John Grey: “Birthmark”

Birthmark

You say that, at your birth,
the midwife, in the midst of celebration,
spilled wine down the right side of your face.
It was a fine claret, you add.
The stain never did come out.

Another time, you tell me that,
being two-faced physically,
you’ve done your best
to make sure that your nature doesn’t follow.
You’ve always been honest with me.
Everyone else I know says the same.
Your resoluteness is working.

Meeting new people,
you don’t pretend the birthmark isn’t there.
There’s no attempt to hide it
with a string of hair.
It’s as much a part of you
as your bad jokes.
People laugh at them.
You laugh at your own uniqueness.

Your wife says that patch of purple
is what first attracted her to you.
She hasn’t seen it since.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review, and Hollins Critic. Latest books–Covert, Memory Outside The Head, and Guest Of Myself–are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline, and International Poetry Review.

Daniel Webre: “Man in a Green Bubble”

Man in a Green Bubble 

_____The man near eighty resumes his stooped walk from front porch to mailbox. It is posted near a busy road cut through the concrete of strip malls. I’m in one of the cars zipping past his tiny bubble of green trees not yet pierced by the ambitions of developers.

_____I don’t see much but the flash of his life breaking up the Sonic on one side and maybe a dry cleaner on the other, his leftover world no more than an acre tucked between.

_____I tried counting the cars in his driveway—I think there were two. But that doesn’t mean anything. He could have lived alone—maybe never left—the cars mere reminders of a wife and family and motives that took him elsewhere.

_____I remember he wore heavy black-frame glasses and grim determination. Though I wondered if he’d made peace with circumstance and trained his eyes to see only what fit well within those frames.

_____All this in a passing instant. There were Walmarts and McDonalds enough, further along the road, to make me forget that man and his long walk across a bubble, had I not stopped to write them down.


Daniel Webre received an MFA in fiction from McNeese State University and a PhD in English with creative writing concentration from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in PinyonCottonwoodPaterson Literary ReviewWayne Literary ReviewThe MacGuffin, and elsewhere.

Yash Seyedbagheri: “Weekend at Volodya’s”

Weekend at Volodya’s

comrade, you drag up a body
long festering among the maggots
a man who created empires
who expanded a map
and purged the soils of sedition
while giving your country’s name
a bearlike ferocity

you pull arms right and left
look, he’s waving
while you assault another wall
another cathedral
and order a dead child for breakfast
in a pesky hospital

just keep dragging that body around
look he’s waving
this is truth
and soon you will drink vodka and eat caviar
in the rubble of another house
and in a palace that once waltzed with privilege
now prop him up just a tad more


Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA fiction program. His work  has been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Write City Magazine, and Ariel Chart, among others. 

Kenneth Pobo: “Reclining Nude (Fernande)”

Reclining Nude (Fernande)

_____Gouache on paper, Picasso

The book of clouds opens
to page infinity, has no covers,
no authors.  No one can claim
ownership.  No wonder it stays
open.  Every turned page
brings rain somewhere.   I read
while reclining nude.  My chum
Fernande lies on the ground,
head on a pillow.  She too is
a cloud, good at dispersing.
I might get dressed.  It’s late.
Ground calls me.  Fernande
and I will have dinner, moon
ladles pouring steamy soup
in our bowls.


Kenneth Pobo (he/him) is the author of twenty-one chapbooks and nine full-length collections. Recent books include Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), Loplop in a Red City (Circling Rivers), and Lilac And Sawdust (Meadowlark Press). His work has appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, Asheville Literary Review, Nimrod, Washington Square Review, Mudfish, Hawaii Review, and elsewhere.

Lara Dolphin: “Secret Song”

Secret Song  

When Dolly started out
There was Bill Earl Owens
With his signature Gretsch
Standing beside her
While she sang
A voice small as a country cabin
Grand as the Smoky Mountains
When she started writing
Nashville took notice
And made her a star 
Both astral and human
A sequined jewel among 
Staid country crooners
But there is a deeper truth
Kept from the public
Locked in a box 
In the heart of Appalachia
A box made from chestnut
Uncle Bill’s favorite 
That at its finest 
Offered shade
Strong lumber
And bounteous food  
How fitting that now it stores
Year after year
The unsung lyrics
The unstrummed melody
That will be the Queen of Country’s
Parting gift to future generations
What music lies within
We can only imagine
Perhaps it will speak of a world
Where we fall in a heap 
At the feet of majestic trees
Worshiping God’s sacred creation
Perhaps it will sing the music of Paradise 
A hymn to second chances

 


A native of Pennsylvania, Lara Dolphin is an attorney, nurse, wife, and mom of four amazing kids. She frequently wonders where the time has gone. Her poems are widely published in print and online. Her first chapbook, In Search Of The Wondrous Whole, was published by Alien Buddha Press. Her most recent chapbook, Chronicle Of Lost Moments, is available from Dancing Girl Press. 

Roger Singer: “Empty Streets”

Empty Streets

I hear hounds
howling
and windmills
slowly grinding
bitter rust

a porch light flickers,
as moths circle
above dusty chairs

there’s an
upstairs light,
someone passes by,
casting a shadow

nearby
steel wheels of
boxcars
promise safety
and a soft
wooden floor
to the next place


Dr. Roger Singer is the Poet Laureate of Old Lyme, Connecticut. He has had over 1,150 poems published on the internet, magazines, and in books and is a 2017 Pushcart Prize Award Nominee. He is also the President of the Shoreline Chapter of the Connecticut Poetry Society. Some of the magazines that have accepted his poems for publication are:  Westward Quarterly, Jerry JazzSP QuillAvocetUnderground VoicesOutlaw PoetryLiterary FeverDance of my HandsLanguage & CultureAdelaide Literary MagazineThe Stray BranchToasted CheeseTipton Poetry Journal, Ambassador Poetry Award Massachusetts State Poetry Society, Louisiana State Poetry Society Award 2019, Arizona State Poetry Society Award 2020, and Mad Swirl Anthology 2018 and 2019.

Paul Ilechko: “Aubade”

Aubade


Poet and songwriter Paul Ilechko lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ. He is the author of several chapbooks. His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including The Night Heron Barks, Feral Journal, K’in, Gargoyle Magazine, and Book of Matches. His first album, Meeting Points, was released in 2021.  

Theodore Worozbyt: from “Letters to the Alphabet”

from Letters to the Alphabet

F

The soil itself is exhausted, the icicle radishes flexy and hot. Albert, that line you wrote
Re: your wife waking to a hellish spate of days has remained with me, though the poem’s Name and my wife have not. I’m bad with titles, and once left a dinner party angry because
I confused style with pretension. All I remember is one guy had long hair and wore
His white scarf in the restaurant. Everything seems to have happened so long ago
My mother had a beehive and not to matter now. The way I live is completely observable From the two tachyon chairs that traveled so fast not to get here they disappeared before They came into existence. That’s a world record. Often, no matter where I go in this farm- Working town a smell of cakes almost burning in what must be giant oven hives heavies
The air with a sweetness that belongs elsewhere, and I stand in the yard, the parking lot, Inhaling to no avail, feeling not Grandma’s German chocolate cake on the wind but
Prison cake icing its own languishing meditations as the fleshes layer up and melt away. Snow falls down of course and catkins swirl like the arms of little galaxies, but no one Mentions the cake smell or has an answer. Death Cab for Cutie played in the bait shop when I went in.

G

I went in for the medicine, but the clerk had never heard of me or what I couldn’t buy.
Soap operas are no joke. When they end it’s like air conditioning broken in July.
You sweat, but cannot sweat it out. I don’t know what the smell of chicken cooking is to me.
I sent myself a tiny peep from the Czech Republic, where if I still had my white silk scarf I Could be more easily seen watching from behind my beardless hour the grey hat of Leonard
Cohen saying goodbye among two hundred and ninety eight others. It hatched blue lines When I stepped on it in the grass. Sooner or later even vermouth burns. Sam Stosur took
Her second tournament and removed her sunglasses. The one thing I shot and killed Without my feet I waited to dispatch until it had passed over the thicket where it would be Lost to my mouth. Its feathers coming out made a soft resistant zipper. I soaked the breast In cognac and ate it with braised cabbage and a male gaze. I never did distribute that
Herman Melville flyer. I’m afraid to brush my teeth; they might dissolve. I just one to find Love, said the barber to the flea. What sauce goes with mullet; it is so oily. I live in Snellville, Near Seattle. So it goes in the lecture about you know who, whose shoes reminded Viola of El Greco, Jr.

H

This afternoon I glanced at the door and in the window dark hair gathered, wound
Itself around a wild smile, threw me a kiss and went on. The pit bull shakes his head
Violently. I’ve let him down with my golden key, again. My neck feels better, the rest is Expensive and not worth shit. Walk in and out as you wish, you won’t miss anything.
Just all of New York City weeping into a cab driver’s toilet as I smash his hood.
My days glow red in my fingertips. I cannot stop staring at the sun. A kiss from the door,
Like wine, salumi and a bowl of salt to an old man. The old boy can’t be touched enough;
He needs a bath every few months. I change the furniture instead, but who wants to drive
Two hours to buy a chaise lounge from Huff Furniture when the original owner is still
Prone, eating an avocado, watching Ed Sullivan and calling out, Boy, bring me a toothpick.
Light my Camel. It tasted rich, like a suicide door black Lincoln Continental. The first
Was pink. It went. It got cut up with the Paris jumpsuits, shoved into suitcases and tossed
Over the wall at Four Seasons. The Marines drew robots in pencil, and bought a puppy
That made pats in their beds. A little piggie got stuck to my hair, they called it funnier
Than their K-rations.

I

Behind the Wal-Mart graveyard the black dog rolling in the grass, his stomach
Whitened in the sun. He twists up and runs. Now he goes. Beside the dumpster
A rough pudding of meat material lies curiously flyless. Often it’s a thick pork bone, a hip
I guess. In the commercial of not looking at you, dark-haired sisters intimate an Elsewhere Gaze for the camera. The shape of a white shadow completes the idea of a breast. The bottle Displays as a navel. I overcooked the chicken so his pills would fit snugly in. I think
These things come from the Chinese restaurant as kindness to the strays, but there are no Strays, only machines and erosion barriers. Dung is what I need, and plenty of it. The meat Resembles an inverted pie, and stays colored even after three days like boiled beets. It should Have, like all confusions, a smell. Sometimes being apologetic is nasty. Would you have worn A shirt made of marijuana to the opera? When I lean words forward they shrink. Just an Observation. Here come the ears, I would know their sound anywhere, anytime. It will be The last sound I listen to, the final sound I taste. Pardon me, I have to go handle the chicken And rice. I’m already too late, of course. I ran home in the dusk because of the new rule,
For Mother’s meal.

J

Ane Brun expected this song, I heard it in the engines of a cross-continental flight.
Her, I cannot but agree. Kumquat soap is no measure of forgetfulness, since forgetting
Cannot be measured in the way surgeons measure punctuation’s death in the skin. Hours
Were the alphabet but thirty scalpels exceeded the bleed limits and the Roman count.
The objects we live with on the skin are ghosts, brown spottings at the folds, the slides
Of guitar juice, and what Coleridge claimed was a dramatic propriety. The laudanums
Of the one hundred and forty million citizens in my country are childless. I am so sick
Of me I can’t italicize the end. When I push a white button the orchids surround
My cup with their diagnomens. The fever is growing among the few and the cats
That make footholes in the garden. Applause for the silver six foot fire wire, its clear
Rope of skin. I am still wondering why I didn’t tell you about the meter of black snake
The Maestro strolled over and I picked up, spoke to, and moved to a safer place
Than the dirt road in the woods by the college. I didn’t expect to say what I have said.
Man O Manischewitz.


Theodore Worozbyt is the recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Alabama and Georgia Arts Councils. His books are The Dauber Wings, Letters of Transit, and Smaller Than Death. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bennington Review, Conjunctions, Pithead Chapel, Po&sie, and the anthology, Gracious: Poems from the 21st Century South.

John Tustin: “Your Door Is Locked”

Your Door Is Locked

I walked down the dark alleys,
Looking into the grimiest windows.
I drove like a knife dividing the night,
Sleeping by the side of the road in the light
Of the sun.
I asked the sky, I begged the moon,
I cursed the time-carrying sea
That led me to you.
Your door was locked.
I knocked.
You did not open it.

I studied Kant and Confucius,
Socrates and Nietzsche,
Thomas Paine and Aquinas.
I tried to understand why
They all said something different yet
They all led me to you.
To a door that is locked.

I read the poems of the Sufi Mystics,
The Chinese wanderers,
The English Romantics, the doped-up Beats,
The angry American drunks
And the lovely suicidal women.
They led me to you.
Your door is locked.

I said Ohm in the Ashram,
Questioned G-d in the Temple,
Stared into the eyes of Catheaded and Lionheaded deities
Long buried before us,
Lit candles in Cathedrals of Jesus and of alone,
And all of them led me to the Hosanna of you.
They led me to your door.
Your door is locked.

I sleep uneasily,
I awaken in a pool of sweat,
Not remembering the nightmares.
I awaken to me standing
Before a locked door,
Waiting. 


John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.

Tamas Dobozy: “Two Pistols”

Two Pistols

He liked to think he’d spent a long time arming his memory. Stocking the arsenal, is how he saw it. In particular, he liked facts, they were his bullets, shooting holes in every argument he encountered. Truth, well, there was no bullet like that, or at least he hadn’t found it, though a few times early on, when he was still capable of belief, he thought he had, only to discover it wasn’t that, quite. Once in a while there was a good fact, maybe one of the best, fitted into the right revolver, but it wouldn’t keep his opponents down forever. Sooner or later they’d recover, do some further reading in their favourite magazines and newspapers, gather new facts, figure out how to best fire them out, and return to argue it out all over again. He was hard pressed to pinpoint when he lost his love for it—the build-up to the battle, the projectiles singing through the air, the satisfying thud with which they landed when you’d aimed right, the best shots being when your opponent took a second or two to realize, with that dawning look in the eyes, that there would be no shooting back, not until much later. One day he simply noticed that he’d gone quieter. He let people talk. He let them go on. He should have stopped them, right between the eyes, hours ago. But he had less and less interest in causing the death of anything, even an idea, no matter how ridiculous or offensive, and more and more in the death that was his silence, or not death, exactly, but a kind of afterlife. It was that tranquil, that serene. If anyone asked, he said he’d retired as champ, but that wasn’t it at all, quite the opposite: he’d just let go, cut himself free of an ego that insisted on weaponizing every word, on marking the world, on tallying the wins and losses as if the number mattered. The silence was, if he was asked to describe it, which he rarely agreed to do, his second firearm, or maybe not second, but the same one, except repurposed, firing its bullet inward, one time only, exploding the cylinder and relieving his need for every victory except that of letting the grass grow, up and around and through his feet all the way to the empty skull where his brain had once been.

 


Tamas Dobozy is a professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. He lives in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. He has published four books of short fiction, When X Equals Marylou, Last Notes and Other Stories, Siege 13: Stories (which won the 2012 Rogers Writers Trust of Canada Fiction Prize, and was shortlisted for both the Governor General’s Award: Fiction, and the 2013 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award), and most recently, Ghost Geographies: Fictions. He has published over seventy short stories in journals such as One Story, Fiction, Agni, and Granta, and won an O Henry Prize in 2011, and the Gold Medal for Fiction at the National Magazine Awards in 2014.