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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 …

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…

Chuka Susan Chesney

Post Mastectomy Shoppe

On Brand Boulevard in a suburb of Angels is a corset shop a lingerie store Inside you’ll find along with sexy bras a full array of breast prostheses I visit the shop with my friend Alexis after her mastectomy as she recovers
The breast forms have nipples made of plastic Alexis tries one on behind a curtain The form fits neatly into the pocket of a wire-free bra beneath her blouse
The owner steps inside to assist Alexis who’s sobbing as she fastens the hooks into eyes
The owner says Don’t cry or I’ll start crying
While Alexis swipes her card for bras and plastic we noticed nipple labels in the case below peony and rosewood-tinged areolae similar to wreaths and other stickers Alexis pastes on backs of Christmas envelopes
After a while Alexis decides her new breast forms protrude like ping pong balls She drives to Nordstrom and purchases some more says the new ones are homey like squishy bean bags
Chuka Susan Chesney, a graduate of Art Center College of Design, is an artist, poet, short-story writ…

Michael Brockley

Bruce Springsteen Joins Aloha Shirt Man in the First Turn for a Cornfed Derby Dame Bout
Scooter van Zandt, he says while shaking my hand. He’s wearing a Jersey Devil sweatshirt, Maui Jim sunglasses, and a Cornfed Derby Dame baseball cap he bought at Kim Karsmashian’s souvenir stand. But the jazz dab from the Soul Crusaders tour gives him away. Springsteen doffs his shades and winks. He’s looking for Maria Roberts. Says she ditched her husband after his outlaw brother disappeared into the Canadian wilderness. Springsteen heard Maria took up skating on the flat rinks, jumping from one midwestern team to another. We watch Bona Petite slip through a Debbie Darko shoulder block to lead a jam against the Quad City Rollers. And five points. Springsteen studies the skaters jostling each other in the scrum. She’d be in the middle,  he says, Throwing a hip block or a can opener. Bona Petite tiptoes through a cougar trap to lead another jam. Springsteen picked Muncie, figuring Maria would be draw…

William Soldan

Missoula

1.
Rolled in late and slept beside a Taco Bell, woke up dried out and soaked, gasping with the windows closed.
First coffee, then our sense of direction, looking for labor, meet a trio hoofing off a main drag, tell them to tag along, soon headed west to that city of rain.
But then a cold case and respite on the brambled bank, a patchwork gaggle passing-through from every point: kid from New York going to or coming from, can’t hold still to tell the tale, and some woman calling herself Iron Butterfly, maternal with sandwiches and soup, passing around papers and a pouch of moist shag. A Scorpio named Cula singing Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida Baby like some primitive mating call.
Later, a guy named Doc with knotted locks knocks out a dude named Buddha, makes him bleed beneath a sliver of summer moon, while a girl with a drum hangs upside down by her knees in a tree, laughing.
His farewell bid alliterates in the distant hills:
Best ‘member me,Muthafucka.
2.
Wake in a field of flattened grass, bodies sprawl…

M.J. Iuppa

Advent

I can no longer tell the hour in constant darkness. Is it night or morning, or a week later, a gathering snowstorm?
I hear a thin whistle of a red bird as it flies into the crabapple’s crown, twitching like a tiny flare, its carol, a lesson in light. 
I take no energy or spirit, other than the weight of clouds, lifting this shroud— my lungs burning in winter’s incessant cold.
The news, the terrible news arrives in threes:  a text, a call to call back— a result. Still, I wake to gauzy
gray light— this ragged woolly essence— something fuzzy, or is it scratchy? Something, still mine.


Nothing Is What It Seems
Today, beneath the crab apple, I found a red feather lying near puddles
and loose stones, like a tiny flame, it dazzled briefly in noon’s chilly over-
cast—this flicker of the past—my desire

Tom Barlow

Lucy in the Sky

I am enjoying an omelet at the Sunnyside Grill on a bone dry August morning and I am seventy years old in a week when the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" arrives at my table along with the coffee refill. The place is packed with fossils like me and none of them put down their forks to adjust hearing aids so they can better enjoy the song and I wonder if any of them dropped acid back in the day.
I tripped to that song in 1967 when it was new, as did my America—fringed jackets, tie-dyes, headbands, bellbottoms, feathers, Lord Ganesh with his tusks of gold, anything for color to repudiate the gray suits our fathers wore, of which I now own four.
Tom Barlow is an American poet and fiction writer whose work has appeared in over 100 journals and anthologies including They Said (Black Lawrence) and Best New Writing and journals including Hobart, Temenos, Forklift Ohio, Redivider, Your Daily Poem, and the Stoneboat Literary Journal.  

Mark Borczon

Scattering My Father's Ashes

My portion of my late father's ashes sit on top of my refridgerator. The urn is right between his laminated obituary and the bottle of Ten High whiskey that I am draining tonight. I am charged to leave handfuls of him in places that fit well with his memory. As of now I have not left any of him anywhere. I can not bare to let him go. I can press my ear to his vessel and still hear his voice. He tells me to let him go. I want to but I fail. I tell him of my guilt and he comforts me. He wants to go but he does not want to hurt me.

As in life also in death he loves me even in my weakness.

Tonight my woman was pacing and smoking. She can't wind down for sleep. There is a medication she can not afford. So, she paces the floor ashing her cigarette into every bowl, cup and plate in the apartment. Finally, without thinking, she ashes into my glass of whiskey.

I say nothing. I watch the ash break apart and slowly float to the bottom of my drink. This gives …

Max Heinegg

Copier

For Montag

The lounge is quiet, & the queue
over. Outside our window, a teacher’s
car circles the lot for parking but finds none.

I’m an old hand at the machine, making these
two-sided gauges of attention’s ebb.
Today, it’s Oedipus again & tragedy
for seniors who’d rather take lovers,
or cram into a car to toe the beach,
but I follow them! & stand in their sun
like a certain fireman who blasts the guests
declaiming poetry as if only

he needs love to fill the bed of faith. They, too,
are moved by waves against their will, & stumble
where raised voices cannot reach their company.


Steve Describes Infinity

For C.B.

I met a quality control manager
from a pharmaceutical company who said
he’d gone out to lunch at a Boston Market
with his friend Steve, & as they stood in line,
they saw, in the fluorescent lights,
the stacked rows, glistening
in cages on spit rods, the Maillard change
make the aureate glow
on an endless abacus,
the birds on the level of heaven &
the…

Alex Salinas

Italian sonnet for my ginger lover

Consider this Italian sonnet a creative expression of my love for a lady with hair so thick it shoves and stomps its way past Texas bluebonnets till it sees its lush strands with red on it and my heart enwrapped, laid bare like a rug caked with dust, dirt, bug guts and smears of blood shed from years with wrong women, doggonit. Our lunch-hour chat of self-immolation cracked a hole in our leaking souls unknown. You asked if I wanted to come over. I brought Macbeth, feature presentation. We spilled onto your floor naked and prone where we laid spent, sore, content, drunk, sober.

Alex Z. Salinas lives in San Antonio, Texas. His short fiction, poetry and op-eds have appeared in various print and electronic publications. He is the author of a full-length collection of poetry, WARBLES. He serves as poetry editor of the San Antonio Review, and holds an M.A. in English Literature and Language from St. Mary's University.  

M.J. Arcangelini

Lightning Within

inside vast towering clouds lightning erupts sharp, arcing, illuminating massive ethereal bulk as though concealing tesla coils deep within their wet recesses the nervous electric flashes of a mad scientist’s laboratory in a black and white horror film flickering out of the 1930s – we fly west, level with heaven, as though we were equals -
behind me and far below my mother is finally in the ground next to my father after waiting over 40 years to have a date carved in stone she joins him in death at last having been the devoted, loyal widow the whole time mourning him longer than she ever had him -
outside the airliner window the lightning doesn’t stop it keeps cracking the sky we simply fly past it racing the sunset west set from the start to lose
M.J. (Michael Joseph) Arcangelini was born 1952 in western Pennsylvania, grew up there & in Cleveland, Ohio.  He’s resided in northern California since 1979. He began writing poetry at age 11. His work has been published in little magazines, onl…

Susan Tepper

Night Time Viewing

The small room Accessible for Night time viewing Equipped with All the necessaries Needed to induce Not sleep but Intense insomnia So great The person Who occupies The small room Will reach for Their phone Tingling And will drive The lover back.
Susan Tepper is the author of eight published books of fiction and poetry. Her most recent book just out in June is a road novel titled “What Drives Men.” It was shortlisted at American Book Fest Best Book Awards. Other honors and awards include eighteen Pushcart Nominations, a Pulitzer Prize Nomination for the novel “What May Have Been” (Cervena Barva Press, and currently being adapted for the stage), NPR’s Selected Shorts Series, Second Place Winner in Story/South Million Writers Award, Best Story of 17 Years of Vestal Review, Shortlisted 7th in the Zoetrope Novel Contest (2003), Best of the Net and more. Tepper is a native New Yorker.