they are coughing in the high rises of New York
in the bayous of Louisiana
in the mountains of Colorado
they are coughing up wind
while God orders the trees to bend
with our breath
and our hope cracks
and stretches like rain
because to see death
is to scrape down a home
with nothing to build in its place
on the moody March grass
on the spine of a god
who won’t stand up for us today
they’re in a small room with white walls
fever dances in their eyes
a woman lays her face in her hands
the children are drawing houses
with trees on the lawn
lines of walls through the trunks
there is always some line in the way
branch and wall intersecting
viruses crossing borders
world as global as the tides
as hungry as the days
counting coins for flour
while in our dreams
we walk on water
or light candles in a church
we can’t visit anymore
and in our dreams
we are always younger
they’re catching spiders
and throwing them outside
they’re wrapping themselves
in the sea-sweat
they’re watering the cactus
the cactus never bends to the wind
the cactus is fatter than God
spinier than his tongue
the cactus knows love
better than roses
because to know a desert
is to love the rivers
and I do not want to cross one today
I have a boat with no oars
and a God with no words
and children who climb trees
and a rose petal
pressed in a book
about a sea so red
it mocked our blood
a sea so parted
the fish drowned in air
so the ghosts swam west
where the sun gave up
and I’m on the shore
now a ship at sea
on a wave so big
I can’t see the horizon
Kika Dorsey is a poet and fiction writer in Boulder, Colorado, and lives with her two children, husband, and pets. Her books include Beside Herself (Flutter Press, 2010) and three full-length collections, Rust, Coming Up for Air (Word Tech Editions, 2016, 2018), and the forthcoming Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man and Daughter of Hunger (Pinyon Publishing, 2020). She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize four times. Currently, she is an instructor of English at Front Range Community College and tutors. When not writing or teaching, she swims miles in pools and runs and hikes in the open space of Colorado’s mountains and plains.
Night, ossuary dank.
in the hills.
Out there in the miasma
a virus thrives
in its first host.
Here, our streets reek
of festering offal.
Unlike the lamb,
we know where
we’re being led:
here, we sing
out of fear.
Brett Harrington’s (he/him/his) previous publications include Ligeia, Two Hawks Quarterly, The Shore, Third Coast, The Inflectionist Review and Bluestem, and he was a finalist for the 2012 Best of the Net award. He lives in the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon.
Digging in the Wrong Place
Compromised, they call the card. My 16 digits mined
by algorithm or bunker genius fiddling,
for $1633 at Best Buy; the robbers have
all my numbers save the back code to complete
the inspired transaction, the Take back one kadam
& so they are. Far enough away from the Nazis for now,
Boston thinks it’s annexed the assholes today
in a gazebo. Nazis in a gazebo?! Only Indy could flip
his revolver & trusty whip into a suitcase, beeline
a passenger plane & catch ‘em sneering in their insignias,
gathered like poison in standing water. In the film,
the strong backs open empty sand while our hero squints down
upon the twisting floor, asking Why did it have to be
snakes? Don’t waste breath waiting for a revelation
of perfectly directed sun. The diorama is none,
& we can’t count on the wrath of God to gather
His phantom forces to melt their brainwashed
faces one at a time, down to the skulls.
Miners in Taijuan
—from photographs by Stan Grossfeld
Perhaps brothers, these two pitchy
instruments savor warm water
in a metal bath. Beers at arms’
reach, a coal accord for labor.
In the outsider’s monochrome
any untarnished aspect of
the image is silvered. Sympathy
is less than the universal,
but still the color of deserved
rest, arms that rip the underground
asunder, later burn chunks to
boil rainwater from the sky’s well
while factories feed, the country
busy raising a colossus.
If Providence doubts its welcome,
these two tender invitation.
Max Heinegg’s poems have been nominated for Best of the Net, The Pushcart Prize, and been a finalist for the poetry prizes of Crab Creek Review, December Magazine, Cultural Weekly, Cutthroat, Rougarou, Asheville Poetry Review, the Nazim Hikmet prize, and the Joe Bolton award. Recent work appears in Thrush, Nimrod, The Cortland Review, and Love’s Executive Order. Additionally, he is a singer-songwriter and recording artist whose records can be heard at www.maxheinegg.com
I remember I tripped
and skinned my knee on the curb,
beneath the neon signglow
and as my last bottle shattered
on the pavement beside me
and I looked at the hole
in my slacks and the wet bloodsmudge there
I said, interiorly, you clumsy fuck,
and exteriorly, just plain fuck.
Some pretty folks in day-glo evening dresses
looked on, judging a bit.
And as I sat there, failed son, spinning,
mad at my fingers for not being needles,
mad at my saliva for not being bleach,
mad at my feet for not being steady
(but how could they, really), mad at
my beer for not staying, miraculously,
in the bottle, I looked up at the
signs in all their bright rainbow,
and I remember tripping, dissociating,
thinking, interiorly- “I wonder what
the noble gasses make of it, being
caught in those tubes, hocking
beer for a living?” and,
exteriorly, just plain fuck.
And this led, inexorably,
to a little more negative self-talk
outside the bar, mad at my
creatively dressed audience,
for moving on, judgment complete,
and at myself again,
for not even knowing then
that there were blessings
that could be counted,
even while coagulating,
by whatever sordid light
there was to count them–
argon, like from the argonauts,
neon, sounds like Creon in a way,
xenon and on and on and on…
krypton, like from that Superman
stuff (wonder how he felt about
good’ol Jor-El!), radon, all the
nobles, Jay-San, no that’s not one,
all first-born sons probably,
debased into illuminating a
standard issue failing-to-please-
daddy-issue drunk thinking,
interiorly, how the nobles
have fallen so low, and finally,
exteriorly, a howl at the moon-
where is that spark
that will light me
up one night?
Michael J. Galko
Michael J. Galko is a scientist and poet who lives and works in Houston, TX. He has been a juried poet of the Houston Poetry Fest three of the last four years and is a 2019 Pushcart Award nominee. In the past year he has had poems published or accepted for publication at descant, San Pedro River Review, Gargoyle, Gulf Coast, Defunkt Magazine, Riddled with Arrows, Poetry WTF!?, and Sonic Boom, among other journals.
This season is a
power wash for my arteries,
I am washed clean
and hung to dry on the clothesline.
Father doesn’t work, he sits
on the veranda, smoking a bidi,
his friends bring him bottles of
Arrack: they brew it with petrol
and ash, they slice some fruits,
add lizards to the pot
boil them to a sozzle-blitz.
I watch my neighbours stir it
with blood-shot eyes.
Amma kills my pet chickens every day,
Mary, Martha, Kunju have all been
cooked with spices ground at home.
Men look at amma’s blouse
as she bends down to serve them.
on a plantain leaf. They smack their
lips savouring spices, looking
at her melons and at times, at me.
Amma has purple patches all over her face,
she snores into her dreamless land.
I feel two hands pull me up by my feet,
peel off my petticoat.
No one hears me in the night
when pain washes my heart clean.
I soar up with the wind
watch my friends smile
in their sleep dreaming
of angels like me.
I dry out day and night
on the clothesline
washed clean from
pain and shame.
Babitha Marina Justin
Babitha Marina Justin is from Kerala, South India and a Pushcart prize nominee, 2018. Her poems have appeared in Eclectica , Esthetic Apostle, Fulcrum, The Scriblerus, Chaleur Magazine, Into the Void, Trampset, Inlandia , The Paragon Press, Adolphus Press, The Punch Magazine, Rise Up Review, Constellations, Cathexis NW Press, Silver Needle Press, About Place Journal, The Write Launch, Trampset, The Four Quarters Magazine, So to Speak journal, Kritya and Journal of Post-Colonial Literature. Her first collection of poetry, Of Fireflies, Guns and the Hills, was published by the Writers Workshop in 2015. She is also waiting to debut as a novelist with ‘Maria’s Swamp’
His heart gave out two nights ago
at 29, four years out of Iraq.
In war, with mangled vehicles,
mechanics strip the intact parts.
Fuel pump, clutch, perhaps an axle,
roof hatch, carburetor, clutch,
random gauges, a machine gun mount.
Back home in Pinson
Tennessee, he heard cicadas
saw his head
around the clock.
A jobless drift of smashed chairs.
A son meandering the fence
around my sister’s yard,
tremors in his vision as he
spat accusations in the grass.
Meth: a gnashing chatter.
Heroin: molasses in a moan.
His Purple Heart
lying with its recovered bullet
in a satin-lined box.
A year of VA rehab lockdown,
with a Johnson City keyhole view:
him, his eyes lost in the mountains,
from a bench out on the lawn.
Two nights ago, his heart gave out
at 29. He’s on life support
until they harvest organs.
Eric Forsbergh’s poetry has appeared in The Journal of The American Medical Association, Zeotrope, Artemis, The Cafe Review, and other venues. In 2016, he was awarded a Pushcart nomination by The Northern Virginia Review. He is a Vietnam veteran.