Broken Window by Tess Hunt

We broke my heart in places
I did not know could break.

What I’d thought real,
you proved fake.

This glass house
with a broken window,
full of light now,
and ever-aching.

I’ve returned to these words
like a refugee
clambers, red-faced,
back to love,

saying only,
please.


Tess Hunt was born and raised in Los Altos, California. She won first prize in a statewide writing contest in 6th grade, called “Open Up Your Neighborhoods, Open Up Your Hearts.”  She knew she could never possibly top this accomplishment, so she threw her computer out of an (open) second story window and has written by hand in solitude ever since. Her work has been published in Mad Swirl and she pretty much always wants a Diet Coke but is not going to cave. 

2 Poems by Gerald Friedman

Next to Godliness

Even fire—despite insatiability I envy, Hell below, writhing saints above, though it reduces us to catharsis or dusty murmurs, drafts my farts in to strengthen the fuel—will not serve, not while I clean out the ash. Nor will decay—despite waterlilies creaming the sewage-treatment marsh, smells of Stilton cheese and fall, worms trimming in secret, though I’ve twisted metal fasteners back and forth, hypnotized as lichen by its task—not while there are fossils. It will have to be a subduction trench: bottom fish nibble flesh, the floor bears bones down into invisible red heat, to be lost in volcanoes.


Devils

1.
In the most unspoiled desert
he danced, rattled, chanted, until
the person alit, with dry muzzle:
What price for your soul?

I hadn’t thought about that yet.

2.
Barely able to talk, he said,
Burn me again—but why bother?
It’s not like punishment
can take away my sins.

So you still deserve it, right?

3.
Lucifer found he fit in snugly:
a powerful taste for harp,
talent for praise.


Gerald Friedman grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland and now teaches physics at Santa Fe Community College. He’s ready to go back to face-to-face teaching as soon as it’s possible. He has published poems in various journals, recently Rat’s Ass Review, Quatrain.Fish, Panoply, and Entropy.

2 Poems by DS Maolalai

Conifers

conifers pour
down the mountains
and valleys

like honey which drips
to the table from toast.


Sunrise

waking at 6
in the heat
of this butter-stuffed
apartment –
it’s funny; it’s not
so oppressive
at night.

I fold myself
sideways, with my head
on your elbow. like a flower,
closing at sunset, I curl
from the light
of the sun.


DS Maolalai has been nominated eight times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)

2 Poems by Catherine Zickgraf

Disown

I still bleed, cut from her tree.
I’m sick again, I say.
But he tears me out.
Her voice withheld adds years in bed
since the cutting of bond begins.

The bones of my arms are broken.
He blocks me from mom’s phone.
When stems start starving their leaves,
dying is some kind of agony.
But somehow I survive.


Nerve Fibers Do Not Fray Calmly

When ripped from skin,
they first dig in, spreading claws to grab, to stall,
till raw are the marks left behind.

As crabgrass hearts are pulled from lawns,
their root hairs feel the snap,
sending messages to their deaths.

The mind burns alive up from the nerve tips.
Don’t touch them or I will die.


Two lifetimes ago, Catherine Zickgraf performed her poetry in Madrid. Now her main jobs are to write and hang out with her family. Her work has appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, PankVictorian Violet Press, and The Grief Diaries. Her chapbook, Soul Full of Eye, is published through Aldrich Press. 

Watch and read more at www.caththegreat.blogspot.com 

Birds of Negative Space by Berent LaBrecque

(after VM Straka)

We didn’t hold hands
Not really
Just rested our softness in each other’s 
Enjoying the close space between us before it grew into an ocean and a sky
We see everything around it until we see what shape is left by the gaps

When I say the shape looks like New Zealand, I mean
As much as any shape can look like a feeling
It looks comfortable
Safe
The first time I went there, I was so at peace
I’ve spent most of the time since my return trying to go back
I mean
I caught myself smiling and didn’t understand why
Until I looked around 
And saw what could be a home
So when I say you felt like home
I mean I could rest my head in the South Island crook of your neck and shoulder for a long time 
And be happy

Or when I say the shape looks like a bird, I mean
Can we learn their songs for when we do not want to sing our own?
I mean
Do you remember that note you wrote me
The one about how you were having a difficult time staying alive?
The one that ends I hope you’re doing well, sweet bird
Sending you love

I look at it sometimes 
And whistle a bird song
I mean, I look at it sometimes
And whisper to you
across an ocean and a sky
Sweet bird, the world needs your voice
Even if it shakes
Please
Stay alive, and sing


Berent LaBrecque currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he spends most of his time sending love into the universe and also eating snacks. He self-published the chapbook “Sometimes It Rains” in 2017, available from the author upon request. He thinks third person bios are weird, and probably misses you.

3 Poems by Richard Vargas

the 80s

i was a warehouse supervisor for the Bristol Meyers distribution center in Buena Park, flown into Dallas/Ft. Worth for a weekend of meeting big shots from the home office in Connecticut and sitting through boring presentations about improved order picking techniques, safety in the workplace, projected productivity stats. it was mind-fucking torture but i sat there taking notes looking serious and alert. it was a corporate pony show, they were scoping the room for fresh talent, the eager racehorses anticipating the open gate. but some of us had other ideas and at the first chance we ditched the evening’s meet and greet with the director of this or the V.P of that and hit the town with our peers that called the city their home. they took us to Billy Bob’s, the world’s biggest honky tonk, to watch drunk tourists paying to ride real bulls as big as a VW. then we went to a club with obnoxious flashing lights and fake fog creeping onto the dance floor. i bought a few drinks for the perky blonde in our group who worked for the company’s operation in Chicago. we made it a point to not talk shop and she agreed to a dance when Madonna’s video of Like a Virgin played on a 40 ft screen while the place was abuzz with something about Too Tall Jones and Tony Dorsett having just entered the VIP lounge. on the way back to the hotel our host driving the car said she had one more place to show us and then we were on an eerie stretch of road, well-lit but not a car or soul in sight. she stopped in the middle of the street and told us to get out, so i opened the passenger door and stood there in the quiet early a.m. in Dallas, Texas, as she pointed behind us and up at a window in a tall bldg. and explained “that’s where Oswald was when he pulled the trigger.”

a soft whisper said,
“there’s lipstick on your collar.”
i thought, “could be worse.”


the story of my life

she really wanted to go to the White Trash River Fest on Saturday, but i really felt it would be a mistake.

“why?” she asked.

“well, you know. the crowd will be 100% trumpsters, no one will be wearing a mask, they will be packed like drunk sardines acting stupid and shit. i don’t want to be around all that.”

“you know” she said, “your online dating profile didn’t say anything about you being such a wimp. and mine specifically said ‘no couch potatoes.’ all we do is sit around watching movies on Netflix. i want some fresh air. and i want an excuse to wear my new bathing suit.”

“you can wear your bathing suit here, baby. we’ll sit by your wading pool drinking margaritas. i’ll even make your favorite flavor.”

she looked at me, as if she was seeing me for the first time. she was sizing me up, clearly having second thoughts.


the shocking end to the story of my life

so we ended up sitting by the wading pool in the hot summer sun. my feet were in the water, my Kum & Go ice chest full of Old Milwaukee Lite, listening to Johnny Cash on the blue tooth speaker. she was sitting across from me, filing her nails and looking like she’d rather be somewhere else, rubbing shoulders with people waving the confederate flag and screaming “yee haw” while Kid Rock played over the speakers.  i complimented her bathing suit, a mango orange-colored thing that matched the margarita she was drinking. she acted as if she didn’t hear me, and i knew this was the beginning of the end. we had both lied. she had said she was liberal, like me. i had said i was a people person, like her. what i didn’t notice, until it was too late, was the electric fan she had on the plastic K-mart side table next to her folding chair. it was plugged in with the extension cord. when she took her feet out of the pool, and picked it up, holding it over the water, i thought, “this can’t be good…”


Vargas received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, 2010. He was recipient of the 2011 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference’s Hispanic Writer Award, was on the faculty of the 2012 10th National Latino Writers Conference and facilitated a workshop at the 2015 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. His three books of poetry are McLife, American Jesus, and Guernica, revisited. He edited/published The Más Tequila Review from 2009-2015. Currently, he resides in Monona, WI.

2 Poems by Sean Shea

Filter and Resonance

Used to be embarrassed that I had never visited the New England
Synthesizer Museum in Nashua despite having lived in New
England almost two decades overlapping. Probably passed by a
dozen times when I lived in Nashua for a year.

Used to be embarrassed until I saw,

You-tube videos of the place.

When I’d talked to David Wilson on the phone a couple times,
exchanged emails, sold him parts through the mail, made vague
plans to come and see his synth museum someday, you get the
impression that a thousand people bother him to see the
collection.

But until the videos hit the web,

not many had seen it in person.

There would be old timers who had worked for ARP or MOOG
back in the day, still working the vintage repair game and they
would roll their eyes when some buck would mention taking a tour
of David’s Museum.

And none of us Fine Young Cannibals,

understood what they meant behind their resigned chuckles.

Everybody who had worked Daddy’s Junky Music, Caruso, Luca’s
or any of the other houses of rock and roll had some story about
the weird man with the Pokémon shirt and sideburns who came in
and bought something in the shop that had been there for years
and no one In the store knew what it was anymore.

Those music store salesmen don’t talk,

about seeing the rare synthesizer again after that.

Wedged between the Enigma Code man and the guy hawking
LED bulbs, Dave Wilson even did it to my technology toys stand
at the MIT Flea Market, when he came up without petting my pug
dog, Snorkels, and went straight for the Alpha-Syntauri Synth
system on the blanket.

Stroking the keyboard’s wood block sides,

muttering “You will be mine” in some 7 bit language only 1980’s
synths understand.

Last time I saw Dave Wilson he had lightning bolt mutton chops
and was trying, unsuccessfully, to hit on my girlfriend by trying to
see if she was into Pokémon, like really really into Pokémon,
because he was sure there was no way she could be interested in
the Roland synth he had brought to Analog Heaven 2006.

I guess he really was always better

with machines that went boop in the night, than people.

The Video showed 147 keyboard and drum machines and
mellotrons and modular mysteries crammed Scooby-doo into that
few back rooms, so many on their side, few working, less hooked
up to demo, or repaired enough to be a record date like every
visitor hoped of a museum instead of this mess of leaky roof that
could have been repaired by the sale of just one Oberheim
leaning against the wall-tarps..

Stumbling over priceless broken techno toys

making any Soft Cell Boy drool dreams of 24 decibel filters
humming.

Now it is Analog Heaven 2010 and David has been dead for 6
months, I am just finding out, as like everyone I am spinning
fantasies of all the vans heading at break neck speed up route 3
to Nashua trying to salvage any music making treasure off
David’s poor frikkin mother who had to find him.

When you die doing what you love

no one ever asks if it loved you back, they just haggle.

There are people who make art.

There are people who collect art.

Then there are people who collect things.

But David’s compulsion was manifested by keeping the
synthesizers he loved far from the world for decades unheard to a
few brave travelers who love Wendy Carlos more than they fear
black mold and asbestos.

No one really wonders who loved David,

Only cynics assume solder companies.

When I take a look around my room of sound toys too, visited by
so few, I think of the David Wilson Projects that I need to pass on
to better, eager, young-hand homes than museums to thinking
about the same thing day after day of your shortened life and
almost never hitting the record button.

Wonder If anybody really knew him,

that wasn’t controlled by Analog Voltages.

But then again, aren’t we all?


Dear Seth Meyer show and all their writers and staff.

This was going to be a letter about how I admire you and asking for a job, but ain’t nobody got time for that shit now.

You know NBC messed up giving Trump his own hour against Biden on ABC. Maybe none of the work you all are involved in is at the center of the vast NBC Empire but I think you might understand how I feel.

I have been a Late Night Comedy fiend since I got to stay up and watch Kermit the Frog Guest host the Tonight Show. Used to watch it all. Every SNL, Almost every Letterman even if I had to pick up the Friday rerun, constant Conan, Daily Show, etc.

How bad? I even read Chevy Chase biographies. Yes, that is plural and no I am not proud.

If any of the networks want to make this election closer than it rightfully should be, I really can’t take the constant desperation of the news AND consume humor about it. The Seth Meyers Show and Amber’s new show are the last ones left that handle things well enough for me to laugh sometimes. I say this as someone with a Poly Sci degree who has done AV for multiple senators.

I’m not asking your show to stop writing about politics I am desperately asking your network to not make my life worse.

I think if networks don’t realize that possibly there are a lot of people they are going to lose just due to stress then I don’t think they understand comedy.

I’m sure the bitterest writer in the room is pissing themselves laughing at the innocence of that statement and by me calling them out I’m sure someone won 10 bucks.

But I already can’t laugh at Schitts Creeks as an SCTV junkie, or Arrested Development, or any of the other problems of rich white people any more. How long until I can’t even laugh at the problems of people who can afford a house and water? Adversity is material for jokes, not something you inflict on your audience.

I worshiped the timing between Craig Ferguson and Jeff Peterson but this is my first email to a late night program. If someone took 40 years to speak would you listen?

Maybe that’s why this started off as a cover letter. Because trying to laugh along these days takes too much out of me to not want to do something about it.

Sean M. Shea


SEAN SHEA – Was born in Detroit at a young age, but he found a cure in time. From a misspent youth of criminally high library fines, he’s worked his way up from dishwasher to minor chef to major rocks stars, run election campaigns, done the Xerox thing, college graduations, been a scribe, IMAX projectionist, pinball hustler, weapons test broadcaster, worked for the dead, been Akai’s drum machine guru, sold gear to touring acts, been a roadie, and co-founded an award winning pie company. National Poetry Slam Champ in 1996 profiled in the film Slam Nation. Folks tell him stories. Once sat for 3 hrs with a veteran who had seen a Nuclear weapon test. Or the guy who drove over frozen Lake Michigan in 1935. Originator of the Spirit of the Slam award and the canine humor parody twitter @snorkelsthepug B.A. from University of RI and has taught electronic music and film sound.

Unnamed by Dylan Ogden

—and as he stepped off the train, a sudden wave of unreality engulfed him. He looked around to see if there was some external cause for this sensation. Perhaps it was due to the snow, those misshapen globs of matter that were not so much falling to the ground as floating in every which direction, heedless to the immutable law of gravity. As a matter of fact, snow always disturbed him. He had never encountered it as a child, at an age when one’s mind is capable of normalizing almost anything, and now as an adult, it remained something foreign, unknowable.

The snow couldn’t fully account for his present state of mind, however. He felt as if he were…an actor. Yes, an actor tasked with playing some defined role at this exact moment. But what was the role? After all, Shakespeare’s famous aphorism was nothing to get bothered over, but this stage didn’t feel at all metaphorical: somewhere around him there was a carefully constructed plot arc taking place, complete with protagonists, antagonists, script and marketable genre. And although he didn’t think he was one of the principal characters, perhaps his role was meant to provide some allegorical significance. The slightest gesture on his part—a momentary grimace, the doffing off his hat—could be loaded with symbolic meaning. He felt the weight of this responsibility, and without knowing what sort of effect he was meant to convey to the audience, anxiety froze his body in place, preventing him even from wiping away the fat flakes of snow flying at his face. This inaction was also, undoubtedly, significant.

He knew, of course, that all of this was merely an absurd flight of fancy, but he couldn’t put it out of his mind. Scanning the desolate train station, he tried to analyze the other people nearby in an attempt to determine who was the focus of this scene: a group of teens were crowded by the escalator leading down to the street level, evidently in the midst of an animated debate about whether or not ginger beer was alcoholic. Maybe this was a coming-of-age story, and he was supposed to be some indistinct, stodgy adult in the background. That was easy, if a little demeaning. On the opposite edge of the platform stood a woman in four-inch stilettos, mink fur coat, and a cigarette in her mouth, gazing wistfully out into the distance. At least he assumed that she was wistful, because he didn’t have a good look at her face. She seemed to belong in a tragic romance, or possibly a noir mystery. A romantic neo-noir. Should he go up to ask her something? What on earth would he ask?

He shook his head, dismissing the ridiculous notion, along with his whole train of thought about actors and stages and roles. Really, he chided himself, you shouldn’t get so carried away with this sort of nonsense. He made his way towards the exit, passing by the pack of teens who were now considering the hypothesis that ginger beer did have some alcohol, but not enough for it to legally be considered an alcoholic beverage.

Halfway down the escalator, he frowned, realizing suddenly that he couldn’t recall where he was headed. Nor, for that matter, where he had come from. Unreality descended upon him from the sky once again, pressing down on him, pulling him upwards, pushing him from side to side. He stumbled forward, missing the next step of the escalator, and he would have tumbled to the bottom if he hadn’t seized the railing just in time. Was it possible…? No, it couldn’t be. His mind raced, trying to outrun the terrible epiphany that was closing in on him. How old was he? Where exactly had he lived as a child? Oh god, what was his name? They didn’t even give him a—

With his role now concluded, he promptly ceased to exist.


Dylan Ogden is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, focusing on late 20th-century French and Russian literature. As an undergraduate at Kenyon College, he worked as an associate for the Kenyon Review.