Home Poetry

loneliness rides my bed.

By Lorelei Bacht

furled sail: i failed to boat around
goodbye. could not, would not –

nobody left to ripple these linens.

i should have bottled a message,
apologised, red flared. now crest-

fallen, doldrummed, i raise a single
malt to my failing fictions: no

map, trade wind, turbine. dwindling
supplies of fish and oranges: i am

turning forty. no ghost fishing,
bottom trawling, no mouthful of

nacre – herringbones all. i looked
a captain for a while, then not so

much, then not at all. fallen hook,
line, sinker. others make love while i

flush upon flush, anemone fever.
fading instead of adding up, frayed

pyjamas starfished across, my body
neither vessel nor halo. something

said no. did not say try again. said
shut up, sit here for a while. do not

cast nets, do not searchlight. do not.

you must moon your own sky.


hands of tree bark.      on me, a mark
that you could not, would not

axe out. the undercut is where we part,

a pity of heartwood.

medullary anatomy once
treasured, wished sapped and replete – 

now led afraid, tangled veined leaves,
congealed, blank molasses.

what is a mess for? a forest

now hysterectomised. my floors
will abstain from growing lemons,

apricots, pears. you stare
at the damage, wishing yourself away,

a bird, a light, something singing,
still. the process of

cutting, gutting a tree repulses you.

you say your song of feller from
fortune: catch-a-hold this one,

catch-a-hold that one. the song

is not enough. is not ever:

you won’t be home
in the spring of the year.


is how he takes the mechanical
heart: hacksaw, bradawl, diagonal

pliers. my mood reduced to paper
moon, tinfoil – only the nuts and bolts

matter. statistical champion, a clamp
instead of the open hand my lonely

demands, he claims: you, me – a mere
blood count, a column addition.

i inhale his red lines, broken mercury
beads. are we lost or failing rusty

fire ladders? hit hell. hit square
one and as you attempt to drag your

broken wing up that catwalk once
again, consider this: with him, it was

never your when.

i could drop this black stone. i don’t.

i hold onto the lightning rod and tell
myself fables, collect the little hurts,

invent a reason why, or a reason
why not: knuckle, jacknife, golem.

i could drop this black stone. i don’t.

i refuse to look for colour, refuse
to walk the orange grove, collect 

petals, prismatic, kite, marble, shoe-
shine. don’t care for anything but black

and blue – i document and document,
fingerprint ghosts, deform every

morning. you call me out: sew that
sleeve into a white flag, you know

how to. but i sit and sulk, eat my own
red chalk. one day, i might grow tired of

holding myself hostage. not yet, not
yet, i mumble, treasuring the hurt.

let’s dance.

home: not a yellow brick house, not
fortunate, four solid square windows,

but precarious, tumbled rainbows, a wild
stone throw of fireflies, ephemeral

at best, a test of all the medals you
carry: allan, carrie – some decade or

other, you decided upon a game and
played every single friend along the road:

losing, losing, finding yourself gutters
once more, trucker piss bottle full

of stars – one time, two times, seven
times unlucky. when will you learn to take

the shoe off, throw away that stone?


Lorelei Bacht is a fabrication whose poetic work has appeared / is forthcoming in The Night Heron Barks, Queerlings, Feral, Barrelhouse, Sinking City, Stoneboat, OyeDrum Magazine and elsewhere. They can be found on Twitter @bachtlorelei and on Instagram @lorelei.bacht.writer. In a past life, they wrote and edited fiction. They are currently watching the rain instead of working on a chapbook.

Trying to Tell You

By John Cullen

Imagine a group of ten. Include your grandfather,
briar pipe in hand, puffing a wreath of Borkum Riff
over his chair; and Mr. Allen, your math teacher,
Kroeger bag in hand escorting his poodle a quarter mile
down Clark so Sparkles can crouch at the cul de sac;
and the wallpaper hanger with the barbed wire tattoo curling his bicep;
and your neighbor the postman, who tucks ash in his cuffs
while weeding dandelions. Add six individuals from your local
State Farm. Most likely, this collection couldn’t agree
whether to order frosted doughnuts or pecan rolls.
So let’s gift each with one simple item, say a plastic kayak.
Set them sailing down Main Street after a storm early Wednesday
morning to avoid snarling traffic and misdemeanor tickets
written by police for the operation of unlicensed transports.
Now the group has a mission. This should make the day simple,
like peeling Macintosh apples into grandmother’s stoneware bowl,
adding one cup of sugar with cinnamon and clove to spice filling.
About this time, some Einstein tweets there is never enough water after rain
to float a kayak down Main Street, and Mr. Investigation complains
there’s too much ground clove in the filling; the pie tastes like potpourri.
(Which might be true!) Like when fire hosts a meeting;
before you lift a pencil, timbers and struts disagree and screech,
even grumbling after engines and tankers return to the station.
Now imagine this case in court, your ten individuals annoyed.
Are kayaks paddling in one direction traffic or protest, rally or riot?
Do traffic laws apply equally to boats, bicycle riders, and the occasional
turtle moving through June as fast as nature to lay eggs?
What is the implication of all this on the Endangered Species Act?
Boats never use turn signals! Now, the prosecution rejects a potential juror
who states for the record David Kirby is his favorite poet.
At this point, the people you imagined demand to leave the poem.
If you look quickly, you can see them sailing toward the horizon.
And now they are gone.
The poem is defunct, hanging by a few loose lines and rhymes,
and a boodle of kayaks causes backups and one shooting. 
People will wake tomorrow to the smell of the sea
and lost dreams, and news headlines will announce an emergency
town council meeting to discuss next year’s kayak festival. 
At least we can end with something simple: An old man
wearing a lazy fedora plays guitar in the key of E while sitting
on a Borden’s milk crate. He looks like Robert Johnson.
A half dozen children listen and tap their feet to the music.
Most of them wonder why his monkey smokes a cigar. 


When your dad swung at you
and connected with mad dogs running drunk
through his blood, you howled,
grateful your mother wasn’t pummeled.
She cringed, and hunched
her flesh, an umbrella for you and the puppy.
Then you ballooned from kid to punching bag.
At first, arms and legs snarled on the floor
and you wondered if you could shelter mom
under the deck where your dog, Jack,
deaf in one ear from a haymaker, dug
foxholes under a cracked plastic pool.
Eventually you parked dad on his ass.
It had to happen, and he sat, dizzy,
crouched but growling. You felt you won,
and the world tasted safe.
You learned the world fist first,
and so you’ve got to understand your own
will plant you wordless, nose bloody,
and puzzled, just like your old man
wiped spittle and blood that day
from busted lips on bruised knuckles.

Harsh Words

Trained by whistle
to race to my side
and growl, they ate
from my hand. Chipped
on the shoulder, they
returned and slept
in my bed, muzzles
on my heart.

My mother asks
what happened
with my girlfriend
and why these lines
are so short.
I’m typing this
with one finger.
They bit the others off.


John Cullen graduated from SUNY Geneseo and worked in the entertainment business booking rock bands, a clown troupe, and an R-rated magician. Recently he has had work published in American Journal of Poetry, The MacGuffin, Harpur Palate, North Dakota Quarterly and New York Quarterly. His chapbook, TOWN CRAZY, is available from Slipstream Press. His piece “Almost There” won the 52nd New Millennium Award for Poetry.


By Shae Krispinsky

You guess it was the chocolate you ate several hours before,
a half of a square of the $25-bar that tasted like chalk and grass
and off-brand M&Ms that always remained uneaten at the bottom
of Halloween buckets that imbued the night with wonder and
significance, a heft to the grey clouds, impending storm, as you
rode shotgun on the way to get better chocolate, the real
thing crushed up and blended, served upside down in a cup, its
immobile red plastic spoon proving its thickness, a treat that felt necessary.

It had been a long, hard week in a long, hard year and a half.
Surely there was some form of deservedness at play. What you want
is what you need, a phrase you often recalled and feared, those two nodes
oppositional throughout most of your life. Did you, in fact, need
a Blizzard? Did you, in fact, need anything? Were you not just talking
earlier in the day about how evolved you were as a human? How you
had leveled-up, now out of the messy cesspool of one’s id? And yet,
ice cream, candy, in a paper cup.

And you sit, waiting, in the drive-thru, the last lingering light
of the day gets pushed aside, smothered, by greyer, thicker clouds.
Palm fronds shudder, birds fly for safety, a man in khaki shorts
approaches, hand out. You see without seeing. You see without
being seen. How easy to pretend—non-existence. Car inches forward,
cash handed over, change thrown in the cup holder next to the e-brake,
two sweating, frozen treats in hand, mission accomplished. Onward.

To a red light next to a gas station. A gas station with a barber’s shop inside,
its door open, fluorescent lights on, two chairs, one taken by a man. A woman
with bleached hair circles around him, arms swooping down with scissors
and comb in hand, the precisely practiced movements of her trade. From afar,
she looks young. Does anyone grow up wishing to be a stylist in a gas station?
Does anyone even consider that such things exist? The local Qwik-Stop or Kangaroo
could be a community’s hub—why not? Except here there are two on every block,
the community never grounds itself but shifts by the season or semester.

You think about the stylist with the platinum bob and chiseled arms and black
denim pants well after the light turns green, well after you’re on the interstate,
well after it starts to rain then stops. You imagine an honor to her life you
most likely will never know for your own. Would she offer the same assessment?
We’re all blind to the wonders of ourselves. We’re too close. We only feel
the struggle, the exhaustion. Across the city, the streetlamps have started
turning purple. You know this means they’re dying, but what a beautiful way to go.


Sit still in silence. Receive. Art
is not meant to be easy.
            There is no valor in suffering. I drink
            from the fount of joy. I seduce
            he muse and allow her to seduce me.
My mind is my muse, and I am in control.
Breathe in and out. Following the breath, I am
contained. I am a container.
            Restraint only restrains. Creation ought to be
            an explosion, a flood, quivering and pulsing
            and throbbing with beauty.
Oh, beauty—the lure for the simple mind.
            If that is true, then fuck: I’ll bite. Until
            my lips become a sieve, until my teeth chip
            away like ice. I refuse to be starved, while you—
I? I refuse to eat. I have raised myself
beyond all that.
            —all you know is hunger.
Yes, please. The hunger satiates.


Shae Krispinsky lives in Tampa, FL, where she fronts the band, Navin Avenue, whose sound she describes as Southern Gothic 70s-arena indie rock with a pop Americana twist. In 2022, she released her band’s first album, A Little Warming, as well as her debut novel, Like Lightning. She is currently at work on her band’s second album, her second novel, and a poetry chapbook. Shae is also a photographer, tarot reader, and janky baker. Find her at https://www.instagram.com/dearwassily/.

On Being Deciduous

by James McKee

Nothing like a storm
to blazon the wisdom
of wintering trees
that jettison their leaves.

Scrapping the glory
of an emerald canopy
lets them resist
wind-lash less:

not much can snag
on a skeletal twig.
The lushly-attached
gets its branches snapped.

They collude with loss
to claim, as their choice
from the catalog of griefs,
one spring relieves.

Off into the Sunset

There I go, sauntering along
as if I don’t notice
this bright amber evening already
auditioning for your memory,
though naturally I do.
You can tell I’m savoring how
this magic-hour sunlight
ignites tiny tiaras atop the upper edges
of each sombre object I pass
(car, stopsign, mailbox, car, wall),
like a swarm of small dawns I’ll remember
to describe for you later—
meaning now—
as a sizzlation,
but not just yet.
I’m still basking in the facets
that gleam from bark and steel and brick,
flecked with a luster that will linger
just an instant longer,
though now it’s arrested here.
Sort of. Anyway,
it looks like your mind—
your lovely, captious, queasy mind—is content
to cavort among these surfaces too, as if
the world’s tide of misery
has receded somewhere far beyond earshot,
exposing this block’s homely treasures
for us to admire with the just-
barely-not-ironic gusto
we share like a tic.
It can’t last; it doesn’t.
A sawtooth skyline steps in front of the sun,
some streetlamps blip on,
and the low-angled light
that’d made even the East River look good
for a moment,
departs. As do I.
You’ve plugged yourself back in,
and by the time you surface
from the cyan screenglow of your pent-up phone,
there’s nothing left to forget
but the moment I turned the corner
into everything that happens next.

A Visit from the E-Muse

Wow. Looks like someone needs a hug.
Lucky for you I’ve always gone
for that undead-at-noon affect,
that but-it’s-freezing sweat-glaze.
Mimic my insomniac speech-gush
all you like, but you’ll never
match my scorched-earth aplomb.
Let’s spare you a trip to the FAQs:
I awe like a diva with my avatars,
smack a few fanboys around for show
before (lol) upvoting them. I’m as meta
as a fractal node. Gauge my reach
by counting up the screens I cloud
with an ammoniac sheen of rage.

Want in, noob? Launch no threads
that don’t exclude, then just
keep subtracting till you belong
nowhere else. If anything I post
sounds like your cue to go full
IRL, you’ve read too many poems
I didn’t write. Asking what the memes
mean tags you as far too basic
to follow. Does anyone actually like
what they like? You’re not doing this right
unless you rig, for every mind
you’re mining, a playpen in the slag.

That’s it: just keep scrolling through
the troll-spew of comments to discover
your life-score, somewhere south
of loser. Don’t even, with the facepalm.
Remember our deal: you binge on a one-
quadrillionth wedge of bandwidth pie
as if my jonesing for quick hits of clicks
doesn’t matter, and I curate your uploads
as if they do. Don’t I keep your browser
barnacled in ads that contrive flattery
from hoarding your trivia, like a stalker?
You’re welcome. Remember what you said
would happen, if you ever caught me
livestreaming your bedroom again?
Me neither. Now, refresh that feed.

Víti, a Volcanic Lake in Iceland

                                                                                                for A.

Charcoal uplands, barren and crumpled.
Lunar distances, a serrated horizon,
low murky skies. Rain this morning.
Rain again soon.

A puddled uphill path, slimy
with trodden ochre mud, skirting
the pipes and outbuildings of a hydrothermal plant,
sleek and toylike and alien
against this jagged umber sea
of scabbed-over lava.

At the top of the rise, more mud
slickening the approach to the unfenced rim
of a fissured escarpment.
Down where the crater
plunges like a puncture,
our first glimpse of what we came for:
a blown-glass pool, improbably blue,
aglow like a sapphire ember,
stoked by breaths from a sun
slathers of cloud keep hidden.

We look and look,
but discover nothing
of that unlikely color
for these waters to mirror.

And so,
almost dissuaded from fancying ourselves
as likewise bedded, jewel-bright,
amid broken tracts of circumstance
but not quite,

we turn away as one
into the weather coming swiftly on.


James McKee enjoys failing in his dogged attempts to keep pace with the unrelenting cultural onslaught of late-imperial Gotham. His debut poetry collection, The Stargazers, was published in the otherwise uneventful spring of 2020, while his poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Burningword Literary Journal, Spoon River Poetry Review, Another Chicago Magazine, New Ohio Review, Grist, New World Writing, Illuminations, CutBank, Flyway, THINK, The MacGuffin, and elsewhere. He spends his free time, when not writing or reading, traveling less than he would like and brooding more than he can help.

Graven Image

By David Sapp

Isn’t this all silly
A little embarrassing
(All because of Constantine’s
Very Christian mommy)
An old white guy
Is the object of our adoration
Our graven image
In mosaic fresco T-shirt
Who supposedly bestows
Comfort and joy
A doddering fogy well past
Wise sits on the throne
Why not Isis Horus or Mithras
Dionysos was fun fun fun
For that matter how about
If you insist upon a single entity
A golden calf
A tire a shoe a billiard ball
An ass or an elbow
(It is enough knowing
The difference between
No need for idolatry)
A penis a vagina
Yoni Almighty
A mouth or anus effigy
(Truly it’s not about the orifice)
As the only thing that makes
Any sense is love-making
How about a Disney princess
Or rotating pop stars
For the Virgin Mary
The color blue!
A Yves Klein painting
On every sacred altar
Andromeda the galaxy
Next door might work
Then again please consider
How about love?

Cardboard Pleasure

We crave we desire
Hanker at the very least
We gorge our orifices
Bottomless gullets
Yum yum yum
Implacable gourmands
We insist upon
A nameless hoard to
Manufacture our accumulations
Plush toys weed eaters flip flops
New and improved silicone
Battery-operated vibrator dildos
In stock and on sale now!
Ships bump at our shores
Brimming with our gluttony
Trains trucks men women
Push it all pull it all
Hurriedly here and there
Convenient cardboard pleasure
Buffets on our doorsteps
We sigh we moan
Sated for fleeting moments
And then used up we
Launch it all out our asses
Shove it all to the curb
It is the American Way
Wouldn’t you agree?
Eventually all that’s left
Are hills of empty plastic
Eventually all the dildos
Fill all the landfills for
A thousand years.
Eventually all the forests
Are shaved from our skin –
So much stubble on
Legs crotches chins
All that’s left is highly
Confidential memoranda
Regarding merchandise avarice
Receipts for our demise

A Precious Transience

As soon as the stars
Were born their deaths
Were inevitable
The stars are dimming
In their nativities
And we are informed
Physicists surmise
There are no more
We live out our days
Indifferently act as if
There are plenty of stars
To go around
Our vision narrows
To what’s within the frame
Of our bedroom window
We busy ourselves
We obsess we squabble
Over petty details
We deny and we deny
The heavens fade
Our sun like us
Increasingly fragile dies
A little more each day
And a lifetime is
Required to comprehend
Our stark predicament
In the meantime
How are we not
At every moment
A precious transience
Reflecting upon the depths
Of space the spinning
Of distant galaxies?
How are we not
Spending our last
Hours making love
Or playing with children
Or holding one another
In our demise?


David Sapp, writer, artist, and professor, lives along the southern shore of Lake Erie in North America. A Pushcart nominee, he was awarded Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Grants for poetry and the visual arts. His poetry and prose appear widely in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. His publications include articles in the Journal of Creative Behavior, chapbooks Close to Home and Two Buddha, a novel Flying Over Erie, and a book of poems and drawingstitled Drawing Nirvana.

The Silence After

By Sloan Porter

It wasn’t the humidity
or the record breaking heat
so rare in a cold city.
Lounging around without an AC,
the cheap fan was enough
to calm my boiled blood –
I mean, cool me off.
It wasn’t that you weren’t enough,
although I saw what creeps on your skin
at night
in your sighing state,
the prickle of tiny soldiers that stomp and sabotage
all those good intentioned neurons.
It was, perhaps,
that I was caught in the crossfire,
although I knew
braving the no man’s land
meant getting shot.

It was, perhaps,
the silence after.


Last year you were my arms,
carrying boxes of junk
attached to memories
I tried to throw away myself.

Last month you were my legs,
running to my finish lines
long after the sunrise
kept putting me to sleep.

Last week you were my neck,
turning my head from
directions I wanted to see.

Last night you were my lips,
sewing them tight
when I was thirsty.

Tonight you are my eyelids,
snapping them shut.

On Wanting

Trust me
I may dig too deep,
pry you open with my claws
and rummage around for treasure.
I may stun you,
each of my fingers are tasers.
I may collapse
from the weight of wanting more,
curl up,
drown in my own liquifying words
that never leave me
but catch in my throat.
Can you watch me suffer?
Or even notice?

12 Hours

  3:00 pm         Nothing exists but us.
  4:00 pm         I sketch your smile on the window.
  5:00 pm         I air the room with your scent.
  6:00 pm         Your laughter becomes the birds.
  7:00 pm         Parts of you become this room.
  8:00 pm         Your legs are the frame of this bed.
  9:00 pm         Your freckles are the sparkled light of this lamp.
10:00 pm         Your hair is the fabric of this duvet.
11:00 pm         Our hands make their way beneath this duvet.
12:00 am         My voice is viscosity when I say your name.
  1:00 am         Your voice is liquid when you say my name.
  2:00 am         I sink in the sound waves and drown in my name.
  3:00 am         Your sighs are hurricanes as you fall asleep.


For Sloan Porter, the art of poetry has been an all-consuming journey since a young age. As a writer and interdisciplinary artist, she’s most interested in exploring a darker side, the questions that linger at night, and the passions that drive us. Her work first appeared in Montréal Writes, The Sirens Call, and The Journal Of Undiscovered Poets. She is currently working on a full-length poetry collection. Find her on Instagram @sloan.porter.poetry

“Contemplating Autobiography”

by Christina E. Petrides

There was nothing presently worthwhile
in her old correspondence,
no unconscious novel composed
over several years of college emails.
Dried corsage flowers from a forgotten dance,
the enthusiasm and despair there was without context,
youthful mementoes fallen apart,
inconsequential activities and long-lost contacts,
and the needless stress of academic classes
whose information had been irrelevant decades since.
I am not like that person anymore, she realized.
Any tale salvaged from those outdated files
must needs be framed of new timber,
and the cutting might not be worth
either deaths of trees or loss of time.


It shoulders my apartment doorbell well after dark,
staggers through the vestibule, and drops sobbing on my sofa,
bewailing the callousness and perfidy of ex-lovers and current coworkers.

I was just about to go to bed.
Fresh from the shower, in clean jammies,
unguents smoothed over my hands and face to keep wrinkles from entrenching
And suddenly I am thrust into a maelstrom of emotion, passion, and complaint.

I proffer a selection of herbal teas and wait for the kettle’s pained scream
to drown out the moans and mutterings from the couch.
Hot porcelain at my elbow,
I hope my prostrate guest says something coherent.
Sometimes I hear wild tales,
sometimes a short pastoral,
at other moments only curses and colors.

There are months it doesn’t visit,
and weeks when it comes calling every day,
when I meet it on the street even in broad daylight,
or it interrupts a class, to everyone’s chagrin,
times when we stay up past midnight discussing every subject under the moon.

I don’t know how long we can stay friends.
Are we, even?
Such irregular co-dependency is complicated.

“Seogwipo Weekday, 3 PM”

Aromas from kitchens and covert cigarettes
waft among parked cars and idle dogs.
A pair of stained men clutch green glass bottles
under a leafless tree.
A dame in odd florals diligently stretches,
while sparrows peck a playground’s plastic soccer pitch.
Then, at the echoes of a single tone,
a flood of schoolchildren pours around the corner.


Christina E. Petrides teaches English on Jeju Island, South Korea. Her verse collection is On Unfirm Terrain (Kelsay Books, 2022). Her children’s books are Blueberry Man (2020; Korean translation, 2021), The Refrigerator Ghost (Korean translation, 2022), and Tea Cakes, Quilts, and Sonshine (2022). She is the primary translator of Maria Shelyakhovskaya’s nonfiction book, Being Grounded in Love: A History of One Russian Family, 1872-1981 (Slavica, forthcoming). Her website is: www.christinaepetrides.com

What to Expect

by Kristen Hoggatt-Abader

                  The only response
                  to a child’s grave is
                  to lie down before it and play dead.
                                    —Bill Knott

Black boys getting shot in Harlem—that’s certain,

waiting like a germ between our taste buds for the chance to begin a plague. The news

reports in a six-sentence quip, and all is revealed: street party, crossfire, shot in the head.

Pity, to be 13, black and poor in New York’s only home

that welcomes such folk, its skyline dotted with decrepit roofs and

a quick buck. We keep our mouths closed, though we sigh (“Not

again.” “No, not again!”) when we hear of the boy’s demise. They

won’t report this the next city over—let alone the next state.

How many bullets have reduced a black body to mere flesh&bone?

In an instant, we board the subway, our hands around pocketbooks

with force as we traverse, in and out and underground,

the network of tracks like sutures across our shoulders,

linking the city and our lives: Lord, please, let it not be our child.

What to Expect

Kids getting shot in colonial New England—

Wait. What? The news yanked out our tongues

and wrapped it around spreadsheets and pizza stones,

calling out to our little ones in a hollow timbre,

their fresh bodies close, breathing their bubble gum,

breathing scabbed knees and muddied shoes. If only

the killer had gotten counseling. If only gun laws were

just so. Our minds wrapped around what-ifs

until the worst of us remained convinced it was a hoax.

Surely our precious 6-years-olds are not slaughtered with

automatic weapons—these bodies, this pink flesh.

Something else must explain it: conspiracies, trauma actors,

the media! We always blame them, rolling out blankets

to snuff out what burns us: Lord, please, let it not be our child.

What to Expect

                  Peshawar, Pakistan

Do children get shot in that corner of the world? In the city of

flowers? It is, by all means, extreme: summers boil, winters

witch-tit cold, dust, hail, and when the gunmen crash through

the doors, it’s another kind of storm brewed in the landlocked valley,

stirred by the impossible wind that descends the peaks.

One hundred plus children, gone. Children—dead and gone. The

smartest ones barricaded the door, a lesson in physics: Angle of

crossbeam? Density of wood? Not enough to stop men from

crashing it down in praise of God. In the city of flowers,

workers load the ambulance with blood stain. In the city of flowers,

mothers unveil themselves to wrap the wounds of little boys in pink, blue,

orange, red. In the city of flowers, the MPs hug their M16s,

skullcapped fathers scream. And the storm rages on, in the city of flowers,

in the cities of our first born: Lord, please, let it not be our child.


Kristen Hoggatt-Abader is the author of the poetry chapbook Arab Winter and the former Ask a Poet advice columnist for Drexel University’s The Smart Set. She is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Arizona in Tucson and a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in rhetoric and composition. Her work has also appeared in The Ledge Magazine, Nimrod International Journal, and Poetry Porch. More of her work can be found at khoggattabader.com

How We Got Here

by Jim Murdoch

Everything is a response (it’s important
to appreciate this before we continue);
mysteries, secrets and puzzles all need answers.
Nothing is truly original but all things
originate even if their origins are
far from obvious.

Becoming is not straightforward. Most things evolve,
are invented, sculpted, spawned or stumbled upon.
In a dream last night my subconscious said to me,
“Everything is a response.” When I awoke
I jotted the words on the pad next to my bed
and now here we are.

Unbound Things

We attach meanings to things

with nails and staples, stitches and knots,
with memories, dreams and crude imaginings,
with loves and hates, wants and needs,
with words, with looks and empty gestures.

Nails rust, memories fade, love loses its way.

Unbound the things move on
to our children and their children,
to strangers, to posterity,
to dust and then oblivion.

Only nothing lasts forever.

Observer Effect II

          (for Vito)

He has not written. Again.
Again he has not written.
He has not written again.

No matter how I phrase it
this makes no sense to me.
Not the not writing, what it amounts to.

How do you measure the notness of things?

Writing is more than accounting—
we both know this—just as love
has little to do with its expression

still we fixate on its trite gestures,
furtive glances and light brush pasts,
and shrug off the silences (or do I mean the emptinesses?)

that say it all really.

Echo’s Bones

I ordered the dead man’s book today.
I expect it will be full of dead words.
What other kinds of words are there?

I never knew him. I like to think
I know what became of him but the man
who wrote these words was a strange one.

A dead man writes to a dying man
about things that could only subsist in
the closed system that was his mind.

Now he’s gone and all that remains are
dry bones for me to gnaw on or bury.
Imaginary bones at that.


Jim Murdoch has been writing poetry for fifty years and has graced the pages of many now-defunct magazines and a few, like Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Lake and Eclectica, that are still hanging on in there. For ten years he ran the literary blog The Truth About Lies but now lives quietly in Scotland with his wife and (increasingly) next door’s cat. He has published two books of poetry, a short story collection and four novels.


by Brent Short

Under its starry arch
where we cross
the vaulted abyss,
its own insistent mix
of darkness and light,
velvety curtain,
a difficult work,
darker possibility,
moment interminable
demanding a stricter faith.

Wall of black, dead bliss,
profound allness,
an endlessness
teeming with stars,
the darker metaphor,
a gauntlet, bowl of fire,
dark brilliant secret,
what comes before dawn,
but never
the vivid world of day.

With its turned back,
stars turn on their pivot,
all honeycombed and sparkle—
an inky iridescence
where the earth
has fallen away.

peeking over the rim,
infinite roar of an infinite sea,
a gleaning of luminous things,
lit trellis, a vast mind pouring
over my head like water,
light and darkness
flowing irresistibly
toward the other.

fields of cold, clear light,
orchard of stars,
all-encompassing wheel,
all that’s lost,
journey’s end,
the dark invisible,
the nothing that is—
looking up, night
is a long way down.


Thunder claps
extending out into an expanse,
between where I look
and the mountains’ distant flash,
where jagged streaks ignite
a vast exposure—
this x-ray of a town
flooded in a riot of light.

In the earth’s dark shudder
there’s a passing through
of uncertainty and surprise,
picked up
and set down,
as if this place
was already what I left behind,
somewhere else,
a disappearing vibration,
lost inside the sound
of its own dark crash—
the night’s arc
all grimace,
no sound,
the sky ripping,


A cracked sky
swallowed by
cracked light,
the invisible as it splits,
an upheaval and buckling,
vibration broadcasting forward,
earth and sky
filling with the sound
of their own dislocation—
all shudder,
a discrete space disturbed,
erupting into
its own contradiction,
a peel of terror
slammed against dark air,
cleaving, the world moving off its spot—
what I call out to there
inside the breach,
rumble and flash,
inside the throat
of that hollowed black echo.


Brent Short lives and works in Kansas City, Missouri. His poetry chapbook, The Properties of Light was published in 2015 by Green Rabbit Press. His poetry has appeared in Eads Bridge Literary Review, Sandhill Review, Tar River Poetry, Saint Katherine Review, The Windhover, Amethyst Review, San Pedro River Review and The Orchards Poetry Journal.

This is sea
Berthed here.
through the windows
the winds open
and then close.

The door was left open
and all of a sudden,
Tangled branches of fire
– blossoming into the room –
Appeared at the doorway
like parrots spreading out their crowns.
I could stare at
from the lane.

I burst into laughter
by earth rotating around the sun
and by earth rotating around itself.

I turn into water
Leaking through the cracks,
Falling down the waterfalls of your shoulders,
Sharp blades unkissed.

I am the water and I am the seeds
White doves eat
their wings unfolded.

Or the mist of the sky
Descending into yellow grass gardens.

Now I am throat of singing birds
Sleeping and silent
Like a cup engraved with flowers and birds.


I’m Arezou Mokhtarian, a 45-year-old Iranian woman from Esfahan. Since my teenage years I started writing poems, I`ve never stopped writing, I never could. My poems have appeared in various literary journals, and I have also published three poetry volumes in Persian. Currently I am pursuing my writing career as a poet, as well as a self-taught researcher and essayist.


by Richard Dinges

To step out from
trees onto open
prairie requires
steady nerve, eyes
shaded to sun’s
tense sudden glare,
thigh’s balanced to
any gust of wind,
and no reason
other than a need
to stretch out arms,
twirl in place,
to grasp freedom
to run without
yet to stand still
in awe of your
inability to exploit
your new freedom
under open sky.

After First Freeze

Still deep red smudges
among faded frost-bit
leaves, rose petals linger,
brittle lips kissed by
a November breeze,
memories of warm
embraces and sun’s
heat.  Hope clings
to the last petal when
it releases its grip
on yesterday and blows
away into next spring.

Burn Pile

Flames swirl above
piles of brush, a last
farewell to limbs
that waved lush leaves,
green hope before
storm’s fierce gust
brought down trees’
long stand under
summer drought and
winter fury and harsh
words from frantic
hosts.  Now a pile
sinks into ashes.
A gray wisp rises
into a blue sky
with a wistful
wish for peace.

Atom Bombs

Ever since atomic
bombs stopped lighting
up night skies
and blasting tiny
atolls to atoms
that glowed behind
shark eyes, I
find it hard to sleep
with all those people
determined to make
the world a better
place and America
greater than that
with nothing big
to detonate
just what is in their
hands when they step
out of the shadows
as I walk by.


Richard Dinges, Jr. lives and works by a pond among trees and grassland, along with his wife, two dogs, three cats, and twelve chickens. Eureka Literary Magazine, Cardinal Sins, Caveat Lector, North of Oxford, and Poem most recently accepted his poems for publication.

Tempest II — Laura

by Phoebe Cragon

I have a bad habit of imagining disasters that won’t ever happen,
wasting time brewing up a storm for us to weather
just for the chance to emerge at sunup holding hands,
smiling, having proved ourselves impervious and deep-rooted.

I’ll admit I didn’t plan for an inland hurricane that struck as we slept
apart, tearing through my plans like a trailer park.
Without your laugh to chase it into hyperbole, the beating of branches
against shaking windowpanes just sends me running for the bathtub.

I sit, shivering, waiting for the inevitable is it raining where you are?
that tells me you’re watching the weather channel for me,
that you feel everything tilt when our pine tree finally topples,
heaved-up roots leaving an altar-sized hole outside the north window.

When I wake, hours later, blinking alone under an unexpected sunrise,
there’s only the silence of a wind that’s blown itself out.

Spring Cleaning

It drives Grandma insane; she swats at Grandpa’s hands
                  when they spill change into the fruit basket,
                                       shuffle playing cards under his sweating coffee cup.
She chases him across the house with a mop
                                                                         and still can’t keep him clean:
the whiskey hiding in the top cabinet
                  and the Marlboros cached in the defunct Toyota
                                                      are their own type of stubborn stain.
There just isn’t enough time in the day—
                                                                                                            doctors in the morning,
                                                                        dishes in the afternoon,
                                    and then it’s dinner                                   
and you’re starting all over.

The clock over the stove stopped years ago
                                    and she swears she’s been living the same minute over,
stuck in the breath between
                                     the punch of the spray bottle     
                                                                                          and the swipe of the rag.
He just laughs and laughs,
                  begrudges her wrung red hands
                               and her endless litter of candy wrappers,
                                              the peppermint smell of her nervous mouth
                                                                        as he leans in to kiss her quiet.

Of course, in the next year’s silence, she finally catches up.

She beats the clock back into motion
                                                      and suddenly the minutes won’t stop.

Without the abating curl of cigarette smoke
                                    the air is overwrought with the smell
                                                                        of her favorite sage soap.
The truck spends a week at the detailers.
                  The cabinets hold only Comet and Windex,
                                                      casserole dishes on loan
                                                                         and coffee cups wiped dry.
Bouquets drop withered petals on the kitchen floor
                  and Saturday seems a fine day for sweeping.
                                                                        What else is there to do?

Spiderwort and Blackberry

It’s a start, at least, my mother sighs.

The clueless gardener, summoned in desperation,
rips through vines and kicks something up
into the french door, leaves it fractured and frosted-looking,
hanging like a held breath behind the venetians
that we can’t exactly look out of anymore.

Once dirty work’s done there’s a relief
in surveying the empty agitated earth,
though victory doesn’t feel quite like we expected
with the irises beheaded and weeping indigo, 
Great-Grandmother’s hydrangeas dethroned
for daring to sleep through winter.

Victory doesn’t feel like victory when we realize,
too late, that neglect doesn’t kill fast enough.
Guilt is perennial.

Next thing we know it’s summer and we’re sweating again,
on our knees unbraiding lantana and thistle
under an indifferent sun.

It never ends, my mother laments.

Green and dying and ever-narcissistic,
the garden curls away from us.
With no deference to our hands
it rots and flowers and folds in on itself,
antic and unconquerable.

             Previously published in Sparks of Calliope, August 2022


Phoebe Cragon is a student pursuing a degree in English at Centenary College of Louisiana, where she is Literary Editor of Pandora Magazine. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Sparks of Calliope.

Death on a mountain bend

by Stephanie Russell

I don’t believe there’s anyone up there
watching over me
and when I go out on a mountain backroad in the soft summer morning of a day like this
I could die right there in a fraction of time when the planets line up against me
when stars and the moon see fit to bother the fragile air
and I can’t stop it
that moment when I hit the tree in my flight is all that’s left in the universe
and nobody is there to say I have a plan for you and it’s good
because you know it isn’t good
there is no good or bad or evil in the end
I lie on the angel-white sheets of the gurney
ventilated and massaged in a desperate bid to retrieve the spark that fluttered upward
the song of the wind tugs at memories that vibrate on the one remaining string of the bow
the light of the sun and moon and stars bursts dangerous through the stillness of the upper air
probing the dark place where I hide from all I never knew
no fear disturbs the final exhalation
it is the end


The Royal Gala died here
Red Delicious struggled
Eureka lemon withered
figs wooden for lack of juice
and the single almond
dropped off premmie
in despair
it’s the barren earth I said
clay-hard and cracked
in summer sun
no goodness
no green thumb

my granny’s thumb was green
it was over-large
angled oddly
but for all that
it was green
that thumb tended roses
into violent crimson
and velvet white
from chocolate-cake-earth
in Shanklin garden

when we moved to London
that thumb came with us
tending another flush of roses
hydrangeas pink and blue
geraniums heavy with musk
purple lavender
that smelled like soap
and like mother’s clothes
in the wardrobe
in another world

when we travelled south
so far south
that mariners feared the edge
we found a red earth
in a land where rain
swelled rivers beyond the rim
banana persimmon and papaya
blasted out of the earth unbidden
and the arthritic angled thumb
could rest. 

Now again we try
fifty years to the day
since we landed on this shore
Adelaide Hills Facing
with its rocks and its stones
and forty degree days
we search again
for Gran’s green thumb
in our children and theirs
but they laugh without mirth
at the death
of earth


There’s a special place
where I sit each morning
while darkness shrouds the valley view
when winter makes the clocks run slow
and me
and I see the crescent moon of a new cycle
the monthly cycle that grows and wanes and grows again
like a woman’s life
a life I’ll never know
and the darned shame of it all
but it’s OK I tell me
there’s good in everything
every whim and chance that determines how we go
an end in every new beginning
in the poems people tell to calm their fears as they wait
as I wait with a little patience
wandering what the hell is going on
and how come I’m cast adrift
between the moon and the dark valley view?

While no one is looking

What do I do when no one’s there to see
it makes me blush to say it
I talk to things and people animals and plants
complain and grumble and make jokes no one laughs at
except me
I sing and mutter through the silly things I do
explore places just because I can
challenge myself to go just that bit too hard
and in the moving movie scene
I tear up like a girl
and don’t dare wipe my eyes for fear someone sees
when it’s only me to see and blush
I eat one too many chocolates
burp when I eat or drink too much too fast
when bubbles get up my nose or winter cold
I sneeze and sneeze and wrap myself in blankets to get me through it
and I waste too many crossword minutes
while scoffing muesli down at dawn
and read just another page before I go about the day
and think of far too many other things to do
before I get to write the book that waits so patient
in the corner of my mind
I think I’m bad
a wanton woman
no good at all
and blush at the thought


Stephanie Russell started writing poetry when she transitioned to female. This was after having written short stories, fiction and non-fiction, for many years. Now she tends to write poetry more and more. As for publishing her works, she has had a few pieces published, but is only now making a serious effort to get her work into print.

Stephanie comes from a diverse background, ranging from careers in physics and astronomy, to researching indigenous resilience to climate change, modelling honey-bee lifecycles, and counselling and psychotherapy. These aspects of her life experience, and her passion for sports and travel, lend some peculiar viewpoints to her writing.


by Megan Denese Mealor

I allowed you
to sail me over lake beds,
pull me up cliffs,
across broken bridges.
But I could not kiss you
with any trace of thunder,
even when the sun was
sinking into so many oceans.
You told me once
that there would never be
enough sky, but always,
always too many stars.
You wished you could
count them with your heart.
Love was the sacks
of luminous, worthless stones
you made me carry
up and down
blue mountains.

            Previously published in Digital Americana, Fall 2012


I have grown a little eccentric,
a little discontent, I suppose,
since I moved my corner rocking chair
to the very center of the den
near the growling, grinning heater
to cover the carpet’s balding bald spot
and began turning the volume to heaven
to drown out the absence of snoring
in the fireplace glow of yellow-orange
and flashing turquoise tongues.

I must admit,
I have also grown
a little unnerved
by the eerie reverie
of snow-silent cats.

            Previously published in The Bitchin’ Kitsch, April 2015

A Faith, Rotting

She wore the kind of cross necklace
you would find in a bargain box,
the holy rejects of sacrilegious salesgirls,
their pearls undulating, effulgent.
She didn’t care that the gold shed
itself into a bastard green, branded
and belligerent against her pale
butterfly of a throat. To her, there
was a beautiful irony in the decay
of something so consecrated with
sadness. To her, there was no
religion without the ululation
of a mother’s lamentation, rotting
into romance, idolatry in the
immaculate inferiority–a necklace
losing sight of heaven faster than
she did the night God weighed
her losses, wrote them into being.

            Previously published in Deep South Magazine, April 2014


Megan Denese Mealor echoes and erases in her native land of Jacksonville, Florida. Nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and a current Best of the Net Poetry nominee, Megan’s poetry, fiction, and photography have been featured in literary journals worldwide, most recently Across the Margin, Brazos River Review, Typehouse Magazine, The Disappointed Housewife, and The Wise Owl.  She has authored three poetry collections: Bipolar Lexicon (Unsolicited Press, 2018), Blatherskite (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, 2019), and A Mourning Dove’s Wishbone (forthcoming from Cyberwit, 2022). A survivor of bipolar disorder, Megan’s main mission as a writer is to inspire others feeling stigmatized and paralyzed for their mental health. She and her husband of ten years, Tony, their 9-year-old son, Jesse, who was diagnosed with autism at age three, and three mollycoddled rescue cats coexist in a cozy, cavernous townhouse ornamented with vintage ads for Victorian inventions.

I don’t want to die, not that I am but

by Gale Acuff

only in the sense that everyone is,
is dying that is, there’s something about
birth and life to follow that’s dying, too,
but that’s what religion is for, I guess,
I’m ten years old, I don’t know very much
of anything much less that, religion
that is, but at church and Sunday School it’s
the most important stuff and even at
regular school it crops up now and then
even if it’s against the law but what
I like best about religion is no
tests like in regular school, except for
God’s judgment of your immortal soul when
you’re croaked. Not that you’re not croaking all along.

Everybody has to die but they don’t

have to be born but I guess they are, I
was anyway, ten years ago, my folks
are responsible along with God and
Jesus and the Holy Ghost, I guess–damn,
that must’ve been a crowded bed, ha ha,
that’s what I said to Father that got me
grounded and a Don’t tell your mother
you said such a thing or I’ll wallop you,
which drew a Yes sir from me and when I
have my honeymoon I’ll tell the story
to my wife and hope she laughs, that should break
the tension, making love can get messy
is what I hear but it helps you to sleep
and rise again but first you snore louder.

Nobody lives forever, yet they do

in Hell or Heaven, immortality
is what it is, of their souls anyway,
that’s what I get from church and Sunday School
every week, I mean that teaching and not
immortality but on the other
hand maybe going and listening and
singing and praying and plunking nickels
into the collection plate is the way
to eternal life and I have perfect
attendance so I’m on the right track to
Heaven, then again you live forever
even in the Bad Place–the quality
of your death must be what matters
but when I asked my teacher she said Please.

Nobody lives forever unless they’re

dead they say at Sunday School and it kind
of makes sense, when you’re alive anyway,
paradox is what I guess that is,
a fancy word that means impossible
but so but then that’s religion through and
through so if there really is a God, which
I sort of doubt but then I’m only ten
years old, He won’t be very easy to
understand, or She, mysterious ways
is what God’s got I’m told at Sunday School
and it’s funny that I can believe that
but can’t believe in God or Jesus or
the Holy Ghost or even the Mighty Thor
or Hercules. But who believes in me?


Gale Acuff has had hundreds of poems published in a dozen countries and has authored three books of poetry. He has taught tertiary English courses in the US, PR China, and Palestine.

     seems i have eaten my welcome

by billy cancel

illegible tempo which     matters in terms
of context     Formal Generosity phasing
out to HARSH ABSTRACTION          where

     fried dried swept to
the side     i’ll long to go
pluck an orchid     will
it be The Different
Landscape     if i make a
bottle confess?         zip        

      screwball energy
courtesy of
fire berries puts a crazy snarl on my
face     as i retort “someone
has made     my
mouth     so

     DIRTY PUZZLE you are my Hobby Horse

who walked into Great Affection carrying
a Lazy Man’s load    who has been so
entertaining thoughtful     throughout
this whole series of     displacements
delays.        maybe when we come into

     my Yorkshire Estate McMansion
Big House Upon Forever Green
Pasturage shall i produce a sense
of depth         perhaps adifferent set

     of tensions to brain it around
& chew the Scenery     within a
similar scale looser grid     soft
dolled up lighting that fits the
beat     florid complexities     short
commercials     that kind of
Programming.        yeah let’s make

     Rough Music until we’re blocked
at both ends.


billy cancel is a Brooklyn based poet/performer. His is the author of two full length poetry collections BUTTERCUP TANTRUM MUTTON ENCORE (Broadstone Books 2022) and MOCK TROUGH RASPING CROW (BlazeVOX Books, 2018). His poetry has appeared in Boston Review, PEN America, SAND Journal and Bombay Gin. With Thursday Fernworthy (Lauds) he makes up the noise/pop band Tidal Channel. In 2013 he appeared in Marianne Vitale’s production Missing Book of Spur at the Performa 13 festival. He has read at the Poetry Project New Year’s Marathon twice. In December 2019 billy & his work were featured in London based culture magazine HERO. In April 2021 he participated in the Brooklyn waterfront Poets Afloat series. www.billycancelpoetry.com 

Love Is Better Than a Warm Trombone

by C.L. Bledose

Say, there are flowers by the door. A nervous
bee tugging on its bowtie. The neighbors have
pulled up chairs. Say, a box of childhood trauma,

a list of broken hearts, a warm trombone
tucked under arm. I was a movie star in LA.
Why haven’t you heard of me? I was your mother’s

favorite son. Every woman I meet either walks
the other way or asks me to move in. No one
wants to just go for sandwiches at that new place

downtown. Pickles and three kinds of cheese.
Mayo, an abomination before God. Please don’t let
this be another fine example of American

miserableism. I’ve swallowed so much dirt,
I made it my bones. That’s why I squelch when
I start to sweat. I don’t mean to say anything

to make anyone uncomfortable. Nakedness
is more of a state of mind than an actionable offense.
I’ll give you some of my honey so you can always

be my queen. The first name on the list is my own.

I Only Feel Safe When It Rains

I launched my small life onto the dark side
of the moon, a beautiful parade of the same
day for years on end. Tycho Brahe couldn’t

see me shivering amidst the constellations.
It’s easy to appear strong to a mirror, reflecting
the familiar light. I sipped the milky sky

to grow strong, kept my head down and accepted

my place in the rotation. But it’s so hard to be
your own dawn when none of the mornings left
in the world are taking reservations. You came

to my door in light, a sigh of beauty. Shattered
the midafternoon lull, verve to accent the horizon,
color painting the sky. How could someone

so vibrant live in the gray dust we’ve made

this place? Everything falls away in your eyes; my
life, a moldering crater. I want to burn in orbit
around you, fear peeling away to greet the dawn.

Don’t Fuck It Up

Your eyes, a green I envy, their lushness
quiets me, warm waters in a moonlit night.
Peace tastes like honey on the tongue, salty
and sweet. I need you to understand how

I see you. I’m used to being small. You’re used
to being strong. You are kinder than I could
ever be to myself. Let me be kind to you.

Where are you now? I’m always with you,
no matter how loud it gets. The noise
of the world can never shout down your
shameless smile. I will drive a hundred

miles to sit on your couch and watch murder
shows while you panic about how easy
this is. Let’s lie in the grass for a little while

until our sneezing disturbs the squirrels.
Sweetheart, there will always be someone dying
in another room while you’re trying to get
the laundry done. We can hire someone

to dust the bookshelves.

Rain Damage

When the rain came, we politely asked it
to wait until after dinner. It refused, so
we came into the dining room. The rain
had blown a tire, left its phone at home.
We offered to call a tow truck, but it was
too busy complaining about the young
people. “Remember jncos?” I reminded. The rain
fingered its drooping ear holes and pounded
against the roof. “I just mean we all grow up.
One day, it’s all art and communism. Now,
it’s about who has the most recent wound.”
“I fell on the road,” the rain said, holding
up a paw. Dirt graveled its palm. I offered
it a bandage. “It will only wash off,” it said,
which made sense. “Would you like something
to eat?” I asked again, but the rain shook
its head. The children were done, so we excused
them. “You can play video games until
the power goes out.” The rain glared. I shrugged
to show I was only being practical. “No one
appreciates what they need,” the rain said.
It was getting late. The steady drum was softening
our wakefulness. All of our hints died
in the thunder. We settled in for a long night.


Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than thirty books, including the poetry collections Riceland, The Bottle Episode, and his newest, Driving Around, Looking in Other People’s Windows, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.