2 Poems by April March Penn

Go Nuts!

The car I’m in is being driven by a squirrel.
We’re trying to engage in small talk. I started with
So, what’s your name? He didn’t have a name, he said.
I mean he didn’t say that but I knew. He looked back
at me like I had never stock piled acorns in my life.
Like I was the most useless creature he’d ever seen.
Like what am I doing getting in a car with a squirrel.
And I thought, the nerve.

The next day a peanut butter cookie IS the car,
and the only way to get inside is to take a bite.
And another bite. And another. I don’t ask,
So, what’s your name? I’m too into this private eating ritual.
The squirrel I once saw must be content knowing
that I am stockpiling my acorns so to speak.

The next day after the next day I sneak my head
into a freezer full of blueberries and ask why each
little blueberry has its own plastic bag and whether
that is really necessary, and the squirrel looks confused,
asks me how to organize stuff like humans do and whether
I take the leap between trees or run across the ground.

I don’t know how to drive, I tell him.
He asks if that is the human translation of avoiding
his kind of leaping. I say, Yes,
in Boston, the trees are huge and tall and spread apart
so leaping is scary and makes people anxious.
That’s why they honk their horns a lot.
That’s why they drink so much coffee.
Most of them take the leap before they’re even fully awake
.


Figure drawing

I told the group I didn’t feel connected to other people
or familiar to myself and that seemed to trigger a cascade
of the usefulness of identity– how knowing themselves
made it better and I don’t wholly disagree
but I’m a box inside a box, a squarish doll,
unamused by a body, an opening that strains the image,
transforming expression into ether strings,
fingers could be mine or light’s dissociation thrown


April March Penn is a queer poet who visits Anne Sexton’s grave and conducts tarot readings for real and imaginary friends. Penn’s poetry is published in What Are Birds, The Offing, The Fem, The Deaf Poet Society, Maps for Teeth, Provocateur, and other literary magazines. Penn has featured in Boston at the Cantab Poetry Lounge and Stone Soup Poetry. Follow Penn on Instagram: @pennapril

Mercy by Gregory E. Lucas

(Inspired by George Romney’s Miss Willoughby, oil on canvas, painted 1781-83 – British artist.)

Mercy should be her name.
For you who are so ill
this angelic girl waits, alone,
beyond pain’s reach, with outstretch arms.
Standing on a hill,
where leaves fall in arabesques,
she beckons. Her lips glow like
raindrops on begonia petals;
her puffed dress,
white as cotton-grass, shimmers.
She pleads for your life’s calm surrender,
to step inside her eternal world of charms.
Dark pools shine in her eyes
like deep-woods ponds at dusk,
and pink ribbons around her waist flutter.
Silent, patient, joyful,
she nods her head, affirms
the time has come
to hold her hand — join her.
Faint wisps like cherub wings
drift above hushed blackbirds
flying behind her bonnet.
With her and while the gold
windswept meadow bends toward
a dwindling dirt road,
at last death comes.
Ribbons, her transparent form
and your soul meld, while
borne on the final breeze,
you soar.

(George Romney’s Miss Willoughby, oil on canvas, painted 1781-83 – British artist.)

Gregory E. Lucas has had short stories and poems published in many magazines such as The Ekphrastic Review, Ekphrasis, The Horror Zine, The Literary Hatchet, and Blueline.  He lives on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

The Fire-Wall by Bill Nevins

“My friends have gathered here for me/I think they’re singing to be free.”
—Nick Cave, “Ghosteen Speaks”

Flames broke the ridge line just the other day,
Saturday—I would leap sky dive if I could!
And now the winds whirl screaming
So near to Hallows Eve
We ran away, but daren’t leave
For this place is where we need be
If any dead sons, parachutes reversed
Are to raise their voices
Up from those stark caskets, urns and dust
From the iron star’s unsleeping rust
To sing
To you
To me
If any dead hearts
Should beat
Should burn
If there is any new truth
We live to learn
Curious as any mountain cat
If any horseman head in hand
Does not pass but pauses
To listen, speak, draw near
To see what revealing blaze
May vault that smoking ridge.


Bill Nevins writes from both the mountain heights and the river valleys of New Mexico. He is glad to be alive at age 73. You can reach him at bill_nevins@yahoo.com

3 Poems by Katherine Davis

Fate of the Baby Truth

I bear truth like a bawling child, offer her to my mother
Who puts her in a shoebox by the fire, dog in a cheap,
Small bed, but unwilling to be quieted by bone or toy.
Disturbed, my mother tries to arrange her like a paper
Flower amid artificial greenery, innocence in a vase,
Still calling attention to troubled head and belly. Then
My mother takes out watercolors, paints a border
Around the noisy minuscule, to fade her into walls,
Make her fit amid middle-class home accoutrements.
But my truth is hysterical, small body, aggrandizing,
Wailing, as the garage door opens, and my father comes
From work, pours a water glass full of booze, turns up
The volume of the TV news with remote, as if the world’s
Suffering could take place in the living room, while he sits,
Then lies, then passes out, liver silently giving up ghosts.


Bone Sisters

Here we are, amalgam of panic and grace, dancing always
On the brink of catastrophe. Jittery, shy, we kick off platforms,
Bare our thighs in seventies gym shorts, our breasts beneath
Decaled t-shirts: Ziggy and Joe Cool. The floor opens to reveal
Not a pool, but a precipice overlooking vehicles on a six-lane
Highway. We cha-cha then dip over the rush of concrete, life,
Abrasive and quick, man in a pickup tailgating woman in dented
Sedan, children ferried by helicopter parents from bus to heated
Interior, nurses, lawyers, clerks, factory workers, all completing
Another shift, you, in the future, an ambulance fueled by adrenaline,
The rapid heartbeat of medical mysteries, pistachios, kiwis, babies,
Allergies. The world inflames your immune system, and I fly away,
A plane ascending over wires and clouds, at last fleeing family, but
Keeping the rhythm in blood, duet continuing deep in my marrow.


My Daredevil History

Young, I was separated from my family of daredevils:
My mother, a stunt pilot, smoking love letters in the sky,
Complete with hearts and curlicues, somersaulting as if
She had no pit to her stomach, adventurer over gulfs, forests,
And fields; my sister took after her, shooting bare-bellied
From a cannon, silver glitter helmet nestled on her red curls,
Fleet as a bird, seeing long views of earth, finally diving into
A pond or hay bale, her publicity truck picking her up, blaring
Her name and victory music, erupting with confetti and balloons;
My brother jumps his motorcycle over a mile of junked cars,
Across river canyons, where rapids bubble under his boots,
Past swamps chock-full with alligators, snakes, and hunters,
Triumphantly soaring, landing erect, wheels, dry tracks on roads;
And my father, a lithe seventy-year-old, surfing the curling waves
Off shark-infested beaches, unafraid, eager for wind and spray,
The long paddle and the rising to his feet, toes hanging off edge,
Catching air, more dolphin than man. However, I was taken in
By a conventional pair, grew silent and pained before the active
Television, lived still as a column of figures in an accounting pad.
But at night, while the neighborhood sleeps, I wander and think,
Muscles and face, reflections of wild genes, persistent adrenaline.


Katherine Davis earned a Ph.D. specializing in American poetry from Duke University. Her poems have previously appeared in Weber, Stepping Stones, Wild Goose Review, Convergence, Sheila-na-gig, The Oddville Press, Literary Heist, Menacing Hedge, The Laurel Review and s/tick. Her chapbook, The Anger Poems, is forthcoming from don’t die press. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2018 and Best of the Net in 2019. 

3 Poems by Mike James

A History of Capitalism

Two cafeteria skeletons fight over a chicken bone. Neither knows the foxtrot or the jitterbug or the hustle or the tango. Little chance the fight will turn into a dance off. Likewise, neither skeleton ever held a rusty cast iron butterfly while it dreamed of flight. All the skeletons know of flight is contained in the chicken bone.

The cafeteria is closed and otherwise empty. The white tile floor mopped to a best left whiteness. Outside, two beggars stand at the window. They call to others on the street to come bet on the action. Soon, they will sell tickets.


Anyway, It Was In October, I Think

You can try to make it shorter, I overheard her say.
I was already late for the bus. And the bus might be early.
So there’s a distraction right on the corner.

Distractions are boredom’s everyday gifts.
We rush out the door and realize: No keys. No pants.
And, unlike last time, oops, it’s not a dream.

It’s lovely to see who arrives in our dreams.
Ron and Nancy dropped in. Ronnie was giving a speech.
Nancy was eating a green apple, as she always does.

I never remember what I do in my dreams.
Maybe I’m a clown others pretend not to see.
Maybe I juggle while others talk or eat.

Juggling is not something I can do in waking life.
If I toss something straight up, gravity invariably betrays me.
A good toss postpones betrayal. Late arrivals, be damned.


Astronomers Sitting on Rocks

Astronomers playing hopscotch with stars
Astronomers playing checkers with stars
Astronomers not playing chess with stars
Astronomers playing dominoes with stars
Astronomers using stars for crossword puzzle answers
Astronomers sitting on round rocks, in empty fields, thinking of new names for stars
Names like Dream Box, Yesterday, and Revere


Mike James had recent work in Chiron Review, River Dog, I-70 Review, and Main Street Rag. The most recent of his many books is Journeyman’s Suitcase from Luchador Press.

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.

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.