Featured

Let It Ride, Cassie Hottenstein

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Cassie Hottenstein has a BA in English and a minor in Creative Writing from the University of North Florida. Her poetry and stories have been published in such places as The Talon Review, Every Pigeon, Inklette, Solid Mercury, and the Tampa Review Online. She was a lead editor for the collection Exothorpe as well as an editor and researcher for Anyways, That’s My Story. She currently lives in the Boulder area, and her absolute favorite poet is E.E. Cummings.

Featured

Halite (NaCl), J. MacBain

a girl in leather
lays down in the
club bathroom
handle my side ribs
soft and
hail rock n roll
a tiny fever dream
I cannot feel others carefully
essential for Saturday morning
tear hangovers
hover
but do not leave
she’s an anchor addict
her diet heavy with the
will to dissolve
if cleansed by water

my nervous system
falters, too much
damage scrubbing
dirty windows
teaching the
whys of pollution

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J. MacBain-Stephens lives in the Midwest and is the author of four full length poetry collections: “Your Best Asset is a White Lace Dress,” (Yellow Chair Press, 2016) “The Messenger is Already Dead,” (Stalking Horse Press, 2017,) “We’re Going to Need a Higher Fence,” tied for first place in the 2017 Lit Fest Book Competition, and “The Vitamix and the Murder of Crows,” is recently out from Apocalypse Party. Work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Recent work can be seen at or is forthcoming from The Pinch, Black Lawrence Press, Quiddity, Prelude, Cleaver, Yalobusha Review, Zone 3, and Grist.

Featured

Taxonomy, Shaun Turner

My memaw was born in a community named Letterbox,
because, for a time, the residents took their mail
from wood or tin letterboxes they’d nailed to the trees.
There was a Letterbox School.
My memaw, for a time, learned her letters there.
Now, they call the community Parrot, like the bird.
In our neck of the Rockcastle, community names morph.

Eventually, my memaw married a boy from Ionia
(or was it Holt? or Mount Pleasant?), and then left Letterbox, KY
briefly, to Pensacola, where, before home called them back,
they walked the tumultuous beaches of the Gulf,
beaches whose names are unknown to me.

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Shaun Turner is the author of chapbooks “The Lawless River: Stories” (Red Bird Chapbooks) and “Trying Not to Write Roadkill: Poems” (Ghost City Press). He serves as Fiction Editor for Stirring: A Literary Collection and co-editor at Fire Poetry Journal. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry can be found in the Chattahoochee Review, Bayou Magazine, Appalachian Heritage, and Barely South, among others.

Featured

American Mother, Sarah Lilius

Doesn’t leave the house, the newest baby screams all night, all day. Colic thorns and her skin bleeds like a tattoo, the sound is a skull shape she slips into.

Loses it over dirty dishes, remnants of dinner float like greasy body parts, corn kernels are the yellowed teeth of her husband, a wet bread slice is his slippery tongue. His mouth overrun with unhappiness.

Quits her job to raise a boy, a girl, the accidental third. They crawl around her on the dirty carpet. The cheerful yellow vacuum is full. She cannot move to empty the canister. Bones, saliva, small heads keep her down.

Nested hair. Stretch marks. Slight body odor. Moldy shower. Toys imprint her skin. Spit up dries on her shirt in the shape of Texas. Nightly wine stains her teeth. Pounds heap on her ass. There’s no sex.

Watches the laundry mountain sway, starts the machine with the teething baby on her hip, he bites her flesh like a diapered vampire.

Burns cartoons into her mind for a couple hours of sanity. They change over the years like her children, they lose interest, they speak, it’s two blinks, a ride away from home, then over.

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Sarah Lilius is the author of four chapbooks including GIRL (dancing girl press, 2017), and Thirsty Bones (Blood Pudding Press, 2017). Some of her work can be found in Tinderbox, Entropy, and Fourteen Hills. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Sarah lives in Arlington, VA with her husband and two sons. Her website is sarahlilius.com.

Featured

In the La Solana Laundromat of Santa Fe, New Mexico; Jackson Culpepper

            The blue desert sky is untouchable, though the Sangre de Cristos reach their arms up shawled with ponderosa, embroidered with aspen. Down the slopes the desert meets them with fragrant juniper and piñon, then come the adobe houses, some rich, some poor and fewer of those among the old acequias down to the river where tall, strong cottonwoods shade the tourists and the tour buses and the retail workers on smoke breaks and service workers in their work trucks. Around the square sit the Natives as they have for decades if not centuries selling silver and turquoise to white people who do not understand it is bad luck to buy them for oneself—they can only be gifts. Out along Alameda stands the little shopping center with a natural food co-op still fending off Whole Foods, a coffee shop full of weird art, a dance studio, a Vietnamese restaurant, an office for the county, and finally the place from which I see this all: the La Solana laundromat.

            Full sun breaks into the large windows. A mother and child and their hound/lab dog sit outside on the porch. The washerwomen speak soft Spanish, laughing easily. The TV is turned to news, never Fox, though it’s muted against top 40’s in English or in Spanish and 80’s ballads and at least once a day, “Let It Go” from Frozen. All above the murmur of spinning washers, thudding dryers, which noise keeps the people quiet themselves: the caballero-dressed gentlemen who flirt with the washerwomen, the white-bearded white men in ball caps who might have been civil rights attorneys before they retired to the vast disconnectedness of the desert, the mothers corralling three kids and four baskets of laundry, the young couples passing one another’s articles over in tenderness, the travelers finally stripping off their tremendous backpacks to pull out the Ziplock bags of toiletries and medicine and gas-station food until finally comes the pile of dirty clothes, mostly camo—and they are at home here. I do not know where else they are at home, but they are at home at the La Solana laundromat where they can sit and listen to the ballads and watch the news anchors and be lullabied by the spinning machines as we all can; for here, I am convinced, is where the dream of American democracy, e pluribus unum, has taken its refuge.

            There are punks relaxed too, folding black torn jeans. There are the young women who place work aprons and uniform shirts into the wash and then go out and light a cigarette and have that twenty-odd minutes free. Most of the time they don’t even look at their phones. They smoke in the generous sunlight, they watch an inexplicable quarter horse and an appaloosa saddled and bridled in the parking lot. Twenty minutes of freedom is worth a lot these days—twenty minutes of silence even more. Two-fifty for a wash is a steal for it.

            I’ve seen open pages of Louis L’Amour, Dostoevsky, Brené Brown, an anthology of southwestern Native poetry, Saul Alinsky, one of the older Kingsolvers, an X-men comic book, a Bible, the Santa Fe paper and the alternative Santa Fe paper,  Auto Trader. Some of the kids read too and some play video games on their parent’s phones. The young couple retreats to the seats to watch a movie on their laptop, sharing a pair of headphones. A new lady comes in with rhinestone sunglasses and a French bulldog whom she must half-drag into the laundromat because it wants to bark at the horses. Probably dogs aren’t officially allowed but nonetheless the children ease over to pet the dog and so does the lady who had been reading Kingsolver.       

            A cholo-dressed man with his laundry in a purple folding hamper and a tattoo on his neck of a Zia forming the zero to 505, the Santa Fe area code; two carpenters or painters in dusted overalls who throw in loads and lean over the washers to watch and comment on the news on the TV. The tamale man shows up and half the laundromat rushes to him. He gives change from a wrinkled envelope and hands out warm tamales from a Walmart bag. Quatro, por favor, ¿cuánto cuesta? Bueno, gracias. The tamale man doesn’t show up every day. The tamales are wrapped in foil and then in corn husks, spiced with chipotle, better than any I’ve had since Biloxi.

            The sun now coppers the western adobe walls of all the neighborhood around, it gleams in the windows as though each house were bursting with light, it alights the golden aspens on the mountainside and makes quartz-streaked boulders of Picacho and Atalaya glow like aged brass and already the evening star gleams like the finger of a god. Light on all this, on the desert in its indivisible wholeness, the sea of juniper and the car windshields and distances so great and visible they become things unto themselves—it’s like a sound, like the clear tone of five trombones holding a single warm brassy chord.

            My dryer has thirty minutes to go and then I’ll get in the car to resume my life. By the city, light pollution will obscure the rising stars but toward the mountains or the desert one can turn and see the Milky Way. Although I must awake for the five a.m. shift, I will go out and crane my neck to look at those stars, specifically to incomprehend. The heavens will spin over us all, rich and poor, Native and Latino and Latina and Latinx and Black and White, the content and the troubled, and they will prove us to be so very, very small and frail, and so close to one another. There is much more they could prove, but that will be a good beginning.

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Jackson Culpepper grew up in a small south Georgia town, attended the University of South Carolina for an MFA, and has since lived in east Tennessee, New Mexico, and Denver. more of his work can be found at jacksonculpepper.wordpress.com.

Jackson Culpepper recommends “America the Beautiful Again” by Richard Blanco.

Featured

Through the Exhausting Nights, Batnadiv HaKarmi

Lars sleeps, a chthonic lump in the center of the bed. He is a black hole, swallowing the slumber from the room.
Jan tries to get to bed early enough to catch the post-bedtime uneasy silence. She can hear Beth’s restless stirring, her radar on duty just in case Mommy might spend time with Baby without Beth present. Sometimes she isn’t sure if the rustling is Beth turning in her sleep, or Raven shaking his wings out above her. She wants to tell him to leave Beth alone, but knows this will only set him off.
She lies in the dark, willing them to keep this tense truce: Lars at the center, asleep, Beth on the floor, where she has adamantly moved her mattress, refusing to leave, wakeful with eyes closed. Raven, perched on the open closet door, present but silent. She, at the edge of the bed, forming a living barrier so the baby can’t roll off.
Once the baby wakes up though, the vortex begins. She tries to get the nipple in his mouth before he can truly wail. She’s too late. Behind her back, she feels a presence. Raven, there to tell her that this doesn’t solve SIDS. Beth, standing stubbornly, knees turned slightly inward, blankie in hand “Mommy, hold me,” she says.
When she is settled at the foot of the bed, “I need my paci.”
Then, “I need milk.”
“When I finish nursing,” Jan says.
Raven laughs.
Lars sleeps.
“No, now!” Beth says.
The baby lets the nipple drop, head going back. She feels his soft exhale, the hand on her breast suddenly slack.
She stumbles out to fill the bottle.
Back to bed, Beth crawling between her knees.
She used to resent Lars’ deathlike slumber. The way nothing could wake him once his head hit the pillow. How it left her so alone, night after night.
Now she is grateful for it. For the buffer of silence it forms as she ferries them through the night.

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Batnadiv HaKarmi is an American born writer and painter living in Jerusalem. A graduate of the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar Ilan University, her work has been published in Poet Lore, Ilanot Review, Poetry International, MomEgg Review and Partial Answers. She is the recipient of the Andrea Moria Prize for Poetry, and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction.

She teaches Creative Writing in Emunah College, Jerusalem, and is on the faculty of the Brandeis Institute of Music and Art, Waltham MA.

Featured

Blue, Purbasha Roy

I have seen more skies
than what my eyes
ever could absorb
so I know much blue
i tie rain beads in my hair
at end of thirsty braids
humming songs of oceans
remembering shadows of skies
quiet blue of the noons
tiptoes inside corridors of eyes
dandelion seeds drift in maturing sunlight
reinventing blue quiddity of pallette
in grisaille canvas shards

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Purbasha Roy is a poetess from Jharkhand, India.Featured in Teesta journal, Bewildering Stories and few anthologies from US publications. She loves to write. She is a nature photographer, and staring at skies is her favorite pastime.

Featured

Mulholland Drive, Glen Armstrong

Mulholland Drive

I am talking about what.
In fact gets said about talking.
And arriving.
My conclusions are pretty.
Out there.
Like nebulae or David.
Lynch’s reminders that art.
And that which art depicts swap.
Swimsuits more often than we.
Realize.

We arrive at a secret.
Performance of Roy Orbison’s.
“Crying” in the middle of the night.
Because this world is made.
Of light and polyester.
It turns on a dime.
And what I’m.
Saying is being said through.
Hidden speakers.
That continue after I collapse.

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Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters and has a current book of prose poems: Invisible Histories. His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Conduit, and Cream City Review.

Glen Armstrong recommends “Lust” by Gary Taxali.

Featured

Angelite (CaSO4), J. MacBain

“Named after Angela the partner of the person who discovered the stone”
For Ken

when you say you are exploring
trail I see a wolf

who calms me
eases my constrictions

steady and attentive
leading but always
returning to the pack

your back:
stones blending into water

eyes changing from brown to green
unearthly sparkle

shoulders under a harvest moon
carrying such weight to the fire

the cracks unfathomable : you make a home in margins
of minutes

time slows in the forest
we don’t even know the day

just dirt under nails
the smell of cool blue dusk

notice a subtle quality
four feet trample and dance

only the trees watch
you paw the dirt down

teeth sharpening the night

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Note: words in italics taken from Essential Guide to Crystals by Simon and Sue Lilly, 2006, 2010, and 2018. published by Watkins Media Limited. United Kingdom.

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J. MacBain-Stephens lives in the Midwest and is the author of four full length poetry collections: “Your Best Asset is a White Lace Dress,” (Yellow Chair Press, 2016) “The Messenger is Already Dead,” (Stalking Horse Press, 2017,) “We’re Going to Need a Higher Fence,” tied for first place in the 2017 Lit Fest Book Competition, and “The Vitamix and the Murder of Crows,” is recently out from Apocalypse Party. Work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Recent work can be seen at or is forthcoming from The Pinch, Black Lawrence Press, Quiddity, Prelude, Cleaver, Yalobusha Review, Zone 3, and Grist.

Featured

Mass-Pet-Wolf-Teeth, Liam Kelley

Sometimes I wonder
if I could keep
a wolf pet—
mighty as a bell-crown—
that I might take it out
under the big orange moon-haze

and it wouldn’t eat me
or crucify me in some hole
to the right of the bathrooms.

I would sit sideways there
in my front-left seat,
door cocked open
and music pealing
from the car’s strike points
while it sat in the snow—
all ears and eyes.

The bathroom light
would hold it there
like boxed ascension
in some smoker’s coat pocket,
and the magpies would fly
from tree to ground
to cathedral-top.

We wouldn’t speak
of ‘No Parking’
signing left-and-right
below a circled
red diagonal line—

there would be understanding
between my pet and me
that neither would strike the other—
that neither would go into
either illuminated, balls-out door
without first nodding
or swinging an invite
via hand-sign-of-the-cross.

No war of man that couldn’t
be won. No tongue that
couldn’t be clapped. Save for the
stare of a lunar undercut—
the attrition before the apartness,
the separation of days
or good friends
across won’t-be-long days,
the Piss Christ frozen
in ice boot prints.

No leashes nor memories, only
burning full-bodied company
to let this whole trip go
and go and go—
ring and ring dusky
and stroll—that good
Mass-pet-wolf’s teeth
I think one day
I’ll turn on its belly
and toll.

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Liam Max Kelley is a Chilean-American playwright, poet, and 8th grade language arts teacher. He is the program director at Stain’d Arts, an arts non-profit based in Denver, Colorado, and the co-founder of RuddyDuck Theatre Company, a local absurdist theatre group. He writes poetry to avoid making an argument, to highlight life’s horrid ambiguities, and to turn the heads of those around him. (Vanity becomes him.) He writes for himself. Art is something to be examined and something to be blurred. Something to be wrecked. And maybe something to be changed for the better. You can find him co-hosting the Stain’d Arts Open Mic at Denver’s Whittier Cafe every third Friday of the month. (Or groveling in a hole.)

Liam Max Kelley recommends “The Cry” by Federico García Lorca.

Featured

Quoth the Raven, Batnadiv HaKarmi

As always, three crows perch in the center of the telephone wire curving over the street. Jan can feel their beady eyes following her as she hurries to pick up Beth from her fourth day of nursery. They always watch.
Outside the nursery, a raccoon-eyed woman feeds alley cats. Her peroxide hair is piled on her head, complete with little ringlets falling on her caked, aging cheeks. Black mascara congeals on her lower eyelashes. Jan feels a spurt of pity. By the time she straps Beth into the stroller, the cat lady is gone, but the cats still prowl around the gate. One of them, a ginger, is missing an eye. Luckily, Beth doesn’t seem to notice. She is proudly holding a picture of the Early Bird, covered in multicolored stickers, and is busy pointing out, “This is blue, this is yellow, this is red.” As they walk down the street, she sings “Never. Never, never, never.” Jan wonders where she learned the word. “It’s a game,” Beth says, meeting Jan’s eye, “to say ‘never.’”
They stop for story-hour at the library, and Beth runs to play with the collection of old wooden toys. “Mama, help me,” she calls, pointing at a mechanical blackbird nailed to the wall. Jen picks her up so she can reach the wooden lever. In the protective glass covering, she can see the two of them reflected, Beth in front, her behind. She, exhausted, fading, her pale face swallowed by her large sun hat. Beth’s upturned face beatific with excitement as she looks up at the wings rising and falling, rising and falling.

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Batnadiv HaKarmi is an American born writer and painter living in Jerusalem. A graduate of the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar Ilan University, her work has been published in Poet Lore, Ilanot Review, Poetry International, MomEgg Review and Partial Answers. She is the recipient of the Andrea Moria Prize for Poetry, and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction.

She teaches Creative Writing in Emunah College, Jerusalem, and is on the faculty of the Brandeis Institute of Music and Art, Waltham MA.

Batnadiv HaKarmi recommends “Alligators at Night” by Meg Porkass, “Winter Burial” by Jane Medved, & “To My Unborn Daughter” by Geula Gerts.

Featured

A World of Pain, Howie Good

Blindfolded ponies pull steel carts of stupendous weight while being tormented by slaughterhouse flies. I let it all in, all the red dots, all the cries of pain, all the sickening smells. In reaction, faceless functionaries have revoked my membership in the Cloud Society. I just pretend it didn’t happen, isn’t happening still. Clouds pass overhead in the mischievous shapes of crumpled birthday cakes, rampaging lions, tattered sails. And if I can patiently watch the sky for a little longer, I might even see caricatures of angels.

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Howie Good is the author most recently of Stick Figure Opera: 99 100-word Prose Poems from Cajun Mutt Press. He co-edits the online journals Unbroken and UnLost.

Howie Good recommends “Early December in Croton-on-Hudson” by Louise Glück.

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At Times, Purbasha Roy


I picked a poem
lying beneath street lights
rain water burgling beneath my skin
it’s no surprise, I think of you
horizon washed by sentences
sprung up from voice of skies sailor
in waltz of verses
before meridian eyes
rainbows out of infinity’s frame
falls in empty spaces between syllables
i was told, stars touch moondust
in woods of silhouettes
unknown to metaphors dwindling in candles
smiles invent home on your cheeks
sunset wind sliced by auburn stanzas
you intended saying
make shapes of river waters
sound rhythmic like still breath
like hourglass in outer space
echoing pronunciation of silence
you spoke to hatching sunlight
in bosom of oblivion
entangled in requiem of wet autumn
i stand holding origami wishes
at frayed dream shores

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Purbasha Roy is a poetess from Jharkhand, India.Featured in Teesta journal, Bewildering Stories and few anthologies from US publications. She loves to write. She is a nature photographer, and staring at skies is her favorite pastime.

Featured

Shift, Larry Thacker

Rain comes slanted
from the wrong direction,
as if we can name
right from wrong weather,

splatting into front windshields today,
rather than against the rear end of traffic.

itself in gigantic swaths
of cloud and wave.

We are blind,
attentive in the same breath.

We are shaken.

We are shamed.

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Larry D. Thacker’s poetry is in over 150 publications including Spillway, Still: The Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Poetry South, The Southern Poetry Anthology, The American Journal of Poetry, Illuminations Literary Magazine, and Appalachian Heritage. His books include three full poetry collections, Drifting in Awe, Grave Robber Confessional, and Feasts of Evasion, two chapbooks, Voice Hunting and Memory Train, as well as the folk history, Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia. His fourth full poetry collection, Gateless Menagerie, is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press. His MFA in poetry and fiction is earned from West Virginia Wesleyan College. Visit his website at: http://www.larrydthacker.com

Larry Thacker recommends Ron Houchin’s poem “The Original Album” in Galway Review.

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sleep paralysis on the night of midsummer, Kailey Tedesco

i slept fretful, something awful. there’s still a goose-egg on my forehead
from my falling days. good morning from the mezzanine; the whole

house shatters from its own falsetto. or soprano. i could never know
the difference. bela lugosi had clara bow painted naked, but without

asking her to pose. he had a painter paint her naked from how he imagined
she might look. if he wakes from the dead, do tell me. i, for one, would

like to see it. for now i ask my grandmother to paint me as a green lady,
like she is. i tell her how i don’t have to pose green in front of her;

she can just imagine it. i want so badly to look like i come from a place
of costumes. satan himself knots into the woodgrain, so felted in red

& masked in feather, you might confuse it all for jest. i gallow my hair
up into pigtails, ready to see if i float or drown. i could wear a witch-

hat, but it wouldn’t make a difference. it’s midsummer now —
a time for faucet drips and catholicons. you don’t have to see me in a gown

to know that’s how i’ll always be. when the sun does set, i might go
with it. regardless, there will be showtimes & there will be cinema. there will be

pictures to choose from & i’ll just hate all the faces of my life reduced
to that final one. probably my wedding day. probably smiling by the dark

that’s eaten up the gingerbread house. probably an orb stalking my chest, like always
and forever. if i’m going to be looping through myself like this & having myself

to hold like this for something like eternity, please don’t
forget to make me something green.

*

Kailey Tedesco is the author of She Used to be on a Milk Carton (April Gloaming Publishing). Her collection, Lizzie, Speak, won White Stag Publishing’s 2018 poetry contest, and her newest collection, FOREVERHAUS, will be released from White Stag in 2020. She is a senior editor for Luna Luna Magazine. You can find her work featured or forthcoming in Gigantic Sequins, Electric Literature, Nat. Brut, Black Warrior Review, Fairy Tale Review, Bone Bouquet Journal, and more. For further information, please follow @kaileytedesco.

Kailey Tedesco recommends “After my Mother’s Death, I Become a Witch” by Sarah Nichols.

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It's out of nowhere, Larry Thacker

Like living in the center
of the city, happy and lucky
to have a little copse of woods
minding its own thick business
nearby, the tree line set
like a wall-ish live reminder
how green remains a vitality
in the world, how the streak of orange
and brown is only that at first,
a flash, just back into the vines and bark,
a clip of ghosting white muzzle,
the tail slipping round a low trunk
like a shy furred serpent, then
it’s the call of eyes on you in the usual darkness
no streetlamps yet manage to betray,
a feral-ness on air you catch
only after a thing has locked
its memory of you
long before,
watched for you from the green line,
night and day, you
going and returning,
unaware of its freedom to roam
so very close to where you leave
your heart exposed and open
to spice the wind with finiteness.

*

Larry D. Thacker’s poetry is in over 150 publications including Spillway, Still: The Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Poetry South, The Southern Poetry Anthology, The American Journal of Poetry, Illuminations Literary Magazine, and Appalachian Heritage. His books include three full poetry collections, Drifting in Awe, Grave Robber Confessional, and Feasts of Evasion, two chapbooks, Voice Hunting and Memory Train, as well as the folk history, Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia. His fourth full poetry collection, Gateless Menagerie, is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press. His MFA in poetry and fiction is earned from West Virginia Wesleyan College. Visit his website at: http://www.larrydthacker.com

Larry Thacker recommends Ron Houchin’s poem “The Original Album” in Galway Review.

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Death's Door Martyr, Cassie Hottenstein

I am a vagabond waiting outside the pearly gates,
a rejected St. Peter on petra throne
passing judgement on all who enter—
ye are welcome;
me, not—

not until my time as chosen
expires, counting down the milliseconds
stretched too thin for astral measurements.

Press a silver dollar into my palm
until it melts, white hot;
ghosts have no use for
human currency, instead

hum a little hymn in purgatory’s queue
to drown out the elevator muzak,
its bell trembles; I
anticipate the chime

with surrendered breath,
a survivor with long tubes
threading lungs to air
and shoulder blades instead of wings.

Now serving lost soul number 666,
both sets of keys jingle on my ring,
Pluto clashing with YHWH in toothed metal,

yet gates left unlocked for all to pass peacefully through,
a choice for modern mortals—

I have no more need for afterlife,

a lackadaisical receptionist
bearing the upside-down scars
of earthen sanguinary folly
on temporal carcass

before I shake hands with
the Great Tetragrammaton

and shot out the airlock
into Nada.

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Cassie Hottenstein has a BA in English and a minor in Creative Writing from the University of North Florida. Her poetry and stories have been published in such places as The Talon Review, Every Pigeon, Inklette, Solid Mercury, and the Tampa Review Online. She was a lead editor for the collection Exothorpe as well as an editor and researcher for Anyways, That’s My Story. She currently lives in the Boulder area, and her absolute favorite poet is E.E. Cummings.

The Country House, Nicole Callihan

It’s too cold to open the windows for air,
so I pick through the things I left
more than a month ago, in the last decade.
I put away the knives and spoons, the bowls.
And sweeping dead flies into the old blue pail,
I count twenty-two, their black bodies, their wings.
How much can we count over the years?
These accumulated griefs and joys,
the stillness, the ice heavy on the branches.
Anytime I close my eyes, I see you
at the end of your childhood driveway—
your father leaning out the window,
telling you everything you never wanted to know.

Nicole Callihan writes poems and stories. ELSEWHERE, her latest poetry collection, a collaboration with Zoë Ryder White, won the 2019 Sixth Finch Chapbook Prize and will be released in March 2020. Find out more at www.nicolecallihan.com.Nicole Callihan recommends Amy Weil’s “Girl with a Yellow Hat.”

Within Earshot, Bruce McRae

Gifted with a single sense
she heard the earthworm turning
in its cot and earthen bedclothes,
turning water into passage.

She heard bacterial operas
with their casts of trillions.
Not without effort she heard
a tap root inching towards Assyria,
gutting the planet, sipping at soil,
embracing dolomite then splitting it.

In the way atoms split and how they scream,
their pains remarkably immeasurable.
Without eyes or mouth she’s heard
a wildflower coax a honeybee.
Closer, closer, it seemed to say.
You are in want and I am plenty.

*

Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with over 1,500 poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His books are ‘The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press); ‘An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy; (Cawing Crow Press) and ‘Like As If” (Pski’s Porch), Hearsay (The Poet’s Haven).

Bruce McRae recommends “Bluebird” by Charles Bukowski (read by Tom O’Bedlam).

“What Is the Way to Be Very Quiet but NOT Antisocial About It?”, Ace Boggess

    —Heather Dooley, Facebook post 

we have learned the alien language of self-

erasure. still as if studying a book

though no words fill a page before us

with their sorrow & small talk. who

interrupts our seated dancing,

enjoyment of a song we don’t recognize

over the in-house stereo? strangers

talk to us whether we savor it or don’t,

embrace it or desire to flee

screaming goddamn! at the sky

like rasping fires. we have tried

to be invisible, never touching

eyes or skin. it’s not enough.

*

Ace Boggess is author of five books of poetry, most recently Misadventure (Cyberwit, 2020) and I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018), as well as two novels, including States of Mercy (Alien Buddha Press, 2019). His writing appears in Notre Dame Review, The Laurel Review, River Styx, Rhino, North Dakota Quarterly, and other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.

Ace Boggess recommends “The Old Tower of the Cemetery in Nuenen/ The Old Tower in the Fields” by Vincent Van Gogh.

Fuck you Ellen: if you sleep easy knowing your friends facilitate others’ suffering you ain’t shit, gwendalynn roebke

On the sidelines
of spectacle
Feeling
Wicked
For enjoying the luxuries of
Empire
Chocolate tastes a lot like
Famine
Red, white, and blue
Blur
Into bombed out civilian villages
And mass burials
Empathy fatigue is a privilege
Best choked down with a mug of
brewed exploitation
Don’t understand how folx can carry on
Breaking bread with demons
Just because they don grins
Giving the performance of outrage
Check who sits at your table
See who they have
Wedged between their teeth

*

Gwendalynn is a gender nonconforming multiracial Black femme who likes doing whatever the fuck they want… this mostly means listening to sad boi music in other languages and drinking some sort of warm beverage. Don’t be a tool, stay in school, and don’t be an elitist loser and think knowledge/school only exists in wack colonial capitalist institutions. 

Forgive Me, Ace Boggess

for sharing my will for a deadened heart,
lust-numb understanding,
when you wished incineration from within;

for being a body that lay next to your body,
not of your body any more
than the Persian is of the lioness;

for having right words to eradicate
stinging weeds you carried with you,
never vines you dangled after;

for neither acknowledging nor countering your offer,
silence not a contract, &
for years of separation since.

*

Ace Boggess is author of five books of poetry, most recently Misadventure (Cyberwit, 2020) and I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018), as well as two novels, including States of Mercy (Alien Buddha Press, 2019). His writing appears in Notre Dame Review, The Laurel Review, River Styx, Rhino, North Dakota Quarterly, and other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.

Ace Boggess recommends “The Old Tower of the Cemetery in Nuenen/ The Old Tower in the Fields” by Vincent Van Gogh.

We Had to Turn the Sound Down, Gerald Yelle

You were wrestling in your sleep, which left me free to explore
the outdoor museum sculpture garden cathedral in the woods
the dustbowl shrine and warmonger’s paradise
now a dumping ground for dead batteries and cheesecloth.
A gravel pit for penance and eating sour-cream and meatballs.
I bore the torch to the unisex outhouse
where music still blares –so no one hears the bathroom noise.
So no one believes the choice we made to stay
out of one another’s way. We worked on projects but it never
dawned on us to check them out before laying on
the finishing touch. We told ourselves we’d iron out the details
if we ever got that far. I could go as you or you could
come as me. Come as you are or as you were –it wouldn’t
make much difference. It’s all tied up in this search
for energy –the void we’re left in at the end of seduction.
A discerning eye can roam the labyrinth for decades and refuse
to share. Keep a lot inside. Show no
interest. It’s no wonder we don’t take better care of our food.
Forget shelter. Forget living under a roof –don’t even
stay awhile. As long as you’re asleep open sky is roof enough.

*

Gerald Yelle’s books are The Holyoke Diaries (Future Cycle Press), Evolution for the Hell of It (Red Dashboard Press), Mark My Word and the New World Order (The Pedestrian Press), and Restaurant in Walking Distance and Everything (Cawing Crow Press). He teaches high school English and is a member of the Florence (MA) Poets Society. 

Gerald Yelle recommends “The Book” by Ben Loory.

The New Summer, Ace Boggess

Can’t stray in heat beyond a single cigarette.
Sweat pulls its raincoat tight against your chest.
Pollen’s a noxious vapor more chthonic than parachuting.
The paper reports Lone Star ticks are spreading this year,
ones that change your body so you can’t eat meat.
Weatherman says spring is the new summer,
which must make summer the coming ruin.
Dog days will leave you without a breath for your unwilling-
vegetarian, dehydrated, puffed, pink self that smells of salt & tar.
Already you want to pry a window open,
break & enter your house & steal a little air-conditioned air:
it’s new summer & you’ve begun despising
all the extra skin you’re boiling in.

*

Ace Boggess is author of five books of poetry, most recently Misadventure (Cyberwit, 2020) and I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018), as well as two novels, including States of Mercy (Alien Buddha Press, 2019). His writing appears in Notre Dame Review, The Laurel Review, River Styx, Rhino, North Dakota Quarterly, and other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.

Ace Boggess recommends “The Old Tower of the Cemetery in Nuenen/ The Old Tower in the Fields” by Vincent Van Gogh.

Apnea, Gerald Yelle

They slicked their hair in their mothers’ tears and when their mothers told them wash behind your ears, they’d pretend their mothers said rears –as in friends, Romans, countrymen. Their mothers said yeah, of course, be sure to wash there too. Because they anticipate the jokes –they know their sons better than their sons know themselves. Sons who never could resist the chance to twist their mothers’ words. They did the same to us, who used to be their friends. We laughed at their jokes until we became the butt of them –when they said they had a special aversion to what they called our low energy. After that we forgot them, like mundane dreams. We pass them on the highway now, oblivious to their problems, their aspirations. We used to think they had no more sense than countrymen on steroids. The songs they write about riding to the top of the food chain because the time is ripe and sleep draws near and the legs get put on them and put on them and they think of it and think of it and soon they won’t have to think of it anymore. And soon we won’t be able to either. So, what does it mean? The end is near. No time to sort the silver and put away the dishes. We’ll wish there were different ways to dig up the truth. Like someone had to dig up Monument Valley and the Twin Towers. Will there be anyone around to help us? We’ll wish we had some of their voices at least. We’ll wish the mumps and measles hadn’t been so sleep inducing.

*

Gerald Yelle’s books are The Holyoke Diaries (Future Cycle Press), Evolution for the Hell of It (Red Dashboard Press), Mark My Word and the New World Order (The Pedestrian Press), and Restaurant in Walking Distance and Everything (Cawing Crow Press). He teaches high school English and is a member of the Florence (MA) Poets Society. 

Gerald Yelle recommends “The Book” by Ben Loory.

Old Birch, Shannon Elizabeth Gardner

*

Shannon Elizabeth Gardner is a graduate from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point with a Bachelors in Studio Art and a Minor in Art History. Her interest in horror and the macabre came about while exploring nature and the paranormal. The work explores the natural and organic process of death, evoking empathy for decay. She believes that life is beautiful when left to fate, leaving art to chance assists the viewer to witness beauty hidden within imperfections. Her process imitates nature and discovers the earth’s imperfect beauty. The ethereal mood of her work reaches the extreme and address the taboo.

Shannon Elizabeth Gardner recommends “Life Cycle” by Sergio Puzzetti.

Leaning Against a Back Porch Railing in Hammond, Louisiana; Jason Braun

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Jason Braun holds master’s degrees in English and Educational Technology. He has taught English or designed courses for various universities full-time for the better part of a decade. He has published fiction, poetry, reported or been featured in The Riverfont Times, Prime Number, ESPN.com, Big Bridge, The Evergreen Review, SOFTBLOW, The Nashville City Paper, Jane Friedman’s blog, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and many more.

Jason Braun recommends “Coffee” by Richard Brautigan.