Spring Kicks In

City highways take the future

around the bend of the river

of money. Women assume further control.

The next human world aims its nuclear

torpedoes, as transcontinental jets

haunt the place, taking off and landing

on autopilot. Sons decide they’re daughters,

while the compass spin undergoes

its heavy journey across the charred

proving grounds of spring. Beetles burrow

into trees high up, where winter ends

and may return less often. Alien weather

balloons crack into a dimensionless chill.

Elk herds edge north, as the north pole

down-drains into newly claimed shipping

lanes. Parabolic receivers scan for eyes

of doubt over ends and their means.

Blue-suited company men gas up directly

removed from undead talk of extinctions.

A long hot kiss familiar with liberated

hip bones wavers before the collapse

of procreative love. Forebears continue

to break up and drift off from work shoes

and overcoats. Habits that grew out of fear

into lifestyles refuse to reveal their North

American arrogance in its rainwater

spend-drift street-carried flatness

under shirts and blank-slate asking

for reassurance around petroglyphs

that dwarf the possible ways to feel.



James Grabill

James Grabill’s work appears in Caliban, Harvard Review, Terrain, Mobius, Shenandoah, Seattle Review, Stand, and many others. Books – Poem Rising Out of the Earth (1994), An Indigo Scent after the Rain (2003), Lynx House Press. Environmental prose poems, Sea-Level Nerve: Books One (2014), Two (2015), Wordcraft of Oregon. For many years, he taught all kinds of writing as well as “systems thinking” and global issues relative to sustainability.

Arthur Plotnik, Featured Author

Please Hold Your Answers


“…the answer to the future will be in knowing how

 to ask the right questions.”  –Quentin Hardy



Answers are finished, washed up.


Once the noble deep-sea creatures

who fought until you reeled them in,

now they flop like beached alewives

expiring in the sand and seaweed.


You—did you spend your capital chasing

schools of teasing, thrashing answers,

filling your nets and holds, steaming forth,

unaware that the spoils go to those


with questions, not answers; to those

who ask, Are we asking the right questions?

and other such admired interrogatives?


We stay afloat on whys, a gratuitous

“excellent question!” like a safety vest;

and as for you, weighing us down

with answers, answer, answers,

overboard you go in your cement-shoes!


A corporate suit hooks jacket over shoulder,

marches to a window, turns theatrically

and asks, What message are we sending?

in such a way that boardroom fannies shift

on swivel chairs to stir up yet another question

like morays rooting in the turbid shallows.



Meaning of a Dish Sponge


Your dish sponge—floral-scented,

spanking new, but oh how quickly

it will age from the moment you free it

of its cello-wrap and turn it over,

one side soft and baby blue

the other tough as calloused fists.


How it swigs the suds! Slides like

a lover over porcelain. See it slaughter

the cowering grease!


But soon—so soon—the breakdown;

baby blue goes brown and gnarly;

pots and pans that couldn’t last

one round with Tough Side

easily shred its spavined body; and

finally the stink—Old-Sponge smell

from this simulacrum of its youthful self,

to remind us of our own mortality.


Oh—sorry; but had you never sussed this

meaning? In all the nights you bent your

bones over the sink, hands already shaking

as you squeezed and felt the tears flow?



Outgoing Voicemail from My Ex-Muse


If this is you calling I have to tell you

I’ll be out of town a few weeks

to visit an old friend of mine who

well I won’t lie to you it’s a new friend

who’s been invoking me at a time

when I need the kind of invocation

you once composed to summon me.


Hopeless were your verses, but not

your supplications, all those O‘s

to me so sweet so yearning,

we had a beautiful thing until you

cheapened it with half-heartedness—

no more O Divinely Gifted One

barely an O practically a Hey You.


Perhaps one day that tin ear

of yours will sense the difference

between lute and second fiddle—

which   this   muse   does   not   play.


Yet I admit

I can’t help wondering where

those pretty Os are going now


now that anyone can see you’ve

been invoking someone else

and probably that imposturing tramp

judging by the even more godawful

crap you call inspired.


Arthur Plotnik

Better known for his prose works, including two Book-ofthe-Month Club selections, Arthur Plotnik is a late-emerging poet who has appeared in Brilliant Corners, Rosebud, Harpur Palate, THEMA, Comstock Review, The Cape Rock, Glass, Edify, Off the Coast, Kindred, and several more literary publications. Formerly editorial director at the American Library Association, he was a runner up for the William Stafford Award and a finalist in other national competitions. He lives with his wife in Chicago.

William Doreski

Dynamite Always Brightens a Dumbfounded Winter Day


On the road to the marsh I find

a stick of dynamite, blasting

cap attached. It must have fallen

off a truck. I toss the stick

into a snowbank, retreat

two hundred yards, trigger it

with telepathy. The blast

spews a world-class snow-cloud.


As if a page of music unfurled

in a single huge chord, the noise

astonishes the innocent ear,

leaving a memory of bells.

Nearby trees shrug off their rime

like elegant women undressing.

In a yard a quarter mile away

a pack of retrievers goes crazy.


How did I will such omniscience?

A truck dawdles in spew of fumes

and pulls up beside me, driver

grinning with stainless aplomb.

With honest beer-breath he reports

that the crew heard the blast and cheered.

Dynamite always brightens

a dumbfounded winter day.


The truck maunders on, spewing

a beer can or two. How casual

can explosions be? The ice

on the marsh may have rippled

in sympathy. Maybe an owl

stirred in sleep. Already the dogs

down the road have finished barking

and returned to playing in snow.



Polar Vortex


The cold pouring down from the Arctic has toughened into a hideous animal that we shouldn’t pet, trust, or feed. Let it forage as it will. Let it growl and claw the pine-trunks. Don’t let it into the house unless you think it’s about to produce a litter. Then, of course, common humanity would require us to shelter it. But I don’t believe there will be a litter. More likely it’s pretending to be pitiful, like the scruffy man who sits in the café all morning staring into his laptop computer without buying anything. Bestial cold will behave in a bestial manner. But it doesn’t conceal its carnivorous instincts. It doesn’t lie about the depth of its cold. It doesn’t strut and boast of conquering creatures more fragile than itself. It doesn’t squat on real estate and milk the poor for mortgages. It doesn’t believe in money, much less waste it on follies to insult the ninety-nine percent. Still we agree that this creature belongs outdoors. Yes, it plants a murky kiss on the kitchen window. Yes, it seems to threaten the deer browsing at our bird feeders. Yes, it whispers brittle little nothings in a language we don’t understand. Let’s just keep it outside, at least for now. I’m confident it will thrive on its own.



William Doreski

William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in various journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His new poetry collection is A Black River, A Dark Fall.


I am my father’s hardest bullet. Buckshot sperm bored out from the barrel that birthed me. I was born Valentine’s Day, 1989, and every three hundred and sixty-fifth day I have been gifted a bullet of different caliber. They sit arranged on shelves the way a hunter might hang heads, displayed for prize and for valor. But I don’t own a gun. There’s no opposition to this purchase, no great moral dilemma keeping me from exercising what my father calls a Constitutional Right slowly eroding away. There have been mornings where I’ve pondered a purchase, thought “today I’ll buy my first firearm.” I research what I might want, market prices, shooting ranges near me, but I never carry the idea past my front porch. Instead, I often sit and watch my father polish his arsenal, meticulous with each wire-brush thrust, each slow turn of some impossibly small screw. I know the green gun case sitting in our basement is a legacy, one that will be passed down to my brother and I. I ask my father to mark the monetary value of each weapon. My intention is to split our inheritance up by worth, making sure each son receives equal distribution of our father’s collection. This request was met with stern words: they are not, nor will they ever be, for sale.



Ashton Kamburoff

Ashton Kamburoff’s poetry, essays, and flash nonfiction have appeared with Black Lawrence Press, Rust + Moth, Vinyl, and other literary venues. He served as the 2017-2018 L.D. & LaVerne Harrell Clark Writer in Residence and has received fellowships through The Vermont Studio Center & The Lighthouse Writers Workshop. He currently works as a freight train conductor on the eastern seaboard.

Tony Tracy

Pops, Dis Playa Need Ta Roll


They leave home singing, return home singing,

iPhones providing a soundtrack to their days

as they overdub the lyrics with an aggressive,

more frenzied version of their own.

But singing is not right, not in the technical

sense of the word, an unqualified misnomer

that would have traditionalists seething

in their graves— sonorous crooners who

devoted their lives to perfecting the range

of their sound; signature vocalists like Holiday,

Pavarotti or even good olé Blue Eyes;

their throats emotive as any instrument.

How modulation of timbre transports

feeling into worlds unknown, even a single

note rolled in glissandro can transfix.

But my boys could care less about that—

music as a vehicle, spiritual medium with

transformative properties. My desire to be

moved lame as the word gobbledygook.

Their base requirement visceral: rap the body

can feel, words that rise defiant, defendant;

brash sentiment carried mostly on the wing

of bass and rhyme. After dinner my son

pimps in his self-affected gangsta: Pops,

dis playa need to roll… I got beats to make

this nigga feel like drippin. Then he thumps

his chest with an inverted peace-sign.

Smiles thinly. Scrolls through graphic

soundbites on iTunes rapping over the top

of his favorites: Tupac, 2 Chainz, Biggie

and Wiz; ownership meant to impress.

He tells me Rock is dead. I think to

counter, wish to tell him he’s got it

wrong, there’s much more to music

than this. But thinking is where

it starts and ends.





This reliance on spiritual balance

A far remove from its initial days

When I practiced The Upanishads in one

Hand and held the braided hose

Of a hookah in the other like an umbilical

Connecting me to the rich omphalos of God.

Meditation a zeitgist in the 80’s.

As the Beatles and Maharishi disappeared

In the rear-view, Wall Street’s

Three-piece-suits loomed king.

But at college I was smitten with Birkenstocks

And the regurgitated vibe of Woodstock,

the lanky TA’s chakra—hipster minyan

To professor So&So of Far Eastern Religion—

That accompanied me across The Quad

After lecture. He made pursuit of transcendentalism

Seem as cool as dropping the needle

On the Talking Heads, a tab of windowpane

On the eve of a Dead show.

But Enlightenment’s novelty wore off

Like a monk’s interest in the secular.

And then the world does what it does

And life did what it did and like

Finding a rhythmic breath

Or frying an egg sunny-side-up,

I finally got the center to hold.

To know then what we know now…

Well, we’ve all heard that one before.



Tony Tracy

Tony Tracy is the author of two poetry collections: The Christening and Without Notice. He is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in North American Review, Flint Hills Review, Poetry East, Tar River Poetry, Rattle, Hotel Amerika, Painted Bride Quarterly, Potomac Review and various other magazines and journals.

The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

        “What caravan did the Thousand Oaks shooter [terrorist] come from?”
                                                                        – Don Lemon (to Trump)


Recent news ended, Terrorists suspected.

Among the frenzied crowd cued

in Harvest Bakery’s lunch line,

a mother’s quietude commands.


Her shoulder-length brown hair frames a smooth ivory-skinned face;

her brown silk raincoat nearly camouflages

her severed left arm carried

invisible like the dead –


like the seen-unseen homeless?

Like the increasing refugees who,

after journalists air their plights, disappear fractured

by the next featured frame?


Faces press upon clay memory –

embed the snapdragon-black eyes

like those of this mother’s adopted

Ethiopian daughter who peers


from behind the silk rain of her mother’s coat – peers

from her perfectly proportioned Nefertiti face.

Peers have taunted her – have demonized

her alleged illegitimacy, yet her mother’s got sand – 


Huck Finn’s words spoken

of Mary Jane, kind to all strangers

(kind to all of us new in every moment.)

She has let go.


With invisible arm she marries the dead,

the disenfranchised, the migrants,

the unseen witness. Never choosing between keeping neighbors

or adopting daughters, she says yes to her love-life.


Hugging that yes her child tugs the sleeve hiding
the map of woe bound for imperfect paradise.


by Ann Reed

Ann Reed is a contemplative scholar, poet, and Chinese calligrapher-brush painter. She has taught English Literature and Theory of Knowledge in Malaysia, Ukraine, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and China, where traditional cultures value literature as good medicine. Her postdoctoral research studies the mending arts of Early Modern English and Contemporary Poetry. Her Chinese calligraphy and brush paintings have been exhibited in Portland, Oregon and at the Shenzhen Fine Arts Museum in China. Her poems have been published in various literary journals, one of which won the Fall 2018 Lazuli Literary Group poetry prize.