Friday, July 12, 2019

Daniel Crocker


Mercury Must Be In Retrograde or Some Bullshit

You go to the reading and then to a nice
dinner with friends. You started drinking
early and on the drive from St. Louis to Cape
you puke all over yourself
Fajita Nachos
It's your medication making you sick again
You know you shouldn't drink on it
But sometimes you want to have a nice
dinner with friends. There might be something
more to it

You slap yourself. Then you slap
yourself again harder. You tell
your wife this is no way to live
You tell your wife that you want to kill
yourself. You puke again

It's okay, she says, it's okay

You've been so nervous for so many weeks now
that there's not enough klonopin left to do the job
even if you really wanted to. And you did

didn't you? For a moment
you thought about it and rode the rest
of the way home with puke drying on
your best pants and a wife who says
it's going to be okay, it's going to be okay
like a prayer. 





My Penis

I've never been happy with it
not being as big as I'd hoped

This kid at church camp
asked me if there was something
wrong with it

hidden up under its shell

It got better, I guess, as I got older
but never quite to what I wanted it to be
which was something worth writing home about

Now, it doesn't work
bipolar meds and whatnot

I still don't like the way people use
the size as an insult

Usually it's men, sometimes women
Often it's in a meme
Often it's directed at Trump and his imagined
small penis

People with small penises are rushing out
in droves to buy big trucks and corvettes
The little weens are stockpiling guns
The pencil dicks are shooting up schools
We're all just compensating

Like that's what makes Trump bad
Like that's what makes is all bad

Almost like it all boils down to a dick.

Daniel Crocker's work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Hobart, Big Muddy, New World Writing, Stirring, Juked, The Chiron Review, The Mas Tequila Review and over 100 others. His books include Like a Fish (full length) and The One Where I Ruin Your Childhood (e-chap with thousands of downloads) both from Sundress Publications. Green Bean Press published several of his books in the '90s and early 2000s. These include People Everyday and Other Poems, Long Live the 2 of Spades, the novel The Cornstalk Man and the short story collection Do Not Look Directly Into Me. He has also published several chapbooks through various presses. His newest full length collection of poetry, Shit House Rat, was published by Spartan Press in September of 2017. Stubborn Mule Press published Leadwood: New and Selected Poems—1998-2018 in October 2018. He was the first winner of the Gerald Locklin Prize in poetry. He is the editor of The Cape Rock (Southeast Missouri State University) and the co-editor of Trailer Park Quarterly. He's also the host of the podcast, Sanesplaining, about poetry, mental illness and nerd stuff.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Larry Smith

A Work Story
            “A good man is hard to find.”

Work shows up one day
red faced with lunch pail
and takes a seat at the bar.
I ask, “What’ll you have?” And he,
“What you need done?”

Four days later the new kitchen is finished
shining chrome and real tile floor.
I tell him he can have free drinks
for as long as he lives, and he laughs,
says, “Hey, the job ain’t done.”

When I get home that night,
Work is sitting on the porch
and says, “I’ve come for that drink
and to sleep with your wife.”
I laugh, but he doesn’t.

He’s fixed the porch now
and put in a new furnace,
while I just drive the kids to school
and sleep on the couch. This weekend
he and Grace are heading to Vegas.


Larry Smith is a poet, fiction writer, critic and biographer of Kenneth Patchen and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He taught at Firelands College of Bowling  Green State University for 35 years and founded Bottom Dog Press which he serves as editor-publisher. A native of Appalachia's Ohio Valley, he and his wife Ann live along the shores of Lake Erie in Huron, Ohio.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Kevin Ridgeway


Losing the Human Race

everything has become so quiet,
illness has struck us at close to midnight 
and we've missed out on the happenings 
sweet medicine eludes us everyone 
is in everyone's fan club but mine
those who were are all dead now
and i can't even write poems about them yet
so i suffer in this little bubble of mine
a little bubble that I can't seem to pop
and make my body tickle all over on up
to my brain where all the useless information
is stored and where all the memories torture me
and where the future horrifies me and when 
my fantasies put me on beautiful journeys
that make this hardship of opinions, morals
and different tastes in music some of my least
favorite things as I pass by that cemetery off
the Long Island Railroad in Farmingdale where
Coltrane rests and where I traveled back to
Southern California after the Big Apple was
a mean, smug son of a bitch who hustled me
into wanting to run away and hide in the 
countryside where a drunkard's dream 
would send me even though I can't be 
alone for long periods of time but I still 
am alone for much longer period of times 
than that and that's a dangerous trip to 
weird out along the way and never figure out 
what it all means beyond disappointment, 
cold calculations, vice, money and pain.  
So the best I can do is make it all look 
like a league of clowns with a big pie 
fight at the end of the world to ensure 
that we were all so crazy on a grey day
of lust in the eyes of poisonous snakes
that has buried the jazz men too soon.

Kevin Ridgeway is the author of Too Young to Know (Stubborn Mule Press).  Recent work can be found in Slipstream, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Trailer Park Quarterly, Main Street Rag, Big Hammer and The American Journal of Poetry, among others.

He lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Gypsy Queen by NIcole Hennessy, reviewed by Rusty Barnes

Nicole Hennessy
Gypsy Queen
Crisis Chronicles Press
2019
60 pages
$12

Nicole Hennessy's Gypsy Queen, #109 from Crisis Chronicles Press, is a representative small press text in many ways. Filled with free-verse poems that tend toward the long and discursive, the book is arranged in such a way that the poems' performative aspects are in full effect, with strong voice and lots of sound-play. In "Vultures," a poem in five short sections, the speaker says to the potential partner "Tell me everything about me./Leave no room for me to tell you." which is a nice effect, as potential partners in the beginning usually say "tell me everything about you," so it's an intriguing beginning. We know this speaker is all ego from the get-go, doubling down on that initial statement by confessing just a few lines farther down:

I knew we'd walk to that cemetery together
I wanted to tell you something about myself
through those streets alone, along which I'd grown
and still wander windingly in dreams. . .
. . .Told you I needed to center myself.
I was trying not to know I want to know you.

Section II begins. "My eyes are sunken boats, wrecked in their own stalls" and Hennessy continues with the water metaphor throughout the section and into section III then inexplicably drops it just as it begins to give the poem some power, in order to bring in the vultures of the title. Via the Mayan myth that says "vultures [are] consumers of death converted back to life" the speaker suggests that to see a vulture implies one should be patient and to think things through, presumably referring to the connection made at the beginning of the poem. This seems like a perfect opportunity for more water metaphor--cenotes perhaps--to connect this section to the previous two more fully, but the connection never fully fuses. Instead, Hennessy brings us back to the cemetery from the beginning and to some exits that are also entrances, in an ending that intrigues with its possibilities yet underwhelms at the same time. I'm damned if I know exactly what is happening in the poem, but I want to know more.

Unfortunately, this is a theme that continues through the remainder of the book: intriguing images, some wild metaphors, but many lines that strive toward complexity but say little, as in another long poem, "Sometimes the Sun."

Smoke another cigarette
suck synonyms
backup
report the exact facts
not lyric mirrored
reflect face
fuck

I respect the effort, but remain uncertain as to what, literally, is going on here and in many of the poems, and so I'm unable to commit fully to the poet's vision. I like Hennessy's way with language in spots, and in other poems I appreciate the insight, but the two elements don't coincide enough to entirely succeed. This is the way: some things resonate, some don't. Maybe these elements I've described appeal to you, and if so, you should give this book a shot. I wholly respect the effort. 3 of 5 stars.

Friday, June 21, 2019

J.J. Campbell

before giving me the news
 
fading lights
 
and the hope
that tomorrow
will be better
dies with the
sun
 
i laughed on
the day my
father died
 
a woman told
me i got her
pregnant but
had the abortion
before giving
me the news
 
i congratulated
her on making
the best decision
possible
 
i have enough
people that hate
me already



punish myself for existing
 
i succumb to
my demons
late at night
 
it's usually
alcohol and
porn
 
sometimes
i'm eating
my emotions
 
or on the
fun nights
 
i punish
myself
for
existing
 
they tell
me they
have pills
that could
help me
 
i explain to
them i don't
mind being
the martyr
 
besides, my
insurance
won't cover
anything that
actually works

J.J. Campbell (1976 - ?) is old enough to know better. He's been widely published over the years, most recently at Record Magazine, The Dope Fiend Daily, Misfit Magazine. Yellow Mama and The Beatnik Cowboy. You can find him most days on his mildly entertaining blog, evil delights. (https://evildelights.blogspot.com)

Saturday, June 15, 2019

West Side Girl & Other Poems by Lauren Scharhag, reviewed by Rusty Barnes

Lauren Scharhag
West Side Girl & Other Poems
Self-published (available via Amazon)
2013
$11.99
reviewed by Rusty Barnes


West Side Girl & Other Poems by Lauren Scharhag assumes a lot of a reader. Plainly produced, the book has a cow on a pedestal on its cover, promising something earthy and plain, maybe, or--I hope not--an excess of irony, like Jim Harrison famously said, I'm a little tired of irony. But that's my problem. The poems' brief cover text says only that the poems were written from 2004-2013, exploring themes of womanhood, family and the poet's German-Mexican heritage. I could have been drawn in a little better, but I like a book already that says plainly what it is.

"Good Bread," on the first page, is a solid poem. "Good woman, good bread,/snug in waxed paper,/clean sheets on the bed." I anticipate the rhyme scheme that never comes, but never get frustrated at its lack, or the knack, of starting with something concrete in those three quick lines that turn into something else by the end. The poem's a celebration of good bread, and the women who have traditionally made it, who were also "the ones who looked at the moon/and baked bread round." This is the kind of poetry that tells us what is important right now in the poet's mind and doesn't equivocate or obfuscate unnaturally.

A little later on, in "The Medium" the speaker of the poem, presumably the poet, describes an artist grandfather "at his easel. . . in a shirt dappled with paint." I appreciate the sentiment of what's being described, but dappled is too easy a word, the image is too easy to carry the crux of the stanza, followed as it is by "hands nicked and chapped," words altogether too common to render their subject timeless. The words mostly not taut enough, running its long lines untrammelled by any attempt to slow down. I also note here a paucity of poetic language, which again speaks to the lack of tension, a single simile the only occasion in a page-long poem.

Overall, the poems are strong, narrative poems in the dominant mode. They surprise occasionally as in "Churrascaria"where "eyelids become peachflesh" or in "Chasing the Worm" where "Satan doesn't have to come to me. I'll go to him." In the best poem of the collection, "The Ages of Woman," the poet tracks a woman's life in stages: Fetus;Girl:Woman;Mother;Barren;Post;Ether. The poem succeeds on the impact of the "Girl" section."Cling to your poppets and doilies.//No matter how life-like,/Their painted stares cannot prepare you and "Harvest these cells if you dare" together with the "Mother" section, wherein the speaker imagines infanticide, and dreams a sequence of events both horrible and common. "And now I am prepared to end/all your possibilities,/all possibility of us." which lines grip and move a reader even knowing from the remainder of the poem what's coming, or not coming. This is a poem that rewards revisiting for the sheer power of the woman revealed.

Overall, the book is successful, but the terms of that success are determined largely by how willing you are to give yourself up to the forces of intuition and insight, and not necessarily the power of an individual line. I'm interested to see what Scharhag is writing now. 3.5 of 5 stars.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Zachary Fishel

Dante’s View Nov. 13th 2017 

A local geriatric club rented every tent site for their annual art show. It was the only weekend of the year Death Valley National Park would be fully booked. We showed up missing that last comfortable spot near toilet paper and portajohns. It was your first camping trip, and the first time you’d experience life below 65 degrees. It would be 32 inside our south facing tent. I explained we’d go “back country”, a hilarious phrase used by tame people, and sleep right on the mountain. You’d never been cold before and as the tent shivered into nightfall, you exhaled and saw your first breath leave you. You tested several more, silently, watching ice form against the canopy. Then laughed a little supernova out into the beyond.

Zachary Fishel teaches seventh grade in the world’s sunniest town. His work is widely published with two full credit titles to his name. When able he spends time hiking with his dog and eating ice cream with his wife. 



Friday, June 7, 2019

Renuka Raghavan


(Re)incarnation

Because a colossal arm of hubris
beheaded a body fleshed together with turmeric and clay,

nursed not at his mother’s bosom but with hands and breath,
splenetic Destroyer of Evil,

the pale of his blue skin, fire of his third eye
cowered to a mother’s sorrow.

Lugubrious chants precede

rumors of a dead elephant in the North,
his non-decaying carcass starfished across forgotten rubble.

Legend is (re)born

with his head now appended onto that jaundiced figure.
Several gods pose behind him for scale.

Renuka Raghavan’s previous work has appeared in, Boston Literary Magazine, Jersey Devil Press, Blink-Ink, Star 82 Review, Down in the Dirt Literary Magazine, Chicago Literati, and elsewhere.  She is the author of Out of the Blue, (Big Table Publishing, 2017) a collection of short fiction and poetry. Renuka serves as the fiction book reviewer at Červená Barva Press, a poetry reader for Indolent Press Books, and is a co-founder of the Poetry Sisters Collective. Renuka writes and lives in Newton, Massachusetts. Visit her at www.renukaraghavan(dot)com

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor, by Mike James, reviewed by Rusty Barnes

Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor
Mike James
80 pages
February 2019
$12.00
Reviewed by Rusty  Barnes

Mike James is a poet comfortable in several modes. I've read ghazals I liked and excellent free verse, and it wouldn't surprise me somewhere in his extensive catalog of thirteen books to find a formal mode too. He seems like a poet searching for things he hasn't done, and so we find his latest collection, Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor, from Blue Horse Press, tilting ahead into the prose poem, best of all, the often surreal prose poem of Tate and Simic and Edson. I have no ready store of terminology for this kind of poem, coming at it from the POV of someone who's enjoyed a surreal tone occasionally, though not in steady diet.

My introduction to the surreal was in the early work of Bill Knott, reading whom taught me many things, most important of which was that I was not a natural poet. The lyric is not my mode, the usual narratives sustain me, and the simile and other metaphor, those roots of poetry, do not come naturally to me. All of this is to come, finally, to Mike James the poet, who is indeed fluent in all of these things, and this book proves it.

The lyric is evident in poems like " Oh Daddy, Give Me a Quarter For the Time Machine." in a paean for the Weimar Republic, a nostalgic and sarcastic at the same turn in which the speaker invokes Marlene Dietrich,Walter Benjamin, Brecht and Weill, and of course, some unknown Sally Bowles "at a barstool listening to other people's dreams." A well-done piece.

Compare this with "The Mime," which comes a little later in the book, at the beginning of section III.

So he wanted a quiet place. He found a box with invisible walls. Crawled right in.

After a while, after silence became as empty as a shell and the sound of his breathing was the last thing he wanted to hear, he ran his palms along the walls, hoped and hoped for the exit that was there.

It  reminds me of Simic, though not as sly and perhaps more feeling, where a Simic poem can leave you cold. Other purveyors of the surreal come to mind, too, James Tate and Dean Young, though James charts his own course by staying grounded in the real then venturing beyond where with these others, the venturing itself seems the point. James's poems are the puncturing of the surrealist balloon in the end, while others are content to remain inflated, James always brings us back into the realm of the real.

The best poem in the  book is "The Films of Burt Reynolds" in which the speaker discusses Burt through the film ages and with his various paramours and wives only to close with the speaker's mother saying "she'd marry him if she just stopped by." Successful as  both nostalgia-trip and head-shaking laugh, it is exemplar of this strong collection: never hurried, always sure-footed, and well-worth the price of admission. Pick this one up.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Book Review: John Dorsey, The Afterlife of the Party

John Dorsey
The Afterlife of the Party: New & Selected Poems 2016-2018
Ragged Lion Press
United Kingdom
January 2019
£8.00
Reviewed by Rusty Barnes

John Dorsey's latest book is a collection of some of the chapbooks he published from 2016-2018 (Analog Submission Press, CWP Collective Press, Indigent Press, NightBallet Press, Red Flag Poetry, Spartan Press, Tangerine Press) plus new poems and an introduction by Mike James. One of the things you can take from this is that 2018 was a pretty fair year for Dorsey publication-wise. He's quite prolific and quite good, and this collection is a solid continuation of the roll he's been on since Appalachian Frankenstein, the book with which I really familiarized myself as regards the Dorsey small press phenomenon.

People are at the center of Dorsey's poems. They're not elegies, really, though some are elegiac, and they're not really portraits either. They are simple sketches of ordinary people in extraordinary moments when the world's focus holds for just a moment, then goes blurry again. Poems are dedicated to people, mostly other poets it seems, both well-known and not. One of my favorites, a short one I'll quote here in its entirety, sums up Dorsey's attitude toward his people, his primary subject matter.


Poem for Felino

I wonder who found your body
who tapped the last bit of jazz
out of your ears

trapped in there like a hornet
like a ghost born again

building castles out of bone.


You don't have to know Felino the subject--I don't, though I suspect it's Felino Soriano, who I might have met once when he read at Tim Gager's Dire Reader series in Cambridge MA over fifteen years ago--to recognize and cherish the moment in which Dorsey finds someone tapping the jazz from Felino's already unhearing ears or to appreciate the two tight similes that form the poem's core. It's enough to let the poem rise on those similes and energize itself, only to have the poem resolve into another arresting, if puzzling image. I'm not sure how you build castles from bone, nor am I entirely settled as to who's building them, the hornet, the ghost or the body-finder, as there's no punctuation to help me, but I'm willing to ride along on this short poem's momentum.

In "Poem for My Aunt on Her Birthday," the refrain "you were young once" is elegiac and oratorical at once. I imagine this poem might do well at readings, these repetitions interposed as they are between snapshots of the narrator's aunt's life "before diabetes & mental Illness/before time became just another broken heart."

In a poem not expressly about a person, again Dorsey makes use of subtle repetition, In "Another Reason Why I Love This Town" where variations on the phrase "you might" play off each other to great effect and the poem resolves wonderfully in a gout of dog urine: "her dog pissing out what looks like/a whole pitcher of flat budweiser." Anything can happen in a John Dorsey poem.

Another short poem I found myself returning to is dedicated to a specific person, in this case Christina.


Y2K: A Love Story

looking for a small red haired girl
in times square
i remember thinking
there are worse ways
for the world to end.


Not with a bang, not with a whimper, but looking for a girl. Anyone who's spent time looking for a significant other or anyone to cling to in this mad old bad world can relate. Also common in a John Dorsey poem, speakers and narrators who search for something in myriad places, due no doubt to Dorsey's often-punishing reading schedule, which once approached a hundred dates a year. All that travel makes its way into the poetry.

On facing pages late in the book, "Round Corner Tavern Poem (for mikey west"' and "The Ghost of Sacramento Past (for gene bloom)" illustrate well the kinds of poems you find in this book that are not about people but instead types or characters. "Round Corner. . ." begins "Every night they mop/ the blood of hipsters/off the floor" and ends "the sadness of last call/is still more useful/than your average poem." There's some existential ennui for you at the end of this collection, which continues in 'The Ghost of. . ." dedicated to Gene Bloom, where the speaker of the poem observes Gene ". . .up half the night/rolling joints in orderly piles/the way they did it in sing sing/the night we put a man/on the moon." This poem neatly orders the complex ghosts of the title into images everyone can feel, particularly in the locative "in sing sing" and the dative "the night we put a man on the moon." What was a poem about some old guy becomes specific and magical, and a nice place to end a review.

Dorsey's skill is two-toned. There's the surface shine of these poems, the insights and the back and forth of people in the rigors of their lives, which is the great and necessary accomplishment of the work. Then there's the craft beneath, the revealed glow, and I'm not sure sometimes which is the stronger element, or if I'm even meant to have to choose. Sometimes the poems risk being surfacey, but then the images stick with me: bones; ghosts popping out when you least expect them like in some video game; hipster blood on a sawdust floor; Gene calmly ordering a pile of joints on the table. I realize then that's the shine, that's what I'm meant to take from these poems. It all comes from the skill and hard work and the risk to lay it all out there. Which is to say, a John Dorsey poem looks easy, till you try one yourself.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

June Poem Reviews

I've had fiction and non-fiction reviews published in quite a few journals and have been a member of the National Book Critics Circle, when I could afford it. Therefore, I feel quasi-professional in those arenas. I don't necessarily feel that way about my poetry reviews. I have opinions, though, and in the interest of keeping my poetry-mind occupied during an otherwise stressful time in my life, I'd like to make you, the poetry world, an offer. If you mail me your chapbook or book--at least 24 pages but no more than 100 pages, self-published or traditional--I will post a review of between 150 and 300 words about it, as professionally as I can, in the following months. Promise. Mail me your book, get a review. Easy. If I get a huge response, I'll declare a cap and communicate it here. I would prefer to work from print copies. I hate reading poetry in PDF or MOBI--my preferred methods for prose--because the lines never break correctly and I find myself critiquing lineation that doesn't exist in the original.

Sound good? Email me for the mailing address, livenudepoems AT gmail DOT com. Ask questions in the comments. Offer good until postmark date 7/1 or I cry uncle.

Friday, May 31, 2019

John Dorsey


In Kansas Thinking of You
for cherie

ted berrigan would never text
with his fingers
along your skin
he would call you
to borrow some money or pills
he would give you some story
about how the moon looks beautiful
while sipping a pepsi
he would use strong words
& dance nude with donna dennis
on your parents front lawn
they, your parents, would offer him
iced tea & cucumber sandwiches
while talking about the moon landing
about how it seemed like a lot of work

you would sit there in flower patterned pajamas
while he told you that you deserve to have words
wrapped around you like oak trees

& all i have to offer you is the kansas wind
something of the earth
my own thoughts on love
which i know isn’t much.





The Goats in December

the goats across the way are crying
sunlight is not the same thing as empathy
or brown grass in the middle of winter

the river has a lovely singing voice
when you place your hand
over its mouth.

John Dorsey lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw's Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory, (Epic Rites Press, 2013), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016), Shoot the Messenger (Red Flag Press, 2017) and Your Daughter's Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019). He is the Poet Laureate of Belle, MO. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He may be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Chad Parenteau


Work-Through-Lunch Poem

O'Hara never had bad dreams
of days like this.

Sustenance substituted
for vending machine run,
not enough time to hold
a haiku with your candy bar.

Another day, another dead lady
trending on Twitter,
sad emojis beating
your best words-per-minute.

Crying kidneys bring you
to the bathroom break
as you sound out the only poem
your colleagues may ever hear.

Chad Parenteau is the author of Patron Emeritus, released in 2013 by FootHills Publishing. His work has appeared in Tell-Tale Inklings, What Rough Beast, The Skinny Poetry Journal, Ibbetson Street and Wilderness House Literary Review. He serves as Associate Editor of the online journal Oddball Magazine. His second full-length collection, The Collapsed Bookshelf, is forthcoming.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Heidi Blakeslee


Woman of the Stars

bits of astrofluff
lightly
fall down from her
strings of star hair

mother galaxy
absorbs the bad energy
and replenishes
us with virtue

so that every human on the planet
can look up at her
every once in a while

and feel like a speck
of meteor

or
as big as the
sun


Heidi Blakeslee lives near Pittsburgh, Pa with James and her cats.  She has written the novels, “Strange Man,” and “The House,” two poetry books, “The Empress of Hours,” and “Should the Need Arise.”  She also wrote “The White Cat: A Paranormal Memoir.” 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Timothy Gager


This Poem is Like a Bruise

This poem is like a bruise
A deep black Lake Superior knocking
over the white caps rolling into last breaths

An angry purple from the rage of red
until the flattening of color blends
into a subdued yellow of surrender

If you’re weak of heart
this poem is not a holiday,
It does not twinkle, nor

Are its words, lights from a city
observed upon the descent
each, a pushpin of hope

If you wait, there is just a tiny ripple
when a coin is flipped into a well
hallow, the eye-socket, black, and empty

Timothy Gager is the author of fourteen books of short fiction and poetry. Every Day There Is Something About Elephants, a book of 108 flash fictions, selected by over fifty-five editors, was released by Big Table Publishing in 2018. He's the former host of the successful Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has had over 500 works of fiction and poetry published and of which thirteen have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has been read on National Public Radio. 


Friday, May 3, 2019

Rebecca Schumejda

onefiftythreeam

When your house is framed with bones
and the walls sheet rocked with flesh

there is no room for full-length mirrors
or empty apologizes, what I am trying

to say is our oldest child can’t sleep
she wakes up hourly to tell me

she’s afraid and there is nothing
I can do to make her fears go away

except stay up until she falls back
to sleep. This structure is crumbing

what I am trying to say is that I am
tired of the way the past creaks in the

night like a floor when you are trying
to sneak back into your own space

the way a shadow becomes a river
the hum of the heater and then

the silence after it shuts off. Remember
nothing lasts forever except the memory

of who you were until you weren’t any longer.




The Cost of Common Household Items

While my first home is being raized
I watch The Price Is Right
in the hospital waiting room
and consider the elusiveness of time
how organs can be squeezed out
through small incisions made with robotic arms
how my own daughters’ first home
is close to uninhabitable
how this daytime game show
is still thriving after decades
how my mother used to say,
Boy that Bob Barker, he’s a looker.

Right after the surgeon calls me
into a small side room
to update me, Drew Carey yells,
Come on Down!
When the door closes
behind us, I can still hear the music,
the audience applause and my mother
saying he just doesn’t age.
Before I can sit down, the surgeon says,
I don’t think the cancer spread
outside of the uterus
and I start tearing up
close my eyes
picture that giant wheel slowing down—

maybe just maybe
I can be the daughter I want
rather than the daughter I’ve been.


Rebecca Schumejda is the author of several full-length collections including Falling Forward (sunnyoutside press), Cadillac Men (NYQ Books), Waiting at the Dead End Diner (Bottom Dog Press) and most recently Our One-Way Street (NYQ Books). She is currently working on a book forthcoming from Spartan Press. She is the co-editor at Trailer Park Quarterly. She received her MA in Poetics from San Francisco State University and her BA from SUNY New Paltz. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her family. 



Friday, April 26, 2019

Steven Breyak

One-Fingered Man Fails in Everest Bid
(from an RSS feed) 

Who wakes up knowing what news they’ll become by afternoon? 
Some, I’m sure, strive for the odd combination 
to capture the world’s fascination if only for the time 
to click to link and blink a moment in wonder. But imagine 

the plain, turning days rolling this man forward without knowledge 
of the music drafted in his tracks. One day buying airfare 
on a touchscreen. Another folding clothes. Then one afternoon 
he’s approaching the stratosphere, feeling drunk and alone, 

remembering clearly each finger’s small but tremendous 
death as if they happened in someone else’s hands 
but had been transposed to his by the same cruel magic 
that led him to love this mountain, to come apart in its cold mouth. 

This love ascends his bid to its surreal crescendo, raising 
his one digit again and again. Always there on the mountain, 
yet, in light blotches behind his eyes and in his air-starved 
mind, for fractions of moments passed, the idea of “bid” 

places him in an auction house. All around him a market— 
fine art, cultured desires—exists in a flash of luxury. 
Wounded and in his gear and filth he outbids the few 
who still care to purchase this dead craft, this climbing of Everest. 

Bidding with nothing but breath in a life where this climb is nothing 
until a man who seemed so like us loses everything for his art. 

It is only a blip between all this pressing through screens, 
during which we wonder at what he remembered.

Steven Breyak is an American poet living in Japan. His work can be found on some other great websites like this (he is very Google friendly) and in the pages of Gargoyle, and other literary journals. He's currently attempting to revitalize his blog, so have a look there as well: stevenbreyak.blogspot.com. And as of February 19, 2019 he is very happily a father.