Normally, we celebrate the holidays,
exchanging gifts, delighting each other
with the latest gadgets. Normally,
we believe in how life always improves,
gets more convenient, easier to live.
Normally, we don’t’ hunker down.
Normally, we don’t have occasion
to use that phrase—hunker down.
Normally, we replace the windows,
rebuild that demolished interior wall.
Normally, we have work to do, relatives
haven’t vanished, and friends haven’t fled.
Normally, the toilet tank refills.
Normally, we change our clothes.
William Aarnes has published two collections with Ninety-Six PressLearning to Dance (1991) and Predicaments (2001)—and a third collection, Do in Dour, from Aldrich Press (2016). His work has appeared in such magazines as Poetry, FIELD, and Red Savina Review.
The latest research calls it misnaming, says
I likely look
nothing like her. Insists
it has nothing to do with aging, assures me
that the fact that both our names
start with K
is unimportant. In a half-
second, I learned this Scorpio dragon
shares the same semantic network
inside one man’s brain
and something else
located in an organ I won’t try to name
since I might say heart
when I mean penis, both
smoking, catching fire, and I guess
to everyone at some point:
you get excited, you get
confused, cup your hands to drink
from the same big bucket of love.
Kasandra S. Larsen
Kasandra Larsen’s work has appeared in Best New Poets 2012, Burningword Literary Journal, Under a Warm Green Linden and Into the Void, and is upcoming in The Halcyone Magazine’s/Black Mountain Press’ 64 Best Poets of 2018, among others. Her full-length poetry manuscript has been a finalist for the 2016 Four Way Books Intro Prize in Poetry, and a semifinalist for the 2017 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Her chapbook STELLAR TELEGRAM won the 2009 Sheltering Pines Press Chapbook Award. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a poetry reader for the journal Bare Fiction (UK).
On a good morning
I am the shaman
on a great morning
I am all thirteen of them
a conclave of fire and feathers
atop the Sayan Mountains.
I practice divinations
while sipping coffee
and braiding my syllabic chants
into crows’ shouts
I call the words gather
they descend the World Tree
I lead ancestral heroes
to the island of my page.
I am a correspondent
fumbling with my camera
to document this Siberian ritual
or worse an ill-fated Yakutian bull
as I surrender to the blade
palpable and mute.
On a good morning
I am both the knife
and the warm bowl of cow’s blood –
on a great morning
I am a poet.
Candice Kelsey’s poems have appeared in such journals as Poet Lore, The Cortland Review, North Dakota Quarterly, and Burningword — recently her nonfiction was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. An educator of 20 years’ standing with her master’s degree in literature from LMU, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.
a plastic water bottle
of an unplanned day-trip
its hollow clunk-clunk-clunk
into the recently emptied
recycling bin echoing through
the shallow chambers
of my heart—blood pulsing
into unwashed fingertips
the cheek-kiss of a too-warm
spring breeze—forewarning of
the oncoming storm
this knowing there is no right here
there can be no rights
out of all these wrong turns
what are we anyway
only ghosts living in
some future past
drifting blindly by
as Earth simmers
Author of ‘where the lost things go’ (Salmon Poetry 2017), Anne Casey has worked for 25+ years as a journalist, magazine editor, media communications director and legal author. Her poetry has won/shortlisted for awards in Ireland, USA, UK, Canada and Australia; she ranks in The Irish Times Most-Read. Anne is Senior Poetry Editor of two literary journals for Swinburne University, Melbourne. Her poems feature in The Irish Times, Entropy, apt, Murmur House, Quiddity, Cordite, The Incubator, Verity La, Plumwood Mountain, The Honest Ulsterman, The Stony Thursday Book, Into The Void, Autonomy anthology and Burning House Press among others. Her second collection is forthcoming in 2019.
Carnival on Camac Street, Philadelphia
summer slides in hot & wet
drags with it the carnival that grows
on the empty lot on Camac Street
where O’Conner & Fink & I sometimes played
stickball & where I stepped on a bee
my first sting it didn’t hurt much
but the bee died
around the fallen insect
tents & rides booths & caravans
overnight seemed to spring from the ground
replacing the dry grass dead shrubs with
colored lights red white blue lining the
midway circling around & round the
Ferris wheel I was afraid to ride but if you
stopped at the top you could see all the way
to Birney School where I’d return in the Fall
but now I was free imagined running away
with the carnival because there was this
9 year old girl -my age- so pretty & different from the
Jewish girls I knew who were my friends & because her mother
told fortunes in a shadowy tent lit with candles & because
walking down the midway each booth promised another chance
to win a giant bear to give to my girlfriend if I could
knock down the bottles or break balloons or
throw rings over the pegs each try just
a nickle & ‘cause the carny smell led me to a
foreign land fried foods cheap hot dogs
pink cotton sugar balls spun about a paper cone & ozone
the spark of rides the Tilt-a-Whirl Bumper Cars The Whip
enter the House of Horrors seated snugly tucked
in a rickety car its metal wheels clacking sparking
hitting the metal doors with a stunning bang & you were
in a dark tunnel waiting for the witches skeletons
to attack spewed out the back with a whip-
like toss into the lights of the last fright –
the booth that sold tiny painted turtles 25 cents
that each year I prayed would live forever but
never did always dying as summer ended
Like Other People
a complex distortion
face strange enough to be sold
odd enough to be called freak
he found refuge among those
who display their difference
under banners at carny midways
the misfits grifters roustabouts
whose otherness was more easily hidden
his true name lost called by his shame
Jo-Jo the Dog Faced Boy a Barnum gift
The Human Terrier – the crowning mystery
of nature’s contradictions
normal folk felt better
knowing they were not him
Funicello made his misery a song
He starts to sing
Like a wounded hound
And the gals all screamed
And gathered round
everyone joined in the chorus
who cared there was a person
behind the hair
Bow wow, bow wow
Jo-Jo, the dog-faced boy
Bow wow, bow wow
Jo-Jo, the dog-faced boy
the howl so human
he cried as he told his friends
the truth of his desire
Eyes bugged out
Through a patch of wool
His face hung down
Like a Boston bull
all I want
is to be like other people
When Plone moved to San Francisco from Philadelphia, aged 19, to continue college, the first place he visited, on that first weekend, was Cannery Row, in Monterey. A voracious reader his whole life and Steinbeck one of his favorite authors, it was his trip to the Holy Land. He walked the streets with Doc, and met all his favorite characters. No mystery why he became a writer. Allen makes his living in the film and television production industry as a writer and director. He holds a Master’s Degree Comp.Lit/Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and a PhD. History of Consciousness from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Spent 9 years as a college professor, at San Jose State University and the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he taught Philosophy, Literature and Psychology and Creative Writing. He also taught screenwriting at University of Southern California, in their Graduate Writers Program before becoming a full-time writer/director. Allen’s passion is and has always been poetry and children’s stories. He’s combined the two in five of the children’s books he’s written; they’re all in rhymed couplets. He has published many poems in such journals as: Light Journal of Poetry and Photography, Moon Journal of Poetry, BTS Journal, The Sea Letter Journal, Celidah: A Journal of Poetry and others. He has also published several short stories, including “The Cowboy of My Heart,” which won the Rosebud Best Short Story award.
The empty prison in Lebanon has become the cold winter hotel
of women and children who ran away from the burning bullets,
the splatter of fire, the heavy bodies.
They have come to the only shelter that the torn curtain
(Sunni, Shiite, Christian)
The children break down and cry for their lost fathers.
They cry for milk and warmth.
Here in Wisconsin the heavy, wet snow piles up, dripping water.
In the dark gray twilight I look out the window
while our Arbor Vitae sway with the gusts of wind.
There’s the drooping, mournful birch, the tired, brown oak.
A cable of black wire gives me light, and keeps our house warm.
Then the lights flicker and go out. The furnace stops running.
I sit in gathering dark
and I can feel the house getting colder and colder.
In Lebanon there’s little food and no promise of heat.
There is not much I will do. There is not much I can do.
John Sierpinski has published poetry in many literary magazines such as California Quarterly, North Coast Review, and Spectrum to name a few. His work is also in six anthologies. He is a Pushcart nominee. His poetry collection, “Sucker Hole,” was published in 2018 by Cholla Needles Press.