Poem of Pancakes and Junipers by Andrea L. Alterman

A cardinal sat within the junipers.
Brilliant vermilion outlined in slate green,
he sang while I sliced up strawberries to add
to pancake batter. I had promised you pancakes
for breakfast. I keep my promises.

Butter melted on the griddle. I scooped out batter,
carefully I poured it down on the hot surface.
It hissed and the cardinal sang while the exhaust fan hummed.
I watched the bubbles come, develop a tip, then burst.

I slid the spatula beneath each pancake to flip it.
Not a single one was stuck. The cardinal flew for a second,
out, then back to land again amid the junipers.

When I was eight I vaulted over those junipers. My father made
our pancakes then. He never added strawberries or bananas.
Some day I’ll stir in peaches, without the skin
but with the flavor of every summer day we’ve shared.

The Tree of Sorrow by Lavanya Shanbhogue Arvind

I want to take you there, to this house, quiet like the woes
of the strong, thirteen trees my grandfather planted,
three rose shrubs, gul mohrs that lined the compound wall,
curry leaves for grandmother’s kitchen,
a henna plant, for her hair

It was the parijat that brought grief there
the tree of sorrow, its botanist’s name.
orange-red centre, five lobed corolla
this flower, a child of the night.

My mother speaks of difficulties
in domesticating the things that want you dead
they pale away – can you believe? –
off all things, in sunshine,
grieving in flourish, like a man who laments his
surplus money.

The house is still there, untouched, unwell, unhurried.
come with me to see old barks and thorns, unmoving things;
maybe you’ll then understand
why I am afraid of light.

Born-Again Marine by Dennis J Bernstein

On his knees with Christ
during a lull in the fighting—
kills with the same hands
he prays with

Christmas Blessings by Dennis J Bernstein

Father “Joey” gave us
a blow-job for christmas:
It was his unique gift
for all fifteen castraltos
in the boy choir at St. John’s.
We took turns ducking into his
private sanctuary, but not one
of the boys Father blessed
came out smiling—

The Trauma of Spiritual Flesh by Adam Levon Brown

I spoke to my trauma;
It cried for a mother who once
sheltered him, now caught in dementia

I spoke to my trauma;
It reeked of needles jabbed into
my waist by disorderly orderlies
of a behavioral health unit

I spoke to my trauma;
it spoke of being arrested
while manic, helpless, and
then being knocked out
like a home run trophy
by police

I spoke to my trauma;
It spoke of my first relationship,
crushed to pieces by fate

I spoke to my trauma;
It doused itself in marijuana high school,
where welts to the head and arms
among big sluggers and feeling
completely alone in a world I could not escape

I spoke to my trauma;
It wept tears of grief for the anger

I turned on myself daily, the broken
stare into a mirror which never saw
my smile

I spoke to my trauma;
It spoke of cigarette burns
and razor blades covering
my bed at night, while sleeping
on a pillow of frustration

I spoke to my trauma;
It dug its grave into my chest
and refuses to come back to life,
no matter how many times I summon
it with hands of peace
I spoke to my trauma;
It revealed a boy, trapped
within a void, screaming
for sanity among the insane
and broken

I spoke to my trauma;
It was a home filled with love
and sacrifice, broken by separation
and alienation.

I spoke to my trauma;
It was piles of garbage I refused
to clean, as I buried myself
with anger

I spoke to my trauma;
It was the smile of my father,
broken by delusion and schizophrenia

replaced with paranoia, as our conversations
turned one sided, talking to himself more
than anyone else

I spoke my trauma;
it was a mother who flipped switches
from love to cold blank stares within seconds,
from being so overused by everyone,
decided to take my ADHD medication
to stay afloat

I spoke to my trauma;
It spoke of a strong family
carrying garbage bags to haul
clothes in by foot while being called
Bums

I spoke to my trauma;
It consisted of fast food every day
which I loved

I spoke to my trauma;
it mutated into paranoia,
yelling matches for months
and two near strangulations

*

I spoke to my trauma;
It also spoke of hope, that one day
I could find joy in simple things

I went where the hope lived;
I found appreciation in music and poetry,
but mostly video games to block
out the negativity

I went where the hope lived;
and I found that reading
was a sanctuary unto itself

I went where the hope lived;
I found nature and friendships
hidden behind the stained veneer
of trauma

I went where the hope lived;
I saw a therapist for the first
time at age 16 who was willing
to talk

I went where the hope lived;
music swung from the nucleus
of my being and held me together

I went where the hope lived;
and stopped hanging out
with people who used

An outcast with abusive, “friends”
I decided simply to be alone

I went where the hope lived;
I left the alleyways of Springfield
and stayed at home, dropping out
of high school

I went where the hope lived;
I found community at the local
community college and met people
who had never even heard
the term shooting bows and arrows

I went where the hope lived;
and found treatment
for my mental illness
which I inherited

I spoke to my trauma;
I went where the hope lived;

and now all I can say is:
Your best day is still yet to come
give yourself a chance to live it

For as Long as I Live by Lew Caccia

Let me sow love, I state before apathy,
the indifferent touch I grasped, blanching
forth the bone of its chill, profligate and scant
bespeaking warmth, the bravura of style—

let me not give up this day without redemption.
Here, I persevere
as refugee, perchance, in someone else’s field?
It’s dark, for sure, the way is uncertain.
Life has made a striking contradiction,
who are these familiar strangers?

There, it is not in standing,
never abiding.
I do not give up on love, Apathy, even now
no stairs nor ascent, proceeding only by ground,
the dust a salve for deathly shadows,
the dust vital to the soul, invariably pure.

Why We Wait for Rain by Luanne Castle

We wait for hours watching the dark unfurling
toward us, unsure
if it will land here at all
whether it carries thunderstorm or haboob
It smells like rain
bittersweet cocktail of sandstone & blossoms
still damp and quickening in the air
over ten thousand years
It’s why we wait for rain
tornadoes of dust don’t set off the scent
a drizzle dampening its branches
awakens the languishing senses
We wait to run through wet branches and shake
drops from our shoulders, caught
in the sharp unmistakable fragrance
wanting it to pool inside us in reservoir

Snowing in Spring by yuan changming

In the wild open west, flakes keep falling
Like myriad baby angels knocked down from Paradise

Blurring the landscape behind the vision
Hunting each consonant trying to rise above

The ground. The day is brighter, lighter &
Softer than the feel. Soon there will be

Dirty prints leading to everywhere (or nowhere)
& no one will care how the whole world will collapse
In blasphemy. The missing cat won’t come to
Trespass the lawn, nor will the daffodil bloom

To catch a flake drifting astray. Nobody bothers even to think
About where the season is held up on its way back, how
The fishes are agitating under the pressure of wintry
Water, why people wish to see more and more snow

Sonnet in Infinitives by yuan changming

To be a matter when there’s no question
Or not to be a question when nothing really matters

To sing with a frog squatting straight
On a lotus leaf in the Honghu Lake near Jingzhou

To recollect all the pasts, and mix them
Together like a glass of cocktail

To build a nest of meaning
Between two broken branches on Ygdrasil

To strive for deity
Longevity and
Even happiness

To come on and off line every other while

To compress consciousness into a file, and upload it
Onto a nomochip

To be daying, to die

Dancing by Ray Greenblatt

After a long time
we danced together last night
not agile as we once were
the main aim was touch,
we tried a waltz
and chandeliers glimmered,
the box step suited us fine
the stars whirled by;
as we went to bed
the flag on the Point
was dancing a faster beat,
in the middle of night
I woke to see a silhouette
of branches on the wall
dancing at a slower pace
to say our world was still in sync.

Matrix by John Grey

Spider crawls across the ceiling
lit golden by fading sun,
alchemy on eight legs.
traversing its upside-down world.

It ignores my eyes’ silent threat,
an abdomen, a cephalothorax,
in league with its own survival.

For high in the rafters, dangle threads
fine enough to make silk jealous,
to grab, entangle, passing prey.

The spider slips into its matrix core,
sends shudders through
all levels of a slick-spun orb.

From any angle,
the web is barely there
but fiercely in place.
How close to invisible
comes visible life.

Birth by Gerry Grubbs

What I remember
Is the long night

The sound
Of horses running
On a distant hill

The flood
And the sudden
Return of the dove

Near The Edge by Gerry Grubbs

that this is carried inside
a thing contained
Carries the uncontainable
But slipping this way
Into words
Can close
The carrier
To the thing contained
Can cause
The thought
That they are two
Things not one
A thought that separates
The world
In its despair
From the infinite

Media Butterfly by A. J. Howells

Look,
you’ve got something to say,
just like the rest of us.
There’s got to be someone out there
who will hear your call to arms
and take note
and change his mind.
Then you’ll be the victor
of the spoils.

So draft up your manifesto
and use LOTS OF CAPS
and plenty of exclamations!!!!
Don’t forget to call for shaming:
the dog whistle to the mob
you can hide behind.

For liberals: remain politically correct
and slash the gender from your language.
Take the higher ground.

For conservatives: eschew decent and taste
because those libtard socialist commie cucksuckers
have it coming.

Scream at the HIGHEST POSSIBLE DECIBEL
to hear the most echoes
and wait for the juiciest fruit
of the rotten apple pie tree
to appear in your comments thread
and unload your verbal clip upon these #h8trs.

Cut your hand off
and pat your own back with it.
Make sure there’s blood on your lapel
so you can bring up your sacrifice
at the Thanksgiving table.

Then do your job,
pay your taxes,
and die
with an irremovable smile on your face
and no balls in your side pocket.

Boston Common by Michael Keshigian

In order to think,
to contemplate and appreciate
dilemmas brought on by modern life,
he often took to strolling
through the public gardens
amid the verdant calmness of time honored trees
and sprawling greenways
that survived the patriotic acts of revolution,
just far enough away
from the street crowd and traffic noise,
building at the intersection
of Bolyston and Tremont.
Distractions down the winding,
narrow tar paths were minimal,
this day he easily found a place of seclusion.
So he reflected upon his quickly dissipating,
limited allotment of time,
his acquiescence to a battle
once valiantly fought,
his lack of owning responsibility,
the feigning privilege and apathy
gathering years seem to imply
and the folly of those who still engage.
A female runner in Celtics emerald attire
skirted by, lithe, youthful, amazingly trim,
stealing his daydream.
Boston is wonderful, he muttered,
the air so full of rebellion.
He wandered off again
into a comic reverie of infinite longevity
and the tender excitement of discovery.
I must find my running shoes, he mused.

Fish Cove by Michael Keshigian

Beneath the dock
from which he casts,
the water is shallow and clear,
the sodden earth
that bears the weight of liquid
is speckled with shoots
that will eventually surface
into a stage upon which
the basso bull frog
will perform his aria.
Occasionally, a cloud of dirt
smokes the clarity
of the transparent lake
and his searching
reveals the tail fin
of a scampering bass
near the shore to spawn.
He sits and watches
amid the Spring warmth
and delicate breezes
which incite the lake
to gently slap the dock.
He no longer dangles the bait
to tease the unsuspecting,
no longer allows temptation to linger,
that same lure
which spurred him to seek
refuge and the simple poem
this silent swimmer
strokes with her fin.
To read her verse
within the enclosure of this cove
is the remedy by which
he turns from the commotion
in his own life,
a commotion he has no desire
to impart.

Home Again by Michael Keshigian

Abandoned house, are there
only spiders and rodents
residing amid your rooms?
I see my distorted image
upon the fogged glass
of the old storm door,
and feel like a prowler,
appraising the value of items
upon your walls
or tucked in your corners,
when, in truth, I seek
to rekindle precious memories
and reconstruct pictures
the recent days
have begun to obscure,
events the rain of years
are washing away,
remembrances,
trickling indiscernibly
through the pitted window
of my mind’s eye
as I rap my fist
against the glass,
hoping the ghosts will answer.

Wildflowers by Michael Keshigian

What is love
but the dried up bulbs
the gardener insists on planting
to everyone’s objections
that irrationally burst
into magnificent dahlias.
The lunacy of uncertainty,
a fascination of delight,
most often unpredictable.
Wild grow
the flowers of the heart
in the garden of our lives,
wilder still
blooms affection.

Days of Bees and Indigo by John Krumberger

In those days of bees and indigo,
those days of blue delphinium,
I passed the peonies without a glance
to bend to the scent
of a row of roses.

Lili was a sparrow then,
an apprentice mimicking
the way I matched the peacock
we had watched,
backside thrust in air, strutting;

and equally my sniffing
just so
and equally her body bent
parallel to the ground;
those days of summer,

that have passed
like windows closing.
And so write them
in the book, the names, the mysteries,
we owe them at least that.

Sugar Sand by Greg Lobas

I’m getting a vacation in my mouth!
you quipped on the morning of your oral surgery.

A trip to Aruba in a single tooth.
Driving to your appointment, we passed

mountains gathered like blue muslin fabric
in the distance, and mountains

beyond mountains, where the blue of sky
melts into the blue of earth

the way peanut butter and chocolate
melt in your mouth, which is where

the vacation to Aruba is going, tooth number 30,
a molar in the lower right of your jaw.

In the waiting room I thumbed
through vacation magazines,

filled with the tanned and perfected
people who look great in bathing suits

at any age and gaze into one another’s eyes,
whose iridescent smiles have never shown

a cracked tooth. Instead they dwell
forever in that liquid horizon, and sip

fruity cocktails the color of the Caribbean sunset.
When you came out of surgery, a little wobbly,

you pointed to your gauzy, lop-sided grin.
See? I have a vacation in my mouth.

Then, steadying you, arm-in-arm,
we walked out to the parking lot,

put on our sunglasses, and strolled
barefoot on a beach full of sugar sand.

The Down Side by Greg Lobas

The skin of my father is like a crumpled newspaper.
I told him today that I loved him,
that I was sorry if I ever made him feel
unloved.
Such things you might say to a ninety-four-year-old man,
especially if you have never said them before.
This, which he has never said to me,
This is assumed, he said.
This is assumed.
My brother, the doctor, says the old man suffers
from tactopenia, which can happen
when you are untouched.
Or untouchable.
I know how that feels. It feels
like the skin of my father.
Like a crumpled newspaper.

I gave my dog a deep massage today.
They say it’s good for the dog, good for the owner.
I probed the depth of his muscles and sinews,
and his eyes probed mine, finding himself in my attention.
He assumed, as he rolled onto his back,
exposed,
he assumed I would not tear out his entrails with my teeth.
In the offering of his throat and belly,
he seemed to ask if he could be a person like me.
Sure you can, I said,
with the laying on of hands,
which caused him to wag his tail.
But I didn’t tell him it would come with a down side.
He’ll find that out soon enough on his own.
For today it’s enough that I gave
my dog a deep massage.

Hand And Hand by Nancy K. Hauptle MacInnis

Listening to what moves, within this wall of skin
while still aware of the goings on, outside
in the beyond.

Thoughts bend to what nurtures
in the balance that stands,
poised.

Simple yet astounding thought inspires.
A need brought to a response,
a meeting, a conversation.

Form of faith, trust in action, that thrusts
the arm to put out the light, in the latest
end of night.

Knowing what that is, and who, it’s all about
deep, though not unreaching
in the well of sleep.

Possession watches procession
giving and receiving, the back and forth
of mutual retrieving.

Like water to seed, sunlight to read
the lending hand comes forth,
to be of need.

The International(e) by Jeremy Nathan Marks

‘change will not come from above’ -Billy Bragg

Fishers in lamb’s wool caps
angle for dirigibles beneath winter ice.
The lake is a pastel roe, a killdeer’s pupil
caught by muscles with zebra stripes.

Erie is an oblong spoon of kale beds,
watercress woods, notches in the trunks
of municipal rubber trees.

In its sediment base geologists
trace a pidgin Dutch,
Haudenosaunee knots,
and what archaeologists call Quipu.

A Pelee boat casts anchor near one tributary’s
lip; its skipper pegging position at a midstream stone,
a lichen struck by Joseph Smith.

The great peace is a long submerged wall,
a wonderland where migrants run aground.
Locals say “escarpment,” locks, a grand soo,
build their gaggles with Pabst and laugh.

Fireworks in coffee,
a cup of joe, a single perch on Friday.
Sicilians from Verona, the local tour guide insists
(he is a Protestant).

Erie is the way.
Anglers listen to the International on wood panelled
shortwaves. Wait for their whitefish.

In Her Garden by Cecil Morris

Having already opened the earth,
having turned dark spadefuls of dirt out,
he kneels, his knees on the soft soil,
the bag of bulbs she bought beside him:
hyacinths—hard pale lumps no bigger
than his thumb tip—possibility
asleep inside each one, all the green
and purple tucked away for winter.
He turns one small bulb in his fingers,
feeling how it tapers to a tip,
feeling the little nipple of roots.
One by one, he places them—roots down,
tips up—and spreads dirt over them,
covering them gently until they
disappear. Then he pats the ground smooth,
the bulbs invisible to eye and hand.

He thinks about her smooth pale skin,
about how soft and warm she was
wherever he touched, about feeling
her breath and pulse in his fingertips,
about her breasts he kissed and stroked.
He thinks about lumps invisible
in her, planted deeper than his touch,
their possibility locked in her
all her life, waiting, keeping secret
the color of their flowers, the wild way
they would sprout and spread.

The Radiologists by Cecil Morris

The nicest thing anyone said to me this week.

I am face down and ass up
on the radiation table,
my butt uncovered, exposed,
ready to be irradiated
while I stare down to darkness.

The radiologists pull
and push, give commands—move up some,
move back a tiny bit—trying
to align the target marks
tattooed on me with something

on the table or maybe
a laser grid projected
on my rump roast. I don’t know,
face pressed in doughnut pillow.
The radiologists, two

youngish women, maybe twenty-five
or thirty, one pretty pregnant,
stand on either side of me
and push me left and right.
“That looks good,” one says. “Yes, that

looks very good,” says the other.
And I am thinking that they
are talking about my moons
as the machine I can’t see
begins to hum and click.

Love Poem to My Ex by Linda Neal

It’s late fishing season
and the Day of the Dead

when everything out there
waits for me

in the forbidden territory
of skin and memory,

a bent line
of a Sam Shepard play

rocking me in the dark,

and the telephone pole
outside the window
turns into

a skeleton.

I’m trying to beat my way
past storm clouds that build
in the west

and ghosts.

I need to remember
what I can’t remember

what you said

between skillets of trout
and dust-motes floating
in the cabin

where we made
our second son.

It could be
a song
that wades the river now

a song hanging in the wind,
its lyrics sung by the pines

in the dark
its laughter and fishes

fried up on the old stove,
where you loom
at the edge of evening.

Exposure by Nathanael O’Reilly

A naked man
rides his bike
across the Congress
Avenue bridge

past the sunset
crowds waiting
for flights of bats

reveals his true
self between
daylight and darkness

Honks by Nathanael O’Reilly

A hand-painted sign planted on the lawn
between the real estate agent’s office
and the main road through town
across the railroad tracks proclaims
HONKS 4 JESUS + TEACHERS

If I honk, how will anyone know
whether my honk is for Jesus
or teachers or both? And what if
I only want to honk for teachers?
Why does Jesus need a honk anyway?

Does he really need all the praise?

Reading Performance by Nathanael O’Reilly

Car-waiting in the Dollar
General parking lot
I read either, Orpheus
observe rolls of toilet paper
pool toys, cleaning products
outside on clearance

A Hispanic girl exits
the building, grabs a hula
hoop from the toy bin
practices her moves
while gazing upon her
reflection in the store window

Pulsing Tide by Scott Thomas Outlar

Three birds triangulate the sky
as the sun
shines
a perfect
circle
through the
center

I am made whole
in this moment
and the next

by the warmth
of your breath
on my neck

One sigh annihilates all stress
as the moon
blinks
its tired
eyes
for the
night

I am adrift
on a raft
out at sea

and your lips
form the waves
underneath

Seven tress bow their branches overhead
as their leaves
fall
calling toward
autumn
for another
cycle

I am buried
beneath the blankets
of your calm

within a shelter
that gently whispers
where I belong

Something To Find In by Kimberly Prijatel

something to find in
the yard and paint chips from
the neighbors drift
down long dry, lead dead
skin. the dog tries to eat them

now, though surely i
cannot keep up? the day is chipping away

at me
i am not the kind to laugh
and laugh.
no i am not kind, i would share

my neighbor’s, “ha, how’s it” across
the alley calling last week a doozy, were
i not counting chips through my head

philosophizing about everything: money
in us, the tree
falling in the metro park, hollow
conduit making a sound i

miss you when you’re here, the
time drains down like the bird seed
your bedroom laughter echoes. we are

alone again tonight and
humming to one
another while the dog’s asleep

glued, to our thoughts
of endless trajectories and phones,
you go to the kitchen to eat standing up
but isn’t it funny isn’t it funny that we miss

our old selves, outside the kitchen, outside
inside?

A Million Small Things by Charles Rammelkamp

“I think the world will be saved
by millions of small things,”
my T-shirt proclaims
over an image of Pete Seeger,
owl-wise with squinty eyes,
grizzled beard and a wide-brimmed hat.

What does that even mean?
I wish there were some gloss
on the back of the shirt,
some elucidation of the insight.

But look, here comes Paloma,
my twenty-seven-month-old granddaughter.
She wants to sit on my lap.
She wants me to read to her
about the five little monkeys
jumping on the bed.

“One fell off,” I prompt.
“Bump his head!” she cries,
proud of herself, seeing my delight.

Me Too Too by Charles Rammelkamp

I remember my first off-campus apartment,
buying my own groceries, preparing my own meals.
I shopped at a Kroger’s conveniently across the street,
the next closest supermarket an IGA across town,
and of course I didn’t own a car.

One night, having smoked a joint,
I went into Kroger’s to buy some food.
Pushing my shopping cart down the aisles,
lost in my daydreams,
I suddenly felt a hand squeeze my ass.
Startled, I looked into the meaty face
of a guy I guessed a few years older,
wearing a store apron and a shit-eating grin.

“Can I help you find anything?” he smirked.

Shaken, I stammered no
as he trundled off like a raccoon,
paid for my groceries.

A few days later I went back,
this time with my wits about me.
The fat guy in the apron
started following me around the store again,
pretending to be attending to business.
This time he waylaid me by the canned goods,
grabbing a fistful of my ass.

Humiliated, I left the store, telling myself
I’d have to shop at IGA from now on.
But back home, firing up a pipe
in an attempt to put it all behind me,
I just couldn’t shake the humiliation,
exploded out the door and across the street.

The fat store clerk stood with some co-workers
by the manager’s kiosk, when I went in.

“Don’t ever do that shit again!”
I stabbed at his fat face.

He spluttered, off-guard,
but I didn’t wait for an explanation,
just turned on my heel,
shouted again over my shoulder,
“Don’t ever do that shit to me again!”

Poem for Anne, Who Made a Sacrifice by Martin A. Ramos

Jesus, the God-man, the Savior,
Hanging there. His legs are
Twisted trees, His feet are locks

Whose keys have been
Irrepably lost. Though meek,
how His arms must ache

To hold me. The torso white, gleaming,
Scourged like the scars on Pilate’s
Silvery moon. At this stage, suffering

Has no meaning except for
The splayed Y of his sacrifice.
Indeed at this stage, thirst

Must desperately hurt. If I
Should burn these lines of verse
As I would paper, and watch my words

Rise as doves to Him on the Cross,

Wouldn’t that be love of a kind?
Wouldn’t that be a sacrifice,
Worth something?

Collage by Keely Record

Jet-black-bottled, short hair
not the brown I’d seen in youthful pictures.
Bulbous nose.
Between her nearly hairless eyebrow
and eyelid with a fold like a roman shade,
a hanging mole.
I feared its snagged removal
from her cupped fingers
as she dug in her sunken sockets
letting her dark framed glasses
ride on her index fingers.
Her mangled-straight pinky finger
escaped amputation, ready
for hot tea. Islands
of lost pigment on her arm and leg
Float in a sea of brown.
Unshod squared feet
tamped down snow.
Always a white blouse
usually a kick pleat straight skirt.
But her mouth, was there lipstick?
Her small ears, were there earrings?

At the End of Things by John Timothy Robinson

Mrs. Butterworth is standing on her head.
Not about being last,
a sigh could be at either one.
No one expects
the ninth batter to get a hit.
When a body heals,
what do you think happens?
A mind is already on the way.
Turning this last page;
anything is possible.
A sputtering coast up to gas pumps.
Colors and fluttered falling in sweeping wind.
One leads into another
though cannot see where one ends
and another begins.
Sometimes explosions.
Sometimes in sleep.
Matter breaks down to smaller particles.
The light comes on or goes off.
Synapses no longer fire.
Everybody goes home
and dreams of beginning
at the end of things.

The Rest of Your Life by Stephanie Smith

A late winter snow
and summer dreams
seem fleeting

You fell asleep
between cold cotton sheets

You left home
humming Pachelbel

It could have been
a Saturday afternoon
way back in childhood

or a Sunday morning
with the newspaper spread out
on the living room floor

reading obituaries

wondering what to do
with the rest of your life

Hospice by Joris Soeding

you in bed and I pray for another song
a hand raised
fur or something pricey adorning your neck
at church we celebrate the Magnificat
sing of Maria, “gentle woman”
your strength is different
outright, reckoning, spiritual, yes
yet glass doors will swing quickly

woods used to separate our homes
Sunday afternoon walks with Mami and Papa
dogs in large cages would spot us
I always wondered if you were sitting at the piano
idly writing songs
or peering into those trees, cigarette in hand
Rolls Royce sparkling in the semi-circle

years went and Mami and Papa were awakened
helicopters at dawn
your beautiful home in flames
we were neighbors
yet tonight you drift
although no cul-de-sac
this place needs your glimmer, honesty, love
I ask for more notes and days

Tea Time by K. R. Swathi

I was alone in the 6*6 apartment
The sunlight bouncing across the room made it look like an Eastman color movie
Reeking of solitude and gloom.

Work piled up as I struggled
To find an inspiration.
The article’s deadline is tomorrow…
Adding to the pre-existing pressure.

The birds shrieked.
The cars honked.
The cows bellowed and dogs barked.
Ahhh!!! I need a break
From this yellow afternoon.

I went into the kitchen
Took a pot
With water and a spoonful of sugar.
A generous amount of tea leaves
And a dash of ginger.

The fragrance of the tea
Filled the room with
Feels of calm and freshness.
As the sky suddenly made way
To clouds from the heavens.

The ceramic teacup clanked
As I poured the tea.
A sip filled my heart with glee.
The yellow sky had now become gray,
And to soft showers, it made way.
As I sipped tea, the time slowed.
I could smell the sweet rain,
The petrichor occupied my room.
The sounds of the surroundings
were toned down
As the breeze caressed my hair.

And then, it suddenly ended.
Screaming and shouting resumed.
Yet I was ready to write as the
Tea rejuvenated me
And my focus again zoomed.

Just a cup of tea
To stop the time.
Time… That doesn’t seem to stop.

Rose Hill Cemetery, Macon, GA by John Valentine

for Nathan Angel

Traces only, not even memories. This
silent moon the shimmering

witness. Confederate rows, six hundred
asked too soon to be

men. Markings all but gone on the
small reminders, rubbed

by the years. Faded précis. Kentucky
regiment on yours, nothing more.

In life, you were half-way to heaven, they
said. Favored. The only blessing though

the endless night. No ghosts now.
No whispers in the

wind. Palimpsests, a few scratchings
on stone. The lines of boys

sent off to war.

At Home by Diane Webster

Old woman sits
on rocking chair
like a queen on her throne
gathering robes around her
in royal pose with a shaft of sunlight
entering window in godly favor.

White hair as silver-lined clouds
drifts around her face
while she rocks back and forth
light to dark, light to dark.

Silent in her reverie
her mind swarms memories
like ants to a piece of candy.

Beyond Crowds by Diane Webster

Gray-whiskered man
lies on the ground;
his arm pillows his head
like mother’s hand
when she held his babyhood.

Eyes closed
in sleep memory;
a smile softens his face
as he listens to his radio –
music of static blankets
his soul beyond crowds.

Of Himself by Diane Webster

Old man stands ankle-deep
in pasture grass dry in August.
He contemplates the ground
as if looking for something lost –
Pocket knife? Metal car? Toy gun?

Like an escaped prisoner
a cricket scurries through
brittle stems uncaring
of silence just fleeing.
Old man digs lint
from his pockets, allows
it to drift like dandelion
fluff – a blue bit of himself.

At 50 by Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue

my gums are receding,
but on the good side –
I’ve finally gotten a superpower,

invisibility.
Well, at least to young attractive women,
I’m invisible.

They stare past me as if I were transparent
and sometimes they even walk
right through me. Really.

I ought to remind them of physics,
but that’d be yet another boring suggestion
that would elicit nothing but a yawn.

And to top it off, the soles of my feet are dry
as the proverbial Mojave.
On a good night I remember to dab

a puddle of lotion
specially made for scaly skin.
All my old flames would confirm my inner snakiness.

What was inside has been made manifest.
And while not too soon,
I hope to slither into that dappled hole

destiny insists awaits all cold-blooded creatures,
tonight I live like I’ve world enough & time.
Catching a film noir flick with my one true love,

basking in front of those blue flames
of that sacred object,
formerly known as the idiot box.

Is there something wrong with me
that off the top of my head,
I can think of dozens of worse places
but not one better?

Just a Slice (June 1976) by Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue

5 hours in a sun so blistered
trying to hitch a ride out of Alamogordo –
pasty-faced seniors in Winnebagos for some odd reason
not trusting my long-haired bearded self –

I gave up. Called my old man
to wire me bus fare.
In Amarillo I had an hour layover,
walked the main drag at 10,

one crazy Saturday night.
All these teen angels, cruising, revving their engines,
honking their horns. Wide-eyed girls, their heads
hanging out the windows, shopping for boys.

While the boys leaned against their cars in tight Wranglers,
coolly eyeing only las chicas lindas.
Red cherries shining in their palmed hands,
surreptitious Lone Stars expertly held
under fender wells by index fingers.

Hormone levels and sexual tensions
hit all-time highs!
Just a tiny slice of Americana.
Do you really think John Adams could have conceived it thus?

Right to Sight by John Zedolik

Even the long-incarcerated need
adequate vision care, so don’t

bat an eye when a stern sort
in uniform escorts an elderly

gentleman in orange to his shoes,
wrists and ankles shackled,

chains tinkling across the carpet
and its office quiet to a room

unseen to the sitters who wait
in phones, magazines, and leisure

only their appointments enforce
but must wonder if the old con

has shuffled off to some designated
coil where he cannot strike the free,

yet break out into the wide-angled
world with sight now corrected

and clearly focused on the goals most pursue

Slow Softening by John Zedolik

I’m standing in a pumpkin patch
on Friday morning, watching some rot

even though I can’t perceive the progress
to the blackening, to the bottomless depression,

and the crawling scavengers enjoying
the pulp while I ponder the significance

of being here at 10:30 a.m. in October
without work, esteem, or income,

still like these gourds ready for Halloween
harvest, possibly staving off deterioration

A Rainbow of Oil by Carol A Alexander

A serviceable pool of light drips into dream
while my father haggles to highway back
before the sundown’s scrim. Which really
is dark’s absence, strip malls and invitation,
the slightly rancid smell of frying clams.
I cannot grasp the magnet of his East–
the lure of foul Elizabeth, how cities
always stink with raw desire. But I feel
our metallic body, how the car dreams of flight.
That somewhere on my father’s sweat-stained map
lies childhood. That he hungers to move on
before blue midnight orphans him.

a small memory by jonathan bracker

Quaffing a medium mug of a Belgian ale
Brewed, the brasserie sign says, since 1240,
What a surprise to have Hutch Hutchinson’s name
Surface in my only slightly befuddled brain!

Hutch whom I have not thought of for a lifetime.
But then, I did not know him well;
Boys together, we were not chums.

Only, once his young parents invited me to dinner.
Goose was served, with which I could not cope,
It being too barnyard a fowl;
I would not try even a forkful.

After that, outside of school we did nothing together.
He was smaller and seemed gentle.
Ah, I remember now – his ears stood out!

I never knew whether his first name
Was nickname or real,
But it said “rabbit house” to me;
I thought him a bunny.

Now that I see him, I see nothing more,
Or almost nothing – just his mother’s shoe
Pressing a buzzer under the table to summon the maid.

Just Down Wilkinson Street by jonathan bracker

Just Down Wilkinson Street, He Lived

I was still yet a boy,
And weasel-faced Warren Metcalf was
Also. But he was the leader
Of a gang, of which I was not a part

Though I yearned to be.
One day – just that one – he relented,
Letting me range with them
Through our neighborhood;

In the meadow we found smaller Keith
Whom they tied to the trunk of a tree.
Keith bawled “Let me loose!”
But gloried in the attention.

A friend of Warren’s arrived to warn: “Mrs. Bracker
Is on her way!” We hid in the basement of a house.
Through slats I saw her furious legs nearing.
That to me felt like an avenging goddess.

Routing us out, Mother insisted
All come back with her to where we lived
So she could read to us the riot act.
They sat like toads, unchastened. Then Warren and his gang

Departed after he deliberately sat on our cardboard
Globe of the world, denting it with the weight
Of his little butt to show what he thought of her.
I had to stay inside for the rest of the sunny day.

Deeper Lives by Carolyn Cordon

The sky, the horizon, my love for both
Love for people – family, friends
Honesty eternal, it never ends

Truthful engagement, heart and soul –
Follow the sky up to the stars
Or horizon’s line that mankind mars

Pathways followed, dead ends, or none
The journey, life’s lessons, go where you will
Learning continues if you’re breathing still …

Why are we here, do you know? I don’t
‘Cept failure to learn for what life will give
Makes a lie of a life, you have to LIVE!

Life spent unlived is life spent as a dolt
So many chances, people to love
And opportunities from Nature above

As every pear tree bears better if tended
So a life lived will bear fruit too
I love the ‘pears’ life gives, don’t you too?

Fossick around, dig deep as you go
Ask questions and listen, open your head
Live or life, or you’d be better off dead

Time spent on playthings, on nothings,
Fripperies, on mere lightweight fluff
These will show you’re not thinking enough

Thoughts, ideas, questions and answers
These can get most you the most from your life
Deeper lives come from troubles and strife …

Nightcap by Helen Freeman

Late at night my husband and I
go into the kitchen. We prattle
about this and that: who’s eaten
the most apple pie? What to cook
for the next dinner party – the regular?
Lasagne? And which cat is that
intoning a nocturne outside our door?

We scrutinise the glued pan handle,
contemplate when the milk will boil
and laugh when it spills over as usual.
Angus scoops the malted grains
and I stir in the frothy liquid – or I scoop
and he stirs. We meet to share chunks
of dark chocolate orange and part

to lick fingers and scrape out
the dollops left over at the bottom
of our mugs. While we dry dishes,
hang tea-towels and water thyme,
our chit-chat slows. The stars stretch,
his brow relaxes, my mind slackens
and we drift off like wind-borne leaves.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Clavicles by Helen Freeman

I With ruler
and protractor
I appraise the clavicle.

II Among 206 human bones
the only long one lying down
is the clavicle.

III A shoulder blade, a clavicle
and a sternum are almost one,
all three girdle magic appeal in place.

IV Little key, open
sesame, clavicula
rotating access.

V A stiletto heel
finely fashioned
of bone and marrow –
not a place to lay your head.

VI Hens strut through
shallow puddles
on splayed feet,
roosters vaunt.

VII Laughing gull
on clavicle crane jib
brings drama to the face.

VIII O raised arch, O pedestal,
O furcula of wish and whim,
why do you break
more than any others?
Do you really bring luck?

IX Waists fatten, flesh droops,
all is subject to Time’s jiggle
but the clavicle shows little.

X You can’t be spanked, bitten or pinched,
kneaded, sucked or held onto.
You incur no nip-tuck bills.

XI Inner essence –
approachable but
never fully known.

XII If I could be that mole on your clavicle,
I’d sing bold airs to your heart.

XIII Throw your head back
straighten your shoulders
raise a glass of Veuve Cliquot
in the chalice at the base of your neck

The World Without by Bill Glose

Next door, neighbors shuffle
junk in their yard, scrap metal
and rusted-out appliances
to resell on weekends.

Across the street, two girls
play hopscotch in a driveway,
screechy giggles trilling
through windows of our house,

where a ticking clock
stabs silence
like a needle
without thread.

Staring at the muted TV
as if scrolling text
might actually reveal
an answer, I sit beside Dawn,

her face blank as winter sky,
my hand on her thigh
like a pebble atop
a cemetery marker.

Look Down by Ryn Holmes

here, I’m in Hell,
my scars plain to see,
there’s no drama – stolen –
no one knows me now.

That time
I was living insanely,
I used up my words,
made an ass out of myself.

I am danger,
everything to lose,
down so low my brain stops –
I’m not myself.

Wearing basement clothes,
I never belong,
am not any kind of songbird,
can never sing.

Look down here, I’m in Hell,
my scars plain to see,
there’s no drama – stolen –
no one knows me now.

next door by Stephen House

in her worn dressing gown
she leans over our falling down fence
asks me if i’m doing ok
i tell of ongoing tests and painful biopsies
waiting on cancer results
it’s not looking good

her eyes mist over
concerned and with care
i glance at a graze on her hand and wrist
magpie lands near us
white cat looks up
we stand silently still in this moment of us

no mention of last night
helping her in from the street
falling down drunk
screaming at air
her times on the bottle get more each week
it’s her stuff to face
i know how it is

she asks if she can help me through this difficult time
i say its ok
we both feel it’s not
magpie warbles
white cat meows
i thank her and turn to go into my room

she takes beer and wine from her dented old car
i sit on the porch in my busted old chair
i wish i could cry
i’ve tried all week
but as low as i am i can’t find a tear

we’ve been next door neighbors for nearly three months
the last one the best
since i gave up the gear
i would have died if i didn’t quit
i wanted to live
i still so do

magpie flies into grey winter sky
white cat sits on the mat near my chair
she appears on the porch
bandaged hand holding flowers
i start to cry
she cries with me

shared darkness by Stephen House

a tall thin man
dressed in a filthy frock
shuffles along these streets each day
i drag myself along them too

on trodden grime
we separately seek our own evaporating reasons
for these solitary rambles to anywhere else
but the wasted now of this

weeks of passing each other
without word spoken
no nod or flick of friendly smile
no wink or silly boyish smirk
just numb solitary loping

and it unhinges me
dragging me deeper into my festering core
of wondering how and why

yesterday
as our paths collided on a muddled corner of ill fate
i glimpsed a reservoir of tears in his milky eyes
i’m sure he heard the plea for help
screaming out of mine

today
i can’t face him
entwined in his insane crawling
or tread those medicated roads to zilch

i can’t move from where i crouch
suffocating in the bleak realization
of what i have become

and i loathe him and his part in my dreaded demise
for i know as i gulp at a gritty breathe
we are both destined
to dwell in shared darkness
forever

My Granddaughter, Almost Twenty by Michael Craig Kasper

I watch my granddaughter
Walk before me
Or rather, I watch the men
Staining their necks
As they watch her walk by,
Young hips swaying like the sea
Oblivious.
And I am proud
That the blood of my blood
Can draw such rapture
Such admiration
Perhaps a little lust,
And I catch their eyes
And they know
Not today
Not with her.

The Dancing Trees by Michael Craig Kasper

There was a stand of trees
Where the road from work
Teed into the road home.
They would dance in the wind,
So close, their branches mingled,
If one moved, they all moved,
Choreographed.
I would sit at the light,
Waiting to turn, and watch them dance
Swaying and bobbing with the wind.
I would even time my arrival
to catch the red
So I could watch my dancing trees,
A minor celebration at the end of day.
And then they were gone,
Removed for a billboard
Trumpeting the arrival
Of a future slum.

Whistle Stop by Michael Craig Kasper

some minor city in Illinois
past midnight, the neon signs
running on the wet pavement
the tavern hard by the tracks

we stop here to let one off
or two get on —
minutes of stillness
in the long rough night

I watch him stumble from the bar
try to light a cigarette, give up.
He is looking right at me, through me
I doubt he even sees the train.

we slowly move away
the town drifting out of sight.

I wonder, were we really there?

NO FRILLS by BRIAN KATES

She listened as I’d read my awkward lines of verse
at night, sitting, legs splayed and silent,
on the bed in shabby underpants–you could hardly
call them panties: faded cotton, color indeterminate, loose-fitting, frayed.
(Stray threads caressed her thighs; a poet in times past
might rhyme with envy on those loose ends).
Her breasts were full and firm. “Serious tits”
a randy office mate once called them–
though they weren’t averse to a little fun, now and again.
She always wore a bra. Business-like, I’d call it, if business
did not involve seduction: White, wide straps, no lace.
Chaste, you might also say. Suitable for some old lady
Or my muse.

PROVINCETOWN HARBOR by BRIAN KATES

We watched the mermaid
comb seaweed from her haughty breasts
as moon-pulled waves
sang their timeless John Cage song
beyond our outward gaze
beneath the pier
that August night
in Provincetown.
Only silence passed
between us.
And wonder.
And a night of
blissful sleeplessness.

Mismar by Pratishtha Kharbanda

Mismar (Urdu) n. Demolished

you left me like a storm leaves a city :
in ruins.
and all i could do was
gape at the damage
in the eerie silence
of your absence.

so how am i supposed
to believe him
when he tells me
he loves me?
his kisses remind me
of your favorite song
but his love tastes
like the red velvet shake
we never ordered
because you hate
strawberries.

i am your aftermath,
and you took with you,
most of me.
what’s left
is the rubble,
because now i
drink my coffee
in your favourite
mug and
i haven’t washed
your shirt
since you left,
so it still
smells like you.

you were my timeline,
and this is the after.
but he came
out of nowhere
and claimed to be the
renaissance.

so how am i supposed
to let you go
and believe him
when he says,
he’ll stay
when all i know
is that
‘cross my heart
and hope to die’
means nothing,
anymore?

i’m stuck
in a time-machine
and as much as i want
it to take me ahead,
i go back,
in medias res
and in your arms
(a budding whirlwind)
i find peace
in my
destruction.

Cry Lots For Father by Christopher McCarthy

The building maker’s second son walks up and down flight after flight of stairs with a ring of keys. Lock doors. Count A. B.

Still. The site is under construction. Mid-morning groaning ceases for fifteen minutes. Then the first call is heard. ‘Lot 47’. Look a rickety elevator shaft floats upward. ‘Semi-detached unit’. Look someone’s left the light on. ‘312 A’. Fence. ‘B-block’. Drywall. Con the concrete. The triplex curves at the roundabout. ‘Lot 15’. The site forms an enormous aerial H. Watch from above.

Lots are plots. Buildings aren’t built; they’re grown in the dirt. Water the box hedges. Dos broke a soaker in C. yesterday afternoon. Where’s the hose? Nobody knows.

Water each box by bucket. Fences aren’t up yet. Put on a safety harness. Pray for a rain cloud. Bright sun turns green green to brown brown.

Sip coffee truck sludge. Pour it down your throat. Spray the cedars. Today’s lucky. The first paycheque paid at fifteen dollars an hour. Slosh the steps a bit. Set full ones down. Half full ones next time. A transfer slip floats down on the breeze from one of the upper storeys and lands with the rest of the garbage.

The building maker’s second son walks down to lower B. Sidestep new slop and sawdust. Grind down a cigarette butt. Unlock the door to no. 4

Exit. Get on the radio: ‘4. No delivery’.

8:15. The board boys have been at it for two hours already. Watch tenants in the completed pod across the road. They slouch into kitchens to cook their cold granola.

Imagine Charlotte by Christopher McCarthy

Fly to the place (not the person) in your mind. Do it in a dream. Imagine it’s years from now.

Laugh. Cover. Laugh some more.

Know so little of each other and so much. Mother. Meet family. Love. A daughter. Moon. Heartbeat. Red. Art, but don’t do it on the wall sweetie.

Flash a life. Play thru years in moments. Squeeze a hundred different lives out of every instant, and then, in a thrust, obliterate them. Give them up to the dawn. Fuck. Fawn. Rabbit. A pocket full of sun – burns. Skin raw pubis. There’s a lad. Cellphone light. Find keys.

Move the car.

Harvesting Blueberry by Mary Ann Meade

String after string mark the rows
where rake and I must pull.
What if I find a knot. What if
I am caught, my rake beating
like a bird wing against the earth.

*

Evening. I empty the last bucket
of blueberry. Follow the string
back to the barren. Enough, I think,
enough of following the string.
Else life is nothing more than a thread.

*

They need a raker. So here I am.
After all, the barren is home.
I need the memory of string
on my thumb. I need the chaff,
the skein of so much blue on my tongue.

On Our Daughter by Cecil Morris

Our girl, turning seventeen today,
has grown too big for her pink room.
She feels closed in by the four walls
we helped her paint. The whole narrow
house, in fact, is too small for her
blonde longitude. The rooms,
the people, the whole city
lack the latitude she desires.

When she stands before her mother,
toe to toe and eye to eye now,
her blue eyes close or look beyond
toward a horizon we can’t see.
She strains through her second birth,
through the tight canal of family
toward a future that is not ours.

Still, she is our genie, pouting,
stamping, summoning the magic
of her tears against the bottle
of our tiny world. She will
get out—she will—even if
she must break something precious
to set herself free.

Reaching for Her Body by Cecil Morris

At thirteen my daughter chose her own swimming suit,
a bright pink two piece for someone with a figure.
The bikini’s leg holes arch over her thin hips,
over those twin bones still closed like folded wings.
After every dive she adjusts her bikini
bottom, arranging it around those hips that float
like hard white dreams beneath her brown skin.
The bikini top crawls up her chest when she swims,
the underwired cups reaching up like open hands
searching for the gift of breasts, ready to shape her
into someone’s dream. She checks her top every time
she surfaces, tugging it into place, checking
for progress maybe. I want to say, “Be Patient.
Enjoy the simple line you cut through the water.”
But boys are already calling her friends, and she….
Well, she wants her body now.

the true name of god by JB Mulligan

gullsoar slow winterbreeze
wintertrees branchetching blue sky
and milkstain clouds oozing eastward

no meaning message word
can hold as if it were a thing
as these things hold
a morning a timespace

in all this stillness
(even movement is still)
the throb the pulse
plucked strand of an infinite web
anchored everywhere

far away high waters crash
here silence crashes
one sound the true name of god

The Herb Garden by Robert Nisbet

Tarragon, rosemary, fennel and thyme.
Barely a herb garden, more a collection
of herbs in pots, ranged in her small back yard.

Tarragon, rosemary, fennel and thyme.
She dwelt on the scents and the sweetness.
Rosemary, that’s for remembrance.
But no-one had died. He’d been for years in Spain,
but there were no calls, no postcards now.

She remembered the many weekend trips,
warm B&B’s, once a country hotel, a lodge,
walks, many walks, their breaths mingling
in the bright beginning air of the mornings.
Tarragon, rosemary, fennel and thyme.

What is it with the smell of herbs? Sweetness yes,
but aren’t there too a heaviness, near to over-full,
maybe a tinge of bitterness?

The Morphology of Compassion and Indifference by Nynke Passi

Raindrops advance
kamikaze-style, surrendering
individual, perfect smallness

Do tears of an onion
look differently under a microscope
than tears of grief?

A cracked shard of glass
reflects the sun as beautifully
as a church window

Pizzicato spider feet
play cobweb harps up
in heaven near the ceiling

The sun’s lips kiss the earth
goodbye so fervently
they bleed

Stars sparkle with glory
but are dead
and don’t know anyone’s story

Who notices that grasshoppers
pray summer sacred, that pebbles
are soft like a child’s wrists?

there is absolution by Nynke Passi

there is absolution

in the unexpected coolness
of a sheet_____the whispering
of lovelorn cicadas changing

form as life does—
_____in one room after
another_____in husks of cocoon

_____behind doors of eyelid,
forehead, lip_____hidden
by curtains of lashes

_____beads of days prayed one
by one, worried smooth
in the fingers of time

_____again_____and_____again
the unleavened moon dissolving
on night’s repentant tongue

healing psalms sung
by rain_____wind_____breath
by the impulsive swish

of the sleepy hair of a lover,
_____the rush of a silk dress,
a paper bag dancing in air’s arms

One thousand seconds by Timothy Pilgrim

No motion permitted, lie back, hope
dermatologist named Lance knows enough,

laser in hand, can scorch an evil layer
off cheek in sixteen minutes plus.

Eyes closed to each flash, time to dream
womb, baby, dark to light. More sparks,

face teened, back seat, homecoming queen
staring up from underneath. No luck — wake,

only one hundred seconds gone, face of age
not wiped away, nine hundred left to hate.

12 Exposure Film by Lillian Ramirez

milk of weeds
dim eyes
earth-crawler
jaded coffin
early light
fallen ashes
last tears
still frame
wisp of wind
feel of flight
kaleidoscope
sweet nectar

Just Visiting by Andy Roberts

I was lost in the ‘40’s for twenty years.
Sharp clothes and heroin. I found some comfort there.
I was born against my will, like every actor on earth.
But I’m in no hurry to leave
my sip of black coffee and crisp white shirts.
That’s how it is sometimes when the world is off your back:
like Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in bed.
Although he died, of course. Shot in the back.

It’s forty degrees and raining this early November afternoon,
all the leaves dropped off my back. Sometimes I find
such beauty in the dead.
The clean white bones of the world in my teeth.
Nothing to do but watch the storm roll over
the prairie, listen for thunder.

It’s raining harder now, wind lashing
sticks against the window and what’s this
good time doing in my head?
I thought I was sick. It’s probably
just visiting but I wish it would stay for awhile.

Pagan Purples by Andy Roberts

The smallest bees I have ever seen
are swarming the foxglove and loosestrife,
standing on their heads for nectar in the delphiniums.
I stop under the silver maple for shade,
where the tiny oak tree fights for light,
stem the size of a gnarled, arthritic finger.
It’s always the old people who love flowers most
because they see life returning in the spring. It comforts them,
as Jesus The Holy Ghost for nuns. Little bees
the size of black and yellow gnats swarm around my hands
but don’t light or sting as I touch the soft petals and
life is transmitted through my fingers –
the touching keeps me alive another day, a week.
I eat the purple mulberries no one wants
but the birds, and it makes me stronger,
the stains and the gathering.
I walk on flat rocks stacked around the honey locust
and the sweet gum, three laps around the
Southern magnolias with waxy leaves and white blossoms,
but always return to the delphiniums, the deep purple towers
where I discovered the tiny bees. The variety is called
Pagan Purples. As for the oak,
I planted my acorn as an offering two years ago
and the seedling grew, twisted like a bonsai, fighting for light
beneath the maple, near the delphiniums
and the bees working their magic in the towers.
I feel the leaves of all the plants I love.
I gain life here, live for days
through the touching, a week.

Too Close For Comfort by Andy Roberts

A guitar strummer
sat down among us
in fifth grade and taught me
a lesson I still forget –
until I see it in the eyes
of someone I’m teaching chords to.

The bully who beckons his muse
onstage to sing his love song,
inches from her face.
An audience of millions,
cameras zooming in
to her helpless smile.

Now I understand the sunglasses
of the piano player,
hat pulled down.
The slight separation
of the audience
from the stage.

France in September by Janice D. Rubin

That autumn I lived in l’Hotel de la Petite Fleur
in the old part of Nice, la Vielle Ville.
The room, four flights up
a narrow winding staircase built during the Inquisition.
The walls a light brown Italian plaster.

Walking through the ancient streets
to the sun crested blue promenade
past a noisy market. A medieval gothic church
spires, stained glass: faces of saints
expressions of ecstasy.

Pigeons congregated
on the marble steps in sets of three
like siblings celebrating
a nephew’s wedding
exchanging the family news.

I met with friends in cafés
drank red wine through the afternoon
talked of plans to travel
Greece in October
Spain in the Spring

I understood the French life
the passion of love and food
the intuitive voices echoing within.

Similar by Christopher Strople

My head is filled
with drowsiness,
and
my eyes are droopy
the way
an old woman draws
a shade in her house
that is broken because
she is too old to fix it,
but
she wants to and she resents
that shade
just a little bit because
it doesn’t quite meet
her expectations, and that
only further reminds her
of her age and the fact
that she is old, and her life
is almost over, and it was not
much of a life
for her because she did not
make much of it, and it did not
meet her expectations and it was
just a waste really.
A big, mostly-empty, waste.
And the shade reflects that.

And my eyes are droopy like the shade.

Missing the Bison by Keith Allan Welch

Go walk in the tall grass of a farmer’s field
you may feel strongly the absence of the bison
all his gruff rolling muscle and tough horn,

and wonder where the puma has gone
the night is missing her angry yowling,
the ground the stamp of her large, rough paws

The black bear and the grey wolf, buried under
the concrete of a hundred thousand foundations
Lost from among the trees we suffer to exist

Away from the field the grey streets are named for
the trees cut down to make way for the streets and
Wooden silhouettes of absent animals dot the square lawns

This world we make is a world of loss, of forgotten
past and careless present, the future avoided at any cost
of willing blindness and a terrible acceptance

But while you sleep ragged coyotes roam under your window,
panting, and delicate red foxes pause, scenting the wind
on the black pavement of your large two-car driveway

All Backs Wear Out by Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue

All those beautiful women
in their twenties
with their naked, supple bodies,

incredible pre-sagging,
pre-kids breasts,
buns, still firm and shapely,

and well-muscled thighs
wrapped around my waist,
as I carried them to bed.

Could that be the cause
30 years later of this excruciating back pain
that’s laid me out for nearly 3 days?

Maybe?
Probably?
Oh, well.

Everything is Lost by Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue

Me, the dumbest sentimentalist of all times.
Today I’ve been thinking on that run-down apartment
house my grandma lived in near downtown decades ago.

Been razed for years, but today
that musty smell in the hallway came back to me.
Is there even one other who remembers that?

And the dents my grandma put in the ceiling
with her broom when the Mexicans upstairs
made the walls shake with their conjunto.

Today I’m even weepy about her white Dr. Scholl’s,
her True Detective magazines scattered near her bed,
watching Divorce Court on a TV with rabbit ears akimbo.

My sisters and I’d eat on a fold-out
card table in the living room: fried chicken,
butter beans, cornbread in a cold glass of milk.

In the back, an alternative universe
of peeling paint, glass-strewn alleys,
old men parked on their back stoops, curling Colt 45s.

Everything is of a time,
and in time,
everything is lost.

In Jackson 5: My Wife’s Last Birthday by Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue

In the psyche ward’s
cafeteria, she sits,
barely picking at her food.

Her brow, wrinkled
like a hieroglyph,
meaning unbelievable suffering.

Cutters, schizos, manics,
substance abusers
form a rag-tag choir. .

Belt out an off-key
“Happy Birthday to you”
to someone they don’t even know.

My eyes flit from face to face.
Whatever private hells
they’re going through

(and there must be many)
look far
faraway.

If I’d seen them outside
I’d figured these young,
good looking people

hadn’t a care in the world.
Tears flow.
I can’t help it.

And when they finish,
I cut two small pieces of cake for us.
Then tell these blessed nut-jobs

the rest is theirs.
And thank, thank, thank them.
Only wish I could’ve given them more, much more.

Woe to Those Poets of Easy Comfort! by Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue

Weekends in Connecticut,
chipper didacts, trust fund babies,
who live in cities but write of “nature,”
not as anyone who knows it sees it,
but as a kind of gentrified ecosystem.
Survival of the cutesy!

Woe to those poets of easy comfort!
May they wander for 4 times 10 years,
taking circuitous routes among quiet strangers,
while plagues of locusts
and insurance agents haunt them!

May they be cursed
with unflattering Facebook pictures
and boring, straight-laced children,
who will study engineering
and become life-long Republicans!

Woe to those poets of easy comfort!
May some unnamed Deity
visit their iniquity on their children
unto the third and fourth generation!

And may their words squirm from them
and hide in dark, maze-like corridors,
to be found by true poets
who always are at home in darkness!

Dance of Oaks by Clarence Wolfshohl

Saturday nights the old folks scrub the dirt
from under their nails, as best they can,
wear dress comfortable shoes, go dance,
go to St. Hedwig or Liederkranz Hall,
go to talk crops and rain, go to drink beer—
beer barreled belly farmers and their wives
in clean starched cotton dresses like lampshades
glowing on the dance floor for this night.

Some people dance like saplings in the morning breezes,
sliding between other couples softly,
silent their steps in the hush of the dance,
and the music slips through them like their hands.

These farmers are oaks in the morning breeze,
grand in their resistance, creaking their limbs
knotted with fibers hard to the core,
the polka pumping to the beat of their hearts.

The old folks hop slower than the band,
heaving movements like tree crowns
lifted a gust of wind at a time, a half-beat behind
the wind’s song. They have grown thick, grown deep,
oaks dancing the polka.

End of Summer, Lima, March 2018 by Rose Mary Boehm

Apparently invisible to everyone but me
and swinging a plastic shopping bag
from Wong The Grocers,
a large, dark-skinned, curly-haired man
walked past me on a busy Lima avenue.
He was naked.
He was in no hurry.

No one turned, the pedestrian traffic
ignored him so completely
he may well have been an illusion.
The sun had come out late that day,

the whole morning shrouded in low cloud,
turning the sky a pale blue, and you bent
over me to look into my naked eyes. I trusted you
to love what you saw.

Snake-Faced Mornings Driving the Dump Truck in the Blue Zone by Michael Catherwood

garbage can juice
smoky plastic blinds
piled up on the sidewalk
blood under an old trestle bridge
graffiti the only positive color
parking lots filled with mattresses
broken baby cribs
used condoms and baby shoes
someone raked into a pile
scattered bricks and plywood
in the weeded lots
dead animals decomposing
tossed salads of grime
collect on the sidewalk

an empty driveway leads up
to where the house would be
everything bulldozed to gravel
a spray-painted address on the sidewalk
weeds high as dogwood
fish guts and shoelaces
and beer cans and wine bottles
and deadly Night Train
pickle jars baby photos sadness
and angry mosquitoes
the air thick as moist towels
we grind slowly like snakes
around the corner
head into an alley
and open our Thermoses

Final Fifteen Minutes by Martin Christmas

Cabin in deep forest
home alone in upstairs flat.

Final fifteen minutes
midday movies
creepy music.

Young woman
older guy or younger
shonky lover
the ending won’t be pretty.

He arrives by car
by lift by open window
music heavy light
but always ominous.

The car gravels to the cabin door
the upstairs door is keyed silently
the gun
the music
Tense talk
‘I can’t let you do that’
‘Robert will be home soon’
eyes connect
breath quickens
climatic music.

Gunshot
scream
to the floor collapse
blood and . . . TV ad break.
Back into it.

Door broken open
Another gunshot
smashed window fall
whatever.
Then always
everything ok
soft fade music
pan to forest
to New York sky line
to clouds
to slow blackout
all’s well that . . .

Mount Everest Cockroach by Martin Christmas

Standing at base camp
in the dark of early night
watching this huge cockroach
not even donning
an oxygen tank
about to climb
to the summit
of Mount Everest
and off it goes.

Easily scaling the
rough trunk terrain
the breaks in the track
the sudden death –
to you or me
fast
very fast.

I gaze in awe
as it rests halfway
to the summit.
Consummate climber
this Mount Everest cockroach.

A brief stop – for breath?
Do cockroaches breathe?
Off again fast
no rarefied air
will slow this critter
down.

It disappears
in the foliage
of the tree
and I am left
to wonder
how would I cope
if I was this
Mount Everest cockroach?

Maybe in the next life.

Outback ruin by Martin Christmas

Hot sun, cloudless sky.
As far the eye sees, flat empty plain.
The track threads its lonely way to
the shimmering horizon.

The merciless sun drums the mulga bush.
On one side of the endless track,
a homestead
slowly crumbling into dust.

Roof long since caved in,
snapped and rotten timbers
for an occasional magpie
or galah to nest in.

Empty window frame socket rattles.
Small ripple wind harp sings
and courts the old almond tree
beside the window frame.

This tuneful little wind turns,
seeking a way out of the maze
of rubbled sandstone,
finds a small hole in the one complete wall,
squeezes through,
tumbles down the path.

Out through the wicker gate it goes.
The wind is free, and whisks off
across the purple plain
as the crumbling ruin
returns to silent peace
again.

Seven Thousand Tigers by Martin Christmas

I was dapping through the archives
21st century, olden days,
when I came across this cryptic note,
‘Seven thousand tigers left’.
But before my birth
they’d all been killed.

Dad says,
‘Stick to generic brands, son’,
so when the food tube came
I read the label, what a shock,
‘Some ingredients are natural. ‘
I throw it out, damn quick!

Mum says,
‘Artificial’s safe and norm,
natural is bad.
Just remember my advice, son,
always eat what’s in a can,
or zap it with your gamma gun’.

Uncle Bill says,
‘When the world’s zoos closed
the animals were minced.
Pets were eaten by their owners.
Animal lib is dead.
Three cheers for common sense’.

I would like to own a human pet
next year they pass a law
that will allow us chosen ones
to buy them from a store.
I can’t wait to get mine,
Dad’s already built the cage.

Cars now in the past.
Old roads are just for walking on.
Those that cannot walk
are euthanased
at road side dumps,
but have your permit ready.

Maybe you can tell me,
‘What’s a tiger?’

Sunset Adieu by Martin Christmas

Sun sets. Cloud tips gold.
Silver exhaust jets
upward through the blue.

Sun’s rays fade.
Nodding yachts
silently dip their masts.

Water surface scuds a fond farewell.
Sea gulls almost now departed.

Mum’s framed image
propped up in the front seat,
takes a gentle general salute.

Shiraz,
Fine Romance,
Gemini 4,
in place at berths,
as she’d remember them.

Sky softens with a fading pink.
Freeman’s Landing–
silent falls, at the loss of this
always constant visitor.

Mum looks calmly over all.
The window down as she would wish.

Adieu, sweetie, fond farewell.
Your trick is done.
Your sleep has come.
The sea will claim you shortly.
Ashes to ashes
fond farewell.

Darkness. Lights of a passing ship.
The rain drums across the windscreen.

The solemn mood is broken.
Night falls.
The chill settles.
Freeman’s Landing becomes another’s haven.
A car pulls up with different memories, resolutions.

The Woman in My House by Joan Colby

Five children died one summer under this roof.
Some epidemic—we don’t know. Cholera,
Typhoid, scarlet fever, the ordinary
Hard measles. Their small tombstones
Up the road enclosed by wrought iron,
Names eroding from granite.

When the old rafters creak in winter storms
Or the narrow stairs cry out beneath our footsteps,
It might be the mother weeping.
She must have planted the lilacs and bridal wreath.
She must have milked cows in the stanchions,
Walked the woodlot with an axe.

These jigsawed acres she received
While her brother got the prosperous farm.
This, I surmise, from county records,
How she eked out a sparse living.
The evidence of an old house,
Corn crib, chicken coop and barn.

The stone marker where her bones rest
For my consideration. No relative,
No friend, just a woman
Who grieved within these walls,
A shadow trespassing in the mirror.

Her sleeves rolled up as she labored
In the summer kitchen, now my office
Where I write this poem with a
November storm brewing. Her
Skirts still sweep the oak floors.
The plums on the dying tree
Once filled her jars. I can’t imagine
How she went on living.

They say a soul beset by grief
Can’t leave.
All this so long ago—
More than a hundred years.

Catch by Judy Dally

He caught a snook
on a line
trailed behind
our boat.

It flailed
in the cockpit bottom
Airless, vacant-eyed
but still alive.

He bashed it
with a winch handle.
Its blood splashed his socks,
the cockpit lockers.

There is salt water
in my eyes.
I ask “Who is this man
with the weapon?”

He tells me
it’s the kindest way.
Quicker than suffocating
through lack of water.

I don’t speak to him
at breakfast.
Eat only toast.
Drink only coffee.

Refuse to eat
his fish.

Good Housekeeping by Robert L. Dean, Jr.

home is where
the psychologist asks
I tap my chest
the textbook answer
a hollow sound
an echo of furniture
stolen when I wasn’t looking
a problem of the heart
the cardiologist says
as I collapse upon the treadmill
the echocardiogram detects
rotting wood
crumbling brick
but what about those
bumps in the night
such urgent knocks
only the ghost
sighs the wind
of someone who once loved here

The Masters by Robert L. Dean, Jr.

It’s a beautiful late fall Sunday here in Augusta
and he’s driving balls off a tee in his back yard,
hits the water every time. But then, his yard
faces the city lake and there’s no fence
and it’s a small town but a big lake,
no way he can miss it. His swing

is not PGA caliber and he knows it, knows
this is Kansas and not the National in Georgia
and there’s no green jacket waiting for him
in the clubhouse, never will be, but that’s not
the point. The point is

to fill up this dammed creek
with dimpled Titleist Pro V1s
and maybe, if he’s lucky,
smack a smug-faced big-city interloper
on the jogging path in the teeth,
an amazing hole-in-one,
let’s see that on the replay, Jim.

Blizzard by Richard Dinges, Jr.

Time ticks in pipes
that grow and dim
with hot water
rush, a slow dissolve
absorbed by blizzard’s
roar, windows white
whirls against
cold hard panes,
world blurred into
tiny fragments, perfect
crystals when water
stops its flow,
falls from frigid
sky and plants
upon glass before
it slips away
into time’s flow.

Estate Auction by Richard Dinges, Jr.

In worn cardboard
boxes lie old
calendars, pages
torn, corners bent,
years and months
littered in neat
stacks on estate
auction tables,
a stranger’s life
up for bid, squares
on grids filled in
and passed and
worth a dollar.

There’s This Place by Robert L. Ferrier

Down in Little Dixie, near a creek
that feeds into the Red River. Heard
from an old black man buying snuff
and worms in a store off 70 east
of Hugo. He’d bought a used Chevy
from my dad. “You bring a pole, some
worms,” he said. “Bream big
as a logger’s hand. ‘Cept one thing…”

Uh oh, always something. “What?”
“There’s a spit at the mouth of the
creek, where it feeds into the river.
Them bream, they bite best there….
‘Cept you got to bring a .22 pistol.”

I felt my skin crawl, knowing what
might come next. My biggest fear.

“There’s a hole, a little bunker.
Mud and wet sand. You can see
snake tracks. Found my cat, dead
there. Moccasin, or copperhead.”

I weighed that against the aroma
of fried crappie and bream,
cornbread and okra. You make
your choices.

“Bring a .22 and kill that sonsabitch,”
he said, “Maybe catch him sunnin’
hisself. I never could.”

Performance Poetry by Ray Greenblatt

The poet comes onstage in the dark,
then the spotlight rings his pale face
in perfect order few hairs slicked
beady eyes taking dual aim
pursed lips like slot machine
for fine effect pince nez perched;
English accent devastates
terse intros elucidate
phrasing meticulous,
world-view verses
silences packed with awe
applause explosive;
but do not doze nor dither
watch those swift in-between moments–
wink-wink at redhead with big bosoms
coat flapped open to reveal rows
of watches–or did we really see that?
as he flaps offstage
in bright red plastic shoes
ten times their proper size.