Home Poetry


by Elizabeth Crowell

She tries to forget the discussion of human suffering,
the side effect to tongue or to the heart, which can burn too.
She listens to NPR to remember her stance (liberal) and the world (screwed).

A sudden orchard comes and goes, its steely branches, barb-wired in winter sun. Months back,
the doctors gaped in their white coats
as if they’ve heard the wrong joke. The diagnosis is preposterous.

She tries to think of better times, but what are those?
The children’s tiny coats and boots, a crazy night in Troy, NY?
What do you go back to when you are afraid of dying?

She thinks of all her misplaced conviction,
like how she bothers to correct people who use who instead of whom.
And now, for God’s sake, a flock of wild turkeys make her lurch.

A dozen or so of them, their red and brown paisley, stocky bodies
awkward as suitcases, their branch-thin legs strut
their reaching, stiff-necked gait across the road.

Two dozen eyes glare at her with a so what?
No pity there, just their tweaking bodies,
moving like old comedians in silent movies.


I did not know these were peonies,
these heavy-headed, tight, thick blossoms

layers dozens of pink petals,
blooming right now on the side of the house.

I have seen them painted in a still-life
by Manet, a postcard I thumbtacked to a wall,

two white peonies, lying on a wooden table,
picked, doomed, extraordinarily open.

More than once, I have asked myself,
how can you not recognize the world?

When I was a child, an aunt and I
walked in those same New Hampshire woods.

She bent at nearly every plant and said aloud,
skunk cabbage, cinnamon fern, trillium,

virgin bowercreeper, boneset, bunchberry. She called them
rough-fruited or common, tall, wild, almost extinct.

It was like a dream language, those words
like the shadows of clouds on a moonlit lake.

I dreaded the flash of a fish at the end of a line,
silver-belly glint, fanned fins, a parent’s question

What kind of fish is it? Did I make a deal,
a decision not to know, or did I think

in time I would come to simply know
the way we do with love and loss?

I am leaving sooner than I thought,
Though whoever thinks of leaving

once they have arrived, wet and bodied?
Today I see a dusty-feather bird, a bit of blue color.

It flies, tight-winged, from my black fence to the sky,
then stays on the pitch of the barn.

Its distinct call must be recognizable,
but I don’t recognize it, even in the shadows,

where our senses deepen like small tribes,
waiting to ambush the unknown.


Elizabeth Crowell grew up in northern New Jersey and has a B.A. from Smith College in English Literature and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing/Poetry from Columbia University. She taught college and high school English for many years. Her work has been published in such journals as Bellevue Literary Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Paterson Literary Review, and others. One of her poems was nominated for a Pushcart Poetry Prize and originally published in the Tipton Review. She lives outside of Boston with her wife and teenage children.

Toads, Viruses, and Climate Change

by Cynthia Pratt

Tell me about tomorrow or the next.
How it reaches into your belly,
reminds us we are going extinct.
I try to caulk over gaps and the
heat, too hot actually. Try to adjust
to sickness or death. Not me yet
but of course it could be.
Those others die without any
visual knowledge of me knowing them.
The heat is oppressive and the weather
dry like a toad’s back.

The wives’ tale about not rubbing it’s back
is still a memory. What else can reach
as far down as sad moments allow?
My hand warts up as a reminder
that I once believed. I smother the lump
with clear fingernail polish, a treatment
handed down from generations,
as if heat, and the unbreathing skin
will choke all viruses, cure that which
rocks out of kilter.

I Almost Sent You This Postcard

Have you seen a sting-ray
skeleton? The bones
fan out like a geisha’s
accoutrement, cooling
her painted skin,
but here, it moves through
film of liquid atmosphere.

The skeleton splays out,
too beautiful to sting,
but that is the deception
of beauty, isn’t it?
The bruise after the
violent, full-lipped kiss.

The Visit

I’m visiting the sister with such bad luck:
bad husband, bad job, kids that were not easy.

Slender and neat, she chatters about San Diego,
her daughter, granddaughter, the granddaughter’s husband,
how large cities are difficult.
Asks questions but the space for answering
grows shorter and shorter.

I’m visiting my sister, the beauty queen whom
photographers begged for a pose for their portfolios,
the sister who convinced me I was privileged to
polish her shoes when I was 10.

The sister who had her younger sister
screen the men at the door, to see
if she was available.

Still, she is lovely, even now,
even when she has given up hennaing her hair,
gone to a softer pale red, or
maybe not, maybe giving up the tremendous
work of it, letting those thick natural curls go
entirely to what they want to be.

I’m visiting and I’m giving her advice
between the breaths that are mistaken for short pauses:
            Try riding the bus to get to know the city;
            see if the library has part-time work.

Me, the kid, who begged to try on her crinoline skirts,
suggesting a plan of action
and thinking of all those boys turned away.

Fall, Falling

If I knew it was the right time,
I would find fall
beckoning, the bark
course against my hand stroke.
I watch time ticking in circles.
I mind the waiting for the coming season.

Knots tick past me. I am a currach,
moored in an inlet, watching.
Write, please write.
Crows fall from the sky.
I know it’s food they are after,
my stomach knots.

Names hang onto sharp, thorned roses.
Even still, the boat, my mind,
drifts up and down with each leave-
taking, the bed between us a crumpled leaf.
I can’t make it right.
From shore, you wave.

I think it’s goodbye.
Roses dry in the vase you gave me,
dry strokes against my hand.
It is too late to face the fall.
I hear the crows caw
from my bed.

I cannot rise.
Under the nightstand a damselfly is dying.


Cynthia Pratt is one of the founding members of the Olympia Poetry Network’s board which has been in existence for over 30 years. Her poems have appeared in Crab Creek Review, Raven Chronicles, Bellingham Review, Quill & Parchment, Feminist Theology Poetry, The Raven’s Perch and other publications, and in the anthologies, Tattoos on Cedar (2006), Godiva Speaks (2011), two anthologies by the Fusion Collective, Dancing on the Edges (2017) and Garden of the Covid Museum (2021), Hidden in Childhood anthology and the anthology by Washington Humanities and Empty Bowl Press, I Sing the Salmon Home (2023). Her manuscript, Celestial Drift¸ was published in 2017. She is a former Fish and Wildlife biologist having graduated from Humboldt State University in Science and The Evergreen State University in the Master’s of Environmental Studies program. She was a former Lacey Councilmember and the Deputy Mayor of the City of Lacey for the last 12 years, with her term ending in December 2021. She is the first Poet Laureate of Lacey as of 2022.


by Wayne-Daniel Berard

I have a feeling that each
of us lives in their favorite
scene the backdrop the
default setting of our lives
Me, I sit at an arched window
my first night in the magic
I look over the moon-pathed
lake (who cares if it’s spotlight
over backyard pool) I stroke
snowy owl beside me who is
actually Albee our cat and I’m
your son (but mine too)
and his girlfriend upstairs your
mom (my bestie) watching late
Red Sox from Oracle Park, across
the breezeway your sister and
her husband in barn renovated
against all ill winds
and you
who moves through every picture
every scene opening all the doors
password “Kiss me good night”
I just did
they’re all my house-mates
but tomorrow and tomorrow
and tomorrow you
teach me flight.

until finally

I don’t know where
the manna comes from
I don’t know how
the quail appear
I thought it was
just a story but
here here here
they are every
morning every
day I should
have starved
by now throat
closed like a
cockroach prayer
but the water is
as sweet and
everywhere as
air fresh air
the freshest air
and the eagles
came for frodo
and harry woke
up in the arms
of giant and I,
I shall not want.
Oh Hero of the
Realm! Lumos
yourself like
sunflower at
night prayer,
shema shema
shema until
ears unpop
wrestle yourself
through the dark
gate that opens
enfin on today’s
dunkies with cream
that you sip beside
the tree-lily
yellow pink and real
as lore
repeating itself until
we get it right


Wayne-Daniel Berard, PhD, is an educator, poet, writer, shaman, sage, and Gryffindor. An adoptee and former Franciscan seminarian, his adoption search led to the discovery and embrace of his Jewishness. Wayne-Daniel is a Peace Chaplain, an interfaith clergy person and former college chaplain. He is the author of 12 published books, including Little Ghosts on Castle Floors, Poems Informed by the Potterverse (Kelsay Books 2022). He lives in Mansfield, MA, with his wife, The Lovely Christine and their cats, Harry and Albus.


by J. R. Solonche

Old English sang, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zang and German Sang.
Male hedonistic pleasures are summarized as wine, women, and song.

Speaking of pleasures, in my time I’ve heard many a siren song.
I’ll write a song and dance ghazal next, but in this one I have to say “a dance and a song.”

I can’t think of anything I’ve bought or sold for a song.
Rolling Stone Magazine ranks Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” the #1 song.

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is ranked the #1 pop song.
W.C. Handy’s “Memphis Blue” is the greatest blues song.

“Hoochie Coochie Man” by Muddy Waters is the greatest blues song.
B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” is the greatest blues song.

“I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James is the greatest blues song.
Howlin Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” is the greatest blues song.

         So, Solonche, you do know that you need one more song?
         Yes, I do know I need one more song, so here is my swan song.


Middle English: from Old French dancer (verb), dance (noun), of unknown origin.
Terpsichore (the most beautiful of the nine) is the Greek muse of dance.

As I promised, now I can quote the correct idiom of a song and a dance.
I never went to my high school prom because I didn’t know how to dance.

One of the biggest hit songs (The Bee Gees) is “You Should Be Dancing.”
The debut (2008) single (Grammy nominated 2009) by Lady Gaga was “Just Dance.”

The samba of Brazil is the world’s most popular folk dance.
Baladi is a form of Egyptian belly dance, a truly hypnotic dance.

The hora is a popular Israeli circle dance.
Popular in South Africa is the gumboot (they wear Wellingtons) dance.

Clogging is the official Kentucky and North Carolina state dance.
Minnesota is the only state that has no official state dance.

          So, Solonche, will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?
          Oh, someday, one day, maybe Sunday, I may, I mean, I might join the dance.


Old English hālig, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch and German heilig.
William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well: “Love is holy.”

In the first season (1966) of Batman, Robin said 356 phrases with holy.
The room in a synagogue where only the rabbi may enter is the holy of holies.

The exclamation used by Captain Marvel to mean Wow! is Holy Moley!
The trademark expression of Yankee broadcaster Phil Rizzuto (1917-2007) was Holy cow!

In the New Testament, “set apart” is the definition of holiness.
In the Old Testament, connection to God’s perfection was holiness.

Sapta (seven) Puri (town) are the seven cities in India considered the most holy.
In Buddhism, Bodh Gaya (where Buddha attained Enlightenment) is the holiest.

In the Shinto religion of Japan, The Grand Shrine of Ise is considered the most holy.
Of the sacred sites for Muslims, The Ka’ba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is the most holy.

          So, Solonche, you atheist, what, if anything, do you consider holy?
          Like the other atheist above said, “Love is holy.”


Professor Emeritus of English at SUNY Orange, J.R. Solonche has published poetry in more than 500 magazines, journals, and anthologies since the early 70s, including The New Criterion, The New York Times, The Threepenny Review, The American Scholar, The Progressive, Poetry Northwest, Salmagundi, The Literary Review, The Sun, The American Journal of Poetry, Poet Lore, Poetry East, The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and Free Verse. His poems have been read on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac and other radio shows and have been translated into Portuguese, Italian, German, and Korean. He is the author of Beautiful Day (Deerbrook Editions), Won’t Be Long (Deerbrook Editions), Heart’s Content (Five Oaks Press), Invisible (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by Five Oaks Press), The Black Birch (Kelsay Books), I, Emily Dickinson & Other Found Poems (Deerbrook Editions), In Short Order (Kelsay Books), Tomorrow, Today and Yesterday (Deerbrook Editions), True Enough  (Dos Madres Press), The Jewish Dancing Master (Ravenna Press), If You Should See Me Walking on the Road (Kelsay Books), In a Public Place (Dos Madres Press), To Say the Least (Dos Madres Press), The Time of Your Life (Adelaide Books), The Porch Poems (Deerbrook Editions , 2020 Shelf Unbound Notable Indie Book), Enjoy Yourself  (Serving House Books), Piano Music (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by Serving House Books), For All I Know (Kelsay Books), A Guide of the Perplexed (Serving House Books), The Moon Is the Capital of the World (Word Tech Communications), Years Later (Adelaide Books), The Dust (Dos Madres Press), Selected Poems 2002-2021 (nominated for the National Book Award by Serving House Books), Life-Size (Kelsay Books), The Five Notebooks of Zhao Li (Adelaide Books), Coming To (Word Tech Communications/David Robert Books), The Lost Notebook of Zhao Li (Dos Madres Press, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize), Around Here (Kelsay Books), It’s About Time (Deerbrook Editions), The Book of a Small Fisherman (Shanti Arts Publishing), Leda (Dos Madres Press), The Dreams of the Gods (Kelsay Books), Alone (David Robert Books), The Eglantine (Shanti Arts Publishing), and coauthor with his wife Joan I. Siegel of Peach Girl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books). He lives in the Hudson Valley.

The Change I Never Expected

by CLS Sandoval

No safe place to land—only distractions from the inevitable
Everything most sacred thrown to the fire
I was careless, selfish
I failed
Ignorance was bliss
That belief that I was invincible
I was wrong but I felt so safe
So impenetrable
Now just vulnerable
It doesn’t matter
But she does
We are reclaiming the forgotten
We are writing ourselves into our own history
We are bodies with bodies performing
Disorientation of loss
Once we go into
We never come out
We are never ready for death
Even when it’s a relief
Our art
Our craft
Our life’s blood and beat
Return to the mundane
Return to tradition
The massage of the message
Reframe pains, betrayals

the pebble

it started with a pebble
she took it as a favor
no problem on her shoulders
she just wanted to offer help
and others learned she was willing to shoulder a pebble
word spread quickly
they formed lines
requesting she take another pebble
pebbles became rocks
then a little bigger
then boulders
requests became statements
then people just silently dumped their burdens
she knew this was on her
no complaints allowed
the baggage had piled up so gradually
she expected nothing to change


Full speed ahead.
Do something productive.
Don’t just spin wheels.
Make progress forward.
We were ready to go.
We had been ready for months.
Finally ready to tell those closest to us.
Tight lipped, but selecting our important people to know.
Then they told everyone.
Everyone we know was the way they explained it.
And we had to take it back.
Stop mid race.
Stop planning.
Cancel orders.
Call everyone.
We know to announce the feet.
It’s empty.
It’s isolating.
It’s no longer.
Must remember, it’s no tragedy.
The baby didn’t die.
Nothing bad happened to the mother.
She just made a different choice.
A choice that no longer includes us.
 “Don’t worry, Mommy,” my six-year-old says. There are lots of babies. There’s a birth mommy who will need us someone will pick us.”


CLS Sandoval, PhD (she/her) is a pushcart nominated writer and communication professor with accolades in film, academia, and creative writing who speaks, signs, acts, publishes, sings, performs, writes, paints, teaches and rarely relaxes. She’s a flash fiction and poetry editor for Dark Onus Lit. She has presented over 50 times at communication conferences, published 15 academic articles, two academic books, three full-length literary collections, three chapbooks, as well as flash and poetry pieces in several literary journals, recently including Opiate Magazine, The Journal of Magical Wonder, and A Moon of One’s Own. She is raising her daughter and dog with her husband in Alhambra, CA.


by James Iovino

The rain here splashes
air into nothing—
Maggie said this to me once, that
maybe when we die there is a nothing
like the black nothing before we were born.
A tiny egg of time in a vast
and tiding black ocean.

A glance out of the window tonight
leaves everything this dark:
black as black darkness in the bottom cave,
the quilted black, bobbing
in the endless seas between galaxies.
The black when we close our eyes in front of a casket.

She said her father died,
and now he was nowhere,
and not being that close to death
it struck me as kind of odd.
My grandfather died before I was born,
and I see this black in my father—
stares across the Christmas dinner table
to an empty seat, conversing over bills
with the air by the fireplace.
The time he packed me in the car
on a moist August day and cried at the gravestone,
in front of his restless son.

She asked me, How do we exist
in this black? I think
we bury our dead alive.

Divorce, September 4, 1985

Two cantaloupes lay outside,
tipped up on the patio between the deck and lawn.
A giant crescent cut out of the larger one
exposes the rich orange of melon
and as I walk closer to the bay window,
ants scurry along the lacerated fruit
like chocolate sprinkles on ice cream.
One ant is alone, confused.
He is running around the melon
like an equator. He hasn’t learned
he cannot burrow under the thick corded shell,
that this is what it’s for—
so the ant zips away
without a snip of melon, just the cordage
of the melon-skin rasp on his legs.
I swing around to the woman on the stairs—
sleek hair and shoes shrugged off,
looking plainly to the wall behind me,
over my shoulder like a suspension bridge.
As I leave out the front door,
I am no better than the smallest ant
engaging for the first time, a pulpy mass
who hides its fruit like a rind.

Planting Trees on an Easel

Touch the rough cord of the canvas.
Run fingertips across it like you would
a lover’s chin: from corner to corner,
a hand tickles doughy flesh.

The palette is freckled with fat splotches
to rinse the surface with sable hair, or knife.
Berries thick—black, red hybrids
squinched off oil branches
drying like blood on concrete.

Watch as a tree’s roots
web inside the soil of canvas.
When there are too many trees,
build a cabin of wood. If a cold lake
gleams a motionless, porcelain dish—
the ripples of water over a jetty of rocks.
Place a foot in the happy grass, comb
your toes through the scalp of grain.

When I walk to class,
after mornings of planting trees on an easel,
the grind and mash of gravel beneath my feet,
I sometimes think of anti-matter,
inter-stellar clouds, life coming down
from a hasp of space,
rinses a fallow field, lichen spreads
like the green oxidation of copper.
The lifeblood lines along the throat—
Much like a carefree stroke of brush,
a sifting of paint on the canvas.


James Iovino was educated at St. Andrews and Oxford and has master’s degrees in medieval history, international relations, and theology. He enjoys training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, traditional American and Japanese tattoo art, horology, and cutlery. His poetry has appeared in the Mankato Poetry Review. Originally from Long Island, New York, and still in possession of a considerable accent, he lives with his wife and six kids in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

The Gathering of the Waters

by Scott Waller

Incandescent crimson tips
of dawn-sauntering icebergs
make drift afar
in the foreseeing eye
of the airborne creature
shards of soothingness.
Sublime swans
take flight in song.

O sea-dunes, with your fading grandeur,
godly bearers of tightened moisture,
ancient store of ephemeral flakes,
flotillas of our shame,
echoes of a sleepwalk
towards a mutual grave,
stir spirits in our disparate souls,
prod the snoring, sorry beast
wallowing in its own dirt
to awake, arise, emerge!

At Beach

sighing, sated, the sea’s foam-rimmed drape slips
down, revealing dark lugworm adventure
in squirming pores on flushing sand
panting with life’s echoes and
ancient trinkets scattered
overspread with sadness
after flight’s rapture,
till the mind finds
clear fresh air;
calm, still,

muscular curl,
stretch upward thrust,
gathering protean brawn-heave,
mustering dense shard-army of proud and godly might
raised, rising colossal strain to euphoric renovation swell of ephemeral hope peak.
Then, it curves, stoops, the fine line of its own ecstatic masochistic blade
tumbles in sorrow-furrow with bang of phoenix water-fire shatter,
slashes, bites skinless self, exploding suicidal gargling laughter,
as words-bones-shells-stones grind in throat-thunder glee;
sea-veins slit open and burst forth salty froth flow;
splash, climactic spittle, shower suds wink and,
hiss; silk slides back tired down slope;
while burrowing squiggles grope,
to meaning in dark hope,
ground-bound through
smooth, naked sand-
hide stripped again
of sky-shimmer,
in sand blush;
littered with
at peace

Three Sounds, Six Colours

I. A Bell

Through munificent air
the magnetic clang,
the bang of iron thunder
draws me closer:
it swings this way.
That way.
Its song smithereens
into a chaos choral throng of mini-sounds.
You can glimpse its deafening mercury stagger, swirl,
now juddering, now sluggishly:
the wavy potion of clamour swishes
round the inside of the caldron’s bulk.
You feel a world emerging from overflowing liquid;
something carried, like the young, firm green
of a fragrant branch
clinched in a white courier’s beak,
over the misty passageways
between noise and music.

II. Land and Sky

Like the dying man’s arid throat
the baked, dusty mountains round Almería
distort the shriek-thudding of metal on metal.

By the time it reaches your ears
the greedy mountains have hammered out on it
their stamps of sound and private sense,
so you’re not sure whether you have dreamed
the beating arms of distant workmen
or whether, after all,
the gods were here
where the savage, ruddy land serration
cuts clean across the pure blue sheet.

III. The Invisible Jazz Drummer

Without noticing, he’s been lifted
from the moment.
as the washing machine spins,
the buttons of a beige shirt
tap a tempo on the inner chrome drum.

He listens to the rhythm-rattle till
it effaces its beginning and its end
and accomplishes transition:

his stretching out of memory,
beyond the miserly air
of a musty laundrette,
to a better hour brings ease;
the musing of a musical moment,
when he was being in completion.

Still the buttons keep rap-tapping
tacked onto the rock’s up-rolling
to the very peak of paradise,
tied to the spinning whoosh
way, way down again
to new and hard beginnings.

If I told you what the spring evening said

If I told you what the spring evening said,
Through the warm window
Of aches, hopes, and tiptopoloftical chatter,
You would thrust into my hand the visa to that place
Where marsh creatures slink reptilian and bronze
Trapped inside a sweltering stupa and the high grass wails
Because it doesn’t understand
‘The circuitry of sympathy.’

Transitions that require you to fully be there
Require your pain for their accomplishment.

Behold the gambler clambering on the plinth;
Its whitewashed bricks of calculated pleasure!
They once hid behind the trellis
As the craftsmen were hung to dry.
Despair kneaded by events to
A forgotten password that gets lost inside
Ice hanging forests with winds sending off a girl
To fetch autumn fruits scattered among the willows.


Scott Waller is a teacher in the Paris area where he participates in literary writing groups and public performances. He has published articles and poems, including a collection of prose poems entitled Starlays (2020). His novel, Dystopian Triptych, was published in 2020.

I’m Tall

by Ron Riekki

so tall
that I get asked how tall I am
every day,

so tall
that children point at me
in supermarkets
and their super-mothers
tell them in super-language
that it’s not polite to do that,

so tall
that it’s my turn
to attack the village,
so I march across the forest
crunching trees with every step
and when I get there
they have all their pitchforks
and their torches
and they wait for me to make the next move
so I tell them
to please
to please do the research
and you’ll find
that all those people killed by police

were tall
and, yes,
I know they’re minorities too,
but they’re

also tall.
All of them.
I know.
I always look up their height
after I find out someone was murdered by the police
and over and over again
they’re guilty
of having a large body,
one that must be stopped
by any means necessary
even if they are just
through a park.

I Have the Same Birthday as L. Frank Baum

and I look like the Scarecrow too,
walk like a scarecrow with
 my 50% disabled veteran body,
my tremors
where I shake

like it’s the cusp
of the tornado
 and I write too,
except I’m unknown,
stuffed with straw,

hanging there
for all the world
 to discover me,
take me down,
take me to the castle

where all of my dreams
will be given to me
 only to discover
that they were always right there,
stuffed inside my straw-hearted chest.

I Listen to Blonde Redhead’s “Silently” for the Tenth Time in a Row

and when Kazu dances
it makes me remember when I could dance
and when Kazu dances
it makes me remember when I could walk
and when Kazu dances
it makes me remember when I was loved
and it was good,
like a song,
that love,
how she kissed me at the sink
and we fell to the floor,
my hands all wet,
her laughing carmine lips,
her intense love of God,
and how she left me,
a year later,
because, she said, I didn’t love God enough,
and I remember
all the hollowness that came
after she was gone
and this revelation:

So simple:



Chronic Pain

I look at the abandoned building.
It looks like it just got out of prison,
like the building had just spent its tenth year inside another building.
Its glass-shattered front window with a couple of remaining hanging shards that look like teeth
and the window moves, the building speaking to me, asking if I have a chimney,
if I have a spare chimney it could have,
but I tell it I gave up smoking years ago,

and inside I can see its carpet looking so thirsty.
I don’t know what to do.
So I stand there
and talk to the building.
We talk about our pain,
how bad our lungs and living rooms hurt
and the heat that radiates in my head and in its kitchen

and the window yawns
because it’s getting late,
and I walk away
and it hurts to walk,
but I’m thankful for my legs
and it’s thankful for its roof
and we’re blessed with gratitude.

She Said We Shouldn’t Have to Say ‘I Love You’ (for Amélie)

so she didn’t.
She said it was in our actions.
So I tried to see her love
when she turned off the lamp
at night
and I tried to see her love
in the strange way
that she would fall asleep
with her cell phone in her hand,
the light glowing
like it was coming from her angelic


Ron Riekki’s books include Blood/Not Blood Then the Gates (Middle West Press, poetry), My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press, hybrid), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle, nonfiction), and U.P. (Ghost Road Press, fiction). Right now, Riekki’s listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.”

A Pair of Sparrows Brawling on the Sidewalk

by George Capaccio

Like liquored up brutes spilling out of a bar
with fists flying over some misconstrued remark
and bruised egos ready to unleash Armageddon,
the two birds are having one hell of a fight
with no holds barred and feathers flying

as they take turns pinning each other down
in a fury of wings and jabbing beaks,
till one lay panting on the pavement
forced to admit defeat.
Then the champ, briefly distracted,

releases his hold. Too bad!
His rival recovers his strength
and with a sudden bolt
leaps to his feet
ready to peck and claw his way to the top

of their rough and tumble brawl.
Two featherweight fighters
in hot pursuit of each other
soar skyward, wings pumping
rapid fire.

Someone more fable-minded
might draw a moral from this clash of avian brawn
about the nature of man and his reliance on force
when some cocky interloper
threatens his perch and whatever crumbs

he claims are his. But as for me
all I see is a mad scramble for dominance
and final control of natural resources
before the planet goes up in flames
and the moon falls into the sea.

Danse de l’Esprit

Perfectly blended bodies
No blemishes
No wrinkles
No frown lines
Thick lustrous hair
The sort you see in commercials
For some new miracle shampoo

Young, dazzling in their youth
And fiery quest for fame and adulation
They are after all artists
Their bodies the very birthplace of glory, grace, and wonder
As they twist, turn, spin, leap, slide, vanquish
Age and all its imperfections
Rapture in their every movement
The ease with which they shape time and space
Into the most exquisite patterns of light

I who am not young
I who am not lithe nor slim nor perfectly attuned
To the tempo of my own rapidly passing time
I who am falling further and further away
From whatever promises I swore to keep
I lift one foot then the other
Dragging behind me the weight of years
The heaviness I have come to equate
With the measure of growing old

Still, the silence of my ways
And the music that plays when I am most alone
Beget a style of dance, a kind of turning and turning about,
Perfectly balanced, arms thrust out

Blackbird Autumn

Was it a blackbird that spoke to me before I had even opened my eyes for the very first time, and did he tell me the way it would be in my life and how autumn would be that time of year when my soul feels most at home in the world, especially as the sky begins to darken, and the trees against the falling light become sheer silhouettes, and the silence that surrounds me replicates the absence I feel when I am alone?

Almost palpable, that feeling is. As if when the last scrap of light is gone from the sky, my death will approach with the tact and deference of a true gentleman and tell me what I have always known.

Look, there is a solitary star shining through the branches of a tree. It appears so suddenly, so succinctly, almost the way an unintended tear will form in the corner of someone’s eye followed by another and then another the way the stars are shining now.


George Capaccio, a native New Englander, now lives in North Carolina. He rose to prominence in his twenties with a series of dead-end jobs while writing on the side—poems, mostly. In his thirties, he added storytelling and acting to his résumé while still writing—poems, mostly. To date, he has written over 30 books of fiction and nonfiction for educational publishers. His book-length poetry collection—While the Light Still Trembles—took first prize in peace writing from the University of Arkansas. George is currently touring his one-person performance as Albert Einstein. You can learn a bit more about him at https://www.georgecapaccio.com

There is nothing in the museum of words but the Father of Christ
Dream sporangia reach intuitively for granular sunlight
The world is already ready to eat
Everything in the world has already happened and been said

The olive of hearts turns to thorns
Meat and fish become flesh
The intonations of silence thicken
Molecules and atoms play in motion
Every second

Every second someone dies instead of me on the cross

Clouds, grass, parents’ sleds, a rusty shovel, worn-out sandals, an arbor, a fat neighbor’s code, grandmother’s screams – there is no way to convey the feeling of a home that no longer exists.

the bird accidentally dropped the heart and broke it on the rocks

heaven turned inside out and swallowed the rain
my mother did not return from work and became a seagull in the eyes of the beholder
the house turned into a horse and blew away and commotion
a lot has changed since the beginning of the last war

Someone covered the tracks with snow
Someone inappropriate is out of sight
The eyes pretend to be a bird flying into the unknown
The path is the essence of the bird’s path
Death and birth of grass
Every person is grass
Every person is an animal
Snow fangs bite travelers
Where did the travelers go?
A trip to a fairy tale is like a trip to Kafka
The boy stimulates the imagination with caresses
The girl mentally turns into a mermaid
The impregnable stone sings an ode to silence
Delimiters are converted to spaces
Ragged shirts of syntax envelop the syncopations
A little man is looking for happiness
A small person plays with happiness
The dwarfs look at Snow White to rape her
Wolves feed us minced meat from grandma
Babysitters pretend to be adults
A boy stimulates a girl’s prostate
The girl becomes a thought
Torn skin shirts envelop a heart lost in bones
The eyes are looking for a mirror
The lips silently repeat the same thing:

The knot on the neck of the rope is compressed
The crunch of bones that cannot be filled with any passion

Someone in a golden gaze mask stands by a silver fire
Someone pours semen on the mint from which we were born

The latex of the night sky puckers at the hips
A casual smile puffs with mystery

The heather rises up like a phallus
The clouds part in front of a couple in love with life


Mykyta Ryzhykh: Winner of the international competition «Art Against Drugs», bronze medalist of the festival Chestnut House, laureate of the literary competition named after Tyutyunnik. Nominated for Pushcart Prize. Published in the journals “Dzvin”, “Ring A”, “Polutona”, “Rechport”, “Topos”, “Articulation”, “Formaslov”, “Colon”, “Literature Factory”, “Literary Chernihiv”, Tipton Poetry Journal, Stone Poetry Journal, Divot journal, dyst journal, Superpresent Magazine, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Alternate Route, Better Than Starbucks Poetry & Fiction Journal, Littoral Press, Book of Matches, on the portals “Literary Center” and “Soloneba”, in the “Ukrainian literary newspaper”, Ice Floe Press.

When You Find Selma in the Bare Branches

by Beatrice Feng

‘Selma was deeply thoughtful rather than talkative, and her silence was a kind of music that carried onto a world of dreams and made him listen to the throbbing of his heart and see the ghosts of his thoughts and feelings standing before him, looking him in the eyes.’
—Kahlil Gibran, Broken Wings

Summer has taken her shower
and turned off the heater, abandoning

the bare branches that are knotted threads
of her lost hair to the yet undissolved white steam
of clouds and blue shampoo vapours of the sky.

‘Ghostly notes of flowers withered, leaves fallen,
birds departed and their songs evaporated, still linger
in the intricate net of branches. They were from

Summer’s conditioner. When the branches are exiled
from her and consequently take a life of their own,
the faint notes become crystallised as their memories.

And are memories not weavers and conjurers
of soul? The notes are inseparable from the branches
as smoke from a pipe.

If you smoke a branch, you can preserve
a copy of the notes in your lungs,
a manuscript of its soul.

Let the brisk air you just inhaled
and warmed with your body temperature
incarnate that manuscript,

and let your every breath
be a memoir of a forgotten branch
before all your breath
is returned to the air, when it would be the time

for the branches to write your memoir:
an aria of flowers blooming, leaves flickering,
birds nestling and singing.’
Selma’s silence rustles in your trachea.

The Lighthouse of St Blanche

‘BLANCHE: […] And I’ll be buried at sea sewn up in a clean white sack and dropped overboard–at noon—in the blaze of summer—and into an ocean as blue as
[Chimes again]
my first lover’s eyes!’
—Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

…and Blanche Dubois’s dying
wish is fulfilled. She’s turned
into an abandoned lighthouse.

The trauma haunted her human life
refuses to abandon her now. It comes
as myriad mirrors of raindrops capturing
the beautiful world and showing it to her.

Then, as always, the mirrors crash
down on her without rhyme or reason,
as if only to smash that lovely picture
they just promised.

And the cold and clear music
of the mirrors’ shattering
washes the pristine snow of her skin,
tarnishing it over time.

And the mirrors’ sharp fragments
glitter in the red scars
they’ve cut into the pale birthday cake
she has gradually become.

Yet she, kneeling
on the harsh edges of rocks,
keeps praying
to the clouded crystal of the sea.

Would it grant her three wishes
like the angel did Dwynwen?

No. Her faith lies not in God, but buried
deep in her beloved, sinful one
who had destroyed the beauty of her world.

Instead of imprisoning his image in ice
for his crime, she makes his eyes
the origin of ocean with all her magic
at the expense of her whole life and soul.

The sky is grey and cloudy,
but the crepuscular rays have descended,
that holy passage waiting
for the bride who has drunk the divine poison:
her scars red as fresh lips,
her frail white skin an ethereal wedding dress.

La Petite Mort

‘She smiled a bright hot smile which was forgetful of time or place or anything but the memory of his mouth on hers.’
—Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

The sweets cast
their variegated glance at you
from the glass case.
What? Do you call them art?
You know how frail
their allure is, a phantom tower
whose only support
columns are but fantastic shapes
and dreamlike patterns.
If you look into its windows, you will
not see anything
deeper or richer than a seductive ratio
of clarity and intensity.
It’s the most crude and basic form of fairy
tale: creamy basketballs,
green jade chess, sunflower cameos,
miniature peaches
and magnified cocoa beans, chocolate keyboards
insinuating their thirst
for fingers and the melody sealed in them,
a dainty raspberry storm
fueled by dark pink fragments of a mysterious flower
happening on the summit
of a cupcake. Streams of magical hair
sprouting from a fudge violet, 
somehow finds a heart as hair clip, and somehow
ends up being a lovespoon.

After caressing them all with the childish
love bite of your eyes, you go
for the prettiest one.
That elderflower picasso. It’s half a planet,
nebula blue with rivers of cirrus
and a flower of blood.
Though the planet is not the hemisphere
you’ve bought, but only
the paint on it.
This blue world is thinner than sequin,
the rivers have no depth, the flower
is no more than a red dot.
But you will live here
for this moment,
will you not?
You will fall in love
with the story
the deep blue runestone and snow white inscription
tell you about the sanguine blossom:
when the Countess of Nosferatu
bleeds for the first
and last time,
she looks at her own blood
with awed fascination.
Realises what
she is composed of, and what
she could express.
Shattering the cold porcelain cups
of life and death,
she lets the magical red fluid escape
from the prison of her
Yet the spilled blood, doomed by its former dwelling
in the frail chamber of her heart,
cannot become anything
else. So it instantly blooms
into this bleeding heart
flower here.
Look! The balmy heart spreads the velvet wings
of its petals
and a graceful teardrop descends
from its core. Come
closer. Can you see another heart
in this teardrop as if sitting in a glass
capsule of a Ferris wheel,
watching sunsets
concentrated in the flight of the petals?
Doesn’t it look exactly
like your heart?
You cannot deny. But it is truly absurd
that you have lived without a heart
for so long
and you shall find it in a sweet shop.
Is that why you are not bleeding
even if the little vibrant world
you are eating is as thin as the blade
of a knife and the cut it makes.
And certainly as sharp.
But wait! Its blade has cut
through your whole
It’s so sweet…you scream, groan, weep
The world, it’s really so sweet
underneath its nonchalance
and your heart is, in fact,
oh how can it be…
so sweet.


Beatrice Feng studies Creative Writing at Lancaster University. They are an aspiring writer.

To Devour Heaven

by Syndey Fisher

It’s a familiar taste upon my tongue–
The flesh and blood of my flesh and blood

I bite and chew and grind and suck
Yet my hunger…. It lingers

This instinct, it gnaws at me, making my stomach gurgle and kick like a memory inside of me–
Like elbows slamming into my ribcage and muffled screams obscured by muscle and sinew

From where you stand it is a quiet affair.
The squelching is minimal- its jaw unhinges and he swallows the body whole.

“I see you,” his eyes say to you.
“You can’t look away,” the tiny body begs- as if that will change anything at all.

It’ll be your turn next, you know?
And it’ll be his turn forever.

The Cartographer

Every breath adds a fresh mark on the map
Every sigh forms a new landmark in remembrance
Every stumble leaves a scuff in its wake- a frowny face here, a scowling skull there
My inkwell is full and ready to touch fresh parchment

Sometimes I meet another cartographer in my wanderings
We compare our maps and let our quills touch each other’s hearts
Beware the deadends, the dark alleys, and the precarious ledges
Stay here if you’re ever in town, talk to this person if you are blessed with the opportunity

Sometimes when I don’t like what I see before me I look to my map
My map has changed so much since the day I first shakily dragged a quill across its surface
I can’t help but sigh and say, ‘But look how far I’ve already come.


Sydney Fisher is currently getting her undergraduate degree in English at Azusa Pacific University and plans to get her master’s degree in Library Science. She also is pursuing minors in Screenwriting and Biblical Studies due to being a queer Christian artist with a love for all things cartoon. 

grain of sand

by Scott Taylor

i’ve gotten myself
screwed up somehow.
i sit here on the floor in the dark
with music playing,
and pangs of loneliness
conflict with
a vague revulsion
that would prohibit
from being here
right now.
a little bit of cocaine
and suddenly i am terrified,
a pilgrim fawn,
i am living a life
unsupported and unsustained,
no one here
but perhaps that is
i don’t want them here.
i listen to notes
like raindrops
and wonder why mine
don’t sound like that,
i wish my thoughts
could be beautiful,
i wish i
could be beautiful.
like a dead end
in hell,
i frown in the dark
with a mind and a dick
that just won’t work right,
and still pine
for the women
that i don’t want

call to arms

O malcontents who hide in computers and books,
perk up your ears and harken to me,
turn off the TV and unite under a new flag.
we can band together like worker ants,
no uniforms or handbooks will
point the way for us.
O collection of ragtags,
heed the call,
the earth will one day take us all,
your routine is the disease
and you are the cure,
each of us a universe
in defiance of
a collective nothing,
fuck macdonalds and the prom
and the new york yankees,
beauty is found in second-hand stores
and genius in the babblings
of lunatics in chains.
O cellar denizens,
creep out from the sewers
and reclaim what is ours,
i repeat,
not just for the politicians,
not just for the bankers,
not just for the inherited wealthy,
not just for the supermodels,
you’ve been told what to like,
you’ve been shown your place,
you’ve been told what to be satisfied with,
now decide
just once
for yourselves.

there’s a death in their eyes

there’s a death in their eyes, deeper and darker than any pit
if ever there was light there
it is gone now forever,
the world has won
and there is no going back.

there is a pain in their smiles
that chills me to the bone,
the heads bob and the mouths work
but they can’t mask the scent
of their fear.

i watch them on television
and on the sidewalks,
in bars and in checkout lines,
all agenda and ambition,
praying for the American Dream
and only finding
the universal nightmare,
confused and angry
but always
coming back for

the spirit wanes
until only survival remains,
it is understandable
and tragic,
childhoods forgotten,
replaced long ago
by some murderous job,
now you accept the lie
because you have to,
it’s too late to object,
might as well go out to dinner
with the wife tonight
and plan this spring’s


Scott Taylor is 49 years old, and hails from Raleigh, North Carolina. He is a writer and a musician, and an avid world traveler.

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