Hell Was on the Roof by Mark Henderson

It became quite a party, though it took
long enough—everyone coming over
to complain, showing me the cures for
various diseases that had fallen
into their drinks. “Save those!” I yelled. “Don’t pour
anything out!” A guy whose name I didn’t
know held his salad up for me to see
his first love’s cherry, cherishing it all
over again, tears in his eyes, in spite
of how mature he’d become since so long
ago. There was a bit of world peace—dusty,
falling apart at the edges—lying
on the carpet, forsaken many times
over for lack of excitement. It was
then that we all happened to look up and
notice the growing number of cracks. I
pulled down the ladder to walk up into
the ceiling. Who would have thought that all
the world’s prayers had been trapped in attics,
rusting like the cymbals of wind-up toy
monkeys with teeth that, even through the dust,
seem to glow in the dark? We refilled our glasses
and bowls before going outside to look up.


Mark Henderson teaches at Tuskegee University. He earned his Ph. D. at Auburn University with concentrations in American literature and psychoanalytic theory. He has poems published or forthcoming in Cozy Cat PressFrom Whispers to Roars, and Defenestrationism.net. He was born and raised in Monroe, Louisiana, and currently resides in Auburn, Alabama.

Doloured by Kieran Wyatt

for Theodore Roethke


I have been sat in the chair
and swivelled at reception
at eight. Doloured, awake,
waiting patiently for patients
to arrive for physical therapy
to pay the fee for muscular
relief
endlessly duplicating,
eating their time over there,
tapping their thumbs, then
debit cards – contactless.
Content and sat for a morning
an afternoon or evening,
while we patiently wait and-


Kieran Wyatt lives on the Fylde Coast. He is co-chair of GenSex, an interdisciplinary research group asking provocative questions about gender and sexuality. His work has featured in publications like Eunoia Review, The Art of Everyone, The Minison Project, and Dwelling Literary. He can be found @Kinz_wyatt on Twitter. 

2 Poems by Karen Steiger

Toxicity

Thirty-five years ago today,
government agents appeared
in the town of Daffodil Hill
with their white hazmat suits
and their clicking, beeping instruments,
and they declared the town and its environs
to be “toxic to humans and animals,”
thanks to the local pesticide manufacturing company
located at the edge of town.
Cockroaches and centipedes having the last laugh
as the governor ordered a mandatory evacuation.
Angry letters
Protests
Screaming voices echoing in a municipal building
Lost jobs
Crashing property values
Sunk cost
Empty bleachers in the high school gym
No more Daffodil Hill Hornbills in black and gold.
A circle of juniors singing the fight song,
long-haired girls sobbing.
Like, who cares that much about their high school?
But maybe you would,
if it were forced to be closed,
all your friends and teachers scattered across the state,
your dad with a new job,
in a new town,
and the kids there make fun of you for being
from the toxic waste dump,
and you’re one of the lucky ones.
The state bought people’s homes
at rock-bottom prices.
Nature reclaimed the strip mall on Park Street.
Only one man refused to leave
and lives there still,
68-year-old Jerry McCarthy,
angry, drunken, cussing.
He pulled a shotgun on the trooper who knocked on his door
with the evacuation notice.
The whole ghost town is his domain now,
king of empty houses and stores.
He collects bits of debris from Daffodil Hill
and arranges it on his front lawn.
It all looks as trashy as he is,
but it doesn’t matter.
He says he’s going to run a museum one day,
a museum of Daffodil Hill,
and he’ll tell his visitors what happened here,
how there was a town here,
not a great town,
but a nice one,
and all that’s been erased now,
as though anyone would want to visit such a monument,
risking birth defects and certain rare cancers,
while walking on the poisoned ground.


My Ongoing Dispute with My Long-Term Disability Insurance Carrier

I imagine a man in his mid-thirties,
recently married, just bought a house,
his wife just found out they were pregnant,
working at his cubicle despite the virus,
beige carpet, beige walls, beige ceiling,
phones ringing, fingers clacking on keyboards.
He’s in Tampa, and there’s a palm tree just outside
the nearest window,
and it’s hot in his cubicle when the sun shines in,
like a greenhouse.
And he’s wearing a polo shirt and khakis,
freshly washed, unwrinkled,
and he used to have abs,
when he played beach volleyball a lot,
but now he’s softened,
a pale belly to match his wife’s,
and his hairline might be starting to recede,
but his wife told him not to worry about it,
he looks fine.
And he just ate the lunch he brought from home,
but he’s still hungry,
and it’s only 1:30.
And everyone’s supposed to be wearing a facemask
in the common areas of the office,
and some people wear double-masks even in their cubicles,
and some don’t wear any at all,
just daring you to say something about it.
And he checks his email and checks the news
and checks his fantasy football team,
and another half an hour crawls by,
and finally he gets around to reading my letter,
finding words like “bad faith” and “retaliation” and “civil action,”
and just for a brief moment,
as he rejects my most recent claim,
he wishes I’d drop dead.


Karen Steiger is a poet, fiction writer, and breast cancer survivor living in Schaumburg, Illinois, with her beloved husband, Matt, and two retired racing greyhounds, Giza and Horus. She is the founder of her poetry blog, The Midlife Crisis Poet (www.themidlifecrisispoet.com), and her work has been published in The Wells Street Journal, Arsenika, Black Bough Poetry, Ang(st), Perhappened, Kaleidotrope, Mineral Lit Mag, Rejection Letters, Versification, Sledgehammer Lit, and others.

The dark-eyed junco by Moira Kuo

In the east the color of slate,
the dark-eyed junco is a small grey bird.
with a white underbelly and a yellow beak.

found all year long in Pennsylvania,
The dark-eyed junco sounds
like a band name or a state of mind.

more commonly seen in winter,
the dark-eyed junco nudges, pecks,
blesses the February sun.

The dark-eyed junco throws no shade
Shines in the grey,
Emerges in the cold tones.

It is nice to be wanted, thinks the junco; and the winter wants me.


Moira Kuo is a writer and teacher in the Philadelphia area.  She has previously published fiction in The Front Porch Review, Skyway, and The Monongahela Review, but is new to poetry.  She lives with her husband and two children.

Fredrick ( for Katherine ) by Marc Isaac Potter

Fredrick
Guards himself
In conversation,

Protects himself
With his brilliance
In Art History

At night he cries
Into a pink doily
The only thing he has left
From the car accident
That took his life.


Marc Isaac Potter is a writer living in the Bay Area.  Marc’s interests include blogging by email, creative writing, and Zen. Since 2001, Marc has produced a TV Talk show at the Community Access level; the show is called In Our Community

‘Play Something More Upbeat!’ by Pat Hull

One of the puppies got tangled
In the chicken wire overnight
Suffocating himself in a cold garage

Seven lived
But one suffocated himself
In chicken wire, in a cold garage

Seems there are those
Who only want stories and songs
About the seven –

A major chord progression
Of golden tassels and discipline training
Graduation ceremonies

And then you have everyone else,
Heading home early from the party
To light a candle in the dark


Pat Hull is a songwriter (Dutch Records) and poet from Northern, CA. His first book of haiku called Field Notes on Love (A Collection of 99 Haiku) was independently published in February, 2021. He teaches non-violent communication and speech communication at CSU, Chico and Butte College.

War On Drugs by Andrew Shields

He showed me the way across the vacant lot
to the gap in the line of trees and the hole in the fence
he thought he was the only one to know.
Something scratched my leg, a thorn or a barb,
but I did not bleed. We jumped across a creek
that was little more than a ditch for runoff,
Coca-Cola bottles, and a snake or two.
He parted the leaves to reveal a triangle of logs
around the ashes of everything he’d burned,
newspaper balls and twigs and charcoal and sticks
he’d lifted from the flames, as he soon would show me,
to light his joints. Yes, that was why he’d taken me there,
to get me stoned, but not so I would learn
to love the smoke he blew toward me. He said:
“This is marijuana. I want you to try it
so you’ll know you don’t need to smoke it again.”
His impromptu fire was burning down beside us;
the flies and mosquitoes were avoiding the little clearing.
He held the joint and waited while I pondered
how to say no. And if I’d said yes? The smoke
would have blown away, just as it did, and we
would have jumped the creek and passed the gap
in the fence and the hole in the trees, just as we did,
and crossed the vacant lot. And I’d have moved
across the country, just as I did, and taken
all the same drugs that I went on to take,
until one day I found that I had stopped
and didn’t want any more. But I would have
scratched my leg again, this time to bleed,
whether from thorn or barb I’d never know.


Andrew Shields lives in Basel, Switzerland. His collection of poems “Thomas Hardy Listens to Louis Armstrong” was published by Eyewear in 2015. His band Human Shields released the album “Somebody’s Hometown” in 2015 and the EP “Défense de jouer” in 2016.

Gift of the Ghosts by Mary Shanley

Serene in the moment
In a sea of hallowed ghosts.
They come to me
When I despair of life.

It’s easy to die,
everyone can do it.
Not so mysterious,
Another journey awaits.

To be with me at the crossover
point is the gift of the ghosts.

I think of something other
than death and ghosts and my
breath ceases to race.

The sun is out. I step onto the
street and join the other humans
as we negotiate the crowded
sidewalks.

We all wear masks now.
It’s the era of Covid and death
Is lurking any and everywhere.
The virus took my sister in four days.

Dying is more possible now.
I call on my ghost to stay near.


Mary Shanley is a poet/storyteller living in NYC with her wife. She has published three books of poetry and one book of short stories. Mary Shanley was The Featured Poet on WBAI FM Radio, NYC and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.