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Ray Greenblatt

Dad came back to us.
He was our hero.
He said the shrapnel in his leg
only ached on rainy days.
He was proud of his job
held for forty years
without one day sick.
He helped me with homework,
went to all our games,
even coached.
He cooked hamburgers
on the outdoor grill
but kidded they sometimes
smelled like burning flesh.
He couldn't go to big stadiums
nor ride on trains,
it was too loud.
He admitted that sometimes
a rock in a field reminded him
of lifeless eyes in a lifeless head.
He and mother would sit
in the living room
by the large picture window
speaking low, personal,
watching the world go by.
The eye-blink never left him.
We loved our dad.
He was our hero.

Ray Greenblatt is on the editorial staff of the Schuylkill Valley Journal and is on the board of the Philadelphia Writers Conference. His poems have been translated into Gaelic, Polish and Japanese and set to music at the University of Pisa in Italy.

A Moral Imperative
Brady Peterson

You wonder about the notion of choosing—
do we ever. Dumping jeans and t-shirts
in a washing machine on a Saturday morning
already fading into noon, already loosing
the feel of Saturday. Do we watch football

or take a walk down the road, playing chicken
with the cars, the shoulder barely wide enough,
tilting down—there was a time, we tell
ourselves, when it was quiet here, when one
could hear the breeze—the game still playing

when we return. We pick a side,
eeny, meeny, miny, moe—
You remember after a game once, sitting
in the stands and watching a last minute
touchdown secure a victory or defeat depending—

later eating a hamburger and fries in a roadside
café, the jukebox playing, your uncle leaning
in and telling you he was a Hank Williams man—
a former Baptist preacher selling booze
in your father’s liquor store,

and who one Friday during Christmas season,
dressed up as a red headed Mrs. Claus and stood
on the giant stuffed rabbit, sitting in front
of the store parking lot, a landmark of sorts,
waving at the cars going by.

How Could We Not
Brady Peterson

Mom said I could go, she says ready to leave,
but let’s go out the back door—
this girl who takes on her older sister’s name
when she is four, who watches dance recital
videos for hours when she is three
and dances to them—

You can call me Lou, she tells her dance instructor
who looks quizzically at my wife—
She is a dog for a while, until she tastes
the food, then decides she was a girl again.
I watch her walking up a sidewalk from school,
carrying her backpack at six—

the image of her carrying that heavy bag chiseled
in my brain. In a Boston trip, on a bus,
she asks me what language the driver is speaking—
English, I tell her. She listens more attentively—
She visits the Louvre and tells me it is too much
to absorb in a single day— She sits beside me

in a car while driving the Interstate in a hard
rain. Her mother comes out the front door
to say goodbye—She didn’t say I could go,
she didn’t say I could go, she says having been caught—
But we let her go anyway, didn’t we, my wife says.
How could we not—

Brady Peterson lives in Belton, Texas where he spent the last twenty five years building homes or teaching rhetoric. He has published poems in Windhover, New Texas, Heartlodge, Boston Literary Magazine, Nerve Cowboy, Texas Poetry Calendar, The San Antonio Express, The Enigmatist, and The Journal of Military Experience. He is also the author of Glued to the Earth and Between Stations.

Richard Schnap

His bookshelf was lined
With existentialist novels
Behind which were bottles
Of barbiturate pills

While his wife’s dresser drawer
Was filled with damp handkerchiefs
That carefully concealed
A vodka-filled flask

And his daughter’s jewelry box
Contained ashes of photos
Of all her ex-boyfriends
Plus one razor blade

And in his son’s closet
Sat a shoe box in the corner
With schedules of airlines
And a map of the world

Control Freak
Richard Schnap

He seemed like a cross
Between an abused dog
And a cornered rat

Making you feel
Sorry for him
Till he lunged for the kill

His gimmick was to make
Cassettes of music
So you’d feel indebted

Then he took you home
After a first date
And revealed his intent

To strip you naked
And bind you with cords
Like a fly in a web

Who learned too late
That a wounded beast
Has the sharpest teeth

Richard Schnap

He appears now and then
At the poetry workshop
In a second-hand wheelchair
Barely fitting through the door
He always wears a shirt
With a sports team logo
As he waits to be heard
Like a batter on deck

And when it’s his turn
He speaks about touchdowns
World Series champions
Stanley Cup winners
As if through his words
He forgets his steel cage
And for that fleeting moment
Is the season’s M.V.P.

Richard Schnap is a poet, songwriter and collagist living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His poems have most recently appeared locally, nationally and overseas in a variety of print and online publications.

The Bug
Ed Severson

Zero to fifty took ten minutes,
with a good tailwind,
pointed downhill,
pedal pressed to the deck.

Their pint-sized engines,
sniffing a whiff of cheap gas,
could haul five, shoehorned inside,
across town and back.

Those crazy nights.
That cramped rear seat
balancing our tangled mergers:
well worth the fuss.

Ed Severson served four years in the U.S. Navy, earned a degree in English from the University of Arizona and spent twenty years as a reporter and columnist for the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. In retirement, he has written many poems and published many poems and has published a few in obscure magazine.

Craig Fishbane

The ghosts of Junior High kept swarming across my Sundays,
each one decked-out in a translucent T-shirt and designer jeans.
Swaggering across the evening in gum-chewing packs of ectoplasm,
these adolescent apparitions smudged the sky
with high-top sneakers and stained the moon with Clearasil,
taunting the dying weekend with jokes about its mother.
I could hear them coming for me as I cowered at my desk.
There was nothing to do but study for that test I knew I would never pass.
For twenty years, every house I lived in became a haunted homeroom,

until, finally, I learned to play hooky.

Craig Fishbane is the author of On the Proper Role of Desire (Big Table Publishing). His work has appeared in the New York Quarterly, Bartleby Snopes, Drunken Boat and The Nervous Breakdown, as well as the Flash Fiction Funny anthology. He can be contacted at his website: CraigFishbane.wordpress.com.

Pedestrian Encounters
Joshua Paul Bocher

With a mischievous grin, a robin
Steals a berry from neighbor’s garden
And gulps it down gladly. Seeing

Two squirrels chasing each other,
I think little is more entertaining
Than watching animals playing.

Meanwhile, a host of sparrows
Convene in a bush in front of me.
What’s a handful of birds worth to me?

Attuned to my environment, the wind
Carries me through the hustle and bustle,
Safely through the traffic of many cars.

By the time I’m underground,
I’m in a freakishly good mood
Swaying with the back and forth

Of the subway, while some stranger
Stares at me harshly, clearly feeling
Weighed down by the struggles of his day,

As if my good mood were an imposition on him,
As if his grimace conveyed hidden compassion,
Telling me all good feelings are an illusion,

Fleeting moments to be taken away by time,
So I stared back at him and in my cruelty
Smiled, thereby twisting the knife.

Joshua Paul Bocher's poetry has appeared in such journals as Illuminations, Burningword, East Coast Literary Review, and Mused - The BellaOnline Literary Review. He has degrees in writing and literature from Brown and Harvard. Previously, he lived abroad in Taiwan for two and a half years. Currently, he lives with his wife in Somerville, MA and works for non-profits in the Boston area.

Spring Ritual
Krystyna Fedosejevs

When the last of snow
trickles through city sewers
and neighbourhood roads
are freed from patchy ice,
Wilfred scoots to the basement
of his parents’ house.

Dodging family antiquities,
past a furnace toning down heat,
he reaches the corner
where wintering spiders
have left criss-crossed webs
and musty air grabs his lungs.

Pulls a ceiling chord
to shine light over shaded
sinews of cedar-clad walls.
Centipedes shimmer
by his feet, then hide.

Wilfred smiles.

For in that coveted space
rests a relic of springs past.
Of wind whistling in his ears
as wheels spin speed
the faster they’re pedalled.

From that corner
Wilfred retrieves

his bicycle.

Krystyna Fedosejevs writes poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. Fiction and poetry recently published online and in journals at: Nailpolish Stories, 50-Word Stories, 100 word story, A Story in 100 Words, 101 Words, From the Depths (Haunted Waters Press), ShortbreadStories and espresso stories. Nonfiction appeared in flash fiction chronicles and in Wild Lands Advocate. Krystyna resides in Alberta, Canada.

The Toolshed
Art Heifetz

Come in and shut the door.
Don't step on the rake
or send the circular saw flying.
This is where I store
next to the seed and motor oil
all my failures
the projects begun
but never completed
the tools and parts
I can't recall the function of
the things I don't use anymore
but can't get rid of
because to do so
would be like discarding
a small piece of myself.

Here are the ski boots that I wore
the day I broke my ankle
the tennis racquet my son used
when he tore his ACL
the basketball he shot
a few weeks before he died
the camping gear which gathered dust
when my wife became too sick
to sleep in the woods.

The musty smell here
is the smell of my regrets
which grow so numerous with age
that soon I'll have to buy a second shed
just to house them in.

Art Heifetz has published 170 poems in 13 countries. See polishedbrasspoems.com for more of his work.

Night Game
Keith Tornheim

So there I was an umpire on the third-base line
of some important baseball game
between teams I didn’t know,
and at the break, returning from the men’s room, I heard
my mother’s voice from the lady’s, saying,
“Keithie, is that you?”
She emerged, slender and sharply dressed,
black hair of fifty years ago.
We fell into each other’s arms and I cried
more than ever these past years,
as she rambled out the reasons and excuses
why she had been incommunicado the last two years,
something about traveling in Europe with a Hungarian agency
that seemed to allow no time or opportunity for letters,
and I, sobbing, had said we had thought her disappeared and dead.

Thus dreams misbehave,
for slowly I remembered that in real life
and death
I had seen her body years ago
and carried it to her grave.

Saving Grace
Keith Tornheim

I am like my father:
A good fellow, but
with piles of papers
in too many places,
covering horizontal surfaces.
But if you can stand that,
quite a good fellow indeed.
Of course, now my father’s papers
also cover up wayward pills
that have escaped from breakfast—
or was it dinner?
Last night?—or last week?
So it is time to clear his table.
But papers are sticky to the two of us—
metaphorically, I mean—
hard to release, to say farewell to,
though we both believe wholeheartedly
in recycling, at least in theory,
well, maybe after a lag of a week,
or a month, or whatever.
For we might get around to reading
that newspaper or that article
whose title caught our eye once,
or we might need to refer
to that note or announcement sometime,
and if it’s gone, it’s gone.
So you see the problem.
I’d better have my brother do this.

Keith Tornheim, a biochemistry professor at Boston University School of Medicine, has been published in Ibbetson Street, Spare Change News, Lyrical Somerville (The Somerville News), and Poetica. His poems have been a part of High Holiday and other services of his congregation (see shirhadash-ma.org/poetry.html).

Coach Kaz
Steve Klepetar

I was hung over, of course, as usual,
and not the only one, I can tell you,

but somehow we had two on, with two
out in the ninth, down by two.

“Git him, George,” Coach yelled,
“Base hit him now,” but I swung

at the first pitch, grounded to short,
quick flip force at second. Last game—

we ended up 5-21, my lackluster
lope to first summing up the whole,

sorry year. Coach Kaz called us over.
“Ok, men, huddle up. This is where

I’m supposed to say Good year guys,
you hustled and we did our best, but

you all know that’s crap. You were lazy,
showed up for games half drunk, red-eyed,

stumbling, and you stunk up the field,
every last one of you and I’m glad I won’t

have to coach you bunch of jerks, at least
not the seniors, any more!” And he stomped

out of the dugout, leaving bats and balls
for us to gather up or not. He was done.

That night in the clearing behind the school,
drinking with the other guys, I held up my can

of Schlitz. “Here’s to Coach K! “ I grunted out.
“Goddamit, I love when someone tells the truth!”

In the Subway
Steve Klepetar

“I was in a play once,” he shouted,
“Took place in the subway, man,

and we had to rock back and forth
a little as we said our lines.

That was hard, man!”
His huge hand gripped the pole

as the train swung around a curve,
flipped him backwards against

the closed door. Then he was singing—
“Down and drunk in Fresno

riding boxcars to L.A. …”
head swinging, hair loose, flying,

keeping time with his size 13 boots
passengers backing away, crushing

together in that crowd, two foot
circumference around him as he

bellowed, beard wild, flaming red,
eyes nearly closed with memory

and the joy of breath. All around
wary eyes, glancing and looking

away, newspapers rustling.
Easy freedom of the large and mad.

And then he’s done. Train jerks into
the station, doors push open with their

pneumatic groan. Old man leans
in close—“Sound like fun.”

Russian accent, lips slightly parted,
yellow teeth, smile lines crinkling his eyes.

Steve Klepetar’s work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, including three in 2014. Three collections appeared in 2013: Speaking to the Field Mice (Sweatshoppe Publications), Blue Season (with Joseph Lisowski, mgv2>publishing), and My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto (Flutter Press). An e-chapbook, Return of the Bride of Frankenstein, came out in 2014 as part of the Barometric Pressures series of e-chapbooks by Kind of a Hurricane Press.

Ramesh Dohan

Incurable diseases, famine and war
Yet the newspaper seems so delicate
Rolled up and wrapped in plastic
from the weather

Ode to Pierre
Ramesh Dohan

From under the old Chevy
He slides out
and my eyes burn a hole
through snug-fitting Levis

Hands glazed in grease
wipe his brow
as he looks up at the sun
wild green eyes
turn to tiny slits
and a smile stains

He takes a swig of Coke
and I taste
the wetness on his tongue
tickle my throat in the distance

Ramesh Dohan hails from the city of Toronto. Ramesh Dohan was born in 1974 in Singapore. He earned a BA from the University of British Columbia. His poetry often slips into quirky, tender or profound observation on the everyday, reading and writing, and poetry itself. His works have previously appeared in the Boston Review, Osprey Review, Bywords Poetry , Word Salad & Sentinel Literary Quarterly.

Michael Milburn

Looking in the mirror
I see how the child I was,
the young man I was,
turned out.

Staring into my own eyes,
I am not nervous or shy
or my usual fake-polite,
withholding self.

I’m a man in a mirror,
two weathered faces
with crumbling complexions
and retreating hair,

eyeing each other
with disappointment in …
and disapproval of …

Goddamn our
shared history
that keeps us

from meeting
as strangers,
starting again.

This isn’t what being
an iconoclast means,

arguing with everyone
just to buck the crowd,

but he wants
to be the guy

who does not like,
who sees through.

Maybe as his life plays out
all anecdotes will favor him

or maybe his rebelliousness
will turn out not to be a pose.

Whatever convictions
he comes to in the end,

speaking his mind
will serve him well;

it’s just in making it up
that he has to grow up.

Michael Milburn teaches high school English in New Haven, CT. His book of poems, Carpe Something, was published by Word Press in 2012.

Road Rage
Larry D. Thomas

I strap myself onto the throne
of my driver’s seat, lock my doors,
and clutch the circular, plastic reins
of hundreds of horses in my SUV
flawlessly designed to seal me off

from impotence and low self-esteem.
At eighty mph, I cruise the outside lane,
maximizing my advantage
of velocity against “enemies”
closing in from feeders.

I tailgate those too slow,
accelerate, slam my brakes,
and blast my strident horn.
A rude gesture is my weapon of choice,
its backup my scrunched-up face

looming in my rearview mirror.
I operate in the air-conditioned
comfort of anonymity,
a ruddy, corpulent monarch
snug inside his castle of steel.

Larry D. Thomas, a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate, has published several award-winning collections of poetry. As If Light Actually Matters: New & Selected Poems will appear in late spring, 2015 ( Texas Review Press, Texas A&M University Press Consortium). He is a previous contributor of poems to Boston Literary Magazine. His Web site is larrydthomas.com.

Photo Bomb
Darrell Petska

I found myself up close
        to everyone's hero
               the great footballer

       As the cameras ticked
I leaned my
       head to the left
              of the great man's head—

it might appear as if he and I shared
the same body and he never knew

I worked there long before he
started playing and he never knew
       until now—

On the sports page
       beside his trophy and
              winning smile

a smudgy
       emptiness the size of my head
              or the dressing room tunnel

If you squint really hard
       you can almost see me
                       there, clearing trash

Darrell Petska's writing tends to focus on the margins of society. His work appears in Lummox, San Pedro River Review, Blast Furnace, The Missing Slate, About Place Journal and other electronic and print journals. Day jobs have included psychiatric casework, nursing home evaluation, and university communications.

The Wait
Cara Long

I'll fly away, words so safe in your head
Children hoping they’re true as they lie in their beds
Hands groping, breath haunting
Touch strange yet familiar
Father, brother, uncle, friend
Just lying and waiting…waiting for the end.

Cara Long is completing her MFA in Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University. She loves learning about the art of writing. She is the author of three children’s picture books, and is currently working on a novel of realistic fiction.

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