‘Dignity’ by Sharon Brandon

soft cartel april 2018

I know color isn’t supposed to matter much
but what has happened to you my sistah?
There was a time when you thought more of yourself than what I see now
and it gives more credence to why they say, “the man won’t buy the cow”.
There was a time when you couldn’t find a black woman so revealing
and yes indeed she still knew she was appealing
Her values were more readily seen
rather than the curvature of her jeans
For some reason you thought you needed to be more like them…

Modesty used to be your policy
Now you’re living a life of hypocrisy.
Now you flash it all just like the other side
and seemingly you have lost what once was your pride
Pride in how you carried yourself
Now showing everything you’ve got leaves you with nothing left
Wanting the best but living as an adulteress
You say you just want to be free
but my sistah tell me…
why does it have to cost your dignity?

Author, life coach and motivational speaker, Sharon Brandon was born in Virginia and is the mother of three adult children. Her passion from the time she was able centers around reading and creative writing. Sharon now lives in North Carolina and is continuing her literary passions.

‘Fake News’ & ‘Life’ by Craig Sidell

soft cartel april 2018

Fake News

Hallucinogenic waves of information

Colliding head on with brainwaves of consternation

Targeted bullets of propaganda

Delivering fresh bamboo to the panda

Heated debates of inconsequential matter

I’ll take the former, you take the latter

Kernels of truth put through a grinder

Choice chopped meat, fees for the finder

Media agnostically designed

To completely overload your mind

Roots of the redwood destroying the road

Heads of the Hydra, watch them grow

Drowning in a sea of plastic trash

Like a Phoenix rising from the ash

Hear ye, hear ye, read all about it

The news is here, can’t live without it


Hi egg, sperm here, whaz up?

Bam! I bet you didn’t see that coming.

Hey, I’m stuck. Get me outta here!

What’s happening? I’ve got a splitting headache.

You want a piece of me? Huh?

I feel like we were meant for each other.

I’m seeing double, I mean quadruple.

Something feels different, really different.

I feel alive!

Hey, you’re like in my head.

I have a funny feeling we’re gonna spend the rest

Of our life together.

This was meant to be.

It’s kinda dark in here, isn’t it?

‘A Window’ & ‘Selfie’ by Jethro Lorenzo Lising

soft cartel april 2018

A Window

“Look up!”, the old man says,
the young one looks at him, perplexed,
he points to the window where,
a stream of conifers, broken clouds, and traffic lines,
passed him by; unobserved

The stochastic melody of nature,
such as the tweets of spring time birds,
even the bustling city streets, and the subtle whirr of engines,
all were unlistened to; unheard

He looks down again, with a preoccupied gaze,
hunched over with rounded shoulder blades,
a stream of blue light paints his face,
as he scrolled through curated feeds,
stuck, in a digital daze,
endlessly refreshing his timeline,
packets of binary translate to dopamine treats,
his moods were dictated by soulless algorithms

The sensitive ones,
crave the refuge of solitude,
the old man tells him,
“—the secret lies in what we pay attention to!”

“So, look up and see,”
The old, the usual, the typical,
“—there’s beauty in the ordinary!”
The young one looked up and stared out the window


She still lived inside of me
Though only as a simple memory
Sometimes I would by chance catch a scent of her old buttery body-wash from a passing crowd
(Never remembered its name, though I would instantly buy it if I did)
I wish I could remember everything there is in my short sighted mind,

A cold lifeless stare, a promise that she kept,
Over warnings of her fragile health,
Drama wasn’t her forte,
A straightforward gal with a prosaic tongue,
Wrote entire papers in the passive,
She never left her love; Nature, and the lab

All I have are memories
And your photograph on my shelf
I wish you took more Selfies
Because there’s nothing left that I can remember

Four Poems by Milton P. Ehrlich

soft cartel april 2018


His head is on fire in a terrible fright.
Smoke can be seen wafting out of his ears.
The stink of desiccated arms, legs, breasts
and bellies is everywhere.

The pith of his soul trembles—
what kind of chicanery
have the politicos done to us?

He’s surrounded by deafening silence,
smothered dreams, and a tarnished mirror
revealing the many faces of death.

His world is empty and unused
as a saloon spittoon, in a landscape
bare as a banker’s bald head.

A wind blows hundred dollar bills
through the leaves of barren trees.
Gold Kruggerands bounce along
deserted sidewalks and streets.

There’s no live fish left in the sea,
no corn standing in desolate fields,
and not a drop of water to drink.

He tries an Ojibway’s haunting rain dance,
grunting— whoha, heeho, hahhah
to the beat of stone on stone.

He’s so lonely, he forgets how to cry—
all he can do is bang his head against
what’s left of a Bank of America safe.

He used to think he was the loneliest man on earth.
Now he knows it to be true.

All he wants to do is search for the love of a woman—
even a friend will do. He longs for the perfumed air
of the past, and promises to love those who don’t love back.


Hearing the bark of my sergeant’s orders
was music to my rifleman’s ears
after trudging through rocky brambles
in mosquito-ridden underbrush.

I took a deep drag from the tips of my toes.

Cigarettes came with our K-rations,
helping me to become a nicotine drug addict—
a smoke with every cup of coffee, shot of scotch,
or after every sexual encounter.

Cigarettes and booze: Always available at the PX
at deeply discounted prices.

It wasn’t until a few years later—
working at N.Y. U. on a first large-scale study
on the correlation between smoking and cancer
that I followed the lead of the chain-smoking
director of the project, who quit smoking cold-turkey
the day the malarkey about smoking was revealed.


All that’s left— a chiaroscuro photo
of you and me on our farm
inhaling the scent of new-mown hay.

Bouquets of delphinium wilt,
but my moustache keeps twitching
for a taste of your melted brie.
Your dance shoes keep click-clacking
through drifts of confetti on the floor.

After our Aramaic wedding in Bnei Brak
where I paid seven shekels for you.
We rode camels in the windblown sands
of the Sinai before the Six-Day War.

We searched for edible mushrooms.
Once we collected crustaceans
and fossils at the Catskill Creek
and saved them in a pewter pot

We listened to Alan Watts every night
seated back to back like meditating monks.

Because you were a connoisseur
of living in the moment,
our bedroom walls vibrated
as we bonded harmoniously.

Please don’t leave this world before me—
it will turn my kishkes inside out
and decapitate my soul.
If you are gone I will fall apart
agonizing over the stillness in our house.


When I look in the mirror,
I don’t recognize the face I see.
I ‘m sure I haven’t changed a bit
since I was seventeen—
still the dreamer I remember so well,
who loves the ladies as much as ever.

I drive a car with the finesse
of an Indy 500 race car driver.

But, when I was seventeen,
I had a romantic fling
that might evade me now.

She was a lusty classmate
who craved intimate bouts
as often as we could have them.
The supply line for Big Gun Bertha
flowed effortlessly.

Now we have to wait for regeneration.
In days gone by, when I entered her,
she held me tight and wouldn’t let go.
When I drove her hither and yon,
she kept her hand on my crotch,
hanging on to my one-eyed friend
as if it was a stick-shift car,
even though it was fully automatic.

Milton P. Ehrlich, Ph.D. is an 86-year old psychologist. A Korean War veteran, he has published numerous poems in periodicals such as “Descant,” “Taj Mahal Review,” “Wisconsin Review,” “Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow,” “Toronto Quarterly Review,” “Antigonish Review,” “Christian Science Monitor,” “Huffington Post,” and the “New York Times.”

‘Bree’ & ‘Song of Exile, Migration Trail’ by Alan Ray Simmons

soft cartel april 2018


She would have been 38. All my friends are suicides,
She argued, as if that made it legitimate, somehow, like
An insurance policy she bought for free.
My suicide. She always used the possessive tense.
At least she said goodbye.
She’d rather die than quit her drinking and smoking,
And did. A year later they found a cure for what ailed her.
Next time. When is that? I asked. She never replied.

And then, there was that other thing,
You, not me, in love, crazy,
Because he won’t give it up for you like you wanted him to.
You can’t trust the lawyer poet she left her husband back in Cleveland for
Without telling him first she’s coming down. I’m sorry?
Old Kentucky home, southern charm, money,
How he got his job. And she, living on creativity, and SSD.

He wanted to be wanted from a distance.
She was an artist and could write like he only wished he could.
And, because he was huge, three times her size,
He inspired her.

Song of Exile, Migration Trail

Across an ocean of water, two oceans of land,
One wave travels over sand. I, of the broken wave,
With hooves dug in, a stampede of legs and
Gas stations, bare feet and boots stuck in mud
And painted snow, chained to wheels,
Step by step without a plan,
Other than freedom to run, blend in, take a stand.

On a boat, watch your mouth. On a train, speak out,
Offer to compromise. Anxious as a torn tribal band.
Did you do well while alive? Sir, how many
Generations must one live in one place to feel at home there,
At long last? In this life? Maybe if I concentrate.

Freedom to fall out of a tree and
Survive a full planet gravity body blow and live
To spawn in the Promised Land. I, of the lucky guy,
A puffed victory smoke and my ancient run is done.

When you arrive you want your journey back.
3rd generation to set foot,
Grabbed up the soil and held it in my hand.
At the end of the road is a river. Place my stone there.

Alan Ray Simmons was born in Chicago on December 21, 1948. He attended
Northeastern Illinois University, in Chicago, and won two Illinois Arts Council Awards
as editor of Stone Wind Magazine, Northeastern Illinois University Press. Poet-In-
Residence, City of Chicago Council on Fine Arts, 1979-80. Founder of the Blue Store
Readings, Home of the Spoken Word Movement, and creator of the Main Event, the
World Heavyweight Poetry Championship Fights, and The World Poetry Association,
(WPA). He was Commissioner of the WPA and the World Poetry Bout Association,
(WPBA), Chicago, Taos, New Mexico, 1979 – 2002. Once quoted on the front page of
the New York Times. He has two books, Care Free, poems, Smithereens Press, Bolinas,
California, 1982, and King Blue, a memoir, Stone Wind Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1992.
His work has appeared in The Chicago Reader, Strong Coffee, Exquisite Corpse, and
most recently in Queen City Review, Blue Collar Review, WORK, Out of Our, Horus-Hi
Road Glyphics, Green Panda Anthologies The Next, Forage, Your Impossible Voice,
Creating Chaos, Echo Literary Review, Placeholder Magazine, Blue River Review, Ariel
Chart, Peacock Review, Peacock Review Anthology, Vol. II., Little Red Tree Press, 82
Review, Disappointed Housewife and Alcyone, a Magazine of Speculative Fiction. He
lives in Alameda, California. Follow him at simmonsink.blogspot.com.

Two Poems by W.I. Goldstein

soft cartel april 2018


All the methods to become important I have tried:

The names reversed
The cufflinks italicized
The spectacles tinted
The handcards printed, and a red
Telephone with chimes to ring the
Ears of the callers. None
Has worked.

Drenched by the rains of the glorious
At twenty, at thirty declaring the parabolic, I
Learned to tapdance at forty.
I cultivated mirrors and refused the shawl.
Like a general to his battles, I prepared
To celebrate.

My architecture has yet to approximate
A proper statuary.
My voice probes the orphic caves without an echo.
Quietness, all is quietness in the mercenaries of my soul
The questions still compete:

Which greatness?

What war?

Where is the army to follow my bugle call?


Sailing forward on the houseboat of life
Kids, the wife, poverty in the corner.
The shaking oars
And creaking winches from the mists
Culling the lost triremes
Of another age.

Heroic, they called it:
Aeschylus and Pindar
Reciting Homer
Old Homer
An authority, venerated, hoary
Even way back then.

The houseboat of life creaking
The wife, kids, poverty
In the corner
Venerated, hoary, an authority now
On this ocean, my ocean
But no Homer.

‘a trick of innocence’ & ‘northern border’ by Michael MacKinnon

soft cartel april 2018

a trick of innocence

she’s joined his stable
been here four months now
hooked on the once high of rock
twenty one
really, that’s what she says
though she hints more at seventeen
matters little really

she does his work
panning and whoring
so he gets his fix
he’s just one more parasite
owed a living by life
the one she can provide

it’s eleven fifteen
she works the bar corner
under his watchful eye

the innocence not quite gone from her voice
and it turns the trick
someone else to prey on her youth
intervention is needed to save her
but does anybody care
certainly not the johns

surely not him

northern border

winging north from fargo north dakota
looking to cross the border
hit the peg before nightfall
a cold beer waits for me
and a woman named billy
who i met once
in a previous life
when gardening kids
and working the grind
were the things that mattered
when wanting to be storyteller
was a story i told
when all i wandered
were the paths of boyhood dreams

the prairie sun melts toward the horizon
layering the dash in crimson
grass fire smoke hazes the sky
and the daytime’s warmth
cedes the air to the chill
of the springtime night
and in the twilight interlude
before the stars step forth
the border arrives
and i am home again

or as close as i ever get