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Stickcalibur
James Valvis

I stand by a river waving a stick
around my head. What am I? Six?
Seven? My parents
stand near by. I feel silly having them
for parents. I was meant to be
a king's son. I've got that stick
and I'm waving it around. I call it stickcalibur.
My sister collects
shards of green and brown glass which
she imagines is jewelry. Later she'll drop it all
on the dining room table
and she'll run a flashlight over them
to watch them sparkle. I've got that stick.
My parents are janitors
or something equally dumb. They don't know
any better. They don't know they sired
a prince and a movie starlet.
To them, we're just regular kids they have to
put up with. What do they know?
I've read the legend of King Arthur. My sister
says something I don't like.
I wield stickcalibur and swing at her leg.
She falls down hard. I hold
my stick in the air triumphantly, as my parents
move in. They snatch at stickcalibur,
but only the chosen one can wield it. One by one,
I smite them, until my father corners me
between a rock and the river. Then
he takes stickcalibur
and smites me back. The life of a prince
is not always a lot of fun. Afterwards,
my father chucks stickcalibur into the river,
putting an end
to my magical powers and my destiny
once and for all. But one day
another will come, another chosen one,
and stickcalibur will rise
from the murky depths and a new prince
will smite all nonbelievers. I just hope to God
it won't be my kid.

James Valvis lives in Washington State. His work has recently appeared in Arts & Letters, Blip (Mississippi Review), Front Porch Journal, LA Review, Nimrod, Pank, Pedestal Magazine, Rattle, River Styx, Verdad, and is forthcoming in Clackamas Literary Review, Hanging Loose, GW Review, New York Quarterly, Night Train, Slipstream, and others. His fiction has twice been named a storySouth Notable Story. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart and Best of the Web anthologies multiple times. His full-length poetry collection, How to Say Goodbye, is forthcoming.





Music is coming in through the static.
It reminds me of the time I could
barely make out your form through the rain
as I sat waiting for the ragged waitress
with smoke-stained fingers to fill
my coffee.

Neon signs distorted by oceans on window panes
flickered and buzzed while taxis sailed past
through well-known channels. The tired bell
above the door signaled your arrival
like so many before.

   Over easy with bacon and toast

But nothing is ever over or easy.

I curse myself for calling you from
the pay-phone on the corner with the
cracked glass that mirrors my face.

   Can you believe this rain

I sipped my coffee and watched you
light a cigarette as you placed it
between your lips.

I started to burn with it.

To smolder and crumble
as I thought of myself
between those painted
drugs.

That's the trouble with all of them
and their damned lips...

and asses that drive my fingers
across numbers on silver cubes.
Beckoning me to sit waiting in
neon brothels like a junky.

Waiting.
Sipping coffee.

Wondering if any of this will ever be easy.

Or over.

Fear of Heights
Dale R. Wilsey, Jr.

The sound of roofing nails
piercing tin. Finding the
skeleton of heavy
timbers beneath.

Strength in my father's
shoulder swings the hammer
in a perfect arc, driving
nails through in a single
blow.

It's 1986. I am 2 years old
on a tin roof in a cloth diaper
creating the earliest memory
I'll ever hold on to.

A sunny day carried on a cool breeze.

Playskool hammer in hand,
I mimic my father.

Imaginary nails are driven
through thin metal
beneath my
child strength.

My mother is still here.

They're still married.

That was 24 years ago.

Nails still hold fast
in the roof of the
crooked barn.

But everything else
fell apart from then on.

And today I have
a fear of
heights.

Dale Wilsey Jr. was born and raised in the small, unknown town of Tunkhannock, PA. Although he studied English and writing at Kutztown University, his real lessons have been administered through stacking field stone, rebuilding a carburetor, finishing too many bottles of bourbon and stepping on a nail once, among other things. He is a writer of short stories and a poet of no style in particular. Dale also maintains a blog at manic-frustration.blogspot.com.

Back to TOC

Circle Theory
Cheryl Snell

You’re better now,
your wounds have closed,
there is sapling strength.

Your sister is still
at the other end of the phone,
singing her hosannas.
Your ex thinks it’s his turn now,
though tit for tat was never established.

Demands are made. Some are met.
The ones who hurt you most want forgiveness
at all hours of the night. You can’t sleep anyway,
and when a friend offers a back rub
when what you really want is sex,
you slide down the door
of your own locked-out life,
and count yourself among the lucky.

Cheryl Snell is the author of two multicultural novels, Rescuing Ranu (Scattered Light Publications, 2009) and Shiva's Arms (Writer's Lair Books, 2010). She has published several hundred poems, stories, reviews and articles online and in print. One of her seven published collections of poetry, Prisoner's Dilemma, won the Lopside Press Chapbook Competition in 2008, and Dorianne Laux included a poem from that work for the Sundress Best of the Web Anthology.




Makeup
Stan Galloway

I’d never noticed the care before
you use when putting on
your make up—
many layers, subtle,
to achieve the perfect look.

You hide the darker lines
beneath your eyes,
then darken lids above;
you highlight brows and lashes
to bring definition, contrast.

The slight blush
that I thought I brought to you
comes really from a
dab and rub of several sponges,
and the tingle when we kiss,
I should have known,
is one of three slick layers,
artificially applied.

Stan Galloway teaches writing and literature at Bridgewater College in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. His poetry has appeared online at vox poetica, Loch Raven Review, Indigo Rising Magazine, Eunoia Review, Caper Literary Journal, The Atrium, Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts and Letters, and Apollo’s Lyre. In print, his poems have shown up in WestWard Quarterly, Midnight Zoo, Carapace, the Burroughs Bulletin, and the book Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Second Century. His book of literary criticism, The Teenage Tarzan, came out in January 2010.




Summer Cottage
Elizabeth Cleary

When she arrives early that morning,
mop and pail in hand, the first person
to set foot on the slate path in months,
toads spring up and she smiles thinking
they too seem excited about the prospect
of her opening long shuttered windows.
But the frame sticks and she imagines dust
cowers behind the door, refuses to unlock
the bolt because it knows she’s here
to announce it’s time to pack up, make way
for paying tenants. She doesn’t notice
the skunk living beneath the porch
and confident she won’t disturb him,
he doesn’t bother saying hello.



From my stone balcony, I spy blue crab
waltzing—left-left-pivot, right-right-pivot

as the incoming tide taps the base
of the retaining wall—1-2-3, 1-2-3

Across rocks and shells, he prances
through sea lettuce fluttering like ball gowns,

circles his dance floor solo,
twirls into some oysters

bedded under seaweed canopy,
bumps a shy eel sitting quietly;

his unexpected overture forgiven,
she quickly slides from his reach, moves

nearer the wall, nearer me, where
I hope we both remain undisturbed.

Elizabeth Cleary’s poem 'Context' was published by Boston Literary Magazine in Fall 2010. Her poem 'Battle Cry of a Dying Barn' was nominated for a Pushcart by Tipton Poetry Journal. Eli co-chairs The Poetry Institute - New Haven, in Connecticut, and works at a multinational software company. www.elicleary.com.




Mouse
Ted Scott

Forgive me, you small furry beast
for I've been given a mission,
to trap you,
to remove you from our kitchen.

She said to show kindness and justice.
We discussed the means and the end.
Trespass is not a cardinal sin,
so we chose a non lethal trap,

that just locks you in, when you stray.
Your life is not to be threatened.
You'll just be removed to the woods;
no harm at all,

except for the loss of your home, and
your loved ones,
and learning a new way to live,
in the woods, with new predators.

Think of it as a new adventure,
with new challenges to meet.
And think of me as your friend,
who gave you those new opportunities.

And let us both reflect on this.
What if our roles were reversed?
Our Karmas exchanged in the kitchen
Would it be me in the woods, or worse?

Ted Scott lives with his wife in western Massachusetts. He made $25 last year from a story in The Green Mountain Trading Post. He still has more grandchildren than published poems, but he's beginning to catch up. He can be reached at ted_scott99@yahoo.com.




Fenders that Fend
Oleh Lysiak

The 48 DeSoto’s vertical cream, green and red
lighted radio plays “Bye, bye, Miss American Pie”
on a sub zero Idaho two lane as a semi decapitates
a nice four pointer in mutual headlights. Dispatched
venison is wrapped in a tarp, lashed to the roof. I roll
a day break doobie. We split the final Snickers. Ray
steers his fifty-dollar real deal Detroit iron with fenders
that fend and bumpers that bump home to the coast.
What remains of our America recedes in the rearview.

Oleh Lysiak’s poetry has been published by Boston Literary Magazine, Bad Light Literary Journal, Commonline Project, Void Magazine, Apt Magazine, The Boatmen’s Quarterly, The Bay City Slug, The Stinking Desert Gazette, Estafette Literary Journal and The Word Almanac. He is author of Filet & Release, The Chromium Kid In The American Zoo, Barely Inside The Lines, Scars In Progress, Geezer Rumba.




Tramps
Carla Criscuolo

We have been the ragged edges of nights
spent speaking tongues in the language of
bourbon, converging on that vacant lot
dusted in dandelion fuzz where our faults
sit atop asphalt pedestals and demand worship.
We have draped ourselves over marble slabs, bodies
like black altar cloths stinking of backed up toilets,
seething with a need to obstruct, to hide behind
veils of plaster Paris so the world won’t see us
swaying on our feet, anchored to nothing.

Carla Criscuolo was born and raised in New York City and now makes her home on Long Island. Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary magazines including Main Street Rag, South Jersey Underground, Foliate Oak, and Message in a Bottle.




Optics
Byron Matthews

They use lasers now
to correct the view in telescopes

Reality undistorted
revealed at the eyepiece
in real time

If I had one of those
and used it on your smile

What would I see?

Byron Matthews left a tenured faculty position in Maryland to make furniture for ten years in Santa Fe. He lives now in the mountains east of Albuquerque with his wife, a cellist, who encourages his poetry because it's finally something that does not involve large quantities of tools and equipment. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Quantum Poetry Magazine, Ramshackle Review, Victorian Violet Press, Front Porch Review, nibble, Willows Wept Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, The Centrifugal Eye, and other journals.




Steaming Red Tea
Stephen Maurer

She places her brimming cup beneath
her on my wife's cleaned carpet.
With her legs crossed, skirt hiked up,
the grounded right leg serves
as fulcrum for the jumpy left leg.

She's an experimental psychologist,
loves the way poetry leads into the self,
but hasn't been able to publish.
Our poetry-writing workshop is
taking a turn in our home.
Tonight she brings an exotic red tea
to celebrate my wife's recent publication.

She starts to read her poem,
the mild rant of a jealous woman
intimidated by a favored sister.
As she reads, her leg pendulums,
each circuit closer
to the leaning cup of red tea.

I try to stay inside the poet's reading
or the poem that's reading the poet,
but her foot is within an inch
of staining my wife's hard work.
I can't decide what to say.

Better to show than tell
and a red-stained aftermath
would be a provocative image,
the drama enriching the poem
far beyond its cliched words.
Is the tea, the foot, or the stain
the metaphorical referent?
Perhaps they'll find a way
into her next poem.

The hypnotic foot, within a half-inch,
makes me wonder if I'm part
of a double-blind psychology experiment.
Glaring at the multi-media presentation,
my wife exits the poem,
ends my reverie with a piercing glance.

But the reading ends, the foot retreats,
the poet smiles.

Stephen Maurer has practiced and written about psychoanalysis for over 20 years. Reading and writing poetry were essential to his practice. A desire to immerse himself in poetry prompted early retirement from Seattle to a small college town (with an excellent English Dept.). He is a father and grandfather, has a lifelong discipline as a classical clarinetist and enjoys climbing, kayaking, and backpacking. His chapbook, Side Effects, was published by Big Table Publishing Company last year. He lives with his wife Elizabeth (Chief Muse and Critic) and their dog Sombra.




My Time with Jay
Barbara Stratton

We meet each morning for coffee and conversation.
We catch up on yesterday’s news, today’s plans and upcoming events.
We speak of weather, sports, health, current events, and trivia, And whatever else might come to mind.
I relish our time together.
I love this man.
He is married with two children.
I love them too.
He is my son. And meeting him on line is a highlight of my day.

Barbara Stratton is a part-time editor, writer, and octanagerian. She lives north of Boston with her husband of 57 years and their pet golden retriever.




Dinner at the New Taj
Sujata Balasubramanian

Beer, meat and potatoes kind of guy,
Flirts with the waitress
With braid and kohl and delicate hands,
Of dark eyes, of amused and coy demeanor
And elegant soft laugh.
Gets her to speak spice and flavor,
To read traditional names
Then repeats with poor enunciation
To amuse her,
Asks for suggestions and takes them.
Tikka Masala tastes better than he remembers.


Apology
Sujata Balasubramanian

“I’m sorry.”
I said it like I meant it,
I did.
It un-does what I did
Un-says what I said
And un-believes what I proclaimed to follow…

I know it doesn’t.
But if it did,
Could you make me un-wrong?

Instead I shall say it again.
“I’m sorry”
I said it a thousand times,
I’m sorry I said it a thousand times.
“I’m sorry”
I don’t know what for.
I’m sorry I don’t know what for.

Now right the wrongs.
Un-turn this page, un-write these words
Put me back—
The same place you found me.
Un-read my promises
Un-take my love
Un-kiss me.
Un-wind the clock
Un-set the alarm
So yesterday will never wake me again.

Sujata Balasubramanian has a penchant for things that cannot be seen unaided. Published otherwise as a scientist, her poetry has appeared in Foundling Review, Alimentum-The Literature of Food, and now in Boston Literary Magazine.




My Familiar
Richard Prins

He’s drinking again after seven months. Two chiming
pints shoot relief into marble gutters of our fingerprints,
surfing off tongues on a mirrorpane of laughter. His ribs,
so easy to count. The night jots down their serial numbers.
“When you quit drinking,” I recall, “You gotta deal with this
marvelous personality that got you drinking in the first place.”
Empty glasses always dangle wildfire in our eyes. He’s got one
ripe blunt in his pocket, if I get another round. We pour three
new personalities and let their wings spread. This is our torch
so many oceans later. I hold him in the alley, pissing
tangly-eyed on puddles that make every road familiar. A snail
makes a sucking sound taking off its coy shell while mud
inherits his shoes. Night will craft of him a fine xylophone.

Richard Prins is a lifelong New Yorker who also spends time in Dar es Salaam. He's underway with his MFA degree at New York University. Hobbies include politics and the blues; his work has appeared in such publications as Night Train, elimae, kill author, Foundling Review & Catalonian Review.




Services Rendered
Dave Davis

Hotel guests slurp cereal and juice.
In the parking lot he works:
stoop, pick it up, drop it
in the bag, make it clean
like morning air.
Erosion lines deeply etch
burnished eyes that speak
without shame or guile.
No bulk bears him down.
He authors his own book.
Discards the inconsequential
to skim life’s surface and
find meaning in the wind and
light that propel him on.
Hotel doors slide open.
Busy careers pulled
by aluminum handles
on plastic wheels
pass him by without notice.
Moving calmly in the wake
of impetuous lives,
he collects the trash they
leave behind, wearing
on his sleeve ease of mind
hard won. He is just an old
white man picking up butts.


Dad
Dave Davis

He walked out
of 8th grade
in '35.
Hauled rock
from the Sabine
to build East
Texas roads.
Fought a war,
his blood ocher
on black New
Guinea sand.
Got a GED.
Went to college.
Sold Encyclopedias
door to door.
Nobody bought them.
He taught school.
The human brain
was his passion:
How it learned,
how it remembered,
how it forgot.
When last I
saw him, he
had lost himself
in its mysteries.

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.





Another piece
of à la mode;
it slides down without friction.

The Food Police,
in my abode,
are lacking jurisdiction.

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.




The Fragile Veneer
David Wells

Their story
is etched across the papyrus of her skin,
inscribed in the hieroglyphics of
crow's feet, indentations and wrinkles.
Stretch marks, like dried-up canals
cross the once fertile plain of her abdomen,
terminating in scar tissue from her C-section,
buried beneath the topsoil of her garments.
Incisions on her inner left wrist
protrude past her shirtsleeve,
commemorating her loss.

David Wells is a 59-year-old retired Social Worker from Lexington, Kentucky. He earned bachelors degrees in English and Social Work from Murray State University and a Master of Social Work Degree from the University of Kentucky. He enjoys the arts, nature and spending time with family and friends.




Vinaigrette
Emily Severance

for Paul Hopkin

I’ve seen where that carrot’s been and want none of it
get that promiscuous earth bride off my plate
all the bugs she’s had like an infestation
no dunking in water will cleanse.
I’ve seen lettuce shimmy itself silly
in front of cucumbers growing long and wide,
onion bombs ready to explode,
spinach crawling with stowaways
headed for salad promised lands,
garden plots so wild and screaming

Emily Severance has had poems published in Breadcrumb Scabs, Defenestration, qarrtsiluni, and Sisyphus. She teaches elementary special education in New Mexico.





Paul, who I never call father
cuts the branches down and tips
the white silk into a bucket of gas
my mother explains it's their home
and I imagine tiny silk chairs, silk
beds were there before he lit the fire
which blows through the silk, leaving
all the caterpillar bodies to weave
and click over one another while yellow
flames eat the lines from their skin,
hollowing them out leaving embers
and tar and I cry and say they are mine
but he says pets are in cages they
are not in forests,
and so I put them
in canning jars in yogurt cups
in anything I find with a lid and they
crawl and web into one another
filling the spaces like water and I hear
in the creaking of wet bodies on the glass
keep keep keep on
and I keep on, but I can't move fast enough
against the fire and gas and after awhile
I think they don't know that
I am helping because they don't creak
in the jar and the the rows of tiny feet
hold tightly to the skeletons of maple
leaves and they just can't tell
the difference between you and him

my mother says, but I know
or I think that I know the difference
until I smell the wet thick heat
in my jars like a swamp and I try
to separate the caterpillar bodies
which have reduced to tar
in the jars in the summer sun.

Nicol Stavlas is an essayist and poet. She has forthcoming publications in Canary and Willows Wept. She has been named a finalist in Creative Nonfiction’s 2011 writing competition. Her journal is available at lastmaple.wordpress.com





Walking this pheromone
highway, like thousands before me, smelling
yesterday’s hope-filled paths, lost
in the history of finding.

               Suddenness
is an aphid revolt—no one can predict
these things. Today
        tomorrow smells like
trails and rubber and looks

like blackness descending. I can feel
my antenna swiveling, seeking,
independent of that part of me that knows
there’s nothing left to find.

Adam Hughes was born in 1982 in Lancaster, Ohio. He still resides there, working as a pastor and a program director for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities. His debut collection, Petrichor, was released in 2010 from NYQ Books. His work has also appeared recently, or is forthcoming, in journals such as the New York Quarterly, Pedestal Magazine, Foundling Review, and Tipton Poetry Journal.




The Pulley
Mary Pacifico Curtis

over the edge of a pit this hole
in the ground goes down
a twenty story high rise

underground

my husband is at the top
of the high rise
down there

knew this could happen
this travel that supports our family
our lives now in the hands of engineers

they recommend beams
a structure     pulley     cage

in the beginning
it came down
to how he could live

down to belief
flimsy until one
needs to know

if a man would eat someone
if one cried in the headlamp glow
lighting the fallen     if a mistress waits too

if anyone of them talk about the jagged rock
edges of starvation
down to a community of savages hoping

for salvation
I imagine and cannot as that cage drills in
that mere ropes in a shaft can rescue men.

Mary Pacifico Curtis' poetry and prose have been published by LOST Magazine (www.lostmag.com), the Crab Orchard Review,(Languageandcultures.net, Longstoryshort.us), Clutching at Straws, Kaleidoscope (Los Positas College Literary Anthology) , Unheard, and Boston Literary Magazine. The Rumpus has carried several of her reviews.




At the Laundromat
Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

All this stainless steel
glass doors windows water whirling
sheets towels unpaired socks pants
and single men
who wear rumpled shirts
whose haunted eyes wonder where their lovers
are now as they scrub out
stains

Kathleen Cassen Mickelson is a Minnesota-based writer who works in multiple genres, runs a blog called One Minnesota Writer, and donates editorial skills to the online daily poetry journal, Every Day Poets. She sometimes considers other things she might like to be someday, like a caped crime-fighter or a snooty vintner, but Minnesota doesn't have much market for that sort of thing. You can find further information and samples of her work at mnartists.org.




Birdsong
Curt Ericksen

When I come up to the study after lunch I see
the already dried hard drop of white on black
pasted to the dust cover of the dictionary my wife
gave me last Christmas. It’s a British English
edition, IN COLOUR, the brand new bird scat
punctuating the i in Collins.

I must have left the pine wood windows open wide again.
There’s a common blackbird—Turdus merula—I’ve heard
and seen dipping among the low branches of the high-grown
trees around the house, remarkable for its single white tail feather.

When I was a kid in Missouri we stalked
birds like that with our pellet guns.
Pumping the stock ten, fifteen, even twenty times
we obliterated cardinals and robins, the occasional
woodpecker and lots of dirty brown sparrows.

Now the print in the dictionary is practically
indecipherable and I can’t read it without
a magnifying glass.

When my wife handed me the dictionary
she reminded me that I used to brag that language
was my mistress.

“Try sleeping with this,” she said.

Curt Eriksen was born in Kansas, but now lives between Boston and the Sierra de Gredos, in western Spain. His work has appeared in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and India, in numerous print and online journals, including Orbis, Blackbird, Rosebud, New Madrid, 34th Parallel, Contrary, 42opus and Alba. Excerpts from Curt’s first novel, Ergo We Are Not, have also appeared—or are scheduled to appear—in Mad Hatters’ Review, Anemone Sidecar, Otoliths and LiteraryMary. Curt is a regular non-fiction contributor to The Montréal Review. More work is forthcoming soon in LiteraryMary and Independent Ink Magazine. All of Curt’s published work is accessible at www.clerik.weebly.com.





In a parking garage on Main Street,
a valet is trying to meditate
while evening scrapes
its yellowed claws
across the myths of cities.

The museums are full
of our inheritance,
from all the artists who died
thinking they accomplished
nothing.

And the old woman died on her knees
in the side-yard,
praying for the great desert.
And the moon hid, and the sun rose,
and all the weary
machines started up again.

Nathan Hunt grew up on a family farm near Eugene, Oregon. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Writing and Literature (with a minor in Spanish language) from George Fox University in the fall of 2009. He currently works at a winery in Newberg, Oregon. His poems have been published in The Iconoclast, Mudfish, Perceptions, and The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review.




Respite
Laura Rodley

The afternoon we buried Rist,
our sweet loving cat,
we went for a drive,
anything to get out of the house,
and on the hills a rose line
of light appeared that we’d
never seen before,
stayed before us on the horizon
as though it was the heat
from Rist’s paws
galloping in freedom
across the snow bundled hills—
an indoor cat, so glad to be outside—
around and around and around,
zip, zip, zip, pink steam
from the heat of her exertion
and then it was gone.

No
Laura Rodley

No, she doesn't write poems.
If she did the world would be
a whole lot better.
Instead she spews angry words
into the air, on phone messages,
shattering what is invisible
so out of the air fall broken plates,
all the ones held up on slender straws,
the ultimate circus act,
the endless spinning, no longer under control.
The plates land to the floor
with a clatter. I sweep them up
and throw them away.
I've long ceased trying to repair them.

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.







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