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.

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.