Friday, December 15, 2017

Counting the Days / Waiting to Find Us by Martin Willitts Jr.

Counting the Days
The burdened trees at beginning of day 
bent more, bent
lower, like a person tired after a hard day,
striving for an impossible goal,
knowing the search must carry on
to another day. 
Small moments gather, tiny details — 
like the randomness of common grackles
composing on the ground,
pricking their tails in the headwinds.
Not even snow flurries
unbundling out of nowhere
deterred those birds 
from rushing headlong 
into the empty tree branches,
bending light.
That noise, 
then silence — 
both were quick notations.

Waiting to Find Us
Someone senses their way through time 
with a hushed breath, all the way to the edge
where no one listens but they should.
When that person reaches where they are going, 
bone-weary, irredeemable, in what condition
will they be in? 
There is a darkness within us. But overhead, 
there is always a penetrating light
waiting to find us.  

Martin Willitts Jr is a frequent poet in Black Poppy Review. He is a retired Librarian. He has over 10 full-length collections including forthcoming, "The Uncertain Lover" (Dos Madres Press).

Monday, November 27, 2017

Lips, Mouth, Tongue - A Trilogy by Sarah Ito


Your mouth is a gun
Your words, the bullet...
The bullet that wounds,
The wound that kills.

Your mouth is a gift
Your words, the present...
The present that thrills,
The thrill that fades.

Your mouth is a feast
Your words, the taste...
The taste that spoils,
The spoils that kill.


A forked tongue can wound from both sides of the mouth,
A closed mouth inflicts no wounds.

Black coffee at 6 a.m.
Sriracha on the lips at noon...                                                                                        

The words exchanged,
The lover gone,
The snow keeps falling...
Just another day.

Sarah Ito is a published novelist, essayist and poet, and occasional actor. She has been published in The New Engagement, TUCK, Greenwich Free Press, Blood Moon Rising, Grub Street, and more. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Moments Before Awakening / Midnight Molt by Michael Keshigian

Moments Before Awakening
From the bleak canister of a nightmare
the sun suddenly blazed
and he leaped out from the flames,
swept up by the wind,
cruising the fiery rays 
that melted crimson layers of burning clouds,
catching a flock of cardinals,
bloodied and dripping red,
soaring then diving
like bombers on a mission,
globs of matted down,
splattering upon barren landscape,
their orange beaks
snipping gobbets of ash
from embers
that crowded the air,
gobbets that darkened his face, 
slickened his hair with soot
and buried his feet 
in the residual cinders,
his toes curdling
in the puddles of black rain
like the talons of a red tailed hawk
about to yank him out of this dream.

Midnight Molt

He sat upon the veranda,
straining to put pen to paper,
pursuing thoughts
that might relieve
the unexplained irritability
haunting him
through the cold, dark moments
following midnight.
Dim, iridescent moonbeams
created ominous silhouettes
from shadowed branches
upon the wall behind
that undulated menacingly
in the gentle breeze
like a cobra with fangs bared
that without notice,
precisely entangled his hair 
and delicately penetrated
the smooth surface of skin,
reaching the recesses of his brain
to charm stubborn words
and nocturnal thoughts
from out the lair
that incited him to inscribe,
upon fresh molt, 
a venom which would devour
an unsuspecting prey.

Michael Keshigian, from New Hampshire, had his twelfth poetry collection, Into The Light, released in April, 2017 by Flutter Press. He has been published in numerous national and international journals including Oyez Review, Red River Review, Sierra Nevada College Review, Oklahoma Review, Chiron Review and has appeared as feature writer in over a twenty publications with 6 Pushcart Prize and 2 Best Of The Net nominations. (

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Future Dragons by Jeff Bagato

All the dragons of the sea
leaping in the rain;
a typhoon tickles their fancy,
and a hurricane sends them food
in ships broken down 
with heavy loads of soap 
or turds, or loaves of metal,
clashing bells of concrete paranoia,
and so many frantic shrimps
popping into mouths
with gooey bites

The dragons race away from land,
a toxic place, never knowing 
they’ve been extinct for many years,
a thousand, thousand watchful years
of ocean play and the love of brine
like pickled eels preserved forever 
against the fading tales of ocean 
glory and haunted maps, where 
danger looms like hope
at the frontiers of future time

A multi-media artist living near Washington, DC, Jeff Bagato produces poetry and prose as well as electronic music and glitch video. Some of his poetry and visuals have recently appeared in Empty Mirror, Futures Trading, Otoliths, Gold Wake Live, H&, The New Post-Literate, and Midnight Lane Boutique. Some short fiction has appeared in Gobbet and The Colored Lens. He has published nineteen books, all available through the usual online markets, including Savage Magic (poetry) and Kill Claus! (fiction). A blog about his writing and publishing efforts can be found at

Monday, November 20, 2017

Cheerleader Cop by Juliet Cook

She locked me in the car, told me I had to listen
to the song, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" on repeat.
She told me I had to learn to smile
all the time, even if my smile was fake.

Who tries to lock someone else inside her own tiny space
of rights and wrongs and toned down emotions
and tell someone else what their face should look like
while being forced to listen to a popular song
that I told her was not my own style at all?

She doesn't understand my style and I don't understand her.
She wants me to stop worrying, stop thinking
my own thoughts, stop feeling my own feelings.
Stop being yourself. Be me. Be me. Be me.

Be the pretty cheerleader dream I want you to be.
You came out of my womb, I think
you can at least try to get my dance moves right.
Bend your legs into the correctly proportioned shape.
Place your arms in the right position or I'll lock them
behind your back and then cut them off.

Juliet Cook is a grotesque glitter witch medusa hybrid brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, and dark red explosions. She is drawn to poetry, abstract visual art, and other forms of expression. Her poetry has appeared in a peculiar multitude of literary publications. You can find out more at

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Fainting Girl / Departed Things by Steve Klepetar

The Fainting Girl

Fremantle Prison, Autumn Equinox

The old prison fills with ghosts, like the hanged man
who murdered six in their sleep, burned their bodies, 
left them beneath a pile of ashes from cats he tossed into flames. 
Troopers found a ring in the ash pile with a man’s name 
engraved on the inner rim, which led them to the killer, 
with his smooth face and warm, brown eyes. 
They twisted his arms while he bent and cried. 
To avoid the noose, he held a live charge in his mouth, 
but succeeded only in ripping away his cheek and half his jaw. 
When he tumbled to the rope’s end, tied with a British nautical knot, 
his head tore off, bounced and rolled along the filthy floor. 
After that execution, they banned journalists. 
Watch for the woman who drowned her children one night 
when sea roared over dunes near her cottage door, and sang to her 
of young ones on the sand combing each other’s long, green hair. 
You can see her sometimes at barred windows, with her white dress 
and empty hands, but every night you hear her song, 
how she names her sons, folds their little arms across their chests. 
“Fly home,” she sings, “fly into the marrow of your bones, 
daub your wounds.” 
Her voice is ice, frozen fingers on iron bars. 
“Fly to sea foam, and rise on the water, fly with pelicans and gulls.” 
Some see a snowy owl perched on a wooden tower above the south 
cell block, but others see only torchlight or a naked bulb. 
But mostly fear the fainting girl. 
At the equinox, she collapses, terrified of screams 
in the darkness, and sudden cold. 
Those who stoop to touch her shoulders as she hunches there, 
lose themselves in the mist around her eyes.
Their fingers tremble. 
All food seems nothing but rot and ashes mingled on a wooden plate.

Departed Things

The only ghosts are the ghost of memory.

What can I do if the dead return, night 
after night, with hands burning in the wind? 
What can I do if they hover close, 

if their whispers collect 
on the curtains like a new form of dust? 
My mother settles on the couch, deals 

the cards, but soon loses 
patience with the game. She talks 
and talks, winding back on old miseries, 

calling up the fires of an ancient rage. 
She ignites my face and my forehead 
bursts into flame. My father wades

through black waves of her memories, 
through raised voices and the howling 
of cats. His back is turned, but smoke 

rises from his cigar, rich and fragrant, 
as wind tears branches from oaks, and night 
trembles with the nearness of departed things.

Steve Klepetar lives in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. His work has received several nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize, including four in 2016. Recent collections include Family Reunion (Big Table), A Landscape in Hell (Flutter Press), and How Fascism Comes to America (Locofo Chaps).

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Plum Tree by Ken Allan Dronsfield

How did the despair become
fluid for clear, dry eyes to shed?
Why did the burden on the heart
allow the stress and cause the beat
to finally stop now limp to the touch?
I've learned to live bringing such pain,
to bear as a heaviness and darkness
conjoin in a ripe nectar squeezed from
my mind creating an apathetic caste.
In these times of death, we hum our
dirges and become oracles of peace
while pounding that holy black book
forever bound by the millions of souls.
Remorseful, I've learned to inhale deep
as I await my turn to be quickly plucked
from that great plum tree of life, ripe as
I search for an epistemic loftiness below.

Ken Allan Dronsfield is a disabled veteran and poet from New Hampshire now residing on the southern plains of Oklahoma. He loves thunderstorms and time with his cat Willa.  He is a three time nominee for the Pushcart Prize Award and twice for the Best of the Net for 2016-2017.