Winter 2017 Issue


Misunderstood Children by Jennifer Nichole Wells

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Mike Alexander
for Craig Arnold
The night he read at Brazos, we pulled up
to see a wild man with a coffee cup
in one hand, leather jacketed, & bald,
who ranted at the sky, like it had called
his name. We gave this lunatic a wide
berth, as we walked, like saner folk, inside
to get a better seat. We didn’t know it
but that word-ridden nutcase was the poet
we’d come to see. He had his lines by heart,
his patter passionate, his similes smart.
This was salvation after cataclysm,
worthy of the name Romanticism.
I imagine Percy Bysshe would not have cared,
either, who gawked at him as he prepared
to launch himself the length of Adonais,
with preternatural nature as his dais.
Imagine Byron with his fiery limb
out-pacing verse on a volcano’s rim.
Imagine Keats turning to Craig, to bow
& welcome him where he is igneous now.

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Anastasia Andersen

1. Raise your frock consciousness
but avoid grotto postures,
remember your every gesture
is as blood to the flea.
Though the rude yob may reckon your curves
brimming or shy,
remember also straight lines
are too reminiscent of hardship.
Sleep well and return often to the kitchen
to braid your tarts.
2. Gentle your static
and parcel pious tassels in the wardrobe.
Be Sunday in your grays and always
bucket your ash
cheerfully.  Be Tuesday with mutton and ugly
shoes, for the humble
may yet disconcert a prince.
Avoid the road to smut or limerick—
deny such bawdy knits
or nomadic fringe.
3. Neither over-blossom nor weep
when sized in a mirror.
Remember, every blemish warrants a scarf.
Be Saturday, dear, and missionary
in your fractions of skirt,
always princess
in hoop, frame or girdle. Never pose
your grand theories of cleavage
nor extrapolate for a stranger
or you may find yourself wretched
in puffed sleeves and glass slippers,
as the huntsman next door pulls you aside—
tells you to assume the fairytale position.

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Raymond Philip Asaph
On a sidewalk a block north of a Burger King,
the wrapper of a Whopper brings back to mind
the wing of a certain South American butterfly
I witnessed once on one of those nature shows
which redeemed a day of despair when I realized,
right there, in the box of my own living room,
that I was not a prisoner of the limited horizons
of suburbia or bound by the boundaries of my nation,
but something more weightless and twice as free
as that butterfly working a field of wildflowers
or this litter rising at my feet in a gust of truck-wind
and fluttering over the traffic in the breezy fumes.

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Judy Shepps Battle
I’m not standing here with my draft-card ablaze
because I enjoy the heat or the spotlight
or because those of a foreign ideology have
seduced me.
I don’t hold my aching arms aloft for all to see
     because I am convinced the war will end today
     or even in the next one or two years (though I
hope so).
I don’t revel in the smell of my own searing flesh
as the card burns or even enjoy the stares
of audience – be they cops, feds or fellow
I really am scared of 5 years in jail (with or
without a ten thousand dollar fine) for I am
     young and freedom is especially precious to
I stand here, sunbeams dancing on charred remains
     of the card so I can tell my children as well as
     generations yet to be born that
I did not sit silent and ignore this war.

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Clayre Benzadon
You are vertical,
metal-clank right
under jeans’ seam
zipper jingle
twinge morning
crow call
black dress left
on the bedpost
fasten as in idleness
as in long day’s
beginning full
of nothing I know
will become of them
and in bed I miss
the backwards touch,
the trailing,
now only my fingers
track dampened

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Tiffany Lee Brown
Joe met Hef in Chicago, after Mr. King was
shot. I want to ask, Were there bunnies?
But the conversation crumbles in on itself
as poems begin to puff up in every nearby
oven, and poets — some with mitts on, some
without — fling themselves willy-nilly at oven
doors, wailing at the soufflés swelling inside,
forgetting every time how to unlatch the
I met Hef in LA, at the Mansion,
after the Interactive Media Festival.
There were bunnies, mostly furry, roaming
the sweet green lawns, dodging peacocks.
Some were humans, the kind with boobs.
My friend Paul stole a fluffy white bathrobe
from the famed faux-cave hot tub grotto, and
I felt a thrill (the kind an older feminist does
not know how to hold for her former, younger
self, but cannot seem to discard) as the man
himself, the pajama-bedecked pipe smoker who’d
brought me my first porn same as my brother,
who ruled the vintage airwaves in the awe-
inspiring Playboy After Dark, who published my
favorite writers, who reduced women to tits and
rabbit outfits, who infantilized and objectified
women, women, women, but at least saw
them, saw us, women, women, women…
Hef checked me out. He found quickly the
woman beneath the funny hairdo and Doc Marten
boots, inclined his head in an approving way, not
lechy or leering, and I was glad she was still in there,
the regular girl old rich white men might want to
fuck, even though I’d spent my half my twenties
wrapping her in prickly overcoats like a horse
chestnut swallowed by its own sharp green shell,
falling to the sidewalk encased in spikes. I was
A white woman may think these thoughts
at her leisure, over and over, wondering
What This? and What That?, drawing
blood in the master bath mirror. Anything
to avoid the dead, noble Black man. Anything
to avoid the white men with their

“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. Life is
horrible and the Universe is
painful and humans are
cruel and our habitats shouldn’t
overlap so much and—”
— Me, wielding a cast-iron pan,
    to the mouse in the inadequate


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Helen Burke
Yeah.  I reckon that’s how the West was won.
Because Bob says — there ain’t nothing much
doing over where he is.
Apart from a couple of hundred hostages being
held up at the school by terrorists . . . and his
neighbour two doors down just shot his parents
And last night a bear broke into the local
drugstore and killed Old man Geraghty’s dogs.
One was just a puppy.
But other than that,  nothing much has been
happening, in fact he’s never known it to be
So damned quiet.  he wishes it was a bit
Especially for our sakes, so he could at least
tell us about it. So . . . what’s happening with you?
And we say – well Ken next door just bought
some new slippers . . . and the students
upstairs discovered how to eat biscuits late at
night REALLY LOUD you- know what I’m saying.
And us, well we had scones at just gone four
o’clock AND got a new stair carpet.
OMG . . . Bob says.
You Brits with your crazy accent and hysterical
past . . . you can really show US how to do drama,
ain’t that a fact.
And the crazy, wild historical thing is
He  really means it.

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Nicole Byrnside
He kissed me
upside down
like Spider-Man
and Mary Jane
in the movie.
I surrendered
to the mystery
the unknown
as the arms
that held me
squeezed tighter
pulled closer
held firm.
Now he returns
to feed
to drain me
bit by bit
and I remain
wound and bound
from a fire escape
hobbled by his touch
and wonder
how long
I will sustain him.

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Wendy Taylor Carlisle
This is a poem about leaving but aren’t they all?
It begins early, somebody you know dies
in high school — in those years when all life
seems to be alive at once and the future
is a cotyledon in the chest, about to unfurl.
Then Frank dies on his motorcycle.
And the list continues—
cancer, leukemia, heart attacks, lungs wasting
until a person’s arms are only big around
as a five year old’s. Each morning
I am surprised awake by my breath, an accident
happening again at sunrise
but by night I’m officially bored with imagining death,
weary with all these songs about absence.

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Heather Chandler
She met him in the parking lot.
Passions accelerating too fast
to drive off.
Tinted windows shielding her
shoving down her inhibitions,
til they wrapped around her ankles.
Kissing him with both timidity and
boldness, hands shifting and clutching.
Two natures crashing–
Regretting the indulgence,
and regretting the restraint.
Bent over in small quarters,
Her head in his lap, his hands in her hair.
Knees brushing against the shaft,
Urgently tasting both freedom
and chains.
Resignation and sweat gripping
the leather seats,
Washing over them with ecstatic
moans of shame and pleasure.
He’s off.
Closing the door behind him.
She’s facing the rearview mirror,
Flushed, empty, and spinning. 
She watched him pluck the strings.
His fingers running up and down the frets
of her spine,
pulling out notes and moans
from deep within the cavity
of her hollowed out chest.
Apollo’s golden lyre lulling the muses
beyond their sensibilities.
Notes of passion causing a riff
and changing his tune.
Needing space like air.
The Pied Piper’s pitch filling
the acoustics in the room.
The arpeggio escalating and bending
burning the bridge and lacing
the capo around her neck,
causing her to fall flat.
The vibrato measured
in octaves, picked over, and re-tuned.
Dissonance clashing with the metronome
of their progression,
until the blue notes scaled her back
into a solo improvisation.
The smell of leather and whiskey mingled
with the citrus of her fancy margarita.
Her mouth closed around shame and pain,
felt old skeletons wash up against the salt-rimmed edge,
and swallowed.
A silver tongue relaxed by Jose Cuervo.
He traced his finger around his third round of Jameson,
the fragility of the highball glass reminding her
of the danger of throwing stones in a house ready to shatter.
He swirled whiskey into his beer,
gathering strength in numbers.
She ordered another round,
undressing the swirls of truth–
nothing left to hide.
So she finished her drink,
tasted the bitter backwash
of every broken and painful
draft and washed it down.

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Joe Cottonwood
I hitched a midwestern circle
(in 1968 I did these things)
from St. Louis to KC to Des Moines to Chicago
to an alley behind Walton Street
where I found food in garbage cans.
Ugly smoke stank up the air everywhere
while angry voices chopped through the exhaust fan
of a big restaurant kitchen
when I passed out.
Cradled in female arms, female scent, I heard
a voice say “He’s just a kid and he’s sorta dead.”
Opening my eyes I saw bunny ears and the top half
of bulging brown breasts. A name tag said JUDIT.
I mumbled “I’m almost twenty-one.”
Judit said “He ain’t dead yet.” She stood up
dropping me to the bricks
where my head went BAM.
I came to seated on a bucket in the alley
where a man in a smartly tailored trench coat
was standing over me lipping a pipe
like a smug asshole except for
teardrops brimming I thought from the smoke.
He asked what did I think I was doing.
So I told him I’d hitched for two days
wherever the truckers were going and whatever
they’d feed me which wasn’t much.
He seemed to like that answer.
He dabbed his cheeks and eyes with a hanky,
snapped his fingers at a cook
who brought me a sirloin on a big plate while
he kept asking questions and nibbling on the pipe stem as
I told him I was an English major on Spring Break
with a crappy job driving a school bus, no career plans
except I was a writer, and he said
“You mean you want to be an author?”
I said “No, I mean I can’t stop writing
even if I wanted to.”
He seemed to like that answer, too.
“Send me stories that change this shitty world,”
he said, and I asked who he was.
He introduced himself just as Judit with bouncy brown
breasts came out and said he was needed inside,
the police wanted to close the place down.
He gave her butt a squeeze and hurried away.
I asked Judit what was happening and she said
Martin Luther King had been assassinated,
the city was on fire and seeing as how I was white
and kind of naive I’d best get the hell out of town.
“You mean he’s DEAD?” I said.
“Yeah,” she said, “and everybody’s pissed.”
I was still staring at the breasts and she said
“Don’t believe everything you see.”
Judit handed me green money, a few twenties,
“From Hef,” she said.
I said I wanted to stay and talk to her.
She laughed and said “I’m almost thirty-one.”
To get rid of me she wrote a phone number
on an order slip and left me in the alley.
From a Greyhound bus window on the Skyway
paid with Hef’s money I could look back
at flames and smoke like a photo of Berlin
at the end of the war.
Hef didn’t create the ‘Sixties,
he simply ran with it until left behind.
He became a caricature, icky. Fame
can do that. Nobody needed to kill him.
Next time I hitchhiked, I headed west,
San Fran. And stayed.
Once, I called Judit’s number.
A man answered.
“Don’t ever call here again,” he said.

“Oh my god. I killed you for a
—Me to the mouse, just now,
   retrieving the skillet


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Ken Cumberlidge
I caught your gaze —
put it in a jam jar with
the labels slithered off,
wrote ‘GAZE’ in felt-tip on the lid
and snuck it somewhere safe, high on a shelf.
A silly thing to do, I know.  Forgive me.
I was young, in love
and — being in love — afraid:
trying to make provision,
insurance of a kind,
against a time when you might look
and there’d be nothing in your eyes but sight.
Then I’d reach me down the jar,
wash the dust off, hold it up,
let it catch the light:
your image, filtered through the glass.  Pretend.
But now?
The two of us have come so far,
known many changes of address,
lost key after key
and, unsurprisingly
with all the packing and unpacking,
I’ve no idea where it’s ended up
— forgotten maybe, or mislaid?
— in the wrong box?
  anyway…  Astray.
I don’t even know if it still exists.
That is what you were asking, wasn’t it?
— why, nowadays, I spend so much time tidying the attic?
Far beyond the point of no return,
past all reach of aid or intervention,
having hauled the same ragged sledfull
of that-stuff-you-thought-you-needed
for considerably longer and further
than could ever be called sensible,
ear buds embedded and player set to
‘shuffle’ in the hope of taking the edge
off the sheer bloody tedium of the exercise,
and — notwithstanding a lifelong commitment
to vegetarianism — having long since eaten
the last of the Huskies, you find you’ve arrived.
Welcome to the magnetic North Pole of your
life: the place beyond which all further
journeying, regardless of apparent direction,
can only be, at best, a managed retreat.
Your compass needle knows it, too. Hitherto
an unswerving monotheist, impressively certain
of purpose — absolutism’s biggest fan — now it
dawdles sheepish, shocked at its own indecision
and, frankly, embarrassed by the whole thing.
And it is here and now that, in an act of
serendipity so sweet that if your lips weren’t
frozen solid shut you’d laugh out loud, it happens.
For once (indeed, for the only time so far in the
entirety of your journey) the shuffle pixie gets
it right: drops the virtual needle on Chuck Berry
and his trademark Gibson chime.

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Maureen Daniels


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Stephen M. Dickey
Your Dying Breath
You’ve been holding your
dying breath
in one of my alveoli:
that mole of oxygen
slipped through
my blood knot
hardening into
a shard of us,
our old days, cutting
both ways.

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Cat Dixon
We leave the trees and I release
the leash. He wags too closely
to the street, so I call his name.
His head lowers to sniff the grass,
the gravel, the smashed soda can.
No matter where we walk, litter makes
an appearance. It’s pointless
to collect for it multiplies
like the silent days, the mounds
of bills, the lies we tell.
Once I did share the truth,
“I fall in love every few months.”
He didn’t understand that a man
is a discarded fast food sack
on the side of the road. A man
is a broken beer bottle in the street.
When I shove items in a black trash bag,
they bust out and scatter.
Each day my husband and I go for a walk.
Each day when I yank the leash taut,
I’m disappointed that he doesn’t pull away,
that he doesn’t growl in protest,
that he never breaks free.
His arm hair curls up his wrist
to crooked knuckles. As he
slips my panties to my knees,
his thumb and index finger
press against my sweaty clit,
a bloated pineapple slice.
The Honduran maid, who kept
his house and ironed his shirts
for three years, then stole his watch,
tasted like caramel and sweet
onion. Why did you go in
search of plums and peaches
in foreign countries?
I ask.
Darting his eyes to mine, he
inches his mouth from my thighs
and says with wet lips, I ate
star fruit every morning. At
night, I wrote verbose emails
to you that I couldn’t send
due to spotty internet.


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Thomas J. Erickson
In criminal law: Process by which defendant’s attorney is given information by prosecution regarding evidence supporting the charges against his client.
His wife and kids barricaded the backdoor with
a plastic picnic table, a garbage can,
and a grocery cart found off the street
but he busted through and poured
gasoline around the kitchen and
living room and lit a match.
He stopped at a gas station to call 911
but there was no pay phone. The guy
who loaned him his cell phone recognized
him from when they were in jail.
Two of the kids didn’t make it out
of the upstairs bedroom.
The boy was found draped over his little sister.
Sometime after midnight, they dragged
the rapper to the basement and choked
him to death with a chain because
he stole some weed.  They burned
the body in a dumpster.  A garbage
truck dumped the body in a landfill
off Highway 45.
The rapper’s blood was found in
in the basement.  His DNA came
back as female.
No one knew but his parents.
Cuz brought the two little boys up
from Mississippi. Mom was supposed
to come once they got settled
but she stopped answering their calls.
After Cuz’s boyfriend was arrested,
they moved in with Solei.
Cuz tied up the boys so they wouldn’t
run away.  Solei burned them with cigarettes
and beat them with a belt.  No one fed them.
Cuz heard voices and loved to sing them to sleep.
The younger boy stopped breathing.
Cuz took them to the hospital.
The one who lived told the police he loved Cuz.
Maurice told the detectives that he didn’t have
sex with his girlfriend that night and she was
lying about the assault.
A week before the trial, I got a report that his
DNA was in her so…we had a problem.
His first reaction was that there was no way that could
be true because he knew she took a shower.  I told him
he wasn’t OJ and I wasn’t Johnny Cochran and there
was no way the jury wasn’t going to believe they had sex.
Fine, he said, we did have sex but she consented
and we have sex all the time.  Okay, but why did you
lie to the police about it?  I don’t know.   You knew
she took a shower, right?  Yes.  So that’s why you lied?
Yes.  How were you feeling when the detectives told
you she said you raped her?  I was scared.  Why were
you so scared?  Because last year she lied to the police
about me beating her up and they believed her.
So, you’re going to testify that you lied because you
knew she took a shower.  If she hadn’t taken a shower
you would have told the truth but you were scared
because she’s a good liar.  And you would have no
reason to assault her because she was your girlfriend.
Yes, that’s right.
And now we’re ready for trial.

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Frederick Foote
I was cursed before I was even born.
My grandmother told my mother, “Don’t be bringing no black babies up in here.”
When I was born my mother said, “He’s dark, but at least he ain’t black.”
My father said, “He a good-looking boy except for them flapping coffee coolers.”
My sister said, “He too black to be my brother. The hospital must have given us the wrong baby.”
I heard my teacher say, “He sure looks different from his siblings. Mama’s baby daddy’s Maybe.”
My aunt said, “Pinch his nose, so the baby wouldn’t have no Negro nose.”
My best friend said, “Your Mama must have reached back to Africa to get your black ass.”
The girl I like said, “You dark and got bad hair. I could deal with one or the other but not both.”
“My boss told his boss, “I hired him, in part, because he looks like a Negro should. Those others could have been Mexicans or anything.”
My wife said, “You the lightest and brightest one in our family. You know they gonna call me color struck.”
Our daughter, at age twelve, said, “Shit, I’m too dark for the black boys and too light for the white boys. You two really fucked up my life.”
At sixteen she was on the cover of Vogue. She said, “I’m fortunate to be the color du jour. But what about tomorrow?”
She named her daughter, “Tomorrow.”

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Kathy Gee
Usually I’m peach or plum.
Dissect this fragrant flesh
and you’ll find stone,
unbreakable, authentic me.
Today I’m onion, not fruit,
with paper skin that wrinkles
waiting in the basket.
Peel away the rings:
sweet songs of summer
die like unconfirmed belief.
As circles fall apart
protective layers shrivel.
Chop that tiny heart-bud,
I may disappear …

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T. L. Hayes
I’m not femme as fuck; 
I don’t have long hair or nails
and a dress feels like drag.
I’m not femme as fuck;
make-up makes me itch
and I flunked Fashion 101.
I’m not femme as fuck;
the only heels I wear are on the bottom of my Doc’s
and nothing I own has lace.

I’m not even butch as hell,
though you think I am.
What are you afraid of?
What do you think of when I say I’m butch?
Flannel? I own a couple. Grease under my nails and
a misogynist swagger? Not even close.
Are you afraid I’d fight you for dominance,
want to lead while you figured out 
what to do with your hands?

I am somewhere in between;
jeans and tee-shirts are my thing.
Tennis shoes or loafers—I’m all about comfort.
I am somewhere in between;
buzzed hair and men’s cologne,
boxers, if I’m being honest.
I’m somewhere in between;
masculine of center, that’s what
the kids are calling it these days.

I’m not femme as fuck,
butch as hell,
I’m somewhere in between.
You don’t know what to do with me,
and you don’t want to date me.
Trust me, I’m no threat to your masculinity.
But, you do you and I’ll do me;
I’m not femme as fuck
and I’m not who you want me to be.

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Robin Helweg-Larsen
To a boy new-come from some warm elsewhere
with neither frost nor fall in memory,
this new cold night air
smells of salt-grimy metal on ships, of iron railings in the street,
means metal window bars of dorms in which he grieves.
Years later, when that cold night air
reminds him of his childhood,
he will smell it as it is and as his life became,
no longer iron, but
frost on fall leaves.

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Sabrina Hicks
September sits like concrete,
street carnival peppered into ash,
nursery rhymes ringing into memory,
the one where they all fall down.
How many of us were counting leaves
into folds of day? While gravity held,
cradled, smothered, descended,
liquefying steel.
The man in the moon leapt into a
flawless blue, sailing against the Hudson
mid-flight while I waited to hear if
family was alive, and towns purged
fathers, brothers, mothers and sisters.
I picked up dry cleaning from a
husk of a woman, bought eggs from
a grocer with no teeth, listened
to degrees of separation while I dreamt
about Icarus without the fall.
I sit at this wound of earth
shaded under a canopy of trees,
inching out sun and snowfall,
drywall and debris, listening to
fountains recycle seasons.
A man asks for change, laced in anger,
a small girl brushes her hand along
the names, tourists grin like fools into
selfie sticks next to the dead.
I catch the warped city in a mirrored sky
noting distortion, flooded with
diaphanous day, thinking of
ladybug wings, secret under a shell of red,
gifting flight, when the roar of a plane
overhead shudders.
Heads lift with muscle memory.
It was a clear blue day after all
when suits began to stain the sky gray.

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Elisabeth Horan
I need to try and be more attentive, more invested;
more . . of everything which human society values —
You’ll miss me when I go to town. I’ll miss you too —
just not as much as I used to or I’d collapse like
The hollow side of my cheek in profile like a
pumpkin face, hacked open –
I’m afraid.
I need to go to the store. Bananas, cookies, whatever.
I so want to get rid of my stomach. Black hole pit of flab,
it’s disgusting. I want a lap band. I had a C-Section, 2 actually –
I should take a walk today.
It’s just a little windy, and no bugs.
But then there’s Soda Crush and sweatpants. Coffee too.
Gives me heart palpitations.
My goats are asking me about raspberry leaves
and I wonder what it would take to harden my tongue for prickers.
I am too sensitive for all the good things. My tongue was raspier, more
barbed, when I used to smoke Marlboro Lights.
I have to go pick up my Zoloft at CVS now. I was hoping to taper off of
it but I have a headache and I also had bad dreams all night long . . . my
Blood/Brain barrier overflowed, levee broke open
I was missing that NDRI –
I was being pressured into buying
another horse for four hours straight, (felt like it anyway)
And then I followed you around hoping
you would give in and want to have
Sex with me (for what felt like the next three).
You weren’t into it.
Then I realized I overslept and I felt like giving up –
so I figured I better go get my meds, if I am
Not going to spend the day
frolicking with my goats and eating raspberry leaves.

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Robert Hunter
The crow’s hoarse caw,
aggressive and threatening,
too close to the open window,
is echoed by another
in the gray morning mist,
and then another
followed by their conversation
of throaty rattles
and indecipherable clicks.
These are the thieves that murder
and devour the naked
newly hatched chicks
from other birds’ nests.
My discomfort isn’t
their robbing and killing,
or that they are fattened
by the fresh, flattened carrion
of some unlucky opossum or skunk,
pecked off the road
by veinless beaks,
but their comfort in the indistinct
half-light of the morning,
their confidence in what is to come.
Their raw-voiced prophesies.
Some summer mornings
instead of the musical kaleidoscope
and early morning leaf-streaking
of the songbirds
feathering my yard’s trees
and hanging feeders
I’ll wake to several crows yelling obscenities
at each other out on the lawn,
a pack of miscreants
who’ve been out all night drinking:
their arguing
a chainsaw in the dawn.
But right now
a single crow
flaps its big wings once, twice,
slips sideways in flight
through a hail of slanting snow,
this stark beautiful bird
the daring first stroke
of black on a fresh
white canvas.
For Brian Gawlik
There are four inches of snow
on the green hedge outside of your window
that look as perfect as a birthday cake,
behind it
a leafless winter crabapple
holding white line branches.
It’s the first legitimate snow this year–
inevitable in December.
We’ve been waiting
for the onslaught of real winter:
blueblack morning’s cold house
the somber afternoons melding too quickly into night,
the silencing snow.
And somehow, we’re relieved that it has finally begun in earnest.
I know that you’ve been waiting, too,
carrying that secret inevitability in your blood,
the same way Nature promises the return of a season.
And somehow, you must be relieved that it has finally begun —
if only to know that it will end,
the dreadful anticipation over at last.
When you were ready to leave us,
I dreamed that I handed you a silver bowl,
large enough to carry the new infant of yourself into spring.

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Clarissa Jakobsons
The gypsy left for Paris,
my daughter, Marielle, flew to Oakland.
I do not watch DSL or cable.
My cousin, Bill, wears a black Fedora
nothing else.
My father’s blood is in my veins,
his flame burns my hands.
There’s a hole in the wall where I used to live.
Pass the jar.

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Kristine Jepsen
It’s 11:32 pm, and as I write, my dad lies in the next room, dying.
He moans in his sleep, loudly,
pacing his breathing.
An oxygen concentrator cycles in the hallway between us,
a great, deliberate whale, spouting.
The voice moaning is familiar,
as he might punctuate a sentence, or
let out a grunt of surprise.
But his dying is not.
After 14 months embattled by treatment,
he and the preserver of lymphoma round his middle organs have come home,
where we hope his 63-year-old body, strong otherwise, might fail peaceably,
slipping through, 
through into darkness.
He weighs a scant 120 soaking wet.
When he lifts his arm off the bed, conducting a few bars of Wagner, say, the tip of his right thumb kisses tip of
forefinger. I know the release is coming; I watched for it myself, over the rim of my stand in junior high,
where he taught me to align my reed and move air: steady, steady, to the end.
Especially then.
I watch him, and it is my arm waving: and so we compare, side-by-side.
Tapered fingers. Hair just below each knuckle. Downy blonde on freckled sand, over bony landmarks,
as far as the eye can travel, back to my shoulder, his almost-bones, beached.
Our arms drop, back to our sides, and we gaze at what does not compare.
His belly-button is swollen taut across the largest swell of tumor,
the closed mouth of a manta ray. A whole note.
One week ago he walked into a hospital for IV fluids.
Today, he has given up the distance to the bathroom next door
and instead heaves heavily onto a commode beside his bed,
hanging from the neck of whomever comes to his rescue.
He lies splayed on his bed on his back, after, for a minute or more, breathing.
Such is the effort to lurch from sitting to prone,
to kick his legs out, and bring his hands back from odd angles.
The bitch of this is that his brain, already practiced at floating, fires unscathed,
though his morbid sarcasm is losing its edge.
“If it’s there, it’s winning,” he says of the cancer, and
“I love you.” There aren’t many more words for the endgame.
Liquid morphine, that pools briefly in the cheek, without need to swallow, we hope,
is sufficient for him to sail away. “Are you scared?” I asked him, before the slurring started.
His response lapped so gently against anything substantial that I can’t even remember.
Now he can’t say.
The waters circulating beneath his skin, seem burst from their channels
and are beginning to eddy on the lee side, where he lies.
His knee starboard, rises, wavers, falls,
rises, wavers, falls, for reasons lost to the deep.
It seems important to write this, as he is, right now, alive but dying, nearly gone.
I go back to watch, hardly able to keep a hand from shielding my eyes.
One moment, very soon, this small circumstance will vanish forever.

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Jacqueline Jules
A female rabbit rips
the fur from her own belly
to make a nest for her babies.
But once they are born,
blind and naked,
she only visits briefly,
to nurse standing up.
No lying down, no snuggling.
Her kits are better off alone,
hidden from hawks and foxes,
than with a mother who hovers.
Survival is only luck
for those who are hunted.
Still, she rips the fur
from her own belly
to line a nest
she has no power
to protect.

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Tim Kahl
We rode our bikes on the frontage road
to the truck stop, so we could discover
one trucker’s purge, his libido dumped
in a trash barrel. We picked through Playboy,
Penthouse, and an assortment of rubbers in
animal shapes, 8mm films that we held up to
the day’s dying sun. The ten of hearts on
the deck of cards was occupied by Garden
of Eden rejects: the woman a Botticelli type,
the man, graying, a stout block like newscaster
Fahey Flynn. We divvied up the loot,
this the greatest treasure of porn ever
to turn up along the Tri-State.
One guy stashed his under the floorboards
in his room. Another hid his in boxes
in his garage underneath some old paint.
I kept the cards suspended over my heart
in the chest pocket of my little Sunday suit,
tempting me whenever we sang
“Hosanna in the Highest”. I wasn’t sure
what Hosanna meant, but I was pretty certain
that blasphemy was bringing those cards
to church, that if I were found out, the whole
Flynn-Daly-Coleman-and-Frinks Eyewitness
News Team would descend on me and report —
Boy Sings Praise at Worship While Cards in
Pocket Depict Missionary Position. Details at Ten.
I would have to tell all, forced to rat out all my
friends’ hidden caches. Their parents would
whisper to friends, and their friends would chatter
into the distant social circles of the neighborhoods
up north. The origin of the smut would be
disclosed, the story of its migration up the Tri-State
into the suburban flesh analyzed and discussed,
confirming once and for all what
my parents had always thought —
yes, oh yes, this was the city that Daley built.

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Miriam Kramer
On a first date, a stranger
looks me in the eyes
and tells me he needs a home base.
Somewhere he can always return to.
As my pulse races
and synapses rapidly misfire,
all I can manage is
“part of me envies that.”
I already told him
about my tendency to overpack,
I neglected to mention that I live
more comfortably
out of suitcases than drawers,
that having had the same
mailing address for over five years now
continues to be a new concept.
I tell men that I never intend to know
that train tracks make me feel at home,
only to be asked
“wouldn’t that be noisy?”
So I do not tell them
I have sought out
this false connection,
will lay next to them feeling lonesome.
All I have is my inner vagabond
longing for the Doppler Effect
of a train horn.
On nights when I need
the noise outside my mind
to be louder than the noise inside,
all I hear is my heartbeat screaming out rhythms of
“Run, and don’t ever come back.”
I read each “Do not stop on tracks”
sign with reverence, balance beam the steel
with all the significance my tiptoes can muster,
and I do not stop.
I think back to North Carolina,
to the makeshift home,
the tent not quite hidden
in the bushes by the tracks
where I used to go to take photographs.
My accidental trespass
into the entirety of someone’s life.
On a pile of clothes,
pictures of a girl,
of a daughter,
corners torn from nights
spent holding on to her smile.
I could hear her laughter,
I could feel his heartbeat.
Took a crumpled $5 bill from my pocket,
Sharpie scrawled
“You are loved,”
placed it carefully beside his photographs.
The tent was gone a week later
when I went back.
And I think back to Oregon,
nights spent climbing painted boxcars,
hands growing filthy
studying each tag,
unsure of their origin,
falling in love with each artist
through my fingertips.
“I miss you all the time,
I will be home soon”
This message was spray painted
on a wall in Skid Row
by a shaking hand
that would never touch its destination.
Of all the confessions
I’ve traced on men’s backs,
I never dared to spell four letters.
I replaced the H with L,
the M with V.

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Andrew Kuck
We have no word for the piece of land
that an island chief blesses with his ancient hand.
And we cannot name in our English tongue
all the flowers that he scatters on the graves of the young.
Or the boat that he carved, or the house that he built,
or the feeling we no longer have but used to call guilt.
And he has no word for an Air Force plane,
or for battleship or gun or bomb or nuclear rain.
Or leukemia or birth defect or vaporizing heat,
or communist or arms-race-war or monumental feat.
And he wants to say his land was raped by smiling bureaucrats,
but he doesn’t even speak, because he has no word for that.

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Isabelle Lang
I thought the smudges on my palms came
from ink pens, half-formed thoughts, or a Kerouac-
fueled nightmare. I’d been writing again.
The smudges stood out on my pale flesh. Some
as small as freckles, others big like palmetto bugs
crawling across the backs of my hands.
The bloodspecks had dried to brown, tricking my eyes,
smelling of dust and wood. We’d been drinking
again. Jim Beam shards from days ago still
stuck around in the kitchen grout lines. I can see
the finger spasm, the cool glass slipping.
I only noticed these blood spots when
the broom handle stung me when I grabbed it,
glass slivers from the bottle still stuck in my hand
pushing further into my skin. I’d been losing time again.
I swept anyway. Swept those damn rolly caterpillars
right out the back door. There’d been rain again
and they keep squirming in through the cracks, like
the memory of tripping over my graduation gown.
The musty aluminum smell of the stains
stuck around even after I’d washed
my hands, so I gave a citrus scent to the disposal.
Sunk my nail into the soft skin of an orange
to grind it into the air and I could breathe again.
I offered him my thread. I knew he would
hurt you. I knew he would slaughter you
to become the hero everyone wanted
needed. Your hallways now lined with
bones and blood, now lined with bits
of string. My fault. His fault. Your fault.
I did what I had to do to get out of my
father’s house to save myself
to save us all.
But he left me behind. And now I don’t
even have you. I hate him. I hate you.
I hate this place. I will burn this island
and everyone with it. I will chop up the
memory of you and him. I will choke him
with the pieces and my leftover lengths of twine.

He will come back for me.

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Mare Leonard
At Starbucks in Cupertino I order an Iced Coconut Cold Brew.
The blonde woman ahead of me  orders one, Grande.
The young folks all order the same from their mobile apps.
At the pickup station it’s a sea of cold brews.
 The blonde woman turns to ask about post office hours.
“I don’t live around here but I’d guess 8.”
“Do you live in Calif?”
 Yes, in the Hills.
I know that’s code for uber rich,
like I know Tall means medium, Grande huge.
But of course I don’t say “Oh The Los Alto Hills,
you must be uber rich.” I only comment
about it being cool up in the hills
since the beastly heat wave circles
 Silicon Valley. 96 today.
The blond woman says, We have critters, all over.
Critters? I imagine coyotes, mountain lions.
She says, “Rats, tons of rats eating
our car wires. We leave our car hoods open.”

I decide to drive to The Los Altos Hills
with hundreds of Grande Iced Coconut Cold Brews.
Place them around the locked gates
to satisfy the rats, and to congratulate
 myself for calling ahead on my new Starbucks App.

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Nancy Lind
A cruise ship, the Mohawk, was lost off our shores during an unexpected storm. The Coast Guard heroically rescued all aboard minutes before the disaster. Each person had to jump from the ship to the cutter below in high winds and heaving waves, to be caught in the arms of the sailors.  Incredibly, they all landed safely.  Many of the passengers were Swedish immigrants.
— THE MIAMI HERALD, Sept. 15, 1935
it sank. it sank.
they saw it sink, lights drowning one by one.
just-about alive, they shivered on the cutter deck,
clutched the railing.  No one looked away.
on the beach burning flashbulbs, questions.
through chattering teeth, they tried to tell –
their tongues stuck.
dripping, without a comb or a nickel,
they felt a need beyond money –
to plant permanence in this New Land.
two of us would rise from the wreck,
my brother the Olympic swimmer
and me, the Ishmael, left alone to tell.
my legacy is the stateroom key,
jammed in my father’s pocket
when he jumped.
how heavy it lies in my hand

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Paul Lymanson

You got lucky
or maybe shrewd
to knock on our door the morning
I have an early class.
When I return, two cops.
Cara runs to me crying “I was raped and robbed,”
lip swollen, bleeding, eye purple.
The lady above us, Kreptowitz
who is always calling the cops
because our music is too loud
comes down the staircase and says
“I heard the whole thing.”
I ask, “Why didn’t you phone the police?”
Krep says “I couldn’t move with my arthritis”
as she climbs back up the stairs.
You lucky bastard
or maybe shrewd
since with a less evil neighbor you’d be dead.
The cop says, “We want this guy to hang.”
I say, “I don’t.”
The cop glares. Stupid hippies, he’s thinking.
“Just lock him up,” Cara says. “And beat him to shit.”
The cop asks for a description.
Cara says, “BIG.”
Best she can do.
Later the kid from across the hall asks,
“Was he black?”
Cara says, “Does it matter?”
A crime never solved, but resolved for us.
For you? If you’re alive, which I doubt,
after 49 years your hair is gray or gone.
That oversize body would be your enemy as it aged
and more so your hatred of women
would lead you to chances
best not taken.
She is happy, healthy, a grandmother.
How you doing, big fella?

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Tim Mayo
I took my little Ruger Bearcat: a
single-action, 22 caliber, six-shooter,
which left me little time for missing.
The pig was waiting — patiently, I’d say —
in the passenger seat of an abandoned Bug
for his future resting place in the pigdom
of heaven.
I opened the driver’s door — I aimed for the head,
below the ear, where the brain above
and behind the snout masters both body
and soul — in not just pigs but all beings —
and contains in its skull-cup that fluid
and electric potion called fear.
Point blank! My first shot missed
passing low through the fleshy part
of the neck, and the passenger window
as if the high squeals of fear had reached
that note where everything brittle breaks.
Blood spurt
all over the pearly gray of the vinyl cover,
and the pig leapt out the window
now free from its death row seat.
I ran around the car — just in time — as it
managed to scramble to its little pig feet,
and then, I didn’t miss the back of its brain,
where the body and all its possibilities
hung by a thin thread of nerve waiting
for the final message to be received.
And each of its pig legs curled
under in a fetal pose, and I left.

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Jane Miller
The dock is almost under again, its uprights
like faces upturned before vanishing.
Since you died, days press their throttling tide
and each night, darkness pours its panic marbles
underfoot and I walk the house, let myself out
to prowl the sleeping cove and come back
to stand at the refrigerator, searching
in the alien light of its kitchen moon
for solace, but there is only water.
From the icebox, small coffins chill my glass
and a carafe, lipped like my body, dies
of thirst as it drains. I drink and drink,
but there is never enough swallowing
to save me from air.

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Devon Miller-Duggan
Water from the Styx.
Today black in the jar,
yesterday green.
Cerberus fans flames along the shore,
waits for meat to come to him, jaws dripping.
The color of the water tells him
who is meat,
who should pass.
I do not dream.

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Suchoon Mo
the sound of jack hammer
the sound of Adam making love to Eve
she has become a cement block
he does not understand why or how

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Frank Modica
During the day she positioned children
in wheelchairs, changed diapers,
tube-fed kids in a public school
special education classroom.
During the night she worked
as a stripper at a local club
down the street from the school.
The buses passed it every day.
One afternoon she told
the other teacher aides
that she used to slash her arms
with a razor blade,
watch them bleed,
though she didn’t do it anymore.
She wore long sleeves
never talked to the teacher
about the scars that glared under
the shadows of her shirts.
the white page holds
poems in the absence
your life resides
in an empty pen
look outside
the sharpened quill
carve haiku on your
wrists with a sea shell
erase the ink stains
with your bare feet
Good morning blues
and how are you today?
You aren’t nothing
like you used to be.
You mess with me
and I’ll mess with you.
I’m torn down and
it hurts me too.
Look how you got me
standing around.
I won’t go riding around
in your automobile.

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Alice Morris
I see two dozers by the oak — one extending a path,
the other digging away dirt at the tree’s base,
then the bucket is raised and slammed against the largest limb,
with a booming crack it falls
snapping off branches on its way down
and from the car I’m getting weepy over this tree — attacked,
and the light turns green and my mind starts seeing rafts — sinking,
and a child washed ashore, children working on trash heaps,
girls used as sex slaves, then the face of the smiling father
holding his dead twins, unaware they did not survive the chemical attack
and I pull into the dental lot dazed, recline my seat, try to compose,
then hear a child screaming — a boy, maybe six, headed my way,
running full blast, arms thrown back, chest thrust forward–
screaming as though no one else in this world exists,
his mother falling behind, carrying a baby, telling her son — Stop
and just then I want to be that boy, want to run screaming
all my sad-angry-primal-self out — want to run a wild line across this parking lot —
but I’m not allowed, can’t, I’m an adult — and so silently I feel — the breaking

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Euphrates Moss
I sit down to write
But there is nothing to say
I sit down to drink

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John Muth
 Gasping and panting
soaked in sheets of sweat
I climb a mountain trail.
Everyone in my hiking group
is already at the summit
except for me and a trail guide
who clicks the hammer of his Colt Revolver
trying to scare me onwards.
I thought a trip to the West would be fun
get away from traffic and noise
demanding nineteen-year-old students
who think an academic advisor is a private butler.
Evening walks in the park
failed to prepare me.
My hiking pole bends in half and I fall
hit my head on a rock.
Visions begin to appear:
A Crow Medicine Man officiates at my funeral,
refers to me by my Indian name,
Idiot Who Chose The Wrong Vacation.
Students gather around my open casket
ask if they can switch their major
appeal their dismissal
declare a leave of absence.
Some hold out phones
tell me their parents want to complain
my death has been a terrible inconvenience.
They want to speak to my supervisor.
The guide kicks my boot
spits a mouthful of water on my forehead
says his ninety-year-old grandmother
can hike up this trail.
Staggering to my feet
I admit to myself
this is still better than being at work.
She has spider webs tattooed
on the inside of her thighs.
If she likes a guy enough
she might show him
where the black widow lives.
Raven hair dyed red
purple death lips
dark magic acolyte
formerly suburban.
She’s a coffee barista
in the artsy part of town
wants to be an artist
share her pain with the world.
Her mother thinks about
the vampire she made
as she plants mums along the driveway.
How did the girl get to be so wild?
Mom was president of the PTA
has lunch every month
with the girls from her church group
always votes for the family values candidate.
Xanax glides through her bloodstream like koi
as she tries to suppress
a memory of New Year’s Eve
her senior year in college:
the bar crawl with her girlfriends
the garage band guitarist
with the same crooked smile as her daughter.

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Robert Nisbet
After his bereavement (he was young, so young)
they tried to counsel, shore up a consolation,
a family earnestness struggling with his hurt.
One uncle (not the brightest, to be honest)
showed the boy card tricks, as one aunt snapped,
Oh God, how crass, the stupid man.
But Uncle flourished bright celebrities,
the queens, the knaves, the halberds, double heads
(the joker for the moment kept at bay).
The boy’s attention pondered numbly,
gazed at the multi-coloured spread.
Later, in a day or so, he thought about odd puzzles.
He started to muse, still apathetically,
on the tricks and tweaks of cut and deal,
the making magic with the hearts and diamonds.
And all the while, the slow kind uncle.
Above the deck, the warmth of meaning well.
Growing, the peace of the boy’s absorption.

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Sierra Ortega
Living in the post-alt wave.
Glitter nails already chipped,
cracks in my LCD,
subway delays.
A pocket full of molly and nowhere to eat it.
IKEA meatballs,
hairy man balls,
seven half boxes of tampons.
Trapped in Brooklyn
between the whole foods and $800 vintage Louboutins.
No butler but Butler, J.
Quoting lines across the bar.
Bumming vodka sodas with lime
(the unpaid intern way)
from the butch in faded skinnies
who let me taste her.
I had dreams of you being inside me.
Filling me up,
with rocks and sand.
Making me heavy with your body.
Making me solid with your body.
Np bby
Licking my lips
Another photo of my tits
Ur a fucking angel
So sweet
[you saccharine bitch, he thinks,
red tipped, red faced, and needing me]

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Sergio Ortiz
THE EYE, the eye, the eye
— a gift from God —
I wander about
his onyx castle like a ghost,
all ears for assailants
you are
the most powerful
oven on earth
you live in Paris
— almost
7 thousand Km
and yet
you keep me
I was not born to lose
or win.
My life is in nostalgia gone out of style.
Like a friend said
when he got beaten by the police:
This is fucked up.
The world ain’t worth shit.
Better I stay stoned.

The least I could do
is blame it on the energy shortage
the speed of time
or the objective eye of the world
but I know
it is my negligence
that opens and closes the doors
until I surrender
to every
I get tired
of the idiotic pride in being a man.
Wolves can tell the most
magnificent stories about perverse lambs.
Lizards do not know
they live in the Third World,
and pigs
can’t invent bombs.

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Basilike Pappa
Melinda stores memories inside chickens — uncaring birds.
Buys groceries.
Eats. Cleans. Makes a cup of tea.
Sitting by her window she knits long scarves. Hobbies are a good thing.
It all feels like calling home and speaking in a foreign accent, or like a strange cat sitting on her armchair.
Melinda used to have her rooms full of nightingales. Sometimes she flashed them at people.
Well, she is only human.
But counting nightingales before they sing all their songs is a cheater.
It comes as a missed train, as rain inside the brain; as unequal exchange, torn page, minimum wage. It comes as derealization, depersonalization, as minding the gap but still getting your foot stuck in it; as varicose vein, chest pain, not so sweet martha lorraine. It comes as blue, to paint blue the heart; as human factor, x-factor, max factor. It comes as grabbing hands, twisted arms, naked light bulbs; as consumable products, consumable contacts; as dropping leaves, dropping hints, dropping names (even her name has gone out of fashion). It comes as untied love knots, as mispronouncing your deepest thoughts. It comes as leaving, it comes as staying; it comes as anything, as everything.
Some call it fate, say it spreads like butter on a staircase.
Others the biggest joke there is.
One day Melinda didn’t feed her oven.
She took no nonsense from dishes who claim the road to feelings is perplexed.
She gulped down all tendencies to be nice to herself.
First she had a tall drink.
The world was off somewhere, grinning at caged giraffes, taking pictures of quaint cottages or bloodsucking.
Millions of fibers clinging to each other, loop chains growing longer and longer.
Fate was Melinda knitting scarves, pushing the needle with a bruised thumb.
Making a big bad loop, she turned herself into a hanging ornament
while a ladybird was passing outside her window.
Nobody here makes love like this:
with curtains shut against a screaming sun,
minds undone,
fingers fierce or delicate of instance,
hearts unleashed.
Here the sink shines like the surface of virtue
and water boils at a hundred degrees Celcius.
Organic courtesies,
hand-picked apologies,
so much to say on the freshness of a lettuce.
Nobody here makes loves like this:
with skin and soul,
thorns and teeth.
Nobody speaks like a piece of fiction
or in a way that encourages addiction.
“Isn’t it time we had kids?
They’ll modify our traits to perfection.
We’ll put their pictures on the mantelpiece
as proof of our legitimate completion.
All lovely people should have a couple of these.”
Passion is a moment televised,
then dismissed — another neutered wish.
It’s a liaison of legal nature,
a garden of suburban bliss.
Quelle surprise! Nobody here makes love like this.
Because into the woods I’ve been
sticky needs
steaming sins
practicing damage
hammering trouble.
Into the woods I’ve been
veined madnesses
chauvinist letters
ejaculated whimpers
spurting devices
shots of lubricant
senses left to hang as paintings
antidote beds
pillow folklore.
Legs were fuckers — steadfast.
Voice was sucker — saccharine.
Into the woods, can’t say I lied about the wolves; can’t say I told the truth about them either.
Perhaps one day I’ll cry wolf when the wolf is here.

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Darrell Petska
Devil enjoys my cushy bed,
the excess of my table,
my porch swing’s lofty vantage
into neighbor’s tell-all windows
spawning carpool gossip,
smoking on the sly,
playing casino poker while
the boss sits on the john—
Devil on third, none out.
My heavy artillery,
Jesus Mary Joseph,
hasn’t knocked him down.
I’ve sought out hiding places
but always find him waiting
with mischiefs on his lips.
We’ve talked of truces—
a few minutes of rest every hour
my beleaguered mind could stand—
each time he feints toward home
before our pact takes hold.
I’ve given up, he gets to stay.
I mollify his lusts with black
licorice and a modicum of malice
spread about with Twitter.
Devil jigging like he owns me—
he never streaks toward home,
only laughs and taunts, daring me
to throw the goddamn ball.
Nothing seemed possible:
I wrote b when the problem required a,
blocked 6 and 9 from my mind
because I’d heard they were the devil’s,
and tried to improve my lot by praying
to Grandma Lu’s St. Euphrosyne,
a cross-dresser demoted by the Church.
One summer I dated a girl I planned to marry
until I realized I didn’t like girls.
Then the music died, my lottery number in the draft
came up 69, jail sucked, the Fitzgerald sank,
bits and pieces of sky kept falling until I volunteered to take
a potential wonder drug that proved to be a placebo—
everything turned shit in a basket
so I bought a gun to end it all but as I pulled the trigger
I closed my eyes and the bullet merely grazed my scalp.
Catatonia commenced until just last month when
Grandma Lu’s saint appeared and said get up, you dumb fuck,
you poor excuse for a human. Save the world or something.
So I got up to find that nothing’s changed, nothing
still seems possible, though a and b and 69 now seem
to work for me and Grandma Lu’s saint might be on my side.
Can 70 be the new 30? Can I hold up the sky?
Doesn’t seem possible I’m still around,
but here I am, world. Maybe you should tremble about now.

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Lee Ann Pingel
The horse dead now some years,
the fences have come down.
Deer coalesce from the morning mist,
trace their ambling paths as they choose.
Fat nuts in the trees again
shame my fruitlessness.
I watch old men who know a day’s work
snap thick vines from the trees.
Generations made this cropland. Now it rests.
Every week the tractor mows the forest back.
The engine grinds and rumbles in my chest;
I wake thrashing from dreams of turning blades.
But the animal shriek of Now! and Here!
that rose from the woods at dusk
reverberates still in my spine.
A wildness pads into the orchard.
This ground begins to know its mind again.
Convening committees of death
trusting the sure provision
Feasting head-deep in a meal
gorging on the gift
Waking the freshly departed
wearing the purifier’s tonsure
Kettling upward on clouds of warm air
breezily approaching heaven
Spiraling over lakes and fields
cackling over the earth-bound
Settling to roost in the highest place
facing east, the direction of dawn
Greeting the light with wings outstretched
preening in the new sun
Remembering when its feathers were white
long ago, before the fire

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Charley Reay
Are best cast under a full moon
no headlights, no torches.
Stalk silently through swathes
washed the silver of matinees
careful not to leave tell-tale trails
of broken stalks.
Plant your stakes, and unwind
plastic sheathed bundles of cable wire.
Work in from the end of your line,
shuffle your boots to flatten,
overlap circle edges to baffle.
Be gone by dawn.

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Heather Lee Rogers
My angels
lounge on rooftops
drinking blood
from beer steins
lazy drunks with
red-stained teeth
trading lewd caresses
with their soft
and dingy wings.
They give me no thought
dancing helplessly
in my red heels
spinning to nausea
throwing myself again against
the unrelenting beat.
Where are their prayers
to lift and fold me
safe into my bed,
where their sweet songs
to quiet the frenzy
of my wanting?
No, my angels carouse,
pass out after dawn
in a useless pile
of feathers and stale sweat.

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Kerenza Ryan
I wish I saw the dead
(not and the living)
instead of the living.
I wish I saw wisps of leftover lives
like last night’s clam chowder
with no microwave to heat it in.
Maybe then you wouldn’t feel so real
and I wouldn’t be warm blooded.
I practice the taste of your lips
late at night
when the stars are too still;
I can’t even wish for a wish.
It doesn’t quench my thirst
but I can’t help licking chapped lips.

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M. S.

My sanity was bedridden with a raging headache and a raven’s throat. I was in pieces, pacing the floor with questions I already knew the answers to. I felt as responsible as a teenage pregnancy and was fighting the urge to abort the day. The coughing hacked its way through MTV so I took the couch with me to the bathroom and squeezed tubes of paste, waiting for pop lyrics that never came. The second time I called the support group, I asked for their newest pizza toppings. I remembered reading about tea being the latest cure-all and the doctor slash writer made it seem that he was brewing weed. So I served a cup and avoided the eyes of the reclined form. The room was feverish and threatened to puke me out. I reevaluated my decision of having a funeral – if people didn’t have anything nice to say, they wouldn’t say anything at all. I wanted to be buried in a crate so that they could laugh at me being a square even in death. My mom’s call cut off her eulogy. She asked why I wasn’t at work and I told her I was on sick leave. She started using her indoor voice so I left the phone on the table and let her spells fill the air. I entered the musty bedroom and lay upon my sanity; forehead against forehead, interlocking spread-eagled limbs, ignoring the rave of murmurs against my cheek about green tea (not just any tea) being the new miracle drug.


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Emily Schiavone
Like the groundhog fears her shadow
I run from green pickup trucks
–not even the right make or model.
I’ve lost count of how many months of winter.
Red lights, blue lights,
a body on my front porch
alive this time.
I walk a bit faster,
make sure to lock the new bolt on my door
to protect against the threat never spoken
that often passes by my front porch.
Red lights, blue lights
knock on the shadow’s door
and find no body inside.
Growing quite tired of the light
and the sound the bathroom door still makes
scraping past the glue, splinters, and nails
long after I conceded that my gut screamed stop.
Red lights, blue lights
a body parked in a truck outside
watching my front porch.

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Claire Scott
my cheeks burn as she leads me to a table. I bury my face in the menu.
this experiment is definitely
Not Working.
Step One: dolled up   perfume lipstick eyeliner    dinner
at Chez Panisse says Louise Douglas
best selling author of Healing in Three Simple Steps.
I sneak out without ordering. Uber home. put on flannel pajamas.
next day I open the book.
Step Two: allow yourself a good cry. fifteen minutes a day.
no problem. I sob & sob & sob. look at the clock. two hours have passed.
Step Two: Total Failure.
I move on to Step Three: read inspirational verse.
I google: most popular grief quotes.
Come back. Even as a shadow, even as a dream.
Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.
I don’t want a Shadow   a Dream   a Cat   a Tree.
ctrl + alt + delete.
what does Louise Douglas know anyway? I google OkCupid.

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Marsha Segerberg
There’s a Strauss waltz on the radio
as I rush to type these words.
The waltz goes with the dream –
about a floating sofa in blue sky.
I’m waiting in traffic and next to me
on a grassy knoll, sitting on a plush
red sofa is a woman in a frilly
frock, hair in ringlets gathered
by a kerchief, man angled next to her
takes up most of the space, one skinny leg
folded upward on the cushion, the other
dangled languidly over the side.  He taps
on his phone, she smokes a long thin cigarette.
The traffic begins to move.  I look away.
We trundle slowly down the crowded road
just getting up to speed when a red
’50’s T-bird rolls by, top down,
the couple sitting in the front seat.
The car lifts off, gently, silently rises
gets smaller, higher, with the waltz.
It floats peacefully, crystalline sky, puffy
cloud wings on either side. But they are
on their red sofa again, woman smokes
man plays his phone game. The sofa begins
to twirl slowly on its axis, dumps them out.
I think: They are committing suicide —
like Thelma & Louise.
 But they are not
crashing, just bubbles floating downward
with the waltz.  He looks up from his game
she tosses her cigarette.  I watch breathless.
Near the treetops they tumble
into the waiting arms of a leafless tree,
its willowy branches break their fall,
cradle them.  They are saved.
They walk away holding hands, smile
to each other, say nothing.
Just a straight couple joyriding
while the world hums along.
One time I sat in my mother’s lap
because she asked me to.
It felt funny.  Then she said
you’re not very affectionate.
I wondered what that meant
as I tried
not to lean back into her chest.
and some opera singer
chatted with Ed Sullivan
before singing
but I remembered
that time the other day
she threatened to take me
to the orphanage.
I couldn’t hear the aria.
I only heard my eardrums
ringing and worried about
being too heavy on her lap.

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Lacie Semenovich

Dewey Decimal sits outside the Apple store with a sign: Will catalog for hardbound books and paper cuts. Today, the definitions dissolve like snowflakes. We watch the words return to the fabric and cement of objects; analyze chair’s identity crisis of wood, oak, spindles, back, square, seat, legs. Orange is a poem. Hippopotamus is a poem. Bucket sashays his poemness all over the place. Only English majors check out library books. Drugged with dust and dying paper they imagine the audacity of cockroach porn, a chopped and screwed soundtrack of bug lust. Music we do not know still exists despite our ignorance. And the termites tango in the trees, between pages of libraries, chewing through the leaves, but leaving behind the grass growing green.


Dear Brother, you are not a tree. Please, stop growing fruit beneath your skin, crushing your spine’s nerves. Stop cradling pears between your heart and lung. Where will the next fruit appear? Your throat? Your knee? Will you find it when it is still a grape? A strawberry? Next time, will you try to be a vine?


The lemon, not cancer. Not cancer pressing your spine. Perhaps you thought your brain had grown too big for your skull. Perhaps an alien invasion, a failed fact-finding mission from alpha centauri. But the pear. The pear ages us more than any year. Brings death closer than any survived car accident skidding to the roadside.


You fight the remnants of the pearflesh pulled from your chest. Against your Marine instinct, your body weakens to fight. Instead of muscle and bullets, you kneel, hands clasped, head pillowed on cool porcelain. Chemicals run and crawl through the obstacle course of your body. There are no machine guns, no long range grenade launchers, nothing bigger than a needle and ten ounce bags labeled with names long enough to fill missiles.


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John Short
An old photo snapped
in front of that plastic bubble sign,
our first date being the last time
I ate flesh: no more traumatic gristle
and though you were perfection
in heels, a pale silver dress
my carnivorous girlfriend
you persisted with the meat habit
so years later, still together
you criticised me for courgettes,
said at the station I’ve become
too weak to carry your case.

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Paul Smith
“Have a natural”
Ken Graham explained
“In case all your back sights
are wiped out
set up the transit
and get a shot on it”
it should be something fixed
something manmade
that won’t budge
like a chimney
the edge of a building
a bridge abutment
something useful
it was my first week
he also drew on his hand
how we should grade
the slag center of the dike
fairly steep on the back side
less so on the front
on our last week
he yelled at me
when the dike we built reached the
Corps of Engineers lock
in a December blizzard
yelling because my fingers
were frozen and couldn’t
turn the levelling screws
his yelling
did the trick, though
and we resumed placing slag, then cover stone
and he went back in the trailer
both of us sat there
staring at a smokestack a mile away
that stared back at us
in flurries that came down the river

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Alec Solomita
When she bends over, I want to cross her like a bridge,
linger as I pass over her curled feet, over her flattened calves,
freckled manna, nibble the flake-like, honeyed flesh.
Ascend solemnly the call and response of her thighs,
running my hand between like the strains of an organ,
then heavenward toward her buttocks, a psalm of David
cleft by his sorrow over Absalom. And there I rest
in their lament and beauty, and my body responds.
A sigh long and lovely as the Song of Solomon escapes
her mouth. She turns to me, eyes green as infidelity,
lips thick swollen lies until they lift in a smile
simple and sunny as a proverb. I inch up her back
entering her like a rich man through a needle’s narrow eye.
Her arms spread out like crossbars, where I rest my own.
“Heat’s off, stove’s off, got my wallet,
keys, and watch.” Decades passed without
a change. Then came someone named
Gates, then came someone named Jobs,
and latching on them a fat slice of millennial
lemmings. At first, I stood firmly in the
righteous remnant: “I don’t want all that
shite and I don’t need it.” Time passed
as it always does, not a lot of it, just a
few years. Now I’m wedded to my desktop,
shackled to my laptop, bound to my Kindle,
but most of all, I’m a phone-carrying fellow
traveler, addicted to rings and dings and
a surfeit of other sad and useless things.
“But all the stuff you can do!” cry my friends.
“All the apps! You can bank while you drive!”
I’m motoring across the Charles from
Cambridge to Boston when my pants
jangle. I cross lanes as I delve
into my pocket for my cell, almost
eliminating a pair of pedestrians
walking together and texting like
dreamers. I pull over on the bridge,
leave the car running, dig out the phone,
and just as Siri says, “What can I do for you?”
I let it sail, a Hail Mary pass if ever there was one.
The phone floats for a moment on the storied
river then disappears under a skim of sculls.
“App this!” I shout into a suddenly chill
breeze, “You son of a bitch! App this!”
A few seconds pass before I dive in after it.

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David Spicer
Hugh Hefner, 1926-2017
It’s true. Old lecher Hugh Hefner is dead:
the stud who got laid more than Picasso
has met his maker and Her name is God.
He’ll mansplain his high life as Romeo
to the arch broad in charge of true blue heaven
where the angels have wings shaped like round dongs,
and when he talks it won’t be confession –
he’ll compliment God’s golden-glitter thongs.
No. He’ll recite his articles about
music, plus politics – and interviews
with great, beautiful minds that celebrate
the world of randy men loving corkscrews,
and God will welcome him with open wings
slapping him on his mouth until it sings.

“I am unable to look at your
 face, much less extract your
 from the broken trap.
I’ve made you a shroud, for in death
 you will be tasteful and solemn,
 appropriate, mourned. Let us pretend
 it is not a paper towel slung over a
 half bit of cardboard
 from Amazon Prime.”
  –Me to the mouse, en route to the
     garbage can
MOUSE TRILOGY by Tiffany Lee Brown


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M. Stone
The phone rings just before midnight.
Our eyes meet, lead lining our bellies
as you answer and listen to a doctor
with an Appalachian drawl say,
“Your brother is dying.”
This stranger on the line cannot know
how you and your brother almost came
to blows at your father’s funeral.
He cannot fathom that his ailing patient
used to park in front of the family home,
revving his engine and flashing the lights,
unspoken threats to your widowed mother.
You tell the doctor, “Don’t call here again.”
I see relief, a stark sheet, pass over your face.
You will rest well tonight, no longer dreading
a rabid stray at the door.

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Frankie Suzo
I couldn’t have known,
hearing the drawer of your dresser slide out,
that you had a short-barrel pistol
stuffed in a tube sock with
two red stripes around the top,
the upper thicker than the lower.
And it was beyond me to think
the man in the lot outside my office window
had somebody’s body in the blue tarp
he was folding; stepping down its edges
the way you have to do
with that thick blue material.
Who would imagine the mother
smoking a cigarette on the bench by the wooden slides
on the south-side of the park gently
rubbed the pussy of her six-year-old daughter at night in their townhouse,
downstairs, on the green faux-suede sofa in front of the television,
while they waited for her husband, the girl’s father, to make it home.
What the fuck do I know
about a thing?
I knew I was being left
when Corey said she was thinking
of buying a condo.
There was a case;
let’s say instance or incident:
A man killed his six children
and Pretzel, the family dog.
That was in 1978; the man died in 2017.
In Seattle, a woman
massacred six family members from three generations.
It was Christmas Eve.
In a hospital,
six people died.
They had reported nausea, abdominal pain, and shortness of breath 45 minutes into dialysis.
The dialysis machines were sealed off.
Their families received $660 (USD).
In my 20s
I finally started trying to own the
fact my families and closest communities
had at the least neglected me.
A man taught me that neglect
was at least abuse
when I was near forty.

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David M. Taylor
We sat in the lingering silence
of our high school parking lot,
so you could stop the earth from spinning,
force the universe from collapsing
into itself for one more night.
I tried to sober you up
with cold coffee and stale bread,
but you puked up my efforts, creating
a splatter painting on the sidewalk.
You needed to be home before curfew,
before your father got back from the bar
where he visits for salvation
after the graveyard shift at the auto plant.
If you weren’t home before him,
you’d feel his belt in the morning,
come limping to school
like the wounded dog we once saw
in the field by your house.
I knew I’d be blamed for your defiance,
but I was trying to save you
from drowning in your mother’s memory.
How she’d dance in the living room
with a glass of wine and sing Marvin Gaye
while waiting for your father to come home.
And he never got the irony it was a drunk driver
who crushed the steel of her car,
turned it into a tomb that kept her broken body intact
after being suffocated in her own blood.
I wasn’t brave enough to see her at the funeral,
to have my last memory of her cold and still,
or watch your eyes question a benevolent god.
But now I watch you become consumed,
like your father, with brake pads and beer,
try to spit out the grease and hate
in the blurred hours of morning.

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P. C. Vandall
It was never about
whether or not
to eat the grapes
but whether to eat
each one slowly,
letting sweet innards spill
against my lively pink
tongue or take in mouthfuls,
and split skins with my teeth
like sharpened pick-axes.
You did not enter
the equation, till long
after they were gone
and only then
did  I surmise
your indignation,
the furrow of your brows
frowning from your forehead
when fingers reached deep
into the bowl and felt
brown skeletal branches.
I would blame the goblins.
The goblins did it!
The goblins gobbled the grapes.
They also took the cash
from the bedside table,
the car keys, and the wedding
ring you slipped in your pocket.

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Paul Waring
They paint a black coat
on top of fence poles
close to the waterfront
perched, arms behind backs,
stern as schoolmasters
in gowns at assembly
and stare, fearless
in the face of wind
that rages from the Irish Sea
taking turns
to caw strategy
about death in corvid code.
A morning conference
of murderous intent
to find feeding grounds
and share intelligence
about comings and goings
from nearby nests
and the timing of raids
with family and friends
who watch and await
news of opportunities
broken like fresh-baked bread
to feed the agenda of the day.

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Matt Whitfield
a friend of mine told me
that musicians in paris
used to piss out the window during church
because the cathedral bathrooms were
and that passersby would be treated
to a surprise sun shower
on beautiful french spring mornings
when i was a child i used to
stick out my tongue and
taste the rain as it fell
from the sky
now i do not

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Catherine G. Wolf
It’s May 25, my birthday!
My family surprised me by taking me to
the running trail around the lake in Pocantico Hills.
The afternoon sun is glancing off the lake
like a ring of fire. I never knew I loved lakes,
so placid and calm like a Buddhist master.
Whether small, like this one or large as Lake Sunapee,
providing shelter for fuzzy goslings and their parents.
I swam with my father out in Lake Sunapee floating
on our backs as he sung “I’m forever blowing bubbles.”
I didn’t know how much I loved hills, running up them,
me at the end of the pack, we could see the distant town
from the highest cliff, or the glorious rush of adrenaline
cross country skiing downhill.
I didn’t know that I loved snow, sliding down
College Hill on trays purloined from the cafeteria,
the full moon creating diamonds of each snowflake.
Hard to believe each snowflake is unique.
I never knew I loved leaves, crunching brown
beneath my feet like tiny drums, or discarded beer cans.
I don’t like comparing leaves to beer cans.
Or green above me forming a glorious canopy.
I didn’t know how much I loved shadows, long at sunset,
tiny at noon, the length of the shadow proportional
to the cotangent of the sun’s elevation angle from the horizon.
I have a picture of my pregnant daughter’s shadow
tilting towards the shadow of her husband.
I never knew how much I liked meadows, the running trail
bisecting fields of yellow and purple wildflowers.
I sometimes picked a yellow to put in curly red hair.
I didn’t know how I liked fog, smudging edges of
buildings like a Monet painting, making oncoming
headlights into soft glow. I don’t miss driving in fog.
I never knew how many things I loved until I
was in my wheelchair on the trail where I used to run.
A hard rain’s a-gonna fall.
Admit that the waters
around you have grown,
there’s a battle outside
and it’s ragin’.
The times they are a-changin’.
You won’t have a name
when you ride the big airplane.
All they will call you is
There’s a bad moon
on the rise.
I won’t back down.
I’ll stand my ground.
Smile on your brother.
Everybody get together,
try to love one another.
This land is my land.
This land is your land.
Well I’ve got a hammer
and I’ve got a bell.
It’s the hammer of justice.
It’s the bell of freedom.
It’s the song about love
between my brothers and my sisters.
I walk with friends of every nation
on freedom’s highway.

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Stella Wulf

My dear boy, I have been patient, I have not harried or haunted beyond the necessary manifestation to shake you from procrastination, but I have of late a need to know if you are wont to front this show. Are you, or are you not, resolved to execute the plot? Why suffer still, those arrows and slings, come, spread those swift avenging wings, be strong my son, just get a grip, don’t bow to the oppressor’s whip. I know not where, I know not why but resolution’s turned awry, and conscience doth a coward make, why don’t you act for goodness sake? I’m sorry if you think me piqued but frankly I’m a little freaked by what grim forfeit they did earn, poor Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. You blindly slayed Polonius with thrust in haste erroneous, and poor Ophelia’s drownéd – dead. My son, I think you’ve lost your head! You’ve dithered long beyond the joke, it isn’t funny roiling folk, alas, poor Yorick can attest that in the grave there is no jest. All I ask’s a little vengeance, a mere ghost of firm intention, won’t you find the name of action, end this grim dissatisfaction? Save me from this purgatory, give up this damned soliloquy, Is it to be or not to be? That is the question — R.S.V.P


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Mark Young
The macaques’ rabid
caroling kept him
awake on his return
to Europe. He dreamt
of the Americas & the
capuchins’ plainsong.
I have never
liked the last
waltz of The
Last Waltz
, but
the rest of the
movie is magic.

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Sally Zakariya
And then it’s over — the midday darkness lifts,
the moon loses its fiery crown, the sun returns full force.
The same yet different — something has changed.
A few minutes’ suspension of the day’s discord
and we are put in our place, mere spectators for once,
relinquishing our audacious sense of agency and control.
A slim thumbnail of light and millions stand amazed,
humbled, no longer masters of the universe.
A two-minute reprieve, a chance for contemplation,
for reflection, before the world turns on its wounded way.
The ears are smaller, stunted kernels clustered at the tips.
And no more ten for a dollar – the price has gone way up.
Can you live on corn? Lord knows we’ve tried – on the cob,
succotash, relish, fritters – crisp gold worth all the husking.
Butter and salt the taste of sunshine – nibble row on row
playing the corn cob harmonica, music in your mouth.
But as the season thinks about changing, as tomatoes and berries
begin to play hard to find, now we have to think about good-byes.
Good-bye to the dark-tipped silk that ought to be good for something
but isn’t. Good-bye to the sharp crack of the stalk when you snap it.
Good-bye to the sun-hot farmers’ market, to burgers on the grill,
to the daft daydream of summer without end. The calendar says
it’s not fall yet, but the corn says otherwise. The corn says
cooler days are coming, longer nights. Get ready for the end.

A Little About The Poets
Mike Alexander is the author of one full-length poetry collection — Retrograde (2013), & several chapbooks. His work has appeared in Rattle, Measure, Raintown Review, River Styx, & elsewhere. Mike devotes his spare time to Houston Public Poetry, Poetry FIX, an acoustic-electric six-string, & his private hallucinations.
Anastasia Andersen is a Pushcart nominee whose work has appeared in Puerto del Sol,  Southwestern American Literature, and  Poet Lore.  She received her MFA in creative writing from the University of New Mexico (UNM) and teaches poetry workshops through UNM Continuing Education.
Raymond Philip Asaph‘s poems and fiction have appeared in Poetry, Glimmer Train, Tampa Review, Mississippi Review, The Humanist, and elsewhere. Good fortunes have included a Vogelstein grant for poetry, a Stadler undergraduate fellowship to Bucknell University, and a graduate fellowship to NYU. Asaph’s first book, Four Short Stories and Ten Love Poems was published in October of 2017. Off the page, the author goes by “Philip” and can be reached at [email protected].
Judy Shepps Battle has been writing essays and poems long before retiring from being a psychotherapist and sociology professor. She is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. Her poems have been accepted in a variety of publications including Ascent Aspirations; Barnwood Press; Battered Suitcase; Caper Literary Journal; Epiphany Magazine; Joyful; Message in a Bottle Poetry Magazine; Raleigh Review; Rusty Truck; Short, Fast and Deadly; and the Tishman Review.
Clayre Benzadon is a recent graduate of Brandeis University with a B.A in Psychology and Creative Writing. She has been the editor-in-chief for the school’s oldest literary magazine (Laurel Moon) for a year and has also been published by the The Acentos Review, the Merrimack Review, and Triadae Magazine. Additionally, she attended The Ashbery Home School, a week-long writing workshop and conference in Miami, which she attended last year.
Tiffany Lee Brown is a writer & artist living in Sisters, Ore. Her poetry has appeared in Slow Trains, Art Access, and The Human Growth Experiment (Water Line Press), among others. The prose poems of her book A Compendium of Miniatures (Tiger Food Press, 2007) also appeared in the installation “Against the Wall” in the group show Re/Construct, in various multidisciplinary performances, and on a window made by a stained glass artist. She is an editor at Plazm magazine.
Helen Burke is a poet turned artist; her work has exhibited in the UK and France; she currently has an exhibition in Leeds, England. Her art can be seen on and; she designs greeting cards and fabric and likes to work in acrylic, mixed-media, collagraph, and water colour. Helen’s new book, Roman Holiday, is just out this week and is available now from You can check out Helen’s poem When I Was at Woodstock here.
Nicole Byrnside has been a Champaign, IL resident for 21 years, and for about the same amount of time, has worked in an auto salvage/metal recycling facility.  She is a mother of four children ages 5, 8,10 and 16, and am a member of CU Poetry, a writing group that has been an endless source of inspiration and encouragement.  Her fellow Cuppers have assisted in reviving her, pulling her out of a creative coma, and rekindling her desire to write again.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the author of two books and five chapbooks, most recently They Went to the Woods to Play (LoCoFo Chaps, 2017).  See more about her and her work at
Heather Chandler lives in Central Texas where she teaches English and writes poetry and short stories. Her work has appeared in The Avalon Literary Review, Down in the Dirt Magazine, and The Lookout. In her spare time, you can find her in the kitchen making coconut cream pies and drinking coffee.
Joe Cottonwood still works as a carpenter, plumber, and electrician (whatever pays) when knees and shoulder allow. Nights, he writes. He lives in La Honda, California, where he built a house and raised a family under (and at mercy of) giant redwood trees. More at
Birkenhead-born recovering actor Ken Cumberlidge has been writing and performing poetry, songs and stories on and off for 40+ years, during which his work has popped up sporadically in print (SMOKE, Bogg, Ludd’s Mill) and, more recently, online (Algebra of Owls / Allegro / Ink, Sweat & Tears / The Open Mouse / Picaroon / Spilling Cocoa . . . / Strange Poetry / Snakeskin).  Since 2011 he’s been based in Norwich, where he can be seen muttering and gesticulating in the company of an embarrassed-looking dog.  Don’t worry – the dog’s fine.
Maureen Daniels teaches English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where she is also a doctoral fellow in creative writing. She is an editorial assistant for Prairie Schooner and Western American Literature. Her work has recently been published in Sinister Wisdom, Wilde Magazine, Gertrude Press, Third Wednesday and the South Florida Poetry Review.
Stephen M. Dickey has recently published poetry in Asses of Parnassus, The Lyric, The Rotary Dial, Quarterday Review, and Indefinite Space, and a a short story in Word Riot. He has published numerous translations of Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian fiction and poetry including Meša Selimović’s “Death and the Dervish” and Miljenko Jergović’s “The Walnut Mansion.”
Cat Dixon is the author of Eva and Too Heavy to Carry (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016, 2014) and The Book of Levinson and Our End Has Brought the Spring (Finishing Line Press, 2017, 2015). She is the Managing Editor of The Backwaters Press. Her website is
Thomas J. Erickson‘s poems have appeared  in numerous publications. His award-winning chapbook, “The Lawyer Who Died in the Courthouse Bathroom,” was published by Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin Libraries in 2013.  His full length poetry book, “The Biology of Consciousness,” was published this year by Pebblebrook Press.  He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016.   He is an attorney in Milwaukee.
Since 2014 Frederick Foote has published over a hundred-fifty stories and poems including literary, science fiction, fables, and horror genres. Frederick has published two short story collections, For the Sake of Soul, (2015) and Crossroads Encounters, (2016).
Kathy Gee lives in Worcestershire, UK. She works in museums and heritage. Widely published online and on paper, in 2016 her first collection – Book of Bones – was published by V. Press and she wrote the spoken word elements for a contemporary choral piece –
T. L. Hayes has two novels published through Bold Strokes Books, A Class Act and Sweet Boy and Wild One, and her third will be out next fall. You can also find her short stories published through Sapphire Books. She resides in Springfield, Illinois. Find her on Facebook or at
Robin Helweg-Larsen‘s poetry has mostly been published in the UK (Ambit, Snakeskin, etc), but also in The Lyric, The Hypertexts, The Rotary Dial, the Phoenix Rising sonnet anthology, etc. British-born but Bahamas-raised, he lives in his home town of Governor’s Harbour on Eleuthera. For more of Robin’s work in Rat’s Ass Review, check out the Spring/Summer 2016 and 2017 issues, the Love & Ensuing Madness collection, and the Such an Ugly Time collection.
Sabrina Hicks lives in the Southwest. She was the Grand Prize winner of the Writer’s Digest 85th Annual Writing Competition for her fiction. Her work has appeared in Gyroscope Review, Spelk Fiction, Panoply, and Poetry Breakfast.
Elisabeth Horan is a poet mother and teacher living in Vermont. Her work has recently been featured at Dying Dahlia Review and Quail Bell Magazine. She has work upcoming at Algebra of Owls and Midnight Lane Boutique. She spends time with her three beautiful horses, Deuce, Flynn and Copper for therapy. Follow @ehoranpoet and [email protected].
Rob Hunter‘s collection of poems, September Swim, was published by Spoon River Poetry Press. His poems have appeared in Poet Lore, The Oddville Press, Timberline Review, Sleet, Wild Violet, Straight Forward Poetry, The Blueline Anthology, and others. In 2013 he was a featured writer at Hartwick College’s New American Writers Festival. In 2012 he was an editor of Birchsong, an Anthology of Vermont Poetry. He has been teaching high school English since 1991.
A former art professor remarked that Clarissa Jakobsons‘ sketchbooks look more like poetry than paintings. Who would have guessed this observation accurately predicted her current direction? Artist, poet, and instructor, Clarissa weaves one-of-a kind artist books exhibited internationally. Don’t be surprised to see her inner artist kicking sandcastles, climbing Mount Diablo, painting Provincetown dunes, or writing poems under an Ohio crescent moon.
Kristine Jepsen is a writer and farm business owner in Northeast Iowa whose work appears in the Driftless Region’s Inspire(d) Magazine. She’s writing a memoir about founding a Midwestern grass-fed beef company, a project that earned a spot in the AWP Writer-to-Writer mentorship program. She is also a 2017 finalist in the Personal Essay competition at Proximity Magazine and the winner of the Diana Woods Memorial Award in Creative Nonfiction, with the journal Lunch Ticket.
Jacqueline Jules is the author of three chapbooks,  Field Trip to the Museum, (Finishing Line Press), Stronger Than Cleopatra (ELJ Publications), and Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String, winner of the 2016 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize from Evening Street Press.  Her poetry has appeared in over 100 publications including Rat’s Ass Review, Glass,  Beltway Poetry, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Gargoyle,  and Connecticut River Review. She is also the author of forty books for young readers. Visit her online at
Tim Kahl ( is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books, 2009), The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012) and The String of Islands (Dink, 2015). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Drunken Boat, Mad Hatters’ Review, Indiana Review, Metazen, Ninth Letter, Sein und Werden, Notre Dame Review, The Really System, Konundrum Engine Literary Magazine, The Journal, The Volta, Parthenon West Review, Caliban and many other journals in the U.S. He is also editor of Clade Song ( He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. He also has a public installation in Sacramento {In Scarcity We Bare The Teeth}. He plays flutes, guitars, ukuleles, charangos and cavaquinhos. He currently teaches at California State University, Sacramento, where he sings lieder while walking on campus between classes.

Miriam Kramer studied Creative Writing at Pacific University, and works at a local bookstore. Her work has been published in The Rising Phoenix Review. She lives in Bound Brook, NJ, with her faucet obsessed cat, Ernie. Miriam has recited her poetry to friends and strangers in parking lots and coffee shops all over the country. She is overly sentimental, regularly rescuing items from other peoples’ garbage.
Andrew Kuck was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan. After graduating from college, he spent a year teaching science in the Marshall Islands. He now teaches high school mathematics in the United States, but his poetry and prose continue to be influenced by the time he spent on that small collection of coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean.
Isabelle Lang recently received a Masters degree in English Literature from Mississippi State University, and is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Nevada-Reno where she also teaches Composition. Her work has recently appeared in The Pittsburgh Poetry Review.
Mare Leonard has published chapbooks at 2River, Pudding House, Antrim House Press and RedOchreLit. Her poetry has appeared in The Naugatuck Review, Hubbub, Cloudbank, The Chronogram, Earth’s Daughter, Ilya’s Honey and most recently in A Rat’s Ass Review, Perfume River, The Courtship of Wind, New Verse News,  Bindweed, Forage and the New Independents. In 2017, she won First Finalist in  the NY State Di Biase Poetry Contest. She lives in an old school house overlooking the Rondout Creek in Kingston, NY. Away from her own personal blackboard, she teaches writing workshops for all ages through the Institute for Writing and Thinking and the MAT program at Bard College.
A recent transplant from New York, Nancy Lind is a retired professor of English literature and a lifetime Dickensian.  Nancy currently resides in Pasadena, CA where she has been active in regional poetry groups and events. She has been nominated for the Pushcart  prize. Most recently Nancy’s poems have been published in Impulse, Ibis Head, Three Quarters Journal, the Journal of Modern Poetry’s 2016 Protest edition and both the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Altadena Poetry Review.
Paul Lymanson lives quietly in a forest. He has no academic credentials.
Tim Mayo‘s second collection, Thesaurus of Separation (Phoenicia Publishing, 2016), was a finalist for the 2017 Montaigne Medal and a 2017 poetry category finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award. Among the many places his poems and reviews have appeared are Avatar Review, Barrow Street, Narrative Magazine, Poetry International, Poet Lore, Salamander, Web Del Sol Review of Books, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. He is a six time Pushcart Prize Nominee.
Jane Miller‘s poetry has appeared in the Iron Horse Literary Review, Summerset Review, cahoodaloodaling, Watershed Review, Mojave River Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and Broadkill Review among others. She has been nominated for Best News Poets, Best of the Net and was a finalist in the 2017 Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Contest. She received a 2014 Individual Artist Fellowship in poetry from the Delaware Division of the Arts and lives in Wilmington, DE.
Devon Miller-Duggan has published poems in Rattle, Shenandoah, Margie, Christianity and Literature, Gargoyle. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Delaware. Her books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall (2008), Neither Prayer, Nor Bird (2013), Alphabet Year, (2017).
Suchoon Mo is a retired academic living in the semiarid part of Colorado. He composes music and writes poems. Some of them appear in literary and cultural publications.
Frank C. Modica is a retired public school special education teacher living in Urbana, Illinois. He taught special education for 34 years. Since his retirement from teaching he volunteers with several arts and social service organizations in his community. He writes poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. His work has appeared in Black Heart Magazine, The Tishman Review, Crab Fat Literary Magazine, Pegasus and FewerThan500.
Alice Morris comes to writing with a background in art – published in a West Virginia textbook and The New York Art Review. Her poems appear in The Broadkill Review, Delaware Beach Life, Silver Birch Press, The Avocet, The Weekly Avocet, The White Space – Selected Poems. Poems are also published in collections, anthologized in Ice Cream Poems, The Way to My Heart, Rehoboth Reimagined, and Bared. She lives in Delaware with her husband and Sammy, their cat.
Euphrates Moss has been writing since age 3. He has published various sketches in the Jibsheet, a weekly newspaper published at Bellevue Community College. He graduated from Bellevue Community College with an A.A. Degree in Spring 2007 and from Seattle University with a B.A. in English/Creative Writing in 2011. Don’t hold that against him, though. His current book of poems is titled Telos and Other Psychographs.
John David Muth was born and raised in central New Jersey. For the last seventeen years, he have been an academic advisor for Rutgers University. The main focus of his poetry is satire, particularly romantic relationships and modern values. Some of his poems have appeared in San Pedro River Review, Verse-Virtual, and US 1 Worksheets. His second collection, Inevitable Carbon (Aldrich Press), was published this year and can be found on
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who taught English in high schools for over 30 years, and creative writing at college level for a further 12. His poems have been published widely in Britain and the USA, including San Pedro River Review, Constellations and Verse-Virtual.
 Sierra Ortega is an emerging multi-disciplinary performance artist/poet living and working in Brooklyn, NY. They received an MA in performance studies from New York University in 2016 and an MA in rhetorical studies from Hofstra University in 2015. Their poetry has been published in Alphanumeric and their self-published chapbook anxious erotic is forthcoming. Follow them on Instagram @sierra_o.
Sergio A. Ortiz is the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. 2nd place in the 2016 Ramón Ataz annual poetry competition, sponsored by Alaire Publishing House. He is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.
Basilike Pappa lives in Greece, where she teaches English and smokes a cigarette after the lessons. Her flash fiction has appeared in Life & Art Magazine and Intrinsick, and her poetry in Rat’s Ass Review, Surreal Poetics and Bones – Journal for Contemporary Haiku. Places she can be found are: office, living-room, kitchen, garden, down by the river, up on the hills. Her work can be seen on
Darrell Petska‘s writing has appeared in Red Paint Hill, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Chiron Review, Rat’s Ass Review: Such an Ugly Time, Bird’s Thumb and elsewhere (see conservancies.wordpress,com). Darrell worked for many years as communications editor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, leaving finally to focus on his own writing and his family. He lives in Middleton, Wisconsin.
Lee Ann Pingel lives in Athens, Georgia, where she owns Expert Eye Editing. Previously she served as editor for the University of Georgia’s Department of Independent and Distance Learning. She holds degrees in creative writing, political science, and religion. Her work has been published in Motif 2: Come What May from Motes Books and Crossing Lines from Main Street Rag, as well as in Rascal, Pink Panther Magazine, Hobo Camp Review, The Fib Review, Plainsongs, and other journals.
Charley Reay is a Newcastle based writer from the Lincolnshire Fens.  Their poems are published by Obsessed With Pipework, Ink, Sweat & Tears, and Three Drops press among others.  Charley also performs on the North East spoken word scene.
Heather Lee Rogers compulsively tells stories as a writer and an actor in NYC.  In addition to proudly appearing here in Rat’s Ass’s Love and Ensuing Madness section, her poems have also been read in the following printed and online publications: Harbinger Asylum, Here Comes Everyone (UK), Leopardskin & Limes, El Portal  S/Tick, Waterways, Adanna Literary Journal, Jersey Devil Press and the Kaaterskill Basin Lit Journal. More of her work can be read at
Kerenza Ryan is a student at Cairn University studying English. Her work has been published in Corvus Review, Peeking Cat Poetry, Poetry Quarterly, and other literary journals. She can be found writing about writing on twitter @KerenzaRyan, or working her way through college in Bristol, PA.
M. S. writes like she almost means it. She lives in Mumbai, India.
Emily Schiavone grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and is currently an assistant professor of Physics and Engineering at Viterbo University. She has published poetry in The Naga.
Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has been nominated twice for the  Pushcart Prize. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.
Marsha Segerberg is a newly retired scientist and educator, doctorate in neuroscience, whose dogs have all passed away and has adopted poetry instead of getting new pets.  She attends weekly and monthly writing groups, the weekly one called COW (Collective of Writers) and we have t-shirts.
Born in the Appalachian foothills of southern Ohio, Lacie Semenovich now lives and writes in the greater Cleveland area. She enjoys hiking with her husband and dog. Her poetry has appeared in Barrelhouse,
Zygote in My Coffee, MOBIUS, Kansas City Voices, Eunoia Review, Quail Bell Magazine, and other journals. She is the author of a chapbook, Legacies (Finishing Line Press, 2012).
John Short was born in Liverpool, studied at Leeds University and then spent some years in Europe doing a number of jobs. His stories and poems have been published in Britain, Spain, France and the USA, most recently in Prole, Ink Sweat and Tears, Frogmore Papers and The French Literary Review. He reads on Vintage Radio, Birkenhead and at The Dead Good Poets and The Liver Bards in Liverpool.
Paul Smith lives near Chicago, writes fiction & poetry. He is a civil engineer who has worked many years in the construction racket, and sometimes likes to write about that. Other times he writes about the people he has met. And at other times he just waits for something to happen. he has been published in Gravel, Clementine, OYEZ, Rat’s Ass Review, and other publications.
Alec Solomita‘s fiction has appeared in, among other publications, The Mississippi Review, Southwest Review and The Adirondack Review. He’s published poetry in Literary Orphans, MockingHeart Review, Rat’s Ass Review, and elsewhere. His poetry chapbook, DO NOT FORSAKE ME, was published by Finishing Line Press in October. He lives in Massachusetts.
David Spicer has had poems in Chiron Review, The New Verse News, Alcatraz, Gargoyle, Easy Street, Third Wednesday, Reed Magazine, Santa Clara Review, Rat’s Ass Review, Midnight Lane Boutique, Ploughshares, The American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. The author of Everybody Has a Story and five chapbooks, he’s the former editor of raccoon, Outlaw, and Ion Books. His latest chapbook is From the Limbs of a Pear Tree, available from Flutter Press.
M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer who writes poetry while living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bop Dead City, SOFTBLOW, Calamus Journal, and numerous other print and online journals. She can be reached at 
Frankie Suzo is the nom de guerre of a writer who wishes the war didn’t exist.
David M. Taylor teaches at a community college in St. Louis, MO. His work has appeared in various magazines including Rising Phoenix Review, Trailer Park Quarterly, and Anthology, as well as upcoming in Misfit Magazine and Burnt Pine Magazine. He also has three poetry chapbooks – M&Ms and Other Insignificant Poems, Two Cobras in a Ritual Dance, and Life’s Ramblings.
P. C. Vandall is the author of three collections of poetry: “Something from Nothing,” (Writing Knights Press) “Woodwinds” (Lipstick Press) and “Matrimonial Cake” (Red Dashboard). Her next book of poetry is forthcoming from Oolichan Books.
Paul Waring is a retired clinical psychologist who once designed menswear and was a singer/songwriter in several Liverpool bands. His poems have been published in various poetry journals and sites including Clear Poetry, The Open Mouse, Amaryllis, The Lampeter Review, Reach Poetry, Foxglove Journal, Scrittura Magazine and Eunoia Review. His blog is
An introspective, introverted empath, bursting with anxiety and 90s kid nostalgia, Cover Artist Jennifer Nichole Wells creates images full of desolation, malcontent and longing by transforming her hand-built miniature tableaus through her camera lens. Her images draw influence from her midwestern roots and Florida youth. Jennifer graduated from the University of North Florida in the Spring of 2013 with a Bachelors of Fine Art, concentration in Photography, and minors in Art History and Professional Education. She resides in Jacksonville, FL with her boyfriend and cat.
Matt Whitfield lives in Toronto, Canada, where he is a professional musician and sometimes writer. He specializes in avant-garde musical presentations and otherwise unusual performance art. Visit or contact him at or at [email protected]
In 1996, when Catherine G. Wolf was stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease, her ability to speak was taken away by the disease. She found poetry had a special capability to express her innermost feelings. By losing her physical voice, she found her poetic voice. She has published poems in Bellevue Literary Review, Rat’s Ass Review, Love & Ensuing Madness and Front Porch Review. She writes with assistive technology, and types by raising her right eyebrow.
Stella Wulf lives in South West France. Her work has been widely published both in print and online. Publications include, Obsessed With Pipework, The High Window, Raum, Prole, Ink Sweat & Tears, and many others. Her poems have also appeared in several anthologies including, The Very Best of 52, three drops from a cauldron, and the Clear Poetry Anthology. She has an MA in Creative Writing, from Lancaster University.
Mark Young lives in North Queensland, Australia, & has been publishing poetry for almost sixty years. His work has been widely anthologized, & his essays & poetry translated into a number of languages. He is the author of over forty books, primarily text poetry but also including speculative fiction, vispo, & art history. A limited edition chapbook, A Few Geographies, was recently released by One Sentence Poems as the initial offering in their new range.
Sally Zakariya‘s poems have appeared in more than 60 print and online journals and won prizes from Poetry Virginia and the Virginia Writers Club. She is the author, most recently, of When You Escape (Five Oaks Press, 2016), as well as Insectomania (2013) and Arithmetic and other verses (2011), and the editor of a poetry anthology, Joys of the Table (2015). Zakariya blogs at

Edited by Roderick Bates




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