- Yesterday’s Coffee by Jon Wesick
- Another Shooting in America by Rp Verlaine
- Out Beside the Trash Compactor by John Tustin
- A Tense Afternoon by DS Maolalai
- Tombstone Tourism by Vali Hawkins-Mitchell
- “a poem for you” by Tohm Bakelas
- Dance Marathon by John Grey
- All These Years by Laurinda Lind
- God’s Smile by Beverly Magid
- Gossake, light, give ‘em some slack by Gabriella Garofalo
- So There Can Be No Confusion by Holly Day
- Fruit by Kelli Simpson
- Day the Mania Died by Marcy S. Wood
- I Never Got to Say Goodbye to the Woman at the Diner Pump by Jen Schneider
Maryann Riker is a mixed-media artist whose artist books and collage works convey a visual narrative to remind one of the past and journeys through which we all travel throughout our lives. Her works incorporate digital images, Victorian iconography, and other symbols to convey a sense of memory and time as one opens and unfolds the work.
Her works have been exhibited both nationally and internationally and are in the Special Collections of: The Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Walker Art Center, the Art Institute of Chicago, The National Museum for Women in the Arts, Yale University, Mills College, University of Iowa, Rhode Island School of Design, Lafayette College, Rutgers University, Newark Art Museum, Newark Public Library and many other private and public collections.
When not creating, Maryann is writing grants, reading mystery or historical fiction novels, practicing to be a wild wannabe or working on becoming a legend in her own living room.
Time takes us to unexpected or surprising places, often without us even noticing. As I set up to launch issue 8, I realize that this marks two full years of Stick Figure Poetry Quarterly. At the start of this project I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no goals or expectations of how I wanted this online publication to develop. I simply wanted to promote and publish some poetry. Now, after two years I am astounded and incredibly grateful to the poetry community nationwide who have liked, shared, posted and promoted the work here in this humble online platform.
In this issue I am beyond pleased to showcase a few voices I know and love from the local and zoom poetry scene: John Wesick and Tom Bakelas. I am also delighted to welcome back several previous contributors who have thrown their hats into our circle a second time, including John Tustin (Last Winter’s issue) as well as cover artist Maryann Riker and poets D.S. Maolalai and John Grey who all contributed to the the issue that first introduced Stick Figure Poetry Quarterly to the world in Spring 2021! As for the rest of the poets in this issue, I am happy to bring you into the Stick Figure Family.
It’s been a fabulous ride so far and I thank everyone who has shown their support. I’m looking forward to another year of this marvelous adventure!
The football player teaches flat-earth theory.
No one listens to me because
even though my ambition rode a slide rule
through fields of trig tables to a career of punch cards
and vacuum tubes, I can’t throw a decent spiral.
It’s a tough game advertising by clay tablet
when applause comes by telegraph (if at all).
And there’s that football player again
hawking extended warranties
in multilevel marketing schemes of romance
leaving me rejected as a quill pen,
disappointed as a steam locomotive,
bitter as yesterday’s coffee
Jon Wesick is a regional editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual. He’s published hundreds of poems and stories in journals such as the Atlanta Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, New Verse News, Paterson Literary Review, Pearl, Pirene’s Fountain, Slipstream, Space and Time, and Tales of the Talisman. Jon is the author of the poetry collections Words of Power, Dances of Freedom and A Foreigner Wherever I Go as well as several novels and short story collections. His most recent novel is The Prague Deception. http://jonwesick.com
The same but
different this time
like the last.
A 19 yr old babysitter
Accidentally shot a ten year old
While taking selfies.
At first critical
the child is expected
to recover. Not so sure
about the 19 year old.
Arrested for a
Second degree felony
Instead of terminal stupidity.
But I would imagine
the prospect of any more
babysitting jobs are grim.
Rp Verlaine lives in New York City. He has an MFA in creative writing from City College.
He taught in New York Public schools for many years. His first volume of poetry- Damaged by Dames & Drinking was published in 2017 and another – Femme Fatales Movie Starlets & Rockers in 2018. A set of three e-books titled Lies From The Autobiography vol 1-3 were published from 2018 to 2020. His newest book, Imagined Indecencies, was published in February of 2022.
I was out beside the trash compactor
Literally shoveling old fetid garbage into bags
Against the wind and under the sun,
Unable to wipe away the sweat from my face
With my hands protected by thin latex gloves
Already torn at the left thumb
With the ants and beetles and spiders scurrying,
Not to mention the American cockroaches that grew
Bigger than my left thumb (fat with the provided sustenance)
That was pressed against the shovel,
Exposed at the base through the torn latex glove
When it occurred to me
In the heat and my heavy breath and advancing age
That at any moment I could die of a heart attack
And the thought of falling into those bugs and infiltrated garbage
Didn’t bother me as much as the guilty feeling
That someone would have to rescue my corpse
And feel worse than I was feeling at that moment
Watching a cockroach well fed and nearly busting
As it crawled sideways away from my shovel
That repeatedly hit the concrete with that shhhht shhhht sound
And the sweat overcoming my eyebrows, making me blind
For a terrifying moment
While the tiny ants climbed the shovel handle
With the determination
Of something clinging to life itself.
John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.
walking the apartment, and room
into room, like wolves in a zoo
through an over-cold
is tuneful – the walls
make no music
but shuffle like pigeons
in a cluster from short
bursts of rain. in corners
dead spiders hang,
in the manner of sea-
buoys and old
conversations. and windows –
no pictures –
no visions of better –
just grey panes with nothing
DS Maolalai has been nominated nine times for Best of the Net and seven times for the Pushcart Prize. He has released two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019). His third collection, “Noble Rot” is scheduled for release in May 2022.
their big stories
now short stories
written by granite authors,
crumbling ruins to silica.
She had no story
and has no stone
but ocean’s sand,
each grain a memorial,
her ashes shifting daily.
Vali Hawkins-Mitchell writes from her office across the street from the Honolulu Zoo, where she also works as a trauma and disaster responder. Her writing has appeared in a number of journals, including) Sky Island Journal, Star82Review, Blink-ink, The Disaster Recovery Journal, and Starship Sloan. For more see: http://www.valihawkinsmitchell.com
twice a month
clean the house
it’s not that i mind doing it,
quite the opposite actually,
i’m just not good at it
sure, i can clean the dishes
and put them all away
in the right spots
and i can vacuum the floors
and stairs with my bissell #2288,
sucking everything up
but often i don’t want to
because all that filth reminds me
of some memory i have of you
like last week, for instance,
you laughed at a joke i told,
and the sunlight shined
so pretty off your teeth
and out of the corner of my eye
i saw a mountain of dead ants
just laying there in dust
beneath the radiator
now in good conscience
how could i clean something
like that up?
Tohm Bakelas is a social worker in a psychiatric hospital. He was born in New Jersey, resides there, and will die there. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, zines, and online publications. He is the author of 18 chapbooks and several collections of poetry, including “No Destination” (Kung Fu Treachery Press, 2021) and “The Ants Crawl In Circles” (Whiskey City Press, 2022). He runs Between Shadows Press.
Ah, there is bold shimmer here,
no walking, just dances,
though dressed to number nine,
it’s like we’re barefoot & naked.
But for stars the night sky would be nothing.
The conductor leaves the podium,
nudges aside the percussionist,
clangs a triangle the shape of my face.
Long streams & whirls,
from the window, sea let loose,
its long face, a yellow wound,
that can’t find the heart.
In common with the floor, the monkey suits etc,
we interrupt darkness to mutate
into long glass stems: our nutrition
is the body & the beat.
Look, movement’s blossoming, she cries.
Mulching, 3/4 time. Man & woman make fire
in queer circles – a body, in proportion,
is willed to keep going.
Roundness & horns has she –
I’m full of redness, damn it.
This is the riotous dance of hell.
The moon, right outside the window, coaxing.
The woman stretches higher,
up on her toes, sparkles.
The power. The ascendency.
She calls it – a death in denial.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline and International Poetry Review.
The first wives in your family
leave you on holidays. They have other
fish to fry. Let’s say one waited
till November when the pies hit
the table to say, Yeah, turkey turkey,
get out. Let’s say one at Easter
cashed all the wedding checks
then ascended, or at least
appeared elsewhere. Let’s say
Christmas left you cold presence
while your wife walked across town
with her tidy suitcase. Let’s say
it was hard on both the walkers
and the waiters, let’s pretend they
progressed and were replaced
since love is such a slippery trout
let’s say the next ones walked, too,
watched the calendar to say,
Today’s the day. Let’s guess one
let all the fascinating fish swim by because
they belong to themselves, and so does she.
Let’s say she stayed, and she made
a self-conscious love
poem for you.
Originally appeared in Bond Street Review
Laurinda Lind lives in New York’s North Country, close to Canada. Some of her writing is in Atlanta Review, New American Writing, Paterson Literary Review, and Spillway. She is a Keats-Shelley Prize winner and a finalist in several other competitions, most recently the Jack Grapes Poetry Prize.
God has smiled on some men,
rain to sweeten the grain, seed to nourish the roots.
To others He has turned away his face.
Forgetting their names, leaving them alone in a strange place,
life heavy on their back, sorrow their only friend.
Why choose between brothers?
Why some babies crowned with joy,
others left to suckle on a stone?
Music plays in all our hearts,
we dance to the same tune,
we eat from the same bowl.
Perhaps there is no God,
We pray to an empty room.
If we are not all worth a second glance
then no one should rest easy in heaven.
Beverly Magid has published three novels, Flying Out of Brooklyn, Sown in Tears and Where Do I Go. Her poems have appeared in On the Bus, Freshwater Poetry Journal, Muddy River Poetry Journal and Super Highway Poetry Revies. She’s a long-time Los Angeles resident, but confesses that her heart still commutes to NYC.
Gossake, light, give ‘em some slack,
Let rocks spring, and water see for herself-
While you are at it, my light, go get
Some nice answers, and throw ‘em ‘round-
Know what? A wannabe Amazon was her mother,
She a dead ashes’ daughter, that girl, yes,
Stranded all over God’s blue land,
Where she madly wishes for blades of light,
Are they God’s fingers? –
But blind stares she gets,
Fallen stars the sky’s eager to bin-
Hey man, hold on! You still falling for those fibs?
Gosh Blimey, it’s just fake news,
See, only the nights are real, those tools
Great for the henchmen
Snared in sweet saintly limbs-
Shame they sting worse than crabs,
Shame we get ‘em blessings ‘n’ food-
And where are words in this whole shebang?
Oh, yes, words, Adam and Eve in the garden,
A nice thingie, sure, the magical touches at the end-
Point is, God, I’m afraid you went bit rogue
When giving them limbs and edges-
And see you what’s happening?
Some lost side shambles losing out,
While Medea gets nothing but her bastard heart,
My name, of course, or a dying woman
Hyped on benny, the nutty lady
The nutty lady who’s gonna get her shot:
Fire or jinx?
Nope, only a demure girl who hides
Behind too many clouds-
Sometimes your mother, sometimes the moon.
Born in Italy some decades ago, Gabriella Garofalo fell in love with the English language at six, started writing poems (in Italian) at six and is the author of “Lo sguardo di Orfeo”; “L’inverno di vetro”; “Di altre stelle polari”; “Casa di erba”; “Blue Branches”; “ A Blue Soul”.
Ancient people used to look at the stars
speculate on the activities of gods, invent
elaborate stories to explain reoccurring weather patterns
flu epidemics, parasitic infections. They mentioned their deities
by name in their books, carved them into stone
added them to family crests and personal genealogies.
Modern people look at ancient structures
speculate how each particular building
glorified a region’s assigned god. Children’s toys and household artifacts
are also connected to this god in this way of thinking
or some neighboring, invading god
imparting special significance to important kitchen utensils
pressed clay ashtrays and experimental musical instruments.
Before I die, I must remember
to leave nothing behind that can be linked
to the collective belief systems of my neighbors, of this town.
When they finally excavate this house
from the compressed piles of pillowy, volcanic ash
or the silty build-up of disintegrating trash brought by years
of spring tides and glacial migrations,
or half-wedged between boulders shaken loose by earthquakes
ideally, I would like those future archaeologists to believe
I worshiped my cat.
Holly Day’s writing has recently appeared in Analog SF, The Hong Kong Review, and Appalachian Journal, and her recent book publications include Music Composition for Dummies, The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body, and Bound in Ice. She teaches creative writing at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and Hugo House in Seattle.
When none of the fruit was forbidden,
I tasted as I pleased,
but none of it pleased me.
It was too easy.
And when some of the fruit was forbidden,
I got tangled in my choice
for the choicest piece
and couldn’t eat.
But when all of the fruit was forbidden,
I fell fast to the feast.
More left me hungry.
Less left me replete
and choking to chew and swallow
another sickly sweet
seed and slice
of rich, ripe vice.
I’m no wiser than Eve.
Kelli Simpson’s work has appeared in Lamplit Underground, Green Ink Poetry, One Art Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. A mother, poet, and former teacher, she makes her home in Norman, Oklahoma.
It is a mother’s morning on a Monday.
They are fourteen, eleven and nine. Poptarts are fine.
Guthrie and Lauer report the day’s headlines.
Summer is in decline. They change the TV screen,
A Night at the Museum, it is August 11th, 2014.
The day begins with dark Arabian.
I sit and sip and list today’s plan:
synchronized swimming, club soccer kits,
the eldest in fits, she has Irlen syndrome,
pick-up perscrips, then bring the kids home.
I have an appointment I cannot miss —
with my therapist. Just yesterday,
I wanted to drive into a busy intersection
against the stop light with a dark intention,
my children oblivious to my imperfection.
Not today, anyway, they are my salvation.
I look into his blue eyes and tousled hair.
She lights-up her heart-shaped face towards
her momma bear. The fourteen year old
texting something of life or death
with her BFF, she’ll need me tomorrow
when they are enemies over OneRepublic.
And then I sit on a chair, across from Dr.
Everhere. My frayed wad of tissues
are filled with tears. He is gone.
The man who was Popeye & Doubtfire.
Mork from Ork placed in my hometown,
he played soccer at Claremont-McKenna.
That was my husband’s playground.
He was teammates with my brother-in-law,
they had a fancy dinner in a hallowed-hall,
binding of dead poets watching them dine
on gold croquettes. A knife slipped and
peas escaped off a too full plate onto the
table space. And he jumped-up with hairy arms,
like a Patch Adams clown, and shouted:
“Run, Run, Be Free!” Be Free
Marcy S. Wood, MA, loves hiking and yoga. She lives in Ouray, CO and began working remotely before it became a thing. Her poetry was nominated for the AWP Intro Journals Project in 2022. This fall, she debuts two poems at I Become the Beast and Rat’s Ass Review. Her work is considered bold and authentic. She writes with a wooly Bern-Newfie at her feet. Find out more at marcywood.com
- she pulled two shifts. six days a week, most nights, too. her lug-heeled soles fed & fueled souls. some more well-heeled than others. a mix of irregular regulars & interstate transients. everyone eats.
- she’d grill cheese on toast. white. whole wheat. rye. cook eggs in pans. poached. scrambled. sunny side up. on muffins. often with cheese. mostly cheddar. & walk non-concentric circles to & from soda fountains to gas pumps.
- she pumped egg cream sodas with her right hand. gasoline with her left. filled froth to upper rims. of glass fountain soda carafes. from tanks. with fuel.
- filled vessels of sugar. milk. cream. eggs. octane. premium. all systems topped. off. all systems on. always.
- she knew customers by name & cravings by patterns of consumption. halves of corned beef & a cups of tomato. packs of marlboro (sometimes camel) & x-large regulars. three rolls of life savers. cherry. butter rum. licorice.
- careful to moderate for concerns of constipation (milk & dark chocolate by the bar). calories, too, some needed to watch sugar. others lacked vitamin c. several preferred the red vinyl booth in the back. first come first serve. a few had a liking for a stool at the counter. often spinning. the pumps often boasted long lines. all wheels equally symmetric.
- never one to complain or refrain, the diner was always open. us regulars took note of daily specials, jukebox tunes, & price variations. most of us keenly aware of stock shortages. habits hard to break.
- customers & curious characters would line up at glass paneled doors. all paths lead to the register. nickels trailed quarters. heads battled tails. all coins stacked.
- the front register always an opened or closed proposition. either or. no middle space. in rhythm with the rotations on the menu. closed pierogies. open faced turkey & stuffing. the hum as heavy as the topics. as contemplative as the chews. the slurps as heavy as the eighteen wheelers out back. the drivers equally contemplative.
- the neon welcome sign blinked at regular intervals. blinking as common as the daily special. coffee makers. percolating. oven lights. clocking. broilers. egg timers. twenty-four hours a day. seven days a week. she’d check all batteries. confirm all settings. never time to switch flicks to off.
- always meals to make. batter to scramble. Pies, apple, cherry, coconut cream, to bake. pumps to prime. turkeys to brine. cards to process. amex often an issue. mail to manage. costs pressing as much as waistlines. belts in and out of style.
- until the seasons turned & the mail made for more than mealtime conversations. collections open or shut propositions. no middle space. more murky than the ingredients in the daily special. stewed tomatoes. stewed sentiments. paper over pepper. numbers over noodles. deadlines over desserts.
- she was always careful to count change in coins (nickels, dimes, quarters). pennies in a donation pot. give one. take one. less careful to count change of years (decades). wrinkles hidden under a garbage bag. spot one. times two.
- even if we noticed the subtle changes – extra char, misplaced milk, forehead rimmed of line & sweat, lips still cherry red, i wonder what we could.should.would have done.
- i worry we’d simply continue to consume. eggs over easy. slices of banana cream pie. extra cool whip. bottomless cups of snap.crackle.pop. extra cream. always craving.asking.hankering for extras. consuming. napkins. ice. words. time. none of us aware that time was not on the menu.
- in the end, the menu turned as stale as the bags of bread. stale loaves stacked & stocked behind freshly locked doors. the station closed when the town was sleeping. & never (re)woke. hefty ziplocs on the right. hardy boy knockoffs on the left. red bar stools. still spinning. by the curb. twenty dollars a pop.
Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Recent works include A Collection of Recollections, Invisible Ink, On Habits & Habitats, and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups. She is the 2022-2023 Montgomery County (PA) Poet Laureate.