The Menu Options Have Changed by Mike Puican

That’s not a naked man in your kitchen.
That’s a naked man in your kitchen making you lunch.

These are the bright, sharp gladioli leaves
of now.

Let’s call it a pattern to make it sound familiar.

“Come on, throwing yourself against the window
is better than folding the laundry?”

You place a hand on my shoulder
and say, “Sweetheart, you’re a mess.

But you won’t be a mess forever.”


Mike Puican’s debut book of poetry, Central Air, was released by Northwestern Press this August. He has had poems in Poetry, Michigan Quarterly Review, and New England Review among others. He won the 2004 Tia Chucha Press Chapbook Contest for his chapbook, 30 Seconds and was a member of the 1996 Chicago Slam Team. He teaches poetry to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men at the Federal Metropolitan Correctional Center and St. Leonard’s House in Chicago.

Battering Ram by Marc Tweed

Norma can’t find my name. With her eyes fixed hard on my face, she searches bright, empty corridors, digs along pebbled shorelines stippled with geysers of lavender brush, feels under the seat cushion of a grounded ski lift in summer. I point to the snack on the table next to her bed. It’s Ron, it’s no bother. Let’s eat. She forms an empty cavern with her mouth, lips stretched purple. I spoon up something butterscotch and she squeezes my forearm when I stand to leave. Dan’s crew cut is outrageously overgrown and he curses me when I walk into his room, says I’m AWOL. I laugh and tell him the barber’s plane was shot down over St. Louis. His eyes go wide as he exclaims I knew it! and considers the bowl of pretzels I brought. His roommate murmurs maple syrup in his sleep as I steal past. Sigrid says here comes the big boss when I carry her sewing tray in with what new supplies they could muster in Rec. She props up on elbows and swings skinny legs out from her bed in excitement. I get her settled in her chair and refill her water as she sorts through the spools and swatches. I get on the half-full bus and find a seat toward the back. I watch the blocks of people and taverns and corner stores pass glistening in a new rain. A man has an argument with the driver. He marches down the length of the bus and turns to me, holding a live pigeon. My eyes refuse his face, his hands are dirty clutching the bird, his pants are unzipped. He throws the pigeon at my head and it explodes away from us and someone on the bus yells hey! The man says to me, spitting, you know what, motherfucker? I squeeze past him and get off ten blocks early. The neon sign in the window asks me in and I agree. I sit at the bar next to a woman in a tube top. I put my face in my hands and through my fingers all I can see is the deep red countertop, as clean and delicious as a nightmare.


Marc Tweed is a self-taught painter, writer, and musician living in the Pacific Northwest. His work explores themes such as alienation, catastrophe, real-life monsters, and elements of nature – often all at once. Marc’s story, Senescence, appeared in Potato Soup Journal in 2020 and he’s working on a collection titled Seasick on Land: Stories by Marc Tweed.

Behind Painted Houses by Catherine Coundjeris

White sails in the harbor
Crack the water’s placid surface.
As the fiery sun burns the
Red skin of naked bathers
Stretched on clean decks.

Fallen leaves gather in pools
School buses grind their engines
And children clutching lunches
Of bread and pear climb on.
While the corn husks lie, forgotten…

Until the geese come.
Their mournful voices cry on the icy air.
Troubling bare fields
Calling for hunted mates
Whose blood stains the mud-splattered lab.

Rain cleanses the aging earth
Forming tear drops on daffodils
Then the balmy breeze sways
And giddy hearts beat free
While sheets hang on lines behind painted houses.


A former elementary school teacher, Catherine has also taught writing at Emerson College and ESL writing at Urban College in Boston.  Her poetry is published in literary magazines, including The Dawntreader, Visions with Voices, and Nine Cloud Journal.  Catherine is very passionate about adult literacy. 

3 Poems by Susy Crandall

If I Forget

If I forget you, beauty,
if I forget the touch
of your breath upon
my cheek

If I forget you, beauty,
the glint of life
within your eyes

Send me
wind and rain
send me newly born
leaves, baby green

If I forget you,
if some yet
steals my heart
and turns it to stone

Send me blue black skies,
stars that sparkle
with knives
Send your wind and rain
thunder and lightning
Chase me
with rainbows.


Mercy

I murdered you today.
It was for your own good.
I pressed the softest
couch pillow
over your
face gently,
so gently.

My only selfish motive,
the heartbreak and rage
of watching
you suffer
month after
month.

You did not fight or struggle,
and when I lifted the pillow
three seconds later, I told you

you are dead now.

Thanks, you said,
gently sarcastic.

I’m not worried, I said.
It was a mercy killing.


Untitled

My feet crunch on the ash and cinders
of my end, this world’s end.
I walk as though I am still alive
as though this world still lives
and breathes, apparent life
rushes everywhere footed
on cinder and ash.
My desperation sees yours,
yours sees mine, we
say nothing, to speak
to it raises only blame
and pointless effort. What
will be born is beyond
our control, what will
survive the birth pangs
refuses to be named.


Susy Crandall has been published in the Fixed and Free Anthology in 2011, 2015, and 2018.  She has also been published in Adobe Walls and the Mas Tequila Review.  She still writes the occasional poem when the frenzy seizes her.

PURR by John Tustin

I remember a good night
Not too many years ago.

I was alone in that apartment I had
At the time my dad was helping me pay the rent
So I could see my kids every other weekend

But this was a Monday night
So I didn’t have the kids.

I wasn’t really alone
Because the cat was there.
I was scheduled to be off on Tuesday.
It was about five in the afternoon
And I was already on my way to getting drunk

When I got a phone call
And unexpectedly had to do some work stuff.
Since I was off the next day I wasn’t expecting it.

Suddenly I felt really drunk
But I did it –
I typed the order into the computer
And I sent it, as if magic,
From my computer to some other computer
That was going to turn what I typed
Into boxes of cookies and crackers
That would go on a truck
And arrive at a store thirty-six hours later.

Like I said – as if magic.

I sat at the table in the corner
Of the living room,
Hoping I did everything correctly,
The beer coursing through me.
Worrying about it.
Worrying about it and worrying about everything.

I went to the kitchen and got another beer.
I came back and sat down
And the cat jumped up,
Banging her head into my shoulder,
Rubbing her face against me,
Wanting some love and attention.

I gave her head a scritch
And I stopped worrying for a minute
As she purred
And I poured.


John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals in the last dozen years. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.

2 Poems by Fabrice Poussin

Discovering her Death

The old one could not pry himself from the corpse
so beautiful was her aura, so warm in the bluish ice.

Leaning upon the oaken stick a father once made
he still felt the pain of tiny explosions in his limbs.

So his muse would begin to decay within the shroud
perhaps even her scent might degenerate to a stench.

It had been forever since he first caressed her hips
confounded to one in the melting passion of harmony.

Now he contemplated his beloved and pondered
what he would make of the upcoming light to come.

Still she laid not unlike queens under the thick glass
of museums lost among the disrespectful crowds.

He may have cried the loss of his distant ecstasies
instead he chose to remain in the embrace of her death.


Pulse

The animal is hard at work pumping and flexing in the cage,
dispatching the language of passions to all parts.

The brain is lazy today, and maintains a stiff attitude,
closing the door to incoming messages.

Tension will rise until a fighter wins the bout;
Mr. Smith will just have to wait for the morrow to invent.

Nothing will be catalogued, sorted, edited, composed and corrected;
the world will be a mass of color, sounds, aromas, and sensations,

inform until the peace returns and the two rascals inside
come to terms and agree that for life to be, there too must be an art.


Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and many other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review as well as other publications. 

Gently Used Boat, Motor, and Trailer by Niles Reddick

I drove the dirt road around the lake, where family cottages hid in the trees near the lake’s edge and where water lapped wooden steps. Occasionally, there was a driveway, sloping down, on a vacant lot where people had planned to build but never quite secured the fortune it would cost and hoped to sell and make profit come time to pay their children’s college tuition.
I noted the old Plymouth with a trailer and bass boat with an outboard motor rolling down the hill and heard a splash. When I drove down the path and slid to a stop, I noticed the car had dove headfirst, like a whale, and the trailer and boat were slowly sinking. The splash created a wave that moved toward the lake’s center. I jumped out, dove into the lake, and noted the old man holding two children, sinking deeper and deeper. Water had already gushed into the rolled down windows and flooded the car, and their lifeless bodies swayed like water plants, this way and that. The trailer had become unhitched and I pulled until it lodged on a rock only a couple of feet below the surface.
When I came out, I backed my truck until water covered the back tires, hoisted the winch rope to the boat trailer, and pulled her out salvaging the trailer, boat, and motor. When she was free, I hitched her to my truck. I stopped near an old Gulf station that had the only working pay phone left in the county and called the sheriff’s department about the Plymouth, the old man, and two children. I pulled the trailer, boat, and motor home and parked them in the barn behind our house. I told my wife it was payback from a buddy who’d lost a bet at work.
I read the next day in the paper the old man had lost his wife to COVID, his daughter had run off and left the two kids with him, and he couldn’t raise them on Social Security and was too proud to take food stamps or Welfare. He’d told a friend, “We’d all be better off somewhere else”, but the friend added that he never believed he meant committing suicide. I played scenarios before sleep about whether I could have pulled them lifeless to the shore, done mouth to mouth, and what would have become of them if I had. I stopped thinking about what if and instead focused on what was. I realized that in the face of tragedy, there was opportunity. I donated to the old man’s church, named my boat after him, and went fishing that weekend.


Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections Reading the Coffee Grounds and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in seventeen anthologies, twenty-one countries, and in over three hundred publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIFNew Reader MagazineForth Magazine, The Boston Literary MagazineFlash Fiction Magazine, and Storgy.