a flock of spandex cyclists take the unexpecting road like fighter jets
a blunt contrast to the rickety wheeled meth head
twitching towards them
cars oink by
quaking over that too thin white line
quivering to devour them all
because this road
been on a bender
cars can barely hang on
as it jokes and chokes the hillside
with corn stalking the banks
wishing it was a river or the seaside in summer
just at the right time of day
when the sun and the moon shine down together like a cross-eyed girl
stuck in the warm fluffed bed
wreathed by domesticats and dogs snoring
made a sandwich of myself
I will live off the stored fat
until there is nothing but crumbs
the purrrrr of the skin and bone feline
king of the mountain
syncopates with the rumble of cars
patting down the street
rat a tat tapping my windows
unopened books and a revolver on the nightstand
not enough blanket to cover my cold feet
I thought I heard you in the kitchen
running water dirty feet
saw the tip of a head above the door behind me
reflection of someone riding a bike in the hall mirror
must be the ghost you insisted we had
dog toys rolling uphill
the cat staring down the corner
but where are you now
maybe you just could see the future
so who is haunting who…
running each other over every day
sandwiched like a mack truck
maybe we made it
no death comes early for the poor man
with a wink and a nudge
and vultures don’t give a shit
we pass yawns back and forth
almost as intimate as french kisses on the porch swing
catching whiffs of nostalgia
needling into that summer dress
and I was such a good girl
sit lay roll over
it’ll be over soon
so lily livered
swallowing poppies like candy
staining the grass with her perennial gardens
glads winking at her nose
changing her diaphanous mind
quicker than a soiled diaper
a little too late for the wrist cut roses
trickling warm and salty over her cuticles
telling her to replant before someone else does
Marcella Benton lives in Lakeland, Florida, with her husband and pets. She and her husband own and operate a screen printing and embroidery company, Whatever Tees.
by Bakhyt Kenzheev
Empty streets, deep gaps beneath the doors.
The autumn world is cool and fleshless.
The forty-year old poplar above my head
still rustles with its tinfoil foliage.
Its owner, by next summer, is bound
to saw it down—so it doesn’t block the sun,
so it doesn’t rustle, doesn’t sing above me,
doesn’t wreck the pavement with its roots,
and you can’t breathe deep enough—but want to—
of even the September bitterness, the final feeble sun…
by Anna Akhmatova
I was raised in checkered silence,
in the chilly nursery of the young century.
The voice of man was harsh−
it was the wind whose words were dearest to me.
I cherished burdocks and nettles−
most of all the silver willow.
And, gratefully, it lived
with me all my life, its weeping branches
fanning my insomnia with dreams.
−Strangely−I outlived it.
Out there a stump stands, and other willows
speak with foreign voices
beneath our skies.
And I am silent…as though a brother has died.
by Andrei Voznesensky
Someone is beating a woman
in a car so hot and dark
only the whites of her eyes shine.
Her feet batter the roof
like berserk searchlight beams.
Someone is beating a woman.
The way that slaves are beaten.
she yanks open the door and drops
onto the road.
Someone races towards her,
flogs her, drags her
face down in the stinging nettles…
Scumbag, how deliberately he beats her,
Stilyaga, bastard, tough guy,
his dashing shoes, as slender as a flatiron,
stabbing into her ribs.
Such are the pleasures of rebel soldiers,
the delights of peasants…
Somewhere, stamping under moonlit grasses,
someone is beating a woman.
Someone is beating a woman.
Century on century, no end in sight.
It’s the young that suffer this. Somberly
our wedding bells stir up alarm.
Someone is beating a woman.
And what is with the blazing welts?
That’s life, you say—how so?—
someone is beatin a woman.
But her light is steadfast,
death-defying and divine.
She lays there placid like a lake,
her eyes tear-swollen,
yet still, she doesn’t belong to him
any more than the stars to the sky.
And the stars? They’re pounding
like raindrops on black glass.
her grief-fevered forehead.
by Miguel Hernandez
The cemetery lies close
where you and I are sleeping
among blue prickly pears,
blue ancient-plants and children
screaming full of life
if a dead body darkens the road.
From here to the cemetery everything
is blue golden crystal clear.
Four steps and the dead.
Four steps and the living.
Crystal clear blue and golden,
my son, out there, seems far away.
Domenic James Scopa is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. His work was selected in a contest hosted by Missouri State University Press to be included in their anthology Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, volume 3. He is a student of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Program, where he studies poetry and translation. He is also a staff writer for the literary journal Verse-Virtual, a book reviewer for Misfit Magazine, and a professor of literature at Changing Lives Through Literature. His poetry and translations have been featured in Reunion: the Dallas Review, here/there: poetry, Touchstone Magazine, The Bayou Review, Three and a Half Point 9, The Mas Tequila Review, Coe Review, Cardinal Sins, Boston Thought, Howl, Misfit Magazine, Poetry Pacific, Untitled with Passengers, Gravel, Crack the Spine, Stone Highway Review, Apeiron Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Literature Today, Tell Us a Story, Verse-Virtual, Malpais Review, Les Amuses-Bouches, Shout Out UK, Fuck Art, Let’s Dance, Sediments, Birds We Piled Loosely, and Empty Sink Publishing.
If the ocean was
full of flowers,
how long would it
take for them to wilt?
How long before petals became chips?
Natural with sea salt.
And would they look
When you bite a clover flower
and press it between
somehow that blossom
unfolds on the buds
of your tongue.
-no, the flowers
aren’t bouquets or
accordions but carousels like
sticky fingers, maybe?
But the ocean is full of them and so
is your mouth-
your lips spit pollen;
there is no ark to
Your head is a buoy,
stems, sepals, petals, seeds.
Close your mouth
I told you I’m allergic to pollen.
hand me that leaf
we rescued last fall
to press between the p’s
it paled anyways
like a dry wrist
all we have are the photographs
of our fingers
dusty with chlorophyll
It’s hurricane season
-so sue me for
boarding up my windows
you didn’t tell me you would
be here throwing
Josey Parker is a frazzled student and coffee enthusiast who somehow finds time to write copious amounts of poetry and flash fiction. Her work has previously appeared in the Claremont Review. Although she is an author, she is not in fact, dead.
scaled for living
presses against a zero-degree sky,
the day’s beginning light
opening like a book.
The morning so frozen
will not allow the gibbous moon
hovering over still-waiting lamplights,
all their nightly duty done.
And I: supine across the linens
before this scene
as in a Rousseau tableau,
lying like a cut-out
in my own jungle,
each part outlined clearly
like the white snow-capped roofs
against the icy blue horizon.
I think that you will edge me off the canvas
and paste me to the section
where you live.
honoring Pete Seeger
We’ve assumed you
beyond your natural shifts and turns,
morphing historical perspective,
birthing ourselves into your river grace,
iron and metal bridged
across your girth,
wave against will.
Adaptable in a marketable world,
your iconic flow
your pristine nature filled
with natives and intruders,
the lush natural and
the burden of the built,
from ambitious towers
to towering trees
to the tread of silence
near old wilderness.
You begin at the north,
and push your power south,
delivering in a democracy of spirit,
challenged, fierce then passive,
history glinting off your journeys,
truth remaining in your depths,
powering through the harbor,
your own story
obscured by ours.
An early April day, arms full of grocery bags,
frost in the air not yet done,
I walked toward the house, stopped,
shocked by the sudden sight,
their gleaming bodies
laid out across rocks rimming the fountain
like civil war soldiers
waiting to be recognized and buried.
The porch where I sat evenings
watching the small waterfall
leech through rocks,
frothing into a pool rimmed with tiger lilies,
was far from soothing now.
How to know the autumn before
that ice would seal a wet tomb
before those innocents could escape?
A city girl, I couldn’t warn them
of nature’s ways.
Bags fallen at my feet, I spotted him
through our picture window,
sitting casually, New York Times in hand.
How he loved the crossword puzzle,
its setup of boxes, the clean, neat lines,
the completion of tiny words,
the supposition of victory.
This was complete, too:
death at the end of long years,
memories frozen over with no future,
laid out to view.
He thought those frogs were a warning
but they were only seeking a proper burial,
of what was long deceased.
The truth is
this is a fearful place,
flanked with platitudes,
with magical thinking,
failure drowning in cocktails,
lust laughing in a sophomoric comedy
and smoke curling
the clouded forbidden air.
There’s a lot of leftover
and broken philosophies.
We assent to camouflage,
a whimsical toast,
a sea of well wishing,
the rejuvenation of a spa weekend.
Before the dusk of empty bottles,
pill prompted memories,
a closing door,
we consider praying again,
measures of redemption
kicking us back onto the cross,
always just shy of resurrection.
Karen Corinne Herceg graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University with a B.A. in Literature/Writing. In 2011, she received graduate credits in an advanced writing curriculum with emphasis on editing and revision. She has published in independent, small press publications and has published a book of poetry, Inner Sanctions. As a recipient of New York State grants, Karen has read at various venues, universities and libraries on programs featuring such renowned writers as Pulitzer Prize winner John Ashbery and has studied and read with such well-known poets as David Ignatow and Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Schultz. Publications include Literary Mama, The Furious Gazelle, Immortal Verses, From A Window: Harmony and Inkwell. Her short story, “Knitting In Transit”, was published in Chrysalis Magazine, and she has completed her first full-length novel, Diva! Her current writing projects include a new volume of poems and co-authoring a memoir with award winning music producer Glenn Goodwin. Karen is a featured poet on the Hudson Valley poetry scene. She resides in Orange County, New York.
Visit Karen on Facebook and at her Website: karencorinneherceg.com.
how do we bend the mind
to fit the sound of what is?
what is the tone and notes
of the chords of our dreams?
who asks the questions we
struggle to answer?
when do mind and memory
marry and live happily ever after?
where are we and what are we doing
when they come for us?
why do we vibrate like bees in a glass jar
when we are so alive with love?
Fish will walk on land, and frogs drop from the sky,
zeppelins will explode and rain fire,
newscasters will turn a blind eye to joy,
and meteorologists will forecast non-existent weather patterns.
My sweater is too tight, and my pyjamas don’t fit.
When Archduke Ferdinand starts out in his armored vehicle,
the world, at prayer and unsuspecting, will be caught off guard
and wobble off kilter the rest of its days.
Signals from space will be misinterpreted
as cosmic static and interstellar background noise.
My nose will be elected president
and declare a state of apathetic disenchantment.
Black ants and red ants will form an alliance
that will elevate water cooler small talk to metaphysical
speculation and force governing bodies to take stock
of entomological trends as socio-economic indicators.
Masturbation will become a national sport.
Hand towel stock will skyrocket.
Personal declaration will be denounced as capitalist claptrap.
My undershirts will go in hiding with the Witness Protection Program.
Pensive moments will be outlawed outright.
Last one to leave will be expected to turn out the lights.
Alan C. Reese owns and operates an independent subsidy publishing business, Abecedarian Books, Inc. He is the author of the chapbook Reports from Shadowland. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Smartish Pace, Gargoyle, The Baltimore Sun, Maryland Poetry Review, Potomac Review, Delaware Review, Welter, Grub Street, Attic, Bicycle Review, Danse Macabre, and the Loch Raven Review. He teaches writing at Towson University.
How it is and how it isn’t…
We look for you as if a lost key,
retracing our steps, constructing models,
comparing the right eye to the left.
We employ statistics, the blunt instruments
of guesswork and guesstimates,
and see little harm in chicanery.
Lies can be good for you.
We’re building a better monster,
history airbrushed, the rain holding off,
sin considered an accomplishment.
Now we’re tapping the collective consciousness,
a ready source of gods and archetypes.
We’re instructing you in the art of complacency,
the law on the side of the lawyers.
A hush falls over the Earth
as we prepare our presentation,
including suitable lighting and soothing ambiance.
Even the dead are invited to dine.
Even the living.
You were the Wife of Bath
and I was Claudius Ptolemy.
I was your sixth or seventh husband
and you were my invisible lover, Mrs. Succubus.
We played games in the sack by candlelight.
We crossed deserts.
Some days we didn’t even know each other.
Little wonder I was so confused.
How does one label their experiences
when rampaging Visigoth’s are at the gate?
With biblical floodwaters rising?
In these damnable firestorms?
One minute we’re Bedouins in a Saharan caravan
and the next we’re planting tomatoes back in Omaha.
“Now you see me, now you don’t,”
you cried out from behind a burning mulberry bush.
And I couldn’t have said it any better.
They wanted a volunteer.
I brought them a head on a silver salver.
I pulled your name out of a hat.
I gave them my neighbour’s phone number.
They required donations;
all for a good cause, we were assured.
So I took the loose change out of your pocket,
the gold fillings out of your mouth,
the two pennies reserved for your eyelids.
The gods demand a sacrifice, they insisted.
Of course, we nodded in unison,
jostling for the honour of being first,
taking turns jumping into the bonfire.
Unrestrained in our passion.
Pushcart nominee Bruce McRae is a Canadian musician with over 900 poems published internationally, including Poetry.com, Rattle and The North American Review. His first book, The So-Called Sonnets is available via Silenced Press and Amazon. To see and hear more poems go to ‘BruceMcRaePoetry’ on YouTube.
The thin-lashed girl gets it,
a single spinal chill at every roadkill.
It’s not real, she repeats, picturing
a purple pig balloon that’d careened
through the sky, tangling about its
one dimensional, curly-tailed string
and fell at such high speeds that it hit
a telephone pole line, exploding ham
on either sidewalk. Waiting
and watching for a good laugh,
the kids give her a home and lodge
their popcorn kernels behind her tonsils.
She shoves a finger through her ear
to scratch the roof of her mouth, to
speak again if a loved one has been affected
by mesothelioma, legal compensation is
just around the corner. As children use their
heels to scrape sulphuric tar from the
defrosting water line and then
examine candied teeth with a
knife’s thinnest glittering edge between
waves, sweat beads accumulate on
the girl’s palms like transparent
bowling balls. She holds them out and
notices tremors. Asbestos rains down.
The kids ask her to drink fluids to cure
that dry cough but all the water is
leaving to house fishes in the dictionary.
My aunt trims conversation with the real
estate agent. Mentions he might come back with a better
offer. All I ever wanted was a place to call home.
Deadheading helps the flower grow fuller, stronger, clearing her
throat with chested coughs, aunt takes cuticle
scissors to infected orchid roots hanging from slatted baskets
nailed to the mantle. Rotted tissue flutters mostly
to the wood. Careful to not slice any live stems, she issues
an apology to the dead leaves. My fingertips churn pots of fern
fiber and volcanic stone. I guide her root
before packing the surface with charcoal flakes. Now firmly
planted in the coconut shell, she emits a white
lemon aura. Her silhouette morphs. Purple fragile now, swallows
moisture from the air, and begs me to sacrifice
the bloom. Mindful of keeping her from lying in water,
I pray she’ll have room when fully grown.
But on a molecular level, dryness. No matter
the post-op sweat — her skin, like her emotions,
remains rubbery. To live in a white box shouldn’t cost
this much: a view of the stucco roof, its squares that
protrude from the ceiling to prop up a man in blue
who’s eating a wheat bread and jelly sandwich like
it’s the last meal. Scrubs, a patchwork of used vinyl
wristbands, collect in linoleum basements like fraud.
She drops her pendant cross in a tall glass filled
with denture solution, and hangs a row of teeth
from a silver chain around her neck. Her inability
to inflect certain vowels is as if her lungs occlude
apologies. Like the important things are slipping
away, she asks about the demon men in overalls
sitting at the foot of her bed. It’s hopeful to imagine
she’s talking about the food tray cluttering her toes.
His children’s only solace
is desiccation. I say
sorry, he’s hanging around
in my mind pissing himself.
The doorframe — humor and bloat
are observed by relatives,
I hate their stiff face muscles.
Were you close to him? I’m just
asking how a two hundred
fifty pound man fits in a
small mahogany box. Voice
mail condolences begin
jarring birds from telephone
pole lines. After falling through
a cracked window, their necks thud
against marble countertops.
Chaos is the only true
family history. Home-
made soggy meat loaf leaves blood
streaks along the sink’s steel walls,
but I don’t speak because none
of this can be removed with
bleach. The oven light’s broken,
treats smell guilty. Duct taped glass-
ware fails to keep the juice in,
and cellophane bubbles up
around paper plates holding
stale brownies. I’m wondering
why a blue dog leash would kill
a man. You may be seated.
Lauren Vargas is currently working towards an MFA at Queens University and is a full time writing curriculum-tutor in Southern California. She believes in the power of language and poetry. Her works have previously appeared in ElevenEleven, Ampersand Literary Journal, Chinquapin Literary Journal, and CalibanOnline.
Dear wife, everything is not a relationship:
the pipe below the sink leaking water
is not always an example of neglect changing everything
(old age has a hand in things, too)
this mop hair full of brownish grime
no longer able to clean surface scars
will be renewed with bleach and detergent,
even thick grass tangled into stubbornness
can be tamed with an adequate lawn mower.
Dear wife, friends are sometimes
enough. Enough to carry one day forward
into another. Night is not always a comfort,
yet it can be, and we can fix
this old house, reinvent it to ourselves.
Perhaps then you will be able to understand
thinking and passion do differ,
the full moon has the same beautiful face,
we are still invited to the canopy of the forest.
I nurture the wrong people,
gangrene girls with color scars,
small breasts like the yellow cusps of dandelion.
I have broken so many fights
the count is beyond fingers,
We walk the stone paths of the zookery.
Ivy, oat, barley. Great frogs, green shade,
wood ducks, a rock ledge.
water lilies like thick fish, spotted fish,
striped fish turning delicate hoops.
We eat lunch on stone benches jutting out over water,
a breeze ghosting through spiked grass.
Swifts move through the air like Chinese fighting kites
and there by the fallen tree, an egret,
wings stronger than hunger,
wings stronger than selfishness.
My girls do not see the wood duck, the swift.
They do not see the fish, the large frog.
My girls complain about the walking,
this was a trip to the zoo,
we came to see animals
not Lake Michigan,
not the break wall,
not a rumble of rock blocking waves,
the water green gray blue,
not shells, not algae,
not sand thick with alewives.
I nurture caged girls,
and when the rock dove lands by thrown bread,
I nurture girls who glory in the herring gull’s attack,
a rock dove retreating quickly,
wild wings sparking like fields of lasers.
we had to walk two miles into town,
the wind not the rabid raccoon we feared,
but the gentle new boy who also disliked baseball.
The fields snowbound,
everywhere fairy dust and stars,
the sky a frozen lake, thistle and cottonwood seed.
When we passed the high school, my son said,
“The new windows look nice.”
On the bridge, he pointed to the four deer
buried to their neck,
body heat creating puddles of snow
and the four of them stared at the two of us,
unafraid, unabashed, silent.
When we entered the first store,
removed our heavy scarves
and freed our hair from hoods
hot spiced apple cider awaited us,
and at the second and at the third.
We lingered with people we knew and people we did not,
shared stories of huge snowmen,
angels we drew with our arms
and then a man much older than all of us
entered the bookstore with a large snowball.
“Perfect for packing,” he said,
tossing it out the door,
We could not wait to get home and go cross country skiing.
the entire landscape a stained glass in whites,
tree limbs transformed into liberty roses
and white poppies
I will tell you this and I will tell you this this time
In the register of the person
In the rhythm of the building
In the stepping stones of one handshake to another
In the bathroom of broken concrete and scarred walls, graffiti and cracked windows
Twice the dream came over me like fog
Only more intense
Like thunder with lightning
A crack with fire
A break in the line
I woke crying and uncomfortable.
The terrible thing about writing in the morning is you forget that someone you love can
Or you never knew them before they die
Or the breath you breathe is meaningless because someone you should know is dying.
Then there is nothing left to tell.
Michael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses. His work has appeared in The Café Review, American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, Poetrysuperhighway.com and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including The Shooting Gallery (Samidat Press, 1987), Poems from the Body Bag (Ommation Press, 1988), A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), What Stone Is (Fractal Edge Press, 2005), I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011) and Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).
The revenue a chat room derives from a duodenum
and a stapled pouch,
a stomach’s subculture of gain, cleanse, loss
in the bypass
gifted to me when I turned nineteen.
The buffets it wrested,
the domain I registered,
all those ethers clamored around a meme,
the social word-shit one types
“like my lap band” “tweet my gout”
streaming on alt-dot haunts.
My searchability full-blown, I’m a phoenix
gone gastric with more boyfriends than you
have optic nerves and that’s Ohio alone.
Mother, I’ve macerated my tract,
the live feed of a chafing dish
less invasive than bariatric.
Father, meet Evan from Ashtabula.
He crowd-funded my flab,
one download from betrothed.
The writer wearing a mercurochrome corset
gives you a picture of half-eaten pie,
you inure a blood phobia,
the transitive inferred.
She sends the angel
with candy-wrapper wings.
The Rapture is a dinner bill, you
are its Andes mint. You jostle a trinity:
the abortion building
next to the Weight Watchers
near the Flapjack Shack,
rev the Z in Nazareth, smite its arcade.
I am the nightmare of every environmentalist
turned conversion therapist
hoping to biodegrade
the gay away.
Woe to the zealot
who’s chained himself
to my landfill, its damnables
poking out of a cardboard pond,
diorama forsaken because I ran out of tape.
tribunals and a tin glade.
My handrail, on eulogy,
saying, “absence of rings kept me
beautiful, self-realization drained him alone.”
Jon Riccio studied viola performance at Oberlin College and the Cleveland Institute of Music. A recent Pushcart nominee, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Paper Nautilus, Qwerty,Redivider, CutBank Online, Waxwing and Switchback, among others. An MFA candidate at the University of Arizona, he resides in Tucson.
we worship the women who are barely there
pigment void eyes
and platinum white hair
her torso is so thin she threatens to disappear
her skin is so white it’s verging on clear
she is a silent image with no voice of her own
she is an object of perfection — a capitalist drone
she is the height of Dennett’s zimbo —
the disengaged bimbo
and we’ll never hear her theory of mind
and she’ll never skull-crushingly illuminate humankind.
But there are these women who are filled to the brim
with pigments so demanding —
as to color the passion within
with voices so loud your brain will vibrate
and you will thank her out loud for showing you heaven’s gate
Her curves are fierce with unapologetic life
and her enormous dark eyes strike like an amorous knife
We must worship the earth as we worship the air
we must worship the women who are actually there.
We are perched on a peak as we watch it collide,
deep and destructive.
The static in our veins
is the wreckage of the week
and the avalanche has become conductive.
We will see it unfold
before we have time to catch up
and the bottom falls out all over.
We crack like eggs into a syrupy glue,
the contents of our souls simmer out like steam.
We are but a dream in the land of a baffled philosopher.
And so we lay naked,
in the contents of one another
hoping to make something more than a child.
More than another one
of what we are
or always were
We are the seams of dreams
meeting as one defies
and we seek to retreat
from the hearts pulse
into the cosmic beat.
Claustrophobic thoughts, I must be insane
Packed tight in the tousled tubes of my brain
Electric, shaking, wild, and dense
A vicarious vacuum of intangible sense.
Conflicted and raw, my heart beats in my eyes
Pick the wrong card and the fantasy dies.
Muffled truths cry out in dirty-rotten air
You’ve said it before mama, you sincerely don’t care.
But ill stand idle in the night neglecting the drowning hours
Dismal and dead are their strong standing forever-powers.
Your mind is so weak.
Your moans are so meek.
Now picture this
Without word or a rhyme
You drop into space
One inch at a time.
Give me your eyes
I can give them true vision
Now give me your heart
It’s not your decision.
It feels as if I am filling in an impulse, or a beat, what feels like an intuitive template or scaffold that I never asked or looked for. The process of my work often feels more like an unfolding rather than a directed venture there is never a point A to B, Its a point A to which ever point feels natural. My portraits are all informed by the psychology and personality of the subject as well as my own state. I strive to find an integral balance of external and internal impressions, a marriage of the objective and subjective. I would consider my photography to be an attempt to use my perspective and addition of various edits to reconcile the objective information a camera provides with the subjectivity of the shooter’s perspective and imagination. Finally, my abstracted pieces are the expression and solidification of something that I cannot verbalize, they are physical imprints of my innermost personal interpretation of reality. All of my pieces are learning experiences, I have mastery over none of them nor do I attempt to, i wish only for my pieces to reflect intentionality and to have autonomous agency.
My name is Lauren Martino and I refuse to write about myself in the third person. I paint, I write poems, I take pictures, I draw, I sculpt, I build sets, I make things. The day I stop learning is the day I die. I am the daughter of two painters who gave me the experience of a lifetime by raising my twin brother and I in a building called Westbeth Artists Housing. I pray one day to be at least half as talented as they are. Taking summer classes at FIT throughout my adolescence had an enormous part in shaping me into who I am today. I am currently embarking on a new journey as a part time student at the New York Studio School. I have shown at Westbeth Gallery under the alias of Heather Bridges because if they knew how old I was they wouldn’t have accepted my work. I have worked as a Set Designer for the ID channel and other independent projects. I am young, with time I will collect more anecdotes to inspire and impress perfect strangers, but for now this is me and that is all.
Here on my side of the ocean, the mist
is a mantle of woolen smoke around the cliff
so many women have jumped from. I walk
steadily to the old chapel so many fisherwomen
have prayed in for the return of their husbands,
but I’m not here to pray. I stand and bear witness
to the crumbling blue and white tiles that form
the Blessed Mother of the Afflicted, the saint
of women plagued by fear and famine, phantasms
of both the mind and the body. No one knows I’m here
to plead for my mind back, for the return of the brain
that belonged to a woman who feared nothing.
To the kneeling woman on my left and the two
to my right, I am nothing more than an overwhelmed
tourist who forgot her camera but doesn’t care.
Rain is coming, and that is one less thing to get wet.
Later, on your side of the ocean, you tell me
about the sweltering heat of mid-afternoon in Newark:
It’s murder out here, even the sparrows stick
to the bark of the cherry blossoms to stay cool.
And we all know how they love to fly, so imagine.
Tiny purple gris-gris bags,
swimming in circles in my chicken soup.
I pick them out
and lay them lifeless
on the side of my plate.
The 4×4 cut-out
cards I exchanged with only girls
in my 5th grade class on Valentine’s day
in my mother’s unfinished basement.
That pink birthmark,
a wet kiss on your lower back
hip. Your father has the very same
one he covers up every day
Hanging off the gold necklace
he gave me the Christmas after
we lost our virginities,
in it, our picture:
eighteen, unwounded, wide-smiling.
What my grandmother says
men are good at
eating. Easy like oranges,
their teeth slowly separating
Day breaks slowly over the Catskills,
tree trunks scissoring the light.
White and wide as whale teeth,
lines divide us
from other cars on the Thruway.
I’m some spare part
of rib – rheumy-eyed, documenting
all my grandmother would call madness.
We stop at Betty Beaver’s Diner
in Lewis. The heavy-lidded waitress serves us
bread and eggs as curry yellow
as the afternoon sun
breaking through the window’s grease.
Home feels four thousand miles away,
and it’s been nine lives since I overheard you
say Marriage is overrated.
Marina Carreira is a Luso-American writer from the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ. She holds a BA in English from Montclair State University and a MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers University. Marina is an adjunct professor of English at Essex County College and a correspondent for the Luso-Americano newspaper. She is curator and co-host of “Brick City Speaks”, a monthly reading series at Hell’s Kitchen Lounge in Newark, NJ. Her work is featured or forthcoming in The Acentos Review, Naugatuck River Review, Writers of the Portuguese Diaspora: An Anthology, and Paterson Literary Review.
Once it was salvation, that
First cold sip, the bitter notes.
The malty sweetness.
The bubbles in my nose.
The sun playing across the
Lot, shimmering with heat,
The empty chairs, the
Barrels of spent grains.
Once it was just so.
Then, things went astringent.
Bad end notes.
The way you stormed out,
Theatrical, past the grains,
Youth is what you loved.
Yourself too. And maybe the
Margaritas we used to drink
Naked and close, in front of
An old air conditioner. Our
Own world, that patch of
Cold in an otherwise
Close-cropped it falls,
Thick and full and defiant,
Escaping through my greedy,
No one likes
Barreling down the hill towards (a job, I’ll say it, but who cares? It’s not me. It’s life in the cracks that counts) downtown, a piston, Barry Allen, a demi-god.
Yelling, straining more with the song of it than anything else, a half-remembered tune (from the Muppets?) humming inside me somewhere.
Approaching now, the road narrowing, options narrowing. The winnowing of a day. I, the chaff. And silence. Waste. A day-long suffocation.
Stepping heavily up each stair. Each. Stair. A change in atmosphere. Pounds of pressure per square inch, pressing, bearing down. Like astronauts in training.
Astonishing. A vast wonder. Lost in it. You can hear it—or not. What is it? (a tether to an unseen weight) All about, the void.
Kent Kosack teaches English and writes poetry and prose. He lives in Seattle.
In grade three Scotty said I ain’t got no
lunch money. We were delighted.
We crowed, That means you do.
If you don’t have none, then you have
some. Mrs. Cole, otherwise kind,
had just taught us the double negative.
But Scotty, one of those kids always
moving, dirty, in trouble, starved for food,
kisses, laughter, anything and everything,
still had no money for lunch.
Some languages would let Scotty
have his doubled poverty. Russian,
for instance, negates everything.
U nevo ne bylo nichevo. Literally:
In his possession nothing of anything wasn’t.
U nevo is interesting. With him, beside him,
near him, in his possession, in his situation,
in his position, he is characterized by.
Most common English translation: he has.
U nevo nichevo. He has nothing.
English gathers round Scotty, jeering.
Don’t you know how to talk? Haven’t
you learned anything? Can’t you think?
Russian isn’t concerned with that logic.
Russian is concerned with nyet.
Nikovo nikogda nigde nichevo ne bylo.
No one never nowhere nothing was not.
A person with no lunch money could say,
U menya nichevo, ni deneg, ni obeda.
I am characterized by nothing,
nothing of money, nothing of lunch.
My black bird was bigger,
my mountains were burning.
The snows stopped coming
sometime around 1999. The wells
dried. The shower sputtering
with soap in my hair
so I was always late. That tame crow
someone set loose spying
through the skylight, jeering.
How many ways is that? Each year
the river running thinner,
fleeing its shrinking glacier.
The Arapaho said the thunderbird,
black as any bird
gets, lived just west of here.
Someone must have seen it,
the day it flapped away.
We don’t get regular afternoon
stunners the way we used to.
You could set your heart on
those 2 PM monsoons. Biblical
lightning, all that water. Now: rusting
Ponderosas, centuries old,
disrobing. All good things
must end. Perhaps nightmares
also end. Not perhaps
in our lifetimes.
Poor lost crow, these are not
the best of times
to be falling asleep.
A few months with other women,
a woman bleeds.
Ten years’ time, a woman synchronizes
with her man.
Over thousands of miles, your arousal
brings my body astir.
Men make movies, you said—now they loop
through my head.
Golden locks on our dark headboard,
naked ass raised.
If I were making this up, I’d be watching you
both; the camera’s on her.
Your currents churn through my body;
don’t think I don’t know.
Claudia Putnam’s work appears in I-70 Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, Literary Mama, Barrow Street, Artful Dodge, Cimarron Review, Confrontation, and in many other journals. A chapbook, Wild Thing in Our Known World, came out last year from Finishing Line and is available from Finishing Line Press and on Amazon. In 2011-12, she had the George Bennett Fellowship. In 2015, she’ll be at Kimmel Harding Nelson. www.claudiaputnam.com