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Tips on How to Choose Clothing for the Deceased

by D.G. Geis


Something dark is best.
Perhaps a Sunday suit

or formal business attire.
Something you might wear

for a special occasion—
like interviewing for a new job.

Your new position
will require a certain panache.

Stiff determination
and a resolute smile

should make a lasting impression
on your new Employer.

Later, as your suit empties
and you fade slowly

into the woodwork,
it will come to you

how deep
life’s roots really run—

two of which
are already knocking,

at your new front door.



Hexagram 23

“Bo” (Splitting Apart)

For D.S.

The last man to die the death of 1000 cuts
was a Mr. Fou Tchou-Li. The year was 1905.

In Chinese this form of execution
is called Lingchi or “slow slicing.”

In English there is no exact equivalent,
but “death by fillet” is a good approximation.

The French philosopher Georges Bataille
was said to meditate every morning

on a photograph of Mr. Fou Tchou-Li
midway through the process of his

deconstruction. The object in question
has both arms removed and two

gentlemen are assiduously severing
the quadriceps femoris. The skin

and muscle on both sides of his
upper rib cage have been folded back

to better view the lungs which
continue to function as evidenced

by the look on Mr. Fou Tchou-Li’s face,
a signification which betokens neither agony

nor ecstasy, but something in-between.
It is the astonishment of a thinker

in the midst of a great thought, losing himself
a little here, a little there, until the answer floats by

so pure, so final, so free—
and like all great thoughts,

just out of reach.



State of the Universe Address


Lights out
in this arm of the galaxy

where things spiral wondrously
out of control.

Stars glittering like sequins
on a party girl’s miniskirt

vanilla sprinkles frosting the void
of a trillion year old birthday cake.

And the Good Lord,
our Birthday Boy,

poised in his high chair
waiting patiently, so patiently,

to blow out the candles.




“And that was the whole show.”
—Charles Simic


Busboy by day,
Philosopher by night;

This strange world of
Disappearing tablecloths

And naked tables
Flashing leg.

A little cheesecake
For the diners

Or maybe a fork
Out of thin air.

A brief demonstration
In four parts

And the metaphysician
Struts his Stuff.

The cosmology of tableware,
The ontology of napkins:

There’ll be no applause
When he makes

Nothing from Something
And hardly a glance

When the diners levitate
On a cloud of atoms.

Prix fixe, the last course
Is a mystery.

This sleight of hand,
This aproned magician,

Bending over a table
Reshuffling the universe

One spoon at a time.





DG GeisD.G. Geis lives in Houston, Texas. He has an undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Houston and a graduate degree in Philosophy from California State University. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Fjords, Memoryhouse, 491 Magazine, Lost Coast, Blue Bonnet Review, The Broadkill Review, A Quiet Courage, SoftBlow International Poetry Journal, Blinders, Burningword Literary Journal, Poetry Scotland (Open Mouse), Crosswinds, Scarlet Leaf, Zingara, Sweet Tree, Atrocity Exhibition, Driftwood Press, Tamsen, Rat’s Ass, Bad Acid, Crack the Spine, Collapsar, Grub Street, Slippery Elm, Ricochet, The Write Place at the Write Time, Steam Ticket, Razor, Origami, Matador, Cheat River, Euphemism, Two Cities, The Hartskill Review, Sugar House, Literary Orphans, Dash, Zabaan, Clare, Panoplyzine, Boston Accent, Silkworm, Drylandlit, Permafrost, Gingerbread House, and The Machinery. He will be featured in a forthcoming Tupelo Press anthology of 9 New Poets and is winner of Blue Bonnet Review’s Fall 2015 Poetry Contest. He is also a finalist for both The New Alchemy and Fish Prizes (Ireland).



by Lucas Shepherd



Rafters of tall, sprawling
ifit trees. Cobwebs wallpapering
the edge of the road. Fantails
and drongos flapping in and out of sight.

Our guide, a Chamorro woman dressed
in jean shorts and a polo shirt with hair so black
it’s blue like the South Pacific on a cloudless night
when you’re exactly drunk enough to see all the facts God has disguised.

Before this deployment I never knew
the U.S. liberated Guam in 1944. But
we have not let the Chamorro
people forget ever since.

During midshift I light my way with the fiery tails
of F-15s performing full afterburner takeoffs. The
flightline is alive with the glory of freedom, JP-8,
and a coconut crab that has lost her way.

Our guide showed us things we may have
otherwise missed. On this island they say
An guaha guinaiya, guaha lina’la’ lokkue’.
If there is love, there is life.





I take the garbage can to the curb, brush my
hand up and down our juniper tree’s waist.

Crows shotgun from the leafy cluster. Wind gusting
down Truman Street sounds like fabric being ripped.

We live our lives so fast—that’s what I think,
out loud. Lemon peel sun, clouds a flavor I tasted

once at a mall and never thought of again.
Hot day cooling down at last. Ides of March

and I forget the setup, only remember the punch
line to a childhood joke: Orange Julius Caesar.

Neighbor’s rusty SUV the color of a two-week-
old banana. Yucca plants—Spanish bayonet—

daggers in their yard. Driveway cracks
reminds me of first-grade cursive.

Someone important once said time is a dish best
served cold. A rolling stone gathers no time. Etc.





When I left, my friend Tony from Ammo
gifted me a spent 105 millimeter

howitzer shell. Brassy color and smells
metallic, oily. Round as a beer mug,

long as a big man’s boot. It’s hollow.
When you flick the top it rings like

an angry wind chime. For now, I hide it
from my son in the spare bedroom closet.

When he’s old enough we’ll
excavate it together using

a VBIED Inspection mirror, HME
Detector Kit, breakaway pulleys.

Multi-Plier 600 with lanyard ring
and flat-edge knife. Spool with carabiner.

Medical shears, curved forceps.
Blast suit with acoustic impedance.

Radio silence until Alpha Charlie.
I will tell him, this is from the past.

A long time ago. It can no longer
harm us. But you can’t be too careful.





Where I come from a doe abandons her fawn at birth
for several days so her scent won’t compromise
the newborn to predators: coyotes, mountain lions, etc.

The buck leaves for less noble reasons, never
to return, which is why we rarely mention it.
Son, I stay for you not because of instinct

but a total disregard for it. I can teach you
how to disassemble a dash sixty generator;
I was never that good at putting it back together.





Lucas ShepherdLucas Shepherd is an MFA student at the University of New Mexico. His creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Atlantic, Aldous Huxley Annual, and Conversation Noises. These and more can be found on his website, lucas-shepherd.com. He is now completing a novel, West by Midwest, about demolition derby and redemption.






by Brad Rose


My one-armed, little brother is 6’ 2”
his face quirked, like a question mark.

He’s back from the army,
filled with a silent language he doesn’t understand.

Says he dreams of a job,
maybe something at the post office,

or in the library, shelving books.
At dinner he tells mom he just needs a few weeks

to get his bearings.
Some mornings, I catch him in the living room

slack on the khaki couch, his blond hair growing back,
the TV’s anesthesia unplugged. He stares

out the front window, into the slow daylight.
When I ask him what he’s doing,

he says, just staying in my lane, Bro.
Just staying in my lane.

I troop upstairs to hide his nine millimeter,



The Problem of the Trees


Influenced by Derrida and Foucault,
I’m a drowning man,
Just your average homologue,
give or take 15 percent.
If I was music, I’d be a police siren,
or an Arabian shriek,
but I don’t want to cut off my own legs.
I’m thinking about 1.3 million women.
Unofficial sources say it’s not a sin,
it’s a case of popular mechanics.

The world is filled with mystery.
The Spanish Steps are in Italy,
fortune cookies are nearly free,
but these days, it seems like all my carrot stories are about sticks.
Some people tell me this is either an evasion of privacy
or catering to a niche market.
Yes, I’m a Jesus capitalist
because it’s always good to have a friend
in customer service.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned
from my many years in the wholesale circus industry,
it’s that our secrets are locked-up in ourselves, like tiny homunculi
with their hats off.
We’re plush mannequins yearning to become tan-toned statues.
Nevertheless, after I turn myself inside-out,
I hope to receive a reduced sentence.

Justine told me her skin didn’t feel like it was really hers,
so I told her to relax, its only formication.
I’m an experienced myrmecologist, even if it means keeping my pants on.
She reminded me that Socrates was convicted
by a very small majority of the jury.
That’s the problem with the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Outside, the wind struggles with the problem of the trees.
You’d think lightning could solve it.



Like a Forest, the Unsuspecting Crowd


Trekking through the natural history museum,
counting my vowels and consonants,
I like the idea of flames
the way I like paintings of trees.

A man-made lake, unmade,
my eyes, a secret country,
I once read about rage in a book
about fire.

Wild animals have talent,
but they’re sworn to secrecy.
Maybe they aren’t flammable,
but you never know for sure.

I envy my shadow,
as it escapes my bones.
The only thing it lacks
is a good, clean siren.

I’ve been studying fire safety,
I can answer all the questions.
This kind of thing happens
more often than you think.

If the crowd goes wild, stampedes the doors,
who’ll bury the bodies?
On second thought, no worries.
Leave it to me.





Brad RoseBrad Rose was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lives in Boston. He is the author of Pink X-Ray, Big Table Publishing, 2015 (www.pinkx-ray.com). Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize in fiction, Brad’s poetry and fiction have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Folio, decomP, The Baltimore Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Lunch Ticket, San Pedro River ReviewOff the Coast, Heavy Feather Review, Posit, Third WednesdayBoston Literary Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, The Molotov Cocktail, and other publications. Brad is the author of three electronic chapbooks, all from Right Hand PointingDemocracy of Secrets, http://www.righthandpointing.net/#!brad-rose-democracy-of-secrets/c1ec2, Dancing School Nerves, http://www.righthandpointing.net/#!br16-home/c1ujz, and Coyotes Circle the Party Storehttps://sites.google.com/site/bradroserhpchapbook/. Links to Brad’s published poetry and fiction can be found at: http://bradrosepoetry.blogspot.com/. Audio recordings of a selection of Brad’s published poetry can be heard at: https://soundcloud.com/bradrose1. An interview with Brad is available at: http://www.righthandpointing.net/#!brad-interview/cfo5


Oliver Perrin

The Music of Eastern Europe

by Oliver Timken Perrin


For Andrea Jurjević


The boots of Sultan
Tsar and Kaiser
leave muddy prints
on your mother’s breasts

Fanged wooden spires
rise like dog hackles
from the deep snow
that sometimes causes
frost-riddled gypsies
to drop from their trees
like stiff and staring fruit

Your sad fiddles
invoke immodest sorrow
with merciless reliability
because everyone
is missing a string

In the frostbitten hour
before dawn
ten thousand tiny hussars
flutter their wings
in your crooked wells

They’ve been waiting for Spring
for centuries

Your dancing masters
resort to strong drink
and minefield choreographies
to ensure their art survives

Your soil is fertile
blood makes it black
like krvavica sausages
or the rings that stain
Báthory tubs

Every bandit is a prince
and every prince a bandit
with a bulge in his pants
formed by a fat roll
of bills or what might be
red opera gloves
if it weren’t for the dripping

And wolf brothels
where boards beds and babes
all squeal like little pigs

Close your eyes and listen

The howling is beautiful.





I’m in a café

a refuge from
the damp chill and
acrid coal smoke

Istanbul in winter

a table for one
outside the circle
near the door
shoved in beside
narrow wooden steps
leaning upward

my spoon clacks
in the criss-crossed
narrows of Beyoğlu
5,771 miles from home

from foreigner or stranger
it’s only a stone’s throw to enemy

when Istiklal street
is less crowded
I draw suspicious eyes
simply because
I’m walking alone

they talk to each other
like the big family
I’ve never been part of
abi, abla, teze, amca
big brothers and sisters
bigger uncles and aunts

I humblehunch
over my cooling bowl
in the real fear
somebody will kick
crumbs and dirt
into my soup

women with long
red noses and scarves
come in just behind me
with an irritating bell jangle
with deep voices
and laughter
spinning threads of perfume
from full and heavy
heads of gleaming hair

the muddy shivers
trail them too
and sometimes snatches
of the evening ezan
summoning the faithful
to sock footed prayer
in rolling waves
from graceless bullhorns

I can’t resist
the furtive glances

puzzlement and longing
twisting my neck
to glimpse
the taught contractions
in the muscles of their legs
stomping upward

one pair of shoes
after another
passing in review
at eye level

it seems so strange
that they strain
to climb something
as mundane
as a few steps
to another floor

I can almost hear
their bones creaking

it seems so strange somehow
that they do not float.



A Postcard From Greece


In Thrace
on a slow
dirty train
a shirtless
young soldier
didn’t like me
with one wet eye
while the other
wandered drunk

I learned to say





Oliver PerrinOliver Timken Perrin is a native of the American South. His poems have appeared in Bohemian InkScapegoat Review, and the Negative Capability Press anthology Stone River Sky. Perrin also co-wrote the independent feature film Crude which received the 2003 IFP Los Angeles Film Festival Target Filmmaker Award for Best Narrative Feature and a Special Jury Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival.






At the beach

by Abigail George


Bright lights in the city.
You had been made of iron.
Your memoir is made of whirlpools.
As vital as a tombstone.
I can thrive in this cancer ward.
Filled with the song of mannequins.
In the dark, I turn black.
Sea of trees I cannot fathom you.
Swimming pool once a myth.
Upside down and wishful.
I can see Jonah’s Whale from here.
Stars in the fabric of moonlight.
Everything smells of spirit.



Hibiscus and insects


Now I meet with disaster.
I come with bereavement.
The ways of water run deep.
Salt and light. Before disability struck
Do you remember?
The epic heights you reached.
The cigarettes you smoked
In high school. Boys made out of paper.
Men made out of gin.
You were unsuitable for both.
You stopped drinking milk.
You stopped eating altogether.
Anorexia they called it.
The elephant in the room.
You went to the moon
In addition, back in dreams.
You held the autumn chill
In your hands. Its journal.
There were the walks you took
Around the church. Up to the
Garage where you bought peanuts
And raisins with your father.
The cashier would not smile
As he bagged your purchases.
Your dad’s granadilla hands
He is in the autumn of the years.
It is that festive time of year again.
When you eat, drink, and be merry.
I will not be doing that this year.
I am fragile. A mountainous
Version of tenderness. I melt in the
Presence of children. No good
For anyone. Stay away from me.





I am a cat person. I collect strays
Like others collect coins or stamps.
I believe in God, love and crashing
Into things. I spend too much
Time inside my own head.
I am tired of instructing my own work.
I write about the song in the wind.
It becomes my own song.
The song of loneliness. Of Rilke,
Of Nabokov, of Akhmatova,
Of Ernest Hemingway driving
Ambulances during the war.
I write about the seasons
As if I were a poet. The leaves that
Leave fingerprints behind them.
A pint of milk. A jar of honey.
I write about angels and goddesses.
I am impatient and angry
At the human condition and I read
To find myself because this is
This is what the river whispers to me.
Sometimes the road inside too.




abigail georgeAbigail George is the author of ‘Africa Where Art Thou’ (2011), ‘Feeding the Beasts’ (2012), ‘All About My Mother’ (2012), ‘Winter in Johannesburg’ (2013), ‘Brother Wolf and Sister Wren’ (2015), and the forthcoming ‘Sleeping Under Kitchen Tables in the Northern Areas’ (2016). Her poetry has been widely published from Nigeria to Finland, and New Delhi, India to Istanbul, Turkey. Her fiction was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She briefly studied film and television production at the Newtown Film and Television School opposite the Market Theater in Johannesburg. She is the recipient of writing grants from the National Arts Council (Johannesburg), the Centre for the Book (Cape Town), and ECPACC (Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council) (East London). She writes for Modern Diplomacy, blogs with Goodreads, and contributed to a symposium for a year on Ovi Magazine: Finland’s English Online Magazine.





some afternoon activity

adam l.


two hours before
sunset in the stale air
the hammock sways more than
me. the sand floats
around me in muted consideration
as i walk into

shade. Kitty follows, tail
brushing my ankle, and i can’t decide
to scratch her
back or return
to the hammock for another



some certain persons


some certain person
came up to me on the streets
when i was just smoking
the cigarette still between my charred lips
ing burnt by
faded kisses

some certain person said
do you have money
and i did
just run dry of myself
not much to give
so i listened to her story

and this certain person
was more intimate
with me
than the love i share-
d with some certain someone’s



but you are from me


i am from the faraway nights of
the evernear days of your
screams that perch on
my sunken heart
and the vision of your knowing
eyes slashed across my brain

i have held you, your
weight, and added some that you cannot
you give me nothing
less than what i’ve given
(i hope to have given a
lot) dearest,

i am from the womb of a
mother i call mother
but for you i know i am




adam ladam l. is currently a freshman at Yale-NUS College, Singapore. he is drawn to the limitation of words, and how even in this limitedness, meaning and emotion can be conveyed effectively. he believes that all poetry is confessional, for all poetry came from within us; and the best ones are vulnerable and raw. at times when words seem utterly insufficient, he turns to physical movement in dance and theatre. if interested in interacting or collaborating, he can be reached at theartistadam@gmail.com.




Michael Penny

Out of Office

by Michael Penny


I am away from the clouds
and will not be checking the wind
but if it moves me
I will return to the sky.

I am off the planet
ascertaining the space between stars
but if they become too bright
I will put away my measure.

I have left my memory behind
preferring the now and instantly lost
but if you knew me then
I will, to please you, pretend.

I have lost consciousness
and now spend my time in black
but I may know you
so please leave a message.



Anatomy Lesson


My nose breathes in viruses
and my ears accept deceit.

My skin invites irritants in
and reddens at its effrontery.

Muscle pulls away from bone
offended at its ivory rigidity.

My bladder refuses liquids,
even water

and my bowels growl
unhappy with the menu I provide.

My lungs, once puffed up
with their importance, are deflated

and the liver says
what the hell, you need a drink.

My nerves keep everything else
awake all night with their loud jangling

and blood gets into everything

My eyeballs cloud over
as the sky’s become too bright

and my heart simply
flubs it.

Oh brain, why are you
leading this charge?



Island Time


Clocks are irrelevant
to the pieces of time dropped
on islands.

Our arrangements do require
a time to meet
and agreement.

Appointments are only late
if expected to start on time
and no-one expects

even rain to fall as forecast.
It’s no excuse but things
do happen when they do.

Events react to minutes
the way waves do, with momentum
and a crash or a drawing back.

Something happening when it should
removes surprise
which might delight

and the wounding
of expectations missed
can leave bruises.

But go with it, on its time
which will be on time
as islands allow escape

from the selfishness of schedule
while the sea’s surrounding
perimeter fence guards

with its barbed foam of waves.
When time is neither fast nor slow
it warns against attempting departure.




Michael PennyMichael Penny was born in Australia, but moved to Canada as a teenager. He now lives on Bowen Island and works as a consultant on regulating professions. He has published five books of poetry, most recently, Outside, Inside from McGill-Queen’s University Press.




Belinda Subraman

Buckling the Bible Belt

by Belinda Subraman


I pledge allegiance to my hillbilly past
cheap fan motor buzz
black dirt harshness
inbred bullies and bigotry.
Winter baseboard rumbles heat
in thin walls of fear
walls that work as refuge
enshrine weakness with
corporal punishment in tombs of shame.
Echoes down a backwards hall
require humility and magic prayer
as earth boils and fumes in science.
Reason is a devil’s turd
as we eat the flesh of white Jesus
and drink his blood.
Crackers and grape juice with guilt
and submissive independence
whirlpool around inherited drains
one slang language misunderstood
bucked up with guns
and ambivalent Bibles for all.


Contrails and Entrails


I’m flying over a popcorn sea
finally out of turbulence…
Southern sanctioned abuse.
I’m flying, released
over the veins of earth.

My roots have claws
anger and fear
language of permafrost
tests curved to the negative
surprise pits of darkness
in a house of correction
where nothing is right
nothing is realized
but the changing rules of God
from Bibles living
in tombs of protection.


Lunch With Jesus


We held hands around the table
at Applebee’s and prayed before eating.
Fox Network was there and low self-esteem.
“The white cops were right, “one said.
“More people need beating.
We need more guns.
Too many getting rich off welfare
too lazy to work.”
“Christians have no rights,” another claimed.
“What about the Christians?”
I kept quiet. Dogs were howling for meat.
Jesus turned his head away.
Bibles slept in their cars.




Belinda SubramanBelinda Subraman has been writing poetry since the 6th grade and publishing since college. She had a ten year run editing and publishing Gypsy Literary Magazine. Six of those ten years were from Germany where she was a Bohemian outcast among officer wives. She edited books by Vergin’ Press, among them: Henry Miller and My Big Sur Days by Judson Crews. While in Germany she also published the Sanctuary Tape Series which was a mastered compilation of audio poetry and original music from around the world. If you interview her about her publishing days you will discover that she threw out a whole Charles Bukowski manuscript because he told her to just trash what she didn’t like. THEN she found out he was Famous. She might have kept the manuscript but still would not have published it. (It wasn’t his best work). Bukowski, Burroughs and a few other literary figures did make it into some of the first Gypsy issues, however.

Over the years Ms. Subraman’s work has appeared in print journals, anthologies and online journals including: Best Texas Writing, The Louisiana Review, The Arkansas Review, A New Geography of Poets, Puerto del Sol, Borderlands, Rio Grande Review, Social Justice, Gargoyle, Between the Cracks, Out of Line, Mondo Barbie, Big Bridge, and Lips Unsealed. In the past year her work has appeared in: Poets and Artists, Red Fez, Unlikely Stories, Tribe Magazine, Yellow Chair Review, and Chiron Review.






by john sweet



woke up naked and blind
and wanted to call you
but didn’t

felt the warmth of
someone next to me

the need for executions

for the deaths of innocent
mothers and children

something to pass the time
until my vision returned


The Myth of St. Maria


You and I, cowards like Picasso, like
fists on doors in the empty hours
of the night, soldiers acting on orders,
boots through sleeping skulls, and when
victory is declared the words all sound like
screams. The men who speak them have
the heads of birds, with smiles all
blood and gore.

You ask for flight, you receive paper
airplanes. You receive the gift of loss, the
secrecy of houses, the killer running across
the back yard but his lover left behind.

Don’t call it a war.

Don’t ask about the children.

They were raised to believe in Jesus,
and then they were abandoned. Were left at
the edges of highways, at the borders of
anonymous states and unnamed countries,
and when strangers approached, they fled
into the wilderness.

When the helicopters came in low,
the forests exploded in flames.

It was the belief that all truth could be
measured by money. It was the hands of
priests turned into grasping claws, and the
paintings were all slashed and the
curtains ripped down, and what was left at
the end of the day was a nation of
broken windows

The knowledge that we were all
descended from whores.

That Christ was only spoiled meat
left out by an indifferent hand.

That everything is sacred.



the arrogance of light


said this is my gift to you and
gave me a book of blank pages, gave me
a coward’s smile
which mirrored my own

it was the war,
the one just before you were born,
and we stumbled through piles of corpses
with stretchers and whiskey

with pistols, because certain questions
can only ever have one answer

because the pages were blank and
we needed blood
and the girl said she was waiting for
                                    her father

said he’d be there soon, but of course he
was dead, and then so was she

we couldn’t take any chances,
you see

we’d been given gifts

beautiful new poisons which were
no good without victims

which the scientists warned us were
                                    only theories,
but god they worked so well

and we were given clean white walls,
and so we burned the shadows of women,
of children, of sleeping babies
into them, and we called it a victory

we asked the doctor to keep the
prisoners alive until they’d
answered all of our questions

we improved upon the crucifixion

took turns raping the girl before
we killed her, and she never
made a sound

was just another statistic by the time we
got to her younger sister, and in
the papers we were being called heroes

in the villages, we were having
the men dig their own shallow graves
and it was just a precaution,
you see

we were just protecting the future

we were making sure the
truths would survive

we had this book,
and we were writing them down




all of my poems in
the past tense

all of my reasons

any number of excuses

four days of rain & the
truck wouldn’t start and
there was nothing i could say
to make my son stop

there was nothing i could
do but hold him

both of us very quiet
there in the dark


slaying the angel


mother says it was easy,
was like falling in love, says
they beat the girl together,
then just beat her to death

says they left her in the shed
for two months,
then dumped her in the bay

says it just happened,
like a poem or a war

was just the inevitability of
small bones breaking
beneath the weight of joy




john sweetjohn sweet, b. 1968, still numbered among the living. a believer in writing as catharsis. an optimistic pessimist. opposed to all organized religion and political parties. avoids zealots and social media whenever possible. latest collections include THE CENTURY OF DREAMING MONSTERS (2014 Lummox Press) and A NATION OF ASSHOLES W/ GUNS (2015 Scars Publications).




Sean Howard

pond (fall postcard)

by Sean Howard


ch,          pose
held,       whi-
te           her-




wave (english poem, cape breton)

            for mi’kmaw elder albert marshall

our,          sto-
nes          mur-
mur,          un-
der          the




stopstart (drowned poem, highway 125)

traffic –
deer, gra-
zing ozone




a point of rhyme anyway,
to split the screen –

apple & cinnamon,
break of day, two
million people
in prison



shadowgraph 66: the singing electrons

(poetry detected in igor y. tamm’s nobel physics lecture, 1958)



quantum –
koans in the



nucleus –
‘the whole small-
er than the parts’



atoms –



snatch –



electrons –
the dead?



man –



drawing –
light set
in stone



second eden –
‘the familiar



physics –



left –
the child’s waves
on the shore



shadowgraph 115: if we go on compressing

(poetry detected in subramanyan chandrasekhar’s nobel physics lecture, 1983)



india, pakistan, par-
titioning the stars. (earth
under fire.) dante: ‘time?

love cooling…’ the poetic
scenter of attention. light’s
aphorism. ‘citizens’; school-

ed assemblies. ‘vast interior’:
depression forming in the
gulf… ‘maturity’ – i do

not see, once we’re
compressed, how
we can ever



dwarves: what humans mean
by themselves. (for mine is the
pressure & the density, saith


the law…) our distant relations
to the equations of state. haiku –
knowledge economy. global

eyes: everyone slowly/becom-
ing white.
apollo’s final mis-
sion; ‘one day, men on




the man-
dala smash-
ers. (hiroshima:

‘explicit degene-
racy.’) neutral
harmless enou-




built-in incan-
descence. (atom:
wherein the world?)

suicidal vengeance;
dwarves manically com-
pressing the planet…

sex – special relativ-
ity.) travelling light
in the realm of





Sean HowardSean Howard is the author of Local Calls (Cape Breton University Press, 2009) and Incitements (Gaspereau Press, 2011). His poetry has been widely published in Canada and elsewhere, nominated for a Pushcart Prize in the US, and anthologized in The Best Canadian Poetry in English (Tightrope Books, 2011 & 2014). Sean is adjunct professor of political science at Cape Breton University, researching nuclear disarmament and the political history of 20th Century physics. His ‘Shadowgraphs Project’ has been supported by a creative writing grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.





This Road Has Clearly Been on a Bender

by Marcella Benton


a flock of spandex cyclists take the unexpecting road like fighter jets

a blunt contrast to the rickety wheeled meth head
twitching towards them

cars oink by
quaking over that too thin white line
quivering to devour them all

because this road
has clearly
been on a bender

cars can barely hang on
as it jokes and chokes the hillside

with corn stalking the banks
wishing it was a river or the seaside in summer

just at the right time of day
when the sun and the moon shine down together like a cross-eyed girl





hibernation today
stuck in the warm fluffed bed
wreathed by domesticats and dogs snoring

made a sandwich of myself
I will live off the stored fat
until there is nothing but crumbs

the purrrrr of the skin and bone feline
king of the mountain

syncopates with the rumble of cars
patting down the street
rat a tat tapping my windows

unopened books and a revolver on the nightstand

not enough blanket to cover my cold feet



A Ghost in the Kitchen


I thought I heard you in the kitchen
running water dirty feet

saw the tip of a head above the door behind me
reflection of someone riding a bike in the hall mirror

must be the ghost you insisted we had

dog toys rolling uphill
the cat staring down the corner
but where are you now

maybe you just could see the future

so who is haunting who…

running each other over every day
sandwiched like a mack truck

maybe we made it
but no

no death comes early for the poor man
with a wink and a nudge

and vultures don’t give a shit



Whiffs of Nostalgia


we pass yawns back and forth
almost as intimate as french kisses on the porch swing

catching whiffs of nostalgia

of him
needling into that summer dress

and I was such a good girl
sit lay roll over

play dead
it’ll be over soon





so lily livered
swallowing poppies like candy

staining the grass with her perennial gardens

glads winking at her nose
changing her diaphanous mind
quicker than a soiled diaper

a little too late for the wrist cut roses
trickling warm and salty over her cuticles

telling her to replant before someone else does




Marcella Benton lives in Lakeland, FloridaMarcella Benton, with her husband and pets. She and her husband own and operate a screen printing and embroidery company, Whatever Tees.

empty streets

Domenic James Scopa

Empty Streets…

by Bakhyt Kenzheev


Empty streets, deep gaps beneath the doors.
The autumn world is cool and fleshless.

The forty-year old poplar above my head
still rustles with its tinfoil foliage.

Its owner, by next summer, is bound
to saw it down—so it doesn’t block the sun,

so it doesn’t rustle, doesn’t sing above me,
doesn’t wreck the pavement with its roots,

and you can’t breathe deep enough—but want to—
of even the September bitterness, the final feeble sun…




by Anna Akhmatova


I was raised in checkered silence,
in the chilly nursery of the young century.
The voice of man was harsh−
it was the wind whose words were dearest to me.
I cherished burdocks and nettles−
most of all the silver willow.
And, gratefully, it lived
with me all my life, its weeping branches
fanning my insomnia with dreams.
−Strangely−I outlived it.
Out there a stump stands, and other willows
speak with foreign voices
beneath our skies.
And I am silent…as though a brother has died.



Someone Is Beating a Woman

by Andrei Voznesensky


Someone is beating a woman
in a car so hot and dark
only the whites of her eyes shine.
Her feet batter the roof
like berserk searchlight beams.

Someone is beating a woman.
The way that slaves are beaten.
Beautifully whimpering,
she yanks open the door and drops
                                    onto the road.

Brakes squeal.
Someone races towards her,
flogs her, drags her
face down in the stinging nettles…

Scumbag, how deliberately he beats her,
Stilyaga, bastard, tough guy,
his dashing shoes, as slender as a flatiron,
stabbing into her ribs.

Such are the pleasures of rebel soldiers,
the delights of peasants…
Somewhere, stamping under moonlit grasses,
someone is beating a woman.

Someone is beating a woman.
Century on century, no end in sight.
It’s the young that suffer this. Somberly
our wedding bells stir up alarm.
Someone is beating a woman.

And what is with the blazing welts?
Last-minute slaps?
That’s life, you say—how so?—
someone is beatin a woman.

But her light is steadfast,
death-defying and divine.
There are

She lays there placid like a lake,
her eyes tear-swollen,
yet still, she doesn’t belong to him
any more than the stars to the sky.

And the stars? They’re pounding
like raindrops on black glass.
Slipping down
they cool
her grief-fevered forehead.



The Cemetery

by Miguel Hernandez


The cemetery lies close
where you and I are sleeping
among blue prickly pears,
blue ancient-plants and children
screaming full of life
if a dead body darkens the road.

From here to the cemetery everything
is blue   golden   crystal clear.
Four steps   and the dead.
Four steps   and the living.

Crystal clear   blue   and golden,
my son, out there, seems far away.




Domenic James Scopa is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. His work was selected in a contest hosted by Missouri State University Press to be included in their anthology Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, volume 3. He is a student of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Program, where he studies poetry and translation. He is also a staff writer for the literary journal Verse-Virtual, a book reviewer for Misfit Magazine, and a professor of literature at Changing Lives Through Literature. His poetry and translations have been featured in Reunion: the Dallas Review, here/there: poetry, Touchstone Magazine, The Bayou Review, Three and a Half Point 9, The Mas Tequila Review, Coe Review, Cardinal Sins, Boston Thought, Howl, Misfit Magazine, Poetry Pacific, Untitled with Passengers, Gravel, Crack the Spine, Stone Highway Review, Apeiron Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Literature Today, Tell Us a Story, Verse-Virtual, Malpais Review, Les Amuses-Bouches, Shout Out UK, Fuck Art, Let’s Dance, Sediments, Birds We Piled Loosely, and Empty Sink Publishing.




Elizabeth Perdomo

Scenes from the Window

by Elizabeth Perdomo


Sweet potato vines
Tangle out past the edge
Of gardens

Tobacco barns
Tall & faded grey,
Now empty

White churches, a primitive
Baptist paradise, with outdoor
Tables for picnics on the grounds.

Weathered brick chimneys
Stand solitary in stark vigil decades
After the house fire.

Bent woman wearing bonnet,
Hoeing a long row of fine looking
Collard greens.

Last year’s leftover bales
Of faded hay dot pasture fields
Strewn like pieces from a large game.

Faded box cars abandoned
On rusty rail tracks, faded farmer’s coops
Surrounded by the sparse sea

Of a gravel parking lot spotted by
Tobacco spittle & equally faded
Pickup trucks.

Skeletons of old cotton bales
Stand lost at the red dirt margins
Of a now empty field.


May 1979 – Greyhound Bus, South Georgia



A Woman


A sunny day,
A warm pause before
The onset of hard winter.

She enters alone

Afraid, bending in pain
From time abused; human, frail,
Old, forlorn.

Her cold hands
Shake like windows on
Subway trains just passing.

Too many robbers
Stalk her, take her mind,
Her meager security rent checks,

Rob her of what
Life even she no longer

Thieves lurk as death
Behind doors, on side streets
She must pass, unwilling.

Beauty which once flashed in a young smile,
Now gone like dignity; she sits empty,
Wrinkled as a barren womb.

An aged woman, waiting,
Known well by any who dare look
Into her time-worn face

& see the empty road
Of many futures.


July 1978 – Boston, Massachusetts


A Kidding


plum blossoms
fly upon fragrant afternoon;
spring breezes swaddle a wet kid,
fresh dropped, first soft bleating breath;
innocence, his mother licks,
urges him to discover
yet untried


8 March 2000 – Rockdale County, Georgia
After Ruby’s 1st Kidding




Elizabeth PerdomoElizabeth Perdomo has lived and written in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas these past fourteen years, moving to the region from the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico. Born in Kansas, and raised both there and in Colorado, she has written poetry works since a young teen. Perdomo also lived in the Southeastern USA for a number of years. Her written pieces reflect on local place and culture, cooking, gardening, ecology and nature, traditions, spirituality and much more.





Images for Inga

by Kjell Nykvist

after Richard Aldington



Ice encased the rosebushes—
The frozen flowers’ colors
Like fluorescent fish
In cloudy water.



The elk at the water’s edge,
Massive and horned and red,
Look back at the towering limestone
Adorned with lodgepole pines.
The highest of the green needles,
We think, seem to scratch
The azure sky. To this mountain
Of green and grey, the elk are like
Red sparks from a distant fire.
And we are even smaller—like
White specks floating in a cave
Filled with water.



Seeing you there—blue on blue—
Your feet in the warm Adriatic
Is the licking of a pleasure-tongue
Inside my sleepy head.



The merry completion of anticipation is
An empire of catkins sending
Dreaming gleaming grains
Across tender fields.



Fears from the past, at last, vanish
Like a swirl of angry blackbirds:
All that remains of self-loathing
Can fit inside a pyx.



The thinking of strange thoughts, and with a loss of words:
Faint shapes in a faded tapestry, on fire.



The darkness deflected merely by candlelight.
The scent of satiety. On a table,
The cool wetness of empty shellfish,
Bread crumbs, the remains of asparagus,
Two punch bowls of chardonnay.
In the background, a melodic web
Of Otis Redding. Close your eyes,
My dear, and you become Otis, singing.



To a child of winter, the cattails of heat.
To a child of summer, a barrage of ice.
To a child of fall, a pint of pollen.
To a child of spring, a cup of colored leaves.



The rain falls round the patio
In clear lines ending in clear starbursts.
Here is a crystal architecture
Where what is built was never fully designed,
Where what is designed can never be built.


Melting Into Portraiture


The sun perches
On creamy clouds. The day
Through the oaks makes
An adagio. There’s the
Happiness of honeysuckle.
There’s mint. Birds skip about
And thoughts coalesce.

The mind drifts
On the eyes’ sea until
There’s a soft rupture:

Light yellow bleeds through
Fluffy white, pale blue
Descends on green leaves,
Everything moves more,
Moves more in a sudden breeze.

In my eyes and
Through the breeze

A woman stirs
On a green knoll, her flesh
Fusing with a shower
Of shadows sprayed onto
The ground by the oaks.
Her hair dances round her.
I can see

The amber of her eyes
When she stares back.

It’s a subtle refinement of nature,
The ability to shift, to sway,
To change eternally, to tower above
The mind and eyes, only to shrink
Into grains of thought.

And this new woman,
In the wind and sun-play,
Like the land itself,
Shifts and sways too.
As do I.

We each adopt the attributes
Cast upon us by the other. We each
Consent to the other’s vision.
If joined as one
We’d be a kaleidoscope revealing
A thousand moving shapes
Through a single lens.


What is Poetry?

after John Ashbery


A Melanesian girl, in Sami clothing,
On the road to Dushanbe? The glissandi

Of birdsongs, how they’re draped in carmine?
Lake Louise? Or this striving

Towards something? Something
Arcane? Though we plead

To know it and clarity too? Will no one
Envisage the different visions

We have envisaged? Perhaps
They will. But it’s all been shattered

Like a fish bowl striking wooden floors,
The wooden shelving having collapsed.

So what? Will an empire of palm leaves
Still fill the vision of she who sees?




NykvistKjell Nykvist was born in Kalmar, Småland, Sweden, but grew up in Butte, Montana. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Museum Studies from Baylor University. Kjell is currently a museum curator in Houston, Texas. He recently married his long-time love, Inga Stefánsdóttir, who is a harpsichordist. Kjell’s work has appeared in such publications as Poetry Super Highway, La Noria Literary Journal, The Deronda Review, and Asinine Poetry, as well as in several American and Canadian anthologies. (Kjell Nykvist is a heteronym of Bryan Damien Nichols, who writes his poetry through Kjell, and another heteronym, Alexander Shacklebury. Kjell and Alexander’s debut collection of poems, Whispers From Within, will be published later this year by Sarah Book Publishing, a small, independent Texas press.)







to the Utter East

by Josey Parker


If the ocean was
full of flowers,
how long would it
take for them to wilt?
How long before petals became chips?
Natural with sea salt.

And would they look
like bouquets
or accordions?

When you bite a clover flower
and press it between
your molars,
somehow that blossom
unfolds on the buds
of your tongue.

-no, the flowers
aren’t bouquets or
accordions but carousels like
sticky fingers, maybe?

But the ocean is full of them and so
is your mouth-
your lips spit pollen;
there is no ark to
save us.

Your head is a buoy,
bobbing in
stems, sepals, petals, seeds.
Close your mouth
your tongue
catches mine.
I told you I’m allergic to pollen.





hand me that leaf
we rescued last fall
to press between the p’s

it paled anyways
with veins
like a dry wrist

all we have are the photographs
of our fingers
dusty with chlorophyll



what will we do with the princes?


It’s hurricane season
-so sue me for
boarding up my windows

you didn’t tell me you would
be here throwing




Josey ParkerJosey Parker is a frazzled student and coffee enthusiast who somehow finds time to write copious amounts of poetry and flash fiction. Her work has previously appeared in the Claremont Review. Although she is an author, she is not in fact, dead.




nuta gangan

still missing

by Nuta Istrate Gangan


some day
you will forget me
while I will always remain
a vague uneasiness
some day
you will turn me
into a memory
but you will be startled
by the thought I still exist
I know
you will sense me
the rest of your life
like a soldier
returning from the front
who feels his lost arm
present always
alive pulsing
but still missing



the world was ending
and still we owed each other
the unconsummated kisses
of all lovers
it rained bitterly
desperately feverishly
it rained with the need of droughts
the despair of floods
your body unleashed
merciless thunder
lightning ripped mine
into quivering arches
you finally slept
by the hot thighs of my thought
at the edge of a long kiss
desperate as the end of the world
with bloody lips
I rose
wrapped you in a dream
and with a single gesture
stopped the rain


the eyes

close first but die last
your teeth
stuck into the flesh of my thigh
seek reasons beyond the skin
with a wave of your hand
you balance the world
nestled in a tight fist
the moment of pain
transforming purifying
unspoken words
burn in my blood
those spoken
err beneath your mouth
eyes leave streaks of light
my skin grows translucent
illuminated from the inside
you kindle fires in my heart
kiss butterflies on my ankles
carve me in your image
the empty space inside
begs to be filled
fractures seek to be joined
my sunrises
cannot exist without your sunsets, darling
(paint petals on my eyelashes
do not let my eyes die)



the hunter never kills for meat
he craves the smell of blood
the agony
the last look in the doe’s eyes
that painful
white look
pierces his retina
and haunts him
stirring his blood
pulsing like an orgasm in his veins
the bloodstain
spreads crimson in the snow
my hands are so cold and white…
I dare not breathe
for fear of waking humanity
from this grinding frost
my sleepy eyelids twitch
my lips can taste my own blood
your white words
scratched on an equally white paper
hurt my eyes
I do not see
I can no longer see
there is only an ocean of white
giving rise to thousands of eyes
snow falls again
over my world
sanguine and absurd
oh Lord…
I do not want
the smell of fresh blood any more
(and you
don’t talk…
don’t talk of love
when my heart is closing
like a doe’s eye dying)



you used to say
blue butterflies hide behind my knee
and one day
jasmine will blossom on my ankle
your blood
used to swirl in my veins
hot and silky
you’d take my soul in your fist
drinking me thirstily
to the last drop
you made love primitively
I was your first and last woman
you would bite my hip till it hurt
while kneading children in my womb
you used me
so you could breathe
you would tear pieces from my body
pleading with me to give birth
by a fire
in the middle of a field
thrusting my teeth into your shoulder
until the unleashed scream
would free the rain from the sky’s manacles
and disturb angels’ wings
in heavens full of primeval sins
I was young
I was Eve
I used to walk carefully
not to disturb
the fragile sleep of butterflies
or start a flowering
and catch your children in my womb




nuta ganganNuța Istrate Gangan is a Romanian-American author living in Davie, Florida with her son, Christian, and her husband, Dorin. Her poems are published both in Romanian and English, and her books are available online. Gangan’s poetry is translated into English by Adrian George Sahlean.






by Karen Corinne Herceg


The world
scaled for living
presses against a zero-degree sky,
the day’s beginning light
opening like a book.
The morning so frozen
will not allow the gibbous moon
to retire,
hovering over still-waiting lamplights,
poor imitations,
all their nightly duty done.
And I: supine across the linens
before this scene
as in a Rousseau tableau,
lying like a cut-out
in my own jungle,
each part outlined clearly
like the white snow-capped roofs
against the icy blue horizon.
And still
I think that you will edge me off the canvas
and paste me to the section
where you live.


Hudson History

                            honoring Pete Seeger

We’ve assumed you
beyond your natural shifts and turns,
morphing historical perspective,
birthing ourselves into your river grace,
iron and metal bridged
across your girth,
wave against will.
Adaptable in a marketable world,
your iconic flow
no exception,
your pristine nature filled
with natives and intruders,
the lush natural and
the burden of the built,
from ambitious towers
to towering trees
to the tread of silence
near old wilderness.
You begin at the north,
the top,
and push your power south,
carrying all,
delivering in a democracy of spirit,
challenged, fierce then passive,
history glinting off your journeys,
truth remaining in your depths,
powering through the harbor,
your own story
obscured by ours.


A Wake of Frogs

An early April day, arms full of grocery bags,
frost in the air not yet done,
I walked toward the house, stopped,
shocked by the sudden sight,
their gleaming bodies
laid out across rocks rimming the fountain
like civil war soldiers
waiting to be recognized and buried.
The porch where I sat evenings
watching the small waterfall
leech through rocks,
frothing into a pool rimmed with tiger lilies,
was far from soothing now.
How to know the autumn before
that ice would seal a wet tomb
before those innocents could escape?
A city girl, I couldn’t warn them
of nature’s ways.

Bags fallen at my feet, I spotted him
through our picture window,
sitting casually, New York Times in hand.
How he loved the crossword puzzle,
its setup of boxes, the clean, neat lines,
the completion of tiny words,
the supposition of victory.
This was complete, too:
death at the end of long years,
memories frozen over with no future,
laid out to view.
He thought those frogs were a warning
but they were only seeking a proper burial,
an affirmation
of what was long deceased.



The truth is
this is a fearful place,
constant trembling
flanked with platitudes,
with magical thinking,
failure drowning in cocktails,
lust laughing in a sophomoric comedy
and smoke curling
the clouded forbidden air.
There’s a lot of leftover
hippie love
and broken philosophies.
We assent to camouflage,
a whimsical toast,
a sea of well wishing,
the rejuvenation of a spa weekend.
Before the dusk of empty bottles,
pill prompted memories,
a closing door,
we consider praying again,
measures of redemption
kicking us back onto the cross,
always just shy of resurrection.




karen hercegKaren Corinne Herceg graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University with a B.A. in Literature/Writing. In 2011, she received graduate credits in an advanced writing curriculum with emphasis on editing and revision. She has published in independent, small press publications and has published a book of poetry, Inner Sanctions. As a recipient of New York State grants, Karen has read at various venues, universities and libraries on programs featuring such renowned writers as Pulitzer Prize winner John Ashbery and has studied and read with such well-known poets as David Ignatow and Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Schultz. Publications include Literary Mama, The Furious Gazelle, Immortal Verses, From A Window: Harmony and Inkwell. Her short story, “Knitting In Transit”, was published in Chrysalis Magazine, and she has completed her first full-length novel, Diva! Her current writing projects include a new volume of poems and co-authoring a memoir with award winning music producer Glenn Goodwin. Karen is a featured poet on the Hudson Valley poetry scene. She resides in Orange County, New York.

Visit Karen on Facebook and at her Website: karencorinneherceg.com.




alan reese

So Alive

by Alan Reese


how do we bend the mind
to fit the sound of what is?

what is the tone and notes
of the chords of our dreams?

who asks the questions we
struggle to answer?

when do mind and memory
marry and live happily ever after?

where are we and what are we doing
when they come for us?

why do we vibrate like bees in a glass jar
when we are so alive with love?




Fish will walk on land, and frogs drop from the sky,
zeppelins will explode and rain fire,
newscasters will turn a blind eye to joy,
and meteorologists will forecast non-existent weather patterns.
My sweater is too tight, and my pyjamas don’t fit.
When Archduke Ferdinand starts out in his armored vehicle,
the world, at prayer and unsuspecting, will be caught off guard
and wobble off kilter the rest of its days.
Signals from space will be misinterpreted
as cosmic static and interstellar background noise.
My nose will be elected president
and declare a state of apathetic disenchantment.
Black ants and red ants will form an alliance
that will elevate water cooler small talk to metaphysical
speculation and force governing bodies to take stock
of entomological trends as socio-economic indicators.
Masturbation will become a national sport.
Hand towel stock will skyrocket.
Personal declaration will be denounced as capitalist claptrap.
My undershirts will go in hiding with the Witness Protection Program.
Pensive moments will be outlawed outright.
Last one to leave will be expected to turn out the lights.




alan reeseAlan C. Reese owns and operates an independent subsidy publishing business, Abecedarian Books, Inc. He is the author of the chapbook Reports from Shadowland. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Smartish Pace, Gargoyle, The Baltimore Sun, Maryland Poetry Review, Potomac Review, Delaware Review, Welter, Grub Street, Attic, Bicycle Review, Danse Macabre, and the Loch Raven Review. He teaches writing at Towson University.




bruce mcrae

Perception Management

by Bruce McRae


How it is and how it isn’t…

We look for you as if a lost key,
retracing our steps, constructing models,
comparing the right eye to the left.
We employ statistics, the blunt instruments
of guesswork and guesstimates,
and see little harm in chicanery.
Lies can be good for you.

We’re building a better monster,
history airbrushed, the rain holding off,
sin considered an accomplishment.

Now we’re tapping the collective consciousness,
a ready source of gods and archetypes.
We’re instructing you in the art of complacency,
the law on the side of the lawyers.

A hush falls over the Earth
as we prepare our presentation,
including suitable lighting and soothing ambiance.
Even the dead are invited to dine.
Even the living.


Identity Crisis

You were the Wife of Bath
and I was Claudius Ptolemy.
I was your sixth or seventh husband
and you were my invisible lover, Mrs. Succubus.
We played games in the sack by candlelight.
We crossed deserts.
Some days we didn’t even know each other.

Little wonder I was so confused.
How does one label their experiences
when rampaging Visigoth’s are at the gate?
With biblical floodwaters rising?
In these damnable firestorms?

One minute we’re Bedouins in a Saharan caravan
and the next we’re planting tomatoes back in Omaha.
“Now you see me, now you don’t,”
you cried out from behind a burning mulberry bush.

And I couldn’t have said it any better.


Step Forward

They wanted a volunteer.
I brought them a head on a silver salver.
I pulled your name out of a hat.
I gave them my neighbour’s phone number.

They required donations;
all for a good cause, we were assured.
So I took the loose change out of your pocket,
the gold fillings out of your mouth,
the two pennies reserved for your eyelids.

The gods demand a sacrifice, they insisted.
Of course, we nodded in unison,
jostling for the honour of being first,
taking turns jumping into the bonfire.

Unrestrained in our passion.




bruce mcraePushcart nominee Bruce McRae is a Canadian musician with over 900 poems published internationally, including Poetry.com, Rattle and The North American Review. His first book, The So-Called Sonnets is available via Silenced Press and Amazon. To see and hear more poems go to ‘BruceMcRaePoetry’ on YouTube.




L Vargas

Laughing Until It Becomes A Cough

by Lauren Vargas


The thin-lashed girl gets it,
a single spinal chill at every roadkill.
It’s not real, she repeats, picturing
a purple pig balloon that’d careened
through the sky, tangling about its
one dimensional, curly-tailed string
and fell at such high speeds that it hit
a telephone pole line, exploding ham
on either sidewalk. Waiting

and watching for a good laugh,
the kids give her a home and lodge
their popcorn kernels behind her tonsils.
She shoves a finger through her ear
to scratch the roof of her mouth, to
speak again if a loved one has been affected
by mesothelioma, legal compensation is
just around the corner. As children use their
heels to scrape sulphuric tar from the
defrosting water line and then

examine candied teeth with a
knife’s thinnest glittering edge between
waves, sweat beads accumulate on
the girl’s palms like transparent
bowling balls. She holds them out and
notices tremors. Asbestos rains down.
The kids ask her to drink fluids to cure
that dry cough but all the water is
leaving to house fishes in the dictionary.



At The Open House, My Aunt
Describes How To Deadhead

My aunt trims conversation with the real
estate agent. Mentions he might come back with a better
offer. All I ever wanted was a place to call home.
Deadheading helps the flower grow fuller, stronger, clearing her
throat with chested coughs, aunt takes cuticle
scissors to infected orchid roots hanging from slatted baskets
nailed to the mantle. Rotted tissue flutters mostly
to the wood. Careful to not slice any live stems, she issues

an apology to the dead leaves. My fingertips churn pots of fern
fiber and volcanic stone. I guide her root
before packing the surface with charcoal flakes. Now firmly
planted in the coconut shell, she emits a white
lemon aura. Her silhouette morphs. Purple fragile now, swallows
moisture from the air, and begs me to sacrifice
the bloom. Mindful of keeping her from lying in water,
I pray she’ll have room when fully grown.



Carpal Tunnel

But on a molecular level, dryness. No matter
the post-op sweat — her skin, like her emotions,
remains rubbery. To live in a white box shouldn’t cost
this much: a view of the stucco roof, its squares that
protrude from the ceiling to prop up a man in blue
who’s eating a wheat bread and jelly sandwich like
it’s the last meal. Scrubs, a patchwork of used vinyl
wristbands, collect in linoleum basements like fraud.

She drops her pendant cross in a tall glass filled
with denture solution, and hangs a row of teeth
from a silver chain around her neck. Her inability
to inflect certain vowels is as if her lungs occlude
apologies. Like the important things are slipping
away, she asks about the demon men in overalls
sitting at the foot of her bed. It’s hopeful to imagine
she’s talking about the food tray cluttering her toes.



Upon Hearing Of My Uncle’s Dog-Leash
Suicide, I Realize My Own Neck Pain

His children’s only solace
is desiccation. I say
sorry, he’s hanging around
in my mind pissing himself.
The doorframe — humor and bloat
are observed by relatives,
I hate their stiff face muscles.
Were you close to him? I’m just
asking how a two hundred
fifty pound man fits in a
small mahogany box. Voice
mail condolences begin
jarring birds from telephone
pole lines. After falling through
a cracked window, their necks thud
against marble countertops.
Chaos is the only true
family history. Home-
made soggy meat loaf leaves blood
streaks along the sink’s steel walls,
but I don’t speak because none
of this can be removed with
bleach. The oven light’s broken,
treats smell guilty. Duct taped glass-
ware fails to keep the juice in,
and cellophane bubbles up
around paper plates holding
stale brownies. I’m wondering
why a blue dog leash would kill
a man. You may be seated.




L VargasLauren Vargas is currently working towards an MFA at Queens University and is a full time writing curriculum-tutor in Southern California. She believes in the power of language and poetry. Her works have previously appeared in ElevenElevenAmpersand Literary Journal, Chinquapin Literary Journal, and CalibanOnline.