Winter 2019 Issue

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Winter 2019 Issue

 

 

 

 

Cover Art: Teddy Bear by Anne Privateer

 

 

ANN PRIVATEER received her degree at Sacramento State University. She is a poet, artist, and photographer. Her work has appeared in Third Wednesday, Manzanita, and Entering, to name a few.

 

 

Gale Acuff

 

 

HANDS

 

One day when I’m dead I’ll live again is

the skinny they give me at Sunday School,

I guess they should know, they’re professionals

and everybody knows lots more about God

than I do and read their Bibles and pray

like Hell, Preacher even gets paid for that

and Miss Hooker’s my Sunday School teacher

and she’s no religious slouch, she helps me

understand what an awful sinner I

am but tells me there’s hope for me even

if I’m only ten years old, or maybe

she means especially, and after class

this morning before I walked home she

stopped me on the two-by-four-and-plywood

steps that are like Jacob’s-ladder’s unto

or at least up-and-into our trailer

-classroom and said Gale, if you don’t get saved

and then die in sin then there’s no hope and

you’ll wake up dead in Hell so before you

go let’s call on the Holy Ghost to save

you and I said Yes ma’am, if you say so,

so we fell to our knees, linoleum

is softer than bare plywood but harder than

carpet and Miss Hooker laid her hands on

me and prayed and even had a string

of tongues going on and we finished with

Amen and then she pulled me up and said

There, now, Gale, how do you feel and I said

I feel a whole lot better, which was no lie

and therefore no sin because I’d soon be

on my way again and free for one more

week and besides I think I’d rather break

God’s heart than Miss Hooker’s, she’s got more to

lose, so we shared goodbyes and halfway home

I was ready to go the halfway back

and see if Miss Hooker was still there so

I could tell her how much I love her enough

to make babies together, I’m not sure

how but I’ll learn. I think you use your hands.

 

 

GALE ACUFF has had poetry published in Ascent, Chiron Review, McNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008). He has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.

 

 

Jeff Bagato

 

 

HOT DOGS CAN’T SING

 

Hot dogs can’t sing

for a reason; forcemeat

no longer lies close

to the bone—

filler and spices play

a sweet con about freshness

and firmness, and the wholesome

goodness of grave robbery

 

On a bun, in the rain,

with chopped onions,

celery salt and hot mustard,

a pickle on the side—

now you’re hungry enough

to eat even this

 

A dollar floats in the gutter

pushed by a stream

of dead leaves and twigs

and cardboard scraps,

vanishing below an iron grate

 

Reptile mind never finds

words to express its lust;

monkey mind never finds

lust to express its words—

but it can dream and pray

and whine about the ones 

that got away

 

 

A multi-media artist living near Washington, DC, JEFF BAGATO produces poetry and prose as well as electronic music and glitch video. 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.

 
 

Henry Bladon
 
 
TOENAILS
 
 

Nail clippings can be found on the floor of all hotel rooms

along with wine stains and various other deposits

and the flaking skin that hides under the bed,

 

you think about this while you sit on the toilet

waiting for the bathtub to fill with sparkling water

as you trim your toenails 

 

you also contemplate the importance of 

the demonic face in the bathroom tiles

which you decide is nothing personal,

 

then you carefully collect the clippings 

and place them in the free sewing kit

thinking it best not to perpetuate a meme.

 

 

HENRY BLADON is a writer of short fiction and poetry based in Somerset in the UK. He teaches creative writing and has a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Birmingham. His work can be seen in Poetica Review, Pure Slush, Truth Serum Press, Lunate, and O:JA&L, among other places.

 

 

Coleman Bomar

 

 

CAVERNOUS

 

Do I seem a wolf, bear, fizzing fanged boar

who even brats refuse to poke with

ten-meter sticks?

This despite cavern renovations and hours of dark rock dusting.

How else may toothy maw say welcome it is warm?

It could be warm.

Just come in and drink jolly.

Just chain me near the table.

Toss a turkey bone.

Blink in my general direction.

A moment is enough

to become more than a fuzzy boulder in cave corners.

Just glaze me over like the prime cut

I’ll provide.

Just poke.

Just prod.

Just cage.

Just run me off,

pitchforks and torch bearers howling,

at least I’d be alive.

 

 

COLEMAN BOMAR is a poet who currently resides in Middle Tennessee. His works have been featured by and/or are forthcoming in Impressions Literary Magazine, Aphelion Webzine of Science Fiction, The Heartland Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Showbear Family Circus Liberal Arts Magazine, Prometheus Dreaming, SOFTBLOW, and Poets’ Choice Zine to name a few. He prefers writing about bathroom graffiti as opposed to coffee and flowers.

 

 

Wendy T. Carlisle

 

 

AFTER MOTHER DIES

 

This morning I rise and put on her death

like I did yesterday.

 

This morning she is as dead

as she was yesterday.

 

This morning the shirt of her death

binds, pulls at my armpits.

 

The death shirt is the wrong shade of red.

Its buttons gap over my breasts.

 

The shirt is made of shiny polyester.

It is like nothing in nature.

 

This morning, my mother is in nature

and I am both shiny and unnatural.

 

After her death, there is nothing to wear,

nothing that fits.

 

 

Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives and writes in the Arkansas Ozarks. Wendy is the author of four books, Reading Berryman to the Dog, Discount Fireworks, The Mercy of Traffic and On the Way to the Promised Land Zoo, and five chapbooks, most recently “They Went Down to the Beach to Play.” See her work on line and in print from pacificREVIEW, Blue Lake Review, 2RiverView, Artemis, barzakh, Cider Press Review and others and in recent anthologies, In Plein Air, Untold Arkansas, 50/50 and *82 Pocket Poems. For more information, check her website at www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com.

 

 

Joe Cottonwood 

 

 

I’M SITTING BY THE WINDOW IN STARBUCKS 

 

tapping keys on my laptop 

when a crazy man like Moses on a bad hair day

straggly beard, bald at the crown

pivots on the sidewalk unzips his fly

and is peeing on the window glass 

aimed straight at me.

 

Barista runs out and shouts.

I’m dry of course but feeling soiled.

From other tables people with phones 

record live as it happens.

To go viral.

 

Moses zipping fly shouts 

I’m alive! I’m alive!

Are you? 

 

 

JOE COTTONWOOD is a carpenter by day, writer by night. Sometimes with some poems he nails it. His most recent book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast
joecottonwood.com

 

 

Ken Cumberlidge

 

 

OBEDIENT

 

Can I be honest with you, love?

(Get me: as if I ever had a choice…)

 

The porn’s not doing it for me any more.

 

Watching

people luckier than I

exploring all I’m now denied

just makes me lonelier,

reminds me what I’ve lost.

 

In stealing you away,

Death named me dealer of my days,

free (oh God… that dreadful word!)

to cut the deck as I see fit,

play any rules or none at all,

no matter: I’ll still win

 

but ‘in sole charge’ is not where I belong;

holding all the cards no substitute

for being dealt the hand I need.

 

What use to me is self-determination

if I cannot surrender it to you?

 

How dare my body strive to sing

without you call the tune?

 

Whose every word be my command,

now every word is safe?

 

What pleasure lies in pleasure

without you to

…give it measure

…ration its supply

…assay it as precious

…levy duty

…leave your mark?

 

Where shall my limits lie,

now you’re no longer here to test them?

 

Whither now the edge,

without your touch to keep me there?

 

 

KEN CUMBERLIDGE:  6ft 2″ / 194lbs. An older example of the breed, but keen to learn new tricks. Good around the house. Can be left unsupervised in mixed company with minimal risk. Will perform for food. Recent evidence can be found variously online (Algebra of Owls / Allegro / Ink Sweat & Tears / Message In A Bottle / The Open Mouse / Picaroon / Pulsar / Rat’s Ass Review / Spilling Cocoa over Martin Amis / Strange Poetry / Snakeskin / etc.). Ken’s Soundcloud page:  https://www.soundcloud.com/ken_cumberlidge_poetry
His YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrEPf1MlegfAJyKDA5-wNqQ
 
 

 Julia DaSilva

 

 

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE

 

One two three four run with me

There’s the hill, the green-grass sea;

Those two trees are our domain,

The little hill above the rain.

 

One two promise, one more time

Three four needs to be but somewhere

along the way there came

a time with no “one more” after it

(Can I hear you alone one two)

 

One two three four there—

there, at the two-post fence the memory

fades into white fog,

the boundary then and

the boundary now.

 

Leaves for food and leaves for crowns

Worlds of red and green and brown

I know

there was a field beyond but

how wide how green how far

from the real houses we worked

to rub away with mud from a temporary moat?

 

Emerald is what I’m called

In our little kingdom walled

and it shouldn’t matter, anymore,

except that it’s so much

like the dream ship where we sat

in the curving bow like the throat of a whale

and almost ate chocolate cake

from paper towels

and almost kissed

on water that only existed so you

and I

could cross it together

before it faded into dream-mist

the sun can’t draw

from my chest

 

One more time

promise

run with me     Can I

hear you alone

 

because what if Emerald

had crossed the fence, then

what if there were only two posts because something

in the worlds we created knew

it was meant to crossed.

 

Leave the pale flowers pink

Forget-me-nots for what we think

but no it’s not

a funeral yet, don’t give me flowers

give me those minutes stuck

in the dream-ship’s cabin

crossing the water that here

is only for us.

 

 

FILM

 

I’ll make this short, since

the letters are wrong anyway:

a heart, J + H

waiting for us in a window

to someone else’s dust.

You start to erase it,

get as far as half the H

before I stop you because

even the wrong good omen

might be good enough.

 

“Don’t get distracted”

said the dream

where I failed a philosophy

exam because you

were pointing out a constellation—

I almost regretted

stopping you from rubbing

off the contentless memory

first

because maybe

you’d put your name where the H

was, 

second

because your arm pulling

the sky’s light through the dust

could have lifted us to the stars from

a stretch of concrete,

hard as the empty omen in a dust-etched heart.

 

I’ll make this short.

Give me a dusty window and I’ll

trace a clear sky

in our initials.

 

 

JULIA DASILVA is an undergraduate student of philosophy and literature at the University of Toronto. Her poetry has appeared in Eclectica, the Toronto-based Young Voicesmagazine, and the University of Toronto journals The Spectatorial, The Strand, and Hardwire. She is currently an editor with Noesis, U of T’s philosophy department journal, and writes fantasy as well as poetry, with a novel and a collection of short stories in progress.

 

 

Phoenix DeSimone

 

 

SUMMERTIME

 

The rain came 

down in bunches.

I poured some whiskey 

down the drain –

put on some plain, boring 

music, smoked myself

dead in the brain,

and tried to forget

how much you loved

kissing in the summertime

underneath the rain.

 

 

PHOENIX DESIMONE is a writer of prose and poetry from Virginia. He enjoys drinking, writing, and occasionally working on a car. He’s spent most of his adult life as a barfly and is now sharing his experiences with the world. He hopes to one day be a well-known author from here to Timbuktu.

 

 

Victoria Dym

 

 

WHEN THE OCTOPUS DREAMS

 

When the octopus dreams, she changes color 

from light to dark, from white to brown

to camouflage, like the spotted rock coral

on which she rests. 

 

The scientist that watches her as she sleeps,

the aquarium in the lab, speculates that

she is dreaming, perhaps, about catching a crab, 

videos her, takes notes:

 

The Great Pacific Octopus has three hearts,

nine brains: one central brain which controls 

her smaller brains in each of her arms, a complex

nervous system.

 

Her color changing image pops into mind as I am

driving on Hillsborough Avenue, she, sleep-dreaming

of crab in her tank, and I drive, highway hypnotized

concentrating on the road:

 

pedestrians, traffic signals, other cars: the steeple

of the Seminole Baptist Church, ahead, becomes

The Eiffel Tower, in my thought-soup, another

image: my daughter and I

 

huddled in front of the Mona Lisa, our Louvre

selfie. Am I changing color? The decaying shell 

of a mobile home, no wheels, has vines growing

from its window holes,

 

pulls past me as I signal to turn onto 275:

lovemaking lost, by the lake, my ever-changing

underbelly, rainbow before the storm, shopping

list, bills to pay, emails to write.

 

Is anybody watching me? If only I had another

brain, another heart, an extra arm.

 

 

THE BROKEN

 

The clock in the break room has a crack in its plastic face that runs diagonally from

one o’clock to seven thirty five. Even more aggravating is that it runs fast. You are always

late for work; even if you are on time. The new TV doesn’t work anymore, or the cable bill

hasn’t been budgeted this quarter. The old TV, all forty five pounds of it, also broken,

is pushed under the table where the new TV resides. Two giant vacuous black holes

 are your dining companions.

 

Stacked on top of each other next to the TV’s are two cheap microwaves, also broken.

An electronic graveyard of sorts. Not everything is broken here though: the coffeemaker

brews all day, and the hot water tap delivers boiling water for tea drinkers. No matter

 how much you blow on it, however, that water will still burn your taste buds.

 

There are vending machines that go on the fritz often. Vitamin water with probiotics,

iced coffee, Lipton iced tea, Gatorade, Coke, Mountain Dew, Diet, Diet, Diet. Sometimes

the electronic arm that goes up and down, row by row, lights pulsating, gets stuck as

the mechanics create a production of fetching your numbered drink, cradling it like the

claw game; instead of a stuffed animal, your prize is a beverage. Sometimes after the

drink is delivered to the receptacle, the door doesn’t open. The ending to a movie or

 a play that doesn’t satisfy.

 

There’s the ice machine that literally pelts you and most days is surrounded by at least

two yellow caution signs with the hazard symbol and a person depicted mid slip and fall.

Coworkers sit at the broken table, sugar packet shimmied: talk about how they suspect

their man is cheating on them, how drunk they got over the weekend, how they only have

eighteen dollars left the day after payday.

 

 

VICTORIA DYM is a graduate of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Clown College with a degree in Humility, a Bachelor of Arts, in Philosophy, from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Masters in Fine Arts, Creative Writing-Poetry from Carlow University. Her two chapbooks, Class Clown, and When The Walls Cave In were published by Finishing Line Press in 2015 and 2018. Victoria lives in Tampa Florida where she improvises at The Box Theater with the house team Dear Aunt Gertrude.

 

 

Janna Grace 

 

 

SITTING ON AN ADIRONDACK CHAIR

 

after a good rain

i wish i smoked cigarettes

i would lick your tar for days

before thinking of the cancer

 

as the leftovers drip from the eaves,

the earth exhales

plumes of fog at my feet.

 

 

I DON’T KNOW WHY MY DEAF DOG BARKS

 

Is it because he used to and his body remembers?

Or is it because he sees I still respond?

Does he send what he cannot hear out

into the void

two front feet lifting with a passion

he never had before

at the things he hears

in his mind?

 

He stands, defiant

A Colonel against time and broken ear drums

don’t stop him

reminding us of his wants

his needs

and especially of those imaginary thieves

whose eyes blink on the backs

of lightning bugs.

His eyes can catch a sparrow

mid-flight

and his throat still sounds

the alarm.

 

Can he start to tell me why old men

like young girls

or should we just let them believe

it’s just a part

of who they are?

 

My dog is brave in his silent world

and I wonder if it is ok

to want when you don’t know why.

 

When his stomach tells him he wants

even more water,

he glares and releases his cry

in rhythmic bursts

shouts when he only used to whisper

his discontent into bed sheets.

 

With age he has barnacled

and he sends his voice out

anyway instead of because.

 

 

JANNA GRACE lives in a half-glass barn and her work has most recently appeared in Otoliths, The Opiate, and Ghost City Press, among others. She has pieces forthcoming with Wide Eyes Publishing and Nine Muses Poetry and she teaches writing at Rutgers University. Janna is the editor of Lamplit Underground and her debut novel will be published through Quill Press in 2019.

 

 

John Grey

 

 

SERVANT FOR THE EVENING

 

All evening long,

she filled the glasses 

of her husband and his friends

while they played poker.

 

And it was only at thirsty intervals,

while cards were shuffled

and dealt around the table

that her presence was acknowledged at all.

  

She could have felt 

used or abused,

insulted to the very fiber

of her womanhood.

 

She merely shrugged

as well into the night,

the men cursed their cards,

their luck, each other.

 

As long as she 

didn’t curse herself 

she was happy 

to be their superior.

 

 

JOHN GREY is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review and failbetter.

 

 

James Hanson

 

 

VOTING

 

Everybody knows

voting is aiding and abetting them

plus legal complicity in what they do.

 

Everybody knows

they are bought and paid to

campaign for office

 legislate in office

lobby out of office.

 

Everybody knows

voting is an auction and

the highest bidder buys  

the most fashionable exhibit.

 

Everybody knows

either party is corrupted a bit more than the other

and the highest bar would not stop a centipede.

 

Everybody knows

if voting really mattered

they would not have allowed the 

nineteenth and twenty-sixth amendments.

 

Everybody knows

they fear not the voter already known

but rather the nonvoter not known.

 

Everybody knows

nonvoters are more stupid and less informed

so the attempt to get out the vote is like 

inviting the Kardashians to a quiz show. 

 

Everybody knows:

Republicans will do the wrong thing

Democrats will do nothing

Independents will do the right thing and fail.

 

Everybody knows

as for Trump the black sheep

they no longer can ignore

and will eventually impeach 

to get back to business as before.

 

Everybody knows

the parties of Tweedledee and Tweedledum

dee-dum, dee-dum, ho-hum, ho-hum.

 

Everybody hopes

if nobody voted they would go away

dee-dee, dum-dum, away they run.

 

 

JIM HANSON is a retired Senior Researcher at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He is a sociologist and lay-ordinate Zen Buddhist. He is a member of the St. Louis Poetry Center and lives in the St. Louis area with his wife Carol. His chapbook is being published by Flutter Press in October 2019 and titled Anthropic Musings: Poems on Human Survival in the Coming Extinction. Recent single poems have appeared in Dissident Voice, I am not a silent poetInternational Journal of Fear Studies, NeboNew Verse NewsOtolithPoetry24, Sacred Journey, Writers Resist.

 

 

Robin Helweg-Larsen

 

 

THE QUINCENTENARIAN LOOKS BACK

 

“Twentieth century”! – hard to think it through,

remember details in that distant view…

At her tenth birthday party, why’d I throw

her in the pool, all dressed up? Still don’t know.

Later we lived together overseas;

I had no clue of female hygiene needs,

never bought tampons, she used toilet paper.

Later she had a child. Mine? I wonder.

I’d left, we lived with others, better fit…

or did we marry, and have kids, then split?

I married once or twice, had kids, I’m sure.

Sent her too rude a joke, and heard no more.

We knew so little in those small young lives…

I miss you, though, my girl, or wife, or wives.

 

 

ROBIN HELWEG-LARSEN is British-born but Bahamian-raised. His poetry has mostly been published in the UK (Snakeskin, Ambit, etc), but also in the US (RAR, Love & Ensuing Madness, Better Than Starbucks, The Hypertexts, The Road Not Taken, Star*Line, The Lyric, etc) and other countries. He is Series Editor of Sampson Low’s Potcake Chapbooks, blogs at formalverse.com, and lives in his hometown of Governor’s Harbour on Eleuthera.

 

 

Devon Henry

 

 

69TH ANNUAL ALUMNI GALA

 

When you’re gone i dream of a party in a hotel:

A green velvet dress, hiked

Hands against a black tile wall

Gold faucets, unable to look our reflections in the eyes

Trying to grasp enough of each other,

Don’t ever let me go

Escort me back out under purple lights

Our secret between my thighs

And introduce me to your ghost

 

 

WONDER VALLEY

 

There is nothing here, no one

The houses sit abandoned, the campers left at first light

No leather-jacket phantoms or 

Boys with fists in their voices

See how my tears have dried in the crack-dirt sun

And there is violence in your blood, rising

Like mercury in a thermometer

Clouds streak across a peach-pink sky and it’s

Just you, me and the jackrabbits

Wrap your fingers around my neck

And taste the salt

 

 

AN INCOMPLETE LIST OF ELABORATE

FANTASIES FOR WHEN I CAN’T SLEEP

 

on thanksgiving i go out to the porch for a

smoke/ i smoke in this fantasy, parliaments/

your ex asks me for a cigarette and i

comply/ magnanimously, generously,

charitably/ she compliments my hair/ long,

past my breasts, shiny, brown/ we smoke in

silence/ inside, everyone laughs at my jokes

 

we tell no one but family and drive out to

the desert/ my friend wraps our hands

together with cord/ green like hills i’ve never

seen/ and i promise you forever/ you wear a

velvet tuxedo jacket/ i’m wearing a

wide-brimmed hat/ we dance outside at

10pm and the air is warm like bathwater

 

this one, my favorite, i’m at the hospital/

ucla, santa monica/ i squeeze my Granny’s

hand/ she still smells like parliaments, cold

cream, chanel no. 5/ she opens her eyes and

they take out the iv and send her home/ the

pregnant nurse has a baby girl and names

her Julia/ we spend the next christmas

in the overland house/ she cries at my wedding

 

 

DEVON HENRY is a writer and poet from Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Wired, Human Parts, Sybil Journal, Vita Brevis Press and Medium, among others.

 

 

Mary Beth Hines

 

 

THE AFTER PARTY

 

We sweep into the clearing in prom gowns  

And heels, pull silver flasks from purses, light  

Cigarettes.  The air is alive with owls

And starlings, and we build a white 

Towering fire. We shimmer in its heat, 

Slip from tight dresses, weave hair with flowers.  

Drunk on wine, we chant and drum, lurch to our feet

When we hear the boys’ voices far-off

Growing nearer – a brash, slurring babel –

Reeling shadows, hurtling music nearly smothers

Our party. But we rebound and rattle 

Our black pine sabers, and chase faceless brothers,

Strange suitors, lovers, until dawn when we stagger

Home half-dressed, mute, blear-eyed to our mothers.

 

 

CAT AND MOUSE AT THE BROKEN DOLL 

 

I thought I could play the game and get by.

I thought I was as nimble as sly.

I thought I’d dance then duck and dive.

 

But before I could slip across the floor

I heard the click of the widening jaw

Just as I felt his steely paw.

 

And in the ensuing frenzied waltz

All I saw was my stunned surprise

Mirrored back from the brute’s cold eyes.

 

 

GIRL FROM NANTUCKET

 

At nineteen

I careened

around the island

with Jenny

in the back seat 

of her Dougie’s

sweet jeep.

 

Beach play

by day led 

to steamy 

forays behind

dunes, sea grass, 

haze – players, 

strangers, and strays.

 

And the parties

at night, crashed,

secluded 

from sight, and no

reason to ask 

for a name

or a past.

 

His nimble 

hands lingered,

fingers tipped 

in my lap,

past blue 

seams under 

pants

 

and the nubbed couch 

scratched ass, 

foghorns wailed 

against glass 

when Jen left me 

with Doug

and I let him.

Because.

 

 

Following a long career as a project manager, MARY BETH HINES is an active participant in Boston area writing workshops. Her work has been, or will soon be published in journals such as Blue Unicorn, Crab Orchard Review, Lighten Up On Line, Literary Mama, and The Lake, among others.

 

 

D. A. Hosek

 

 

CHICAGO SONNET #2

 

The law declares him corporation sole,

This sole inhabitant of the mansion

At the top of State Street. With all his soul

He prays. But what can fill the void

 

Of being alone? There are no children

Here to play on the lawn. Celibacy

Leaves him childless, or perhaps the lost

Trust of parents betrayed, his institution

 

More concerned with guarding the shepherds

Than caring for sheep, is what truly leaves him

A lonely man. He’s not committed the sins

Of his peers. No matter. Blame is transitive.

 

When he made his vows, he knew he’d sleep alone.

It’s the lonely days he did not expect.

 

 

D. A. HOSEK’s poetry has appeared in the Australian Journals Westerly and Meniscus as well as California Quarterly. He earned his MFA from the University of Tampa. He lives and writes in Oak Park, IL and spends his days as an insignificant cog in the machinery of corporate America. http://dahosek.com

 

 

Garret Keizer

 

 

YOSODHARA

 

The Buddha’s path attracts me, always will,

the rational compassion of his Noble Truths,

the higher heroism of the kind and still—

by the Bo Tree let us build three booths.

But God so loved the world and so have I

and found it worth the pain, and found it good,

and therefore find that I identify

most with the lover nailed to the world’s hard wood.

It’s not that I see merit in love’s hurt,

or none in non-attachment’s claimless claim;

it’s rather that, as roots take hold of dirt,

whenever love grips me, I do the same.

Won’t Yosodhara, Buddha’s wife, agree,

though weeping, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”

 

 

THE ALTAR OF ART

                        

To lay it all on the altar of art—fuck art!

Especially when the offering is wife or child.

These dilettantes whose ego is their heart: 

minor to a man (and most are men), wild 

as weeds.  While the roses, Rembrandt, Bach, Coltrane  

in his way, live burghers’ lives, avoid disgrace,

their regimens regular as a Tokyo train,         

attain their place by putting art in its place,

which is to say, beneath what wonders moved them,

beneath what they would celebrate but not

exploit, the common joys esthetes condemn,  

what flourishes after mere flourishes rot. 

Picasso? Even he insists, when painters dine,

their talk is not of art but turpentine.  

 

 

WHAT IF GOD’S DECIDED

 

What if God’s decided we are better off

without him near, and our vast secular void

is but his melancholy sigh?  What if

Marx misheard it, if Nietzsche is God’s Freud?

Even the pious Irish have no use

for church, and who can blame them?  Christ himself

might skip Communion in the face of such abuse,

Saint Patrick miss the viper on his missal shelf.

But backlash is old.  This mood is something more,

the sense that we’ll go forward only when

God leaves, like a lover who writes, “I bore

myself, I must bore you,” then clicks his pen.

If God believes it, surely it must be so.

Belief?  What’s that?  Whither Thou goest I go.

 

 

GARRET KEIZER is the author of The World Pushes Back, winner of the 2018 X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize, and eight books of prose, including Privacy and The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want. He is also a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine and Virginia Quarterly Review. His website is here: https://garretkeizer.com

 

 

James Lineberger

 

 

BLOWING OUT MY CANDLES

 

i walked into

the old el quixote one day last summer, 

and behold

there was tennessee williams eating 

paella

 

mr williams i said

i don’t want

to bother you but i just wanted to say 

how much we writers all

owe to you 

 

he had been ill i knew that

and his face

was pale and deeply lined like

the surface of some

weathered unpainted board

 

he gave a little cough

and offered his hand 

a soft 

damp hand with beautifully 

manicured nails

 

why thank yew he said

there’s a ‘vival of my garden district 

tonight and i’ve got no date 

i never fuck writers

do you perhaps have a friend

 

 

JAMES LINEBERGER is a mostly retired playwright and screenwriter. His poetry has appeared in Boulevard; The Cortland Review; The Main Street Rag; UCity Review; Natural Bridge; Pembroke Magazine; Quarter After Eight; Free State Review; Sheila-Na-Gig; B O D Y; Misfit Magazine; and New Ohio Review.

 

 

Martina Litty

 

 

RATATOSK

 

Mother, I will be your Ratatosk,

your drill-tooth tree squirrel,

your tiny messenger. I will sprint

 

for you, dig my little claws

into tree bark, run rivets in the wood

like tire tracks. I will squeak

 

your messages at the root and at

the leaftops and at the root again

until Ragnarok arrives.

 

Nidhogg is the one who gnaws

at the tree roots, Mother,

but I’ll take my drill-tooth name,

 

take this rat sound upon

my squirrel body, take

your messages wherever you ask.

 

I think, maybe, that it is not in your DNA

to ask; I think that you are a showing

and not a telling sort of person,

 

but you are all blurred to me,

without contrast or color

in my small, watery eyes.

 

So, Mother, I need you to tell me.

And please don’t whisper, Mother,

I cannot read your lips. I am asking you now

 

to let your windpipe thrum,

to release your hot breath

that smells like mint mouthwash;

 

I am asking you, Mother, to say

my name, and then to say more

than my name.

 

Mother, drive me like a lemming

into the ocean.

I will doggie-paddle out

 

and I will blink water droplets

out of my wide eyes

and I will drink salt.

 

I will believe with all of my heart

that I will make it

to another shore.

 

Mother, tell me I will make it,

play me your Pied Piper song

and like a rat or a child I will believe

 

that I can walk on water 

even while

my legs give out.

 

 

MARTINA LITTY is a poet and fiction writer from North Carolina. She currently studies Creative Writing at UNC Wilmington. Her poems can be found in High Shelf Press, semicolon, and Poets Reading the News. Litty attended the IWP Summer Institute in 2019, hosted at the University of Iowa. She is currently working on her first chapbook.

 

 

Raymond Luczak

 

 

ODE TO THE NUNS

 

Sing me a song, oh you nuns who once

made a habit of viewing me a dunce

when I couldn’t lipread you from the front row.

You o-ver-en-un-ci-at-ed to show

everyone how you could accommodate 

a poor hearing-impaired soul in his state.

 

My hearing aid harness

underneath my shirt

looked like a bra, a dress.

 

Sing me a song, oh you nuns in black,

glaring at the smirking boys in the back

who drew pictures mocking my ears.

I fought back with shuttering my tears,

never glancing back while I lipread.

I practiced my smiles until I was dead.

 

The peach cords woven fine

and upward from my body aids

created a scapular all mine.

 

Sing me a song, oh you nuns in prayer,

heads bowed with curled bangs of your hair,

pufferies of cloud, as hymns to the Lord

struck another intricate chord.

During Masses you knelt unveiled

while I felt forever failed. 

 

RAYMOND LUCZAK is the author and editor of 22 books, including Flannelwood (Red Hen Press) and Lovejets: Queer Male Poets on 200 Years of Walt Whitman (Squares & Rebels). A ten-time Pushcart Prize nominee, he lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and can be found online at raymondluczak.com.

 

 

Paul Lymanson 

 

 

WE SQUAT FACE TO FACE

 

knee to knee

You whisper I’m pregnant

wearing that old hippie batik

the color of your freckles

 

We are so much younger

than we feel

You are so lovely

in your sadness

What is the matter — 

are you remembering the miscarriage?

Now you burst into tears

Let me kiss your batik face

You are always happiest

when you are sad

 

We make love

I float like a cloud above

connected by one lifeline

to your fertile planet

Your nipples like arrowheads

pierce my chest

 

 

SENSUOUS CHILD

 

At the beach she sees a sand crab.

She asks: 

            Why are crabs?

She strips.

She loves naked, this toddler.

Pelicans flap in a line, on and on.

She asks: 

            Why are birds?

What would you say?

 

She sticks the nipple of her bottle 

            up her vagina.

She plays hide and seek with it:

            Where’s my ’gina?

            Where’s my ’gina?

            There it is!

In all innocence she writhes on the sand, 

            making love to the beach.

What should a father say?

 

A man walking by 

stops. Stares.

The man’s eyes are points of ice.

She crouches nose to toes: 

Daddy I’m cold

gimme a towel.

Shadow of a hawk, so to say

this warm day.

 

 

PAUL LYMANSON lives quietly in a forest. He has no academic credentials.

 

 

DS Maolalai

 

 

BACON

 

sex – all saltpork sweatiness –

like putting bacon

you didn’t use

back in the packet

with other bacon. I don’t know

what this is

beyond 

all that. it’s amazing

that we should want it at all. all meat

banging into meat in a hot room. 

and you like it.

and I like it. and we 

like getting into each other, at angles

like rutting pigs. dogs rubbing up

against cushions,

and I flip you over – not romantic;

just a hard 

movement, fast. and a moment

of emotion 

comes after;

your head 

settled in my shoulder

looking up

 

 

A NEW TRANSLATION OF CATULLUS

 

curious, sipping wine

and reading 

the new translation of catullus,

while I listen

to my dinner

boil – idly wondering

if this,

or the earlier versions

in my grandfather’s study,

bound by their leather

and the time’s style

(which,

while very sexy, 

didn’t use phrases like “toss-off”

or “blowjob”

quite so often)

are more true

to the original 

latin. not checking

because I’d much prefer

it be this one

 

 

CLAIRE

 

my pride 

            held your heart

like a handful of snowmelt

and you sat across from me 

and played with your drink

while I let my mouth 

do the talking

and hoped that it would say 

something 

which could cling 

on your wrists.

 

you were a magpie 

caught in bright applelight,

or chalk 

in soft weather,

and I remember saying 

these things

because I thought there were these things 

you had to say.

 

Claire, 

            I only did to you

what any man would do:

I was easy

            when I wanted to be easy;

I smiled

            when you wanted me to laugh;

I was honest

because it was easier

                                    than being kind.

 

 

DS MAOLALAI has been nominated three times for Best of the Net and twice for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019).

 

 

John Martino  

 

 

WHAT’S THE TITLE?

 

You keep telling me to read more.

And I keep telling you to go fuck 

your other husband for a change. 

Which always makes you laugh until

it doesn’t. Look, you say, over the top 

of your book, that squirrel is nosing 

in the bird feeder again. I prop myself 

up on one elbow to see. Chestnut 

tail twitching. Brown body missing

its head. Wonder how he gets in there?

I say. Minutes later, we’re playing 

“Squirrel Nosing in the Bird Feeder.”

We’re always inventing new games.

“Light the Pilot.” “Grease the Pan.”

“Crack Two Eggs into a Mixing Bowl

and Beat.” Everything’s a turn on 

until it isn’t. How do you know it’s 

the same squirrel? I ask, a surge 

of late morning light illuminating

the walls. I don’t, she says, turning 

a page, her eyes tracking the words 

only she can read. I sit up, glance 

at the spine. Nothing Here But the 

and can’t make out the rest, propped 

as it is against the apex of her knees. 

I bunch the pillow under my head, 

watch the room gradually grow dim 

again, shadows tucking themselves 

into the four corners of the ceiling. 

What’s the title? I ask. But she doesn’t 

answer. Doesn’t hear. Or anyway 

pretends not to. But then I see her 

eyes are closed, the open book held 

there, motionless. Quietly, I rise, leave 

the bed. Walk over to the bookcase 

next to the window, begin scanning 

the shelves, as if for clues. My neck 

craned. All the horizontal names on 

their sides. Some I know. Some I’ve 

even read. I straighten, stretch, catch 

sight of the small red house hanging 

from the porch eave. And there’s that 

squirrel again.  

 

 

JOHN MARTINO is an avid traveler currently residing in San Fransisco with his partner, Xiuli. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in What Rough BeastThe Bitchin’ KitschConnotation PressHEArt Online, and the anthology Envy, Vol. 6 from a 7-volume series on the 7 deadly sins by Pure Slush Books.

 

 

Kismet McIntyre

 

 

EVERLAND

 

The first time you read Sandra Cisneros’s “Eleven,” you were thirty something

still close enough to know how  eleven felt inside,

understand 

the frustrated sadness

impotent humiliation

of being that 

young

 

all those years ago

eleven was an age

but at almost forty-two

it isn’t the same

 

now eleven is the lines between your eyes you’re sure appeared earlier today

verified by 

scrolling

saved Snapchats 

all picture posts

within a six-month span

 

eleven is the parallel structure you’ve been teaching for twenty years

a geometry lesson and rhetorical device right on your face

 

you look at eleven and you don’t understand how it happened

 

when

Monday morning you were ten making out with Jason Land behind AC Perry Elementary School 

and Monday afternoon you were twelve stealing your father’s car with your best friend Chris

and Monday evening you were thirteen losing your virginity to a boy you barely knew

and Tuesday after you woke up you were seventeen laughing when Louie said he was never so sick of hearing his name during the “Louie, Louie” marathon

and Tuesday when you got out of the shower you were eighteen drinking coffee all night with Marnie at the Mudhouse and Nocturnal Café

and Tuesday before you went to bed you were twenty and living with Glenn

and Wednesday when you were eating breakfast you were twenty-two getting drunk with Erin

and Wednesday when you were eating scones at high tea because you used to like to pretend you were British, you were twenty-three, newly newly married and degreed

and Thursday you were twenty-eight, a mom to Griffin and Keifer and Christopher Puppy Baby, a Swedish Valhund

and Friday you were thirty-three holding that no-longer puppy by yourself as the veterinarian gave him that shot

and Saturday you were thirty-four starting a seven-year affair with Clinton Lee

and Sunday you were thirty-nine signing the papers that ended your marriage

and this whole last week and the week before that and the weeks before that while you were living your life

 

eleven wasn’t 

there

 

and you don’t understand because Peter told Wendy she only had to wish hard and you did and you’ve had the lines by your mouth always but you can explain those away because your son has them and he’s only fifteen and you’ve been annoyed with the horizontal on your forehead, the one you’ve always compared to that warfare method of digging a trench, but your students have those at seventeen and plus there’s that one picture where you see the line in your twenties and twenty isn’t—

 

but eleven—

eleven is— 

 

eleven is just

no explaining

no excuses

no thing but two grooves on either side of your nose

rings on a tree in the middle of your face

 

and now when you read Sandra Cisneros’s “Eleven”

you know how eleven feels inside,

understand

the frustrated sadness

impotent humiliation

of being that

old

 

 

KISMET MCINTYRE teaches in South Florida where she spends her time longing for Chicago. Years ago, her writing appeared in Hippocampus, The Northville Review, Southern Women’s Review, and Elephant Journal but at some point she lost her drive; thankfully, she’s just the right ratio of happy:sad to have found it. Kismet holds an MFA in creative nonfiction but writes a bit of everything including Life’s Waiting to Begin, which you can find at www.melankelly.blogspot.com.

 

 

Lucy Mihajlich

 

 

FORBIDDEN FRUIT 

 

Assuming the Bible is accurate,

the Earth is about six thousand years old.

Its forbidden fruit could probably not

have been an apple, as we were once told.

 

To grow in the Garden of Eden’s plot,

Under a Mesopotamian sun,

it was probably not a pluot, 

nor apple (which was just a mălum pun).

 

A pear, fig, mushroom, or pomegranate

could scarce be considered Heaven’s Manna.

To fit all criteria, I posit

the forbidden fruit was a banana. 

 

The consumption thereof is ill-advised.

Especially while meeting Adam’s eyes.

 

 

ARKANSAS

 

The couple had but one thing left to lose.

They hailed from the land of “Arkansas,”

a state wherein a woman’s right to choose

was soon to be unwritten from the law.

 

We fear for the effect of Arkansas’ 

legislature: a generation lost, 

but more would be born under these new laws

and incest has a biological cost. 

 

T’was known a babe would need be sacrificed,

for Evil ever brings its own bad tidings.

The only thing would end the Antichrist

was good, old-fashioned infanticiding.

 

So unless you want Ragnor-Little-Rock,

quit putting your laws where you put your cock.

 

 

LUCY MIHAJLICH lives in Portland, Oregon. Her first book, Interface, was chosen for the Multnomah County Library Writers Project, where it appeared on the list for Best of the Library Writer’s Project 2017.

 

 

Alice Morris 

 

 

SHE TITLED HER POEM, ALICE BLUE GOWN OF DULCIMER RENOWN

 

it was a goofy, rhymey, impassioned poem 

— written for me

and when she returned home

I laughed at it

this was long ago, in the early 70’s

 

she lived next door 

to where my husband grew up—had a pretty young daughter 

that my mother-in-law wanted 

for her daughter-in-law—instead

of me

 

twice, I went inside that neighbor woman’s house— 

it was chaos in there–

anything could be anywhere–

ketchup bottles on the living room sofa 

food hardening on last night’s scattered dinner plates

 

maybe this added to why I laughed at that neighbor woman’s poem

as I sat on the back steps of my husband’s childhood home 

where I played my dulcimer 

sang Old Joe Clark, Barbara Allen, Pretty Saro–how she wants 

a freeholder who owns house and land…

 

I guess the neighbor woman could hear me singing and playing from her yard 

maybe my music floated 

into her house through her back screen door–

these days, I hear the start of some lyrical thought 

that must have played on that woman’s mind, over and over

 

until she had to find paper

write her words down 

walk next door

hand her poem-gift 

to me

 

and really, I should have appreciated that neighbor woman—

and her gift—much more, not laughed

because with a heart ablaze, that woman wrote me a poem

—so much more than my mother-in-law ever 

did for me 

 

 

ALICE MORRIS, 2019 finalist for The Pushcart Prize, was recently nonmined for the Best of the Net award. In 2019 she won second and third places for a single poem, and a single short story in the Delaware Press Association Communications Contest. In 2018 she received the first place Florence C. Coltman Award for Creative Writing. Her work appears in such places as The Broadkill Review, The Paterson Literary Review, Gargoyle, and in numerous anthologies.

 

 

E. Martin Pedersen

 

 

YEAST

 

The yen is down now

someone’s devious in Denmark

a pregnant woman will do her business

in Domodossola you will be upset by my letter but 

will accept the invite; you can’t justify;

it’s cloaked in innocence

— in incense:

oranges and fried fish

I’ll smell you when we meet, when we kiss

— you smell like grains:

wheat, barley, rye, oats: the great plains —

Then you’ll sit awkwardly across from me

the gong will sound round 2

what does he want that he ignores

I ask your full name

do you really love swimming?

oh yes, with rivulets dripping down my body like fingers

do you need a friend?

no, I have several; I need salvation

like the lizards I caught and their tummies I rubbed

like the cat that scratches my right hand, always the right

and makes bread on my sweater.

 

Make bread on me,

that’s all I wish for, Jeannie

a loaf of devout bread.

 

 

E. MARTIN PEDERSEN, originally from San Francisco, has lived for over 35 years in eastern Sicily where he teaches English at the local university. His poetry has appeared in The James Dickey Review, Ink in Thirds, Mused, Oddville, Former People, The Bitchin’ Kitsch and others. Martin is an alum of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. He blogs at:

emartinpedersenwriter.blogspot.it

 

 

Ivan Peledov

 

 

BONES

 

Day and night children learn to

count dead blades of grass,

snowflakes, quarters in the pockets,

teeth in the mouth, years before and after,

rays of the black sun in the bones.

The sky smells of giants fucking.

 

 

IVAN PELEDOV lives in Colorado. He loves to travel and to forget the places he has visited. He has been published in Eunoia Review, In Between Hangovers, Unlikely Stories, Illuminations and other magazines.

 

 

Robert Perchan

 

 

TEA WITH A GOD

 

I was having tea with the God of All Deformities. A perfectly hideous fellow with all sorts of Mayan glyph bling going on and off inside his mouth instead of teeth. But not without a dash of Old World gentleman charm offensive about him too. He had been around. The conversation tacked in the direction of Beauty and the Problem of Heaven. Where would all the good-hearted but homely people go when they died? I wanted to know. Certainly not to Heaven. No one ever saw a picture of Heaven with mug ugly angels plucking psalteries up there. And surely they didn’t deserve Hell just because they were so bloody uncomely.  Perhaps their Inner Beauty could be squeezed out of them like a tube and used to paint them over until they looked all transfigured or suchlike. The God of All Deformities sat bemused and sipped his tea past his ruined lips. Just then his auburn raceabout of a consort breezed in and dropped anchor. She was a Knockout. I mean a Real Bombshell. You couldn’t not stare at her. And existential as all get out. She didn’t buy into Heaven or Hell or any of that. This was odd coming from the wife of a God. Oh He believes in all that stuff all right, she said. Has to.  And look what it’s done to His complexion. And His choppers! Still, she mummed and clicquoted in the bubbly argot of the Eternally Tipsy. He’s a God for all that. And gets to bed a ravishing Brett Ashley like me every night. Darling, she turned to the God of All Deformities. Do be a good God of All Deformities and don’t look at me that way.

 

 

TO CAPTAIN FREDERICK WENTWORTH

ON THE 2017 BICENTENNIAL OF THE

DEATH OF JANE AUSTEN

 

the handsomest and best hung of any in Bath

 

Lady Russell in Jane Austen’s Persuasion

said that, quoting Mrs. Frankland and

Lady Alicia (Chapter 19). In Austen

one must read for the subtext. Other than

that, she was just gossiping about curtains

and not about you, Anne’s dearest Captain.

At any rate, in response to this, “Anne

sighed and blushed and smiled.” Man,

how those fine ladies got off on both

the drapes of Bath and your reputation!

 

 

ROBERT PERCHAN’s poetry chapbooks are Mythic Instinct Afternoon (2005 Poetry West Prize) and Overdressed to Kill (Backwaters Press 2005 Weldon Kees Award). His poetry collection Fluid in Darkness, Frozen in Light won the 1999 Pearl Poetry Prize. His avant-la-lettre flash novel Perchan’s Chorea: Eros and Exile (Watermark Press, Wichita, 1991) was translated into French and published by Quidam Editeurs (Meudon) in 2002. He eats and drinks in Pusan, South Korea. Find him at robertperchan.com.

 

 

Juan Manuel Pérez

 

 

BRAINS

 

Zombies don’t have brains

because then they would remember

tearing out the chest of its child

tearing out the heart of its husband

tearing out the mammary glands of its mother

tearing out the face of its father

tearing out the neck of its nephew

 

Zombies don’t have brains

because then it would remember

tearing out the knuckles of its niece

tearing out the ankles of its uncle

tearing out the arms of its aunt

tearing out the gallbladder of its grandfather

a baseball bat named “Lucille”

 

 

JUAN MANUEL PÉREZ, a Mexican-American poet of indigenous descent and the current Poet Laureate for Corpus Christi, Texas (2019-2020), is the author O’ Dark Heaven: A Response to Suzette Haden Elgin’s Definition of Horror (2009), Live From La Pryor: The Poetry of Juan Manuel Perez: A Zavala Country Native Son, Volume 1 (2014), and Sex, Lies, and Chupacabras (2015), as well as, the co-editor of The Call Of The Chupacabra (2018)

 

 

Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

 

 

THE MORES, THE ZIPPO, AND THE HIP FLASK

 

the magic number is 64,

the age I’ve circled in red –

the progeny flown, my work done

kick off the bloody goody two shoes

cartwheel, freewheel, till the grave.

 

first I’ll open a packet of Mores –

filter tipped, with that distinct golden line

I clearly remember my harried boss

bringing to work in his Moleskine pouch.

poor devil, how he’d puff away

long and wild-eyed, imagining them

his domestic woes incinerated with every drag,

the menthol clotting cool and green

in the knots of my young brain 

had worked so effectively back then,

numbing my post-break-up blues

with the long haired guitarist

who shredded Iron Maiden riffs.

 

next I’ll bring out my old silver Zippo

who has lived in exile in the kitchen cabinet,

with vinegar bottles and antacid meds,

perpetually mad at the mousy matches 

who always had the honour

of lighting the birthday candles,

I’ll practice old moves – flips and flops

till I perfect the cool, nonchalant air

that an old friend used to pull

so snazzily, a lifetime ago –

the flap of wrist and click of thumb

till the perfect blue flame like an Alladin’s lamp

sprang in the cup of his chubby hands.

 

and last, I’ll go digging 

behind Toynbee and Dostoevsky

for the hidden hip flask, now probably hunched 

with a backache of the metallic kind

being wedged and forgotten for donkey’s years,

between bums of books and worm-eaten racks.

the last it saw any memorable action

was in a seedy nightclub in a forgettable city

back when both the hip flask and I

had been radically different beings.

 

that’s the plan but hell, who knows,

when 64 comes rolling by

my jump-off-the-deep-end bravado 

might be a frightening proposition

if my genes take over I just might be

the paranoid hypochondriac like most

of the current oldies in my family tree –

wrangling for a few more good years

with the lungs, the gut flora, the sanity

maybe I’ll chicken out and opt to bury

the Mores, the Zippo, and the hip flask 

very ceremoniously in the vegetable patch 

near my failed bonsai experiments 

and do regular senior birthday things

like take a taxi to the beach

with the besties.

 

 

OORMILA VIJAYAKRISHNAN PRAHLAD is a Sydney based artist, poet, and improv pianist. She holds a Masters in English. Oormila is a member of Sydney’s North Shore Poetry Project and Authora Australis. She has exhibited her art and accompanying poetry in Kuwait, India, Singapore and Australia. Her works have been published in Red Eft Review, Glass Poetry Journal’s Poets Resist, Eunoia Review, and Underwood Press’ Rue Scribe. She regularly performs her poems at venues in Sydney.

 

 

Brian Rihlmann

 

 

A TOUGH GUY 

 

you’re a tough guy

got your lines in the sand

nothing before noon

you always say

but by 8 every night 

it’s a full day’s work

 

I used to be a tough guy too

I’m not so tough anymore 

kind of a bleeding heart

according to you 

and this thing screeches 

a lot more these days

it’s like a rusty engine

without that lubricant to fill it up

flood its chambers

numb the pain

and soothe the itch

 

you know the one

don’t you?

sure you do

that poison ivy rash 

on the inside, unreachable 

 

it’s why your garbage cans

clink and clank 

like a dozen wine glasses

at an awkward Thanksgiving toast

when you roll them out

at the end of the week

 

it’s why the contents shatter

into a thousand shards

like childhood memories 

when the hydraulic arm

shakes those hollowed soldiers

into the cold steel of the truck

and hauls them away

 

BRIAN RIHLMANN was born in New Jersey and currently resides in Reno, Nevada. He writes free verse poetry, much of it on the confessional side. He has been published in Blognostics, Red Eft Review, Spillwords, Synchronized Chaos, Cajun Mutt Press, The Rye Whiskey Review, and others.

 

 

Ed Ruzicka

 

 

I’VE HAD A BUNCH OF BEATERS

 

I got stuck with the clunker after my step-daughter

gobbled fistfuls of Tylenol in a cry-to-mommy-for-help 

that successfully got me moved out of the house.

 

It was a mechanically sound Corona station wagon

boring as a night spent with a visiting aunt.

You could soft-boil an egg in the time it took

to get this thing up to seventy, feel them struts shimmy.

 

Ran it into the dirt going up and down an interstate corridor

for one of those jobs where you watch the dead

come alive as they rush out the door toward cars parked

in the punishing brilliance of a shell lot every 4:30 p. m.

Building cleared by 4:33. Last out trips the alarm.

 

I used to take it down along River Road 

boom out, swerve back like I was following 

the lazy loop of a saxophone’s neck.  

Discovered a church in Bayou Goula not much bigger 

than a walk in closet. You let yourself in with a key 

kept in a small cypress box off to the side.

Inside, to the left, was a stand of candles whose flames willowed

when the door opened or closed.  They’d left a butane lighter

and a long stick you snuffed in sand after giving an offering.

That way your prayer stayed behind to cast a jasmine light

onto a Saint Christopher, a Francis of Assisi, four distinct Mary’s,

one with a serpent crushed beneath her left foot. That is the way

Louisiana is – licked by rivers, flush with faith.

A place where you hear songs well up even in its silences.

 

Anyway, after the tires went bald I sold that Corona to a little guy 

from Gonzales on a Sunday when nothing was open to do the paper work.

He promised to register the sale straight away but evidently

never got around to that because a year later I got a call

from a detective down in New Orleans who wanted to know 

if I still owned a brown Toyota station wagon. Because,

 in point of fact, it was a subject of criminal inquiry.

 

I laughed out loud when he said my own special beater

had been used in a snatch-n-go robbery of some poor bastard’s

news stand at the corner of Hopeless and Gentilly.

I couldn’t imagine the get-away scene as anything other than

a slapstick Western where hair-brained cowpokes hold up a noon coach

Then try to make their get-away furiously switching the flanks of burros.

I envisioned a trio of sad sacks back at their apartment counting the haul.

Carefully calculating how many more heists it was going to take 

before they got enough together for a vehicle half-way worth a shit.

 

 

ED RUZICKA has recently found that he can blend in seamlessly. Whether testing the firmness of a mango at Albertsons, walking hospital halls, sipping suds at a music fest or pausing by a park bench in Cusco to tie his shoe, he exults in the luxury of oblivion. He has one book out and has appeared in a wide range of literary magazines. More at edrpoet.com.

 

 

Michael Salcman

 

 

WHITE SPACE

 

From time to time, you find the center

at the margins, all meaning between the lines

where sunlight streams through the slats

of a blind.

 

In the beginning, it took only a few words

to make sunlight, meaning—

no audience, no preaching,

a rule He understood.

 

We ourselves might take back creation

a word at a time,

editing out fathers and mothers

even the first murder of a brother.

 

Then came the soul-breaching of city walls,

of illness, of belated discovery

when a true lover has departed, is gone.

 

In the white space of the city,

your hands land like plums on my back, 

and the room goes blank.

 

 

MICHAEL SALCMAN, poet, physician and art historian, was chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore. Poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Arts & Letters, Hopkins Review, The Hudson Review, New Letters, Notre Dame Review, Poet Lore and Ontario Review. Salcman is the author of four chapbooks. Books include The Clock Made of Confetti (Orchises, 2007), nominated for The Poets’ Prize, The Enemy of Good is Better (Orchises, 2011), Poetry in Medicine, his popular anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors, patients, illness & healing (Persea Books, 2015) and A Prague Spring, Before & After (2016), winner of the 2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize from Evening Street Press.

 

 

Anum Sattar

 

 

IDDAH

 

in the absence of his tongue

that spread her labia apart

the widow empties a lota

to relieve herself

 

 

UNPICKED SO LONG

 

bruised nectarines

tumble off the tree

I fear you will go mad

awaiting my arrival

 

 

ANUM SATTAR is a recent graduate from the College of Wooster in Ohio, USA. Her poems have been published in the American Journal of Poetry (Margie,) Visitant, Social Alternatives Journal, Foxtrot Uniform, Harbinger Asylum, Voice of Eve, Notre Dame Review, GUSTS, Porter Gulch Review, Midway Journal, Willard & Maple, Meniscus Journal by Australian Association of Writing Programs, Indianapolis Review, Lullwater Review, North Dakota Quarterly, IDK Magazine, Door is a Jar, Ribbons, South Florida Poetry Journal, Typehouse Literary Magazine, The Charles Cater: a working anthology, 50 Haikus, Stuck in the Library, Broadkill Review, Poetry Life and Times, Triggerfish Critical Review, Packingtown Review, Blithe Spirit, The Mythic Circle, HOBART, SurVision Magazine, Literary Juice, Coal City Review, Crack the Spine, Lowestoft Chronicle, Taj Mahal Review, FIVE 2 ONE: An Art and Literary Journal, The Linnet’s Wings, Ragazine, Better than Starbucks! The Florida Review, Grey Sparrow Press, Oddball Magazine, Artifact Nouveau, Off the Coast, Strange POEtry, Between These Shores Literary & Arts Annual, Conceit Magazine, A New Ulster, The Cannon’s Mouth, The Journal of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry, Wilderness House Literary Review, Poydras Review, The Cadaverine, Verbalart: A Global Journal Devoted to Poets & Poetry, The Wayne Literary Journal, The Ibis Head Review, Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poems, Poets Bridge, Deltona Howl and Tipton Poetry Journal. She won the first Grace Prize and third Vonna Hicks poetry awards at the college. She reads out her work at Brooklyn Poets, Spoonbill and Sugartown Bookstore, Forest Hills Library in New York City, Cuyahoga Valley Art Center at Cuyahoga Falls, OH, Bridgewater College in Shenandoah Valley, VA, Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA and was recently interviewed at Radio Free Brooklyn.

 

 

Claire Scott

 

 

MY SNOOPY THERMOS 

 

Definitely over three ounces

says the TSA agent, asking me to step aside

my emotional support thermos I say

just like a two pound Chihuahua or a gerbil 

or a potted plant, essential for survival

 

I pull out the letter from my therapist

that insists the thermos must be at my side

at all times, signed Dr. Kathleen Carpenter

who knows the support Snoopy brings

how this confident world-famous beagle

 

calms my nerves, reduces the need to stutter-

step my way to the gate, must be even, start 

over, miss the plane, pitch a fit, froth at the mouth,

who knows Snoopy, the World War I Flying Ace,

will make me feel safe at thirty thousand feet

 

keep me from screaming, grabbing my seatmate

with sweaty palms and sharp nails,

spilling hot coffee all over her Eileen Fisher pants

what Dr. Kathleen Carpenter does not know 

is that the Snoopy thermos is filled with straight gin

 

 

CLAIRE 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 Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.

 

 

Victoria Shippen

 

 

LOW TIDE MORNING

 

          Black-mud-finger tips knew this braille of rock

and clam, fists-muck-smeared-smelly, sun hot,

hollering at the earth to open.

           Gray streaked face, arms, shirts, Daddy leaned

over his rake, Indians lived here. Got their clams 

in this cove, this way. His big Buick squatted over us, 

our sliver of peninsula, our home.

 

            He pulled long-hard for surface clams, those that didn’t

feel us: clump, clump, clump, on their earth. Their squirts 

told us where to go. Clams go hiding faster than memories.

            Digging my hardest I still lost a lot.

 

            He pointed toward our grass: They had clambakes, right here.

Dig, you’ll find evidence. “Our backyard, really?”

 I see them: my beloved Indians, dark long braids, headbands, campfires,

papooses tended, especially that one.

            I leaned into them, my spade, dug, and dug, searching,

my nine-year-old arm slender-strong. Indians only scalped

enemies, not family. 

 

            Alcohol lifted off Dad’s pores like fog: he smelled scary-bad.

Two inches down only dirt; four inches, more nothing.

            It was forever.

 Cocktails Mom called, Dad followed.

           Young lady, you, stay outside. She didn’t share Dad.

I saw a small light on upstairs, my older sister’s––in bed,

dark like always. She never played.

 

            My hole deeper; down, down, I went.

I hit a clam. It broke. Excited, I scraped around,

more of them. Ten-inch circle of white greyness stacked,

layer after layer after layer.

            Indians, my imagined friends, dug clams like me,

ate them; threw the shells over their shoulders; (Dad said),

then buried them. It was real. They were here. It happened.

          

            Those piles of dead clam shells, the backyard-

of-my-heart was cluttered with them. Grey hard marks

where my center had been hollowed out. They lay

deep in the earth of me, insistent:

           the sweet meat is always eaten.

 

 

Victoria Shippen lives in Maine and Massachusetts, and works as a child, adult, and family therapist. She has studied with Joan Houlihan, Tom Lux, and Laure-Anne Bosselaar, (to whom she is deeply grateful). Victoria’s poetry is forthcoming or has appeared in Main Street Rag, Canary, Rise Up Review, Constellations, Heartwood, THAT Magazine, and SilkWorm.

 

 

John Short

 

 

ROMANCE IN A SANDSTONE TOWN

 

I reckoned intimacy with this country

but my new expanded geography

is the result of our devotion, 

and lost places you choose for home. 

 

At first I seemed to wake in Mexico,

now I see it’s more an Asian enclave

but they’ve kept the prices low

and really haven’t changed a thing

 

so after late coffee we can shelter

from the sun in China City,

buy pencils, cheap underwear,

an electric fan with a week’s guarantee

 

or browse that enormous bookshop

with the noisy drinks machine

at the steaming heart of its maze.

We are remote here, in love perhaps.

 

 

BAMBOO TABLE

 

I had a date

with a Jamaican girl

and no idea how to act

but when we met

it didn’t really matter because

she linked her arm through mine

as if to say I claim you.

 

Off to a club in town,

a popular prowling venue

but being already together

we just relaxed and danced

and I don’t remember the music

or what trivia was talked.

 

Later a taxi to my place:

a little room, that distant spring,

at the top of a shared house

freshly painted in pastel shades

a violin hanging on the wall,

 

a striped Moroccan blanket

across the bed and a small

bamboo table for effect.

 

 

JOHN SHORT lives in Liverpool and derives inspiration from his years wandering around Europe. A long time ago he studied creative writing at Liverpool university. His poems and stories have appeared in magazines such as Rats Ass Review, Prole, Envoi, Blue Nib, The Horror Zine, Yellow Mama and Poetry Salzburg. He reads on Vintage Radio in Liverpool and at venues around the city and beyond.

 

 

Alec Solomita

 

 

SUPERMAN

 

I see you lying there and want to take flight

with you under my arm like Lois through

day’s light sky, through the dark of night,

 

splash-landing like the skitter of a crane

then rocking soft on some sea’s slow rhythm,

which pulses like your purple lids. Your pain’s 

 

as grotesque as a discordant hymn

attended by shrieks of swooping gulls.

How did we find ourselves on the rim

 

of this yawning underworld that melts

you from my grasp with the certitude

of the sun that secured Icarus’s fall? 

 

I see you lying there and want to take flight

But those days are gone, my love, my light.

 

 

ALEC SOLOMITA’s fiction has appeared in The Mississippi Review, Southwest Review, Ireland’s Southword Journal, and The Adirondack Review, among other publications. He was shortlisted by the Bridport Prize and Southword Journal, and named a finalist by the Noctua Review. His poetry has appeared in Algebra of Owls, The Lake, The Galway Review, Panoplyzine, The Blue Nib, and elsewhere. His chapbook, “Do Not Forsake Me,” was published by Finishing Line Press in October of 2017. He lives in Massachusetts.

 

 

Charles Springer

 

 

PHALLIC SENTIMENTS

 

Clarence confessed to me if he could do it all over again he’d have been a candlestick maker and I tell him there’s still time, you’re young and wick and wax are still reasonable but he’s had his urology practice for nearly forty years now and he knows half the town by their penises alone and then he remembered how much fun and how much money he made as a kid with his popsicle stand at the end of his driveway and I informed him that sticks are a dime a dozen anymore and then he asks me how I’ve become so content waving a baton in the air twice a week in front of instruments and thousands of people and I tell him the baton itself is content and it’s leading me, it’s like a candle, a popsicle, a penis all rolled into one and I go places where I can’t go without it but right now, I’m going to stick some kabobs on the grill. You want one?

 

 

CHARLES SPRINGER has degrees in anthropology and is an award-winning painter. A Pushcart Prize nominee, he is published in over seventy journals including The Cincinnati Review, Faultline, Windsor Review, Packingtown Review and Tar River Poetry, among others. His first collection of poems, entitled Juice, is forthcoming from Regal House Publishing. He writes from Pennsylvania. website: https://www.charlesspringer.com

 

 

David J. Thompson

 

 

ANYWHERE ON ME

 

Shelley’s battered body didn’t wash ashore

until ten days after that killer squall

on the Gulf of La Spezia. They could 

identify the poet only by the volume 

of Keats’s poems he carried in a shirt pocket.

So, with that in mind, understand that

in a few years I’m going to disappear 

into Mexico somewhere to die quietly 

and alone before cancer comes again

or Alzheimer’s turns me into somebody else

that nobody knows.

 

I’ll be sure to ditch my phone and passport 

as soon as I get over the border, and pay for

everything in cash. Still, no matter how careful

I am, I worry that somehow I’ll slip up

and the authorities will trace the dead gringo

in the cheap hotel room to you. I apologize 

for that now, so, when they say they need someone 

to come down to  identify my corpse bloated by beer 

and darkened by the sun, just ask them if they found 

a pocket copy of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems anywhere 

on me, and save yourself the trip.

 

 

DAVID J. THOMPSON is a former prep school teacher and coach. A list of his favorite poets would include Raymond Carver, Richard Brautigan, and Frank O’Hara. His poetry/photography book Grace Takes Me is available from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. A series of 1400 of his postcards is now part of the permanent collection of The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois.

 

 

 

Richard Weaver

 

 

BOB HOPE

 

The details. The details alone could kill you. Or make you want

to make an early exit. Nearly deaf, I’m happy to miss most

of what passes beyond me. As if I’m looking for a way

out, or a killer last line. Hey. This I know. You’re born. You get

older. In my case a lot older. A hell of a lot older. At some

point you no longer recognize yourself, you’re that old.

Things that once mattered now are jokes. Not funny jokes.

Just odd. You know. The parts of you that have hung

around are not necessarily your trusted friends.

 

At any moment a toe could fall off. A finger might forget the hand

that feeds it. The tongue that once spoke to Presidents might forget

your wife’s name or call out for a dog 3 decades dead. It’s not so much

confusing as screwball. I’m old. I know this. I’m beyond old. I remember

sending Methuselah his first birthday card. Rimshot. I have to die.

I know this. It has to be. When? Why ask me? I’m so old I remember

everything three times. There’s no mystery left, I’ve seen, heard, smelt,

felt – done it all. When I die, and where I’m buried – “surprise me.”

 

 

RICHARD WEAVER lives in Baltimore City where he volunteers with the Maryland Book Bank, CityLit, the Baltimore Book Festival, acts as the Archivist-at-large for a Jesuit college, and is the official poet-in-residence at the James Joyce Irish Pub. His publications include: New England Review, Poetry, Southern Quarterly, Crazyhorse, North American Review, Adelaide, Conjunctions, Magnolia Review, and Burningword. He’s the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press) and wrote the libretto for a 3-part symphony, Of Sea and Stars, performed 4 times to date.

 

 

Tyson West

 

 

CHRYSANTHEMUMS FOR JODI ARIAS

 

I liked you better, Jodi, as a blonde.

Your fool’s gold hair screams out you’re here for fun.

Slick Alex knew your sweet legs would not run

from chances to absorb his magic wand.

When you attach you’re not a little fond,

but burning bright in passion overdone.

He either will have you alone or none.

His blood smeared on your breasts cements your bond.

I’m sure you kissed him as you slit his throat.

Your blend of love and pain arouses me

but sadly your nude flesh reclines within

stone walls. Your concertina wire words float

to cut my soul but leave my flesh wound free 

like Christ, my love holds fast because you sin.

 

 

TYSON WEST, born in Boston, MA a few months before the police action in Korea, has degrees from the Universities of Virginia and California, New York University. Publishing speculative and literary fiction and poetry 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.
 
 
 
 
 

Edited by Roderick Bates

 

RAT’S ASS REVIEW WINTER ISSUE 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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