This Isn’t the First Poem About a Government Death Ray by Richard LeDue

Put tinfoil on my windows
to keep out the heat
and government death rays,
but it’s almost autumn now,
so it’s time
to let the windows show the neighbours
the colour of my underwear,
while the colder weather
proves the government’s evil plots
coordinated by seasonal workers.


Richard LeDue (he/him) currently lives in Norway House, Manitoba with his wife and son. His poems have appeared in various publications throughout 2021. His first chapbook, “The Loneliest Age,” was released by Kelsay Books in 2020, and a second chapbook, “Winnipeg Vacation,” was released in September 2021 from Alien Buddha Press. As well, his third chapbook, “The Kind of Noise Worth Writing Down,” is forthcoming in early 2022 from Kelsay Books.

2 Poems by Cheryl Snell

Disquiet

Ice fringes the bare birches. Black crows
pour across the frozen sky, cawing
after an escaping hawk. The wind
waits for my body to fall in on itself─
such a long time coming, this white static─
my spine cracks like knuckles under a valve
convinced it’s my heart. Despite all
protections paid ─ mountains of kale, etcetera─
I’m no longer myself here. I’ve lost
my keys, my last address, the big picture.
Every night this week this winter
I’ve stood under a lace of snow
while freedom seized the sky─
birds clouds moon─
and felt my body fill with another
kind of melancholy. From the silence
inside my solitude comes an impulse
to explain it ─ but I’ll never utter the words.
What would be the use?
I know how slippery they sound
and how subversive memory can be.


Recursive Angel

It was years before I understood
the sun’s last yawn through winter maples;
the yard all harrowed field, exhausted
by false starts. Why must the season end
with trees dying to such an ambiguous yellow?
It misleads those of us who’ve given up.

I wasn’t always so gullible. Through
my fogged mirror, I could touch the face
of my mother, and I knew what was in store.
While I stopped looking, the fading continued,
with flicker enough for me to imagine
what more I’d lose and all I’d leave behind.

I was startled by the halo of moons
and the shapes emerging from a muffle
of dusk at first, but now I’m clear eyed
as the child I was, dreamy and melancholy.
Watch her, knees to chest on the porch,
drinking in the bright garden of the world.


Cheryl Snell’s books include four novels as well as poetry collections from Finishing Line, Pudding House, Moira  Books, and other small presses. Her work has most recently appeared in Eunoia Review, One Art, and The Rye Whiskey Review, and others. She lives in a suburb of DC with her husband, a mathematical engineer.

3 Poems by Howie Good

The Vanishing

I was late for a class I taught at the college. When I entered the building where the class was normally held, nothing seemed familiar. I started walking up a very long flight of stairs. The stairs grew steeper the higher I went. By the time I reached the top, I was winded and covered in sweat. Then I saw a swastika painted on the wall. I tilted my head to the right, the left, the right again, trying to see the swastika as something else. There was no place, I slowly realized, that was safe anymore. One day I will squeeze into a crowded elevator that will vanish between floors.


Drone Pilots Do It Remotely

My father tried to kill himself three times – well, four if you count the time he fell asleep smoking in bed and woke up with the mattress on fire. I remember because I had just been told by someone who supposedly knew to never write poems about writing poetry. It’s a lot different now. Now there aren’t even definite prohibitions against selling human skulls on Etsy. Instead, the armed drone that blows up the terrorist hideout in Kabul also blows up a houseful of children.


Work of the Unemployed

I had lost my job breaking in new shoes for men with big feet. With nothing much to do, I read the reports, worked the numbers, and confirmed the findings: to death we are all equal. Another week I sneaked into an exhibition at the Galerie der Moderne. The walls were hung with paintings by people who didn’t seem to know how to paint. But I did enjoy the chilled wine in clear plastic cups and the cubes of cheese on frilly toothpicks. I would have stayed longer, only there were all these police around. Back in Poland, my great-grandfather one day went to fetch a ration of bread, and the loaf was sticking out of his coat when the SS officer who shot him for sport rolled his corpse over.


Howie Good is the author of Famous Long Ago, a forthcoming prose poetry collection from Laughing Ronin Press.

Table for One by Christina Holbrook

You check into the hotel near Dupont Circle, in DC. Gathered around the fireplace in the parlor, cocktail drinkers trade political gossip, while a twisty staircase leads to your guest room on the second floor. On the ceiling, a mural displays the underside of a rowboat surrounded by ripples of blue water. As you stare up from the bed, a painted fishing line—an elongated question mark—appears to descend directly towards you. You could be under water, like a frog or fish or (you prefer to think) a mermaid.

When you go down for dinner, the hostess asks, “Table for one?” She scans the packed dining room. “Do you mind eating at the bar?” Not at all. You won’t have to wait as long for a drink. Seated, you look over the menu with no companion as a distraction. It’s November, oysters are in season. Why not indulge your own desires? You smile at the bartender and order a dozen—actually, make that two dozen—and a bottle of Sauvignon blanc. After all, your first appointment, at the National Gallery, is not until 11 a.m. the next morning.

Once, dining solo in Zürich, in a hotel restaurant which was well above your pay grade though not your employer’s expense account, you selected “Truite au bleu.” The preparation horrified—the trout is gutted while alive—but the dish is French which made up for a lot. A lone woman like yourself asked if she could join you. When it came your turn in conversation to describe your work—supervise the color accuracy and printing of art books—her face betrayed incredulity. “Museums send you around the world, just to add a little more blue or subtract a little yellow?” Stated in that way, the simple and admittedly preposterous truth made you both laugh.

Another time, while eating a forgettable meal at Heathrow and waiting for a connecting flight to the Frankfurt Book Fair, you were approached by an elderly gentleman. He inquired if he might read your palm. It happened to be an uncertain juncture in your romantic life, so the offer seemed like a good idea. What your palm revealed: “You adore music and could not live without it.” You had never considered this before. Also: “With high expectations in love, you will be continuously disappointed.” Shouldn’t fortune tellers offer more optimistic predictions? You determined the best course was to cultivate an appreciation for music.

As a result of frequent dinners alone in an Italian restaurant in your neighborhood in Manhattan, you were asked on several occasions by the chef to join him at the “family table.” Grazie! So thoughtful! Once, you shared his rabbit stew, scooped up with hunks of bread seasoned with rosemary sprigs and garlic slivers. Later, the chef was kind enough to offer a tour of the wine cellar—downstairs—a ruse in which you happily participated. A kissing session led inadvertently to becoming trapped in the freezer. Fortunately, the overwhelmed cooks upstairs noticed the chef’s absence and sent out a search party.

On a side trip to Chiang Mai during a printing assignment, you were eating outdoors—a cold, sweet soup with large mushrooms—and swatting mosquitoes. A girl pulled up to the restaurant on a motorbike, relieved, she said, to have found another American. Your expense account paid for your dinners. What a coincidence, when she bumped into you again on Ko Samui and drove you around the island on her bike. Six months later she showed up at your studio apartment, pregnant, and asked to move in. I’m sorry, but there’s hardly enough room for one. For a long time after you wondered how, from Thailand, she had located your apartment in New York.

The oysters are finished now, and so is the bottle of Sauvignon blanc. You request the charge be put on your bill, and the bartender asks for your room number. He slides the receipt across the bar, signed at the top with what is apparently his name: Doctor Love. And his cell phone number. I know that’s not really your name, you inform him. Maybe he thinks you are drunk. Back in your room, you lie in bed and stare up at that tantalizing fishing line, then decide to tap the numbers into your phone. You get it right on the third try. Do you make house calls, Doctor?


Christina Holbrook lives in Breckenridge, Colorado. Originally from New York, she has lived and worked in Italy, Hong Kong, and the Adirondacks. When not writing Christina is probably out hiking with her dog Luke and trying to avoid surprise moose encounters. Her work has appeared in Blue Lake Review (forthcoming), Bombfire, City.River.Tree, Potato Soup Journal and others. She has recently completed her debut novel.

Missing Crows by William Falo

She always woke up before the other crows to access their situation despite reaching the same conclusion every day. They were in danger. Food became scarce because farms were abandoned after extreme weather and numerous woods plowed down to make room for new buildings. It forced the crows to scavenge farther for food and live close to humans, and they knew that meant danger.

The crows all gathered in their roosting tree near a Wawa and a Dunkin coffee shop. It provided the opportunity for easy food, but the danger was always close. Some crows wanted to search the larger shopping center parking lots, but she jumped up and down. She knew feral cats patrolled those areas looking for easy prey, and they killed crows in the past. She saw their dead bodies on a recent reconnaissance flight. She was the leader of the murder of crows ever since her partner died when a human shot him. She missed him every day. A kind human buried his body in their backyard while she watched, and she still visited the location.

###

She flew to a tree that overlooked the neighborhood. What she saw made her feathers tremble. A large number of the animals they feared the most were headed toward the tree.

The cats walked with their heads up, for they knew no fear. Their large eyes saw everything, and their sharp claws left scars in many crows in the past. She wished there was a way to convince them to go somewhere else, but these monsters never listened to anyone. She lifted off and flew back to the tree to warn the others because she knew the battle with the feral cats was about to begin.

The monsters with nine lives came to fight.

Their claws were sharp, but the crows ruled the air, and they practiced fighting scarecrows. Feathers floated down after encounters with the ferocious felines. The battle lingered; a few cats licked sores on their body, and some crows lost feathers. It looked like it would go on forever until she flew to a garden and picked out a specific plant, then flew above the cats and dropped it, and the cats went crazy and forgot why they were there. They couldn’t resist the catnip. Some ran off a hill, but they landed on their feet; others chased imaginary birds, while others grabbed anything they could find and curled around it, then kicked at it with their back legs.

Eventually, they all left with a few hisses as a warning that they will be back. She believed them. They had nine lives.

After the war, she saw a rock with a heart drawn on it. She flew down, picked it up with her beak and flew to her mate’s grave. She dropped the rock near the house as a gift for the human.

The crows regrouped in their roosting tree.

Below them, life went on, and it soothed her to see other creatures so close to them. The Canadian geese caused a ruckus chasing a human that got too close. At the same time, a few mallards rested under a tree, a raccoon braved the cars and jumped into a dumpster, while a red fox snuck into a field across the street. Nearby, a man walked a dog below them and looked up as she cawed at the dog. If she could get a canine to help them fight the cats the war would be won, but that required treats for the dog, and she couldn’t find any yet.

The crows won this time, but the cats still had eight lives. Crows had only one life. She noticed other empty spots in the tree and missed her partner even more. Missing crows. A few others stretched their wings, and she saw damaged feathers, others balanced on broken feet, some scratched at scars, and one was missing an eye. They were all broken. It was a dangerous world for crows. They might be a motley crew, but they were her family.


William Falo lives in New Jersey with his family, including a papillon named Dax. His recent short stories can be found in Vamp Cat Magazine, Fragmented Voices, Dead Skunk Literary Magazine, the anthology of the year’s best dog stories, and other literary journals.