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Issue 159

This issue features


Barbara Anderson Chase

Sunrise from Rawley Point

Copyright © 2021 by Barbara Anderson Chase.


About the Artist

Barbara Anderson Chase has discovered her creativity with her nifty iPhone camera. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and yellow lab.



Richard Block


[losing the blue, azure]


losing the blue, azure

swirls into creases of crushed dark

and loosens. flayed remembrances silhouetted

atop the buoyant dream.


in time moving and removing,

the dream distends:

bottle, shell, and wave, almost


a peninsula,


a reach of islands cerulean

against the rust torpor and pales suddenly:


the shape of parting lovers the touch

of separate blue.


Copyright © 2022 by Richard Block.



[secretly towards a world i do not know]


secretly towards a world i do not know

crawling into nowhere…

the sun has burned itself out here


which means it is laughing:

“blessed art thou, thee or i

only by lies.”


alive i suffocate amid the splendor

or is it windy despair?


do I admit the truth

drown once again and be one?

to pretend just once:


faith, unfreeze your glance!

i sing your silly song tonight

but at death’s eve you sing mine.


Copyright © 2022 by Richard Block.



[night falls?]


night falls?

emptiness surrounds.

the sound of nothing helps me remember my name.


it’s changed. i am called many things by many people.

often i respond. often i do not.

i’m changing, too.


who notes the change or drafts its course?

what wind urges me on—

what star would i follow?


when night falls, the night is already gone.

the perfect blankness of the sky settles on me;

a wash on all things, on all names.

i’ve stopped looking for stars—


how i miss the night?


Copyright © 2022 by Richard Block.



About the Author

Richard Block is a professor of German Studies at the University of Washington where he also teaches film and global literatures. He is the author of 2 books, The Spell of Italy: Vacation, Magic, and the Spell of Goethe and Echoes of a Queer Messianic: From Frankenstein to Brokeback Mountain. He has also authored more than 25 critical essays, including most recently, “Mourning Becomes Electric: AIDS’ Disappearing Act.


Margaret Scrymser

Fire in the Sky

Copyright © 2022 by Margaret Scrymser.


About the Artist

Margaret Scrymser has been taking a series of photographs from her Northern Virginia balcony in an effort to retain some semblance of sanity during the covid-19 pandemic.



David Breeden



Napoleon in Moscow: the Emperor’s Difficult Reading



Napoleon, it’s said, collapsed

into a chaise longue as Moscow

burned. He could only read

a novel to take his mind off

the madness of burning a city

rather than gutting up and giving


it to him, like everybody else.

How could they be so selfish?

Napoleon asked, collapsed in


a funk from the blow. So hard,

even to focus on a narrative

when there were such monsters

in the world. Arsonists. Cheaters

at the game. Sore losers. Why?

Napoleon kept asking from his


chaise longue, wicker as it

happened. Inflammable. Nothing

like cooling your heels as the last


warm days tick by. Nothing like

losing an army to those who won’t

play by the rules, Napoleon

said as the embers spread and

defeat sank in. How could they

go so far out of the story? It


made the reading so difficult

as Moscow burned and the

winter tensed for a lunge.


Copyright © 2022 by David Breeden.



About the Author

David Breeden has an MFA from The Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, a Ph.D. from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi, with additional study at Breadloaf and in writing and Buddhism at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He also has a Master of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago.




Charlie Brice



Craft Talk


It really is true that

less is more.

In fact, I really didn’t need

that first line

or the “really” in the first

or third line.


You must kill your darlings,

even the ones you think

are killer words like

incandescent, penumbra,

inchoate, and sublime—

especially sublime.


You must watch out

for needless repetition

as in repeating “sublime” above.

I really shouldn’t have done that.

Whoops! There I go using

that worthless word “really” again.

If you’re writing about something that exists,

it’s already really real, isn’t it?


You must determine beforehand whether

your lines will be primarily

trochaic or iambic or some combination

of the two. Also consider how many

beats per line and whether you’ll use

couplets, tercets, or quatrains.


Or maybe not. Figuring all that out

before you write might

demoralize you so thoroughly

that you’ll become paralyzed

and never start the poem. Just forget

what I said about prefiguring form

before you begin. You can always do that

after the first draft.


By the way, you shouldn’t use

the word “just” more than

once in a poem. Just ignore my

repetition of that useless word

in lines 31, 36, and 37 above

(and line 66 below).

I don’t know what got into me!


Now, let’s talk about enjambment.

I love it, but others

hate it. Still, it gets you to

go onto the next

line or even the next

stanza, so I recommend

it.


You must avoid using the second

person. Imagine if Hopkins

had written, “You, are you grieving

over Goldengrove’s unleaving?”

Where would we be without Margaret?

Also, the amorphous “you” puts

the reader on the spot. Are you implying

that he or she is responsible for

something while merely reading your poem?


Oh, and avoid words of more than two

syllables—words like “implying”

and “responsible,” because they interfere

with the natural rhythm of a line.

Clearly, I became momentarily insane

when I used those words

in the stanza above.


Finally, try not to make your poem too

prosy. Just rely on your intuitive

or native (yes, the word “native”

is more poetic) sense of rhythm

and sound. Let it guide you while you work.

Good luck and happy writing!


Copyright © 2022 by Charlie Brice.




The Truth About Alaskan Air


with thanks to James Brown, Michael Dickman, and Ryan Walsh


you’re a sex machine


a brand-new bag


the hardest working man in the breathing industry


every time you flex a muscle an earth quakes


jet across the stage on one foot

it’s a breeze


salmon air

halibut air

grisly air

deer breath


you will spawn


you’ll feel good like you knew you would


igloos make you hot


no need for air conditioning or Xanax


your will to power a war on your will


please please please please

(please please) baby don’t go


Copyright © 2022 by Charlie Brice.




Tough Luck


The ice was too thin

no one could help

the swan its foot caught

in ice on Walloon


All we could do is watch

or not watch

as I chose to do


It was an eagle

my neighbor said

that finished it off


Copyright © 2022 by Charlie Brice.


About the Author

Charlie Brice won the 2020 Field Guide Poetry Magazine Poetry Contest and placed third in the 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize. His chapbook, All the Songs Sung (Angel Flight Press), and his fourth poetry collection, The Broad Grin of Eternity (WordTech Editions) arrived in 2021. His poetry has been nominated twice for the Best of Net Anthology and three times for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Chiron Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Ibbetson Street, The Paterson Literary Review, Impspired Magazine, Muddy River Poetry Review, and elsewhere.




Frank John Edwards


Spuds - 1975


I left Chihuahua in a blazing late morning

For the town of El Paso six hours away.

But halfway to El Paso

In a desert called Terra Blanca

My intestines went rogue.


I pulled off and ran behind a dune,

Beyond fear of rattlesnakes,

And I will not describe what ensued,

Except to say

That back in the Beetle

When I released the clutch

There arose a whine

Then a growl of gears

Gnashing themselves to bits.


I walked a couple hours to a crossroads town

And caught the Juarez bus just after dusk.

My seatmate was about my age

And spoke no more English

Than I his native tongue.


I felt his eyes roam me

And when he suddenly reached for his pocket,

I braced.


It was his wallet.

He flipped through plastic photo holders

Then handed me a Polaroid.

Montana, he says.


He stands in a field smiling.

In his hands—

Raised against the peaks

And the big blue sky at his back—

Two magnificent

Potatoes.


Copyright © 2022 by Frank John Edwards.



Nocturne


I linger on the lakeshore

As the pulse of this autumn day grows faint.

Cloud underbellies,

Dune-rippled like a desert inverted on high,

Soak up pink and ochre from the west

And spit out rays of gold.


As the solar sarcophagus sinks,

Stars appear, shy at first but growing bold,

Like distant kin at a wake.


My cat joins me on the shore,

Crouches to watch a chipmunk

Scuttle into the gaping body bag of night.


Copyright © 2022 by Frank John Edwards.



Last Days of Kerouac


Living in a small house in Florida with his mother,

Addicted to alcohol, obsessed with baseball,

His looks and strength long gone,

The last days of Jack Kerouac

Haunt me this afternoon

As I sit in a coffee shop

Where good music plays,

Sponging up whatever comes.


Charlie Parker lets a solo rip

Like a cyclone coaster through

How High the Moon

In the style of bebop badinage

That Kerouac pumped into prose.


At the table close to mine,

Two girls talk of pregnancy –

Rather, the afflicted one listens while the other

Riffs on the theme of

Everything’s going to be okay.


And I want so much to believe her.


Copyright © 2022 by Frank John Edwards.



About the Author

Frank John Edwards is a writer and physician living in rural New York State with his spouse, an emergency nurse. He entered the US Army after high school and served as a combat helicopter pilot in Southeast Asia. He has published two medical books, two novels, and a collection of stories and poems. He earned an MFA in writing from Warren Wilson College.



R. L. Farr


The Weight of Pears Held in the Palm


We choose our words

like we chose

this morning’s pears.

Deliberately.


To speak of affection

we hide behind

our hands (the effect

of clearing the voice).


The unsaid waits.

Yet never of the other

desires. Those the body’s

science urges


toward completion.

The core remains.

We’ve pressed

our thumbs


into the flesh,

tested its initial reluctance

to surrender the blush

ripeness to the hand.


Copyright © 2022 by R. L. Farr.




About the Author

R.L. Farr, poet and sometimes bookbinder, lives and writes in Doylestown, PA. She is a founder and co-editor of River Heron Review, an online poetry journal, publishing and supporting poets from across the globe. When not writing poetry or editing, you will find Robbin volunteering for her county arts council where she, not surprisingly, writes much of its content. Her poetry has been published in various journals and anthologies. Visit robbinfarr.com.



Max St-Jacques


Max St-Jacques, NYC 2020-2021, color photography.



Max St-Jacques, NYC 2020-2021, color photography.


About the Artist Max St-Jacques is a photographer, actor and model who has acted in A Gathering of Shifts shot in New York City in 2021. Max’s photos recently were shown at Usagi NY Project Space Gallery in Brooklyn, NY and at Light Space & Time Online Art Gallery in Florida. His work has been featured in Up North Literary Magazine and in The Lunch Break Zine in 2021 and in Stone Soup Magazine in 2015. Max is a Canadian American and he lives between Brooklyn, NYC and Toronto, Ontario. Visit: https://www.usaginy.com/copy-of-architype-exhibition https://upnorthlit.org/max-st-jacques https://heyzine.com/flip-book/5310fd9d4e.html#page/13 https://stonesoup.com/article/halifax-nova-scotia-canada-2015/



Dhiraj Gaurh


The Last Ritual

Step follows each step

In exactly the same ritual.

Careful to avoid missteps

With age, being habitual.

The same ritual took place

Countless millennia past.

The same spirit ablaze

In words that last.

All the generations bygone,

Connected with the spell so cast.

With my ancestors' bones,

I am connected at last.

I now see them chant,

In that ancient native land.

Beginning a soul's lament,

Under King Vikram's hand.


And I see King Vikram enthroned

As I close my eyes to smoke,

Hidden memories invoked.

King Vikram still rules in memory

As the shlokas have foretold.


Copyright © 2022 by Dhiraj Gaurh.


Inside

After months locked in

Finding safety in the house.

Every joyous thing seems inside

It is difficult to venture out.

A strange world lies outside

A world not ours.

With it we don't identify

There lies nothing to find.

Fear and unease rule there

Better is the comfort inside.

Our thoughts turned in

Ethereal entertainment to find.

Forgotten and unknown

Lies the open road.

Old thoughts of travel

We no longer hold.

For caged birds do not fly

If they have their perch

And a new toy to try.

Bars of gold do muffle cries.


Copyright © 2022 by Dhiraj Gaurh.


About the Author

Dhiraj Gaurh, is a reclusive computer engineer whose life did not change much during the frequent lockdowns. He has been writing poetry in the traditional way with fountain pens on paper throughout the forced isolation of the pandemic. He lives in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India.




Alish Goldblatt


Tooth Dreams


When our teeth hang by their roots,

or sit askew in their gum-chairs,

jagged, wiggling, then part of us knows

it’s just a dream. But the mirror still winks.


Tongue-fence gone, we run haphazardly into the

fields, tossing those words that should have been

corralled. They worm into the soil, implanting

the ideas of their forebears.


In Islam, if you gather fallen teeth in a dream

then infertility strikes, your cupped hand a vessel

of potential missing children. They nestle

at home in the palm, leaning against the lifeline.


The lost teeth are the final straw in Jewish dreams:

your sons and daughters have died. In your grief

you lose the will to eat, so there’s no need for teeth.

Always practical, we are, finding meaning in the bite.


Copyright © 2022 by Alisha Goldblatt.



Oath of Office


I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of

the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend

the Constitution of the United States.


He, because that’s still a guarantee,

can always choose to swear.

After all, the earth is his footstool,

gold brocade, the enemies humbled.


But if he’s somewhat non-committal, an affirmation will do.


His load is heavy this term around:

A virus that varies on a whim and splinters the world

separatism races through our bloodstreams

The market’s pendulum is erratic and then staid

Our spaces alternately burn and flood


To fully execute the office is to know that

river mussels are coming up dead and no

one can figure out the cause. Their innards

have turned; their edges are a rusty, putrid murk.

Without them, there is no filtration system,

and water just runs through the boneless,

leaving nothing behind, rushing

into the sea with flame retardants,

ecoli and feces all safely encased.


It’s no job for the uncoordinated,

wading around

the coin shaped corpses.

Those mussels are turning

by the hundreds, just one

small cog in the species’ wheel.

Preserve

Protect

Defend



Copyright © 2022 by Alisha Goldblatt.



Repudiation


And so

he swore off those

friendships, one quick cut, razed

them from his feeds judiciously.

Excised.


Platforms

where we can write

bold on those righteous steeds,

our armor, our people, our words.

Gaslight


burns in

even the rain.

You know the cruelest heart.

When it staggers with bigotry,

you know.


But all?

Every last one?

What if it were your son,

or your parents, devoted, blind,

who fear?


Because

at the flame is

terror, the burnt stench

of loss, the faith in a system

broken.


I’m not

convinced your cut

answers our holed-in world.

Do we mute, retreat, or can we

burn too?



Copyright © 2022 by Alisha Goldblatt.



About the Author

Alisha Goldblatt is an English teacher and writer living in Portland, Maine with her two wonderful children and one lovely husband. She has published poems in the Common Ground Review, Literary Mama, River Heron Review, Burningword Literary Journal, and many others, and essays in Stonecoast Review, Wisconsin Review, and MothersAlwaysWrite. Alisha writes whenever she can and gets published when she’s lucky.




Jon Tilly


The Wheel


"Think of people," the woman told me

"as spokes on a wheel:

the closer they are to the center

the closer they are to God."


Is God then a hub

and religion the shiny hubcap

The wheel turns and turns

on eternity


But didn't reason invent the wheel

and ingenuity and hard work

smelt the metal to form the spokes


The wheel turns and turns

on eternity

transporting us with manmade comfort

into a future of manmade designs

into a future when flight will one day

do away with wheels

and freedom from the rutted road

will free us of hubcaps

and their shiny distorting images


Copyright © 2022 by Jon Tilly.



Hoping for Music


They were hoping for magic

the children in this Land of the Broken

They were hoping for elves and fairies

clad in daffodils


But no magic came

because carnivorous reality devoured it

No fairies or elves

to prance before wide-eyed children


They were hoping for otherworldly beauty

light shows of aurorae borealis

They were hoping for perfume in the air

and days of fragrant breezes


But there were no light shows

No spectral beauty electrified the air

And only the choking dust of suffering

filled the children’s lungs


Please the children pleaded

show us simple rainbows

Show us beauty in this ugly world

Show us hope in this place of hopelessness


They were hoping for music

sweet language and lyrical oceans

They were hoping for harmony

in this place of dissonance


Copyright © 2022 by Jon Tilly.



About the Author

Jon Tilly has a master's degree in Library Science and work at a public library, where he sees more homeless people than actual book readers. He’s been writing and reading poetry for years. His favorite poets are Theodore Roethke, Rainer Rilke and Sharon Olds.



Mervyn Seivwright


Each Time I Was Pulled Over


as a teen, I kept my credentials

and dependent ID close enough

to limit movements. My brown hands


stayed in plain sight, shifting

slowly when asked for registration,

shifting my eyes for empathy


without awareness of my fault.

Maybe to allow pity to a child

of a military man, increasing


my status or worth. A hostage

is told to humanized themselves

to a captor, be a softer skinned victim.


I softly said yes sir, kept my eyes

submissive, was thankful

for the ticket for not stopping


at the stop-sign, where

I had earlier stopped my car.


Copyright © 2022 by Mervyn Seivwright.



First Time in Jamaica


When I went to my mother’s home,

it was the first time I touched Jamaican soil.

At nineteen, I went to bury my grandfather


in the town of Bath. On this mountain

woven with trees of breadfruit, banana,

ackee, ambarella, plantain, pineapple,


pomegranate, guava, tamarind, coconut,

lychee, mango. Flavours my mummy would

climb for in her youth along the two-mile


walk of a rocky dirt road where driven

cars could not go. We knew the family

homes were not far, hearing dominos


slamming, shaking tables, voices blending,

country dialect combing in chorus

this first day of Nine Nights. A slow


gathering of friends and family,

in nine nights to celebrate life of lost.


Copyright © 2022 by Mervyn Seivwright.



About the Author

Mervyn Seivwright writes to bring social consciousness and poetry craft together for humane growth. He is from a Jamaican family born in London. He has appeared in AGNI Literary Magazine, The American Journal of Poetry, Salamander Literary Journal, I-70 Review Literary Magazine, African American Review, and 37 other journals in six countries. He was a 2021 Pushcart Nominee, Cutbank 2021 Contest Poetry Finalist, and Mount Island’s Lucy Terry Prince Poetry Contest Second Runner-Up. Mervyn currently lives in Schopp, Germany.




Leah Oates



Transitory Space, Toronto, Ontario, 2018 - 2019, color photography.



Transitory Space, Toronto, Ontario, 2018 - 2019, color photography.


About the Artist Leah Oates has a B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design, an M.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a Fulbright Fellow for study at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland. Oates has had solo shows in Toronto at Black Cat Artspace and in the NYC area at Susan Eley Fine Art, The Central Park Arsenal Gallery, The Center for Book Arts, Real Art Ways, The Brooklyn Public Library and at the MTA Arts and Design Lightbox Project. She was in group shows in Toronto at the Gladstone Hotel, John. Aird Gallery, Gallery 1313, Propeller Gallery, Wychwood Barns Community Gallery, Arta Gallery and at Papermill Gallery. Oates has been in numerous group shows in NYC at Wave Hill, Edward Hopper House, Metaphor Contemporary Art, Denise Bibro Fine Art, Nurture Art Gallery and The Pen and Brush Gallery. Article about her work has appeared in Art Toronto, Al-Tiba9 Contemporary Art Magazine, Magazine 43, dArt Magazine, The Tulane Review, Blue Mesa Review, NUNUM Journal, Friends of the Artist, GASHER Journal, and the 805 Lit + Art Journal. Visit: http://leahoates.com

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