Untitled Document

Issue 69

Natalie Crick

Brent Cantwell

Thom Young

Dan Smart

L.D. Diem

Rob Hicks

Michael Lee Johnson

Matthew Vasiliauskas

M.C. Rush

Sergio Ortiz

Z.M. Wise

Five Poems
by Natalie Crick

The Murmurings

The poison drips steadily into my skull.
Lice are feeding. They are carnivorous.
She is biting away at my life.
I am merely a husk.

She watches me lie awake at night.
She lives in me, breathing,
Locking my heart away in a chamber
Where nothing moves.

Where the air freezes to ice.
I wait for a sound.
There is no end.
I remember the beginning: a death.

For years
We are white with exhaustion at what this thing is.
It is the last night of our lives.
Tomorrow I’ll be gone.

She is alive. Look:
It is beginning to hatch.
But it is dark. So dark.
I can barely see my own reflection in the mirror.

There is just some stranger.
We try to catch the pieces of me
Before they shatter forever.
Misted snow drifts over the remains.

Sunday School

Madeline loves it
And sits as Mother would.
The priest is like her Father
Dressed all in grey,

Palms fluttering with
Paper clowns,
Legs and arms spinning anti-clockwise
Like the priest's eyes slide

From side to side.
We are his for an hour
But he cannot touch us,
For we are jewels to be watched,

And, one day taken.
Nobody has ever held his hand
But Grandmother, with rings like
Little girl's warnings.

This is my house of God,
Rain thundering as
Unanswered questions.
Their faces are taught and chilled with frost.

He is the bee of androgyny
Thrusting candelabras as tusks.
This drone of activity,
It is all too much for me.

Faces dumb as naked dolls.
He strips them, licking them with stars
Like potential girlfriends
Or meats to be weighed.

Young Love

When you were five
And I was six,
We would hold hands
Just like this.

When you were nine
And I was ten,
We made a pact
To never tell, and then:

You began to tell me every word
That escaped from your lips, with cold secret stares.
A look or a glance through long
Fingertips. Your beautiful face.

I see you sitting by the stair, your body
Tight in hot sun, a sad lamb
On stage. And when I have passed you
Flushed red raw, I want to remember

How young we were.
Splayed out across the pitch
Like baby starfish, pink and pinched
As tongue's blood.

Our father and mother are in silent reverie,
With knotted wrists and electric hair,
Nodding and clapping, as dumb waiters do
To our games. When we are together we are together.

Today we are family as the ill
Walk in lines, with shaken smiles that marry us.
Mother, to me you are a figure of fun.
Father, you are a child when you wake up each morning.

And We Are Hiding Now

For some time they sat in the cornfield
And spoke like dull mice
About what would be done.
When the sun, a ruined fruit

Ripped the dilute garden growth
And spread a red alarm over tall shears
The eldest was heard to say
“Bury them in the cellar.”

Skins of lice lamented
Over the pulsing stalks,
Their drones blanched in the air
Curdled and hot.

The house was distant and brown
Weeping a creeping shadow from within,
That seemed to warn: ‘Keep Out'.
A blaze from the forgotten.

Old plastic swing swung over the perimeter,
A goodbye, flinch.

The sky was high and blue.
In the giant shoots
Lurking softly and surreal,
Two ducklings on the gilded shore.

The sea was swimming with flushed young men
Severing feathered heads
With long silver scissors.
Pointed thorns in a paper box.

The woman roared like the man.
“Stop”, said the girls
With frilled socks.
Once the heavens were purple

Like a bruise, the corn
Grew cold and wet.
The house stood waiting, a deadened bulb
With a swift march

They advanced through the field,
Cutting stems.

She Chose Red

It is Winter.
He dragged her through the snow,
Her heart in her hand.
She was trying to be special.

In her room
Is a barbed cage.
She made it herself.
She waits inside with a needle in the dark.

Chewing her own hair.
They don't talk to her.
Her mouth is full of hair.

She chose red.
Dreamer, how did you get so low?
Anywhere you go,
She will follow.

She is a slut called Jezabel.
There is sunshine in an empty place.
Her birthday: a black death.
The rush she gets. Machina.

Her cousin is a spider.
Now give her an inch, a mile.
She is a beautiful liar.

She crawled out from the sea.
A horse drinks from the dark water
Dieing, vapourous.

Natalie Crick, from Newcastle in the UK, has found delight in writing all of her life and first began writing when she was a very young girl. Her poetry is influenced by melancholic confessional Women's poetry. Her poetry has been published in a range of journals and magazines including Cannons Mouth, Cyphers, Ariadne's Thread, Carillon and National Poetry Anthology 2013.

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Five Poems
by Brent Cantwell

Marrakech In The Morning

Before the day-camels
And the blazing white places
Before the tooth picked garlic snails
And the balconies of gin

A Bedouin boy
Sweeps again last night’s
Blown sand from his father’s
Air-conditioned stall again

He has an old Yamaha
He knows he’ll get to Paris
Because his father
Insists, you’ll never get it going!

Marrakesh has horizons
Like everywhere else:
Some see a circle of red clay
In a garden of blood oranges

Some wake at dawn and sweep
The sand at the edge of the sky

After Fathers

Those who live with the sea
Know the world is made of sand castles

Know that for every sand castle
The universe invents a new foot

And those who live with the sea
Know that this is a good thing

It means the world does not stop:
Young feet will continue to grow

Bare and burnt and hard upon the ground
Children will wish for a world after fathers

They will pretend not to watch his lame efforts
They will pretend not to appreciate - as fathers do -

The joy of making something from nothing
Fathers improvising stone

With a bucket of muck
And the ghost of an outline - a frame -

A piece of inherited canvas
The sand castle of his father

And the blunt progress of his foot
Those who live by the sea

Let their children build sandcastles alone
The hope of permanence is the only stone

Leaving Venice

At the airport
A-thousand-times-goodnight goodbyes

Then you leave;
Our last kiss, last night, the lilies we picked,

One word,
That smile and the smell of you leave too -

But slower -
On a tide we didn't even consider

On a tide we barely noticed
Lapping at our ankles...

You answered the sea

You thrust lumber
You eased the ebb and lure

You negotiated peace
In a deluge of dirty water.

So is it naive
To lie in the moon

To feel your heart pump blood
Yet to still assume

One word can hold back a flood?

Passing Through

One scorched-desert June
Just out of wilderness-Meknes -
Goat-head Meknes,
Jaundice-walled Meknes -
On a crowded train –
Mostly red
Shunting -
From the coast,
Younis – a metallurgist
From Chefchaouen -
Poured tea
Into tinted glass cups...
It was not just a question
Of courtesy -
Though we pressed palms
And smiled each other's
Hellos -
He was acknowledging
Our transience
The rising aroma
Of strangers
Passing through
A memory already
The deepening sepia
Of experience
Swirled in a tinted glass cup

We took a moment to take some tea
Lost in the sweetness of eternity

Brent Cantwell was born in Timaru, New Zealand in the early 1970s.  He is an English teacher and has been writing poetry – for pleasure - for most of his adult life.  He is currently living in Queensland, Australia and has spent much of his recent years travelling and writing in Europe, Asia and Africa. He now lives on Mount Tamborine – in the Gold Coast Hinterland - with his family. Brent Cantwell has been published by Verity La and in a Wellington Café Poems publication called “Eat Your Words”.

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Three Poems
by Thom Young


her teeth are like glass
ivory bone china
reserved for dead queens
and fragile men
we find love in different places
different kinds
different ways
and last year she made 18k
in tips
filling up cracked coffee cups
and listening to concrete people
go on about vacations
they never took
we're in love
and the National League
is better


the dead people in the world
afraid to live
we pass each other
in the grocery
in the places
we both don't want to be
me going one way
and they the other.
I don't look at them
and they don't look at me
this is how the world spins
until we meet again
the trash
needs to be on the curb
by seven a.m.
we both know it.


I changed my name to Larry
moved to an island
?in my dreams
with a dog
and a good woman
you can see the ocean
still out there
too far
what we used
to be
if you get this
crack the bottle
and tell them
everything is fine

Thom Young is a writer from Texas. His work has been in The Commonline Journal, 3am magazine, Crack the Spine, Word Riot, 48th Street Press, and many other places. A 2008 Million Writers Award nominee for his story Perico. He is one of Amazon's most popular poets hitting #1 in Poetry Anthologies and Short Stories and his latest A Little Black Dress Called Madness hit #1 Poetry in Germany. He's written 4 novels including his best seller Bloodsouth.

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Five Poems
by Dan Smart


Poor flowers—
by the sun's
warm fingers,

by the quick rhythms
of a few passing

by the tickle
of sticky
moist earth—into

opening up—

their inner

completely, and

every last
particle and filament

of their
frail and shy
beauty—to a wide world
so far beyond
their comprehension;
to wind up—

shriveled by wind,
wheedled by rain,

drained dry
and left
in the

retreating light,

to wilt
and to die
shortly thereafter.

And yet—they do not

how you'd
that they

of fright,

certainly not


I shudder to think—
if they didn't

have those
good sturdy

frames all around them,


everyone would be

roving and


up and

down the
otherwise stolid

marble white
halls of soft institutes—

simply from having
to witness

every last appalling,

and soul

sickening spot—

even the most

paintings—just stops.


All you seem to know
or need to

is that—the voices

and yet—somehow

and faster,
toward this

ever increasing
and more
protracted slowness,

as they burst
and spread

and farther
apart, until

the divergence
itself tends

to merge
into one

incomprehensible object -

like a high


to the sacred
of night—inside the eye

of the
mind—of an infant.

Non Overlapping Magisteria

My soul is
a stupid but dutiful



and nourishing
things indiscriminately—mincing, dousing, burning,

and spitting them

up again
in the foamier colorless

form of
ideas, in a desperately

reflexive attempt
to purge

itself of all experiences;

for one—which is already
so pure,

so indivisible,
so empty—as white

light is—that it
simply refuses

to break
down any further;

the greatest mystery—

but thick
with the heavy warmth

of its
own sacredness—of how

I would have
likely been fine

all this time
without you,

but never
can doubt

you, now
that I wasn't.

Systems Analysis

God, if you really
are God, please don't

give me
too much
specific proof. Just—sort of

hover in the back
and guide

these poor
limpidly through

the holes
in each of the letters
in your name,

imbuing and
anointing them, by

with just enough
of that oily
whiff of the truth—such that

other men
and women

will feel subtly moved,
less by
their message,
than the hugeness
of its

purview—less by
this text

than its
infallible context.

make mine
a stiffer kind

of corrugated poetry,

of both—words
and their conspicuous

intermittent absence;
of both—

like conviction

and its occasional
overzealous misprint.

I'm not even asking

for anything

or permanent. It's just—
my thinking,
right this second—
really needs a scaffolding.

Dan Smart is a Chicago-based freelance writer, poet, and musician, as well as a regular contributor to online music publication Tiny Mix Tapes and music producer at ECHO/NORMAL recording studio. In addition to having lectured on poetry at Illinois Wesleyan University and having been published on the poetry/criticism blog Structure And Surprise), he also maintains his own daily poetry blog called Rhythm Is The Instrument, on which he's collected over 1,100 original poems—and counting.

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Three Poems
by L.D. Diem

(Originally published in Anti-Heroin Chic 2016)

while they sleep

I am up sweet girl
mama can't sleep
after hours of watching you toss and turn
eyes transfixed to the monitor
I exhale softly as you finally locate dolly
running her ragged stitched body 
over your face 

her ponytails stiff
from last night
her body limp
but still-you cling to her tightly

my heart swells
the way my stomach did while you were growing inside of it

I think of all the unborn
poor little Berkley
who would never forgive his mother
a screaming fetus
that was ripped away from my lean fifteen year old body

I couldn’t have understood then
the regret that I would feel
every time your sticky hands reached for my face
and pulled me in for a kiss

this love is so fierce
this mama love

playing house

her tiny fingers clasped a diaper wipe
and pressed it to my nose
she loudly instructed for me to “blow”
and waited inquisitively

she wiped my face delicately
the way mommy and daddy do it
and blotted my eyeliner
with a look of disdain

she didn’t know what to do with the ugliness
the long black streak of make-up
her eyes, wide and innocent
by imperfection


I spent five years crafting perfectly written stanzas
about a boy who twirled his hair like my mother
the loss of him at fifteen
and the baby we would never speak about

I emptied my soul on those pieces of paper
and then folded them neatly
into tiny little squares
and tucked them away
like the judge who sealed our mistake

his final thesis at Kalamazoo was a satin heart
sewn together like a pillow
he hammered that delicate heart to a wooden board
and pierced every square inch with nails

we see each other occasionally at the bar,
there are no sideways glances
no talks of missed opportunities

he stares past me blankly and says hello to my husband
an awkward moment
stinging every inch of my skin
revealing my discomfort
my vulnerability

fifteen years later
a working mother, with a small child
I still feel his judgement
his disapproval
of every single word
I am writing in this poem

L.D. Diem is a teacher that spends the majority of their free time writing about their strong willed toddler. L.D. consumes caffeine on a regular basis to survive.

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Four Poems
by Rob Hicks

Kerouac drank his life away

Fitzgerald drank his life away
McCullers drank her life away
Bukowski drank his life away
London drank his life away
Crane drank his life away
Hemingway drank his life away
Joyce drank his life away
Faulkner drank his life away
Poe drank his life away

and left a legacy for us to emulate

That guy in the factory drank his life away
That woman in the checkout line drank her life away
That man with the wife and three children
drank his life away, too
That used car salesman
That club DJ
That lonely retiree
That post-college manager
That delivery boy
That illegal immigrant
That politician
That beauty
That man with the shaky hands
whose breath rattles
in the handout line:
one story no different from the others.

I stand on the precipice
and wonder which way
I might fall.

What you know

is not always what you think
and this you understand best
when confronted with it head on
You see how it lacks that luster
It sits dully on some shelf
You pick it up only to realize
you don’t know how to use it
and for the life of you
you can’t see why
you would ever want to.


just flashes now:

the bed of a truck
in the parking lot of my first job
smoking my first cigar
sipping my first taste of whiskey
a friend giggling beside me

sitting on a swing alone
watching the other children
dreaming of lost continents
of faraway places made just for me

floating in the bay a half mile from shore
waiting for my father to return with his boat
crying from my first understanding
of death and pride and the ultimate
beyond the sky

these memories fade
slipping faster, ever faster
I feel the long pull of the future
and the short tug of the present
and the unbreakable tether of the past
and am comforted.

For even as I write this now,
I can no longer remember what for.

On a boat in Tennessee having just left Tuckaleechee

they’re all just children
with quivering, frantic lips.
You can see them,
feel how they are lost,
how they hold back tears.
The old man waits
at a traffic light;
the young woman
lights a cigarette;
a mother holds her daughter,
the post man stuffs his letters.

everyone directionless
everyone bludgeoned
by the senseless weight of today,
this hour, this minute
us, all here together.

brother, it is okay
to not know where you are
because even when you think
you have found yourself,
you so very seldom have.

Rob Hicks is from Texas. His work has been published in the Ottawa Arts Review, Foliate Oak, HOOT and several others. When he’s not writing, he’s pretending to write, or at the very least telling others how much he writes. His book, Cornelia Avila, is available through Belle Tier Press.

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Five Poems
by Michael Lee Johnson

Iranian Poetry Lady

The first time I saw your face, cosmetic images, dust, dirt, determination
fell across your exiled face.  Coal smoke lifted with your simple words and short poems.
Your meaning drawn across a black board of past, rainbows, future
fragment, still in the shadows.
Muhammad, Jesus twins, only one forms a hallo alone.
One screams love, drips candle wax, lights life, shakes, love.
I encrust your history in the Ginkgo tree, deliverance.
I wrap in the branches the whispers in your ears a new beginning.
I am the landscape of your future walk soft peddle on green grass.
I will take you there.  I am your poet, your lead, freedom clouds move over then on.
I review no spelling, grammar errors; I lick your envelope, finish, stamp place on.
Down with age I may go, but I offer this set of wings I purchased at a thrift store.
I release you in south wind, storms, and warm in spring, monarch butterflies.
Your name scribbles in gold script.
Night, mysteries, follow handle, your own.

Harvest Time

A Métis lady, drunk-
hands folded, blanketed as in prayer
over a large brown fruit basket
naked of fruit, no vine, no vineyard
inside-approaches the Edmonton,
Alberta adoption agency.
There are only spirit gods
inside her empty purse.

Inside the basket, an infant,
restrained from life,
with a fruity winesap apple
wedged like a teaspoon
of autumn sun
inside its mouth.
A shallow pool of tears mounts
in his native baby blue eyes.
Snuffling, the mother offers
a slim smile, turns away.
She slithers voyeuristically
through near slum streets
and alleyways,
looking for drinking buddies
to share a hefty pint
of applejack wine.


I am tired of cheaters
online, weary eyed crossword
players complicated chest moves
drift dancers, lies, laid soft peddle,
shared pillow, dark closet dreamers.
Campaign gossip whispers,
infidelity, sex objects shoved up orifices
in open or private places.
Sex shops open late, consummation
nightclubs, cities dark corners.
Two doctrines of selfishness
you should know about
penises and affairs most are short.
Flesh and fights, scabs, cheaters in the night.

One-Legged Goose

You see me in the parking lot hobbling, avoiding cars.
I am that one-legged Canadian goose guest of the wild.
You toss me a handful of mixed birdfeed.
I am your morning wing flapper picking up leftovers
by sparrows brown wing doves, yet grateful for charity.
I learn to survive dipped in red resister North then South
traveler, lifelong, mute to borders, I cross the line.
I thank you poet, bouquet, crossword flowers
gusty winds mix carnations.
Cheap, reasonable costs in depth, death, within religions,
tones of god Zeus, one space to Mary wept.
Those cheap carnations at the foot of the cross.
One-legged goose singled out.

Flight of the Eagle  

From the dawn, dusty skies
comes the time when
the eagle flies-
without thought,
without aid of wind,
like a kite detached without string,
the eagle in flight leaves no traces,
no trails, no roadways-
never a feather drops
out of the sky.

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. He is a Canadian and USA citizen. Today he is a poet, editor, publisher, 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.

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Three Poems
by Matthew Vasiliauskas

For His Birthday

He was given a door for his birthday,
An affordable door his parents had first
Seen in Stinson’s catalogue and had saved
Every last penny to purchase. How he loved
This door, and bestowed on his mother
And father several kisses an hour in gracious
Gratitude. He took the door everywhere with
Him, the park, the library and even the burned
Out church near Bancroft street where the poor
Deformed boys held services and prayed to the god
They had invented and would do anything for. In
The evenings he would bring the door to the cellar
Where they would play the game of whispers, his lips
Sinking into the fragrant cedar and with each taste
He would drift into a different memory, and the tastier
The splinter the more lively the memory, and if he happened
To cut his lip on the wood the recollection would freeze
In his present reality so that he found himself enmeshed
In the gauze-like veil of swaying, tattered time, and with his
Bleeding lips he’d blow at the frayed fabric sending the Sunday
Strolls with his sister flapping against the rotting rafters of the house.
As the years went by he used the door for many things, until finally
Attaching it to his own little home miles and miles beyond the mountains,
Where it remained even when he no longer had the ability to open his eyes.

Monday’s Event

A few seconds ago I saw something large
Looming in the shadows, its face, or at least
I thought it was a face, grinned and beckoned
Me closer. As a child I hated to be beckoned
But have come to love the invitation and scurried
Like an insect into the pool of murk and madness
Until I was swallowed and found myself gazing
Through the flesh of the thing, my irritated eyes
Blinking rapidly through the breathing transparent
Curtains of tissue, and as I swallowed I strangely
Heard the thoughts of the thing, humorous thoughts
That spoke in the language of grinding teeth, the crack
And crumble echoing within me, and soon I spotted
The gashes that grew deeper and deeper, and as if by
Instinct I dove into one of the gorges, swimming in the jelly
Of humid reverberation and there at the bottom of the blackness
Rested a metallic drain. I squeezed through, and in a whoosh spiraled
Upward until once again I was sitting in my living room, the television
Emitting the sensual static I was used to, but the thing was no longer
In the shadows and instead slithered into my mother’s china cabinet
Where it peered from behind a gravy bowl.


He stepped down from the attic,
His lips blue from the fruit he would
Eat most mornings while he surveyed
The same five year old newspaper:
Read the headline.

In the afternoons he would take his truck
And park it near the factory and watch the workers
Through the glass, their bodies pulsating shadows that
Would smoke and infiltrate the machinery.
He liked how they floated, and would use his camera
To capture the distant figures, eventually transferring
The images onto playing cards he would exchange
With Algis in a game whose rules changed with each session.

At night he would look for the insects, the ones
Dying by the dozens in the fields,
And after seeing their glowing bodies beneath the sand
Would gather and squeeze the dripping light from them,
Collecting and stirring it in his brother’s bowl before spreading
The paste all along his body, letting the cool burn sink into him,
And the forgotten images to flutter and invade his pupils.

Matthew Vasiliauskas is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. His work has appeared in publications such as Conjunctions, Berlin’s Sand Literary Journal, The University Of Wyoming’s Owen Wister Review, Chicago Literati and The Pennsylvania Review. Matthew currently lives and works in New York City.

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Four Poems
by M.C. Rush


Fiction is broken
because we are breaking.

Honesty is kind of my thing.
It means what it is.

Fiction needs friction
where poetry slides.

The better I learn to listen,
the more I have to say.

Even water circling the drain
has somewhere to go.

I will put my poem in you and
you will never forget it.

Echoes are inescapable
until they fade.


They blink, they parrot, their eyes nervously seek for
an escape from responsibility, from judgment, from being.
The taste of licorice, the taste of brown sugar
lingering in the mouth long after the meal.
I can still hear them hymning under their breath.
Sleep is up and down a staircase.
The older ones moving more slowly
under the additional weight of ghosts.
We love what we don't
know about them.
The secret to having it all
is to acknowledge what is,
and only what takes forever
takes as long as you think it will.


Everything wants to speak.
Nothing wants to speak.
I want to speak.

Every species we annihilate through need or greed
goes silently, without protest—
it seems almost a pardon from consequence
to escape accusation as easily as account!

We have chosen well, to rape the mute,
kill the uncomprehending,
to effortlessly erase the evidence
of our eliminations.

Words.  Wounds.

Everybody fussing to be Narcissus,
hunched over his toilet bowl.

Advantage can sometimes provide
a greater challenge than adversity.

I still prefer it.

Modus Operandi

The law in lieu of love,
the cause of curse, of course.

To assess and accept
immoderate meanings.

Repellant rebellions
still pulse the blood.

The only real connection's
when another's changes change you.

Simmering irritation
in the necessary now.

From emancipated to emaciated,
a brief vibration.

Futile faults, still prejudicial,
of interstitial caricature.

M. C. Rush currently resides in upstate New York, has work forthcoming in Thin Air Magazine, and has most recently published poems in Two Thirds North, The Tulane Review, Broad River Review, and Whiskey Island.

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Four Poems
by Sergio Ortiz


I am the werewolf,
I devour myself.

At dawn I cut fresno trees
where the moon settled.

At noon I burn pastures
where the deer run swift.

At dusk I go to the beach
to butcher turtles.

I climb mountains
to hunt the eagle.

What God created in six days,
I destroy in one.

I am the werewolf,
I devour myself.

A Time for Angels

And God said: let there be angel.
And the angel was made out of words.
And man said: let there be angel
made of inner words.
Let the angel be in the likeness of my spirit.
And God said: let every man have an angel
in his likeness up in heaven and when he dies
may they become one.
And man said: if God does not create the angel,
the imagination must create it,
because if there’s a gap between God and man
there can be no communication.
There must be an intermediary spirit
between sky and earth,
between the invisible and the visible,
between the spiritual and the material.
God said: man arrived late for the time of gods
and early for the time of beings,
the angel came on time for both.
Man said: the angel is the body joining
gods and beings, it is the bridge that joins
the stare to what is looked at.
God said: so men and angels understand
each other, angels on earth must speak
the languages of men, and when men dream
they must speak the language of angels.
Because there is an original language
understood by angels of all ages and all races
and it is made of poetry.
Man said: an angel knows when he is in front
of another angel, not by what is said and revealed
but by the light coming out of their eyes.
God said: angels cannot be seen with eyes,
because they are inside the eyes.
Man said: then, the angel we seek in the world
is within us, it is us?
God said: when man finds himself
let the angel be what is looked for in the world
because the body of both is made of interior words.
Man said: the angel that I see,
that does not see me, is the one I will be
when I die.
God said: let the angel of man live beyond man,
let it raise above its body and earn its real existence.
May the angel take the form that man wants to give it.
Man said: then, the angel has the body the imagination
gives it? The angel painted on my back, the angel
tattooed on my arms, will shield my back and will
protect my arms. One day it will be like myself.
And God said: the angel, in this time of darkness
that’s approaching, is a messenger of light.
Let the angel be the equal of man.
Because this is a time of angels.

Ways of having an angel

An angel is the spiritual bodyguard
that protects us from material,
supernatural enemies, and those
we engender with images,
words and dreams: he fights, at midnight,
in the middle of the street,
and in bed, against odious figures,
figures that we tend to love.

People say: an angel passed through here,
when there is silence among them,
united in one body: while our angels wait
they look at each other in the mirror
or stare out the window
at the long yellow afternoon.

Lovers say: an angel just walked by,
as if the presence of the desired one
had the body of absence,
as if it could perceive what had already happened,
and they knew they loved when they no longer love.

An angel passed, says the angel,
without seeing his own shadow in time,
without perceiving the longing
his words left within,
men of flesh and blood,
looking from the other side of the window,
drunk with love and death.

She’s got angel, they say about the woman
whose grace cannot be measured,
one cannot count the light in her eyes,
or calculate the size of her smile, even less,
we cannot weigh her footprint when she walks.

I’ve got angel, says the dying man
searching for a partner to lead him through
his personal abysms. I’ve got angel, says
the one that dies, at long last visible—the one
who guarded me in life. I have angel, I exclaim
when I raise my being unto his being,
as if we had always walked together.
He’s got angel, says another angel,
looking through the window
as we lose sight of each other
in the yellow afternoon.

My Aunt Hermione

The story of my aunt Hermione has always bothered me,
lost, according to my father, for a year in Yugoslavia.
Missing, according to my uncle, on the ship
bringing her from Smyrna by the Sea of No One.
Survivors confuse the paths of the dead
with their own, they no longer know what dream,
what memory is from whom.
Was she lost in a time without calendars,
a sea without waves and a ship without walls?
Didn’t she know that while she was alive,
however far she went into the Nameless Country,
she’d always return to the refugee ship
which is the present, which is this planet?
They found her one day, this is for sure,
but if she found herself, nobody’s telling:
one day she disappeared
without leaving any other anecdotes.

Sergio A. Ortiz is the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. His collections of Tanka, For the Men to Come (2014), and From Life to Life (2014) were released by Amazon. He’s a two time Pushcart nominee and a four time Best of the Web nominee. His poems have been publish in over four hundred journals and anthologies.

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Five Poems
by Z.M. Wise


...and the Dragon
spins round and round,
balancing revolution.

War on Life as we know it
hurdles through the cosmos,
breaks through the
adolescent barrier, and
lands before our eyes and
willful fingertips.
We are what we are
motivated to slaughter and incinerate.

...and the Dragon
spins round and round,
balancing our allotted amount of air.

Craving of flesh as we picture it
eats away as an
internal parasite would.
Dilate the pupils and fight back.
The Greek world began in Chaos,
but ours will end in a
complete convulsion.
The lovers giveth and the lovers taketh away.

...and the Dragon
spins round and round,
balancing head and body counts.

Let the search unfurl!
Red flag,
white towel,
blue in the mouth,
yellow like the interior amphibian.
Sexual charades on a wooden floor
underneath Neil’s mirror ball, or
tribal dance around a
campfire of nativity?
They read the digital news today...oh, boy!

...and the Dragon
spins round and round,
balancing royals in heat.

When the wyvern bites the tail,
all is well in the electric current.
When the wyvern watches the skies,
aware of seven billion well beings,
all is glistening, just North of
mystical embodiments of life masks.
Sigh of disbelief...
You still have us for a thumb-sucking undertow.

...and the Dragon
spins round and round,
balancing a closet rebellion.

July 5, 2013

Creatures are Turning to Silver

Silver, the
water moccasin.
Silver, the
last unicorn.
Silver, the
elder timber wolf.
Silver, the
hard luck dragon.
Silver, the
elegant peacock.
Silver, the
starving weasel.

Withing the
werewolf bullet exterior,
there sits an
over-exaggerated version of paradise.

Silver, the
electric eel.
Silver, the
Brahma bull.
Silver, the
vampire bat.
Silver, the
exiled yeti.
Silver, the
thinning eagle.
Silver, the
thawed plesiosaur.

Within the
birthday girl's necklace,
there lies a
deeper meaning of love's eternal subscription.

July 13, 2012


This is the language of pleasure!
We speak in tongues that
intertwine and salivate with
mutual appetite for one another.

The lovers have entered the building.
The jealous green presence slinks away.

Undertone chattering is emitted
in one ear and out the other,
followed by an attack of the
goose-bumps on arms after
whispering female sincerity.
“Never let me go, wishful awakening.”

To the sky!
We kiss the sky!
To the unparalleled causalities
we politely undress!

Dance the true rhythm that
jungles search for centuries,
their fever going through the roof.
Let Saturday burn to the ground
with Friday on her mind!
You two deserve the extra chakra boost.

Let the study of
moanology scratch the
representative’s back in
mid climax via gentle loving.

This is the language of lovemaking
that universal deities lust for.
You cry out their names,
but it does not mean a
damn thing to them,
only that you are satisfied.

A cornerstone is a
milestone in this life house.
Through the atmosphere,
under her stratosphere,
love is infinity.

You two should join the company.

Her rebounding solar eyes
speak their swan song
through incomparable gestures.
Who are we to say that
screams of ecstatic moments
fulfill any passionate soul bender?
Enter her oval home...
...and bond again.

August 12, 2013


O, Ferry Man!
O, Ferry Man!

I pay tribute to you with a
most worthy exchange:
Silver coin for a voyage across the
River of the Dead.
I shall get my kicks here on the Styx.
Did Perseus and Hercules
not pass through here
some millennia ago, fellow Ferry Man?

O, Ferry Man!
O, Ferry Man!

Hear the waterlogged cries of the
dead, following your oars that
stroke their way to Tartarus.
Kill the state of mind softly with
your death lullaby.
Healing process hurts in the phantom green mist.
Reservation for two at the
Table of Utter Damnation.
The School of Lost Souls damned us all.
Dust and Darkness: instantaneous Hell.

March 29, 2013

Unconventional Ode to Grendel's Mother

Oh, Ugly She-Beastie!
Such a fine son you have raised!
Descendant of Cain?
Who is the father?

Oh, Disfigured Mother of a Monster!
You are not a serpentine seductress
as depicted in recent media.
Accept your current body of disgust.

Oh, Maternal Monstrosity!
Your aquatic cave needs some redecorating.
Rearrange your victims' skulls by size and
use a variety of stones to
cover the gap.

Oh, Ms. G!
How do you support your spawn?
Your spawn, who feeds on a pointless supply of knights,
tough armor with a red, chewable middle.
Swords are dull and futile.

Oh, She-Devil of olde Anglo-Saxon mythology!
Did your hollow heart shatter with
lost pride as you found out a
fearless man ripped your baby's arm
clean off with his own two weaponless hands?
Shame, shame!
He is cheerful, but
will you go to him in the night, or
will he come beckoning your utter death first?

Oh, Hopeless Hell Harlot!
Your face, made for radio.
Your body, made for carnival sideshows.
Your breath, made for a cemetery.
Your one shall marry.
Oh, Evil Fire Bride!
Your time on this up.

June 2, 2012

Z.M. Wise is a proud Chicago native, poet, co-editor and poetry activist, writing since his first steps as a child. He has been a written-word poet for almost two decades and a spoken-word poet for four years. He was selected to be a performer in the Word Around Town Tour in 2013, a Houston citywide tour. He is co-owner and co-editor of Transcendent Zero Press, an independent publishing house for poetry that produces an international quarterly journal known as Harbinger Asylum, with his dear friend and founder Dustin Pickering. The journal was nominated Best Poetry Journal in 2013 at the National Poetry Awards. He is also an Assistant Editor at Weasel Press with another dear friend, Weasel. He has published four full length books of poetry, including: 'Take Me Back, Kingswood Clock!' (MavLit Press), 'The Wandering Poet' (Transcendent Zero Press), 'Wolf: An Epic & Other Poems' (Weasel Press), and 'Cuentos de Amor' (Red Ferret Press). Other than these four books, his poems have been published in various journals, magazines, and anthologies. The motto that keeps him going: POETRY LIVES! Mr. Wise will make sure to spread that message and the love of poetry, making sure it remains vibrant for the rest of his days and beyond. Besides poetry and other forms of writing, his other passions/interests include professional voice acting, singing/lyricism/songwriting, playing a few instruments, fitness, and reading.

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