Spring-Summer 2024 Issue

(Cover Art Mill Town Mondrian by Joe Citro)
Anne Anthony
Night descends. He lay naked and near, skintight
inside the fragrance of cedar and steam
inside his sleeping bag worn threadbare
since days as a scout, as a boy, years before me.
The ground feels damp. It is uneven.
I kiss the saltiness of his neck, his black-as-sin hair,
his coarse lips to the hum of cicadas.
He unzips, spreads the bag into blanket,
seizes me, and we, both laughing, roll together.
Lying on our backs we search night’s sky.
Clear. Black. Forever.
And he asks if it is enough.
Enough, this forever.
Disquiet rustles through needles of pine,
through the still air, through to the answer
which cracks like a twig, delicate, yet clear.
On my back, lying, I say yes.
The unloving so soon begins.
Catherine Arra
This morning I ate a grapefruit
from South Africa as big
as a rutabaga, pith a half-inch
thick, spongy, but the fruit
sweet and pink.
Perhaps my breakfast anticipated
the long voyage, exchange of hands,
a crate, a cradle, rocking in sea water,
danger and dehydration,
the hoist and hammer of arrival
from the Limpopo River to
upstate New York, me wrapped
in a sleepy robe, a waning
autumn morning, and knew
to cushion its citrus heart.
Sharon Berg
Snow continues to fall for days, wind
blowing it off rooftops in this (what did you call it?)
     Lake Huron/St. Clair effect.
All roadways collect deep drifts, the sidewalks lost,
driveways just shovelled needing the same
every few hours for the second day in a row.
     It must be beautiful, you said, and it is,
but frustration arrives with knowledge
I still can’t get to you — though you are here,
sharing conversation as if I talked to spirit.
I quake like the planet undergoing shifts
     reading your emails.
Your invitation to phone resisted, we text,
until one day you misinterpret my message:
     Phone after you’ve read my book.
You phone to report you received it
and I am lost in the timbre of your voice,
the strength of your persistence,
the depth of connection like the melding
     of experience though we’ve yet to meet.
I quake with a fear that runs tectonic,
shifting ground, the future unpredictable,
all assumptions about what will come
     — despite my efforts to control it —
Carole Bernstein
This is the one where he dies said my uncle, lounging and fat, rubbing his socked feet together like a baby, cigar sticking out of his face like something being extruded,
my cousin cross-legged on the carpet, monkey face with braces, Captain Kirk dies, he nodded, grinning, so they could laugh loudly in my face when I believed them.
There on the color-drenched screen, on the rerun channel—the third episode I ever saw—I saw the Captain in his best friend’s stranglehold,
in a strange hot land on burning sands, far from comfort and safety.
Was this before or during that time—those times my uncle would secretly lick my toes, lift my shirt and suck on my breasts, such as they were? The Amaretto, the creaking kitchen chair, those mornings
I was petrified someone would find us? And how many mornings were there? Why do I need to know? Why do you?
He had become my friend when there was no one left: mother- and father-less. Then it turned out he wasn’t.
My aunt was making dinner. She was always making dinner while that show was on, because it was some show for boys.
None of them meant to give me a gift but they did, the Captain small and solid and perfect on the screen, the stories the flashlight of ideas I carried in my hands, though I was a girl,
the relief it brought, like waking up from a bad dream,
I carried it even through the shadowy upstairs hallway where my cousin brushed his crotch against me deliberately,
swiftly so I could doubt it actually happened. Was he dressed? Maybe just underwear? Is that bad enough?
But back to the Captain. By an amazing trick, an incredible subterfuge, he triumphed and his loyal officer’s head cleared. All was put to rights. All was as it was.
They checked my face periodically—my disbelief, amazement—and laughed and laughed.
It was the funniest thing ever, the uncle conveyed with his spitty hoarse haw-haw and the monkey cousin with his tittering.
What I learned is that they were liars. The Captain would never die. And has not left or betrayed me, even to this day.
Rose Mary Boehm
The plane hopped along the runway
rather than setting down gently,
and my body lurched forward
against the seatbelt.
We’d hoped to see the whales breach,
but they were long gone
south where the waters
are green and cold.
Patagonia probably…
Three sea lions pirouetted
in the murky waters by the pier,
no match for the pelicans.
Don’t get careless, fat friends,
we saw three of your colleagues
washed up on the rocks,
big holes in their sides.
Someone said they ripped
the fishermen’s nets
to shreds.
A wet, happy dog came from the sea,
draped itself across my naked feet
and made me shiver.
Last night I heard a famous man
pronouncing that all ends with death.
So it starts and finishes in one pitiful
swoop of perhaps 80 miserly years?
And all our joys, fears, pain, knowledge, and love
are cut, laid to waste, drowned like rats,
eaten by worms, burned in the furnace
of forgetting and who gives a fuck?
I am not necessarily into an afterlife—
even though a few minutes of death
made me believe there is more to us
than can be touched, smelled, and seen—
what I want to imagine is a multi-dimensional
archive in some place where our overcomings
are stored and used to best advantage.
Neither is it about being forgotten.
I couldn’t care less. It’s about having
been of use in the totality of the scheme,
or why would I have bothered?
Annika Bratton
She can smell that there is good earth here
and she must be right
can smell all the places I buried the hatchet
and dug it back up
My dog looks like me
the way storms are indistinguishable
She goes sprinting across this damp valley
like a prophet with the answer
on their tongue and blood on their hands
Me and my dog
our breath is sour
we both fail to listen to my mother
when it matters most
Sweet deserter on the gravel road
scent-slick belligerent
I forget she didn’t grow up here
How could I know intimately something
she has never seen?
We sleep in the same bed
we both know what it’s like to sink our teeth
into something not meant for us
I love her for it
Jeff Burt
My mother liked bones,
the raw view of a shoulder blade
and the angled rise to the shoulder,
a set of hips that might be more mistaken
for a milking cow’s pelvis,
swank noticeable, not graceful,
force full of hoof, witness given to sinew
and the elastic stretch of tendons, muscle, girth.
When all the world praised the Graces Kelly
and Freds Astaire, she watched Buster Keaton
dance plastered to the engine of a train.
The lamb struggled for a breath
caught in the trench drain
with an eddy that was pulling it down,
rainwater rising from a flood
through the ditch that could not hold the flow,
the sky a convoluted mess of clouds,
and you and those loose-fit rubber boots,
not calf-high galoshes
but full-up-to-the-kneecap black beauties
dulled by frequent mud-slop cow-dung sheep-shit
that drops from a bung.
You didn’t slip them on,
just plunged one foot and then another
into the gaping maws.
You became full of humor, zest,
both more animal and more human,
brawny, bony, even your muscles had wit
in the muck-glug-slosh-and-spill of earth,
our blessed receptor, re-manufacturer
of fallen things, and you,
like a water strider on the scrim of a lake
skating across the mire and morass
with a smile wide enough to hold a horse’s teeth.
You grabbed that lamb by the back
of the neck and yanked, and the eddy
gave it up to your relentless tug,
birthing the lamb a second time.
Those boots. Wish I had me a pair.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Bless the trees and bless the tree frogs, peepers who are beginning to keep me awake in the moments before they become part of the sounds I sleep through
And bless the night resolving to a white glow over the eastern hilltop
And bless the hilltop and the dead leaves I was afraid to burn because I am afraid of fire more than anything, being so far away from help.
And bless the help that does come when I set the hill ablaze and the Volunteers when I was afraid the neighbor’s pasture fire would catch me.
Bless my trepidation and wondering, my wavering faith, my half-belief, resolved into a lingering desire for benediction.
Yes. Bless the fact that even though, for me, divinity is no sure thing, I still moan, oh god, oh god, oh…
I never had a monkey, but I had a monkey mind
and I grew up where anything can happen
where white skin tanned to mahogany
accessorizes widows and their et ceteras. Ambling
the tideline of childhood’s obscure peninsula,
I flourished, beachside companion of baby alligators,
wreathed in clouds of tooth-white smoke disgorged
by the mosquito-killing truck as I rode my Schwinn
in its venomous exhaust. I blossomed,
surrounded by freaks who seemed ordinary to me,
the offspring of carnivals, black dirt, Jai Alai
and blues radio, while I waited untouched, under
a full moon, on a sweep of white sand
for my monkey life to begin.
Kate Carsella
There’s the candle lit
between your legs I warm,
licking to flame; the flame licking me.
Wooden wick, I have your broad sex
shoulders pinned to the mattress.
Back bowed long like yew.
I love seeing your neck
     from here;
I kneel before your
     column. Trembling before me.
Put your careworn hands
Big enough to cradle
the world on my cheeks while
I lick your flames. I like them, too,
too much. And they like me.
I love that I’m never too much for you.
Our hunger never stops. Never stop, enough
is never enough.
I lick your flames till your breath
whistles a ready kettle’s symphony
through your teeth a zephyr
feverwhipping the tall trees while
tonguespelling my name unto your bark
tongue tying a new knot
We’ll remember. I’ll press
the knot, open our magic
doorway again

Jackie Chou
My friend, who didn’t have toys
gifted me a clay Buddha
I tried to play with him
but he wouldn’t uncross his legs
and his head was bald
with no platinum blond tresses
to style into a ponytail
Being a size 22
nothing fit him but a shabby robe
exposing his protruding belly
Losing interest
I put the statue between my Barbies
who knelt down one by one
in reverence to the awakened being
Joe Citro


Brooke Clark
They’re insecure black holes of need
and here they come to clog your feed
with photos and confessionals
shaped by PR professionals—
a pool glows blue in the backyard
next to a pull quote: “It was hard
to fight those demons of self-doubt”—
How brave you are for speaking out!
(“Dinner? Umm…the rainbow trout?”)
Some glossy shots show off the house
where, on a massive sun-splashed couch
the boyfriend lounges with a grin—
familiar…what’s that show he’s in?
“Yes, I’ve found love—I’m over the moon!
My memoir’s coming out in June.”
But now hushed tones, dropped eyes reveal
we’re ready for the big reveal—
speaking to us as to a friend
she grabs onto the latest trend
and tries to humanize herself
with references to mental health:
“Depression and anxiety—
none of the meds would work for me
but a friend introduced me to
this yogi, or—more like—guru?
He teaches tantric meditation
to reach this cosmic—like—vibration?—
where all your energies align—
Oh yeah, hey, my new makeup line
is rolling out in every state—
I promise the concealer’s great!”
How nice for you. The problem is
for those without advantages
like wealth and fame, the proper cure
for suffering is not so sure,
and wasn’t there some news report
about—“That settled out of court,
so let’s move on,” smoothly insists
the always-hovering publicist.
The only cure for their disease?
Awards, red carpets, galaxies
of flashbulbs dazzling their eyes,
the swarms of fans, their ardent cries—
the roar of being glorified
drowns out the whispering voice inside,
that tells them that their fame won’t last
but crumble into dust and ash
leaving them lost and destitute—
quick—schedule a new photo shoot!
Eleanor Colligan
death preceded
your life
for all of mine.
The dull glow
of the new-dead
a lake
by the horizon:
the point where
black becomes black.
How you became
to a quick story
on a slick road.
a crooked tree
with your initials
carved by a hand
not your own,
lifespan neatly below it,
taking up only the space
that lingers
before a memory.
your work boots for the summer
still wait beneath the table
just in case —!
Joe Cottonwood
a sudden silver streak across the door
in the Grand Union parking lot
you may shout Hey!
You may abandon your cart—
sprint—catch by the shoulder
a skinny kid pimply you could crush
who breaks away slippy scared
shouting Fuck off!
as he runs into an alley.
Don’t follow.
The cart-roundup man, name tag LONNIE,
who may have Down’s Syndrome
will catch your runaway cart
before it crashes into a Mercedes and say
He’s a cusser. He’s bad.
Don’t say the word you’re thinking.
Thank Lonnie for stopping your cart.
Offer your hand. Lonnie with surprise
and pleasure will smile. In handshake
squeezing your fingers while meeting your eye,
Have a good day, Lonnie will say,
and you may affirm
Yes, I shall.
Here, this photo,
my cabin of teens in deep Missouri
after fathers beat, mothers abandoned.
No flowers in our hair.
Me in the center a college kid, clueless
with a summer job guiding hoodlums.
We canoed the Cuivre River.
I played guitar, sang folky stuff,
ate 23 prunes on a dare. They thought
I was a constipated Beatle.
Jayell caught frogs, built a fire,
fried the legs, shared them.
Oscar had an enormous penis, laughed at mine.
Little Roy caught moths, pinned them to an outhouse
wall where they fluttered and starved.
All had troubles. I loved all.
Where’d they go?
Three to Vietnam, this I know.
Jayell, Oscar, Little Roy,
names in a bathroom stall,
moths at a monument,
pinned on a wall.
Andrea Damic



Ginger Dehlinger
not an eighteen-wheel Mack
or Spielberg’s Peterbilt
but a three-quarter ton
named Ram, Raptor, Raider
with a custom Rockstar grill,
wide as a cow catcher,
to guard against
things that go bump in the night.
Inside the cockpit
a cushy passenger seat,
oodles of nooks and pockets,
glove box stuffed with
Triple A adventures on
Route 66
Great River Road
Yukon Highway.
The stern mirrors its driver:
USARMY, Heineken, Jackson Hole
from the rear window,
‘The closer you get, the slower I drive’
from the tail.
A tonneau cover says he’s practical,
mud flap girls
that he’s rowdy with his howdy.
My truck-drivin’ man will wear
a Carhartt shirt, Ozark Trail Men’s boots.
He’s a block away when I hear
the Kodiak growl of a diesel engine,
purr of a kitten
when he’s sittin’ in my driveway.
Don’t need no eHarmony profile
to know who’s pickin’ me up tonight.
Clive Donovan
He sits hard by where the supermarket trolleys
fuck each other linked with chains,
reminiscent of that old-time slave trade.
He is cadging for a coin always
but he, this least of grungy men, is free,
free to sleep in a ditch of his own choosing.
And with one actual coin he is richer
than any of these bondsmen to credit companies,
trotting along to get their sheep’s cheese and guacamole.
But he is not permitted to enter the shop
and he has no one at all to fuck.
Kathy Duby
Beneath the surface of what you know
is what you think you know.
Beneath my surface is a mask,
then ten more.
Beneath these lies a facade,
a smiley-face.
Underlying that insincere grin
rests a foot-thick layer of concrete,
sound barrier and emotional barrier.
This is my rock and upon this rock
I have built my life.
Under the impenetrable rock
lies a waterproof membrane.
This is where the crying stops.
Under the silent crying
lie dozens of sedimental strata
each one labelled truth.
Historical truth, hysterical truth,
Societal truth, familial truth,
False truth, real truth, biting truth.
Beneath the teeth of frozen truth
seethes a boiling mass of
putrid ooze.
The secrets.
This is where the crying starts.
But no one hears, no one sees.
All is calm, all is bright.
Until, one day,
Krakatoa, Pompeii.
His grandfather
spent three days
teaching him to yo-yo.
Mine taught me
Alexis Rhone Fancher



Arvilla Fee
You said you wanted
a butterfly;
so, I landed on your finger,
and you grinned;
I had no idea
you needed perfection
until you pinned me
to a cork board
for all the world to see.
Jane H. Fitzgerald
The scent of turpentine
Returns me to my father
His smile, paints, brushes
Wendy Freborg
You came into my life like a tsunami,
inundating me, my life, my plans.
You swept into all the crevices of my life,
filling every zone.
I was overwhelmed by the flood of you.
You changed my pronoun from “I” to “we,”
my name from Ms to Mrs.,
my life from bland to full.
We have aged together;
one of us will be first to die.
When that day comes,
it will be the other side of a tsunami,
a rapid ebb tide roaring out to sea.
Frank Freeman
The milk, white as the sun-bright snow
on either side of the road I drove
here on with my son in the back
of the van, spurts from the big silver tank.
Pepper, the Australian sheep dog,
sniffs my rump as foaming milk
fills the glass bottles
and my dark mind clears. Away
all the tangled thoughts of God
and no-God! For now,
milk and snow and getting there
and back is enough for any man.
Meg Freer
Pre-dawn, the dog and I step onto unbroken snow,
a half-moon still in the west, the hundreds
of crows, perhaps a thousand, starting to chatter,
but not the racket yesterday at dusk as they flew in
from all directions, jostled for roosting space
in a few trees, while all of us out walking
our dogs stopped and looked up, watched
silently, even the dogs mesmerized, then went
on our ways as the crows settled—so I wondered,
because crows always know—and sure enough,
four inches of snow arrived overnight. I remark
to my son on the way to school that I didn’t see
snow in last evening’s forecast, and he replies,
“The crows are the weather forecast.”
Stitched up, a splint on one broken finger,
purple-blue-yellow bruising that dominates
one cheek, she brings her two young kids
to the library one winter day,
tries to ignore two women who stare
at her face then turn away with pity,
thanks another who wants to help
and clearly doesn’t believe her story,
that she let go of the stair railing, floated
down in a faint until she hit the floor,
blood pouring from a gash on her forehead,
exhausted, dehydrated, four months pregnant.
During the weeks while she heals,
she wears sunglasses every time
she goes out, protects her husband
by having him stay home.
Mac Gay
Andy was a great cat, and now a great
fig tree, the little spindly thing we
memorialized him with on his grave,
and now look at Andy, all big:
an explosion of green and full of
brown fruit. Andy used to be black
with white on the tip of his nose
like he stuck it in snow, which we do
not have in this furnace of deep south,
which always was hot, I say to myself,
remembering football practice in August.
But now it’s the hot we deserve, with science
now fairy tale and Jesus more literal than even
ourselves. But at least Andy the fig tree thrives
in this monster we call summer, with his
world record of figs. I love figs but I liked
Andy better as a cat. After 6 years I still
miss him at least once a day, wishing he’d
looked both ways before crossing the street.
I talk to that tree each day in the afternoon heat.
Marissa Glover
There’s a wedding ring
in a box in the closet,
a silver ring on her thumb—
clusters of narrow rings
in the stump of the tree out back,
cut down when lightning struck.
Children, hands clasped,
collapse in the grass after
singing Ring Around the Rosie.
When the phone rings, she knows
it’s bad news—anything else,
and people send a text.
There’s a ringing in her ears
no one else hears. Doctors say
it may never go away.
She traces the burn scars,
where the bolt seared
through dry bark.
Soon she will climb back
in the ring, another barrage
of hooks and jabs. Her body
waits for the bell to ring.
As long as you don’t have sex before marriage
as long as you don’t look at porn
as long as you don’t masturbate while looking at porn
as long as you don’t masturbate while thinking of someone
as long as you don’t masturbate while in the car, driving home from work listening to Dave Matthews Band sing “Crash”
as long as you don’t get out of the car and step on a crack
as long as you don’t eat for 24 hours
as long as you don’t ever drink
as long as you don’t look at a man and think about him naked
as long as you don’t touch a naked man
as long as you don’t touch yourself, naked, thinking about a man
as long as you wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands
as long as you count each syllable and make all the lines break even and every stanza is a sestet and you count and you count and you count until all you hear in your head are numbers and all you feel are beatings and all you can do is crash.
John Grey
At first, he was the enemy
at the gate of her white-fenced
divorcee fortress.
Then he was a trespasser,
tramping through
her precious kitchen and parlor.
She changed over time.
His departures, once encouraged,
now brought tears.
These days, when she hears
his car pull up outside,
he’s like a character
making an entrance in a play.
At first, she concocted the script.
Now, she hands the man her pen,
encourages him to write a little.
Venya Gushchin
I’m sorry but
in the electric H&M
of our local outlet mall
I fall in love with you again
while trying on some jeans
tastefully ripped at the knees
We still wouldn’t work out.
You are just a sexier repackaging
of the lesser Jonas Brother
we don’t talk about Kevin
reminding the youth of strip mall plazas
and the protestant work ethic
But when I hear your voice
You pull into the 7-11 parking lot
right as I’m about to lose hope
you the football captain senior
and I the bespectacled freshman.
Mother had
denied my natural right
to junk food
so I take your advice on the order:
A Blue Raspberry and Coke Slurpee
expertly mixed by your hand
A Buffalo Chicken Taquito
A Monterey Jack and Chicken Taquito
always get two Taquitos.
and the night is perfect save
for that trickster April breeze
that gets me shivering
and you have nothing to heroically drape
over my shoulders    summon letterman
but that’s okay
it’s all okay
okay w/everything
smiling up at you
blinking softly.
And then comes the mythical lull-in-conversation
I had never
thought would come.
We both lean in
And you dissolve into sand
leaving only the trash from your meal
that is swept up into the whirlwind
loudly ripping the fabric of the night
as I realize that the jeans
no matter how tastefully ripped
are cutting off circulation to my legs.
Though I keep on hoping
we’ll eat taquitos in the parking lot,
the songs on the radio aren’t about me anymore.
                 April 13, 2017
Lois Marie Harrod

—Marcel Proust
You those last moments
wrapped in that silly hospital gown
with porpoises flipping this way and that,
tiny little porpoises
jumping all over your body.
the pummeling
our children Jon and Kate
gave you
when they crawled
into bed with us
and then our grandchildren,
Sophie and Sam
flap-flopping all night
between us,
the fish in our line,
and Will and James sneaking
up the stairs
to crawl on top of you
pretend you were their steed
to everywhere
and you were
as we each
carry each other
from the beginning
to the end,
that mystery . . .
—October, 6
, Louise Glück
They say you are still here—
you know the they I mean,
the they who want to raise you
from the dead so, I guess, you can
raise your eyebrows
and roll your blue eyes
at their belief.
They say you reached down
and saved our grandson,
you know the they I mean,
the they you always gave that sweet
enigmatic smile—
that’s as far as that cold Thou
could take you to scoop them
from the cold unknown.
His fall—two days after you died.
And here I am,
your darling, your disbeliever,
talking as if you are here,
chattering in my blizzard of stars.
There was no resurrection,
no one rises from the dead,
but it is strange,
that alone, mountain-climbing
the weekend you died,
our grandson lost his way
in a sudden snow squall,
slipped off the mountain path,
fell 78 feet without losing
his tarp or his phone,
lay there all night, he told me afterwards,
thinking of those he loved—
as I keep thinking of you
my not-here thou,
my cold cold star.
The verb in the present tense is always alone.
I live . . . I die . . . solitary as a star so far
beyond the telescope I can’t find my beginning
except as I am continuing, the I am living . . .
the I am dying. . . but solitary in the past too . . .
you lived, you died . . .but sometimes in the tense
past and perfect, we ceased to be solitary:
I have not always been alone,
you were here sitting in your chair,
though when you were, I was often alone, each of us alone
you alone in your book wending your way
through its wilderness of words, though sometimes
suddenly, looking up, as if you could suddenly see me,
alone in my words and tell me something
you were reading. Sir Tristram, violer d’amores, fr’over
the short sea, had passencore rearrived from
North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus

and for a while I would listen and be less alone.
Deborah Harvey

And as if that wasn’t enough, your grandmother gets on the bus at the top of Pigsty Hill, which is odd since she’s dead, but here she is all the same, sidling down the aisle to take her seat next to me and unclasping her purse, as if she still expects the conductor to issue her with a ticket printed on that thick yellow paper that fluffs up when you rub it and rub it between your finger and thumb. Though not as odd as what she says, which might have been sorry for the disappointment that coloured everything after the midwife glanced between my legs and gave her the dreadful news, it wasn’t fair to blame me, she sees that now, in fact, in her newly translated state of being, or rather, un-being, she sees all her missteps and errors so clearly but no, it’s this: ‘Tell her’ (yes, she does still use this pronoun for you) ‘tell that daughter of yours she’s no different from either of us’

Erin Hay
In the news today, scientists say
Morningness originates with the ancients.
A.I. sorted genetic spaghetti, points to
the Neanderthal; a matutinal artifact.
Early risers guarded the cave’s mouth,
tasked way back, as vital watchers.
Kept the torches bright, fires lit,
basked in low light, in the kinship of owls.
Hawaiians say, “waking with the Mongooses.”
Shadow-like, low to the ground, electric
rat feet, neatly suited for the illusive.
But mostly, its birds-the first cheep, cheep.
The cockadoodle dooers. The worm getters.
A hereditary routine in my genes,
more than just a need for sleep.
To watch, awake to worry, glean.
And seeds of story, pushed by dawn
chased by light. I write.
Daybreak old friend, crepuscular delight,
wake me like you do, in time for hope.
When you pull the sheets back
and wonder,
is that a shadow
or a spider
in my bed?
One bites, one
bends light.
Friends too,
and enemies alike.
I can’t care, either way.
I’m tired, and going to bed
with shadow spiders.
Robin Helweg-Larsen
“Think there’s a God?” I asked; “if so–”
“I do not think,” he said, “I know.”
“I never know,” I said. “I think;
“and that is why I rise, you sink.”
His words are witty,
with a twist.
He says they’re “pithy”;
note the lisp.
All the things God could do,
all the things he doesn’t:
stop earthquakes and disease,
world war between first cousins…
Complaints at God may seem
rashly impertinent–
But so what? Life shows God
clearly omnimpotent.
David Henson
I watch a fragment of bark
plunge to the ground.
A large piece.
Even from here, I see
its texture is rough
as old skin.
There seems no rhyme or reason
for its plunge, no gust or squirrel.
I imagine the bark hadn’t a clue
it would become a feast
for termites and worms.
It must be different for leaves,
which surely realize their time
has come when death begins
falling all around them.
Better to live in ignorance
‘til the end or be aware
and go in a blaze of color?
I wonder
as Lizzie, her face now more gray
than black, drops her favorite ball
at my feet.
Mary Beth Hines
Lounging on the seawall
boulders warm with sun,
thrilling at an almost-
stranger’s hum, I divined
hands stealthing through air
then the charged, magnetic
palms raised the barely-there
hairs on the small of my barely
bikinied back and the blue
breeze held, horizon line
thrummed, purpling, poised
before the stun—thighs, ankles,
toes—of those singular fingers
grazing my almost-ready throat.
Angi Holden
All day I have been moving furniture,
turning back carpets,
wiping down skirting boards,
dust bowl blues on repeat.
Filthy, exhausted, I cradle my cup of tea,
wander into the lounge
and reach for the remote.
What’s going on beyond these four walls?
The tv screen judders into life,
images of collapsed buildings
tumble brightly into my softly-lit room
where shadows of trees waft across
my carpet, my table, my comfortable chair.
Two thousand years of walls split and fall,
flats seven stories high lay their floors down
like a cardsharp dealing a hand of poker.
There is a randomness in the collapse,
one house standing in acres of destruction.
The sand spills through fissures
in the screen covering my carpet
in dunes, in red-brown tides.
I brush the dust from my cheeks,
pull the neck of my t-shirt
across my mouth as I struggle to breathe.
Workers draw a small child from the rubble,
passing her arm to arm to arm
to the waiting ambulances,
while in the near distance a lone voice
sings ballads of the common man’s lot,
the hard travelling, the going down the road.
This land is your land, he sings as I scan
the images of the young girl and her rescuer,
the crumpled buildings and the dust.
The dust. Always the dust.
Cut from her whalebone corset,
she has embroidered the ribbon with silk,
passed it to the boy she meets on the cliff.
He will take it to sea, weave it
into the harpoon’s line, dispatch it
into the ocean with his prayers and hers.
With luck and a fair wind the talisman
will protect him, will guide the barb
deep into the creature’s flesh,
bring honour to his father’s crew.
His mother will ask the name of the lass,
will wonder who might be sweet on her boy,
her brow creasing as she sees
the quality of ribbon and thread,
knowing – as he doesn’t – that nothing
good can come of this.
FD Jackson
My goddaughter loves blue herons.
Deep swoosh, slow and steady wingbeats,
like a metronome keeping time with
her heart.
She loves the way he stands on spindly legs
in the marsh, blue-gray feathers, still as a statue,
neon yellow eyes searching the water for fish,
frogs, and snakes. Two swaths of blue-black on
each side of his head leading to an upturned
plume that shimmers in the breeze.
She thinks the heron is admiring his own
reflection, so I tell her the story of Narcissus.
She worries that he will stare too long and
turn into a flower that she’s never heard of,
when he suddenly stabs a small fish with
his yellow-orange bill. She watches in horror
as he devours it whole, down his powerful,
sinewy neck.
I try to explain that the heron is only trying
to survive like the rest of us, that soon enough,
she too will learn how to spear the world, turn it
in her lovely bill, and swallow it headfirst,
before its spiny fins can wound her.
Nate Jacob
     * of or relating to the shore of a lake, sea, or ocean.
Low-tide rain rising up from the fish-scale sand
and me again, reminding my wading young daughter
that hearts are most easy when drawn top down,
and true love requires an arrow to pierce it.
This is the reach of the sea where we first sensed
the rise and fall, the back and forth, the scroll
of our lives cutting clean through driftwood rings
that marked time’s escape, marked us as its own.
We would have stayed suspended there forever,
like kites from her sand-caked hands, curled too tight
until wet, gritty strings nocked deep her tender palms,
while the rush of the surf pushed us further up shore,
the hidden sun pressing down and pushing back and back,
time ticking too soon through our own wounded hands.
Brian Jerrold Koester
I can’t help imagining
he lay down so the earth
wouldn’t crash into him
but it was so his toe
could pull the trigger
He needed to get it right this time
I can’t help imagining
someone was caring for him at the end
even if it was only him
but he hated himself
and more than himself
His death wish extended to me
impossible togetherness
all terms undefined
I can’t help imagining
Now the ground under my feet
is the unknown nonzero number
of times he tried to kill me
Just because I live
without him doesn’t mean
I know how
I still make jokes
only he would get
Linda Laderman
the unfathomable, the furtive, the forbidden, the briny taste
of savory ham on my Jewish tongue, bacon sweet and smoky,
flattened between toast, tomatoes, lettuce, a slather of mayo.
a Cadbury Crème egg during Passover, our shelves cleared
of grains, sweets made with cornstarch. I bit hard
through the egg’s chocolate casing, aroused by my own
power. lobster dipped in hot butter, its empty shell set
on my good dishes, a reminder I didn’t need permission.
thick pork meatballs, mixed with jalapeno, simmered
in marinara on someone else’s stove. I craved youth,
my nascent nipples like tiny buttons, under my cotton
t-shirt, forcing grown men to look. the taste of a stranger
in my bed, his pungent scent, heavy, like an animal’s skin,
the relief I felt when he ran off. the July sun on my bare face,
your hand atop my pregnant belly, the wet sand cool against
our bodies. time I could touch, like coffee brewed each morning,
or the ping at the end of a cycle of clothes drying, the nuzzle
of a warm blanket against my cheek. my grandmother’s papery
hands loosening my braids — how she slowly separated each section
with her knobbed fingers, aware the tiniest knots caused the most pain.
           After Leslie Harrison
& punched holes in metal lids
& the jars were translucent
& we taped the covers shut
& the streetlamps shone like moon glass
& we began our hunt
& we captured their winged light
& we watched them flicker
& the glass slipped from our grasp
& we bled when one shattered
& we were proud of our scabs
& we wore them like badges
& we ate lime Jell-O from the box
& food didn’t cause cancer
& the priest down the street read smut.
& a boy shoved his fingers up a girl’s down there
& how could she let this happen?
& no one reported the boy
& the kids laughed when her sister told
& she was 13
& she never came back to school
& the Cuban Missile Crisis was all the talk
& we listened to the president
& we thought he was forever
& we saw her face veiled in black
& we abandoned Bandstand
& my teacher called Jews communists
& did he know I was a Jew
& these were our best years
& even now, I think about that girl.
Michael Lauchlan
Call me mad
as others do. Say what
you will about the heels
and my black dress–they
do add to the effect.
The half-lit spectators shift
so slowly in their seats.
Who knows what they find,
gaping at the spectacle.
I see the rose petal
where it turns a darker red
above its little curl
beside my assistant’s cheek.
Standing at a dark backdrop,
Alan wears a baggy suit,
coat open, white shirt
heaving in a terror that seems
almost real, though we joke
each night over dinner
as he passes me the wine
and I warn him that his hair
needs a trim, that it forms
a tempting target, bridging the chasm
between his scalp and his ear.
Under the lights I see
Al’s shirt buttons gleam
and I think of clipping off
the one that strains its threads
just above his belt.
But that would be cheap.
I stick with the rose in his teeth
and weigh the blade in my hands,
meeting the eyes of a graying man
in the fourth row, then
turning as Al turns to face me
and begins to blink when
my hand does a hand’s work.
The applause softens as I step
out of my shoes and glide
closer one pace, two. Al
puts a cigarette between his lips
and lifts a match while
I plant my bare feet,
slipping the knife between
my teeth. The watchers
can’t imagine the taste of steel,
the way my tongue follows
the taper almost to the edge
before my head flicks
and the flame is lit.
Sarah Leavesley



Lynette Ledoux
The recipe warned against
adding too much liquid. “It
should not flow like the river.”
So the rest of the night
we joked about flowing
like the river, the impossibility
of stepping in the same waters
twice, as true today as when
Heraclitus caught cold.
That was the night before
your mother arrived, God’s
emissary come to save you
from yourself, and from me:
the last thing you needed
was north Indian cooking
in your fridge. She wasn’t ready
for an introduction, but you
pushed the issue—God bless you
for that!—suggesting I join y’all
at Sunday service. And it worked!
She caved like Plato, the shadows
of Methodists smiling rapturously.
The pastor didn’t know
Hebrew or Greek or Latin,
but analyzed the we’re-all-made-
in-God’s-image passage, saying
the Genesis writers had God
use the first person plural
to demonstrate the complexity
and diversity already within
and around God in Heaven.
“If you don’t embrace
difference,” he said,
“you’re not being Christian.”
God bless the pastor
and John Wesley too!
What a lucky break!
Imagine your mother and us
floating down a river of palak,
buoyed by cubes of paneer.
If she could embrace eating
north Indian, accepting
the gay thing might be just
around the bend. Afterwards,
chatting with the pastor,
your mother explained,
We’re from India.”
Then, looking at you,
she corrected herself.
“Well,” she said, “I am.
She’s from . . . here.”
Richard LeDue
Standing in the snow with artillery
in the background and another soldier
next to him, probably a friend
I’ll never know,
yet that small photo distorts his face,
making familial features fuzzy,
like trying to recall a nose
one believes can’t be their own.
Of course, it’s in black and white,
giving ghostly presence to the past,
and allowing two comrades a rest
from crimson tracks.
Fay L. Loomis
Ides of March slips by
tax day is here
render unto Caesar
listen to Tom Paine
Ada Lowenthal
What lumbers like a bear? “Ungainly” means without grace.
Bears shuffle their way past my window on four legs with their asses up.
An accosted tree leads to lumber but not the verb.
Lumberjacks transform the un-uniform living to the ranks of dead boards.
Bears “lumber” but they’re not wooden or stiff. Dead people swiftly stiffen.
When my mother lay dying, I stepped away, and when I returned, she had gasped her last,
mouth wide open. I asked the nurse to close it, but her face was locked. Maybe
the undertaker pried her mouth shut, but when I saw her last, she was aghast.
Bears amble, like flaneurs, casual, unhurried, observing.
“Flaneur” is French for city stroller, eyes and eavesdropping on the rented and rentiers,
like the gargoyle child hunched on the stairs, big-eared as parents vent.
Lumberjacks wear plaid flannel shirts, but they are not flaneurs.
Neighbors complain the bears clamber up their decks, steal sweet nectar from
the hummingbird feeder, trash the trash cans, lick out the tuna fish cans.
My mother’s bird feeder was swarmed by squirrels, who are more nimble than bears.
Sometimes it helps to be small and common, like a child, so ignored.
Bears are bigger than every other living thing here. Big as pick-up trucks, with the wheels.
Sailors and cowboys have rolling gaits. My father was both and he drove a truck.
Trunks roll to the sawmill on the back of a truck or are driven down the river.
Lumberjacks ignore nesting birds with fledglings when they mark the trees.
Bears don’t hang out with other bears unless they’re related. Blood relations.
We relate, you tell a tale. You can choose your friends but not your relations.
I froze out my mother as I aged up, then I pitied the person who maintained
a chirpy mien when my father was manic, so mean, unrestrained.
We bear children. We come bearing gifts. Our pain is more than we can bear.
Lumberjacks cut down the trees for the sake of creation.
My father cut my mother down to size.
We children, muffled and awkward, lumbered along.
In the Japanese monster movies of Godzilla, his enemies, and progeny,
you will not find the frogman, though he swam in the island shoals of wartime Japan.
Frogmen, Americans, defused shore-lined mines so marines could breach the Japanese beaches.
Just sailors in water ballooning trunks, kitted with masks and fins, combat knives,
and dog tags (though so young not one believed Death would ID him).
After the war, my frogman father went a-wooing. No time to waste,
on their first date, he asked “will you marry me?” “Yes,” my mother answered,
“yes.” So impressed. First impressions are the most prized engravings,
as images etched in metal plates slowly deteriorate: the finest lines disappear,
blacks slacken into grays, cross hatching no longer nests, it merely surfaces.
That night, my mother, fashionably, wore a bolero jacket, not meaning to meme
words like dance, love, Ravel. Yet in the looping string of beings and causality,
the surname of my sister’s first husband and father of her daughter is Ravel.
And for decades, like my sister and now dead father, I reveled in flattery, and then,
in the dry grief of ashtray debris – banded stubs on bended knees – unraveled.
Here, the pond weeds ravel in the shallows, gracing light with drawling shadows.
On the mud-suck bank, a green frog plucks his string, the rubber band twang reverberates.
“Come now, while your eyes bulge with ecstatic first impressions, while
the one note song on the tip of my tongue unravels, impossibly long,
to adhere to your delicate ear. “Come,” says the frog, “kiss me like a man.”
It’s a steady bleat but you can’t dance to it.
Boredom is the exorbitant price of constancy.
“I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam,” chants Popeye the sailor frogman.
My mother squandered years of kisses on her frogman’s moist, squamous skin
but never magically set free the monogamous prince within.
Bob Lucky
There’s no place to park in Porto
so people park everywhere
and hope the police don’t
ticket them as they dash
to drop their kids at daycare
before popping into a café
for coffee and buttered bread,
or double park to unload their shopping
and maybe a grandparent or two,
or pick up dry cleaning and have a haircut.
Sidewalks become outlaw parking lots
and streets are filled with wheelchairs
and old people with walkers, turning
the streets into de facto sidewalks.
I make sure my knapsack whacks
every side-view mirror in my path.
Someday I’ll be old too.
I’ve already forgotten
where I parked the car.
My wife and I agree
one pan cooks better
than the other but
it depends on what
you’re cooking and that
is where we disagree
and dinner falls apart
because she says latke
and I say potato pancake
but in the end
it’s just hash browns.
Mandy Macdonald
It’s a delicate project.
She gets upset so easily:
the slightest change in the atmosphere
and she’s a quarter-tone flat, or sharp,
or the lute stop won’t work,
or, if she’s really pissed off,
a string breaks.
So when you take her out,
to a posh wedding breakfast, for instance,
and you’re playing a programme
of elegant but easily digestible baroque classics –
a few prancing gavottes and minuets,
some of those witty French amuse-bouches
in imitation of cuckoos, hens, nightingales,
some spicy Scarlatti for mains –
you’ve got to treat her like the queen she is.
Feed her with your fingers the notes she loves,
the music she was made for.
Choose your morsels carefully
and in the best possible taste,
even though she and you may be
the only ones in the place
who truly appreciate the meaning
of Les délices. For two hours at least
you’ll perform while they eat; you’ll get no rest,
not for a minute. Turn your back for a second
and some idiot has ambled up to make a request –
‘D’you know The Four Seasons?’ – lurched against the side,
and disaster! a fluteful of frizzante over the soundboard!
(Yes, chérie, I know, not even proper champagne.
But at least you got something to drink.)
Victoria Melekian
A few weeks after the funeral, my sons
will stand in my living room and wonder
where to start: books, collection of glass
doorknobs, rocks, shells, piano music.
They will laugh and joke while lugging
appliances out the door, box up the kitchen
and cart it off to Goodwill, come back
with burritos for lunch. They will sort through
the shelves and find the three bird nests
I’ve had since they were little. “Remember?”
“Mom always said we were hatched.”
“Yeah. And she saved our nests.”
They’ll smile and shake their heads, but each
will take one for their pile of keepsakes,
then look around for some heavy furniture to lift.
Mike Mesterton-Gibbons
Life’s trials left me lonely as a cloud
On high until I found some daffodils,
Not in an adventitious golden crowd
Extending by a lakeside near some hills
Like Wordsworth in his poem, but below
York’s city walls on sloping grassy banks,
Arrayed in row upon enticing row.
So I plucked half a dozen from the ranks
And clasped them and, like Wordsworth, felt a rapt
Companionship that filled me with renewed
Light-heartedness … until a copper tapped
On my left shoulder and rebuked me—”Dude,
Unlicensed flower picking’s stealing”—then
Detained my blooms … to leave me lone, again.
Mark J. Mitchell
For herself
How many times
he brushed back the hair
off the back of her neck
the better to kiss it?
All the years
of dancing lengths,
the subtle key changes
in the song of her colors
leading all the way
to now.
Poor Plato, stuck
with his perfect forms
that never change.
Mish Murphy
Now is the cusp:
we learn if there’s
a tumor or not.
Impossible to tell
until the vet cuts my dog open
and sees what’s in the box.
The receptionist turns up the Classic
Rock station while I wait
in a plastic chair with splayed back
under a violent ceiling fan.
The assistant with long hair says,
“She’s going to be starting.”
There is no tumor until the vet finds it there,
until it is measured and tested,
or until it has killed my dog.
Yet the tumor will have existed all along
if the vet finds it.
The door to the back rooms opens,
and the vet
comes out,
wearing a surgical net over her hair,
and announces, “No tumor.”
At the same time, in another cruel universe, the vet
comes out
and tells me–
but, no, I don’t believe
that part of the theory.
James B. Nicola
three fifths of
three fourths of
if you can count
amount to
just as
frump and
grump and
are four
Jeffrey Ogochukwu
most of the time, and I’m in love. Miserable me.
I know what I’ll say when she answers the phone:
I love how you smile in my dream.
Does she like rainy season
or dry season?
I like the season with harmattan because
it makes my shirt orange. I don’t like rainy season
the cold makes my pillow take the form of her.
I think about stars and moons
and the flavour of her laughter
in the vastness of space. Does she like purple?
Blue is my favourite.
Grandma Ogochukwu sewed lots of love
and blue in the sweater she made for my birthday.
Does she like sweaters? She can have mine. I don’t mind.
Does she like me?
Abigail Ottley
Once upon a time it was a gamekeeper’s habit to string up their catches as a warning. A host of dead vermin, like bloodstained ghouls, would hang from the branches of trees until afternoon-sun-flies buzzed in busy circles singing hymns to the sticky, stiff-eyed dead. She knows she’s old and you might think it’s too late but, if she could only reinvent herself, she would choose to launch a new career and re-train as a gamekeeper’s mate. She’d be a strangler of stoats, a catcher of rats, a wringer of the slender necks of weasels. Be they light on their paws and ever so fierce, her secret traps would close with a snap. By first grey glimmer on the moon-damp grass, she would untangle from her snares their stiffening corpses, freeing their limbs, furred and frozen, and their claws, like so many tiny scalpels, from her abominations of razor wire, sturdy, green twine, and delicate snares. Perhaps she might admire the wildness in them, praise their agility, their unerring, brutal purposes. Even fall in love with their crewel-bright incisors, their appetites kept sharp as you like. Tooth and claw is nature’s way. Let the killer be quick, clean and busy. She’d leave them hang a while before she tried her blade, skinned them, and strung them in a garland, these small-bodied vermin badged with blood, the scarlet fruits of her secret alder tree.
You must be dead by now. Or dying. I won’t say I wish it. When I think of you, which is more often now, most likely because I am ageing, I try to see you as a nothingness, an empty, hollow thing. Not a shell exactly. Sea-shells are pretty. A tin can, perhaps, its jagged edges rusting, a thing that never was beautiful. A tin can, though, might once have had a purpose. It’s hard to imagine that of you. I see you as a ruinous thing, a thing uncared for and crumbling, tumbledown like a ramshackle building. Or maybe something monstrous, a creature at odds with its being, unsteady on its mismatched feet. I see you as a wreck of the self you lied about. You never did look healthy. Your sallow skin, oily and pitted, the shine on your ill-fitting jacket, its cheap black fabric, already ancient, showing threadbare and green in the sun. Dandruff flecking your shoulders like a scurfy constellation, grime collecting under your fingernails, the skin of your hands, so soft and pudgy. Soft. Soft like a girl’s. Your hands weren’t big like my father’s hands. Not calloused from long hours of labouring. not scrubbed at the sink in Mum’s tiny kitchen before we all sat down to tea. Your hair was always an inch or two too long, and your shoes were all scuffed and down at heel. Your dull eyes regarded me sadly like an old dog in search of a home. I see you in the library where I used to love to be, your back turned to the blue of the window. The window is always summer-time blue. There is sunlight streaming in. You are slumped like a scarecrow in a low armchair, seeming to read but most likely pretending. You are not young in this picture. You told me thirty-two but probably you lied. A lazy shark, not especially hungry, you may be still in your chair but you are cruising Circling, circling, one sad, flat eye watching the minutes tick away. You are waiting for me, not yet twelve years old. Me, in my gymslip and beret. Your shark’s jaw opens, precise as clockwork. Your teeth, seen up close, are not white.
Steve Passey
Here’s the thing about addiction:
Using is the purest happiness you will ever know,
and when you give it up for the safer life,
the life-half lived,
you will forever miss its glow.
Shuffle on in the comfort of half-lit days,
walk where you used to run,
breathe deeply where once your heart had stopped
and live long,
and less,
and labor where once you dared
to fly too close
to the sun.
Robert Perchan
I do not know there is an anatomical term for it – that triangular recessed span of tender flesh at the top of a slender woman’s inner thigh, said to be the locus of a network of exquisitely sensitive nerves. But if you can visualize it, that’s enough. In architecture, I believe it’s called a spandrel, perhaps from the Old French espandre, “to spread.” In the interior of the Basilica di San Marco in Venice, I am told, such spaces between the arches are the site of striking mosaics of Biblical iconography, no doubt saints or angels or anchorites or suchlike. The mosaicists up there on the scaffolding delicately arranging the tiles. A willowy chanteuse in a waterfront tattoo parlor, patient knees fallen slackly apart, awaits the stinging kiss of the needle. Putti, I believe they call them. Cupids.

I took a dump in Tennessee
and coiled it was like that snake
of clay you set upon your potter’s wheel
and spun around and guided into that shape
of the jar The Poet placed upon that hill
in Tennessee like nothing else in all
those fine anthologies

Darrell Petska
In this old shoebox of mind reside
cardboard figures she’d dress, personify,
arrange tete-a-tete or en masse for tea.
Hostess of her gracious salon, she peopled
our playroom with paper doll doctors, nurses,
kids and parents, TV and movie stars—while
nearby I clashed toy soldiers.
Beneath these paper memories I hear
her voice bestowing upon her dolls
elaborate lives: families quarreling,
doctors working heroically, lovers meeting.
Life proved far simpler for my soldiers.
Either they survived, or lay fallen—
as she long lies.
Here’s a paper doll just like new: I name it
Sis. Any worn figure can serve as me.
Reuniting at last, we’ll sip tea from
her tiny white cups. Curling her little finger,
she’ll ask “How’ve you been?” to which I’ll reply
“Through the wars. And you?” She’ll smile:
“Like always. But look at you—so wrinkled!”
Once I thought his grief had eased,
I asked, for “posterity”, about their love—
its textures, geometries, evolutions,
questions reflecting my artistic pretensions:
he’d been a farmer all his life.
Had love at first been a vortex?
Or sent them tumbling, Jack-and-Jillesque,
down some giddy slope? Did their love
have edges: smooth, sharp, hidden?
He could speak only what he knew:
a cow they’d saved from their cistern’s maw,
the breadloaf barn they’d raised,
rotund troughs chipped clear of ice,
boxy hay bales fed their cattle, the many
steepled Sundays of piety and kinship—
But his weathered face had masked his feelings,
for he wept once more, and upon his tears
and the papered walls, mantled portraits,
shelved heirlooms, and windows divulging
corrals, sturdy barn and expansive fields,
shined her face, and I wondered, so naive then,
how such all-encompassing love might occur.
He didn’t say life itself is an act of faith, or
love stems from faith and grows it. He spoke
of cows and crops, leaving me to learn for myself.
Marc Pietrzykowski
We’ve so few places to be prayerful anymore,
or drunk, which is awfully the same thing.
One must be caught, on their knees
worshiping or vomiting or looking
for an earring, and be correctly
shameful the next day when, surveilled,
the churning world discusses your crime,
how you chose to seek God’s eye
rather than the panopticon, given
the rest of us would gut our first born on a rock
if it meant the slightest blessing
from the trustees.
Kenneth Pobo
I look at a cloud
through the window
and wonder if it
could breathe life
into a raindrop as it
falls and runs amuck
until it slides down
grass roots. The cloud,
dark and menacing,
a grumpy old man
with a torn gray hat.
Bethany W. Pope
When you visited Texas, before we were married,
I fetched you from the airport in the 1997 Volkswagen Golf
I inherited from my cousin, who got it from his cousin, who got it
from his uncle, who bought it, used, from an elderly
lady at his church, who’d had it for the better part
of a decade — it barely ran, there was no air conditioning,
the brick paint was bubbling off in blisters that revealed
rusty bodywork beneath when they popped in the sun,
and it’s probably better not to think about the upholstery,
but anyway, I was trying to enter the highway (like plunging
my hands into a pile of cold pasta, trying to untangle
a single, clean strand) and you had your tongue
in my ear and your wide, stubby hand down the front
of my jeans and I was trying hard not to swerve
and flatten us both between the loud, stinking lorries
filled with cages packed tight with living, abused,
featherless chickens, so I pulled over between
the white lines and the retaining wall and put my car
into park and you reclined my seat and fucked me
with your pale-haired ass in the air and the gritty wind
blowing in and the cars and trucks honking in the sunlight
as they passed and we fucked and fucked and fucked
until all the sound was gone and I was numb and raw
where I like most to feel and you were panting on top of me
and slick with grey sweat and, yeah, it’s true
that on that day I made a series of terrible decisions,
and yeah, it’s true that I have a tendency to hold on,
too long, to piles of old junk, and yeah, it’s true that I let
my sentences run on for miles after they should have stopped.
You said, when I suggested that you stop
in and see him on your way to class.
You were early, and we live
ten minutes away from your dojo,
from the McDonald’s where you grab
dinner before jumping in a sweaty pile
of other, writhing men. Your son
was standing by the window,
with his nose pressed against the glass,
crying for you. It’s been two weeks,
and you come so close, and he
will only be a toddler for a moment.
And, yes. It hurts too much.
Ken Poyner
He decides, at last, that the woman whose uncaged breasts hang way too low inside her brief sweater, would make a worthy conquest beside a brutal campfire leaving a necessary lack of clothing entirely bearable, the night’s chill thrown back three meters and embers rising to mimic puddles of stars. She passed an hour ago, walking her unexceptional dog. And years ago, Quibble once had such a fire. Hours of labor, capped with a sustaining geometry, in an empty clearing, the night taking him in like a visitor come to overturn the end table, breaking the urn of someone’s ashes.
Rebecca M. Ross
She arranged tampons on my sink
like a platoon
of short stiff cotton soldiers
from the OB army
ready to march into bloody battle
taking the bathroom, inch by inch,
until soon I worried the soap dish
would become a boat necessary
to claim the tub
I read the maps
but not closely enough to realize
that I held no natural boundaries,
or if I did
I missed when they were breached
by these twisted wads of cotton,
their teal strings
readying to overtake
this sacred space
Soon followed a row of facial scrubs,
moisturizers, serums, body wash–
earth-friendly, all natural,
Kiss My Face–
kiss my ass.
My toothpaste,
precariously hanging over the sink’s edge,
threatened to drop dangerously to its death
on the pink-tiled floor
A wooden toothbrush
with black charcoal-infused bristles
squeezed itself into my repurposed bud vase,
relegating my dentist-issued Oral-B
to a found space
on a questionable medicine cabinet shelf
Upon my arrival home
I expected to find her
lounging on my queen-sized,
her stringy hair spread across my flannel pillowcase
resting from her bathroom maneuvers
while planning the next room to conquer
my apartment was empty
her clothing strewn about
as if she had been there seconds before,
while my dog,
food untouched yet belly full
slept soundly on the couch,
amidst a pile
of newly gnawed bones,
a teal string
hanging from his mouth.
Alissa Sammarco
Watching tv as the clock strikes 12
It’s just another day and just another late night.
Did you cheat on the test,
the answers written on the soles of your shoes?
Did you cheat on me when
you gave your number to the Russian?
She seemed so exquisitely confident
when she said hello at the art exhibit.
And when you told me how you chatted her up,
I should have kicked you out.
But the wind blew over the bed.
The chimes tolled outside the window.
The earth shook the way it does when stars explode.
And I laughed and kissed you
and stuffed my heart,
like an unwanted kitten,
into a drawstring bag.
Mark Scheel
Yesterday afternoon when walking home
from a trip to the grocery store,
I passed an apartment building
with the basement window shades open.
Lying on her bed was a young girl
frantically masturbating.
In the blink of an eye, I assessed
she was almost there; however,
I didn’t tarry for the finale.
I mean, what’s the point?
One needs to be blissfully young
or achingly desperate
to fully savor such an endeavor.
From either side of the window.
Penelope Scambly Schott
Although my card and photo ID are fully in order, I am always
afraid when the uniformed guard motions me into the museum
of my life where I tiptoe cautiously across the cold marble floor
only to discover I have stumbled through a leaded glass pane
into some paneled Vermeer parlor where one woman lifts up
a pitcher while another is busy weighing my life on a jeweler’s
trembling balance scale, twin trays swinging from twin chains,
trays bouncing up and down, hesitating at today or back then,
until they steady themselves with a version of me in each tray,
the me of today causally shoving my fingers through white hair
in the little hidden public restroom behind the museum gift shop
and the young blond me back in the fourth floor Ladies’ Lounge
just behind the ladies’ lingerie department of Saks Firth Avenue,
the branch really on Fifth Avenue, where I shiver in the last stall,
my whole body clenched up with cramping, where I sit clutching
my own bare knees as a small living thing inside me tears itself
loose from my flesh, as it drips and bleeds into the toilet bowl
while my eleven-year-old daughter, who’s already done peeing
and has maybe or not washed her hands, now waits, shuffling
her feet in front of the locked door of the stall, audibly impatient
for me to hurry up and flush and come out to take her shopping
for new party shoes, the shoes I said she could pick out herself,
and meanwhile I sit digging my nails into my knees as I shudder
in fresh waves of pain, trying to envision that one perfect room
where the first Vermeer woman is emptying her pewter pitcher
just like my contracting womb is working to empty itself until all
that remains is me here on today’s side of the hanging balance,
my cropped hair gone white and fluffy so I look like somebody’s
old grandmother, which is what I am — somebody’s grandmother
these thirty years later, still suspended, still here rocking ever so
slightly in one of the two brass balance trays hung in the interior
of that most exquisite and costly museum of vanished artifacts.
Claire Scott
I take my Higher Power with a twist
or sometimes with an olive or a pickled pearl onion
actually a slice of banana or avocado would be just fine
as long as the vodka or gin is straight, with the vermouth
just briefly waved over the glass
okay, okay, I admit my life has become unmanageable
piles of bills and threats to turn off my phone, my heat,
my gas, my water, my TV, my toaster, my socks
piles of loneliness and laundry
wearing shirts inside out, no clean ones left
cruising dating websites, putting up profiles on Tinder,
Zoosk, eharmony, Match.com
checking to be sure Mr. OkCupid likes
several bottles of Cabernet with dinner
Wait just a moment dear reader while I refill my glass
are your really dear to me? I have no idea
but I believe in a flower I mean a power or perhaps
a flower power higher than myself
can restore me to sanity, whatever that is,
maybe the ability to get my license back from the stupid
state of California that discriminates against single women
out for a good time, give me a fucking break
or to be able to fix the right front fender, although
I know I never hit anyone, my irrelevant neighbor
must have crashed into my car when he was trying
to leer through my bathroom window, like the leacher
he is, my neighbor who won’t even come over
to dance with single malt scotch, wearing our
underpants on our heads
So I pray, yes I do, loud and clear, can you hear?
to my Higher Power every day starting at six
with a Bloody Mary and a bowl of Lucky Charms
continuing till the clock gets blurry, sipping another
snifter of brandy, down on my knees yes praying yes
that there will be plenty left for tomorrow
and praying I can get up off this damn floor
please do come by, we can dance, you are so dear…
Nolo Segundo
Sylvia, Sylvia, I read your poems,
I read your book, I even read your life,
but Sylvia, lover I never had, it remains
you gassed yourself like Nazi and Jew
in one
and I do not reproach you for this, but
only ask, did the death balance the life?
Junaid Shabir
Eyes might glimpse the silhouettes in some distant crowd, who knows!
We might meet again when mankind is assembled somewhere, who knows!
Though my love was brushed off like catchweed is flicked from clothing in autumn,
The bristles of this sticky plant might follow you everywhere, who knows!
Watch out for a trap next time you plan to venture into my heart’s pasture,
The spring buds – you like to trample – might form a snare, who knows!
“If I die, you must live to tell my story,” Refat warned before an airstrike hit him,
On doomsday, the martyrs of Palestine might face me with a questionnaire, who knows!
Gazans lost everything but hope— Some Moses would be born to drown Pharaoh
in the Mediterranean Sea. So shall be answered some prayer, who knows!
Children will throng the city again and women will flock around the bakeries,
The world might finally stand up for justice and against this warfare, who knows!
When the trumpet is blown, and everyone loses their mind in the commotion,
My mouth will be locked, yet my eyes, at you, still might stare, who knows!
The birds do not crave the cage, the sea does not flow into the river,
Wake up, Junaid; this could only be a nightmare, who knows!
Robin Shepard
Chicks who play cellos are hot,
their thighs tingle with vibrations
in the lower register
as their fingers slide up and down
the long fretboard, pausing in vibrato
that sharpened note, sustaining it
until the natural release, then
working the minor scale slowly
toward the F holes, the neck resting softly
on their shoulders, like the intimate
embrace of lovers, the sound of
their lovemaking a quivering wood.
Heidi Slettedahl
We spent the night in an empty hotel.
The next day a tumbleweed crossed our path.
I don’t know what genre I’m in, I said to my husband.
He smiled.
That’s easy baby. It’s a love story.
We laughed.
We both laughed.
What else could we do.
We walked into the home where my father lives
(where he exists)
carrying flowers he didn’t want.
Thanksgiving decorations hung on the walls, made by the residents.
Colored in by the residents.
The aides had planned an event.
They dressed as deer and let the residents shoot them.
With Nerf guns, but still. But still.
All aims were poor but there was intent.
My father asked me to wheel him away.
He was a good shot, back in the day.
He never shot at people.
He didn’t want to start now.
What genre am I in?
Not one I want to be in.
Savior daughter, who wheels her father away.
But not far enough, not out of here.
Laurie Smith
(Syringa hyacinthiflora)
neighbours chatter at the roadside
no doubt they’ll still be there when she arrives,
check out the goods
approaching my front porch,
whisper opinions.
there are so many trees already,
few sunny locations.
but i’ve planned for her arrival,
prepared a space where she should be
comfortable, bloom.
she’s come a long way from richmond bc.
it’s like a costly blind date, as when
british kings summoned auspicious mates,
reliant on a subjective image, hoped for the best.
such a beautiful
day; scent of lilacs wafting.
i hope to bed this one by sundown.
Melissa Sorgi
I walked along a fog-bound beach last night,
Watched the sun drown in the shadowy dusk,
Heard the siren-song of a thousand mourning gulls,
Breathed deep the wet, green pine-woods air,
And thought about beginnings, endings, islands, and you.
Summer is almost over,
Young maples, impatient for sleep, already have flamed and dropped;
The passed over blueberries are growing black and hard in the bushes.
In a few days I’ll board two planes
And land eleven states away where instead of forests
They have swamps and a long, empty highway stretching west.
Please be there when I come home
Or yesterday’s sunset which I spent remembering your hands
Will be a summer hour wasted
And fall will last a year.
David Stephenson
One day a great idea just comes you,
like using some old stuff stored in your shed
for some pyrotechnic derring-do,
and you can’t get the thought out of your head,
and you’re excited but a little scared,
since carrying the stunt out would require
some tricky timing. You feel unprepared
and think of all the ways it could backfire…
And yet key elements are on the scene—
the tires and lumber, and most critically
a full two-gallon can of gasoline—
as if assembled there by destiny.
You know you won’t rest till this thing gets done.
Carpe diem. Light the fuse and run.
Dylan Stover
“Man must know his condition so that he may react,
ask himself what he truly wants, what is at stake.
He is to become serious.

—Karl Jaspers
We have to puff out our chests now
to tell the arbiters how
we’re getting serious.
I hear the voice in the wilderness again
is starting to pout:
“I have nothing left to cry about:
There’s a load of work to do
but I’ve already been done;
and nobody’s asking for more truths to prove
‘cause the girls just want to have fun.”

My reply: Have you ever invested in losing
your necktie?
I hear Arthur cry every night,
his shoe size, 41:
in the end, just an itty skeleton.
(No one reads a poem these days, you guys, unless it gives good tongue.)
A language is born
the moment two people agree to see the same thing.
At the closing of his tome of Wrath,
John finally saw what every infant cries out to see:
You have to put a nipple in your mouth
before you can understand the meaning of Amazing
Grace—and excuse the adolescent declaiming of anthems
you prided yourself to rehearse, mistaking so many well-versed
deaths for freedom:
All work and no breasts
makes Jake no more than a man.
So listen:
Life sucks.
But love comes
to those who’ll understand
that every one of your serious commands
is to kill men.
With a full load—
all fresh chrome and decals, glistening—
laid up behind me, I command
a gasoline’s ragtag of signs: I man
my equipment to sow all trueness—
and So! what a crop of lies
With the full conception
of purity, I won’t preach against sex’s binge,
or paste upon our bodies
a pair of stubby angel-wings;
I won’t make the halo a fashion
or fashion a halo
from the pasted-together pages of nudie magazines—
it doesn’t matter what’s true nowadays
when you can’t get off on belief:
some will wear a condom,
where others rightly abstain;
some will find the apices of beauty
where others find a cum-stain:
It’s whiter
than June-time cumulus and so amply unfilled—
yet how much more able to receive!—:
a Chinese vase sits wide-open in front of me
behind the glass at our museum’s exhibitioning:
beneath the fixed lights
and comfortable air conditioning
the porcelain thing throws a triplet
ring of concentric shadows:
You chide me, saying
“You aren’t really seeing the object
but only admiring its effects.”
I say that’s the poem, you idiot.
Richard Weaver
The circles overlap in interesting ways,
revealing what they prove . . . You and I,
legionary, are destined to die. Not together.
Separately. And soon. Who first I can only
speculate. By the look in your eyes I see
you’ve made a choice. So be it. My death
will be yours then. What matters most is
my theorem. The one before you. Drawn in
sand. Allow it to survive and you might as well.
“Kill me if you must, but don’t disturb my circles.
Don’t disturb my equations.”
Damaris West
I should like to walk
one more time
down the orchard path
on an autumn day
of wood smoke
with a robin singing somewhere
and yellow leaves swinging
on the tall old apple trees,
reciting to myself the names:
Laxton’s Superb,
Worcester Pearmain,
Norfolk Royal Russet,
Gail White
Also known as a crone,
a bag, a withering witch.
But old enough now to walk through Venice
without being pinched by Italian men.
Her skin is unironed taffeta,
her veins a railway map of Europe.
She’s a sack of animated bones,
a brain that glitters while slowly fading.
Old enough now to walk through town
with only the purse-snatchers to fear.
The rapist waits for a younger victim,
the gigolo fancies the middle-aged.
She pauses to offer an apple to a child –
who, having read Snow White, is appalled.
Kelly Wilson
“an act like this is prepared within the silence of the heart”
Albert Camus
he knew at ten
a small soft boy
standing alone
in his grandparents’ barn
teetering on a bale of hay
rope strung over rafters
and around his neck
making a half step
into thin baling twine
feeling it tighten
leaning out into    what if
and then as quickly
stepping down
tossing the evidence
through a shaft of sunlight
into a dusty corner
he never told anyone
about that day
because it was not
a matter of logic
more a felt sense
of attraction
the telling
would have required a reason
but explanations
can’t resist
the dark gravity of ceasing
since that day
there is a room
where he has counted
uncountable times
the cost and effort
staying requires
that thin bit of rope
so long ago
likely not strong enough
to have carried his weight
but enough to crack the door
to that room of blessed black
Robin Wright
Some days truck tires of a semi,
one then another then all of them,
full throttle weight flattens
my back to black and blue
face unfamiliar after skin torn,
eyes red and swollen, nose bleeding.
Some days a Radio Flyer wagon,
rust creeping into the bed,
tires small but firm,
able to press slight marks
onto my back, bruises light,
face barely scratched,
breasts and hips tender
from the pressure.
Some days a toy car
runs over my hand
then a laugh and Grandma.
Michael T. Young
Heavy boots crunch the fresh snow
tracking a tune like icy scarves through pines,
a song you might not know once lead you
into childhood’s packed white dunes.
In the kitchen, there’s a song in the steam
rising off hot tea and cocoa. It threads the rooms
like a blanket of dreams you might not know
once yanked you from sleep into the day.
Even a favorite shirt might softly crease,
or a floorboard in a bedroom might creak
making a melody you dance to, a song you follow
although not in any language you speak.
Ronald Zack
The cool air of the desert night tastes cleaner, sweeter. I am sitting on a rock surrounded by near silence and covered in darkness. The moon is dressed in clouds and winks from time to time. Alone with my thoughts cascading gently over my body with the occasional soft breeze, I am far from the oppressive daytime heat, far from the unrelenting daytime sun, and I am far from the suffering of those who inhabit my daytime medical world, those who struggle, survive, slowly die – they wage their battles with the knowledge they will eventually surrender.
In the nighttime desert I occasionally hear indecipherable sounds – a blend of rustling sand, gentle brush, soft whistles and hoots. I can hear wings flap as curiosity tempts all creatures to take risks. Far distant sounds of traffic rise and fall as life and death continue through the night.
Moon blooming flower
Bursting from the cactus
Enjoy your short life.
Poets and Artists Bios:
Anne Anthony’s poetry has been published in Longleaf Review, West Trestle, Glass Mountain, Poetry South, and other literary journals. Her poem, She Wants, published by Blue Heron Review was nominated for a Pushcart Award in 2018; she was selected as the Gold Writer by ArtAscent for her poem, High Horse. Her microfiction, It’s a Mother Thing, was nominated by Cleaver Magazine for the Best Microfiction 2024 anthology. Read more of Anne’s writing: linktr.ee/anchalastudio/
Catherine Arra is the author of four full-length poetry collections and four chapbooks. Her newest work is Solitude, Tarot & the Corona Blues (Kelsay Books, 2022). Arra is a native of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, where she lives with wildlife and changing seasons until winter when she migrates to the Space Coast of Florida. Arra teaches part-time and facilitates local writing groups. Find her at www.catheriinearra.com/
Sharon Berg is published in Canada, USA, Mexico, England, Wales, The Netherlands, Germany, India, Singapore, and Australia. Poetry books include: To A Young Horse (Borealis 1979), The Body Labyrinth (Coach House 1984), and Stars in the Junkyard (Cyberwit 2020) which was an International Book Award Finalist. Her fiction is published by Porcupine’s Quill (2019). Her nonfiction (2019) won a 2020 IPPY Award for regional nonfiction. She runs Oceanview Writers Retreat in Newfoundland.
Carole Bernstein is the author of poetry collections Buried Alive: A To-Do List and Familiar (both Hanging Loose Press) and And Stepped Away From the Circle (Sow’s Ear Press). Her poems have appeared in Antioch Review, Apiary, Bridges, Chelsea, Hanging Loose, Paterson Literary Review, Poetica, Poetry, Shenandoah, and Yale Review, and in anthologies such as American Poetry: The Next Generation. Work is forthcoming in : Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State University Press).
Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru, and author of two novels as well as eight poetry collections. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was three times nominated for a ‘Pushcart’ and once for ‘Best of Net’. Her eighth book, LIFE STUFF, has just been published by Kelsay Books (November 2023). rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/
Annika Bratton is a poet living on the southern Oregon coast. She likes big feelings, eating dinner with friends, and bodies of water.
Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California. He has contributed work previously to Rat’s Ass Review, Williwaw Journal, Willows Wept Review, and Heartwood. He has chapbooks available from Red Bird Chapbooks, A Filament Drawn so Thin, and Red Wolf Editions, Little Popple River and Other Poems.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives and writes in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the 2020 winner of the Phillip H. McMath Post-Publication Award for The Mercy of Traffic. (Unlikely Books, 2020); Doubleback Books reprinted her, Discount Fireworks (Jacaranda Press, 2008,) as a free download and in 2019 Belle Point Press published a new edition of Reading Berryman to the Dog (Jacaranda Press, 2000). Her website is www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com
Kate Carsella is a storyteller and poet. Her writing has appeared in manywor(l)ds, Reverie Magazine, (the) Squawk Back, Catch, Cellar Door, and elsewhere. She was a finalist in the Driftwood Press Adrift Chapbook Contest (2022) and the Glimmer Train Fiction Open (2016). You are welcome to the bardic bullion poetry project at katecarsella.com/.
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.
Joe Citro writes and snaps pictures at his 18th century home in Windsor, Birthplace of Vermont. He has published twenty books.
Brooke Clark is the author of the poetry collection Urbanities and the editor of the epigrams website The Asses of Parnassus. Twitter: @thatbrookeclark
Eleanor Colligan is a 22-year-old poet. More of Asa can be found at https://theestateofasaisaac.hotglue.me/.
Joe Cottonwood repairs homes and writes poems in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest books of poetry are Foggy Dog and Random Saints.
Andrea Damic, born in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, resides in Sydney, Australia. She’s an amateur photographer and author of poetry and prose. She’s a big fan of abstract and experimental photography. Her art can be found in Fusion Art and Light, Space & Time Online Art Exhibitions. Andrea is especially proud of having her photographs published on the covers of Rat’s Ass Review, Door Is A Jar Magazine and Molecule: A Tiny Lit Mag. Her website: https://damicaandrea.wordpress.com.
Ginger Dehlinger’s poetry has appeared in over two dozen anthologies and journals. She was awarded Best Nature Essay in the Nature of Words writing competition and her short story “Francine” was first runner-up in the 2022 Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest. Ginger has also published two novels (Brute Heart, Never Done) and a middle-grade children’s book (The Goose Girl’s New Ribbon). You can find her in Bend, Oregon or gdehlinger.blogspot.com/.
Clive Donovan is the author of two poetry collections, The Taste of Glass [Cinnamon Press 2021] and Wound Up With Love [Lapwing 2022] and is published in a wide variety of magazines including Acumen, Agenda, Crannog, Popshot, Prole, Rats Ass Review and Stand. He lives in Totnes, Devon, UK. He was a Pushcart and Forward Prize nominee for 2022’s best individual poems.
Kathy Duby is 79 years old and has been writing poetry for 65 years. This is her first publication. She writes for herself because stuff keeps bubbling up and spilling over and a poem is often the only suitable container. Her work appears on her Facebook page and nowhere else. She had the astounding opportunity to read her erotica, onstage, to a cheering audience for Red Light Lit.
Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry, Rattle, Hobart, Verse Daily, Plume, Tinderbox, Cleaver, Diode, The American Journal of Poetry, Spillway, Nashville Review, PoetryEast, Gargoyle, and elsewhere. She’s authored ten poetry collections, most recently, TRIGGERED, 2023 (MacQueen’s Publishing); BRAZEN, 2023 (NYQ Books); and DUETS, (2022) an illustrated, ekphrastic chapbook collaboration with poet Cynthia Atkins, published by Harbor Editions. Alexis’s photographs are featured worldwide including the covers of The Pedestal Magazine, Witness, Heyday, and The Mas Tequila Review. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, you can find her at: alexisrhonefancher.com.
Arvilla Fee teaches English Composition for Clark State College and is the poetry editor for the San Antonio Review. She has published poetry, photography, and short stories in numerous presses, and her poetry books, The Human Side and This is Life, are available on Amazon. For Arvilla, writing produces the greatest joy when it connects us to each other.
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, Little Old Lady Comedy, Green Ink Poetry, and more. Jane is a former history teacher and developer of curricula. She holds a MA degree from Columbia University in New York City. Jane lives in the sunny, diverse state of Florida.
Wendy Freborg is a retired social worker whose first nationally published poem appeared in the teen magazine Ingenue in 1964. More recently, her work has been featured in Blue Unicorn, Boats Against the Current, Rat’s Ass Review, and WestWard Quarterly. The pleasures in her life are her family, crossword puzzles, learning new things, and remembering old times.
Frank Freeman’s poetry has most recently been published in LitBop, MORIA, Rat’s Ass Review, San Pedro River Review, Sequoia Speaks, Shot Glass Journal, and is forthcoming in Main Street Rag, The MacGuffin, and Triggerfish Critical Review. He is an NBCC member and Pushcart nominee. Grew up mostly in Texas, married a Maine woman who wanted Maine back. Writes in the mornings to stay sane, keeps books of family business in afternoons to stay alive.
Meg Freer grew up in Montana and lives in Ontario, Canada where she writes and teaches piano. Her award-winning work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, and she has published two poetry chapbooks. She is a member of the Ontario Poetry Society and the League of Canadian Poets and holds a Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing with Distinction from Toronto’s Humber School of Writers.
Mac Gay‘s 7th. collection of poems Ghost Hunt was released by Eyewear Publishing this past June. His poems have been featured in numerous magazines including Atlanta Review, The American Journal of Poetry, and Main Street Rag. He teaches at Perimeter College of Georgia State University and lives with his wife Jana in Covington, GA.
Marissa Glover lives in Florida, where she’s busy dodging storms and swatting bugs. Recent work can be found in One Art, Eunoia Review, Minyan Magazine, and Literary Mama. Marissa’s debut poetry collection, Let Go of the Hands You Hold, was released by Mercer University Press in 2021. Box Office Gospel was published by Mercer in April 2023. You can follow Marissa on Twitter at _MarissaGlover_ and order her books from Amazon.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in New World Writing, California Quarterly and Lost Pilots. Latest books, ”Between Two Fires”, “Covert” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Isotrope Literary Journal, Seventh Quarry, La Presa and Doubly Mad.
Venya Gushchin is a PhD Candidate at Columbia University, writing a dissertation on the late styles of Russian Modernist poets. His translations of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Elizaveta Mnatasakanova have received the Columbia University Slavic Department Pushkin Prize. Blockade Swallow, selected poems by Olga Berggolts translated by Gushchin, appeared from Smokestack Books in 2022. Most recently, his translation of Yevsey Tseytlin’s Rereading Silence was published by Bagriy & Company. His writing has appeared in Full Stop, Jacket2, Cardinal Points, and elsewhere.
Lois Marie Harrod’s most recent book Spat was published in June 2021. Her collection Woman won the 2020 Blue Lyra Prize. Nightmares of the Minor Poet appeared in June 2016 (Five Oaks); her chapbook And She Took the Heart, in January 2016; Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis and How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) appeared in 2013. A Dodge poet and lifelong teacher, she has been published in literary journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. Online link: www.loismarieharrod.org
Deborah Harvey lives in Bristol, UK. She has an MA in Creative Writing and is co-director of The Leaping Word, which provides creative and counselling support for writers exploring the personal in their work. Her sixth poetry collection, Love the Albatross, will be published by Indigo Dreams in 2024.
Erin Hay is an eager morning writer, a reluctant worker by day. Prioritizes love, art and nature, over “the man”. Calls Santa Cruz home, and prefers tropical sojourns. She is published in the Rat’s Ass Review, Winter 21, Winter 23.
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.
David Henson and his wife have lived in Brussels and Hong Kong and now reside in Illinois. His work has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes, Best of the Net and two Best Small Fictions and has appeared in numerous journals including Rat’s Ass Review, The Orchards Poetry Journal, Front Porch Review, The Lake, South Florida Poetry Review, Moonpark Review, and Gone Lawn. His website is http://writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8.
Mary Beth Hines writes poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction from her home in Massachusetts. In addition to previous appearances in Rat’s Ass Review, her work appears or will soon appear in Valparaiso, SWWIM, Lily Poetry Review, and Nixes Mate Review. Kelsay Books published her debut poetry collection, Winter at a Summer House in 2021. Connect with her at www.marybethhines.com.
Angi Holden is a retired teacher of creative writing. Environmental and family landscapes are key to her work, and her doctorate explored the impact of memory and family history on her writing practice. Her poetry and fiction have been published in a range of online and print anthologies for both children and adults. Her debut pamphlet Spools of Thread won the inaugural Mother’s Milk Pamphlet Prize.
FD Jackson lives in the southeastern U.S., along with her husband and sundry furry family members. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in FERAL, Cosmic Daffodil, Wild Roof Journal, The Metaworker, San Antonio Review and others.
Nate Jacob is a stay-at-home father of six children, which means he writes almost exclusively in school pickup lines and in between carpool stops. He loves tacos and hamburgers equally, but never writes about them, because his children demand that they remain the center of his universe. They are. Nate has seen his work published at verse-vitual.com, previously at Rat’sAssReview.net, and forthcoming in Rattle Magazine.
Brian Jerrold Koester is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a Best of the Net Anthology nominee. His poetry collection is titled What Keeps Me Awake (Silver Bow Publishing) and his chapbook is called Bossa Nova (River Glass Books). His work has appeared most recently in Poetry Pacific, Poetic Sun, SurVision, Versification Zine, Triggerfish Critical Review, and Revolver. Koester is an aficionado of single malt whiskey and a proud Cub Scout dropout.
Linda Laderman is a Michigan poet. Her poetry has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Gyroscope, SWWIM, ONE ART, Thimble Literary Magazine, Rust &Moth, Minyan Magazine, Third Wednesday, and Mom Egg Review. She is the 2023 recipient of Harbor Review’s Jewish Women’s Prize, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her mini-chapbook, What I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, can be found online at https://www.harbor-review.com/what-i-didnt-know-i-didnt-know. Find her at lindaladerman.com/”
Michael Lauchlan has contributed to many publications, including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Louisville Review, Poet Lore, and Lake Effect. His most recent collection is Trumbull Ave., from WSU Press.
Sarah Leavesley is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer, whose visual art has featured in a wide range of publications. As well as designing covers for V. Press poetry and flash fiction books, she was The High Window Resident Artist 2019. Her website can be found at: sarah-james.co.uk.
Lynette Ledoux loves playing with words, cooking in her kitchen that deserves to be called a Kitchen, and hanging with her many housemates, mostly mammals. She lives in New Orleans.
Richard LeDeu (he/him) lives in Norway House, Manitoba, Canada. He has been published both online and in print. He is the author of ten books of poetry. His latest book, “Sometimes, It Isn’t Much,” was released from Alien Buddha Press in February 2024.
Fay L. Loomis was a nemophilist (haunter of the woods) until her hikes in upstate New York were abruptly ended by a stroke. A member of the Stone Ridge Library Writers and Rats Ass Review Workshop, her writing is published in a variety of venues, including five poetry anthologies.
Ada Lowenthal has written poetry for many years while working as an architect and college professor. She has a B.A. in art history and an M.Arch so, unsurprisingly, many of her poems are about art and architecture.
Bob Lucky lives in Portugal. He is the author of Ethiopian Time (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Conversation Starters in a Language No One Speaks (SurVision Books, 2018), and My Thology: Not Always True But Always Truth(Cyberwit, 2019).
Australian writer, editor and musician Mandy Macdonald lives in Aberdeen, Scotland, trying not to be too spooked by the 21st century. Her poems appear in print and online, in anthologies such as Vo(i)ces (Victorina Press, 2023) and Two Ravens (Grey Hen Press, forthcoming) and in many magazines, most recently Causeway/Cabhsair, Firth, and Black Nore Review. Her 2020 pamphlet The temperature of blue is available at http://bluesalt.co.uk/the-temperature-of-blue/index.aspx).
Victoria Melekianvictoriamelekian.com.
Mike Mesterton-Gibbons is a Professor Emeritus at Florida State University who has now 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.
Mark J. Mitchell Ottleyhas been a working poet for 50 years. He’s the author of five full-length collections, and six chapbooks. His latest collection is Something To Be from Pski’s Porch Publishing. A novel, A Book of Lost Songs is due out in 2025. He’s fond of baseball, Louis Aragon, Dante, and his wife, activist Joan Juster. He lives in San Francisco. facebook.com/MarkJMitchellwriter/ Twitter: @Mark J Mitchell.Writer A primitive web site now exists: www.mark-j-mitchell.square.site
Mish (Eileen) Murphy is Assistant Poetry Editor for Cultural Daily She teaches English online at Polk State College, Lakeland, Florida. A Pushcart nominee, she has published two poetry collections—Fortune Written on Wet Grass (2019) and Sex & Ketchup (2021)—and a poetry chapbook, Evil Me (2020). Mish graduated from New College, Sarasota, and Columbia College of Chicago. She is also an award-winning digital artist, photographer, and book designer.
James B. Nicola’s latest of eight full-length poetry collections are Fires of Heaven: Poems of Faith and Sense, Turns & Twists, and Natural Tendencies. His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice magazine award. A Yale graduate and returning contributor, he has received a Dana Literary Award, two Willow Review awards, Storyteller‘s People’s Choice magazine award, one Best of Net, one Rhysling, and eleven Pushcart nominations—for which he feels both stunned and grateful.
Jeffrey Ogochukwu is a poet and writer who lives in Nigeria. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous places, including: Fabula Argentea, 2022 Kepressing Anthology Prize, The Kalahari Review, Thirteen Podcast, D’Lit Review, Spillwords, and The Red Mud Review. You can visit him at jeffreyogochukwu.website3.me.
Abigail Ottley’s poetry and short fiction have been widely published, most recently in Atrium, The Selkie and The Phare. A regular contributor to anthologies, including Borders: New Women’s Writing From Cornwall, Morvoren: the poetry of sea-swimming, and Unbridled, In May this year she was twice Highly Commended in the Frosted Fire Pamphlet Award. In June and October respectively, she won the Wildfire Flash Fiction Competition and was long-listed for the Ink of Ages award.
Steve Passey is from Southern Alberta. He is the author of the collections Forty-Five Minutes of Unstoppable Rock (Tortoise Books) Alone on the Couch With a Gun in My Mouth (Anxiety Press) and (forthcoming in 2024) In Line at Wal-Mart With All the Other Damned (Cowboy Jamboree) along with the horror novella Starseed (Seventh Terrace) under the name Stephen Guy.
Robert Perchan’s latest books are the comic futuristic novella Tropic of Scorpio (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2022) and the short story collection “Shocks, Meester?” (also from Spuyten Duyvil). Bob continues to eat and drink and write in Busan, South Korea, under the bemused gaze of his translator wife, Mi-kyung Lee.
Darrell Petska is a retired university engineering editor and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. His poetry appears in Verse-Virtual, 3rd Wednesday Magazine, Front Porch Review, Amethyst Review, and widely elsewhere (conservancies.wordpress.com). Father of five and grandfather of seven, he lives near Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife of more than 50 years.
Marc Pietrzykowski lives in and writes in Niagara County, NY, USA, famous for its Falls, its wine, and 1950s-style political corruption. The details of his own biography are pretty dull, nor does he take many photos of himself, or adapt well to familiar situations. He has published many poems, stories, and books. He shares things he finds interesting at www.marcpski.com.
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), 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.
Bethany W Pope has won many literary awards and published several novels and collections of poetry. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described Bethany’s latest book as ‘poetry as salvation’…..’This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.’ Bethany currently lives and works in China.
After years of impersonating a Systems Engineer,Ken Poyner has retired to watch his wife continue to break national and world raw powerlifting records. They travel extensively between sites of powerlifting or literary interest. Ken’s four current poetry, one mixed forms collection, and four short fiction collections are available from Amazon and just about everywhere else. www.kpoyner.com.
Rebecca M. Ross is a displaced Brooklynite living and teaching in New York’s Hudson Valley, where she regularly experiences things like trees, mountains, and easy parking. Rebecca’s poetry was recently published in the Dissent Anthology and Medical Literary Messenger. She also has work in Writing in a Woman’s Voice, The Voices Project, and others, with two pieces forthcoming in M58. Rebecca has a BFA in creative writing and an MA in English from Brooklyn College.
Alissa Sammarco, writer and attorney, lived in the West and South before coming home to the Ohio River Valley. Her work has appeared various online and print journals including Sheila-Na-Gig, Black Moon, Change Seven, Quiet Diamonds, Main Street Rag, Stone Canoe, VIA:Voices in Italian Americana, Ohio Bards and elsewhere.
Mark Scheel has served overseas with the American Red Cross in Southeast Asia and Europe, taught at Emporia State University, was a public library information specialist and helped edit Kansas City Voices magazine. He co-authored the book Of Youth and the River and his collection of stories and poems, A Backward View, was awarded the 1998 J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award from the Kansas Authors Club. He is represented by the Metamorphosis Literary Agency.
Penelope Scambly Schott’s most recent book is WAVING FLY SWATTERS AT ANGELS. She is a past recipient of the Oregon Book Award for Poetry.
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.
Nolo Segundo, pen name of L.j. Carber, 77, became a late blooming published poet in his 8th decade in nearly 190 online/in print literary journals/anthologies in 14 countries. A retired teacher [America, Japan, Taiwan, Cambodia] he has been nominated for the Pushcart and thrice for Best of the Net. A trade publisher has released 3 collections in paperback on Amazon: The Enormity of Existence [2020]; Of Ether and Earth [2021]; and Soul Songs [2022]. The titles reflect the awareness he gained over 50 years ago when he had an NDE whilst almost drowning in a Vermont river: That he has–IS– a consciousness that predates birth and survives death, what poets since Plato have called the soul.
Junaid Shah Shabir, is a PhD literature scholar at the University of Texas at Dallas, USA. He is a fiction writer as well and enjoys writing traditional ghazals in English. So far, his works have appeared in Life Writing Taylor & Francis Online, Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, Jaggery: A DesiLit Arts and Literature Journal, CLRI, Criterion, IJOES, Red Fern Review, etc.
Robin Shepard is living the high life in the lowlands of central California. His work has recently appeared in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Bombfire, Beatnik Cowboy, Compass Rose Literary Journal, Naugatuck River Review, Ghost City Review, and Quibble.
Heidi Slettedahl is a poet who would like to live up to her potential now that she is over 50. In real life she is an academic who goes by a slightly different name. She has been published in a variety of small literary journals. Her collection of poetry, Mo(u)rning Rituals, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books.
Laurie Smith earned her M.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Windsor. (Ontario, Canada) Former co-publisher/editor of Cranberry Tree Press, her own work has appeared in many publications across Canada and in the U.S. Collections include menagerie (LAWLLP, 2004) The Truth about Roller Skating (CTP, 2011); smack in the middle of spotlit obvious (Urban Farmhouse Press, 2016); said the cannibal (UFP, 2017) and Suck & Spit (Black Moss Press, April 2020).
Melissa Sorgi has only recently begun to submit poetry for submission. She lives in central Pennsylvania and works as a library cataloger for the National Sexual Violence Resource center where she has been exposed to great ugliness since 2007. But she continues to believe in the power and beauty of words.
David Stephenson is a retired engineer from Detroit. His poems have most recently appeared in Tar River Poetry, Shot Glass Journal, The Lyric, and The Orchards Poetry Journal. His second collection, Wall of Sound, was published by Kelsay Books in 2022. He is also the editor of Pulsebeat Poetry Journal.
Dylan Stover has worked variously as a landscaper, donut maker, field botanist, factory assembler, museum collection manager, and cheesemonger. Poetry, he is assured, isn’t a real job, just a way of appeasing the language deities. He currently resides in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where he works for money. He doesn’t own any pets.
Richard Weaver volunteers with the Maryland Book Bank, and is once again 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. He was one of the founders of The Black Warrior Review and its PE for the first 3 years. His 200th prose poem was recently accepted.
Damaris West‘s poetry has appeared widely in publications such as Writers’ Magazine, Snakeskin, Shot Glass, Eye Flash, inScribe, The Lake, Dreich, Blue Unicorn, Last Stanza Poetry Journal and Spank the Carp (featured poet). She was commended in Poetry Kit‘s 9th international poetry competition 2022, and highly commended in the Scottish Association of Writers summer competition 2023. Originally from England, she lived in Italy before moving close to the sea in Scotland. Visit her at https://damariswest.site123.me
Gail White, a contributing editor to Light Poetry Magazine, is currently urging everyone to buy her new chapbook, Paper Cuts, because it’s funny. This & her previous books can be found on Amazon. In the intervals of trying to get her poetry into print, she feeds stray cats in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.
Kelly Wilson retired from teaching psychology in 2019 but continues itinerant lecturing. He’s always woven poetry into his work. Although he has published eleven books in psychology, he hasn’t published outside psychology. After working with a serious weekly writers’ co-op, he hopes to join the literary community by publishing his own poems. He lives in the Sonoran Desert and divides his time between reading, writing poetry, and slow running trails in the Santa Catalina Mountains.
Robin Wright lives in Southern Indiana. Her work has appeared in As it Ought to Be, Bombfire, Loch Raven Review, The Beatnik Cowboy, Spank the Carp, The New Verse News, Rat’s Ass Review, One Art, Young Raven Literary Review, and others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her first chapbook, Ready or Not, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2020.
Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. His poetry has been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac. It has also appeared in numerous journals including Pinyon, Talking River Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review and Vox Populi.
Ronald Zack is an attorney, nurse practitioner and poet in Tucson, Arizona. He was born and raised in Detroit, and later lived in New Mexico and California. He is currently studying poetry in the MFA in Creative Writing program at the Mississippi University for Women.

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Edited by Roderick Bates