Whistler's Mother - Bob Bradshaw
Autumn Still Life - Joseph Kleponis
Old Age - Dave Davis
Circles Berserk - Oleh Lysiak
Sugar Sorrow - Oleh Lysiak
Answering Machine - Laura Rodley
Daughter - Laura Rodley
Asylum - Lois Elaine Heckman
Wednesday - Brady Peterson
Strangelove - Brady Peterson
Let Us Know - Ruth Coffey
Gone for a Walk - Marydale Stewart
Transients - Marydale Stewart
November Twilight - Marydale Stewart
Bar Room Heroes - Ryan Torres
This World Can Be So Tiring - AJ Smith
All I Want - AJ Smith
Truman - Chris Crittenden
Shade - Jim Davis
Gaia Sets Up Housekeeping - Diane Kallas
Greenwood - Jason Primm
The Grandmother I Never Really Knew - Ramona Itule-Patigian
Leaves on Edge - Carol Smallwood
No Questions Asked - Robert Laughlin
Maslow's Hierarchy - Al Ortolani
Indie Press - Doug Mathewson
I Want to Pet Frida Kahlo's Monkey - John S. Wilk
Again I Wake Before Dawn - James S. Wilk
Phantom Limbs - Deirdre Fagan
Blown Away Hungry
A hummingbird hovers
near the bobbing red feeder
its wings emerald blurs
feet tucked up tight
like frightened gray knobs
A quick sip
and it blows
into leaves showing
the silver backs of their hands
Jane Banning lives in Oregon, Wisconsin with her husband and son. She has received honorable mentions in the 2008 Micro Fiction Contest and the 2009 Glass Woman Prize Contest. Her work has appeared in the University of Iowa Daily Palette, Six Sentences, Long Story Short, Boston Literary Magazine, Lyrical Passion Poetry, Fiction365 and 52250 Flash.
Who would have thought that a simple woman
from Paterson would live out
her life in the Musée d'Orsay?
When the painting was first hung
the critics were as outraged
as if their own sister
had been painted sitting in a brothel.
My son must have positioned me
that way to avoid gazing
all day at my stern face
is what some wag chirped. Truth is,
I asked to face off towards a window
just out of view. I turned
my good ear and my best side
Why would I want to stare
at the back of a canvas
for hours, day after day?
Why did the critics show such disdain?
Had I ever insulted them
without knowing it?
Or maybe this palette of greys
touched them in ways they couldn't admit to,
embittered that unlike my Jemie
they would never lead
Bob Bradshaw is a programmer living in California. He is a big fan of both the Rolling Stones and easy times. He dreams of retiring and living in a hammock. Recent work of his can be found at Eclectica, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and Red River Review. When he isn't napping he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Autumn Still Life
A patchwork quilt
Of scarlet, yellow, and browns,
Cover the garden.
Backlit by sunlight
A leaf swirls to the earth
In a desperate dance.
The last pumpkin,
Its orange luminescence
The full harvest moon.
What woe and wonder
The near—barren branches sing
Until the first frost.
Will the memory
Of autumnal sights and sounds
Sustain us ‘til spring?
Joseph Kleponis lives north of Boston, MA and teaches high school English and American Literature & Composition. His poetry has been published nationally and internationally in small literary journals and newspapers; such as, Eucalypt, Modern English Tanka, Ribbons, the Manchini Daily News, Magnapoets, moonset, and Leaflet, the Journal of the New England Association of Teachers of English as well as Boston Literary Magazine. In 2005 he received a second place award in the Eagle Tribune-Robert Frost Foundation Spring Poetry Contest.
With the coming
of old age
I seem to
spend my time
confessing old sins.
Not out loud,
where no one can hear
Now retired, Mr. Davis dabbles in writing, fishing, and cooking. His work has been (or will be) published in Boston Literary Magazine, Eclectic Flash, Journal of Microliterature, and Pot Luck Magazine.
Dogs on scent slip over driftwood,
bolt circles berserk, rile gulls into rising,
blast heedless through surf moist muzzles
brush by hauling ass up the beach, joyful,
our walks sweet saving grace of days spent
tinkering with enthusiasm’s used to be.
Must be a hundred fifty people
show for John Prahar’s memorial.
Geezers reminisce, kids finger pies
untouched by human hands, the ex
projects dish water heart, the son sings
“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”,
his father’s favorite. Before euphemism
and platitude sugar sorrow, I’m in the
street remembering John smile
last time I saw him sober.
Lysiak struggles to remember a cohesive time line for the 70s writing a memoir. If you remember the 70s you weren't there. He is also working on a new poetry collection. His work has been published by numerous literary magazines.
Will be scouring
Of two answering
Machines, free, long
Held onto, sent
To the recycling bin
And someone soon will
Be hearing the message
On the microscopic tape
Hi Laura, want to go swimming
Left from Deb, the last message
She left before cancer took her swimming
The reason I took so long
To let go of it, unable to erase it,
I’m still holding on
I should have named you
“One who is breaking through,”
you kicked the sky so hard
into the space I had wide open,
broken open in my heart;
instead I named you Lily
for the flower that bloomed;
you, a lily grown on hard-packed soil
—me— but with arms strong
enough to hold you and pull
you out of the sky.
Laura Rodley’s is editor of newly released, As You Write It; A Franklin County Anthology, a collection of elder's memoir. Her chapbook Your Left Front Wheel is Coming Loose was nominated for a Pen New England L.L. Winship Award and also a Mass Book Award by the publisher Finishing Line Press. Her chapbook Rappelling Blue Light was also nominated for a Mass Book Award. Her work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She loves all wildlife and the ocean.
Lois Elaine Heckman
“Tell me your thoughts at the moment,” he says,
with his mellifluous sorcerer’s voice
that envelopes and suffocates
I struggle to reason, whispering:
“It’s not possible, not possible…”
“What’s not possible,” asks the voice that kills
“How can people feel hopeless inside
when they walk on the wet green grass?”
“Explain that idea,” he says, without
“Just those imprisoned in their minds
should have the burden of carrying sorrow
for a world whose beauties can eclipse
He smiles and says: “That’s all for today,”
while I continue to be lost and living
the same unanswered anguish of all my
Lois Elaine Heckman grew up in Los Angeles, receiving a degree in Italian from UCLA. She now lives in Milan, Italy, where she was a volunteer nurse and first aid instructor for the Italian Red Cross. Her works have been in previous issues of Boston Literary Magazine and appear, or are forthcoming, in other publications, including The Fib Review, Shot Glass Journal, Victorian Violet Press, Lucid Rhythms, Tilt-a-Whirl and Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine. In 2010, she won the New England Shakespeare Festival Rubber Ducky Sonnet Contest.
She wakes me at three in the morning,
crawling back into bed,
unable to sleep, fretting over
a loose thread or over a forgotten
photograph, and we curl
into each other for few minutes,
my left shoulder aching a little
under the dead weight, my stomach
bargaining for two hours more.
Oaks are snoring outside my cracked
It’s better if we don’t try to talk.
In those days the notion
of a nuclear cloud
had romantic overtones.
The end of the world,
a thief in the night,
the melting of flesh
and bone, mingled
with kissing at a drive-in
on a summer evening.
Hollow or stuffed,
none of us had read
Eliot, so it didn’t matter.
It didn’t matter
as we rode the warhead
with Slim, hat in hand,
all the way to ground
hollow or stuffed,
kissing hard in the front
seat of a Chevy,
searching for a moment,
a spot when resistance
gave way to mystery,
or so we believed.
Brady Peterson claims he lives at the Sea Sprite Motel in Hermosa Beach, California where he spends two weeks in July every year hiding out from the Central Texas sun. He actually spends most of his time, however, just outside of Belton, Texas where he waters his dying garden, makes soup, and writes. Making soup is an art form, he mutters. Writing is an act of desperation.
Let Us Know
We whisper the words
and they disintegrate
between our teeth.
‘Let us know
if there is anything
you need. ‘
A threadbare blanket
attempting to conceal
our inability to share
Anything is nothing
we can provide.
‘Let us know’
as mourners disperse,
spreading like ink
across the churchyard.
What can those words
do to ease the isolation
of a single dinner plate?
What sound can they
create to replace
the six o’clock creak
of a work boot on the third
step of the stairs?
Ruth J. Coffey is an Irish-born poet, currently living in Cleveland, Ohio. Her work has previously been published in Canary poetry magazine and "Currency" was a finalist in the Fish Publishing poetry prize (Cork University Press, Ireland) in Spring of 2011.
Gone for a Walk
Near the center of a dark pine table
in my parents’ kitchen
there would be from time to time
a small piece of white paper,
one of several kept in a basket near to hand,
each with its own message
to be laid out as needed.
This one I remember best. It said
in my father’s tidy block letters
While the note remained on the table
for my mother to find
he’d be striding along the verge
of Garney Road, which began just behind
the house, porch, sheds, and small stable
where the neighbors raised goats
and made things for tourists.
At times the tricolor collie would go along,
waving his tail at events and objects of interest
in the brush or farther back
in the old spruce and pine woods
that are the pelt and breath of New Hampshire.
They are both on another road now.
Today, twenty years later
and a half-continent away,
shuttered in by a winter storm
and by inclination
I explore boxes, drawers, chests.
From my hand
full of slippery photos, postcards,
and old bus schedule information,
this very note flutters down
on my own kitchen table.
(above Pitkin, Colorado)
we went to the high country in search
of sights and sounds.
We chose a place where
roadside fireweed and sulfur flowers
marked a way named “difficult.”
The road unfurling still
as we followed it, up and up we wound
to the end of trees,
toward the end of daylight.
We stayed late that day, gazing up
at gray silent peaks, feeling the chill
of the high valley, feeling alone.
As we turned at last to go, we embraced,
I and my companion, as if
we meant to know our humanity
in the face of that unknowing stone.
A marmot whistled then,
but that was pure coincidence,
and unconvinced, we knew that sound
will be the same sound
again for the next generation
in that very place.
Tonight in a field ringed by trees
just as the gray of day and the light of night
folded together like two hands
palm to palm
I saw a dozen deer appear
out of the darkening bare-branched haze
heads bent to graze
where they were not a moment ago.
A doe, sensing me, turned a half step
toward me, ears flicking forward,
then turned away. In one churning start
aftershapes fading in the crackling dark.
Marydale Stewart is a retired college English teacher, librarian, technical writer, and artist in Illinois, Kansas, and Colorado. She now lives in Illinois. Her chapbook Inheritance was published in 2008 by Puddin’head Press in Chicago. She has poems in The Aurorean; in that magazine’s broadsheet The Unrorean; in The Foundling Review, After Hours, and forthcoming in River Oak Review.
Bar Room Heroes
At the bar
Are my best friends.
There’s more soul
In the juiced night lives,
And hangover eyes,
Then the majority of humanity.
And there is mysticism
In the change in personalities
And shots of well booze.
Every bar may have them.
But my favorite bar has it different.
There’s the shell-shocked veteran,
You’ve met him,
He’s a try-hard musician,
But he should have been born between Jennings
He’s Poncho and Lefty,
And Van Zandt’s heroine lullaby.
But he swears
That if his engagement to his woman
He’ll kiss your ass.
If you’re lucky,
You’ll catch the eldest brother
Of the joint’s owner.
He’s a workingman
Is as hard
As his hands.
And he smiles
Through a Guinness drunk
As he asks you
How you are,
While reassuring you
With his father’s greatest piece of advice,
That only two things in life are certain:
And we sit
On the stools
With our beaks in our glasses,
Chasing our alcohol
Until the third truth
The workingman forgot to mention
Rears its ugly head.
Ryan Torres is a graduate of Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, where he studied English, Professional Writing and Literature. He was also published in the college’s literary magazines Shoofly and Essence, as well as a few other small literary magazines since graduating from college.
This World Can Be So Tiring
Silently, he is here.
He is the sun
peeking up in the morning,
moving in slowly,
on an old wooden swing.
He is the flecked night sky;
that tickle inside
when the moon shows her face.
Behind green eyes,
beneath constricted smiles,
beyond the imagination.
He is here in the garden,
his laughter, his voice,
his hands in the dirt with mine.
I hate to leave this place,
reality is so real and hurts my bones.
I look again,
pansies all planted,
the soil, patted down.
Maybe just some water.
That might be enough.
All I Want
Before my grandfather’s funeral,
at his grieving house,
I run my fingers over the magnifying glass,
how he’d read The World Herald.
I touch stacks of books,
the trivet from their trip to Mexico,
the jewelry box he bought her for Christmas—
smooth inlayed doves,
mother of pearl.
In the basement—cans of old screws,
nuts and bolts nestle in baby food jars,
tools hang collecting webs,
her ragged housedress
droops from a rusted nail,
an empty Borax box
sits in silence.
In his bedroom,
I stroke a pale pilled cardigan,
open his dresser drawer
to cellophaned handkerchiefs,
ribbed undershirts never worn,
a stack of yellowed letters,
beautifully curled cursive—
Dear Jimmy, I can’t wait to see you again.
Dear Jimmy, I hope your mother approves.
Dear Jimmy, Of course, I’ll become a Catholic.
Dear Jimmy, I’m scared, but so excited.
I fold the letters, tuck them back in,
make my way through the house,
brush my hand across
a pink glass candy dish,
his wooden pipe,
a cold ceramic turtle.
At the door,
I weep for time’s fitful speed,
when all I want
is to get through this day.
AJ Smith likes: kissing in airports, afternoon naps, and eating mandarin oranges. She spends her days teaching and her nights dreaming.
there was a nothingness
about me, and at the same time
chance. i rushed full-child after it,
got tangled in airy ropes.
it was a theater of gaffes.
the tension fit.
i swilled sweet illusion,
was designated to believe
but designed to mistrust—
to unleash the I under
the pressure of the me; the calm
under the character,
that stressed-out frantic
i was not what i thought
or how i trended or what i did.
i was sly under my own
mask of delusion, busy
in the busy of it.
whatever was going on
moved in my circles and the center
was my grope. i didn't
learn the lines or know
the writer or see which
why was who on stage.
Chris Crittenden writes from the easternmost town in the US, fifty miles from the nearest traffic light, He teaches environmental ethics for the University of Maine. His poems are widely published. Recently, he was interviewed on Jane Crown's Poetry Radio Show: www.janecrown.com
One shivering oak branch
loses an acorn to the soil at the base of an old tree
where a man is napping,
fingers braided atop the great world
of his belly. The only known descendent
of Ricardo Dresden—who
married the daughter of the foremost golf course
designer in South Carolina—who drank himself to death
after the war—they bore a son
who dreams now, only slightly haunted,
that he is sitting in the lobby of a fancy hotel
with a fistful of melting bridge mix, a pocketful of dry mints
and one gold button missing from his coat.
An old woman steps carefully from her car, half drunk
off two fingers of single grain scotch. Heat lines rise
from the line of cars approaching. Dark glasses,
damp collars. Everyone heavy with sweat, especially
the son, who stirs with the impact of an acorn
in the grass. He half opens his eyes, curls further
in his cradle of roots, returns to rest.
Something should be said of the passing clouds
which have never been ignored by a man napping
in the shade of a tree—but he is already snoring.
Above him, a second oak branch shivers.
Then, they all do.
Jim Davis is a graduate of Knox College and now lives, writes and paints in Chicago. Jim edits the North Chicago Review, and will be appearing as the feature artist for the upcoming issue of Palooka Magazine. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in After Hours, Blue Mesa Review, Poetry Quarterly, The Ante Review, Chiron Review, and Contemporary American Voices, among others. www.jimdavispoetry.com
Gaia Sets Up Housekeeping
“This space has promise,” she says
as he carries her over the threshold,
stars in his eyes. “If we let in the light . . .”
He mutes her mouth with kisses, compasses
her waist for waltz and revolve.
Their feet churn patterns in the etiolate dust.
That night, lying under him, her mind
spins schedules, ticks to-dos, schemes
circumscription of the void while he,
etherized by O, fills the cove of her ear
with plangent snores, tootles and blares
iambs mixed with anapests.
At dawn, she hands him coffee and a list:
-A sun to hang and swag to center
-A moon (install with dimmer switch)
-Roof joists to raise the firmament
-Plumbing’s shot—needs replacing (leaks portend flood—imminent)
-Plant trees (fig and apple?)
-Invite A & E (nice local couple) for Sunday party—BBQ?
“I’m off to choose the painter’s palette,
other errands—where’s your wallet?”
Six days he kneels and stoops and tinkers,
curses his tools and hacks his thumb.
His back is bruised and aches from arching
when Sunday she rewards his efforts,
draws him close, proclaims it “good.”
Tran-substantiates him back to lover,
her ankles hooked behind his back.
But as they strive there, sweaty, fruitful,
her eyes spy regions still to do:
“Honey, let’s paint the heavens blue.”
Diane Kallas is no longer a professional dog walker, tomato cannery worker, a literature grad student, or a lawyer. She does still live in Davis, California with her husband, children, and a drawer full of paint chips.
Above you the parrots
of Greenwood are quiet.
This dream you are having
is fading like night fades
in morning, like heat from
a stone at a campsite.
And where you will live then
my darling, not even
the preacher has nerve to
describe it. In Brooklyn,
the neighbors we hated
together have finished
their coupling. The humming
expressway still goes to
the places we haven’t.
You’ve left me, a tumbler
of whiskey, A minor
descending, ice cracking
the moon-hungry stillness.
Jason Primm lives in the empire of Brooklyn, writes on the F-train, and works in publishing. He loves to tell his fancy northern friends that he went to LSU.
The Grandmother I Never Really Knew
The Grandmother I never really knew smoked and smoked
in a yellow house that shrunk like a matchbox
They say she was difficult to know
that she regretted not running away
with a woman she loved once
and was so paper thin
she might have disappeared even before she did leave
The Grandmother I never really knew was a wound up tin bird
that perched and perched and never flew
except the only time it really mattered
I thought she had red hair
but I was wrong
My mother flicks her cigarettes hard and mean
in a well manicured house that grows like a hollow trunk
remembering these disappearing acts and coveting this magic
There are so few pieces to put her back together with
her hair might as well have been red
The Grandmother I never really knew was sick
with secret tumors, but
she didn’t care and when the call came
my mother flew back to yellow Texas
to watch her disappear again
Ramona Itule-Patigian was born and raised in the desert, but now lives in Berkeley, California with her boyfriend and cat. She recently earned an MFA from Mills College and loves fresh fruit and live music.
Leaves on Edge
Aspen, maple, oak
rattle snare drums
Some defy gravity—
and as quickly fall
Carol Smallwood is in Best New Writing 2010. She edited Writing and Publishing: The Librarian's Handbook, American Library Association, 2010; was short listed 2009 for the Eric Hoffer Award for Best New Writing; National Federation of State Poetry Societies Award Winner. Lily's Odyssey and Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages, are recent books; Women and Poetry: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Successful Women Poets, forthcoming, McFarland; Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing forthcoming, Key Publishing House.
No Questions Asked
What kind of bargain is the least desired?
A senior discount, no ID required.
Robert Laughlin lives in Chico, California. He is a frequent contributor to Boston Literary Magazine. Two of his short stories are Million Writers Award Notable Stories, and his novel, Vow of Silence, was favorably reviewed by Publishers Weekly. His website is at www.pw.org/content/robert_laughlin.
Last night Maslow ate four hamburgers.
They were smeared in ketchup, mustard
and grilled onions. He cut the grease
with a swallow of light beer
and wiped his hands on his Levi’s.
In the back of the bar was this old woman
shooting pool. He’d seen her before.
She aimed her finger at him like it was a pistol
and then blew the smoke away. Maslow
couldn’t tell if that was a good sign or not,
so he did the same. She feigned impact,
the finger bullet striking her in the shoulder.
When she flipped onto the pool table,
the remaining balls scattered in a solid break.
Her partner helped her up and glared at Maslow
for using a loaded finger in a public place.
This is a family establishment he bellowed.
Maslow shot again.
The imaginary bullet went wide and struck
a Miller Lite sign. If the bullet hadn’t been a figment,
the sign would have shattered, sending little shards
of plastic and electricity into the far corners
of the bar. People cleared a path,
barstools clattering to the floor.
The older beauty chalked her pool cue
and stepped between them. Secretly, she loved
having men fight over her. It hadn’t happened
for years, and for a time, she felt sexy
like the deep blue lights
inside of the jukebox. Maslow figured no blood
no foul, so he sent the two an order
of hamburger sliders. The man gave
the woman a knuckle bump
and they racked up the balls like nothing had happened.
Maslow abhorred violence, so he stacked his
empty plate with other empty plates
and holstered his finger, promising
never to wield it again, unless he was called out.
Al Ortolani is a teacher and co-editor of The Little Balkans Review in the Kansas City area. His poetry has appeared in The Midwest Quarterly, The New York Quarterly, The English Journal and others. His second book of poetry, Finding the Edge, has been recently published by Woodley Press at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.
Bertie started a poetry zine.
He called it Pleasant Tymes.
Only four submissions trickled in.
Would a name change help?
Trans-sexual Infection went mega!
Doug Mathewson is a writer, editor, and photographer. He is working member of Full of Crow Press and Distribution and the Editor of Blink-Ink. He guest edits the street zine MUST. Most recently his work has appeared in The Boston Literary Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, and riverbabble. Very sporadically he posts at Little2say.
I Want to Pet Frida Kahlo's Monkey
James S. Wilk
I want to pet
Frida Kahlo’s monkey,
to palm his scalp
as if juicing an orange,
to feel it glide across
his domed calvarium,
to finger the soft ear leather,
to scratch that sentient, simian
brow, and gaze wistfully
into those sardonyx cabochons.
Again I Wake Before Dawn
James S. Wilk
before the mourning doves, before morning itself.
The room sleeps in gun-metal gray, except
for the ribbons of light that infiltrate
the slatted blinds and reflect off the mirror onto me,
forming horizontal stripes across my shirt
like an old-time prison uniform.
I have slept in yesterday’s shirt,
now moistened and wrinkled overnight.
A splayed and crinkled Runner’s World magazine dozes
in the bed between me and my oblivious wife.
I must have nodded off reading.
That certain slant of light—those glowing ribbons
across my chest—will turn crepuscular orange,
then disappear when the whole room fills with light.
The mourning doves will coo their coos,
although they’ve never come across as truly mournful.
The cloudless, Colorado sky will glow
bright blue, brighter than a Prozac-mood,
brighter than the cerulean cover of the DSM-IV-TR,
which lists “early morning awakening” among several
“Selected Major Depressive Episode Specifiers.”
I have always endured this early rising.
As a child, I’d wander to the T.V., waiting
through the farm report for cartoons to start at five.
I empty my bladder, flush, and wash my hands.
Sticky-throated, I chug tap water with my pills.
I strip off yesterday’s shirt and change
into my running gear. Tying my shoes, I plan my route.
Sunday. Long run day. To Venneford Ranch and back.
Seven and a half miles. A big loop.
They are all loop routes—where I’m running to
is also what I’m running from.
James S. Wilk is a physician in Denver, Colorado, specializing in medical disorders complicating pregnancy. His poems have appeared in Pearl, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Blue Unicorn, Boston Literary Magazine, The Raintown Review and others. His latest chapbook, The Seven Year Night: Poems of the Medical Training Experience, is available from Big Table Publishing Company.
I tell my son each family has a tree.
I pencil lines on a page leading to his father, his sister, me:
“People, like trees, have branches.”
Branches in our tree bow abruptly on one side:
One cracked unceremoniously—it was brittle—
Two committed suicide—snapping off willfully—
Another was in slow decay and was whittled away…
in each, the bark exposed the core.
I know, but do not tell.
I also recall, slowly, with lead, how else it is done:
other boughs break, peeling, cracking, succumbing—
only one splintered edge at a time.
On one side of my hand-drawn sketch,
the angled and slanted lines extend only toward absence—
one generation back from the boy, and the whole already begins to recede,
inching ringless, limbless, toward a well-known cliff.
Completing the halved tree, I tell my son, as I gesture in his direction:
“All families have trees—this one is yours—.”
Deirdre Fagan is an Associate Professor of English at Quincy University. She is the author of Critical Companion to Robert Frost and has published creative work in Grey Sparrow Journal, Bartleby Snopes, Picayune, and nibble. She has also published articles in The Emily Dickinson Journal, The Explicator, South Asian Review, Creative Writing: Teaching Theory & Practice, and Americana Review. Her interests include but are not limited to American poetry, memoir, and creative writing.