Spring-Summer 2016 Issue

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Spring-Summer 2016 Issue


 
 
 
 
Barbeito, Brian Cover Art Smaller
 
 

TIME photograph by Brian Michael Barbeito.

 
Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian writer and photographer. Recent work appears at Fiction International, The Tishman Review, and Cv2 The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing.
 
 
 
List of Poets
 
 
Kelli Allen
 
 
HUNTING, LIKE AN AWL THOUGH LEATHER
 
First, the body is bent. And we
barely speak into the maw
of the potbellied stove
as we feed logs tighter
into such fullness.
 
Someone I knew once
hummed each movement
from that song you love
and now, while you arch
your back into stretch, bones
a whimper through this too cool night,
I want nothing more
than to slither soft behind
and collect your wrists
with my tongue while you tell me
what it is to crave a proper scratch
behind hairy ears. We might meet
again, later
 
in leanings against that old church,
its bell weighted by your stories, not mine,
and I will tell you, then, ash still
under my boot, why I asked you
to come inside.
 
 
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 Lindenwold 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.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Anthony Ausiello
 
 
DINNER WITH ANOTHER COUPLE
 
The wife sighs,
Endoscopy
and colonoscopy,

flicks her finger up and down
in case we knew not the way
to either end.
She nods for the waiter
to top off her Pinot
from the treasured bottle
the husband proudly unveiled
with his tale
of a business trip
to Prague,
thrilling,
as the wife’s
GI woes.
 
I raise my glass
and say,
Remember when
double penetration
meant a fun night…

 
The wife’s upper lip
curls like Elvis,’
the husband slides
his finger
under his Rolex
to scratch a phantom itch,
his smile,
like when you can’t remember
someone’s name.
 
 
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
 
 
Colin Bancroft
 
 
SITTING ON THE ROCKS BY PENVEEN LIGHTHOUSE
 
The chimneys of the mines stalk the horizon.
Drizzle grey in this light, opaque in the last
of the day. Seagulls barred against the wind,
carrier bags caught in an updraft.
The sea rips rough against the rocks,
slapping high white waves that look
like beads pulled from a chain, scattered.
Far out, almost out of sight, a boat appears,
vanishes – light sodden in the tin vast gloom.
It scatters its beacon through the mist,
looking for a coupling from the cliffs
where the great gleam of the lighthouse
beckons back, as if pulling it in.
 
 
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 showcases his work at www.colinbancroft.co.uk For more of Colin’s work, go here.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Jessica Barksdale
 
 
MIDDLE
 
Skin, brain, organs, those that remain,
that reproductive flap long ago heaped into medical waste.
Teeth, eyes, stomach, that last foul,
caustic beast always prickly.
Nervous as a child,
pangy cramps gripping with sharp claws
as the school bus blasted by,
she straining on the only toilet,
her sister pounding on the door.
Who needed Monday morning spelling tests, teasing, socks slipping
as she ran on the playground, hair wet from morning fog?
Her underwear, of course, baggy.
Shoes tight at big toes, hair a crooked, kitchen-chair cut,
dress hems gaping mouths where she caught them on her bike seat,
riding illegally in the afternoons before changing into play clothes.
 
All of that a half century ago,
where time lives, in her fingers, on the screen,
all the hours in the wrong classrooms, dust in linoleum corners,
teachers with clacking high-heeled shoes,
the afternoons hot and long and smelly, ripe
with the slow girl in the back row who peed in widening yellow puddles.
The smack of bombardment balls against ribs,
the cold of rainy day asphalt rasping her knees.
But she could chase and skip and swing for hours,
a whirl on the bars, round and round and round.
 
What once zipped and hummed inside her is dying,
but what didn’t work is finally kicking in.
Like not caring about shoes or hems or hair, walking
into the store a wild, just awakened wreck but smiling at the cashier anyway.
You don’t like her?
Go fuck yourself, and she means it.
Do, though, kindly pass the flaxseed, hemp hearts,
cranberry supplement, probiotic,
ground-up cow cartilage because her limber
low-down is gone, joints aching,
bone-on-bone, a gasping step one and step two.
Achilles, ah! Knees, oh!
Hand her the stronger reading glasses.
The vaginal hormone suppositories. The melatonin.
Maybe an ear horn. (What did you say?)
A diaper, a pot brownie, a window with a view.
 
 
Jessica Barksdale’s fourteenth novel, The Burning Hour, is forthcoming from Urban Farmhouse Press in March 2016. A Pushcart Prize and Best-of-the-Net nominee, her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in Compose, Salt Hill Journal, The Coachella Review, Carve Magazine, Mason’s Road, and So to Speak. She is a Professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and teaches online novel writing for UCLA Extension. She holds an MA in English Literature from San Francisco State University and an MFA from the Rainier Writers Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.
 
Back to Poets
 
 
Amy Baskin
 
 
I, OF THE GRAIN
-Song of Demeter, a dom
 
offer me the first loaf of bread
I will give you back fertile lands
and let your babies nurse from me
burn away their mortal essence
 
do not cut down my holy groves
offer me the first loaf of bread
I will lay often upon you
anoint your kin with ambrosia
 
do not divulge my Mysteries
you seek to conquer little deaths
offer me the first loaf of bread
or I will let your seed wither
 
at Eleusis in Attica
Anthele south of Thessaly
they pray to me, Corn Mother and
offer me the first loaf of bread
 
 
Amy Baskin writes poetry, stories, picture books and non-fiction. Her work is currently also featured in NonBinary Review, Sein Und Werden, The Gorge Journal, Random Poem Tree, and Mothers Always Write and is forthcoming in McGraw-Hill Big Books. She’s had the pleasure of working on the revision process with Oregon’s former poet laureate Pauline Petersen, and participating in a sonnet critique group with Allison Joseph. For more of Amy’s work, go here.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Jon Bennett
 
 
MY FRIENDS
 
I knew his brother
and his brother wasn’t a junkie
he had a PhD in physics
but the schizophrenia
took everything and when
he realized he
wouldn’t get better
he injected a calculated
dose of heroin
his first and last.
Now here’s his brother
who stinks
is delusional and paranoid
but plays the beat up
group home guitar
as easily as
a bird uses its wings.
I’ve seen crazy geniuses rot,
buried as they lived.
The truth of the thing
is talent doesn’t mean much
it’s all about
the company
you keep.
 
 
ANOMALOUS BAGS
 
“Why’s it so cheap?”
“It’s like carburetor cleaner.”
At $20 a bag
the stuff is reasonable
but 3 days later
I still have chest pains.
It’s a strange pain
like an early map
of North America.
I have no idea
where the pain will lead
but it may be
off the edge
of the world.
 
 
Jon Bennett’s work has most recently appeared in GTK Creative Review, Dead Snakes and Your One Phone Call.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Carl Boon
 
 
ANOTHER WAR STORY
 
She walks through arcs of tracer-fire
carrying a balloon. She wants to go home,
perhaps to make soup,
to watch her baby sleeping
in the crib her grandfather made.
 
She has small desires, small feet
that carry her through the capital.
The night is close to her,
as close as the lights at Be’er Tuviya.
 
They all grow dark tonight.
She wanders through the kitchen,
knowing there might not be
a kitchen tomorrow. The news is bad, the night
is long, the bread grows stale in its box.
 
 
Carl Boon lives and works in Izmir, Turkey. His poems appear in dozens of magazines, most recently Neat, Jet Fuel Review, Blast Furnace, and the Kentucky Review.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Stuart Buck
 
 
6/8/45
 
the stuff gathering
 
inexorably on our
 
shelves is just bits
 
of you and me
 
and the cats
 
 
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.
 
Back to Poets
 
 
Jamie Lynn Buehner
 
 
GROSS BRIE: GROWING PAINS
 
So you like the ocean and the mountains. You’re not just talking about going there for a while; you’re talking about going and only coming home when someone dies. Maybe I’m jealous. I never left and I wanted to.
 
I don’t know if I want to go or not. There are so many things I want to say.
 
Just fucking say them
.
 
I’m getting fat. I bought gross blue cheese. I already drank the smoothie I bought for tomorrow morning. I should have just gone to Subway. Gross brie. Why did she say that about dying.
 
 
Jamie Lynn Buehner is the author of Dessert Poems (Binge Press, 2012) and Catalpa (Red Bird Chapbooks, forthcoming 2016). Her recent work appears in pioneertown, Sleet, The Midwest Quarterly, and the Wisconsin Review. She lives in Germany.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Stephen Byrne
 
 
IN AN INSTANT YOU OPEN YOUR EYES AND SNOW FALLS
 
hurry she says with her hand in yours tangled
together like the roots of old trees
come hurry she repeats and you both
skip through the snow the crunch
beneath feet beneath her tiny feet
seems to sing through the darkness
from tree to tree rustling leaves breaking branches
as if the forest suddenly appears to breathe
and the snow begins to tread barefoot
upon our lips to last but an instant
to transform from flake to teardrops
that you can’t understand
are tearing down your cheek
come hurry my love you hear
in the distance through the trees rustling leaves
breaking branches of absence upon
the blanket of snow and her hand
no longer in yours and her voice
but a murmur and a crunch of feet
fading as shadow beneath
moonlight and you wake peeling
off sheets with a pillow crushed
into your chest and the thump
and the thump of your heart
disturbs the silence of the room
 
 
SHE SPEAKS CELLO
 
To see you naked is to recall the Earth.
Federico Garcia Lorca
 
There are ways we can speak each other
that keep our secrets and silences
close to our chests.
 
I like to lend you my eyes,
the greenish parts
and place them on your lap
or on the upper curve of your lip
and let you watch them,
hunched like wings,
open up before you
in a burst of syllables,
telling you all you need to know
about the unquestionable truth.
 
You say my eyes know
the shape of your breasts,
every line on your hands-
the blemishes on your skin
you hide from the world.
 
You say my eyes
are the wavering light
in a darkened room,
watching you fall to sleep,
asking you to dream.
 
I say you speak cello.
Not long and drawn
nor deep or unmoving
 
but like a tremble of little cellist feet
that scurry all over my body,
maneuvering here and there-
 
an orchestra of sonatas
bursting
from the cave of your mouth,
insistent in your words,
breathless,
demanding,
and each note of your perfect hymn
is met by the green of my eyes
watching you draw me in
as we speak together in secrets and silences.
 
 
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
 
 
Jared Carter
 
HEALER
 
She had come to the road’s end
and the start of a lane of hickory,
and stood as instructed, beside
the mailbox, waiting for a sign.
 
The letter had said that a lantern
would be lit. She pulled a shawl
about her shoulders. It was cold.
Stars were still out, but no moon.
 
Finally a sliver of light appeared,
distant and dim. Someone headed
for the barn, the lantern swinging,
and a voice calling to the animals.
 
After a time he came down the lane,
a redbone hound at his heels,
and motioned for her to join them.
He held the lantern so she could see.
 
Still early morning, everything dark
except for the circle of shifting light,
and the trees quiet around them,
the dog padding along in the dust.
 
He led her into a room in the house,
seated her in a straight-backed chair,
then took a candle, focused its light
with a lens, and peered into her eyes.
 
There were patterns enfolded
within her irises, that gave hints
of what might be troubling her,
that she had described in her letter.
 
Then he spoke for the first time,
naming three plants that grew wild,
to be found along the roadsides,
that she must ingest in certain ways.
 
Lamps were no longer needed.
A brightness had entered the room.
His voice was as clear as the light
coming through the windows.
 
At the last, he reached to enclose
both of her hands, holding them
for a moment, with his eyes closed,
in a way she would always remember.
 
Then she was back by the mailbox
at the road’s edge, the sky overhead
filled with clouds, and the cornfields
waving their bright green leaves.
 
 
Jared Carter’s most recent book is Darkened Rooms of Summer: New and Selected Poems, published by the University of Nebraska Press. It is the first volume in the Ted Kooser Contemporary Poetry Series. Carter lives in Indiana.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Joseph Citro
 
 
A POEM
 
A poem shouldn’t
be too long.
You feel loquacious?
Write a song.
 
 
Joseph Citro is a Vermont author and occasional consulting editor at Rat’s Ass Review. He once collaborated in a poetry collection titled The Love Poems of Joe and Rick, for which he wrote all of the offensive ones.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Michael Coolen
 
 
OH HOW THE DEAD GUY ON THE STICK LOVES YOU
 
it took the guy on the stick six hours to die
because he loved loved loved you suffered
suffered for your sins suffered more than anybody ever suffered
way back to when the universe was created six thousand years ago
 
suffered compared to what
fifty women beheaded in a church by Catholics
the infants still sucking the breasts of their lifeless mothers
like sticking hot needles called pricks into the anuses and vaginas
of naked and shaved women to determine where Satan
had entered their bodies
murdering a million women over three centuries
 
did the guy on a stick suffer worse than having red hot
charcoal shoved down his throat
hung upside down in a tree
cock sliced off and shoved in his mouth
vultures starting to eat him alive
 
did he suffer more than being forced to dig a mass grave for his family’s
bodies rotting in the sun in a nearby field
his oldest son bursting open from gasses
dropping the putrid remains piece by piece into grave
aching for the moment his own body could join his family
 
the dead guy on the stick got taken down by family and friends
who cleaned his body and oiled it and buried it—
soon legions of level-of-suffering spin doctors spouted industrial strength bullshit,
whining about how much the stick guy suffered,
followed by centuries-long heavily armed marketing strategies demanding
love and acceptance of their specific brand of delusional salvation…or else
 
there are no shops where you can buy statues of savaged women
lying on the ground surrounded by the men who raped and gutted them
no necklaces for sale of a man hung upside down in a tree with a cock hanging out of his mouth vultures already eating him
 
but there are countless places to buy a sacred necklace celebrating the
suffering and love love love of the dead guy on a stick
sold in sacred bookstores next to sacred cash registers
for a small fee you can have the necklace blessed by a sacred pedophile
 
 
Michael Coolen is a pianist, composer, actor, performance artist, and writer living in Oregon.
 
He has been published in Ethnomusicology, Western Folklore, Oregon Humanities, 50wordstories Online, The Gold Man Review, Best Travel Stories, The Fable Online, Kalnya Language Press, Twisted Vine, Clementine Poetry Journal, Creative Writing Institute, Rats Ass Review, Solarwyrm Press, Synesthesia Magazine, Broken Plate Poetry Magazine, WalkWriteUp, StoryClub Magazine, et al.
 
He is a published composer, whose works have been performed widely, including at Carnegie Hall, New England Conservatory of Music, Museum of Modern Art, and the Christie Gallery. For more of Michael’s work, go here.
 
List of Poets
 
 
A.S. Coomer
 
 
MOMMA HAD A SWEET TOOTH
 
Momma set the barn on fire
late one October night.
Daddy and I were sleeping
but woke to the false dawn,
to grandma in the backroom
screaming
that it was the Judgment Cometh.
We ran out into the frost
barefooted and without our jackets.
She sat there, Momma did,
indian-style, legs crossed,
flames leaping in their tribal warfare behind her,
humming that old sweet tooth song.
Steam rose off her scalp like a halo
and she told Daddy there’d come snow
in the next few hours and it did.
 
 
A.S. Coomer is a writer. He likes cats, tacos, books & comics. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in issues of Red Fez, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Literary Orphans Journal, The Quill, Blotterature, GFT Press, Flash Fiction Magazine, Oxford Magazine, Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Heater, The Broadkill Review, The Merida Review, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Thirteen Myna Birds, 101 Words, Intrinsick Magazine and Serving House Journal, to name a few. You can find him at www.ascoomer.wordpress.com. He also runs a “record label” for poetry that can be found here:www.lostlonggoneforgottenrecords.wordpress.com.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Jacques Denault
 
 
LIVES OF TREES
 
If trees could speak they’d say, burn me,
cut me down until the sap feeds my roots.

They would beg to be chopped, processed,
and would march to the lumber mills if their trunks would let them.
 
If trees could speak they’d say, clothe me, tie me up
in LEDs that shine like stars
. They would hum to themselves
in the dark of night, or talk with the owls,
who would listen, ask, who?
Me, bend my branches so they snap.

 
When a storm comes they would cry to the clouds,
drown me, they’d say. Flood my roots,
until the earth turns to mud. Then keep raining.

 
If trees could speak, they’d say, kill me.
Kill me and give me new life.

They would want to be held, gently carved into baseball bats or grandfather clocks.
Each swing hitting a ball, or ticking a second, the sound of a cheering stadium, or the slow song of an old man playing the harmonica, while his wife makes a scarf, using two wooden knitting needles, for her granddaughter, still waiting to be born.
 
What do you want to be when you grow up? They’d ask each other
once the people were safe in their homes,
the last few lights flickering out in the windows.
A bible, one would say. Lumber for shingles, says another.
The third tree would think, wishing he could shrug his branches like shoulders, a rocking chair, he’d say, so I could move and be moved.
 
 
Jacques Denault is an undergrad student at Merrimack College. He works for the Merrimack Review, and has previously been published at RedFez Magazine, as well as Beorh Weekly.
 
Back to Poets
 
 
Alexis Rhone Fancher
 
 
FAMILY TREE (A SISTER POEM)
 
My younger sister
climbs my limbs, steals my clothes,
 
sleeps at the foot of my bed,
calls it worship.
 
She wants the gold locket between
my breasts. She wants my breasts.
 
She wants my life.
It’s been crowded since the day she arrived.
 
The slut who is my younger sister
shinnies up my tree, clambers my branches,
 
straddles my limbs.
 
She inserts herself into my conversations,
seduces my best friend,
 
eats my dessert.
 
This Mata Hari likes to watch
 
(his tongue down my throat
hand up my skirt in the bedroom)
 
spills to our parents my every sin,
calls it reverence.
 
And my first love?
She covets him, too.
 
One day she’ll chop me down
to reach him.
 
 
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.
 
Back to Poets
 
 
Deborah Fruchey
 
 
LOOK ME IN THE FACE
 
No one remembers
that I was lovely once.
Even Poseidon came cajoling,
caught me in Athena’s temple:
Pretty Medusa, lips like coral, skin like moonlight
Give in to my glory, open for me
Right here, right now, on the altar
No one will ever know

My scruples gave way for a moment
to rapture with a god.
 
It was over. Athena was livid.
She tore away my womanhood
cursed me to clangorous wings, brass claws
glaring eyes, popping tongue, vipers for hair
– a Gorgon, yes, but not an immortal one –
still a target for boastful young men seeking trophies.
 
Of course I turned them into stone!
The one grace left to me, my wilderness garden
of heroic Grecian statuary.
Perseus was the last. Athena equipped him
– how that woman could hold a grudge!
He cut off my head without ever
looking me in the eye.
 
From my flayed corpse rose Pegasus,
last beautiful gasp of a moment
that had cost me everything.
 
 
Deborah Fruchey writes novels once in a while and poetry more often. Her first poetry collection, Armadillo, appeared in 2014 from Cyborg Press. Recent publications: Tule Review, California Quarterly, and Song of the San Joaquin. For a good free sample of her poetry, read “Dragonfly” on Wattpad.
 
Back to Poets
 
 
Richard Garcia
 
 
THE FIRST OF THE DIANES
 
I loved you like you loved yourself.
More maybe. As Max Von Mayerling said,
It ‘s time for your close-up. But it may never
be time for your close-up. Remember
the photo booth where we took our picture,
our eyes wide with fright, then staring
cross-eyed with our tongues out,
then kissing and kissing again. Diane
Bartalotti, first of the Dianes, Huntress
of the Icy Steppes of Frozen Tundra,
I forgive you for chewing the ruffles
off my pirate shirt. I forgive your long
blonde hair of an Italian movie goddess.
Is it time for your close-up yet?
Your famous breasts have no nipples
you have no navel, there is no
vaccination scar on your arm, and
no one has ever seen you sleeping.
But I am not afraid. Even if it is true
you married an incarcerated Hell’s Angel
and became wealthy from real estate.
Here you can insert your own simile
for the body of the beloved. That
would be you. You, descending the long
staircase, the velvet ropes, the flashbulbs,
the yellow police tape, the reporters shouting,
Is it true? Is it really true? Get back,
back up, back up, give her room to breathe.
 
 
THE SECOND OF THE DIANES
 
I love you more than I did when I was alive.
More than if you were dead and I were alive.
As if the veiled moon cried over the ocean.
As Caesar said, Render down the fat
to the rendered and give bone to bone,
or something like that or maybe it was
about a salad-wilting event in Tijuana.
They’re here! They’re really here.
I do not think Caesar invented a salad
but I know only an evil god could create
the curve of your waist as you lay
by the fire reading my horoscope.
Pluto is in renegade avoid conversion.
Gathering dust on this shelf I long for a grave.
Sparky is sniffing through the backyard
in search of my bones. O, snap out of it.
Get a grip, a gaffer or a best boy.
Diane Bartalotti, the stroke of doom
was invented in honor of your deadly smile,
which even the planet Jupiter envies.
Down girl, down Sparky, now roll over.
I remember the red slash of your voice
as you startled me out of my sleep.
They’re here, they’re here!
Who, I wondered, as headlights flashed
across the bedroom wall as if our bed
had been pulled over by the Highway Patrol.
I’m not afraid of a cascade of alien castanets,
but your tongue stroking my ear
makes me think of Vincent Van Goth
or the arms stolen from the Venus de Milo.
I am no longer who I am and the cockroaches
of my house have forgotten my name.
 
 
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.
 
Back to Poets
 
 
D.G. Geis
 
 
FROM WHENCE COMETH MY HELP?
 
I live in the highlands of central Texas
amid hills knotted with cedar
and limestone as hard and sure
as the Church of Christ on a Sunday morning
or the blood of Jesus smeared
on a cactus spine.
 
Once this dead ground was a seabed
littered with the shells of a trillion
shucked oysters, but after a hundred
million years the ocean decided
to lift her skirt and bend over.
And the walls of the restroom shook.
And the evening and the morning
were the eighth day.
 
Later, God made Bud Light and orange
jumpsuits for the inmates to wear when
they picked up the empties on county
work crews, because even after the Flood
there is still a lot of debris.
 
And then God made honky-tonks
(and bail-bondsmen) for all the survivors:
the Longhorn, the Chicken Coop
and the 11th Street Cowboy Bar,
all places for his restless children to kick back.
And God made DWI lawyers with easy payment plans
and more importantly, judges who drink.
 
He made sure his children would
be fruitful; He made country boys
hung like post-hole diggers and country girls
with ovaries so ripe they literally jumped out
of their clothes. And High Schools where they
still prayed. And babies. And baby-Daddies
from the High Schools where they still prayed.
 
I live in the highlands of central Texas
amid hills knotted with cedar
and limestone as hard and sure
as the Church of Christ on a Sunday morning
or the image of Jesus laughing
from a screen door or the back
of a flour tortilla.
 
 
TO THE GIRL I HUGGED ON WEST AVENUE
 
Darling, you were no looker
and too sincere to bother
straightening your wrinkles.
 
We met for Persian, remember?
Casual date, separate cars—
the cockeyed optimism of
two loners gone Dutch.
 
My dear, you made loneliness ache with delight.
Your profile picture was a good likeness,
and the other photo had a nice sting;
 
the one of you leaning against the couch
in jeans and starched shirt, dachshund at your feet.
The spinster as dandy. A dowager en suite.
 
I’ll give it to you. That took balls.
 
Your plans were simple,
and I admit, within moments, you’d smiled your way
to a tipping point, but not quite far enough
to move my hand to touch your fingers
grazing on the tablecloth behind a sugar caddy.
 
You were open to so many things:
zombie movies, vindaloo, cuddling,
that for a moment I almost
stroked your hand, making music
of those un-played keys.
 
Sadly tuned, you were my near Miss,
who in the parking garage
I hugged so tightly at good-bye,
 
an unprized consolation
crushed between my arms
trying so gamely not to cry,
going home now, straightaway,
 
to feed your dachshund.
 
 
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
 
 
Iseult Healy
 
 
COMPLAINT FROM A PAIN IN THE ASS WHO HATES APPLES
 
Stuck in the beauty of woman
forever pinned to a milk and musk body,
desired, chased, fingered, fondled
and forced into shared space
for the sake of mankind.
 
Not even her name on the species.
A mere second, a runner up,
a lackey, sex slave, starveling,
changeling, ageing, ageless sex.
 
What a cock-up not to have a third.
Someone to pass the buck to.
A neuter. Then man and woman
could be friends and fuck the neuter.
but would that be a neutered fuck
and therefore impossible?
 
Oh well, back to the drawing board.
No bloody apple trees this time.
Might take Sunday off again, though.
 
 
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
 
 
Robin Helweg-Larsen
 
 
BANTERING
 
Bantering needs many, not one voice:
you need ‘response’ as well as ‘call’.
Or else it’s only masturbantering –
with no real intercourse at all.
 
 
AT 15 AND 65
 
At 15, she’d a lovely face, though with untidy hair.
What a disgrace, in one so fair:
at 65, she’s lovely hair, but an untidy face…
 
 
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
 
 
TS Hidalgo
 
 
COME TO US
 
Thy Kingdom:
winter comes
and leaves behind
backpackers,
plutocrats,
a trip to Cassiopeia,
all kinds of pyramids
(the world as it was explained
to the Pharaohs)
… today mere trick, trompe l’oeil, litmus… ,
umpteenth unemployment rates,
and a possibly,
or impossibly, perhaps,
suitable
level of neurotransmitters:
come to us
Thy Kingdom;
come to us
Thy Kingdom:
Spaniards finally become vegans
(The Potato Eaters),
some pairs of Adidas Jesus Christ
(our latest sneakers)
and an invisible credit
at zero cost;
a leading growth in Europe,
and the cut of fear:
come to us
Thy Kingdom:
healings go well, but…
how many of your internal organs
can you live without?
 
 
TS Hidalgo (43) holds a BBA (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), an MBA (IE Business School), a Master in Creative Writing (Hotel Kafka) and a Certificate in Management and the Arts (New York University). His works have been published in, among others, Otoliths, By&By, Poems-For-All, Clementine, The Unrorean, Alien Mouth. Haggard&Halloo, Transcendent Zero and Crack the Spine, and he has won prizes from Criaturas feroces (Editorial Destino), AIDA Books and Pandora Magazine in short story or finalist at Festival Eñe in novel. He has developed his career in finance and stock-market.

 
List of Poets
 
 
Michael Paul Hogan
 
 
THE UNDEAD
 
And if the dead should die? And if the dead
Should die, no more than that? – Why, Master,
There’s not a man alive on this plantation
Who has not known the inside of a grave…

 
I shall wear a white suit
as befits a tropical location.
Baggy white pants and a linen jacket
for a string of Oriental ports
where oil and water mix.
 
Or a pair of brown leather boots
laced to the knee of canvas britches,
and a belt made of rattlesnake rattles
with a caramel holster
and a gun like an octopus hook.
 
I shall brush my black hair
till it shines like a ballroom slipper,
and stroll on the deck with the daughter
of a Chesapeake millionaire
who’s really a gangster.
 
All through the night,
while the dance band plays Gershwin and Porter,
I shall lean on the starboard rail
where a shoreline of dense green coral
smokes on a moonlit tide.
 
And later on disembark
down a gangway all snakes and ladders,
all angles and pebbles and hammocks,
through an archway of elephant trophies
and severed heads on poles.
 
*
 
I shall lie awake
under the blades of a ceiling fan,
my skin stretched thin as the skin of a drum,
blinking my eyes, gekko-quick,
to divert the sweat down each cheek.
 
Or load a revolver
with teeth from a zombie’s skull,
and smear my face with burnt cork
to hide in the shadows the curtains make
that ripple like fish in a kraal.
 
In the houngan’s house
I shall slip through a cowrie-shell doorscreen,
through a room made of whalebone and whaleskin,
of birdshit and batshit and greasepaint,
of bamboo and crinoline.
 
Or run through an aisle of sugar
green and yellow and sharp
as the floor of a leopard trap,
with footsteps always behind me
and the smell of a freshly dug grave.
 
*
 
I shall lie in a tent in Africa
where the earth is the color of dried blood,
and a doll greased with my sweat
glisters in the firelight
with a nail where its heart should be.
 
Facilis descensus Averno…
 
This morning I remembered my name
but not where the blood on the walls came from
or where I hid the last bottle of whiskey
or whether I drank it.
 
It all comes back.
Sooner or later it all comes back.
By which time it has lost all meaning
and is merely the triumph of remembering,
and not much of a triumph at that.
 
Last night I dreamed of a girl
in a silver swimsuit, my wife…
 
This morning I find
broken glass in the washstand,
my face looking back from the mirror
with warpaint across each cheekbone and down my forehead
and the bottleneck still stuck through my hand.
 
 
Michael Paul Hogan is a poet and journalist whose work has appeared extensively in the USA, UK, India and China. His poetry has appeared in over thirty literary journals and in five collections, the most recent of which, Chinese Bolero, was published as a collaboration with the Chinese painter Li Bin. He is currently working on a collection of Surrealist short stories.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Kelly Jones
 
 
GOOD LUCK
 
A bird almost shat on me this morning. I watched it as I walked, convinced the bird resting on a wire would be the seventh to get me. The last time I heard his voice: a voicemail, asking me to ride with him to DC for the protest against the Iraq War. By the time I said yes, it was too late. He was already up there. I went anyway, looked for him in the crowd and yelled with strangers at buildings and streets that weren’t listening. I encounter dead birds a lot. Two years later, in Seattle, at another protest, there was a dead bird on the sidewalk with a cigarette near its beak. I took its picture and posted it in an online album entitled, “Dead Birds Don’t Fly.” Hummingbirds are attracted to the color blue; they scavenge for it in nature, clutch it in their beaks to weave into nests. People tell me it is good luck to have a bird shit on you. In the last email he sent me he wrote 9 fucking days to not die and I get to come home 🙂 and I’m getting out when we get back, so Yea for ME!!! I recently watched a documentary about resistance fighters in Iraq. A scene at sunset with a mosque in the background: so many birds flying around it. Bodies have been found with pulpy eyes because hummingbirds have pecked the irises out. I found a dead bird on my porch once, put it in a jar and kept it in my apartment until it began to smell. Walking home from that protest in Seattle, someone asked me what we were fighting for and I said Freedom! I wish I hadn’t deleted those messages or his cousin’s text saying he had died. Wish I hadn’t thrown a beer bottle at the American Apparel window. In the documentary there were American soldiers running around and explosions in the distance. My beer bottle shattered but the window remained perfect.
 
Kelly divides their time between Durham, NC and New Orleans, LA. Currently they make a living by working at a literacy center and ghost-writing for the internet. Some of their favorite things are glitter, manatees, and Wild Turkey.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Maureen Kingston
 
 
GRAVE-MARKING
 
The giant kneels,
bounces
his rubber ball,
tosses
full-metal jacks.
 
Xs & O
tic-tac-toe
through time,
land as hedgehogs
on Omaha Beach,
 
blackhole
to Bethlehem,
to Gethsemane,
 
become rock stars
of Advent
& the empty tomb.
 
Then the giant
slides prone
& the ball abstracts,
magnifies
the sun’s glare,
withers X
to a “t,”
 
to a plus sign
in a rifle scope,
1963.
 
 
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.
 
Back to Poets
 
 
Norm Klein
 
 
OPEN SEASON
 
Shots echo up from the river.
More deer than ever, I’ve heard,
more hunters hunting them,
more killed on the highway.
 
Last year there were thirteen
wild turkeys in Roger’s field
feeding on anything crawling.
This year there’s only one.
 
Been a rough spring for me and
the turkeys, my bad knee worse,
a woodchuck eating my peas.
All my mail wants money,
 
and there’s that red-tailed hawk
eyeing my last chipmunk as my
goldfinches hide in the maple
closest to the house and feeder.
 
 
Norm Klein’s poems have appeared in Epoch, The Antioch Review, and The Beloit Poetry Journal. For more of Norm’s work, go here.
 
Back to Poets
 
 
Laurie Kolp
 
 
MANHATTAN
 
What may never be
more than just prismatic flash
of streetlights haloed through your eyes
drawn to moistened lips, we kiss.
Up the fire escape, our arms
like wind-heft willows
weighing us down,
hearts hardened
to this possibility
much too long.
From afar, a bone-
rattling train
whistles its warning
as we climb through my window
chance unseen.
Makeup-clumped eyelashes
tickle my neck in lace of limbs
that thrash as I claw shadows,
clench fists so tight my red finger-
nails mark slits on your palms.
The end rushes, and I know.
 
 
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.
 
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Jennifer Litt
 
 
THE OPAL RING DECLARES HER LOVE TO THE MAN IN THE MOON
 
I’m a little lax in my setting,
a bit soft on you.
Now what should I do?
Moon, you’re an old soul,
and I come from an antique shop,
my golden filigree intact.
When you shine your light on me,
I’m a star, a prism, a tear, a dance.
It’s all your fault I’m filled with these
notions of romance, so don’t reflect
on my flaws—Moon, wax.
 
 
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
 
 
Liùsaidh
 
 
THE LAMBTON WORM
 
John Lambton, fishing on a Sunday morn,
The Earl’s own son eschewing Sabbath prayers,
Sat by the River Weir, just after dawn,
And whistled, doffing promise, rank, and care.
Yet, by and by there came a beggar man,
His blind-man’s stick a-tapping on the ground
Cried he; “Milord, please spare some Sunday alms,
At Chapel you should be, but are not found!”
“O what care I for Mass? I hunt and fish!”
The youth responded, while he cast his line.
“Milord, be warned, no good will come of this:
You’ll only catch when Chapel bells do chime!”
’Twas so — John reeled an eel–but then he sought
To hurl it down the well, that fish he’d caught.
 
Discarded down a well the fish he’d caught–
Beneath the noonday sun, a heavy load–
”Tis such a worthless worm,’ young Lambton thought,
‘I might as well have fish’d and caught a toad!’
Yet by that little well there lay a cave,
A crone within as dark as inky skies,
A raven on her wrist (with baleful glare)
Regarding him with bloody, beady eyes.
Said she; “Who hath defil’d the Lady’s well?
This day is dark, Sir, marked upon thy soul!
Submit to me, for neither book nor bell
Will save thee on that wretched way thou’lt go.
One day thou’t come and hunt me with thy horn–
Now get thee to the Hall where thou wert born!”
 
Returning to the Hall where he was born,
Rode Johnny Lambton, troubled in his heart.
The witch’s ire, the blinded beggar’s scorn,
His elders had some stern words to impart!
That prophet scolded by the riverbank
That seer menaced from from her grotto grim —
John was, like all men born with Lambton rank
An untamed youth, eschewing prayer for sin!
He was as all those fiery Northern men,
Who dwell beneath the shadow of the Wall,
They hunt, fish, and disport, but have no ken
Of lofty aims, high purpose in their Halls.
Thus, by the crossroads Lambton’s heir was caught
By preaching priests, and by the news they brought.
 
To hear the clerics preach, the news they brought,
He joined the throng of young men by the way,
A missive from the Papal Father taught,
The Holy Land lay under Moorish sway!
‘Come take the cross and join the merry throng,
Adventure, absolution for thy crimes,
And when we rise to chant our choral song,
Swear to the Lord, and march to foreign climes!’
For with the clerics stood a score of knights,
Nobility and honour etched their brows,
And on their halberds bore in scarlet bright,
With crimson stripes, inscription of their vows.
To bear that rosy form to fair Levant,
He took the Cross that day, turned by their cant.
 
John took the Cross that day, turned by their cant,
O how that old Earl Robert tore his beard!
To see his eldest gone to the Levant;
Ranked with those knights so sacred, and so feared.
For in those desert climes by Zion’s gate
Sir John now learned God’s work in bloody sand
As thousands — slain in some unholy fate —
Spent lifeblood, spilled to wrest a sacred land.
His troop of knights were righteous for the Lord
Eschewing sin, they fought their holy wars,
They slaughtered all that fell beneath their swords
They cared for neither glory, wounds, nor scars.
Sir John forgot the strange Worm down the well
By doing God’s own work, in desert hells.
 
Sir John forgot the Worm, in desert hells,
The callow lad, a man now, blooded cold,
God’s purpose giving way to vices fell,
For Mammon ruled his heart with Arab gold.
Then maids of Araby, their kohl-lined eyes,
beneath their damask veils, their gaze enticed,
He held in twain crusading truths and lies,
Where Virtue was identical to Vice.
Afar, the Well, defiled by his hand
So sullied by the curse, split open wide.
Out slid the Worm to Lambton’s sundered lands
Its havoc wreaked, on Ebon’s dark-moon night.
Earl Robert, fearing witches did enchant:
Sent troubled tidings, to the bless’d Levant.
 
Till troubled tidings came to bless’d Levant,
Sir John remained in ignorance and bliss
He gathered golden loot as was his wont,
He stalked the streets of Zion for a kiss.
No comely maiden –Christian, Moor, or Jew–
Was safe when Johnny Lambton was abroad!
That war turns men to monsters, it is true:
For rape, rapine, and slaughter were his words.
This holy soldier harboured hate in heart.
One night, a maid of Israel he spied,
He followed her; she cursed him in the dark.
“Thy fate is that of Jephthah’s, Sir,” she cried.
But John forgot the curse of Israel:
His sire’s word had reached him of the Well.
 
“A worm has split the sides of Witch’s Well!
With giant maw and pulsing, fiery eyes
Each night he slithers from the place he dwells
To worry all of Lambton’s countryside!
When he has had his beastly belly filled,
His rattling roar is heard with crunching bones,
This serpent slips away, to Penshaw Hill
To wrap his tail ten times about the stones!
No cow is safe, nor are the lambs or sheep
The bairns abed are swallowed whole and live,
Deliver us, my son, our people weep,
How will we reap the harvest, or survive?
I pen these words with sorrow’d shaking hands:
Sir John, return thee now, to native lands.”
 
Sir John returned, to find his native lands
Alone. There sat Earl Robert in his hall;
No abled bodied men at his command.
“We fear the Crone — who lived on Witch’s Lawe —
Hath called this dreadful dragon from the deep.
Sir Knight! See thou, our stalwart men are gone,
O witness, how our weary women weep
The harvest rots: deliver us, my son!
John cried, “My lord, give me the tracking hounds,
Give me fresh horse, your silver hunting horn,
I’ll hunt the Witch where she hath gone to ground,
She shall reveal the way to slay her Worm!
No more shall that foul dragon feed and feast
Or lands be ravaged by that awful beast!’
 
So ravaged hard by that most awful beast
Were all the Lambton counties, widely kenned,
The Lords of Castle Alnwick were beseeched
To lend him goodly gear, and mustered men.
(For once the dragon ate all by the Weir
He’d turn his fateful stare and monstrous maw
On other lands. Thus, all the North, in fear,
Desired to bring the Witch before the law).
Sir John, that craven knight knew only this
The crone–belov’d of Goddess Hecate–
Remained the only soul that knew that his
Hand was the hand, that brought calamity.
John cried; “We ride to hounds, this merry band
And see those monsters cleaved by righteous hands!”
 
The monster caught and cleaved by righteous hands:
Their stated aim. John blew the silver horn
He whipped them in, and issued his commands
To bring the Lambton hunting hounds to form.
“No need to hunt, my Lord, for I am come!”
The crone cried, as she stood upon the Lawe;
“Crows gather on the branch by setting sun–
It is for thee, my lord, that Ravens caw!
Th’art come to find a way to slay the Worm
So heed me now, stick blades to armour bright —
He’ll coil, squeeze, be cut up, and then re-form
Unless it’s in the river that you fight.
His mortal parts shall spread from West to East
No longer shall he bite the bairns and feast!”
 
“No longer shall he bite the bairns and feast?”
“Aye. Then, milord, you’ll have to pay the price:
Upon the kill, return and slay who greets
Thee first. To Lady Crow; a sacrifice!”
Then Lambton drew his steel — the crone to rend —
“Thou hag! I should have slain thee at that time!”
And as the black knight’s broadsword did descend
She cursed the Lambtons: generations nine.
Sir John now did just as the Witch had said,
He fought the beast, it coiled around his form,
The Weir ran scarlet as the dragon bled,
The victor met his joyful sire at home.
Quoth he; “Our hero keeps the bairns from harm!
O raise a glass to bold and brave Sir John!”
 
“Aye, let us raise a glass to bold Sir John!
He killed the Crone, no more we’ll live in fear!
John freed the county from that dreadful worm!
We’ll bless his name on both sides of the Weir!”
Folk raised their cups to toast brave Lambton’s heir:
They should have lit the candles for his soul,
For as the knight went riding, everywhere
His strange and awful shadow had to go!
The maid and crone, their curdled curse came true —
Now, everywhere young Lambton’s shade was found,
In place of man, a shadow dragon grew:
The likeness of the Worm was cast to ground.
They crossed themselves, the Evil Eye to turn
Though he had cleaved in twain, the Lambton Worm.
 
He cleaved in twain the famous Lambton Worm
Yet ’tis not clear the monster died that day
For in its place there reived one Black Lord John:
The witch’s curse came true in many ways.
He stole the cattle, took the maidens fair,
(Earl Robert dead upon some bloody field;
His sons were food for ravens in the air,
Nine generations cursed to fall or yield.)
His taxes high, the people cringed in fear,
The dragon ruled his heart and soul and mind.
Soon all the folks on both sides of the Weir
Prayed fervently Our Lady would unwind
The skein of Time and halt that fateful wrong:
Worm Lambton, fishing on that Sunday morn!
 
John Lambton, fishing on a Sunday morn
Discarded down a well the fish he’d caught —
Returned he to the Hall where he was born
To hear the clerics preach, the news they brought.
He took the Cross that day, turned by their cant,
Sir John forgot the worm, in battle’s Hell,
Till troubled tidings came to the Levant,
A Worm had split the sides of Witch’s Well.
Sir John returned, to find his native lands
So ravaged hard by that most awful beast—
The monster caught and cleaved by righteous hands,
No longer shall he bite the bairns and feast!
Aye, let us raise a glass to bold Sir John,
He cleaved in twain the famous Lambton Worm!
 
 
Liùsaidh is a poet, author and literary critic from the impoverished west of Scotland. She writes from a crack-ridden council estate and her words are always strange. Her formal poetry and short fiction has been published or is forthcoming online and in print, most recently in Poets & War, Unlost Journal, and Thank You For Swallowing. As LJ McDowall she writes speculative fiction and is poetry editor at The Quarterday Review and Trigger Warnings. Find out more about her work at her Facebook page and ljmcdowall.com.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Jenean McBrearty
 
THE CELLO IN HOLST’S THE PLANETS
 
How beautiful the bow brought
across the strings pulled tight across the bridge,
drawing out voluptuous vibrations,
mature but menacing tones,
like a forty-something courtesan
who knows how to please a man,
assuredly,
with no need of coquettish pretense or garish force;
just so, with practiced seductive subtlety
the strings sing their music.
 
Strumming, picking, plucking, fingers
as children running, jumping, cart-wheeling,
princely precise
on guitars, banjos, and harps
get our admiration.
But the cellist’s right arm
respectfully caresses the
spruce and maple of the wooded breast,
as the poplar and willow buttocks
sink between his legs,
his left hand probes and plays
with her cello hair,
and we close our eyes and sigh.
 
 
Jenean McBrearty is a graduate of San Diego State University. Her fiction, poetry, and photographs have been published in over a hundred print and on-line venues. Her novel Retrolands is serialized by Jukepop; her detective novel, The 9th Circle, was published by Barbarian Books. Her other books—Tales of the German Mind, Helmut Wolf, Deathly Short Stories, Wanted Ones: Published Stories of 2012, and Raphael Redcloak Guardian of the Arts—are available at Lulu.com.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Sarah Frances Moran
 
 
EL DIABOLITO (“the little devil”)
 
Pórtate bien cuatito, si no te lleva el coloradito.
Behave yourself buddy, or the little red one will take you away.
 
The devil swims the
Brazos.
My grandmother met
him there
when she was five
years old.
 
Momma told me not to
go swim

she said. Of course
when I didn’t
listen he’d show. Of
course he would.

 
The devil dances with
insubordinate
children. Climbs their
limbs to rest
inside the cave of their
tiny ears.
Whispers the world’s
sweet woes
like a lullaby. Plays the
harmonica and asks
them to dance, dance
like no one is watching
 
Mija, he’s waiting
there for you, in that
book. Waiting inside
the things you enjoy.
 
Resting between the
letters of those words
you write incessantly.
Why don’t you read the
Bible like you write
those words?

 
Like the hummingbird
sputters. Like the
moon shines. Like my
daddy on a day he isn’t
drinking. Like rivers
begging for a child to
tempt.
 
Like,
The water is warm so
please come in.
 
Please come in and
join me. In the bake of
the sunshine. Take my
little red hand little
girl. I’m here for 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
 
 
Bethany W. Pope
 
 
INSIDE THE WORD BAZAAR
 
The marketplace swarms with tents, shouted words:
‘Half Off!’, ‘Buy!’, ‘Discounted Treasures!’ Signs written
Expertly; calligraphic come-ons coloured in blood.
Where should you begin? There are surfeits of bony,
Ordinary-looking women selling their last
Regency tea-sets; so polite they mistake richly
Lacquered Georgian pisspots for gravy-boats. Rich,
Debauched gentlemen (so proper-seeming) fondle wordy,
Rococo, pornographic postcards. The last
Explorer (consigned to the edges) writes
Wry letters to his fictional Germania with a bone-
Augmented pen while the buyers (afraid of blood)
Relegate themselves to the safe, well-lit centre. ‘Blood
Despoils everything’, they say. ‘Choose cheese-cloth over rich,
Stained silks. Never risk looking silly, or breaking a bone.
There’s plenty to buy that’s mass-produced.’ Workshopped words,
Hanging signs, order everything. Prices are written,
Exchange rates are fixed. Foreign coins won’t last;
Francs, dollars, yen are outdated, unwanted. At last,
Artificial light peters out. You reach the rough edges. Blood
Creeps into the channels between the patched tents. Writing,
In odd, esoteric characters marks the doorway. Rich,
Lingering perfumes fragrance the air. A white sign with black words
Explains: ‘Here is the Fortune Teller’. Blonde, fine-boned,
Etched over in runes, she tells the Tarot with crow-bones
And mouse-skins. She sells you a doll’s head with one last,
Small, fortune hidden in the mouth; ‘There’s power in words,
You know, but more in fashion.’ Her bloodless
Face smiles, slightly sad; sorry she’ll never be rich.
Across the market, near the exit into something else, a hand-written
Sign is pinned to a rough burlap flap, ‘Watch her write
Her name in her own intestines and carve her bones
Into treasure-boxes.’ It might be a freak show. The stench is rich,
Overpowering. You are afraid of this last
Necrotic stall; a little excited. You could stand to taste some blood;
Welcome it even, after all that time among clean, centralized words.
Inside the tent, she slices her belly and writes rich, maddened words that
Nonetheless last. Her maddening blood
Sings into you. The sound echoes in your bones.
 
 
CARNIVAL
 
Standing there, stripped skeletal, I shivered with cold
in the early spring-light filtering through the windows.
Though still a child, I felt incredibly old;
hands folded across my chest-bones, my groin, like Eve after God
caught her in the garden with berry-stained lips. I froze,
standing there — stripped. Skeletal, I shivered with cold
while my housemother led the other girls around
me in a circle, chanting my sins. They’d taken my clothes.
Though still a child, I felt incredibly old.
They called me ‘dogface’, ‘fishbreath’, ‘lesbian whore’. Bold
girls, all of them, grabbing the wound they punished me for. On show,
standing there (stripped skeletal) I shivered with cold,
waiting, blank-faced, for them to get bored,
sick of explaining that rape wasn’t something I chose.
Though still a child, I felt incredibly old,
as though their hands, their eyes, their spit (cold
on my cheeks) had mummified me from my hair to my toes.
I stood there, stripped skeletal, shivering with cold;
though still a child I felt incredibly old.
 
 
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
 
 
Gabriel Ricard
 
 
DINNER PARTY FOLK
 
It’s too big of a damn big city
for a dust bowl to even appear. Let alone
stick around for three months and turn the streets
into some kind of apocalyptic western where the riots
are surprisingly quiet in tone.
 
Six p.m.,
although God knows how anyone
could tell by looking outside.
 
Her car has been parked out front since four.
The class clown on the radio has been drinking
heavily since noon, and playing Warren Zevon
since two-thirty. Since it’s Tuesday, this isn’t anything
shocking. She overworks her poor speakers and mumbles
the lines that still haven’t gotten old.
 
That’s most of them. She sings along when appropriate,
and opens the glove box to let the beautiful pocket watches
spill out onto the floor.
There’s twenty all in all. Each one may be the very best
of whichever sincere boy gave it to her,
when things got hopeless, and certain promises needed to be made.
 
For ages now, she’s been meaning to get rid of them.
Sell the nicer models, or just hand them all over
to some madman from off the streets, who relates
to that rabbit from that book just a little too strongly.
 
But it’s nice to reach out and clutter history. It’s like an army of hands and shovels,
arguing for composure and dignity at a burnt-down trailer park.
 
Everyone holds onto more than they should. Everyone would rather collect
bulky artifacts than deeply personal scraps of paper
with messy writing all over the place.
That’s where career drinkers come from. All they do is gulp, weep
and learn to read what may as well be Vulcan.
 
Right now, she’s just killing time.
 
In fifteen minutes, she’s going to drink a surprisingly large belt
of bourbon for a person her size. Then she’s going to wait for the last song
to finish. Then she’s going to brave the visiting winds of Mars or Arizona to go
inside the last place in town that triples as a bar, a Laundromat, and a comedy club.
 
The comedy club will be dangerously packed. The punk rock kid
in the wheelchair will be halfway into his set. The bar will be
choked with ambition, courage, and persuasion.
 
The Laundromat will be empty, except for the guy
she stabs in the stomach at this time every single day
of the nine-day week.
 
It’s a boring silent movie. Dullsville, North Dakota, baby doll.
 
He looks up, she moves forward.
He grins, she moves forward.
He winks, she gets the knife in just right.
He drops, she takes the money as he crumbles.
 
The first time was just a favor
to a friend and veteran of the unusual. The fact
that it became habit turned out to be
as natural as shallow breathing.
 
It’s a ridiculous routine,
but the money is a straight line
from the equally ridiculous to the sublime.
 
Plus, she imagines that one day
they’ll speak beforehand,
and that will have all the makings
of one of those enlightening conversations
she’s been dreaming about.
 
He might be a man of faith.
There’s something going on in those eyes of his.
 
 
Gabriel Ricard writes, edits, and occasionally acts. He is a contributor to Drunk Monkeys, an Editor with Kleft Jaw, and a contributor to Cultured Vultures. His first book Clouds of Hungry Dogs is available through Kleft Jaw Press and Amazon.com. He lives here and there.
 
Back to Poets
 
 
Cynthia A. Roby
 
 
REMEMBERING LEE HARVEY
 
Lunch at my cousin’s house was always at noon.
At our house it was half past one.
That’s how I recall the time of day.
Lee Harvey was my cousin. It didn’t have the
“Oswald” part tacked on at the end, though. That’s how I
remember the name. Zenith had introduced a color TV,
a “Roundie” it was called. Folk talked about it for a long while.
That’s how I can mark the year: 1963. The day was Friday.
Lee Harvey’s birthday had been the Friday before.
What I don’t recall is why we were home from school that day.
 
The living room at my cousin’s was crowded. On hearing
the news over the radio, colored folk from all over Kosciusko
piled in through the front door wrapped in sweaters and scarves.
Southern folk were particular about chilled air and
the weather that day, they said, was “out of kilter.”
Some folk left their homes wearing pajamas, ostentatious muumuus,
fat pink hair rollers, dirty house slippers, and head rags.
All to witness a nervous Walter Cronkite unfold the unexpected and horrible story.
It was November 22, 1963, and JFK had been shot dead.
The man represented a powerful social change for black folk everywhere,
so everybody wanted to see the news—in color.
I wanted to know about this “Dallas” place.
 
Lawd have mercy, what’s Miss Jackie gonna do? a woman’s voice in the crowd said.
It’s a conspiracy! LBJ is behind this mess, a man’s voice said.
I nodded in agreement although I had no idea what conspiracy meant.
Damn Lee Harvey, another voice said on hearing that the
ex-marine had also shot Governor Connelly.
Don’t somebody’s boy in here gots that name?
I spied through the crowd of grown folk’s legs and saw my cousin,
who placed his half-eaten grape jelly sandwich on the cocktail table
and snuck out the back screen door.
 
The burning tips of Camels, 555s, and Everests filled
the room with a thick, choking white smoke that made Miss Jackie’s
face on the round picture tube shift into a blur. Women folk
commenced to crying. Some “couldn’t take it no more” and
returned to their own living rooms and radios. Some men opened
crumpled brown paper bags that likened to the backs of old folk’s hands,
twisted loose metal tops, took large sips, blinked hard, and
let out an exhale that ushered disagreeable gurgling sound.
It was as if they were swallowing mouthfuls of fire.
I disappeared out back with my cousin, who sat on the stoop in tears.
 
That white man on TV, all them folk in there—they’s lying, he said.
I ain’t kilt no peoples. I sat down next to Lee Harvey on the chilled cement
and look up at the sky. We were both covered with chill bumps
as a small plane passed over—its shadow winking at the backyard.
You see that? I said, squinting at the plane’s underbelly. We gonna
get on that plane and fly to that Dallas place and set folk straight
.
 
I don’t recall whether my voice sounded matter-of-factly. But I do remember
looking over at Lee Harvey and watching his jelly-stained face smile and nod.
 
 
THE ROAD TO METHODIST
 
The voice on the other end of the phone
was that of a white woman. Hello, she said. Does
Richmond Roby live there?
I looked at the clock,
10:37 the hands read. I blinked hard. In the daylight,
nice white girls called to sell magazines, fancy cookware,
and World Book Encyclopedias. They didn’t call
black folk’s houses after dark unless the police had arrested
one of our kin or we needed to collect one of our dead.
It was 1968 and we weren’t being buried in the same cemeteries.
Hello, are you there? the white woman said.
Yes ma’am. My heart took on the pace of serious worry.
I wanted to turn the clock back until it was light outside again.
There’s been an accident. Someone from his family
needs to come to Methodist Hospital now. Do you know
where that is?
My throat was suddenly tissue-paper dry.
Yes, and okay. I’ll get his momma and somebody will be there directly.
The white lady exhaled coolly, as if I’d said exactly
what she’d wanted to hear. Hurry, she said.
The line went dead.
 
The wind stung our faces like a hive of
bees somebody messed with
as we walked the mile to the only hospital
on the west side of Gary that treated
black folk. Auntie Ida and I hooked arms and
squeezed fingers to brace ourselves
against the vexatious wind. You think he’s gonna live, Auntie?
Auntie Ida stopped, let loose of our grip,
then pulled the collar of her thin blue jacket up and
around her neck. She blew a smoky white breath that matched her hair
into the November wind and spoke in no particular direction:
I’m tired child. I hopes ta-nite that whatever done happened, he goes on to Glory.
 
Tears never made it down my cheeks. The wind saw to that.
I tucked my hands beneath my armpits
and trailed her footsteps for the remaining blocks to Methodist.
 
 
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
 
 
Eugene Ryan
 
 
PHOTO
 
Lying on the bank with my sister
we counted shooting stars
The ones we both saw we shared between us –
the simple justice of plenty
 
I look at my apartment now
jumbled like bad wiring
and stare unknowing
at pictures of myself
smiling, in a windblown place
 
 
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 dependant 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
 
 
Claire Scott
 
 
BUSINESS CARDS
 
She hands out her pain
like business cards
stockings rolled to her ankles
grey slip drooping
below a torn blue dress
clotted hair, picked-at skin
red scabs dotting her arms
 
one for you and one for you and one for you
my father beat me with fists
left bruises that never healed

I squirm embarrassed, stand on one foot
look casual, hum a bit
la la la
eye the corner as though
 
expecting a friend or searching
for my missing Schnauzer
she stops anyone, anyone at all
my mother locked me in
a closet, I slept on her shoes

 
grabs the sleeve of a passing
stranger who looks repelled
she holds his sleeve tight
in her stubborn fist
 
her stories stream on
when I was ten my uncle
put quarters in my pocket
“don’t tell”

 
I don’t believe her at all
who could believe all that rubbish
of closets, fists and quarters
who could do that to a child
and yet and yet
look at her
 
my mother
passing out cards
stained and streaked in
the sweat of desperation
la la la
 
 
Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. She was also a semi-finalist for the Pangaea Prize and the Atlantis Award. Claire was the grand prize winner of The Maine Review’s 2015 White Pine Writing Contest. Her first book of poetry, Waiting to be Called, was published in 2015. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Ed Shacklee
 
 
THE RAVENOUS DREAM
 
I starved the dream, till it was light
enough for me to carry,
and though its ribs were sticking out
it wasn’t horrid, very.
 
I stuffed it in a pocket, snug
if smothered in my wallet.
Wingless now, an eyeless grub,
I don’t know what to call it
 
now that it’s small enough to scream,
a nightmare growing from a dream.
 
 
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
 
 
Cathryn Shea
 
 
STILL LIFE WITH FATHER IN RECLINER
 
The scent of bacon is always there,
the long night’s breakfast
with scrambled memories.
Every family gathering
lingers on the couch and rug and walls.
 
This is December, his birthday,
and boxes of cherry cordials melt
next to him. From one of his daughters,
or from all his five daughters, he always
got cherry cordials. Our mother
has been dead of breast cancer ten years.
 
Here are the whiskey decanters:
Ducks Unlimited mallard in cattails,
wild turkey clawing a raccoon. Here
are beer steins with hunters pointing
shotguns at geese. All with photographs
from schools and weddings. A portrait
of his five girls taken when my son was four
and I was expecting my daughter.
My sister Nancy in her nurse hat.
 
On his left hand he wears the sterling
ring with a large Ellensburg Blue agate.
He got it when he visited his brother
John for the last time before he died
of mesothelioma. My dad’s right hand
is deformed with bent fingers and scarring
where he was bitten by a brown recluse.
Nobody could believe a brown recluse
 
could hitch a ride to California,
and when least expected jump out
from a mattress and bite.
Nancy rushed him to emergency
and he ended up in ICU, almost
dead from the infection.
He would never know Nancy died
at the same age as our mother.
 
 
Cathryn Shea has earned a living from writing most of her adult life. Her chapbook, Snap Bean is by CC.Marimbo (2014). Find her recent poetry in After the Pause, Gargoyle, Permafrost, Rust + Moth, and elsewhere. Cathryn served as editor for Marin Poetry Center Anthology. See cathrynshea.com and @cathy_shea on Twitter.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Jay Sizemore
 
 
THINK OF AN ECLIPSE
 
The sun is a white star our atmosphere makes yellow.
So many children using the wrong crayon.
So many refrigerators decorated with lies,
and magnets from Utah,
above that straight horizon line,
everything a smiley face.
 
You’re gonna need a better poet.
I’m gonna need another Corona.
This is not the time to get spiritual
about potential blindness.
Think of an eclipse
as a bullet being loaded
into a chamber of light.
 
More prayers get muttered in the dark.
But every darkness is temporary
except the last one,
in which no prayer can exist.
 
If the sun wore sunglasses,
the sunglasses would melt.
It’s easy to squint yourself into a headache,
or a kaleidoscope of retinal scars.
To me, the sky is the ocean,
as to a fish, the ocean is the sky.
The sun is the aquarium bulb,
a stranger set on a timer.
 
Think of an eclipse
as Death putting his eye
up to the microscope.
You may wonder about the skeletal moon,
or why car exhaust smells good
in the cold, but these are just tricks
shadows play on the mind.
 
 
Jay Sizemore hates when you call writing a hobby. His work has appeared here or there, mostly there. Currently, he lives in Nashville, TN, though he often wonders if he really exists, or is just changing forms.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Alex Skorochid
 
 
MEMORY AIDS
 
He never smiled in photos
but gave that stern soviet stare with his hard lines
that he’d learned while caught between the pincer
attack of mirrored fanatics in the old country
or in the asbestos mines and factories of the new
or behind the wheel of any number of semis.
 
There was one photo though
that he didn’t know was being taken:
he’s got my cousin on one knee and a beer on the other
and he’s smiling wide and the lines are gone
and there’s only smooth, soft skin
and that’s the one I like to remember.
 
Because I don’t have any real memories of him
except for maybe one, but I’ve told it so many times
that I don’t remember the memory anymore, only the story
and I’m worried if I write it down I won’t
remember the story anymore, only the poem
but here it is:
 
It’s snowing on the mountain and it’s deep
enough that I have to be carried into the house
and I’m very young and my grandfather takes me on his lap
and tickles me until I can’t breathe and I start to panic
and gasp and he stops, but I don’t want him to
and I wish he never had.
 
 
THE SAPLING
 
The first year it flowered
it did so so violently it looked
more like after a snowstorm
—boughs sagging low
under soft-white weight—
than it did a sapling fresh in bloom.
 
The weather that year was fine
and the fruit grew quickly
and the sapling’s boughs sagged further
until, after a night of heavy rain,
it split itself clean in half.
 
In an effort to save the sapling
we gathered the fruit, which was delicious
if a little under ripe,
and bound the tree with wire.
 
And the sapling survived the winter.
 
And the next year it flowered again
so wildly it threatened to burst the wire,
but seeing this, we bound it tighter.
 
And the sapling survived again.
 
Some years have passed now
and the sapling’s bark’s begun
to engulf the wire that once held it together,
bulging out around it more and more.
 
And soon the sapling will be a tree
with a heart of Goddamn steel.
 
 
Alex Skorochid’s work has previously been featured in (parenthetical), In/Words Magazine, Joypuke II, Eastlit, and The Steel Chisel. He currently lives in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada where, when he can steal back enough time and energy from his day job, he writes poems and short stories.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Annie Stenzel
 
 
DIALOGUE
 
Let’s talk about my search for the round-
trip ticket; about predictability
and its juicy allure. You know
I want a guarantee: a sample moment
 
from a month or two away. I want
to see how you look with a few miles
on our involvement. What will we have
when the heady rush of forward-
 
tumble falters, when the river
into which we hurled ourselves,
eyes closed, breath held, opens out into
a delta and we find ourselves, the real
 
ones, spilled up onto the shore to take
the places of those two strangers we
made up, let loose, and have been
watching, secretly, from a distance.
 
 
A BRIEF NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SUB-CONTINENT
 
How long can it be that you fascinate me the way
mongoose eyes cobra? What happens when what is savage
within everyone finds its egress from one of us—or both:
 
from your hooded eyes; from my narrowing lips.
Does a cobra need venom? Can a mongoose kill
using pure fury? That which is secreted when born
 
enemies meet has a scent, or a texture known somehow
to each. Here, it is confusing. Am I mistaking this acrid taste,
fresh from my fingers, for fear?
 
Could it be that your instinct, strong from its long
reign, is the real traitor? About cobra and mongoose:
when they fight to the death, don’t they sometimes both win?
 
 
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
 
 
Kerry Trautman
 
 
MIDDLE-SCHOOL LOVE LESSONS FROM A NUN
 
Sister Colleen held a heart-shaped cookie,
said each boy- or girlfriend we had ever—
and we understood she meant giving our
bodies to in sin, each person we let
touch our skin that should belong to God—each
one would take a nibble from our heart. And
she broke a piece of cookie, fed it to
Michael in the corner, one for Jenny
with the shiny hair. Each love, she said, will
bite from who we are. The cookie dwindled
as she fed a chunk to Justin—grinning
asking for some more. We giggled. Sister
smirked that it was gone and shoved the last piece
in Maria’s mouth—wide-eyed and guilty.
 
 
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 (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 http://www.finishinglinepress.com/.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Anna Weaver
 
 
LOTS
 
I am an old tart and you came late and I have
loyalties scattered over the landscape like lots
I bought and pay taxes on still…
 
“the inquisition” by Marge Piercy

 
I haven’t lost sight of them yet—
kept one eye all this time
to what lay beyond the road
behind me, beyond my rising dust.
 
I look back not to see what became
of them, but how it was I got away.
I didn’t mean always to be leaving,
but mine is a love that bears
the sweet fruit only after a fire.
 
Now, here I am, a safe distance,
the promise of an afterlife
with a new man, a good one,
maybe the last in this whole city—
if I can turn suddenly different.
 
I can almost hear a choir
warming their voices, the deep
breath of herald trumpets ready
to announce my arrival
if only I keep moving forward.
 
But even though they no longer need me,
I can’t help myself, can’t fight the wish
to say one more goodbye, to place
a final kiss on each of their salty necks.
 
The gritty feeling climbs my legs
and arms, arches my back, fixes
my shoulders to face them. Don’t forget
me,
I say. My tongue is the last
to turn. It tastes just like I remember.
 
 
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.
 
List of Poets
 
 
Steven Werkmeister
 
 
WOMAN AT THE WELL
The woman said, “What! You, a Jew, ask for a drink from a Samaritan woman?”
 
call it apartheid
call it jim crow
call it our troubles
 
but don’t think
things change
for a drink
 
call it ghetto
call it reservation
call it internment camps
 
call it your duty
call it blood purity
call it immemorial custom
 
but don’t think
habits change
for a drink
 
still the fences
still the walls
still the ceilings
still the checkpoints
still police dogs
still the bullets
still antique blame
still your barbed wire
 
still your-papers-please
 
say it’s necessity
say it’s a shame
say it’s what science has proven
 
dress it as heritage
claim we prefer it
pass it on whole to your children
 
some men’s hearts
have a thirst for hate
no water can parch
 
samaritan jew mick blackie
wop jerrie jap paki
spic chink redneck commie
gook polack camel jockey
 
bitch slut and cunt
 
call it nature
call it law
call it social darwinism
 
but don’t think
you can make a change
with a drink
when they hang you on their cross
don’t be hurt if they throw shit
you may have been messiah
but you really didn’t know shit
 
 
Steve Werkmeister lives with his family in Olathe, Kansas, and is an Associate Professor of English at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. He has recently published poetry in Silver Birch Press’s All About My Name series, The Lake Journal, Blue Monday Review, and Stoneboat, and fiction in Pankhearst Raw and Limestone. His blog is at stevesofgrass.wordpress.com/
 
Back to Poets
 
 
Katherine Williams
 
 
BLACK, OH HOW I WANT YOU BLACK
 
Negro, que te quiero negro,
black and silky as the lingerie
biting my flesh under jeans and leather
as I wait for a taxi on this menacing corner—
black as this tattered suitcase,
this street with the lights shot out.
 
Lunatic on the sidewalk wringing his hands out—
Negro, que te quiero negro.
Broken promises bust out of my suitcase;
our lies stick to my skin like nylon lingerie
in August. Painted myself into a corner
again, and all I can think of is you in that leather.
 
What an erotic sound, a man undoing his leather
belt, that buckle hitting the floor turns me inside out.
I’ve been waiting forever for a taxi on this corner—
Negro, que te quiero negro.
Twenty bucks, twenty minutes’ worth of lingerie,
twenty thousand vagrant miles rattle in my suitcase.
 
I want to live out of this suitcase,
no address but a carryall of worn-out leather….
After I’ve been with you I keep the lingerie
unwashed, breathe with you on my face till I pass out.
Negro, que te quiero negro.
Three times now that driver’s passed this corner,
 
looking to score. Paco was the dealer on my corner
in Paris…my room could have fit in this suitcase—.
Negro, que te quiero negro.
In Paris everything is silk or leather
and when they wash their things out
they hang them over the sill, the laciest lingerie
 
fluttering like leaves along cobblestones. Lingerie
to make a man forget his own name, see on every corner
women in nothing but lingerie under their clothes. Out
here we shut our honeymoons in suitcases
and resentments tan our vows into leather.
Negro, que te quiero negro.
 If a cab comes for me, out on this corner with my suitcase
of ruined leather, I’m off for Paris—but if not,
then back to you with a mouthful of black lingerie.
 
 
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.
 
Back to Poets
 
 
Holly Wotherspoon
 
 
HORSE CAMP
 
A big-ass horse threw my daughter once.
she wasn’t all that into horses just curious
about the hoopla her friends were making so
when sally and sarah and emily and lauren and ruth
who was chinese american all decided to go to horse camp
well, we drove our turn to the faux corral in the suburbs sat
on our soggy hay bales in the “show ring” watched them put a tiny
grain of rice on that monster “Rio” or “Rodeo” or “Jack the Ripper.”
I do not exaggerate although I am in fact prone to that particular vice
when I say that the one they put our daughter on was the King Kong
of show horses, freakishly large and menacing which is proved
by the fact that they gauge their height not in feet, or even hooves
but monster hands, and they raise atop the beast this strange little child who for fun
makes up math tests and dictionary entries but who feels sure that she will one day
get what the hoopla is about. The last thing we see as her turn came to be hoisted up
is her determined curious face, and there it happened. It turns out that the horse
didn’t actually throw her, though. But it could have. And my point
is well made -at least to me- that all the hoopla about random companion animals
and politics and office gossip and healthful living and environmental
degradation and STD’s and another recession not to mention running
out of bourbon before the weekend starts and just being curious about all that
hoopla can get you thrown not to mention trampled to death.
 
 
ICE BOUND
 
Together in the ice
melt water river low-slung, olive-green
(the chair not the river)
design, upholstered.
The river is milky, heavy, and reeks
of raw rock.
Through the rime, I see
 
the river, overpouring
olive and cream nubby woven fabric
off a cliff lip. That chair
 
keeps intruding
in my ice-scape. Perhaps because
I can’t stop picturing it torn
 
to pieces, springs and stuffing
splayed on my garage floor,
but that still doesn’t explain
flooding my psyche with icy
 
upholstery chunks, its
frost-fractures and splinterings
re-upholstered completely over
 
by a succession of disillusioned owners.
It’s a hard truth that some things can’t be salvaged
even after a good
thaw, even after a swooshing
 
away of years and years
down from the Highlands.
Those tatty upholstery layers
 
just go on building up
until one day you find
yourself under the ice, under a million years,
 
suspended seated in a milky chair,
whooshing down the ice floe
melt and flow, tear and sand,
 
hammer and ride and swallow,
swallow a whole Pleistocene era
of melt water stuffing down
and in one long, last gulp
 
the chair follows.
 
 
Holly Wotherspoon is a writer of poetry and, previously, articles and training materials for the legal profession. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Pioneertown Literary Journal, River Poets Journal, Blue Bonnet Review, Unbroken, Mulberry Fork Review, and The Greenwich Village Literary Review. She is a member and upcoming featured poet at River Town Poets and is a third generation Californian by way of three decades in the Pacific Northwest.
 
Back to Poets
 
 
Sherri Wright
 
 
THESE HANDS
 
are stubby they could never
play piano or swing a partner with style
they are gnarled can’t make a fist or wear
fancy rings these hands are strong they
yanked dandelions plucked chickens
when there were just a kid hoisted
a Duluth pack paddled up-stream
held onto a job and a marriage
at the same time these hands
are pliable cradled a baby in one
a protest banner in the other
these hands are free
of men who said they couldn’t
play soccer run for the Senate or climb
the ladder unless they slept
with the boss or stayed single
until they were too old to have kids.
 
 
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. Sherri’s poem “Private Dancer,” featured in the Love & Ensuing Madness collection, received an Honorable Mention in the Louisville Literary Arts Poetry Competition, 2016.
 
 
 
The Poets
 
Kelli Allen
Anthony Ausiello
Colin Bancroft
Brian Michael Barbeito (Cover Art)
Jessica Barksdale
Amy Baskin
Jon Bennett
Carl Boon
Stuart Buck
Jamie Lynn Buehner
Stephen Byrne
Jared Carter
Joseph Citro
Michael Coolen
A.S. Coomer
Jacques Denault
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Deborah Fruchey
Richard Garcia
D.G. Geis
Iseult Healy
Robin Helweg-Larsen
TS Hidalgo
Michael Paul Hogan
Kelly Jones
Maureen Kingston
Norm Klein
Laurie Kolp
Jennifer Litt
Liùsaidh
Jenean McBrearty
Sarah Frances Moran
Bethany W. Pope
Gabriel Ricard
Cynthia A. Roby
Eugene Ryan
Claire Scott
Ed Shacklee
Cathryn Shea
Jay Sizemore
Alex Skorochid
Annie Stenzel
Kerry Trautman
Anna Weaver
Steven Werkmeister
Katherine Williams
Holly Wotherspoon
Sherri Wright
 
 
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Edited by Roderick Bates

 

RAT’S ASS REVIEW VOLUME FOUR, ISSUE 1 SPRING-SUMMER 2016 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 
 

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