Home Poetry

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.

Not Exactly

By DeWitt Clinton

We’re here, just like you thought we were here,
But not for long, so don’t get your hopes up,
At least not that much as who knows what
Might happen even before we get to the end.
Isn’t that what you’ve heard somewhere,
That even though you’re certainly having one
Hell of a time, it will soon fade, and then, very
Likely, you might not even remember who
Was where, at least I can’t, and please say
Exactly why you can remember everyone
You’ve ever kissed, or smooched a bit, or
Held a hand, heck, it’s hard just to remember
Anything yesterday, let alone all the times
We’ve been in contact with someone else
Out there, so just don’t try to make a big
Deal out of it, and enjoy what you have
Right now, because believe me, and I’m
Not the only one who knows this, it’s
More than likely not going to turn out
Like you hoped it would, and why should
It, after all, that would be something like
Listening to the same old 45 over and over
And who has 45’s anyway, so please don’t
Open up that old closet of yours and
Pull down or sort through all of those
Albums you’ve collected and not listened
To for years, and remember, every single
One of them is going to sound a bit scratchy,
And will probably disappoint something
Huge, but that’s what’s going to happen
If you keep going back through all your
Stuff like that, so just call up the haul
Away your old memories guy as he’ll
Make more money on what you’ve
Forgotten than you could ever believe,
Really, so what’s wrong with that,
And he’ll play them once or twice,
Nodding and maybe even boogying
Down a bit like he used to, but then
He’ll sell them to a dealer, and then
They’ll just collect dust until some
Old fan will finger her way through
What was yours, and then, well, sheer
Delight for her, and you, sadly will
Be not in the mood for any music,
No sir, as you’ll be out of here, no
Memories whatsoever, as you’re not
Here, even though you pretended
That you’d be here on an unlimited
Visit, but that’s the problem, isn’t
It, we just don’t know what’s next
Do we, even though we saunter a
Bit thinking this is it, something we
All want to savor, so go ahead savor,
But somewhere in that poor brainpan
Of yours remember, you’re already

So-So, So Let’s Order Carry-Out

But not terribly so-so, or hugely so-so, just sort of so-so
Though few will know what in the world is that, but then
Not everyone has such a clown smile on for special effects,
And perhaps when the door is closed, and no one is watching,
Perhaps the lips rise slightly in hopes that somebody
Somewhere, somehow, some way might start shouting to
The rooftops just like when “Beale” shouts in “Network,” and
You know the lines don’t you, it’s pretty much how all of us
Feel about now, fed up with just about everything that’s
Going on, and not going on, so go ahead, say it in your head,
“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
Except we’re probably going to take it just like we’ve been
Taking it, and probably will for a very long-time way into
The future, but that sounds a bit lame, doesn’t it, as if
We have no real future, even if as the ancient priests
Wondered, whether the Sun would return after seeing it
Disappear, so let’s get up early and pray a lot hoping the
Best for light, and if the light doesn’t return, let’s just
Go back to bed, as the lights are still out, not only outside,
But inside, as the stars aren’t even blinking every now
And then, and so we’re hopeful, of course, but for what
None of us are quite sure as so much has been such a
Huge disappointment, but hey, did you say it was time
For adult refreshments, so, heck, let’s order carry-out.

Then, There’s That

Of course, no one expected what would happen happen just
Like that, but isn’t that the way most of our well laid plans
End up, so surprisingly different than what anyone would
Have ever imagined, but why, for heaven’s sake, did any one
Think things would go just as we planned back then, even if
Back then was so long ago, though no one even has any notes
To see exactly what everyone got so horribly wrong, but then,
Almost everyone, not everyone, goes into shaking-head
Syndrome, and a kind of pitiful laugh saying, well it really
Wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be, in fact,
It could have been so much worse, but now, no one wants
To even commiserate on what that awful clusterfuck could
Have been, how could they, for don’t they know that no
One, no one really has any idea how any of this will end up.


DeWitt Clinton taught English, Creative Writing, and World of Ideas courses for over 30 years at the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater. Recent collections include At the End of the War (Kelsay Books, 2018), By A Lake Near A Moon: Fishing with the Chinese Masters (Is A Rose Press, 2020), and Hello There (Word Poetry, 2021).His most recent collectionwas awardedthe 2022 Edna Meudt Poetry Book Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers. He is a student of Iyengar Yoga, and occasionally substitutes as a yoga instructor for seniors in The Village of Shorewood, Wisconsin.

last ever ballad

by Mark DeCarteret

walking aside the sea
I felt little but everything
I’d felt when you’d left

walking aside the sea
I smelled the lemon on
your skin less itself

walking aside the sea
I saw what-was-us under
glass as if singled out

walking aside the sea
I heard my dearest again
the wind in her dress

walking aside the sea
I tasted our last kiss
all that the salt spared

a break

you took
what silence
was left us
& had to make
way too much
out of it
saying I was
so full of it
so full of shit
having wolfed
down every
thing in sight
then let me
know all the flaws
you saw in me
& how my writing
was awful what
we maybe needed
the most was to
slow things
down give
each other

made up

I’ve been going almost
makeup-less for the po-cam —
only my eyes, lantern-red
from too close of a reading,
are underlined like a pro
with a run of lies, denial-cut,
& the lids, smeared with
this duskiest of grays
cussing all the light will not
let slip about darkness,
the cheeks high-lit skillfully
with conceit upon conceit,
& the lips, stuck on each
other — selling literally nothing
to impractically no one
when not giving any air
to their dramatized sighs —
the map of where I’ve come,
all who camped in its spaces,
fit with another map, artifice

I’ll drown if I stop writing

you defused the photobomb
& my followers suffered for it

as if I saw that the light
was slightly more light

I looked to be in front of some sea
on the day I turned my back on 53

yesterday there was another attack
this time on a railroad track

here I am skiing
don’t ask me where

I can’t imagine this
does us any good

I’m at a point where I’m too young
too old to worry what anyone thinks

you stuck out your tongue for a snowflake
then texted your ex something about hunger

I should know better
I know better


Mark DeCarteret’s seventh book lesser case was published last year by Nixes Mate Books.


By Susan Jennifer Polese

The tide rises
The coast shimmers
And I smile and sigh
And recall
Coming out of those waves
Chilled and ready
Pushed by the sea
Tumbling with crusty eyelids
Salty mouth
Skin glistening
Gasping, afraid and excited

Our ancestors arrived that way
Delivered into the world
Sprouting legs and walking like fresh, damp foals
Around the beach, up the mountains, across the plains
Their Manifest Destiny to be
Reptilian no more, now furry, legged, live-birth beings
Clannish, while peeking at the stars
Barking, and drinking water from fresh lakes
Dining on flesh, baying at the moon

And still, we remember our becoming
The bloody patches, the white linen, air surrounding us
Tides of atmosphere
Parting it lets us emerge, holy, hungry, searching
Violent and beautiful
Taken in
Floating on the breeze, our slippery skin molts
Our many toed feet burrow into the sand
Upright and alert
Faced with the certainty of change

Pain Becomes

Pain does the laundry
folding sheets
into small, tight squares
stacked and ready

Pain serves dinner
little Bento boxes of foods
separated and safe

Pain sweeps the floor
fast and with fury
bracing for the next time

Pain takes nightly pills
set in a row on the counter
arranged to manage, not cure
to maintain, daily

Pain lays down carefully
eyes close slowly
all is orange swirls and tingles

Pain goes deep
allowing slumber
surrendering to nothingness

Then the movie starts
smell of popcorn
sound of hushed chatter
a slurp of a drink

Pain has become
            a heroine
            a cowgirl
            a freedom fighter
            a discovered relic

Pain morphs, pushes, requires
constricts and expands
Like a plot that stretches and surprises
Like breath that keeps on coming


Susan Jennifer Polese, LPC NCC is an American poet, journalist, crisis counselor and award-winning playwright whose poems are included in the Writing off The Walls exhibit at Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art. Her plays are seen regionally and at such venues as La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, HERE Performing Arts Center, The Midtown International Theatre Festival, and Planet Connections Festivity in Manhattan, NY. Trained in New York at The Wonderhorse Theatre, Herbert Berghof Studio, and Hunter College she has taught writing through Purchase College, Axial Theatre Company and has facilitated “Playwriting in Paradise” in Key West, Florida. Her work is fueled through social justice and is often performed as fundraisers/awareness enhancers for non-profits. Susan is a member of The International Centre for Women Playwrights and Theatre Without Borders. She attended La Mama’s International Playwright Retreat in Umbria, Italy and was a resident-artist at Bethany Arts Community, 2020. She is published in Alexander Street Contemporary Drama Collection. Susan is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America and New York Women in Film & Television.

Stumbling Over Imaginary Chairs

By M. A. Schaffner

Every old car dies with new parts
and every one of us
looks in the mirror and sees seventeen
then, with our spectacles, a stranger.

There’s time not lost to recollection
but simply disappeared
into dimensions we forget to dream about.

One looks back from the era and asks
Have I done this before?

There it’s Twenty-Seven/Fifteen
everything sleek and streamlined as death
yet mentally cluttered in ways
that make refrigerator doors seem clean.

Now it’s winter again and one worries
about spring and having to wake up
to another day as a subordinate
in someone else’s dream, waiting for life.

Seasonal Affect

It feels like another country,
not one I’ve gone to but one where the dogs
still bother to mark all the boundaries.

It’s past football season here,
still undecided on the number of players,
or where to imprison them till fall.

Meanwhile trees have begun to plan leaves,
considering all the colors that might work
before compromising again to avoid arguments.

In the distance cars go back to work
and the planet returns to sighing.
A heavy burden of newsprint settles in.

Everything I fear has still not happened,
but I know I won’t reach the end of the book
or manage to again hear the LPs
before the turntable falls into the sun.

Seasonal Affect, Part II

Spring returns with all its obligations,
its early sun and ever shrinking night.
I can’t tell now when peace will book a stay
but I guess we’ll save some money on lights.

While making this morning’s halting run up Taylor,
I crested Seventeenth and saw two blocks ahead
a white-tailed fawn flitting across Nineteenth.
One runs to keep their vices, the other to not be dead.

It was nice to look at winter as a time
to finish what I’d left undone last year,
It’s nice to do without the sure reminder;
I’ll want the same when winters disappear.

And there’s the joke, I guess, of all ambition;
not goals achieved, but hopeful repetition.

Generation Ghost

With this morning already yesterday
and the day before but vaguely seen
through the lens of the sixteenth century
we wander in between
strange rooms on stranger missions.

Pug fur on the staircase
clouding our ascension to the loft,
a hole in the carpet revealing
six layers of fractured stains –
why would one ever want to clean that off?

Pets reigned like pashas
unbothered by books.
The mice and the wasps and fans ran free.
Drooping cobwebs graced a private history
curled in every thought.


M. A. Schaffner lives with spouse and pugs in a house built cheaply 110 years ago in Arlington, Virginia. Their work has recently appeared in The MacGuffin, Illuminations, and the anthology Written in Arlington. Earlier appearances included Poetry Wales, Poetry Ireland, and The Tulane Review. When not avoiding home repairs through poetry, M. A. wades through the archival records of the Second United States Colored Infantry (1863-66) with a view toward compiling a regimental history.

My Private Interstellar

by Ali Asadollahi


O, dim sparkles
Late stars
Light intervals
-between our eyes
and what befalls-
O, Millions and millions and millions
Distance in distance in distances,

‌‌This endless line
Will be bent
And the death
Two                                           ends.


The mirror…
My black hole, it was.

There was gravity and gravity
And whatever passed by it
Fell in the midst of it.

The death;
Before me, it was:
.I fell               in               to I.


The singularity, indeed.

Billions of billions of galaxies of words
In a willing-to-bang throat

The silence of mountains
The silence of skies
The silence of the man -who knows, is gonna die-

– Tell me what you did.

[The singularity, you read.]


Born in 1987, Ali Asadollahi is the composer of six poetry books and the winner of some distinguished domestic poetry awards, such as Iran’s Journalist Society Award (2010). He is a permanent member of the Iranian Writers’ Association and currently studying for an M.A. degree in Persian language and literature at Tehran University. So far, some of his poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Roanoke Review, Palaver Journal, Alchemy Journal, and The Persian Literature Review.

I Dream About My Dead Dogs

By Glen Vecchione

I don’t see them.
They wrap themselves around my head
in a kind of turban, their balls dropping
down over my ears in satchels of parfum de chien.

My dogs: four or five of them—none
of whom have ever met the others.

I know they’re excited to see me
because I’m scoured by a swooshing of tails.
It’s like I’ve stuck my head in a car wash,
my face scrubbed by the rotary brushes.

What a comedy, this dream: invisible dogs.
And yet I feel sad when I awaken
and have to record my thoughts about life
on my smartphone.

I never dream about cats, although I owned one.
It took a nap under the hood of my car
because the engine was warm.
That was that for that cat.
Why dream of cats, anyway? They never show up.

After lunch, I check the notes to myself
and have a revelation: the dogs are my helmet.
They protect my head. My thoughts. My hurts.
Although they loll about, they’re alert and ready

to attack, to warn whatever else is out there
Leave him alone.
They are my personal Fu dogs, even though
I flunked Asian Studies at U.C.L.A.

or maybe my wardens, set there by Sigmund
to lock the chaos in my head and not let it
loose upon the world.
That means I’m stuck with it, with them

and it’s too late for therapy.
That means it’s too late for therapy.

Trinkzeit am Abend

(Evening Drink Time)

Here in Basel, the evening swans
nibble the ears of Rhine bathers
and the beaconed derricks
                                    swing their cargos.

A tram hums beneath its catenary.
The moon shreds, nicked by a tower.

Three penciled women in the bar. One
takes the cap from my head and reads the stitch.
San Francisco, she says, Was ist mit Amerika los?
Big question, I reply.

Tips her cigarette towards my groin.
I can supply pleasures behind your belt, says she.
I could be your grandfather, say I.
Ja, she says, blowing sideways. We do it draußen.

I wonder if she’ll wear my cap when we do it draußen,
but once outside, turns her back and grabs her E-bike.
The trouble with America is that you are all thieves!
she says, tipping her trophy from across the street.

In Basel, people cycle to work humming ditties
but never yield the street to foreigners.
In a neighborhood where hanging laundry is verboten
I pass a worker with a flashlight scrubbing bricks.

In the window above, a shirtless man screams in Italian
and from what I can make of it, says,
Stop me before I break the law!

Brain Scan

I’m apprised by the neurologist
of a frayed connection between what’s there
and what arrives, so many shorts possible
along the circuitry. Still, the jumping letters,
clown-colored, wriggle across the newspaper
and that unrecognized thing suddenly becomes
a daffodil; the word for it too, once rooted,
now unmoored and prone to slip away

until I snare it back.
You’ve seen this before, doc, holding
my scan to the fluorescent. Now
how do I drop anchor to keep this skiff from drifting,
the lights flickering On more than Off;
or is this the true way home—the stars
confounding, compass wonked, the sea breaking
the moon’s soiled plate into shards, teeth,
a black maw that shreds before it swallows?


because there are glaciers here
                  striations of merchandise
cataracts of cardboard amphorae with crushed corners
                  in a crazed ascension to fluorescent nirvana
because it is pure-plumbed
                  has aisles with vanishing points

and the people   or the men mostly
                  they move with their broods about them
like a boat in an oil slick
                  the hull pushing through here and there

where the sound is that of some underground place
                  without the dripping   a squeak and
clatter of split rubber bearings
                  swathe-cut wiggly through the crushed

spangles and cacophony of fabrics
                  because it resembles an airplane hangar    contains a city
of appliance boulevards   the clacking and swishing
                  of strapped feet and greasy billfolds   everywhere
the plenary stink of America.


Glen Vecchione is the author and illustrator of 28 science books for young adults as well as a fiction writer and poet. His science titles have been translated into seven languages and are distributed worldwide. His poetry has appeared in Missouri Review, ZYZZYZA, Comstock Review, Southern Poetry Review, Adirondack Review, Indiana University Press, and Tar River Poetry. His short story “The Rose Light” appears in The Main Street Rag. Glen also composes music for television, film, and theatre. He currently divides his time between Palm Desert, California and New York City.

I was never taught how to use a lawnmower because my parents didn’t want me to lose a foot.

By Christine Horner

If you could see how clumsy I am, you would understand.
When God churned me into this world in his heavenly cauldron, he forgot
the pinch of hand-eye coordination and he left out
the tablespoon of social grace, but he added
a few heaping pounds of childhood obesity
as well as a handful of major depressive disorder—just for good measure.
I was formed into a messy, buttery compound and thrust
into this world to be spread on burnt toast, then dropped on the floor face-down.

Leaving Home

Leaving home is not like “flying the nest”—
            it is like diving head-first into a shallow public pool,
            chlorinated water flooding your sinuses
            as your skull thumps the slick concrete at the bottom.
            You float to the surface, blood spilling
            out of your nostrils, staining the water red.
            Bubbles rise from the bottom half of your bathing suit
            as you struggle to reach the ladder, eyes shut tight
            from your head pain and the bright sunlight
            that litters your face with freckles
            and dyes your skin hot pink. You had hoped
            that the pool would cool your burn, but
            the pool was heated, and it stung
            almost as much as your crush’s laughter
            at you, at your pain, at your embarrassment.
            He looks like a younger Orlando Bloom,
            raising his finger to point at you,
            finally getting out of the pool
            only to trip over a plastic chair.
            Tears cloud your round, blushing face
            and bloody snot oozes from your nose into your mouth
            while you cry for your mother to take you home.

I Will Age like Whiskey

I have heard that I’m supposed to buy
and cleansers
and serums
to prevent premature wrinkles
and that I should stay out of direct sunlight
lest I look like a seventy-five-year-old woman
when I’m a seventy-five-year-old woman.

Raisined knuckles turn people off
as do the happy little lines on my forehead—
indents from delicious laughter.

“Like a fine wine,” they say.

But what if I’m not a fine wine?
What if I’m whiskey, hearty and direct
with a profound finish?
I don’t desire to age like a fine wine
left in a cold cellar to collect dust with bitter cabernets.
Barrel me in a cozy wooded cabin and
leave me to ferment there.
I’ll mature in my own time.


Christine Horner (she/her) is a poet who recently received her AFA in Creative Writing from Normandale Community College and is seeking a BFA in English from Augsburg University in Minneapolis. She is previously unpublished and enjoys knitting, cooking, and reading when she is not writing, working, or going to classes.


by RE DRUM cadre

of riches
& yet we still
wrap ourselves
in cellophane.
To escape just
to be caught again.
Bad synesthesia
keeps us up.
Practice spitting bitch
in the dark.
They said:
“Put your hands up
for the bubbles.”
They said:
“Put your hands up
where I can see them.”
And the summer
was orange.
And the summer
was over.


Running always
a cramp,
can I run/
should I run—
Rub the calf.
To the feet?
Already a light above.
Should I run:
“Should I run?!”


As if he lived
in darkness,
only at night.
As if some
nocturnal thing.
The sequence
hard events
to parse
the triggering kiss
we know comes first.
Next, the soldiers
rush from right—
iron-black arm
claws for throat
the traitor’s furrow—
drive the ensemble
left, into
the Evangelist:
stumbling, scrambling,
beseeching blind—
upturned eyes ablaze,
his cape
a crimson halo
the martyr’s fate,
framing his only-open face.
Here, he abandons
his lord.
Behind it all,
the artist, absorbed,
holds a lamp
to see—to show—
Flesh & metal—
the surfaces
he most illuminates
with brutal moonlight;
the taking of Christ.


Turn on the TV.
Turn off the TV.
Try to take
a walk before
the mayor takes
your walks from you.
Turn on the TV.
Turn off the TV.
Try to listen
to only the people
Their breath.
Their breath.
Their Breath.


Whether rich
with weathering
or shackled
with flight
soft pad
before dark
along goes
an observer.
It is on, this
along of them,
for retroactive
or foresight,
shaded and
graded, gray
boons skyward.
Belief intangible,
a quotation,
and engraved.


RE DRUM cadre is a Seattle-based poetry collective with a partially rotating cast of contributors that makes work for both print & performance. For the “cadre” project, core members Alex Bleecker, Willie James, and Jeremy Springsteed were joined by Greg Bem and Justine Chan.

Nothing Happens

by Vandana Kumar

Nothing happens really in this city
Where everything has already transpired
It is night
Nobody is up
Asking questions
Or staring at the moon

The generation that argued
Wanted freedom
Did not fight enough
Suddenly packed bags instead

The little kids in the neighborhood
Are a little too little
Their noises are too basic
The kind that
Children make
Crying for food
Or for sleep

The noise of defiance
And angst
Has left the place
The nights are moist
With boredom
And yet it doesn’t rain

No smell of first love
No awkward teenagers asking
Each other out
Talking of movies first
Then plays
Then genres of books
Asking names of favorites
All the while wondering
How and when
To touch each other

The city has only the silence
Of status quo
We know our daily visitors
And our weekend guests
Even though
We ask them to sign in
Each time
At the entrance gate

This isn’t a place anymore
Where rebellion grows under the nails
Like a garden
Where a new strange bird
Sits on a windowsill
Every now and them
One that you keep admiring
As you figure out its name

This isn’t the sort of place
Where magic happens
Fireflies dance
Where the month of July
Could happen at any time of the year
Where it isn’t about its natural progression
Into the month of August

And in the quiet of the night
Love isn’t enough a force here
To overwhelm
The city has its center
And its suburbs
And I can’t tell one from the other

Be Our Guest

How strange that I see
What I now see
So differently!
Once ice cubes melted in whiskey glasses
By the warm glances we exchanged
Across crowded rooms

How odd that I now see our home
As mere house
In perfect array
No longer strands of hair
To tell the tales
Duvets in place
Have deftly replaced
Those crumpled sheets
That made both –
The novice and veteran blush

Gone are the days
When visitors shifted toes
So long was their wait
For us to make it to the door

Beware of my house
Where only
Fine porcelain smiles at you
And the cutlery gets counted twice
Once before you arrive –
Once after you are gone

Killing the Good Bacteria

The weekend would be inconvenienced
We told the children
About the impending pest control
About termite treatment and fumigators

The elder one had no complaints
In that direction
How much more legitimate could a reason get
To abstain from the daily homework drudgery

Much younger than the daughter
The son is at an age when
You can’t, but help question
The status quo

He wanted to know who had given eviction orders
Who gave us authority? He asked
To drive away rodents, ants, cockroaches
To hunt out strange rain insects
Perched on bright lights
On the neighbor’s balcony

We took over forest inspection
Then we crushed every anthill
After precise identification

I tried to reason with him
How termites infested the magic in our story books
How the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica’ hard bound special edition
Turned to dust
In my much coveted book shelf
‘A necessary attack on imperialism” he quipped

I showed red bumps and insect bites
Dengue claimed lives
In our sub-tropical regions
Son was not to be convinced
Just self-defense he said
We sold gated community apartments
At a premium
These creatures all need asylum

He had the last word
It went thus …
Isn’t being different from us
After all
Punishment enough


Vandana Kumar is a Middle School French teacher in New Delhi, India. An educator with over 20 years of experience, she is also a French translator and recruitment consultant. Her poems have been published in various national and international journals and websites like Mad Swirl; Toronto based Scarlet Leaf Review; Philadelphia based North of Oxford; UK based Destiny Poets, Lothlorien Poetry Journal; Saint Paul, Minnesota based Grey Sparrow Journal; California (U.S.A.) based The Piker Press, Dissent Voices; Canada based Halcyon Days, Founder’s Favourites, W-Poesis; Singapore based Borderless Journal, Madras Courier etc. She has featured in anthologies like Houston, Texas based – Harbinger Asylum, US based Kali Project of Indie Blu(e) Publishing etc. The Kali Project anthology is now in the North Carolina Regional Library and it was a Finalist for the 15th Annual National Indie Excellence® Awards. In November 2021, a poem of hers featured again in the Indie Blu(e) Publishing anthology titled – But You Don’t Look Sick. One of her poems on women was shortlisted in a competition organized by the Woman Inc. – TWIBB Sakhi Annual Poetry Awards 2019 (results of which were declared in March 11, 2020).

She has been published in two volumes of the World literature series on Post-modern voices and critical thought. She also writes articles on cinema that have appeared on websites and journals like Just-Cinema, Daily Eye, The Free Press Journal, Boloji.com and The Artamour. She was one of the judges for an “All India Poetry Competition” organized last year. She also co-edited the print Anthology that resulted from this competition.


by Hoyt Rogers

I unlock a side-door,
step into a waterless
well. Blind, I wait
until my cat’s-eyes
brighten in the dark.
Warily, I climb a hundred
stairs: they angle off
like branches, creaking
in a funnel of wind.
I pause; pause again.
I frame pictures
engraved on air.


A cramped landing
before a convex door.
I turn the tarnished key.
A cylindrical room,
a ring of portholes,
scattering yellowed
disks along the floor.
I seem to be in a tower;
I look out, safe at last.
The sea is taut, a ribbon
of navy-blue foil.
A quarter-moon
skims the horizon,
its prow and stern
on an even keel:
a shiny boat,
a primitive toy.
I reach out
and pick it up
with one hand.


I hold a toy boat,
but I am inside it,
the only one who knows:
we’re adrift, lost at sea,
and will never come back.
The passengers and crew
still believe in a port.
They talk in their sleep:
their babbling coma
keeps me awake.

My only refuge
is the captain’s deck.
No one remembers the day
when he fell overboard.
I lie in his hammock
and stare at the sunset.
The sky tilts
from red to gold,
aquamarine to blue,
violet to indigo,
sinks at last
into limitless black—
and then reignites,
a cinder-cloud of stars.


Hoyt Rogers is a writer and translator. He translates from the French, German, Italian, and Spanish. He has published many books; he has contributed poetry, fiction, essays, and translations to a wide variety of periodicals. His edition of Yves Bonnefoy’s Rome, 1630 received the 2021 Translation Prize from the French-American Foundation. His translation of Marco Simonelli’s Will: 24 Sonnets appeared in February 2022 at Mudlark Editions online. His forthcoming works include a poetry collection, Thresholds (MadHat Press), the novel Sailing to Noon (book one of The Caribbean Trilogy), and a translation of Bonnefoy’s The Wandering Life (Seagull Books). For more information, please visit his website, hoytrogers.com.

What It Means To Escort Her

by Jason Visconti

To soften the body at its creases,
a deranged animal in a zoo of kisses.

If I Were A Father

I would come into this world as well,
Just mark me in your inventory,

I would bait the sunrise to a newsreel,
If that’s my child’s story,

The disclaimer to love is so very small.

If Nature Were Natural

The flower of the grand ode should bloom,
Tree stalks airbrush into their journals,

The sun keeps west as landscape for a poem,
The true moon is rolled like a marble,

The night sky fills with hungry phantoms.


He is bending the scene from the lake shore of his crib,
for the swans of his mind have joined in a circle,

the sun is color coded upon the cloth of his bib,
the space between the bars means something whimsical,

he kicks up his feet with a modest stab.


Jason Visconti has attended both group and private poetry workshops. His work has appeared in various journals, including Literary Yard, California Quarterly, Valley Voices, Allegro Magazine and The American Journal of Poetry. He especially enjoys the poetry of Pablo Neruda and Billy Collins.


by John Maurer

Another year has slithered past me
Left me in knots that can’t be untied
Like being pinned between a car hood
and a tree; they are all that holds my organs in

The deceit of sheepskin I pull over my own eyes
So I won’t have to recognize that I’m the wolf
the one left behind due to injury but who refused to die
Too brutal for the masses, too gentle for my own kind

I’ve grafted my own skin to replace itself
Like eleven eggs split across two baskets
I either have six in one or a half dozen in the other
Neither both, what is given must be taken, life’s a balancing act

I’m lying on the ground with half my bones broken

Sophomore Year

I’ve got a pill box on a necklace
A cigarette behind one ear and a pencil behind the other
A regret I continue to commit in my hand

Drafting this poem with a tattoo gun on my forehead in a mirror
Like it’s the best idea I’ve ever had
Cut off the bloodline like honestly, where was it leading?

I have whiskey on my breath; she says I remind her of her dad
She says my cigarette smoke reminds me of her mother
I don’t say anything at all, I drink, I smoke, I try to smile


John Maurer is a 26-year-old writer from Pittsburgh that writes fiction, poetry, and everything in-between, but their work always strives to portray that what is true is beautiful. They have been previously published in Claudius Speaks, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Thought Catalog, and more than eighty others. @JohnPMaurer (johnpmaurer.com)  


by Juanita Rey

I refuse to be hit on
in a laundromat.

I sit on this bench,
senses shut down,
as if I’m in a coma.
So don’t speak to me.
I am not a person.
I am not here.

And you’ve mistaken
the intent of that green dress.
the message in
that strapless black bra.

You misread the situation.
My clothes did not
put you up to this.


Sounds pass between
these adjoining apartments
but bodies do not.
My neighbors dine
at their small kitchen table.
I pick on leftovers at mine.
I hear their shower
but I don’t rinse under it.
We each have our own water,
our own bodies to scour.

I say hello when I see them
in the corridor.
And they return my greeting.
But we each go in our own doors.
There’s no comingling.

My neighbors are a middle-aged couple.
I am a young single woman.
If years and situations
were a wall,
they’d be the ones I hang my paintings on.


I am learning,
for the first time in so long,
that all my tests are normal.

The doctor advises:
more calcium in my diet,
exercise regularly.

She still prescribes something.
It’s in her nature.

She knows
wellness is the first step
toward sickness.
In the meantime,
have a cure.


Juanita Rey is a Dominican poet who has been in this country five years. Her work has been published in Pennsylvania English, Opiate Journal, Petrichor Machine and Porter Gulch Review.

Indigo and Half Moon

by Paul Rabinowitz

11:46 a.m.

A woman wearing a down jacket with silver duct tape clutches the hand of a young child. She throws a half empty coffee cup into the bin under the counter, walks past a full length mirror and glances at her reflection. Twisting her torso to fit into the frame she piles her hair atop her head and notices a gentleman in the back of the cafe gazing at her. She turns towards the exit then cranes her neck to check storm clouds gathering over a playground at the intersection of Pitt and Grand Street. She hoists the child and steps out. Moments later they return. She hushes the crying child that clutches her soaked jacket. The gentleman in the corner of the crowded cafe signals to them to take a seat at the table where he sits. She glances at me sketching the scene then releases her wet hair. I watch as it falls around her shoulders. She sets the child down as the gentleman rises, waving to get her attention. The woman saunters across the floor like a prima donna on stage. He reaches into his worn travel bag and gives the mother a bright blue bird. She rubs her hand over the soft fabric. The child grabs the stuffed animal and runs to the mirror. Glancing at her reflection, she sways back and forth with two hands clutching the wings. She catches my gaze and freezes. The mother turns away from her daughter’s reflection, pushes a candle jar to the edge and leans across the table close to the gentleman. She remains focused on the movement of his lips. The child stomps her feet, puts the bird under her jacket then disappears among the crowds gathering on Grand Street

2:53 p.m.

If I use
a phrase
bird enthusiast
blue eyes

in the
first stanza
of my poem

will I need
for the middle
or end

to explain
why you

star chart
and dream catcher

and meet
a bird watcher

to view
a male

a cactus
to stake
its claim

and shiny

for nightfall
star patterns
to appear

for clues

to navigate
a vast

half moon
in the distance

4:43 p.m.

In a state
of hypnotic
a moth
near a chosen

the flame
is the moon

the nocturnal
then falls
unable to
its evolutionary

as when you
past the mirror
storm clouds
eyes glazed
like a boxer
hit on the jaw

neck snaps
light dims
while falling
to the ground
laid a pillow
on the canvas

and in a state
of hypnotic
you twist
your head
glance at me
the scene

throwing fresh
on my paper
like a painter
under night sky
full moon

as you rise

order coffee
extra cream
and sugar
find a cushioned
to rest upon
until storm clouds

as I slide
my poem
across the table
colorful phrases like

new places
we’ll travel to

sand soaked
in orange light

eternal summers
with no past

break the chain
around your neck

like Jackson Pollock
day after day
I’ll splash
new words
against adobe
indigo dripping
raw sienna

so when your offspring
finds us
from both ends
we’ll watch
as she throws
the animal
into the air

and wait
to see
which direction
the dry wind

the bird


Paul Rabinowitz is an author, photographer and founder of ARTS By The People, a non-profit arts organization based in New Jersey. Through all mediums of art Paul aims to capture real people, flaws and all. He focuses on details that reveal the true essence of a subject, whether they be an artist he’s photographing or a fictional character he’s bringing to life on the page.

Paul’s photography, short fiction and poetry have appeared in many magazines and journals including New World Writing, Waxwing Literary Journal, Pif Magazine, Courtship of Winds, Burningword, Evening Street Press, The Sun Magazine, Grub Street Literary Journal, The Montreal Review, The Metaworker, Adirondack Review, Bangalore Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, The Oddville Press and others. Paul was a featured artist in Nailed Magazine in 2020 and Mud Season Review in 2022. Paul was nominated for Best of the Net in 2021 for his Limited Light photo series and also nominated for the Maria Mazziotti Gillan Literary Service Award. Paul is the author of Limited Light, a book of prose and portrait photography, and a novella, The Clay Urn. Paul is working on a multimedia novel called Confluence, and has completed a poetry collection called truth, love and the lines in between. His poems and fiction, Little Gem Magnolia, Villa Dei Misteri, Confessional and The Lines In Between are the inspiration for 4 short films. Villa Dei Misteri and Little Gem Magnolia won best Experimental Films at the RevolutionMe and Oregon Short Film Festivals. 

Paul has produced mixed media performances and poetry films that have appeared on stages and in theaters in New York City, New Jersey, Tel Aviv and Paris. Paul is a written word performer and founder of The Platform, a monthly literary series in New Jersey, and Platform Review, a journal of voices and visual art from around the world. Paul’s videos, photography and poems appeared in his first solo exhibit called Retrospective With Reading Glasses at CCM Gallery in New Jersey. He is currently at work co-writing a television series with author Erin Jones called Bungalow.



by Stephen Mead

To rip the stars out of yourself
you must first become sky, a horizon with tugboats,
foghorns blasting underneath. How, though dulling sight,
mist amplifies everything. Poke it, a piñata, you pierce your own flesh,
shower panes, cut crystal, a tinkling crescendo.
Swirl, retrieve all. After this, feeling is easy.


Black lake, paddle boats, the foot bridge silhouetted,
an elegance crossing over as mist slowly blots,
mist taking the waves, the small shores,
the surrounding woods into a Chinese scrim,
its dogwood images in ink, hand-painted,
& the liquid of all of this, the fluidity being
damp London rooks lifting from the gray,
the nostalgic brown, the stark branches…

Here happiness comes upon me,
happiness as childhood travels, adolescence prolonged
over soggy fields, hills, grass blades, all a twisting
vine of half-winter, half-spring before the boundaries
of parks, undesignated, nature preserves, nature stakes
claim in with every crooked creek a jagged ribbon
streaming through…

Cool tributaries swollen with thaw, my veins are
the life blood of some legacy’s landscape bequeathed fresh
from my parents for, god, how I love, taste
all this old agelessness calling us spirituous as we shift,
dissipative, return true again surely as this great lace of air,
air everywhere, holding us out, in, out, in, out, in.

The Loss

Rooms return you, rooms, the cafe, hallways, memories in a flood of flickers & you, suddenly back, Jack-lovely in this destiny pack.

I hold the cards still & you are not missing any more than a cloud floating from my gaze to trace the entire sky.

Maybe heaven really is so planetary & global with you one of the stars over a very private sleep.

From dreams I wake wondering if you’ve been here & I slept too sound except your gone face shows up, intensifying the lack.

I make coffee, smoke a cig, & divine your life in mine yet heart by heart, the flow of rooms, hallways, walks, those paths that crossed to last beyond the knowing of my time or your’s.

We’re a Little Nervous

Lighting a firecracker with a cigarette – pops, pops
all around the picnic table, old knots blown smoky—–
Watch the wood fly. Count your fingers. Check
your hearing. Dad’s reliving a ten-year-old’s Fourth:
gun powder, gun powder, a Western shoot-out
in his hands.

No wonder the dog’s hiding & mom went in the house.
Listen, I’m trying to keep my eyes open.
Whose turn is it? Uh huh, uh huh. Give me that thing.
Don’t go ’til just before the moment – come on, come on
This time let dad sweat a bit.

Now comes lightning, hours later, a storm watch incarnate:
winds slamming doors, toppling plants, hard rain sheeting
the screens, the too-long heat wave & fireworks gone to ash.

Dad’s pacing somewhere. Mom’s wishing she didn’t quit
Virginia Slims. Leagues away, here I am, sound-wired
& wondering where is the cat. Flash. Bang. Crackle.
Damn that animal—–

Any candles? A flashlight?
The tempest rumbles crash.
This umbrella’s got a metal tip.
These loafers aren’t leather.
Hell, Zachary, where are you?

Coffee in a slick fist, gas for the search party—
I breathe fire, wet silver, yellow gasp
showing sea-blue depths, & I think of Hitchcock,
& I think of warfare, & I think of the dread-laced thrill
of a cracker, little soldier, combusting sparks
in fingers just ten years here on earth.


Stephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer. Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online. He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the Health Insurance. Currently he is resident artist/curator for The Chroma Museum (The Chroma Museum), artistic renderings of LGBTQI historical figures, organizations and allies predominantly before Stonewall.