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Howie Good

In Case of Fire

The seamstresses bend to the demanding work of sewing mouths shut with curved needles and fire retardant thread. And why shouldn’t they? The only words anyone ever truly needs have all been cannibalized for parts. It’s the reason I carry a lot of photos in my phone. Still, if someone announces, “I think I’m going to kill myself,” you should take it seriously. I’ve been lingering for a while now very close to a volcano with a beautiful name.



Whiteness of a Different Color
This feels like the worst place you could possibly be. There’s just barely enough room in the outdoor holding pen for everyone to stand. Cameras survey faces for unconscious signs of hostility. “Government,” a tearful 11-year-old girl pleads, “please show some heart.” It’s been a long day and an even longer night. Time doesn’t pass so much as flop around. A mother with two young children clinging to her skirt crosses her arms in a vain attempt to hide her trembling. You have no real chance of escape. The …
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CL Bledsoe and Michael Gushue

January
January stumbles in with a pained whisper, hungover mornings and cold feet on hardwood. It's not the failure of good intentions we look forward to. It’s the steady reminder of dust falling on the tongue. This year, I'm going to get in shape so I can break every heart that ever broke mine, get rich and buy the bank that owns me, find the volcano with the elevator that goes to the center of the Earth, where the giant ants live. They have the best coffee and sweet rolls.  Everyone knows that. When the sky falls, it's easy to find malleable chickens under all the rubble  and hope that they've learned something useful  from the pressure. Until then, it’s a matter of waiting  for the splinters to attack, when all the tweezers  have gone dingo. What’s that ahead? Desert,  then jungle, then more desert, then a rest area  in the shape of a pumpkin that only sells plastic  daffodils that smell like your mother before she died. At the door the bouncer looks you up and down. Shakes  his head. …

Brian Rihlmann

We, The Feeble Minded
Just so you know we already feel useless like shriveled acorns dropped on the sidewalk even before you grind us under your heel before you scream at us—
“take root... and grow already!”
even in rich soil we’d be stunted maladapted growing along the ground huddled from the wind
it’s a good thing not too many of us have kids to fuck up the gene pool, right?
we’re doing you all a favor by making ourselves extinct like tribal elders who walk out into winter storms as the food supply dwindles
call it compassion you’re welcome
Brian Rihlmann was born in New Jersey and currently resides in Reno, Nevada. He writes free verse poetry, and has been published in The Blue Nib, The American Journal of Poetry, Cajun Mutt Press, The Rye Whiskey Review, and others. His first poetry collection, “Ordinary Trauma,” (2019) was published by Alien Buddha Press.

Nathan Graziano

Born on Good Friday

I skipped the noontime mass on Ash Wednesday, my forehead unblemished by the priest’s thumbprint.
I ate seven meatball subs for each day of Holy Week while any good Catholic would’ve been fasting,
snuggling up with their hunger pains, constipated. Instead, I held The Last Supper in my own kitchen.
Judas was drinking my beer and belching his prayers while Paul lost at solitaire, aching for a corndog.
A commercial for Catholics Come Home came on the television between innings of the Sox game.
A clean-cut Christian guy, sober and fat, attested to reconnecting with Christ, like a Facebook friend,
and it changed his life. Meanwhile, in a still-frame beside him, there was a picture of a slovenly man,
thinner with mustard on his shirt—the former heathen with bloodshot eyes and hair like weeds around a crucifix.
“There he is,” I said to Peter, who was strictly a pothead. “He’s our thirteenth apostle, and he’s bringing the ham.”
But we all realized that thirteen was an unlucky number, an…

Gabriel Ricard

Liberation at South Vanderton Beach

There’s no shame in going to the beach with a potential loved one, and trusting them enough to bury you up to your neck in the sand, and leave you there overnight.
It’s only a problem if you keep doing it, and keep acting absolutely stunned that it keeps going down in the exact same way.
If she bites off the more stressed-out parts of your forehead and eyebrows, tells you to strongly consider praying for a sudden oceanside hurricane, and leaves with your wallet, you need to decide then and there if this is really the best way to find someone who can guide your heart, without wrapping theirs up in cheap scotch tape.
Do you really think so?

Then go ahead, and keep your weekends free through the duration of the longest endless summer any of us have ever known.
Just try to act like that stupid look on your face is something you’re working on for yet another one man show about yet another aging white guy who thinks its more relatable for the audience when there isn’t a drop of per…

Robert Pope

Hitting

I do not know how many times my father hit me with his hand or kicked my backside. Oh, there is more than this to say about my father, but this is the time to say he swung at me in the backseat, a boy no more than eight, struck glancing blows. I had laughed, it bothered him.
At thirteen, he sent an engraved, silver lighter whizzing past my ear as I fled a growling anger, imbedding in the solid wooden door, sticking there instead of in my head. Fifteen, he struck me with the back of his hand because I flinched as he reached in his jacket, kicked the back of
my legs for infractions I could not comprehend. He broke yardsticks on my back, swung his belt at me after whipping it around his waist. Each time he struck the impact reverberated through the years. If the air is right, I feel the stinging on my face or head, not all I have of Dad, but part.
Robert Pope has published a novel, Jack’s Universe, and a collection of stories, Private Acts. He has also published many stories and pe…

Gary Glauber

Little Cherub
The boy seems to know far too much. He’s young but seems less than innocent, an old soul I wouldn’t have trusted even in some earlier incarnation.
When I see him at the public pool, doing things no youngster should do, it makes me crave a strong drink.
Beware both baby and bathwater; beware everything you can possibly think.
Whiskey hits gullet with fire, reminding me of all that I love and desire to protect, now and always, to never forget.
In church, he looks heavenly in white robes, little angel incapable of evil, dreaming only good. Altar boy altered, knowing open hearts make easy targets.
His secrets are troubling, what occurs behind the giggling. His private hell is burning beside lessons he’s not learning.
When fire catches into flame your children will be safe again, when all I loved before today catches wind and melts away.
Gary Glauber is a widely published poet, fiction writer, teacher, and former music journalist. He champions the underdog, and strives to survive modern life’s absur…