Kenneth Pobo: Two Poems

A Barred Owl Speaks to Me

Time throws an axe at my head. I don’t
duck quickly enough. Wounded,
I keep walking. The forest deepens

and darkens. A barred owl speaks to me
with a charming owl accent. We talk
about Butternut Lake which knows

many spring songs. A harpsichord
inside an uncurling fern plays so I start
to dance, no longer lonely. The owl

flies away. One feather
drops on my shoulder. I suddenly know
every word in the dictionary of trees.


I Open the Door

and it’s Bette Davis, dead
for over three decades,
but fresh as a can
of Mountain Dew.

I make her
a stiff martini. She says
death is like getting
bloodwork done.

A small prick,
you say ouch,
and walk out into forever.


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. Lavender Fire, Lavender Rose is forthcoming from Brick/House Books.

Chila Woychik: “So What Do You Think About Cows, or, A Lingering Grief”

So What Do You Think About Cows, or, A Lingering Grief

Words are like nets – we hope they’ll cover what we mean, but we know they can’t possibly hold that much joy, or grief, or wonder. Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart

We’ve carted this grief halfway around the world but now I’m calling dibs. She slipped out in the early dawn, dropped her light, love dried up. Did some things she can’t take back, but none of it matters now. In what world does it turn out this way? In what world does a mother die, stroked out in days of remembering? Months have turned to years because perception stains reality.

I’ve been trying to understand a love of elephants. Mother had them all: figurines, jade replicas, earrings, all visual indications of her dire enchantment with the earth’s largest land-dwelling pachyderm.

Who knows what these times are, these latter days of reminiscence and grasping for a few more hours to feel young and vital? Maybe that’s it. The ageless cues of the elephant, virile long after so much time would minimize other beasts. “They never forget,” she would say. And maybe this drove into her heart some replica of remembering, of not forgetting the secrets she held so boxed and heavy. If I could have a last conversation, I would ask her why.

Life glories in spanking us in the face, on one side, grief, the other, awe. Grief is waking in the middle of the night and forgetting where you put the flashlight. It’s that constant scraping against a dark window, a hard rain shouldering the earth and not letting up before the creeks rise too high.

I wonder if she did all she wanted to do. If not regrets, were her memories unbridled, a rampaging elephant in the wild? Or were they shoved into a musty corner, shackled lest they run amuck and trample her life’s spoken narrative? Not all secrets can be corralled forever, and forgiveness covers with blankets of love: these were the last lessons I learned from her.

Grief settles in low places, in hollows and dry creek beds, and everything stays the same until it doesn’t. Huddled in a field, two farmers made a pact. “We’ll call it harvest,” one says, patting her stomach. “We’ll call it profit,” the other says, stroking his wallet. We’re teaching everyone these days. One big whoopie. It all runs together, a jumble of seconds clacking toward meaning and a sudden sunset. The girls you knew in school, those boys, the teachers and lessons now gone, and there’s a reunion coming up. When did we get so sad?

Outside my doors, a field of lowing cattle. Love hurts, it’s true, but what about those cows? Sometimes we’ve earned the right to be eccentric, to embrace the unusual and harbor admiration. Living’s our excuse, the grief, the awe. And even, sometimes, the cows.


Chila Woychik is originally from the beautiful land of Bavaria. She has been published in Cimarron, Passages North, and elsewhere, and has published Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology (Shanti Arts, 2020). She won Storm Cellar’s 2019 Flash Majeure Contest and Emry’s 2016 Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award.  

Brad Shurmantine: “Head of the Metolius”

Head of the Metolius

It gushes out of a little cave in Black Butte
but originates in the Cascades,
a hundred miles away.
Cold! Too cold to stand in.
And clear. Right out of the ground.
And these old man poems–
where do they come from,
after so much dark and silence?
They burble out free, easy,
fresh and clear to me.
Sixty-odd years of tears & sweat
roiling in the caverns of my mind, 
seeping forgotten
into hidden caves and crevices.
Chilling there. And flowing out
as I tilt and head downhill,
hitting the light, sparkling there.


Brad Shurmantine ( lives in Napa, Ca., where he writes, reads, tends three gardens (sand, water, vegetable), takes care of chickens, cats, and bees, and works on that husband thing. He backpacks in the Sierras and travels when he can, and has a serious passion for George Eliot. 

Leah Browning: “Brute”

He was the type of person who was always getting into bar fights. It was an easy way to get rid of some aggressive energy, and there was often an explanation that let him come out looking like a good guy. He’d been defending someone’s honor, let’s say. Every time you ran into him, it seemed, his knuckles were taped. 
He and his roommates lived in an apartment building just down the street from a fire station. In that city, firefighters were first responders at everything from highway collisions to your garden-variety home accidents. Day and night, the garage door rolled up and sirens began to scream. 
Why don’t you move, I asked, and he just shrugged. I didn’t push the issue. If you must know, I had discovered that he was an adrenaline junkie in all the ways that mattered. He pulled my hair, clung to the headboard, did everything but hang upside-down as sirens oscillated outside, growing louder and louder, and the engines roared past the open windows.

Leah Browning is the author of three nonfiction books and six chapbooks. Her most recent chapbook of short fiction is Orchard City, a collection published by Hyacinth Girl Press in 2017. Browning’s work has appeared in Four Way ReviewNewfoundValparaiso Fiction ReviewWatershed ReviewThe Stillwater Review, and elsewhere. 


John Dorroh: “Carlsbad After Dark”

Carlsbad After Dark

I remember how the air smelled like warm guano
before the bats swarmed out of the cave at Carlsbad.
How they spiraled up toward a full orange moon.

How the park ranger joked about rattlesnakes
eating a family’s chihuahua while they crooked
their necks toward the purple sky. I remember

looking at my wristwatch and the itching sensation
on the back of my legs. How I was worried about
desert fleas. I don’t remember where we parked.

I remember how the air-conditioned air chilled
our faces. How the ice machine spat out perfectly
square cubes. How we smelled chlorine

from the pool. I remember the bite of white
onions on our fast-food hamburgers and how
the salt on the French fries made our tongues

swell like sea cucumbers. I remember how
we slept like bats in a cave. How no one snored.
But I don’t remember the drive back home.


John Dorroh is a composter, recycler, and procrastinator. His first poem was written with his mom’s red lipstick on the bathroom walls. He may have evolved a bit since then. His poems have appeared in Feral, Blue River Heron, Os Pressan, and many others. He also writes short fiction and the occasional rant.

Cameron Morse: “Neurooncologist”


My NO says no
evidence ear

buds cause anything 

to sprout in your 
ear canal


Empty lane 
night of the big game

fireworks purchased 
for touchdowns 
thunder at

halftime in defeat
the city’s hurt 


Any survivors willing to chat 

my hubby’s having 
a hard time 

filling out tax 
forms in a snow storm 

Death is at the door


Dystopian weekend 

my gateway to hell


Night I met her 
English name was Alice
asked if I’d been

drinking I said it was
the only way I 
could sleep with myself

ashamed of my breath
on the dark track

I entered her empty field


Cameron Morse lives with his wife Lili and two children in Independence, Missouri. His poems have been published in numerous magazines, including New LettersBridge EightPortland Review and South Dakota Review. His first collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. His latest is Far Other (Woodley Press, 2020). He holds and MFA from the University of Kansas City—Missouri and serves as Senior Reviews editor at Harbor Review and Poetry editor at Harbor Editions. For more information, check out his Facebook page or website.    

Elisha Osorio: “Ginger”


the moths flock in array upon
time immemorial, untouched.
like the love we were promised,
spectres of kisses descend
upon tabletops and bookmarks; they rest
and they decay, hand in burnt-hand.
do you remember where we first met,
the person i was, the person i thought you were
sometimes i cannot think
and this juts out and congeals–
to its source, its fossil.
and there is not enough time
in this plane of memory
to realize i cannot think like i cannot bleed
i have no desire to ask myself
what this means, i am meddling in a pool
of confusion, a pool i have always known
but i am a child still
caught up in the breeze of wonder
spiraling like the ginger in my mother’s tea
where did it all go wrong?
and i ask this,
again and again


Elisha Osorio is a student at The Winchester School, Dubai. She (unrealistically) aims to pursue journalism and creative writing in her undergraduate years.

Ellen Chia: “The Poem”

The Poem

Would the poem lurking within
Please announce yourself?
Are you nature?
A bird, a cloud, a tree
Or a lily?
Are you woeful or hopeful?
Dwarfish or epic?

Perhaps I don’t wish
To know just yet –
But to savor that moment
Of being seized unawares;
To gape with delight
When you rear your head
Exclaiming peek-a-boo
Along with the messy
Train of bones, sinews
And flesh tumbling
From your hiding place,
Rolling off my tongue
Onto the creamy leaf,
Giving birth to yet another
Slice of me.


Ellen Chia lives in Thailand and whilst pondering over the wonders and workings of her
tiny universe finds herself succumb time after time to the act of poetry making.
Her works have been published in The Ekphrastic Review, The Honest Ulsterman,
Neologism Poetry Journal, Zingara Poetry Review, The Tiger Moth Review, and Chiron Review.

L. Ward Abel: “Coat of Birds”

Coat of Birds


L. Ward Abel’s work has appeared in Rattle, The Reader, The Istanbul Review, Snow Jewel, The Honest Ulsterman, Worcester Review, hundreds of others, and he is the author of three full collections and eleven chapbooks of poetry, including Jonesing For Byzantium (UK Authors Press, 2006), American Bruise (Parallel Press, 2012), Little Town gods (Folded Word Press, 2016), A Jerusalem of Ponds (erbacce-Press, 2016), The Rainflock Sings Again (Unsolicited Press, 2019), Floodlit (Beakful, 2019) and the forthcoming The Width of Here (Silver Bow, 2021). He resides in rural Georgia, and is a reformed lawyer, now teacher of literature.

Andrew Shields: “Early to Rise”

Early to Rise

Sleep can also come too easily,
and dreamlessness can wake you up at dawn
to a world where the birds have forgotten to sing.
The sun staggers up into the sky
behind bedraggled clouds that don’t know where
to put their rain. No rivers seem to want it;
the trees are ducking; the hills have nowhere to go
and nowhere to put whatever might be offered.
You should have stayed awake another hour,
until the nighttime breeze stopped being shy
and each mosquito in your room had had its fill.


Andrew Shields lives in Basel, Switzerland. His collection of poems Thomas Hardy Listens to Louis Armstrong was published by Eyewear in 2015. His band Human Shields released the album Somebody’s Hometown in 2015 and the EP Défense de jouer in 2016. Twitter: @ShieldsAndrew   Facebook: