No Strings Attached

In Darwin,

Minnesota

the biggest ball

 

of twine

is unencumbered

by human

 

frailty.

No discontented lovers

struggling with rope

 

burn

anxious to be free.

No lasso-

 

twirling cowpokes

waiting in ambush

for that special

 

someone.

No timber-hitched

twosomes and threesomes

 

double knotted

like old sneakers.

No families

 

held together

by spit

and slip

 

knots.

Just a ball of

purposeless string

 

bigger now

than the town

hall.

 

Steve Deutsch

 

Steve Deutsch lives in State College, PA. His recent publications have or will appear in 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.

Eric Blanchard

Inspiration

 

The blank page is inspiration—

 

a silent beckoning

in the mind’s ears.

 

Listen.

It is just like the ocean’s coy whisper

in a conch shell,

whooshing.

 

A toddler scampers across it,

leaving word-like footprints.

 

Lacking social concerns,

he builds sandcastles of

 

random syllables.

Unwittingly,

 

the wave grows toward

tsunami,

 

washes away innocence,

 

replaces it with complex

tortured syntax

 

and walks away.

 

 

 

Planning My Road Trip

 

            This will be epic!

 

I am planning my road trip.

(Who am I kidding? I am daydreaming.)

Really, I will have to be frugal

and pack light,

 

but for an extended adventure—

bring only essentials. Roll my bedroll

tightly, strap it

tightly to the luggage rack.

 

The saddlebags are filled

with necessities: road flares, inner tube,

a selective assortment of tools.

 

A duffel of clothes fit for all seasons

sits on the passenger pillion (rides bitch,

if you will),

which would otherwise be empty.

 

My route has been mapped out,

with various alternatives tossed about,

like a maverick or nomad.

 

I will visit forty-eight states

(and at least one foreign country) alone.

Of course, many things,

 

like consumables, I can gather

on the road;

beg, borrow, steal the rest. I will need

a pup tent and a Coleman stove

 

for the road-side campsites

I will sleep at to save money

on occasion, weather permitting.

 

It will be bare-bones and dirt-cheap.

(Yes, even in my dreams.)  Now,

if only I still had my hog. . . . It won’t

be the same in an RV.

 

Eric Blanchard

Growing up in Texas, Eric dreamed of dropping out of high school, but when the haze of adolescence cleared, he found himself in law school instead. After being a trial lawyer for a decade and a half, he ran away to Ohio, where he taught school and lived life for about a minute. Eventually, he returned home to help care for his parents. Eric’s poetry has been included in numerous collections, both online and in hard copy. In 2013, his prose poem “The Meeting Ran Long” was nominated for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net anthology. His chapbook, The Good Parts, will be published in January 2020 by Finishing Line Press.

How To Recognize An American

In those days of “The Ugly American”

and Gary Powers, his U-2 Incident,

we lived and traveled in Scotland and Europe.

It was mostly the intense teenage boys

who yelled, “Yankee, go home!”

or maybe the coal man, if you could

parse out a few understandable words,

who insulted our Canadian friends

by mistaking them for one of us.

Sure, speaking would give us away,

but how did they know us on the streets?

Walking with hands in pockets, some said,

or overcoats, a wimp’s shame

according to the hardy Scot

with his damp-to-the-bone chill and Gulf Stream,

not guessing Arctic winds and ices.

Years later, the writer was unmasked

in Austria without a word,  without a pocket,

without a coat. “Because you smiled at me,”

the face of officialdom admitted.

“We don’t mind. It’s nice.”*

We carry our terrarium worlds with us,

never guessing how we seem, yet ever fretting

over imagined opinions. (My female generation

always tucking bra straps, hitching slips …

.”what’s a slip?” …while the young

shape their selfies and let it all show,

have different hang-ups.)

Is it American to always

go “spot checking” ourselves?

The Brit’s American joke back then

was the Yank, hand to mouth,

nose to armpit, checking for suspect odors….

checking….checking … is it only human?

only American?….. or only me?

 

*from  Lynda Lynn Haupt, MOZART’S STARLING

 

 

Carol Hamilton

 

Carol Hamilton has recent and upcoming publications in San Pedro River Review, Dryland, Pinyon, Commonweal, Southwestern American Literature, Pour Vida, Adirondack Review, The Maynard, Sanskrit Literary Magazine, U.S.1 Worksheet, Broad River Review, Fire Poetry Review, Homestead Review, Shot Glass Journal, Poem, Haight Ashbury Poetry Journal, Sandy River Review, Blue Unicorn, former people Journal, Main Street Rag, Pigeonholes Review, Poetica Review, Zingara Review, Broad River Review and others. She has published 17 books: children’s novels, legends and poetry, most recently, SUCH DEATHS from Virtual Arts Cooperative Press Purple Flag Series. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma.

 

 

 

Truck Driver

He drives a truck. Eats at laybys

swigs down the daylight. Sometimes

he tilts his head lets out a snore

 

to fill the cab. He pulls things he will

never buy. His phone stays on mute

so he can watch migrating birds

 

as he drives down bones of tarmac.

Sometimes he goes to Burger King

or Costa. Burps on leaving.

 

He said he hates driving told his wife

over the phone. She told him to work

until he dropped. They argued for years.

 

He got home early one shift and found

a car on his drive. Then he realised

his wife was his neighbour.

 

He handed in his notice, got a divorce

and a new job in a bakery. Moulded

dough until his fingers ached.

 

Today he lives next door to his neighbour

passes her croissants over the fence.

But they never speak as she preferred

 

him being a truck driver.

 

Gareth Culshaw

 

Gareth lives in Wales. He had his first collection published, The Miner, by FutureCycle in 2018. He is currently doing an MFA in Creative Writing at Manchester Met. He has been nominated for Best of the Net. Gcwculshaw AT moonfruit DOT com

Far away from Home

There are countries, states, laws, constitutions,

Bible, Koran, catechisms, versicles.

Multiple versions, different procedures,

corrections and penalties.

As if we, humans, because having spread ourselves

around our entire world, were diverse,

dissimilar, incompatible beings.

The truth, so little faced and assumed,

and indoctrinated with so little faith,

is that we came destined to keep alive

the flame of mutual and supportive love,

free from color, race, religion walls and borders.

We have had intelligence and culture to, unluckily,

only improve our mismatches and idiosyncrasies.

The longer we stay on this strange route,

we will be farther from the promised land,

that Canaan where milk and honey flow,

and evil has no place and hides,

defeated, confused and humiliated.

 

 

Edilson Afonso Ferreira

 

Mr. Ferreira, 76 years, is a Brazilian poet who writes in English rather than in Portuguese. Largely published in international journals in print and online, he began writing at age 67, after retirement as a bank employee. Nominated for The Pushcart Prize 2017, his first Poetry Collection, Lonely Sailor, One Hundred Poems, was launched in London, November 2018. He is always updating his works at www.edilsonmeloferreira.com.

Six White Feathers

Something happened here.

Beneath this tree, a pigeon’s worth

of feathers lies scattered among stones.

In the dazzling desert light, six white

 

strong-shafted quills designed for flight

catch my eye. I bend to pluck them,

take them home. Blocks away, near

her old apartment, hawks nest. Sometimes

 

I pass for a view of those high branches

that leaf and lose their leaves,

for a glimpse of hawks,

for a longer walk and the long run

 

of memories we made. But why save

these six feathers? A pigeon became

a raptor’s meal—that’s the story

I imagine—and why commemorate

 

a death I only guess has happened?

A souvenir is nothing but a wish

to preserve the evanescent,

a pretense of permanence.

 

Take, for instance, a seventh feather

I spotted as we stood sealed, embracing

beside a train. All the colors of ash,

it had come to rest between the rails.

 

I warned her not to reach

beneath the wheels to pick it up,

though she hadn’t moved to leave

my arms. Soon, the train would roll

 

away, but for now there was no

danger. So I let that feather go

and wisely made the most of one last

chance to hold her close. Now

 

six feathers lie scattered on my desk:

not the pure white I detected from afar,

not the white silence of a blank page

in the face of a myriad unasked questions

 

and too much left to say, but white

smudged pale gray at their tips and edges.

Still I keep them, to spite their lack

of meaning and the way they take me

 

back to a mid-October day, a train

on a westbound track, a woman I call

love, who promised nothing, and a lone

pigeon feather, gone. Lost forever.

 

Marisa P. Clark

 

Marisa P. Clark is a queer writer from the South whose work has appeared in Apalachee Review, Cream City Review, Foglifter, Potomac Review, Rust + Moth, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere, with work forthcoming in Shenandoah, Nimrod, Epiphany, and Evening Street Review, among others. She was twice the winner of the Agnes Scott College Writers’ Festival Prizes (in fiction, 1996; in nonfiction, 1997), and Best American Essays 2011 recognized her creative nonfiction among its Notable Essays. She reads fiction for New England Review and makes her home in New Mexico with three parrots and two dogs.