(Cover Art Somewhere Far Away by Andrea Damic)
those ice blue irises
along that picket fence
were deeded, and duly recorded
in florid script upon a yellowed page
in some buckram bound folio
smelling of mold–no–
They were planted by a hand
long since departed; they flourish in neglect,
and serve no greater purpose
than to entice a passing lover
to filch a fistful for his sweetheart–
No crime there be,
but to let them grow in vain.
THE POET’S SECRETS
It’s late, Li Po, but I’ve some questions,
as the moon rises behind a veil of mist,
shapely, yet demure: How did her silvery light
guide your pen? And—if I may dare to ask—
how many lovers did your verses win you?
Were any of them married? Were any wealthy?
And, who—please tell me—who—
was your favorite? Did she ride you,
with her robe loosely tied
round her pale, plump belly,
‘til she blushed like the strawberry moon?
I beg you, Li Po—share your secrets with me.
Cook a luscious love-making meal —
spicy arugula salad
crispy semolina bread
w/ extra-extra virgin olive oil
in gold-rimmed crystal.
I’ll light candles around three white roses
catch the wick of your desire, reflect it back
in the secret dark of my eyes.
I’ll fingertip you upstairs
to my bed, strip you down,
kiss you back up to lips, breathe
and let go in the spin, losing time,
old pain, fear
to be born child-wonderful again
in middle-age, to play on like this.
to the end.
Exe Dog Walk
The tide’s as far out as it goes on the Exe.
My scrap of a terrier races off,
a blur of rust and pink tongue panting after a gull.
The salty tang of the water fills me up,
chases mussels and ancient crab down my throat.
I walk, the dog sprints, sniffs, scrapes himself
along the base of the red cliff, rolls giddily in something.
My phone’s back at the cottage, it’s just me and him,
squinting as afternoon sun plays on far Exmouth.
Vonnegut invented a phrase for just this occasion,
not look at the state of you George, more like
if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.
WHAT I’VE KILLED
Ants: With impunity, boric acid, Windex and Raid.
Asparagus: Forgetfulness, distraction, and lack of water.
Catfish heads: Garbage disposal, because they kept breathing.
Rattlesnakes: Hoe, shovel, hoe, hoe, shovel.
Centipede: The shoe it was hiding in.
Mice: Traps, Warfarin spread in the kitchen,
in the bedroom, between the ears of the stuffed deer head.
Gophers: As many as drowned after I stuck a hose
into their wandering underground castle
cranked on the water and walked away.
Trout: Bashing its head on a rock
while thinking of my then boyfriend.
Frog: Pithed in Biology class
by sticking a needle through the base
of its skull. Crickets, mosquitos,
beetles, crab grass. A marriage.
Needful, tiger fearful, come kneel
at the circle. Feed her your stories
and bring her back to life.
If you stir her ashes,
blow her coals red;
If you prop branch and page
to tunnel light and air;
If you can bear burned fingers,
stinging eyes and sparks on thighs;
You will be almost safe, almost warm, almost ready
to drift away with them in the smoke
Rose Mary Boehm
NOT STAYING FOR LUNCH
Walking up that hill
near the Cypriot village
where Dimitris’ mother was born,
we had to pause often, out of breath.
The old, shriveled Maria–nobody knew
her real age– black dress, black apron,
black scarf, who had seen her family
go one by one, came towards us,
light as a goat, almost skipping
alongside us those last twenty meters.
When she kissed me I shivered.
Her watery eyes almost disappeared
under sagging lids, her mouth
had fallen into itself, her smile
a black hole. Dimitris’ head
buried between her sagging breasts
for a moment of remembrance.
A brown chicken hurried past
but not fast enough to escape
Maria’s nimble move and firm grip.
The chicken’s neck in her hand
she asked us, ‘You stay for lunch?’
Dimitris shook his head.
Maria’s fingers opened.
John F. Browning
TALL, GRAY MULE
the gray cost a ship’s-worth, but was worth it
plowing and carting will be repayment plenty
not so many things nor not so many creatures
give reward like this strong-hearted beast
in trade for a bride the mule brought its due
productive and profitable beyond a thin girl
should I save steadfast and quickly enough
I will buy another to multiply the gray’s worth
rugged farm animals whose never-ending work
gives us life less harsh than a down-trod bride
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
When pressed in the rooms of AA
to name my Higher Power
I say “physics,” sure that
if I drop an egg
it will fall like a feather
but now that a team of chemists
can unboil eggs.
I know physics
to be as reversible as love
which I thought
was irreversible three times.
When an egg boils,
its proteins twist around one another
as lovers twist before they unravel
but they do unravel
because if you reverse all parts of a system
with fights and silence and sulk
the scrambled will unscramble
boiled become raw again. Eggs
as part of our physical world,
remember what they were
as I reclaimed myself after every dissolution,
understood sobriety after each slip,
knowing the physical
can run both ways, knowing it’s one
of the higher powers of physics.
Susan Michele Coronel
MY MOTHER’S WORDS
On Mondays she hid all the wine bottles
before leaving for work, told me to rip
another page from a stack of letters
from old lovers that she’d saved
in a tin canister under the bed. She made
no promises about loving another,
or having loved better before. Often
I was sad to see what became
of the tear-streaked paper,
which I deposited in the garbage
under potato peels & orange rinds.
I’d always wondered what her life
would’ve been like if she was not
herself, but the shadow of an old song.
While she was away, my best friend & I
filled wine glasses with ginger ale
on the kitchen floor, laughed so hard
we snorted bubbles. She returned with
a waxy bag of Italian cookies
& I wondered if one of her lovers
was Italian, or if the sweetness shared
in crumbs compensated for the happiness
she couldn’t find in my father. In old photos,
her eyebrows were penciled over
like the curve in a cat’s claws, with the backdrop
of a mansion, mountains & a swirl of gray mist.
Some words in the letters I’d destroyed: please,
joy, yesterday, shaking, raindrops, never.
I wondered what she was like before she met
my father, a sparrow with a berry clenched
in its teeth, the aftermath of words that
didn’t match the things they represented.
Sometimes she’d sit on the front steps
& look away from the house, count
how many seconds the train was from
the station. As the train pulled away,
she sat with eyes closed
& palms open. She moved her lips
as if she forgot how to speak
but she knew all the words.
RIGHT BEFORE YOU LEAVE HIM, YOU FIND UNEXPECTED THINGS
Unopened packages of 300-thread sheets, a camera
that photographs bubble gum as it grazes teeth.
A pair of crutches, streaks of sandy hair wrapped
around a turntable needle. A framed goatee
that once belonged to Frank Zappa, a pewter
jewelry box loaded with tarnished skeleton keys,
burgundy cowboy boots stuffed with dirt & tufts
of grass. A lipstick embedded in a block of ice.
A broken strand of pearls. A chipped mug filled
with white rice, a harmonica, a wilting sunflower.
A stack of yellowed sheet music that spills on
the floor like spinning leaves, scattering
what you used to sing together. These things
carried you along as you made offerings from
nothing – an apple, a prayer, a faucet pealing with
voices that repeat no, no & no like banjo music,
like steam escaping from a radiator, or the broken
car radio you refuse to fix because it reminds
you of his hands, how they turned the dial when
it worked, how they grasped the heft of the wheel.
When I stripped my bed this morning
I remembered that February morning in Key West
you lurking in the bathroom door
while I was brushing my teeth.
You said, “I’ve lost you.”
Don’t be silly,
It’s all in your imagination.
Keep your voice down.
Our son is in the next room.
The truth is, you were right.
I never told you about the night
before the wedding
when I scrawled
Daisy change her mine
Daisy change her mine
Daisy change her mine
over and again in my journal,
drunk as a skunk,
head sunk in my white wicker wastebasket.
But they pried me out of bed,
propped and preened me,
fed me coffee and a smelly onion bagel,
stuck a bouquet of roses, baby’s breath
and gardenias in my hands,
and I said I do, I do.
I wipe the granite counters clean,
toss stained throw rugs into the wash.
Tear down the tinsel and tree,
plastic pine needles stuck to my bare soles.
Guilt piled high at the snowy curb
alongside Amazon boxes,
plastic bags filled with wrapping paper,
and tattered shiny bows.
The landfill and incinerator await.
SHE AWAKES FEELING LIGHT-HEADED
as if the vacuum inside a blaring bulb,
stands up and promptly falls face-forward
bonks her head on a potted ficus,
breaks the pot
spilling water from the tray beneath
and she sprawls in potty muck
smelling fertile and dark
but then she can walk
so he hauls her to Stanford Emergency
where they bring electrodes for her chest.
She says to the tech
Just a warning, no bra
so you won’t be surprised
because sometimes they are
and knowing these are not
the breasts men envy.
A single doctor
then a team of 3 doctors a couple nurses
a blood draw a CT scan
concluding not stroke but an inner ear thing
and an unspoken sense of
What do you expect —
You’re old people.
Return home, a day gone
eat crab cakes for dinner
wine for her, a beer for him
then on the flat screen
they watch a screwball comedy
as rain pounds the window
and they go to bed
above a fertile dark scent from the floor.
Lying down makes her feel
light-headed again without brain mass.
Mortal she says
but safe on flannel sheets
as they chat in the night holding hands
she at her need her desire
he at his workmanlike erection
play a familiar game
slowly the old-people way
slightly dizzy but she smiles
stretches her flawed but precious body
until they sleep curled like kittens
trusting or at least hoping
tomorrow to wake.
IN A BIRDCALL FOREST
of slanted morning sun
orange on shaggy trunks of redwood
my dog Doc comes to my side
asks for his leash
asks with eyes, with a sit and a little wag,
so I leash him
and at that moment see ahead
the magnificent rump
powerful legs and tawny tail
of a puma leaping away from us
into deeper forest
For a moment
Long ago reaching
a high Sierra lake
weary with backpack
I happened upon
a skinny-dip woman
making a surface dive
in crispy blue water
nature stuns you
He had a Coutts bank account and a double-barrelled name.
Thin, always immaculate, smelling faintly of cologne,
his unapologetic mix of ironic camp and studied
inconspicuousness somehow evaded the same bullies
I spent so much time amusing to save my pimpled skin.
His was exquisite. Like the grace with which he walked
those neo-Gothic corridors, barged aside by the Iron Lady’s
future bankers and well-spoken wide boys, or ignored by
the pearl-strung, upturned collars of the sixth form’s
Tatler girls ruling their rarity’s hormone-rich demesne.
Speaking to him never tiptoed beyond my conflictions
and his laugh delicately negotiating that shared
awareness of what the world outside thought went on
within our spired halls – which ensured the secret
beatings given for any transgression of our code.
The finespun glide that hid him in plain sight
never once afforded me a sign – no guarded bid
or gossamer hint woven into life’s fabricated ways,
threading those days back to the searching night
where I lie, sleepless, beside my third wife.
He said his wife wept
as they walked down the aisle
lined by beds at the Children’s Home
in Ethiopia, there to adopt.
Row after row of smiling or tearful faces.
Her eyes locked on those of a small child.
She turned to him and gushed:
“This is our daughter!”
When my wife and I drove to Indiana
for a dog rescue, row after row
of cages with pleading eyes,
she said their eyes locked
and Butter became our precious pet.
Where would adoptees
end up if eyes had not locked?
I say a prayer for the children
and the dogs who did not
Decades later, I can still feel our uneasy silence
as we drove the frozen roads, still sense our dread
that the old VW bus might break down (again)
before we dropped the man off, still remember his face—
hard and unsmiling, the surprised look when he noticed
us, two scared little girls in the back seat—and I know
somehow our presence saved all of us from harm
in the bitter cold, somewhere in northern Scandinavia.
EXCERPTS FROM A CLERI-WHO’S WHO
combined poetry with jazz and blues
managing to sound spectacular
writing operatic arias in vernacular.
got rich double-timin’
being paid twice for every page:
once for the screen and once for the stage.
I like to remember David
digging a fire pit with one
of those folding shovels
while I pitched the tent
for the nineteenth night in a row.
How he cooked a stew
of kidney beans, carrots
and wieners over flames
that rose from the core
of the earth and how the tent
billowed like a parachute.
To be honest, I was tired
of sleeping with him every night
in the tent or the Torino, or
the one time in a farmer’s barn
who woke us with a shotgun.
And he grew tired of me constantly
looking for a discothèque.
He warmed milk in a saucepan
while I poured the last of our
Tia Maria into it, a nightly ritual
before turning in which could
have been 9 or midnight or 2AM
depending on how far we drove.
I sipped the warm drink. A coyote’s
howl was like the moan of a
distant train. My brother howled back,
then laughed at his echo.
He was eighteen. The blur of stars
across the Wyoming sky
was so dense he wondered
if we couldn’t just walk to heaven.
THE MYSTERIOUS BIRTH OF ENDANGERED SPECIES
A girl was born to parents who belonged to a race of giants. As the baby grew, so did the size of her appetite, until the parents couldn’t feed her anymore if they wanted to have food for themselves. Early one morning they rowed the baby out to sea in a canoe and dropped her overboard, but she wouldn’t sink and grabbed onto the boat. The parents chopped at her fingers with hunting knives. The sea seethed as one little finger after another plopped into the water, transforming into a creature – a seal, a walrus, a whale. “What have you learned?” the children’s librarian asks, not unkindly. Nothing is ever the way they tell it.
As animals go,
the cow plays dumb.
The bovines in the field
nibble on grass from dawn until dusk.
They accept the bargain.
Chew the cud, fill the udders,
and avoid the blade.
They may even earn themselves
a session or two with the resident bull.
And then there’s time off for pregnancy,
birth, a little child-raising,
before it’s back to the safety
of the dairy farm routine
And if the calf is a female,
she will soon join the herd.
And if it’s a male…
well, as animals go,
the cow plays even dumber.
WORK FOR FOOD
Rain, heavy at times.
It threatens to swamp
the man out on the sidewalk,
waving his sign,
“Will work for food.”
First his sign will go,
then his ragged clothes,
then his rumpled skin,
his tired bone,
all washed away,
down the gutter, the drain.
could run in out of it,
find an awning,
but his only want
is to eat,
his only way of getting it
doesn’t fit into the equation.
So he holds his sign
over his head
“Will work for food
PS Will stand in rain
if I have to.”
Pazuzu was never the devil
just another chump
with his dick in the dirt
another fuck boi
the power always came from us
you put a pedophile in the ground
not on a stage
and before you know it
he’s talking in the voice of your mother
worrying the preacher
it’s when you start pretending
something can’t be killed
that it can’t be killed
is nothing but piss
SIMULATING THE PAST
In the far future, humans gone from Earth,
now disembodied as self-structured flows
of energy and information, woes
of the unknown replacing old Death, Birth
and even Copulation; when a dearth
of physical experience bestows
rich glamor on ideas of Nature’s shows –
sunset, moon rise, trees, seas–the planet’s worth…
they’ll lust after these days we suffer through,
marveling at the rich chaotic times,
enthralled by nearing immortality
while planetary destruction loomed in view.
Wrapping themselves in simulated climes,
they think them us… Are they?… We’re them?… Maybe!
Demonic nurses, finding little sin,
all leave my bedside. Doctor Death comes in.
He looks around, “I’m only here
To get a rough sense of the atmosphere. ”
“Please, don’t get up…”
He sits. “Not healing with your usual speed,
Eh, you young pup?
You’ve got a few years left still, don’t you worry.
Take all the time you need.
I’m in no hurry.”
A WALK AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD
There’s necessity as well as penance
in underdressing for this cold—
the stomach and jitters for not eating
so late. The feet grow thumbs inside
of the sneakers, each hilly step a beach
sucking air, clawing the sidewalk
into sand. So long as conversation’s
not deep—How’s business? What’s your dog’s
name? Think we got a shot at the playoffs?—
it will be enough like shades in
Hades to forget life’s seriousness.
This is how we like each other:
at crossroads without their Faustian pacts,
devils having left their costumes at home.
THE JOY IN LIFE
Somewhere, an old couple cannot believe
they’ve lived long enough to welcome their first
and a butterfly lands on
a discarded dildo sticking out the top
corner of a teeming dumpster
like a hitchhiker’s thumb.
Mary Beth Hines
Thin gold band thinning
as my mother-in-law once
warned it would with age,
unfurling her fingers,
opening her palm to bare
the crisscross, the streaming
rivulets—heart line, head line,
life line, shadow-veined wrist
and glint of gilt spooled
like a last silky saffron strand
around her finger, three decades
of marriage, three of widowhood,
exhorting me to learn from her,
claws closing, to forgo
the delicate token, demand
the tungsten carbide band.
THE WAY OF RELIGION
Old man in a churchyard
scrubbing memories from off
of the stones a network
of soap suds tracing a path
between the holly bushes
the sky above as blue as Mexico
and from inside a dark enclosure
the rippling notes of a caustic
piano deep within the edgy
gloom no windows to illuminate
the mopped clean flagstones
that share the blood of longing
darkness now falling as liquid
as virtue lost in a fungal mystery
even the trees are curious
intent upon the slide of silk
and nylon your robes askew
exposing again life’s provenance.
My brother, at seven years old,
could build a livable tree fort
to rival anything Frank Lloyd
might have attempted at that age.
I was two years older than him,
a bully and a victim myself
of cruel and distant bullies.
It never occurred to me to escape.
In the river bottoms behind our house
My brother piled scraps of lumber, nails,
fencing and useful dumpster finds
until his mind and hands formed it all
into a fortress high enough to impress,
too high for adults to safely reach.
With makeshift hammers, flat stones really,
he pounded pillaged bent nails flatter,
built a platform, raised walls, leaned a roof.
And one day, when I tried to assert
what had always been my dominance,
I was shown the doorway with no door,
chased forever from his safest space
that he had easily built without me.
More upsetting than that, though, was
realizing it was, in part, built with me in mind
I dropped from the branch, my limbs flailing,
and scratched my left arm from elbow to wrist
on a punji-stick-of-a-nail set just so at the edge
of the floor joist, meant to keep monsters at bay.
What to do now about the scar between us?
Mine runs the length of my forearm, still visible.
The pale red trench dividing bully from brother,
though time has smoothed it some, runs deeper.
Trish Lindsey Jaggers
CALLING ALL MOMMAS
Like a blue marble, the sky rolled
out of sight. Pavement pressed
into view. I think of the last thing
I’d love to see
before I close my eyes,
before I draw my last breath.
Doesn’t matter how you spell it.
Reach for her, even with your hands zip-tied
behind your back.
Say her name.
Say her name.
Calling all Mommas—not just the birthers—
the ones up at night,
the ones spit-cleaning blood to see
how bad the cut really is,
the ones who would wipe off that wound
and pour it scalding over our own flesh,
and own the scars, too,
because that’s what we mommas do.
Even if we can’t,
they call us,
BEATING A DEAD HORSE OR WAKING THE DEAD? I DON’T KNOW, SO YOU TELL ME
I just couldn’t do it.
It took a breath, stretched
its ribs, and I could see it see me
through its lashes; life, or what mimics
life, trembled the length of its chestnut hide,
more of a quake, really, like it was wakened
trying to shake off a fly
that lit at this most inopportune time,
the way flies always fucking do,
in the middle of the night
when sleep finally arrives
on the redeye—a nod towards both
sleep-deprived eyes and early morning’s joke
of a “new day,” red and yellow’s past argument
over tangerine’s present tense,
call it a promise, one I should look forward to,
leave my night for—and then, just as the mist clears
in front of a dream I’m about to dream,
along comes Dickinson’s fly.
And of all the surfaces in that room,
an amalgamation of acres
of choice landing strips in the damned room,
my nose, of course, lifts,
rises to the occasion, creates a short
fly runway in the disappearing dark.
A dream never dreamt burns just outside the window
the fly gave up on.
And this fly that needs death, spoilage, to reproduce,
checks me out against the blood orange
of morning wedging through my blinds,
and chooses me to go down first.
emerging from a dusty gray van
still covered in a thin film of the world we came from
cumin-scented and woven to each other
walked into Merritt Island tackle shops
next to weathered men who had been turned by the sun into
colors which we didn’t know how to be
ate boiled peanuts on coastal highways
Looked out over the shadow of a jetty at the silent stars
And called it home
The perfume of gardenias
wafts through the corner windows
behind my father’s red leather chair
with the fat, round armrests
where I would stretch out
across his lap
as he read to me.
Albert N. Katz
SNAPSHOT OF SOMEONE I ONCE KNEW
you I remember well
still feel guilty
now and then
and I remember the day
I snapped it
bright blue sky
you posed outside the cafe
on a low wall
with that sardonic smile
you carried around
like a backpack
but I don’t remember
and can’t tell from the picture
whether you were angry
or merely bored
at that moment
I was so much the coward
That I took you to neutral ground
a Chinese restaurant
where I knew you wouldn’t
start screaming at me
when I told you
that I had just started sleeping
with someone else
but here I misjudged
as I have done so many times
because you screamed
and put in one or two jabs
abut how shitty I was
I would like to think
that if I called you today
we’d get a good laugh about it
but it’s been 50-odd years
and I am still too much the coward
Jennifer Leigh Kiefer
WHEN I FIND LOVE
When I find love
I don’t want a firework;
I want the whole show.
I want to feel the delight
each burst of light
and sound brings.
The surprise and joy
when there is something new.
The shaking at my core
when it becomes almost too much.
The story they tell as they come
different from moment to moment
and second to second.
Fast and slow,
big and small,
high and low.
The anticipation of more to come.
More and more and more.
Suddenly faster, brighter, louder, and then…
I want to know when it’s over.
like a dark sky,
And like a firework show,
I want to clap.
I want to applaud each incredible moment,
each sensational kiss.
I want to cheer for each good memory,
and each great night.
And then I want to turn away,
from where there is nothing left
but a cloud of smoke,
slowly dissipating into the night,
to see a wide-open sky
full of glimmering stars.
Almost more beautiful,
as they remind from light years away,
that there could be a million more worlds out there,
just like this one,
or maybe better.
After a fireworks display,
we could talk about how short it was
or how we didn’t want it to end.
But we always walk away smiling,
a leftover glow still in our eyes.
When I find love…
I want it to end like that.
“Then all smiles stopped together.” (Robert Browning)
he’s with the others down the hall
you’re welcome to take a look
perhaps he hangs a little crooked
I had to locate the stud myself
after he rummaged through my bag
and pawned my mother’s wedding ring
came home with flowers and a grin
a tiny sack of powder
I nailed him naked to the wall
where I have let him hang since then
look how he still struggles and see
how his eyes both turn to me
in feeble hope and supplication
as he hangs and moans
but come with me a bit further along
admire the muscle tone the fists
the angry scowl on the next one’s face
he loved to issue threats and blows
note the way he squirms and bleeds
where thorns of roses prick his flesh
Carol Parris Krauss
Deadnettle has grown over the river rocks edging
the garden. No one has tended to our yard
since the last freeze. Deep under the pine needles,
storm twigs, and dried leaves– a city thrives. Bumblebees,
luna moths, and swallowtail butterflies go about their
business of overwintering.
Saturday morning, late December. The new neighbor edges
and mows. Rakes, burns leaves, and tidies up his yard.
The motor whirls. Wings, larvae, and tiny legs shredded
before the new year begins. Pieces of spring expunged
months before spring comes to the Tidewater.
FOR UNTO US
We had Christmas last night. One full week
after December 25.
The first night we were all home at the same time.
This is a hobbled
house. Multi-generational. One daughter, a mom,
Five cats, two dogs. A ghost. Doors opening, closing.
Not a TV sitcom family.
Better. A puzzle carefully picked and purchased at the dollar store.
Each piece examined.
Moved close, snapped into place. Snug.
And then complete.
WHAT THE DEAD CAN USE
My sister wanted to slip
the gold ring with diamond chips
back on my dead mother’s finger,
or was it her pearl necklace,
or charm bracelet?
What I remember
is it was shiny, something of value.
The rabbi on guard at my mother’s coffin,
admonished my sister
who was just about to dress
the dead with jewels.
Doing his job, the rabbi
advised my sister to keep
the ring as an heirloom
having no worth to those in a coffin.
But, when the mourners turned their backs,
my grief-stricken sister secretly slipped
the ring onto our mother’s ghostly finger.
Seven years gone,
I imagine mother’s bones
dried and crumbled to dust,
but still on her brittle ring finger,
a gold band strewn
with diamonds shines,
still of use.
A MOVIE STAR’S NAME
Sometimes being an animal is easier
than being human
because then you don’t think
about what’s in the sausage,
who’s judging the obedience
of your tamed grey hair,
or why the faded walls
are lonelier than a cage,
and even naked bodies don’t have to hide
under blankets, pretending love
doesn’t need to make a sound,
until you moan a movie star’s name
at the worst moment,
but then you do the humane thing,
letting silence ravage both of you,
forgetting the difference
between firecrackers and gunshots.
Fay L. Loomis
heart peeled open with grief
never to tarry again
struggle up the mountain
take the smooth path round
be dazzled by hawk on linden tree
shutter senses to tendrils of beauty
two eyes to see
one eye to know
YOU HEAR SOME WEIRD SHIT AT THE PUB
There was this posh bloke Kubla Khan, the guy said,
built this huge kind of theme park, like, but
all underground, like the Circle Line,
with this river right through the middle,
called Alf, fuxxake, what a name for a river,
but hey, I’m only telling you
what the guy said.
And humungous, this place was: I mean
like you couldn’t see from one end of it
to the other – ten mile long, he said.
All sorts of attractions – you know, the usual
theme-park stuff: towers, gardens, flowers, forests,
ghostly voices, a sort of Eco-Disney, eh. The best bit
was this like gorge, a chasm he called it,
some kind of geyser crossed with a volcano,
huge great rocks dancing in the air – that’s what he said –
like one of those fantasy games. Awesome.
There was loads more of this – a big dome
full of sunlight, but with ice caves –
how did they manage that?
Some African singer-songwriter playing a thing
like a guitar but not really a guitar, yeah?
The guy that told me all this, though,
I won’t lie to you, I think he was off his face
when he saw it; kept babbling on about melons
and Paradise, wanted to build another place like it,
only up in the air, fuxxake. Any road,
I kept out of his way after that. He was a bit weird.
Always had his nose in a book.
HOWLS THROWN AT A MOON GONE FIFTY YEARS
our little pack
in the middle of the street all
spokeshave splinters from the same stick
half a century still ahead of each of us
in the street we threw your regulation football
the first time I ever touched a pointy egg
but I never learned how to make it spiral
and later heard he’d gotten a big dog
the kind everyone thought looked mean
the kind you didn’t want any trouble with
and then we sank into our different seas
the way a toothpick might circle the world
pushed by the wind without a pilot
a blue dog collared him with iron
to a place where concrete devours sound
where indifference is harder than ironwood
then the year of the ground glass cough,
breaks and enters from cell to cell to cell
the spiked microspiral no one can see
is it an exit from life in a state pound
or transport on top of a sentence to where it’s
more mysterious and more silent?
by now I think I should know but years
have worn down the stump of certainty
here we run routes looking to just get free
but in the end fifty years is a short leash
that might have a mean old dog at the end
for me and you and you
and me without a stick
(the poet at age 15)
Teased and sprayed stiff, cone-shaped, five inches high
for special occasions: high school concerts,
my grandparents’ fiftieth. The era
when women of a certain class had their
hair done every week, sat under dryers
thundering in their ears. Sculpted coifs
of creative genius invited turns
and stares. How carefully we slept to make
those designs last the week.
And now my hair
thins, falling at the usual rate
but never growing back. Space between
follicles increases each week— the way
toward baldness. A fact of aging. One more
reality I dislike but can’t change.
I’m wearing hats and scarves, have returned
to wearing makeup. Look into my eyes.
Forget the crowning glory of my hair.
Gaze through our soul windows. I’m still here.
INTERVIEW WITH A SHADOW
What are your thoughts on the dark?
It’s always evening in my mind.
I dwell within the hollows of the earth.
I sing of temperance and justice.
Where do you go in the night?
Our kind follow the spider’s path.
We live between the minutes.
We await patiently dawn’s rank blushes.
Describe a shadow’s philosophy.
We live in a thin country.
Our work is cast upon other ways and worlds.
Our souls are of many mansions.
Tell us more about your life.
I am a shard of midnight.
A stepchild of the light,
I favour the candle and dance with the fire.
Sleeping Duck or The Art of Collaboration
A chunk of clay
cold in my teenage hands
they work independent of thought
as the brain has yet to make a decision
An oval body, long neck
start to emerge
my thumb smooths out a beak
more goose than duck
but I take this opportunity
to run around the classroom
shove it in my classmate’s faces
and quack loudly
A friend asks to see
my fetal creation
Upon placing my fine art in his hands
he slams it to the linoleum floor
It lays on its side, flattened
its neck candy-caned
back into its smooth abdomen
Another classmate proclaims
I think you killed it
I assure him it’s just sleeping
I scoop it up
being sure not to disturb its form
All silliness forgotten
I concentrate on its completion
etch a wing, attach two webbed feet
bake in the kiln fire
wash it a ghostly white
watered-down orange on its beak and feet
I name it Sleeping Duck
goose would’ve made more sense
I got an A
Karla Linn Merrifield
This poem does not want
to be about your death sentence.
It’s only known you a year,
loved you half as long.
Now, only a handful of seasons remain.
This poem does not want
to traffic in facts coldly encountered
in the Cleveland Clinic’s extensive tract
on end-stage liver disease.
It refuses to employ medicine’s lexicon.
And it’s hesitant to modify my eyes with lachrymose
or alight upon the yellowing page of your face.
Instead it slides off on a tangent of denial
to pleasure itself in the hospice of fantasy,
breathing the aroma of rosemary and crying out
on the crest of inspiration’s remembrances:
Oh, Muse, oh Muse, oh Muse,
Give me this again before you die.
The Fool is my icon; I shall not want.
It maketh of me a simulacrum of autumnal womanhood;
it leadeth me to see myself in storm surge.
Fool breaketh my soul; Fool leadeth my spirit on paths
of disappointment for its laughter’s sake.
Yea, tho’ I walketh through the valley of the shadow
of thy death, I fear thee; for thou art with me;
thy mind and they heart mock me.
Thou preparest a bed before me
in the presence of ineffable pleasures;
thou annointest my psalm with love’s oil of bitter herbs;
my smile withers up.
Assuredly, ignominy and disenchantment
shall follow us both all the days of our lives,
but it is I who will dwell in the house of the Fool forever.
A WOMAN’S TRUTH
You may earn degrees – BA, MA, JD MD, PhD –
may learn to speak a dozen languages, pilot jets,
deliver babies, administer life-saving vaccines,
rescue the unjustly accused from lethal injections.
You may paint stunning seascapes, write dramatic
novels of dystopian futures, memorize the periodic
table, cure cancer, weave magnificent blankets,
draft legislation, build kitchen cabinets, pour cement.
You may keep a well-appointed home, raise
children who are a credit to your community,
teach first graders to read and write, extinguish
fires, rescue the drowning, comfort the dying.
And then one day in your 20s, your 30s, hell,
even your 50s, the truth will hit you like a
bullet in your brow, that your worth among so
many men is measured by the size of your tits.
James B. Nicola
CORONER LATE FOR HIS
LAST DAY ON THE JOB
Either he’s dead or
my watch has stopped
I had dozed off in bed when a ticking in my fading
consciousness warned it was late and I’d better wake
up and head to work. I raised my head off the pillow
and stared. The clock was only inches from my nose.
How long I held that position, I had no way to know.
The hands on the clock face had not moved a stroke.
Even the sweep of the second hand stuck frozen.
Still, time was ticking down, for all that, as spasm
upon spasm of urgent lethargy throttled my moans:
I’ll be late for work! I’d better get up! I’ll be late for–
How I longed for a phone to ring! Or knock on a door!
Or the city streets to erupt with the wail of fire sirens!
For anything to shatter this intolerable suspension
between fast asleep and the ticking that told me I’d
better get up and head to work. Clearly something had
to give. And wasn’t. Until a pair of hands slid under
each armpit and lifted me up and onto the gurney
as that last tick of the ghost rattled up my throat
and the voices: Got time for a beer? and Sure
Don’t worry Doc won’t care Nobody’s cadaver’s
in a hurry to be tagged on the toe in a morgue
in the deadpan banter of the ambulance hearse.
AN ORDINARY SATURDAY MORNING
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply
Her backyard is vibrant
With bright nightgowns.
Some are striped
In orange and blush and mauve,
Or mottled in pinks,
Or layered in desert sunset mellows,
Or banded and bordered like a flag.
All of them are hung
By wooden clothespins
On a horizontal line.
Her girls are not going
To don them until tonight
For Frenchie and Red and Fat Tony.
Only now and again
An addled old bag lady,
Stooped and bad at the ankles,
Strips to the buff
And slips one on.
ODE TO A ROUND-A-BOUT
O compass, you are a rose,
my star, the engine inside this grist mill
of a road spinning us around,
pointing us on our cardinal ways,
slant but never untrue.
How many times have we met,
you and I, my wheels to your one
like an intimacy of cogs driving some
vast machine on, steady and smooth?
I have arrived and departed,
I have turned back time and ticked
uneasily across entire days with you,
a life of half and quartered hours.
Often have I thought of disembarking.
But you are no idling intersection,
and I would miss that little locket
of trees at your heart, the landlocked
wildness of them. Sometimes, in the morning,
light fans the leaves with such a ferocity
the gravity of it steals my breath.
And I want to stay in orbit, to circle
the small comet of this Honda endlessly
until you slingshot me with all
my best intentions back out
into that space between the orderly
traffic of planets.
I could tell you something, reader,
something about coaxing seedlings
out of the world’s rough furrow,
but she knows her garden,
too close now to the embrace
of dirt to break her back for it.
She struts up and down each rank
and file of vegetable and herb
like a glorious general, correcting,
nodding approvals as the boys lean over
and grab, young muscles straining,
hungry for the snap, a head separating
from the stem of its neck or,
if done the way she showed them,
the whole body surrendered,
roots and all.
Just a hired cowboy
driving our straggling herd to pasture
that spring of my first communion
when I’d fallen to sins decried by our priest,
albeit with a codicil that those gone astray
could always count on the open arms of Jesus—
Once a rodeo regular, it was said,
his satiny brown mare and he seeming
of one mind as they urged the bawling mothers
and babes along the hill road with hi-yahs
and hut-huts as the lead and trailing pickups
crept along, extras to the procession.
At the receiving gate, a calf spun about,
retracing the road just traveled. In pursuit
horse and rider sped, the lariat from the saddle horn
uncoiling, rising up like all-encircling arms
just as the three sped over a rise
Shortly, into view cantered man and mount,
the errant calf atop the horse’s withers—
and for an instant there I lay,
safely snugged, Jesus’s calming hand
promising forgiveness as the greenness of
my youth stretched endlessly ahead.
SKELETON LOOKING AT CHINOISERIES
James Ensor, 1885
Long ago my body departed
like a train leaving a depot
for good. I watched it
slide away, turn to smoke,
my soul bones trembling. Tonight
I look at a large folding screen
that some call frivolous.
Life is fairly frivolous. Our words
decay even faster than flesh. Yet
this one is a hundred years old
and in fine shape. Sometimes
I wish I could live again—
inside the design, clinging to color
while orioles of time rest
on an empty branch and sing.
STONES COOL WITH A HISS
when he bent down he leaned in
lips grazed pulsing arteries, kissed salt
from her hot neck that night of mojitos, possessed dance
at Tradiciones de Santiago.
the same Tradiciones with the patio out back
where she drunk stumbled
into a survivors of the revolution reunion
remaining sparks, ignitors burning there
on ceramic tiles, lopsided tables, rum, cigars
next morning she walked up the plaza steps
didn’t make eye contact with the men playing dominos
casting futures, Vodun bets,
fire seeds smoldering – even Sibonne earth pushes up
old guataca – its history still cleaves Sierra Maestra aromatic soil
dark as its coffee beans that local growers
can’t consume or risk a fine or imprisonment or
nicked edge machete she takes home
concealed in a red Tumbadora wrapped in her clothing
alongside Flamboyant pods rattling
cut clean coconut husks – cut clean
disillusionment – cut away false beliefs
confident blades honed on stone
steel feathers slash and burn
steel on stone.
They come in behind Buddha
through the hole they dug
under the fence and I filled
and they dug and I filled
and they dug and dug and
dug each time I filled it
until I gave up.
They used Buddha against me:
He sat there, cross-legged and calm,
asking what the harm was,
and since I had no answer I figured he’d go for,
I relented and let them have their way
until they, the possums,
began to smell
And now what, dear Buddha?
You’re letting a skunk come in each night!
And you can say you don’t see him—
what with having your eyes closed and all—
but you sure as shit smell him.
What’s the harm? I hear you asking already.
The porch boards are starting to stink, though,
and my lady’s much less Zen about it
than me, let alone you.
Somewhere in your cement meditation
I hope you come up with a plan.
We’ve got a skunk about to discover
The deal has been good, don’t doubt that one bit.
Sure, men like to bitch and play the martyr,
but we know the truth: a man is a shit-
for-brains on his own, a bum, a farter,
a pathetic drunk on a stained-up couch.
You think the Serpent went for Eve because
she was weak? That was for sport. He’s no slouch.
He was proving his moves, flouting God’s laws
right in God’s own backyard. Damn, that is style.
And balls. Since then it’s been women’s whip crack
keeping men hustling their asses off while
there’s any chance of getting paradise back.
You aren’t in prison, boys, and that’s no shiv—
It’s just the old ache from that yanked-out rib.
Six days after the great ice storm
so chilling that it knocked fear of Covid
straight out of our brains,
I hold baby Henry in my arms.
We are in my daughter’s backyard
and already engulfed in a soft,
spring turn of sky. An owl calls
from the recesses of a magnolia.
Baby Henry looks at a bush,
its leaves shriveled by recent ice.
He raises an arm, points a finger.
Says ” Phooof.” Shifts the finger
two inches, says ” Vvuuu.”
Now Henry turns his attention
to the wings of a fern.
He can’t yet fully extend
that index finger. It curls
in the direction of a frond.
Eyes luminous as twin moons,
Henry focuses on a single leaf, says
“Tthaaa.” Again, even softer, “Whough.”
In the aftermath of the storm’s destruction
Baby Henry has purposed himself
to naming, one by one, the leaves
and then, I guess, each grass blade,
every stitch of rain that falls
downward through his gaze
so that I might come to know them
as he does and to understand
how to turn any afternoon
into a slow benediction.
As a child
I did not understand the meaning of the words emancipation devaluation evacuation but now
I am an adult and
I want to cry at the sight of children who have known the meaning of these words since childhood
“No less fabulous than the carved marble inner
Ear of a lost Michelangelo & more…”
— David St. John
Betsy Antek’s vagina
was no less miraculous
than an ear
or your elbow
or those blue networks in your breasts
But when I saw it
it was more than vagina
more than a crotch
more than just flesh
Stupid girl she’d hooked her feet up Indian Style
plaid skirt popping up
and there it was for me
held up like some flashcard or dessert plate
I rocked back to look between her legs
down inside that open-smiling skirt
It was like this rabbit hole at Immerman
I watched it
like bunnies might start out
It was something like a poppy
on a card I bought
I couldn’t look away
from the black-bellied mouth staring back
In my bath that night I grunted
bending for that view
mothers our doctors
And I can’t remember
what looked back from under that skirt
a forgotten squirrel
or secret eclipse
TO MY MOTHER
Cleaning out your house
sorting through stale food & piles of laundry
tossing orange vials & mildewed books
I found an album in the basement
behind an old highchair & the croquet set
us kids used, fighting on the front lawn
howling like banshees, you dirty cheat!
while you slept shades down in the dark
A photo glued to the page with black triangles
must be circa 1943
the year I was born
a regular-looking woman smiling at the camera
a hem with no hanging threads
stockings pulled up, not scrunched
around her ankles like deflated balloons
sweater with matching buttons instead of safety pins
Lipstick straight, not smeared
hair parted & brushed & glossy
no greasy ends & random bobby pins
sticking up like porcupine quills
no cigarettes or pills or empty bottles
slant-shaped eyes like mine
I tuck it in my wallet
& down the rest of the scotch
BIRTH OF THE SPIRITUAL
Stories abound of drowning sailors,
dying soldiers, invoking mothers
as if they sensed instinctively
some feminine source of energy
we can lean on during extremes—
the wounded soldier in no-man’s-land,
or George Floyd’s retreating breath
squeezed out on the doorstep of death.
Anyone can feel like a motherless child,
not just those descended from chattel,
anyone desperate enough for solace
to sneak a sip from the Dipping Gourd—
earth mother, birth mother—twin torches
marking our passage through the darkness.
GRIEF TAKES OUT HIS TEETH
plops them into a glass to soak
on the back of the sink. Feathers,
grass and a small vein stuck between
molars dissolve. His lips curl inward
like he is swallowing a song or
hiding a key beneath his silent
tongue. He looks for all the world
like an uncle playing checkers at your
family reunion or that old man
in every McDonalds drinking coffee,
reading the paper. Harmless. Threadbare.
Soft. Then Grief opens his mouth
like a tornado filled with babies, cows, bibles,
staggers, intoxicated with suffering,
remembers why he’s there, finds you
in the kitchen, calls you babydoll, grabs
you, says Let’s dance, Princess,
recites like scripture the names of those
who loved you, and the ones who never
loved you back, the dogs who leaned against you
even after you left them alone too long,
now dirt and jonquils in the garden.
Grief slides into a ballad, bluesy and slow
that holds all your goodbyes. Grief sighs.
He is sleepy so he presses his lips closed,
counts to ten while the dead fluff their pillows,
while the living forget, while you listen
for a voice that won’t speak,
a knock that isn’t coming,
the last word you will never get.
Awake against my will thinking about not thinking causes my skin to sag like last year’s tights around my knees leads my mind down rows of underused words like loquacious kills my commitment to punctuation makes me forget I like sex and replaces it with tamales and Cap’n Crunch cereal keeping an eye on the emptiness in the house keeping my ears open for ice cubes clinking in a bourbon glass keeping my mind on that tarot reader who said this is my year at last (subtext don’t fuck it up) can be hard to swallow leads to breakthroughs epiphanies hot damn what is the sound of one hand doing anything? This is not mania. I am standing naked, unself aware in front of the refrigerator drinking carrot juice from the jug at 3:24 a.m. trying like hell to find something that rhymes with Shazam! for the radif, beloved. Staying up because I won’t fall asleep any faster if I close my eyes I uncover conspiracy theories and I will wait every night that is really morning for an alien to abduct me (please god). Regret lives in these wee hours hogs the remote drinks my wine and lies about it is a cheap date and promises me head or at least a foot rub for an extra bowl of cereal calls to tell me good morning knowing I just fell asleep at 6 am because last night down that rabbit hole of self-doubt plucked from college journals was a blast let’s do that again I stopped sleeping after I took back repossessed reclaimed my space and thought it was that easy thought removing him from sight smell sound touch was all it took to move on and it turns out that the images of good days and the end of days do not move out so easily and don’t give a hotgoddamn about eviction. They linger and want to be my blanket, let us keep you warm, bury yourself under us and get kinky with grief, hang yourself with us, they do not say tie us around your neck like a cape and remember you are a super hero, hang us out the window and escape. They smother like a mother on the first day of school like a lover haggling for forgiveness like a faulty space heater that warms you, breathes its carbon monoxide all over you, finally puts you to sleep.
Silently schussing downhill would be preferable
to being stranded beneath an avalanche,
or prohibition. Anything would be better.
Except maybe being chained to Oliver.
He smells, you know. And not of lavender.
No. He stinks. Always. Some people do.
No matter the soap, or cologne. One of those things.
Cloying. But not debilitating. Given a choice
between that and dying, “I’d rather be skiing.”
As we ride the tandem bicycle,
our bodies synchronize
like pieces in my watch
that click away our minutes.
You guide from the front, drive us
forward with each push of the pedal.
I hold on tight, feet gliding,
unable to see anything but you,
trust your eyes to see what lay ahead
until your sudden shift,
to adore another woman,
throws us off balance,
our equilibrium lost,
you no longer my captain.
It even goes down below his belt—
down into his pants.
Jane Kenyon sits at an oak desk,
cup of green tea steaming,
a short-bread cookie, half-eaten
on a white china plate. She smiles
as her fingers stroke the keys,
finish the last line of her poem.
She calls Donald into the room,
blushes as he reads the last line,
unbuttons his lucky shirt.
I never paid men—nor had to, ever.
A harlot is a woman who likes sex
just like a man—like mother like daughter,
right God? One stranger right after the next.
Tho yes I did take yr jewelry + make
a silver phallus—a big one—for when
the men were scarce—or for hubbie to take
it—ha—the little bitch—husbands or men:
no choice. But speaking of little bitches—
go tell Ezekiel to fuck himself
+ fuck you too, God, for yr stonings +
gang rapes + genocides, calling us witches
+ whores b/c we choose to enjoy life
no wonder you’re the image of man.
Poets and Artists Bios
Alan Abrams is a former motorcycle mechanic, carpenter, and bootleg architect. He has lived in the middle of large cities, and deep in the boonies, miles from a traffic light. Now retired from remunerative occupations, he has time to pursue yet another career. His poems and stories have been published in numerous literary journals on both sides of the Atlantic. His poem “ALEINU”, published byBourgeon, is nominated for the 2023 Pushcart Prize.
Catherine Arra is the author of five full-length collections and three chapbooks. Her newest work is Solitude, Tarot & the Corona Blues (Kelsay Books, December 2022) A Pushcart nominee, Arra is a native of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, where she teaches part-time and facilitates local writing groups. Find her at catherinearra.com.
Ben Banyard lives in Portishead, on the Severn Estuary just outside Bristol, UK. His third collection, Hi-Viz, was published by Yaffle Press in 2021 and is available via his website: benbanyard.wordpress.com. Ben also edits Black Nore Review.
Ruth Bavetta’s poems have appeared in North American Review, Nimrod, Rattle, Slant, American Journal of Poetry, Tar River Poetry and many other journals and anthologies. Her fifth book, What’s Left Over, won the Future Cycle Poetry Book Prize for 2022. She likes the light on November afternoons, the music of Stravinsky, the smell of the ocean. She hates pretense, fundamentalism and sauerkraut.
Brook Bhagat is the Pushcart-nominated author of Only Flying, a collection of surreal poetry and flash fiction on paradox, rebellion, transformation, and enlightenment from Unsolicited Press. She was a first-round winner in the 2022 Colorado Hearts and Minds Poetry contest, and her work has won first place in contests at A Story in 100 Words and Loud Coffee Press. It has been published in Monkeybicycle, Empty Mirror, Soundings East, Rat’s Ass Review, The Alien Buddha Goes Pop, Anthem: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, and other journals and anthologies. She is a founding editor of Blue Planet Journal and an assistant professor of creative writing at Pikes Peak State College, where she is the founder and facilitator of the Nearby Universe, a creative writer’s group for faculty and staff. Read her work and learn more about Only Flying here; check out the Nearby Universe here.
Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru, and author of two novels as well as six poetry collections. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. Her latest: DO OCEANS HAVE UNDERWATER BORDERS? (Kelsay Books July 2022), WHISTLING IN THE DARK (CiberWit July 2022), and SAUDADE (December 2022) are available on Amazon. Visit her website rose-mary-boem-poet.com.
John Browning is a really old poet living in New Jersey with his wife Patricia and his dog Joey while curating old photographs.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle is the author of four books and five chapbooks. A chapbook-length selection of her work appears in the anthology Wild Muse: Ozarks Nature Poetry, (Cornerpost Press, 2022) and a new edition of her book, Reading Berryman to the Dog, (Belle Point Press. 2023) is out now. Find more of her work at www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com.
Susan Michele Coronel lives in New York City. Her poems have appeared in publications including Spillway 29, TAB Journal, The Inflectionist Review, Gyroscope Review, Prometheus Dreaming, Redivider, and One Art. In 2021 one of her poems was runner-up for the Beacon Street Poetry Prize, and another was a finalist in the Millennium Writing Awards. She has received two Pushcart nominations. Her first full-length poetry manuscript was a finalist for Harbor Editions’ 2021 Laureate Prize.
Susan Cossette lives and writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Author of Peggy Sue Messed Up, she is a recipient of the University of Connecticut’s Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust and Moth, The Rat’s Ass Review, The New York Quarterly, ONE ART, As it Ought to Be, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Amethyst Review, Crow & Cross Keys, Loch Raven Review, and in the anthologies Fast Fallen Women (Woodhall Press) and Tuesdays at Curley’s (Yuganta Press).
Joe Cottonwood has repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book of poetry is Random Saints.
Cover Artist Andrea Damic lives in Sydney, Australia. She’s an amateur photographer and self-taught writer of microfiction, flash fiction and poetry. Her photographs have been published or are forthcoming in Fusion Art’s Exhibitions, Door Is A Jar Magazine, Welter at University of Baltimore, The Piker Press and elsewhere. She is especially proud of having her photograph published on the cover of Door Is A Jar Magazine’s Winter Issue 25 (Dec 2022). You can find her on linktr.ee/damicandrea.and/or TW @DamicAndrea
Craig Dobson has had poems published in Acumen, Agenda, Antiphon, Bandit Fiction, Butcher’s Dog, Crannóg, The Dark Horse, The Frogmore Papers, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Interpreter’s House, Lighten Up Online, The Literary Hatchet, The London Magazine, Magma, Neon, New Welsh Review, The North, Orbis, Pennine Platform, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, Prole, Rat’s Ass Review, The Rialto, Stand, Southword, THINK, Under The Radar and Vita Brevis.
Vern Fein‘s first poetry book–I WAS YOUNG AND THOUGHT IT WOULD CHANGE–came out earlier last year, the same year he became an octogenarian. You may find it on Amazon or Cyberwit. He has published over 250 poems/prose pieces on over 100 different sites. He is a member of two excellent poetry groups which give him great input, notably the Rat’s Ass Review site.
Meg Freer grew up in the 1970s in Missoula, Montana and now lives in Kingston, Ontario where she teaches piano and enjoys being outdoors. She was woken up one night in 2015 when a complete poem flashed in front of her, even though she had never written poetry and didn’t want to. Since then, her poems have won awards and have been published across North America.
Daniel Galef‘s first book, published 2023, is Imaginary Sonnets, a collection of persona poems from the point of view of various historical figures, literary characters, animals, and objects. His comic poetry has appeared in Atlanta Review, Light, the Lyric, the Saturday Evening Post, and the Washington Post Style Invitational.
Bill Garvey‘s poetry has been published or will soon appear in several journals including Cimarron Review, Rattle, Quiddity, Concho River, Nixes Mate Review, The Amethyst Review, Margie, The Worcester Review and others. Bill is a dual citizen of the US and Canada and currently lives in Toronto and Nova Scotia. (billgarveypoet.blogspot.com/)
Howie Good‘s latest poetry books are The Horses Were Beautiful, available from Grey Book Press, and Swimming in Oblivion: New and Selected Poems from Redhawk Publications.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Washington Square Review and Floyd County Moonshine. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Santa Fe Literary Review and Open Ceilings.
Gia Grillo is a poet living and working in Jersey City, New Jersey. She has helped run workshops for students, and hosted and participated in community workshops and open mics, all focusing on poetry as a cathartic and accessible art form. She has been published in Outlook Springs, Virga Magazine, and Soup Can Magazine.
Robin Helweg-Larsen has been published in the Rat’s Ass Review previously. He is Series Editor for Sampson Low’s ‘Potcake Chapbooks – Form in Formless Times’, and blogs at formalverse.com from his hometown of Governor’s Harbour in the Bahamas.
Mark Henderson teaches English at Tuskegee University. He earned his Ph. D. at Auburn University with concentrations in American literature and psychoanalytic theory. He has poems published or forthcoming in Cozy Cat Press, From Whispers to Roars, Defenestrationism.net, Bombfire, Former People, Neologism, Broad River Review, Rune Bear, Flora Fiction, Flare, Visitant, Blood Tree Literature, The Closed Eye Open, Last Stanza Poetry Journal, Burningword, Better Than Starbucks, The Racket Journal, Torrid Literature Journal, Sunspot Lit, Writer’s Digest, W-Poesis, and Red Ogre Review. He was born and raised in Monroe, Louisiana, and currently resides in Auburn, Alabama.
Mary Beth Hines writes poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction from her home in Massachusetts. Her work appears in Rat’s Ass Review, SWWIM, Tar River, The MacGuffin, and elsewhere. Kelsay Books published her debut poetry collection, Winter at a Summer House in 2021. Connect with her at marybethhines.com
Paul Ilechko is a Pushcart nominated poet who lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ. His work has appeared in many journals, including The Night Heron Barks, Tampa Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Sleet Magazine, and The Inflectionist Review. His first album, “Meeting Points”, was released in 2021.
Nate Jacob is a stay-at-home father to six children, stay-at-home husband to one spouse, and a poet in the spaces in between. He tends to write while in carpool pickup lanes (proof that humanity has yet to fully evolve), as well as at local coffee shops and libraries in the great state of Idaho. He writes about fatherhood and family, hoping to make some sense of it all between dinner time and bedtime. Mostly, Nate needs a nap. Some of his published poems are found at streetlightmag.com, Lothlorienpoetryjournal.blogspot.com, and verse-virtual.org.
Trish Lindsey Jaggers wants things simple—no impossible-to-connect inferences meant for a limited audience. Her “’Crazy-Eights Poet” philosophy is:
Create simply: Write so an eight-year-old can read it, an eighteen-year-old can understand it, and an eighty-year-old will have lived it.
Jaggers is the author of De-Composition: Rigor Mortis (Local Gems Poetry Press, 2019) and Holonym: a collection of poems (Finishing Line Press, 2016). She teaches composition, creative writing, and poetry at Western Kentucky University.
Rafiya Javed is a machine learning engineer by day and a poet by night. Her love of poetry has deepened ever since her realization that large language models have a hard time feigning poems, especially the very good and the very bad kind.
Janet Joyner’s first collection of poems, Waterborne, won the Holland Prize and was published by Logan House in February, 2016. Her chapbook Yellow was published by Finishing Line Press in November, 2018, and her third and fourth collections, Wahee Neck and Now Come Hyacinths, were published by Hermit Feathers Press in 2019, and 2020. Cocoons, her fifth collection was published by the Cape Fear Poetry & Prose Society in April of 2022.
After 43 years as a cognitive scientist Albert N. Katz (he/him; pronounced as “cats”) retired as an academic, and started a new career as a writer of short stories and poetry. His poems have appeared in such diverse literary journals as Abyss & Apex, Ascent, Backchannel and Rattle among others. His stories have appeared in anthologies, genre-based and literary magazines. His story “Hocus-Pocus” won the 2020 flash fiction competition from Whispering Prairie Press/ Kansas City Voices.
Jennifer Leigh Kiefer (she/they) is a gender queer writer and stage manager based in Brooklyn, New York.
Jerry Krajnak has survived being an altar boy, polio and cancer, a tour of duty in Vietnam, and forty years of public school teaching. These days he gardens and writes poetry in an old North Carolina cabin. Recent work appears in New Verse News, Sublunary Review, Barstow and Grand, SBLAAM, Rat’s Ass Review, and other reputable and semi respectable places.
Carol Parris Krauss’ poems are New Southern. They can be found in a variety of journals such as Dead Mule, Louisiana Literature, The S.C. Review, Story South, and Broadkill Review, She was honored to be recognized as a Best New Poet by the UVA Press. In 2021, she won the Eastern Shore Writers Association Crossroads Contest and her chapbook, Just a Spit Down the Road was published by Kelsay Books.
Laurie Kuntz has been nominated for three Pushcart and one Best of the Net prizes. Her 5th poetry book, Talking Me off the Roof, is available from Kelsay Books. Happy and Retired, she lives in an endless summer state of mind. Visit her at:lauriekuntz.myportfolio.com
Richard LeDue (he/him) lives in Norway House, Manitoba, Canada. He has been published both online and in print. He is the author of eight books of poetry. His latest book, “Secondhand Salvation,” is forthcoming from Alien Buddha Press in February 2023.
Fay L. Loomis grew up in rural Michigan, migrated to California, and now leads a quiet life in the woods in Kerhonkson, New York. A member of the Stone Ridge Library Writers and the Rat’s Ass Review Workshop, her poems and prose appear in print and online publications, most recently in Kaleidoscope, Redheaded Stepchild, Down in the Dirt, and The Blue Mountain Review.
Australian writer, editor and musician Mandy Macdonald lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. Her poems appear in many anthologies and magazines in print and online, most recently Black Nore Review, The Ofi Press Magazine, and Hiatus (Arachne Press, 2023). She is a Pushcart 2022 nominee (Arachne Press). Her 2020 pamphlet The temperature of blue is available at bluesalt.co.uk/the-temperature-of-blue.
Richard Magahiz zeroatthebone.us tries to live an ordered life in harmony with all but one that follows unexpected paths. He wrangles computers as a day job but imagines a time when life might center around other things. He’s back home in California now writing speculative and mainstream poems.
Joan Mazza worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, and taught workshops nationally with a focus on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self, and her poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, The MacGuffin, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Italian Americana, The Comstock Review, and
Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with poems published in hundreds of magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His books include ‘The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press); ‘An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy; (Cawing Crow Press) and ‘Like As If” (Pski’s Porch), Hearsay (The Poet’s Haven).
Jason Melvin is a father, husband, grandfather, and metals processing center supervisor. He is a later-in-life storyteller, having first published in 2020. His work has appeared in Roi Faineant, Olney, Punk Noir and others. His poems were nominated for Pushcarts by Bullshit Lit and Outcast. His first chapbook, Wrong Things, will be published by Bullshit Lit in early 2023. He can be found on Twitter @Jason5Melvin, Instagram @JasonMelvin5 and on his website at jasonmelvinwords.weebly.com.
Karla Linn Merrifield has 16 books to her credit. Her newest My Body the Guitar, recently nominated for the 2022 National Book Award, was published by Before Your Quiet Eyes Publications Holograph Series. She is frequent contributor to The Songs of Eretz Poetry Review. Website: karlalinnmeffifiend.org>/a>; blog at karlalinnmerrifield.wordpress.com; Tweet at @LinnMerrifiel; Log into Facebook. karlalinn.merrifield
Mary Moody is a former military journalist as well as a news reporter and columnist for a small weekly paper. She has a BA in Human Resources Management and an MA in English and Creative Writing. Her first poem was recently published in Mobius: The Journal of Social Change. She and her husband reside in rural West Virginia.
James B. Nicola is a returning contributor to RAR. The latest of his seven full-length poetry collections (2014-22) are Fires of Heaven: Poems of Faith and Sense and Turns & Twists. His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award. He has received a Dana Literary Award, two Willow Review awards, Storyteller‘s People’s Choice award, one Best of Net nomination, one Rhysling nom, and ten Pushcart nominations—for which he feels stunned and grateful.
Robert Perchan’s latest books are the comic novella Tropic of Scorpio (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2022) and Last Notes from a Split Peninsula: Poems and Prose Poems (UnCollected Press, 2021). His poetry collection Fluid in Darkness, Frozen in Light won the 1999 Pearl Poetry Prize and was published by Pearl Editions in 2000. Bob continues to eat and drink in Busan, South Korea, under the bemused gaze of his translator wife, Mi-kyung Lee.
Gus Peterson lives and writes in Maine. He has been featured online in Rattle’s Poets Respond series, New Verse News, Panoply, and abroad in the U.K. with Black Nore Review.
Darrell Petska, a retired university engineering editor, is a 2021 and 2022 Pushcart Prize nominee. Previously, his work has appeared in Chiron Review, 3rd Wednesday, Muddy River Poetry Review, Verse-Virtual, and widely elsewhere. conservancies.wordpress.com). Father of five and grandfather of six, he lives near Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife of more than 50 years.
Kenneth Pobo (he/him) is the author of twenty-one chapbooks and nine full-length collections. Recent books include Bend of Quiet(Blue Light Press), Loplop in a Red City (Circling Rivers), and Lilac And Sawdust (Meadowlark Press) and Gold Bracelet in a Cave: Aunt Stokesia (Ethel Press). His work has appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, Asheville Literary Review, Nimrod, Mudfish, Hawaii Review, and elsewhere.
Suzanne S. Rancourt, Abenaki/Huron, Quebecois, Scottish descent, has authored Billboard in the Clouds, NU Press, (Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas First Book Award,) murmurs at the gate, Unsolicited Press, 2019, Old Stones, New Roads, MSR Publishing, 2021. Songs of Archilochus, Unsolicited Press, forthcoming October 2023. A USMC and Army Veteran, Suzanne is also a 2x Best of the Net nominee. www.expressive-arts.com
Michael Riedell lives, writes, teaches, strums guitar, and hosts a monthly reading series in Ukiah, California. The author of three books of poetry, he has work in or forthcoming in various literary journals including Clutch, Shot Glass Journal, The Stillwater Review, and I-70 and in California Fire & Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology.
Ed Ruzicka’s most recent book of poems “My Life in Cars” investigates the rocky marriage of desire to the American highway. Ed’s poems have appeared in the Atlanta Review, Rattle, Canary, the Xavier Review, etc. Ed lives with his wife, Renee, in Baton Rouge, LA where they often sit on the patio at sunset.
Mykyta Ryzhykh lives in Nova Kakhovka Citу, Ukraine. She is published in the journals “Dzvin,” “Ring A,” “Polutona,” “Rechport,” “Topos,” “Articulation,” “Formaslov,” “Colon,” “Literature Factory,” and “Literary Chernihiv,” and on the portals “Literary Center” and “Soloneba.”
Karen Schnurstein is a budding poet whose recent work has appeared in print and online journals including Bi Women Quarterly. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and currently resides in Indiana.
Claire Scott is an award-winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.
Gerry Sloan is a retired music professor living in Fayetteville, Arkansas. His collections are Paper Lanterns (2011) and Crossings: A Memoir in Verse (2017) plus six chapbooks including Wild Muse: Ozarks Nature Poetry (Cornerpost Press, 2023). Recent work appears in Nebo, Slant, Cantos, Xavier Review, Arkansas Review, Blue Unicorn, Mid/South Anthology, Cold Mountain Review, Cave Region Review (featured poet), and Elder Mountain (featured poet).
Michelle Stoll lives in central Arkansas and is candidate in the MFA program at Mississippi University for Women. Her writing has appeared in SLANT, Snakeskin, Galway Review, Glasgow Review, Crosswinds and Sage Woman. She appreciates strawberry cake from a box, sloppy kisses, a view of the mountains and properly conjugated and judiciously employed curse words.
Richard Weaver volunteers with the Maryland Book Bank, and was, until Covid, the writer-in-residence at the James Joyce Pub. He remains the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press), and provided the libretto for the symphony, Of Sea and Stars, performed 4 times to date.
Robin Wright lives in Southern Indiana. Her work has appeared in One Art, Young Ravens Literary Review, Spank the Carp, The Drabble, The New Verse News, Bombfire Lit, As it Ought to Be, Rat’s Ass Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Sanctuary, and others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her first chapbook, Ready or Not, was published by Finishing Line Press in October of 2020.
Born in Puerto Rico, John Yohe has worked as a wildland firefighter, wilderness ranger and fire lookout. Best of the Net nominee x2. Notable Essay List for Best American Essays 2022 and 2022. @thejohnyohe www.johnyohe.weebly.com
Edited by Roderick Bates
RAT’S ASS REVIEW SPRING-SUMMER ISSUE 2023 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED