Meditation on the Nature of Reality

What’s here is here, almost none of the time—

no matter what clever slogan your coffee cup says,


no matter which way

the plastic flamingos are facing,


and even if there was a happy ending.


I’m nervous,

to the point of blurred vision.  My breathing feels

like a broken train of thought,


the actuality of my fears, derailed and spreading


small fires

all across town.


This realization that somewhere, far enough away,

those cataclysmic flames are just a distant light;


that even a mass extinction

is just a distant light.


Which is to say, somewhere else, half buried in the snow,


a dying coyote is hallucinating warmth

and maybe the Harvest moon,

hung by yellow rope

in a December sky.


Which is also to say,

despite our awareness of absent mercy,

every star is someone’s final illusion,


not a redeal,

but one last ember

of comfort.


by John Leonard

John Leonard is a substitute teacher and professor of composition. He holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University South Bend. His previous works have appeared in Twyckenham Notes, Poetry Quarterly, The Jawline Review, Fearsome Critters: A Millennial Arts Journal, and Up the Staircase Quarterly. He was the 2016 inaugural recipient of the Wolfson Poetry Award and 2018 recipient of the Josephine K. Piercy Memorial Award. John was recently appointed assistant editor of Twyckenham Notes. He lives in Elkhart, Indiana with his wife, three cats, and two dogs.

Lobster in Broth

One night, we don’t know how, he slips the bands

that bind his claws and sets to work.  If fast or slow,

it doesn’t matter—whether, in a rage

of thrashing action or, methodical

(the slow precision of a diver bent

on patient reclamation from the sea),

he stalks and disassembles each bound mate

he’s harbored with, and snaps off limbs and pries

between the overlapping plates their shells

can offer only for their weak defense.

He rips them up, thrusts toothed appendages

into the soft connective flesh, and feeds.


All through the night his work transpires until,

in morning’s white fluorescent light, he lies

revealed: an armored, glutted emperor,

a sated cannibal astir within

his muddied lair, his realm acloud with limbs

adrift and picked and gnawed to fringe along

the edges of their shells, and tissue ripped

to pennant threads and litter at his feet.


Consider how we care for him: the creature we’d

have eaten without thought, though he contrived

to feast before us, had he not consumed

the meat we’d meant to satiate ourselves.

And now, the empty tank near tenantless,

do we declare the victim we’d have made

our own a criminal among the just, or call

him reprehensible in spite of us?


by Gregory Loselle

Gregory Loselle has won four Hopwood Awards at The University of Michigan, where he earned an MFA. He has won The Academy of American Poets Prize, the William van Wert Fiction Award from Hidden River Arts, and The Ruby Lloyd Apsey Award for Playwriting. He was the winner of the 2009 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, The Robert Frost Award of The Robert Frost Foundation, and the Rita Dove Prize for poetry (where he won both First Prize and an Honorable Mention) at Salem College. He has won multiple awards in the Poetry Society of Michigan’s Annual Awards Competition. His first chapbook, Phantom Limb, was published in 2008, and another, Our Parents Dancing, in 2010, both from Pudding House Press. Two more, The Whole of Him Collected, and About the House, were published by Finishing Line Press in 2012 and 2013 respectively. His short fiction has been featured in the Wordstock and Robert Olen Butler Competition anthologies, as well as in The Saturday Evening Post, and The Metro Times of Detroit, and his poetry has appeared in The Ledge, Oberon, The Comstock Review, Rattle, The Georgetown Review, River Styx, The Spoon River Poetry Review, The Pinch, Alehouse, Poetry Nook, Sow’s Ear, and online in The Ambassador Poetry Project, among others.


My own words ricochet

back into my face,

splintering flesh,

with the impact

of mindless syllables

muttered under my breath,

barely audible

but heard nonetheless.


Words spewed

into the atmosphere,

involuntary but vile,

words I should have vomited

into any empty vessel

and plugged with

a lead stopper.


Words spilled

onto sacred ground,

scattered in a garden

for the innocent

to find like tantalizing

red berries

on a poisonous bush.


by Gloria Heffernan 

Gloria Heffernan’s poetry collection, What the Gratitude List Said to the Bucket List, has been accepted for publication by New York Quarterly Books. Her chapbook, Some of Our Parts, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2018. In addition, her work has appeared in over fifty journals including Chautauqua Literary Journal, Stone Canoe, Main Street Rag, Columbia Review, Louisville Review, and The Healing Muse.

john sweet

in a room, blindly


Not lies, really,

but truths that can’t be proven.


The ghosts of Aztecs,

of Incas.


Parking lots.




Man rolls the dice to see which of

the children will starve,

and then the bomb goes off.


Seventeen dead, blood everywhere,

the pews of the church on fire.


The runoff from the mill

dumped into the river.


Close your eyes and picture it.


The first time we met and then,

two years later,

the first time we made love.


Oceans on every side of us,

wars to the south,

to the east,

and I told you you were beautiful.


Had no words beyond that,

only abstractions.


Only need.


Thirty seven years old and

suddenly no longer blind and,

in the mountains,

the killers were making new plans.


In town,

the streetlights were coming on.


It seemed almost possible

we would find our way home.


aesop’s blues


in the cold white light of

febuary mornings

in the shadows of obsolete monuments

where we no longer touch


this is the world defined by

indifference and rust


this is a handful of salt held out

to christ while he dies on the cross


a gift without meaning

or offered with nothing but malice


a man walking slowly across

the frozen river and

then gone


sends his love

which is worth nothing at all


by john sweet

john sweet, b 1968, still numbered among the living. A believer in writing as catharsis. Opposed to all organized religion and political parties. His latest collections include APPROXIMATE WILDERNESS (2016 Flutter Press) and the limited edition chapbooks HEATHEN TONGUE (2018 Kendra Steiner Editions) and A BASTARD CHILD IN THE KINGDOM OF NIL (2018 Analog Submission Press). All pertinent facts about his life are buried somewhere in his writing.


Fuck immobility.

Fuck politics and divisiveness and apologists dressed as peacekeepers.

Fuck the world of white men.


Fuck the need for Pride,

the need for a celebration so vibrant

erasure becomes impossible.


Fuck loaded arms, deathly, bragging,

the pathetic “I’ll fuck you up” of people wielding them.

Fuck empty arms,

mothers, babies, partners ripped out of reach.

Fuck prayers drafted like business letters.


Fuck bad luck, the wrong day or moment or side of the street.

Fuck luck and survivor’s guilt and the lingering curiosity

for whether tomorrow will look different.


Fuck therapy and the gods that make it necessary.


Fuck the brilliance of storms from a protected room.

Fuck the protected room and its confines.

Fuck those who, protected, engender storms and then sleep.


Fuck me, and this bitten-down tongue, swollen and resentful and silent.


And fuck you, by the way, reading this,

or maybe just fuck the miles between us.


by Chelsea Hansen


Chelsea Hansen is a freelance musician and English graduate residing in northern Colorado. She has poems forthcoming in early 2019 for Door is a Jar magazine. In between creative projects and an 8-to-5 day job, she spends her free time walking river trails and marveling at the wide expanse of the plains.

To the absent, the dead, the estranged: I am Mother


West of the Mojave.

In a dream

I don’t remember.

In that space

Where water amputates,


And everything,

We cannot burn grows,


I am Mother.


I am Mother

To a daughter, born


Composed in a turbulent sea.

Surfacing, with skin and teeth,

Umbilical cord,

Tied off,


Around her neck,

In protest.

I am Mother.


Child of the corner.

Lotus flower

I wear you like a wound


To understand

Your language.


I cannot turn away.


They say, a mother is always

Letting go

Of her children.

I hear you.

I see you.

In my daydreams

In my nightmares.

I cannot turn away.


She takes a Permanent


Crosses out my name.


i am mother.


by Sheree La Puma

Sheree La Puma is an award-winning writer whose personal essays, fiction and poetry appeared in such publications as the Burningword Literary Journal, I-70 Review, Mad Swirl, and Ginosko Literary Review, among others. She received an MFA in Writing from California Institute of the Arts and attended workshops with poet Louise Mathias and writer Lidia Yuknavitch. She has taught poetry to former gang members and theater to teen runaways. Born in Los Angeles, she now resides in Valencia, CA with her rescues, Bello cat and Jack the dog.