- Candles by Paul Corman-Roberts
- Mighty Asian Woman by Nancy Whitecar
- Police Convention by William Doreski
- Irrational Thoughts by Tara Tasse
- Confession by Hank Greenspan
- The Orderly Knife and Fork Drawer by Brian Cummings
- Coffee Cavalry by T J Barnum
- Cookies by Bobby Parrott
- One Perfect Day by Regina Lobaccaro
- Pissant by Kate Maxwell
- Chopped Egg and Onion by Kate Meyer-Curry
- Categorically Yin and Yang By Colin James
- The Journal by Dick Narvett
- Plague Song By R C deWinter
Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn. He is a sculptor, painter, writer, book dealer, photographer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in the USA and Europe and he has had 9 one man shows including several retrospectives of his sculpture. His work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York University, The Guggenheim Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum, The Albright-Knox Art Gallery & The Allen Memorial Art Museum. Since 2006 His paintings, drawings, photographs and collages have been published in over 250 on line and print magazines. He has received three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two Creative Artists Public Service Grant (CAPS) two Pollock-Krasner grants, two Adolph Gottlieb Foundation grants and, in 2010, he received a grant from Artists’ Fellowship Inc. in 2017 & 2018 he received the Brooklyn Arts Council SU-CASA artist-in-residence grant.
So much in the news this past year or so has been about dividing people into categories and watching them collide, that it seems to make sense for the poems in this issue to have emerged exploring groups and classifications. I didn’t start out with this as a concept for the issue, but watched it emerge and solidify as I selected poems. I saw everything from the conceptual belonging of wax molecules in Paul Corman-Roberts’ “Candles,” to the small family group reflected in Kate Meyer-Cutty’s “Chopped egg and Onion” and Brian Cummings’ “The orderly Knife and Fork Drawer.”
As I progressed and thought more about what these poems said, I realized that we have been watching a sort of mass labeling in our society, stereotyping people based on a number of different aspects of what makes us all individuals. But individuals cannot be summed up easily by filtering them into predefined groupings. Not only have we failed to eradicate the racial and ethnic and religious stereotypes, but we have broadened the scope to include citizenship status, chosen professions, political party affiliation and many basic belief systems and ideologies.
But we can’t forget that even though we may well fit into certain packages, we are all unique inside that package. If human beings were cookies, we would be a variety pack and you can’t possibly know what you’re going to find until you dig in and open the wrapper. As illustrated in Dick Narvett’s “The Journal,” it’s not so easy to understand the unique intricacies of someone and the battles they fight inside, even when you’re close to them.
Do you know why candles are so cool?
When you look close at them, they look like the number one
as if they represent a singularity
when in fact they require three components to function:
wax, wick and flame. Mostly wax.
So much wax in fact, that the wax molecules inside the candle
look around and all they see are a bunch of other wax molecules
that look like they do for the most part.
So they declare their sum total to be wax:
“We look like wax, we act like wax, therefore we are wax.”
But someday they will figure out they are a candle.
Someday they will begin to hear rumors of an impending flame.
Then one day the flame will get close,
and the molecules will discover they can do things
they did not believe they could do.
They will separate from their neighbors and communities.
They will function at velocities they had not dreamed possible.
They will find their lives have become more fluid,
and accordingly, they will find their own levels
before becoming part of the flame
which somehow got to be so much larger than the wax.
And if you think this story is about candles,
then you’re still just part of the wax.
Paul Corman-Roberts is a poet, organizer and teacher from California. He dreams of reciting poems and singing songs to petroglyphs. His full length collection of poems Bone Moon Palace (Nomadic Press, 2021) is due out in July.
The silver-haired woman leans
on a signpost at the street corner.
Her assailant is carried away
on a stretcher.
He punched her on a whim;
she fought back as a reflex.
He’s taking a ride to the hospital.
She faces the camera and cries.
Her wail is low and feral.
her face, puffy and bruised.
Pain is illustrated in purple and red:
her swollen eye still bleeds.
We need an interpreter
who understands her words.
There is no interpreter
who understands him.
Nancy Whitecar is a pianist who lives, performs, and teaches in the Bay Area, CA. She grew up in the midwest, has raised a family, and now live far from where she ever thought she’d end up. She has been writing short fiction and poetry all of her life.
At the police convention
our badges glitter like fool’s gold.
The crowd roils with tidal force.
We’re so glad we’re imposters,
our lack of respect for the law
secreted from glands and nodes
in discreet parts of our bodies.
No one questions our presence
because no one’s sober enough
to notice that our sidearms
are cheap plastic toys molded
in China’s famous sweatshops.
Thick men brag about drilling
their prey with a single shot
or instantly felling with chokeholds
men almost equally savage
but lacking the requisite badge.
We listen while sipping tonic
minus the gin. We erase ourselves
and replace our expressions with
creatures we’ve seen photographed
miles deep in Pacific troughs.
We browse exhibits of truncheons,
web belts, flashlights, tasers, cans
of pepper spray. A tailor
offers dress uniforms so sleek
we’re tempted to place an order.
Later at the banquet someone
will splash into her soup and drown.
Someone else will choke on his salad.
Collateral damage—can’t be helped.
When we leave, the parking lot
will embrace us, dark enough
for even the most heinous crime,
for which we’ll be so grateful.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.
why do we suck our wounds?
our first impulse
to put an impaled finger
into our mouths
bringing our weakness back to ourselves
holding it close
lips tightly wrapped around it
as if that makes it better.
I read in the bible
some metaphor of
how we go back to our sins
like a dog back to vomit
we hide and tuck them away
keeping them just for ourselves
points and daggers sinking in
as we close our arms around them
we can’t escape ourselves
there’s a glimmer in a mirror
a thud under the floorboards
we try to block the sound
but it gets louder and louder
no thought goes left unnoticed,
no impulse unchecked,
a constant battle
fighting the animal within
with your own brain’s
Tara Tasse is a teacher and writer. Her debut poetry collection Black Stones explores motifs of mental illness and resiliency. Her first traditionally published short story can be found on the Two Sister’s Writing and Publishing website. She also shares snippets of her work and book reviews on her Instagram account @tarareadsandwrites. When she is not trying to inspire the next generation of writers she can be found at home with her partner, dog, and son.
OK, I admit it.
I’m a socialist anarchist God-darning
baby-killing demon, and I want to
eat your guns.
And after that I will cancel
your bowling trophies, flagpoles, lawn ornaments,
cement frogs and other water features
that I find offensive. Because frogs suck
I’m targeting your heritage, your family,
and your lunch, so you better
mind your back, buddy, better mind your front,
buddy, better mind your mind, Charlie,
cause I can make you sleepwalk naked to Arby’s
while whistling Dixie
Trust me, you can’t trust me,
I’m as dangerous as they come.
I put the onus in coronus
and I’ll gag you with a mask
that I dipped in diptheria high dose vax
I’m the fungus in your lungus
I’m a Chinese Muslim chink
in you armor where I’m coming
up your plumbing. So I wouldn’t brush my teeth
or stop to get a drink.
I’m there, waiting.
*Previously published in Rat’s Ass Review Winter 2020
Henry (Hank) Greenspan is a playwright, poet, and psychologist emeritus at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. My poetry and prose has appeared in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Tablet, Forward, multiple academic journals, and two non-fiction books. My plays have been presented at more than 300 venues worldwide. For more particulars, http://www.henrygreenspan.com.
The knives, forks and spoons
stacked each with its own kind, neatly.
A plea for relief from the cacophony
of siblings in an overcrowded, one bathroom home,
of arguments, loud and insubstantial as air,
but weighty with the bitterness left behind.
Of parents not being the one each remembers,
screaming with glances everyone could hear.
One washes, one dries, one takes out the trash.
That was the best job.
Alone, swallowed by the country dark.
Fireflies erratic, shooting stars I can touch,
smells from the orchard, fresh fruity apples,
from the chickens, earthy and full of promise.
Noises too, some subtle some not,
breaking the moment.
Time to go in.
No dryer ever followed suit.
Knives, forks and spoons all helter-skeltered in the drawer.
Until I dried again.
Brian Cummings is a retired public relations executive. He started his career as a reporter for a major market newspaper and switched to public relations early in his career. He has written two cookbooks and numerous articles, press releases, and speeches. Three of his poems have been published in the Ariel Chart International Literary Journal. He and his wife, Maureen, live in Allen, Texas.
I’m the kind of person who, when in trouble,
stares in the distance for the cavalry.
They will crest the horizon any second.
Yet I doubt most everything else, not the least
of which I never expect a good cup of coffee.
I spent years searching for a competent barista
and a husband who knows how to use
a French press. I say to my spouse,
“How do you do that?” By which I mean,
“God, how do you do that?”
Because the miracle of a great cup of coffee
is just so damn amazing and wonderful
and like a really good book or competent
barista, not all that common.
Who knows how long we’ll have good coffee?
What with climate change, geopolitical
infighting and a market glut of questionable brews.
Maybe the cavalry will bring a French press
and several pounds of Columbian
when they come galloping over the horizon.
Or maybe they’ll just bring one good book.
Not the usual baggage for cavalry
traveling full bore toward an unsuspecting
coffee house bent on carnage and rescue,
accompanied by an upbeat musical score.
But a miracle is a miracle.
If we can have a really great cup of coffee
and a delightfully good read,
we can certainly posit an enlightened cavalry.
God knows there are times
we could use all three.
T J Barnum’s poetry, short stories, short memoir and creative non-fiction have been published in literary journals and webzines, including ‘Rivet: The Journal That Risks,’ ‘Better Than Starbucks,’ ‘The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature,’ ‘The Moon Magazine’ and others. A military veteran, her professional career also includes extensive work in the non-profit sector as well as editing for a small publishing house in Pittsburgh.
The red foil package with the cookies inside
Sits on the shelf at the store with all the others,
And I know it is an enemy to my healthy regimen;
But I hear the little voices gently crooning my name,
Their crispy crunchy cookie bodies all nestled together,
Oatmeal wafers held fast to one another by creamy filling,
And I imagine their surrender as I pulverize them squishy
Between my teeth, their sopped milk releasing in waves
Of cool sweetness the nutty texture inside my mouth.
So I pull them down into my basket and tell myself,
Tucking them between the celery and the mushrooms,
That I will only have one at a time, so they will last.
But later from my bedroom I hear the unmistakable chant
From one of them in the sealed package on my pantry shelf,
And soon the lone singer is joined by the others in chorus,
The crumbly collective intent on wooing me down to the kitchen
Where I’ll tear open the red foil package and pour the milk
And feel the cold bubbles gurgle and dance around my fingers.
Bobby Parrott was probably placed on this planet in error. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, this Poet’s universe frequently reverses polarity, slipping his meta-cortex into the unknowable dimensions between breakfast and adulthood. In his own words, “The intentions of trees are a form of loneliness we climb like a ladder.” Poet, musician, photographer, and teacher, he currently finds himself immersed in a forest-spun jacket of toy dirigibles in ascension, dreaming himself out of formlessness in the chartreuse meditation capsule called Fort Collins, Colorado, where he lives with his houseplant Zebrina and his wind-up robot Nordstrom.
(Written after a picnic at Rockford Park)
The best of friends,
Hoola Hoops, Pogo Sticks,
Scuzzy Frog and Socco Stories.
Bug Spray, a great day.
Abundance of food,
Paper plates, Cape May fudge,
Water bottles, a few beers.
A circle of chairs, handmade shoes.
Under the shade of green trees.
Little silly flies,
A bit annoying,
Lost to the laughter
Of sharing our stories.
One day of perfection.
One day we went back.
To our youth at the park.
Shared memories of music and peace.
Friends lost but still loved (though deceased).
Laughter, tears, joy.
A circle of warmth in this place.
“Who played in what band?”
“They just needed someone to play bass.”
As my eyelids grow weary,
I at such peace with today.
I will sleep well tonight.
And dream of…
Apple pie moonshine, Hoola Hoops, a circle of friends,
Home-made wine, Socco stories, friends still loved but deceased.
Gina Lobaccaro is a retired teacher who wires short poems. Her Current projects include writing a book based on her life and her work teaching in a prison. She loves photography, travel and time spent with her granddaughter.
This Saturday of shining grass
and yawning cat
shimmers about my hair
as I weigh down the paper
old version, once wood pulp
with coffee cup and frown.
A ball of brown-beaned warmth
at the cusp of my neck
is my sigh, my breath
a sieve to filter melancholy.
Black ink presses into elbows
thoughts. Words, capitalised
or ugly bold, splutter forth
of angry souls with flags
and flame, who stare into
foreign lens, hear only
explosions, breathe only dust.
I deny the world its news
flip over to the lifestyle section
new restaurants, ways to dress
and think, yet my pulse still hums
along that headline shot
of crumpled bodies in logo
surrounded by rubble.
There’s a tree in the photo
gangly as a teenager
in the middle of the street.
surviving the explosion
with a rooted grim resistance
that the dead boys
thought was theirs.
Now, a plum-bottomed ant
scuttles up the wooden
table leg, flickering on paper’s
edge. I blow it off
not bothering to watch it fall
as I shake the pages clean
and return to my shining
Kate Maxwell has probably been a teacher for way too long. As a result, her interests include film, wine, and sleeping. She lives in Australia, where it really is way too hot. Kate writes because it’s the cheapest therapy she’s found and will continue to write because nobody’s actually stopped her yet. https://kateswritingplace.com/
Families are like onions; their thin skin
Sheds at a touch to reveal the viscera of
Veined layers, holding their dense core
Close against the blade’s intrusion. Cut too
Deep and your eyes will sting as you wince
At their bite-back: my mother’s family was
Sliced right down its middle by my uncle’s
Hasidic conversion and, to some, the split
Was final; that was that. Thus decreed the
Elders, rooted in the Church of Scotland
Who retreated behind its walls in silent
Disapproval when he left its fold. That was
Their Covenant. So we have lived, divided,
For two generations. Or so it seemed, that is,
If you just saw the onion’s taut surface skin,
Enclosing each tradition from mutual incursion:
Yet it transpired that family blood still flowed
Between uncle and my mother, creating a
Cohesion that healed the rift. Our family
Photo albums (and there are many) show
The proof; my mother and I, front row
At nieces’ and nephews’ weddings, me with
Cousins who are like siblings, with their
Children and now grandchildren; attested
By shared Scots holidays or daughters
Named for their aunt, my mother. If you look
More closely at each half of this split onion,
As I have, and observe its mandorla form,
You realize that it is the vescia piscis, the
True nexus of our family’s intersection; a
Natural growth accommodating its altered
Form. As elders pass, the old commandments
Which stonewalled us have crumbled, letting
Bricked-up secrets see daylight. It is
Witnessed, in my presence at the shabbos-table
As my uncle dices an onion, mixing it with
Egg and oil, creating a new cohesion from
Rough-chopped slivers of past disparities.
Kate Meyer-Currey was born in 1969 and moved to Devon in 1973. A varied career in frontline settings has fuelled her interest in gritty urbanism, contrasted with a rural upbringing. Her ADHD also instills a sense of ‘other’ in her life and writing.
Publications include:County Lines (Dancing Girl Press, forthcoming 2021),Family Landscape: Colchester 1957 (Not Very Quiet. 2020), Invocation (Whimsical Poet, 2021), Dulle Griet, Scold’s Bridle, Recconnaissance,(RavenCageZine,2021), Fear the reaper, (Red Wolf Journal, 2021), Stream: Timberscombe (A River of Poems, 2021), Not so starry night (SheSpeaks, 2021), Dimpsey (Snapdragon, 2021), Mask (Disquiet Arts, 2021), Magnolia Stellata (Constellations, Literary North, 2021), Challenge (Poetry and Covid, March 2021)Cailleach (SageWoman, forthcoming) Dregs (Seinundwerden,forthcoming), Gloves (MacroMicroCosm, forthcoming), Phases of the Moon (Hags on Fire, forthcoming), Anthem for the Contaminated (TrainRiver, forthcoming), Hilly Fields (Pure Slush, forthcoming), Scorpio rising (Noctivagant Press, forthcoming), Maman Brigitte (Albany Poets, forthcoming),To the manse (Dunbar, 2019) (Young Ravens, forthcoming), Scrapheap Challenge (Handyuncappedpen, forthcoming), New perspective (Planisphere HQ, forthcoming), Daffs (Blue Heron Review, forthcoming), Kintsug (Aurora, Kira Kira, forthcoming), Supplication to the Morrigan, Wolf Ridge, (Quail Bell, forthcoming), Tessellation (Quillkeeper’s Press, forthcoming),
The Taoist who had an office
above my auto repair shop
spoke in an Irish brogue,
answered to the name of Heffernan.
His clients, mostly court appointees,
descended the metal spiral stairs
shaking their heads and muttering,
“An increase in coherence, complexity
is implicit as the universe evolves.”
Only the most resolute returned
complaining about the long delays,
and not averse while waiting impatiently
as to the possibility of an oil change.
Colin James has a couple of chapbooks of poetry published. Dreams Of The Really Annoying from Writing Knights Press and A Thoroughness Not Deprived of Absurdity from Piski’s Porch Press and a book of poems, Resisting Probability, from Sagging Meniscus Press.
short fragments of his life.
Pain and confusion exposed
Page by page
a portrait slowly grew,
one barely recognized.
Not our son.
in retrospect we see
beyond the reality we made
to his truth.
Dick Narvett retired from a life in international business and independent film acting. He currently lives in rural Pennsylvania, where he writes flash fiction and poetry.
they did not go gentle into their goodnights
nor did they rage
as lungs collapsed and organs failed
they lived their last in private hells
filled with the whirring of soulless machines
punctuated by squawks of electronic angels of mercy
there’s no romance in these leavetakings
leaking from the secret pockets of their hearts
mouths stoppered with tubes tell no tales
now an indistinguishable swell washes over us
a soft wave of sorrow and regret
our days are haunted by the voices of the dead
RC deWinter’s poetry is widely anthologized, notably in New York City Haiku (NY Times, February 2017), Coffin Bell Two (March 2020), Winter Anthology: Healing Felines and Femmes, (Other Worldly Women Press, December 2020), Now We Heal: An Anthology of Hope, (Wellworth Publishing, December 2020) in print: 2River, Event, Gargoyle Magazine, Meat For Tea: The Valley Review, the minnesota review, Night Picnic Journal, Prairie Schooner, Southword among others and appears in numerous online literary journals.