William C. Blome: “Untitled”

Untitled

There was a coyote that had no trouble in the world safely grasping in her teeth the hanging wire on the back of this framed photo, but what she was not able to grasp, of course, was that because her love for Franz Joseph was so great that she forever lugged around his cottony-faced portrait and always propped it close to her as she dozed in daytime hours, nasty folks who wished her harm eventually came to understand they had only to locate this much-scratched picture of the Emperor to know approximately where in their community the coyote was sleeping and dreaming during the late morning and afternoon.

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William C. Blome wedges between Baltimore and Washington, DC, and he clutches a master’s degree swiped from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. His work has appeared in PRISM International, Fiction Southeast, Roanoke Review, and The California Quarterly

Kenneth Pobo: Two Flash Fictions

Stone in the Lapidary

When you’re a stone in this museum, people stop and stare at you.  They either say nothing and move along or they say, often under their breath, that I am beautiful.  I guess that’s meant as a compliment, but I feel naked, like they are comparing me to other stones and rocks.  Do I make the grade?  I’m originally from southern New Zealand.  The Maori love me—but not like passersby in the museum.  I’m put to use.  They carve me and I am even more beautiful.  I lose parts of me to gain a better self.

Pounamou is my name.  You can see it written on the white card where I’m placed.  In New Zealand I knew the sun well.  Now fluorescent lights rain down on me like fine silt.  Bored children barely give me a glance.  They wait for rock candy.  I don’t understand rock candy.  How sad for anyone who becomes candy.

A few months ago a woman said I’d be perfect if someone smashed me so she could use my pieces in a necklace.  As a stone I am silent.  That doesn’t mean I don’t scream.  When she said that I screamed so loud that I almost made the museum walls collapse.  She heard nothing.  It’s easy to scream and not be heard.  It happens all the time.

I can tell you’re tired of me.  You’re thinking that a few stones away you’ll see jade.  The museum prides itself on the jade.  I’m not jealous, okay, maybe a little, but it’s just jade.  It may as well be sandstone. The best time of day is when they turn the lights out and everyone goes home.  Human eyes drop off me so I sleep well.  Until tomorrow.  Light on.  Door open.  I’m seen.   

 

Jade

Lenny drives almost forty miles to a lapidary.  No one he knows likes rocks.  He goes from stone to stone, a monk before stained glass.  He dreams of beautiful stones.  Jade carvings rest securely on a stand inside his head.  In the morning he wakes up refreshed. With jade you have nothing to hide.  You admire it.  The sun sees the Earth as a precious stone.  Someday the sun will take the stone completely in.  For now, the sun keeps distant.  The jade shines under artificial light. 

Lenny wants to shrink in order to fit inside the jade, own a house there.  He mourns his bloaty self stuffed behind a wheel or a computer screen, a stone-less world, not even drab pebbles that long ago lost their souls to erosion.

 

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Kenneth Pobo 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 Uneven Steven (Assure Press).Opening is forthcoming from Rectos Y Versos Editions. Human rights issues, especially as they relate to the LGBTQIA+ community, are also a constant presence in his work. For the past thirty-plus years he taught at Widener University and retired in 2020.

Allison Whittenberg: “Jane’s Veins”

Jane’s Veins
 
Two diaries: one lies, the other dreams until reality
Loops into illusion.  
Neither records terrorist attacks, murder rates, or evolving leaders.  
One contains measurements of her bust size; one holds friendship and love,   
     pursued, sustained, or in need of resuscitation.   
Both contain hate for prettier girls.  
Each smells soft as if sprinkled with powder.
One is black and plain, that’s kept under her bed.
The other is pink and has birds and flowers on the cover that’s often on 
     her desk.
The world is microscopic. Each night as her wrist moves the pages, she 
     scripts with red juice. 

_________________________________________________________________________

Allison Whittenberg is a Philadelphia native who has a global perspective. If she wasn’t an author she’d be a private detective or a jazz singer. She loves reading about history and true crime. Her novels include Sweet Thang, Hollywood and Maine, Life is Fine, Tutored and The Sane Asylum.

Scott Laudati: “This City”

 
 This City
  
 I’m not kidding.
 I’m dying in this city.
 I was a prude 
 when thunder struck and 
 gave us memory of spring.
 But now I’m sick of eating 
 garbanzo beans
 saving for rent 
 so goddamn high
 even last year’s ghetto
 has a waiting list.
  
 It’s been too hot 
 to go outside this summer.
 The cats long abandoned 
 by breakups 
 and unrenewed leases
 snore
 under the dumpster,
 ignoring rats swimming for 
 cigarette butts 
 floating like 
 dead minnows in green pools 
 that stay deep 
 without rain.
  
 There’s a bum on my block
 I see sometimes.
 He sits on an 
 orange crate
 and doesn’t ask for money when
 Bushwick crawls home
 after last call.
 He doesn’t ask for money
 at noon when Germans
 ask him to point out 
 Roberta’s 
 on a map.
 He doesn’t have time to hustle.
 He’s too busy
 making drum loops
 on his cell phone.
  
 I said hi to him once 
 and he introduced me 
 to his brother--
 another bum named J Bird.
 He was chewing his bottom lip
 and told me
 “The pigeons here
 eat better 
 than most people.
 they’re fat as turkeys,
 stuffed 
 on the best pizza.”
  
 J Bird was an expert 
 on pigeons
 because he made 
 all his crack money
 off of them.
 He said he crippled 
 the birds with a stick
 and sold them
 (boxed by the dozen)
 down in Chinatown.
 An hour later
 the Chinese would put them 
 on the special menu
 as all you can eat squab.
  
 J Bird told me he must have 
 killed
 a million pigeons.
 But he never ate one.
 “They’re too dirty,” he said.
  
 I thought about the things
 I’d done
 to pay my rent
 in New York.
 All the bags I carried
 and the times even the tips
 couldn’t make
 my back feel better.
  
 You know 
 you’re dying
 when you envy 
 the pigeons.
 Beaten up 
 eaten 
 shit out 
 done.
 They tried to do that to me, too.
 In those hotels I clocked in 
 every day.
 A servant with no chains.
 They tried to do that to me, too.
 And they came close.
 I would sit with the housekeepers 
 on my break 
 and wonder 
 “Why don’t
 they
 just finish
 me off?”
  
 It was my smile
 I think. 
 I kept it on no matter what.
 Even when they asked me 
 to get them ice
 to touch their wives
 to touch them
 when we both knew
 there was 
 no tip coming. 
 I kept
 the smile on
 and they saw
 they could take 
 my back 
 and my time
 but they couldn’t
 take my heart.
 I either stopped it 
 from beating
 or 
 hid it very well.
 Sometimes I had to
 pinch myself
 to see if I was
 actually alive.
  
 I spent most of
 my shifts
 flipping between
 murder and suicide.
 Always one call
 away 
 from telling
 my mother
 goodbye.
 But then it would end
 like it ended 
 every day.
 The moon always low
 and the garbage piled so high
 you could climb it
 for perspective.
  
 I studied it all.
 It meant my freedom.
 It all did.
 Even the rats silhouetted
 at the base 
 of 
 the moon. 
 They were mine, too.
 We were all part
 of the city's refuse. 

_________________________________________________________________________

Scott Laudati is the author of Hawaiian Shirts In The Electric Chair (Cephalo Press). Visit him on social media @scottlaudati 

Howie Good: Four Poems

Autumn’s Menace

A plainclothes policeman, using a pair of handcuffs as brass knuckles, cut the face of a boy who was wandering the city in a hospital gown. Sometimes I think it’s just not true that teaching a child to not step on a caterpillar will make you a better person. Sometimes I think the plainclothesman is going to walk through the door, but he hasn’t, so I keep waiting. The city streets are deserted – no parade floats, no people. In these slow days of unease, everyone is a biohazard.

Past Is Prologue

Paris, January 6, 1938. Samuel Beckett was returning from the cinema that night when he was accosted by a tramp, who stabbed him in the chest, just missing his heart. He wasn’t quite the same afterwards. Maps needed to be redrawn. I’m beginning to understand something about it. The ocean feels a little sick right now. Two teenage boys beat a homeless man to death in the park with their skateboards. Stop talking and look up. Ladders cross the blue sky in a wheel of fire. 

Doe-Re-Me

I am writing
at the kitchen table, 
or, rather, 
struggling to, 
when my wife 
excitedly calls me 
to the window 

and points down 
into the yard 
where a doe 
with a coat 
just a shade 
from golden 
is browsing 

on fallen leaves
that if it wasn’t 
for the hours 
I spend trying 
to make poems, 
I would have 
burned long ago. 



Post-Election Stress Disorder

The emperor’s model army marches on, 
bringing with them the suffocating smell of smoke, 
a darkness like mud, while tens of millions 
of just plain folks artlessly demonstrate their devotion 
by cheering threats of kidnapping and murder 
and parading bright new flags that with each wave
in the lie-filled air grow duller and more tattered,  
and when the light dwindles to a final few hours, 
there will be tweet storms and wild speeches
and the military music of boots stamping on faces.

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Howie Good is the author of The Death Row Shuffle, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. He co-edits the online journals Unbroken and UnLost.

Mark Niedzwiedz: “Dogeared”

Dogeared                                                                 
 
I am well worn, thumbed through, creased at the edges
Always stuck on the same page, always mid-sentence
I can neither avert my eyes, turn thoughts, nor paper
For it is my life’ s work, knowing something of what’s gone before
But no clarity as to what comes next
I live in the now of uncertainty
No future, beyond skittish dreams
My imprint is not a doer, but a fence sitter
Who cannot jump till all the jumbled pieces are boxed
But life is liquid, ebbing and flowing
Formless, seamless, perhaps meaningless
Favouring the page turners who run blindly to the next staging post
Whilst visionaries awaiting the grand vision
Are left wanting - wanting to know
Does God give us patterns?
Glimpses of the eternal to send us on our merry way
Or are we just sleepwalking into nothingness?
Weighty questions, light on answers I fear
For the doomed among us, the poor dogeared

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From the UK, Mark Niedzwiedz is a professional composer and lyricist. Relatively new to poetry, Mark’s poems so far have appeared in poetry journals such as Grey Sparrow, Oddville Press, Scritura, Wink, Rat’s Arse review, Sac, Literary Heist, Harbinger Asylum, Wordgathering, BlazeVOX, and elsewhere.

Michelangelo Franchini: “Happy ending”

Happy ending

I  told  the  police  I  tried  to  save  him.  I  said  to  them  I  grabbed  his  legs,  but  he  was  already  dead,  or  so  it  seemed.  They  asked  me  a  lot  of  things,  and  I  can  understand  that  it  may  seem  a  surprisingly  weird  coincidence  that  the  man  who  found  the  hanging  body  is  the  one  who  hates  him  the  most.  Did  I  hate  him?  I  didn’t  deny  I  wanted  him  suffering.  I  told  them  that  his  death  is  nothing  but  a  relief  to  me;  still,  I  tried  to  save  him,  because  when  you  find  someone  committing  suicide,  you  immediately  try  to  help  him.  Also,  I’m  not  good  at  acting.

Elvira  was  the  first  to  arrive.  When  they  told  her  what  happened,  she  was  petrified.  They  said  we  both  were  shocked,  and  maybe  it’s  true.  Elvira  is  a  nurse,  and  that  night  she  was  at  the  hospital.  She  said,  don’t  worry,  we’ll  be  okay.  The  cop  asked  if  I  wanted  psychological  assistance,  but  I  said  I  was  okay.  They  told  me  about  the  analysis  and  the  questions.  Elvira  nodded  and  gave  them  her  cell  number,  just  in  case. 

I  clearly  remember  the  weight  of  that  body,  a  human  body  softly  swinging  from  the  ceiling.  I  tried  to  revive  the  scene  many  times,  while  Elvira  was  listening  to  me  and  holding  my  hand  gently.  She  said  it  was  the  best  thing  to  do,  to  summon  every  detail,  such  as  the  creaky  door,  the  guttural  noises,  the  thud  of  the  body  hitting  the  floor.  She  said  that,  if  I  was  too  anxious,  I  could  have  some  pills,  since  she’s  a  nurse  and  knows  how  to  get  the  right  ones  to  make  me  feel  better.  I  felt  hurt,  and  I  said  that  I  was  okay. 

She  smiled  at  me:  I  knew  you  were  strong  enough. 

I  don’t  blame  her  for  Giorgio.  The  affair  is  now  part  of  a  forgotten  life:  I  recognize  I  was  horrible,  and  even  if  I  didn’t  cheat,  I  treated  her  in  a  way  that  made  her  forced  to  cheat.  They  were  both  drunk  and  unhappy,  it  just  happened—troubling  times,  the  ones  that  made  them  live  together  in  his  beautiful  house.

Are  you  okay?

I  told  her  I  was  okay,  she  smiled.  That  night,  we  went  to  a  restaurant,  and  she  proposed  a  toast  to  our  new  life.  We  had  sex.  The  next  day  I  felt  nervous.  She  was  hysterically  cleaning  the  house.  We  argued.  Then  she  asked  me  if  I  needed  help  to  review  my  story  for  the  police.  I  told  her  I  didn’t. 

At  the  police  station,  I  told  the  cop  I  knew  everything.  They  had  been  lovers.  Marriage  is  a  hard  job.

The  cop  didn’t  seem  doubtful. 

When  I  came  back  home,  Elvira  was  worried.  It  was  all  okay,  I  said,  I  didn’t  even  forget  the  swollen  face  and  the  livid  lips.  She  hugged  me.  Everything  was  okay.  She  said  if  I  had  any  doubt,  I  could  have  the  pills.  I  think  I  may  accept. 

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Michelangelo Franchini is an Italian author, founder of the artistic collective Yawp. His stories and essays have been published by many Italian literary magazines, such as: Tuffi Rivista, Frammenti Rivista, Pastrengo Rivista, Reader for Blind, Altri Animali, Carmilla, Verde Rivista. He has a bachelor degree in literature.

Daniel Edward Moore: “Downpour”

Downpour
 
 
Eerie, the sound honesty makes: three syllables
trickling through lips in a room assumed to be safe & dry.
 
The weatherman said, you stayed for walls only
I could afford. A rancher redone, interrupting ruin,
 
where summers invited wounds to walk in fragrant
gowns of grace- Sweet Alyssum, Honeysuckle. It takes
 
what it takes to translate the bruise into something aromatic,
while watching the sky force the ground to drink the tears of Christ.
 
Eerie, to be a chalice of clouds above the Lake of Fire, a gray
goblet filled with relief hands refused to pour.
 

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Daniel Edward Moore lives in Washington on Whidbey Island. His poems are forthcoming in Nebo Literary Journal, Main Street Rag MagazineNixes Mate Review, Lullwater Review, Flint Hills Review, El Portal, Emrys JournalThe Meadow, and West Trade Review. He is the author of Boys (Duck Lake Books) and Waxing the Dents (Brick Road Poetry Press).

Roy Bentley: Two Poems

Little Richard in a Red Suit 
Getting into a Red Cadillac Convertible
 
It’s sometime in the 1980s in New York City.
David Bowie brings a photograph of Little Richard
 
into the studio. Shows it to his collaborator, Nile Rodgers.
Says, Nile, darling, that’s what I want my album to sound like.
 
Rodgers parks his Fender Stratocaster so he can Scotch-tape it—
the photo of Richard Wayne Penniman in a red suit getting into
 
a red Cadillac convertible—to the hexagonal piece of Plexiglas
above the recording console: a black man with Jeri curled hair
 
and loads of Attitude, enough to get him lynched in the South
in the 1950s. And though there are no words for what it says,
 
the photo with the deckled edge, we glimpse Little Richard
and the sum total of his fame thus far. The lack of a smile 

I might translate as: the world adores you until it doesn’t.
David Bowie adores him. And knows tutti frutti means
 
“all fruits” in Italian, that A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-
wop-bam-boom is untranslatable: a drum-beat rhythm
 
the Architect of Rock 'n' Roll claims to have dreamed
then risen from deep sleep to repeat like a shibboleth
 
or clandestine chord to be performed to gain entry
into whatever ungated heaven is left him, left us.



Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
 
Lucinda Williams’ song unfolds in a mythic South,
her telling kids, whether real or imagined, to pick up
after she goes. Hence, the car wheels on a gravel road.
 
I hate to say it, but the wheel is what we put a Michelin
or Goodyear or Firestone or Pirelli onto: it’s the mount.
That aside, the singer is telling kids to do something.
 
Her intention to love them and be someone they trust,
but Creation is restless. Part of her wishes to be gone,
on the road. She fantasizes summertime in the South,
 
though she knows the godawful history like it’s hers.
In the song, either side of this metaphorical roadway,
there are July-ripe cotton fields for mile upon mile.
 
Louisiana is a big Crayola box of coloration. And
what better metaphor for the human condition than
the Crayola box with the built-in sharpener: wanting
 
all the colors. If there is a gladiator, you need blood
red as daybreak over open country. Gladiatorial gore
that cottons the floor of the Colosseum. The world
 
being what it is, the imaginary champion is awaiting
wound-stitching and a bed of straw. Maybe a woman
when strong again—if she’s called in from the fields,
 
she carries the rage of leaf-fall: the scents of the world
and lovers falling back after lovemaking, looking up
to watch the so-called wheel of night-sky stars turn.
 

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Roy Bentley, a finalist for the Miller Williams prize for Walking with Eve in the Loved City, has published eight books, including American Loneliness from Lost Horse Press, who is bringing out a new & selected. He is the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in New Ohio Review, Rattle, The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, and Shenandoah among others. Hillbilly Guilt, his latest, won the Hidden River Arts / Willow Run Poetry Book Award and awaits publication.

Greg Farnum: “Other Wars”

Other Wars

1
_____It was a very bright hat. It was mostly black, but it was a very bright black. Same for the gold that spelled out the words RETIRED ARMY. You probably had to pay extra for such bright colors, even though it was only a baseball cap. It was the first thing he’d noticed after he pulled in next to this car in the bank parking lot, the bright hat sitting on the dashboard. That and, on the passenger seat, letters from the VA. Then, as he began to walk toward the bank, the vanity license plate identifying the driver as an ARMY VETERAN and the bumper sticker of a US flag in the shape of the US, with the words Land of the Brave. Inside, the lobby copy of the newspaper said the famous Silverdome was slated to be torn down. After a moment he set the paper down and moved to the counter to cash his Social Security check, noticing the old veteran from the patriot car at a desk off to the left trying to get a loan.

2
_____The food pantry was crowded when we arrived. You were allowed to visit the place once a month. This was the first day in August that they were open, one of the few days they would be open this month because they’d be shutting down in the second half of the month to give their volunteers a late summer break, so the people who used the place — the “clients” — had jammed the waiting room and all the chairs were taken. I leaned against a wall and Mike went outside for a cigarette. Eventually, though, as some of the people ahead of me were processed and left, I was able to sit down…just in time to hear a guy in a Vietnam Veteran hat explain about the war. His stories — the usual sort of old codger Vietnam vet bullshit — met with a receptive audience. It seemed he’d gotten back about six months before I did and I was tempted to ask him where he’d been — maybe like me he’d been in the Americal Division — but decided not to interject myself in the conversation when he started to explain history. As many people were killed in the Korean War as in the Vietnam War he told his fellow clients, even though the Korean War lasted for two years and the Vietnam War lasted for seven. Wrong, of course, on all counts. Of course the audience didn’t know any better, but I didn’t expect them to. But if you’re going to wear your little hat and hold forth on war, and wars, you should at least get some of your facts straight. At that moment the history lesson ended when they called his name. He rose to claim his box of free food and take it out to his car. As he did someone called out “Thank you for your service.”

3
_____It was so unfair, the old veteran explained to his daughter — We were paying their soldiers and they were using our rifles and then… and then he seemed to switch to a different war. “They bombed the marine barracks and killed 221 marines. So we bombed them and killed some of their civilians and oh, they were so mad we had to promise to be more careful in our bombing.” And then it was time to go. He rose carefully to his feet and, with his daughter leading the way, slowly pushed his walker towards the door.

_____

Greg Farnum: “Soldier, student, soil tester, factory worker, pizza deliveryman, journalist.”