Matt Dennison: “Waiting Room”

Waiting Room

Sitting in the groggy
Saturday morning clinic,
we watch the lucky couples
exclude the solitary woman,
huddle together wearing
black glasses, slight disguises
of bright swallowed laughter,
time slowly circling the room,
one by one stripping masks
from sideways-whispering faces,
exposing forward-facing fear
as the outer door opens
and the solo woman rises
to meet her husband above
averted eyes and hug
her delivered children
for gladly laughing yes
she is pregnant
again.

 


Matt Dennison is the author of Kind Surgery, from Urtica Press (Fr.) and Waiting for Better, from Main Street Rag Press. His work has appeared in Verse Daily, Rattle, Bayou Magazine, Redivider, Natural Bridge, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and Cider Press Review, among others. He has also made short films with Michael DickesSwoonMarie Craven, and Jutta Pryor.

Louie Cronin: “Compliant”

Compliant

Baby boomer turning 70, ok exaggerating a bit, I’ve got five more months. Of wearing masks, checking case numbers, primping for Zoom. My friends are all gray. I only see them on Zoom, or outside, bundled up, triple vaxed, windswept. I can’t afford to go gray. Went wrinkly instead, aged fast, chasing Sandy, who drowned at 22, always in a hurry. My period dried up at 45. Blamed it on ciggies, though I quit 10 years before, when Barry died, an old man of 29, struggling up the stairs at Times Square. Got my period at 11. Thought my life was over then. Maybe it was.

Work? Happy to get tossed out, though I hadn’t saved enough, who has? Now I’m aging into the high-risk pool, 68, 69, 69 1/2… I see how the baby doc looks at me, fumbling for my reading glasses. Old girl needs an EKG, a lipid panel. Would you consider eating healthy? Me? I used to rollerblade here, you little fuck! Everyone around me is deaf. I’m ok, unless I’m with young people, or watching movies with the captions on, narration buried under effects. I’d lose my job for that. Oh, right, I did.

Sad to see my brother with a cane. My father used a broom or a putter, died anyway. My mother was compliant, as am I. As I will be. She put on her big bifocals, stocked up on hearing aid batteries, used a cane then a walker then a transport chair. Her sister Gert fell putting in eyedrops, her sister Mary rolling up her hair. My husband installed railings this Thanksgiving. I was fine without them but reach for them just the same.

I get tired so early or am I just bored? Another meal to cook, another night to endure, streaming Netflix, trying to read a book. Wine tonight or detox tea? So many steps before bed. Sonicare, pick, floss, cleanser, serum, antiaging cream. PFFFT! And God forbid my pajama bottoms cinch — my stomach has forgotten how to squeeze, dinner lingers, threatens to turn.

Wait! Stop that. There’ll be no turning yet. There are red berries on the prickly bushes; the bay peeks flat and silver through the trees. There are stacks of cut wood and the fireplace draws like mad. There are baby boys on the West Coast and a baby girl on the East, getting onesies and picture books from distant aunties they can’t yet conjure.

Fucking plague stole two good years. Or slowed them down enough that I might notice.


Louie Cronin’s novel, Everyone Loves You Back, was a semifinalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Her fiction and essays have been published in Compass Rose, The Princeton Arts Review, Long Island Newsday, The Boston Globe Magazine, and on PRI.org. She formerly worked as a writer/producer for Car Talk.

Darren C. Demaree: Three Poems

Emily as Regret or Premonition

She was right. I
harbored
an apocalypse element

in my solitary thread.
To want
any revolution at all

is to offer up a stabbing
moment of pleasure
that gambles

the landscape it creates.
No matter. I’m
a coward for her.

I take myself to her
bells. I leave the rest of it
to become rope

without me.
All this muscle
& only play-burns.

*

Emily as Grain, in the Old Way 

Y’all should stop
fucking around
with these more

intimate voices.
There’s too much
death beneath

the crop to hide
our joy amidst
a goddamn canon.

*

Emily as Hollering

You ever see fire
overtake
a birdsong?

The whole county
can taste it when
the right woman

says hello
to emptiness
with real joy.


Darren C. Demaree‘s poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear in numerous magazines/journals, including Hotel Amerika, Diode, North American Review, New Letters, Diagram, and Colorado Review.

Alex LeGrys: “The Pursuit of Happiness”

The Pursuit of Happiness

we all know that at the beginning of every country road
sits a dilapidated farmhouse, with tick-infested boxers and
golden retrievers, barking for attention while their
owners fail to pay the electric bill yet buy designer
sunglasses every holiday season

but there is a garden shed in the middle
of every country road filled with moldy teacups and
empty liquor bottles and milk snakes slithering
with one another, waiting for the day to come when
Tiresias tramples them as they copulate—
snickering as their own pain gives rise to
seven years of involuntary womanhood

as this event transpired I would stumble
from the country road’s first house, where I’d
have been arguing with rednecks about tax policy
and how they were only hurting themselves
each time they cast red in a ballot box—
they’d tell me to get off my cross and funnel
cheap red wine down my throat

Tiresias would turn to me leaning
against the shed, shrinking at the milk
snakes and vomiting red slop over their
love-making

in a decade we’d meet again on
another night of my half-hearted attempts
at following Christ with ritz crackers
and gas station merlot and pleading the
construction workers to collectively bargain

and as I’d sit in the dirt, shivering at
the serpents, he’d tell me how lucky I was
to be a woman– how much better men are at
pleasing women than the other way around

his only punishment for such nonsense
was never to have to see snakes fuck
again– and that, is perhaps the male condition
I’d tell him– the punishment always
winds up being the reward.


Alex LeGrys is 20 years old and attends Bard College. Her work has appeared in Apricity Press, Better than Starbucks, Fire Agate Press, Modern Literature, and Blue Lake Review.

George Freek: Three Poems

Thoughts on a Dreary Night (After Tu Fu)

How far is it to the nearest star?
The moon blocks such
improbable calculations.
Anyway, I’ll never go there.
And the universe disturbs
my quixotic ruminations.
I return my attention
to things nearby:
a dry rose petal,
a wet hat in a field of grass,
the wing of a butterfly.
I hear a bird in a tree.
I look for it to no avail.
Was it an illusion?
Life is not what we
thought it was, or
we hoped it would be,
and death becomes
a necessary intrusion.

*

I Sometimes Ask Pointless Questions (After Tu Fu)

Clouds stretch from the sky
to the lake, as if they could
swallow it. Gulls circle,
then drift away, to disappear.
A chill is in the air.
Another summer has gone.
I look in a mirror. Suddenly
I look old. It seems all wrong.
I watch a woman walk
through falling leaves.
She looks at a darkening sky.
Is she thinking of the clouds,
or the heavens beyond?
Whichever it is,
her attention is on the sky,
and in a second
she’s swiftly passed me by.

*

Enigmatic Variations (After Mei Yao Chen)

This night is bitter.
I sit alone in my room.
I rub my heavy eyelids.
I turn the pages of a book,
and try to read,
but quit after a brief look.
As the hours slowly pass,
moonlight drifts in
my opened window,
collecting as dust would
on an hourglass.
When I sleep,
I dream of my youth,
what I hoped to achieve,
but never began.
At least my wife is dead.
Her dreams are done.
She had faith in me.
She didn’t live to see
what I’ve now become.


George Freek‘s poetry has appeared in numerous poetry journals and Reviews. His poem “Written At Blue Lake” was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Richard Weaver: “Reading the Lips of the Dead”

Reading the Lips of the Dead

When the page does heal
there is a blue hand

emptying thimbles of blood
into a river dry once a year.

The smell of death,
the inarticulate sound,

become a white rose
in a coroner’s lapel.

The stench of history.
A cold dank memory

cast off without a shudder.
Years from now

a farmer might turn his land
only to find a body

with yellow eyes,
parchment skin,

lips shaped defiantly
into a final parting word.

_____

Richard Weaver hopes to once again volunteer with the Maryland Book Bank, CityLit, the Baltimore Book Festival, and return as the writer-in-residence at the James Joyce Pub. Other pubs: FRIGG, Black Warrior Review, Mad Swirl, Southern Quarterly, Adelaide, Dead Mule, Magnolia Review, and Elsewhere (now defunct). He’s the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press, 1992), and provided the libretto for a symphony, Of Sea and Stars (2005), performed 4 times to date. More recently, his 150th prose poem was published.

Lucy Jayes: “I Stopped Getting Better”

I Stopped Getting Better

_____After “I Stopped Going To Therapy”
_____by Clementine von Radics

I stopped getting better.
I’m not sure it’s worth it.
Never one to seek numinosity,
the process to wholeness
bores me. When I daydream,
I picture myself in a bar with no windows
hidden from a sunny afternoon,
slowly fading into oblivion,
holding on by a thin white line.
I have sewn myself together
by my wrongs and my wounds.
I remain ambivalent, grass forever blue.


Lucy Jayes has fostered a love of writing since she was old enough to hold a pen. She graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Kentucky in 2014. During college, she interned for Ace Weekly magazine with a primary focus on covering local events and happenings in the food and beverage industry in Lexington. Upon graduating, she moved to Denver, CO and worked in nonprofit fundraising and event planning and as a conference manager and journalist for a trade magazine covering the legal cannabis industry. She is a first-year MFA student at the University of Kentucky and focused on Creative Nonfiction writing.

Christopher Barnes: “Almanac 1-5”

Almanac (1)

Slacken uneasy laces.
Tilt off your beetle-crushers.
Recline on at-ease divan.
Block up tired-to-death eyes.
Still, the horror will come.

Almanac (2)

Underbreath a flapdoodle jingle.
Smarten haughty poses.
Manoeuvre noon undistracted.
Nobody knows
What’s in the top drawer.

Almanac (3)

Souse tepid water, unlocking pores.
Mask yourself in foam.
Bar lucidly with nippy razor.
A disembodied face in the mirror
Twists its rawboned scream.

Almanac (4)

First-blush what’s prospected.
Sham entertained as upright.
Categorical delights for the hereafter.
Annulment tags behind marriage.

Almanac (5)

Coax placid overtures.
Wrangle loose-fitting emptiness.
Inspect pass-muster bedding.
Long for good dreams, stretch –
midnight will devour you.


In 1998, Christopher Barnes won a Northern Arts writers award. In July 2000 he read at Waterstones bookshop to promote the anthology Titles Are Bitches. Christmas 2001 he debuted at Newcastle’s famous Morden Tower doing a reading of poems. Each year he read for Proudwords lesbian and gay writing festival and partook in workshops. 2005 saw the publication of his collection LOVEBITES published by Chanticleer Press, 6/1 Jamaica Mews, Edinburgh. In August 2007, he made a film called ‘A Blank Screen, 60 seconds, 1 shot’ for Queerbeats Festival at The Star & Shadow Cinema Newcastle, reviewing a poem…see www.myspace.com/queerbeatsfestival  He has also written Art Criticism for Peel and Combustus magazines.

Stephen Spencer: “Desiderata in Autumn”

Desiderata in Autumn

My other senses jeer at the audacity of sight.
Whitman’s “sniff of green leaves and dry leaves”
Is acrid smoke from leaf piles
Set aflame by old men defying the burn ban.

The crunch of leaves on the sidewalk
Under my son’s shoes vexes the peace of silence.
He searches for the largest, driest leaves
That make the loudest sounds.

He crushes a prized sycamore leaf and howls.
The debris of memories raked into the corners of my mind
Will not be the piles he heaps and jumps into,
Gathering and scattering, over and over.

For now, he stomps and laughs.
I smile and say, “That was a good one!”


Stephen Spencer is Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Shepherd University. In his thirty-year career in higher education, he has served as an English professor, Fulbright Fellow in Spain, and administrator at four institutions. He has always been passionate about teaching literature and has published creative and scholarly work in numerous journals and books.

Harsimran Kaur: “Gambier, Ohio”

Gambier, Ohio

It started with dad saying “Mhmm” after everything I said to him, but I guess it all started even before that. Maybe it all started when dad started talking about euthanasia, and mom had a tumor in her knee, and Pete from down the road died. Well, maybe it even started before then, when I was in middle school and had my first kiss and accidentally stapled my tongue (both the events happening on the same day), and dad started going long hours to Gambier, Ohio, to meet a prostitute. Or maybe it started even before that, before the night my parents had sex to have me, before they went to the Netherlands on their first solo trip – two young people in love, so in love that they didn’t know any better to spend an entire summer in a city where they didn’t know a soul that they ultimately wanted to create one, where they made love before the sun blazed its light without permission. Where they ate poffertjes, stamppot boerenkool, and other food whose names they could never get right – even if they practiced writing those foreign names for the rest of their life. That’s when, that’s when they wanted to have me, in a place that was too far away from their roots that they forgot where they stemmed from. That’s when, that’s when I was produced, bit by bit, like a piece of bagel seasoning I put on everything, like a water droplet evaporating, diffusing into the air like pixie dust, like the obscure, native sky. That’s when that’s when I was fit into a suitcase, the size of my head so large that I came out sooner than anyone expected. That’s when they transported me without all the other luggage they never took a chance at, the other luggage a maverick thought staring in vain through coveted blankets, pointed shoes, pearl necklaces, and soft cashmere. That’s when that’s when dad glided his Toyota Camry into the South Street like a sleek saucer pan, and our “house” laden with bricks stared at other “houses” in uncanny after the door behind us was shut and where we came to a place called “home.” So that’s where I rooted, at home, right here, where my dad now sleeps in a frenzy, and my mother is dying from cancer. I was an average rhapsody. My dad will no longer go to Gambier, Ohio.


Harsimran Kaur is a seventeen-year-old author of The Best I Can Do Is to Write My Heart OutI am Perfectly Imperfect, and Clementines on My Poetry Table. Currently a senior in high school, she is a record holder under the India Book of Records and Asia Book of Records for her first publication at fourteen.  She is also the founder of Pastlores, an online club dedicated to literature, and an arts organization called The Creative Zine. When she’s not writing or reading, she can often be seen teaching invisible students. You can know more about her ventures at www.harsimranwritesbooks.com/.