War Games

The rules are shaped and branded

On to genes, down generations,

Passed round in

Story and in song,

To make forgetting harder.


Ideas are bubbled up

On home-fired cauldrons,

Fuelled by a thousand years or more

Of thermal layered grievance

That have no taste, no smell, no colour:

Yet, still, they stink.


A virtual reality of light and heat

And sound that causes

Temperatures to rise and red mists form

Round ancient borders

Where battle lines are drawn

And citizens are armed against each other.


Upturned tables, scattered pieces

Mean no peace for people powered by hate.

The frenzied game plays on;

Until the victor stands elated,

Knows records are at last set straight

And neighbour’s scalps are buried deep.

He will not sleep,

For ghosts of so called civil war

Will always rise again, to haunt.


Caroline Johnstone


Caroline is originally from Northern Ireland, now living in Ayrshire, Scotland. She has just started writing poems again, and writes mainly on philosophical, political and life experience themes. She has been published in The Galway Review, Imagine Belfast and The Snapdragon Journal and was shortlisted for Tales in the Forest. She blogs for Positively Scottish, helps the Women Aloud NI with social media and is a member of the Federation of Writers (Scotland).


When I was a child, my father’s trombone hung from a hook in the utility room in the basement. It was the color of dull brass, with a few greenish patches. It was an unremarkable piece of household flotsam among the extra furnace filters, metal folding chairs, and boxes of old clothes to give to charity.

He played it a couple of times a year. Played? He would blow into it for a few seconds and move the slide up and down, seldom conjuring up a sound that could be called musical. He puffed his cheeks out comically and crossed his eyes at us kids. We would shriek with delight that our strict, straight-laced father was clowning for us.

When my father came up the stairs with the trombone, my mother, grim-faced, would walk out of the room. If she was in the kitchen, she banged the pots around. Sometimes she left the house entirely.

My father was not given to explanations and we kids were too timid—no, afraid—to ask: Why did he have a trombone if he couldn’t play it? Or could he play it and he just didn’t let on? And why did it upset our mother so much?

When I went back to visit my parents as an adult, I always meant to ask him about it. I’d mostly left my fear of him behind, but each time I visited I had other things on my mind—dating, career, marriage, children, divorce, my parents’ health—and I never got around to it. To that and many other things.

My father died five years ago, but his presence remains vivid to me: his smell, his V-neck undershirts, his anger. Above all, perhaps, his guardedness. I never felt I really knew him.

My mother’s memory is failing her, and now she is moving to a nursing home in another city to be closer to my sister. As we were packing the contents of the house my mother had shared with my father for forty years, my sister asked me whether I wanted the trombone. I didn’t have to think twice.

The trombone hangs on a hook in my basement. I take it upstairs a couple of times a year and blow furiously into it. My children howl with laughter at the fractured sound and my red face. They never ask me why I have it. I’m not sure I could explain if they did.


Joel Streicker


Joel Streicker is a writer, poet, and literary translator based in San Francisco. His fiction has been published in Hanging Loose and The Opiate, and is forthcoming in Kestrel and Great Lakes Review. Another story of his was a finalist in Epiphany’s spring fiction contest in 2016. Streicker’s English-language poetry appeared in the fall 2016 issue of California Quarterly, and his Spanish-language poetry was recently featured in El otro páramo (Bogotá, Colombia). Común Presencia (also located in Bogotá) published a book of his Spanish-language poetry, El amor en los tiempos de Belisario, in 2014. In 2011 he won a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant for his work with Argentine writer Samanta Schweblin, and in 2012 he was a translator in residence at Omi Translation Lab. His translations of Latin American fiction have appeared in numerous journals, including A Public Space, McSweeney’s, and Words Without Borders. Streicker’s translation of a story by the Argentine writer Mariana Enríquez is forthcoming in Freeman’s. His essays and book reviews have been appeared in The Jewish Daily Forward, Moment, and Shofar, among other publications.


Although I Should Not Have To

sometimes i’m wound tight
like twisted twine made of bungee rope
coiled like a rattler ready to spring
stretched taut by the finger of an archer
aimed to launch the lust of my overheated rage


then i wind my temper down
and i forgive my brother
for the robbery
for the rape
for the theft
for the murder
for the slavery


now with controlled disgust
i can explain why the “N” word hurts
although i should not have to
I can explain why “boy” does not work
although i should not have to
i can explain why “monkey” is not funny
although i should not have to
i can explain why your conscience is lost
if you are still comfortable with these terms
although i should not have to


Jerry T. Johnson


Jerry T. Johnson is a new writer to the Connecticut/New York area. Jerry began writing in the early 1990’s, had one poem published and then he took a 21-year hiatus to pursue corporate work overseas. In the spring of 2013, Jerry restarted his writing career. Since then his poetry has appeared in several literary journals and he published his first self-published poetry chapbook, “Good Morning New Year!” In addition to his written work, Jerry does poetry readings in a variety of venues in the New York City area. Jerry currently lives in Danbury, Connecticut with his wife Raye.