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Issue 66

   

 

Three Poems
by Peycho Kanev



Desolate

I stepped ashore on the island.
It was this time of the evening
when grays and blues collide in
the sky.

The stones backed out of the water,
their bodies glistened with sparkles
of moon light and memories of
eternal sun and stories and time.

A few seconds passed;
a lifetime…

And this small world darkens
around me, the forms disappear,
the contours of the world melt
away like ice cream on the hot pavement.

Finally, there’s only me, the whisper
of the surf and the dark man inside
my heart that will strike the match.

The Trial

A noose made of sky
Where you can hear the last cry
Of the hallucinogenic seagull

A sky complicated as Japanese hieroglyph
Mysterious and meaningful

Who can tell where it begins and where it ends

Aircrafts as dead birds hanging
In the oxygen-carbon space
Emptied of their meaning

The noose is tightening on the neck of the sky
The Sun silently watching this patricide

There are no other witnesses
Not even You

Winter

In the black hotel a lonely child sleeps.
Outside,
the white light
of the day
arrives with its shimmering luggage.

A butterfly flies over the electric white grass.
In the winter - a butterfly? Why not!
Field: frozen flowers as faded Gothic.
Long icicles like harpoons point
towards the dying and immortal snowflakes.

The child is sleeping and dreaming of
the times when the whole world will be

only dark, dark.

Peycho Kanev is the author of 4 poetry collections and two chapbooks, published in USA and Bulgaria. He has won several European awards for his poetry and he’s nominated for the Pushcart Award and Best of the Net. His poems have appeared in many literary magazines, such as: Poetry Quarterly, Evergreen Review, Hawaii Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Sheepshead Review, Off the Coast, The Adirondack Review, Two Thirds North, Sierra Nevada Review, The Cleveland Review and many others.

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Four Poems
by Dana Lotito



Making Jam

They say the mind will trick you after
experiencing pain, that it will make you think it was
not that bad after all.

(It was only an experience, not pain in its
raw form that you now own. It was a
rental, a loan).

When you walked home alone through
the damp night, your heart cranked
under the dim stars and filmy clouds
because you walked where you both had
walked once.

They say the mind will trick you after
pain so that you can be preserved like
pulverized, sweet jam in a jar and think
it was not so bad after all, and maybe I could
do it again, and it will be okay this time.
The mind knows this is what I
want, or if not want, need.
To believe in a trick, instead.

New York City I: Delivery

It is a stovetop hot
day in Washington Square Park when I
put my feet in the fountain.

It is not too crowded that damp night,
and kind of cold, when we get on
the uptown 5 train.

I unhook my shoes from my heels
and he watches me with what I think is
deep fried love in those clear eyes.
The water is soft and
cool in the river deltas between my toes.

She has fingernails as long as time and
light brown skin that meets the dyed
seam of her bleach blonde hair.
He is skinny with fire
eyes and hatred in his feet.

The fountains spout droplets, little clear falling
stars that melt into ringlets on the water. A small
Italian boy in his white underwear steps in. His sigh is
like the first lick of a lollipop. Mist from the fountain settles into
my hair. Ringlets there, too. And sun and river delta toes.

He screams at her. Bitch I will fuck you up!
You and your disrespectful mouth! I will fuckin’
beat you! She tells him he is abusive, to leave her
alone, stop following her. I can’t tell if his eyes are
wild, pinging off the chrome doors and bars, or if they are hyper focused,
zeroed in.
Niggas hate you, you disrespectful bitch! I will fuckin’ beat you.
I am cold in my seat.

He rolls up his pants to join me. I hike up my dress
and the wind lathers my calves. I let the water stars
land on me, small kisses. This water I have never met, loves me.
It loves all the feet in it,
it is a feet lover, a shoulder blade, fat rolls, skinny neck, hip curve
lover. It loves with abandon, showering pearl drop
fireworks over our heads so we look up,
and it can have a quiet moment with our feet to itself.
There is a bullfrog throb in his throat, in his chest.
I wish I had a bar to fuckin’ beat you with, my nigga! Niggas
hate you! You don’t know how to talk to a nigga! I will
fuckin’ kill you!

Later, we see a flushing fire hydrant spilling its secrets on a sidewalk,
and a sunset bow before the Flatiron, freely giving its
jewels and cloaks of light.
More rain droplets and ringlets in my hair.

“Hey,” a man growls. “Stop it, I don’t want to hear
that.” The young boy is now zeroed in on him,
the tension strung through his hands to his ears, his eyebrows up, eyes
snapped open. Marionette of hatred.
Stay out of my fuckin’ business, my nigga!
I’ll take this outside and I’ll kick your fuckin’ ass too!
Stop following me! the girl yells from her chest.
She moves to the end of the train. Through the humps of shoulders
I see her cry, biting off a few of those nails as long as time.
She throws them down, spikes away those minutes. I wonder if
it hurts to take them off, to throw them down, down on the subway car floor.
They do not make a sound.

Please, Lord above, bring me here one day where
my dreams lie and fountains grow so large
in the heat. Deliver me here to grow
down and up, flower root and glittering skyscraper.
Deliver me, Lord.

Lord, deliver us, deliver us from this tube in the
hole in the ground in the
darkness, from this
Ninevah where time is reduced to fake,
broken fingernails and creeps through even
cracked coffee cups on the tracks.
Lord, deliver.



Baguette and Brie, Under the Circumstances

When I heard, I brought you a
baguette and a thick wedge of Brie, because
that’s what we ate that one time we were so hungry,
we thought we would
collapse.
I brought flowers too,
the plastic cover crinkled loudly like
tissue paper on doctors’ tables.
I do not like that, Sam I Am.
I am sorry they were not lilies, but

they were just not in season.

The house was dark, despite how
the sky was filling orange,
egg yoke spreading in a pan,
and I saw your legs up
in the air before I heard your voice.

You have always had nice legs.

It was a strangely joyful
position, under the circumstances,
but then again, that is you.
Blue eyes and dimples even in a dark house
(even submerged
in circumstance).
Your legs up in the air,
just looking for somewhere to take
root.

A toe wiggled.

I hope when I left
and you ate in the dark, that
the baguette was warm and the Brie
filling,
and that your feet found the sunset sky.

This Woman Skin

I become an adult today,
walking barefoot on the heels of my friends
toward the car, toward separation and the chasm.

Their hair shines in the dusky glow,
their shoulders soft but firm under their spaghetti tank top straps.
They are the shoulders of women, where many things will
lay to rest in the future,
maybe even my head again, someday.

Bundled blooms on the trees,
a rose petal sky,
and the thick heat of day nestling into night.
How long will it be night?

How long until I grow into this woman skin?
My feet burn on the summer blacktop, the crust of the earth.

Virginia is burning,

and now we
part without tears, carry it all with
us – what was, the smell of heat and perfume,
the sound of silver bracelets clinking, of cars
unlocking.

These two women are beautiful to me,
even as my feet burn, knowing they cannot
follow them.



Dana Lotito has a freshly minted B.A in English from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, though she is originally (and proudly) from the Philadelphia area where the people are not surprised by her sarcasm. In college, Dana did her research for her short story collection honors thesis in Hawaii, which involved less sipping mai-tais and more sweating on buses. Dana is now pursuing a Masters in Secondary English Education at William and Mary and hopefully will be getting her MFA in fiction next. She is the recipient of her school's College Academy of American Poets Prize and her poem will be published on their website soon. Her love affair with writing will never end, and she hopes her second love, basketball, will forgive her.

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Three Poems
by lauren elma frament



route 3 south, 4:29 pm
(remembering you on someone else's death day & not the anniversary of yours)
“if you don't pretend it's all right, then I won't ask where you've been”
—Troll 2

don't talk to me about birds
or the tiny pyres i've built in my throat;

i choke them up always.
always an air molecule i swallowed

wrong.

never the peach stone or any god
i can see. what is this grief

but a failing prayer?

a hotel desk with no one
to receive me.

route 1, 10:01 pm
(old crescent, waning marriage)
after Emily O'Neill

if you ask me how it died,
i will tell you it was set loose

from the only pier that didn't splinter me,
the unbroken unlassoed boat whose wake

rules blood & tide. i will not tell you
how to untie a thick knot into a mess

of threads. i will not tell you
about the marriage ring

that would crumble if my mother
removed it, even to bathe.

i will not tell you she tied
a tiny thread around the inside;

a bouquet string binding
the four crowns together.
i will not tell you the secrets
my father does not know.

i will tell you the lasso
was red. of course

i will tell you the lasso
was red. & that the moon

is a dead stone, that it died
set in gold on my mother's finger.



union street, 10:57 pm
(stoop & oak)
for Emily Eastman

tell me the wine pairing
recommended for grief.

tell me i can find it
in the 24-hour convenience

store down the street.
a cheap merlot,

the kind that ages poorly;
velvet vinegar & rotten plum.

the kind that undoes
the palate the way grief

undresses me;
a piece at a time,

until i am a dirty countertop
shouldering nothing

but empty green vases
or a mess of clothing

humbled
on the floor.



lauren elma frament is a writer & restless soul living in Manchester, NH. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Wyvern Lit, Bone Bouquet, Profane Journal, Noble / Gas Quarterly, & The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, among others. She enjoys cross-stitching & standing in the front at punk shows.

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Four Poems and Some Haiku
by Kaitlen McPherson



A Series of Haikus: Weeding the Brain

Out of my hands
flies foliage I've never seen,
who wrote all this?

Advertisement:
One young girl looking for friends,
flowers in winter.

Lovely roses sent,
does he know my love for them
is more than for him.

I must remember,
that a tree is beautiful
even growing alone.

For the dead flowers
I will stop crying when you
cease to mourn your dead.



Plant Life

Please don't wake,

let me

match my breathing to yours, even and
slow
don't let me catch it in a kiss
just yet.
Sleep more sleep
while my eyes excavate the curve
of your nose and climb its precarious tip
free
fall
onto your lips. Your neck a
gentle hollow for the life that makes mine
better
your hands will never be more unintentionally
gentle,
then they are now.

This will not last
this will not keep

because in a moment
I will not be able to resist any longer.
My head will be drawn to your chest like a magnet
like a fly to honey and you
will fold around me like a venus flytrap

I long to be what makes you alive.



Storm of the Matter

I hear him raging outside my room
all night beating at the windows.
His giant fists.
I try to remember
them cradling not crashing.
He screams at me and
blankets are my best defense.

By morning he's worn himself out, taps carefully now on the pane,
He whispers.
I didn't mean it I didn't mean it I didn't mean it.
When I walk outside
he sprinkles kisses into my hair and I can't cloud my eyes from his beauty.

Shake bits of him off even though he is endless.

And when I open a tempting window,
his weakness,
he's the one that gives in.
He is bright and this is how we fell in love with my shoulders pink under his touch.
I walk outside surrounded by his warm breath pushing flowers my way.

I strip off the layers, clothes and emotions and walls and

this is how to love,

in the grass his blue skin everywhere, freckles flying in V's across his face pointing the way
to a place where things are always like this.



Picture the 1940s

Tupperware created a means for the housewife to maintain her obligations in the domestic sphere of the household.
-General Society

Picture them as they were housewives
but so much more than mid-calf skirts and thick eyelashes,
push past their hair in headbands styled like Jackie O long before she was their idol.

I can see them in a living room
having escaped from just next door to see something more
something that gave them the power to serve leftovers forever and ever.

Picture them holding those plastic containers
buying and selling something that was their duty to their household
but hidden behind “Hello dear how was the office today” is a secret they now have sealed.

Imagine a weapon something they store away
times before they were mothers and the makers of dinner
and the house cleaners and society's standard of what a woman should be doing.

Remember for them, golden days when they were young
and their legs stretched under them connecting to bike pedals
and their only social obligations were met at swimming holes.

Imagine that they show the newest thing
a little container for all sorts of things to make them last longer
but someday they will tire of their little container.

Someday they will open the lid
to something much more potent
then yesterday's mashed potatoes.



Leaving Home

At first I was fascinated by snow,
what it's like, I wouldn't know,
that was among many reasons to go.
But no one had spoken of these leaves
that are constantly amazing me they're red
they're pink, they are nature's gold.

Thanks to all this gold
I have moved on from the snow.
So long I thought of white not red
but now I know
the turn of the leaves
like the change of a head go

back and forth I did go
but now I'm watching green turn to gold.
I never thought much about leaves
I had always wanted to see snow
you see, there is now a secret I know,
You can't picture the beauty in a pile of red.

White so easily stained by red.
It is no longer for white that I go,
its because there are things that I want to know,
this turning of nature is most valuable gold.
I was cold, a girl made of snow,
its strange what one is thinking when she leaves.

I guess I needed to turn like the leaves,
I was getting too weak to bleed the red
on to my imaginary snow
it made so much sense to go.
Now I’m obsessed with the right kind of gold,
If only I could whisper back to her what I know.

You must know
what's changed is not just the leaves
I see in gold
never in red
I had to go
but I've forgotten the snow...

Maybe there isn't a thing that I know and I am just enchanted by red,
maybe the leaves have just gone to my head. But go
I did and I found gold someday I'll even be ready for snow.



Kaitlen McPherson is a junior at Willamette University who enjoys chewing gum, making carrot soup, and writing about plants. She also runs the blog twenty20vision.squarespace.com.

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Four Poems
by John D Robinson



All Day Breakfast

I love to watch her undress
and dress in the mornings;
it really is a delight,
a visual feast;
some people claim that
breakfast is the most
important thing about
mornings, but I think
that’s bullshit;
her body is incalculably
more inspirational and
fulfilling than any
bowl of cereal;
to watch her slip into
a pair of thongs and
move around the bedroom
making ready for the
day; the outlines of her
flesh ignited by the
sunshine pushing through
the curtains; I can’t
think of a better way to
begin any day than to
witness this ordinary
everyday domestic ritual;
so for those with any
more important breakfast
suggestions, don’t waste
your breath and don’t
worry for me;
my breakfast
lasts all day.



As I Would Look At a Work Of Art

Sometimes I can sense the
uneasiness as our gazes
meet; she may be thinking
of me as a leering and
lecherous old man pervert
and I can understand this;
I am 52 years old and
have no feelings of guilt or
shame or doing something
wrong when I look between
the breasts of an 18 year
old girl or a 50 year old
woman; I look as I
would look at a work of art;
these days its more about
the visual beauty, the delicacy,
and the attractive majesty
rather than the youthful
lust of sexual pursuit and
quick gratification;
sometimes a smile bounces
back and I look away,
feeling warmed by such
a sweet simple gesture
that means nothing more
than that;
I think my wife would
have trouble understanding
this; knowing this dirty
old man for more than
thirty years.



Not Quite 16 Years Old

As the multicoloured
jelly babies neared the
end of the convey belt
I’d scoop a handful
into a box and then placed
the box onto another
convey belt for sealing;
this was my first job; a
sweet factory; jelly babies
day in day out and
its where I met Mary,
my first real romance;
Mary was half my
height and had more
facial spots than a
pack of Dalmatians, so
kissing wasn’t always
easy and in the sunlight
or beneath street
lighting, the white-heads
sparkled like tiny
diamonds; don’t get me
wrong, I was no prince
charming; it was not
going to last as in several
weeks I’d be joining
the army; though Mary
didn’t know of this;
we fumbled and fooled
around beneath trees
in the park smelling
of jelly babies and acne
creams and deodorant,
we’d meet for teenage
cuddles during the short
sticky lunch breaks and
one night I got crazy
vodka, beer, wine drunk
at her parents home and
trampled down their
precious rose-beds;
a couple of nights later
Mary telephoned;
“I went to a party last
night” she said
“Was it good?” I asked
“Yes, it was and I met
someone else” she said
“Oh?” I said
“Yeah, I don’t want to
go with you anymore”
she said
“Oh?” I said quietly
“Yeah and he can take
his drink like a real
man” she said and then
hung up;
it hadn’t worked out
with Mary and it didn’t
work out with the military
and many other things
since haven’t worked
out for me, but truly,
I never expected anything
else from the start.



No Damn Good

I am utterly inadequate and
incompetent at the contemporary
traditional suburban hobbies
of men;
DIY,
measuring and cutting
and sawing and drilling and
nailing and pushing and pulling
and gluing;
I have no interest in
mechanics, electronics and
how the fuck things work
and how you can fix them
when they go wrong;
I don’t give a shit
and I suspect that my wife
is very disappointed that I
don’t measure up to everybody
else’s husbands who
build their own houses and
kitchens and gardens and
bathrooms and repair the
cars and the lawnmowers
and the ovens and everything
else that needs fixing;
I fail 100% every time,
I do not argue,
I am a complete DIY
loser asshole
and end up phoning
for an expensive
tradesman to fix
my fuck up;
but give me some
paper and a pen
and I may come good
and be your man.



John D Robinson was born in 1963; south coast of the UK; he began working aged 15 and has done ever since; working a large variety of jobs where he has found poetry alive and kicking furiously; writing poetry since aged 16 - 1st poem appeared a year later; has published over 100 poems in the small presses; recent poems have appeared in Red Fez, Bareback Lit, Dead Snakes Undeground Books, Pulsar, Mad Swirl, Poet&Geek Poetic Diversity; The Clockwise Cat, The Chicago Record, The Commonline Journal, Your One Phone Call; upcoming work will appear in Ink Sweat & Tears, Message In A Bottle, The Sentinel Literary Quarterly. He is married with 1 daughter, 2 grandchildren, 3 cats, 1 dog and he likes to drink wine and pursue other habits that may not be considered healthy.

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Two Poems
by Mack Mani



The Punched Numbers Graveyard

The Studebaker's weeping oil again,
and the alleys cling to the fog, like a dream.

You feel the kind of cold that sets in
after a lifetime of drinking hard,
and you haven't had a stiff one all day.

Outside in the rain,
a basement window belches out
the endless tirade
of some Puerto Rican woman.

The fire escapes ladders tap down above you
like giant iron spiders reaching, reaching into wet...
and you're on the move.

The faces of the strangers passing by,
seem to ebb and flow like the tide.
Closed storefront windows,
the eyes of some dead thing.
A mother drags a screaming child past you
and down into the drains,
his wails echoing off of the sewer walls.

The payphones seem to have all gone far away,
back to some warehouse to die.
The punched numbers graveyard,
where you imagine one last phone,
still ringing, on and on...

You're about to give up,
and head back to the car
when a piano's drunken tune, picks you up
and pours you gently off of the streets,
into the bottom of a glass,
at the bottom of the world.

There's a big woman tending bar,
she calls you hon and seems to run
the whole place by herself.
Her voice has a kind of soft, southern drawl,
comforting in itself.

And the piano player's not half bad
-hell, he's pretty good.
playing songs you didn't know you wanted to hear,
songs you forgot you knew the words to.

And there, in the soft glow of
the faces of the drunks at the bar
getting happy on schnapps and cheap domestic beer,
the chill you had felt, coming into that place,
seems to recede.

And between your second drink and the third verse
it all blurs together to where
for just a moment,
you forget what brought you to that place.
And from somewhere inside you,
you feel a warmth that you can't explain.

Something you thought you'd left behind you.
in your little hometown, back East.

A place you'd long since given over to memory.

Someplace that you would like to stay...
but know you can't.



Into the Patient Wilderness

Seven weeks upstream into the basin
we made contact,
meeting such strange folk living there
along the snaking river road.

They told me of their daughter,
who'd drowned among the reeds.
And shared with us their food,
grains grown on steeped hillsides
and tiny colored fish
netted from shallow pools.

As we prepared the boat to leave,
the villagers warned us
not to tread too far upstream.

My men chuckled,
until the elders retrieved
from an old iron box
a tattered Spanish flag,
the only remnants of the last men
to pass through that place,
over a hundred years before.

The next three days
we sailed in near silence
sitting on our hands,
and smoking the last of our tobacco.

One of the older men
told stories to pass the time;
uttered quickly and to little laughter
from the crew.

Five days out from the village,
we entered the valley of giants at dusk.

In the evening redness,
the ruins of that place
towered over the steamer,
like the bones of some dead creature,
grown over and picked clean
in some forgotten era.

We camped among them that night,
our usual fireside chatter interrupted
by a deep rumbling from the jungle.
The second watchman spoke of voices
in the darkness.

The next night and every night after,
we slept on the boat.

After three more days, we made landfall.
Three men stayed with the steamer,
the rest of us, strapped heavy with supplies,
headed into the jungle.

They would wait one week, for us.
If no word came, they were to turn around
and head for civilization.

We should have all left then,
when we had the chance.

But the taste of ivory was thick in the jungle
and we knew there would be danger.
We knew we would not all make it back
and we had the map.

I followed it closely,
that yellowed scrap, kept always
in my breast pocket,
tucked away from the elements.

They started picking us off
that night, one by one.

One man, the storyteller,
went to relieve himself
and never came back.
When we heard his cries in the dark,
two more ran out to help.

When their cries joined the first,
we knew.

Something was using them as bait.

We listened all night,
and in the morning we found them,
what was left of them,
strung up in a tree,
laid out and arranged.

We should have all left then,
when we had the chance.

A few of the men wished to return to the boat
but the taste of ivory was thick in the jungle
and we knew there would be danger.
we knew we would not all make it back
and we had the map.

I followed it closely,
that yellowed scrap kept always
in my breast pocket,
tucked away from the prying eyes of the crew.

Two more men were taken
in as many days,
always the last in our line.
We took to roping ourselves together
about the waist
and calling out in sequence as we marched.

At night we lit three fires
and huddled in between them,
scarcely sleeping,
straining our eyes to see
beyond the fire's light.

One night I found myself
alone, amongst the trees
crouching in the underbrush
with no memory of leaving camp,
or even waking.
I slipped back among the men before dawn, unnoticed.

I should have left then,
when I had the chance,
but the taste of ivory was thick in the jungle.

How many men remained, then
I couldn't say.
Their faces seemed to twist
and contort when I looked too closely.
The map though, is safe.
That yellowed scrap,
kept always in my breast pocket,
tucked away from the prying eyes of the crew...
...and how well do I know them, truly?
Those I trust, I left with the steamer,
these men here are chasing fortune, after all-

-should have all left then,
when we had the chance,
but the smell of ivory was thick in the-

Have I written all of this before?
More and more the words escape me.
Paragraphs dance before my eyes
when I try to read them,
my own hand shaking as I write this.

The men are losing their morale,
losing sleep too, as the voices from the darkness seem
to be imitating those of the men we've lost.
They call out to their friends
and to me, blaming me!

But they knew there would be danger.
They knew they would not all make it back.
And I have the map.

How long have we been here?
Has it been a week?

The jungle never sleeps.
Always chittering and speaking
-whispers to the man who has enough
intelligence and the capacity of mind,
a man of position and fine breeding
to hear the unending voices
of the patient wilderness.

The remnants of the crew
sleep in two hour turns
and whisper mutiny, besides.
They days marching is harder now,
scaling ancient switchbacks, up into the clouds
passing the worn and toppled gravestones
of some other unknown explorers
those who came to this land first
and found they were not alone here.

How I know this,
I cannot say.
I read it much like you,
Sentences in my own hand
I don't remember writing.
So many holes in so many memories,
like I'm no longer alone in here,
in my own mind.
Someone has unlocked the room.

We will be there by tomorrow,
in the valley of the gods.

They should all leave, the crew,
while they still have the chance.
Or some night, they might be taken.
Dragged down into the steaming wet darkness
of the woods that never stop growing.

Only I am prepared to see the sights
and bear witness to the glory.
To receive the bounty
and meet the gods of this new world.

I know that I can make it.
I can stay awake forever,
after all...
The jungle never sleeps.



Mack W. Mani was born in Rural Washington State. He currently lives in Portland, OR. His poetry has been seen online at The Non-Binary Review.

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Two Poems
by Aaron Tremper



Song of Husbands

In a past life,
I was one of King Solomon’s 700 wives.
A daughter whose father gritted his teeth at my birth
because he’d have to give me up to another man one day.
I was a decade of hands kneading dough before Solomon;
had to work for every mouthful.

The only men I’d seen before Solomon
were the field hands harvesting barley with my father.
I’d wash the sand off their feet,
always on my knees,
always with a “Yes Master.”
Man’s foot fetishes started here.

The arrangement was a bargain.
King Solomon’s dowry would feed
my father and our family for a lifetime.
The easiest way to a man’s heart
has always been through his stomach.

The wedding was what they’d call a beauty pageant in the 21st century.
Becoming a wife was supposed to distinguish me
from the crowd, not blend me into one.
Yet here I was waiting as wedding rings were passed around
like bread and fish. When he slipped the ring on my finger,
he said “I do” to a woman whose name he forgot.

He only remembers my name on nights when
“His left arm is under my head,
and his right arm is embracing me.”
Even back then, the easiest way for
a man to remember your name was for him to yell it.

Each morning after,
his mouth is a foaming creek of compliments.
My nose is the Tower of Babel leaving men at a loss for words.
My hair, a flock of mountain goats jumping from the cliff of my shoulders.
My smile is shorn wool tied by the red ribbon of his lips.
I am the wife he wrote the Song of Solomon for
but I’ve had to scrub the words out of his babble
like miles off feet.
Flattery started here.

3,000 years later,
I am born a gay white boy
in rural New York where the
tree-to-gay ratio sucks.
My father now grits his teeth at
giving me up to a man someday
but he won’t give me away at the wedding;
says only brides are given away to husbands.

This time around, my husband won’t need
700 wedding bands; in most states, he won’t even need one.
A mortgage will replace a dowry yet despite this
he’ll never underestimate the privilege of marriage.
He’ll refuse to cruise the gay bars to spend his nights
rubbing the feet of men whose names he’ll
forget in the morning.

When the time comes,
I want God to walk me down the aisle.
His unconditional love means
more to my future than a father’s approval.
If my own father can’t stomach it,
I need to know that the father of humanity approves
because, simply put,
True love starts here. . .
in a song



Wings

I’ve checked the statistics:
we were among the 32% of Americans
that didn’t believe in angels. Knew birds and bats are the
only winged creatures, that God would never risk
clouding the sky with something
as reckless as humanity.
Icarus and Space Shuttle Challenger
were lessons well learned.

Icarus wanted more.
Feared a God who sat in the sunset and
Learned early on that man must always gaze up
at what he respects.
His father fashioned wings out of wax and feathers
warned him not to fly too close to the sun,
the wax will melt.
He should have warned him don’t fly too close to God,
‘cause the ego melts faster.

We have enough painted portraits in museums
to know Icarus didn’t listen. God backhanded
Icarus into the ocean. Icarus did not die.
He swam for his life, realized it takes more strength to swim than to fly;
to save your one life than to sacrifice it for someone else, God included.
Every myth is a moral.

You’re convinced that in a past life
you were a baby angel sleeping
in a manger of clouds. Reasoned that
if the gates of heaven were ever
unlocked for you it was back
then because no one ascends to
heaven in the 21st century.

The gates of the heaven
that would have me are made out of
the wing bones of fallen angels.
I want to believe that God has good uses even
for those creations that have strayed from him;
I am one of them.
A flightless creation with no need for wings.

Do not look to human history for salvation—
look to birds.
The strongest muscles in a bird’s anatomy
are found in the shoulders and control flight;
In humans, shoulders are considered
the weakest part, incapable of
upholding burdens and responsibilities;
While a bird’s bones are hollow to foster flight,
our skeleton evolved to uphold
a brain that worries too much.

Give me a pair of wings too, but not for flight.
With them, I have enough quills to write down
this saga of mankind’s struggle for holiness.
There is more strength in fight than in flight;
God will make you jump for a salvation miles high.
Better that than for him to hang it right above your head like a halo.
Give us a chance
To prove how history is always written by the winners.



Aaron Tremper recently earned his B.A. in English (w/Minors in Creative Writing and Film Studies) from SUNY New Paltz. His work has appeared in Stonesthrow Magazine, The Legendary, Awosting Alchemy, and New Paltz's New Play Festival in 2013. Aaron is currently the in-house electronic music reviewer for the online magazine, In Your Speakers Media.

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Four Poems
by Anne Babson



Fishing in Pittsburgh

Lumber over, cod liver stink and all, to where
I am reknotting a fine net. Good. Don’t say “Hey.”
Don’t say anything. Don’t ruin it. Don’t use your
Mouth for anything but tearing the feathers off
My fish lure. I said shut up! I know you worked on
That line, but it goes back in the tackle box now,
Alaska! Good. I am giving you permission
To slap the spawning salmon out of the river
Between my thighs, but not if you say another
Word, comprende? Now, Moby, I want you to whip
Out the rough-scaled coelacanth from your pants, with its
Prehistoric spinal chord filled with crude oil that
Allows it to swim in the highest pressure depths,
With its snout filled with electrically sensate
Jelly that mirrors the movements of its quarry.
Good. Let’s find a solid wall to lean against and
See what you’ve learned from those copies of Field and Stream.



His First Christmas

For years he spent the twenty-fifth of twelve
Polishing his gun, a day in a foxhole
With fewer fired shots. For years he
Wore out the hours walking in the gray

Bystreets, pretending it was just a cold
Wednesday, just a trash collection day, a day
Without mail service, with fewer trains,
With cross-street parking rules suspended.

Now, packages wrapped in red, he has lost
His balance, the first sign of real trouble in
Any marshal art. He knows his kicks
Would skew. He clenches his glass of grog

As if it had a trigger, and he scans
The room for stray enemies. His findings,
Inconclusive but startling, bear
Further investigation, but now,

He takes a sip. He does not know the songs
And does not sing them. Yet, as others laugh, he
Cracks a smile tentative in granite,
Stands down, awaits further instructions.



Low Jack

I see it bulging slyly underneath
your two pairs of elegant dress socks.
It is the only announcement of rocks
you have broken, a weapon in its sheath.
Besides this alarm system under wraps,
You are otherwise courtly, soft-spoken
just a man in a black suit, mortician
in training, polite, clean-handed, perhaps
a lady killer after hours, with thick
black ringlets, creamy skin, smoldering looks
of lust or larceny, smiles that crook
at either end, muscles, a free man’s prick.
I wonder at the sight of your full mouth
who else I might have kissed from The Big House.



Two Tourists

1.

You took this: Me in pajamas, Hong Kong, by the sink in the john.
Don’t you remember? It had hot-cold knobs with Chinese characters!

Look --We tried that thing – see us with thumbs up – where you
Flush in Australia, and the water churns backwards. Wow!

Here we are in Bermuda. The balcony had pretty abalone
Pink tiles on it. The beds were lumpy, though, right?

2.

We ate al fresco in the Alps. I could not tell which way was down.
The line of the horizon slanted and jagged in Escher diagonals.

At four am I slipped out, tiptoed down to the edge of the estuary.
The heat exhaled a mist half-way up the dark laurel trees – Panama.

While you were buying key chains, an old lady on a bench confessed
To me her whole life story -- in Africaans. I understood everything later.

3.

You and I – we got our passports stamped at the same
Border crossings on the same days of the same years.

We have been in the same rooms where the same pointless jokes
Got told by the same tellers. We have laughed at different times.

I wonder if you and I will ever just visit the same city and look at
The same monument commemorating the same exact atrocities.



Anne Babson's first full-length collection The White Trash Pantheon (Vox Press, 2015) and her current chapbook, Poems Under Surveillance (Finishing Line Press, 2013) are currently available in independent bookstores and on Amazon. The opera for which she wrote the libretto, entitled Lotus Lives, was performed in the Northeast in 2012 and is currently being considered for broadcast by WGBH Boston. She has been nominated for the Pushcart four times and featured on Poetry Daily. Her work has recently appeared in Iowa Review, Cider Press Review, Southampton Review, Bridges, Barrow Street, Connecticut Review, The Pikeville Review, Rio Grande Review, English Journal, New Song, The Penwood Review, Sow’s Ear, The Madison Review, Atlanta Review, Grasslands Review, WSQ, Global City Review, Comstock Review, California Quarterly, Wisconsin Review, The Red Rock Review, and many other publications. In Europe, her work has appeared in Current Accounts, Iota, Poetry Salzburg, Nth Position and in Ireland, she was in an issue of Crannóg last year. In Asia, Anne was published in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and Yuan Yang. She has been anthologized multiple times in both the US and the UK. She has done residencies at Yaddo and Vermont Studio Center.

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The Metamorphosis of the Deified
by Nicholas Denmon



She sways in, a palm frond pushed to and fro from internal storm. Seduced by Ovid, she pounces like a New Orleans bordello kitten. Red lips call me God. She swears I deserve a decadent disciple so she drops to her knees, kneading hotel carpet, pleading for me to need her, she pleases me to be pleased. She prays and calls my Name, looking for escape, for entrance, for escalating ecstasy. Blood-red lips sing the Siren songs wrapped in fresh-rolled Virginia gold. There is naught to be found virgin of her body nor her soul. I issue penance. Then I issue punishment. Darkness descends upon me despite the simmering sheen of her slinking hips, a blue-freckled cheek guides me in, the North Star in the night, beyond her slopping southern sphere. She is my Anthemusa. She says she loves me, that she never stopped. Begs me not to stop, so stopping ceases to exist. She defies the damned and deifies before my eyes, a hellcat turned Helene. We watch the wall as withering flames cast shadows in silent silhouettes that stand sentry to our sense of reality. Chained to the cave, Plato mocks our constructions, and laughs how love and lust can make Gods of men. And when the wine abates we part. Flying west, chasing the falling fire, I call out to Persephone knowing all the while that wings of wax will touch the sun, a certain swelter shall leave the wreckage of the heart to smolder.



Nicholas Denmon studied English at the University of Florida. He started story telling from the moment he could talk and has spent a lifetime perfecting the art. His life has been varied, giving him no shortage of material. Some of his unique experiences include growing up with a schizophrenic mother, having six brothers and sisters (of which he is the middle-younger child), a perfectionist father, an evil step-mother, a college life to rival Tucker Max, and working for politicians on the Presidential as well as local stage. He has been, at times, a devout Catholic, a closet atheist, and an honorary member of the Jewish tribe. Nick's joy of art knows little in the way of limitations, as he loves unique paintings, music, acting, film, and of course writing. Website: www.nicholasdenmon.com

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Two Poems
by Caroline Walton



Seconds

It is Thanksgiving. Grandmother has buried a husband

for the second time. We load our plates, heavy, when a cry stabs

through the chatter. Her wordless grief-song echoes in the kitchen.
I play chase with my mother’s eyes, but she is busying herself

with her plate, scooping an extra serving of mashed potatoes,
refilling her glass of wine. The house is burning.

We sit down to eat as my aunt scoops up my grandmother
and drives her home. We pretend not to know the secret.

Our throats never vessel such sounds. We eat until our faces
reflect back on shiny clean plates. No one goes back for seconds.



What We Wanted

At a house party, we just want
a good time. Amy is warding off the creepy guys,
birds of prey circling drunk Sarah like a rotting carcass.
Amy is mother hen. She’ll cluck them away,
lead Sarah to the bathroom - hold her hair while she pukes,
nurse her with a glass of water and bread.
In eight months Sarah will sleep with Amy’s boyfriend
and make no apologies.

Becca is playing beer pong with Shae, texting some guy
she half-wants, making sure he wants her, girlfriend or not,
because we all want to be fucking wanted.
In six months, I won’t go with Becca
to the abortion clinic.

No one is more drunk than Kaylea, our constant entertainment.
She is holding her bottle of whiskey in a death grip because she wants
to find the bottom. Maybe tonight she will. Maybe tonight
she’ll key some fucker’s car like she did last week.
Maybe we’ll have to carry her home again. Maybe we’ll finally stop
laughing at the monster of her addiction. Because this is college.
Where destruction is the accepted lifestyle - everyone’s major.

In the morning we’ll spill stories - fill in the parts we don’t quite remember.
This is our favorite story time, when we laugh the hardest.
In one year, Kaylea will start dating Zach, who will teach me
to smoke weed for the first time. He will sit and coach me, a patient tutor,
a patience he will not exercise when Kaylea gets too drunk. (which is every time)

I will ignore the noises they make when they come home late and loud.
I will miss the fact that he hits her. She will push me away
and I will let her. I will leave Kaylea to her own destruction. I will leave her
to cry alone on the living room floor as the baby she drank away
spills out of her onto the carpet and Zach won’t want to take her
to the hospital. I will leave her to almost drown at the bottom of that bottle twice.

I will be busy.

Chasing the one who never really wanted me, always finding him
at the same bar so I will go pose like a pretty carcass
he will always take if he’s hungry.
Even though it’s what I want, I will resent him for this.
I will sleep with his best friend as revenge, then go back to him.
Sometimes he’ll have a girlfriend. Sometimes I’ll have a boyfriend.
It won’t matter - the more drunk and destructive the better

I will be the first in our group to get an STD.
Chlamydia. The one that sounds pretty.
I will be so dirty and pretty, so rotting and pretty.
I will lie to the doctor. I will lie
in a married man’s bed, I will lie.

We were all so good at lying.
We were all so good at breaking,
we were all so proud of our fists.
Wore them like ruffled feathers, imagined
that they made us stronger
and we all wanted to be fucking strong.

But tonight, Amy is playing mother hen
and I’m up next for beer pong.
Kaylea is stumbling and we all laugh
like it’s the funniest joke.
Shae turns the music up
because this is our favorite song,
and that’s what we wanted.



Caroline Walton teaches high school English in Central Arkansas where she tries to convince teenagers that poetry is actually cool. She represented Arkansas at the 2013 Individual World Poetry Slam and placed second at the 2013 Arkansas Arts Center Ekphrastic Poetry Slam. Her work can be found in Germ Magazine, Words Dance, and Prong and Posy.

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Four Poems
by Michael Lee Johnson



Clockmaker

Solo, I am clockmaker
born September 22nd,
a Virgo/Libra mix insane,
look at my moving parts, apart yet together,
holes in air, artistic perfection,
mechanical misfits everywhere,
life is a brass lever, a wordsmith, an artist at his craft.
Clockmaker, poet tease, and squeeze tweezers.
I am a life looking through microscope,
screenshots, snapshot tools,
mainsprings, swing pendulum, endless hours,
then again, ears open tick then tock.
Over humor and the last brass bend,
when I hear a hair move its breath,
I know I am the clock waiter,
the clockmaker listens-
a tick, then tock.



Tequila

Single life is-tequila with lime,
shots of travelers, jacks, diamonds, and then spades,
holding back aces-
mocking jokers
paraplegic aged tumblers of the night trip.
Poltergeist defined as another frame,
a dancer in the corner shadows.
Single lady don’t eat the worm
beneath the belt, bashful, very loud, yet unspoken.
Your man lacks verb, a traitor to your skin.



Jesus in a Nighttime City
Jesus walks
Southwest side
Chicago nighttime city
in bulletproof vest
barefoot
broken
beer
bottles
glass,
stores closed,
blasted windows,
mink furs stolen,
a few diamonds for glitter-
old parks, metal detectors, quarters, nickels, dimes,
coins in the pockets of thieves, black children
on merry-go-rounds, Maywood, IL.
Danger children run in danger
in spirit, testimony,
red velvet outdates Jesus' robe.



Life Is-Transition

Transition, is song, passages.
291.5 pounds, age 67, 6'4', gross as a pig waiting for
butcher's cut.
Aging chews at my back, my knee joints, chisels, slivers
in dampness.
Legs are corn stalks burning; twist fibers, bending, late
October, Halloween night.
Good news, 67, lost 38.9 pounds this year, rocking gently
shifting my pain away.
I am no longer a beagle pup, an English cocker spaniel
chasing the bitches around,
no longer a champion bike rider, yo-yo champion, nor
Hula Hooper dancer or swinger.
Now I expand my morning stiffness with stretch rubber
bands, legs lifted high then down.
Wild mustard, wild black rice and the Mediterranean diet
have taken over my youthful dining experiences.
I no longer have nightmares about senior discounts, or
Meals on Wheels,
part-time bus driving jobs, or aerobics.
When spices are in season, I out live my postponements
to my grave.
Screech owl, I am an old buck, baby hoot on a comeback,
dancing my ass off.
Transition, shedding old loose snakeskin.
Still listening to those old hits, like Jesse Colter, Waylon Jennings,
"Storms Never Last."
Transition is song passages.



Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. He is a Canadian and USA citizen. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, small business owner in Itasca, Illinois. He has been published in more than 880 small press magazines in 27 countries, and he edits 10 poetry sites. Author's website http://poetryman.mysite.com/. Michael is the author of The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom (136 page book) ISBN: 978-0-595-46091-5, several chapbooks of poetry, including From Which Place the Morning Rises and Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems. He also has over 81 poetry videos on YouTube as of 2015: https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrymanusa/videos Michael Lee Johnson, Itasca, IL. nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry 2015.

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Five Poems
by Shawn Nacona Stroud



Cyber Sex

Your fingers should stroke
my keys once again, tap in
conjured adjectives
for your lust-bulked thoughts
to this or that

whomever. You’ve screwed
me with each letter
pressed. At first
I reveled in it. Listen:
this is our rhythm, those
clicks and clacks, thrusting
us toward climax. Your wife’s
snores filtering in from your bedroom.

I think I must have loved it
in the way some women burn
to prey on married men. Over time
I began to wear on you—
you handled me roughly and turned
offish simply because
I was the only one really

there. Finally,
you started to neglect me entirely,
let dust cloud my vision
until I was forced to watch you with her
like an aging mistress
watches their defeat
through slow-forming cataracts.

I realize now that it must be her or I.
I’ve been stockpiling your messages;
ammunition I’ll employ
to blitz the bitch with. Soon,
I shall unleash war, my bombs,
the full shebang—she’ll perish
under my afflictions then
and you’ll begin to touch me again.



Hard Up

There were scraps left;
that love, hardening like bread
two days after Thanksgiving—
once a slice starts to stiffen
the whole damn loaf is
doomed. In our house
the crumbs were scattered
along floorboards and cupboards.
We scavenged for them as rodents
find those crumbs you never realized
you’d dropped. Those
precious molding few
that might spore into a cure for you.



Foundering

This yard slopes off into dirt, all
grasses and wildflowers ending
like the edge of universe, beyond
our gravel drive an asteroid belt
that divides here from there
the way sin separates heaven from hell. Today
dandelions are effacing themselves, seeds
riding winds which whisper to them:
this all must end, this all must end. Galaxies
one by one retracting. Their lights
no longer glare up at me as if I were divine
and must witness such sufferings. Certainly
this lawn will soon be freshly primered-
canvas for a new God to create
something more enduring with his paints.



The Fisher of Man
(Jetty Park, Cape Canaveral)

1.

Ahead, the Atlantic foams at the mouth,
roars and snaps its jaws
like a rabid dog. Separated from us
by balding scalps with sea oats
jutting up for hair-
spiked strands the wind can’t comb.

The wind is an ancient stylist,
complains of his plight in my ears.
A billion years he’s combed beaches. Now
he cups a glass palm over my mouth,
rips my words silent with his force.

Sand embeds in my soles:
shell fragments, crushed bones
spit up by the ocean like owl pellets
the sea gulls pick clean of meat-
they skirt my path and shriek for more.

2.

We crunch out to the jetty’s shadow
where the Atlantic separates from itself,
a water-paved driveway ships come to park on.
Departing cruise lines belch, then drift into specs-

the grey finger of lumped rocks
points their way. A fisherman
on the docks waves as they pass;
he’s pitched and pulled his line all night.
We gape as he yanks another catch.

It’s a damned soul that thrashes his line;
he drowns it on air.
As we approach its o-mouth huffs
for breath, then submits with a thump
to the morgue of his cooler.

3.

Like the fish, I once tugged your pole;
the line you caught me with still
reels me in to you- and your hook, scooped
through the flesh of my upper lip,
bleeds me the color
dawn stains the water.



Sycorax

Love and hate are blood and air—
every day they sustain me. Your screams
prick at me through the bars
of your crib; little hooks, attempting
to bait me. I scrutinize you
the way a single mother regards
her rape bastard with resentments. All morning
I’ll abandon you there in your cage
stewing in piss and shit
simply hoping you’ll eventually brine
into someone other than him, but
dusk always darkens as though ink-
blotted with my disappointments.



Shawn Nacona Stroud has appeared in various magazines and e-zines in the U.S. and the U.K. including: Eunoia Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, One Sentence Poems, Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Worm, and more recently as a winner on the IBPC for November, 2014.

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Two Poems
by Amanda Barusch



Sometimes Found by Night
Paris, 1947

He, too, was struck by the pervasive scent
of onions and the ghastly cost of the war.

They danced in a discothèque
while deer strolled through the woods.

He watched her drink coffee
with a sugar cube between her teeth.

He invited her for a walk, and she cried
Stop! But it was only a seagull.
Not a cockatoo.

They enjoyed eavesdropping in cafes.
Once, on the street, he heard a soldier ask,

What day is this? And
she replied, I don’t know. I don’t live here.

He worried that she might find him dull,
she had, after all, no gift for opera.

She said he swallowed loudly.
But not all the time.

There was a certain comfort.

Later, he would ask his bride,
Why hyacinths? And
she would reply, Because marigolds smell like dying bees.



Three Days After

I saw a chameleon fish mimic the colors and patterns of its surroundings so perfectly that only his twitching nose gave him away. No. Wait. It must have been a puppy, his twitching black nose the only clue he wasn’t a fish. Please forgive me, I am not myself. I keep thinking of water. My father was a sailor. With his hair tied back he could shoot the sun and take us to paradise. He threw a hook off the stern and fed us rainbow fish for dinner. He never did like dogs.

“Bastante!” he yelled, “Enough!” when he’d had it. And when we fretted he said, “At ease, at ease,” and asked our mother, “Should we give them postre now?” It didn’t take us long to learn it meant dessert, or how to spell i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m. Please, I’d like more postre now. In that place they never gave him ice cream. I used to sneak it in. Chocolate, and he ate it with his fingers. Once I asked how he was, and Dad said, “Fit and ready for duty, sir!” Then he pointed at my step mother and said, “You know, I was once married to a woman with the same name as that one. Only the other one was much nicer.”

I fell from a great height and was caught in a sling. A meadowlark sang, and the air rushed cool against my face. No. Wait. It must have been a raptor’s cry. Yes, a red tailed hawk dove past the naked tree where sparrows perched, waiting to tease her. My mother flew to Hawaii on one of the first Pan Am airplanes. It took a long time and she met a handsome man who was not my father.

When I told my brother, he reminded me how after her shower, our mother puffed talcum powder all over herself. What a strange thing to remember when someone tells you your father is dead. She taught me to call chickens, a skill reserved for the women in our family.

Amanda Barusch divides her time between America and New Zealand, teaching and ranting wherever she goes. Her work has appeared in a few journals and she’s won a few prizes that don’t really count. She just received her MFA, which was loads of fun, but didn’t provide the confidence she had anticipated. Still, you can find her blog at http://amandabarusch.com.



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