Monday, September 28, 2015

Two Poems by Michael H. Brownstein


She stands motionless in the bright light of dark
Counter productive:
Time it is to go to bed.
We measure the distance between us in acres;
the emotional breadth between us in acres times four.
She has a litany of angers:
A band for each instance of intolerance.
The Asperger child grows outside of me,
the sociopath, the irritant, the sociologist.
Give me a gun, I say.  Give me a gun, I say.  Give me a gun, I say.
There is never a gun,
never a pathway,
never a marketplace with fresh fruit pleasantly harvested.


you make the decision to die
but you do not
the breath of fresh air dawn wakening you,
a few laps around the track nearby,
salt water and the texture of shade and light
you wish the world solid gray,
not black and white
the rocks around you conglomerates
not a char of coal and granite
and day changes to evening,
evening to moonlight
dying is not a competitive sport

Michael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses.  His work has appeared in The Cafe Review, American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology  of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, and others.  In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including The Shooting Gallery (Samidat Press, 1987), Poems from the Body Bag (Ommation Press, 1988), A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), What Stone Is (Fractal Edge Press, 2005), I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011), Firestorm:  A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012) and The Katy Trail, Mid-Missouri, 100F Outside and Other Poems (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2012).  He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).  Brownstein taught elementary school in Chicago's inner city (he is now retired), but he continues to study authentic African instruments, conducts grant-writing workshops for educators, designs websites and records performance and music pieces with grants from the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs, the Oppenheimer Foundation, BP Leadership Grants, and others.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Three Poems by John Grochalski

last saturday night on northway drive

a christmas bulb
stack of cds given a week ago
on her twenty-first birthday
the night she thought we'd now be going
to all of those bars and clubs together
my poetry manuscripts and my sweater
the jean shorts that i thought were lost
a couple of books that i had lying around her bedroom
a big black garbage bag
for me to put it all in
while she sits there and cries
or runs upstairs to blast madonna's "take a bow" again and again
oh, what her neighbors must be thinking
this saturday night
along their peaceful little cul de sac american dream
the last sturday night i'll have to do on northway drive
i keep checking my watch
wonder when this'll be done
one year and nine months of this war
she says, do you have somewhere else to be?
and i think of the club last night
watching the blonde dance in red lights
drinking sea breeze after sea breeze
i can taste the grapefruit on my lips if i really try
but this lost saturday night
this goddamned madonna song that she keeps playing
what is she trying to prove?
what is she trying to save except her own loneliness
i hold up the christmas bul
hold up the stack of cds
say, these were gifts
she says, i thought maybe you would've called this week
for what reason, i think
i tell her that i'm not her jesus christ
and we sit there for almost an hour in silence or shout
putting each other through a last torture
before she gets up and flings open her door
the cold night infectious
like a sad-sack santa i walk from her driveway to my car
muffled madonna echoing the landscape
sit inside my ride and watch her houselights dim
smoking a cigarette, 2pac on low
i know more than ever
how good this small freedom feels.

goodbye to all of that

is eight or nine
swerves the car
says nine for sure beers
up on the night
when he comes and gets me at work
calvin and steve
like frozen children in the back of his car
oakland smears before us
seas of red seas of college kids
eight or nine beers up as well
colby races for the parkway traffic
swerving lanes
panicking people just trying to have their night
i ask the backseat if they knew he was like this
two shaking heads
clatter of full forty ounce bottles on the backseat floor
i think if only i were a praying man
inside this pete's wildlife club
colby bolts from us
leaves a trail of pinched women's asses in his wake
it looks like they're doing a new dance
arched back then slap down
bolby moses colby moses parting the flesh sea
we go after him
he lifts bartender tip money off the bar
takes waitress tip money from the tables
takes a drink when the drinker's head is turned
gravs a brunette in a corner
shadow dancing wallflower
she shouts at me, is this thing your friend?
as she i wrestle to get her arm free
liberated she slaps colby so hard
so hard in a loud club heads still turn
but he just giggles grams again lets her go gone
heading for the door
we scream to the bouncers
she screams for the bouncers
but they're lost in packs of women gyrating
muscle headed guardians of the debauched pittsburgh night
who think i did the damage
two slam me into a wall head dazed perp-style
the brunette shouts
not him!
not him you idiots!
i break free
stumble into the parking lot
colby trying to open someone else's car with his keys
what are you doing man?
i mean why this holy mess?
he vomits all over their door
slouched to the ground
we huddle around him frost breath in this lost night
he looks up grins
eight or nine for sure beers expelled
rising like a prize fighter ready for one last round
remember remember
colby leaves us all
for maryland
for good.

the college failure

i think marilyn is making eyes at me
i think all women adore me
two months of this torture
i gear myself pump myself tell myself
kid, this is the day
lunch or anything to push me past dumb stares
marilyn and her post-class routine
the pitt news and lunch at roy rogers
bottom floor of the cathedral of learning
i'd make my last bold custer move
flying down cathedral stairs
i get smacked in the head with a paper roll
kris in bearded flannel saint mode
we tumble steps talking our british tongue beatle talk
marilyn back in her gray navy clutching books
she always dresses so goddamned nice
whisper to kris secret words about her
my grand plan my last front in this war
and then i'm a done gone thomas merton monk saint
no more women no more heartache
we stand in roy rogers
examine the menu like a fine work of art
our own brown-bagged lunches waiting
poor kris who's been through them all with me
now marilyn with her tray of junk food
christ, look at all of the ketchup, he says
but i'm sweating mad sick of the smell
of this food this notebook this pen in my hand
useless poem notebook full of blank pages
i make my bow-legged jingle-jangle way across
the weight of gravity this moment of truth
. . . . . . . . . and like that magic is gone
the wind knocked
marilyn sits her dainty sit with some beast of a co-ed girl
a lion's mane of hair loudest person in the place
yang to her yin to her yang
i turn to kris
oh, I'm not making a fool of myself in front of that
so we
back in the hallway
kris checking the glass doors of roy's every minute
to see if the beast leaves our heroine alone for just a second
while i whine and pace and curse the gods
that things never go right
this women business never works the way it should
and soon marilyn and the beast
come rolling past us in girl laughs and giggles
down the hall and fade to black
the chance gone
what would you have said anyway, kid?
dumbsainted kris and i stumble toward gray light
our stomachs growling for food
the dim promise of something else.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Three Poems by Joanna M. Weston

Going Home

story is
an evening
by the campfire

smoke lying
on the fields
of an old farm

stream of traffic
under the bridge

a story is you
and I
going home

My Friend Marietta

I caught a glimpse of her
a week ago last Tuesday
glissading down-slope
on flattened cardboard box
scarlet scarf streaming
voice swirling opera
through lime-green snowflakes

we met on the midnight bus
I sucked an orange popsicle
she radio clamped to one ear
Beatles belting a yellow submarine
down the road beside her

I wanted to discuss form poetry
but she ducked into a truck stop
seemed she preferred coffee
on the run without ode or rhyme

looked up from diner menu
saw her strumming guitar
down Topaz Street clicking
castanets to drown questions
trailing her lamp-lit shadow


turn out of the driveway
past a bank of daisies
watch ants climb tree-trunk
a robin pull worms drive down
to the corner turn right
instead of left because a yellow
towel hangs on a gate-post
and I have to find out why

it's there the lame man
explains to alert
a friend that his bed-ridden
wife needs a haircut I reverse
go on my way brake
for three children chasing
a tennis ball middle
of the block    pause
at the top of hill
to admire double rainbow

watch cat stalk    pounce
a gull circles school-yard
rises as two crows dive to peck
litter in ditch I pull
into the parking lot take
a newspaper from kiosk
surprised by headline
"taxes to be reduced"
arrive late at dentist

Joanna M. Weston is married, has two cats, multiple spiders, a herd of deer, and two derelict hen houses.  Her middle-reader, Those Blue Shoes, was published by Clarity House Press, and her poetry, A Summer Father, was published by Frontenac House of Calgary.  Her eBooks can be found at her blog:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Three Poems by James Diaz

Apple of My Cry

America, I hope you know what your doing
twisting our souls out of shape
to venture toward dry land
further in forest
why not blow out the light
on this altruistic cobble stone
nothing for nothing
safe keeping
me awake at night

every one I love is a nightmare
waiting to happen
see this is the difficulty in getting to know people
they will lay down in traffic
to get a rise out of you
after you've given your last coat and shoe
the ground opens up and takes you there
haven't you seen it all before?
The one with the biggest smile has the most to prove every time.

Last Night I Dreamt that We had Never Met

Some of you are paradise birds
but no one has a nickel to their name
as I knew a man with too many secrets
I vowed to leave everything of my own
out in the open

I walked seven days
and met no familiar faces
thought of Caroline
and wept a little
scuffed my boots
sweeping along
the other side of the world

so you know
I never thought unkind of anyone
man woman or child
but when you went into those low hills
with your mother's name stitched on the inside of your dress
my letters all scatter burnt
and built a house where river met river
where I could not follow
I was a bitter man with no place to go
and some unkind words
they did escape me.

Happy Endings

breath stitched against breath

though the shortest distance
is always the one we put ourselves in

that in memory some days you will laugh
to yourself
or the company you keep
how in love with life's other blessings we were then
before the bomb of misalignment hit

how we shuttered with relief

to be unfinished things
standing by the side of the highway
with informal hard luck smiles
and kiss me I won't fall asleep ever
lest I forget the land too well
under bad light the water pouring in
keep what you can't catch

how so many days keep coming
one right after the other
the longest night and you wouldn't believe how we made it through
when we had no light or names between us
say it was mercy
but I don't buy the happy ending
I can't afford it

James Diaz lives in New York.  You can read more of him in The Idiom, Abramelin, Miriam's Well, Pismire, and Record Magazine.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Three Poems by A.J. Huffman

Because Dreams

are as distant as stars, I comb the sky
nightly, looking for mental residue,
a collision’s path
                            I can follow through
the darkness.  I am blinking, blindly,
waiting to be
                       or be claimed as
a beacon, or at least something bright enough
to be charted as pointing, maybe even leading,

to some applaudable space.

I Am Breath

of moonbeam, child of starlight and empty
space.  I am momentum, suspended. 
Free-floating without gravity, I am uncharted
territory, waiting to be discovered.  One alien
touch, and I am scarred, imprinted by uninvited
trespassers, claiming I am their own.  Non-conducive
to cohabitation, I refuse co-dependence, eject
sycophantic leeches, launch them into the stratosphere.
Their trajectory echoes a mantra inside my mind:
One small step for man, one wrong move toward my kind.

Midnight’s Frosting

Twelve bells toll without hope
of eyes closing.  My mind
turns cold shoulders toward sanity,
begins to wonder . . .

If I dreamed of nothing
but snow, would I freeze
to death in my sleep?

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), A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing), and Butchery of the Innocent (Scars Publications) are now available from their respective publishers.  She has two additional poetry collections forthcoming:  Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink) and A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press).  She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2300 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.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

a poem by J.J. Campbell

a need to know the truth

standing tall in the valley of guilt

your hands still around my neck
fearing that i'm going to be better than you

i still remember looking in your eyes and
telling you i would kill you if you ever
hit mom again

i could see your fear and i believe you could
see that i wasn't bluffing

after you slammed the door
mom said i should never talk to my father that way

i told her i guess i should just let him beat the shit out of you

in hindsight, i should have said

when the fuck has that man every acted like my father

and then to try to stomach all these strangers at your
funeral talk about how kind and generous you were

the love you had for god and family

i was laughing on the inside

just telling myself the old man finally found a bunch
of fucking fools that didn't have a need to know
the truth

carrying your casket out of the hearse was a treat

and as tempted as i was to spit on the fucking
casket or burn the damn flag the air force gave
your stepdaughter

i didn't

i'm pretty sure i will get to see you soon
enough and then you will get my fucking
two cents

J.J. Campbell has given up the farm life and is trapped in suburbia.  He's been widely published over the years, most notably at Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Dead Snakes, The Camel Saloon and Horror Sleaze Trash.  His most recent collection, Sofisticated White Trash (Interior Noise Press), is available wherever you happen to buy books these days.  You can find J.J. most days bitching about things only he cares about on his highly entertaining blog, evil delights. (