A Yezidi woman sits across from me
her eyes are flat black
like no eyes should look
as if her spirit has been sucked
backward through her body
to fly away somewhere else
“Is it true?”
her handler asks me
“Is it true what ISIS did to the children?”
She starts to cry
great rolling tears
streaking her face black mourning mascara.
I seek safety inside myself
in a world that offers none.
Is it true?
is it true?
It is true.
I hear her voice
asking over and over
like the crows now cawing over mass graves
as the Yezidi woman gazes
but not at me.
Susan Notar has flown over Iraq in helicopters wearing body armor and makes a mean beurre blanc sauce. Her work has appeared in a number of publications including Gyroscope, Written in Arlington, Antologia de Poemas Alianza Latina, Penumbra, Joys of the Table An Anthology of Culinary Verse, Springtime in Winter: An Ekphrastic Study in Art, Poetry, and Music. She works at the U.S. State Department helping vulnerable communities in the Middle East.
Bench Warrant Wednesday
You’re finally back in your hometown,
only snow greets your arrival.
Court date’s in a few hours,
just time to check into some
cheap hotel and change into clothes
that say I’m a good girl, clothes
that’ll be dumped at the charity shop
after free breakfast, local bank,
and go pay the fine tomorrow.
No time for visiting or sightseeing—
you’ll see all you want from the train
on the head-out-of-town express.
Window cracked to let a thin stream of smoke out,
you breathe in the incense of pines,
catch a quick glimpse of your old house
a little more canted, a lot less yours.
All the wildflowers buried deep until spring
do nothing to coax you back,
and you leave this town that doesn’t bear repeating
once again, the stillness of dusk broken only
by wisps of winter shadows through the trees,
a jukebox song of wild horses in your mind.
The Year of No Men
Granny’s on the front porch with me
playing gin and drinking gin.
I have a Jolt Cola to keep awake.
Mama’s coming to get me soon,
take me to the monthly family day
at the corrections house just down the road.
They call it “house” so it sounds nice,
but you can’t just leave when you want.
Daddy’s there for a while and that’s all I know.
We got a one-year lease on a nice double-wide,
Granny’s a couple rows over.
Other ladies and kids mostly fill in the rest.
Mama goes over to our real house every few weeks,
waters the plants, grabs up the bills,
cleans the messages off the garage door.
I don’t get to go ‘cause those messages—
they’re not too nice most times and mama says
I’m too young to understand.
So she brings me back a lemon pie
from the gas station mini mart
and I watch Granny get stuporfied.
Took a lotta years living
before I could sift through the truth
of our time at the trailer park,
and I made a lot of promises to myself
after that: no bail, no messages
written on any garage doors cause of me,
and gin would always be cards, jelly jars
only for juice and for baking, and “house”
would mean house, with toys in the yard.
Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” was published by Cholla Needles Press. “Symmetry: earth and sky” was published by Main Street Rag. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).
They drifted west from the North and South to taste
a common dust in the rearguard of uncommitted cows,
Surprised maybe that they could dig their spurs cooperatively
into the partisan enterprises of ubiquitous rustlers.
Pinned down in a wallow, fighting for their left-over lives,
Union boys and Johnny Rebs passed the ammunition.
Behind pearl-button pockets, sick hearts healed
and soiled souls bleached cleaner under a wide sky.
They forked their broncs, built their loops, and knew
the stench of branding from their own seared hides.
The horses rode clean and hard through sweet-grass.
Eroded lakebed arguments of landscape didn’t matter.
They circled, sang to the night, and shaped an honest pride
that helped to hold the poker peace and scab the civil wound.
Robin B. Carey
Emeritus prof residing in Missoula, Montana, with wife and family. National Endowment for the Arts Award and Oregon Book Award, both in creative non-fiction.
is harvesting eyebrows grown in a petri dish teeming with a mixture of Minoxidil, Finasteride, (think recent, indecent President), sandalwood oil, lavender, rosemary, and thyme oils, or a mixture of hippopotamus fat, crocodile, tomcat, snake and ibex oils. Alternatively, in a mirror experiment, he parboils porcupine hair in creek water, which, when cooled, is applied to the scalp for four days. In his spare time he sautés the left foreleg of a female greyhound in 50 weight motor oil with a donkey hoof, the smell of which he finds efficacious. He shies from the likes of Hippocrates, a shining dome himself, whose hoary recipe included horseradish, fresh pigeon guano, beetroot, opium, and an obligatory artillery of other spices, though not necessarily in any requisite order. In a later immodest proposal, he, Hippocrates II of Kos, none too gingerly suggested castration at an early age, an effective procedure confirmed by modern day researchers, but not advocated. When Jules Caesar began losing his hair, and minded, he tried everything to reverse the curse and hide his shiny pate. He firstly grew his thinning mane long in the back and brushed it over his scalp in an early version of the Propecia comb-over. His lover Cleopatra recommended a home remedy consisting of ground-up mice, a neigh of horse teeth, and slathering of bear grease. This too had little effect. So the Roman dictator took to covering his scalp with a laurel wreath. Truth will out. The Ides will march. Though popular in ancient times, hairpieces were revived in the 17th century by such as King Louis XIII of France, who donned a toupee to mask his blinding baldness. Massive wigs featuring elaborate curls and peppered with white powder, raged among French and English nobles. Many superstitions surround hair and hair loss. A Man bemuses: most common in North America concerned disposal of hair combings. If a bird acquires the combings, the owner will go mad, lose what’s left his or her hair, or simply die. To lose one’s hair in a male pattern or female pattern can be extremely distressing. Modern therapy involves the use of topical minoxidil (2% and 5%) and oral finasteride. Excreta of various sorts have featured heavily in history’s baldness cures – presumably inspired by the same fertilizing properties sought by gardeners. A gentle physician in old Rome prescribed burning the genitals of a donkey and mixing the ash with one’s own urine to form a paste. While Aristotle may have applied goat’s urine to his scalp, King Henry VIII was said to favor dog and horse urine. Some Native American tribes preferred a poultice of chicken or cow manure. Ireland, 1000 A.D.: One Celtic remedy for baldness instructed patients to stuff mice, no matter live or dead, into a clay jar, seal it, bury it beside a fire, and take everything out after a year. A tip to the not so wise: Make sure to wear gloves when you touch what’s inside! If you don’t, hair will sprout from your fingertips. Meanwhile, the man, remember him, has lost interest in things depilatory, and gone madly Nair do well.
The author lives in Baltimore where he volunteers with the Maryland Book Bank, the Baltimore Book Festival, and is the poet-in-residence at the James Joyce Pub. More than 100 of his Prose Poems have appeared since 2016. He is also the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press, 1992), and provided the libretto for a symphony, Of Sea and Stars, 2005, performed 3 times to date by the Birmingham Symphony, and once by the Juilliard Ensemble. He is neither a blockhead nor a stanzagrapher.
Take your sorrow soup,
sour mash of sand
that slipped through
your mother’s hands on
days spent resenting a husband’s
Trickle in the salt from old
wounds, sprinkle an ounce
of onion tears over whatever meat
you can trim from the fat
on her old chopping block.
Stir in the shadow of the owl
that passes overhead
whispering that necessary question
who cooks for you?
Kelley Jean White
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.
The darkest hour is just before
the middle of the night.
Mishka Shubaly, “Destructible”
I climbed the infinite staircase
that leads nowhere;
it took me almost a decade,
a fractured ankle,
a fractured rib,
a broken tooth,
my peace of mind,
and half of my soul.
I played the eleven games,
those were happier days.
But I remember the rejection,
the taste of blood in my mouth,
a pitch-black bottomless pit
of youth and sadness.
I know how it feels to be depressed
at your aunt’s birthday party,
to think about death at the dive bar,
I know the strange looks you get
when you make jokes about misery,
I know how it feels
to spend the entire weekend
under a fortress of shadows and blankets.
Advil and beer for breakfast.
Black and white movies,
empty bottles of cheap white wine,
broken glass on the carpet,
suicidal fantasies at the supermarket,
tears at the airport,
cold sweat at the parking lot,
hot coffee and antidepressants,
shattered dreams and broken hearts.
That’s all that’s left:
Bad memories of the good old days.
Juan David Cruz-Duarte
Juan David Cruz-Duarte was born in Bogotá, Colombia. He lived in South Carolina for 10 years. In 2018 he earned a doctorate degree in Comparative Literature from the University of South Carolina. His work has been published in Five:2:One, Fall Lines, the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Jasper Magazine, Blue Collar Review, Burningword, Escarabeo, Máquina Combinatoria, and elsewhere. He is the author of Dream a little dream of me: Cuentos siniestros (2011), La noche del fin del mundo (2012), and Léase después de mi muerte (Poemas 2005-2017) (2018). He lives in Bogotá.