Holly Day: “Summer Love”

Summer Love

The places he’d been, with convoluted names
were as exotic as the places he’d lived
men bent spades into birdhouses

I wanted so badly to be with him in Colorado
to stand in the exact spot where four state lines met
and survive it all. He kept saying, Next time, next time, I promise.

I waited by the lake for him to come and get me
visions of Indianapolis burning holes in my brain
but he never came back to get me, never took me away.


Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Plainsongs, The Long Islander, and The Nashwaak Review.

Joe Balaz: “Wen I Wuz Eating”

Wen I Wuz Eating

Genghis Khan
wen suddenly materialize before me

in da fast food restaurant
wen I wuz eating my meal.

He told me dat he wen kill moa warriors
and bagged moa women

den I could evah hope to
in one hundred lifetimes.

I wuzn’t impressed

and I wuz actually moa irritated
wen he kept asking me

why I nevah like mayonnaise
on my burger.

He keep pressing da issue
on how much he enjoyed it

so I had to tell him
if he liked it so much

den moa bettah
he go order one foa himself.

Genghis got angry wit me

and two huge bodyguards wit axes
instantaneously appeared at his side

and dey wuz staring me down.

I told him and da adah guys,

“Eh, Temujin,

no try muscle in on me wit your goons
especially wen I minding my own business.”

Da buggah went ballistic
wen he heard dat

and started ranting and crying
cause I wen use his kid name

dat wen remind him
of his rough and unfortunate boyhood.

I heard he had to wear wun big yoke
around his neck foa awhile

but I nevah have anyting to do wit dat.


making him aware of his past
wen work foa me

cause Genghis

went storming out
da front door of da fast food restaurant

taking his bodyguards wit him.

Now I could at least enjoy my meal
in peace.

Dats wat I taught

until Attila the Hun
came out of da restroom

and sat down in front of me.

Maybe because of his bloody reputation

he kept asking me
ovah and ovah again

why I put so much ketchup
on my French fries.

I almost wen answer him

wen Alexander the Great
wen burst into da front door

and immediately pushed to da front
of da line

so he could order wun strawberry shake
and wun new world taco.
I tell you

dis is da last time
I coming to dis place on Halloween.


Joe Balaz has created works in American English and Hawaiian Islands Pidgin (Hawai’i Creole English). He presently lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and he is the author of Pidgin Eye.

Carlos Andrés Gómez: “Poem about Death Ending with Reincarnation”

Poem about Death Ending with Reincarnation

———-after Matthew Olzmann & Tarfia Faizullah

Blood has its own democracy.
My father & I puncture steaks
& watch them ooze—deep maple
walls eavesdrop as steel teeth

scrape & claw the porcelain
we use to distract our manically
clenching jaws. I’m well-practiced
in this ritual: empty & fill, empty

& fill, until there’s nothing.
Our filets gone, we sit & stare
at the eggshell table spread,
abdomens swelling like silence—

They found a mass.
She’s having surgery next week.
I had always planned for him
to be first. Now the woman

fifteen years his junior, mother
to my twin baby siblings, is dying
or might be. I’ve been rehearsing
years for this talk, except it isn’t—

my father, held only by the dim
lighting that shrouds his silhouette,
reduced to heaving. I envision
the stepmom it took me eleven years

to embrace being lowered carefully
into the damp earth, an old man,
flanked by two teenagers, watching,
& I will be there too: an overcast

Tuesday that no one passing by
will remember, & as usual, I won’t
be able to get the dimple right
in my tie. For a second, although

we are nowhere near the mountains,
I will smell the crisp air she so
loved & remember the first time
we walked without the heaviness

of that first encounter both of us
carried for far too long. But on that
unremarkable day for most, a light
rain will interrupt the hike I am on

in my mind, a man will read overlyrehearsed
words from a book she
did not believe in, & we will stand
like guards, numb. We will watch over

the sacred earth she spent an entire
lifetime trying to protect, now her
home, flanked by roots cross-stitching
the rich soil, what becomes the promise

kept to those endless rows of buds
ready to push through & that twisted
symmetry just above, a dangled blade
from a mouth chewing in first light.


Carlos Andrés Gómez is a Colombian American poet and the author of Hijito, winner of the Broken River Prize. His writing has been published in the New England Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. Carlos is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. http://www.CarlosLive.com

ayaz daryl nielsen: Two Poems

the bent spines
of chimney smoke-
a cold winter day


a house filled
with your absence



ayaz daryl nielsen, veteran and former hospice nurse, lives in Longmont, Colorado. Editor of bear creek haiku (28+ years/150+ issues), he is online at: bear creek haiku poetry, poems and info. A recent collection of his poetry, a nameless stream, was just
released by Cholla Needles Arts and Literary Magazine.

James Owens: “In the Strange Light Before the Storm”

In the Strange Light Before the Storm

Robed in hushed
starlings, the maple

longs for a violence
that will tear loose

a near-forgotten cry.
The earth’s breath

goes before the rain
and touches your face.

Lightning rips open
a cloudbank like

a sudden flaw in memory.
Among those leaves

already fallen, a red
worry rustles and stirs.



James Owens‘s most recent book is Mortalia (FutureCycle Press, 2015). His poems appear widely in literary journals, including recent or upcoming publications in Adirondack Review, The American Journal of Poetry, The Honest Ulsterman, and Southword. He earned an MFA at the University of Alabama and lives in a small town in northern Ontario.

Edward Vidaurre: “Capsized”


I always thought of dad as an ocean
Spume frothing from his mouth

Mom would say tilt his head to one side
I pretended I controlled the sea

Somewhere waves were created when I did that,
so I looked at him and drew tiny boats on

his lips and cheeks, he moaned and groaned and I
pretended the sea was mad, so I drew

pirates on his chin, sometimes the sea would
gargle and toss back at me all the plastics and

garbage, pieces of sailors and forgotten
ships would emerge, one time he opened his eyes

and his green orbs flashed a mermaid
playing a violin, playing a song of longing


Edward Vidaurre is the 2018-2019 McAllen, Texas, Poet Laureate and author of six collections of poetry: JAZzHOUSE (Prickly Pear Publishing 2019) is his latest, with WHEN A CITY ENDS, forthcoming from King Shot Press. He writes from the front lines of the Mexican-American borderlands of El Valle in south Tejas and is Publisher/Editor of FlowerSong Books.

Philip Fried: “Confidential Memo”

Confidential Memo

The raid
Since data and deponents were going missing,
I dispatched my agents on a pre-dawn raid
through the brain’s neuronal mega-metropolis,
to seize clues and re-depose witnesses
so I could reconstruct a narrative
and reach a verdict in this years-old case.
Armed with warrants, the agents went in, and returned
not with a flock of biddable witnesses
but with a scattering of laconic exhibits.

The evidence
One yellow crayon, wielded in kindergarten
and possibly still colluding with a hand
to color a cardboard crown so well that no
gap would mar the glowing waxy surface
_____Who ordered this job and for what unspoken purpose
_____outside the lawful borders of the blackboard?

One bowlegged yellow plastic cowboy, lost
beneath a car seat, having survived so many
shoot-outs, brought back from the totaled car by father,
tight-lipped and ghost-white after his passenger died
_____What can we read into this stoic one’s silence
_____regarding the darkness, the rain-slicked road, and the skid?

One yellow rain slicker with hood and chemical
odor, synthetic that outshone the sun,
encased a child like a turtle or deep-sea diver,
and seemed to exude, as if sweating, beaded droplets
_____Will the slicker, still dripping, devoid of a body but subject
_____to forensic probing, yield up the truth about shame?

The dream
Arguing in the Supreme Court of the Cranium
housed behind a giant brow’s facade,
I was multiple, unruly: accuser, defender
dueling the gavel with motions and counter-motions;
guard whose synaptic epaulets sparked mayhem;
and judge whose wig was a maze of convolutions.



In the spring of 2020, Salmon Poetry, Ireland, will publish Philip Fried‘s eighth book of poetry. Thomas Lux said about his work, “I love Philip Fried’s elegant quarrels with the cruelty and ignorance of the world or, more precisely, its inhabitants.”

Erren Kelly: “Coffeehouse Poem #339”

Coffeehouse Poem # 339

Mourning doves coo
As the rain falls silent
As dreams
A girl types on her laptop
She wears her homeland
On her face
She shows me home
Through her eyes
They never lie
They tell me




Erren Kelly is a two-time Pushcart-nominated poet from Boston who has been writing for 28 years and has over 300 publications in print and online in such publications as Hiram Poetry Review, Mudfish, Poetry Magazine(online), Ceremony, Cacti Fur, Bitterzoet, Cactus Heart, Similar Peaks, Gloom Cupboard, Poetry Salzburg and other publications. He is also the author of the book Disturbing The Peace from Night Ballet Press.

Sam Norman: “Fifty Eight Thousand, Two Hundred and Nine”

Fifty Eight Thousand, Two Hundred and Nine

Standing in front of the classroom
talking about the Vietnam War
preparing them for the novel they
were about to read, I was drifting
inside myself, barely noticing my
surroundings, thinking about my

When I came to the slide labeled
“casualties” I froze. Fifty-eight
thousand, two hundred and nine it
reads in stark white, 32 point font.
Fifty-eight thousand, two hundred
and nine knocks at the door. Military
servicemen saying the now-famous
words: We regret to inform you…
The same words that were spoken
to me at my door.

I imagine the responses varied:
anger and wailing and violence
and crying and dropping to their
knees and crying and screaming
NO! Did any other parent hug
the Petty Officer trying to get
the words out and whisper It’s
ok, I already know about my

Fifty-eight thousand, two hundred
and nine funerals, most of which
included rifles shooting blanks
in the air–the sound of taps playing
in the background, the color guard
slowly, carefully folding the flag
that covered their child.
Presenting the flag to their loved ones,
like they did for my son.

How did they manage the anger,
the crying, the denial, the feeling
of isolation, of being broken? How
do we manage when overwhelmed
by a car, a rainy night, the horrible
knock on the door.

A student says, But I don’t get it, why
did we fight in this war? and I think,
back in the moment, fifty-eight
thousand, two hundred and nine families
asking the same question, why?
Just as I do, every moment, about my


Sam Norman has been teaching high school for 16 years at Bacon Academy in Colchester, CT. His works have appeared in Verse-Virtual, Amethyst, Down in the Dirt, Red Eft, and Praxis. Most of Sam’s recent poetry focuses on a terrible tragedy. Sam’s son, Ben, just 20 years old, lost his life in a weather-related traffic accident on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2018. Sam lives in Coventry, CT, with his wife Teri, their children, Becca and Daniel, a bunch of chickens, and their beloved dogs, Cloudy and Ripple.

Robert Hasselblad: “The King of Montana”

The King of Montana 

After a chance grass fire
burned house, barn, privy to cinders
she hurled curse upon curse at lightning,
the wide sky it leapt from,
their sorry farm that took it dead-center.

She swore to him this time she meant it.
Would wire her father for the money,
buy a one-way train ticket back to Dayton.

He told her he’d be lost
without her hand on his,
their hearts both beating
to the promise of these fields.

She laughed.
“Oh you’ll do dandy without me,
camping in this blamed tent.
Soon enough you’ll trick some other sheep-eyed gal
into thinking this three hundred twenty acres
is the Front Porch of Paradise
and you’re the King of Montana!”

Two weeks later he drove her to the depot in Billings.
He guessed she’d earned
one summer with her kin
while he rebuilt.
“Okay then Sophie. Say howdy to the folks for me.
Have a good summer, and I’ll look for you–
say in Autumn, before the snow hits?

Silent, she turned back, looked at him.
Just once.

Decades later, he sat with his brother
in the farm house he’d built that summer
when she went home.
Chores done, sky darkening,
their dinner dishes cleared away,
one bottle of Four Roses between them.

“Did you never hear from that Ohio lady?” the brother asked.
“I always kind of wondered about her.”

Nels glanced then at his pinewood desk,
the drawer with his dozen letters,
all from her first year away.
Sent back unopened, marked “Return to Sender.”

He had known for decades
it was never the land,
which he still worked and
which fed him well enough.
His true folly? Thinking
to haul a coal merchant’s daughter
away from privilege
out to this barren stretch of nowhere.
To live on whim and luck
and mistake these for love.

“No Olaf,” he said.
“Not hardly for a long time.”


Robert Hasselblad has been writing poetry since college days, half a century ago. Recently retired from forty-three years in the lumber industry, he devotes time to writing, walking, reading, and speculative napping. His poems have appeared in OntheBus:The Final Issue, Avalon Literary Review, riverbabble, and WA 129: Poets of Washington.