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 http://jeffbagato.com.

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 www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

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.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

No Soul Is A Shoe by G. Louis Heath

No soul is a shoe, yet we live in shoes of
The mind. That is what I think as I watch

Her walking in the distance on a tightrope
Between shore and sky. I see a scrub jay 

Presiding over a broken branch above our 
Mother’s shoe-grave on the hill just above. 

We buried her shoe with our simple version 
Of a church rite in effigy of her, for only one  

Shoe and no body washed up on the shore, or
At least it was her size and favorite brand. The

Shoe gives us closure as best a factory shoe can. 
A bespoke shoe with monogram could make my

Sister’s mourning walk an easier tightrope to 
Tread. I see her vanishing on the horizon. She 

Says she will never stop looking. Mom must yet 
Breathe somewhere the ocean breezes whispering  

Over her shoe in its makeshift grave on the hill. 
She must still inhale sharp, salt-scented air, not 

Yet be salt unto the sea. I see the sea leaping to
Greet the westering sun of eventide. The scrub 

Jay on the splintered bough above the grave shrieks
Its harsh, piercing cry. I can see my sister no more.

G. Louis Heath, Ph.D., Berkeley, 1969, is Emeritus Professor, Ashford University, Clinton, Iowa. He enjoys reading his poems at open mics. He has published poems in a wide array of journals. His books include Leaves Of Maple and Long Dark River Casino.  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

When You Came To Me / Rain by Martin Willitts Jr.

When You Came To Me

When you came to me, I was not here.
I was already dry leaves taken by wind 
past the stone wall borders
into the hands of darkness.

I was not in the language from a single cloud, 
nor could you see what you had unmade,
although the green was descending
from the fields, hushed slowly.

There was no judgement. It was as weightless 
as a scarf in a soft wind dreaming.
An opening does not mean anyone has spoken.
The air buckled behind me when I left.

I was not here when you came to see me, 
throwing bits of light like rose petals.
However, not one piece of life is stationary.
Wind can take darkness right through borders.

Judgement can descend, green and rippling, 
trailing clouds and red lights, and I will not
be there to see you turn away, again, hushed
as dry leaves, unspeakable leaves, and gone.


Listen to the rain’s obsession. It’s leisurely, 
unstoppable remorse. It is squatting over our house.
It runs back and forth like field mice. 
It’s monotonous.
It cancelled a parade; now, it is cartwheeling 
over the fields like a girl in love with a boy
too dumb to know how lucky he can be.
Rain soaks into skin, deep-rooted bliss.

It’s steady, heart-throbbing.
Even at dark noon, it bursts open again
and again, not offering reprieve, only revision:
rivulets of mud; sunken cars; drenched 
histories; the smell of damp ewes.
A wet monarch clings to a swaying milkweed.

Martin Willitts Jr won the 2014 Dylan Thomas International Poetry Contest; Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2015Editor’s ChoiceRattle Ekphrastic Challenge, Artist’s Choice, November 2016, and a Central New York Individual Artist Award for "Poetry On The Bus". 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Underworld by Ann Christine Tabaka

Deep within the crumbling catacombs
the sulfurous odor of burning torches
rags drenched in thick oil 
light the way
Footsteps kick up a gray pall of ancient dust
carrying with it the stench of rotted flesh
Narrow passageways open up to dank chambers
Where lost souls gather
observing rituals as old as man himself
Subterranean cites and burial sites existing
side by side shrouding their dark secrets
Vermin scurrying through sewer openings
squeal as they rush by
A pervading sense of the macabre greets all  
who dare to pass through the gates of hell

Ann Christine Tabaka is a published poet and artist. Credits: The Paragon Journal, The Literary Hatchet, The Metaworker, Raven Cage Ezine, RavensPerch, Anapest Journal, Mused, Apricity Magazine, Longshot Island, Indiana Voice Journal, Halcyon Days Magazine, The Society of Classical Poets, and BSU’s Celestial Musings Anthology.