Summer 2017 Issue

- Rat's Ass Review" /> Summer 2017 Issue

- Rat's Ass Review" />
tag

Summer 2017 Issue

 
 

 
Gerald Leonard’s photography has appeared in the member shows at ASK, the Art association of Kingston. He is on Flikr.
 
Go to List of Poets
 
 
Adrienne Abramowitz
 
 
TATTOO
 
My body tattooed the bay
in geometric right angles.
A stripped scarecrow
with a seam of white watercolor sun sketched
in thin ink around me.
Hearing only the sound of my own boom box breathing,
and my father nearby burning cigarette in hand.
We were both hiding.
My focus changed and I let the water have me.
Repeatedly I made myself soften
so she could eat me up into small pieces.
My center caved
and that place where two edges meet wrinkled.
My figure dipped,
untraceable.
And inches beneath the world I left,
me a soft crescent
a lullaby petal
inside the ocean’s swells,
I became unlike I had been above
and at the very same moment
completely true.
 
 
Adrienne Abramowitz, is a mother of two teenagers, a poet, and a children’s fiction writer. She has her doctorate in Physical Therapy, working with children on developing their own voices through movement. She is a co-organizer of the Hudson Writer’s Group. Right now she is with her dogs.
 
Go to List of Poets
 
 
Roy Adams
 
 
CABOTAGE INTIME
 
Nessa says Nay
 
She permits nothing
 
but my rubbered launch
docking upon her barren plage
no kissing no nibbling no
pussyfooting at pulsating gates
 
Fond cabotage verboten
 
Isoke says Aye
 
She forbids nothing
 
my sleek sloop most welcome at
her slick, decked-out wharf
delving, nibbling, fluttering
her many murmuring flumes
 
No cabotage verboten.
 
 
Roy Adams is a Canadian-American with a few dozen poems in print or forthcoming which makes him, he supposes, an emerging poet. Roy is a member of the Tower Poetry Society, probably Canada’s oldest local poetry workshop group having been in continuous existence since 1951. He is also the editor of the TPS News.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Michele Alice
 
 
Flinging up his hands
 
in surprise, he decides to sit
 
on the banana peel.
 
 
Originally from Detroit, Michele Alice spent her college years studying Philosophy at the University of Arizona (Tucson) before escaping the heat and ending up in the Berkshires (Massachusetts) where she supports her writing by working in a museum.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Lindsay B-e
 
 
TWO POEMS AND A LIE
 
1.
English Class
absentmindedly
fidget-picking
the mysterious substances
on the desk bottom.
Shortly after,
 
I’m chewing gum.
 
I don’t have any gum.
 
2.
Outdoor Concert
mounds of wet human
bodies pressed together
and I have to pee.
 
I wait
for the porta-potty
a near hour.
 
Inside, urine
everywhere.
 
Not wanting to
wait again,
I crouch, balancing
at a safe distance
but
 
my feet slip on the urine on the
floor
my rear splashes onto the urine
on the seat
there is no toilet paper
there is no water
 
3.
Family Bed
My darling baby
wakes me up with
a kiss and a smile
and
 
a smell.
Because she pooped
then put her hands in her diaper
then put her hands in her mouth
then put her mouth on my mouth
 
 
Message Board for Two Poems and a Lie:
 
pixiedust22.0
Timeless and universal! We can all apply it to our lives. The poet, she sends the message that we all will have to bear crosses in our lives. And even though we stumble and fall and we are faced with difficult challenges, we must fight, forge ahead, and never give up on life–life, the gift.
 
CrapHater
Actually, the poet is a self-propelled colostomy bag.
 
1st Year Philosophy Major
But aren’t we all?
 
jgbound07
this is a wonderful poem for people to read.
 
ricin beans
-verry funny. I was disgusted.
 
wasatarama!!!
I literally laughed my head off!
 
Elitist Trash
There’s nothing funny or interesting about this. It’s just a picture of three irritating pictures of nonsense. It’s pretty easy to write like this. Try again.
 
skyenc
I think the first one might be a ‘lie’. I love the straight-forward style of writing. I wasn’t sure what to make of the comments – so I just went with the flow and found them interesting.
Human
Impressed by your attempt to write toilet humour! These moments are    quite funny, though I’m not sure about the minimal delivery. I think the    voice is good, but perhaps adding more details, having a bit more    surprise could do well. The comments section is a fun idea, though I    would like to see more perspectives.
Riff Raff
I love what you are trying here! Very neat approach. I like the way you    are bringing weight to the ‘anecdotes’ by involving “official critique”.    I’m excited about this playing with form – it’s really cool and inspiring.    Thanks!
 
CreeMom
I am the mother to two young boys and believe me my children will know this poem and be inspired hopefully as much as I was.
 
CantLogIn
If this poem can change just one person’s life it will be worth it. And I    guess it did! Fascinating!
 
777Jody
Ive choosen this for my poetry project as i really can relate to this. There are life lessons we can learn from the poem.
 
jaysfan999
I’m dyyyyyying to know. Which one’s alie?!
 
nievedeveranno
All of this seems real to me. The experiences come through, but I confess    to not understanding what to make of it.
 
RuXTaR
what i got from this peom is live is hell but never give up fight for what you want and need! I think this poem is inspiratinonal and it is very good
Captain Sleep
I would like to know what your thoughts were behind making the    commentary as opposed to a more traditional type of ending like         ‘Sometimes all we can do is pull up our pants and leave and    chew the gum we’ve got.
 
nykee5000
THIS POEM IS SO TOUCHING TO ME IT TOUCHED ME REALLY BAD AND I CAN REALLY REALLY RELATE TO IT
 
solomonsdeath
calm down.
 
 
Lindsay B-e is a writer and filmmaker from Toronto. She is a graduate from The Writer’s Studio and the Film Production Program at Simon Fraser University. She can be found online at biseenscene.com.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Joanne Bealy
 
 
BIOPSY
 
Somewhere between
the atomic numbers
six and eight
I float
untethered, un
bonded, mis
placed.
 
I am eclipsed by notions.
Molecule is just a word.
Atom is my husband.
 
They’ve studied me
at round tables,
they’ve asked me to come
back later,
sooner
rather than…
before
my head explodes
or my breast
falls off, they’re not sure
what to do.
They’re never sure
what to do and it never seems
to matter.
 
 
Joanne Bealy is a freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in journals and galleries in both Canada and the United States. As well, she is the author of two books of poetry, At the Mercy of Gravity and Crooked Love and is the photographer for Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone: a photo-narrative of black heritage on Salt Spring Island. Born in Montréal, Ms. Bealy lives in Halifax, NS.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Jon Bennett
 
 
PIGEONS IN DIAPERS
 
Behind the jungle
of rescued houseplants
off of the street
full of drugs and people
is a little house
full of pigeons
in diapers.
“This is Frances,” she says.
To me, the bird
is just a bird
but she’s the one
who saves
the discarded ficuses
the orphaned and lost
which I suppose
is why
I’m there, too.
 
 
CURRENCY
 
Love and commerce
are pretty much
the same to me
and maybe to fatties
everywhere
You see the object
of your affection
go for that hot body
with the soul
of a deer tick
enough times, you learn
the body is the only currency
that buys love
So I’m saving up
my calories
like pennies
and when the goddamn piggy
bank is full
just watch
I’ll be walking down
the shopping
aisle
with the rest of you.
 
 
YOU DON’T HAVE TO RIDE THAT PONY
 
It was Jerzy Kosinski
talking about his dad
and how his death
was like riding a horse
into the night
Now, at the cafe
my friend’s Parkinson’s
is getting much worse
my mom died of it
I know that horse well
First you turn to stone
then they give you a drug
that shakes you
into gravel
The trick is
not to give in
to the compulsion
to stay alive
That’s my angle
so when the horse
comes for me
it’s getting one bullet
right in the head.
 
 
Jon Bennett writes and plays music in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. You can find more of his work on Pandora and iTunes. For booking please contact jonbennett14@hotmail.com.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Brook Bhagat
 
 
POCKET HOLLOW
 
Do you know what June meant
when she said surrender,
when she shrank smaller and smaller
until the periwinkle bluebells
of her sundress fluttered down
like a broken parachute,
when the string of glass cornflowers
clattered to the kitchen floor?
 
Do you know why she laughed,
scrambling skin and knees
down the wicker wedge and sandal straps,
why she walked straight to the body
of the man in the black silk coat
climbed up his arm
tiptoed across his chest
and slipped into his
inside pocket?
 
I don’t doubt that it’s soft.
 
Oh! Her tiny white cheek,
Her tender chin,
Her naked fingers,
Her wrist, curling down.
 
 
Brook Bhagat’s nonfiction, poetry, and flash fiction have appeared in dozens of publications, including Creations Magazine, Little India, Outpost, Nowhere Poetry, The Syzygy Poetry Journal, and A Story in 100 Words, and she is the co-owner and chief editor of BluePlanetJournal.com. She holds a B.A. in English from Vassar College and an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University and teaches creative writing at Pikes Peak Community College. Current projects include a full-length hybrid manuscript and a novel.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
William C. Blome
 
 
AN EXPEDITION IN JUNE
 
You’ll mount your procession of healthy, muscled lads
just as if you were Coronado searching for yellow cities,
and I personally don’t think it would be inappropriate
to co-mingle men saddled on strong pinto ponies
along with truckers in their Peterbilts
(so long as the horses are shod for asphalt highways).
 
In the main, you’re going to stay on US Route 50 south,
to the Atlantic Ocean, though your quest, of course,
is the large garage on the property of a weathered old manse
near Newport Bay. It’s in that garage, morning and night,
fair weather or foul, my huge-titted, big-assed girlfriend
gets banged by her husband throughout the month of June.
 
I want your expedition to interrupt the bastard’s timing,
and I’m not fussy in the least about how you fellas do it.
Now Newport Bay, for all the encroachments around its shoreline
by prospectors and artists, is still isolated terrain for the most part,
and that holds especially true for the coastline near the mansion.
Okay, so let me cut to the after-chase and square things this way:
 
I want your coming-back to be a return of triumph and honor,
just as stately and cadenced as was your venturing forth,
with nothing in your possession from the bay or the garage
or the domicile of those outsized persons I am ensnared with,
save several squares scissored from the husband’s filthy shirt,
any of the checkered shirts he dons each fucking day.
 
 
RED HORSES
 
I don’t keep a diary, never have and never will, but if I did, one of two conditions would have to prevail: either I’d write my observations down like a green, wet frog hopping across the page, or I’d get a granite countertop and chisel my entries in in such a manner as to leave a jagged edge about my letters and numbers that would cut the goddamn fingers of anyone trying to touch (trying to grope) my hammered text.
 
The way I feel today, my diary would have but one entry, a recount of sex with you yesterday at your husband’s hacienda. I’d start with date and time notation; I’d write a rambling account of how I woke up hard and long as a path of lightning, and I’d follow this with a step-by-step pacing of how you and I sweated bullets the entire, snake-long day, trying to fatigue the shit out of your husband, trying to get the silly bastard to turn in early. I’d write of how we finally got our liberty and how we were able to tiptoe at last (snickeringly, thrillingly) from the kitchen door out to the barn. Then I’d tell how we had to yank Hercules from out the nighttime sky and get him to pull hard enough on the barn door to open wide the motherfucker, and I’d render how, by grandiose diplomacy, I negotiated his turning up the starlight so we could see just what the hell we were doing before we had him shove us into a stall of red horses, blood-red horses, and just before we let him ascend back to where he’d been in the first place (but still close enough for us to have a shot at coaxing his twinkling ass to come down here again if need be).
 
But Jesus, it was those horses that tempted me from the git-go in the barn; oh they just tempted the shit out of me! Especially the young stuff: the fillies and the ponies. So much so, I’d confess to my diary that inside the barn, while my left hand was getting you wet on the hay, my right hand was lathering a foam on some red nag’s tangential flank and haunches. (When you’re having the time of your life like that, who the fuck needs other days or other entries leaping inside a book or jutting out of a counter-top?) While you and I verbalized next-to-nothing at the time, in retrospect, I think my writing hand’s pulsating excitement is why I had you stand up so quick and unexpectedly last night, had you shake off all the dust and straw before you got re-dressed and padded your way back to the house without me or Hercules (but with the frog and the chisel I handed you), and with stern orders to slip them both under hubby’s pillow as he snored out his decent dreams. I think that’s why I had you leave the barn so soon, though I would confide to my diary (if ever again I do confide) my remaining out here by myself was so I could hand both hands over—that’s every finger, thumb, and palm I’ve got—to the heated flesh of red ponies, red fillies, red mares!
 
 
WHITECAPS
 
The north wind roils the Baltic,
the stars can’t stay behind high clouds,
my saliva flicks off your shoulders,
your husband and I once bombed Saigon.
 
As much as my Polish neighbor longs
for his pants to drop by accident
whenever your daughter walks the dog
your husband screams is not her pet,
 
I want to lick you everywhere
with a saltwater tongue that never dries,
and I’ve promised your gorgeous daughter
the Irish setter’s hers for keeps.
 
 
William C. Blome writes poetry and short fiction. He lives wedged between Baltimore and Washington, DC, and he is a master’s degree graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. His work has previously seen the light of day in such fine little mags as Poetry London, PRISM International, Fiction Southeast, Roanoke Review, Salted Feathers and The California Quarterly.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
V.L. Bovalino
 
 
ENGLISH MAJOR
for Becca
 
I make notes
in my literature
so my children
may take up my books and read
the notes between the pages
and see Austen and Hardy and Wilde
in their mother
 
 
V.L. Bovalino is a student at the University of Pittsburgh where she is studying English. After graduation, she hopes to move to London, and possibly acquire a cat or two along the way.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Jamie Brown
 
 
A REDUCTION OF THE LIGHT
(after reading James Wright)
 
The lights
have been dimmed —
I hold her
against the earth,
its plums, seed, and rings
of trees, rings of roses,
the secret the children gave us.
She is enough, she is.
Her face feels like a face
nursing a baby
by pure accident.
In that body
poets gaze and weep;
I look to her and cry.
What color is her hair?
Among all the lovers
longing for her,
where do I stand?
 
 
FALLING
 
The toeboard gives way,
tools, pouch disappear into
the twilight,
hammer spinning like an out-of-
control helicopter.
The ladder, not tied off, provides no support –
a gable and a co-worker’s
quick iron grip
on the wrist all that stand
between being and non.
 
Forty years on, the porch rail
– “You can stand on that,” says the contractor –
gives way mid-step from the ladder
and the ground rushes up.
Porch post embraced, the fall
impeded and stopped,
legs disentangled
from ladder and rails.
 
The contusions and abrasions
will provide weeks-long reminders that
we are perpetually falling,
at different speeds,
into the grave.
 
 
Jamie Brown is founder and former Editor of The Broadkill Review, and is CEO of Broadkill Publishing Associates, LLC, publishing under The Broadkill River Press imprint (books) and The Broadkill Press imprint (chapbooks). He holds an MFA from American University (1988).
 
His publications include Sakura: A Cycle of Haiku (The Broadkill Press) winner of the 2013 Delaware Press Association Best Book of Verse, Constructing Fiction (The Broadkill Press), Conventional Heresies (2008, Bay Oak Publishers, Ltd), and Freeholder and Other Poems (1999, Argonne House Press)
 
His fiction, non-fiction and poetry widely published; he is an award-winning playwright (Death Comes Twice swept awards in regional One-Act Play Festival 2007.) with five plays staged in the D.C. alt-theatre scene. He has been Fiction Editor for Washington Review of the Arts, Associate Editor of Sulphur River Literary Review and Wordwrights! Magazine, and Poetry Critic of The Washington Times.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
J. Milton Bunch
 
 
I SAW THE GOLDEN LIGHT
 
Coming out of an air vent
I was drunk you see
had been for days
anxiety and fear
They say it’s my amygdala
but won’t cut it out
even when I stamp my feet
So I’m stuck here
cursing it
A bullet would get it
but that fear again
It’s all one body
we abhor it
we’re not of it
scientist in a red state
writer among the illiterate
we can’t escape it
Poor dumb fucks
maybe if we kill ‘em
But they’d just grow back
so they ignore us
don’t understand us
That goddamn amygdala
I went at it with a chopstick
right through the ear canal
Wound up in a cold room
anxious and fearful
and deaf as fuck
 
 
J. Milton Bunch uses poetry and fiction as a trepanning tool to access the unconscious. It can be a confusing place. He has an advanced degree from an American public university, a wife and children, and pets.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Giuseppi Martino Buonaiuto
 
 
GETTING FOXY WITH YOU, GERALDINE
 
(Her name was Geraldine Cohen.
She lived in Miami Beach.
I was 21. She was 35.
I will always love her.)
 
Yellow fizzies in the lime cabana,
bronze banana at five-fifteen,
downing dizzies in a timely manner,
getting foxy with you, Geraldine.
 
 
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–and his ancestral home in Pietrelcina, Italy. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. His two children know him by another name.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Helen Burke
 
 
RINGO’S HOUSE
 
It’s always the last one on the tour.
And that’s only if you ask – and then the driver
might, only might go home that way.
No-one knows much about it and they are
going to knock it down anyway.
Two women at the back say it’s a scandal and ask
the man at the back with the dog called Clancey
what it looked like in its heyday –
what was the wallpaper like? The curtains?
But he can’t remember – just that they were all in and out
Of each other’s houses all of the time . . .
Everybody was everyone’s friend –
And that Ringo’s mam did great fry ups. And big mugs
Of tea. And eggy bread.
And it’s getting really dark now – because John and Paul’s houses took such a long time — and it’s the whole street in twilight, a kind of purple twilight suitable for a drummer
as we all sit quiet as if we were at mass . . . and look the house
up and down as if we were buying some song from the past.
And the man with the dog gets out for a smoke – and another
car pulls up – and asks the way to George’s house . . .
(What happened there?)
And the house of the drummer that will soon be ashes
that will soon be just dust gives out a long sigh
into the Liverpool night.
And through the window you can see that the wallpaper
is green and still intact and that across one of
The boarded up bits – someone has written LOVE ME DO.
It’s a damn shame says the chunkiest of the women
and hands round cheese sandwiches while
the other one gets out and leans against the wall like
a da Vinci figure – and puts her hand up against the window.
And one by one we all get out – and sure enough the driver
starts to sing Love Me Do – and the dog barks along.
And suddenly its 1963 again – and the Cavern is
just down the road. And all of us are young.
And the house glows in the twilight.
And everything still to play for – hope in our hearts
in the compelling and deafening Liverpool night.
 
 
Helen Burke is a poet turned artist; her work has exhibited in the UK and France. She recently exhibited artwork for three months in Leeds, England. She likes to work in acrylic and mixed media, collagraph, and watercolour. She also designs greeting cards and fabric. Her art can be seen on origamipoems.com and shortly on the new krazyphils.co.uk website.
 
Helen has worked as a poet for the last 45 years, winning the Manchester poetry prize, the Norwich, the Suffolk, the Ilkly performance prize twice, the Southport comedy prize, the Jersey open and many others including the Torbay. She is widely published and anthologised in the UK; her two main collections Ruby Slippers and Here’s Looking at You Kid are both with Valley Press in England. Her new collected poems and artwork Today the Birds Will Sing is also with Valley Press and will be available in May of 2017. Other publications including Roman Holiday, Americana, Kindness of Dogs, and Zuzus Petals will be available from Krazyphils.co.uk shortly. She has 16 chapbooks available to download from the Origami poems site.
 
She holds a Masters degree in literature. You can check out Helen’s poem When I Was at Woodstock here.
 
Current projects include a translation of her work into Romanian, and a continuation of her radio shows for ELFM radio in Leeds of poetry chat and music.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
C. R. Callahan
 
 
RESPONSIBLE
 
I took the dog into the back yard
and shot her.
She was dying.
I couldn’t afford the vet
the overdose of phenobarbital
or whatever the hell they use
to
“put her to sleep”.
Besides,
I never felt right about having
someone else doing my dirty work
especially when it is personal.
I mean,
what could be more personal
than killing what you love?
Don’t get me wrong –
it wasn’t easy
despite my tone.
I was quick with it.
Walked her out,
a little slice of turkey
a last scrub behind the ears
and then, without thinking
(because I couldn’t if I did)
I did it.
It was just as horrible as you would think.
But we were together
there
where she would greet me each morning
where she sat to watch me drive off to work everyday
where she would wait for me to come back to her
where I dug the deep hole for her and covered her up
where I’ll put a little St. Francis
to watch over her.
That’s how I’d want it
someone who loves me
put their arm around me
kiss me goodbye.
But it is too much to ask
of someone I love.
It wouldn’t be the responsible thing to do.
So it will be some stranger
with patience and corporate backing
where the cost benefit analysis
and my life intersect.
 
 
C. R. Callahan received a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Florida. He studied under Harry Crews, Padgett Powell and Smith Kirkpatrick – men of wildly different styles. It was interesting. He was recently a finalist for the James Hearst Poetry prize and will have poems published in The North American Review and Rhino in April.
 
Randy lives and writes in Washington state. When not writing, he is hiking, backpacking or fly fishing somewhere in the mountains.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Jacalyn Carley
 
 
WHAT ABOUT COURBET’S ORIGIN OF THE WORLD?
 
What a place.
What a face in the crowd.
What theater, so many entrances and exits.
What an idyllic landscape, rolling hills and all that.
What a place of worship.
What an offense to good taste.
What, a virgin?
What about sex?
What’s the title again?
What about the scientist’s dilemma: like beginnings and endings, chickens and eggs?
What great source material for a Bible study class.
What about sex?
What a serious discussion they had before she let Courbet set up shop between her legs.
What I would have given to have been there.
What happened in 1866 that inspired model and artist to create this work?
What could have better sufficed to forward the confabulation of the times on absolutes?
What is left to the imagination is far greater than what one supposes at first glance.
What’s wrong in this picture?
What’s not to like about it?
What about sex?
What about posing that question to the model?
What we know is that some say her head was cut off and later found, others say not true.
What is this painting doing here, displayed where so many innocents pass by every day?
What a place of honor.
What about sex?
What a success.
 
 
Jacalyn Carley is a writer living in Berlin, Germany. She has written four books (only available in German translation) and is currently dedicated to writing about and drawing the human figure. This poem is from a book length collection of poems about the nude, the studio and the work. More about her: jacalyn-carley.com
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Dennis Caswell
 
 
CHOCOLATE
 
Happiness is forgetting: a centrifuge flinging
the sadness down to your toes and leaving your brain
light and mist-fizzy. Don’t be sad because someone’s flesh melted.
If you could collect all the flesh ever melted,
it would cover the earth in a layer of boot-sucking squelch,
but sometimes our cat lies down on her side
with all four feet against the wall.
She looks like she’s walking across the wall! Did you ever?
If you could collect all the blood ever spilled,
you could fill every wine glass ever made,
but if you could just collect
those little porcelain figurines where everyone looks like a baby
that might be enough. Depression, they say, is adaptive,
maybe because it weeds out the weaklings
who don’t have the gumption to spit in its face
and just BE HAPPY! Instead of “boot-sucking squelch”
I could have said something like “latte-colored porridge.”
Would that have been better? I don’t want to overdo it too much,
but I do want to overdo it enough. Happiness isn’t just forgetting.
Whoever said pleasure is just the absence of pain
probably had a pretty pathetic sex life. There has to be juice
to spin the centrifuge, so you can forget
you forgot to remember the starving babies, their white, white eyes
staring up at you out of your mobile device. Forget you, babies!
I just saw a bird I haven’t seen since 1983!
Is this a poem about social injustice? Well, if that makes you happy,
but it might just as well be about whatever else you need to forget,
like who you’re really married to or what love used to mean
or that after your atoms stop being you they won’t percolate
through the dirt, bugs and worms of the future with little tags on them
proclaiming that they were once yours. Cats like to sit in high places,
so they can pretend the world is beneath them. Happiness is pretending,
and here in America we have the right to pretend
to forget the starving babies, along with the rest
of the screaming and moaning and running while burning
and lying awake at night without understanding
why nobody loves you the way the TV promised you
somebody would. But if you can just work hard and believe in yourself,
good things will happen, and you can forget about everyone else
who worked just as hard and believed just as faithfully
and never got diddly shit. Happiness is believing
you’ve always deserved your luck. And chocolate.
It only has a little theobromine,
phenylethylalanine and tryptophan,
so you’d better have some more.
 
 
CLOWNS LEAVE TOWN
 
They fill the street, their white pancake heads
bobbing like ping pong balls on a river of candy.
Every few hundred yards, another runs in
off a side street, size-30 shoes flop-flopping,
and joins the throng. They do not caper,
cavort, juggle, or souse with seltzer. They walk
in silence, faces impassive, eyes straight ahead.
As they pass out of town, each one produces
a skinny balloon, gives it a few expert twists,
and tosses it into the air, leaving the pavement
covered with a confetti of neon dachshunds,
giraffes, bunnies and horses that now stare up
at us in confusion, as if to say, This isn’t funny.
 
 
Dennis Caswell is the author of the poetry collection Phlogiston (Floating Bridge Press, 2012). His work has appeared in Bluestem, Crab Creek Review, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, and assorted other journals and anthologies, and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lives outside Woodinville, Washington and works as a software engineer in the aviation industry. His dorky and not-very-compatible website may be found at denniscaswell.com.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Rita Rouvalis Chapman
 
 
CROSS COUNTRY
(for Stanny)
 
I wouldn’t mind
sitting with you on
that horse jump made of
narrow logs piled up like
a wall. I might perch with my
knees up under my chin, the rot
of downed trees staining my jeans.
Unlike you, I’d want to face
the woods, be the wet branches
underlit by 3 o’clock sun.
 
It’s cold, but only
Missouri cold.
 
I might close my eyes and
wonder how to soak up our loneliness —
make you test me like that old electric fence
until I snap.
 
When the horses do trot by,
necks wet with the
effort of beating down
clumps of prairie, we will be
like others of this breed, our
noses aimed at the
top of the next fence,
because it is there and you and I,
we are being put to it, knees
to chin, a whip of white tail.
 
What are reins, anyway,
but thin excuses for restraint
when we’d rather breathe
great painful heaps of frosty
air, hay, sunshine.
 
 
Rita Rouvalis Chapman’s poetry has appeared in Magnolia Review, Anomaly, SHANTIH, Fourth & Sycamore, and Poetry Quarterly, with work forthcoming in Bellingham Review and Red Earth Review. She is a student in the MFA program at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and teaches high school English.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Brooke Clark
 
 
ILL-ADVISED POEM FOR AN ILL-ADVISED MARRIAGE (AFTER MARTIAL)
 
Two husbands, Julie, both proved gay,
and now another wedding day?
I’ve met the groom, and I’m not sure
your instincts have grown any truer—
in fact, I think you’re about to make
(for the third time) the same mistake,
and that the coming connubial nights
will prove quite barren of delights:
no matter how it’s stroked and kissed
his cock won’t stiffen, just your wrist.
Next time, find some brawling brute,
macho, unkempt and hirsute,
who’s full of tales of beer-league glory,
whose every scar comes with a story.
He’ll never notice your new dress
or cuddle with you after sex
or praise the little things you do,
but he will play straight with you—
though members of the rougher class
do sometimes turn from cunt to ass,
and who knows if your manly groom
once frolicked in the locker room?
Julie, you face quite a task:
a real man? That’s a lot to ask.
 
 
Brooke Clark’s work has appeared in journals in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, including Arion, Literary Imagination, The Tangerine, The Literateur, Able Muse and The Rotary Dial, among others. He is also the editor of the epigrams website The Asses of Parnassus. Twitter: @thatbrookeclark
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Joan Colby
 
 
NOVEMBER ELEGY
 
The day warms with bird chatter
to a fictitious spring.
The trees mostly leafless,
the rotting roots of the begonias
flung in the refuse pile.
The stone planters loaded
into the barrow and put away.
The winds bring unusual warmth
wth a low haze as if the earth
could imagine a cold front stalled
behind the presentiment of a blue line
on a map. We go outside bathed
in the air’s luxury. It is one
of those criminally beautiful days
when you know with certainty
you are going to die.
 
 
Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, Gargoyle, Pinyon, Little Patuxent Review, Spillway, Midwestern Gothic and others. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 17 books including Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Three of her poems have been featured on Verse Daily and another is among the winners of the 2016 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. Her newest book Carnival was published by FutureCycle Press in 2016. She has another forthcoming from Kelsay Press in 2017 titled The Seven Heavenly Virtues. Colby is a senior editor of FutureCycle Press.
Website: joancolby.com. Facebook: Joan Colby. Twitter: @poetjm.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Ellen Collins
 
 
IN TRANSIT
 
South on 113, a truck with its cages
stuffed, red eyes gazing out at the broad fields,
insurance offices, liquor stores, Exxon pumps.
I want to tell them this is no vacation, this
will not have a happy ending, this
will be their last blue sky day.
 
At the plant, released, hung, stunned,
beheaded, plucked, gutted, chopped,
rivers of blood from millions
of birds.
 
In the dentist’s office, a magazine
declares on its glossy pages:
“40 Ways to Cook Chicken.”
Boiled, broiled, chopped, fricasseed,
au gratin, fried, barbecued, stuffed,
brandied, galantine, roasted, baked,
marinated, jerk, pulled, diced, sliced,
piccata, rolled, ground, sauced,
pressed, shredded, creamed, curried,
crusted, sautéed, cubed, fajitas,
cutlets, tostados, crusted,
souvlaki, enchilada, slow-cooked,
breasts, thighs, legs, wings, necks,
livers, gizzards, feet.
 
In the supermarket, pale flesh
nestled under tight plastic
on yellow Styrofoam trays.
 
North on 113, a truck rattles
empty cages, where stray feathers
are caught in the wire.
One by one, they float free
to brush windshields and settle
in the gutters with fast food cups,
ripped sneakers, the sticky coins
rubbed thin from a hundred hands.
 
 
Ellen Collins is a writer, teacher and artist living in Vienna VA and Bethany Beach DE. She has published a book of poetry called The Memory Thief and has pieces in several journals including Broadkill Review and Bellevue Literary Review. She is working on a second poetry collection based on yoga and meditation.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Gail Braune Comorat
 
 
INDEPENDENCE
 
During the War my mother survived
with help from girlfriends.
Abandoned by men they loved
the women found jobs, discovered
independence. It tasted sweet
 
like vermouth and bourbon
in a crystal glass, tart twist of lemon
balanced at its edge.
They pooled rations, buttoned
into each other’s wide-shouldered
 
rayon blouses, allowed a peep
of toes from reptile shoes,
stretched themselves thin as the silk stockings
they coveted. Everything
hard-won, but theirs.
 
In photos gray as battleships,
the women, glamorous and sleek, embrace.
And their faces—
dark lips mid-center like poppies—
bear witness to their pride.
 
Why did they change
when the men came home?
How did they become something else again
like Selkies
shrugging themselves into old skin.
 
 
YOU ARE ONE OF US TONIGHT
 
Everything is still the way I remember:
The raintree is first base, the peach
is second. And Nana waits
by the low branches of our apple tree.
We tag her instead of the trunk.
 
You stand on lush grass, brandishing
your bat over the white letters
of a welcome mat you pilfered
from the neighbors’ back door.
 
You are one of us, on a rare night
of low humidity, summer air not too dense,
no pollen drowning your lungs.
 
Tommy Twelve-Toes is winding up,
his brother, calling: No batter, no batter.
You shake your head, loose and ready.
 
This is not a night to witness the game
from your bedroom window. You are outside
where everything is magnified. Three taps
on the mat for luck. You raise your old Louisville.
The pitch is slow and easy. Your swing, faultless.
 
You blast the ball and it arcs toward the field
where the prison workers have already come and
gone. The yard once more is ours.
 
You are plump and happy, and I have forgotten
all of your crimes. You tag raintree, peach trunk,
head for third, reaching for Nana’s hand.
The opposing team is cheering you on.
You won’t even need to slide to be safe.
 
You are one of us tonight. You are here,
having your moment. A little god, running
with clear lungs, heading home.
 
 
Gail Braune Comorat is a founding member of Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild, and the author of Phases of the Moon (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Gargoyle, Grist, and The Widows’ Handbook. She received a 2011 Delaware Division of the Arts Fellowship Grant for Emerging Poet, and a 2015 grant for Established Poet. Her passions (other than poetry) include camping and teaching. She lives in Lewes, Delaware where she’s a long-time member of several writing groups.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Renata Connors
 
 
DOWNWARDS
 
Every time you tell me the same story again
I think of the end of a flight.
 
I’m still flapping my wings
but I’m no longer looking at the ground from above the clouds.
 
Now each new day
of aching joints, fading words and increasing unease
takes me closer to what I hope
will be a soft landing.
 
 
Renata Connors is a poet and songwriter based in Tynemouth, Tyne & Wear, UK. Her poems were published in webzines Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Fat Damsel, and in the Kind of a Hurricane press journal Napalm and Novocaine. She has performed her poetry and songs at many different venues around the North East.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Joe Cottonwood
 
 
BECAUSE
 
Because that day, son,
I installed a dedicated circuit
for a family’s Apple II
(a computer, son, in 1981),
 
Because
to run wires in their crawlspace I had to wiggle
over ratshit, wobble over broken glass, writhe
through cobwebs and squirm into a concrete hole,
Because
I then dejammed their garbage disposal,
 
Because
they had a nearly naked teenage daughter (this is
July, a hot day) with a deep suntan and braces in her
teeth who apologized for dropping all those rubber
bands into the disposal and who then kept hovering,
asking questions, licking lips, leaning forward,
testing her budding sexuality when she knew all I
would do, could do was answer her remarks and
gaze once or twice into those starry brown eyes,
 
Because that same day
the family next door asked me to make an estimate
on building a darkroom in their baking-hot garage
where two teenage boys were hanging out with piles
of stereo equipment while making crude remarks
about the budding parts of girl-next-door,
more goddamn pubescent sexuality,
 
Because
I asked if they even knew her eye color and they said
no; I asked if they knew she had a pet hamster and
they said no; I asked if they’d ever talked to her
and they said no;
 
Because
I told them you should learn her eyes as an
astronomer learns the galaxies; you should befriend
her hamster named Gummy who is the moon in her
orbit; and don’t you dare touch that girl’s Milky Way
until she’s older and don’t you ever dare hurt her;
and they looked at me like I was some weird
wrathful god but I bet they’ll respect her (and make
snickering jokes about me when I’m gone, the
grease of my shirt, the black in my fingerprints,
the motes of fiberglass insulation in my hair),
 
Because that evening
I come home stinking and itching, too late for dinner
from a long hot hectic day with $80 earned,
 
And then because, son, that night:
 
After tucking the kids
who are now your two older sisters into bed,
 
After a silent prayer
for your other sister who was born and died all in one day,
 
After I strip off my clothes
and take a long steaming soak in our claw-footed
bathtub reading Louis L’Amour,
 
After toweling dry
I find your mother waiting in bed with just
a dab of perfume between her breasts,
 
and she says she’s fertile,
 
and I say I just cooked every tiny tadpole in my sac,
 
and she says we can always use a little practice
 
and anyway maybe one of those tiny tadpoles,
a very clean and well-soaked one,
might just have a wee bit of wiggle left,
maybe a Y chromosome wiggle,
 
and we did that thing
that a child wants never to imagine
his parents, um, doing.
 
You were a glorious teenager. A stargazer.
 
You, a man now,
with a lifelong love of hot tubs and hot springs.
 
Because.
 
 
MY LADY OF SCARS
 
in the hot tub sits
my lady of scars
singing blues
of twelve bars
 
in her lovely form
they poke holes
through shoulder
spine, neck, breasts
removing this
correcting that
 
from her body has come
endless nurture
some pleasure
three babies
four cancers
the cuts, sewn tight
the children, grown tall
 
she cooks
without recipe
never the same twice
she has faith
without dogma
she has dogs
of wild faith
 
her fingers wear
my two rings
now in darkness
she sings
if you can hear
mouth to ear
 
 
MAYBE IT COMES TO EVERY COUPLE AFTER THE THIRD CHILD
 
In the deep dark my wife shakes me awake.
“Something happened,” she says. “I have a pecker.”
“Huh?” I say.
“Touch it,” she says.
“No way,” I say. Then of course I do.
“Mmm. Nice,” she says.
“It’s like petting a bratwurst,” I say.
Then: “I think I have a pussy,” I say.
“Huh?” she says.
“Touch it,” I say.
“No way,” she says. Then: “It’s like a warm wash cloth.”
“Mmm. Nice,” I say.
“Before we wake up,” she says, “I want to make love.”
“Me on top,” I say, “or it’s just too weird.”
“Where’s the—?” she says.
“Near there,” I say.
“Wow,” she says.
“Ow!” I say.
“Holy smokes,” she says. “You were virgin.”
“Keep going,” I say.
“Mmm,” she says. “Oh! Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I say.
“How delay?” she says.
“You’ll learn,” I say.
“Did you like?” she says.
“Very nice,” I say.
“Liar,” she says.
We make spoons.
In the morning the kids wake us jumping on the bed.
We’re sore. Normal again. Huh? No time.
Who wants pancakes?
 
 
By day Joe Cottonwood has worked as a carpenter, plumber, electrician for most of his life. Some jobs were pretty; some, shitwork. Nights, he writes. Same split. His most recent book is 99 Jobs: Blood, Sweat, and Houses. joecottonwood.com
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Neil Creighton
 
 
LABYRINTH
 
I linger no longer
in this labyrinth.
Darkness suffocates.
The sulphurous air
stinks of bitterness.
Besides, your locked door
has no key.
 
I wade the dark river,
my pack heavy.
I shed weights,
slip on rocks,
halt before the last sheer face.
 
High above, light pools,
casts dappled patterns,
slants in descending columns
through cloud and tree.
Birds arc and flit in the silken air,
the dome gloriously blue,
the night diamond flecked.
 
I drop my pack.
The leaden thump
echoes through the darkness.
I look upwards, breathe, place one hand
on the smooth surface
and climb.
The living wait.
With each inching ascent
I feel other hands
reaching down.
 
 
Neil Creighton is an Australian poet with a passion for social justice and an awareness of how opportunity is so unequally apportioned. His poems have recently appeared at Praxis online, Autumn Sky Daily, Poetry Quarterly, The Ekphrastic Review and Verse-Virtual. He blogs at windofflowers.blogspot.com.au.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Natalie Crick
 
 
DOLL
 
I had a doll once, which I hid in
a deep muddy place.
 
I left it there until
all of the paint flaked off the face.
 
It was never really
the same again.
 
I imagine
death is something like that.
 
 
Natalie Crick, from Newcastle in the UK, has found delight in writing all of her life and first began writing when she was a very young girl. She graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature and plans to pursue an MA at Newcastle this year. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in a range of journals and magazines including Interpreters House, The Chiron Review, Rust and Moth, Ink in Thirds and The Penwood Review. Her work also features or is forthcoming in a number of anthologies, including Lehigh Valley Vanguard Collections 13. This year her poem, ‘Sunday School’ was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Robert Crisp
 
 
DINNER WITH A MOUTH
 
“What the hell is this shit?” the man grumbled,
putting his good eye on the food before him, if you
could call it food, it was more of a slimy mess smiling
up at him…smiling because the thing had a mouth
and teeth and probably a tongue if he probed deep
enough into it to find out instead of tossing on the floor
and glaring murderously at his wife of untold years,
the whip-thin woman at the oven who used to dazzle him
but now made dinners that had mouths, which she thought
would delight him — she got the recipe from Battered Woman’s
Monthly
— and all the women she talked to said their men ate
the meal with gusto, didn’t blink at the mouth and teeth,
just gobbled it up, giving their fists more strength to punch,
their legs more reason to kick out, and their own tongues more
reason to curse their women and all women, for that damn matter.
 
 
Robert Crisp currently hides out in Savannah, GA, where he teaches and keeps strange company. He writes poems as often as he can. Learn more at writingforghosts.com.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Juliet Delgado
 
 
COATS OF PAINT
 
fresh coats of paint.
little white flowers dotting what used to be just
velvety brown soil.
modern edges hiding
what used to be edgy.
a hip grocery store hiding
the souls who would wedge themselves in corners
and edge themselves out when it was clear.
driving though there used to be
living on the edge.
 
my grandmother,
the man who lived there after her,
and his family.
the memories of parents pushing through the Great Depression,
passed down to Agnes
are gone from that place.
now, it is a spruced-up, up scale space.
more expensive
more commercial
more paint
fewer memories
 
we drive by,
excited to view the house Grandma grew up in,
the same exact one she saw as a little girl.
brooklyn was holding it for us,
keeping it safe.
but maybe it was too safe.
because now,
there are no memories or jars of nails kept “just in case.”
the brown soil is coated with the green people love more.
Agnes would not recognize it.
 
those steps and front windows of the home we saw in pictures
lead into nowhere
but a house of modern lines
and the soulless smells of
fresh coats of paint.
 
 
Juliet Delgado lives in Simi Valley, California and is currently an English and psychology student at Moorpark College. Her writing and art have been used as example pieces in the Moorpark College Library, her work has been exhibited in Ventura County’s Literary Treasures event, and her poetry has been featured in the Such an Ugly Time collection from Rat’s Ass Review. She has been writing poetry since her childhood, but she also enjoys comedy writing, crafting of all sorts, and partaking in anything involving theatre. Juliet is currently a part of the Troubadour Classical Theatre Company and often pairs her love of poetry with her love of plays in Shakespeare shows each year.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Darren C. Demaree
 
 
ODE TO THE CORNER OF THE DRUG HOUSE DOWN THE GRAVEL ROAD OFF THE TWO-LANE HIGHWAY #41
 
Hat on a hat,
Tiki’s virtual reality setup
lasted for an hour
 
before we tossed it
in the retention pond.
He’d driven to Columbus
 
& robbed three houses
before he could get that
at the Radio Shack
 
& then, the flat black
& gold coloring
freaked out
 
his brother a little
too much. I think
I prefer the simple
 
drugs working
through my simple
body,
 
but I felt bad he went
through all of that
to watch
 
a quick drowning
of a technology
we never understood.
 
 
Darren C. Demaree’s poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear in numerous magazines/journals, including the South Dakota Review, Meridian, New Letters, Diagram, and the Colorado Review. He is the author of six poetry collections, most recently “Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly” (2016, 8th House Publishing). He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry, and is currently living and writing in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Salvatore Difalco
 
 
LAST TANGLE IN PARIS
 
Is the Black Forest forbidden
in the 21st century?
Or talk of it? Do we blush
when scraping it clean
becomes the norm,
like confident bald men,
or paving stones instead of lawn?
 
Brando knew what he was
doing, so did Bertolucci.
The carpet in the mildewed Paris flat—
stained with existential angst—
spoke volumes.
Butter never was the same.
 
But what did we know in 1972?
In 1975, from a video,
pirated, Maria Schneider
broke the bubble of my
sexual awakening
with her patent Paris pout
and epic poil du pubis.
 
Father Murphy warned
I’d go to hell if I did not
repent and block my
thoughts of it—engulfing
my young spirit like
a contemplated Amazon.
 
But over time, customs change,
forests are clear-cut, regrets
emerge, an object of teen lust
becomes an ashen saint of sorts,
a cautionary tale. That’s right.
The brutes in all of us fell short.
 
 
Salvatore Difalco lives in Toronto. His novel Mean Season (Mansfield Press) came out in 2015.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Matthew Dobson
 
 
ONE HANDED
 
I’m not alone
in plucking hazel buds before they’ve burst,
like imaging of brains,
into loaves
of colour.
 
I’ve seen you too.
When cycling past, you stretch out your right arm
and break one from the branch
then wobble off
one handed
 
holding the gourd
of chlorophyll beneath your nose to sniff
the hay, the grass, the corn,
the vegetable
abundance.
 
 
Matthew Dobson works as a teacher in Surrey, England. He began writing when he lived in Japan and often thinks of returning there. His work has been published in Butcher’s Dog, Neon, Agenda, and The Indianola Review, among others.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Chris Dungey
 
 
WHIPPING
 
O.K., they could try anything
once, they agreed, the baby
gone, to some grandparent
or other. Well, they were young—
they would respect each other’s boundaries
long enough to discover where
and when that surface sting
might turn to something new.
She volunteered to be first,
offering her round bottom
for about three weak blows
with a flannel bathrobe sash.
But, they began to laugh.
They laughed so hard
in the falling darkness
of the rumpled bedroom
that they soon relaxed—just slept
as if they’d finished.
 
 
Chris Dungey is a retired auto worker in MI. He rides mountain bikes, sings in the Presbyterian choir, camps at sports-car races, feeds two wood-stoves, watches English football, and spends too much time in Starbucks. He has more than 140 poems published, recently at Breakwater Review, Northwind, Squalorly, Box of Jars, Gaptoothed Madness, NEAT, Panoply, Raging Muse, and Ann Arbor Review.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Pat Edwards
 
 
KERB CRAWLERS
 
The crow hops back from the kerb,
cool as . . . well, cool as a crow
in this instance.
We have just hurtled past him
at around 60 mph,
yet he has calmly done
what needed to be done,
to avoid certain death.
 
We are, say, a thousand times
bigger than the crow,
but he does not flinch or panic.
 
Every week we probably face
events a thousand times
bigger than us,
but we squawk and squeal,
throw ourselves into the hedge,
mew like a litter of blind kittens.
 
One day the big one will come along,
and we won’t have what it takes
to step away from the kerb.
 
 
Pat Edwards is a writer, teacher and performer living in Mid Wales. Pat’s work has appeared in a number of on-line publications including Rat’s Ass Review, Amaryllis, The Fat Damsel, Ink Pantry and Picaroon, as well as in anthologies, notably Wenlock Poetry Anthology 2016. She runs Verbatim open mic poetry sessions every month, and is the organiser of Welshpool Poetry Festival.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Patrick Theron Erickson
 
 
GLUTTONY
 
Staple every one of you
your many stomachs
 
and bring your
considerable girth to bear
 
hold a knife
to your throat
 
you who chew the cud
 
and are given
to gluttony
 
and see if the milk of human kindness
isn’t an old wives tale
told by an idiot
 
The milk maid
all astir
 
kicks over the milking stool
and upends the milk pail
 
grabs the udder
 
though she has
breasts of her own
 
and an ample bosom
 
and holds on
for dear life
 
And all the world
is a bovine splendor!
 
 
Patrick Theron Erickson, a resident of Garland, Texas, a Tree City, just south of Duck Creek, is a retired parish pastor put out to pasture himself. His work has appeared in Grey Sparrow Journal, Cobalt Review, and Burningword Literary Journal, among other publications, and more recently in Right Hand Pointing, Tipton Poetry Journal, Wilderness House Literary Review and Danse Macabre.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
James Escher
 
 
NAPA CABBAGE
 
A woman walks into a grocery store in Los Angeles. She will
be having dinner at a friend’s house who asked her to pick
up some Napa cabbage for the pot stickers they will make together.
 
Whole Foods has an overwhelming selection. She hasn’t seen
this friend for a couple of years. Signs announce the
prices for Bok Choy, Leeks, Napa Cabbage and much more.
 
The woman doesn’t really know what Bok Choy looks like. There
was a falling out after somebody got too close to someone else’s
husband, who is no longer in either picture. She looks for
 
someone to help her with the produce when a slender man in
a bolo tie and cowboy hat tells her she looks confused. So much
has changed since the two women last met but she is determined
 
to go tonight. The man points out the Napa Cabbage after she confides her
dilemma. It is then she notices his blue eyes and slightly gravelly voice
registers. She reaches over for a bundle, turns to thank him, but he is already
 
gone down the aisle. She thinks of all the nights she and her friend used to stay
up late, drinking wine and listening to 45s of Lay Lady Lay and A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, nights before husbands and the dark days of divorces, nights of telling
 
and retelling stories as old friends do. At the checkout she tells the pierceling
that she thinks she saw Bob Dylan in the back of the store but he just asks if
this will be debit or credit and suddenly she can’t wait to see her friend again.
 
 
James Escher lives and writes in east-central Illinois.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Michael Estabrook
 
 
AS GREGOR SAMSA AWOKE ONE MORNING FROM UNEASY DREAMS HE FOUND HIMSELF TRANSFORMED IN HIS BED INTO A GIGANTIC INSECT.
Franz Kafka
 
1
In the mirror I’m amazed at how
I am metamorphosing into my Grandfather
getting shorter, stockier, stubble-faced, hair
shorter and grayer, old clothes and shoes, scowl
across my face but I haven’t taken to wearing a hat, yet.
 
2
While Kerry lay on his deathbed
Katie and Emily came in with their guitars
and mandolins and their long dark hair and tight jeans
and played ;Angel from Montgomery;
keeping him alive for two more days.
 
3
Even though you’re older you cannot comprehend
how you got that way, it happened so damned fast.
And you can’t accept it either. Still hoping to get
that motorcycle one day ride it out to the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame wind blowing through the hair you no longer have.
 
 
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. His latest collection of poems is ;Bouncy House;, edited by Larry Fagin (Green Zone Editions, 2014).
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
R. Gerry Fabian
 
 
TALL TALES
 
If you suck his daughter’s horse eyeballs
before an opaque moon
because she’s all that’s available
to slouch in that ratty ‘67 Ford pick up…
(Well, Christ, you’re doing it).
and as you flutter feather your hands
with calculated bass fiddle rhythms
and then mind grin at the ease
her corn stubble tempo increases…
(So the power of the moment explodes).
and so wet with wonder and waste
her corn silk breath covering the windows –
the 10:19 train whistle in the distance:
(It is awkward now, isn’t it?)
because she hasn’t said a word
but you know she is going to.
 
 
SHANGHAI SURPRISE
 
The few women
who attempted
to execute love
were all failures.
When my name
is mentioned,
they hurl curses
and epithets
that would peel
paint off the walls.
 
At the gym,
through dark Chinese eyes,
and thin red lips,
you invite me
for a vegan Hu lunch.
 
I take no particular
interest in you,
but I am hungry.
 
Three weeks later,
in a rare moment of sanity,
I conclude
there is definitely
a lot of mail
to sort through
and the goldfish
are probably floating.
 
 
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 novels, Memphis Masquerade, Getting Lucky (The Story), and published poetry book Parallels are available at Smashwords and all other ebook stores.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Laura Falsetti
 
 
RIVER GODS
 
Canyon me through miles of foam and frigid teal water
grab me by the waist and dive
and when the Lower White Salmon threatens my air
breathe your sweet promise back into me. Everyone knows
 
river gods date only mermaids
so you decide how we live
or if we die. I shoot the rapids alone
with feet up, shivering.
I see you sprawled in the sun, smoking
and know my life rests in your resin-stained hands. Listen
 
even if you fall in and drown
on this side of the raft
chances are good you can come up on the other side
and start another life.
 
As for me, I’ll heave my primordial body onto shore
and run until my feet untie
until the alabaster grip of this river lets loose
and I feel my life return in drips
my life creeping like daggers.
 
 
Laura Falsetti is a dentist who lives and works outside of Seattle. She is also an emerging poet with work published or forthcoming in The William and Mary Review, Cider Press Review, and Muse /A Journal.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
William J. Fedigan
 
 
CURLS
 
Her hair, wet and wavy,
almost covers her eyes.
No make-up.
Wearing my bathrobe, laughing.
Her finger pops out of from huge sleeve
and points at me.
I aim my camera.
Don’t you dare take a picture of me like this!
I did.
 
She curls within me even now,
and my head still spins.
 
 
William J Fedigan’s poetry and short fiction has appeared in dozens of magazines and journals throughout the world. He can he reached at wfedigan@gmail.com.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Margaret Fieland
 
 
TRAINS
 
After school we would go down the street to your house
Past your father’s office
Up the carpeted stairs
To your room
 
Watch the Lionel trains go round the track
Just a starter set, nothing fancy
 
Go to central park
Climb the rocks at 98th street
scrape our knees
 
Collect mica
fieldstone
quartz
In brown paper bags
 
Sometimes take the bus to the Planetarium
See how much we weighed
on the Moon
on Mars
on Jupiter
 
On Saturday afternoons go to a concert
at the Y on 92nd street
wearing
a tie
Mary Janes
 
When you went away I had no best friend
To play with trains
Collect rocks
Go to
the Planetarium
A concert
 
If I had asked harder
For my own trains
 
We might have held hands
 
 
Born and raised in New York City, Margaret Fieland has been around art and music allher life. Her poems and stories have appeared in journals such as Turbulence Magazine, Front Range Review, and All Rights Reserved. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines, was published by Inkspotter Publishing in November, 2011. She is the author of Relocated, Geek Games, Broken Bonds, and Rob’s Rebellion published by MuseItUp Publishing, and of Sand in the Desert, a collection of science fiction persona poems. A chapter book is due out later this year.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Ryan Quinn Flanagan
 
 
TURNOVER
 
No one had died in a couple months
and we began to get tired of one another.
 
No suicides or overdoses or trollops
carved up like Thanksgiving turkeys.
 
Poverty and proximity are twin headaches.
They feed on one another.
And since the poverty is never less, the people
must be.
 
Or things get crowded.
The lines get longer and the tempers
get shorter.
 
You run out of real-estate and patience.
 
And then some junkie died.
The first of the year.
And everyone pretended to miss him
as they rifled through his few
belongings.
 
 
FALLOUT SHELTER
 
She rubbed the lipstick from her face
with the back of her hand
and was suddenly less beautiful,
 
like an autographed poster torn down
off adolescent walls.
 
I still hugged her,
feeling each of her tiny ribs
against my elbows
 
as she sobbed over my shoulders
because another man would not
love her.
 
 
Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his other half and mounds of snow. His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Word Riot, In Between Hangovers, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Cammy Fox
 
 
GOD’S PARTY
 
Do you ever wonder if rain
might be God and friends
frolicking in an overflowing hot tub?
Maybe while laughing and drinking mai tais?
Do you wonder who’s in the tub with him,
feeling warm bubbles caress celestial bodies?
Elvis might be there, teaching God words
about a hound dog as the two toast their popularity.
And God, whether he can manage a tune
or not, will sing along because he’s drunk
and Elvis is still huge.
Suppose Marilyn Monroe is there, topless in the tub.
God will marvel at his invention of breasts
while sucking his drink and gazing at her pink nipples.
He’ll make note to fit himself with a penis and testicles
as soon as he sobers up.
 
Later, while resting his hung-over head on heavenly
fiberglass, a little girl falls on a steak knife
sticking up from a dishwasher’s door,
puncturing her heart, draining her life.
Wonder if God will immediately stand,
grab a towel, and say, I fucked up.
Or if he’ll command some preacher
hawking him on late-night television,
Tell them it’s part of my plan.
Marilyn might whisper, God, Honey,
don’t worry about a penis,
but you really could use some balls
.
 
 
 
Cammy Fox is the pseudonym for a writer who lives in the Midwest and has had poems published in various journals, most importantly Rat’s Ass Review.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Nova Fox
 
 
LIKE A WITCH
 
burn me like a witch
because i want and deserve that,
and you deserve so much better.
 
burn me like a witch
because this is just how things are meant to be
and you can do it, I’ve seen it in you.
 
burn me like a witch
because that’s part of who I am
and you will never understand it and don’t want to
 
burn me like a witch
because i have a tendency towards burns anyways,
and , you know, i wouldn’t be too offended by the charring.
 
burn me like a witch
because i want you to be able to hold me
and you just have to try to make ashes sufficient.
 
burn me like a witch
because I want to be beautiful
and you’ve always been enchanted by watching the the fires at home
 
 
Nova Fox is a Rromani high school senior and is majoring in creative writing. She enjoys spending time with her two dogs, making lace and practicing traditional bookbinding methods with Batcat Press.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Meg Freer
 
 
AFTER MAHLER’S SECOND SYMPHONY
 
two violinists cycle past me
their instruments on their backs
and I marvel not at their ability
to cycle in the snow but that
seeing them so lately in tears
at the symphony’s end
they are able to touch
ground at all
 
 
Meg Freer grew up in Missoula, Montana and now lives with her family in Kingston, Ontario where she teaches piano and enjoys running and photography. She began writing poetry in Fall 2015 and has since won a few awards from the Ontario Poetry Society. Some of her poems have been selected for publication in chapbooks as well as in local print and online anthologies.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Michael Giorgio
 
 
 
HOW A GUY GAINS WISDOM
 
I got laid last night—twice.
And again this morning—twice.
She was that good.
She’ll never know what else she did.
She taught me the secret
of how to get laid more often.
 
Our meeting was nothing special.
Crowded coffee shop, no empty tables.
She walked in alone.
I did the standard guy inventory—
face, tits, ass, legs, hair.
She passed without effort.
 
I waited for her order to be ready,
then shoved my shit off the table
so she’d see an empty spot,
and, I hoped, an amiable companion.
She accepted my unspoken invite
And we began to chat.
 
Coffee became a walk, then dinner.
Then an overbite smile to join her
overnight, at her place.
The next morning, when we were done
and getting dressed to face the day,
she told me the secret.
 
Do you know why I asked you
to come back here? she said,
overbite smile in place.
Because you looked straight at me
and listened when I talked.
Women find that sexy.
 
On my way home I wondered
if I still would have gotten laid
if she knew my gaze
didn’t stray south not because I was
engrossed by whatever it was
she was chattering about.
 
But that I stayed face-to-face
with her because I was transfixed
by her nose ring
and spent the better part of the day
looking at it and wondering
Do boogers got caught on that thing?
 
 
Michael Giorgio’s short fiction has appeared in The Mammoth Book of Road Stories, The Strand, Tales from the Cash Register, Who Died in Here?, Lunatic Chameleon and many others. His novels, The Memory Swindlers (2016) and Justice Comes Home (2014), have been released by Black Rose Writing, and he has had nonfiction published and audio plays produced. He also teaches creative writing for AllWriters’ Workplace and Workshop of Waukesha, WI.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Barry Goodinson
 
 
PEANUT BUTTER
 
Scooping the fragrant paste into a rubber Kong
I exclaim to my dog excitedly at the treat,
place it on the floor like an offering to a king
 
and slip out the door to leave him.
 
How lucky you are!
You don’t have me,
but you have pasty peanuts!
You don’t have my foot to rest upon,
but you have a hollow chunk
of rubber, crammed with oily goodness.
 
Happily protected from guilt by his diversion
I drive to the gym or dinner,
my own forms of diversion,
comforted that I have fooled him.
 
When does he notice he’s alone?
When does he lose interest
or tongue strength
and come up for air
and companionship?
 
Or, did the sound of the opening jar
or the first peanuty smell warn him?
Have I re-wired his dog brain
so pleasure and sadness are the same?
 
Does loneliness smell like peanut butter?
 
This entire enterprise,
this nutty-smelling diversion,
may really be just for me
because I need to believe he misses me.
 
Which makes me wonder.
Whose loneliness
smells like peanut butter?
 
 
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Barry Goodinson spends his workdays as vice president of development for a national Washington, DC-based nonprofit. He has spent his professional career in the nonprofit sector, where his writing has normally focused on public policy and community needs. Broadening his writing to personal essays and poetry, which explore the goofy recesses of life where humor and pain team up to produce sarcasm-laced wisdom, has unexpectedly brought him full circle to his New England roots.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
John Grey
 
 
FRENCH POETS
 
There is Rimbaud.
There is Verlaine.
 
And, in between them.
a bottle of absinthe,
some hashish.
 
Eventually, a pistol.
 
And a shot heard round
a hotel room in Brussels.
 
It’s a vigil I keep
to this very day.
 
 
IN THE JACUZZI
 
He’s floating over jets of hot water
that do everything his body asks.
She’s more circumspect,
seated on cement,
reading between the damp patches
of a Harlequin paperback.
 
The tension and the stress
steam out of both of them.
His sigh is his muscles talking.
Her drowsy lids slip over eyes,
take the sexiest scenes in the book with them.
 
He imagines he’s on a south sea island,
with bare-breasted native girls
feeding him pineapple slices.
She’s in a jungle,
helpless before a hungry lion,
when some kind of feral hunk
leaps out of the trees to rescue her.
 
The instructions for the Jacuzzi
recommend fifteen minutes
as the maximum time for exposure.
 
To temperatures over a hundred that is.
Not to juices dribbling down chins.
Not to hot sex up in the forest canopy.
 
 
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Gia Grillo
 
 
CHARLES DOMERY
 
Charles Domery could eat his weight in stray cats not a euphemism
Depending on the ferocity of his hunger he wouldn’t even kill the cat
before stripping the flesh from it’s hissing bones with his teeth
174 cats 16 lb. Of raw cow udder
and one human leg
wrestled away from him by his shipmates and thrown into the sea why waste it?
what was in you that told you to keep eating?
Did you ever enjoy a meal?
or was it an act, physical, no more pleasurable
or less necessary than breath?
How much did you really eat, Charles?
How many candles stripped to the wick?
How many pounds of grass?
How many rats skittering blind
in your darkened cell?
 
 
DIVINE
 
For me
the dog shit was always an after thought
For me
you were more a mother matron saint and maniac beauty
blowing like streamer garbage in a hot post parade wind
you were the float
with shredded crepe paper showing off your bones
you were a person
more human, more humorous
more beautiful, more Mansfield, more a mask
but always a truth
and I see you standing cigarette with all the other Baltimore housewives
“Did you know, they are shooting a movie.”
and you laughed tears of acceptance
you were a man more woman than I’ll ever hope to be.
and that question that plagued you til the end of you
that stalked you to your last human day
I’m not interested in the day Divine ate dog shit
more interested in how she ate the world.
 
 
Gia Grillo is a poet living and working in the shadow of New York City. She has helped run workshops for local high school and grade school students, hosted and participated in a community workshops and open mics, all focusing on poetry as a cathartic and accessible art form. In March 2015 her poem ‘Haxan’ was published in Black Heart Magazine and can be viewed here: blackheartmagazine.com/2015/03/04/haxan-by-gia-grillo/
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Richard Heby
 
 
YOU TELL ME
 
The pepper’s broken
I tell you to fix it
You moan and whine
 
You tell me to get wine
Your favorite is 30 bucks
You say it tastes like sulfides
 
You tell me to get rid of my boxes
You tell me to get rid of my boxes
I leave my books in a four foot stack
 
On the bench
(That i asked you to clear so i could sit
To put on my shoes)
In front of the shattered print
That you always hated, that my cousin gave me
And next to your bags and bags
That you won’t get rid of.
 
You tell me I’m an asshole.
 
You tell me nothing
and when i ask
You tell me nothing’s
wrong
You tell me go away
You tell me don’t leave
You tell me not to type so loudly
You tell me not to sit alone in the bathroom
You tell me not to write you letters
Well this is not for you | it’s for me.
 
 
Richard J. Heby is a published author & poet and founding editor of Beechwood Review.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Robin Helweg-Larsen
 
 
DEATH COMES FROM THE ENDS
 
The bloodless parchment wrapped tight to the whitebone skull
with some rare spare hair there, bare where air blows.
At the other end, toes as bloodless close,
disclose themselves as frozen, numb.
 
Then let the outer body be immobile, dumb;
movement annul.
Inside, that crucial cruciform the heart;
the essential bellows of the lungs; enough
of brain to keep the system ticking on.
And that’s the living human stuff.
 
Emotions, reproduction – that’s guff, jive.
Just keep alive, just keep yourself alive.
 
 
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. For more of Robin’s work in Rat’s Ass Review, check out the Spring/Summer 2016 issue, the Love & Ensuing Madness collection, and the Such an Ugly Time collection.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Jennifer E. Hudgens
 
 
I THINK MY MOTHER IS THE ZODIAC KILLER
 
Her heart was Dallas November    1963. She was Jackie O’s Oxblood painted pretty pink suit. My Mother licked her fingertips in quiet sequential order, wishing she was Jackie O.     She cried when other girls cried, and smiled when she shook LBJ’s hand years later:     Riverside, California.
 
Mother’s bedroom altar had a worn photograph of Cheri Jo Bates. In candlelight she was Cheri Jo’s sister. Night classes had Mother’s friend parking next to caution tape.      National Guard officers were hot, she said, I wonder if Cheri Jo got to kiss the person who murdered her. I think there were more bodies.      I shrug my shoulders.      I remember Zodiac symbols etched into desks—there was lover’s lane—the Zodiac, was killing lovers who kissed in dark cars and deep back seats.
 
Mother moved from Riverside after all the guns had gone off, her belly spoiled with my brother—the bad seed.      I was in Denver when Ted Bundy was kidnapping women, keeping their lips in his pocket. She could’ve been set deep in the woods, a pretty plaything.
 
Oxblood lips, and a song he loved to sing while kissing corpses.
 
I wish your father would’ve kissed me as much.
 
 
Jennifer E. Hudgens, born and raised in Oklahoma. She uses poetry as a means of survival in this weird and sometimes dark thing we call life. Jennifer is graduating from The University of Central Oklahoma with her Bachelors in Creative Writing May 2017. Jennifer has been published in several online and print journals. Her first full-length collection was released in 2016 by Swimming With Elephants Publications.
 
Jennifer is constantly striving to be a better human and poet.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Sara Hughes
 
 
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN
 
Nothing feels more real to the man walking out
on the woman he loves than the icy air
blowing over the snowy yard, burning his
eyes like tear gas.
 
Nothing feels less real than his love’s pale skin, or
the thought of it pressed against his last night.
Even as he touched her cheek, slick with moonlight,
traced his fingernail
 
up and down her thigh, he knew she was more dream
than truth.  Her eyes, sorrowful as the shadows
cupped in her clavicle.  She wanted, but could
not let herself want.
 
Often things seem the same that aren’t, like want and
can’t want, love and in love—a difference subtle
as a woman’s wrist, a difference this man
does not understand.
 
 
FOR THE GUY IN THE BAR DRINKING PBR
 
The year I was born, you caught fly balls
in Yonkers, and the year I learned to walk,
you solved long division at a chalkboard.
 
Now we’ve found our way to the same sports bar
and emerged from the bathroom at the same time.
High-five. We’ve both had three drinks,
 
which is nothing to you, Irish-man,
but I can barely stand. You lean in,
whisper, You’ve just given me an idea,
 
but you don’t tell me what it is.
And what’s that playing on the jukebox?
A song I loved in high school, so I sing
 
as loud as I can. You and I are so in love
with other people. But the girl you want
wants someone else and my husband
 
is a hundred miles away, so you’re stuck
listening to me prattle on about beards
and cowboy boots, how it felt to get the tattoo
 
on my hip (like being scratched with a hangnail).
In my head I’ve started two poems about you,
because you smell like my grandfather used to—
 
cigarettes and Pabst Blue Ribbon and laundry soap—
and even if our ideas of each other are still new,
tonight, we can be what we both think we want.
 
 
THE TOUR
 
I am taking a tour
of the tour guide.
Each time he lifts
his arm, I admire
his shadow’s
dark smudge
shimmying up the wall.
 
Sometimes,
his shadow whispers
into a room
before we step inside.
Sometimes,
it echoes behind.
Always, it breathes.
 
I dress my face
quite seriously,
like a woman
going to her own wake.
 
I want to appreciate
the living thing
and the motion made by
the living thing.
What is more alive
in a hall of marble bodies
than a man
walking through it?
 
This is why I keep
stepping into the space
the tour guide occupies.
I am trying
to keep him moving,
trying
to keep him alive.
 
 
Sara Pirkle Hughes’s first book, The Disappearing Act, won the 2016 Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry and is forthcoming from Mercer University Press. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, the Best of the Net Anthology, and the Independent Best American Poetry Award.  She has published in dozens of literary journals, including Rattle, Reed, Rosebud, Emrys, Atlanta Review, Juxtaprose, and Atticus Review, among others.  She has received writing fellowships from The Anderson Center, I-Park Foundation, and The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences. She teaches at Middle Georgia State University in Macon, Georgia.
 
Website: saraphughes.com
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Scott Hughes
 
 
SISTERS, PERENNIAL
 
Spring mourns, ignoring the saplings
and blossoms sprouting from her fallen tears,
and tells the rotted trees and wilted flowers:
 
Summer caresses the ripe fruit, rolls
it across her breasts and thighs, kisses
its crimson skin, and whispers:

 
Autumn torments the trees she touches,
yet they submit, offering her their leaves—brittle browns,
carnal reds, candlelight yellows—as she murmurs:
 
Winter shrouds nature under her silver quilt,
pondering her sisters’ work—Spring
grieving the earth abloom, Summer
promising each seed it will live forever, Autumn
bestowing such beautiful suffering—and as Winter
calls forth the first warm winds, she sings:

 
 
BEGINNING AT THE END OF THINGS
 
So it all comes down to this: Life begins
to dwindle—the heavens no longer turn.
The seas and clouds and thoughts refuse to churn,
and underfoot the earth has ceased to spin.
 
Our blood is suspended beneath our skin.
But the cosmos is none of our concern,
and it all comes down to this: Life begins
to dwindle, the heavens no longer turn.
 
The planet loses its pull on us—then,
like dying suns, our bodies ebb and burn,
becoming more than flesh, the mortal urn.
We travel—our essence boundless, golden.
So it all comes down to this: Life begins.
 
 
TO ROBERT FROST, YOU BASTARD
 
Whose words these are I think I know.
Your lines are on my bookshelf though;
You cannot stop me writing here,
Just watch your words be copied so.
 
My little pen must think it queer
To stop without an end rhyme… close.
Between semesters—summer break—
My only writing time each year.
 
I give my aching wrist a shake
And tell myself I’m not a fake,
Plagiarist, literary sheep.
Not everyone is William Blake.
 
Your words are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have delusions to keep,
And lines to go before I sleep,
And lines to go before I sleep.
 
 
In 2004, Scott Hughes received an MFA in creative writing from Georgia College & State University. His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in such journals as Crazyhorse, PopMatters, and Compaso: Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology. He is an instructor at Central Georgia Technical College.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page 
 
Heikki Huotari
 
 
EXPANDED HAT
 
If my body language is sufficiently equivocal then
may I have this dance? I’m editing my song again,
adapting it to meet my current needs, the weight of
what’s above me, so I won’t go anywhere without
my folding flying buttresses. The end of one
implied commitment the beginning of another, may
I have another – either this world is my home or it
is not.
 
 
Heikki Huotari is a retired professor of mathematics. In a past century, he attended a one-room country school and spent summers on a forest-fire lookout tower. His poems appear in numerous journals, recently in Spillway and the American Journal of Poetry, he’s the winner of the 2016 Gambling the Aisle chapbook contest, and his first book, Fractal Idyll, will be published by After The Pause Press in late 2017.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Vicki Iorio
 
 
TO VAGINAS I HAVE KNOWN
 
To my pregnant mother’s-when she was robust in a swing coat
To the cigarettes and Manhattans I ingested in utero
 
To my mother’s hairless old slit
did I really come out of that?
 
To Freudian therapists who should kiss every mother’s vagina
because don’t all problems stem from it?
 
To the flesh colored stretch pants my math teacher wore
To her camel-toe that caused geometric distractions
 
To. Dr. Weisfogel, who made me take a mirror to my purple cervix
To the lotus prints in her exam room instead of baby pictures
 
To my vagina who birthed my daughter
To my daughter who loves me on good days
 
To Teresa who decoded the power of the pussy and became the boss
To the slack she cut me when I had pussy problems
 
To Deborah who fights the patriarchy
To the cunt word that is our battle cry
 
To a white book of odes that gives me permission
To Sharon Olds who makes the vagina poetry
 
To the cut, snatch, beaver, box, poon tang pie, gold in them thar hills
To the fingers, cocks and tongues I invite inside
 
 
UBER MAN
 
Mensch
Tarzan of the e vines
speeds through dark avenues
wet streets
to rescue me
We speak Visa
xxxx-xxxx-3136
he slaps my backside to get my cvv:

helpme

Ubers me to my ex boyfriend’s apartment
we pass his building
go in reverse
no one ways, just right ways
(who’s looking in the wee hours)
I look up at sleeping windows
in hope
my boyfriend turns a light on
(ex) boyfriend, my uber reminds me
I’ve brought tissues
I know my uber likes a clean work environment
I’ll finish the wine
before I use the long neck
I have pills
we could have a party
Ubermensch is always formal
he was an engineer in his country
 
I am a citizen of these four doors and cordovan leather
rate me high, Uber Man
uber me until sunrise
 
 
Vicki Iorio is the author of the poetry collection, Poems from the Dirty Couch, Local Gems Press, 2013 and the chapbook, Send me a Letter, dancinggirlpress. You can read Iorio’s work in Hell strung and Crooked, I Let Go of the Stars, (Great Weather for Media), The Brownstone Poets Anthology, The San Pedro Review, The Mom Egg, Crack the Spine, The Painted Bride Quarterly, The Fem Lit Magazine, Redheaded Stepchild Magazine, Concise, Cactus Heart and Rattle on line.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
James Croal Jackson
 
 
BIRDSONGS
 
I mess with the piano
b-sharp c-flat
 
Jim says something
about same notes different octaves
 
I watch the motion
of his talking
 
tongue hoops
chewing O’s
 
monotone forward sound
 
to a blue jay
Jim talking
 
is a one-note piano
 
 
James Croal Jackson’s poems have appeared in magazines including The Bitter Oleander, Rust + Moth, and Columbia College Literary Review. He lives in Columbus, Ohio. Visit him at jimjakk.com.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Kaaren Kitchell
 
 
FROM WILLIAM WITH LOVE
 
The night I heard that
William Burroughs died
 
I sat in bed, one candle lit,
for hours in shock
 
and silently spoke to his spirit.
“Great American wild man genius,
 
I love and honor you, the rarest
most precious thing—an original.
 
And if you need a home on earth to visit,
find a home in me.”
 
He visited me that night in both his
forms—his ego and his soul.
 
I wander through classrooms
in UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall,
 
a man following me.
I enter a classroom. He follows.
 
I leave. He leaves.
I enter another room. He enters.
 
I see him standing behind a door
opened just a crack, waiting to see
 
where I’ll go next, something obsessive
and needy in him I want to elude.
 
I walk along a highway by the sea
at night, holding a shower curtain pole.
 
A truck passes, turns up a hill.
I see it circle around, know I’m
 
being hunted. I head for the
motel across the parking lot.
 
He is running, gaining on me, I dash to the
highway, try to fend him off with the pole.
 
He grabs me, arms around me tight,
I burst into tears against his neck.
 
“We could make love,” I say
(aware of the peculiar choice of word),
 
“but I have an incurable disease
which I guarantee you’ll get.”
 
He takes me into the bathroom,
is now a blond and beautiful muscular angel
 
who holds me from behind.
“Couldn’t we use a condom?” I ask
 
but there are none handy. He slips his second cock
which has a little rooster’s crest
 
into my ass.
I feel between my legs.
 
His main cock is halfway in as well.
I ask him afterwards to be kind.
 
He stops in the middle. “Don’t you like sex?”
I ask, enjoying it now. “Not much,” he says.
 
We are in his room above the sea, on a bookshelf,
books of art and architecture,
 
one called “Wings of Desire, Wim Wenders.”
I wonder if he was a consultant on the film,
 
if he is a messenger from another planet or world.
He hands me two gifts. I open the first:
 
narrow punk sunglasses wrapped neatly
around a white and gold alarm clock.
 
“Oh, I needed these!” I say,
“and I love this clock.”
 
The second gift is three checks from a bank
I’ve never heard of,
 
from another planet, his.
“You can cash one now,” he says,
 
“another when you get married,
the third on a later occasion.”
 
I awaken and know that he’s shown me
his two selves—the haunted lonely man,
 
and the sexual predator
who’s really an angel of beauty
 
who gives me gifts
of vision, time and resources.
 
I open a catalogue at breakfast,
see the clock he gave me in my dream,
 
instantly call Pottery Barn,
have it sent with a card that says
 
From William with Love.
 
 
Kaaren Kitchell is a poet and writer who lives in Paris. Her book of poems, The Minotaur Dance, was published in 2003. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, most recently in The Drunken Boat, and anthologies, most recently in Don’t Blame The Ugly Mug, and in a fine art manuscript at the Getty Museum. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, LA, and has just completed The Book of Twelve, a novel of interlinked stories about performance artists in Berkeley, California during the revolutionary ‘60s. She has taught Living Mythically at the C.G. Jung Center in L.A., Esalen, and in workshops. Since 2011, she and Richard Beban have published her essays and his photos in Paris Play www.parisplay.com. She is Fiction Editor and Co-Poetry Editor at www.thescreamonline.com.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Kara Knickerbocker
 
 
SPRING BEAST
 
Blackberried and full,
I caught the last flight out of Charleston.
 
I dreaded the slush up north, the way
my eyes understood goodbye.
So I hunkered for hours
in the airport bar,
fingering long neck bottles of beer
with my index finger
(like you did my throat).
I tried to construct poetry
from another man’s facial features
just to see if I could.
(I can’t.)
 
Leaving never bothered me
when I knew how to write the next line.
But I am greeting April with no words—
only whiskey doubles,
the naked itch to taste you still.
 
I am going back to Pittsburgh alone
to starve on the altar of a twin size mattress,
to see the face of a dog in my dreams.
 
 
SEX IN THE BEDROOM OF A CHILDHOOD HOME
 
Lips drift across clavicle bone
just breathe he whispers
but you can’t—
Not with your parents sleeping
beneath these floorboards.
 
You’ve never felt your naked body
under this rose-printed quilt,
never felt this much a child.
 
Years ago, you learned to maneuver
your weight around the exhale of wood—
How to side step expanding cracks
sneaking upstairs at sixteen,
cheap booze still dancing on your tongue.
 
Yet now, an adult woman,
you can’t pinpoint the place
where the worn mattress moans,
how sound amplifies with the telling of two bodies—
where the headboard grinds
against the willing wall
(or how hard)
 
All the while, he fills you—
Memories gather like glass figurines
your mother carefully placed
on the shelf
when you moved away.
 
 
Kara Knickerbocker is a poet and writer from Saegertown, Pennsylvania and the author of the chapbook, Next to Everything that is Breakable. She received her B.A. in English from Westminster College in 2012. Her poetry and essays have been published or are forthcoming in print and online publications including: Construction, Longridge Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, One Sentence Poems, and the anthology Voices from the Attic Vol XXII, among others. Her poetry collection “From This Side of the Sun” won first place at Sigma Tau Delta’s 2016 International Convention. She lives in Pittsburgh where she works at Carnegie Mellon University and writes with Carlow University’s Madwomen in the Attic workshops. Find her at www.karaknickerbocker.com.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Matt LaFreniere
 
 
TO STEPFATHERS
 
Philip, my mother must’ve said, her voice
thick like guilt, he stole your fucking money.
She’d swallow the fuck like a throat lump.
Phil must’ve stood there, a wet quilt draped
 
over a clothesline. But he always stood
like that, and she always said fucking like that,
when it mattered, when what cohered them
softened. They cornered me in the den.
 
I was stoned and watching Predator. Carl Weathers
hissed at Arnold, blood on his breath: you’re an asset,
an expendable asset
. The day before I stole
200 bucks from Phil’s office safe.
 
I bought a bag of weed, smoked
most of it that day. Matthew, she said,
her voice thick like guilt, Phil
would like to talk with you
. He stood there,
 
a wet quilt draped over a clothesline.
Arnold stepped into a clearing, stared
discerningly into a tree top. The “predator”
stared back in infrared scrambles, listening.
 
It was trying to discern language; it was
trying to understand something it couldn’t.
 
 
Matt LaFreniere is a husband, father, teacher, poet—not always in that order. He lives in Baltimore and teaches English at the Boys’ Latin School of Maryland. His work has appeared in Dunes Review, Pilgrimage Magazine, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Spry Literary Magazine, and others.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Barbara Lawhorn
 
 
THE TOWN I HATE, EXCEPT AT HALLOWEEN
~For Rebekah & Erin
 
I break the town
I hate into pieces.
 
Shattered, it is lovely.
Manageable, even.
 
All of the cemeteries,
for instance. As a child,
I knew where the babies
were buried, the sad, unexpected,
ancient deaths and broken head
stones, and the best spigot to drink
from, which hills to glide down
and back up, no pedaling on my bike.
 
I want to tell two of my closest
friends, when I decline their haunted
house adventures, that I’m not afraid
of death, but I am terrified of cruelty.
 
What we imagine in chain saws
and basements. Clown masks
and machetes. My mind says
it’s all been done before. In real
life. I haven’t been able to laugh
yet. I want to. The artifice, and cheesy
performance is laughable but what lurks
behind latex masks, and ordinary
skin—not so much.
I hate this fucking town
 
except at Halloween. I wore
my one golden, clip-on, hoop earring
three years running, my mom’s patchwork
quilted skirt and the mirrored shirt
she bought in Greece. I dabbed
eyeliner on my cheek, a beauty
mark, powerful, and whispered, “Come
closer, come closer, and give me your
palm or your pulse, and I, I will
tell you the future that awaits.”
 
The adults all leaned in, and dropped
chocolate in my bag. Who
 
wants to hear you’ll land
where you were intent
on escaping?
 
A colleague referred to
me as “home grown”–
mere Midwestern corn
In the classroom–
based on where I was raised,
studied, and stayed
 
The alleys and back roads,
where I journeyed to become,
are a geography as familiar
to me as my own skin. I imagine
 
all of the mistakes I made here,
tattooed— and me, the side show
woman, turning, turning, turning.
 
I hate this fucking town
as much as I love it. I
hope your daughters
don’t kiss boys in the
bent shadows
of trees, drunk in
the sweet detassled air
and smoke of illegal
firecrackers. I hope they
aren’t like me. My own
daughter, I have to remind
myself, and her, she’ll make
her own mistakes, and maybe
they’ll echo my own, and maybe
they won’t, but on Halloween
 
I hold her hand on the same tree lined
street my parents drove us to, and we
go up one side and down the other, our steps
leaf hushed. It isn’t full circle,
not even close, and I think of myself,
the Gypsy fortune teller, peering
into my own palm to see what is
written there. All those mapped
tributaries rivering the cartography
of my palm, all leading back
and back and back to home.
 
 
Barbara Lawhorn is an Assistant Professor at Western Illinois University. She’s into literacy activism, dog walking, and radical optimism. Her most recent work can be found at The Longleaf Pine, BLYNKT, Nebo: A Literary Magazine, and Naugatuck River Review. Her favorite creative endeavors are her kiddos, Annaleigh and Jack.

 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Mare Leonard
 
 
CONFESSIONS OF A NEUROTIC
 
Anna spins a globe to tell my fortune,
she turns and turns, stares at a pink continent,
Nana you’ll always be worried.
 
She’s six and runs the balance beam,
jumps into a forward roll, lands on her feet.
I move away from edges or fall flat on my face.
 
I replay conversations, or worse, rehearse,
ready to quote Bill Maher’s monologues
or better yet, slide next to an introvert.
 
Anna can zoom down hills,
balance with one foot on her scooter,
move on from schoolyard slights.
 
I dance around conflicts, get tongue-tied
in the middle of arguments, get shaken
when my son says you told me that before.
 
Anna climbs playgrounds walls like a monkey,
takes steps up and around a roped spider web,
hangs by one arm, waves, while I scrunch my face.
 
I climb 465 steps in Utrecht’s Dom Tower,
glue my hands to an inside wall, hold my breath,
glance over rooftops, down to a swerving canal
 
Anna plays with boxes, creates Medieval shields,
designs Sets for our escape into family vignettes,
when we become clowns, confusing stage left from right,
 
bump, collide, laugh, knock over the globe, which lands
on its side, the blue of the Pacific an elixir for anxiety.
 
 

  • Grants and awards: Received three NEH grants– to study poetry at Reed College, Petrarch in Avignon, Rousseau in Chambery A Fulbright to study literature, education and women’s issues in Brazil
  • Journalism: Published articles on food, yoga, books and education and on assignment from the Jerusalem Report and About Town in Dutchess County
  • Readings: Poetry at clubs, yoga studios, art galleries, salons, colleges and other venues


 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Joseph Lisowski
 
 
Lines from Neil Creighton’s “This Fog” as poem titles by Joseph Lisowski
 
AND WE HUDDLE TOGETHER
 
like dusk embraces night,
an easy sleep where dreams
are watercolors—blurred
pastels of crocus, zinnias,
hyacinths, narcissus,
tulips kiss.
 
And stars, really,
are fireworks.
 
It’s all R.E.M.
Without drugs.
 
 
LONGING FOR LIGHT
 
dawn tosses,
turns beneath
sheets
pressing its cheek
against the pillow
of night.
 
If only I could
 
wake in expectation
like Thoreau
to this brave world
I only dreamed
before.
 
 
REMEMBERING/THE CLARITY OF THE SUN
 
Noon was always
high, hot
in St. Thomas
for all but two
years I lived there.
 
Iguanas baked
on rocks, geckos
shot to shade,
bananaquits hid
in manjack trees.
 
My thoughts dozed
then, dark
glasses a poor shield
against glare.
 
 
YEARNING/FOR A GLIMPSE
 
of still sea,
I still dream,
eyes open,
of me there,
my young child
in my arms
in the soft
warm water.
 
This is what I see
when mindful breathing.
 
To be here
there now.
 
 
Joseph Lisowski wrote his first poem at the age of 13 after an aborted gang fight. He stopped fighting but kept writing, a secret he kept for years.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Thomas Locicero
 
 
FINDING OURSELVES
 
Who were you when you weren’t you?
Scaling the awning of the universe,
navigating crags and scarps, vectoring
at an unearthly thrust, you promised
you would return to yourself and, if
not to yourself, then to me. But I am
not a pad on which you can dock, nor
will I submit to being the iron to your
red brittle coating, to be skinned for
standing still like a masochistic bobby
or a soldier guarding a sacred tomb.
We once considered “doing forever”
(your words), but “forever” is not a
thing to be done. I am done with
your assurance of immortality, though
I hope we meet again when you are
yourself and I am someone else.
 
 
Thomas Locicero’s poems have been published in several print and online publications, such as Roanoke Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Brook Spring, Riverrun, Omnibus Arts & Literature Anthology, Long Island Quarterly, and The Good Men Project, among other literary journals, and are forthcoming in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Jazz Cigarette, and Quail Bell Magazine.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Bob MacKenzie
 
 
SOMETIMES
 
Sometimes,
you just don’t fall in love
like some fortunate accident.
 
You turn your head slightly
see love at your side,
as though it’s been there
all along, each day of your life,
perhaps much longer than that.
 
This love is familiar and comforting,
an old friend you’ve known…
well, for eternity, and you know
this love has been with you always,
know this love will be with you
throughout all time.
 
This is something other,
not fallen, not in-love either.
This love and you are,
just that, two become one
for all time, past and future,
and for the present especially.
 
 
Bob MacKenzie’s poetry has been published across North America and as far away as Australia in publications that include The Dalhousie Review, University of Windsor Review, Ball State University Forum and many more. Bob has published thirteen books of poetry and prose and has been featured in numerous anthologies. With the performance ensemble Poem de Terre, he has performed much of his poetry live with original music and has released six albums.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Aidan Maloney
 
 
GRAFFITI
 
Violate me.
Because I know you will anyway.
My head is filled with the street names you came up with
because we both know I don’t have a chance of loving something
that you tagged with your rotten degradation
and signed with your name.
 
 
Aidan Maloney is a twenty two year old female who has run from writing her whole life, until it caught up with her and she knew it was time to finally pursue writing in the real world. She is currently studying creative writing through various seminars and workshops.
 
Aidan is also the creator of Daring Words and Fantasy Lines, a website where she posts original creative writing and a blog focused on recovery.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Shannon McConnell
 
 
A POEM IN TWO PARTS CREATED FROM LINES OF TINDER PROFILES
THAT MAKE ME CONSIDER JOINING A CONVENT, MAYBE
 
I. Soggy Wood (Swipe Left)
 
Shiver me tinders!
Is there any buddy out there who wants to go out and have fun?
I aim to misbehave.
If I’m interested I’ll place my underwear on the table.
I make the best roofie-coladas and want to meet people and smoke meth.
Now that’s an equation that always equals fun.
Not a partyer.
I’ve got a kitten.
Bitches love kittens.
As long as I have a face, you’ll have a place to sit.
Come with me if you want to live.
 
 
II. Crumpled Newspaper and Kindling (Swipe Right)
 
Part geek, part nerd.
Cunning linguist.
Kind of clumsy.
Love playing guitar and hate wearing pants.
I like tacos and make great mix CDs.
One of the few people who doesn’t pee in the shower.
Professional procrastinator.
I am seriously good at spelling.
I fight dinosaurs.
I probably don’t have time to meet you.
 
 
Shannon McConnell is a writer, teacher and musician from Vancouver, British Columbia. She is currently completing her MFA in Writing at the University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon. It is cold there. Shannon’s fiction and poetry has appeared in The Society, untethered, The Fieldstone Review and the Louden Singletree.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Devon Miller-Duggan
 
 
LAUDS
But already we were near the end.
Praise refuge,
I thought. Praise whatever you can.
— Stephen Dunn

 
Praise macadam, for it fills potholes, yet not by itself.
Praise manila folders, for they shelter papers, yet loose words.
Praise mushrooms, for they flourish in shit, yet nourish.
 
Whatever is red in Winter—the berry, the bird, blood on snow—praise.
Whatever is warm on the tongue—Earl Grey, tears, toast—praise.
Whatever is soft in a hospital—blankets, voices, darkness at night—praise.
 
You who clean streets, wounds, teeth, great paintings—praise to you.
You whose bird-wing fingers fly over keys, strings, stitches—praise to you.
You whose loves include soldiers, variations, visions, revisions—praise you.
 
Can the ash in the air praise the fire that made it?
Can the buried bone praise the shovel that finds it?
Can the unsanctified mountain praise the god who deserted it?
 
Brightenings—meteors, muzzle flashes, crocuses—praise the light.
Salt in wounds praises the blood it seasons, the nerves it scorches.
 
 
Devon Miller-Duggan has published poems in Rattle, Shenandoah, Margie, Christianity and Literature, Gargoyle. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Delaware. Her books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall in 2008 and a chapbook, Neither Prayer, Nor Bird in 2013 and Alphabet Year, 2017.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Mark J. Mitchell
 
 
AN APPETITE FOR MILES
For Matthew
 
I have the Saturday night set
for breakfast on Friday in my silent way.
Someone knows how to cook the basics
and I almost taste the color—
kind of cool and born of blue.
It’s as filling as an Egyptian queen
who’s done waiting for her prince to come—
spiced like young girls from the mountains,
sketched by a Spaniard. So I try
the Friday set around midnight—
full of Bud’s bells and Porgy’s Bess
but light and hollow as a horn.
All that’s left is that very rich, cool,
very peaceful cup of bitches brew.
I’ll tell you what it is later. Shhh.
 
 
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) as well as two chapbooks, Three Visitors (Negative Capability Press) and Artifacts and Relics (Folded Word). His novel, Knight Prisoner, is available from Vagabondage Press and a new novel is forthcoming: The Magic War (Loose Leaves Publishing). He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and activist Joan Juster where he makes a living showing people pretty things in his city.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Ralph Monday
 
 
THROUGH THIS LENS
 
Men never get it, through the beer, football
games, late night TV, the long ago lost
high school sweetheart—too late—the image of
women forever photoshopped as a caricature
imprinted on a bad piece of film.
 
What is it, this Big Bang origin of the male
perceived feminine?
 
fig-leaved Eve
damsel in distress
the knight with the pedestaled dame
Pre-Raphaelite romanticism
whore of Babylon
Victoria’s angels
 
All overlays like the crusted, built up
surface of a Renaissance painting,
chiaroscuros so deeply shadowed
that the core of her is lost in the
testosteroned pigments
 
where only a woman can scrape away
the ragged surface and say
 
See
See
 
These are my colors
This my rose hips
There my raw sienna bones
Here my thoughts deep ultramarine
 
I would share my secrets with you
my sisters too
if only you could truly know.
 
 
Ralph Monday is Professor of English at Roane State Community College in Harriman, TN, and has published hundreds of poems in over 100 journals. A chapbook, All American Girl and Other Poems, was published in July 2014. A book Empty Houses and American Renditions was published May 2015 by Aldrich Press. A Kindle chapbook Narcissus the Sorcerer was published June 2015 by Odin Hill Press. An e-book, Bergman’s Island & Other Poems was published by Poetry Repairs in March of 2017, and a humanities text is scheduled for publication by Kendall/Hunt in 2018.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Alice Morris
 
 
EULOGIES FOR CREATURES AND OBJECTS NO LONGER WITH ME
 
eulogy for the seven copperheads whose heads I chopped off with a shovel before
they had a chance to come at me a hundred miles an hour
 
eulogy for the many koi I unwittingly killed by over-treating my pond with non-toxic,
yet, apparently, as stated in the warning– in large doses toxic
solutions because I wished for my fish to swim in sparkling waters
 
eulogy for Neil/ Penny/ Bootsey– twin to Lucy, our loyal cats no longer with us
due to– one peaceful passing/ one sickness/ one being run over–
leaving Lucy longing for her no-longer little brother
 
eulogy for the twenty mice who ran across open shelves, then leaped
down
onto an upturned pan lid
that teetered
just enough
to slide each mouse into the pot half-filled with water– cover returning
to the closed position– a sublime but accidental trap
O, thoughtful, contained, mass suicidal mice whose messes and nests
I did not have to find/remove– then sanitize after returning from our family trip
to Disney
 
eulogy for my first new bike, a green Schwinn– gift from my husband–
fine-looking bike nearly stolen by a gang of Dundalk boys
who I caught before
they cut the chain–
boys sent running from the yard like mindless banshees––
You, Dear Schwinn, I rode you well, I rode you well
 
eulogy for the wedding band lost– I think while eating steamed crabs and
corn on the cob. Ceaselessly I searched for you to no avail, to no avail
 
eulogy for the diamond with fire that fell
out of the replacement wedding band– precious
diamond
like breath
you slipped away–
 
so silently
 
 
SENSITIVITY TRAINING
 
Twelfth grade, 1969, they called it–– Sensitivity Training––
in Modern Civics
divvied into groups of six, told to go around, say something we did not like
about the person to our left,
 
next round–– say something we did like about the same person,
these instructions, in my circle, causing an immediate energy of
electric horror.
 
Joe, a tall, cute guy I’d known since second grade was on my left.
I had nothing bad to say about Joe, but forced,
finally I muttered I didn’t care much for his new girlfriend.
 
Round two–– said he was a great guy/kind/smart/deserved the best.
 
The rest of the year Joe looked away from me.
After high school he married that girl.
 
At the 40th high school reunion– first I’d ever attended–
Joe finally looked at me,
told me he was divorced, years of agony on and off with that girl.
Said we’d been taught to be too nice to each other back
in school, thought everyone had been taught the same.
 
Pain clearly etched on my school friend’s no longer youthful face.
 
I told Joe I was sorry, we gave each other a quick hug– only
forty flipping sensitivity training years too late.
 
 
Alice Morris, a Minnesota native, earned her BS from Towson State University, and MS from Johns Hopkins. She comes to writing with a background in art– published in a West Virginia textbook and The New York Art Review. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in The Broadkill Review, Delaware Beach Life, The Avocet, The Weekly Avocet, Silver Birch Press, and the chapbook, The White Space– Selected Poems. Her work can also be found or is forthcoming in themed poetry collections and anthologies, most recently, Bared: Contemporary Poetry and Art on Bras and Breasts by Les Femmes Folles Books.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Bertram Allan Mullin
 
 
FIRST TIME A SENSEI
 
On a whim I left
Houston and flew away;
Found a job overseas.
 
Teaching kids English
in Japan is great
 
Strangers greet with bows
and warmth all-around the school.
There’s music and dance
 
The kids are funny.
One girl jumped down the
stairs like a ninja
 
She grinned—waved at me
and said, “Goodbye,” all the while
leaping down each step.
 
Another student
yelled, “I fucking hate
English!”
 
“Keep it up,” I told him.
“Great pronunciation.”
 
Apropos his usage
of fuck in ~ing form:
spot on. “A+ student.”
 
Teaching kids English
in Japan is great
 
 
Bertram Allan Mullin or BAM’s work can be found here, there — many pieces being featured or contest winners. Some of his poetry can be found in Antiphon Poetry Magazine, the UK Online Archives, Silver Birch Press, Eskimo Pie, With Painted Words, and Syzygy Poetry Journal where his piece, “X+Y=Z” won the Poetic Excellence Award. BAM teaches kids English and writes novels in Japan. On the net: bamwrites.com, Facebook: facebook.com/bamwrites, Twitter: @BAMwrites
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Daryl Muranaka
 
 
THE THIRD ADOLESCENCE
 
In the third adolescence, he finds sadness
at the bottom of the pint glass, wisdom
in the seal on the whiskey bottle, regret
in the eyes of the woman who liked him
too much when he couldn’t be ready
to let go, not of the mysterious woman
he got carried away with, but by this time
to be young as he’s growing older
and fatter, wanting food he’s never had,
wanting wine that pounds the inside of his
head, wanting women he will never know
in any sense of the word. This is his
time to be free, to be wild, to be.
He is, at thirty, finally not afraid
to pass out on the couch, spill tequila
on the floor. He is not afraid to waste
his life on riotous living and embrace
the nightmares of youth to exorcise them.
He’s trying to re-engage the world again
before it’s too late. But it just might be.
Hanging out at the brewery Oktoberfest,
seeing the two women checking him out,
knowing enough to know that’s what they’re doing,
feeling uncomfortable and out of place
like the white-haired man in a Sonny Crockett
jacket with the bleached blonde at the Bo
Diddley show he saw too many years ago.
He smiles sadly and slinks away towards
another beer, another taxi ride,
another irrelevant night. He just can’t
get this right. No more hope. No more chances
for him in the bleak New England winter,
so far from the tropical January
rains he wandered during his real youth.
He would take his cracking, bleeding hands
and tear the skin and hair from his head to be
free as if this were only a cocoon
holding him back, but will settle to find
himself passed out on the bathroom floor.
 
 
SANDWICH GENERATION
 
What I would give for a swig of decent rum
that won’t set in motion a weary case
of headaches to bounce off my skull, to stab
at my eyes before killing my liver.
But this is what sucking down oxygen
is doing to me, middle aged realities
of life and death, of bills and jobs, sickness
and TV. We can’t forget TV.
Dollars aren’t dollars but blips that never land
in the thinning walls of your pockets.
No more coffee or sugar or fatty foods.
Every hour tapped and drained between
worrying over the kids, skinned knees, and schools,
and your parents precarious predicaments.
You’re racing against the tiny killers before
they metastasize into a fist to crush
everything laid out before it. Now, sigh.
How do I steal a few minutes to breathe?
What I’d give for a decent swig of rum.
 
 
Daryl Muranaka’s work has most recently appeared in the Gyroscope Review, Spry Literary Review, and in Ink, Sweat, and Tears. It is forthcoming in By&By Poetry. His first collection, Hanami, was published by Aldrich Press spring 2015, and a chapbook, The Minstrel of Belmont, was published by Finishing Line Press in fall 2015. Daryl was raised in California and Hawaii. He currently lives in the Boston area with his wife and two children. In his spare time, he enjoys aikido and taijiquan and exploring his children’s dual heritages.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Page Nelson
 
 
GALLERY EFFECT
 
It was almost a lark, finding a day
to play at adultery and yes, view the art.
In their fantasies, everything was foreseen
except this: how each painting’s field of force
would suck them in, send them through its lens
so that they emerged behind the machinery of effects,
focused, intensified, almost touching.
That they would always have,
the day framed in a kind of catalog raisonné,
projects they had worked on,
Savery, the Maes, a Chinese scroll.
And as they were worked upon,
what had the paintings seen?
Time’s long marble corridor,
two figures together then apart,
motionless and moving.
 
 
SEASONING
 
There was delight, seeing the fire
singeing the edges like a stationer’s motif,
burning the sheets behind, bursting out,
a hot mouth that ate your face of words.
My careful heels crushed the ashes.
What was left of your hundred letters?
A small square of folded paper I’d saved,
labeled “seeds from my garden-1998”.
These I dropped in the hungry spring
and watched the plants thrust up and thrive.
Chives. All summer, I cropped the leaves,
sweeping the heaps of pungent green
into empty Twinings tins. One plant untouched,
its blades curled into tubes, spear tipped buds
breaking into lacy butterflies of flower
that were shriveled pods before October’s rains,
slashed and whipped, seeds for the next harvest.
But what of my dried spice, remains of our hot season?
It starts out lemony tart, ends up grit against my teeth.
This long winter I use it to season vegetables and meats.
A bitter herb, I sprinkle, I eat.
 
 
NO FLOWERS
 
Time for the decennial botanic survey of Mt. Eyrie. So the nearby university sent its graduate students upslope, in high summer, to the alpine and sub-alpine meadows to count the flowers.
 
What they found – not global warming’s stratified supplanting of colder by warmer species but patchy die backs at all levels. And when they tested the soils, deadly concentrations of potassium and calcium.
 
Then they noticed the groups of people, below summit, that held hands, bowed heads, one of them releasing into the uplift of wind, a pink grey plume.
 
Because Steve had climbed that peak, because Amy loved to hike, because grandma’s eyes were blue as mountain sky. Because it was good to fulfill their final wishes, recycling the remains back to nature with no fuss, no flowers.
 
 
Following a decade’s work in Boston as a researcher and pet-minder, Page Nelson returned to Charlottesville where he teaches in the public schools. His poetry has recently appeared in Antiphon, Writer’s Eye, Paper Nautilus, and Crab.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Joey Nicoletti
 
 
OAK PARK
 
Illinois. The spare change of stars jingles
in my pocket. I have never been further
away from home. Fireflies abound
in this place. I like it.
I’m with Kris, my new friend, sitting
in the bleachers of a football field.
We are alone, kissing, hands
up each other’s shirts. I like it.
We pause. I’m dizzy. More
fireflies. The moon is
a shot glass, spilling
on the scoreboard. I like it.
 
 
Joey Nicoletti’s most recent books are Reverse Graffiti (Bordighera, 2015) and Thundersnow (Grandma Moses Press, forthcoming 2017). His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in many magazines and anthologies. A graduate of the Sarah Lawrence College MFA program, he teaches at SUNY Buffalo State College.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Toti O’Brien
 
 
WHORE
 
Since the time when he couldn’t resist
and I didn’t oppose it became a habit.
We spent all of my working hours in bed.
Did I have a choice?
I was at disposition. I followed directions.
 
At the door where I tied my shoes I got paid.
Once I asked him what are you paying for?
Tears engorged my throat. They choked me.
He said what do you mean?
I kept quiet.
 
I wanted to rip his check into pieces. I didn’t.
It was a small one after all.
I finished buttoning up.
I went home I cried then I tried to think it was love.
But in vain.
 
In his yard once I noticed a cactus with tiny thorns.
I don’t know why it struck me.
I had my shoes on already. I was leaving.
Then I didn’t come back.
Don’t ask me for reasons.
 
 
Toti O’Brien’s work has most recently appeared in Lingerpost, Lotus-Eaters, Masque & Spectacle, and Feminine Inquiry.
 
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
David Morgan O’Connor
 
 
T.A.
 
In animated mid-
discussion she
raises her hand
and I silence the
half-thoughts
run amok
on divergent
themes: abortion
capital punishment
welfare police
violence number
and hash-tags
thrown around
since January
I’ve lost track
any control if
there ever was
and I give her
the conch cause
I’m the demagogue
of this community
hired to help her
mouth opens
classrooms never
change…
 
But you will
I can see it
like steam
from a kettle
right now you
are boiling
as you should be

 
I don’t say.
 
 
David Morgan O’Connor is from a small village on Lake Huron. After many nomadic years, he is based in Albuquerque, where a short story collection progresses. He contributors monthly to: The Review Review and New Pages. His writing has appeared in: Barcelona Metropolitan, Collective Exiles, Across the Margin, Headland, Cecile’s Writers, The Great American Lit Mag, Bohemia, Beechwood, Fiction Magazine, After the Pause, The Great American Lit Mag (Pushcart nomination), The New Quarterly and The Guardian. Tweeting @dmoconnorwrites davidmorganoconnor.com.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Sergio A. Ortiz
 
 
THINK NOTHING OF IT
 
if at the shrine of your life I am cured
of madness, for I taste silence
in the book of words.
 
Talk to me, soothe my capricious pulse
with the fluttering chants of hummingbirds.
I wrestle blasphemous shadows tonight.
 
Boots lie under my pillow,
memories of you in love with orchids.
This heartache does not want to be tamed.
 
There is sorrow on my face, and I have lost
my way out of the woods on the very night
swallows vanished amid strangers.
 
 
DWELLING
 
It continues to snow dust.
The sun comes out of the closet.
Jays enter under the door
jumping over a line of air.
The walls are flooded with salt.
The lightbulb swells, moans.
The bed’s in an earthquake.
A simultaneous scream
splits the silence.
 
I’m wet April,
April full of screams
and silences.
Today is the twentieth.
My holiday. I’m buried
with the flowers inside.
 
* It’s my holiday because the man who harmed me when I was ten was murdered in jail on this date in 1990, after ruining the life of his seventh victim.
 
 
Sergio A. Ortiz is the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. 2nd place in the 2016 Ramón Ataz annual poetry competition, sponsored by Alaire Publishing House. He is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Steve Passey
 
 
THIS ONE
 
This one’s for The Song of Solomon
For all those sacred phrases
For incantations,
reverence, and
other songs of praises
 
This one is for an angel’s wings
For contraceptives, roofies, forgeries
For alcohol, spirits,
Hearts and Spades,
For lady luck and lotteries
 
This one’s for silence
For introspection, failure, fire
All the things we hide from, and
for the eyeless
in the choir
 
This one’s for steel-jacketed rounds
For the pleasure of the kill
For animal skins nailed to the wall
For those buried
on the hill
 
This one’s for death by drowning
For those lost at night upon the way
For lighting pyres
burning bright
to light the night and start the day

This one’s for rhymes, chants, and spoken words
For Lucifer, light bringer, wizard, mage
For lovers,
Destroyers too, and for
lust and rage
 
This one is for
“Let me be saved”
One of the only two real prayers,
the other being (Of course)
“Please Lord, let them fail”
 
 
THE PROPHET OF REGRET (#9)
 
The Coureur de Bois
in the enduring cold of perpetual winter
would make black soup
from the lichen scraped from rocks
hacked out of the ice on the river
Starving to death slowly
Too proud to let themselves die fast
or maybe just afraid
that in their passing
they would feed the others
They were not willing
to just close their eyes and go
So it is in here
with no love anymore
waiting each other out
to see who goes first
To see who can live the longest on the least
To see at last, who will sit in the dark and quiet
Alone
 
 
Steve Passey is from Southern Alberta. His fiction and poetry have been published in Canada, the UK, the USA and Australia in more than thirty publications including Existere, Jungftak, Yellow Chair Review, and Vending Machine Press. He is a two-time Pushcart nominee for Fiction.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Yamini Pathak
 
 
SOMETIMES YOU EMERGE
 
I was always the acolyte at my mother’s altar,
You, the lesser God.
Now you take me by surprise when you climb out
from your hiding place in my body and gaze at me in the mirror.
 
Father, I never learned to swim,
never trusted you enough to let go
since the day you threw my brother in deep waters
and challenged him to sink or swim.
 
Instead from you, I learned, not knowing I learned,
to slide under and drown in the slow-moving waters of a ghazal.
And like you, when children make music, I bow my head
in the face of unbearable beauty, and wipe the damp from my eye.
 
You loved the travel to forsaken spaces with forgotten stories
told in the melancholy of monsoon, the silvered photographs
and the rare coin collection. Now I sift through them with you.
Now I can hear the birdsong in the rubble.
 
 
Yamini Pathak is a former software engineer who has recently turned to writing poetry, and short fiction. Publications of her poems are forthcoming in the spring 2017 issues of the Journal of New Jersey Poets and the Kelsey Review. She writes a monthly children’s column on world art/artists in a nationally circulated Indian newspaper, The Hindu. She was was born in India, and live in West Windsor, New Jersey.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Jef Peeples
 
 
SHE COMES TO VISIT ME SEVERAL YEARS AFTER SHE LEFT OUR CHURCH
 
Sometimes when she visits me at the church, I’m not sure if there is anything that can save her. Or if she needs saving. I can’t do this myself. Something makes me wonder why she comes.
 
Mushroom, cannabis, DMT, X, cocaine child with matted dread locked hair. She throws her bag in the one chair and sits in the other one. She brings her own lunch, a sandwich and a cup of coffee. I’ve called my wife and daughter to tell them I’ll be late. I pour some tea and listen.
 
The dreadlocks keep in the energy waves from leaving my head. Do you want to feel them?
 
I feel them and ask about how she washes them. I tell her they look cool. I want to show acceptance for something. Spindled fingers hold a sandwich sacredly, and she nibbles.
 
You and one other are the only Christians I still talk to. You are still one, aren’t you?
 
We laugh. I wonder if I’m comfortable sharing that label. The collar feels confining around my neck. The blue knit cap hangs from the back of her head, the “Jesus loves bong hits” button on her sweater.
 
The DMT was the closest I’ve felt to God. That’s like the stuff in your brain when you almost die. Like pure…I can’t explain it.
 
Her sentences move around each other like Renaissance dancers barely touching.
 
I kept hearing the voice. “It’s not your time yet…”
 
I almost envy it.
 
I only found real love at raves. Everybody loved me and I loved them and we all felt connected together. I felt more spiritual than I ever felt in church.
 
I ask how her mother is doing. I ask if she still talks to her.
 
Religion works for her, but I’m tired of trying to be good enough before somebody loves me.
 
I picture her mother laying hands on her during church, trying to exorcise the demons of adolescence.
 
I have HPV. There are like these lesions.
 
Sip of coffee.
 
If I don’t get better in three months I’ll have to have big parts of my cervix removed which’ll mean no kids.
 
She talks about how she isn’t going to ever marry, and how her mom says the dreads will always keep men away. After a few more minutes, she stands to leave, and I hug her and call her “Sweetie,” a name I reserve for when I feel paternal.
 
She leaves me standing alone in my office, with the
prayer book and the
clock ticking
and my computer humming
and my mind wanting to tell my daughter
three things.
 
 
Born a weird, skinny kid in Savannah, Georgia, Jef Peeples is now a weird, not as skinny adult living in Powder Springs, Georgia, with his wife, daughter, rat terrier, and a pretty cool collection of notebooks. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor, writing teacher, and English Department Chair at a small private school in Marietta, Georgia. His poetry and short stories have appeared in various journals in the United States and Australia.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Anna Polonyi
 
 
RICHMOND, VA
 
A person I once loved very much
lives here, I want to tell
the woman sitting next to me
on the Amtrak from New York to North Carolina,
as the coach assistant
in charge of seating us
and gathering trash, amongst other things,
walks down the aisle announcing,
Richmond, VA, 50 minutes,
Richmond, VA, 50 minutes,
with the air of someone
calling out an auction.
Toss it in, toss it in,
trash, garbage, rubbish,
she also says. Recycling?
someone asks and that gives her
a moment to pause.
But I don’t say anything,
instead hand my fellow passenger
the bangle that fell out of her fleece jumper
as she was pulling it over her head
to shield her ears from the AC
blowing strong. I try to
stay awake to see the landscape
the person I once loved may
at one point have seen
or even been in
but all we pass are thick-growing pines
and lily-strangled ponds
and the lush green washes over me.
There is the occasional hoot of a train
and it comes again and then again
always from the same distance
until I realize it is coming from
the front of the train;
we are the ones hooting.
But I will never know what
potential threat we are hurtling towards,
what kind of futures scurry away from us
as we continue towards Richmond, VA–
Watch your elbows, says
the coach assistant as she bustles
through again.
We pass by a campus
and I keep my eyes peeled,
this may be where she teaches,
one of those cars may be hers,
one of the houses with a porch
and rocking chairs, a swing set
may be her home now.
I want to clamp both of my hands down
on my heart to keep it from fluttering,
leaping up at all odds, hoping
to catch a glimpse of the person
it once loved,
knowing too that seeing that face
whose lines I had so often
scrutinized for clemency
would only be my own undoing.
I smoke half a cigarette at our stop
In Richmond, VA, leaving
something of me behind and taking
too: sunshine to warm our limbs
chilled by the AC.
(It’s like a switch, the coach assistant
says when I ask her about turning it down,
it’s either on or off.)
My fellow passenger gets off here.
Others get on and I wonder if some of them
may have walked past the person I once loved
in the department store or the parking lot
without knowing who she was.
As we roll out, a part of me would rather
we not have passed through Richmond, VA
A part of me wonders if I got the city wrong
and later that day, arriving at my destination,
is not all that surprised when I check and
see that the person I once
loved in fact lives in Charlottesville, VA,
Not Richmond at all.
 
 
Anna Polonyi is a Franco-American-Hungarian poet, writer and journalist. A Harvard graduate, she is the former recipient of a Fulbright fellowship and the 2015 Sylvia Beach Short Fiction Prize. Her journalistic work has appeared with The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, amongst others. Her first poetry chapbook Wayword is forthcoming with Finishing Line Press. She lives in Paris, France.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Stephen Roger Powers
 
 
THE SUNLESS BOTTOM OF A BLUE HOLE
 
Some days I imagine
myself a freediving
champion who leaves
her husband
at their connecting
gate and carries
on alone to the baggage
claim, where she finds her
old friend by himself
in the bar with a double
Ancient Age on the rocks,
and her face blanches
like a cloudburst.
Before she touches him
and says “Hello, old friend,”
she stands by the service
rails, holds her breath
for five minutes
like she’s been trained,
ears pulsing
with remembered pressure
in darkness, where
oceanic whitetip sharks
circled at the cusp
of a black-out, and,
while staring at the back
of her old friend’s
broad-shouldered,
blood-spatter-on-the-collar
brown leather jacket,
she decides, after confirming
the long stagnant
line back through
security, that she will miss
the flight to Nice
because her husband—
her trainer
who coached her
166-meter record—
is lately pushing
her to go
just a little
too deep.
 
 
Stephen Roger Powers started writing poetry over fifteen years ago to pass time in the middle of the night when he was too energized to sleep after coming off the stage in comedy clubs around the Midwest. He is the author of The Follower’s Tale and Hello, Stephen, both published by Salmon Poetry. Other work has appeared in Shenandoah, Natural Bridge, and Rabbit Ears: Poems. He hasn’t done stand-up in a long time, but every once in a while he finds avenues for the performer he was born to be. He was an extra in Joyful Noise with Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, and he can be seen if you know just where to look.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Ken Poyner
 
 
ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL
 
Dear Mary,
apostate by nature,
and quick to spread her poison
with a clam shell tongue –
and with reasoning too good for a wife –
was sentenced at the last
to hang by the balls,
nailed through the scrotum
and supported by a wire
to tie the unruly sack off.
When the executioner asked
how this could be done with a woman,
he was sentenced to the same, instead.
And, with public outrage expiated,
Mary was set free to divorce
her ramshackle husband and open
a girl’s literacy cooperative.
Her tongue grew rough with the storm clouds
of her differing opinions, and
it is said that this tongue worked
uneasily in many a man’s ill-concerned mouth.
Dear Mary,
we must keep a town’s reptilian eye out
for what passes loudly as justice,
what returns as desire, and how public
the sin of atonement is for the innocent.
 
 
THE AFTERNOON WALK
 
The last of the day goes hissing along the sidewalk,
a boy in a barrel, a dog in a wagon,
the last quarter on the bar,
two words at the end of a sentence:
gone.
She stops, bends away from her outlandish effort:
her exercise run behind her, and now
just the need to remove the sweat soiled shirt,
lean at the chain link fence. Her body
creases my memory like a wallet will crease
new money, no matter how much you wish it did not,
no matter how poor you are.
I am a man who counts change.
She is a center of gravity: asymmetric: one long
gift of entropy. I am dull-edged in slicing the air.
My mouth
is a curtsy of beef; my core is a throb of lamb.
I sense the palms of my hand and I am thinking
that even my fingernails are thinking that
when she runs on, runs away, runs down, runs over,
I am the random inheritor of the air behind her,
the sharer of unfathomable clarity.
 
 
Ken Poyner’s latest collection of short, wiry fiction, Constant Animals, and his latest collections of poetry Victims of a Failed Civics and The Book of Robot can be obtained from Barking Moose Press, or amazon.com, or Sundial Books. He often serves as strange, bewildering eye-candy at his wife’s power lifting affairs. His poetry of late has been sunning in Analog, Asimov’s, Poet Lore, The Kentucky Review, and his fiction has yowled in Spank the Carp, Red Truck, Café Irreal, Bellows American Review. kpoyner.com
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Ann Randlette
 
 
THIS IS HOW I WRITE ABOUT LOVE
 
I bring in a train
bearing down at high speed
along a familiar track
wheels locked and smoking,
cars starting to buckle sideways
off the rails.
 
I stand at the crossing, watch
the engine gain on me,
think I can fix it,
I can help, I can make it better,
 
even as the barriers are lowering,
crossing signals fire off,
and the engineer is blasting
a horn message telling me
to get out of the way,
to save myself.
 
 
Ann Randlette retired in December, 2015 after a 31year career in cardiac ultrasound. She has been writing for 10 years and began attending poetry writing classes at Hugo House in Seattle, Washington in July, 2016. Her poem “Elegy for my Father” was published by the online journal Algebra of Owls in August 2016. A haiku, “Autumn Home,” was published by 50 Haikus in October 2016. “Joyride” appears in the Winter 2017 edition of The Remembered Arts Journal. The Stray Branch will publish her poem “Cantaloupe” in their Spring/Summer 2018 online edition. She currently lives in Olympia, Washington.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Ricky Ray
 
 
WHEN TO REVEAL
 
In front of the vet she’s stoic
like her papa,
nothing wrong, just give me a treat please,
I mean another one, I mean yeah,
these treats and I have something to settle,
go ahead, you’re billing me anyways,
tip over the whole jar.
Don’t need to be weighed, my temperature taken,
sure as hell don’t need my blood drawn,
imaging,
or to go into the back room. I could pick this building
out of two hundred by a quick sniff at the stoop,
it’s not so bad, the elevator smells
and there’s urine everywhere,
but those are the joys
a long-nose
lives by. At home, though, I tell my papa,
it hurts, I don’t feel so well, help me
on the bed please, it’s midnight
but I can’t hold it,
this aging thing’s a hell of a way to spend
a dog’s accumulated wisdom,
or maybe it’s a trickster’s prep course
all creatures flunk
on the way
to meeting their mama’s maker.
Everything won’t be alright, let’s not lie,
it never was, but another treat
and more where that came from,
a roll in the grass
and a nap in the sun,
and if I don’t get up to eat
the giant cookie of the moon,
at least I’ll be
the breeze I loved to drink,
and my breath will drift to the edge
of the world, where I’ll keep on:
sniffing the stars, digging black holes,
lifting my leg and pissing on the gods’ old feet.
 
 
Ricky Ray was born in Florida and educated at Columbia University. His recent work can be found in The American Scholar (blog), Matador Review, Fugue, Lodestone, Sixfold and Chorus: A Literary Mixtape. His awards include the Ron McFarland Poetry Prize and Katexic‘s Cormac McCarthy prize. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, three cats and a dog; the bed is frequently overcrowded.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Stephen Regan
 
 
BRITISH HYGGE
 
He goes where it’s still right
when the world clearly is not,
as 2016 crashes into 2017.
Tables here are three-legged
in iron so they can’t ever rock.
Good. Rocking is overrated.
Maroon leather banquettes
line the walls. He refuses to call
them burgundy. Maroon works for
him under a ceiling blessed
with nicotine-stained
memories of happier days.
 
Gentle lighting, kind to the craggy.
Brass plaques sparkle for his pals,
Elsie, Lloyd and Chrissie Witch.
He sits, raises his glass of red wine,
and notes with pleasure there’s still
no TV screen in this pub room.
 
 
Stephen Regan’s poems have been published in: Envoi; Best of Manchester Poets Vol 2 anthology; Reach Poetry; Killing the Angel; The Provo Canyon Review and DoveTales. His poem ‘Red-bricked’ is part of a permanent art display at Wallgate rail station in his home town of Wigan, Lancashire. He lives in Liverpool and is the founder of city poetry group, The Liver Bards.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Kevin Ridgeway
 
 
CANDLELIT STOCKINGS
 
every other woman wears
some type of hosiery in the
frost of this city: I admire
different patterns stitched
around the younger ladies’
stems as they cross them in
coffee shops or accidentally
brush them across my cheeks
in the dim light of crowded
subterranean bars when they
squeeze by my table, making
me glow in the dark.
 
 
TOO STONED TO MAKE SENSE
 
five tabs of Purple Pyramids later
and I was tripping my balls off in
the dorm bathroom, staring at my
face in the mirror as it turned into
a cartoon friend who taught me
new words like “fleebo” and “hyuck”
before my live action roommate
entered in a long black cape carrying
a silver tray of plastic cups of boxed
white Zinfandel surrounded by piles
of pepper jack cheese he planned to
charm the ladies at dinner with, but I
knocked it over while lighting his bong
after I told him I thought Kirk was a
better captain than Picard, getting his
tattered volume of Kierkegaard wet
enough to be more confusing than it
already was.
 
 
Kevin Ridgeway lives and writes in Long Beach, CA. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, recent work of his has appeared in Chiron Review, Spillway, Nerve Cowboy, Trailer Park Quarterly, San Pedro River Review and Big Hammer, among others. His latest chapbook is Contents Under Pressure (Crisis Chronicles Press, Cleveland, OH).
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
stephanie roberts
 
 
BUTTER CAKE II
 
what i meant to say was this;
i was making cake separating
eggs when the yolks spoke (in your
cinematic voice). where are
you? the egg whites slid
side to side as if they
didn’t know who’d said that.
i’m alarmed by the question;
eggs can’t be trusted; these
eggs are breaking my heart,
daily, infinitely, in unrelenting
manner.
 
how dare you.
 
where am i?
am i the cypher, the secret,
the riddle?
perversity makes you write
a who-done-it when you-done-it.
i put in my sugar,
pure, crystalline, thirsty,
all there for your mix,
till you depart.
where i am
where i’ll be
is where you left me
to my hot rising.
 
 
stephanie roberts has work that appears or will appear, this year, in Reunion: The Dallas Review, The Stockholm Review of Literature, Shooter Literary Magazine (UK), Room Magazine (Canada), Burning House Press (UK), The Inflectionist Review, The Arsonist Magazine, After the Pause, The Thing Itself and more. In 2016, her work was featured in The New Quarterly, Blue Lyra Review, Contemporary Verse 2, and Breakwater Review. She grew up in Brooklyn, NY. www.oceansandfire.com
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
John D. Robinson
 
 
THE PURSUIT OF SHADOWS
 
At about 4:30am the door
bell sounded and whoever
it was, was keeping their
finger on the button; I
made it to a window and I
already knew who I’d
see;
I went down and let him
in and told him to be
fucking quiet; ‘In here’ I
said; he walked into the
spare room, sat down and
uncapped a cheap bottle
of wine;
‘Fuck you’ I said, closing
the door behind me and
joining him for a drink;
I’d be drunk by 08:30am
and children would be
going to school and people
would be going to work,
people would be rushing
here and there, like it meant
something
and I’d be drunk at 08:30am
with my father and my
woman would awake and be
angry with me for being
drunk at 08:30, whilst almost
everyone else was rushing
here and there, all of them,
chasing their own fucking
shadows.
 
 
John D Robinson is a published poet of 2 chapbooks; When You Hear The Bell, There’s Nowhere To Hide (Holy& Intoxicated Publications 2016) Cowboy Hats & Railways (Scars Publications 2016); his work appears widely in the small press and online literary journals and he is a contributor to the 48th Street Press Broadside Series; he is married and lives in the UK.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Kristen Ruggles
 
 
AGAINST THE SHORE
 
The rhythm of water
against the shore
sculpted the hour
that dark night in the sand.
 
The pipers flew in with their
soft calls,
‘ah-ah, ah-ah’,
 
and the wind
 
licked goosebumps
across my skin before your tongue
could ever touch me.
 
And as your hands made their
trek across my horizons,
 
your mouth followed–
 
And I was suddenly
a rainforest
there in the sand,
Hot and damp.
 
And as you moved through
the forest floor finding
the riverbed,
And tasting the waters,
 
I was atop the trees
counting every star
exploding behind my eyes
 
while listening to the waves
lapping at the dark shore
miles away.
 
 
FORTUNE TELLER
 
Give your mouth
to me
and I will explore
the eternities, I will confer
with gods.
 
Delve into the eloquent silence
of our two mouths
meeting, whispering secrets
of new found passions.
Set your lips
to mine once more
and end my senseless speech.
 
Breathe into me
the fortune you seek.
 
 
FAVORITE THINGS
 
This little thing in my hand,
all I have to do is
Turn
On
the switch and settle in
to the slow hum the
soft vibrations
 
Isn’t long before
I am transported
and transformed
to a flowing waterfall
in a breezy field
where the wind sounds
a little like ragged breaths.
 
 
Kristen Ruggles is an adjunct professor in the First Year Writing Program at Texas A&M University. She is pursuing an MFA in creative writing in a low residency program at Eastern Kentucky University. Kristen has been writing since she was little more than 8 years old when she had two stories chosen to be published in her elementary schools’ student story anthology which sparked the discovery of herself and her relationship to others through writing. She has been published in the Sagebrush Review.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Jeff Santosuosso
 
 
SIT STILL YOUNG MAN!
For Matthew L. and his students
 
I’ve been not sitting still since I kicked my mother’s uterus,
and she thought I was gastritis.
I’ve been not standing still since my first toddle.
Now we call it restlessness, fidgeting;
ADHD stuff, except now I’m a goddamn adult,
and you can’t pump drugs down my throat any more
and coat my neurons with pharmaceutical mayonnaise.
Screw that.
Fidgeting may distract other students and rile a teacher
but it’s not against the law.
Adults have laws. Kids have rules.
Adults have more freedom,
particularly the fidgety ones.
 
If you’re squeamish, don’t go to my funeral –
I’m telling you right now –
unless you want to see a squirming corpse.
Trust me. I’ll be there.
 
 
Jeff Santosuosso is a business consultant and award-winning poet living in Pensacola, FL. A member of the Florida State Poets Society, he is Editor-in-Chief of panoplyzine.com, an online journal dedicated to poetry and short prose. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in San Pedro River Review, The Lake (UK), Red Fez, Stories of Music, Vol. 2, Illya’s Honey, Red River Review, Texas Poetry Calendar, Avocet, First Literary Review – East, OVS Magazine, and other online and print publications.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Claire Schriefer
 
 
SINCE YOU LEFT ME
 
I’ve learned:
 
Canadian men love to eat pussy.
 
(I always wished you did. You seemed interested, intrigued, never passionate.)
 
A polyamorous Welsh punk
is nice to nap with.
Their “r’s” are very soft.
So was he.
 
A standup comic
from Delaware
is bound to be boring.
A comedy magic show, he says.
I can’t.
 
But,
I can look fascinated by anything.
 
I can make a man
ask my permission
to lie down.
Gasping, shivering,
without even touching him.
 
(At least the lingerie I bought for you is working somehow.
While I walk briskly
up the left side of the escalator,
my skirt flies in the winds of the trains.
I silently congratulate everyone witnessing my ass in these cheap lace panties.)
 
A PhD told me how a fruit fly’s brain waves relate to epilepsy.
 
I think he thought I understood.
 
I told you I was good at looking interested.
 
He makes internet videos.
He loves being famous and he
loves to talk about how he hates it.
 
(No one knows better than you how lost I am in this world.)
 
A Frenchman will fuck you, dead drunk.
Ask about your hangover in the morning, then insult your French.
 
A vegetarian in Thailand in 2012 will
crack a plastic fork, for bad steak.
Outright.
He has hundreds of pairs of socks.
One pair is Steve Kerr.
 
(He has THAT haircut. You know the one I mean.)
 
I could feel his heart beating from the other side of the bed.
I kept thinking
he’s talking in his sleep,
very interesting.
But he was not.
 
I’m wearing odd socks
as usual.
One was sent to me by my mother.
 
(And one is yours.)
 
 
WARSAN
 
I am difficult to love.
Benign masochism,
hot sauce in my purse.
Spicy girl, he says,
watching me season my food.
I consider sending him a poem about it
written by another woman,
from far away, but her mouth full of the sound of his home country.
Telling him,
I’m already preparing for when you break my heart.
But I decide to be softer.
I make him tea, I kiss his temple.
We are both far from home
and I want to hold on longer,
like taro thickening in my hotpot.
I want to melt him in my mouth, but
 
I don’t know how long until I bite down hard.
 
 
Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Claire Schriefer has been in love with words for as long as she can remember (and more men than she cares to recall). A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she bummed around New York City and Milwaukee for years before packing it in and becoming an ESL teacher in Taipei in 2015.
 
The best writing advice she was ever given is from her father, who emphasized clarity above all, which hopefully does not generally apply to poetry. The second best advice was from a friend, who said he didn’t want her to shoot her boyfriend in the face in a game of William Tell before she got serious about writing. Fortunately, that never came to pass.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Claire Scott
 
 
SOBRIETY CHIP
 
In this morning’s haze I fingered the three
hour chip in the pocket of my housecoat
do they still call this thing a housecoat
or does it have to have a floral
print like my great aunt Lucy’s
with her mustache and fleshy arms that
jiggled when she made shredded wheat
with bananas that I stirred and
smashed till she turned away and
then tossed in the trash—where was I—
oh yes, the chip in my pocket
that was given to me last night
for three hours of sobriety
between the hours of two am and five
when I was stone-cold passed out
oblivious to the call of Jack Daniels,
the lure of Wild Turkey—oh yes
the lure of Lucy’s son fingering me
pushing up into floral underpants
feeling-so-special-so-very-grown-up
while aunt Lucy snoozed to As the
World Turns
, her hearing aids in a Chiclets
box by her side—oops sorry—now I am back
here with you, you sexy dude
in my skin tight leggings and halter top
Beyond Paradise dabbed behind each ear
could you please step slightly closer
who cares anyway about a cheap
plastic chip tossed into the trash
let’s go to Raleigh’s for a drink or three
to see if our bodies sing at
the bottom of the glass.
 
 
Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Cathryn Shea
 
 
BAD BYGONE DEAL
 
I’m faking a conversation with Blanca
over whom I tower, even in her three-inch platforms,
and whose name derives from her platinum do
with dark roots. She speaks scant English,
and I hablo muy poco Español.
 
Porque
“Jill Abbott” hits my ear familiarly. It seems
Blanca learns from soaps. Pronounced distinctly,
The Young and the Restless recurs
in her no-pause, trilling sentences.
 
Mama, vamos a casa. Now!
Her little boy hugs her leg and hides
his head under her skirt,
which he shouldn’t be doing given
the proximity to her crotch.
 
Once, we visited the house she and esposo
Marcos had rented in an upscale neighborhood
known for hot tubs and adultery.
We explained: chickens are not allowed
even in such a nice coop,
and it’s a crime to butcher road kill,
even deer hit by a Bugatti.
 
A transaction begins
between our husbands in the living room,
of which I’m not totally ignorant
and Blanca’s not oblivious
like she pretends.
 
Here comes “the product” through my kitchen.
We’re supposed to get rich now
by investing in bricks of white powder,
plastic-wrapped and stinking of gasoline.
 
After I’ve dumped shaving kit, boxers, and socks
onto an oil slick in the street,
I’ll be on a bus to Starview Estates.
After Marcos vanishes in Bogota
Blanca will be a single mom.
 
 
Cathryn Shea’s poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in burntdistrict, Permafrost, Rust + Moth, Tinderbox, and elsewhere. Cathryn’s second chapbook, “It’s Raining Lullabies,” is forthcoming from dancing girl press in 2017. She has poems in 2016 anthologies by Into The Void and “New English Verse” by Cyberwit. Cathryn serves on the editorial staff for Marin Poetry Center. See cathrynshea.com and @cathy_shea on Twitter.

 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Dan Sicoli
 
 
COVER BAND
 
yeah we were this bust-out garage band
played all the tinny joints
 
covered all the hits
and throbbing booms
 
but for this private backyard gig
rains forced us to retreat
 
back to the garage
where three chord rock endures
 
all sweat swill slime and sludge
a mini-concrete-woodstock concoction
 
and they adored us
like we were king and cousin
 
so we shredded for us
and we trashed for them
 
and when the first nipple was revealed
our eyes grew big as our egos
 
big as primitive sound
boasting lyrics of insinuation
 
we voiced plagiarized seduction stolen
from van morrison, johnny cash, and muddy waters
 
our masturbating
guitars toyed with rhythm
 
but it took that nipple
to bring us boys back to mother’s breast
 
a nipple to guide us
a nipple to return us
 
inhaling midnight blood
as we ruled an infected microcosm
 
tomorrow the pawn shop
may jam us
 
but tonight we ride until
the windshield’s stabbed
 
 
Dan Sicoli lives just south of the Canadian border. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks from Pudding House Publications (Columbus, Ohio), Pagan Supper and the allegories. In addition to co-founding/co-editing the literary press and magazine Slipstream Text www.slipstreampress.org, he can sometimes be found in local dives, saloons and barrelhouses banging on an old Gibson with an area rock ‘n’ roll band. In late summers, he oven-dries home-grown plum tomatoes.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Peter Taylor
 
 
RULES
 
NO
rubbingrubbingrubbing like Billy who puts it up his nose and says snot snot
 
NO
SCREAMING outside your head
 
NO
going even when it hurts so bad until they say okay go now
 
NO
throwing food—chairs—shoes— poo—
 
NO
hitting
 
NO
hitting even when they aren’t looking
 
NO
swallowing but not really
 
NO
laughing when they tell you shutup shutup
 
NO
eating checkers
 
NO
touching until someone says there o yes there
 
NO
bad words I write like crazy ant trails so i will remember
 
 
Peter Taylor has published Trainer, The Masons, and Aphorisms, and his experimental verse play, Antietam, won honourable mention in the international War Poetry Contest. His poems have appeared in Amsterdam Quarterly, Anansesem, Aperçus Quarterly, Call & Response, Contemporary Verse 2, Construction, The Copperfield Review, Descant, Eunoia, Fade, Forage, Frostwriting, The Glass Coin, Grain, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Linnet’s Wings, Nether, Petrichor Review, Phantom Kangaroo, Pirene’s Fountain, Poetry Australia, Pyrta, and StepAway Magazine.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
David J. Thompson
 
 
EVEN YEARS BEFORE HE DIED
 
I am a lineman for the county . . .
 
It comes on in the background
of the bar across the parking lot
from your motel over the conversation
and clicking of pool balls behind you.
It’s your favorite Glen Campbell song,
you can’t help but sing along while
you remember your sister had that album,
the one with his face on the cover,
how the whole family would watch
his show together every Sunday night.
 
I hear you singin’ in the wire . . .
 
You take off your cap, rub your hand
over your head. You think about
how you saw online a while back
that Campbell, with the haircut, sideburns
and smile you wanted back in the 70’s,
now has Alzheimer’s, no more performing
for him. That’s what killed your father,
even years before he died. You see him,
as you take a long swallow of beer,
in that sickly clean smelling lock-down unit
of the nursing home staring at the tv all day long.
 
. . . and I want you for all time.
 
Your dad began showing signs in his mid-60’s,
getting lost for a few minutes driving to places
he’d been a million times. You’re 61, now starting
to worry every time you can’t remember somebody’s name
or a movie title, or where you put that book down
a few minutes ago. You look up at the clock,
then down at your near empty beer. You hope
you have time for at least a few more as you try
to signal the bartender, but this is your first time here,
and there’s no telling when things are going to shut down.
 
 
David J. Thompson grew up in Hyde Park, New York, and currently resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He lists Raymond Carver, Frank O’Hara, Albert Camus, and D.H. Lawrence among his favorite writers. His interests include The Simpsons, minor league baseball, and movies. His chapbook, A World Without Horses, is available on Kindle. Please visit his website at ninemilephoto.com.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Susan Thornton
 
 
LEAVING THE BALLETS RUSSES
 
We danced all day and all
night. In the daytime wearing
rags, at night in costumes of
silk and tulle, organdy,
organza, satin—sweat-soaked.
We stripped as soon as we came
off stage. I had a room over-
looking the Seine. We slept three
to a bed and gobbled French
pastry, café au lait in the mornings
Napoleons at night. Baguettes
so stale they cut our
gums. We were young and danced
as fast as our hearts beat.
At night the trees shone
like jewels along
The Place de l’Opera. The language
too was soft. “Oui, mademoiselle,
bien sur, mademoiselle. Que
voulez-vous, mademoiselle?”
 
Monsieur Diaghilev was cruel sometimes.
It was better to avoid him
when he was in one of his rages.
My great toe became infected
but I danced on it anyway.
Peeling off the bandages was an agony.
I limped in the street, clutched
Nadia’s arm. She told me
not to be a sissy, that dancers
lived with pain. On
stage I didn’t feel the
fire that wrapped my ankles later.
 
The films don’t do us
justice. I see myself in the
bioscopes. Laughable. They run them at
the wrong speed.
The white organza
jumps like a spring wound
toy. The dying
swan has
hiccups. The audience
shuffles their feet,
shoves greasy fingers into
popcorn. Once
I stood and shouted
“Turn it off, turn it off.” The
manager said who was I
to hate ballet.
 
I didn’t want to return to
Moscow. On the last night
I turned a hundred fouettes in air,
took a grande jette off the stage
forever. I speak
French now, constantly, and
haggle over bread. I eat
what I please and cannot keep
my footing on these damned uneven streets.
I never go to see the
ballet. At first out of curiosity
I went to see the
Bolshoi but it made my legs
cramp to sit in the fourth
balcony and I couldn’t bear the
chatter of the concert goers
who didn’t know a plié
from a tendu, who applauded
before the pas de deux was
finished. How my bones
used to flame. My toes turned
purple and then
black. My ankles swelled
like tennis balls packed
under the skin.
 
I used to line my knees in ice
then wrap them up in flannel
then ice again until the skin
was moist and white as bread.

I had letters for
a while from Nadia but
her father was a Jew and in
the ‘30s the letters
stopped. I have had no
groceries for days. That wouldn’t
happen in Moscow. There
people look after one
another.
 
When we were
children we skated
the whole length of the
frozen river, the
blades of our feet flashing
in the sun, staggering
when we stepped
back onto the earth
from the slippery smoothness
of the ice.
How I miss that purifying
cold.
 
 
LETTER TO VIRGINIA
 
Dear Virginia I
saw two blue birds on the
deck yesterday so I
guess that means spring
 
is on its way. We
have had very little
snow this winter and
only about one inch
 
now. It has occasionally been
very cold and icy. I have
books and music and my
Golden Retriever for
 
company. I don’t know
if you knew John died last
March. He was very ill
for the past five years so I’ve
 
lost touch with many of my
friends. Janet had phoned
me and told me you had a
bad fall.
 
That is my most
serious worry as I
fell a couple of years ago
and was in a cast for
 
four months. I’m OK
now. I still live in my house
on the hill but don’t know
how long I can cope with
 
keeping up a house. So
I just try to live day by day
and hope for the
best. I’ve moved my
 
drawing board and
material downstairs in the
living room and have
nearly finished a
 
drawing. Too tired
to do much aside from daily
routine. Getting used
to being alone after
 
fifty-six years is a
tremendous change. I
have a bird feeder
outside my large
 
window and feed a
flock of finches daily
who have an
enormous appetite
 
for sunflower seeds.
Other than that
nothing unusual
except a few
 
woodpeckers and
chickadees. I’m glad
you’re near your
daughter. Gail still
 
lives in California and has
no intention of coming back
East. I have no desire to
move so visits in either
 
direction become more rare.
At least we can talk
on the telephone. I still drive but
not at night. I get public
 
TV and watch
“Travels” on Monday
evenings. I listen to
the radio for news.
 
As for meals when I
feel like it rather than
regular hours. Usually
have a good lunch
 
but sometimes skip
supper as not
hungry. So eat apples
and have milk and
 
toast before going to
bed. No one wants to
drive up this hill in
winter but when warm
 
weather comes I’ll
ask some friends to
come to lunch. Haven’t
become a complete
 
recluse, thanks to
my dog, Clipper. The
driveway is clear today so
may get to the library. Although
 
I’ve neglected to write I
do think of you and the
happy times we had
together. Love
 
Marguerite
 
 
MUTINY
 
In my dream mutineers
take over the ship. The captain
dives overboard attached to
the ship with a rope,
seeking underwater grottos,
living in our trust. We,
the mutineers, storm
the decks, gun the great engines.
The corpse bounces in our
wake, spinning like a top.
But once on board there
is nowhere we can sleep, no
where to converse, no one can
be trusted. On the deck,
the liberated captain,
lithe and graceful,
dances to a music we cannot hear.
 
 
Susan Thornton’s poetry has appeared in Paintbrush Quarterly, The Denver Review and Rat’s Ass Review. Her short fiction has appeared in The Best American Mystery Stories 2016, Blackbird (2016) and is forthcoming in the Flash Fiction Anthology (2017). She lives and works in Binghamton New York.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Amanda Tumminaro
 
 
PAP SMEAR
 
An unfamiliar probe of twigs
by an unmerciful bastard who roams.
It’s as though she has never been
in the sickening, antiseptic robe.
 
But she is at my feet,
my God for right now,
with fingers and utensils
to be connected to her palm.
 
It’s a game of pursuit, and she’s a king,
and I close and I close,
but the order of the power
begins to sway.
 
 
Amanda Tumminaro lives in Illinois with her family. Her poetry has appeared in Squawk Back, Digital Papercut, Oddball Magazine and Freshwater, among others. She has also been nominated for a Best of the Net Award in 2015 for her poem “Scenes at Puget Sound.”
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
C. Derick Varn
 
 
LOVE POEM
 
This home is home, built
with nails bent– no wood
level, plumb, or square, but
 
we can’t mend the house
I built with black eyes and
whisky-rage. My thoughts
 
are the colder kind, but you
kept my blood in a jar over
the fireplace. My mother
 
was a mountain, eroding
from crag to the rolling hills.
From clay to carpenter,
 
Making myself into mortar,
Bricking up the holes: the
strike of the hammer has
 
me creeping from the room,
climbing out into the first
Southern snow in nightclothes:
 
The rattle of saw seems distant,
I smell rain, thunder shaking
the joists, and we sip warm
 
blood from mason jars like
ice tea. The I into you, the
you into me. Home is home.
 
 
C. Derick Varn is a poet, teacher, and theorist. He currently edits for Former People and is a reviewer for the Hong Kong Review of books. He has a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry at Georgia College and State University where he served as assistant editor for Arts and Letters: A Journal of Contemporary Arts. He has served as managing editor for the now defunct Milkwood Review. He won the Frankeye Davis Mayes/Academy of American Poets Prize in 2003 and his poetry has appeared at Unlikely Stories 2.0, Axe Factory, Full of Crows, Writing Disorder, JMWW, Clutching at Straws, Xenith, Piriene’s Fountain, and elsewhere. He currently abides in Cairo, Egypt and his nomadic tendencies have found him living in South Korea and Northern Mexico as well. He lives with his partner, and a bunch of books, and writes at night.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Vivian Wagner
 
 
NESTING
 
In the crux of a hemlock branch
out my window, a robin pair’s
building a nest, twig-by-twig,
thread-by-thread. They pull
the softest feathers from their bellies
to pad the bottom, and they watch
for each other, for cars, for me
peering through the glass.
There’s a certain economy to
their craft, a recognition
of both loss and abundance,
of how this home will soon be empty,
of how, still, it must be made.
 
 
Vivian Wagner is an associate professor of English at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. She’s the author of a memoir, Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington), and a poetry collection, The Village (Kelsay Books).
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Hannah Warren
 
 
SOMETHING UNPRONOUNCEABLE
 
You ask if I’m ready to come home
and I never know if I’m lying.
 
What’s that thing you say about history—
that it’s a long time coming?
 
Who am I to stop God when I can’t
stop myself from peeling my cuticles until they bleed.
 
What I mean to say is
I can’t keep up with this bare burning.
 
What I mean to say is
I forgot how to touch your body a long time ago.
 
 
SAY SOMETHING YOU’VE NEVER HEARD BEFORE
 
I don’t know anyone
buried in Kansas—can you imagine
a home where everyone you know
is alive? Kansas has no cancer.
 
I think of crashes and disease
and what would happen
 
if I left my body outside with coyotes.
 
 
THE GOOD SHIT
 
the last day
or the next to last day
 
that I saw you in that bar
slunk against the back
wall with an unlit cigarette
 
pinched between your thumb
 
and forefinger
I asked the bartender
for the names of five men
I’ve never met
 
and he told me to slip
him a twenty rolled
with that sour-sweet smell
 
and to make a moscow mule,
he said, you gotta
get the good shit—
 
2 oz vodka
4 oz ginger beer
a half squeezed lime
 
 
Hannah Warren is an MFA candidate at the University of Kansas, and her works have appeared recently or will soon appear in Soundings East and Jet Fuel Review. She often writes about death but hopes never to experience it.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Anna Weaver
 
 
THIS CAMERA REFUSES TO TAKE PICTURES
OF OVER-PHOTOGRAPHED LOCATIONS
 
“An app uses GPS to track your location and calculate how many online photos have been geotagged within a 115-foot radius. If too many photos have already been taken there, Camera Restricta refuses to function.” ~Michele Debczak, mentalfloss.com
 
These guitar strings will cease
to vibrate if you play more than one bar
of “Stairway to Heaven.”
 
This canvas has been treated
with a novel coating to prevent absorption
of any overused shade of blue—
cobalt, phthalo, cerulean.
If you know its name, it’s on the list.
 
And my nanotech notebook for poets,
with its carefully calibrated editorial
sentience, prevents me from writing
the word moon. Also soul and starling
and (when I turn the dial to slam mode)
capitalism, warrior, and essence.
 
If not for the Ironic Override switch,
none of these lines would be legible.
The patented Eras-o-Ray would hum
behind my fingers, performing its serene
white eclipse, ticking and chiding
that surely by now we all know
whatever a moon has always meant.
 
 
SECOND-HAND SACRAMENT
 
You ask, doesn’t it bother me
all these years after I gave it up?
But when I try to explain, the answer
seems to come only in the secret language
of almost-forgotten ritual—ting
of his lighter opening, flint scrape,
fluff of gas flame, flat click of metal
shut against his palm—sacrificial hymn
to the patron saint of small defeats.
 
To understand, first you must know
how it feels to need a thing that’s no good
for you. You must have lived the small panic
and relief, the habit of hand to pocket.
 
Twenty times today he will fall down.
Twenty times he will step out to confess
another little orange sin, and I will follow,
ready to admit what I covet and why—
scent of risk, breath of my favorite old dragon
and all the rooms I was raised in, the indulgent
scent of a righteous break, of putting things
in the past, of making a space between.
Ancient companion to whisky and sex.
 
Understand that and you will know
why I speak a blessing on this man,
who always has something to do
when I’m late, who knows the sacred art
of lingering, of just one more, of a breath
savored and poison be damned.
 
And then you answer to me:
Who’s to say a long inhale
is less than a prayer, that grace
cannot be pulled in by mouth,
or that it would not exact of us the price
of tooth and lung?
 
Look at him, I say. See how it lights
him from within. See for yourself
how goddamn good he looks
when he’s on fire.
 
 
YOU ASKED FOR A POEM ABOUT CHOCOLATE
for Eddie Bartholomew
xoxo, the girl

 
You asked for a poem
about chocolate but I think
you meant, Kiss me.
 
Kiss me because
there is more to me
than one mouth alone
can bear to taste. Kiss me now
before my molten hope
slips away with the wine
and my tongue turns ordinary
again.
 
Let the chocolate melt.
Let it give way like the warm promise
of my thigh. Let our bodies
be unwrapped. Let teeth find
flesh. I will open your mouth
like indulgence, like luxury,
like a sweet pause after eating
that fixes the meal firmly
in the past. And you will stain
my lips as I pull the salt
from your skin with the warmth
of my palms.
 
You asked for a poem
about chocolate, but I think
you meant, Give me your hand.
 
This is going to get sticky.
 
 
Raised in Oklahoma, Anna Weaver lives in North Carolina with her two daughters. Her poems have appeared in Connotation Press, One, O-Dark-Thirty, and other print and online journals, as well as anthologies, public art projects, and coffee bags (no really). A self-described open mic tourist, she has performed in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Find her at annaweaver-poet.com.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Lenore Weiss
 
 
SOUTHLAND MALL: HAYWARD
 
Southland Mall sits like a waxed vagina
hidden behind a concrete preserve
you would never know
what lay behind the FedEx guards
Locksmith keys
no trees
not even a fake orchid
dresses from countries
we don’t trade
agree with anymore
when a clock strikes
the commute hour
queues up
that’s me riding
the up escalator
my halo hollow
everyone tries so very hard
to be cheerful
walk along the white way
past a Shoe Palace
Forever 21
buy two plastic dicks
get one free
mine comes along with me
 
behind a red curtain
a background
blue or grey
 
Groupon
I choose you
we cheese
 
 
STONEBRIDGE MALL: PLEASANTON
 
dancing inside a circle
of orange traffic cones
wish me luck
 
shopping trip
automatic doors
glass elevator
 
dropping down
two strollers
on the prowl
 
in retail heaven
shopping bag
flashes wide
 
itching to be filled
with a remoulade
of half-offs
 
close-outs
crammed on racks
is the back story
 
come Dasher
and Dancer…
Donner and Blitzen…
 
except Victoria
won’t tell me
her secret
 
i’m gonna
make her
give me a club card
 
one hundred push-ups
she handles my boobs
so nice
 
 
CELIA CRUZ IN THE DRESSING ROOM: EMERYVILLE
 
I waited twenty minutes to try on two dresses,
one for the evening
(I was going out on a date and wanted to look good)
three jeans with rips above and below the knee
four tops all V-necklines that showed off my cleavage
and a pair of embroidered cut-offs,
no pockets, but why not buy one anyway for fun?
The line was long, a second weekend of Madness Mark-Downs
I might’ve gone over the allowed dressing room limit
but the attendant handed me a number
assigned me to a stall
where I hung up my try-ons and unbuttoned
my plaid jacket, the one I love with the fuzzy lining,
yanked off my T-shirt but started to hear loud music
realized the sound was emanating
from a loose tile above the mirror
(Ross dressing rooms don’t have doors);
lifted up the tile slowly didn’t want to ruin my manicure
when I heard salsa
a horn section followed by shouts
of “Azúcar, Azúcar,”
started to dance, rolled my hips,
my pants slipped to my ankles
began singing in perfect Spanish
even though I’d taken only one semester
in high school, “Azúcar, Azúcar!”
And everything fit.
 
 
Lenore Weiss is an MFA candidate at San Francisco State University where she is also a teaching assistant. Winner of the Clark-Gross Award and the Robert Browning Dramatic Monologue contest. Her poetry has been published in many journals including WovenTales, Midwood Press, Maple Leaf Review, Kindred, San Francisco Peace and Hope, Cactus Heart, Ghost Town, Poetica, Carbon Culture, BlinkInk, The Portland Review, La Más Tequila Review, Digital Americana, The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Nimrod International Journal, Copper Nickel, The Reform Jewish Quarterly, Feminist Studies in Religion, and Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal. Her books include Cutting Down the Last Tree on Easter Island (West End Press, 2012) Two Places (Kelsay Books, 2014) and The Golem (Hadassa Word Press, 2017). Her blog resides at lenoreweiss.com.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Tyson West
 
 
THE ROAD TO LYNCHBURG
 
One fine day of Virginia May
I stuck out my thumb at the University crossroads
just over a century after they shipped Stonewall Jackson’s one-armed body
home to Lexington to be enshrined a mile from VMI.
My 18 year old hormones were hitching south to a city
Yankee troops had never defiled.
The slicked haired man with his white socks and black shoes and his sunglassed gal
who picked me up were hospitable enough
to offer me a swig from the bottle of Bacardi in their glovebox
I poured a few drops into my can of Coke out of courtesy
and politely laughed at his quip
that the Chevy full of Negros we passed was a “carload of coal”.
Once he dropped me at the coffee shop
I dropped a dime to tell Kay I had arrived for
cups of feelings and Beltane fires of cigarettes.
She showed me the town none of which I can recall
save for the rusty hull of the Marshall, the packet boat,
that carried Stonewall Jackson’s body by canal to Lexington.
The battered steel remains –
the relic had been elevated on a pedestal displayed at the park
near the chained and padlocked cyclone fence of the public swimming pool
full of dried blown leaves and candy bar wrappers
permanently closed by decree of the town fathers
rebels against federal desegregation
whose grey uniformed ancestors had stood at attention in tears before the casket
in transit from Chancellorsville back to the edge of the Shenandoah Valley.
 
 
DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL
 
Andrew, you were not in search of Plato’s ideal of classic beauty
nor were you looking for soul shattering passion
when you dropped by your neighbor’s house for a cup of coffee and the latest gossip.
All great affairs start by chance
as if God braids random bodies and souls to spiral
with glittering multicolored and textured hormones
to rise with the yeast of longing, as in his avatar of Yahweh, he tested Job,
then watched the suffering and ecstasy blossom.
You found the German girl or
did she find you,
wearing high cheekbones, braids, and pale blue eyes,
and the few extra pleasant pounds of middle age,
carrying also her husband and four children in her martial struts.
Of course you were no young and baggageless swain yourself,
with Betsy whose calculation like the sun’s gravity pulling you back constantly
from travels too far on paths wildly strewn with elderberry blossoms and thistle.
You came to visit your old friend Karl,
in whose Teutonic efficiency you found one of your earlier aesthetics
Karl, whom she nursed in his private Gotterdammerung.
It must have been her hollow cheeks,
or maybe greying blond hair that enchanted her braids, or her desire,
you came to paint them enough, that
pulled the two of you into the secret
that took on a life and aesthetic of its own.
Did you two at one point exclaim
that it was bigger than the both of you?
Over two hundred sketches, tempura and oils of her proved
it was not a spicy one night stand.
In full sun wearing the broad brimmed hat in which you painted Betsy years ago,
loden green felt in the mist of a winter’s trail,
and her pale body naked with the sheets around her knees
Helga slept securely in the nest keeping warm what the two of you would deny
was post orgasmic satisfaction.
Of course denials were as cozy as that feather bed in Karl’s guest bedroom
for all concerned
since everyone always lies about sex.
If the fruit of the truthless tree
is “Lovers”, that oil of her seated nude next to the open window
with sun beams suckling her soft pink nipples
and caressing her pale side
we appreciate that at times untruth can be beauty.
But the deepest dogma of the long hours
of your fermenting infidelity into art
completely misled the caustic critics
who panned her looks as less than classic.
Perhaps they couldn’t forget your father’s cowboys, pulp pirates and illustrations for Lovecraft stories,
Or your crippled Christina confined so young and vulnerable on the smooth shaven yet savage farmhouse lawn,
Or that you didn’t splatter with Jackson
in his last drunken convertible ride.
In art like life, it is more mature to love quietly for a cause
than die gallantly for one.
In spite of Betsy’s hurt and angry words
and clutterings of critics whose wit would not permit
them to stand silent before the monolith
of the myth you and Helga sculpted from pillow talked clichés
we see you did not love her because she was beautiful.
She is beautiful because you loved her.
 
 
Tyson West has published speculative fiction and poetry in free verse, form verse and haiku distilled from his mystical relationship with noxious weeds and magpies in Eastern Washington. He has no plans to quit his day job in real estate. His poetry collection “Home-Canned Forbidden Fruit” is available from Gribble Press.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Michael E. Woods
 
 
WHEN I SAY YOU I MEAN YOU MY LOVE
 
when i say you i mean you my love
as in my partner my father my brother
i mean god is in the you my friend
 
the you who insisted on putting our lips to the jigsaw
the you who cal/led me to tell me my father was dead
the i don’t know how to tell you this
 
the you who opened me with two fingers and a backwoods tongue
the cocaine you who dragged my limp ecstasy pissing myself body to the tree
the titty bitch boy fuck you who still asked me to the bathroom
 
the deep you who held me and didn’t ask why i couldn’t cry on you
the you who played me songs about suicide so i would cry on you
the blu/shed you who tasted like wet dirt
 
the you i could grow into
the you i couldn’t
the not coming home tonight love you
 
the w/hole of you and all of you when i say you
i mean the pimple/scar/let loose handhold you
i mean the mudsick cuddle friend’s couch you
i mean the bedtime fabulation to help the insomnia you
 
you     neckbruise you mud     dauber     you     wheeze you ruddy     carbon monoxide     you deadbody     you warm     love teeth clacking     together you copperhead     you ash     you grubworm you     hardened artery you     dear ones     please all of you / let     you / be this     now/here this / you next to me     and i promise to say yes this time
 
yes you
 
 
Michael E. Woods used to live with a family of raccoons in Missouri. He edits the Columbia Poetry Review and teaches at Columbia College Chicago. He received the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry in 2015 from Vanderbilt University. Recent work appears in The Rising Phoenix Review, The New Territory, and Eclectica Magazine. Forthcoming works can be seen soon in Yes, Poetry, Solidago Journal, Truthdig, and The Nassau Review.
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Mark Young
 
 
HOMERIC RUN
 
When he
scored
the winning
word in the
last moments
 
of the poem,
the meerkats
in the bleachers
stood up &
cheered.
 
 
Mark Young lives in a small town in North Queensland in Australia, & has been publishing poetry for almost sixty years. His most recent books are Ley Lines, from gradient books of Finland, The Chorus of the Sphinxes, from Moria Books in Chicago, & some more strange meteorites, from Meritage & i.e. Press, California / New York.
 
He also has two chapbooks in the Moria Books Locofo Chaps political poetry series — “100 chaps in the first 100 days of the Trump presidency.”
 
Go to List of Poets or Back to Top of Page
 
 
Jim Zola
 
 
LEARNING TO LIVE
 
For years I walked out and heard
rustling in the rhododendron
that blooms each spring and paper-mâchés
the patio with white petals.
 
Yet I’ve never seen wings or nest
or bolt of bird such as one might reason.
Just the flurried sound, a semaphore
of leaves and branch, that could be finch
 
or swallow, but isn’t.
Not coincidence, I’m convinced,
this signal more subtle than lightning
is grammar for my soul,
 
an insistence that I must find
a way to live among the small things
with bones like air and hearts
like small sledge hammers.
 
 
Jim Zola has worked in a warehouse, as a security guard, in a bookstore, as a teacher for Deaf children, as a toy designer for Fisher Price, and currently as a children’s librarian. Published in many journals through the years, his publications include a chapbook — The One Hundred Bones of Weather (Blue Pitcher Press) – and a full length poetry collection — What Glorious Possibilities (Aldrich Press). He currently lives in Greensboro, NC.
 
Back to Top of Page
 
 
 
The Poets
 
 
Adrienne Abramowitz
Roy Adams
Michele Alice
Lindsay B-e
Joanne Bealy
Jon Bennett
Brook Bhagat
William C. Blome
V.L. Bovalino
Jamie Brown
J. Milton Bunch
Giuseppi Martin Buonaiuto
Helen Burke
C. R. Callahan
Jacalyn Carley
Dennis Caswell
Rita Rouvalis Chapman
Brooke Clark
Joan Colby
Ellen Collins
Gail Braune Comorat
Renata Connors
Joe Cottonwood
Neil Creighton
Natalie Crick
Robert Crisp
Juliet Delgado
Darren C. Demaree
Salvatore Difalco
Matthew Dobson
Chris Dungey
Pat Edwards
Patrick Theron Erickson
James Escher
Michael Estabrook
R. Gerry Fabian
Laura Falsetti
Williasm J. Fedigan
Margaret Fieland
Ryan Quinn Flanagan
Cammy Fox
Nova Fox
Meg Freer
Michael Giorgio
Barry Goodinson
John Grey
Gia Grillo
Richard Heby
Robin Helweg-Larsen
Jennifer E. Hudgens
Sara Hughes
Scott Hughes
Heikki Huotari
Vicki Iorio
James Croal Jackson
Kaaren Kitchell
Kara Knickerbocker
Matt LaFreniere
Barbara Lawhorn
Gerald Leonard
Mare Leonard
Joseph Lisowski
Thomas Locicero
Bob MacKenzie
Aidan Maloney
Shannon McConnell
Devon Miller-Duggan
Mark J. Mitchell
Ralph Monday
Alice Morris
Bertram Allan Mullin
Daryl Muranaka
Page Nelson
Joey Nicoletti
Toti O’Brien
David Morgan O’Connor
Sergio A. Ortiz
Steve Passey
Yamini Pathak
Jef Peeples
Anna Polonyi
Stephen Roger Powers
Ken Poyner
Ann Randlette
Ricky Ray
Stephen Regan
Kevin Ridgeway
stephanie roberts
John D. Robinson
Kristen Ruggles
Jeff Santosuosso
Claire Schriefer
Claire Scott
Cathryn Shea
Dan Sicoli
Pete Taylor
David J. Thompson
Susan Thornton
Amanda Tumminaro
C. Derick Varn
Vivian Wagner
Hannah Warren
Anna Weaver
Lenore Weiss
Tyson West
Michael E. Woods
Mark Young
Jim Zola
 
 
Back to Top of Page
 
 

Edited by Roderick Bates

 

RAT’S ASS REVIEW SUMMER ISSUE 2017 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED