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Winter 2018 Issue


 
 

 
 
 
(Cover Art Frog Concerto by Mark Blickley)
 
 
 
Jeff Bagato
 
TRAILING THE BLUES
 
 
He took a folded wad of bills
two inches thick from his pocket,
and peeled off fifty,
fifty, fifty dropped
for a stack of pick-fours,
scratch-offs and megamillions,
hoping for an easy win;
one day he’d hit, then
the blue uniform would be history,
and the sore legs
could be put up
on the coffee table
 
Using a penny,
he rubbed away silver
paint, flicking pinworm
crumbs to the floor
with the back of his hand;
the numbers failed to match,
couldn’t add up this time,
but he’d taken enough
out of this paycheck,
and now he’d have to wait
another two weeks
to hit those numbers
 
The thick black shoes
seemed heavy on the way
up those six stairs to the street;
the flask of whiskey burned
in his jacket pocket;
cold air pushed against the door,
and he had to squint
in the winter sun;
Friday afternoon came on anyway,
and he still had to walk
back to the building,
clock in from lunch,
then start shifting that junk
in the storage closet
just like the boss
had said this morning
 
 
THAT WAS MY FIRST WIFE
 
five o’clock she
was drinking and by seven
her fists were up
in a Joe Louis, and I was taking
shots like I came home
from the war and lived
all those bullets and shells just
for this, sometimes holding
her off with one hand
 
if I were to take a swing at you—
 
cause I was in Golden Gloves,
eliminated in the first
fight by a Filipino my size;
I couldn’t meet
that kind of need
 
Wellesley girls supposed to be
so sweet and finished
out like ladies, and she
was—until five
 
and her arms went
up like this,
and I came home
from the army
 
the army for this
 
 
Devon Balwit
 
 
AN ABECEDARIAN FOR IAN BURUMA,
THE FORMER EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
 
Acquittal isn’t sufficient. The accusations linger.
Believe me—the New Testament rests but lightly on the Old,
condemnation our original language. We do not want to forgive. Give us
destruction and damnation, salted fields, the pillory.
Everyone has opinions banged together like shanty towns,
fished from the slough of the web.
Gauging from The Times,
hashtags incise like Kafka’s penal machine;
It’s never when one is rehabilitated,
joking, too, forbidden, replaced by grimness, a superior
knowing. Pleas for mercy or for Jubilee draw
laughter. No one gets to be anything but perfect. Your
meat, laid on the altar for atonement, goes unburned,
nor will anyone come to your aid. You will wander
outside the city gates like a leper.
Prepare for a life of ghosting, or at best, a
quiet like the deepest solitary cell. The
roll of the accused thickens,
shame swells like a locust-cloud.
The age demands a purge,
ugly, perhaps, but necessary.
Vision narrows to the blade of a guillotine.
We claim to stand on the right side of history,
X-ing out names in granite and toppling statues.
You would do well to step in line.
Zealots are famously intolerant.
 
 
GUILTY
 
I have lost all interest in having a self.
Being a person has always meant getting blamed for it.
Rachel Cusk

 
I take up my rake and hack
at tangle. The weeds break
at the stalk, shielding
deep roots. Dirt cakes
nailbeds, spackles callous,
which later raises dark shrieks
against student notebooks.
I am old to them and filthy.
Every morning, I sniff
for crotch, for gums’ dank
canker, performing with new
vigilance. Once, I guarded
my body’s perimeter
from violence. Now, I fight
erasure, planting myself
to catch the glare
of the klieg. I am guilty
of having gone to riot,
a shapeless bush, a hectic
vine. Why struggle for clarity
when tomorrow threatens
more of the same?
 
 
Jon Bennett
 
 
BUTCH
 
The AIDS ward
at City Hospital
was my dad’s own
“scared straight” program
“But we ain’t going
to tour the jail, Butch,” he said,
“I don’t want you
getting any ideas!”
I was only 12
but already
very flamboyant
and later I managed
to find my way
to the jail
without him.
 
 
COOL WHIP
 
She had platinum blonde hair
and red lipstick
and was at my door
“Hold on!” I said,
and waded through
the 100s of empty
nitrous oxide cartridges,
about the stupidest drug
a person could get hooked on
but at least I was off
everything else
“You’re up,” she said,
a statement with
at least 2 meanings
“Watch your step,” I said,
and let the balloon
I was holding
inflate
As I fumbled with her bra
and other fasteners
she whispered,
“I know you love me,”
and coming from
those red lips
I almost
believed her.
 
 
Ace Boggess
 
 
MAYBE FLOWERS
 
should I bring flowers, a mixed bag of colors, dyed,
baby fingers grasping, mouth, insatiable sexual parts?
should I choose roses—red the generic promise,
yellow the I-don’t-know & white the I-don’t-know-
what-I-don’t-know? how about daisies, lilies, daffodils,
carnations? I feel like giving. I feel like love—
flushed, hopeful. there are days I want to see rain &
days I wish the world would end in flames,
but this day, what I can’t shake is an urge
to address you with offerings: sweets, liquors, stems
bearing artful earthborn faces. should I? or will
lack of money overcome impulsive lack of sense?
inhale their scents—I think them into being, &
your subconscious sniffs from a distance
as if to answer yes, god yes, a welcome gift
on an insignificant afternoon, which
seems like the best kind of afternoon there is.
 
 
Jim Bourey
 
 
STILETTOS
 
Foundation garments strong enough
to hold up the Eiffel Tower.
A satiny black dress slithering
around her body and retro-deco-hose
with seams that trace a path
to promising places.
 
And finest of all,
shiny black
orthopedic stilettos
(Stride-Rite’s best)
a comfortable
– though precarious –
ride for her senior citizen soul.
 
My lady will be time traveling
and Molly’s Tavern will swing tonight.
 
 
BREAKUP
 
Scent of memory, that grass –
not the smoking kind nor newly cut –
but the wormy just rained fall
on your thirteen-year-old face
after being pushed from the seat
of your bike by Carol Carpenter when
you asked her if those
pointed breasts looked the same
when her bra came off kind of grass.
 
Love was shattered
and that sticks forever.
A scent worth the pain.
 
 
Neva Bryan
 
GLOSSOLALIA
 
My sleeping son speaks in tongues.
 
His strange language mystifies me.
I tuck his blanket tight against nightmares
and unknown angels.
 
 
Rachel Burns
 
 
TSUNAMI
 
I count myself lucky to be alive
when the earthquake struck, I was out on a drive.
Halfway up a mountain
tearing along the desert terrain in a hire truck.
Wandering around in a daze all day
phoned my boss
I survived but won’t stay.
He says, Oh yes, you will my girl, what a scoop,
story of a lifetime. I think we’ve hit the big time.
The camera man’s already there,
get fucking filming, and I’ll put you on air.

 
That’s what I did, though I felt rough
sickened by the smell
of the rotten corpses and stuff.
We followed the bereaved
as they grieved
watched them search in vain
in downpours of rain.
They searched the rubble
looking troubled.
Then they would give up
sit down on the
concrete remains
of their broken homes
 
We kept on filming, it was surreal
the boss became bored because it was all too real.
The public grows tired of the body bags
pictures of the residents reduced to rags.
We need hard-hitting stuff.

As if the earthquake wasn’t enough.
Find a white tourist from the British terrain.
We found a family,
who lost their mother
they were waiting in the car,
when the earthquake took her.
We filmed as they wrapped
her western body in a plastic sheet.
 
 
John Byrne
 
 
I MARK THAT “FALSE” THOUGH PENNED BY MIGHTY WILL
(Sonnet 138)
 
“And age in love loves not to have years told.”
I mark that “False” though penned by mighty Will
for there’s been glory in our growing old
and happiness in years that don’t stand still.
 
Entwining for a day may be delight;
entwining for three decades, vastly more
and so I’m proud to ceaselessly recite:
our blissful times improve on those before.
 
Young love’s the cause of undeservéd praise.
I find in it but one redeeming grace
that novices can foresee future days
when joyous repetitions will take place.
 
So Will I will assert you got it wrong
accumulation’s where true bliss is born.
 
 
Nikki Byrnside
 
 
LAST GREAT LOVER
 
I have seen you before.
We both busied our hands with another.
Though the thunderous pulse of
passion was missing, hidden,
I knew you could not resist
my whisper,
the warmth of my breath as
I peered down your shoulder.
 
I was eying you even then
when my obligation
fettered me to another.
Now I am focused on you,
as you lie here,
I anoint your toes with kisses.
Forever starts with the feet.
 
When the heat
rises up your torso,
my lullaby tap-tapping in your chest,
fingers find your calves.
Feel the stiffening in your thighs
weight on your shoulders,
hands round your neck.
 
I simultaneously fill and purge,
spilling intensity,
as you yield to emptiness,
peer into new dimensions.
 
Limits that you have given,
the lines you have drawn,
I push you beyond the scream
you say you can’t transcend,
but then you do, and you endure,
as new boundaries are crossed,
new lines drawn.
 
You swallow my darkness and hunger for more.
I am violent, forceful,
strength that you need
behind the terror—
the certainty
that you are mine,
and this is our time.
 
 
CR Callahan
 
 
THE LITTLE THINGS
 
I dreamed I was a syphilitic dwarf
wearing one of those medieval hooded robes
belted with frayed rope.
It was the onset
and I was panicked and ran to my hovel
to inspect my
self.
I was dirty and smelled of everything sour.
In this room, my robe tucked under my chin
trying to see the canker blossom
past my hooked nose and swollen belly
by a tallow candle placed low on a bench.
I remember fear and a sense of loss
for in this dream I was in demand as a sexual novelty
and up until this point
the dream had been wildly satisfying.
Strange Puritan punishment,
guilt that lingered long after waking
beyond the steaming coffee in a well-lighted kitchen
a faint new burning with the rising sun
I was afraid to see.
 
 
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
 
 
EARLY SEPTEMBER
 
Big summer bugs thud against
the curtainless windows, suicides
for last light after the day
has poured out its bucket of shine.
  
Fireflies lift toward the highest
still-green leaves.
  
Oh Lord of Come and Gone, let me be
stunned by these final days of summer
as the angle of sun changes obscurely
and a breeze blows in, gravid with fall.
 
Let me be capable of feeling
the season’s chill promise.
Let me be like the leaf,
momentary in fire, content to be lost.
 
 
NEST
 
Let us gladly pile up leaves and fall in them.
Let us unpack sheepskin boots
 
weeks before we need them but
be deep in chill before we understand
 
what’s happened to summer.
Let the season be a subtle wound
 
on our skin as it pales and we finish
the last of the fresh basil and begin
 
a marinara with this year’s home-canned tomatoes.
Oh let us be confused by losing an hour
 
and scratched by wool socks
and please let us be more concerned
 
with a warm nest than with how helpless
we will soon be against the cold.
 
 
Rebecca Clifford
 
 
ONE OF THOSE DAYS
 
On going to the loo I notice that
my socks don’t match
my skivvies are inside out
and backwards
 
I wonder what the ER nurses will say
when I finally have that accident
my mother’s been warning me about.
 
 
Michael Coolen
 
 
OH HOW HE LOVED LOVED LOVED YOU
 
he did it because he loved loved loved you
suffered for your sins more than anybody ever ever ever suffered
except for maybe perhaps perchance on the other hand
a million women murdered by misogynist medieval monks
pastoral prickers eradicating crimen exceptum witches
sticking hot needles called pricks
into the anuses and vaginas of shaved naked women
to determine where Satan had entered their bodies
leaving them beheaded on church floors
infants still sucking the breasts of their lifeless mothers
did that guy on a stick suffer worse than having red hot
charcoal shoved down a teenager’s throat
his Muslim body hung upside down in a tree
cock sliced off and shoved in his mouth
vultures feasting on his intestines as he died
worse than thousands of Bosnian women and children
gang-raped to death then hung on barn doors
nails through their hands and feet to honor
Praise Stick Guy! scribbled on the walls
more than the Jewish father forced to dig a mass grave
for his family’s bodies rotting in the sun in a nearby field
his ten-year old son bursting open from gasses
dropping the boy’s putrid remains piece by piece into a grave
aching for the moment his own body could join theirs
 
stick guy got taken down by family and friends
who cleaned his body and oiled it and buried it
soon legions of level-of-suffering-myth-doctors sprouted
spouting industrial strength whoop-di-do
how suffering stick guy loved loved loved you
 
today you won’t find shops with statues for sale of women
spread-eagled on the ground surrounded by a merry band of men
or other victims of his love love love
but there are countless opportunities to acquire
colorful crucifixes-rosaries-scapulars-dead-saint-relics
sold in sacred bookstores next to sacred cash registers
graced by hand-painted multi-colored Talavera ceramic wall crosses
Praise Amazon!
for a small fee you can have sacred par·a·pher·na·lia
blessed by a sacred pe·do·phile
all in the name of that dead·guy·on·a·stick
who preached “love·your·neighbor·as·yourself”
 
 
Joe Cottonwood
 
 
NAKED PLUMBING
 
Kitchen remodel, budget is low
so I build simple and tight.
She teaches nursery, talks slowly.
Loves kids. None of her own, not yet.
In a crappy bathrobe, legs crossed, from a stool
she watches me work, smokes filter tip Camels,
says she can’t quit. Admires my tools.
Asks if I’ll try to fix the shower nozzle,
bright brass she gave hubby as a gift.
It only dribbles.
I try leaning in, wet arms.
Not good enough, she says, get inside,
take a shower, I’ll pay you.

Answers the phone, leaves me alone.
 
Something’s jammed.
I twist the dial, jerk it back and forth
though careful, not too hard
because my hands, they can crush things.
Then I notice she’s back,
drops the robe and steps in.
Let me help, she says.
 
And the nozzle, fixed.
Works on Stream, Pulse, or Mist.
She says Pulse is best.
Never calls me again but next Christmas,
she sends a photo card. In the tidy kitchen,
the new tiles, hubby and baby and her,
all smiles. Yeah, I wonder.
 
 
HALF A VENUS DE MILO
 
Priya so pretty
at first you don’t notice
she’s missing an arm. One sleeve flat,
folded into raincoat pocket.
 
Priya at a party
says You want to ask
so let me just tell you.
It’s a birth defect. I’m defective.

 
Otherwise perfect, you say.
She says How do you know?
Have you counted my kidneys?
My ovaries? Toes?

 
You’re sorry. You turn to go.
Wait, Priya says, I’m missing nothing
except good manners
. Frowning,
she studies you — forehead to feet.
Now your turn. What makes you incomplete?
 
Romance, you might say
but perhaps it is here.
 
She sees in your eyes and warns
Boys, men desire me.
Male instinct to protect,
male desire to fuck a one-armed woman.
Sorry if that’s crude.

 
Priya so pretty
though missing an arm.
How can you tell her
you wish her no harm?
 
 
Terry Culleton
 
 
SPRUCE
 
 A sapling fenced about with chicken wire
stood in a field of milkweed everywhere,
and meadow grass and woodbine, gypsy briar,
wild bamboo. — Someone had taken care
to come from town to stake, as round a grave,
a stinted fence shaped like a battered horn
around the trunk, so that the tree seemed brave
in its confinement, as a unicorn
heroically lamenting bygone magic
might stand contained and drop a silver tear.
But nothing in suburbia is tragic:
the fence fenced out the famished nibbling deer
to give the young tree freedom to apprise
itself of wind and light and bottle flies.
 
 
Batuhan Dedde
 
 
SONG OF THE BUTCHER’S STEEL III
 
I’m an extra in my own life
thanks, God.
I know enough negative words to build a bridge between death and life
enough love to be a plaything between death and life.
I know lots of stories
that tell of men who return from death to life like they’re coming home from work
while the sun goes from life to death like every night it’s leaving home for work.
My paragraphs in out-of-the-way corners
draw the blade of melancholy across the butcher’s steel again and again.
I’m a Joseph cast out even from those wells
where silence is equivalent to blood.
 
translated by Donny Smith from Dayanılmaz Acılar Orkestrası (İstanbul: Altıkırkbeş, 2015)
 
 
Steve Denehan
 
 
HAIR AND SMOKE
 
The hair on my arms, newly white
a sun-bleached preview of old age
I think of my father’s arms
once, carpenters’ arms of bunched sinew
and dense muscle
now, the arms of a boy
whittled away by age
rendered hairless, side effects
from a dozen daily tablets
 
he sucked half a century of smoke into himself
until his lungs revolted
my childhood memories often cloaked in hazy shrouds
yet, I sit here by a pool, sky-watching, lilting toward a dream
when smoke, hidden in warm breezes, finds me
 
I breathe it in and tumble back through time
my father, the butt of a pencil behind his ear
brow pursed in concentration
eyes unblinking, the obligatory cigarette
and that glorious haze
a hammer in his right hand
a ready chisel in his left
and his arms, half as old, twice as young
the hair on them still black
 
 
NEVER TRUST THE WEATHERMAN
 
The weatherman looked me right in the eye
and promised sunshine
yet here I sit, an inside child
looking out through curtains of rain
 
it is grey outside, and inside and
the wind sneers down the chimney
while the radio tells me
Aretha Franklin died today
and then, it all makes sense
 
 
JUST YESTERDAY
 
She lay smiling on the operating table
this, an adventure, like all our others
I held her hand as her smile, suddenly
hidden under the anaesthetic face mask
was found in her eyes
 
with each breath she stepped
further from me
I felt her try to lift her eyelids
each one weighed down by sleepy anvils
I felt her hand empty of her
and let me go
 
waiting in her room I follow cracks in the wall
before I hear the squeaky wheel of her bed and
craning her woozy head backward
“did you hold my hand Dad?”
“yes”
“I knew you would”
 
 
Alyra Far
 
 
COFFEE OUR SAVIOR
 
Disturbing climate news…
Coffee plants don’t flower
when temperatures soar.
 
In a warming world
no flowers means
no coffee beans
to brew steaming cups
of morning joe.
 
Can caffeine lovers
turn the tide
save our globe?
 
Will climate change
deniers join
the cause
drop blind belief
take a jolting
leap of faith at
the Altar of Reason?
 
Oh coffee, coffee, coffee
in the name of
our daily java buzz
pray to God
Jesus will find
Science.
 
 
J. Fisher
 
 
HOAX
 
“show me your soul”
same dereliction, every
last one. I was
already too in love
with the idiots’ dream
to afford that
old war. I believed
poverty was the thru
to greatness. All I got
was thin, hungry
and a new hole
in my old ass.
I left her, curbed
and hustled up
a six and some smoke
to brace me
up against the lie.
 
 
Jean-Luc Fontaine
 
 
MY FIRST KISS AND GEORGE CLOONEY’S
BANK HEIST MASTERPIECE: OCEAN’S ELEVEN
 
It’s right when George Clooney and his crew
barrel straight into the machine-gun spray,
that first Sami leans in for the kiss. Bullets sparkle
on the screen, and my tongue darts around
in her mouth like a hare frightened from his swale.
 
Our faces warm with the unshaven glow
of projector, the gentle undoing of lips, and I blurt,
I’m sorry for being such a sloppy kisser,
knowing that this it: she’ll dump me, then tell
all her friends that I make-out like a dog
 
on dental-anesthetic. On Monday, my classmates
will call me, faucet-boy, drool-fool, mop-
breath,
as I slip through the halls,
and any second now, Sami will jump from her seat
and dive for the exit like Julia Roberts
 
after she triggered the bank’s alarm. But Sami whispers,
I adore you, then wipes the slobber jeweled
upon my upper lip—the orchestra music thrumming
the small bones in my face. Brad Pitt
rains down knuckles on the steering wheel
 
of the getaway car, and I turn to face the audience—
row after row of white planets shiny
in the night sky. I grip Sami’s hand, then rest
my head against her chest, the same way Clooney
plants his ear on a steel safe, then rubs his hands
across the outside as he tries to divine the code.
 
 
PIMPLE
 
Fresh out the shower, and my wife swoops in,
asks if she can squeeze the pimples on my back.
I’d rather stick my face in mulch
than have you pinch at my skin
. My wife grumbles
like a printer with a paper jam, then bribes me
 
with all my favorite things: foam-heavy coffees,
tacos drenched in iguana-green guacamole,
that leopard-print lingerie dangling behind the door.
Erica, I just want to relax, I say as I retreat
into our bedroom like a hermit crab backing
 
into his shell. But as I sit on the stool by the side
of our bed, she creeps behind, strikes
like a kingfisher. Every time you pop my pimples
you make me feel like a chimp in a zoo!
,
I shout as I swing around, but I stop when I see
 
my wife wince—readying herself for the geyser
of frustration frothing inside me. I try to cling
to my anger like a koala to his eucalyptus tree,
but when my wife wraps her vines around me, whispers,
I’m sorry, I just like grooming you, I realize I’m beat.
 
I’m caught in the maw of love, and there’s no place
I rather be. I lower my towel to the ground,
and my wife smiles a big toothy grin, then settles
her hands on my back like a lioness
sinking her claws into a scrumptious hunk of meat.
 
 
Karin L. Frank
 
 
EATING JIM CROW
 
In the local Price Chopper
seeking Thanksgiving fixings,
I’ve ordered a turkey, bought
necks for my Labrador.
 
Side by side, I stand
with an elderly gentleman.
His mixed-mocha hands
work next to my week-old-cream
picking through the same yams,
tasting ripeness and decay
through our fingertips.
 
“Ain’t we become just the shrewdest,”
he chats, “suckin’ that last shred
of good from the turkey.”
He nods toward our respective packages
of necks. “How you fix ‘em?
With them yams? Some greens?”
 
Turkey necks got my tongue
and I can only nod.
 
 
HIBAKUSHI: SURVIVORS OF HIROSHIMA
 
Fear rides the storm clouds.
They burn and smother.
Vapors sour in the atmosphere;
the dirty abrasive wind rises –
our dignity which once clothed us,
rots now on our faces.
Children frown at the sky;
adults avoid mirrors while
a mere few scour honor
from the few potatoes
left to eat.
Fire breathed and purified
the ones who died.
We, the scorched, drag on
but the lumps of ashes left
beside our blown out buildings
persist and erode.
Rain chooses now among the dogs.
 
 
Meg Freer
 
 
A WHEELCHAIR NAMED PRUDENCE
 
In the nursing home, a wheelchair
named Prudence confuses me,
until I realize the label is French:
prudence, “caution”, “take care”,
and I recall my friend named Prudence,
who threw caution to the wind
and flushed her mother’s cigarettes,
took care of hurt plants and creatures,
 
lived with her mother in her old age,
cared for her until it became too much
and Prudence moved her to a nursing home
where she had to learn how to live
with others, like Robert Fulghum’s crayons,
and the woman with her wheelchair
named Prudence must learn to live
in her crayon box of a home on the street
 
where a red metal roof arcs over orange lilies
to yellow pumpkin doorstop, maples dress
in green under the protective blue of sky
to shade lavender where butterflies
see two extra colors we can’t even name,
where a decrepit brown Volvo sits
with empty eye sockets, little bulbs gone
like the empty eyes of those who don’t care.
 
 
Mac Gay
 
 
HUNGER IS A HUGE PROBLEM
 
in this world, but at our house
we know nothing of it,
and that brings what? Guilt,
humility, gratitude, good ole
middle class complacency?
At our house, even the dogs
eat well, especially log-shaped
Abigail, her wide shadow
following me or my wife
around the kitchen, cleaning
bowls, or bird-dogging crumbs
that have somehow precipitated
to linoleum. The sore thumb
of first-world greed is a fat dog.
I love Abby. Would include her
in my prayers, if I said prayers.
Would ask forgiveness for the fat
around her belly, and mine,
would feel compassion and sadness
for the impoverished of the world
had that rerun of Jerry Seinfeld not
been on, during which I fell asleep.
 
 
Alison Gerhard
 
 
DUST TO DUSTING
 
You cannot outrun death by dusting
(well-kept steel still takes to rusting),
but I shall pass through lands unseen
with shelves, if not my conscious clean.
And should Peter all my sins announce
at least he’ll say,
“She kept her house.”
 
 
SHOPPING MALL ELEGIES
 
You can hear the asphalt dying if you listen closely enough.
At 9pm the car engines are death rattles.
The parking lot heaves,
its skin still hot to the touch.
 
They asked us more politely than expected to leave,
to end our reign over the food courts-
our shoes now too big to fit on the quarter-operated carousel,
our soles in stained stilettos still learning to walk.
 
We sprawl instead on truck-bed thrones
to rule a white-striped graveyard,
all arms and legs and bones
with nowhere to go.
 
He sits atop the cab and lifts a cigarette, an incense offering.
Behind him the spark finds its echo in the cop cars,
shining red and blue relief through mohawk spikes-
a crown for the nightfall kingdoms that will never remember their sovereigns
 
once we are gone.
 
 
THE LITTLE MERMAID USED TO DANCE…
 
I understand better the way of the waves
To trade movement for pain like there’s nothing to say
 
I traded my legs for a cane made of scales
I still hear the music
I won’t speak of tails
 
 
TIDAL
 
You don’t feel like sin
moving within me,
 
and I’ve seen sin.
I’ve felt oil-slick touches and bad decisions,
known gentleness like soft waves breaking on beaches
the sand worn down and tired nonetheless.
 
I’ve said blessings with your name on my lips
like quiet prayers moving within me,
like nights without ceasing
pushing and pulling in moon-struck tides
and you don’t feel like sin.
 
We’ve been saved by the waters long enough.
Enough time to fall under,
to move within,
to sink in sin,
with nights enough to dream
that we’re in too deep-
 
To dream we never crest
and never break.
 
 
HOTELS AND THE HIGHLINE
 
You kiss the backs of my knees with a tenderness
that joints do not deserve.
You bend with me and I might break
but we’ll arc back together.
A little crooked never hurt anyone
anyways.
 
You press ticks to the kisses in the hitches in my breath
two spastics sleeping through twitches.
 
We walk in white-walled gardens now holding three hands
You me my cane you me my pain
You me and gardens with glass elevators.
 
 
William Gillespie
 
 
THE NAME OF THIS POEM IS DEAR FRANK DON’T JUMP COME DOWN OFF THE LEDGE. IT IS A POEM ABOUT FRANK.
 
Frank, it’s not your fault, you can’t help it
Frank, you didn’t know he was married
The tequila didn’t seem like it would be that strong
Somebody else would have sold those nuclear weapons schematics to the Taliban
And that enriched uranium: who knew?
Frank, a lot of men have that same problem
And sure size matters but so does other stuff
Frank, you had no way of knowing that guy was the real Devil
And who, Frank, truly knows the value of men’s souls?
You didn’t know kidnapping was illegal and you
Never believed in condescending to children or making exceptions for them
Plus it wasn’t the worst poem ever written
Frank, the newspapers always exaggerate, and heinous, bloodless monster—
That’s just how they move units. Same deal with twisted, pervy, insidious
Inhuman
. What does that even mean?
Come on Frank. Get down.
You’re being a total asshole, you know?
 
This is just like you.
 
 
John Grey
 
 
A MARRIED MAN LAMENTS
 
Does leading an ordinary life
disqualify me from romance?
Can Don Juan co-exist with a vacuum cleaner
scuffing up the dirt beneath my feet
or the barrels of trash I roll out to the sidewalk?
 
My wife is in the kitchen, baking.
Her hair’s tied back to keep the strands
from falling in her face.
But isn’t that where those strands belong?
I can’t comment for the moment.
A tap is dripping.
 
I sometimes go in fruitless search
of the young man
who drew hearts in dust
on car windows,
poked love notes under doors,
strummed his guitar and serenaded.
Does anybody serenade anymore?
Does ProTools even have that as an option?
 
Back then, it was all about the getting.
And having got, what’s Romeo to do?
Candle-lit dinners celebrate anniversaries,
they don’t mask them.
As the last drop of champagne is drained,
the bill arrives and out comes the credit card.
Paper and plastic are the real tryst here.
 
I have to tell myself that we have something deeper
than breathless kisses and passionate hugs.
Let me add that to today’s chores.
 
 
Robin Helweg-Larsen
 
 
ATAVISTIC
 
Just past the new development’s array,
beyond the parking lot, the flowers, the fence,
the land becomes uneven, falls away
into an area of no pretense,
a bulldozed pile of rocks, some weeds, a bog.
Here are drawn children and eccentrics both,
beyond the ordered asphalt, lineal law,
to nature lurking in the undergrowth,
tiny wild flowers, perhaps a snake, a frog,
drawn by our lower brain of hunter, ape,
where food is found or killed and eaten raw,
life is survival, and sex may mean rape.
 
 
LOVE POETRY
 
 
All the love expressed in poems overtly
seems so pure they can be taught in schools,
yet reading lives of all these divine fools
you realise that the impulses
that drove them to express themselves in verse
include love that repulses
(differing by era), and was forbidden:
incest, same sex, underage, interracial,
interfaith, cross-generational,
BDSM – even a pet, a dog.
Scandalous, and kept hidden,
at worst horrific and at best uncouth –
yet all identity is just a fog
of “You, my love”, expressed covertly.
And kids in school are never taught the truth.
 
 
ROSE
 
Then Rose arose:
her rosebud mouth – her eyes like roses –
breasts: budding roses –
below, an opening rose she won’t disclose –
blushing rose to her toes.
 
 
Hartley Hutchinson
 
 
KARÁNSEBES
 
I catch myself chewing
on the inside of my cheek
again. It’s a bad habit. I think
about oral cancer because
the dentist told me I should. Now
I think about it all the time. It keeps me
up at night: canker sore-like
wounds, oyster-grey in the centre and
raw meat-red around the edges.
I still can’t stop myself from
chewing. It’s always harmless
at first: an introspective nibble.
By the end of the day,
my cheeks have been through
a rusted cheese grater and
my sore jaw clicks. Sometimes
I chew the taste buds off
my tongue as well, or
chew the dead skin off
my flaking lips. My mouth fights
itself. Continuous trauma to
mouth tissues can lead to
mutant cell growth. Speckled patches,
sore throat, throbbing ears, unexplained
bleeding.
I can taste blood and
it’s like licking body-hot
sheet iron. I take a shot of vodka,
internalize the sting.
Cancer. Chew on that.
 
 
Derek Kannemeyer
 
 
WILD GARLIC
 
What I remember most
about Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who died last year,
April 1, 2017, is a road trip to Charlottesville to hear him read—
with our chatter in Cap’s car about styles of literature—
and the hall so full, and how he played to it—
all flood-roll of Russian phonemes, and ocean growl of a voice.
One might have drowned in it. One was tempted to.
There was a Selected Poems I read through afterward, to rehear its furor,
but instead, deliberately, it was the quieter, earlier work
he had turned back to, of Siberia, and the fine, wise slowness
of Russian nature: “my hurry has become pitiable in the face of you.”
He grieved for Blok, the poet, dead a decade before his birth,
but “what I remember are not the verses of his poetry,
but a carriage, and a bridge, and the Neva…and something terrible
about the twist of his long-fingered, wax-pale hands.”
And he spoke of loneliness—the loneliness of lost love, he said,
but we felt the tincture of all loss in it—as when he wrote of his dog,
“my splendid dog…what a pity it is that you don’t drink.”
Because in the end, how intimate a haunt the heart is!
Though our world may seem to widen till it leaves us grasping.
Though we may go scrabbling after it into a stridency, into a falseness.
So that, stridently, a Brodsky will resign from his American Academy
once it admits us, decrying our dissidence as tame—
mere government-stamped sonorities—our rabble roar as posturing…
But the hymn of us, once, was as simple and as slow as honey.
Our home town’s name meant “Winter.” As boys,
we learned to drag the boat, like men, and use our axe.
And we smeared our bread with wild garlic.
 
 
MY FATHER TURNS 84
 
“I’m not going to make old bones.”
My father, once or twice a year since his mid-fifties
 
He’s very drunk, slumped on his back
across from me as if fallen on this armchair
like a floor. It’s his birthday, and the whole
tribe’s here, why not be? He’s too blithely
trashed to know he just messed like a baby
over himself and the guest bathroom. “I may
 
not be around,” he’s proclaiming, as he has for years,
off and on, on other birthdays he’s been drunk,
“this time next year. So I wanted to tell you that I
love you, Derek. And how proud I am we took the risk
we did—because it was terrifying, you know, to flee
South Africa, and start over here, with nothing.”
 
“Mmmh,” I say. Which is to say We’re grateful,
and I’m embarrassed. Which is to say, in as
warm and non-committal a one word as possible,
Go on! Please stop! I’ve missed you!
“You see,” he says (his gaze, though, so lolled
and hooded with the weight of an impending sleep
 
there can’t be much but it he sees), “I’m proud of our
three children, and what you’ve made of yourselves…
You see,” he says, “it was about labels…
I want you to write me something about labels, Derek—
the constraints of labels… Because I want you never
to let any of them,” he manages, “tell you who you are,”
 
he says, escaping from me then, sending back out of
the dark, in his rich, clear Coloured schoolmaster voice,
his preacher’s kid voice, this homily. This proud,
wrecked, sweet, drunk other of a man, my father.
 
 
NIGGER
 
31% Northwestern Europe, 13% South China Sea, 12% Southern India, 9% Northern India, 7% Western Africa, 6% Eastern Europe, 6% West Mediterranean, 3% Southern Africa, 3% Northern Africa, 3% Eastern Africa, 2% Southwest Asia/Persian Gulf, 2% Central Africa, 2% Melanesia/Australia
 
My regional ancestry, according to Geno 2.0 Next Generation

 
Because I’m of the Rorschach race, and mostly those who need to place me
can’t, or might place me almost anywhere, and because for too long I could
barely place myself, I realize, now, that sometimes I found comfort
in the jeer of nigger—a part of me liked being called it.
 
In London, in the decades when London was awkwardly changing its color,
we wogs all looked alike, and any of us might hear it, spat out the way
dogs bark, as if astonished by the rudeness of you—look!—
a stranger!—walking right among them!
 
Here, in the Melting Pot, I’ve lost the right to it; sure, I’ve a claim
on all of its shades of meaning, but it isn’t a word for slightness,
and fetching my dusty title from the attic gets me looked at.
 
I put it aside, then; almost with regret.
 
Regret not for (of course) the loathing or contempt with which I had it
said to me, but for something diminished in the loveliness of dusk;
with its perfumes of two Old Countries darkly dear to me;
and for the small, lost, tribal pleasure of a name.
 
 
Mickey Kulp
 
 
COINCIDENCE
 
There are entirely too many coincidences for my liking.
I get a supernatural shiver when I perceive the lifted
edge of a totally connected universe.
 
Today I’m driving down a major highway and I see
a pillow on the side of the road. Was someone moving out?
(home to dorm, apartment to house, married to single)
No big deal.  But why did it grab my attention?  What was so
special about some random debris on the shoulder?
 
Later, I’m stopped by the school bus.  Today is the first day of
school, and young parents are taking pictures and waving as
their priceless beloved boards for the first time.
 
It is taking forever, so I have plenty of time to observe all that
is going on and remember my time in their shoes.
 
I notice a father who seems too young to have a school kid
(Did I just say that?  God, I sound old.)
back away from the knot of smiling mothers.  He steps toward
the bushes and wipes his eyes.
 
He has been weeping.  Is it for the anxiety of letting his baby go
into the cruel world, or is it the first keen awareness of the grains
left in his hourglass?
 
Today is the beginning:
the first beginning for some,
the same old beginning for others.
 
I get to my office and check my email.
Someone has died.
She was a teacher, a mother.
Shit.
I stare for a minute at nothing.
 
The edge of the universe seems to drift up like the onionskin page
of an old bible, and I see today with new eyes.
 
The discarded pillow.  Leaving. Moving out.
The weeping parent.  The child leaving on the first day of school.
The teacher leaving on the first day of school.
 
There is no such thing as coincidence in this world or the next.
If you feel a shiver, know that it was intentional.
 
 
TAKEOFF
 
I began to understand
when I joined a few others
one night to feed the homeless
down near the city prison.
 
We parked in a weedy lot
with old busted black asphalt
and train tracks along the back.
 
Sometimes the taller weeds would
move as the rats slinked through to
begin the furtive nightly
transactions among their kind.
 
I brought paperbacks in a
box to give away, spreading
them on an ancient Army
blanket under the blueish
light of a buzzing street lamp.
 
I was gratified to see
the ragged guys and ladies –
some of whom were, technically,
also guys – take an interest.
 
“Is this one here any good?”
“I like nonfiction the best.”
“They made a movie from this.”
 
When I had begun packing
the books at home, I doubted
anyone would waste precious
space in their backpack or cart.
 
Were books a frivolous waste
of space, a luxury in
which fine suburban people
could indulge without weighing
it against the cost of food?
 
But, happily, I was wrong.
 
“Do you have any school books?
I need to learn some more things.
I just got out yesterday.”
He hitched a thumb toward the jail.
 
I gave him a thesaurus.
“This will tell you many ways
to say or write what you want.”
 
He flipped the pages, staring
intently under the cone
of humming mercury light.
Then he squinted – I bet he
needed glasses – and he smiled.
He was missing a front tooth.
 
“Beginning… birth, creation.”
He nodded, scowling, stumbling
along “inauguration.”
 
This might have embarrassed him
so he read on silently,
his mouth moving a little,
his face scowling, then resting,
then smiling as he consumed
each almost-forgotten word.
 
He looked at me and tapped the
cover.  “Takeoff.”  He nodded,
patting his chest with the book.
“Take…off.  That’s it! Yep, that’s it!”
 
He winked and smiled with all his
face; a different kind of smile.
I could imagine him now
as a boy.  I began to
see him maybe as his mom
used to see him.  Before all
of his troubles got started.
 
“I’m gonna take…off,” he said
dramatically, waving the
paperback like a preacher
who just laid down the Word of
bright mercy on his lost flock.
 
He launched into the darkness,
his finger marking the page.
 
 
Kamryn Kurtzner
 
 
ATTEMPT AT AMERICAN
 
I’m making
the tuna casserole tonight
with the white sauce
 that you need to watch
because if it’s not a pure white
it’s not right
 
and you’ll have to settle
    Nonna never did
in life
in love
especially her kitchen
 
Carmella
she stole a piece of our Italy
 and dressed it down in cans of fish
cioppino melts on the tongue
but casserole
whispers us a word closer to American
she’d never forgive herself
if the sauce wasn’t real
our sauces are always real
    a farina’s sauce
is her signature
 
Mama added cheese to the top
because we love salt
and tonight
 i’m adding tomatoes
for my california girl
  it’s mine and i bought real
parmesan just for this
 
 
The casserole in question (photo by the poet)
 

 
 
Stevie Lamblin
 
 
(from the Hoetry collection)
 
FANCY FEAST
 
Slippy drippy grip-me slide
now is wet what once was dry
Stretchy pet-me turbo jet
shower me in feline sweat
 
ELMER’S
 
When pussy 1 meets pussy 2 and silkiness ensues
the pleasure centers of my brain don’t quite know what to do
I always loved the feeling of such width and girth inside
That is, until I gave the feel of tiny hands a try
When finger 1 meets finger 2 and silkiness ensues
the muscles in my legs convulse until I lady glue
 
 
Marie C. Lecrivain
 
 
WHY DAVID CARRADINE
WAS A KARMIC MASOCHIST
 
You can first spot it
in the film Boxcar Bertha;
that moment, as Union Bob,
when he’s crucified
to the door of the train,
his piercing screams
bordered on ecstacy.
 
In every episode of Kung Fu,
he’s tied up (and down),
put in cuffs and chains,
and hung from the rafters
like a Thanksgiving turkey
in a farmer’s barn.
 
It was in the way
he held himself close,
like a wonderful, terrible secret.
 
It was written in the marks
on his neck when police found
him bound to a travel hanger
in a hotel closet, his pupils
black, blind, and stilled
from the final satiation
la grande mort brings.
 
 
Michael H. Levin
 
IN THE CROOK OF HIS ARM
 
I’m held, straddling his lanky thigh,
wrapped in a double-breasted coat
and sweater that enlarge
my toddler frame.
We’re on a bench, outside. He wears
a regulation tie,
the khaki G.I. shirt that
still hangs in my back-of-closet
and my mind, too fragile now
to take down or to wear. It seems
I’ve just been jounced on his big knee:
my breathless glance hints
recent glee. Remembered clip-clops
can’t be traced to this March scene.
They rise instead from hours
I bounced my own small sons,
blurred imprints from a different time.
 
Why does this picture
move me so? Perhaps it’s his
enchanted gaze, the smile
of one who seldom smiled in
later days. Perhaps it’s (looking back)
how young he seems: broad face aligned
precisely with my tiny shoulder-edge;
the tendoned hand that steadies me,
his red-gold hair slicked sideways
from a part I don’t recall. There are
no wrinkles here; no chasms carved
by worry or despair. No slow
retreat beneath the pressures
of disease and fear. I want to
twist round and return his grin
and state at last his many gifts
that went unsaid, and say that no one
 
is to blame for afterwards;
and — once more sheltered from the
universe — to nestle in.
 
 
MA|DE
 
VERTICAL LOGIC AT THE CROSSROADS OF THE WORLD
 
When my French exit meets your l’esprit de l’escalier,
a door is always left open between us.
Whose feet will move through that gaping mouth first?
I’m done with doubt but
you will still always doubt that;
so I hope for you to call me back
and you wait for the return of my goodbye.
The first time was in the middle of a thunderstorm.
There was a party, so I forgive you, I guess,
for letting me wreck my velvet in the rain,
for the fact that when I left,
only my wet shoes had anything to say.
There was no turning back. Our love was
caught hiding inside a kiss blown south.
I waved, dismissive; let it wait
for some other scavenger’s craw.
Liar, illusive contortionist — those
fireflies don’t spark new conversations.
I should have taken you to stand under flinty stars.
You should have forked a socket into my mouth.
 
 
Bob MacKenzie
 
 
I would sit with you on a park bench
early evening rain whispering to us
sheltered under just one umbrella
loving each other without saying
 
I would hold you close in the rain
loving you quietly and completely
as though this bench were all time
and all eternity were ours to share
 
I would love you in the rain as always
I have loved you in sunshine or shadows
my heart and soul become yours alone
you and I forever together in the rain
 
 
DS Maolalai
 
 
IT MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE & I LOOK AT MY FEET A LOT
 
I always forget
how young u are
when I see u
chatting with ur friends –
& it makes me uncomfortable
& I look at my feet a lot
& put my hands in my pockets
while u talk to them in chinese
and do those sexy
high laughs
that 18 y/o chinese girls do
and I fiddle with receipts in my pockets
& old lighters that don’t work anymore
& then worry I look like I’m playing with myself
& later on u tell me
what the 2 of u were talking about
& what u want me to know
about what they said about me
& normally its just talk
about college
& jokes about how tall I am
but I do notice,
u kno,
when they look at me
all the way up
even though I amn’t saying much
because it’s weird
to interrupt in english
when ur talking in chinese
to ask about the weather
especially since u arent talking about the weather
or anything
when ur talking in chinese,
ur talking in chinese
about me
& probably
about how uncomfortable I’m looking
while I’m being awkward
looking at my feet
around ur 18 y/o
chinese friends.
 
 
ALINA AND THAT GUY SHE’S SEEING
 
he says he’s in his 40s,
lined into his 60s,
says he paints a little
and tries to write plays.
mostly I think
he drugs, drinks, jerks off
and meths
until hes blinking still awake 2 or 3 days later.
he dresses in scarfs and white shirts and button suits like an artist,
reads books and finnegans wake to people passing in the park, says he used to be a doctor,
used to be mad, used to have a car and a wife
with a sunroof and windows that he’d drive open and fast
and all over the country,
lives above an icecream shop in a one bedroom apartment,
has a broken nose,
broken eyes,
broken
boring
repeated ideas.
 
and alina?
shes like 20 or so;
very cute, very eyes,
very fairy blue hair always up like electric,
wears two coats at a time and makes friends somehow with everyone,
only ever got with him because she knew he could get meth
but shes not a meth head yet; no, she’s an artist too,
says shes an artist,
says shes going to be something maybe
but goes 2 or 3 days sometimes without being anything but fucked
and getting coffee and talking
and telling people about her starsign
and deeply kissing them in the park
when they tell her they read books.
 
and I don’t know,
I got to know her a bit,
and then him too,
an offer of a cigarette and listening to her talk
and before I even knew it we were fucking in my shower
while her girlfriend read books
and drew pictures on my bed
a little shy and a little
not very comfortable with sex.
this was a friday night and the weekend
mostly went on going that way;
she going out and I
getting some sleep,
and she coming back whenever she wanted
something in between her legs
and it was good
so good
one of best weekend I’ve had,
best sex in ages,
best talking – she talked like stars,
talked about stars,
and then it was over
 
because I had work monday morning
and she didn’t get
why I wouldn’t be around
and wouldn’t be fucking her
and wouldn’t have time to do anything at night but sleep
and she I guess went back to him
for some fucking
and the meth,
this guy,
40 years old
who used to be friends with her father,
and now sometimes in the market I see them,
a little strung out maybe
but she still pretty
at 21,
 
and I say hi,
smoke a cigarette with them,
get hit for a fiver
and pretend it doesn’t bother me.
 
 
Jeremy Nathan Marks
 
LADY LUSTITIA (IT TURNS OUT)
 
-for Aretha Franklin & Angela Davis
 
It turns out that I should read everything into music-
 
That piano intro into Think . . .
it’s just the footfalls of four youths
an afternoon before they were shot down
in the Algiers Motel in the hometown of
 
The Queen of Soul.
 
Those rising horns in Sweet Sweet Baby . . .
three hundred and fifty years of tidal Mississippi
rising to raise a gin fan and Huck’s raft
plus the flotsam rope they cut for some boys from Scottsboro
 
All thrown off a Tallahatchie Bridge to go down to the Gulf.
 
Let it all wash out among the hulls
of sunken ships and blown well heads spewing
the blackest crude onto those white sands
of a Riviera in Mississippi where they wouldn’t serve
 
The Queen of Soul.
 
The backbeat to The Weight . . .
well, shit . . .
It turns out that the weight itself was something
some Canadian of Mohawk blood
channelled like another black man felt the Wabash Cannonball
thumping through his pulmonary until he just had to become
 
A Pullman Porter.
A communist.
One among countless standing with patches
behind a hammer and a hoe.
 
All of them
and how many women
how many?
now soundtracking the debutante balls
on countless new plantations
from Oakland in Michigan
to Sunflower County
and the precincts of starvation wage
trash collectors in Shelby
that’s Memphis, baby
 
Rock steady.
 
The Queen was there,
is there,
must always be where mourners
and eye-of-the-needle transponders
move like Miss Angela herself
through the halls of blind Lady Lustitia;
how long she gon’ wait?
 
You listening?
The Queen ain’t done preaching.
 
 
Thomas M. McDade
 
 
OPORTO, PORTUGAL, 1976
 
Is the peg legged fellow I spot
from a vintage trolley window
an actor portraying Ahab or Silver?
He’s staring at the stubborn
beak of a sunken harbor ship.
I exit near a yin and yang wall:
Elvis and Hitler graffiti.
Nearby St. Francis Church
connects to a bank.
By a barely flowing
fountain a flea market
a sombrero sporting barker
captures and leads me
to a shoe stand.
Its sign warning
of a Looking and Buying Price.
A tavern shill who won’t
take answer no shuffles
me into a room where movie posters:
Quo Vadis, Guns of Navarone
are bordered by red and green
lights he crafted himself
to recall the ship that sailed
his father to America.
Rushed through a curtain of flies
a bartender greets me.
He’s a Blackbeard twin.
The owner graciously slides
a chair out from a table.
I rush to the street
drop coins in a beggar
woman’s basket.
Just swift eye-to-eye,
a cork is where her nose
should be.
I consider the ease of joy
and the raw theft of it.
Men fish near a pipe
spewing sewage
into the Douro.
Children float on tubes
not one waving
a Jolly Roger.
 
 
Brandy McKenzie
 
 
ALL THE THINGS I NEVER DID FOR YOU,
AND ALL THE THINGS I NEVER MEANT TO DO
 
Every day, I mean to do more than I have.
Every day, I start a sentence and never
 
I mean, you are somewhere, right?
The anonymous night-lit city rolling
 
across the screen. I guess one of those
is yours & I feel like I’ve tossed
 
handfuls of change into a black stream.
Glints and rumors. Someone says
 
they’ve heard you speak. You stole all
my best stories. Here, there’s a new
 
path; here, there’s a new man.
I’m so lonely in this town. Most
 
of the people I know and love are
here. But let’s get back to those.
 
These things I mean to do hang over me.
These words set deep on my tongue
 
and unspoken, waiting to find you.
I can listen to the traffic and the
 
neighbors’ conversations. I can see
the echoes of your pubescent longing,
 
girl, your hair walks past me as I lead
my new lover to a festival of color, air, and fire.
 
 
MOVING ON
 
I’m tired & scattered& look back too often.
I hear footsteps; I imagine the memory
of green grass and violets scratching my feet.
 
I hear voices of people who loved me,
feel their hot breath in my ear.
 
I bear scars on my knuckles, flesh torn
on bricks lifting cities I used to know.
In my knee there is asphalt, in the other, gravel.
 
When I fell as a child, wounds open and closed
like flowers, trapping places like pollen within.
 
I hear you talking to me. I hear you praying
elsewhere. I hear the love you give each other
in the night, the day, the morning.
I hear your screams of pleasure and terror.
 
The dirt on my shoes is yours. They were new
the first time they walked in your house.
 
Like dogs, we know these things. Like beasts,
we try not to mourn them. My body
works in pieces. Some move forward, some back.
 
 
Robert Minicucci
 
 
86
 
He had the answer ready
to the question asked.
 
He slides out of the MRI machine.
Two women peer down, looking gravely concerned.
“How old are you?” they ask.
“86,” he says.
 
They pause.
He waits at the other end of the pause for grave news.
“Why do you look as young as you do?”
 
“My wife,” he says. No hesitation.
 
Now in the kitchen,
he takes her hand, still calls her kid.
She knows and treats him no differently.
 
They just want it to be as before,
before the cancer began eating him.
 
 
Alice Morris
 
 
CUTTING WITH A THIN WIRE
 
Tess works at the cheese counter.
In the backroom, her boss has her slice off fuzzy molds that grow
on expired cheeses.
Then she rewraps, retags, returns
this cheese to the cool case.
 
Tess was recently rear-ended as she slowed for a yellow light.
She was so “shook” she looked into the rear-view mirror to see
if she was still alive.
 
She was young, so the cop said the accident was her fault.
Tess won the case in court.
She’s never been to court about illegal cheese recycling.
Neither has her boss.
 
Once, Tess read–
 
Everything sliced thin enough is transparent.
 
Tess thinks about this as she uses the thin wire
to cut mold from cheese, as she cuts some of the old cheese
into small artistic sculptures
that she sells to appreciative customers.
 
Tess wonders though, how thin is she willing to slice
her conscience for a boss?
 
Tess needs a new used car.
 
 
John C. Morrison
 
 
LIKE INDUSTRY
 
Don’t be pouty
because I’ve given up on me.
You go on and see
the queen. Wear a hat.
Kiss her royal.
 
And I’ve turned
you away like a free
table saw. Who leaves
a free table saw and gas grill
 
at the curb with Take Me!
scrawled for a sign? Someone
missing a finger, someone
who can’t stand how wood
screams. If we want another clue
we’ll need bank records
 
and a forensic analysis.
Highly specialized.
Dried blood or barbecue sauce.
I know a thirteen year old
who uses a home kit.
Also collects opossum
skeletons. Finds a kill
 
the side of the road, buries
beneath the rhododendron
and digs up after seventeen
months. Cleans each bone
with mercuric acid. And while
odd, he’s good with foul
odors and patience
and at least one other
high virtue in decline.
 
 
 Robert Nisbet
 
 
BALM
 
We were kids, some five years short
of being blokes. We’d cycle to Broad Haven,
ride out through banks of grasses,
seeding, alive with sun and insects.
Then on to the beach, the salt air, seaweed.
 
On winter Saturdays, we’d watch Superman
at the cinema club. We’d read The Beano.
Later, a little older, look at the nudes
in the barber shop mags. But with springtime,
Saturdays were the beach again, the cycling
past hedges laden with mayflower
and the coming summer. It was a balm.
(Girls, and the fact of girls, plagued us just then.)
 
Having sluiced through shoreline waves,
we’d sit, in warm moist air, by the rock pools,
by the sight and touch of plant life,
the fronds and caves of tiny animals.
 
Cycling home, we never talked of this at all.
 
 
Mindy Ohringer
 
 
SOME GIRLS ON SWINGS
 
Ride the rollercoaster of a secret life
A boyfriend! A boyfriend!
days spent plump with love
a besotted cat has swallowed her canary.
 
He emails me.
He emails me not.
He emails me.
He emails me not.
 
The days are dull, the nights are hell
I stomp across suburban tundra.
gloved fingertips grasping
suspended metal chains.
 
Frozen breaths count to one hundred
toes pointed, swinging skyward
chilled limbs expand and contract
abdomen flattened, calories burnt into nothingness.
 
I try not to know
what I already know.
There’s a trail of bread crumbs in the snow,
should he wish to follow.
 
 
ART DECO LOVE
 
We do what we know how to do
so we can stay together.
Miami palms shade melted passion.
Marital Deep State endures.
 
Languid mid-life innocent
wrapped in periwinkle summer sheets
beautiful, helpless, mine.
His mother died.
I must act responsibly.
 
 
BEHIND TWO DOORS
 
Into this hapless cauldron,
I poured yearnings diced and sliced
Desire stirs.
Lace curtains lowered – no prying eyes for private revelation.
Lurking behind green and red doors
I am Lady and Tiger.
 
There’s burnt sage, sprinkled turmeric, sifted flax seed, strewn petals of Knockout Rose,
Myrrh and Frankincense of thrice-starred, twice-promised Bethlehem,
Lies leavened with Jean Nate bubbles and atomized Chanel No. 5
This Blue Hour of Paris,
a gloaming, a time to pose…
Doorbell salutation summons dissolution.
 
Who wove fragrant lies into windblown hair?
Who whispered truths between legs gently spread?
Your promise echoed through dusty linoleum corridors.
Your oil, anointed skin, cerebellum, and soul
I wait impatiently behind green and red doors
Return! Return! Before…Before I am too late.
 
 
Marc Olmsted 
 
WORSE TEETH
(ANIMALS DIDN’T)
 
My brother stopped brushing his teeth
because animals didn’t
renting that in-law off Ventura Blvd. 1966
He looked like Che but with worse teeth
Messiah-haired a muscular rock drummer
til the beer took over his body –
when he vomited blood
I quit drinking
 
 
Erik Lloyd Olson
 
 
UNDERGROUND
 
As was his custom, Samuel Bernat,
face pale and rigid like a clockless dial,
dressed in a gray suit and a bowler hat,
having to take the C Line north, saw at
the gaping terminal’s dim center isle
a man in a gray suit and bowler hat
whose pale face matched the station’s eye-white tile;
meanwhile, across the tracks from the turnstile
a man in a gray suit and hat, who sat,
gazed dumbly down the stairs, where from an aisle
a man in a gray suit and bowler hat
gazed up, whose face was that of Samuel Bernat.
 
 
Jennie E. Owen
 
 
THE BABY FACED POETS
 
I’ve missed my chance
with the baby faced poets. Too soft
these days, to fit either hip to hip or square. Too late
to be the bright new voice of verse
(or even worse, a second-hand shady one)
 
I’ve missed my chance
as a baby faced poet. Too old
to fuck and bugger my punctuation on stage, to straddle
enjambments and rebirth old boyfriends.
 
Too old to watch them, now middle aged, sliver, wet and steaming
into the orchestra pit. Too tired
to mock their cock mottled lies.
 
I’ve lost my currency, between the lines;
but still try to attract charity
in the tone of a metaphor. A raised penciled eyebrow
a shift in tempo, all too fast for me to follow.
 
I’ve missed my chance
With the baby faced poets.
I creak and rustle, try to hustle,
but remain too old for them to handle.
Too saggy to snap back a line-break.
Too authentic to be real.
 
 
Kenneth Pobo
 
 
MY LIFE
 
This morning after I visit with the crinum lily that took five years to finally bloom, I go inside and reconsider my life. Hungry cats come by. White growth has spoiled the bread. Who is writing my life?
 
My friend Bailey says Shakespeare wrote everyone’s life. A heady task! How do we know that Shakes even wrote his own life? It’s hard pleasing kings and queens, hard pleasing a goldfish in a bowl. Hank Williams was, by all reports, heterosexual. He didn’t write my life despite some parallels. Maybe “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” When I was young, I thought maybe Sylvia Plath wrote my life. Or Poe. Or Tommy James and the Shondells. Or Mary Tyler Moore, especially the episode where Chuckles The Clown dies. No,
 
I guess I’m the only one writing my life. It needs revision. First thought, best thought? My first thoughts often get me pulled over. I write my life. With invisible ink.
 
 
Phill Provance
 
 
THE POET AS THE SEA
(At the Kursaal by Southend Pier)
 
How nice would it be to be
the sea when you first take a
dip in spring. Sploshing full of
watery thoughts, I’d feel you
 
plunge in,
then race my current towards the
beach, to rinse you in warm tides,
the whishing seagulls drifting in
in languid, long, low dives.
 
Of course,
what modesty exists between
a swimmer and the sea? Amidst
the sunlight’s tickling gleam, I
couldn’t help myself
 
but stream
into your two-piece top and slish
along your belly, hips and thighs
until, at last, I’d splash into
your nostrils, mouth and eyes.
 
 
SNAPCHAT TRIOLET
 
They finally tore down the house on West Church
where all the kids used to get stoned and get plastered.
After the sheriff performed a tax search,
 
they finally tore down the house. On West Church
all you see by the overgrown birch
are scaly tar shingles on one rotted rafter.
 
Now that they’ve torn down the house on West Church
where do we go to get stoned and get plastered?
 
 
HARD KNOCKS
 
Wrapped in a coat, by the roots of a tree,
with a marigold cap on his dusty-blond noggin
a shaken-up toddler no older than three
 
unzips his coat. By the roots of the tree
scattered the breadth of the snow-cloaked creek
lie the shattered remains of a scarlet toboggan.
 
Out of his coat, the boy leans on the tree
as the marigold sun lights the welt on his noggin.
 
 
Ben Rasnic
 
 
I AM NOT A ROBOT
 
It is not enough
that I offer up my user name
& password, my mother’s
maiden name, the city where I was born
& the name of my first pet;
 
now I have to identify
the squares of fuzzy photos
that have traffic signs or trees
or parts of automobiles &
 
the real clincher,
I have to check the box marked
“I am not a robot”
as if I would fucking tell you
if I was.
 
 
Maree Reedman
 
 
ALL THERE IS
 
There is no comfort in being an atheist,
no comfort at all
except Stephen Hawking thought the same.
My friend told me again about her father-in-law dying,
how his spirit ebbed from the room.
I sat with my father for five days.
Not a thing, except he turned to face me
to listen to me talking,
reciting poetry, telling him stories,
how much I loved him
and once, when holding his hand, I jumped at a noise,
as his body did too,
still connected, like feeling a baby
kicking inside the mother’s stomach.
 
 
Brandon T. Roach
 
 
TRANSLATING D’S
 
What are Sundays for
football and beer is the definitive
answer
the afraid go to church
but when you are 35 in July
you take the family to
The Corrales Municipal Pool
and stare
at the big-titted Mexican
women
If we’re lucky
a toddler will pull the strings
on a tight-fitting bikini
 
This is one way to pass
the time midway
through life during a parched
burning summer
 
What is striking about
the scenery
is that my kids look like
movie stars
(they are)
and my wife has the best ass
in this whole piss-filled world
(she does)
 
 
TOOTH ACHE
 
The kids are eating apples
on the couch
Let’s try and chew with our mouths
closed
I write impatiently
trying to keep my sanity
tightly bound
The vacuum cleaner fires up
for the first time
in several weeks
the TV volume goes up
endlessly up
somehow
I can still hear them
chomping down the apple tree
 
Try to write
Try to keep
sanity
 
Let’s chew with our fucking mouths
closed, please
 
 
PARASITIC CO.
 
I heard a story about a woman
losing her sight rapidly
she went to the eye doctor
they gave her a new pair of glasses
a few weeks went by and the vision
blurred, time for new glasses
The woman needs to SEE
ten days later, less vision
more glasses
finally, they sent her
to the big city doctors
 
He poked his fingers in her eyes
took some x-rays and exclaimed
Worms!
She had parasitic worms in her eyes
eating at the reflecting region
When they pulled them out
they totaled one, two, three
the largest measuring 37mm
that’s and inch and a half, folks
 
Men understand little of women
and she bled to death right there
on the observation table asking
the doctor for a drink of water
 
 
Sam Rose
 
 
CONCAVE
 
My heartbeat makes my loose-fitting
t-shirt flutter rhythmically
over my chest. I stop breathing
so I can see the full effect,
watch the fabric
fall in, fall out.
Braless breasts separated as if
in argument, creating a cavity
at my centre. Each tiny shudder
makes me feel thinner
than I am, more fragile
than I am. Makes me wonder
what I am.
Every pound of my chest disturbs
the white cotton, reveals my
torso as empty. A trampoline
for tiny ghosts, only the bounces
to be seen. Only the tremors
of the canvas to be found, the concave
and the rebound.
I am only little,
I am only gentle,
I am only nothing.
But we keep going. One organ at a time,
one anomaly at a time.
Keep cutting it out until there is
nothing left.
What will be left of me,
in the end?
Only tiny ghosts jumping,
only a tiny heart thumping wildly
at nothing.
Fall in, fall out.
 
 
WHEN I DIE I WANT TO BE A TREE
 
I have been thinking about death a lot –
picking out my plot instead of turning away
and I have decided that I want you to hollow
out a tree trunk and place me inside. Don’t
chop it down, leave it growing and upright. Keep
the top open so that crows can make nests
in my hair. It is always a mess anyway. Leave me
there with my arms splayed like branches
so the local kids tell each other terrible stories
about the dead scarecrow woman who lives
in the woods. I wouldn’t want my stories to stop
after I have lost the power to tell them myself.
Could you also make sure I am wearing a welcoming
smile, not a grimace, as even though my face will be
hidden within my standing grave, I still want to be the
light relief. And we mustn’t call it a grave. I was never
that serious, more of a hedonist with tendencies
towards deceitfulness and an unreasonable amount
of laughter which I also think must continue. So with
that in mind, could you record the sound of my
snorts, my giggles, my guffaws and sometimes
play them in the forest, in the dark? Set up your old
boom box among the rocks and put it on repeat. I just
want to lark about and as the afterlife is still uncertain
I need my body to do the work. Just set this up
for me and we can both enjoy the looks of terror
on people’s faces as they rush by. Maybe when you die
you can be a tree here, too. I have been thinking
about life a lot – losing the plot instead of turning
away and I have decided that I want you to turn me
into a wildlife reserve, maybe take a knife to my
stomach where squirrels can burrow when it gets cold
and insects can borrow my eye sockets to use as their home
and the stories about the dead scarecrow woman
who lives in the woods will never stop being told.
 
 
M.C. Rush
 
 
DISCONTINUITY
 
How much does our function align with our intent?
How much does our form support our designs?
 
All civilities, all barbarisms,
all identities, all distinctions,
every approach, each separation,
every insufficiency, each abundance.
 
The sea that moves toward us
and the sea that moves away from us.
 
How do you get your why?
 
At this time
we cannot confirm or deny
anything.
 
 
IN RUINS
 
Before all is said and done,
but after some is done and said,
we will all take refuge in ruins.
Human ruins, inhuman.
Remembering discontinuous relationships
punctuated with drift. Remembering
when we wanted so much and thought
ourselves willing to take it.
When there was more to feel
than leaning our brow against cold limestone.
We pursued everything that moved in the name
of peace, and now, when everything (well, most
everything) has fallen and shattered,
we hide inside and deny release.
 
 
Gerard Sarnat
 
 
DURING 27SEPT’18 MEAN DRUNK LUNCH BREAK
 
While watching the Christine Blasey Ford/
Brett Kavanaugh Hearing
before the US Senate Judiciary Committee
with wife and daughters
 
Googling the “portrayal of women in fiction”
then doodling, meh, it is
a well-known fact that historically literature
minimizes their rendering
 
compared to that of men, which has recently
led to The Bechdel Test
(named after Alison, an American cartoonist)
which has raised the bar
 
on representation to ask whether work features
at least 2 females who talk
to each other about community other than a man
plus both must be named.
 
We are all impressed (so far) by how the witness
interacts with hired gun
questioner Rachel Mitchell as Republican Senators
sit there anonymously.
 
 
Claire Scott
 
 
MY NAME
 
My name stamped on my forehead at birth.
Claire Louise. The name chosen for me.
Claimed by parents, aunts, uncles and all the greats
and great-greats traipsing ahead, lugging expectations.
My name like a caryatid supporting generations
of the disappointed, the defeated, the discouraged.
Wings sheared, I speak the words of others.
I walk over earth plowed and planted long ago
retracing steps of unfinished lives.
Nurse Grandma Pearl, bending over fevers
and rashes, eyeing doctors with envy,
Uncle Sam, an eyeshade accountant
who couldn’t afford an MBA.
Can I slip out of my name like a chrysalis,
erase the outline of myself: daughter/niece/granddaughter,
and choose the name I want: Lea Marie.
Giving birth to myself,
wings open with possibility.
 
 
Darcy Smith
 
 
ODE TO BRIGIT
 
My head burns rhymed couplets torn
from myth. Pastoral nightmares, curled
lips that long to taste the rim of dawn.
 
You snake inside my eyes,
each sestina tossed into your waves,
like knotted hair that tears my drafts back
 
to a sky of tongues impossible to parse.
My mouth lined with pitted stars,
found forms taste like blades
 
of summer. We’re flamed sonnets, un-
spoken. Rooms of parchment, dark-edged
reams rewritten, restless for the line that
 
breaks beyond the ocean floor into embryos,
birthing a garland of lotus villanelles. Let me
lay with you Brigit, with the sweet promise
 
of a poem birthed in evening’s curve. Let me
cradle our nested lyrics. Your earlobe soft
against my chest, our screams swallow daylight.
 
 
Michael T. Smith
 
 
GOOGLE TRANSLATE
“Google Translate” was created by writing a poem, translating it
into Mandarin, and then translating it back into English.

 
(V.1)
 
What can I say that isn’t offensive —
 
Particularly, I ask, when
The words have teeth?
Derrida would say the script is under
Erasure. So that only ghosts and things of no substance
Pass along the mouth to the page.
 
Simple instructions:
Be sure to write concisely.
Be sure to hand wash only
Use only complete sentences,
And do not leave out in the sun.
 
There’s something
(It’s almost like all communication)
Where you take the words I send,
And in the receiving rewrite them in your ear,
And rewrite them in the history of the moment
(But never physically)
And make.
 
It’s something dada –
That’s capital: DADA.
 
But it’s only so it can give impressions on people’s minds:
Poetry, anyway, is just prose that’s been
Assaulted.
You’d think we’d be in agreement.
 
I’m not complicated.
I’m just trying to reach you.
 
 
(V.2)
 
What can I say is not offended –
In particular, I asked, when
Do these words have teeth?
Derrida will say that the script is under
Erase. So only the ghost and nothing
Along the mouth to the page.
Simple Explanation:
Must be written concise.
Be sure to wash your hands
Only use the complete sentence,
Do not give up in the sun.
There is something
(It’s almost like all the communication)
Where did you take me,
Rewrite them in your ear in your ear,
And rewrite them in the history of this moment
(But never the body)
And do it.
This is something dada –
This is the capital: DADA.
 
However, the only way to bring people to the impression:
In any case, poetry is prose
Attack.
You will think we will agree.
 
I’m not complicated.
I just want to contact you.
 
 
Alec Solomita
 
 
LE VRAI ROI
 
No, I don’t want Vicodin, OxyContin
or fentanyl — the dauphin and his boys.
Opioids! What a weak word!
Pills for panty-waists!
I want le vrai roi.
 
I want a den as dark as sleep,
full of bunk beds and Oriental ministrations,
great mysteries just out of reach of my languid fingers,
waxing and waning in the bowls of clay pipes.
 
 
Savannah Trent
 
 
LOVE
 
keying a Lexus
at the Cheesecake Factory
the first time
the gyno uses
a speculum
 
too tight cock ring
 
 
VROOM VROOM
 
This is a poem about car sex
how some man revved my
engine. Pushed the right buttons,
how my hands slipped on the
throttle. Do you like manual or
automatic? I prefer cars with
leather interiors; good conductors.
An un-vacuumed car
is a lot like untrimmed pubes
poking out swimsuit bottoms
Take me for a spin, but make sure
you wipe the seats.
 
 
THE CRITIC SAYS
 
We must be agnostic.
 
We lack certainty.
 
American poetry states
the obvious. A wheelbarrow
is just red. Totes manure.
 
Why do I look for small things?
upturned shoe, the last pea
in the pod?
 
What if my horse won’t drink?
 
 
Lauren Vermette
 
 
MY VULVA
 
is a slit between white-washed boards
that the innkeeper could not afford to fill:
 
a gap just wide enough for the hall-light
to seep through with an egg-yolk glow
 
that slips between my lover’s taut eyelids,
forces them open to acknowledge its presence
 
causes us to spend all night trying to mend
this vivid crack in an otherwise solid wall.
 
 
TROPHY
 
All I can focus on are the nails
driven through the webbing
of the swan’s feet and the light
 
glinting off her glass eyes:
cold as a steel pocketknife
and twice as sharp.
 
I stare back, breath trapped
in the vise of my chest,
burning hot and heavy
 
as the center of a planet
flipping poles, so unlike
her body’s empty cavity
 
stretched over a wooden
mannequin, its solidity
mockery of the hollowed
 
bones that once held
her aloft. I can still feel
the curve of the trigger.
 
 
HOW NOT TO LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY
 
I.
When your high school sweetheart
leaves you for college, date a local
on the sly. When you are ratted out,
break up over email.
 
II.
Begin an unrequited pursuit
of your high school’s star
lacrosse goalie.
 
His hairline is already receding
and he reeks of soured sweat,
but you want a piece of his ass.
 
When you state to him
that you want him to be
your first, use his full name.
 
When his only response is to ask:
How did you know my middle name?
get out of the car before you cry.
 
III.
As senior prom approaches,
land yourself a date: a geeky,
mouse-haired boy that you find
attractive enough for a first fuck.
 
Pitch a tent with him
in a rundown campground.
 
When not even gasoline
will ignite the damp wood,
give up on lighting a fire
and crawl into the tent.
 
Lie on your back.
As he presses against
your entrance and whispers,
Are you sure?
 
Tell him: Life is pain,
so let’s get it on.

 
 
Tyson West
 
 
WILD CHILD’S LAST GIFT
 
the cops took you down in the parking lot
we wondered how much longer you would live
you knew the meth was bad but took the shot
the cops took you down in the parking lot
med techs started your heart but blood did not
arrive in time – your thoughts went inactive
brain dead you still had a flourish to give
donating lungs and heart were all you got
left from wild streets – they’ll reach the calm you fought
the cops took you down in the parking lot
we wonder how much longer you will live
 
 
THE EDGE OF PERFECT
 
Cold ocean breakers slam the precipice
We park some ninety feet back from the edge
Though flawed ourselves we made a perfect pledge
To shape our kids so nothing be amiss
 
In laughter and chaos there is no bliss
Our structure is no crime as they allege
Cold ocean breakers slam the precipice
We linger a moment before the edge
 
I ask you dear, if we are up for this
“I love you – let’s do it” you did not hedge
Twixt love and perfect, death can drive no wedge
It gnaws on us that we missed our final kiss
Cold ocean breakers slam the precipice
We speed through our kids’ screams across our edge
 
 
Joe Williams
 
 
FIRST MOVEMENT
 
At the bar, I make my accidental introduction.
I note how you conduct yourself with grace.
Your accent pitches perfectly a melody so sweet,
every cadence, every flourish in its place.
You snare me, the vibrato in my tenor plain to hear.
Quavering, I miss a beat or two.
I pause, compose myself, and make my overture.
Prima donna, I must duet with you.
 
 
READING
 
‘What are you reading?’
‘I’m reading the Internet.’
‘Is it any good?’
‘It’s a bit long.’
 
 
Laura Winkelspecht
 
 
GEOMETRY
 
He watches
as I fold sheets
across my body,
a geometric striptease
as the rectangles
grow smaller.
The cotton,
still warm
from the dryer,
forgotten
as my cheeks
catch fire.
 
Our bodies
meet
between
neglected
hospital corners.
We end
a tangled
triangle
of arms
and legs
and sheets.
 
 
MAYBE A DREAM IN A GARAGE
 
I still see him standing with his head
angled under the hood of a car
 
a grimy rag stuffed in his pocket
his hands dirty and capable
 
as he reaches into
the open carcass of an engine.
 
Tools glint under fluorescent light,
begrudging stars in the constellation
 
of his everyday ingenuity.
“Hand me that wrench,”
 
he seems to say, vaguely pointing.
“This one?” I ask as I hold it out.
 
He glances his thanks to where I stand.
“How much longer will you be?” I ask.
 
But he can’t answer
and as the scene fades to grief,
 
I know I can’t measure this time
and he can’t fix this breakdown.
 
 
Stella Wulf
 
 
HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT
 
The Home Office has issued the following A – Z of undesirable aliens:
 
Aldermen, Balder men, Cats and Dogs
(non sentient beings excluding Moggs)
Eskimos, Elephants, anything grey,
anything wrinkled, anything gay.
 
Fig packers, Gigolos, Hewers of ice,
Jokers, Kelp Gatherers, Pickers of lice,
Mudlarks and Matadors, Men who can’t jive
anyone north of the M25.
 
Nutters, Otters, Potters and Queers,
Rotters, Stutterers, Shedders of Tears,
Umpires, Ushers, Unbenders of spoons,
Unclassified persons from here to the moon.
 
Vintners and Vignerons, all who bring cheer,
Whelk fishers, Warp Spoolers, Wasps who drink beer,
those in the welfare and food bank queue,
X-men and Zulus, YOU, YOU, and YOU.
 
 
LIZZIE REFLECTS ON HER HANDS
 
My stepmother has elegant hands,
such long fingers,
slim and tapered,
strong nails,
neatly trimmed,
hands I could never hold.
 
My father’s, gene-grafted,
sit cupped in my lap,
lifeline incised in palm,
nails flat as spades,
broken so low,
I cut them
to the quick.
 
I want to shake them.
Mrs Borden’s lie,
white as lilies
in a leaching pool,
my father’s,
unclenched
in sleep,
rest
in peace.
 
 
 
 
Artists’ Bios
 
A multi-media artist living near Washington, DC, Jeff Bagato produces poetry and prose as well as electronic music and glitch video. His poetry has appeared in many journals, including Rusty Truck, Chiron Review, Stepaway, The Five-Two, Outlaw Poetry, Empty Mirror, Otoliths, and Your One Phone Call. His published books include Savage Magic (poetry) and Computing Angels (fiction). A blog about his writing and publishing efforts can be found at http://jeffbagato.wordpress.com.
 
 
Devon Balwit lives scarily close to the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Her individual poems can be found here or are forthcoming in anthologies and journals such as The Cincinnati Review, apt, Posit, Grist, The Aeolian Harp Folio, Triggerfish, Fifth Wednesday, The Free State Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Rattle, etc. For more, and for her chapbooks and collections, see her website at: https://pelapdx.wixsite.com/devonbalwitpoet
 
 
Jon Bennett writes and plays music in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. You can find more of his work on Pandora and Spotify, or by connecting with him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jon.bennett.967.
 
 
Cover Artist Mark Blickley is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center as well as the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Scholarship Award for Drama. He is the author of Sacred Misfits (Red Hen Press), Weathered Reports: Trump Surrogate Quotes from the Underground (Moira Books) and the forthcoming text based art chapbook, Dream Streams (Clare Songbirds Publishing). His video Speaking in Bootongue was selected to the London Experimental Film Festival. He is a 2018 Audie Award Finalist for his contribution to the original audio book, Nevertheless We Persisted.
 
 
Ace Boggess is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road, 2017), and the novel A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea, 2016). His poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, Rhino, North Dakota Quarterly, and many other journals. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.
 
 
Jim Bourey is an old poet from the northern Adirondack Mountains. His chapbook “Silence, Interrupted” was published by the Broadkill River Press and won a first prize in the Delaware Press Association competition. (Big time) His work has appeared in Mojave River Review, Stillwater Review, Paddock Review, Broadkill Review and other journals. He is also a regular contributor of reviews for the Broadkill Review. He can often be found reading aloud in dark rooms.
 
 
Neva Bryan’s poems and short stories appear in nearly fifty literary journals and online magazines nationwide, including Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, Still: The Journal, and an upcoming issue of Canary: A Literary Journal of the Environmental Crisis. She is a contributor to two anthologies, We All Live Downstream: Writings about Mountaintop Removal and the Anthology of Appalachian Writers (Wiley Cash edition). Neva lives in the mountain coalfields of Virginia with her husband.
 
 
Rachel Burns has poetry published in literary magazines The Lake, South, Fenland, Reed, Head Stuff, Lonesome October, South Bank Poetry, Smeuse, Southlight, The Herald Newspaper, Toasted Cheese and A Restricted View From Under The Hedge. Poems anthologised in #MeToo, Poems for Grenfell Tower and Please Hear What I’m Not Saying.
 
 
John Byrne lives in Albany, Oregon with Cheryl French, an artist, and Hotspur, a cat. He writes plays and mostly formal poetry. His work has appeared in small theaters and small print and electronic magazines around the country. He likes formal verse and baroque music largely because he has trouble coping with too many choices.
 
 
Nikki Byrnside lives and works in Urbana, IL. Nikki spends most of her time chasing rainbows that start and end in the junkyard. She seeks the meaning of life and is sure the answer lies in the back of a pickup truck that will come rolling her way any day. She is getting better every day at astral projection, so when that book falls off your bedroom dresser, yes, that is her, and yes, she is watching.
 
 
CR Callahan received a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Florida. He has published work in The North American Review, Rhino, and Rat’s Ass Review. He lives and writes in Washington state. When he is not writing, he is hiking, backpacking or fly fishing somewhere in the mountains.
 
 
Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives and writes in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the author of two books and five chapbooks and has a new book coming out in the fall. For more about her work, check her website at www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com.
 
 
A recent entrant into the poetry world, Rebecca Clifford is a member of Hamilton Poetry Centre, Tower Poetry Society, the Canadian Association of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and a regular contributor to the Niagara Anglican newspaper. Her work has been included in The Ontario Poetry Society’s Ultra Short Anthologies, Banister Verse Afire Anthology, the Tower Anthologies, and The Rural Route magazine. She is a two time winner of the Haldimand Annual Poetry Competition. Rebecca lives in rural Ontario with her husband.
 
 
Michael Coolen has been published widely, including in Oregon Humanities, The Gold Man Review, Clementine Poetry Journal, Synesthesia Magazine, Broken, The Poetry Quarterly, Oregon Poetry Association, et al. He is also a published composer, with works performed around the world, including at Carnegie Hall, MoMA, and the Christie Gallery in New York.
 
 
Joe Cottonwood is a carpenter by day, writer by night. Sometimes with some poems he nails it. He lives under redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His most recent book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the PacificCoast. joecottonwood.com
 
 
Terry Culleton‘s collections of formally crafted narrative and lyric poems, A Communion of Saints (Anaphora Literary Press, 2011), Eternal Life (Anaphora Literary Press, 2015), are available at select bookstores, as well as at amazon.com. Poems from his forthcoming collection of sonnets, A Tree and Gone, have appeared in various magazines. His poetry has been featured on NPR, and groups of his poems have been set to music by composers Darryl Harper and Don Jamison.
 
 
Batuhan Dedde was born in Istanbul in 1987. He has published several books, including the poetry collections Kırmızı Eroin: Tahta Putun Şiirleri (Red Heroin: Wooden Idol Poems) in 2013, Dayanılmaz Acılar Orkestrası (Orchestra of Unbearable Sufferings) in 2015, and Biz Ona Şiir Öğretmedik (It Wasn’t Us Who Taught Him Poetry, his collected poems) in 2017. His work brings together the sensibilities of the American Beats and the Turkish Second New movement. The poem SONG OF THE BUTCHER’S STEEL III was translated by Donny Smith, who was born in Nebraska and teaches at a high school in Istanbul. Mr. Smith’s books of translations include Cutting Off the Head of the Gorgon by Wenceslao Maldonado,Pigeonwoman by Cemal Süreya (with A. Karakaya), andI Too Went to the Hunt of a Deer by Lâle Müldür.
 
 
Steve Denehan lives in Kildare, Ireland with his wife Eimear and daughter Robin.  Recent publication credits include Better Than Starbucks, Fowl Feathered Review, Terror House Magazine, Dual Coast, The Opiate, Sky Island Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Evening Street Review, The Folded Word, Ink In Thirds and Third Wednesday.  His chapbook, “Of Thunder, Pearls and Birdsong” is available from Fowlpox Press.
 
 
Alyra Far lives under the climate changed skies of the Pacific Northwest.
 
 
Coming out of those diesel lean years, J. Fisher has been splitting time and talents between dull labor and glorious excess. His first three formal collection were published through Frontenac House: Death Day Erection(2003), bulletin from the low light (2006), iii (2012).).His poems and short prose are in print and electric mediums from Balzac to Berlin.
 
 
Jean-Luc Fontaine resides in New York where he teaches the arts at an-Luc Fontaine elementary school in the Bronx. He enjoys cheap coffee and falling asleep on subway cars.
 
 
Karin L. Frank is an award-winning author from the Kansas City area. Her poems and prose have been published in both literary journals and genre magazines in the U.S. and abroad.
 
 
Meg Freer grew up in Montana and lives in Ontario. Her poems have won awards and have been accepted for publication in chapbook anthologies and journals such as NatureWriting, COG, Young Ravens Literary Review, Eastern Iowa Review and Literary Nest. In 2017 she won a writing fellowship and attended the Summer Literary Seminars in Tbilisi. She enjoys being active outdoors year-round, taking photos, and running, and wishes she had more time for writing poetry.
 
 
Mac Gay is author of 3 chapbooks with a full-length collection,Ghost Hunt, forthcoming in 2019 from Eyewear Publishing Ltd. He is runner up for the 2018 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize and his chapbook, Farm Alarm, will be published by Texas Review Press in 2019. His poems have been featured in many journals, including Atlanta Review, Cutbank, The Raintown Review. He teaches at Perimeter College of Georgia State University.
 
 
Alison Gerhard is a researcher and disability activist at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. She is currently completing her master’s degree in inorganic chemistry. Her work will appear in a forthcoming issue of Wordgathering.
 
 
William Gillespie has published 11 and 2/6ths books of fiction and poetry under six different names, including the novel Keyhole Factory by William Gillespie (Soft Skull, 2012). He works for the Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering in Urbana, Illinois.
 
 
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Harpur Palate, the Hawaii Review and Visions International.
 
 
Robin Helweg-Larsen‘s poetry is published in the UK, US and Canada. His chapbook poem on writing poetry “Calling The Poem” is available as a free download from Snakeskin Poetry Webzine, issue 236. He is Series Editor for Sampson Low’s “Potcake Chapbooks – Form in Formless Times”, and lives in his hometown of Governor’s Harbour in the Bahamas.
 
 
Hartley Hutchinson is a recent University of Toronto graduate who completed her BA with a major in English and minors in Creative Writing and Film Studies. Hartley’s short story, Casserole, will appear in the Fall 2018 issue of The Awakenings Review. She currently works as the intern at a small town library in Muskoka, reading and writing regularly on the side.
 
 
Derek Kannemeyer was born in Cape Town, South Africa, raised in London, England, and lives and writes in Richmond, Virginia. His work has appeared in Fiction International, Rattapallax, Smartish Pace, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. His 2018 publications include a light verse collection, a chapbook, and bits and pieces in half a dozen journals. He has a web site but can’t get it to do what he wants.
 
 
Mickey Kulp is a writer and father who is not allowed to buy his own clothes. His work has appeared in numerous consumer magazines, newspapers, literary journals, and three books of poetry. In 2018, he created the ‘Books and Beer’ reading series to benefit the local food co-op. He lives with his wife and a dozen larcenous squirrels in Atlanta, GA. His next book is coagulating nicely. More at www.MickeyKulp.com.
 
 
Kamryn Kurtzner is a poet residing in San Francisco. She has been published previously in Rat’s Ass Review and most recently in The Lavender Review.
 
 
Stevie Lamblin: Male name, Androgynous brain; Double hole, Artistic soul. Stevie was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. She currently works full time as a dancer with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company while pursuing her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
 
 
Marie C Lecrivain is the executive editor/publisher of poeticdiversity: the litzine of Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Nonbinary Review, Spillway, Orbis, A New Ulster, and others. She’s the author of several volumes of poetry and fiction, including the upcoming Fourth Planet From the Sun (© 2019 Rum Razor Press).
 
 
Michael H. Levin is a lawyer, solar energy developer and writer based in Washington DC .  His work has appeared in over 50 periodicals or anthologies and has received numerous poetry and feature journalism awards.  His collection Watered Colors (Poetica) was named a Best Poetry Book for May 2014 by the Washington Independent Review of Books. A new collection, Man Overboard (Finishing Line Press) was released September 2018. His third collection, Falcons, is in process. He and his wife, Nora Jean Levin, recently wrote and co-produced Two Pianos: Playing for Life, a historically-themed drama with live classical music about young women pianists performing under and after the Third Reich that premiered in Philadelphia June 2018. See www.michaellevinpoetry.com.
 
 
MA|DE is a collective gesture, a unity of two voices fused into a poetic third. It is the name given to the joint authorship of Toronto-based creators Mark Laliberte and Jade Wallace, artists whose active solo practices differ quite radically from one another. MA|DE’s collaborative writing formalizes a process that began as an extended conversation between two people newly discovering one another. Over a number of months, the pair messaged, texted, emailed, telephoned, conversed in person, left links on social media for the other to find, and mailed letters; their long, exploratory conversations opened up a language-space all their own. MA|DE is currently working on their first full-length collection of poetry, which formulates a set of shared visions, symbols, and ciphers that invites the reader into their complex, continually expanding internal universe. Poems forthcoming in poetry is deadand PRISM international (we’re also being interviewed by the editor of PRISM about our collaborative writing process).
 
 
Bob MacKenzie has been published across North America and as far away as Australia, in many journals including the Dalhousie Review, University of Windsor Review, and Ball State University Forum. He’s published eight books of poetry and been featured in numerous anthologies. With the band Poem de Terre, he’s performed his poetry live with original music and released six albums. Bob’s latest book is “somewhere still in wind the tree is bending” (Silver Bow Publishing, 2018).
 
 
DS Maolalai recently returned to Ireland after four years away, now spending his days working maintenance dispatch for a bank and his nights looking out the window and wishing he had a view. His first collection, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden, was published in 2016 by the Encircle Press. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
 
 
Jeremy Nathan Marks is a London, Canada-based American writer. Recent poetry appears in Chiron Review, The Wire’s Dream, Landlocked Lyres, Unlikely Stories, The Blue Nib, Credo Espoir, Spectrum, The Wild Word, Mojave River Review, and The Blue Hour IV. Jeremy is a 2017 Pushcart nominee in poetry.
 
 
Thomas M. McDade is a 72-year-old resident of Fredericksburg, VA, previously CT & RI. He is a graduate of Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT. McDade is twice a U.S. Navy Veteran serving ashore at the Fleet Anti-Air Warfare Training Center, Virginia Beach, VA. At sea aboard the USS Mullinnix (DD-944) and USS Miller (DE/FF 1091).
 
 
Brandy McKenzie holds an MFA in writing from the University of Oregon, has published poems in more than three dozen literary magazines, won various awards, been nominated for a Pushcart Prize,zie and worked on the editorial boards of three different nationally distributed literary magazines. These days, though, she mostly works as a paralegal, teaches critical thinking and writing to community college students, and tries to provoke conversation about strangeness of our shared waking dream.
 
 
Robert Minicucci recently came back to poetry and had his first poems published this summer. The first one is in the online ezine/journal “Spank The Carp.” Another was in a NH-based poetry zine called “Good Fat”, which was created by Mike Nelson, the Poet Laureate of Portsmouth, NH. Robert lives near Exeter with my family and Josie, a brindle rescue hound that enjoys howling along to Stevie Ray Vaughan.
 
Alice Morris – MS from Johns Hopkins, artwork published in The New York Art Review and a West Virginia textbook. Poetry included in reviews and anthologies, most recently, Sanctuary, endorsed by a Pulitzer Prize winner. 2018 prize winner in a Clutch-themed fiction contest, and received the Florence C. Coltman Award for Creative Writing.
 
 
John C. Morrison won the Rhea Seymour Gorsline Poetry Competition for his book Heaven of the Moment, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award in poetry. His poems have appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Poetry Northwest, the Cimarron Review, and rhino/, among other literary journals. He teaches poetry as an associate fellow at the Attic Institute in Portland, Oregon.
 
 
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has been published widely in Britain and the USA, with frequent appearances in Red River Review, San Pedro River Review and Panoplyzine, which made him one of their Featured Poets in their Fall 2017 issue.
 
 
A writer, poet, and activist, Mindy Ohringer considers the intersection of Utopia Parkway and Union Turnpike to be her ancestral home. Her politically charged writing about love, politics, and history has appeared in “The Thieving Magpie”, “October Hill Magazine”, “The Greenwich Village Literary Review”, “New Choices, “The Columbia Spectator”, and “MORE.com” In June, she participated in Marge Piercy’s juried poetry intensive. Her blog https://mindyohringer.com explores how the personal and political intertwine.
 
 
Marc Olmstead is a poet who lives in the Pacific Northwest.
 
 
Erik Lloyd Olson was raised on both sides of the Atlantic but now lives and works in Portland, Oregon. His poetry has been published in literary journals including The Road Not Taken, Asses of Parnassus, and Autumn Sky Poetry Daily. He studied poetry at Portland State University, as well as at the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters under poet David Biespiel.
 
 
Jennie E. Owen‘s writing has won competitions and has been widely published online, in literary journals, and anthologies. She has MAs in both English and Creative Writing. She is a Lecturer of Creative Writing and lives in Mawdesley, Lancashire with her husband and three children.
 
 
Kenneth Pobo has a book of prose poems forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing House called The Antlantis Hit Parade. Catch his Internet music show, Obscure Oldies, on Saturdays.
 
 
Phill Provance is the author of two poetry chapbooks, The Day the Sun Rolled Out of the Sky (Cy Gist, 2010) and Given to Sudden Laughter(Cy Gist, 2019). His work has appeared in The Baltimore Sun, CCR, decomP, and many others and has received various honors, including being named a finalist for the 2017 Crab Creek Review Poetry Contest by Diane Seuss. An MFA candidate at WV Wesleyan, he lives in Illinois.
 
 
Ben Rasnic currently resides in Bowie, Maryland. Author of four published collections (three available from amazon.com), Ben’s poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.
 
 
Maree Reedman lives in Brisbane, Australia, with her cockatiels and husband. She wrote her first poem when she was a prison psychologist, noticing how willie wagtails waltzed on the barbed wire. Her poetry has been published in recent Grieve Anthologies Hecate, and StylusLit, and has won awards in the Ipswich Poetry Feast, including a mentorship with Carmen Leigh Keates. She likes to read and write poetry that has a story; in fact, she is a story addict.
 
 
Brandon T. Roach currently resides in Albuquerque where he burns quietly under the sun.
 
 
Sam Rose is a writer and editor from Northamptonshire, England. She is the editor of Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine and The Creative Truth. Her work has appeared in Scarlet Leaf Review, Poetry Pacific, Haiku Journal, In Between Hangovers, and others. Sam is a cancer survivor and primarily uses her experiences with this to write poetry and memoir. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to rock music and eating too much chocolate.
 
 
M. C. Rush currently resides in rural Louisiana, has most recently published poems in streetcake magazine, Third Wednesday, The Hamilton Stone Review, Pirene’s Fountain, and Next Line, Please: Prompts to Inspire Poets and Writers (edited by David Lehman), as well as a forthcoming chapbook, The Animal Commitments.
 
 
Gerard Sarnat MD’s been nominated for Pushcarts plus Best of the Net Awards and won other prizes. KADDISH FOR THE COUNTRY was selected for pamphlet distribution on Inauguration Day nationwide. “Amber Of Memory” was the single poem chosen for his 50th Harvard reunion Dylan symposium; The Harvard Advocate accepted a second. Gerard’s a physician who’s built/staffed homeless clinics, a Stanford professor/healthcare CEO. Collections: Homeless Chronicles (2010), Disputes, 17s, Melting the Ice King (2016). Married since 1969; he has seven grand/kids.
 
 
Clair Scott is an award winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio 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.
 
 
Darcy Smith works as a sign language interpreter. Her poems have appeared in Boyne Berries, Up The River, Chronogram, MER, GTK, Sadie Girl Press, Universal Table, Arsenic Lobster and Between the Lines. Darcy is a Buddhist and a kickboxer. Her current obsession is executing a six punch three kick combination with perfect form.
 
 
Michael T. Smith is an Assistant Professor of the Polytechnic Institute at Purdue University, where he received his PhD in English. He teaches cross-disciplinary courses that blend humanities with other areas. He has published over 60 poems in over 30 different journals. He loves to travel.
 
 
Alec Solomita has published fiction in The Mississippi Review, Southwest Review, Southword, and Peacock, among other journals. His poetry has appeared in Literary Orphans, Far Off Places, MockingHeart Review, Driftwood Press, Rat’s Ass Review, and elsewhere. His chapbook, “Do Not Forsake Me,” was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017. Three of his poems will appear in the forthcoming edition of Fulcrum: An International Anthology of Poetry and Aesthetics. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
 
 
Savannah Trent is a MFA candidate at Miami University, Ohio. She has a chronic coffee addiction and writes too much about corn.
 
 
Lauren Vermette is a word-painter living in Dover, NH. When she is not slinging ink at paper canvases, she spends her time snarling yarn into wearable works of art.
 
 
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.
 
 
Joe Williams is a former starving musician who transformed into a starving writer and poet in 2015, entirely by mistake. He lives in Leeds, UK and appears regularly at events in Northern England. He has been published in numerous anthologies, and in magazines online and in print. In 2017 he won the prestigious Open Mic Competition at Ilkley Literature Festival and had his debut poetry pamphlet, ‘Killing the Piano’, published by Half Moon Books. www.joewilliams.co.uk
 
 
Laura Winkelspecht is a poet and writer from Wisconsin who writes with the hope of finding some lightning among the lightning bugs. She has been published in One Sentence Poems, Clementine Poetry Journal, Millwork, and others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee.
 
 
Stella Wulf hails from North Wales but now lives in S W France. Her poems are widely published both in print and online, and appear in several anthologies including, The Very Best of 52, three drops, Clear Poetry, and #MeToo. She has an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University. Her pamphlet, After Eden, was recently published by 4word press.
 
 
 
 

Edited by Roderick Bates

 

RAT’S ASS REVIEW FALL-WINTER ISSUE 2018 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 
  p/w Winter