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  • Robert L. Giron

Issue 122 — Gale Acuff, Christopher Barnes, Jaren Michelle, Tim J. Myers, Lucy Ricciardi, John Stock

In this issue, work by


Gale Acuff


I love Jesus but not enough to die

for Him if the situation was re

-versed, or is that were, and I had to sac

-rifice myself for Him but then again

if I had to that might mean that someone

forced me to or at least talked me into

it so so much for sacrifice, I have

to give myself freely, maybe I’d take

a bullet for Him or push Him out of

the way of a speeding car which would hit

and kill me dead instead, I’m not sure if

I’m man enough to be the Son of God

which is what I ’d almost have to be to

substitute for Him, well, maybe not where

it counts—teaching and healing and all that,

not to mention miracles, not that heal

-ing’s not, exactly, but I mean the big

ones, walking on water, say, and raising

the dead though I wonder if that really

comes under the heading of miracles,

I guess you can’t get any sicker than

dead but anyway I’m ashamed of my

-self though I’m only ten years old so I

hope to grow into being a hero

when the time comes, when the time really comes,

but ask me to pack it in&mdashso that God

can live again, if Jesus is God, they

swear to that in Sunday School—and I think

I’d pull a Peter, which might not be so

bad, he does have the keys to Heaven and

he was a rock, upon him Jesus built

His church, the Bible tells me so any

-way, there might be something to it. Today

I fell asleep in class and Miss Hooker

had to rouse me and when I realized

just where the Hell I was and my eyes met

Miss Hooker’s like two spears into the side

of Jesus—I just made that up, that

makes me kind of a Creator though I

ought to revise that: her eyes stabbed me but

then again maybe I was right the first

time but who knows, maybe I’m right both

times—when I realized where I was and

nobody was happy but my classmates

were laughing though at and not with me, then

for a moment there I thought I’d murdered

Jesus instead of saved Him, which to tell

the truth I didn’t do, either. After

Sunday School I apologized to her,

Miss Hooker I mean—she loves Jesus like

crazy. If she died now that would be good

somehow. But I won’t die for that, neither.

Copyright © 2019 by Gale Acuff.


The morning after I bury my dog

I wolf my scrambled eggs and check on him,

below the garden, where we bury pets

and their graves cover over with grass, so

we never remember whose grave is whose.

I’m almost through the garden when I see

death coming back to life but not the way

they talk about at church. And talk about

and talk about. Something’s dug him

up, my dog, Caesar, Caesar is his name,

although he’s dead now so I’m not sure if

a name I can’t call to bring its bearer

to me is really a name anymore

if it doesn’t do what a name should do.

I mean, something’s been digging at his grave

and he’s got one paw coming up for air.

When I think I’m sensible again I

run back to the house. My father’s shaving

and I can’t be too excited or he’ll

nick himself, maybe even cut his throat.

Father, I say, as I creep down the hall

—the bathroom door’s just open, the way

old people forget to shut them, although

Father isn’t that old, and anyway,

he went to college. For six years. Seven.

Now he’s a geography teacher.

Father, I repeat. Yes, son, he says. What

can I do for you? His speech sounds strange—he’s

shaving, after all, so he moves his face

to help the razor do its job, just like

he’s a contortionist from the neck up.

I’ve seen it—he makes funny faces which

used to scare me when I was little—I’m

ten now—but now I can hear the strangeness.

Father, I say, someone dog up Caesar.

Or something. Is that a fact, he says. It’s

not really a question, and he doesn’t

seem surprised. Yes, sir, I say. There’s a leg

sticking out. You don’t say, he says. Yes, sir,

I say. Well, well. I’ll be there pretty soon.

Meanwhile, you get the shovel and go back

and I’ll meet you there. Yes, sir, I say. Right.

I walk to the barn and find the shovel

again—I’d forgotten where it was and

I was the one who put it up last night

after Father and I finished digging

the hole. I walk around the garden and

see it again, one leg pointing to sky

and I don’t come too close—not that I’m scared,

exactly. But I’m not gung-ho, neither.

I stand and stare and soon Father joins me.

I heard him cough when he came out the door.

he did that so he wouldn’t startle me,

I guess. I point to the grave and he says,

Well, well. For pity’s sake. What do you

know about that. Okay, son. Let’s do it

again. I follow him—right at his heels

though I’m not eager, just a bit lonely.

I want to give him the shovel—before

I can he says, Okay, son, let’s dig him

up. Just like that. I dig with my eyes closed

and when I have to open them I don’t

look directly at the leg. Father lifts him

out and says, Okay, a little deeper

this time, son. When I’m through he puts Caesar

back in and I refill the hole and we

walk and walk on it to keep a good dog

down. Alright, Father says. Go get those bricks

from the old fireplace and bring them over.

I get the wheelbarrow and fill it with

bricks and manage to roll it without it

falling over. Father lays them down like

a brick floor on top of Caesar’s grave. There,

he says. That ought to hold him. Only now

can I ask, Father, what happened last night?

He wipes his face with both long sleeves. Raccoon,

maybe, he says, looking for some protein.

Another dog, maybe. There’s no telling

but that’s my guess or two. He’s alright now,

he adds. Put the shovel and the wheelbarrow

up. I do and meet him at the back door.

He’s smoking a Lucky Strike. I’m sorry,

son, he says. It happens. It’s Nature’s way.

I’m not sure if he means it’s Nature’s way

to die or Nature’s way to be dug up

again, or maybe he means both. Yes, sir,

I say. It got to me but I’ll be fine.

He laughs. It gets us all, he says. He sighs.

I think he means death, and not just surprise.

You cut yourself shaving, I say. Oh, that,

he says. It’s nothing. Which means it’s something.

Copyright © 2019 by Gale Acuff.

About the Author

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Chiron Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Adirondack Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. Acuff has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives. Acuff has taught university English courses in the US, China, and Palestine.

Christopher Barnes

“Putting You Through Now, Caller.” (4)

“You always this gruff?

Muzzling your jaw smooths our racket.

Could’ve pocketed Betterbridge, worth the undertaking.

He was roundly pinpointed.

Whine baby, avanti.”

“There’s no getaway hatch

That doesn’t swing onto a precipice.”

Copyright © 2019 by Christopher Barnes.

“Putting You Through Now, Caller.” (5)

“This wipe out has its Laurel & Hardy ingredient.

You had it jaggy

Radiating yourself in vending machine glam.

An x marks the colour print.

Everything’s thimblerigged, faithworthy.”

“Skewing reminiscences aren’t discretion,

Costa del Sol waits,

A golden bubble.”

Copyright © 2019 by Christopher Barnes.

About the Author

Christopher Barnes won the 1998 Northern Arts Writers Award. He has read his work at several events, including at Proudwords, a lesbian and gay writing festival. This collection Lovebites was published in 2005 (Chanticleer Press, Edinburgh, Scotland).

Jaren Michelle

The Pair

The laundry room smells of some freshman’s burnt ramen. There’s a dirty plate in the sink right below the“please don’t leave dirty dishes” sign. Someone’s left the window open; snow dusts the floor. I close the window and sit on top of the tumbling dryer to keep warm.

The room is small: just two washers and dryers, a sink, and a microwave. White walls, brown-tile floor. A bulletin board hangs on the wall; the RA pinned up only a half-sheet of notebook paper. In hot pink glitter pen it reads, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.—Jesus.

A small cardboard box has been sitting on the dryer across from me for weeks now. It”s labeled in Sharpie: Homeless Socks, Doodled on the box is a cartoon likeness of a sock, lost to the perilous seas of the washing machine. At first, there had been only one or two, but I counted new ones every day. Today the homeless sock box is full.

Before the box was there, people put missing socks on the window sill, assuming someone would eventually come get them. They sat in a row, cold, gathering dust, looking too small. Some ended up on the floor or fell in the crevice between the washer and dryer. But when the homeless-sock box appeared, the socks could wait in a soft little pile together, saved from the fall.

I’m skipping chapel again today. It’s not worth walking across campus in the snow. Out the window, I see groups of girls huddled in friendly clumps. They don’t notice me watching as they leave schools of footprints behind.

About the Author

Jaren Michelle is the 2018-19 editor of the Quercus, art and literary magazine, at St. Ambrose University. Her short fiction work has been published in Quercus, and her poetry has appeared in Indiana Wesleyan University’s Caesura literary magazine. She is completing her writing degree at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.

Tim J. Myers

Family of Death Squad Victim

Copyright © 2019 by Tim J. Myers.

About the Artist

Tim J. Myers is a widely published writer who has also published 14 works of visual art, including some in The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review at Johns Hopkins.

Lucy Ricciardi

Liquidity Trap

The husband is drunk in a pool

of his own making.

A stranger realigns his legs for


Between him and the cold steps


but slippery rot of ginko and moss.

If he had the cash, he could flow

like a lover over

the edge seeking unexplored lows.

His fingers discover depressions

where water collects

in the absence of other options.

His wife slips down the shiny streets

past raucous calls

from the hundred yen shop, past

the silence

of Kyoto’s specialty stalls

of rare broken tea,

blood-red gold-flecked


and knives to last a thousand years.

She walks home in the rain.

Copyright © 2019 by Lucy Ricciardi.

Berlin, October, 2011

What is left to say of a city dismembered,


Even the young drag rubble-heaps

like entrails in lagged reproach

of their sunny affect, their violent art.

Invisible Berlin is more compelling

than its giddy surface. Always two varieties

of possession, the real and the remembered.

Here we have a statue, part of a frieze—

the rest is in Russia

or still crated in the basement

with basalt from Tel Halaf.

And here, a map. We saved the list.

We know what was lost. It would have been

exactly here. It was—

We were lucky, the villagers buried these

plates in the fields, later returned

bearing them as in a blackened fairy tale.

Look now at the scale model of the city,

four meters square, in three colors.

White is what remained.

Yellow has been reconstituted.

Pink is what is planned for 2023.

We have always been forward-looking,

consider the Staatsbibliothek,

our next bride, decked in glass

and lit with crystal prisms, reflecting

un-built Berlin in every bevel.

Still a feel of empire along the boulevards.

Across an open field, illiquid

waves of granite blocks anchor

the uneven earth. “ A Memorial

to the Murdered Jews of Europe”

Berlin is left to city planners

who live in a house of the bifurcated

twinning and turning to remake the past

according to old recipes

like this one for October plum torte.

Join us in our bunker, re-worked as

a gallery of contemporary art.

Exhibit one is a naked woman,

made from a plucked and shellacked chicken

beside a female amputee.

Next are fragments of the bitter concrete

where 2,000 people were crammed.

These were German citizens.

What did they have

to say to each other once they emerged?

Berlin is our pink rose.

Copyright © 2019 by Lucy Ricciardi.

About the Author

Lucy Ricciardi’s poems raise issues of fairness, health, love, and the weirdness of Nature. She was raised in Carle Place, Long Island in one of Levitt’s first housing developments. She now lives with her husband in Connecticut where she is working on a poetry collection.

John Stocks

Deserted Cottage. County Kerry.

Who were they, and why did they leave?

Grieving for their patch of peaty soil

Few traces left, smothered by fecund

Growth, flourishing in well-loved loam.

Impossible then to ascertain

How long it lingered, in neglect.

Nettles high as the breasts of girls

Who carried the butter-milk home

Through fields of yellow gorse, pink-heather.

The big fella said the slates were old

Old as God, the Devil and the rain

Ripped from a church, three hundred years ago.

But as for the unrecorded lives

He shrugged, no one appeared to know

Whether it was famine from the blight

Or some distant, domestic trauma

That pulled up their roots, and sent them flying

Swift as winter shadows on the Samhain fires.

Copyright © 2019 by John Stocks.

To breathe this air.

Oh, the terrible beauty of the bay

and peaty bog-mountain knockatee

a land drenched into sorrows that drifts away

beyond the blood-soaked estuary

to a land of booze and infamy.

For the terrible beauty of the bay

with its mists, and ghosts, and shadow play

half believed legends of distant days

little people, Fianna and the fays

human life as fragile as wind-blown leaves.

And the terrible beauty of the bay

In winter storm, tumultuous spray

the boys from Limerick, Dub and Galway

all wide eyed, wild and reckless, born to stray

to exile and bitter-sweet misery.

When the lights of New York are blazing

when the mist and the whisky come calling

my fine Island half a life time away;

oh, the terrible beauty of the bay.

About the Author

John Stocks is a UK-based poet, novelist, historian and freelance journalist who has had work published in magazines worldwide and whose work has been widely anthologised. Since 2010 he has appeared in the UK Soul Feathers anthology, alongside Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Seamus Heaney, Carol Ann Duffy, Maya Angelou, Sharon Olds and others. He is the poetry editor of Bewildering Stories magazine and has published and edited several creative anthologies, including, Gaze Diverse Visions and the award-winning GANDA magazine.

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