Bar Bugs by Catie Wiley

The wasps are coming
Their summertime buzzing
A sickeningly sweet intoxication:
The pull of the fruit on the ground.
They sip, they swig,
The juice: addicting,
They swing, they sting
Anyone that threatens
That simple
Seductive
Luxury.


Catie Wiley currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. When she is not writing, you can probably find her trying to juggle random objects. Her interests include texting her friends non sequiturs, googling pictures of baby raccoons, and trying to beat her mom at scrabble. 

Terra Firma by Lara Dolphin

I went for a walk not at the beach
no sand between my toes
no gulls flying noisily overhead
having left behind everything but memories
and the sand I cannot get out of my shoes
I follow the road near my home
waving to the mail carrier on her route
quickening my pace past the barking dog
the green grass ablaze on morning lawns
old growth hemlocks towering above
and more than ample smell of earth
to keep me from the lure of the sea.


Lara Dolphin is a recovering attorney, novice nurse, and full-time mother of four amazing kids; she is exhausted and elated most of the time. 

The dreamery inshore by Paweł Markiewicz

Abraham Hulk 1813-1897

A dreamed ship has gone aground
at the most marvelous and dreamiest afterglow.
The mast adverts to orientation of
a tender Morning star.
Seafarers died at midnight
feeling the sea-like fantasy.
The wind wrenched a canvas,
such a Golden Fleece,
to the piratical islands.
The sea is waving in
the rhythm of siren-like
Terpsichorean art.
On the sandbank
a letter in bottle lies with
a sonnet to king Poseidon,
written by a dead sailor.
A rock inshore – like
a custodian of the eternity
is waiting for Apollonian dreams.
A cloud is as If it came from
the meek paradise-heaven,
it manifests a weird-like seriousness
of the moments.


Paweł Markiewicz was born 1983 in Siemiatycze in Poland. He is a poet who lives in Bielsk Podlaski and writes tender poems, haiku as well as long poems. Paweł has published his poetries in many magazines. He writes in English and German. 

2 Poems by Vern Fein

DESPITE:
OF HANSEL AND GRETEL’S WITCH

A bone bent rag pile
before the Pearly Gates
waits for the Saint
to pass judgment,
broods on forgiveness.

One says she knows not what she did,
but she did build the candy house
—lemon cookie walls, chocolate windows,
red and green Christmas candy roof, apple pie porch—
like a predator on a playground,
peeps out for any sign
of fattling children.

Her natural witch clairvoyance
knew they were coming,
Hansel’s bread crumb scheme,
snatched away by the birds
as she would tempt them
then slam the purple candy door
and pop him in her cage.

Smart children, honed
by the step-mothers’s wiles,
Gretel devises
the twig finger
to out-trick the tricker.

Day by day, the crone’s eyes
see wood instead of flesh,
impossible to wait
for succulence,
orders Gretel:
Light the oven,
carrots and gravy,
bake the boy.

Stupidly bends over
to test the heat,
whoosh the witch
into the fire.

The children flee home,
find their kind woodcutter father.
Bring baskets of goodies,
celebrate love and family.

The stepmother banished,
the children see her once more—
buy her bread and soup—
despite.


I’M SORRY

We say to the animate world.
We have inflicted so much hurt
on other humans—even the ones we most love.
We neglect a dog, a cat, a horse,
leave a bird cage ajar, stomp bugs.
We have not been St. Francis.
Sorry, a healing balm.

But what of the inanimate world?
Some say plants feel pain
when we yank them from the ground,
routinely murder the lawn.
We can kneel down
in our own garden
or by our mower and say it.
And, lumberjack—apologize to that tree
you just axed.

What about convenience items?
When they break, we bitch
even when we break them.
Like it was their fault.
Hey, if you buy 47 things
with moving parts, the law of averages
says at least two a week will break.
When you cuss out your furnace
or TV—humble yourself.

Do you stomp the floor
when you stub your toe?
Do you kick a chair
when you bang into it?
You put it there.
Or the table you bump,
the sidewalk that scrapes your knee.
Teach your children early on,
extend the chain of life to the lifeless.

Could be life changing,
apologizing not just to the living,
breathing world,
but to every
thing.

Like to your bed for not making it every day,
letting her live a rumpled life.
Like your toilet some still call a commode.
Sorry for all the shit you have to put up with.

Mea Culpa—to all the rocks I threw.


A retired special education teacher, Vern Fein has published over one hundred fifty poems on over seventy sites, a few being: *82 Review, Bindweed Magazine, Gyroscope Review, Courtship of Winds, Young Raven’s Review, Beyond These Shores, Monterey Poetry Review, and Corvus Review.

3 Poems by Zebulon Huset

Repainting

The Elephants and donkeys
painted on nursery walls
were adhered with love

with thoughts of a newborn
swirling in mixed-up brains,
with stencils and

as was the only option
at the time of application,
with lead-based paint.


Right up until the end

But I know CPR and I’m shit at math
so I can bring you back to life and
don’t need to know the odds of it working.

You’re no witless crash test dummy,
no ballistic gel molded to torso—but
I’ll still deny the apocalypse for you.


Local Urban Legends

It was always some horrific accident
caused by carelessness, youth. A burst
of flame or crush of compacting car.

He was changing the channel—she
should have known not to text back
until she’d reached the destination.

The killer only found them because
the old ‘lover’s lane’ backed up
to the tracks where hobos trafficked.

The meteor fell on the streaking man
because no one, not even God,
wanted to see that during the game.

Because his whole family had already
passed the threshold, no one questioned
the story beyond the occasional reporter.

Most of us made graduation. A few
achieved escape velocity—the rest
remained in a slowly degrading orbit.

Waiting to crash to the ground—either
a shooting star’s last flare or friendless,
drunk and naked with an unclaimed
bullet in the back of the head.


Zebulon Huset is a teacher, writer and photographer living in San Diego. He won the Gulf Stream 2020 Summer Poetry Contest and his writing has appeared in Meridian, The Southern Review, Fence, Atlanta Review & Texas Review among others. He publishes the writing blog Notebooking Daily, edits the journals Coastal Shelf and Sparked, and recommends literary journals at TheSubmissionWizard.com.

Fanny by Michael Beadle

It was sure to be a punchline at neighborhood parties if they ever found out what she unearthed in her backyard. Newly divorced, Mrs. Lillian Thompson was now Miss West, as her students would soon learn to call her. Lily to her new friends at the yoga studio. She’d moved into a brick ranch house on a cul-de-sac one cold Friday morning in March. By Sunday, she’d stuffed the last of her packing boxes in the recycling bin and surveyed the backyard.

The previous owners had left a garden in shambles, but the raised beds were still intact. A short plastic fence held back dead weeds and vines. Like an archeologist, she worked meticulously sorting out the original intentions of the space. With a rake, shovel and trowel, she scraped and dug up pot shards, plastic sheeting, rotten tubing that looked like bits of moldy macaroni. A thatched metal fence buried under wet leaves. Rows of earth where vegetables once grew. Lily imagined cheery signs in chubby letters: green beans, carrots, tomatoes and squash.

Beside a patch of thistle she’d wrestled up in a spray of loose dirt. The earth bulged with something hard she couldn’t dig out. A ceramic bowl? Turtle shell? Wiping away the leaves and dirt, she found a cleft in stone, a slight part down the middle, sculpted curves that gave her pause. A butt? Yep, two cheeks, sunny side up.
Who would leave such a thing? Part of a statue? Where was the rest of it—buried in some shallow grave?

Lily thought of painting each cheek a bright color or maybe spray-painting it with a golden sheen like those Buddha statues in her old neighborhood. No, she’d leave it in the original gray, polish it off and buy a bag of shiny pebbles to place around the mound with a half-circle of new pansies.

It became her garden shrine. A place to meditate, to call upon the Feminine Divine. Lily had been reading so much about the Mother Goddess, her many names and powers. Surely it was no coincidence she’d found this stone, an homage to the female form. Demeter’s derriere in the dirt. Hecate’s holy hind. A gift from Rhea, titan goddess of fertile soil.

What would she call this sacred stone? Lily never cared for ass (too much a reminder of her ex-husband, his snarly tone). Gluteus maximus, sounded like some pompous Roman senator. Not heinie or tushie. Those were names little kids gave stuffed animals. Keister felt awkward as well, the sort of word your uncle used to describe a piece of junk. Lily settled on Fanny, a soft word, gentle even, with a little old-fashioned charm.

By spring, the garden was lush with crisp leaves and bright flowers. Herbs bursting in abundance. Raised beds full of parsley, lavender, sage, oregano, basil. Signs noted sections of kale, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans. A hand-painted post read “Fanny’s Garden.” Cleaned and tended regularly, the sacred stone in the middle was more than yard art, she would tell neighbors who cared to comment.

It’s not some random piece of ass, she would tell them. Not the tail that gets chased or laughed at by men who never outgrow boyhood. No, this Fanny was a seat of power. Bold and bare, round and firm. Its beautiful curve shone in the wet dark earth like a new moon rising. Some nights, Lily would sit beside Fanny, whisper to her, place a hand on the weathered stone, and kiss each cheek.


Michael Beadle is a poet, author and touring writer-in-residence living in Raleigh. A former journalist and magazine editor, he is the author of nine books, including Beasts of Eden (Press 53), which was a finalist for the Roanoke-Chowan Book Award for Poetry.  He recently won first place in the 2020 Ruth Moose Flash Fiction Contest.

Shadows of Light by Yash Seyedbagheri

My older sister Nan and I watch the streetlights flick on every night. She’s eighteen and I’m fifteen. We marvel at the electrical hum, the butter-colored glow that fills the streets and casts shadows of welcome. Come into the night, she whispers, come, come.

We walk up and down neighborhoods of frame houses and even elegant Victorians with Mansard roofs, absorbing the glow, arcs spilling over dark sidewalks. We marvel at the way streetlamps illuminate homes and silhouettes. Laughter and voices seem to be amplified, elegant, lilting, even delightfully discordant, cheerful agreement over disagreement. We watch silhouettes move through windows watching HBO or Netflix, imagine familial units all neatly accentuated by the glow. We observe mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters piling into cars, the streetlamps documenting their motions. We imagine them going to their favorite Mexican restaurants, treating themselves to camarones a la diabla or voluminous burritos. Or maybe they’re going to the movies to see something stupid, but something they can laugh at in unison. Perhaps they’re relishing shared guffaws and childlike giggles over flatulence jokes or someone being comedically blown up.

Of course, we don’t like blue streetlamps. We avoid them. They glow, frozen like ice and stasis, like Mom awakening to a new morning.

During the days, we move about apartments replete with dust, Fat Tires, Wheat Thins knockoffs and onions, lost jobs and electricity withheld. We wait for responsibility to return. But the Fat Tires pile up, along with Mom’s fleeting cackled laughter, and we’re left gnawing on the ruins of onions, crackers, a lone Life Saver that’s somehow survived, orphaned on an empty shelf.

Sometimes, we walk all night. We lean into each other and murmur jokes about poverty and divorce, Nan smelling of sweat, onions, and Camels. We lean into a streetlamp or two, even holding on, as if it were murmuring a glowing lullaby. Sleep, sleep, a butter-colored blanket being pulled over us like the old days before job losses, lost self-esteem and malaise came knocking on Mom’s door. Sleep, the days when bedtime stories and motherly arms hovered, a shimmering, beautiful weight. Sleep, the days when Mom murmured nicknames. Nicky, Nan, and not Nicholas and Nancy and didn’t beg us to keep quiet. Sleep, the days when Mom graded papers on Lolita or Revolutionary Road, her low murmurs from the dining room a marker to hold onto.

But stares from midnight passengers or a slowed-down police car keep us moving. How do you explain your actions to people who see the world in absolutes? How do you explain the beauty of long angled light? They’d just talk about what makes a streetlamp glow, the science behind it. The annoying neatness of order. They’d say focus on the future, take things a step at a time, not knowing what it means to be propelled backward, backward, backward. They’d talk of bootstraps and putting aside senseless dreams and not being idiots.

We just want to absorb the glow of streetlights, long, angled, shapely, before the sun peeks out over the distant hills and garbage trucks whir. Before coffee-shops fling open their doors and expose maudlin walls. We want to savor stillness, before construction workers start constructing and destructing and hangovers arrive in small apartments whose spaces seem smaller by the day. We slink home, eyes half-closed, as responsibility demands and the lights flicker and disappear in a burst, the sun rising over them, dominant and round. We reach into the morning sky, grabbing, lunging for the streetlights even. We even stand on tiptoes. But we only trip and fall, feeling the chill of now-unheated apartments and morning breezes, colder than ever.


Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program in fiction. His stories, “Soon,”  “How To Be A Good Episcopalian,” and “Tales From A Communion Line,” were nominated for Pushcarts. Yash’s work  has been published in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Write City Magazine, and Ariel Chart, among others.