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.