______________________________________________________

Linne Ebbrech-

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Returning

I have been trying to remind myself
that kindness is only kindness –

it’s what people try to give
as much as they can,

perhaps for what comes after or
a guilt free pillow to sleep upon.

Perhaps it is just humanity
helping

humanity – leaving
themselves behind

for just a moment, to hold
a hand. To stitch a wound.

They must go back
to themselves – you must go back

to yourself. Lick your
wounds. Hold yourself together.

_______________

Pelts

“We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err.”       -Henry Beston, The Outermost House

Take a small axe. Remove my feet and tail at the hairline. Take a knife
and cut me, from my base of what’s left of my tail to my belly and stop
at the bottom of my lip. Switch knives now – the one with the rounded end.

This will fit cleanly underneath my skin. You will pull
it away from my muscle. Peel it away from the rest of me,
the way you will slip off your socks after this day’s work.

On this fleshing beam, my skin becomes your skin now. As you scrape
away the last of the pink tissue, my hide shows white. My skin
becomes paper. My skin becomes profit.

How could you not recognize the genius beneath
the water. You mistake nations for nuisance. You
mistake earthlings for mere things.

This is the way my world works – without my knowing. The home
I’ve built becomes a trap I could never predict. I leave,
I am stopped

by metal – sharp and unforgiving.
I panic
for fifteen minutes. I drown for ten minutes more.

_______________

The Noises You Don’t Want to Hear

I think it was April when my Mom got the call, she was cleaning
and she didn’t stop
even after she hung up.

I assume my Grandpa told her
“Brian’s dead” – that he was found in his apartment, that
he had electrocuted himself.

I remember how she kept cleaning
the kitchen table with a damp paper towel and how
she was crying and the way her words

sounded like they were caught in her stomach and
almost didn’t get out. She asked him
“What?” – hoping

that somehow Grandpa had made some sort of mistake
in his simple sentence.  I remember that I
was in the next room over when Mom got the call and when she hung

up, I asked her “what happened?” and she told me
that her brother was gone – gone – not dead.
Missing.

I remember not saying anything else, just walking to my room
and sitting at my desk and scrolling through Facebook. I listened
to my Mom still moving downstairs.

She came to my room, I think
ten minutes later, to check on me –
and asked if I was okay

I remember I wasn’t crying when I told her
that I was. Her eyes were red and full. Her body
reacting.

Her body still moving in her
responsibilities as a mother and a wife.
I remember

she still made dinner that night.

_______________

Drag

I imagine that I feel
the way a smoked cigarette looks –
The filter yellowed and broken
in from being held too roughly

and taking deep and deadly breaths
from me. I am
an expensive price to pay. I am
your bad

habits – coming back
to me is so easy, even once
I’ve blackened your lungs
and took away

a year from your life.

_______________

Virtuoso

There are things you don’t want
to hear from your mother – like when she tells you
that “you don’t have to sleep with a boy
to get him to like you.”

It’s a sort of backhanded compliment
when she tells you this. A slap
across the face that tells you that – Hey,
at least you’re good at

something. She’s always been good
at telling you these things, the way you’ve
mastered the art of showing up in beds
that are not yours and making them

disappear. Making the boys come
and go.

In a way, you prove
your mother wrong. They like you
for at least twenty minutes and they tell you
that “They had a good time.”

There are things you don’t want to hear
from your mother – the way she suggests that
your body is not perfect. The way she tells you
“maybe you shouldn’t buy a two-piece this year.”

But those boys will still want to
touch you and you let them – you let them
come and go.

There are things you don’t want to hear from your mother –
like when she meets him and she tells you “he’s handsome.
Just don’t get in his way.” Remember that

boys only like you if you sleep with them – if you let
them touch you. They come and they go

onto something better – that is not so sedentary
and sad. To girls who don’t need
to make the boys stay
with this sort of talent.

To girls who have bodies
that are more difficult to acquire and somehow
easier to touch. They don’t stand in the way. But

some boys will stay, even when you expect them
to go. You expect him to leave –
so you find him every night, desperately.
So that he just might stay.

______________________________________________________

Linne Ebbrecht resides in Oswego, NY where she is finishing up her B.A. in Creative Writing at SUNY Oswego. She has poems published in the Great Lake Review and Ishka Bibble. When she isn’t writing she is probably enjoying the outdoors where she finds most of her inspiration.

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Richard Perin-

Camden Skies

Isolated so far
from everyone
caged
in war surplus green death,
along with
two jewels
held captive in this
setting,
and carefully
we shape them

Hungry for affliction,
for any intrusion, a fracture
of some kind – soul,
people – not like those of home.
A hell in every hello.
Live. Backwards.

I am.
Alone.

A lawn mower screams,
“Routine!”
just barely heard
over the sound of children seeking fame,
on a handycam.

And the Christmas lights
have started to come down, as has the tree
in the centre of town.
God! How natural this town looks
despite its geometric shapes and patterns.

Matching lawns, matching cars,
engagement ring, wedding ring,
suffering,
matching divorce papers.
Children playing with
square friends.

But for one bright noon, I walk
the distance from home
to the church on the hill.
My boots laced, medals pressed, eyes ablaze.
Past the hybrid lives and the hybrid
roses, that look perfect, but make no sense.

And a woman I see.
Coming to life as though newly purchased
a male order gift.
A woman like me,
embraced by a white picket fence.

The newspaper boy brings the afternoon,
and the falling sun is delivered
to my landlords porch.
Shadows of garden lattice falling
across my feet, christening my feet,
marking me.

And I drink from a glass,
a second-hand find
like me, and like me
beside some other trinkets
once precious things,
gifts to newlyweds.

And as darkness unfurls
flecked white ashes
stay
ungathered, And above us,
above this lament,
a flowering
universe that divides
night from night and that is
worked to the perfection
of patience.
A thousand candles burning bright
that keep ancient secrets.

And I wait. Beneath
Camden skies.
To write our names in the stars.

_______________

Mourning

The morning dew gently
kissing the window,
calling me out to half
crowded and narrow streets.
The echo of madness is
all around, as the sun
escapes from its gilded cage

A single tear rubbing
it’s back against the window pane.
The smell of dampness
lingering beneath the decaying
wood, mint coloured paint curling
around its corners.

_______________

This place is a dream

Linger for a while upon these golden sands
in these days a quaint apathy
where the sun is yearning and
even wild waters are tempered to
gentle tumbling.
While black birds fatten best
their feathers shiny and sleek
twittering and chattering as they
flutter past,
calling my attention away to
the light blue mountains
and beyond – to the bleak red
heart, jutting landscapes and
clusters of silvery long grass,
breezy tufts.

Lulled by its song
these waters are not
like those of my mothers
home,
but wild and black.
Beyond the horizon, and
past where the moon
has risen and greeted
the evening, and above
where a forest of kelp
licks and sways, on the
edge of a great continent
over rocky crags and
tinted sands – sprays of
green, drooping grey branches,
and scent of lemon sighing
in weakest breath across
beds of pink and blue.

_______________

Sins of the Father

I remember when I was a child
I held you
and you held me
and we were
father and son
Sky and moon
And your bristled face pushed hard against mine,
and I felt what it was like
to belong.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Richard Perin is an Australian Poet and visual artist. He is currently working on a second volume of poems, following on from ‘Failed attempts to fly’ which was published in 2009.

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Other notable work by Tiffany Tavella and Joe Gdowik.

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Tom Pescatore-

I am left wondering why

A curved space
between walls,

She has eyes
spiked at the edges
inky black
and running

powdered cheeks
showing no age.

“Step into the rift,”
curling voices,
warped by walls,
say.

She does this.

vanishes.

I am left wondering
why.

_______________

By the numbers

I am ever in the nirvana of your mind
a sick puppy feeling his way home.

I discovered my sleeping bag works
just as well as a comforter.

sometimes I lay with my feet hanging from my mattress
I let out a big sigh.

I am sometimes one with the diamond night
and wake to the same song every night.

Trying to remember my dreams
I embarrass myself tripping over details.

_______________

Past year

a backlog of memory
to sift through,

an open bottle, empty,
left out in the sun,

tinted shadow
green and long
thrown over
wood surface

faded imperceptibly,
like years, now gone.

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Tom Pescatore can sometimes be seen wandering along the Walt Whitman bridge or down the sidewalks of Philadelphia’s old Skid Row. He might have left a poem or two behind to mark his trail. He maintains a poetry blog: amagicalmistake.blogspot.com.

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Tiffany Tavella-

Dreams 12/04/2014

He unbuttons his collar
to reveal a white spotted
plum growing just above
his left breast.

Suddenly, I’m holding a scalpel.
He says, “You’ve done this before”
and it isn’t a question.

I tuck the blade into
his new skin fruit.
Neither of us wince
as clear waters pour
over his chest and
knees.

I resist the urge to taste it.

_______________

Midnight Dinner at Lindy’s

For Rachel, New York City’s manic muse

We shared glances over slices
of world famous cheesecake.
You were wearing plaid,
your hair, unruly and uncombed,
yet kissed by rain
symbolically boyish.
I was wearing tie-dye,
and you were fascinated by my meager travels
and knowledge of the Beatles.
Maybe we’ll find ourselves in Perth,
sipping wine with the joeys.
Not Strawberry Fields,
but I’ll take you down
if you’ll let me.

_______________

American Holidays

Amber waves of telecommunication
in frosted glasses unobserved—

The commercial multiverse where Bob Dylan
drives a Chrysler and shoots pool
in a bankrupt American city
talkin’ American folk, American cool,
talkin’ heavy hitting change
while thumbing singed denim pockets
talkin’ assembly line reconstruction
of a union divided
by those willing to buy their revolution
and those who’ll die loyal
only to dissent—

and the air time cost six comfortable Christmases
Detroit would never see.

_______________

Trail Angel

From twilight she appeared
with walking stick and pack
no more filthy
than the perfumed foot
she held to my nose-
they called her ‘dirty peanut.’

Tall and all collar-bone
hair the color of red dawn warning.
These woods grew no such flower
and we buzzed about her offering
pie, I sang for her
and they cracked open her beer
as she spoke of Georgia world weary,
aching legs tucked beneath her.

Warm as August,
1,100 miles
’til Maine,
she thanked us and disappeared into the night
as I was called back to city lights
to dream in the glow around her

of pussyfootin’ along Katahdin,
she’s been waiting (O Seraph!)
and I weep to cleanse her dirty feet.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tiffany Tavella will trade a humble turn of phrase for a cup of coffee and an open ear. Her work can be found in journals both in print and online, but she hides her chapbooks in used book stores and free libraries. She lives and writes in Philadelphia.

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Joe Gdowik-

Remember That Long, Long Train Ride Home

on the way home, the train passed a petrified forest
dry trees, stained pale-bone white

one year later
we met again –
one last touch
lips to skin –
hearts dried up.

_______________

feelin Dand-e

dandelions gone to seed
half bald –
they’ll find the cracks
keep the city green.

gardeners –
we grow weeds
in empty lots

_______________

Rose Wine

rosemary, sage
honey –
heady rose wine

lying glutted before your banquet –
i pass into a sweet
delicate death

_______________

Thunder Creek Haiku

Dozing in whited rock
slow silent Red
grows grey

Thunder Creek rumbles
like last night’s firs –
soft, swaying song

Gentle feet –
gentle hands –
gentle snake slithers home

mountain fog hides full moon
either way –
a starless night

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Joe Gdowik enjoys laying his hands down and seeing what they come up with. He shares an apartment in Philadelphia with Walt Whitman the Cat and frequently loses himself amongst his hobbies.

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Other notable work by Marianne Szlyk, April Salzano and Barbara Bald.

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A.J. Huffman-

The View from All Four

A place is not a form of absorption
for wishes or really sweet justifications.
Those fall to the river shaft, exit
like true pioneers via debt and distance.
Occasionally hope will intervene,
tunnel below driveway or moat, mingle
with the edges of communication,
make an awful mess of recreation
that can take weeks to scour
from inside walls.

_______________

I Dream of Hemingway

in the rain, standing beneath the lights
of the Eiffel Tower. He has a bottle of wine
in one hand, a pen in the other. I refuse his offer
of both despite the fact that they have no strings.
I know drowning when I see it.
Instead I turn towards the rising dawn, watch
silently as distant hills melt into memories of white
elephants.

_______________

Tasting Sacred

waters, welled in forgotten baptismals, I am
forcing my own rebirth. A burning
seed has unfurled, rooting around
my skeletal structure. The intangible touch
of blessing blooms, flowers through my tongue,
touch, eyes. Anything open flashes. Signs
hover, ghostly auras, screaming
welcome, home reflected
back from the skies.

_______________

There are Cages for Gods

that only capture angels. They swing
inside clouds masquerading as candles.
I wish I could answer their call, lock
myself inside a silver-lined cotton sanctuary
of silence. My imagination might,
once again, grow wings, fly south for a second
summer, learn to understand the desire
to consume life from accompanying birds
of prey.

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A.J. Huffman has published eleven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new poetry collections, Another Blood Jet (Eldritch Press) and A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing) are now available from their respective publishers. She has two additional poetry collections forthcoming: Degeneration from Pink Girl Ink, and A Bizarre Burning of Bees from Transcendent Zero Press. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, and has published over 2200 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press.

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Marianne Szlyk-

Ms. Hawthorn

dreams of standing on a ridge in Britain,
looking down on cathedrals and car parks,
on pubs and Morris dancers ,
albums she knew from
used record stores and
long-lost friends’ collections.

Dirty blonde hair
streaming in the wind,
she would be barefoot,
wear white, in spite
of mud and wet grass.

At fifty, she sits in traffic.
Through mousy- brown bangs,
she blinks at mist
falling on her windshield,
the line of cars
snaking on past the exit.

As violins on the CD swell,
a young man sings
about growing older
on a morning like this one.
He has just arrived in town;
she has lived in this state
for a dozen years
or more.

_______________

Let’s Go Away for Awhile

Thelma and her husband sing along to Pet Sounds
when driving to the Cape. Jerry Cole’s guitar
begins “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” and they launch

into song, his voice too wild, hers with
the Texas accent she never can lose. They
plunge in, splashing past strip malls and swamp.

But this instrumental is the song she loves best,
the vibraphone like sunshine against drums like surf,
the horns like the wave that crashes furthest

onto the rocks, not quite the highway.
The strings are clouds, meringue she has whipped
up in a stainless steel bowl at home.

She almost forgets that the east coast
has weak surf, and slimy seaweed clings to
waders’ calves in warm, knee-high water

as she and her husband waddle in among
the thin girls from Boston. She then remembers
cold, cloudy Mondays when the two of them

drive back home, listening to their inland music:
Chicago blues, Texas swing, Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonkin’”,
the old songs that better suit their voices.

Maybe she likes that this instrumental comes before
anyone can see the bridge or the traffic.
Or she likes to catch her breath

before “Sloop John B”’s lyrics grind her down
like the refrain of a whiny child.
She catches her breath.

_______________

One Spring Morning at the Historic Icehouse

The perfect cube of ice descends.
Having wrapped it in plastic for protection,
volunteers are lowering it
into the historic icehouse.

The perfect cube chills this brick chamber
large enough for dozens of cubes
in the days before this icehouse
was historic, when no tourists
came to Florida.

Rough to the touch, red clay walls
protect this cube.
It will never melt.
The cube’s chill keeps
mold and moss
from forming on the walls.

The icehouse smells of nothing
but cold, nothing
but straw and the dirt floor.
Unlike the zoo’s dazed baby elephant
or the polar bear with yellowed fur,
it appeals to the tourists.

Lowering the perfect cube
by means of a historic hook and pulley,
the volunteers forget
the thick air outside
as imperfect oranges
and grapefruit spoil,
the corpse flower blooms,
and tourists’ overheated
cars crawl
past this historic site.

Shivering, not sweating,
the volunteers
forget this spring morning,
these air-conditioned years.

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Marianne Szlyk is the editor of The Song Is… and a professor of English at Montgomery College. Recently, Flutter Press published her chapbook I Dream of Empathy. Kind of a Hurricane Press published her earlier chapbook, Listening to Electric Cambodia, Looking Up at Trees of Heaven.. Her poems have also appeared in a variety of online and print venues, including Long Exposure, The Syzygy Poetry Journal, Yellow Chair Review, ken*again, Of/with, bird’s thumb, Flutter Poetry Journal, Black Poppy Review, and the anthology Our Day of Passing.

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April Salzano-

Placebo by Proxy

I am staring straight into the eye of the son,
the blue-green confusion of autism,
and wondering if the decrease
from 2ml back to 1.25 ml of Prozac
is making him feel less anxious.
His fingers are still on his lips,
bending, twisting, contorting
them into little balloon animals,
pink origami gifts that will be given
to no one. I imagine each sigh
has meaning, each gesture is a form
of communication, as I wait
for the thank you that will never come,
for assurance that will be taken
from whatever it can be taken,
fact or fiction, myth or dream.

_______________

Here Is My Father

forming noose knots of clothesline,
graffitying his parents’ garage—
This is the place where Napoleon
pulled his bone a part
, a phrase I took
years to decipher. My father was less
than half my age when he sprayed it
in crooked yellow script on the second
story, a place of disregarded memories
disintegrating in sun-scorched boxes.
These walls meant nothing,
just another space to desecrate. My body
collapsed under the weight of his rage,
bones separating, tissue remembering to tear
along old fault lines, long before I learned
to hate him, then love him again in spite
of all logic, which I eventually found hanging
lifeless from a rafter in a long-forgotten room.

_______________

Burying the Hatchet

The wood is grateful for the blade,
to be split then quartered, long
before winter. July is all rain,
intermittent bouts of whorish sun
scalding wet flowers. If I am
asked, I will say it has been a great summer.
I will tell no one of the doubts
that fill the sink like dirty dishes,
that the shed is half full,
the bed, half empty.

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April Salzano is the co-editor at Kind of a Hurricane Press and is currently working on a memoir about raising a child with autism, along with several collections of poetry. Her work has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Award and has appeared in journals such as The Camel Saloon, Centrifugal Eye, Deadsnakes, Visceral Uterus, Salome, Poetry Quarterly, Writing Tomorrow and Rattle. Her chapbook, The Girl of My Dreams, is available from Dancing Girl Press. More of her work can be read at http://aprilsalzano.blogspot.com/

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Barbara Bald-

Early Lessons: Shaping an Artist and a Man

My mother held my hand
as we entered the principal’s office,
first day of school, mandatory registration
for first grade. She found us a seat
before a large man in a black suit,
white shirt and red bow tie.

Mr. Gridley, behind his massive desk,
sat like Poseidon, god of the sea,
keeping the oak barrier between us.
I found myself wondering if
he had a trident in his closet, like the one
I had seen in an encyclopedia.

Benevolent or maniacal, I could not tell,
didn’t yet know those words, but
the many framed letters on his wall proved
he was either very smart or very important.
My mind imagined, body sensed,
he could swallow six-year-olds whole.

My mother lovingly sang my praises
added I was a creative boy who loved art.
My face glowed as I told him
I worked hard with my sisters, making
paper dolls with pink-ribboned hair.

Poseidon smiled, but his eyes gave it away.
He said, We don’t do that sort of thing
at this school
.
I didn’t hear all his words, but somehow I knew
making paper dolls was not something
I would ever do again.

When we left his office, my face still flushed
and my belly heaved from traveling rough waters.
Lessons had already begun.
As we closed the door, I swear I saw sharks
swimming beside his desk.

_______________

In Shadow

I wonder about my mother, who she really was¬¬––

not the mother who yelled at me
when she was late for work;
not the one who’s belt buckle left black and blues
on bare skin;
not the mother who warned an eighth grade kiss
could ruin a reputation;
not even the parent who tithed her paycheck
to the church so I could get a good education.

I can quote her one-line admonishments,
recall her probing questions and boundary violations,
still hear her criticize her own flat feet,
stubby thumb nails and cracked tongue.

I know how at ten she threatened her father with a knife
if he dared hurt her mother again;
how she carried coal in a stocking as a weapon
against threats risked on city streets;
how ashamed she was to wear hand-me-downs
to her graduation when others wore frilly frocks.
But who was she, really?

Did she smile with eyes closed when the sun
touched her face, like the feel of beach sand
between her toes, or ever, like me, weep in loneliness?

What was she thinking when she told me lost a baby,
then in front of other women, denied she ever said it?
When headache pain from an aneurism struck, how did she
have presence of mind to remove the curlers from her hair?
Did she sense she would never return home?

I found unexpected things in her house when she died:
news clippings of my Dean’s List honors folded in her purse,
exercise tape for seniors on the tv table,
pink crystal rosaries nestled under her bed pillow.

I did not know this mother. Like neighbors mowing lawns
on our own sides of a tall wooden fence, our walls
were high. Who’s wall was higher, who nailed the first plank
is now irrelevant. The structure remained permanent, but
I wonder who she really was, how much love we missed
and how many secrets flew with her ashes in the wind.

_______________

Last Conundrum

I wonder if Tchaikovsky thought about dying,
envisioned his unwritten concertos calling
from the grave.

Did he pine for new symphonies soon silenced,
fret about unvoiced operas stifled by soil and stone
or weep for movements the world would never hear?

Did he work at fevered pitch to fan creative flames
still trapped inside or lose himself so deeply
that passion sang its own sweet tune,
blurring all lines between now and the end?

And what about Einstein, Earhart and Monet—
their unborn theories, daring dreams
and brilliant brush strokes thwarted by time,
buried beneath bedrock or vaporized into thin air.

Walking now on winter’s frozen ground,
I wonder if they too could have imagined
no longer seeing the sparkle of sunlight on snow,
regretted not being around to witness spring’s thaw.

Hurry, hurry, light breezes whisper.
Carpe Diem, strong winds shout.
Slow down, slow down, chickadees chastise
from bare birch branches just beginning to bud.

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Barbara Bald is a retired teacher, educational consultant and free-lance writer. Her poems have been published in a variety of anthologies: The Other Side of Sorrow, The 2008 and 2010 Poets’ Guide to New Hampshire, For Loving Precious Beast, Piscataqua Poems,
The Widow’s Handbook, Sun and Sand, In Gilded Frame and other anthologies published by Kind of Hurricane Press. They have appeared in The Northern New England Review, Avocet, Off the Coast and in multiple issues of The Poetry Society of New Hampshire’s publication: The Poets’ Touchstone. Her work has been recognized in both national and local contests. Her recent full-length book is called Drive-Through Window and her new chapbook is entitled Running on Empty. Barb lives in Alton, NH with her cat Catcher and two Siamese Fighting fish.

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Holly Day-

Daffodils

he walks among the dead
walks stiffly to
the bar, orders
an ordinary beer
from a menu that
specializes in drinks
with names like Corpse Fuck
Brain Hemorrhage

the leather-clad sow
in the corner blossoms at
the sight of his teeth
he glides across the room, slipping beside her
into a red plastic booth
her cheap perfume reeks
of dirty sex, dying things
“my place,” he smiles, he says
and kisses her blood-clot lips

they walk out to the night
she holds his arm with
both hands and talks too
loud he pulls her through the
gates of the cemetery
locks the gate behind them.

_______________

Alive

they found her small body wired into the heart
of the church, small LEDs sprouting through her skin
blooming like tiny red flowers
too far deep for sunlight to reach.

she was sheared clean through to bone
by claws big enough
to belong to the God hanging
over the spot her mangled body lay.

_______________

The Impossibleness of Abstract Representation

where are we now? one man asked
we shone our flashlights around the cave

saw only stone, tall ceilings, dark passages
darting off in every direction. The map

showed us which random tributary
would take us back to sunlight, although it was hard to believe

that we were somewhere on that flat piece of paper, a cluster of flies
in a network of blue spaghetti loops. But yes, there was the pool

right next to our path like it was on the map, tiny white fish
darting about in the light of our flashlights, blind as the furry brown bats

circling overhead. So when do we start going up? asked another
man who looked too tired to go on. Are we almost there?

_______________

Still Away

I missed you so much when you left I couldn’t breathe. No, I didn’t miss you at all,
I just kept thinking about all the things, the tiny things, the big things, the wanting
all the dependent little creatures you left behind, helpless, trapped
little creatures in your house, left
alone without food, without water, pacing, pacing, pacing, ears perking
at the sound of new mail pushed through the squeaky slot, behind the locked door
that would never open again,
all the things left behind.

In my dreams, I am still dreaming about your goldfish, the little blue-flecked translucent
minnows, the over-zealous tank snails
their bodies moldering in the bottom of the foggy glass fish bowl, the over-zealous
tank snails stripping their corpses to hair-thin skeletons, the long-nosed dolphin fish
I picked out for you
the last to remain, competing with tank snails to suck thin strains of green mold
from the clogged air filter, overturning the blue pebbles at the bottom

in search of more algae, more rot, more decay. I don’t remember
if you had a cat, but in my dreams, you had many,
they’re fighting with each other, they’re drinking water
from the fish tank, the toilet, they’re clawing at the window, begging passersby
to let them out. I wish

you’d left me a key.

_______________

Tiny, Pointed Teeth

Sometimes I still dream about the kittens clawing their way through my shirt kittens
With tiny claws and tiny teeth and tiny mews kittens
That once lived inside me, populated my dreams with tiny
Paws and fingertips and skin so pale and soft and white those kittens

Shoved under my shirt stuffed beneath my skin those kittens
I would never have been able to take care of those kittens
I never asked for and never wanted those kittens
Who would have died a long time ago even if they had managed
To make it to the outside world.

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Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Oyez Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle, while her recently published books include Music Theory for Dummies (3rd edition), Piano All-in-One for Dummies, The Book Of, and Nordeast Minneapolis: A History.

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Susan Palmer-

*It is not my intention to write “haiku”. However, I am fully in love with the basic concepts of haiku…that the poet presents an experience to the reader with a minimum of words and no personal emotions, each experience hinting at a season in which it is placed. I was never fond of the artificial modern rule of syllable counts, and will not indulge in such.

Here you find poems without titles, just as snatches of life are without title. Ideally, the Tao poem does not include any references to the writer….personal pronouns. “we, I, my, our, your,” Etc. The purpose is to immerse the reader into his/her own memories of the season, the embarrassment, the wistful sigh. It should stimulate without shouting or sobbing. As an observer, we come to see our experiences of the past are common to all humankind. *

On windy days
My front door whispers
The secrets of Life.
The cats listen to its wisdom.

_______________

On the lake
Cloud and sky
A fish dashes through.

_______________

Under the green elm
Ants explore silken fabric
Lovers sleep entwined

_______________

Monday morning
Snap-crackle-pop cereal
Sighs tiredly in a milk bath.
Book-bag sags on the counter.
Even my shoelaces dread
Another week.

_______________

How did this great plant
Fit in that tiny seed?

_______________

Who can tell if fish cry?

_______________

The kite dances over the ocean
Admiring its reflection
Dangling its tail
This way and that

_______________

The Dodgers baseball cap
Takes advantage of the gusts
Whenever the front door opens
To swirl gleefully around
The top knob of the coat rack

_______________

The horses gambol about
Drunk on fields of yellow dandelions
Laughing in horsey whickers

_______________

The wild dun mare
And her summer colt
Touch noses

_______________

Three on horseback
Feeling their way through fog
Is that a cougar?

_______________

Cougar lapping ripples
Fish kissing top of pond
Disturbed barrier between worlds

________________

Trees droop in the heat
Yawning fills the office
Eyelids sag

________________

Here,
Trees and vines
Dining on the bones
Of a wooden house

________________

A few Old Woman Poems

Though I resemble an old tree
My skin rough and discolored
My roots disengaging from the soil
I may yet make one cherry
For one traveler

I am a book
Full of words
And fading photos.
Do not presume
The ending is dull
Until the last page is turned.

My boat has crossed the lake.
When I look back, I see
I have left no impression.

Now I am old
I wonder
Whatever happened to
My little red wagon

Like calligraphy
Done in water
On a hot sidewalk
Such is my life

I was never a beautiful flower
But now, in Autumn,
I am a brilliant leaf.

A silent white world
Footsteps three inches deep
An empty mailbox

A forest of pines
Snow suits glisten in the sun
One naked oak sapling

Butterflies never
Get to play
In the snow

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Susan Palmer lived on Maui for almost 30 years and was deeply impressed by the Japanese ways of understatement and peaceful quiet of the “elder” Japanese philosophers. It draws her still, to be peacefully quiet myself, to be the observer more than the doer.

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Other notable works by Michael Meyerhofer, Denise Sweet and Brent Goodman.

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Tom Montag-

CEMETERY, ALBERTA

It’s a high, dry place on the short grass where
we pause in a sharp wind among the graves.

Oh, the great sadness, the distance tawny
with it, the color of wind, of wind and

desolation, here where it seems we are
alone, even as we stand together.

_______________

FIELD WITH CROWS

So all the crows settle down
to sort things out, though there’s
not much difference to sift.

We are at the edge of
the road. They are in the field.
Their darkness. The black dirt.

Oh, the blue sky, one of them
wants to talk about. The creek.
The last of the seeds. Which tree

shall be yours, and which mine?
What of love, another asks.
So they pair off, as we do.

Evening comes. The darkness —
theirs and ours. They don’t know
what to say to us. And we don’t

know what to say to them.
We have never known.
Love remains the mystery.

_______________

CHOICE

She stands
at the window,

then turns
from it. She has

lost the will
to resist and

lies down now
into sadness.

The world is
grease and smoke

with no one
to say good-bye.

_______________

JUST MUD

thrown at paper
like paint.

Hang it
up to dry.

Say This is
what I mean
.

_______________

MARRIAGE

Marriage, like those
night dogs calling

across the water,
coyotes singing

in the distance.
Sometimes we speak

their long, high vowels.
Their needs are simple:

eat meat, get sleep,
pass on their genes.

Ours, not so much,
or so it seems.

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Tom Montag is most recently the author of In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013. Other poems will be found at Architrave Press, Atticus Review, Blue Heron Review, The Chaffin Journal, Hamilton Stone Review, The Homestead Review, Little Patuxent Review, The Magnolia Review, Mud Season Review, Plainsong, Portage, Red Fez, South 85, Sand, Third Wednesday, Town Creek Poetry, and other journals. He blogs as The Middlewesterner and serves as Managing Editor of the Lorine Niedecker Monograph Series, What Region?

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Michael Meyerhofer-

KINDRED SPIRITS

Let’s say you’re sitting in a coffee shop
reading a book of poems when
someone in the next room
starts playing Moonlight Sonata on the piano
which reminds you of your mother,
then you turn and page and here I am
describing the exact same thing.
Sure, you’d marvel at the coincidence,
but what happens next?
What social networking program
will carry the news, which will
likely fail to impress your friends?
I suppose you could write me a letter
but what if I’m dead by now?
It happens. So many years since
the invention of language, let alone
sadness. And every year,
more bones rinsed clean as those
oversized cups resting upside-down
on a black tray behind the counter.

_______________

TANTRUM

My friend, the single mom, is trying
to keep her cool as her thirteen-year-old boy
kicks the dog, throws his plate across the room,
lies on the floor pounding with both fists
like his skinny arms will help him
break back into the womb, but really
I just want to smack him across the cheek
as her sautéed asparagus slides down
the wine-and-canary wallpaper
and she tries counting backwards
like one of those uniforms in a missile silo,
just want to grab that crying face
the color of the pan-seared salmon
steaming on her fine plush sofa and squeeze
until his eyes swell up like radishes
the way mine did the first time
I took a straight jab in boxing class,
then a blurring right hook that undercut
all my faith in angst—which,
as it turns out, is weaker than knuckles,
than the skin they wear like an apron.

_______________

AUBADE

Last night when we were lying in bed together,
everything good, death and separation
as distant as those stars with Arabic names,
I suddenly thought of another night many years ago
when I found myself in a Walmart in Indiana
at three a.m. and I was so damn lonely
that I bought a body pillow to cuddle with,
only when I got it home and took it out
of the box, it was about as soft as partially
cooled lava and smelled besides, some kind
of factory-born cleaner to keep the bugs away,
only by then the sun was coming up
like it is now, and it’s hard to care sometimes,
and heat you know is really just atoms
moving faster, that’s all it is, but I like the heat
we make under blankets in the throat
of winter, how just by existing, parts of me
move faster whenever yours are close by.

_______________

ODE TO THE REPAIR GUY

While Dale the repair guy addresses
the charred out fuse box in the kitchen,
persistent lust of his saber-saw
kicking the smell of sawdust
throughout the whole apartment

I am trying to write poetry
about chopsticks, reading the latest stuff
from the ezines, pausing whenever
it sounds like he might come back
and catch me with verse on the screen:

a haiga featuring a naked woman
some might mistake as pornography.
I’m having trouble with a tanka;
another poem about astrology requires
a reference to fine scotch I can’t find.

Twice, Dale walks in and interrupts me:
once to explain how two-by-fours
aren’t actually two inches by four inches
anymore, which is why he has to cut
and trim the space behind the cabinets

to make the new box fit; the second time
to ask if I mind him smoking.
I say I don’t—as the blue smoke
drifts from his lips, he tips his head like
a Japanese dragon and comments

on how his biopsy came out negative,
shows me the crescent scar on his chest
in a moat of tangled gray hair. I find
the reference I need, roll the word
ballantine on my tongue, again and again

until I can almost taste its syrupy musk,
feel justified weaving it into a poem.
Meanwhile, Dale goes out to his truck
to look for a longer blade, comes back,
goes out again for more cigarettes

then asks me what I’m working on.
I want to tell him my frustrations over
poets who think modern haiku
must be written with seventeen syllables
the way others who don’t write poetry

expect all of it to rhyme in pentameter.
Instead, I answer Just some school work
then explain how in exchange for a master’s
degree I’m teaching composition
to a class of nearly illiterate freshmen—

his attention drifts, he saws some more
then goes out for some lunch,
returns later with a faint smile and
tells me it’s snowing outside. I like that,
he says, how it makes them bare trees pretty.

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Michael Meyerhofer’s fourth book, What To Do If You’re Buried Alive, was published by Split Lip Press. He is also the author of a fantasy trilogy and the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, Mid-American Review, Hayden’s Ferry, Rattle, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and other journals. For more information and at least one embarrassing childhood photo, please visit troublewithhammers.com.

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Denise Sweet-

The Lost Maya

At Panahachel, I sat in cathedrals,
lit candles to invoke the patron saint
of beggars, a statue poised to gaze from
within the wooden alcoves, his eyes
bearing down on me in stone cold indifference.

Light fell through stained glass as I gave prayer
a chance; cofradias swung tin cans at each
doorway burning pendulums of copal while
the stiff planks beneath my knees show
years of anonymous penance.

As I leave for the plaza, I hear the click and low
whistle of young boys sitting outside on the
cathedral steps; though my skin brown,
my nose Mayan, and I call myself Indigena,
I bear an unearned pride that makes no sense here.

To them I am the gringa who hides her privilege
like a birthmark, groomed, well-dressed, and
unused to the heat, I am the foreigner of
complaint of El Norte. I st each day in the zocolo
sip espresso, ask for photos, touch huipiles aquapiles
from Aititlan, Cortes bloodred as the lava from Pavayu.

I watch the bonegames of chance in the parke central:
black candles, popping eggs, glint of gold in the smiles
of Mishimon amidst the smoke and fire, the chatter of
the daykeepers, and as they sing, the sound of kachikel
dancing barefoot on the edge of the world.

_______________

Farmer Takes A Wife

Hard rains came the end of spring. Riverbanks melted into slur. New watermarks each morning the day before, just shy of flood stage. The long fever does not shake loose this time. Chills and night terrors sweep through the house until dawn. He cannot place the line once drawn from delirium to fever and insanity anymore, unable to decide whether to to sharpen his axe or to grease his brake lines of the family Buick. Who can blame him for wanting to drag for days through acres of the black, musky soil, listening to Patsy Cline, chew packed hard into his lower lip? No amount of prayer will lift the heavy weight of Black Earth crop failure this time. Another favorite barncat, clinging like wet laundry to the woodpile. The baby rests on a damp mattress, waiting for a burial. Bread sits soggy in the pantry while his wife gnaws on the windowsill. The farmer has not moved from his chair for days, looking at the fields that once held seeds of everything he was to become. The Farmer’s Almanac sits open to the charts of annual crop predictions while sprouted seeds ferment and bubble, their yeasty odor.

_______________

All the Animals Came Singing

I. Somewhere between nowhere and shadow
you held still and quiet, and quick slip
and you would totter over the edge of the world
Taking with you ancient songs of love, of devotion
of longevity; songs that celebrated
the simple elegance of living in balance.

So many whimpered in your absence
the throat singers tried in vain to call
you back, other winged creatures felt lost
and caught off from the harmonious crane song
that once trumpeted across the marshlands
the width of the riverbanks.

It was in our ignorance we fell silent.
Helpless, anxious to be of use,
we began to think of swamps and bogs
as eerie, ugly and useless.
We drained those drained those windigo wetlands
paved them over or planted crops
that floundered or refused to take root;

We tried to fill and give function to the emptied camps
of the whooping cranes: or were we trying to fill
that empty nest in our hearts shaped by your absence?

II. We are told that it is inborn in all living beings
to return to the place of its beginning, to rise and sweep
with what strength is left and begin that wondrous trek
towards home, no matter the distance, no matter the passage.

One day, you appeared shy, secretive, you appear in the bright mist.
As in your own emergence account, you stood before us, waiting
for us to send out a simple prayer, greet you by simply standing still.
You stood before us, elegant, erect, majestic in form, a hooded shaman
from the farthest sky out of range of the naked eye.
And all of the animals came singing.

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Denise “Dee” Sweet Anishinaabe (aka Ojibwe: aka Chippewa, enrolled at White Earth) Professor Emerita, Humanistic Studies,English, First Nations Studies

WI Poet Laureate, 2004-2008

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Brent Goodman-

In the Middle of the Music

The secret to drawing symphony from a cello
is in the angle you rest its neck along yours,
and recognizing your lover the only other hips
you cradle your knees around this relaxed.
Lay a waterfall on its side and call it whitewater:
both names equally blurred and beautiful.
Art intentionally slows time to dilate the present,
the voice calling faint from midpoint suggests,
and as soon as I find my center he’s the first digits
I plan on dialing. The way I planned my mid-life crisis
to feature a hospital rooftop helipad landing scene starring
a medevac nurse who radiates light like young Mother Mary
in an orange flight suit and radio helmet. Let’s say I arrived in style
and survived to discover I will live to enjoy exactly 74 years,
or at least until I change my mind again. As if every choice’s
unchosen branches grow through your living room drywall
to pierce someone else’s living room, where they’re called
“opportunities” I guess, by a man who, like you, thinks
he’s just doing the goddamned best he can. You’re both
right, which just might explain how a bow unspools song
from nothing but taut wound string, a hammered note,
and the star maps folded within a cello’s body.

________________

Views From the Backseat

Alabama’s Greatest Hits cassette tape
thumb-pressed into the player console.

Endless green freeway exit signs
audience to argument and silence alike.

Downtown interchange concrete ramps
and blue sky, a smokestack, coal barge.

Fast food drive thrus drive thrus drive thrus
and oily paper sacks crumpled at my feet.

The line between two brothers, his side,
my side, the invisible brother between us.

Sure: a rainbow, heron, bikini, ambulance.
Bank tellers and their great sliding drawers.

Gas pumps. Cathedrals. Driving through forest,
windows down, a song from the radio returning.

_______________

And If The Body Were Not The Soul

On the elevated giraffe feeding platform
a grey prehensile tongue wraps and grabs
the rye crisp from my hand (2 for $1),
this head wide as any horse now absurdly
eye to eye, neck taller than my entire body
stands. I’m with my partner (whom I love but
cannot marry) and his sister (whom I love
but cannot marry) at The New Zoo.
Where earlier I beamed Reiki to a llama
who carried a dirty rug on its back. Jesus –
what is the soul, anyway? Spotting cell towers
during the drive made me wonder just
how many conversations speed through us,
what wind between our molecules, writing books
on the fly. The crowd on the feeding platform
is shoulder to shoulder, and yes we touch,
and yes I shiver easily, and yes emotion
creates weather and the heart is a pulsar.
Over picnic we question if a giraffe eating nothing
but rye crisps, standing in a sunken cement pen
licking strangers fearful hands all day is healthy
for anyone. What is the body? my Soul asks,
serving me chopsticks of cold golden tofu.
Later my partner and his sister baby-talk the newest
Japanese Macaque when suddenly I notice
there’s strollers everywhere, children screaming
in fear or delight along the winding concrete paths.
O couples who must marry but might not love!
I was walking past a sullen jock carrying his unexpected
infant in a sling when his cell phone called mine:
My life has mistaken me for someone else.
Orgasms can do this, and more. Before I was born
I chose my parents, how about you?
Between molecules conversations breach lightspeed.
I most wanted to visit the 40-yr old
giant tortoise and simply climb inside.

________________

Pockets of Sheer Wind

What’s the name of that song that goes
I love you I love you I love you
right before the pedal swell of a steel guitar?
The wolf tooth moon wants to know,
not me. I want to know if I can take
a train through a mountainside, and if so,
where one might hop on. I carry an eclipse
in each eye, just in case. What’s the name
of the place where the back of my hand
brushed the ass of your Levis and we
both pretended it didn’t. I want to dance
there, to that song the moon wants
to know, with you, until we do.

_______________

The Night Longer Than Algebra

and above the dark blue sundown
a thumbnail tear in the sky reveals
the universe is nothing but white light.
But little numbers all painted white.
And what the window frames also
always moves. I asked a bird and
the answer was algebra, and the tree
was geometry and the sickle sweep
above the horizon is growing brighter,
or has the blue now all but left us?
Gratitude is the act of greeting
every stranger as if they approached you
in dream. Or every letter the moon
tries to hand you. The curved light equations
pouring through – operators, variables,
expressions and like terms too, all pollen
on a bee’s hind legs. What the mind frames
also always moves. I asked a hive
and the answer swarmed everywhere.
To create the most realistic 3-D animation
of a waterfall, special effects teams employ fractal
algorithm programs. Only when you divide
water-rendered spheres by the divine proportion
layer after layer to infinity does it begin to appear
both falling and rising into brilliant mist at once.
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Brent Goodman’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Sou’wester, Pleiades, Green Mountains Review, Pank, Diagram, and elsewhere. Goodman is the author of The Brother Swimming Beneath Me and Far from Sudden, both from Black Lawrence Press.

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Sarah Brown Weitzman-

ODE TO YOUR FEET

How modestly and unashamed
your feet peeled out of their socks
like a secret revealed.

Almost hands
but more square, white
as wrists. Shy
shadows between each toe.

Never brazen
as big toes can be
sticking out from under sheets.

Never flinging themselves about
like hands. Never bending
or scraping like knees

or bulging obscenely like muscles
and loins. Solid as columns
of legs but stupid

as cauliflower, yes, stupid.
Stupid, stupid feet
that carried you away.

_______________

TONGUE

Pink oyster thick-tied to its shell
an uneasy existence
between neighboring gnashers

Snide in the cheek but always the danger
of a bite or a slip
or the proverbial cat
not to mention that limbo
poised at the tip

With none of its own
at the beck and call of a brain
yet a master of any language
or twister

Tasting the budding delight
as far as it goes
of licking the lips
to invite a juicy dance
with another’s to follow it in

_______________

TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN MIDDLE-MANAGEMENT EXECUTIVE
Class visit, 2073

He was one of the very last to have to die
as young as ninety-eight. A man of his age

he followed the then nostalgic trends
of turning for comfort to mashed potatoes

and Prozac. Low-fat cooking and his trainer
kept him fit as a Third World laborer.

He had a really good heart
harvested from a thirty-year-old DWI,

two facelifts he admitted to but still he died
before the pills that stop us from aging now

and without a clone so he couldn’t take it
with him. Instead he left his considerable estate

to his children: the daughter who came out
right after Ellen, the oldest a fanatic

fundamentalist and even the son who believed
that O.J. was innocent. The post-modern

paintings he collected so confirmed his
Twentieth Century anxiety, they actually lulled him.

Yet he shook his head when he read
the newspaper accounts of fatal child abuse,

new detention camps in Bosnia,
and corporate take-overs by the Russian mafia

in Brooklyn. But he felt genuinely patriotic
during the war after Iraq War. Most of all

he loved mega-chain discount stores,
serial killer novels and was truly grateful

for satellite intimacy. He had no trouble
accepting life’s normal losses

but he sincerely mourned
the frogs when they became extinct

as much as he did the daily rises in the Dow.
A man who had no illusions and encouraged

sub-prime mortgage lending, we think
he spoke for his era. Note his motto there,

one of Jeopardy’s recent daily doubles
and lately taken as the slogan

of the Druglords Party’s presidential candidate:
“Who really gives a damn?” (Emphasis ours.)

_______________

WOMEN’S FANCIES

Treading the men-lined city streets we
women would like to turn those men around
and pinch their behinds
or sit next to them on buses or subway trains
with our knees spread out so wide
they’d have to sit all tensed and small
as possible to avoid any contact
or we could give them our seat
and then stand over them to look down their shirts.
And we’d never let them forget
that they have a penis or that we have a thing
for chests. We’d call them dear and doll
so we don’t have to remember individual
names and when we talk to them
we’ll stare at them below the belt
and when they’re walking down the street
we’ll keep up a barrage of whistles and comments
to keep them continuously aware of us.

In business we’ll judge them
by their looks and how they type.
We’ll pay them less than women
working in the same positions.
In bed we reassure them
that we’ve had hysterectomies
and we’ll tell each one of them
You were great, baby, you’re my main squeeze.
And when they demand equal rights, a male ERA
we’ll mention the selective service
public bathrooms, the closing of their clubs
and cite some vague religious reasons
to explain that their masculinity would be in jeopardy
and that it is ludicrous to make such a fuss over status
since we usually buy them whatever they want.
But when we finally run out of arguments
and they still insist on equal rights
we’ll just have to tell them how awful it would be
for us.

_______________

WHEN I WAS YOUNG

our a radio was a substantial piece of furniture
and the telephones had a rotary dial.
The refrigerator freezer was the size of a shoebox
My father wound his watch every evening before
he went to bed. His La Salle car had a running board.

At the movies there was a double feature, one
coming attraction, a news reel and an aged matron
with a flashlight who shined it on you if you misbehaved
and hauled herself up the stairs when the boys
in the balcony threw their chewed gum down on us.

When my grandmother died a telegram was delivered
right to our front door by the brother
of the girl who worked in the 5 & 10 cent store.
Everyone wore black to her funeral even though
they weren’t related. My mother said the word,
divorcee, in a whisper when a cousin arrived. Copies
of the death certificate were made with carbon paper

I remember when our doctor made house calls.
A dollar allowance went a very long way
because with a penny I could buy twenty jelly beans
or a long strip of candy dots on paper.
My mother believed that steak was good for me
Nothing we ever bought was labeled “Made in China”
and poems rhymed

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Sarah Brown Weitzman, a Pushcart nominee, has been widely published in numerous journals including ART TIMES, THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, RATTLE, MID-AMERICAN REVIEW, THE WINDLESS ORCHARD, POET LORE, POTOMAC REVIEW, POET & CRITIC, etc. Sarah received a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her latest book, a departure from poetry is a children’s novel, HERMAN AND THE ICE WITCH, published by Main Street Rag.

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Lynne Knight-

Mastering the Dark

Stop spending so much time in the dark,
my mother said, insinuating sex
with the boy down the street, masturbation,
who knew. It was worse when I decided
to sleep nude. If the nuns could see you!
Poor nuns, wrapped like mummies in their linens.

Nothing was ever said directly, not by the nuns,
not by my mother. The book she gave me
at thirteen to teach about sex had such discreet,
unlabeled drawings that until I was eighteen,
I thought men had three penises. I soon learned
better, but the pity I felt for my first lover . . .

None of this matters now except the dark.
Dark matter makes up most of our universe,
yet we don’t know what it is or how it works
if it works at all. Maybe it’s just there
like the dark we’re all forced to negotiate,
sleeping with the lights on, refusing to go out at night—

the stars, the moon, let the fools have them.
My current method is to walk down the street
at night & up into the hills unlit by anything
but the stars & moon, where I take comfort
in the speed of light, forcing myself to imagine
the world going on, & me nowhere to be seen.

_______________

Anti ]those[poetics

This is what happened when it was
decided to hide everything under
the rubric of never never never never

never mentioning the dead grandmother
the bright fields well maybe
elliptically so maybe Elysian

no: nothing so retro as myth
or God forbid literary allusion

your knowledge working
against you (possibly

(do a bit of fancy work with ]
these[ because oh the cleverness the interest

of your little mind at work
hiding everything
or is it that you really have nothing more

to say or

][

this:
you do weep over your dead grandmother
and [ )&( ] if you had the chance would run
the bright fields forever

_______________

Fable with Body, Child & Doll

Sometimes a child comes along
with an old-leather look in her eye,
a quaver in her child’s Why?

When she takes out the cups
& saucers for tea, she’s mashing
her gums like biscuits.

Body watches the child
reconsidering her doll,
drawing a red-ink heart

where the heart should be,
scissoring it out. The stuffing
looks like old socks cut up.

Later, the child sews the hole shut
with black thread, insisting
the doll is improved.

She names it Charity.
Every time Body comes to visit,
she holds Charity out

then snatches it back. Ha ha!
she cries. It’s more a hiss, but Body
ignores this, for the mother’s sake.

After all, it’s not as if Body’s going to escape
time, either. Some nights Body dreams
her own death, becoming

a death doll, with a sock
plugged in the hole where once
was her heart. Body cries & cries

but nobody comes to stitch Body back up.
The child pours tea in a thimble cup.
She’s done sewing.

_______________

Childhood

That day the hills pulled green up from the root.
The aspens shook; the water, iced with snowmelt,

rushed the rocks you leaped to, crossing over.
Sunlight pierced the canopy of pines, the ferns

unfurled, & birds you didn’t know to name sang out.
How could you have known you would go home

to your mother shaken, her father ashen, the dream
that he would build his house beside you up in smoke,

your father said, braced with whiskey & the truth
he’d known for years: dreams weren’t intended

for anything but momentary escape from all
the sorrows that accumulate. & sorrow came:

the rapid death (a burst aorta), your mother’s ally
gone. You don’t need more of the story to grasp

how a day can begin in green yet end in ash,
but not without instruction for the heart—remember

all those moments in the woods, the birds singing,
the wind tossing shadows from the pines, the brook

so clear you might have read time passing there.

_______________

Teaching Sons & Lovers

I’d been married ten years when this began.
Then, every year, I said the same things
about Walter Moritz: he was not without
his good points, yet a man whose vigor was sapped
by his awareness, acute even when he was drunk,
of not being enough for his wife. So his love,
his body, both so robust, began to wither.
If you created an essentially pitiable character,
I said, you had to start with the positive, engage
the reader’s sympathy. Then I went home
to grade papers & drink until I couldn’t feel
the pain of speaking about my life so clearly.

_______________

Random Strategy

Wild turkeys swarm the neighbor’s bank,
pecking at all the new ivy shoots. Bark!
I tell the dog, who stands statue-mute
staring through the fence. Bark! Even my voice
fails to alarm them. Stupid birds, sauntering
down the road like people, waiting until a car
is almost upon them before straying from its path.
They’ve probably eaten all the impatiens
by the front gate & mangled the azaleas.
Anything bright, they’re on it. The neighbor
left his rhododendrons to die because they take
so much water, & we’re in a serious drought,
but one rhodie managed a sole blossom.
I dare one of the turkeys to fly up to it.
They peck & saunter, saunter & peck.
The dog loses interest. I check the time.
Eight minutes, & I haven’t thought of you.

_______________

Leave Me Alone

That was only the beginning of the end
Every moment is the beginning of the end

It’s hard to think this way, she thought
A noise like a rustling in the branch a crash an emptiness

Don’t go too far from the real, the therapist said

She heard her mother: Come back! Come back!
Oranges in a bowl picked by what worn hands
The shirt on her back stitched by what young girl

The world offered itself & she chose the house
on the street that had once been a lane

Come back! Come back!

The gods sank down into stars & went on burning

The work to be done had a name:
Mother

The work to be done had an open duration:
(Mother) Long-rooted weeds strewn across the lawn

The gods sank down into stars & went on burning
The moon hiked her skirts & slid into the bay
No hiss because she was all cold fire

When they step into boats the dead displace no water

Come back! Come back!

But she could relax
Her mother stood in the doorway on tentative feet

Go away first a whisper then not Go away

_______________

Prelude, with Wolves

Why throw your voice to the wolves?

I said I thought it was wind—
you threw your voice to the wind.

She looked out the window & shuddered.
Wolves at the door? I asked if she’d gone to the snow
where wolves roamed.

A dog is a wolf.

Yes, I agreed, domesticated, but—

I’m going crazy, aren’t I.
Still looking out the window. Did she see wolves
there, in the courtyard at Napa?

I shook my head. Not crazy, no.
What else was there to do?
Denial seemed wrong.
There were wolves of all sizes & shapes,
after all, & the dogs of the war
that gnawed her had no names.

_______________

Sky Drops. Forever Heather.

You can’t rely on echoes for the truth,
he said while we stood in the canyon
where we’d hiked all afternoon, naming
what wildflowers we could, inventing names
for the rest, Sky Drops, Forever Heather,
in between arguments over the nature
of things, namely love, which he claimed
as the primary illusion, Adam mistaking Eve
as his own likeness although no one believed

the story, at least no one with a discriminating
mind, he said, & I nodded, still back on love
as an illusion, because although I loved him,
or would have sworn I did, I’d never said
as much to him or anyone, he being a friend,
my best guy friend, I’d say to everyone,
including him. Sky Drops, Forever Heather,
& what did it matter anyway, he said,
since love would end in death no matter what.

But wasn’t that what we were here for,
I said, to take some of death’s great power
away with love—since love was one sure way
to feel you’d found a way to be immortal
as you swore to love forever. Just like I said,
he said: a total illusion. You mean the only
actual thing, the only reality is death? I asked.
That’s so gloomy. So depressing. At least
it’s not an echo, a hand-me-down feeling

or thought, he said. Don’t pride yourself
too much, I told him; death targets pride.
How’s that great sonnet go? Death be not
You can’t rely on echoes for the truth,
he interrupted. Here. Take this. He plucked
a nameless flower, held it out to me.
It’s Love, he said. Or Death. You choose.
I’ll always go for Love, I said. He smiled.
A loving smile, or so it seemed.

_______________

Not Phoenix, Not Portent

Nothing that happened could have been foretold.
The sages tried, the shaman scattered bones;
soothsayers roamed, reading the water,
reading the sky. But nothing came from the future
but silence, the great silence of the past
thrust forward into eternity. Or so people said.
Their words carried on air yet seemed small,
weak; the grandest orators felt themselves muted.
Soon darkness came, & the screams
of the forest, a rush like the pulse of a river.
People stood trembling. It was the end, they cried,

but the wind wrapped their cries into brittle leaves
& crushed them against empty buildings.
No one heard the fire begin. Afterward some swore
its roar seemed human at first, then animal,
but no one heard it begin. When the birds rose
from the ash, their wings heavy with ash,
so heavy they stood a long time trying to lift them,
lift into air, the lovers turned to each other
& wept at the unbearable weight of mortality,
their bodies working their codes while the birds
rose into the myth that some things go on forever.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Lynne Knight is the author of four poetry chapbooks and four full-length poetry collections, the most recent of which, Again, appeared from Sixteen Rivers Press. Her work has appeared in a number of journals, including Kenyon Review, Poetry and Southern Review. Her awards and honors include publication in Best American Poetry, the Prix de l’Alliance Française 2006, a PSA Lucille Medwick Memorial Award, the 2009 RATTLE Poetry Prize, and an NEA grant. I Know (Je sais), her translation with the author Ito Naga of his Je sais, appeared in 2013.

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Other notable works by JL Kato and Diane L. Lewis.

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Norbert Krapf-

My Band Career

Playing trombone on Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust”
in the dance band as a high school freshman
in the glow of soft purple light with a few guys
and mostly girls dancing in socks was ultra cool,
but marching in the band during halftime of football
games was anything but. Once Mr. Cox, the band
director, caught me dogging it in practice for the state
fair marching competition, on the football field.
“That’s okay, Krapf,” he boomed out. “I know
You don’t want to be here.” How right he was!

When I dressed with the varsity football team
as a sophomore, Coxie insisted that at halftime
I change into my band uniform to march,
then change back into pads and football garb
and return to my seat on the team bench.
This wretched rivalry was tearing me apart.
When a freshman challenged me, I was demoted
by a seat, gave up, and dropped out. Goodbye,
Mr. Cox! Hello endzone, which I found
in a uniform more suited to my passion.

Decades later I took up the violin, played
by my father and grandfather, when
my daughter, six, started Suzuki violin.
After a year of group class for parents,
I kept fiddling on my own. One day my
daughter, who didn’t like the competition,
looked up at me and asked, “Daddy, would
you please quit?” I did. I lost but also won;
daughter got a violin scholarship to college.

After thirty-five years of publishing poetry,
I started performing poems about Hoagy
and Cole and Wes Montgomery with a jazz
trio in a sunlit glass dome, then returned
to an early love, the gut-bucket country blues.
I started collaborating with a bluesman
who taught me how to play slide guitar.
Mr. Cox, who’s almost back in the band?

_______________

Stovall and Burnt Cane Roads
for Muddy Waters

Found the intersection where you,
lived, McKinley Morganfield,
in a cabin that became a house
you turned into a juke joint.

Heard the sound of bottleneck
guitar playing in the breezes
riffling the pecan trees
like the ones must have stood
here when your grandmother
brought you as a little boy.

A man drove along the dirt lane
at the back of the site
on a tractor like the one
you drove in these fields.
We waved to one another,
as if from different times.

Later, a young man driving
a huge sit-mower came to cut
the grass where the cabin stood.
He said his name is Canary Cox
and that he too loves the blues.
You got a canary listening
to you in the home place
who agrees its cool to
cut Muddy Waters’ grass.

I’m hearing your Plantation
Recordings as the cabin door
opened into the train to Chicago,
not just nearby Memphis.
Electricity amplified your
bottleneck sound to world class.

The cypress cabin you left
behind still stands
in the Delta Blues Museum
in Clarksdale for all to enter.

You brought to the world
the sound of another mule
kicking down the dirt lane.
You carried to Chicago the memory
of the Chatman Brothers, later
the Mississippi Sheiks, jamming
in your juke joint on the Stovall
Plantation. One day you would be
sitting on top of the blues world,
but your song never forgot
where it came from, a cabin
left behind in the Delta dark.

_______________

Charley Patton at the Dockery Plantation Well

I stood alone with Charley
where the well was once full
when he lived at Dockery.

Everybody wanted to hear his song
and dance at the commissary on Saturday
when the Delta night was dark and long.

Charley’s body was small
but when he played and sang
his spirit grew big and tall.

His percussive guitar had a reach
and his singing’ and talkin’ voices
spoke as if ripped from the breach.

Charley had the boll weevil, banty rooster, rattlesnake blues.
When the little man thumped and shouted and keened
high water rose and seeped into all our dancing shoes.

The man sure did love his women
and after they danced and shook it
Charley Patton took them swimmin’.

Charley rode a mighty frisky pony
and he screamed and hollered the blues.
Never was nobody could do it like Charley.

Charley Patton crossed over to the other side.
He rambled and rode the Pea Vine Line.
His songs brought us all along for the ride.

Charley Patton passed over to the other shore
but if you listen to the songs the little man left
his heart and soul rise in you more and more.

_______________

Singing American Bird Song to My Grandson

He is tired and cranky and fussy
and I decide to speak to him
in the language of song.

Not just because he is Colombian
and German and American and
some part of him may recognize

an ancestral song, I decide to sing
the songs of American birds to him
here in southern Germany. I should

call up and sing a song I know.
I start with the who who who of
mourning doves and he stops

fussing and turns his eyes
and ears toward me. He keeps
looking at me as as if my music

sounds familiar and he wonders
how I know it and can give it back
to him. So I go with another song

I know well, the bob bob white
of the quail I also remember from
my Midwestern childhood. His eyes

open wider, as if he realizes I have
even greater powers than he knew.
Every note of either song makes

him quieter and calmer and brings
him nearer to me as I enter deeper
into the mystery and miracle he is.

_______________

You Stand There Ironing
(for Katherine, after Tillie Olsen)

As you stand there in the den ironing
elegant onesies you bought cheap
at the retail outlets on New Year’s Day
for your grandson Peyton to mail to him in a red,

white and blue Priority Mail box to Germany
where he is discovering the powers of observing
the world from the watch tower of his high chair,
you smile as if caught in your own pleasure dome

in front of the gas fireplace in our downtown
townhouse in this Midwestern city.
Behind you in a large framed photo stands
a Franconian farmer, Hans Engel, an angel

of the fields where my daylaborer ancestors
worked before emigrating to America.
Above him on a shelf stands another
framed photo of three farm women sweeping

the streets of their village clean for the weekend.
I smell the steamy heat of my mother’s iron
and hear her hum as she finds new places
to put a crease in our clothes and see your mother

stir smothered eggplant in a big iron pot
on the stove above a blue gas flame
in her Louisiana kitchen. Into these several
houses walks Tillie Olsen holding a pen to stand

with all our mothers as you stand with all our
grandchildren who will step into their freshly
pressed clothes and walk into the world just as we
fade away into the memories that live for them.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Norbert Krapf, Emeritus Prof. of English at Long Island Univ., is a former Indiana Poet Laureate and the winner of a 2014 Glick Indiana Author Award. His 26 books include the recent Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet’s Journal of Healing, his 11th poetry collection. He held a Creative Renewal Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis to combine poetry and the blues, released a poetry and jazz CD with pianist-composer Monika Herzig, Imagine, and collaborates with bluesman Gordon Bonham, his guitar teacher, and poet-therapist-harpist Liza Hyatt, with whom he co-presents the workshop Mining the Dark for Healing Gold: Writing About Difficult Relationships. For the past ten years, Norbert has lived in downtown Indianapolis.

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JL Kato-

The Judas Man in His Pajamas
One audience member yelled “Judas” at Bob Dylan as he was transitioning from folk to rock.

For punishment, the gods of rolling rock sentenced
me to scream “Free Bird” at each concert stop.
It’s a nightly dream: The organ quivers, and I start
clucking. Then the guitars scratch the air, chugging
endlessly, wings flapping everywhere. In my dream,
I wake up exhausted while in the next room
the same song bleeds through the wall, masking moans.
There must be some way out of here, but no.
It has become quite the joke how different couples
play the same song over and over while doing
the same thing at the same time every night.
Feathers fly everywhere as I am forced, once again,
to pluck the plumage off that damn bird.
In your dream, I wake up, stoned, doing the funky chicken,
and Beethoven rolling over one more time.

previously appeared in So It Goes: The Literary Journal, issue 2

_______________

Winter, 3 a.m.

Lamp outside my window, eyelids shut against the light.
A pennywhistle dream, pursed lips frozen in the night.

Feel free to seduce me. Press your tongue against
my cheek. Interrupt my sleep talk. Declarations

of fleece and wool. Blanket me with your skin.
Permit the wind to sing. The fireplace is cold,

ashes sifting on the grate. What smolders
must flame. The frost must melt. Feel me. Reduce

the iceberg on my shoulders. Thaw and steam.
What warmth we create. What warmth we bring.

No longer old. Who cares the lifeline’s length,
the scar across my palm? Falling snow. The calm.

_______________

Stoned Love
“It’s closer to the truth to say you can’t get enough/
You know you’re gonna have to face it, you’re addicted to love “—Robert Palmer

“Your name is Medusa,” her parents
explained, “Because at birth,
your eyes glared at the world.”

Though she loves them,
Father and Mother stand
as stately statues in the plaza.

Medusa’s husbands never
survive their honeymoons,
yet Ms. M keeps hoping.

The frequent widow sits
alone in a bar anticipating
the next pickup line.

In the parking lot, a dozen men
display rock-hard muscles.
Lovers locked in endless poses.

She once fancied a man
who promised her the moon
to hang around her neck.

He gave instead a white glass orb,
which she returned, inserted
in the socket of his stone-stubborn head.

The bar is empty; the patrons dead.
Still, Medusa waits outside
the entrance, facing the dawn,

hair writhing in the wind.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

JL Kato is a native of Japan whose assimilation into American culture is so complete, he cannot use chopsticks. His poetry has appeared in Paterson Literary Review, Raintown Review, So It Goes: The Literary Journal, and several other publications. His first poetry collection, Shadows Set in Concrete, explores his midlife discovery of his heritage. He is a former newspaper copyeditor and lives in Beech Grove, Ind.

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Diane L. Lewis-

A Poet’s Gumbo
(for Norbert Krapf, Indiana Poet Laureate 2008-2010; published in Hoosier Writers 2012: A Collection of Poetry and Fiction, Compiled and Edited by Lowell R. Torres, July 2012)

stirring up synonyms and syncopation tonight
a pinch of spoken word
a dash of ragtime
a teaspoon of salsa rhythm
a little more spoken word
until the recipe was just right
and this poet’s gumbo is cookin’
with some African beats
mixed with some chamber music
sautéed a little jazz, served over blackened blues
like my man Norbert
the poet laureate from Indiana
a super poet with mad skills
serving up a dish with
a secret ingredient
must be doin’ something right
’cause it sure smells good in his kitchen

_______________

The Art of Family

You create something that is forever.
Your art is on stage; it is who we are.
Even at your worst
you are at your best.

Our memories are sweet
chocolate covered cherries
dripping from our lips.

What you pour out leaves
no bitter aftertaste.

We are all better for the nectar
flowing freely from your heart.
It is like no other;

griot woman child
we are your story
your history, your legacy
we are your true art–
the art of family.

We bond
held together by the glue
of our accomplishments ;
celebrating and mourning together.
indeed each of us
loves you in our own way.

We are three dimensional.
We are expanded.
We are inclusive.

Our sense of Umoja
is awakened because of you.
We sow seeds of love,
patience,
forgiveness
from the fruit that falls from
your tall thick tree

we are planted
in the fertile soil
of your being

We belong to each other,
we form a chain that reaches
beyond what any one of us could imagine.
There are no weak links.

We learn to rely and depend on
each other by your open spirit,
your open hand.

You make us feel safe in a world
that takes and never gives.
Your Kuumba gives birth to art;
the art of family.

_______________

if it were so

if he could be born again
he would choose next time to be
a Ferris wheel, finally feeling life
surge through his aching heart
central, urgent.
like carnivals or circuses
he would be forever adventurous
free
rename himself Gypsy.
he would be extravagant
with a sturdy red and orange metal frame
that climbed high above
the green-gray dappled trees.
at sunset, his lights
would illuminate
the coming night sky
for miles reflecting
off the motionless water in the bay beyond.
and little girls and little boys
would laugh in his arms
as he tossed them high
and far from their anxious parents
waiting below.
and those who felt themselves
brave would moan and cry as
he swirled the air,
creaking in their ears
fulfilling their wild waking dreams.​

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Diane L. Lewis is the Arts Council of Indianapolis’ 2010 Robert D. Beckmann Emerging Artist Fellow. The Beckmann Fellowship provided the author a unique opportunity to develop as a writer, with the goal of producing a full-length book of poetry. Lewis has published work in several anthologies including Reckless Writing Poetry Anthology 2013, (Chatterhouse Press), Tall Grass Writer’s Guild Anthology 2014, (Outrider Press), Flying Island Literary Journal (2014) and HiddenCharm Press (March 2015).

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Masthead

Editor, Lisa Zaran

ISSN: 1095-732x

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2007

January - Roger Humes
February - Jimmy Santiago Baca
March - Graham Burchell
April - Ruth Daigon
May - Anne Fraser
June - Corey Mesler
July - Scott Malby
August - James Keane
September - Maurice Oliver
October - Robert Pinsky
November - Louis Daniel Brodsky
December - Bill Duvall

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2008

January - Kelley White
February - L. Ward Abel
March - Maura Stanton
April - Dr. Charles Frederickson
May - Peter Magliocco
June - Penny Harter
July - Gary Beck
August - Jéanpaul Ferro
September - Fish and Shushan
October - Kenneth Gurney
November - John Gallaher
December - Carmen Alexandra

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2009

January - Karen Rigby
February - A.D. Winans
March - Donald Illich
April - Stephen Ferreira
May - Tracee Coleman
June - Ernest Williamson
July - Sally Van Doren
August - Nanette Rayman Rivera
September - Gianina Opris
October - Judson Mitcham
November - Joel Solonche
December - Peycho Kanev

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2010

January - Louis Gallo
February - Buxton Wells
March - Labi Siffre
April - Regina Green
May - Howard Good
June - Carol Lynn Grellas
July - William Doreski
August - Sari Krosinsky
September - Ben Nardolilli
October - James Piatt
November - Robert Lietz
December - John Grey

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2011

January - Robert Philbin
February - iolanda scripca
March - Tad Richards
April - Katie Kopin
May - Jacob Newberry
June - George Moore
July - Rae Spencer
August - Jim Richards
September - Antonia Clark
October - Tannen Dell
November - Christina Matthews
December - Charles Clifford Brooks III

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2012

January - Anniversary Issue
February - Jim Davis
March - Ivy Page
April - Maurice Oliver
May - Lori Desrosiers
June - Ray Sharp
July - Nathan Prince
August - Robert Klein Engler
September - Jenn Monroe
October - John Grey
November - Andrea Potos
December - Christina M. Rau

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2013

January - Maria Luisa Arroyo
February - Journal on haitus

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2014

April - Rebirth
May - Timothy Walsh
June - Brian Fanelli
July - Carol Smallwood
August - Elizabeth P. Glixman
September - Sally Van Doren
October - Sherry O'Keefe
November - Robert McDonald
December - Gerry McFarland

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2015

January - James Keane
February - Liza Hyatt
March - Joseph Reich
April - Charles Thielman
May - Norbert Krapf
June - Lynne Knight
July - Sarah Brown Weitzman
August - Tom Montag
September - Susan Palmer
October - Holly Day
November - A.J. Huffman
December - Tom Pescatore

Confirmed Featured Poets – 2016

January - Richard Perin
February - Linne Ebbrecht
March - Sheri Vandermolen
April - Molly Cappiello
May - Caleb Coy
June - Paul Lubenkov

Artwork

Image of bird by contemporary artist, Courtney Smith
All rights reserved. No part of this journal may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical without permission in writing from the copyright owner/author. Any unauthorized use is strictly prohibited.
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