September 24, 2022

Black Poppy is Closed


September 23, 2022

The Hanging of Anthony Morrow by John Westrick

When the lever was pulled, I didn’t even look away. Anthony Morrow was the sort of scum the gallows were made for. I watched the man fall from the platform and was pleased to see arms and legs twitching wildly. A quick death was too good for a piece of shit like that. 

Reverend George Pain rebuked me, saying, “His death isn’t going to bring back Lucelle. Only the Lord can bring healing. Today my son, you have all of my prayers.” 

I responded, “Reverend, I know you mean well, but if you don’t mind I’m trying to enjoy the show.” 

I watched as the elderly man walked away. A pinprick of pain pierced my heart, the reverend truly was a good man. I’d make amends on Sunday, after all he was quick to forgive. 

The damage was already done, I couldn’t get the face of Lucelle out of my mind. Her perfectly round eyes shaded by short bangs that framed her round face, left me wanting. Not even the final spasms of the damned man was enough to satiate me. I was left empty, entirely drained. There was nothing left to live for, she was everything to me. 

That bastard swaying by his elongated neck, took her from me. He didn’t even have the decency to put her out of her misery. The man left her with the blade embedded in her stomach, bleeding uncontrollably. 

I can’t bear thinking of what he did to her, yet, there is nothing else that occupies my time. Tears fill my eyes as I remember the scene. Her all-too-still body was cold to the touch. The creamy whiteness of her complexion was stained crimson. How could this happen to a woman so pure? 

How could a man so black in heart get off so easily? His life for hers. How is that a fair trade? The man could be hung forevermore and it wouldn’t be enough. If there is any justice in this world that man would be condemned to suffer his fate over again. 

The floor of the platform dropped, and Anthony Morrow fell into his fate, once more.

John Westrick is a native from the sunny coast of southern Florida, where he spent much of his life crafting his writing skills. Even though he is fairly new in his professional writing career, hardly is he new to word crafting. On his website, he features many of his short stories.

September 22, 2022

In my face in your face in the world’s face by Diana Raab

Everyone blames their shit on childhood. Last night my dog’s butt found my face. I wish I could say that he thought he was protecting me from the Loch Ness Monster’s embrace or something worse that may emerge from his walking circles on my bed, from his search of the perfect position. Is his fear of the deafening wind outside my bedroom window a childhood trauma? The monster wind and my eight hours of interrupted sleep might agree: Nobody wants to take responsibility for who the hell they are. My dog—inconsolable— licks every inch of my exposed skin, parades over my still body as I balance a book between two arms. He wags his tail back and forth onto its pages, worse than any newborn’s consolation of jamming a milk-engorged breast into its mouth. I know there’s no way my dog, as smart as he, could be so tuned in even if he knows I’m coming home before I do. . . who knows? What do dogs know about reading or the wind? Do they make ear plugs for canines? I’ll take two please, along with the back and forth of time taken. All this because he thought I could protect him. 

Diana Raab, PhD, is an award-winning memoirist, poet, blogger, speaker, and author of 10 books and is a contributor to numerous journals and anthologies.  Her two latest books are, "Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life," and "Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal." Her poetry chapbook, "An Imaginary Affair," was recently released in July 2022 with Finishing Line Press.  She blogs for Psychology Today, Thrive Global, Sixty and Me, Good Men Project, and The Wisdom Daily and is a frequent guest blogger for various other sites.


September 21, 2022

Rain by Trix-Nico Gebele

I always loved the rain. The overcast clouds of light gray shading the world with listless breezes and chilling drops of morning dew falling from the sky. 

My eyes were shut as I basked in the sound.

The fabric cocooning me was soft. Not in the way of fleece, but in the same way as my decade-old moon phases tee-shirt with a small hole by the collar. If it weren’t for the cover over me, I’d probably be cool rather than stuffy.

If I were home, I’d have a record playing. One of my 1970s rock records. Or maybe something classical. I’d put the kettle on, grab the nearest notebook, and settle on my favorite gray armchair by the window to write. 

Perhaps I’d have continued my latest mystery novel. Maybe Eleana would have made it out of her prison and into the woods. Maybe she would’ve made it all the way to the nearest town, only to realize no one there is safe, before I stopped for the day. 

Or perhaps I would’ve jotted down a short story. Something to give myself a break from Eleana.

God, I wish I was home right now.

Maria was the one who first suggested we visit haunted sites—the cemetery, a funeral home, the Glore Psychiatric Museum, Warren’s Occult Museum. She was determined that seeing these would help our writing. So Caroline and I agreed, if only for the experience.

It had been a joke at first. Maria laughed when she said that one of us should get in one of the caskets so they could better write the experience later. Caroline agreed, but said we should make it a more realistic kidnapping scenario. So I drove out to the little supermarket in town, where Maria bought rope and Caroline a couple clearance tee-shirts. 

“So the ropes don’t chaff,” she said.

When we got back to the funeral house, neither Caroline nor Maria seemed to want to go first. I’d volunteered, if only so they wouldn’t be so nervous later. I’d figured it wouldn’t be much different from the times I’d play hide n’ seek with my sisters in the basement’s empty boxes.

So I let Caroline wrap my wrists and ankles in clearance tee-shirts before Maria tied them together with rope. Maria had even shoved one of the tee-shirts in my mouth, “just to keep it realistic,” she said. 

Then they closed the casket lid and locked me in.

When it felt like the ten minute timer we set should have been over hours ago, I figured I was just bored. That was before the casket moved.

I tried to call out, of course. But Maria had tied the ropes so my hands couldn’t come up and take the tee-shirt out of my mouth and the seal of the casket was enough to keep them from hearing my muffled noises.

It didn’t take long to understand that they weren’t coming back.

So here I lay, pretending dirt is falling rain.

Trix-Nico Gebele is an aspiring writer who enjoys experimenting with horror and fantasy. They are currently attending an Indiana university for creative writing.

September 20, 2022

Whisper Her Name Three Times by Ashley Lilly

We stood in the darkness
Moonlight kissing the bathroom mirror
We had to whisper her name three times

Once to raise the hairs on our necks
Twice to make our blood run cold
Three times to… to…

To chicken out
Wilting like blackening roses
Spilling into the light to laugh like hyenas

We hid words under our tongues like chewing gum
Phrases were powerful enough to summon ghosts
Consonants and vowels could bring monsters to life

In the light, monsters didn’t feel so scary
Cereal boxes beckoned to us from wooden tables
How easy it was to go from chasing ghosts

To chasing a sugar high.
We grew up, tall and studious
And our words never summoned any ghosts

But oh how our words still mattered.
When the lights go out, I still remember her name
I say it once, I say it twice, I say it…

Ashley Lilly is a poet currently residing in New York. Her writing is inspired by nature, relationships and all things odd or spooky. 

September 19, 2022

Shower Drain by Alan Caldwell

Douglas liked taking long showers. He said it was a poor man’s medicine. Douglas wasn’t poor, at least not by any reasonable global standard. He was a good salesman. He never made his Manager angry or even disappointed. It doesn’t matter what he sold. That is not important. He had very few friends, but none of them knew what he sold. His wife and two daughters didn’t know what he sold either. They knew only that he sold enough of it, whatever it was, to maintain a basic American middle class existence. They knew he often worked late and sometimes even worked weekends. They knew he would arrive at home exhausted, scratch the dog’s ears, eat a cold dinner, divvy up hugs, and excuse himself to the master bath. 

Douglas liked taking long showers. He would turn off the bathroom lights, sit on the shower floor, lean back into the far corner, and let the water, as hot as he could stand it, strike his face and chest. The water was a steaming daily baptism. He would rest in his corner till the water ran cold. Everyone knew to do their own bathing and washing before he came home. It was his one personal allowance. He participated in no hobbies or interests. He sold unimportant things. He took long showers. He slept. He started over. 

Sometime last fall, after a particularly difficult work day, a day when established deals fell through and no new ones emerged to take their place, Douglas reclined in his alabaster-tiled chamber and wished he had purchased and installed two water heaters instead of one. He then heard a strange gurgling in the drain. He leaned forward and listened closely, hoping the sound was an aberration and not a clog beginning to form. He again perceived a sound in the pvc pipes below, a different sound, not a gurgle this time, more of a barely-audible whisper, but certainly an actual human voice. He assumed, at first, that it was an echo of his wife and daughters talking in the living room, a weird acoustical anomaly of some sort. He pressed his ear against the waffle-like drain. He discerned a myriad of tongues. They were strange to him. He recoiled and pushed his head away, but curiosity pulled him back. They were speaking of him. He heard his name in distinct vocalizations, some distinctly male, some female. It was as if he was privy to a large conference about him but the words were slurred to a barely incomprehensible degree. He would hear his name and then jumbled syllables. He pressed closer till the metal bit his lobes and still no clarity. Nevertheless, he knew, or believed, that they were talking about him, and he knew, or believed that they were angry or disappointed. 

He listened till the water turned tepid and then cold. He listened till he shivered. He listened till they finally pulled him free from the drain, wrapped him in a warm robe, and took him away. 

Alan Caldwell is a veteran teacher and a new author. He has recently been published in Southern Gothic Creations, Deepsouth Magazine, The Backwoodsman Magazine, oc87 Recovery Diaries, and is forthcoming in Biostories and You Might Need to Hear This.

September 16, 2022

Red Sweater Jane by John Davis

So astute with a flick
of her finger, she smiled
under chalky white sky.

They said she was dead
but her thick, red sweater
and rose-cheek skin

smooth as ponds by the beach
where we camped, splayed
our bodies in the sand.

She returned last night
ready to goose me
where I wanted to be goosed.

But you’re wrong, so wrong.
I’m thirty years dead.
I’ve only come to say hello.

John Davis is a polio survivor and the author of Gigs and The ReservistHis work has appeared recently in DMQ ReviewIron Horse Literary Review and He lives on an island in the Salish Sea.