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Summer 2020 Issue

 
 


 

photo: Shitty Advice by Alexis Rhone Fancher


 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Glen Armstrong
 
 
BOILED WATER AND KETCHUP
 
On the stairs,
I eat cabbage soup,
 
but the “stairs”
and the “cabbage”
 
are there just to make
my life sound
 
better,
more there for you
 
like matching chairs
or money.
 
In the stars,
I have no faith.
 
You find significance
in the day
 
of my birth.
I eat butter and sugar,
 
stale cake and crow.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Susan Ayres
 
 
WAILING
 
From the garage apartment, my
daughter texts: Was that you?
 
I answer: No. I thought it
was you
. Attempted suicides,
 
running away, psych wards—
we’re primed for tragedy, my
 
heart races easily, she’s coded
for anxiety. More than one night
 
we hear wailing. I text:
Maybe it’s La Llorona. Maybe
 
it’s a coyote. Bring in the cat.
The coyote runs down the alley
 
howling like a woman who’s killed
her children, like a woman scorned,
 
her wails like La Llorona’s, like
Fanny and Alexander’s mother
 
keening the night her husband
died while her children watched
 
her pace and wail, spying wide-eyed
and frightened, like the feral kittens
 
we find on the lawn, dismembered.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Jeff Bagato
 
 
KEEPING IT FOREVER
 
Billie misses her bus,
so we walk toward her office.
A few blocks down
she takes my hand;
the traffic beside us fades away
with its horns, its engines,
its smoke, its heat.
“Wait a minute,” Billie says,
stopping in mid-stride.
“There’s something in my shoe.”
She leans on me to crook
her left leg and pull her pump
off by its heel. A rock
the size and shape of a dried bean
falls out on the concrete.
I pick up the smooth stone, put it
in the palm of her hand.
Looking into her eyes, I laugh,
“The princess and the pebble.”
Billie puts her arm in mine
and pulls me to the corner café.
“Just for that, you can buy
your princess a coffee.”
Sitting outside, she pushes the stone
around the table as she sips
from her paper cup.
“It’s our baby,” she says at last,
“and I’m keeping it forever.”
 
 
HOLDING ON TIGHT
 
On Saturday Billie gets up
half an hour after I do;
she finds me at the stove
heating a cast iron skillet.
“What’s cookin’ good lookin’?”
she says, wearing my boxer shorts
with the blue and green stripes
and my red-checked flannel shirt,
threadbare, loose and soft.
“Welcome to brunch,” I say,
“fried baloney and a slice
of cheese on toast.”
She yawns, rubbing her eyes;
“There better be coffee.”
I point to the machine dripping
hot water on the grounds,
steaming out the charred warmth
of musky earth, the smell
of primal life, fresh and strong.
From the cupboard, Billie takes
two mugs, adding sugar
and a bit of milk to each.
The baloney sizzles up
in glossy mounds;
I flip the slices
to brown their other sides.
She stands behind me,
resting her head on my back
and holding on tight.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Michael Baker
 
 
TUESDAYS IN NEW JERSEY
 
Halloween, and I watch my son, intrepid Superman,
trip over his cape, walking around Union City with his class
of four-year-olds. They hang tightly to a long white rope.
I am a fearful man as it is lately, no hero, afraid
of black cats and masked men, over-worried
about cars suddenly careening out of control,
of Kryptonite falling from the black heavens.
This park, a patchy place of green and cement,
provides cold comfort: it is deserted.
 
I need a cigar. Across the street
from Martin’s school, a funeral home. Today,
people will bury Jose Hernandez, aged twelve,
ailments, desires, and ending unknown to me. His mother
wears brown, carried aloft by a throng of family
and do-gooders. Our eyes meet, and she is ashamed
of her grief. I want to help carry the casket
to the hearse, but it is small, grey, shiny
in the unusual searing sun and heat.
The casket is not five feet long. This cigar
tastes like burning black tires after
skidding over a vast sandy stretch.
 
Inside for lunch I help serve pizzas
and Oreos. My son will probably turn out gay—
he likes show tunes and wipes the crumbs
off the dirty mouths
of other boys. This is all fine with me.
I am in a state of shock anyways, no longer
bound by laws of narration or newspapers. In the corner,
a timid Dominican breastfeeds her four-month son.
They are more beautiful than Abraham’s wrists.
I stare, unafraid to show my concern. Her brown breast
appears full. I fall to my knees and reach
for that woman’s daughter,
my son’s classmate, and clasp her
to my heaving chest, whispering into her frightened ear,
there is enough today, for once, to go around.
 
 
IN AKRON, OHIO WHERE TRAGEDIES HAPPEN TWICE A DAY
 
She said all there is is tuna salad
and I said nothing after fucking tastes good
and this damned door doesn’t close correctly
into the battered oak of this falling frame
on Kling Street in Akron. I go outside
unprepared for the first snow, a twitchy rain
that sucks up the light before moving east
with head speed to other nervous onlookers,
Erie, Buffalo, Boston, and then disappearing
into the cracked-in-half Atlantic. My sock prints
are soon covered over.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Alan Bern
 
 
SITTING ALONE PERFECT
 
why do
they not talk
about me?
 
sitting alone perfect
heart out ripped look red
first feet met made kicked
down take spent fist fit
 
mid
night
on way
sitting alone perfect
in my
passing
in the Hall
Spirits
 
with all I know
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Robert Beveridge
 
 
ALTARBOY
 
She made
images flash
in my head
 
the girl
from eighth grade
who whispered
in my ear
promised me
a home run
 
just lay back
she said
and let me do
all the work
 
I’d heard that before
it sounded like what
the parish priest said
before he drowned me
 
and when she
touched me
like he did
I struck out
 
 
INCIDENT ON OLD MILL RD.
 
Ian stumbles
to the door,
knocks.
1:30AM.
Jamie answers
  what the fuck
  are you doing here
then notices
he’s seeing Ian through
a haze of blood
  car broke down man
Jamie pulls him in
  you drunk
  yeah
  what the fuck
  you driving for you dumb
  shit you coulda killed
  someone
Ian shakes his head
blood droplets stain
the throwrug
and whispers
  holy shit
  what, what’s wrong
  the chick
  in my car, man, I think
  she’s dead
so they go out to the car
she’s dead all right
face sunk in
to the dashboard
like an angel
falling from heaven
into a marshmallow
Jamie stares at her
  I don’t recognize
  her hair man
  who is she
  I dunno
  I just picked her up
  in a bar somewhere
Jamie gets an idea, says
  come on
  we got work to do
and by morning
the car is a pile
of scrap
and the girl
has disappeared
into the Allegheny
seven and a half miles
from Jamie’s house
and they are at Jamie’s house
they drink beer
and Jamie bandages Ian’s wounds
and no one
will ever
find out
the girl’s parents
will file
a missing persons claim
but tell no one they believe
she eloped to Tijuana
with the high priest
of a drug cult
Jamie and Ian
go out and get
another ’72 Torino
just like Ian’s old one
split a sixpack
on the way home
 
 
RIVER, NOVEMBER 5, 1992
 
Curled up
on your sofa, you sip
peppermint tea
wait for the kiss
I hope you’ll allow me.
 
You’re almost small enough
to curl up in my lap
my arms around you
with one hand on a thigh
while the other strokes your arm.
 
You rub your cheek
against the flannel of my shirt
a playful nip on my arm
and a wicked smile.
 
Quick, my lips
on the back of your neck
and we stretched out, clutched
one another, chests together, legs
entwined. Nuzzled,
 
laughed, gasped,
wondered how both of us
were lucky enough
to get here
as we kiss, deep
forget there’s a world
beyond the door
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Henry Bladon
 
 
SEISMIC INTIMACY
 
Monica lives in a deserted tower block,
in her kitchen there’s a clock with no hands
and although she cares about climate change
she thinks that deductive reasoning is moribund.
 
I find this to be an abhorrent position.
We have always been honest with each other
so I suggested she deduce the reason
I cannot continue to see her.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Mark Blickley
 
 
GRAVITY GRATEFUL
 
Looking down from high places don’t bother me at all but when I have to look up at things like buildings it makes me nervous cause it feels like some kind of force like a magnet or something is going to pull me up and lift me off the ground which is a lot worse than falling ‘cause if you’re falling down you know you’re falling and that’s that but if you get pulled off the ground and lifted into the air you’re not falling but you could fall at any moment and there’s no end because if you fall you have to land but if you’re lifted up it could go on forever and I hate that.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Beau Blue
 
ALICIA STONEHART    (video)
 
She wanted a little room for thinking,
another for sleeping with strangers
she’d meet in out-of-the-way bars.
A space for counting the slights
she endured during her time at work
delivering proposals to bored boardroom
colleagues waiting to escape to ski slopes.
She needed a room for stitching desire
into slinky black dresses, another
for dinner meals taken alone in dim light.
A cage for her anger, a den for self-pity,
and a large cavern to hold the echoes of her dreams.
 
 
ANCIENT APPAREL     (video)
 
she sold antique clothes
for exorbitant amounts
but not often
in a neighborhood side street
store front that she got for
a really great rate
cause Andy owns the building
and he’s not much of a negotiator
when he’s naked
which he was and she just
happened to have her
bankers glasses on.
 
 
THE TROUBLE WITH SWANS     (video)
 
Swans are mean ..
meaner than geese
and mallards and mangy dogs,
cats or little girls chasing
butterflies with a net ..
Just plain mean
and stubborn and sometimes
dumber than posts
and when they’re noisy
run away quickly ’cause
they bite and spit when they’re yelling ..
Like men ..
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Brett Bourbon
 
 
I MISS HER
 
The possible and the actual spin a toy propeller.
My life’s a model airplane, every day a flight
of fable. Thus, we flew the globe together.
Now, she’s . . . I don’t know . . .
a rubber ball.
She’ll bounce like balls
do, I think, but back
she shoots stole
by an elastic string I can’t see.
The paddle, what’s the paddle
in this battle of wrack and whack?
It’s her fear and it’s me
in the wrong game.
The ball’s her trap.
She’s inside,
ensphered.
A rubber snap,
and back she goes
And I miss her.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Marcus Chinn
 
 
THE INHERITANCE
 
“The younger one said to his father,
‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’
So he divided his property between them.”
emsp;emsp;–Luke 15:12

 
I met a PEZ dispenser collection
complete with fungal-eyed Donald Duck
Santa Claus of black mold
and a brown sticky stained JFK
but never met my grandfather’s brother
never knew the man who owned the house
with the power permanently shut off
I knew his boxes of tools
and lawn mower parts
photos shoved in suitcases
spilling war memorabilia hula dolls
his blankets and towels
his drawer of stained underwear
I knew his jar full of doorknobs
a box full of dog collars
with tags still attached
shopping bags of congealed
bananas in the closet
next to his rifles and shotguns
I knew the woods of his backyard
Douglas Firs and Spruce
Big Leaf Maples and Alders
shooting through Stinging Nettles
and Salmon Berry bushes
the lumpy rooted ground
and layers of pine needles
turned into dirt
we took box after crate
and crate after box
of burnable and unburnable shit
and threw it on a burn pile
which teetered and twisted
with each new addition
like a beaten MechaGodzilla
we dismantled his double-wide labyrinth
the twelve of us grandkids
only illuminated by chinks of light
cracked in the panes of plastic
gangly shadelings
green skinned and yellow smiled
our hoodies and jeans reeked of smoke
we found reel after reel
of porno films
and read the little preview booklets
holding our breaths
memorizing each pretzel
of orange-ish flesh and shadow
and name tamed each little fetish
we found magazines
under his bed that dissolved
into mucus in our rubber gloves
we found license plates
from all the states
perched in an a-frame
on coffee tins full of matchbooks
from cities we’d only heard about
some monsters love a maze
love to loiter lost
in stacks of old telephone books
or reams of graph paper
soaked through with coffee
some monsters burn
at the center
like sparklers duct taped and spitting
we found a bookshelf
full but not with the same bulging
as the kitchen cabinets
not with the same melancholy
of the partially dismantled
motorcycle engine
left on the guest bed
there’s a comfort
in seeing shelves
stuffed with books
like watching one’s parents
kiss open-mouthed
so in spite of the damp
boxes bound with electrical tape
and the smell of rotten pot-pies
under the watchful eyes
of John Wayne Dean Martin and velvet Jesus
there was a melted butter part of me
that wanted a moment to thumb the covers
to grab a hardback
and glance at the synopsis
pretend to read it
trace the spine
murmur in the secret
understanding of the over-read
the books lit up blue
flames licked the ink from covers
and cradled burlap-bound bindings
in trembling arms of gold and green
my grandfather shoved the guns
and a few Charlie Pride records
into his truck bed and bounced away
I never knew why
they never spoke
since my grandfather’d
come back from the war
I’d heard it might’ve been
my grandmother
or their mother’s death
or not paying a mortgage
with the money being sent home
but my grandfather enlisted at seventeen
and what kind of asshole
expects a fifteen year old
to pay a mortgage
and holds it against them
even as they go into hospice
probably the same kind of asshole
who’d leave twelve teenagers
in charge of an epic burn pile
with two gallons of gas
and only one fire extinguisher
I can’t remember who decided
that the warrant to just burn everything
included parts of the house
like the wooden panels from the walls
and the garbage disposal
but I was the one who decided
to put the fridge through
the living room window
and it was me who threw in the fire alarms
when they started screaming
as the smoke started billowing in
we ripped out the bathroom vanity
and the kitchen cabinets
we tore out the carpet
and yanked up the floorboards
till we found a dead cat in the joists
head cradled in its stiff arms
we all stopped and watched
my sister gently wrapped it
in a Seahawks blanket
and set it on fire
we left the floor alone after that
and started tossing in shingles from the roof
we went out into the woods
and snagged snakes and slugs
from under fallen logs
covered in lichen
from the insides of ferns
thick with spore
and whirled them in
where they popped and hissed
then we threw in the ferns
pulling them out by the roots
and they sang for us
we were disappointed
when we threw in a whole
unopened fireworks box
nothing happened
but a ripped open bag of flour
caught our clothes on fire
in an unexpected whoosh of light
we made torches of dripping plastic
and shoved them into anthills
and into the siding
still on the house
necessitating extinguisher
necessitating a potassium bicarbonate
game of freeze tag
we went up the road
dug up the mailbox
and heaved it in
with the cement still attached
that day’s coupons spilled out
like corneas of ash
we threw in our boombox as it warbled
a punk cover of Favorite Things
from Sound of Music
skinny bare-chested
we breathed in the smoke
and screamed new screams
for the dead things inside us
we spoke in tongues
all the languages of the world
the language of the angels
ascendant and fallen
who gathered in our name
as we convulsed on the ground
filled with the holy spirit
we skanked till we puked
and slid around in the holy mud
of our own blessed vomit
we puked out all-you-can-eat pizza chunks
enough to open a Dominoes
we puked out Ritalin and Vicodin
creating a yellow brick road
and skipped down it arm in arm
we puked black tumors the size of our fists
like a genetic splicing
of cockroach and rutabaga
that pulled themselves around
on stubbed appendages through our sick
we puked the waters of the Puget Sound
bitter as drowning
and filled the smoke with ghosts
the memory corpulent crustaceans
the memory of seaweed locked in ice
the memory of saponified women in the dark
for God was with us
our lips burned and cracked with fire
we lifted our charred talons skyward
wet with gasoline and garbage
and God was fire
and we were God’s ovens
we roamed the earth
inviting people in
and grilling them clean
clean enough to eat
 
 
A CALL TO MUMMERY
 
“Let your enemy see seven”
  – The Seventh, Attila József

 
If you wish to be warm,
better start seven fires.
One, with folded laundry and books,
one, with sawdust packed motivational posters,
one, with ballets in a booth,
one, with the money from a till,
one, with bras in a mall,
one, with Molotov cocktails,
but all their flames won’t be enough:
you yourself must be the seventh.
 
If you don’t wish to be alone,
better win seven friends.
One, who fights like a copperhead,
one, who karaokes like a boss,
one, who cusses every time he speaks,
one, who loans out Grand Theft Auto VI,
one, who plays the body like a rainstick,
one, who whispers all through the night.
Two are loyal and four are fierce;
you yourself must be the seventh.
 
If you wish to trespass into joy,
collude with seven criminals.
One, who always gambles on red,
one, who shakes a rattle-bag,
one, who lies through a wooden nose,
one, who sniffs glue and then sticks around taking apart toasters,
one, who makes a big breakfast and sleeps all day,
one, who shortcuts through San Pedro Sula for smokes,
each of these will lift the fence,
but you yourself must be the seventh.
 
If you want what the body wants,
swallow seven fruits whole.
One, with the texture of crocodile skin,
one, sweet as sin and stewed in knowing,
one, bright with the light of an eclipse,
one, dusted with stolen Funyuns,
one, empty as an unsucked straw,
one, filled with visions of oyster shell heaven.
Take half orally, the others as suppositories,
and you yourself must be the seventh.
 
If you need another drink like a racer needs a roll-cage
better binge on seven juices.
One, of fresh squeezed fossils left by Satan,
one, of fermented juniper and myrrh,
one, of colostrum sweetened with after birth,
one, of seven kinds of apple,
one, of a white bronco fleeing down the highway,
one, of formaldehyde-mix pumped through a parent,
Three may blind you, all will hold you, none will wreck you,
you yourself must be the seventh.
 
When all your brain walls fall apart like frozen peas
And all the cannibal corpses stumble in,
better pray at seven temples.
One, that serves the ace of spades,
one, that preaches reverse cowgirl incarnation,
one, with a potluck after Sunday service,
one, a redhead with a confident tap dance,
one, an ancient ruin covered in graffiti,
one, a seesaw train of candles lit and melting.
When everything’s been gnawed away
and all the whisper words get said,
there will be one last psalm for sing songing,
one last gasp for gripe groping,
so you yourself must open up and be the seventh.
 
If you wish to see the face of God,
better wear seven masks.
One, of a cat full of bees and honeycomb,
one, of a starling without holes,
one, of River Phoenix grown old,
one, of a chess match almost won,
one, of a cockroach throwing a stone,
one, of a televangelist just out of prison,
all of these together will not dim the light:
you yourself must be the seventh.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Chris Cocca
 
 
WIDOWING
After Wendell Berry
 
My old friend,
recently widowed,
texts about going for wings,
 
but not at a bar,
which is where he met Lauren,
and I say, okay, then where?
 
A fire hall, maybe,
though we are not men who hunt or fish,
or know how to harvest and sow.
 
We know how to drink,
and punish our bodies with excess,
a penitent impulse for one thing or another,
and don’t believe, really, in fraternal orders.
 
But he says the Veterans Post
where he had his first kiss
and we had our first smoke
and I laugh,
because we are not men who fight
or go to war
but I agree
in the spirit of friendship
and remembering how good the cold air
felt on my cheeks after dances,
and the shared thought
of the moon
on wide streets
and the sound of our voices
for dead-quiet blocks.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Don Colburn
 
 
THE CASE FOR INTELLIGENT SPACE ALIENS
 
Fancy begins to sound real
when earthlings come up with words
like ultra-cool red dwarf
 
for a common star and name it Trappist -1
after a robot telescope in the Chilean desert
and when Trappist-1 is pinpointed
 
a mere 40 light years away, right there
in the Aquarius constellation
with seven Earth-sized exoplanets.
 
Only 4,150 degrees Fahrenheit
on the surface, half as hot as the Sun,
so the exoplanets might be cool enough
 
for rocks and water or better yet
pond scum for intelligent aliens
to get their slow evolutionary start.
 
A few billion years from now,
says the learned astronomer,
when the Sun has burned out,
 
our solar system done for,
the ultra-cool red Trappist-1
will be a thriving infant
 
with gas to go another 10 trillion.
If you’re a betting man, he says,
you could argue there is time.
 
 
UNREMARKABLE
 
Like when the sun comes up again,
vague in fog, a fuzzy far-off ball
slowly burning up, mid-size
among the Milky Way’s 100 billion stars.
 
Except it’s ours and who am I
to call it unremarkable — big belittling word
with a backwards knack for reminding you
what isn’t there or might have been
 
remarked on? My father’s testicles
were unremarkable, on the last page
of the autopsy. (Dear Coroner:
You don’t owe your life to them.)
 
The Las Vegas gambler on the 32nd floor
who opened fire on country music fans
was unremarkable, the sheriff said.
In the history of days, today
 
is unremarkable, yet somewhere
lightning goes to ground. A wayward look
across the table changes everything.
In a room without windows the jury deadlocks.
 
Luck after all these years is time
to sip another mug of coffee, room for cream,
and call a new day unremarkable,
meaning praise.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Trevor Conway
 
 
FASHION
for Hannah & Jack
 
Imagine a smiley onion –
that’s her,
cocooned in so many layers
she must wish she was born with fur.
In fact, she has a furry cap
that’s always welded tight,
becoming a puppy version of herself
even her friends don’t recognise.
 
“I could do with a few more tops,” she says,
though her wardrobe groans with the weight
of a great, messy torso
filled with fabric entrails.
Foreplay is afterplay
(it takes hours to unrobe),
and her smile is widest in what she calls
“bangery” clothes.
 
She even wraps up
on a first date
(but not so much on the second),
and she’s keen to speculate on temperature,
her voice a thermometer
rising higher with heat.
Her back is always the coldest part,
as though a stream runs there.
 
All year, to her, is an Arctic season,
so you’ll find her roasting her feet in the oven,
and cold weather drags on her cheeks
like cliffs about to avalanche.
 
Be careful where you lay your clothes –
she’ll snatch them like a fabric-Fagin
till burdened with so many threads
she’ll struggle to move even a toe.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Jack Cooper
 
 
YOUTH
Like yesterday, if I could only remember it
 
A wheat field articulate with summer light and breeze;
another of poppies, skirts lifted over their heads —
part flirtation of the wind, part cancan, part innocence;
grass down which to roll as far as I like;
a boat, though empty, still swerves beyond my ken;
her silhouette framed by the town, nocturne, sand,
the startled look of her surrendered love;
caravansary of music with all my friends;
life without restraint, the content and precinct
of a dream in which the world was kind—
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Mickey J. Corrigan
 
 
NOSTALGIA IS NOT
 
as good as it once was
when streets were narrow
cars like works of art
big, busty, fat hipped
statuesque visions of our lust
for rides so deluxe
we didn’t care
they guzzled gas
as we eased down quiet roads.
 
as it once was
when skies were bluer
the air ice-water fresh
our lunches in metal boxes
a sandwich wrapped in cloth
a thermos of sweet milk
and home-baked cookies
the sun splashing us
with uncancerous warmth.
 
as when we had everything
on our sagging sofas
the TV selling us
work hard
buy stuff, settle down
and be like the rest
of your kindly neighbors.
 
as it once was
when masculinity reigned,
a man took
what he wanted
no apologies, no tears
men were men and women
home cooking, cleaning
and babies warm in our arms.
 
as once upon a past time
we were happy
not knowing
how wrong we were
about everything
about the future
about how it’s supposed to be
and how miserable we will feel.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Joe Cottonwood
 
 
YOU PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR CARE AND THEN
 
Teenage surgeon introduces himself,
assures me, unasked, not to worry
only one chance in 3000 this procedure
will puncture the wall
of my colon.
 
Nurse, adult in the room,
rolls her eyes and taps my inner arm
to divert me exclaiming
Those are great veins —
you must work out a lot.

 
I don’t,
just work as a carpenter,
but thanks.
 
Inserts needle, glances to make sure
we’re alone, whispers Relax.
I bet you know some good carpenters
who are assholes, too.

 
Now count backwards from ten…
 
 
THOSE DREADFUL OLD HIPPIES
 
Near midnight
two dripping
naked neighbor women
puddles at their feet
knock at my kitchen door
flesh yellow under the bug-light
to invite me to
a hot tub.
 
Wrinkly like me, saggy,
baggy, oh so giggly
they spark me
one more time
to fall in love
with humankind.
 
They are beautiful.
You are beautiful.
This life we live is beautiful.
Why can’t we always be naked?
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Nathan Dennis
 
 
CALL ME MARTY
 
She says I look like a young Scorsese.
Is it my nose? Busted where his goes bulbous.
Is it my hair? I parted my hair today.
Is it the glasses? They’re heavy.
They sit on the bump on my busted nose.
They nestle there and leave an angry purple expletive.
It’s the swear word I wear, right?
That’s my goddamned Scorsese scar?
 
Martin Scorsese is handsome right?
Say I’m handsome.
 
It must be the eyes.
How they look, hidden under the brow and brows.
Tell me I look how Scorsese looks.
Looks at 12 point Courier font,
Looks at his fingers
Smashing out pathos in moveable type.
How he looks for absolution
Through a heterodox lens.
Tell me I look heterodox like him.
Tell me I’m prodigal, honey.
Tell me I have guilt.
Tell me I’m an angry, broken motherfucker.
 
Please, call me Italian.
Let me be Sicilian for a night.
Look at my penitent eyes.
Let me build you a cathedral, sweetheart.
A cathedral of light and vice.
I’ll frame you at the altar, baby.
Let me peer at you through the confession booth of a camera
In black and white sin and forgiveness.
 
Let me go 15 rounds with you.
Let’s dance under the sheets
In an unmarried, unsanctioned, repentant
One night fuck stand with you, my Magdalene,
In a 35 mm Bronx apartment
While Ave Maria sings through your orgasm
And you call me Marty.
Call me Marty.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Phoenix DeSimone
 
 
TO LIE WITH FIREFLIES
AND MAKE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
for Papa.
 
It was one of those cool, summer
nights in the backyard
looking up at the stars. The dog
was chasing fireflies through the night sky,
and you, grandpa, were answering
every question I asked about life, love and
why sometimes people cry.
I can’t recall every word
you said, but I recall the words you
may have said best:
 
“Don’t worry so much about the whys. Just
love every single moment of life. Especially
Grandma’s apple pies. ‘Cause you live a little and
then it happens: one day you just –”
 
The dog caught
a firefly out of the night sky.
We rolled in the grass
and laughed. Laughed the way
that all children are supposed to laugh.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Merrill Oliver Douglas
 
 
SONG
 
I need to go out and kneel in the dirt
and get my jeans soggy,
wedge my hand under a tough weed
and smile when the taproot
slips from its straight, damp passage.

I love the way worms twist.
I’m sick of human jargon.
 
Life would make so much more sense
if I could work out why those paired crows
glaring from the roof ridge
keep kvetching with such vigor.
 
Please, teach me all the crow swear words.
 
I want to get down on my knees every morning
and wrestle with plain, wet facts I can smell.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Stephanie Yue Duhem
 
 
NEIGHBOR’S BOY
 
When the earth is humming heat
and melting rust to dust,
and children lounge in silence
on peeling paint porches,
 
I feel the calluses on my feet,
thighs kissing stubbornly
pale slip of a lawn chair, not a real looker—
 
the neighbor’s boy plays just two yards away.
 
Today’s color scheme: complementary,
his brilliant red face among the hedges,
an apple bobbing in a sea of deepest green.
 
Just pucker up and pick it up, I say
(my proposal to peeling paint).
 
I rub the callus on my finger
where the pencil so likes to hug,
the closest yet to intimacy I’ve come;
only,
our pink flesh is meshed
when I chew the eraser that’s easy.
 
The lawn chair whines plastically.
Eyes clamped, I hum a carol,
 
banishing heat,
blurring red and green—
 
only,
that’s the neighbor’s boy I recall,
and he’s two yards away.
 
 
THE GRIFFIN
 
carved from oblivion i mean obsidian,
the black griffin guards my neighbor’s house.
 
i am afraid of it, a little bit.
 
not afraid that it will bark
or bite,
 
but afraid that it might
blink or
maybe
 
shift a smidgeon in the light.
 
making it known beyond a doubt that
while i was looking at it,
 
it was looking at me.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Milton P. Ehrlich
 
 
AT THE END OF HIS EIGHTH DECADE
 
What does he want to do with the rest of his life?
Since he outlived his peers by eight standard deviations,
he’s inclined to reach for the brass ring of infinite life.
He rouses the sleepy Weimaraner between his legs
for a last round of carnal pleasure before returning
to the sea—singing a favorite chant from his army platoon:
Every night before retreat, Sgt McGillicutty beats his meat,
sound off—one two, three four.

He writes more poems, eats heaping portions of succulent seafood,
hoards a vast collection of amaryllis bulbs—
to watch them burst into a meadow of lovers kissing the sunshine,
and returns to the sea, swimming in a school of fish with best friends
alongside a smiling mermaid who used to be his loving wife.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Frederick Foote
 
 
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
 
He was born under a bad sign
She was born with a losing hand
 
They were born in
treacherous times
to a declining race
in a disintegrating place
 
Birth awarded her a cleft palate
and a heroin addiction
 
She collected STDs
and casual acts of cruelty
 
He was issued a club foot and cross eyes
was fluent in the language of random violence
and cursed with a direct line to God
 
He said, you got three lips, most people only got two
 
She said, you paired up with a twisted foot
to match your opposite eyes and delusional mind
 
God told him it was a good point
for some random violence
 
He told God, another day another time
God say, you better do it my way
 
She said, if you talkin’ to yourself
you got a conversation with a fool
 
He said, I’m talking to God
 
She said, a conversation
between two fools
 
He said, amen to that
 
God said, she ugly
and you repulsive
both a disgrace
to my face
 
He said, there ain’t no shame
in looking like The Master
 
She said, I’m passing out
the disease of the day
if you want to go down my way
 
He said, going down to get down but
we need to do the deed in Bethlehem
 
She said, I do like the smell and
smoke of a steel town
 
Their progeny
was born
one handed
in that
ghost town
in a manger
under a
decrepit
abandoned
MAGA
billboard
 
 
RESCUE
 
She had artwork fingernails on 9 fingers
in blinding colors and dazzling designs
her left natural thumbnail
was coated in clear nail polish.
 
Her teeth were a bone white,
small and monotonous multitude.
 
Dirty brown eyes as hard
as Oak knotholes
guarded a dagger of a nose
topped by a cap of rowdy brown curls
streaked with gray and gold
matching her gray jacket
and glowing gold dress that accented
her small but attentive breasts she
stretched her long neck, parted her slivers of lips.
 
Asked me to dance, grabbed my hand,
pulled me onto the dance floor.
 
Whispered, “You are densely black and palpably lonely.”
I growled, “What does one thing have to do with the other?”
She ignored my question. “I can rescue you. “
“How? How can you rescue me?”
“Worship your blackness. Lick you shiny clean from head to toe.”
“I’m not dirty.”
“Not dirt. Despair, self-loathing, spite. Lick you born again clean.”
“You’re fuckin crazy. Why’re you saying this?”
“Because you need it existentially.”
“Now, you’re my savior? “
“When you take communion between my pale thighs and leave your lies there.”
“You’re sick. A very sick, confused, fucked up bitch.”
She sighed, flicked her tongue in my ear, ground her hips against mine.
She pulled away, pushed me back, “You can stay here and die a bit every day or come with me and be free – or at least a little freer.”
 
She walked out. She never looked back.
 
A few minutes later I ran out looking for her.
In vain.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Gerald Friedman
 
 
SWEARING
 
When he said, “I’ll always love you, I promise,”
all the parts of his mind fell in,
outfitted for one mission—
an understandable illusion,
that an instant’s unanimity means
they won’t be goldbricking and scuffling tomorrow.
 
When she said, “Bullshit!”
part of her mind fired a gun—
blanks, but she could smell powder
as a whole poem smells of one word.
Her partisans of Believe him! Own him! Worship him!
trembled in caves, suspecting thunder.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Daniel Galef
 
 
THE TORRENTS OF SAINT LAWRENCE
     -or-
  THE WEE HOURS
 
I stood on the street at midnight,
As the clocks were striking the hour,
And I was filling the gutter,
For the last beer I had was sour.

—from “The Medico’s Lament” (anonymous), 1899
 
When the smallest hours adorn the clocks,
  men get a strange urge (whence
too many whiskeys on the rocks)
  to spend a couple pence,
and stumble off a couple blocks
  to piss against a fence.
(Chorus: “To piss against a fence!”)
 
Should at this odd time the Muse
  strike the swelled mosquito,
he has in hand the tool to use,
  and, in no state to veto,
our poet may proceed to ooze
  a ureic graffito.
(Chor.: “A ureic,” &c)
 
In this position (and who would
  in conscience want to be in it),
it isn’t clearly understood
  the value that they see in it,
but sympathetic (not to say good)
  that they should choose to wee in it.
(Chor.: &c.)
 
One notices these walking by,
  down on some puke-specked street:
in summer they may water li-
  -lacs and hydrangeas sweet,
and in the winter kindly try
  and help to melt the sleet.
(Chor.: &c.)
 
If you pass, a moment spend
  and wonder who I am:
Who was this pissed and pissing friend,
  a hymnist or a ham,
the sprinkled-pants-legged sage who penned
  this cryptic epigram?
(Chor.: &c.)
 
Ye’d understand if ye can ken
  it’s just biology,
the product of a phallic pen
  and good mixology,
which you could crack with crack foren-
  -sics and graphology.
(Chor.: “You’re-in your-ology!”)
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Mac Gay
 
 
GREEN TUNE
 
Biology’s all up front
with its acorns and offspring
slanted toward the next spring.
But I lean to the past
toward all those I loved
now under the grass.
I try to stay in this instant
where things at least float
till they sink. Should I drop
the sweet sad eaches
and live in the species
like Keats’ nightingales
that continue their song
from bird to bird to bird?
Music is forever if nature
replaces the singers.
The world seems a garden
on top of a grave.
But the green tune plays on.
 
 
AT WOODLAWN
 
What a crowd turns up here,
supine beneath this jungle of turf,
shining from these clean stones.
Still, I’m feeling somehow they see
the same blinding blue as me
where heaven once was. All this reputed
repose should comfort, I suppose,
but looking down I’m stopped dead
by dirt. Yet I’ll bet when they turn
and sneak a peek down death’s abyss
it’s like when I survey the top of this pine,
then refocus higher to circling crows,
and again further up to the silver jet.
For surely there’s subverted sky in death,
inverted, with deeper niches for profounder
rank; And the hooks of the dead, too,
spectrumed from shallow to deep, wishing
that something, as promised, would bite.
Surely that’s what all this silent, still
waiting’s about. Some type of fishing.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Kathy Gee
 
 
PIERCING
 
My dog, mine, for I can’t blame
the world for this affliction,
barks like a Great White Shark
would bite.
 
There’s a swooping start,
teeth raised in readiness. Then,
agonizing in its accuracy,
needle sharp and unexpected,
shark and dog rip silence,
slicing time until my ears
are screaming trails of blood.
 
A punch between the eyes
is said to stop a Great White Shark.
It wouldn’t stop my bloody dog.
 
 
TALKING TO MYSELF ON DARTMOOR — A drabble
 
The closest I can get is parking in this layby, window open, suitcase packed, a bacon sandwich in my lap. I’ve driven far and fast to find my younger self and here she is. ‘Come, sit beside me’. She would come here craving distance, trek past Dartmoor ponies, cross the peat where footprints leave no trace.
 
Our friends have died. New neighbours sing at funerals and she and I are strangers after thirty years apart. We’re not the same. She has to stay, and I must go. I turn my car towards the north and leave her, welly-deep in bog.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Julia Gerhardt
 
 
HE IS NOT MY BOY (A Haibun)
 
Boys draped in soiled bed sheet togas slipping from their chests; girls on leather couches, white fabric riding up their thighs, giggling & gazing at their gods. The room is an exhale, an eternal pause of whiskey covered questions and wine stained mispronunciations. I’m dancing so close with a boy whom I do not know. He whispers beside my cheek, “Damn girl, I love you.” I laugh when I do not feel like laughing & pull my face away when I want to be close to something. Wrapping my arms around his neck, I do this loosely, lackadaisically, lovingly. I rub my thumbs at the base. “No, you don’t.” I know who loves me.

We are so far a—
part, yet I know his eyes blink
sleeping in blue light.

 
 
I ASSUME
for Collin
 
I assume there was a wind,
a kind of gust that pushed him back
away from the edge.
 
It was a gesture of protection
Don’t do this, man, we need you here,
he stumbled.
 
Instead, he took it as a move, an advancement,
a breeze that taunted and teased,
he had to prove it wrong.
 
I assume there was a wind,
a kind that would dry, angry eyes
to the point of tears.
 
It was to tell him he could cry,
You can sob, man, we’ll cry too,
he wiped them away.
 
He blinked and stepped closer,
one foot over the opaque ledge,
the other pointed on the ground.
 
I assume there was a wind because something had to be with him,
for there was no person and no God,
or anything in between the two.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Matt Graham
 
 
IF YOU DON’T LIKE THIS POEM, GO TO HELL
 
If you don’t like this poem, go to hell,
and while you’re there say, “Hi,” to me. (I died,
and so I write another villanelle,
 
my penance for the many ways I fell:
I cheated, lusted, coveted and lied.)
If you don’t like this poem, go to hell.
 
I’m lying. It’s the one thing I do well–
(Lay poetry and lying dead aside.)
–and so! I write another villanelle
 
because I am in limbo for a spell,
surrounded by you critics who deride.
If you don’t like this poem, go to hell.
 
Ten poems in, I beg God and Divelle
to let me leave, but both bid me, “Abide.”
and so I write another villanelle.
 
“The readers are the jury; hell’s the jail,
so then the poet will,” The Satan cried,
“If you don’t like this poem, go to hell!”
And so?
 
 
DRIVING TO YOUR HOUSE
 
I’m driving over to your house to break
things off as kindly and directly as
I can. I’ll say, “It wasn’t a mistake
for us to get so serious so fast.
When people meet and feel such chemistry,
it only fits to see if it’s a fit.”
And fit we do, so now the mystery
of my relationships is why I quit
romantically believing history’s
accounts of everlasting love (the shit
consumed through countless movies, books and songs).
I’m wrong. Perhaps if we just kiss more we
will find the pilot light, add gas to it,
and burn. The light on your front porch is on.
 
 
THE AMAZING FLYING MACHINES OF CHINESE FARMERS
[Inspired by the BBC article of the same name]
 
The birds inspire and antagonize,
lifting off casually and soaring wherever they please–
over fields, over landlocked destitution–then
hovering along the ridges of Jianglang Mountain.
 
Each Spring, Yuan Xiangqiu sows wheat.
Through each Summer, Yuan Xiangqiu grows wheat.
Every Fall, Yuan Xiangqiu harvests wheat.
Every Winter, Yuan Xiangqiu builds an airplane,
and crashes it,
surviving and selling the plane as scrap metal
before he sows wheat again.
 
Cao Zhengshu flies only in his dreams,
hovering along the ridges of Jianglang Mountain.
On a bed in his shed, the weary watchman sleeps
beside his aircraft, so no one steals her to sell her
for scrap metal.
 
Does she slip out of the shed each night
to steal a few moments in sky? Does she
quietly succeed when no one is looking?
Does she hover along the ridges of Jianglang Mountain then
tiptoe back into the shed before her father
wakes up and tries one more time
to get her to fly for him?
 
Some dreamers will never fly.
Some dreamers will never fly again.
And some dreamers will never wake.
Some dreamers will fly over fields and sheds.
Some dreamers will stop,
 
hover along the ridges of Jianglang Mountain,
then turn
and return home
to Earth
to work the earth again.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Shannon Frost Greenstein
 
 
RADICAL ACCEPTANCE, IN THE LINEHANIAN SENSE…
OR, HOW MY DBT GROUP IS GOING
 
What is radical acceptance? Radical means all the way, complete and total; it’s when you stop fighting reality. – Dr. Marsha Linehan
 
Radical acceptance is the alleles in my brain, conspiring to catalyze chaos
that makes me cut my flesh and fuck too many men.
 
Radical acceptance is the family member who molested me, planting the sinuous vine that grows within and throughout my self itself, poisoning me from my very foundation.
 
Radical acceptance is the only way out of Hell. – Dr. Marsha Linehan
 
Radical acceptance is my scars, the result of decades of self-hatred and scissors, serrated blades, knives of varying scales and painful memories of varying intensity.
 
Rejecting reality does not change reality. – Dr. Marsha Linehan
 
Radical acceptance is the history of bad decisions which define my existence, always inferior, always a silver medal, always a consolation prize and never actually a being of value.
 
Pain can’t be avoided; it is nature’s way of signaling that something is wrong. – Dr. Marsha Linehan
 
Radical acceptance feels wrong. Radical acceptance is fucking work. Radical acceptance is nails on a chalkboard and a cat pet the wrong way and the flat note in an otherwise perfect octave. Radical acceptance is bullshit, in the moment, when all you want to do is self-destruct, when you are erupting with feelings that always simmer right below the surface with no reprieve, when you cannot stand the chorus of voices in your amygdala informing you of your worthlessness; radical acceptance is accepting all of that, while you radically accept the rest.
 
The path out of hell is through misery. By refusing to accept the misery that is part of climbing out of hell, you fall back into hell. – Dr. Marsha Linehan
 
Radical acceptance is not apathy, or giving up, or lying down; radical acceptance requires more strength than enduring the shit that put you in a position where radical acceptance was necessary in the first place; radical acceptance is going to fucking hurt.
 
Practice accepting with the whole self; allow disappointment, sadness, or grief to arise within you. – Dr. Marsha Linehan
 
Radical acceptance requires accepting reality to change reality, and I’m terrified my reality cannot change; I’m terrified this is who I am, damaged, doomed, broken from the start.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
John Grey
 
 
PREDICTABLE
 
It’s the honk that grabs my attention.
I know that v formation of geese
is crossing the sky but still I look up.
Maybe I’m thinking this is the time,
that the birds just scatter, that they
don’t follow the leader but the one
farthest behind.
The sound and the vision… I’ve been
linking them so long that it’s about time
one of them took leave of the other…
honk for the abstract, for the individual,
for the sheer joy of the unexpected.
But no it’s the same old honk, same old
cock of my head, same old arrangement,
as the geese flying south for winter.
Now winter, that’s different, sometimes it
snows, sometimes it’s twenty below,
and sometimes, there’s Gale, head on
my shoulder, arm around my waist,
pressing the love and warm into me.
But Winter doesn’t honk.
So, those times, I do.
 
 
THE KILLER KISS
 
From a part in the dark shore grasses,
the giant lizard’s red-tipped tongue vacillated.
A cloud of fleas or my blood-splattered arm –
its hunger pendulum-swung.
 
On a bed sweating beneath frayed mosquito net,
a fever blazed in cheek and eye.
Those helicopter insects buzzed above
my swampy flesh, my kettle-whistle breath.
 
Prone on the ground, I trembled to my nerves’ report
of big cat in the tree above, teeth like white scabbards,
muscles taut and paws set to the exact moment of striking.
I struggled to drag my poisoned leg to safety.
 
Lost in darkening old world forest, I was battered
from tree to tree, choked by branches, hacked down by roots.
I could hear the creak of coffins opening,
the howl from the cusp of wolf and man.
 
I am always powerless. I am forever under threat.
In exotic landscapes, my life cowers, shudders.
Monsters loom. Beasts stalk. Creatures gravitate.
You lean over to kiss me. My lips cannot move, you devil.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Evan Gurney
 
 
THE HOE
 
I can see him as a young man lift the tool
from its shop hook, hold up the shaft to eye
its true, and measure the length while sliding
his hands along the walnut grain, giving
the riveted iron a brief twist to check its virtue.
Meticulous. He didn’t plan to buy another.
 
As if there were more at stake than his wife’s bed
of nasturtiums. As if he might swing the tapered
shank with his athlete’s grace and unearth
from a century of loam the dignity that was lost
to men like him, back from the war and selling
life insurance in pressed slacks and wingtips.
 
What he needed when things needed doing.
Striking thistle and spreading mulch,
he wore the wood smooth in his rough hands,
buffed it to a sleek finish with linseed and sweat.
Fifty years later I grip the hoe in my hands.
Even now there’s no warp to it, no rust, no cracks
 
in its grooves, the square edge still sharp
enough to bite a shin if you aren’t mindful.
I slice the roots beneath a patch of clover.
He is too sick now to weed the garden,
so he is watching from his rocking chair,
back straight, eyes fixed on the blade’s horizon,
 
still keen, still true, still looking for work.
 
 
HAIL MARY
 
The old patriarch on the phone,
his slurred screech a switch to the ear:
did you see the bastard, did you
see him catch it, can you believe
it, holy shit I can’t believe it!
 
His team had won, it seems,
and miraculously so,
but I swear that he is sobbing.
 
In my mind’s eye I see him
on his knees in the living room,
bathed in afternoon autumnal light,
arms outstretched, clutching
the phone in one hand and remote
in the other, overcome with desire
to tell the good news, to speak
of how his prayer was answered.
 
Suddenly I understand my inheritance
is a leather ball that has dropped
out of the infinite blue sky
into the arms of a skinny grandson
who has tracked its spinning descent,
waiting in the shadows, not sure
why he is running and what he is
father to, but who catches it anyway,
catches it in his hands and nestles it
in his arms like a baby, catches and holds
the little bastard like it’s his own.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Mureall Hebert
 
 
JUST ANOTHER SATURDAY: A SESTINA IN PROSE
 
Mom and Dad are fighting again and Lila presses her hands over the openings on her face because if the words dirt-bag, bitch, and fuck you can’t get in, they don’t exist. When her parents argue, the world ceases to exist for them. Henry, three years old, has soiled his pants again. Lila washes him, thinking, what the fuck am I doing here, kissing his chubby hands, being mother-sister-father? Mom’s crying falls against her like dirt on a coffin. Lila turns at the sound of a hand striking a face. She bolts to the door, Henry in her arms. Let’s face facts, she tells her neighbor, I exist as a speck of dirt trapped beneath my parents’ shoes. Will you watch Henry again? Just for a little while? She hands over her brother and creeps away, feeling like a fuck-up. She can’t bring him along, but she can’t leave him home, fuck no. Todd picks her up in his Camaro. Lila can’t face telling him what’s happened. He hands her a rose and she wonders how such a perfect thing can exist in this imperfect world. They sneak into the country club again, scrambling under the fence to hide in a screen of trees, dirt smearing their jeans. He kisses her and it’s like the dirt circling the pine’s roots has fallen away, suspending her over a chasm. Let’s fuck, Todd moans. First, tell me again, she pleads. He cradles her face and whispers, I can’t exist without you. She closes her eyes, feeling his hands fumble at her pants. She wants to trust him, but loving hands, once they’re closed, become fists. Cold seeps through the dirt, blazing chills along her back and she has to believe she’s meant to exist as more than a variable in someone else’s equation. Please, for fuck’s sake, let there be more to life than this. Todd’s face looms close. One day she’ll get out, Lila promises herself again. Home again. The house stands still. Mom’s sitting at the table, hands clasped, face bruised. She doesn’t talk; words are dirt-cheap. Fuck-load of shame. No way to exist.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Robert Helweg-Larsen
 
 
VIKING SLAVE
 
Why did they make me swallow this mead muck?
My lord, alive, would barely let me drink.
They wouldn’t treat his wife this way, I think.
Now all I am is something they can fuck.
They say this way they’re sharing in their lord,
Behaving as he did with me, his slave.
And now they launch his boat upon the wave,
The dragon boat with him and me aboard.
Just me, his horse, his sword… the boat’s been fired;
An honour, just for me, not for his wife;
So with him I will end this stage of life
And go with him to Asgard… I’m so tired,
Couldn’t move even if I wasn’t tied.
They told his wife he loved her too. They lied.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Mandy Henderly
 
 
VERNIX
For Lucy
 
The pajamas I was wearing
the night you were born
are folded and put away-
lilac with a scallop edge
around the breasts.
That night, bent over
the bed breathing, deep
breathing.
Wake up, honey, call
the babysitter. It’s
time to go.

 
The night your brother
was born I was wearing
a dress-
knee length with a wrap
around the waist.
That night, standing against
a wall swaying, hips
swaying.
Honey, come back home. It’s
time to go.

 
Both times, I discarded
what I was wearing,
balled up on the hospital floor.
Both times, I wept
when my baby was safely
placed on my chest.
Both times, my baby
covered in vernix,
I refused to let
you be bathed.
Why would I rush your
newness away?
Let it soak in,
 
Let it soak in.
 
 
THE KEEPER OF SLEEP
 
I am the keeper of sleep-
the right combination of lavender
and vetiver to help her drift off
and the boring story he likes
to listen to before closing
his eyes.
 
I know that we should start her
bath at 6:30 as opposed to 6:20.
I am familiar with the soft glow
of a nightlight and hum of white noise.
I’m acquainted with pajamas and
bedtime kisses and sleepy sighs.
 
I was once the keeper
of Whitman and Ginsburg,
of Olds and Bishop,
of Alexie and Keats.
But now, I hold the keys
to bedtimes and schedules
and Christmas lists.
I am the keeper of snacks
and birthday cards
and due library books.
I remember to order more toilet paper
and paper towels
and when the dog will need more food.
I am the keeper of packing his backpack
and drying his pajamas
and laying out her favorite sweatshirt.
And- ah, yes-
I am the keeper of sleep.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Fredric Hildebrand
 
 
WAL-MART PARKING LOT, 2 A.M.
 
Decongestants, lozenges,
numbing spray. Street lights,
black pavement.
 
Three motorcycles, twenty-
something rider dudes.
 
A dented Honda Civic, door
open, dim yellow light.
 
Young mother faces defiant
young man. Baby in her arms,
no pajamas. She’s pleading,
crying.
 
Cycles roar, tires squeal.
Car door slams.
 
My drive home, full moon
a white beacon on the water.
Two geese swimming side by side.
 
 
NORTH COUNTRY NOTES
 
Eyeing the heavy clouds,
I said to the guide, I could
have picked a better day
to fish. He replied,
maybe so.
 
What’s our weather look
like, I ask. It might rain,
he says, then again it
might not.
 
What about our luck today?
Could be good, he tells me,
could be bad.
 
I am home. Among my people,
What happens, happens.
 
 

 
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Greg Hill
 
 
MARCH TO HARTFORD
 
cold last night
the storm
Route 9 covered in broken glass
monsters
a mile a minute
peeling
their white skins
like icy flapjacks
or like concerns
for the other beasts
prowling and shuffling
to work coffees
in cup holders
sweet and cold
aren’t we all
better than our neighbors
where we live
 
 
PORCELAIN SONNET
 
I’m sitting on a toilet, with a pen,
And trying to force out some clever wit.
But this is not so easy, because when
I try and force it, out comes muddy shit.
And so I scratch my head, and scratch my rear,
And like the Rodin sculpture, I wonder
What poem I might write, that, would you hear,
Would not piss you off, nor put you under.
Then, like the water swirling in the john,
Words spin inside my head ‘round some motif.
Sentences form. As I continue on,
A poem comes to life—oh sweet relief!
Now standing proudly, I begin to blush,
To have writ something I’d not rather flush!
 
 

 
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Mary Beth Hines
 
 
LITTLE BLACK DRESS
 
Mrs. X in her little black dress, martini in hand,
smokes a cigarette, eyes Mr. Y, smoothing back
his hair, loosening his collar, rising from a chair.
 
She sidles by, stumbles into him, ashes on his jacket,
vodka down her chin. Mrs. X gasps, a hand against
his chest, red, lacquered nails shown off to good effect.
 
Mr. Y, being a gentlemanly guy, murmurs
it’s no problem, and draws her outside where they slow-dance
like they did in days gone by when Mrs. X
was Mrs. Y, Coltrane flowed, and the moon hung high.
 
 
PARTY AT COLLINGWOOD
 
Delicious Aloysius crashed our party last night.
He slipped in and clipped a beer and Maggie swore and roared
when she realized he’d entered but brought nothing in to share
except for his good looks and charm—enough for most of us—
 
but Maggie, as a feminist, demanded a lot more.
So shirtless Alex bounded up and danced the table tops
while Maggie in her hot pink dress woo-hooed and sang along
till Barney grabbed her by the waist and sailed around the room.
 
And Maggie’s red hair flew and spun and sparked the party’s fire—
although this morning nothing’s left but pools of lost desire,
and Aloysius asleep, sprawled bare-assed across the floor,
next to Maggie, next to Barney, snoring like a wild boar.
 
 
WATER RUNNING FROM THE HOSE
 
He watches her from a window,
smokes his cigarette,
sees her fumble with the nozzle,
spray the garden, soak the grass.
 
Stealing outside through the back,
he glides across the lawn,
puts his hands around her waist,
picks her up and spins her.
 
She yelps. He laughs. She throws her hat.
He kisses her neck. She kisses back.
They fall to the ground. She rolls away,
leaps to her feet, hits the spray.
 
Cardinals, doves—their garden’s swarming,
he lays back, picks her a rose.
Seven-thirty in the morning—
water’s running from the hose.
 
 

 
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Colin James
 
 
TO A FRIEND WHO CAN’T STAND WITHOUT ASSISTANCE
 
She is willing she says.
I can place your arms
over her shoulders,
unlatch your demon dick.
You seem ready.
I am whispering to her.
We both love you,
but he loves you more.
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Chris Jansen
 
 
AFTER YOU DIE
 
science says your brain
lives on for a period of time,
say fifty years.
Women die, and their bodies
go on doing kitchen remodels
and Pure Passion Parties.
 
Men die standing up,
golf club in one hand,
beer in the other.
 
And you, America,
are you dead,
or is this you asleep
and dreaming?
 
They say the hearing is last to go,
so If you’re listening, America,
I still believe in you,
like the memory of my high
school girlfriend;
I wanted to be worthy of her too,
from the amber waves
of grain-blond hair
to her star-spangled cunt.
 
The light at the end of the barrel!
The circling angels!
 
America,
if you can hear me,
wake up
open your eyes
say something,
live.
 
 
AND THEN I UNDERSTAND TAXIDERMY
 
Down in the den,
above the pool table
with its ripped felt
and missing balls
and the easy chair
and Miller High Life sign,
next to the pin up girl –
I suddenly get why you would
want to see a wild thing
and remember
what it looked like
when it was alive.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Michael Lee Johnson
 
 
DANCE OF TEARS, CHIEF NOBODY
 
I’m old Indian chief story
plastered on white scattered sheets,
Caucasian paper blowing in yesterday’s winds.
 
I feel white man’s presence
in my blindness-
cross over my ego my borders
urinates over my pride, my boundaries-
I cooperated with him until
death, my blindness.
 
I’m Blackfoot proud, mountain Chief.
 
I roam southern Alberta,
toenails stretch to Montana,
born on Old Man River−
prairie horse’s leftover
buffalo meat in my dreams.
Eighty-seven I lived in a cardboard shack.
My native dress lost, autistic babbling.
I pile up worthless treaties, paper burn white man.
 
Now 94, I prepare myself an ancient pilgrimage,
back to papoose, landscapes turned over.
 
I walk through this death baby steps,
no rush, no fire, nor wind, hair tangled−
earth possessions strapped to my back rawhide−
sun going down, moon going up,
witch hour moonlight.
 
I’m old man slow dying, Chief nobody.
 
An empty bottle of fire-water whiskey
lies on homespun rug,
cut excess from life,
partially smoked homemade cigar-
barely burning,
that dance of tears.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Sarah Mackey Kirby
 
 
ALMOND IN THE COUCH
 
I found an almond in the couch.
Snug between the cushions
where we laughed sticky July evening.
Was it yours?
 
You ate them two at a time.
Your slow-move mouth.
In-charge red glasses
sliding down your nose
as you looked toward
the container.
 
Our conversation.
Grown sisters reverting
to girl whispers,
snap-drip music
background low.
 
An almond.
One almond
keeping you from ashes.
Squeezed into salted fabric.
With me all this time.
 
 
NEW ORLEANS
 
In deep nighttime NewAhLeuns
behind a rain-dripping window,
a second first time.
Somewhere conflating the smells
of bourbon and wisteria.
Talking trombone in April’s chicory wind.
Where gasps for breath under unmovable weight,
soul-wrought sobs in lonesome tone,
and unanswered prayers for stronger knees
at last floated to irrelevancy.
With you, they fell a natural, quiet fall.
The irony.
 
For such a place of drunken streets
and smoke-filled corners near Jackson Square.
Steeped in sin without the sorry.
To release and renew.
No haunted mirrors reflecting worthless ugly
or folded hands yielding empty.
 
Where different tears could form.
These, salty-sweet and welcome,
dropped from my closing eyes
as your patient fingertips pressed.
Caressed never-clotted wounds
that yearned to heal.
Garnering trust.
And squeezed pillow.
A respite found in every feel.
 
Where startled sighs and caring clutch
took hold.
In arms that guided, loved, and held.
Not stole.
Metered out in beat-drawn breath
that hadn’t exhaled for far too long.
In cadence I could finally own.
The texture of safety
and quelled hate of an encased-me
who stayed out of reach.
 
A reprieve from years of off-key cries
unharmonized, never-answered whys.
Forgiven by your confident tongue
that steered through my self-conscious shyw
and moved with understanding.
Where wrapped soft cotton
hid sheets of self-blame.
And shame. And dearth of self-worth.
Confirmed with each touch,
this man wasn’t the same.
 
The alleviation of fears
amid lips against forehead.
A reassuring it’s okay.
And skin-swept overcame.
Far from forever-broken Sundays
and the need to double-check doors.
Turned from cruel betrayal of Holy Grace.
Stained the stars. Guitar-strummed,
hummed out fretted sane.
Logic breaking free from languished pain.
Untangling anguished mind
through rhythmic, midnight jazz
and every tear-traced vein.
As you tenderly filled the space inside me.
And I pieced together melody
a note at a time.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Grove Koger
 
 
THE DOOR
 
The door never shut tight,
was warped,
or the jamb was crooked.
Or the foundation was settling.
Who knows?
 
We called in our landlord,
but when he couldn’t fix it
we said,
Never mind.
 
We were young and impatient.
 
But did that door
let in everything that
followed?
 
 
LIT CRIT
 
Don’t call me, Ishmael;
I’ll call you.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Boris Kokotov
 
 
IF ONLY SHE WERE…
 
I shouldn’t make love
to an assistant professor of English!
Neither pills nor condoms
prevented her from conceiving a poem,
not to mention that nothing
protected me from subsequent reading.
 
Crammed into the raving stanzas
her urges and exquisite sensations
were promptly published
in a small-circulation periodical
run by postgraduate students
of some arts-and-literature college.
 
I’m amazed at her eloquence,
her capacity to express feelings
which, I suspect, she didn’t really have.
Damn it! If only she were
as shameless and unbridled in bed
as in print! Then… Oh, then
 
I would make love to her again —
this time without contraceptives —
fathering as many poems as she wants.
I would recite them at every opportunity,
rejoicing in the smallest details,
bragging about the whole affair.
 
 
WHEN MY POEMS LEARN
 
The death of the poet
was kept from his poems.

W.H. Auden
 
When my poems learn
their author is dead
some of them will mourn,
some of them will fret.
 
Some of them will dance,
some of them will laugh:
left along at once!
No more cuts — enough!
 
Yet the rest of the band
won’t give a shit,
badly written and
grossly proud of it.
 
 

 
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Ajay Kumar
 
 
FIRST, THE BOY SINGS, & THEN THE GIRL SINGS
 
In a world of discovered breasts
& the hierarchy of rising prices-
silk, bourneville, temptation-
boys with chocolates in their pockets,
 
or something cute, or something
in the mood for hair gel-
skinny jeans, torn jeans, patched
jeans, gaping sleeves, no belts,
 
pencil bottoms, fitting ribs like
second skin. I had milk-teeth hair,
pants that could hold two for a boy
barely one, tucked in shirt, twitching
 
lips, nose, eyes of a plant left alone
in the same soil for some time.
 
Looking for the people who look
like movies, you were a pilgrim
searching for the gods of lipstick.
Familiar with following, I followed,
 
used to waiting, I waited. My lips
purse wherever your eyes must
have fallen, I can see all that you saw
but still not see what you saw in it.
 
Whatever they are made of, where
are they now when I feel like singing.
 
 
ERASMUS DARWIN, ON THE NIGHT
HE REFUSED KING GEORGE III, & ME, AGED 14
 
had nothing in common but a no on the lips, a denial.
It must have been a usual night, after the Lichfield sun set-
 
Erasmus, smelling his Georgian herb garden,
would have said- No- to himself, & Botanic Muse
would have carried it to the king.
I said no to things like toothbrush & soap.
Why does not Dr. Darwin come to London, he asked,
He shall be my physician if he comes, repeating in his usual manner.
 
I had no interest in the sex life of plants
because that made me cry pimp! at every passing bee.
He introduced stamen & pistil to the English language.
With increasing stamens the pistil turned
from chaste & blooming to seductive & needing protection.
 
The Darwin family evolved in the myth of concentric circles,
his son, Robert, said on not getting out of his house-
every road out of Shrewsbury is associated in my mind
with some painful event
. His grandson Charles
played two games of backgammon with Emma between
8 & 8:30 every night, ate hawks, bitterns and armadillos
that tasted like ducks but gagged on a meal of brown owl,
that tasted like indescribable.
 
Maybe someone would ask me too with a knock
at my door & I would tell them why. & how
I wouldn’t slut-shame pistils in my vignettes,
see them as a tower of their own.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Linda Lerner
 
 
ON BEING TOLD SOMEONE IS UNDER THE WEATHER
 
but not how far down, I head straight to that
down under country where it’s over 100 degrees
fires raging, to when the temperature here
was in the single digits, you lay beneath
piles of blankets beneath the bone-cold of rejection
to my wondering which weather you meant,
that stormy kind after he confessed
about her, tried to change the weather
saying she doesn’t mean anything to him
and making it worse, thick foggy weather
you couldn’t see past, or is it the
politically correct weather you’ve been
crawling out from, and keep getting caught
trying to choose your own survival-weather
 
so, tell me, how far down into what weather
must I go, to find you
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Michael Levin
 
 
I AM A BULLET
 
no missile wings as straight
or with such fierce velocity,
humming in tune with siblings
from our chambered hive:
steel bees, swarming blued space
until we meet what dares dispute
our flight and bounce, transformed
 
tumbling through livers
at compressive speed
shredding veins unseen
unless we carve an exit wound.
But don’t blame me —
unchained resentment, black-clad,
is my baptistry.
 
 
JOINTS
 
In socket and ball Vesalius
saw a grand design — from
intricate flexed knees
inferred a Jeweler
fretworking worlds.
 
Pound viewed sarcastically such
memes: beneath seen forms
perceived blind anguish
multiplying — clocks
boned by Dali.
 
Marvell prescribed orgasmic cures
in tangled limbs foresaw
an antidote: erotic speed
accelerating
infinitely.
 
Post-moderns have been heard
to state that aimlessness
has displaced fate
and purgatory’s now
a treatment course
 
yet there’s a vestige
from anatomy class
beyond the scope
of orthopedics
 
to correct:
joining is all, is all.
Only connect.
 
 
WHAT THE WISE MEN BROUGHT
 
Foretellings are double-faced,
mixing chance and cause
fact with belief.
Suppose they sought Herod —
the star beckons ambiguously,
they’re aliens, unused to
local customs, lacking immigrant
aid, court interpreters. Perhaps
they just stopped for a roadside
 
emergency, unaware
of the death decree: heralds
streamed from the palace
blaring the message in brass
and plumed helmets; the cloaked
gravid flight towards an ill-sited birth.
 
Perhaps that’s the meaning:
orthodox gift-wrap is tinsel.
What’s holy is kindness;
the task then and now
to show up.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Nancy Smiler Levinson
 
 
DEAR BILLY COLLINS
 
You wondered how I would feel
upon finding out that you
wrote your poem instead of me.
You woke up early,
sat in the kitchen with a pen
musing on rain-soaked windows,
ivy wallpaper  goldfish circling in its bowl
.
 
I woke up perhaps later than your hour
no water drops sliding down my window pane,
Southern California seeing little rainfall.
I sipped a mug of coffee, read the New York Times,
wielding a pencil for the crossword puzzle
early-week grid only, I confess, the latter week’s
word challenges too puzzling for me.
 
Then your eye drifted to shakers
of salt and pepper standing side by side . . .
wondering if they’d become friends
after all these years or if they were still strangers
to one another like you and I
,
poet and reader/also poet at the starting line.
 
Forget the raindrops and the fish.
But the salt and pepper shakers!
Friends or still strangers?
Oh, how I might possess
such observation of the ordinary,
imagination shaken  such inventive verse!
 
Greener than the ivy on your wallpaper,
envy quivers in me like the ash tree leaves
in the breeze outside my window   a timid
kindergartener sitting at a tiny table
with a fistful of magic markers
stymied at blending any semblance of magic.
 
Yet   knowing that you alone are you
while I can only be me, I am inspired
reading your work, and I befriend you
and your pen creating in your cozy kitchen.
 
 
THIS JUST KILLS ME
 
Reading how researchers
have discovered that
all human brain activity
does not cease at once
the moment a body is
pronounced dead
 
when your heart stops pumping blood
the EEG flat-lines
your brain stem reflex arrests
but all your cerebral cortex cells
do not instantly go dark
 
you may briefly know
that you have died
you might even hear a voice
“Okay that’s it.”
 
Say you are lying on an operating table
and you didn’t make it     2:19 p.m.
precise time noted for the certificate
 
a cluster of your thinking cells
have not yet collapsed
ten seconds, maybe twenty
you know that you have died.
 
You might startle: am I really dead
or think damn I’ll miss my meeting
or my flight to Hong Kong
 
So     what might flicker
across my dimming brain
perhaps hey I get it   but I can’t
shout it out or whisper it or weep
or perhaps I’ll recall a line
of Mary Oliver poetry
or Ecclesiastes a time to be born
and a time to die
or perhaps
no words
a visualization
Eve
me as Eve
rising
in
my
lush
perfumed
garden
 
 

 
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James Lineberger
 
 
ANNUNCIATION WITHOUT A BULLET IN IT
 
Ahh Jorie!
Ever since the death of my son
I keep thinking back to your gnarly convoluted dirge
where an unknown shooter has fatally wounded the family dog
and in the tortured telling of it
you strive to somehow link the lingering death of a beloved pet
with the horrors of Auschwitz
 
Oh Jorie!
are you saying you couldn’t
pull the trigger
never be the shooter or the chooser
      not Mengele not me?
 
What if you happened
to back over two
darling little kittens
at the same time one under
each of the rear wheels of your van
the left one
    squashed dead at once the other
flopping around in frozen time
chasing it like that floundering chicken when Grammaw wrung
its head off
and you’re trying to say you’re sorry
      oh goddamn forgive me please please
cursing the way
you used to pray crying out
be still you little shit hold still I’ll
      kill you!

And that’s history too
isn’t it? No?
 
Okay what about the ninety-seven freight-laden cars
      on the Northern
         and Southern train
that hurled
my son’s 4Runner eight-tenths of a mile
down the tracks before
it could get itself stopped?
   I keep asking myself
was it a suicide
and what part did I play in it
    Who was at the throttle Jorie?
    me?
      you?
But it’s all the same
       right?
Dogs and gerbils and dying children and things
that go bump on the windshield
        feathers and bones
and party favors
scattered by the roadside
like grains
of rice like the left-overs from so-and-so’s picnic
 
Come on Jorie don’t say any more just
 
                zip it
 
And your next good old doggie that gets shot
tomorrow or the next
    do the digging yourself
don’t hide him in a sack either
just toss him in naked and shovel the dirt in his face
and when you hear
his ghostly dogtags clinking from room to room don’t come
crying to me take
your arms from around
me stop it Jorie Stop!
We’ve each got our own death camp to face
      alone
no little girls murdered in somebody else’s book
            or dying babies wrapped
in scraps of paper old men shuffling
to get tattooed
gutted
buried alive doing it for you Jorie
all for you
this clack of imaginary marionettes set loose with limbs flailing
in an awkward final solution
as you inch forward
on your belly
to snuffle the scratchy sacred photos
 
digging
digging like a half-mad
       ravenous dog
till you’ve broken
through to
the yellow powdered
       bones
of all the grief you can get your hands on crying choose
me me do me
take my picture cheese
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Donna Macomber
 
 
BONE YARD
 
for transparency
and those that let you
see all the way through them
bruised front to shattered back
for those coming undone
and those falling apart
hands un-holding
lips through which exit plans are hatched
for the shell bleached by unmerciful light, dangerous heat
and the leaf frozen in death. revelation of skeletal, spiny bones.
For the loss of flesh, the shock of disease. It’s spiral up
then rocketing down. For the sight of the blind. Music of
deafening silence. Swish of those tall swamp weeds.
for those stacked in mass graves
their names unknown
for those in solitary confinement
or quarantined on a ship with no welcoming port
for those in chemo lounges
wide, decided grins and hopes reconfigured
how many ways can we kiss the earth?
for worms without headlamps and the hated snake
those born not beautiful
those born desirable and at risk
prayer for the bones of me slogging through sunlight
heavy for reasons unseen, unknowable
switching off the news-feed-squawking end times
light rays through naked trees
skyline pink, skyline blue
days stretching like something unfurling after
an unnatural coiling.
by your grace
by your grace
may we veer off disaster’s path
into homecoming
into welcome
into a million distinctive harmonies
our bones a jungle, a sacred tangling
of error and redemption
 
 

 
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Tamara Madison
 
 
CATCHING CHILDREN
 
My mother sketched in quick lines overlapping.
Gradually, the subject emerged, like a Polaroid
exposed to light. Most often she drew people,
sometimes children, though they moved so fast –
like fireflies, they had to be caught. Here’s
my daughter when her hair was fair in curls
around her face, on a dinner napkin with the word
“caught” and the date. Children not her own,
even grandchildren, were a mystery to Mother,
but she could draw them, stilled like insects
on flypaper, like butterflies pinned to a board
where they would be forever quiet and obey.
 
 
BLACK CADILLAC
 
My mother taught me not
to hate (but never date
a Negro; if you had children,
where would they fit in?).
My brother had to work
on the farm; he
was raised by our father.
 
I ride to school in the cab
of Dad’s pickup, sitting
between them, books
and lunch box at my knee.
 
At a stop light we land
next to a Cadillac with a black
man behind the wheel.
How did that Negro
get himself a Cadillac
? they snicker.
 
Here is the bruise
my memory has carried
for five decades:
 
My brother rolling down
the window to spit
on the shiny black hood;
our father chuckling.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
J. C. Mari
 
 
CHARLES BUKOWSKI AND THE SNAKES OF ZIMBABWE
 
i was watching a
nature show when she knocked.
 
a mongoose got killed by a viper and
an African otter managed to escape
a reticulated python, a
real big son of a bitch.
 
i felt sorry for the
mongoose and
glad for the otter,
although i understand that
pythons too have to eat.
 
slams the door open
and struts in
wearing her cut-offs and
what used to be
my favorite Smiths shirt.
 
“what’s up” very loud and artificial
meant to let me know
how happy and full of energy she is.
 
to show that i should be too
she tries
to shake me by the shoulders
the way you would a puppet,
a child, or someone
you don’t sleep with anymore.
 
she came to
pick up a few books, cd’s and
small statuettes of budhhas and
hindu deities she left behind.
 
her new lover’s outside
waiting,
engine still on,
music blasting.
 
he lifts weights and
drivers a car, i guess
that’s two advantages
he has over me,
good for him and
a good switch for her too,
no more beer-belly and lyft.
 
apparently he
listens to reggaeton music:
not sure that trumps
my Rachmaninov
or even my Smiths.
 
she dances around
while she picks up the last few things
and throws them
into a large tote bag, then
wrapping up her mini-maelstrom of flash and sound
tells me, as she nears the door,
 
“maybe now you can do
like your idol did, Bukowski, and
write poems about the women that leave,
hey!! maybe you’ll be famous too”
 
i’ve know her long enough
to tell myself the
comment’s not meant
in a mean-spirited way.
 
“i have no idols” my retort, and
 
shrugging her shoulders she
throws a kiss in duck-face
as she walks out the door
and into the waiting sunshine, new love and
blasting reggaeton.
 
two furry things with large snouts
run like hell a
lioness behind them through the bush.
 
i haven’t written a poem for her yet.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Jeremy Nathan Marks
 
 
TRICKSTER
The wild dogs of North America are all held in ill repute
  -Peter Matthiessen

 
Coyote is on the border between the state park and ranch:
she is pinned to the fence.
I am new to the West;
seeing her like this causes me distress.
 
Towheaded grasses of the high plains are blown by drones,
marking my movements.
The sky is now wide as a surveyor’s eye,
neither eagle nor aerie occludes it.
 
Despite her death,
I still expect Coyote to lead
on
to Canada
that land just beyond the bump stock line
its glacial peaks crossing cloud breaks
before cantering down into the tundra.
 
Of course, the far north is now a gas field
for permafrost’s grasp has loosened.
Coyote would sniff the many holes
winch her nose
and ask,
did you do that?
 
The answer is, yes.
 
I wish she would rise,
drawing breath away from pipelines,
strychnine, and traps
then she could drag
the grass sea out of its corral
and scold the sun to stop sucking out snow’s
very breath
until the soil has no water.
 
With Trickster there are corms,
hidden dens where her pups yelp at their own shit
as it teaches them how to fish for many lifetimes.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Carolyn Martin
 
 
VARIETY IS … AND 21 OTHER PROVERBS
 
Variety is the spice, cleanliness is next.
 
Heaven helps those who don’t bite the hand that feeds them.
 
People who live in glass houses should hope for the best.
 
There’s no place like home for a free lunch.
 
Necessity makes the heart grow fonder.
 
A watched pot never spoils the broth.
 
One man’s trash is in the eye of the beholder.
 
If you can’t beat ’em, practice harder.
 
Honesty is the best policy until it isn’t.
 
You made your bed, now scratch my back.
 
If you want something done right, lead a horse to water.
 
Don’t cry, don’t count: milk and chickens are here today,
gone tomorrow
 
Familiarity breeds the best things in life.
 
The pen is mightier than a squeaky wheel.
 
An apple a day is worth a pound of cure.
 
When in Rome, keep your friends close.
 
You have to kiss a lot of toads to starve a fever.
 
Loose lips make mountains out of molehills.
 
There are two sides to every story: cross the bridge.
 
When the going gets tough, make love.
 
There are two theories about arguing with a woman: try putting the cat back
in the bag or––the greater part of valor–– get out of the kitchen.
 
When all is said and done, what comes around goes.
 
 
FOR EVERYTHING THAT RISES MUST CONVERGE.
– Teilhard de Chardin, “Omega Point”
 
Sunday morning and I’m about to murder
the crows congregated high up our Douglas firs.
They’re heckling sparrows pecking the suet cake
dangling from my maple tree and can’t conceive
these breakfasters will not rise anywhere
until they’re satisfied.
 
I’m tempted to defy gravity and surf
the wind waving through the evergreens.
From high above those nasty wings,
I’d warn them that my eye is on those sparrows
and other earth-bounded things.
 
With due respect, some must convene,
consort, converge before they rise:
yeast and dough, soil and bulbs, flocks of geese,
a weary soul like Virginia Woolf’s,
slipping into a river’s flow and waking –
to her surprise – on an unsuspecting star.
 
 

 
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Tim Mayo
 
 
FISHER’S BARN
 
Out of a hay dust of memory I see the big tar-brown
three story barn rise up again behind my old house
the iron and wooden sledges stacked to one side
one on top of the other those that must have carried
the maple sap down from the hill past the pasture
to the old sugarhouse gone so long ago only a trace
of rotting wood outlines the ground
 
and in the barn’s dim light I conjure up the wooden
milk and sap buckets I saw on the earthen and cement floor
of the milking parlor buckets broken down into iron rings
and jumbles of slats curving up as if to say the world
is a set of hoops we must all jump through or stop dead
in a clatter of things we can never again piece together
 
When old man Fisher put up his milk buckets
for the last time he turned away from the stainless steel
artifacts of a world he could not afford and his wife took in
washing and walked the miles it took to other people’s houses
to make ends meet cleaning the dust beneath their beds
mopping and polishing floors while her husband sat
un-budging and silent after the Ag-agents left
in their clean pressed pants having closed him down
for milking in wooden buckets
 
He sold the cows at auction watching their mute names
low out of existence I used to think I heard them
rattling in their stanchions when winter whipped
through the open windows and the history of mud and dirt
sap and milk suddenly whistled out its cold song
and I imagined the corn fermenting in the silo
reeking like the old farmer himself too old by then
to seed a new family his stubbornness starting to crumble
with the beams of this fallen down barn I no longer own
where houses now pasture like cows on the hill behind it
and Fisher is dead
 
 
AN INCIDENTAL LIST OF LOSS
 
And Time will have his fancy
Tomorrow or today
. –W.H. Auden
 
The squall at birth, though its echo
continues throughout your whole life
becoming birdsong, the bear huffing
at the backside of the blackberry patch,
the shuffle of deer in autumn hardwoods,
wishing themselves to the deep thicket
they may never reach, the sudden gasp
of lovers in the dark, the mother you finally
met at the last minute, the watch she gave you,
stopped at a moment you weren’t looking,
the present even now in the past, the hiccup
of time lurching out of the place you will forget,
dark hands jerking across a clock’s white face––
the watch!––the watch!––in which drawer did you . . . ?
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Janet McCann
 
 
CAPGRAS SYNDROME
 
The man beside her is not her husband.
I see them standing, he is dark, his features
Slightly blurred, she is in sunlight, laughing.
 
He is told to enter into her reality,
Pretend not to be her husband, pretend
He’ll be right back. Maybe go in one door
 
And out another, having changed his shirt.
This works sometimes. She knows him by voice.
Sometimes I think that I am not myself,
 
These hands aren’t mine, the wrinkled, spotted hands
With ridged nails, my face is not my face.
No one here is anyone I’ve met.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Caitlin McCarthy
 
 
ODE TO THE INSULTS I’VE INTERNALIZED
 
i have a pig nose and a dead dad.
chipmunk cheeks, too small breasts,
a shelf of an ass that could hold a cup
but isn’t worth grabbing onto.
all peaches and cream and lard,
fuckable because of the daddy issues
but not, thanks to the big tummy
that’s streaked with stretch marks.
i talk too much, laugh like an asthmatic
hyena, cry about everything apart
from what matters, like the people
that tumble like dominos around me
or the way i seem to make everyone
feel just a little bit worse about themselves
without saying so much as a word.
 
 
NURTURE VERSUS NATURE
 
my mom has two moms:
one who is her mom and one who isn’t.
 
i didn’t understand this
until just last year, when i mistakenly
addressed the one who isn’t as her mother.
 
all hell broke loose from her tongue.
 
they share blood, share the same cheeks,
but that’s all. it ends there.
 
her real mom, the one who took
her in and didn’t let a coin looped
on string like a necklace embed
itself into the tender skin of her chest,
she’s gone. she’s not here anymore.
 
the other woman, the one who gave
my mom up and went on to have two
other children with two other men
but only kept the boy, that’s not her mom.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Mark J. Mitchell
 
 
100 YEAR HOOPTETOODLE
To honor Lawrence Ferlinghetti
 
How does it feel to wear
one hundred circles around the sun?
From after the war
that didn’t end war
to our right now wars
that never end?
Through your good war
and all our bad wars?
Were they slow?
Were they quick?
Spinning around the sun,
passing from big bad bop
to beat box;
from your Left Bank
to no one’s West Bank.
And all the books
you birthed and all the poets
you raised—all of them—
and your multiplied lovers.
Were your circles quick?
Were they slow?
And this city you sang—
and no one ever sang it better—
Bathing in the light
that circles around you
as you—one hundred times—
circle the sun.
 
 
CAFÉ SCENE
 
A naked table lit by coffee cups—
Lipstick kissed, half-empty. Lovers left
a half-hour ago. She’ll need to pick up
that naked spoon, licked by coffee. Cups
can wait, she thinks, seeing bodies erupt
in another room, wishing them joy and depth,
a night table littered with empty cups,
just kissed lipstick. Sweeps the tip lovers left.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Sabyasachi Nag
 
 
THE DAILY FIX
 
There was no one at the bar but me.
One more shot, I said.
The barman looked me over,
I am out of that stuff.
Go home, he said.
He was alone and old.
He was deaf and without an eye.
He was lame and without a hand.
Just one more, I begged.
No more tonight, I am closed, he said.
There’s something wrong with the fix
I said, somehow, I don’t feel it yet.
I have stronger stuff back in the cellar.
Come back tomorrow, he said.
My hands shook, as I tried
writing a generous cheque. I staggered
and made one false step
and another, trying to lift my body,
walk my legs straight with poise, dignity.
Let me help you, he said.
Out on the porch, I tripped and fell
on my face, by the concrete planter
with blood red geraniums;
oh! they were beautiful;
black ants swarmed crumbs of sugar.
Behind, I could hear shutters drawing down;
I could see the lights shut out;
I could sense the shadow of the barman
slowly disappear into the murky night.
Just one more shot, I shouted after him.
Come tomorrow, he shouted back,
without turning.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
James B. Nicola
 
 
POSTURE
 
Two points define
a line
but also any man:
the point at which he cannot stop himself
and the point at which he can
not help but stop:
the latent criminal and the inner cop.
 
I’ve left these alter-egos on the shelf
deporting in the midst of moving men
and women like a noble citizen.
But the points, like instant seeds, I carry within,
the axis of a seeming rectitude.
 
The one I silence when I could be rude
and let the other laugh and imagine
the magnitude of an impending sin.
 
In other words, when I’m about to holler,
these two points stretch me, some, and I stand taller.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Robert Nisbet
 
 
TADPOLES
 
Me and Jimmy. Out. Looking for tadpoles.
It was spring into summer, bursting time.
The woods we were trekking through turned in
to a tiny clearing and an office block.
 
We were gazing in, from depths of foliage,
to a secretaries’ room. They were girls
of .. seventeen? .. eighteen? .. womanhood?
We were just humble boy thirteens.
 
We named them the Peacock and Miss Muffet.
Pretty Peacock, the vividly-dressed,
the prominently-breasted Peacock,
while Muffet was the quiet one.
 
We went back and back, and gazed in joy.
The Peacock would bend to a photo-copier
and the white vision would quiver. Miss Muffet
would cross the room with files and tea.
 
Our banter though we saved for Muffet.
We chaffed and loved her femaleness.
The dipping of Miss Peacock’s breasts
drew almost silence, tiny gasps of awe.
 
 
CHANTICLEER
 
He was known in the local rugby club
as “Shagger”. The history mistress
at the grammar school, who gloried
in Sixth Form boys, described once
his “handsome arrogance”.
 
On his English degree at London’s King’s
he was given the name of “Chanticleer”,
Chaucer’s strutting cockerel hero.
He was a ladies’ man for sure, debater,
cock of some half a dozen walks.
 
Until there arrived the dowdy fresher
Agnes, not just petite but small,
docile, freckled, doting on him maybe,
maybe, but what was very sure,
loved witless by the doting Chanticleer.
 
I met them once in the animal park,
years later, walking up to the viewing point
to see the pride of lions. And Chanticleer
sent back to the car by clucking Agnes
to fetch the paper hankies.
 
And then, when Agnes was so deeply ill
and there were problems with her treatment,
Chanticleer took on the whole establishment,
was fierce, was resolute, crowed anger
in his hen’s defence, and got her through.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Edward O’Dwyer
 
 
ALL THAT’S CHANGED
 
I’ve been meaning to get around to telling my wife
that I don’t quite believe in love anymore.
For ten, maybe fifteen or so years now,
I’ve been meaning to get around to it,
 
but something else always seems to come up,
or the moment just isn’t quite right,
or, for instance, a waiter comes over
to refill our wine and, by the time he is gone again,
I’ve forgotten what my point was going to be.
 
It’s astonishing how full of interruptions life is.
It isn’t that I’m keeping this information from her,
though it could, on the surface, look like reluctance,
 
but I just don’t suppose I’ll be allowed
to simply blurt it out and expect we’ll both shrug
and agree to talk about something more interesting.
 
She’ll no doubt want to know what has changed
or, more likely, just what it is she has done wrong,
though the answer, truly, is that she has only
ever done everything right, has been
the perfect wife insofar as a spouse may be perfect.
 
All that’s changed, really, is I’ve stopped
believing in love, but I have the impression
she’s going to feel as though that changes a lot.
 
 
INTERMEDIATE LIFE DRAWING
 
One of the fundamental things about an intermediate
‘Life Drawing’ class is its neither here nor there-ness.
It’s drawing class purgatory. Someone equivalent to God
has decided, in all their wisdom, you are not ready
for the advanced class, and has fashioned this new,
in-between place especially for your kind.
 
In my own case, I’m sure this has to do
with proportion. I’ll often draw a head too large,
or arms too long, or two shoulders that can’t agree,
 
fine in themselves, but anatomic mismatches
when put together. If, in the advanced class, you
did this, it would be intended, attributed
to some artistic statement, style.
 
The man standing in the centre of the room
has just removed all of his clothing
in front of seventeen strangers
no differently, I have to imagine, than he would
in the privacy of his own home.
 
Will he think about that at all as he stands there
with little else to do than look out the window
and wonder? That this is the intermediate class,
that we are deemed not ready for Heaven
because we still struggle with things such as proportion.
 
If I was in the advanced class, not purgatory,
I’d get his penis just right or, at least, just as intended.
Here, it could go either way. Does he care?
The money shot, Americans call this.
 
I’ll get to it later, when I’m ready to look directly
at it. In the advanced class, naturally,
I’d never be embarrassed about such things
as a penis dangling shamelessly there,
the Heavenly light catching it just so.
 
 
LUST
 
He replaces the empty wine glass
with a fresh and generous pour.
She neither utters nor gestures gratitude,
but that’s okay, she’s exactly the type
that he prefers to be a bitch.
She has finished making a nail appointment
on her mobile phone and she looks
both very pleased with herself
and very angry at the world.
Maybe she can’t make up her mind.
A simple thank you would be diminishing.
Dialogue would reduce it, taint his lust,
by tarnishing the dark secret of it.
He returns to his place inside the counter,
where the room is a cinema screen,
and she is the star, and it is his prerogative
to want her in unspeakable ways.
It is better never to have her, of course.
In the true spirit of lust, it is better
to only imagine those lurid scenes.
Too much perfectly good lust is spoiled
by having. He polishes glasses, watches,
thinks of how lust, at its best,
should always be a continuation of want,
the rapture of her kiss
inflating to unrealistic proportions,
the nirvanas of her body ever unreachable,
behind clothes, behind various doors,
behind distance. He watches and thinks
how lust should breed despondency,
send a man to actions
that are debasing, untypical of him,
beyond undignified, and the opposite
of sweet. He takes the empty glass
he has taken from her table,
holds it up to the afternoon light,
and licks the rim of it,
where she has smudged her lipstick.
Though quite aware this isn’t normal,
he feels alive, truly alive in the moment.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
G. M. Palmer
 
 
DOING BLOW WITH NATASHA LYONNE
 
So I was doing blow with Natasha Lyonne
I mean not that I really was doing blow
with Natasha Lyonne but I really want
to have a story that starts like that so
I was doing blow with Natasha Lyonne
and we were talking about the Sack Lunch Bunch
and But I’m a Cheerleader and about
the state of American poetry relevant
to the other arts in America and she says
Michael the whole thing is who gives a fuck
about poetry because we’ve got Netflix
and cocaine and so all the sad and happy
and embarrassing things that you could do
in a poem you can just do in your bedroom
or maybe in a bathroom stall at the KGB
which of course you can’t do if you’re
disabled when it comes to mobility but well
it’s New York City what the fuck are you
going to do right? And so anyway why
would you keep writing poetry when there’s
all these movies and all this fucking coke
and I said well Natasha because in
a movie no one would believe this happened
and she whipped up her head and looked
at me and said well there you motherfucking go.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Heather Pease
 
 
THE THRILL
 
Sometimes you are
a bong rip to oblivion
imagined clothes wildly
pulled to the side in
a locked bathroom stall.
 
Sometimes you are
a stranger, other times –
not exactly.
You press me against
a full-length window in
a tall building, or bend
me over the couch
in my office.
 
Sometimes you are
a woman; everything
soft to touch, all moan
and panting. I imagine eyes, attentive
to every curve – mouth, fingers, and wide
spread hands gripping
my neck.
 
Sometimes you
just want to watch;
tell me
precisely where to put
my fingers; give me
permission, – if I
ask – nicely.
 
Sometimes I
want it rough and put
up a fight.
You are the edge
of a violence I beg for
a red imprint right
across my cheek.
 
Occasionally I show you
a thing or two
become seductress, all flirt and tease
your eyes peeking
from between my legs.
Call me queen.
There are walls we
fuck against, there is rarely
a bed
you are never
a mistake
you are always the thrill
of getting caught.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Simon Perchik
 
 
TWO UNTITLED POEMS
 
Hiding on this tiny rock
its light is falling arm over arm
brought down as hammer blows
 
and mountains clinging to the sun
the way mourners will gather
and aim for your forehead
 
– it’s not right for you dead
to lower your eyes once they’re empty
– they have so much darkness
 
are still looking for tears
and all around you the Earth
splitting open a single afternoon
 
up close – you are touching seawater
without anything left inside
to take the salt from your mouth.
 
 
*
*
 
 
You stir this can before it opens
as the promise a frog makes
when asking for a kiss: the paint
 
warmer and warmer will become
an afternoon with room for mountains
and breezes close to your shoulder
 
though that’s not how magic works
– there’s the wave, the hand to hand
spreading out between the silence
 
and your fingers dressed with gloves
as if it was a burden and the brush
raising your arm the way this wall
 
needs a color that will dry by itself
leave a trace: a shadow not yet lovesick
no longer its blanket and cure.
 
 

 
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Stuart Pickford
 
 
HAUNT
 
Sometimes they’re hunched, watching me
as I jog along Brackenthwaite Lane
early in the morning, head in the trees.
 
Misty dawns, I imagine them fed up—
the blind sky’s fallen in. Like a bundle
of clothes tossed in the air, they make off.
 
Later, one’s near the model plane club.
Locked onto a dead shrew, it turns
the world on the axis of its stare. The wind
 
stirs the direction and another appears
from nowhere as I slog up a hill, not yet
carrion. It angles its red tail and is gone.
 
Today, they’re in my mind as I descend
a field. I drop my arms to my sides
and the breeze feels my hands for wings.
 
 
PLACES I SEE ALBERT FIGG
(i.m. 1920-2017)
 
Years ago on the ward. My new hip
is A-OK
, smiles Albert. In capitals,
he writes on a napkin HILL112.COM,
his very own website he learned to do
about the battle for Caen. He grips
 
my arm. Eyes snag the distance:
advancing through a wheat field, his pal
hit by a flare, his cry still filling
the silence between shells and years;
the captain’s arm raising his pistol.
 
Today, on the hill that’s barely a rise,
Albert in a wheelchair. His photo faces
no Churchill tank brewing up its crew,
no hidden machine gun nests,
just corn giving shape to the wind.
 
Every day on his website. Albert
shakes hands with another old man
from Munich who can still taste
the gritty air. The sea’s black with ships.
Invasion. No one coming to help.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Fred Pollack
 
 
HARLEQUIN AMONG CLOWNS
 
Each afternoon, bar mitzvahs, birthday parties,
the occasional interesting wedding. Two or three
kids always cry: what is this
ugly capering balloonman, face
more stylized than a doll’s, and will he eat me
feet or head first? The risk
of lawsuits, which the company
supposedly bears, lends an edge; but hipper parents
say, “That man is life, son:
uncontrolled, ambiguous, deadly, and fun!”
(Hipper kids can’t be bothered
to raise their eyes from their phones.) When the last
gig ends, they pile into minis
and smart cars, debouch on plazas
and parks, steal bras and kisses,
return them undamaged, form pyramids of awe
and longing at the feet of the powerful
(they can tell by the shoes), turn
somersaults that sweep
the failed and the sad into nearby bodies of water.
At times they talk between honks. The voices are scary.
 
He finds himself among them
but can never remember how: did he come
from a choice soirée, where the wit
(not only his) transcended good and evil
and the riches of this world? And where only
a pose, his famous contrapposto,
was needed to be noticed?
Had he swung, distracted, from poles,
tumbled from monkeybars to land here?
The clowns pretend neither to see nor despise him.
But his pattern is wrong: motley versus
their whites, a merely partial mask,
slippers and, worst of all – worse than the nose –
his heart, with which he communes, which inspires
arias. Those aren’t funny.
He tries to fit in, defaces
stop signs, destroys
surviving public amenities; but his heart
isn’t in it, you see, he never put on the nose.
And they bare, within red oval grins or pouts,
cruel teeth, and laugh, and inflate and belabor him
harshly with balloons.
 
 

 
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Ken Poyner
 
 
PERSISTENCE
 
Sonny always said
he was born for suicide.
 
Probably something not as messy as a gun
nor as painful as the noose.
Pills, perhaps, but he would have needed
to study doses, combinations, pre-death effects.
Falling left too much time
to think about the landing.
Carbon monoxide would take planning,
probably leave someone
with the remainder of an auto installment loan
payment. Cutting would require
precision. Perhaps a mix
of methods, a little of this,
a little of that, together
not so much to make a cleaning
lady’s nightmare, but enough
to get the job done. So,
 
that is what Sonny, as
he said he would,
did, and here we memorialize
his passing of ill-health
and old age.
 
 

 
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Suzanne Rancourt
 
 
TACTILE
 
I roll onto my right side
and you spoon up against my back
your cock locked and loaded
an eased pelvic tilt back and forward
a round eased into the chamber, you say
as your paw hands tilt my hips to your stomach
I give you my arched back,
my pussy clamps – releases,
a new spring
just right for a firing pin such as yours, you say.
 
I receive you in ways you never thought possible.
A natural fit, you say, a keeper.
 
But that’s not how you finished your life
a misfire
a disassembling
a “pack it up I’m heading out”
if only death
was permanent.
 
I take extra time with the gun oil
fondle the sexual freedom
the ecstasy of a clean firing pin.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Bill Ratner
 
 
TRY MY LUCK
 
When I climb steps I count down
like at a rocket launch
increasing my odds of survival.
 
When I was eight I was afraid of being kidnapped.
At thirteen I was angry as fate mistook me
for an orphan Bozo Bop Bag.
 
An all-knowing coven watched me
through the wall with smirks of bemusement
and grudging respect for the fact that I’ve even made it this far.
 
To mourn those who are gone
and to taste revenge
I watch Fast & Furious and I cry.
 
I look for hidden meanings in incidental moments
I open a door and conjure up a man across the lake
enormous nostrils, jut jaw, taking aim at me.
 
If I stop and breathe and take in the view
it’s only a gun glued shut with rust and time.
It’s like that between me and the world.
 
Trucks won’t heel over and plunge into rivers
trains won’t dragon up into the sky
babies won’t tumble into the gap beyond the platform.
 
I am perfectly intact
like my front gate latch
which simply needs tightening.
 
 

 
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Patrick T. Reardon
 
 
WHEN
 
When I sit and when I stand.
When clots of fog cover the restless river.
When tick tocks.
When I die and when I am.
 
   (When inert bullet left and
   channeled his brain and spilled
   onto rain-snow concrete and grass,
   gray tissue and blood
   and his empty body.)
 
When Johnny comes
marching, when Irish
eyes, when the swallows
and when a man loves.
 
When ignorant armies.
 
When lake and river merge.
When sky and water merge.
When flesh scabs.
When hot flesh unites.
When flesh rots dry.
 
    (When his strobe anger lightninged a
   whirlwind upon me, his fellow prisoner
   in chains reaching back to the crib.)
 
When the red, red robin and
when doves. When the ship and
when I was a boy.
 
When I swallowed my unsung song.
 
When Jesus wept.
When Judas kissed.
When Peter heard.
 
    (When he stuttered, when he learned
   poison lessons he couldn’t vomit, when
   his leg was broken, but not his leg.)
 
When I, when we were, when the
saints, when the moon hits your
eye, when you wish, when you’re
smiling, when you went away, when
you went away.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Belinda Rimmer
 
 
DAMP
 

She hid in the airing cupboard and touched herself there before she knew what there meant, down to the fluffy towels and linen table cloths it felt good, and all the scary people in other places not yet missing her, and the buzz of the boiler, and the clean mountain of washing, of towels and tablecloths, where she could touch herself there before she knew what there meant, nothing but the buzz and groan and crackle crackle of a far off radio, and the shelf beneath her shuddering with surprise when she let out an “O” and an “O” and all the scary people too far away to know.

 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Heather Lee Rogers
 
 
STRAWBERRY PANCAKES
 
Plump ripe strawberry time
bought a big dollar box from
the all-night-fruit-guy
set up by the 7 train
cuz I ached for someone
to make pancakes for.
Sweet treasure carried
juice-stained palms carried
over that dark patch
of raw summer sidewalk
I always mistrusted
torn up by tree roots
deep-buried shadows
so carefully carried
feeling along my dark way
like reaching through
the wicked dawn across
the bedsheet to
an empty space.
 
 
OUT THE BUS WINDOW
 
As clouds roll
she recalls their names
a playlist
she can only pause
but can’t turn off
her boots
tell better stories
than they whispered
in the drunk embrace
of darkness
in her bed, her home,
her careful body
caught between
her bliss
and her discomfort
her pinned arm
her patched jacket
that timid stranger
in her passport photo
in her bag across the room…
Their snores were music
sweet and softly playing
behind her when
she left
and shut the door.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Michael Ruffin
 
 
BLUE SKY
 
The next time you hear
the Dickey Betts-penned
Allman Brothers Band
song “Blue Sky,”
 
and it transports you
to that peaceful place
of blue skies, rivers,
sunny days, bluebirds,
and love-induced highs,
 
you might reflect on the fact
that Robins Air Force Base,
in cooperation with the
Macon/Bibb County government
and Mercer University
(full disclosure: my alma mater)
now operates a software lab
in the building that housed
Capricorn Records, which
released the Eat a Peach album
that includes the song,
 
and on the fact that
the album title comes from
something Duane Allman, who
died while it was being made,
said when Ellen Mandel, who
was interviewing him in 1971
for Good Times magazine,
asked him how he was
helping the revolution:
 
“Every time I’m in Georgia,
I eat a peach for peace,”
 
you might hope and pray
that the Air Force’s software
helps keep the peace,
 
and, while you’re praying,
you might also give thanks
that, at least in
downtown Macon, Georgia,
irony is alive and well.
 
 
TALKING POLITICS IN THE AGE OF TRUMP
 
It’s like watching
Gilligan’s Island
with a friend.
 
I say, “Mary Ann
sure is cute.”
 
He says, “Nah,
not really.”
 
I mean, where can
we go from there?
 
 
SECOND KINGS 20:12-19
 
When a delegation from Babylon
visited King Hezekiah of Judah,
he showed them everything
he and his nation possessed.
 
When the prophet Isaiah found
out about it, he told the king that
the time would come when the
Babylonians would take it all away.
 
Oh and by the way, the prophet said,
they’ll take your children away too.
 
Hezekiah said that sounded good to him,
which sounds almost as ridiculous as his
reasoning, which was, “Why not, if there
will be peace and security all my days?”
 
Thus ends the reading
about climate change.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Ed Ruzicka
 
 
LOST
 
You sounded the fool when we left the room
where your husband mumbled, sweated on sheets
with eyes that were evaporating by the hour
and you told me how good the Lord is to every
little sparrow. You intoned it as if psalms
were some balm one rubs into wounds.
 
Was leukemia his celestial gift?
Is paralysis a heaven-hurled bolt
through the spinal cord that helps
us how, Sarah, helps us how?
For months his death was a shadow.
We ate and slept in shadow.
We walked through layers of shadow.
 
Everyone felt that he had suffered enough.
We were a strained degree of grateful
when death untied the knot of his heart.
Now you are a broken thing.
The whatzamagigit of your soul gave out
and the hardware store no longer carries that part.
You wander and wander through your mirror
trying on this bleak dress, that solemn shawl.
 
My brother has left you alone to drive
to the lawyers office, sign successions.
My brother has left you in the bank vault
of his absence where you can sigh and sigh
in deafening silence, lock and key security.
 
I knew I was losing my brother.
I did not know you would not allow us
a proper gathering to begin to measure
what we may never be able to measure.
We do not even know what sort of vessel
or cardboard box holds our brother’s ashes.
I did not know I would lose you, sister-in-law
who many years ago brought grace
in through our kitchen door.
 
If we ask, you do occasionally offer the family
your wounds, slip tiny razors off the end of your tongue.
You do give us one window onto how squalid
grief can get and the cracked ice of your gaze.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Claire Scott
 
 
STEERING BY DEAD STARS
 
Stoically stitched
with staples, steel wire, bent paper clips,
even scraps of left over wool
no leaking love that leads to last straw loss
no chance of reruns that ruin years
spent on couches with shades drawn
empty syringes & pulsing migraines
so sorry we are letting you go
says Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or Frankie’s Pub
scrounging half-eaten burgers & bits of apple pie
in dumpsters behind MacDonald’s
but now no more, stitched up tip-to-toe tight
driving Uber & Lyft, clean clothes, starched collar
no OkCupid or trolling late night women
no attention paid to winks from back seat passengers
safe in a hermetically sealed world
under the glow of long gone stars
the future frozen in the past
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Mir-Yashar Seyedbaghari
 
 
MISTY
 
Erroll Garner piano notes tinkle like a long-lost cigarette wisp, walking up and down distant streets. Dusk falls, lavender beautiful and heartbreaking. Butter-colored lamps mix with the music, your heart empty. Women walk up and down the street, date nights, voices laughing, tinkling, words unknown spilling. Music rises again, trying to drown them out. Look at me, helpless kittens scurrying up a tree. Chords swishing like the tide. Cigarettes rise again, wisps. Misty, in love, girlfriends who never were appear before you. Cat-eye glasses, behemoth, beautiful, nerdy lips that talk about the Romanovs as if the Romanovs were an aphrodisiac, turning you both on, even if they got slaughtered and they were all inbreds. She wears lavender in a perfect dream. If only. Another girl, the musical notes rising: Another nerd. Daughter of a dysfunctional family. Lovable, troubled, wearing broodiness like a heavy parka. You are both troubled, fucked up souls. Bad dad in your case. And in hers too. Alone, wandering through the wonderlands.
 
You imagine making love, dissecting her troubles like a corpse, turned on by it, ashamed, milking. And yet another girl, another girl in cat-eye glasses. The girls rise to your mind, dream women, the real ones walking up and down the street, hand in hand, the music wafting through your head. That’s why I’m following, you say silently. Looking for ghost girls, the real girls as taken as Liam Neeson. So misty, so much in love with the ghost girls who never existed. The real girls keep walking, hand in hand, boys with them smiling, goofy, awkward, grins. Baseball caps turned backwards, the girls smile, seeing things you cannot see in these beings. Eyes are misty too, though you can pretend to laugh, a silhouette in the deepening night, the lavender turning velvet, turning black, the real girls darting around you. Just misty.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
J. D. Smith
 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Take a right at the white barn
that’s been falling down for years,
then a left at the red barn in good shape
with an ad painted on it for a kind of chew
they stopped making twenty years ago.
Keep going until you get to the gray house
with a wraparound porch and, most days,
an old man sitting outside with his grown son
who’s in a wheelchair and stares off into space.
Then take a right at the intersection on a hilltop
under the flashing yellow light they strung up
after two crashes one Labor Day weekend.
Bear left onto the gravel road, it’s a shortcut,
right after the small cemetery with a big headstone
for two sisters killed in one of those wrecks.
Another two miles and you’ll be back on a paved road.
Go straight for another half mile
until you see the sandstone courthouse
that got finished in 1886.
You can’t miss it, and you wouldn’t want to.
It looks like a fortress, but for law,
made with something in mind
besides sticking to a budget.
A quarter mile more and you can
park just about anywhere, no meters.
This isn’t to say you’ll get
to the market very fast,
but you’ll get to see these things.
You’ll hear more.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Paul Smith
 
 
CRESCENT
 
The crescent wrench is a great tool
it’s adjustable
so you can make it fit
any size hex nut, your carburetor
small diameter threaded pipes
by just tweaking the knurl
it’s better by far than
channel locks
or your Craftsman 30 piece
socket set with the 3/8” drive
why aren’t we adjustable
like the crescent wrench?
Wouldn’t it be cool,
the symbol for the mysterious Mideast
symbolizing us?
instead
we are fussy and touchy
getting bent out of shape if someone
calls us names like dipsticks
or mollycoddles
or clodhoppers
who really cares?
sticks and stones, right?
Let’s adjust
let’s be multifaceted
the crescent wrench
has a big heavy end
and a good grip
so you can clobber someone
over the head
if you don’t like him
his brain will hemorrhage
he’ll bleed a lot
and probably die
like they do in Turkey
 
 
YOU CAN TELL
 
You can tell a lot about someone
from where they buy their pizza
if they get it from Little Caesar’s
or Domino’s
instead of a local joint
don’t listen to any of their tips on
the market, or thoroughbreds,
or where to meet girls
unless you like loneliness and poverty
 
You can tell a lot about someone
ordering a drink with their pizza from Rosangela’s
if they order a rum and coke
that’s OK, I guess
but if they order a
Myers’ Rum and diet Coke
in a tall glass with very little ice
you know you’re talking to a thrifty alcoholic
and a smart one
why waste your money on ice
when more Coke is available
thereby stretching out a
bender to last all day?
Oh, and if they tell you it’s best
to start drinking after giving blood
because down a pint of hemoglobin
that hooch really
packs a wallop
suddenly you realize this lush
really knows his business
 
You can tell a lot about someone
by how they met their flame
if they call her
their paramour
and met her Within a Budding Grove
you may be dealing with Proust or Henry James
or some other nice old lady
get hip to the Jove
or if none of that is available
the jive
you meet each other face to face
there is a doorway called
the first encounter
you go through the door once
there is no second chance
the gumption thing is on you
in the laundromat
the supermarket
at a party
simply chat her up
without stuttering
she gets that
so if the person you’re talking to
says he met his girl at Hugh Wells’ birthday party
at the Hotel Centrál
when Reuben overcharged them
for all five bottles of Flor De Caña
and everyone overtipped Cloti
bringing the bottles
because things kind of got out of hand
they had such a swell time
and it turned out her name was not Maria
but Flavia
because she wanted to see what kind of guy
he really was
and he proposed at the Hotel Paris
in La Ceiba
and she said
‘you want to do what?’
so he did
and lived to regret it
but she did help him raise
one fine son
then listen to him closely
he will not mislead you
buy him a Myers and Coke
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Alec Solomita
 
 
UPSTAIRS
 
O, strange, plangent, morning echoes
tumbling softly, sifting down from
above fool me never school me to
the turnover like a crazed apple
when Sue gets back from school
into pounding, running, skipping, jumping
pounding, pounding, pounding, pounding —
pounding on my ceiling’s floor. They scare me,
the upstairs crowd, and when the boy’s feet
pummel my ceiling, I can only write
“The Highwayman,” not a bad poem,
but, one, not mine, and two, just one poem.
Yes, I complained several times a few
years ago and the truly brilliant, slightly
autistic genius mom, expert on portals,
kindness-subtracted except for her boy
named Sue, said, said, said, “Boys will
be boys.” And that was that. I’m afraid
of people, especially the ones upstairs
as they guard the portals of the world,
federal agents in and out to check on
their progress. But pounding in my
poet’s head is not a federal crime
and I want him (Sue) to do time for it
I want him to stub a toe so badly
he can’t gallop for a week. That’s
all I need, a little relief. I tell my
shrink I’m not the crazy fucking
stuttering crow, it’s the wild aviary
above that dysfunctions like a crowd
of peckish cockatiels living large.
He wears superhero type clothing,
and is tall as a fucking tree; she’s
an imp with thighs like redwoods.
I never hear them make love.
 
 
SHRINKS
 
One had a set of eyebrows that would’ve made Zeus proud.
Hard to attend as they shifted when he spoke.
 
One actually shrunk, he must’ve lost 50 pounds in the time
we worked together.
 
Ethan made me look at a line of lights going back and forth
when he wasn’t showing me pictures of his kids on his phone.
 
One was so sad I had to sometimes extend the session to make her feel
better. She had the serenity prayer on her wall but I don’t think it
gave her much peace.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Jaime Speed
 
 
TO CATCH A RAINBOW
 
I wouldn’t know force or throttle
until I ended up a scared ladybug
legs up and startled
three year old girl scraped off the bottom of the boat
a barnacle in oversized life vest.
 
Do you remember lugging me along
to the little town
to buy the boat
where you negotiated with the man over beers
and I sat with his blonde daughter
her short hair uneven and dirty with wind
and we cracked sunflower seeds on the little deck
aiming to spit the split shells between the splintered deck slats
rejoicing in the growing graveyard of hulls below
and she kissed my hand, said we’d be like boat sisters
waved for hours when we drove away
her family’s boat swishing behind my dad’s car
waving back its long goodbye.
 
You still guard me a little at night
from your drinking and in the sunnier day
we skulk the watery inlets between islands of scorched trees
you guide a safe distance between our boats
leaving enough water between boats is an art
as much as leaving enough slack in the line
rounding into the peaceful cove we’d never find again
we kill our motors and cast
our lines far away like our dreams
before we call them back to us with little bobs and jerks
when all at once my line breaks the mirror
finish of the lake’s surface and in some deep place we can’t see
it snags, for a moment I think I’ll have to sever the line
waste time rejigging while my hands tremble on the hook
but the line is heavier than a snag
heavier than the other boat’s eyes on me
the intuition of hands starts me
pulling the line in with aching heaves
my hands strain and redden for the line’s urgency
pulling turns to pirouetting in this dance this tango only we know
as I pull his spinning body close enough to feel his fighting
splashes hit my eager face and I lean in for the embrace
laughing hysterically at the tears on my feet
and raising my dripping trophy above my head
a rainbow flying through the air for the first time
and you shouting through your smile the next boat over:
Biggest catch of the weekend!
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Philip St. Clair
 
 
THE SPOILS OF PAIN
 
A mobile home park in the middle of Nebraska: a small group of demons
  has arrived for a practicum
meant to sharpen their skills, to add a little something to their résumés.
  They observe the empty landscape, featureless
to the horizon; they see how a gathering storm can fill the entire sky.
  They disguise themselves as crows,
fly in low circles over trailers on cinderblocks, see plastic toys, broken shoes,
  cars that are less than reliable.
They disguise themselves as ants, lurk in narrow kitchens, take careful notes
  on cheating spouses and troubled kids,
find out who’s the loudmouth lush, the oxycontin freak, the big fat bully.
  Soon they have a plan and decide to act:
late Sunday night they position themselves, and at two minutes past twelve
  they begin. First some background music:
a safety pin pops open to prick a sleeping baby, who wakes up screaming;
  a half-wild one-eyed tomcat
runs up to a coonhound on a chain and slashes his nose. “Shut that dog up!”
  someone cries out. “Fuck you!”
the owner of the howling dog shouts back. Then an act of provocation:
  a drunk with a ball bat staggers out
and smashes in the windshield of the rusty Bonneville parked next door.
  Next a bit of gunfire – someone with a thirty-eight
and someone with a twelve-gauge think that thieves are breaking in.
  More cursing, more shattered glass —
a terrified old woman in a bathtub begins a drawn-out, high-pitched wail.
  Soon cruisers arrive: lights, sirens,
voices rasping through yellow bullhorns. The demons slink off – laughing,
  although it is forbidden, at what they’ve done.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Michael Angelo Stephens
 
 
KAZAKHSTAN
 
The apple in the palm of my hand is
nothing like the apples in my crazy
 
head, going back to the bitter tastes of
childhood, the apple vinegar of pain
 
and the rotten apples of old angers
going back to the root of every-
 
thing, the abuse in Brooklyn, in the house
and outside the house on the street, apples
 
in a paper bag, bought from a horse-drawn
cart, these vivid memories are as if
 
nothing compared to the apples of rage,
the apples of never-again, of no
 
forgiveness, apples of merciless tears,
the torn curtain flapping out the window.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Chris Stewart
 
 
KASSIOPI
 
My mother drinks ouzo in the kitchen
while my father arranges electric fans.
They talk about the rescue dog, Fluffy.
They need to schedule injections.
 
It’s 36 degrees and nap time for the island.
We refuse to snooze.
When Mam goes to the toilet
Dad says, “Don’t ever get married.”
 
Air conditioning is ten euros a day.
We undercut the competition tenfold.
Electric Fan – keeps you just as cool,
for a euro a day. The hoteliers hate us.
 
That evening I wander up the hill out back,
past the cinder blocks and wire frames
and watch the lightning storm. I think of Zeus
and his family commitments.
 
I know the constellation Cassiopeia
is up there somewhere,
namesake of this village Kassiopi.
Couldn’t tell you where.
 
Thirty years ago Corfiots were the poorest in Europe.
On a trip to the old leper colony
I learn the poor were entitled to a loaf of bread
and a tablespoon of olive oil a day.
 
How things change.
Last time I visited my parents
Dad told me I really ought to stop fucking around
And start looking for a wife.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
David J. Thompson
 
 
P.S. FUCK YOU, SNOW WHITE
 
I never knew him, but they all said
my grandfather was tough as nails,
a tiny little man everybody called Lefty.
He grew up hard in the Kentucky coal fields,
thought he had it made when he was hired
to work the diamond mines out in Hollywood
as Snow White’s eighth dwarf. Trouble is,
grampa tried to unionize the other seven dwarfs
for better pay, safer conditions, health insurance,
you know, all that stuff. So, that bitch
Snow White went right away to the big boss
Walt Disney and had him fired immediately.
Now on the blacklist, he tried to join up
with the Lincoln Brigade to fight in Spain,
but they didn’t have a rifle or a uniform
small enough for him. During World War II
he toured our great country with Woody Guthrie
trying to sell War Bonds, anything he could do
to help beat the fascists. In 1948, he campaigned
for Henry Wallace, had the hell beat out of him
by some thugs at a rally down In Alabama
while Paul Robeson sang The Internationale.
Grampa Lefty caught the attention of HUAC
when he served as one of John Garfield’s pallbearers,
and the next thing he knew he was called to testify
along with Elia Kazan in front of Joe McCarthy.
Grampa named Dopey and Doc as fellow travelers
because they were already long dead from black lung,
but they sent him up to Leavenworth anyway.
One winter night the guards found him swinging
by the neck from the top bunk. I guess they forgot
how little space he needed to hang himself.
The warden sent my dad a package of his stuff –
his droopy hat, his little felt jacket, the smallest
workboots you’ve ever seen. His suicide note was
to the point – Whistle while you work, my ass.
p.s .Fuck you, Snow White. Fuck you very much.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Susan Thornton
 
 
LA BEFANA
 
La Befana: The Italian
housewife who hosted the Magi.
On the morning after their rest at her home,
they asked her: Don’t you want to come with us?
We have an extra camel you could ride.
Oh, no, she demurred. I have my cooking and
my baking, my sweeping and my sewing, my
pots are dirty. (They weren’t–they shone
on the wall next to the spotless stove.)
 
                 Why
could she not leave? Because they were
men, three of them, older, wiser, magicians
even? Because she worried what people would
say? Because she loved her little house and
the mortgage was almost paid?
 
                 Whatever.
She said no. And then regretted it. So
bitterly that she left the cooking and the baking,
the sweeping and the sewing, the shiny
copper pots. She followed the Magi but
could never find them.
 
              She rides her broom
through the dark skies of January 5
and on the morning of January 6 good
children find toys and candy and bad children
find coal and ashes. Candy–the promise of
the sweetness of the Child–the missed
encounter with mystery and myth. Ashes–the
cold loneliness of her days and nights.
 
                 For who
among us has not turned away from a great
adventure, the dream of a lifetime, the chance
to make history, to see the child who will become
the man who makes all things new, because
we have the mortgage to pay, the shiny pots
to repolish, the letter that has to go to the bank
right now or else . . . or else what?
 
                 Better to
leap, to fly toward the unknown, to take the
invitation of the three strange men who follow the Star.
Better that than to fly night after night, year after
year through cold and dark trying to find what
is lost forever, the chance to love, the chance to
live, the chance to feed your heart.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Meg Tuite
 
 
I DON’T LIKE THIS GAME
 
Let silence charade this derelict house. First Communion sits in front of me for three days. Sores on Mom’s arms won’t zip up. Shake her clammy leg and she pets me. Go get some cake, hija. I sleep, eat, kneel in the white dress. Our last room quaked with fire spires. No candles, I say to the cake. How many anos, bonita? asks the man on a couch. His shoes straight black, shiny, offer a hand. Don’t touch that cake. I need to get to church. You have a car, Mister? White van slides shut. It matches my dress.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Peggy Turnbull
 
 
DURING THE PANDEMIC, I TEACH MY HUSBAND YOGA
 
We unroll our mats onto the wobbly nap
of the living room rug, spacing ourselves
in-between the musical keyboard
and the picture window.
I begin to describe the feel of Mountain.
 
Plant your feet on the earth.
Your arms dangling like willow branches at your side,
your head floating above
like a lily pad in a pond,
the kind you see under the foot bridge
at Vilas Zoo
.
 
“You don’t have to talk,” he says.
An invisible door slides between us.
 
I grab a sledge hammer, punch the plaster through.
I need to for myself.
 
Two sun salutations. Warriors I and II.
Triangle. Plank.
The sun streams in.
Sweat. Breathe.
Inner peace grows within me.
I wander in a glen, shoot random arrows into the air
dressed in green like Robin Hood, seek the cool places
among boulders, supple as a panther.
Then lose my flow. Right hand to left foot. No.
Knee. Left knee
.
 
My parents are in lockdown at assisted living.
When we would visit, Dad fondled a walking cane,
gazed ahead as if we were not there.
Sometimes he mentioned the landscape
of his childhood: Mt. Sentinel. Sealey Lake. Missoula.
A gang of boys roamed with him on paths
they explored like prospectors, cooking hamburgers
over a fire made from scavenged wood.
Why ever would he leave there
to return to a lift chair
and the blaring television?
Mom says yesterday he stayed in bed all day.
 
After bridge pose, I hear a fake snore
from the other side of the room.
Time for corpse.
“That’s why you’re the best teacher,”
he says, as we lie, imagining our deaths
and those of everyone we know.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Michele Waering
 
 
PITCH
 
if it was just a game of pitch at the kitchen table
the front porch with a transistor radio
the jack of spades pitching up
like a family member a known profile
a sigh of ahhh the left power
noted acknowledged then
face down and in the pile
pretty queens kings with gravitas
handsome jacks if it was just cards
cracker jack and music from winsome summers—
 
but what if it’s a house with golden windows
shouting across a boardwalk
crystal glasses spinning plates
sticky with handle-mad laughter
clicking balls trained to jump
fickle dice knowing face cards—
 
who folded? who threw the cards down?
shrugged left the table left the dishes undone
sent patrons spilling out onto bare boards
grab a beer
grab a bite
grab the handle on some guy’s barrel organ
run it off the end of the pier
laugh at its last song at its owner
screw his pitch his hand-rolled days
gone now face down on a pile of discards—
 
but what if he prays like some outraged old jack
a face of bereft winters from some old front porch:
Let the house with golden windows fall into the sea—
Let God have the point for the last trick—
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Daniel Warzecha
 
 
HUSH…
 
“When thy little heart doth wake,
Then the dreadful night shall break.”
– Cradle Song

 
Sleep now, child.
The morning will come,
and when it does,
I pray it does not take you with it.
 
Sleep well, child.
The moon has arisen,
and of all the stars in the deep night sky,
you are by far the brightest.
 
Sleep now, child,
for your mother has you in her arms,
and she loves you,
and that is a beautiful thing.
 
Sleep well.
Child, you are given
to the sun and all the stars.
Child, you are all the rain
and the deep blue sky,
and these are precious things.
 
Child, sleep now.
For your mother loves you well.
You have given her all her wrinkles,
and all the gray hairs on her head.
But child, you are the light behind her eyes
and the color in her smile.
And these are beautiful things.
 
Sleep well tonight, child.
For the world is cruel,
and will take the laugh from your lungs,
and the warmth from your heart.
It will take you from your mother’s arms
and take the light from her eyes.
 
But sleep now, child,
for you are in your mother’s arms.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Russel Winick
 
 
WORLD’S LARGEST COFFEE SHOP
 
World’s largest coffee shop
the atmosphere is groovin’.
Its smells are incomparable
just wish the line was movin’.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Charles Wyatt
 
 
MOFF AT THE CIRCUS
 
Today Moff is a lion covered with flies.
Tonight he will be the moon in a suit of moths:
stone fly, red fly, moor fly, tawny fly.
Tassel tail, wormy mane, breath of dog.
Not all of Moff is leonine and Moff is moth:
Gypsy moth, sphinx, imperial, angelic moth.
 
O day all covered in Moff, bright day.
O moth all covered in night,
in looper, in hornworm, Polyphemus.
Between night and day nothing but dog breath.
Between crow and moth mere dust.
Moff rolls over on his back,
 
crushing caterpillars and worms,
maiming the many sorts of flies.
Moff howls, Moff roars, sings arias of sand.
Bear flies no longer sing praise of bear.
The flag fly falls limp.
Moff catches falling stones, juggles them.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Kathrine Yets
 
 
WISDOM REMOVED
 
I’m suspicious of my wisdom teeth growing in.
Drought my mouth with cigarettes
and chocolates and stress.
I’ve been trying to do it right.
This fuck-show they call adulting.
I don’t know where I went wrong.
 
Just call the dentist.
Get the X-rays
and throw away the green glass ashtray
that you forget to empty
so it overflows with filters
and catches small fires
that smell like the bar on Locust Street
after one in the morning
the nights you don’t go home.
 
I feel them sometimes.
One grows up;
the other sideways
and digs into the molar.
Not as painful as the sound
of my teeth grinding at night
or my jaw cracking.
 
I’m going to get dry sockets.
I suck cigarettes.
I suck my cheeks when distressed.
I suck dicks when I feel lonely.
I suck on straws for iced vanilla lattes.
I suck at adulting.
 
 

 
Go to the Poets’ Bios
 
 
Louis Zieja
 
 
NEVADA
 
Conservative and concealed all day,
on a clear night the sky strips
and spreads her cosmos wide
open, unashamed and exposed
for all to see.
 
Gawking below, we are the ones caught
feeling cheap and vulnerable,
blushing from the sudden revelation
that we are obscenely overdressed.
 
 

 
 
A Little About The Poets
 
 
Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters and has a current book of prose poems: Invisible Histories. His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Conduit, and Cream City Review.
 
 
Susan Ayres is a poet, lawyer, and translator. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing with a Concentration in Translation from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a PhD in Literature from Texas Christian University. Her work has appeared in Sycamore Review, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Fort Worth and teaches at Texas A&M University School of Law.
 
 
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 jeffbagato.wordpress.com.
 
 
Michael Baker — prof, dad, ex-buckeye
 
 
Retired children’s librarian Alan Bern‘s poetry books: No no the saddest and Waterwalking in Berkeley, Fithian Press; greater distance and other poems, Lines & Faces, his broadside press with artist Robert Woods, linesandfaces.com. Alan has won awards for his poetry, stories, and photos and is widely published online and in print. Alan performs with dancer/choreographer Lucinda Weaver as PACES: dance & poetry fit to the space and with musicians from Composing Together, composingtogether.org.
 
 
Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Collective Unrest, Cough Syrup, and Blood & Bourbon, among others.
 
 
Henry Bladon is based in Somerset in the UK. He is a writer of short fiction and poetry with a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Birmingham. He is the author of several poetry collections as well as previously appearing in RAR, his work can be seen in Poetica Review, Pure Slush, Truth Serum Press, Lunate, and O:JA&L, among other places.
 
 
Mark Blickley is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. He is the author of ‘Sacred Misfits’ (Red Hen Press), ‘Weathered Reports: Trump Surrogate Quotes from the Underground’ (Moira Books) and the 2019 text-based art book ‘Dream Streams’ (Clare Songbirds Publishing House). His video, Speaking in Bootongue, will represent the United States in the year-long international world tour of ‘Time Is Love: Universal Feelings: Myths & Conjunctions,” organized by African curator, Kisito Assangni.
 
 
Beau Blue is a narcissist and a psychopath. Thank God he’s invisible.
 
 
Brett Bourbon has published essays on philosophy, literature, and art, as well as Finding a Replacement for the Soul (Harvard UP, 2004). He has recently published a story entitled “The Sacred Boundary of Those Who are Close” in Fiction Pool. He was the featured poet in Reunion, and has also published poetry in Art News and Artsy. His poetry has been used in the work of the Pakistani sculptor Simeen Farhat.
 
 
Marcus Chinn lives near Phoenix, Arizona, and is the primary caregiver to his children. He graduated from the Fresno State Creative Writing program, where he was a Phil Levine Scholar and intern for the Normal School. His work has appeared in the Cortland Review and Pochuco Children Hurl Stones.
 
 
Chris Cocca‘s fiction, essays, and poetry have been published at venues including Hobart, Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, Pindeldyboz, elimae, Geez, and The Huffington Post. He is a past recipient of the Creager Prize for Creative Writing at Ursinus College and completed his MFA in Creative Writing at The New School.
 
 
Don Colburn came late to poetry in the midst of a journalism career. He worked for many years as a reporter for The Washington Post and The Oregonian and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing. His poems have appeared widely and won many awards. He has published five poetry collections, including four chapbooks; all five gained publication by winning or placing in national competitions. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
 
 
Trevor Conway writes mainly poems, stories and songs. He also cuts his own hair, though maybe with less success. His first collection of poems, Evidence of Freewheeling, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2015, while his second, Breeding Monsters, was self-published via Amazon in 2018. Website: trevorconway.weebly.com
 
 
Jack Cooper is the creator of These Are Aphorithms (aphorithms.blogspot.com), author of Ten (Poets Wear Prada, 2012), Ten … More (Poets Wear Prada, 2016), and translator of Wax Women, with French texts of the original poems by Jean-Pierre Lemesle (International Art Office: Paris, 1985). His work has appeared widely, in print and online. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he is editor and co-publisher of Poets Wear Prada, a small press based in Hoboken, New Jersey. He lives in Paris.
 
 
Originally from Boston, Mickey J. Corrigan writes Florida noir with a dark humor. Project XX, a satirical novel about a school shooting, was released in 2017 by Salt Publishing in the UK. Newest release is What I Did for Love, a spoof of Lolita (Bloodhound Books, 2019). Kelsay Books is publishing the poetry chapbook the disappearing self in 2020.
 
 
Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book is Foggy Dog. joecottonwood.com.
 
 
Nathan Dennis is a Manhattan-based playwright and poet of Floridian extraction. He holds a BFA from Tisch, NYU. He has been published in Punchdrunk Press, The Cabinet of Heed, Neologism Review, Crepe & Penn, and The Magnolia Review. His most recent play, Circle of Shit, was produced at Dixon Place in March, 2019.
 
 
Phoenix DeSimone is an emerging writer of prose and poetry, mechanic, and college student. His work has been published in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, and is forthcoming in Avalon Literary Review.
 
 
Merrill Oliver Douglas’s poems have appeared in Baltimore Review, Barrow Street, Tar River Poetry, Stone Canoe, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Cimarron Review and the Comstock Review among others. Finishing Line Press will publish her chapbook, Parking Meters into Mermaids, in 2020. She lives near Binghamton, New York, where she runs a freelance writing business.
 
 
Stephanie Yue Duhem is a 1.5 generation Chinese-American poet and educator. Her work appears or is forthcoming in PANK, Glass, Lunch Ticket, Radar, and Red Wheelbarrow, which named her a winner of its 2018 contest, judged by Naomi Shihab Nye. She is also the author of a picture book titled Robby and the Ice Cream Truck. She can be found onTwitter and Instagram at @academoiselle or at sydpoetry.com.
 
 
Milton P. Ehrlich Ph.D. is an 88-year-old psychologist and a veteran of the Korean War. He has published poems in The Antigonish Review, London Grip, Arc Poetry Magazine, Descant Literary Magazine, Wisconsin Review, Red Wheelbarrow, Christian Science Monitor, and the New York Times.
 
 
Cover Artist Alexis Rhone Fancher’s photographs have been published worldwide, including the covers of Witness, The Mas Tequila Review, KYSO Flash Anthology, Vol.3, Blink Ink, Nerve Cowboy, Chiron Review, Heyday, Diaphanous 2.0, and Pithead Chapel, as well as a spread in River Styx. Upcoming: The covers of The Pedestal Magazine and Plume. alexisrhonefancher.com
 
 
Frederick K. Foote, Jr. was born in Sacramento, California, and educated in Vienna, Virginia, and northern California. Since 2014 Frederick has published over three-hundred stories, poems, and essays, including literary, science fiction, fables, and horror genres. Frederick has published two short story collections, For the Sake of Soul (2015) and Crossroads Encounters (2016).
 
 
Gerald Friedman grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland. He now teaches physics at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico. He has published poems in Jémez Thunder, Pegasus, Potpourri, Recursive Angel, Rhino, Santa Fe Literary Review (republished in Telepoem NMHU), and Tower.
 
 
Daniel Galef has been an actor, a teacher, a printer’s devil, a dictionary definition, and probably some other things he’s forgotten. Besides poetry (in New York Magazine, The J Journal: New Writing on Justice, and The Christian Century), he also writes short stories and plays—including The Bottomless Pit in the Back Room of Nick’s Speakeasy, now up at the Théâtre MainLine in Montreal.
 
 
Mac Gay‘s most recent collections are Farm Alarm, runner up for the Robert Phillips Poetry Prize, from Texas Review Press and Ghost Hunt, out this coming July from Eyewear Publishing. His poems have been featured in many mags including Atlanta Review, Main Street Rag, and Snake Nation Review. He teaches at Perimeter College of Georgia State University.
 
 
Kathy Gee’s career was in heritage. Her poetry collection Book of Bones was published by V. Press in 2016 and she wrote the spoken word elements for Suite for the Fallen Soldier. Her small collection of duologues – Checkout, set in a corner shop – was published in March 2019. vpresspoetry.blogspot.com/p/bookshop.html
 
 
Julia Gerhardt is a writer living in Baltimore. She was nominated for the Best Microfiction Anthology 2020 and Best Small Fictions Anthology 2020. Her work is forthcoming in the Eastern Iowa Review, fresh.ink, Moonpark Review, Okay Donkey, Club Plum, and Feminist Space Camp. She is currently working on her first novel. You can find her at juliagerhardtwriter.wordpress.com.
 
 
Matt Graham lives in Houston, Texas where he teaches creative writing to high school seniors and fronts Swimwear Department, a conceptual dance-punk band. The Bayou Review published two of Matt’s poems “The Punishing Place” and “Preemptive Shame” in its Fall 2017 issue.
 
 
Shannon Frost Greenstein resides in Philadelphia with her children, soulmate, and cats. She is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, a Contributing Editor for Barren Magazine, and a former Ph.D. candidate in Continental Philosophy. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Crab Fat Magazine, Bone & Ink Lit Zine, Spelk Fiction, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @mrsgreenstein or her website: shannonfrostgreenstein.wordpress.com. She comes up when you Google her.
 
 
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Transcend, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in Blueline, Hawaii Pacific Review and Clade Song.
 
 
Evan Gurney is a professor of English at the University of North Carolina Asheville. His poems have recently appeared in Appalachian Heritage, Saint Katherine Review, Still: The Journal, and elsewhere.
 
 
Mureall Hebert holds an MFA from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Her work can be found in Hobart, PANK, YARN, decomP, Bartleby Snopes, Yellow Chair Review and elsewhere. She’s earned a Pushcart Prize nomination and an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Contest. She lives near Seattle with her husband, three children, and two dogs.
 
 
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.
 
 
Mandy Henderly is a poet, writer, and mother and lives in Western North Carolina with her family. Before having children, she worked as a teacher in Chicago, IL and Western North Carolina. As a poet and writer, she honed her craft both at Bluffton University and the University of Dayton. She is a contributing writer for the website Hendersonville Best, and her work has appeared in Literary Mama, Motherly, and A Little Something.
 
 
Fredric Hildebrand is a retired physician living in Neenah, WI. His recent poetry has appeared in Right-Hand Pointingand The Raven Review. His first chapbook, “A Glint of Light,” will be published later this year by Finishing Line Press. When not writing or reading, he plays acoustic folk guitar and explores the Northwoods with his wife and two Labrador retrievers.
 
 
Greg Hill is a writer, voiceover talent, adjunct professor and math tutor in West Hartford, Connecticut, and has an MFA from Vermont of College of Fine Arts. His poems have appeared in Atlas and Alice, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Cheap Pop and elsewhere. In the evening he composes little songs for his daughters who are too young to realize how poorly their father plays piano.
 
 
Mary Beth Hines lives and writes from her home in Massachusetts. Her work has been, or will soon be, published in journals such as Crab Orchard Review, Eclectica, Galway Review, Lighten Up On Line, Nixes Mate Review, and River Heron Review, among others.
 
 
Colin James has a book of poems, Resisting Probability, from Sagging Meniscus Press. He lives in Massachusetts.
 
 
Chris Jansen is a recovering heroin addict. He lives in Athens, Georgia where he coaches boxing and cares for a disinterested guinea pig named Poozybear.
 
 
Michael Lee Johnson lived 10 years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, DuPage County, Illinois. Mr. Johnson published in more than 1072 new publications, his poems have appeared in 38 countries, he edits, publishes 10 poetry sites. Michael Lee Johnson, has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards poetry 2015/1 Best of the Net 2016/2 Best of the Net 2017, 2 Best of the Net 2018.
 
 
Sarah Mackey Kirby holds a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Her poetry, writing, and photography have been published in Punk Noir, Dream Noir, and US News & World Report. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband.
 
 
Grove Koger is the author of When the Going Was Good: A Guide to the 99 Best Narratives of Travel, Exploration, and Adventure (Scarecrow Press, 2002) and Assistant Editor of Deus Loci: The Lawrence Durrell Journal. He blogs at @worldenoughblog.wordpress.com.
 
 
Boris Kokotov was born in Moscow. He writes poems and short stories. He is the author of several poetry collections. His original work and translations to English have appeared in Adelaide, Blackbird, Chiron Review, Constellations, The Lake, Poet Lore, and Washington Square Review, among others. He lives in Baltimore.
 
 
Ajay Kumar is a student based in Chennai, India whose works have appeared most recently in The Bangalore Review, Runcible Spoon & Plum Tree Tavern among others.
 
 
Linda Lerner’s When Death is a Red Balloon, was published by Lummox Press, in 2019. Her previously published collections include, A Dance Around the Cauldron, a prose work which consists of nine characters during the Salem witch trials brought into our own times. Yes, the Ducks Were Real & Takes Guts and Years Sometimes was published by NYQ Books in 2011 & 2015. Current publications include, Maintenant, Gargoyle, Paterson Literary Review, Café Review, Trailer Park Quarterly, Wilderness Literary House Review, Cape Rock, Gargoyle, Piker Press, Home Planet New, etc. In spring, 2015 she read six poems on WBAI, a non-commercial, listener-supported radio station licensed to New York City.
 
 
Michael H. Levin is a lawyer, solar energy developer and writer based in Washington DC. His work has appeared on stage and in chapbooks, anthologies and numerous periodicals, and has received poetry and feature journalism awards. His chapbook, Falcons, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press summer 2020. See michaellevinpoetry.com and twopianosplayingforlife.org.
 
 
Nancy Smiler Levinson is author of MOMENTS OF DAWN: A Poetic Memoir of Love & Family; Affliction & Affirmation, as well as work that has appeared in Rat’s Ass Review, Poetica, Voice of Eve, Constellations, Jewish Literary Journal, Drunk Monkey, The Copperfield Review, Burningword, several anthologies, and elsewhere. In past chapters of her life she published some thirty books for young readers, focused on history, historical fiction, and biography.
 
 
James Lineberger wrote the book and lyrics for the rock opera, The Survival of Saint Joan, and the screen adaptation of the movie Taps. His poetry has appeared in Boulevard; The Cortland Review; The Main Street Rag; UCity Review; Natural Bridge; Rat’s Ass Review; Pembroke Magazine; Quarter After Eight; Free State Review; Sheila-Na-Gig; B O D Y; Misfit Magazine; and New Ohio Review.
 
 
Donna Macomber is a passionate activist who works for racial and gender justice. She believes that vulnerability and creativity are tools for social change. Donna has facilitated the Opening the Heart Workshop at Omega and Kripalu Institutes for 20 years. She is endlessly curious, has a poetic relationship to truth and struggle, and believes that healing happens at the root when we allow ourselves to show up fully. Donna lives in Brattleboro, Vermont with her woodworker love, Laury, and their feisty black lab pup.
 
 
Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook “The Belly Remembers”, and two full-length volumes of poetry, “Wild Domestic” and “Moraine”, all published by Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, Your Daily Poem, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac, Sheila-Na-Gig and many other publications. She has recently retired from teaching English and French in Los Angeles and is happy to finally get some sleep. More about Tamara can be found at tamaramadisonpoetry.
 
 
J. C. Mari resides in Florida. He is the author of the poetry collection ‘the sun sets like faces fade right before you pass out.’
 
 
Jeremy Nathan Marks lives in London, Ontario. Recent work is found in Barren Magazine, Dissident Voice, On the Seawall, New Verse News, 365 Tomorrows, Unlikely Stories, The Courtship of Winds, and Literary Orphans.
 
 
From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has published poems in journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. Her fourth collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, was released by Unsolicited Press in 2019. She is currently the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation. Find out more about Carolyn at carolynmartinpoet.com.
 
 
Tim Mayo’s second collection, Thesaurus of Separation was published by Phoenicia Publishing of Montreal in July of 2016. In 2017 it was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award and the Montaigne Medal. His latest book, Notes to the Mental Hospital Timekeeper, was published by Kelsay Books in November of 2019. He lives in Brattleboro, Vermont.
 
 
Janet McCann taught at Texas A&M University for 46 years, then retired. Latest book: THE CRONE AT THE CASINO, Lamar U. Press, 2015.
 
 
Caitlin McCarthy is a poet living and writing just outside of Houston, Texas. She graduated in 2017 with a BA in English from Stephen F. Austin State University and is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing with the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Her work was previously published in HUMID and is forthcoming in Down in the Dirt.
 
 
Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Starting from Tu Fu was just published by Encircle Publications. A new collection is due out in December from Cherry Grove. He is very fond of baseball, Louis Aragon, Miles Davis, Kafka and Dante. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian Joan Juster, where he makes a sort of living pointing out pretty things. A meager online presence can be found at MarkJMitchellwriter
 
 
Sabyasachi Nag (Sachi) is the author of two books of poetry: Bloodlines (Writers Workshop, 2006) and Could You Please, Please Stop Singing (Mosaic Press, 2015). His third poetry collection, “Uncharted” is forthcoming in 2020. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming in several anthologies and publications including Canadian Literature, Contemporary Verse 2, Grain, Perihelion, The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, The Maynard and Vallum among others. He is a graduate of the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University and holds a graduate certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers. He lives in Ontario, Canada.
 
 
James B. Nicola’s poetry and prose have appeared in the Antioch, Southwest, Green Mountains, and Atlanta Reviews and Barrow Street, garnering a Dana Literary Award, two Willow Review awards, and six Pushcart Prize nominations. His collections are Manhattan Plaza (2014), Stage to Page (2016), Wind in the Cave (2017), Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists (2018), and Quickening: Poems from Before and Beyond (2019). His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice magazine award. jamesbnicola.
 
 
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet, sometime creative writing tutor at Trinity College, Carmarthen, living a little way down the coast from Dylan Thomas’s Boathouse. He has published widely and in roughly equal measures in Britain and the USA. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee for 2020.
 
 
Edward O’Dwyer is a writer from Ireland. His poetry collection The Rain on Cruise’s Street (Salmon Poetry, 2014) was Highly Commended in the Forward Prizes. The follow-up, Bad News, Good News, Bad News (Salmon Poetry, 2017) contains the Eigse Michael Hartnett award-winning poem ‘The Whole History of Dancing’. The collection of very short stories, Cheat Sheets (Truth Serum Press, 2018) is his current book. A third poetry collection, Exquisite Prisons, is due out in Summer 2020.
 
 
G. M. Palmer lives with his wife and daughters on a poodle farm in North Florida. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Literary Matters, The Hopkins Review, Grub Street Grackle, The Raintown Review, Goliad, and elsewhere. Find his work at gmpalmer.com & find him @gm_palmer.
 
 
Heather Pease is a poet; her work centers on vulnerability, feminism, sexuality, identity, and mental health. Her first book of poetry “Out of the Weeds” was published in 2020. She has been published in A Teenagers Guide to Feminism by Pear Shaped Press and the San Diego Annual as well as several other journals, e-books, and international publications. Heather aims to make people think about subjects often stigmatized through society. She lives in Southern California.
 
 
Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Rosenblum Poems published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2020. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website atwww.simonperchik.com. To view one of his interviews please follow this link.
 
 
Stuart Pickford lives in Harrogate, England and teaches in a local comprehensive school. He is married with three children. His second collection, <i>Swimming with Jellyfish</i> was published by smith/doorstop.
 
 
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both Story Line Press; the former to be reissued by Red Hen Press, and two collections of shorter poems, A POVERTY OF WORDS, (Prolific Press, 2015) and LANDSCAPE WITH MUTANT (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). Pollack has appeared in Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Magma (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, Chiron Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, Rat’s Ass Review (2017), Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, etc. Poetics: neither navelgazing mainstream nor academic pseudo-avant-garde.
 
 
Two of Ken Poyner’s poetry collections and four of his short fiction collections are widely available (try Amazon or Smashwords or barkingmoosepress.com. He lives with his power-lifter wife, various cats and betta fish in the southeastern corner of Virginia. He spent thirty-three years in information security, moonlighting as a writer. Now, he writes dangerously full-time. Ken’s personal web page is www.kpoyner.com, and his twitter handle is @KenPoyner2.
 
 
Suzanne S.Rancourt, EXAT, is of Abenaki/Huron descent. Her book, Billboard in the Clouds, Curbstone Press, (Second print with NU Press), received the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas First Book Award. Her second, murmurs at the gate, Unsolicited Press, 2019. She is a USMC and Army Veteran. Her poetry, and non-fiction have been published widely. For more info:expressivearts.com.
 
 
Bill Ratner is a 9-time winner of The Moth Story Slams. His spoken word performances are featured on National Public Radio’s Good Food, and The Business, and he is published in The Chiron Review, The Baltimore Review, Rattlecast, Pleiades, KYSO Flash, The Missouri Review Audio. He narrates movie trailers and cartoons. billratner.com/author@billratner.
 
 
Patrick T. Reardon, who has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, is the author of eight books, including the poetry collection Requiem for David. His poetry has appeared in Eclectica, Esthetic Apostle, Literary Orphans, Rhino, Spank the Carp, Main Street Rag, The Write Launch, Meat for Tea, Tipton Poetry Journal, UCity Review and Under a Warm Green Linden. His novella Babe was short-listed by Stewart O’Nan for the annual Faulkner-Wisdom Contest.
 
 
Belinda Rimmer‘s poems are widely published in magazines, including: Under the Radar, Ambit, Brittle Star, Dream Catcher, and Ink, Sweat & Tears. In 2017, she won the Poetry in Motion Competition to turn her poem into an award winning film. In 2018, she came second in the Ambit Poetry Competition. She was runner-up in the 2019 Stanza Poetry Competition. She was also joint winner of the Indigo-First Pamphlet Competition, 2018, with Touching Sharks in Monaco.
 
 
Heather Lee Rogers compulsively tells stories as a writer and an actor in NYC. Her poems have recently appeared in the following printed and online publications: The Rat’s Ass Review, Harbinger Asylum, Here Comes Everyone (UK), Leopardskin & Limes, El Portal, S/Tick, Waterways, Adanna Literary Journal, Jersey Devil Press, Eunoia Review and Adelaide Lit Magazine, etc… More of her work can be read at heatherleerogerspoetry.com.
 
 
Michael L. Ruffin is a writer, editor, preacher, and teacher living and working in Georgia. He posts poems on Instagram at @michaellruffin and opinion at On the Jericho Road. He is the author of Fifty-Seven: A Memoir of Death and Life, and of the upcoming Praying with Matthew.
 
 
Ed Ruzicka has published one book, “Engines of Belief”, and has recently had his second, “My Life in Cars”, accepted for release later in the year. Ed’s poems have appeared in the Atlanta Review, Rattle, the New Millennium Review as well as many other literary journals and anthologies. Ed is an Occupational Therapist who lives with his wife, Renee, in Baton Rouge, LA. More at:edrpoet.com.
 
 
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.
 
 
Mir-Yashar (Yash) Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program in fiction. His story, “Soon,” was nominated for a Pushcart. Yash’s stories are forthcoming or have been published in Café Lit, Mad Swirl, 50 Word Stories, and Ariel Chart, among others.
 
 
J. D. Smith‘s fourth collection, The Killing Tree, was published in 2016, and he has been awarded a Fellowship from the United States National Endowment for the Arts. His other books include the essay collection Dowsing and Science (2011) and the children’s picture book The Best Mariachi in the World (2008). Smith lives and works in Washington, DC.
 
 
Paul Smith is a civil engineer who has worked in the construction racket for many years. He has traveled all over the place and met lots of people. Some have enriched his life. Others made him wish he or they were all dead. He likes writing poetry and fiction. He also likes Newcastle Brown Ale. If you see him, buy him one. His poetry and fiction have been published in Convergence, Missouri Review, Literary Orphans and other lit mags.
 
 
Alec Solomita’s stories and poems have appeared in many publications, including The Adirondack Review, The Southwest Review, The Galway Review, The Blue Nib, Rat’s Ass Review, Bold+Italic, and The Lake. He was shortlisted by the Bridport Prize and Southword Journal and longlisted by the Over The Edge New Writer Contest 2019. He was named a finalist by the Noctua Review. His poetry chapbook, “Do Not Forsake Me,” was published in 2017. He lives in Massachusetts.
 
 
Jaime Speed earned an MA in English in the same place she lives, works, and plays: Saskatchewan, Canada. She enjoys reading, throwing weights, and dancing badly. Having never left campus, she has found her forever home among brick buildings, students, and research.
 
 
Philip St. Clair‘s ninth collection of poetry, Red Cup, Green Lawn, was published earlier this year by Main Street Rag Publishing. He has received the Bullis Prize from Poetry Northwest and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Kentucky Arts council. He lives in Ashland, Kentucky. Please visit his website for more information.
 
 
Michael Angelo Stephens has published 22 books, including the novel The Brooklyn Book of the Dead and the travel memoir Lost in Seoul (Random House, 1990). His next book is a collection of prose poems about an out-of-work actor who lands the part of Hamlet, and is entitled History of Theatre or the Glass of Fashion; it is being published by MadHat Press.
 
 
Chris Stewart likes to play with words. He’s performed across the UK, Finland and Estonia. You can see his award-winning filmpoems here.
 
 
David J. Thompson is a former prep school teacher and coach. He loves Spain, The Simpsons, and movies. His latest chapbook, Shake My Ashes, is available from Alien Buddha Press. A series of 1400 of his postcards is part of the permanent collection at The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois. Please visit his photo website at ninemilephoto.com.
 
 
Susan Thornton’s memoir, On Broken Glass: Loving and Losing John Gardner, was published in 2000 by Carroll & Graf, New York. Poems have been published in Paintbrush Journal, The Denver Quarterly, Rats Ass Review and SoFloPoJo. Short stories have been anthologized in The Best American Mystery Stories 2016 and Flash Fiction Annual (2017) . Susan lives and works in Binghamton New York and, for her sins, is a high school teacher of French.
 
 
Meg Tuite is author of four story collections and five chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Poetry award for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging. She teaches writing retreats and online classes hosted by Bending Genres. She is also the fiction editor of Bending Genres and associate editor at Narrative Magazine. megtuite.com
 
 
Peggy Turnbull lives next to a road closed for road construction. She used to be a librarian and now writes poems, even when she’s not #safer at home. Her chapbook, “The Joy of Their Holiness” is forthcoming from Alabaster Leaves Publishing.
 
 
Michele Waering gained an MLitt in Creative Writing from The University of Glasgow. Her work has appeared in A Thousand Cranes: Scottish Poets for Japan; Envoi; The Interpreter’s House; World Haiku Review; San Pedro River Review; Red River Review; The Ghazal Page; Fuga No Makoto; From Glasgow to Saturn, and Allegro. She lives in Renfrewshire, Scotland.
 
 
Daniel Warzecha lives and writes out of Austin, Texas, where he also enjoys playing and listening to many kinds of music.
 
 
Russel Winick recently began writing poetry at nearly age 65, after concluding a long legal career. Langston Hughes’ work is a primary inspiration for him. Mr. Winick’s poems have been selected for publication in The Society of Classical Poets, Snakeskin, Blue Unicorn; and Lighten Up Online.
 
 
Charles Wyatt is the author of two collections of short fiction (a third is forthcoming), a novella, and two poetry collections. A third fiction collection, Houses, is forthcoming from Hidden River Arts. He lives in Nashville, TN where he was principal flutist of the Nashville Symphony for 25 years. www.charleswyatt.com
 
 
Kathrine Yets lives in St. Francis WI. She instructs English at various universities. Her chapbook So I Can Write is freshly published by Cyberwit. The Animal Within is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press.
 
 
Louis Zieja (he/him) is a cinematographer, collage artist and writer originally from Philadelphia. His poetry has been published in the Ghost City Review and is upcoming in the Neologism Poetry Journal and Rogue Agent. His comic book series “The Subliminals”, a collaboration with artist Anton Blake, will be published in late 2020.
 
 

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Edited by Roderick Bates

 

RAT’S ASS REVIEW SUMMER ISSUE 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 
 
 

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