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Winter 2020 Issue

 
 


 

 
(Cover Art: TRIGEMINAL by Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahad)
 
 

 
 
B. Anne Adriaens
 
 
TOLKIEN’S COUNTRY—107/2
 
You cycle together on the first fine-weather afternoon,
fields and landmark power plant ahead, the cooling towers’
shadows a brief respite from the sun’s sudden beating.
 
The spot’s already taken by a cuddling couple, random inches of
skin exposed, and too much booze ensues at the Nag’s Head
on the bridge, a sparkle from the river reflected in your pint.
 
When you leave the crowded beer garden and pedal your way
home, side by side in slanting light, the last of adolescent
lust spurs you on, straight to the floor-bound mattress.
 
Midnight has just gone when you wake, ravenous but not yet
able to move, wide open eyes fixed on one point, you admit
you quite like the slatted doors of the built-in wardrobe.
 
 
Kemmer Anderson
 
 
BOOK RATS
 
I am a book in the existential library.
I am read by rats – not subliminal rats,
but dung leaving, shelf-shitting rats
that drop dark turds
when they turn the page in the text.
 
Black print on the page dissolves,
all letters point to rat dung.
Surreal, you say.
Merde réel, je dit.
Ils mangent les livres.
All language is eaten, being eaten,
will be eaten in time.
 
Beware of rat.com.
Their droppings usurp the pupils in your eye.
My book glue provides protein –
a sweet carbohydrate for the metabolism of rodents.
My pages, sliced bread, dry to crunch,
but good for lunch without cheese.
 
One particular academic rat with a feast for Shakespeare
ate a page from Romeo and Juliet:
“Tybalt, you rat-catcher” is no more.
 
These same rats, descendants to
Thomas Jefferson’s aristocratic rats
that ate his wallet and minuets while he slept,
now run free in my library.
So much for the independence of rats.
 
I know how to catch these bastards.
I will bait the trap with words
and wait for them to feed on poetry.
 
 
JOHN X: THE GOOD SHEPHERD
After Richard Wilbur
 
Although pig farmers don’t like you,
we sheepherders need your voice
to call our ewes
by name and sift the choice
 
lambs for market. You could help our flock
and keep our stock secure
by insuring the narrow gate is locked
at night. Your hand, Jesus, could cure
 
the sheep of any disease the herd might have.
After all, you are the Good Shepherd. So
stay with us. Your hand is salve
to all who need to know
 
where wandering lambs stray
from this pasture fold.
Also we need you to pray
for lost sheep and keep the hungry fed till they are sold.
 
 
VILLANELLE FOR CHANGE
 
Rule by twitter stops at the White House door
with garbled language spewed from raving rage
when President Donald Trump is no more
 
because a new president will settle the score
with a written voice for a living wage
since twitter rule stops at the White House door.
 
The climate changes since hope begins to soar
as America prepares for the Ecology Age
because Donald Trump’s reign is “Nevermore.”
 
When sane gun laws pass from the Senate floor,
automatic weapons will not rule this age:
the gun lobby gets a closed White House door.
 
The Torch of Liberty shines from our shore.
The huddled mass of children in the cage
are free. This despot Trump will tweet no more
 
when our nation through the vote will restore
the balance of Justice to a level gage.
Rule by twitter stops at the White House door
when President Trump’s power is no more.
 
 
Jeff Bagato
 
 
CLAWING WITH A DRUMSTICK
 
Whether it’s the roll of the dice
or the flip of the omelet in the pan,
there’s still a way to get ahead in this world,
like a silver spoon up the old wazoo,
like a penny on the sidewalk,
like a money machine
with a three count team:
lemon lemon lime
apple cherry banana—
like a fruited pie on the fruited plain,
sweet and runny under a crust
gone golden in the spotlight;
they run up, they run down,
they run thither and yon,
but nobody makes biscuits
like a fat cat grabbing
at the laser light beamed
from the hand of his master,
tap dancing at the feet
of the big man—
you’ve got red gold,
green gold, black
gold, but gold’s only yellow
when it’s pissed out slowly,
like the juice of a tree,
like a heartbeat drum,
like blood from a banker,
like candy from a baby,
like vinegar poured by a miser’s hand,
like time, sweet time—
click click clicking away
at the everloving end
of the universe
 
 
Robert Beveridge
 
 
GHOTI
 
A mathematical progression
that never even got far enough
to be a Nigerian prince’s email
 
nothing more the graffiti
that muddies up the walls
leaves behind only fumes
 
and I love you, her last note
said, I’ll always love you,
but sharing my life with you
would be a small waste
 
one bird, its wings locked
forever in debate over whether
Capistrano or Canada is
its destination
 
ends, always, in stalemate
facts hammered away
with the greed of oil,
the lust of asphalt, of crushed
gravel, the many definitions
of pitch, the endless will
to—what?—if not power
 
and so I sit on this train
platform in Abington, PA
and read your note again
and listen to a half-dozen girls
play double dutch on the other side
 
and wonder if I should dangle
my legs over the side
when the train comes
or board it and see
if it will take me somewhere sunny
 
 
William C. Blome
 
 
DOWN GUATEMALA HILLS
 
You have to wonder how such a girl
ever developed rough, pomegranate nipples,
and I get mad as Hades the many times
I keep pulling and pulling and cutting my lip.
Right now you have to wonder if this bus
ever passed a safety inspection with the set
of brakes it reveals and squeals on the last
ride of the day down Guatemala hills,
trip so bumpy in the asphalt of night
there’s nowhere for my masculine anger
to hop off and help smooth the shit outside,
much less to get her to postpone rubbing
her training bra up against my shoulder (oh
she sands and sands my muscles with it),
and she spreads all over her narrow seat
and pushes her tongue far inside my ear
and giggles I might just be old enough
to be an uncle, a priest, or a granddad.
 
 
Jimmy Broccoli
 
 
OVERTHINKING LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER
 
It would be easier to stab him
than to cut this watermelon into even slices
Goddamn dull knife, impotent cutlery
He waits patiently in the living room
as smoke rises from pans
Temperature probably too high for the recipe
 
I’m in the kitchen wearing my favorite tie
an obvious first date in houses
My dogs sniff him and approve, and I smile
I’ll not burn the motherfucking dinner
He might be worth it
 
I enter the room and time stands still
He looks at me lovingly, as I overthink and pause
motherfucking food on a well-planned platter
I carry it without spilling shit
Everything is where it should be
and that might include me
 
 
Ingrid Bruck
 
 
FISHING FOR DAD
 
Dad spent boyhood summers fishing at a camp on Lake George
A crack of the line, spring music played in our side yard
With a precise snap of his wrist, he’d practice throws with the rod
His long graceful fingers tied the flies he used for casting
 
A crack of the line, spring music played in our side yard
Thoughts of the rainbow glow of a hooked trout in a tail-ballet on water
His long graceful fingers tied the flies he used for casting
No gutting dirty work for this original catch and release man
 
Imagining the rainbow glow of a hooked trout in a tail-dance on water
He praised the beauty of trout he fished in the Battenkill
No gutting dirty work, he practiced catch and release
He wrote articles and poems that Fly Fisherman published
 
He enthused over the beautiful trout he fished in the Battenkill
Mom walked dirt roads or read books while dad cast and fished
He treasured copies of his writing in Fly Fisherman
Dad spent boyhood summers at a Lake George camp fishing
 
 
A PRAISE POEM
 
I admire my grandaughter and flowers
We isolate at home during COVID
 
Three-year Wrenna home-locked, daycare closed
Blooming catkins drape the pussy willow
 
She expresses delight building Legos
Miniature daffodils brighten the fog
 
She colors intensely inside the lines
Cups of pastel crocus fill with raindrops
 
She crayons a purple face, pink hair, green shoes
Stark white snowdrops on bare black earth
 
Mallory asks to play, Wrenna’s parents send her away
Heavy clumps of blue violets bloom on the hill
 
Wrenna holds a battery operated music box
Forsythia flowers push out sunshine petals
 
She practices twirls in a dance for Aili, her sister
Hellebores, glorious clusters of colored bells
 
Dizzy, she falls, no tears, picks herself up
Bloom studded dandelions spread in rosettes
 
Cut off from friends, Wrenna hugs her baby sister
Outside the window, flowers and the virus thrive.
 
 
(See Leslie McKay below for one additional poem
co-authored by Ingrid Bruck)
 
 
Raymond Byrnes
 
 
BUTTON COLLECTION
 
In a pasture hosting only birdsong on a breeze
corn rows filled one autumn day with rows
of running men bellowing madly into mayhem.
 
Five hundred thousand heavy musket balls and
rifle bullets smashed both ways through bones,
flew astray, or dropped from trembling fingers.
 
In moonless night on hallowed ground, like a
priest swinging incense smoke, a trespasser
sweeps his relic detector just above the grass.
 
When a ground-penetrating signal bounces off
a metal object, only his headphones register a
telltale ping before he kneels, trowel in hand.
 
After what feels in the dark like a horse-shoe nail
he extracts a pristine, three-ring Selma Arsenal
bullet that should fetch twenty or more on eBay.
 
Last night, in a field once covered by a thousand
canvas tents, he found an “A” artillery button from
a Union officer’s coat, its sewing-shank still intact,
 
but no sound returned from the surgeon’s pit ten
inches down, where sawn-off leg bones lie near
a soldier who died waiting on a stretcher.
 
 
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
 
 
ABSENT/PRESENT
“to be absent from the body is to be present with the lord” St. Paul
 
When I danced with an angel-faced mortal,
or was it the human-faced divine?
I wasn’t troubled by belief or hands on my breast.
I corpsed myself as we waltzed. I classified
 
uninvited kisses with the sidelong glances
of Susannah’s elders, and eschewed
that conscience-carrying part of me
always trying to lock the dance hall door.
 
A bald man on the sidelines shouted,
Heaven is best! Better than disreputable largess,
I guessed. I pondered his message,
eventually jettisoned my bygones, and entered
 
the room of my body with its grapevines, riots,
with its stolen canoodle and red rubber boots.
 
 
A FEW WORDS TO THE NEWCOMER
 
Welcome to the hillsides’ stones, the sparse,
bright shine of grass among the rocks. Welcome
to here from your abandoned somewhere else.
 
You may have come, as many do, from someplace
with those splendid scudding clouds, the sound of sea
we never hear up here. Your motive could have been
 
cheap rent, or as is usual, a man. What you’ll find
are rocks and moss on hills we say are mountains,
and of course, poor folks and wretched politics.
 
Did you have those? You think we’d fret, but
we’re content with rusting cars, tin roofs and flags
that testify to all the history we know. We hunt.
 
We fish. We keep our heads down. We do what
The Sheriff says to do. Until we don’t. Welcome.
 
 
Kitty Carpenter
 
 
DEAR FUTURE DOCTOR
 
I keep imagining my head
plopped in a roasting pan
to catch the drippings,
the rest of me on a steel slab
draped in a white sheet,
this body a box of organs
discarded piece by piece
into a black trash can.
 
Will it be four years, or forty?
Will you give me a name,
make up stories with your colleagues
about the jagged J on my right thumb,
the chunk of flesh gone from my knee,
the 8-ball tattoo on the small my back—
 
Will you wonder
if these quadriceps carried me up
mountains before they wasted,
if this pelvis swayed
and salsaed as neurons fired,
interpreting music,
if the sensory nerves sparked
at a faint brush of fingertips
before they, too, had nothing
left to give. Will you wonder
how many tongues pushed
open these now-grayed lips
 
before you open me, one
of 9.63 in a million,
saw through the sternum,
crack back the ribs—
the sound, I’ve heard,
like a branch snapped beneath a boot—
to study the disease
that took me. I wanted
to give all of myself one last time.
please, take your time with me—
there’s no one
to come for the ashes.
 
 
Sudasi Clement
 
 
STAR PARTY
 
A barn owl’s subdued celebration: Woo-hoo.
Dust from a broken comet burns through the sky,
which is what drew me out here in the first place.
That, and a dream in which I was crying
 
because I’d missed the meteor shower.
Never in this other, wakeful life have I felt
such despair at the sight of a sunrise. There goes
another, dragging its hot, ionized tail behind.
 
Most shooting stars are smaller than pebbles
you’d toss at a lover’s window.
My loved ones blaze through the atmosphere
too, glowing from all the friction.
 
Subterranean creatures clear their bunkers
of debris, and one more meteor hustles by.
The barn owl sings her bare-bones song—
minor-key comfort in the lull before dawn.
 
 
NAMASTE
 
The brokenness in me bows
to the brokenness in you.
 
The moth in my brain
sees the pyro in yours
and readies a match.
 
This lump in my throat
knows that knot in your gut.
 
Ghost of child-me
gives ghost of child-you
the once-over and says—
 
let’s rub our scars together
and make a new thing.
 
 
COYOTE
 
She’s different than the others, all feint and flirt
eyeing our boy-dog through the glass.
 
His spine twitches and teases
long black fur into a sexy pompadour.
 
She snuffles under junipers for quail eggs,
prances atop gopher mounds.
 
Lifts her head to listen as his high, wild whine
builds to frenzied hubba hubba.
 
 
Wanda Morrow Clevenger
 
 
IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE END
 
when she said
if anyone asked why
I couldn’t join girl scouts
or band or any other
school club
that required money
I should say
I didn’t have a dad
 
 
Alan Cohen
 
 
LOOMS
 
If the past seems more reliable than the present
perhaps it’s because we own it
(a film, not a play)
 
What we know easier to compass
than what we want
or want to understand
 
Both shift
The historical tree may turn from oak to maple
We may substitute a face, a name
 
But that is, like artistic revision, in the interest of the story
so that what is over the next hill
is not simply another hill, matters
 
In the here and now
we are so small, so insignificant
can only explore a single letter of the epic that sprawls each moment
 
In memory we grow
the world shrinks
meaning looms
 
 
Joe Cottonwood
 
 
SONG OF TWELFTH PEACE
 
At school
in my twelfth year of life
fascinated as fur sprouted
I mastered articulation of twelfth
not twelth not twelf
while my voice strangely cracked
beyond my control.
 
In elbowing hallways
among boys of wispy mustache
at moments almost random
springing beyond control
my hard-on waved hello
concealed by cotton from giggly
girls hiding their own secrets
of twelfth body.
 
At home
I took long showers
where singing
in a chamber of sound
sprayed by hot needles
the voice never cracked.
Briefly in my control
hair, voice, blood.
Peace had a melody
and was wet.
 
 
AS A FAVOR I SWEEP RACCOON POOP
FROM MY LANDLADY’S ROOF
 
In return she mixes me a hot toddy
and shows the gangway constructed
by her husband Cyrus, a series of planks
from the acorn tree to her kitchen window
where raccoons enter and ransack her shelves.
In spring they bring cubs.
Cyrus fed them from his fingers.
He collapsed right here at the table. His heart.
 
She calls owls to that same window.
They come and stare but never enter.
Last week an owl brought a dead vole
with the head removed. An offering.
She could hear Cyrus laughing.
There’s an echo in this house.
Cyrus used to tell her to touch her toes
and then he’d touch her from behind.
They had no children, he couldn’t.
 
Once a raccoon somehow ignited
a stove burner and set itself on fire.
She threw a pot of tea.
The coon vaulted out the window.
Probably died. When animals die
you never see them. Almost never.
Sometimes at night Cyrus wakes her,
whispers this or that. Silly stuff,
and then he chuckles. The echo.
 
That’s enough hot toddies, don’t you think?
Now go away before I touch my toes.
 
 
BLUEBOTTLE BLOWFLIES
 
Flying blueberries
of red eye and spindly leg
thunk against window glass, seeking escape.
Winged maggots,
reincarnation of rat who squeezed
into my house, gnawed at my apples,
dropped turds on my chairs,
died somewhere secret
within my walls.
 
Screens are means to keep bugs out
but now I open all portals as exits, not entries.
Behold—fresh outdoor scent.
They migrate by the dozens, by the hundreds
buzzing out passages to freedom
from an origin of decay.
So too some day will go my soul.
 
 
Ken Cumberlidge
 
 
PRESENT INDICATIVE
for Caron Freeborn, 1966 – 2020
 
It isn’t that I cannot find the words.
I know them, every one, and how they work:
that meek, accepting noise they make’s
familiar and old.
 
But with you, they just won’t ‘take’.
 
My stubborn tongue will not be told
and, unconsoled, refuses to comply,
cannot see why it should associate
your name with any concept so
unmeet:
 
so pale-anaemic, sickly-sweet;
 
so plain… fucking… banal
 
as
the past tense.
 
 
THESE SHOES
 
These shoes
  – I haven’t quite got used to just yet
These shoes
  – I kinda hope I never will
These shoes
  – Gave a shop assistant cause to be thankful they paid
  attention during that one-off diversity awareness afternoon
 
These shoes
  – Have never been beyond my front door
These shoes
  – Turn my six-two into six-five
These shoes
  – Make walking downstairs a unique challenge for a
  62 year-old 15-stone man with a compromised left knee
 
But oh… these shoes!
 
These shoes
  – Lift me up and out of myself
       … maybe into myself?
                 I’m not exactly sure
 
 
                 but
                 truth be told
                 in these shoes
                 I don’t care.
 
 
THE WAY
 
And here it is. Again.
 
The tipping-point:
that tilted moment when,
 
gut-squirmed and churning,
burning with reluctance,
 
you acknowledge that this thing
you’ve known with them as with no other
 
– this once-and-only, confidential,
precious slice of specialness –
 
is gone.
 
 
Neither one of you has said as much,
of course: you still trade likes, share memes
 
but looking back, it’s clear you’ve been
the one making the running for a while;
 
that if, right now, you gave up on
your brief, infrequent texts and calls,
 
attempts to make arrangements that
just lately never quite seem to work out,
 
you’d be dead before they’d ever
think to check if you’re OK.
 
 
Ain’t that the way?
 
 
THE GIFT
 
The temperature
of human blood
is 37 degrees.
 
Canine blood
runs hotter by
approximately 2
 
– a fact, right now,
of which I’m glad,
the season being winter
 
the wind not
up for
compromise
 
and having lost
my right glove
yesterday.
 
My dog is large,
the bag
commensurate:
 
heavy, firm
yet yielding
in my pocketed caress.
 
 
Patricia Davis-Muffett
 
 
MOTHERLESS
 
Some years, I have left the calendar
on July–a perpetual 31st–
not wanting to see the month of August come.
 
Usually, we mark the day
only with a call or text–
we two who loved her most:
only daughter; late life love,
though in the end,
you loved her most fully,
escorted her
down that dark path
as far as you could go.
 
No matter if I turn the page or not,
the day will come–eyes open
then squeezing shut.
Let it be tomorrow
when I am just the motherless daughter
and not the one who is losing her again.
 
This thirteenth year
I will gather my children
set a beautiful table
use her wedding china
her mother’s crystal.
I will fill vases–
daisies, yellow roses–
I will serve shrimp cocktail,
put ice cubes in wine.
We will end with cookies stuffed with chocolate chips,
butter pecan straight from the box.
We’ll lay out photo albums built
one paper corner at a time,
spread Broadway playbills
over the tablecloth she embroidered,
alternate singing showtunes and hymns.
 
When dark settles,
we will take off our shoes,
process into the yard
cool grass between our toes.
One by one,
we’ll step into the garden
sifting rich black dirt
between our fingers
breathe in the tomatoes,
newly pruned.
Let the fireflies whirl–
usher out this day.
 
 
THE BRIDE PRICE
 
Here, at my kitchen table,
at the dawn of the twenty-first century,
we discuss her bride price.
 
Lucky, she has traveled
these 7,777 miles
across an ocean
across continents
carrying nothing
but a suitcase
and her will to thrive.
 
She strode over my threshold,
assessed my children
lined up before her,
looked me over, adopted us.
From then on, we were hers.
 
Now, after years of considering,
she has decided to open this door again
allow a quiet, careful man
into the space she had bricked over
when the last one in proved violent.
 
We are considering the question
posed by the families,
ridiculous to all of us–
to him, to her, to me:
How many cows is she worth?
 
A tradition yes–but the families
back home in Botswana, in Lesotho,
would consider only
how beautiful she is
how pure her body
how likely to bear children
how skilled at keeping house.
 
Where are the cows
for the way she got up
after a man bloodied her face, her body,
and searched the wide world
for the fastest way
to a visa, a paying job,
putting thousands of miles between them?
 
Where are the cows
for the nights spent studying
late into the night,
the heavy courseload carried
after carrying two toddlers
through their small lives
all day?
 
Where are the cows
for the force of her love,
encircling this broken child
making him whole
in a broken world?
 
I know it’s tradition–
that you will pay the price together
to appease her uncles
to help his mother save face.
The fact is, though,
he can’t afford you.
 
Set the price so high
the only one who can pay
is you.
It is time to fill
your own field with cows.
Dress yourself in silk and gold
and claim what was always yours.
 
 
KNEADING
 
Standing in the dark kitchen,
woman of a dozen lists,
I try not to kill the yeast.
 
Turning flour in the bowl,
I know I ought to love this
digging in of hands, rhythmic churning.
 
My lists fill space left empty by the recipe
what must be done by day’s end, week’s end, month’s end.
Shoulder muscles tighten. I throw the yeasty dough at faster pace.
 
Now, stretch the loaf,
pull beneath heels of hands.
The lists dissolve in texture.
 
My great grandmother here in the empty kitchen,
body smeared with flour, sweat, her children’s handprints,
laundry soap and garden soil.
 
She kneads the dough for Samuel
who called himself her father only til her wedding day.
She folds it on itself for Robert,
Irish husband whose hatred locked him
in an upper bedroom, the cyclops eye of the house.
She stretches the loaf for her children–
for sons who might become someone,
daughters who might marry well.
 
Dough folded, left to rise,
she checks her list of orders.
Thank God for lazy women
who will keep her making bread
so she can feed her children.
 
The bread is more than kneaded now
the lists await a moment up ahead,
but for now there is the rising
of the dough, the sun, my family.
I hold my hands up to my face,
breathe in the yeast and flour
for one last moment.
 
 
Benjamin Davis
 
 
BLUES BASEMENTS
 
We headed to Memphis in a place called Tennessee, a city known for blues music and segregation. (Segregation is a thing like when you’re a kid, and you try to keep your peas out of your mashed potatoes except you have an irrational fear of peas and you’re a potato). They also had shrimp, and it was good, blackened. We asked the waitress for a place to see some Blues. She told us about a place in that part of town “Take a taxi,” she told us, “I always take a taxi when I go out in that part of town.” She paused, then added, “There are a lot of bad people.” And we went there to a jazz bar in the basement of a hotel. My mother had a little blue backpack on, and in line, we heard: “Look at this cute little white lady with her cute little backpack.” My mother got us whiskies and we sat. The place was packed wall to wall, and no one looked at us funny, but they did look at my mother’s backpack a lot. The music started to play, and everyone forgot the backpack. It was music like I’d never heard. The room gyrated as the rhythm built on itself before exploding into an irresistible jig. It was an earthquake of movement. Everyone danced and flakes of sweat flung all over the place. It was on the walls and the ceiling and on the little blue backpack. We, too, danced. It was so loud and full of joy that we all went blind. I had to stumble outside for air holding the hall rails to guide me out onto the dark street. The bar carried on without me. I watched as two couples, arm-in-arm-in-arm, came walking down the sidewalk toward me. They looked to the bar, felt the rhythm, and walked in. A few seconds later, they came out. They were walking closer together whispering to one another, and as they passed, I heard one of them say, “No, I think not.”
 
 
Steve Deutsch
 
 
CHANCE
 
Beneath the blare
and buzz of station crowd
I thought, just now,
I caught
 
that old pet name
you used so long ago—
to torment, to tease,
and to endear.
 
Anxiously,
I scan the faces
with care—
looking for?
 
What do we
hold to
in the passing
of our years?
 
What do we
fail to?
By choice
and reason?
 
Or is it just
the pick
of a card
in a well-mixed deck?
 
If I had
a hundred lives
like this one
would I remember you
 
in one, or nearly all?
Or would I come up
as empty
as I do today?
 
 
RETICENCE
 
By now, we gravitate
to a few familiar places—
today we are camped out
in our local bar—
dark and dank.
But it’s cool,
the beer is cold,
and we have
been coming here
since we were
barely legal.
 
It’s an odd comfort
that nothing
has changed
in more
than thirty years,
the tables
still etched
with the names
of long dead loves—
hearts and arrows.
 
Have I told you
about Marty?
My old friend,
a man of few words,
prefers an occasional grunt
to sustained conversation.
And that works for me—
I love to talk
and the grunts
are enough
to convince me
I’m not talking
to myself
 
But today he is
busting to tell
me something.
So I go on and on
about the five bucks
Sal owes me
from a bet on the Mets
and watch him twitch
and try to be polite.
 
Finally,
As I pause
To drink my beer,
He says—
with a face
I’d never seen before,
“I ran into my dad
Last night in the diner.
 
And, it’s as if
a dam had burst.
 
 
Craig Dobson
 
 
BIRD-HATING
 
It cost me all I had. I borrowed more
for delivery, and for the men to put it up. Told them it was art.
Had to smile when one advised bird scarers.
 
When they went, I stood before it, ran my fingers round
the marks their sucker grips had left. Scraped off
all the warning tape. Checked the industrial adhesive
hardening each section invisibly to the next.
 
The following day I cleaned it. Not halfway through,
my first success. A male blackbird’s stunning song –
his wings beating the ground, his yellow bill stilling.
 
When I’d done, it was astonishing. I could barely tell,
myself, any sense of a beyond. No surprise
the robin couldn’t.
 
That became my routine. Each morning I’d wipe the dawn
from its colossal face. The dew, the bugs, the cobwebs’ lethal lace.
Then wait.
 
The difference in their weight, their speed, their angle of impact –
in time, I learned to tell them all, could mouth
swallow
before it had even finished its fall.
 
Laughed till I cried
when the woodpigeon’s idiotic, wing-clap parabola hit,
bouncing crooked as a rugby ball, spilling its crop.
 
The barn owl’s September dusk glided in on a silence that cracked
to leave him broken-winged and bleeding.
Finished with a stick, I nailed him – upside down –
lopsided wings pinned out.
 
It’s spring, now. On clear mornings, the sun hits so hard I can’t look.
Gaze instead at where the buzzards laze. If I had the means
I’d raise it there,
with nothing but light and the clear blue
drawing those ragged wings towards it, unaware.
 
Yesterday, near the end, I pressed my forehead
against its coolness, each exhalation misting the world.
A blue-tit was hunting grubs the other side,
one of the thousand daily forays to feed its young.
So close, I could see the price of instinct:
its thinness, shabby feathers, dulled reactions, the lack of customary care
that not even my breath’s unwitting, opaque warning would save it from.
 
 
AN ATTITUDE
 
Surprised they still exist in such numbers,
I study the taxidermists’ ads online.
 
Not baulking at my request – We’ve seen stranger before
the man and his young assistant arrive two days later,
as rain’s obscuring grey clears the bottom of our garden
and then the nearby park, and the whole newly shining town.
 
Declining tea, they ask to see what they’ll quote on,
and I lead the way to where, propped on the sturdiest
of the French provincial chairs we bought that year in Brittany,
our relationship is slumped, inert, its colour gone.
 
How long? the elder asks, direct.
 
Quite a while, I venture. I mean… longer than we…
but am dumbed by an unexpected sense of impropriety.
 
He bends closer to inspect. Animated, he comments
to the younger, picking out some things
I’d never noticed, others not thought important.
 
Have you decided on a pose?
 
We’d talked of this before they came
and yet, when I go to say,
I feel as if a sentence is being passed.
 
Exchanging looks, they straighten up.
We’d use traditional wool and wire for the form,
not polyurethane, and retain as much of the original
as we could. We believe it adds authenticity.

 
Grateful and emboldened, I try again.
We thought… turning back, perhaps… you know,
glancing round, as if it was… well… looking for…

but the words I think I want
still in my throat without a sound.
 
This technique… he adds, to free me
from the halting silence, means it could –
depending on the light and where you stood –
seem either something lost… or something found.

 
 
CONVENIENCE
 
A slice of fir and birch beside the busy road,
fattening to fields beyond the traffic’s moan.
Litter seeded its ragged margins,
tissues, shit and condoms further in.
 
Driving that way to our holidays,
we could’ve waited for the postcard hills
to start or the river’s stone-bridged grace
gathering to spill into a sun-embroidered sea,
 
but the irony of the place somehow grew to be
an integral part – uncramping our legs among
the strewn waste, joking at the mess and dodging
turds to pee, barely concealed from the streaming cars.
 
Last time I saw it, I hadn’t stopped there for a decade
and didn’t then, though a sidelong glance displayed
the spread of trash – fly-tipped black sacks
and white goods barely clearing the road.
 
I sped past, beggaring what must once
have alchemised this stand’s rag-end plight,
ennobling its share in our annual pilgrimage
to a fortnight in the promised land.
 
Without that, its disabusing reprise offered
nothing more than necessity – an unloveliness fit only
for whatever jettisoned regard left its litter on the verge
or its abject urges further in, hidden by the trees.
 
 
THE RETURN OF AGAMEMNON
TO THE INTERNATIONAL BANKING SECTOR
 
As Troy falls at last (he’d hedged, of course:
optioned the sea lanes for victory or retreat)
he texts ‘cu soon’ to his wife, loads his vast
container fleet with a hoard of swag and slaves,
waves the wooden nag goodbye and boards
his Lear jet for home, leaving Ilium to burn.
 
Having netted his dreams, he can’t appreciate
his partner’s true interest in his return –
her investment of a decade’s taxing wait
to repay the price of their daughter’s sacrifice –
and bullishly reckons without her
axing certain assets to offset his toxic debt.
 
 
Clive Donovan
 
 
SLUDGE
 
This sludged-up drain:
skeletons that dangled once from my lime tree
picking nightmarish elements as from a trance of slime
bits of ham tomato sandwich
that never should have been flushed down the sink
I made it in good faith for you
such unwholesome chutney in this drain
foul phlegm and goo
and soggy worms where did they come from?
and yet I have to beat the dog away
he longs to lick the protein up
half retching I reach to the depths
coughing and gargling up to you
Don’t pour the acid yet!
our gelid black kitchen fat
and scum of sloughed skin
this joint accumulation of discard
we create without consideration
an awful lesson of our punk life
if only I could grasp it
and would it be too horrible at this point to think of
our dead baby pulled from a womb?
and from the roof a tuft of shifted moss
gutter-grit and a feather for God’s sake
and wrapped around the viscid hook
imperishable shreds of your dark and lovely hair.
 
 
TAKE THIS FLY
 
Take this fly, for instance,
as an example of life.
He preys on death and breeds on it,
he is helpful in this way.
His maligned maggots help shift
the unclaimed baggage of corpse.
 
So why, he wonders, is a single leg of his
stuck fast to this yellow viscid paper?
Who has got it in for me?
I’ve got to think!
The glue is emotionless. He looks around,
spies three others in a worse condition. They are dead.
 
I could tell him now that the loss of wing
would be the most terrible thing,
but I watch the dilemma of his struggle
like a cool executioner and I ponder;
at what point does the light go out
from his multiple eye?
 
 
John Dorroh
 
EXPOSED
 
I pulled down your past
and watched it ooze onto
the floor, spreading like
hot jelly, exposing your
footsteps and soul. You
asked to look at mine
since it was only right
and would make it better
between us.
 
Mine was airy and
light like crepe batter.
The death of your mother
and the loss of my job
at the bank; your cancer,
my bulging disc.
 
The checklist of personal
histories served no purpose.
Aimless one-upping, Hmph!
 
After sucking on cigarettes,
we pulled up our pasts and
walked out into the morning
fog.Neil Douglas
 
 
BATH NIGHT AT SCYLLA’S
After ‘Scylla’ a painting by Ithell Colquhon 1938
 
me pubes like seaweed drifting
down below in salty water
 
above me knees together
as if kissing one another
 
between me thighs an opening
for the boat to take to harbour
 
the solitary sailor
who feeds me ever after
 
 
Jessica Dubey
 
 
THEY DON’T SHAVE YOUR HEAD ANYMORE
 
I want to reach out and touch the bald head
of the man sitting in front of me, forbidden
as a museum painting,
like the photorealist’s rendition
of fruit and cheese I saw at a gallery
the night before.
I held myself back wanting to pluck
one of the glistening grapes
and pop it in my mouth—that kind
of temptation—to run my hand
over the smooth scape
of his head, scarless
unless you count the ring of freckles
the sun left behind, those ripe little spots
on an otherwise untouched scalp.
 
I think about the sickle-shaped scar
on my husband’s head, now buried
under a healthy crop of hair.
How even after it healed
he didn’t want me to touch it.
How I longed to run my fingers
through his hair the way I did
on road trips, my left hand
slipping past his shoulder,
my fingers raking the soft locks,
massaging his scalp as he drove.
 
They don’t shave your head anymore
before the scalpel makes that decisive cut.
Radiation had already taken so much
of his hair. What was left
laid down on either side of the incision,
the skin held closed by a long track
of tightly spaced staples
from the nape to the peak of his head.
The most badass thing I’d ever seen.
I took a picture so he could see it later,
after the pain had gained some distance.
 
He wondered for months
if his hair would grow back.
Now that it has, he tells his barber
to cut it short, really short,
so he doesn’t have to comb it anymore,
so every morning
he just has to run his fingers through it.
 
 
NEEDLE IN THE GROOVE
 
Here we are again at the confluence
  of hot car seat and kitten
     with a broken neck
I am buckled
  into the same car
     that minutes earlier left
its radial tire imprint
  on my left thigh
     I am buckled
into the same memory
  that imprints on my mind
     and later the kitten
imprinted on the Labrador
  who with its soft gaping love
     picked it up
strode across the lawn
  lapping up the kitten’s newness
     its just-opened eyes
took it in its noble mouth
  and rolled it from its tongue
     past awful teeth
to my father’s feet
  who scooped up the barely-there
     kitten in one hand
hammer in the other
  and walked out of sight
     I reach back
from the driver’s seat
  for the little girl
     road rash on her back
fusing with hot vinyl
  I reach for the kitten
     the loll of its neck
reach for my father’s hand
  soft and dangerous
     as the canine mouth
reach and reach and find only
  the worn handle
     of the hammer
 
 
Marchell Dyon
 
 
THE WEDDING DRESS
 
I wore a dress tiger leather
Lovers’ Lane stick-to-my-thighs sexy
a wedding dress not virginal white, not of lace or silk,
and not the kind of winter wedding dress
I imagined as a child.
For my wedding march I’ve snagged myself
a Hobbit for a husband.
Alan was nice toddling at my side.
 
But he wasn’t Lou.
By now, Lou would’ve had his tongue down my throat.
By now, Lou was three states away.
 
Love at first sight.
The Midnight Chapel would be all Alan’s idea.
For future generations,
I would let him believe.
From a pool of highly influential Vegas conventioneers
I saw My pigeon
the rest history.
 
Satisfied Alan slept cuddled in pearled satin sheets
I got up from him to count the unending casino lights,
as I watched them. I fold again my wedding dress
tiger leather stick-to-my-thighs sexy.
 
With my hand,
I chased down each imaginary wrinkle
another month and I’ll be showing.
I petted my leather wedding dress once more.
One last time I thought of Lou, and
the only good luck Lou ever gave me,
this dress.
 
 
Michael Estabrook
 
 
WOODSTOCK 50
 
Yes I know
it’s the 50 year anniversary of Woodstock
the granddaddy of all music festivals
featured many of the bands and performers
I still love:
Jimi, Janis, The Who, Jefferson Airplane,
Joe Cocker, Canned Heat, Mountain,
Grateful Dead, Santana, Country Joe and the Fish,
Crosby, Stills & Nash . . . But no I didn’t go.
I was working three jobs
at the time saving to buy my girl’s
engagement ring.
 
But I confess I never
would’ve taken her there anyway
too uncertain too dangerous.
Caught in the rain and mud
crammed in among thousands of strangers
wasn’t my idea of a good time.
I wasn’t that much
of a free spirit back then (or now actually).
Besides, what was I supposed to tell her dad:
I’m taking your daughter hundreds
of miles away to sleep in a muddy field
for three nights with thousands
of drugged-out whack-a-doodles. Nope,
that never would’ve worked.
 
 
KING ARTHUR DIED IN AD 538
 
Things are about the same
here, same as always, snowy out
another boring lunch.
 
Did you know that King Arthur
(of the Round Table and all that)
was real and died in 538?
 
Simply trying to imagine
538 is difficult, nearly impossible
so long ago, so vague and dark.
 
Most likely King Arthur was a Roman general.
 
Tons of rubbish written
about the Arthurian Legends.
Like with trying to find the historical Jesus.
 
Albert Schweitzer for example tried and failed.
But questing after the historical Arthur
could prove fruitful.
 
The big problem is having to learn
all those archaic languages: Saxon, Anglo,
Celtic, Kentish, Pictish, Jutish, Cumbric, Irish.
 
Welsh too, don’t forget Welsh.
Forget it. Just getting modern English
down has kept me occupied for decades.
 
No, no Arthur for me.
Besides I gotta go make myself
a sandwich or something.
 
 
Vern Fein
 
 
FODDER
 
Years ago, when my wife and I drove deep into red clay
for a Georgia wedding, we explored outside Atlanta.
We both loved antiques and quaint
shops with doodads and local candies,
but noticed Army recruiting signs,
by most of the cash registers,
an expected rite of passage
for recent high school graduates—a way to glory,
a badge of honor to escape dirt roads,
closed store fronts, weedy playgrounds—
the bright cardboard signs spelling fodder
for the great Mad Cow in the sky
who chews and chews and cuds them up.
 
On the news this morning, a father and his son
from Georgia, argue for Freedom
not to wear masks or distance
as they mass-return to school despite every Covid warning.
The curly-blond boy,
a linebacker on the football team,
mouths Freedom as if it were something stuck in his teeth.
His Dad, sporting a Bass cap,
mouths the same words like a fish gasping for air,
asserts his right to get sick and die
just as the young men and women did so long ago
when I was younger and thought it would change.
 
 
Lynn Finger
 
 
INCIDENT OUTSIDE A SMALL TOWN
 
Driving. Tumbleweeds, dust devils, & heifers have ribboned past. I
stop for gas at the convenience store & ask the older couple
standing behind the counter for the ladies. Old A/c unit shakes
like a rock in a can & a radio murmurs. Their unspoken space
 
an illusion of together, uneven, like the linoleum, smooth & buckled,
& the old guy smiles at me while the woman, hair in a bun, looks at a
magazine. I find the restroom down the hall past a few mop buckets &
an aged coke machine. The single stall’s door is gone. Then I see a hole
 
in the wall where the paint was smooth, now buckled. I look through.
Another eye looks back. I stuff the hole with paper towels & go out
to the counter. The man is gone. I put two jumbo candy bars &
a licorice stick bag there, & say, “I think there’s someone looking through
 
a hole in the ladies’ room.” She says, “$10.59 please.” I come back to it.
“Maybe someone could patch the hole?” Her eye meets mine. “Not a lot
gets patched around here.” She hands me the bag. “Enjoy.” She goes back
to reading her magazine. I take the bag, go out into the blind prairie wind. I
 
find a bench in the parking lot to sit & eat. I think she’s never leaving
the store, or him. & patching the hole would be to admit it was there
in the first place. When I open the wrappers, tree birds flutter to the candy
in my hands, grabbing with greedy beaks & eyes.
 
 
Robert Ford
 
 
TIDYING YOUR GARDEN AHEAD OF THE WAKE
 
I edge the lawn with my eyes closed,
hesitantly. It remains yours, after all,
for an undetermined period of time.
 
On my swollen hands and knees
beneath the flyblown skirts of the
Magnolia, I find a gathering of the
 
usual hangers-on; geums, alchemilla,
other turned-aways hoping to go
noisily unnoticed in the semi-darkness,
 
and a queue of sprouted ashlings
along the hedgeline, still too young
to understand or have heard about
 
the dieback. I decide to keep it that way
for now. There is ivy everywhere,
of course, though not yet sprouting
 
this year’s crop of catpiss flowers,
and brambles that rake my wrists
every time we cross on the stairs,
 
wondering what the other is drinking.
Inside, the party will be starting. I can
hear its quickening rumble, should go.
 
Yet somehow, in the tightly-wrapped
labours of the long day, I’ve failed
to notice the rain until now, as it seeps
 
down beyond the layers of my clothing.
It comes to rest, a gentle deadweight in
the god-forsaken hollows of my heart.
 
 
LISTENING TO “A DAY IN THE LIFE” FOR THE FIRST TIME
 
 
Everything had already been done before.
Yet somehow anything still remains possible.
In your room, the wallpaper is made up
of geometric shapes, and there are
pictures that would embarrass you now.
There are many miscalculations to come,
but you are only thirteen, and most things
can and will be forgiven. The matter of
the galaxies has yet to separate itself,
into objects with fixed orbits, into emptiness.
The idea of giving names to all of this –
let alone writing it down in words,
let alone reshaping it with your hands –
creates a terror you cannot imagine.
You will see the blow coming long before
you feel it, yet be powerless to stop it.
You will never be exactly sure what it was.
The stylus continues to rise and fall
politely in the grooves with every revolution.
Anything can seem trivial if seen from
an appropriate angle, the view obscured.
“I’d love to turn you on” he told you,
and you immediately thought of that girl,
the one who’d be the first ever to spit
her mayfly heart into your open mouth.
You were an incomparable idiot, even then.
You do not read the news anymore, oh boy,
but that final chord still threatens to shake you
awake. It still hasn’t finished dying away yet . . .
 
 
Meg Freer
 
 
BEYOND EQUILIBRIUM
 
A man and woman trim their front lawns with scissors
in different parts of the city, break their own limits,
attempt invisible mending of the weather in their spinning minds.
I get out the mapping pens, label the outliers, draw what is missing
from other planets, complete the cosmic exit strategy.
 
My airplane pretzel package indicates the “absence of peanuts.”
Its strong gravitational field warns me to keep fingertips
away from the event horizon or it will nibble my nails.
If it turns Earth into a black hole, that will ruin the whole day—
my margin of safety depends on a small slope on the floor.
 
 
VISIONARY TALES
to my father’s memory
 
You took me at age 10
to your beloved German art films,
and I didn’t have nightmares
about Herzog’s hypnotized chickens,
but visions of Kaspar Hauser
stabbed in the chest, his head bleeding,
and later, Nosferatu the Vampyre,
his systematic killing of the ship’s crew,
swarms of rats bringing disease,
the final stake through his heart.
 
You gave me at age 12
a book by Ursula K. Le Guin,
and I read—and reread
until I felt ill—the passage
about the traveling foreign priest
dragged into deep Orsinian snow,
his throat slit on a stone altar,
his belly slashed, entrails spilling out
steaming on the cold ground
near the heathen folk’s burial mound.
 
Now I know what erases night’s dreams,
but the back cover of the book I hold
this morning shows a poet
who resembles you in an unnerving way,
as if he were a brother of yours,
dark eyes gentle but haunting,
his smug enjoyment of the camera
requiring me to gaze back, though I can’t
stand deep study of this compelling face
and settle for short glances.
 
If only the publisher had placed
the photo inside the book,
I wouldn’t feel the need to let it
interrupt my dream-clearing,
and this self-imposed discomfort
feels a little too close
to my compulsion to revisit
unsettling images, so I shelve the book,
resist the urge to recall that last tail-twitch
after the squirrel ran in front of the car.
 
 
Gerald Friedman
 
 
THE MANAGED WILD GARDEN IN NEW MEXICO
 
El Niño gave us enough snow and rain
to germinate the feral larkspur seeds
that skipped last year. Must think: their lapis needs
some gold for contrast.
            The beeblossoms I brought
in from the empty lot have too-free reign;
they’re crowding the red-whiskered clammyweeds.
I’ll have to pull some, though I like their white
flowers on wiry stems, which I first thought
lacked one petal. I looked again: it’s plain
they’re shaped like butterflies.
             I’m glad I chose
to spare the seed-eating ants that sting and bite,
build foot-high, scorched-earth hills. They taught
a friend a lesson. She used bait to kill
hers off; her dogs got ticks.
             I drag the hose
on dirt I’ve tramped into paths, hoping there might
be gypsum scorpionflowers coming where
I left seeds from that friend’s yard, but there’s still
nothing. At least my one datura grows—
the flower made of milk that soon goes sour
in sun.
    A passerby now stops to stare
and tell me in good Spanglish that he will
help with weeding. People don’t get this style
of landscape. Wonder what he’d want an hour.
My neighbor’s yard could use even more care,
littered with goatheads, brimming with the vile
mustard I pull each spring, plus (now I smile)
two stray larkspurs—and a scorpionflower.
 
 
SPRING ASSURANCE
 
As our boots trample weeds, tear sod
to shreds that freeze at night—
we’ve lost right-angle discipline—
as the slush releases brown patches
and the smell of three months’ rot,
as the sky steams up,
worms are shifting humus like mail drivers;
rain is simmering the snow away.
 
 
Anna E. Fullmer
 
 
SNOW ANGEL GALLOWS
 
Before dropping to the grass-tipped snow,
you walk outside like a man condemned or
like primitive man learning to walk upright, or
I observe from above, like both. You hunch
against the stiff March wind and without a coat,
another qualification of my design—the offered deal—
to spread open and enter the warm spot between
my legs for a snow angel.
 
 
NEW FURNITURE
 
Underneath the old bed,
I find a dead tick,
brought in on the back of the dog
you never wanted. New lamps
and a duvet, gradient blue.
I diminish in color. Tea spills
on a paper towel.
 
 
Mac Gay
 
 
CHURCH
 
He dropped down to the ground
on a rope of hope.
Least that’s what He said,
more or less. And there’s that
wonky promise you make.
The whole thing’s antidote
to the snake and the
monumental mistake.
The gaffe that resulted
in subtraction of laughter.
The poof of the bubble of
each of us here ever after.
And the whole thing like Santa:
all wrapped up in math
that doesn’t add up
unless you close your eyes,
turn around three times,
say magic words.
If not for the fear,
we’d say the whole
thing’s for the birds.
 
 
 
HARD TIME
 
The cancer showed up
like a cat creeping into the yard.
By that I mean no fanfare,
no hoopla, maybe a breeze’s
ruffling of leaves, or cold
moonlight. No bells ringing, no
whistles blowing. Just another
every other, till the diagnosis
came with that little odd
pain. Then things changed,
mostly inside, where the fear
roared class 5 hurricane.
Everything outside that hell
looked pretty much the same–
yet not quite: At once, trees
loomed taller, boulders bigger,
holes deeper. Roads much longer–
everything in the world got farther
apart. I wasn’t so smart anymore,
either. My future tall thirty
guaranteed years of good luck
now had hexes on them.
Was there nothing I could keep?
Pain has a trash can lid it bangs,
so you can’t sleep. And fear,
that little boy blue, blows his
damn horn all night, too.
Wide awake in the gloomy house
you can feel death–fat, still, dark–
intent on you, the mouse.
 
 
Francis Golm
 
 
THE OLD MAN
 
I am eight years old.
I am eight years old and having a temper tantrum.
I am eight years old and having a temper tantrum because I have been accused of something I didn’t do.
Because I have been accused of something I didn’t do I am jumping up and down
Because I have been accused of something I didn’t do I am jumping up and down and screaming
Because I have been accused of something I didn’t do I am jumping up and down and screaming because I have been accused of something I didn’t do.
I am eight years old.
I am sick of being told what to do.
 
I am twenty-five years old.
I am twenty-five years old and I am throwing a glass bottle
I am twenty-five years old and I am throwing a glass bottle at the kitchen wall
I am twenty-five years old and I am throwing a glass bottle at the kitchen wall and kicking a watermelon
I am twenty-five years old and I am throwing a glass bottle at the kitchen wall and kicking a watermelon and screaming
I am twenty-five years old and I am throwing a glass bottle at the kitchen wall and kicking a watermelon and screaming and been drinking
I am twenty-five years old and I am throwing a glass bottle at the kitchen wall and kicking a watermelon and screaming and been drinking when he enters.
I am twenty-five years old.
 
He is fifty-three years old.
He is fifty-three years old and he is crying.
He is fifty-three years old and he is crying and puts his arms around me.
He is fifty-three years old and he is crying and puts his arms around me and cries.
He is fifty-three years old and he is crying and puts his arms around me and cries and I hold him.
I am twenty-five years old.
 
 
Hank Greenspan
 
 
CONFESSION
 
OK, I admit it.
I’m a socialist anarchist God-darning
drug-dealing green-new-dealing
baby-killing demon, and I want to
eat your guns.
 
For breakfast.
And after that I will cancel
your bowling trophies, flagpoles, lawn ornaments,
cement frogs and other water features
that I find offensive. Because frogs suck
flies.
 
I’m targeting your heritage, your family,
and your lunch, so you better
mind your back, buddy, better mind your front,
buddy, better mind your mind, charlie,
cause I can make you sleepwalk naked to Arby’s
while whistling Dixie
thrice.
 
Trust me, you can’t trust me,
I’m as dangerous as they come.
I put the onus in coronus
and I’ll gag you with a mask
that I dipped in diptheria high dose vax
thrice.
 
I’m the fungus in your lungus
I’m a Chinese Muslim chink
in you armor where I’m coming
up your plumbing. So I wouldn’t brush my teeth
or stop to get a drink.
 
I’m there, waiting.
 
 
ACCIDENTS HAPPEN
 
Perhaps a random golf shot snakes by Secret Service and finds him on the fifth tee.
An asteroid is less likely, but don’t tell that to dinosaurs.
It’s a question of scale.
Sometimes branches fall. Coconuts fall independently.
Sometimes swordfish leap into boats, slashing.
There are poison frogs, rusty nails, diamondbacks, and bus drivers having coronaries.
What if Mike Lindell fell over with an armful of My Pillows?
Or the Michelin Man.
Accidents happen.
 
There is black ice and black holes,
manholes and sinkholes,
especially in Florida.
What if it was a false negative?
What if it was a false negative?
What if it was a false negative?
Accidents happen.
 
There is not minding the gap.
There are overlooks and undergrounds,
Scenic vistas
over fallen rock zones
where deer and moose can cross
at night, without warning.
In 1961
a piece of Sputnik dropped onto 8th Street in Manitowoc, Wisconsin
at night, without warning.
Accidents happen.
 
Baseballs are hit out of the park.
Javelins and shot puts are thrown off track.
So, too, Nascars.
Sumo wrestlers slip on wet floors in washrooms.
Birds fall, frogs fall, Niagara Falls.
Feral cats and rabid bats and belly fat and this and that.
Flying Wallendas and Cirque du Soleil.
People walk backwards on roads and tightropes.
Some neglect to wear orange during deer season.
Accidents happen.
 
There are short circuits
in bad sockets
and evil clowns
and wayward rockets.
There is uncertainty
in these uncertain times.
Listeria reminds us that lettuce doesn’t kill people.
Farmers kill people.
There are Bad Farmers.
Accidents happen.
 
 
John Grey
 
 
SOLID
 
I’m solid with Georgia chain-gang guards.
I drive by the inmates in their stripes
cleaning up the roadside.
The guys with the truncheons sees that it gets done right.
 
I could run for Governor
on just that momentary good feeling
of everything under control,
of bad guys getting what they’ve got coming to them.
 
I could make a speech with two of them guys
in their khaki uniforms at my side
and the audience would lather up like rabid pigs.
I thought the size of my car was enough reason for running,
 
But seeing the highway get clean,
watching the bent backs doing it,
and their overseers never taking their eyes
off their prisoners for one minute –
 
I could run on that ticket, I swear.
My opponent, that sick sorrowful Joe,
looks like a mortician at a bargain-basement funeral,
as he whines on about the poor and needy.
 
I should stop and get myself photographed
with one of them fancy rifles in my hand.
Like “give me your vote or I’ll shoot.”
No, better yet, make that, “and I’ll shoot.”
 
 
NEW GIRL
 
The fathers drool.
The mothers warn the sons.
Worse than hanging with the wrong crowd
is hanging with someone
so crowded into her t-shirt and jeans.
 
She’s new in town.
Only sixteen but she looks twenty.
That sound you hear
is young girls gnashing their teeth.
The road to womanhood
is meant to be long,
with snags like training bras,
barricades like acne.
It’s not fair when someone takes
a shortcut.
 
She walks embarrassedly,
eyes down,
following the weeds
that sprout through sidewalk cracks.
It’s not her fault
that she’s not one of them.
 
 
Lois Marie Harrod
 
 
ONE MORE THING ABOUT MARRIAGE
 
Sometimes One is amorous and the Other steamy.
Or One erogenous, the Other stoned.
 
You know how it goes, how it went,
the titillating zones gone groaning into the latitudes.
 
One wants something The Other does
not really but goes along, Goodness
 
knows here’s where Morality crawls
into bed, riding the Other’s rudimentaries.
 
One wants to hear that amateur quartet
play Scriabin’s Andante and Scherzo for String
 
Orchestra
while the Other contemplates
clever things to say later:
 
Well, that concert was worse than the one
when the orchestra played
 
Maurice Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess
excruciating, the orchestra sawing on so slowly,
 
a dead pavane for a deader princess.
Funny the first time Ravel said it, ha, ha,
 
but maybe not when One or the Other
quotes it to One or the Other at 6 am—
 
Let’s just get this over with, says One.
Let’s do this over, says the Other.
 
 
David Heidenstam
 
 
ASPIRATIONAL
 
this will do, yes, this will bloody do
staying here, warm, curled under the bedclothes
vague sounds outside
vague pictures in the head
like images on eyelids
yes, this will do
who wants to
go out
meet
chat
enough of that, quite enough of that
the body cleaning, the dressing, the going
the smiling talking
the lying, the dreaming
and fuck hope, fuck politics, fuck political correctness
fuck love, fuck thinking things will ever really change
but it’s good, it’s just you, it’s a kind of freedom
they can’t blame you
for not fighting
if it was
hibernation time.
 
 
Robin Helweg-Larsen
 
 
THE FALL OF ROME
 
Jesus, a preacher with fake miracles,
his “Sea” of Galilee just eight miles wide–
rebelling against Rome and crucified–
his failure clear (though words were lyrical)…
you’d think “Messiah” was satirical!
But epileptic Paul a chance descried
to shut out other gods and thoughts worldwide,
and thus seal up Rome’s vital spiracles.
So, building on apocalyptic fears,
the Jewish Jesus ends where Paul begins.
Scientists, artists, poets, engineers,
are suffocated as the new faith wins.
All progress is set back a thousand years.
The Roman Empire died for Jesus’s sins.
 
 
ONE TRUE RELIGIONS
 
No vision brings the whole world to its knees.
Jains, Hindus, Buddhists, Mithraists, Parsees,
Moses, Muhammad, Jesus or St. Paul,
One True Religions never conquer all.
Humans are simply too cantankerous
for any one belief to anchor us.
 
Success at once leads into sects and schisms:
the One Pure Ray of Light hits human prisms,
and egos, power grabs, love of dispute,
traditions, curiosity, all loot
the intellectual wealth of strong belief.
This year’s great guru’s merely last year’s thief.
 
Control’s maintained by sword and flame, not thought.
In failure, drink the Kool Aid or get shot.
 
 
Jack Henry
 
 
ONE LAST KISS
 
it’s been seven months
since our fingers intertwined,
since our lips held fire,
since a headboard slammed against
the wall, shaking loose memory
and promise unfulfilled.
 
he stares up at me,
as i pull on my clothes.
asks me to stay,
asks me why i always leave.
 
he doesn’t know who i am.
 
one last kiss,
commitments for next time.
but this was the last time.
he doesn’t know that yet.
 
when i cross into west Texas,
he calls, i let it go.
no message,
but message received.
 
 
LAST CALL
 
i met
her down
at a bar,
near Sea Side Cove
where old
people circle
in Chryslers
and wait on
death.
 
she has
black eyes
and a
tattoo
of Felix
the Cat
on her
thigh.
up high
where
hope lives.
 
we trade
stories
about
this and that
before
stumbling
out
the front
door,
just after
last call.
 
we end
up
across the
street
at the
Blue Star
Motel.
 
she
passes
out,
starts
to choke.
i sit her
upright,
call 911 &
light a cigarette
in the shadows
just as
sirens
start to
arrive.
 
 
IF I AM BEING HONEST
 
if i’m being honest
i prefer cocaine to fucking,
i’m not prone to addiction,
or reality tv, or paint-by-number
mornings where prosperity lives.
 
if i’m being honest
i’d rather suck a cock
in a stall of a dive bar,
or bend for stranger
at per hour motel
in the echo of an airport
on the West side
of town.
 
if i’m being honest
i enjoy middle-of-the-night
walks through parts
of a city
most wouldn’t
know
during the bright part of day.
 
if i am being honest
i’m just average,
living in vanilla
hiding in a fantasy
that’ll never taste
the warmth of
a welcoming sun.
 
if i am being honest…
 
 
EX-GIRLFRIEND
 
my eyes flood with memories,
a dam collapses from simple touch.
all i have left is the burn of
paint thinner deep in my lungs.
 
there is no caption
for this photograph.
not a thousand words.
maybe a dozen, maybe less.
 
i never loved you, she said
not really. i thought you knew.
 
she took a picture with her phone camera
a moment before she left and
sent it to me from the backseat
of her Lyft.
 
maybe i loved you a little, she wrote
and i smiled at the photograph
of me flipping her off.
 
that seems to be caption enough.
 
 
Marcia Hindson
 
 
FRESH AIR ADDICT
 
I swallow days as though they are sweets.
Stuff them in my mouth until I cannot speak.
 
My thoughts have unshelled the patience of eggs.
I try for a soft demureness, but fail.
 
The woods tempt me with
the eroticism of full nests
 
so I close my voyeuristic heart to the lure
of paths strewn wide open under trees.
 
Soon the foxgloves will awaken, demand my attention.
 
Wildlands make a wench of me with a single wink.
I am a gluttonous romantic for anything green.
 
Moss makes me salivate by revealing a single
sporophyte wriggling seductively in a breeze.
 
Be cruel enough to tempt my fingers with a patch
of lichen on an aged birch and I will drool for hours.
 
I want to dip my toes through the skin of the Top Pond.
Allow the cool, sticky wetness to spread slowly up my legs.
 
My heart has a curlew stuck in its left ventricle
that needs a meadow to stroke its wild feathers calm.
 
The walls of my house are convinced I am about
to do a scarpering so they lean in on my constantly.
 
I am so desperate for outside I dream about licking
the spines of books with pornographic titles:
 
Uprooted,
The Hidden Life Of Trees,
The Living Mountain,
The Wild Places.
 
Even the commas are panting.
Oh yes. Oh   yes.
 
O     H       Y       E       S!
 
 
WAYS TO IMPRESS A POETESS
 
If you decide to love me, prove it with poetry.
 
Bring me a Valentine Anthology written by abominable
snowwomen as they blizzard away from the world.
 
Show me lines composed on Westminster Bridge
after the city floods and rubber ducks take over parliament.
 
Bring me odes that sleep in the stomachs of wheelie bins
as they daydream lives for themselves as pacifist daleks.
 
Shower my shelves with sonnets that refuse to stop
rhyming at fourteen because the stroppy teenager in their
iambic pentameter has a severe case of numeric acne.
 
Name every one of your cats Byron, your dogs Syphilis.
When you break wind, say you pantoumed rather than farted.
 
Urinate lines of haiku onto the first settling snow of the season.
 
Japanese masters
didn’t fear to be pissheads.
You shouldn’t either
 
Chain my heart with cinquains all written
on the theme of geriatric leprechaun porn.
 
If this is all too wham, bam, Tanka you, ma’am
maybe I’m not the right kind of couplet for you.
 
Have your fingernails trimmed into lozenges or shards
if you really want to impress my latent simile side.
 
Learn to oil your nerves as slippery as confessional poetry.
 
Don’t ever say I’m your Plath or Sexton though
or this adoration will end in the form of an Erasure Poem.
 
 
Mary Beth Hines
 
 
YOU WIN SOME, YOU LOSE SOME
 
You win some, you lose some, Fitzwilliam
grins, and his gold tooth glints.
Off with my shawl, my boots, a ring.
 
Lee’s basement’s freezing as I strip
off my layers, bet high and early,
bluff through my blue lips.
 
You can’t lose ‘em all, Lee was fond
of saying back when she first
talked me into playing.
 
Round by round I grow closer
to a win despite a few tough losses
that demonstrate my grit.
 
Vince has great instincts,
Fitzy’s proved a pro, and Lee,
ever-cautious, knows when to quit.
 
Two pairs beats one, and a straight
beats them both, and my clothes in
that pile mean’s the game’s finally over.
 
Seems you can’t win for losing, Fitz
commiserates, as he stretches out his arms
to sweep his winnings in.
 
 
MARY, MARY
 
Hey, look at me, an old-world immigrant’s daughter,
decked out in lace, an elegant model.
With my hair teased out and the light just right,
I bloom—a lily in the grit-blown city.
Behind me is the trellis where my garden grows,
hydrangea for my hair, bee balm for my breasts
which I must conceal now that I’m fourteen,
though I cinch my waist so my figure can be seen.
The boys from St. Mike’s like to walk me
home from school. My Irish mother lectures.
My quiet father stews. But I tell them not to worry.
I have this well in hand. When a boy tries to kiss me
I say a quick prayer, swing my skirt,
click my heels, close my eyes, and dare.
 
 
Christopher Hivner
 
 
HIGH SUN
 
It was warm that afternoon,
heat, humidity, desire
all pasted together,
a craft project
of you and me
fucking on a blanket
in the yard.
Good thing
your parents lived
far away from
beady eyes looking through
the bent slats of ancient blinds.
It had been a good day,
fun abounded,
finished off
with public nudity
and a carnal act
we both needed
in a place
that was familiar
but with a trace of danger
since you know who
could come home.
Even the high sun
couldn’t melt our lust
for a brief hour
of our youth.
I see that moment sometimes
when I think of you,
our fractious breathing
like a dirty rock n’ roll song
getting bleeped on the radio.
My body into yours,
your body into mine,
the smell of your skin
mixed with hot, summer air,
it’s all like it happened yesterday
when I think of you
on that summer day
with us maybe still in love.
 
 
Gil Hoy
 
 
GIFT
 
I remember when
I was still growing.
When my mother (who wasn’t
much of a drinker) had three glasses
of wine, was behind the wheel
(she shouldn’t have been),
and started chanting: “I love life,
I love life, I love life.” While gently
honking the car horn.
 
 
Tim Hunt
 
 
SOMETIMES
 
Don’t believe those stories
’bout Rest Stop Romeos
and Truck Stop Angels. Out
on the real road of life
you pay for what you get.
 
Only thing free’s the air
through your window, the refill
on your coffee, and that smile
the waitress slings as she plays
you for her tip.
 
        And when you
get to seeing things this real,
you know you’ve been out there
too damn long doing the gear shift boogaloo,
 
because sometimes that smile
is a smile, even though her feet do ache
and she knows you’re only good
for a quarter, as she fills your thermos.
 
 
James Croal Jackson
 
 
ON THE TABLE AT OUR FAMILY
 
gathering is a photo of me
in flip-flops atop the roof
of my childhood home
holding a rake to the sky
my brother says I did not
 
recognize that was you
my sister says wow you are
actually doing manual labor
and in my mind I know
that was the morning after
 
Megan stayed over when
I was visiting from LA and
I had just finished raking
grimy blackened leaves off
the roof that gathered in
 
the years since Dad died
but it’s true he made me
hate the yard and stressed
the lawn as living in a filth
we’d have to fix and every
 
few days in the summer
he’d place the red mower
outside the shed waiting
for me to kill the grass in
diminishing rectangles
 
 
Matthew King
 
 
A LITTLE RAIN
 
If you’re a farmer
there’s always something
wrong with the weather
though it sometimes takes
a while to know what –
the first drops of rain
in weeks may become
the start of a flood
or just one more day
there wasn’t enough
and the drought went on
and everyone said
it’s raining so why
are you complaining
as usual so
you tried to explain
this little rain will
hardly help at all –
your crops won’t revive
because they’re cheered up
by a little rain
like a bit of sun
just before nightfall
late in November
might reach you in time
so you’ll decide not
to blow out your brains.
Not everything breaks
for better or worse
with a change in mood.
 
 
ON WANTING TO WRITE A FUNNY POEM
ABOUT THE HEADLINE “WHAT HAPPENS
IF TRUMP LOSES BUT REFUSES TO CONCEDE?”
 
The trouble with the Nazis was they were
ridiculous.
I don’t mean that was the worst thing
about Nazis.
But it led to all the other
trouble.
How could these jokers possibly be
for real?
How could you take these crazy angry children
seriously?
Unless you took them really, really
seriously.
If you’d even let them occupy
your brain,
you could only want to
mock them,
and move on to something more
worthwhile,
supposing you were a serious person
yourself,
though not a really, really
serious person.
 
I saw the ridiculous question
and I started
thinking up absurd answers:
volcanoes
will suck fire from the sky!
The top-
selling flavour of ice cream will be
mint chocolate chip!
Under certain originalist constitutional interpretations
rocks
will spontaneously turn into
puppies!
But then I thought better of it
… maybe.
And maybe the situation is something like
this:
 
I think a kid tried to mug me once.
I kept walking,
into a store, and wondered, did that
really happen?
I thought he pulled a knife and said,
“Give me your wallet!”
But I’m not sure, because I just
ignored him.
He was a pipsqueak, and it seemed like
a joke,
but I didn’t stop to mock him, in case
it wasn’t.
If it really happened, and he was really
serious,
then ignoring him worked,
that time.
 
But it may not have happened,
and it may not have worked.
The kid could have been really
really
serious.
 
 
Maureen Kingston
 
 
THE DONUT DEBATE
 
For some, the origin story’s the end-all: where the flour began, how the oil was pressed. For others, only the makers matter, the dough-shapers. Their debate? Whether to bet the jockey or the horse, the baker or the deep-fryer. On the other side of the display case, craving customers don’t care about process; product is king. Their drama? Texture type, whether cake or yeast is the superior choice. Most secretly prefer both but at different times of day. On the way to work, only the sober cake donut—monk’s-cowl brown—will do. After dark, yeast wins out. After being the key—after the bar closes, in the afterglow of fireworks, after orgasmic flying dreams. In any aftermath, only excess will do. Glossy glaze. Thick powder. Oozing Boston or Bavarian or maple creme. No combination’s too over-the-top in after-time. Think Adam and Eve after the fact, ravenous, their dessert plates overflowing with apple-pie-filled donuts dusted with cinnamon sugar. Their dilemma? To add or not to add the scoop of vanilla.
 
Oktoberfest—
Yoda counsels Godot to
fall again, fall better
 
 
PAIN MANAGEMENT
after “Christina’s World” Andrew Wyeth, 1948
 
Every two hours, the same infantile mission. Hoist. Lose crutch control. Fall back into the recliner. Your splinted right foot’s three times the size of the left one. Not as swollen as last week but still ugly, sloughing instant-potato skin flakes.
 
You were master of your plein air domain before the accident. Now? A garret shut-in. With no landscape to paint you thumb “Christina’s World” online, block the woman’s form with your palm.
 
“The break’s a temporary disability,” your doctor says this morning, stuffing a PT schedule into your tote. You nod, pretend to go along with his plan.
 
In truth, you’re conflicted. Become the clever chimp who learns to use a stick? Or remain as-is, the tripod dog everyone loves to hug?
 
seven
on a hardness scale
backwoods flint
 
 
Sarah Mackey Kirby
 
 
CHICAGO
 
We walked that stretch of city river.
Algae-baked, stained lake clay teal.
Face-feel icy, wind-kicked blow
in heart-broke heal and love that showed.
And oh-so-very-January snow.
 
White drops falling down from air.
No-coat you acting I-don’t-care.
My eyes shined my I-told-you-so
while those frost-wet hands
gave you away.
So I lent you my pocket,
and you gave me a smile.
Winter-paired,
we strolled awhile.
 
The joy when you saw
my blister-hide gait.
Traipsing the blues in a feet-bruised state
in shoes I’d owned since ’98,
you’d warned me that I shouldn’t wear.
Their worn-down soles with holes to spare.
 
So no-coat you and old-shoes me
river-bank moved with a skyscraper view.
Showing off dumb in tongue-freeze breeze.
Mouth-numb walking in five degrees.
My street-hobble feet
and your one warm hand,
with grins pinned on
in Chicagoland.
 
 
MARRYING YOU
 
Broken pieces of glass still sparkle
when the sun catches the right angle.
Even the tiniest shards. Gleaming, wanting
to be noticed. Specks of former selves
collapsed into quiet corners,
waiting to be swept up.
 
Most of the year, Dogwoods lose their bloom,
replaced by small green-leaf canopies. That hide.
Or stripped to bare branches. Without protection.
But for a blink of time in Southern Spring,
blossom pink and white, daring to unfold.
As they should, full potential on display.
 
High tide moves salt and debris
onto hard-packed sand, pushing through
hesitance of worn-down ocean at other times
of day. Daring to trace reluctant space.
Wrapping shells in foam,
shells no longer vulnerable to picking.
 
Marrying you was no beginning,
or saying of vows, or making of plans.
It was another day with you, same as all those before.
Where we fell into arms, and mouth, and skin.
Stilling the noise. Blocking stumbles
caused by shadows,
where sun should pour light.
 
 
Wilson Koewing
 
 
RED HEAD
 
When I was younger and more sober,
I had a woman with red hair, thick lips and meaty thighs.
She would suck me off in under a minute and act like that was owning me.
She was right.
I did whatever she said for eight months.

 
 
Jennifer Lagier
 
 
FIFTH PERIOD FELONY
 
Three p.m. high school P.E. class—
hot, stuffy gym where the clumsy
and disinterested come together
for an hour of orchestrated torture,
balance beam bruises, basketball stumbles.
 
Joan and I perfect the art
of mock badminton, simulated slams,
racquets flailing on either side of a net,
minus the birdie.
We delight bored classmates
with forceful serves, diving backhand saves,
fierce back and forth rallies.
 
One afternoon we entertain ourselves
all period until Miss Colbert, our humorless teacher,
finally notices the absence of required plastic projectile.
Her fury makes detention that much sweeter.
We write insincere confessions,
profess contrition, make fake amends.
 
 
Richard LeDue
 
 
TOO SCARED FOR TAKEOUT OR DELIVERY
 
I was in high school my first time
eating in at a Taco Bell
(attached to a KFC,
sharing bathrooms).
 
I wish there was a hair in my burrito,
so this poem could be about a customer’s
outrage towards a failed policy
on hairnets, or that the spices
tickled my tongue, made me blush
more than my first kiss,
but it was just okay,
didn’t lure me away
from the secret sauce of a Big Mac,
or turn me against tortillas.
 
Now, after months of looking out
the same window every day,
of winning staring contests with crows
and losing the same argument with myself,
I miss an average burrito
made by someone else.
 
 
Mare Leonard
 
 
THE CONSERVATORY HENRI MATISSE
 
I need a sunny room today.
The Corona virus surges,
 
I wish to wear an orange
checkered dress,
 
rest an elbow on a chair,
 
a dog asleep at my feet.
 
Philodendrons surround,
 
proof of survival
on this cold spring
 
day when a walk
at the creek was arduous.
 
The wind slapped my face,
caught my husband’s Met cap.
 
We watched it float
south to no where.
 
The only relief,
a promise of pansies.
 
I dream of this
a yellow lounge chair,
a friend near,
her long blue dress
like a velvet creek.
 
 
Michael H. Levin
 
 
LOST CAUSE
(Virginia, 1847)
 
When the bucks bolted their night shed
we saddled up, carbines and whips
handy. It was a fine hour
for hunting: low quarter-moon,
mares snorting the soft velvet way
that mares do; hounds hock by hock
on the trail.
 
They didn’t get far.
Surrounded by torch-flare the pearls
of their eyes shone back flickers.
Horseflesh circling
we lashed but used
cladded butts sparingly. No
need to maim
 
except by example – value
wants to be saved. It’s known
what’s required to avoid wasting
worth: each shred of resistance
crushed like campfires and drowned.
If she’s slow to the task, beat her down.
When there’s dust
 
on the floor or a leaf goes
unpicked, or the soup arrives cold
or a lane is weed-grown, or an
insolent stare gives you fleas
in the ear — beat them down. An ember
that smolders
 
will soon be ablaze. Crush crush these
at birth to preserve ordained days:
our broad-planked domains dressed with
silver and glass, oiled highboys
that shimmer in chandeliered dusk
cool hoopskirt verandahs (that
lavender musk!).
 
Nothing in Scripture suggests
otherwise. The precepts are clear
about Ham serving Shem – a rule
handed down since the time of
the Flood. Order means ordered:
an ironbound decree blocking small-brained
behemoths
 
from rising to prey.
Born to this, I sleep well.
Though hooves beating past
conjure flame-lit
dark faces that glimmer
in strange and unusual
places.
 
 
WATCHING BEES
 
I’m looking at a bee
dance slowly to its compass
through the thrust-out leaves
of cherry trees that drop
pink double blossoms
on a dusty asphalt drive.
 
Patched fellow, he’s not
looking at me. Diverging, all
furred purpose, see him bumble
to the next browned bloom,
mapping the day’s descent from
branch to flowering shrub
 
to plump red tulip lips
that pucker up below. Comes now the
falling time we thoughtlessly
call spring, when petals open
then proceed to dessicate
and die. When pollen folk
 
make haste to seize the last
sweet drip or crumb, alive
to ticking landscapes,
to accelerating sun. I’m looking
at a me who’s disregarded by
a bee. Whose eye sees less
 
acutely, seeking out a
hive. Who lacks the surefoot
yellow of this insect
on a vine; yet still may laud
what saves our seasons
from degrading into shards.
 
 
WHAT IS IT DIES TODAY
 
All laws blown off like leaves
cold hate slides down the streets
misrule usurps routine
gross insults turd up speech
no fact seems safe to state
bland lies smear every screen
mean crowds chant gangster words
while children drown in reach
 
wild anger poisons friends
restraint’s gone back to bed
the sky turns dark then red
the demon claws his prey
his minions get their way
 
what is it dies today
 
 
James Lineberger
 
 
OVERCOMING MALAISE
 
the trick is to take
action as when old wives toss
salt over their
shoulders so pick and choose
till you find the one
that works for you
start out say by entering
a strange neighborhood and as the sun sets
and some street guy stares
at you take
a charcoal pencil and scrawl
dancing skeletons on a church wall
or my uncle’s favorite
after he got out of the corps and was often afflicted
in a similar fashion: leave the office
leave that whole
foreign bureaucratic world behind
and return to the firing range for some
long bursts with a thompson
or you maybe could just swear
off art for a month create nothing
at all until the fever
has died away so completely
you’re no longer your daughter’s father caught up
in a world you never imagined
but a boy younger than she
standing by the canal with your brother
and cupping your balls like a safari
hunter as you peer at the camera from an old half-forgotten photo
the monkeys there even then
gibbering and swinging
on the mast
of some abandoned boat begging you
to come back and play
 
 
SOME THINGS STICK BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW WHY
 
like in the summer of ’42
we were living down by the Buster Boyd bridge
near Floyd Sechler and his wife Dora Belle
who watched after me and my little brothers while mama and daddy
worked at the bomb factory over in Steele Creek.
 
Floyd had a game leg and couldn’t be in the army
so he was made a part-time
deputy sheriff for the county and because of the war effort
he had to use his own ’39 Ford
but the county did give him a blinking red light on the dash for emergencies
and some days when he was home
Floyd would let us sit in the parked car
and turn on the light and make whiny sounds like a siren.
 
But our best times with Floyd
were when he would take us in to Charlotte
on Saturdays to watch the double feature cowboy movies
and our favorite serial the adventures of Red Ryder
which only had twelve chapters
but we had seen them all more than once and could tell you
how Red escaped every awful ending every time
but each one always felt like new because this was
Don Barry playing Red Ryder and he was so good
they started calling him Don “Red” Barry
even after he was through with it
and off being other heroes like the Sombrero Kid
or the Wyoming Wildcat.
 
Except one Saturday late that night
some drunk guy
was returning home from the pavilion square dance
in the back of somebody else’s
pickup and either he fell off
or his crazy girl friend pushed him out the open tailgate
and Floyd said
that after the coroner had finished looking around he would take us
to where it happened
at the top of the big hill near the turnoff to Mount Holly.
 
And sure enough
when we got there you could still see
some dark spatters
in one of the ruts which Floyd said was blood
from where the man’s head hit the road
and we could touch it if we wanted to
and don’t be scared he said
there aint no such a thing as ghosts
and if it was their blood would be white
but when we stood back didn’t dare
he laughed and dipped his fingers in it and daubed it
down his cheeks and then he started
doing a kind of war dance like
a indian brave from the movies and we joined in
whooping and hollering and dancing around until
 
all of a sudden with hardly
 
any warning the sky just opened up and here came the rain
a real gully washer
so slanting and thick you couldn’t hardly see
in front of you but Floyd gathered us
into his car with the red light blinking
and slid and swerved all the way down that muddy road
while i kept my eyes shut like it was
the cliffhanger ending of a Red Ryder chapter
but it wasn’t a movie it was Floyd who was a real life deputy
and I knew somehow we were safe
 
which I guess we were
 
but that night and the whole next day the storm kept coming down
and during all the rigamarole
when Floyd was supposed to be on guard at a roadblock
he didn’t show up at all he just disappeared
leaving Dora Belle and the deputy job behind
and headed for Detroit City to work at the Chevy plant
which was booming
then because of the war effort
and Dora Belle had to move back to China Grove to live with her mama
which was the last anybody
heard about Floyd until the fall of ’62
when the sheriff visited Dora Belle to say sorry for your loss but Floyd had got into a bar fight
with a Chippewa squaw who killed him with a box cutter
when he tried to scalp her
and excuse me ma’am the sheriff said we need you to sign here
if you want him to come back home.
 
But then to beat all
one night on the evening news
in the middle of a story about the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood
there on the sidewalk cross my heart was Don Barry
in a Red Ryder shirt and neckerchief
handing out flyers to ask his fans for a donation
of “just one dollar” so he could start up
a new series of westerns “with clean cut heroes that used to be
like kids could look up to” but truth is he was just
another old-timey actor
that nobody hardly remembered except the ones of us
who grew up watching him
and nothing much came of his project yet somehow
he managed to squeeze by on bit parts
until the summer of 1980
when he finally said the hell with it and put a gun to his head.
 
Still I have to wonder
if any of it adds up to anything
or how any of us — Floyd, me, you –are ‘spose to luck out and find
the proper path for a good life
or do we just give up and lay down wishing for some decent way to die?
 
Like late last night on the eve of my 84th birthday
there I was at the ER
getting a catheter stuck in my weenie
because all of a sudden for no logical reason
I couldn’t piss at all
and I’m crying like a baby
and this litttle woman doctor says don’t be so loud you’ll make
the other patients afraid.
and I wanna say I know I know and tell her how I wish I was silent and strong
like mama and daddy
making bombs six days a week sometimes seven to blow up the Japs
while every day they had to come home with their skin turning yellow from the gunpowder
but I never heard ’em complain
and every time they earned some extra pay
it went right back into war bonds
 
And I wanna be brave like that I do and Floyd Floyd how I wish Floyd was still here
dancing his war dance to make my fears go away
and yes like Red Ryder at the cliffhangers
or even Don Barry his self
who spent his whole life pretending he was somebody else
and kept looking back to the time
he had his own movie horse named Banner and wore
a brace of stag grip 44’s
and how everybody loved him
except his second wife Barbara who said she sometimes
prayed somebody would shoot the bastard dead but never dreamed
he would be the one.
 
 
Fay L. Loomis
 
 
GRABBED BY THE PUSSY
 
Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?
I’ve been to D.C. to visit the King.
Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under his chair.
 
Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you next?
I witnessed the King exceedingly vexed.
Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you then?
I leapt o’er the wall-fence; he bunkered in.
 
 
Maggie Mackay
 
 
GUNNISTER MAN
 
Peat slides around me, musky turf,
men digging for darkening days.
I perished in a winter storm
despite my woollen coverings.
 
There’s no feel of softness now
and my broken skull flinches
at this movement. Bone inside
my sleeve fragments and stocking shudders.
 
Other men make an itinerary,
mark the fair isle pattern, my right
handedness from the glove’s patches.
I loved to knit. Men must see this.
The weight of a skein, click of needles
as I worked a line. Light, soil shift.
 
My pelvis, eye sockets quiver, nests
for beetles and slithering creatures.
Grain of bone has dissolved to touch,
cold as this earth’s spring water,
rain soaked as in that deadly winter.
 
My fingernails touch seasons’ scent.
I reach for my favourite horn spoon,
for its silkiness. My toenails wiggle
in a fruitless search for my long coat hem.
 
 
THE FRAME LEAKS ANGLED LIGHT
after the painting ‘Interior, The Croft House’ by F.C.B. Cadell
 
Let the vibrant lead you into delicate detail
along the run of floor towards a long sunlit space.
Imagine wild beasts beyond, the deer, fox, hawk.
 
Immerse yourself in the vibrant detail,
bursting unconstrained from this tight frame
into an expanse of cropped sunlit space.
 
Cadell paints the vibrant in loose brushstrokes
of violent tones, silky, bold, and free, wild beasts,
Matisse, Van Gogh, undercoating cropped, angled light.
 
Vibrant violent tones sing in sunlit silky space, Van Gogh,
Les Fauves, strident undercoats, the thought of Matisse’s voice
go a tone more extreme, – for blue, ultramarine, for red, vermillion.
 
 
Bob MacKenzie
 
 
AS THE SPARROW DIES
 
tentative against the snow
as the sky before chinook
silent in your sleep the song
blossoms red beyond your throat:
 
as white gives way to purple
shall you fly again as song?
 
 
AUTUMN LEAVES
 
and you and I or some small part
spiral red and vital turning
lighter whiteward outward downish
softer in the cooling uplift
dawning wind across the sunset
red and orange soon to settle
so like the dark the autumn leaves
 
 
Giovanni Mangiante
 
 
THE FINAL BLINK
 
it will happen
when my bones carry the wisdom of forbidden books—
my spine bent like theirs;
my teeth and nails yellow like their pages:
 
they may have escaped the fire. I’m not sure if I will.
 
it will happen
when my skin is heavy and no-one is forgiven.
I will become the splintered chair I rest upon;
the rattling of windows;
the sway of curtains in London;
the fanglike fury of being at odds with the world
and its scythe-shaped people.
 
upon this chair will rest
the Peruvian poet who did not die in Paris,
and did not fear the downpour
but screamed and danced under it instead.
 
I will smile the same way I smiled in my youth,
 
and I will lower my head towards the floor,
to be old
for the last time.
 
 
DS Maolalai
 
 
EARLY ON.
 
I wrote quite a lot
in the voice
of a character. this was
early on – I wrote
about scumbags;
all bukowski
and filth.
thought it was obvious
that if I wrote poetry
then what I was writing
wasn’t all about
me. it wasn’t – I
was a fool. spent all my time
reading damn
stupid magazines. thought
it was worth it
to get my word out. it wasn’t.
thought it was artistry – like that’s
always good. like a sun
shining over a factory
and burning through various
carcinogens – such beautiful colours;
no value at all.
 
 
Doug May
 
 
LOSS OF MEMORY
 
The doctor said
it was
sometimes
hard to tell
 
being born
a little
slow
 
from dragging out
the last
farewell.
 
So make ready my tires
for an unbalanced load
and patches of fog
beside a slick road.
 
 
NORTH OF FLAGSTAFF
 
How much precious silence remained for them
to kill, how cold the bitterroot clump of
ash on the morning they broke drover’s camp,
two waddies in chaps and hand-me down
work shirts, a Georgia shavetail and a
bucktoothed Apache rising up slowly
from burnt scraggly beards of buffalograss
and the unclaimed land of shared mistrust.
 
How cautiously, deliberately they
hitched the trailer, drove on in silence
with steel pieces tucked to their sides,
how the stars shone and the world’s peace rose
as they sailed toward pie and coffee,
the good of all loss gone into gentle guns.
 
 
Tim Mayo
 
 
AMELIA’S CAT
 
On those final days when my lover
lay unhooked in her hospital bed,
hovering between the heavenly bodies
of life and death, I would travel
 
the Earth to her place, where the cat,
curled in a window, slept and waited
for her daily nourishment with yawning
ambivalence and a hunter’s hunger.
 
Sated, she would then stretch out
to the ends of her claws as if grasping
at the small hopeful pieces of air
trying to enter the closed window.
 
And I’d begin to hum a lullaby
to keep her company, some tune
I’d only just remembered from that
speechless part of life called infancy.
 
Day in and day out I would do this,
opening the window to fill the room
with earthly noises while the cat toyed
with the fluttering air like a wounded bird.
 
 
Joan Mazza
 
 
LONELINESS IS A PASSPORT
 
to the Eden of solitude where silence
lets you hear your thoughts and track
your moods. Enter with full permission
to do as you please, practice piano at 3 AM,
take up impasto painting. Or sleep.
Follow your nose to cucumbers with lemon,
dance to red music with a tambourine.
When you lie down in the grass you will hear
again the harmonies of earth and sky.
Whitman reminds us we contain
multitudes, hidden selves to know and love,
entangled in an avalanche of personalities
once disowned. Alone, no one stomps
on your dreams or enthusiasm, throws
a wet blanket on a glimmer of creativity.
You are your best companion, dead
or alive. In solitude, no one barks criticism
or breaks your arm as an expression of deep
attachment, or announces with sincerity,
You’re mine and no one else will have you.
You’ll never receive a bouquet of roses
bugged with a listening device. Sing
as loud as you want, talk to yourself,
contradict yourself, enjoy your mushy
mind. This is your chance to become
famously anonymous, like the hermits you
always admired: the two Emilys,
Salinger, Harper Lee. Living close
to trees, you can sun yourself naked
where only birds and squirrels have a view.
The senior crow cocks his head,
murmurs in Caw dialect, which you
translate as Halleluiah! Finally.
You take issue with the sky’s palette,
paint it in purple, pink, and orange.
 
 
MIXING YOUR MEDIA
 
Five months inside a house with books
in each room, including bathrooms,
music on cassettes, vinyl, and CD.
One room dedicated to art and sewing,
fabrics and notions, paints and papers
sorted in see-through plastic bins. A pantry
with baking pans in every shape and size.
 
I want a divorce from plastic, from
virtual classes on Zoom, from iPad
and laptop screens. I want something
real—twigs with curly lichens, wooden
bowls filled with leaf litter, flower petals,
and yellow tulip poplar’s first leaves
in spring and first to fall in August.
 
Give me end-of-summer vegetables piled
on my counter: tomatoes, yellow squash,
and oversized zucchini ready for layering
with three cheeses. Give me eggplant
for a savory Parmigiana, sweet potatoes,
the crash and rumble of afternoon storms,
the sweet anticipation of firelight
 
through the wood stove’s door. My hands
cry for the tactile and tangible, bread
dough shaped and braided like clay
in a silent room without a radio, the scent
of baking bread and muffins served
with whipped butter, softened in humid
air. Enough talk of viruses and masks, voting,
 
drilling, fracking. You can keep your joy
over manufacturing. We know what to do,
how to care for each other and ourselves, how
to stay home, close to the earth. Let me return
to the analog world of books made of paper,
ink, and glue. Let me find hope among the fungi
 
popped overnight from the mossy ground—
fragrant and colorful in crimson and orange,
inviting trolls to abandon the Internet.
 
 
Leslie McKay
 
 
MY SILK SHIRT
~ by Ingrid Bruck & Leslie McKay (italics)
 
pandemic deprived
wild uncut curly hair
lining silver
 
finding respite in
an elegant orange beanie

 
upstaging locks
reddish lemony marigolds
my silk shirt
 
the box of silk worms
I leave at school
missing from my desk

 
creeping up behind me
a bogeyman plays gotcha
 
kung fu fighting
in a brand new mask
an old warrior

 
 
E.V. McLoughlin
 
 
LEARNING TO FALL
 
The key is to not fight the fall, but roll with it, as paratroopers do.
– K. Murphy, NY Times

 
I.
 
Falling used to be a swing once,
all the sharp edges of stones,
and a rapidly disappearing motorbike
leaving me dust and stitches.
 
Falling used to be the top of the stairs
connecting the big and little school,
going mountainously down,
my head swimming with vertigo.
 
When I dream about it,
I do not let myself fall.
 
II.
 
I was always afraid of change.
 
In winter, it’s airborne contagions,
croup, influenza, vomiting bugs;
in spring, weakened immune systems,
ice on roads, my birthday;
in summer, fomo, skin cancer,
airport security (I always look guilty
no matter what I choose to bring with me),
 
this autumn, it’s letting you go.
 
Five Factor Model of personality
is based on these main traits:
extraversion, neuroticism,
conscientiousness, agreeableness,
and openness to experience.

 
Best way to wake up, you said,
is to make yourself fall.
 
 
 Jason Melvin
 
 
VERY LARGE MIRRORS
 
When I look at my penis
in the hotel room mirror
directly above the toilet tank
it looks respectable
        King Trumpet-esque
Not the Crimini
I usually hold while pissing
 
Strange
        How looking at something
        instead of down on it
can change perceptions
 
A giant mirror
instead of a head board
        explains the half chub
I’m currently aiming
 
My wife doesn’t share
        in my excitement
watching the carnal exploits
of the animals that are us
 
Body image reservations
currently plaguing her to giggles
are lost to me
 
They shouldn’t be
pot-bellied         saggy
hair blanketing everything
        except the top
The last pick on the
porno casting agents couch
 
but we are ancient Greece
We are smooth marble
fornicating as gods
We are going to fuck
 
and I’m going to watch
 
 
ADULT CHILD
 
I find it odd to hug you       I want to
but I don’t know where my head goes
Do I bury it in your chest?
Lay my cheek against your breast?
If I were to kiss you on the cheek
our beards would entangle
I’ve never kissed a beard before
 
I want to shout how proud I am
all you did was put together lawn furniture
but you didn’t even look at the pictograms
yesterday you tore apart a motorcycle
Because you can       I ask
How do you know these things?      your reply
I just see things that way       How fucking cool is that?
 
I feel I should write a book on parenting
Obviously, I did an amazing job
You have a good job       a woman who loves you
two well-behaved dogs       you perform
amazing feats of handy-mannery and use tools and stuff
I would write the book      and it would sell millions
I’m just not exactly sure what I did
 
 
Mike Mesterton-Gibbons
 
 
SHOW ME THE MONET
 
Serenely and divinely Japanese!
How else could one describe Claude’s garden scene
Of water lilies under willow trees
Where nature has been made to look pristine?
Maybe instead describe it as a fraud:
East meeting west where you and I are conned
To think the garden’s how ’twas seen by Claude! …
Have you not wondered if his painted pond
Erased a truth? I mean discarded junk,
Moved out of sight by short and deft brush strokes,
Oils gracing canvas, till you would have thunk
No one could guess Claude played the best of jokes—
Except if they had seen a shopping cart
Tipped over in the pond in Banksy’s art!
 
 
Cameron Morse
 
 
APOLOGIES
 
I’m sorry the washcloth I draped over the shower wall dripped onto the floor. I won’t tap out the coffee grinder anymore on Grandma’s quartz countertop. I won’t leave my p.j. bottoms and t-shirt on the bathroom mat. Yes, I know my pubic hairs are wont to decorate the toilet bowl. I’m sorry for my pubic hairs. I apologize for the mold. I will sidestep the pink elephant quilt upon which our Omi does her tummy time lest my fungus spread to her scalp. If only I could learn to cook a few good meals but you don’t want my cabbage and quiche just takes too long. I always leave a mess, anyway, and that just makes it harder on you. I’m glad you like my scrambled eggs. You’re not being sarcastic when you say I should work at First Watch, are you? I know you like them and why can’t I tell you where I am all the time and what I was doing, where I was standing, when Theo stepped on the baby and why did I shout Don’t Step on The Baby so Grandma could hear when what I really said was STOP.
 
 
C. G. Nelson
 
 
ALL OF THIS
 
“This is why I love you.”
 
Simple words uttered in a quiet
moment surrounded by blankets,
surrendering to pillows.
 
He told her he loved her eyes,
and her laugh,
and her smile,
and her philosophies,
and even her soft, round belly.
 
He told her that he loved
even the things she hated
about herself.
 
“This is why I love you.”
 
“Why?” she whispered.
 
“Because you’re just all of this.”
And he pointed at the universe.
 
 
UPON LIVING IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
 
The blanket of the city
wraps itself around you—
not in the most inviting way—
but in the most inescapable way.
 
The more it wraps around you,
the more you want to embrace it.
 
It’s cyclical—
every city is.
 
Each one ebbs and flows with
new tides of people.
New stories that fill its streets
with electricity and lather.
 
Eventually it will take the story out
of you,
and you’ll be forced to leave.
After all,
no one can take the spinning forever.
 
And the city
will grow tired of your story
and will look for new ones to tell.
 
Come now—
rest your head upon the pillow
and dream of days when you were lost
in the muggy arms of a summer evening.
 
The summer evening will be dreaming
of days holding up new people to
drink in the sights of the city,
and the city will dream of
drinking in the sights
of new people.
 
 
James B. Nicola
 
 
MATTERS OF LEARNING
 
It’s this, but in the morning will be this
and that, the tossing night turned casual
parting with a dawn of such courtesies
that chill the smolder of brief mutual
 
potential. Side by side we’ll lie, uneven.
One of us shall miscall the other’s name;
the other, rue and grow disinterested
but want so not to hurt, nor cringe, nor blame,
 
we’ll sue to win a second night of heaven,
a fourth, an Nth, whose pleasure’s only cost
will be the inexorably hollowed bed
full-fevered as a summer garden lost.
 
Or so have weighed the phantoms of the past,
but they don’t matter now. There were a few
that mattered once. Of course they didn’t last.
Not that they have a thing to do with you,
 
for though we learn from history and time,
they only smart like winds which sting then go,
their mark no more than an occluded seam
we feel beneath the skin but never show.
 
Our comforter is anonymity.
Tomorrow, then, we’ll ramify anew.
Tonight we’ll hold each other timelessly,
pretending that it matters that we do.
 
 
Mark Niedzwiedz
 
 
VAN GOGH WITHOUT THE FROTH
 
The word art is tiny and uncomplicated
One does not have to wear a bowtie
Feather boa, or flamingo pink lipstick
To hear, or see its worth.
One does not have to speak in riddles
Gestures, or use long boorish words
To process, or feel its power or intimacy
Art is straight-up bleedin’ obvious
So, please luvvy, don’t chuckle knowingly
At the musings of this geezer
For I get Shostakovich
And that enigmatic bird, Mona Lisa
 
Three red dots on a snow-white canvas.
Nah, that ain’t art
Four stanzas of tripe and onions
Nah, that ain’t from the heart
Five movements of kettle drum and bassoon
Think I’d rather listen to my grandmother fart
And all this stuff and nonsense hides behind the petticoat
Of words like subjective, eclectic, ahead of its time
No room for the song with a tune
No place for the saccharin poem heady on rhyme
For I and my ilk are out of date, proper unwashed
Vagrants in dire need of schooling by the fragrant, fashionistas
All I can say to that is kiss my arse
 
Then there’s the good stuff, for don’t we all love Vincent?
Who in a hundred years went from the barely digestible
To high table, gorged on genius
From lonely, desperate hours
To forty million dollars’ worth of sunflowers
And all because one starry night he lopped off his ear
This is not art, but the art of the ridiculous
Sure, count me in for the bright, brilliant yellows
For there’s no doubt, Vincent was the most talented of fellows
But then let art be, free to say nothing
Or to bring down the universe, whatever
Long live pukka, kosher art, long live Van Gogh
Van Gogh that is without the froth
 
 
Robert Nisbet
 
 
TRACKING
 
The day after Boxing Day, cold, bright,
me and Travis, fourteen, out, crossing fields.
 
We saw the tracks, on the long slope up
from the village. Horses’ hooves dug deep
into the muddy grass (Boxing Day it had poured),
then, the slope easing, stretching, wider apart,
 
and now and again we saw, fainter but clear,
odd dog prints at the outer edges. The Hunt?
Had to be. We looked for fox tracks, unclear
what they’d look like. Faint? It’s a small animal.
 
But in the clearing before the copse, we saw,
from a field away, ripped grass, a skirmish scene.
Blood, steeped in, splashed, chunks of red fur. Guts.
As I remember, we just stood a while, heads bowed.
 
Next term, in Holy Joe’s discussion class,
a debate. Fox hunting should be abolished.
Young Taylor took the lead, blasted
the aristocrats, stirred feeling for animals.
 
Angela opposed, Hunt-Ball-in-five-years’-time
Angela. She, effervescent, damned the pest,
the slayer of chickens, destroyer of livelihoods.
 
And me and Travis? Listened. Said Holy Joe,
Travis? John? Nothing? A real pair of puddings
in debate, you two.
Next lesson, history.
 
 
Sharon Olson
 
 
AFTER “L’ARRIÈRE-PAYS” BY BONNEFOY
 
The not-quite-seen, the territory not yet reached,
the hidden countryside, the back beyond,
 
the curious estate down the street from my first home,
where John Muir’s friends had gathered, a naturalist’s salon
that ended before I was born,
 
the scraps of conversation I could never quite hear
from adults in the living room, childhood as a trial
I wished would soon be over,
 
places described to me I’d never see,
the high huts in the Bernese Oberland,
St. Augustine’s fountain of youth.
 
I think of the picnics we carved out of the grass
when we were only slightly past adolescence,
green sunlight on yellow ground,
chasing away the cows just down the road
from a stand of redwoods.
 
Now when I turn my hand over, liver spots they used to call them,
and yet someone said recently my palms were uncommonly soft.
 
And in my lap this train ticket similarly worn, stamped and folded,
the window of my compartment with its changing view,
the engine reaching the viaduct first
like a snake that curves to examine its own tail.
 
 
THINKING OF DÜRER AFTER SEEING AN AGNES VARDA FILM
Albrecht Dürer’s “Eve,” oil on panel, 1507
 
The first art critic to describe me coming out of the shower
judged me ungainly, wooden, a Northern Renaissance nude
lacking the more favored Mediterranean grace.
 
She and I were in college together where references like these
mattered. So I grew my hair to cover my undersized breasts
and hunched my shoulders to produce some sort of cleavage.
 
I practiced standing behind columns to bifurcate my ungallant
skeleton, imagined Death entrancing me into his Dance
straight out of a painting by Hans Baldung Grien.
 
As Dürer lay dying, Hans clipped a lock of his hair,
a keepsake to retain the power of the master, wondered
if the great man felt his scalp twitch.
 
In the late afternoon I watched how Varda unmasked
a woman’s soul, how she summoned Dürer’s naked Eve
backhanding an apple with her flippant wrist,
 
an Eve slim-hipped and disingenuously feeding her pet snake,
unperturbed to be unclothed, as if fresh from the shower,
shaking her curls in liberation from bystanders’ comments,
unwrapping her gaze.
 
 
Basilike Pappa
 
 
SPIEL
 
I swear to you by the waters of this river; beyond these walls there is a world. You found your way
under the stones, penetrated it with your streams. You’ve seen me naked before, but never like this.
 
On the moon and stars I swear to you; the darkness that connects our tissues to these fears will be
severed by a ray of light. Swirling like motes of dust, we’ll meet inside our dreams.
 
I am telling you: the music of the spheres… I felt it; I still feel it. As old as the sands in the desert, as
the ice in my freezer. At night it sounds like sighs. If you don’t mind, why should I?
 
I swear to you on a peacock’s feather; this ache is primordial. Decidedly secret – so hushed. Our hands
can’t save the world, just us. Let’s do this together.
 
By the fire sparks that rise up into the sky I swear; our minds can burn a gateway through the sunset.
Rescue comes harsh before our eyes. I can soften it with my tongue – let my try.
 
I swear to you upon the olive groves; the world has seen us many times. In bells, letters, poison, lore.
I promise you: our paper boats will always sail across the seas.
 
All this and more I swear to you upon the greatest god – sun on copper coffee pot.
 
 
Jon Parsons
 
 
TO MILTON AND HIS PIEDMONTESE
 
In 1655, blind and stiff-necked, Puritan John Milton learned
the Pope’s militia had thrown some Protestants, infants in
their mothers’ arms, off an Alpine precipice to a rocky death,
and retorted with a bellicose sonnet, warranting reply.
 
Pathetic poet, calling out in pride
to God for petty vengeance, you were blind
to his great scheme and how his mercy shined
upon those sinless innocents who died
as sparrows fall (their hapless mothers cried
such moans no megaphone required to find
their way to omnipresent Ear) a kind
of practicing, perhaps, how angels glide.
 
It was their “rolling down” one must suppose
so shocked a gentle soul who knows sharp blade,
and brimstone, and broad wave God wisely chose
to suffer little children, hence you prayed
revenge on Popish shepherds who’d dispose
those God Himself declined, seconding aid.
 
 
Robert Perchan
 
 
13 WAYS OF LOOKING
AT A SIX-WORD STORY
 
 
I
At Lovers Leap paused. Reconsidered. Nope.
 
II
Molotov cocktail dresses. Ideological cleavages exposed.
 
III
A clean, well-shaven place it wasn’t.
 
IV
Frog prince kissed. Tasted like chicken.
 
V
Rasputin brainstorm: “Hitch wagon to Tsar!”
 
VI
Imelda’s shoes: 2000 pairs, never used.
 
VII
Rats with Big Hair. Poodledom infiltrated.
 
VIII
Dolly Parton’s knockers – Pod People back?
 
IX
Sasquatch retires. Gorilla suit for sale.
 
X
Neanderthal Hotline: Grunt. Grunt? Grunt. Grunt? . . .
 
XI
Alone tonight? Christian Escorts: Dial R-A-P-T-U-R-E.
 
XII
Easter basket surprise. Bunnies in heat.
 
XIII
Stadium Bobblehead Day! Bring kids! Hatchets!
 
 
WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY
 
with too much makeup
and a broken shoe

Tom Waits
 
The one you drag back
from that sleazy dive
who proceeds to hide
every single knife in
your kitchen has just
told you a keen slice
of her real life story
 
 
NATIONAL INJECTION DAY
 
You know how in
   the old movies
when they pull a
   lever to give
a killer the chair
   all the lights in
the prison cells
   dim almost to
Blackness.
   Now when they slip
a needle into
   a “suitable” vein
to deliver
   that lethal dose
all the deadhead
   junkies in town
alleys snap out
   of their nods and
Blink.
 
 
Darrell Petska
 
 
SINE NOMINE
 
Lot’s wife, with a backward glance
toward the hearth she long stoked,
the rooms that quaked with laughter,
the fevered conjugal bed
beneath sparkling desert skies.
 
Lot’s wife, ascribed by men
no intimate’s name, yet his lover,
cook and scullery maid,
mother of their two daughters
and ally of his tepid prophecies.
 
Lot’s wife, cleaved of home,
shorn of memories and dreams,
caught in Yahweh’s bluster
and Old Testament indifference
to a woman’s heart and mind.
 
Lot’s wife looked homeward.
Fearful Lot, washed-up Lot,
drunken Lot, hiding in the desert,
bedded his conniving daughters
who mothered Israel’s arch enemies.
 
Lot’s hapless wife, victimized
by god and men, pilloried in salt,
consigned to history like Noah’s wife,
Ham’s wife, Simeon’s wife—
dunning history for a name.
 
 
Gary Pollard
 
 
WATER-BLUE
 
I have dived deeply
into your water of blue
I swam eagerly
down and through
I have touched the depths
at your water’s floor
before coming back for air
then down again once more
yet after all my observations
I have failed to understand
your water of blue
and its threshold of sand
 
 
Ken Poyner
 
 
GOD RESTS FROM CREATION
 
God came also to Rosie O’Henry.
Why was this not recorded?
 
Rosie had a small apartment
just inside Chesapeake Beach:
she used to sit on the balcony
where she could barely see
the lights of ships in the bay
 
coming, going, or waiting.
Rosie was not all that much to look at,
but filled a bikini well enough
and wantonly grew prettier in dimming light.
 
This was not recorded either.
 
By the time God made his proposal,
Rosie’s on again, off again boy friend
had moved out this cycle
and Rosie had been playing the field
 
for more than a summer’s month.
A good apartment,
full time job, no pets:
what is not to want in this relationship?
 
When God explained the coming events
Rosie thought: so what is new?
It’s been that way with me
for ten years now, and I’m not complaining.
But she did tell him she was no virgin –
 
and this is not recorded either –
 
He said I can fix that.
Knowing by now the end of this story
she said, Lord, why would you?
 
Then took out those explosively high heels
no woman could walk long in,
and carelessly opened the fresh
twist cap of her last bottle
of sweet, red, grocery store wine.
 
In this, we can read no meaning.
 
 
HURRICANE SURVIVAL
 
It took twelve days
and at 6:55 or so,
dim into morning, the lights came on.
 
Isabel was still a thing of the news.
Category five at sea, category three
when it limped ashore. We lost power
around 10:00, and then set up the radio,
opened the front and back doors – since at our place
wind was no bother – and then, for entertainment,
rode our exercise cycles to the noise.
 
At times we would watch the trees cringe,
we would worry the maple three doors down
might surrender its quickly tiring grip
on the already water-logged soil
and smack us in the second story.
 
But it held. We found, later that day
as we walked the aftermath in the next
neighborhood over, too many good trees had given in.
For us, we could sit with our doors open
and imagine the electricity would be back by morning,
wonder why the storm was angrier to others.
 
But electricity did not come.
 
September, and the heat started in on us.
We could make our meals with the gas stove on the first day,
drove the remaining days of our disempowerment
to a part of the city with real, civilization-delivering electricity,
air conditioning, and television news.
 
Day after day, a townhouse project
in the middle of Virginia’s largest city
sat without power. We could understand
the lone family at the end of half a mile
0f uninterrupted wires – outpost of civilization
advanced too far, too deep – having to wait;
but we were hundreds, at the spine of the region:
a blot of low-and-middle-income homes, mostly
low-income families, established beside –
but thankfully not yet part of – the city’s worst crime problem.
We had natural gas for hot water, flashlights
and batteries and candles, and got ice at a fair price.
 
No shortage, no gouging, no unfair advantage.
 
I – mostly white, but proud of my native American
smattering of unremembered bloodline – proposed
to my black neighbor that our predicament
lay perhaps in the fact that our neighborhood
ethnically tallies out ninety percent in appearance
more like him than like me. Years he and I had been united
in a gangling geometry of acknowledgement gestures,
little more than truce offerings and staggered recognition,
 
conversations about his dog being
our binding thread. But he right then
independently proposed to the power company
a lawsuit,
and I volunteered to sign on as token.
 
Two hours later we had fifty minutes of power –
a tease and a test and a proof of effort – then
two days later full restoration. Hurricanes
will never for me be simply small adventures,
something to survive and innocently marvel at.
Hurricanes blow out. The weather never changes.
 
 
Carson Pytell
 
 
Directions
 
I’d like eggs most,
screw the chickens,
whichever came first,
like how you can’t know
if they were called services
before or after they realized
serviceability yields profit
the way travelers brake
to ask for directions
to the nearest KFC,
hungry for eggs.
 
 
Emalisa Rose
 
 
BLISSFUL
 
you were lightning
i was the sky
interrupted
 
moments before
we made rain.
 
 
CHOCOLATES NO NUTS
 
I’d stop first for booze
then into the market
to bring you some chocolate
“chocolate… no nuts” you’d
say… “I just can’t digest them”
 
I’d strut through the aisles
with my short skirt stilettos
stacking the cart with whatever
we’d need for our rendezvous
 
Checkout gal May, always
the same, with her saggy
face Brillo hair starting to
bald, with that smirk and an
eye roll, searing right into me
just knowing I was miles from
my life in suburbia.
 
 
UNDANGLING MY PARTICIPLES
 
I love to undangle my participles as you
watch me metabolize metaphors flash
dance my lexicon with my long legged
stilettos turning the corner of commas and
o how i love those apostrophe moons and
tankas of tulips in this garden of word play
as i alliterate on your predicate over the
cliffside of consonants adjectives and run on
etceteras as you spin me all dizzy on this
portal of poetry, where i rhyme just for you
and think nonsense is true sense when there
is love, albeit on a rooftop or park and ride
or any place magical and kinky and where
it’s just you and me in our own psychedelic
far out sonnet of the infinite as we exist… a
dream within a poetic dream (between the
parentheses)
 
 
Peter Schneider
 
 
THE CORAÇON FUNCTION
 
She was a cold virginal Irish former nun
large and very white
I did not understand her
 
not, I mean, what she said
but what she was
her intent that is
 
had no words for it then
her motor her motive
its consequence for us
 
her terrified students
in high school mathematics
The wooden room resounded
 
with her brass voice
if you got it she could become
friendly if such a word applied
 
No, cold is not accurate
rather a hot numerical passion
her love was anger
 
a furious zeal
and one day I got it or so I thought
the coraçon function
 
generating a heart-shape
turned on its side on the graph paper
burgeoning out from origin
 
a string of numbers dragging a small
body twisting around itself
with a peculiar sideways gravity
 
Fifty and more years later
lying on my side in the cardiac unit
I rejoin this equation
 
and recall how she sang La Vie en Rose
at the faculty talent show
while I accompanied her on piano
 
not her best student I
remember the wine-colored taffeta dress
the tight brown curls framing
 
her pearl-toned face
the up-turned nose
perched above the massive body
 
Ah Miss Cotter dear Maggie
I’m sure you’re gone now
but I’m still here
 
along with a strange thing inside me
this sloshing whumping function
 
 
Claire Scott
 
 
THE LANGUAGE OF LUKEWARM LOVE
 
Conjugated into separate beds, separate bedrooms
synonym for I never said, yes you did, oh well
a love that rhymes with sort of, kind of
true love in the past tense or is it the past perfect
conjugated in the present tense of apathy:
lost or lingering or limping or too lazy
 
To find ways to deal with the improbable, the long shot
to stoke the embers, to stroke each other, to rearrange
the coals of lassitude, of listlessness, of lethargy
to shake up syllables, find new synonyms, a new syntax:
a vacation for two in Bali, sleeping naked on the beach
strolling through Barcelona, sipping Sangria in sidewalk cafés
 
What if the spark never flares, the flame doesn’t flame
what if the future tense is a table for one under the exit sign
easier to live with tepid love in parallel lives
easier to wonder what if and say oh well
 
 
Yash Seyedbagheri
 
 
DEAR HOPEFUL
 
dear hopeful,
why have you darted behind bruised clouds
without a word
where new voices volley
laughter like constipated geese in big glasses and whispered
stories told with satisfaction of
 
psychiatric wards, fathers who drink, sisters who fuck their younger brothers
and people mowed down by freight trains, severed legs carried away after
twenty-four suicide attempts, going on twenty-five
and don’t forget about being woke on coffee tables and proclaiming revolutions
a child with fourteen blue tricycles, bicycles, BMWs,
while dear hopeful, once you could have found joy in a Dodge Stratus
 
dear hopeful, you’re not looking to the shadows
once you danced, a darting ballerina
over night skies
and butter-colored streetlamps
while trees whispered their whoosh
and I danced with you under harvest moons
 
I call you once, twice, thrice now
but a bottle of Pinot busts
a bottle of pills pops
another sister fucks a brother, another train mows down
a head and spectators gasp and cue their laugh tracks
dear hopeful, why couldn’t you break through
 
I need a little Pinot too
no pills. one glass, two glasses,
just enough until you come
when you come
if you come
where the fuck are you?
 
a train crash looks mighty enticing right now
just a little
can I have a detail
of a head
a leg
can I have
 
you laugh with me
 
dear hopeful?
 
 
AN ORDER OF NEGATIVITY
 
I’ll have two sides of train crashes
a mutilated body for dipping sauce
and could I have an overturned boxcar
one charred edifice,
a crying mother, a couple packs of dead kids
don’t forget the crying mother
this is all to go, of course
oh wait
a suicide, a shooting, a semiautomatic, some pills, a poisoned diplomat
for dessert
have a nice day
 
 
Cathryn Shea
 
 
I’M NOT REALLY WATCHING ANY NEWS
 
Couldn’t you just undress
the news lady slinked up
in her sleeveless shift,
the outline of her little tummy
cuteness. Am I a sex fiend?
Ignore my obsession.
I don’t want to undress
the weatherman
yet.
Although, upholstered
in his blue suit
he’s adorable
pointing to what looks like
a tourniquet
to hold back rain,
wound of a cloud tied up.
The limp drought of itself.
 
 
QUARRIES
 
Magnificent mouths
to feed. The prey
and ours.
I think of melted nature
roasted and stewed.
My father used red nail polish
to paint the sights of his rifles,
their gunstocks he spent hours checkering,
the grip and forearm,
with cutters and fine files
and he would finish the stocks
with linseed oil and wax.
I was a kid. All I knew was
this was his craft.
Like a warden’s burden.
 
 
John Short
 
 
ENGINEER
 
She had an old Volkswagen
and at weekends
we’d drive to the country,
stop in some small market town
for fish and chips
or tea in a corner café.
We were young
so not thinking constantly
about corruption,
injustice or conspiracies.
 
Another time was passion
in a broom cupboard
at the University
until someone opened the door.
She had a serious side
as well, of course:
studying to be an engineer
and aiming for control over men
 
but we were young
with time for mountain walks
and madness.
I sometimes wonder
what eventually became of her,
how many kids she had
and how many
bridges she designed.
 
 
M. G. Stephens
 
The seven poems below are taken from Stephens’ latest book of poems, History of Theatre or The Glass of Fashion, which was published in September of 2020 by MadHat Press, Cheshire, Massachusetts. Mr. Stephens first appeared in Rat’s Ass Review in the summer 2020 issue, with his poem Kazakhstan.
 
 
THIS AIN’T NO OPHELIA, HONEY
 
This weary night I lay down to sleep and dream, my mouth stale from drink and garlic, the dimension of my room flat and black, the status of my feelings unprofitable. At first I thought it seemed this way—seemed. I asked myself—not, it is, but seems? For many hours I lay awake, unable to sleep, but finally I drifted off, my breath iambic and even, no longer rushed and full of the fever of the day, I rested. I dreamed, too. What I dreamed was not of Ophelia, though I thought of her before sleep, as I did my mother, thinking of them in one image. This night was given to Helen, I do not know why, but it was of her I dreamt, as though she were everywhere, and nowhere at all. I had been thinking of an anecdote about James Joyce in which he named an ugly photograph of a woman after Helen. A man, Schwarz by name, accused Joyce of killing Helen when the writer pointed out how old she must be after living with Menelaus, then Paris, her time in Troy, and then how old she was when Dante saw her in the Inferno. “Killed Helen,” Joyce said, laughing. Yet the Helen I saw was even older than Joyce’s; she was before goat song and the dithyramb. I walked in this dream past Thespis, then Arion, back into the drama, into the pre-history, into her moment. There I stood in her bedroom in Troy. Like a casting director I had in my hand her resume and photos. I am Hamlet, I told her. You little weasel, she said, have you ever been fucked? she asked. I mean have you ever really been fucked good, my little man in your britches and buskins? Well, I said, there’s always Ophelia, and she laughed, Helen let out this awful guffaw. Get over here, she smirked, Prince of Denmark.
 
 
HALF-ASS AND ME, HALF-DRUNK, AT A BACK TABLE IN THE HALF MOON
 
If Henry Hudson stopped here, it was a night when sinks clogged and the river named after him rolled down Fordham Road in the Bronx. (Oh, them Fordham Indians, they do know how to paddle them there canoes across Spuyten Duyvil and other swirling eddies.) People come from miles away, including New Rochelle and Yonkers to eat their hearts out, burp garlic, and drink Italian wine in the places on Arthur Avenue, but this place is like a corner pizza parlor, only with a backroom with red and white checked tablecloths, and a lady who sticks her head out of the heated kitchen. (Some days her face is like Anna Magnani; sometimes she looks beautiful, though deranged; somewhere I saw her on the street as ugly as your sister.) Hey, Half-Ass says, you want to step outside and fight me like a man, nobody says nothing bad about my sister! Take it easy, chill out, I said, or you’ll die of massive seizures, especially after all that garlic bread and red wine, I don’t even know your sister, Half-Ass. (This was a lie, ’cause his sister and me, we go on the fly to motels near Whitestone, and I even seen her pee into her own hand and blow the wiz into the air like bubbles.) Did you know that Henry Hudson’s boat, the Half-Moon, sailed up the Hudson River, ages ago, I asked Half-Ass, who ordered us another bottle of house red. Fuck you, he said, you big-mouth phony with your ideas and your, and your whatever you got, credit cards, which ain’t worth shit here, go down the block to Amici’s. (Half-Ass, I said. Don’t call me that, he shouted, my name is Cornelius, just like yours, and you got no business telling me about some man’s boat when I know for certain he drove a car, ’cause there’s a parkway named after him which you ought to get on and drive north out of my sight, ya bastard.) Everybody around here knows that the Half Moon has nothing to do with Henry Hudson and boats because it was named after the Full Moon Cafe which burnt to the ground many moons ago, and they opened this pizza joint and little bistro, only half the size of the old one. How I know this, Half-Ass, Cornelius that is, told me, and a man with a sister like his can’t be all that dumb.
 
 
RED MAPLE
 
If I told you of the bush in the yard, its pale blossom, I mean, I was concerned, I think you would understand; and we spoke of other issues, the weather, the family, I think I never conveyed tension in my loins, a feeling so outside of family, I wanted to touch, touch your eyelids, your lips, your neck, your shoulders, impossible places for me or for you, I dreamed of legs and, I dreamed, because we had touched each other everywhere, I thought, I imagined we would touch, where you ache, I touched, I touched your legs, inside, I touch outside, I touch your breasts, I touch, I touch, I kiss, I kiss, oh little sparrow, you whisper, oh jackdaw and magpie. When I grab your belly, it is meat, it is real, it is healing, and you are heat, I have a heart, you are a woman, and I am this man, this is how the world began.
 
 
R & R
 
My first R & R was in Casablanca, a real deadbeat sort of town, and then the ship went on to Spain, I lost my cherry in a Palma de Majorca whorehouse in Chinatown, the Kansas Bar, it was called, and from there it was all rock and roll, I remember my first trip to Korea back in the seventies, no cherry anymore, I drove out of Seoul in a Mercedes, digging the rice fields, going up to Panmunjom, what a motherfucker that was, and the heat that summer was another kind of motherfucker, I played golf with an orange ball one winter, my brothers-in-law out to show me a good time, what I know about Asia has to do with what I know about anything, and I don’t know a thing, still as cherry as that kid in Casablanca, looking for opium and theatrical acts which included women and donkeys.
 
 
SUR LA ROUTE
 
I’m walking down the highway where they are working on the highway, it’s a hot sort of day and I’m on my way to work down the highway on this sort of day which is hot and humid, I’m not timid when I say hello to the men on the highway because they are working and I am going to work, I say, Hi, they say, What’s happening, it is an ordinary day except that the highway is full of heat bubble twists, the drifters drink wine at the roadway intersection, all of us dreaming of intercourse, more than interstate commerce, I know, I say to myself, I was working on the highway, once going down a highway to work like I am going now, only I was working for the highway, and now I am using the highway, it’s that sort of day…
 
 
SONNET SONG
 
My mistress is a tempest in camera, and on camera she purrs like a tiger. Oh, tender one, your tender loins so tasty, fitting into my groin. If I give you heat and trust, if you offer me wetness and lust. What is the gender of the beast with two backs at this nocturnal feast? After that night we became a pair. We sat on the bedsheet, eating a pear. Love, if only I thought of it—two more lines make this a sonnet. But I lack, what a poet called formal invention, the rigorous formality of poetry; I think he meant that I write prose, that this is prose, and it’s true. I do I do I do
 
 
SELF-HELP
 
He told me, both of us on the flight deck of the rehab, that when his father was drunk on rum, the old man lay snoring on his bed upstairs. The patient said, “I placed a burning cigarette between his dark fingers and whispered, ‘die, motherfucker,’ and I poured kerosene on his mattress, lit it, and went back to my room, where I pretended to sleep, listening to the flames crackle, smelling the smoke. Burn, baby, burn, I sang. But he came to just before the flames consumed his working man’s body, he woke me and the other children, rushing us into the streets of St. Albans, Queens, New York, where we all watched the fire lick through the upper rooms of our mortgaged house. Father asked if I was all right. ‘I’m all right,’ I said, but it was shortly after that that I left home and joined the Marines.”
 
 
Paul Tanner
 
 
MILLENNIAL BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
 
the boss is off
the supervisor is off
and the only other person in today
just pulled a sicky.
 
you’re the only one
here
 
the shop keys
digging into your thigh
as you serve the rabid queue:
get more staff! it says
terrible customer service! it says
like you chose
to work in such conditions
just to annoy them
 
and then
the area manager shows up:
 
just you? he asks.
evidently! you tell him,
scanning and packing like crazy.
 
hmm, well, he gets out his clipboard.
that’s no reason to let standards slip, is it?
and off he goes down aisle 1,
thumbing the button of his pen,
his little nib
excitedly poking
in and out and in and out …
 
 
TRICKLE-DOWN SOMETHING, I GUESS
 
every night she’s asked me for money.
every night she’s here, at this bus stop
waiting for me.
and tonight I do my shift and who do I see
coming yonder?
 
excuse me … she starts.
 
look! I cut her off. enough! I’m sick of doing a graveyard shift for taxable minimum wage, only to come here and pay you guilt tax, because of the shit life choices you make! you don’t even have the decency to spend it on deodorant, I have to inhale your ever-rancid cider sweat fumes every time you emotionally mug me!
 
but –
 
a pound here, fifty pee there, it adds up you know! and what good does it do either of us? I’m broke now too! all because I’m scared of being labelled a heartless snob! well not anymore! I’ve had enough! you hear me, you relentless hag? I’ve had enough of being bled dry from all sides, so do me a favour and kill yourself, and maybe then I can keep some of that mythical surplus income I’ve heard so much about!
 
I was just gonna pay you back, she says
and she shows me the old browned five-pound note in her hand.
I know it’s not all of it …
 
oh, I blink at it. sorry, I –
 
no, sod ya then, she says
and walks off,
 
great.
now I have to give her double tomorrow night.
 
 
WHY I LOOK BOTH WAYS
BEFORE CROSSING
A ONE-WAY STREET
 
I’ve seen people
actually take off
their masks
 
before going into
a shop.
 
they take off their masks
to show off a grin
that could eat through
any old shit:
 
even this.
 
 
Paul Telles
 
 
My XXXL Jacket Tells Me Off
 
I can’t forget the day you noticed me
Hanging among your excess clothes. You took
The time to model me, giggling to see
How small you had become, how good you looked.
 
We were close once, meeting each day to hide
The body that shamed you. We hugged on planes
And preened at work. We fashioned cashmere lies
To gild the flabby self you stuffed with pain.
 
It’s clear your flesh needed to shrink away
From me and seek a safer size, but why
Store me? If I’m a prize, put me on display.
If I’m just trash, I should be cast aside.
 
Please don’t risk making me your secret friend.
I never want to hold you tight again.
 
 
Elinor Ann Walker
 
 
ORIONIDS, FIELD REPORT
 
It’s not really that cold.
I see the first before I’m even settled.
I’m on my back in the brittle grass
before the next four fall. Night noises
fall around me, too. My dog’s face hovers
over mine. Sometimes all I see is his chin,
silhouetted. Colder now that I’m still,
I start count, as if by that act I summon
the stars, and I’m up to ten when I hear the train
whistle a low wail that fades, lonesome
in the distance, then coyotes, a few yips,
then howls, until my dog howls along
with either the train or them. It doesn’t matter.
I’m not sure which is closer.
His breath is a plume in the dark;
then he’s gone across the field, and I hope
for one more, repeating the mantra to myself
one more, one more, one more
until that star streaks across the sky, trailing
light, faint and quick. There. Not there.
Maybe I conjured the vision, my eyes watering,
my face now cold, my back stiff on the ground.
I think to myself: I am rigid like a corpse.
The dog checks on me, warm breath coming back.
It’s possible to be still in a turning world,
to let the dark be dark,
the cold be cold,
the sky be what it is,
the stars what they are
or once were.
 
 
Dan Wiencek
 
 
POSSIBLE HAWK DISPLAY
 
Above trees that may be
alder or may be beech
a possible hawk display
 
conjectural arcs of predation
swing across wild guesses of wind
 
to the rabbit, the hawk
is a fact, to the wind
an interloper
 
like the leaf tumbling in
gravity’s fingers, vein side
up, vein side down, over
 
and over until the bet
is won or lost, the hawk
 
confirmed
or merely probable
 
 
THIS TIME, HE IS JACOB
 
We are outdoors walking side by side and he is next to me, the son I did not have, holding my hand though he is far too old. The air is stuck in place and I am desperate for a breeze. There are pictures in the clouds but I cannot decipher them. This time, he is Jacob, he would be 26 or thereabouts and he was sacrificed for the sake of two college degrees (four if you count grad school) and I feel absurdly lucky he is with me even if I cannot make out the details of his face. I try to lift him by his waist and nearly collapse under him and he laughs at me, Come on Dad, he says, there isn’t any wind here and the clouds are all lies anyway

 
 
Simon Williams
 
 
GENTS
 
Standing at the urinals,
the stranger next to me farted
and apologised profusely.
 
Aiming to ease his embarrassment
I said, ‘If you can’t loose one here,
where can you?’
 
‘Among the dunes
three kilometres North of Merzouga’,
he replied, after some consideration.
 
‘Deep in the Amazon rainforest,’
came a voice from the first cubicle,
‘just West of Manaus, in a dug-out’.
 
‘Was that you?’
said a bloke from the second stall.
‘There was no good fishing there for weeks.’
 
‘On the ice flows of Antarctica,’
said the washroom attendant,
‘in the middle of the long, long night.’
 
‘In a space suit,’ called Jim Lovell,
having a shower in the room
reserved for truckers,
 
‘Completely self-contained
and you’re the only one
to ever know.’
 
 
SLINGSHOT BULLETS
 
The Romans often inscribed the rugby-ball shaped lead bullets for their
slingshots with insults, like ‘Ouch’, ‘Take that’ and ‘Lodge well’.
 
We cornered him in the milecastle,
with his lame stirrup still in his hand,
took it from him, had him kneel.
 
We emptied out his pouch of metal eggs,
asked him what the letters on them meant,
took away his reluctance with his own pugio.
 
He said They’re insults, mainly.
This one says ‘Here’s a sugar plum’
and this ‘From Pompey’s Arse’.
 
We didn’t laugh, so many crippled
by his little jests, so many whose bones
were split, flesh punctured, brains holed.
 
Just one thing I said before we ended him.
It’s all been so much waste in the casting.
There’s not a one of us reads Latin.
 
 
Russel G. Winick
 
 
THE DATING DRILL
 
As most describe the dating drill
the first step has to be,
determining if there exists
sufficient chemistry.
 
If one finds no attraction
then it seems the likely fate,
is those two folks will never have
that vaunted second date.
 
If warranted by chemistry
the next phase thus will be,
to scientifically explore
compatibility.
 
That one’s the greatest challenge faced
in figuring the fit.
It must work now and also as
the future changes it.
 
The greatest cause of misery
of anything we know?
Chemistry that’s high,
compatibility that’s low.
 
 
Robin Wright
 
 
DIRECTIONS FOR JOY
 
Snuggle in your sheets
with Kim Addonizio.
You with your spent senses,
her with her Batgirl brain.
Keep the book open
even when not reading.
Drink some wine,
splash some on the page.
Not just any page, turn to
“Divine.” The poem will absorb
the soft blush of intoxication.
Just like you, when in bed,
hands wrapped around
what you love.
 
 
WHEN MY PAJAMAS WEAR OUT, IT’S TIME FOR THE PANDEMIC TO END
for M.M.
 
Hair bound in a rubber band
every day for six months straight
 
Bra buried in the bureau drawer,
socks stuck in time that ended March 2020
 
Elastic waist on my pajama bottoms stretched
beyond usefulness, sagging low
 
Ass crack hanging out, I don my mask,
walk next door to my plumber neighbor.
 
We bend to the camera six feet apart,
moon this life, this virus.
 
 
Susan J. Wurtzburg
 
 
PANDEMIC JOURNEYS
 
A rather boring grocery list clutched in my hand,
I venture into Safeway. A good name for this current
time of trouble, although it doesn’t always feel safe,
as such. Blueberries, bananas, oh, yes, some apples,
since we are trying to eat healthily to stave off illness.
 
Aisles are directional, which still seems challenging for some,
not sure why this is so difficult. Masked figures stomp
boldly toward me, making me feel less than friendly.
Milk, beer, and orange juice placed in the cart, a few treats
are needed at home. Simple pleasures in hard times.
 
Not everyone understands Hawaii health directives,
although all wear facial coverings in the store.
One day, the words “fuck head” escaped my lips, but
that guy pushed by me. Mostly, I am polite, trying
to model appropriate aloha. Oh, yes, I need chocolate.
 
I feel more nervous in Safeway than during any lone jungle
expedition. Walking around verdant Corcovado,
Costa Rica, in 1982, was far less nerve-racking.
Yes, I braved thirst, sharks, and alligators, but careless
young men are my new fear. Yup, wine is on the list.
 
 
Maura Yzmore
 
 
BRUCE BANNER GETS A PHYSICAL
 
the nurse’s mouth puckers
very much like an asshole
trying to stop the exit
of a rancid burrito
 
she sighs, inflates again
blood-pressure cuff on my arm
 
looks mighty disappointed
then asks if I’d gained weight
if I get exercise often
if there is stress in my life
 
I sit there, looking at her
try to breathe, I really do
try to calm myself down
her ass-face makes it too hard
 
I say I’m always angry
 
before I burst at the seams
and I am free again
in ratty purple pants
smashing my way outta there
 
like a rancid burrito
blowing the tightest asshole
 
 
 
 
 
 
B. Anne Adriaens currently lives in Somerset, Britain. Her work tends to reflect her interest in alienation and all things weird and dark, as well as her concerns about the environment. She’s written several dystopian prose pieces and is finalising her first poetry collection. You can read her in Helios Quarterly, Harpur Palate, Glasgow Review of Books, Thimble Magazine, The Blue Nib, Poetry Ireland Review and The Honest Ulsterman.
 
 
Kemmer Anderson taught 40 years at McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee where he was faculty advisor to the Amnesty International Chapter. He recently published a collection of essays: Milton at Monticello: Thomas Jefferson’s Reading of John Milton. Thanks to Homer, Euripides, and St. John’s College, he has published a series of poems: Palamedes: Lost Muse of Justice. He encountered rats while feeding chickens on Wing Shadow Farm.
 
 
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..
 
 
Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com)and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Blood and Thunder, Feral, and Grand Little Things, among others.
 
Social Media:
IG: @ebolaisthesavior
Diaspora
 
 
William C. Blome writes poetry and short fiction. He lives wedged between Baltimore and Washington, DC, and he once swiped a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. His work has seen the light of day in such fine little mags as Poetry London, PRISM International, Fleas on the Dog, Fiction Southeast, Roanoke Review, and The California Quarterly.
 
 
Jimmy Broccoli is a Branch Manager of a library in the Greater Metropolitan Area of Atlanta. He enjoys playing with puppies and writing frightening verse. You can contact him on Facebook.
 
 
Ingrid Bruck lives in Amish country in Pennsylvania USA across the street from an Amish farm, where work horses pull the plows and retired racehorses pull carriages. Since retiring as a library director, she dedicates herself to writing short forms and short poems. Current work appears in Failed Haiku, Halcyon Days, Quatrain.Fish and Halibut. Poetry website: www.ingridbruck.com
 
 
Raymond Byrnes: For many years he managed communications for the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Land Imaging Program. His recent work has been read on The Writer’s Almanac and accepted/published in Main Street Rag, Third Wednesday, Shot Glass Journal, Typishly, Split Rock Review, and numerous other journals. He lives in Virginia.
 
 
Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives and writes in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the author of four books, including The Mercy of Traffic, and On the Way to the Promised Land Zoo, and five chapbooks. Her work appears on line in Persimmon Tree, pacificREVIEW, 2RiverView, Bracken, San Pedro River Review and others and in fourteen anthologies. For more information, check her web site at wendytaylorcarlisle.com
 
 
Kitty Carpenter studied Creative Writing and Missouri State University and is a regular participant at the River Pretty Writer’s Retreat in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Aurorean, Paddle Shots: A River Pretty Anthology Vol 2, Dove Tales: Writing for Peace, and Painted Bride Quarterly, among others. Her poem Farm Sonnet was a finalist for the 2020 Rattle Poetry Prize. Kitty is currently a caregiver for neurodivergent and disabled individuals and lives in rural Missouri with her cranky, senior dog and four rambunctious cats. Twitter: @lit_spider
 
 
Sudasi Clement is the former poetry editor of Santa Fe Literary Review (2006-2016). Her work has appeared in Slipstream, The Main Street Rag, pacificREVIEW, Sierra Nevada Review, and Room Magazine, among others. She won the 2012 Slipstream Press chapbook contest with her manuscript, The Bones We Have in Common. She lives in Santa Fe, NM.
 
 
Wanda Morrow Clevenger lives in Hettick, IL – population 200, give or take. Over 600 pieces of her work appear in 169 print and electronic publications. The first three volumes of a 5-volume set titled where the hogs ate the cabbage have published through Writing Knights Press:
young and unadorned
no dyeing in machines
fried everything & booze
 
 
Alan Cohen has published poems in Our Twentieth Century’s Greatest Poems, The Beast in a Cage of Words, The New England Journal of Medicine, Praxis Magazine, Literary Yard, The Blue Nib, CHILLFILTR, The Road Not Taken, The Wild Word, Front Porch Review, Cabildo Quarterly, Leaping Clear, In Parenthesis. He continues to write poems, a few a month, as he has for 55 years now.
 
 
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 Random Saints — poems of kindness for an unkind age.
 
 
62 year-old prize-winning* poet and recovering actor Ken Cumberlidge was born in Birkenhead and cut his performance teeth on the Liverpool pub poetry scene of the 1970s. His work has appeared variously in print and, more recently, in numerous online journals. Since 2011 Ken has been based in Norwich, but can be lured out of cover by good company and an open mic – a proclivity that has led him to become an habitué of the fetid underworld that is the slam poetry/spoken word scene. He likes it. A lot.
Ken’s poetry on Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/ken_cumberlidge_poetry
Ken’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrEPf1MlegfAJyKDA5-wNqQ
* the prize was a chocolate cake. He guessed its weight.
 
 
Patricia Davis-Muffett holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota and her work has appeared in The Slate, Limestone, Coal City Review, Gypsy Cab, Zuzu’s Petals Quarterly, on Minnesota Public Radio and in the di-verse-city anthology of the Austin International Poetry Festival. She lives in Rockville, Maryland, with her husband, three children, one good dog, one bad puppy and a demon of a cat. She makes her living in technology marketing.
 
 
Benjamin Davis is an American writer living somewhere outside of America. He is an ex-fintech journalist and current culture columnist covering Russia. His short works have appeared in Star 82 Review, 5×5, Maudlin House, Cease, Cows, and elsewhere.
 
 
After a glamorous childhood in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Steve Deutsch (and his wife, Karen), settled in State College, PA. They have one son—the guitarist for the avant-garde group, Gang Gang Dance. Over the last two years, Steve’s work has appeared in more than two dozen print and on-line journals. He was twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is the current poetry editor for Centered Magazine. Steve’s chapbook, Perhaps You Can, was published by Kelsay Books in 2019. His full length poetry book, The Persistence of Memory,” has just been published by Kelsay.
 
 
Craig Dobson has had poems and short fiction pieces published in The London Magazine, The Rialto, Better Than Starbucks, The Interpreter’s House, Active Muse, The Literary Hatchet, Poetry Ireland Review, Magma, The North, Prole and Poetry Salzburg Review. He’s got work forthcoming in THINK and The Dark Horse.
 
 
Clive Donovan has published in a fair few poetry magazines, some pretty straight, others more experimental, including Stand, The Journal, Prole, Erbacce, Projectionists Playground, Playerist, Streetcake and the Rats Ass Review. He lives in Totnes, Devon, England.
 
 
John Dorroh may have taught high school science for a few decades. Whether he did is still being discussed. His poetry has appeared in a lot of journals such as Feral, Os Pressan, Selcouth Station, Red Fez, Blue Moon Literary & Art Review, and many more. He also likes to write short fiction and rants.
 
 
Neil Douglas is a doctor-poet working in London’s East End UK. He has work published in The North, Hippocrates anthology 2018, Ekphrastic Review, by Proverse in Hong Kong, and most recently in the NHS anthology ‘These Are the Hands’. He is a member of the Covent Garden Stanza, a collective of poets affiliated with the Poetry Society in London.
 
 
Jessica Dubey is a poet living in upstate New York. She was a 2018 nominee for a Best of the Net Award and was Kissing Dynamite’s September 2019 featured poet. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Oxidant | Engine, Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, The American Journal of Poetry and IthacaLit.
 
 
Marchell Dyon is a poetry enthusiast. She enjoys reading poetry wherever she can find it. Once she was nominated for the best of the net prize for her poem As I Stand by My Window Dreaming of Falling. Her most recent publications are Toasted Cheese Lit Journal, Trouvaille Review and Medusa’s kitchen. She has constantly developed her craft despite having both schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. She continues to write in Chicago IL.
 
 
Michael Estabrook: Retired now writing more poems and working more outside just noticed two Cooper’s hawks staked out in the yard or rather above it which explains the nerve-wracked chipmunks. The Poet’s Curse, A Miscellany (The Poetry Box, 2019) is a recent collection.
 
 
A retired special education teacher, Vern Fein has published over one hundred poems on over sixty sites, a few being: *82 Review, Bindweed Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, Gyroscope Review, Courtship of Winds, Broadkill Review, Monterey Poetry Review, and Corvus Review.
 
 
Lynn Finger’s poetry has appeared in Night Music Journal, Ekphrastic Review, Mineral Lit Mag, Feral, and is forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys, Thimble and 8Poems. Lynn is an editor at Harpy Hybrid Review, and works with a group that mentors writers in prison.
 
 
Robert Ford‘s poetry has appeared in print and online publications in the UK, US and elsewhere, including Under the Radar, Brittle Star, Dime Show Review, The Interpreter’s House and San Pedro River Review. More of his work can be found at wezzlehead.wordpress.com
 
 
Meg Freer grew up in Missoula, Montana, went to school in Minnesota and New Jersey, and now lives in Ontario. Her poems have won awards and have been published in anthologies and journals such as Vallum, Eastern Iowa Review and Rat’s Ass Review. In 2017 she won a writing fellowship and attended the Summer Literary Seminars in Tbilisi. She enjoys taking photos and being active outdoors year-round, and wishes she had more time for writing poetry.
 
 
Gerald Friedman grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, and now teaches physics and math at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico. He’d like to go back to teaching in person. He has published poems in various journals, recently Santa Fe Literary Review, Quatrain.fish, and Panoply.
 
 
Anna E. Fullmer is a Library Assistant at Cleveland Public Library in the Youth Department, slinging story times and songs about the ABCs. Once upon a time, she was the lead singer of a band, but that was back when bands played shows. She writes songs, poems, and to-do lists.
 
 
Mac Gay‘s forthcoming collection Ghost Hunt from Eyewear Publishing Ltd. is now scheduled for release in December. Farm Alarm was runner up for the Robert Phillips Prize and was out last July from Texas Review Press. His poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Main Street Rag, the Texas Poetry Calendar. His newest, Death’s Dearth, is currently searching for a home.
 
 
Francis Golm is funny boo-hoo-hoo as well as ha-ha-ha. His stories and poems have appeared in many magazines including The Rat’s Ass Review and The Wrong Quarterly. Check him out on Twitter @SideBurnedPoet.
 
 
Hank Greenspan is a retiring academic (from the University of Michigan), an expiring psychologist, an inspiring playwright, and an aspiring poet. Despite once being Fulbright, his writing tends dark. He is currently working on a play about the “mad jester” of the Warsaw Ghetto. That about sums it up. henrygreenspan.com
 
 
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Connecticut River Review, Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in West Trade Review, Willard and Maple and Redactions.
 
 
Lois Marie Harrod’s 17th collection Woman was published by Blue Lyra in February 2020. Her Nightmares of the Minor Poet appeared in June 2016 from Five Oaks; her chapbook And She Took the Heart appeared in January 2016; Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press) and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) appeared in 2013. A Dodge poet, she is published in literary journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. She teaches at the Evergreen Forum in Princeton and at The College of New Jersey. Links to her online work www.loismarieharrod.org
 
 
David Heidenstam grew up in England in the 1950s. Trained as a political scientist, he has worked as a laborer, security guard, editor, sailboat delivery cook/crewman, and warden of backpackers’ hostels in Ireland. In the 1970s he was one of those responsible for the Body books series, which went into 16 languages and in some cultures gave ordinary people access to health and body information for the first time. His website is at davidheidenstam.com
 
 
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.
 
 
Jack Henry is a writer/editor based in Southern California. Recent publications can be found in Raven’s Cage, Horror Sleaze Trash, Red Fez, Rusty Truck, Dope Fiend Daily, Smoking Typewriter, and Fearless, among others. He is also editor of Heroin Love Songs and 1870 Press. A new book, Driving W/Crazy, will be available in the Fall of 2020 from Punk Hostage Press.
 
 
Marcia Hindson lives in County Durham and claims she is a full-time wanderer of woods and daydreams. When awake, she has had pieces published with The Interpreter’s House, Bare Fiction, Obsessed With Pipework, Riggwelter, and Atrium, as well as others. She’s rumoured to have fourteen unruly badgers but only remembers the names of two. She grows pumpkins now but does not wish to become a fairy godmother. Yet.
 
 
Mary Beth Hines lives and writes from her home in Massachusetts. Her work appears in journals such as Crab Orchard Review, Eclectica, Lighten Up Online, Rat’s Ass Review, and Snakeskin Poetry Webzine, among others.
 
 
Christopher Hivner writes from a small town in Pennsylvania surrounded by books (a little bit of everything) and the echoes of music (mostly hard rock/heavy metal and blues). His poetry collection “In the Blood” was recently published by Cyberwit.net. website: www.chrishivner.com, Facebook: Christopher Hivner – Author, Twitter: @Your_screams
 
 
Gil Hoy is a Best of the Net nominated Boston poet who studied poetry at Boston University through its Evergreen program. He previously received a B.A. in Philosophy from BU, an M.A. in Government from Georgetown University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. Hoy wrestled on BU’s wrestling team and finished in second place in the New England University Wrestling Championships his senior year. He served as a Brookline, MA Selectman for 4 terms. Hoy’s poetry has appeared in Tipton Poetry Journal, Chiron Review, Ariel Chart, Right Hand Pointing, Indian Periodical, Rusty Truck, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, The New Verse News, the penmen review, and elsewhere.
 
 
Tim Hunt is the author of four collections: Ticket Stubs & Liner Notes (winner of the 2018 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award), The Tao of Twang and Poem’s Poems & Other Poems (both CW Books), and Fault Lines (The Backwaters Press). Recognitions include The Chester H. Jones National Poetry Prize. His final teaching post was Illinois State University where he was University Professor. He and his wife Susan live in Normal, Illinois. (tahunt.com/poetry)

 
 
James Croal Jackson (he/him/his) is a Filipino-American poet. He has a chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), and recent poems in Sampsonia Way, San Antonio Review, and Pacifica. He edits The Mantle Poetry (themantlepoetry.com) and works in film production in Pittsburgh, PA. (jamescroaljackson.com)
 
 
Matthew King used to teach philosophy at York University in Toronto, and is the author of Heidegger and Happiness. He now lives in what Al Purdy called “the country north of Belleville”, where he walks a rope bridge between the neighbouring mountaintops of philosophy and poetry.
 
 
Maureen Kingston’s poems and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in B O D Y, Akitsu Quarterly, Contemporary Haibun Online, Failed Haiku: A Journal of English Senryu, Gone Lawn, Gyroscope Review, Ink Sweat & Tears, KYSO, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Modern Poetry Quarterly Review, and Star 82 Review. A few of her poems and prose pieces have also been nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart awards.
 
 
Sarah Mackey Kirby is a Kentucky poet and writer. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Connecticut River Review, Impspired, Muddy River Poetry Review, Rat’s Ass Review, Punk Noir, and elsewhere. She holds an M.A. in Teaching and a B.A. in Political Science. She and her husband share their home with a sweet cat and a mischievous Cockapoo.
 
 
Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. His work is forthcoming in Gargoyle, Trampset, The Loch Raven Review, Blue Lake Review and Bull: Men’s Fiction.
 
 
Jennifer Lagier has published eighteen books and in a variety of anthologies and literary magazines, taught with California Poets in the Schools, edits the Monterey Review, helps coordinate Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Recent publications: Harbinger Asylum, The Rockford Review, Syndic Literary Journal, From Everywhere A Little: A Migration Anthology, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, Missing Persons: Reflections on Dementia, Silent Screams: Poetic Journeys Through Addiction and Recovery. Newest books: Camille Mobilizes (FutureCycle Press), Trumped Up Election (Xi Draconis Books), Dystopia Playlist (CyberWit), and Camille Comes Unglued (CyberWit). Forthcoming title: Meditations on Seascapes and Cypress (Blue Light Press).
Website: jlagier.net
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JenniferLagier/
 
 
Richard LeDue was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, but currently lives in Norway House, Manitoba with his wife and son. His poems have appeared in various publications throughout 2019, and more work is forthcoming throughout 2020, including a chapbook from Kelsey Books.
 
 
Mare Leonard lives and works in the Hudson Valley where she is an Associate of the Institute for Writing and Thinking and the MAT programs at Bard College. She has published five chapbooks of poetry and the latest at Finishing Line Press in 2018. She is hoping to find a publisher for a chapbook of Ekphrastic poetry but wants to concentrate on writing poems of resistance.
 
 
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 third chapbook, Falcons, was published July 1, 2020 & now is available through Amazon or direct through his poetry site. See michaellevinpoetry.com and twopianosplayingforlife.org.
 
 
James Lineberger is a retired playwright and screenwriter. 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; B O D Y; Misfit Magazine; and New Ohio Review.
 
 
Fay L. Loomis lives a particularly quiet life in the woods in upstate New York. A member of the Stone Ridge Library Writers, her poetry and prose have appeared in print and online publications, including Peacock Journal, Postcard Poems and Prose, Watershed Review, River Poets Journal, Breath and Shadow, Celestial Musings: Poems Inspired by the Night Sky, and Love Me, Love My Belly.
 
 
Maggie Mackay loves family history, winding it into poems published in print and online journals, one in the award-winning #MeToo anthology, another in a recent George Eliot collection. Others were nominated for The Forward Prize, Best Single Poem with two commended in the Mothers’ Milk Writing Prize. Her pamphlet ‘The Heart of the Run’ is published by Picaroon Poetry. Her full collection ‘A West Coast Psalter’ will appear in early 2021. She is a reviewer for sphinxreview.co.uk/.
 
 
Bob MacKenzie’s poetry has appeared in more than 400 journals including Literary Review of Canada, Dalhousie Review, Windsor Review, and Vallum Magazine. He’s published seven volumes of poetry and his work’s been in numerous anthologies. Bob’s received local and international awards for his writing as well as an Ontario Arts Council grant (literature), Canada Council Grant (performance), and Fellowship for the Summer Literary Seminars in Georgia. With the group Poem de Terre, Bob’s released six albums.
 
 
Giovanni Mangiante is a bi-lingual writer from Lima, Peru. He has work published in Three Rooms Press, Fearsome Critters, The Raven Review, Cajun Mutt Press, Crêpe & Penn, Impspired, Open Minds Quarterly, Necro Magazine, and more. In writing, he found a way to cope with BPD.
 
 
DS Maolalai has been nominated six times for Best of the Net and three times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)
 
 
Doug May recently published a collection (“Songs From The Back Row”) and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is a slow learner with ADD and has worked many jobs, everything from playing in a rock and roll cover band to shelf stocker, delivery driver, janitor and home health aide. Some of his poems have appeared in Raw Art Review, Blinders, Edge, Beloit Poetry Journal and North Dakota Quarterly.
 
 
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 2019 and won a 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Award. He is a seven time Pushcart Prize nominee.
 
 
Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam). Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Poet Lore, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia. www.JoanMazza.com
 
 
Leslie McKay is a Kiwi haijin/ prose poet and writing coach. Her work is published in various journals and anthologies and in 2016 she won the Caselberg International Poetry Prize. She lives in the mountains near the West Coast of the South Island.
 
 
E.V. McLoughlin‘s writing has appeared in Awkward Mermaid, Bangor Literary Journal, the Blue Nib, Rat’s Ass Review, and Wizards in Space. Her poems were longlisted for Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2016 and shortlisted for the Fresher Writing Prize 2017. E.V. loves tea, books, and city lights and lives in Northern Ireland.
 
 
Jason Melvin is a happily married father of three children. He has been writing for years as therapy, the current therapy necessitated by the fact that he’s getting older and his children are leaving to become adults. His work has recently appeared in From Whispers to Roars, The Beatnik Cowboy, and The Closed Eye Open, and is upcoming in The Raw Art Review.
 
 
Mike Mesterton-Gibbons is a Professor Emeritus at Florida State University. He still builds mathematical models of animal behavior. But not teaching means time for writing, especially acrostic sonnets, one of which won the Adult Category of the Southern Shakespeare Company’s 2020 Sonnet Contest. Others have appeared in Light, Lighten Up Online, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily and The Satirist. He also writes limericks, several of which have appeared in Britain’s Daily Mail.
 
 
Cameron Morse was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in 2014. With a 14.6 month life expectancy, he entered the Creative Writing Program at the University of Missouri—Kansas City and, in 2018, graduated with an M.F.A. His poems have been published in numerous magazines, including New Letters, Bridge Eight, Portland Review and South Dakota Review. His first poetry collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. His latest is Baldy (Spartan Press, 2020). He lives with his wife Lili and two children in Independence, Missouri, where he serves as a poetry editor at Harbor Review and the poetry editor at Harbor Editions. For more information, check out his Facebook page or website.
 
 
C.G. Nelson has been an avid reader of poetry since she was thirteen years old. Her first loves were Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe. C.G. Nelson is a new poet. She went to the University of Washington, where she graduated with a degree in English and Philosophy. Find her on Twitter @CGNelsonwrites.
 
 
James B. Nicola’s poetry and prose have appeared in the Antioch, Southwest, Green Mountains, and Atlanta Reviews; Barrow Street; and RAR, garnering one Dana Literary Award, two Willow Review awards, and six Pushcart Prize nominations. His collections are Manhattan Plaza, Stage to Page, Wind in the Cave, Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists, and Quickening: Poems from Before and Beyond (2019). His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice magazine award. sites.google.com/site/jamesbnicola
 
 
From the UK, Mark Niedzwiedz is a professional composer and lyricist, which helps bring rhythm and musicality to his poetry. Lyric writing may pave the way for penning poetry, but Mark is well aware that song lyrics and poetry most of the time are at best distant cousins.
 
 
Mark has his own take on the world and though life is a serious business, his poems are often lightened or darkened with humour. Poetry is a relatively new venture for Mark and with that comes the usual insecurity about whether or not his poems are any good, but publication does wonders for self-doubt!
 
 
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has been published widely and in roughly equal measures in Britain and the USA, appearing regularly in San Pedro River Review, Third Wednesday and Panoply. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee for 2020.
 
 
Sharon Olson is a retired Palo Alto, California librarian who lives in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Her publications include two full-length books of poetry, The Long Night of Flying (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2006) and Will There Be Music? (Cherry Grove Collections, 2019). She is a member of the ensemble group Cool Women Poets. See more information at her blog: https://slopoet.blogspot.com/p/poems.html.
 
 
Basilike Pappa lives and writes in Greece. Her work has appeared on Rat’s Ass Review, Intrinsick, Surreal Poetics, Bones Journal for Contemporary Haiku, Dodging the Rain, Timeless Tales, Visual Verse and Free Verse Revolution.
 
 
A trial lawyer by day, Jon Parsons writes poetry to force meaning, form, grace, and beauty on a world of tumult and confusion.
 
 
Robert Perchan’s poetry chapbooks are Mythic Instinct Afternoon (2005 Poetry West Prize) and Overdressed to Kill (Backwaters Press 2005 Weldon Kees Award). His poetry collection Fluid in Darkness, Frozen in Light won the 1999 Pearl Poetry Prize. His avant-la-lettre flash novel Perchan’s Chorea: Eros and Exile (Watermark Press, Wichita, 1991) was translated into French and published by Quidam Editeurs (Meudon) in 2002. He eats and drinks in Pusan, South Korea. Find him at robertperchan.com.
 
 
Darrell Petska is a retired communications editor, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Besides previously appearing in Rat’s Ass Review, he has published in Muddy River Poetry Review, Chiron Review, Star 82 Review, Verse-Virtual and widely elsewhere (see conservancies.wordpress.com). Forty years a father (eight years a grandfather), and longer as a husband, Darrell lives outside Madison, Wisconsin.
 
 
Writing poetry is Gary Pollard’s unlikely passion. Gary came from a humble background and spent most of his working life in manual work. At the age of 38 years Gary had a change of career, becoming a Support Worker for underprivileged children and this sparked a desire to communicate with wider society via the medium of poetry. In 2019 he published his first poetry collection “The Wandering Lyricist” with Augur Press and his new collection contains poetry from his travels and life experience as a working father.
 
 
Ken Poyner’s collections of brief fictions, Constant Animals, Avenging Cartography, Revenge of the House Hurlers, and Engaging Cattle; and poetry, The Book of Robot and Victims of a Failed Civics, can be located at Amazon, most online booksellers, and through links at www.barkingmoosepress.com. He spent 33 years in information system management, is married to a world record holding female powerlifter, and has a family of several rescue cats and betta fish.
 
 
Cover Artist Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahad is an Indian-Australian artist, poet, and pianist. She is a member of The North Shore Poetry Project. She has been painting and exhibiting for the past twenty years and her paintings can be found in many private collections. She has been widely published in both print and online literary journals and anthologies including Star 82 Review, Otoliths, 3 AM Magazine, and has work forthcoming in Parentheses Journal, Pithead Chapel, and elsewhere.
 
 
Carson Pytell is a poet living in a small town outside Albany, NY whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous venues online and in print. His debut short collection, First-Year (Alien Buddha Press, 2020), and first chapbook, Trail (Guerrilla Genesis Press, 2020), are now available on Amazon.
 
 
Emalisa Rose lives by a shore town which provides much of the inspiration for her art. Much of her poetry writes itself while she is sitting at the beach. She collects shells and enjoys making murals with them. She also creates macrame designs and knits dolls. She is a volunteer at an animal shelter and knits blankets for the cats there. She works part time in a NY middle school as a lunch lady. She has six grandkids and hopes to instill a love for art in their lives.
 
 
Peter Schneider is a poet and psychotherapist who lives in Brooklyn, NY. and Rochester, Vt. His poems have appeared in AMP: The Journal of Digital Literature (Hofstra Univ.); The Buddhist Poetry Review; Mobius: The Journal of Social Change; The Shot-glass Journal; Kairos; Better Than Starbucks; Big Windows Review; Amethyst Review; and in the broadside collection, A Midnight Snack. His debut collection, The Map is Not the Territory was published by Anaphora Literary Press in April 2018. His MFA is from Columbia University and his Ph.D. is in clinical psychology from New York University.
 
 
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.
 
 
Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program in fiction. A native of Idaho, Yash’s work is forthcoming or has been published in WestWard Quarterly, Café Lit, and Ariel Chart, among others.
 
 
Cathryn Shea‘s first full-length poetry collection is “Genealogy Lesson for the Laity” (Unsolicited Press, September 2020). Cathryn’s poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net and appears in New Orleans Review, Typehouse, Tar River Poetry, Rust + Moth, Tinderbox, and elsewhere. See https://www.cathrynshea.com and @cathy_shea on Twitter.
 
 
John Short lives in Liverpool again after many years in southern Europe. Poems and stories have appeared in Rat’s Ass Review, Lamplit Underground, Kissing Dynamite, The Blue Nib, Sarasvati, The Lake, Hobo Camp Review, Poetry Salzburg and Barcelona Ink. His pamphlet Unknown Territory (Black Light Engine Room Press) was published in June. He used to read at open mics in Liverpool, Chester and beyond.
 
 
M. G. Stephens has published 22 books, including the novel The Brooklyn Book of the Dead and the travel memoir Lost in Seoul (Random House, 1990). After living in London for many years (15), he currently lives just north of Chicago.
 
 
Paul Tanner’s been earning minimum wage, and writing about, for 15 years now. No, really. He was shortlisted for the Erbacce 2020 Prize. He didn’t win, but still, it sounds good, dunnit? His latest collection “Shop Talk: Poems for Shop Workers” is published by Penniless Press. His star sign is Libido. Hobbies include bombing, pillage and colouring in. Yeah.
 
 
Paul Telles’s poems have appeared in several print and digital publications, including BoomerLitMag, The Decameron: Tales From the Pandemic, and Children, Churches, and Daddies.
 
 
Elinor Ann Walker holds a Ph.D. in English from UNC-Chapel Hill and is an adjunct professor at University of Maryland Global Campus. Ann’s work appears or is forthcoming in perhappened mag, Mezzo Cammin, Better Than Starbucks, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Whale Road Review, The Ekphrastic Review, and Black Bough Poetry, among others, and in several anthologies. She lives with her husband and three dogs, is the mother of two college-aged sons, and does her best writing outside. Her website is https://elinorannwalker.com.
 
 
Dan Wiencek is a poet, critic and humorist who lives in Portland, Oregon. When not making poems, he writes for a luxury travel company and has walked in the same shoes on the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Serengeti Plains and the Abbey Road crosswalk. Someday he will write a poem about those shoes. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Hypertrophic Literary, New Ohio Review, Timberline Review and other publications. He is currently working on his first collection of poems.
 
 
Simon Williams https://www.simonwilliams.info) has eight published collections, his latest being a co-authored pamphlet with Susan Taylor, The Weather House, (simonwilliams.info/books) which has also toured in performance. Simon was elected The Bard of Exeter in 2013, founded the large-format magazine, The Broadsheet and is currently developing a one-man, science-based poetry show, Cosmic Latte.
 
 
Russel G. Winick began writing poetry at nearly age 65, after concluding a long attorney career. Langston Hughes’ work is his primary inspiration. In addition to Rat’s Ass Review, Mr. Winick’s poems have been selected for publication in The Society Of Classical Poets, Blue Unicorn, Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, Westward Quarterly, Verse Virtual, The Road Not Taken, Sparks of Calliope, and Auroras & Blossoms.
 
 
Robin Wright lives in Southern Indiana. Her work has appeared in Rat’s Ass Review, Ekphrastic Review, Re-side, Panoply, Black Bough Poetry, Spank the Carp, Ariel Chart, and others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her first chapbook, Ready or Not, was recently published by Finishing Line Press.
 
 
Susan J. Wurtzburg is a retired academic (Ph.D., Anthropology), and lives in Hawaii. Yes, she does enjoy the island life. She writes and runs her editing business (Sandy Dog Books LLC), in between water sports, hiking, walking her dog, and socializing online, while she waits for the pandemic to diminish. In a former life, she traveled the world, and explored archaeological sites, but now ventures beyond the island through books.
 
 
Maura Yzmore writes fiction and poetry for fun, equations and code for profit. Her poetry can be found in Neologism Poetry, Back Patio Press, The Daily Drunk, and elsewhere. Website:maurayzmore.com Twitter:@MauraYzmore
 
 

 
 
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Edited by Roderick Bates
 
RAT’S ASS REVIEW WINTER ISSUE 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

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