I am more than interlaced fingers,
a tangle of limbs
As I get older, I am learning
the difference between
words that are blue and words that are
dark like the insides of people—
Clots and handfuls of flesh
that are more than my gender,
more than my wild ankles
with the bones round and clear like planets
The arsenal is the judgement of
I was never a person with blood on her hands,
A creation, I was an infant child born in the middle,
a girl in a brother’s clothing
Words have meaning, despite what
Now is a time when the
punishment for everything is
by Kristin LaFollette
Kristin LaFollette received her BA and MA in English and creative writing from Indiana University. She is a PhD student in the English (Rhetoric & Writing) program at Bowling Green State University. Her poems have been featured in West Trade Review, Poetry Quarterly, Lost Coast Review, Slipstream Press, The Light Ekphrastic, The Main Street Rag, and River Poets Journal, among others. She also has artwork featured in Harbinger Asylum, Plath Profiles: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Sylvia Plath Studies, Pretty Owl Poetry, and Spry Literary Journal. She lives with her husband in northwestern Ohio. You can visit her at kristinlafollette.blogspot.com.
that dusk which is the start of deadly night
when darkness hides our evils and fears
and men surrender to folly and violence
that dusk, the gentle laying of a robe of pink
over a hot day of white sun or endless storms
that covered the roiling sky black at noon
with wind howling and rain lashing at faces;
that dusk the delicate hand of rest when the air
finally cools down the washes and gullies
where the heat still reflects, rocks warm to touch,
this breath of evening air relieves the oppression
and we can afford to move now before that dark
sky arrives, watch the light fade, a draining of all
the travails of the day, a promise that shadows
will melt, creation arise on the morrow, whether
sodden or sultry it will be as unprecedented as
a clean sun rising over all our waste and wild
spaces, dusk a distant matter of perspective.
by Emily Strauss
Emily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college Over 350 of her poems appear in a wide variety of online venues and in anthologies, in the U.S. and abroad. She is both a Best of the Net and Pushcart nominee. The natural world of the American West is generally her framework; she also considers the narratives of people and places around her. She is a semi-retired teacher living in California.
His torso entangled
unsure of its ends.
And there, Atlas
again and again.
Deep bronze bodies smelted by Hephaestus
His, their sarcic art
Sheeted furnace Aristophanes fulfilling.
He stands on the curb
Someone approaches, a brother of Other.
“Fuck that shit, bitch, get the fuck off my block!”
Glock cocked a god’s knuckle cracks
Saltpeter theogony, flesh behind
Spattering brother’s blood before
Pollocking the pavement
Something within him
“Touch it”, it tells
Feeling the severed ligaments
Pollocking the pavement
by Connor Fieweger
Where have you been all my life
now that it’s nearly done?
Here on this island of our birth?
Where minds venture like hands
and pedestrians traffic in
solstice cold they import from
There to Here on overcoats into gin mill
Where they sit apart, that woman and man
once lovers, on the longest
night of the year.
Here they speak only in syllables but
there in the throwback booths fashioned
perpendicular, prismatic high-
Where two slip into one
as we did once
risking scandal. Those two over
There—it’s obvious they are in
over their heads
having once been head
Back then, Ramses II was believed
to have fathered
one hundred children.
Matrimony is like that.
Everyone was drunk
when first they met.
The woman was a girl in disguise.
Ricochet barlight on white of a beard.
There, poets were never made to adhere.
Where again, it’s your dime.
There, the scherzo’s on you, pal.
Put a couple of quarters in
Where once you might have wrangled a tone.
Request permission to employ vocabulary, sir!
Currying curious favor I, choir member, cant.
Right here, te quiero, quemamos. I want you. We burn.
Can I carry your books?
Are you generous or dangerous?
Beware, where poets dally, neologisms
being diagnostic for madness.
Where mushrooms grow and worms wind.
There goes thy long-reserved senility.
There, swans are mean, they mate for life.
Where you dream of eating
one, but I pushed the head of that last one
under, as into an oven, thinking
Now “it’s your turn, PeeWee.”
Where I once was angry,
I now swan around,
the size of a fist.
There, Buoyancy took hold,
where no singing I do fails
to please me
and that is saying something for to go
there I know you
There is still a market
for a woman who knows how
to diagram a sentence
in a corset.
Here she is.
Humidity grows high and heat holds it tight.
Pupils wiggle free of their seats. An angel cracks
A can open. A voice breaks. Triple plays transpire. Twilight
Corazon radio love, Sonido Suave and tank tops are back
With a vengeance. Sirens mesmerize. Quipping, some flirt. Beach
Boys oldies resound with static edges. Freedom screams,
Whiffle-snap nights herald the long-awaited reach
Of lilac and garbage-scented June. Waterfowl careen,
Raw-voiced over the harbor. A little spot outside
Goes a long way here, where a fire escape can save your life.
Rockaway Jamaica Bay gulls swoop, drop, dive
Over Gotham waters running various and rife—
Veils of low-hanging humidity June imposes
Promise July’s chain-link fences lousy with roses.
Maruccinus, You’re Asinine
Adaptation: Catullus XII
Marrucinius, you’re asinine, deft indeed, slick too,
at least when you’re sober, and your crappy de-
meanor otherwise leaves much to be desired.
Take your sleazy maneuvers, Klepto, like your
brazen pilfering of my dinner napkins!
You think larceny’s funny? Don’t believe me?
Go on, question your brother. Ask him. I dare
say your Pollio doesn’t find your antics
so amusing at all! And we know what a
great sport Pollio is. He can take a joke.
We know Pollio’d cough up a million just
cure your sinister penchant, fix or break you—
Come clean, cough it up. Give me back what’s mine.
Pronto. Fork over the linens you swiped, Lefty.
Come on, gimme the napkins, Veranius,
carried all the way from Spain for my table
by a friend who came to dinner here and left
empty-handed and this is why 300
mean lines packing a wallop are headed your way, O,
asshole dinner companion. Better act fast.
Send the napkins which Veranius, my true
friend, bestowed upon me back, that precious item
whose high-caliber fibers are well woven
close, tight into the fabric of my being.
Those linens you swiped did not come all the way
from Spain, Stickyfingers, so loser scum like
you could pinch them in between courses and
bites and pocket them the minute my head was turned.
by Michele Madigan Somerville
Michele Somerville’s collection of poems, Black Irish, was published by Plain View Press (2009). Her book-length poem was also published by Ten Pell Books (2001). A reprint of this book is expected late this year. She won Honorable Mention in the May Sarton Contest, sponsored by Bauhan Publishing (2012). She won first place in the W.B. Yeats Society of New York Poetry Contest, which was judged by Billy Collins. In the Davoren Hanna Poetry Competition, sponsored by Eason Bookshops, she won Honorable Mention. Her poetry has been published in Hanging Loose, Mudfish, The Nervous Breakdown, Mad Hat, Puerto del Sol, 6ix, Downtown Brooklyn, Eureka Street, LiveMag, Brooklyn Review, Purchase Poetry Review, Big Time Review, and Quarto. she also writes essays and has been published in The New York Times and the Harvard Divinity Bulletin. she teaches in New York City, and is an avid painter.
Jimmy was a dreamer, a handsome James Dean kind of guy.
Jimmy decided at 17 he was in love, so he eloped with his child bride
and kept it a secret until nobody would question her age.
He loved his bride and she loved him. They had a baby
daughter who was a dreamer too.
Jimmy had tiny flecks of gold in his eyes that looked like the sun
had burned right through them. Sometimes he wore a patch.
Jimmy loved to dream but he loved his child bride and daughter
more than any dreamer would think possible.
When Jimmy was 20 he was drafted in the Korean War.
He didn’t like war so he pretended he was blind in one eye
and when that didn’t work he bought a sunlamp and stared
into the light for 29 minutes a day
Jimmy was never really blind in either eye but his dreams
began to be slightly blurred.
When the army said he could still see well enough to kill
a man, Jimmy went off to war.
Years went by and he sent love letters home to his child bride
and daughter who were both growing up, alone.
Some of the letters spoke of the things he missed most
from back home. All of the letters had a pencil sketch
of wild horses running through a field.
When Jimmy returned from Korea he was different. He stayed
out all night and played cards. He drank a lot of whiskey
because his dreams were more like nightmares.
He went to strip-clubs and bars parading around with prostitutes
or cheap whores according to his child bride.
He started talking about the men in his platoon.
He wore a fedora with a long duck feather wedged beneath
the black satin ribbon.
Jimmy loved Winston cigarettes.
Sometimes Jimmy drew horses but they weren’t running free
anymore. They looked sickly, their heads hung down, their tails
never flowing in the wind.
Jimmy’s mother was concerned. She asked the doctor
to straighten Jimmy out. She ordered electric shock therapy
to get rid of his nightmares.
Jimmy told his daughter he was being followed. He said people
slipped things in his drinks. He said he chewed bubblegum
to get rid of the taste.
He started hallucinating. His dreams were not dreams anymore.
Jimmy couldn’t tell the difference between his child bride
and a cheap whore.
He acted funny, told his daughter not to look at his eyes.
Not to stare at the sun and never trust anyone, especially
other men with fedoras who started hanging around after
hours leaving ashes on the steps.
Jimmy liked to smoke but those ashes weren’t his. Jimmy
feared for his life and his family’s lives too.
He began to lock the doors feeling paranoid.
He wrote crazy stories in a secret black binder.
One night, Jimmy took an overdose of sleeping pills
His daughter found him with his eyes closed.
Jimmy didn’t need a patch anymore.
When they buried Jimmy they draped his coffin
with an American flag. His daughter kept it with his drawings
of horses, the ones with their tails whipping through the wind.
Years later someone told the family that Jimmy was in a special troop.
That the government had given him LSD in something they called
* ‘Operation Midnight Climax.’
Jimmy had been part of an experiment that went terribly wrong.
Jimmy had been playing Black Jack at a safe-house
set up by the CIA.
Jimmy died an unsung hero. But his daughter never doubted
his dreams were real, even when they became more like nightmares
Some days she turns on the sunlamp for 29 minutes and lets
the warmth surround her face. She wears a patch on both
eyes to protect her from the light or anything else she doesn’t want to see
She says Jimmy’s dreams are still alive in her. She runs
her fingers over his pencil sketches and reads herself to sleep
with the crazy stories he wrote in the secret black binder.
She dreams of horses and unsung heroes and all things that sound
too impossible to be true.
On his birthday every year she takes out the folded American flag
and drapes it over her bed. She puts on his feathered fedora
and smokes a Winston cigarette then chews one piece of bubblegum.
Jimmy would have liked that.
by Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas
Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas is a seven-time Pushcart nominee and four-time Best of the Net nominee. She has authored several chapbooks along with her latest full-length collection of poems:Hasty Notes in No Particular Order newly released from Aldrich Press. She is the 2012 winner of the Red Ochre Press Chapbook competition for her manuscript Before I Go to Sleep and according to family lore she is a direct descendant of Robert Louis Stevenson. www.clgrellaspoetry.com
To My Son, Home from College
You’re home complaining how crowded
our house feels with the new baby,
question the noise, her crying.
These rooms used to be yours.
Then you speak of going to live with your dad.
The dad who wanted to show you the alternatives.
I always asked him, alternatives to what?
I walk down Sixth Street alone,
big black umbrella carried in front,
tears falling faster than the rain.
I could come home and sit with you,
but what could I say?
I love to see you;
that could be enough.
Though you ask nothing about me.
You belong to your father now;
your little finger lifts off the cup
the way his does.
You rub your face hard on both cheeks,
rub your chin several times
when you feel something important.
Like how you can’t stand it here any more.
You laugh, when you really laugh,
with his guttural growls.
Offer up unexpected belches and animal sounds
while other people just talk.
He pours you a whiskey.
Knowing your history and his,
I wonder what else.
I don’t need to know the rest.
What I know is that
he’s showing the other choices
that may change you as they did him.
Six Maple Trees
lined the edge of the farm
we called Ye Dascomb Aerie.
We could not reach into the first two.
They limbed up too high.
We climbed the last one
near the raspberry patch.
The one with the rope swing Cecil made.
That strong limb just above our heads
made for us to swing up on,
into branches high above the ground.
We carved our initials there, the taller cousins
toward the top, the shorter ones
near the bottom. I loved cutting
into the bark with my green Girl Scout knife.
It made the tree ours.
Cousin Alan and I would climb as high as
we could, then Alan went
higher. We could talk up there
about Fats Domino and Elvis.
When we were alone, Jerry Lee Lewis.
He married his thirteen- year- old cousin.
The maple branches strong
enough to hold twelve cousins each summer.
Fat green leaves in summer, red in fall,
they held our secrets, then dropped
them without ceremony to the ground.
Everyone who visited had to pass
the test of our maple tree. Could they
climb it and how high? Could they
hang upside down from the high
branch, then jump all the way down?
The Liberian women made a last stand in the market.
They took off their clothes and stood before the guerrillas.
The young men stepped back. The war was over.
In a time when sexual assault prevails
as often as we hear of young boys killing villages
of men and women in Syria, in Afghanistan, in parts
of Africa, some policemen on American streets,
what will end mindless cruelty and revenge?
Will taking off our clothes work more than once?
We are your sisters, sons, your daughters not yet born,
your mothers and grandmothers.
We stand in the place where you find comfort.
You kill yourselves.
by Donna Emerson
Some of Donna Emerson’s publications include Alembic, CQ (California Quarterly), CALYX, The Chaffin, Dos Passos Review, Eclipse, Edison Literary Review, Fourth River, Fox Cry Review, The Griffin, The Los Angeles Review, LUX, New Ohio Review, Paterson Literary Review, Passager, Persimmon Tree, Praxis: Gender & Cultural Critiques (formerly Phoebe), Quiddity, Sanskrit, Slipstream, Soundings East, So To Speak, The South Carolina Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Spillway, Stone Canoe, and Weber—The Contemporary West. Donna’s work has received numerous prizes and awards including honorable mention in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, nominations for the Pushcart Prize (2013), and Best of the Net (2012). Her second chapbook, Body Rhymes (2009), nominated for a California Book Award, and third and fourth chapbooks, Wild Mercy (2011) and Following Hay (2013), have been published by Finishing Line Press. Donna’s work can also be seen in anthologies such as Echoes (2012), Keeping Time: 150 Years of Journal Writing (Passager Press), Chopin with Cherries, A Tribute in Verse (Moonrise Press), Music In The Air (Outrider Press), and The Place That Inhabits Us: Poems of the San Francisco Bay Watershed (Sixteen Rivers).