroud, teach me to sing my grief?

A three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Lana Bella is an author of two chapbooks, Under My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016) and Adagio (Finishing Line Press, forthcoming), has had poetry and fiction featured with over 320 journals, 2River, California Quarterly, Chiron Review, Columbia Journal, Otoliths, Poetry Salzburg Review, San Pedro River Review, The Ilanot Review, The Writing Disorder, Third Wednesday, Tipton Poetry Journal, among others.

Lana resides in the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a mom of two far-too-clever frolicsome imps.

List of Poets

Nilanjana Bhowmick

PHOENIX

I am the love that was lost
I am the pain that stayed
I am the heart that was broken
a thousand times and
over again
I will rise again

RAIN

The broken promise
of an umbrella
that won’t open
Damp hair
damp eyes
a cold tea
Memories.

Nilanjana Bhowmick is an India-based poet and writer and a multi-award winning journalist.

List of Poets

Jane Burn

IF I HAD NEVER BOUGHT HATS

If I had never loved you – if I had not been ticking
friends off one by one, buying votive candles,
china from quality stores, another new dress.
Hats, if circumstance required, outlandish
nods of colour in the pews. Ending up
on car boots, all potholed domes and
drooping sinamay flowers.

Evening gloves and beaded bags, sequined scarves,
peacock feather earrings – if I had known
that none of these would help me meet
the man of my dreams I would
have spent the money on watercolours,
books, a decent bra. Maybe,
maybe paid the rent on time.

If I didn’t remember us those years ago. If I had not said
till death, if we did not know each other like curves
in familiar roads. If I wore pearls more often, if
I had not grown fat, if he
had not grown so obtuse.

If I understood the colours in my body –
if I could scribble out the lavender, the
blue, orange, brown, grey
and green,
if

CERTAIN OLD PHOTOGRAPHS

I must cull the stags of my youth. There is no need,
anymore, for pictures. You are already
graved into my head.

Pronkers and prongers, you shall be ripped –
the fuzzy edged paper divide will ever remain
between us.

You may rut against each other in the bin.
I will drop tea bags on your faces. The tepid wet
will curdle your smiles. You will be knotted
out of sight.

IT’S A SCIENTIFIC FACT THAT

Sunday is the shittiest day. It’s the day
I crave you – everything about you. It’s a day
of stretching into eventual nothing. It is unfillable,
as am I – we are matched, this blackest of Sabbaths
and me. It’s a day of The Best Of 80’s Love Songs

of singing the fuck at the top of my lungs. You fucker –
you fucker, you
. All those songs about the withering
of things, of steps you take – of heading for something,
somewhere the fuck we’ve never been. My heart
is a burst eyeball, a gooseberry underfoot. I pacify

its open throat with baits of sweet, another cup of tea.
Sunday is a cradge and I burst over it – it cannot stop
the wanting. I am lapping, plate-edged like too much
dinner gravy. Bib me with your tender mouth is what
I want to say. Bib me, I am spilling. It’s a day

when every view is portioned out in glass. I imagine
your hair as a bird’s breast, wimpled by my breath.

Jane Burn’s poems have been featured in magazines such as The Rialto, Butcher’s Dog, Iota Poetry, And Other Poems, The Black Light Engine Room and many more,  as well as anthologies from the Emma Press, Beautiful Dragons, Poetry Box and Kind of a Hurricane Press. She also established the poetry site The Fat Damsel.

List of Poets

D. C. Buschmann

FDR AND ELEANOR, A LOVE STORY

Franklin had everything
he’d wanted
for most of his life.

Wanted intercourse
with the other
AND his wife.

But, Eleanor said no.
They shared love
of country and kin

but never a bed again.
Three years passed.
Stricken by polio,

Franklin fought to strengthen
his arms and upper torso.
Arrogance gone,

FDR campaigned to lead
the land and won.
He tamed The Great Depression,

relieving the oppressed,
and steered the U.S.
through war.

ER advocated for the negro
and Japanese American
and modeled female self-determination.

In his final days, Eleanor away,
their daughter invited
the other at Franklin’s request.

Yet, the Roosevelts
lie together today
sharing a gravestone.

CHILD OF A TEENAGE MOTHER: I WAS LOVED

She loved me like a scalp loves lice.
She loved me like a leg loves chiggers.
She loved me like a dog’s hide loves fleas.
She loved me like a celiac’s gut loves wheat.
She loved me like a hiker’s ankle loves sprains.
She loved me like a surgeon’s hand loves cramps.
She loved me like a bare foot loves splintered glass.
She loved me like a rich woman’s heart loves gigolos.
She loved me like a sailor’s stomach loves being seasick.

D. C. Buschmann is a freelance copy editor in Carmel, Indiana. She was a finalist both in the 2016 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize contest and the 2016 Pride in Poetry Prize contest by NavWorks Press. She has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including Lamar University’s The Great American Wise Ass Poetry Anthology in February.

List of Poets

Joshua Cole

PHEROMONES

My attraction for you is an assembly of moments
arranged by scents and sounds.

The hoppy flavor of pale ale evokes
a blue football jersey hanging loosely
from your shoulders, your hips
hidden beneath, unrestrained and inviting,
you strut from the hallway to the couch,
long calves smooth and tight.

A hint of cinnamon,
and suddenly I am serving you
French toast in bed, the morning after
my first night in your apartment.

A mug of black coffee,
from the café on the corner,
conjures a cold November morning,
your brown barista apron was chalked
with flour and smeared with butter,
your amber eyes were serious and sweet,
like adding equal parts whiskey and Sumatra
to my warm red mug.

When my radio station played your song,
I quickly clicked it off,
the silent treatment seemed fitting
for this act of treachery,
though calling “Ho Hey” your song
is an insult to the Lumineers.
After all it simply played the day you
arranged my clothes into piles
that fit neatly in plastic grocery bags.
We have nothing in common, I just don’t love you.
It was as if you read a shopping list.
This will be the best for both of us, you appealed
to my logic, but I loved you,
so I pleaded my case, one last act of futility,
as you busied yourself around the kitchen
unable to hear my reason, you swatted my compromises
as if each was an irritating green headed fly.
Broken, I packed my car as it began to pour,
the cold autumn rain chilled my face and fingers,
I shivered in the car, and waited, watched
your sliding door for some sign that you still cared,
just come to the window — come and say goodbye,
but you never appeared, and I drove home listening to the Lumineers.

Though you never speak to me,
and look at me as if I am unfamiliar to your eyes,
like we never locked the door
and ordered delivery all weekend,
barricaded ourselves from the world
and made love over and over and over again.
I can relive moments with you,
though I do so cautiously,
by playing a song,
by adding whiskey to my steaming black coffee.

Joshua Cole lives on the beautiful seacoast of New Hampshire with his lovely wife, and two amazing daughters. They enjoy picnics, hiking, and family fun days. If you’re interested in more of his work, including his fiction, check out his website, authorjoshuacole.com; like his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/authorjoshuacole, follow him on Twitter, @authorjoshcole or Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/authorjoshuacole/?hl=en.

List of Poets

Patricia Coleman

BAAL REFLECTIONS

Critics say melodrama is a woman’s form, her joyless street.
It’s not true. You watch rom-coms on TV,
broken Baal,
mourning after punished paupers.

Mourning is not enough, nothing is enough til your memory is erased.
Women go to Baal to die but he never does the job fully.
They drink with him and he bends over them and they bend over his stained white couch

He opens their thighs.

They lose track,

until Baal returns to turn the fluorescent lights on
the TV volume high as it will go.

Baal says, before Johanna has even pulled up her tights,

“Stop dying already”

And points her to the street
where she holds her gut.

She is a phantom,
walking and muttering, “I am not a pauper,
I circle the planet
the universe cycling, until one day it will stop,
the universe and circling, you or another you in me.”

She tries not to hear her own words.
Baal is bored with her and the others, all kinds of muttering.
He slams the door behind,
goes to find men.

For ten full minutes after he leaves, she thinks, quiet, two
thoughts, quiet, a loop.
Then on again to whatever is required to continue.
Then back to Baal to do his job, not fully.

PART 2. JOHANNA

Take Johanna out of this scenario.
She does not really belong here.
She was always just trying to find a place for her in it.

Johanna wants to minus her self
as if it had never come to that, to being,
as if she had never been in Baal’s life, in her own, her own life in his.

However many more years, it won’t be like this,
no more twisted shapes of her chest squeezing, closing.
Say goodbye to all the things, get ready to say goodbye.

Baal makes her wonder at the grounding pain of a moment,
it opens and opens in
to even more moments.

She wonders at it, that it keeps going,
and she’s thinking: “this body is a whirling dervish
of torn ligaments. it keeps doing its turning.”

In the river, Johanna, with the bread Johanna.

It is a sordid world you put yourself in, only for loathing, not only of self.

Patricia Coleman is a writer/director, from Brooklyn. Coleman has published fiction, essays, and interviews in Bomb, PAJ, The New Review of Literature, Nedjeljni Vjesnik, Culture Magazine and has presented papers at ATHE,  Le Son au Theatre and MAPAC. Upcoming poems in POST(blank) and Poetica. She has staged 25+ productions at The Kitchen, Chashama, Here, etc. Recently, she staged her own site-specific adaptation with soundscape by Richard Kamerman of Euripdes’ Medea at Brooklyn Glass (a glass blowing studio in Gowanus). Coleman received her MA from CCNY’s Creative Writing Program and PhD in Theatre from the Graduate Center. Her dissertation traced the disembodied voice of Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater.

List of Poets

Michael Coolen

WHERE WHERE IS AN ISLAND

rehearsal had begun
you arrived late as if by fate from
car wrecks can be metaphors for
I saw your injuries and bandages
memories murder some hearts
a man can grieve and die in the same abyss of
feelings from a velvet steamroller that breathes with
broken leaves and melancholy left behind in a
refuge of silent thoughts and solitude where where
is not a destination but a permanent state

How long one weeps and suffers depends on
why now is forever any relief from
from, from, from now and forever where
a man can weep and wither in the same abyss of
sorrow from merciless steamrollers that breathe in
crushed leaves and a melancholy of now always in a
sanctuary of silent anguish and solitude where where
is not a state but a pain-filled place

Forever is a noun
Forever is an adverb
Forever is a sentence without a trial, a cell of
whys whens nows laters stops
please stop
to wither and die in a black hole of a
broken heart that exhales a melancholy of always in an
asylum of silent anguish and solitude where where
is not a state but a pain-filled island of
what is left of what was once called
undying love.

THEME AND VARIATIONS ON TIME FLIES

Like an arrow they say but what else do Time Flies like? Swords? Bullets? do fruit flies like arrows too? William Tell liked arrows and shot an apple off his son’s head and fruit flies do like apples

Variation I

Rossini’s opera “William Tell” recounts the story of sons and arrows also providing the exciting theme for that silver-bullet-shooting Lone Ranger the real title of that theme is “The March of the Swiss Soldiers.” the Lone Ranger wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those frou-frou Vatican uniforms unless some back-shootin’ Baptist gunslinger saw him wearin’ one

Variation II

Perhaps we’ve got it all wrong perhaps the arrows are timing flies but— it doesn’t make sense because arrows don’t wear watches

Intermezzo

we measure Time with clocks and children and sunsets and sorrow

Variation III

Arrows move fast but not as fast as a bullet a bullet kills you long before the sound of the shot arrives but an arrow can kill you over a lifetime for example Cupid’s arrows

Variation IV

If you listen deeply you can hear the twang of an arrow’s launch if you listen very deeply you can even tell if Cupid launched an arrow tipped with a sharp gold barb filled with love and desire or a blunt lead barb filled with unending sadness and betrayal

Variation V

I mistook the sound of Cupid’s lead-tipped arrow for gold when I met her my ears were deafened believing she brought harmony to a life constantly repeating one sad lonely melody my noisy carnival was transformed into a lifetime of silent heart-break

Coda

Loving her began in an instant forgetting her always now to now to now—always now—always

Michael Coolen has been published in Oregon Humanities, The Gold Man Review, Clementine Poetry Journal, Synesthesia Magazine, Broken, The Poetry Quarterly, Oregon Poetry Association, the Rats Ass Review, et al.

He is also a published composer, with works performed around the world, including at Carnegie Hall, MoMA, and the Christie Gallery in New York. For more of Michael’s work in Love & Ensuing Madness, go to the index below. For other work, find him in our Volume Three, Issue 2 (2015). 

List of Poets

Jessica Gleason

UNWHOLESOME

I may have

Googled
your name.

A penchant for
beards and
sharp

though
game-addled
brains tests

my playful
though-steadfast
resolve leaving me
weak.

But mostly,

I fight against
a need
to shove you, hard
against a wall.

Jessica Gleason is a selfish writer, writing what suits her and not what mainstream poetry looks to publish. She’s never written about a sailboat and she never will. You can purchase her chapbook, Sundown on This Town, from Popcorn Press.

List of Poets

Patricia L. Goodman

BLINDERS

Even though he twists
his face, yells at her
as she asks a question
or hangs up her coat;

even though she cries
every day, dreads
his next explosion;

even though home is where
the pain is—
home is familiar, safe; home
is where she wants to be,

like a horse
whose instinct
is to run back to her stall
when the barn is on fire.

WALKING WITH SCISSORS
Gardening at Cokesbury

I am armed and they are sharp. If security
stops me, what do I say?  I have no permit, save
membership on the Stream Garden Committee.

Truth is, I am out to behead,
to interfere with the reproduction process.
It’s hard to nail down. It’s not abortion, not
sterilization, but the garden version of birth control.
I’ll use the correct term—deadheading.

With this weapon I remove spent flower heads
before they scatter seed.
It’s for convenience, to make life easier,
to make gardening prettier, more pleasurable.

I knew a man who used sharp weapons often.
His verbal barbs decapitated his love. He did not
understand, nor did his father before him.
His wife’s life was not always pleasant, nor easy,
yet she remained. Some relationships
are like that.

Today the sun is strong. Intentions give out
quickly. My back is old now. I have half a bucket
of dead heads. Enough. Some flowers

do not want to be deadheaded. They prefer life
as they are, productive, going to their end ragged
and brown, but whole.

I understand.

Patricia L. Goodman is a widowed mother and grandmother and a graduate of Wells College with a degree in Biology and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. She spent her career raising, training and showing horses with her orthodontist husband, on their farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She now lives in northern Delaware, where she enjoys writing, singing, birding, gardening and spending time with her family. Many of her poems have been published in both print and online journals, and anthologies and she was the 2013 and 2014 winner of Delaware Press Association’s Communications Contest in poetry. Her first full-length book of poetry Closer to the Ground, was a finalist in the Dogfish Head Poetry Contest, and was published in August, 2014 by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. In 2015 she received her first Pushcart nomination. Much of her inspiration comes from the natural world she loves. For more of Patricia’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Ed Granger

SHANNON

Her Kool menthols burned the only
incense that undid the voodoo
of the mildew in my old Ford Escort’s
cloth interior. These days, I prefer
ailment to cure, compelled to huff
the row of collars in my closet hoping
for a residual hit of that citrus scent
she wore. Not long ago, in a Boston
hotel corridor, fragments of rind on
an abandoned tray transported me
to my grandmother’s downstairs
powder room, its glass bowl with tiny
orange balls of soap growing more
fragrant with each visit, cardinals
rampant on black wallpaper. Five
senses conspiring to catch us by
memory’s baited hook. The way every
whiff of cigarette now brings a twinge
like second-hand kiss. The way the porch
light from next door finds the exact
spot on the mattress where her wrist
slept when I awoke at 3 a.m. Her
presence as a river on this map before
my trip to Ireland. How the rain there
already sounds out her name.

SUB ROSA REPOSE

Naked as the Billie Holiday ache
playing on your Mac in the background
you relax on your knees as I take
what feels like my last breath hours
before I’ll shower with Irish Spring
I’ve brought from home while your eyes
are like – oh hell, you know what things
they’re like, you’ve heard them from a guy
you’ve knelt above before,
I’m certain, at some other Days Inn.
But in this moment are you sure
you don’t hear the invitation
from our temporary
muse: Why not take all of me?

Ed Granger lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Little Patuxent Review, The Broadkill Review, Potomac Review, Roanoke Review, Free State Review, Naugatuck River Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and other journals. His chapbook Glasshouse was a finalist in the 2016 Cape Cod Poetry Review competition.

List of Poets

Tad Gruchalla-Wesierski

CHAMPAGNE

Champagne.
Nuzzling the nape of your neck as you lisped in Spanish,
with a glass of white gold in your hand,
the Neruda love poetry I gave you.
Champagne.
Kissing the tiny citric droplets caught on the down of your permanently pouting upper lip.
Champagne.
Drinking what you poured into my mouth from yours, still cool, and warmed with your tongue.
Champagne.
First licking and tasting your unctuous okra and you tasting mine, in New Orleans,
as the breeze blew long diaphanous sheers through open French doors on a balcony,
with magnolia and bougainvillea perfume wafting through its wrought iron.
Champagne.
Making love on the beach in Maine as dusk drew a black indigo curtain around us,
whetted by the bottle of 1982 Krug, lobster and blackened corn.
Champagne.
The kiss you pressed on me as you poured the 1990 Dom Perignon Rose Oenotheque
into my glass, over a shining scarlet strawberry, off-season in Menton.
Champagne.
Skiing together the steep, light, dry, feathers of powder snow in Aspen,
an eiderdown enveloping only us.
Champagne.
Your bubbly laugh and platinum smile directed just at me,
before the 1996 Salon sabered by the maître d’ at the St. Regis in Aspen had opened up.
Champagne.
The autumn hay color of the long hair that you swept over your shoulder
as you turned and walked away.
Champagne.
A word reverberating, repeating, echoing what I still feel:

A sham. You made love but didn’t love.
A pain, persisting since you tossed me away
a beige, splayed-out, drying cork, used,
then crushed
into a
forest
green
bottle
neck,
thirsty

Tad Gruchalla-Wesierski is a Canadian and writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction in Canmore, Alberta, Canada or wherever else he may happen to be. He was drawn to this vocation after a 30-year career as a corporate and international lawyer. “The practice of law was a tourniquet on the flow of words,” he said “but now that it’s removed, my words can pulse down unused canals to where they should pool.”

List of Poets

Ann Huang

LIFE/CRIME

Your daughter will lie down
on soil. Your son wondered how
the window got opened in front of you.
And where you came from
left you already. My hands
did a favor to your waist,
their poetics a plate for the future.
You darling, you darling, back on track.
Then there was all love involved.

Ann Huang is a seasoned marketer with more than fifteen years of experience working with the spoken and written word. As an MFA recipient in Poetry from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Huang’s poetry has appeared online and in print extensively. Her recent poem, “Night Lullaby,” was a Ruth Stone Poetry Prize finalist. Huang’s new poetry collection, Delicious and Alien, is due out in 2017. Her poems follow the surrealistic gestures that weave reality into divergent realms of perspectives and perceptions. Visit AnnHuang.com for more poems and press releases.

List of Poets

Christine Jackson

SOD HOUSE

Living with him,
she grew used to no love
and its hard soil
came to suit her,
If at times no rain fell
or a searing wind scoured the land,
like the gardener she was,
she pinched back a few leaves of herself
to create a shape,
streamlined and efficient,
to survive under an unblinking sun.

ELECTRIC

I don’t care what my friends say;
I like your man bun.
You become a grimacing Maori warrior,
fierce painted face
masking a gentle soul.

I also like the tie-ups
you leave on the bathroom counter,
a black scrunchie
or tie-dyed headband.
They wrap your flowing hair
into a fiber optic cable
that penetrates me
with your charged
Samsonic power.

Christine Jackson teaches literature and creative writing at a South Florida university.  She also works with the Mystery Writers of America, Florida Chapter, to plan SleuthFest, a mystery writing conference.  Her poetry has been published in several online publications, including The Slag Review, The Phoenix Soul, Verse-Virtual, Peacock Journal, and Ekphrastic. For more on Chris’s academic work, please see http://cahss.nova.edu/faculty/christine_jackson.html.

List of Poets

Margaret Koger

TIRED OF THIS PROMETHEAN LIFE

She’s hostess of the evening
serving blood and liver snacks.
Her husband drinks and feeds.
First a salty peck on her cheek
What a messy table my dear.
Then peppering her with questions
Did you remember the everything?
Buried the children for the evening?
He greets his fellow men and brags.
She clings to miserable companions
begging, More? More anything?
At dawn her last friends leave—
He perches
talons tight
beak thrusting
ready for dessert.

Margaret Koger invites readers to catch her characters in awkward positions and foolish dreams. She writes in Boise, Idaho and on the road, always looking for the workers and the slackers who keep the world turning. She loathes bacon on doughnuts and prefers tea and English biscuits. In a previous life she taught English Literature and later became a school library media specialist. She’s published imaginative fiction and poetry in Poet Lore, Avocet, Mused, WestWard Quarterly, Montucky, Blast Furnace, Eternal Haunted Summer, Mediterranean Poetry, Poetry Breakfast, and BLYNKT.

List of Poets

Ash Krafton

BULL MECHANICS

when elephants reach their estrus
they send out an open call

subsonic vibrations that travel for miles
carried by the stones of sub-Sahara

bulls stand on tiptoe to catch the keen
calls of cows longing for the family way

listening with their feet, taking measurements
from various points of contact

bulls triangulate the bone calls
determining location and distance

pressing a trunk to the ground, his dioptra
calculations of Elephantarian/Euclidean geometry

inner-ear touch, synaptic transmission, stimulation
evolution of primal mechanics into GPS

global navigation that ensures the future
by forging a connection: pachydermal Tinder

great dish-like ears needed only
for up-close whispers of post-contact love

Pushcart Prize nominee Ash Krafton’s poetry and short fiction have appeared in various literary and genre publications. She’s also the author of novel-length fiction, including the Demimonde trilogy as well as The Heartbeat Thief, an historical fantasy written under the pen name AJ Krafton. She’s a member of SFPA and resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region with her family and bossy German Shepherd dog. Visit her at ashkrafton.com.

List of Poets

Jeni Lozauskas

FOR SHITS AND GIGGLES

If I kiss you now
and grasp you tight,
will you fill me
with sticky love tonight?

BLAME IT ON THE WEATHER

We took refuge in that run-down motel.
The rains had an agenda of their own.
We couldn’t escape the flooding on Route 3
so the four bare little walls
created a hotbox: our storm cellar.

The storm got bigger; you got bigger
The roads were seeping, I was seeping,
You the howling wind and
I the dancing rain
in the run-down motel.

THREE REALIZATIONS IN A THREE-WAY RELATIONSHIP

His
I love them both equally
She completes me
She gives me life
I am happy

Hers
I love them both equally
He is my protector, my provider
She is what I’ve always wanted
I’m content

Mine
I love them both for different reasons
She is what I never knew I wanted
He is what I’ve settled on
Oh, God.

Jeni Lozauskas is a poet from New Jersey. She teaches English courses at a few local colleges. She is finishing her MFA at Lindenwood University. Her poetry has appeared in such journals as NJCU’s Paths and Vortex of Macabre. When not writing or working, she can be found down the shore being a mermaid.

List of Poets

Paul Lymanson

COOL WATER

Creek almost dry
but a trickle
fills a bucket.
Day so hot, flesh weeps.
In the tent, baby sleeps.
I strip.
You fill a bucket
and pour over me,
cool water.
Then you strip
and I pour over you,
cool water.
In sunshine among huckleberry bush
I soap your back, you soap my tush.
One thing leads
to another.
Again we need the bucket,
wash the nether parts,
cool water
but the baby wakes
and wants to nurse.
His wet mouth.
Your warm milk.
Perspiration streaming.
Heat and damp.
Alive. So alive.

PICKLE JUICE

making love pleasantly when
an explosion in my left armpit
like a Skilsaw ripping from rib to arm
I may be dying in the saddle
but I clutch my chest and leap yes literally leap
from bed to kitchen to refrigerator
to drink pickle juice straight from the jar
this is not madness
I’ve heard pickle juice cures muscle spasms
now here’s proof
or at least anecdotal

returning to bed
“what was that?” she asks
“just a cramp” I say
“please don’t die” she says frowning
“wasn’t my heart” I say
romantic mood is pretty well shot
but this too is love-making of a high order
she tangles fingers in my gray chest hair
as I drop to sleep
she watches the fingers rise fall rise again
while I breathe I dream

OVERDOSE

“I’m freaking out.” She’s poking him,
waking him in the deep night. She’s overdosed
on painkillers. Her brain is spinning.
“The arthritis was bad but this is worse.”
She (and he) are too old for drug fun.
“I’m sorry,” she says, “but could you
— please — read to me or go upstairs with me —
I’m afraid to go alone — for a glass of warm
milk and just — please, please —
sit with me? I’m losing control of my mind.”

He can’t quite summon the consciousness
for reading or rising from bed
or even speaking one word
but sleepily refracted through dreamscape
he can stroke soft flesh lightly
trailing fingertips over wrinkles of forehead,
eyebrow of soft gray, familiar lips,
weathered neck, scars like ripples
where once was breast.

Dreams, drugs, each fade. Into the dawn
he strokes, lightly, fingertips hopping
playfully while in exchange her hand
kneads his creaky shoulder. Her knuckles
nudge frozen lumbar joints.
Gently she nuzzles the hand that strokes:
the three fingers, the two nubs
lost to a table saw, life’s work.

Silently they kiss and stroke and play,
their touch is their speech.
No goal, no hurry, they simply join.
This is the way of old lovers until
finally in a beam of sunlight and sweat
he asks “Did you just come?”
and she giggles: “I think so.”

She asks “Did you?”
and he smiles: “I think so.”
They laugh because sometimes
with a coupling so prolonged,
there is no peak
and then they sleep.

STEAMER TRUNK

At bedtime we talk about the logistics
if there is a phone call at, say, 3 a.m.
meaning Judy’s gone into labor and one of us
must go to Judy’s house to watch the
two-year-old while the other of us
takes the seven-year-old to school while both of us
take turns playing nursemaid to our geriatric dog.
This is how it is to be grandparents.
Talk of children and babies (and dogs) makes us
cuddly and energized.
You suggest
(without regret)
that since we may have to get up early
and we’re too excited for sleep,
we’ll have to make love
so we can get to that
drowsy state.
No argument from me.
We begin and it’s proceeding pleasantly until
suddenly
you get a
powerful
leg cramp
and you
jump out
of bed
like a jagged
lightning
bolt
bent over
gasping
in agony.

After
a few minutes
you recover
and I’d be fine with leaving it alone
having lost all desire,
feeling I’ve somehow
caused the pain but
you say, “Now I really need it,”
so we start up again
carefully
with me standing on the floor this time
and you lying on the bed
because something about my weight on you
makes the leg more likely to cramp in ways that
we don’t understand,
so I’m upright though the bed is
a bit low so my knees are bent
which makes me feel
sort of like an oil derrick pumping
but my feet slide backwards
so I brace my toes against the antique steamer trunk
which had traveled from heaven knows where,
probably China,
before somebody left it in an attic
in San Francisco where we found it
when we lived in that second-floor walkup above
the Yet Wah Restaurant on Clement Street
and we have kept it these four decades
of baby-making
and child-raising.
That old trunk, built of wood,
filled with sheets and towels and
(I suppose) Ming Dynasty dust,
of equal mass and more history than I,
stops the feet from sliding.
Nicely.
No more cramps.

Next thing we know the sunshine is
streaking through our dirty window.
We have slept late, after all.
A snuggle and chat:
Me: “That entire lovemaking was completely unnecessary.”
You, smiling: “A waste of time.”
“Is your leg okay?”
“It’s fine.”
The phone rings.

Paul Lymanson has done a lifetime of shitwork for cash including rebuilding septic tanks, shoveling bat guano, scraping asbestos, painting poisons and wrestling termites with his bare hands. Hey, it’s better than sucking at the academic teat.

List of Poets

Forester McClatchey

FOUR YEARS ON

Look, particulars are going away—
the manner of your knuckles twisting butter
over sharp-pored toast is going away—
and what I want is an unselfish peace.
I listened when you did not explain
the ways in which this is impossible.

Look, particulars are waving as they leave—
you, leaning out of your car, seen at a distance,
abstracted by heat. Every day these particulars,
and the ineluctable fuck you of words rooming
on a page, telling us quietly that this work,
if it is work, is very far from done.

LANDING GEAR

In a tube of unsound welding,
the woman across from me pours
white wine, and the idea
that I could be smelling it but am not
is what I mean when I say held.
Bundled nerves in both left teres
glint with pain, and seatback movies
contradicting each other
are what I mean when I say fault.
In the troposphere now:
78.09% Nitrogen is what I mean
when I say narrow.
I should call you when I land.
The man next to me is watching
dog races, taking notes, breathing
heavily. As a predicate and a principle,
to listen is getting blander
and blander the further
and farther
I drop.

Forester McClatchey is an MFA candidate in Poetry at the University of Florida. He has won the Margaret Weymouth Jackson Award for poetry and the Rose Award for fiction, both at Hillsdale College. He has worked as a cartoonist and a factory hand.

List of Poets

C. McMahon

ORIGINAL SIN

Always there is the apple.
We can talk about the weather,
last night’s game, local gossip
—and yet, I’m thinking
about the apple.
It’s behind my eyes,
on the tip of my tongue,
burning my fingertips.

ONE DANCER
Immersion Theatre: NYC

stops my breath.
It takes a moment for me
to separate her body
from mine. We are not
Rubens’s nudes; I know
the narrow curve of this
shoulder to arm. I see a boy,
hair short, face averted, until
she tilts her chin, stretches her neck.
Her clavicle forms a shallow bowl
from which I wish to sip.
I recognize her ladder of ribs
as one my own lovers have climbed.
Her back righteous,
her stomach a tender plain,
her calves teardrops of stone.
Her breasts a whisper
calling me home
to learn the hard lesson
on the worth of my own
skin and bone.

I AM TIRED OF THE WASTE

all that we toss aside not knowing
if it’s the thing we may need after all.
Altoid tins, orange rinds, socks with holes,
empty cans, an old flame, yesterday’s news.

how easily things become useless
when they could be repurposed
instead. a bird feeder from a milk-jug.
a wine cork ornament. a friend from a lover.

our footprint is a garbage heap.
there is always something new
to consume and dispose.
until trash do we part.

the chair I take to be reupholstered
is over forty years old.
I brought it to the marriage.
Then I left with it.

C. McMahon is a teacher and poet who has been published in various journals (Lake Affect Magazine, HazMat, Blue Collar Review, IthacaLit, Prodigal) and has a chapbook, On Any Given Day, published by FootHills Press. McMahon received an MFA in Poetry from the Rainier Writing Workshop in Washington State and when not teaching, reading or writing, can be found out on the water rowing, or running on trails.

List of Poets

Molly Miller

HOW I LOVE

My hamster likes to run in an exercise ball,
a safe bubble of foggy purple plastic
that lets him run around the house.
I wonder how much he can really see
out of the thing. Not much, I’m sure.
But that doesn’t seem to bother him.
All he knows is that he’s out of his cage,
and he can run, stretch his legs. Turning at all
slows him down, so he just doesn’t.
He runs in straight lines until he collides,
hard, with a wall or a chair leg. I imagine
that it hurts, but he remains undaunted.
He pivots and runs in a new direction,
trusting, for whatever reason,
that he won’t get hurt again.

An Indiana native, Molly Miller graduated from Purdue University with an English Education degree. She relocated to New Haven, CT to work towards an MFA in fiction at Southern Connecticut State University. She is an editor for the Noctua Review, has been published in Sisyphus Quarterly, and has won several Purdue literary awards. She loves cats, her partner, and living in a blue state for the first time.

List of Poets

Matt Morris

IN LOVE, IN THEORY

Willows, bowed with sparrows, sing,
wet leaves quivering,

shivering with a bad case
of what makes your ticker race

like a rocket car.
All the world’s glazed with sugar

& you’re a giant’s
elongated tongue. Romance,

shmomance–what if your head blows
up? A new one grows

big as the moon, its full mug
spilling on your rug.

Stars wink because they like you.
Look at them! They really do.

Matt Morris has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, such as DMQ, 88, Hunger Mountain, New York Quarterly, Runes, and Utter. He has received multiple nominations for the Pushcart Prize as well as Best of the Net.  Nearing Narcoma, his first book, won the Main Street Rag Poetry Award.  Knut House Press recently released his latest collection, Walking in Chicago with a Suitcase in My Hand.

List of Poets

Peter E. Murphy

HARDER

She

They’re firmer now,
bigger, and the saline’s safer
than the silicone that had leeched
into the surrounding tissue.
They had to cut all that out, you know,
before folding the skin over
the new ones.
Don’t you like them?
Would you like to touch?
My husband’s not used to them yet.
I think he’s afraid of them.
Whenever I get too close,
he turns away.

He

It’s changed everything.
I thought of all the jokes but tried it
anyway. I was tired, didn’t think
it would work, but it has.
It’s placed a lot of pressure
on my wife, though.
She has to keep up,
and she’s older than me.
I know what she’s thinking,
worrying about really,
because I travel a lot.
I’m always on the road,
one business trip after another.

Peter E. Murphy is the author of Stubborn Child, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize, Challenges for the Delusional, a book of writing prompts, and four poetry chapbooks. His recent essays and poems appear or are forthcoming in Diode, Guernica, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The New Welsh Reader, Rattle, Word Riot and elsewhere. He is the founder of Murphy Writing of Stockton University. peteremurphy.com

List of Poets

Sergio Ortiz

DEDICATIONS

To my Enemy:
A face to face.

To Insomnia:
Pears or apples.

To the Endless Wait:
A white South African sentinel
asleep outside a diamond mine.

To the Classroom:
A watch,
the sobriety of water.

To Distance:
The little I still remember about Omar,
furtive glow,
naked wet body trapped
in the precincts of my pupils.

To love:
A truce
& another truce

TOPOGRAPHY

this is my story,
my birth:

I’m a wheelchair,
an eradicated body wrapped
in a sack,

a tugged around childhood
an unfair curse

& the useless, stubborn desire
for a pair of tailored hands

scaling my thighs.

Sergio A. Ortiz is a gay Puerto Rican poet and the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee, and a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.

List of Poets

Joseph S. Pete

OUR FAILED LOVE, OUR FAILING INFRASTRUCTURE

This freeway’s all death, from Mile 0 to the last exit.
Fourteen died under a shower of concrete
When the ramp collapsed during construction.
No plastic hardhat can save a rough-palmed soul
From that sort of cascading tonnage.

Fourteen men were crushed under the careless rubble of a lowest bidder.
Fellow construction workers tried to rescue them, pull them out with a cherry picker.
A desperate attempt, of course too late.
The concrete pads had been substandard, somebody somewhere saved a buck.
Cline Avenue was an abattoir before it even opened.

Years into the future, a sniper spider-webbed windshields
On the same state highway, the poorly named Cline.
Sniper was a misnomer too, but that’s all the press had to run with.
It was probably just some kid with a BB gun,
Looking down a barrel of terminal suburban boredom.
But regardless of the caliber,
A round could splinter a windshield.
And if you couldn’t see, you could careen to your death
Just as fast as if it had been a .50 cal rifle with a telescopic sight.

Drivers had to take that freeway to commute to work;
Terror reigned; they white-knuckled it every morning.
One day it stopped.
No explanation, no resolution.
An open case file in a closed drawer.

Some years later the piers, beams and cables on a freeway bridge
Succumbed to corrosion’s relentless rot.
And they shut it down for safety reasons
Like you shut us down with such finality, with an eye toward demolition.

The bridge has been closed for years now.
Someone still drove off it, plunging to their death,
Following a stubbornly out-of-touch GPS.
“You have arrived at your destination.”
A tragedy, sure, but he should have known,
And shouldn’t have driven around the barriers,
According to the indifferent authorities.

They keep saying construction will start in another year,
Like a bleacher bum’s fusty well-worn mantra.
We all feed on hope, that phantom,
That wispy ethereal specter,
Nothing you could lay a work glove on.

In our industrialized society, we build roads.
We built bridges, culverts, viaducts, shared lives.
We celebrate groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings,
Milestones one splashes across social media.
We like the big headlines, the momentous announcements.
The vital work of maintenance not so much.

Our bridges and relationships fail, sometimes as calamitously
As the Tacoma Narrows Bridge,
For want of the vital work of maintenance.

Joseph S. Pete once Googled the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. True story. The Indiana University graduate is an award-winning journalist, Iraq War veteran and regular guest on his local NPR affiliate. His literary work has appeared or is forthcoming in Dogzplot, The Roaring Muse, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, shufPoetry, The Vignette Review, Pour Vida, Parody Poetry Journal, Chicago Literati, Indiana Voice Journal, The Five-Two, the “Words & Other Wild Things” book and elsewhere. He was named Baconfest Chicago 2016 poet laureate, a feat Chaucer and Milton never accomplished.

List of Poets

Walt Peterson

MEMO

In the doorway to your office
you grasping my leather jacket…

you should have pulled me to you,
kissed me full on the mouth
almost to hurting
the way I kiss you

in the light of our passion
the red welt of my jacket’s zipper
across your life-line.

Walt Peterson has won the Acorn-Rukeyser Award for Poetry and the Gribble Publishing for short fiction. He lives & teaches in Pittsburgh, has taught in prison through a grant from PA. Council on the Arts and the Dept of Corrections. He currently has work in Uppagus (on-line), Smart Ass Poetry Review, and Moss Motoring News (creative nonfiction). His book, Zen-Drive, is slated for Fall  ’17.

List of Poets

Bethany Rivers

ALMOST

I write this the morning after
with a hand of fire
how you didn’t kiss me
how the moon river whispered
to you all evening between sips
of Kahlua what I wanted
you to do to me, how the other
tables emptied themselves around
us and the river rippled louder and
you still didn’t hear, how your
hands glided through spaces miming
your story and didn’t touch mine, even
though a slow fire burned within
this body and the moon was
almost full.

GLIMPSES OF LOVE

A cove of willows and oaks conspire;
you sit in the pocket crook of boughs
your gravity gliding through my bones.

Your eyes glance off me, like my reflection
in your wine glass. Here, stars fall
and never land. Layers of forest-green

shade upwards in an Irish dance,
from the promise of peeping buds
to the canopy of leaves arching

above us. I lean against knobbled
bark, smelling the ancestors
of books I love. I bite the wood

of future chairs and benches, rings
of kisses polished by children’s laughter.
Crystal lights memorise my summer

petal body, aching to dance your heart
words into pressed leaves. You swing
me upside-down – trees falling.

I REMEMBER SOMETHING KIND

something dark something painful slipping into dresses I didn’t want to wear slip-sliding in heels becoming flat and I saw the time-wasting strobes inflicting false memories and I wanted to tell you I wanted to tell you it’s alright you don’t have to be here it’s ok not to be here but you were too far away mired in a land of false obligation and I wanted to tell you slip out of that dress slip from that time-knot let your father guide you to your own map but you couldn’t hear above the din of the regular pounding of songs you didn’t like I wanted to tell you it’s alright

IN THE PERCEPTION OF THIS KISS

our lips meet for the first time
though we breathed as friends for years
we’re seven years older than we were

in the perception of this kiss
where my toes curl with pleasure sprinkles
my head full of summer clouds
my life line joining yours
your palms smooth along my

perception of
standing in your living room of books
calendar photos of far off mountains
on every wall
the warmth of your breath on my open

perception
i am transported to another living room
far away in time
in a living room
at night with the rain pelting down
i’m standing at the windowsill
hiding behind the curtain
so mum and dad can’t see me
i’m drawing love hearts on a steamy window
only the streetlight and the hedge witness

the perception of this kiss
i hear mum in the kitchen cooking tea
smell of mint and rosemary
dad is upstairs getting changed from work
winter has drawn the blinds down
but i am soft here
cosseted within

the perception of this
your eyes dark hot chocolate on a cold night
my childhood floats in through

my perception
of this kiss

Bethany Rivers’ debut pamphlet, ‘Off the wall’ released in July 2016 from Indigo Dreams Publishing, was inspired by art and explores different kinds of silence. Poems previously accepted by: Envoi, Ink Sweat & Tears, Cinnamon Press, The Lampeter Review, Three drops from a cauldron, Bare Fiction, Blithe Spirit, Sarasvati, Clear Poetry, I am not a silent poet, The Ofi Press, Obsessed with Pipework, Silver Birch Press and Fair Acre Press. She mentors writers through their novels and autobiographies, and also runs poetry healing and inspiration days: www.writingyourvoice.org.uk

List of Poets

Samara

MY CUNT, OR CLEANUP IN AISLE 3

My cunt is made
of melon suede,
topped with a cherry petit-four.

& you can’t evade
the signal made
by her ruddy cabbage semaphore.

Must I persuade
by rhymed tirade?
My salmon’s fileted;
My crème? Brûléed.
…Are you not an omnivore?

Samara is a two-time Pushcart nominee whose work has appeared in Strong Verse, Peacock Journal, 5×5, and others. She has two children, works in marketing, has recently returned to university to complete her BA in Creative Writing, and is a long-time member of a weekly poetry workshop group. The Scribe Tribers do monthly literary outreach by hosting open poetry workshops, and also occasionally perform. More at samarawords.wordpress.com

List of Poets

Alec Solomita

LOVELIFE

The suburb of Belmont seemed green all year ’round
Each kiss that we shared would spin me around
Her dad was a doctor, her mom was a shrew
but they weren’t home so we played doctor too.
I lay down beside her, amazed at my gain,
then in no time at all she kissed Jenny Spain.

Katrina was different, a girl of her word
In her teddy-beared bedroom she smiled and she purred.
She loved me like God and I loved her too
but not quite as much, so she just wouldn’t do.
When I said I was taking the afternoon train,
her copious tears fell like rain after rain.

Béatrice was from France; she taught in my school
during the decade that mocked all the rules.
Her stay in the States was close to an end
and she wept as she told me, a friend to a friend.
I held her for comfort; she kissed me so long
we were no longer friends but a Provençal song.

Alec Solomita’s fiction has appeared in, among other publications, The Adirondack Review, The Mississippi Review, Southwest Review, and Ireland’s Southword Journal. Recently, he’s published poetry in Literary Orphans, Turk’s Head Review, Algebra of Owls, Rat Ass Review, and elsewhere. Forthcoming: Sourland Mountain Review, Panoplyzine, and MockingHeart Review. He lives in Somerville, Mass.

List of Poets

Julie Standig

PEACE THROUGH UNDERSTANDING

Susie poked her head through
the window of the African
Pavilion. It was the 1964 World’s
Fair in Flushing. She was a baby
giraffe and I wasn’t much more.
We both had moms by our sides.
Each watching the other.

I was eating cold peanut soup
at the thatched roof restaurant
[raised on stilts]when Susie’s
head thrust through.

I still remember my delight as I
ran to greet her. And when she
reached for my hand with her
pointed black tongue, taking
the lettuce I held.

Her mother never left her side.
Neither did mine. And neither
did I when my daughter was
that age. But giraffes don’t live
that long. They can get cancer.
But never dementia.

My mother smiles, but doesn’t
speak. My daughter talks
but doesn’t listen.
It’s been like this a long time.

Julie Standig, born in Brooklyn, now lives on Long Island and Doylestown, PA, and works on the Upper West Side in NYC. She has studied at the Unterberg Poetry Center, participated in Writer’s Voice and is an active member of a private workshop.  She has been published in Alehouse Press, Arsenic Lobster and Covenant of the Generations, Then and Now Issue of Sadie Girl Press, as well as the online journal, Rats Ass Review. Her first chapbook, Memsahib Memoir will be released shortly by Plan B Press.

List of Poets

Paul m. Strohm

‘A LOVE SUPREME’

Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle little star
hush hush then a slow fade out
a slight residue of receding sound
then a gradual increase of volume
music raiding parts of my brain
long streaks of shrill wonderment
trying to explain, thump thump
note to self-let yourself go, don’t hum
listen without counting each beat
merely, mere less listening not not
not hearing, not identifying notes
note to self-let yourself drown
sink yourself into whorls of sounds
somewhere in the dark this fire
warmth wafting on invisible winds
it blows into one ear out the palms
‘a love supreme’-let go.

HERE’S TO QUEERS

Here’s to  queers
give ‘em a cheer
big queers, little queers
slap ‘em all on the butt queers
raise your glass in the air
let everyone hear

Here’s to queers
each lovely one
old tarts and young bucks
each deserves a loud cheer
So here’s to the queers
straights don’t have to fuck

Here’s to queers
for the crap they’ve had to eat
fag, dike, dick licker, arse ram
day after day so many years
called deviant, called shit
a life surrounded by fear

Here’s to queers
gay pride on parade
coming out one at a time
a father’s son, a mother’s daughter
co-worker, boss, soldier
brother sister, a million others

Here’s to queers
hate words can’t slap down
be upstanding now
raise your glass in the air
for queer lovers, queer friends
Here’s to queers!

Paul m. Strohm is a freelance journalist working in Houston, Texas. His poems have appeared in HuKmag.com, the Berkeley Poets Cooperative, The Lake, WiND, and other literary outlets.  His first collection of poems entitled Closed On Sunday was published in  2014 by the Wellhead Press.

List of Poets

J. A. Sutherland

THE OLIVE BOX

My mother bought you a pair
Of tiny phone-box earrings,
not appreciating you never wore
two of anything the same.
But they come as a pair, silly, I said,
so you gave me the second
since phone-boxes were my thing.
What do I do with this? You said:
Put it somewhere special, precious.
So I did… and then forgot.
You wore that gift the one time only,
claiming you lost the butterfly-clip,
that it fell out while you were playing.
Must have been in a crescendo,
you said: where did the other one go?

My father bought you a little box
carved from Olive wood, exotic,
fragile, purely ornamental, yet
the perfect store for precious things.
Its swirling patterns, nondescript,
were delicately touching, mesmerizing.
You’d follow them with your fingers,
Tracing rills as if they were whorls,
unique and yet genetically defined.
You broke their hearts as well as mine.
I never liked that Olive-Box much anyway,
you said, and left it, like a throwaway.
I asked a friend: what shall I do with it?
Put it away, she said: and if you miss it,
get it out again. If not, chuck it in the bin!

But unreliable memory does this to us:
we think we can remember everything
from that first kiss to the final ache
of heart as it breaks, in that all-too-fake
hangover: never again, we lie to Love –
Joni Mitchell, Sting, Burt Bacharach –
the songs pour out with oily sentiment
until the bubble bursts and, without pretense,
Love’s lid of false memories is gently lifted.
As I unpacked a box of Precious Things,
I found a scented candle, a wooden pig,
a print of Flaming June, and an Olive-Box.
And there, inside, a lonely earring.
I took it out, and then replaced the lid.
Some things are best forgotten; others, hid.

J. A. Sutherland is an emerging writer, based in Scotland, performing frequently on the Edinburgh spoken-word scene. For three consecutive years Sutherland received Special Merit in the Scottish National Galleries Inspired? Get Writing! competition. Using artifacts, visual art, and photography for inspiration, Sutherland has produced three limited-edition, hand-stitched art-books: Walking on the Water (poetry), 26 Treasures (sestudes), and Charlotte & The Charlatan – and other Cautionary tales (flash-fiction).

Besides poetry, J. A. Sutherland has had short stories published, and writes drama for theatre, radio and spoken-word performance, and regularly blogs on http://www.throughtheturretwindow.blogspot.com/.

List of Poets

Esmalita Vangarden

THE CURSE

I stopped my bleeding for you
I never believed in summer romance
but I wanted to love you
free from a dark history

I forgot the legacy passed down like a curse
it was like the trees — ever changing like me

He never came for me
I burned down the forest
I accept the blood price
I’m no longer kneeling at his feet

Thinking if he possessed me
I could will him to love me
I am only a girl, not a god

I bleed openly, enough to desolate the fire in his eyes
I smile at his dark lies, my body belongs to my thighs
I dance in ash; it furrows around me
I am whole in the stripping of his soul from me
I am clean
I create me.

Esmalita Vangarden resides in Pennsylvania. Her work has been published in The Social Poet, Lantern Magazine, and Contraposition Magazine.

List of Poets

Stephanie Stanley Walls

WALKING HOME

Remember when we danced
beneath the Strawberry Moon
to the soundtrack
of summer evenings,
wandered through fields,
woods, and creeks;
two kids with nothing
better to do than dream
to the plink of stones
across a placid pond
or wish on a blanket of stars?
We plotted to fireflies
strobing in mason jars.

Adulthood came like kudzu,
snuffing out campfire tales
and schoolgirl wishes.
Marriages and mortgages
reduced us to passers-by
in a suburban dead end
until time smoothed egos
like water on stone.

A grey-haired reunion,
spouses gone, children grown,
blazed the brushwood
shrouding a story undone.

Meet me in the middle
of the thousand-year bridge.
Sing to me our sweet
melody of memory.

Tell me stories
of where you’ve been.
Let your words leave
footprints on my spine,
or simply take my hand
because nothing else matters.

DUAL-CAREER LOVERS

Weekends are plastic
participation trophies.
Separated
by a thousand-mile expanse,
we pseudo-celebrate in exile.

You drain martinis
and drift into Nina Simone
while I haunt happy hour,
and muffle the drone
of golfers debriefing with
whiskey and fine wine.

My breastbone caves
just a little to embrace my heart,
and my neck arches
as I imagine you serenading me
with life’s banalities,
swirling the olives in your glass,
bewitching me with that half-grin
that happens when you ramble.

Does your chest fracture for me
as you hobnob in the cocktail lounge
with jazz piano refrains
wafting around your head?

Do the notes fall a bit flat
without me by your side?
Does the gin sting your lips just
enough to numb their ache for mine?

Stephanie Stanley Walls is a late bloomer. She recently completed an M.A. in writing. Her poems have also appeared on StrongVerse.org and CliteratureJournal.com. Stephanie was raised in the Mountains of East Tennessee, but she now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and splits her time between both of these beautiful places.

List of Poets

Sarah Webb

CARNEY

Why these memories
of punk mermaids
at the all night carnival,
copper nipple rings
turning green from corrosive air?
The barker rasped the night with insults,
the Stones blared eight track
static fizzy on car
radio, shaggy heads
bounced to the music bingo
and she said no and no and no.
But she must have said yes
sometime, some spring
break, some wild
party night
yes to Jack Daniels and crawfish
red on carny sticks, yes
to lying down under bleachers
yes to her torn heart.

Sarah Webb’s poetry collection, Black (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013) was selected as a finalist for  two awards (the Oklahoma Book Award and the Writers’ League of Texas Book Award).  She is a co-editor of Just This, a magazine of the Zen arts and the former poetry editor of the University of Science and Arts’ interdisciplinary journal, Crosstimbers.  She spends the summers on the road to the Northwest in her VW bus and her winters looking out the window at a lake.

List of Poets

Lynn White

EYE CONTACT

Look at me.
Hey, look at me.
I’m here
I’m real,
a real person
and I like you a lot.
You’re really special.
Hey look at me,
look into my eyes.
Look at me!

How the fuck
can I look at you
when you keep
kissing my eyes closed!

Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. Her poem ‘A Rose For Gaza’ was shortlisted for the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition 2014. This and many other poems have been published in recent anthologies including – Stacey Savage’s ‘We Are Poetry, an Anthology of Love poems’; Community Arts Ink’s ‘Reclaiming Our Voices’; Vagabond Press’s, ‘The Border Crossed Us’; ‘Degenerates – Voices For Peace’, ‘Civilised Beasts’ and ‘Vagabonds: Anthology of the Mad Ones’ from Weasel Press; ‘Alice In Wonderland’ by Silver Birch Press, and many rather excellent on line and print journals.

List of Poets

Christine Aikens Wolfe

IRISH TWIST

Your courtesy my Irish soul unlaced
where I’m from, love and temper interweave;
you spoke, my soul across the dance floor raced,
you listened with respect, such sweet relief.
Back in my nest that night I felt a burning
my heart, I thought, would never go astray,
content at home, I wanted no new yearning,
I knew not that the Green Man held such sway.
Enamored before befriended, this I swear,
I wanted nothing then, nor yet today
only an honest chance to clear the air
and sing you sonnets, my poetic lay.
When first I felt that heat, I sought to tame it,
but ’tis a shameless rogue, I’ll laugh and claim it.

LURE

They used to say that leeches thinned the blood.
If that is so, on my poor heart place two;
when clouds across the sky no longer scud,
then I, sans blood, will never think of you.
When all who once used leeches as a craft
have long since traded recipes with worms,
I’ll still be here to say I walked that path
and arteries collapsed, but love still burned.
As long as luminous the waxing moon
turns luna moth a-wing to silver blue,
so long will I resist the quavering tune
of ghosts who bid me never think of you.
For even if the leeches sucked me dry,
I still would love, though this mere shell would die.

Christine Aikens Wolfe has appeared in Poetry Magazine, Blast Furnace, The Loyalhanna Review, City Paper, and more. Her sonnets appeared in Sonnetto Poesia and in the anthology The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes = The Phenix Renaissant de Ses Cendres: sonnets in English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Persian. Her poetry is also published in the anthology Fission of Form, a cooperative anthology among sculptors, poets and illustrators.

Christine is president of the Pittsburgh Poetry Society, a fellow of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project and a member of Madwomen in the Attic workshops in fiction and poetry. Recently, she was one of nine poets featured in a chapbook put out by Tupelo Press entitled On Broken Stones.

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Poems added December 16, 2016

Kelli Russell Agodon

COUPLING

When I said, I don’t remember, what I meant was
I wasn’t paying attention, or Quiet, I’m reading.

Similar to when I said, We should clean the living room,
what I meant was, Get your crap off the couch

or You are probably the messiest person on earth,
because I am the neatnik you married, except sometimes

when I check out of household chores
to lock myself in my office and fantasize

about living alone. Perhaps when I say, I love you,
what I’m saying is, I have no other understanding

of another way to live. And maybe I am the one
who’s always asking for extras or extra credit,

extra tartar sauce on the side
of our sweet-potato fries. So when we fall

into bed together as we will, or into a routine
of too much sex or not enough vegetables,

I realize I could never make you a balance
sheet with all my faults because there isn’t

paper long enough and maybe what I really should be
saying is: Thank you for not killing me in my sleep.

Coupling first appeared in The Rumpus.

Kelli Russell Agodon is a poet, writer, and editor from the Pacific Northwest. She is the author of six books, most recently, Hourglass Museum (Finalist for the Washington State Book Prize and shortlisted for the Julie Suk Prize honoring poetry books from independent presses), The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice (which she co-wrote with Martha Silano), and Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, winner of ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year in Poetry. Kelli is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press where she works as an editor and book cover designer. Her work has appeared in magazines such as The Atlantic, O, The Oprah Magazine, and the New England Review. She lives in a sleepy seaside town where when not writing, she’s an avid paddleboarder, hiker, and beachcomber. She recently learned how to properly cut a pineapple.  www.agodon.com / www.twosylviaspress.com

List of Poets

Jane Blanchard

EVENSONG

As day at last gives way to night
And sand is swept with ease,
I find too little pleasure in
This restless ocean breeze.

No perch upon our balcony
Affords a perfect view,
Since all the while I long to share
The grand expanse with you.

The birds cry out when they fly off
To couple in their homes,
But I must roost alone until
My mate tomorrow comes.

Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia. Her poetry has recently appeared in The Dark Horse, The Lyric, and The Rotary Dial. Her chapbook Unloosed is available from Kelsay Books. To read more of Jane’s work head for the List of Poets.

List of Poets

Bria Brown

WHEN WE STOP TOUCHING

i don’t remember when your hand last left my knee
or when my fingertips stopped caressing your arm
as you drive us down lake shore drive.

but our love reminds me of the lake-
dark and deep/ brown but blue/ frozen over during the winter
yet, stretches so far/ covers so much
it is both vast and vague all
at once. filled with goodies
now a wasteland for our trash.

i haven’t longed for your touch in months but today I crave your dirty finger nails clutching at my back like you once did long before our waters turned muddy and the gunk from laying in love and never washing each other off has started to mold me and you in place.

when did we stop touching?
why haven’t I noticed until now?

HOW I LIVED

i think of the ways i’ve lived.

bare backs against walls
feet found firm dirt comfy enough
for planting. mustard seeds of faith
unseen, unheard, but felt.

he, however, fit for a king
cannot see or hear
just feel. a woman/unseen/unheard
but felt.

BEFORE I CHOSE TO STAY

i found her pictures in an email months ago; i didn’t say anything. every once in a while, i’d log in and look at them. over and over. trying to figure out what it is about her. never saying a word.

i wonder if she knows that I know
i wonder if she saw me,
would she be able to look me in my face

i wonder if she knows his last name
or how he spells his first one
or pronounces the middle

i wonder if she knows how much me and him look alike
how we make the same faces/ do the same gestures/
talk with the same inflection

i wonder if she knows how much of his scent is really my perfume
that his body told me about her before his mouth ever did
that he’s never been good with secrets

i wonder if she’s ever been in love
if she’s ever loved herself
if she even cares

i wonder if she knows what’s it’s like to be cheated on
to have done nothing wrong
to have stayed in your lane
to have played by the rules

Bria Brown is a poet, playwright, and performing artist. Raised in Memphis, TN, Bria’s work is southern/urban-country, woman, and reflective. She is a youth advocate who loves teaching and learning. BA from Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, Ga.

List of Poets

Michael Estabrook

THE SHOWER

Come join me in the new outdoor shower
in the fresh air under the sun and sky
she waves her arms around
embracing the whole world
no man can resist an invitation like that

He hangs his bathing suit next to hers
the shower is hot the soap is slippery
and so is she but okay time to dry off
and get dressed the children are due back
from the beach any minute

He stands staring at her glistening body
muttering children-schmildren
she hands him a towel and says you’re going
to write a poem about this aren’t you

COCKAMAMIE

My sublimation technique is working fine
Whenever the slightest sexual urge or image
arises to tempt me
whenever I catch a glimpse of the pure white
of her inner thigh or notice her
tucking her hair behind an ear
or get distracted by the gleam
of her pink passion toenail polish
or the tightness of her blouse
I immediately redirect my focus
and begin reciting the books
of the Old Testament
or Shakespeare’s plays in order
of composition and first performance

Yes Freud would be proud of me I think
adhering so well to his theories for detouring
my useless libidinal impulses
into enhanced artistic creativity

Or he might shake his head instead
tell me what an idiot I am
for paying attention to his cockamamie ideas
and say go ahead and fuck her
you moron

SIMPLY TO MATE

Instead of watching another stupid football game
I excuse myself, leave my wife and daughter
in front of the big screen,
shuffle as unobtrusively as possible
into the bedroom to watch Great Migrations –
Race to Survive on the little TV atop the dresser.

I’m not much of a football fan, really.
I’m not as manly as I know I should be,
I’m thinking, hoping my pretty wife
isn’t looking at me disdainfully
as I slink away.

Of course, if this had been back in college
when she was palling around
with big Don, her macho football player friend,
more than eager and ready
for him to ask her out, you know
I’d be right in there watching the stupid game
with her, cheering the team on,
slapping 5 for each goal scored, perhaps
even downing a beer or two in the frenzy of testosterone.
All this, of course, to show her, to prove to her,
that I’m a man, yes indeed, a real man,
a football fan, a football-loving fan man.

But for right now, for tonight,
I’ll hide away in the bedroom
watching in complete fascination
as the Okavango Zebra herd stops at nothing,
tramping continuously
over ancient migration paths,
risking lion attacks and disease,
starvation, cheetahs and hyenas,
to reach the salt lick and the river beyond
simply to mate.

BLONDES IN BLACK DRESSES

Blondes in black dresses in front
of the theater, smoking, giggling, sashaying
in their swollen bodices, proud,
flicking their heads back
into the night – modern blondes.

Blondes in black dresses resplendent
in the purity and surety and vivacity
of their eternal, irrepressible womanhood,
the folds of thin, velvety cloth,
clinging like bat wings to their forms,
subtle, darkly alluring – placid cool-headed blondes.

Blondes in black dresses their perfumed essences
wafting on cool breezes, floating
out over the sea, their voices, murmurous
and whispery, rising and falling occasionally
in outbursts of confused chatter – melodious blondes.

Blondes in black dresses blondes in black dresses
calling out to me like the Sirens called Ulysses.

Michael Estabrook is retired. No more useless meetings under florescent lights in stuffy windowless rooms, able instead to focus on making better poems when he’s not, of course, endeavoring to satisfy his wife’s legendary Honey-Do List.

List of Poets

Claire Hermann

BRIEF LOVE SONG FOR MY EX-HUSBAND

You let me cry on your shoulder.
It is not my fault your shoulder is so close to your mouth.
I put my fingers into the hollow of your collarbone,
tighten my teeth over its ridge,
crush a bruise purple and green.
I hope your new lover finds it.
I catch your breath and hide it under my pillow.
l hold you expertly as you hold a wrench,
twist the bolt of your body to perfect tension.

You couldn’t give me what I need.
Give me what I want.

Claire Hermann lives outside the small town of Pittsboro, NC, where she raises funds and tells stories for progressive nonprofits. Her work appears in such publications as Borderlands: Texas Poetry Journal, Lines + Stars, Bracken, Southern Women’s Poetry Review, and  Prime Number. She has a weakness for cats, farmers markets, foggy mornings, and justice. Find her at www.ironclaywriters.com.

List of Poets

Kim Jacobs-Beck

SKIN

We wait in the dark
for answers to form
and float on air.

Skin to skin like magnets.
Bodies tell the truth.

Words are liars—
yours are.

My silent anger like
a paper cut.

A beat before
the blood comes.

Precise beaded
line of pain.

Skin doesn’t lie.
Your body says wait
for me.

FIRST

slightly drunk slow dance,
rhythmic rocking, just breath
on my neck, just hold tight
it must be wine that
makes it right, makes it
tight and sweet.

How could we see where we
were going to light?

How could we—
how could—
fall into slushy melt.
right.

Kim Jacobs-Beck is an MFA student at Miami University, returning to graduate school 20 years after completing her Ph.D. in British literature, also from Miami. She is Professor of English at the University of Cincinnati Clermont College, where she has taught literature, composition and liberal arts courses.

List of Poets

Cindy O’Quinn

VISIT

I came to your house last night.
It was very late but I took a chance.
The lights were on but no one answered my knock. Did I knock?

It’s hard to remember sometimes.
Regardless of that minor detail, I decided to go inside.
The door was unlocked. I think.

You looked fragile while lying asleep in that oversized bed of yours.
I asked myself why you would still need such a large bed.
The answer had to be that you wanted me to lay next to you. So I did.

I bet you don’t realize just how beautiful you are. Did I ever tell you?
There were beads of sweat dotted across your smooth forehead.
Do you want to know something else? They tasted salty on my tongue.

I touched your face with my hand, but you did not wake.
I whispered in your ear, but you only shivered.
I pressed my body against yours, but you could not feel me.

I kept my promise to come back to you, but you don’t know it yet.
I will keep coming back, and maybe when you feel my presence, I will go.
Until then I will visit. Visit is all I can do, now that I am dead.

Cindy O’Quinn lives on an old homestead in the North Woods of Maine with her husband and two sons. Cindy’s work can be found on Poetry Breakfast and in Blood Moon Rising Magazine and Sanitarium Magazine. Her debut novel, Dark Cloud on Naked Creek, is due to be released soon. 

List of Poets

Helen Ohlson

CATCH AND RELEASE

Dressed in their Cabela’s,
feathered hooks pinned to floppy hats,
they whip their lines across the water.
Expensive lures land daintily on the surface,
and flutter about to trick the dodgy trout.

When the wind blows through the canyon
sharp silver waves slice
across the fast running Missouri,
covering the rocks where the
fish hide
or maybe lurk in the
rushes by the bank
waiting for the next hatch of flies.

It isn’t the kill the men are after,
but the catch.
Like the men at bars who ask
for phone numbers,
but never call.

LONGING

He sleeps quietly in his mountain home.
Born into the cold,
he keeps still through
the dark nights and days.
When he wakes, he seeks the light
of my pale blue eyes.

“Are you okay?” he asks.
“No,” I whisper.
I twist in my sheets with such longing.
I want to fill our hunger.
Slowly, I slip out of bed and dreamwalk to the kitchen.
Whiskey and sunflower seeds for him, tea for me.

I return to bed, and he
slips back beneath his headstone.
The longing lasts,
like the geese riding the blue Missouri,
the huckleberries blooming in the hills.

Helen Ohlson is an award winning poet whose work has appeared in numerous print and online anthologies. She has been published in the Indie Excellent Finalist, Times They Were A’Changing: Women Remember the 60’s and 70’s and the Delaware Press Association award winning, FIVE BRIDGES. Her other publications include Philadelphia Stories, The Broadkill Review and most recently, Dance. Helen resides in the Utopian village of Arden, Delaware, where Utopia might be up for debate, but artists and writers enjoy unabashed community support.

List of Poets

Maxwell Sean

FERMENTED FOODS

There is little beauty in
our movement. I am fed
on frustration. I grow like
Kefir from the caucuses.

I swell like a fleshy
bag full of milk and
yeast. You stir. Keep
me thin, free of clots.

The smell is hard.
It floods the room,
soursweet. Your hair
is black pasta

squeezed between
my knuckles. My arms,
spotted with the hue
of a royal red cactus,

grow spines. Armor me
me in splinters. You insist
on bloody thumbs. This is
not a soft way to love.

I SPENT OCTOBER HIDING IN MY MOUTH

I woke with fur on my tongue. That keeps happening.
I went to the kitchen, balled up leaves of spinach
(something clean, the color of life). I tried to chew.

The fur keeps my mouth empty. Keeps me hungry
or nauseous. I wear my teeth out in front of my face,
shining, lips peeled back over gums for you

to feel good about. When you turn, I try to swallow.
I look away from the rippling of your back, rolling —
Lake Erie in March. I am reminded of music,

of songs that pull my chin up, my eyes shut,
my shoulder blades back when their notes land in the
room. I did not know that the sight of sinew could cause

such ache. You used to drown my living room in that
water, in those notes. I still find them on accident,
ringing out from between cracked leather

couch cushions. This week I spent hours in front of
the mirror, brushing the surfaces of my mouth, scraping
the smoke you left inside of it– careless. When you

laughed today, threw your head back, stretched your
jaw, I glanced inside. I can’t figure out how
how you’re keeping your tongue

so smooth, how your eyes look like they sleep all night.
I asked you to teach me once, but it didn’t stick. I cannot
swallow past my tongue in a room so quiet and dry.

THE AUTHOR CONSIDERS WHETHER OR NOT IT’S TOO LATE
TO ADOPT A CAREER IN CARTOGRAPHY

To write her legs is to peel the
surface from a globe—the kind with
raised relief mountains—and cover
her in stolen oceans. Continents

bloom across calves in fading
purple, glowing like late
July skies. Her skin tells stories
of red cliffs that never let go.

She wraps me in these kingdoms,
lays down the sea across my back.
She arches, presses national
boundaries into my hips.

When she sleeps, I imagine falling
into the universe that binds me in
winding gold. I breathe the air
that lifts her up and sets her down,

try to hold it, save it like a foreign
breeze, ball it into a soft fist behind my
sternum. I think of running, of building
a house from her shins, somewhere far

away among the nations that wax
and wane between her ankles and
knees. But I’ve heard it’s difficult
to make humans into homes. They

shift in the night. they don’t keep
out the wet very well. My sheets
feel damp lately. A woman
with maps tattooed into her

bones won’t be weighed down
with residency. Not for long.

RAIN DANCE

She said every time
you leave
in the morning,
it rains.

In the night
we twist.
Blue drains
from the sky,

gathers in lakes
around the whites
of her eyes.
Clouds sit

black and heavy
when we are
finished. At dawn
we untangle

each other, a
primal knot. Water
falls in cool
sheets as I

start my car.
I wrap the
wheel in
knuckles. I ask

that the rain
keep memory
clean, free of
the stains

that settle in every
time I re-write
a moment. We
dance for rain

because the
summer can’t
last forever,
and when it

ends, we want
to touch the air
with fresh mouths
and new hands.

WHEN NOVELTY SLIPS, IT IS STRANGE

to be
weekend.
To be indulgence,
to be sin, to be sex,
to be bearer of

smoke, to be painter
of lips, stained red
and softer than
rotting grapes.
It’s a funny thing to be

weekend.
I labor under
accidental titles:
Baron of Stoned
Duke of Drunk

Master of
Melting Into
Friday’s torn-Up
Leather Couch. I want
weekday.

I want to steep
in you with all
the banality
of tea leaves
in water—

I want it to be
warm, but not
hot—don’t burn
the leaves.
Don’t soak me

bitter. Clutch me less–
hold me like
Wednesday fingers
on familiar
mug.

Stay long enough
in the mornings
to watch sunrise
ferment
between rooftops.

Maxwell Sean lives with his climbing partner and his cat in Columbus, Ohio. He spends most of his time trying to get the right books into the hands of his students.

List of Poets

e. smith sleigh

I’LL NEVER CALL YOU

blue and white were the colors
of the room   after midnight it all
faded to a swirling black

I’m leaving  occurred to you
while observing me sleep
it’s you whispering in my ear

‘I won’t call you later tonight
or probably ever’

covalent relationships
clothed in shadows
my nude body asleep
begs for  touching
but you don’t
you’re always leaving

‘gotta go  before you follow’

to be human
is not divine

four days of snow came down

e. smith sleigh’s poetry appeared or is forthcoming in Paper Darts, Squalorly, Kumquat Poetry, Kaleidoscope, Pankhearst’s Slimline Volume: No Love Lost, PRISM ‘Ekphrasis’, The Criterion, Orion, Silver Birch Press,  Five 2 One Magazine and elsewhere

She won finalist designation in several literary and academic competitions including placement in Eastern Kentucky University’s academic journal Nine Patch: A Creative Journal for Women and Gender Studies.

sleigh authored six poetry collections, a non-fiction book, two novels, and a fictional memoir. Her latest poetry collection is entitled Catch a Lover Falling. She was educated at the universities of Delaware and Michigan, taught at the college level, and traveled extensively. She now lives in Robert Penn Warren country where she draws inspiration.

On her website, she blogs about Post-structuralism and Poetry.

List of Poets

Paul Smith

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

Let us love one another
Not like the folks with that thick black book
or the folks that make fun of it
Not like the folksingers
or swingers
or kooks
who say ‘Thy brother wants thee
to swing with him over there
from the tree’
No, let’s grab each other by the ass
and screw our brains out today
like it was our last
Let’s go to Brookfield Zoo
and watch how the animals do it
And if the zookeeper strolls by
and says ‘Oh, my’
we’ll just say ‘Screw it’
and ‘Screw him, too’
Let’s screw everything
like the chimpanzees do
When we’re through
let’s throw our poo
Yes!  Let’s fling our feces
at the other species
Watching us fornicate on the lawn
I think I’ll go cornhole that buck, doe, & fawn
Yes! Let’s copulate like the
invertebrates
herbivores
bivalves, roosters & prawns
And when we’re done
let’s light up a Lucky Strike
Then I’ll climb back on top of you
like you were my bike
oil your sprocket with my special lithium grease
hose you off till you’re drenched
Let’s love one another
like the Dutch, the Sudanese, the chimpanzees
the gorillas, the ostriches and the French!

A POEM FOR BROADS

Ann crossed the Atlantic
to visit Provence
Peeked in the caves of the
Castelnovians
Sojourned to the hilltop settlements
of the Celts and Ligurians
Before the mistral arrived
in December
She met another woman
who liked anthropology and cuisine
and they wandered together
through the museums of
Matisse, Maurice Denis, Raoul Dufy
Sharing recipes of
escabeche, tapenade, tarte Tropezienne
and discussed the proper ways of
flattening socca before it is put in
the oven
and comparing stories
of how men are basically
assholes

Paul Smith writes fiction and poetry. Sometimes he does his poetry live at an open mic. He lives with his wife Flavia near Chicago, where he likes walks along the canal, exploring the wonders of Milwaukee Avenue, the music of Thelonius Monk and Bud Powell. He has been published in the Rockford Review, OYEZ, Del Sol Review and other publications.

List of Poets

Alan Walowitz

YOUR DREAM AND MINE

I’d gathered the groceries in my trunk and hauled them north,
despite the foreignness of the terrain
and fear of wandering so far beyond my circumstance.
How tragic they were, all melting apace,
those frozen foods and delicacies,
country terrine, fine foie gras,
cheeses that would be refrigerated
in a more contemplative time.
But not here, not now, and certainly not
in the tumult of your dream,
where you told me you could be
anything you damn well pleased
even a bride, though you knew I could not abide.
As if I’d know what to do
to unhamlet myself, as the clock ticked down
and in the face of such oblivion,
a dream that might have been of such use,
to clarify, ameliorate, to rectify,
but ending again with your yawn
and my calm acceptance of same.

You’re always too busy to write–
which I tell you is really all I want.
But why then bring me here so far from home,
only to leave me cemented in my shoes
as you show me the door,
in blue lights for the holidays,
causing such sighing in passersby
so I can hardly breathe in the dark,
the oxygen depleted,
my nose pressed against the sidelight
and then the futile scratching at your door?

Alan Walowitz’s poems can be found various places on the web and off. He’s a
Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry, and
teaches at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY and St. John’s University in Queens.
Alan’s chapbook, Exactly Like Love, is available from Osedax Press.

(Browse the List of Poets)

Poems added December 2, 2016

Tai Allen

NICE NIGHT, WAS LAST NIGHT

woke to find the bed empty /
the empty space damp /
the mound of last night’s undressing gone /
these finger stains on a half-full glass /
the door slam-locked /
& this chubby grin
filling out my face

ELECTRIC WIRE HUSTLE CHRONICLES

aired the cab’s back window
a faded white, to block
out the sun of the morning’s
rise to greet me after one
long night     deep, short sleep

painted the color into
a heart of wonder before
it faded into the heat coming
off my still stickied skin    the
shower’s steam     was not enough

fingered & rubbed the phone
a wonder     a lust to dial a
name and get your number’s
ring     soak in the sound of what
dripped pretty     those prettied kisses

carried on a conversation under the pretense
our spirits and wines will again mixture themselves
cause the fire in my belly to match my tongue
offer you my theme     of right now     anywhere

cannot wrap my finger around my new sense
others will smell     see     smile to congratulate success
cells are timed to tingle when the sun hits
our spot     right under my chin     but above my ankles

Tai Allen loves gelato. Making things: poems, songs, beer & wine festivals. Parenting. Reading. Thumbing his smartphone. Oh and he is a published poet (Bomb, African Voices et al) and performer (Apollo Theater, American Jazz Museum et al).

List of Poets

Subhra Bhattacharya

SITTING ON THE SOFA WITH YOU

Sitting on the sofa with you, having pizza
biting on those cold slices is the most exciting thing
I’ve done, even more exciting than flying a plane,
skydiving, going to Italy, or getting drunk on a Friday evening
in a dim bar, with music and dancing. Looking at you
the way you close your lips, roll your eyes or sometimes
look at me sideways makes me think how much money I’ve wasted
going to Paris to see the Mona Lisa, or the trip to see Lady Liberty or all those
movies I’ve seen of Liz Taylor who I thought was very beautiful
before I met you. So much so that I am prepared to say
fuck you, to all those nutritionists and make cold pizza
my everyday diet. And just because I know that
stirring lentils together is more thrilling than the wildest
thrill ride should I make lentils part of my daily diet too?

Pizza and lentils together, like you and me.

And while Shakespeare is beautiful and seeing Henry V with
you was surreal the part that I look forward to is coming home
with you after the show, a little tired so I’ll hold your hands on the way back
and on the sofa we’ll sit facing each other, after we’ve heated up the leftover
from the morning, and talk about something, what that is does not matter
just the talk, so that I can watch the words roll out from your lips and wonder
which part of this reality is a dream and why I am not a painter.

And then curling up on the bed with you, stroking your hair
I will have to try my best to fight the sleep because falling asleep seems
giving up this moment, when the street lights enter through the windows
and just your contours are visible, and I cannot see your face only feel the warmth
of your breath on my cheek and I wonder did Shakespeare know of this when he
wrote his love sonnets?

Because when I’m with you art, music and poetry get all condensed into
just that slice of pizza, that we just took out of the box and heated up.

Subhra Bhattacharya works with software and math in Manhattan and lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. When not at his day job, he chases after his two cats. At other times, he takes photographs, competes in camera club contests and workshops with the local writers’ group.

List of Poets

Chris Blocker

THE FULL EXTENT OF OUR LOVE

Pressed up against your breasts,
the full extent of our love
becomes apparent in the perspiration
borne from our two brows.
Our bodies, being in perpetual motion,
bear the brunt of our pent-up passion.
My soul, softened by the sensual,
sweetened by the fullness of savory kisses.
Your heart, penetrable, pulsates
to the rhythm of our nuptial bed.

Pure. Lovely. Purely love. Surely we
could live in this moment forever.

Whimper. Whine. Moan. And cry.
He cries. The weeping of a child.

Vibrations of an infant’s vocal chords
resound through our vibrant beings.
Our hearts sink under the weight of a sigh.
Replaced by laughter found in irony’s timeliness.
We deny ourselves for love of him.
Despite the obvious frustration,
delightful adoration drenches my vacant heart
as I regard our babe held close. Here lies
the full extent of our love
pressed up against your breasts.

Chris Blocker holds an MFA in Writing from the University of Nebraska. His work has previously appeared in the Magical anthology, the Dia de los Muertos anthology, and Inscape. He is currently seeking a home for his debut novel. He lives in Topeka, Kansas, and is a librarian by day.

List of Poets

Helen Burke

WHEN I WAS AT WOODSTOCK

When I was at Woodstock I was the most naked of all the people there.
I was the most crazy naked, nearer-my-god-to-thee naked gal you ever saw.
And I was the most happy person in the whole of the farm.
When I was at Woodstock, as I recall that’s how it was.
I remember it like it was today which I think it maybe is. Hmm hmm.

When I was at Woodstock I ate only rainbow cake and drank only lilac wine.
When I was at Woodstock I was 111 miles high and my
happy self touched the sky. As I recall. That’s how it was. Hmm, hmm.

I met Jimi Hendrix and , he said, in his Voodoo Chile style …………………..
“Hey come on back stage kid”, and I did just that.
When I was at Woodstock I sent a telegram
to Joni Mitchell, which, I believe, she still has with her by way of memorabilia.

When I was at Woodstock I was so naked.
I was as naked as naked can be. Like you are in dreams.
I was more naked than the thesaurus,
more naked than a Hummingbird
more naked than a man sat learning acoustic guitar, more naked then a smouldering lit cigar.
A story wears high heels and a play is nothing but trouble. But. A poem is a naked person. That’s for sure. Hmm. Hmm.
When I was at Woodstock, I was a god damn poem.

I want to be at Woodstock that’s where I want to be.
I want to be a poem in a bowl of yellow irises.
I want to be at Woodstock with half a million strong. We all came down to Yazgur’s farm
With our dreams and celebrations. I remember it
like it was tomorrow. And yesterday, rolled into one.

When I was at Woodstock.
I was a musical note with no end.
My feet were guitar riffs and my hands were ukuleles. My two eyes were dancing newts
and, my lips were a violin , unstrung.

When I was at Woodstock all the blue colours drifted down from the sky
and filled my body, through and through. Hmm, hmm.
I was so naked, I was blue blue blue.
I want to be at Woodstock. Spend all of my life there.
Can you fix it for me ..?? can you ??
Please do.
I want to be at Woodstock when the end heaves into view.
Let’s be at Woodstock now my darling. Just we two.

Helen Burke is a poet turned artist; her work has exhibited in the UK and France; she currently has an exhibition in Leeds, England. Her art can be seen on krazyphils.com and origamipoems.com; she designs greeting cards and fabric and likes to work in acrylic, mixed-media, collagraph, and water colour. Helen’s new book, Roman Holiday, is just out this week and is available now fromwww.krazyphils.com. You can check out a bit of Helen’s art here; it is the cover art for our new Fall-Winter 2016 issue.

List of Poets

Shulamith Chernoff

MISSING

In a field
I am the absence
of the field.

—Mark Strand, “Keeping Things Whole”

In the sundrenched house
I am the presence
of one.
Your oak desk, medical books,
spartan bed all
declare you
missing.

As I wander from room
to room your photographs
begin to darken.
Schubert’s song, Der Wanderer
parts the air with longing.
The bass voice of Alexander Kipnis
declares you
missing.

I search for words
to describe your absence.
Strands of metaphors
to make me
whole.

Shulamith Chernoff is an Associate Professor Emeritus of Education at Southern Connecticut State University. She holds graduate degrees from Columbia University and the Teacher’s Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Her poetry has appeared in Caduceus, Connecticut Review, and Louisiana Literature, as well as in her first collection The Stones Bear Witness. Her second collection, Solace, is forthcoming from Five Oaks Press in 2017.

List of Poets

Tony Daly

THE WOMAN I LOVE

After the dishes are done,
the kids are in bed,
the laundry is folded,
the pets are fed,
we sit here, the two of us.

The TV spits graphic violence at me,
drowning away the day’s monotony.
Your laptop flashes fantasies
across your sleep deprived face,
smile and frown lines evident.

I press and knead the foot
placed trustingly in my lap.
I can see your tensions
melting away, and when your
smile flashes, so does mine,
because I get a glimpse of you
again, the woman I love.

Then, the dog farts.
Insults are hurled,
along with pillows
at the retreating,
offending end.

The laughter ends with you
in my arms, just one more time,
just a few minutes more,
and I feel your warmth again,
the woman I love.

Tony Daly is a DC/Metro Area based creative writer and federal writer/editor. He has an MA in Creative Writing from SUNY College at Brockport and a BA in English from the University at Buffalo. He has a few short stories and poems published in collections in the US and the UK.

List of Poets

Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi

A REAL LOVE LETTER

I want to write a love letter
to my wife.
I will write her virgin name.
I do not want to write ‘wife’
nor a petonym ‘honey’.

I do not want that
she would feel any closeness
while reading it.
I do not want that
she would feel my body
while reading my words.
I do not want to give her any excitement.

What should I write in my letter?
I do not want to write her-
the words generally husbands use.
I also do not want to remind her
the sacred vows we took on our marriage.
I will write her virgin name;
I will write my name thereafter.

Her name with my name-
Dear Gargi, yours Amitabh-
will be my love letter.

Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi is assistant professor of linguistics at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, India. His research interests include language documentation, writing descriptive grammars, and the preservation of rare and endangered languages in South Asia. He has contributed papers to many Science Citation Index journals, and research articles to encyclopaedias, chiefly with Sage, Rowman & Littlefield and ABC-CLIO Publications.

His most recent books are A Grammar of Hadoti (Lincom: Munich, 2012), A Grammar of Bhadarwahi (Lincom: Munich, 2013), and a poetry collection titled Chinaar-kaa-Sukhaa-Pattaa (2015) in Hindi.

As a poet, he has published more than 100 poems in different anthologies, journals and magazines worldwide. Until recently, his poem “Mother” has been published as a prologue to Motherhood and War: International Perspectives (Eds.), Palgrave Macmillan Press. 2014. His poetry collection titled Something Lurks It Seems is forthcoming (2017).

List of Poets

Philip Elliot

HEARTSONG

Love&Madness are entwined, don’t you see?
to Love is to lose everything
firstly and/or lastly your mind

Oh I Love your flesh
Oh &ur shimmersparkleeyes
O &ur teeth I luv how they chew
&ur saliva and how its amylase breaks down starch
Oh I Love U

&How your tibia connects to ur femur via that hinged knee
Oh I Love it

&how ur hair clings beneath ur scalp&generatesoils
&I Love how when I look at u I can see your skull beneath ur face

& how ur eyes swirl in their sockets, light&shapes rushing thru
Ur o p t i c nerve to turn me downside up in your throbbing, squelching brain

Oh I Love ur blood & how it guttergurgles thru ur veins carrying oxygen&cells
2 keep ur brain squirming like a toad [—did I ever tell you
U were my red blood cells? U carried oxygen thru my capillaries. I saw an old
pathway I thought was covered in forestfoliage. There were freshfootprints (my dear) !
Footprints! ]

La la la la la
Im siiiiiinging in the rain
La la le le la
So in: Love:

I luv your toenails&how they collect forgotten dirt.

Philip Elliott is Irish, 23 years old and Editor-in-Chief of Into the Void Magazine. His writing can be found in various journals, most recently Otoliths, GFT Press, Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine and Subprimal Poetry Art. He is currently working on his first novel and a chapbook of experimental poetry. Stalk him at philipelliottfiction.com.

List of Poets

Jack M. Freedman

SPREAD EAGLE

From within my tan boots,
toes twitch.

From underneath my thermal socks,
hairs rise.

From inside my knee pits,
sweat builds.

From under the zipper of my blue jeans,
penis throbs.

From within my underwear,
testicles tingle.

From under the logo of my jeans,
cheeks tremble.

From within my stomach,
butterflies flutter.

From above my stomach,
navel widens.

From underneath my yellow button-down shirt,
nipples harden.

From underneath my chest,
heartbeat quickens.

From within my throat,
lump builds.

From between my eyes,
intuition heightens.

From within my teeth,
smile brightens.

From under my head,
pillow comforts.

From around my wrists and ankles,
ropes bind.

From above the bed,
you climb.

From on top of my groin,
you mount.

From under your behind,
you straddle.

From under your fingertips,
you stroke.

From under my black sweater vest,
fingers tickle.

From under the laughter,
lungs expand.

From under the palms of your moving hands,
I melt.

From under your entire body,
trust forms.

From between our chests,
tightness ensues.

From within your embrace,
I surrender.

From kissing your lips,
eyes dilate.

From lying spread eagle on the bed,
senses intensify.

From you loving me,
I reciprocate.

From you laying on top of me,
I rest.

Jack M. Freedman is a poet and spoken word artist from Staten Island, NY. He is the author of a book of poetry titled Serotonin Seas. His most recent creation are the chapbooks, Never Lick the Spoon and Tobias. In his spare time, Jack likes to garden, sketch, cook, and attend open mic poetry events throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Publications in which his work can be found include Third Rail, Unquiet Desperation, First Literary Review-East, Espresso Ink, Boston Literary Magazine, Eunoia Review, Acoustic Levitation, NYSAI Press, typoetic.us, di-verse-city, St. George Day Storybook, Advanced Chapbook No. 5, POSTblank, and Madness Muse.

List of Poets

Siaara Freeman

THE OLD BIRD’S APOLOGY

I’m sorry I couldn’t fuck you how you wanted me too.
Like I was there and not at once. A thread of glitter. I tricked you
into thinking I fuck the way I live.

When you pulled back the seat, I think of the summer
of 1999. It was colder than I expected but it still felt
free as sweat when you don’t got nothing to do. You
were just like that, wet and mine and ghost whisper
cling on the neck. The glazed confession.

I could say I did not mean to go or that I did not think
I would go. You are too beautiful to lie to. It would be
like lying to a sunset. I’m sure
my eyes would blister

And my tongue would be a fat pink wag, a fat pink balloon
bursting when used incorrectly by a child not as innocent
as it could be.

So yes I mean to leave. I also mean to stay
summer memory hazy, the one story, maybe a faint scar
you never tire of explaining. I plan to live like this always
here and not here. A murmur. Dying but not
dead. Fucking but not
fucked. I know you planned to tell your friends

All about it. You might’ve wanted to fuck me less
than you wanted to discuss the matter. You wanted

to be the woman who leaves. Just gets up
and goes. Backseat delights.

Old fries and loose
coins attach to the underwear, shifting from garbage
to ornament in one motion. And I took that
from you

before you could take that
from me. It was the plan wasn’t it?
The moment we sized each other up
on the dancefloor – Two vultures
mistaking the other for dead.

THE DRUG DEALER’S DAUGHTER & DARK LORD’S DAUGHTER
(DELPHI RIDDLE) EXPLAIN WHAT IT IS LIKE TO LOVE YOUR FATHER
EVEN AFTER

you have been assured, he is the villain
and what does that make you? A page

torn from a banned book ? And what
does it mean to love him? To love

where you came from? To be rotten
apple, softer than ever, still praising

the gnarled roots? And what becomes
of the skin, once the snake has shed it?

does the pattern ever change? Or if
it looks like a snake, hisses like a snake

if its belly is forced low to the ground
born from the criminal egg, it is a snake?

And if it is, is it so hard to imagine it loving
itself? When a child does a bad thing it is

understood that parents will still love them despite,
society empathizes with the father of a monster

but if you are the child of a monster you are as good
as the worst thing your father ever did. You are

as good as a dead man’s wish in a desert of his own
making. And in that desert you are water. A black lake

a still glassy mirror that reflects nothing but emptiness.
And in that lake lives a siren, sprouted from some God’s

forgotten scandal. She is half her father / half her mother
each half, bloodier than the other. One half a knife- the other half
a body

bag. She opens her mouth and out sputters a song, few live
to hum later. A tune passed on from a gut instinct gone
wrong.

An old affection that has aged into cruelty. A young desire rotted
into adult demands. A disgrace only the mother could love.

Siaara Freeman is 26 years old, writes poems & is not sure if she is a poet or a necromancer. She is (for sure) a friendly neighborhood hope dealer. She is (for sure) growing her afro so tall God mistakes it for a microphone & decides to speak into her. She is (for sure) a Slytherin, The Lake Erie Siren & a Clapback enthusiast. She is a touring artist and has been published a few times. It’s how she eats. She likes to eat. Up the Staircase Quarterly nominated one of her poems for best new poet 2016. It’s lit.

List of Poets

Kat Giordano

HYPOTHESIS IN A DIVE BAR, 1:18 AM

We would fuck like two broken cell phones trying
to call each other, each of us too busy ringing to pick up.
It’d take longer than either of us would have the patience,
me trying to remember how long ago I ran the dryer as you unload
pathetically onto my stomach. I can picture the resulting tangle
of our legs, ritual, no real meaning, the same way headphone wires
find each other inside of a jacket pocket. Unsentimental. Just

the way things are. A health class textbook diagram
we’re just desperate enough to jack off to. You would
kneel down at my feet like a one-man congregation,
taking every stiff moan as your sermon, and I’d keep preaching
as long as it kept resembling truth. Not because I like to
lie, but because when you’d look up at me like someone
who knows the answer, I’d want so badly to have one. And you

would have one, eventually, the way trying every single frequency
in your car stereo means you’ll eventually hear something
like music. It won’t matter to you that it just happens
to be “The Boys Are Back In Town” on repeat because for you,
at that moment, all your boys are finally coming back into town.
But I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being played
over and over again in a diner off the turnpike, making
all the worn-down waitresses roll their eyes while we try
to mimic something we saw once in a film our parents
didn’t want us to see. So I’ll pretend I don’t notice
you staring like you’re stoned and I’m a Tombstone pizza
but I’ll still hoard your dumb open mouth like the open oyster
crackers inside my glove box: nothing like the real thing, but
it’ll help in a pinch if you’re desperate, or have enough
of an imagination to forget exactly where it came from.

FIRST AID

I invite you over one night because I need something new to pack the wound. It’s unmistakably July outside and I leave the window open so when you pull up to the house you can already smell it. You walk around back and catch a frame of me undressing it in the second floor window, bathed in shitty, flickering light. I pretend not to see you. You know what you’re here for but still take your shoes off in the doorway like there’s something left in the house to get dirty. I don’t flinch when you appear beside me in the mirror, instinct leading your hands to the spot where I once believed I could hold something.

You pull everything out, so innocent. Each layer of stale gauze is soaked through and rancid, reeking of egg rolls and flat beer, sweat and crusted over coffee-mug bottoms. You peel them back, holding each one up to the ceiling like it’ll catch. And then, you reveal it: the gaping hole where it’s all supposed to go, where everything goes, eventually. For a moment you just squint into the blood-caked border of the thing, consumed by some kind of sick awe. You ask me, “What happened?” but all I can do is wince at the sting of unfiltered air on the bare flesh, my entire body screaming through its uncovered mouth. This is the worst part, the being exposed. “Get it over with,” I hiss, and I hand you the knife.

Slice by slice you slough off the layers of yourself. I shut my eyes but still hear each piece slopping onto the floor, onto the other pieces. I can tell the cuts are clean. I’m impressed. I ask if you’re in pain but all you do is gently move my hand away from the hole, layering each sheet of your flesh neatly on top of the last. You plug the cracks with the stringy excess, wasting nothing. I only hear you struggle once, when you tear the gauze wrapping from the roll before winding it around my trembling body, using the extra on yourself. I open my eyes while you’re putting your clothes back on, catch you struggling to unstick your sleeves from the still-raw skin.

We don’t say anything and you lay in the bed in your jeans while I freshen up in the ensuite, perfuming away the rot. By the time I come back out you’re already asleep, your newly-roughened edges splayed out across both sides of the bed to avoid the pain of touching each other. I curl up in the space that’s left, wishing there was a part of you I could hold without squeezing more of your blood onto the comforter. I wake up in a half-empty bed, but while making my breakfast I notice the tiny paring knife has already been washed and left drying in the rack.

Kat Giordano is a poet, musician, and giant crybaby from Pennsylvania who currently attends Penn State Behrend in Erie, PA as an undergraduate. She is currently the poetry editor for the literary journal Lake Effect and her poetry has appeared on Lit Cat and Up The Staircase Quarterly.

List of Poets

Lori Gravley

SUBURBAN MIRRORS

Down the street, behind each kitchen door,
a woman washes dishes, scrapes the last lasagna off the foil,
hangs clean aluminum in neat sheets
not noticing the lights reflected
or her own face
wrinkled in imperfect mirrors.

Claire crumples foil, watches
neighbors bend and sag over so much
care—well-cooked meals, clean floors,
sex twice a month.

She doesn’t need mirrors. On her clothesline,
she’s draped underwear. She’s hooked her bras
on the shrubs. The woman next door watches
Claire spread her selves across the yard.
A black lace bra, ripped below the nipple; a red thong
blooming; a pastel floral push-up;
a pair of thin, cotton panties. Lights
whir on. Televisions groan. Foil
flutters against clothespins in her neighbors’ yards.

TORCH SONGS

She dreams she’s the new Lady Day.
The microphone swells towards her mouth
like the men she brings home from work.

The moon is full and I’m so all alone

She dreams she’s back at the club, pouring
Crown and Coke for a guy who sits at the bar.
Instead of smiling when he asks what time she gets off,
she pierces his arm with the paring knife,

you’re my joy and pain

so she gets fired and finds a piano player
who thinks she sings like Bessie, Billie, and Sarah
all rolled into one pale blonde memory of jazz
She sings her way out of the bar

and there ain’t nobody gonna hold me down

full of rednecks and airmen. Sings away
from her corner littered with melting ice,
unordered Grand Marnier, and Patsy Cline’s wailing
to a place where there are no

black bodies hanging from the poplar trees

more strangers hands curling their fingers between her legs,
no quarters dropped on the bar at midnight, no spilled drinks
or cracked bottles or fist fights. No more drinking
kamikazes or smoking on the sly.

why people tear the seams of anyone’s dreams

She sleeps through the zipper reversed, another customer
she’ll smile at until she escapes or gets fired. She dreams
of crystal catching the rose of her spotlight, the smell
of gardenias, a three-piece band, and the soft ache of hand against hand.

CARING

On Friday afternoon,
a nurse watches the doctor
stitch the tattered anemone
of a six-year-old’s vagina.
She can see below the doctor’s
hands. She smells the raw salt decay.

Thank God, she thinks, he didn’t hurt me
that bad
. She cries on the way home,
stops to buy flowers. It’s spring
freesia, daisies, and vivid ferns
some still curled tight
in pale fiddle heads that will never open.

On weekends, she flirts with men whose
white shirts are open under coats
they’ve worn all week.
They buy her Appletinis and cheap wine.
She’ll take them home, one after another, laugh
and take the only thing she wants
the hard fire, wet victory,
the pleasure she gives and gives
and never takes.

Lori Gravley grew up in Niceville, a small town in the panhandle of Florida. These poems are from an unpublished chapbook titled Interior Designs. She is still recovering from the madness engendered by what she saw as she watched Southern women live their loves. She has poems, published and forthcoming, in a dozens of journals and anthologies, including Bitterzoet, SOFTBLOW, and Jabberwock Review.

List of Poets

Justin Hyde

IT’S LIKE YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT ANYTHING

i could
blow my head off with a shotgun
right here in front of you
or bake you a cake
or suck you off
and it’d all be the same to you
it’s like you don’t care about anything
she’s standing there
in my underwear
uncorked jug of port wine in her left hand
not angry
just drunk poking my insides
i gently tell her
she has the wrong song
how i care about everything
i care so much
i took the time to find out
there’s nothing to be done
about any of it
nothing to be done?
you’re so fatalistic she says
i tell her i’m inviolable like an orchid
in-vi-o-lable?
christ
i think you use those big words
because you’re afraid to let people in
i think your knees
are a national treasure i say
reaching out
running the back of my hand over her skin
her name’s tiffany
she works as a waitress at the lone-star steakhouse
reads ayn rand
experiencing a crisis of her christian faith
i’m falling for you
slowly like a feather
she says
sliding perpendicular
into my lap.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

first noticed you
at the dahl’s café
on ingersoll

no makeup
chunky boots
black leggings
with runs

unopened spiral notebook
in front of you
on the booth.

at the time
i had no idea
what flannery o’connor
looked like

but she
came to mind.

i’ve never seen you open the notebook
you don’t sit still long enough for that

back and forth
from the booth
to the parking-lot bench
to smoke

always looking
straight down at the floor

then off
into a dented red car
with yellow bungie
holding the front bumper on.

sometimes you’re with some
long-haired nomenclature
it doesn’t look like love
maybe roommates
or an outdated
bone-marrow lust.

then i saw your face
and name
while checking the jail listings
for escapees from the halfway house
where i work

you were in for
a busted tail-light
and arguing with the cops
at three a.m.

googled your name

found a single
forgettable poem
on some on-line magazine
called soap
or bubbles

-the odds of one hack poet
finding another hack poet
in des moines iowa
through this manner
are hopefully not lost
on you-

started putting my copy
of carver’s collected poems
at the edge of my booth

spine towards you
but you kept looking at the floor
or you saw it
and are as introverted as me

or i really do
look as much like an unapproachable cop
as they say

anyhow

i saw you out in the grocery store parking lot
a couple minutes ago

bend down furtively
and pick up that cigarette butt

lit it

smoked it

desperate
with style
and a few ounces of shame.

it shouldn’t

absolutely shouldn’t

but it really
turned me on.

THINKING OF THE CEDAR RIVER

grandpa and i
had our poles in a backwater,
waiting on a channel cat
or a blue.
grandpa’s friend clarence
was down a ways,
trying for smallmouth
in the main river.
clarence got one on,
i ran over to watch.
bat-full of hell,
he spat
unhooking a carp.
goddamned scavenger,
he said
throwing it to the ground,
putting the heel of his boot
to its head
same look on his face
my wife had tonight
right before
shoving me into the kitchen counter and
punching me hard
in the face
for reasons i’ve tried deconstructing

but when you get to this point in a marriage
simple cause and effect
slips through the fingers
like this blood
down the drain.

LEFT FIELD

you have good penis
very nice private,
the indonesian psychologist says
with the earnest innocence of a child
as we lay in bed.

the last twelve years
i’ve tilled the soil of my human acreage

seeding it with whiskey
profligacy
and a mordant cynical humor

i’ve reaped
and discarded
a constant harvest
of women

made peace
with the fact
that this was my empty path in life.

now this lady
with the diaphanous
soul of a monk

shows me a scar
on the inside of her elbow
from where her pet monkey bit her
when she was a little girl
in indonesia.

the tattoo of a rose
on her right thigh

three dew-drops
falling from it:

the first is
her

the second
her daughter

the third
her son
who died in her belly
after her ex-husband beat her.

my body please you?
she asks.

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF

says my girlfriend’s female cousin
as we sit around the kitchen table
after christmas dinner.

they’re all drunk on wine
fog
raunch
and dirty jokes

while the men
watch football
in the den.

i’m a bit of an introvert
takes me a while to calibrate,
i tell her
going back to reading the instructions
for the fancy coffee-bean grinder
my girlfriend’s mother gave me.

come on
give us something

tell us a secret

bet you’ve got a-lot of secrets,
says one of the older aunts

as my girlfriend blows me a kiss
from the den
where she’s taking pictures
of the kids
playing with their presents.

ok

well

i think women
are beautiful terrible creatures

i used to chew on their hearts
like laffy-taffy

most nights of the week
i would go to a bar

shot of whiskey
bud-light

i would alternate
like that

and wait

maybe a woman
would sit down next to me

maybe she wouldn’t

i never chased them

but if she did
i was straight for the heart
like an indian tracker

i wanted it in my hands

for a minute

a week

a month

just long enough
to know she had
given it to me

there’s an adder
in my heart

i don’t trust
love

and even though
i don’t drink anymore

it’s probably the reason
things won’t work out
with your cousin and me.

Justin Hyde lives in Iowa.

List of Poets

Kamryn Kurtzner

DISTRACTION JEWELRY

I wear a necklace
of girl’s hearts
strung up with charm
drunken kisses
words they wanted to hear

I need them – close
to choke out
memories of you

If I can’t breathe
I can’t see
you with him
me with her and her and her and her
and her

but I still hear
your tears through the door
when I told you to leave,
close your closet
I’m not going back in.

Kamryn Kurtzner is a poet residing in Palo Alto, California. She has been published in See Spot Run, The Pine River Anthology, and has an upcoming publication in The Lavender Review.

List of Poets

Lylanne Musselman

PAYING THE PRICE

I never forgot what a past
girlfriend said when I told her
I got a speeding ticket
going home from her place –
she said:

Silly, you’re supposed
to speed getting to me,
not going away from me.

We both laughed, but
I didn’t know how prophetic
those words would become.
Later, when at lesbian
U-Haul speed, I packed
my things, called my friends,
collected my cats, and
moved out after committing
a moving (in) violation:
finding out we
were incompatible.

Twelve years later,
when I was sitting
off the side of Ormond Road,
Michigan blue lights
flashing in my rearview mirror.
I smiled at the implication.
I was traveling too fast
on my way to see Kathy –
maybe this ticket is worth
the price knowing that
speeding to see her
is a much better omen
than speeding away.

MY HEART RE-LEARNS HOW TO RIDE

My once sheltered heart
is coasting –
it flutters at the sound
of your voice
as if playing cards in the spokes
shuffle faster and faster.
I’m convinced
to give in
without usual worry about:
what if this, what if that, what if I fall . . .
I look into your brown eyes
deep and I’m taking off.

I try to peddle slow
with you
into this new territory:
an almost familiar touch,
a sexy smile.
I’m reminded
of the first time
learning to stay steady
without the safety
of rusty training wheels.

Then you call me
honey or darling
and I feel like letting go
of the handle bars
trusting this
new
balance
will carry me
safely onward.

Lylanne Musselman is an award winning poet, playwright, and artist. Her work has appeared in Pank, Flying Island, The Tipton Poetry Journal, Poetry Breakfast, The New Verse News, among others, and many anthologies. In addition, Musselman has twice been a Pushcart Nominee. Musselman is the author of three chapbooks, with a fourth forthcoming, Weathering Under the Cat, from Finishing Line Press. She also co-authored Company of Women: New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press, 2013).

List of Poets

Sarah Nichols

I WANT TO TELL YOU

I want to tell you it was going
to be an exchange of fantasies.

I want to tell you that he ended up
paying for my time.

I want to tell you about a time
outside that motel room. The
gesture of another man telling me

he knew he could pay for me.

I want to tell you that I know I
would have taken it.

I want to tell you that I don’t know
what to call myself. Mistress
or

prostitute.

I want to tell you that he ate me
down to the

marrow. Extracting all of my
virginal poison, licking my

guilt off his fingers.

I want to tell you that
the body

doesn’t forget. It only
buries itself, saying

I want to tell you.

Sarah Nichols is a co-editor for Thank You for Swallowing, an online journal of feminist protest poetry. She is the author of four chapbooks, including Dreamland for Keeps (ELJ Editions, forthcoming, 2018), and She May Be a Saint (Hermeneutic Chaos Press, 2016). Her work has also appeared in Yellow Chair Review, Rogue Agent, Noble/Gas Qtrly, and the RS500. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015.

List of Poets

Ben Rasnic

THAT WHICH IS MOST LOVELY IN WOMEN

There is inter-
woven
throughout the expanse
& compass
of my lifeline
a common thread;

a comfort of wings
that I might rise above
& beyond
this creature of habit
so often drawn
into the shadows
of isolation & self-centeredness,
of foolishness
and indifference;
a guiding force
to ground me,
instill within me
kindness & empathy,
tenderness
& understanding;

to come to know
that
which is most lovely
in women.

ALL IN THE FAMILY

Nothing shames more
than as a child
the sight of two male adults
assisting your passed out drunk father
through the front door entrance
after he drove into a ditch
in front of the house
other than the sight
of your six year-old
crying over you lying
on the living room carpet
waking from a passed out
drunken episode
because she thought
you were dead.

Originally from Jonesville, Va. (population<1000), Ben Rasnic has been widely published in web-based poetry venues and print journals. A Pushcart Prize nominee in 2011 and Best of Net nominee in 2014, Rasnic has authored four poetry collections: “Artifacts and Legends,” “Puppet,” “Synchronicity,” ( all available at amazon.com) and “The Eleventh Month” (from Flutter Press).

List of Poets

Linda Stryker

LABYRINTH

Lydia leans two façades
in front of Real Lydia.
Real Lydia doesn’t break out,
doesn’t work a crack,
doesn’t mine a tiny gap for light.
Lydia paints on a charming smile;
she knows Real Lydia is limp.
A wuss. A wimp.

At the disco, Enrique meets Lydia,
says, Hey baby, maybe
you’re the real deal. Let’s try on
some magic, whaddya say?
Real Lydia hears all, doesn’t shout,
doesn’t bang her bass drum
has no thread to show her the way out.

Lydia reckons that Enrique is not
Real Enrique, she imagines him
in carnal acts, pretends they’re facts.
Real Lydia loves
Enrique’s voice, his seductive words,
his sweetness. Real Lydia
wants to touch him, wants to show
Lydia she can’t keep her locked up
in this brain-wrinkle labyrinth forever.

Stop! Lydia is shocked to hear the familiar voice.
Real Lydia shouts now, I want to hold him,
I want to know him. Real Lydia tears, claws,
rips at the frayed veils. She screams at Lydia,
Stop pretending to be Real Lydia. Help me come out.
Help me!

Too late, Enrique tells Lydia, I haven’t found
the real deal after all. So long, best wishes.
Real Lydia’s eyes droop to the floor; she bawls,
Damn this idiot mind, brain’s mannequin,
puppet-dancer on strings of doubt.
I’m going to bang the crap
out of that damned bass drum.

THE PROBLEM WITH ENTROPY

the Aeolian harp knocks over a blue ferret’s cage

listen to three madeleines harmonize on a blue-black blazer

the khaki tongue of a barred owl

a note can go south or nowhere

a novel is a tasting

like dead rabbits

the sky withholds its unbelieving universe

the star behind a rutting elk elucidates its skeleton

does the universe die before each big bang

why doesn’t the moon want to come back

the owl yabbers through a keyhole in space

the moment when a harp begets rainclouds

taste a love note on the tongue, you said

like dead mice

a keyless piano pitches the Great American Novel

why was the owl barred from going south

north is an azure airplane

the harp marries a believing universe

like you, yabbering on about amour et mort

two owls rip open madeleines atop a ferret’s blazer

The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, Rabbit Run

a skeleton of small corpses lies on the rutting moon

taste a love song, you said

north or nowhere

heaven’s keyholes peep from thunderclouds

a blue-eyed novel fondles its own barn owl

clouds hippity-hop south on a distilled mouse

you claim that love songs can soothe the stars

you pluck my tongue

like a stringless harp

a universe of madeleines on a black moon

the sharp taste of corpses after a big bang

with a grateful bow to Beckian Fritz Goldberg and her Shuffle form

Linda Stryker writes from Phoenix, AZ, and is a volunteer radio reader and musician. Her work has been published in Highlights for Children, Ekphrastic, Chiron Review, and New Millennium Writings, among several others.

List of Poets

Ojo Taiye

PARANORMAL SCENERY

Love could be your voice
quelling the flare guns
in my head
Love could be you
in the mirror dancing
like a cartoon
to the flaps
of water
Love could be you –

a way in and a way out
Love could be you waving
my hands good bye
Love could be the window
in your chest colored
with trees and birdsong
Love is a seed becoming a fist
Love is when my mother sits
at the edge of the bed and talks
about French letters and voyeuristic blinds

Ojo Taiye is a twenty- three-year-old microbiology graduate from Nigeria. He loves books and Anime in that order. He has had some of his muddled thoughts published in a few e-magazines.

(Browse the List of Poets)

Poems added November 4, 2016

Virginia Archer

WHEN IT’S RAINING

When it’s raining
and the thunder rumbles
with echoes of Martinique
all I want
is the warmth of your outstretched hand,
fingers curling into mine,
and for you to say
“stay”.

ONLY LAST NIGHT

Why do I think
that I still need your lips
like some benediction
against my thighs?

It’s been too long
since your hands
enfolded my hips,
and surely memory
should have faded by now,
like some fickle blue colour
on a sunbleached dress.

But I want you
as if these thousand yesterdays
were simply seconds,
as if I can feel your fingers
from only last night.

OF FIRST KISSES AND INSANITY

That first kiss
was infected by the full moon
and all the stars
bouncing light along the hill,
while the warm night
and the creak of the tree frogs
was lost in our throats,
where our moans
would have drowned out the sun

we had found
the insanity of us
and we were betrayed by lips
simply saying hello
and getting lost
in the vowels
that would form
something we would come to label
love.

Virginia Archer is the pen name of a very busy lady who has a BEng.Hons. Degree in Civil Engineering with Architecture from the University of Leeds, England. She was born in the UK, but has lived most of her life on the tropical island paradise of Saint Lucia, where she currently resides with her tween daughter. She has been writing poetry since she was 16 years old, and has always had the soul of an artist, though she didn’t know it. When she isn’t doing her full time jobs as Engineer and Mother, Virginia can be found writing and painting in the small moments in between and treasuring those moments immensely. You can find more of her poetry at https://allpoetry.com/Virginia_Archer.

List of Poets

Katie Blanchette

MY REMINDER

I have a scar across the top of my left knee,
and I think a freckle is forming,
carefully along its path.

Normally I wouldn’t notice,
normally I wouldn’t care,
but this scar has my attention.

I got it the day we went swimming,
the last swim of the summer.
It was probably too cold to do so,
we didn’t even bring spare clothes.
You had me hold your wet boxers like a flag on the back of your bike,
flowing in the wind as we drove home.

I made my way through the rocky water and you followed,
you knocked me over with a hug or a tackle,
I can’t remember which.
But my knee scraped across the rocks and now I have this mark,
I have this scar.

It was the day you told me you loved me,
the only time you voiced it.
There were insinuations,
there were hand signals,
you treated me with more love than I’d ever felt.
But that’s the only time you said it.
And the two weeks that it lingered with me before you took it back,
before you made it seem like less than,
it washed over me,
through me,
and I finally felt at ease.

The way I thought you felt for months, possibly more than a year,
had finally been confirmed.
At least for those two weeks,
until you were too scared to let it be.
Until you had to go back on what you said.
Because, that, being out in the open, is earth shattering.

So now I look at this scar,
and I fear that it will fade.
It was just a light scratch.
How much longer before I go to look at it,
touch it,
and it’s not there?
I want it there.
I want it forever.
To remember the day you told me you loved me.

You already took it back,
but the scar is my reminder.
At least you felt that way for one simple sunset at the lake,
wrapped around each other,
shivering,
and just happy to be in each other’s arms.

I need that reminder.

OUR LOVE

Is all love this confusing?
Or is what I feel for you a special breed?
Because one second I feel my heart swell when I see you,
and the next I feel crushed beneath your words.

Does all love make you feel insane?
Or are you just great at driving me that way?
Because one second you hold me and kiss my forehead like I’m yours forever,
and the next you tell me I never was and I’ll never be.

Does all love make you cry?
Or am I just prone to tears?
Because one second you tell me you need me,
and the next that you’ll never let me in enough to hurt you.

Does all love come with fear?
Or are we just cowards?
Because you’re too scared to give us a chance,
and I’m too terrified to give up.

Katie Blanchette is a staff reader for the literary journal Spark Anthology and has worked in copywriting for four years. She recently received Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’ s Very Short Fiction Contest. She graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University and also obtained her MFA from Southern New Hampshire University.

List of Poets

Simon Cockle

GRAVE GOODS

Was that a branch or a bone
jutting from the mud wall
of the trench? We’re six feet
under down here, save for a coffin,
a handful of sad flowers.

We pick at tobacco threads
between teeth and cradle
cold gun metal, etched
with fingernails. The wind
brings snatches of prayers,

commands that go unanswered,
unfollowed. We take comfort
in the familiar and the familial;
the last of the scent soaked
into the last letter she sent.

Simon Cockle is a poet and writer from Hertfordshire, England. His poems have been published in iOTA, the London Progressive Journal, Pantheon Magazine, In Between Hangovers, Secrets and Dreams (Kind of a Hurricane Press) and Poetica Botanica. He was invited to read at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in England this year. He teaches English in a local secondary school where he edits their literary magazine, The Thinkery. He is also a musician and songwriter; and clearly now, in light of recent events, is on the more direct path to a Nobel Prize for Literature.

List of Poets

Tim Duffy

AFTER RIMBAUD, A FRAGMENT

It’s impossible to be serious at seventeen.
Not with trees to walk under,
their fragrant sap wanting only to drip
drunkenly from above.

Seventeen, and foolish,
your mouth is open yelling poems
at whoever walks by.
Beer and lemonade:
the shandy of your proper desires
is useless now.

Only trees and the shy woman
who says she will never love you
but does anyway–
until you fall under the spell
of more sappy trees
and call yourself lover once again
to leaves, branches, mirrors, and poems
and novels
that never call you by your right name.

Tim Duffy has published in The Cortland Review, Bop Dead City, Open Letters Monthly, and elsewhere.

List of Poets

Baisali Chatterjee Dutt

IMAGINE, LOVER

If a lover
like you,
met a lover
like me,
trusting
and open —
open-armed,
open-hearted,
open-legged —
imagine
the endless possibilities
of madness.

We’d sit in umbrellas
and sail across the moon,
tickling the clouds
so that they’d
laugh
and
pee.
We’d collect feathers
and build each other wings
while…

somewhere else…

a locksmith
would be forging a special key
for a special lock
for a special room
where
sanity
and insanity,
real
and virtual,
hope
and despair
are all
interchangeable.

If a lover
like you,
met a lover
like me,
wounded
and out of breath —
out of words,
out of steam,
out of excuses —
imagine
the infinite possibilities
of sadness.

We’d collect lies
and fashion them into
glittery necklaces
and then tie them to trees
like abandoned puppies.
Some hearts
are not meant to be homes.

If a lover
like you
met a lover
like me,
empty
and thus
ready to receive —
ready to be filled,
ready to fight back,
ready to give
and take
in equal measure –
imagine the singular possibility
of joy.

We’d read
to each other,
feed each other,
touch,
feel
and kiss
each other…
We’d breathe each other in
and tie our words
into each other’s hair.
We’d stare the starlight
out of each other’s eyes
and we’d laugh!

Laugh.

at the endless,
infinite
possibilities
of madness,
sadness
and singular joy.

SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH

I knew it was over
even before you did.
I’ve always
been able to tell;
my breasts
seem to know.

All my other lovers –
imaginary,
and otherwise –
lived
on the surface
of my skin;
a good scrubbing
with a walnut exfoliant
and I’d be rid
of the very scent of them.

But you,
you were the hardest
to get over.
You made a space
for yourself
in my head.
Like a maggot
you burrowed
deeper
and
deeper
and
deeper
until you
got to the core.
By nightfall,
the putrefaction was complete.

I didn’t want
you inside me anymore.
I cut off my breasts
and gave them to you
so that you’d have something
to remember me by.
But my youth
wasn’t good enough –
you wanted my all.
And so,
you’ve corroded my memory
and stolen my sleep,
my senses,
my sanity.

I’m an old hag now,
with pock-marks on her heart,
half-eaten straws for hair
and a face that turns
mirrors to stone.

I blame you
because
it’s the easy thing to do.

DOING THE CHA-CHA

We haven’t tangoed
in ages.
These long periods
of waiting
and
wanting
are a waste
of my resources.
Cooters
need to be coddled.
Pussy cats
need to hiss
and spit
and purr
and mew.

I come to you
riding tidal waves.
I come promising
to make the stone walls
in your body,
sing.
I come bearing
spices
in the abyss between my legs.
I come flying
on fallen wings
as they
cruise the sky
collecting moondust
on the way.

I am a flower,
over-ripe
and pungent.
My orchid is ripe for plucking.
Come,
sip from my honey cup.

The many nights
I have lain awake in bed
tossing
and turning,
feverish on satin sheets,
at the mere memory of you,
now threaten to melt me
into a worthless pool
of unfulfilled
fantasies;
of wasted words
screamed
through drunken ramblings
on nights of yellowing moons
and dying flowers.
My lush bucket
threatens
to spill over
if my pink canoe
isn’t taken for a ride.

“I am the lock.
You are the key.
Don’t lose yourself on the way.”
I yell at photographs
on the fridge.

This waiting will ruin me.

But…

I am the cure
To my own insomnia.
I have spare keys.
My cave of wonders
doesn’t need your ‘open-sesame’.
I am good enough
myself,
to go downtown
and get me going.

Elvis may have left the building,
but
Edith is coming home tonight.

This kitty,
will roar.

AAMSUTRA

We sat eating mangoes together.
The thick river of juice
coursing down
slowly
lazily,
languidly
like molten gold
from our lips
to our chins.
One could hear it move
in a silence that was overpowered only by the noise
of our tongues
as flesh met flesh.
We watched each other suck the flesh off the seed,
slurpingly,
hungrily,
and riveted.

Flesh.
Off the seed.
Flesh.
Off my bones.
Tiny bites.
Tiny,
sucking bites.
My bones.
My flesh.
Thick juice.
Mango flowers.
The seed.
Flesh,
fruit.
Fresh.
My bones.
My meat.
My flower.
Myself.

We continue to eat.

An invitation is extended.
“Come to my house tomorrow.”
“What will you give me to eat?”
he asks.
“Mangoes.”

The other offering,
is left unsaid.

SHAME

I get a desperate feeling
when I look into your eyes;
wild
and wicked
and extremely foolish.

Your eyes tell me
that they can see
my secret somethings
swimming in my blood.
Can they see the naked lust
that runs in circles behind my breasts?
Can they see the lonely love
that sits crying in my bones?
Can they see the utter shame
that burns behind my eyes?

Don’t tell me
I shouldn’t feel the way I do.
I know that.

But regardless,
I
still
do.

And I have this
awful
feeling

that most probably,

I
always
will.

Baisali Chatterjee Dutt, a former columnist and agony aunt for Mother & Baby magazine and contributor to Parent & Baby, has compiled and edited two volumes for the Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul series, namely the volumes ‘On Friendship’ and ‘Celebrating Brothers and Sisters’. She has authoured “Sharbari Datta: The Design Diva”, a biography on one of Calcutta’s leading luminaries in the fashion world. Her poetry has been published in various anthologies and magazines, print as well as online, such as ‘Femina, The Asian Age, The Blue Spider Press, The Algebra of Owls and Veils, Halos and Shackles, to name a few.

Her other passion is theatre. She has performed with some of India’s top English theatre groups. Currently she is a drama facilitator at The Creative Arts Studio and South Point School.

Born in New York, schooled in Bangalore, with college in Delhi, Baisali Chatterjee Dutt now lives in Kolkata with her family.

List of Poets

Mackenzie Dwyer

SÉANCE WITH TRASHED PANTIES

Honeys, who knew gaiety
would foretell your decline,
moreover, that
the one who drowned you
still dares to make her home in me?
Oh how I’ve lusted to frame
your yellow crimson flowers
pressed on silver scarlet print
before flipping you to your
place of
rest —
from beyond its crinkled veil I can
nearly catch a whiff of you. Take heart,
fallen panties, I too will repose eyeing
clot after clot glisten & slip out of me.
No need for a candle while I smolder
— these days I’m as fertile
as my imagination.

SECRET OF A WOMAN I KNOW

She once spoke to this set of us
of her enchantment at glimpsing
another young woman bathe
through their windows parallel
at a Parisian hôtel.
She’s grown
older, of course, but it
hardly taxed the vision
to catch the light from her eyes
as it radiates
to the pearls of a smoother face —

SHAMELESSNESS

Will I paper over my every trace with tissue?
Not enough of us live here for it.
I simply sprinkle the soiled pads and things
into their bin, half-exposed.
My mother, though,
thinks my menstrual blood is —

She has no need to say it.
I know. I must be the only person
who regards this black bog of germs
with an affinity I don’t conceal,
repulsed by neither my own
nor my mother’s blood.
She should know. Even now

I stride breast-swingingly,
blithely past her, as I think I’ll do
regardless of who approves,
touches, disapproves
or doesn’t touch. (I learned this
recently and from myself alone.)

Since she could read, Mackenzie Dwyer has known a longing to make a mark on literature. But another landmark decision of hers was to drop out of marksmanship Junior Olympics qualifying rounds to go earn her black belt and a concussion. Mackenzie’s work has garnered regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards recognition along with five recent acceptances, one being her piece Behind My Eyes in Ink in Thirds Magazine.

List of Poets

Ashley Elizabeth

LIGHT

The first time he saw me naked
I was 16 in an apartment
with a cherry red couch.
He does not see me with lights on
just shapes. He is
older. He knows what to do.
He is okay with not seeing me.
I was not okay. I opened
and he looked.
He could see me
and I am sixteen,
inexperienced
virgin.
I ask if it hurts.
He replies he’ll try
not to hurt me.
I close my eyes and wait.
He thinks I am waiting for a kiss.
I am blocking myself
from seeing him,
seeing him look at me
the way he was looking at me
like I was beautiful
like I was a woman
or something.

It is six years later.
He is seeing me again
with clothes on
wondering
if I will take them off.

BEST

it has taken me too long to accept that i love you.
i am okay with loving you. i love loving you
but i hate it too.
i am the other woman
the whore
the concubine.
i am what you call out for at night
and what you need.
i accept your acceptance
however much i shouldn’t
and however much i know i shouldn’t
i keep coming right back
just as waves continue kissing the shoreline
and the moon revolves around the earth
and the earth revolves around the sun
i am here for you
and accept you and all that you have to offer
because i know there is so much more to you
and your philandering ways
more to your white girlfriends
more to you moving away
more to me than i let on.
i accept you and your flaws
and your turtle tattoo
and your stance
and your shit take on monogamy
and your hands groping
and your mouth searching
for someone it wants to love
instead of someone it has to love
(for the kid you never wanted).
your body reaching for black skin
and curves
and hips and love
your charismatic smile when you know i’m about to drop
my panties and stuff them in my mouth
because you like that shit
you like me bent over ass up
you can do more with that shit than i ever could.
.and i will take that as a compliment
take your flag as a compliment
take your cum as a compliment
i am just doing my job
and doing it well
there is not much else. i promise.
let me let you in
but you wont
and i
have accepted that

THIS ISN’T FRIENDSHIP

my best friend “loves” me
when he is available
and – fuck – i let him

6 INCH HEELS

my girlfriend calls my ex
best friend boytoy
because boytoy liked girls
in heels two inches shorter
than his dick and my shoe closet
fit the bill. she pictured him, hands
slicing apart my skin like skilled surgeons
reaching inside and taking pieces of me
she knew I needed. She said
each time I talked to him I lost
something else.

When I stopped talking to him
for a while, out of my own needs,
she noted color coming back to my face
and that I smiled a real smile again.
And then he texted me, asking for ass
and lace and my wine colored heels
ones he’d only seen pictures of.
ones that turned him on. I told

him no. I told him no twice
but he still thinks I want to be
on my knees in my heels
servicing him in any and every way.
I told him no, dream about me
in my wine colored heels
with dick sucking lips to match.

PRETTY

when men say i have a pretty pussy
i am torn between asking
how many others they have said it to
and why they needed to say it in the first place.
no two pussies look the same,
and if they got far enough to look at it,
they’re getting it either way.
i am no delicate flower
and downstairs doesn’t need any compliments
pussy is pussy
there is no need to call it pretty
call it what it is
my bits are not special;
i am not your only conquest.
call it what it is
call it what you use it for:
a cock socket
a hand warmer
a cum bucket.

Ashley Elizabeth is a 20-something poet from Baltimore who draws inspiration from her city, her people, her space, and her body. Ashley is an advocate of women’s rights, accessibility of the arts, and education. She has been featured in the online journal Rose Water.

List of Poets

David Flynn

SACCADES
We read in saccades; all of life is saccades.
Short chunks of stone we put together afterward
into a smooth stream.
You are saccades:
one iris dark and big, the other dark and small.
You sniff.
Two graceful steps.
And I put you together with love,
which is not in pieces, but a lifetime.

David Flynn was born in the textile mill company town of Bemis, TN. His jobs have included newspaper reporter, magazine editor and university teacher. He has five degrees and is both a Fulbright Senior Scholar and a Fulbright Senior Specialist with a recent grant in Indonesia. His literary publications total more than one hundred and ninety. David Flynn’s writing blog, where he posts a new story and poem every month, is at http://writing-flynn.blogspot.com/. His web site is at http://www.davidflynnbooks.com.

 

List of Poets

Alice B. Fogel

HOUSE KEYS

Other times you come home to the wrong house disbelieving the fit
of the keys in the locks deranged tantrum pushing

open the door before you
even have a chance

to wish it wouldn’t against all reason go on
hanging your coat in the closet

when it’s late and you are coming from
and going to and arriving

at times you need to pause and get your bearings switch
on lights too bright to bear

witness to whatever
life this is or whose

skewed welcome mat whose leaning bats
in the belfry whose

newell post grimy
with so many hands unable to orient without that momentary

grasp the cool
slide of the goose neck riser finding the moon

windowed and radiant climbing
like water forced

upward through subfloors by a talent for instinct in the dark
stairwell without knowing why

you have returned what with all the lack
of other options not yours not hours not the house’s finest

combination of complaints canceling out into silences spinning
in you like houseflies in the overhead fixtures

knocking to be let out
or in to a room you don’t question for one minute don’t you

wish you were like the key
does exactly what it’s meant to even if you won’t

stop burying it under the rug
where you wipe mud off your shoes

even knowing everyone knows to look there even remembering
who first home waits upstairs in the bed can’t help

but be warm and pulls you like a magnet
draws conclusions to it under the quilts unlike yours seduces

in a language you don’t have to understand
to be attached to its force of habit indistinguishable

from love whether or not you are at home
in it you might as well be

anywhere but here
is where you are built into this house lock and key

Alice B. Fogel is currently the NH State Poet Laureate. Her newest collection (2015), Interval: Poems Based Upon Bach’s Goldberg Variations, won the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature and the New Hampshire Literary Award in Poetry (2016). Another, Be That Empty, was a national poetry bestseller, and Strange Terrain is her book on how to appreciate poetry without necessarily “getting” it. Nominated for “Best of the Web” as well as 8 times for the Pushcart, her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry, Robert Hass’s Poet’s Choice, Spillway, Hotel Amerika, and Crazyhorse, and she has received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, among other awards. A new book, A Doubtful House, which the above poem comes from, will be out in 2017.

List of Poets

Sheri Gabbert

PRIMAL URGES

One day last spring we slipped into a vintage clothing
resale shop and happened to find a mid-length red silk
evening jacket with gold embroidery and we bought it
on a whim for evenings at home when we open a bottle
of wine and relax after a hard week at the office trying

to make soon-to-be divorcees understand that castration
cannot be a part of a court’s divorce decree even though
we, as women, think it should be, too, but that’s another
story because after the second bottle of wine we happened
to notice that the red silk evening jacket was “Made in China,”
and we got silly taking turns trying it on and talking in
alcohol-related Charlie Chan Chinese that resembled
the Pig Latin of junior high, and we opened the third bottle
of wine and laughed so hard we almost peed our pants
several times, which led to a discussion of where
and when we were first “Made in America” the way you
used to hear guys brag about “making” women as they
lathered up growing bodies in locker room shower discussions,
guys who have long passed into ancient history, and we
were damn happy about that too, because they were assholes.

In my case I was made on the front seat of a pickup truck
after a Friday night football game by the captain of the “A Team”
who drank so much 3.2 beer beforehand that he barely got
the job done and I had to help him zip up his pants afterwards
and caught his “thingy” in his zipper; it was bruised for a week

and the experience left me more or less and mostly more
ambivalent about romance and sex with a snorting, grunting,
rutting football stud with a limp “thingy” after only 45
seconds and nothing to show for it but panties he wet for me
until years later when I learned how to fix that for myself from HBO

movies and internet porn. And her first experience was similar
except that it happened after choir practice one hot summer evening
in rural Kansas because she had started having strange primal urges
herself while showering, after which she decided to seduce the pastor’s
son, as soon as the first opportunity arose, and so she changed into

short skin-tight white see-thru shorts one night, took a ride home
from the PK baritone with a satin voice and chest hair. We both
agreed that things got better after that, but also that most guys are
lame when it comes to follow through and more, and it was damn
hard to find someone who was good in bed, but also good to talk

to afterwards, when the front of the red silk jacket she was wearing
came open a little after the third bottle of wine and she asked me
if I ever thought about girls, to which I said, laughing, No, but I may
get desperate
, and blurted you have the best looking boobs I have
ever seen
, after which she smiled and I took a closer look and I
am so glad she knew what to do for both of us.

Sheri Gabbert lives in the small town of Mount Vernon in Southwest Missouri, in the Ozarks; she has lived there since 1985. She is a substitute teacher but has been a professional writer. She has written for small town and county newspapers, 417 Magazine, Street Buzz and has had poems published in Moon City Review and new graffiti.

List of Poets

Mori Glaser

DANCE DESIDERATA

Don’t plan me a wedding Desiderata
my ceremonies are free of papers
no audience no alimony
love speaks until it’s done.

Wait while I find a lover
who’ll walk with me on a deep
bracken floor and I’ll write us
a book with no straight lines.

I’ll paint me a partner with roots
that run up his legs and strong toes
to carry him away when weeds
grow too high and nights too long.

I’ll sing us a concert Desiderata
so you can dance as roses play
violin and ivy streams
from a bass guitar.

Better not wait for my wedding
I never find enough flowers
unsevered close to the earth
that cast no self-fulfilling shade.

Mori Glaser grew up in the UK and moved to Israel 30 years ago. She has blogged and written material for non-profits. Her poetry has been published in various journals including Writers Hub; Persimmon Tree; A Quiet Courage; Crack the Spine; Unbroken. Her flash creative nonfiction appears in Arc-24, the journal of the Israel Association of Writers in English, and Akashic Books web series Thursdaze.

List of Poets

Robert Halleck

THE WOMAN

There are nights when he
remembers the small town
in Italy: two bars, one restaurant,
the six room hotel for sale.
He drifts to sleep thinking
of the possibility of a life
of insignificance in that
second rate village with a
woman believing he hung
the moon every evening
after the bocce game by
the fountain in the square.

MOONLIGHT

The moon shines on everything.
The man smoking a cigarette
on his patio thinking how
he wants to be with
someone else somewhere else.
The woman washing dishes
inside, lips silent where
once there was a song.
Nothing in particular
just a song that moonlight
can no longer raise in her heart.

Robert Halleck fills his retirement years with open mike poetry readings, hospice volunteering, and racing Marlene, his old but still sturdy Porsche. In recent years his poems have appeared in the San Diego Poetry Annuals and a number of other interesting places that show up in a Google Search.

List of Poets

Oliver Hutton

RETRIBUTION

More and more men
some of them big tough men
were being found half-naked, bloody, beaten
bound, gagged, raped

Victims said their attacker wore a balaclava
and despite the monstrosity of the acts
committed on them, and despite
being disoriented to semi-consciousness
during the ordeal, they said she was
in every other way gorgeous
kitted all in tight black, heels
a Catwoman who actually used her pussy

She must’ve been black belt
in some martial art, stalking murky alleys
churchyards, forest pathways
She’d knock them down, immobilize them
tug their pants down to their knees
lower her spandex then clamber on

She’d be sweaty and wet from the tussle
and the excitement, so she’d usually slip right on
Those needing encouragement saw her lift her
black top and unfurl her big boobs
She’d lean forward and stick a wet tongue
in their ear, whisper filth

“No! Please!” muffled screams
“I’ve got a wife!”

She’d punch them hard in the face
“Shut up!” and ride them harder and harder
until they couldn’t contain themselves and blew inside her
Must’ve been on the Pill

Dozens of victims over the years
Remarkably, only one death
A man in his late fifties
Heart attack

She never got caught
Instead, she handed herself in
Said she needed a place to live

Detective Lasco was furious:
he wanted to be attacked
to feel alive for just a few moments
in a life overwhelmingly void of
sensational experience

“Why’d you do it?” he asked
half-taunting, leaning on the door frame
inspecting his nails
still hopeful of being assailed in his own prison

“They all looked like him.”

He squinted at her, confused

“So do you.”

Cuffed hands gripping the side of the table
she pretended to lunge at him
He flinched pathetically
then laughed nervously

“And it was fun.”

Oliver Hutton’s work has also appeared in Clementine Poetry Journal and Clementine Unbound. Otherwise, he is a UK-qualified shipping lawyer living and working in Greece.

List of Poets

Louise Larchbourne

GOING

Making your eyes spears, you bring me down.
Hand over hand hot soft we climb the ladder of we,
the ladder disappears we are fire eating each other with everything and grace
such detailed grace, the signatures of flame.
Eyes raising eyes, mouth mouth, belly belly long ago your warm wet cock became my engine
air air, two voices drawing signs in it a long way off;
In the fire I have become a new,
intelligence
unknown before,
different than youandme, but is
becoming only light.

And then.

We go back clean,
our bodies boats at anchor
all but still.

Louise Larchbourne is also an actor, an editor, and a sometime lexicographer. First published a long time ago in the West Midlands, as a ‘local poet’ in Birmingham she explored the distinctions between poetry for reading and poetry for performance. She was one of the poets invited to contribute to the new anthology For Jeremy Corbyn. One of her poems is included in the collection The Very Best of 52 and another in the newly published Oxford Backroom Poets’ anthology, Infinite Riches. She is on the editorial team of The Fat Damsel, and runs ‘Ekphrasis Poetry at the Museum’, a series of themed readings in situ of selected work inspired by exhibits at the Ashmolean in Oxford. She has a trullo in Puglia.

List of Poets

Lisa Morris

LOVING YOU

Loving you
is like loving a knife;
the tighter I embrace you
the more I am wounded.

I FIND I REACH FOR YOU

I find my arms are always reaching for you.
I stretch in my chair
and my heart goes ranging out of me
looking for your essence;
the deeper something I can never break into,
the hidden something you keep back.
Your true self.
I can only hope
it is beautiful.

Lisa Morris is a freeverse and formalist poet, nature explorer, artist and traveler. Formerly an agent for authors, she is now author of two books, Your Love is Inconvenient and Sublime available on Kindle, and The Sorcerer and Other Poems available through Rainfall Books.

List of Poets

Terri Muuss

SEARCHING FOR THE RED

You come looking for me in the kitchen. I am eating
large, green olives, pushing my tongue inside,
searching for the red, soft pimento and sucking
them out one after another, swallowing them
whole. I crush rubbery bodies
between molars; glands twinge from the bitter.
You don’t speak. It has been years since
we’ve had to. Instead, you kneel on sweating
summer linoleum, slowly move your hand to lift
the edge of my sundress.

Earlier—we baked our swollen
bodies in July sun, stood
with friends, sucked melting ices from wrinkled
thumbs. When I jumped headlong into the blue-green
pool, you followed. My hands finding your neck, I licked your ear
while you clutched my thigh in the water. We knew then
what we wanted. Now, it is here—silence crushing
us with its howl. You rest your day-stained
head in my lap. I feel the moistened breath, salted
air, longing in your fingers. I slide from the chair
to the floor; you pop me into your mouth.

Terri Muuss, whose poetry has appeared in numerous journals including Paterson Literary Review, Apercus Quarterly, Atticus Review, Stirring, Long Island Quarterly, and Red River Review, and three anthologies, has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in poetry. She is the author of Over Exposed (JB Stillwater, 2013) and the one-woman show, Anatomy of a Doll. Anatomy of a Doll was named “Best Theatre: Critics’ Pick of the Week” by the New York Daily News and has been performed throughout the US and Canada since 1998. As a licensed social worker, Muuss specializes in the use of the arts as a healing mechanism for trauma survivors. She is married to writer Matt Pasca and her two ginger-haired boys, Rainer and Atticus were former Ellen Show “Presidential Experts.” terrimuuss.com

List of Poets

Allison Paster-Torres

FIVE MONTHS, THREE DAYS SINCE

I left without saying goodbye
slammed the cherry door
and made it all the way
to the state line screaming
along to the radio.

I held my breath while I crossed the border.
It felt like the moment
I couldn’t change my mind anymore

like somehow I couldn’t
turn my car around at the next exit
pay the toll all over again –

like that six dollars
wouldn’t be the least of everything
I’ve ever given up for you.

TEN THINGS CONDOMS DON’T PREVENT

1. Relationships

2. Feelings of resentment

3. An inexplicable and pervasive need
for approval

4. Alcoholism

5. Family secrets

6. Co-habitation

7. Boredom

8. The bread going stale when left
open on the counter overnight

9. Nuclear war

10. The future

EXTRATERRESTRIAL

The moment I know
I am in love,
I’m tripping balls
in the passenger seat of my own car.

He’s driving
because I seriously can’t

because we are hovering
two feet off the ground
with laserbeam headlights,
careening into red and white streaks
of warp speed.

He maneuvers my Hyundai Spaceship
to a town he hardly knows.

I am no help.

I’ve said the words I’m sorry
please don’t hate me

at least a dozen times.
He laughs,
says not to worry.
We may wind up rounding Alpha Centauri,
but if I trust him,
he’ll get us home.

Allison Paster-Torres was raised by a pack of wild libraries. She knows how to spell at least ten words in the English language, and can easily be talked into doing almost anything if you tell her it will be an adventure, even if this is obviously a lie. Should you feel so inclined, you may find her at Facebook.com/WriterAllisonPT or @Allison_PT.

List of Poets

David Tuvell

YOU LOOK GREAT WHEN I’M HIGH

Smoking Parliaments, you walk around with your spoiler alerts,
foxily deciding who’s allowed to make new dad-bodies
(with their Marlboros and tag-less white-tees).
But every day’s a soiree here in the suburbs, Karen,
since we don’t need any more flowers or bodies of water
in the words that tell us how to live our sleepy lives.

You always reminded me of songs, of sense within sound:
the confidence of rhymes, the libido of beat.
All those years of nonsense, we were just two blind mice
describing the room we came in by, its dissociative gravity,
laying leisurely about in the hotel lobby in tweed smoking jackets,
remembering the morning glory of father’s razor strap appetite.
Even after all those tales of adventure on the high seas,
you still tell your child to “use your words.”

The legends of our argyle yesterdays, we tell
ourselves and company, to bluff tomorrow and tomorrow,
are always already called and made into punchlines
by the day’s agenda. People are so unattractive
when sex has become uninteresting. Should I say
“there’s something that I have to do” or “call the cops?”
She was simply wearing a T-shirt that read “Help Yourself.”
Oh, I would keep you forever in the amber of history,
if only I weren’t so lost and untidy in the Paris Syndrome of you.

David Tuvell has written poems for the New Orleans Review, the Steel Toe Review, NYU’s Minetta Review, KSU’s Share, Eyedrum Periodically, and other publications. His English B.A. comes from Kennesaw State University, and he studied substantially at the University of Florida. Outside of poetry, his path has been quite various, and he has made my way through things like software engineering, information science, and labor.

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Poems added October 14, 2016

Blake Barringer

COMING OUT OF THE DARK

You had another set of balls on your body, yet this time you gifted them to me. I was swollen and could not perform well for you for a few days and for that master I am so sorry. I felt cool vanilla and chocolates pouring over me and numbing the pain I felt. Pretty soon I had healed and so had your urge for another hangover. Out we went, just like every night. You and your same buddies, Britney or Madonna surrounded me in a muffled haze. Tonight seemed to be all about limes, I tasted a lot of citrus this particular eve. I heard a new voice and met a new friend. He and I exchanged a lot of saliva and words while you pushed me into his home. I visit a lot of people like me. Master you must have a lot of friends. This night I got to know this mate very well. We grazed each other in a wet hello and discussion about our different problems with our masters. He marveled at my addition, I prided him on how well you treated and cared for me to allow me to look this fancy. Then we said our goodbyes while you used my addition to rub up and down his erected shaft. I love the sensations this metal contraption has given not only me but other creatures. You love to please others and so do I. After this adventure you rolled off this nameless stranger and let water river over me.

Blake Barringer was born, raised, and lives in St. Louis, where he studies English at the University of Missouri St. Louis. He spends his free time reading, writing, vinyl collecting, or attending many concerts. He is a mega fan of Madonna and Gwen Stefani. You can find him at the Honors College at UMSL or at his current place of work, Spencers.

List of Poets

Rachel Caruso-Bryant

FOR BUKOWSKI

I wanted to pay homage to Bukowski
So I took him to the toilet with me
We sat there together
Disgusted with each other
“Cunt. Pussy. Fuck,” he growled.
“Ugly sexist prick,” I sneered.
Toilet paper poetry
Glued together with semen
Made one sunny afternoon in Texas
Post-coitus cigarette musings
Banged out of your typewriter like a headache
While your lips recite the alphabet backwards
Thoughtless as a scheme sheet
You poor ugly son of a bitch
You headless sex man
Blues crooner who fucks the piano
But I’ve already taken you in, so
Get lost in me while I get lost in you
Sniff your fingers when you read me
Lick your thumb and flip my pages
While I lay spread open in front of you
Slide your hands back and forth over my letters
Read into me so deeply
That I shut on you
And you scream out
“The end!”

STEW

We sink into the mattress
Rolling in spirals with the current
Two kidney beans in a stew of sheets
At once on top of each other and behind
A stream of consciousness crockpot
In which your toes taste like your mouth
And elbows salsa
Over fields of exposed flesh
The hard and the soft
Small brooks trickling sweat
Into belly button basins
The edges lapped by fingertips
Flames licking
Until we boil over

Rachel Caruso-Bryant is originally from Florida and is now an English language lecturer at a university in Saudi Arabia. She lives with her husband and three cats and travels the world whenever she gets the chance. Her poems have appeared in A Lonely Riot and the Stark Poetry Journal.

List of Poets

Ars Cogitanda

mutherfucking louise

so here’s this young guy horny and lonely
looking for a girlfriend, of course he’s socially inept,
didn’t you see his fantasy, black bustier
and carrying a sword, no butterfly tats for this
make-believe lovin’ intentions, he imagines an elfin lord
or the head of a WoW big-boss on her inner thigh
sure there’s a real girl sitting just to the left of him,
but shit no, no reality for this hard up lovelorn,
instead the hottie in the comic shop,
must be there for him, and damn if he’s never
going to set her free he says, jeezus
mutherfucking louise, what a stupid-assed nerd

you’d think with his ability to translate
arcane numerical codes and launch handily
into sophisticated discourse referencing binary
lemmata, he’d get that the fantasy of enslavement
might not work for his intended

that it might be patently-fucking-obvious how tired
she gets of such rampant stupidity, and the bitter sea of it?
that he’d be the headless troll iff’n she got mad
enough to take up an actual sword instead of just
the one she built from disdain

all to beat his loneliness, and shit
all he had to do was pay attention
to that occupied spot ever so slightly to his left

Dude.

I stand by my misanthropy. People are stupid.
Mutherfucking louise.

Written to “Girlfriend” Matthew Sweet

Bad-tempered and well educated with a sharp-edged, dry sense of humour, this misanthrope takes offense at overt signs of many of the –isms and –ities – even in love and sex. As such, performance poetry (spoken word) delights, because so much of it is about social justice in its manifold forms – even in sex and love. Also, in spoken word there is a good deal of room for a rude joke and an honest complaint.

List of Poets

Alicia Cole

MAKING LOVE OR ELSE EXPECTING RAIN

The ship moves out in a week.
Flecks of white pepper my hair
at the forehead’s crown, stars
cramping the night sky. I open my mouth
to taste the muddy summer air. A pink
rose tonight, something dusky.
Plucked from the brush,

dusky and wild; the straight plane
of his back, his rib cage shaking
with laughter. Noiseless I move
for him, a marionette’s motions. One finger
to my palm, one finger to his boutonniere.
Three petals in my hand, already
browning: old silk.

Sheer silk, the paper of the petals capping
my eyes, I place the third on my mouth
and blow. A stream of confetti and rose
petal sifting to his lap, the fabric
of his eyes creasing.

Soft. They say the fabric of the night
folds softly when mouths patter like rain.
He will stay tomorrow. When the ship
moves out? String the night
with open fists.

Alicia Cole is a writer and visual artist in Huntsville, AL. She is the editor of Priestess & Hierophant Press. You can find her work at www.facebook.com/Aliciacolewriter.

List of Poets

Brittany Fonte

NON-ADVICE FOR AN IMPERFECT MARRIAGE FROM AN IMPERFECT SPOUSE—FOR ADELE AND FANNY’S WEDDING

A woman I work with once asked me, “You love your wife, right?”
I was mightily confused by her question, a bit off-put by her conversational direction, because she is a conservative and I live as a Trump Eater—a literary liberal who supports Planned Parenthood in meter.

I said yes; this, perhaps, was her signal. She asked, civil, “But—do you want to strangle her sometimes?” This balanced our assigned party lines: “All the time. Twice on Tuesdays.”

My mother once told me no marriage I created would ever be sacred. I just visited home, no longer excommunicated. We talked about my single brother’s lack of monogamy, the inevitable death of new love’s novelty and the misogyny of the world at large. We shopped, gossip swapped, and I, in the end, learned that sacred is as sacred does. This is because, misspelled, it’s just “scared.” My mother’s marriage is as true as one that we—or you—might build. Do not yield to expectations of relations who do not sanction you.

I once taught Algerian military men, taught them how to speak and pen English. They had wives at home, wives following ancient religious tome, banned from restaurants (alone) or flaunting pretty cheekbones. They had wives and girlfriends who waited years in their head coverings, who grew dates with their in-laws hovering near. Opinions can sear, but no matter the geographic location, the spiritual persuasion, the rules of homestead or traditions, love is still knitted in committed forever. It cannot be severed.

My wife and I are opposites. I read fiction and poetry, lit.; she reads business. I eat no meat; her favorite restaurant is Ruth’s Chris. I cry at lost kittens and she tells me I cannot bring them home—no matter how smitten. So when she chooses to wash the dog thirty minutes before a party, when she leaves her shoes under the table or tells me I look sickly and pale and refuses to say “Sorry,” and Saturday becomes Tuesday twice more, I may forget “sacred” and roll my eyes. I may speak less-than-love, throw myself on the bed and cry. But I always try again. This is marriage, too. This is human, me or you.

Marriage means those deleted scenes may include one spouse being hangry and rude, the other tired and in such a mood that the first might hide inside a closet. Locked. Sometimes our skins are not so tough, our spouses’ words are too rough, and the memory of a misplaced modifier inspires us to scream bloody murder, or commit it (in a fit of fine imagination). Marriage means you understand sometimes you are right, but “right” won’t always make happy, especially if “right” is less than sappy and less than these six words: What can I do for you?

Fifteen years later or, because my memory is a goldfish drowning in dirty water that only my wife can filter, fourteen, I know miniscule marital woes, but nothing compares to the dreams we’ve sown as a duo. Real love grows daily, plays fairly, apologizes and, yes, occasionally mesmerizes, still, after decades. I did not know who I could be, how I could see peripherally before those vows. I did not know forever, couldn’t note it in seconds; I had no language for such retention. Now, I know: There is no greener grass, there is no all encompassing pass to happiness, but I will confess my wife is nothing less than my forgiveness-wrapped better half.

Brittany Fonte holds an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) and has published three books. She was also a co-editor of a Lambda Literary Poetry Anthology Finalist. She is married with two children. She is currently working on publishing two children’s fiction series.

List of Poets

Robert Ford

ALL BREAKAGES MUST BE PAID FOR

Too much shiny cloth gathered
between the trouser legs and
around the ankles of the
inevitably off-the-peg suit.
Too much product on too little hair.
Asked to stand a step higher
by the serious photographer,
he clings on to his bride,
half like she’s a chainsaw
in the poorly co-ordinated clutches
of a novice, half like she’s
something unimaginably fragile,
and no amount of tenderness
will prevent her future destruction.

Robert Ford lives on the east coast of Scotland. His poetry has appeared in both print and online publications in the UK and US, including Antiphon, Clear Poetry, Eunoia Review and Gyroscope Review. More of his work can be found at wezzlehead.wordpress.com.

List of Poets

Trevor Hallam

BLACK LUNG CHERISH

Degrading
you while you humiliate
me still turns me on,
only now, we don’t talk about it.
Our lives
are so common, becoming
ever more boring, and we cringe
at the tedium and pretend
this is all still fun.
We’ve come
to our perpetual state of normalcy, finally.
I adore
the disease that we share,
eating our hearts
out and drinking the juices of our spite,
trying to find
the thing we lost, held
most valued.
Breathing
the fumes of the tar
that holds us together,
my love
for you will never
end.

Trevor Hallam is the author of God Complex, Not Without Remorse, and the forthcoming, Satan, Bless Thy Daughters. His dark fiction and poetry has been published in anthologies by James Ward Kirk Fiction and Jaded Books Publishing. He lives in the Great White North, where it’s not so cold, worshiping his daughter, who helps to keep him sane. On Twitter @Deranged2 and Facebook
and Amazon.com/Trevor-Hallam

List of Poets

Michele Leavitt

FOR THE EARLY GIRLS

As if knowing they would arrive
at this home of knowing, where mist
rolls back over rows of peppers and tomatoes
when dawn hits, they went to school early,

started reading early, watched their sisters early,
grew breasts early, suffered beatings early,
took lovers early, thinned them out early,
left home early, worked a full day early,

walked out early, tried again early, and now,
too far-sighted to notice their skin puckering
around old sutures, too hard
of hearing for the weak rattle

of old shames, they survey the stocked pantry,
the full shelves, and thank the young women
they once were, who sowed one forty-foot row
of Early Girl Desire after another.

Michele Leavitt, a poet and essayist, is also a high school dropout, hepatitis C survivor, and former trial attorney. Her work appears most recently in North American Review, Guernica, concis, and Catapult. She’s the author of the Kindle Singles memoir, Walk Away.

List of Poets

Allie Long

AVOIDANCE

Your sister will marry
a man who wore
his Greek letters in Athens
unironically – like the comparison
of a fifty-yard line
to a frontline
I overheard in a bar last week.
Next June, you tell me
in the same breath
as I like him a lot
the way another word stumbles
out of your mouth
before the previous one is finished
like our steps two Junes ago,
running and jumping into lakes
faster than our minds
could remind us
that we could not rely on the cold
to appease our desire for embrace.
We craved that brief moment
of forgetting, suspended in air,
asking will this last?
even as we began to fall,
preparing to shiver
in the aftermath of freedom.
Still, uncertainty was easier
to take if doubt
had no time to threaten
the slow of my running start,
which is why I said
I love you too
before your lips
could wrap around
you. Meaning, me.
Meaning the fall was over –
a happy ending until my arms
grew tired of treading water.
Now, your voice echoes
on the other side
of the phone line
like a face of forgotten
belonging. She wants
to have the wedding in Cabo
.
You pause, and I can feel
your eyes sighing
into me from 500 miles away –
that look of trying
to comprehend the existence
of what is before you.
That’s great, I say.
Only the hum of static from you
in response,
obscuring your intent
as it ripples the air
like a body landing feet-first
in the river.

NEGOTIATING THE EMOTIONAL LOGISTICS OF A ONE-NIGHT STAND

Only sad people like us
have sex
to the music of half-release
and half-loss
of a four-piece band.
All men.
I cry to this song, you tell me.
Me too, I say,
remembering how the mirror
reflects
an affectation of pain
when I smear
mascara onto my cheeks
and pretend
to be a painting of a woman,
frozen
in man’s ideal version of femininity:
beautiful,
silent, tragic. I want to say,
you can’t have
release without loss, you know
,
when it’s over,
but without actually having you
to lose,
I must simply run my fingers
through your hair,
careful not to gaze into your eyes
because this isn’t love. I am sorry
to even imagine
the word. This is letting my muscles
memorize
how it feels to hold another
so that each time
I wipe a tear from my face, I think
of my hands
tracing your outline. I remember
how for one moment,
there was no loss, how for one moment,
I had something
to lose.

Allie Long is an economics and English double-major at the University of Virginia. Her poetry appears in Ground Fresh Thursday, Words Dance, Bird’s Thumb, as well as others. Read more of her work at alliesanxietydiaries.wordpress.com.

List of Poets

Maggie Mackay

THE HOPPERS, NEW YORK CITY

You pull me up from my painting stool,
maddening woman with your splash of noise.
The music gets to me, so I cave in.
Three times we dance around this tiny space
in silent swirls and turns and contra checks
to the frivolous swish of this Strauss waltz
past piles of cans and coal and the unheated stove,
my hand splayed on your narrow back, and flexed.
You are surprised I’m this light on these feet
and your fine legs, made famous by my art,
let me lead, bird-wife, three tiger hiss,
drive us, fixed in close circular motion,
our fights parked up, this truce unspoken.
Damn.

Maggie Mackay is a bravehearted Scot and a final year MA poetry student at Manchester Metropolitan University with work in various print and online publications including Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Bare Fiction, Obsessed with Pipework, The Fat Damsel and Three Drops from a Cauldron. For other work by Maggie in Rat’s Ass Review, go here.

List of Poets

Jordan Makant

IRISH GIRL

Meeting in the art gallery, helping each other
take photographs of Da Vinci paintings
before the guards noticed again,
you introduce yourself
as a pretentious Irish artist,
or at least as a wannabe;
and I introduce myself in turn
as the poet I would one day like to be.
We don’t know each other, yet
we talk like old friends, reunited at last
over the simple subjects of love, loss, art,
somehow, someway finding meaning
we both know isn’t there.
We talk for what feels like hours;
I am painfully aware of the fact
of this moment’s inevitable end.
I think, though maybe it’s just your smile,
the glint in your eye,
the presence of your hand ever nearer to mine,
I think you are aware of it, too.
So instead of facing reality
we play pretend, practice being real artists:
we look into each other’s eyes, smile,
search for a future where
we might one day meet again.
And though it’s a fiction,
what a beautiful fiction we write together,
stealing looks that might be kisses,
feeling somehow less empty
when the future comes and you say
until we meet again, and I say goodbye.

Jordan Makant is a junior history major at Lenoir-Rhyne University with a minor in creative writing. He is an Assistant Editor at Wild Goose Poetry Review, and has been previously published in Cantos, LRU’s literary magazine for students. He also received LRU’s first place poetry award for the 2015/16 academic year. Jordan hopes to volunteer, travel, and write after he graduates from college, and intends to go to graduate school at some point after that.

List of Poets

Sergio A. Ortiz

FIRST CEREMONY

You lie a novice on my bed
delightful, earthy, mild.
You appear to sleep
and I’m beside myself
when my hands unfold
their poverty on your hair.

I find you naked. I am myself
naked, amazed,
a shimmer, wretched,
soft. What can I do blinded and mute.
Bewildered you keep
your gaze ferocious, devouring the dark,
your sex wet and hurting
with the memory of your first
ejaculation, your lips no longer in need
of the child you were.

Your way of being licks me like a dog.
I extend my hand towards your thighs
and blow by blow they separate,
and meet, and turn into a fiery gap
in turmoil on the bed sheet.

Take me, kneel, part your lips
from my sex.
Come back, hurtle, howl,
slit the darkness and rain
inside me!

MY DEAR RENIER,

you reached my bed,
turned around,
and I left me
feeling nothing!

Your onyx head
was the size of a spindle
spinning above my physique

like a pirouette knitting
a supernova on the peak
of my impossible soul.

And me?
I was the feathered
comet tail of your
what-could-have-been.

Sergio A. Ortiz is the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. His collections of Tanka, For the Men to Come (2014), and From Life to Life (2014) were released by Amazon. He is a two time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee, and a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard. You can see his other work here and here.

List of Poets

Robert E. Petras

SHE

She is
the Valentine
decorations stored
in the garage,
the Cupid and
the wooden heart
you no longer recognize,
mere blurs
on your way to turning
the key. She is
background noise
the song you hate but
know every
word. She is
the She’s Gone
in She’s Gone.

Robert E. Petras is a graduate of West Liberty University and a resident of Toronto, Ohio. His poem and fiction have appeared in more than 200 publications across the globe.

List of Poets

I.B. Rad

LOVERS

Separating her from earth
was never easy
for if she was ever sad
she threw herself
to the ground
sobbing, embracing it
like some long lost lover;
until, one day,
with too much repetition
turning careless,
she hurled herself
precipitously
on some rocks,
striking her head.
And now she lies
hugging the bosom
of her lover
through all eternity.

I.B. Rad lives in New York City. He’s a widely published poet whose work is readily available on the internet. He uses a wide variety of styles (“let the punishment fit the crime”) and particularly likes satire. His latest book is “Dancing at the Abyss.”

List of Poets

Richard Schnap

BARGAIN HUNTER

She bought everything on sale
Spent whole days cutting coupons
Frequented flea markets and auctions
Regularly found deals at thrift shops

But in her heart she felt a pang
For a partner to share her bed
Someone that required little
To be satisfied and content

And she found him in a store
Where nothing was more than a dollar
In a coat that almost seemed
To be older than he appeared

So she introduced herself
And in a short time learned his story
Twice divorced and laid off
A match made in a discount heaven

Richard Schnap is a poet, songwriter and collagist living in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. His poems have most recently appeared locally, nationally
and overseas in a variety of print and online publications. His
chapbook, “A Wind From Nowhere”, is available from Flutter Press.

List of Poets

Leela Soma

GOODBYE

A life time together happy and content
cameos together in the framed picture
memories re-lived in the old tunes
broken handles, pots and pans familiar
one’s life marked on so many surfaces
canvas, paper, fabric scented with her life.

Now charity bags filled with possessions
drawers emptied, a sob-wrecked separation.
grief encompasses the hospice as
hovering relatives and whispering hordes
share tea and sympathy that can’t undo
a cancerous death so cruel.

Yet, uplifted by the glance of
the baby granddaughter’s toothless smile
as she crawls helplessly, I hug her so close
The curl of her lips and shape of her eyes
imprinted on the child, helps remind me of the one I loved.

Leela Soma was born in Madras, India and now lives in Glasgow. Her poems and short stories have been published in a number of anthologies and publications, including the National newspaper The Scotsman, and in Gutter magazine, New Voices, The Grind, and Visual Verse and upcoming in Steel Bellows. She is working on a poetry collection with a working title ‘Tartan and Turmeric.’ She has served on the committee for the Milngavie Books and Arts Festivals and on the Scottish Writer’s Centre Committee. Her work reflects her dual heritage of India and Scotland.

List of Poets

Beverly Sweet

LOSING MY VIRGINITY

The bold red
pit-less cherry I lost dis-
passionately in youth
to a bull-rider whose
name I choose not to share

was one of a long line of
weak promises I’d made myself
then broken.
Virginity   1967   the holy grail of
jocks and prom queens
a superfluous cross of double standards

my poor busted hymen sobbing as it
circled the drain in a cheap motel
my bull-riding buddy shifting
uncomfortably in bare feet making
promises that hung between us like
the gutted bodies of dead deer.

FORM LETTER

To whom it may concern

1.
In response to your recent email
thank you for the invitation.
Please be advised I would accept
except for the fact that
I don’t date nice men.
I know you thought I did when
we met on the dance floor last night,
but you didn’t know my life is buried
in crap right now,
nor did you have the advantage of knowing
I’m not the kind of woman a man of good
conscience would want for himself;

although in my defense
I provide a useful service,
like dental floss or toilet paper.
The point is, I am having an affair with
a married man whose wife will not make
love anymore, though I sometimes
question his story. Also he seems to
exhibit signs of erectile dysfunction from
time to time.

Lucky for him, I am a good scout in such matters,
or a witch, laying hands on dead body parts,
making them rise again.
Still, in the interest of decency,
I advise you against trying to see me again,
reminding you the Titanic sank during a party.

To whom it may concern:

2.
In response to your most recent series of emails,
against my better judgment,
I will meet you tonight at
the Tree House on 49th at 9 o’clock.
I ask that you be punctual as my schedule is
tight and tricky at best.
Also, no surprises.
I may have my issues, but I am not a sure thing.

To whom it may concern:

3.
It isn’t as if I didn’t warn you.
It was an interesting evening I must confess.
By the way, good luck with your wife and her sister.
I hope last night was good for you; sadly, for me,
it was not.

Still, in the spirit of charity I wish you the best of luck
asking you to please delete this message and my email
address from your computer history.

And not to be unkind, but a thought worth mentioning here,
you might want to see a specialist,
a psychiatrist I think,
for that anger management problem you displayed last night
on my face.

Beverly Sweet’s poetry has been published in Curbside Review, Avocet, Spiky Palm, Sol, Medhunters, Hip 3 for Peace, Houston International Poetry, Di-Verse-City, Founders Edition, Earth Stories and others. She was a featured poet at University of Houston, Clear Lake Conference for Research and Creative Arts, and has been a featured poet at Barnes and Noble. She is currently working on a collection of poems entitled Snakes in Trees from her home in Texas.

List of Poets

Stephanie Stanley Walls

GIRL CRUSH

I’ve become nontransparent because of you,
moving like a mannequin, flexing every muscle,
wrestling back caresses, controlling gestures.

I purse my lips and swallow hard,
filling my belly with orphan kisses
that cry for you. These butterflies

are unauthorized. They flutter from
breast to thighs under the guise of pot roast
and lemon meringue pie. An invitation for a

double–date dinner grants me the chance
to delight in the rising and falling of your chest
and mine amidst the clank of stainless on stoneware,

as we simply, luxuriously, breathe the same air.
And I dream that I would wear you like an apron
while serving dessert to our husbands.

Stephanie Stanley Walls is a late bloomer. She recently completed an M.A. in writing. Her poems have also appeared on StrongVerse.org and CliteratureJournal.com. Stephanie was raised in the Mountains of East Tennessee, but she now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and splits her time between both of these beautiful places.

List of Poets

Kimberly Weikert

THE CHINESE RESTAURANT

A date after 20 years of marriage
to review divorce papers
In the middle of the room
we sit at a table
not at a booth.
We are not cozy,
intimate or
comfortable.
This is table talk.
The spring air is
mixed with the smell
of egg foo yong;
the decorations
of Chinese lanterns
and calendars seem
too happy for the occasion.
He left that day looking
bitter and sullen.
I, settled and resolute.
The slip from my fortune cookie:
Your happiness is intertwined
with your outlook on life.

Kimberly Weikert earned her Master’s degree at St. Bonaventure University where she studied Victorian poetry and prose. She is the director of the Twin Tiers Writers Workshop, a group in western New York that meets weekly to turn prompts into prose and has been published in Mom Egg Review.

List of Poets

Quinn White

UPSTAIRS TO THE BASEMENT

I watch Mighty Mouse to remember how thin
I was in Texas, Texas where my mother ran

to a man golden all over as if spun of sun.

On the way she and I drank beer
even though I was six.

In Texas, she and the man left
me to sleep on the floor,

to bathe in a tub whose lips
were lined with fire ants.

Then, like a plant
for its own good
given to someone
with a greener thumb,

grandparents drove me home
to Alabama, adopted me.

How could anyone explain?

Texas, my floor faced a mirror
propped against a wall.

I lay where they stood
to inspect themselves
before departure.

BIRTHMOTHER CLASS

I learned to relinquish in a room with other women whose eyes were films reflecting films of decisions and directions, how to surrender, where we’d land, a public space. We sat on the floor.

Used to “yes,” I said “yes,” and pretend-pushed in the basketball court, studied oxygen and metrics, a question of rights answered with how our signature is a Valentine, how we twice bless these forms, how we should avoid labor face-up on our backs.

I held her. She wore a bow. I gave her to the nurse. Not my cheeks that reddened, but my visitor’s. Even slowed by nightgown and slippers, even fuzzied by I’m not sure needles or pills, I didn’t wobble as I walked empty home, upstairs to my bedroom; My eyes cradled the size of the thing, its yellow duck packaging, a love that shattered speech.

Quinn White is the author of My Moustache (Dancing Girl Press, 2013) and Orienteering (Origami Poems Project, 2013). Her poems have appeared in journals such as Sixth Finch, The Adroit Journal and Vending Machine Press. Quinn is a graduate of Virginia Tech’s MFA poetry program. She lives in Alabama with her husband and three cats.

List of Poets

Catherine G. Wolf

SMALL TRUTHS

With his cane and his cap, Leon totters onto the balcony,
his craggy shadow long in the florescent dawn.
He bends to clip a potted miniature red rose.
He knows if he squats he’ll get stuck, as if Satan
was pulling him down. He remembers when he had
a real garden bursting with roses,
five glorious bushes of hybrid teas– deep red,
purple-pink, sunset red, baby pink and something else–
perhaps creamy–in the backyard of his home in DC.
Not this puny three by six excuse-for-a-garden
in Nowhere Virginia. Was it just seven years ago?
Leaning hard on his cane, Leon rights himself
grabs the door jamb, thrusts his body inside,
with this offering for his wife of 76 years,
He crab-walks the dozen feet to the kitchen,
gives the rose to his wife. Her blue eyes
shining like the Hope Diamond.
They kiss gently on the lips, each unconsciously
aware of the other’s dubious balance.
With her quivering Parkinson’s hands, translucent
with glacier blue veins, Sylvia pours his Cheerios,
slices bananas for extra potassium, avoiding the brown parts.
She peers at the date on the skim milk carton,
wrinkling her brow to get her trifocals in the right position.
“Damn glasses,” she mutters to herself.
To the side of the table on top of the New York Times,
brochures for assisted living their oldest daughter silently
dropped off with the paper. They intrude, rip the music
of their life like a 9.0 earthquake. How dare she! Sylvia thinks.
How dare she, Leon thinks. She cajoled them out of their house
into this drab cinder-beige condo. Sylvia maneuvers herself
to the table, lands on the chair with a soft plop.
Every Sunday, they do the New York Times crossword
together—the hardest of the week—testament to their
mental soundness. Sylvia squints at the puzzle.
Is that 6 or 8 down? She calls to Leon washing dishes,
“Gnome.” He replies, “Home?”
Sylvia repeats, “No, no, gnome.” Leon asks, “No one home?”
On to 15 across, “Eschew,” Sylvia screams. Leon, “Shoes?
You know I can’t hear you when the water’s on,” he rationalizes.
He, at 98, has been going deaf for twenty years,
boycotts his daughter’s attempts to get him hearing aids.
Even a small truth can be deadly.
Sylvia cries, “Never mind!” And shuffles over to
Leon, plants a kiss on his neck.

Catherine G. Wolf studied language development in graduate school, and was fascinated by this unique human ability. In 1997, when she was stricken with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, her ability to speak was taken away by this disease. She found poetry had a special capability to express her innermost feelings. By losing her physical voice, Catherine found her poetic voice. She always enjoyed dancing, and now dances with her eyes. Catherine has poems in or soon to be in Bellevue Literary Review and Front Porch Review and she will appear in the fall/winter issue of Rat’s Ass Review. She writes blogs and articles about living with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Now Catherine uses assistive technology to communicate, and raises her right eyebrow to type. She is studying poetry at the writerstudio.com . For other work by Catherine in Rat’s Ass Review, go here and here.

List of Poets

Robin Wright

AFTER YOU LEFT

I dreamt I woke up blind
outside on hard ground,
unable to distinguish
one blade of grass from another.
All around me birds cooed,
as if they knew
your leaving didn’t change
water, earth, or sky.
Sky still offered a breakfast
of sun and milky clouds.
Water still bathed the earth
to new hues of green and gray.
Earth still held me upright
though I wanted, in my blindness,
to fall upon her. And the birds,
the birds continued chanting
praise for the day.

A LITTLE BLACK DRESS

exposes skin on my neck and chest, down
to a glimpse of cleavage.
You want to take your finger,
dip it in your cold drink
then trace the line around that dress.
You want me to shiver
like someone pulled
from an icy lake
while you touch me like that.
You want to watch my nipples
stiffen. I know you do.
It’s the way you don’t stare
that tells me. Go ahead,

wander around the room,
carry your Seagram’s and Seven
with you, tip your head back,
pretend not to glance while you sip.
Spill some on your tie, so maybe
I’ll help you wipe it off.
You think I don’t know
what you’re doing? That I don’t know
you’re looking
when you believe I don’t see?

No, we both know what you’re doing,
just like we both know
this dress is my confession.

WHAT THIS WOMAN WANTS

I want to lie next to you, breathe
your animal smell, lick the side of your head
where skin and hair meet. I want to sip White Zin
until poetry pours through us
and you drink me in.
I want you to want me
like wind, blowing through you
not stopping, not slowing, shaking you
until you forget there’s anything
outside the window, the room, the bed.

THE DANCE

Tara stumbled in the door
of Teddy’s Tavern
six beers into her drunken dance,
her words a slurred pirouette
of language.

Her third marriage
and her mother
died this week.

Her husband grabbed her
for their last waltz,
spun her around
until the bruises
around her eyes and on her arms
matched the color of his heart.

Robin Wright’s work has appeared in various literary journals, including Rat’s Ass Review, Quatrain.Fish, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, and Amarillo Bay. Two of her poems were published in the University of Southern Indiana’s 50th anniversary anthology, Time Present, Time Past. She has also co-written two novels with Maryanne Burkhard under the name B. W. Wrighthard, Ghost Orchid and A Needle and a Haystack. For more of Robin’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Gareth Writer-Davies

TENNIS BALL

when struck
from one racquet to another

like a bullet
at a hundred miles per hour

there is no time
to think

when dinked
(dropping softly and dying at feet onrushing)

I become aware
of the spin and slice upon me

how muscle and cunning
formed a shot

that between lines of symmetry
was the broken point

upon which the game
was decided

I am played
upon the amorous strings of others

bounce me
I am at your service

STI

we’re all here for the same reason

the worried well
those creeped by someone else’s bed

some stare at the floor
others are busy with tablets and phones

no time
to catch a strangers eye

but when a name is called
we look up

wounded
let down
stunned and shocked

the reason we are here
to love again

Gareth Writer-Davies was Commended in the Prole Laureate Competition in 2015, Specially Commended in the Welsh Poetry Competition and Highly Commended in the Sherborne Open Poetry Competition, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Erbacce Prize in 2014. His pamphlet Bodies, was published in 2015 through Indigo Dreams and his next pamphlet Cry Baby will be published in 2017. See more by Gareth here.

(Browse the List of Poets)

Poems added September 23, 2016

Devon Balwit

HOLDOUTS

Let them use voice recognition, embed hyperlinks,
turn and point their Oculis Rift, I will tappity-tap

the old fashioned way, run my fingers over well-
worn keys, make your body and mine sing as they

have for decades. We don’t need a mission to
No Man’s Sky, our blue/grey is marvel enough,

and the known birds, the house finches, the
earnest robins and cheeky crows. Rediscovering

each other will get us no points, no upgrades
beyond making us ready to forgive our humanness

for a few more spins of this great rock through
charted space. I unlocked no chest to find

your skin, could find no buyer for it, worn as it is,
yet it delights me, hours of game-play left.

Dog-eared, laggy, prone to crash, we are so
yesterday, yet also, I hope, so tomorrow.

NO APOLOGIES

I rolled over on you last night, made an invitation
to which you answered, I don’t want to.

In the morning, you denied it, I didn’t say that,
I would never
, but I heard you, and listened,

alone with my insomnia until the night greyed and
released me. I don’t hold it against you.

Every day demands its pound of flesh: work, soul,
family, even the dog. To escape into the cocoon

of sleep is no trifle. There—milky, larval—we prepare
for the day’s labor, grow secret wings.

Never fear. I’ll come to you again, persistent as breath,
a heartbeat, the blink of an eye.

YOU, AND ALWAYS YOU

This is the madness we dance for (…)
to come apart piece by
bloodied piece knowing nothing
goes back,

from Vivisecting by Philip Schaefer & Jeff Whitney

I’ve given you all of me, taken
you deep inside to hunker
while bombs whistled all around,

split myself for you, three souls
crowning a bloody rim, a Pollock
gene-spatter into the future,

wished you dead and resurrected,
hurled your stuff through open windows
and dragged it back before dawn,

cursed and loved you in tongues,
bright fire lashing, then banking ash,
laying in for winter, ready for rekindling,

roped myself to your mast, pummeled
by waves, spun dizzy and sick,
yet trusting deep current,

gnawed to rind, cracked bone to marrow,
taken each ragged piece and skipped you,
dancing, on a skin of light.

Devon Balwit is a poet and educator from Portland, Oregon. Her poetry has found many homes, among them: 3 elements, Anti-Heroin Chic, Birds Piled Loosely, Bonk!, drylandlit, Dying Dahlia Review, Ink Sweat & Tears, Leveler, MAW, Rattle, Red Paint Hill Publishing, The Fem, The Fog Machine, The Literary Nest, The NewVerse News, The Yellow Chair, txt objx, vox poetica, and Vanilla Sex Magazine.

List of Poets

Wayne F. Burke

HOW DID I LOVE THEE?

let me count the swizzle sticks
and empty bottles
the cocktail shakers
and the olives
the coasters I never used
the glasses I did not bother with
the puddles on the bar
the soggy dollars
the hours
the hours
the stools and chairs
the jukebox
R7 “Riders on the Storm”
A 4 “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford
the ashtrays
the smoking cigarette butts
the pickled eggs and crackers and
Slim Jims
and beer nuts…
I loved you more than the summer days
I glimpsed through
the curtained windows.

Wayne F. Burke’s poetry has appeared in a variety of publications. His three published poetry collections, all with BareBackPress, are WORDS THAT BURN (2013), DICKHEAD (2015), and KNUCKLE SANDWICHES (2016). A chapbook, PADDY WAGON, is scheduled for publication by Epic Rites Press in 2016. He lives in the central Vermont area.

List of Poets

Lanette Cadle

POEM WITH A BROKEN HEART IN THE MIDDLE OF IT

Of all the poems in all the world
you had to end up in this one. That’s
what love does–the unlikely becomes
foretold, the handpicked wildflowers
charming yet slightly illegal, the everyday
glosses into something more, something
that gave birth to the cliché rather than
the cliché itself. And when it wears off,
nothing is left but the bitter, bitter dregs.

Until then, it is not illusion; instead it dwells
in the land of the hyperreal. The (dyed) orange daisies
delineate sharply from the air. Puddles swirl
rainbows from the oil leak. Your tires
need replacing and you can smell
the burnt edges after they stop. These clues
to an expensive future don’t bother you,
and when your lover’s eyes, those windows
to the soul, flicker to the bleached blonde,
you know it and pack it away like
a fall sweater for when it turns cold.

SONNET WITH A PILE OF SHOES IN IT

I judged your moods by looking at your shoes,
the loafers your frivolous side, the cordovan wing tips
fair warning that the man who worshipped me
had left the building, leaving scattered clues
leading to his return, clues I had to snip and fit
in place like the quilt your mother never made us
but long promised. I wonder if you have it now,
and is it that pattern I can’t name but see so plainly,
just like she drew it out on the floor with her finger,
making me think of writing on the wall but dismissing it as
an unworthy cliché, the kind that shows up to remind even poets
that clichés exist because they happen all the time, every day,
and even to me. You wore tennis shoes and I didn’t know
that it would be important until years later, when it no longer was.

TO MARVELL, IN THE FALL

My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow

–“To His Coy Mistress” Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

If I had counter space, or time,
I could show you all the ensnarled roots
shrouding this so-called vegetable you lay
upon my hearth like late season cuisine,

but time, as you rightly say, is the carp
in our diem, the butter lettuce that needs
to be shaken and eaten quickly before
it wilts or the dressing separates into oil

from vinegar. It’s true that watermelons
get thumped for that hollow, fresh sound
and when the tone is gone, get dumped
behind the fruit stand, compost for new seeds,

something neither of us are. I’m not
your petite chou, and you’re not my spring
harvest. Each zucchini has its day, but age
hits and there’s nothing left to do but

chop it into some sort of simmering stew
left on the hearth with a bouquet garni
at its heart. Good cooking takes time. Help me
stir the broth so we don’t starve in winter.

Lanette Cadle teaches both rhetoric and creative writing at Missouri State University. Her poet site is at poet.lanettecadle.com and her academic blog, “Just a Blog,” is at lanettecadle.com . She has previously published poetry in Weave, TAB: The Journal of Poetry and Poetics, Menacing Hedge, Yellow Chair Review, Rose Red Review, and Stirring.

List of Poets

Joan Canby

FALLING

Below the Red River a woman fell out of the sky
through a hole made by the tree of life.

Beside the Trinity River a turtle grew to become the earth.

Inside the cabin a man wrote his life letting it go –
pages fluttered into the sky falling into the rivers

next to crape myrtle, — trees of pink-flesh, skin-smooth bark —
like you when we loved — like me remembering our falling.

Joan Canby obtained her MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts and has been published in Main Street Rag, Illya’s Honey, and California Quarterly. She lives in Texas where she raises Scottish Terriers.

List of Poets

Mary Downes

CAN WE GO?

I want to make love to you
right here at the table.
Can we do it without
actually
touching?

To not kiss you is exquisite.
My jaw aches with longing,
eyes greedily take you in
I swallow
you whole.

You speak, words on deaf ears…
Suddenly I’m standing,
I can no longer sit still
“Can we go?”
You smile.

When Mary Downes isn’t wrestling with finishing her first novel, or working full time, she writes poetry. She lives with her family on a very, very old farm near the Great Bay on the seacoast of New Hampshire. She has nothing to complain about, but often does anyway.

List of Poets

Majda Gama

2 BIT

Feeling like
a 2-bit
whore today, seems
a woman can’t give
of her mouth,
fingers & lips
too freely, seems
that when a woman
is begged
to be on top
she is undoing
herself & all
future connection
to mind & soul; seems
once bodies meet
he is leaving while
I’m just coming.
I will keep my self
to myself
& stay on top of me.

Majda Gama is a Saudi-American poet based near Washington, DC where she has roots as a DJ and activist. Her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Gargoyle, Hunger Mountain, Mizna and are forthcoming from Duende, The Fairy Tale Review and Rising Phoenix Press.

List of Poets

Marianna Hofer

The Apprentice Photographer And One Theory Of Light

A small girl, 9 or 10, she’d be left by her folks at
the farm outside Blachleyville for a week or two,
go to church there with her favorite aunt.

She wonders now, when she thinks
of them, what, if any, denomination
the congregation was, if it mattered beyond
a chance to clean up, socialize, contemplate
different challenges for an hour or two.

Sunday school met in the bell tower
where once a yellow plate of
fresh sugar cookies sat on
a windowsill. Dusty morning sun
at an angle, thick bars of light
slashed across the pale cookies,
sugar crystals turned to prisms.
The room smelled of vanilla.

*

Blue February evening light
thick with the possibility of
late winter fog. At the corner
of Main and Crawford you shine
in the hazy mercury vapor light,
it falls like well worn velvet
on your shoulders.

You cross the street.
The air smells of melting snow.
She touches the sleeve of
your jacket, would scoop
the light, crumbling, indistinct,
into her hands, pour it
into yours if only she could.

The lush language of light.
The language of lush light.
Like love, here it is, falling
from nowhere in particular.

Marianna Hofer has Studio 13 in the gloriously haunted Jones Building in Findlay, OH. Her poems and stories appear in small magazines, and her b&w photography hangs in local exhibitions and eateries. Her first book, A Memento Sent by the World, was published by Word Press in 2008. For more of Marianna’s work in Rat’s Ass Review, go here and to Volume Three, Issue 1 (2015).

List of Poets

David Lohrey

BRIDE OF THE SKY

It was her nose that caught my attention,
but not as a prim thing with a small IQ to match.
It was something grand like a tropical toucan.
As the poet’s jar engulfed by rugged Tennessee,
this nose was more a presence than an object.
Her green eyes though were not jungle wild;
they took me to places like the Warsaw ghetto.
I think today of her as a thing of art, because like a carving
or, even more, an engraving, her features seem immortal.

We met in Paolo’s car on the way to Rio, a local favorite.
She sat in front and I right in back behind her.
I had already met her nose.
I couldn’t help myself and reached up to
touch the nape of her neck as a way to say hello.
When we stopped and got out of the car,
she approached and whispered,
“I like the hand on the neck.”

What a thing. The only time in my life
I have loved someone’s nose.
We fucked all the time but she didn’t want anyone
to know. I was only 23
but felt freed from the unknown.
Had it been another time and place,
we might have had a go, but we let things flounder
and blew the chance of a lifetime.

Marian had had giant soft tits
and that is all there is to it.
She wondered aloud if that was what
had drawn me, as they had attracted others;
she recited men’s comments.
I’m sorry, my love, it isn’t your chest,
not even your beautiful green eyes.
It is that majestic nose, the beak of an eagle,
the bride of the sky that did it.

Picasso had almost got her right with
his cave-dwelling ladies. She had the same angular
breasts and a grand Baroque ass.
She was cross-eyed, too, and carried that nose
with its high-arched bone. What he got wrong were the feet,
which were not like the Spaniard’s lumbering ladies,
gigantic, but small. He hadn’t caught
her skin color either, which was pale and creamy, not gray,
coffee or gravy, nor that most modern of hues, blue.

She’d had a searching mind, a sly smile,
a wicked, charming laugh – almost a cackle.
She was a little crazy. She used to bang
her head against the wall, and, she said,
did it because she felt worthless. She could be
cold and hyper-critical, snobby and dismissive.
She was capable of violence. She once
punched me in the stomach and made
me double over.

We lost touch. I saw her, though, sometime later.
She was down fifty pounds.
She kept her nose and her sexy laugh
but her thighs and marvelous ass were gone.
No longer ancient, she had become modern.
She was sleek and sickly like T.S. Eliot.
She was a ghost. She’d once,
this Marian Treger, had Eliot’s appetite
for things; now she bore his sorrows.

She still had her nose,
but she had dropped her beguiling smile.
I knew then and there that something was irretrievably lost.
She was thin and less than lively.
She was no longer Rubens’; she belonged to Modigliani.
She was brittle and, I could see a mile away,
no longer interested in me.
I went to our friend from São Luís, who shrugged:
“Some toucan prefer Venezuela.”

David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and served as a voting member of the Los Angeles Ovation Awards for theatre. His plays have appeared around the country and, more recently, in Lithuania and Croatia, in translation. He is currently writing a memoir of his years living in the Persian Gulf.

List of Poets

Virgil Mathes

MOON POOL

The path is dark and wooded, but illuminated by
distant lights and our love

grows more powerful with each passing
step along the dark path.

We reach the pool ringed by concrete and stone
just as the moon peeks over the pine tops

A timed valve has opened
for our appointment with

Romance

The pool is filled with natural
Spring water

lending a heady buoyancy to our bodies
as though we were suspended not
by natural minerals but
by our very love

The placid moon peers
down upon her twin sisters mirrored
in the water’s surface as I pull you

close to my center
your hair radiating from your crown
like the halo of a goddess

Virgil Mathes is a full time faculty member at ASU West in Phoenix, Arizong, where he teaches a variety of English courses to a grateful younger generation. A part-time literary malingerer, he dabbles heartily in poetry and prose, favoring short genres that do not unduly tax his post-post-modern attention span.

List of Poets

Gene McCormick

ROLLING OLIVES

Elbow propped on the hotel bar
holding her head with one hand
while rolling two stuffed martini olives
across the bar top, back and forth.
Unfocused, she punches at the olives
with her swizzle stick,
the name of the hotel imprinted on it.
The olives wobble more than roll.

My name is Veronica she says
to the man who bought her a drink.
My namesake was the woman who
wiped the face of Christ as he
carried his cross to be crucified.
But you can call me Ronnie.
Want an olive?

He presses his thumb to an olive,
squashing it flat to the bar.
He picks up the other one
and sucks the pimento out of it.

No. I want to fuck you.

I have a room on the fourth floor, she says.

Gene McCormick has had twenty books published, a mix of fiction, poetry, non-fiction. His latest is Obsessions, due out this fall from Middle Island Press. He is also the illustrator for Misfitmagazine.net.

List of Poets

Leah Mueller

INTERSTATE CROSS

Your apartment building
perches beside the interstate
at the edge of downtown Seattle,
amidst the glass hotels and office buildings
although I thought it would be demolished
before the 21st century
ever peeked its head outside the wormhole.
That was before the worm
went crazy, and ate everything
in its path, then declared
it was ravenous, and would eat forever,
until its seams burst wide open.
You and I had finished
a session of lovemaking.
We had tried our hardest
to manufacture love out of nothing,
but we weren’t completely successful.
I stayed for one final orgasm,
placed my hand on your doorknob,
and spun the top lock, to set myself free
from the confines of your bedroom.
The broken lock rotated uselessly
and failed to connect with anything.
I was trapped inside your apartment:
no way to escape from you-
half an hour late for work,
my car parked beside an expired meter.
You indicated your window,
pointed towards the fire escape,
and asked, “how’s your ankles?”
I replied, “not very good”
as I shimmied down the metal ladder,
escaping your terrible flames.
I noticed a six foot drop
to the sidewalk from the bottom rung:
a terrifying chasm, ringed
by overflowing garbage bins.
I closed my eyes tightly,
catapulted towards the cement,
landed on both feet, then took off running
before the cops could ticket my car.
“See you next weekend!” you yelled.
Now, 23 years later,
I still look up at your apartment window
as I pass your building on the freeway,
and wondered whether we ever escaped,
or if perhaps we aren’t still there.
The metal cranes perch nearby
like mantises, ready to devour everything
including your inflated head,
but at least I survived, and your building
still stands: proud and useless,
like a roadside memorial
to a person nobody remembers.

SOLSTICE

You returned
from a year-long
trip to Asia,
and slept for
twenty-four hours
until the jangling
of your telephone
awakened you.
I apologized, but
you invited me
to come over
immediately
and disturb you
some more.

An hour later,
I stood in
your apartment
on the longest
night of the year,
surrounded by
singing bowls
and heavy tapestries
of androgynous gods
and goddesses,
their bodies arranged
in improbable positions.

Later, we reclined
on the back porch
of a biker bar
in the waning
Seattle heat
and cooled ourselves
with warm
pints of beer.
When we kissed,
a nearby biker
asked whether
we’d had orgasms yet.

Since we hadn’t,
we returned
to your place,
and gave it
our best shot.
You had an orgasm,
but I didn’t.
I chalked it up
to inexperience,
and told myself
it didn’t matter.
We fell asleep
on your sticky bed,
entwined
like Shiva’s arms.

Leah Mueller is an independent writer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of one chapbook, “Queen of Dorksville” (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2012), and two full-length books, “Allergic to Everything” (Writing Knights Press, 2015) and “The Underside of the Snake” (Red Ferret Press, 2015). Her work has been published in Blunderbuss, Sadie Girl Press, Origins Journal, Talking Soup, Silver Birch Press, Cultured Vultures, and many other publications. She is a regular contributor to Quail Bell magazine, and was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival. Leah was also a runner-up in the 2012 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest. For more of Leah’s work, go here.

List of Poets

James Prenatt

PERMISSION TO BRUISE

You want to call out his name, say please stop.
You want him to make you hate him.

You don’t have to fight anymore,
but it’s better if you do,
just for a while.

Soon, after enough struggle,
your bones and your muscles
will not grow exhausted,
but tired – tired of trying
when they know it’s no use anymore.

The Mind yields.
The Body follows.
Enough is enough.

You’ll be able to move,
but you won’t want to.

What was once an indicator of injury
gives up.
You give up your life
the way you’ve been waiting
to give up all your life.
Not through the lips,
but through the eyes,
you say it, he has earned it:
permission to bleed,

permission to bruise.

UNTIL YOUR FINGERS BLEED

We play the song without tabs and sing along even though we don’t know the words.
I forget the notes and you tell me they don’t matter much, it’s the contortion of the fingers that makes it count.
My wrists grow sore,
but the blisters haven’t calloused yet.

The way we do this, it hurts.
We will our bodies to listen to the timing of the drum and play
until our backs hunch and our bodies convulse,
until the sounds we make can no longer be called music.

This is where the record goes silent and the listeners wait for a few minutes, hoping for another track.

I follow the line of hair from your bellybutton to your groin,
leave a slight glint of saliva on your breast.

Your eyes move underneath the lids
and tell me you’re dreaming.

You wake up and ask me why,
but like most of your questions, I don’t know the answer.

Maybe it’s the unpermanent scars someone else left.
Maybe it’s the way you make me feel
like a rock star with an angry guitar,
the kind I smash after the show,
the kind I play until
it can’t remember it’s a guitar anymore
so it throws my hands around its neck
and says yes, please and I say yeah, like that,
until there’s nothing left
but three chords:
a young man,
his goodbye kiss to the crowd
and the echo of his growling voice in a girl’s head.

JOSEPH

Recite that dream to me again,
the one where I fuck you, than kill you.
I hold the knife to your neck from behind.
With enough force, I could decapitate you.

Love, or at least what we decided to call love
is always more than we bargained for,
the drug, the one you only wanted to try for a night
so good and so shameful you can’t speak its name out loud.
I didn’t do anything wrong before, but now I just itch for it.

You’re an addiction of the cruelest kind.

You could make me dive into ice water.
When we do it, you say, you’ll thank me.
I swear you’ll never have felt so warm in your life.

I never thought I’d call this sex.
How when I’m done, my skin hurts.
It’s not fair.
You’re so beautiful it breaks my heart.
It must be a sin in someone’s bible,
the temporary nature of the pleasure you give me
and the eternal longing that follows.

You’re not dead, but sometimes I wish you were.
That privilege we have with our animals,
how their death can be a small relief,
for with absence a burden is lifted
despite all the lovely reasons they lived for you.

There’s not much I can do for you now.
I know our usual motif, but it’s meaningless.

Being scared of the initial pain
yet still letting the body relax,
my hips pressed in the air and giving welcome.
That’s being brave now,
so different than the cage before.
I’m free.
Say it,
you tell me
I’m free.

James Prenatt lives in Baltimore with his dog, his thing, a noisy cat and noisier toddler. He graduated from Towson University with an okay GPA and currently interns at a small publishing company.

List of Poets

Kerenza Ryan

READING WHILE NUMB

You dance abundant
Legs crisscrossing on the floor
Your body all cursive letters

I wonder what exactly you’re spelling out
As you and her
Swim weightless through open air
And I watch on the docky sidelines

But I can’t read cursive
My eyes, as ill-adjusted as my carbon copy feet
So even as you say
You need someone brilliant to dance with
(Someone brilliant at dance that is—
Not that you’re not— )

I think I can comprehend context clues
But I don’t think I want to
And I don’t think I care

AN ORNAMENTAL AFFAIR

Your hair sticks, static
Against the pillow
Almost sharp with mousse
As I contemplate
Rushing you out the door

I still throw the sheets in the laundry
After you leave
And sometimes before

But I don’t cook either of you dinner
Or wear the bright blue dress.

Kerenza Ryan is a student at Cairn University studying English. Her work has also been published in Blue Lake Review, Peeking Cat Poetry, Poetry Quarterly, and other literary journals. She can be found writing about writing on twitter @KerenzaRyan, or writing her way through college in Bristol, PA.

List of Poets

Alec Solomita

KIN

You’d think he would have done it to me,
in a kind of quasi-Oedipal spree.
Not the other way around, where
every time I found a moment to spare
I’d sluice his latest love. I mean anywhere.
His Saab, her parents’ bathroom, my own
girl’s Posturpedic when she was home for the
holidays. And what was it about him or them
(or me!) that made these the smoothest of conquests,
the look that says yes yes despite Thanksgiving guests
or eulogies or sheets of sizzling sleet?
Despite the love for him that we shared,
some giddy spur made us limber enough
to vault bushes and couple in spikey grass when
he wandered off to smoke a joint with some friends.
What was it that drove me to beat him
into unconscious endless cuckoldhood,
he whom I loved the best, the most, my blood,
my baby brother, the handsome mad and jealous one?
I pocketed every one of his babes. I banged them sore,
chafed, grinning, and oh Christ the fun it was,
the drunken coked up acid fun, to sway above
swollen pale eyes at five in the morning
do this to me do this.

BLACK OPS

I thought I had a chance
with you, but you up and
moved — to St. Louis
for Jesus’ sake! That,
as they used to say in
St. Louis, is “a fer piece”
from Beantown, which
no one says here.

I’ll tell you something,
you really are something,
downing dirty martinis
like the soldier you are,
bitching about gun laws,
what a dick your ex was.
Listening when I talked,
I mean, seriously.

And how many soldiers
look like you? How many?
So gifted in the bust!
So flushed and redhaired!
And we go out for drinks
Twice. No — three times. Then you
slip off to St. Louie, Louie.

And who, as it turns out,
is in St Louis?
A boyfriend, a Ranger.
I don’t know …
I knew basic training
was a bitch, but I don’t know
whether to go blind
or wind my watch.

FUTON COVER

Gradually you’ve diminished in my thoughts
until now you’re here pretty much only rarely:
Occasionally in sleep you shadow up …
in mostly benign ways; we’re shopping
for a futon cover or strolling the Yard.
And when I’m forgetful you pop up from
our long past like an avenging Asian
to hound me about my drinking.
You say it’s affecting my mind and in time
my brain will be a shrunken fist of a thing.
It’s been four years since you left me because
I drink too much and wouldn’t shop for a
futon cover with you. My brain seems OK,
well enough, at least, to hate you, but maybe
that’s the last to go.

THE COMING OF AGE

If you don’t own the Ritz,
don’t look at my tits.
I’ll call the police
if you look at my ass.
Don’t look at my legs
and don’t try to beg.
Don’t look at my hips.
Don’t look at my lips.
Don’t look at my thighs.
Don’t look at my eyes.
Don’t look at my face.
You’re not in the race.

Alec Solomita’s fiction has appeared in, among other publications, The Adirondack Review, The Mississippi Review, Southwest Review, and Ireland’s Southword Journal. , Recently, he’s published poetry in 3Elements Literary Review, Literary Orphans, Silver Birch Press, Turk’s Head Review, Algebra of Owls, Driftwood Press, and, forthcoming, Sourland Mountain Review and Fulcrum: An International Anthology of Poetry and Aesthetics. He lives in Somerville, Mass.

List of Poets

Sharon Svendsen

YOU YOU

have my soul
in a jar ajar

or we meet as
a mobius strip—
tracing fingers won’t
let an end end.

When I worry
glass breaks,
tears tear—

I remember
that gusts
do not always
blow blows.

Wind can
wind up a kite
flute a flute,
light a light,
chime a chime
fill a billow
puffed up like a pillow
to make
a sail sail.

Somersaulting through
gold dust
we land in
the mine. Mine.

Sharon Svendsen’s work has been published in Feathertale, Descap, Spank the Carp, Bellowing Ark, The Long Story, Atrocity, and many other periodicals and anthologies. In the past, she ran two reading series, and until she ran out of funds, she was publisher and poetry editor of HA! a humor magazine, and head of Writers’ Haven Press which published two poetry collections and several booklets of winners from Writers’ Haven contests.

List of Poets

Catherine G. Wolf

FIRST TIME

Nervous,
they lie on her Hello Kitty rug sharing a reefer.
He makes hand puppets on the wall—
a winging dove and a ragged rabbit—
in the purple glow of her lava lamp.
She giggles,
plops his hand awkwardly on her small,
but symmetrical hillock of a sixteen year-old breast. He explores it
as if on some exotic territory.
Her room shrieks little girl, with its two-story doll house
with miniature family eating breakfast in the kitchen,
Big Bird on a shelf, his black eyes focused on the scene below.
She turns to him, kisses his salty-sour neck, bites his earlobe
with ravenous hunger.
He turns to her, the dark hairs on the back of his neck suddenly erect.
He thrusts his tongue deep into the tunnel of her mouth,
she sucks on it hard, a raspberry lollipop. His penis hard
between them, a rocket ready to launch fueled by the urgency of youth.
He fumbles in his wallet, extracts the two year old Trojan
bought at age fifteen. The other hand tentatively massaging her sweet spot.
She rises wordlessly, throws off her tee shirt, nipples standing at attention,
kicks her shorts towards the doll house. He follows, under the spell of the first time.

INDECISION

He often jokes but it is a cover
for his grief, or some would say self-pity.
He stands in their bedroom and he hovers
to remind himself life is turd-shitty.
Because his wife is grisly sick, barbed wire
to his sex drive; he dreams of lush young blondes
with perfumed skin, Waits for her to expire.
He curses himself for his marriage bonds
which haunt his grim dreams. He can’t escape guilt
over her ruthlessly cruel, dank decline.
His frozen life is like a crazy quilt
without design, walking on the fault line.
He hates the scent of her dragon-like piss,
so he slides in bed and gives her a kiss.

Catherine G. Wolf studied language development in graduate school, and was fascinated by this unique human ability. In 1997, when she was stricken with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, her ability to speak was taken away by this disease. She found poetry had a special capability to express her innermost feelings. By losing her physical voice, Catherine found her poetic voice. She always enjoyed dancing, and now dances with her eyes. Catherine has poems in or soon to be in Bellevue Literary Review and Front Porch Review and she will appear in the fall/winter issue of Rat’s Ass Review. She writes blogs and articles about living with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Now Catherine uses assistive technology to communicate, and raises her right eyebrow to type. She is studying poetry at the writerstudio.com . For other work by Catherine in Rat’s Ass Review, go here and here.

List of Poets

Erin York

OUR END LIKE A QUESTION

Who knew that the death of you
could reach phantom fingers inside of me
and infect my heart with its own kind of dying
and breaking
and numbing
and drying out
like flowers
hanged in a dusty room.

Your fingers remain buried within me,
five daisies,
five phantom memories,
five ghosts in black dreams,
one for each of your personalities.

How the fuck do you exorcise the one you loved and took inside?

How do you heal from wounds
no outer salve or antibiotic can treat?

Even months after I’ve been cleansed
with clear liquor and capsules,
I find remnants of you
and petals on the wind
with tiny promises eked
from the chlorophyll in their veins.

For an instant, all is like a high,
an opiate and sprawling meadow
with the floral scent of your skin
draped around me like roots.

Then the noose tightens.
I remember you are dead to me,
that we are hanging,
bruised necks and blue tongues
in a dusty room.

The murders continue
until I’m sure that there will be nothing left of me,
but who cares, because without you or we,
why should there be flowers?

TWO VULTURES STILL CIRCLING HELL

I have a new lover.
I have a new house.
I live in a new city
next to new friends,
and I work a new job.

I drive the same car.
I never cleaned the stains from your coffee
during our trip to Maine.

I still sleep under the blanket
where we spent years wrapped together
two tangled, live wires
that got out of hand.

I still dream of the axe that split our door,
somehow more violent
than your body in flames
from the hell we built.

You were the fire.
I was the fire.

I am the fire.

Everywhere we go,
we burn everything to the ground.

So many things are new.
So many are not.

Erin York is a 26-year-old writer and editor. Her first book, The Light You Cannot Touch, was published by Puff Puff Publishing in 2014. Her second book, Le Petite Mort, is forthcoming this year. She was the recipient of the national Younkin-Rivera Prize for Poetry in 2008. For more information, visit www.erinyorkauthor.com .

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Poems added September 2, 2016

Erinn Batykefer

PARTY FOUL

Last weekend, my sister dragged me to a dark corner of the party
and threw her drink in my face.
“You’re furious,” she said.
Apparently, anger was rolling off my body
like waves of heat from a smelting furnace,
and three people who had been standing behind me
in line at the bar started coughing, said they smelled something odd—
a singeing melt of lace and polyester and sequins—
and looked down to find their clothes
smoldering on their bodies where they stood.
One of them had 3rd degree burns at least,
and another guest was taking him to the emergency room.
That’s what my sister said, anyway, dabbing at my shirt
with a cocktail napkin even though the mess
had mostly evaporated by then. “Oh,” I said.
She tried to pry the gnarled black coal of a heart from my sleeve.
“Can you get your voice to stop sounding like that?”
I slapped her hand away. “Like what?”
“Like crackling flames—everyone will know
it was you. Can you hide this thing? It’s unsightly.
And possibly dangerous.” She made a sharp, exasperated gesture
toward the heart, which cracked along the seams and beat
once, seeping black fluid. I said nothing.
I stared at the floor, afraid to look
anywhere or speak a word—three people!
What would be left behind, I wondered, if my body boiled off
in a Wicked-Witch melting, melting, melting?
A steaming black hat
of hair? Keratin and calcium, a hot slag of copper and iron
where my blood used to be?
Bones and teeth. Weaponry.
“Your hair,” my sister whispered then,
“It’s starting to smoke.”

Erinn Batykefer earned her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is the author of Allegheny, Monongahela (Red Hen Press) and The Artist’s Library: A Field Guide (Coffee House Press). She is co-founder and editor of The Library as Incubator Project, and works as a librarian in Connecticut.

List of Poets

Jane Blanchard

Email

from Hillary to Huma

How could he, once again, get caught
for doing other than he ought?
He needs to keep it in his pants
to spare you both from further rants.
What motivates this urge to cheat
so stupidly tweet after tweet?
Why does he have to shed his shirt
to look up yet another skirt?
Just for a peek at some plump rump
he makes me vulnerable to Trump!
Your man, like mine, must now refrain
until the end of my campaign.

Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia. Her poetry has recently appeared in The Dark Horse, The Lyric, and The Rotary Dial. Her chapbook Unloosed is available from Kelsay Books. To read more of Jane’s work go here.

List of Poets

F. C. Brown Cloud

IN THE THEATER

Start with three holes drilled into bone,
Medium bore, enough to get a jigsaw in.

Cut skull and skin until the cranium becomes a hinge,
Trapdoor to the brain.
Scissor the dura, peel back pink-leaking flaps,
Poke and prod within the suppurating space.
It’s zonked and yet it kicks. Mindless, it is mine.
An hour passes, anesthetized.
Then inspect the wound. Leave behind no stray debris
As the shell is put together again. Apply FleshSealTM liberally,
Superglue for our selves.
Groggy, suffering headaches and tears but otherwise unimpaired,
The beast can go its way.

I’ve done this to monkeys.
Tool-less, she’s doing it to me.

F. C. Brown Cloud teaches creative writing at the Monroe County Jail and corresponds with inmates across the Midwest for his work with Pages to Prisoners and as director of the Indiana Prisoners’ Writing Workshop. His publications include short fiction in the Vignette Review (forthcoming), Bartleby Snopes and Toasted Cheese; nonfiction in Literary Orphans, the Weeklings and Chicago Literati; and research articles in Molecular Membrane Biology and The Journal of Cell Biology. Brown Cloud received his B.A. from Northwestern and his Ph.D. from Stanford. Find him in Bloomington, Indiana or at fcbrowncloud.com.

List of Poets

Wendy Taylor Carlisle

I THOUGHT

I thought the sky would amount to something
different but he put it in his hatband
and strolled down to the end of the dock.

Highs in the 80’s and the untrustworthy
heavens, never look up. Never look back.
I’ll use my brain. You use my body.

I have a friend. You are a failed adventure.

Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives and writes in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the author of two books, Reading Berryman to the Dog and Discount Fireworks (both Jacaranda Books.) Her most recent publication is Persephone on the Metro (Mad Hat Books, 2014.) Her work is widely available on line and has been anthologized. For more information, check her website at wendytaylorcarlisle.com. To read more of Wendy’s work go here.

List of Poets

Marla Carlton

PREY

I walk into the club.
I see you at the end of the bar.
I move closer.
You smile.
Your eyes.
Electric.
And I know this is it
so I continue.

You ask me if I want a drink.
You say the words
like you care what I want,
but you are already ordering for me.
Why resist?
You are doing all the work.
The word NO doesn’t escape my lips.
I know what you want to hear.
The way you want to hear it.
I spin a silent web, swirling the vodka on ice.
I would have chosen whiskey
but it doesn’t matter now.
I drink it down.
It’s easier than talking.
Less exhausting.
You want me.
There’s power in that.

We fall into the hotel room.
It’s 2:34AM.
You push me against the wall.
I smile
enthralled by the arrogance.

You tell me to get undressed.
You say the words
like you want me to do it,
but you are already doing it for me.
Why resist?
You are doing all the work.
The word NO doesn’t escape my lips.
I say what you want to hear.
The way you want to hear it.
I stick my tongue down your throat.
It’s easier than talking.
Less exhausting.
You want me.
There’s power in that.

I sink into my thoughts
deeper, until there is no turning back.
And I know this is it.
So I continue
down the path
of least resistance.

You ask me to roll over.
You say the words
like you want me to do it,
but you are already moving my hips.
Why resist?
You are doing all the work.
The word NO doesn’t escape my lips.
I do what you want to do.
The way you want to do it.
Up on all fours, facing the wall.
It’s easier than talking.
Less exhausting.
You want me.
There’s power in that.

I lie on the bed,
the damage is done.
You smile.
Me, distracted by the sound
of a fly.

You ask me what I’m thinking.
You say the words
like you want to hear,
but you are already dozing off.
Why answer?
You are dead to me.
The word goodbye doesn’t escape my lips.
I do what I want to do.
The way I want to do it.
I cover your face with a pillow.
It’s easier than talking.
Less exhausting.
You wanted me.
There’s power in that.

IN THE BEGINNING

Play me, Tempt me, Pursue me
Go ahead. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. I am here for your enjoyment.
I won’t break.
I’ll come when you call. I’ll jump at the chance. I’ll enjoy the challenge.
I won’t refuse.
This is the fun part. I’m a good sport. I won’t disappoint. I want to be better.
I won’t fall.

Love Me. Fuck Me. Beat Me
I thought we were playing? I didn’t mean to upset you. Let’s do that again?
I won’t bleed.
Is that all there is? I was expecting more. Can’t we continue?
I won’t crumble.
I didn’t mean to make you angry. I am new to this. I want to have fun. Try new things.
I don’t like rules. It’s just the beginning. Have some patience.
I won’t succumb.

Strangle me, Betray me, Condemn me
Take my dignity, my hope, my world. I don’t need your forgiveness.
I won’t choke.
Be my guest. I’m ready when you are. Again and again and again and again.
I won’t die.
I will rise up. I will fight. I will claim what is mine.
I am spawn of dust, creator of all, without me, you are nothing.
Get on your knees and pray.

Marla Carlton has a brilliant day job as a visual designer, for an award-winning digital design firm she co-founded with her husband 15 years ago after she ditched her illustrious career as a New York fashion model. If you fancy paying her a visit today, you will find her in the deep valley of Los Angeles, holed up in her powder gray, brick-walled, post-it plastered cave, writing fiction and poetry into the wee hours of the night while her three children slumber. For more, visit dropbydrop.press.

List of Poets

Erin Cummiskey

NIGHT PERSON

you came to me once more
just as the august evening poured in gray
through the treehouse windows

when the shadows became thick
and languid in the summer heat
i slowly lost your blue gold eyes
behind the mountains
as they moved on me, traced my skin

and when we were finished
it was night
and when you and the sudden darkness
both covered me
i could only drink your sweat
and the black wine of dusk
for the rest of summer
until september brought the morning again.

Erin Cummiskey is currently an undergraduate psychology student at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. She is originally from a small rural town in California’s Sierra Nevada Foothills, and when she visits home, she works at the local Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition and hopes to one day become a therapist at the organization. Erin started writing poems at age fourteen, is excited to break into the world of poetry, and is very grateful for her newly-acquired readers.

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Vern Fein

THE ONE THING

The one thing
my Mother-in-Law said:
“The one thing you really got
Son-in-Law,
the one thing you REALLY got
is you don’t complain about what we cook.
You don’t care what
we put in front of you.”
I took that one thing,
the thing I got
and whipped it into
a fifty year marriage.

Vern Fein is a retired teacher who finally has the time to write and is delighted to do so. He has published one poem in *82 Review, two poems in The Literary Nest, a poem in Silver Birch Press, and has two poems pending in Bindweed Magazine, another due in Gyroscope Review, and a short story pending publication in the the online magazine Duende from Goddard College in Vermont.

List of Poets

Patricia Goodman

THE COO OF THE DOVE

When you brought me that single white rose
I looked at you over my glasses, eyebrows

raised. When you played your guitar, sang
“Little One” to me, I came close to walking

away. When you wore that red and purple
embroidered shirt to dinner, I groaned,

offered you no credit for originality. Then
I remembered the Lyre Bird, who spreads

his ethereal tail to impress females;
the House Sparrow who chooses a nest site,

then spends his days in song to announce
his gift to potential mates; the Laysan

Albatross who clacks and dances with his
prospective partner. Somewhere in evolution

bird/human paths diverged, but common
ancestry hides beneath our surface. We fly

in our dreams. We feed our babies after
they leave the nest. We display to attract a mate.

This morning the doorbell rang. It was you,
asking me to go soaring with you in a glider.

Patricia L. Goodman is a widowed mother and grandmother and a graduate of Wells College with a degree in Biology and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. She spent her career raising, training and showing horses with her orthodontist husband, on their farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She now lives in northern Delaware, where she enjoys writing, singing, birding, gardening and spending time with her family. Many of her poems have been published in both print and online journals, and anthologies and she was the 2013 and 2014 winner of Delaware Press Association’s Communications Contest in poetry. Her first full-length book of poetry Closer to the Ground, was a finalist in the Dogfish Head Poetry Contest, and was published in August, 2014 by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. In 2015 she received her first Pushcart nomination. Much of her inspiration comes from the natural world she loves. For more of Patricia’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Danusha V. Goska

GROUND RULES

Knowing you,
but not too well.
Receiving,
but not expecting you.
I perforate that you may bounce
off of me,
or come in,
or be stored for,
the moment when you’re ready.

I like to think I read your face
and I’ve obeyed
the green for stay
the red for fade.
Sometimes this is hard for me;
I hold my breath.

When you move me,
I am amazed.
I left my home long ago
left familial swamps, hills;
never thought to hear them here, or smell them.

But then I am exposed;
I lack legal tender.
I must drain my juice
pump it to
the heart ordained to love you.
This is nothing new for me.

I envy those who have “love”
in their vocabulary.
They get respect.
People assume ritual, whole webs of meaning.

I want to feed you, mark you, make you groan
ram my tongue in your mouth
knead your face till I view
the exact appreciation
I desire.
I want, just once, to have more power
than your red light green light face.

WHAT I WANT

There can be many layers of wanting.
I want you to be crossing a street, quick, unseen by the barreling truck.
I want you to be taught what you did to me by a woman who can hurt you and will.
I want you to come in the night so I won’t have to see your face or speak your name and as you did that first time hold me in your hairy, muscled arms, and say, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

Danusha Goska is the author of Save-Send-Delete.

List of Poets

Kristyl Gravina

DENIAL

I told you it was over
I was done
I wanted you to leave; permanently this time

But you sat passive
Instead you asked if I had washed your boxers;
the ones she peeled off
the ones I only touched to wash

I told you they were hanging out to dry
And while you went to fetch them,
asked if you would change the broken lightbulb in the yard

Finding another excuse
to let you stay

UNTITLED

You tell me you don’t love me
over dinner one night
And I just sit and stare

You tell me how you love my cooking
and the fact that I wash your laundry
and clean up after you

You love the way you make love to me
whenever you remember to
imagining me someone else

You tell me you’re happy we married
over dinner one night
How you love everything about me,
but not me.

Kristyl Gravina’s work has appeared in Lost Tower Publications anthologies, The Literary Hatchet, Down in the Dirt, and is also scheduled to appear in Jitter.

List of Poets

Robin Helweg-Larsen

THE NOBLENESS OF LIFE IS TO DO THUS

You see as mere futility
The nobles’ inutility;
But I don’t care,
I’m here to dare
Access to their nubility.

TRIANGLE

You
who drew
the sun crying;

We
who caused
so much pain;

He
who we hurt
by not lying;

I
would do it
again.

Robin Helweg-Larsen’s poetry has mostly been published in the UK, but also in Love & Ensuing Madness, 14 by 14, The Lyric, Unsplendid, The Hypertexts, The Rotary Dial, the Phoenix Rising sonnet anthology, etc. British-born but Caribbean-raised, he is retiring from business in the US to his home town of Governor’s Harbour on Eleuthera, Bahamas. To see Robin’s other work in this collection, click here.

List of Poets

Ann Huang

WOODWORKING

While our space grabbed us
a luxuriating cabin
with solid walls and mosaic hexagon glasses,
you knew I was not there yet.
you knew I would have struggled for
someone who had done you injustice
or thought ever more need for crayons
that my jumpsuit wasn’t cool or storied
or something opened
my belief for fullness.
While the chances left…
you wished I could stop at the woodwork,
which reunited our dreams
of previous nights.

Ann Huang is a seasoned marketer with more than fifteen years of experience working with the spoken and written word. As an MFA recipient in Poetry from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Huang’s poetry has appeared online and in print extensively. Her recent poem, “Night Lullaby,” was a Ruth Stone Poetry Prize finalist. Huang’s new poetry collection, Delicious and Alien, is due out in 2017. Her poems follow the surrealistic gestures that weave reality into divergent realms of perspectives and perceptions. Visit AnnHuang.com for more poems and press releases.

List of Poets

Jessica K. Hylton

HEADLINES

You woke up bitching like always
You were thirsty, the sun was too bright
I was nothing more than a mistake
In the days, weeks, months
Christ… Years We’d been fucking
You never changed
The late night I need yous that turned
Into the usual good morning goodbyes

I steered the car onto the road
And reminded myself that last night
Was the real last night
As you yammered about the bridge
Being out up ahead
I didn’t alter my course
And you didn’t shut up

“This is it. We are going to die
Together and the headlines will read
The two Crazies finally got
What they deserved.”
You kept on and I never took
My eyes off the road

We made it almost to the blockade
Before I pushed in the clutch
Cut the wheel and slid down
A back alley you didn’t know existed
You seemed pleased we hadn’t died
And I took the moment of silence
To tell you I needed to piss

I parked at a gas station
Walked past the bathroom
Grabbed your favorite Gatorade
A couple packets of Advil
And a pair of aviators
The salesclerk made me pay before
He let me bend the nose pieces back
So you wouldn’t get self- conscious
About the size of your nose

When I got back to the car
I tossed the bag in your direction
Without looking you put them on
And were surprised they fit your face
I stayed quiet

You didn’t say thank you
You just let your hand crawl
Over to my knee where it belonged
And I knew if I wanted it to stay
I had to appear uninterested

That’s when I realized
You were right
“This is it.
We are going to die together
And the headlines will read the two Crazies
Finally got what they deserved.”

Jessica K. Hylton is an assistant professor of English at Lock Haven University. She received her PhD from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and her MA from Radford University. She writes most of her poems on her cellphone while driving. She has wrecked three cars, but she finished her dissertation. Her work has been featured in the Lavender Review, the East Coast Literary Review, Cliterature, Visceral Uterus, and many others. She also is the founding editor of Fermata Publishing.

List of Poets

Abriana Jetté

TRIOLET FOR THE LOVERS

I say something you say you don’t
want to hear, you hear but don’t listen.
We speak without talking because I won’t
say something you say you don’t
believe is true. Tensions multiply
in our division until even the clock falls silent.
I’ve said too much of what you say you
never wanted to hear. Finally, you listened.

THE MORNING AFTER

That morning I stared at myself in the mirror.
What is it who is it how is it what is it I’ve become,
I wonder. I think besides the penchant for black leather
and the scent of his sweat on my tongue
nothing is different. No wrinkles or marks of weather
and wear. No sign of regret for what we did. What he’s done
to me can’t be fixed. With him I’m nearer
to the devil than I’ve ever been. Once we were one

and he undid me. I never slept like that before,
with a man inside me all night. His hands
would not let go of my breasts. I swore
I wouldn’t let it get that far, but Christ, I can’t
help it. He snuck out early. His scent still lingers.
Afterwards, I reached to put my ring back on my finger.

PANTOUM FOR THE MEN WHO RUINED ME

Sometimes you become someone you never wanted to be.
These days there are two men, two men whose arms wrap around
my body like they own it. They own me. God how did I get so lucky?
How broken will I be when I come back down?

These days there are two men. Two men whose arms wrap around
my waist, pull me, kiss me so softly on the cheek I swear I think
they love me. How broken will I be when I come back down?
My body purrs when I’m alone. At night, I sit down with a drink

and think of how they both kiss me. Softly. I swear I think
they love me. Opposites, these men. What they do for me, different
but each makes my body purr. At night, when I sit down to drink
I can’t ever come to a decision. Difficult to figure out who, which

I love most. Opposite, these men. What they do for me, different
to my body, but they own me. They own me. How did I get so lucky?
I never thought it could happen, but it did. I did it, I am. Listen:
sometimes you become someone you never wanted to be.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York Abriana Jetté is an internationally published poet and essayist and educator. Her anthology “50 Whispers: Poems by Extraordinary Women” debuted as a #1 best seller on Amazon, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in River Teeth, Plume, Barrelhouse, The Moth, and many other places. She teaches for St. John’s University, for the College of Staten Island, and for the nonprofit organization Sponsors for Educational Opportunity.

List of Poets

Chad W. Lutz

LEFT-HANDED LOVEMAKING

This poem was supposed to be rhymey and romantic
but I think it should be about how good
your left palm used to feel around my cock.

All it took was a few, subtle strokes
to bring me to the verge of climax.
Left-handed love making at its best.

I think that’s why I used to let
our fights rage on into the early
hours of the morning,

How trying to jump out of a moving
vehicle just to get away from you
still doesn’t matter all these years later.

It’s amazing the sick upper hand a single appendage
can give a person just by tickling someone in
the right spot below the belt.

This poem was supposed to be about rainbows,
cloud cover, and sunshine, but it was never about that.
It was about how hard you could make me cum.

KIRSTEN IMMORTALIZED

You said two words,
the first time we hung out.
About six months later
you tried to kill me with the car;
pin me right against the
garage door, and maybe splatter
a few organs here and there.

We had sex, a lot. Sometimes
too much, although I couldn’t
tell you that. What good is a boyfriend
that doesn’t have sex with you?
Any longer than two weeks and
we’d have “conversations”.

People diagnosed with bi-polar
and Schizophrenia should never date.
Really, they should never fucking meet,
but not dating is a great start.
Two trips to the psych ward for me,
and a traumatic, gunshot suicide
witnessed first-hand by you were
all the fodder needed to
burn this motherfucker down.

We spent a lot of time outdoors,
camping in your backyard,
camping at national parks,
traveling the United States;
mostly after you were banned from
my life by my entire family.
Exile or no exile, there’s something in
the way your hair moves against
the sun in the fall, the way your dresses
fit loose and snug all at once.

We’d go camping,
drink and fuck,
And that was
good enough for us.

Chad W. Lutz was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1986 and raised in the neighboring suburb of Stow. A 2008 graduate of Kent State University’s English program, Chad is attending Mills College in pursuit of an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in telling lies (Fiction). His writing has been featured in Diverse Voices Quarterly, Kind of a Hurricane Press, Haunted Waters Press, and Sheepshead Review. Chad runs competitively and won the Lake Wobegon Marathon in May 2015, setting the course record by nearly three minutes in a time of 2:33:59. He aspires to qualify for the Olympic Trials.

List of Poets

E.V. McLoughlin

US

The lightness has gone out of us.
Then something else settled –
soft, gentle and familiar
us
still standing, holding through
December cold.

E.V. McLoughlin lives in Northern Ireland and likes coffee, books and city lights. Her poems were published in Community Arts Partnership anthologies “Making Memories” and “Connections,” Shalom/Crescent writers’ anthology “Between light and half light” and in Pannning for Poems micropoetry journal. One of her poems was longlisted for Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2016.

List of Poets

Megan Denese Mealor

FRESHMAN GIRL

now you can sashay
instead of shuffle

blossom, unfinish
bloom and half-grow

waiting and waiting
to drop your anchor

A SINGLE HISTORY

we scream into tea
as libertines
walls imploding in our wake

we land our lords
with lethal flair
moon-draped curls
one starlit eagle eye

our threadbare knees
reign victorious

roulette heartbeats
reloading

Megan Denese Mealor resides in Jacksonville, Florida with her fiance, three-year-old son, and two fat old cats. She runs a small pet-sitting business, in addition to her duties as a full-time mother and writer. Her poetry and short fiction have been featured in more than fifteen publications since 2012, most recently the September 2016 issue of Better Than Starbucks and the October 2016 issue of The Front Porch Review. Megan is currently at work on her first chapbook, Bipolar Lexicon, as well as her first full-length novel, an erotic royal romance entitled My Lady Mercedes, a children’s book series about a friendly alligator, a first-hand account of how to live with bipolar disorder, and an encyclopedia of female killers. Her future goals include obtaining her degrees in English and Zoology, hosting a December wedding, honeymooning in Tennessee and Alaska, and fostering stray cats and dogs.

List of Poets

Dorene O’Brien

IN LOVE

Jon and Isabel were in love. They fantasized while gazing into computer screens at work, imagined the forthcoming weekends as larger than life tableaux across which their love was painted in pictorial detail: crab bisque by weak light at Sparle’s, humid kisses on the taxi’s cracked vinyl seat, legs and fingers clenched under the paisley sheets. They even imagined what they’d feel if they broke up—long, restless nights, the pain in their hearts so sharp they almost cried out—then the debut of a new love in the other’s life, someone they would simultaneously hate and admire.

There was much time and effort devoted to these daydreams: would his new woman wear Prada? Would she pick up the check, independent and aggressive, traits she sensed he admired but that she lacked? He wondered if her new guy would have a full head of hair. Would he gladly take her to the opera, not complain about the thin plot, the cavernous hall through which the booming voices echoed like the demons of death themselves?

But, they were in love, so their pounding hearts were softened by visions: him refusing his new woman’s predatory overtures in the bed under which her blue leather Pradas, size 10, sat propped at odd, unflattering angles; her noting the suspicious weave of her new boyfriend’s salt and pepper hair, the dotted incision all along the hairline.

On weekends they sat, staring into the pale sky or the coffee cup, envisioning the wretched fate of the new lover, the interloper, the one they had always known was waiting in the wings.

Dorene O’Brien has won the international Bridport Prize and is the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as a residency from the Vermont Studio Center. Her work has appeared in the Connecticut Review, Madison Review, the Chicago Tribune, the Montreal Review, Cimarron Review, Detroit Noir and others. Voices of the Lost and Found, her first full-length short fiction collection, won the USA Best Books Award in Fiction.

List of Poets

Dion O’Reilly

I KNEW A MAN WHO DRESSED LIKE MARLENE DIETRICH

And cried before
the mirror
and asked me
over and over woeful,
Am I convincing?
By day he wore the same tired
boy clothes:
an old wool sportcoat, a screen-printed tee shirt,
the same thinned
cords. His dirty
blond hair pulled
loosely into a ponytail;

but at night, he entered an ample
closet, ran his hand
along the lined-up chiffons and animal pelts,
plunged his searching
fingers into the crowded
pile of pumps, hooked
the slingbacks, pulled
out the open-toed ones,
smelled them, petted them, slipped
them onto his arched
nyloned feet, which were nearly
too large for
a woman’s shoe.

He had all the slips,
the girdles, the seamed silk stockings, the torpedo bras.
He layered the trappings:
pinned the polyvinyl hair, colored his pursed lips, brushed fine dust
on his eyelids and cheeks, turned his head from side to side
so the lamp by the round mirror lit
his cheekbones, the smoky-blue eyes, the powdery skin, the pearls
on his thin neck and seashell ears.
I’d bring him love offerings:
my mother’s cast-off wigs, and polyester pant suits,
her knee-high panty hose.
But no, he wasn’t
convincing. I was never
convinced, and neither was he,
but we did our best: he slipped into her clothes,
and I pretended to be loved.

ODE TO MY SUN-BLIND CUNT

The dick is fine, don’t get me wrong,
but for me, at least, an acquired taste.
Blatant yes, but at first confounding,
until the men explained,
pushed my head down,
grabbed my hand in a theater, but still,
why not the underrated cunt?
It might have been easier
to navigate that anemone passage to the womb,
despite its layered mysteries—since I possessed
my own. Much maligned by my mother
as “full of germs,” and generally “unhygienic,”
I couldn’t look at someone else’s, lest I see mine,
opening self to self. My poor starfish warrior, invisible,
sequestered beneath, accepting a beating,
accommodating in its sea creature mouth,
all manner of dicks. Some yearned to return
to a heaving primordial sea, humble before their own need,
some performed a harpoon and run. Still I kept at it,
like clapping after a terrible show just to be polite.
O, my cunt you are an unevolved creature,
one undiscovered deep in a trench,
that they claim is deeper
than a hidden Grand Canyon,
as unknown as outer space.
I think it’s true your intelligence grows;
you become wise and ingenious
if allowed to live long enough
in a safe place.

SHEEP

I understand why men want to fuck sheep.
Sheep asses are so darling, so round and fluffy,
and ewes are so girly,
nuzzling the grass, with their stunted
tails wiggling the air like a beckoning.

They never raise their voices.
A wistful bahhhh,
is never construed as no.
It’s yes. By virtue
of its bleating sweetness,

When they try to turn
their fat wooly asses
away. Oh, they know
what they do

with their stupid little teeth munching the sweet
blooming clover, pretending to be shy.
The men don’t buy it. Neither do I:
innocence that complete
could only be feigned.

Dion O’Reilly has spent much of her life on a farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She studies with poets Ellen Bass and Danusha Leméris and attends an MFA program in Creative Writing at Pacific University. A retired high school English teacher, she workshops poetry with her ex-students. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Porter Gulch Review, Bellingham Review, Caesura, The Sun, Redwood Coast Review, Existere Journal, Marin Poetry Center Anthology, Cerise Press, and a variety of other journals. Her essay on the death of Michael Jackson was anthologized in the text Goodbye Billie Jean. She is the creator and publisher of the PMS Coloring Book and is currently working on the sequel.

List of Poets

Jacob Paul Patchen

TALL GIRLS IN HIGH HEELS

Ladies please, be considerate.

These doubled up inserts only crowd my feet,
and yet, here you are, still leaning down to hear me.

Before too long, my calves will tire, cramp, weaken,
and shake, and I will be forced down from my toes
and up onto this bar stool, where for the remainder of
the night, I will stay.

And way up here from this pedestal, this watchtower,
I will order a tallboy, stout, drink it down loudly in
gulps, and perhaps, try just one more time.

Jacob Paul Patchen was born and raised outside of Byesville, Ohio where he spent his youth tormenting babysitters and hiding in trees. He is a graduate of Meadowbrook High school and Muskingum University. Jacob is a poet, author, blogger, and combat veteran.

List of Poets

E.B. Schnepp

SOOTHSAYING

A wish is supposed to take a thousand paper cranes,
but I want something big. Bigger than wish—
I’m craving miracle, the type I can build with my own hands.

Finding the words was easy, the catechism
why the fuck did you leave me
sounds so much better in Latin.

You were one failed exorcism after another, vital
and non-vital organs categorized,
teeth and toenails sorted—no one

can taste the desperation I’m cooking
on my skin each night, collected in wishbones,
merrythoughts, ball jars stashed in cabinet backs—

you are lurking in the background
of every painting on the walls.
Your lacquer, it coats my eyes.

E.B. Schnepp is a poet hailing from rural Mid Michigan who currently finds herself in the flatlands of Ohio with an MFA in Creative Writing from Bowling Green State University and a bad procrasti-baking habit. Her work can also be found in Crab Fat, the pacificREVIEW, and Paper Nautilus, among others.

List of Poets

Sharon Scholl

LIBERTARIANS

Your feet
have a character of their own.
Resistance is in them,
antipathy to shoes,
structures
demands
decisions.

They wander off to be alone,
going where mine can’t follow
onto hot sidewalks,
through murky ditches,
over sticks, the pricks
of frosty grass.

Anything put on them
is forced into their shape,
takes their tread and breaks
eventually across the curve
of those unyielding arches.

That is why they lie
freezing cold
at the bottom
of a single bed.

Sharon Scholl is the usual retired professor who finally has time to write. She has the usual publications (Clementine, Cahaba River Literary Journal, Heron Tree) with several collections: Message on a Branch (yellow jacket Press) All Points Bulletin (Closet Books). A practicing musician, she maintains an extensive website that gives away music free to small, financially struggling groups. Otherwise, she serves on too many committees and boards and has a growing allergy to meetings.

List of Poets

Ken Seide

ABANDON

I saw my girlfriend’s wedding dress
in the dry cleaner’s window.

She lived in the same neighborhood
or used to,
which allowed us to move so far so fast,
seeing each other every day,
staying up all night,
pouring words of love into each other’s mouths between kisses.

I imagined her in a wedding dress
two weeks after I first beheld her,
not the same dress that had been half-stored
and half-discarded in her gritty garage,
spilling from the box with the display window onto the cement floor.

And when she abruptly sold her home
to flee the memories
and start again in a new town,

she took the dress to the dry cleaners,
didn’t finish cleaning out the garage,
and moved without picking up the dress.
The dry cleaner displays it in the window,
an advertisement. Oh, it’s a beauty.

Some day we might dance with abandon
at our own wedding.
She’ll wear
a new white dress,
like the one I imagined,
unless she has left me behind
along with her home,
her bad memories,
and her dress,
which is aloof
and hopeful
and alone in that window,
like a bride who doesn’t know yet
she’s been abandoned at the altar.

Ken Seide is the pen name of a resident of Newton, Mass. His poems have appeared in Midstream, Poetica, New Vilna Review, SN Review, Kerem, Whistling Shade, and other publications. His short stories have appeared in Poetica, Cyclamens and Swords, and Pound of Flash.

List of Poets

Michael Dwayne Smith

AMERICAN LOVE STORY

It was that kind of afternoon.

I flagged down the mailman, who said,
Sorry, still no more unemployment checks,
so I said, Take a break—
let’s get drunk on my couch and watch Ellen.

She said yes, that her injected
hormones burned, her tits ached,
that government pensions won’t be
what they used to be.

The TV made kissing a bore,
so we humped like scotch bunnies do
at closing time
against wet alley dumpsters
inside a sulfurous and empty self-enlightenment.

After, we spooned on the shag carpet, ice
tinkling in sweaty glasses like
trailer park chimes aroused by the memory
of a wicked Oklahoma twister
and I confessed I was glad she kept the junk.

Before long, another boner watching Ellen
bend over, ass audacious
in the camera lens, then I
got up and strolled naked to the kitchen
for cold beers, standing in front

of the open fridge, eyes closed, cooling down my
only-very-slightly-less-than-the-average-
American-dude-sized erection.

I heard the mailman ask if my bathroom
is transgender friendly. Of course, I said,
I take it like I give it… any way I can.

ELEGY WITH FIRST LOVE REGRET IN IT

Come on, you said, You know what I mean.
Kindness
. Later that night
I dreamed in a deer’s silence about

the cabin, the snowstorm, the fire
beside which Jenny kiss’d me. Beauty.
My dream jump-cut to summer, origami,

abortion, Memphis, car lights shining on
motel windows. Does that
answer your curiosity? The icy twigs of

your black question. Because each memory
is a book in itself, and lined up
on a shelf they scarcely suggest a life.

I missed her. I lost her. I didn’t get it
back then, Jenny moving like
a cloud through sky moving through water.

Come on, you say, You knew about lies,
forgiveness, finishing
each other’s dangerous thoughts…

yes and walking through afternoons, dumb
with balloon-like buoyancy
on the street. Rain, mud, death’s weight.

What I’m trying now to say—
I’m trying to say we are all human.
So I’m trying hard to smile when I say it.

Michael Dwayne Smith lives near a Mojave Desert ghost town with his family and rescued animals. He’s a recipient of both the Hinderaker Award for poetry and the Polonsky Prize for fiction; nominations include Best of the Net, the storySouth Million Writers Award, and two for the Pushcart Prize. His work appears in over a hundred publications, such as Chiron Review, Word Riot, The Cortland Review, burntdistrict, WhiskeyPaper, FRiGG, Heavy Feather Review, Literary Orphans, Monkeybicycle, decomP, Blue Fifth Review, Silver Birch Press, and the defunct but sorely missed > kill author and Gutter Eloquence.

List of Poets

Crystal Snoddon

PERSONAL HIGH FIDELITY

I gratefully acknowledge and accept the confession of
your indiscretions
and propose that henceforth all further
corporeal interactions
be held with the least possible amount of
emotional conversation.
The proviso naturally being that all current
fiduciary considerations
remain unadulterated.
Sincerely yours,

Crystal Snoddon derives inspiration and solace from her contentious Canadian surroundings by writing verse. Previous and upcoming publications of poetry and flash fiction can be found in SickLit Magazine, Poetry Breakfast, The Quarterday Review, 101 Words and Waking Dawn: a Canadian anthology of verse.

List of Poets

David Spicer

IF I COULD SUFFER FOR THOSE GIFTS, LAUREN

You asked me if I knew how
to whistle before I coveted you,
before we kissed under an umbrella
after smoking peyote at the bus stop.
We languished there under the attacking
hail, a sour smell in the air. I never
saw you again, though I shouted at your
vacant dormitory window. My cousin,
a Jungian professor, a pilot, a promoter–
yes, a Renaissance man–wanted you, too:
he thought you a German chanteuse,
a maestro of the spider web, a collector
of men’s souls. Lauren, any man would sniff
glue for you, hide in a garret after hatching
hoaxes in your name, live in a wheelchair.
Sitting in my favorite tavern, I assure you
I’d paint your portrait every day, lick your
ankles, and iron your underwear for more
than a souvenir from your netherworld,
but I’m plastered and would say that,
but I’d settle for a snippet of your
blonde hair, I’d learn how to whistle
if I could suffer for those gifts, Lauren.

David Spicer has had poems in The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares,
Gargoyle, Mad Swirl, Reed Magazine, Slim Volume, The Laughing Dog, In Between Hangovers, Easy Street, Ploughshares, Bad Acid Laboratories, Inc., Dead Snakes
, and in the anthologies Silent Voices: Recent American Poems on Nature (Ally Press, 1978), Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing From Homer to Ali (Southern Illinois University Press, 2003), and A Galaxy of Starfish: An Anthology of Modern Surrealism (Salo Press, 2016). He has been nominated for a Pushcart and a Best of the Net, is the author of one full-length collection of poems, Everybody Has a Story (St. Luke’s Press, 1987), and four chapbooks. He is also the former editor of Raccoon, Outlaw, and Ion Books. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.

List of Poets

Josette Torres

QUASI-SONNET FOR TWO WRITERS IN LOVE

You’re a story I find difficult to tell. Six
months ago, in the flush of a new summer,
we drove each other mad with exposition—
every unbuttoning a new revision, each
patch of skin a fresh page. I whisper
your name with assumed familiarity, not
waiting for your permission. I have come
and rewritten all your boundaries, settled
inside a narrative that, even now, is never
clearly defined. Your affections are hazy,
quiet words surrounding each other in the dark
hours before our worlds slow into sleep.

I dream of your hand on the small of my back,
pushing me forward, guiding us into white space.

MASTER, I WILL NEVER ABANDON YOU

I worship at your feet
for a reason—because
you ask, because you want,
because you demand, because
you desire. Desire dulls
my pain. Desire drugs me
to the quick. Desire your arms
around me. Desire your hands
holding me down. For all
the control I have over my life,
sometimes I want you to take
it from me. Sometimes I want
you to show me how to love.
Sometimes I want surrender.

Josette Torres received her MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Tech. She also holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from Purdue University. Her work has previously appeared in Star 82 Review, escarp, The New Verse News, and elsewhere, and is forthcoming in Poetry Breakfast. She is currently a doctoral student in cultural thought in the ASPECT Program at Virginia Tech.

List of Poets

Desmond White

SNIPPETS

there were snippets
in your voice
when we broke
that’s when I cried about the little things
our trip
that alley
the bench
(we were an old couple
always nagging)
in your voice
when we broke
I thought I heard
snippets of joy

Desmond White writes speculative fiction, satire, and poetry in Houston, TX. He lives with his wife, Julie, and two cats with inappropriate names.

List of Poets

Keri Withington

INSOMNIA (FOR MIKE IN PROVO)

We met outside my dorm apartment.
My roommates were asleep; you carried your pawnshop guitar.

The early saints spoke in tongues: praising
I spoke gibberish: strings of syllables stripped of words

We circled student housing, campus buildings, consecrated ground
summer nights and dry desert wind: dry lips
your fingers strummed against mine
held not for romance     but for something

We walked to Denny’s at dawn: milkshakes, buttery pancakes

I knew months before you told me
eyes focused on your worn chucks
hands clutching Under the Pink

You were still trying to show you could be holy
still seeing girls     or not seeing them
i wore rainbows     my southern accent
you wore vintage levis     bruised eyes

You stroked my hair until I fell asleep on your sofa, candles
lit around me like a shrine, wax dripping on my sneakers.

Keri Withington is interested in writing about family, the intersection of science and spirituality, and social justice. Her poems have previously appeared in numerous journals, including Blue Fifth Review and Lime Hawk. Additionally, she is an assistant professor of English at Pellissippi State Community College.

List of Poets

Catherine G. Wolf

MAKE ME SEXY

Make me sexy, O Venus, vulgarize me, make me
the woman men can’t resist, hot as red chili peppers,
bulge my breasts to a D cup, plump my ass like a
ripe honeydew melon, but soft like Jennifer Lopez’s.
Anoint me with perfume from the musky muskrat
to hide my sickly scent. Twist my body into a perfect 8.
Throw me to the wildest wildebeest, let me hump until my
back breaks for no man desires a sick, crippled woman.
Jaggerize me so I am a jugular slashed, that’s the way to satisfaction.
Shake my booty like a star exploding, swing my boobs in circles
like a hungry hurricane. Juice my vagina with hot oil from
French fries and my mouth with bumblebee honey.
Massage my clit so it reaches the sun. Craze me into
raucous, rambunctious rampages of all-night fucking.
Make Cunnilingus my middle name. Sew me a dress
of firecracker red jersey that just covers my ass.
Whirl my hair like a tsunami, arch my eyebrows like
the crescent moon and smother my lips with
raunchy orange. Grant me a Ph.D. in Blow Jobs.
O Venus, make this old, crippled woman irresistibly
and uniquely sexy!

TOUCH

I sleep alone now
not by choice but by disease.
The nurse sits in the far corner.
Records my vital signs:
Pulse, 78
Breaths per minute, 8
Not dead yet.

A gray cat remains faithful,
curled at my feet
or stretched long against my body–
his furry warmth comforts me
through gnawing nightmares
and the loneliness of 3 a.m.
He knows without knowing
the kindness of touch.

Catherine G. Wolf studied language development in graduate school, and was fascinated by this unique human ability. In 1997, when she was stricken with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, her ability to speak was taken away by this disease. She found poetry had a special capability to express her innermost feelings. By losing her physical voice, Catherine found her poetic voice. She always enjoyed dancing, and now dances with her eyes. Catherine has three published poems, including one in the spring 2015 issue of the Bellevue Literary Review and one to be published in October 2016 in Front Porch Review. She writes blogs and articles about living with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Now Catherine uses assistive technology to communicate, and raises her right eyebrow to type. She is studying poetry at the writer studio,com. For other work by Catherine in Rat’s Ass Review, go here and here.

List of Poets

Poems added August 5, 2016

Jane Blanchard

SUB ROSA

the blood is drawn
the bone is scanned
the body needs to be unmanned

the mind remains
the marriage thrives
the memory of love survives

Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia. Her poetry has recently appeared in The Dark Horse, The Lyric, and The Rotary Dial. Her chapbook Unloosed is available from Kelsay Books. To read more of Jane’s work go here.

List of Poets

Edmund Caterpillar

CONSUME

sometimes in the hours before morning
you reach across and spoon in close behind me
as I lie fetal and enjoy the moment of
your sleepy breath against my neck
small breasts pushed hard up against my back
and I feel myself relax my butt
wishing you had a cock too or strong workman’s fingers
to let you best consummate our love.

Edmund Caterpillar is a HK based poet. Some of his recent work has appeared or will appear in Into the Void magazine and London Grip. He also received special mention from Judges at the 2016 British Independent Film Festival for “All Class,” his short film screenplay.

List of Poets

J. Davies

66 LIKES

shut up and rescue me
kiss all my fears away
swallow each salty tear
piss all the years away
piss them away
like there’s jellyfish stinging you
lonely hearts lost at sea
know who I’m singing to

fashion new friends
from the bones of old lovers
who got over me
being under their covers
the memories caught me
but before they fought me
they laid down their weapons
and said you forgot me

and I’m not unraveling
I saw your green eyes through a veil
I clicked on most everything
and then I deleted my trail

speak up and promise me
if we grow older
you’ll polish your horns
and sit on my left shoulder
there won’t be an angel
to argue adjacent
whisper whatever
and I’ll be complacent

scrub off rejection
with fresh herbal soaps
wave to your summit
from the bunny slopes
where I’m debating
if you’re pantomiming
that I should stop waiting
or I should start climbing

and I shouldn’t know these things
the coffin won’t hold one more nail
and as you exchanged the rings
I noticed you cut off your tail

J. Davies is an elementary school teacher, so he doesn’t publish under his real name. He spends fall, winter, and spring wearing ties, scoring homework, and writing notes for disgruntled parents. He spends summer wearing slippers, scoring punk records, and writing poetry for himself.

List of Poets

Laura Eklund

THE HAY IS BLUE

Then becomes his eyes
an Eastern sky light
then a shadowy figure.
His eyes are for something less
subtle as an axe
a tenderness not contained
and his hands motionless,
with no sound.
When the hay is turning blue
the lapses turn yellow
as far out as time.
Love makes the air tight.
It is without trope or testimony
We become the airy fuddle
on the window pane.
No inner dwelling
that encompasses
that looses or embraces
No arrow for life or thought
the hands juxtapose
like a sullen windowpane
never moving
never opening.

BLUE SHADOWS

In the sky the land is quarrelsome.
My feet are inside the earth
like a fruit tree in spring.
The blue shadows are not my own.
The sky is a solo operation
its spirit joining the night air.
I’ll be gone in a day.
You are the blue shadow of the sky,
the window I have raised
I have broken into.
The rain is blooming
and you have given it a landscape
of many secrets.

RETURN

I can return to the old routine
of your hair
and your denunciations.
Your hand swells
like swollen strands of light.
Your hair slivers
down the mountain.
You are liquid and I close my eyes.
I remembered everything you said.
The world is still beginning.
The world has stopped spinning.
The blue eyes have danced
with the white tigers
and now they hold me.

WE ARE OVER THE MOUNTAIN NOW

As if we had been seized
a point and fastidious sigh
we were followed by a jewel.
White tigers are licking their paws
where the lions are dancing
and we can see inside their eyes.
I am a meteor and a year.
We are always this dark vein
reaching inside of ourselves.
We see the emblem of ourselves
like we have been
pitched from the river.
The green mountains
mold themselves into hills.
The air feels like faith.

YOUR HAIR IN A MEMORY

Of naked intrusion
a forest never known.
Your hair in an empty mountain
a rustle in the wind.
The plovers are piping about you
as your hair wades
the clear water.
Your hair is a shadow
upon the world
disheveled by my hands.
In every dream
you are awake.
Your hair in the emptiness
Of this world that is ours.
Your hair like the swaying
seaweed of the surf.
When your hair flows
between the hills
you come to me secretly.
You are moon and lover,
heart and grape.
Your hair scatters like wet dew.
It is a broken necklace
in my hands.

Laura Eklund lives and works in Olive Hill, KY with the poet George Eklund. They have four children together: Waylon, Thomas, Fiona, and Marina. Laura has been writing poetry since she learned to read and write, which was about third grade when the words starting coming and forming themselves. She writes in order to breathe and survive. Her favorite things to do include reading and writing poetry and spending time with her family. She also paints. You can find out more about her onFacebook at The Art of Laura Eklund. Laura has published in many journals including ABZ, Black Warrior Review, Southern Women’s Review, Pegasus, and Slipstream.

List of Poets

Alexis Rhone Fancher

“WHEN TWO POETS COLLIDE –
FOR AKHMATOVA AFTER THE MOST RECENT BREAK-UP.”

after a photo by Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Anna Andreyevna is at the bar,
resplendent in a white dress that
rides her thighs, cups her lying, Ruskie
ass. She wears it to torture
me. Ditto those killer red stilettos.

Still, the slant of her leg, wedged just
below the bar, is unforgettable.

The barkeep flicks on the overheads.
Everything looks better.
Neon makes Anna look trustworthy.
I can’t look away.
Her favorite bar. Her part of town.
Someone whispers in
my ear. “Go home!
She will never leave with you.”
But I stay to watch Anna
dance with the other losers.

It is always the same.
We drink too much vodka.
It gets late. I wait. I am only human.

Finally Anna dances with me,
shoves her sweaty breasts at me,
her white ass firm in my hands. She
reaches between my legs,
grabs it like she owns me.
“Is this what you want?” she asks,
eyes blazing.

She’s tipsy,
but I have no shame.
Tomorrow, she will hate me,
but tonight?
We will fuck as poets fuck.

When Two Poets Collide first appeared in rawboned, 2015

Alexis Rhone Fancher is the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and other heart stab poems, (Sybaritic Press, 2014), and State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (KYSO Flash Press, 2015). Find her poems in Rattle, The MacGuffin, Slipstream, Fjords, H_NGM_N, Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles, Chiron Review, Quaint Magazine, Hobart, Menacing Hedge, and elsewhere. She’s infamous for her Lit Crawl LA performances at Romantix, a NoHo sex shop. Since 2013 she’s been nominated for seven Pushcart Prizes and four Best of The Net awards. In her other life, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly, where she also publishes a monthly photo essay, The Poet’s Eye. Find her at alexisrhonefancher.com/ For more of Alexis’s work, go here.

List of Poets

John Garanamoo

O NIGH ROMANCE

Who asked you, Señora, to trouble my sleep?
If this stalking be love I’ll gladly pretend
to be chased. Breathless when all panting ends,
I wake with a start, neither whole nor at peace.

When I tell you of your whereabouts at night,
you twist your mouth as if you disapprove,
in that way you do, and hold yourself aloof
as if I’ve stolen you from you, your precious time,

as if you had a better place to be,
as if it were my premeditated crime.
But isn’t it you who force yourself on me,
piercing my sleep? Think this makes me more alive?
In this bed where rest once was lies one
who meant no ill, had no cause to harm.

Let’s right it now. Why not arrange
a truce, no pillow talk or tete-a-tete?
I’ll meet you in a dream, again tempt fate.
But only with this tonic, risky, strange

can I slow my pulse, much less find some rest.
It’s Sonata, Rx, chased by Manischewitz wine,
self-prescribed. I sing myself to sleep. The tune:
Padre Soler, a bit baroque, but has

a Klezmer soul. How rare, but still no use:
fitful sleep, nary a dream. My wife knows
who I am, feels my dis-ease, has me breathe those
cleansing breaths that once could calm, help me sleep.
But in this place I seek though dare not reach
I might give birth to you again. What then?

John Garanamoo is a pen name of a poet published widely on and off the web. Send any comments to him at garanamoo@yahoo.com.

List of Poets

Sarah Henry

BRIAN

Funny how these words
go together:
young and stupid.

I was dancing with a guy
named Brian at the VFW
in Youngstown, gussied
up in a pink dress
encrusted with pearls.
My father never liked
it but Brian did.
He liked me, too.
If bullshit were concrete,
he would have been
the Ohio Turnpike.

We were driving down
the Ohio Turnpike while
country music bounced
off the windows.
We were on our way to
Branson and happy
as clams.

Men don’t get any smarter
the longer you know them.
A man can be like a ball
and chain. The ball morphed
into a ball at the Bowl-O-Rama.
The counter help was
handsome and worthless.
He kept our romance
secret for a year.
Brian kept hitting spares.

THE BALCONY

Please don’t go when he
offers his hand and invites
you to his balcony. Shadows
follow you through a hall
where the doors are closed.

Consider the view
of distant carnival fireworks.
This is the moment when
you turn and hurry down
rickety stairs of abandonment.

Outside weeds sprout
in the thicket of his yard.
Rottweilers walk by casually,
wagging their stumps—
drug dogs.

Somewhere men with
drugs and dogs
murder unsuspecting women,
staging fake suicides.
Here we have a balcony,
forbidding as a lovers’ leap,
and the falling off
that is there.

Sarah Henry studied under Robert Hass and Louise Gluck at the University of Virginia. Now she lives near Pittsburgh, where her poems have appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Sarah’s work has been published in Soundings East, The Hollins Critic, and The Camel Saloon. Five recent anthologies have included her poetry, including three from Kind of a Hurricane Press. CheapPop and Donut Factory featured her humorous prose. Humor is very important to her.

List of Poets

Scott McClelland

SORT OF ALMOST EXACTLY

I’m sort of almost exactly her husband.
I’m sort of almost exactly his wife.

We sort of almost exactly hit a rough patch early on.
You sort of almost exactly tried to sleep with my sister.

We sort of almost exactly had two kids.
We sort of almost exactly had three.

He sort of almost exactly did not live one day.
He sort of almost exactly lived seventeen hours and nine minutes.

~

I sort of almost exactly love our two girls.
You sort of almost exactly better you prick.

~

We sort of almost exactly separated.
We sort of almost exactly divorced.

I sort of almost exactly hate what I’ve become.
You sort of almost exactly should.

The girls sort of almost exactly hate me as well.
They sort of almost exactly do.

You sort of almost exactly turned them against me
I sort of almost exactly did not.

I sort of almost exactly pay child support.
You are sort of almost exactly in arrears.

~

You are sort of almost exactly dating Alberto.
So sort of almost exactly what?

The girls sort of almost exactly call him dad now.
He sort of almost exactly is.

~

I’m sort of almost exactly moving out west.
It’s sort of almost exactly like you to run.

I’ll sort of almost exactly miss all of you.
We sort of almost exactly won’t feel the same.

Can we sort of almost exactly ever be friends?
I sort of almost exactly don’t think it’s wise.

But you sort of almost exactly won’t say no?
Sort of almost exactly.

Scott McClelland is a Pushcart Prize nominated author, who is not comfortable in any home that has no pickles.

List of Poets

John Miller

THE BEST THING

We fuck like we just might make a whole,
though we know better – knew well before
fooling around slipped into foreplay.

But this is what post-coital tristesse is:
approaching, just not quite achieving,
that thing greater than ourselves.

If we’re lucky, we’re in love – but
even if we aren’t, we’re still afraid
to admit the best thing about sex:

for a few seconds our minds don’t exist.
And even as we cuddle and doze,
as we leave, or are left – we resist

the urge to acknowledge the moment:
because looking back means pillars of salt
– means lovers returned to hell.

THE RETURNING OF POSSESSIONS

This is the first time I have come
here not to fight, not to break up,
not to bed or to be bedded.
Outside the door, I feel it.

It is not excitement. It is not regret.
It is the realization that I am already alone:
that these steps cannot be reversed.
I’ll miss the connection, the body to hold,
the number to call in the middle of the night,

but she is none of these things.
I have reduced her to a steamer basket,
a CD, a Spanish/English dictionary.
This is the final sacrament of lovers:
I have come to burn my memory clean.

WAGE EARNING

I can’t think about you tonight.
My heart is so near breaking
I’m studying the owner’s manual
for options on repair or replacement.

You lie asleep in New England –
so far from me I can’t even dream
of you clearly. I’ve tried to live without
the questions you raise, but I can’t.

I want to solve your mysteries,
rummage through the clues and
assemble a kind of jigsaw reality,
an engine that runs on dreams.

Leave the pieces for me.
I will sort through them, a mechanic,
unafraid of what may come
and paid by the hour.

LOVE SNEAKS UP ON ME LIKE A MEMORY

Over and over I see the glowing room,
something about it, but it just won’t surface.
I try coaxing my brain, even plying it with whiskey
but nothing comes, just an aching hole
in the great, gray swath of near-recollection.

I know it’s her house, but I can’t remember
why it stands out: a pale room, sheer curtains
lit silver by the low winter sun, everything aglow
in love and terror. How do you feel? She asks.
Like a spinning magnet. She looks confused.

I’m sorry, sometimes I don’t know what I’m saying.
When spring came, I wrote, trying to explain myself:
My heart is no good; it wanders like my mind.
Tonight, as streetlamps turn rain into sheets of light,
suddenly it’s obvious what I should have written.

Hailing from Eugene Walter’s kingdom of monkeys and sweet lunacy’s county seat, John Miller was sent so frequently to look up etymologies during meals as a kid that he toted a dictionary to dinner. His work has appeared in Kindred, Paper Nautilus, and elsewhere. He teaches in Tuscaloosa.

List of Poets

Basilike Pappa

BROKEN COLORS (ADVICE TO THE YOUNG)

When we fell in love,
we were freshly painted.
When we separated,
we suffered chromatic discontinuity.
It took us years to restore ourselves
to something easy to the eye.
People should only fall in love
when their paint is dry.

THE F WORD

We agreed to hide ourselves,
to ignore how lawless a pulse can get.
But, one night, we emerged naked
amid the uproar of the city.
We mated; we climbed towards the fall
with foreheads touching.
The day found us early risers
wearing nothing but disguises.
Let’s hide ourselves, we said,
and leave our truths like cuckoo birds.
Let’s just be friends.

DELUDEND

And now I see well beyond your sword,
your armed perfection.
It was my fault: in you I saw my reflection.
But no more: I’ve cupped your face too many times
and drank your lips too many times – I was nowhere in that cup.
There was only you:
dressed in carmine jealousy,
reciting spleeny poetry,
recycling it all into amour,
clanging your armor.
The day I knew you were a barking portrait I laughed myself to your death.
No more words embroidered with moss, I said.
No more shouting all the names of nonsense
or seeing omens in lights that bleed yellow, green and red.
I left.
For that, I’m always in my debt.

Basilike Pappa lives in Greece, where she doesn’t work as a translator, a copy-editor or a historian. To write her stories and poems, she uses either English or Greek and a black pen with a fine tip. When she doesn’t write, she cooks without salt, walks her dog, dances Raqs Sharqi (Dance of the East), reads, and avoids thinking about the future. Her flash fiction has appeared in Life and Art Magazine and Intrinsick. You can read more poems by Basilike here.

List of Poets

Nina Welch

ON THE ROCKS

He told them we were separating
after eating fried eggs and
hash browns at the Brig
down at the harbor.
He told them this after they
sloshed around the tide pools,
and poked sticks into sea
urchin’s faces.

The sun streamed through the clouds
like a spotlight on the rock
where my boys removed their
soggy shoes and socks.
I sat across from them
with my heart breaking.

“Mom, what does separating mean?”

He should have told them.
He should have told them the truth.
That he didn’t want to come home
every night to a boring life
of family dinners and homework.

“Mom, what does separating mean?”

I didn’t want them to see me cry.
I couldn’t look at their faces.
I looked at their feet.
We used to kiss their pudgy
toes when they were babies.

A shadow covered a rock as the sun
glided behind a cloud.
Both boys shivered in unison.
Their dad stood there like a mirage
so we left him there like he wasn’t there.

WIFE-IN-LAW

I couldn’t hold onto his penis,
she owns it.
I suppose I didn’t want his penis.
I actually wanted one of my own
so I could make the decisions,
buy my own motorcycle,
go to college, hair bright,
cheeks blowing, feeling alive.

We traded lives when I surrendered
that penis to her.
She the adventuress,
now the wife and mother.
Me the wife and mother,
now the adventuress.

She invited me to their cottage in Laguna.
We bonded over Stolis by the fireplace,
her pig Matilda taking up three-quarters
of the leather couch and guttural-snorting
at me.

“Isn’t she cute? She wants to kiss you.”

I THINK I LOST YOU 3

Can you hear me now, wife-in-law?
You and your pig came
along and saved him.
You didn’t know you saved him.
He didn’t know he needed to be saved.
But I knew you saved him from
midlife when he bought a
motorcycle with a sidecar.

It was a case of good
timing all around.
This independent girl
wanted release and
her own motorcycle.

Nina Welch has had poems published in Arts & Literary Magazine, Sandscript, 10th Anniversary Arizona Film Festival catalogue, chapbooks titled The Fandango 8 I & II, and Girls on Film. She was awarded first place in the Academy of American Poets competition, judged by Carl Dennis, at the University of Arizona. She was a contributing writer on the nonfiction children’s book, From Fishcarts to Fiestas (1974), and she had a 10-minute play, “Flaws,” produced at the Camino Real Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano. She graduated Cum Laude from the University of Arizona in 2001 and she received the Outstanding Senior award. Following graduation, she was hired as Fine Arts Public Information Officer at Saddleback College. She lives in San Clemente, California.


List of Poets

Poems added July 23, 2016

Elya Braden

WEATHER REPORT
from Office at Night by Edward Hopper

The lonely streetlight reaches
through the half-open window, into
the corner office, strokes the white wall,
the metal file cabinet, the fine, round ass
of the secretary snugged in blue. Its
glow casts the words scrawled across
the letter in high relief. They shout
at the man who clutches the letter
in both hands.   She’s onto us,
he says to his new love,
his “true love,” his voice strangled
as the words grip his throat.
Oh baby, the woman pleads, let’s get out
of town, leave this crummy office behind
and start fresh. Maybe California?
I got a sister in LA.

The man doesn’t answer, doesn’t move,
silent as the typewriter on her desk
a yard away from his, the distance
like an ocean for so long, when all he could do
was stare into the endless blue of want,
adrift on the ship of wife and family
until one day she threw him a line:
Wanna go for a drink? He’d been
drinking her in ever since, each swallow
his death and his salvation.

The woman has forgotten what she wanted
in the files. She clings to the cabinet
to keep from falling, her dark eyes
smudged with tears. His silence is louder
than the first clap of thunder.
Grab the umbrella, she thinks,
here comes rain.

Elya Braden took a long detour from her creative endeavours to pursue an eighteen-year career as a corporate lawyer and entrepreneur. She is now a writer and collage artist living in Los Angeles where she leads workshops for writers. Her work has appeared in Dogwood, Euphony, Forge, poemmemoirstory, Shark Reef, Split Lip Magazine, Stoneboat Literary Journal, Willow Review and elsewhere. You can find her online at www.elyabraden.com. You can find other work by Elya in Rat’s Ass Review here.

List of Poets

Alan Britt

BLOODY LIPS

The first one fell
into my hand
like a grenade.

So, how did she sneak up on me
in the middle of adolescence?

Smack in the middle
of a bad dream!

How did that first impression
of bloody lips
transform Royal Castle’s whiteblue
neon lights
into a true kingdom,
a raw emotional kingdom,
a suburban kingdom, nonetheless?

And how did South Florida rattlers
release our ’57 Chevy’s whitewalls
hopelessly marooned
like a grenade
lying atop pine needles
insulating the soft gray sands
just waiting to explode?

CHRISTMAS POEM FOR THE TWO MARYS

I love Mary.

Which Mary?

What do you mean?

Oh, dear. You love
a myth.

What kind of myth?

Myths are myths; they
don’t come in kinds.

I know nothing I didn’t know
before. What’s your point?

That’s the point.

A point with no point?

Precisely.

So, which Mary should I commit
my soul to, assuming our passionate
gears match, tooth by silken tooth,
millennia by millennia?

Quite some aspiration you have. Still,
your Mary’s a myth. Do you prefer obtuse
ink on paper or psychological hauntings
when you least expect them? Look deep
into her eyes, for god’s sake; do you
see something more than yourself?
Well, then, pursue your mythological
girl, but I prefer the naughty one,
you know, the one hanging out her
robe & sandals, ready to make love
at the drop of a drachma.

In August 2015 Alan Britt was invited by the Ecuadorian House of Culture Benjamín Carrión in Quito, Ecuador as part of the first cultural exchange of poets between Ecuador and the United States. During his visit, he participated in venues all across the country including the international literary conference sponsored by La hermandad de las palabras 2015 in Babahoyo, Ecuador. In 2013 he served as judge for the The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award. His interview at The Library of Congress for The Poet and the Poem aired on Pacifica Radio, January 2013. His latest books include Violin Smoke (Translated into Hungarian by Paul Sohar and published in Romania & Hungary (2015); Lost Among the Hours: 2015; Parabola Dreams (with Silvia Scheibli): 2013; and Alone with the Terrible Universe: 2011. He teaches English/Creative Writing at Towson University. EM: alanbritt@co.

List of Poets

Tara Campbell

LOVE’S LAST GASP

Campbell, Tara Love's Last Gasp

Tara Campbell
is a Washington, DC-based writer, and the grateful recipient of the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities’ 2016 Larry Neal Writers’ Award in Adult Fiction–which doesn’t mean boom-chicka-wa-wa fiction, but rather that she didn’t apply in the teen category. Prior publication credits include McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Establishment, Barrelhouse, Masters Review, Punchnel’s and Queen Mob’s Teahouse, among others. She’s looking forward to starting the MFA in Creative Writing at American University this fall.

List of Poets

L. Marie Cook

VAN MORRISON

I lay on the bed listening to Van Morrison
While reading All the Pretty Horses
A bowl of stove-top popcorn
I’ve covered in salt and cinnamon
Balancing on my stomach
I spent the day, afternoon
Working on a chapbook for his birthday, and
Earlier I researched how to Pickle Jalapenos
And how to make sunflower seed butter
Because he has a severe nut allergy
And I don’t want him to live in a world and not experience something like peanut butter
I also looked for food processors to aide in our ridiculous hummus consumption

He annotated it
The copy of All the Pretty Horses
But it’s spoiled because he tells me what’s going
To happen, before I’ve finished the page

And I had written this poem differently
The version I gave to him was much sweeter
And this one is closer to the truth

The book, the butter, the pickles, the hummus
They will make him feel special because I think he is special
Van Morrison makes me feel good, I get a little high thinking about
A wedding to the song “Sweet Thing”
Laying around reading and eating popcorn
In an easy domestic bliss

I am trying to court him
I am trying to win him over
I am hoping that by reading his copy of his favorite book
That I can learn something I can use to my advantage later
As I said, his version of this poem does not include
This tactic to manipulation

His version says:
Then I had the feeling of immense gratitude
That I get to love a man where I get to be exactly myself
And all the things I do are not stifled
Or wasted, but enjoyed by a good man
Who likes Van Morrison, who lent
Me his personally annotated copy of
His favorite book
And together we can bathe in vats of hummus and pickles and drown in cinnamon
What a good life

What a load of crap

IT’S JUST WHAT COMES OUT OF ME

I don’t really mean to
It’s just what comes out of me
This flood of words and verse
It’s happened before, you are not the first

It’s just what comes out of me
Once a dick goes in me

I don’t want it to be about you anymore
But you were the last person in me
Your DNA bubbles and boils like sores
It’s happening to me, still
Letters and characters compulsively hit the page
Then arrive at your door

I could find someone else, easy as pie
But I’m so very tired
It’s no mystery as to why
For as long as I can remember
I’ve been a Hunter, for lover and muse
When what I’ve wanted this time
Was a partner
To both adore and abuse

And once I think I’ve found him
My eyes clouded with Joy
A deluge of poetry comes out of me
But what’s the use, what’s the point?

Even with you gone, the wall
Of water continues to come forth
So to find another victim
Is just another calm before another storm

I can take anyone really, and turn them into a thing
It may be a gift or a calling,
Or some treacherous fling
Give me a bore and I’ll give him some zing!

As long as there’s paper and pencil
Graffiti or paint
I can take your demons out
And turn you into a saint

I wish I could call you unique in this trap of mine
But if you go back far enough in time
You could have been anyone
All you need to receive it, is simply to be mine

My body is craving again some kind of touch
Not even yours really, not even that much
It’s happened to me before, this time is not the first
But this Hunter is starving, yearning, a thirst

I don’t want this to be about you anymore
But you were the last person inside me
Without any closure.
Long after your dick has left me
All that’s left is this deluge of poetry,

GUYS

I’ve had tall guys and short guys
Bald guys and ones with long hair
Fun ones and bores
Prudes and whores
Soft ones and rough ones
Drug addicts, dreamers, travelers and squares
DJs and Drummers, photographers, guitar players, artist’s, bankers and bassists
A cop or two
A few divorcees, two or three still-married-but-separated, trigger-happy-lovers, commitment-phobes and mopes
Fresh after break-uppers, long-time singlers, lone-wolfers, fathers, brothers, only-childers
A twin, the oldest, a lot of youngest, and middle-child syndromes
Taurus’s, lots of Taurus’s, Aries, Leo, Sag, Capricorn and Virgo
A cancer, a Pisces, wait two Pisces and a Libra Cusp
Open-relationships, swinger and a Dom, boyfriends and bootycalls
One who fit in a Rom-Com
A PhD, high school dropout, Community college baseball star
Three of them 9years older, 16 years older, 17 years older
2 years older, 4 years older, only two of them younger, and one the same age
Some lasted days, weeks, hours, two years, three years
Two months, three months and very the first season of Game of Thrones
Drifters, ghosters, and stay-putters
Boxers and briefs
Free-ballers and cheats
Showers and tellers, shape-shifters and theifs
Soft-lipped and fine haired, pot-marked and fair
Smooth-talkers, money-makers,
broke motherfuckers with baby-momma takers,
Bruised and battered, wounded and strong, independent, codependent
Bi-polar, borderline personality, egotistical, narcissistic and one so fucked-up the DSM doesn’t even have a name for it,
Sweet ones and cheap ones, door-openers,
pay-forers, gift givers and louses
Manipulative assholes and quiet little mouses
Some had tattoos, some full-sleeves, others blank canvases, initials of the deceased
Red heads and brunettes, blondes and full grey
Blue eyes, yellow eyes, brown, black and green
Face scruff, goatees, full beards and clean
Hippies and rebels, jocks and nerds
Builders, readers, motorcycle riders and over-eaters
Gym rats and couch potatoes, runners and slobs
Fit guys and fat guys and everything in between
Skinny guys with big dicks and even skinny ones with little pricks
Unassuming ones with wild sides that took me by the throat with lust in their eyes
Lights on, lights off, shirts on, pants dropped
Panty sniffers and foot-fuckers, missionary only’s and “I just want to make love to your ass baaaaby.”
Some I loved, some I tried, a lot of them made me cry
I dumped a few, others just faded away
On-again off-again, one turned gay
Some got married, new babies and such
They’ve found the one, they didn’t find the one, I was the best
I was all right I guess
I was a beautiful lover et cetera et cetera

No matter how different they may seem
They all have one thing in common
And that thing is ME.

YOUNG LOVE : GROWN LOVE

Young Love
Is a dumb love
It’s a I don’t know
what I got, don’t
try to control it,
while I try to take
you, kind of love.
Young Love
Is a green love,
There are no right
answers, to any of
your questions, but
I’m gonna tell you
how it is and stand
stubborn behind my
ignorance and naivety
till I feel nothing
when you cry, walk
away then chase you
down, kind of love.
Young Love
has nothing to hold
on to, feel like I’m
falling, failing, and
fighting against the
World love and its
Us against them and
Me versus you
until we are both
blue in the face.
Let’s just fuck it
out until we feel it
again, kind of love.
Young Love.
It’s the kind of
Love that can’t keep
won’t stay and it
wasn’t meant to. But
Young love gives way

to Grown Love.
The I know which
fights are worth the
sunrises and which
fights will break you
no matter how many
different ways you
try to say it.
It’s the I know
what I can do and
I know what I caint
I know who I is
and I know who I aint
Kind of love that
keeps from the start
because I know what
broke and I know
what stayed, because
I broke and I
stayed through big
mistakes, trying to get
It right, to finally walk
away, Grown Love.
It’s the after
I sacrificed everything
I shouldn’t have and
had to go back and
find where I left
myself along the way,
but I found it and
I got it, and now
I’m ready for you
Kind of love.
Grown Love.
It’s the kind of
Love only after the
sorrows and trials and
lessons of young love
that caint be applied
to the person you
learned them on
Kind of love ‘cause it gets
in the way of the lesson
that you just caint
learn until its done
and out of it and
it’s Young Love ‘til
you’ve gotten out.
But then, with this
Grown Love, this I’ll
take care of me and
that’ll take care of
You, because I know
what I can do, and
I know what I caint
I know who I is and
I know who I aint
I know which fights are
worth the sunrises and
which ones just aint
worth a damn, if it
makes you cry, This
is the Kind of love.
Grown Love. And
I could to have it with you.

Almost doesn’t seem fair
now does it, to the long line
of Young Loves, with whom
we fought and cried and
carried on. But now
they’re grown too.
All and all the young
Loves get grown,
Even me, and
Even you

YOU WERE NEVER FIT TO BE A MEMOIR

You were never fit to be a memoir
No, your place was always a poem
short-lived, passionate
just enough words to pick apart and wonder

You, could never be the length of a book,
you didn’t give me enough material or stories,
there was no central narrative arch, turning point, cliffhanger, resolution if even unsettling

You came in, built yourself, quickly,
became a beautiful thing that turned melancholy
strong enough to provide tension
and the battle happened entirely in my self
to be read over and over and over and over
looking for meaning

Novels need characters, dynamic conversation,
action over inaction

You left so quick,
left me so few quotes,
the dialogue too thin, no reactions from your end

You were never fit to be a memoir
No, your place was a single page
Your calculated       spaces       and rhymes
your rigid face the meter
depth in each line

You were never fit to be a memoir
and I don’t fancy myself a playwright
so that was never in the cards
but if I were to do it, like that
it wouldn’t be a play at all
just one long, strange monologue

You were never fit to be a memoir
No, you just weren’t enough
Your place was always in a poem
At best a collection of the stuff

L. Marie Cook is a freelance writer and the author of Lay Me Down, a First Prize winner in the Wild Card division at the 2012 Los Angeles Book Festival. She has a BA in Communications from the University of Hawaii at Hilo where she was the Arts and Culture Editor for Ke Kalahea. L. Marie has been published on Airplane Reading, Las Brujas de Yerbas, and Guerrilla Reads. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York and plays the Ukulele. You can also find her work on her blog:underlmarie.blogspot.com

List of Poets

Jack Cooper

BASSE COUTURE

Strange, how the shape of that dress should
supplely conform to my desire:

the flow, its simple embellishment,
within which parted legs stand proud;

poised, glimpsed, so tenderly guide —
rise, raise, lift me straight into your eyes.

John Jack Jackie (Edward) Cooper is the creator of These Are Aphorithms and the author of Ten (Poets Wear Prada, 2012). His American English translation of Wax Women, with French texts of the original poems by Jean-Pierre Lemesle and photographs by Henry Jacobs (International Art Office: Paris, 1985), drew acclaim and dedicated full-window display from the Gotham Book Mart in New York — legendary fishing hole to the “wise” — released in the United States the following year. His work has appeared in Brownstone Poets 2013; The Venetian Hour, Dinner with the Muse, Part II; CLWR 49, CLWR 50; online, at exitstrata.com, and in The Sweet Tree Review, Summer 2016; forthcoming, in the Unbearables anthology “Somewhere to Nowhere.” His whereabouts have been numerous, like his names, but, unlike them, currently unknown. He is editor and co-publisher of Poets Wear Prada, a small literary press based in Hoboken, New Jersey ― birthplace of baseball and Frank Sinatra. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.

List of Poets

Michelle Lee

SWIMMING

She chose a lover
who notices her earwax
as they stand in December
facing the leaps
of tributary, the splash
of something finned.

Beautiful curdles
beneath his tongue
like salt feeding
from sea, but she
doesn’t remember
the last time
she shone like moonfish

big as sticky stars
on his ceiling still silver
from when he was seven.
He doesn’t stop talking:

the crust
of honeycomb
in the cradle
of her lobe –
doesn’t bother me
he says
as if she apologized

a slap of waves
across pilings.

She counts backward
from 100, dividing
the numbers
by his age
and hers.
Would he sink quick
as stone or slow
as wood
or drift
to the other side
still buzzing?

He is pretty and rough
a dock in winter
pink as a boy
hands a square reminder
of days when men took rock
as weapon and women
for their hair.

She doesn’t remember
why she took him, hung
onto so much wet
and splinter.

It had to do with swimming
her arms    and legs    and
his arms     and legs

at the same time moving.

ALARM

When someone whispers: I’d forgotten
what you felt like

it is not a test
of the Emergency Broadcast System
temporary insanity or bad beef.

Take the following measures:

Gather your flashlight, your non-perishables.
A wrench, extra batteries, rolls of gauze.
Locate the safe room.

Don’t       wax, shave, pluck, rub yourself
with raspberries or hope in a jar.

Don’t       watch anything with John Cusack.

Don’t      bake a lemon meringue pie.

Don’t       hear Bob Dylan
throating up your left thigh

or        the humid tsk-tsk-tsk
of a box-fan turning the must –

the promising sweat.

Awakening after amnesia is a tropical storm.
Recaps are for telenovelas.

Michelle Lee is an associate professor of literature, fiction writing, and composition at Daytona State College on the coast of Florida. What that means: she’s underpaid and living in an oven. For the past three years, she served as one of the poetry editors for Rivet: The Journal of Writing That Risks, based in San Francisco. She’s published across genres, but recently her work was published in the anthology, All We Can Hold, by Sage Hill Press and another called, Love: A Collection of Poetry and Prose. You can also find some of her recent fiction and poetry online at Animal Literary Magazine, The Vignette Review, and The Citron Review.

List of Poets

Aurelia Lorca

“EAT MY SUBLIME”

You saw me every early morning when I thought I was alone, when I was that little creature with a dumb purple spiral notebook trying to make sense of truth and beauty without praise or shame. (There will always be some sort of gratitude.)

I told you twenty years later to eat my wake because I felt like I was choking on your dust and I never expected or hoped for you to fall behind.

I hope that you keep watching the wheels turning round.

I hope that you keep up with me.

I hope that you put away the tight jeans, motorcycle boots, hair bleach, and Hollywood douchebag look.

I hope that you someday realize how your greatest strength is the way you know how to listen and let people be themselves, when you forget to look at your reflection in their eyes.

I hope that you someday know that I am no longer sorry.

I hope that you someday understand how only the sublime keeps the wheels rolling upwards towards the pantheon of the gods because none of us truly expects to get there, and trying to say anything to the contrary comes off as saccharine and unholy.

Dear friend, dear enemy, anger, longing, loneliness are always sincere, human, even in such silly toe stubbing moments- Would it make you feel better, give you momentum, if I told you my frightening bmi? How I once tried out for a role as a plus sized Wonder Woman but didn’t get the part because I wasn’t big enough and had too much of an aversion to the word “fat.”

So Odysseus, Jack Lucas, Rob Gordon, Martin Blank- keep watching those wheels, get drunk on time, get drunk on wine, get drunk on poetry, get drunk on anger, get drunk on love, and stay drunk.

Keep comfort that there are too many names for you and I still don’t know if I’m Aurelia Lorca, Trixie Valentine, or Nicole Henares – More like all of them, as the wheels keep on rolling.

Aurelia Lorca lives in San Francisco, California, and has an overwhelming desire to eat her shoe.

List of Poets

Eileen Malone

IN OTHER WORDS

One more brandy in hand I stupidly make
the phone call I should never make, wake you up
to inform you I accidentally hit your button on
my autodial, tell you how I am using my phoneless
cord and haven’t been drinking

want you to know about the birthday card
from my dentist, the only one I got and how
honestly, he really shouldn’t have

my blabbering rises through space
ricochets off satellite panels, bounces back
I go on about the unimportance of my birthday
in other words at this point, what’s the point
realize I keep saying in other words dreadfully
aware of using all the other words in the first place

then I hear it, the little snore which translates
into soon you’ll stop all pretext and start to delete
my e-mails and text messages unread and my phone
messages without even listening to them

which translates into in other words at this inked
splattered period at the end of this non-sentence
full stop, at the end of us, there is no more point.

Eileen Malone’s poetry has been published in over 500 literary journals and anthologies. Her book I Should Have Given Them Water was published by Ragged Sky Press and her award winning collection Letters with Taloned Claws by Poets Corner Press. She lives in the coastal fog at the edge of the San Francisco Bay Area.

List of Poets

Sheryl Normandeau

KINTSUGI 1: THE BROKEN BOWL

You’ve been gone five minutes and already
I’m packing up the house, clutching the banister
and holding up the staircase as they drag the bed away.
I remember the awkwardness of the first time we slept together:
Clattering shutters in a wind storm
a knee in my stomach in the middle of the night
and seconds later the fizzy light of dawn.
I stand on the balcony as the trucks collect our crumbs,
skin flakes and dust, ants on the carpet,
the ring I found in the shower this morning (not gold).
The movers are clumsy, smashing crates into walls
the light keeps getting into everything

Sheryl Normandeau lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and works for the public library. Her writing has been published in several North American anthologies, journals, and magazines. She was a shortlisted author for the Howard O’Hagan Short Story Award in 2015. You can find her online at Flowery Prose.

List of Poets

JeanMarie Olivieri

THE DELICATE CYCLE

I wash your clothes on the delicate cycle
but there are still wrinkles in your coat.
My confession, whispered between clean sheets
was the source of our separation.
You said you were coming home tomorrow
but that was days ago.
I yearn to hear your voice.
The daily routine feels stupid
without you to share it.
I wash my clothes on the delicate cycle.

JeanMarie Olivieri is freelance writer, editor, poet, and pushover for cat videos. She believes that poetry can change the world one reader, or listener, at a time. Author of a satiric chapbook of nursery rhyme parodies, she lives in Durham, North Carolina. jeanmarieolivieri.wordpress.com

List of Poets

Diarmuid ó Maolalaí

LONG DISTANCE

It’s strange
I think of her now
and it’s different
less of a pain
and more of a casual
detail in my past;
like how my brother has red hair.
she is now just a freckle on my forearm
something I know is there
but don’t think about –
we wrote each other long distance for a year
her in neat
small handwriting
me writing with loops on all my ms and ns
like a medieval monk
and then she came to visit
and end it
after staying for two days
without letting me kiss her.
we had been each pretending
that the other was something else
and she had realised it before I did:
maybe it was the long distance,
but I don’t know;
I think I just realised it now.
I’ve got a new girlfriend though,
hot as a roadtrip in summer
and this one has black hair
not blonde like the one I’ve been telling you about,
but it’s all details
that you end up remembering
and then forget. My brother
has freckles too.

I’M A SELFISH LOVER, BUT ONLY WHEN I’M NOT MAKING LOVE

I awaken like a bad novel
in a room with white walls
but only because
your landlord never bothered to paint them
and she’s out for a couple of days
so we have the place to ourselves
and are taking full advantage
having sex in the kitchen until liquid splashes on the tiles
and watching tv nude
between fucking –

but now it is morning
and all I want is for you to stay asleep
and not have to taste your morning breath
because I want you
only when I want you
and lets face it
it’s me that needs the breaks
not you
and it was your favourite movies that we watched
to make up for that
your favourite records that we listened to during.
now
I just want to go to a bar and read a book
without having to talk about
your efforts to find a new place
and your friends
who all have so much trouble finding boyfriends
sometimes
and I can taste the morning coming in through the windows
and inviting me out to do it –

you can have a whole night of picking
where we order food from
and what movie we watch with your projector
but you have to give me the next morning
to go for a walk on my own.
you have to let me have time to not say anything
to you
or anyone
like letting someone drink a glass of water
when all they’ve been drinking is wine.

MY COUSIN AND HER BOYFRIEND

they’ve been together
5 years
and are both pretty attractive
and I see them
occasionally
and I’m pretty sure the only reason
they aren’t married
is that they’re both pretty sure
they’re unhappy
but also don’t know
if they’d be happier
with someone else.

Diarmuid ó Maolalaí is a graduate of English Literature from Trinity College in Dublin and, having spent two years in the UK, recently struck out to try a new life in Toronto. His writing has appeared in, among others, such publications as 4’33”, Strange Bounce, Bong is Bard, Down in the Dirt Magazine, Out of Ours, The Eunoia Review, Kerouac’s Dog, More Said Than Done, Star Tips, Myths Magazine, Ariadne’s Thread, The Belleville Park Pages, Killing the Angel, Prole Poetry and The Unrorean Broadsheet, by whom he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His debut collection, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden, will be available from Encircle Publications in September 2016.

List of Poets

John D. Robinson

HORROR AND SLEAZE AND TRASH

I told her about
the story
“Oh
that’s just
fucking great”
she said
“Now you’re
publishing your
stuff in
porno publications”
It was useless
to argue; I
knew better;
“People will
think that I’m
married to a
pervert”
she said
“People don’t
think” I said
“Did you get
paid ?”
she asked
I shook my
head;
“Fuck
It gets worse,
I’m married
to a penniless
pervert”
she said,
finally
smiling.

John D. Robinson was born in 63 in the UK; his work has appeared widely in the small press and online literary journals; among them – Rusty Truck; Red Fez; Hobo Camp Review; Eunoia Review Zombie Logic Review; Bold Monkey; Outsider Poetry; BoySlut; The Beatnik Cowboy; Horror Sleaze and Trash; The Chicago Record; Revolution John; he was a contributor to the 2016 48th Street Press Broadside Series. He is married with 1 daughter, 2 grandchildren, 3 cats, 1 dog and he likes to drink wine into the early hours whilst listening to solitude.

List of Poets

Karlo Sevilla

SLICING ONIONS

Slicing onions, then I cut my finger…
It’s not about you, I’m not about you.

(And I don’t even know how to cook.)

It’s my finger that bleeds, and nothing else,
as I taste seawater, and choke on it…
But it’s not about you, I’m never about you…

(And I still don’t know how to cook.)

Karlo Sevilla lives in Quezon City, Philippines and writes for The Philippine Online Chronicles. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Philippines Graphic, Philippines Free Press, Indiana Voice Journal, Radius, Pacifiqa, I am not a silent poet, Eastlit, Spank the Carp, Quatrain.fish, Shot Glass Journal, The Fib Review, and Pilgrim.

List of Poets

Neha Srivastava

A HAIKU

the whirring fan
dries your sweat on my stomach
in the hot afternoon

Neha Srivastava is a philosophy major with an MBA in finance, who spent eight years working for multinational corporations. She recently quit her corporate job in order to take up writing full-time, and now spends her days looking out at the world from her balcony while typing away at her laptop. She lives in Hyderabad, India, with two wise cats and a husband.

List of Poets

Julene Tripp Weaver

LOVE SCULPTURE

He was a stone-cold distant doctor,
A neurosurgeon, to adore—
to rock my world the way art must.

The wedge of him I drank hungry,
now nearly forty years later—
the ache still burns impossible.

Old man with feeble realities
I will never know—I remember
your tanned skin, that sculptured square jaw.

Hedonistic emotions rode my youth
formed boulders I threw myself against
such chiseled beauty.

Impenetrable exterior, vulnerable
need lodged within this agate heart
my rock crumbled, yet I stood by my word—

never a betrayal to your marriage.
A promise I made. Easy to trade a body,
let my arms caress what only can stay distant,

rest cool against moist skin brief moments
a microscopic vision—the lust I brought
a sucking noise, my consummate pure.

Time stopped in our lovemaking, moments
we shared, I wanted eons—a gash I made,
my rock against yours, a lifetime onset throb.

I never wanted the feeble old man,
you live immortal—a Roman sculpture
translucent within my longing.

NOW THAT WE KNOW

“As if the thirst for company were not a wound.”
—Tim Seibles

I flung myself into our rape play alive with desire
Made long distance calls to simulate cathartic trauma
One must find a way to ease the burden   loss of lust
Everything goes astray when we can’t play
As if some games are bad
As if the call to experiment has moral value
The president stands in our bedroom watching
big daddy playing war

Violence enters our privacy at birth
Circumcision the first shock
As if man can withstand such pain
or a woman bear up under his backlash
Our government enacts genital wars

We do not see each other so far apart
but we remember    our rolls in the hay
they bounce around in our brain
once we were young, free,     able to play,
in older bodies we know better our intricate needs

As if I could live without you
Hold you far distant outside my life
All past lovers gone into some other realm
As if nothing they were there giving kisses
wires connected
eyes sunk into joy of each other
As if yesterday, my entry of tramp, vixen, whore,
Yes, it was all that, really
As if that could be real
What is real is age, the widening of thighs
the missing of lost moments
As if the time we spent never mattered

We are all traumatized if we live this life
As if we have nothing to cry about

FALLING IN LOVE

He fell in love with me, he said,
because I never made my bed,
it was in a loft, up a ladder
hidden from view.

He fell in love with me, he said,
because I drank Hyssop tea, not
ordinary Chamomile or peppermint.

He fell in love with me, he said,
because I ordered odd off a menu
not afraid of spice, not something
safe or nice.

Much later he told me he was ready
for love, when we met at that dream
workshop. His aura hugging everyone
hello in his soft leather slippers,

I thought he was gay,
I thought I was too—
he was willing to date me even if I was.
We hugged, we danced,

turned out, I too was ready for love.
Gazing into each other’s eyes
both of us surprised
to find the perfect fitting shoe.

WHAT THEY WOULD DO

Those two boys, what they would do
to me—a dream I lived for years. Their
dancing bodies, boxed between them.
It was my I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
summer, my body a pulse, the Rolling
Stones screamed across my tongue,
my legs an ache to dance, and those boys,
they had me live on that slick wood floor.

Julene Tripp Weaver has a therapy practice in Seattle. Her books are: No Father Can Save Her, and Case Walking: An AIDS Case Manager Wails Her Blues, with writing from her work through the heart of the AIDS epidemic. Garrison Keillor featured a poem from this collection on The Writer’s Almanac, and in his anthology, Good Poems American Places. She is published in many journals, a few include: Anti-Heroin Chic, Gertrude, Cliterature, Menacing Hedge, Drash, Main Street Rag, Pilgrimage, Red Headed Stepchild Magazine, The Far Field, and HIV Here & Now. Find more of her work at julenetrippweaver.com and follow her on Twitter at @trippweavepoet.

List of Poets

Gareth Writer-Davies

APHRODITE

if there was so much love in the world
would the carnal function

wither
like a frosted bud

the winter reminder
that each flower contains the seed of its own decay

Aphrodite
you have the lust to re-produce the Spring

the featherbed
wherein creatures burrow and toil

to break darkness
you have taken me deep Aphrodite

the idle jack
who mastered but one trade (the act of love)

the march hare
comes in from the field snorting

Spring is here
steal pleasance whilst you can

OPERA

this is not
a tune you can hum

but with no rehearsal
should one expect

the tenor
and the soprano

to be perfectly
toned

in the key
of F# minor

bodies sing
one note (against) the other

this is not
a tune you can hum

Gareth Writer-Davies was Commended in the Prole Laureate Competition in 2015, Specially Commended in the Welsh Poetry Competition and Highly Commended in the Sherborne Open Poetry Competition. He was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Erbacce Prize in 2014. His pamphlet “Bodies”, was published in 2015 through Indigo Dreams and his next pamphlet “Cry Baby” will be published in 2017. See more by Gareth here.

List of Poets

Poems added July 8, 2016

Mikki Aronoff

ROCK SMASHES SCISSORS

Why cling to you so
when your care’s quota for me
is but a splinter . . .

I

With periodic Magritte gravity, reliably as his vast need swells,
Meteor Man hurtles towards me from his silver-flocked sanctuary

suspended in space. He slides down a sky muscle for liftoff, speeds
through gelid ether. Open hands strike air. Deep ringing like old temple

gongs thunders and widens, vibrations pulsing hollow. Rippled waters
wait below, dark and warning. Sound upon sound he whip-rides

his howling, hastens his approach, blocks the sun, casts a glacial shadow.
He compresses, aims, lands heels first, lodges thoughtless and briefly

beside me. His body cleaves but a soundless moment, fizzles, sheds
a few arctic fragments. He recounts an oft-told tale, checks his watch,

hastens his absence, as always when his vast need is spent. All
that remains are scabbed igneous souvenirs of a callous and hasty itch.

II

I scavenge for a choice crumb, saber the largest. My points pivot,
trace the crime scene outline, scan and measure shapely contours,

assess his damage. My tapered shanks protract and snip-snap shut.
I clip this latest silhouette for my tattered bulging book of scraps

and poems praising the virtues of leisurely surfeit. I tape the crumb
where a heart would be, date the page upper right. I’ve braced hard

for this last withdrawal, clang sharply into place. Flash frozen blades
of tempered steel mirror a glazed and brittle leaf trapped blackly

under winter ice. I shiver, inhale frost. Crystal slivers pierce, lodge
in my lungs. I labor to catch breath, slowly extend, reach for paper.

Mikki Aronoff’s poems can be found in House of Cards: Ekphrastic Poetry, Rolling Sixes Sestinas: an Anthology of Albuquerque Poets, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems, The Lake, and 3ElementsReview. She is a member of the New Mexico State Poetry Society. Now retired, she spends her time stringing words, scribbling pictures and smooching on her pooches as often as she can.

List of Poets

Emily Bartholet

LOVE POEM ON THE CHESAPEAKE

I’ll give you gooey,
brackish flowers,
china shells, and porcelain
lady crabs—
flat footed virgins,
dead will-o-wisps
pinched tight in flowered fists.

If you hate the smell
of French fries over the bay
I’ll replace it with sea salt
gathered from the tails
of tight blue horses—
manes clipped, mouths frothing
in the wild breeze.

I’ll cut the barnacles
from your skin—no scars,
no pockets full of worms
and muscle silk.

But I will not touch
your mantle,
your lacquered shell.
I will not cut your gills or tell you
how to breathe.
I will not take from the water
what is yours, what is you.

Instead, I’ll be your oyster:
though stable, pearl-less
and unopened.

Emily Bartholet is a Dickinson College sophomore. An English major with minors in everything else, her poetry has appeared in numerous online and print publications, including The Riveter Review, Third Point Press, and The Four Seasons Anthology by Kind of a Hurricane Press.

List of Poets

Elya Braden

ODE TO K-Y

You would call me Summer and I would call you Fall,
but the passing seasons pleat my neck
in crepey gooseflesh and frost is gathering in your hair.
Cold breaches our thinning skin.
It’s not too late, my love. Your sly finger
on my bare leg still incites a wildfire. Don’t
click on the TV, open a book, sand the flames.
Rise with my steam, steal up the stairs,
peel off my clothes and lay me down
on sheets of mint and celadon.
Yes, the dry winds of menopause have parched
my hidden spring, and yes, the pump that fills
your fire hose is slower to its task, so get out
“the Pink and the Blue” and let’s get it on.
You, Mr. White Boy, can lip-sync Barry White
as you bathe “Colette” in pink liquid essence of fireworks,
and I slick “Buddy” with blue oil infused with gunpowder.
Then I, Ms. Super-Jew, will leave an offering
of sticky plum, ripe peach and daisy-chains
on the altar of our nightstand, crooning prayers of gratitude
to the gods of K-Y who created YOURS + MINE ®
to lubricate our love.

THE FIRST TIME HE HIT ME,
For Lori S.

We were on our honeymoon,
on a ship riding the rough waves
of the Atlantic in December,
my footing already unsteady
with the pitch and fall,
the second glass of Dom Perignon
at dinner, the sparkling compliments
of Jim, our table companion,
a salesman from San Antonio,
his eyes cleaving the deep valley
between my breasts.
Did I encourage him?
That’s the story my husband’s fist
insisted. The question my black eye
asked the mirror the next day.
The reason I stayed.

THE LAST TIME HE HIT ME,
For Lori S.

She was humming her liquid song
in the deep space of my belly.
He hit me there on purpose, bored
with his bouquets wreathing my wrists,
their plucked petals purpling my thighs,
He thrilled for another life to batter. My cup
of shame was full. Her innocence
unbreathed. At five months, too late
to subtract her from our equation,
even if Hashem did not forbid
the destruction of her blank page.
The kitchen knife sang
of partings. I waited
till he slept,
crept from our bed,
dabbed on cover-up
and left.

PLUNDERING THE PROVISIONS

For years I was that jar of roasted peppers
languishing on the pantry’s upper shelf, unreachable
without a stepladder, and you, my husband, teetering
on a chair in stockinged feet, groping, grabbing,
plundering the provisions we’d tucked away
for a celebration misfiled between Christmas and goodbye.

Your hands gripping, slipping from my sealed lid,
each tug tumbling the lush, crimson flesh taunting
behind clear glass like kelp blades dancing
in deep waters, as visions of another man’s fingers
grazing my areola, another man’s tongue
licking my lips, another man’s mouth savoring
my heat, narrowed your eyes, clawed at your belly.

Until last night, when you dropped me
on the kitchen floor, and I landed on the thick silence
of Oriental rug, rolling over flowered medallions
woven of blood and straw, moss and sorrow.
Loosened by regret, I opened to your touch,
sweet and briny, too late wondering:
Could you taste his salt on my skin?

PERSPECTIVE
From A Bar at the Folies Bergère by Édouard Manet

At first glance, you’re sure she’s alone. Her eyes, sweet
lemongrass and jasmine, cast down and right,

hooked by a glint of silver on the dark wood floor, a button
or a coin. I am invisible in her presence, a ghost

in the mirror. “See me!” My black top hat demands
attention, but she has seen too many frocked coats,

mustaches and trim goatees, filled too many orders, met
too many wants. She’s stopped imagining

the possibility of love, hides the mystery of her porcelain
heart under a cheery nosegay of roses

and poppies. A black velvet ribbon hugs her throat,
its golden cameo can’t hide that tiny quiver

inflaming my blood. She doesn’t look up, won’t
smile, won’t meet my eye, won’t fill my glass.

But she will know me tonight. Tonight when I pad
behind her in the dark, a panther stalking

my prey along the shadowed pathways of the park,
my happy knife silent, eager at my side, waiting

for the perfect moment to rise, to reap the moon’s
cold light, then plunge into that pulsing

stream beneath her alabaster skin and wake her
from her life, this dream.

Elya Braden took a long detour from her creative endeavours to pursue an eighteen-year career as a corporate lawyer and entrepreneur. She is now a writer and collage artist living in Los Angeles where she leads workshops for writers. Her work has appeared in Dogwood, Euphony, Forge, poemmemoirstory, Shark Reef, Split Lip Magazine, Stoneboat Literary Journal, Willow Review and elsewhere. You can find her online at www.elyabraden.com. You can find other work by Elya in Rat’s Ass Review here.

List of Poets

R. Gerry Fabian

18 WOMEN AND ONE OLD MAN
IN A HOTEL ON THE POOR SIDE OF
THE CITY

The last time I saw him
was at dinner
where he fed 18 women
a mixed greens Balsamic salad,
herb encrusted salmon,
tiny Rosemary potatoes,
and garlic asparagus.
The women ranged from
older elegant to seductive enchanting.
The meal was ‘haute cousine’ spectacular.
Later,
while I cleared the table and he
washed the dishes,
I asked him about the arrangement.
“They know what I require
and I know what they require.”
“How can you afford it?” I asked.
“They pay me an outrageous rent
&

there’s a waiting list.”

CARPE DIEM (C)OLD

We stumble back to my apartment. It is so cold outside. I pour two glasses of wine that neither of us need. She swears at the wine but drinks it. We kiss. It is way less than memorable. I insist on the ritual love shower. She balks at first but undresses and follows me in. There is no such thing as a ritual love shower. We awkwardly wash each other between stale kisses and drunken fondling. Her breasts have begun to sag. There is a scar on her stomach that suggests Caesarian birth. I wonder where this child may be. She kisses me with a soapy mouth. She has a large scar across her left leg. I soap it gently. Finally clean, we dry each other as only two drunken people can do. The bedroom is cold and we rush under the covers. She has green eyes surrounded by pouches of red. ‘She’s a Christmas woman’ pops into my head. Her name? What’s her name? I know I wrote it down on a bar napkin. It’s in the pocket of my jeans. I fight the urge to get it. It is too cold.

She has fallen into an alcoholic sleep. I hold her for her warmth. Tomorrow’s regrets begin to formulate but I shake them away. Who is this woman I am feeling sorry for? She may still have twenty-five years left on this earth even in her addicted state. I may have ten at best. She nestles close to me. I see her as a young girl. Choices made! Cold. Hard. I think this could be a poem. Free verse? Prose poem? It will never be written. It is too cold now. Just too cold.

BAPTISM OF FIRE

As we kiss,
you bite my bottom lip.

I can taste
the warm blood leak
into my mouth
and onto your lips.

You roll off the bed
and slowly dress
allowing me to watch.

You walk over to a picture
on me on the dresser
and kiss the picture
on the glass
imprinting a blood stained kiss.

Without even a smile,
you leave.

I have never cleaned the blood
off that glass.

R. Gerry Fabian is a retired English instructor. He has been publishing poetry since 1972 in various poetry magazines. His web page is rgerryfabian.wordpress.com . He is the editor of Raw Dog Press. His novel, Memphis Masquerade and published poetry book, Parallels are available at Smashwords and all other ebook stores.

List of Poets

Gayane M. Haroutyunyan

DRESSES

1.

The moon puts flowers
in my mouth, mounts
the scent of sex,
as I call to the sun, the morning, my body
like workers in the fields
of life.

2.

Knives on the sofa,
dresses, ideas
wait like a cat
for a dazzling, white moment
but she will not come in –
trapped bloody sheets
decided everything.

3.

The world too wanted
the fusion of sweet cigars
and white mouths, drifting
in the red ocean,
but the mirror in my stomach
will not reflect
your entire busy alphabet
or your average-sized heart.

4.

It is something
I find in my bed,
once it rolls out of my mind,
it is never a poem.
Life is composed of verbs, only

I am an adjective

followed by a comma.
Bad, beautiful,
sad – before I learned
this language animals
shot out of my mouth
a plastic rainbow.

5.

Building a narrative
I am still looking
for my face
in your hands,
cooing
the way you write me.

Gayane M. Haroutyunyan is a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College with an MFA in creative writing, Poetry. She concluded her experience at Sarah Lawrence with a manuscript that she is currently trying to publish. Gayane’s poetry has been published in Zetetic, The Apple Valley Review, and chaparral, (twice).

List of Poets

Sherry Howard

UNTIL DEATH

When shivers still cascade at the slightest touch
and even a glance quickens the flutter of the bloodpump
and the dance is better than the denouement,

when sharp edges of living slice to the bone
and darkness is the only light

when feet are rooted in your world along with soul,
when sickness and health aren’t just words,
but paths traveled. . . together,

when the price of love leaves no change
and costs empty the coffers

when you are me and I you, and the blend is perfection,
when any other force goes unreckoned,

that’s when the work, the worry, the winding endless journey
the pain, panic, sorrow are share-shouldered,
that’s when I trust the forward momentum of life.

Sherry Howard lives with her children and crazy dogs in Middletown, Kentucky, a stone’s throw from the beautiful horse farms Kentucky is always bragging about. During her career in education, she served as principal in one of the largest middle schools in the US; she and cat-herders share many common skills. Sherry loves to read, write, cook, and sit in the sand watching the waves when she can. She credits her ability to write a complete sentence in English to her training in classical Latin.

List of Poets

Melissa Fite Johnson

FIFTEEN

Learning my friend had sex was like
pinning on the donkey’s tail:
the blindfold came off, and
suddenly, tails could grow from snouts
or be stomped by hooves, and
she could stretch naked alongside a man.

ENCOUNTER

You run by in street clothes,
panic on your face,
turn the corner and are gone.

I haven’t heard from you
in years, not since you returned
my Christmas card in the mail.

In a nearby coffee shop, someone
notices through a window
that suddenly I’ve stopped walking.

AFFAIR

His wife was the song in his heart,
lodged like a bit of steak in his teeth.

This other woman was the song
on the tip of his tongue—shamelessly

persistent. He found himself
humming the scoop of her upper lip,

the hem of her six-inch skirt,
the low rumble of her throat clearing.

Melissa Fite Johnson received her Master’s in English literature from Pittsburg State University in Kansas. She was the featured poet in the Fall 2015 issue of The Journal: Inspiration for the Common Good. Individual poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such publications as Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Rust + Moth, Midwest Quarterly, and velvet-tail. In 2015, Little Balkans Press published her first book of poetry, While the Kettle’s On, a Kansas Notable Book and winner of the Nelson Poetry Book Award. Melissa and her husband live in Kansas, where she teaches English. For more, visit melissafitejohnson.com.

List of Poets

Kenneth Robbins

1 SAMUEL 18
CIRCUMCISION

Jonathan was the King’s first born.
The boy, David, was the son of a sheep herder from Bethlehem.
The boy, David to the King: gimme a slingshot and I’ll kill ’im.
He meant Goliath of course.
Again: gimme a lyre and I’ll slay ‘em.
Few could play the lyre at that time, and the boy, David, was by far the best.
Jonathan to the boy, David: I loooooove yew!
Again: take my tunic, my robe, my sword, my bow, my belt, me.
King Saul to the boy, David: take my daughter Michal.
Again: she be the one for you.
Now, Michal looooooved the boy, David, just as much as her bro.
The boy, David to Saul: who me? Be yore son-n-law? Shoot, man!
Again: I’m a pore boy, a youngun, not worth much. So leave me be.
Which pissed King Saul off about as much as the Philistines pissed him off.
Now, it’s a matter of record that the boy, David, was one hunk of a handsome hombre.
Ever body looked on him and swoooooooned!
Mostly Jonathan swoooooned.
But Jonathan’s plan, if he had one, which he probably didn’t, left the boy, David confused.
He didn’t understand what it was that Jonathan wanted.
Jonathan didn’t understand what he wanted.
All he knew was his looooove for the boy.
The King got it in his head that the boy, David, good and handsome as he was,
was disrupting his kingdom more than needed.
The king, pissed off as he was, decided to let the Philistines do his dirty work.
More: let them pin uppity David to the wall, if they can.
So, he said to the boy, David: you can have my daughter Michal.
More: she likes you.
More: you like her.
The catch: but to claim her, you must bring me one hundred Philistine foreskins.
This to himself: get me some revenge and get me the boy, David dead and gone.
Jonathan to the boy, David: I’ll go with ya and search out the land for foreskins.
The boy, David to Jonathan: you do that fer me?
Jonathan to the boy, David: Course, cause I loooooove yew.
The boy, David, shrugged.
He had no idea what the word love meant.

Now, both the boy and his friend had had they foreskins whacked off when they was babes.
It was called circumcision, why, who knows?
They didn’t quite know what it was they was to get and bring back for the king’s pleasure.
They found they first Philistine, sleeping on a bed of bricks.
The boy, David woke him and said: you gotta give me yore foreskin.
The Philistine said back: you’ll have ta kill me first.
Which the boy, David, shrugged and did, using his sword and gutting knife.
Then he searched the carcass for its foreskin and couldn’t lay hands on it.
Till he lifted the dead man’s tunic over its chest and starred at the thing that lay ‘tween its legs.
The boy, David, looked at Jonathan.
Jonathan pulled his thang from his robe.
Both stared: first this one, then that.
And it came clear:
There was more to the dead Philistine’s whanger
than they was to Jonathan’s and the boy, David’s as well.
They inspected all three whangers close.
The boy, David to Jonathan, touching the tip of the dead man’s thang: that’s it, ain’t it?
Jonathan to the boy, David: gotta be.
More: must be pretty valuable thangs for the King to want one hundred of them.
One hundred, they best get cooking.
So they whacked it off, glans and all.
Then squeezed the glans till it fell to the ground.
And there they stood, hand in hand, a Philistine foreskin dangling between them.
And they whooped in glee.
The boy, David to Jonathan: let’s find us some more Philistines.
Again: this is fun.
Jonathan to the boy, David: course, let’s, ‘cause I loooooove yew!
They were plenty of Philistines throughout the land.
They stood no chance against the pleasure Jonathan and the boy, David took in killing them.
Stick with the sword, slice with the knife, squeeze away.
And ‘fore long, they had the needed one hundred of the King’s requirement.
One hundred dead Philistines lay across the land.
Only, it was too much fun.
The feelings for sticking, slicing, and squeezing were only parts of the pleasure.
The greatest one came with the holding of the dead man’s whanger before the slicing began.
If only the dead man would hold their whangers back.
Only he couldn’t, being dead.
So, Jonathan and the boy, David had to hold each other’s whangers instead.
And it felt good.
The boy, David wanted to say to Jonathan: I looove yew too.
Only he couldn’t.
There was Michal waiting for him back in town.
And she didn’t have no whanger which made her different.
At least, to the boy David’s way of figuring.
They kept killing and slicing and squeezing cause both of them were confused.
They didn’t know this from that or that from this.
By the time they got back to King Saul’s living room,
they didn’t have the requested one hundred foreskins.
No.
They had two hundred Philistine foreskins.
They had left two hundred Philistines dead throughout the land.
They laid their bounty before the King.
The boy, David to King Saul: what do you need these things for?
Again: you want more I can get ‘em for you.
King to the boy, David: no, I think two hundred will more than do.
His, the king’s, plan had failed.
This boy, David seemed to walk above the usual trepidations of open warfare.
Did he walk with the Lord?
He must walk with the Lord!
Otherwise, how was he able to wrest
two hundred foreskins off living and breathing Philistine men and live to tell it?
He didn’t say it, but he, the King, was suddenly afraid of the boy, David.
Cause the boy, David, was no longer the boy, David.
He was David, the man,
David the soldier,
David the one with the Lord’s right hand.
David, the husband of his daughter.
David, the apple of his first born’s eye.
David, the king’s new son-in-law.

When the generals of the Philistines found the sliced up bodies of their men,
they were confused.
Who was this enemy that took the most important part of a man’s manhood?
And left it exposed for all to see?
Who would do such an atrocious thing?
They too, the Philistines, who had seen what David could do with a river rock, were suddenly afraid of the boy, David,
who had become David, the destroyer of grown men’s whangers.

All the while, Jonathan pined for the love of his life
and the lasting memories of those days at David’s side,
harvesting foreskins for the joy it brought.

When a son was born to him and Michal,
David knew exactly how to handle the required circumcision.
He sent the results to the boy’s grandfather for his expected delight.

Kenneth Robbins is the author of 4 published novels and 27 published plays. Currently he teaches honors theatre at Louisiana Tech University.

List of Poets

Nikki San Pedro

MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS

Jacuzzi jet bubbles up to my nose
Eskimo kisses exchanged anyway
Fingers pulling each other’s baby toes
Fishing, floundering. Who’ll win this parlay?
Round the dinner table the stakes are raised
Eggplant emoji with peach pulpatoon
Your crackers crisp while my marrow is braised
Kitchen co-cooks: I’m the fork to your spoon
Domesticity never felt so good
Oprah or Martha may not recognize
Ketamine cuisine means love in the hood
Kaleidoscope tree houses in our eyes
Even though forever with you I’d sleep
Nikki Dokken?” Nah. San Pedro I’ll keep.

Nikki San Pedro was born in the Philippines, raised in Canada, and has been adulting in the US since 2009. She’s mastering creative writing for social justice at Antioch University and helping kids tell their stories with 826LA.

List of Poets

Debarun Sarkar

DRUNK Ks

Even after a year, I have
not written a poem about her

Maybe we do not write poems
about people we barely have sex
with, but the days feel dirtier than
the days when you have the dirtiest sex
Like the time when you spent a week in the room
without a bath and change of bed sheets in the summer

Or maybe, you do end up writing about them
in coded language in notebooks which would never

be published like Kafka’s letters
I wonder if she burnt Kafka’s letters
after his departure

Drunk Ks don’t make good lovers

Debarun Sarkar sleeps, eats, reads, smokes, drinks, labors, and occasionally writes and submits them. He studied English and Sociology at the universities, but now spends most of his time juggling between freelancing and writing while halting at Calcutta for the moment. Works have previously appeared or are forthcoming in The Brown Critique, Aainanagar, Foliate Oak, Cerebration, The Opiate, among others.

List of Poets

Gregory Stapp

IN EXCELSIS FELLATIO

He doesn’t ask it.
He commands it.
He’s no song and dance man.
He’s a pay and play man
strolling down the street,
slick as a midnight pimp
tossing his coin and whistling.
He doesn’t say what he wants.
He makes you know it
the way he looks at you,
a hint of tears in his eyes
like looking at a sunset,
the way he fingers his tool
under his simlāh. He pulls it out
like a puppet. It grows
every time he tells you
he loves you, when he smiles
and says No strings.

You don’t ask for it.
You receive it.
You’re no lettered-sign
beggar. You open your mouth
like a baritone. Kneeling to him,
cool as an ice chip,
taking his coin and whistling,
you say you want him.
You make him know it
the way you take him in,
a mist of glisten on your lips,
and grab his buttocks
under his simlāh. You find a rhythm
like a player piano. He grows
with every tamp. He tells you
he loves you, pairs his thrust
with your timing.

In the alley and the moment he is God.
God is your mouth and the frenulum,
the thrust and hand of God,
his palm on the back of your head,
God’s fingernails pricking your skin.
You are both God when you swallow him.
And later, strolling down the street,
whistling with his warm coin on your tongue,
he is an empty purse and you alone are God.

CORPUS CUNNILINGUS
-alterum “In Excelsis”

She comes to you
in her simlāh,
hands raised in orans.
The askew lamp shade
casts an aureole
over her approach.
She doesn’t ask for it.
She quietly insists.
She’s no hussy.
She’s a press-your-kissing-
tongue-south kind of virgin,
smooth as a drop of oil
massaged into the skin.
She doesn’t say what she wants.
She makes you know it
by her pose on the floor mattress,
how she lifts her simlāh and sādhı̄n,
and traces her mandorla
until you near. Her hips
rise to your lips
when you tell her I love you,
when your breath is hot
on her thighs.

You go to her,
your silhouette cast behind you
over the pocked walls,
with your shirt off, a shoulder
of tension in your step,
hands on the back
of your neck, your arms
like wings flying you in
your swift approach.
You don’t ask for it.
You fall to it.
You’re no Madonna.
You open your mouth
like a soprano and genuflect,
languid as water
rolling off the skin.
You say you want her,
let her know it by the trilling
language you speak,
want on the tip of your tongue.
You find a rhythm to match
her hips as they rise and sink
with every lance. The arch
of her back grows with the groans
she knows you want to hear.

In bed she is the mother of God,
mother of your mouth and the clitoris,
the thrust and lance of God.
Her palms on the back of your head,
she massages where she has scratched.
You are both God when your tongue
bears its weight. And later, cradled
in her arms, straightening the bedside
lamp’s shade, together
you are God. Clutch and clasp,
filled with need.

DESERT VOWS
…quod me nutrit me parit…

The heart is a secret no promise can keep.
In Phoenix, on the tip of the desert’s tongue,
a wedding envelops the church.
The imperative vows echo from the warm walls,
never address the heart, and spill out from the doors
with the parade of bride and groom,
the clamor, into the desiccating air. Unaddressed,
the desert does not repeat the vows.

/

The couple makes love on a beach in Ibiza.
They swim in the earth’s middle
and lick the salt from each other’s lips,
and promise the sand as much as the water.
They dance in the waves of the rhythmic sea
until it bears them
back to the desert shore of the evening heat.

/

Something old and something borrowed.
Something forgotten. Something lost.
The desert consumes the city.
The city unveils the desert.
The groom swallows the bride.
She gives birth to him by night.
They clean the pool most mornings.
They never go swimming. Sometimes, they drown.
The desert takes a vow of silence.

Gregory Stapp received his BA from the University of Oklahoma and his MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. His poems have appeared in Outside In Literary and Travel Magazine, “ditch,” the Gutters and Alleyways anthology, Limehawk Journal, and Shot Glass, among others. He recently served as the Poetry Editor for Qu: A Literary Magazine.

List of Poets

Peggy Turnbull

FRIENDSHIPS IN A SMALL TOWN

Behind an adobe wall
stars streaked and vanished
she drank moonshine made of cactus
and stumbled into a narrow room
with austere beds in a row
straw pallets white sheets
his mustache burned
the mattress squeaked

The others talked about her.

In spring the cactus bloomed
he drove into the desert
searching for her
among yucca and ocotillo
searching for her
beyond the goat paths
he drove his strong truck
up a mountain
over prickly pear
and sharp volcanic rock
and showed her its power
and showed her his love

They laughed at her and called her a slut.

Once she saw the bullet wound
on his thigh
Once the rain fell
in the desert
while they made love
a sign of fertility
a message from God

The others were glad when she spent her days worried.

One night she watched the moon rise
full and white
edged with rose
it spoke to her
in intimate terms
it was her sister
The moon would grant her wish
Her period would come

Everything the moon said came true.
And she wondered about the others.
Did they ever see the shooting stars?
Did the moon ever speak to them?

Peggy Turnbull lives and writes in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on Lake Michigan’s western shore.. She is a librarian for the University of Wisconsin System and feels privileged to have access to the UW libraries’ vast collection of poetry. She takes writing classes whenever and however possible. These include workshops at the O. Henry Museum in Austin, Texas and the Bridge Between Retreat Center in rural Brown County, as well as M.O.O.C.s sponsored by the University of Iowa and California Institute of the Arts.

List of Poets

Rachel Voss

WITCH

Cat-calling delivery man,
do you not know that I am

the old crone beneath the skin mask,
grotesque grimace plastered over

artfully by time, precarious
position of dormancy

between youth and decay?
These pigtails a noose,

the better to choke you with.
Face just a puppet, sex

just a performance of desire.
Take me onto your handlebars

and spirit me away. See
what happens. The revelation

of your horror will be
a perversely pleasurable

mirror to me: like Mother Gothel,
drawing you up through my hidden

window, letting you pull my hair—
and greeting you, not

with lustful sighs, but with
an alley cat to scratch out

your eyes. In fairy tales, hunger
is a trap set by the wicked

to entangle the weak. They escape,
but barely: body broken

temporarily, spirit forever
chastened. In real life,

retribution arrives like a knock
on the door for those who peel back

the veneer. Order a dish
and I show up, lukewarm

and covered by glaze
of unidentifiable sauce: sickly

sweet and seductive, but
empty, false. Come

in my kitchen and I’ll show you
what food tastes like:

it’s a salad of rampion,
a timeless plot, irresistibly

fresh, until it isn’t,
presage of rot.

Rachel Voss is a high school English teacher living in Queens, New York. She graduated with a degree in creative writing and literature from SUNY Purchase College. Her work has previously appeared in The Ghazal Page, Hanging Loose Magazine, The New Verse News, Unsplendid, Newtown Literary, and Silver Birch Press, among others, and is forthcoming in Blast Furnace and 3Elements Review.

List of Poets

Poems added June 11, 2016

Amy Christina Berg

DOBSON FLY

You keep thinking about that first night, when you couldn’t stop talking to each other and you discovered that he loved Fitzgerald too and your friend asked you later if all the talk about literature was foreplay, and you replied that yes, it was, isn’t talk about literature always foreplay?

You’ve been with him now for a few years and you’ve broken up twice, or more, you can’t keep track, it runs together. He still consumes you, even though he’s aged ungracefully with his graying hair, his eyes less blue, a heavier frame, his voice scratchier than it was when you first met. His Puritan ancestors more prominent in his eyes.

You think about the things you’ve done together, trips, nights, meals. You think about that time at the very beginning when you didn’t know if things would last, and you met in Miami, shacked up in a hotel room for a week, hiding from phone calls and sunlight. You think about the time you fell off the bed while you were fucking for the fourth time that night, but it didn’t matter, you didn’t feel it, you were immune. You think about how his mouth moved against your tits, how you felt when his skin touched your skin.

You remember the time you were hiking together and found a Dobson fly and learned that it spent its whole life underground until it was ready to mate and then it dug its way up into the world, fucked, and died. And you felt like life could be like that. Like you had been underground all this time and you had just been waiting to live and it didn’t matter that to live you had to die.

You still want to convince him that Faulkner is worth a second read, but now it’s over and the dream is getting away, slipping, falling, plummeting. Things that are broken can’t be unbroken.

All these memories swim together creating a relationship, a moment in time, a kind of love, and it doesn’t matter so much if it’s over, you think, it only matters that it happened.

ENTANGLED/SIBLINGS

Version 1.0
Sometimes you pick at my soul scab
And it hurts a bit
But I know you’re just staving off an infection
So I let you
Pick at it

Version 1.1
We’re both open wounds,
And it’s too soon (To swoon)

Version 1.2
Neither of us believe we can have something good
(We were walking down the street in the rain
and you told me you were afraid
that something bad would happen to me)

Version 1.3
Try to capture
The rapture
That maps
The aperture
of the rain
in here
isn’t it clear
that it’s fear
that causes the pain
in here

Amy Christina Berg is a sometimes-writer and erstwhile party girl. She makes a living by pretending to be someone she is not, and does a pretty good job at it most days. Her short stories have been published in places like Farmhouse, which no longer exists. She is relentlessly fighting the temptation to be a poet. She has a short story forthcoming in the summer 2016 issue of The Opiate.

List of Poets

Jane Blanchard

CARPE NOCTEM

Darling, should we not take advantage of
this time together? Each of us feels good
enough to share a bed, to turn in love
toward one another. Let us knock on wood—
the table here or there—to keep all pain
from interrupting pleasure. Kiss me now,
hold me close—even closer—entertain
us both with. . . . See, you do remember how!
I have missed you—your breath, your warmth, your touch,
your lines and curves, your openness to passion,
your willingness to give and take so much,
your preference for custom over fashion.
No vagary of muscle, nerve, or bone
has ever left me satisfied alone.

Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia. Her poetry has recently appeared in The Dark Horse, The Lyric, and The Rotary Dial. Her chapbook Unloosed is available from Kelsay Books. To read more of Jane’s work go here.

List of Poets

John Mark Brown

WHEN I LISTEN TO HIS STORIES

of the skin where he mixed
his sweat, the brick
it brushed against in places
they took him to cut
his teeth, projected on ceiling tiles
above our bed,
I finger my waistband,
measure notches, compared
to his in window yellow light,
pelvic shadow grazing down
navel planes. These nights

when he speaks with strangers’ spit,
his bitten brittle nails no more
scratch my surface, wan, collected
in moon shapes beneath them. Still
I want my flesh between those fingers—
a knuckle in each rib valley.
I want his teeth in my larynx, hungry,
my breath in his lungs

when he tells stories
to the next one he fucks.

John Mark Brown is a Southern Illinois native, a senior creative writing student at Eastern Illinois University, and a cardigan enthusiast. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the Indiana Review, Indiana Voice Journal, and Dead Snakes.

List of Poets

Ingrid Bruck

OTTERS SLEEP HOLDING HANDS

Let us be otters that sleep holding hands.
Roped together,
anchored on a life raft
big enough for two, my honey,
we ride, slip and slide,
cruise nights where dreams walk free
and nightmares skim off day’s grease.
Hearts pound like hooves on pavement,
we depend on the press
of each other’s warm body for comfort
and defense against inconsolable loss.
We sleep tethered holding hands,
unaware when passion turns to poison,
when jealousy tightens its grip to shackles,
and she consents to wear
the chastity belt of possession.

AUBADE

The first, I want
but without return.
For a dozen years,
we play a frigid bitch game,
he yokes me with inadequacy,
I pull to redeem my sex.
Ophelia without suicide,
I languish.

The second, I revolt.
We hit the bed and do
a quick flash burn
to crescendo and sleep.
Slam bam thank you, M’am,
he tells me
and it’s enough,
I am woman.

The third, I knock on his door.
Come in, he says.
He is my aubade.

Until I turn thirty,
I think aubades
are fairytale lace
in romance novels.
Not so.

Stars sprinkle through the window,
a new moon night
wraps us in velvet.
Content to light the darkness,
over and over we wake,
caresses follow blazes
then we doze
only to awaken in need.

We rise and fall
hours slipping
until the sky passes
to muffled gray
of cheesecloth and bird song.
From overhead, sharp honks echo,
a pair of geese head eastward
into the rising sun.

Dawn sings with birds and frogs,
crickets rub their wings in joy.
We part in white morning sun
mated for life.

Ingrid Bruck is wild flower gardener and a poet inspired by nature. She lives in Amish country in Pennsylvania. She has published in Howl of Sorrow: A Collection of Poems Inspired by Hurricane Sandy, River Poets Journal 2016 Special Edition: A Collection of Signature Poems, Topography, Panoply, Yellow Chair Review, Leaves of Ink, Unbroken, Three Line Poetry, Young Ravens Literary Review, Plum Tree Tavern, Halcyon Days, One Sentence Poems and Quatrain.Fish.

List of Poets

Marissa Glover

THE HAPPY HOUR OF ASSAULT

No one writes poems about the guy who changes your brake light when the lamp blows out or snakes your soap-matted hair from the shower drain. There’s nothing romantic about being nice. Neither do we write poems for the husband who is now married to someone who is not us. Poems are for the men who send purple calla lilies inscribed with lines from Pablo Neruda and then treat you like shit. We pick the prick just sharp enough to spur our muse yet not so barbed it draws blood.

STAINED

Because I want to forget the afternoon at the library
in the cramped backseat of your wife’s sedan:
on my knees between car seats, soda cans,
and soccer cleats—hidden by a willing rain
loud with promise, wet with wishing—
and the look on your face that returns books late,
pages stained and marked for easy reference later,
after you’ve forgotten the important parts.

Marissa Glover teaches and writes in St. Leo, Florida, where she finds joy in good books, long walks, and wide open spaces.

List of Poets

Patricia Goodman

TWISTED MISTER

He’s demented, this house sparrow,
who insists on building a nest
in the cage of my tube feeder. Nothing
like breakfast in bed. All day he tucks
dead grass into the cage, fights off

other males and red-bellied
woodpeckers four-times his size,
then sits on the cage, sings for a mate.
His nest breaks all natural rules—no
protection from weather, too accessible

to predators. Last year I tried
to discourage him, finally gave up,
let him build. The feeder went empty.
So did the nest. I guess prospective
mates didn’t like the neighborhood—

no place to raise kids, sort of like building
in a fire-prone canyon in California
or too close to the water for hurricanes.
This year he is still mate-less. The ladies
all give him the feather (middle primary,

right wing). One female watched
for a while. I swear she shook
her head, rolled her eyes. He’ll have
to get lucky—find one who, in spite
of his quirks, still considers him sexy.

Patricia L. Goodman is a widowed mother and grandmother and a graduate of Wells College with a degree in Biology and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. She spent her career raising, training and showing horses with her orthodontist husband, on their farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She now lives in northern Delaware, where she enjoys writing, singing, birding, gardening and spending time with her family. Many of her poems have been published in both print and online journals, and anthologies and she was the 2013 and 2014 winner of Delaware Press Association’s Communications Contest in poetry. Her first full-length book of poetry Closer to the Ground, was a finalist in the Dogfish Head Poetry Contest, and was published in August, 2014 by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. In 2015 she received her first Pushcart nomination. Much of her inspiration comes from the natural world she loves. For more of Patricia’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Leanne Grabel

LOVE JUNKIE

Grabel, Leanne Love Junkie 1

Grabel, Leanne Love Junkie 2

Grabel, Leanne Love Junkie 3

Grabel, Leanne Love Junkie 4

Grabel, Leanne Love Junkie 5

Grabel, Leanne Love Junkie 6

Grabel, Leanne Love Junkie 7

Grabel, Leanne Love Junkie 8

Leanne Grabel is a poet, memoirist, illustrator and semi-retired special ed and language arts teacher, currently substitute teaching in East Multnomah County. In love with mixing genres and media, Grabel has written and produced numerous spokenword shows, including “The Lighter Side of Chronic Depression”; “Anger: The Musical”; “Badgirls”; and “The Little Poet.” Grabel’s books include Brontosaurus, Lonesome & Very Quarrelsome Heroes, Short Poems by a Short Poet and most recently, Assisted Living, a collection of rectangular illustrated prose poems. Grabel has just started working with Nest Foundation, facilitating a human trafficking awareness and social action curriculum at local high schools. Grabel is currently finishing an anthology of her graphic flash writing called THE CIRCUS OF ANGUISH & MIRTH.

List of Poets

Christine Graf

SHOPPING FOR LOVE ONLINE

I send email flirts in the dark
wonder if my words are enough to lasso
the bearded lawyer,
on a hot Fourth of July Weekend
when all the men are barbecuing burgers
with sons and daughters.

I peruse his profile, purloin his life
shop online for the right fit, color,
texture of cyber love.
I press PayPal and add to my virtual cart
the bearded lawyer who uses recreational drugs
because he defends multi-national corporations.
He claims to be a mystic, calls himself a pantheist.
I write and tell him that my religion
is making art which is both erotic and divine,

place my purchase on Master Card
and receive my packaged man
by Fed Ex the next day.
When he arrives I unwrap him,
he’s chipped at the edges,
with a hairline crack around his heart.
I don’t send him back, and like him the way he is,
a permanent smile on his face,
just like his photograph.
I place him on the shelf and dance for him
on this hot, Fourth of July Weekend
when the sky is full of fire.

BAD BOY

I did it with the bad boy from high school last night,
except I wasn’t old or fat
and wore a string bikini.
My bad boy read me his poetry all night,
when for so many years I thought he
was just a beer guzzler and n’er do well.

He tossed alliteration across the motel room
like a seasoned wordsmith.
His assonance was firm, one silky word after another,
and I loved fingering his internal rhyme.
This went on into the night, ode upon ode
the open road his muse, the lion growl of a Harley on hardscape
as he draped each purring word
along my neck until he left me breathless with caesuras.

I’ve always had a thing for malcontents
who write of lost love and post-coital laments;
It went on and on, a lingering prose poem
about bar fights, barmaids, the lonely road.
The best part of our night was his enjambment;
he knew where to stop, when to pause,
nuzzling his blank verse down my legs.

He drove me mad with his hot breath that dropped
iambs like stale pretzels across the bed.
When he was finished with his broken tropes,
his image laden lost hopes, he kissed me goodbye
and left me with two last lines I promised never to repeat.
He was my black shirted beat bad boy,
drumming in my sleep,
spotlight drinker, flashlight poet.

MY GESTURES TO ALL THE BOYS

I’ve kept an accounting of all the men
I’ve met on online, a dating docket of the boys
that think they are men.

I raise my glass of flat champagne to Howard
the richest of the bunch,
and his demand that I wear silk and stilettos;

I send a Bronx cheer to Patrick
who was fifteen years younger
and volunteered to be my boy toy.

A slap on the butt to bad boy Adam
whose user name was, I HAVE A BIG BRAIN
and who wanted to use it as often as possible.

I Fed Ex twenty bucks worth of pennies to Dan
who wanted to borrow a grand because
he was mugged in a dusty town in West Africa.

I tip my wide-brimmed hat to sappy Marvin
who wanted to be my Cyrano, and said his white plume
holds communion with the heavens.

I stick my tongue out to Fred who stood me up
and never called, shoot the finger to Steve
who promised to call every day and didn’t.

I turn my back on Zack the Wall Street wonder
who hated the Jewish women he dated and hid it well.

To Jack, I open my hand, offer my prescription
for Prozac, to help with his depression, ulcers
sciatica and continual bad luck with car wrecks and
bad investments.

To Jonathan, I bequeath my Groucho mustache and glasses
so he will no longer feel invisible.

I send a limp wave to Ron the writer,
with his notebook of lies,
and a kiss goodbye to all the boys not grown into men
who set me free.

Christine Graf is a commercial artist by profession and published in several journals, such as the Aurorean, Christian Science Monitor, Edge lit Mag, Evening St. Review, Cumberland River Review, Main St. Rag, Bryant Lit Review, and others.

List of Poets

Peleg Held

ELEOS

Your boots at the door
mudded by rite
your skirt to the floor
sodden with night
home from the mist
with bramble-writ thigh
nightingale piss
and the owl-dripped cry
of some kin riding claw
to the lintel of nether
defiantly cursing it
feather by feather
come whisper her song, sing in her stead
come bring your lips here, unwashed to the bed.

Brush from your hair
websilk and leaf
and loose from your grip
the petals you keep
of the found-by-the-way
and broke-open-wide
empty your chest
of the stores that you hide
under rib’s silent curve
in the hold of your breath
spill it all here
as we dance against death
wrapped into fetish by the clasp of the press
a makeshift asylum where the hunted are blest.

Peleg Held is a carpenter and writer living with his partner in Maine. His book, Virgula Divina was released by Dyad Press. His work has found some very fine publishers here and there, but he is most proud of his daughter’s feet where she has tattooed two lines he wrote for her. He feels as an editor she shows a remarkable commitment not seen often enough these days. On the rare occasion that she wears shoes, he wonders if that is a statement about his work or the weather.

List of Poets

Rebecca Jacobs

BEDROOM

There is a pillow against my chest
nothing else touches me anywhere;
not even a sock overhangs my ankle
like the last remnant of a night of wanting.

There is nothing but clean and dirty clothes,
and empty tea cups with the bags still hanging;
piles of books
on bookshelves
and off bookshelves.

All the presences of human life
except the jolt of warm softness of sucking at a breast,
the straining touch of cupping oneself inside of another,
two bundles of muscled skin sleeping loosely, and together,
and pretending to have dreamt the same dreams.

Rebecca Jacobs is an artist and creative living in the Charlotte area. She recently received her BFA in Photography from Winthrop University and has spent time as a web designer, a barista, an okay cook, an epidemic worrier about all things universal and philosophical, and (hopefully) a decent human being. Her work seeks to capture and amplify the taut, fragile emotions that lie beneath the surface of existential occurrences, and to form a sense of self in their passing.

List of Poets

Kirsten Imani Kasai

I LOATHE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD

see the ghosts of myself on its streets—
there! collapsed on a grafittied bench,
weeping.
lamppost-leaning, sobbing.
we shared our first kiss in that corner bar
our first fight, too.
here is the shop where you braved
driving rain to seek
ice cream when i was sick, and
here are the puddles of sick
made upon the eve of your betrayal.
there are florals in the eaves—
spring blossoms you plucked for my lair.
see that bird’s nest there?
woven from the hair
i snatched from your head when things
got too brutal.
i see you grinning, hopeful,
your bright-eyed stars
winking. twinkling.
how could I forget that, when
assaulted by sun, starlight dims?

AN ANSWER TO LAST NIGHT’S QUESTION

you ask how i want to be fucked
you’ll be sad when i tell you that i don’t remember,
it’s been so long since anyone asked me or cared to know
but upon further thought
i think i have an answer
—with care—
temperamental libido, i said
(remember the anemone
shrinking and curling away
from intrusive touch
curious/harmless/gentle hands
will win the waving fronds)
i like it from top to bottom
don’t go in for the kill unless i ask you to
first you must answer the riddles
and win approval from the gatekeepers
who will applaud your cleverness and bravery at each pass
the mind, start there
flimsy tinfoil barriers that will crumple at a touch, a laugh, a song
lips and neck next
easy free-swinging gates without locks
breasts that they prefer cupping to a squeeze or pinch
and i’ll want your mouth upon them
twin, latched garden gates
you’re stoking a fire
it should burn faster and hotter with time and trial
allowing you to jump ahead in sequence
and win the prize with less effort
my pussy is a cautious cat
a feral feline
used to being wary
she has to get to know you first
you’ll have to earn her trust
to transcend this last and most steadfast of gates
with its history of interlopers
and bloody wars and death
a tender touch, for now,
smoothes away sense memories
of curettes and needles
suction and blades
hot stares and prying eyes
collects the trash abandoned
in my neglected sanctuary
there are many knots to untie
a sticky, tricky lock
requiring much oil to turn
but eventually
in the way of rusted iron,
the lock will crumble and break
disintegrate into dust
leaving me open to you

does that answer your question?

’TIS ONLY FITTING…

that what began with a poem
should conclude with one, too.

it’s like an advent calendar—
my heart.
all those little doors and windows
each an amuse gueule
to tease, tempt and trick the tongue

but it’s a steampunk heart, too
a minuscule engine
fettered with tiny locks and latches
hinged plates, no bigger
than a thumbnail
or a sequin
or a needle prick

one-by-one
opened
and one-by-one
shut.

Kirsten Imani Kasai is the author of three novels: Ice Song, Tattoo and Private Pleasures; a short fiction/poetry collection Rhapsody in Snakeskin and a poetry chapbook The Atmospheric Mysteries of a Steaming Corpse. Her fiction, poetry, essays and photography have appeared in numerous print and online publications in the US and abroad. Kirsten is the co-founder and editor of Body Parts Magazine: The Journal of Horror and Erotica. She earned her MFA from Antioch University and lives in California with her family. Visit her online at www.kirstenimanikasai.com or www.BodyPartsMagazine.com.

List of Poets

Jillian Koopman

FIRST DATE

On a first date we share sushi.
Your face is pleasant, round
as a bowl, your smile a hammock
held by the twin trees of your beard.
Our chopsticks never touch,
wooden rods reaching back to us.
I cross them to your brown eyes
like beetles asleep, looking down
at the bold shimmer of raw tuna
each time silence picks up speed.
When we part I aim my face
above your right shoulder, avoiding
the tiny hangers of your lips,
and in the morning remember your
dark eyes, the way they took me in
discretely, the way your smile stood
on stilts and the way our words
stood facing each other at the end,
like two soldiers retreating.

THIRST

frothy chai tea
blue afternoon, beads of sweat
jeweling a first date

NEW WITH LUKE

For our second date
I bring over a pumpkin,
short and fat, resting it
on the railing of your porch
next to a tall, lean one.
I am nervous on dates
despite being on many,
and when you open the door,
my heart crinkles like a leaf,
its fragile veins seeming
to shrink. We lay down
newspaper on your table,
cutting the bright, waxy skin
into surprisingly porous flesh,
you scooping with a spoon
the mess I cannot untangle
while I toast the seeds.
You make a jagged smile,
while I carve a heart and star,
and from the front yard
we admire the nodes of light
wobbling through the dark.
Driving here this evening,
I heard winter’s low voice
crooning, coaxing leaves
to a colorless sleep,
fearing the loneliness of
that dark, empty street.
But you convince me, lying
entwined on your bed
your arms girding me
from my own dark thoughts
that there is warmth—
the same way you pick me up
outside when I’m barefoot
protecting my no longer
tender feet from the
sharpness of acorns.

Jillian Koopman is 32 and teaches English at Georgia Military College in Fairburn, GA. She lives in Atlanta GA. She has lived in the south for almost ten years but still considers herself a northerner at heart; She grew up around Philadelphia and most of her family is still there, so she visits often. She loves teaching, reading, writing, and exercising. She writes in various genres because she thinks they are all fun and contribute to each other.

List of Poets

Andrea Lorin

CASUAL TRAGEDY

Don’t tell me I’m just another casualty
in your heartbreak warfare.
How dare you even think it.
I am not your victim,
your casualty,
your damsel,
rebound,
or casual fling.
Oh, no.
I am worth so much more than that.

I am the endgame.
The goal to strive for.
I am the prize
at the motherfucking finish line.
Yet you attempt to keep me smaller than that;
how dare you even try it.

How dare you make me your simple little casualty,
a very small tragedy,
so I must hang my head in shame
before I say how much it meant to me.

How dare you make me fall
with no intention to catch me;
making me into a damsel.
A free-for-all for all the heroes who may have a handle
on how to cause this damsel less distress.

But I am no damsel.
I can pick myself right back up
and put my pieces back together again.
See when I’m down, I don’t stay down for long.
But you didn’t know that
so how dare you even let the possibility cross your mind
that you may drop me
and I may never get back up.
You’re a shitty partner in a trust exercise.

How dare you look in my direction,
simply happy for all the times that I gave you an erection.
How dare you still flirt with me,
teasing a fallen soul who is barely getting up.
How dare you sweep me off my feet
only to throw me away –
you never actually wanted to keep
me, did you?

Well that’s your loss.
I could say “how dare you” until I’m blue in the face
but it wouldn’t do any good because
you’re too busy wrapped up in your own shit
to realize that, yes, I’m still talking about you
and if you noticed, you wouldn’t listen
because God forbid you hear what I feel.
It probably has a bitter taste
doesn’t it?
Well I’m sorry
I feel great.
And if these words are an indication of anything, it’s that that last line is a lie
and I’m watching time fly by
as I wait to be picked back up
even though I know I need to do it myself
because I fear I’ll be dropped by anyone else.

But once I’m back up, you’ll see
that I’m so much more than you tried to make me.
I am the endgame.
I am the prize at the goddamned finish line.
I am the goal to strive for.
I am the motherfucking Queen.
So you sit back
and you watch me conquer.

DIDN’T

you said you liked me
because I looked cool and aloof
and you could’ve tried to look
deeper before holding my hand
but you didn’t

when we first started dating
and you wanted to dive into things
I asked if we could go a little slower
and you could’ve listened to me
but you didn’t

every time I talked about the things I liked
you’d laugh and make fun of me
and when I said it hurt my feelings
you said it was your humor
and you could’ve just apologized
but you didn’t

when we were alone and we’d kiss and you’d touch
and I’d shy away when you
touched too much
but I never said no
because that’s not what good girlfriends do
and I could’ve said no
but I didn’t
and you could’ve realized that I
didn’t want this
but you didn’t

maybe you knew
and you could’ve cared
but you didn’t

you said you loved me
and I said it back
but slowly I began to realize
that it was too wrong to be real
and if you had looked deeper
you could’ve known me
but if you had known me
you couldn’t love me
and you didn’t

so I took control
decided I wasn’t better off miserable
I chose to be happy again
I told you I was sorry
you could’ve believed me
but you didn’t

instead you harassed me
threatened me
insulted me and mine
you could’ve acted more mature
but you didn’t

and you kept on
adding insults to the injuries
you caused me in our 3 months
and the weight of it was crushing
you tried to hurt me
because you never bothered to
see beneath my surface
you could’ve broken me
you could’ve damaged me
you could’ve ruined me

but you didn’t.

Andrea Lorin has been avidly reading and writing since she was young and continues to do so as she works towards bachelor’s degrees in both English and Sociology. She finds that the best writing comes from the heart and that the exploitation of one’s pains and passions can always become something beautiful and worth sharing with the world.

List of Poets

Erica Gerald Mason

SOMETIMES I SHUT UP

when i say something he doesn’t like about someone
that’s not him he says don’t say that and when i say
something he doesn’t like about someone who happens
to be him he says shut up and then sees my expression
and he says i was just joking but he never smiles when
he says it he doesn’t smile the whole time even when
he explains it was a joke and i sometimes i shut up
because i’m not in the mood for an argument but sometimes
i tell him not to tell me what to say and he just sighs and
then sometimes i say no you shut up and then he says I’m mean and then
storms out of the room and he doesn’t say anything when
he gets like this he won’t say anything for a long time, maybe ever.

Erica Gerald Mason is the author of the poetry collection i am a telescope: science love poems. She is a freelance writer and traveling poet. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Zoetic Press, Found Poetry Review and the HIV Here & Now Project. She has written since the age of 6, when she wrote a letter to Santa asking politely for a Barbie Dream House and a black Barbie with three wardrobe options. Santa delivered the goods, and thusly a passion for writing was born. i am a telescope is available on Kindle and paperback on Amazon. Find Erica’s blog and poetry at ericageraldmason.com.

List of Poets

Catherine Orlando

[NUMBER ONE]

Stop.
Stop right there
and don’t run your eyes
heavy and languid and physical
like a touch along my clavicle
like my hunger like
the fact that I couldn’t stomach
lunch or dinner today or
dinner yesterday or the day before
that. So don’t. Don’t run your
eyes along that like its something
good like its something you like
like its there for You.

Stop. Don’t pinch or poke
or prod my thin pale pasty
white skin
yellowing and yellowing
with each cigarette and each
minute second hour
day I spend
lengthening my face and
taking in my
skirt.

stop
please
don’t question the little hills the rumpled
goose-flesh the signs i’m
frozen because no one
knows no one’s
noticed no one
sees the full grown girl
who
still can’t keep her breaths
even

don’t
don’t pause for a
moment at the way my
blouse flutters and jumps over
my sped up lub-dub
because my heart is
racing to the
finish line
and doesn’t want
to be caught.

Catherine Orlando is a college student, raised in New York and based in Baltimore. She is currently exploring any and all creative outlets through which she might express girlhood.

List of Poets

Heather Lee Rogers

HURRICANE POEM

When the hurricane came
they were trapped together
the city locked down tight
and everything had already been said
so she filled bag after bag
hauling out a decade’s clutter
heart raw, she knew he felt
like she was doing this to him
an old magazine or carnival prize
sorting him into piles of
“not needed anymore”
yet rain raging, world flooding
she was a bag-filling machine
she’d be moving out soon
he was fondly clutching
these last days of her company
her hollow soul was howling
with the wind and rain.

BARN DANCE LUST POEM

All overgrown
for lack of plowing
I dream too loudly
waiting to be picked
I am, of course, late
to the barn dance
the farmers
are busy increasing their flocks
the cowboys
have chosen wild mares to tame
the fiddler stirs and stomps
the music seizes me
I shake, I kick, I scream
O music in my stomach
music music in my hair
blood rises to hot cheeks
a sweating dance
a harvest dance
I am a feast
and miss the good boys
gliding home good girls
by plump pink arms
the band has packed their magic up
but I don’t hear them anymore
I’ve claimed the center
of the barn’s dirt floor
my dress split open
I am spinning
faster faster faster
all alone.

Heather Lee Rogers tells stories as a writer and actor in NYC. Recent poetry publications have included Here Comes Everyone (print in the U.K.), Harbinger Asylum (online), Haikuniverse.com, Waterways (print), S/Tick (online and in print) and Adanna (print). She has also been the featured poet performer at Art House Open Mic in Jersey City, NJ and at the Parapluie open mic in Brooklyn, NY. See more of Heather’s work in Rat’s Ass Review here. And read lots more of Heather’s work here.

List of Poets

Christy Sheffield Sanford

BEDSCAPE, MAKING AND UNMAKING

Red Lights

Present for all In-tense Purposes: Into the mahogany lattice of my Chinese Chippendale bed, I coil a flashing red rope light to surprise my lover.

Past Told in the Present: The celebrant offers me a rubber hose-like affair. Outdoors in the back yard, I plug it in, drape the red glowing snake over my bare shoulders, dance topless− as would any Minoan goddess for this silver haired biker with a ponytail.

Present Redux: Red proves fun for the evening but once is enough. The atmosphere is too hot, too intense, like making love in a bar.

White Lights

Present for Illuminating Passions: We improvise in bed. As Angel, one of my personas, I weave white Christmas lights through the bed’s fretwork. Trying for a heavenly effect.

Passions Laid Bare: I feast on the sight of this swarthy Sicilian as we make love. Still, white lights register too bright, too day penetrating night.

Indirect Lighting

Present for Subtlety and Drama: He leaves the bathroom light on, door cracked. Perfect. The light on my lover in bed is gorgeous. My fair skin against his olive−thrilling.

Sheets

Present for Immediacy of Sweat: The sheets must be washed after each night of love. The queen size sets range from pink flowered to leopard to burgundy satin. We are good at perfuming them with essences. We are very good at wrecking the sheets.

Past in the Present Concussive: One night when he’s not here, I lie across the burgundy satin in a silky slip, fall asleep on the diagonal. I wake when my nose, then forehead hit the hardwood floor. I roll ice over my injuries. Black eyes, falling out of bed blues.

Jewels

Present for Glamour: While I’m out, he ties his necklaces through holes in the canopy’s trim. I come upon them: sausages hanging from ceiling hooks in an Italian market, snakes dangling from trees in a Georgia swamp. His jewelry: stacked metal disks from Africa, lizard skin oval with black suede ties, mandala of red and yellow Indian beads, and a kidney-shaped turquoise stone set into silver.

Knife

Present Tense Protective: He sleeps not on the outside−my idea of protective−but against the wall. Wrapped with Velcro around the bottom of the bedpost nearest his head is a throwing knife. German with leather scabbard−blade embellished with tiger-head.

Sounds

Present My Lonely Nights Are Through (Etta James): My moans mingle with the horn of a train blowing through the night. Whir of a ceiling fan. Music by Muddy Waters, Jonny Lang, John Lee Hooker. Good Morning Little School Girl. The blues are pelvic. Rocked so much at first I was seasick.

Slats

Present Tense Indicative: By month’s end, we break the right side of the bed. Slats fall on the floor. A carpenter is summoned from around the corner. Laughing, he inserts a dozen extra long screws at an angle so as not to protrude through the facing.

Dice

Present Games of Chance: He’s got me doing it. I hang the fuzzy blue dice near my head, like hanging up my guns.

Past in the Present: He gives me a gift for the Mustang: blue dice that dangle over the rear view mirror, plug into the cigarette lighter. The Sheriff pulls us over, issues me a warning. Only law enforcement can flash blue lights.

Present Tense Bragging Rights: Adding to the bed’s adornment, I tie on a tiny fan, a favor from the Blue Crab Festival. We use it to cool off after certain maneuvers.

Our love-making record: five times in a night. Not bad, we joke, for a man of fifty needing a valve job and a woman of sixty with lumbar bulges.

When he came to me, he didn’t sleep. Now he sleeps and whistles when he wakes.

Extra Firm Mattress

Present Reflective: We lie on our sides, facing each other. I grip his buttock with one hand, his shoulder with the other. He copies my caress. I stretch my toes as far down his body as I can. Full contact. We kiss and breathe into each other as though exchanging oxygen.

Curtains and Covers, Room Accessories

Present Tense Informative: The bed curtains are lavender sheers. A flowered quilted spread in pinks, peaches and lavenders with coordinated skirt. Ruffled shams.

Future Wishful Tense in the Present: Mirror on ceiling. On the wall beside the bed, Muybridge-like series of our love making. Various acrobatic positions. Full-length frontal nude photo of my lover exiting the shower.

Phone

Present Tense Imperfect: He calls from the Jersey shore, wishes I were there. I lie on the bed, giggle and sweet talk him on the phone. He’s beginning a two-week road trip to the badlands, driving a disabled vet to the Daytona Bike week of the West.

Silk Shirts

Present Stretching into Future: Three weeks pass, then four. He stays too long at the fair (Sturgis, Harley Milwaukee Show, New Jersey friend’s, New York Rally, Hudson Valley Catskills retreat). Two months!

Present My Lonely Nights Are Back: I gather his possessions that so delicately entered my home. Atop the bed, I roll silk shirts in every color, fold his leather pants, jacket, vest.
I wrap the pearl handled pistol, sawed off shotgun, Punjabi sword, red dice and front end of a bike. Over the fence of his doublewide, the oddly shaped packages, assorted boxes and bags raise clouds of dust as they hit the dirt.

Christy Sheffield Sanford lives three blocks from the majestic St. Johns River in Florida. She holds an MA degree in Creative Writing and Interarts from Antioch University. She has received an NEA Fellowship in Poetry and numerous State and National Awards. Sanford is the author of seven small press books including Only the Nude Can Redeem the Landscape, French Kisses and The Hs: the Spasms of a Requiem.

List of Poets

John C. Zielinski

IMPERFECT

Afternoon —
she disrobes in the soft light.
How difficult it is for her to do this,
hating what the daylight reveals.

She winces while undressing,
ashamed of her body
sees it as rot, failure.
Every wrinkle, mark and fold viewed as a wound.

An athlete’s stride and stance —
her body moves with the sleek dangerous grace of a shark.
She can’t see how her flesh ripples with sexual strength.

She smiles,
failing to hide her discomfort and fear.
Every time wondering:
“Will this be the time he recoils at my mess?”
“He just wants to get it over with”
Questioning my grin:
“A mocking grin?”

I scream with joy inside.
She is rewarding me, trusting me.
So happy I am —

we fall into bed.
She stiffens with vulnerability to my touch,

obsession with perfection.
Perfection in nature is unstable.
Fuck Perfection —
pathetic bland unimaginative.

Her scars are soft to my lips.
Scars under her breasts —
a reduction
— Her scars are her story.
Lips gliding over the raised flesh
nerve endings tingle.
I look up.
Her soft jewel eyes
sensual face
still trying not to wince
waiting for my repulsion
but also grateful.

Fingertips now.
Touching her.
Such incorrect beauty.
As if Matisse painted for the blind,
translating his visuals to touch.
Sensory experiences unique to her.
We both shake with freedom.

I slide my hand across her soft belly.

I caress skin that once held excess fat.
Evicted, it left marks, left folds.
Proof of her victory
but seen as an embarrassment.

I want her to love her victory,
to know that I love her victory.

She starts to tense again
trying to guide me away.
My hands gently seize her
as I run my lips across her belly
to kiss her fear.
I turn my head and rest my cheek.
How soft! Comforting.
I look up and smile with acceptance
watch her joy mixed with trepidation.
I kiss her belly again.

Little bit of gray strands texture her brown hair.
I envision her 20 years from now —
stunning.
She will age full of life.

Her legs
strong quad line I squeeze
run my palm down to her calves
and back up.
Squeeze her ass hard.

She rolls over onto her back,
legs hips slightly angled
more protective anxiety.
I lean back to look at her.
She wants to make love.
She wants to cover herself.

She is imperfect and complete.

John C. Zielinski is a 23-year veteran of the motion picture and photography industry. He has both poetry and flash fiction published in the online literary journal The Gambler. His short story “The Colonists Gave Them Blankets” has been accepted for the dystopian anthology And the World Will Burn and his flash fiction “A Witness in the Arena” will be featured on the podcast Random Transmissions.

List of Poets

Poems added May 27, 2016

Bill Glose

A CUNNING TEACHER

So sly the way she backed away,
closed her eyes and turned her head,

palms pushing my shoulders toward
her liquid core. A novice on blocks,

I dove into her pool and thrashed
outside my lane until her urgent calls—

Right! A little right! Right there!
guided me back on course. Furiously

I lapped as if racing to the edge and
spilling out were all that mattered.

But when I came up for air and saw
her crooked grin, her wink, her nod,

I resubmerged into the depths,
certain I could hold my breath forever.

SPRING DANCE

Air hums the insistent rhythm
of youthful need, and forsythia
are first to respond, waving
yellow-sleeved arms adorned
with buds like a gypsy’s
cymbaled fingers. The pear tree
is next, slipping on a dress
of white blossoms that clings

to limbs. The cherry will wait
a week or two before bursting
in his plum-colored jacket
through doors in fevered glee.
Ancient elms and oaks observe
in suits of brown, folded arms
guarding the punchbowl, knowing
someone must chaperone the kids.

Blue jays and robins bang out rockabilly
while warblers and whippoorwills sing
back-up. Except for dandelions,
cornflowers, and swirls of pollen,
dance floor is as green as avocados
offering up their tender meat.

When night falls, fireflies stitch neon
strands through languorous black
and owls inquire about departing lovers.
The pear climbs into a backseat,
strips off her dress, petals floating
on the breeze. And somewhere
in the distance sounds the trumpet
of a loon.

MY ROM-COM MONTAGE

What Women Want? It’s Complicated.
Music and Lyrics
or Dirty Dancing?

Dangerous Liaisons or Safe Haven?
Flirting One Day
, playing

Hard to Get the Next.
Forget Paris
; they Hunger for

The Ugly Truth. Once, when
I’d abandoned my Good Will

Hunting for Casual Sex, I saw
a Pretty Woman at a House Party.

She’s Out of My League, I thought,
but I’ll Say Anything for her

to Take Me Home Tonight.
I rehearsed All the Right Moves,

then saw her Angel Eyes Sparkle
and lost all Sense and Sensibility.

Bedazzled, Bewitched, her
Crazy/Beautiful smile had me confessing

I’d Never Been Kissed. The Admission
worked better than Chocolat.

The Good Girl Derailed, became
a Bad Teacher—Superbad !—

and we were Carried Away to
Some Kind of Wonderful Sin City.

Breathless, I imagined our Love Story
Nine 1/2 Weeks
later when I’d

bring her to Meet the Parents.
Life as We Know It
would change,

Pillow Talk focusing on The Wedding Date,
The Wedding Planner, The Wedding Singer
.

But truth is Stranger Than Fiction.
Instead of, “I Love You, Man,” she gave

a last French Kiss, said, “Goodbye
Lover
,” then was Gone with the Wind.

Bill Glose is a former paratrooper and author of three poetry collections, including Half a Man, whose poems arise from his experiences as a combat platoon leader in the Gulf War. After serving in the Army, he worked in paper factories in Chicago and Massachusetts before returning to Virginia. Wanting to reconnect with his home state, he walked 1,500 miles through every region of Virginia and wrote about his experiences for magazines. In 2011, he was named the Daily Press Poet Laureate. His poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Narrative Magazine, Poet Lore, Atlanta Review and Southern California Review.

List of Poets

Nancy Iannucci

SEA BUSH

She pulled
back black
seaweed,
licking her lips.

one strand
caught
between
his lashes,
blinding
him in
sand
& salt.

his face
wilted as
she bucked
a mako shark
aggression in
flash floods
of free shots.

he consumed
her like
seal even
now when her
curls coiled in
gray sea hags.

her back
rubbed against
smashed shells,
toes floundered
under the
sea floor.

she stood
a Siren
to him-
he, her
Poseidon
still thirsty
for her
aged pussy.

Nancy Iannucci is a historian who teaches history and lives poetry in Troy, NY. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Amaryllis, Eunoia Review, Three Line Poetry, Fickle Muses, Red Wolf Journal, Rose Red Review, Faerie Magazine (FB photography), Drops from a Cauldron, Mirror Dance, Pankhearst, Picaroon Poetry, Yellow Chair Review, and her poem, HOWLING, won Yellow Chair Review’s Rock the Chair Challenge poetry contest.

List of Poets

Marie Lightman

LA PASCUALITA

I hear you grant wishes, in particular the delicate concerning the heart,
our bride forever, La Pascualita, Mexican embalmed bride.
In the next village the girl I have fallen in love with,
Maria Gomez, one year older, runs like a deer, sits behind me in class.

Placing a candle by your shop window, I’m followed around by your eyes.
I think of you on your wedding day: a death by black widow spider,
immortalised, by your mother, as a bridal display, now and forever always alive.
La Pascualita, respond. My only wish is to lay my head down beside her.

Marie Lightman is a poet and script writer, with poems appearing in I am not a silent Poet and The Fat Damsel and as the epigraph in the current issue of The Linnet’s Wings. Marie runs the Newcastle based The Writers’ Cafe, running drop-in creative writing workshops. In 2015 she published Writers for Calais Refugees and is currently publishing a prompt a day on marielightmanpromptresponse.wordpress.com/.

List of Poets

Mark J. Mitchell

MISS PEGGY’S AUNT

En la farmacia se evapora un cadáver desnudo
(In the pharmacy a nude cadaver evaporates)
–Rafael Alberti, Cita Triste de Charlot

Her bedroom’s a sterile jungle—white walls,
bad pictures, chintz, lace, long ebony posts,
limp vines. But he’s there in his neat white coat—
pressed, flat as his gray mustache. He’s there all
the time. He knows her name, her buttons, her
shape. He’ll reach in her closet, throw a fur
onto the floor—ravish her. Cool, pale skin—
his, not hers—crackles the air, charged by sin.
She wants this forbidden by rabbis, preached
against. His white pockets rattle—loose pills
she wants those. He teases them out of reach.
This one’s poison, he says, but this can thrill.

Sometimes their secret dance is held outdoors
or—better—at his place. Rows of loose pills,
taboo powders—a desk full of unfilled
prescriptions. Everything’s clean. He might pour
purple crystals down her lavendered neck.
She’ll snap orders—tell him just what to lick
and where to stop. It’s always so cold there.
She likes that. He doesn’t. He won’t let her wear
his perfect coat. Only she knows his name—
she changes it at will. She knows it’s all
in her head but her body loves this game—
it keeps this perfect servant at her call.

ON A THEME FROM FERLINGHETTI

“It is a sofa full of blind singers
Who have put aside their canes.”
–Lawrence Ferlinghetti
What is Poetry?

Five blind singers
rested one her sofa—
notes on a staff.

She put aside their canes
and handed out Braille
sheet music, different, to each man.

As they sang unseen songs
her buttons opened, hooks
unclasped until she was naked.

She pulled the hands
of each blind bard—
placed them on her skin.

Sing me, she ordered.
Sing me now.

A RUINED BOOK

That day he gave no tours he saw a book
he’d loved brightly as the forgotten girl
who gave it to him. It was time he looked
through it again. The storm won’t come. Birds swirl
above the park, their anxious calls as black
as words on paper. Stripped trees underline
his memories. Steps lead back to a clock
that will free him from work. The restaurant’s sign
neon crackles like the air, like his skin—
which still knows that girl’s who dropped strange sins,
misplaced commas that ripped each youthful phrase
into broken glass. She enjoyed cutting
his time—the surgeon of his awkward phase.
It’s just a book—a storm—a girl—nothing.

Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty five years, as well as the anthologies Good Poems, American Places, Hunger Enough, Retail Woes and Line Drives. It has also been nominated for both Pushcart Prizes and The Best of the Net. He is the author of two full-length collections, Lent 1999 (Leaf Garden Press) and Soren Kierkegaard Witnesses an Execution (Local Gems) and two chapbooks, Three Visitors (Negative Capability Press) and Artifacts and Relics, (Folded Word). His novel, Knight Prisoner, is available from Vagabondage Press and two more novels are forthcoming: A Book of Lost Songs (Wild Child Publishing) and The Magic War (Loose Leaves). He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and filmmaker Joan Juster.

List of Poets

Hannah Rodabaugh

ORGASM IS A STATE
OF SUSPENSION—& CAN
BE FELT OUTSIDE THE BODY

I was wet
with feeling,

Wet with astral discharge,

And it
was night.

Perfect.

Hannah Rodabaugh’s work has been published in Berkeley Poetry Review, ROAR Magazine, Horse Less Review, Written River, and many others. Her work was included in Flim Forum Press’ anthology: A Sing Economy. Her poetry chapbook, With Words: Verse in Concordance, is forthcoming from dancing girl press.

List of Poets

Heather Lee Rogers

BITCH

The need in me
feels diseased
like a cancer-sick dog
scratching its hide
for relief.

I don’t want you
but I need your desire
like a witch
collecting spent men’s souls
to put in her vanity elixirs.

From the raw belly
of the lonely moon
I am the beast
across the street
while decent folks
turn down their shades:

I light wax candles
and prepare to feed.

Heather Lee Rogers tells stories as a writer and actor in NYC. Recent poetry publications have included Here Comes Everyone (print in the U.K.), Harbinger Asylum (online), Haikuniverse.com, Waterways (print), S/Tick (online and in print) and Adanna (print). She has also been the featured poet performer at Art House Open Mic in Jersey City, NJ and at the Parapluie open mic in Brooklyn, NY. See more of Heather’s work in Rat’s Ass Review here. And read lots more of Heather’s work here.

List of Poets

Emily Shearer

BED SONG

Like smooth, creamy coffee on a slow Sunday morning
oh Lord fuck me again.

The caramel ribbons of your voice,
make of them a sling for all that ails me

The bone-rocking dark-breaking staggering abundance behind my eyelids
fragments into a million shards of sound.

I slink into this light of stars I’ve loved too much to fear
the darkness like a tiger in jungled dappling, like the grace of a caged bird

set suddenly free. You stain your fingers on my pomegranate seeds,
you pluck the chords of my mandolin like a boy plucks a nickel from a creek;

spit-shine and polish my cadmium. I the fever and you the alkali—
remedy, cure and antidote to the self-same venom injected in my blood fruit.

Every time you go to the kavárna, I ask for decaf
but you bring me leaded káva.

All the buzz inherent in a beehive.
When I leave, I take your honey just the same.

EFFLEURAGE

Make of your hands a hothouse dictionary of flowers
where you sensitize your fingertips to the Braille of my onionskin,
the bulbs of my crocus, my orchidalia.
Circle my back with the flat of your palm
and let the four leaf clovers of all my good luck nights
rise out of the pistils and stamens you resurrect
to sever from their stalks.
Stalk my gardens, sting and plump me
like collagen on the already swollen spring-ready soil.

Massage my loam across your palms. Read my spring-ready soil,
and check out every book in the botany section of my library.
I will hand you the white spaces of my pages
and watch your eyes for signs
that you shall be the only one to fill them.

I’m not growing here for your reading pleasure.
I mix my metaphors as I mix salt with oil
to exfoliate dead skin in the shower,
rinse it down the drain.
I water my plants with gray laundry water,
buckets of it wrung out of clothes and towels
and the reusable grocery sack you fill with the apples
you are always picking from my orchard.

FOR THE LIFE OF ME

I need to return to the way
I felt prized,
not at my own graveside
but in the receiving ground
of your morning bed

where you made of me a bird
and, with such cacophony of air and feather,
rustle-filled my hollow bones with flight.

Air. Feather. Wing.

And then you lured me back.

Sugar. Honey. Coffee. Tea.

Emily Shearer lives, writes, and teaches yoga in Prague, Czech Republic with her husband and three children. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and shortlisted for the Judith B. McCabe Poetry Prize. Her poetry has been published in Ruminate, The Tishman Review, All We Can Hold: poems about motherhood, The Bookends Review (forthcoming), Crow Hollow Books (forthcoming), Award Publishing (UK), melancholy hyperbole, Stirring, ROAR, Quail Bell Press, Silver Birch Press, about place journal, literarymama, writing the whirlwind, Mercury Retrograde from Kattywhompus Press, Bear the Pall: Stories and Poems about the Loss of a Parent, Twice Upon a Time Fairy Tale Anthology, and Minerva Rising, where she is the Poetry Editor.

List of Poets

Amber Shockley

SPEED DATE DENTIST

You know that line?
Open your mouth and say
Ahhh – Well, it doesn’t work at all.
Not even half the time.
But what am I supposed to do?
It’s not like I can knock
them out, lean them back
in a chair. That’s not funny,
my sister says. What I want
to say when I meet
a woman is: Al dente.
Dames are armed to the teeth,
these days. I want to say
to the shy ones: Smile,
bare me your bones.
Teeth are the tips
of the skeleton –
the only bits that break
the flesh and show.

THIS STORY IS SO OLD I IMAGINE YOUR WIFE IN THE 19TH CENTURY

She’s sitting by the fire, darning your socks.
I’m in a small cabin, next town over.

You tell her you’re hunting the wolf that tore into the chickens,
or the deer that stomped the green beans.

You come through my door,
unlace your boots.

Now she’s plunging bed clothes into hot water,
scalding her hands and arms.

I’m folding down the corner of a blanket,
touching your shirt’s buttons.

The baby you have with her cries
and you hear it. Five-mile lungs.

ADVICE FOR WOMEN WHO WOULD MAKE LOVE

You can eat the heart raw,
but it’s better cooked and
sorry for its mistakes,
sorry for getting caught.
Don’t release the rascal
with notches in his ears
to limp off on his crooked paw
back into the forest.
Drag him, still in the trap.
Leave a trail for his mother
to follow, or his former mate.
Cut the neck, hang him in your shed,
tear-brined and tenderized.
Blood let and bygones.
Three nights cold below zero,
ten thousand droplets fall
then he is yours, maybe just
because he was foolish, but
each has his turn in a mouth
sharper than his mind.

GUS GETS LONELY AT THE STOP N’ SHOP

Tired people in dirty shoes, but shoes,
and shirt, come here to get their

cigarettes, silk rose, Pick 5’s, breath mints,
motor oil, Funyuns, Trojans, strawberry milk.

Strangers push cash through the slot,
drawer shoves out and hits my pelvis.

I play a game for gettin’ lucky:
A fiver is a kiss, a twenty third base.

Hundreds go under the drawer
after I check for counterfeit,

lift ‘em up to the light and tilt
my head back, see through ‘em

like nightgowns, the little strand
running through like a vein.

Some shifts I figure, by the game,
I’ve got seven kisses and two hand jobs

coming my way but I just go home,
drink a beer I open with a key chain.

One day a woman takes a nickel
out of her pocket like a magic bean.

She leans over and scratches silver,
asks me to wish her luck. I wish

her luck. I hang on to her fiver.
She loses, I’m gonna give it back.

Amber Shockley comes from stubborn, excitable, paranoid mountain people. Right now, she lives in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where there are no hills of substance, rock or otherwise, so she workshops with a local group of poets on flat ground. She earned her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte in 2013 and has published in print as well as in online journals and blogs.

List of Poets

Susan Taylor

AND AGAIN

Praise these May moments
when trees dress delicately,
green as peridot.

I’ll be the arbour
hung with cherry blossom,
nectar for your bees.

You shall be the spine
that supports this ecstasy,
sweet is the stamen.

My lust is for growth
run riot in every peak,
most of all yours.

Stepping out to me
over the blush of petals,
I pluck you again

and again

CADENAS SUR LE PONT DES ARTS

This bridge in Paris is swarming with couples,
its mesh sides carrying garlands – thousands and thousands
of brightly coloured love charms.

These are not the kind of blossoms the architects,
Jacques and Louis-Alexandre, envisaged – they’d thought of
suspended gardens, trees, benches,

most of all, embankments of flowers, their blown petals,
deliciously rippling in slow rhythmic kisses on the Seine.
But instead, the river is clogged with keys,

forced to gorge on them – Yales, Chubbs
and all kinds of cheaper trash stowed in its snake-brown belly.
The plan is to sanctify love,

snap it together with padlocks of steel.
They are heavy – weighing down the bridge beyond reason,
splitting its sides, making it artless.

Susan Taylor has her seventh published poetry collection, Temporal Bones, coming out from Oversteps Books in July 2016. She generally makes her evenings busy, working with assorted collaborative performance groups and running a series of cabaret events called Café Culture in her hometown, Totnes in Devon, UK. She holds a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University.

List of Poets

Barbara Turney Wieland

HELEN’S CARDIGAN

Helen doesn’t need her cardigan anymore.
There it is, lying on the floor
amongst various other garments similarly discarded.
Exposed, her arms and shoulders
bare no goose-bumps tonight.

The bruises will come up later
as pinkness fades; faded
as she lies there, near naked
at odd angles, discarded
as he closes the door
on Helen.

Barbara Turney Wieland BTW is an Australian artist/painter who always described herself as a “frustrated writer who paints instead”. Last year, she finally found the courage to start painting with the words that have been flying around in her head for years. Artistically satisfied, she lives and works in Switzerland with her family and can now admit that she is beginning to submit and published; firstly by the Mulberry Fork Review, then by Three Line Poetry. She is currently gathering work for her first book of poems.

List of Poets

Simon Williams

THE BEST TIME OF NIGHT

That time, at three in the morning, you woke me, said you
wanted sex and the milk-light of the moon filled the room
like a three watt daylight bulb and I was awake then, as most
men would be, and we threw the duvet off and, as near to
abandoned as we may ever get, we lay and kissed and licked
and stroked and curled tongues round and in and out of
most parts we could find (did I mention the moonlight?)
and what I couldn’t reach with tongue we let my cock explore
and it proved more than capable, which isn’t boasting,
so you squeezed and I pushed and in the end it took
our breath away, not just the squeezing, but the warmth
and moisture, the wrinkling of the sheets and the shadow
of your hair on your lower belly, like a forest on the moon.

FOUR THINGS LOVE IS

Love is a peat bog,
a smooth grass-scape stretching
to the hills, small cuts of which
make slow fires and where sacrifices
occasionally reach the surface.

Love is a hybrid electric car,
a silent motor carrying you
the first few miles, before
the internal combustion kicks in
to take you where you hope to go.

Love is a hippopotamus,
a crazy great beast with a huge
maw, known to wallow in
wild excesses and to take more
victims than all crocodiles together.

Love is a USB memory stick,
fitting a pocket or a handbag
full of your best ideas, your worst
constructions, ready to be plugged
into any likely receptacle.

Simon Williams has six published collections. His latest pamphlet, Spotting Capybaras in the Work of Mac Chagall launched in April and his next full collection, Inti, will be out later this year. Simon was elected The Bard of Exeter in 2013 and founded the large-format magazine, The Broadsheet. He makes a living as a journalist.

List of Poets

Gareth Writer-Davies

UNTITLED

when I was happy
was when we drank dry sherry, on the patio

your house throwing a huge shadow
and we ate olives and watched the deer

but you were already thinking of bed
your Father dead only six weeks

you shouted Daddy Cock, Daddy Cock
said it was the first thing, that came into your head

SNAKES

I’m glad you are here
that my daughters thought to call you

it’s been years
my daughters have become enormous, like pharonic statues

my favourite year
was the year we made three hundred and sixty five days of it

I lie on my bed
and like the unrepentant Spanish Catholic you are

you hold my hand
with an understanding of small deaths, the correct period of tristeza

the years
that like snakes, slid sideways into olive jars

I’m glad you are here
now I can sleep

Gareth Writer-Davies was Commended in the Prole Laureate Competition in 2015, Specially Commended in the Welsh Poetry Competition and Highly Commended in the Sherborne Open Poetry Competition. He was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Erbacce Prize in 2014. His pamphlet “Bodies”, was published in 2015 through Indigo Dreams and his next pamphlet “Cry Baby” will be published in 2017. See more by Gareth here.

List of Poets

Jay S Zimmerman

YOU’RE THE BOMB

You’re the bomb she said as she shifted her head
with the wink of an eye and a quick flash of thigh.
You’re the bomb, I’m so sure, I love you galore
with red lips pursed and seduction rehearsed
she snuggled up close and wrinkled her nose
You’re the bomb, you’re so sweet, feel tingly to my feet.
She rubbed up like spice, you’re the bomb, she said twice.
She touched me with joy saying “you are my boy,”
as her hands wandered round and touched till they found
those places with pleasure, she gave them good measure.
I whispered you’re right, I’m exploding on sight.
I’m the bomb all right, going off all the night.

Jay S Zimmerman came to poetry from his life as a visual artist, composing poems to go with his art, finding as much joy in painting with words as with other visual tools. He has recently been published in Three Line Poetry, I am not a silent poet, Flying Island, New Verse News, and Quatrain.Fish. He lives in the heartland in Muncie, Indiana where he is an artist, photographer, psychologist and social justice advocate.

List of Poets

Poems added May 20, 2016

Nina Bennett

THE CHURCH OF BASEBALL

found in dialogue of Annie Savoy, Bull Durham, 1988

I’ve tried all the major religions,
and most of the minor ones.
I know things. There are 108 beads
in a Catholic rosary and 108 stitches
in a baseball. I gave Jesus a chance,
but it just didn’t work out between us.
I prefer metaphysics to theology.
Making love is like hitting a baseball,
you just gotta relax and concentrate.
I’d never sleep with a player
hitting under .250, not unless
he was a great glove man
up the middle. Sometimes
when I’ve got a ballplayer alone,
I’ll just read Emily Dickinson
or Walt Whitman to him.
A guy’ll listen to anything
if he thinks it’s foreplay.
What I give them lasts a lifetime,
what they give me lasts 142 games.
Sometimes it seems like a bad trade.

BLAZON FOR THE RHYTHM GUITAR PLAYER

He cups the neck of his Ric
with his left hand. Right hand strokes
the strings, makes them tremble,
quiver like my thighs as he parts my legs,
coaxes a song. His lips a capo
across the mic, raising notes
to another level. His eyes send
promises, soon it will be my turn.
At break I savor sips of his breath,
taste 1967, that first kiss, tentative
and soft as an early June evening.

Delaware native Nina Bennett is the author of Sound Effects (2013, Broadkill Press Key Poetry Series). Her poetry has been nominated for the Best of the Net, and has appeared or is forthcoming in publications that include Gargoyle, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Houseboat, Bryant Literary Review, Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, Philadelphia Stories, and The Broadkill Review. Awards include 2014 Northern Liberties Review Poetry Prize, and second-place in poetry book category from the Delaware Press Association (2014). Nina is a founding member of the TransCanal Writers (Five Bridges, A Literary Anthology). To read more of Nina’s work go here.

List of Poets

Carol Berg

WARRIOR WOMAN WORKS THROUGH WANTING YOU AND

your tender cheekbones and
one private freckle
I want to touch

the shock of your eyes in the silvery
threaded morning light
I want to lie in

the turn of your bare shoulder as you
gather me into you your firm scent unquenchable
I want to feel want to inhale

sound of your burrowing voice
harvesting my name
I want you to pull me

please and you’re unpinning my hair your fingers
wrapping themselves in each strand your fingers
along my neck

I want you eager
want you given
want you exactly
want you with my feet
want you underneath my curve
want you ready
want you gentle
want you exuberant in my small garden

I WANT TO MELT IN YOUR MOUTH

like fresh pasta dough formed from farm-fresh eggs,
like tomato sauce made from mirepoix—a riot of carrots,
onions, celery with wild dashes of spicy oregano and thyme.

I want to melt in your mouth like French
pastry pounded with pounds of creamy butter
allowed to rise in a warm and gentle room

then filled with homemade raspberry sauce
berries squeezed and shoved through a sieve
or filled with hazelnut pastry cream or millefeuille.

I want to sizzle a little
in your mouth with the pop pop
of poppy seeds, murmur of turmeric,
hint of ginger, allure of an addictive chili.

I want you to use your hands.
I want you to spread me out,
then gently roll, fill, and repeat.

I want you to arrange me, drizzling a light
wine all over. I want you to carefully turn me,
let me cook uncovered
for at least another hour.

Carol Berg’s poems are forthcoming or in Sou’wester, The Journal, Spillway, Redactions, Zone 3, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Her Vena Amoris (Red Bird Chapbooks), is available and her chapbooks, Ophelia Unraveling and The Ornithologist Poems are available from Dancing Girl Press. She is the recipient of a finalist grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

List of Poets

Valentina Cano

SLIPS OF THE TONGUE AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES

That’s an expensive bruise
she wears on her wrist.
One bought with glittering sequences
of letters picked with a magnifying glass.
One she saved for with hours
chiseling the wrong glances.
It sparkles in the daylight,
brighter than her smile.

Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time she has either reading or writing. Her works have appeared in numerous publications and her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Web. Her debut novel, The Rose Master, was published in 2014 and was called a “strong and satisfying effort” by Publishers Weekly.

List of Poets

Dan Cooper

MOTHER’S FIRST IMPRESSION
OF SEVENTH GIRLFRIEND

She swore not to swear
Nervous on the bus on the way to meet Mother
holding clammy hands
Stone steps to the door, she stands on the noisy drain
Greeted with tea and muted television
she doesn’t want tea

“We got ready to go out before we came round”
I said as way of an excuse
but there was no excuse for the way she looked
lipstuck, PVC mini and thigh highs
eyes kohled, dark as what I’d be doing to her that night
leather boots on thinning beige carpet

She has more in common with the cat
spread-eagled by the fire
“Mum, meet Emma”
“I’ve heard so much about you Mrs Cooper”
Smile as open as her eyes, she was Medusa
freshly dyed tussling adders draping her pale face
a sharp awkwardness as Mum could tell how proud I was

Now I was the cat
presenting my owner with a slain finch

How could anyone not like her?
How could anyone not want her?

Cheltenham’s Dan Cooper is a drunk part time DJ, karaoke host and day job graphic designer photoshopping out builder’s bums without a lunch break. He now has permanent tinnitus and will never earn enough to pay his student loan back.

List of Poets

Sarah L Dixon

THE SOURCE

It took me three days
to locate it,
but it had been there
niggling at each minute
spent in the bedroom.

It wasn’t
the fragrance of death
fruity and final,
a mouse wedged
in the tightest cranny
mouth around wires.

It wasn’t
the powdery decline
of a mouldering orange,
a thing that retains
its essence
in the process of decay
and adds to this
a green fur.

It wasn’t
the throat-grabbing retch
of out-of-date chicken,
the clag of stale milk
almost swallowed.

It wasn’t like
the ill seal
we found beached,
a ragged sore
salted on its side.

It didn’t smell like
an infected mouth,
like the mesh
you pull away
to smell friction and pain

It wasn’t the damp
creeping up walls,
seeping behind books
and into them,
sticking pages together
and making novels unreadable.

It wasn’t
a used sanitary towel –
itchy feet and old cheese
within bin walls,
fresh blood
now festering.

It wasn’t
the tin of dog food
cracked open
behind stacks,
that took three store assistants
to find.
Maggoty and seething.

It wasn’t
the category three cabinet
stacked with diarrhoea
and sputum.
That had a fan for a reason.

It wasn’t stagnant water
or
dog poo.

It was like the warm aroma of baking,
but not that.

It was in the drawers
hidden under clothes
you never wear.
It was a crusted collection
that had taken years to build
layer upon layer

I ejaculated “Euuuugh!”
when I found it
it smelt like bleach
and fish
bad by three weeks.

This towel was once white.
Now it contained
ten dozen semen stains.

How could any action
that ends with this
be erotic?

Or did the memory
of past fantasies help
you achieve orgasm?

The fact the large distended sun
belonged to Melissa from neighbours
or the small smear
in the top right hand corner
was for the turquoise girl
who caught the 23 bus
on a Wednesday at 8.17.

Not
the damp stink
of sheets soaked in nightmares
then written back on to skin.

Not
bad breath
after a night of ales
and garlic bread.

Not
uncleaned teeth
after a four-day festival.

Not even
shirts line-dried,
invested with sunshine and dew.

It wasn’t what I expected to find.

Now I know you better
through the constellations
of your singular pleasures,
your solitary excretions.

FEEDING THE INVADERS

Or we could open our doors
to toads and magpies, snakes,
hawks and woodlouse spiders,
in the spirit of the woman who swallowed the fly.

I stuff shredded paper and last week’s tulips
in the corner the pill woodlouse likes,
and where it doesn’t feel the need to contort
its carapace into a protective ball of antiquity.

I leave the mice toastcrumbs,
peanut butter and three types of cheese
in the hope they won’t touch
my good, unopened Green and Blacks

I set out a row of aphids on my rubber plant
for the ladybird’s pleasure,
chop the Portobello mushrooms
thinly to ease the slug’s digestion.

Then I strip naked and fall asleep
on top of the duvet
offering all my skin
to the hot bite of the mosquito.

AT EASE

We shift from peppermint tea
and heart-shaped shortbread
to rough pub pie and Drambuie.

We deftly unwind
each other.
You have implanted yourself
into my everyday
with stories of magpies and spiritual silver birches.

That evening,
you read poems that are not about me.
I read poems that might be about you.
More ale and hugs.

Then we share hot fries,
burning our fingers and lips.

While I wait for a burger
and you for pizza.
We lean close,
continue to eat fries,
meet eyes,
taste salt,
our hands almost touch.

Sarah L Dixon has toured a ten minutes x ten poets Arts-Council funded format in 2014 and 2015 as The Quiet Compere. Sarah has been published in Ink, Sweat and Tears, YorkMix, Rain Dog, Three Drops from the Cauldron and The Interpreter’s House among others. Visit her site here: thequietcompere.co.uk/.

List of Poets

Claire T. Feild

TO GLOSS OVER

Unhappy, she sugarcoats this reality with
all individuals she sees by smiling
like a thunderstruck Cheshire cat.

When she was a child, she skipped recess,
hiding in the back of the elementary
school in a decrepit sandbox, the
boards unstable and the sand having
been blown away over time by
obnoxious winds with a heavy
drag to them.

After she was invited to the prom by a
boy wicked as an overcoat used
to stuff the mouth of an innocent
man, she hid out in the reclusive
forest until the prom played its
last beat.

She types on a computer at work, holding
her head down like an ostrich when
someone hails her attention.

To live by herself, unguarded, is her
ultimate goal, a prominent silence
at home, the child she will tend
to, noise the illegitimate child
she will suffocate.

Claire T. Feild, nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Krater Quarterly, has had 353 poems and 5 creative nonfiction stories accepted for publication in 113 print journals and anthologies such as The Tulane Review; Ghostlight: The Magazine of Horror; Folio; Rockland Lit.; Wordplay; Spillway; Poeming Pigeons; The Carolina Quarterly; Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley; The Horror Zine Magazine; The Path: A Literary Magazine; The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal; and Contemporary Poetry (Volume 2) . Her first poetry book is Mississippi Delta Women in Prism. Her five literary journals are in a series titled Beyond Doggerel: A Literary Journal for Teachers in Education. Her first chapbook is Southern Women: The 1950s. Her second chapbook is Indigo Blues (Origami Poetry Project). Her second book (creative nonfiction) is titled A Delta Vigil: Yazoo City, Mississippi, the 1950s. Her third chapbook, which is set in the Mississippi Delta, is titled Mississippi Delta Memories (creative nonfiction).

List of Poets

Siaara Freeman

URBAN GIRL WRITES A POEM
FOR AMBER ROSE

they squint at you like they used to squint at my great –
grandmother Carrie
unsure if you can say nigga or not.
you look like us in the right dark you a trick
of the eye.

you a hoe in somebodies dirt. the dirt is black. they sure the dirt is black. nigga has a home
in the dirt. they know about ya’ll seeds about ya’ll fruit. they got a home in the nigga got a home
in the dirt.

they stare long and hard at you, like therapy, miss. they know its rude to ask you what you are
they think its rude that you won’t mention. when you got left for a white woman. maybe all of them shook /they head/ pendulums of time/and time again. when you got left for a white woman they said
you got left for a white woman so then they said maybe. when that black man said he had to shower you
from his body before entering his white wife they gathered you in they eyes and could not blink you out
they said maybe she is
one

of us.

URBAN GIRL SPEAKS
TO AN EX-LOVER OUT THE SIDE OF HER NECK
OR ODE TO THE MAENAD

& maybe i am where
the wild things are

& maybe you aren’t
thrilled with the idea
of your children growing
inside the dark whispering
woods

& maybe the noises
i make at night remind you
of a hunting or a haunting

& maybe you are afraid
you will wake to me

& find a body
you can’t identify

reeking of wine & blood & who needs you?

Siaara Freeman is 26 years old, writes poems & is not sure if she is a poet or a necromancer. She is (for sure) a friendly neighborhood hope dealer. She is (for sure) growing her afro so tall God mistakes it for a microphone & decides to speak into her. She is (for sure) a Slytherin, The Lake Erie Siren & a Clapback enthusiast.

She is a touring artist and has been published a few times. It’s how she eats.
She likes to eat.

Up the Staircase Quarterly nominated one of her poems for best new poet 2016. It’s lit.

List of Poets

John Grey

MISS BELLE

Twenty eight guys you dated.
I’m surprised that you have kept a count
The first at fifteen,
the last at twenty three,
a month after you met the man you married.
Some you only dated once
and one or two
would probably not
stand up in a court of law as dates.
But there was Gary… two whole years
before it fizzled.
And Lance…handsome Lance…
killed in a car crash with
a ring for your finger in his breast pocket.

You don’t go into details.
Movie theaters, restaurants,
even parties at a friend’s house…
it’s probably a blur to you anyhow.
Even the sex, if there was any,
and if it did happen,
you’ve probably spent so much time
lying to your husband
that your virginity sounds more
and more like truth.

But twenty eight… it rolls proudly off your tongue.
Twenty eight guys who thought enough
of your looks, your personality,
to take you some place, to be seen with you.
So what if five or six never called again.
And another half dozen you said “no” to
on the second round.
You ask me to imagine a room
empty of furniture
but full of twenty eight boys and men.
That was your young life.
And what about Gary…
he’d be standing head and shoulders
over most of them.
And Lance would for a moment too
before he suddenly dropped dead on the floor.
And then there is the one you eventually
said “yes” to, the third who asked.
He wouldn’t like it in that room, you’re sure.
Twenty eight pairs of hands that touched you.
Twenty eight pairs of lips that probably
brushed yours.
He’d be bruising for a fight and no way
he’d beat them all.
Or he’d pretend to ignore them
but that much breath, that much sweat…
no way.
He could even try climbing up on their shoulders
but the best he could do with Gary
is meet him eye to eye.
And look out… there goes Lance…toppling again.
Could bring the whole thing down.

Twenty eight guys, you sigh.
You don’t even know that many now.
And there’s number twenty nine
in the same clothes he worse yesterday,
out of work,
drunk more than sober,
dozing on the couch.
You thank God this is a marriage
and not a date.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock, and Spoon River Poetry Review.

List of Poets

Amy Kinsman

AN AMERICAN EDUCATION

I’ve got those 4am shivers,
the kind you get when there’s six of us left,
some dancing, some playing cards,
and not enough bodies
to heat this house anymore.
Don’t worry.
Vodka is no thicker than water,
but it will sit above it
until the alcohol catches the embers
of the cigarette that you have
no intention of finishing
and burns away into the atmosphere,
makes it heady like your feet
don’t touch the floor – they just graze it.
These are all the elements we’ve needed
for alchemy.

This is the way maths makes multiplication happen.
The calculation of a curvature comes
in the addition of attraction
and the subtraction of shame
until all you’re left with is the power of instinct
to the nearest decimal place.

You say you like the way the English do it.
I ask if they never taught you anything worth learning
in that place you call ‘middle school’
and we play the name game
like we both don’t already know our taxonomies,
our geographies, our politics and histories,
all the strings of influences and consequences
that bring scheming into fruition,
all the things that have called us
and that sometimes there is no bigger picture,
just the minutiae of a single night
done with the greatest attention to detail,
that may tell you everything about two people.

I told you that was what a poem had meant all along.
Come the morning, you were gone.

Amy Kinsman is a poet, playwright and editorial assistant at Three Drops From A Cauldron. Her work has previously appeared, or is forthcoming in After The Pause, Crushed, Pankhearst, Rust + Moth and Up The Staircase Quarterly. She dreams of one day being able to afford as much poetry as she would like to read. She has a presence on Facebook.

List of Poets

Sharon Larkin

AUTUMN COLOUR

That October afternoon,
a hasty arrangement
to take a half-day off,
travelling separately
to our secret venue.
I hadn’t expected to find
the front door unlocked,
your grey suit, white shirt,
abandoned on the stairs

and you, already between
burgundy satin sheets,
me, regretting the greyness
of my celibate underwear,
hurrying out of it

WINTER FLING

On St Dwynwen’s Day we are united,
holed up in Builth, snowed in but warm
in throws and duvets. We get knotted
up in them with new land to explore,
inner sighs beneath panted desire.
We ride hard, burning rubber, travel
over moel and bryn, up dyffyn and cwm,
exceeding all bounds. We gape, unravel.

On the night of the thaw, you are as grim
as Maelor’s brow. I sulk as you scowl.
Out of the throes, we’re in single beds,
everything packed but clothes for rain.
You leave next day for Berkhamstead
in Herts. We’re untied by St Valentine.

THÉ AVEC IMOGEN ET TOI

It’s exquisite torture sitting this close
to you in polite company
with the restraint of Earl Grey
and amuse-bouches on a doily
when what I need is you, alone,
a slug of red, our tongues amusing
more than just each other’s mouths
on some good old-fashioned shag pile
somewhere other than chez Imogen.

PAREIDOLIA

The moon slips out from wisps of cloud
to shed a little light on us below.
It’s full tonight. Our ghostly shadows

on the path ahead contrive to lead
us to this place and as we kiss
I sense a lunacy behind your face.

It’s then I spot the man up there –
seas for eyes, a mouthful of despair.
No sooner seen, he slides again

into a cirrus shroud and I begin
to contemplate the gravity
that tethers earth to satellite,

conclude that it’s just fantasy,
this foolish sliding in and out –
brume that billows in,

pulls back, rolls over once again.
No romance or magic’s going on.
It’s basic mechanics, Newtonian.

Now it’s out, it’s hard to relax,
to retain perspective. All at once,
parallax starts to play its tricks

and as I recline, mare, mons
and man morph into the leer
of a fecund rabbit, a wizard hare.

Sharon Larkin has been published on-line (The Stare’s Nest, Clear Poetry, Ground, Grievous Angel), in magazines (Here Comes Everyone, Obsessed with Pipework, Prole, Reach) and in anthologies, e.g. May Day (Cinnamon Press), Heart Shoots (Indigo Dreams Publications). She regularly performs at Poetry Café Refreshed in Cheltenham and was chair of Cheltenham Poetry Society (2011 – 2015). She has an MA in Creative Writing and a passion for Welsh language and literature.

List of Poets

Hillary Leftwich

MACKINAC

I can almost see the island from where I stand now, on a ferry, drunk on waves that can easily toss me aside like a broken doll. You remember me with a tiger lily pushed behind my ear. Whatever you were thinking when you pulled it from the ground has been seized by the riptides. We planned the trip to Mackinac months ago. I feel your absence every time the ferry rocks against the waves, jostling me. I have no one to grab on to. I imagine the water reflecting off your eyes, how it illuminates from blue to green, then blue again. You never could make up your mind.

People on the ferry are talking about the island, how wonderful the fudge tastes, how much fun a carriage ride will be, lost within Somewhere in Time. I see myself hiding out with the college kids that work during the summer months. I’ll brush down the horses at nightfall. Tend to their stalls. I can drink until the early morning, long after the island has shut down for tourists. Maybe play hide-and-seek in the cemeteries where civil war soldiers sleep. The lightning bugs hanging like tiny lanterns in the dark, glowing with concern. Yachts dot the main shoreline like mismatched jewels, pointing their bows northeast, towards an even richer land. There are mansions wedged in against the rocks like expensive inlays. I see myself standing on the ledge of a windowsill of one of the island’s mansions. I can’t go back inside and I can’t move my feet. The thousands of jagged boulders underneath are like the waves surrounding the ferry now: anxious, threatening. I can imagine what I am feeling as I stand on the window ledge, my hair flapping around my face like a useless sail, looking out at myself as I stand on the deck of this ship. As I move closer towards the island. I leave the miles behind where I last tasted the sea salt off your lips. I remember the last time you were inside of me, how our breath jammed in our throats, our fingernails carving half-moons into each other’s skin. How the lights from the park hung heavy like funeral drapes surrounding your car. I am only a shadow now, standing in a windowsill, standing on a deck of a ferry, a body readying itself. I recall my swim coach in high school, how he would tell me to always tuck my chin into my chest before I dived, that if I strike the water hard enough, it is exactly like hitting concrete.

Hillary Leftwich resides in Denver with her son. In her day jobs she has worked as a private investigator, maid and pinup model. She is the associate editor for The Conium Review and Reader/Marketing Coordinator for Vestal Review. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Hobart, Matter Press, WhiskeyPaper, NANO Fiction, Monkeybicycle, Dogzplot, Cease, Cows, Pure Slush, FlashFiction.net, Gone Lawn and others.

List of Poets

Kelly McNeal

HOPE FOR INTIMATE WHISPERS

Let me hope again, please
Believing in connections, tenderness
So difficult
When my phone shrieks at me

Beep, beep
Bleeping
Blue and green
Shining through

“Do you like to kiss?”
“Sexy come over”
“How do you want it”
“F me NOW”

Anonymous phones
Scream, screaming, screeching
At me
Let their phones do mine

I smirk as I imagine
Their Master Apple
Or Mister Android
Banging my Ms. Pink Phone

So fleeting now
Daydreams of intimate whispers
Eyes locking in anticipation
Bare touching, the scent of real

Kelly McNeal lives and works in New Jersey. She has a Ph.D. from Fordham University in New York, NY. Her most recent work appears in Front Porch Review, Slink Chunk Press, Crack the Spine Magazine, and Yellow Chair Review.

List of Poets

Barbara A. Meier

LOOK HERE TOO, PAMELA ALEXANDER

Next time you post that fruity paper sculpture picture-
you know matte white with golden phallic swirls
your scalp all gleamy like candied apples, neanderthal ridge
like a mounded fruit basket,
next time you post across my page with your slender folding fingers
reaching with hers in Warrior one on Coronado Heights
wearing arty turtlenecks like fruit baskets wearing cellophane,
I may just vomit a bit in my mouth,
next time I see you in flowering lotus, origami creases,
those spirals held in place with Elmer’s glue,
you could answer the questions in my email sent 4 years ago.
Your silence in the Cloud is as loud as your buddha sitting on your shelf.
If you can’t at least give a reason for silence- like
“I’m not interested in you anymore.” or “Long distance relationships just don’t work.”
don’t be trespassing on my facebook page with down’s syndrome girls draped around your shoulders like bouquet of grapes on your vine,
or holding HER hand in “fruited plains” of sunflowers.
I won’t seek you on the web- your flat dimensional imprint hiding in my hard drive –
my life is 3 dimensional, fat and meaty.
Time like fruit ripens
becoming compost with fruit fly mists,
soil to bury you in my dreams.

Barbara A. Meier started writing poetry again after the death of her 33-year-old marriage. Her new life includes moving to Gold Beach, OR to teach all day Kindergarten. After a long day of teaching letter names, sounds, rhyme, phonemic writing, and punctuation pizazz it is good to come home, stare at the ocean, and write her way out of her world.

List of Poets

Debasis Mukhopadhyay

ZEBRA CROSSING

did you think of me?
I did.
did you miss me?
indeed.
badly Pony?
madly Poinsettia.
how close was I to you in your thoughts of me in my thong?
very close like the evidence of eventuality, mistress.
sorry sir, what did you say?
very close like an evergreen mistrust.
how soft was I to you?
too soft, like a bloodstream bespattered on a rooster’s throat.
what do you like in me?
the twinkle of your eyeballs through the non corrosive ventilation eyelets.
what do you like in me?
the butamirate citrate linctus dews on your lips.
is that what you like in me?
I like those buds in you.
what?
the budgerigars.
oh?
the daubs of dawn that appear in your darkroom.
if you have to choose just one of them, Pony?
I shall choose her solecism’s lithograph, Poinsettia.
what do you do, Polecat, when you feel lonely?
I always think of your mortarboard.
and when the dogfights suck?
did you say dogmas or doilies?
no, not doggies, dolmas, just dogfights to be precise, Pony.
I squeeze, I twist & I suck on my mnemonic dollops.
how far do you think you can go?
as far as Lisbon, there you too can be a perky lizard in the sun.
are you sure that I exist? Am I not your imbroglio?
you are not an imbroglio, because you exist also in your abyss.
what will you rub on my chalice?
the esteem of opium.
what will you rub then on my allegory?
the ethic of my expectation.
Pony, where do you desire to stay to feel me close to you?
Boa, hide me and hold me in your buff bluestockings.
forever?
Forever, like a raincoat dripping the rainbow all over you Soledad.

Debasis Mukhopadhyay holds a PhD in literary studies & lives in Montreal, Canada. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Curly Mind, After the Pause, Mannequin Haus, Yellow Chair Review, Thirteen Myna Birds, Of/With, I am not a silent poet, New Verse News, Scarlet Leaf Review, With Painted Words, Silver Birch Press, Quatrain.Fish, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Follow him at https://debasismukhopadhyay.wordpress.com/ or @dbasis_m on Twitter.

List of Poets

Richard King Perkins II

VERY MUCH LIKE INTIMACY

You hook your fingers
up
into my nose
like Moe to Curly

except it’s not funny

even though I’m trying
to laugh it off.

However, I think
it must be some expression of love—

an effort to penetrate
the lightless mucus
of my alleged solitary existence.

You’ve raped my nostrils
as a sort of lesson

trying to teach me
not to tweak your nipples
whenever they appear

and taming my penchant
for sliding my fingers
into the crease of your labia

while you’re still half-asleep.

My transgressive foreplay
may not seem very much
like intimacy
but at least it’s something

I do for no one else.

A KISS IN THE DARKNESS

We were strangers.
We said nothing.
There was nothing to say.
I took her slender hand
and led her to the dance floor.
Her likeness became my own.
Eyes found eyes, breathing synched,
and we kissed as if
our first would be our last,
whispering I love you
because it was true
and we knew our intimacy
would never exceed
beyond what we could coax
from those few minutes.

Months followed
and we learned
to unlove each other,
cured by friendship
and honesty,
becoming human together,
letting go divinity
and reasons to believe—
when all we required
was one song,
one perfect melody
slowed to still
and a kiss in the darkness
that needed no preamble,
that required no explanation.

A SECRET RAPTURE

As when dying was a new thrill
roots becoming unrooted

I began to consider last words,
a final image impressed and then fading—

it should be you; my accomplice
in cutpurse laughter and the heist of sex magic,

comforting with deliberate flower petals
and the nectar of invisible birds.

Yet beyond insipid, maudlin catastrophe
the dead bells will offer no protection;

there is no full circle, only a fold of white,
a pillow hovering in your tense hands.

Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.

List of Poets

Wendy L. Schmidt

MAP OF YOU

Skin is for lovers, soft,
so I may kiss the parts that please me.
Small freckles, charming flaws
I follow the dots like a marked map
like a perfect path to your heart.
With each touch we come
closer to some uncertain end.
I cannot remember when
we met in the middle,
our bodies exposed to sun and sky.
Listen to the beat of human desire.
The rhythm of the world flows through us;
all bodies fit together, forever.
In the darkness, in-between silken sheets,
we are meant to touch the pain, the pleasure.
Oh, but my mind loses time
in the world we have created, a paradise.
On this plane of existence, we land
breathless in this room. We are one.
Skin is for lovers.

SAINTS AND SINNERS

The night I saw you
in a roadhouse dive,
lanky cowboy leaning back,
gulping whiskey from a dirty glass.

You, eyed the jukebox then you,
eyed my legs.
Elvis earned a quarter spin,
while the other earned an easy grin.

Now, I ain’t certain
if I fell in love,
with your blue green eyes you see because,
those blue jeans fit just like a glove.

Gut bucket Lou playin’
lonely tunes,
as I sway my hips we take a trip.
Honey we were born for this.

Rye whiskey kisses and we
roll the dice,
play a hand, wanna bang,
in that sixty seven Mustang.

Hold me close; I ain’t
feelin’ shy,
Save the sweet talk for your woman.
We’re on savage streets tonight.

Lay beside me in this,
backseat bed.
Leave your money on the dashboard
with no prayers or promises.

Morning comes and I
take a puff
off a lip-smeared cigarette,
sip cold coffee from a brown-stained cup.

Pay the check thumb’s up,
catch a ride
with another fallen angel,
headin’ back to better times.

Some say sinners never
get redeemed.
But my truth is on the table,
and God pardons honesty.

Wendy L. Schmidt is a native of Wisconsin. She has been writing short stories and poetry for the last ten years. The Four C’s; cat, chocolate, coffee and computer are her chosen writing tools. Pieces have been published in Daily Flash 2012, Haunted Object, No Rest for the Wicked, Verse Wisconsin, Chicago Literati, City Lake Poets and a number of fiction and poetry anthologies. For other work by Wendy, click here.

List of Poets

Eric Silvera

EXTINGUISHED HEART

Stole all your earwax while you dreamt—cleaning ears after a shower is your most satisfying feeling.
Why give you that?

Climbed a ladder late-September and shined a high-powered heat lamp over Manhattan.
You love the crisp city fall.

Resurrected Joe Strummer because you hate The Clash.
What’s wrong with you?

Wrote “Fuck You” in peanut butter on your apartment door.
You always said I took too long to get to the point, especially frustrated when I was telling you about the guy I worked with who slept with this girl I went to high school with and how I thought she looked like a cross between Susan Sarandon, Punky Brewster, and a guinea pig and that she was kind of weird back then in a quirky John Hughes-type way where you wanted to sleep with her because she rode a bike that still had the tassels on the handles from when she was six, but yeah, so they slept together and apparently it was pretty good and hot and they’ve gone on a few more dates—an Italian restaurant, sake bombing, oh and that Mexican place we wanted to try—shit what was it called again? Oh whatever, anyways they wanted to know if we wanted to double date sometime.

Shaved my face into a razor bump.
You heart scruffy guys.

Deleted your unwatched DVRd episodes of America’s Funniest Home Videos.
That’s who I am.

PICNIC

Sun sits
on the face.
Face raw
from her stubble,
his stubble.

He stands in the field.
What happened to years in Harlem?
What brought him to Switzerland?

It doesn’t matter
when he looks down
at the blanket.

Eric Silvera’s writing has appeared in several publications, including Nerve, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Five2One Magazine, Underground Voices, HYPERtext Magazine, The Poeming Pigeon, and Shelf Life Magazine, been featured on The Other Stories podcast, won Slice Magazine’s “Bridging the Gap” prize, and was shortlisted for Matrix Magazine’s 2010 Lit POP award. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York.

List of Poets

Poems added May 7, 2016

Jane Blanchard

BODY TO BODY

Although the young may have and even flaunt
Skin smooth as polished marble, free from blemish,
Veins not yet varicose, most muscles taut
Enough to form firm flesh, ready to relish,

The agéd also can be beautiful,
Despite spots, sags, slackness, post-scalpel dimples,
When love is constant, warm and mutual,
And neither pride nor pleasure balks at wrinkles.

Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia. Her poetry has recently appeared in the Anglican Theological Review, The Evansville Review, The Rotary Dial, and The Seventh Quarry. Her chapbook Unloosed has just been released by White Violet Press of Kelsey Books. To read more of Jane’s work go here.

List of Poets

Giuseppi Martino Buonaiuto

WOMEN WITH GLOCKS

This tough front,
This altogether unlikeable first impression,
This mean, crude obnoxious scumbag,
This despicable misogynist,
This cynical misanthropic madman,
“Wassup wit dat?”
Enquiring fans of poetry want to know.
Simply stated, it’s my oldest modus operandi,
Self-protective, learned street behavior;
My don’t-fuck-with–me first line of defense.
Surely some form of survival mechanism;
Meant in the narrow psychological sense.
Evidence of mental health or illness,
My cloaking device and shield,
Gift from Jove, my goombah father.
Dad: a powerful force in any child’s universe—
Be the patriarch dead, absent, retired on the job,
Out of the picture, just plain missing–or insane,
The latter, something you may not want to know about your gene pool.

So I’m really just a pussy.
Forgive the expression, Germaine Greer.
A pussycat and big old teddy bear,
Mr. Sensitivity:
Wiping a warm washcloth between your legs.
Across puffed & pouted lips, gently.
After shooting a load of cum into you.
On your face: Spumante!

No, strike that last part.
Let’s start again.
I am a kind soul, a precious man.
The sort who likes animals;
Puppies, especially, and kittens too.
Savoring sunsets and flowers,
I serve you sweet gelato & Asti.
Sometimes I’ll spumante you with original love poetry.
My Muse: your gorgeous body delights me,
Your brilliant mind & noble spirit inspires.
Each night of the week I surprise you,
Prepare for you an exquisite home-cooked gourmet meal.
Served with your favorite Pinot Noir,
Brought to your elegant, candlelit dining room table,
By yours truly, wearing only a scarlet bow tie
And black silk jockstrap.
(Starting to get into this, Maureen Dowd?)
Later I’ll run you a relaxing bath,
So you’ll have something to do,
While I wash the dishes, scrub the pots,
Do a load of whites, clean your bidet,
And Swiffer® (www.swiffer.com)
the entire house.

By then, you are ready for your nightly spa treatment,
A 15-minute, deep tissue massage,
Followed by a hot oil treatment.
Next up is 30 nonstop delirious minutes,
Me, going down on you,
Without seeking any sexual gratification for myself.
In the morning I’ll make macadamia nut pancakes, your favorite,
And brew you a fabulous cup of coffee,
From freshly ground beans,
Very rare beans salvaged from Karen Blixen’s last crop,
Before the fire completely destroyed her plantation in Kenya.

You can go shopping from dawn to dusk with Ruth Madoff,
While I go out and lose my soul,
Selling Dominican Republic timeshares all day and all night . . .
(Cue West Indies Calypso: “All Day, All Night, Marianne!”) Calypso – Harry Belafonte Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards .. www.allmusic.com/album/calypso-craze-1956-57-and-beyond-
I’ll still find the time to open up for you a line of credit,
At your favorite nail salon.
I’ll pay for weekly bikini waxes, hair and Botox treatments,
And the odd cosmetic surgery you may require.
I’ll pay your cell phone bill; I’ll pay off your college loans.
I’ll send money to your extended family in the Ukraine.
Yeah, that’s the kind of guy I am.
Your life with me will be every woman’s dream.

And, if you believe that,
You soulless Ukrainian cunt,
Then monkeys will fly out of my Wayne’s World butt,
You stupid capital C for cock sucking,
Capital B for Bitch.
THIS JUST IN:
“Arms and the Woman,”
An article in Time Magazine, conveys a statistic:
Some 20 million women in the U.S. own guns.
As the NRA instructs:
Guns don’t kill people.
Women with Glocks kill people.

Giuseppi Martino Buonaiuto is a former commissioned officer and veteran; employed later by one of the more obscure government clandestine services. He holds numerous graduate degrees including a Masters from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is retired, splitting his time between two gated over-55 lunatic asylums, one in northern New Mexico and the other in southern California. He was born and raised in Brooklyn. His two children know him by another name. To read other work by Mr. Buonaiuto go here.

List of Poets

Robin Helweg-Larsen

MIND AND FINGERS

If it’s your flashing mind and eyes I love so much,
Why do my fingers want to touch… touch… touch…?

MARRIAGE

Years pass, I thrill you less;
Look for me under “Salads,”
Not “Wine List.”
¡Salud!

DISSOLUTION

The suns sets languidly to the world’s rim,
The world grows older, colder, dim and grim.
Light thickens, sickens, warps the seeing world –
Intangible with frangible is twirled.
The youthful body fails, evaporates,
Dispersing powers at ever greater rates.
Horrored, I grasp my penis from the void
And wield it, branding iron, as I’m destroyed.

Robin Helweg-Larsen is a British-born, Caribbean-raised, formerly Danish immigrant to Canada who has been living in Chapel Hill, NC, since 1991. His poetry has mostly been published in the UK – Ambit, Snakeskin and Candelabrum – but also in 14 by 14, The Lyric, Unsplendid, Visions International, The Hypertexts, the Phoenix Rising sonnet anthology, etc. In his other life he is a business owner. To see Robin’s other work in this collection, click here.

List of Poets

Angi Holden

KNEADING

Forehead pressed against the knot-holed door,
the boy strains on tiptoe, watches the heave and turn of dough.
She reaches forward, muscles tense; sweat dribbles
down her neck, across her chest, into her cleavage.
She wipes a floury hand across her brow, resumes her kneading;
tonight in the leavened bread he’ll taste her salt.

OFFICE BOOK CLUB

Caught between the pages of the book
you loaned me, a lover’s note,
the paper flecked with hasty ink.
Now when you gather up your Radley bag,
close your door and head for home –
your pin-striped suit uncreased,
you blouse still crisp and white –
I see the tangle of your legs in his,
the tumble of your loosened hair,
I hear your sudden cry, muffled
in the seasalt sweat around his neck.

TO THE GUY I MIGHT HAVE MARRIED

Thank you for the note slipped under my door.
I found it in the morning; my fingers trembled
as I unfolded it. Even now I can see your writing,
that familiar rolling script in royal blue ink.
I called by, but heard a guy’s voice
so didn’t knock. Sorry to have missed you.

I’m sorry too; sorry that you had to come back.
I hope the resits went well. Your approach
to physiology was always more practical
than academic. You would have made
a good teacher back then, before Ofsted.
I wonder how you coped when schemes of work
became more important than physical prowess
and looking the part on the cricket pitch.
You will always be the most beautiful guy
I ever slept with. Know that, at least.
I hope he is kind to you – a better lover
than I was. I hope you are happy.

He was, on both counts. Still is,
all these years later. And yes, I am.
Happier than if you’d knocked that night
and found me alone. Wasn’t I the accepter
of apologies and excuses, the dispenser
of second chances? Always the faithful type.
I hope you found the girl you thought
you’d found in me: the homemaker, the mother,
the teacher’s wife. I hope you are happy.
Know this too: I feel no malice. For all the pain,
I feel only gratitude. On that cold October night
you heard a guy’s voice and turned away.

AFTER THE DINNER PARTY *

A triangular table, seating thirty nine.
The scientific, the artistic,
the intellectual, all women gathered
together to break bread, share ideas.
Boudica and Elizabeth, strong queens both
in a man’s world.
Sappho and Dickinson, poets linked
by words, separated by centuries.
The astronomer, the medic,
the abolitionist.
And from the shadows, neither
on the guest list, two sisters.
Mary, hungry for this feast
of wisdom, perches on the table’s lip,
leans in to hear Woolf discuss
the influence of Modernism with O’Keefe.
While lingering at the margins, knowing
she’ll be left with the washing-up,
Martha worries about the gravy already
drying in the plates’ labial folds.

* The Dinner Party by feminist artist Judy Chicago

Angi Holden is a mature post-grad student and teacher of creative writing. Environmental and family landscapes are key to her work, much of which explores relationships and identity. Her poetry and fiction has been published in a range of online and print anthologies for both children and adults and in 2015 she co-edited the National Flash Fiction Day anthology.

To see Angi’s other work in this collection, click here.

List of Poets

Ann Howells

WILD STRAWBERRIES

I come upon them quite by accident
kisses: paw prints of a vixen
on her clavicles’ flared wings

smelling of summer
blood song filling her ear’s cup
fingers plucking berried nipples

small, wild, succulent, ruby red

INCANTATION

Trousers and oxford shirts, capris
and knit blouses, socks, pajamas:
soiled clothing layers in the washer.
Press button for normal cycle,
cold water, add soap.

Abracadabra me. Hocus pocus me.
Come to me in ravenous dark,
in Kama-sutra dreams.

At lunch: chicken salad, muffins,
fresh peaches. My hand touches yours
across the table, but you stand—off
to trim hedges, buy lottery tickets,
pick up dry cleaning.

Tempt me with tangerines, figs,
carnal scent of melon;
reveal the star at the apple’s heart.
You know the kind of girl I am.

In the washer, blue sleeves cup
seat of slacks, green pinstripes
squeeze pointelle knit, socks travel
trouser legs, clothing undone,
as if Cupid himself has been at play.

And, if I am a canto in Braille,
translate me in pure and private
context. Let your flicking tongue
speak my name.

Resigned, I separate pieces,
shake hard, toss them—one by one
into the dryer. Add softener.
Press the button.

Set gourds and feathers a’ tremble,
tiny bells a’ tinkle. Shatter stars.
Make the universe roar.

TALE OF THE STABLE

It’s that rippling potency,
pervasive sweat, driving thrust
clasped between her thighs.
It’s that trembling weak-kneed
and good-all-over feeling
that follows a brisk canter. Breathless.
No wonder she’s disappointed
by the back seat fumble: too quick,
too rough, too casual.
Then, she discovers the groom:
hands slow and gentle,
voice low as secrets she murmurs,
face burrowed in a silky mane.
His breath is apple scented.
She strokes his muzzle/muscle, clings,
legs encircle the breadth of him
as he whinnies/whispers his pleasure.
She can identify a stallion by his gait.

Ann Howells has edited Illya’s Honey for sixteen years, recently taking it digital, and alternating issues with a new co-editor. Her publications are: Black Crow in Flight (Main Street Rag, 2007), the Rosebud Diaries (Willet Press, 2012), Under a Lone Star (Village Books Press, 2016), Letters for My Daughter (Flutter Press, 2016), and Cattlemen & Cadillacs, an anthology of Dallas/Ft. Worth poets she is editing (Dallas Poets Community Press, 2016). Individual poems appear among small press and university journals.

List of Poets

Tereza Joy Kramer

BODYLINES

Driving from our new home
into town, you and me, we take
the curve on Giant City Road—

where cyclists out for healthful Sundays
put lives at risk along white lines.
Conversation lulls. You ask

if I’d read the story in the paper
about a minister, sentenced to 30 years,
revealed by a devotee. She was 14

when it started. Ridiculous case,
you say. I feel burning rise
in my chest and a shiver from deep

within my arms. You don’t get it—
you, who hold me if I convulse
under incest recalled, molten iron

beneath the trapdoor, my own story
invisible over all my body.
You continue: How can she

accuse him … now? It went on for
years, after she was underage …
I try to explain, logically like a man,

that things get all mixed up, that it
takes years to know, real.
Is it important that you agree?

My forearms ache. I have
carpal tunnel—a syndrome
of repetitive motion. Cool consultants

blame the keyboards I type on, editing
horrors of the world for readers
of black-and-white headlines.

But as things get less sure I suspect
my loss of strength began
gripping the metal sides

of a collapsible bed
in Dad’s vacation home
because the same tendons ache

whenever I approach that place
where men cannot fathom, where even
with the man I want this morning

I doubt if love and grace
can coexist—maybe only
in the perfect logic

of sidewalks, predictability,
sun and rain, where nothing
can happen in between.

Tereza Joy Kramer is a former journalist, including in Mexico City and El Paso, with a midlife MFA and PhD from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She now teaches at Saint Mary’s College of California. Her chapbook is forthcoming this summer by Finishing line Press. Her poems also have appeared in literary journals such as The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Cicada, The Iguana Review, and Re)verb, and the anthologies Little Pear Press’ Regrets Only: Contemporary Poets on the Theme of Regret, Haven Books’ Not a Muse: the inner lives of women, Women Made Gallery’s Her Mark 2004, and Gival Press’ Poetic Voices Without Borders.

List of Poets

Mandy Macdonald

IN A DREAM OF FALLING

endlessly repeated
i slip
helpless down the scooped col, smooth
as though you had been shaped by glaciation, curving
just there
between throat-hollow and shoulder
delicate and immense, nothing to break my
fall

if you would let me stop, i might
curl up there and sleep
like wildcat or foxcub in your hollows, or set out
(tiny, brave in the distance)
a cataloguer of mirages and treacherous slopes
across your skin’s trackless dunes

but there is no stopping
no journey, no shelter, no exquisite
calligraphy of footprints
just the fall for ever

HOLIDAY ROMANCE

it’s like this
quite simple really
i fancied you
i thought i did
at any rate i couldn’t forget the movement
of your hands on my back, my
cunt & your simultaneous
mouth travelling my whole landscape
the way you came up over my
body like the sun
but then i knew i didn’t fancy you
just the way you made love
or possibly the finegrained
hardness of you, like the
white & rose & russet marble stratified
above the beach we swam at

maybe i did fancy you
but i don’t like you
i’m sure about that, just
as i’m sure
you don’t like me
even though we did fuck
3 times in the tent on the wasteground on the dunes
in the hearing of the sea
hard & passionate
& long
scratching the fresh sunburn
nice you having a dress on
(what were you thinking of?)
& your hands under it
& my spine lifting to meet
you as though suspended
from the ridgepole

away in the sunstruck distance
the wild dogs
keening

UNREPENTANT

You were in the house with her
that night
still my husband, still my house;
I, an exile,
drawn back home after closing time, alone,

and there was a red light, for god’s sake,
a red light in the front bedroom
(how was I to know
it was the children’s nightlight?)

That rusty bike seat was in the garden,
among the weeds, bound for the tip.
I saw the red light.
I saw red.
I threw the thing. The window shattered.
The noise was tremendous.
I fled round the corner, triumphant,
raging, laughing,
crowing, howling.

The next day you phoned:
‘The weirdest thing happened last night: someone
chucked that old bike seat through the front window.’
‘Really? That’s terrible! Did they break in?’
Didn’t miss a beat.

AN INVITATION

To what shall I invite you, sweetest friend?
To dine? Ah, I remember, long ago,
banquets at one another’s houses, when
we’d make a feast of anything at all.

Beneath the kitchen light-bulb’s goat-eyed glare
we sliced and stirred and tasted, side by side;
your wrists, escaping from unbuttoned cuffs,
were pale as pearl, and nearly broke my heart.

Well, this is not the love I wanted then,
bedazzled by your beauty and your youth.
Now patient time has taught my passion sense,
has schooled me to distinguish love from love.

Let’s drink, then, to the serene love of friends,
Which weathers pain and tears, and never ends.

Mandy Macdonald is proud to belong to the honourable company of those the English journalist Oliver Thring has memorably called ‘deranged poetesses’ (#derangedpoetess). She is Australian and lives in Aberdeen, Scotland, trying to make sense of the 21st century. Music, poetry, good wine and gardening keep her sane. Her poems appear in print and online, for instance in Outlook Variable (Grey Hen Press, 2015), Poetry Scotland, The Fat Damsel, Snakeskin, Triadae, the Maligned Species Project, and elsewhere. She was shortlisted in the 2015 Wells Poetry Festival. The rest of the time, she sings.

List of Poets

Sergio A. Ortiz

TATTOOED WITH CHINESE SCRIPT

I wake up every morning before the rest of the city
to open the birdcage so you’ll hear birds sing.
Night swallows and gags them with black velvet,
it betrays them, and I wake up broken,
opening cages, gulping tears,
blowing what remains of my dead wings at dawn.
My eyebrows are tattooed with Chinese script.
I put away my cross-eyed heritage,
my short path to erotic paintings,
my wet torso,
it moans with desire,
I name you with pain.
You know my dead, my gestures, my prayers
to those deceased you summon with your name.
You offer them food and serve them my emaciated body
that does not swallow, does not drink, never sleeps,
and has not lived here for a century.
You name the bird and guess if it is free or captive.
It’s me who lives inside the bird’s heart.
Who eats and drinks like the bird    is the man
you touch and bless.

Sergio A. Ortiz is the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. His collections of Tanka, For the Men to Come (2014), and From Life to Life (2014) were released by Amazon. He is a two time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee, and a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard. You can see his other work here and here.

List of Poets

Bailey Workman

SUBSPACE

Part my lips
with searching fingers,
I’ll open every pathway
if you know the combination
to tap out on my body.
Knot my hair in your hands,
you’ll be rewarded with eyes
that look up in submission
and a compliant tongue.
Whisper in my panting ears,
we’ll ascend,
tangled in each other
like strands of passionate twine,
holding ourselves up
against the gravity of who we are.

THE FOREIGNER

Your nails track down
the marble of my stomach,
a raw trail marking their place.
My fingers become alien creatures
I can’t control,
my vocal cords their own beings.
The deadened charcoal that
makes up my bones
is ignited,
smoking out messages for
you to decode.
The morse code in your teeth
tells me you understand.

Bailey Workman is pursuing a degree in Mass Communications from UNC Asheville. She has been published in Crab Fat Magazine, Digital Papercut, Hypertrophic Literary, and Torrid Literature Journal.

List of Poets

Poems added April 22, 2016

Michael Coolen

WHAT IF I WERE LEFT-HANDED?

Christianity is so confusing
St. Augustine decided
Original Sin is passed along
in the semen during intercourse

Does that mean my right hand is
infected with Original Sin but
my left hand isn’t?

Michael Coolen has been published in Oregon Humanities, The Gold Man Review, Clementine Poetry Journal, Synesthesia Magazine, Broken, The Poetry Quarterly, Oregon Poetry Association, the Rats Ass Review, et al.

He is also a published composer, with works performed around the world, including at Carnegie Hall, MoMA, and the Christie Gallery in New York. For more of Michael’s work in Love & Ensuing Madness, go to the index below. For other work, find him in our Volume Three, Issue 2 (2015). 

List of Poets

Gram Joel Davies

NEUROSCIENCE AND MYCOLOGY IN THE BEDROOM

There’s me, under the big light with my belly
like a puffball. My chest hair makes shadows
downward like muscle. I can see my girlfriend
behind my reflection. Our clock blinking red.

She assures me my buttocks look good tonight.
I know my brain is a mushroom, matted as pubic
hair below ground: mycelium to my fruit body.
It takes almost half a second for it to assemble

what the eye sees, each blink drifting like spores
along axons, into earth. Which means my face
right now is in the past, unknowable to me
as my arse. She says I should come back to bed.

Under the puffed quilt, our arms and legs
make nerve fibres that connect in a billion ways.
When our heads finally pop open and clouds
explode upward, we’re just half a second apart.

MILF HOGTIED TRAINED TO DEEPTHROAT HD

Under this banner
she is cat-stretched

to an archers’ bow
balanced on its grip

Her bite is hoop
for the ringmaster

who is abdomen
without face

He will place head
into lioness

as you and I (wherever
the world over)

roll the flap, peer
through ads, click to play

Our faces change
when we spit on the freaks together

CAPTIVATION

Even when she ropes him up
like a wayward strut, she mines
him straight from the shaft
with the richest seam – drills
for quicksilver. Braced
and propped, he wonders
how they swapped predicaments for this.

How his own tongue had floated
on every pulse, from neck
to wrist, to chest — a squid,
circling each circumference
as she tugged her tidal breath
for his final plunge – but he lifted
away on rising currents, traced
limbs, suckered against eyelids,
over ribs. And down, only at last,
between her whirlpool lips,
into the depth of that disgorging rift.

Now, she rises
with prospector’s triumph
as he hurtles like Lucifer,
pinioned but flailing at loss.
He breaks, gapes, deflates,
while she rears upwards,
blind as any god
who bestows her paradise in ignorance
of yet how many precious metals
beg to boil in him.

THAT

It beggars
me, I did that to you.
That you… accepted. Said
nothing.

Should it have seemed
a different silence
to that which welcomed
a first kiss,
or said unbutton this.

What did I miss,
that time but not
another when my mouth
begged across your hips,
cautious right to that eventual,
certain yes? But I did

that to you. After,
we lay close
with a new trust,
a boundary crossed.
Nothing gross could mar
our need, just deepen it.

It took years
to tell me it hurt.
You hated it, wished
I would have stopped.
If we could go back
now I would beg you
to refuse.

Gram Joel Davies lives in Devon, UK. Some of his poems can be found in Magma, Envoi, The Moth, Lighthouse Literary Journal and Bare Fiction. If you want to read online, try Stepaway Magazine or Clear Poetry. He performs with Juncture 25 poets, runs a workshop forum called The Critical Bathtub and supplies reviews or feedback to poets who want it. He has a website with some material and more info, at gramjoeldavies.uk. With luck, his first book will appear sometime near the end of the year.

List of Poets

Linda Evans

WELCOME TO THE END OF THE EARTH

He is a good son,
doesn’t follow in dad’s drunken footsteps
mother’s thriving co-dependency.
Still, he marries crazy.
Her name, Angela
a fallen Angela
falls in and out of love.
He is a good husband,
builds her dream home
on an island full of pirates
who long for her hidden treasure.
In line they walk the plank
fall into the warmth he hasn’t felt in ages.
He is a good brother,
cares for his sick sister.
Kindness comes at a steep price.
Jealous Angela falls out of love
tosses all he owns into the hell fire
that burns in the corner of the backyard.
He is a good patient,
doesn’t cry when he hears “Leukemia”
opts out of treatment
doesn’t want to be a burden.
Tells his parents goodbye
not to look for him; they don’t
but sister does.
Finds him, in a grove of scrub pine

dying alone in a pop-up camper,
a gun under his pillow.

Linda Evans is a writer, in the small college town of Newark, Delaware. A member of the TransCanal Writers, she has a short horror story published in the collection Tales of Madness and the Macabre: Scary Stories for Scary People (Lulu Press, 2011). She has a poem published in Pulse, The Voice of Medicine (Dec. 2013). She performs poetry readings at various venues and has collaborated with her fellow writers on an anthology, Five Bridges, published fall of 2013. In May 2014, Five Bridges was awarded second place in the Delaware Press Association Literary Contest.

List of Poets

Jamie Haddox

DRUNK

I can’t give your needs a page in this.
So many sobered times you said it
with truths here and there. My trust
damaged by drought, and I swore you
were cut off, but bottles are always
living this life without me. My heart
was more going than coming, then
the barmaid delivered and revealed
your first broken promise of the year.
She brought the forever to a full stop.
At this point, I’d have to sever a limb
to leave you. The pitchers kept coming.
You handed it to somebody as a cover.
I wanted to spill the brew across the table
and say “honey, a gun wasn’t an option”.
And you never let me finish you while I still
didn’t care. Someday you may screw me so
completely that by the last round, the hammer
sound, the sureness I have about your goodness
will drive straight out of town. I’ll put you
to bed, and put a fucking nail in it. You
were raising a drink as I was leaving,
toasting to another one, directly behind
my back, my heart shaped coffin hanging from
your neck in this tired room. I’ll always have
one foot out the door, waiting to see if
you’ll shoot me that hard look and incensed
profanity in your walking dead sleep.
I’ll take the ragged magnolia off my dress
and wilt, eyes leaking, reminding myself it’s
not me. It’s you, awful and cold.

Jamie Haddox is a writer from Minnesota. She holds a BA in Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in SunStruck, Haute Dish, Gyroscope, Pretty Owl Poetry and on the Golden Walkman Podcast. In her spare time, Jamie loves engaging in witty banter, Cards Against Humanity, and reading lots of books.

List of Poets

Louis Hunt

COVER ME WITH ROSES
(With apologies to the Rolling Stones)

I met a gin soaked bar-room queen in Memphis
her name, she said, was Liza with a Z.
Her skin was pale, her lips were red and reckless,
her body draped in gothic finery.
Don’t think, she said, I’m just some washed up whore,
money alone won’t bring me to my knees.
The price I charge for ecstasy is more
than you can pay. But if you beg me please
and grovel, I promise to be well-disposed,
I’ll show your future in my open hands
before I scratch your eyes and leave you blind.
But if you cover me with blood-red roses
and untie my wedding dress’s silken bands
I’ll steal your heart and then I’ll blow your mind.

Louis Hunt teaches political philosophy at James Madison College, Michigan State University. He has been writing poetry in between teaching and grading for a little over two years. He has a poem in Autumn Sky Daily and one forthcoming in The Rotary Dial.

List of Poets

Ralph La Rosa

Ralph La Rosa

PINK ELEPHANTS

A tipsy lady told me once
some facts about pink elephants—
how worrisome it is to know
pachyderms will come and go:

Try not to think of them when glum
or pinkish elephants will come.
The more one sighs or cries or fusses,
the more one sees a pink proboscis!

She added, apropos their dance,
Whatever hue the elephants,
they’re tasty treats (now please, don’t quibble),
but start your feast with one small nibble.

Though gone, she trumpets in my mind.
Her rosy breasts and pink behind
still whet my lingering appetite
to savor memories, bite by bite.

BEWITCHED

after Plath

Mon Dieu! I cannot live with you,
a wife whose dark charms grew
for seven long unholy years
after we said, I do.

Oh no, I must be rid of you,
whose spells have made me blue,
moving me to pooling tears
when you pursue your voodoo.

True, it’s true, I’m leaving you,
who melts my mind to glue,
strains my brain and carves my heart out,
boils it in your brew.

Now, I’m going, cursing you:
your tongue’s a torture screw
racking me to finally shout,
Adieu, you witch, we’re through!

Ralph now focuses on poetry and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has appeared in print and online journals, among them: Aethlon, Amsterdam Quarterly, Autumn Sky, The Chimaera, Dappled Things, First Things, The Flea, Folly, 14 by 14, Italian Americana, Light Quarterly, Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Lyric, New Verse News, Pivot, Raintown Review, The Raven Chronicles, SCR, Snakeskin, Soundzine, Umbrella, Voices in Italian Americana, Yale Anglers’ Journal, Sonnet Stanzas (White Violet), and Ghost Trees (Kelsay Books).

List of Poets

Helen Ohlson

JACK

He was an ass.
On the hunt, laden with our packs,
he would hang back on the rope
going up the mountain, then run ahead,
kick up rocks and yank me silly
all the way down.

The only saving grace was,
with those long ears,
he looked like a mule deer at night,
tethered far from us,
a better target for grizzlies
or midnight hunters who shoot at anything.

At home he kicked the cats
who ran him in circles around the stake,
bucked off anyone
who tried to ride him,
and pulled me over to munch on my garden
whenever I attempted to walk him.

He was my husband’s purchase,
but my burden.
One day I came home,
and Jack wasn’t there.
One day my husband came home,
and I wasn’t there.

STEPPING OUT

I always like when men get dressed up
to come see me
I watch through my window
as they pull up in their cars

sit and fuss with their mirror
fix their hair in the latest style
from Lee waxing his flattop
to John pulling his long grey hair into a pony tail

they get out, straighten their slacks
put on a jacket
sometimes reach in to pull out flowers or candy or both
I really like that

George steps out of his stripped down’55 Chevy
to hand me purple orchids on prom night
Greg brings me Gary Wright’s latest album
and a bracelet he found on the sidewalk

Rich, his long legs in slim bell bottoms,
shows up one night with a bottle of my favorite perfume,
a gorgeous smile, and sings Englebert Humperdink songs to me
I keep the bottle for a really long time. I like it

Gary gives me a volume of James Joyce
then takes it back
saying I’m not smart enough to understand it
Ha! He’ll pay for that

Joey comes in with a Christmas tree
thoughtful enough to bring all the ornaments, too
Phil brings me cake
I really, really like that

These days they bring me plants instead of flowers
I don’t know why
and wine instead of candy
that’s a good change

Like me, they walk more slowly now,
and I think when I land in a rest home,
I’d like it if the men still come to see me
all dressed up and bearing gifts

I’ll hear the elevator rumble up the shaft
crack open my door just so
carefully lean my white head against the jam
and peep down the hallway

he hitches his belt a little higher on his belly
pats down those few renegade hairs on his head
takes a deep breath, coughs
and shuffles his feet in my direction

I open the door to let him enter
he reaches into his baggy pocket and pulls out
some reefer and a bottle of Viagra
I’d really like that

Helen Ohlson is an award winning poet whose work has appeared in numerous print and online anthologies. She has been published in the Indie Excellent Finalist, Times They Were A’Changing: Women Remember the 60’s and 70’s and the Delaware Press Association award winning, FIVE BRIDGES. Her other publications include Philadelphia Stories, The Broadkill Review and most recently, Dance. Helen resides in the Utopian village of Arden, Delaware, where Utopia might be up for debate, but artists and writers enjoy unabashed community support.

List of Poets

Sergio A. Ortiz

SHE’S THERE

she’s lying / in the shadows moistening
the sunrise /
there’s a garden / inside her / where he’s dazzled /
she blooms entirely for him / they tremble / & hold their tongues
with the same buzz /
exchange books papers promises / they dress kiss
disjoin from one another / she walks into the darkness / perhaps oblivion /
when he returns / she’s lying in the shadows / drenched
she’s never left / she’s never leaving

LOVE LETTER
March 26, 2016

that intimate place
between your legs
—my black obsidian god
with a diamond head—
that drags and throws me
into the sea of assumptions
—beautiful night demon
with the implacable testicles
of a tiger whose semen—
running ember
from which the Milky Way
proceeds— fills me
like a well of light

Sergio A. Ortiz is the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. His collections of Tanka, For the Men to Come (2014), and From Life to Life (2014) were released by Amazon. He is a two time Pushcart nominee, a four time Best of the Web nominee, and a 2016 Best of the Net nominee. He is currently working on his first full length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard. You can see his other work here and here.

List of Poets

Sana Rose

VALENTINE BOX

There’s a hole in the box,
letting the fragrance of
yesterday’s jasmines seep out…

The box has a ribbon
in the shape of my pressed heart,
no loose strings flailing out.

Yet the little dreams wrapped
within the tiny box sing
our song of distant love…

Valentine is an illusion,
but what you said of it
remains in my eyes.

Yes, I believe in mirages,
the water you see is not water,
but fragrances don’t trick.

You smelled of Cedarwood
blended with Bergamot,
with a hint of Frankincense…

Even if you didn’t,
I can imagine the aroma
of my intoxicating dreams!

Yes, there was a hint of
Jasmine, too –
from me.

Sana Rose has been writing poems long before deciding to be a Homoeopathic physician. Her debut poetry collection The Torrent from My Soul: Poems of A Born Dreamer was published in 2011 while she was in college. Her poetry has been published in The Sketchbook Journal (for eastern and western short forms), Ithalukal (a Singapore-based literary Ezine by Keralites), The Galway Review, etc. Currently, she is editing her first novel and working on a second fiction book amidst writing poetry, practicing Homoeopathy and motherhood. At twenty seven, a life in a conservative background has only added to her fifteen years old passion. She lives in the seaside town of Kadalundi in Kerala, India, with her husband and daughter.

List of Poets

Poems added April 8, 2016

Jane Blanchard

Vernal Villanelle

Spring often comes in fits and spurts.
Adept in only youthful drills,
Spring raises hope it then subverts.

Spring makes quick love, withdraws, deserts
Earth awkwardly exposed to chills.
Spring often comes in fits and spurts.

Spring soon returns, wants more, exerts
A tyrant’s power as it wills.
Spring raises hope it then subverts.

Earth goes far fast, almost asserts
A readiness for further thrills.
Spring often comes in fits and spurts.

Spring, not yet satisfied, still flirts
With buds, half-blooms it sometimes kills.
Spring raises hope it then subverts.

Earth takes what either helps or hurts
When open to this season’s skills.
Spring often comes in fits and spurts:
It raises hope it then subverts.

Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia. Her poetry has recently appeared in the Anglican Theological Review, The Evansville Review, The Rotary Dial, and The Seventh Quarry. Her chapbook Unloosed has just been released by White Violet Press of Kelsay Books. To read more of Jane’s work go here.

List of Poets

Carole Bromley

DINNER PARTIES

I’d leave my knickers off
put on black suspenders
and watch you suffer
through the grilled grapefruit,
the moussaka, the orange cheesecake.

Then I’d slip out of one high heel
and tease you with my stockinged foot
while you handed round blue nun.
Somehow the washing up
never got done.

MINERS’ STRIKE

Newly-weds, we didn’t mind the power cuts,
sex was more fun blind-fold;
we’d feel our way, learning the texture,
the smell, taste, sound.

We invented a game for the blackouts,
‘Guess the body part’. I usually won
but then I’d been breathing you in
till you were everywhere; my hands, my mouth

my every part. The winner got to choose
where we fucked. Mostly by the hearth,
where our white, goose-pimpled flesh
roared into the dark.

ALL THE PUBS WHERE WE USED TO MEET ARE SINKING

The Little John is up to its knees,
The Lowther shoulder high,
The Kings Arms just keeping its head.

In The Bonding Warehouse, the barman
snorkels to collect empties
and only fishes remember what we said.

At The Cock and Bottle barstools are afloat,
banging against the window I looked out of
when you asked how I’d been and I lied.

Carole Bromley lives in York where she runs poetry surgeries for The Poetry Society and runs the local Stanza group. Twice a winner in The Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition, she has two pamphlets and two full-length collections with Smith/Doorstop, the most recent being The Stonegate Devil which was published in October 2015.

List of Poets

Giuseppi Martino Buonaiuto

MEAT EATERS

Isn’t it strange that the same bloodlust
Which feeds the sex drive, drives
Deep into one’s Egyptian appetite,
Feeds deep, deep around the campfire at night,
Flames of carnal desire: and by carnal, I mean
Literally a yearning for rib-eye steaks,
Pork sirloin & Horse Meat.
Horse meatballs.
Horse sausage.
Horse stew.
Hi-ho Silver & Trigger,
Fury & My Friend Flicka, &
Lest we forget: The Famous Mr. Ed.
Oh Wilbur, I’m talking about Horse Cuisine!
(God Bless the French!)
Dartagnan & Brigitte, typical post war
Parisians with Slim Pickens,
Survivors with little to choose from
Whatever scroungy edibles offered on the pushcart.
The one good thing about those years, you might ask?
It was a jubilee time, a precursor to
Lean Cuisine & Weight Watchers
Jenny Craig & Nutrisystem, & the lovely
Marie Osmond looking especially edible lately
Having dropped a dumb-bell 50 pounds, yet
Still crammed tightly in Spanx.
“Hey Marie, it’s good to be the King!”
I am Mel Brooks humping you,
From behind, History of the World: Part I.
Marie is looking tasty, n’est–ce pas?
France after WWI and WWII: a starving time, yes
But ironically: a meat-eater’s orgy.
The French Cavalry, no longer needed,
Meant liquidation of the local Lipizzaners,
War-weary, would-be Man o’ Wars,
Secretariats, Seattle Slews, & California Chromes,
Shot twice in the head,
Carcasses hung & butchered.
But I digress. Or do I?
MEAT: gives the same ecstatic rush as sex,
Carnival Season, a pre-Lenten animal s’morgasm,
Identical, as nourishing as, perhaps as
A horse of a different color: WTF?
SEE ME/FEEL ME: bloody cheeks, dripping jowls;
Shredded flesh betwixt my teeth—oh yes!
I confess that among my forebears–
Not to be confused with my forebears’ foreskin,
Which would, of course, be a whole other story–
Somewhere ‘long the spiral helix
Was a seriously carnivorous, naked ape,
Some troglodyte Alley Oop, devolving over time,
Into a reptilian, puffed-up, junior stockbroker,
Impressing some bimbo 21 year-old
In some cheech Manhattan bistro, trumping
A waiter or waitress’s shopworn standard query with:
“BLOODY!”
A fresh kill: bloody, still warm.

Giuseppi Martino Buonaiuto is a former commissioned officer and veteran; employed later by one of the more obscure government clandestine services. He holds numerous graduate degrees including a Masters from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is retired, splitting his time between two gated over-55 lunatic asylums, one in northern New Mexico and the other in southern California. He was born and raised in Brooklyn. His two children know him by another name. To read other work by Mr. Buonaiuto go here.

List of Poets

Rachael Clyne

FOOD IS SYMBOLIC

Before Muriel could protest, he had filled both glasses. Richard always protested, even bought Protest sportswear. It’s unfair to say guys only want one thing; we also want food. I’ve made mistakes in love, regretted them, but never the potatoes that went with them. It’s vital to chit the seed, the sooner the better. After a good dinner you can forgive anybody, even relatives. Soup is just a way of screwing you out of a meal. A smooth emulsion, like whipped cream, is a good way to bring food into the bedroom. It was a rude shock to find that their tote a tote had been subject to a manual action by Google. Bear with me please, said Muriel, these are terms I am fresh to.

LIBERATING THE SENSES

When the knicker-elastic’s gone in your genitals
and you’ve lost your twang, to the extent
that a sneeze holds more thrill than an orgasm,
it is time to reach for a good book, stroke
the sleek body of the cat wrapped round your leg,
enjoy the pleasure of intimacy without mess.
Not the popular view, but there is liberation;
no longer at the mercy of urges that led only to trouble.
Outside, the ash tree tosses its hair in the wind,
light shifts across hills, meadows ripple and somewhere
nearby, younger bodies perhaps, slip sweat
through and in one another, pump blood, juices;
lost to their own ecstasies. Yes I did my fair share
after all, I was a sixties girl. The thought of it now
seems bizarre, despite the protest of those who say
‘you can never say never’ – my lips are firmly sealed.

Rachael Clyne’s work appears in Prole, The Interpreter’s House, Tears in the Fence, and the anthologies The Very Best of 52, Book of Love and Loss, Poems for a Liminal Age. Her prizewinning collection, Singing at the Bone Tree, (indigodreams.co.uk) concerns our longing for the wild. Recent work focuses on human nature.

List of Poets

Pat Edwards

SWIMMING WITHOUT ARM BANDS

Biology in school.
This goes here.
That goes there.
Holy bananas, where?
There? Are you sure?
It came up in the exam.
Get in!

Now you’re doing it all the time.
At it like rabbits.
What’s she like?
Is he any good?
Couldn’t say, not my type,
If you know what I mean.
Batting, side, get my drift?

Morning after.
There’s a pill.
Way too late for that.
Then take a test.
Just to be sure.
But I’m scared shitless.
I’ll bet you are sunshine.

You bloody little swimmers,
No arm bands,
Not beginners.
Strong breaststroke.
Excellent technique.
I was way too weak.
Feel like I’m drowning.

That’s three lives
Buggered up for good.
Shagtastic baby.
So when you’re putting
It about boys and girls,
For pity’s sake,
Think twice, be nice.

Pat Edwards is a writer, teacher and performer from Mid Wales. In 2015 she self-published Flux with Caxton Press and in April 2016 she will be reading at Wenlock Poetry Festival. She still can’t quite believe that last bit. Life is full and crazy and wonderful and, every now and then, it forces her to take it seriously. She was commended by judge John Siddique in the 2015 Poetry Space competition and has been published on I am not a silent poet website and in a couple of anthologies.

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Iseult Healy

A WOMAN IS ONLY AS GOOD AS

A woman is only as good as when
there’s an old man dying at her breast
she doesn’t forbid his last suckle
his comfort of flesh born and dying.
When his lips relax and his breath ceases
she sees his maleness still – the young boy
knees abled, hair tousled,
eyes alight to his first love,
his tormented protection of his offspring,
his anguished awareness
he’s no longer alpha silver-back.
She does not let him lose his
pride, helps him hold till the end
all the power that he possesses in mind if not in limb
for his presence instils stability and safe-harbour.
Let him fear not he will be alone when time’s past;
his power spent, his vacant need exposed to all.

Iseult lives in magnificent Sligo on the west coast of Ireland – the land of Yeats.

Her formal training came through the Royal Irish Academy in the dramatic arts. She has furthered her training through several workshops in The Irish Writers Centre and Patrick Kavanagh Centre and continues her studies with Galway poet Kevin Higgins of Over the Edge. She has also been a contributor for many years to The Synge Summer School, Wicklow.

Published in Boyne Berries 1916, and Fredericksburg Literary & Arts Review, USA. She was also shortlisted for the 2015 Galway Hospital Arts Trust Poetry Competition.

Iseult is also a member of the Ox Mountain Poets and A New Ulster group. For more of Iseult’s work, go here.

iseultwriter.com Twitter: @IseultH

List of Poets

Angi Holden

THAT SUMMER

Exams over, papers closed, we sauntered
through lemonade afternoons, read
dog-eared copies of The Mersey Beats,
fingers sticky with fresh-squeezed oranges.
We listened to Ummagumma and Dark Side
on his father’s Bang & Olufsen, abandoned
our virginity between polycotton sheets,
mouths stained with raspberries.
Waited for results.

Angi Holden is a mature post-grad student and teacher of creative writing. Environmental and family landscapes are key to her work, much of which explores relationships and identity. Her poetry and fiction has been published in a range of online and print anthologies for both children and adults and in 2015 she co-edited the National Flash Fiction Day anthology, Landmarks. To see Angi’s other work in this collection, click here.

List of Poets

Maggie Mackay

CHILI PEPPER

Hernán Cortés gasps.
His tongue vibrates in the liquid’s pulse;
fluted red, pepper slices burst over his mouth.
The lobes swell, stuffed with gunpowder fury
–their flames scream flamenco swirl
the swell of her hips
on Spanish nights, long ago,
the heave of jasmine and orange…

He explodes. Heat, heat, so deep.
As she stamps, knuckles hit tables in time,
the rhythm explodes and peaks;
membranes soaked in garlic oil
yield fleshy parts fuelled with rapid-fire
staccato cracks of Palomino whip.

A full circle skirt spins, has him reeling.
Ole! Jaleo!    Then pedicured fingers strum, strum,
hum, finish him off in the stomach with a punch
fiercer than the peppers of the Caucasus.

Maggie Mackay is a bravehearted Scot and a final year MA poetry student at Manchester Metropolitan University with work in various print and online publications including Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Bare Fiction, Obsessed with Pipework, The Fat Damsel and Three Drops from a Cauldron. For other work by Maggie in Rat’s Ass Review, go here.

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Susan McLean

OFFERINGS

In love, I’m like a teenage girl.
I want to make you things:
a patchwork pillow of my own design.
Oh, lie on me!

I want to bake you things:
brownies, cookies,
things that melt in your mouth.
Oh, consume me!

I want to knit you things:
thick sweaters, caps,
long scarves to wrap around you.
Oh, let me keep you warm!

I want to bring you things:
roses opening in my garden.
Oh, look at me, touch me,
breathe in my perfume!

MY MISSPENT YOUTH

When my father thought to tell me of the birds and the bees,
he didn’t pay attention to the scabs on my knees.
I was generating mysteries for my father the sleuth.
Ah, my misspent youth.

In the back seat of a car or on a mat in the park,
I soon did in the light what I’d refused in the dark.
You don’t win any medals for remaining aloof.
Ah, my misspent youth.

Avoiding cars and nature trails is safer, although
you’ll never learn by staying home how far you can go.
You have to eat the pudding to discover the proof.
Ah, my misspent youth.

You can get advice from anyone (it’s easy and quick),
but the hard way is the way to learn the lessons that stick.
The pathway of excess leads to the palace of truth.
Ah, my misspent youth.

Susan McLean is an English professor at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota. She has written a poetry chapbook, Holding Patterns (Finishing Line Press, 2006), two poetry books, The Best Disguise (The University of Evansville Press, 2009) and The Whetstone Misses the Knife (Story Line Press, 2014), and a book of verse translations of 503 epigrams by the Latin poet Martial, Selected Epigrams (The University of Wisconsin Press, 2014).

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Nicky Phillips

IN A FLAT OVERLOOKING THE PONT DES ARTS

Chopin’s tender Preludes lap
around the edge of my consciousness
so when you stop playing,
kneel beside me, kiss my arms
with a gentleness that is new to me,
I am already yours. How skilled
your tongue, how deft your fingers.

Overwhelmed by sensation,
I follow willingly to the places
you lead me. I take all your sweetness,
give myself and more, finally relinquish
our sweaty grasp to break apart
and lie back gasping, laughing, together.

Outside, the river continues its journey.

KEEPING THE KANGAROOS AWAY

When the tea towel’s on your head,
they don’t come near. Some days,
you swear you’ve seen the donkey,
the one your parents kept in the yard
behind the hotel many years before;

others, it’s trapeze artists from the circus
who swing through trees, pick fruit.
The water jug’s a worry, stranger still,
who squeezed it through the letterbox;
who stole those run-down batteries

when the house was locked. The pain
bites when you’re calm and everything
is in its place. The sun’s straight over-
head, yet your face is lit by a long
shadow of the one who stayed behind.

Nicky Phillips lives and writes in rural Hertfordshire in England. Her poems have appeared in Brittle Star, South Bank Poetry, and SOUTH Poetry Magazine, and online on Ink, Sweat and Tears, Nutshells and Nuggets, The Lake and Snakeskin, among others. Anthologies where you can find her poems include ‘Heart Shoots’, an Anthology in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2013), The Book of Love and Loss (Belgrave Press, 2014), ISKRA, A Poetry Anthology (Everyday Victim Blaming Press, 2015) and Poetry on Stinging Nettles (Fair Acre Press, 2016).

List of Poets

Wendy Pratt

NIGHT WINDOWS*

There is too much heat
in New York. Too much heat
in the hotel room, in the frame
of the open window,
in the unnecessary radiator.
There is too much heat in the blaze
of a single bulb, too much heat
in chafed thighs, in cleavage, in arm-pits,
in neck creases, in the squinting
eye of a belly button. The silk
nightie tags on sweat, and rides up
as she bends and packs, or unpacks
unwanted clothes. The night
is a dozen things on a list,
a number on the back of a receipt;
ink smudged in the heat.

* Night Windows: Edward Hopper, 1928 oil on canvas

Wendy Pratt was born in Scarborough, UK in 1978. Her first pamphlet and full collection were published by Prolebooks, her latest pamphlet, Lapstrake is published by Flarestack Poets. In 2015 Wendy won both Prole Laureate and York Mix competitions and was highly commended in the Forward prize. She is currently studying towards an MA in creative writing with Manchester MMU and a PhD in poetry with Hull University. She is poetry correspondent for Northern Soul, a web based magazine and is also involved in the Womentoring project. She is currently working towards a new collection.

List of Poets

Lesley Quayle

SLIPPED SKIN

She seems brittle,
her curves smooth and glassy,
so fragile that he hardly dares
to mosaic her lips with moth like kisses.
His fingers drift, trace formless patterns,
wring a pure note; her voice has the clarity of steel,
it strikes at the backbone of the jaded world
like pinprick stars or bursting atoms.

She’s become transparent,
lying down with him night after night
glimpsed through small intimacies,
tender as rain. He glides like a skater
across the sheen of skin, the delicious silence
of breast and belly, his sweet needs cling to her
leaving only a thin pulse of sweat.

She listens for the slight, ascending scale of day,
warm carillons of light
moving over the bed.
He won’t hear her leave,
with her heart’s wings clipped,
she has slipped her skin
and stands shivering under the sky.

SHE LIVES IN NEAT SUBURBIA

A sketchmap of middle class morality,
small and private. She’s his part-time,
good-time, her heart opened wide,
like a throat hitting high C.

She walks her love on the wrong side,
picks truth and chews it for him,
so that he can easier swallow the lie
cut from his tongue.

She won’t wash off, her obstinate
fragrance scuffs his skin and kissing him
is like sucking from strange flowers –
she’s my encounter too.

Sweet weight, she hangs in his bones
with her offerings of arms and breasts,
legs spread in animal loveliness.
He sees like a blind man.

Spooned in the wide bed, naked,
chaste as children as he burrows
through dreams, alive only to her,
mumbling guilty love in my ear.

Lesley Quayle is an award winning poet, whose work has appeared in various magazines and journals including The Rialto, The North, Tears In The Fence, Obsessed With Pipework, Ink Sweat and Tears, Prole, Angle, The Morning Star among others. Her chapbook, Songs For Lesser Gods, (obacce) features the BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year prizewinning sonnet sequence of the same name and her latest collection is Sessions (Indigo Dreams). She is also a folk/blues singer.

List of Poets

Finola Scott

AVALANCHE

I fall loosen
slide in
to you let go
toppling in
to your heat slipping
reckless sinking
my softness meets
solid you melts
helpless I don’t know where
youbegin&iend
cocooned in our cave
I dissolve
drifts of desire engulf
I’m buried blinded
in you

TRADE DESCRIPTION

Bathing alone
I finish the rich gel you bought for a treat.
At first the velvet liquid froths.
For one sweet moment it caresses.
Perky bubbles blink and wink
then plop and burst sagging
sticky wetness on my legs.

The golden shower of oil, once
caring and nurturing like you,
has lost its gentle touch.
It fails to smooth rough patches
or tease shy nipples.
I shiver and let the spray wash the silk away
no longer savouring the pampering.

Too late I realise
The label promises more than we did.

TAPAS

What to choose?
Lush moist bites
Where to start?
Hot spicy morsels
Then what?
Velvety smooth nibbles
What next?
Salty treats
spread for our delight
pleasures for the sharing
Amuse bouche
Sweet nothings
Silky titbits
Amuse toi
Flavours savoured
Amuse moi

Glaswegian Finola Scott’s poems and short stories are widely published in anthologies and magazines including The Ofi Press, Hark, The Lake. She is pleased to be mentored this year on the Clydebuilt Scheme by Liz Lochead, Scotland’s Makar. A performance poet, she is chuffed to be a slam-winning granny.

List of Poets

Thadra Sheridan

MINESWEEPER

Today is your birthday.
Facebook told me.
We went bowling on your birthday,
and ate pork with chanterelles,
and I gave you shoes.
They were really cool shoes.
And then you dumped me
in a Thai place
over fish cooked in banana leaves.
Now I hate banana leaves
and bowling
and shoes.

At first I just acted like
we were still dating,
figured you’d come around.
You didn’t.
So I played a lot of Minesweeper
Like A LOT
like for hundreds of hours
for weeks in the dark
while weeping.

Today is Tuesday.
We went to Alcatraz on a Tuesday.
We played cards ’till dawn.
You knew all the best restaurants.
And when you showed me your deformed hand,
said your mother did drugs while pregnant,
I called you Flipper Baby.
And you liked it,
Because you totally get me!
And then you dumped me.
And I lost a lot of weight,
like A LOT
and maybe my mind.
I wouldn’t say I was suicidal,
unless we’re talking gradual
like cirrhosis
or dehydration by weeping.

Because you said the sweetest things
like really touching;
stuff you’d hear in the movies.
You were so romantic,
you were practically fictional.
I keyed your car.
got the driver’s side
rear quarterpanel.
I was really drunk,
At first I felt terrible, like
what have I become,
but you didn’t notice for weeks,
then you parked on some side street,
said all the cars around you were scratched too.
Some jerk must have gotten you all,
like God came down and keyed all the other cars
just to cover my ass.
And if God’s willing to do that
just to keep me out of trouble,
then I guess it’s OK.

Today is Martin Luther King Day.
Facebook told me.
I don’t remember what we did on that day,
But I bet it was fun!

I’d say I’ll never love again,
but I already have.
That didn’t go well either.

I still play Minesweeper.
I have permanent nerve damage.
It’s been years, now.
This is totally normal.
Sometimes I eat a lot of ice cream,
like A LOT
so fast I barely taste it.
Might as well be spackle.
and I binge watch crime dramas
for days,
just stare at the screen
and eat my spackle.

I’d say I don’t blame you,
but I do.
It’s like you put some kind of hex on me,
probably used your flipper.
could you please quit Facebook?
Maybe move to Mongolia?
I don’t want to look through your photos,
and judge your facial hair,
gauge which one of us has aged better,
guess which girl you’re dating
and hate her,
like banana leaves.

Today is Friday.
We did stuff on Fridays.

I admit I have a problem,
maybe bigger than Facebook,
and it’s not all about you,
but you definitely started it.
Some may question my sanity,
but if I had it all to do again,
I’d probably still key your car.

BLOW JOB

The first time I had sex,
he whispered in my ear
“would you kiss it?”
He wanted oral sex,
fellatio, a blow job,
a hummer, head.
He wanted me to
play the skin flute,
the rusty trombone,
smoke pole,
suck dick,
slurp the gherkin.
And I was new to this,
so most of these terms
weren’t in my vocabulary,
but I got the picture.
So I said yes,
and then I didn’t.

In my defense,
he said “would you,”
which I took at the time
to be a hypothetical;
Would I do it,
like if the situation arose,
if I were called upon,
like for my country.
I figured it out
in retrospect,
but it was too late
to answer the call.
Now I play it safe.
When asked,
I always clarify:
“What?
You mean
right now?”

POST COITAL

The movie people make
sweet magical love.
Her hair is long and wild and
doesn’t get caught in his teeth.
His butt is smooth
and free of pimples.
Her nipples stand at attention,
like those eyes in a painting
that seem to follow you wherever you go.
Movie people don’t worry about odor.
They don’t wonder if they remembered
deodorant today.
Movie people don’t WEAR deodorant, because
you can’t smell movies.

When they are done,
movie man plays with her hair.
Movie man spoons.
Movie man asks about her
hopes and dreams.

Real man grabs his smart phone,
scrolls through Facebook,
reads a text message and
chuckles to himself.
Then he passes out
as if he’s been drugged.

Real woman’s hair
sticks out erratically
as if she’s been
rubbed vigorously on the carpet
like a pencil eraser in a stressful college exam.
Her makeup looks like she did kabuki
then ate something greasy
and went for a swim.

Movie people sleep peacefully and cuddle.
Real people snore loudly
and hog blankets.

In the movies
they never dispose of the condom.
They don’t have jizz rags.
There are no
crusty white stains on the sheets.
Movie people fluids just
disappear,
replaced by pjs;
sexy ones,
when nobody saw them get up.

Real people will excavate
the foot of the bed for hours
to find their underwear.

In the morning
movie people wake well rested and
stare at each other in a
totally non-awkward way.
Movie man makes pancakes.
Movie woman sips coffee.

Real woman never fell asleep.
Real man moves around a lot.
She keeps her eyes closed
in case he looks at her.
She won’t get up until he does.
It’s a sleep version
of playing chicken.
But it’s going to be a while
before she can start the search for her bra
because every time his alarm goes off
he hits snooze.

GIRLFRIEND WANTED

Wanted:
One girlfriend.
Must be willing to sit up late at night
giving advice
and back rubs.
Must be a good listener.
Must know when to just
fuck off
and leave me alone.
I require sex at any given moment.
If you are not around,
I will seek service
from a temp agency.
Must make coffee,
do dishes,
appreciate my taste
in books and music.
Must be available,
but not intrusive.
Must be charming and clever.
Must keep her mouth shut at appropriate times.
Must be willing to participate
in any sport I chose.
Must not beat me in any of said sports.
Must mirror my moods.
Must like my friends.
If you already have a life,
you need not apply.

Thadra Sheridan is a writer and performer from Minneapolis, MN. Her work has appeared in Rattle, Specter, The Pine Hills Review, The Legendary, Blotterature, Abyss & Apex, on Upworthy, HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, Button Poetry, and in several anthologies. She is the recipient of the Jerome Foundation’s Verve Grant for Spoken Word and a past weekly columnist for Opine Season. She is currently working on a memoir and a series of short films based on her poetry. She charges for pity, and she’s sick of waiting tables.

List of Poets

Poems added April 1, 2016

Colin Bancroft

AFTER FRANKENSTEIN

After he died I wailed, cried,
veiled, tried to carry on with life.
Railed how I’d failed as a wife.
If only I’d stopped him setting sail
that night, we’d be alright.

Went through mourning rites,
too grief deformed to write,
my mind a storm of lightning strikes,
couldn’t imagine living life apart –
then Leigh brought back his silk wrapped heart.

It was a start. Decided to use my smarts,
read books, journals, consulted charts,
dabbled in the blackest arts.
Learnt the secrets of chemistry, mathematics,
built a lab inside the attic.

Started on the task to bring him back.
Glad-rags on, lipstick smacked –
clubbed, pubbed, drank in drinking dens,
picked up countless stinking men,
all to make him whole again.

To make his sum from all their parts,
limb from limb. That hair of his,
the nose from him. His legs, his chest
his smile, his eyes. Each body part I stole
a prize, all sewn together, galvanized.

Each morning from the bed they’d rise,
and all too late, again, I’d realise
that no matter how perfect their disguise –
they were not him and could not fill
the monstrous chasm at my side.

Colin Bancroft works as an English Lecturer at a College in the North-East and is currently studying for a PhD on the poetry of Robert Frost. He has had over twenty-five poems published with various online and printed journals. His website, that showcases his work is www.colinbancroft.co.uk For more of Colin’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Nina Bennett

I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW

We first made out to vinyl.
Stacked on a portable turntable,
45s guaranteed chastity, even teenagers
can’t do much in 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

By the following spring,
we graduated to albums. 15 minutes
made possible more discovery, tentative
exploration interrupted to turn the record over,

place the stylus precisely
on the outside edge of Strange Days,
side 2. Your hands mirrored the spiral groove
the needle traced, progressing steadily to the center.

Then it was the car radio,
restricted only by our curfew
and limited space between the dashboard
and the front bench seat of your parents’ station wagon.

8-tracks, cassettes, CDs
made things easier. No stopping
to flip the record, no hunting for albums.
Your iPOD holds songs enough to last all night.

Delaware native Nina Bennett is the author of Sound Effects (2013, Broadkill Press Key Poetry Series). Her poetry has been nominated for the Best of the Net, and has appeared or is forthcoming in publications that include Gargoyle, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Houseboat, Bryant Literary Review, Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, Philadelphia Stories, and The Broadkill Review. Awards include 2014 Northern Liberties Review Poetry Prize, and second-place in poetry book category from the Delaware Press Association (2014). Nina is a founding member of the TransCanal Writers (Five Bridges, A Literary Anthology). To read more of Nina’s work go here.

List of Poets

Christine Brandel

ANTHONY’S THIN

A thing about him makes me
want to be thin. It can’t just be
bones and beauty, can it, not so
simple to call it that or call him to me.
But Anthony’s thin and long and
broken and I want to be
him, like him. So thin.

Christine Brandel is a writer and photographer. Her words and pictures have appeared in literary journals around the globe. She is also a PopMatters columnist and rights the wrongs of the world via her character Agatha Whitt-Wellington at Everyone Needs An Algonquin . More of her work can be found at clbwrites.com.

List of Poets

Victor Clevenger

TEST DRIVING: A CHRISTMAS IN JULY SALE

She was a good woman, filthy, a strip mall Santa Claus, an
attraction to sell high mileage automobiles with dents and
dings in the hood and fenders. I could see her in the

reflection through weathered glass. A passenger side mirror
scene, standing at the rear, all sweaty under there—prickly
haired pits, and the crease under her purple-tipped tits all

wet and stained. She spread her legs, her feet were planted
in gravel, wider than shoulder width while she pinched and
tugged at the red stockings which had worked their way up

into her pale-white ass crack. I honked the horn and asked
her if she wanted to tag along for the ride. And she did.
She climbed inside, smiled, and when it was all said and

done, ink dried, and cashier’s check exchanged, I had
gotten a hand job, a good deal on a seven-hundred dollar
Ford Escort, and head lice.

And to this day she still denies giving me two of the three.

Victor Clevenger spends his days in a Madhouse and his nights writing poetry and short stories from the kitchen table of his ex-wife’s home in Missouri. Selected pieces of Victor’s work have appeared at, or are forthcoming in, Chiron Review; Blink Ink; *82, Least Bittern Books, among several others. His latest collection is In All These Naked Pictures Of Us. For more of Victor’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Eric Cline

YOUR WISH

I think of you
when I’m in the back
of another man’s
car; he smells like
the kind of suburbia
I detest but you
find appealing. His
excitement builds as
my own dwindles; his
excitement feels too
much like determination.

I remember when
you were determined:
a dozen ‘no’s did
not get in your way. As
I look into the other
man’s eyes, big and
glazed and eager, I think
of how much bigger than me
he is and what he could
get away with, if my wishes
did not matter to him.

You were bigger than me
too, as was your determination:

“Please.
Please. Please!
Please. Please. Please!
Please! Please.
Please!”

Your wish was fulfilled
when you rubbed my bottle.

Peaceful with knowledge
of two wishes left, you
retreated into sleep as
I faced the wall head-
on, two eyes searching
by lamp-light for what
was left.

Eric Cline is a poet currently residing in Dumfries, Virginia. He completed his undergraduate studies in psychology and creative writing at Longwood University. His work has appeared in The Commonline Journal, Yellow Chair Review, and elsewhere.

List of Poets

Kymm Coveney

ON THE SEAWALL

We slip, ice cube clink, through the sliding
glass doors. High, prodding dune grasses
prick our bare legs, feet press cool sand.

We perch on wood steps that lead to dark
lapping waves. Under a salty sky we kiss,
whisper quiet: sounds cry out over water.

I sshsh onto your lap, blood surging
like to warm the windy, pounding Atlantic.

Behind me nun buoys flicker red; past your
taut shoulder are the tawny glowing doors.
Damp wind carries our heat, fingers, tongues.

I feel your wanting under me. With a groan
stifled into my lips you are in me wave rocking
and I see my mother standing in the door.

I hold tight, hold my mouth against your neck.
See a neighbor on an unlit porch. We barely move.

I know your silence, know your mouth is a mute o
your eyes wide when you shudder and
crash.

Kymm Coveney, an ex-pat from Boston, has lived in Spain since the 1982 World Cup. Her latest poetry publications are with Yellow Chair Review, The Interpreter’s House, and Clear Poetry; and are forthcoming in Prole and Under the Radar. Glasgow Review of Books has published a poem translation, and 101Fiction has published several flash fiction pieces. Her blog betterlies.blogspot.com.es contains mostly flash fiction. @KymmInBarcelona retweets mostly other people’s poems.

List of Poets

Terry Cox-Joseph

SOMETIMES

I wish I hadn’t met you
traipsing through my life
dragging Rasputin ramblings
like an old robe.

How to explain that your eyes yank my soul
through my throat, expose my nakedness
until I yearn to slice my tongue
for feeble admissions while your fingers play
my shoulder blades like a keyboard,
music to taunt my flesh when we’re apart.

You will never share your spirit with me.
I knew it then, grasp it clearly now.
Perhaps it should console me that you will
never share your spirit with anyone,
doors closed even to God. That you will
never change doesn’t make it hurt any less.

I am at least as stubborn as you. It’s a matter
of whether sunlight is as exquisite as pain of night,
whether it’s worth it when I have no idea where
the end might be, vague concept that my life
would have been simpler without you
less painful, less colorful, less confetti,
less … so much less.

SLEEPLESS

Your scent, laden with sweat and salt
engorges my dreams,
mouth sealed against mine
fingers stroking my cheek
torso like shifting stone.

I yearn for a soothing well
of thick, black sleep to release me
from this insistent coupling
chaotic neurons absorbed
in the fibers of my pillow.

I crave oasis of water lilies
mindless fish, eyes rotating round
and dumb, thick green blades
of grass, unconscious of their own
growing. But if restful sleep

meant it were all a dream,
I would lie awake
throughout eternity
entangled in twisted sheets
of unabated consciousness.

TOO HOT

We are vortex,
center of sun
beyond cold fusion
of the mind.

Who would have known
when we began with E=mc paired?
Inscrutable gap between
knowledge and hunger,

dialectical debate conceived
in niobium-ignited passion, vaporized
emotions. Thermonuclear heat

aided by unpredictable palladium,
loaded with heavenly deuterium,
lightened through diminishing helium.

Beyond. Within. Between.
We evaporate in a lifetime
of critical chemistry.

Phonons vibrate
the moment
our hearts collide.

Terry Cox-Joseph is a member of the Poetry Society of Virginia and is a former newspaper reporter and editor. From 1994-2004 she was the coordinator for the annual Christopher Newport University Writers’ Conference and Contest. She has been published in Chiron Review, The Poet’s Domain, The Blotter, Avocet, Red River Review, and Prairie Poetry, among others. She displays and sells her watercolors, acrylics and oils at Blue Skies Gallery in Hampton, Virginia. Her children, pets and the waterfront provide a constant resource for her writing and art.

List of Poets

Yvette Flis

EVERYTHING BREAKS

Everything seems to break at once, hearts, the flowered vase you threw with such grace and aim, my supraorbital process, these long years chasing dreams, your patience and control, my resolve and commitment, our ability to hear each other, know pain, feel compassion, tolerate mistakes, differences, fading bodies and interests.

I will sweep glass shards later when all quiets, the house, heart smashings, memory, futureful fears, the guarantee of loss and thunderous changed plans. Our clock’s steady thrum rubs it in. We turn towards walls, walk away, the steady beat, beats, beating, beatings rhythm a list of our new tomorrows.

Yvette Flis has published under different names, each hers, but gave up spare syllables when she took up snow drifts and dark winds. She reads to remember and writes to forget. Her recent works have be seen in The Linnets Wings, and under the names Yvette Managan and Yvette Wielhouwer, in The Prose Poetry Project, Winamop, Every Day Fiction, Open Magazine, Mason’s Road, Flashshot, Sporkpress, Eclecticflash, Killer Works, All Things Girl, Literal Translations, Polluto 6, Mirror Magazine, and Sinister Tales; and under Yve Wildflower in Nefarious Ballerina.

List of Poets

Patricia L. Goodman

WAN CHU IN LOVE
after Richard Jones

It is late, my lovely wife
and my hands are cold
from the chill
of the snow-filled night.
I have traveled late to return
to you. I warm my hands
between my eager legs,
then scrub them in our little bowl
of water. I want them
to be as clean and pure
as our love. You lie waiting—
the innocence of a young girl,
your black hair arrayed
on the pillow. When I slide
my nakedness
into your silken body I am
spring rain anointing pale peonies.
You are warm, inside and out,
and far more willing
than Su Mei, my young dancer
beside the river. Her I must
cajole and convince.
It takes all night.

Patricia L. Goodman is a widowed mother and grandmother and a graduate of Wells College with a degree in Biology and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. She spent her career raising, training and showing horses with her orthodontist husband, on their farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She now lives in northern Delaware, where she enjoys writing, singing, birding, gardening and spending time with her family. Many of her poems have been published in both print and online journals, and anthologies and she was the 2013 and 2014 winner of Delaware Press Association’s Communications Contest in poetry. Her first full-length book of poetry Closer to the Ground, was a finalist in the Dogfish Head Poetry Contest, and was published in August, 2014 by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. In 2015 she received her first Pushcart nomination. Much of her inspiration comes from the natural world she loves. For more of Patricia’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Caroline Hardaker

SUCCUBUS

My sweet, are you sure you want this?
It’ll hurt a bit, and there’s no easy way
without giving something somatic
in return for my time and my raw inside.
You can’t steal your way to me, you need
blood and ale to force your potency
through wholly. You also have to kiss me.
My lips are cold and shift like the sea.

It won’t be so bad. I need your spit,
just a bit of it, to make the deal complete.
I already had your heart when you walked in
but now I need your juices and your metal.
Settle down while I settle upon you.
Move in me like rubber and you’ll
live forever prickling within my skin.
And in that way, we’ll both win.

Caroline Hardaker lives in England, and earned her BA and MA from Newcastle University. Her non-fiction work has been published worldwide, and her poetry has been featured most recently by Neon Magazine, Allegro, Swings & Roundabouts, Pankhearst, and I am not a Silent Poet. She is Pankhearst’s Fresh Featured Poet for March 2016, and is a Poetry Reviewer for the Three Drops from a Cauldron e-zine. Her pamphlet ‘Eye, Tongue, Machinus’ will be released by Goya Press in Autumn 2016.

List of Poets

Holly Magill

UNHINGED

Twinned knees peek like lowered eyes
beneath the modest skirt’s hemline;
limbs restrained workday-straight,
elbows scrinched in – not touching
any other breathing thing.

So seldom a morning person;
smile bitten behind lips now shut,
but kiss-roughed. Lust showered off
still insists and knows; rogue pulses
and spasms refuse to be lulled.

This body, wreck of capsized madness,
cramped in an aisle seat in carriage B;
synthetic velour a scratching post
to a spine loosened by bed, each roll
of tracks catching right there, right there.

Aftershocks galumph – neck to breasts,
hips to toes and back up and in again,
legs clenched against visible trembling
on the 8:05, scant half an hour gone
from taken, thighs wild, hips unhinged.

NEXT TIME I MAKE MEATBALLS

I will think of you sprawled in a bed that belongs
to neither of us equally, on a Sunday afternoon
so wet we’ve not bothered look outside,
both a bit wrecked from overindulgence,
yet not a drop swallowed, not of booze.

At home, taking hold of the meat, the right
amount, I roll it between my palms for the perfect,
imperfect roundness, so when hot, just enough
to pop between open lips, loll on a tongue
hungry for salt and seasoning,

to always go down nicely.

Holly Magill is a poet from Worcestershire, UK. She has a BA in Creative Writing from University Of Birmingham and has had poems in various publications, including, Lunar Poetry, Clear Poetry, Three Drops and a Cauldron and The Emma Press Anthology of Mildly Erotic Verse. She is fond of cats and strong tea above most things.

List of Poets

Sarah Frances Moran

THE LIE THAT FAITH TOLD

I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you. I love him and simply can’t believe you.
I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you.

Sarah Frances Moran is a writer, editor, animal lover, videogamer, queer Latina. She thinks Chihuahuas should rule the world and prefers their company to people 90% of the time. Her chapbook Evergreen will be released this summer from Weasel Press. She is Editor/Founder of Yellow Chair Review. You may reach her at www.sarahfrancesmoran.com

List of Poets

Basilike Pappa

AMATORIOUS

Love is a word that sings like a virgin
in low-cut jeans, in low-key mind,
sucking at a lollipop lollipop oh lolli lolli lolli,
looking for messages in bottles of cheap wine.
I, on the other hand, am vinyl chloride,
lab-made illusion, feeding on white.
I am another north – I invented my own kind of cold.
I am a contempt warrant – I pronounce you dick by the phone.
I have deviance dispensers in my heart
and never suck at a lollipop lollipop oh lolli lolli lolli.
So let’s just fuck.

MISTY SIDE OF MY ROOM

Your face, upturned and gilded
by the LED light
in a belly-of-Athens bar
(beers clinking, vodkas clanking, lighters flicking).
You: laughing
like I’ve never seen you laugh before,
a stone angel coming alive,
spreading his wings over the city
(buildings rising, mobiles ringing, channels changing – antennae extravaganza).
You: listening
to someone telling a story,
leaning forward so the words can reach you free of clutter
(people speaking, people laughing, people pleasing).
And me: looking at you
as if through a keyhole,
remaining unseen and under seduction,
dreaming of capturing you,
of locking you in the misty side of my room,
of keeping your laughter all to myself.

Basilike Pappa lives in Trikala, Greece, where she doesn’t work as a translator, a copy-editor or a historian. To write her stories and poems, she uses either English or Greek and a black pen with a fine tip. When she doesn’t write, she cooks without salt, walks her dog, dances Raqs Sharqi (Dance of the East), reads, and avoids thinking about the future. Her work has appeared in Life and Art Magazine and Intrinsick. You can read more poems by Basilike here.

List of Poets

Bethany W. Pope

IN THE END

When everything we love has passed away
and we’ve lost our families and the last of our dogs,
we’ll find that there is beauty in decay.
Your body is sweeter because it won’t stay;
your skin will line, your green eyes will sprout wrinkles.
When everything we love has passed away
we’ll have the iridescent memory
of a life that brimmed with innumerable pleasures.
We’ll find that there is beauty in decay;
laughing at our loosening teeth, or the way
my breasts sag against my dappled ribs.
When everything we love has passed away
you’ll still reach for me at night, hungry
for the things I’ve always offered, those same small joys.
We’ll find that there is beauty in decay;
it will grow more clear as our eyes fade cloudy
and we prepare to sluice from our bodies.
When everything we love has passed away
we’ll find that there is beauty in decay.

Bethany W. Pope is an award-winning writer. She received her PhD from Aberystwyth University’s Creative Writing program, and her MA from the University of Wales Trinity St David. She has published several collections of poetry: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012) Crown of Thorns, (Oneiros Books, 2013), The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), and Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014). Her collection The Rag and Boneyard, shall be published soon by Indigo Dreams and her chapbook Among The White Roots shall be released by Three Drops Press next autumn. Her first novel, Masque, shall be published by Seren in 2016.

List of Poets

Ed Shacklee

AUBADE

An old and aging horny fool, a foal, a horny toad
upon a crimson trolley, driven by the devil’s goad,
a toady on a folly on a forking rutted road –

these eyed, entangled disparate parts subconsciously entwine,
the beating of an irate heart, the pearls, the herds of swine,
for what is yours is yours, my dear, and all of us is mine;

and all of us is nothing more than nothing counted twice,
the evening’s wins and losses from the tossing of the dice,
a flicker of a sunbeam on a shard of melting ice.

LOVER’S LEAP

I didn’t look, but leapt –
you never saw me crack a book
at school, and while the nerds all prepped,
I didn’t. Look,

who needs that gobbledegook?
I notched my belt with babes I slept
with, raised hell till the rafters shook;

and if I haven’t kept
a steady job, and, drunk, mistook
her for you: we might be hitched, except
I didn’t look.

Ed Shacklee is a public defender who represents young people in the District of Columbia. His poems have appeared in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Crannóg, Light, and Rattle, among other places. He is working on a bestiary.

List of Poets

Bekah Steimel

ON DRUNK DIALING AN EX

The scar never weeps for the wound
never splits itself with longing
for past pain
In matters of the heart,
trust the body that surrounds it.

THIS IS/ISN’T A LOVE POEM

I’ve wall-papered my skull with images
of you
laminated every memory
and tuned my ears
to the pitch of your voice
but this is not a love poem
you would not allow such a thing
I barely exist
in your world of bright lights
and shadows that never sleep
I hardly rest, either
outlasting even the star I gave you
from some Hell to our Heaven
I’ve outlasted you too, apparently
because I do not love you again
I love you still
burning like our star
falling like the others
so fuck you
this is a love poem
even though we barely exist

Bekah Steimel is a poet aspiring to be a better poet. Her recent publications include Crab Fat Magazine, The Yellow Chair Review and East Jasmine Review. She lives in St. Louis and can be found online at bekahsteimel.com and followed on Twitter and Instagram @BekahSteimel.

List of Poets

Susan Laura Sullivan

FIFTY BUT NOT YET FIFTY

I love the way our faces
sink petals unfurl
in the last flush

before going to earth
to rise again
lines are softer

now 28 years deeper
now a peripheral
Saturn return

giving up chocolate
was as easy
as a doctor’s warning

but I never
thought I could

you gave me up as
easily though
we were iron
cobalt nickel
elemental

ductile
but riveted

against bonds failed
to find and keep
on childhood streets

and familial leaks
drilled into the
waling of our skulls

I didn’t know
I was mercury to you

in the same way that
we were habit
until I went in for my
next
hit.

Susan Laura Sullivan currently resides in Japan where she teaches university. Her poetry, prose, essays and reviews have been widely published. Her work has most recently appeared in Plumwood Mountain, Otoliths, TRUCK, Rat’s Ass Review, and The Journal of Literature in Language Teaching. Her prose has appeared in the Harper Collins/Radio National anthology, In Their Branches, and Reasons for Song was shortlisted for the 2012 TAG Hungerford Award for an unpublished novel. She is a co-founder of the Toyohashi Writers Group, and helps organize the Central Japan Literature Society. For more of Susan’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Micaela Walley

30 MINUTES LATE TO AN INTEVIEW

and I can’t get my necklace to clasp.
This was supposed to be the easy part.

My hair is still damp in the back, at the ends,
cheeks still red from the scalding shower I took
only minutes ago, lipstick already smearing in the corners—
a shade darker than the saleslady promised just the day before.
I chew gum to ease my empty stomach, hope no one can tell
I haven’t brushed my teeth since morning.
It is mid-afternoon, and I am late.

There is a knot in the necklace’s chain, and I remember
how your hands were made with enough grit
to grind all nuisances like these away.
Remember how I can no longer call you and admit
that I don’t really want this job, and you’d
tell me it’s about time to get my shit together. You’re right.
I remember how you broke the seal of my secrets not to share,
but to shred though I carry yours like the garter just above
my upper thigh concealed only by a pencil skirt
which lifts during any slight turbulence.

That skirt, made of the same material he asked if you felt the urge to pick
when you passed a field of white clouds in Texas.
How could you love a man that only see’s half of you?
Only see’s you as the black panties he occasionally washes
with his own, as the glaze of muck on the dishes that never get done,
as a body, but only parts of it which closely resemble his.

Not the hair that will clog his drain because modern plumbing is still
no match for your interracial curls, the same curls I see bouncing toward
the dumpster just outside my window. Too far away, I think,
though they still weave around the vessels of my heart.
God, I’ve missed the way you walk when you’re angry.
What is it you’re really throwing away?
You’d think by now, I would understand how you could pick
someone like him over someone like me. You’d think by now, it
wouldn’t hurt seeing you get rid of the things that I knew
were never important to you in the first place.

I throw my necklace at the glass, call for you through white curtains,
but you are gone. You were always going to be gone.
My necklace is a cluster-fuck on the ground, so I pick it up again
and grease the matted chain with my memories
and hope that I am not too late, but I am always too late.

Yes, this was supposed to be the easy part.

THIS OLD, FAMILIAR FLAME

I go to bed naked,
clothed in expectation

for a night of sleep that never comes.
Lying down, I feel the weighted

sand of disappointment slipping through
my chest, sprinkling down to gather in the small

of my back. The day abandons me this way.
I wonder if I’ll always associate

sleep with fire, the feeling of your body
pressed up against mine, like an iron

burning through my skin. You’d say you were
only ever trying to smooth out my edges.

I have become a shell
made of the ashes you left behind

the next morning. Glued the pieces
back, no problem. You’d be surprised.

I did that on my own. Got up,
read your reasons propped

against the coffee pot, rubbed
the bruises on my knees

knowing I squeezed them together
in unconsciousness. Damn it.

Probably thinking of you again. Probably
going to wake up in a downpour of sweat again.

Probably going to wake up, right?
Maybe when I do, I’ll feel okay,

and I’ll see myself again, instead of
this old, familiar flame inside my body.

Micaela Walley is pursuing her B.A. in Creative Writing at the University of South Alabama Currently, she is Poetry Editor for the Oracle Fine Arts Review and an intern at Negative Capability Press. Her work has been published by Eunoia Review and is forthcoming in Due South Magazine.

List of Poets

Mercedes Webb-Pullman

LIGHT

Late afternoon. I’m squinting from the shine
of sun on waves. It glints like Mary lanterns
switching on and off everywhere through
base to crests, spreading spots of light
in patterns morphing into one another
and I turn to point them out to you

but of course you’re not there. You
are somewhere else – maybe moon shine
is gliding through your window, in another
reality. You’re reading haiku under lanterns
lit for the moon festival; their light
beads in a necklace that threads through

the trees, and makes its way through
empty space and time, to me. I miss you.
I miss coming home late, seeing the light
you left on for me, a reassuring shine
from a beacon with love as its lanterns.
You were my home. I’ll never have another.

The house we built together – another
family lives there. They know you through
stories our friends tell. Christmas lanterns
hang in eucalypt trees that were planted by you.
Those trees still hold so much oil, they shine
through hot afternoons, scintillate with light

as breezes move them. Maybe it’s the same light
that we see, whether in this world or another,
a rhythm alternating between dark and shine
the way waves, trough to peak, push through
yet never leave. That way I can imagine you
here with me for a moment, as the lanterns

along the beachfront come to life. These lanterns
are linking us again now, sharing the light
from here with that dark world where you
must still somehow exist, although in another
form, different to the world I’m walking through,
steering me still with your beacon’s shine.

Lemons on the tree shine like lanterns
through the fading light.
Another day has passed without you.

Mercedes Webb-Pullman graduated from Victoria University Wellington with MA in Creative Writing in 2011. Her poems and short stories have appeared online and in print, in Turbine, 4th Floor, Swamp, Reconfigurations, The Electronic Bridge, Otoliths, Connotations, The Red Room, Kind of a Hurricane Press, Typewriter, and Cliterature among others, and in her books. She lives on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand.

List of Poets

Poems added March 26, 2016

Tara Borin

PARENTS’ APHRODISIAC

A tumble of children
across our bed drives us
to the smaller bed
adrift on a sea of tossed toys.

Weeks
since we’ve touched–
we sink and sputter
in the storm surge,
octopus arms purple our legs,
drag us deeper.

In slack water
we find each other,
cling to this twin-sized raft,
kick free and
float.

You bury your face in my neck
like the baby does,
your not-child hands stir me
as I hear her stir.
She cries out as I cry out,
my voice, lullaby worn.
Tangled oxytocin rush,
alveolar squeeze:
milk beads.

Siren song pierces,
ebb tide
drags me out again.

THE GIRL FROM ST. EUSTACHE

In a cove of willow
with the girl from St. Eustache–
she barely spoke a lick
of English,
her fluent fingers translate
my body’s tongue,
the river shushing by.

Would she be surprised to see me
now,
stuck in some forgotten slough,
children mired about my legs,
chanting:
your body’s not your own,
it’s mine
mine
mine.

Would she draw me once more
into those willows far away,
the river susurrant:
ca va aller, ca va aller.

Tara Borin writes poetry and wrangles three kids in London, Ontario. She enjoys sneaking chocolate in the kitchen and taking showers alone. Her poems have previously appeared in Mused Literary Review. You can find her online at taraborin.blogspot.com

List of Poets

Rhiannon Conley

LESS PRECIOUS

I know magic is as ordinary as my breath
because there is an atmospheric event
the night I discover I’m pregnant:
a flare, something to do with energy in the sun,
the cellular layers of the universe
reacting physically within the hem of our planet.
Both this event and my pregnancy
have occurred without my consent, the way
a raspberry bush suddenly is
whether you asked it or not.

The second event is a haze. This is lesser magic,
as adolescent as prayer, like wearing your cleanest
daisy white panties, a sacrificial lamb
to coax out blood. The haze dyed the sun
flaming pink like an Easter egg still in the cup,
a small spell, enough to confuse a man or me,
but no blood was drawn, no daisies dyed.
I thought, this is just maybe the way things are now
– like how I saw a bush become a man
and knew somehow he’d hurt me. Like how
you didn’t show up when I wanted you, needed you,
like how we couldn’t make anything easy
when I was still bleeding from the home
I made for a baby then destroyed.

It was barely July and I had just stopped loving you
in the small, precious way that you needed.
I used to be made of wolf’s blood and sea water.
My veins carried this to my hands,
lips and legs. It flowed through me with the moon.
I told you, you used to be precious, magic.

I build traps for men and call them homes,
let them say it’s magic,
then find myself there, all honeyed and sweet
and caked in writhing flies – almost amber,
but decidedly less precious.

Rhiannon Conley has been writing poetry for several years, but has become more serious in the last few. New to submitting, she has recently published a poem in the North Dakota Quarterly. Rhiannon is a composition and creative writing lecturer at the University of North Dakota.

List of Poets

Patricia J. Esposito

WITH LOT’S WIFE, I TURN

If my lips could rake his hair,
each blood-black fiber, kiss
its silk-grain path to where it shears
across slick neck, lick down vertebrae,
cheek against scapula, slide over skin
glazed with the first tidal waters, beaten
to outshine the marigold moon, toned deeper,
every cat’s claw digging the russet soil, unearthing
the clay that started it all to mold him, if I could nibble
up his copper-plate shoulder, tip of the clavicle, and free-wheeling
slide, tumbling into the sternum’s cavern, shiver along his brown-eyed nipples,
fingers dribbling the rib rungs, mouth burning in his canyon sun-drenched, snake stung, cactus-milked, my teeth taking life-hold on the pelvic thrust of
him

… if

I would turn back too, for what difference
is a pillar of salt and me without him,
both blood and marrow starved?

A TOUCH SO LONG

We shook hands after the sale. You rose tall
above me, our eyes meeting before hands.
Formal, polite, a handclasp as first touch.

A sale, a handshake, courteous words, and we
let each other go. But here I am in your house,
and my mind holds your hand, clasps firmly.

Passion in my smaller frame yanks you in.
Hand now on the back of your neck, pulling
you down to me. Mouth now meeting… I can’t

breathe. I want to climb up and onto you,
a tingling that lifts me to my toes. How
are you away at mountainous heights

rather than here thick between my legs?
With your sun-glint eyes and winking smile—
you felt like alpine air. Do you now climb

the winding trail to your snow peaks? I
touch the valley of my stomach, the low
mound, and remember your hand. Once

it held mine, briefly but in my blood so long.

Patricia J. Esposito is the author of Beside the Darker Shore and has published numerous works in anthologies, such as Main Street Rag’s Crossing Lines, Cohesion Press’s Blurring the Line, AnnaPurna’s Clarify, Timbre’s Stories of Music, and Undertow’s Apparitions, and in magazines, including Oysters and Chocolate, Clean Sheets, Scarlet Literary Magazine, Rose and Thorn, and Midnight Street. She has received honorable mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror collections and is a Pushcart Prize nominee.

List of Poets

Kate Garrett

A CHANGE OF HABIT

That night I found his tongue in the dark
of the green, head tilted up towards
Jupiter’s glow in the night-burning

silence. This discovery came after the wine,
after the retracing of steps down Division Street,
the glow of the chippy lights recalling the night

we met, and after I said his name made him sound
like a highwayman, wondered how much I
should give up, if he wanted to take it at all—

but it was before he led me home to his stopgap
room, tipsy with each other’s scent, past voids behind
doors and the vodka snores of his housemate.

Later, on amnesiac sheets, he etched my naked hip
with mercury and said it wasn’t every day
he was so pleased to be within kissing distance.

Kate Garrett’s poetry and flash fiction has been published here and there, and her latest poetry pamphlet, The Density of Salt, is out now via Indigo Dreams Publishing. She lives in Sheffield, UK with her husband, a cat, and three-and-a-half trolls who think her name is ‘Mum’. She accepts her lot as a writer, but would not-so-secretly rather be a pirate.

List of Poets

Iseult Healy

AFTER REMBRANDT’S WOMEN

Nipples sucked while I work
the brush to the canvas,
the vermilion and ochre
matching my puckered skin
standing ready for pleasure.

Your tongue-tip a missile
of heat and wetness
while I stroke the viscous
oils to the taut canvas.
Stroke after stroke.

Painter and painted, one wet
the other wetting in colours
vivid and rich and beyond life
till who is breathing and who
is image is a matter of indifference.

A faint sigh, a thrill of senses.
A brush, a stroke, a flick of
life across the dusky scene.
Damp fingers dust the likeness
pull the flesh towards the centre
where it muffles in a heaviness
of pure puce and nutmeg folds.

The light fades, the colours dry.
I perforce return to this monochrome
thing called life in this harsh planet of
defined things, but I know whenever my
eyes light on this image, I will dive
and swell and surge and swim
in its rainbow of life till I drown
again and again in its silkiness and
soft stains and tints and hues
and live once again.

Iseult lives in magnificent Sligo on the west coast of Ireland – the land of Yeats.

Her formal training came through the Royal Irish Academy in the dramatic arts. She has furthered her training through several workshops in The Irish Writers Centre and Patrick Kavanagh Centre and continues her studies with Galway poet Kevin Higgins of Over the Edge. She has also been a contributor for many years to The Synge Summer School, Wicklow.

Published in Boyne Berries 1916, and Fredericksburg Literary & Arts Review, USA. She was also shortlisted for the 2015 Galway Hospital Arts Trust Poetry Competition.

Iseult is also a member of the Ox Mountain Poets and A New Ulster group. For more of Iseult’s work, go here.

iseultwriter.com Twitter: @IseultH

List of Poets

Sasha Kasoff

THE FOREST

New love is uncertain
hesitant and bounding at the same time
gushing information
to show them; You
listening like a sunflower hears the sun
full face turned, drinking the warmth
pausing on tiptoe, silent
arms outstretched, fingers questioning
checking they want more
building a home in your heart
a place just for them

Growing love is joyous
once trust is planted
it thrives on every new moment
memories piling into albums and scrapbooks
songs and laughter
love starts to hold your heart up
time fills in the canyons of the past
each friend a tree in the forest
part of the whole

Old love is beautiful
content in so much knowing
at home in each other’s friendship
but it takes work
without care weeds will grow
roots will crack the sidewalk
storms will wear you down
never forget it is still growing

You can love someone so much it hurts
separation can feel like suffocation
worry and fear can overwhelm
their words and their suffering
can damage you
but love is risk and vulnerability
an endless cycle of renovation
pruning as we get broken
pain we can sing and sway to
love always hurts
but oh, it is exquisite
to have a forest in your heart

Sasha Kasoff’s poetry can be found in two self-published books and many anthologies, magazines, and other literary presses all over the world. She is currently earning her MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes University in England. Look for her author pages on Goodreads, Facebook, and at SashaWrites.com.

List of Poets

Ann Kestner

SUICIDE AND COOKIES

I bring him suicide and cookies
at the library of course.

Tucked away in the quiet reading room
I find him fighting his usual war
attacking virgin paper
making it bleed black veins
of blood that no one
but me seems to want to read.

I hand him a book called First Words
a collection of the earliest writings
of contemporary famous authors.
“It’ll make you want to die,” I whisper
“when you find out
that what they wrote
when they were twelve
is better than anything
you’ve ever written.”

It’s an ugly book that looks
like it weighs more
than the concrete boot
of a drowning man.

He does not open it
only eyes it a moment
then pushes it aside.

He looks up at me empty.

“And I made cookies.”
I tell him with a smile
a little too loud for the room
I open the lid
on a festive Christmas tin
in what is now late spring.
“Chocolate, chocolate chip.”

Ann Kestner is the founder and editor of Poetry Breakfast. For over 20 years, her work has periodically appeared in various publications. She spent most of her life in Virginia at the edge of the D.C. suburbs. Ann now grudgingly lives in New Jersey along the Raritan Bay.

List of Poets

Maureen Kingston

THE FLAPPER DRESS

is falling apart:

a striptease
of snagged threads,

beads popping
the belly plane,

casting
sterile seeds.

The zipper vein
bunches,

sheds a rusty nail

before my fingers
manage to

jazz the slide,

change its pitch
to comp

the resurrected
beat

between my legs.

HER SUN-DRIED TOMATOES

Sunken seeds
& shriveled skin,

more potent
in collapse,

power
condensed

by the sun’s
hot flash,

steaming
then drying

to well-aged
wombs.

Maureen Kingston’s poems and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in B O D Y, Gargoyle, Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, Misfitmagazine.net, Modern Poetry Quarterly Review, Red Paint Hill, Stoneboat and Terrain.org. A few of her poems and prose pieces have also been nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart awards. For more of Maureen’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Jenny Liou

INSOMNIA RUNS IN THE FAMILY

One night, my mother calls me
to say my father is suddenly old.
She woke up next to him, dismayed.

She says that every morning, now,
they take the dogs outside in darkness and
as he ascends the driveway towards her,
she sees his father’s face in his,
that latent family ghost.

I feel bad for her, I do, and for myself,
for all of us whose proxy for love
is the spectre of death in each other.
All summer long,
there’s been a headless seal on the beach.

Sometimes the waves wash dead things up
and cannot carry them away.
You know it’s true.
You know that’s why we wear our rings less often.

I dread and envy my parents,
who, after thirty three years of passionless truce, live
far from the sea, the big sky
pinning them down, together.

DEADHEADING

I wanted you to choose our avocados
because you’re good at gauging ripeness, guessing the future.
I asked you to believe in my good clear heart
but the kitchen knife is truth and every vegetable
a body poised for betrayal. The apple is mealy, the avocado
brown, the pomegranate bruised beyond repair.
I’ve learned the sound of your car
idling for a moment in the driveway
before you walk in, seeking calm.
I wish I could be someone else for you,
someone who doesn’t need love that wants to be torn down
like basil that lives if I keep it from blooming.

HARD WATER

I’m finally glad you’re gone. Confucius calls
taking hold of a clear concept “grasping
the azure.” You left me to clean things up
again—polish on the steel, abrasives
on the tile—the work of erasing a life of things
getting dirty, breaking down. When I’m done
I shower once more in the empty house
in the tub I couldn’t quite scrub clean.
We live in a mineral city. All the wrong things
accrete and accrue. Like loving you. Tell me:
why does what’s left behind form rings bluer
than the sky, as if an ocean swelled
its banks in a time so distant that the land
and sea were different and everyone was happy?

Jenny Liou is a cage-fighting Idahoan who teaches English and boxing at a college on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation.

List of Poets

Eugene Ryan

TO HIS COY MISTRESS AT THE BACK OF THE PICTUREHOUSE*

Houston, we have a problem
I want my sexual awakening and I want it now
This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship
Wanna date?

Love is a force of nature
the longer you wait the harder it gets
Ice cold, hot wired
The night… has an appetite

Life is for living
death is just around the corner
watcha gonna do?
Exterminate all rational thought
rock out with your Glock out

*This poem is constructed entirely from movie tag lines.

Eugene Ryan makes his debut in Rat’s Ass Review. He did pretty well once at a poetry live mike, but got slow clapped off stage when, flush with success, he followed up with an off colour joke. From South London, Eugene currently lives in central Japan with his wife and two children. After decades of mood dependent forays into writing, he was encouraged to give it a proper go by Sue Sullivan from the Toyohashi writer’s group. He loves kids, dogs and the ocean. He has been struggling to give up supporting Arsenal FC since 2010.

List of Poets

Tom Tracey

SHROVETIDE

The bluebell’s in its element,
yet I’ve just bought a scarf.
Remember when we calmly kissed
and caught the DART beyond Clontarf.

Repentant Spring is here and there again,
full of the loosely pagan.
And just as we’ve been ever on and off, off and on,
it’s vanity to think we’ll last, or last that long,
though having lived so long, we long to love.

Tom Tracey (b.1980) holds a DPhil in English from St. John’s College, Oxford. He has published a number of scholarly essays on the work of David Foster Wallace. His poems have appeared in several publications including Agenda’s online Broadsheet no. 23 (2014) and Oxford Poetry (2008). He has written for the Dublin Review of Books; he lives and teaches in his hometown, Dublin.

List of Poets

Poems added March 19, 2016

Anthony Ausiello

CASTAWAY

My father stands shirtless
like a castaway,
under the hard sun
of another summer day,
leaning against the cold
iron gate
of my childhood home
I return to
less and less.
He rushes over,
asks about the traffic,
before saying hello,
even though I can’t recall
the last time
he drove.

Dad,
you’re not a kid—
put on a shirt.
He puffs up
like an old Charles Atlas ad
sucking in his spotted skin.
When I don’t smile,
he deflates
and looks away.
Your mother’s upstairs cooking,
the words fall out.

Upstairs,
my mother is cooking.
Mom,
why does he stay outside
in this heat?

He stays out there
when it’s cold too,
she spits out her words,
let him stay outside
if he wants,
there’s nothing out there.

Anthony Ausiello is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing-Fiction at Fairleigh Dickinson University and is a reader for the The Literary Review. His first published story will appear in the Spring edition of The East Bay Review. He received a BA in English from The Pennsylvania State University and was a winner of the Katey Lehman Fiction Award. Between PSU and FDU, he successfully navigated through corporate America for almost two decades before departing to search for the Promised Land. He lives happily in Westfield, NJ with his wife, Talia, and children, Anya and Eli. For more of Anthony’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Sarah Clayville

SPEAKEASY

I am firmly confident
that if I rewrite the English language,
syllable by syllable,
he’ll come back to me.

Or at least the word for gone
will mean something different altogether
he’ll be tricked by the semantics
and decide to stay.

Once I’ve reworked the alphabet,
spun the A’s to gold
and removed the O from alone,
it won’t be about talking but hearing.

Listen to the rhythm of the machine
and you’ll hear the intention of the inventor
an SOS to the universe
“Look at me, I’ve changed things.”

Listen to the silence of the night sky
and you’ll hear the intention of God
an assurance to all the heartbeats below
“Look at me, I’ve steadied things.”

FORGOTTEN SOUNDS

It hadn’t occurred to us
that we’d never share a continent again.
And translations would be impossible
because we weren’t speaking in different languages,
we were echoing the same sentiments
sitting on radically different intentions.
Reconstructing our memories to include
all the missed opportunities of silence we tossed away
operating under the faulty assumption that
there could never be too many words.

RECITATIONS

The only way a kiss can work
is if we memorize the patterns
the country of origin
the definition of the desire
until our lips meet.

Sarah Clayville’s fiction and poetry have appeared in The Threepenny Review, StoryChord, Literary Orphans, and a number of other journals. She is a high school teacher and freelance editor as well as the poetry and nonfiction editor for the online journal, Mothers Always Write.

List of Poets

Kiley Creekmore

I AM A WEREWOLF

Thirteen times a year.
I am bloody and raging,
and so hungry –
I could eat a person
alive whole.
But I don’t.
Instead, today, I sink my teeth into chocolates
and snarl quietly in my cave.
keeping myself there for protection
of others,
walled in with books and music.
I might bite your head off
and then feed the rest of you to the others
while we howl out all the injustices and
we pick old bones clean with our bleached teeth
and terrible beautiful mouths stained with justice.
You blame hormones, but we know the truth.
And it claws its way out
Thirteen times a year when
the moon calls.

Kiley Creekmore is a writer (amongst other things) and loves life, the universe, and cats. Her poetry has appeared in Pankhearst’s Fresh and Three Drops From a Cauldron. She is currently working on a chapbook.

List of Poets

Erric Emerson

THE NEW YORK YANKEES

She pulled up in her black Jetta
the clutch choking on old news.
She stepped out letting the drivers-side
door badger passing traffic.
She lit a cigarette and parked herself
on the trunk, which dipped even under the girl’s 98 pounds.
She wet her thumb and smeared bird shit
into a palette circle on the pollen scented rear glass.
She laid back tan-prone, her midnight hair
naked on the roof in midday rays.
She sun-slept as I walked up while lighting,
our smokes in a palaver with idle exhaust fumes.
She popped the trunk exposing her cache
of car-wash materials spread out like a yard sale gallery.
She sprayed the tinted windows one by one
till they sparkled with just-off-the-lot newness.
She put on everyone’s favorite song but mine
and the radio winked at me with static reverb.
She took off her t-shirt baring a navy blue
sports bra that matched the Jetta’s better days outerwear.
She found her ex’s New York Yankees hat
under the front seat and didn’t mind putting it on.
She wore the hat backwards like an adolescent
but soaped the tires like a college cheerleader.
She giggled as I splashed half-car/half-her
with the just filled rub down bucket water.
She took off running till I scooped her up
and threw her in the backseat, our eyes signing contracts.
She wound up on the mound in perfect form.
I scored in the bottom of the ninth, taking to the field,
her hat thrown off in victory.

SPITTING IMAGE

She had a black Volkswagen Jetta, with tints.
It couldn’t have been the awkward turquoise
or the more pronounced red.
No, it was black.

It’s been a year or so now but let me tell you,
there’s a lot of Jettas on the road.
Most of them an uninteresting dull black.

You see them at drive-thrus and
zipping by on highways
or you’re stuck behind them at red lights
with all the windows tinted black.

Every time I see one I wonder
if she’s in there, seeing me,
in the millionth and one that’s passed
with dark windows, tinted black.

A NICHOLAS SPARKS MATINÉE

They walked up to my register as
Nicholas Sparks as possible.
20 somethings rounding life’s corner
all white-teethed and primed.

She’s scarfed suspiciously for late spring,
her hair billowing forth like chestnut smoke.
He, like her, dresses handsomely.
I ask them questions and they play couples roulette
better than the last few.

His interest in whatever they’re doing
here isn’t particularly important.
She chooses, smiling insanely.
It’s a romantic comedy.

I automate the cost aloud.
There is a moment of evolutionary consequence.
Both fumble about their persons for wallets,
though she’s too quick about it. She’s got her card out
already but plays the skittish deer.

He turns his pockets,
then proceeds to security pat-down.
They pause, facing each other.
This is supposed to be the part
where chivalry quiets the afternoon.

Hopefully it rains, so he can kiss her in it.

Erric Emerson is a poet and odd-job man residing in Philadelphia, PA. His work has appeared in Collage, Neon, Control, Gingerbread House, Mead: Literature & Libations, Prairie Margins, and The Horror Zine. He is the former Poetry Editor of Duende literary journal. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College. His published work can be found here: https://erricemersonpoetry.wordpress.com/

List of Poets

Patricia L. Goodman

THE BURN

I just love it! he’d enthuse to her
when asked why he lit a bonfire
every chance he got. It’s better for me
if you enjoy it, too
, he’d admit. She convinced
herself she was acting the obedient wife,
but did not adore the ritual. She attended
every lighting, and when flames
leapt up, lashed the sky, she tried
to lose herself, the way she could in a Mozart
symphony or Franck’s Panis Angelicus,
but all she felt was the way it roared
in her ears, blackened
what it touched, left only ashes.
She’d even push close enough to redden
her skin. Her friends all adored fires,
sang about them, wrote about them,
like that hot new candy bar
everyone was crazy about,
that to her, tasted like tire rubber.
What was she missing? Was she afraid
of abandoning herself, stepping off
that cliff in the dark, trusting to wind?
He’s gone now and she avoids fire.
The scorched places in the earth
are growing over
with a tougher kind of grass.

CLIMBING

We blushed, just blossoming
into women, as our pretty, daredevil

friend shinnied up a poplar.
Its trunk was narrow enough to wrap

with toothpick legs, press against
the buds of womanhood. A group

of boys joined us, voices cracking
with the first traces of maturity,

eyes riveted, willing to trade their skin
for bark as her legs slid up, then

her arms, shorts riding higher and higher,
body pulsing in rhythm.

Near the top, in a climax of branches,
she stopped, smiled. We felt our own

pulses race, as we watched the boys squirm,
begin to joke and poke as boys do

when they can’t turn down their boiling.

Patricia L. Goodman is a widowed mother and grandmother and a graduate of Wells College with a degree in Biology and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. She spent her career raising, training and showing horses with her orthodontist husband, on their farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She now lives in northern Delaware, where she enjoys writing, singing, birding, gardening and spending time with her family. Many of her poems have been published in both print and online journals, and anthologies and she was the 2013 and 2014 winner of Delaware Press Association’s Communications Contest in poetry. Her first full-length book of poetry Closer to the Ground, was a finalist in the Dogfish Head Poetry Contest, and was published in August, 2014 by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. In 2015 she received her first Pushcart nomination. Much of her inspiration comes from the natural world she loves. For more of Patricia’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Nalini Priyadarshni

WHAT AM I TO YOU

‘What am I to you?”
You asked me the other day
breathless from drinking deep
into nectar of my kisses,
readying for heady stuff to come.
My tongue lingered on your eyelid
a moment longer
as your hand played with my breast,
my mind not really on your question
but on sweet pleasure you filled me
with. I mumbled something
about happiness, love and lover
before thrusting my tongue
into your ear.

Once satiated, I light up and
watch you sprawled by my side,
wonder what dreams cause
your lids to quiver or
sigh to escape your lips.
You move to turn the other side and I
want to gather you in my arms
and tell you what you are to me.

You are
what sky is to earth, my love
the eternal companions
not together but never really apart.
My beauty is nothing but
a reflection of your moods.

What sea is to river
that’s what you are to me.
I am born with your memory
and rush through jagged path
to reach your waiting arms.

You are
what lighthouse is to traveler lost.
Eyes fixed at you, I rope-walk
through miasma, over chasm
as wide as forever.

Would you be so good, darling!
to wake me before you leave
and perhaps let me know
What am I to you?

Nalini Priyadarshni is the author of Doppelganger in My House (2016) and co-author of Lines Across Oceans (2015).  Her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and international anthologies including Mad Swirl, Camel Saloon, Dukool, In-flight Magazine, Poetry Breakfast, The Riveter Review, The Open Road Review, Your One Phone Call, In Between Hangovers and The Yellow Chair. Her forthcoming publications include Sacred Women in the Anti-violence movement: Anthology.

List of Poets

Annie Stenzel

ANNIVERSARY

Do you still start out sleeping
on your side, as if to face me?
Does your cheek
seek my neck nape, your hand
hover empty in the space
where my waist’s curve was?

That is what missing you
means to me in my stern exile
one year past parting ways. And this: I want
to turn to you, say
something of little consequence;
I wait to hear you laugh when someone’s
funny; I wish I knew
whether you saw the extraordinary
moonrise last night; and of course I wonder,
have you read any good books lately?

TRUTH OR DARE

Truth is, I want to know you as a glove
knows hands (knows the one from fitting
onto it, the other, nestling into it); want
to know you as the senses know the first
home air after absence (find some faint
rose-hint and an old book memory in a room
where hardly anything has changed)

Annie Stenzel’s poems have most recently appeared in the print journals Kestrel, Ambit, Catamaran Literary Reader, and Quiddity, and in the online journals Lunch Ticket and Unsplendid. Her work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and once for a Best of the Net. She has the apparently obligatory academic credentials: B.A. in English Literature and M.F.A. in Creative Writing, both from Mills College. Stenzel is also a letterpress printer, never happier than when her hands are covered in ink. She pays the bills by working at a mid-sized law firm in San Francisco.

List of Poets

Sheila Wellehan

ROMANCE, RAPTURE, RUPTURE

“You must get excited when they bloom”
my new neighbor said with a smile
as we chatted over my just-burst peonies
delicate shell-pink and rich magenta
white with just a drop of red
Sleeping Beauty’s blood
dense layers of perfect petals standing tall and proud
creating a display that even kids on skateboards stopped to admire
I answered “Yes, but it’s bittersweet.”

They don’t last long, I explained
the humongous heads that are their glory
make them vulnerable to unpredictable June weather –
a sudden thunderstorm turns them from dewy debutante to crumpled corpse.
I showed her the support systems I’d installed:
simple metal rings, grids, and individual wooden stakes tied to especially lanky plants.
Peonies are a lot of work that ends in inevitable heartache
they’re worth it, I laughed, but barely

like the love affair you know will end badly
they’re reminders
then remnants
of romance, rapture, and rupture
not sensible choices
like the rainbow of day lilies, purple coneflowers, and black-eyed Susans
that form the backbone of my garden
plants that aren’t thrilling
but they compensate by being low-maintenance and long blooming
the sturdy and reliable plants you marry.

But these things that are barely worth all the extra trouble –
and they are an awful lot of trouble –
and often the scale is tipped just one millimeter in their favor –
peonies, silk dresses, passionately devoted but unruly dogs
difficult friends
most children
real Christmas trees
vinyl record albums
hand-picked berries and homemade jam
distant cathedrals, castles, and canals
labyrinthine books and bewildering movies
the search for love
for the right word, the right color, the right life –
are the best things
don’t you agree?

Sheila Wellehan’s poetry is featured or forthcoming in Chiron Review, Ekphrastic, Poetry East, and Yellow Chair Review. She lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

To see Sheila’s other work in this collection, click here.

Poems added March 5, 2016

Jackie Braje

DEAREST LANDLORD

The heat is broken again the way a lover does.
I’ve dropped lines in your pond since October, no bite, and
now the leaves have all migrated south from the trees. Barren
branches like bony fingers tap on my windows; they’ve heard
there’s a blizzard this weekend. Great broken rib cage
of furnace, protecting smoker’s lungs and dispelling
pathetic pff-aws of breath. Bedside lover, saint of flame,
now silent and cold and diffused.

I’d stain my coat sleeves in the New York night’s dark wine,
bare my nose to the cruel soft white powder of winter,
shoot up the streets all the way to your faux gold-trimmed
door step, ask if your fingers are cold, if I could come inside.
We could drink hot toddies and swap tongues in
your limited vernacular:
“Pls fix heat.” “Ok.” “Ok.”

Would it flatter you to know you’re the reason
my knees shake? At night I cocoon in fleece
to color in the lack of hot electric breath on
my neck. The career of
our play is running out of business.
Lend your hands to these cracked
ribs or else slip through the iron fingers
ok, ok.

Jackie Braje is a Brooklyn-based writer and currently working for literary agency Harold Ober Associates, Inc. Her work was previously published in Neon, BlackBook Magazine, The Nottingham Review, Dark River Review, and various others.

List of Poets

Stephen Byrne

MOVING ON

Begin to fade.
Go now, be on your way.
Stop hanging around
in aftertastes and thoughts,
in fragrances upon the pillow.
Begin to fade.
Leave this room
this unmade bed.
Take with you
your red dress
your countless pairs of shoes-
that picture in Venice
where love was born and grew.
That old clock
found amongst the books
of the Bouquinistes
along the banks of the Seine.
Take it all.
Begin to fade,
far from shores of the mind
and the lingering fragments of thoughts.

Stephen Byrne is a chef and writer in Galway. His work has been published in Skylight 47, Ropes 2015, The Original Van Gogh’s Ear Anthology, The Blue Hour, The Galway Review, Boyne Berries, RædLeafPoetry-India, The Poetry Bus and many others. His work has also been translated into Russian for the Nasha Gazeta newspaper, Dublin edition. He writes at his site The Ranting Beast. For more of Stephen’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Victor Clevenger

QUIET STORM

To talk to him, he openly admitted to every damn
deficiency which manifested behind his eyes. There
were times in the daylight that his eyes greatly ached,
so he learned to shadow them with ninety-nine cent

masquerade masks in the back alleyways. He wore the
masks while kissing, pressing, and rubbing his smoky hued
whiskers against the cheeks, and chins, and lips of his
lovers as he pursued to press the deities daily by

encouraging his lovers to drop one penny into a pint bottle,
because there were never any wishing wells in the back
alleys, but there was always his dirty-hot-hope, and he
learned to deliver his dirty-hot-hope better than any god or

goddess—eventually the pennies never left their pockets
and it didn’t change a damn thing, he already had his
lovers convinced he was the greatest, and I didn’t love
him, but I envied him. I was a fifteen-year-old boy back

then. I stared daily out of my bedroom window which
overlooked the alley. His lovers were mine when I closed
my eyes and moaned. At nighttime, I rubbed my face
against my pillow, softly, like a marvelous pair of tits.

I worked fantasy well. I ground my hips against the bed to
the rhythm of an R&B slow jam.

Victor Clevenger spends his days in a Madhouse and his nights writing poetry and short stories from the kitchen table of his ex-wife’s home. His latest collection is titled, In All These Naked Pictures Of Us. Selected pieces of his work have appeared in print or online in, Chiron Review; Eleventh Transmission; Crab Fat Literature; NEAT; Dead Snakes; Blink Ink; and coming soon to Poetry Pacific; Your One Phone Call; and BAD ACID LABORATORIES, INC. Victor’s work has also appeared in anthologies published by Lady Chaos Press. For more of Victor’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Nathan Comstock

30 ADDITIONAL WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR LOVER
After Paul Simon, who only included 5.

Make an excuse, Bruce
Say “It’s not you, its me”, Brie
Tell some other lie, Guy
And listen to me,
Treat her like dirt, Kurt,
And hope she’ll be so hurt
She breaks up with you, Drew,
Then get yourself free

Charter a plane, Jane
Steal her truck, Buck
Change your address, Jess
And listen to me.
Sleep with his dad, Brad
It might not be that bad
Even if it is, Liz,
You’ll get yourself free.

Do it online, Ryan
Passive-aggressively tweet, Pete
A denial-of-service attack, Zack
Just listen to me.
Hack his e-mail, Gayle
You’ll prob’ly avoid jail
And even if not, Scott
You’ll get yourself free (Well, sort of free)

Come up with a scam, Pam
An elaborate ploy, Joy
Burn down your own house, Claus
And Listen to me
Fake your own death, Beth
Or just have really bad breath,
Whatever you do, Lou,
You’ll get yourself free

Tell him the truth, Ruth.
Just because two people have fun together, Heather,
Doesn’t mean that its fate, Nate
Just listen to me,
Breakups suck, Chuck
But that’s no reason not to give a fuck
There’s no need to be a dick… Dick
Just to get yourself free

I know it looks grim, Tim,
I know things are dark, Mark
I know that it’s scary, Mary
But listen to me.
You will get through this, Chris
Maybe even find bliss,
The right person is out there, Claire
So get yourself free.

Nathan Comstock is a spoken-word and fiction writer currently residing in Boston, MA. His work has been featured in Amethyst Arsenic and the Indiefeed Performance Poetry Podcast. In 2013, he represented Lowell, MA at the National Poetry Slam.

List of Poets

Reese Conner

CROCODILE

A blend of crocodile dung, honey, and sodium carbonate
is inserted into the vagina to block and kill sperm.
–Kuhn gynaecological papyrus, 1850 BC

There are no moments
more industrious
than the ones spent
figuring out how to
fuck—

except, perhaps, the further
specified moment:
how to fuck without
the whole evolutionary point
to fucking. It is in one of these moments
that someone thought crocodile,
ignored the obvious segues

the teeth—the unavoidable
violence of their shape—

the likeness to alligator
simply a snout away—

the river—where crocodile
eats zebra, cattle, man

and thought, instead, dung.

How many failures
before desperation
became ingenuity?

And how did he convince
his lover to touch it?

Reese Conner lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where he teaches at Arizona State University and is an Assistant Poetry Editor at Fifth Wednesday Journal. His work appears or is forthcoming in Moon City Review, Spillway, Fifth Wednesday, Third Wednesday (all the Wednesdays, really), Cactus Heart, and elsewhere. Reese received the Turner Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Mabelle A. Lyon Poetry Award, and a Chili Pepper from Rate My Professor.

List of Poets

Maxine Kollar

MEDIAN BANG THEORY

I’m concerned about frequency, she said. Waves and the like? he asked.
No. How often things happen. She peeked out the curtains at the neighbor’s bedroom window.

What? Oh, that. He was using that little vacuum to clean his keyboard, the TV and all the plugs. He did this every three days, religiously.

She went to get the floss and came back to the window, flossing and peeking. She flossed every night at 11:20, like clockwork.

Whenever the light in their bedroom is pulsing, from a candle I’m sure, I think that’s when they’re doing stuff, she said.

Maybe we could increase our frequency if we could use big kid words for big kid stuff, he ventured. They talk about words sporadically.

I’m not going to get vulgar, for you, she said. She clutched her pajama top at her throat to amplify the sentiment.

Well, frequency is one thing, but duration is important too. Any guesses? He was starting to understand the magnitude of the situation.

I don’t know but frequency is a big deal says all the magazines. She reads them periodically.

Oh, you mean what they say. His modulation radiated sarcasm. Sometimes, they have a point, she pitched back at him.

Across the measured yard, another face looked out from curtains. I don’t know why you light it, it can’t cover the smell, she says. And why so often?

Don’t be mean. It’s just a couple times a week really, he said, smoke undulating from his lips.

Well, maybe if you didn’t we could do other things. Hear that weird humming sound? I think that’s when they’re at it. Way more frequently than us.

Maxine Kollar is a wife and a mother of three. She enjoys writing and baking. She is constantly being judged by her cat.

List of Poets

KG Newman

AM PROMNESTRIA

Like many I quit on love young—
always falling out harder than in—
and now I stay waiting for
a Madame von Meck of some sort
to pen offers of friendship and
finance for all future composing.
I know it’s far-fetched—like
feelings of peace as I leaf through
adagio sonatas of old—for
to accomplish such a feat
of epistolary adoration requires
a match maker of the ancient
variety, an art form of complex
emotions, long before the public
classical station exploited
stories of Tchaikovsky’s patron
as a guise for a fund drive.

KG Newman is the editor of a high school sports website, <ahref=”http://www.ColoradoSportsNetwork.com/” target=”_blank”>www.ColoradoSportsNetwork.com, and lives in Aurora, Colo. He is an Arizona State University graduate and his first collection of poems, While Dreaming of Diamonds in Wintertime, is available on Amazon.

List of Poets

Heather Lee Rogers

MOVING DAY

Gasped “Yes”
when my alarm went off
like my heart at last
exhaled

then your coffee mug
unraveled me
an undone mess
I couldn’t meet your eyes
across our kitchen table
for the last time

so out the window
a yellow leaf
clung all alone to
a December tree
I remembered
the first poem I wrote
another one-leaf-poem
before you happened
before we became
the leaver and the lost

then a big thick flock
of strong black birds
carved one way
then the other
changing their path
in the cold grey sky.

Heather Lee Rogers tells stories as a writer and actor in NYC. Recent poetry publications have included Here Comes Everyone (print in the U.K.), Harbinger Asylum (online), Haikuniverse.com, Waterways (print), S/Tick (online and in print) and Adanna (print). She has also been the featured poet performer at Art House Open Mic in Jersey City, NJ and at the Parapluie open mic in Brooklyn, NY. See more of Heather’s work in Rat’s Ass Review here. And read lots more of Heather’s work here.

List of Poets

(Poems in celebration of Valentine’s Day, 2016)

Elizabeth Archey

MOURNING SICKNESS

The coffee pot brings bad luck
The scent makes me
nauseous
nauseous
like all those times you said
you loved me
when I knew
you didn’t mean a single word.

Elizabeth Archey is an MFA student in Creative Writing at The University of Arkansas at Monticello. Elizabeth studied at The University of Texas at San Antonio, earning a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing. She is a world traveler and has a passion for lit journals. She is a fiction writer and collage artist living in Dallas, Texas.

List of Poets

Robert Beveridge

THE LAST BURNING ORANGE

Fingers of trees jut
into the sky. Violet deepens.
All that’s left
is the redneon glow
of the signs across the street.
The cars have gone away now;
all is quiet.
Two deer nibble at grass
that pokes through cracks in tarmac.

You stand at the window, look
out, framed in the last
of the sun. You are darkness
just before morning, the comfortable shape
of woman, curved, soft.
A black door ringed by fire, a door
I long to pass through, to stay always.

Robert Beveridge writes while taking breaks from making stuff that most sane people don’t consider music xterminal.bandcamp.com.com. Recently, his stuff has shown up in Third Wednesday, Guide to Kulchur, and the anthology Stories from the Polycule (Thorntree Press, 2015). He currently lives just outside Cleveland, Ohio, and continues to brave roads full of people who have lived here all their lives and still don’t know how to drive in the snow.

List of Poets

Marri Champié

CIGARETTES

His voice is rough from smoking since he was ten.
How can a kid even imagine that’s fun?
He said it was like cheating, and cool back then.
I recall my stepdad smoked when I was young.
At his desk, layers of smog, patterns of grey.
He worked, unmoving, for ten hours at a time.
How is it that I think smoking is okay?
The smell, his skin, vanilla, tobacco, pine,
the perfect place, a forever coming home.
That voice exists in the rough place I call mine,
that secret place kids go when they are alone.
It wasn’t cheating, not then, and not this time.
The patterns of vanilla and tobaccos
he leaves in layers on my skin when he goes.

TWINS SUNNYSIDE UP

They’re two eggs ready, waiting in the pan
for a little oil,
a little heat,
breaking fast eagerly
hungry for the first meal
you provide the empty belly.

The way of your eyes
resting on children
my breasts
makes for weak legs
and softened yolks
and will seal us into each other
no matter where we wander
how far we stray from the other
in this life, this world
two faces
sunnyside up
gazing at us like
a postcard of us.

Marri Champié was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for poetry in 2015. She has an MA in Writing, with minors in photography and Earth Science, and a graduate certificate in Technical Communication. She won three Dell Awards for Fantasy/Science Fiction, and the 2013 Boise State University President’s Writing Award in fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared in Cicada Magazine, ROAR Magazine, HOD, Blue Cubicle Press, Abyss & Apex, Boise Weekly, Writers Rising Up!, Standing, Outrider Press, and others. She works as a freelance photo/journalist and wildfire fighter. She lives on a small ranch overlooking the Great Basin of Idaho with her horses and Jack Russell terriers. Website: WriteIdahoWriter.com

List of Poets

Marion Deutsche Cohen

WORRYING FOR TWO

When we first fell in love he said YOU no longer have to worry about you. I’LL worry about you.

So – he can take on my adult kids recovering from the long dying of their father.

And I’ll take on his adult kids recovering from his long divorce.

True, he can’t grade my linear algebra papers.

And I can’t translate all those pharmaceutical terms from Japanese to English.

But maybe he can dream my nightmares

give birth to dying babies

bring the wrong poems to a reading

lose purses again and again.

And maybe I can spin three times around in a strange train station

then walk in some arbitrary direction towards some arbitrary destination.

Yes, maybe I can be lost for him

and he can be lost for me.

Marion Deutsche Cohen’s latest poetry book is Lights I Have Loved (Red Dashboard Press, NJ) and her latest memoir is Still the End: Memoir of a Nursing Home Wife (Unlimited Publishing, IN). Her books total 27, including Crossing the Equal Sign (Plain View Press, TX), about the experience of mathematics. She teaches math and writing at Arcadia University in Glenside PA, where she has developed the course Truth and Beauty: Mathematics in Literature.

List of Poets

Darren Demaree

EMILY AS IN & AGAINST MY BLOOD

Always a wet afternoon,
Emily doesn’t want to be taken,
she wants to do the taking.

EMILY AS A CANDIDATE

I can get up
to embrace
a warm Emily

in almost every
scenario,
but this, this

the false modesty
of your campaign
pin spearing

your left bra cup
& obviously
rubbing

your breast
in a way
that keeps

you talking
with excitement
this is giving

me pause.
I did nothing
to endorse you

& yet, my vote
was cast
by instinct.

EMILY AS A SNAPPING UNDETERRED BY LOGIC

I imagined eroticism
to be immediate magic
& yet, I am slowly boiled

by Emily’s debut
in each day, how she
always begins as fog

to form into a result
that is uncanny
& alluring, a force

just waiting to form
& pose in the doorway
of this is how

you end a day
with good fireworks.
It normally takes me

a good two weeks
to find the matches,
but what a show.

Darren Demaree is the author of “As We Refer To Our Bodies” (2013, 8th House), “Temporary Champions” (2014, Main Street Rag), “The Pony Governor” (2015, After the Pause Press), and “Not For Art Nor Prayer” (2015, 8th House). His poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear in numerous magazines/journals, including South Dakota Review, Meridian, The Louisville Review, Diagram, and Colorado Review. He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and is currently living and writing in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.

List of Poets

Hilary Ellis-Manogue

SEXY BRUISES

I love the deep plum,
storm sky blues,
and pear yellows,
fanning out across
pallid canvas. They
smart
and remind.

Jostle of a run.

Lean against the counter, wall,
hands on hips, squeezing
the right spot.
Carry it around, hovering in my skin,
color changing valentine.

SUB SPACE

Resistance, a natural force, initial in mind,
tensing, jerking away, try to escape.
Writhe and beg, but know
it will get better.
Settle into middle misery, it hurts.
It’s not fun.
This is about endurance,
suffering for the reward.
Then slowly and tantalizing,
the fog billows in.
The pink mist clouds eyes and mind.
Quiets the busy gnawing mice,
scurrying through, thought to thought.
It washes over as ginger,
cleansing the palate.
There is no mind; only empty body, feeling.
The gentle thud is a softer delicacy,
the more the force strengthens.
It finally ceases, and the rubber
band skin is limp.
The bird in the nest
with baby mouth open wide.

MAKING ROOM FOR YOU (IN MYSELF)

I just had two orgasms,
and felt the power returning
to my body.
The first, I left myself.
I had to do it.
Feeling so trapped, I had
gotten into that rut
of stuck in body, panic,
scramble, to escape.
I needed the reminder of eternality.
No words for the inner knowing,
but the palpitations have stopped.

The second, I thought of you,
and the things we do.
It’s chemistry I’m sure, but you turn me on.
Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.
I have to withdraw now and then
so I can leave my body to you.

Hilary Ellis-Manogue is a previously unpublished writer living in the Shenandoah Valley. She is a mother of two, a full time student, and owner of Venus in Retrograde vintage clothing.

List of Poets

Tina Groumoutis

SISTERS

Groumoutis photo Sisters

On the wrong side of 40
we sisters still engage in
child’s play.

We play cooking show
and chop the trinity of veg;
politely conversing
while we cheat glances
into the absent camera.

That’s not all.

We click our nails and heels
like teachers do.
We clutch our coffee
and call each other names
like Marjorie and Geraldine,

and shuffle our papers on the desk.

On this side of 40
we sisters speak in
accents like

— our father’s Greek.

Blaspheming Christ with rolled’ r’s
and with his brand of vowel
we call each other names
like fahkin’ eediots!

— or hackneyed Cockney

and I say things like
“ ‘Allo mate! Would you like a spot of tea?”

and she, “Good day to you, suh. Yes, I would!”

I sigh with relief

and she continues:
“Would you like to suck me teet and
I your cock and balls?”

And we are in fits and we are done with accents
because she is unable to do the accent without the vulgarities,
so we switch gears to peculiarities.

— Like aren’t humans funny the way
they have to sleep at night
like robots that need a battery charge?

— And how about dancing?
The beat plays and humans
flail limbs and thrust bones
and toss themselves about.

— And then there’s laughing
and clapping at the comedy club.

A human stands before the seated humans
and says things so that the seated ones will
smack their hands together and open their mouths
to make a variety of guttural noises
or no noise at all.

And we go on.

We decide that pets are funny.
And animals in general —
how they roam about us and exist.
And we aren’t sure of why they exist
but we like them.

On the wrong side of 40
we sisters haven’t aged
a single day

since we were on the right side of our youth.

Tina is a feisty Greek girl, a mother, a writer, and an educator. She is currently working on her MFA in fiction at the University of Arkansas-Monticello. She is a high school English teacher and was previously a staff writer for Warpaint Illustrated Magazine, and is also on the editorial staff for the literary journal, Gravel.

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Robin Helweg-Larsen

FINESSE

Winning her heart, I used a diamond…
and then a club… and then a spade.

Robin Helweg-Larsen is a British-born, Caribbean-raised, formerly Danish immigrant to Canada who has been living in Chapel Hill, NC, since 1991. His poetry has mostly been published in the UK – Ambit, Snakeskin and Candelabrum – but also in 14 by 14, The Lyric, Unsplendid, Visions International, The Hypertexts, the Phoenix Rising sonnet anthology, etc. In his other life he is a business owner. To see Robin’s other work in this collection, click here.

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Star LaBranche

YOU WON’T GET IT BACK II

Black shirt,
yellow flag
phone charger
in my laptop bag

Into the trash,
nothing left
no reminder of you,
or your theft

It was over
before it started
I said no before
you had my legs parted

So you lost a wire
and a black shirt
Nothing compared
to how much I hurt

You won’t get your
shit back from me
And I won’t get
to sleep peacefully

AVATAR

Say what you will about my taste in profile pictures,
but strange men didn’t friend me on Facebook
when my avatar was a Hello Kitty Cupcake

Star LaBranche has been writing ever since she can remember. She has never stopped. A graduate student at Old Dominion University in the English MA program with an emphasis in professional writing, her dream is to live in the desert with a rescue corgi.

To see Star’s other work in this collection, click here.

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Shahé Mankerian

FIRST LOVE

Her smile made him forget all the hungry
children in the ghettos of Beirut,

all the mothers scavenging for rotten
vegetables at the chicken market,

all the fathers who carried defective guns
to protect water pipes, bridges, milk trucks,

and wounded hospitals. Her smile added
a bounce to his walk, a hop and a skip

over dead pigeons, skeletal cats, and rats
that chewed on shoestrings. He dodged

bullets in alleys and blew kisses at snipers
who used sandbags to veil their eyes.

He stole lilies from sidewalk shrines
with melted candle wax on drooping petals.

She smiled.

THE FALL OF THE WELDER

When you undress in front of the window,
remember Mahmood, the Sunni welder,

perches on the branches of the fig tree,
pretends he’s an owl, pretends your nipples

are black, ripened figs. He’ll lick his parched
lips, close his eyes, and envision a bite.

This happens in midsummer when the wind
feels tired and sleepy—disinterested.

But you’ll notice the leaves will tremble.
A limb will sag. A bough will break,

and Mahmood, the welder, will fall into a pond.
Don’t laugh. Don’t cover yourself because

pleasure, like a popsicle, melts before you eat.

LIKE FARID EL-ATRASH

She wore the pair of red open toes
as she reclined on the paisley bedcover

to count her coins. “Mahmood doesn’t
believe in love,” she mumbled.

Intuitively, I lit a cigarette, inhaled,
and then positioned it between her lips.

Mahmood’s dog snarled underneath
the nightstand. Two days before,

he slept by the trashcan outside
the bedroom window. It wasn’t a threat.

“Mahmood rather play his oud
at the cabaret to that fat belly dancer.”

His slippers looked like a pair of rats
under the closet. “Like Farid El-Atrash,

he claims marriage kills art,” she exhaled
and yanked the evil eye bracelet from her wrist.

AFTER A LONG-DISTANCE PHONE CALL

I.

“No more sexy-sexy tonight,”
Mahmood says to the Chinese
prostitute. “Tonight we only smoke

cigarettes and maybe eat sardines
from the can, but no more sexy.
Tonight Mother died in her sleep;

her windows open to the sea.
Her eyes to the light-house but no sign
of steamship from America.

No sign of her prodigal son.”

II.

“Mother, in this fluorescent
Tiki-Tiki Inn on Sunset Blvd.,
far from the burning shacks,

far from the sniper bullets,
far from the carriage full
of carnage, I am safe.

My windows are open
to the dying traffic
and to the echo of passing sirens.”

Shahé Mankerian’s most recent manuscript about his mother’s dementia, History of Forgetfulness, has been a finalist at four prestigious competitions: the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition, the 2013 Bibby First Book Competition, the Quercus Review Press, Fall Poetry Book Award, 2013, and the 2014 White Pine Press Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Mizna.

List of Poets

Julie Standig

Harry’s Place

You left me waiting at the bar
sipping Gray Goose over chipped ice
on this night with no moon, no stars.

Harry raises his glass to toast his new car
as Vinny considers the liquor store heist,
beyond the night with no moon or stars.

No call, no text, no excuse so far,
bar stool’s shaky and I’ve spilled some ice
on this chilling night without moon or stars.

After hours, blue collars toss tips in a jar;
it’s getting late; where’s my date? Oh Christ!
He fucking left me waiting at the bar.

The bigger the buzz, the more bizarre—
how deep a slice does a Swiss Army knife
on this night with no moon or star?

Last call, no call, no doubt this scars,
you made your choice—I’m not your wife.
You left me waiting at the bar
on the night with no moon, no stars.

MARITAL AIDS

That’s what my father called it. Eclectic items we cataloged and sold
in a small mail-order company we ran together. Products to enhance,
providing a service
. Guaranteed.
Free returns and exchanges.

Once a customer came to my front door. His penis ring
didn’t work.     Couldn’t help, but gave him 3 gold-
plated neck chains. He didn’t looked thrilled,
but perhaps that was part of the problem.

Told Dad we had to drop the switchblades. Switched
to x-rated videos (which I viewed while the kids napped).
Available in English and Spanish. Free bottle of Emotion
Lotion
with every purchase.

We had it all: ginseng, Spanish fly, vitamin supplements.
El Toro was popular with the guys: a penis pump that promised big.
PocketPal appalled my husband, but had real purpose.
Said so right on the box: for when she isn’t there.

The inflatable dolls came in 3 hair colors with 3 usable holes.
They also came with a permanent look of horror, rather like Munch’s
The Scream or my mother’s face.
It’s not martial arts.    It’s marital aids.

Julie Standig, born in Brooklyn, lives on Long Island and Doylestown, PA, and works on the Upper West Side in NYC. She has studied at the Unterberg Poetry Center, participated in Writer’s Voice and is an active member of a private workshop. She has had poems published in Alehouse Press, Arsenic Lobster and Covenant of the Generations. A poem, In Grandma’s Kitchen is forthcoming in the Then and Now Issue of Sadie Girl Press. Julie writes on trains, late at night and often somewhere between Long Island, Manhattan, and Doylestown.

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Sherri Wright

PRIVATE DANCER

I want a black leather mini skirt
like the one Tina Turner wore
when she sang Private Dancer in 1979.
I want that pelt to fit like the
rind of an orange over the curve of my hips,
I want it to twist and talk
with every move. I want to yank
that skirt over a little tank top
fringed in sequins and beads that shiver
and shimmer with every exhale. I want to
dance long bronze legs into my
daughter’s classroom, rock past the hippie teacher
and roll right up to her smarty friend who lives
in the big house on the lake — that girl
who walked into my bathroom,
helped herself to my lipstick and polish
and was amazed that my daughter and I
cooked dinner, set a table, and sat down to eat.
With my little mini, I will shimmy
into the office of the counsellor who wrote
“broken home” into my 3rd grader’s
permanent file. I will close the door
swivel my hips onto his desk, look him
in the eye, I will teach him what a “divorcee” looks like,
any music will do.

Sherri Wright lives in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware after a career in education for at risk youth at universities and the Federal government. With the Rehoboth Beach Writer’s Guild she discovered her love for poetry. Running, practicing yoga, working out, and volunteering at a center for the homeless all figure into her poems. Her work has been published in the Hill Rag, Letters from Camp Rehoboth, Inspired by the Poet, Aspiring to Inspire, Words of Fire and Ice, The White Space, Clementine, Panoply, and Creative Nonfiction. (Update) “Private Dancer” received an Honorable Mention in the Louisville Literary Arts Poetry Competition, 2016.

List of Poets

(Poems added February 6, 2016)

Kelli Allen

WHEN THIS IS NOT ABOUT SENTIMENT

In the long mornings, our bellies
crouch between fingers bending
toward thumbs in the first pinch
of skin to see if the other
is awake, is still a shining fish
in a dream where scales
leave dark pits in the mud.

We know where our feet go,
cool wounds nestled in blankets,
betraying nothing of where
and how they walked along the river.

Shoulders never fit anywhere,
so we press them down as white
birds into just new snow, turn
closer toward, inward, and before
you ask if I do, I bite your lip yes
and move a thousand years past
your cheekbones in this too early light.

Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has won awards for her poetry, prose, and scholarly work. She served as Managing Editor of Natural Bridge, is the current Poetry Editor for The Lindenwood Review, and holds an MFA from the University of Missouri St. Louis. She is the director of the River Styx Hungry Young Poets Series and founded the Graduate Writers Reading Series for UMSL. She is currently a Professor of Humanities and Creative Writing at Lindenwood University and teaches for The Pierre Laclede Honors College at UMSL. Her full-length poetry collection, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, arrived from John Gosslee Books in 2012 and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. http://www.kelli-allen.com/ For more of Kelli’s work, go here.

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Stuart Buck

NERIUM

The path to your door was lined
on either side by Oleander bushes
that you had planted to keep
everyone away and it had worked
because it was three weeks before
they found you sitting in your chair
disintegrating and dressed in the
violet smock I had brought you
the last time I visited the house.
I read just the other day that the
scientific community had attempted to
use Oleander extract to cure cancer
but it hadn’t worked.

Stuart Buck is a poet and writer living in North Wales with his wife and two children. His poetry and prose have been widely published in journals such as The Stare’s Nest, Cultured Vultures, Deadsnakes, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Erbacce Journal, The Haiku Journal, The Tanka Journal, The Seventh Quarry, Walking is Still Honest, Yellow Chair Review, The Sunflower Collective and Under the Fable. He has been a featured poet in both FIVE magazine and poetrykit. When he is not writing or reading, he enjoys juggling, cooking and ambient music. For more of Stuart’s work, go here.

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Michael Chin

THE BEST THINGS

You used to say that the smells of the insides of oranges and the outsides of chicken wings linger on fingers because the best things in this life cling to you just as hard as you cling to them. Eleven years gone by, and I hope you still think of me this way.

Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and is currently an MFA candidate in creative writing at Oregon State University. He won the $1,000 2014 Jim Knudsen Editor’s Prize for fiction from the University of New Orleans and has previously published fiction and poetry in over twenty journals including Bayou Magazine, The Rappahannock Review, The Pacific Review, and Cake: A Journal of Poetry and Art.

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Samuel Fox

ALTERNATIVE FORMS OF PDA

Keep a memory of your lover in a shoebox.
Take it out in public, cry over its lonely variety.
Sadness, too, is an elliptical orbit
turning you like a planet to face what anchors
you in its invisible, taut tethers.

Keep a small snipping of hair in a locket.
Kiss the locket when you think no one is looking.
We learn to hold on too tightly
to the way we wish things were, the way
we suffered on into what we knew would not change.

Keep his disconnected number on your phone.
Keep her address tacked on your to-do board.
Call his number and listen to your heart drum on
in your ear: the faint echo of mercy, mercy.
Mail her a love poem. At least you are safe

in the subliminal knowledge that it will not be read.
Light all his clothes, all her letters, soaked in gasoline.
Even hatred is a better use of love than learning to forget.
In the smoke, refuse to see your lover’s face.
It is ash; but, it is something still tangible.

Samuel J. Fox holds a B.A. in Literature from Western Carolina University. Samuel is published in SLAB, Dewpoint, Iodine Poetry Review, and others; Samuel is forthcoming in MockingHeart Review and Broad River Review. Sam lives in the Piedmont of North Carolina.

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Enid Kassner

IN THE BEGINNING . . .

One sole swift swimmer
swirled exultant
Through milky-sticky stream
Determined
to be first, and strongest.

Awaiting her fate
floating languid and lazy
Lonely ovum opened her eyes
surprised by frenzied suitors
swarming her circumference.

What mystic wisdom knew
that only they
could bring to the picnic
Your ocean eyes
The long knobby pearls of your spine
And fold upon fold of labyrinthine brain
crowned with curls.

Come, let me coax from you today
500 million swimmers
both swift and slow
Whose only destiny will be
to erase into giggles
the furrow of your brow
creased by ceaseless thought.

Enid Kassner is a recent graduate of the Johns Hopkins University writing program. Her work has appeared in Elephant Journal, 3QR: The Three Quarter Review, and other publications and is forthcoming in Inscape. She writes and teaches yoga in Arlington, Virginia.

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Richard Kempa

THS NIGHT, THIS ROAD

“Do you recall the first time we came this way?”
I watch your face (you’re driving now)
for the memory to awaken—how,
heading east all night across this vast
expanse, one of us would hold the wheel
to the road, while the other’s eyes,
mouth, hands were free to roam—
veering off the pavement every
thirty miles or so, gliding to a stop,
exchanging roles, until at last
we took each other into the night
in the wildgrass to that other place.

Now, a quarter century later,
I am well-versed in your No Touch Rule.
“Too much to lose,” you say, and although
we have cruise control, a million miles
beneath our tires and, just like then,
an empty road, you’re right of course.
Desire’s a spark that we keep in a safe
and coax to life once a week or so in its
proper place. And I have no complaint.
Still, your nonchalance when you reply,
“Wasn’t that the time I got the spider bite?”
cannot disguise the ever-so-slight rise

of color in your cheek that tells me yes,
you too remember when our passion blazed
like a firestorm across these plains
and we lived solely within its heat
and the light that flared was so intense
that, had we been able to turn from it,
we might have seen our shadow
etched sharply against the night,
across the years, all the way
to where we are today, when
I place my hand, lightly,
on your knee, and you let it stay.

HANDS

“Let me see if your hand is cold,”
I say, wanting to hold it,
and you say “what?” so I say,
(reaching for it) “your hand,
let me feel it.” It’s cold,

sure enough, and trembling.
But my premise is expended;
I ease my small grip.
Meanwhile, your other hand
arrives swiftly in the dark

to cut off my retreat, and
you have curled your fingers
gently around mine so that,
there on the seat between us,
my hand is held.

My turn to tremble,
although I’m not at all cold.
I drive as slowly as I can,
with the world in abeyance
in the silence of held hands.

Richard Kempa lives in Rock Springs, Wyoming, where he teaches writing and philosophy at Western Wyoming College. His most recent books are the anthologies Going Down Grand: Poems from the Canyon (Lithic Press, 2015) and ON FOOT: Grand Canyon Backpacking Stories (Vishnu Temple Press, 2014) and a collection of his poems, Ten Thousand Voices (Littoral Press 2013). For more info, please see rickkempa.com/

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Anna Weaver

ONE LAST PERSONALS AD

This is not my first time and I’m hoping
it’s not yours either. It’s no fun comparing scars

with innocents. Like cards, I can be fun
to play with when mixed up and like leaves,

romantic when scattered. I may be unencumbered,
but that’s not the same as free, so if you’re looking

for the girl next door, look next door. This time,
I’m in the market for a man willing

to come along to places where I can wear a dress
so red it says, juice me. One who won’t call back

the racing dog of his affection when it comes unleashed.
The kind with a smile like a well, a pulley for a heart,

and enough good rope to draw up something that slakes.
(I’m talking about more than sex—and less than need.)

So if you come to me, come big as a winter night
to a barrel fire. Come with your frostbitten fingers

and bring something to burn. I’ll be the one holding
a match, with singed hair and a dry throat.

This time, I’m looking for a man strong
like water and I’m willing to go weak as stone.

This time, a man steady as summer rain
so I can be the street when it steams.

Raised in Oklahoma, Anna Weaver lives in North Carolina with her two daughters. Her poems have appeared in Literary Bohemian, Connotation Press, O-Dark-Thirty, and other journals, as well as a couple anthologies, public art projects, and coffee bags (no, really). A self-described open mic tourist, she has performed in 13 states and the District of Columbia—at art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and a museum. She tracks this and more at annaweaver-poet.com.

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Sheila Wellehan

LAST CALL LULLABY

What would you say
What would you do
If I asked you to dance?
Would you think weird and desperate?
Or would you slam down your beer
And smile hell yeah?

We’d go round
And around
Laugh and kick off our boots
You’d find
The one I lose
And save me.

Way after twelve
We would leave
In your pick-up truck
If I turn into a pumpkin
We’d be too busy to notice.

So what do you say?
You and me?
Will you be my temporary prince?
I could be
Your imperfect princess.

Sheila Wellehan’s poetry is featured or forthcoming in Chiron Review, Ekphrastic, Poetry East, and Yellow Chair Review. She lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

To see Sheila’s other work in this collection, click here.

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Scott Wiggerman

CONTROL

A gray shadow on the blueberry,
innocence fleeting as the ghostly bloom:

you’re not used to being so open,
so loose with the body, so yielding.

You never know what you are
capable of—until you do it.

Still, words tumble through your head—
This is not me. I am not here.

as if you float above yourself,
the mind an emptied ashtray.

You will return, bruised, not crushed,
though someone else hovers over you,

tall and strong as a mast,
the one you’ll soon call Sir.

HALIQ

They like mystery, these boys,
so before I head to market,
I line my eyes with kohl,
dark as my intentions, some would say.

They multiply like flies,
always present, but I am in search
of the jewel in the rubble,
the one they call Fareed.

They play coy, these boys,
but most can be bought
for a bar of bitter chocolate,
gold-plated trinkets, amulets of glass.

I am patient as the seasons.
With each visit I give freely—
and never ask for anything.
That will come later. Nothing is free.

My foolish friend, Mohammed,
could not proceed with small steps.
For punishment, the village
toppled a wall on him. Not me.

From the ruins of mud and wattle
I have learned to go slow
with my kind of love.
They don’t like pressure, these boys.

I give Fareed another coin,
feel his eyes follow me through the market.
Soon, very soon, this beardless boy
will come to me of his own accord.

Scott Wiggerman is the author of three books of poetry, Leaf and Beak: Sonnets, Presence, and Vegetables and Other Relationships; and the editor of several volumes, including Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku & Haiga, and Wingbeats II. Recent poems have appeared in Naugatuck River Review, Red Earth Review, Pinyon Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and the anthologies This Assignment Is So Gay, Forgetting Home: Poems about Alzheimer’s, and The Great Gatsby Anthology. He is an editor for Dos Gatos Press of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Robin Wright

A DOCUMENTARY ON BLACK HOLES

Tonight they watch a show
on black holes, stars caving in on themselves.
During a commercial, Jennifer runs
to the kitchen, gets him a beer but doesn’t move
fast enough. He slips his leg out
in front of her. From the floor, she hears the narrator.
“Nothing can escape. Anything near
is pulled in.”

Her vision doesn’t allow black holes,
only stars perfect and bright,
like the fluorescent glow
of the hospital ceiling
as they wheel her bruised body
to X-ray.

Robin Wright’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in various literary journals, most recently Foliate Oak Literary Magazine and Amarillo Bay. Two of her poems were recently published in the University of Southern Indiana’s 50th anniversary anthology, Time Present, Time Past. She has also co-written two novels with Maryanne Burkhard under the name B. W. Wrighthard, Ghost Orchid and A Needle and a Haystack. For more of Robin’s work, go here.

List of Poets

(Poems added January 30, 2016)

Amy Baskin

THE RIB
—a fractured fairytale

God took Adam’s bone
sucked squeezed rubbed jerked
the marrow from it
incubated it overnight
and from that jelly
made Adam a father
of a child he had no say in
then God told Adam
have your way with her
this unasked for creation
not to raise her but
infuse her with more life
in God’s image
time and time again

Amy Baskin writes poetry, stories, picture books and non-fiction. Her work has appeared most recently in The Gorge Literary Journal and is forthcoming in Mothers Always Write, Sein und Werden, NonBinary Review, and McGraw-Hill Big Books. She’s had the pleasure of working on the revision process with Oregon’s former poet laureate Paulann Petersen, and participating in a sonnet critique group with Allison Joseph. For more of Amy’s work, go here.

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Valerie Borey

GEOGRAPHY

Let’s bruise ourselves with love, open up our
lava-filled veins and bleed out in each other’s
arms. Brand me with your fucking love, baby,
make it hurt, make me cry for you long for you
reach for you, wound me with desire. Lay me
down on this useless shell of a world, your
knee in the fucking Amazon, my thighs against
the Everglades. Let’s make the earth quake,
send seismic tremors all the way to Novosibirsk,
set the tectonic plates back to the Paleozoic. Fuck
me, make the oceans swell, let the earth buckle
beneath us. We’ll make tsunamis, baby, we’ll
make fucking landslides.

SCORCHED EARTH

I love you. This world our Garden is where we will live
forever. We are at the epicenter of it all, ground zero,
bearing uranium, self-sustaining and smeared with ash.
Our words are a black swarm of longing; they are a
mushroom cloud. I warn you: our love will scorch the
earth. It will burn it black, make it radioactive. It will
kill us all. It will get into the groundwater, creep into the
pines. We will see frogs with many heads, fish with legs,
evolution re-set to the beginning. You and I we will be
grimy with soot for years there will be rivulets of other
peoples tears on our bodies. It will not stop me loving
you making love to you it will not stay my finger on the
switch because I believe in setting things on fire, in your
body, in golden hunger pink cheeks and mouths dry with
want. I believe in ghosts and cyclones of need, the dense blast
of heat that comes from opening a box of love with
you. I believe in not thinking, in the vibration of desire,
in thin air, and in breathing you.

BLACK WATER

Let’s strip, let’s wallow in filth and sorrow together, wade
out into radioactive mud, paint our nakedness in swamp
slime and oil. I want to have dirty sex with you in black
water under a black sky, to be dirty with you, to make you
dirty with me, feel the sand in your hair, toxic algae clinging
to us like a second skin. I want to be poisoned with you, to
feel your voodoo alone work its magic on me. Your bite is
my afterlife your tongue is my God you the devil gotten into
me and you are hard and I am swollen with you and the sound
of your moan and your breath and the strain of your thigh and
the arch of your foot as you lean into me and I am wet with
every drop of you, every ounce of me wants to pull your soul
your fingers your cock into me, deep the way I love you black
the color of our souls the color of the sky the color of the water
the color of our pupils dilating the color of us on fire the color
of us exploding into one another finishing but never finished
because I will never not be hungry for you, will never not be
anemic for the voodoo of you inside me kissing my face and
setting us on fire.

Valerie Borey lives in Minneapolis. Her creative work has appeared onstage at various venues in the Twin Cities and in publications such as Diddle Dog, Heavy Glow, Fuck Fiction, Bound Off, In Stereo Press, Burningword, and Red Fez.

List of Poets

Daniel Roy Connelly

STREETWALKER, ATHENS, JANUARY 2016

—-Five minutes of chin cupped
in my crocus palms on the balcony rail
I notice her, a hooker shrouded in night
lancing up the kerb till the next stream
of headlights bears down on her in the
eight-lane Athenian after-dark Nascar.

—-She darts directly into them, lit in slices,
flashing her stockings, breasts, swinging
her handbag into the variety of slipstreams.

—-You reckon she’s on coke but she’s 75
yards away from room 308 and the neon
glare from the gas station forecourt falls well
short of her; we’ve not the faintest how she looks.

—-From nothing you prize your mouth
into an O to let a two-finger whistle fly
out into the sea breeze. Fancy
a threesome? you whisper.

—-She hears your second blast,
looks vaguely up and around
till she takes us into her focus.

—-From what we discern of the walker
in the gloom she’ll note
we are a couple on a hotel balcony,
draw some ready conclusions.

—-Starting towards us in the ill-lit darkness
she’s stealthily overtaken,
hemmed in slowly
by a black saloon
whose emergency lights
wink like auction-room bidders; it’s unclear
whether the car’s turning in for fuel.

—-Petrol or pussy? Petrol or pussy? Pussy, you say.

—-The nearside window lowers
into a brief exchange of necessary details.

—-She backs away, finds us again, nods definitively
before opening the door and disappearing
into the rear seats.

—-The driver pulls into the side street,
rolls out of view to park
his cargo in an empty bay at the beach.

—-Radio has the best pictures, so, once
-in-a-blue-moon does sex, as in this
temperate winter’s midnight on the Aegean coast:

—-you and I discussing what would have been a first,
the likely costs incurred, the twisting and shaping
of possibilities, the dos and don’ts.

—-Fevered in chat,
we illuminate an unforgettable lost hour.

A former British diplomat, Daniel Roy Connelly has worked around the globe. He holds a first-class honours degree from Columbia University in New York City and an MLitt and PhD in Shakespeare’s Othello from The University of Saint Andrews. He has acted in and directed theatre in America, the UK, Italy and China, where his 2009 production of David Henry Hwang’s M Butterfly was forced to close by the Chinese secret police.

His poetry is widely published online and in print. He was the winner of the 2014 Fermoy International Poetry Festival Prize, a finalist in the 2015 Aesthetica Magazine Creative Writing Prize and winner of the 2015 Cuirt New Writing Prize for poetry. His recent work has been published by The North, The Opi Press, The Transnational (in English and German), Ink, Sweat and Tears and is forthcoming in Critical Survey. He is a professor of creative writing, English and theatre at John Cabot University and The American University of Rome.

List of Poets

Michael Coolen

CIRRIPEDIAN LAMENT

my life as a barnacle is ever so sweet;
I can have sex without moving my feet.

sex at a distance is my great strength since
my penis is forty-five times my length.

if I were a man on the fifty-yard line every
girl in sight could potentially be mine.

and even if girls did not wish to mate
I could spermcast my offerings to every gate.

extending my reach well beyond my grasp, making
girls who felt safe in the parking lot gasp.

you think I’d get bored hanging out by the pier
same old tides, same old girls both in front and in rear.

but when I am finished a wonder occurs, cuz’
I grow a new penis, a new set of spurs.

I know all the girls within several feet and
reaching and touching them’s no special feat.

and although myself impregnate I could I
think it highly unlikely I would.

one thing is sad though, I can’t run and play, cuz’
I’m stuck on a rock twenty-four hours a day.

there’s a rock up the beach filled with hundreds
and hundreds and hundreds of other…
I lost my train of thought.

still, what I have’s a small miracle of life, an
existence so simple without major strife.

the tide comes in, the tide goes out, then
I grow a new penis, then

the tide comes in, the tide goes out, then
I grow another new penis, then

shit…there’s that rock up the beach…

Michael Coolen has been published in Oregon Humanities, The Gold Man Review, Clementine Poetry Journal, Synesthesia Magazine, Broken, The Poetry Quarterly, Oregon Poetry Association, the Rats Ass Review, et al.

He is also a published composer, with works performed around the world, including at Carnegie Hall, MoMA, and the Christie Gallery in New York. For more of Michael’s work in Love & Ensuing Madness, go to the index below. For other work, find him in our Volume Three, Issue 2 (2015). 

List of Poets

Lenny DellaRocca

SYNDROME

for my nephew, Michael Piazza (1955-1995)

You lived by the Miami River patched with rainbow slicks, ramshackle dock creaking with waves, yard dribbled with stones, Dalmatian running the perimeter fence. Time burned your clothes. Coconuts dropped to the roof but you slept and slept. There was a storm in the dark but it was you stirring like a beat-up cat. I could smell you in the heat. Eventually, my eyes adjusted and saw a crucifix, sign of Aquarius made of mirrors on the wall. You hadn’t eaten, weighed less than the urine-soaked blankets you slept on. It wouldn’t be long. The world was your abandoned car and you had nowhere to go stashed in your back pocket like it was an ace. Nights went round on a wheel, wild parrots shrieked from trees and it rained all that summer. In the end the smoke had left your body and what was left of you was soaked up by the ground.

Lenny DellaRocca has had poems in numerous literary magazines including: Poet Lore, Poetrybay, Albatross, Fairy Tale Review, Nimrod and many others. He has work forthcoming in Bitchin’ Kitsch, Blueshift Journal, Blue Fifth Review, Black Heart Magazine and Waterways. His chapbook, The Sleep Talker, is available at Night Ballet Press. His new chapbook, Blood and Gypsies is forthcoming from Anaphora Literary Press.

List of Poets

Alexis Rhone Fancher

FIVE WAYS I’M A BAD GIRL

1. the players:

Cybil & her 3 Rottweilers join us at the beach. Sally comes with Dr. Diane who
says if I needed anything medical she’s my guy. That night me and Mickey are
fucking, getting a little loud. Dr. Diane sniffs around, hang-dog, all “Jesus,
mamasita. Make me howl like that.

2. the complications:
Sally must have her on a short leash. Next night when the ocean spits sand in
my cornea, Dr. Diane corners me in the john, just under the pulsing, overhead
light, removes the culprit from my eye, tapes it shut w/ a white gauze patch.

3. resolve out the window:
She locks the door. Licks the beach salt from my face. “I heard you two last night.
What’s Mickey got, makes you yowl like a cat?
” Oh, how did my legs become
wrapped around her face, her pinpoint tongue ramming into me, slamming my ass
against the sink? “Mea Culpa.”

4. the excuse:
I’m a sucker for sweet talk. A sycophant for sin. Half-blinded by the gauze patch.
Born to give in.

5. the denouement:
Sally’s outside the door. Mickey sleeps like a baby. Dr. Diane swears that
after she’s married, nothing between us will change. While Cybil walks the
Rottweilers, I escape down the beach. Dr. Diane retreats to Sally’s low
self-esteem. They decide to go for Chinese. When Mickey awakens,
nobody’s home.

LAST DANCE IN NOHO

After that last sad fuck
we go dancing in NoHo.

Rodrigo’s a hot, typecast Latin.
Moves to anything with a beat.

Has a thing for Gloria Estefan.
I can never keep up.

A problem we treat with mescal
and osculation.

Turn off that big brain, he says
when I won’t get up from the bar.

But confusion tangles my feet.

Now even the sex is bad.
I decide to break up with him first.

Before you, I say, I had a black man
with a Porsche and a cock
the size of Acapulco.

He’d bend me over the hood and
fuck me with the engine running.

Rodrigo pulls me onto the dance floor
one last time.

A smack works as well as
a twirl, girl
. One fist whistles
past my face.

Before you, he says, I had this Asian girl.
She didn’t disrespect me.
She didn’t talk back.

She fucking knew how to dance.

Alexis Rhone Fancher is the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and other heart stab poems, (Sybaritic Press, 2014), and State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (KYSO Flash Press, 2015). Find her poems in Rattle, The MacGuffin, Slipstream, Fjords, H_NGM_N, Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles, Chiron Review, Quaint Magazine, Hobart, Menacing Hedge, and elsewhere. She’s infamous for her Lit Crawl LA performances at Romantix, a NoHo sex shop. Since 2013 she’s been nominated for seven Pushcart Prizes and four Best of The Net awards. In her other life, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly,where she also publishes a monthly photo essay, The Poet’s Eye. Find her at alexisrhonefancher.com/ For more of Alexis’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Lisa Folkmire

A COLLECTION OF LOVE LETTERS

1. I win. I always win, I teased you. I know how to make you blink, you warned. A soft first kiss at fifteen, a single peck on the worn-leather cushions of a basement couch.

2. What happens next? She asks me, her ten year old eyes searching for the next page in mine
I tell her to wait and see, but her fingers flip through to the end. She shouts, They get married! They always get married, it’s a happily ever after. The ending, I say, is not the only part of the book.

3. The broom leans against my knees, a pile of dust and dried leaves around my toes. A daisy’s petal trails down. He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me, he loves me not.

4. My mother’s walking us through her wedding pictures again. One of you girls can wear my dress when you marry. It was your grandmother’s, too. She smiles at her 26-year-old self, covered in lace, the start of her favorite memory.

5. In my wedding, we will serve carrot cake. You will wear purple and my bouquet will have lilacs. What about yours? My sister asks, as she draws lopsided hearts across a new mix tape cover. I flash my too-small teeth to her, I think my pirate ship will be dark red and the cannons will be gold—covered by the treasure we’ll find from abandoned islands.

6. I told the girls about the ending. I held him for 45 minutes because he wouldn’t stop crying. You hugged someone for 45 minutes? You must have really loved him. They should have heard the beginning.

7. I kept the card you got me for our four month anniversary—the one that ends with, “I love you, I really do.” It’s still a nice thought to hold.

8. My father once told me that a real dog waiting for me on the other side of a door was always preferable to an imaginary prince waiting in the final pages of a book.

Lisa Folkmire is a poet from Warren, Michigan. She is an MFA Candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts with an emphasis in poetry. Her poetry has appeared in See Spot Run and Heron Tree literary arts journals as well as The Pine River Anthology.

List of Poets

Richard Garcia

THINKOLOGY

I think crows are smart. Like Hector. He’s a crow. He sits on my shoulder and whispers into my ear, The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side. I think I could scatter myself all around you. I think I could jump into the wind for you. You think if I had half a brain, I would stay away from you. You say, Honey, I am fire, and you are straw, stay away from me. But hey, I have a brain, I do, I even have a degree in thinkology, and I say, Baby, I’m made of straw, and straw was made to burn.

TENDERLOIN

Rico laying low at the Speak Low.
Tottering ceiling fan wobbles slow and slow.

Suki drags in, looking for something.
Can’t remember, but looking, still looking.

Maybe Ivan will strap on his black blindfold,
call his spirit guide, Buried Arrow—but truth be told

Buried Arrow done gone to his galactic home.
You look, Rico says to Suki, just like someone,

someone from an island not on any map.
I can do that says Suki, and drops a quarter in the jukebox.

My real name’s not Rico, Rico says to Suki.
My real name’s not Suki, Suki says to Rico.

The jukebox’s broken but Suki knows a dance or two.
Jukebox’s broken but she knows a dance or two.

Richard Garcia’s recent books The Other Odyssey, from Dream Horse Press, and The Chair, from BOA, were both published in 2015. His forthcoming book, Porridge, will be published by Press 53 in March of 2016. His poems have appeared in many journals, including The Georgia Review and Spillway, and in anthologies such as The Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry. He lives in Charleston, S.C. and is on the staff of the Antioch Low Residency MFA in Los Angeles. For more of Richard’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Norm Klein

FIRST LOVE

Here’s the picture Sylvie signed
‘love, me’, my lost kid who lost
her kid at fifteen. When we met
two years later she said, “Please
don’t touch me, hold me closer.”

My Sylvie who danced bleeding,
fell out of a tree, sang country,
crashed my car, and picked a
black bumblebee out of her teeth
in that swanky bistro in Nice,

the wild woman who said she
would always be my fire to light
my dragon lady, and the sad-faced
kid who laughed when I screamed
as she burned down the boathouse,

the hooked up kid who cried out,
“Love’s not enough,” and handed
me her towel and glasses and ran
off down the night-stained beach
wearing nothing but moonlight.

Norm Klein’s poems have appeared in Epoch, The Antioch Review, and The Beloit Poetry Journal. For more of Norm’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Laurie Kolp

ON NOT REMEMBERING

I don’t remember the frigid air that blew in
one Saturday while raking, the frisk preceding
our five minute fuck break on a pile of crunchy leaves
which, I might add, was your idea and yet you blamed me
for rough imprints on your ass and the rash that showed up that night.

I don’t remember the front door you stormed through on that late March night,
rattling my great-grandmother’s cups and saucers in my dining room hutch
like a California earthquake which, I might add, would at least let me collect insurance.

I don’t remember the way you acted as if everything was okay,
until you blindsided me with the cold hard fact:
you couldn’t remember ever loving me.
No, I don’t remember.

PLEASURE ISLAND

I assume it’s a place to have sex discreetly
after all, you’re always searching for one
and I’ve done it in the dirty gas station bathroom
crammed in the stall and trying not to breathe, not to touch
the wall or toilet seat bending over until you cum
and I’ve sucked your cock as you drove down IH-10
and I’ve kneed myself in the chin with my legs
spread from the driver’s side steamed-up window
to the passenger’s side steamed-up window
in your compact car parked in an unknown dead-end
and I’ve snuck onto vacant beach cabin porches
and city park playground equipment after midnight
holding my breath in fear we might get caught.
I elbow you and say, Pleasure Island?
You say, I hear there are lots of mosquitoes there.
I say, We’d better hurry.

RIPPLED SHEETS

air-born: whiffs of lavender
as clean sheets
ripple across the top
of the king-sized mattress
like pulsing waves

our task at hand
folding that damn fitted sheet just right
in order to leave his parent’s beach house
without a sign that we were there

arms spanned,
fingers reaching
tucked corners

we step away from each other
away from the bed  doubling
over to  form  a  rectangle

and then
a square

what do you do
when I’m not here?

my spoken thoughts
on handling sheets alone:
perhaps he might confess
he misses me

well, I masturbate, he says
I cover myself in awkwardness
as we step in for the final fold

STRIP TWISTER

We sip martinis, slip a kiss.
I flick the spinner—
left hand red. Before I move
I step out of my lingerie.
You get right hand blue
toss your boxers to the bed
then edge so close I feel your breath.
Back and forth we contort
until you fall down. Your toenail
jabs a half moon on my ass,
awakens me a bit. I say
you can swivel skin to skin,
weave your hands beneath my breasts,
entwine your legs with mine,
but don’t ever scratch me.
Your voice a rasp as you ask
if this is what I had in mind, your
subtle touch a feather on my ass,
our tongues as one.
Not contortionists,
we tumble down
and twist.

Laurie Kolp, author of Upon the Blue Couch (Winter Goose Publishing) and Hello, It’s Your Mother (Finishing Line Press), serves as president of Texas Gulf Coast Writers and treasurer of the local chapter of the Poetry Society of Texas. Laurie’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gargoyle, After the Pause, Crack the Spine, Scissors & Spackle, Pirene’s Fountain, and more. She lives in Southeast Texas with her husband, three children, and two dogs.

List of Poets

Leonard Kress

WHAT SHE SAID

“I’m so sorry,” he says, preparing to move out.
“It’s not me,” she says, “who will suffer the most, but you.”
Her eyes like cast iron cooling in the mold, the heat
evaporating between them, lost wax. “Each time you
two have sex—and not as often as you might expect—
after all the hard rubbing and the whimpering gasps,
brief tremors, after the restrained howl of your coming,
you’ll sink into your usual gloom and no TV
news, beer, snack, moonlight stroll or mundane chat will distract
from the unqualified fact that you abandoned wife
and children, that every time we think of you, love will
be tempered with loathing.” But no, that’s not what she says.
She says, “I hope your whore gives you what you really want.”

Leonard Kress has published poetry and fiction in Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, Crab Orchard Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex, Living in the Candy Store, and Braids & Other Sestinas. He teaches philosophy, religion, and creative writing at Owens College in Ohio.

List of Poets

Len Kuntz

REASONS FOR LIVING

She wants to make love in a graveyard at night,
says it’s kinky and that she wants to be choked
or slapped around like Isabella Rossellini
in that sandman movie.
Hair pulling only goes so far
and new days keep showing up like
well-meaning Jehovah Witnesses.
But the graveyard, the choking and slapping—
those are real.
She says they’re something
to take the edge off.

Len Kuntz is an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans and the author of the story collection THE DARK SUNSHINE from Connotation Press. His latest story collection, I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE AND NEITHER ARE YOU is due from Unknown Press this March. You can also find him at lenkuntz.blogspot.com/

List of Poets

Jennifer Lagier

EXERCISE IN RESTRAINT

Camille sees him
stretched out on his back
against a thin rubber
exercise mat like
a luscious entrée.
His tee shirt
rides up, reveals
dark body hair against
pale, vulnerable belly,
a provocative trail that
travels south
to warmer regions
that tempt and intrigue.
As he performs slow,
sinuous crunches,
she is mesmerized
by what bulges
against baggy shorts.
Breathless, she imagines
straddling his hips,
riding him to
the finish line.
She is a sucker
for hardness.

Jennifer Lagier has published ten books of poetry and internationally in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies. Her latest book, Where We Grew Up , was issued by FutureCycle Press. She taught with California Poets in the Schools, co-edits the Homestead Review, maintains web sites for Homestead Review, Monterey Poetry Review, Ping Pong Literary Journal, misfitmagazine and helps coordinate monthly Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Web site: Poetry by Jennifer Lagier

List of Poets

Jennifer Litt

FOR MOONSHINE ON WATER

If you were bold enough to send him
photos of your breasts via smart phone,
not just quick pics, but composed orbs,
full moons with no sky to inhabit,
you’ll have to maintain a façade of
take him or leave him, no casting
beyond the moon after coupling for
a gold ring and the exchange of vows.

The 60s trailed the 70s, a moon glade.
Was there ever free love? I doubt it.
An email or a text at midnight can’t
replace a letter, card or call, the cursory
never cursive, and you’ve been cursed by
Cinderella’s tale (not to mention her statue
and her watch). Now you feel compromised.

You scold yourself for delivering your
moon pies into cyberspace, dessert far
too great an effort for that rapscallion, that
moonraker. But you moon over him anyway
with heavy sighs as you did your first love,
when you stared out the bay window in case
he drove his van past your childhood house.

Jennifer Litt is the sole proprietor of Jennifer Litt Writing Services www.jenniferlitt.com/ and an adjunct writing professor at SUNY Brockport. Jennifer’s work has appeared in several anthologies, journals and magazines, including Jet Fuel Review, LUMINA, Mixed Fruit, Naugatuck River Review and nycBigCityLit. She is the author of the forthcoming chapbook, Maximum Speed Through Zero (Blue Lyra Press). She lives in Rochester, New York.

List of Poets

Joan Mazza

NINTH PLANET

Michael E. Brown had already told Pluto
to stand in the corner, demoted to a dwarf planet,
while with other astronomers he studied pulls
and tugs, orbits stretched by an unseen giant
planet in the farthest reaches of the solar system.

Beyond Neptune, beyond the Kuiper Belt,
we can suspect what’s there by its influence
on other bodies. You’ve had this experience—
a certain pressure in your sinuses, a sudden
energy in your gait, desire to do something

meaningful. But what? It’s right there, ready
to be identified, named, and claimed. Astrologers
are clamoring to tell you about Barbara Hand Clow
who mentions in her books ancient theories
put forth by Zecharia Setchin of Sumarian tablets

containing illustrations of a large, distant planet
orbiting the Sun. Of course, astrologers already knew!
They want naming rights. One suggests Janus,
though Clow preferred Nibiru. The hubbub
reminds me of the days of my personal ads

when I pleaded in bold print, Are you out there?
How they circled, tilted their orbits with changing names
and heights, told stories of their lives so clearly
imagined as if they believed them. They were out there—
too far out there for me to believe they could be right

for me. The non-smokers lit up. The never-married
were twice-divorced. They had terrific children
who lived in other states they never visited,
somewhere beyond the Kuiper Belt. Too far
and much too cold for a journey in this lifetime.

THAT MISSED CONNECTION

You were in the produce section of Whole Foods,
sniffing cantaloupes and honeydews, not
drooling. You placed only organic greens
in your cart that already held onions,
lean ground beef, cans of tomato puree.

I knew you were Italian before I looked
at the wagon’s contents—the way your hair
is graying, darker near your neck.
Not once did you pull out a phone. You
were deep in concentration, as I am

planning a dinner of imported pasta
with meatballs in my homemade sauce.
I didn’t tell you I can my own tomatoes,
would not stoop to flirt. You didn’t see me.
I didn’t see you look at me, though maybe

you did as I pranced off to buy shrimp
for scampi, which I will serve over linguine
without you, while I listen to podcasts
by Sam Harris, knowing you’ve come as far
as I from Brooklyn. Like me, you smile

at falling leaves and crow conversation,
find the crescent nails of cats on carpets endearing.
You sleep with your dog, are well read,
love Broadway music, Rock ‘n’ Roll,
the scents of wood smoke and baking bread.

You favor Mozart over Wagner, and draw in ink
so you can take your art with you anywhere.
Anywhere but here. You don’t know me, won’t
see me in Charlottesville again. Farewell,
the one and only love of my over-active mind.

Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and has been a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. She is the author of six self-help psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self, and her poetry has appeared in Rattle, The MacGuffin, Mezzo Cammin, and The Nation. She ran away from the hurricanes of South Florida to be surprised by the earthquakes and tornadoes of rural central Virginia, where she writes poetry and does fabric and paper art.

List of Poets

John David Muth

NOT EXACTLY MY TYPE

We meet in a half-empty pool hall
for a Wednesday night date.
She is curvy and white-skinned
hair tied in pigtails
wearing ripped jeans.

She hands me a cue stick
says she wants to see
how well I handle
being beaten by a girl.
I prepare to take my shot
trying not to watch
her bright red lips linger
around the mouth of a soda bottle.

She tells me about her knife collection
how much she loves her pet tarantula
that she never met a dog she didn’t like
or a man under 80 that she did.
Bending over to take her turn
she looks back at me and smirks
and I imagine us sitting face to face
in a tub full of grain alcohol.
She is smoking a cigar
I tell her my eyes are watering
from the fumes
my skin is starting to prune.
It’s time to get out.
Smiling, she taps the ashes into the tub
and my bathroom explodes
in an orange-blue ball of fire.

COITUS FLACCIDUM

Two months and six dates
five dinners
two movies
a crowded Irish pub
thirty-two hours
about how much she loves unicorns
and her progress in learning
Mandarin Chinese
finally, we are alone
and she concedes
and I am in position
a cat ready to claw a huddled mouse
and just when
I can enter no further
she looks at me
eyebrows crossed
forces a promise to marry her
if the latex tears
before the surge
error breaks through
caution’s wall
sentencing me to
22 years hard labor
the average sentence
for second degree murder
with no prior convictions.

I nod
trying to keep focus
but desire
like a smiling porcelain clown
rolls its eyes before shattering
steel melts
a sword left on a blacksmith’s forge
covering the coals in liquid metal.

Lying cheek to cheek
she sighs in my ear
makes her frustration obvious.
I want to retort
suggest she use her mouth
for activities other than talking
but it’s late
and I’m too mad and tired
to drive her home.

John David Muth was born and raised in central New Jersey. For the last fifteen years, he have been an academic advisor, working for Rutgers University. The focus of his poetry is satire, particularly romantic relationships and modern values and sensibilities.

Some of his poems have appeared in The Stray Branch (2009 and 2012), Section 8 Magazine (2014), and US 1 Worksheets (2013 and 2014).

List of Poets

Ken Poyner

MASCARA

I have spent too many years
as a comfort boy.
I have dressed myself
in these tight shorts
or tight jeans,
and tossed on a shirt
just right for the persona
I was contracted to play
for that one night, too often.
I have gone through
periods of different hair styles,
shaved or unshaved chest,
free balling or hemmed tightly in.
I think sometimes the women
do not care. Their rough hands
seek out utility, test
for elemental application,
expect an emotional service,
not a literary production.
Weeks they can go without;
and then they visit the comfort house
where I wait ready to be
contracted stiff, a reliable
song of catching breath,
relief from their delirious abstinence.
I do not flinch when unkindly
they tell me of the boy two
houses down two inches
better armed, or the boy
they had last time who went gloriously on
for three hours and was shared,
one price, with four friends.
These women smear their
department store make-up
on my neck, leave the smell
of bulk purchased perfume
on the insides of my thighs.
I accept their house-choice drinks
and shared opening lines,
I accept their initial compliments,
I accept their casually unspectacular
common carnal commissions.
Then, at the end of my shift,
like any good worker: I go home.
Just inside the front door of my middle-class lodging
I change into a man’s lounging clothes. The wife
some days will ask how work went and I
most times will simply go limp down the hallway,
saying just fine, now kiss me like a customer.

Ken Poyner’s latest collection of minifictions, Constant Animals, can be located through www.kpoyner.com or www.amazon.com. He has had recent work out in Analog, Asimov’s, Poet Lore, and at several other places, both print and web. Next book – The Book of Robot, from Dark Renaissance Press: poetry detailing the pursuit of artificial sentience.

List of Poets

Cynthia A. Roby

RUFFIAN BETTY

Slick Johnson: casket sharp and razor clean.
Hot women, and some real clean men, try hard
to feel him up, and grind his hips, run hands
through silver conk, while Betty stands to guard
her man. When women come, and some men too,
she primps her wig, paints red her lips, wears clothes
like Sunday came that week twice. Fancy shoes
and high-up bosom lets them know Miss Bet
don’t play no games with her man’s heart. She rolls
her eyes and tucks her knife in cleavage full
like nursing girls, she winds her waist and sways
wide hips to let all know don’t try no bull
cause Slick J’s hers, and with a knife she’s mean.
Slick Johnson: casket sharp and razor clean.

Cynthia A. Roby currently lives in New York City, where she works in publishing and is an adjunct professor of academic writing. Her works of fiction and poetry have appeared in journals and chapbooks including The Manatee, Amoskeag, Voices of Brooklyn, and Writers from the Web. She earned her MFA from Lindenwold University, specializing in fiction. Follow her on Twitter @CynthiaRoby.

List of Poets

Wendy L. Schmidt

MONROE RED

Sinful is what it was,
but it still gives me a buzz,
right down to my bullet bra and diamond studs.
A bolt of lightening hit,
when I first set eyes on him.

Plenty to drink and little discussion,
about our deep kisses,
or near misses in the bedroom.
If I remember right,
on that fateful night.

The sins of my mother’s faith,
her impossible saints,
and quaint standards,
were happily sacrificed.
with no guilt or regard.

A voice echoed, good girls don’t,
they don’t paint lips Monroe red,
or wiggle their hips in public,
or dance to gut bucket blues,
in fishnet naughties and black lace nothings.

Pray for me Holy Pope,
there is no hope in saving my virginity.
See I got this itch and a sexy twitch in my side.
and he’s a sight for sore eyes.
the more I see, the more unseemly.

Got me all wrong, Prince Slimeball said,
after the bed broke in my fall from grace.
To save face, I grabbed my purse,
and poured myself into a taxi,
peeling out like a gangster’s getaway.

Just another notch on the hard post of life.
Order me a scotch and screw your advice.
The years have caught up and I can finally talk,
that’s right, I did the walk of shame,
no one to blame but me.

I’m a sinner, it’s true,
and mother hasn’t a clue.
What can I say?
Confession is good for the soul.
but so is a roll in the hay.

BETTY WITH A B.

She’s Betty with a B,
that naughty kind of girl,
got a sassy little secret,
she staged a lot of sex,
and she staged it straight up, striptease,
no pole dance, no promises.

Men were loose change,
a dime a dozen,
and a quarter,
to phone a cab later.
Betty called the shots,
in the boudoir and bar.

A one night stand,
and whiskey on the rocks,
never took a Romeo,
to catch her sharp blue eye,
just a guy with a gun,
and a generous disposition.

She was a bad girl,
and she liked it that way.
Say what they will,
two-timing temptress,
she-devil in a dress,
never paid much mind.

If Betty wanted someone,
she snared him with a line,
or shook her ample assets,
exposed a shapely leg.
She had a slick smile that said,
come and get it boys.

I’m Betty with a B,
burlesque is in my blood,
I’ve planned a little peep show,
for the lug that falls in love.
Just show up at my door,
and get lost when we’re done.

I’m Betty with a B,
the letter stands for bitch,
flaunt your fancy money clips,
’cause I expect a tip.
A song won’t turn their heads,
it’s what I shed instead.

Wendy L. Schmidt is a native of Wisconsin. She has been writing short stories and poetry for the last ten years. The Four C’s; cat, chocolate, coffee and computer are her chosen writing tools. Pieces have been published in Daily Flash 2012, Haunted Object, No Rest for the Wicked, Verse Wisconsin, Chicago Literati, City Lake Poets and a number of fiction and poetry anthologies. For other work by Wendy, click here.

List of Poets

Christopher Scribner

NEW STUDENT WEEK AT ST. SAPPHO ACADEMY

She chose an all-girls’ school post-haste;
I guess it worked, because
she wanted always to be chaste,
and always chased she was.

HIS BAWDY PICK-UP LINE

“A strong climactic moment
is this evening sure to bring,
since you’re clearly a small package –
and I’m surely a good thing.”

After 12 years of practicing Clinical Psychology, Christopher Scribner wearied of that life and turned his attention to writing and teaching. He completed his MFA at Lindenwood University, and lives in St. Louis. His satire, humor, light verse, and prose poetry has appeared in a diverse array of journals including Light: A Quarterly of Light Verse, Euphony, Journal of Irreproducible Results, Parody, Untamed Ink, Satire: The Quarterly Journal of Contemporary Satire, and weirdly, Psychotherapy Bulletin, Survey of Ophthalmology, and Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

List of Poets

Katherine Williams

WHAT DID IT MEAN?

When they said I would get bigger?
Would I become a tree? A comet?
You were so glamorous, up there
in the third grade, let me tell you,
grey eyes and shiny dark pompadour.
I stole your cookie and did not dare to eat it.
What did they mean by rabies series,
relations, juvenile detention, H-bomb?
My hand wore it into a thousand filthy
sweet crumbs in the flannel pocket
of my too-thin little coat. Fever
always bloomed on my cheeks,
eyeglasses skinned knees
braces arm in a half-cast.
When would I be big enough?
I filled an old Nehi bottle with water
and some dandelions for you,
my declaration penciled
on a scrap of brown paper,
but whatever did I mean?
Today you might very well have
a grand-daughter the age I was.
Fretless soda bottle on its side
in the dewy grass, its wilted dandelions,
its formidable music.

Katherine Williams has published four chapbooks, and read at venues from the Los Angeles Poetry Festival to the College of Charleston’s Halsey Gallery. A Pushcart nominee, board member of The Poetry Society of South Carolina, and one of Richard Garcia’s Long Table Poets, Katherine Williams’s poems appear in Spillway, Projector, Diagram, Blue Arc West: An Anthology of California Poets, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Vol. 1: South Carolina, and elsewhere. She is a career biomedical research technician, and lives on James Island, SC, with poet Richard Garcia and their dog Max.

List of Poets

(Poems added January 23, 2016)

Karen Marguerite Caronna

(Discarded journal found Last Summer
Berkeley, California)

101 REASONS NOT TO GET BACK TOGETHER WITH HAROLD
OR
As Claire says: NO MORE HAROLD!

Not necessarily in order.

Extreme disrespect.
1. “Is your daughter-in-law worried about a young man being together with an old lady?”
2. He is a “user” per Jan, Erin, Rob, Sam, Bob, Andrea, Suzanne, Claire.
3. None of my friends or family like him. Duh.
4. Per Suzanne he is a loser on all fronts.
5. Per Jan “don’t take any shit!
6. Said, “Don’t touch my stuff!” nastily when removing knife from plate to serve him rice.
7. No it was “Get your hands off my stuff!”
8. When fixing his taco it was “Don’t touch my food.”
9. Fucking retard.
10. Prick.
11. Saralynn
12. His enmeshed relationship with Saralynn.
13. Treating Saralynn as his wife. She handles all banking bills etc. He doesn’t know his own bank code.
14. Wanting to bring Saralynn as his date to events.
15. The need to maintain the “shrine.”
16. Christine’s 18+ photos in the bedroom.
17. Constant talking about Christine including sexual details.
18. Asking to bring my own frying pan to his house was a “life changing decision” for him.
19. Pornography.
20. Pornographic fantasies.
21. Need to be “in control” in relationship.
22. Constant, constant complaining.
23. No holidays.
24. Called the police on him.
25. Can’t be at the house if Saralynn is there instead.
26. Goodness knows what he’s said to his family and friends.
27. All too heavy.
28. Too much stress.
29. Constantly very upset at the minutest of things.
30. Drama.
31. Too much anger.
32. Too complicated.
33. I feel betrayed by his lack of support re: my son.
34. Not acknowledging 2 year anniversary in spite of calendar and day before reminder.
35. I feel betrayed by his lack of trust.
36. He can be hurtful.
37. “ “ “ cold.
38. “ “ “ very unloving.
39. “ “ “ rude.
40. “ “ “ unhelpful.
41. “ “ “ mean.
42. “ “ “ arrogant.
43. “ “ “ offensive.
44. Homophobic slurs.
45. Racial stereotyping.
46. Not mentioning me to his family for months.
47. Talking on phone saying, “I did this.” rather than “we.”
48. Never given a space for my things.
49. When I asked for some space given a small portion of Christine’s closet full of her clothes and shoes. No room on floor.
50. Christine’s message on voicemail until it broke.
51. Always claimed Saralynn did something rather than me eg. organizing pantry.
52. Closed his eyes when I drove.
53. Hated tangled sheets.
54. Very difficult to cook with, takes up space, can’t share sink.
55. Harangued me when his snack wasn’t on the table.
56. Would want me to cook, shop, pay for, serve, clean up, his food.
57. Talking to Saralynn on cell phone when out to dinner as my treat.
58. Made him a Thanksgiving dinner. He was very late (helping Sari!?) and then kept talking about previous Thanksgivings with Christine.
59. Talks about his early girlfriends in sexual detail.
60. Would say the same thing over and over.
61. NRA member.
62. The Turkey Channel.
63. NASCAR.
64. The Swamp People.
65. Difficult to teach computer. Would not let me touch or demonstrate. Very slow to understand.
66. Everything was “too much information eg what I did around the house, groceries etc.
67. Would never talk through issues.
68. Hated flowers in pots.
69. House was Spartan and drab.
70. Bedroom peeling battleship gray.
71. “I hate it when you think for yourself.”
72. Back seat driving…”there is a stop sign up ahead.” Duh.
73. Could be irrational when drinking eg the night I called the hospital.
74. Not being home when I arrived.
75. Arriving to a dark house.
76. Not being greeted.
77. Interrupted a lot.
78. Sometimes couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
79. Walking to and from restaurants alone ahead of me.
80. Often not allowed to talk, text, move in car.
81. Constantly having to hand him a beer from the back while he’s driving.
82. He often couldn’t hear a word and would get frustrated.
83. Wouldn’t consider test/hearing aid.
84. Wouldn’t try celexa, mood pills the doctor prescribed.
85. Called me “Lady!”
86. To a friend, a dog.
87. Wouldn’t name my positive qualities.
88. Temper tantrum yelling and crying he’s a persecuted victim.
89. Kept losing me when I followed him to Benecia.
90. Callous or indifferent when I was crying or in pain.
91. When referring in bed to an intimate moment in the kitchen he remembered he and Christine “made love all over the kitchen.”
92. Bills and credit cards in Christine’s name.
93. Per Saralynn “If that woman moves in I am never coming back.”
94. “If you want some love and affection you’d better get in bed.”
95. “This is the last time you are going to wake up in this bed so you better take advantage of it.”
96. Would push past me and stomp around.
97. Would grab things out of my hands.
98. Would “punish” me by not calling.
99. Got up and slept in Christine’s bed.
100. Would sexualize all women he saw including my friends.
101. Wouldn’t talk about issues.
102. “We’ll talk when I”m ready to talk.” (which was never)
103. Had “Christine was loving, kind, gentle, and forgiving” on the refrig.
104. Seldom paid his own way. Expected to be treated.
105. Gigolo fantasy.
106. Left me standing behind him while talking to former woman he dated without introducing me.
107. After 6 months introduced me as, “his date for the evening.”
108. Always wanted to pee outside, here, his brother’s, Sebastopol etc.
109. Wanted his space, “my kitchen.” etc.
110. Wanted to date other women.
111. Asked him if he wanted to be alone with his memories. He said, “No just wanted me to be OK with his and Christine’s wedding picture in the bedroom.”
112. Christine’s bedroom is still untouched with the box of ashes on the dresser.
113. In my presence kept telling people what an awful time it’s been since Christine’s death.
115. Phone sex. Sexting.
116. Upset if I used my hands eating.
117. Locked me out of the house after he thought I broke the coffeemaker, which he did, even though I offered to buy a new one.
118. Lots of taking little giving. Did very little for me or my house.
119. Said he’s keeping the cleaning woman because that way he knew the house would be cleaned every 2 weeks even though for the last 1 1/2 years I had been keeping it immaculate pretty much all the time.
120. Plays “gotcha” would always ask if he’d told me about…if I said no he’d say, “Yes I did!”
I guess I went over 101.

Karen Marguerite Caronna lives in Oakland, California.

List of Poets

Robyn Alana Engel

VALENTINEROTICA

Some say it’s luck, I say it’s fate –
how shamelessly you penetrate.
So pierce me fierce
and pierce me hard;
spare the sappy Hallmark Card.
You fire with skill
and never miss;
two bodies fuse —
orgasmic bliss.
Now target me from sights above;
a woman needs hot bouts of love.
Go fifty shades, then nineteen more —
this tart’s all yours,
come now,
explore!
It’s Valentine’s —
no time to tease.
I’ve plans to bring you to your knees.
Bypass the childish pastel hearts;
let’s lick hot fudge off body parts.
Your arrow’s head
slides fast inside,
ignites a most ecstatic ride.
Clout and prowess, you have both;
bare your soul, and
show your growth.
You play a saintly little boy —
a man in diapers – such a ploy!
How stupid do you think I am?
Cupid, won’t you be my man?

SPRINGTIMEROTICA

My urges surge in springtime
with impure thoughts of you.
I believe we need to worship
in the church’s final pew.
I’ll drop onto my knees
’til with your righteousness, I’m through.

Call me your bunny, honey;
Easter Sunday’s drawing near.
My basket’s clean and egg free,
your carrot stick fits here.

Pass over pastel girlie treats,
set matzo balls aside;
fill me with tender savage meat —
my lips are open wide.

How I idolize you, master, and
long to make your pyramid rise,
then create a second coming
’fore the locusts fill the skies.

Your actions are so glorious
I hate to ask for more;
but let’s commit an original sin
…one worth dying for.

Robyn Alana Engel is an author, a poet, and addicted to all things chocolate. She published her poetry in Just the Right Time, through partnership with artist Robin Mead. Woman on the Verge of Paradise, her recently published memoir-ish dating adventure, has thus far soared to number one best-seller in her household and family. Robyn can best be found at her chocolate-smudged computer screen, eating chocolate, while blogging at Life by Chocolate. She apologizes for chocolate smudges wherever you may find them.

List of Poets

Frederick Foote

OVERTIME

You sigh it out in a stream
moan it into a flood
scream it out in a fountain
What a noisy, luscious
factory you are.
It truly is
a labor
of love
To work
You.
Any chance
of overtime?

SUPPLY AND DEMAND

Filling
every cavity
my pleasure
Draining you
my endless
feast

LUSTY RELIGION

Cedar-wood skin
Sinful full lips
Halo round ass
Full paradise thighs
Bible Bright eyes
Gospel singing hips
Revelation to disrobe
Salvation to explore
Damnation to lose
No resurrection
in sight

A collection of Frederick Foote’s short stories, For the Sake of Soul, was published in 2015 by Blue Nile Press. To see a list of Frederick’s publications go to: https://fkfoote.wordpress.com/

List of Poets

D.G. Geis

TO AN ADULTEROUS WIFE

There’s nothing I don’t remember.

The cat I put down—your cat—
because you didn’t have the heart
(or whatever else it takes)
to drive the animal to a vet.

Memory takes a turn here

but I see us on the roof
of a parking garage,
you bent over watching moonlight
drizzling on cars below,
me ramming you from behind,
skirt up, your thong pushed to the side
spotted with pearls of semen–

two married bumper cars
showering sparks on
uptown pedestrians.

Another turn

and I’m running with the pediatrician
from delivery to the nursery.
newborn in hand,
a blue ragdoll
praying for that tiny engine to turn over

and you on the table,
your uterus tossed to one side
like a jellyfish
beached just inches from the waves
and our son who was really
your son which I knew all along
and loving you both anyway
because it seemed the right thing to do
at the time,

“at the time” meaning
before you began fucking the man
you ran off with, the rich farmer in Illinois;
the one who made your come dreams true

and me wondering how the new guy took you
whether from behind or with the full weight
of his body plowing you like a freshly turned field
and whether you’d told him as you told me
on our first date,
what you always told men the first time you
fucked them–

“You don’t need to say my name.”

So let you be the nameless one
and let me be the one imagining
you, because imagining you
a bejeweled farm wife
is revenge enough–

even though, my love, even though
now and then, I still say your name,
reverently, softly,

just to twist the knife.

TO MY NEXT EX-WIFE

There is nothing
in the job description

to indicate the duties.
But sloppy sex and drinking

figure prominently
with outre behavior on my part

not to exceed
your generosity

or the bounds
of bohemian propriety.

FATHER’S DAY

This poem begins in a bar
and ends with a baby.

Like all romance,
there is drinking involved–

and a bartender with a
missing nose.

Regulars say a horse bit him
in the middle of a joke:

but I suspect that is the joke
itself.

To tell the truth, all I remember
is a stall in the women’s rest room.

And I never saw the horse.
But I did see an ass.

And that’s where your mother comes in.
I’ve always wondered about you;

what you look like
and which of us you favor.

Not remembering your mother
puts me at a disadvantage,

but rest assured, in my mind’s eye,
she was a goddess from behind.

I have an active imagination,
which makes up for a lot.

And having an imaginary child
is no big deal for a romantic.

So wherever you are,
whoever you are,

and more importantly,
if you are:

I hope things have
worked out well.

Every lie needs a father.

D.G. Geis lives in Houston, Texas. He has an undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Houston and a graduate degree in philosophy from California State University. His poetry has appeared in 491 Magazine, Lost Coast, Blue Bonnet Review, The Broadkill Review, A Quiet Courage, SoftBlow International Poetry Journal, Blinders, Burningword Literary Journal, Poetry Scotland (Open Mouse), Crosswinds, Scarlet Leaf, Sweet Tree, Atrocity Exhibition, Driftwood Press, Tamsen and Crack the Spine. He will be featured in a forthcoming Tupelo Press chapbook anthologizing 9 New Poets and is winner of Blue Bonnet Review’s Fall 2015 Poetry Contest. For more of D.G.’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Weasel Patterson

SHE HUNG HALF FULL ABOVE US

i remember fucking him in the back of a
taco cabana at three in the morning,
end of his shift, end of my meal,
our eyes told us all we needed to
know about each other, it’s funny
how much our eyes give our
souls away, tell the world we’re
broken inside when we want to
keep straight-faced and monotonous
because we can’t be broken in public

he wore cinnamon brown skin
tight around his bones, curly
hair hidden with uniform baseball
caps because tacos require solidarity
from the employees, we didn’t know
our names, we needed to be anonymous,
this was not something we could hold
onto, this was only carnal action,
no meaning to our touch, no
time standing still

our bodies were exposed to the
stars but we didn’t care, my hands
smoothed over him as i pushed him
over the garbage can, he closed his
eyes as we connected, little trombone
wailing from his teeth, he was not quiet

but how quiet is the moon when she
hangs half-full above us, promising
us that she’ll be full again, that it’s
only one bad day out of an entire year,
slowly dimming until nothing is left,
there’s supposed to be balance in our rebirth,
but we only get wobbly new steps and
stutters from letters leaving our
tongues, unable to communicate with
other folks that we’re sick, that we’re dying

our fingers locked underneath the angels
huddling around her half-empty body,
our moans paid no attention to her cries,
staring down the darkness of the
alleyway, our scars connected that
night, we got lost within each other,
strangers exorcising ourselves in the
warm houston winters

we have forgotten each other by now,
drifted with time, but there are
some nights when i still smell the grease

Weasel Patterson is a degenerate writer who received his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. He currently uses the scrap paper to fuel his two publishing imprints Weasel Press and Red Ferret Press.

List of Poets

Meg Tuite

WHEN DOES NO COME IN

words gnarled, prowling when mom left
the normal slicing of sound and meaning
rimmed furniture like delicate dust
in other rooms when YES
became the rustling of papers

mom articulated danger through limbs
quiver and shook,
two submissive words
no one could look in the face

lightning pooled through her
blocked her view of herself
when the doctor prescribed
electric shock therapy a series
strapped into a thesaurus
barren and ridiculous as a dry well

passive beauty compelled to whisper
words were narrow corridors
detours from the irritating thud
of bodies wind-bruising beds

mom asked for coffee,
not children
while she was away for six weeks
and language

no one could look it in the face

Meg Tuite is author of two short story collections, Bound By Blue (2013) Sententia Books and Domestic Apparition (2011) San Francisco Bay Press, and five chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Collaborative Poetry award from Artistically Declined Press for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging (2014) written with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale. She has been published in many anthologies, over 500 literary magazines and nominated nine times for the Pushcart Prize, and a finalist four times in Glimmer Train contests. She teaches at Santa Fe Community College, and is a columnist at Connotation Press and JMWW. Her blog: http://megtuite.com/

List of Poets

(Poems added January 16, 2016)

Miki Byrne

MAN IN THE GARDEN

You don’t see me watch you.
Cast my eyes in slow caresses
over your skin. Lay upon
that delicious thickness of wrist,
sinewed brown forearms.
A rolled back sleeve invites me,
offers a soft, elbow hollow,
rhythmic pulse of vein
that carries your heart’s blood.
I know how to make it quicken, pound,
snatch your breath.
The nape of your neck entices.
Warm space that accepts my lips
so easily.
Holds a tang of salt, ghost of plain soap.
I see the tender spot behind your ear.
Imagine your warm-skin fragrance,
a hint of the outdoors.
Subtle absorption of grass, herbs,
a brown sip of soil.
My tongue recalls that menu,
curls its bouquet back into my mouth.
I am spellbound by the textures of you; —
shadow of stubble, defining jaw line,
an artist’s last emphatic stroke.
Soft hair, eyelash curves half-mooning,
beneath eyes of lake-like depths.
They have mirrored me in lust, love, comfort.
An echo of remembrance tingles
in my fingertips. Moistens my lips.
Memory of the last time we touched,
anticipation of the next.

Miki Byrne has written three poetry collections and had work included in over 170 poetry magazines and anthologies. She has read on both Radio and TV, and was a finalist for Poet Laureate of Gloucestershire. She is active on the spoken word scene in Cheltenham and is a member of a number of poetry groups. She began performing her poems in a bikers club in Birmingham.

Miki is disabled and lives near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, UK.

List of Poets

James L. Craig

LAMENTATIONS OF SOORAYA
to my friend Imran Mouhiddin

It happened again.
I was called a terrorist.
If I hadn’t made it to my car,
who knows what would have happened.
It’s been years since the planes crashed,
yet people still fear us.
They need someone to blame.
They blame me.
They blame us.
They blame our people.
I miss you my love, and the children.
I struggle to hold my tears but I’m weakening.
I’ve lost everything I held dear, on that day.
Praying to Allah, I seek his guidance,
I often wonder if he’s listening.
If you were here you would tell me
not to speak of such things,
to know that he’s here.
But it hurts. Oh, how it hurts.
Sooraya, my dear sweet Sooraya,
I lost my whole world on that day,
and still, I am labeled a terrorist.
In the blink of an eye,
I lost my family, my faith,
and my reason to live.
I lost you.

James L. Craig is an author and poet from Mobile, Alabama. His work can be found at Less Than Three Press, Eunioa Review, and many other publications.

List of Poets

Monica Flegg

RIPTIDE

It was that summer of ’88
the August that we tempted fate.
Treading naked in the Madaket rip,
swimming toward each other’s grip.

Feeding desire until we ached
crawling beachward exhausted, faint.
Covered with sea moss, collapsing on shore,
resting for awhile, then wanting more.

We hungered further along that course
physical indulgence with no remorse.
The gluttony of that insatiable season
knew no bounds, knew no reason.

Our skins waned from fevered prowl
but it was love that fattened on that fowl.

Monica Flegg lives on Nantucket Island where she has taught creative writing and poetry. She walks dogs of various breeds, reads poetry of all creeds and generally has a lot of fun. Her writing has been published in numerous journals including: the Aurorean, Mothers Always Write, Postscripts and Unbroken.

List of Poets

Catfish McDaris

THE MAN WHO SLEPT WITH VERBAL HAND GRENADES UNDER HIS PILLOW

To fail to take battle to the enemy when your back is to the wall is to perish.
— Sun-Tzu, The Art of War

I was having a creative moment
at the typer when the phone
rang, Caller ID read MOD

Thinking great, a call from the
Mod Squad, Peggy Lipton was
sort of sexy and attractive

A woman’s voice said, “Hello
we are not asking for money
this year, but your generosity
in the past has led us to believe
that the March of Dimes can
count on you” I thought bullshit

“We would like you to mail ten
letters to your neighbors on S. 59th
spreading the word of our needs”

I said, “You have me at a bit of a
disadvantage, you know my name,
my address, my phone number and to
me you are only a voice on the phone

You say you work for Jerry Lewis’ kids,
but I don’t know your name, address,
age, description or marital status

But the bottom line is you want me to
do your job for you by extracting money
in a chain letter, Ponzi scheme from people
near where I live, I’d rather donate money”

“Will you send a check?” she asked

“If you can send me a film of you talking
sexy to me, while you are naked, playing
with yourself, I’ll think about contributing”

“You are one sick fuck, aren’t you?”

“You have no idea, baby, no idea”

The phone rang again, it was a Democrat.

THE CONFESSION

“Darling, it’s our anniversary & I got
you this gift” I handed her a purple
velvet jewelry box
She found a gold wrist chain inside
“I love it, dear” she smiled

“I have a confession to make”
“What’s that dear” the smile had vanished
“Well remember when we first got married
& I used to come home real hungry & glassy
eyed & I told you I smoked marijuana”

“Oh heavens, don’t tell me you’re smoking
that evil substance again”
“No darling, that’s not it”
“It’s not”

“No, I’ve decided to become gay”
“You want be gay”
“Yes darling, it’s the trendy thing
& I’m just not happy”

“Do you know you’ll have to have
sexual relationships with men”
“What in the hell are you talking about,
darling, what language”

“You’re the one wanting to be gay”
“No darling, I just want to change my
demeanor & be jolly & cheerful”

She shook her head & gazed at her new
bracelet & then into my dilated pupils.

Catfish McDaris’ work has recently been translated into French, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Mandarin, Bengali, Spanish, Yoruba, Tagalog, and Esperanto. His 25 years of published material is in the Special Archives Collection at Marquette Univ. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s listed in Wikipedia. His ancestors are from the Aniwaya Clan of the Cherokee Nation. He won the Thelonious Monk Award in 2015.

List of Poets

Linda O’Connell

MAPPING ECSTACY

Took a quick spin
around my lover’s back
like I was speed reading
Braille erotica.
Navigated without yielding,
five-fingered the dip
between his shoulders,
drag raced up and down his spine.
Spun into overdrive
when he flipped over.
Came to rest in a thicket.
Mapped every speck of terrain.
Exceeded the speed limit,
reached the summit,
broke every rule
of the unrighteous highway.

Ah, what a pleasure drive.
Sped up and home,
windshield wipers smearing
lies faster than falling rain.

Linda O’Connell is a two time recipient of the Metro Arts in Transit poetry award (each poem posted for one year on St. Louis, MO Metro buses and trains.) Her work appears in Mid River’s Review, Grist Literary Journal, Flashquake, Andwerve, Mochila Review, Well Versed, Lucidity Poetry Journal, Cantos, Storm Country, Lavenderia City Works Press, and more. She has more than 200 prose/poetry publishing credits.

List of Poets

J.K. Shawhan

AMERICAN HISTORY COURSE

In my notebook from Prague I engraved your name—something with a lot of hard stops then vowels my mouth just can’t form around as evenly as your lips. We met in an art museum in London, looking at an artist from America, actually. You tilted your head and moaned that you didn’t know how America felt. Standing where my ancestors left wasn’t enough for a true world traveler, so you traveled the young frontier with my body. When you kissed me you thought of the Roaring Twenties, American flapper with short hair, cigarettes and prohibition, the writers, American gangsters. When you touched my hand you held a pilgrim. Sailed your Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria right through me. You read the things I wrote in the journals you gave me, thought of Dickinson and Plath, maybe Whitman. O I did try to get the song of yourself, but to no avail! You were focus’d, fingering the song of the States, but it wasn’t unhard for me to be those States. While my tongue played in your mouth you dreamed a hula dance, you pressed against me to feel LA, NYC, Chicago. Big cities full of American girls like me. I couldn’t feel exotic because I was America and how exotic could America be? I didn’t feel sexy because spreading my legs, you only saw our wide, auto-centric roads with Toyota trucks and Hummers. You promised me Budapest but climbed Mount McKinley while you felt me up. A little smaller than you expected, only cause I didn’t drink much milk growing up.

It’s a stereotype—I’m from the Midwest and don’t know much geography. I’m sorry, I don’t know where you’re from. Sometimes I explored the terrain of your skin and it felt rough and confused. Your mother must’ve held you down and molded your statue out of old clay from the start, but ran out and needed metal and marble to finish you off. Maybe some fabric and a tree trunk—do they have decapitated tree trunks where you’re from? That’s silly, but your body is tough and jagged. Maybe you’re from someplace rough like the equator or Moscow. Maybe you were my globe and when you came I thought the Nile, but I don’t remember that. I remember you tasting me for my family’s old Kentucky whiskey and bourbon recipes. Getting drunk off your dirty little American girl. I was the American humanities, literature, history course, whatever schooling and travels and other girls you had lacked.

TRANSLATE LOVE TO ME

I need someone to tell me how
to fall in love, bend
at a wave massaging like fingers
up my back. If

I follow you home will
a furious case of you
attack my heart, my groin,

tongue? In Spanish
my last lover worshipped me
or cursed me. What

is Spanish for Give me more,
you little cunt?
Maybe
it was French. Romance languages.

What is French for Yes,
yes, bitch like that. Touch
me like that?

I know in English I could repeat
most of what he wanted me to. Agree
to a costume or position.

I love you, though, always came out
I like using you for sex
& meals & rides.

I worship you turned into I
have gotten used to your presence
there
. Lost in translation.

J.K. Shawhan studied business and writing at Illinois Central College and Bradley University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bradley University’s Broadside: Writers and Artists, in the University of California, Riverside’s Mosaic Art & Literary Journal, in Eunoia Review, in Wordgathering, and in Silver Birch Press’s My Sweet Words Series and their Me, In Fiction Series. J.K. is an editor and founder of The Basil O’ Flaherty, a literary arts website. The first issue will come out in March 2016. You can read her comedy blog http://funnyzombieblog.blogspot.com/ or follow her @JKShawhan or @bo-flaherty.

List of Poets

Stephanie Valente

GALAXY QUEST

when i dream, there are nebulas
pulsating underneath my tongue
none of it matters,
since half of myself lives behind
a macbook screen,
waiting for letters & cursors
& new message alerts:
my life is better than yours
my life is worse than yours
let’s make a mixtape
but with mp3s and i’ll
e-mail a note to say,
let’s get coffee sometime
& talk about the nebulas
that grow when we dream
& one dream will stay
there when i wake up,
a lost comet,
but i drink too many chai lattes
getting lost in the spice
& getting caffeinated stumbles
& type this e-mail to you
wondering if my nebula
could talk to your nebula
my skin flares hot
& i feel old
& i feel young
& I miss sneaking out
through a bedroom window
but, you couldn’t pay me to be 17
& my lips want to kiss you
but i write this email
& i ask you,
how can you tell
if it’s love or just a heart attack?

PISCES MOON

i dressed as a bride:
tight, white skin,
ready with water —
waiting for blood.

WE DON’T HAVE ANYONE ELSE, BUT WE HAVE SATURDAY NIGHT

reach out and grab:
this is my milk
this is my honey
this is my
end of the world plan
& i’m afraid
it’s already working.

Stephanie Valente lives in Brooklyn, New York. One day, she would like to be a silent
film star. Her chapbook Hotel Ghost debuted from Bottlecap Press. Her work has also appeared in Nano Fiction and LIES/ISLE. She can be found at http://www.stephanievalente.com /

List of Poets

Sally Zakariya

FRISCO HOTEL, 1974

How could we not steal it—a towel so thin
and skimpy its only plus was Odeon Hotel
embroidered bold in red

It was our first hotel room, it was heaven—
stained sink, soap sliver, thin-mattressed bed
windows eying the nearest bar

Through the transom we could hear
the distant toilet’s flush from down the hall
the telephone’s ring calling someone else

We’d come up from L.A. by Greyhound
new married, short of cash but longing
to begin our own collective life, and when
we lay together on that hard bed
it was better than all the befores
because it was our now
because it was our everything
because finally, now

WHAT I WOULD TELL THE FORTUNE TELLER

I believe in serendipity, the chance
conjunction of an improbable pair
the two you’d never think
would come together or if they did
you’d never think would stick

I believe in the fortune cookie fortune
the message in a bottle that brings
a sea-stained treasure map
the four-leaf clover that delivers
gold and glory

I believe in reading palms and cards
and stars and all the other tricks
soothsayers use to show us
what they say will come and yes
of course the crystal ball

But mostly I believe in chance—
in possibility—I put my faith
in happenstance, the fluke that brought
the two of us together and somehow
made it all come right

Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including Apeiron Review, Broadkill Review, Poetry Quarterly, Soundings Review, Emerge, Third Wednesday, and Evening Street Review and has won prizes from Poetry Virginia and Virginia Writers Club. She is the author of Insectomania (2013) and Arithmetic and other verses (2011) and the editor of Joys of the Table, an anthology of poems about food and eating. Zakariya lives in Arlington, Virginia, and blogs at http://www. butdoesitrhyme.com /

List of Poets

(Below is the original post from January 9, 2015)

Heather Altfeld

HORSE GIRL

I never understood
why she drew the chiseled lines of their loins
over and over on the paper covers of math books,
while mine were littered with puffy clouds
and poems penned for Chachi. What was it about
the dream of grooming the immense ass of an animal
large enough to lay crap the size of opossums
that made her endlessly starry-eyed in class,
designing Pegasus dot-to-dots
on her Pee Chee?

I did not long to jockey around
with my legs spread hard
over the great girth of leather
or rake hay in a stable
full of sweaty equestrian breath.
What was it that compelled her
to attend horse camp each summer,
riding around on the back of a beast
who bucked her off the year before,
hovering his ginormous equine balls over her
for one long moment before piercing her femur
with his great hoof

rendering her six months in a body cast
signed by all of her horsey friends
who drew little lassos and unicorns
and wrote “you’ll be back
in the saddle by Spring Break”
leaving her to scratch
fledgling pubic hairs beneath the plaster
with the metal tip of a coat-hanger.

I’d give her this; there is nothing
more graceful than the shape of a white horse
in a silent meadow—
Until he begins to grunt and whinny,
edging against the ground
with preternatural heat,
opening his enormous eye
in my direction. And I admit

that nothing is more appealing
than the idea of cantering off into the sunset
with something pressed against my fiddle
besides a drunken boy from the saloon—

so how can I really stand in judgment
against her high, horsey laugh,
knowing that she is not alone in bed tonight;

somewhere in a sprawling ranch house,
tack hung in the two-car garage,
that filly is straddling the slim saddle
of her husband’s torso with practice,
and with care, parting his mane
and currying the fine grain
of his skin until they each fall
into a standing, fitful sleep.

Heather Altfeld’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Narrative Magazine, TLR, Okey-Panky, Cimarron Review, Pleiades, ZYZZYVA, Poetry Northwest, Superstition Review, and others. Heather is the 2015 recipient of the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry from The Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry. Her first book, The Disappearing Theatre is forthcoming Summer 2015 with Poets at Work Press. She lives, writes, and teaches in Chico, California, and is finishing a second collection as well as a book for children.

List of Poets

Scott Blackwell

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

Hey baby, good to see you again! We should do this
every 20 years.
How do you look? Oh gorgeous, darling.
Would you like another Old Style?
Of course the outfit, I mean
the camo T-shirt, black miniskirt and pink stiletto heels
probably all seemed like a good idea at the time,
in the fitting room at Wal-Mart,
but somehow between there and here I think
something got lost in the translation.

Just as I suppose it did
whenever and wherever you decided
to get the tattoo on your ass that reads Your Name Here.
I begged you not to show it to me
in the middle of the bar,
but with your skirt already up, how could I refuse?

All of it might have worked when you were say, 20,
but we’re not so young anymore, are we?
And darling,
you shouldn’t hold a grudge against that cop
for rousting you for prostitution.
Yes, I know,
we were only standing outside together
smoking your favorite cigarette, Kool menthols . . .
look, sometimes everyone makes a mistake,
even the police.
But being dressed like that, what can I say,
it is January after all.

Well yeah, it is amazing, bumping into you like this
after all these years, what a fluke!
Just imagine, if I hadn’t had that flat tire
outside the Red Neck, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Bar,
then went inside to wait for a tow truck,
we might never have been reunited.
Think of the luck.

And when I opened the door
and looked straight at you sitting on that bar stool,
I never IN A MILLION YEARS would have recognized you,
especially with that guy’s finger in your mouth.
But when our eyes locked
and you spat your gum into your beer
and started jumping up and down, screaming my name,
I remembered.

I’m sorry . . . what? Do I still . . . think about you?
Am I still upset about you fucking who I thought at the time
was my best friend, then my second best?
No darling, got over those long ago, especially
after considering all the additional time I would have spent with you
when NOT having sex.

Do I—what?—still care for you? Jest a little?
Oh yeah—I do—I really, really . . .
I would do anything for you darling,
and anything right now to get rid of you . . .
would follow you anywhere lover,
to the ends of the Earth
or at least to the front door of my house
before I lock it.

And if you decided to come back to me, baby,
this very day,
and I ever caught you fooling around
with another guy
(like I just did in the Men’s Room a few minutes ago)
I would personally, and I mean personally
shake that man’s hand
(while subsequently washing mine with antibacterial soap)

and wish him the very, very best of luck,
because whoever he might be, God knows,
he is going to need it.

Scott Blackwell is a former resident of San Francisco and an MFA graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee and has most recently had poetry published in Ascent Aspirations, The Stray Branch, The Interpreter’s House, Main Street Rag, Floyd County Moonshine, Nerve Cowboy and Tribeca Poetry Review.
He currently resides in Champaign, Illinois.

List of Poets

Jota Boombaba

A GIRL IN VENICE
—April 1980

Flocks of pigeons, people in a plaza
camera shutters snapping souvenirs

You step into my long-lens view
focused face, heap of hair

Then Ciao, Arrivederci…
gone before I lift my eyes

Back home, I pin your sudden grin
to boarded cork above my bed

Tell friends the story of your glance
watch them bend with envy at your smile

Today, on streets in San Francisco
I searched for eyes to dance with mine

Tonight, alone, our momentary spring
blossoms on my tablet screen

RED BANDANA
—Ionian Sea, 1980

Starts at a stoop, a souvenir stand
red bandana falls to the floor
one lost part of me reaches for another
an ancient ferry crossing mythic seas

I sleep out on deck, me and the rain
cuddled up with Mary Beth—more, more, more
icy pellets nip us as we dream
we hold on tight to a red bandana

A photo of her fingers journal jotting
sun-white pages, jeans and flip-flop feet
that red bandana at the postcard rack
her Texas Sally sidekick stamping beats

I should have left them alone to graze
to follow their maps to convents, cathedrals
that red bandana could’ve fallen all night
cuddled up with Mary Beth—more, more, more

Jota Boombaba, when not on the road, writes in and around San Francisco, where he lives and kicks back with his son. Catch him most days at jotaboombaba.com.

List of Poets

Jacquelyn Grant Brown

SHATTERED

like silence each time he
comes home again—
slams a fist into my face
again, sends my whole
body crashing
again—again. I say
nothing. Weak,
I turn and look
toward twilight,
Andromeda
wasting tears
over the half-moon—
black jewelry on my cheek.

Jacquelyn Grant Brown is a writer/poet and a long-time employee and graduate of Louisiana State University where she received a BA in English. She is a recent graduate of the Solstice Low Residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College where she earned a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. You can find some of her work in African American Review and Pink Panther Magazine. She currently resides in south Louisiana. For more of Jacquelyn’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Giuseppi Martino Buonaiuto

“YES I WILL FUCK YOU, JUST ASK.”

When a woman says she likes
the man to take the initiative,
What she is really saying is:
“Yes, I will fuck you, just ask.”
As I write these words,
I rent The Eugene O’Neill Theater,
located between Broadway & 8th Ave,
on West 49th Street,
no shabby venue, I might add.
Then I stage & cast the play,
choosing for the role of me,
myself: Queequeg.
Ishmael’s Crypto-Gay,
New Bedford, Mass bedmate,
a large, well-toned,
muscled man of much ink & few words,
just short pigeon-English phrases,
utterances such as: “I likee.”
That’s right, playing me is
Melville’s freaky, tattooed,
Polynesian harpooner,
right out of Moby Dick.
And should the sexual imagery &
metaphor of me—yours truly
packing a harpoon in my trousers,
prove a trifle too scrumptiously
potent for you, consider please the
erotic potential of a three-way with
Chingachgook.

Giuseppi Martino Buonaiuto is a former commissioned officer and veteran; employed later by one of the more obscure government clandestine services. He holds numerous graduate degrees including a Masters from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is retired, splitting his time between two gated over-55 lunatic asylums, one in northern New Mexico and the other in southern California. He was born and raised in Brooklyn. His two children know him by another name. To read other work by Mr. Buonaiuto go here.

List of Poets

James Cagney

(A KIND OF WRESTLING INTO A JACKET OF WATER)

a kind of wrestling into a jacket of water
(this… this…)

then stops, / cold. / my hands empty
of any point. the truth is I want to embrace

for the sake of embracing. this truth becomes hard
to reconcile when we confuse our thoughts

with the insistent orchid of our tongues.
your remote control of nipples

a needle threading us through hours.
i’m immobilized by the unique gravity of our

combined appetites. your crisp tongue teasing
my mouth like stick to cymbal. your temporary

tattoo of lipstick defines me. in our flesh
colored room, your laugh launches off the walls

like shattering bottles. any thing daring
to contain us will have to be rebuilt.

cranes grow erect to the wet dreams of architects.
in the crumbling lobby of our building

the lone construction worker smiles
like a child high on cake. he says:

anything broken, whether bone or debris,
becomes a mineral forest beneath the hammock

of the sun. my heart quivering gelatin in your hands.
All praise the musk of stockings peeled after a humid rain

SEEDS

when you told her shut up and kiss me i just laughed
i knew where this was going after that nasty
licking each other on the mouth     and she
should have, too     i turned my head, drew daisies
in the steam growing on the windows and whispered
that song– you know it. This is the end
andandand how this is like living a bad
fairy tale where no one was going to save us
but you
we’re good as dead. in the window steam
i wrote: The Boy Who Was Afraid To Love
then counted off opportunities you threw
away: The Big Country Girl eating
Oreos in the kitchen while you
wept prayers to your fresh dead foster mother.
The Mexican Girl with the tattoo who
showered and stripped and let you see it
touching you making you curl up and roll away.
Just threw them away like, i don’t know, seeds.
Ain’t that bad throwing away something that can grow?
And ain’t that hard to do?     What did you see
when you pulled away from her? I saw a look
in her eyes like someone who could eat and never
stop. But once you got out of the car it was over.
Right then. No more anything. I hung my head
already regretting the long cold nights
of a winter we’d never stop shivering.
Who to blame for the decisions you made for us?
Who you think hates you more than you do yourself?
Why all your problems as a man hang off
a momma who didn’t want you as a child?
What difference do that make to us now?
We stood together waiting on the train.
She drove into nothingness. I watched stars fall
from the eyes of the moon & wished mercy
for you, me and all the women who took on
the ridiculous burden of loving you.

Cave Canem fellow and VONA alum James Cagney is a practicing poet and
writer from Oakland. He has appeared as a featured poet and artist in
San Francisco, Vancouver, Chicago and Mumbai. His poems have appeared
in Print Oriented Bastards, Tandem, Eleven Eleven, and Ambush Review.
James has co-taught a poetry workshop at the San Francisco Public
Library. His current chapbook is entitled Dirty Thunderstorm.

List of Poets

Wendy Taylor Carlisle

FERROUS

The ferrous taste in my mouth heightens your attraction
as do the soft blue welts that bloom and unfurl

like phlox on my upper arms. You are only superficial
on the surface. Once I know this I am crazy

for you. I bite the inside of my cheek.  It bleeds like the skin
of any lie you tell me, slick with that jam.

When I eradicate sheen, give up toys like touch
and the sins: jealousy & rust, I long for carnage

and an armpit with some sweat in it.
I will pay and be paid for. After you, I will slip

from the hearth burned, brightened, hardened.

Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is a ten time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and the author of two books, Reading Berryman to the Dog and Discount Fireworks (both Jacaranda Books). Her most recent chapbook is Persephone on the Metro, (MadHat Press, 2014.) For more information, check her website at www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com.To read more of Wendy’s work go here.

List of Poets

Jenifer DeBellis

LEGACY

The woodchipper welcomes you, takes you
into its mouth as a lover does who’s
waited too long for the other’s return.
Your fall is poised, your eyes repentant.
The ash limb you dive from trembles
as all but your boots pass through the chipper.
“Kill it!” someone yells. “Kill the power.”
I forget how to pray, how to say
the right things in the proper order.
I should be the one flipping my red cap
as I meet my death. Our son shudders
when the air grows calm and I do not

remember to keep breathing. I don’t know
what I will tell him when he is born.

BENEATH THE SURFACE

A cluster of anxious faces watches us from the adjacent viaduct,
their expressions divided between concern & contempt. I can’t tell
them she & I have been here before, that we balance on the bridge’s edge—
just a twofold silhouette, waiting for life’s meaning (or anything

worth caring about). I used to be a park fixture focused on blending
into the Junegrass—until she bothered to stop instead of pass me by,
that is. Her cinnamon breath pressed the hairs along the back of my neck
when she bent near my ear. Eyes of verdigris, she whispered

with conviction. How natural it felt to sell my soul for a juicy piece
of chewed gum & a Camel Light.

Our future is vivid from here              It stretches—
filtered light glints through a canopy of balsam poplar & hackberries.
From here things are most clear when the leaves are stirred awake
with a force similar to a restless lover’s who has hit the snooze for you

too many times. We’ve hiked the paths in this dense place, various
trails visible from our fixed spot on the ledge. Threads that vein
hopscotched footpath patterns weave this mysterious space
into a topographer’s dreamscape, & supply our shared place
of escape.

Mockingbirds copy the flat, nasal drill & trip of the nearby song
sparrows. Her fingers graze my wrist before she steps from the ledge.

Her fall is graceful,
like a pianist whose fingers stroke a dozen keys in rapid succession,
sustaining a full, broad chord before the vibrations are brought
to an abrupt stop. She never once opens her eyes, not in regret,

apology, or to offer me one last goodbye. As the loose folds of her
dress beat against the breeze, I realize this is how it must be
for a vacuous stream when the earth refuses to open the windows
you’ve sealed shut. When her body hits the riverbed, the cacophony

of calcium grating against limestone rouses the nearby ravens. Ravenous
fiends! That they should dare claim as theirs what is no longer mine.

BROKEN PROMISES

I. He promised to stop looking at porn
the morning he saw naked photos
of his mother on his favorite site.

But sex with his wife had grown
awkward over the past few years.
He needed the porn to get off.

The new sites worked for a while,
until each set of C-cup breasts
& shaved lips looked like his mother’s.

II. He promised to wear protection
the next time he saw the prostitute
who hung out in front of his shop.

Nice kid. He gave her extra cash
for her toddler. Said the boy reminded
him of his son who died the year before.

III. He promised not to fool around anymore,
that this past time she caught him
was the last. She got pregnant again.

He started staying later on the job
site again. They stayed together
to raise the kids. The youngest one

graduated this spring. They’re still
living in the house they can’t sell,
driving cars with two years left

on the lease, both seeing other people.

Metro Detroit writer Jenifer DeBellis is Pink Panther Magazine’s Executive Editor and a Solstice Lit Mag eBook editor and poetry reader. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Solstice of Pine Manor College and is a former writer-in-residence for the Meadow Brook Writing Project. JDB teaches creative and academic writing and is a workshop facilitator for Oakland University’s Meadow Brook Writing Camps. Her work appears in publications such as the Aurorean, AWP’s Festival Writer, the Good Men Project, Literary Orphans, Sliver of Stone, and Solstice Literary Magazine.

List of Poets

Sandra L. Faulkner

I EXPLAIN THINGS TO MEN

The reporter needs a line
so like a good daughter of Athena
I muse a metaphor about sexism 101:
beauty pageants are like dog shows

though my mutt of a dog
with mats of tangled hair
and farts that cloud a room
can never be your pretty;

she whines with abandon
guards the bacon pan,
and growls with loud intent
at the kitchen appliances.

Whistled at for her hind
and quarters, she preens
and licks (in)appropriate parts
by the open window,

will never win this contest
with a smile like a lithe poodle
and knock-out breath, she’s
not all small and tamed quiet.

Sandra L. Faulkner is Director of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at BGSU. Her poetry appears in places such as Gravel, Literary Mama, and damselfly. She authored three chapbooks, Hello Kitty Goes to College (dancing girl press, 2012), Knit Four, Make One (Kattywompus, 2015), and Postkarten aus Deutschland (liminalities.net). Sense published her memoir in poetry, Knit Four, Frog One (2014), and a co-authored book on Writing the Personal (forthcoming). She lives in NW Ohio with her partner, their warrior girl, and a rescue mutt. For more of Sandra’s work, go here.

List of Poets

James Fowler

Morning

I step through the door
into the kitchen,
and there she stands,
at the counter,
her back to me.
She waits for the toaster
to heat her English muffins.

The sun flares
through the window
with a light so intense,
all I see is the spark
of her smile as she turns
and I forget why I came
to the kitchen.

James Fowler lives in Charlestown, NH, and has over two-hundred fifty poems published in various journals and anthologies. He edited the poetry anthology Heartbeat of New England (Tiger Moon Publication, 2000). Finishing Line Press published a chapbook of his Japanese forms, Connections to This World, in March, 2012. A book of his Japanese forms, Falling Ashes, was volume VII in Hobblebush Press’s Granite State Poets series. For more of Jim’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Adele Fraser

AMBIGUITY

You search for him in bars.
You seek him in personal ads.
You’re business-like about it.
You have no time to waste on games,
see no point in politely prolonging
tedious preambles. You prefer to cut
to the chase.

Each one you find turns out eventually
not to be him, but always someone else,
someone who wants things you do not have
and lacks the things you need.

You give up in the end. Step off the roller coaster,
find your feet, and start walking
as far from sunsets as your legs will carry you.

You find her (or, rather, she finds you) by accident
and somewhat late. You tell her that you’re straight
and that you think she’s brave to engage with you,
as all you can offer her is everything and nothing.

She hasn’t a clue what you mean by the phrase,
and, truth be told, neither have you,
but it sounds good, has a certain elegance
and strikes an appropriately literary note
of eloquent regret.

And yet…

Seven years later, she sits smiling,
and writes this poem,
feeling that you should have guessed
that everything and nothing
was exactly what she wanted.

IMAGINING ALICE IN WELLINGTONS

I was reading an article the other day,
in which the author did that oh-so-infuriating
come-into-my-clique
first person plural crap.

You know what I mean.
Like that thing they do on adverts, when we can’t
stop ourselves from screaming at the TV
‘Speak for your sodding self!’

(Or maybe that’s just me. Sorry.)

Anyway, this person was saying
how we all know there’s nothing less sexy
than wellies. And I thought
‘You have got to be having me on!’

I can only assume that they meant to say ‘more’ –
there’s nothing more sexy than wellies.

Especially thigh high ones on small women.

So, inevitably, I start imagining Alice in wellingtons
and find myself coming over rather faint.

I don’t know what it is about them.
They have that good kind of outdoorsy vibe going on.
And, when I say the good kind, I mean the British kind,
grey, wet, what the soulless call ‘miserable’
and the rest of us ‘romantic’ and ‘restful’.

(Shit, I did it again, didn’t I? Sorry again.)

Anyway, I think wellies and I think power.
Real power. Not stand-on-the-tips-of-your-toes-and-look-expensive
kind of power, but the kind of power that can disrupt the earth
and make things grow, the kind of power that knows how to
make even the most obstinate of beasts go where they’re led
with little more than a soft word. That kind of power.

And there’s something about small women in high boots
of any kind. Same goes for long coats. Something about it
that says presence. That says nothing-can-eclipse-me.

And, it has to be said, my Alice is at her best
when she dominates things that could drown her:
a trench coat, anxiety, the world.

SHE SAYS IT’S DIFFERENT

She says it’s different
with women.

She says she knows
how my mind works,
how my body feels.

She says she sees how they hurt me,
and claims to be adept
at avoiding the slopes
which lead to accidents.

She speaks of vicious cycles
like they’re programmes
on a washing machine
and every bit as easy to reset.

For half of a half of a moment,
I almost sort of nearly waver
and allow myself to be lulled
into believing I could possibly
try again, that perhaps
the boulder might
not roll this time, and that maybe
I’m no longer quite
so scared by the prospect
of being flattened beneath it.

Then she asks. It. The trip-switch question.
‘How will you know until you try it?’

And the drawbridge clenches
like teeth, trapping my phlegm
and forcing me to swallow it.

‘My point exactly’ I reply.

Adele Fraser is from the UK, where she lives and writes high in the Welsh mountains (geographically speaking). Although in the early months of her career, she has already been published by a number of magazines.

List of Poets

Karie Fugett

POL·Y·AM·O·RY
ˌpälēˈamərē/

Every good girl knows to seek
her soulmate; her one soulmate;
her one love; the last person she’ll fuck
for the rest of her life.
So when a girl falls
in love with the way Jackson
from photography class dips
his photo paper into developer
and tingles every time Veronica, who volunteers
at Goodwill, stretches into sun pose
when she thinks no one is looking,
she is confused because she wants them both.
She wonders, Am I still a good girl?
When she meets Jackson and Veronica
for pizza, they all laugh in unison:
Jackson is clumsy and knocks
over the pepper flakes. Veronica touches
Jackson’s arm as she reaches under
the table to pick it up.
The girl imagines having two soulmates;
decides she will never be a good girl;
thinks, Fuck it.

RIPE

I stand under the arms
of a pear tree
looking up at the biggest
piece of golden
fruit. The grass, curved
with morning dew,
reaches above my ankles,
the fruit swelling
with ripeness above.
I notice the light
reflecting from the faces
of the tree’s clattering
leaves, illuminating
each blade of grass below
as sun-fingers take turns
flicking me through the branches.
I reach up.
Grasp the bulbous fruit.
Pull.
Pull again, pressing
it into my stomach,
the branch straining – the fruit
hard and fierce.
I feel the fibers
break, the pear twisting
from its bough
until, finally, it snaps,
the leaves catching
my black hair as they release
toward the sky.
I hold the prize
to my cheek,
savoring the cool
of its smooth skin.
I put its flesh
to my famished lips
and bite. The juice
drips sticky down my chin.

Karie Fugett is a co-founder of Random Sample Review. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Hermeneutic Chaos, Cosmonauts Avenue, Eunoia Review, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter:@kariewrites

List of Poets

Natasha Garrett

RING

When I lost my wedding ring,
I took issue with the verb “to lose.”
Its implied intent mocked me–
As if I were an active participant.
The noun “loser” quietly ridiculed me
–a loser of rings–
the name-calling was getting personal.

This was how
people who have affairs felt,
minus the thrill—just the guilt.
I wallowed in my faux infidelity,
revisited imaginary motel rooms,
(long abandoned by my phantom lover).
There it was, my shiny ring,
a clean circle on a dusty dresser.

My husband, always the pragmatist,
in an epic act of solidarity,
Lost his own ring while swimming
rendering us
equal again.

Natasha Garrett writes poetry and personal essays, and occasionally translates. Originally from Macedonia, she lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and works at La Roche College. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Mothers Always Write, Transnational Literature, Arts and Letters and Christian Century.

List of Poets

Ed Gold

ABLUDE

Copesmate, belly friend,
I am crisple tonight
with babies in the eyes.

Come quaggle with me
in the walming
under the blenched sky-parlor.

Bring your kissing crust
and bouffage brustle, and
I will bring my hink-heart spoon.

All I want to do is
snoozle your pulpatoons,
and prangle your pundle purfle.

You can nuddle my murfle murlimews
until the rush-ring dretches
in the half marrow.

We will share the taste
of cloves and oranges
in the afterclap.

EYE TO EYE

blink twice
if you love me
but have been afraid to say

blink twice
if you are carrying
a concealed weapon

blink twice
if the red X of the sniper
has found us

blink twice
if doctors put tiny cameras
in your brain while you slept

blink twice
if the lord put the fossils in the ground
to test your faith

blink twice
if you are reading this poem
against your will

blink twice
if you want me
to rescue you

Ed Gold has a chapbook, Owl, and poems in the New York Quarterly, Kakalak, Kansas Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Cyclamens and Swords, Poet Lore, Gargoyle, and many others. In Spring 2015, Ed won the Kinloch Rivers Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of South Carolina. He is a grateful member of the Long Table Poets. Ed lives in Charleston with his wife, Amy Robinson.

List of Poets

F. I. Goldhaber

GENDER BLENDING FASHION

Those who identify as #GenderQueer
do not let others define our wardrobes.

Men’s sports shirt with cloisonné necklace and
matching earrings? Sounds sweetly alluring.

Men’s button down shirt with pearls? Just perfect.
Let’s add a pleated skirt and combat boots.

Butch haircut with glittery makeup and
dangly earrings? Just put on a binder.

Men’s purple shorts with pink, strappy, sexy
sandals? Just what the evening calls for.

Formal gown, stage makeup, full beard? Add a
stunning voice and you’ve a grand prize winner.

BARRIERS

You question the caution with
which I allow you to approach.
I have learned from the past.

You protest my base expectations,
“I’ll treat you differently.”
I keep my walls up.

You make promises, swear fealty,
beg the opportunity to prove me wrong.
You lie, even to yourself.

“Do not judge me by others,” you cry.
“Give me a chance,” you beg.
You do not exceed my expectations.

As a reporter, editor, business writer, and marketing communications consultant, F.I. Goldhaber produced news stories, feature articles, essays, editorial columns, and reviews for newspapers, corporations, governments, and non-profits in five states. Now, her poems, short stories, novelettes, essays, and reviews appear in paper, electronic, and audio magazines, ezines, newspapers, calendars, and anthologies. In addition to paper, electronic, and audio publications, F.I. shares her words at events in Portland, Seattle, Salem, Keizer and on the radio. She appeared at venues such as Wordstock, Oregon Literary Review, galleries, coffee shops, bars, bookstores, libraries, and community colleges. http://www.goldhaber.net/

List of Poets

Patricia L. Goodman

POISON
after Jan Beatty

I carry a secret pouch of cyanide pellets/I poison the teen who lured my nine-year-old innocence into the foyer of the local candy store on Sunday/shoved my hand down his pants/made me squeeze his erection/I poison the sophomore geek who made snide remarks about my poetry because I was an old white woman/I poison the long-haired guitar player who strung me along until I refused to sleep with him/dumped me on my rear/even in a sheltered life of innocence/enough offenders/so I poison the sixteen-year-old who pulled me into the woods at fifteen/smeared my mouth with saliva before I knew what had happened/I/ too embarrassed to tell my father when he asked if he was being fresh/upset I would never be able to claim sweet sixteen and never been kissed/I poison the man in the train station in Toronto who screamed I want that little girl/while my mother clutched me in panic/until the police came/hauled him away/I’m on a roll now/I poison the grunge in Spanish class who ridiculed me because I answered all the teacher’s questions/one of my husband’s best friends who wanted to meet in a motel/a colleague whose boozed eyes ogled my cleavage when I was pregnant/I poison the father of a patient who announced too loudly that he wanted to get in my pants/I poison all the men who wanted me for my face/my body/without noticing I had a brain/I poison all the boys in high school for being afraid to date me because I was too smart/too pretty/too distant/I see the reasons now/my terror of body/of feelings/of sex/so I poison the Victorian morals that made me think all physical intimacy bad until after marriage/when it was too late/cripples me even today/because poison within rebounds/like cyanide on my own tongue.

Patricia L. Goodman is a widowed mother and grandmother, a graduate of Wells College with a degree in Biology and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Her career involved breeding and training horses with her orthodontist husband on their farm in Chadds Ford, PA. She has had poems published in the likes of Aries, The Broadkill Review, Sugar Mule, Requiem Magazine, Jellyfish Whispers, Fox Chase Review; Mistletoe Madness , Storm Cycle, Poised in Flight (all from Kind of a Hurricane Press)On Our Own (Silver Boomer Books) and The Widow’s Handbook. Her first book, Closer to the Ground was a finalist in the 2014 Dogfish Head Poetry Competition and she has twice won the Delaware Press Association Communications Award in poetry. She lives on the banks of the Red Clay Creek in Delaware, where she is surrounded by the natural world she loves. For more of Patricia’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Brit Graham

SIREN SONG
After Kim Addonizio’s “Mermaid Song”

Man-made gills,
razored into
existence by spade-shaped
fingers, callous
and jagged. Nails part
skin, like the sea.
Perhaps now she can breathe
while he holds her under.

For now Brit Graham traverses the tundra that is South Dakota, tripping over things while stargazing in the all too brief summer months. She is the crux of an ongoing love affair between the Pacific and Atlantic. She managed to pry an M.F.A. in Poetry from the grasp of Converse College. You can read her poetry things in publications like Devilfish Review, The Night Owl, RealSouth Magazine, and The OWL.

List of Poets

John Grey

HOW YOU FIND ME

I must be in this room for a reason.
And it wasn’t to sit in the particular
chair I’m sitting in or turn on the
lamp or open the book that happened
to be on the end table to a random
page that, as I read, tried to convince
me it was a particular page.

You followed me in like
you wanted something from me.
I looked at you like the interruption
you were, like everything that
happened to me was an interruption,
even the stuff I did myself,
like entering this room at this time,
and plunking myself into this chair,
and reading the book that insists
on being the only book like you insist on having
been there fifteen years ago in the upper
east side restaurant with the candles lit
and meal about to arrive and the nervous man
opposite struggling to get that proposal out.

You won’t get up to leave.
You have to hear what he timidly whispers
to you over and over and over.
And, every moment since then,
you still won’t get up to leave.
Time’s like this chain you won’t let break.
Or it’s a long drawn out puzzle with
only one answer…me entering this room,
sitting down, reaching for the book,
opening it, reading on from
where it’s so certain I left off.

A KIND OF EVOLUTION

Instead of a kiss goodnight,
a boy nervously handed her a slip of paper,
then turned on his heels
and never looked back
as he walked all the way home.

It was a poem
that she read apprehensively
by bedside lamp,
over and over.

Was this really the boy who
took me out to Taco Bell
and then a Spiderman movie,
she wondered.
And does he really see me
as the lovely unassailable goddess
of his flowery language,
his pitiable self-immolating voice.
She did settle on one conclusion though.
She was in love with him.

All the next day,
she kept recalling the awkward fumbling boy,
tried to reconcile him with
the unabashed romantic of the verse.
Chicken burritos and skin like silk.
Super-villains and lips like rose petals.
There was a connection.
She couldn’t quite grasp it.

But now she’s with some other guy.
He doesn’t hesitate when it comes to getting physical.
His tongue gets into her mouth like an implant.
His hands are just on the tender side of rough
as they unbutton her dress.

But there are no extravagant speeches to embellish the heavy petting,
no indication that libido once launched could ever pass for romance.
She once lost her heart to words on a page.
Now she must make do with a different kind of groping.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Steam Ticket, Tulane Review, and Kerf with work upcoming in Abbey, Common Ground Review, In/Words, and Ship of Fools.

List of Poets

Cordelia Hanemann

FOXFIRE

Heat swells the day to glassy haze;
hot sparks fly off our angry words
igniting tiny fires that smolder
in the silence of the dark
drive home. While overhead,
unseen gases roil the graying sky
—surprise aurora borealis—
a snarl of emerald-crimson mists
in a boil of garnet stars. Below,
stark rays of headlights arc across
the asphalt, darkening woods beyond.

Out of this night, a sudden wink of light,
then two, then four: four frozen jewels,
golden green, flash back at us. We brake
—two tiny spell-bound foxes stare—
one anxious vixen in a darkened
ditch, yaps insistent panic at
her two young pups, craving magic lights,
pulled once to Mother’s call, then lured
to our bright beams—a pretty dance—
until, at last, we douse our fires,
letting urgent Mom prevail.

So. We are left alone in quiet dark
to note, at last, the greater lights above.

A native of Southwest Louisiana, but the daughter of an army officer and diplomat, Cordelia Hanemann has lived in Japan and London as well as in the US. She earned a PhD from LSU with a dissertation on the language of contemporary poetry and developed a career as a professor of literature at Campbell University. She has published a chapbook, Through a Glass Darkly, and her work has appeared in such publications as The Southwest Review, Louisiana Studies and Mainstream Rag. In addition, she has published poetry in two anthologies: the sound of poets cooking and Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference Poetry Chap Book. She is also a botanical illustrator and watercolorist. She now resides in Raleigh, North Carolina where she is active in literary and artistic circles. She is currently working on a novel about her roots in Cajun Louisiana while she continue to write poetry and paint.

List of Poets

Lois Marie Harrod

NO ACCOUNTING

The woman you’ve met for years at these conferences,
older now, forties, fifties, maybe sixty,
no longer slim or particularly attractive

a coif that thins the hair against her neck and brittles its red,
and you know she is thinking the same of you, not so young,
forehead frocked in age spots, needs to lose some weight

but put appearance aside, you’ve always enjoyed talking to her,
the way she is telling you now how she felt when her first husband left,
that horror with earthworm breath and hard-nailed toes,

the squamous nerd with his demands for bologna sandwiches,
his criticisms of her teeth, her clothes (which are,
you would agree, dowdy by any standard, even your mom’s)

and now she is recounting how after the divorce she flirted
with the man who became her second husband,
saw to it that he left that first wife who didn’t appreciate him,

and he seems so stodgy sitting beside you as she goes on and on,
you wonder what she saw in him thirty years ago,
an arthritic hung up on his Ray Bub ceramic teapots,

though it’s true she might see your own man in a similar way,
a bald aficionado of Budapest noir mysteries.
Of course, you do understand what it was about your former son-in-law

that led that young radiologist to seduce him, not his dreariness
but readiness being all, and you think immediately of your daughter.
You want to ask your conference friend

if she ever wondered about the ex-wife,
her probable pain and, yes, terror, but you don’t,
you know she hasn’t, this is her story not yours—

and when she begins telling of the 100 cans of mashed pumpkin
she and her inexplicable choice buy every Thanksgiving
to pass on to the food bank and how people in the Kroger line

always ask them what will they do with all those pies
and he launches into his annual responses (You should see the turkey.
Our relatives are coming and half of them are vegetarians.

We love pumpkin paté with graham crackers and celery. It’s for sex
and this is the only time of the year Libby’s is on sale),
you begin to see what may have attracted her.

Lois Marie Harrod’s 13th and 14th poetry collections Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth) appeared in 2013. Her poems and stories have appeared in journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. Read more on http://www.loismarieharrod.org/

List of Poets

Robin Helweg-Larsen

OBSCENE DREAM

Between her knees
He suddenly sneezed
Where he should have shoved his horn;
Pregnant she got
From that cuntful of snot –
And that’s how the Monster was born!

So go on the Pill
If you’re feeling ill,
An aspirin brings relief;
When you start to sniff,
Use a condom, if
You haven’t a handkerchief.

HAPPY LOVE

Midnight making moonscapes of you on my mattress
I bounce across you in shadows and one-sixth gravity—
One-sixth gravity, and five-sixths levity.

Robin Helweg-Larsen is a British-born, Caribbean-raised, formerly Danish immigrant to Canada who has been living in Chapel Hill, NC, since 1991. His poetry has mostly been published in the UK – Ambit, Snakeskin and Candelabrum – but also in 14 by 14, The Lyric, Unsplendid, Visions International, The Hypertexts, the Phoenix Rising sonnet anthology, etc. In his other life he is a business owner. For more of Robin’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Marianna Hofer

LOVE AND DEVOTIONS FALL TO RUINS IN YOUR HANDS

You say you fear I’ll change my mind
And I won’t require you.
–“Never My Love”
The Association

Fall, or maybe spring. Either way
a start, an end. Let’s say fall, that
dying season where in the Midwest
the death comes carrying bright
shiny leaves that pile up all over,
that hard rustling they make, made,
as you scuffed through drifts
of them on a shadowy sidewalk.

Not for a first time, not for a last time,
yet one more boy you supposedly
loved, at one point or another, you
would just slip away, live some part
of your life without him. Which
sounds romantic, but isn’t, just easy.

None of them ever knew, just felt,
after awhile, that nagging but uneasy
feeling, as if a ring they couldn’t find
slipped off, fell into a pile of leaves
they’d set fire to the day before
while the smoke stung their lungs.

An upstairs bar in the small hours,
brocaded wingback chairs, coffee
with cream & Gran Marnier sinks
endlessly through a cautionary tale
you ignore, like always. You lean
over that black haired boy’s shoulder,
he looks up, his blue eyes bright, as if
he knows what you will say next,
replies “we won’t ever marry.” You
smile, relieved, say “perfect. yes.”

Who could blame you your justification.
Red wingback chairs, hands jammed
into a boy’s thick wool cardigan pockets,
a sweet cakewalk, your boots heavy on
the wood floor, lame excuse, yes, one
unmapped jam after another, a grab bag
of true sticky sweet perfumes, perfectly
folded sweaters, bright sugar maple leaves,
the iridescence staining your hands.

TALKING IN THE GREENHOUSE AS MOTHS GENTLY BRUSH AGAINST THE GLASS WALLS

A woman I know told how once she
loved a man who didn’t really love
her, never wanted her to stay with him.
She told me she didn’t completely care,
and at that point still went over to his
place two or three times a week. At least
once a week she’d stack and wash all
the dishes scattered around the kitchen.

He didn’t really want her to do it, an act
that was too close to love for him. But
the haphazard stacks of plates & bowls,
frying pans, silverware sprouting from
cups & glasses like prehistoric flowers,
were too much for her to ignore.

She’d stand at the sink for an hour or
more scrubbing, rinsing. He’d sit in one
of the two kitchen chairs, not say much.
Once, though, when she thought she was
almost done, he pointed out the missed pans
on the stove behind her in the same tone
of voice her mother would use on her
when, as a kid, she would wash the dishes.

So she took to, each week, telling him
her family’s stories. Her mother’d been
dead maybe two years, her father nearly
twenty, aunts & uncles gone, cousins
scattered, a brother she never spoke to,
no home to go back to if things fell apart.

One night as she scoured a pan, she told
how her mother claimed to know she would
turn out to be a troubling child since she chose
to be born during a freak March snowstorm,
nearly a blizzard, her parents driving to
the hospital in a wet heavy whiteout.

The next day he called, told her he’d gotten
engaged to the woman he thought about
each week as she told her stories. She just
hung up on him, didn’t see him again for
months, grew to appreciate how his wife
saved her, set her free. It didn’t matter if
he, or anyone, heard those stories. They
just convinced her she indeed had once
been another person in another place.
Now she was here, things would be fine.

She explained how the stories became
like those flowers few plant anymore—
Calendula, Anise, Love-in-a-Mist—yet
when you turn a corner, find them blooming
in some front yard, you promise yourself
seeds, plants, their beauty mesmerizing.

Marianna Hofer has Studio 13 in the gloriously haunted Jones Building in Findlay, OH. Her poems and stories appear in small magazines, and her b&w photography hangs in local exhibitions and eateries. Her first book, A Memento Sent by the World, was published by Word Press in 2008. For more of Marianna’s work, go here and to Volume Three, Issue 1 (2015).

List of Poets

Erica Hoffmeister

BUT, WE ALL LOST OUR VIRGINITY IN THE ORANGE GROVES
(or how I remember it)

In a stranger I found the kneecaps
of my first husband,

Hemingway-white
linen he wore on our wedding day

sneaking tiny bottles, his liquor lips
on the back of the bay mimicking his father’s

in the sea mist— I, corseted in
champagne flutes bubbled

apple cider, a sugar high or
love, perhaps.

Quick-switch with one facial tic: ex-boyfriend,
October snares of domestic delusion

plump in Hawaiian print, the day we met holding
a typewriter he never used,

I never used. His gifts as unimagined as they
were non-existent,

a fallacy.
He’s never read Hunter S. Thompson, anyway.

So, why does this stranger repulse the crowd?
He’s plucked our thoughts with the strong hands of

an egoist; and so, my first husband returns
to this unlikely collage of sexuality

resurrected in stood-up peach fuzz— erotic now, but then:
I was just a teenager. A child

hiding in groves tucked beneath desert hills,
if only my mother cared to snuff out

orange blossoms stuck to powdered skin in
creases, indented thighs and white, cotton underwear,

hardened leaves braided into an un-tamed ponytail—
I thought I was as grown as he.

Yet, decades have passed between
lovers. This man has caught my gaze:

devious, witting, could he know this
is how my mistress snared my ankle last spring?

I, transparent in his history, if only he knew then
I would change the course of his battalion’s army,

an accidental obsession,
his wife, an object

I told her: It was never about sex,
anyway.

And here on the F, a dimple deeper than my grandfather’s,
a canyon, a precipice, a mountain to be climbed

by thighs and hips pale, withholding cheeks
keeping hibernated secrets safe through the winter.

This montage of lovers—
seven-year heartbreaks: the ex-lover who

never called from his Midwestern fields,
now a father; I waited

childless—
a childless mother for as many years

as I’ve been with men,
with men

necks-naped and wrists
raped;

I’m barren, a collage. Numbers too high now to count.
A stranger sits next to me on the train to Queens.

He sweats out cheap wine;
I may be in love with him.

Erica Hoffmeister is a 2015 graduate of Chapman University, earning an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in poetry and an MA in English. She has been published in the literary journal Split Lip Magazine, and received an honorable mention for the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Prize in 2014.

List of Poets

Marc Jampole

CUBIST JEALOUSY

Her thighs unfold to solid rays of space
that splay along a sofa climbing wall

revealing dark triangulation as a thing apart,
a thing that breathes flirtatious glints,

corrugated flesh and orange sit in slouch,
he takes her hand in front of everyone.

His back is turning from my right to care,
this jealous sponge that holds the phlox,

this sobbing sponge that drinks the red I toss
in shadows squaring other shadows squaring

splintered memory: the day she threw a jealous fit,
in open window windy winter blues and grays,

her oval breasts were on the floor against a Persian rug
attached by springs to shuddered nakedness.

MODERN ROMANCE

He touched his shadow on the wall,
thought it was the lamp that lights
the actions of the mind.

That’s when he first saw her:
imitating angels imitating magpies
imitating her imitation of herself.

He thought he could meditate on one thing
and from it learn about the world
but he didn’t even learn about the thing.

She couldn’t stay still long enough
to alleviate the reason she kept moving.

He was imitating chariots imitating meteors
imitating his imitation of himself.

She had too much of what
you never have enough of
and not enough of anything else.

He transformed himself into a book
and read for entertainment

She created hundreds of thousands of selves
and whichever one he picked
she called reality.

They liked to dance with words
as much as they liked to dance with bodies—
at times they couldn’t tell the difference.

He penetrated her being
to keep her chaste
but it only worked
as long as he remained inside her
where the universe revolved in emptiness.

She penetrated his being
to keep him honest
but it only worked
as long as she remained inside him
where emptiness caressed the universe.

They played the game of shifting shapes,
she to warrior hacking sword against him,
he to diamond necklace wrapped around
her neck and choking her, she to bird
to gulp the diamonds, he to cat to kill the bird,
she to dog and he to stick and she to fire
and he to water, she to he and he to her,
inside and outside at the same time.

He travelled, uncertain of his destination—
the core of the sun or the heart of another.

To become knower of self
he sank lower than self.

Like nesting dolls in nesting dolls
she placed her breath in her mind
her mind in her intellect
her intellect in her consciousness
her consciousness in her self
her self in the universe
and the universe in her breath.

Sunrise liberated moon
from dark nirvana in the clouds:
their constantly coming together
and breaking apart, breaking
apart and coming together.

Marc Jampole wrote Music from Words, published by Bellday Books (2007). His poetry has appeared in Evansville Review, Mississippi Review, Cortland Review, Vallum, Slant, Cutthroat, Ellipsis, and many other journals. Over the years, four of his poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. More than 1,500 freelance articles he has written on various topics have been published in magazines and newspapers. Marc also writes the popular OpEdge blog, which appears on the websites of two national publications. He is on the editorial board of Jewish Currents.

List of Poets

Heather Kamins

MARZIPAN

It beckons from the pastry shop window,
lovely ripe bananas, cherries, apples,
and though you know it will prickle your tongue
with the cyanide flavor of almonds, you go in anyway
and let the man who thinks he’s in love with you
kiss you over a plate of fake fruit.

Heather Kamins writes poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in Alehouse and The Peralta Press. She enjoys long walks on the beach and reading about quantum physics. You can find her online at heatherkamins.com/.

List of Poets

Star LaBranche

OVERDRESSED

You brought me pizza
All the way from New York
My favorite food from your favorite restaurant
So I could taste what you loved so much

We laid in bed, watching John Oliver
You were naked, fresh from the shower
I was still fully clothed
You ate the pho I brought you, I enjoyed my pizza

I felt overdressed at that point
You naked, me wearing multiple layers
I stripped down to my panties
Where you insisted I was still overdressed

I pulled my underwear off,
Tossed it over the edge of the bed
With the abandon of someone promised passion
You took me in your arms

We made love and afterward, stayed naked
Naked, catching our breath, naked,
Wrapped in each other’s arms
Naked, perfect

YOU DON’T NEED TO SAY ANYTHING

It’s quiet now, with just the sound of your hands on my skin.
The way you stroke my back and touch my hip
I can feel your teeth, gentle, on my shoulder
and that’s all of the communication I need.
When your hands brush my hair back
so you can kiss my ear, I know what you mean.

Feeling your palms against my stomach,
covering every inch of me within reach,
says more than a million words from a million other men.
When I feel your beard, soft, against my flesh,
I don’t need any more sentences.
I can feel when your body responds to me
and wants more of our speechless communication.
Our bodies meet again and talk in a way our mouths simply can’t.

A few words of actual coherency is all I can manage
when you’re deep inside of me.
A moan and a plea to a deity that I don’t even believe
in covers all of the parts of speech I’m capable of right now.
Besides, we can’t have a conversation when kisses occupy our lips.
And there’s no possibility of discourse when you come
and all that escapes from you is a groan of pleasure.

When we’re once again lying in the afterglow, there’s no need to speak.
My head rests against your arm and you hold me against yourself.
My eyes slide closed and I feel the sweetness of sleep
drifting into the hazy corners of my mind.
There were no words required for this moment. None at all.

Star LaBranche has been writing ever since she can remember. She has never stopped. A graduate student at Old Dominion University in the English MA program with an emphasis in professional writing, her dream is to live in the desert with a rescue corgi.

To see Star’s other work in this collection, click here.

List of Poets

Denise Marques Leitão

THE LOOP

I might lie to myself
And tell me
I have no regrets.
I’ll save myself the trouble
of having to look back.
And finding there some pain.

I can also tell myself
And you, if I ever have the chance
That I know I was wrong:
I’ve made a mistake.
But what would it change?

I can’t go back, and even if I could
I doubt I ever would
be different than myself.
I’d do everything wrong again
As many times as it took
to realize I had to look
back and see the mistake
if I wanted to prevent it.
So it had to be there
in the first place.

But I don’t want to get
in an eternal error loop
So I’d better learn to look back
and learn from my regret.

Denise Marques Leitão is originally from Brazil. She has been living in Montreal, Canada for over ten years. She has been published in a couple small journals.

List of Poets

PD Lyons

MY NIGHTWOOD

is somewhere else

on another shelf

on another table

by someone else’s bed

in the hands

of another woman

I no longer know.

PD Lyons was born and raised in the USA and now permanently resides in Ireland. He received The Mattatuck College Award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry and received a Bachelor of Science with honors from Teikyo Post University Connecticut. Two books of poetry Searches For Magic, and Caribu & Sister Stones: Selected Poems, have been published by Lapwing Press, Belfast. A third book, Myths Of Multiplicity, was published by Erbacce press Liverpool as part of the 2014 Erbacce International Annual Prize. The work of PD Lyons has also appeared in many magazines and e-zine/blogs throughout the world. Please visit PD Lyons’ Blog : http://pdlyons.wordpress.com/

List of Poets

Katharyn Howd Machan

WHEN RUMPELSTILTSKIN WAS A STRIPPER

he danced in gold—oh!
he danced in gold above the straw
of the sloppy floors of a Key West bar
enchanting every soul desiring
the power to claim quick love

gold upon his cheeks and thighs,
gold within his sunswept eyes,
Duval Street the perfect stage
for his long longing in a world
needing magic’s thrust

bump shimmy grind express
sex more sex as soul’s unrest
shimmering the metal sought
by pirates and all treasure-starved
divers past young brother’s death

Rumpelstiltskin hid his name
in a secret folded notch
no one but the queenliest
would ever dare
to touch

and always in his audience
he found someone to fill his night
with all his promises turned real:
shining crown upon a head
his lonely mouth—oh!—didn’t have to steal

THIS IS NOT A POEM ABOUT SEX

Try pickles. Better yet,
cucumbers, bananas, all-beef
hot dogs with those tight
little skins. Or how about
tomatoes clumsy on the vine
heavy to burst with juice
and seeds, cactus fruit
sweet-succulent and dripping
pink, split to the moist heart.
The recipes are endless;
hunger for such edibles becomes
addiction when unchecked.
Avocado, pomegranate, kiwi
with its hairy cover, even
tiny new potatoes boiled
naked in deep salt.
Salivating yet?
We’re talking food here, folks.
An onion is an onion,
slice it how you will.
And you will.

TANGERINE FINGERNAILS

As soon as he saw her
perfect hands, pianist’s hands,
I know my husband left me.
I felt the air split

like a perfect peach
exposing its hard wrinkled core.
No matter I wore turquoise
silk and a necklace

of dragonfly’s eyes: she
was music, perfect music
shaped and curved, intact
as prayer, only the color

she had dared to use
my hope that he would find
her wild too forte for his
private songs to share.

Katharyn Howd Machan, Professor of Writing at Ithaca College, holds degrees from the College of Saint Rose, the University of Iowa, and Northwestern University. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines; in anthologies and textbooks such as The Bedford Introduction to Literature, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013, Poetry: An Introduction, Early Ripening: American Women’s Poetry Now, Sound and Sense, Writing Poems, Literature: Reading and Writing the Human Experience; and in 32 collections, most recently Wild Grapes: Poems of Fox (Finishing Line Press, 2014), H (Gribble Press, 2014—national winner), and When She’s Asked to Think of Colors (Palettes & Quills Press, 2009—national winner). Former director of the national Feminist Women’s Writing Workshops, Inc., she edited Adrienne Rich: A Tribute Anthology (Split Oak Press, 2012).

List of Poets

Tony Magistrale

BAD GIRL

That was what she called herself
every time I went to visit her
down in her mother’s basement
Nothing but a mattress on the floor
two chairs and a television set
I would enter through the back door
after I dropped the cheerleaders home
by curfew at their fathers’ front doors
She was always there watching Carson
because she never had to work in the morning
smoking cigarettes or painting her nails
When I was seventeen
as much terrified as eroticized
by her fleshy strangeness
her red lips and hair
A vampire-like Lucy Westenra
after The Change to voluptuousness
as I sat on the straight-back chair
across from her bed
uttering banalities that made her snort smoke
Holding onto my virginity like a crucifix
uncertain how to let it go.

Tony Magistrale is Professor of English at the University of Vermont. He is the author of three books of poetry: What She Says About Love (Bordighera Press 2008), The Last Soldiers of Love (Literary Laundry 2012), and the most recently published Entanglements (Fomite 2013).

List of Poets

Susan Mahan

NO STRINGS

I want sex.
I simply want sex.
I don’t want a relationship.
I don’t want to know
who you are or what you believe.
I just want sex.

I won’t get immersed
in your family or your problems,
your hopes and dreams for the future.
You can expect nothing more from me
than sex.

Oh, sure
I could let you know me.
I could tell you where I’ve been,
what I think, and what I need.

But, I won’t.

I want sex,
and that’s all you need to know.

Susan Mahan has been writing poetry since her husband died in 1997. She is a frequent reader at poetry venues, including the Boston Public Library and the Catbird Café in Weymouth. She has self-published four chapbooks, including, “Missing Mum”, 2005, and“World View”, 2009. She joined the editorial staff of The South Boston Literary Gazette in 2002. She has been published in a number of anthologies, including Kiss Me Goodnight, Solace in So Many Words, Living Lessons, Crave It: Writers and Artists Do Food, Cradle Songs: An Anthology About Motherhood, and most recently in “The Widows’ Handbook, She has also been included in poetry exhibits in Boston City Hall for the last 3 years.

List of Poets

Donal Mahoney

WOODEN ANNIVERSARY

She uncradles the phone with a lyric
for someone who might be calling
if I weren’t calling again from work,

who would be calling, she says,
if five years ago I hadn’t
promised her me.

Five years ago she believed me
and now she has children, four,
a house, my calls each noon.

Five years ago she lied to herself
as I napped on her parents’ porch,
silent yet shouting the truth.

Donal Mahoney has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. He has had poems accepted by Commonweal, Orbis (U.K.), Revival (Ireland), The Christian Science Monitor, The Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey), Poetry Super Highway, WOW (Ireland), Public Republic (Bulgaria) and other publications.

List of Poets

Marina Manoukian

I.

It’s easy not to think about when you’re not thinking about it. But once the door cracks open and you snap awake to someone coming in at five in the morning, it’s hard not to indulge. Poems don’t write themselves as you get fucked. Though it’d be nice to be able to write and fuck. Who knows where the mind could wander to with such distractions? Imagine the words lettered right before those electric shocks come. Writing’s just like fucking. When it’s good you’re at once trying to escape and pull it into you ineffably. It’s overwhelming and exhausting and you want to beg it to stop but each pulse leaves one craving harder and deeper. A subtle balance between letting yourself be ravaged and giving it everything—bursts of energy coming and going. The need for a cigarette afterwards. I was once told that was cheesy by a nonsmoker. And of course, when you’re not thinking about it, it’s easy not to think about.

II.

The question of “are you satisfied”

Why does satisfaction imply a cessation of what brought one to that state? If you’re satisfied with life are you done? Of course you’re satisfied. That’s why you immediately want more.

One fuck, one paragraph. You gasp and brace yourself for what’s to come, and you’re satisfied with the results. But runaway blank space on the page teases just as much as a naked body having done its job. You want more. Who wouldn’t?

Marina Manoukian is a twenty-something person milling in New York City, splitting her time between reading and writing and reading and reading. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and after four years of concentrating on concentrations, she now works in a bookstore. Recent works may be found at Empty Mirror, Down In The Dirt, and Gingko. Look for more of her works at https://www.marinamanoukian.wordpress.com/

List of Poets

MD Marcus

MARIONETTE’S WALTZ

I loved him once before
with wide eyes
eager feet
Loved him with a love that comes
but twice,
or thrice if you’re a slow learner,
with notes and with blows

Now he’s returned a-knocking
a fisheye lens distorts the view
My hands meet behind my back
closed fists tight
My heart settles
into the heels of my feet,
weighted down
immobile and defenseless.
He seeps back in
through all the holes
that had been left behind

Over the threshold he goes

LONGING FOR A LOBOTOMY

It’s for good
this time.

Even without a jumble of blame,
masquerading as well-wishes,
tucked beneath the empty vase
on my kitchen table,
a home, like a person,
doesn’t need physical evidence
to bare a permanent loss.

Denied of goodbyes so often
the sting of being caught
by myself,
again,
ought not to make me flinch.
But desertion is a hard thing
to get acclimated to.
Nothing short of a head-on collision
can keep me from lingering where hopes
are the stuff Limbo is made of.
Leaning on theories,
instead of familiar arms, for comfort,
seesawing between a place of Zen
and where the ego lives,
between being taught patience
and plotting karmic revenge,
prayers versus analysis—

‘Cause when it says PUSH on both sides of the door,
you can really swing that bitch both ways
and it’ll still open up,
you know?

The world remains big and round,
full of wars and sick children.
There is pollution and the problem with politicians.
Still, I have to constantly repeat,
“Perspective” and “Perception”
out loud
to remember there is any difference
between the two.
Rationality is the speech of the bitter
that says if they love you, they’ll show up,
and prove it.

Besides, no forevers were exchanged,
no undying love or vows,
never once sighed in warm embraces
where present tense is not an elementary lesson,
but the most wonderful thing in the entire universe.
Just a few mixed signals,
“I LOVE YOU”
shouted in nightclubs over loud music,
where it echoed and got lost in darkness,
settled on the floor and stuck there
in the cheap liquor and broken glass.

MD Marcus is a freelance writer and poet living in the past. Recent work can be found on Salon as well as in Femmewise Cat Part 1, Calliope Magazine, The Rain, Party, and Disaster Society, In-Flight Literary Magazine, The Round Up, the Monkey Star Press anthology “Motherhood May Cause Drowsiness”, and the Red Dashboard Publishing anthology, “dis-or-der.” Please read everything she writes, follow/like her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and visit her at mdmarcus.com

List of Poets

Michael Mark

HER SISTER, HIM, HER AND ME, MAYBE

I’m listening to her
tell him she
has the wrong karma.
She lists proof: her car,
her job, her kid.

He says that’s bad karma.
No, she has her twin sister’s
karma, she says, and vice versa.

She lists her sister’s cars,
her house and
that she doesn’t have to work
because of a lawsuit.

When he asks to meet the sister,
her fingers snake around his
like a python
swallowing a pig.

He must be thinking,
with all the sane, pretty girls there,
he’s the one
with the messed-up karma.

If he gets free,
I might have the right karma
to change both of theirs.

Michael Mark is a hospice volunteer and long distance walker. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Diverse Voices Quarterly, Gargoyle Magazine, Gravel Literary Journal, Lost Coast Review, Rattle, Ray’s Road Review, San Pedro Review, Scapegoat Journal, Spillway, Tar River Poetry, Sugar House Review, and other nice places. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. michaeljmark.com

List of Poets

Tim Mayo

LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI

Then my dinner partner, a long gloved beauty,
up to her elbows in satin, a beauty of a certain age,
whose silver hair fell in casual perfection
over the delicate bones of her shoulders,

turned to me, tilting her long-stemmed glass,
ever so slightly, and fluttering her languorous lashes,
interjected herself into my most private of thoughts,

Death is the ultimate spiritual act,
and for such fulfillment, such sublimity,

mon petit bonhomme, it must happen au lit . . .
a queen-size at the very least, n’est-ce pas?

She waited, not for my reaction, but for my answer,
my clever parry to her conversational thrust,
for hers was a ploy to engage me in that verbal duel
and favorite pastime the French are so fond of.

The subject is never important, but the grace
and manner with which one addresses it are utmost:
the richness of innuendo and wit, the subtle deftness
of all the possible linguistic twists and turns,

and any reference to the personal is considered
an indiscretion of gross proportion.

I was speechless,

which had also been my previous state as I
pondered how her gown’s neckline scooped away
from her collarbone, allowing me to gaze upon
her small, but still perfect, pear-shaped breasts.

I wondered if the rosettes of her nipples
had ever suckled a child. Somehow, they seemed
virginal to me, then, I wondered about death . . .
weren’t we all virgins to its seduction?

Tim Mayo lives in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA, where he works in a mental institution. His poems and reviews have appeared in Narrative Magazine, Poetry International, Poet Lore, River Styx, Salamander, San Pedro River Review, Tar River Poetry, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. His collection The Kingdom of Possibilities was published by Mayapple Press in 2009 He’s a five time Pushcart Prize Nominee and has been a top finalist for the annual Paumanok Award.

List of Poets

Tamara MC

SAVE YOUR APPETITE FOR ME

I am:
Curing
I am:
Being brined in salt
I am:
Marinating in ginger
I am:
Roasting with peppers
I am:
Baking in an oven my mother gave me when I married
I am:
Toasting
I will:
Make myself toastier for you
Do you:
Want me with my crust cut off?
Do you:
Prefer me when I am softer in the middle?
Do you:
Like white bread?
Do you:
Love her?

Dr. Tamara MC is an Applied Linguist and focuses on issues related to language, culture, and identity in the Middle East, specifically her hybrid and juxtaposed identity of growing up simultaneously Jewish and Muslim. She has various publications in journals such as, Sand Script, Poetica Magazine, Driftwood Press, Sling Magazine, and Blue Guitar. She has been accepted at/studied at The Iowa Writers’ Workshop Summer Program, BreadLoaf, Sewanee, Summer Literary Seminars in Lithuania, and Naropa. She currently teaches at the University of Arizona, both ESL and teacher training classes. Additionally, she is a coordinator for one of their English scholarship programs. “Doc MC”, as her students call her, loves the classroom, and she helps her ESL students to not only learn about creative writing, but to love writing creatively. When she isn’t teaching or writing, she is creating three-dimensional art with found materials or running marathons.

List of Poets

Megan Merchant

EVEN PUT BACK TOGETHER,

you can’t expect
a fractured wing
to heal over
the clump of tape
and crude stick propped
outright.

You can’t expect it will
eventually flap.

I believe you are doing
your best.

But if I could count
each slight as a grain
of salt and slip it into
our sheets,

between tears and sweat,

we’d be an ocean
dissolving in a drain.

Love,

it’s common sense—the wing
will heal angled,
bent.

Even after slipping the stick
free,

it will fly as though splinters
are piercing each beat.

And when it catches its crude
reflection
over a water stain,

it will believe
it was the light
that captured it
all wrong.

IT WASN’T SO MUCH LEAVING

as knowing that when she returned
it would be as someone’s wife,
someone a little more worn.

That morning, she didn’t know
if she should make-up the sheets
on the bed she had slept in
her whole life,

hide the sway in the middle
of the mattress
out of respect
for any guests
that might occupy her space.

She imagined
she’d feel that way
in their new place, at first–
out of sorts
in dreams and dark,

scripting stories
for the cracks and broken tiles
that someone else’s practice of love

left.

If she’d even notice the missing
outlet covers, spotty heat,
spun webs,

or, be too distracted
by the oaky-morning
smell of the boy
she could rub against
again and again
until she fully shed her skin.

INCOMING

She’s always had a knack for predicting
weather. Days ahead of the first rough wind.

It’s a gift to have time to prepare,
sip coffee and watch the ravens agitate the skyline in pairs.

He asks her to stay inside this time, to skip her walk
in the fields behind their house. Dawn glazing
the long rows of wheat like blood-orange spillways.

She refuses.

I can feel the storm before the sky even hints at bruising.
It’s a thickening of air, a dogged tug narrowing my bones.
There’s time still. Time for the winds to send it elsewhere.

It isn’t a loss of touch between them.
It’s the subtle pressure behind his hand on her shoulder,
like it wants to press harder than a slammed door.

Megan Merchant’s poems have most recently appeared in publications including Red Paint Hill, Rat’s Ass Review, Mothers Always Write, Crack the Spine, and First Literary Review East. Her book, “The Dark’s Humming” was the winner of the 2105 Lyrebird Prize (Glass Lyre Press, 2017). She is also the author of Translucent, sealed. (Dancing Girl Press, 2015), In the Rooms of a Tiny House (ELJ Publications, October 2016), and Gravel Ghosts (Glass Lyre Press, Spring 2016). She has a children’s book forthcoming through Philomel Books.

List of Poets

Leah Mueller

MIDWEST GOTHIC

You’re gone now-
your bedroom rented
to somebody else, but when
I think of August, 2009
in Michigan, the one hot weekend
of an otherwise cold summer,
I keep believing you must still
be there, and all I need to do
is drive up in my Toyota,
climb those steep steps
to your second floor apartment
and find you with half
of your face unshaven,
a bottle of wine in the kitchen,
your massive pile of records
and your guitar on the bed.
What happened
to those sunglasses you wore
on a windy fall afternoon
while I waited on the porch,
the ones you removed
so you could see me better,
though you did not wish to see me
at all? I brought wine
and drank the entire bottle,
but that was usually your job.
We promised to wait six months
before speaking again,
and we lasted five, each month
corroded by ache
for fingers and tongue,
but not the nausea that came with it.
That nausea
was never far away.
Making love
despite ignored texts
from other women, both of us
avoiding explanation by burying
ourselves inside each other,
your records on auto-repeat
with jazz scores that vanished
when we finally slept.
Now you sleep in a house
with filthy crucifixes,
grim Jesus ignoring pornography
and diabetes, and your uncle
wears gloves to protect from dirt
while masturbating in the closet.
Your own bedroom is
in the back, near the bathroom,
with its cheap body soaps
and a mildewed curtain
that shields your body from view.
Your eyes and fingers eagerly seek
my face on the tiled wall.
You always did like to hide,
but I wonder what you did
with that other person
who looked exactly like you
and had your voice and hands
and was crueler,
but much more thrilling.

Leah Mueller is an independent writer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of one chapbook, “Queen of Dorksville” (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2012), and two full-length books, “Allergic to Everything” (Writing Knights Press, 2015) and “The Underside of the Snake” (Red Ferret Press, 2015). Her work has been published in Blunderbuss, Sadie Girl Press, Origins Journal, Talking Soup, Silver Birch Press, Cultured Vultures, and many other publications. She is a regular contributor to Quail Bell magazine, and was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival. Leah was also a runner-up in the 2012 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest. For more of Leah’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Claudia Mundell

WAR BABY

The sergeant smoothed his freshly pressed shirt and sauntered into the canteen.
He straightened his khaki tie, knotted sharply under a significant smile
as he listened to the reedy squeal of an ebony clarinet.
Soldiers pounded the wooden floor with jumps and jives,
their partners flashing white tap pants on the swing.
He studied a trombone’s brass tube slide smoothly upward,
like a hand slipping unseen under a knee length pleated skirt.
Then he spied her, sweater snug like last week,
drumming the pine boards with twitching toes itching to dance.
He gamboled over to the gal, took her hand, and gave her a spin.
The music changed, a throaty sax moaned, or was that her desire?
He pulled her close as the music slowed;
he felt both softness and sweat through her blouse;
felt her body yield to his, her breasts mold into his chest,
her hand caress the wedge of yellow stripes on his sleeve.
Wordlessly, they strolled into a spangled night where
I became more than just a gleam in his eyes.

Claudia Mundell has a Midwest Border War in her writing. With family roots in Oklahoma, she grew up in Kansas, but her work life has been in Missouri. She has many memories from each state that work their way into her fiction and poetry. After raising a family and teaching, she now writes for pleasure—and maybe for profit someday. Her work has appeared in MidRivers Review, Yellow Medicine Review, Rosebud, TEA, Good Old Days, Romantic Homes, Cactus Country, and in several anthologies.

List of Poets

Travis Laurence Naught

I AM TERRIBLE COMPANY FOR MYSELF

Lonely
is knowing Mom
will be the next person to see my dick.

Oedipus experienced a similar issue,
unknowingly. Faced situational reality
hanging in front of him, dead.
Understood incestual ramifications,
drew one of her golden pin brooches,
gouged out his eyes to live a fate

worse than death. Tired of crying,
I’ve dropped hundreds of pens on my feet,
unwilling body hindering harmful plans.

Cautious against burgeoning complex,
Freud knows my love for Mom is platonic
(without her I could not piss, shit, or drive
to my next reminder of lonesomeness),
tells me I need to explore myself better,
answer questions furthest from my mind.

Nothing sought after or conceived can be
furthest from one’s mind, by definition;
let me tell you again how I’ve never considered suicide.

Milk did not spill here,
these are not accidental tears.
I threw the fucking glass against the God-damned wall!
People on the other side felt a mist,
touched their cheeks,
thought it was raining semen.

Masturbation is a form of stress relief;
personal comfort, thought processed without touch,
requiring no immediate assistance from others,

unlike the sets of able-bodied hands
required to launch my boat.
Being on the water leads to retroactive relief;
a return to childhood in mother’s lap,
with sounds of waves doing just that
against the hull of something I own.

Searching an object for relaxation,
fighting solitude outside of my mind,
finding bliss in company.

Basketball for 10 years, still really;
college, psychology degree, graduate work;
music, The Doors, The End, Morrison;
poetry.
Always connected, enjoying myself
drinking with friends.

What goes in must come out
on a scheduled basis
because I’m uncomfortable asking for help.

Suddenly I am back at square one;
with Mom, in a public bathroom
kept private by weight of my chair against the door,
praying nobody is able to get in,
fearing judgment over a part of my anatomy
I have never even seen.

Travis Laurence Naught is an author who happens to be a quadriplegic wheelchair user. Two volumes of his confessional style poetry, The Virgin Journals (ASD Publishing, 2012) & Still Journaling (e-book, 2013), are widely available. Individual publication credits for works by Travis include RiverLit, Gold Man Review, The Big Smoke US, and many more. Check out http://naughtapoet.blogspot.com/ for more of his information and original writing!

List of Poets

Bo Niles

SKIN

And when we touch / we enter touch entirely.
Anne Sexton

At first
touch was easy.
Through breath and bone
that’s how we came to be.
Parsed for perfection
we had no need
to define each other.
When touch entered
entirely,
I cried out for him
and felt the rush of word
for the first time.
And like his naming
of animals
my language began.

FAIR GAME

Once he’s bagged his prey he trusses it
and slings it into the back of his pick-up
leaving her inside the cab to ride shotgun
wide open
to the wayward yowl that will follow her
everywhere as if it too had antlers
and a mind of its own.
But in her own time and in her own way
she’d sought him out just for this, this
truant hustle of stag and whiskey and skin,
oblivious to the buckshot pulverizing
her pink Miss Kitty knapsack as he chucks it
over her schoolyard’s chain-link fence.
She studies her beard-burned face
in his smoke-smogged rear-view mirror,
stashes her panties behind the owner’s
manual and bong in his glove compartment,
silks on more lipstick,
while the shadow of her fugitive self
sprawls across the wild aluminum afternoon
leaving her skinned and thirsting for more.

New York based, Bo Niles is a former magazine editor and writer who specialized in home design. She has been writing poems for a little over a decade and has two chapbooks from Finishing Line Press: intimate geographies and natural causes. She and her husband have 2 sons, and 2 grandchildren.

List of Poets

Steve Passey

THE PROPHET OF REGRET (#2)

“Do you want to get laid?”
She asked
I did
I remember her underwear, expensive and soft,
Black and coral
It hit the floor like burning money
Things got a little wild
I think she may have peed on me, a little
She emailed me later
“I have a conference
In a beautiful hotel in the mountains
The mountains are beautiful
The room is beautiful
And paid for
Come with me”
I said I can’t
She was still married
She was lonely
I understand these things
But I just couldn’t

SHE WAS WILD AND STRANGE AND HAD WONDERFUL HAIR

Her head on my shoulder, she said to me:

You men, you are all narcissists
All you want is to fuck, and to come

I said:
No, there is love
We love, too

She laughed at me:
I have never been in love
Ever

I said:
Never?
Not even once?

She looked at me very seriously and told me:
There was a boy in New York City once
His family was in the garment trade
He wanted to be a designer
He would make me clothes, all sorts of clothes
Really nice stuff too
When I left him I took the clothes he’d made me
I’d wear things, here or there
One day I brought out a coat
Alone in the elevator I put my hands in the pockets, and
I felt something
There was a small piece of paper
A note, from New York City

“You broke my heart”

So yes, you men love too, like boys love
And he alone I miss, if only sometimes
But I never loved him
And who would I love
After that.

Steve Passey is from Southern Alberta. His fiction has appeared in Canada, The UK, and the USA in publications including Existere Journal, Minor Literature[s] and Chicago Literati.

List of Poets

Janelle Rainer

WHEREVER WE NEED TO GO

He bought a car, a red one
because it’s her favorite color,

but she says watching the blur
of asphalt rushing by makes her

nervous, and she won’t get in.
He bought a boat with full sails,

but the water is too deep
for her to stand in, so

she’s afraid of its darkness.
He bought a small plane,

but she hates having her feet
off the ground.

That’s fine, he says.
That’s just fine.

I’ll carry you wherever
we need to go.

FILM STAR

He said fuck. Then he said
I’m sorry, you’re just so
damn beautiful. You should
be in a sitcom. You should
be on the tee-vee.

I smiled for a long time after.
Not because of who he was:
old and thin from meth
with two lank blonde braids
and missing teeth.
He may have been tweaking
when he talked to me.

But because I could tell
my boyfriend about it later.
I could be his film star
in someone else’s mind.

NECESSARY HUNGER

We wake with our hands
on each other, reaching
for the bodies we love
and know so well.

We are quiet
because it’s morning
and others still sleep
in the house.

But, if we could speak,
what would be worth
crying out? What words
could do justice

to this wild
and necessary hunger?

Janelle Rainer is a poet, painter and teacher living in the Pacific Northwest. Janelle worked as a soda fountain waitress, peach orchard laborer, and shoe salesman before earning her B.A. in English from Whitworth University, followed by her M.F.A. in Poetry from Pacific University. Janelle’s poetry has been published in numerous journals, including Harpur Palate and The Louisville Review, and her paintings have been featured in venues in and around Spokane, Washington. Her debut poetry collection, Two Cups of Tomatoes, was released in October 2015.

List of Poets

Martha Silano

LET US CONSIDER THE WORD ORGAN

with its strong stress on or, its weak stress
on gan, with its primary meaning, part

of the body, liver or heart. Or /gan, or/gan,
or/gan: any word said several times begins

to lose its meaning, its second meaning (polite
way of saying penis). Pe-, the strong stress,

nis, the weak. Pe/nis, pe/nis, pe/nis. Why
a long e? Shouldn’t it be pennis? Somewhere

along the way the f went p, as in Old English faesl,
as in fosull (Norse). Directly from the Latin,

meaning tail. When it began with an f, it meant
“progeny, offspring” (fug dat shit? ). Thirdly,

a musical instrument with keyboard and pipes,
often found in old French churches, where

the proper use of a penis was strictly forbidden.
–gan with the vowel sound of man or can,

because a man can, because there is no way to discern
its spelling except to remember, though adding an –ic

can be helpful—angelic, Satanic, atomic. So many
stresses—management, reduction, relief, healthier ways

to cope. Flip on the Blower Motor, listen for the wind
revving up, the motor purring, the marked difference in touch.

Martha Silano is the author of four books of poetry, including The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, winner of the 2010 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize, and Reckless Lovely (Saturnalia Books 2014). She also co-edited, with Kelli Russell Agodon, The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice (Two Sylvias Press 2013). Martha’s poems have appeared in Paris Review, Poetry, American Poetry Review, and North American Review, where she received the 2014 James Hearst Poetry Prize, as well as in many anthologies, including American Poetry: The Next Generation and The Best American Poetry 2009. Martha edits Crab Creek Review, curates Beacon Bards, a monthly poetry reading series in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle, and teaches at Bellevue College.

List of Poets

Catherine F. Simpson

THE FIRE ESCAPE

Thank you for taking me

under the fire escape.

It had the enchanting verve

of the Abstract

rushing in

to replace the futility of the concrete.

The alley possessed a tragic quality

beneath that lonesome star

— against that rusty car.

Catherine F. Simpson was born in Belfast, and immigrated to Canada with her parents when the Troubles broke out. She has a B.A in English Literature from University of Toronto and teaches English as a Second Language. She is the writer and presenter of The Americana Show on Garden County Radio and is a musician and songwriter. She lives in Greystones with her husband, her daughter, and their 2 pet robots, Dingus and Min-yaz. She is very excited to have her first poem accepted for publication in Rat’s Ass Review and to have another poem upcoming in the anthology Bye Bye Bukowski from Hyacinth Girl Press. She tweets @CKatFury and blogs at catothebog.wordpress.com

List of Poets

Susan Laura Sullivan

THE VISITOR, THE GUEST, HAS CLEAN SHEETS TO LIE ON

i don’t exist in this house
not in the kitchen
definitely not in the bedroom
where the television resides.
not in any room.

boxes of books collected
hide anything i own anything i gave is lost
obscured discarded shunted
to one side thanks is called for because
things have not been properly discarded and
for that i am grateful,
resentful

to clear gates to delineate lines to cross
borders to delimit boundaries
permission is required
even on invitation
only i need show my papers

the plants i put in the garden
secondary to sculptures scoured
from thrift shops and auction, a mannequin
against the siding, the laughing clown,
withered in the winter snow anyway
the few seeds planted the perennials
established before we came
continue to thrive once i go designs
are drawn up plans proceed extensions fortify
when i return, i tread lightly
belonging is debatable
not belonging convenient

when one doesn’t exist
how do two co-exist
good will and good hearts?
such sinew and thought
need to be ladled in generous measure
to override lack of presence
of interest

can we survive on
perhaps?
on being secondary to the
primary
second secondary after
life before
the settlement?

and surely he feels secondary too
perhaps
but with history and habit and acquisition,
perhaps not
with addiction to everything but
the manifestation of
corporeal
sanguine
you
perhaps

bivalves filter the sea separate paths
for all that can be drawn in
and spat out
separate paths
with occasional connections
may be the way
to keep identity despite, not
because of
separate paths with occasional
connections
may be the way

a love
like a trouser pocket sewn
not unpicked
to maintain shape
not fulfilment

Susan Laura Sullivan’s Reasons for Song was shortlisted for the 2012 T.A.G. Hungerford Award for an unpublished novel. She has been widely published, including by Harper Collins/Radio National (Australia), The Font, and Uneven Floor. She co-founded the Toyohashi Writers’ Group, and holds a creative writing MCA. For more of Susan’s work, go here.

List of Poets

J. A. Sutherland

LOVED AND LOST
i.m. Wilfrid Treasure

If you could spend an hour on a bench
with anyone living or dead, who would it be?

I began to notice benches when a friend
posted a status on her Facebook page.
‘If you could spend an hour on a bench
with anyone, who would it be?’ I replied,
‘Well you, of course.’ I proceeded to send
her pictures of specimens: contenders;
benches rotted by rain, warped by winter,
sunned in spring, tatty, peeling, august,
painted pink, tarnished, or red with rust.
Unfortunately, she left our beautiful city
before I had the opportunity to share
that precious hour with her; drinking from
our flask of tea, putting the world to rights.

Wandering through the Botanic Gardens,
this memorial bench catches my sight…
I read “Beloved” on the inscription.
Then almost without closer inspection
I see the name of someone I knew well.
Fellow musician, poet, playwright… friend:
you died too suddenly and much too young.
Guilty that we’d fallen out of touch,
I sit on your bench, alone, feeling
like a trespasser, remembering
recitals and concerts we used to give –
I sang Lieder and English Song; your sensitive
piano accompanied my subtle baritone.

A robin joins me on the bench, and with
a high-pitched ‘Cheep! Cheep!’ attempts
to claim its territory with a delicate staccato.
I greet the bird, enamoured with its sweet tone.
A recollection comes tweeting back to me;
how on another bench, when we performed,
a tiny, piping voice would sing along
to my rendition of the Songs of Travel.
As Robin hops onto the floor, I stand
my ground and, letting this thought unravel,
figure I belong here on this bench.
You who were belovéd never saw
your daughter into adulthood. What’s more,

being denied the right to call yourself
her father broke your spirit – and your heart.
I share with you a sense of grief and loss.
But justice isn’t based on what is fair;
less so on fact and even less, on truth.
You were a parent to the child you bore.
Imperfect – yes – perhaps, but aren’t we all?
My child exists, although I also never saw
him grow. Like you, I only loved too much,
and seeing love not lost but stolen was a wrench
that licenses the reason for this bench.
I sit here, contemplating for an hour
a man who showed how love can overpower.

AUTUMN JENGA

For all my friends, present and past

If every brick contained a memory,
I wonder what colour each would be.
On this one, a ruby wine-stain: I recall
a boozy meal with Gloria and Paul
when the tower of falling bricks also
toppled my top-heavy glass of Merlot.

And this one, stained with autumn fruit,
was when Elena came around to shoot
her film; the table was scattered with leaves,
berries, smoky potatoes and loaves
of bread. And after the filming was done,
we tumbled the tower, one brick by one.

This one, stained tomato-ey brown,
was when the lot came crashing down
while eating Chile-con-carne with Felix.
Luckily, only one of the falling bricks
landed in the pan. The smell of sauce
still lingers. It could have been much worse.

And this one, I remember how
Victoria – a self-admitting clumsy cow –
miraculously extracted her chosen brick
(we were drinking wine with tortilla chips)
But instead of placing it on the top
she dunked it into the salsa dip!

This one, stained with faded blood
reminds me how Nic never could
concede a game, even if his hands
were chapped and bleeding. His demands
were much more than competitive.
He lived to play… and played to live.

And this one, cherry-red (or ‘kriek’)
is for Jule, who learned to speak
better English, but still insisted
on calling it ‘Yenga.’ When pissed, it
didn’t take long for that tower of Babel
to fall in scattered syllables over the table.

And how can I forget that meal-for-two;
candle-lit, romantic, and as you
caressed and stroked the piece that you slid out
suggestively, leaving me no doubt
of your intention, you plunged that brick
into the molten wax, extinguishing its wick.

But these are colours you can’t see…
This tear-stained one, the time we –
when the tallest-ever tower fell –
laughed and cried. You said: “Oh well”
(you, who had a tendency to sulk) –
“there’s no use crying over spilt milk.”

And this one, stained with perspiration,
was when the game became a competition –
the stakes were high (so was the tower)
then, at the eleventh minute (or hour)
with fingers sweating you took a gamble.
Pride, and the tower, both took a tumble.

This one, snow stained, represents
a year of happy Christmas presents;
this shows the invisible signs of spring
where hope, like sap, was uprising;
and this one, tanned with summer sun,
has faded to the colour it began.

But mostly, memories are autumnal
colours, and like the game, as communal
as the solid starting block, and yet
I wonder if others remember or forget
or separate the individual bricks
as they stack the pack back into the box.

When autumn leaves fall by my window,
I think of that meal with Paul and Glo;
and Elena, after Der Himmel Uber Berlin,
when a man got up and sang that song:
friendships built on less-precarious action
than a game designed for its destruction.

And so, this final brick is stained
with love – for friendships that remained
as solid as a Jenga Brick, despite
the tower that, toppled from great height,
proved ephemeral as fallen leaves,
or dead and empty as the barest trees.

But trees – unlike that Jenga Brick –
have up their sleeves a clever trick
that humans, and games, fail to emulate:
we decompose, while trees regenerate.
It makes no difference what brick you choose.
You never win this game. You only lose.

J. A. Sutherland is an emerging writer, based in Scotland, performing frequently on the Edinburgh spoken-word scene. For three consecutive years Sutherland received Special Merit in the Scottish National Galleries Inspired? Get Writing! competition. Using artifacts, visual art, and photography for inspiration, Sutherland has produced three limited-edition, hand-stitched art-books: Walking on the Water (poetry), 26 Treasures (sestudes), and Charlotte & The Charlatan – and other Cautionary tales (flash-fiction).

Besides poetry, J. A. Sutherland has had short stories published, and writes drama for theatre, radio and spoken-word performance, and regularly blogs on http://www.throughtheturretwindow.blogspot.com/.

List of Poets

Jeri Thompson

YOUR EYES

Should not wander
All over the room. They should stop at mine
Then move   down
To my pushed-up breasts and back up to my lips.
Your hands should travel down my spine,
Your lips should be buried in my neck.

But instead
I gaze at your face
Your fingers, your ring.

I wonder what would give me more satisfaction
Actually having you sink into me
Or knowing
Every time you touched your wife’s cheek
You wished it were mine.

During the day, when no one is around,
Your hands wade through my hair.
I unbutton your shirt with nervous fingers.
Loose track of time.
I end up wet, unsatisfied.

You can find Jeri Thompson watching too much TV on the couch with her two cats. She will probably be eating too many complex carbs at the same time. She loves to walk and listen to music, which is her second favorite thing to do. Some other favorite things? Writing (of course), reading, riding her Trikke at the beach and looking forward (or backward) to Fall.

List of Poets

Susan Thornton

THOU STILL UNRAVISHED BRIDE

Thou still unravished bride of quietness . . .
Wait, what, me? Are you kidding? I
have a lot to say yet and have only
just started speaking. I’ve got my job at the
TV station and this hopping social life and the leafy
view out the porch off the kitchen. I know you
like the French poster and the flowers I
put out before dinner but don’t go getting
all fee fie foe flummery romantic on me.
I’ve just started on this journey of my life and I
hate to say it, baby, but you’re showing your
years. Those sixties they were long ago.
and as far as deities or mortals or of both in
temple or the dales of Arkady, isn’t that
someplace in Greece, like, and aren’t they the
most impoverished state in modern Europe?
They don’t still empty their town of folk for this
pious morn, and lead a heifer with her silken
flanks with garlands dress, in this age and day?

I’ve seen you huffing and puffing on the elliptical at the Y
and stopping to rest when you think no one’s looking.
I know old age is coming for me too, but he’s a lot closer to
you than to me, so the next time we see each other, hey,
I’m happy to let you buy but don’t let me catch you thinking
we’re in the same league because this maiden here may be over
wrought but she’s not made of marble. Foster child I may be—
I’m somebody’s child—and don’t go thinking that means an
introduction to my parents. Time can go slow for me
‘cause I’ve got lots of it. And cold? I’m not so sure.
More like, forever warm and still
to be enjoyed. But not by you.

Susan Thornton’s memoir, On Broken Glass: Loving and Losing John Gardner, was published in 2000 by Carroll & Graf, New York. Her short fiction has appeared in The Seattle Review, the Best of Puerto Del Sol, The Literary Review (2015) and Dark Fire Fiction (2014, forthcoming 2015). She has received fiction fellowships from the Massachusetts and the Pennsylvania Councils on the Arts.

List of Poets

Kerry Trautman

SOME FRIENDS MENTIONED THEIR LACK OF SEX . . .

offhand, like a joke,
but one that hardened behind the eyes,
lava given over to obsidian.
And I thought, what a waste—
two hot young folks like them
dry where slickness should be,
no crescent fingernail gouges on asscheeks,
the necks unlicked,
smooth shoulders unbitten,
hips un-clutched by quaking palms.

Two souls who desire, deserve,
sleeping thigh near cooled thigh,
each with only their own gravity
pressing their flesh to the mattress,
holding them there.

If only we could give good friends
the gift of sex—
not fuck them ourselves, but get then fucked.
If only passion could be bestowed upon
our fellow men and women,
like coins plinked into marble fountains,
like wishes cast upon stars,
settling downward
in the form of hot breath on earlobes,
or fingertips seeking, finding.

TO MY HUSBAND’S BEST FRIEND

I know I am like the cold moon—
a dark-halved liar who

seems full three days instead of its mere one.
When I am gone,

any woman
could sidle in

to solace the brave widower
with the bronze moonglow of her.

But you, you could not be replaced—
you and your shared decades

of musing, gripes, and easy joy.
You, the surf to his shore,

tide-ing away then together in
salted cleansing.

Your death
would leave a gulf

I could not fill, and he might
decide to hate me for it.

And should he die,
you and I

might need to make love to conjure him.
Three become two become three again.

You and I and our griefs adhered
to mold a bright sphere

of him from our scant
crescents of remaining light.

JANUARY, 2AM

Wind thrashed our corner
upstairs bedroom
like sea swells bashing
the belly of a ship.

Your tongue woke me
from the insides out—

a confusion of heat in the
tumultuous chill of the deep dark.

And I couldn’t imagine
it was the fault of the Sirens that
ancient sailors ran aground
in blind surf

but rather that the sea men themselves
sought out the women’s heat

the women who obliged,
clutched the sailors’ salted skulls,
held them home.

Kerry Trautman lives in smalltown Ohio. She is a founding member of Toledo, Ohio’s Almeda St. Poets, and is often seen at local poetry readings and events such as Artomatic 419, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, and the Columbus Arts Festival. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in various print and online journals, including Midwestern Gothic, Alimentum, The Coe Review, Think Journal, and Third Wednesday; as well as in anthologies such as, Mourning Sickness (Omniarts, 2008), and Journey to Crone</ i>(Chuffed Buff Books, 2013). Her chapbook, Things That Come in Boxes, was published by King Craft Press in 2012. Her second poetry chapbook, To Have Hoped, is available at www.finishinglinepress.com

List of Poets

Jonathan Travelstead

TO THE YOUNG POET

Each Ducati’s paint dulls to primer no matter
how much elbow grease, or turtle wax torpedoes the faded finish.
Somehow you know it’s coming. The moment of impotence
when pistons galloping in the ribcage of your thighs
& the motorcycle’s open frame whinge from overuse & seize,
dump its final heat drafts to the wind.

A couple in a streetside bistro.
Jacketed in leather, the young man toasts the brownie sundae
with port when her mouth opens, her tongue breaks
the word that’s been broken a million times,
abused, the spirit which flees a body too badly beaten.

Keep using the wrong tool and see what else
the threads strip out. Channel locks you curse, rounding the hexnut’s
corners. Inchoate, half-formed words hammering your intent’s
confused drywall like busted knuckles, blood-flecked skin
left hanging in chads from the nails.

Young man, picture yourself in Mexico:
James Dean-horsed caballero with a girl that looks like Salma Hayek
hooked around your chest. Glossy enough to sell perfume:
You, eyeing every dirt road out of that two-chicken town.

She can’t give what he finds in sputtering the red-,
& blue threads mapping its tank, & you won’t care for her the way
preacher’s daughters
need overbearing Fathers
to do their driving, promising to never take them further
than the Chili’s in Abilene.

The worst thing parents can do is stay married,
devoted enough after one suffering financial infidelity to seek
counseling which ends in buying a new sex toy
each month.
Poet, it’s no wonder you troll the college scene
for the first nun hiding her bad habit like a ruby-sequined thong, & here
you are, foraging again, hot on the trail of someone you beseech
to finish your sentence’s broken syntax.

Next year you’ll be in Amsterdam’s red neon crying
on a prostitute’s shoulder (looks like Salma Hayek), after that
the purple district’s fuzzy light
asking someone else if two wrens
broken in their hollow bones will ever fit one pair of wings.
You will offer to pay more, & ask to share a single breath,
& if quarter-cups of birdseed and cum have the calories necessary
to mend those silky things we look for
on the backs of others
that we might ask to borrow & be angelic a few seconds
before realizing our nakedness and shame.

Poet, for now crawl back to your ruined hovel.
Stroking your arm the way you want, pen a missive to it,
& wreck yourself again. Like this, write:

(Your Name),
I don’t know how I could live without you.

Sincere,
j

If your chest pounds, good. Now proceed to your nearest darling.
Say again: You are the only one I can love
as I loved my Mother.

Jonathan Travelstead served in the Air Force National Guard for six years as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro. Having finished his MFA at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, he now works on an old dirt-bike he hopes will one day get him to the salt flats of Bolivia. He has published work in The Iowa Review, on Poetrydaily.com, and has work forthcoming in The Crab Orchard Review, among others. His first collection “How We Bury Our Dead” by Cobalt/Thumbnail Press was released in March, 2015.

List of Poets

S. Triella

THALIA

Thalia was Ginger’s summer lover.
She’d show up unexpectedly, kick off her boots,
and shed her ridiculous pork-pie hat
and pastel abstract-print sundress.
She loved slow food and fast fucking,
and sometimes the reverse.

Thalia loved old movies, Children of Paradise her favorite,
as seen through too much Cabernet–
a little tart, lean, trace of tannin.

She loved taunting the neighbor’s dog,
and Rollerblading without a helmet.
She loved pot and would cadge it however she could,
once with a messy hand job to a stranger in the men’s room
between sets of the Gizmos at the Troll Club.
“Can you smell it on me still?” she whispered to Ginger tauntingly
in her delightful husky, gawky alto accent,
sharing, out in the lot at 2 a.m.,
the third and final joint.

Thalia loved games and dildos and humiliating Ginger,
putting a dog collar on her, slapping her once, then kissing her gently,
then crying because it was so beautiful.

Thalia loved the Doors and the Misfits and the Bitches and the Carpenters
and samba and baroque and especially Medieval chants.
She loved fetching the paper without pants.
She loved incense and candles and sit-ups
and farting and laughing and Federico Garcia Lorca and garters and Pilates
and dumbbells and deep kisses and spin classes
and gauzy scarves and sorbet and limoncello.

She loved taking Polaroids of nipples with stemmed cherries perched on them,
and elongated necks covered with whipped cream.
Or of Ginger by the lake.
“Take off your top. No one will see. No one cares.”
People saw. People cared. Ginger came involuntarily,
then slipped on a T-shirt, ate a lovingly compiled lamb sandwich,
drank Pellegrino,
and felt happier than she ever had.

Thalia went home to Italy. Ginger never saw her again.

Thalia flashes through Ginger’s mind now
as Ginger drops her son off at day camp.
She buys an anti-virus package at Micro Center
and stops for a coffee at Grounds.
Flips through The New Yorker.
Munches a muffin. Goes to pee.

She has a second cup,
hears the monks’ remixed chants,
looks at me, and sees
nothing.

S. Triella is a poet in Washington, D.C.

List of Poets

Marvin Waldman

A WAKE OF SORTS

It’s time to say goodbye to my penis
Ciao bambino!
Shalom shlong!
We’ve been through
a lot together
so it’s hard, you know,
but enough is enough.
Enough inexplicable excitations. Remember
Arlene Applebaum?
Enough of not being able to stand up because
it is.
Enough worrying if it will.
Enough itching
when scratching
is out of the question.
Enough of it being the measure
of your man,
the shortener of your attention span,
the lengths to which
you go.
Enough of it filling a void
which can never be filled.
Enough of it being turned down
because it’s 3AM, she says, and
we just did it yesterday and you were nasty
to me last week when we had dinner with the Mirskys.
Enough of it refusing to do
what it once could do
or at least what you’d like to think it once could do.
And enough of it proving that just like
your father’s,
it can make babies that grow
to break your heart.

Marvin Waldman, a New Yorker, is a veteran advertising creative director who for the last ten years has concentrated mainly on not-for-profits, with the occasional corporate client to keep the bills paid. He has had stories published on and offline and a ten minute play he wrote was produced and shown in libraries around Long Island.

List of Poets

Michelle Watters

IF ONLY I HAD LEARNED ON A BANANA

I gave my first blow job in the bathroom
of a two room shack
a mile from a nuclear power plant

I was 18
you were 20
you had me watch a porn
to see how to do it correctly

we were back together again
after one of our breakups
they happened frequently
because you didn’t
want to “cheat on me”
It was beneath you

but getting a blow job
from your 15 year old cousin
was not
“her mother taught her how to do it
on a banana” you bragged

so here I was
kneeling on the cracked
linoleum floor
sucking your dick
while you sat on the toilet

I was supposed to
deep throat it
and when you came
I was supposed to gargle
or swallow

Instead
I threw up
you laughed
told me
“it wasn’t bad for your first time”

Michelle Watters’ poetry has appeared in Vending Machine Press, The Lake, Yellow Chair Review, Bop Dead City, and elsewhere. She has work forthcoming in Not One Of Us, three drops from a cauldron, and Allegro Poetry. Michelle is an assistant poetry editor for Mud Season Review. She lives in Shelburne, Vermont with her husband, daughter and two dogs. For more of Michelle’s work, go here.

List of Poets

Laryssa Wirstiuk

HIM, ONLY

At two-forty-three, I ask, “Please,
will you make love to me?” But he
wants to wait at least fifteen minutes
for MSNBC and one anchor brunette.

“I’d like to position you on the TV
and spread your legs while she
lists the day’s tragedies,” he coos.
“So it’s like she’s present with us.”

I assure you he’s not serious, but if
given an opportunity he wouldn’t refuse
the chance to enjoy our naked bodies
intertwined, a lipsticked mouth on mine.

Oh, to know he desired me and a third –
hypothetical, female celebrity who would
please me while he watched from a seat
across a room – was enough to welcome it.

“What would you like her to do to you?”
In most pornography, female-female-
male threesomes usually begin with
the women worshipping an erect phallus.

But with him, I understood transcendent
desires, and our rules would specify
he as a witness to my pleasure given
by someone soft and less determined.

He and I have described our fantasy
women; he has a thing for newscasters,
while I like dark, quintessential bad girls,
but who would want me this nervous?

When I was still curious about OKCupid,
another man requested I meet him
and his girlfriend seeking their “unicorn,”
the elusive single woman without strings.

But wanting control, I declined their offer
and changed my match preferences
to include “women,” so I could practice
wooing them with “Hey, pretty thing.”

All sensed my inexperience, my lack
of confidence, broken by a late-night
attempt to kiss my favorite suitemate,
who I had loved, never really desired.

“If we were to have a threesome,” he
asks. “Would it change the way you feel
about me?” He’s worried that I’ll fall
in love with the woman in our fantasy.

“You’re better than the imagined one,”
he says on top of me. The temperature
outside is below freezing, but the sunlight
could stream into the longest day I’ve seen.

He requests a short story, to show him
and me as characters interacting with
her, but instead I describe my desire
to be an art teacher, indulge my memory.

Removing my layer after layer, he asks,
“What would you like me to do?” I’m so used
to imagining her that I must remind myself
we’re alone, the only two in the room.

“I just want you,” I say, my voice echoing
in the vacant space. As he enters me,
I fear someone’s missing. It feels too good
to be him, only. I should’ve thanked the third.

TWENTY-ONE DAYS

Every month, I chew twenty-one
norethindrone and ethinyl estradiol
tablets then take a break to bleed
for seven days. I’ll never find
synchronicity with the moon’s synodic
cycle. What am I shedding
if nothing’s been prepared? My body
is an inhospitable place like an ocean
not governed by lunar movement. No one
will greet you or invite you to stay.
What a miracle to not have to worry
about the standard trappings of being
a woman. What a relief to forget
about pleasure because I’ve been
chemically castrated. But how am I
to know if it’s biology or daily anxiety
that prevents me from wanting
everything? At thirty years old,
after more than twenty-five-hundred
pills, I’m still horrified when a friend
says, “I’m pregnant” before I remember
that some women become ready
and give themselves to the swell.

Laryssa Wirstiuk lives in New Jersey with her mini dachshund Charlotte Moo. Laryssa’s collection of short stories The Prescribed Burn won Honorable Mention in the 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have been published in Gargoyle Magazine, Word Riot, Barely South Review, and Up the Staircase Quarterly. www.laryssawirstiuk.com

List of Poets

Peter Wyton

ORGANS OF PLEASURE

He has
The wedding gear, the mutton spear,
The Hampton Wick, the pogo stick,
The Cor Blimey, the old slimy,
The love truncheon, the lady’s luncheon,
The red hot poker, the one-eyed joker,
The bald headed cherry plucker,
The blue-veined custard chucker,
The letcherer’s stretcher, the beaver cleaver,
The riddle-me-ree, the best leg of three,
The stiff elver, the Long Dong Silver,
The rogerer’s todger, the temporary lodger,
The arousing, carousing trouser mauser.

She’s got
The beauty spot, the flower pot,
The gape over the garter, the pearl harbour,
The butter boat, King Arthur’s moat,
The parsley patch, the vole catcher,
The gristle gripper, the wick dipper,
My old cocker’s dinner locker.
The safe deposit, Blackbeard’s closet,
The rocket pocket, the serpent socket,
The spasm chasm, the stench trench,
Moaning Myrtle’s snapping turtle,
The highly boisterous roisterer’s oyster
In Old Mother Hubbard’s corner cupboard.

Together they’re
Working up a lather playing mother and father,
Dancing the blanket hornpipe, to the tune of the wheezing bag-pipe,
Played the time-honoured Olympian sport
Of bashing the balls in the aphrodisiacal tennis court,
Prising open the bearded clam, breaching the walls of the dam,
Having a roll on the bush patrol,
Stabbing the main vein, plumbing the domestic drain,
Sinking the sausage, sucking the lozenge,
Parallel parking in the dark, rocking Noah in the ark,
Up to their nuts in guts, riding the baloney pony,
Exercising the ferret, awarding the marrow of merit,
Lying on the lovely life-raft, leading the llama to the lift-shaft,
Groping for trout in a peculiar river
(and that’s from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure!)

But when they’re apart, they’re individually reduced to
Meddling with the muffin, paddling the puffin,
Having a fit slapping the slit,
Hand to hand combat with the wobbly wombat,
Playing sticky pinky, parting the red sea,
Jerking the gherkin, juggling the slug,
Scratching the patch and smoothing the thatch,
Having a fidget, mangling the midget.

Welcome aboard the word boat Venus
Finding alternatives to vag and penis,
Long may lovers, old and young
Have intercourse using the English tongue.

Peter Wyton keeps one foot firmly in ‘page’ and the other in ‘stage’ poetry. His verses have been published in three national newspapers, a number of prestigious anthologies, the pick of which is the Oxford University Press Book of War Poetry. He has had work in getting on for 100 periodicals, magazines and on-line sites. 1st prizes in both written competition & performance poetry Slams are each in their twenties. He has performed at festivals, arts centres, pubs and clubs innumerable. Samples of his style can be found at http://peterwytonpoet.wordpress.com/

List of Poets

Sarah Yake

INTIMACY

The softness of your wrists
arrests me, flesh-to-flesh,
astride you in mid-tryst.

In blurring stages of undress
we traded wit for nakedness

now veins of you I’d only guessed
in unsunned places
twist

a noose
of sudden
sacredness.

Sarah Yake resides, reads, writes (and represents) in suburban Philadelphia.

The Poets:

Cover Art
Roy J.
Adams
Kelli Russell
Agodon
Kelli
Allen
Tai
Allen
Heather
Altfeld
Virginia
Archer
Elizabeth
Archey
Mikki
Aronoff
Mikki
Aronoff (again)
Anthony
Ausiello
Devon
Balwit
Colin
Bancroft
Blake
Barringer
Emily
Bartholet
Amy
Baskin
Erinn
Batykefer
Lana
Bella
Nina
Bennett
Nina
Bennett (again)
Amy Christina
Berg
Carol
Berg
Robert
Beveridge
Subhra
Bhattacharya
Nilanjana
Bhowmick
Scott
Blackwell
Jane
Blanchard
Jane
Blanchard (again)
Jane
Blanchard (and again!)
Jane
Blanchard (and yet again!)
Jane
Blanchard (The woman never stops!)
Jane
Blanchard (seriously, never!)
Katie
Blanchette
Chris
Blocker
Jota
Boombaba
Valerie
Borey
Tara
Borin
Elya
Braden
Elya
Braden (again)
Jackie
Braje
Christine
Brandel
Alan
Britt
Carole
Bromley
Bria
Brown
Jacquelyn Grant
Brown
John Mark
Brown
F. C.
Brown Cloud
Ingrid
Bruck
Stuart
Buck
Giuseppe Martino
Buonaiuto
Giuseppe Martino
Buonaiuto (again)
Giuseppe Martino
Buonaiuto (and again!)
Helen
Burke
Wayne F.
Burke
Jane
Burn
D. C.
Buschmann
Miki
Byrne
Stephen
Byrne
Lanette
Cadle
James
Cagney
Tara
Campbell
Joan
Canby
Valentina
Cano
Wendy Taylor
Carlisle
Wendy Taylor
Carlisle (again)
Marla
Carlton
Karen Marguerite
Caronna
Rachel
Caruso-Bryant
Edmund
Caterpillar
Marri
Champié
Shulamith
Chernoff
Michael
Chin
Sarah
Clayville
Victor
Clevenger
Victor
Clevenger (again)
Eric
Cline
Rachael
Clyne
Simon
Cockle
Ars
Cogitanda
Marion Deutsche
Cohen
Alicia
Cole
Joshua
Cole
Patricia
Coleman
Nathan
Comstock
Rhiannon
Conley
Daniel Roy
Connelly
Reese
Conner
L. Marie
Cook
Michael
Coolen
Michael
Coolen (again)
Michael
Coolen (and again)
Dan
Cooper
Jack
Cooper
Kymm
Coveney
Terry
Cox-Joseph
James L.
Craig
Kiley
Creekmore
Erin
Cummiskey
Tony
Daly
Gram Joel
Davies
J.
Davies
Jenifer
DeBellis
Lenny
DellaRocca
Darren
Demaree
Sarah L
Dixon
Mary
Downes
Tim
Duffy
Baisali Chatterjee
Dutt
Amitabh Vikram
Dwivedi
Mackenzie
Dwyer
Pat
Edwards
Laura
Eklund
Ashley
Elizabeth
Philip
Elliot
Hilary
Ellis-Minogue
Erric
Emerson
Robyn Alana
Engel
Patricia J.
Esposito
Michael
Estabrook
Linda
Evans
R. Gerry
Fabian
Alexis Rhone
Fancher
Alexis Rhone
Fancher (again)
Sandra L.
Faulkner
Claire T.
Field
Vern
Fein
Monica
Flegg
Yvette
Flis
David
Flynn
Alice B.
Fogel
Lisa
Folkmire
Brittany
Fonte
Frederick
Foote
Robert
Ford
James
Fowler
Samuel
Fox
Adele
Fraser
Jack M.
Freedman
Siaara
Freeman
Siaara
Freeman (Again)
Karie
Fugett
Sheri
Gabbert
Majda
Gama
John
Garanamoo
Richard
Garcia
Kate
Garrett
Natasha
Garrett
D.G.
Geis
Kat
Giordano
Mori
Glaser
Jessica
Gleason
Bill
Glose
Marissa
Glover
Ed
Gold
F. I.
Goldhaber
Patricia L.
Goodman
Patricia L.
Goodman (again)
Patricia L.
Goodman (and again!)
Patricia L.
Goodman (and yet again!)
Patricia L.
Goodman (the woman never stops!)
Patricia L.
Goodman (one more time!)
Danusha V.
Goska
Leanne
Grabel
Christine
Graf
Brit
Graham
Ed
Granger
Kristyl
Gravina
Lori
Gravley
John
Grey
John
Grey (again)
Tina
Groumoutis
Tad
Gruchalla-Wesierski
Jamie
Haddox
Trevor
Hallam
Robert
Halleck
Cordelia
Hanemann
Caroline
Hardaker
Gayane
Haroutyunyan
Lois Marie
Harrod
Iseult
Healy
Iseult
Healy (again)
Peleg
Held
Robin
Helweg-Larsen
Robin
Helweg-Larsen (again)
Robin
Helweg-Larsen (and again!)
Robin
Helweg-Larsen (and yet again!)
Sarah
Henry
Claire
Hermann
Marianna
Hofer
Marianna
Hofer (again)
Erica
Hoffmeister
Angi
Holden
Angi
Holden (again)
Sherry
Howard