(Cover Art Choices by Andrea Damic)
EVEN NOW, SOMEONE ELSE IS PLANNING
how you might disgrace yourself.
Gentleness is telling the boy
to read beneath a tractor, walnuts
poking denim already too worn
for the season. The father and his son
are a colony formed in quiet. Even
the roosters know to keep quiet
when sun might go down. Five strings
for five fingers and neither male will bet
to play first. Kitchens belong to birthing
bodies. What’s dried-up stays dust.
We have been lonely in separation
for so long. Fathers do not get to replant
their own stalks. If a traveler comes between
chapters, who decides if the thresher
can wait or if the crop is already ruined?
C. J. Anderson-Wu
after absorbing the water from
grass and flowers germinate
chamomiles, white clovers, agrostis, poppies, cornflowers,
ribwort plantains, mallows, apple blossoms, and guelder-roses…
their names overbrim my page
pallas’s gulls reemerge in wetlands,
dalmatian pelicans come back to nest,
moor frogs mate by swamps, and
bush crickets return to meadows
we’d loss some companions during
but the counteroffensive must be achieved
before we become too few
some of us would be buried here, while
some of us would be able to unite
with their beloved
if you are the one bringing my parents news about my departure
tell them I have no regrets
some of us will live on in the memories of others, and when
forests are thawing
flowers are blossoming
birds are chirping
tadpoles are swimming
i will be remembered
and every spring is my counteroffensive
Susan Kay Anderson
THE CARPETED RIVER
Over and over I tread the carpet
between TV and hallway rising up
a remnant of the camas prairie.
Please bring back my mind, over there
caught up in the oaks, their rusting leaves.
Play back this time, on repeat, all the scratches.
Dance away these days just off the shoulder
of the river, its sweetness and its way. I’m
heading over to the sandbank, to the willows
while they change into fall, wait for winter.
I told you so, they say. I told you about winter.
it’s that last step, the bobble
at the end of the workout
or ground-meets-hoof after
a particular stall door kick,
and here we are at the end
of a career that wasn’t anything
to write home about.
And so here she is in a new place,
every twitch of a muscle reflected
in her eyes. She snorts and cribs,
the barn cats won’t go anywhere near
that stall. New smells for everyone,
things to be suffered before
they can be gotten used to.
She shies when anyone approaches
so I have to almost sneak in,
slow steps so she can move
to the back of the stall
when I fork in the hay, add
a couple scoops of mash
It’s a few weeks before she
comes over, nuzzles my shoulder
and I feel the tibia snap
and the melt of all my internal organs
and maybe this is the moment
where things start to get better.
“WHAT WAS THE FIRST BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY?”
[question asked by Theresa Pham]
Not hard labor over stealing bread to feed his kin.
Not when the bishop, robbed, redeems him by silver.
Not awakening of guilt after a final petty crime.
Not suffering, ill-fated, lost Fantine,
baring her teeth for a coin, or torments that her child endures
at hands of those wretched ones for whom the book is named:
plague rats infesting the story, showing up scene after scene;
puppets pulling strings of other puppets in holy theater of misery.
Not deaths, loss, Gavroche shot mocking gendarmes in the streets.
Not love learned, stolen, rent, rebuilt.
Neither times of mercy nor alight with self-defeat.
It was the instant reconciliation of the end when I gave in
at joy of the transcending hero in last life.
There must have been something wrong with my eyes
after several hundred dry pages of enduring sadness,
derring-do advancing through shadows: Valjean’s
dying smile a god all worship, few ever fully satisfy.
“5 dollars to make me stop,” the sign
says to me as my heels beat against the concrete.
Fist closed against the cheek,
his hand strikes her. Her eye nearly
swollen shut. An open suitcase pushed
against the corner of the Walgreens.
Crumpled bills inside. A passerby
on the phone with the police.
What should I have done? I never
A DAUGHTER’S YEARNING
I wish I could go back
to times I didn’t listen
to your pleas,
the weight of your loneliness.
Your knees shook as you tried
to heft it on your own
through your suffering,
(selfish as I am)
left you to yourself.
If I had asked for forgiveness
before the shadows took you
would you have given it to me?
ODE TO A WHIFF
When the guys come home from a hiking trip
smelling like a lake of lapsong souchong—flannel shirts
thick with firepit, sprawled tents
wafting that sweet-smoky scent through the house—
my synapses flip, ecstatic.
I want to rescue their clothes from the wash cycle
and bury my nose in the hamper.
I’d bottle that fragrance if I could, and flaunt it too.
In spaces choked with bouquet this and eau de that,
I’d turn myself into a campfire censer
and waltz around, reeking of charred logs—
the aroma of two a.m.,
a hot face, a cold back, sips of moonshine—
and if some fellow twirler
were wearing it too, I’d trail their essence
like a cartoon tramp tracking a hot pie.
WHY I DRIVE THIS ROUTE
Out my car window, they edge the road—lumpy,
falling down in patches, too low to deter anyone,
remnants of a churning plot line in which rocks
were unearthed by plows,
hauled off, and stacked to mark acreage
for newcomers bearing smallpox and oil paints.
The craggy boundaries gather moss,
grey-green brushwork to match the landscape.
Something in me loves stones of any type:
a bowl of pebbles or these historic walls
or whatever brings to light the shifting mineral ball
we live on, whose bumps breach the surface
for people to flintknap or mortar
or pile atop grave markers wedged in dirt.
Even the word is soothing – now
it spreads across
A piece of fresh baguette, and how
two cups, embossed
With fleur-de-lis, fill with hot milk
and coffee poured
From ivory pitchers – flow like silk
With heaps of granulated sweet.
And then, a pause
A lighted match, her hand, petite,
a shared Gauloise.
A deep double-
heaven (or hell)
echoing in nature
as it finds itself
a human voice
like a whale’s call
by its like
even afar across
the whole Pacific
I MISS YOU; THEREFORE, I AM
(A periodic sentence for Qi Hong)
I am thinking of you being awake all the time
I am thinking of you being awake, all the time
I am thinking of you, being awake all the time
I am, thinking of you being awake all the time
MANGOES AND OTHER DIFFICULTIES
I want mostly
what I can’t have in life.
Ripe mangoes in my fruit bowl,
among other things.
Not the crisp ones
that are tart to the palate.
I’ve told the vendor many times,
but he only smiles at me.
I think of you,
as I bite into chunks
that taste like apples.
Your hard skin.
Your lack of pliancy
in our gives and takes.
And if you waited by the shuttered window and it was raining, you pretended it was sunny, the light reflecting the geometric patterns on the hardwood floor. And if you watched Alfred Hitchcock movies, ate pizza and played Scrabble, you pretended it was enough. And if you found shooters of Smirnoff vodka in between the couch cushions, you pretended they never existed and threw them in the garbage outside, and if there was a hole in the wall, you pretended it was never there and covered it with a black and white picture of abstract art, and if you said the heat was broken, there was an argument with the super and the police were called, you pretended it was OK by using extra blankets, and if the light from the computer screen and noise from the mouse clicking were keeping you up, you pretended it was all a bad dream and closed your eyes tightly. And if you ate blueberry pancakes and they were burnt, you pretended they were delicious and covered them with maple syrup, and if you threw a taco salad and there was a knife to your throat, you pretended it never happened. And if you came home late, walked up the stairs softly, tip toed into the bedroom, the dog stared at you with big brown eyes, wagged his tail and barked, you whispered Shhh, and heard, Where were you? It’s late! You pretended not to hear. And if you were sad, you listened to some of your favorite songs, Burning Down the House, Our Lips are Sealed and Learning to Fly and danced around the living room, the lyrics on repeat in your mind, and then you looked in the mirror, stopped pretending and walked out the door.
A CLASSROOM IN UVALDE AND A DOORSTEP IN KC
A 10-year-old named Noah somehow kept his head
when Room 112 became a screaming bloody hell.
Noah knew that to survive he must play dead.
The shooter fired away, kids fell and falling bled.
Were any still alive? Eyes shut, Noah couldn’t tell.
The 10-year-old lay still and somehow kept his head.
A teen named Ralph couldn’t know what lay ahead
when in the dark he rang the wrong door bell.
Ralph didn’t know that to survive he must play dead.
Mr. Lester, 84 and scared, got up from bed,
peered out and saw a young black face, the telltale “tell.”
He fired twice without troubling to keep his head.
“People come to my door all the time,” his neighbor said.
All sorts, from all around, some with stuff to sell,
even a stranger lost — “I don’t shoot them in the head.”
More lockdowns with our flags half-mast, more blood shed
in schools, on doorsteps — grief a habit learned too well.
A 10-year-old named Noah somehow kept his head.
Survival, we all now know, requires playing dead.
BAPTISM BY NALTREXONE
Here is the drug to replace your drug of choice.
Chaste white pill, chalky and oval.
Here is the user’s manual,
complete with warnings and disclaimers
and a 1-800 CDC hotline to report
adverse side effects not already listed.
At 1 am, the whirring in my brain begins.
Climb on this freight train
throttling down phantom tracks away from
the lightning and thunder and sleet
beating on the bedroom window,
the snow and ice casting alien light,
A mustached Bulgarian man tells me
to curl into a sweaty fetal ball and ride it out.
I smell the vodka on his breath and remember
the shining bottles of wine on my wall,
the tequila, whiskey, and gin on the basement bar shelves.
I will never touch him, or them, again.
My Bulgarian friend left when the nausea came,
damp blonde head hung over the white wicker wastebasket.
My feet grow into plump watermelons,
my fingers shrink into splintered toothpicks.
I was at the Vatican and tried to take confession
from an English-speaking Polish priest
but made the error of debating the confessor.
guilty glutton girl child,
you will not remember this night.
It is a tender act of love
to administer an enema
to your spouse
and then to inquire
about the results.
In this marriage
our bodies merged
intimately creating children
and giving, giving
Now home care
(and let’s say it,
I was young enough to sleep in a crib,
old enough to stand in it
reaching over bars
to eat wallpaper
that I peeled with the sound
of a lick played backwards,
sound of bonds letting go,
brittle, yellowed, reluctant
which is when my parents accepting
I was the last, the final child,
fearing paper poison
scraped and painted that wall
and bought me a bed.
My earliest memory, a pleasure and a haunt,
my mother who loved babies,
my father who did not,
guilt for what I can’t control
as I pull duct tape from a roll
with that slurpy sticky sound.
Taste of dust, of dead flour.
A crib is a prison.
Eat your way out.
it’s so big so grand
you can’t describe
She the child says
yes you can
it’s a giant vagina
in the earth
and some day
will give birth
BEAUTIFUL, SAD, TRAGIC
Mother was a creature of lushness, of seething excess
and muchness, and while my father’s emotions
had gradations, with predictable correlations
between inciting incident and consequent mood,
my mother never knew how she might feel
about a thing until it occurred, and her days
were spent being surprised at, again and again,
all the ways the world could shock and hurt her.
My oldest sister, half mother to me,
would find our mother, at midnights, outside,
stooped over on the brittle grass, crying.
My sister would ask my mom what was wrong,
and my mother would say, I don’t know, go away.
Her sadness was finely wrought, textured smooth
but with endless pockets of depression
to be discovered throughout each night and day,
making her life a mystery even to herself,
and in the dark, the moon would catch her tears,
and her face would shimmer, or to her children
it seemed to, and we felt—I felt—drawn
to help her, but was rebuffed, and to touch her
was a magnetic and forbidden thing,
because her body became the temple
of her suffering, and her shoulders a yoke
bearing the shame of her—inexplicable?—
unhappiness, or rather, her mind was one long nerve,
and its heat emanated through my life,
and I spent my childhood watching, fascinated,
to see how the nerve fared that day, if there was numbness
manifested by the spasms of pain that were displayed,
intermittently, across my mother’s face.
I always had a desire unfulfilled,
to lean into and lay abject on her lap,
to catch the tears as she cried,
to feel the gravity of her heartbreak
and let it flatten me, weighted and prostrated.
I once drew a sketch of her in this pose,
and titled it, My beautiful, sad, tragic mother,
and when she found it, she tore it up in fury,
but even in her anger, even as she destroyed
what for me represented three months’ hard work,
I had a passion for her sadness that was beyond
all explaining—she was everything, everything,
and I would not have known how to love her
had she finally, finally, been happy.
THE KING OF PERSIA’S PLEASURE
In 484 BCE, preparing to invade Greece, the Persian king Xerxes I built two floating pontoon bridges across the Hellespont. This met with disaster when a storm destroyed the flax and papyrus cables of the bridges. In his fury, Xerxes ordered the Hellespont to be whipped three hundred times, and had fetters thrown into its waters.
Xerxes, you would be so proud of us!
We’ve taken your idea and run with it.
More in complacency than anger, we confess,
but it’s the end result that counts.
A chain of fetters, in the Hellespont?
Mere impotent display, you must have known.
For who – even a King – could cast a seaway into bondage,
place manacles upon Poseidon’s realm?
Iron in salt-water goes to barnacle;
to coral reef; to rust.
Whereas Nylon, Polyethylene, Acrylic, PVC…
with these, one can entrammel whole oceans. And we have.
Do we please you, mighty Xerxes? Are you satisfied?
Is this revenge enough?
PROLOGUE TO THE GOVERNOR’S TALE
Given that friars are now so sparse,
who should be lodged in Satan’s arse?
The Tory government’s ship of fools
that’s utterly corrupt and breaks the rules.
The Tories equate to Chaucer’s friars,
venal and greedy and consummate liars.
They do what they can to milk the system.
How in hell’s name has Satan missed ’em?
Wherever you look the land’s in a mess:
the privatized railways, the NHS…
Five Tory Prime Ministers in a few years
have reduced the nation to sackcloth and tears.
All of the so-called Ministers of Health
spent all their time increasing their wealth
and the numbers who died in the pandemic,
for cruel Tories are clearly endemic.
The Defra Minister makes us wallow in shit
and that cheroot-smoker cares not a whit.
Satan’s arse awaits to quarter these Tories,
a mephitic home to match their lame stories
of Conservative financial competence,
on a par with Tories’ sexual incontinence.
As for cruelty, those in the Home Office top the list.
Once up Satan’s arse, they won’t be missed.
This parcel of rogues led the country to ruin,
so for Satan’s arse they’re an obvious shoo-in.
AS THE CROW FLIES
They’re the bikers of the bird world,
a used car salesman (apropos of nothing)
posts on his blog. But my new friend says
crows get a bad rap for spreading the word
of passing danger. His love note given
after I’ve spent too much time ranting about
the persistent, raucous cries of a murder of crows
outside this morning. Don’t shoot the messenger,
my friend reminds me. And because I admire how
he weathers whatever comes his way—the rising
costs of food and shelter, his wife’s chemo, a loved
one’s sudden death—I retrace my barefoot steps,
recall bikers of the bird world summoning me
to take the world in a love embrace.
After we stood at the altar and said I do,
we honeymooned in the heart of amethyst country.
Here, among boulders and buckets, we knelt
and took silent vows: dirt crusted fingernails,
picks bared like fangs in an open mouth,
silt settling in between teeth. Years before,
I had watched a summer fling press prints,
his fingertips purple-black bruises, and I believed
for a long time this was love—hearts carved
and inked black, carbon copied and hung up to dry.
But I am no artist. I do not know how to carve
myself into some tidy shape with clean edges,
how to offer myself to you again and again
for safekeeping. But I do know this: how to spend
my whole life turning over the soil. How to take up
my tools—my trowel tongue, my hammering questions—
and dig. How to crouch beside you, press my knees
into the dirt, plumb the land for purple secrets.
How to thumb the jagged gem. How to open
my hands to what the earth is giving.
OLD GROWTH FOREST
In the Kevlar canoe with you, sun merciless
and biceps burning, I dip my paddle
into upside down pines and puddles of spilled
clouds. Where I once saw only mossy walls
of woods, I now see every towering tree,
and I want to know them all. Look, the red pine
who’s survived it all—the gale, the spark, the ax.
Look, the jack pine, who unfurls only in the wildfire’s
flame. Look, the cedar who will grow where nothing
else dares. You listen to me chatter, paddling softly,
and I don’t know how to tell you I am not talking about
these evergreens, not really, but about you and me
and ours. True, where I once saw only you, a vague
shape looming, I now am near enough to recognize
every person nested inside, and I want to know them all.
Look, a scar where the fire came and went. Look,
the way you bend into me in the wind like a question,
or an answer. Look, the way you do what you can
to withstand everything—the gale, the spark, the ax.
Look, the way you tell me there is nowhere
else you’d rather be. Look, the way I am,
for the first time, believing you.
THE DECLINE OF OLD DETROIT
How we loved
that cute little house on the hill,
the one with flower boxes filled
with hope and a proud front door,
the color of a robin’s egg,
but new things become old
even in the best of times,
and weeds have a way of sprouting
around the edges of manicured lawns,
pushing through cracks in the sidewalks.
We saw the drought coming—
a few bare places in the packed dirt
at the end of a prosperous summer,
a couple factories closing here and there,
some sailing across the foreign sea.
Then, even the weeds turned brown,
and faded paint began to peel;
the house settled into a pout,
making it to where you had to use your hip
to slam the graying front door.
We might have left like the others,
but the ’47 Chevy wouldn’t start no more
and became lawn art with blocks for wheels.
Air conditioner broke too,
and we moved our couch onto the porch,
where we sat fanning and drinking iced tea.
Why would anyone dig up the graves of those atrocities when I have fasted from that horror
since Uris meticulously detailed Mengele’s sexual experiments on children in QB VII?
I threw that book against the wall and read no more about those monsters,
saw no more films, not even Schindler’s List,
though a commercial later revealed the red coat that will always haunt me.
One man, just one man, unsung hero,
removed my fingers from the eyes of my mind to look again at Buchenwald.
Buchenwald: where 56,000 people died.
more than American soldiers killed in Viet Nam.
Buchenwald: all those attempts to architect the cells of Hell.
Those were real—tiny, bare, infested—not Dante’s circles.
Death spaces for Jews, Poles, Slavs, mentally ill, physically disabled, gypsies, Free Masons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Communists, political prisoners, gays, sexual slaves,
Outdoors: Vernichtung durch Arbeit—“worked to death,”
and screams of pain in the “singing forest” when those men—strappado
Oh, I cannot write what they did to them,
and Gernick Schuss, 1,000 Russians shot in the back of the neck, and the
One man, just one man. What can one man do?
He can tell a lie. He can tell a lie of mercy.
Like Shiphrah and Puah who lied to save baby Moses.
The headquarters at Buchenwald were dark on that rainy day.
The Nazi command had fled. They knew the Allies were closing in.
The phone rang.
How many times?
How many times did that phone ring?
What if no one were there?
But, he was.
A hand reached out.
The hand of one German man
who had the presence to tell the guttural lie of mercy.
Command told him: “We will blow up the entire camp,
raze the rooms,
destroy the 1,300 prisoners left,”
including Elie Wiesel,
Elie Wiesel, whose luminous Jewish humanity gave lie to deranged Nazi fantasies.
The unsung (I sing of him now!) spoke:
“We’ve already destroyed it! It’s done!”
(Oh, Sweet Lie!)
“The prisoners are blown up.
The evidence is destroyed.
We covered up what we did.”
(as if the blanket of history could ever be pulled over that bed of horror).
The solution was simple, more brief than my imagination.
No reason to complicate mercy.
The Commander answered: “Okay, ‘In ordnung.’ Okay.”
In a few hours, the camp was liberated,
Wiesel saved with the others,
the Nazi command tricked.
The name of the one man unknown forever.
The result of one act can change everything.
J. Andrew Figley
A HOUSE FIRE IN THE DISTANCE
Alone in the darkness,
I see a glimmer of light.
Is that a candle nearby,
or a house fire in the distance?
I reach out my hand,
expecting to get burned,
because not knowing
would be the greater pain.
Jane H. Fitzgerald
You never understood
that these same hands
that smooth and caress
and touch you lovingly
are as strong as life itself.
You never understood
how they carried
the ashes of the dead
and signed the papers
for the nearly dead
and helped bury the dead.
You never understood
could be strength.
THIS DEATH FAD
Death seems to be the thing to do.
More and more of my friends —
old friends from work,
even family —
are doing it every day.
The world goes on without them,
just as it survived the loss of so many.
everybody so far.
It’s a fad I have resisted
but I suppose I’ll give in,
like I did to bell-bottoms
and music on CD,
when it becomes
the only game in town.
AFTER COLD MOUNTAIN 12
I still cannot excuse myself
how when my father wept before me
told me of his dying mother looking at him
and saying Butch you were always such a good boy
I had nothing to say no tears to weep
but insisted on showing him how I could play
my guitar the slow part of Stairway to Heaven
and longed for him to be proud of me
GREEN GRASS GROWING
I read a human lesson in a beech book
(beech, the tree of my unknown Ohio boyhood,
its roots tangled like the roots of these words):
as true as ceaseless hectic crisis
garbles, crazes, shatters us,
as sure as gas-kings carelessly given blank checks
build derricks that hang us to whiten,
as clear as our enjoyment of cardinals
hinges on red sumac fruit
and the worm lights the rose with crimson—
pondweed and chipmunks demand that we live with Eve,
plant our feet, plunge our hands
into Adam’s earth.
Lisa Caroline Friedman
GRANDMA ROSE LOVED US & HER SCOTCH AND SODA
Your first full tumbler, not a hidden impish
thimble, must have felt like a gift –
a warm, wide, full-body smile
melting away shyness and re-making
you laughing, friendly, even funny.
As teenagers, we could read your habits,
knew you’d downed a private drink
before your visit as our well-trained noses
picked up the scent of scotch-soaked kisses
and our sharpshooter eyes discerned
the uncertain saunter of your black pumps
across the carpet. My brother proudly
mixed another, which you gladly
received with tremorous hands conducting
a chorus of ice inside your glass until it melted
or your drink evaporated. Never sloppy
or falling down, you were more prone to slurring
missteps like reading the third plague
as goats instead of gnats at a Passover seder –
triggering barely veiled laughter
which I now regret. When you smoked forbidden
Camels in our bathroom, did you imagine
your tobacco breaths would flush away
with your cigarette butts? You were once
in focus, had instincts my child eyes admired –
a grandma who carried stories in her pockets,
taught us the swing cut, the riffle shuffle, casino and gin
rummy. A grandma who adorned us with nicknames –
Handsome, Gorgeous, Beautiful and Cutie Pie –
that lasted past red lipstick stains on cocktail glasses.
LONGING FOR THE GREEN FAIRY
A clear summer sky, the sun going home to sleep tonight its magical and brilliant rays reaching out and caressing the art-deco past. Those radiant beams kidnap and transport me to that gilded age. Grasp the architecture and be absorbed into an era I’ve longed to see. To walk in the grass and glimpse the dew on my spats. Dine with inventors of all that still electrify, those with light, cameras, and film to record the passing of time. To hold the memories that enrich the beating heart. I could even be their lover or more. Picnic along the river’s edge, gazing at the ripples and seeing the smile on the face of a martyr wearing a hat. Side by side we lie in wait, neither quite sure of the move to make. Simpler times they must have been with pleasures that would taste so sweet. Stroll the bustling avenues without care, watching the bikes, auto machines, and people that fill the streets. Notice the lapel of a handsome man wearing a green carnation that springs to life, quite sure this means I must give a wink. A life illuminated by the follies marquee, the theatre in such waving glory. With the giddiness and happiness that these times bring I find myself crossing over a dark entry, a Speakeasy, of this I’m sure. I sit and listen to the drip, drip, drip anticipating the Green Fairy to be upon my lips. Saunter through the maze of various venues that exist, to seek out the pansy craze. Debonair by day and adventurous by night, part of coming out at a different time. Soon I’m back and open my eyes to watch a spoonful of sugar cubes be liquefied. A dream or not I don’t quite know, all is so real when our eyes are closed.
Sewing another square into my quilt,
I spread it out, over my lap
reading the story in each patch.
This bit of flannel, once my baby blanket.
That fabric, from a skirt sewn by my mother.
Look here, the hem of my sister’s prom dress.
And pieces less faded by time –
a scrap from my son’s bedspread,
the tired fur of an over loved teddy,
even the satin ribbons won by a long dead dog.
Memories I’d like to hold onto forever,
but they slide through my fingers,
Shiny bits slipping, even as I grasp tightly.
In the end,
I have these bright colours to wrap around myself
and remind me of my life.
I AM NOT A PINNIPED
My husband fell in love with a seal,
down in the bay where he swims
every morning. They met, trysting in full sight
of the wild swimmers.
Be careful. Seals bite.
But he said her eyes were
pools of magic, telling him stories of the sea.
She was lonesome and followed him
all the way to the second buoy,
and back again.
I would follow you too,
I want to say.
But I have no flippers, no tail.
I might drag you under.
Gary R. Gowers
I was buck naked on the leatherette couch
while super-hot-she straddled me and gave me a right good bang.
After the fireworks went off, she started with the waterworks.
What’s the matter? I asked.
That didn’t seem gay to me.
Maybe you’re bi-sexual.
-There’s no such thing!
I know a bunch of bisexuals who might disagree.
And then I reached out to try to give her a hug, ‘cause that’s what
you do when you’ve made a lesbian cry.
But she shrugged me off and gave me a glare.
-You don’t OWN me. She said, slow-like to get the point across.
Yeah, I know.
-You just don’t understand.
You’re right, I don’t.
-Wanna get high?
Absolutely. I said.
So we smoked some pretty strong stuff using a one-hitter,
except I hit it several times and I’m a light-weight to begin with.
Weed always makes me do two things – take a shit and go to sleep.
Every time. Every single time. And I’m fine with that.
So after another go at the naked Olympics on the leatherette couch
I really needed to shit.
After I clogged up the john real good and came out smelling like a rose,
she told me I had to go ‘cause it was getting real late. And it was.
Okay. I said.
-Don’t get mad, because you can’t stay.
I’m not mad. I said Okay.
-Fine. As long as you’re not mad.
And I left stoned out of my fucking mind.
I was probably going about 20 mph but it felt like I was lead car in
the Indianapolis 500.
The 30 minute drive took nearly two hours and once I dozed off at a
After I got home,
at long last,
and was laying splayed out on my back
I reviewed: she’s gorgeous, more than two decades younger,
has very strong weed tolerance, emotionally unstable with a
sexual identity crisis.
But the only Red Flag I picked up on was she made me drive high.
GARDENER AND INVALID WIFE
Hasn’t rained in weeks,
so he’s the rain,
out on his parched lawn
waving the hose around,
trying to trick some roots
into thinking nothing’s
Look at me,
is what he’s really saying,
and to the woman in the window
not the sickly plants.
I’m out here making a difference.
You’re inside complaining about the heat.
But the tomatoes don’t just complain,
they grow half-size, redden before time,
shrivel in lieu of ripening.
He won’t let her see those.
He’ll buy some from the store if he has to,
pass them off as his.
She has to know that
he can conquer even the worst
that weather throws at him.
So it’s the heat of August.
There’s not a cloud in the sky.
Despite his efforts, everything will die anyway.
But maybe, just maybe,
his hold on her will live.
I figure I am beautiful because of my
beautiful farm. This is the logic that
mends my fences, that feeds hay to
the horses. I am aware of femininity like
I am aware of the weather. Even the
worst of it can do some good. The meaning
of my life is clear. It’s cows in a field,
their heads bowed and blessing the taste
of the grass. It’s the weather-vane spinning
with good winds. It’s a basket of eggs,
white with brown speckles. Ambition
mirrors my duty and I appreciate that.
It allows me to stay in this place
to put my weary feet up on the porch
at the end of the day, and defy
the waning sun to not warm me.
I am tired and I ache all over.
I watch the day retreat from my
beautiful land. You’ll never know
how beautiful that makes me.
On the steps of that African farmhouse
introduced by Jennylee, you stared, I stuttered.
We laughed at everything.
Around the dinner table, we ate Nini’s fish pie.
And the topless picnic by the river,
the portable record player.
Bob Dylan. Patti Smith. Hot, stoned
and shy. We sang.
Baboons vie for dominance in the near canyon,
feral shrieking punctuates our reverie.
And that fisherman, we watched till sunset.
He reeled and reeled and reeled.
We never saw what he pulled
from the sea.
Illegals, both of us; married last year,
now she cleans houses, I cut grass, sweep decks,
for superrich who see us as mere specks
while their big spaceship exit they prepare.
Earth will be fishless, treeless, plastic, bare.
They’ve offered us both jobs as restaveks,
but I said No, they just want us for sex.
She said Then suck them off, why should you care?
I said, We’ll stay. She said, I said I’d go.
I said, You’d leave me? She said, Stay, be dead.
I said, That makes you nothing but a whore.
She said, I fucked him for your job, you know;
I go to space, I’ll live, have food, have bed,
and, if I’m good, oh maybe so much more…
YOU, YES YOU
You, yes you, contain multitudes, conflicted mobs –
the adroit who holds two jobs,
the maladroit who fails and sobs,
the shortcut thug, dacoit, who simply robs –
you’ve urges to protect and to exploit:
be just! (but help yourself when you’ve the chance
and no one’s there to look at you askance.)
Priests educate, instruct and rape their flock
as farmers care for, milk and eat their herd
and statesmen love the country they extort.
First day at every new school
I gave a fake name
when other kids asked—Ox, Gray,
Branch—because my parents
named me after my brother who died. New friends
always wanted to know how. Sometimes
the river swept him up
in his baptismal gown. Sores and lumps
before the vaccine. My mother
found him twisted in his sheets; father
left him by the forklift
and swore he came right back.
I can’t count how often
I killed my brother, brought him to life
to kill again in the fog of a bus stop pack
pining for first impressions.
Vanished in the flood; snatched
into a van, front tire of his bike spinning.
When he was old enough to drive
he lost the wheel over a frosted bridge.
What bridge? In the place of dairy cows
there’s a cross with our name.
A CRACK FOR THE MIRACULOUS
Oh do not grumble no room at the inn.
Don’t turn these holy days into a blur
of frosted panes, nor carols to the din
of drunks and scolded kids; don’t be too sure
that every hope succumbs to cheap chagrin.
No, do not close your door; leave just a crack
for the miraculous to enter in.
It has before and it can still come back.
O let your lips become the sliver of
an open smile. Remember when a pair
of tiny people fell in giant love
before they fell apart? Take in the air!
And leave a crack for the miraculous,
for you and I returning back to us.
LET THE WINTER WINDS ASSIST ME
I’ll change the subject of the conversation
inside my mind; I will forget the flowers
and trees that I once learned, the sweet sensation
of all your words on mine, and all the hours
we spent on phlox, and styrax, celandines
and times that time has shown were lost on me.
You keep him always on your mind. which means
that you belong to him. What’s left for me?
And you’ll refuse to see it all as tragic
as you and I forget, forget, forget.
Oh Lord, please let the Redbreast work its magic;
let me un-dream, let me forget and let
the falling leaves and winter winds assist me
where no birds sing, as if you never kissed me.
We call the distant glimmers stars; perhaps
they spell our fate. The Moving Finger writes?
It does not write; The Moving Finger snaps
and then our moment’s gone. The starry nights
spin on. Perhaps they’re moments frozen on
an arc that I can neither speed nor slow.
The pointed moments drag. How long til dawn?
How did it come to this? How can I know?
How inconceivable the distance of
the turning zodiac, the depth of blue,
and yet they pull on me all night, my love,
and so my fevered mind is turning too.
The rack of night is tightened star by star
by star. They aren’t so far away. You are.
BILTMORE GARDENS: STUMBLING THROUGH PARADISE
My self-effacing Eve and I will weave
along in garden walks, but when I call
her beautiful, she’ll turn away. We loll
through Paradise. And here the gardens leave
us treasure too unguarded to believe:
“Remember this? And this?” I fidget, stall,
and sigh. She sees me struggle to recall,
and giggling, hides her face behind her sleeve.
I’m overwhelmed with names of flowers—names
of feelings, too. The orchid in her hand
I’ve never known before. I shake my head.
I just don’t have the words…
if she began to name the grains of sand,
I’d be enamored of the sand, instead.
THE SKY ABLOOM
You had no need of me; I was just one
among a hundred-thousand little boys
who wrote their poems thinking they were done,
who puffed and preened, and made a little noise.
You picked the lint off of my poem’s chest
and fixed my poem’s collar; soon we knew
as you were taming it, you tamed the rest
of me — as I was slowly taming you.
We laugh. Am I too old to know the way
to love my rose? A half a century gone,
we both know love. How purely now we lay
each other down… then talk until the dawn.
We share what stars are left and rightly see
the sky abloom with flowers, far and free.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT JESUS
This is the machine that makes rubber bands.
And this is the one that makes bullets.
I have to imagine that someone at some point
invented the machine for making rubber bands.
Ditto the machine for bullets. Someone invented that.
And someone else refined the rubber-band machine.
Someone did the same for bullets. And right on
down the line. Different someones did
the paperwork to patent the machines and
bought the property to house them and built the
necessary factories and engaged suppliers and
hired workers and saw to their training and sent
a sales force out, probably across the whole country,
to collect orders for, on the one hand, rubber bands,
and on the other, bullets.
That is to say for rubber bands that hold our
tattered paperbacks together, or our collections
of colored pencils, or, like the post office,
buys millions of them to wrap around our mail.
While, of course, bullets rip through people’s chests
right around the nipple or blow apart their heads
or mow down unsuspecting children in
Connecticut or Colorado or wherever.
Which reminds me that when Jesus comes again,
as certain groups of people are positive he will,
he is going to say to the manufacturers of rubber bands,
“Please take a seat of honor here at my right hand,”
and to the manufacturers of bullets and the inventors of
bullet machines and their salesmen and suppliers and workers
he is going to say, “Depart from me, you cursed
of my father, into the everlasting fire prepared
for you from all eternity.”
That’s what I like about Jesus.
He doesn’t fuck around.
A GARBAGE BAG AFTERLIFE
Apparitions shaped like old Christmas cards,
tormenting a drawer, cluttered as your soul,
until you turn a garbage bag
into an afterlife more reminiscent
of primordial darkness than that light
we’re always told to go towards.
Maybe the naked trees will mourn more
for them, while you read names
you haven’t thought about in years,
and even if a few of them have died,
those cards give their ghosts enough life
to remind you you’re out of envelopes.
A GRANT STARVED POET EATING A CAN OF EXPIRED CORN
I have read almost every book
by Henry Chinaski,
and know I could teach a class
all about his work:
standing in front of those scholarly eyes,
dissecting his words
with high school scalpel precision,
holding up his intestines
just to explain how his shit worked,
but I believe in his ghost too much,
and I’m scared he’d hit the devil over the head
with a bar-stool to come back and haunt me,
which proves I’m a superstitious coward,
who at least knows it.
He wore Lennon shades inside
and was always in black;
his combat boots shined and his
button-down ironed and he’d sit
cross-legged on waxed white
tile, sipping Oolong from
a mint green teacup
his hair was hazel– long enough
to dance with the wind chimes
on the concrete balcony but
short enough to hover
above his shoulders
he smoked Lucky Strikes and
threw them at me as I walked through
the entryway so I’d crawl, sniffing
them out like a Blue Tick
he’d play with rosaries and
sketch pentagrams; he
had me wear
Buddha round my neck as
a reminder that Siddhartha wouldn’t
the material world
he asked me once why I came
to call on him so often
and if I wouldn’t mind
leaving for good
as I grabbed my final
loose cigarette, I turned around
and told him: I don’t
give myself stigmata because
I think I’m Christ,
it’s because I ought to
(Alexandria, 150 B.C.)
By this I bind,
this leaden square sealed up
with sacred nails,
and sworn, and buried
in dark soil
by Hades, Hecate
and every under-god:
may peaches, pears,
blue clusters of round grapes
and all the luscious gleanings
of this fertile earth
fall, ashes at your feet
and turn your mouth to dust
that all your hopes
will be reversed, desire
go limp as twine
and cramps assail
your faithless bowels
as you twist sleepless
in your foreign bed.
I pace our corridor
bare-legged each night,
unable to forget
your touch, your husky laugh,
your delicate curved lips.
The pomegranate tree we planted
has turned black
as my despair.
(Finding a gannet washed up at Eel Pond)
A sudden swan-size lump —
bright white and yellow
streaked by sand, wings snarled,
their sodden coal-black tips
crusted with silt. Gray eye
that scanned pelagic waves,
eaten by ants.
who skimmed iced cliffs
and mangrove swamps
as awkwardly as I extend —
retract — a booted toe:
restrained by vague
or other visions
fallen from the skies
I circle, formal
as Victorian mourners
in front-parlor guise
and take my leave
by an uninvited host
while gorgeous ruined plumage
on a misty beach
begins to ruffle gently
as the tide comes in
THE END OF THE WORLD
My great-grandmother fetched water from a well
while the crone down the road hollered
The world is ending!
My grandmother lay the cards out and told her believers
they would get their wish; I think she kept the news
of world’s end to herself.
My mother jitterbugged with sailors on their way
to war while the curmudgeon spoke a warning
from his porch next door.
I watch spring unfold in my garden in a wash of new green
and my grandchildren smile from my laptop screen;
I trust the world will carry on its endless ending.
their mascot is a teal rooster
we urge our daughter
to get a photo
with the giant teal bird
says she doesn’t want
posting the pic
with the caption
Look at my daughter
and her giant teal cock
they grow up fast
she decided to go there
four years of cock jokes
OUT FOR THE COUNT
On Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, each year,
Unbalanced individuals converge
To chase a giant cheese downhill. Their sheer
Fell swoop obeys the death-defying urge
Of true Dutch courage proffered by a pub’s
Refreshments in the hours before the race …
This year, BC’s Delaney Irving stubs
Her toe while trailing back in second place,
Escapes from contact with the ground, takes flight,
Clears several metres, lands again and rolls
On down to take the lead and win—all quite
Unconsciously … This kamikaze soul’s
Nerve-jangling plunge shows how you can amount
To something when you’re knocked out for the count!
John C. Morrison
SORRY I WALKED OUT ON YOU THE OTHER DAY
My uncle remained loyal
in my convalescence. He could never
recall my name to say twice the same.
Only left the hospital for a pimento-cheese
sandwich or to vacuum the whole
of where we’d been. I’d given my elderly
neighbor a sack of loose holiday ribbon
and her powerful, forlorn hug wrenched
my spine. I curled like a deer
on a map of the world woven
of wild grass from the Central
Valley before the god-awful haze,
before the giant sloths lumbered
extinct. With my eyes pinched tight
in that high pitch of pain, I saw how
you and I in all our flirtation
never painted each other’s nails or did
so long ago even the extinct sloths
have forgotten. I hypnotized
myself with a green feather
to remember. Fasted and fasted
to remember. I ate a bruised banana
as brain food and still was as blank
as the sandstone cliff, legend has,
lovers fell from holding hands
so they could fall as stars forever.
James B. Nicola
MF AND FF
When you say motherfucker, and you’re not
a teenager, a hoodlum, or a cop,
what does it say about your mother? What
does it say about you? I don’t say stop,
but I say fatherfucker now instead
because I am part feminist, you see.
Plus, fully grown. Besides, my dad’s long dead.
I would like to invite you to join me
and not be such a parrot, ape, or sucker
who disses mothers. Not that it’s a crime,
but won’t you try to manage fatherfucker,
for the sake of fairness, maybe, half the time?
I knew I shouldn’t peep behind that curtain
but I was full of youthful lust
and the thrill that prohibition gives
I’d seen through chinks before
but those gleaming mounds of flesh
cracked with black were worth the curse
I got when my transgression was discovered;
for days I walked round reddened
and my terrier Jason seemed to know
but the ghostly white buttresses
haunted and the boughs of forest glades
so I slunk back and braved the wrath again
but this time those white hillocks beckoned
called me in and sanctioned my transgression:
’twas the day that I first learned
shame shared is shameless.
THE SMOKERS’ ROOM
The hospital’s grudging smokers’ room,
dead butts crumpled on tin coasters.
Just the two people there. He knew her,
bought his veg at her market stall.
Her mother’s stroke, his father’s blood disease
(but the awfulness for each was family,
recrimination, homes’ sworn angers).
They swapped tired jokes, civilities,
then suddenly unburdened, each to each,
laid misery bare, until, calmed,
comforted, they left for their visits.
Later they only met at her veggie stall.
They were polite, talked market currency,
knew shades of spirit’s nakedness, the pit.
“A LIST OF SMALL FLAMES” [J H Prynne]
The you that is not here, indubitably.
Oranges within the plastic dome of the cooler.
His cock, blooming in my fist, fierce and tender, against my lips, in memory.
Morning over the river, light that does, or won’t, portend.
That afternoon you stood in the woods, looked up and, just then, an owl and a hawk were conversant, in threatened alders.
A few ghosts. Random? No, particular.
When you held me from behind in the snow on a sled, then on the cold Okanagan lake
in deepest July, where we rode a Seadoo and laughed like the wake, so easily.
The dictionary your father bought you one lost Christmas; that he knew you that well.
Teal, in all hues.
Pulling her out by the armpits, jellied, into fluorescence and ineluctable relief.
He didn’t flinch when you wept, did he, well that was something too.
SOME BLOCKY SOPHOMORE THROWS A BASKETBALL
RIGHT AT DULCET’S HEAD
Coach sees Danny throw it
right at me—when I fall,
Coach yells get up. I want to cry
but know they’ll turn me
into a bigger joke
than they think I am. Why does
Eisenhower High School make me
play basketball? Run this way,
then that, throw a ball up.
I’d rather be on the couch
watching One Life To Live,
Viki fading into her split
personality, Niki Smith. I feel
like I’m several people,
none of whom can dodge anything.
Elegant jade cup
holds liquid gold for her lips.
She’s suddenly shy.
Poor moon, sparkling bright;
no match for the glint of such
mischief in her eyes.
His sideways glance, the
open hand. Knowing he is
hers, feels triumphant.
One of the janitors has a chair
in a broom closet, gin stashed under
cleaning products, the Racing Form,
chewed on stogies – would set alarms
if lit – Playboys bent & stuffed between
brick wall and water pipes. Curses
often as the sea makes salt. All the
maids know he’s a soft touch when
their month runs out of check. Has
two daughters in the Youth Orchestra.
Glares if you ask him to mop up
but hustles quick to help anyone
with a cane. Bends to the children.
Even the devil doesn’t know his heart.
mom sews a vagina for her daughter like a red rag for tears
mom wants soldiers to give flowers to her daughters
the cemetery is silent about flowers
daughter collects khaki and throws it into the toilet
daughter screams that she does not need such flowers
graves are silent about the dead
WHEN THE STARS SPEAK
ASTRONOMOLOGY AND LOSS
You would think they’d be
thrilled but: Nope.
They were terrified when
assigned to pour you
precious gift of life
(water) and the most
precious gift (constancy?)
The two am call
it’s our mother
clothes flung in a back pack
two hundred caffeinated miles to Queens
Meet my sister at St. Luke’s
the air suffused with resentment like a swarm of wasps
the classic story: I left, she stayed in the one horse,
no bookstore town, living with my surly mother, tending
to her every need like the saint she pretends to be
Saint Clare of Infinite Compassion
basking in the praise of the neighbors, the pastor, the mail carrier
a martyr synthetic as saccharin, burning in nonexistent flames
Sitting with my mother all night
on this sad excuse for a chair, while a tantara of nurses
thump in and out like pachyderms to take blood pressure,
test oxygen, replace beeping bags, chattering
in some high-pitched language that hurts my ears
drifting into dreams of a mother who favored her first born
who felt abandoned by the one who left
who is planning to unwind her will
All nonsense of course
tomorrow I will head home,
slip back into a comforting routine, yet
still I see my sister’s hollow eyes, her longing
for reprieve, still I see my mother reach for her hand, not mine
A SILHOUETTE AT GREAT KILLS BEACH
From up among the beach grass
and the sea rocket, past the furthest
reach of stranded clams and condom rings,
I watched them walking
in the wet sand by the water;
the three of them – the two
bikinied girls and
the naked man in silhouette against
the sinking sun, approaching them.
They wore barely more than he did,
but as far as I could tell
whatever thoughts of them
he had were only those
a man could safely wear in public
at a beach.
A paper cutout of a man, an inverted
trapezoid in black. They liked
what little they could see of him,
inflating everything they had
as they advanced, and smiling.
A voyeur just by happenstance,
I couldn’t turn away to save my soul
from the epiphany about to happen.
It only took a moment more
for them to see the detail in
his shadowed side, and when they did
then turned as one
and ran from his nakedness
and his indifference.
Sometimes I wish
I had a fireplace
so when I get cold
I can go sit by it
until I get hot
and then do
You don’t forget
when you have a
Your breath bows to fire
in my eyes, withers
as my hand slides
across your cheek.
My essence a superpower
over you, your heart
a rag of lace, clinging
to the rust of forever.
Not me, Baby, I’m going
to tempt you, trample you,
tear you apart then tear
out of here like nuclear noise.
I WANT A NEW RUNNING SKIRT
I want a new running skirt
short and tight in a bright purple
print I want to wear
that skirt with a tank that bares
my shoulders leaves my arms free
to swing in synch with my flying feet
I want to feel the heat of the sun
the wet of sweat rolling down
my back I want to run
in that skirt through Delmarva past
North Carolina beyond Savannah
and Miami Beach I want that skirt
to get me away from long pants
fleece vests wooly hats and gloves
In that skirt I will leave the dread
of swabs and tests and toxins in the air
the terror of touching a hand
when I hand groceries to someone
who has never before asked for food
I want that skirt to carry me past
the agony of bodies in parking lots
waiting for a gurney or a hospital bed
beyond the horror of guns and clubs
blood stains on marble steps
I need this skirt to assuage
the panic that whispers in the night
nothing will ever be the way it was
I need something to allay
the fear of never seeing my kids again
TAKEN BACK TO THE LAND
a death in your family,
no longer in metropolitan Montreal
back to your uncle’s soiled farmland,
the grey outskirts of Quebec,
Isabel, Isabel, what worries you so?
Is it the dreary weather and tedious chores?
The musty smell and creaky floorboards
of your uncle’s house? Your curious family’s
history unknown, only your uncle’s
bothersome friendliness remaining. Isabel,
you inspect yourself in the mirror before bed,
from the shape of your thighs to your
pointed cupid’s bow, you ponder so deeply
until there’s nothing left but all your mucked
up anxieties, you dredge up what nobody else
thought was there. Land, home, body, routine,
your distorted thoughts and the peculiar
kindness of many men, I want to protect you from it all.
Isabel, I’ll only kiss you in the dark as not to be blinded by
your elfin, boyish beauty no local girl has. You’ll come to me
on your bike tonight, little sleepless Isabel, in spite of the heavy storm
though you’ll be unable to make up your cluttered mind,
I’ll take you dearest Isabel, lay you down on some hay
in the same barn where others wanted to take you
unjustly. Trembling, you’ll cling to me, your eyes wide,
but you won’t see me, my face replaced by
the shadow of another much more familiar
than I ever could be. Isabel, you haunted waif,
Isabel, how will I save you then?
Poets and Artists Bios
Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally. Allen is the co-Founding Editor of Book of Matches literary journal. Allen’s latest book is Leaving the Skin on the Bear, C&R Press, 2022. She currently teaches writing and literature in North Carolina. kelli-allen.com
C. J. Anderson-Wu is a Taiwanese writer whose writing revolves around historical injustice and human rights violation. Her works have been shortlisted by a number of contests, and won the awards from Stranded Lit, Invisible City, and the best story from Story Sanctum.
Susan Kay Anderson resides at the headwaters of Sutherlin Creek in the Umpqua River Basin in southwestern Oregon. Anderson worked in Hawaii as an educator. There, she interviewed Virginia Brautigan Aste. The resulting memoir, Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast, and Anderson’s first book of poems, Mezzanine, are available from Finishing Line Press. www.pw.org/directory/writers/susan_kay_anderson
Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise <(xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry on unceded Mingo land (Akron, OH). Recent/upcoming appearances in Wishbone Words, SurVision, and Down in the Dirt, among others.
Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, most recently Escape Envy. His writing has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. An ex-con, he lives in Charleston, West Virginia, where he writes and tries to stay out of trouble.
Hannah Bub writes both fiction and poetry. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in the following: Greene Street Review, Wingless Dreamer anthologies (Praised by December and The Petal Pages), October Hill Magazine, and San Antonio Review.
Emily Buckner is a writer and teacher in Wisconsin. Her work has been published in Flash Fiction Magazine, Creative Wisconsin Magazine, and Every Day Fiction. When she is not writing, Emily enjoys making music, reading, taking walks, and petting her cat, Ivan. Find her on Twitter @ebucknerwrites.
Sarah Carleton writes poetry, edits fiction, plays the banjo, and knits obsessively in Tampa, Florida. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Nimrod, Tar River Poetry, Cider Press Review, The Wild Word, Valparaiso, and New Ohio Review. Sarah’s poems have received nominations for Pushcart and Best of the Net. Her first collection, Notes from the Girl Cave, was published in 2020 by Kelsay Books.
Jared Carter‘s most recent book, The Land Itself, is from Monongahela Books in West Virginia. He lives in Indiana.
Yuan Changming edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include 12 Pushcart nominations, 15 chapbooks (most recently Sinosaure) and appearances in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (2008-17),
Jackie Chou writes free verses, rhyming poems, and Japanese short form poetry, some of which saw the light of day in journals like Alien Buddha Zine, Spillwords, and Fevers of the Mind Press. She is also a Jeopardy fan.
Marisa Cimbal lives in New Jersey with her husband and dog, Elsa, and is the mother of twin daughters. She works in New York City in healthcare communications and is now fulfilling her dream of being a poet and a writer of nonfiction. Most recently, her work has appeared in Humans of the World.
Don Colburn came to poetry late, in the midst of a newspaper career. A longtime reporter for The Washington Post and The Oregonian, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing. He has published five poetry collections, including four chapbooks. His latest — Mortality, With Pronoun Shifts — won the Cathy Smith Bowers chapbook award. His full-length book, As If Gravity Were a Theory, won the Cider Press Review Book Award.
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.
MC is a North Carolina native. She graduated with an MFA in Fiction from Brigham Young University in 2020 and is currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing/Poetry at Ohio University. Her work has been published in Inscape journal and Jersey Devil Press.
Prize-winning poet* Ken Cumberlidge cut his performance teeth on the Liverpool pub poetry scene of the 1970s, and has never recovered. He’s now based in Norwich, but can be lured out of cover by the promise of good company and an open mic slot. If you’ve been to an open-mic on Zoom in the last year or so, there’s a sporting chance you’ve encountered him. More of Ken’s work can be found via his Linktree at https://linktr.ee/kencumberlidge
(* the prize was a chocolate cake. He guessed its weight.)
Cover Artist Andrea Damic, born in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, now resides in Sydney, Australia. She’s an amateur photographer and author of poetry and prose. Being a non-native English speaker makes every publication worthwhile the struggle. When she lacks words, she uses visual arts to speak for her. She spends many an hour fiddling around with her website: damicandrea.wordpress.com.
Tony Dawson has lived in Seville for many years. Poems published in Critical Survey, and by Shoestring Press (Nottingham); London Grip, The Five-Two, The Syndic Literary Journal, Beatnik Cowboy, Cajun Mutt Press, Poetry and Covid, Home Planet News, Pure Slush, North of Oxford, Lighten Up Online and Loch Raven Review. A collection, Afterthoughts ISBN: 978-81-19228-34-8 was published by Cyberwit.net in 2023 https://londongrip.co.uk/2023/06/london-grip-poetry-review-tony-dawson/.
Margaret Dornaus holds an MFA in the translation of poetry from the University of Arkansas. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her work appears in numerous journals and anthologies, including I-70 Review, Minyan Magazine, One Art, Red Earth Review and Sheila-Na-Gig. Her first book, Prayer for the Dead: Collected Haibun & Tanka Prose (Singing Moon Press, 2016), received a 2017 Haiku Society of America Book Award.
Krista Drechsel is a poet and writer based in Minneapolis. She is currently working on her first collection of poems.
Arvilla Fee teaches English for Clark State College and is the poetry editor for the San Antonio Review. She has published poetry, short stories, and photography in numerous presses, and her poetry book, The Human Side, is available on Amazon. For Arvilla, writing produces the greatest joy when it connects us to each other.
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.
J. Andrew Figley is a writer and poet from Willard, Ohio. A government bureaucrat by trade, he enjoys a quiet life with his wife, three cats, and dog. His work has been published on 50 Word Stories..
Jane H. Fitzgerald is the author of four books of poetry including, Notes From the Undaunted. Her poems have appeared in: Your Daily Poem, Isele Quarterly, Devil’s Party Press, Green Ink Poetry, Rat’s Ass Review, and more. Jane is a former history teacher and developer of curricula. She lives in the sunny, diverse state of Florida.
Wendy Freborg is a retired social worker whose work has appeared in Rat’s Ass Review, Right Hand Pointing, The Orchards Poetry Journal, Misfit, and WestWard Quarterly. Her life includes one husband, one son, two grandchildren, enough friends, too many doctors, and not enough dogs. Her pleasures are her family, crossword puzzles, learning new things, and remembering old times.
Frank Freeman‘s poetry has been published in Maine Sunday Telegram, Sehnsucht, The American Journal of Poetry, The Aroostook Review, The Axe Factory, The Decadent Review, The New York Quarterly, SN Review, Tiger’s Eye, and is forthcoming in Verdad, The Opiate, and Main Street Rag. Grew up mostly in Texas, married a Maine woman. House, kids, dog, cat, chickens, bees, small family business. Writes in the mornings to stay sane, keeps family business books in afternoons.
Gerald Friedman grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, and now teaches physics and math in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has published poetry in various journals, recently Blue Unicorn Review, Abandoned Mine, One Sentence Poems, and Cold Moon Journal. You can read more of his work at jerryfriedman.wixsite.com/my-site-2/.
Lisa Caroline Friedman was born in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, grew up in New York City, and currently resides in Palo Alto, California with her husband, daughters, and thirteen year-old labradoodle. Her first published poem appeared in the March 2023 issue of Pink Panther Magazine. She received a BA in English from Stanford University and this winter, will begin Antioch University’s low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program.
After 31 years in banking, John Ganshaw retired to follow his dream of owning a hotel in Southeast Asia. This led to many new experiences enabling John to see the world through a different lens, leading him to write his story through essays, poetry, and a yet unpublished memoir. John’s work has appeared in Native Skin, Runamok Books/Growerly, Post Roe Alternatives, Empyrean Literary Magazine, OMQ, Open Door Magazine, SCARS poems and short stories, among others.
Frances Gaudiano is a veterinary nurse by day and a writer in all her spare moments. Her novel, The Listener was published last year and two other projects are in the editing stages. Additionally, she has had poetry and short stories published in a variety of journals and is the author of a textbook on Veterinary Dermatology. Currently, she lives in Cornwall (England) with two dogs, a large snake and two humans.
Gary R. Gowers is a writer and a long-term resident of The Osage Artists Community (OAC) in Belle, Missouri. Gary started his writing career in South Korea where he worked as an ESL instructor and wrote textbooks for learners of the English language. He has published one novel titled 5th Floor Francis, and is currently working on several writing projects, including a book of poetry, a collection of Flash NonFiction and several screenplays.
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.
Erin Hay is a poet living in Santa Cruz, California. Counts herself lucky to have a home, other fine poets and love to write with, to learn from. She has been published in the Rat’s Ass Review Winter 2021.
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.
Dave Jarecki is a professional writer and educator, living in Milton, VT. In his baseball days, his out-pitch was the slurve.
Daniel Kemper is an unaccomplished man. He’s walked The-Bridge-of-No-Return across the Sachong (and returned), carried an acolyte’s cross, read poetry at The Gates of Hell (Rodin Gardens), touched the bones of Dinkenesh, climbed Masada; he’s been How-Berkeley-Can-You-Be and walked Pamlico Sound barefoot. He’s written when there was no one he could tell and he writes now to bring out things of value and to engage and embrace all those who are doing the same.
Robert Kinerk writes fiction, plays and poems. His most recent publication is ‘Tales from the Territory: Stories of Southeast Alaska.’ A long-time Alaskan, he and his wife, Anne, now make their home in Cambridge MA.
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.
Alex LeGrys is 21 years old and received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Bard College. Her work has appeared in Apricity Press, Better than Starbucks, The Whistling Shade, Bonfire Lit, and Blue Lake Review.
Michael Levin is a lawyer, solar energy developer and writer based in Washington DC. His work has appeared in three collections plus anthologies and periodicals, and has received poetry and feature journalism awards. He is co-author of an internationally-presented concert documentary with live classical music, Two Pianos—Playing for Life (2018–) and two full-length nonfiction volumes, A Border Town in Poland (2021) and Firebird: The Musical Life and [Revolutionary] Times of [Classical Pianist] Rebecca Burstein-Arber (2023). His fourth poetry collection, Watching Bees, will be published September 2023. See michaellevinpoetry.com and paperspleaseanodyssey.com
Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbooks “The Belly Remembers” (Pearl Editions) and “Along the Fault Line” (Picture Show Press), and three full-length volumes of poetry, “Wild Domestic”, “Moraine” (Pearl Editions) and “Morpheus Dips His Oar” (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions). Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, Rat’s Ass Review, the Writer’s Almanac, Sheila-Na-Gig, Worcester Review and many other publications. She is a swimmer and a dog lover. More about Tamara can be found at
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.
Mike Mesterton-Gibbons is a Professor Emeritus at Florida State University who has returned to live in his native England. His acrostic sonnets have appeared in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Better Than Starbucks, the Creativity Webzine, Current Conservation, the Ekphrastic Review, Grand Little Things, Light, Lighten Up Online, MONO., the New Verse News, Oddball Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, the Satirist, the Washington Post and WestWard Quarterly.
John C. Morrison‘s most recent book is Monkey Island, from redbat books. His poems have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Comstock Review, Two Hawks, and previously in the Rat’s Ass Review. He teaches for the Attic Institute in Portland, Oregon, and runs a slow but respectable middle distance.
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.
Bob Nimmo studied law and literature and has poetry scattered worldwide in magazines, including the “Inclement”, “Fire”, “The California Quarterly”, “Aspire” and the “SN Review”. He has authored three poetry collections, has a lyrical presence on Twitter, Instagram and his own blog. He lives in Pegasus, New Zealand with his gay partner and he delights in finding life’s little dark idiosyncrasies that merit a muse.
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet widely-published in Britain, where he won the Prole Pamphlet Competition in 2017, and in the USA, where he is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee.
Catherine Owen is the author of fifteen collections of poetry and prose. She hosts the podcast Ms Lyric’s Poetry Outlaws.
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.
Diana Rosen is an essayist, poet, and flash writer whose first full-length book of micro fiction and poetry ,”High Stakes & Expectations”, was published in 2022 by www.thetinypublisher.com She has work in Drunk Monkeys, Rattle, Tiferet Journal and many other print and online journals in the U.S., Australia, Canada, India, and England. To read more of her work, please visit www.authory.com/dianarosen .
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.”
Sarah Sarai’s poems are in Barrow Street, The Southampton Review, New Ohio Review, and many other journals. Her collections and chapbooks include That Strapless Bra in Heaven (Kelsay Books); Geographies of Soul and Taffeta (Indolent); and The Future is Happy (Blaze VOX). She also writes fictions of varying sizes.
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.
Donald Sellitti honed his writing skills as a scientist/educator at a Federal medical school before turning to poetry following his retirement. Numerous publications in journals with titles such as Cancer Research and Oncology Letters have been followed by publications in journals with somewhat more fanciful titles like The Alchemy Spoon, Better than Starbucks, and Rat’s Ass Review, which nominated him for a Pushcart Prize in 2022.
Gary Standin is an engineer living in fabled Paterson, NJ. One publication in The Dead Mule and this.
Robin Wright lives in Southern Indiana. Her work has appeared in The Beatnik Cowboy, As it Ought to Be, Loch Raven Review, Spank the Carp, The New Verse News, Rat’s Ass Review, Bulb Culture Collective, Bindweed, One Art, Young Ravens Literary Review, Sanctuary, and others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her first chapbook, Ready or Not, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2020.
Sherri Wright is a member of the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild and the Key West Poetry Guild. She walks her dog on the boardwalk, and volunteers for a local food rescue. Her work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Rat’s Ass Review, Dreamer’s Creative Writing, Persimmon Tree, Ocotillo Review, Delaware Beach Life, Raven’s Perch, and Quartet.
Nat Zhichkin is a poet from New York, but he currently lives in Montreal. He’s currently working on getting his degree in sexuality studies at Concordia University. Outside of writing poetry he likes to draw, make collages, and obsess over obscure music and films. He can be found on instagram.
Edited by Roderick Bates
RAT’S ASS REVIEW FALL-WINTER ISSUE 2023 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED