Peter Mladinic: “The Great Billy Williams”

The Great Billy Williams

When I was a little kid there was this pop
song, “I’m Gonna Write Myself a Letter.”  
I remember hearing it in a bar, on a jukebox, 

some drunk guy singing along, 
like lightly slamming the open palm of his hand 
on the bar in time to the jaunty rhythms.  

Well, it was just a song, kind of catchy, but I 
didn’t think much of it. The bar, the building 
itself was wooden, and in a low valley, 

between one steep hill and a lower hill.  
By the mid-sixties it was torn down and 
replaced by a small brick strip mall.  

But this song was a big hit, and the guy 
singing, his voice sounded kind of cranky.  
“Gonna write myself a letter,

make believe it came from you, oh yeah!”  
Just another song. When I got to my teens, 
I bought a 45 disc, “I Don’t Wear My Heart 

on My Sleeve” by the Charioteers. A ballad, 
the lead’s male alto was high-pitched and very 
smooth. Elegant. I loved it, love it still.  

Fast forward to me in my fifties. I got 
a Charioteers CD and realized this alto lead, 
singing ballads and up-tempo tunes like 

“Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” was 
the same guy who, back in the fifties, 
had this one smash hit. On “Letter” 

his voice didn’t sound high and smooth like 
on the ballads. I was astounded to learn 
they were one in the same, Billy Williams.  

I purchased the CD from a record shop by 
mail. I talked to the shop owner, now 
deceased, and he said Billy Williams 

was a pretty good singer. He sure was!  
A very good singer. He made other pop 
things but also a lot of pretty great music.  

You listen to him on “So Long,” really listen, 
and you know you’ve been someplace.  
So smooth, so sad it’s sadness 

shed to the limits of joy, pure joy.  
The sound of a singer in love with what he’s 
singing. A master. A blend of passion 

and control. He did enough of that, over 
and over, to where he went beyond good, 
to greatness. Billy Williams, a great singer, 

I read somewhere, ended up living in 
a basement, on the fringe of homeless.  
He needs some credit, though 

he’s long dead and it won’t matter to him, 
but as Frost said, “The fact 
is the sweetest dream labor knows.”  

The truth is in the sound of the smooth alto 
that is Billy Williams, alto lead 
of the Charioteers, the great Billy Williams.


Peter Mladinic has published three books of poems: Lost in Lea, Dressed for Winter, and Falling Awake in Lovington, all with the Lea County Museum Press. He lives in Hobbs, New Mexico.

Christopher Barnes: “What the Street Remembers (3)”

What the Street Remembers (3)

Daddy why there?
Been at work
You little sod
I haven’t got change
Chack! Chack!


Isaiah Berlin jiggles a greenfly
Off his lapel.


A party
Yi knaa what it is
Oooom la la la la


Bertrand Russell agrees terms
With the squall.


He’s denied
Peaches only a pound
Dong dong dong dong


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  He has also written Art Criticism for Peel and Combustus magazines.

John Grey: Two Poems

Life on the Flood Plain

The river is overflowing,
and the wake along each bank
shakes feverishly, 
is whipped away by strafing rain.

Pale faces watch from shore,
a step or two from the cresting waters,
backs to an avenue of vulnerable homes.

Eyes dull but hearts fast-beating,
each can only think 
of their house’s contents,
furniture, mirrors, carpets, beds,
unmoored and ill-equipped for floating.

Under dripping hoods,
the people draw closer,
a small town gathered, 
talking out their fears,
their frustrations,
like they’re all one family group.

Each is eager to start moving stuff,
from first floor up to second,
from basement to who knows where.
But there’s no place really safe from damage.
Experience of past floods
couldn’t be clearer.

The precious will be ruined.
Framework will need repair.
And, once the dry-out begins,
there’ll be no escaping the mud smell.

People say prayers.
They grow bitter then they pray some more.
They make vows. “Never again.”
All lead to that bitter vow,
“I’ll never sell.”


That’s the Wrong Pose

Please don’t fold your hands over your chest.
I’ve been to too many wakes.
Let them drift down to your sides,
swing them if you have to,
don’t worry about hitting me,
my head is harder than the night.
Having felt this was worth getting into,
I don’t want to lose it
to a grim imitation of a corpse,
an accident yet to happen,
a heart without heart,
some magician disease that can
turn you into a door jamb.
It’s two a.m. and a man should be
occupying dreams fully,
stirring a little mental mud,
not watching all he loves
strike a pose for the end times.
Sure, I’m drowsy, I’m incoherent,
I’m fully aware of the stand-over
tactics of the imagination.
But I don’t want
the worst that can happen,
getting any ideas.
My loneliness
is holed up in the past.
Let’s leave it there.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review, and the Round Table. Latest books, Leaves On Pages and Memory Outside The Head, are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Lana Turner and Hollins Critic.

Charles Rammelkamp: Two Flash Fictions


_____“If I have to live with him like this, I think I’ll go nuts. I feel like a trapped animal, like I might have to chew my leg off to escape.”

_____That was Eileen, describing her marriage to Marvin, a misanthrope about twenty years older than she was. He’d lost interest in sex. She hadn’t.

_____We were in the same therapy group that met every month, only we called it a writers’ group, and some of us really were there for the writing. Patricia was writing a series of stories about zombies. Jenny wrote poems about her mom and about nature. I was farting around with a movie script about a woman who goes off the grid.

_____I was between jobs. Somehow I’d gotten stuck in the technical writing line of work. It started when I worked for an electrical firm, writing their codes and procedures, then a software firm that did computer games, and after that an insurance agency, methods and standards. Even when I tried to bust out of the mold – ad writing, promo work, speechwriting, anything – they always looked at my resume and told me I was a technical writer and that’s the kind of job I should be looking for.

_____“I told him, I said, ‘Mitch, I want to have sex,’ and he said, ‘Well, then go have sex, Eileen. I’m not stopping you.’”

_____“So are you going to have sex?” I asked her.

_____Eileen rolled her eyes. “That’s what my novel’s about, Karen,” she said.

_____Before the next monthly meeting I got a new job – technical writing for a company that makes microwave ovens and other appliances. Troubleshooting, assembly instructions. So I stopped coming to therapy. One day, several months later, at noon, when I was going out for lunch, who do I run into on Presidents Street? Eileen.

_____“How’s your novel coming?” I asked her. I explained about my new job, said I hadn’t been able to work on my script, so I’d stopped coming to the writers group.

_____“Me too,” she said. “I stopped writing on my book and moved out to my own apartment.”

_____I didn’t ask her if she was having sex. The question seemed too personal.



_____“You know ‘evil’ is ‘live’ spelled backwards,” the boy announced to his father from the doorway.

_____Ogden looked up from his laptop computer. He was sitting at the dining table reading the online version of the New York Times.  The boy was just starting to deal with pimples, he noticed again. Always a distressing time of life.

_____“You’re right,” Ogden replied after a moment, since Jeremy seemed to be expecting some kind of response.

_____“You just don’t get it, do you?” his son muttered, disgusted, and he turned to leave the room.

_____What was this all about? Ogden had a brief terrified thought that his son was suicidal.  “Jeremy!” he called, but his son ignored him, and Ogden heard the heavy tread of his boots on the stairs, heading for his room.  After a moment, Ogden turned back to his laptop.


Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Me and Sal Paradise, was published last year by FutureCycle Press. Two full-length collections appeared in 2020, Catastroika, from Apprentice House, and Ugler Lee, from Kelsay Books.

Madelyn Kreienheder: “Losing you was like winter in Alaska.”

Losing you was like winter in Alaska.

Warm summer days dwindled
as a chill crept over the land.

The seasons started to change,
leaves drifted to the ground,

and when you joined them,
the sun stopped climbing into the sky

leaving me in a world
without light.

Life without you has been a season of dusk.
Even though your absence is eternal

the sky keeps reminding me
darkness won’t last forever:

Gray will eventually turn blue
as tears turn to smiles when I think of you.


Madelyn Kreienheder is a graduate student at Truman State University, where she will graduate with a Master’s in Education. She is completing her student teaching now and will begin her career teaching English following her graduation. Madelyn’s first published poetry appeared in The Big Windows Review Issue 17.

Tim Fitts: “Gigi”


I recently visited my buddy in Santa Clarita for his fiftieth birthday. It’s a treat, in a way, knowing all the things that might have killed you haven’t killed you–you can ease up on yourself a bit. It’s nice, too, seeing a good friend emerge from middle age. He likes his kids.  He likes his wife. I like them, too. The dog, though. Gigi, a poodle. Gigi is so old, she’s gone bald on her back, and what’s left of her fur has turned a strange type of purple, as if the purple had been applied by a generic brand of cosmetic powder. Gigi. Even the name is purple. On top of it all, Gigi is deaf and blind. She roams the house like Roomba, but joyless, seeking neither heat nor affection, bouncing from kitchen cabinet to garbage can, to the fridge, then back to the living room sofa and coffee table. Outside, Gigi roams from one side of the yard to the other. Fence to fence. Lately, however, a pack of coyotes have caught wind of Gigi. The coyotes live in the patch of wilderness that separates my buddy’s neighborhood from the next. Keen to Gigi’s disabilities, the coyotes have altered their game, abandoning the tactic of feigning gimp or playful, hoping to lure the dog into their grips.  Instead, the coyotes have begun baiting the back of their yard with strips of jackrabbit. 

            During the birthday weekend, I found myself standing in their backyard staring at the patch of desert, sipping a cup of coffee or a Knob Creek, depending on the time of day. I started wondering why a dog like Gigi would even be worth their trouble. By the time the coyotes ripped her apart, how much meat would any of the coyotes even get–just enough to make it to the next meal? Hardly worth the caloric effort or even a fair return on their investments. On the last evening of the trip, though, just before the drive back to LAX, my eyes somehow penetrated the tangle of sagebrush, I spotted one of the coyotes hanging about. The thing had been looking at me the whole time. Probably tracking movements, counting my drinks. He was thinking way past that rabbit.


Tim Fitts is the author of two short story collections, Hypothermia (MadHat Press 2017) and Go Home and Cry for Yourselves (Xavier Review Press). HIs work has been published by journals such as New South, The Gettysburg Review, Boulevard, Granta, Shenandoah, among many others.

Len Krisak: “A Sonnet”

A Sonnet

She, 91; he, only 54,
In disproportioned death (he’s here no more).
Nor do we need demons from Hell to tell
Us this, nor did we learn it in the stocks:
That everything in going goes not well,
By seemly precedence or proper age,
But serves the flesh more than its share of shocks—
More than the thousands it is mortal heir to.
Confused that she must now turn back the page,
Tear out a son she thought that she had read,
His mother seems to say she doesn’t care to.
She seems to wish that only she were dead.
Dazed now, she sits, re-mouthing without rest,
“He had the best doctors. He had the best.”


Len Krisak is the author of several books and has been awarded the following prizes: Richard Wilbur Prize, Robert Frost Prize, Robert Penn Warren Prize, The Able Muse Poetry Book Award, and The New England Poetry Club Book Award. Len has poems in (or forthcoming in) The Antioch Review, The Sewanee Review, The Hudson Review, Raritan, The Southwest Review, and The Oxford Book of Poems on Classical Mythology—and is a four-time champion on Jeopardy!

Alan Catlin: “Mirror of Enigmas”

Mirror of Enigmas

“Forget the dead you’ve left behind
They will not follow you.”
–Bob Dylan

The mirror reveals something different
every time you look inside

The back of a head can be seen in infinite
regression, fading inward as far as a hall
of mirrors will go

A composite sketch of what you might
have looked like once, long ago, represents
nothing now no matter how far inside you go

Even in that other time zone, where a duplicate
mirror resides, where all the reflective glass
surfaces are turned flat against blank walls,

Something is happening inside the framework
but it is impossible to see what

Impossible to know anything

Even the answers to the simplest questions like:
Who am I ?
Where am I going?
Who will I be when I get there?

Alan Catlin has been publishing for six decades, which feels like the answer to a Jeopardy question these days. His most recent full-length books include, Asylum Garden: after Van Gogh (Dos Madres) and Memories (Alien Buddha). Memories Too is due soon from Dos Madres.

Elisha Osorio: “The Angry Man”

The Angry Man

There is only one angry man in this house but there are many ways to see him. I like to think I am a girl on the verge of becoming something else; a monster, a beast, a worthy opponent. Girlhood; an entity so lost to me is one I will continue to seek despite the overbearing knowing that such an entity only exists in places rid of angry men. Or this is what I believed. 

There is only one angry man in this house but there are many ways to see him. I see him in the boys I have kissed at my ex’s party, in the ever-growing concave pools under my mother’s eyes, in the snide undertones of words exchanged in this household. I see him in my sister, taunting and mocking, begging to be challenged. I see him in my love language; the honey-sweet nothings that bask in my words of adoration, the cheap and rusted colognes I offer as gifts. I see him in my pitiful vanity mirror from which I have watched myself wane into a forced advancement of bigger breasts and everything else considered the embodiment of modern beauty. “You and I are the same,” the angry man silently taunts. No, we’re not. No, we’re not. Oh, but we are. We are of the same vile essence. We are the products of a barbaric augend and addend. We are the politicians, the riots, the abused and the abusive, the orphans, the killers and the dreamers. We are everything that passionately desires change. In that sense, then yes we are the same. I am the angry man and he is I. 

There is only one angry man in this house but there are many ways to see him. I, with a heart that holds enough vastness for two planets, am one of them. She, with her silent potency that leaks from her unstitched wounds, is one of them. They, with their foolish promise of a better land or a harmonious world, is one of them. He, who swears to his high-school love the stars, the moon, this life and the next to follow, is one of them. As you see, I have been gifted with the curse-like ability to perceive the angry man in everyone and everywhere but perhaps this isn’t true. Or maybe it is, I am terribly uncertain. But last week in my Philosophy lecture, Mr. Saunders said that everything returns. “Everything returns, everything finds its way back,” he said. And with that, I come to ask: Why in this form? Because of Hera, Eris and Medusa; because of the brave and important women who fought against men. “Thank you” I say. Thank you. But you see I am not you, I am not mighty nor powerful. Between the small crevices of life, between death and death, between this life and the next- what I will always be is just one of the many ways to see the angry man in this house. 


Elisha Osorio is a student at The Winchester School, Dubai. She (unrealistically) aims to pursue journalism and creative writing in her undergraduate years. “The Angry Man” first appeared, with the title “What I am,” in The Bitchin’ Kitsch.