‘Afloat’ by Eric Burbridge


It rained for twenty-four hours before Emory decided to get high.  The cast on his shattered left leg and hip itched like hell. He needed relief and waved the flame under the spoon.  He drew the heroin into the syringe, pierced his vein and watched the blood mix with the chalky white fluid. Thunder and lightning exploded outside and in his head.  He fell back on the bed and his arteries were on fire. Oh, no, fentanyl mix, they lied…they killed him.

He was cold and wet, darkness his only companion.  Focus. He passed out, but how long was he out, twelve hours, a day?  He splashed water on the bed the place was flooded. He managed to grab the headboard.  What do I do? An eerie silence fell over the place. The rain had stopped, but the window was open and the stench of sewerage in the water turned his stomach.  A splash in the other room, what was that? Contaminated water soaked into the cast; the itch returned. His lower half would be infected if it wasn’t already. Emergency flashing lights danced on the walls.

People in boats, it had to be!

He scooted to the opposite side and grabbed the chair before it floated away.  If he could only get on it and scream for help. The lights faded, then darkness.  But what were those glowing spots in the water?

Spots!  Those weren’t spots, but eyes just above the water.

A gator!

He snatched his arm from the chair too late. The gator’s teeth sank into his biceps as it tried to swallow his arm.  The pain was unbearable.


Emory jerked back and forth and the reptile’s grip loosened.  He’d almost got his arm out when the gator moved with lightning speed onto the bed.  Emory punched its mouth. “Get back!” It didn’t. Instead its mouth snapped up his arm again, spun trying to flip him. The more he pulled the farther his arm went down the gator’s throat.  Flashing lights reappeared and revealed the black bumpy scales of the predator determined to kill him. The sickening smell coupled with panic made him puke. The contents of his stomach splashed in the water and face of his assailant.  Emory scooted back on the bed and so did the gator, locked on his arm, but the tingling stopped.

“Help…help somebody…please help!!”

The gator’s eyes popped open.  Oh shit.

A mandatory evacuation is in effect.  Please go to the upper floors of your residences if possible.”  A male voice with a heavy southern drawl shouted through a loud speaker.  Waves of water rushed through the window as a boat circled the house. He managed to move his arm in the gullet of the gator and felt boney ridges.  He opened his fist; his fingers would prevent his arm from going any further. The reptile wriggled one last time.

“Dead…you’re dead.  Help!!” The waves in the water started to rise and cover his face.

After all this, now he was going to drown.  A boat bumped into the house? “Anybody in there?”  A guy slipped through the window his helmet light shined in Emory’s face.

“Jesus, Willy there’s a big ass gator in here…he got a guy’s arm in his mouth!!”

“Help.”  Emory tried to scream but only whimpered.

The rescue worker waded through the putrid water opposite the gator.  “Be still guy…be calm. Your arm stuck?” Emory nodded. “Willy, get your fire ax, hurry.”

“OK.” The worked poked the gator with the axe and pushed it further on the bed. “It’s dead, Willy.”  He shouted. “Ok guy, I’m gonna chop its head off, relax…be still.” Emory nodded and closed his eyes.  He still couldn’t feel his arm. “Be still.” The sound sickened him and blood sprayed in his face. Chop, chop. He wanted to scream, “Don’t cut off my arm,” but couldn’t and lost consciousness.

Eric Burbridge has been published in numerous literary journals. He started writing at a young and continued through his retirement.




This is the fear of
This is the fear of
This is the fear of being hated.

Welcome to the death of Apollo.
The star shines down on Dionysus.
They have done their time here.
Paint your masks and watch them fall.

This is the end of
This is the end of
This is the end of complacency.

Wielded tongues meet their makers
at the arcane Hotel Eden.
Cut flesh with curiosity.
Screaming angels fall like sidereal awes.

This is the hope of
This is the hope of
This is the hope of a new era.

The sun will set in a fortnight.
Let us see these illegitimate jewels.
In between we shall give our thoughts.
How the prickly pear is the American Dream.

This is the love of
This is the love of
This is the love of ambiguity.

The wind blows as skins flow
away from their winter shells.
Life creeps as blood seeps
into the gaping earth.

This is the cost of
This is the cost of
This is the cost of one more season.

Concerning tastes it must not be disputed,
yet bones cry for a fight.
Plato slays for his maiden
Truth as the subjective beast-

This is the death of
This is the death of
This is the death of thy paradise.

Diamonds melt into tears
as lions run for cover.
Even legends tend to die
when fire comes to play.

This is the sense of
This is the sense of
This is the sense of a glorious end.


is the man who
cannot seem to face
his own anxiety.

Falls into
a bad state of a
How human

Is the one who
shall not attend
the party life
has to offer mankind.

How peachy.

Sophia Kelly is a recent graduate from The Vanguard School in Colorado. She has five published poems, and awards for two other poems in the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition. Her poems can be found in Haiku Journal, The America Library of Poetry, The Live Poets’ Society of New Jersey, and Poetry Nation. She has also written about four short stories, none of which have yet been published. Sophia strives to write in many different styles and genres. When she is not putting her pen to the paper, she crochets a wide variety of animals, where she then sells at her local artisan shop.

‘So what then do we do when the sea is boiling’ & ‘prayers’ by Ogunkoya Samuel


So what then do we do when the sea is boiling

Or how do words leap off our mouths
Like curses to the new gods for
Making delicate flower gardens become graveyards.
Or a plea of help to the old ones
While we expect them to reply
With a concerted silence
Like ever before.
Still, we prayed,
Till we fled from our burning houses.
We made worship out of war songs
By God, there is never a rhythm to being homeless
What lyrics are there in crying?
But what else can we do when they tell us
Asylums aren’t designed for couples.


every time there is a rain
it reminds you of the night your father drowned
and how he left ten blank pages for you
to write poems
bad poems.
shitty poems.
good poems. but never
love poems.
the sound of your back breaking drowned
in the hum of a road
into a bus filled with mothering women
into the cackles of a baby
into his mother’s thought
it found a home there
becoming a groan & blue prayers to the name of a faceless god.
and the memories of your father & you
is a street too wide for a city to swallow.

Ogunkoya Samuel is a Nigerian physiotherapist. His poems have been published in Kalahari Review, AfricanWriter and Best New African poets anthology 2017. He writes from Lagos.

‘The Next Day’ & ‘Eye Contact’ by J.L. Smith


The Next Day

I felt the bed sheets for the first time,
rough like the 100-count fibers they are,
made coarse like a cat’s tongue
on tender skin,
itchy on the naked hip.
Last night the sheets felt supple,
camel hair,
buttery suede,
when I was under you.
Burgundy in color,
not faded as they are now
with the sun penetrating
through cheap curtains,
squinting eyes.
Color fades,
like you from me.
A cheap imitation
that longed to be something
it will never be.

Eye Contact

He looks at her as he strokes her,
like a cat: good kitty, good kitty.
But, the blonde is a mixed signal:
part receptive to his cuddles,
wet kisses on the neck;
part not,
pulling back
as much as his grip
around her waist will allow.

She sees all around her
in the java line,
but dares not make eye contact,
does not ask him to stop either,
as he looks behind him
to you,
seeking eye contact,
a notice,
but you look at the gluten free cookies instead.

Coconut gluten free cookies.

You won’t give him the validation,
even as he smooths his hands
over the rear of her jeans,
to remove her cell phone,
so that she can pay with it.

As he walks away,
his eyes remain on you.
You stare at her back,
that she leaves him
and never looks back.

J.L. Smith has published two collections of poetry: Medusa, The Lost Daughter and Weathered Fragments, Weathered Souls. Her work has appeared in many literary journals and magazines. Follow her at her blog jlsmithwrites.com or Twitter @jennifersmithak.

Three Poems by Mugabi Byenkya



we’d been drinking

wind whipped up an icy frenzy around us
white icy sleet sheets sliced micro-tears in our unexposed skin
visibility was near zero
all I could see was your girthy billowing dark frame
amidst an off-white seething haze

we stumbled forward
my size ten boots
awkwardly landing into your size twelve boot-prints

trudging onwards through the blizzard
we approached closer and closer to home

the combination of:
– alcohol in my arteries
– adolescent angst
– and the assaulting air

uncorked the inhibitions off my repressed anger

“Where were you, when I needed you?”


She was always the tomboy
But what comes with the territory
doesn’t always come with joy

Raised by her Father
as the Boy he wanted
Who never realized
the extent this would damage

Older Brothers perpetuated Father’s wishes
Always one of the guys
she responds with –
to kisses

But that didn’t matter




the myth of cooties
Was lifted, do you see?

So she,
hung out with her group of guys
Always one of the guys
Never realized
the key difference

Times change
people change
people grow ambivalent

But she didn’t see it coming

Hormones started raging
boys started cuming

Realized the girl in their midst
was more than a friend
She was

all their lustful


In the flesh


To grope breasts


To mesh

With another human being


For meaning-
less physical pleasure

No justification here for violent measures
So they all came
to play a ‘game’

Quotation marks
harken the presence
Of ulterior motives,
as the moon slivers into a crescent

The game was 5 against 1

I cried the first time
I lied when I tried

Is there something wrong with me?

Is this what it’s supposed to be?


“So, like when was the first time you did it?”
“Haha, well, you know, there was this cute guy at the club”
“And, um”

what I’m about to say next is an utter fallacy
For you see
My lips lie
As my soul cries

Woke up the next morning in his bed

Mugabi Byenkya was born in Nigeria to Ugandan/Rwandan parents and is currently based between Kampala and Toronto. He spent his life across Africa, Asia and North America. Mugabi was longlisted for the Babishai Niwe Poetry Award in 2015, has been featured on Brittle Paper, The Good Men Project, African Writer, Arts and Africa and The Kalahari Review amongst others. His writing is used to teach international high school English reading comprehension. His debut novel, ‘Dear Philomena,’ was published in 2017 and he recently concluded a 30 city North America/East Africa tour in support of this. An advocate for the intersection of arts, chronic illness and social justice, and literacy, Mugabi leads workshops in effective writing, poetry, performance, vulnerability, mental illness and chronic illness for youth and adults.

Three Poems by A.E. Weisgerber



Those two square slants of roof, that wisp-of-smoke
chimney, that door with the window in it,
that shining window with the panes in it,
them geraniums and eyelet curtains,
winking me a welcome home but for this:

what are these hearts in the turf, these indents
in the yard, this moss, that memory stone
a poured concrete circle, a date drawn with
a stick, below it the impression of
a wife-sized hand and a cloven heart?
I’m fucking dead?


I dropped the call with a crisp acrylic tap, knowing exactly who waited for my arrival at Café La Croix. So, I called Chekr from my bedroom where I am allegedly getting ready to meet friends at a St. Tropez-style brunch, but really was going for, you know. While I practiced my shade-filled deadpan in the mirror, my Chekr arrived, and it waited outside, and I knew I was going to be, like, at least another fifteen minutes. I cancelled the Chekr. Maybe it was rude, a little, but I thought I am thoughtful. After another twenty minutes I was, you know, ready, so I called another Chekr and guess what? It was the same guy. He kept accepting my request and cancelling. I can’t get another car. I saw my Chekr idling under the maple across the street. How rude. By the way: My gel tips are fucking coming off in case anybody gives a rolling fuck. Chekr is soooooo much rudeness.


Hello. Very happy to meet you. Delighted. How is it going today? You are touring with your son. It is a pleasure to travel by car. How to say mine is with me and not here. What? I have a room downtown. What about you? Great, buddy. Thanks. When is your vacation? In July? Sun. Warm. Hot. Will you go to the beach? How do I say windows, or it doesn’t make one bit of difference? At home, everybody is all right? A son? Very good. Go to the door, please. I had one son, a boy. (He left a note, left it in his father’s office.) Excuse me, sir. Could you please help me? Can you help me please? Who is that guy? Do you know him? (How you say? Overdose. Easy. Peaceful.) Yes, I am from Barcelona. Is this a good idea? It’s not going too well, thanks. I I need helping.

A.E. Weisgerber is a 2018 Chesapeake Bay Writer and 2017 Frost Place Scholar. Stories in Heavy Feather, Alaska Star, SmokeLong, Essaying Daily, FLAPPERHOUSE, great weather for MEDIA, Matchbook, DIAGRAM, Collapsar, and Zoetrope Cafe’s Story Machine. Follow @aeweisgerber or visit anneweisgerber.com

‘The Sensing Element for Man’ by Steven Genise


Hegel, in 1822: No man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also is own spirit.

In the dying wetlands of the North Bay, there are these flocks of starlings that zip back and forth on the wind in great clouds or like a school of fish, but for starlings they call it a murmuration. Hegel thinks time moves the way a murmuration of starlings appears to move: in unison and unanimously. But watch these these murmurations of starlings; first one bird changes direction, fights the momentum of the group, recruits others to his cause, and if enough of them do so, the entire group moves. If he fails, he returns to the fold.

By necessity, then, it is not only possible for a man to surpass his own time, but for time to advance at all, it is required.

And Hegel would say, in 1807: This self-preserving Now is, therefore, not immediate but mediated; for it is determined as a permanent and self-preserving Now […] it is still just simply Now as before, and in this simplicity is indifferent to what happens in it.

And I tell Hegel That’s certainly how Everyone feels, isn’t it?


I stood on the balcony of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory with my colleague.

You know the sun doesn’t set in the West, I told him.

I can see it right now, he said.

No, only twice a year, on the equinoxes.

I can see it right now and it’s February.

I know. But the Golden Gate isn’t due West of us.

Yes it is, he said.

No, I told him. It’s almost one minute South of West.

So what.

Today is the day the sun sets directly behind the Golden Gate from where we are.

You took the time to figure that out?

Every year it’s February ninth and November first.



You can reflect the sun completely in a glass of water the same way you can reflect it off the ocean if the ocean is still enough. In that way it’s like a fractal, isn’t it. You can take a still thimble and gaze at the reflection of the setting sun and then place that thimble in a field of millions of thimbles and watch the same setting sun. You can sit in the cupola of the International Space Station and watch that same setting sun. In the Bay we have two suns. I watched the two suns embrace at the horizon just below the bridge and disappear together.

I was waiting for a train at the Rockridge BART station listening to Moby when I caught a glimpse of the city reflected perfectly in the fractal water. I walked to the edge of the platform and felt the flow of cars on either side of me move on one side like a glacier, the other like slow and gentle lava. The cars were dangerous in the way galaxies were dangerous: The Milky Way and Andromeda don’t move fast through space, but they have mass. The Milky Way and Andromeda will slowly intertwine and destroy each other. They are not dangerous because they move quickly, but because they have momentum. It’s how a murmuration of starlings moves you when you’re fighting the group: Slowly but irrevocably.

“Scream Pilots” played in my ears; I placed my hands on the railing as the music and a land breeze took me.

Sorrow for the gentle lava: All they can do is drive their cars to wherever their destination—the night shift at work maybe—apathetic or unaware of the beauty around them. That only a few miles away from where they are they could be on top of the hills, looking down over the Bay as the suns hugged across the horizon, they could be removed from the bustle of the 21st century to admire things living and breathing.

And yet of course at the same time they create the beauty by being a part of it, and when I go into the city I do my small part to create it to, hoping that somewhere might be someone like me standing on the Rockridge platform or up in the Berkeley Hills admiring the beauty in the same way. I used to think this was the great paradox of life: Being unable to both witness the beauty and help create it at the same time. I can stand on the Rockridge platform and watch the city unfold before me, but by necessity there must be more people creating the city than observing it.

I don’t think this anymore because it’s not fractal in the way water reflecting light is fractal. We sit at the edge of the Milky Way and remark on the beauty of the galactic bulge because it makes us realize that we are not the center of things. So too did I stand on a train platform in Oakland remarking on the beauty of San Francisco realizing that Oakland is not the heart of the Bay. But where the people in San Francisco can’t look around them and remark on the beauty of their own city because they can’t observe it from the outside, I can only imagine that planets within the galactic bulge have only more stars to see, that the closer you are to the galactic center, the more beauty there is to behold.

Thus this perceived paradox is not a paradox at all, it’s just something we’ve created. It isn’t natural, nor is it necessary.

Continue reading “‘The Sensing Element for Man’ by Steven Genise”