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.
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.
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.
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.
Do I seem a wolf, bear, fizzing fanged boar
who even brats refuse to poke with
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
…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
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
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
could cross it together
before it faded into dream-mist
the sun can’t draw
from my chest
One more time
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.
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
you’d put your name where the H
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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
and especially of those imaginary thieves
whose eyes blink on the backs
of lightning bugs.
His eyes can catch a sparrow
and his throat still sounds
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.
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.
voting is aiding and abetting them
plus legal complicity in what they do.
they are bought and paid to
campaign for office
legislate in office
lobby out of office.
voting is an auction and
the highest bidder buys
the most fashionable exhibit.
either party is corrupted a bit more than the other
and the highest bar would not stop a centipede.
if voting really mattered
they would not have allowed the
nineteenth and twenty-sixth amendments.
they fear not the voter already known
but rather the nonvoter not known.
nonvoters are more stupid and less informed
so the attempt to get out the vote is like
inviting the Kardashians to a quiz show.
Republicans will do the wrong thing
Democrats will do nothing
Independents will do the right thing and fail.
as for Trump the black sheep
they no longer can ignore
and will eventually impeach
to get back to business as before.
the parties of Tweedledee and Tweedledum
dee-dum, dee-dum, ho-hum, ho-hum.
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 poet, International Journal of Fear Studies, Nebo, New Verse News, Otolith, Poetry24, Sacred Journey, Writers Resist.
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.
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
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
around the island
in the back seat
of her Dougie’s
by day led
dunes, sea grass,
haze – players,
strangers, and strays.
And the parties
at night, crashed,
from sight, and no
reason to ask
for a name
or a past.
in my lap,
and the nubbed couch
when Jen left me
and I let him.
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
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
BLOWING OUT MY CANDLES
i walked into
the old el quixote one day last summer,
there was tennessee williams eating
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
damp hand with beautifully
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.
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
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.
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.
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
At the beach she sees a sand crab.
Why are crabs?
She loves naked, this toddler.
Pelicans flap in a line, on and on.
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
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.
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
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
and I flip you over – not romantic;
just a hard
movement, fast. and a moment
settled in my shoulder
A NEW TRANSLATION OF CATULLUS
curious, sipping wine
the new translation of catullus,
while I listen
to my dinner
boil – idly wondering
or the earlier versions
in my grandfather’s study,
bound by their leather
and the time’s style
while very sexy,
didn’t use phrases like “toss-off”
quite so often)
are more true
to the original
latin. not checking
because I’d much prefer
it be this one
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
which could cling
on your wrists.
you were a magpie
caught in bright applelight,
in soft weather,
and I remember saying
because I thought there were these things
you had to say.
I only did to you
what any man would do:
I was easy
when I wanted to be easy;
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).
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
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 Beast, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Connotation Press, HEArt Online, and the anthology Envy, Vol. 6 from a 7-volume series on the 7 deadly sins by Pure Slush Books.
The first time you read Sandra Cisneros’s “Eleven,” you were thirty something
still close enough to know how eleven felt inside,
the frustrated sadness
of being that
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
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
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
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—
eleven is just
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,
the frustrated sadness
of being that
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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:
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
in the absence of his tongue
that spread her labia apart
the widow empties a lota
to relieve herself
UNPICKED SO LONG
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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