Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Monday, October 31, 2011

Subject: Dear Professor….
For Matt Ryan. My inappropriate hero.

by Brittany Fonte

I could not complete my weekly writing assignment because

A) my mother died. Again. It’s been very hard trying to get her to cooperate this time and fill out the obituary; she says little and doesn’t like to brag. I simply don’t know what to say about her anymore. All the good lines have been taken.

B) my daughter is sick. She missed the toilet and threw up on the computer; it shorted. I have to go to the library to use their computer, now, and they don’t appreciate my daughter’s vomit.

C) I don’t read English; I only write it. And not well. But don’t worry; I’ll eventually go back to my country.

D) it really is against my religion. I can only study Biology. I’m a Scientologist.

E) I don’t want to upset you, but I know more than you do about the topic, and so I choose not to waste my time this way.

F) I believe the Rapture is coming. It’s more important that I build my underground fort. I’ll save you a few gallons of spring water. I’ll throw in some Spaghetti O’s if you can give me an “A.”

G) well, it’s top secret. I work for the government.

H) I’m a math major. I don’t need to be able to read; that’s what the admissions counselor said.

I) I’m only taking this class for the federal grant money.

J) I’ve read your poetry online. I don’t want to end up sucking like you. No offense.

K) I’ve decided I don’t need a degree to be successful, and so I’ve taken up nude modeling.

L) well…. It’s difficult to say. I was unconscious for the majority of this week. I’m trying to draw attention to the college student drinking epidemic. So far, I’ve got a huge following.

M) my Adderall pusher has been MIA. Or I can’t find him because I’m too busy focusing on “Halo: IV” right now. I really like Coke products better than Pepsi products.

N) the reading assignment was inappropriate. I don’t believe in multi-syllabic words or higher vocabulary. I prefer porn. With hot girls.

O) I’ve been working hard training for a marathon. It’s helpful in my neighborhood when the cops raid.

P) I forgot. I’m seriously the youngest case of Alzheimer’s ever. I think that’s what my neurologist said.

Q) I haven’t gotten my book yet. I’m not sure what happened; I ordered it at Border’s.

R) I’ve been meditating. Any moment now I’m going to hit Nirvana and have all the answers.

S) I didn’t think it was included in my tuition.

T) my dog told me not to.

U) my email isn’t working. Or my IPhone. Or the computer at work. Or the library’s cache of Macs. And I have no friends or family. I’m really a very solitary person.

V) I’ve been really preoccupied. My STD test came back positive. It totally explains the spot on my lip.

W) I took your directions literally. I DID complete the assignment; I just didn’t send it to you. Should I do that now?

X) I had no time between my three full-time jobs, my physically handicapped spouse, my ADHD child, and the new puppy that wants to pee on every surface in my house.

Y) I didn’t want to. But I’m a recovering alcoholic. This is my amends.

Z) I was so awe struck by your beauty that I couldn’t concentrate on the mundane. Can I buy you a drink? Borrow you a prophylactic? Flunitrazepam? Offer you the key to my house? (Don’t come by after 6 pm. My wife would kill me; she’s said as much.)


“Dear Student….”

(Chin mudra).

Minor Arcana

by Laura Eppinger

Sylvia glides from the kitchen to the bedroom of the dark Milwaukee apartment, cradling a steaming mug in her hands. This is a walk she has made many times. As she lifts the bed covers, Brandon looks up from his magazine.

“Be careful! I just changed the sheets.”

She laughs. “It’s just hot water.”

“I’m telling you, one day you’re going to get water poisoning…”

“You know I only like the warmth in my hands,” she takes a whiff. “And the steam. Besides, you’ve been saying that for years. Hasn’t happened.”

“What else have I been saying for years?” he asks.

She wrinkles up her nose. “That you’ve quit smoking. You think I can’t smell that? Don’t say anything—Gauloises do count.”


“Goo-wah-wah-wah. That’s all I hear when you talk.”

“You know what I’ve been saying for years?”


“That I love you.”

“Not on that first day. You said all sorts of things though…”

“Like ‘excuse me’ when you walked into me in that café.”

“What? You stepped on my toes while you were walking up to the counter. I was wearing sandals, and it hurt.”

“And you spilled your mug, but you said—”

“I told you ‘it’s only hot water’ and you looked at me like I was crazy.”

“I thought you were doing some type of cleanse or something. I thought you’d tell me next that you drank vinegar for fun.”

“Ha! You thought I was on some new age diet.”

“Something like that, and was I so far off?”

“Oh, you mean because I was having my cards read?”

“Mmmhmm. How did I get you to tell me that?”’

“Well, I wasn’t embarrassed. I don’t know, you asked if I lived on the east side, and I said no. I used to walk to Brady Street every Sunday morning to talk to that tarot card reader. I didn’t want to start my week without some guess at what was going to happen.”

“Yes, you did say that. I asked you what was in store for you that week, but you evaded the question.”

“Not quite. I believe I said ‘Nothing.’”

“I thought you were hiding something.”

“Like what?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Isn’t there a card for Death? Or worse, that you were supposed to meet your soul mate that week, that it was supposed to be me.”

“That would’ve been worse?”

“Well, I wanted to know. But you changed the subject—you said it was time for you to walk back to the Third Ward, but I was welcome to walk with you…”

“Again, you thought I was crazy.”

“That’s a long walk! Now, if you said you biked, I would’ve thought that was fine.”

“But then you couldn’t have come with me.”

“And I did.”

“Yes you did. Hitting on me the whole time.”

“I was a perfect gentleman.”

“We passed that Persian rug store, and you asked me if I’d take care of one if you bought it for me.”

“I was just being playful. I asked if you’d make sure to take it outside and beat it every once in while. What you said was far more shocking.”

“I just told you that you don’t have to beat rugs—you just turn them upside down and vacuum them, and when you move them, all the dust has already fallen out. So you sweep up all that and you’re done.”

“I was convinced you were a traveling rug saleswoman, or an importer—and I told you so. I made elaborate guesses about your adventurous life. You wouldn’t entertain a single one.”

“I thought, ‘Why should I lie?’ And so I told you that I cleaned houses for a while. I said ‘It was my job and it wasn’t romantic.’ Well, you jumped on that.”

“I told you it would’ve been romantic if you’d seduced a rich employer.”

“And it was my sad duty to inform you that I worked at a senior citizen apartment complex, and that most of my clients were widows.”

“I thought you were fascinating.”

“Because I cleaned houses?”

“Because you looked like any other university student in that silky summer dress—which didn’t have a blue collar, by the way.”

“Still clever after all these years, aren’t you? Anyway, we made it to Broadway, and I wanted to stall. I didn’t want to say goodbye to you yet.”

“I’d hoped that’s what was going on. You took me into that fancy paper store, and it was stocked with stationary for wedding invitations, and baby photo albums. I was very curious about why we were there…”

“It must have been a relief to hear me say, ‘Origami paper.’”

“It was, except I didn’t know what to do with it.”

“I couldn’t believe you’d never made a paper crane. I was planning to decorate my bedroom with them—to hang them from wires from the ceiling.”

“Very kind of you to invite me to your apartment for an origami lesson—you’re blushing! Even now!”

“We both knew what we were getting into. OK, not in the long term, but that afternoon…”

“You taught me all sorts of things. Except…”


“You never told me what that tarot card reader predicted. I noticed you never went again.”

“But I did tell you: nothing. That day, all 10 of my cards were minor arcana—no royalty. She was astounded by how unimpressive they were. She said things like, ‘The Pentacles remind you to be generous’ and ‘The Wands warn you of naysayers.’ But she prepared me for the most average and usual week of my life. And then I went to Rochambo Café and met you.”

“And you thought I was unusual?”

“I thought you were the Devil incarnate. But she should have seen you coming, if she could see anything at all. So I stopped asking for her advice.”

“Well, maybe I am just a minor event in your life?”

“If that were the case, I’d have to meet you for the first time, every day of my life. Running into you would be the norm.”

“In that case, I think I forgot how to fold a paper crane. Can you show me?”



by April A.

I've turned to an actress regardless my will,
Life's poignant scenario brought me the skill.
Performing, I find the salvation
In changing my costumes and masks.
It keeps my true guise ever changing in turn,
The art of arranging's not easy to learn,
It's more than just bright decorations.
I've handled a difficult task.

I fear the thunder, still dance in the rain,
The gloomy surrounders claim I'm insane,
Not seeing the sense in its absence -
The actress is always to blame!
My tragical comedies last for a while,
Erasing the concepts "the truth" and "a guile".
Deceiving the evident essence,
I'm playing this innocent game.

I speak every language of pleasure and grief,
I've heard every rumor you spread and believe.
Well, I am the subject this season,
In fact I am proud of it.
I'm nursing the thought they keep talking of me,
Quite happy to seem a discover-to-be
For no particular reason
Except such a playful deceit.

Incident at the Thrift Store

by Mike Perkins

I love thrift stores although they smell mildly like day old socks with a hint of musty in the bouquet. Most of the stuff is junk or something you are not interested in, and the trick is to be patient. For example, one time I wanted an old style trench coat, and kept looking for months until I found a very nice London Fog that fit me. I require a size 50 regular. I have a system too. I routinely check all the dress shirts, but reject anything that is not like new or requires ironing. I also go through the books and record albums. I particularly keep an eye out for anything by any member of the Rat Pack, or Johnny Cash. If any of my vintage stereo equipment breaks, I replace it from the thrift store offerings since it is much cheaper than having it repaired. We don’t have to make anything new anymore – all we have to do is dig through the trash. That is one of the many signs and portents signifying the decline of Western Civilization.

Despite that decline, I was in an excellent mood since it was a pleasantly crisp, cold, and cheerful, day with the sun shining brightly. Such a day encourages hope. This was my third and last stop, on my thrift store circuit, and so far I had not found anything I liked. I was still looking for a couple of sport coats specifically something in corduroy, and a light summer khaki jacket. This story starts while I was looking in the men’s section of that last thrift store.

Unlike shirts, the size tag on jackets is often missing, or unreadable. I have to try on the ones that I like. There were no corduroy, or khaki jackets, but I did find a very nice western style Pendleton sports coat. It was beautiful, and it still had the tags on it. Such finds are not that uncommon though. I once purchased a $500 dollar suit that had never been worn with the receipt still in the pocket. I thought maybe this Pendleton would be another such find. Besides, I have a weakness for western wear.

I took off my own jacket, and draped it over the clothes bar to try on the Pendleton. A little tight. In my head I already knew that the Pendleton would not fit, but my heart bade me to at least look in the mirror before rejecting it. The mirror was by the dressing room which was a good thirty feet away.

The mirror only confirmed what I already knew. The sport coat was too tight on me, and I looked ridiculous in it. There was nothing for me to do but put it back on the rack for somebody else.

I started walking back to put it away, and saw something that startled me. One of the clerks had my jacket and was putting it on a hanger.

“Excuse me ma’am, that is my jacket.”

I hung the Pendleton up. She ignored me.

“Excuse me ma’am, that is my jacket. I wore it in here.”

She stops and looks at me. She is short, skinny with chemically induced blond hair, very tight blue jeans, and a white shirt with “Best Grandma Ever” written on it. She is in her thirties, a thin hard, almost boyish body, and may have been pretty without the hard edge she had about her. In my opinion she was a little young to be a grandma. Whatever the reason, you could feel the bad attitude coming from her.

“What’s this then?”

“What?” I did not understand. I stepped closer to get a good look, and she backed up a bit as if she was suspicious of my intentions. There it was though. Sure enough, there was a little plastic tag attached at the collar.

She asks again. “What’s this then?” She starts pulling at that little dangly plastic tags that all the thrift stores seem to use to mark their items. Those tags come in many colors, and different colors indicate a different price depending on the pricing scheme of the store. I have a bad habit of biting them off with my teeth, which is pure laziness since I always carry a pocket knife, but evidently not that one.

By then she had the jacket clutched securely in her left hand, and was daintily holding the dangly between the thumb and forefinger on her other hand. I had purchased that jacket months ago, and had not removed the tag. How many people at work had seen that little dangling tag, and said nothing about it? It was just one more item to fuel the rumors of my eccentricities.

”Oh, I see. I can explain. I shop at thrift stores a lot, and I bought that jacket at the Salvation Army a couple of months ago. I must not have taken the tag off.”

“I never saw you in here before.”

“Well, I never saw you either. Besides I bought it someplace else. So here we are.”

“I never saw you in here.”

I ignore that remark and stick with the main issue. “That is my jacket, I forgot to take the tag off when I bought it somewhere else, and I want my jacket back. Please.”


“What do you mean?”

“Nope.” Patronizingly she drags it out as if that will help me understand.

”One of ours.”

“One of yours?”

“This here’s one of our tags.”

“What?” This gives me pause. I was still off guard. I finally get the obvious.

“You mean the tag?”


Meantime she has been edging her way back, walking sort of backwards, to the checkout, which was close by anyway. She gets the counter, and the big cash register, between me and her.

I try to be reasonable. “They make those tags by the millions. Probably made in China. You can’t buy anything American made anymore. Anyway, those tags are all the same. Everybody uses them.”

“I kin tell this here’s one of ours.” With the solid counter between us her confidence was up, and she was no longer in retreat. The checkout station was like her fortress, and she felt secure in it.

“Management to register please.” With one hand she called for help over the intercom, and with the other she kept a tight grip on my jacket.

Then, to me: “We’ll see about this. This ere tag is one of ours.”
Now that both hands were free once again, she took the jacket with both arms to her bosom. It had become some kind of existential struggle where gender, and social status, and who knows what else, were the dividing line in our contest.

It was my jacket, and that woman was trying to make a fool out of me. By then I was starting to get angry. I will not be her pawn. It was at that point that a plan occurred to me. When she turned away briefly to see if the manager was coming, I took advantage of that moment to set my trap.

The manager finally showed up. He seemed like a nice guy. Bit of a belly like me, beard, glasses, and slightly out of breath. No wonder. He smells like fresh cigarette smoke, and was probably out back smoking. I became mildly nostalgic for my own carefree smoking days, but forced myself to concentrate on the contest at hand. I am university educated. I should not be taken lightly.


He looked at her holding the jacket. He looked at me. I can tell he is puzzled, and I can tell he would have liked to have finished that cigarette.

“This feller says this is his here jacket. But, it has our tag on it.”

I put my plan into action.

Looking down, pointing, I said: “Wait.” I feigned surprise.

Then in a wondering tone: “What is this?” I bent down to the trashcan where I had surreptitiously thrown my wallet when she was foolish enough to look away.

I pick the wallet out of the trash and open it. The driver’s license clearly showed my picture on it.

I poured it on: “This is an outrage. My wallet was in that jacket. How did it get in the trash can?”

I have an audience now. A crowd had begun to gather.

The supervisor is one of those people who sensibly handle one thing at a time before going on to the next thing. He ignored me for a moment.

“Nadine, everybody uses the same damn tags.”

At the same time I am going through my wallet and making a show of counting the few dollars I had in it.

“Okay.” Sounding relieved. “It’s all there. No need for this to go any further.”

Nadine has not responded, so the supervisor takes control of the situation. He takes the jacket from Nadine and hands it to me.

“Sorry for your trouble sir.” He gives Nadine a hard look. He looks back at me: “Is everything alright now?”

He still seemed puzzled. He knew something was going on, but does not want to get into it. He just wants to have a good day, without his feet hurting too much, without any trouble.

“Sure. Just a misunderstanding.”

There was a rack of ties within arm’s reach of me. I grab one that looked halfway decent and put it on the counter.

“This is all for me today Nadine.”

She rings me up.

“That will be two dollars please sir.”
The supervisor had already left; probably glad to be rid of the both of us.

I hand her two dollars. She takes it, and puts it into the cash drawer.
Suddenly Nadine had a sparkle in her eye, and looked alive. She began to wait on the next customer.

As I turned to walk away, not looking at me directly, and out of the corner of her mouth, Nadine had the final say.

“I know’d it was yours all along.”

paddy cake

by John Grochalski

she talks like
st. patrick’s day

hates the English

pours pints riding shotgun
with her irish brogue

tells us about her life
just outside of cork

how she chased an
irishman to america
in search of that elusive dream
we’ve been selling since 1776

how she took up with a yank
how it all fell apart
after they had three kids

said she wants to go back
despite ireland’s troubles

has a house waiting for her
but her yank husband won’t go

doesn’t want him there anyway
but he won’t let her take the kids

and you know these
american laws, she says
throwing more beer in my pint

he’s threatened me anyway
has thrown a pitcher of water at me
in front of his own kids

the only thing i can do
is keep calling the cops

but you know the cops
they’re worse here than in Ireland

and when she walks away
to fetch someone another
jim beam on the rocks

my wife leans in and tells me
that our little paddy cake

is also the waitress
at the diner we both like

after, i sit there
finishing off the new draft
musing over this news

thinking what a shame

because i really liked their
egg white omelet

the one with the bacon
and cheddar cheese.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


by Rachel J. Fenton

I went back to the church
where we married, Saint Matthew's
in the City; the one where
someone left graffiti on the billboard
over: God's a hard
act to follow; the one that made the news
(world headlines) but we
chose it for the white sun streaming in
through those high
coloured slots like filtered spotlights
at a disco, and I sat
on a pew at the back and cried and tried
to remember why we
decided not to get hitched outside.

A couple of tourists
came in, I could tell by their clean
boots and backpacks
they'd just got off the plane, I entertain
the idea they thought
I was praying which was true in a way
and they smiled
sympathetically. You must understand
it seemed real at the time,
though I know now I was dreaming
else pretending to
with you at my side and I wonder,
with so many quakes,
why they built a church with a spire;
how it stays up.
I think of its shape as an angular spiral
like the crooked one
at Chesterfield I saw in passing on a train
as architectural DNA
or a tornado pulling God out of the sky,
and all that hidden space

inside; caves like those
underwater formed by chemical
corrosion of streams
I imagine in dreams I'm swimming down,
only there's never any room
for turning at the end, but a few people
have passed through
and taken pictures, samples, there
is no art work as such,
save the structure, no rudimentary
painting, pigment smeared
by hand, and some appear in fiction
(strictly literary texts),
Ondaatje's English Patient's one example
of several lying on the bed.
I'd like to know how to turn, I have the urge
to ask you. I can't see
your face in the dark. It's featureless.

Can we talk about this?
You're not asleep are you? I'm inspired
but it's late, the curtains,
white as icing, show the first signs;
one more night over. In
another hour the sun will take a slice
but, for now, it stutters
and as I wait for it to rise I consider travel;
going back to study,
to learn speleology, but I know you're just tired.


by Devlin De La Chapa

I have a garden growing on my breasts-
my old man is bitching about the roses
that don’t bloom anymore

I lean over the kitchen sink
and stare out the kitchen window-

it’s going to rain and I think
I need to go stand outside
and plant my soul into the soil-

but after I wash the dishes
and toss out day old empty beer cans
along with the roach buds infesting the ashtray-

a bee has landed on one of my rosy pink petals
spring is coming on my old man’s hand
while Percy Sledge stands out in the rain-



by Kathy Boles-Turner

Tone is what draws the pictures.
Pictures are necessary

for drawing conclusions

… in order to make connections.

I require connections.
Irrelevant details dishevel thought processes

Tone is vital.

Printed words oblige.

Conjured images file away at random
… available for recall on a whim
during the worst of trials.

In their absence, I would form no words of my own.

crop circles in wood

by Lynne Hayes

i saw a man in the coffee-shop
he sat near the door,
feet moving
in that still-walking pattern
that said take me there
anywhere, somewhere.
observing his profile,
the unshaven jaw twitched
as if biting on an unsaid word.
i wondered if he would spit it out
or swallow with the next sip
of his dark Colombian.
i stared at the man by a door
waiting for an imminent departure
so my feet could rest
in the circles made
on an old wooden floor
taking me somewhere,


by Michael H. Brownstein

We are a nation of talk show hosts, Sid Yiddish says
putting on his mask, his exuberant shiny white shroud, his fishing cap
before he comes to the stage to talk about throat singing,
washboards, the way faraway looks when you're in Denmark
hopefully, the Netherlands perhaps, even India, but no longer here
where intellectual companionship is a leaf floating from one great lake to another.

Mistress Char

by Danica Green

Come and kiss my lips of char,
Run a hand over stubble,
Pop the blistered scalp and
Pluck away the single hair
That escaped you.

Rip away my smoking threads.

You are the ice that soothes me,
Back arched against frigid fingertips,
Your breath against my neck forming
Snowflakes on raw wounds,
Stemming the blood flow from
Seared wrists and
Crimson hips.

All because
Your words
Set me on fire.


by Wendy Ashlee Coleman

I like my steak a gentle warm murder,
bathing in a nice bloody pool,
because I swear, I can still taste some of that left over life,
the little bit of remaining spirit which makes me drool.

You cut your hand the other day and it hurt,
It hurt you so bad I came to your aid like any good wife should.

But your agony, it leaked your strength and unhooked my tame,
making me lick my fingertips with your bright, tasty red pain.
I unzipped your pants and released your confused lust quickly,
your blood and seed smearing my face
like a dying mans final wish.

Your weakness, it smells like ecstasy rising.
Charging my urge with the unquenchable thirst
that only your fearful climax will quench.

And when the rope bites deeply with your every helpless twist,
my grin will meet you’re grimace
and my teeth will pierce your nape,
making the salty taste of prey marinate your skin
with the colors of vulnerability,
while the bright crimson shade that stains your skin
will drain your strife, but sharpen my focus,
as my thumping fight speeds up with your pulsating flight.

When you feel my breath,
does it make you shiver cold with fright?
or does it turn you on, sweaty and hot with excite?
Do you wonder why my bite
makes you’re manhood stand up, oozing shiny and bright,
making you beg with your eyes,
for perhaps a wet tongue to follow my sharp canine white.
Maybe you’re angry, maybe you want to scream, “I STILL FIGHT!” But the gag says otherwise.
nothing but a muted muffle and a pitiful plea with your eyes,
one that reads “please…please let me out, I want you my way: on your back succumbing to my masculine sight.”Oh, so sorry, baby, . . .not tonight,
so shut the fuck up or I’ll suck you to the edge, then just stop,
leave you there and go sip on a sprite.

But if I put that chilly blade against your pumping throat,
will you bring back that fiery terror
that I love to see in your eyes?

I mean it when I tell you pain must come before pleasure,
so try to remember that every time
those long nails of mine
dig in so deep, you look up and think
"Oh, God, how long will this last?”

I have to make it real,
I can’t just be naughty nice.
I have to hurt you for sure,
it’s the only way that shitty smug of yours
can begin to shake and wobble into a modest mold
under this calculated plight.

But hold on a little longer, just hang tight,
do it for me, because, damn it, baby,
your shaking body feels so,. . so fucking nice.

Do me one more favor, give me one more request,
pull on the those ropes tight for me,
do it with all your might,
because your struggle will just take my coming
way beyond new heights.

I know you’re not weak, I know your true strength,
but just give me this moment, baby,
because I got to have some prey tonight.

They Aren't Small Corpuscles

by Sarah Gamutan

They have been impending structures of improvement,
The standing role of feminisim. From grandmothers to
Daughters, we pass on maternity, the creation of lives

Proliferated by multi-celled progenitors. Their beauties
Come along with wombs to carry wondrous lives
Bearing future generations, cultured and varied. They
Reflect the beauty of the earth, the blue eyes and suntan.
Those eyes wink, with amor, to an Adam. The Adam is
At times prominent, a reciprocal of the dominatrix.

Betwixt their chemistry, a beam weighs comparisons
Of pater to a mater and vice versa. Still, I fight
Back saying, we need not to be subdued. Femmes-

The essential hymens from a rib bone- the Genesis of
Mankind, butches and femmes, good and damned.In print from Hieroglyphics of my creation, the history
Will change itself, gradually, that wives need not be
Submissive to husbands at all times- that women
Can also be considered giants. In their own channels,

I know phallicism is not the only cell which exist.
Deep inside the dendrites and axons, women also live.

Leg Lengthening

by Rachel Marsom-Richmond

They push me towards the
operating room, where they
want to break my shins

down the middle. I’ll be in
a wheelchair for months,
while bone grows back slowly,

one millimeter a day,
helped by the wires and pins

sticking out of my skin.

I always stood out in a crowd
at three and a half feet tall. I
wanted to be normal for years,

but now on the stretcher, cloaked
in crispy paper, I just can’t.
I’m too afraid to grow.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


by Richard Hartwell

I cannot resist watching the free-form
flight of charcoal sparrows in Costco,
flitting among the ceiling joists and
beams and machinery, appearing as
wayfarers, imprisoned now with
carnage and carcasses displayed for sale.

It is not so much as how they flew
surreptitiously through open vents,
invited by the roller-doors raised on
receiving docks in back or perhaps
encased in the shell structure when
newly roofed, obliterating the blue of sky.

Rather, I wonder if any want to leave
when surfeiting on overripe fruits or
vegetables left out at night, unsold,
un-retrieved spillage on aisle eight,
dropped weekend samples, not to
mention flies, the moths, and young rodents.

So they seem in no desperation to
depart this enclosed, contained domain;
perhaps our star-crews of the future
could learn from remnants of avian
reptiles, cocooned, satisfied, serving
life within a world, rather than without one.

The Ring Cross Of Ireland

by Jason E. Hodges

The Irish Ring Cross
Stands in stone
For the mighty memories of old
The old ones that first roamed her countryside
Trough the rocky drop-fall terrain
Over this rolling green island of Ireland
This Cross of the ancients stands in pure sunlight
Shades the graves of Lads and Lassies long since laid to rest
These people of mystery
The forefathers to all of her children
And her children’s children who call her home
A people of strength who looked to the sky for hope of a better tomorrow
A better existence
In a time of harshness and death
Long ago when castles stood in the many
When hot steel was folded
Over and over
Hammered and sharpened into long swords of fight
Made to defend from Ireland’s invaders
These defenders of old lived off the land and what it provided
Are now legend and verses of folklorist songs
Of a time that once was
And the shrill sound of bagpipes now carry their spirits
In the wind that blows softly over these Ring Crosses
The ancient Stone Crosses Of Ireland still standing with pride
Scrolled with the utmost perfection
Telling a tale from so long ago
Of a world far different than our own

Bedouins in Sunglasses

KJ Hannah Greenberg

Bedouins in Sunglasses,
Shaded against small
Tourists’ dollars, euros, yen,

Their kin tucked away
In drab tents, where dresses
Of chartreuse,
Trousers with bells
All jingle when
Family goats imbibe near
Sewage lines.

Strong coffee fails
To connect cousins.
Arabs draped in head scarves,
Abayahs, toe rings,
Are “Palestinians,” “Druze,” “Others.”
They’re relatives through prayer,
Not shops.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Picking The Bones Clean

by Cynthia Ruth Lewis

I should have known
that eventually you'd come slithering back
you crashed into my life
like a train wreck
and completely turned it upside-down;
fucked with my mind
screwed with my heart,
basically made me realize
that Satan is very much alive and well
and living in California
I must say the experience
really opened my eyes
and taught me a lesson I will never forget;
it's been a tough road,
but I'm a lot stronger because of it all
since then I've taught myself
how to pour alcohol directly into the wound
to help it heal,
notch the skin and suck out the venom
and build a barbed-wire fortress
around my heart
you managed to make quite an art
of emotional and psychological torment;
one can only assume that you've experienced
more than your fair share of that
at some point in your past,
but what amazes me
is not only that you scraped my own plate clean
while casually picking the remnants out of your teeth,
but that you had the balls to come back
for seconds


by Will Monigold

Jesus has five guns.
He had six
But he gave one
To a needy man
And told him to take
What he needed.
“From someone rich?”
The man asked.
“It doesn’t matter”
Jesus answered
“Everyone has too much.”

When someone asks Jesus
If he would sell one
Jesus tells them that
They can’t afford them.

The guns are pretty cool.
They are old.
One of them was used
In the war between the states
And one was used
To kill Archduke
Ferdinand and one
Belonged to Jessie James.
The other two
Were used by cops
To save lives.
That was what the cops
Told him.

Someone once asked Jesus
Why he needed guns.
Jesus told them
That he needed to protect
Himself. “But can’t you
Perform miracles?” They asked.
Jesus held up one of the guns
And said


by John Grochalski

hands stinking
of bug spray

countless cockroach deaths
on my conscience

head heavy with
the burning embers of the past

wallet emptying
for the guy poison
of misery, courage, and salvation

road kill faces talking
dead letter words
in suicide offices

cancer sun boiling my flesh

and the smirking calendar

has the audacity
to tell me that it’s friday

as if i haven’t
been waiting

for that lazy fucker
to come all goddamned week

and show me
a little bit of mercy

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Heavy Metal

Richard Hartwell

Two platinum blondes in a silver Mercedes driving toward Las Vegas,
Their souls opaqued to the world behind oversized, darkened glasses.
Like bills, their lives are in arrears, a hundred miles ago and worlds away.
Behind them now, Glad-wrapped in the Sun, are yesterday’s leftovers,
Left out too long, ignored too long, gone too long, or just “So long!”

Now, together, their easy rhythm catches my eyes and heart,
A shock wave of Metallica blaring to the sides catches my ears.
I can almost smell the Poison and taste the salted tears, as smoothly,
Steadily overhead on the freeway they bomb on by, oblivious to my needs.
I’m lost again. Where was I now?

Oh yeah, a box of Tampax at the 7-Eleven.

P.S. –
I’m lost again. Where was I now? Oh yeah, a box of Pampers at the 7-Eleven.

P.P.S. -
I’m lost again. Where was I now? Oh yeah, a six-pack of beer at the 7-Eleven.

Like life, you always have a choice at the 7-Eleven.

Biding My Time

by James Babbs

it’s Saturday night and nobody loves me
god still hates me and
I hear the wind
blowing hard and cold
I’ve started my drinking early
it’s too late for me to try something else
you see
I never learned enough and
changes frighten me
the light already fading and
the booze keeps me warm
all the days are frozen and
I sit here
looking at nothing
I sit here
not thinking about a thing
I just sit here
inside this dark room
until I’m too drunk to care


by Jeffrey Park

November 14, 2010:
the day the Martians came
and the Venusians, the Jovians
the Neptunians and Uranians.
And the Plutonians, in no
mood to discuss just what was
and was not a full-fledged planet.
(Yes it is, no it isn’t, yes it is.)

And they stood in a ring with
many-toed feet clamped firmly
on the soil of my world, eyeing
one another, who would draw
their molecular dissociater first?
– close-up of lipless mouths,
slashed nostrils, squinty eyes
in their random twos and threes.

My neighbor and I, watching,
could only shake our heads.
How could anyone or any thing
come so far and through so many
cosmic rays just to shoot it out
for the honor of planting a flag
in some poor Earthling’s
barely tended patch of grass.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


by John Grochalski

b.j. looks happy

in the window
of the new bar

drinking his bud

talking to don
who’s keeping watch
over the basket of cheez-its

when i walk in
it’s like the mayor
has shown up

shouts and pints lifted

i think
well, i’ve finally made it

but to where?

i take a seat next to b.j.

the new bartender
gets me a beer
after i tell him what i want

this is something that i haven’t
had to do on this street
in almost four years

i ask b.j. and don
what happened at rooney’s

but instead they tell me
where everyone else is drinking now

b.j. says
they want to have one
last go round at the old joint

but because it’s closed down
the cops will probably come
and cart us all off to jail

so it’s going
to be a picnic instead

everyone from the joint

their families
their kids


he says he’ll email me the details
when he knows for sure

then jr slaps me on my back
and starts to talk to me
about books

while i take a good pull
on my draft

look around

trying to remember
where the bathrooms are
in this new joint.

The Sea

by Roger Butterfield

I wanted to be higher than you one time,
Not knowing
What that would mean.

Knowing hasn't changed much,
Only from where I'm looking.

An Election

by Rhonda Miller

Limes like sweet jam store in my fridge,
And yet I cannot quit thinking of
the dead pig.

Fire drifts through me,
Burning all images besides
the dead pig.

Books line the shelves
My eyes scan,
But all I read is
the dead pig.

Desperate women cloud the depths of my synapses,
Opinions, reasons, words of encouragement,
But damn it, all my thoughts are of the God damned
dead pig.

Who's running for president?

Hitching A Ride From A Rodeo Bum
Four Hours Out Of Eugene

by Richard Hartwell

Sleepily watching, passed and passing,
Riding broken mud flaps’ roostertails,
Drunk-driving U.S. 10l like an asphalt bronc-buster,
And 2 a.m. lies swapped with a cowboy,
Between brown-bagged sips of yesterday.

Alone with last summer’s saddle-tramped truths,
I’ve been drunk-driving highways everywhere,
Drinking forward, dreaming backward,
Drowsing, dropping off, and

Another seven-second ride, ended,
Day before tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Know About Love

by James Babbs

for supper
I’m eating a fried egg sandwich
wheat toast
spicy brown mustard
two slices of baby swiss cheese and
I know about love
I know what comes after
the way it feels
sitting alone at the kitchen table
but I don’t know
what I should call it and
what does love have to do
with a fried egg sandwich
what does love have to do with anything
and I fry the eggs hard
I like them crispy along the edges
placing the cheese on top
letting it melt in the pan
until the eggs get all cheesy
hot and greasy
before I put them on the bread


by Jeffrey Park

Fortune Teller, reveal to me all my futures.
Will I meet someone nice, will she be
tall and dark and handsome? Will she hurt
me or will she lift me up and carry me on her

shoulder over vast and unseen landscapes –
Or will she leave me to perish or worse,
to live on and pour out my spirit bit by bit
in an endless seeking for revenge – Will there

be fame? Fortune? Ill gotten or deserved?
Show me the precise place on the path
where I must set my foot, the days on which
I need to wake up early to catch that inspired

sunrise. Take me to the wide window where
I will see it all spread out before me like
a shimmering field of grain; with your fingers
on my back spell out the names I should

call myself, the spot where I should pitch
my tent. Give me assurance, sure knowledge
that my horses will win the race on that
morning, my chickens will all come home

to roost. Tell me all, leave nothing out. Put it
down on paper, tuck it in an envelope
and slide it under my pillow tonight, stamped
confidential, sealed with a clairvoyant kiss.

The Clothesline

by Sarah E. White

Looking out the window
I see my clothesline
A week’s worth of laundry hangs there patiently waiting
Waiting for the next gust of wind to toss it
This way and that
Seems like we’re waiting for the next gust to blow into our lives
I watch it now blow carelessly in the breeze
Rippling and rolling
As the wind blows through it
Undulating wildly against the unpredictable breeze
Flowing with it
Just going with the flow
Like an invisible wave cresting, then crashing into a gentle wind
Being moved by it
Propelled ever forward
Elevated then dropped
Bounding about around its ripples
Letting nature change its shape and course
Over and over again
A current of life and energy pushing it aside
Left and right
Forward and back again
If only I could be so moved
So flexible, propelled
Such lovely grace, unseen yet felt
Simply allowing the wind to blow
Permitting the breeze to pass over me
Being free to dance wildly
Casting my worry and cares out with my laundry
Setting them free into the breeze

Sunday, October 16, 2011


by Lee Stern

Maybe the way out of here is the best way to go.
And we should follow the clowns,
who seem to have a grasp on what’s going on.
If we stay where we are,
native grasses may not bloom every autumn.
And every summer, when we ask where they’re coming from,
a different answer
would mean that a different portion of the day would become ours.
I say we get out of here as quickly as possible.
I say we gather up our favorite coins and disappear
like the rabbit that discovered a positive universe was already here.
Waiting to bring solace to our hearts.
And music to the touching of our brains.

The Hickory Tree

by Robert E. Petras

golden leaves twinkling
in the breeze,
tawny bark furled
along its gilded sleeve,
the hickory tree flashes
its autumn jewels;
for the briefest moment
I can see
through the eyes of God
and he is wearing
amber-tinted glasses.

Unemployment’s Huffs and Puffs

by KJ Hannah Greenberg
Unemployment’s huffs and puffs
Appear user-friendly when
Otherwise occupied by
Westerly shops’ winds
Or saintly assemblages of
Inevitable social situations.

Last gap measures largely
Terminate even fail-safe relationships
Whereas if, alternatively,
Presented front and center,
Such hagiography
Would disappoints even itinerants.

Habituations, alone,
Like those beyond my doorstep,
Blown down by antediluvian actions,
Succeed in landing
Chump change, temporary
Status, plus a little lunch money.


by Jason E. Hodges

Easels in the meadow
Van Gogh on the hill
Memories of madness swirl in the blood red sky
Razor in one hand, ear in the other
For the whisperers spoke too loudly at times
Adjustments had to be made
Tone down
Tune out the racing of the mind
Sunflowers wilting, withering without water, while the artist transferred them to canvas
Locked them forever in layers of paint
Smearing them back to life with his bristled stick brush
Blurry bright colors bursting with energy
Creativity dripping from each drop of the painting
Raining with life
Flooding out of his mind
The creative floodgates did open
For the artist understands time is just what it is
It’s quickly running out with each second wasted
But slowing to a craw with each second lived
Moving way before man started counting it
Moving, just moving
Is all it’s ever done
Whether we’re here or not
But the artist is a master at feeling the moment
Feeling all the intensity of the world that’s around him
A second lived was more than others live in a lifetime
Van Gogh the painter of the people
Lived one brushstroke at a time

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Mad Ones

by Damion Hamilton 
On the parking lot of the bar, two in the afternoon
You notice the battered car, dented up body of a Ford escort,
No hubcaps, plastic in two of the windows,
It yells a story to you
A familiar story
Head into the bar
2 O’ clock in the afternoon
It’s a nice, sunny, warm Saturday afternoon too
And before you came, you wondered what
You would do this day,
A day off from work
Some people might have went fishing, or
Camping or to a park to enjoy the
But not you
You enter the bar, as you have entered it
A couple of thousand times before
It’s dark in there
On a sunny Saturday afternoon
Its dark, smoking dreary and smells like
You order your beer, get it and sit far away
From everyone
Ur trying to hide
The girl dancing on stage, reminds you
Of a starved cat on meth.
She’s dancing hard
Aint nobody watching
The music is loud and very bad,
As she yells out, “fucker.”
You sip the drink slowly
You have no better place to be
The girl dancing is mad--they say
She cant work regular job, when I
See her, she always threatening to
She’s been saying that for two years
She walks over you and asks for a dollar
You want to tell her something funny, or sexy
But am too damned depressed to do it
You stay and drink a couple more
Until its less sunny outside
You leave and head back to a beat up
Old 96 Pontiac Grand Am, no hubcaps,
Dented body, trashed insides
Ur a Mad One Too

Satin and Grace

by Donal Mahoney

Here in Chicago I sit
in the sun of an Indian Summer
high on the Water Tower waiting,
chapped hands in a visor
over my eyes, hoping I see
you in that gown,
all satin and grace,
float like a feather
back to Chicago.

I don't care if you stop
by Confederate streams
to pick phallic rocks
on the way from Savannah
so long as you rise,
release all your hair,
take to the air
and float like a feather
on to Chicago

because this is the last time I'll sit
on the Water Tower waiting.
I'd rather go blind than see
you in that gown,
all satin and grace,
laugh like a loon,
turn in the air,
then float like a feather
back to Savannah.


by Anthony Ward

I’m mortal
Irrepressibly indestructible
Able to do anything
Go anywhere
Where nothing can harm me
Nobody can hurt me
I’m practically inhuman
Almost an animal
Ineffably desirable
You cannot refuse.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Under the Stars by Powell River
for Ed Roop

by Ben Rasnic

Sometimes in summer
I miss the country
night air
where the only sounds
are the incessant chirping
of crickets
or the thick sploshes
when flashes of smallmouth bass
breach the surface
of Powell River cascading
moss-covered stones
beyond the flickering light
of campfire
as I lie
in my sleeping bag
& stare at the sky,

finding comfort
in the permanence
of constellations.

something different than the usual shit

by Stephen A. Rozwenc

maybe a baby blue elephant trunk
gently slipping beneath
the flimsy lingerie
of the terribly shrunken
collective imagination
to tease loose
a few suicidal Kewpie doll politicians

they could be cleverly disguised as nuclear armed sex toys
like Saddam Hussein
or Donald Trump's
opalescent crooning

they could five bored girls
flossing with thongs
in Spanish
on TV

they should never be confused
with the only transgender war fear button
not punished incessantly by the composite Hurdy Gurdy man
to get himself re-elected
to the exalted missionary position
of president
and Chief Mortician

la la la homophobic ha ha ha
do you believe America's Euro curio shop cure
should stop

all you have to do
is kick and scream at a few well chosen 16 million dollar a year
basketball you-know-what's

with the voice of your heart unstrung like a pearl

Telephone Love of Decades Past (A Carol)

by KJ Hannah Greenberg

My passing thoughts linger, frame you.
Love’s snapshots flicker in review.

Your equations’ call abided,
Certain company’s divided,
By Ergo’s links, such noise’s quieted,
Sums mutually construed.

Heart sports flourish, occasions find
Voices rub simple, ‘near always entwined
Miles rules, but feelings bind;
Telephones join the voice of two.

My passing thoughts linger, frame you.
Love’s snapshots flicker in review.

Across the mountains our words dance,
Not fused by sight, they’re our romance.
Your nod, your smile, your special glance,
Animated our set hitherto.

Now, in dreams, our fingers touch,
They link, they hold in lovers’ clutch,
With words we grope, we stroke as such,
Greater times when we’re renewed.

My passing thoughts linger, frame you.
Love’s snapshots flicker in review.


by Lee Stern

The reason the storm was so bad
was I didn’t ask for it to be easier.
I kept my mouth shut and that was the problem.
If I had gotten down on my hands and knees
and prayed to God, believe me,
the storm would have been easier to take.
There would be a few little flourishes of the wind
and that would be the end of it.
Tomorrow they would have said it was a little insignificant uptake in the draft.
And so what was the big deal?
Tomorrow they would have said other things
to take away the pensive quality of today,
meaning, that if I had only said something, I would have known
better than anyone else in the world.
I would have been there for the last one
of the brilliant first circles that I saw.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Call and Response

by Brittany Fonte

Two rings, then three. (Serendipity?) She, in Chi town; he, in their town: Both hold space with desperate arms, alarmed, facing fifteen years of macramed marriage, and fears of losing an identity (or even that inkling) they created before regular sex, baby cravings, whittling siren-sex, that ex, careers of consequence….

She wonders, whiling while tones tone in a loaned hotel room of well-loved beds, if she can be content, alone, with one man; he can never be all she needs. Cannot. As fish need more than a tank, her heart sank when he forgot: her birthday, their anniversary, the condom, milk. He is not a chef, is not Hugh Hefner.

But there are never three in such a first world country of Christian zip ties and Velcro marriages, bold-faced lies of Mrs. and Ms. There can’t be three while the pope still breathes; the tethers of Steinem-feminism miss Lincoln’s nose, picks bare, there. There cannot be three, meant to be, while two boast such a lofty percent: 50. But she knows men.

She knows 50%, surely, is more than what should be, must be behind locked doors, just as those sex surveys roar: Mothers—even whores— do not make love three times per week, not even alone. There is simply no time to moan with Jif and jam, drop off and pick up, soaps and stones, rinse and dry. Dry. She knows, three rings in, he has company. She casts a line to fantasy, too.

Then, “Yeah?”

His common syllable darts, starts a chain of Cain images. It’s quiet. Jizz-us. His mind flits to cover: that old girlfriend from ninth grade and her blonde mother, the swimsuit model from France, the Fed Ex woman’s tight pants, the front man and teenaged stage hand of the metal band he saw—just once—live, also a few lines from a do-me movie he paid $8 for when he couldn’t get laid. His wife often had a headache.

She says, “I’m here. Safe.” And the miles weight her haste to get to once-hidden alone time, “Me Time,” the mini bar or a drink at the open bar without the children shooting par into porcelain vases, or cleaning Sharpie mazes—on the wall— and a hungry husband. A dozen pared phrases and that’s it. Shit- is there nothing he can do? (Sigh.) “Love you.”

“Yes.” And he IS happy, means his merry sign off, even while mind-mapping the miles that stand between him and Hollywood, him and his truant, television third.

When I Smoke

by Anthony Ward

When I smoke
I feel like I’m home
No matter where I am.

The bus shelter is my home.
The park bench is my home.
The shop doorway is my home.

When I smoke
I am never alone.
It warms me with its company as I shiver in the street

When I’m walking through the night
Incessantly awake in the darkness.

When I smoke
I can watch the world go by
As if I’m no longer a part of it.

The Beloved

by David S. Pointer

He wrote her
chick-lit ripperology
a new blood soaked
bed sheet, and hand
built a plywood kissing
booth adjacent mausoleum
birds near her mother’s
coffin, and always
rolled straight home
after killing his own
lustful feelings over
at the coroner’s den

Anais Nin

by Jason E. Hodges
Oh Anais
I still hear the sound of your voice calling through the backstreets of Paris
Your words of desire spelled out the complexity of being lost
Lost somewhere between Henry and June
Smeared lovingly there
Like perfume between two wrists of hands bent backwards
Intoxicating are your aroma of words
For your thoughts did wander
Along with your touch
The softest touch your hands did give
Like a violinist, a violinist of love
Dragging her bow over the heartstrings of need with the utmost perfection
Making the instrument moan in the wee hours of morning
Playing each note with the press of a finger
The sound of feelings flowed in the night
Through the dark shadowed streets of Paris
You embraced the inside of your soul as much as the outside of your body
For looks fade and tarnish while the soul grows wiser
Diaries of your soul awash with your craving to live life as you saw it
The wanting of Henry but the needing of June
Was your thirst, your appetite
Stripped down and bent backwards
Two legs wound into one another as much as two minds
Connected so strongly Anais and Henry, two writers pushing their pens late in the night
Like a river of words drenched in desire
Sensuality you embodied
A lost land few ever truly see in a lifetime of living
Beauty made up your very being
No concept of time, of money, greed, of belonging to the boring
Ms. Nin your work will transcend the standards of writing for centuries to come

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Poorly-lit paradox

by Susan S. Keiser

When you return to a place,
(if you ever called it home)
arrive after dark
and travel incognito.
It's better that way,
to slip into the past alone,
inverted pyramids shook free.

They will find you
with their question marks
much sooner than you think.

Trap moonlight in your skirts
while there is still time
for silver to pool
in a bowl of lap and legs

and wander the curve of night.


by Perry L. Powell

Many of us
normal lives

A roof leaks.
An old couple
This is what

breathing becomes.
In the morning
another reason
on warm sheets.

An eclipse ends.
The moon remains.

Old Hat

by Darryl Price

Sent you a hat. I thought it might keep you
warm in the middle of a snow storm,or couch.
As you'll see my words right now are all acting
out like a good many glassy-eyed marbles. They'll oh so
coldly clank in my case that is against one another's
bulky light bulb heads constantly or else like to sit
quietly in a small bark Indian satchel I might sometimes
keep in a desk drawer, with the staples, waiting to
be played with. Like I said. The next unlikely story
of a long time lonely volcano of my type finally

getting to go off gets told in this book with
a thousand cheering voices shouting in my veins. Hooray for
beer! I suppose it's hard to actually hear what's being
said in there sideways. You might not even like this
art game being played over you in that particular library.
We're all anxiously holding our cards and our pistols at
arm's length. Those young guys all look pretty finger happy
to me. I must admit I don't really have much
else to send you in the way of cool greetings
from this here saloon from my rickety exile's chair, because

that's what life is, compared to being around you all
the time. Sorry, but my bum's just a little sore
from all the hours of thought given over so far
to this bit of hat. And as if you're some
kind of living planet up there alone in the sky,
and everyone else is a moon like chunk of mush,
instead of some kind of living song we can't stop
humming. What a jackass I am. That sounds silly, but
I'm prone to leave it in simply because it came
prancing out at you that way. Perhaps there's some truth

to the practice since it began to shake its sad
little riderless shape after the very thought of you, as
they say. 'Bout the only thing they've said that I
do agree with. If I could I'd want to be
fully living and dying present in your lovely presence. That's
what I meant to say. Yeah I know how much
it sounds like a broken record. Pretty stupid. Used up
to all gone again,brother. Old hat. That's what I'm
talking about here anyway. I need to shift it on
over into something a lot more interesting, more to the

feel than that blubbering slow beat of a goofy sound.
Believe me I would if I could, wouldn't I? So
here's just another, for whatever reason you want to imagine
it, kind of sentence for you. Yeah you've already got
several of those in today's mail. I'll bet it's a
daily thing too. At least by now you'd think. You
are at your perfect point of self. And your game
is all about the choosing. Oh this one and maybe
that one. How could it ever be a me, that
poetry guy, when I'm a million emotional miles away, stuck

like a rock between a word and a sentence, like
a comma or one of those brake stomping periods? That's
not much to look at, even on a page like
this one, or to bank your only happiness wish on.
I know. I only want it to be more like
a perfect day landing softly on your brown skin like
a barely felt set of butterfly feet, or a cool,
cool breeze swiping its long fuzzy tail across your sky
opening smile, or an ocean, any ocean will do as
long as it's morning,like a cup of delicious blue

and green and white striped dreams, lifting sweetly into the
bluest blue on your horizon, just waiting to happen for
you, and with you. And me. At least that's the
dumb founding hope I seem to be holding onto like
a man who lives in a lighthouse walking around and
around the rocks for the umpteenth time still looking to
find his lost set of keys. So, Universe, do you
think you could see fit to give her this note
for me in one of your amazingly synchronising ways? I'd
like there to be birds involved, maybe a new dolphin.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Witching hour

by Susan S. Keiser

The pins drop
at regular intervals
in this hollow house;

it's last call for travelers,

glass slipper memories
of mist-shrouded passage.

In silence you hear them,
ideas that pace
the corridors of night,
self-mobilized thoughts,
each anxious to adhere to

a dream,
any dream,

and a hope that it will last
the night.

Harvesting Pumpkins

Donal Mahoney

From villages in Iowa,
Indiana, Minnesota and Nebraska
and from towns in the Dakotas,
Wisconsin and Michigan,

there stream to Chicago in spring
parades of lithe girls
looking for boys
who will look at them

but who find instead
the men who will wine them
through summer,
who will wait until fall

to thresh in the fields
one summer can ripen,
the men who will watch
till a pumpkin falls from the vine.

This is the courtship
village girls dream about,
laugh about, hope for.
Come fall, these are the men

who fill silos of girls
from Elkhart and Davenport,
Ely and other small places,
lithe girls who in spring

come to Chicago looking for boys
who will look at them
but who find instead
the reapers, the men.

Dread or Something

by Perry L. Powell

The false choices or the only choices:
which to choose, which to decline, which to ignore?
Feeling your way along the dark corridors
past the locked doors and the unlocked ones,
you can't escape looking over your shoulder,
can't escape that sense that you are followed,
but by whom, by what, you may never know.
Well perhaps this is a grand adventure,
perhaps a grade-b horror show, perhaps just
another day in a life, you know... Still
what’s a life for? How have we come to be
here in these halls, stumbling along with but
our own misconceptions for a road map―
where these howling dogs are not just for the blind?         

The Short Story

by Brittany Fonte

SETTING: Many weeds grow green in the Mid Western wilds of cows and plains, mosquito-filled lakes and conservative politics. Wisconsin happily barters in cheese curds and whey (sown by serial killers), the twin Dakotas dapple in deer ticks, dust and durable durham wheat. My Minnesota, though, touts corn and soybeans, also gun racks, goys, and cheap ale. Ice fishing holes, sans crops, are stuffed with mammal heads and hookers as company-come-tail. I was raised here, shallow soil et al; “gay” meant “jolly,” only in the way it was used in famous Broadway musicals recreated at the local (Norwegian) rec center. Here, lefse is rolled as much as Mary Jane, and Mary Jane marries men.

CHARACTER: Mary Jane married three men, maybe high, but I hoped for more. I held Ellen a hero without a hampering cape, or male hormones. Nineteen and nit-witted, I coddled visions of karaoke love songs in my mind of minimal focus and tone deafness. Feeling powerful with temporary parental leave, and teenaged volcanic panties primed in electric shocks, I panted after—preyed— on pretty coeds without guilt, without redneck perceptions, concepts of “perversity,” or narrow-minded prattle. Until.

THEME: Until Eternity: This is what I promised her. I kissed her once, offered, “Until we meet again.” Until the clock struck twelve and my spring break curfew counted, I held her hips until the cows came... I thought of her driving home, got a speeding ticket from a dyke who couldn’t see me for who I wanted to be. I thought: Until the fat lady sings. Until the end. Later, I told my parents until I was blue in the face: I loved her. Juliet and Jolie-Pitt. They were silent. They wouldn’t accept it, not until Hell froze over. Sex equaled guilty until proven guilty.

POINT OF VIEW: Guilt from Her. Mom. The old-fashioned. The bigoted. The Christian Right. The Focus on the Family, not mine. The Majority. The Man. The Commandments. The hope for a grandchild. The neighbors and what they might say, have said, have seen over a privacy fence. The hurt I might contend with. The discrimination. The “phase.” The idea of tab A and slot B without silicone accoutrements. The slut. The family friends who will not accept me. The façade. The children with no father. There is, also, God.

PLOT: My God, Thanksgiving came gifting and I, riding shotgun in my mother’s shuttle van, thinking of tofu turkey and brown buttered biscuits (basic human rights) showed my cards: I shouted, “I’m in love. With a woman.” Torrential, tyrannical screams ensued, and then my ride was wrought with the most soundless of nauseated silence.


It was clear I would not break breads of bartering, then. There was not one loaf for all, and I had to bide my time until a foreign taxi could return me to sender, reset my sexuality, tally all of my wrongs as a child and all of my tuition costs.

CONFLICT: The cost is more than I have

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Speed Balls

by Kevin Ridgeway

Pacific cool school jazz
provides the soundtrack
to the home movies of my elder men
wandering around the garbage strewn harbors
their souls and withered eyeballs
pecked by seagulls

None of them played jazz
or wrote or even sang
but they huffed and puffed
every drug under the sun
that shriveled them to
toasted premature skeletons
pumping speed balls
in the backseats of bruised Cadillac’s

Some of them are dead
some of them are jailed
unmarked graves filled
or waiting in the
overgrown grasses of
decayed ghetto burial grounds
strewn with dirt, glass, blood
shoes dangling on overhead power lines

Some of them roam free
but those are the guys who play the blues
and drink two fists to oblivion
buried in plastic desert huts
every so often they get blown toward the Pacific
and my side of town
asking for money
and a bed at a spin dry clinic.

I’ve participated in these mad Olympics
of slow burning death,
these days I prefer the spectator’s life
behind 3D glasses

The Lane

by Denny E. Marshall

Moving signs adjust beams stationed to glow
Traveling down the lane of questions road
Seedling of direction planted to grow
Real time vanishes as picture clouds slow
Secret currents paddle, hidden oars row
Bridges of answers rides a heavy load
Moving signs adjust beams stationed to glow
Traveling down the lane of questions road

The Staircase

by Mike Perkins

as I
climb the
joy of ascent
descends to this
paralyzing feeling
of impending disaster
so I find some poor excuse
anything will do that allows me
to go back down yet one more time
deluding myself that it is only temporary

The Bar Of Words

by Jason E. Hodges 
United at the speakeasy of words
Words spoke softly in the mind of the poet
On their way to work
Around the coffee table
Silently combed over and over
Rearranged and tossed about
Notes of thoughts that surround our everyday life
Are gathered up and pushed out of a pen
Scratched franticly out
For desperation to express for an artist should be the same as to breath to a drowning man
Punched keys convey these feelings onto the screen
Then sent with the click of a mouse
Zooming with speed through the wires of the web
Along street-ways, highways, and byways
Across oceans of deep water blue
Sent up to bounce off the floating metal dish in the stars
All words on their way to the emporium of thoughts
To the speakeasy of poets
Warm words of substance and meaning
Flow as smooth as brown liquor
The saloon of desert ships in the city of The South
The bartender of poets picking the words of the day for display
To be looked upon by the eyes of the world
To wonder what someone else has wondered
To take in
To undo the puzzle
To see how it is put together
Expressions from lives lived near and far
Far and near to the bar of words they go

A Woman Walks Into A Bar

by Mark Reep

Zips or Myhalyks or the River Bend, that kind. A scarecrow or two hunched down at the end, watching an afternoon game with the sound off. The bartender’s no youngblood either. The table bears its scars– stains, cigarette burns, the usual– but the pockets are tight, no gimmes. Rolling Rock, she says, if you’ve got it. No glass.

She does her stretches, takes her cue from its case. Racks nine balls and breaks, taking something off, driving the four into the corner.  Plays the rest as they lay. Racks the balls again, breaks.

She’s working on cut shots when the bartender brings another Rolling Rock unasked.

On the house, he says. Pleasure to have you here.

An ageless little guy, fifty or seventy, and he knows who she is. Or was.

Thanks, she says. He lingers. She drinks some beer.

Saw you once at Mohegan Sun, he says. You beat that Black Widow girl four straight games, ran the table on her twice. You took a picture with me, after. Wondered if you might remember.

I’m sorry, she says. It’s been a long time.

Sure, he says. It surely has.

Her leg’s tingling, all the way up. She puts her beer down, does some more stretches.

Heard you hurt your back, he says, watching. Always wondered what happened, after that.

She straightens, shrugs. You’re looking at it, pretty much.

Listen, if you’re lookin’ for a game or two– Probably wouldn’t be no more’n gasmoney, but I could make a couple calls if you want.

She nods. Thanks, she says.

Well, I’ll leave you to it then. You need anything, you holler.

The tingling in her leg’s become a buzzing. She puts her cue away, takes her empty to the bar.

Gonna go get off my feet awhile, she says. Be back in a couple hours.

Got a old couch in the office, he says. I catch a nap there sometimes. You’re welcome to.

She looks at him. He shakes his head.

Ain’t like that, he says. Door’s got a good deadbolt. I’ll show you how to lock it, you can stretch out, take it easy.

Somebody calls for a draft. He goes to pour it. Makes change, wipes down the bar on his way back.

Don’t imagine you’re real trustin’, he says. I was you, I wouldn’t be either. Nobody’ll bother you. You got my word.

She nods. Thanks, she says. I appreciate it.

Someone’s knocking at the door. It’s dark out. She looks at her watch. Almost nine.

Be right there, she says, and starts getting up.

He’s brought a sandwich. Ham on whole wheat, mayo, mustard. Plateful of chips, a pickle. Another beer.

Thought you could use a bite. Nothin’ fancy.

Fancy’s overrated, she says. Thanks.

He turns on the desklamp, surveys a wall of cheaply framed photographs. Takes one down, wipes the glass with his shirttail.

Guess it has been awhile, he says.

She’s chewing, lifts an inquiring eyebrow.

He perches on the sofa’s arm, shows her: Crazy nineties hair, the Black Label vest she’d always worn, those years. Whatever happened to that vest. That skinny kid, all of it still in front of her. No clue.

What I always remember, he says, that last shot, you didn’t watch the nine go in. Everybody standin’ up to see would it get there– Time it fell, you’d walked away, you were already takin’ your stick apart.

I was a kid, she says. I was cocky.

Show me one ain’t. You knew you had it.

Yeah. I did. Well, I was pretty sure.

He likes that. She tells him what Jeanette said when they shook hands: Girl, you just kicked my ass, you know? Surprising her, laughing– What’s your name again?

I was right there, she says. Showing him with a thumb and forefinger: That close.

Yes you were, he says. And you will be again.

She makes a dismissive gesture, drinks some beer.

Hey, he says. You still want it, or what?

Wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t. Dunno if I’m being realistic, though.

Realistic’s overrated. Better finish that sammich ‘fore it gets cold.

When she comes back from the ladies he’s gone. She takes the photo down again, studies it. The clips on the back turn easily, and she slips the photo from the frame. It’s been awhile since she signed anything, and she rummages in the wastebasket, smoothes a crumpled envelope to practice on. No words seem right, say enough. She tries again.