Untitled Document

Issue 70

Wess Mongo Jolley

Elisha Wagman

Henrik Hoeg

Talia Monet Sharpp

Mary Jane Hale

L. Marie Cook

Chris A. Peck

Casey Renee Kiser

James Dickman

Kirsten Doggart

Gabriella Garofalo

Hanan Muzafar

Benjamin Williams

Five Poems
by Wess Mongo Jolley

Something to Remember You By

thank you for the memento

this piece of you for

my knick knack shelf

your sneer is gone

your rough palm

over my mouth

and the five olive bruises

on my forearm will

fade with time

so i’m glad you left me

something i could treasure

and that time will

not take away

i can look at it until the

light of day fades

and even then

i will always know

that it is there

Love Similes

To Peter

I fall for you like

    Karl Wallenda

fell for the circus

I fall for you like

Fat Man fell

for Nagasaki

I fall for you like

DB Cooper

My passion burns for you like

a helium balloon

in a solar flare

Like a noonday ant

under a bad boy’s

magnifying glass

Like the Hindenburg

burns for the


Like a narcoleptic

on a tanning bed

I miss you like

a botched shot at

a charging rhino

I dream of you like

105 degree fever

in a funhouse

I desire you like

a bulimic longs for

chocolate bunny ears

I touch you like

a mink caresses

her leghold trap

I will love you forever

falling and burning across the sky

lighting up the ruins

of our abandoned church

Letting Go

on the train into sunset

my history is so brittle

ephemeral and fleeting

abandoned power lines

stand forgotten marching

forlornly along the tracks

old splintered poles tired from

half a century have dropped their

wire burdens into the underbrush


my eyes don’t focus like they used

to so I lean back like these poles

trying to see the details

afraid to touch the cable around

my ankles although I know

the charge is long gone


They found my fossilized remains

while excavating a freeway on-ramp.

They were encased in volcanic

rock, millions of years old.

In fact you can still see the site today,

abandoned within the cloverleaf of I-89.


Of course, after the construction

all that remains is a vague outline—

a foot, some hair, a couple teeth.

And there isn’t even a plaque

to memorialize the find.


When I drive past my remains,

camouflaged in the army green rock

twenty feet above the roadway,

I try to remember myself and

my life lived among centuries of extinction.


But every year the rain washes a

a bit more of me away.

Freezing ice dislodges

a tooth or a patch of skin.

Birds carry off my hair for their nests.


The fallen bodies on Everest

lie trailside for decades,

climbers glancing uncomfortably down

to see them become more windblown and tattered

with each passing summer.


Soon my remains will be completely gone,

and only the hum of the traffic will remain.

Tooth and bone and hair will

go the way of all that decays.

Nothing but dust and broken fragments

lost amidst construction rubble


and plans for the mall expansion.


summer sun pours wetly

through the convex lens of my desire

august heat weighs heavy on my chest

and the days are far too long

every golden haired thigh and muscled shoulder

gleams moist with need in midday heat

bearded and hungry faces meet my eye

and linger in the desperate imagination

of tangled limbs and salty tastes and sweat

that drips into the thirsty earth of dreams


dreams of the sunbaked barefoot path

that leads from his tongue to mine

of that fork where we do not part but grasp our

hair filled with summer heat bubbling our lust

into a frenzied cauldron of mud baked sweat tongued

too burnt to touch raw sunburned desire


dreams of the road less traveled thirst unquenched

baked earth and no shade but me under you under me

where i lie beneath your slick chest and

find solace in our hearts boiled together in blood

and meat and frenzied muscles that grip

salted shafts of sweat and mud streaked flesh


bearded hungry faces meet my eye and days are long


by fall heat will crest sweat dry thighs abate

but while august burns i will have that hot flesh at summer

crossroads sun cascading through the lenses of our desire

i will choose a path hoping it leads

to embers finally fanned alive in you

and us and in the red glow of a

setting august sun

Business Expenditures

I unpack my lust

in cheap hotel rooms

of cities I’ll never see.


I toss him carelessly

with my change and room

key onto the nightstand,


Where my lust sits forgotten

as I shower and gaze into the

night, dripping with neon.


My fingertips paint runes on

clouded glass, and we hear

laughter across the hall.


Fresh and clean and

newly dressed, my lust

sits forgotten.

I scoop my change

and room key back

into my pockets,


and leave him alone to

whisper his longings

to an empty room.

Wess Mongo Jolley is an expatriate American poet and poetry promoter living in Montreal. He is Founder and Executive Director of the Performance Poetry Preservation Project ( http://poetrypreservation.org ), and is most well known for hosting the IndieFeed Performance Poetry Channel podcast ( http://performancepoetry.indiefeed.com ) for more than ten years. As a poet, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Off The Coast, PANK, The New Verse News, Danse Macabre, The November 3rd Club, The Legendary, decomP, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, RFD, Warrior Poets, and in the Write Bloody Press book The Good Things About America . After a quarter century living on 60 acres of rural Vermont, he now writes full time from his balcony overlooking rush hour traffic in Montreal; a gorgeous, dirty, gritty, artsy, ecstatic, appalling, and vibrant beast of a city, which he has come to love the way you love a good-hearted uncle with Tourette’s. He can be found on the internet at http://wessmongojolley.com , and at mongo@wessmongojolley.com.

Back to Top

Two Poems
by Elisha Wagman

Highway 16


Were any of us willing to say something.

Ghost women would not haunt headlines

task forces would be dispatched

a special officer deployed.

Instead, families tape

colored copies to hydro poles

Tabitha, 24, missing 8 months, 6 days

Jacqueline, 28, missing 3 months, two days

Symoboline, 32, missing 1 week, 1 day, 4 hours

Women abducted from Highway 16

where clothes, not cars are the attraction

tube tops, short shorts, stiletto heels,

bracelets, gleaming in noonday sparks

This is Canada 2016

native women are worth less, worthless

less worth than the cost of a national hunt

for the men who prey. 

Pray yourselves

beg your Christian,

Muslim, Jewish, Hindi,

Buddhist gods for absolution

wipe the blood of these women

from your palms.

The ground is soaked.

blood of Ojibwa, Assiniboine, Sitsika, Nicola

no amount of condominiums, big box stores

can cover sins of ancestors.

This blood is fresh, adobe bright

it stains.

A stop sign we refuse to heed. 

The list is longer than the stretch of highway

where no cameras were installed, no police posted

no surveillance vans parked in the ditch.


The new Tabithas, Jaqulines, Symbolines

stroll back and forth, one eye on the cars

the other on kitchen knives

tucked in waistband of skirts.

Self-defense failed their ancestors

may fail them too, as the rest of Canada

eats dinner, watches television

pretends genocide is an atrocity

of third worlds located oceans away. 


When these women are extinct

the tribes of our nation diminished

Canadians will console themselves with platitudes

fed to us since childhood. Fatty lies

that taste good on our serpent tongues.


Glossy photographs of these women will populate

our textbooks where their stories will spin to

mythical proportions. Disney will buy

the rights to their tale

granting them status never enjoyed in life,

status that would have saved their lives.

Soon, fall frost will freeze ground

sealing these women in soil,

their flesh the fertilizers of spring flowers.

Say Something

If you see something, say something.

It’s 2016

& Iran has nuclear weapons!

& people are avoiding each other

Since Giuliani bleached the streets

Persons displaced, Cristy, and Mary-Jane

Tossed in Jersey’s trash.

Man pees in phone booth, look away

& secretly call Crime Stoppers at the next station

While a tourist asks, “Excuse me, do you have the time?”

What time is it?

It’s stop and frisk time

It’s drugs of the decade time

It’s fucking futuristic time

It’s push a button time

It’s the end of time.

Press 7 to speak with a customer service representative

I’m sorry, your request cannot be processed at this time.”


International relations are on rewind.

Make that double-rewind, where we regress so much

It must be the beginning of time.

So how come all we ask is, “Do you have the new iPhone?”

One minute you’re jumping for joy because Bin Laden is dead

The next, you’re thinking heightened security at LGA? No way!

Here come the tax hikes and long lines. Next, they’ll ask us to remove our eyes.

One minute it’s protect our country,

The next it’s wondering who will cover the cost.

It’s 2016

& Iran has nuclear weapons!

& everyone wants a little security.

We see al-Baghadi smoking a cigarette

With Bin-Laden’s fourth cousin on his mother’s side,

& wish we’d voted for more troupes.

Now, he’s the head of ISIS

So stop in for free tostadas at the corner bar

Except suddenly it’s a carnivore club specializing in hyacintho cadaver

& everybody here’s the 1%.

Because you get your fill of flesh without ever

Having to pull the trigger.

Except the menus are all in Arabic and how can you eat

Without giving thanks?

La tatliquu alnnar!

It’s 2016

& Iran has nuclear weapons!

The Arab spring is dry.

El-Sisi calls for religious revolution

As Egyptians stand in line for makeshift shelters

Where Peacekeepers hand out day-old donuts.

At least Tunisians are free to fire assault weapons at tourists.

Palestinians have met and decided it’s not an Intifada

They’re going to change its name to be more marketable to the West

& the educated elite of Europe.

But for the time being, they’ll use the word tremor.

Tremor? Personally, I’m in favor of calling a spade a spade

Only this shovel of shit doesn’t soften daily stabbings

Or cover the stained steps of Damascus Gate.

It’s 2016

& Iran has nuclear weapons!

A lasting peace between sworn enemies is Obama’s legacy?

The United States strongly supports the goal of two states

Israel and Palestine: living side by side in peace and security.”

I want security too, but there’s nowhere left to go.

At night, I fixate on the grayish glow of

Images and text provided for everyone,

But manipulated by a few.

Soon, everything will be ordered online and stores

Will become relics of a forgotten past.

The world is changing, but I’m not.

Trying to figure out where my taxes go

When, surprise! There is no accountability.

It’s 2016

& Iran has nuclear weapons!

Senor Banker! Right this way, please!

Excuse me, have to foreclose on this family,


Let all of us reach for the American dream again,

A dream that says if you work hard and play by the rules

You can have a good life and retire with dignity.”

What do we say to the million people who are newly homeless?

It can’t happen here because it’s already happened here.

Healthcare catastrophe steals life till we don’t even see it,

A country haunted by ghosts, meeting Death before their mid-life crises

While the Supreme Court forces states to marry lesbian and gay couples.

& be sure to send your complaints to the Minister of Bullshit to make the list

That grants TSA workers the right to search your bags a third time

As you pay student loans for life, and never get the degree.

It’s time to be a great dog owner.

Work long hours to afford the best dog walker while you’re away.

My dog is a rescue from Williamsburg,

A mongrel who didn’t play well with others at McCaren Park.

Don’t worry! I live near Tomkins

Where dogs reject socialization.

It’s 2016

& Iran has nuclear weapons!

And everything old is new.

Bed-Stuy’s brownstones a bargain at seven figures and

A bullseye on Harlem’s back. Don’t

Shoot the messenger, we all have a job to do.

Texting is 24-7, as couples find true love using algorithms

Personal values plummet as rental prices soar.

We’re headed towards something in a somewhat

Self-destructive, adolescent kind of way.

We can’t keep up with our lives.

Come on Mitalipov, where’s my clone?

Someone call Seamless, I’m starving!

Get on it, ban fracking before it’s too late.

It’s Earth Day again, if you can find a pristine piece.

Paranoia used to be a disorder, now it’s a national pastime.

Protect that second amendment, unless it’s used to kill school children

& poetry is the newspaper of the world

Only no one reads newspapers anymore, not even on Kindles

Where we can download them for FREE.

There’s optimism at the college club

The sushi bar is open

Excuse me, is there mercury in that salmon?

I’ll take the organic, heirloom chicken with gluten-free stuffing. Thank you very much.

They don’t even know what it is, but they’re buying into it.

Let’s not broker this deal.

It’s 2016

& Iran has nuclear weapons!

& there’s a woman on stage and she’s screaming at me

& she’s using words that don’t make any sense

It’s all prose arranged on the page like a picture

And it’s all irreverent ampersands highlighted in yellow

& all I can recall is the part about

It’s 2016

& Iran has nuclear weapons!

& around the globe there is a ring of impending doom

As terrorists strap monarchs to plasticine thrones

The web our only witness.

Click on it! Click!

Click! Click! Click!

Elisha Wagman is a professor of writing at Parsons The New School for Design where she teach freshmen students to craft short stories, personal essays and poetry. She live in Brooklyn, New York where she shares a tiny apartment with her dog Nosh, and over a thousand books.

Back to Top

Two Poems
by Henrik Hoeg


How will I know?

You always know, when you’re not in love,

You just know.

The air is turgid with desperation,

The wind giggles at you, not with you,

As it rustles through the grey leaves of Autumn,

And everything tastes like chicken nuggets.

No one can tell you that you’re not in love,

You have to discover it for yourself,

Like the wet towel of reality slapping you in the face

At the end of a really long day at the office.

But, ask yourself;

Is it not better to have not loved and not lost,

Than never to have not loved at all?

Have you ever been not in love?


No, at least not in a very long time.


I used to think that someday

Superheroes and I might be equals,

But I keep getting stronger

While they keep getting sequels

Henrik Hoeg is a Danish poet living in Hong Kong where he organizes and emcees Peel Street Poetry. His first collection 'Irreverent Poems for Pretentious People' was an awardee in the Proverse Prize 2015 and published in April, 2016. Both of these poems appear in his second collection, 'Away With Words'.

Back to Top

Two Poems
by Talia Monet Sharpp

Poetry is not a luxury.

No crowd pleasers, please

leave your punchlines at the door and your soul on the mic dripping of inhibited inhibitions like

the solvent dripping free from the solution your truth is your solution your salvation lies within

you, poet, speak your truth.

Like deep creases in vintage mikes you cannot break free from your flaws find freedom within

them or wallow under the weight of the silence poet, speak your truth.

This ain't no cheap thrill, it will cost you your comfort. adrenaline rushes real raw reveal you,

relieve you, you live through, we love you, deep breaths we all feel you, poet, speak your truth.

Like time will tell your rhymes, though written well, won't trap your secrets or conceal the

silence of your insecurity in sound, there's no soundproofing your self, we hear you, poet, speak

your truth.

Always come correct, if not for you then for us and always know if you ever feel your words

falling beyond your reach, if you feel nervous, there's no need to imagine us all in our underwear.

We all out here naked just hoping that no one will notice.

It’s Mourning Outside

(Previously published in Whurk Magazine, January 2018.)

It’s morning here. Here, it has rained for three days straight.

We don’t stop moving, we stay dry.

But this place is mourning the lives lost.

Here, the weather wonders whether they ever mattered. Water that splatters from puddles and

small pools in the streets be monuments of our shared memory that force us to feel just a little

something, even when we’ve chosen numbness as a coping mechanism.

Condensation be like repression as we hold deep breaths simply waiting to exhale these inhales

that burn like chlorine traveling up through our nostrils. Meant to protect us, and still it hurts us.

Kinda like the police.

Precipitation. We hold our breaths a little longer, but this place, this place around us has released

a storm of sorrow that it refuses to hold onto any longer.

I wish to be like it, but still I wince at each raindrop on my brown skin knowing that it won’t be

long before my Black body is drenched in the type of despair that makes me question my

purpose. I ask myself, is this shit even worth it? It’s hard to tell in a world that’s shown me time

and time again that my life ain’t never been worth shit.

I can no longer see past the sea of Black bodies to buried.

Talia Monet Sharpp is a student at Hampton University where she studies philosophy, conducts research on the roles of women in revolutionary socio-political movements and teaches F(read)om School, a program that guides middle-school students through an exploration of Black literature. She enjoys biking, beaches, and brunching. Talia competes in campus poetry slams and performs regularly at local open mics.

Back to Top

Three Poems
by Mary Jane Hale

Counting Girl

I am a counting girl

Laying, my back pressed

Against the silver-flecked tile floor.

Teardrops glisten like diamonds and fall

From my eyes and catch in the golden locks

Sprawled around me like a sunflower.

I take a strand and twist

The curl around my finger

Studying each hair and pressing

The soft strings to my lips.

You’re so beautiful when you cry”

You said, words echoing against the glass.

Would you find me beautiful now as I lie

Rivers dripping down my neck

Streaking the tanned skin

And soaking the nape-curls dark?

I am unrecognizable from the girl

I pretend to be.

She has glistening white smiles

And a laugh like dripping honey.

She’ll say, “Yes, I’m good, great,

So much to be thankful for.”

But she won’t tell you about me,

About the girl that’s made a game

Of catching teardrops in my hair

To stave off the myriad of emotions

That threaten to choke me.

Completely Alone In the Company of Another

Sometime when the moon casts a silvery glow

Through the slit in my curtain I lie
In my bed with my eyes open just staring
At the crystal bowl of the resting ceiling light,

The bare skin of my arm rests against another's,
My lover, but I couldn't feel more alone,

Like a child that sits on the edge

Of the sidewalk and watches

The other girls dance and play

In their fortresses beneath the play set

As I toss pebbles on the ground and watch

As even they roll away from me.
My mind opens up and I feel a tear

Roll down my face like rain on a window pane
And I don't turn to keep it from falling

Onto the ridges of my collarbone. I let it burn

Into my skin and I listen to the girl inside

As she cries for me to give her a voice.
I want to reach over and shake my lover beside me.
I want him to hold me in his arms and make me

Not feel so alone, but I don't. I simply lie

As the rain casts down on the landscape of my face
And I cry for the girl inside me. The one I've buried

Beneath in the basement of my heart

For so long she doesn't trust me anymore,
And know that these tears and the sound

Of her screaming inside me, scrapping at the walls

I've buried her behind, are the battle I've retreated

From so many times, locked away and almost forgotten

And I owe it to her to fight it alone.  

Looming Blue

The soft smell of freshly mowed grass

And light rain on the pavement brings

Me back to those mornings

I spent out in the garage with you.

My little white shoes tied tight and ready

To climb rough oak trees and skip fools

Gold rocks on the sidewalk and pretend

Those pebbles were our pirate loot,

For those few hours when I was allowed

To make the rules.

A hint of gasoline spilled from our new

Yellow Cub Cadet mower taints

The smell in the air the way

Your absence in the evenings

Does to the memories of summer dusk,

Catching fireflies in mason jars

And watching them illuminate your face

And light up your eyes, the looming blue

You gave to me.

I wish I could think about you

Without remembering the way

I ran down the driveway screaming

For you to come back,

But those unspoiled memories are lost

Like the hot pink butterfly

Catcher we left in the fields across

The street where we used to play.

And I want to be anything

But a grown woman with a child’s

Heart still whispering “daddy, daddy”

In hopes that you’ll come home.

Mary Jane Hale is a poet and novelist from Indianapolis, Indiana. She started writing as a young girl and continued her career by completing her Bachelor's degree at University of Southern Indiana and pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at Southern New Hampshire University. She enjoys writing while her cat, Eleanor rests on the back of her favorite chair and her husband tinkers with his antique restoration business.

Back to Top

Five Poems
by L. Marie Cook

The Artist

This time, just as the last

I leave with a burning to create,

to write and purge the rush

that boils up through the voids

I can only see and feel

once the encounter is over

The man who doesn’t fully

Satisfy but has good parts

leaves room for fantasies

as an artist I craft


weaving through the gaps of

his unexpressed feeling, the

uncertainty of his attraction is

the man I dream up

Do I stay with all the doubts of

him to fulfill this freedom, to

nest inside him a creature I


Proximity and convenience are

gratifying qualities appealing to

the laziness in us both, keeping

Us coming back for the ease

of instant gratification

In any match there will be

checkpoints that are weak;

schedules, chemistry, shared

Values, sexual style, all

breeding grounds for the

Comfort of my imagination, the

strongest being the selfish kind

of sex

How to win him over, the victory of

When one finally gives what’s

been teasing me, the attention

paid to my parts only as a

Witness and not as a tool for


Little Voices

Amid the most ambitious of noises

Little voices peek out


They call to me

Without my primary inquest


I have disregarded the voices in times before

Not being the ones I picked to hear

Softness and ease

Drowned them out by my loud and anxious


To the mysteries of the forbidden

Unwanting, unseeable, unknowing

But the little voices have patience

They wait and continue to speak

Long after I tried to close my ears

Through the cracks between my fingers

Their words seeped

And because they were soft

They felt nice and I let go

Of my tight grip to avoid them

They whisper truths to me

Compliments or lies

It was truths I didn’t want to hear

Tell me I’m precious, beautiful, unique

Tell me anything to help me not think

But the little voices are gentle

They aren’t there to entertain

It’s something more simple, untrained

How are you doing?

I’m good

Yeah, but, really, how are you?

I’m OK

The little voices didn’t think so

So they hung around, for just the right pause

Between breaths

Until I was so tired of trying

to pretend

That there was nothing else I could do

Nothing left

And with the grace of a leaf

That catches the eye by simply falling from a tree

They little voices I fought

Gas Powered

I am annoyed by the sound of gas-powered tools

It reminds me of my childhood

When a troop of sweaty men

would invade my yard

taking all the wild out of it

It would grow back

I could play in the tropical islands

hiding in the ferns

But every other week

they’d return

bringing their noise invasion and blades

I’d wait at the window, watching, glaring

They’d smile and wave

I would go outside after they’d left

and feel sad

that the jungle was gone


The dirt would be smooth

Flower beds cleared

vast open spaces between the plants

where the rebels grow

I began to hate the smell of fresh-cut grass

The way one hates the smell of hospital

So when I hear a leaf blower, a lawn mower or


My blood begins to boil

My jaw becomes clinched

And I have to just breathe and remember

No matter how many times the men return

with their gas-powered tools

That the rebels are waiting

In little seeds

beneath the ground

ready to grow

The Heart Works

In all those times

it was never my heart

that was breaking

It was my ego

My Heart works just fine

Strange Girl

I am a strange girl

In an era of digital domination

I find great nostalgia and satisfaction

in utilizing the US Postal Service

to my full advantage

Post cards and letters to my ex-boyfriend

make their way through the sieves and sorts

just to really fuck with him

He never responds

Did I mention I’m a strange girl?

I still call myself a girl even at thirty years of age

The latest use of the Pony Express

is to send a package, a bundle

of ripped out journal pages, poems and

the birthday card signed,

You’re the fucking best, Love J.”

All of that paper is trash

And I don’t want to deal with it

Since it’s all about him

He who refuses to speak to me

He left a mess

So I’m just going to mail it to him

and make him clean it up

Did I mention I’m a strange girl?

L. Marie Cook is a freelance writer and the author of Lay Me Down, a First Prize winner in the Wild Card division at the 2012 Los Angeles Book Festival. She has a BA in Communications from the University of Hawaii at Hilo where she was the Arts and Culture Editor for Ke Kalahea. L. Marie has been published on Rat's Ass Review, Airplane Reading, Las Brujas de Yerbas, and Guerrilla Reads. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York and plays the Ukulele. You can also find her work on her blog: underlmarie.blogspot.com

Back to Top

Five Poems
by Chris A. Peck

the summer I thought the sun would never set

the vine made a perfect swing

we felt the wind flow through our

summer clothes

we flew like the birds we threw

stones at

and we knew we'd miss

never was about hitting the things

it was a show of our innocence

the river went to my knees

soaked my shoes

they sank into the sand and mud

made a trail that would stain the river


and over the river I walked

along the wide trunk of a

florida maple

scared to fall into the water below

water I'd walked in too often

and the prayer of the humming

cicadas pushed me on

past the trunks fork to the far side

far away from home

sunset kickball with ghost on second

he never made it home

because he was on second or third

I swear he was on first

we fought with our words

to end every sunny summer evening

letting the forgotten ball rest

at the sidewalk curb for the night

waiting for the next game

and argument over ghost-men

we kissed behind your house

I was ten and so nervous

we hit out teeth together

touched tongues off of a dare

and you tasted like honey-suckles

and the stalks of grass you chewed

our kisses were innocent and new

hidden away behind houses

and in the woods once in your bedroom

the rain made puddles

for out bikes

making tsunamis through sidewalks

soaking our t-shirts and hair

hands shaking on the handlebars

the rain was our god

thunder calling us home

but not until we touched

the next puddle and then the next

and the next never ending

even when we became the rain

water flowing through

the hallways of our veins

youth falling onto each

summer day and night

blocking the sun that would

never set but hang in the sky

past dinner time

past my childhood reading

and neared the horizon

as my eyes closed

and when I was eight

my parents gave me a journal

to write about what I saw

with my childhood eyes

and so I wrote and wrote

today is a good day

today is a good day

today is a good day

so much so that the

repetitiveness seemed to mean

that I wasn't paying attention

to what I was writing

but I was writing the way

that I lived in the forest

and in the hills that I saw

thinking they were mountains

my bones grew heavy

with the ink that filled them

there was a music

my writing spoke of what it

meant to have a good day

it was repeated

The Distance to Sirius

The star Sirius is 8.6 light years away;

which is over fifty trillion miles from Earth.

When I look up into the night sky in the early fall—

biking to work at 4:30 in the morning—

I see its old light shining.

Light that left the star when I was someone else.

It peeks up over the landscape made out of shapes

and I pedal the short distance in the cold

thinking about that light.

I am not seeing the star.

I am seeing a projection of what the star once was,

and I cannot know what it is now.

Like a time machine from the novels I read as a boy . . .

and still read,

I look into the past and see something that no longer is.

It's only a projection.

I read once—

in one of those novels that tell of things that

could happen—

That we are all bugs in amber.

That we are frozen in time and that time means nothing.

It's only a label

to help us distinguish the good times from the bad,

but really all the good times and bad times

are but moments that neither pass nor progress

and just are.

We are all dead.

We are all falling in love for the first time

and taking a bite of a cookie our moms just made.

We are all skinning our knees and getting lost.

We are all confused over the first question on the big test.

We are all learning to ride a bike.

We are all alive.

When my son asks his mother if I am going to die,

after I'd been admitted into the hospital while he was at school,

she tells him no.

She tells him that I will be home soon

and that I will be fine.

But like the star Sirius, 8.6 light years away,

I am already dead,

but I am also so very much alive,

like my son is alive

and like I am alive when I come home

and when I am in pain

and when I can not get up from the couch

And when I take him to the park . . .

I bike to work weeks later

and Sirius is much higher in the sky,

tracing its way to Orion's belt and on to Pleiades;

each arching in the sky.

And I know each star is dead

or will be soon,

but it is their light that illuminates the early, dark ride.

And it is their light that I look at, and trace

and see within my mere moments of time

standing still in the sky

like bugs in amber.


We sat around the fire, stars blazing through a clear,

turbulent sky. Rivaling the sea-moon—

milk, pouring over the horizon.

There was understanding between all present.

All young boys, filled with Vonnegut wonder

at the worlds surrounding us.

An unspoken bond of carbon-things.

The deepest intimacy.

The night—never cold—crackled around us;

glowed on our faces between ghost stories

and shivers that had nothing to do with the air.

I first saw the galaxy Andromeda while laying

on my back in the sand, listening to waves crash—

mimicking the moon light in ways that show

the inconsistency of existence.

There was little space between the stars then.

A barely noticed black back drop . . .

no, it was the silver and white and red of the

universes—the hidden lives—and second-hand

stars that kept me up until the ghosts arrived.

For sixteen years

I have not seen the stars in such brilliant

nakedness. All things eventually lead to a dim


The wind and clouds on the first night.

The ghost that kept me up towards morning,

and the embarrassment in confiding my fears

to my brother.

The stars on the second night,

and in the same place years before—unchanged

and still brand new—their age incomprehensible

to my thirteen years of existence.

And now, even that, some memory barely held.

If I were to travel

I would go to the center of the galaxy.

I would ask Sagittarius A what it had seen

and it would answer, in radio waves, of the ghosts

that stretched out like a dog in the sun

as they entered the super-massive black hole.

Like the two boys I barely knew

from high school that died, only to haunt the

universe in memories and radio waves.

Or like Lindsay—long brown hair I touched once—

made bald; sick, with a brain that taught her to love

and turned traitor; provided tumors that

eventually took her life; now a ghost,

forced to wander through the halls of our high school.

Forced to ride the bus, answer her door with

staples in her head, to forever say hello to me.

I drove up the canyon mid-winter some time back

and parked, alone. The dog-star was high in the sky

that night, and I watched it for some time, lying on the

hood of my car, hands aching in my coat pockets.

The moon glared in my eyes,

the air was not warm

and no ghosts haunted me that hour as

I laid shivering, staring up at the heavens.

All that there was, and will ever be

is the space between the stars,

blackness draping behind the light that

creates and destroys, only to rebuild everything

we will ever know and ever become,

over and over again.

When I Go

Do not worry about my belief.

Because when I go—like we all must go—

I will be a part of something,

even if I am hesitant to name what that is.

My father once told me to hold truths tentatively

And now, thirty years old, I find it hard

to hold anything in my mind for any

significant amount of time.

When I look out side,

I see a gray sky,

barren trees, calling out for their

lovers. I see time pass through my fingers

and it worries me. I feel uncertainty

through the changes that seep into my bones.

I am a thing that only knows change

and so, when I finally go

read the letters I received—the good, and the bad.

Speak of my flaws. Praise my good days

and my bad.

I am human. I am me, and we all are

brought through this together so that we may all

experience what it means to be held. What it means to be

touched, to feel the snow fall on our shoulders

as it passes through the space between the tree branches.

When I go, let my words mean something

for they were always for you.

Every scribble and crossed out word,

everything I uttered—mistakes and all—

were for you; for all of you.

Let the snow under your feet show the marks of

the tears that fall from my pages.

Let the wind that begs you to go back indoors

carry me far away from all I love

so that all you have to hold onto are my memories.

When I go, I suspect I will know little more than I do now.

Things come and go and my thoughts tend to wander

towards a world that will always be a part of me.

When I look for god

I find him in you.

I find him in you

and in your beauty, in your suffering, in the snow

and in the space between the dark tree branches

in the middle of winter,

when we are all huddled indoors on a Sunday morning,

watching the snow begin to fall.


Please, when I go, tell me you loved me,

because I loved you—everyone.

Compare me to the evergreens.

Shake my ashes far and wide and watch them

disappear into the Earth. Into heaven.

Into whatever future may come of me once I am gone.

I will whisper each of your names on the wind.

I will write into your veins of the love you gave me

and of the words I gave you.

We are one, and we always were.

You are my blood. My skin. My legs.

You are my diseased intestines, and crippled leg.

You are me. I am you—your hair, your lips, your fingers.

When I run from this life

Let me run.

Let me run, and follow me leisurely,

so that we may meet again, on the wind,

on a winter branch, in the sky; raining down

into the mouths of praying children.

Into this church of air and earth.

No Words to Express Disease

There are pieces of me that

no matter how I stand,

and how I try to tear them out

I cannot share.

I once stood in front of a mirror

in only boxers

and felt my clammy skin

No one was home and so I wrapped my hands

around my thighs,

saw the bones stick out from my

sides and back,

felt the hollowness of my eyes.

I counted once, and never revealed

the number

of times I vomited

in a single day:


And now,

my legs, my back, my head

bear scares I can't talk about.

This isn't something I overcame;

there I no glory to be found,

there is only a truth of the ugliness

of disease.

There is only a realization

of how simple a complex thing,

like the body, truly is.

And I realize now

why I never write about the blood

I lost

the pain

I felt

the wish to die

that had nothing to do with

depression, but only out of


It is because there was never

a lesson in the words;

no meaning behind them

other than disease provides

no meaning;

that pain gives nothing.

That, while I may or may not have

grown from such an event,

the fact remains

that all lessons

derive from time.

And my time spent in bed,

measuring my thighs,

using a cane,

or trembling so bad

I could no longer catch my breath

left nothing but fear

that it will all come

sailing back.

Chris A. Peck is a high school English teacher and a member of the Utah Rock Canyon Poets. His poems have been published in several print and online publications, including Touchstones, Orogeny, and Wilderness Interface Zone. Other publications include the journals Intersections, and Essais, and Sci Phi Journal.

Back to Top

Four Poems
by Casey Renee Kiser

Mornings Are Only Good for Calling Off Work

She lies on her back after the call

and listens

To the crashing of white rabbits,

To the punk frequencies that are rising up, tired of sharing the air

with shitty hipster spoken word

Sighs, as lazy ghosts hitch a ride on her fingertips

as she traces the word DREAM on her ceiling

She sinks into herself and hitches a ride on echoes of ego

She remembers back when she only traced the word SLEEP

She is waiting for the headless swans to return

and confirm

that the body is useless

And for the lake to pay off its debt to the moon

for keeping quiet

Fuck that lake

that lied to the swans for so long

Fuck going to work today, Fuck em all

She sinks into the bed and repeats

'I am not really here'

I Am Not A Ghost Yet

Your tongue was the only black you wore

to my funeral

You’re such a fucking rebel….

You were hovering,

salivating, breathing in my death

I felt your eyes dismember me

Everything was beautiful the day you died’,

you said as you touched my cold hand

You were hovering,


at having the last word

But I was holding a piece of the mirror

I had lived in for 3 years

with you

Holding it tight in my other hand

Split second

New life filtered through

One casket to hold all these personalities?

Ha! Who planned this funeral?!

Split your jugular

You were asking for it

I am not a ghost yet

but you are already boring me

in the afterlife

Glowing and Sassy

I built a rocket named


and for 3 years, got lost in space

I gave in to the madness

and the blue-eyed abyss

My rocket ran out of fuel

and he was kind enough to replace it with


I got shamed for petty things daily

I forgot who I was before the suit,

before gravity was ripped from my vocabulary

and I mastered the art of drifting

I forgot who I was before

the empty, e m p t y


wished upon themselves

The moon said my spine was out of order

yet everything was in its place

The moon said a poet must drift sometimes

and I could only blame myself

for building the rocket

I told the moon tonight,

Don't think I won't reach up there

and slap your sassy ass

Shadow Bang

Darkness stroke

me like a kitten


You went away for a bit

to punish me? To scare me?

To keep me in line?

You know me

I will not stray

I only looked around (maybe too long)

But I never took off this black collar

I'll start whispering,

to you (retracing)my steps

since you last held me close

I won't leave out any details

Light the moon another cigar

Creep up,

cover my mouth

Throw me down like

you missed me

I’m your ragdoll, infinitely loyal

Casey Renee Kiser strives to expose the distorted mainstream ideas of beauty, while bringing quirkiness to the daring truth of self-reflection. With dark, abrupt and often unsettling humor, she writes about identity, relationships, depression, 'mental illness' and the human condition. Her recent work is full of undertones struggling to overcome the confusion, self-loathing and trauma of narcissistic abuse. She has birthed 12 collections of poetry and has been published with RaVenGhost Press, Holy&Intoxicated Publications, Horror Sleaze Trash and 48th Street Press.

Back to Top

Two Poems
by James Dickman

Where You Call the Road Your Home

Nestled between Steinbeck Country to the north

and Point Magu to the south, lies a place,

A magical place,

Where you call the road your home;

Where the road is life;

Where the road is youthful laughter-

The laughter of children in summer playing on a sandy beach-

The laughter that comes straight from the joy in your heart;

Where the road is wind in your hair-

Gas in your tank-And freedom calling;

Where red-tiled roofs bake in the golden sun

Atop white-washed adobe Missions

Whose sonorous bells ring pure and true;

Where pier fishermen in the wee hours sit on weathered milk-crates,

Cast their lines off Stearn’s Wharf and wait;

Where orange poppies sparkle and crackle

Off the verdant hillsides like

Embers exploding from a California wildfire;

Where antique Spanish Moss drapes lazily

Across ancient oak trees;

Where the local favorite tri-tip sizzles and glows like red rubies

Upon red-hot charcoal barbecues in Santa Maria;

Where Hearst Castle resides high above on its splendid San Simeon throne

With all its decadent beauty;

Where “Farm to table” is a state-of-mind,

And trucks riding low with fresh-picked produce

Bounce up and down on two-lane country roads near Salinas-

The salad-bowl to the nation;

Where the fog slinks in cool, moist, and grey enveloping everything with mystery,

Above the rock-strewn, wild coast at Big Sur;

Where the wind-sculpted, deep green Cypress trees

March down the headlands to the craggy shoreline

At Carmel-by-the-sea;

Where the sun sets all fiery and red

Over the purply vineyards,

And the silver moon rises,

And brings with it the fragrant honey-scented

Manzanita bush and calls to you-

Calls you to the open road again-

The place where you call the road your home.

The Tale of the Urban Coyote

Frozen in my tracks, I hear her soulful wail,

She’s dressed in her mottled suit like Nature’s feral child;

With honeyed eyes averting mine, she slinks down a trail;

She casts a long shadow, this refugee from the wild.

For her journey is fraught with danger,

As far as the eye can see;

And dinner is an elusive stranger,

Which there can be no guarantee.

Hunted and exiled by those of narrow mind;

Who would forsake Nature’s accord to see this “pariah’s” life but short;

The world would be a starker place absent of their kind -

For conservation of our wildlife is not merely “A Gentlemen’s Sport.”

She sets the table for her pups -

The food they clamber for so dear;

And the yip-yip yelping reminds all its time for sup -

When the time has passed for fear.

So be mindful of our wizened friends;

When they sing beneath the blue moon -

That it’s not their evolutionary end;

And their lives of valor were gone too soon

James Dickman writes as if balancing on a high-wire; with the search for Truth on one side and on the other the search for meaning. He is a published poet and author that is enjoying the ride. Previous to that he was an executive in the deli meat business. He holds a BA in English literature from UCLA.

Back to Top

Two Poems
by Kirsten Doggart

A Five-year Slump

We become older, grandparents locked in the bodies of youth. Soon

we’ll have separate beds and we’re not even married yet.

I feel the familiar brush of your hands on my thighs. We take

up the usual position, on the usual

night, for the usual stretch of time. You become

the boy I loved at fourteen pressing his huge

birdlike nose against my flesh. He’s off in Alberta,

becoming a doctor. We’d make love on the rocks

to the rhythm of the crashing river. He’d have bought me

a cabin in the mountains. You become

a friend, a class mate of mine. His beard neater,

and a softer voice as his great brown eyes peer into mine.

It’s strange at first, new, but he’s more near my

height and he listens when I tell him I need him. That evening,

he’d have brought me to see his play. You become

the man I saw on the bus, handsome, clean shaven.

Stroking my sides, he’d call me beautiful. He’d have

made dinner, something simple and hot,

have cleaned the kitchen before I arrived.

I lie back, you kiss me,

tuck me in with our quilt. We become one

great sleeping beast. We rest for tomorrow,

for dishes and work. To pay bills together,

eat dinner at four, grow old.

Black Hole

I want you

Pulled deep into me

Right to the centre

Where I turn and trundle

Full of mystery, history, and nothingness

Fill me up

Let me hold you

Let me pull you in with my weight

I love you

I’ll bend space to our will

Time too,

You can spend eternity here

Within me

Kirsten Doggart is a writer and artist from the small town of Castlegar, British Columbia, too quiet for most, not quiet enough for her. Kirstin has a BFA in creative writing from UBC and her poetry has been published in The Ubyssey, Spill Magazine, ad Inside Passages.

Back to Top

Three Poems
by Gabriella Garofalo

Darn, so strange when trees climb up light, 
When winter of life shakes off men, 
And you eating bread or dim end - 
Get on it, they too have red earth, knobbly trees, 
Illiterate bodies that learnt 
Just white, just seed, the old taste of life - 
Soul, you think you play nice? 
They say no, they say you write 
Loss and amnesia too many times: 
Of course the moon reads, but dare not say 
They’ve just found some green on the road, 
She knows you listen to act kind - 
No more fibs, she’s right: 
For years and decades the word stayed exiled 
In the flimsy white of the waves, 
Water for trees and night hunters - 
Now she’s out, she meets stark bodies, raw food, 
Gives them the slip then hides 
Earthquakes, reminders and colours - 
In the attic? - 
They scare her, so used to the white - 
All the while you rattle on, isn’t she an electric chair 
The summer that hides from you 
Jitters and heat in the heart of the days - 
No one minds: 
Men shake dust from tangled hair, 
Women slake stares and desire, 
At long last the resident scribe 
Displays limbs to the creatures, 
So foxes can rush and grip some stylish fair ladies - 
All for the best, who knows, them 
And their maddening white.

Is that you? C’mon, c’mon, don’t shy away, 
Darn your polluted blood, there’s poetry there - 
Death you don’t curse if old hags 
At the bottom of the house give no shelter no food, 
But simply live your breath, your enemy at dawn - 
Stop saying fathers, 
Not wombs nor hands fathers got, 
Stop saying he worked by his hands, 
Stop saying this stop saying that - 
Oh, the dirt you can find in tabloids and souls: 
Locked doors, shredded glass all over the floor, 
The garden waits - 
You know it’s bound to happen 
So take care and hold your breath, 
Those crooked old branches don’t look 
Too keen on falling down, do they? - 
For next misapprehensions, soul, 
The garden still waits.

Will you believe me if I say how nasty? 
So many seekers downtown, they play, 
The breeze, the breeze” grins an old psycho - 
A friend of mine, yes, and she was lucky 
'Cause you can't, you really can’t predict 
Electra Glide skidding by chance, 
They both blue - 
Be it coincidence, fate or bloody choice 
They always limp back in shreds 
Comets, shut sky, a bruised light - 
Now listen, hatchets and knives, don’t you dare 
Mess up with soul’s photovoltaic spark: 
In that cross-eyed fire, maybe a leak, 
Kids are born, the missing blink on off, 
Batteries die - 
Yet among icy fields, icy shelves 
She sowed colours and jokes - 
The stones on her lips? 
They go roots, don’t bother, 
You know she fouls up 
Outcomes and him hitting back 
Among books, grass - 
It’s the electric blue, yes, 
The keeper of anger and trees - 
Can you reach him? See, he lurks 
And they’re different, 
Yours comes from lust 
His from burning births - 
They both blue - 
Thank God lust always plays nice, 
If Love does not.

 Born in Italy some decades ago, Gabriella Garofalo fell in love with the English language at six, started writing poems (in Italian) at six and is the author of “Lo sguardo di Orfeo”; “L’inverno di vetro”; “Di altre stelle polari”; “Blue branches”.

Back to Top

Two Poems
by Hanan Muzafar

Divine Valour

Fear tamed, vengeance served;
Atrocities on rugged land:
I feed on rage, 
I bled in rain. 

An ant that eats flesh, 
A bug who quaffs;
Spider knitting Web. 

Filled with clamour,
How hell looks like:
Stinks all the time.

Repression: given in inheritance,
Survival in evolution, 
Resilience in wounds, 
unconventional, and unpredictable;
I stand up. 

He won't eat, won't sleep:
chosen modus vivendi,
till armour crushed, 
and nemesis crumbled. 

Divinity in kindness, and sacrifice:
White Tiger of Armageddon,
forging stealth horde, 
breaking the midnight dawn;
I'm ready my Lord.

Filthy Childhood

Little feet in plastic shoes, 
torn shirts, 
And filthy trousers; 
curly uncut hair. 

Pale faces of poverty; 
finding diamonds in dumps :
Wet knitted socks,
on lean legs,
in a stolen childhood. 

Boiled carrots, 
And peanuts; 
shivering bodies, 
And aching hands:
Only cold winter. 

Empty pockets, 
pretending rich; 
well mannered, 
yet ill treated.

Don't you listen! 
I say; 
show them you're happy:
Alas! Chap face betrayed. 

In a laughing circus; 
Jokers coming out:
A circus of pain.

Being from a conflict torn region, Hanan Muzafar saw misery found grief, saw violence met horror, saw rise observed fall. Somehow learned to survive, to be low and invisible.

Back to Top

Five Poems
by Benjamin Williams


Now that cancer’s pressed

into my grandfather’s body, we all

find reason to assemble.

Our throats go sore from laughter,

the vibration buzzing through walls, furniture, fine china.

He sits in the back—

captured by the orchestra in the room.

His body is a machine of faith.

Though we don’t see him, we know

he’s there.

It runs like a river. His prostate

a failing system urging the bladder

to burst without permission.

My grandfather has left the room.

There’s an ocean of urine pushing

out of him. A shock of embarrassment

sprinting up his spine.

He changes his clothes—

heads to the porch for a smoke.

He is met by his wife and children

who orbit around his towering frame.

As if he has anything

to be ashamed of.

Papa Sleeps While on Chemo

After Rob Griffith

I give attention to his body,

its supine position, the hands

meeting at the chest.

His exhale’s a soft tune,

a murmur. Hard to tell

if he’s breathing.

I find it difficult

to bare—his stillness, the silence. My father

sleeping identically in the next room.

There is no “in between”

the rise and fall of breath—

no halfway point for the lungs

to meet when they grow tired.

The body eventually gives in,

and looks exactly like my grandfather

right now.

Granny Meets Papa

My daddy had taken your Aunt Joe and I

to this tavern in Bowling Green.

My boyfriend at the time was the drummer

of the band who was playing there.

I was sitting on a Coke cooler when your papa came

over and asked me to dance.

Me and Joe had spotted him earlier—

talked all about how he dressed like a white boy

in his pattern shirt and round-toed shoes.

So we danced. And he kept coming over

asking me to dance—so I kept dancing.

After it was over, I went to my boyfriend

and asked if he was gon’ take me home.

He said, “No. You have that big-mouth-nigga

you been dancing with all night to take you home.”

So I went over to your grandfather,

and of course he said yes.

And that was the beginning of it.

Shame, Or The Last Time Papa Saw his Father

It was the year following Brown vs. Board.

I was talking with friends when I heard

a white girl scream my name

from the class room window.

Is that your dad?

Weldon is that your dad?”

My father was walking

through the school yard, heading

to the feed store for work.

The railroad placed him

on medical leave the month prior.

The family needed money.

I watched as she studied him;

her eyes wide—paralyzed from shock

Where is he going?”

I don’t know,”

I told her, “I don’t know.”


For months you’ve been praying

for your grandfather. Asking God

to lay a hand on his pelvis.

You’ve been doubtful.

The youth in his limbs have lost

their fuel. He trudges through

the final stage of prostate cancer.

He could survive another 5 years—

a chance that keeps faith knocking

on your chest. You know it’s God’s

reminder he’s listening.

Still, you are nothing short of heartless—

a thing that only knows of self-serving.

What weight do these poems hold?

What good are they if he doesn’t die?

Benjamin Williams is a poetry candidate in the MFA program at Columbia College Chicago. His writing addresses speaking of the black and human experience and dissecting the human psyche as it relates to emotion versus thought. He is also a performing poet and has featured/read at venues such as Mojo's Pen, Young Chicago Authors, Sofar Chicago and The Poetry Foundation. He was a 2011 college slam finalist at the Louder Than A Bomb poetry festival. He has previously been published by Solstice Literary Magazine, and has work forthcoming in Columbia Poetry Review. He currently teaches at Columbia College Chicago.

Back to Top

All design and images property of The Legendary. Site design by That Hippie (Allison Hancock)