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Christopher Stratton

Why can't I just ask her?
It can't do much harm.
She's only human,
With irresistible charm.
Her small innocent laugh,
That speaks to my soul.
Her time telling eyes,
They make me feel whole.
I guess that's enough,
To keep me away.
Asking myself everyday
Why can't I just ask her?


Next Time
Christopher Stratton

Next time I'll do better.
Next time I'll give 100%.
Next time I'll get that 3.0.
Next time I'll manage my time.
Next time I'll speak out.
Next time I'll avoid being blind.
Next time I'll test the waters.
Next time means nothing.
I've said this all last time.

Christopher Stratton was born and raised in New Hampshire. With college graduation recently under his belt, he is still trying to find his niche in the world. Though he majored in Graphic Design, he dabbles in all sorts of activities, such as blogging and writing poetry.



Omnicient Awareness
Michael Hill

Assume your life has meant nothing.
Barbarically brought into the world to
chew, sleep, school, and
devour material like cud to a cow—regurgitation.
Eventually you see flaws in the
fabric of life.
Grand plans of epiphany followed by
high paid success.
Ignore the temptations they preach. Assume
jokers and jesters laugh from planets
kind of like ours—
lining up with telescopes peeping, weighing the
merit of our planet's population.
Now assume they know our end. Because
over the hill is grass—green with Benjamin's
pudgy face—always.
Quiet, of course they hear you—but don't we all want to be heard?
Redefining standards of comparison: our earth was
sewn in our ancestors' brains as flat don't forget.
Tomorrow we'll laugh and
understand the folly of our ignorance,
verify the redundancy of our actions,
wilt before the fabric of life and our limited perception, right?
We'll vow to never let the Power
X-rate knowledge to keep smart minds dumb anymore.
Yes, of course we'll vow. But in the end, assume our lives are made up of simple
zealous moments with no connecting tissue. Scary.

Michael Hill is currently earning his BBA in Finance at The George Washington University's Business School. He is also a Psychology minor. This is Michael's first public publication but he is in the midst of finishing a collection of his works titled "Upward Plunge". Michael grew up outside of Boston in the suburb of Newton, MA.




Autumn Crepes
Larry D. Thomas

The kitchen still filled
with the scent of their cooking,
we seat ourselves in the sun—
splashed splendor of the breakfast nook.

We drizzle them with red syrup,
clutch our forks, and crush their countless
layers till sterling meets porcelain
and a bite stands alone, poised

for discreet stabbing. Our mouths water
as we contemplate the taste of flaky
pancakes thin as onionskin,
echoed even in the late-blooming tree

just outside the window,
flaunting in the morning dazzle
its curling skin of bark, the ruffling
of its red and lucent petals.

In April, 2007, Larry D. Thomas was appointed by the Texas Legislature as the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate. He retired in 1998 from a thirty-one year career in social service and adult criminal justice, and has since that time published nine collections of poems. His most recent book, Larry D. Thomas: New and Selected Poems, was issued by TCU Press in March 2008 as the fourth volume of the TCU Press Texas Poets Laureate Series. His tenth poetry collection, an e-chapbook titled The Circus, is forthcoming from Right Hand Pointing in early 2009. Among the numerous prizes and awards he has received for his poetry are the 2004 Violet Crown Award (Writers˘ League of Texas), 2003 Western Heritage Award (National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum), two Texas Review Poetry Prizes (2001 and 2004), and a $2,000.00 grant from The Ron Stone Foundation for the Study and Advancement of Texas History. His poetry has also received two Pushcart Prize nominations, a Poet˘s Prize nomination (Nicholas Roerich Museum), and three Spur Award Finalist citations (Western Writers of America). His Web site address is www.LarryDThomas.com.




Sarah Williams

Chasing away temptation,
I try not to see your eyes,
through this smoky room,
wall-to-wall, bliss filled sanctum,
where jazz drips like rain
down red walls, and
trickles off of every table.

I dip my finger
in my drink,
absently stirring
what's left of the liquor
while I stare at your shoes
to avoid your smile;

I lose myself in the high notes,
wanting to press into you
and rock to the rhythm,
head on your shoulder, hands snug at the nape of your neck,
feeling your breath on my cheek,
anticipating your words,
as they growl low in my ear,
hanging on your intonation,
and shivering as your hands
become tangled in the loose
strands of my hair
while your kiss captures the sigh
just before it escapes my lips,

but instead I order another drink,
double confusion with a twist of regret,
and scold myself for being too responsible,
desperately desiring that lost sensation of ecstasy.

Sarah Williams is a graduate of the California State University of Fresno with a BA in English and a minor concentration of creative writing with an emphasis on poetry.




Autumn wind hums to
the pumpkins in
the field—ripe orange—

Like the leaves
on the corner
hunkered in mounds.

And the ones
scoon astray
tussle in the street.

A ready rake
bunkered low
in the unmown grass.

A steady arm
takes the garbage
to the curb.

* To scoon, a verb adapted by New Englanders from Scotch dialect, means to skip or skim across water like a flat stone.

Ravi Mangla lives in Fairport, NY. His poetry has appeared in the Tipton Poetry Journal and in the summer issue of the Boston Literary Magazine. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Ghoti, Dogzplot, Wigleaf, and Hobart.


Renewed
John Ricci

The fast growing weeds have overtaken the bare, blackened ground
some of the heavy low lying scrub bushes are now sprouting new life
where only charged roots show through
We will never know what drove the two vehicles and drivers to their fiery end
All we can do is hope they have found inner peace
Nature has renewed itself, erasing the tragic loss of two young lives*

*based upon a true story: she rear-ended him on the highway and raced off, and he followed in angry pursuit, killing them both. Just a year earlier he'd had a double lung transplant. Funny how life works out.

John Ricci is a semi-retired jeweler who lives in Pawtucket, RI. This piece is his first endeavor into the literary world, and he hopes to continue in this creative vein. Some of his ideas come to him while riding his motorcycle through the countryside.



Since Sexton
Margot Brown

Lately, I paint my fingernails
and think of nineteen-year-old Louie,
a prodigy design engineer, whistling
at the coffee machine.
As yet, he doesn't come looking for me,
but I'm familiar with his prick.
It comes like anxious thousands—
in showers and bed sheets, young ladies
and possibly doughnut holes.
So it goes.

He's kind of cute in his young man way.
Maybe older than I think,
but I'd still clobber him on a date.
I know my sultry siren ways.
And this is the lightest thought
that has struck me since June.
In October, Sexton is dead—
my father's farmer spirit

goes on dying; my friend's cervix
corrodes with cancer; my lover lives
with his wife and kids in L.A.
Louie exists in my mind, uncomplex
and innocent, the same way a change
of fingernail paint makes life easy—
like smoking a cigarette
without the threat of cancer.
Strange, the attachments I form
out of desperation.

I woke up today, twelve hours later.
Percodan let me sleep, but with waking
it leaves a wordless, spiting headache.
I left tears with Lady Sexton;
half eulogized, worried talks with Maggie
blurred in the ink of a telephone bill—left
my lover, the same, in Phoenix,
Port Chester, New York and San Diego.

As for my strange father, I've had my fill
of whiskey phone calls, pleas to come
home to nurse, ingest his staggering.
Shutters clap on in suburban
Massachusetts. Wind spills the leaves.
They fall on the same side of the street
yearly. Ask anyone, "Who rakes that autumn lawn?"
My father tends his fruitless garden
like a peasant. He contemplates the town

hall like the French eyed their Bastille.
Every day I feel him skinning his own hide;
my life-time premonition of suicide.
Sometimes I wonder who'll win out:
folly, or some foggy belief in a later redemption?
Both ride his life like the leaves.

And, by now, you wonder, how did Louie
bring her to this? How did Louie, between
the old and the new colored nails, bring her to this?


Lately, to banish what I used to call my pain,
I've tried convincing myself I'm wrong
about everything. So, I caught Louie
one day—caught his light
sway as he walked, his youth as he nervously talked,
and catching his song at the coffee machine
made me happy. Louie looked untapped.
I was glad not to know him—relieved to believe
he would sniff the wine bottle cork before sipping.

I was thrilled to imagine my Louie over-cologned
for every first date. I wanted him young.
I wanted him to stay distant.
I reasoned: Louie never heard of Sexton,
cervical cancer, tragic heroes, or love affairs.
Louie's charm kept things nice. Louie's youth
kept bodies warm. You've seen where sophistication
gets us. But Louie will take his place eventually
as I have taken mine, lustily, with all the goings on.

Soon Louie won't be sweet or my secret
anymore. Then, there's something else, since Sexton,
coming home. No one was wasted more
than myself in her poems.

Margot Brown was born and raised in Massachusetts. She migrated to the Midwest as a young adult and compensates for missing the ocean by putting too much salt on her food. Margot graduated from Marquette University and, until recently, she focused on her career as a public relations executive for a Fortune 50 firm. She enjoys writing, antiques, gardening, companion animals and is an amateur bird watcher. She lives in Northern Illinois with a Hurricane Katrina evacuee (Miss Kitty), a rescued 13-year-old chocolate lab (Home Run Ernie Banks [Mr. Banks]), and her husband, Michael Morrison. Margot's work appeared in the July issue of joyful! and three of her poems will appear in the September issue of The Shine Journal. Her poetry will also be featured in the upcoming anthology, Poetry for Suzanne, published by Avalanche, later this year.



Spoiled
Elizabeth L. Collins

You knock at my door
with a sparkle in your eye,
head held high,
high hopes in your heart,
a rose in your hand,
a greeting on your lips,
and a greeting on mine:
"You're late."

Although Elizabeth L. Collins has been included as author on several scientific papers, she has only recently begun to publish her fictional writing. Her poem "Mother's Face" can be viewed at MomWritersLitMag and "Just Words" at Wordslaw. While a member of an on-line writing group, she placed in several contests.



Threatened
Michael Estabrook

I'm ashamed to admit
I'm feeling threatened
in ballroom dancing class
by another guy, tall and handsome,
a better dancer than me,
who has been eyeing my wife.
He dances with her
at every opportunity,
compliments her dancing
every chance he gets.
But this isn't high school.
I can't take him aside and demand
that he, "Leave my girl alone,"
or can I?

Over the years Michael Estabrook has published a few chapbooks and appeared in some terrific poetry magazines, but you are only as good as your next poem, and like a surfer looking for that perfect wave, he is a poet prowling for that perfect poem. Right now he is looking for that perfect poem in his wife, who just happens to be the most beautiful woman he has ever known. If he finds it anywhere he'll find it in her.


Jason Fisk

Sitting on my sister's patio furniture
shaded from the sun by the huge umbrella
drinking beer and watching my niece
smash vacuous cicada shells
on the concrete
with an oversized red plastic bat

I hated that he spent
all of his time out here

my sister said
but now I think I understand
I've spent a lot of time out here this summer
drinking and thinking
she said
staring at her beer
as if it were the first time
she'd seen it

how's she handling it? I asked
pointing the neck of my beer
toward my niece

Fine…I think…
I just hope I don't make her a man hater…
I'm constantly having to keep myself in check
Like right now…
I want to tell her to smash the hell out of those empty cicada shells
that's what men become
after you've lived with them
for six and a half years
just empty shells…
better gone than here…
but I hold my tongue
and let her enjoy
her simple destruction…


Jason Fisk lives in Chicagoland with his wife, children, and two dogs. He tries to find time to write between changing diapers and cleaning up dog doo. You can visit his website at JasonFisk.com.





As I look up from the menu
I inadvertently gaze through
An open window while a cool
Breeze gently touches my face
And it is then that I see you
For the first, but only time
Sitting there on your balcony
Wearing a black sundress and
As I watch you smoking your
Cigarette followed by another
While sipping on your drink
As the sun dips its golden fingers
Into the Pacific blue I suddenly
Miss you even though I realize
That I will never know you and it
Is then that my eyes fill with tears
Because I realize that much of life
Is a view through the window of
What could have been, perhaps
Even should have been, but then
You get up and stumble to the
Railing, and bending over you
Throw up on highway 101 and
I am suddenly released from my
Reveries and understand that
Sometimes the window of the
Present is better than what could
Have been, maybe better than even
What should have been.


Autumn Memories
Shel Bockman

As the sun moves across the sky
Beneath the incandescent tree
I stand just before twilight turns
Into night and see in the distance clear
Autumns stacked upon autumns as
The harvest moon steals the stage
On which children play in pumpkin fields
While the storyteller sings songs of a time
Well past, but still well remembered.

Shel Bockman is a professor at California State University, San Bernardino. He attended the University of Iowa years ago and took some poetry writing courses, but stopped writing poetry after receiving advanced degrees in a different field of interest. But he has started writing poetry again, and has published poems in Boston Literary Magazine, Maverick, A Little Poetry, Flutter, Words-Myth, and Kupozine.



Or Else
Oleh Lysiak

Grinning through Mexican dentures,
sparsely haired silver, hefty, game,
astride an aficionado's moto quick demon,
painfully aware of reality, I self-administer
adrenaline like old bipolar bears gotta do
or else.


Tom Bennett Said
Oleh Lysiak

"Give'em Williams a pickup
with a full tank,
fuckers'll run out of truck
long 'fore they run out of gas."
Eight-lane freeway blows
through their skulls:
one side's rush hour gridlock,
other side screams
at two hundred miles plus an hour.
Can't tell which is which.
May need to puke
or lay down.
"Say what you will
about Tom and the Williams boys,"
said Raymond Snyder,
"they're the first ones around
if anyone in the county
needs help."

Tommy wound up face down
in the San Miguel River.
Some said foul play but
truth is his heart couldn't stand
any more and exploded.

Oleh Lysiak is married to Christina Peterson. They live on the Oregon Coast. Lysiak is working on his fourth book while he restores a 1953 Hudson.