Monday, January 24, 2011

Best Of 2010

Ghosts On My Computer Screen

By Amber Rothrock
Inspired by the contributors of ILLOGICAL MUSE

They send me visions of lonesome wolves
and speak of twisted lives.
Empty pages are filled with truths
that are often hidden from human eyes.
Words that could never stand alone
come together to fulfill prophecies;
rendering me breathless and amazed
by someone else's atrocities.
Here among these shattered dreams
I will sometimes find threads of hope
that entwine and repair the frayed
fabric of an emotional rope.
They reach out to me
with words I never thought to say,
and bring a little excitement
to an otherwise boring day.
Their voices are unheard,
and they are never seen,
but their hearts are represented
by the ghosts on my computer screen.


Photo Taken by Carly Erin O'Neil

Photo Taken by Carly Erin O'Neil

Adam Vs. The Animist by Joe DeMarco

And so it came to pass that after ten thousand years the Animist finally agreed to duel Adam, in what would be a David versus Goliath match up, winner take all. The prize: planet Earth. The Animist arrived early to scout the terrain. He searched for tracks and the presence of a divine deity. He found none. The Animist was mostly human, meaning he had the body of a person, except for a few strange anomalies such as a hog’s nose capable of smelling across miles in the fresh morning breeze, a bull’s horn jutting out of the left side of his forehead, and a raccoon’s tail. He looked rather inhuman carrying a spear in his hand, and had a slingshot slung over his back, his striped tail dragging at least two feet behind him. The Animist was a towering six-feet, four inches tall with bulging muscles, wearing the hide of some deceased animal around his waist. Most might be quick to call him a savage; certainly he did not think of himself as savage. He killed when food needed to be provided. He did not kill when unnecessary, for instance for sport, and he certainly had not declared an all-out war on the animal kingdom like his brother Adam had so feverishly begun ten thousand years ago. Slowly but surely Adam had begun to snuff out all species that might pose a threat to him. After ten thousand years he was closer to his goal than ever: world domination. He figured if he could once and for all slay the Animist, he could silence the critics, mostly because the main critic was the Animist and he’d be dead.

The Animist had been there an hour and a half, had slouched down in the shade and was taking a nap, when a fifty-foot tall Adam showed up in his shiny red sports car, wearing a blue Armani suit, talking into his miniscule cell phone. Adam came to a sliding stop, smashing into an orchard, killing a family of squirrels, some groundhogs and a plethora of fruit trees in one swift blow. He did not care. He might have arrogantly blurted out “That’s how I roll” if questioned about the annihilation of the squirrels or groundhogs or fruit trees. As Adam got out of the car, he held up a finger shiny with rings, indicating for the Animist to wait while

“I don’t care that the place is a historical landmark,” Adam yelled into the tiny rectangular box that was his cell phone. “We either expand or we die, do you hear me?”

The Animist sat up. He had been having the weirdest dream about a woman named Eve who thought she had acquired the knowledge of the gods by eating a piece of fruit from a tree. Eve had been sorely mistaken. The Animist shook off his weariness and rose to meet his aggressor.

Adam shut his cell phone and removed his jacket. “Shall we get this over with?” Adam insisted towering forty-four feet over the Animist. “I have a one o’clock appointment with a masseuse.”

Adam neatly folded his jacket, “But you wouldn’t know anything about happy endings. You can barely form a written language.” No sooner had the insult been fired, when the Animist hurled his spear. As the spear flew through the air, for an instant the Animist had an inkling that it would hit its mark, before Adam smiling smugly, swatted it away like a toothpick.

“I’m going to enjoy crushing you,” Adam remarked. “It’s been a long time coming.” He started to back the Animist into a corner. The Animist picked up a rock and grabbed his slingshot. He waited for the fifty-foot Adam to move in a little closer, then he was going to let the rock fly. As Adam stepped closer, he tripped over a branch. At that exact moment the Animist let the rock fly. The rock went high into the air in an arc, sailing clear over Adam’s head. The Animist picked up another rock. Adam stumbled but did not fall (at least not yet).

The Animist was cornered. He had nowhere to go.

"I’m going to enjoy this,” Adam said.

The Animist remarked that only the descendants of Adam enjoyed murder, but it was lost on this fifty-foot giant. As Adam brought his fist down to smash him, he found that oddly his hand went right through the Animist as if he were a ghost. Adam tried to bring his fist down a second time, but found as the Animist raised his hands, an invisible-force field seemed to stop him from smashing his prey. Adam swiped at the Animist again, but found he could not touch him. What he did not know or possibly couldn’t understand was that the Animist belonged to a deeper magic. Animal magic. He was in a sense the god of all animals including humans, and Adam was just a man.

“The only way you can destroy me is by destroying yourself,” the Animist revealed, but Adam did not believe him (descendants of Adam did not trust their own kind).

“Homo sapiens man was around 190,000 years old before you came around and started fouling things up,” the Animist explained. “Man, if you’re merely talking about people without the ability to foresee the future and reason cognitively have been around 3 million years.”

“Three million years!” the Animist roared.

“In just 10,000 years you developed a pervasive culture that would put us all out of business, and I have been there since the beginning, ensuring balance, that all animals live within the laws governing nature, and you my friend have been defiling them,” clarified the Animist.

The fifty-foot tall Adam laughed, “So what are you going to do about?”

The Animist shrugged. “Nothing.” There was very little he could do about it. This was more of a warning. “But you will destroy yourself VERY SOON if you don’t change your ways,” the Animist explained. Adam’s cell phone rang. He picked it up. The fifty-foot giant had recently been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder, which meant he didn’t have to listen to you if he didn’t want. What it meant to Adam personally was that he could act loud and outlandishly brash and it wasn’t his fault, he had a disorder.

“Sue me!” Adam yelled into the phone.

The Animist shrugged (he knew a stubborn animal when he saw one), pulled some magic sand out of his pocket, threw it at his feet, and POOF, he was gone.

Problems by Holly Day

I never have learned to stop picking my nose
before it bleeds. You would think
with all the field time spent
with my finger shoved up there
that I could tell right when
the membrane was about to tear
or that the particularly stubborn
crust of booger I’d been scraping at all day
was actually a scab, and that any minute
I’d work it loose
only to have streamers of blood running down my wrist
onto my good sweater sleeve. Really, you’d think
that after all these years
I’d have some sort of instinct
when exactly to stop.

Diamonds by Nick Perry

Light is a slave to its resounding myriad,
Like the mercury boiling within a thermometer,
Through which a thousand alienating eyes marvel upon.

But they are not acknowledging the light,
They are preoccupied with the acrobatic shadows,
Whose showmanship is far exceeding,
As they summersault and trapeze within the blank space.

And their own gluttonous reflections,
Torn askew by a thousand screeching countours;
Yet without light the diamond is devoid,
Of all of its perfections;
And of its seductive charm.

Compelling materialists unto evil ends
Through evil means;
And they shall become just as empty as the diamond.

See The Pig by Larry Jones

see the pig walk
walk pig walk
see the pig fall down.

see the man
see the man with the red board
beat the pig senseless
ill it's battered and bloodied
just because the pig
wouldn't stand up.

scream pig scream

see the piglet
see the teeny weeny piglet
squeal runt squeal.

see the woman
see the woman pick the piglet up
by it's hind legs
slam it's head against the floor
till it's brains fly out
just because the piglet
was to small.

die piglet die

see the animals suffer
while the people
make their money
and this little piggy

A Turkish Fairy Tale by Jane Stuart

I found the crystal tree with silver birds
and painted hearts hanging from every bough.
It was inside a forest near a stream
of water cold and dark as indigo.

I found the horse that never leaves the sand.
Its broken saddle was so hard to grasp.
I rode across the wind and counted hours
that fell in sparkles from a distant sky.

I heard the moon rise creaking under clouds –
pushing its way through baths of silver light
I felt a moment of eternal rain
fall on my face and hands; it turned to snow.

There was no reason for this dream to rise
out of a mystery that had no end
or not believe in life that promised love
and beauty full of graciousness that mends
what was not perfect when we can forget;
and dream again, when we can but remember.

Cello Girl

Artwork by Teresa Meier

Dark Card Book Review by Amber Rothrock

Dark Card
By Rebecca Foust
Texas Review Press
ISBN: 978-1-933896-14-4

Dark Card, Rebecca’s first book, deals with the pain and triumphs of raising a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. Her frustration with the way the world treats her son comes through in several of the poems but none more keenly than the poem for which the book was titled:

Before they get angry, I pull out my deck
deal out what they want. Yes, he’s different
but look at his IQ score, his Math SAT!

There are also poems that express the everyday worries and fears of a mother. Such as "Sometimes The Mole Is Merely:"

Sometimes they happen – bombs
blow up school buses, a son’s shyness
is autism, the mole is more than a mole,
a teenager mistakes the brake for the gas

and that sound like a recycle truck drop-gate
where no truck should be and you run, you run
outside and see in the back wall of the garage
the cartoon-cutout shape the size of a car,
but the color of sky.

Writing the words in this collection probably proved to be therapeutic at the time and the way they’ve been refined into the heartfelt poetics they are is the mark of a gifted writer. With this book, Rebecca Foust has given a piece of herself to the world. Her writings are intensely real. I would recommend Dark Card to parents of children of all ages and mental capabilities.

Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel by Dayton Osburn

They always say it's darkest before the dawn,
but what if the dawn never comes?

My mom always told me to think before I speak,
if everyone followed this rule then no one would marry.

When in Rome do as the Romans do,
what exactly did the Romans do besides
fail miserably?
We all know they couldn't build quickly.

The grass is always greener on the other side,
what constitutes “greener” color is a relative concept.
Furthermore what divides these “sides”.

You make a better door than a window,
I don't think humans would do well as either.

Roses are red...
Why yes they are, how observant.
You would think violets would be,

If you see a light at the end of a tunnel,
do not walk towards it,
trains can be dangerous.

Owning Up by Ronnie Lane

Whether we defeat our demons or become them,
become a better person or learn to pass as one;
cast in stone is not the stone itself.
Pretending is the same as doing or being
except to the perpetrator, and if you
can keep a secret long enough,
you will believe it one day.
If we could be honest we would say
that’s how I would feel
if I really felt that way.
The moon, the tide, kismet or chaos,
all excuses you wouldn’t tell your mother.
Everyone else will get a dose though.

For Frank by Sara Crawford

I wish that I
were Frank,
the cat,
as he rams his tiny
head into the bottom
of my chin,
as if to say,
“nothing else is
as important as

He gets distracted
by the silver earrings
on my nightstand,
fascinated by
he paws at them
until they
on the floor.
He stares in amazement.

Where Are The Knights by Michael S. Morris

Where are the Knights –
that’s what I want to know?

When half a dozen young men
are raping a woman and people

are standing and watching,
a mob of giggles, leering.

where was the Knight to ride
into the fray? Where was the

human being who could see
their sister being pillaged?

Where are the Knights of old?
The Knights we need to day

to ride into Holy Cities to make
peace between ancient tribes.

Where are the Knights
riding into the ghettoes?

Who is their Arthur? Who
is the world’s, and the world’s

alone, sworn defender? Is it
not you in the pulsing

of your thoughts, you who would
cry out and wade into the fray?

No matter the odds, no matter
the day, having on bended knee

sworn to defend to the death
those who are defenseless?

Waiting For Work

Photo Taken by Garrett Smith

Dark River Night by Roger Singer

"Kep!” demanded the young woman, eyes afire, fingers grasping the loose thick cotton shirt of the determined young man before her; his boyish face smirked away the threat of probable danger awaiting him. He played off the fear with wide eyes of foolishness, shaking his head, sending wild rolls of curly brown hair bouncing onto his smooth forehead.

“Kep! You stop that you hear!” A fevered crawl of anger heightened the seriousness of her intentions. “You think this here is some kind of a joke!” She twirled on her toes. A wall of stiff shoulders separated the marble of sadness within her from the young man. Her head dipped. A quivering chin blessed the motherhood of her chest. A soft sobbing filled the immediate air.

Kep felt moved to hold her; he felt awkward at her expression of sadness. His eyes looked skyward, wishing to escape. Instead he placed the palm of his right hand on her shoulder. “Now Lyda.” His voice speaking to the back of her beautiful dark hair; a tortoise shell clip held a tight queue onto the whiteness of her neck. “It’ll be ok.” His hand rubbed assuredly in small familiar circles. “We’ve been offering this here topic up for two weeks and I keep telling you not to be a worrying.”

The young woman snapped an about face, startling Kep; the hand on her shoulder found thin air, his eyes a moment ago filled with adolescent sorrow sparked into a wide shock, as the face of Lyda captured his countenance.

“It’s easy for you to stand here, telling me everything will be just fine, when the truth is men are dying for a dying cause.” Kep tried to interrupt; she placed her fingers over his lips. “You hear me out Kep.” She stammered. “I see the sadness haunting the mothers, wives and girlfriends of soldiers fighting and I also see the dark struggles in faces over news of the dead.” She paused, looked down. Late September breezes circled noisily within branches of a leafed out dogwood above them. A scattering of leaves touched easily at her ankles; like homeless children begging for comfort. A cloudless cool sky weighted over them with an ocean of blue. To Lyda, it was her favorite time of the year, though now the saddest as she unwillingly relinquished her lover to war; summer falls from the arms of time, yielding to fall.

The lovers yielded to the powerful grief and lust of the moment. Slipping to the ground, they unwrapped the presents of their youth; the energy of breathing melted onto their lips.

“Kep. Kep.” Lyda’s voice filled warm the memories within his head. Her face freshly painted with each calling of his name. “Lyda, Lyda.” His hand trembled, reaching as the elderly do, attempting to capture the past with crippled fingers.

Kep passionately extended his hand, discovering a welcome patch of warmth. He stroked the familiar between the pads of his fingers. His lips broadened, eyes closed, head tilted back he moved his hand deeper into the wetness. Kep’s innocent smile of lust quickly vanished into the paths and dungeons of his darkest fears. Beads of sweat rained onto the surface of a dirt stained forehead. A cold tree top wind above him beat into branches resembling witches arthritic fingers. Dry life evaporated leaves beneath him rustled at his slightest motion; the death bed of autumn welcomed him onto a brown canopy. He labored to remember bright images of explosions, land clouds of gun powder obscuring his vision, men crying and extremities scattered like twigs under his attacking, ever advancing boots. He yielded to nausea, vomiting onto his bloodied shirt; a tight acid gripped his throat. His eyes opened with the slowness of a man drugged by thieves; he was wounded, severely, dying in a forest, a place foreign to his feet, on the bank of a river, the Rappahannock , across from a city called Fredericksburg .

He called softly, a voice meant only for angels nearby gathering the dead and those wishing for an end. “Lyda, Lyda.” He hoped to return to the dream of his lover, standing behind her. This time he promised to turn her, kiss her passionately, tell her of his love, over and over until he ran to the end of words.

A thousand needles of pain griped him. He pulled his knees toward his chest, easing only for a moment the forever damaged tissue ripped apart within him. The dream of her did not return. Kep turned his head to the waving treetops high above. He imagined for a moment he was at the bottom of an ocean of air, laying on a sandy bed looking up at tall strands of seaweed. He thought of climbing the weeds to the surface, escaping the bottom ocean of death, then swimming to shore, running home, never to leave, never to leave Lyda again.

The pain circled his abdomen, moving roughly within as if demons were dancing loudly on what remained, stabbing him for the sins of his past. Dusk walked over the river, dampening his face, chilling the skin; the last border of life. Kep could see lights from the city across the river. The undercarriage of clouds ushered in by night reflected a gray glow. Voices of men echoed from the city. Men at rivers edge speaking words, jumbled by distance, gathered roughly into baskets of sounds, indistinguishable to Kep. He could tell the voices were stationary, not moving in his direction; nighttime fostered courage in groups not in shadows of one. Kep lay his head back. Weakness caught him up into a level below sleep; rest was broken by the sound of slow deliberate footsteps walking near.

Kep remained motionless, refraining from stirring the leaves below him. Each step of the closing footsteps signaled salvation at the hands of a local farmer or the act of immediate death at the hands of enemy stragglers for his paltry personal possessions. At this moment, exhaustion being the only life form maintaining his breathing, he welcomed the option of death over the pain of being moved. Kep purposely stirred, moaning into night covered air. The approaching steps halted almost immediately. Kep moved some more. Silence maintained the close environment of a stranger and the dying soldier.

Kep called out, “Who’s there?” silence answered back. “I knows someones there, I hear you coming. No sense in hiding from me.” The words spoken by Kep caused him to writhe in pain. He rolled onto his side like a dog beaten with a stick. He sobbed, mentioned Lyda’s name then slipped into unconsciousness.

When he awoke, he could see the broad shoulders of someone leaning over him. The face was obscured by night. An owl high above called into the chilly expanse, echoing onto the river. For a brief moment the gray rolling clouds above offered a separation, allowing a sliver of silver from a December moon to run the face of the stranger. Kep was startled at the face of a black man looking down at him.

The man was bald, heavy set, someone who was sure with their fists. Kep leaned back exposing his neck, hoping the revengeful black man would slit his throat for all the ills imposed upon him by his southern generations.

The stranger spoke as if a wind opened a back door. “What’s you got wrong with you?” he asked, leaning away from Kep; the clouds over him closed like the red sea, the man’s face once again hidden behind a curtain of night.

Kep leaned up slightly, bracing his head on a mound of dirt, observing the large figure before him. It was a poor presentation for a white man before a slave, being partnered with the ground as he was. “I took a slug in my side.” Kep slowly opened the lower tail of his jacket showing the man a dark stain; the brightness of blood extinguished by night. “I’ve been lying here for a day maybe two, I don’t rightly know if it’s more than that.” Kep covered his wound. The black man sat down, any fear of being apprehended by this man was out of the question. His shoulders relaxed, fingers scratched the dirt before him, he looked up at the clouds then at Kep.

“What you expect to do with dat hole in you side?” Kep didn’t answer. The black man continued. “I come across a good number of you boys all shot to hell, none as in good a shape as you dow. One boy ask me to kill him out right, like a pig for slaughter. I told him no way could I do dat. My moma, bless her soul, would come back from the grave an’ whip me out. Sure as day she would, whip me out.” His fingers pushed the dirt again. Finding a small stone he cleaned it off and tossed into the black before him. The pebble skipped on several leaves before settling to the bottom.

Kep spoke up. “Can you find me a doctor?”

“Now where in hell would that be?” answered the stranger angrily.

“There must be someone near this place or across the river. Someone who could get me up. I know if someone could see me they would gets me. I know they wouldn’t just let me die.” Kep lost his breath, coughing lightly and holding his side, he sobbed softly, embarrassed of his weakness before a slave.

“If Iz to go across that there river an' scrounge up some doctor help for you, I would be captured and whipped sure as there is a hell. Boy you’d be long dead before help ever got to you.” The man reached into a small leather pouch. He removed a piece of cooked meat. Kep could smell the spices, causing him to gag. “I guess you ain’t gonna be asken for none of my supper is you?” The man chewed heartily.

“You got any water?” Kep asked. The man reached under his coat. He untied a rope with a canteen attached. Turning the top he held it up to the mouth of Kep. Kep slurped at the water, droplets formed at the corner of his mouth. His eyes thanked the man. The black man wiped the top with his fingers, swallowing hard from the canteen. A few months ago Kep would have never thought of drinking from the same container as a black man, and now, well now he was dying, and the prejudice ingrained to him was washed away with the act of a man’s sharing. He now realized there were no lines dividing white and black; a swallow of water baptized the hate from him. Kep sighed but said nothing; the soul of a dying man gains wisdom in seconds after a lifetime of wrongs.

“Where you headin?” asked Kep.

“North.” Said the man. “As fast as my feet can carry this here frame.” He took another swig of water, wiping his lips with a tattered sleeve. “I gots a little money I stole from my master when he done and left the farm I was on. Took some prime meat to. None of dat shit dey serve up to us workers. Yes sir, dis here chicky is the master’s best and I done serve myself to it.” The man took a mighty bite from the meat, tearing at if as if he were a wild dog.

Kep asked, “You got family?”

The man laughed, sounding more like a growl from a wolf about ready to strike. “What family I gots is scattered like the dust from a dead field. My wife sold to a man in Louisiana . My two boys both gone, sold like mules. ”One to Mississippi, the other . . .” The man looked down at the ground. Clouds above parted. Moon light captured tears escaping onto cheeks familiar with pain and suffering. Kep reached out, placing his hand on the man’s boot. “I don’t know where da udder one is. Somebody done told me he was dead.” The man wiped his face. Anger found life in his words. “He might as well be dead, all of us for dat matter. We is dead the moment weze born. Shackled and beaten into doin for udders. Weze only alive so white folks don’t get dere hands dirty. From da beginnin we is treated like scum, doin da work that dat keeps dere hands clean and wealthy!”

A dog in the distance barked. The man hushed his words. His shoulders bent down. Eyes scanned left and right. “I gots to move on.” The words came as a crushing blow to Kep. He knew there was no holding the man, no convincing him to gain help from the city across the river. Certainly threatening the man was beyond consideration.

The man removed the leather satchel from his waist, placing it with the canteen next to Kep. Kep reached out his hand. The shadow of the black man was motionless. Slowly he moved his right hand clasping Kep’s. The man stood. Slowly at first he moved through the brush, until nervousness pushed his feet into fast; his footsteps merged with night like waves blending onto shore.

Retirement by John Grey

He’s grown tired of the big subjects.
Now it’s on to the small achievements.
He will fish.
He will read the sports pages
of the newspaper.
He may even build bird boxes
and nail them to the walls of his house.
Vivid colors need not apply.
He’ll be quite content
with plain brown sparrows moving in,
becoming his chirpy neighbors.
But those with ambition,
with philosophies so huge,
their heads can barely hold them,
can leave his life,
abandon him to the simple tasks
of cutting grass, pruning roses.
Nothing like a breath of fresh air, he says.
He won’t be happy
until everything’s like it.

Possessions by Brenda Ledford

A hospital gown wadded up,
impatiens shedding spicy red petals

like drops of blood
on the waxed floor.

Bottles filling the medicine cabinet,
no longer needed.

The kitchen table scratched
with coffee cooled in a saucer.

A jar of honey on the counter,
beside the sofa, a Bible.

Three packs of chewing tobacco,
a red bandana, overalls

stained with motor oil, flannel
jacket hanging on the doorknob.

Three suits, two white long-sleeved
shirts and ties in the closet.

An empty leather wallet,
social security number inscribed

on metal ID, a Medicare card,
and a 50-year-old photo

of a blonde hugging her husband
dressed in his CCC's uniform.

Orion Rising by Santiago del Dardano Turran

Orion lay upon his side
Beneath a sheet of urban light
Whose fuzzy electricity hides
His form in layers of lazurite.

The secret forms of stars are query
He hunts across the endless plains
With windy arrows whistling mutely
Across the bending cloudy grain.

He rises through the blooming spheres
In nighttime’s gardens velvet petals
Ungnawed by the corrupting years’
Hard unforgiving worms of metal.

But through a lifetime’s many nights
Mankind is dulled by regularity,
And walks on with his narrowed sight
Unconscious to life’s mystery.

My California by Natalie Carpentieri

My California is burning,
and throwing smoke into the air.

It is chasing people from homes
with thick waves of fire
and winds that refuse to relent,
eating away wooden frames
leaving a smoldering, empty foundation.

People in cars speed down highways
behind a wall of black and orange
with no bags packed,
searching for shelter.

My California douses highways and cars
thick forests and beaches
until everything erodes into disarray.

It shakes and thunders,
moves buildings and stadiums,
and everything else that tap dances
dangerously on a volatile fault line.

the heat of the sun in December
and clean, white sand
is nothing like I've ever known.

My California steals pieces of me
cell by cell
breath by breath.
Leaves me hollow and craving.

Seagulls At Sunset

Photo Taken by Amber Rothrock

Scars by Lyn Lifshin

that one shaped like a 7. Bryant Park,
the first slit in the skin you could see
shaped like a 7. It was at the close
of a reading and I wasn’t ready to give
up my mic for a talk by Governor
Rockefeller. In the bar I saw blood
soaking through my wedge wood blue
long dress, stuck to my skin
from where what they pulled from
me boomeranged. I shortened the
dress 12 inches. Then I was scalped,
or nearly. I wasn’t in any war, just on
the way to meet a friend for a film.
I suppose it was poetry that did
me in: I was mailing some ms when
the car behind me slammed into
the car right ahead into a car coming
from the opposite direction. 250
stitches and my amethyst barrette.
Gone. Mummy wrapped. And I adored
the orchid stone. But it wasn’t until
the white gauze came off and I could see
the jabbed barbwire white on a night a
man I still didn’t know, on a night
of a poetry reading I shuddered at what
looked like a knife fell from space
and I was sunbathing under it. That
scar seemed to glow in the bed
room when we turned out the light.
Now I wear my hair over the slash, may
be why I slammed wildly the treacherous,
sharp slate steps and hacked my shin to
the bone. A machete chop on top of
where a suitcase falling made a blood
trail thru the house, bled thru gauze
12 days. Blood poured thru another hall
as skin torn as if sawed, flowed. The
towel couldn’t stop it. The stitches a scar
on top of a scar, a criss cross, rail
road tracks, a gas explosion. More months
of bandages, salves, adhesives, silver
and adaptic. No tights, no stockings, no
mini skirts, no ballet, not even ballroom.
No skin that looks or feels like skin again.

Little Problem by David Hassler

Had little problem putting down
the Tonka trucks to play dolls with
his sister, or the girl downstairs.
Could weave a story just as spicy
as any on Grandmother's soaps.
Made friends sometimes, but no little girl
ever once tried to give him a kiss.

Never heard how to go about catching girls.
Chased them down playground slopes, in
poor poems, into gay clubs, around boyfriends.
Chased them right up to airplane gates.

The good ones steered clear, could smell
the doubt and fear, sour like month-old milk.
A few stuck, by some chance mix
of charm and luck: either messed up enough
that they didn't care, or their own stench
of missionary zeal and fanciful wish
didn't allow for a meaningful sniff.

Nothing lasted -- crumbled like clods of dried earth.
Hoped for years someone would write
"Women for Dummies". Didn't know
he needed to read "Fix It Yourself and Save".

The Afternoon Light In Slanting by Linda Woolven

Chrome legged table
stale mug
morning grind
oil cloth slips to the floor
in weak sunlight.

Tired woman
brown spotted hands,
folds and wrinkles
surround her,
enclose her in age,
she sits longer each day.

unable to remember
why she should move again.

Small breakfast
of few bites
turns to soggy, sour lunch.
Her stomach lurches
fixes her with inevitability.

Her bowels run
in noisy
life emptying spills,

The disease claims
her a little more
each day.

swollen from her own fluids,
a skeleton walking,
mostly sitting,
her surviving hair
pinned loosely,
it comes out grey
and lank,
falls dead
as she too must.

The afternoon light
is slanting,
her ride is here,
the volunteer,
her chemo awaits.

She goes on weak tea
two bites of toast.

Leaves behind
the kitchen
who knows her
so well.

A Poetry Workshop by Jan Gero

What do I care
if she doesn't know
what a Delta breeze
feels like.
With her cocked head
and turned down nose
at everything read
round the table,
she'll never know
that in Sacramento
the rivers
the Delta
hold you
keep you sane.
She'll never lie
in silt and sand
wet with sex
and know the breeze
will come
from the mouth
of the Delta and
carry you


Photo Taken by Elizabeth Parker

Just To Piss Her Off by R.A. Riekki

In college, I dated Mindy for three days. The first day she came over to make gumbo and we kissed hovering over black and red pepper, filĂ© powder, okra. The next day we watched a movie, a Sandra Bullock film that bored us both, her sitting without touching me throughout it. I tried to take her in my arms during the final credits, took her wrist, pulled her to me, but she fought me off. It turned into a wrestling match, very rough, my thigh bruised, her laughing the whole time. I got to hold her for a few seconds, but then she started kicking and broke away. That night, she told me she was a virgin, would be ‘til she was married, if she ever got married. She grew up in Helena and Anchorage. She’s proud of her hair, how shiny it is. The next day she said that we probably shouldn’t date, wouldn’t tell me why. We still talk on the phone. It’s two years later. Neither of us has dated anyone in that time. The phone rings, her number showing up. I tell her I just got another rejection for a poem I sent to an online magazine.

“What’s it called?” she says.

“The poem or the magazine?”


We breathe into the line together.

“I forget.”

We breathe some more.

“I’m working on a novel,” I say.

It’s hot outside, in the high nineties, my ceiling fan broken.

She says, “Don’t write about me. Ever.”

“Don’t worry,” I say, “There wouldn’t be anything to write about. We didn’t do enough for a novel. The best I could do would be flash fiction. And nobody publishes that.”

Strange Music by Elizabeth Swados

Her music is strange
because the pen is a man’s pen
and her fingernails are polished red.

Her music sounds strange
because men in powdered wigs
clanged on harpsichord keys.
While she brushed over the inside strings
with colored feathers.

Her music sounds strange
because when her lovers left her
she didn’t suffer with a bow
over a bridge
in a corset and hooped skirt
but stretched a skin
over a hollowed log
and hit.

Her music sounds strange
because men pulled at symphonies
and cranked up their power
while she wandered the mysteries
listening for whispers.

If her music sounds strange,
it’s because the feminine ear
catches the catch, the breath
between word and word and
builds her violent screams by
collecting centuries of rage for
never being heard.

It is too real.

If her music sounds strange,
it’s because playing by ear
has that raw incendiary quality
that makes black heels tap flamenco,
that makes the keening and wailing at
dark seashores
during storms.
The sound of the voice now, free
once muzzled by a man’s hand
breathing, telling
centuries of stories.
Strange and real.

National Geographic by Alice Beecher

Asleep in the slave deserts of El Salvador
A child is dreaming of tangerines.
He is dreaming of their pulp mashing between his teeth
in aphrodisiac orange,
of the juice humming through his veins
like his sister's cantering whistle
as she beckons the white nosed cattle
with the sword sharp ribs.
He is dreaming of tangerines arriving carelessly
they fumble single file
into sugarcane fields.
He dreams little dirt hands fight
for each concupiscent section,
desperate in animal greed,
their blood running gold in the afternoon heat,
heads screaming wild for the stray nectar
to grace their naked tongues...
But He will not beg the tangerines their vibrance.
He will take hours to suck out their hearts.

Biking Over Bridges by Carol Hamilton

The wooden ones are the best
with their clattery complaints,
the shuddering forward motion,
the gulleys, canals, streams below.
Down there, it may be green
and humming with insects.
As a child, I feared three things:
Nazis at the door, furry spiders
in my bed, and quicksand
under the long metal span
needed to get from somewhere
to somewhere. Bridges are never
for nothing I am saying here,
but it is only an article of faith.
As I pedaled, I used to fear
these passages with their narrowing,
with their sharp turns before
and after, the rises and fallings off.
Now, I sail up and over,
love the railed-in connections
someone thought to prepare for me
well ahead of my need of them.

And. Or. But. by Abigale Louise LeCavalier

Harsh words
only hold meaning
when someone is listening.

I listen a lot.

Fostering frustration
and the heat
of anxiety,
when adjectives and verbs impale me.

I consider myself a noun.

Not the appropriate
inappropriate pronoun.

Nor a conjunction,

It’s important to me;
knowing where I stand.

Even if it puts me
in the corner
I expertly
painted myself into.