Poetry

Three Poems

by Carl Boon

LOST IN KHARKOV

I needed a post office.
I needed a beer.
Heroes of Labor Street
was long, my landmarks
confused with the map
I left on the Kirova bus.

Because this girl
on Stalingrad Prospect
owned legs
that reached to Lenin’s
palm, and moved
like a sparrow, furtively.

I followed her as far
as the Railway Museum,
then got lost because
I was a boy, with no reason
for being in Kharkov
or anywhere, but I knew

there was a post office—
somewhere. I had a letter
for my father in Ohio,
blue ink that said

I’ve fallen in love.
Who won the Final Four?
I’m going to die.

I’m basically happy
to be old now, there being no
Stalingrad Prospect,
no girls with long legs
to distract me
near Lenin’s statue.

There are others
to write such letters,
and my father is dead,
listening to Miles Davis
play the trumpet
somewhere, listening

to long-ago music
in a place like Ohio.

SHARI’S BABY

Shari’s baby tries to sing,
but the rain’s outlandish

and swallows her song
before it’s a song. It’s this way

in storm in Ohio,
July afternoons, and the gutters

know, and the trucks make
one puddle three.

There was a note, a budding
melody she heard

in the kitchen, like violas,
like why is the sky

a painted thing,
and why are we drifting?

Shari lifts her baby, brings her
to her breast, and listens.

Something’s calling
through the rain

that is not the rain,
that is a question.

A MAN’S LEFT

A girl ponders the acacia
brushing the window.
Her wrists are scarred.
Her bedroom’s awry
with panties and medicine
in thin brown bottles. She hears
her mother’s voice
saying it’s a holiday. And how
shall I season the lamb?
She finds herself in a novel
on the Aegean Sea
until the call to prayer
astounds her into being again,
being without his deep,
beckoning laughter,
his resonance. They traveled
in the mountains once;
they drank mineral water
and memorized the shoulders
of the bread-seller.
There were hawks
and it got dark early.
The world they shared,
graceful and mysterious,
won’t be shared again. Her gray,
contemplative eyes go
to the corner of her room,
where a pair of carved gulls
look back at her, propped
on a volume of poems
by Orhan Veli.

Carl Boon lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey. Recent or forthcoming poems appear in Posit, The Tulane Review, Badlands, JuxtaProse, The Blue Bonnet Review, and many other magazines.

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Two Poems

by Maeve R.

Here I Am Now

Lately I’ve been thinking,
About the spaces in between,
That moment splitting here and now,
That instant we don’t see,
That place where time seems to stop still,
I, for one, think there has to be meaning.

Meaning,
That behind these things that I’ve been thinking,
These feelings of being still,
It would seem that even my thoughts are in between,
Two ideas I cannot see,
That moment splitting here from now.

Now,
To find that meaning,
That thing you and I can’t seem to see,
We need to do some thinking
In that space that falls between
Where time seems to stop still.

Still,
It’s a hard place to find right now,
Especially when it’s in between,
The real explanation of its true meaning,
And just some thoughts that I’ve been thinking.
It always seems easier than it really is to see.

See,
If life would just stand still,
And we all would just stop thinking
About where to go right now,
It’s likely we’d find our own meaning,
Amongst everything in between.

The Timeless Boy

The deafening sound of being unruly
Allows the quiet to sleep so cruelly.
Beneath the wander, the wonder,
And the want,
Furtive under the surface
It lies in peaceful taunt.

He’s restless, relentless to every which end,
Filled up on it all,
Never ready to say when.
Clever kid, knows just how to go limp,
Floating along, the tide under his chin,
Feigning patience behind a foolhardy grin.

Yes, so on it goes,
Wind-whipped he rides,
Thirsty and drunk at exactly the wrong time.
Laid back in the endless last drop,
Born bored to a world caught in shock,
The timeless boy
Trying to outwit his clock.

Maeve is a writer and artist living on New York City’s Lower East Side.

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A Series of Poems

by Maureen McElroy

Oxy-Moron

I love you bitterly,
tooth and nail.

The taste of you
is aspirin on my tongue.

Narco-leptic lover,
walk away again

and I may have to beg,
regurgitate “I love you.”

Your embrace
is shock treatment.

I forget razor-blade Monday,
waiting for your train,

the pain of empty doorways,
burnt-out candles.

Can we rehabilitate this mess?
Your smile, so sickly sweet,

it knocks me out
like chloroform.

When You Were Gone

a pigeon died on the windowsill.
I plucked its pure white feathers
and pushed it down.
Someone called “Juanita” from the street.
Black beans burned
the smoke alarm.

When you were gone
I bumped into furniture,
vacuumed red ants
crawling from the radiator,
and dreamt of a baby packaged in styrofoam.

In the laundryroom,
a Brazilian man
stared at my legs in liquid tights.

I offered him a straw.

It All Ended in the Kitchen

you pulling skin off a chicken –
I knew you wouldn’t be fertilizing
my eggs.

It’s a shame, baby,
cause you shook my world,
rocked me like a mix master

with your doughboy cuteness
that went all soft
when I poked your middle.

What a crock!
This Arm & Hammer love
doesn’t do a goddamn thing

when the fridge stinks
and I’m banging on the icemaker
you gave me for Christmas,

red beet juice on my blouse,
and I say “Hey, help me,
I’ve hurt myself.”

But you don’t respond.
Just microwave
your potatoes,

wind up a chattering-teeth toy
that hops across the table
and falls to the floor.

We both bend.
You start to hug me,
but my stomach reels

cause it’s over
and I thought you were my savior,
but you can’t even walk on jello.

Maureen McElroy was born and raised in Boston as one of seven children. She attended Boston University and has an MFA from Emerson College. She taught English and Latin for five years before entering a career in Real Estate. She owns Jamaica Hill Realty in Jamaica Plain, MA. Her work has been published in Seventeen Magazine, The Beacon Street Review, and Mothers Always Write.

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“No Love Lost”

by Ryan McGinty

Take my reflection
and wear it as a mask
mirrored in the dark.

Through the wall
her muffled screams
crescendo and break.

A door slams shut,
the screaming stops.
Gentle sobs fade to
nothingness.

The faucet runs
uninterrupted
for days.

Water can’t find a toehold,
slides right down the drain.

Ryan McGinty graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2010, where he majored in English with a writing emphasis. His work has been published in Eclectic Flash, the Battered Suitcase, and Firethorne. He won the Lawrence Owen Prize for Poetry in 2010. Ryan is also founder and CEO of Oil Can Marketing LLC – a Minneapolis based internet marketing firm that helps small businesses increase their visibility online. When he’s not working or writing you can usually find him home brewing a batch of beer. He lives in South Minneapolis with his bride Lauren.

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“A gunman opens fire”

by John Sweet

when all you want to do is sing,
or maybe be
be told you’re beautiful

a baby falls from the sunfilled sky,
a rain of weeping hawks, of
angels with broken wings,

and do you remember the
sound of me holding your hand?

were we actually ever in love w/
anything more
than the idea of escape?

i need to believe
that we were.

John Sweet won the 2014 Lummox Poetry Prize, the resultant collection, The Century of Dreaming Monsters, is now available. 

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“Crossing the line”

by Mark Vogel

The habit of their lives is never to recognize
that they have irredeemably crossed the line.
~Philip Roth, Exit Ghost

When the intuitive gropes, seeking to act,
there can be beauty in creating change,
in turning from habit, though by definition
time is insufficient to judge as the spontaneous
and innocent push forward. Elsewhere
a plotting determined cabal collects this morning
under florescent lighting, ready to force
confrontation. Those living for sustained
destruction are parodies of professors
so professional as they walk a poisoned
trail cultivating their degree-ed outrage.
Arranging damning labels that cheapen,
documenting sources arguing for pain,
they breathe as one glued group,
with hair in place and words arranged.
They know to whisper propaganda—
respect, justice, community—
and catalogue in notebooks the spreading
sin of others, and visit suited authorities
to test rhetoric, to weaken their enemy
and drive her away. Then, when noticed,
they swarm and sting because they suffer
so much, o tears, living so long as grey ghosts
powerless to strike. They pick at wounds
in spare arranged moments, then explode art
and refuse to see the rubble. When their victim
appears to confront, they stand together
erasing plotting smiles, and speak innocently
of love for pedigreed dogs. They can’t
help but hold hate tight like a hardened turd
until a persistent chill curdles their blackened
blood. When exposed blemishes fester,
they build the inevitable stroke, waiting
impatiently to see what they have built,
to get all they are due—blind to seeded
karma already growing roots down
in the trampled ground.

Mark Vogel has published short stories in Cities and Roads, Knight Literary Journal, Whimperbang, SN Review, and Our Stories. Poetry has appeared in Poetry Midwest, English Journal, Cape Rock, Dark Sky, Cold Mountain Review, Broken Bridge Review and other journals. He is currently Professor of English at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and directs the Appalachian Writing Project.

Two Poems: “A Final Round” & “Slouching on a Siamese Pipe”

by Colin Dodds

A Final Round

I was led like Socrates to the slaughter.
And they cut my head off quick, without hacking.
They batted it idly against the courtyard wall awhile.

I think my parents set me up.
After the crowd left, they placed my head back onto my neck,
then walked off, burbling with smalltalk.

I stood up, gingerly. I wasn’t dead yet,
but couldn’t reason why. A little dizzy, a little bleary,
I went for a drink, to wait for death to catch on.

My executioners came in, talking cautiously.
And I stayed at the bar, rattled but amused.
Healing was out of the question.

Beyond eavesdropping at last,
I ordered another drink and reveled
in my peculiar, almost-dead blues.

Slouching on a Siamese Pipe

I’ve been waiting this way
As long as I could arrange—
Somewhere between a millionaire
And a man who needs to change.

Every bar is an island,
But not one where I can stay.
I make my home, I take my stand
Then daylight throws me away.

I throw myself away, claim it wasn’t my idea.
My self-breaking heart waits until the lights are out
Before uttering its one true plea.

The barstools, the women and the war
Come along for the ride.
Like the contents of a drawer
Yanked open too hard,
We slosh like a frustrated tide.

All the bars are the same.
Their residents meant me harm before I came.

The friendliest ones take the most,
Wielding new vices,
Sealing my fate with a toast.

At the end, slouching on a Siamese pipe,
The air dirty with desperate laughter
I look at my hands and wonder
If the moment was ever ripe,
If it was life that I was really after.

Colin Dodds grew up in Massachusetts and completed his education in New York City. He’s the author of several novels, including WINDFALL and The Last Bad Job, which the late Norman Mailer touted as showing “something that very few writers have; a species of inner talent that owes very little to other people.” Dodds’ screenplay, Refreshment, was named a semi-finalist in the 2010 American Zoetrope Contest. His poetry has appeared in more than a hundred forty publications, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Colin lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife Samantha. You can find more of his work at thecolindodds.com.

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Two Poems: “ageing” & “reborn”

by Dan Jacoby

ageing

sometimes at the end of the day
just before giving up on waking
trying to gather thoughts
about the next day
failures, victories
like a preening tom cat
going over old ground
listening for a sound, a chance
to minister some resolution
a figment like gatsby
fresh to the scent
of daises and coke bottle glasses
found in barbwire wastes
I hear the house move
just so in the hard wind
cat hears it too
he hears much more than I
ears still ringing
from a 1960’s firebase shelling
back cramping, flinching
hears my heart racing
sensing an incoming old terror
mind no longer in neutral

reborn

where does one catch
the moon taxi for the bayou
you think you know
you have no idea

brother, you don’t know the road
its’ roots go deep
hidden in the kudzu of time
a thin line between genius and delusion

destructive power in blind ambition
when you’re ankle deep in horseshit
with that three on a tree
in high gear on bald tires

early lunch, tacos and beer
moonshine in the trunk
trying to find spirituality
on a tractor or in bottom pasture

one can always go back to that place
and pull the pain back up
sitting with a bottle of sour mash
making obscene coyote calls

momma said it was just a phase
growing up southern baptist
a little too rigid, just elohim
too low on air

like an old stern wheeler
trying to capture the rhythm of the river
navigating the snags of mussle shoals
to avoid an early grave

an all too fast tequila boogie and
jukebox playing chautauqua hymns
left over from an old medicine show might
leave enlightened cab fare to gather at the river

Dan Jacoby was born in Chicago in 1947. He has published poetry in Indiana Voice Journal, Haunted Waters Press, Deep South Magazine, Lines and Stars, Red Booth Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Steel Toe Review, and Red Fez. He is a member of the American Academy of Poets.

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“Early Education”

by John McKernan

I would only read
Books on spiders and butterflies

During religion class
I often fell asleep and dreamed
Of meeting God at a baseball game

The first time I watched
A classmate draw an image [of an ant]
On a blank sheet of paper
I said I don’t believe that

At recess the nun
Would randomly show us some thing
A dead baby hummingbird
Or a monarch butterfly
Wrapped tight in a spider web

She never stopped whistling on the playground

John McKernan – who grew up in Omaha Nebraska – is now a retired Comma Herder / Phonics Coach after teaching 41 years at Marshall University. He lives – mostly – in West Virginia where he edits ABZ Press. His most recent book is a selected poems Resurrection of the Dust. He has published poems in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Journal, Antioch Review, Guernica, Field and many other magazines

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“Found Poem”

by Mark Jones

a snapshot
of someone’s dad
lying on the sidewalk,
fallen maybe twenty feet
from home

Mark Jones is an English professor and amateur jazz pianist who lives in Blue Island, Illinois. His most recent creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bewildering Stories, Crack the Spine, Lantern Magazine, and Vine Leaves Literary Journal.

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“Keep It Terse”

by Beverly Cummings

Walking becomes deeper with the daffodils, crocuses, tulips and hyacinths.  The magnolia tree in full blossom.  A lost lover in front of the building.  Realize it is an illusion.

Waking up in intensive care, clinging to life; a suicide case.  My mother says we almost lost her a few times.  My once upon a time husband tells me when he visited in hospital I was totally insane.  The doctors said I might never recover.  He left in tears.  Recognizing psychotic thoughts is more than a pastime.  I have been ill for years at a time.  It is by a miracle I am sane again.

Flesh on the bone, is growing old the realization of how much time you waste and have wasted?  The need for probity, yet wanting to atrophy. I am losing the generation that spawned me.  Try for quiet but the mind rumbles.  Am I winning or losing this battle?  Things have changed.  I don’t know where I’m going.  Growth is like a tumour.

This week deranged; the unexpected careening up, full of turmoil and disorder.  I watch the evening news and my psyche  calms.  The planet so crazy.

Even paper flowers wilt.  The nacreous evening sky arcane.  The downtown sirens.  Keep it terse.  Like pointillism the world is visible between the atoms.  Swarms of  red ants clot the sidewalk.  Crazy touch, the way the moon moves in and out of your fingertips.

Beverly Cummings was born and lives in Ottawa, Canada.  She has previously published poetry in a number of little magazines, most recently the online journals The Steel Chisel and Monday’s Poem. She has been a frequent contributor to The Voice and Open Minds Quarterly.  She has three times placed as an Honourable Mention in Open Minds Quarterly’s annual Brainstorming poetry contest.  She has five self-published chapbooks.  She now has a trade book:  A Good Death.

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A Series of Poems

by Michael Estabrook

Fate

I step over a penny in the street
Dad you can’t leave it there
bring it home save it
it’s bad luck if you don’t

Okay honey I didn’t know
I pick it up promptly & drop it
through a sewer grate

Dad No!
she stops and stares
her hand over her mouth

Bring it on you bastard!
come and get me
I yell to whoever this vindictive
petty penny-pinching god might be

Nothing happened
(but you already knew that)

Heat Wave

When you get to be my age
95 degrees is dangerous
stay indoors
in front of the fan
hydrate obviously

Time for me to get up
on the ladder shirtless at mid-day
finish painting the gutter and overhang
I enjoy taunting the gods
they’ve been doing it to me
for 65 years already
the sons of bitches!

Inanity

He doesn’t watch the news
because it’s awful, sad, frightful
and frightening, depressing
and mindlessly redundant
and most of the “anchors”
are clueless idiots
more concerned
with their own celebrity
than reporting the news.
Although many of
the “newswomen” are pretty
some even have long legs
and cute bottoms.

Progress?

Decades ago
as a traveling pharmaceutical sales rep
I managed to take care
of my customers
perfectly fine without
the urgent necessity of laptops
cellphones, iPads, tablets
email, voicemail, texting and tweeting
by frequenting an old-fashioned pay phone
in the Howard Johnson’s lobby
in the Cranford rest area off exit 136
of the Garden State Parkway.

Recess

Swaggering, shoulders swinging
thick-legged golfers clomp
into the clubhouse lobby
after their games are done
glaring this way and that
in their shorts and baseball caps
brash voices bellowing
their exploits on the links
so everyone within earshot
can enjoy their triumphs too
and notice them in their post-game splendor
big-baby boys really
still playing king of the hill
in the schoolyard at recess
trying to impress the little girls.

Michael Estabrook is a recently retired baby boomer poet freed finally after working 40 years for “The Man” and sometimes “The Woman.” No more useless meetings under florescent lights in stuffy windowless rooms. Now he’s able to devote serious time to making better poems when he’s not, of course, trying to satisfy his wife’s legendary Honey-Do List

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“Twenty-Something in Los Angeles”

by Morgan Nikola-Wren

we’ve transplanted
our gargantuan movie collections
into bigger apartments now

the previous tenants have left behind
a lifestyle that we are still
growing into
like a hand-me-down sweater
from an older cousin halfway across the country
a college drinking game
splays across a glass table
that we’ve only just
been able to afford

now we
host devilry
turned dinner parties
and the concept is as new
as this popping in our joints
now we
crick like this
tick like this
we are time bombs
counting shitty drafts
sub-par songs
and scathing reviews
until our dreams
reach their expiration date
and we sour
into stereotypes

this silicon city
gives you an eternity
to grow up
but only a second
before you grow old
so i fight time
like some climactic battle scene
stifle the ticking inside me
soak the burning fuse
in fast-chugged beer
till my belly swells
round as a cartoon bomb
till all the stories i burn to tell
drown in questions

like how many
writers
actors
songstresses
found words
ten times as sharp as whiskey
in their throats
by my age?

and how the hell
my hair has begun to thin like this
before i’ve even
been to Europe?

Morgan Nikola-Wren attended college to study Theatre Arts, but ended up scribbling manically until 3 AM for many-a-night. She favors sweeping, lyrical prose with a satiric bite, and moments that stir you from a place inside you can’t even name. Morgan lives in Los Angeles’ backyard and swims in fountains when she has writer’s block. Follow @WrenAndInk on Twitter.

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“Repentance”

by Jared Pearce

In the spirit of coming clean
I confess that, as a boy,
I played video games and
was never once very sorry

To be pirating seas
or slicing imaginary cosmos—
to fall so far into the dream
that I could be as wonderful

As I could make my avatar be.
But now such wasted
hours damage the fragile
years of youth, the experts

Explain, drawing a bead
with their laser pointers
on a three-dimensional graph
much like a maze I’d like

To solve on a rainy Sunday.
Still, since my priests say
I’ve got to realize my inner life,
my latent talent must

Be rendered to Jesus
(though I wonder if God plays
us like real-time),
who sees through all the screens

To the heart’s truth. Yeah,
I’m pretending to practice
my guitar (I stink); hallelujah,
I’m back in shape by running

The mile (I stink); Praise Him,
His Holy Word like cinnamon
erupts in crimson poems
off my tongue (that stink);

Love me Jesus, say
I’m holier as I drift
image to image to image,
from level to level to level

Of holiness—let my High
Score of Divine Grace
demolish that of the other guy
so the me you make

Is the token you played,
dragged through a dungeon,
resurrected to perfection, and,
frustrated by the puzzle, lost

When you crashed the whole
damned machine, angry
that a mere scene outwit you,
then hurrying back for a revision.

Jared Pearce often teaches literature and writing at William Penn University. Just as often he teaches how to get life to mean something. His poems have recently appeared in The Deronda Review, Of(f) Course, Marco Polo, Tiger Train, Hospital Drive, Earth’s Daughters, and etc.

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No Thing – Micro Essay

by Zoe Bossiere

No response: like the electrical impulses of a harvested organ, a heart that was only days ago beating now lying sallow and white on ice like oysters on the half-shell, which are alive when you eat them. Next time you swallow an oyster, know that it has a beating heart with three chambers, which circulates colorless blood through thin vessels. It has two functioning kidneys, a mouth, stomach, anus. It poops. The oyster is a lot like you. Can the oyster sense its own demise as its shell is shucked, scalped like the slain enemies of Scythia? Does the oyster feel the sting of lemon, the mignonette sauce, then the warm throat of its consumer as it slides into dark, gastric hell? The oyster doesn’t have a brain. No, an oyster responds to pain most like, as one animal ethics blogger strangely put it, “a disembodied finger.” That is, an oyster cannot feel and, without a brain, likely doesn’t experience any final thoughts or regrets as it is digested. An oyster cannot think, and therefore is not. Is no-thing. Of course the oyster knows nothing about rage or heartbreak, just as the disembodied heart freshly ripped from its cavity, now on ice, has forgotten its old electricities. Or, more like an oyster, more likely, the heart never knew and was innocently beating, present though not in-the-moment, just as an oyster is only present in body on the table, unaware of you holding a lemon wedge over its naked mantle, poised to squeeze.

Zoe Bossiere lives in Tucson, Arizona where she recently completed her BA in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. She is currently working on a collection of essays chronicling her parents’ adventures in a Hungarian circus in the 1980’s.

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