Cold Thoughts - Andy Hughes
Sister D - Kali Lamparelli
Life Coaches - johnmac the bard
Haircuts - Jon Bishop
You Know Who You Are - Hollis Robbins
Alice - Hollis Robbins
The Singing Reporter - Peter McNiff
Gooseberry Pie: A Disappointment in Three Acts - Katherine Parker Richmond
Glasses - Laura Rodley
Sequined Slippers - Laura Rodley
Early Morning Dark Poem - Harry Calhoun
I Found God - April Michelle Bratten
Baked in a Pie - Bobby Steve Baker
Often Lost and Forgotten - Phillip Gaber
The Quilt - Jill McCabe Johnson
Miscarriage - Jill McCabe Johnson
Momma Comes Home on Sundays - Amy Corbin
Belated Response to a Heckler - T.S. Kerrigan
Steps Ago - Oleh Lysiak
Manic Wurlitzer - Oleh Lysiak
Sunday Morning - Larry D. Thomas
Queer Pier - Brad Bisio
Working with an Empty Sky - Casey Quinn
Contact - Laury Egan
At the Radiologist - Jane Rosenberg LaForge
Derby, KS - Robert C.J. Graves
Grievances - CL Bledsoe
Tagged - Joseph Hesch
Cash - Benjamin Quigley
Serlin's Cafe - Kathleen Cassen Mickelson
Surly - Matthew A. Hamilton
Evil Eye - Karen Kelsay
Palm Reading - Michelle V. Alkerton
The Regret of Karma - R. Jay Slais
The Girl Next Door - R. Jay Slais
Station to Station - Doug Mathewson
Return - Doug Mathewson
Dad - Jonathan Dubow
Ways and Plans - Brendan McEntee
Visiting My Father - Brendan McEntee
She Keeps a Good Heart for Me
I never knew a heart
could hold so much love;
more love than the Earth
more love than the Sky
A love culled
from a couple of kindnesses
I had almost forgotten them
but that meant so much to her,
she still repays them
in ways that make me shiver
This then I think is Love:
not gargantuan valentines
filled with pretty sweets,
or florists of flowers
or a promise too hard
but the memory of
a couple of kindnesses
made more than twenty years ago
I had all but forgotten them.
She keeps a good heart for me
and I know I am loved
Leo Racicot's work has appeared in Co-Evolution Quarterly, Utne Reader, Spiritual Life, First Hand, The Poet, Faith and Inspiration, Ibbetson Street Press, Shakespeare's Monkey, Poetry and Yankee. Two of his award-winning essay-memoirs are featured in "Best of..." anthologies, and his holiday story, "The Little Man" is being published this year by Snug Harbor Books and in animated and audio form by Fablevision. His public appearances reading his work include Out of the Blue Gallery, The Lily Pad, Cantab Lounge, Parker House, Forsyth Chapel, 119 Gallery, CityLights in San Francisco and Buzz in Washington D.C.
and his glasses sink down
catch on the bump of his nose
he does not notice, but smells
leaves swirling under hot-orange lamps
orbicular shapes of the deep blue wind
and he cries and he cries and he
there is a picture of Albert Einstein on the wall wearing
plaid something surprisingly domestic the dark eyes
look sadly back at him
and he crosses his hands and they don’t stop shaking
he is just close enough to the window
he touches the cold glass with his finger and
down on the hand is a thick, green vein
he thinks he smells apples, and it’s that season again
and the children over on the sidewalk
are wearing red and pink and the cars are black and he
touches the glass with his whole hand and his
glasses are on the floor now and he
wishes his heart wasn’t a fat rotten fruit he wishes
he couldn’t see the glinting black seeds
poking out like hard and eager teeth
Andy Hughes is a writer and graduate student based in the Boston area. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Dark hair with blood red ribbons walks through the door;
her tired black coal eyes
stare at my blubbery body.
I’m tired; I survived cancer.
Her friend Laura brought her;
Laura asked to borrow the canary yellow vacuum.
She begins with her life and no name.
She thinks her father was verbally abusive but
that was so long ago, is she making it up?
Dad gave her hugs and a few, “I love you” to wash down
with guilt. If you can count them, are they worth as much?
I say, “I’m not sure.” I pull a book from the brown shelf,
Angry Women: An Epidemic and How to Love your Kitchen.
Blow the dust from the cover,
I’m just the therapist, licensed by paper and alcohol.
She knows more than I know
about Monet and The Beatles.
Rising above an ocean,
a school of guppies.
My life hidden behind scripture,
a fat nun with knees that beat
each other up as I walk.
Your answers, I want.
I’m Dorothy, what’s your name?
Kali Marie Lamparelli is working on completing her MFA from Lesley University. Her poetry has appeared in Gaslight Magazine and Balancing the Tides.
johnmac the bard
I wander through Facebook,
now one of the largest countries
in the world, and cannot believe
how many people present themselves
as “Life Coaches”
They will help you to:
• manage your time
• enjoy sex more
• use makeup more professionally
• speak “like a pro” in public
• seduce the one you want
• market your product like Apple Computer
• become a millionaire from your home business
Do these people make a living?
If so, why?
John F. McMullen, “johnmac the bard”, is a poet, author, journalist, technologist, college professor, consultant, and denizen of cyberspace. He is a graduate of Iona College and holds two Masters degrees from Marist College. He was an executive of two major Wall Street firms, an officer of three consulting firms (including his own), and has taught at NYU, The New School for Social Research, Marist College, Westchester Community College, and Monroe College (where he is presently Professor of Information Technology). The title poem of his first poetry collection, "Cashing A Check," won third place in the 2009 Writer's Place National Poetry Contest. “Cashing A Check” was followed by his second collection, "Writing In My Head," and the chapbook, “With A Chip On My Shoulder.” He is the co-author of a book on telecommunications, “Microcomputer Communications—A Window on the World” and was a contributor (with Esther Dyson, Ray Bradbury, William F. Buckley, Jr,. Thom Hartmann, Steve Wizniak, John D. MacDonald, and many others) to the well-ahead-of-its-time “Digital Deli”, the author of over 1,500 news stories, articles, columns, and academic papers, and the editor of “Web 2.0 The Magazine.” He is a native of the Inwood section of Manhattan Island and resides in Jefferson Valley, NY, with his wife Barbara E. McMullen, an educator and entrepreneur. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.com.
I’ve been getting haircuts
From the same barber
For twelve years now.
He knows my style, knows my name.
I love coming in, sitting down, and
Then he flaps the protective
Towel-thing; the hair flies to the floor.
I smile at myself in the mirror.
My hair ragged and unkempt,
But not for long! I tell
Him, “I’d like one
Regular haircut please.”
He begins the process of
Cutting, styling, snipping.
We converse during.
About politics, the town,
The weather. Good conversation.
With the haircut complete, I look in the mirror.
Looks good—wonderful, actually.
I pay him, give him a nice tip.
He sends me off with a booming, hearty,
“Come back soon! It’s been nice seeing you.”
And he meant it.
I leave. Go back to doing.
I return some months later.
Another haircut—a necessary
Cutback to bring the appearance
Back to a compatibility with things.
I’m shocked—it’s gone.
The barbershop is gone.
He must have retired, the barber.
In its place is one of those big,
Big fancy stylist-salons.
I look at it, into it for a moment.
And I can’t bear to go in.
No haircut today: I walk back to the car.
Jon Bishop, 20, is a junior at Assumption College and double majors in Political Science and English. He divides his time between Wilmington, MA and Worcester, MA.
You Know Who You Are
Your eyes are the sound of whippoorwills
Your eyes are double-bolt locks
Your eyes are the taste of iron
Your voice is the touch of the moon
Your voice is the color of sails
You voice is the rushing of tides
Your face is the rushing of wings
Your face is the sound of a choir
Your face is the color of thunder
Your hands lounge like sailors
Your hands run like quail
Your hands smell like rope
Your eyes look like fists.
Your eyes pool like tar.
A crooked featured girl in patent shoes
Unfolded from the divan asking whose
Absurd idea it was to make her choose
Between her papa’s self-indulgent views
On whether, post-Ark, there ought to be twos,
Or whether love was something one could lose,
As mama mused, with reasoning abstruse—
Evening fell as both reached for the booze.
Alice rose, knowing they’d amuse
The neighbors with their malice and abuse,
Reflecting that she’d no longer confuse
Her childhood with Eden and must accuse
Her Maker of malpractice. Would He use
The quality of dust as an excuse?
Hollis Robbins teaches poetry and literature at the Peabody Institute and the Johns Hopkins University. Her sonnets have appeared or have been accepted at Mastodon Dentist and Per Contra. Her latest book is a Penguin edition of Frances Harper’s 1892 novel, Iola Leroy.
The Singing Reporter
in perilous times
in dubious towns
on the phone with your back to the wall
you will have to describe
all that you know or were told
or observed and defined from the
fears and ambiguous doubts
expressed in the most
by the utterly
voice of the people.
from each point of view
you will chop out the dross
and political drivel
condense and distil
the heart and soul of your piece
in the form of a sonnet
(without ever knowing
how this particular sonnet
when the moment arrives
to sing under pressure
by phone or a mike
or a satellite dish
—it matters not which—
against time on the clock
in the worst of conditions
with too little space
in the page or on air
bearing in mind
the number of words
and the weight
of your story
told under stress
with too little time to consider
knowing all that you know
you will summon
facts and opinions
colours and sounds
and herd them over the
contours of matter and mind
while sirens wail
through smoke and the dust
raised in the carnage
by those who rebel or compel
the movement of trucks
and armored divisions.
a skirl at the back of your mind
begins as a bumble bee
humming a balmy crescendo
and back goes your head
as you break into song
and the lyrics form ranks
on the page
and the flow begins from the
murmurous deep of the mind.
brow in a furrow
tight in the chest,
you are through
and sigh with
you just about made that
Peter McNiff is a writer, photographer, web designer; an award winning television producer and has a silver St Bernard Hennessey/Irish Press New Irish Writing award. His short fiction has been broadcast by RTE, BBC; in journals and among anthologies published by William Heinemann (London) and Phoenix (London).
Gooseberry Pie: A Disappointment in Three Acts
Katherine Parker Richmond
Hidden in the tall grass
gooseberries grow wild
along weather-silvered fence rails
low bushes heavy with translucent globes
of pale-veined, whiskery green
warm from hanging all day in the sun
my fingers pluck through prickly branches
weaving a delicate dance
to the soft one-by-one beat of berries
plunking against the bottom and sides
of my battered plastic bucket.
Nana measures butter, flour, sugar
levels each cup with the straight side of a table knife
rolls out a delicate crust
eases it into a blue glass pie plate
weaves a fragile lattice to crown the mound of berries
at last commends her masterpiece to the oven
and for a delicious hour
four walls strain to contain
the burgeoning aroma
of buttery crust and bubbling berries.
No sour scent forewarns that I’ve braved thorns
for bitter fruit
I suck my cheeks in hollow
after a single sharp bite
poke once at the sugary crust
and with a sigh
leave the rest still steaming on my plate.
Katherine Parker Richmond aspires to be the poet laureate of cheapskate moms. She lives in a big red ramshackle house in Ellensburg, Washington, with her husband, son, daughter and two long-suffering cats.
My father wears the thick glasses
of one who no longer sees what
is outside as easily as he
sees what is inside his
memory. They call it
macular degeneration for which
he takes numerous
herbs and Nattokinase,
but mostly he keeps his eyes
open, discerning the shapes
that are his cat, his wife,
his books, a movie he
wanted to see, rather
than close his eyes and see
the movie running twenty-four
seven of men in foxholes and the
way my mother could not
open the door when he found her
one last time.
I’m giving my friend a pair
of turquoise sequined slippers
the kind she can clack on
the floor so she can forget
she’s a nurse having to walk
quietly disturbing no one.
The slippers have wooden
heels and leather ankle clasps
so she can walk her yard
at night sparkling
the sequins back at the stars.
When she wears these
slippers she can say
whatever she wants without
bending her head and keeping quiet,
she can say whatever she feels
and then put them back
on the stairwell, lace up
her work-shoes and walk
back out again, get into
her car and breath a dose of
life back into the air at everyone’s
home she visits.
Laura Rodley's poetry has appeared in the anthologies Crossing Paths, 911 Peace Project, Anthology of New England Writers, and in the journals Massachusetts Review, Sanctuary, The National Audubon Magazine, Boston Literary Magazine, and Quick Fiction, and has been read on WHMP, KVMR, 89.5 FM radio in Nevada City, California, and NPR-affiliated station WAMC in Albany. She is a freelance writer and photographer.
Early Morning Dark Poem
for the lights in the distance
The pencil lead paints dark lines
looping across the page white as morning coming,
the supreme antianxiety drug of brandy
slipping down your throat, blessfully calming
for the time being, and isn’t it always
the time being? It’s still dark and here in suburbia
the neighbors lights and street dusk-to-dawners
strewn for protection shine out like stars, beacons,
far away from where your father is dying,
too soon after your mother, as the lights
in the distance flicker on and off for no reason
that I can discern, as the pencil lead paints something
definite, sad but sure, something you can cling to
proof that somehow, however unsteadily,
you are working through this, something
you can leave as a record
Harry Calhoun’s articles, literary essays, book reviews and poems have been published in magazines including Writer’s Digest and The National Enquirer. Recently, his online chapbook Dogwalking Poems and his trade paperback, I knew Bukowski like you knew a rare leaf, were published. The latter is now available from Trace Publications and on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers. He has had recent publications in Chiron Review, Still Crazy, SNReview, Orange Room Review, The Centrifugal Eye, Bird’s Eye reView, Abbey, Monongahela Review and many others. Recently, he was one of 12 poets invited to LiteraryMary’s anthology, Outstanding Men of the Small Press.
I Found God
April Michelle Bratten
He stands devoutly
at the sink,
his bare feet
across the floor
that it is whole
and still there.
He performs a baptism
on our dinner dishes
from the night before,
his hands as uncontrollable
as wild birds among the suds.
His arms elongate
and dip the plate
into the dreary warm water,
and I see the earth
shake a little from
the kitchen window.
He drags a wash rag
across the outside
of a wine glass,
his fingers splayed
like a religious history
over our leftover damnations
I watch the light
shift through the open screen
his chest and shoulders
as he pounds
another clean fork
into the dish drainer.
His face becomes
the river of my body
under the light,
milking me straight
and refined back to faith.
April Michelle Bratten is a writer from Minot, North Dakota. She has upcoming work in Leaf Garden Press, The Poetry Warrior, and Counterexample Poetics. She is the co-editor of the literary zine Up the Staircase.
Baked in a Pie
Bobby Steve Baker
estimates that one hundred eighty seven
could perch on the rusted
between two aging gray and cracking posts.
has learned to be obsessively numeric
in an effort
to save his parents marriage.
of the bird, it’s sleek sheen
and arterial red shoulders,
In fact, the child feels a leap
but soon puts the happiness away
to focus on his
client centered therapy.
his throat and blinking rapidly
the tension that is smoking up
He flicks his index and middle fingers
back and forth
one hundred and eighty seven times,
the welling up of tears from the passenger side
of the Ford Fairlane,
troubling up the highway of the Peninsula.
is car sick but vigilant in
that keeps control of assorted curse words,
from last night, and always in danger
in a threat to his grip on the tenuous atmosphere.
the red-wing black bird
gleans the field of decimated corn,
banks against the ghostly gusts of care
always near, always blowing hot upon the cheek
of the child,
who clears his throat and blinks his eyes rapidly
and flicks his index and middle fingers
to protect his precarious balance
between difficult circumstances
and terrifying possibilities.
Bobby Steve Baker is a practicing Cosmetic Surgeon in Lexington Kentucky and enrolled in the MFA in Creative Writing program at National University as a Poetry Major. He lives with his wife, who is also a Cosmetic Surgeon, and the comings and goings of five sons. His poems have appeared in Poet's Podium, Jones Av, Gnu, tinfoildresses, Public Republic, Strong Verse, Divine Dirt Quarterly, and Yellow Mama. He has been nominated for a 2009 Pushcart Prize.
Often Lost and Forgotten
But guys like
life’s pace and
lack of urgency
make us almost
impossible to find.
We begin disappearing
early in life,
usually after our first
And from that point on
we seem to vanish
in front of
eyeshot of us.
Philip Gaber is a freelance writer currently living and working in North Carolina. He spends the majority of his day attempting to reconcile differences between his conscious and subconscious. In his spare time he tries not to drift around his community as an invisible spirit or juggle more than a handful of moral dilemmas at a time.
Jill McCabe Johnson
There is one left after all,
Mom tells me, spreading the quilt
carefully over our bed.
I knew I had at least one
of your grandmother’s old quilts.
Her hands though pained and hobbled
ease the wrinkles smooth. For you.
We admire the handiwork.
Hundreds of hours spent piecing
calico scraps into fresh
flower gardens, log cabins,
double wedding bands, stitching
grandmother, mother, daughter
like the top, batting, and back.
Edged delicately. The tricks
of an old quilter whose eyes
and memory play tricks
of their own. Keep it, she says
standing proud, though her back
leaves a shadow like a cane
over this last offering.
With no income, no husband,
and no more than a few rooms
on our second floor, she endures
our daily commotions,
she who has naught to give
but the gifts of her mother
who taught us both how to thread
a needle. The knot catches
in my throat. Mom it’s too much.
The protestations strengthen
her spine and she pats my hand.
I want you to have it.
Later my husband asks why
the wedding quilt from our friends
has been pulled from the closet
where we said we would save it
and now stretches across our bed.
Who can explain such gifts?
Jill McCabe Johnson
She resisted the urge to pat her tummy
when she spoke of the baby,
six months along, due in June.
Instead, she talked about its arrival,
furnishing the nursery,
buying toys. They’d lost hope,
this miracle nature had denied,
but now a gift.
They met with the attorneys, drew up papers.
Meanwhile, in Ohio, the mother circled
arms over belly
to cradle her slowly shifting child.
Jill McCabe Johnson received the Paula Jones Gardiner Poetry Award from Floating Bridge Press, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart. She earned her MFA at Pacific Lutheran University, and is pursuing a PhD at the University of Nebraska. Her poems can be found in publications such as Harpur Palate, Umbrella Journal, and Oak Bend Review.
Momma Comes Home on Sundays
When she calls
I always cry,
beg her to please come home.
“I can’t yet, Baby. Buy some food.
Be sure to go to school.”
I am twelve, but when night falls
I am two. I weep in a tight,
round ball, rock forth and back.
By morning I am twenty-two.
Eat granola, feed the cat,
take out the trash, go to school—
minus ten, plus ten,
china doll, rubber girl,
three more sleeps
Amy Corbin has been published in Filling Station, The Cynic, Ascent Aspirations, Shine, Every Day Poets, Every Day Fiction, Haruah: A Breath of Heaven, Ignavia Press, Flask and Pen,The Battered Suitcase, Flashes in the Dark, Short Story Library, Smokebox, Wanderings, Writers' Stories, The New Flesh, Calliope Nerve, Concise Delight, and Boston Literary Magazine.
Belated Response to a Heckler
Among that mostly listless crowd,
That heard me read my verse on stage,
You rose alone, disruptive, loud,
In incoherent drunken rage.
The taunts you chose to shout were sparse,
Denouncing what you heard that day;
I thought you muttered “verse, my arse,”
I stared, not knowing what to say,
Confused by such obscure abuse.
For not responding there and then,
I tender now this late excuse:
My areas of acumen
Are literature, philosophy,
Alas, not anthropology.
The second son of a postman, T.S. Kerrigan was educated in the public schools of Los Angeles and at the University of California and Loyola University, School of Law. He has been a poetry editor (Hierophant, The Raintown Review), a playwright (Branches among the Stars, A Thorn in the Heart, Bloomsday), a theater critic and member of the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle, as well as a member of the California Bar, successfully preserving a statute enacted during the Great Depression to aid workers on public works projects from constitutional attacks in the Supreme Court of the United States in 2001. His poetry has appeared in chapbooks (Another Bloomsday at Molly Malone’s Pub (The Eventual Press, 1999) and The Shadow Sonnets (The Scienter Press, 2002) and in book-length collections in My Dark People (The Central Avenue Press, 2008) and in the forthcoming A Homecoming in the Next Parish Over (The Central Avenue Press), due out early this year, and in a number of anthologies, including Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems (Viking Penguin, 2004) and Literature and it’s Authors (Bedford/St. Martins, 2008). His poems have appeared in magazines and Journals on both sides of the Atlantic, including Acumen, Agenda (the American issue), The London Review, The International Poetry Review, The Southern Review, First Things, The Formalist, and The New Formalist. He was the first American invited to read his poetry at the Festival Internazionale di Poesia in the Italian Alps in the nine year history of that event.
Ten years walking the beach with dogs,
today I’m ankle deep in north Pacific,
conjuring breeze woven images alone.
Surf licks away my barefoot tracks.
Again I see the vet shave patch on
Lily’s leg, look up for confirmation,
slip hypodermic in her vein, ease
lethal cocktail home. She’s gone
before the plunger settles.
We bury her at home.
No need to watch for Lily following
her nose intent on rotting carcasses
or Cooper full out striding surf
beyond recall. Must be a mile before
I scan stacked flotsam up ahead for Lily,
mist distant surf for Coop. They’re by our
pond, in graves I dug but we’re connected still
as surf roils soft erasing tracks made steps ago.
In ever so faint daybreak
extravagant orange running lights
define semis in receding strings out of
undefined horizon. I unscrew stainless
thermos cap, pour a six count. Daylight
diesel at Wamsutter on a 50-mile dirt shortcut
ducking tankers through high desert oil fields
rife with antelope, prairie dogs and raptors as
we skid anxious gravel curves for asphalt south.
The manic Wurlitzer inside my skull shuffles,
clicks, shifts into Motown before breakfast.
Oleh Lysiak is writing Displaced, a memoir, while he can still remember what happened. He is also writing Sluts, Scammers and Longshots, a poetry collection. He has written Scars in Progress, The Chromium Kid in the American Zoo, Barely Inside the Lines, and Filet & Release.
Larry D. Thomas
We’re sleeping in.
yawning, and stretching,
we’ll stand, don
our robes, hold hands
walking toward the bath,
glance at the full-
length mirror, notice
we’re showing our age,
into laughter, embrace,
and muse our love
aging like bourbon
in the undisturbed bliss
of a dark, oaken barrel.
Larry D. Thomas, a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate, retired in 1998 from a thirty-one year career in social service and adult criminal justice, and has since that time published ten collections of poems. His most recent collection, an e-chapbook titled The Circus, was recently published online by Right Hand Pointing, and a book-length print collection titled The Skin of Light is forthcoming from Dalton Publishing in Spring 2010. 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 Enhancement and Study of Texas History. His poetry has also received three Pushcart Prize nominations, a Poets’ Prize nomination (West Chester University), and four Spur Award Finalist citations (Western Writers of America). His Web site address is www.LarryDThomas.com.
You moved away
when I was just a kid. I knew
you as cousin
but only through gossip
and jokes made at your expense
during family gatherings.
your mom and dad and I
drove out to the Queer Pier
on Key West
to see the stone that bore your name.
She told me how you used to be
afraid to walk the streets alone,
especially at night. Said that people would
taunt you: faggot, maricone.
A backwards baseball hat guy with a t-shirt
that read “Dix are for Chix” yelled at me from
his Jeep. I guess he thinks
that a shirt with the sleeves cut off and
long hair makes you a homosexual. Hatred
even in this Key West haven.
Your mom and dad still stay in your
Fort Lauderdale condo. The Cockatiels and Yorkies
are doing well. I’ve been watering your garden
in the mornings and cleaning the birdcage
once a week. Somehow, I feel close
to you when I do these things, these things
that you used to do.
Your mother showed me
the jewelry that you made from
and the tray where you kept your marijuana.
She never tried it but said you used to smoke
for the nausea and to get
your appetite back.
I remember you being six feet two
muscular and agile.
The pictures from your last months
show you fragile
one hundred and forty pounds.
In 1990—six months before you died—while riding
on a ski lift in Vail, Colorado, my father told me
that you were dying from AIDS. He said it like
it was your fault, that you chose to be
gay and this was your punishment.
“I don’t have a problem
with gay people. I just don’t want
to be in the same room with one. I don’t know
what I might do.” He made excuses. Said that
that was just how he was raised.
Then he went on to tell me
how upset my mother was and how
your mom’s life was ruined because of what
you’d done. Told me to be careful what
I did because it affects all of us. By “us”
he meant the family. Family? I don’t think
that means what I want it to mean.
But don’t take it personally. He doesn’t know
what he’s doing. He’s a macho,
hunter Hemmingway type who made
this west key his home and had no
tolerance for your kind either.
are all around
even in the people
we call geniuses.
Brad Bisio has recent work in Six Sentences, Mad Swirl, Word Riot, Ex Cathedra, Spot Literary Magazine, Dogzplot, CommonLine and in the Gutter Eloquence/Zygote in My Coffee print edition. He has lived in New York and California and places in between where he has worked numerous jobs to support his writing and musical habits such as at a lumberyard, a glue factory and as a house painter. He played in a band while living in Colorado and performed as a solo artist in San Francisco. For now, he lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife, young daughter and their two dogs.
Working with an Empty Sky
with no jewels
to dream upon
all i could do
was shoot off
my own fireworks
you were there.
Casey Quinn has had over 150 poems published in print and online magazines. His second poetry collection Prepare To Crash was released in 2009 by Big Table Publishing. In his free time he edits the magazine Short Story Library.
The cue ball rolls
across a green baize field,
the quick kiss of ball to ball,
the calculated encounter,
as they strike, then flee,
in degrees of angles.
He watches from the bar,
smiles, raises a finger
to the bartender,
points toward the woman.
Another drink arrives
in front of her,
and with it, him.
He’s tall and slim,
Later, a quick kiss
leads to a brief encounter;
in the morning,
in separate cars,
without a word.
Laury A. Egan has published a full-length poetry collection, Snow, Shadows, a Stranger, (FootHills, 2009) and has received a Pushcart Prize nomination. Her work has appeared in Atlanta Review, The Ledge, Emily Dickinson Awards Anthology, Ginosko, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Centrifugal Eye, Leaf Garden, Foliate Oak, and Boston Literary Magazine. She is also a fiction writer and fine arts photographer. Web site: www.lauryegan.com.
At the Radiologist
Jane Rosenberg LaForge
Beneath the twenty-four hour clock,
the hours wind and shift as if factions
of a root twisted against itself; as if
a limb rendered fallow by spasm, or
a snake’s hollow intelligence; and my
sister’s body is surveyed for the places
where her bones have failed, where they
bubble like tar, like methane from millions
of mammoth remains under pressure;
where they snap and purr and drip as if
they had been transformed into a mossy
liquid: backwards, primordial, phages from
before the Big Bang. Where the machine spots
the flaws they tattoo Xs onto her skin,
a terminal precedent for a palliative remark,
skin being her first, last, and best organ,
or at least one that has yet to dissemble
into greedy pieces of hurting. For years
my sister ran like an aborigine, naked to Xs
and particles that now must be funneled into
her bones with a senile focus, and I wonder
whether the rabbis would still permit her to be
buried beside her grandparents with those Xs
on her false spots; to be buried beside her
grandparents, the only ones who loved her
unconditionally and who would be about
the same age as the rest of the patients;
to be buried beside her grandparents
is all that she wants now.
Jane Rosenberg LaForge lives in New York City with her husband and daughter, and has poetry forthcoming in Anemone Sidecar, Grasslimb Journal and The Edison Literary Review. Her chapbook After Voices was reviewed in the winter issue of Boston Literary Magazine.
Robert C.J. Graves
Once was a town where the 1880s
could still be felt in the small streets despite
the Bicentennial. The alleys were
thick with tall trees; green apples littered the narrow
sidewalks, and kids all went barefoot mostly
and threw rocks at each other. The rain would pour,
and the streets would become rapid streams
rushing to the spillway that winds southwest
to the wide shallows of the Arkansas.
The post office and water company
were still small wooden buildings leftover
from the days when Derby was El Paso,
KS, back in the 1880s, back
before the railroad owners decided
that the hamlet couldn’t have the same name
as a famed border town, so they changed it.
Ruins of old docks, left from long past
days of navigability, rotted
along the banks of the river, and teenagers
would wade and swim out to a traveling
archipelago of smooth river sand
to build campfires like cowboys and drink
their fathers’ beer while cars zoomed
over the bridge leading to the peach orchards
then on to Haysville, where the enemy
elements of kid-dom and high school lay.
Catherine Coles was a fox; the elementary
school echoed in one outer corner,
at the edge of the blacktop, like a seashell.
The water pipes, maybe. And it was cool
there in late August heat, so we kissed.
October nights stretched with storm chills
and the rock mystery of years.
Without so much as a nod from
a knowing passerby: new housing
editions, new streets, new stores:
Everything changed as if destined,
and the old post office and water company
were bulldozed to dust.
"In the room the women come and go. . ."
"When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know. . ."
Televisions burned blue holes in drapes still
with night. We slipped out bolted backdoors to prowl
and peek on our friends, huddled in their beds.
Their fathers’ rifles hung safe on some wall.
The police’s spot-lights missed us lying
belly-flat on the steep grassy grade,
descending to El Paso Elementary,
while wild-grain foxtails swayed
naked in the beams.
Soon there was an arcade
and roller skating, so we drank cherry
vodka, then doused our self-consciousness
in Polo cologne.
Her breast was soft in my hand,
under her bra at the movies, in the back row,
atop the slope of the old theater
in the glare of The Love Bug Goes Bananas,
and darkness long reigned liquored years from girlfriends
to crimes: the neighbor’s wife, wet earth,
a familiar scent in the air.
And strip malls spread their vast, rolling blankets
of vaporizing asphalt neat-cornered
on widened streets that never fill with rain.
Ineluctable as a heart broken
by the most prized and impatient lover,
and the phone lines snapped in December ice.
Robert C. J. Graves lives with his wife, Emily, in Emporia, KS, where he teaches general education classes at Flint Hills Technical College. His poetry and fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals, including 491 Magazine, Bijou Poetry Review, Chickenpinata, Crash, the Chiron Review, Eclectic Flash, Eleutheria—The Scottish Poetry Review, Haiku Ramblings, The New Flesh, Poetry for the Masses, Prairie Poetry, Vox Poetica, and Word Salad Poetry Magazine. A former bartender and freelance sports writer, Robert holds a Ph.D. in English (Rhetoric and Writing) from Bowling Green and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Poetry) from Wichita State.
Your body is a drug, and now that I’ve had a taste,
I’m addicted to your warmth. Remember
when we used to share my twin bed, you
mashed into the wall, me, on your head,
snoring. I made piles of the books
I read each month and tried not to drop
out of the world. You shared
an apartment with a gospel singer
named Princess, made things to eat I still
can’t spell, and tried not to cough
when I stood under the oven vent to smoke.
You’ve never forgiven the fact that I deleted
the first messages you sent me because I didn’t
know who you were. Now, I know:
you are warm, and you are quick.
I’m slow and wear socks to bed. But I did
your dishes, those first few times I came to visit.
Remember that, if nothing else.
CL Bledsoe is the author of two poetry collections, _____(Want/Need) and Anthem. A third collection, Riceland, is forthcoming later this year. A chapbook, Goodbye to Noise, is available online at www.righthandpointing.com/bledsoe. A minichap, Texas, is forthcoming from Mud Luscious Press. His story, "Leaving the Garden," was selected as a Notable Story of 2008 for Story South's Million Writer's Award. He is an editor for Ghoti Magazine www.ghotimag.com. He blogs at Murder Your Darlings, http://clbledsoe.blogspot.com. He also writes a flash fiction serial called "The Idealists" which appears every two weeks at www.troubadour21.com/category/series/idealists.
I painted my name on a bridge today.
Tagging, the kids and cops call it.
It’s a young person’s game
that guys of fifty-something
probably shouldn't do,
and definitely shouldn't be caught at.
Not that the cops would have
difficulty nabbing an old dude
holding the outside of an overpass,
and his breath, with one hand,
and exhaling urban art
out a can of spray paint in the other.
I painted my “Jo-Ho wAs heRe” in red and yellow,
not because they’re my gang colors, but
because black, white and gray
are what my life has become;
row upon row of blurry near-anonymous obituaries—
gravestones on a newsprint field.
The Great, Mediocre or Poor American Novel
never sprung from my mind and fingers,
nor did anything else you'd remember.
So I decided to write my story, my poem,
on the bridge where
each day for fifteen years I’ve rat-raced past
“Bobby & Lou ’72.”
Thirty-eight years of notoriety seems
like a lifetime—and an instant—to a guy
whose life has been tagged by Life
in shades of gray for longer than that.
Yeah, and I willingly held its hand and
slipped it the cans.
But, no more. For some reason, I'm seeing
more colors these days. Reds and yellows,
greens and blues.
So, "Tag," Life.
Now I’m IT!
Joseph Hesch's career as a writer spans more than 30 years in journalism and public affairs in upstate New York. He resides near his hometown of Albany, New York, a 350-year old city from which he draws much of his inspiration. His poems have appeared in previous issues of Boston Literary Magazine, as well as Wanderings Magazine, With Painted Words and Falling Star Magazine.
I count out twenties in the till.
These green roads have mouths, speaking pidgin
patriotism, broken religion.
But fluent graffiti: “Do you think
a million of these would make you happy?”
A letter that pays its own postage
and pens its own destination. Cash,
you who soaked up spilled beer
and laundry detergent and smog
bounced back like a carnival target
at the shooting game, crumpled
but still good. My friends who played
you like music, who clothed themselves
in you or who rode you like a wave:
not all of them could tumble dry
in the bartender’s jeans after.
You had messages for them too,
too far away for me to read.
And I can’t send a message back
to the guy offering the hypothetical
So I seal
your smells of sweat and tough, green paper
into a plastic bag and drop
you into the safe, and think of your small
holdout of brothers wrapped in leather
in my pocket, and shiver
a little as I leave work.
Benjamin Quigley teaches middle school forensic science and reading in Louisville, KY. Before that he studied literature and biology at Vanderbilt University.
Kathleen Cassen Mickelson
You recognize the smell of bacon grease,
hash browns, back-burner coffee as you pass
through the glass front door.
A waitress of indeterminate age leans
in the doorway to the kitchen,
her uniform slightly dingy with hard work.
She smiles, ready to listen to your request.
A booth beckons, its hard wooden seat
smoothed by years of bottoms that
have slid across it, then settled.
Laminated menus show greasy smudged
fingerprints, tout the virtues of breakfast
number one: two eggs, choice of meat,
white or whole wheat toast. Coffee
is endless, much like the chatter of the
elderly couple in the booth across
from you. The old woman lifts her
coffee cup to her wrinkled rouged lips,
sips daintily, returns the cup to its saucer.
You think you recognize that shade of red
as the one your mother wore, something French.
Was it Rose Sensuelle?
Her gentle portly husband reads
the newspaper to her. You watch
as she dabs her napkin against her mouth,
smiles at him, reaches to touch
his hand. Her gesture presses
on your fumbling heart, nudges
your loneliness into the open.
Your breath is a slow, steady
ache as you grip your fork, wonder
whose hand you might reach for
and whether anyone has noticed.
Kathleen Cassen Mickelson is a Minnesota-based writer who works in multiple genres. She is also an editor at the online poetry journal Every Day Poets. She is delighted to appear in Boston Literary Magazine.
Matthew A. Hamilton
Notes spring from the jukebox,
jumpy and loud and full of smoke and
the foamy smell of beer on tap.
I don’t know why I’m here.
A co-worker’s birthday party, I know that,
but I didn’t have to come. I could have easily phoned
in sick, stayed home and watched a movie.
I don’t like bars; never have.
I don’t like most of the people I work with.
Smoke rings spin and float into nothing,
colliding with each other,
forming large and nerve-racking boredom
clouds. They encircle my imagination.
I take my last sip of bourbon.
The ice jingles in the glass as I shake the
last bit out. I was going to stop there,
but then I see Tom,
Tom from sales. He guns me down with his index finger
and smiles. He’s an idiot and I’m
glad he works 10 floors above me.
I order a second round, this time straight up,
and turn my eyes and thoughts to the dance floor.
Tracy is swinging her legs and climbing the tables.
She is stopped as
soon as she removes her shirt. She’s an idiot, too. We
are not in that kind of bar.
I order another.
Eight bourbons later I see Heather, the receptionist. She’s looking hot. I
don’t see a woman whose face normally looks like silly putty smashed
into the Saturday Morning Comics, but a luscious go-to-bed-with-me-
tonight body. Woozy, I stand up, stumble,
grab her waist, say I want to dance.
She giggles. The bourbon titters in my stomach
and rapidly climbs inside my head. And we dance.
We dance for hours. Tom guns me down again and I
give him a high five. I try to convince Tracy to take her shirt off.
She nudges me away and slaps me in the butt and I like it. She does, too,
and gives me a wink, slips her number inside my pants pocket,
keeps her hand there for a really long time,
until the blood rises between my legs.
I go for the beer next, order a round for everyone,
then a second and a third. I’m not as surly.
I’m starting to enjoy myself.
Matthew A. Hamilton is a US Peace Corps Volunteer serving in the Philippines. After service, he plans to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing.
It's back again, the stupid dove,
the one Mom really resents
for nesting in her potted lantana
and flattening all the flowers.
This year, Mom hid the plant
and the bird settled in an empty
bucket on the balcony,
boldly announcing its arrival
with flutters and coos.
After months of monopolizing
the corner, for its last
egg never hatched,
Dad dared Mom to snatch
the egg during the dove's evening flight,
dye it for Easter, then slip
it back into the nest. But the dove
gave them such a nasty look before leaving,
Mom chickened out.
Karen Kelsay is a native Californian who spent most of her childhood weekends on a boat. Her husband is British, and she travels to England regularly to visit family and enjoy the countryside. She received a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2009 and is the author of five chapbooks. Some of her recent poems have appeared in The New Formalist, Divine Dirt, Lucid Rhythms and Camroc Press.
Michelle V. Alkerton
this painful split
that appeared in my fate line
while closer inspection
reveals no life line
in either palm
is the shape of fire
though it’s hard to imagine
that the ocean
knew I’d been burned
of palmistry’s origin
as two cultures establish
either my fate
is controlled chiefly
by outer forces
of my hidden potential
Michelle V. Alkerton (formerly Lohnes) is an artistic spirit who cannot contain her excitement when inspired. An internationally published poet, she thrives best when close to nature and enjoys the therapy her writing, art, photography and other creative outlets provide.
The Regret of Karma
R. Jay Slais
The ex wife phones after 2AM frantic
barely able to speak, and I whisper
so the kids do not wake up. She says
her new boyfriend just killed her,
but she came back to life
after he had removed his ugly hands
from the strangle of her neck.
She tells me four separate times
about how blood is able to leak
from every skin pore of ones face
when you die like that
and then are allowed to live,
but I hesitate, contemplate…
each time, when she asks my opinion
for whether or not she should
call the police to come, remembering
how, just a few years back,
the aluminum baseball bat she swung
cracked the bones of my forearms
protecting the pores of my face
from getting bloodied.
The Girl Next Door
R. Jay Slais
As we drive down this dusty dirt road riddled with bumps,
we slow down, sometimes swerve to miss bigger ruts
while we are on our way to visit her makeshift memorial.
It’s still there where she died, one year plus after the accident,
a shrine in the weeds on the northeast corner of the intersection;
her car had been pushed fifty feet further off the road,
the tire’s gouge marks in the dirt have already healed.
There are still too many unanswerable questions.
Did she think it was a four-way stop not requiring her to yield?
Did she look but not see the huge truck coming from the left?
There are fresh flowers, faded ribbons, a teddy bear,
a Halloween mask, Christmas boxes, candles and crosses,
a graduation cap, and a handmade “we miss you” sign
wrapped in cellophane from a friend’s kitchen.
She and her family were new to our neighborhood,
moving next door two months before her senior year started.
This was the first time her parents had let her drive to school,
they asked her to take the back roads feeling they were safer.
We both backed out of our driveways that morning
at the exact same time. I waved as she passed.
One day after attending her funeral, I talked to her step dad
out in his yard while he was smoking a cigarette.
Nerves shot, he felt the need to tell me all of the details
of what had happened three days before at the hospital,
how they were not allowed to see her for a while
until they had spoken with the hospital priest
who tried to reassure them she did not suffer.
Their suffering really began as soon as they finally saw her;
they were left alone in the room with her laid out on a gurney,
the top of her head missing from the truck bumper’s impact.
The county road commission has added two stop signs
finally making that intersection an all-way four-way stop.
Now everyone will stop their cars. Remember her.
Some of R Jay Slais’ publications include poems at Barnwood Poetry Magazine, Boston Literary Magazine, MiPOesias, Oranges & Sardines, The Pedestal Magazine, and Rose & Thorn Journal. His first collection of poetry, Mice Verses Man, was released January 2010 from Big Table Publishing Company. A single father raising his two kids, he writes from his home in Romeo, Michigan and makes a living as an engineer/inventor for a Metro Detroit automotive industry supplier.
Station to Station
On the sidewalk,
by the pay-phone,
a thousand peso
and I used it to call you.
That must have been
and Mexico City
and Oklahoma City,
but there was only
You visit your Mother
since she got sick.
I felt so foolish
what to say.
I didn’t leave
Got back around dark.
You were sad, and
hadn’t got out of bed all day.
There wasn’t much in the house.
I lit a candle.
We had hummus on crackers,
and lay close.
The little flame warmed us.
It would be ok.
Doug Mathewson lives on the Connecticut shoreline. He writes very short fiction that occasionally changes of its own volition into poetry or essay forms. He has been published here and there online, most recently at The Boston Literary Magazine, Doorknobs & Body Paint, and Six Sentences. His current project, True Stories from Imaginary Lives, can be found at www.little2say.org.
You are at war with your body.
Once, you contained it viciously
with cottage cheese and exercise,
but now it overflows its borders.
It fires gallstones and polyps, shocking
your delicate nerves. It keeps you awake
with the hostile sounds of apnea.
It has blockaded your heart.
Because your father’s body had no chance
to decay, you ignored the sacredness
of your own, bloating it with bagels and kugel.
And when disease came, you armed yourself
with prescriptions and began a war of attrition.
But you and it occupy one space,
and the shrapnel of each pill that enters
your bloodstream calcifies your mind.
You continue to rupture its strength
with French fries and Zetia*, but what certainty?
It has blockaded your heart.
I hear your snoring through closed doors,
and in the mornings your hypotheses of war.
*Zetia: A cholesterol medication.
Jonathan Dubow is a recent graduate of Oberlin College with degrees in English and Creative Writing. In the spring of 2009, he won the Emma Howell Memorial Poetry Prize, and was runner up for the Academy of American Poets Stuart Friebert Prize. He has work forthcoming in Mobius: The Journal of Social Change.
Ways and Plans
He spoke to his mother’s corpse
through his sister’s cellphone.
She sat with the body,
ten minutes too late to watch
the death. He leaned on the bathroom
sink in the back of the stockroom
in the dark. She set the phone
on speaker. He mewled
apologies through the air,
noise became his voice
She cooed and shushed
and made sounds for consolation.
He washed his face, raked
his hair, considered ways and plans.
She sat in an office chair
with the body for an hour more.
Visiting My Father
and shakes my hand,
with three more falls
who doesn’t know me
not to know.
he says (Glycerin tears.
And we shake hands.
his forehead, leave him
and rain-soaked conifers.
Brendan McEntee is a native New Yorker now living in Vermont with his wife and an ambivalent Jack Russell Terrier named Cordelia. He achieved his M.A. in English from Hofstra University and is currently the poetry editor of Triggerfish Critical Review. His work has most appeared in Nomad’s Choir, The Iconoclast, Perigee and Prick of the Spindle.