Sunday, May 29, 2016

Three Poems by A.J. Huffman

I Dream in Submission

to whatever monster my mind has
created.  Always a victim, I
cower in corners, shadows, in attempt
to escape manifestations
of yesterday.  Today and tomorrow
have not hatched yet, but will
join the hunt soon enough.
Their fangs, dripping with potential
failures, are honed to keep me

screaming for dawn.

Sleepless Eyes

hang like shutters of blindness.  Upstairs
becomes a directional house of unhappiness.  Fear
punches like wind against the fabric of being. 
Sunlight is the enemy, as is its sister,
the moon.  I howl at emptiness,
ticking like that bastard clock.  I envy
its hiding.  In shadows,
I crawl on unfeeling knees,
pray for numbness or death
to claim me.  I am willing
victim or bride.


            after Ascent of the Spirit by Vladamir Kush

Icarus’ wings were paper, not wax.
Made of wishing words and whispered taboos,
he drug them to the end
of a world he did not belong to. 
Wrapping them in noose-like knots to his hands,
he swung outward and upward, praying
for a dream to carry him.  His eyes
closed for a moment of utopian bliss
before he felt the fire of failing. 
Luckily, the doctors told his father,
his heart gave out long before he hit the ground.

A.J. Huffman has published twelve 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), Butchery of the Innocent (Scars Publications), Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink) and A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press) are now available from their respective publishers and  She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2400 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, May 25, 2016

Three Poems by Jeff Grimshaw


It was the golden age of swamp gas
There was "Green Onions" on the tape machine
There were dirty white socks
Tied in bows up and down the tent pole
For no reason at all
Bix paid me five dollars to buzz an Iron Cross in his hair,
Another five to call him Bix,
At the other end of the tent a little kid
Drew Martians on the empty McDonalds bag,
A big kid read Rosemary's Baby, and a
Crazy kid said What if the hippies dumped
LSD in the reservoir?
Would we even know we'd gone crazy?
We would know you were a moron said Bix
Let's talk about cattle mutilations
Hey you didn't buzz
The back of my neck

I'm not your barber I said
But if I had some silver paint
I could paint your iron cross silver.

When the revolution comes
Said the kid reading Rosemary's Baby
You two bastards will be
The first ones we put up against the wall

Because it was 1968
And people said that,
Evan at Boy Scout Camp

Sunday Morning Suggestions

First thing you gotta do is ear plugs
They won't block out everything you wanna block out
But they'll let you hear your own blood
Swishing around your head & it's good to hear sometimes
They make the air coming in & out your nose
Sound important too & remind you don't breathe thru your mouth

Eat something you left out on the kitchen counter last night
Or on the arm of the couch on a paper plate
Sunday morning you don't wanna be frying things up
Unless you got a girl there
Smiling, walking around in your tshirt
which not to rub it in or nothing you probably don't
Pot of coffee is okay if you need coffee to keep your head smooth

Now do the dishes, all of them, when you finish
Scrub the sink down too & open a window if it's sunny
Rinse off the sides of the sink, the last suds
Going down the drain make you feel like a sunflower tilting up to the sun
If not call a doctor you are sick

Check some crazy person's twitter feed while you drink a cup of coffee
Not too crazy, like Yoko Ono crazy
Put in as much milk as you want, don't be intimidated by people
Who call you a sad little girl if you don't drink
Your coffee black, the hell with them,
It is okay to take out the earplugs now

Think about a song you want to hear walking down the street
Then hear it when you go walking down the street
Remember you probably want to hear some songs when it rains
That you don't want to hear when it doesn't rain & vice versa

Check for milk crates in the alley next to the dry cleaner
People throw out milk crates on Saturday night
I don't know why, you can never have enough of them

Tick off the smells you pass through on the way home
Fried eggs coffee gasoline
Melted plastic
What was that all about??
Coffee (again) sawdust incense
Yeah the yoga girl's open window smells like incense
On Sunday morning wow

Mourn the state of Sunday comics pages
Do not be snotty about the music boiling out
Of the Christian church with the hand printed sign
Anticipate your second cup of coffee with pleasure
Call your sister
Draw a picture of a porcupine or
Something like that wearing pants &
Waving hello

Never mind why, just do it
It will make you feel better
I know what I'm talking about

Highway 71

12 days on the road with someone else's eyes
& nothing ever seen on earth in the side view mirror
Ever since I found the word "gelatinous" scrawled
On a scrap of paper in the glove box.

The meaning is obscure but not the chocolate kiss
In the dimple of the bucket seat beside me.  See, the moon
In the mirror is not the moon I like to see in the mirror.
I have ignored too many butterflies, I have

Removed too much copper from the basement next door.
Surely I have stepped over the line, or snorfled it up.
It is one lunar landscape after another outside my window and
The mirror shows me a cryptic palimpsest.  Jesus

Christ, who talks like that?  I guess me.  Let's talk about
They eyeballs in my shirt pocket & their incredible journey
Which is far from over.  Let's talk about the statute of
Limitations.  Or is it too late for talk?  There are

Two moons over the mountain and nothing on the radio
That I couldn't dance to, if I felt like dancing.

Jeff Grimshaw has had poems and stories published (among other places) in New York Quarterly, Asimov's SF, and Chiron Review.  He's the co-writer of the screenplay for Michel Gondry's movie The We & The I (2013).  Chapbooks include Lazy Boy v. Crazy Girl (2007) and the upcoming Wallace Beery Wrestling Dream.  He generally makes his living as a baker, and lives in Milford, NJ.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Three poems by Tom Montag

The Immense

wind and sky,
stars through

the trees.
The night's

What I seek,
what I haven't
found yet,

it's there
and I'm still

This is
not the end
of anything.

If Not This Light

If not this light,
December wind

winding its way
to morning,

the birds resting
on the promise of

warmth, the grass
still green beneath

blue-green sky.
We have never

been here before,
exactly.  The heart

is ripe with
the fullness of

things.  This is what
love looks like.

The Curtain

I have seen the red
curtain shimmering,
almost dream-like.

What's the other
side of it, I don't know--
dream, or death, or

fierce remembering.
I hear my father
calling.  "Boys," he says,

"time for chores."  It is
not time for chores.  My
father is dead.  The farm

belongs to someone
else.  He calls out
from the other side.

Wind shakes the curtain
between us.  Day dawns,
glowing.  The things

I love are moving
in this soft shine of
morning.  Of hope

greater than death.
"Father,"  I say,
"the chores are done."

Tom Montag is most recently the author of In This Place:  Selected Poems 1982-2013.  He is a contributing writer at Verse-Virtual.  In 2015, he was the featured poet at Atticus Review (April) and Contemporary American Voices (August) and at year's end received Pushcart Prize nominations from Provo Canyon Review and Blue Heron Review.  Other poems will be found at Hamilton Stone Review, The Homestead Review, Little Patuxent Review, Mud Season Review, Poetry Quarterly, Third Wednesday, and elsewhere.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Poem by Carole Mertz

In Defense of the Catkin

For a new dictionary
they took away such words
as cowslip, newt, and bluebell
to make space for cut-and-paste,

chatroom, and bullet-point.
PC elements favored
over Nature's own--
how dare they?

A poet might offer these words
for wet places
near rivers:  allan, eyot, haft,
feorainn, halh and holm.

To write of nature we need
Nature's own vocabulary.
In my dictionary feorainn
is lacking, but fern seed is there,
holm is there, and hollyhock too.

But "river" words are all too few
with space reserved for halogen,
anodize, and such.  Without
broadband, I-cloud and block-graph
we'd manage,

but how would we describe
real clouds, the garden, and rivers flowing?
Against this corruption if we listen, we'll hear
Nature talking back.

(Long live Macfarlane, Lopez, Thoreau,
Muir, Stafford and Stevens!)

Poems by Carole Mertz appeared in Every Day Poems, Indiana Voice Journal, Lutheran Digest, Page & Spine, Rockford Review, WPWT, WestWard Quarterly, and in various anthologies.  Her poems placed  first in several of Wilda Morris' Poetry Challenges.  Her poetry reviews are printed in Arc Poetry Magazine, Ascent Aspirations, Copperfield Review, CutBank, Mom Egg Review, and World Literature Today.  Carole enjoys teaching piano to young children.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Poem by Carol Amato

Man Walking, in Spring, 
Singing, With Umbrella

A sweet vibrato.
Stone-gray sky.
A shrouded sun deciding
perhaps to dim its
conflagrations to watch
other giant stars collapsing
dramatically onto themselves
into black holes

those wormy tunnels
like Alice's tailspin
fury-swirling to multiverses
and the point of singularity
in which all physical worlds
    cease to exist.

the unpredictable;
the dark energy.
Man, walking, singing, with umbrella.

Carol Amato's poetry has appeared in several magazines and journals, most currently:  Avocet, A Journal of Nature Poetry, Blue Line Journal, the Chaffin Journal, The Aurorean, Jellyfish Whispers, Poem, Storm Cycle 2014 (Kind of a Hurricane Press); Prey Tell:  A Collection of Raptor Poetry, Pudding Magazine, Owl Moon, A Raptor Anthology, and others.  One of her goals is to express the interconnectedness between humans and nature and to explore the mysteries we share.  While her first love is poetry, she is also the author of several nature-based children's books and is a natural science educator in the greater Boston area.  Her 'Let's Find Out' program carries her across the state in pursuit of the wonder of children!

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Poem by John Sierpinski

These Boots

I found the boots in the back of my closet,
again.  Rich black leather, up to nearly

my knees.  Sturdy zippers had been installed
in the sides, long ago.  New heels, twice,

and soles, once since.  I recall the Saturday
afternoon they were given to me.  I can't

remember the guy's name.  He had wild
brown hair that matched his eyes, a bushy

mustache, tight black T-shirt.  We had just
finished moving another guy I worked

with at Papermate in Santa Monica.  "Here,
take these," he had said, pulling the boots

off.  "They're almost brand new."  He slipped
on a pair of sneakers.  "Nah, I can't do that,"

I said.  "No, go on.  Try them on.  I just had
the zippers put in."  He rode a Harley, they

were biker boots, shiny leather.  I sat down.
After sliding off my tennis shoes, I pulled

on the boots.  "Whoa man, they fit like . . .
Like a . . . "  We were passing around a pipe

and a bottle of beer.  "Like a tight you know
what," he interjected.  "Yeah, well, something

like that."  I was thinking of a better word
for glove.  "How much?"  "Nothing, man."

The sun had that California, Saturday-afternoon
bend.  Somebody else opened more cold beers.

Pete, the guy we helped, rearranged his things
in the small Venice apartment.  There was

the salty smell of the ocean and sand mixed
with the sweet odor of pot, the harshness

of car exhaust.  The stereo suddenly cranked.
the Moody Blues, "Threshold of a Dream."  I

had to get back to the cottages, my toddler,
the wife, but I also had to linger.  Today,

I hold the two boots up with one hand.  I know
they still fit.  I've worn them on rare occasions.

My toddler daughter is married with children
of her own.  My wife is remarried, to a minister.

I drop the heavy boots in the back of the closet.
I'll wear them one more time.  In a manner

of speaking, I'm wearing them, right now.

John Sierpinski has published poetry in over fifty literary magazines and two anthologies.  He studied poetry at the Vest Conservatory for Writers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2013.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Poem by Joe Krausman

The Light Bulb Died

He tried to dial the bulb man,
the phone died.
He went to his car,
the battery died.
His wife fried eggs,
she died.
He ate his hamburger,
the burger was dead.
The refrigerator croaked,
the buttermilk died.
He opened his wallet,
the wallet was empty.
Goldfish expired
in the water.
The water died.
The firing squads
killed thousands.
The squads died,
the bullets died.
A star went out,
a man died.
The funeral was arranged
by the will be dead.
The cemetery died.
The dead died,
from the dust
a bud bloomed.

Joe Krausman was the MCA Fellow in Playwriting at Smith College.  He has an MFA in Fiction writing from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where he held the Massachusetts Fiction Writing Fellowship.  He has taught ag Grinnell College in Iowa and the University of Massachusetts.  In 2015 his poem Shipwreck, won second prizein the Raynes Prize contest.  It was selected from hundreds of poems.  He was a finalist in the contest in 2013 and 2014.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Poem by Rees Nielsen

The Hammer Down

The earth spins 1000 miles per hour at the equator
the planet orbits the sun at 66,000 miles per hour
and we tag our star through space at 43,000 miles per
the milky way itself flung headlong into destiny at 1.3 million miles per hour
so I hit the gas and merge into heavy traffic doing 80
my heart pumping
blue veins desperately routed toward a lung full of oxygen
as my brain fights to stay five moves ahead
speeding up, slowing down,
changing lanes at random,
surrounded by other crackpots flying down Interstate 35
looking for gax,
or a doughnut
or a proctologist
or lunch
come robbery, deceit, birthday party, ballroom dancing, piano recital or nooner
while somewhere on this very road
the most beautiful girl in all creation sits behind the wheel
of a 95 Mexican built Volkswagen bug, moving just as fast and just as lonely as me
and in the distance a baby cries as disease, inequity and mayhem close in
and every day men murder other men with increasing efficient technology and enthusiasm
even now in the scramble of all this hub bub
this final sprint towards nowhere, closes on the future
that black sky where every star flung so far apart
that the very last one goes out like the spit of a sputtering pilot light
still as death we stand before you,
the dark matter of the universe, stepped into light
dreaming Vishnu's dream
come take my hand
I bring that promise, that will see you safely home

For 35 years Rees Nielsen farmed stone fruit in California's San Joaquin Valley.  In 2011, after losing his wife Riina, he moved to Indianola, Iowa to experience his grandchildren, Marshall and Adelaide Taylor, on a daily basis.  He has exhibited his poetry, prose, and visual art in many publications, here and in the UK.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Poem by Kelli Allen

There Are Ships Closer If You Let Them

You are kneeling on a quilt
printed with tiny jellyfish
Their tentacles wrapping into pattern
after pattern.  Your knees make a soft
well for softer bodies and suddenly
there are cotton currents beneath
bone and stretched skin.

If you will open your eyes
maybe you can rise, too, and leave
believing in the black bag getting heavy,
fat, with what you have made to be better,
to be motionless and good.  I want

to tell you, your face pink, fevered just
so, that one morning, soon, I will take
you to the lighthouse you have painted.
I will take you to the rocks leading
upward where light rotates between fog
and whatever is left to love, to promise.

Kelli Allen's work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally.  She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has won awards for her poetry, prose, and scholarly work.  She served as Managing Editor of Natural Bridge, is the current Poetry Editor of The Lindenwood Review and an editor for River Styx, and she holds an MFA from the University of Missouri St. Louis.  She is the director of the River Styx Hungry Young Poets Series and founded the Graduate Writers Reading Series for UMSL.  She is currently a Professor of Humanities and Creative Writing at Lindenwood University and teaches for The Pierre Laclede Honors College at UMSL.  Her full-length poetry collection, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, arrived from John Gosslee Books in 2012 and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Poem by Kushal Poddar

Dusting the Ancient Heart

Be careful, dusting
the antique heart of the house
needs time and patience.
Needs all day.  Needs
both your hands and eyes.
Needs head and your green heart.
Children are not
even allowed to hold it.
Our colonial windows julienne
the best of the Spring.
Light drifts on the floor.
Warmth mellows the cold interior.
And down the long balcony
a feminine music tiptoes this way.
She will show you
how to feather the throb.
How to throb without a noise.
How to die and live lovingly.

Kushal Poddar, widely published in several countries, prestigious anthologies included Men in the Company of Women, Penn International MK etc., Van Gogh's Ear, been featured among the poets for the month of December by Tupelo Press, Vine Leaves Literary Journal's Best of 2014 and in various radio programs in Canada and USA, presently lives in Kolkata and writes poetry, fiction and scripts for short films when not engaged in his day job as a lawyer in the High Court at Calcutta and as an English Language Trainer in various universities.  He is the editor of the online magazine "Words Surfacing."  He authored "The Circus Came to My Island" (Spare Change Press, Ohio), "A Place for Your Ghost Animals" (Ripple Effect Publishing, Colorado Springs), and "Understanding the Neighborhood" (BRP, Australia).

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Poem by Kenneth P. Gurney

Day Hike

I have rooms in my mind that any of you
may walk into if only you dare.

If you need a map, you are mostly likely
not my friend, but may be a past lover.

If you think, this must be methodically complicated
then simply say good-bye and forego the attempt.

Before you enter, I want you to stand up first and shake my hand
and state you are not afraid of the dark, of shadows, of illumination.

I will tell you, inexactly, my smile is not reassuring,
objects in bent mirrors appear distorted.

Remember to leave a trail of bread crumbs.
Remember I am allergic to wheat.

Kenneth P. Gurney lives in Albuquerque, NM with his beloved Dianne.  He has seven poetry books out in the world, the latest of which is Stump Speech.  He is the former editor of Adobe Walls anthology of New Mexico poets.  For a listing of his publishing credits visit his website at

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Poem by Bryan Damien Nichols

Music Weaves the World Together

To suffer the calculus of things
And to find, after the movements,
That you envisaged poorly--
          It's the remainder too often found.

To find what you haven't sought, to seek
What you'll never find, to see that what
Was sought would never be found and
That what was found would never be sought
Because it was the only thing to be found--
          It's all as common as clay.

But then, with friends, there's a Thursday night.
It feels like confetti falling.  You see
A girl and a boy, young and feral, on one
Blue-drenched stage wrap guitar and bass
Into a harmony like colored cords into
A necklace.  Their voices are like wheels turning,
You say to your friends.  And they agree.
Here, for you and for others, the euphony
Of song is stronger in its turning than despair's

To find something other than dread, other than fear--
          It's as common as clay.

Because someone else's music
Often weaves the world together.

Bryan Damien Nichols was born in Houma, Louisiana, on August 30, 1978.  He earned a B.A., summa cum laude, in Philosophy from Baylor University, and a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law.  He has practiced law both in Houston and in Texas' Rio Grande Valley.  Bryan currently lives in Los Fresnos, Texas, with his loving wife, Michelle.  Bryan is best known for the poetry he writes through his two heteronyms:  (1) Kjell Nykvist; and (2) Alexander Shacklebury.  These two hereronyms were featured in Bryan's debut poetry collection, Whispers From Within (Sarah Book Publishing).  In this new collection, by contrast, Bryan writes in his own name, and explores numerous themes and issues that are important to him personally.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Poem Bryan L. Sutton

Where Are You?

When I was a boy I was told that there is someone for everyone
Where are you?

When I was a teenager I heard all the love songs about finding true love
Where are you?

As a young man I looked long and hard for you
Where are you?

As I matured they said be patient and you'll find her
Where are you?

Now I'm older, but not yet old, and I'm still wondering
Where are you?

I'm afraid I'll be lying on my death bed asking
Where were you?

Bryan L. Sutton is a veteran of the US Air Force.  For over 30 years he struggled with the long term effects of a traumatic brain injury, suffered while he was in the military, that made a connection to the creative side of his brain that he previously didn't have and didn't understand. After caring for his parents until their passing he found himself alone.  At the urging of another disabled veteran, Bryan accepted his creative side and quickly found his voice writing of love and longing for love.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Poem by David Olsen

Watts, 1965

Bernoulli's lift suspends me above
the south side of The Angels.
Among pinpricks in the black-and-white
August night,

here and there clumps of light
sprout like bunchgrasses
after first rain, spread as if
by rhizomes.

In the black-on-black view below,
wisps of smoke obscure in turn
winking streetlamps as flames erupt
ever closer.

Will intemperate winds
of The Fire Next Time assail
the forbidden gates of my
white home?

David Olsen's Unfolding Origami (80pp. 2015) won the Cinnamon Press Poetry Collection Award.  Poetry chapbooks from US publishers include Sailing to Atlantis (2013), New World Elegies (2011), and Greatest Hits (2001).  His work appears in leading journals and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic.  A poet and professionally produced playwright with a BA in chemistry from University of California-Berkeley and an MA in creative writing from San Francisco State University.  David was formerly an energy economist, management consultant, and performing arts critic.  He has lived in Oxford England since 2002.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Poem by Fain Rutherford


No one knew her age, and no one asked.
Her age wasn't something joked about.
Never more than ninety pounds,
she had blue hair and blue eyes
that looked out from the back of deep caves.
She wasn't fond of frivolity.
Fun was a distraction for nervous souls
afraid of God's eventual vengeance.
She stood silent and stared straight
ahead during the hymns in church.
She said things like "over yonder,"
meaning anywhere not within reach.
"Fixin' to" meant getting ready.
Instead of saying "no one would do that,"
she said "wouldn't anybody do that."
She knew "wouldn't nobody" was a double
negative, and evidence of trashiness.

As a girl, she'd pick cotton in north Texas,
dressed in a feed sack, back when
breakfast was a salted cornmeal cake,
lunch was leftover breakfast, and supper
was hominy grits with a raw sliced onion.
The black edges of the cotton bolls
made her fingers bleed till the skin
healed up harder than before.  When
a leering, wall-eyed foreman laughed
that, in no time at all, field work
would make her hands look like feet,
she ran off to beauty school in Fort Worth.
Years later, each day before work
at the Bonham Beauty Shop, she ate a Snickers bar
and drank a six-ounce green-bottled Coke.
She made a sandwich for lunch with Rainbo
Bread, a lather of Miracle Whip, and lots
of slick, white rainbowed fat on the ham slabs.
Dinner was a the Hickory Stick cafeteria,
where she gazed at the rows and rows
of single salads, and Jell-Os, and pie slices
before picking the perfect piece of fried
chicken to put on her tray.
At night, in her paid-off, red brick ranch,
she watched Lawrence Welk in black and white.

When, as a kid, I was sent to live with her,
she put heavy-duty, long plastic runners on the high-
traffic carpeted areas like I'd seen in furniture
stores and museums.  She covered the couch
and upholstered chairs with clear fitted plastic.
Through the shininess, I could see
the possibility of plush fabric soft to the skin.
I could imagine comfort, but could feel only
a sticky slickness that made me want to sit on the floor.
I was not allowed in her pink-walled
bedroom, with its Degas prints
of backstage ballerinas lacing their slippers.
On her Sears and Roebuck French Provincial dresser,
a plastic troupe of two-inch dancers all en pointe,
their arms extended like wings.

Over the years, Fain Rutherford has worked as a soldier, lawyer, university lecturer, rock-climbing guide, survival instructor and at-home-dad.  He currently resides in the shrub steppe desert of central Washington State.  His recent poems appear or are scheduled to appear in Right Hand Pointing, Pyrokinection, Poetry Quarterly, Midnight Circus, Halfway Down the Stairs, Furious Gazelle, Front Porch Review, Eunoia Review, Connotation Press, and Apeiron Review.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Poem by Bill West

Shadow Play

At that moment
when some other
gazes from your eyes
Though you always knew
a shadow lurked there

when some other
hand puts you on
like a glove
a puppet pointing
a gesture of
alien countenance

Though you fight
that cold intent
the uninvented
the unsympathetic
barbarian at the gate
come to pillage and
despoil, towers topple
and the gates gape wide

But after amongst
cinders and dust
when you are alone
prone, marshall
of regret you will
search behind
other eyes
for shadows.

Bill West writes poetry and flash fiction.  He lives in Shropshire, UK and he is the Micro Fiction editor at The Linnet's Wing.  His writing has been widely published online and in print.  He is a Pushcart Prize nominee.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Poem by James B. Nicola

History of a Page

I grew up in snow country, where my best
friend was, after my cat, a certain oak.
Broad-shouldered as a varsity upperclassman,
he gave rides to many of us at once.

But he didn't look like an oak for a whole year.
In summer he stood symmetrical, supportive, flush
with green life--almost virile, the kind of creature
you might choose for a friend, but would have you for one

whether you wanted him or not, or wouldn't care.  He took
all the kicks and stomps we doled out, and didn't mind.
Lolling, we could be quiet, in his arms,
whatever the fracas below.

But he turned into a barren frail thing come winter,
shivering and naked so that even when the paths
were not snow-laden, I'd walk around his woods
so as not to embarrass him in his senescence.

But I'd come right back to him each spring, dependable
as--spring, and tell him all the news of what
had happened to me over the winter (which was never much,
since it was winter) and ask him, How are you?

Now as I write, I have learned that our woods
have been chopped down by the paper mills.
And as I hold this leaf, white, cool, and open,
I feel that oak gripped gladly in my hands.

James B. Nicola follows poets Frank O'Hara and Stanley Kunitz and humorist Robert Benchley with his first collection of poetry, Manhattan Plaza,  as a New York author originally from Worcester, Massachusetts.  His second collection, Stage to Page:  Poems from the Theater, will be out in 2016.  James has been widely published in periodicals including Kind of a Hurricane Press (several times), Rattle, and The Southwest and Atlanta Reviews,  and has won several poetry awards.

Friday, May 6, 2016

A Poem by Anca Vlasopolos

A Lot More than Half Way

          in our dark woods
notches on trees        aluminum tabs nailed
tell us

          from here on
you're on the path of the orphan
you lose your best love
a leg    a knee               one or more of your senses

          as we crawl on
we grow thankful
          for the small mercies
half a day's

Anca Vlasopolos published the award-winning novel The New Bedford Samurai; the award-winning memoir No Return Address:  A Memoir of Displacement; three collections of Poems, Cartographies of Scale (and Wing) (2015); Walking Toward Solstice (2012); and Penguins in a Warming World (2007); three poetry chapbooks, a detective novel, Missing Members, and over two hundred poems and short stories.  She was nominated several times for the Pushcart Award in poetry and fiction.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Poem by Dayna Patterson


     My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!

                                          -- Merchant of Venice

Rumor has it I traded my mother's turquoise ring
for a monkey.  Truth is I would never trade it,
the only memento I have of her.  I remember her body
bent over a counter, preparing dough for matzah,
in the days before we could afford servants,
the soup of her smell warming me.  Her illness
was slick, stole her with shadow hands too quick.
My father's lukewarm care for me grew cold
from counting all his coins, ducats for daughters.
All the gold could not bring her back.  Poor ghost.
Would he miss me--or the money--most?

Dayna Patterson is an MFA candidate at Western Washington University.  Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in North American Review, REAL, and Weave, among others.  She is Poetry Editor for Psaltery & Lyre, and her chapbooks, Loose Threads and Mothering, are available from Flutter Press.  She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Poem by Erren Geraud Kelly

Poet Diva Chick

who has coffeehouse
or whole foods market
running through her
scan her dna and you'll see
thrift shoop
in it
hear her open her mouth
and you'll hear alternative music or
hip hop living in it

she gives kids on the street m&ms or
now and laters

she sees you
gives you a kiss now
and promises another one,

maya angelou, amber tamblyn
and jill scott
are some of her sisters
dauxrianne laux, wanda coleman
nikki giovanni and nicole blackman
you can't resist her

she can give her love freely like
edna millay, floating like a feather
or like sylvia plath, a thunderstorm
no matter the weather

her body may be a temple
or she may look like a

she's not out to impress
as she's blowing bubbles
but she'll school ya

words ride the hem of her dress
her love is a hymn she gives to

when she opens her mouth
like a bell, she's always heard

she chews licorice like a communion

a high priestess of words

Erren Geraud Kelly is a pushcart nominated poet based in Los Angeles, has been writing for 25 years and has over 100 publication in print and online in such publications as Hiram Poetry Review, Mudfish, Poetry Magazine (online), Ceremony, Cactus Heart, Similar Peaks, Gloom Cupboard, Poetry Salzburg and other publications.  Most recently, Erren was in "In Our Own Words," a Generation X poetry anthology, and has also been published in other anthologies such as "Fertile Ground," "Beyond the Frontier," and others.  Erren's work can also be seen on YouTube under the "Gallery Cabaret" links.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Poem by Michael Lee Johnson

I Regret Grinder, But, No Remorse

I have no regret, no grinder of remorse, nor memory of the dental chair.
I have no feeler of sins lost in sand dust with golden teeth, diamond overlay of lies.
Do not dance, play checkers, between the lines of memory-black/white.
I am a sinner wild with elbow muscle, flex right to left.
Dental floss is my Jesus, purple robe, violent-victim.
The cheeks of God whisper fools of toy tot decay, hanger on a cross-victim.
I was an outcast of hell with flames hanging from my behind.
What age of flowers is a whisper into the colors, fool enamel solid white.
I wild elbows flex from right to left, dental floss violent-victim.
I am owner of the cheeks of sunken bones.
What left is decay open space, mouth, tongue, cavities.
Christ never liked the sound of a drill, only aging of flowers, whispers from toy toots.
Lost in the blur of the blue heron I toss my gambling cards, fold.
Back to the farm fields forever and the sounds of wheat in the wind.
Jesus is the stop point, remorse, joy, where the sounds end.
I am an abstract artist, setting black outline in a dental chair,
false teeth pending white, waiting for second coming.

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era.  he is a Canadian and US citizen.  Today he is a poet, a freelance writer, amateur photographer, small business owner in Itasca, Illinois.  He has been published in more than 880 small press magazines in 27 countries, and he edits 10 poetry sites.  Author's website:  Michael is the author of The Lost American:  From Exile to Freedom (136 page book) ISBN:  978-0-595-46091-5, several chapbooks of poetry, including From Which Place the Morning Rises and Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems.  He also has over 83 poetry videos on YouTube as of 2015:  Michael Lee Johnson has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry in 2015.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Poem by H. Edgar Hix

Julie & Ginny

Born to each other:
you rested your lips against her breasts;
she rested her lips against your forehead.
You have been against each other ever since.

Who can blame you, her nailing you
into this body without your choice,
mother of blood but not of soul.

Who can blame her, you forcing yourself
out of her body, breaking umbilical blood,
drinking her milk but not her mind.

Born to each other.
The bond is quantum elastic:
blame without guilt, guilt without crime.
Perhaps it is all the father's fault.

H. Edgar Hix is a Minneapolis poet with a variety of employment backgrounds, including legal secretary (mainly in Legal Aid offices), computer helpdesk, analyst, library clerk, and warehouseman.  Recent publications include Right Hand Pointing and Time of Singing.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Poem from Joyce Kessel

Eritrean Refugees

On a frail wooden vessel, barely a ship,
369 migrants were left
upon a darkening sea
from Africa to destination unclear.
None with life jackets
nor sea-worthy clothing,
called migrants now,
not refugees,
swept in fearsome waves.
Eight were pregnant women,
many were orphaning children,
including one 13 year old
chasing dreams,
escaping nightmares.

Joyce Kessel has come to understand too well that the reactions to losses and detours can help define a person's character.  She is a member of the Earth's Daughters writing collective and teaches writing & literature in Buffalo, NY, a city with no illusions.