Saturday, March 17, 2018

Two Poems from Michael H. Brownstein

Casualties of the American War

     -- for Diana, still alive, a nurse in the Viet Nam War, Agent Orange poisoning 

She taught me once how to lean into shadows,
trace the voice in the echo
taste the scent within the seed of blossom.

She taught me later how to sing praise phrases,
move to the colors within white,
pause to the movement of thyme near water.

And when we were ties to each other miles apart,
she explained the beauty of pain,
the delivery of silence when silence was too loud

I called to her this evening, her phones disconnected,
entered the realm of my computer, and spoke to her
through the language Solitaire played three rows at a time

I won twice, knew she was OK, waited.
She called exactly one hour later, everything correct:
shadow, echo, seed, phrase, color, silence within pause

a lack of pain.

Stroke and Ego

She attempts to rise in the river, but she is rust,
The banks neither steep nor slippery, only ladders of air.
Gravity is not a toehold.

She struggles to open her eyes,
Her body a book left outside soaking itself dry.
She is heat thunder in summertime.

A feeding tube down her throat, than her nose,
Finally an installation piece at her stomach.
Hysterical vomit on sheets, on the floor.

How can we live this life we live
When the one man we gave our life to
Tells us he is not coming back to visit?

Earthquake hollow, earthquakes of muscle,
Freezing fog,
A sudden avalanche of biting insects.

The TV drones on and on, visitors extinct.
You can hear, but not see,
You can rest, but never fully wake.

He will get over himself, you imagine,
But he does not, day after day,
So you find yourself playing with your fists alone.

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 (Samsidat 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), The Possibility of Sky and Hell:  From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013), and The Katy Trail, Mid-Missouri, 100 Degrees Outside and Other Poems (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2013).  He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Poem by Deborah L. Wymbs


A wall flower is not an egret,
but a simple girl of shadow.
She does not really blend into walls,
invisible as the bad artwork
in the large lumber stores,
but the bullies like to think
she is a wall, a door closing
and she on the other side.
This was her beginnings.
She did not grow into a swan,
but the shade in shadow instead,
the only strength she ever needed.

Deborah L. Wymbs has been creating music and medicinal potions on and off.  Her poetry can be found in a couple of Kind of a Hurricane Press' journals.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Two Poems by Clifton Redmond

Notice from N.A.M.A.

She was already gone
when the For-Sale sign went up.
It was winter.  The house itself fell
to its concrete knees, the doors seized,
windows froze to outside-blindness.
The garden gathered what shrubs it could
but the grass was livid--ran wild.

The hearth's warmth waned,
a nest of ember-eyes closed
to ashen-dead.  When the light
switches forgot their electric promise
she was already gone.  She clung
to keys that hung from a Swarovski keyring.
Wrapped in a blanket that bled

threads, she walked halls
of half-stripped walls,
the memories torn down, trinkets
shrouded in black-and-white newspaper
headlines, crosswords, obituaries, and packed
into boxes.  When the removal van
pulled up to the gate, she was already gone.

Word Garden

Today I'm sifting fresh clay,
not seated at the computer
in the box-room
at the back of the house

with its single window.
I am among the seed bed's
slow anticipation where letters
litter my own soil and each root

promises an open flower.
Not in the keyboard prison
where time is heavy, overburdened
with the internal gravity

of some imagined conversation
between Descartes and Hume
who wouldn't have given him
the time of day--'get out

of your own head, it's not
all about you,' would be Hume's say.
So I leave them to themselves
go out into my word garden

lie on imagined grass,
pull petals from miraculous
sproutings wrapped
in my brand new vines of ivy.

Clifton Redmond is a member of the Carlow Writers' Co-operative, his work has appeared in various online and print journals and has been placed in various competitions and awards.  He is a student studying Humanities at Carlow College St. Patrick's.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Three Poems by A.J. Huffman

Untied Knot

Complicated labyrinth,
an intricate binding, deciphered.
A maze travelled in reverse.
Fondled by fingers, instinctively
knowing the depths of loops.
A dense mountain, mentally
dissolved into single piece
of flaccid string.

I Am Awake

and uninspired.  Midnight
has struck my muse,
turned her into a pumpkin
I cannot crack.  I have tried
pruning and watering her barren
garden, but she withers more
with every passing hour.  I can hear 
the emptiness of dawn approaching.
In desperation, I grab knife and candle,
force fire into her mind--into mine--
a useless gesture as we both burn,
hollow shadows, waiting for the sun's
mercy to rot us back to seed.

Absolute Repression

Swallowing the imaginary
key to the mental
cage constructed around a mind's tiger,
the one who devours memories
fed to it like candy
as I sit in an armchair that feels
a little too much like an electric chair
in a prison where solitary
confinement is a gift.  I choke on
as I reach for another gallon
of antacid to soothe the scraping
of teeth that are never corroded enough
to be anything more than one forgotten prayer
away from releasing the flood
that has already drowned my soul.

A.J. Huffman has published thirteen full-length poetry collections, fourteen solo poetry chapbooks and one joint poetry chapbook through various small presses.  Her most recent releases, The Pyre On Which Tomorrow Burns (Scars Publications), Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink), A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press), and Familiar Illusions (Flutter Press) are now available from their respective publishers.  She is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2600 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, The Bookends Review, Bone Orchard, Corvus Review, EgoPHobia, and Kritya.  She is the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press.  You can find more of her personal work here:

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Three Poems by Dana Yost

In the Beauty of All This

Out here, we are tourists starting a search for Mount Hood,
two hundred miles away, and big, of course,
snow-topped and big.  But so many are,
so many snow tops on the wide circle of horizon.
We pull our rental car to the shoulder at an intersection,
and it's no longer the mountain I need to find
but something larger, something more
than even the vast dry spaces of eastern Oregon:
my place in this world again,
my one slot in the beauty of the whole thing,
which I've misplaced like my keys,
but I need right now.
Here, I remember the beauty of places
and remember the beauty of people.
We h old hands and pull close, and though I can see snow-topped
mountains they seem very small.
I have a place in the beauty of all this,
and I know where it is.

Freeze Out

My son wants us to walk
to the middle of Lake Calhoun today.
Thirteen below overnight
and the ice is a thick reflector
of the Minnesota morning.
It's beautiful, he says.
And it is:
a mirror that captures sun dogs
that look as if they've passed through
stained glass,
the gliding clouds
like white cloth.
A symmetry in the semi-circle
of bare trees that enfold
the far shore.
Christmas comes in four days,
and this has the look of tinsel
and Tiffany, a serenity
borrowed from painters who show
us the nostalgic, pastoral glow
of Christmases
that never were,
but are what we wanted
them to be.

My son wants to stand
in the center,
arms wide,
part of the symmetry.
I get it:  it's like
inserting yourself
into a painting
--the almost-sacred
winter silence.
He points:  the sun striking
the lake, making
a pink halo
on the sheen.
Come on, he says.

But I am afraid
of ice,
even if eighteen inches thick.
I've written news stories about people
when they fell
through holes
in lake ice.
My uncle
went under
on a river, sliding
along the current
until someone punched
a hole and pulled him out.
When I have
been on lake ice,
I've winced
at each creak,
each groan,
waiting for the cataclysmic

There are other people
out there, my son says.  They
look like they're having fun.
I insist:  no.  And I know
my fear disappoints him.
I say:  won't it be just
as pretty, just as wondrous
if we stand by that bench
on shore, and look
out at the lake?
It won't, of course.
The symmetry
is off.  The sun reflects
differently.  The bench
is too close to the busy Lake Street,
and, thus, too loud.
Where's that sacred silence?

It won't be the same.
He knows it.
I know it.
We say no more,
and walk away,
my son wanting
to be somewhere
I could not
take him.


Late now,
a night of working out grief
in poetry scratched a line
at a time on torn-thin
paper scraps and pilfered
memo pad.  I say a few prayers.
But I will not sleep.
I'm broken somehow,
like a paper-mache creature fallen
from shelf.  There's no
prayer for that, I think.
Small glass of wine,
streak of orange-yellow light
in the sky.  I'll stay up.
Maybe the fireball made it to earth.
Maybe I could find it.
Maybe I could measure the scar.

Dana Yost is a former award-winning daily newspaper writer and editor.  Since 2008, he had published five books, most recently "1940:  Journal of a Midwestern Town, Story of an Era," a large history of the rural Midwest.  His poems have been published in numerous reviews and journals.  He is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A Poem by Kelley White

Among Us
Famous Fungus

ergot stewing in the rye
bye and bye
old moldy orange
blue green cheese
sick little mousey nibbling
what she needs
we do not dread
moldy bread
chilling penicillin
in the frigid air

what flew into
Alex Fleming's window:
mycelium invading culture
medium agar/agar
staph and pneumo
no more
at that door
Nobel blue green gold
near 100 years old
a preserved specimen
of his mold just sold
for near 15,000
dollars on
the auction

Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire.  Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA.  Her recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books).  She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Poem by byron hoot


I am looking for memories
that are maps of how I have
become who I am and may
indicate, further on, who
I will be.
               A treacherous task
to weigh the past against the present
in a scale that's true, balanced.
Of course, I am not blind justice
and my arm, heart does not steadily
hold the scale.
                        But I am persistent
wanting to know the why's and how's
and what's and when's and who's
of who I am.
                      It works both ways:
I cast back and trill along
what has been hoping to snag something,
or I take fresh sign and follow
into where it leads me.
                                      It's about
50/50 which way works best
and it doesn't matter--I just
don't want to be caught in someone
else's map.

byron hoot lives in central pennsylvania as a monk without an order in a monastery without rules, aka. retired.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

A Poem by Jeff Grimshaw

Sad Day for Turtles

I'm drawing turtles
On the cottage cheese containers

It's my animal it's my anima

There is a new disease
I am anxious to take for a test drive

There is a recurring dream 
I would like to reboot,

I text to Janine.
I spin and spin and spin and spin

And things fly away and things return,
Screws to be tightened, or tossed in the air--

Hey says the man behind the deli counter
What are you doing with that marker?

Turtles, I say, and text
BRB to Janine

I have much more to tell the deli man
But he's not interested

Jeff Grimshaw has had poems and stories published (among other places) in New York Quarterly, Asimov's SF, and Mad Swirl.  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 two collaborations with the painter RoByn Thompson, 10 Days in January (2015) and 10 Days in September (2017), which can be downloaded for free in pdf from here and here.  He generally makes his living as a baker, and lives in Milford, NJ.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Three Poems by Bryan Damien Nichols

Mixed Emotions

I understand the twisting
of words--like a rusted screw burrowing,
from the force of hand and wrist, into fresh
white oak--and have felt
mesmerized, angered, enlightened.

I understand the architecture
of words--like a flank of blue tulips
near a marble sculpture--and have felt
impressed, disappointed, ecstatic.

I understand the dismembering
of words--like firelight flouncing against
a frozen pond--and have felt
fascinated, repulsed, transformed.

Should I then write clearly or obscurely?
In words deliberate or desultory?
Should I embrace contradictions, or pretend
they don't exist?  Should I toss
syntax to hungry wolves?  or softly falsify?
Or write truthfully though I know,
at times, I tell lies?

After many seasons, filled with reasons upon reasons,
I know only this:

          Words welcome us
          as friendly strangers
          scantily clad in precious raiment
          to proclaim emotion's opulence
          through insouciance.

Removing Rust

My rags, the pile of them to my right,
Soaked thoroughly in white vinegar.
I rub their wet and pungent skins
Round ornate wrought iron.  My hands
Trace the lengthy stems' curves
And divots--which progress like
A fantastical maze for children--
To the flamboyant blossoms.  One
Blossom like a sickle; one like
A bent sword, double-edged; one like
A bird's beak; one like a parabola.

White vinegar slips into the rust
No matter how subtle or sudden
The curve.  I keep rubbing the pungent
Skins round the wrought iron.

To think the cure is as ugly as the problem:
An awful stench for an eye sore.  I can
See and feel the rust being removed.
I believe I'm making progress.  I think
I'm turning, by degrees, rust into
Wrought iron.  I suspect I'll do the same
In a few years' time.

So I keep rubbing the pungent skins
Round the wrought iron.


Listen carefully:

have you ever been told to say--
and to explain in depth--
you took no action, whether now
or in the past, when you know
you took no action, and those who
know know you never took action,
but wish you to explain the matter
in depth?

Is this not a description
that cannot be known
until the description is told?

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.