I bet the four flush—
worth next to nothing
but looking to all like the key
to the kingdom of heaven.
You told me once
was half luck
and half bluff.
They had just
cleaned you out again
at the Friday night game
above the body shop on Sutter Avenue.
You and your six
passing a cheap bottle of rye
and shots at each other’s parentage,
in a room
full of reefer
and the sweat
of day labor.
You told me once
you had no luck—
having given it
all to me.
And I pictured a medallion
bestowed upon the younger brother—
no small burden
you’d hung around my neck—
as if the family’s fortune
was riding on my narrow shoulders.
anyone who knew us might think to ask.
“But, you’ll never be a bluffer,
you told me,
for that you need a pair—
and in our family, I got them.”
Cold as cobra’s breath
I bet my four spades
as the better hand folded.
You never were a judge of character—
friends and enemies.
Steve Deutsch lives in State College, PA. His recent publications have or will appear in RavensPerch, MacQueen’s, 8 Poems, Louisiana Lit, Burningword Literary Journal, The Write Launch, Biscuit Root Drive, Evening Street, Better Than Starbucks, Flashes of Brilliance, SanAntonio Review, Softblow, Mojave River Review, The Broadkill Review, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Panoply, Algebra of Owls, The Blue Nib, Thimble Magazine, The Muddy River Poetry Review, Ghost City Review, Borfski Press, Streetlight Press, Gravel, Literary Heist, Nixes Mate Review, Third Wednesday, Misfit Magazine, Word Fountain, Eclectica Magazine, The Drabble, New Verse News and The Ekphrastic Review. He was nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2017 and 2018. His Chapbook, “Perhaps You Can,” was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press. His full length book, Persistence of Memory was just published by Kelsay.
There are blue humpbacked mountains in the distance
and I always want to look up and over there, absorb
the scenery and forget that good-fitting underwear
is a basic human right, undeniable at least in the
good ole US of A. The 6:00 PM weather person
on Channel 4 who always scowls is wearing underwear
that doesn’t fit properly. Miss Irby, who tried to teach
American History in the 11th grade, never had properly-
fitted panties, I could always tell. And my gym coach,
Bragg Stanton, gave up finding nice underwear and
shared with us that he was starting a new trend of going
commando. There are malls and department stores nestled
in city-sized pockets in these smoky hills, and just as you
think it’s time to settle down with a nice goat cheese,
whole wheat crackers, and a glass of red wine, you feel
the pull, the squeeze, the pinch of that worn-well fabric
vying for space up there between your legs. It is time.
Dedicate a portion of the day to dilly-dally inside stores
and shops, the big-box, the men’s boutique, the electronic
pages of underwear, constructed of every conceivable fabric
under the sun: boxers and briefs and low-cut straps that resemble
large strands of colored floss. There are thongs, and jocks
and cloth that breathes, guaranteed not to burn or rub you
raw. By now you know what works best. But experimentation
is the hallmark of long-term satisfaction. Be bold if you must,
stepping into a store that smells like musk with salespeople
in three-piece suits who really don’t want to be there in the
first place. They point you in the right direction and then leave
you to your own design. I will not spend that much money
on underwear, ever, even if I were a millionaire. I am tired
and need some lunch, maybe a beer on some open patio
where I can write Mark Weldon, underwear guru, and ask
for a written guarantee. But it’s not like returning a shirt.
Once that material, whatever it is, has kissed the dark recesses
of your inner things, it is a done deal. Shop carefully because you
need to like what’s going to be down there for at least three years.
Whether John Dorroh taught any secondary science is still being discussed. However, he managed to show up every morning at 6:45 for a couple of decades with at least two lesson plans and a thermos of robust Colombian. His poetry has appeared in about 75 journals, including Dime Show Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Os Pressan, Feral, Selcouth Station, and Red Dirt Forum/Press. He also writes short fiction and the occasional rant.
An Exploited Body
You claim it’s a dwelling grasp. I still fall
out of a tree—naked & thick,
hauling myself to beat
exposure. I fill myself in
in desperate clusters. Unable
to find a deep hole for my body,
I turn over the earth & rip the ocean
floor—give a final blow
to deprivation, hunt dead & run large
in the streets. I lurk
in hives, collect & attach you
like an eyeball—a blind silence.
I search for bony bundles
& drain my body—an empty constant.
The Day of My Wedding
I stayed inside because of the rain.
From behind the bay window
I watched a funeral & a family
I watched a wild horse
run away from the field—
gaining freedom to ground
The grass webbed with dew
for the rest of its days.
& cars stopped passing
For the rest of my days
I watched a child
fall backwards at the bottom
of the staircase, just out of my
Annie Cigic is a second-year student in the Rhetoric and Writing Studies PhD program at Bowling Green State University. Her research interests include critical pedagogy, community-based learning, advocacy writing, and student agency in writing assessment. She received her MFA in Poetry from BGSU. Her poem “Afterlife of a Dumped Body” is nominated for a 2021 Pushcart Prize by Driftwood Press.
& now it’s for real! Not the science fiction
of books or movies, test tube anomalies
reported from overseas, alien
contagion you could only survive given
regulated ventilation, capsulating spacesuit
NASA style. Say all you want
about mock-scenarios: Travolta’s The Boy in the
Plastic Bubble: the hellish loneliness of isolation
& quarantine, the psalmist who forewarned
of a “great trouble” I’d witness after she
took my $100 and told me in parting,
in no uncertain terms, that like the animals
who flocked to Noah’s Ark, I’d be spared,
Anita and the boys too, all of us protected
by the agency of some mystical
ministration. & then, almost overnite,
the pandemic surged like a tsunami,
came crashing with a shuddering BOOM!
In an instant life ceased to exist as we knew it.
Suddenly no one talked about wars,
the constant threat of terrorism, batting stances,
box scores, fast-breaks, Kobe or the triangle offense.
International flights were ordered home
as confirmed cases & death tolls
started to mount. Rubber gloves and surgical masks
became the accepted norm as hysteria & fear
ratcheted up & lockdown &
social distancing went from memes to everyday lingo.
& then the stern & troubling projections
from the C.D.C. of souls lost,
the World Health Organizations holocaust-like forecast
models; how airborne viruses mutate, flourish in
more welcoming environments—
the least resistant the more accommodating the host.
Contagions have gripped the earth before, left
a nasty trail of death & pestilence.
From S.A.R.S. to Swine to Covid-19, we have
Felt its brunt. But NOTHING compares
to the scourage of the Black Plague,
the Great Mortality, the Pestilence, the Great Bubonic,
the Great Plague, or lastly, because the world
had never seen the likes of it before,
because Europe & its counterparts, Eurasia & its outliers,
satellite societies, fringe nomadic & Mongols,
only a hundred years since the last
sighting of Genghis Khan upon the steppe, in the saddle
of a fine Arab Charger, before massive,
millions upon millions upon millions—
more than ever accounted for
in the totality of wars.
& now we enlist them by anacronyms,
refer to them by geographic or animal
origin; the long history of illness
independent of questioning how or why.
You can trace the migration of the Plague
back to the Silk Road
where it swept through Crimea & then upon the yaw
& creak of Genoese merchants
bound for parts of Judea & Galilee,
the archipelagos of Thrace, the coastline of the Aegean
& Ionian Seas, from the stiletto
boot to the Strait of Gibraltar, rats scurrying
off the decks & gangplanks infecting
the under-belly of Europe.
O’ sickness, how it wiped-out the land—
from soothsayers to merchants to prostitutes
to great barrons— O’ bodies left roadside,
no shelter remained to conceal the dying,
the rotting. & the gripping reality of naked histrionics:
the caterwauling, the protracted gasp and breath,
the sudden collapse of the living
upon the dead, crying into the stale breath
of what they said would spread.
Stepping around or over
the faces of the known— bluish, purplish
luminesces cauliflowering the neck,
hair greased with sweat,
bacteria & fungi doing their dirty work.
Tonight Time’s Square is a flashing ghostown.
The remedies for pain have
different denominators, and they know what
they are— depression, drugs & daily exercise;
faith in god or 4 more oxycotin
pilfered from my wife’s purse. I’ll toss them in a box,
shake & offer: whichever you get
must be followed to completion.
What does the muse say? Grin & bear it.
Tony Tracy is the author of three poetry collections: The Christening, Without Notice and his newly released book overseas, Welcome To Your Life. He is a Pushcart Prize-nominated writer whose poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in North American Review, Burningword, Jelly Bucket, Poetry East, Tar River Poetry, Rattle, Hotel Amerika, Painted Bride Quarterly, Potomac Review, Briar Cliff Review, and various other magazines and journals.
It wasn’t his bridge, of course.
It wasn’t even his city, and it certainly wasn’t
his world. It’s your world, jazz music says,
I’m just living in it. And the world’s a workshop.
Sonny was different, though. Even for one
we’d call young gifted & black without being
bromidic. Sonny heard so much but mostly
only listened to himself, waiting and creating
his own kind of way, expressing everything.
How do we describe the kind of man already
in rarified air deciding he wasn’t high enough
(having already eschewed the artificial ecstasy
that ruins veins and soils brains, Body and Soul)?
This colossus, keeping his own council, split
his apartment to set up shop in the crow’s nest
of the Williamsburg Bridge, perhaps the one
place aside from the Arctic Circle where no one
could see or hear history being picked apart
like a carcass, and then reassembled in real time.
Three years of this. Almost a thousand days
while the world spun, the cash registers rung,
and so many pretenders to the throne ascended
for lack of better options. Sun turned to snow
and dawn turned to dark and there were still
all those sounds: a style being tweaked, a gift
being refined, an experiment being improvised.
The quest for vision, it’s said, will make
otherwise steady men see outlandish sights:
as they deprive themselves of human fuel
they become something at once less & more
than a vessel; the spirits speak to and through
them and once that barrier is broken, one sees
oneself changed, then begins changing the world.
(*In 1959, feeling pressured by his unexpected rise to fame, Rollins took a three-year hiatus to focus on perfecting his craft. A resident of the Lower East Side of Manhattan with no private space to play, he took his saxophone up to the Williamsburg Bridge to practice alone.)
Sean Murphy has appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and been quoted in USA Today, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and AdAge. His work has also appeared in Salon, The Village Voice, The New York Post, The Good Men Project, Memoir Magazine, and others. His chapbook, The Blackened Blues, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and served as writer-in-residence of the Noepe Center at Martha’s Vineyard. He’s Founding Director of 1455 (www.1455litarts.org). To learn more, please visit seanmurphy.net/ and @bullmurph.
Maybe Dai Morgan followed by the blackbird,
maybe the blackbird first, and Dai, seconds later,
coming in from his walk, old-sailor-rolling.
Anchored in my gateway we greet the day.
Steve the postman is predictable enough,
last Saturday’s results and football talk,
but the blackbird now is joyously above us,
has soared in his song to the telephone wire,
giving out carol, giving out spring, old Orange Beak.
Then a mother and her son of two years old.
She’s pretty, smiling, it’s kind-to-all morning
and she’s registering maybe “two old boys”.
The little boy takes in perhaps the legs,
four legs in corduroy athwart his path.
He gazes up at Dai’s and my crow’s nest.
And the morning’s people now enact the rites
of a fresh May, Smartphones half-neglected
in a willingness to see some good around us.
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has been published widely in Britain and the USA. In 2017 he was shortlisted for the Wordsworth Trust Prize in the UK and he has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in the US.