Four Poems by Jeffrey Zable

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SELDOM THE CASE

Coming into the kitchen to eat my breakfast
I immediately saw a huge moth lying on its back
perfectly still in the middle of the floor.
And looking down upon it, I imagined that my own ending
would look pretty similar,
the only difference being that I’ll likely be lying in a bed
with someone looking down on me
who will then call someone
who will call someone else.
And not long after that,
I’ll either be buried or turned into ashes,
while a few may comment on how I seemed to be okay;
that lately I seemed to be in a fairly decent mood–
which was seldom the case. . .

NOT MUCH INTERESTED

Hell, I would have gone into politics too
if I’d been better at faking a sincere desire
to help a lot of people: create jobs, lower taxes,
and keep the bad element from their doorsteps.
Well, even though I didn’t go into politics,
I’ve always supported people in small ways
by laughing when they say things that I know
they think are funny. And I pet their animals—
mostly dogs–as if they’re my best friends.
And I always say, “Great to see you again!”
even if I’ve seen them earlier in the day
while at the corner store, the gym,
or just walking in the neighborhood,
where I spend most of my time these days–
not much interested in going farther than that. . .

THE VERY SAME QUESTION

I think at this point I mainly keep living
for something to do, even though I’m bored
and don’t get much out of anything,
whether it’s talking to people, taking a walk
in the park, or eating a ham and cheese sandwich.
I do get some enjoyment petting animals
like cats and dogs and then responding,
“Yes, I too see a lot of road kill these days!”
or “Most certainly, it’s a dog’s life!”
which really means that not much makes any sense
except asking oneself why as we get older
it makes less and less sense,
until one can’t ask even that,
and then someone else takes over the space
that we formerly inhabited,
and maybe or maybe not will ask themself
the very same question. . .

THE UNDERSTANDING

I pick up the phone and it’s a guy with a thick foreign accent
who tells me that the IRS is suing me, and that his company
can help me avoid financial penalty and possible jail time.
Deciding to play along, I ask him what the IRS is suing me for
and he responds that I’m being sued for falsifying my tax return
and that the IRS considers this to be a very serious matter.
And when I ask him what his services will cost me, he states
that first he needs to see my latest tax return, and that in general
the cost runs anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000, which is very
reasonable under the circumstances. Then when I tell him that under
the circumstances I’d rather pay the penalty and go to jail because
I’m a poet who’s always looking for new and different experiences
to fuel my writing, I hear that familiar click, which makes me think
that he considers a poet to be a poor candidate for paying such a fee,
and not worth any more of his valuable time. . .

Jeffrey Zable is a teacher and conga drummer who plays Afro Cuban Folkloric music for dance classes and Rumbas around the San Francisco Bay Area. His poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and anthologies. Recent writing in MockingHeart Review, Colloquial, Ordinary Madness, Third Wednesday, Rasputin, Fear of Monkeys, Brickplight, Soft Cartel, After the Pause, and many others. In 2017 he was nominated for both The Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.

Three Poems by C.S. Fuqua

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Artesian

As a child, I spat watermelon seeds,
seated on a picnic table under a mimosa
twenty feet from the artesian well
that fed the pond behind the house.
When he’d see a turtle head
break the pond’s surface,
he’d order, Get my rifle, boy,
and yell, Before I whup your ass!

After his parents died,
he capped the well,
discarded the table,
and cut down the tree.
The pond’s stagnant now,
and frogs that once croaked
a deafening chorus through dark nights
have succumbed to pesticides.

Cancer took his wife a year ago
with the smoke he still enjoys
in a house whose skin encases
a skeleton of rooms
where he spent his youth,
rooms in which his parents died.
If he ever wonders what happened
to the boy who spat watermelon seeds,
he keeps it to himself,
secure in the silence
the frogs left behind.

Assisted

Propped in the wheelchair,
glazed gaze toward
the wall across the hallway,
he realizes in increments
that his hand is in mine.
His head turns slowly,
some vague recollection
stirring in his eyes.
You seen Mama? he asks.
Do you know me?
Ray.
Who’s Ray?
Recognition flickers.
His face twists, tears form,
then the moment’s gone.
You seen Mama?
He sighs.
I know you,
and he places my name upon his lips.
He nods, says, I’m proud,
and I think I’ll hear
what I’ve craved a lifetime.
I’m real proud of my life.
I’m sure you are, I say.
He nods.
I love everybody.
Nods again.
Everybody loves me.
You seen Mama?
She’s waiting, I tell him.
You should find her.
Six days later,
he does.

World Without

The difficulty
is to visualize the world—
at least your part of it—
without you.

Each visit presented new tortures:
the turtle in the bucket
I tipped over to allow escape,
the day you used your rifle
for the hell of it
to obliterate tiny heads
breaking the pond’s surface,
the horse you whipped bloody
because it didn’t want
your sorry ass on its back,
the dog whimpering under
the patio table,
terrified it’d done something
worth a beating.

On second thought, visualizing
your part of the world without you
isn’t so difficult after all.

C.S. Fuqua’s books include White Trash & Southern ~ Collected Poems, The Swing ~ Poems of Fatherhood, Walking after Midnight ~ Collected Stories, the SF novel Big Daddy’s Fast-Past Gadget, Hush, Puppy! A Southern Fried Tale (children’s), and Native American Flute Craft, among others. His work has appeared in publications such as Year’s Best Horror Stories XIX, XX and XXI, Pudding, Pearl, Chiron Review, Christian Science Monitor, Slipstream, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, The Writer, and Honolulu Magazine.

‘Voyager’ & ‘I Gave Up My Sword To The Black Hole’ by Lindsay Flanagan

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Voyager

Siphon the ink and I will pack my bags
and leave without you. Re-write the story
of sword fights, and of us smoking long drags
of life, close escapes, and forgotten glory.

Embellished tales of our near encounters
with blue-wild devils and red-wild wounds;
blocked by barricades of old reminders
that years, as knights, fall away all too soon.

But warring with the past never resolved
Novembers that bled into Decembers,
scarlet snow of which we’re never absolved;
Hail Marys we’d rather not remember.

But no retreat, I’ll implore; forget fear.
I’m unpacked, it’s revised, and you are here.

I Gave Up My Sword To The Black Hole

I cut open the sky with a vengeance.
It bled stars, clouds, and time—

but the black hole stole my sword,
blew stale cigarette smoke in my nose,
and snarled at me with a graveled tongue.

I was watered-down, decaffeinated,
I wanted only to recollect time.
I was stretched from the first century to the last.

The bleeding sky stretched out his hand,
shining silver, aching azure:
I touched his fingers, refilled my coffee cup with his stars,
and stitched the sky’s wound with a romance.

Lindsay Flanagan writes poetry, short stories, and fantasy novels in the times between working as an editor for Eschler Editing and acquiring manuscripts for Immortal Works Publishing. She earned her Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing and spent over a decade working in higher education before committing to the editor life. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Mused Literary Review, Page & Spine Literary Magazine, Down in the Dirt Magazine, and more. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s chasing her favorite rock bands around the country or riding motorcycles with her husband. But the thing she loves the most is being a mom to her two brilliant and beautiful daughters. You can find her tweeting about writing at @LindsFlanagan

Three Poems by John Grey

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THE FIRST OF NINE LIVES

Today, any day, we would rather be dead.
No one can answer the question –
“What’s living anyhow?”
The world’s response is this place
where we can safely
bore ourselves to sleep.

Our ambition is to be honest with ourselves.
We really would rather be dead.
But we’re too lazy to misappropriate
all this semi-precious blood.
So we moved into the neighborhood
just to put you in the mood.
And yes, for your information,
we can talk…
that way you won’t confuse us with the cemetery.

THIS EPISODE

the serene
where clouds underpart
frays
and suddenly
all doors are open
from hard rock to angel wings

the ecstasy
of the spoken road
the ringing handbell
the silver sheen
of the floating seraphs –

but then there’s the trespasser
power and money
anything to sully the golden beam
like diamond doorknobs
platinum locks and chains
pistols and truncheons

drained of music
all urgency
all the time
on the line

no wonder
I can’t get through

YOU WON’T BELIEVE YOUR EYES

The bearded lady’s chin growth,
the alligator man’s scaly skin,
the geek’s live chicken appetite,
the Siamese twins,
the guy with the pointed head –

they’d long passed into history
by the time
I attended my first carnival.

Cotton candy on a stick
was the closest I ever got
to a freak show.

It tasted sweet enough
but I could believe it
with my own eyes.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

‘A Bent Reflection’ & ‘Pulled To The Undertow’ by Rachel Zweig

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A Bent Reflection

A walk along
the inside line of
a bent reflection
beckons
one to acquiesce
again, as
the past unravels and
crumbles at pocked feet,
bearing
its noose
for the child
to carry.

There is no forgiveness to be found in
this story of sorrow,
but a seething in the belly
of regret,
pure in form,
true.

Pulled To The Undertow

Sour breath
stuck
to teeth and
tongue, like a
rotten rose petal
unpleasant
to touch,
so.

A man
disappeared in
the undertow of
his own
anger, and
no one
helped.

Only fools
worry!
His body
illuminates
and
washes ashore.

Rachel Zweig is from Queens, NY.

‘Greetings’ & ‘Urban Transport’ by Winston Derden

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Greetings

I would never sniff your butt to say hello.
Our species communicates visually and aurally.
No need to get that close.

Not that our sense of smell is derelict, merely
predatory animals rely far more
on olfactory predilections.

We’re the sort who watch eyes and mouths,
listen attentively
to auditory exclamations

to sort out who’s approaching
and what motivates intentions
encoded in that, “Hey,” “Hello,”

or a casual hug from the close and caring
who then might ask, “Umm, what’s that scent you’re wearing?”

Urban Transport

I am the lizard Über,
unbeknownst to them.

Striped or mottled,
they stride my hood,

ornaments of surprise,
bracing against velocitous wind,

hopping from fender to
windshield to wiper blade,

from astonished to enraged,
plumping red wattles fringed with yellow,

wild-eyed and uncomprehending
how the perch to access winged prey

became a mobile platform faster
than a lizard scampers.

Winston Derden is a poet and fiction writer residing in Houston, Texas. His poetry publications include New Texas, Blue Collar Review,Big River Poetry Review, Illya’s Honey, Barbaric Yawp,’Merica Magazine, and numerous anthologies. He co-produces and hosts the reading/interview series Speak!Poet. He earned a BA and MA from the University of Texas, Austin, but is old school about school and used education for intellectual adventure. Whee!

‘Summer Jobs’ by William Rivera

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The stench is what you notice most
hatching turkeys in Kentucky.
The best unfold, become
the perfect bird. Some fail, eggs
bursting in their tray. Others lie twisted:
extra wings and feet, three, six, more.
Their necks must be broken, the foreman says;
it takes too long for them to die,
tossed into the chirping pit of goose-bump
feathered flesh, alive in death and dying,
better to lay their necks across a metal edge
and crack! Move on.
Hundreds everyday grown wrong.

At the café across the street they knew me right off,
pointed to the farthest table, empty in back.

Later, in Beloit, what did I know?
A kid from Bourbon Street, drinking at fourteen below
the legal age, I told the farmer I was ready to go —
sweet corn to me meant a field seen from an automobile.
But after one long Wisconsin row, arms against
the sharp leaves, my bare arms dripped with blood.

The farmer waited at the end of the row, frowning,
he too hadn’t realized I needed long sleeves for this.

In Eastern Carolina, fields of ripe big-leaf tobacco pride,
a white boy, champion gymnast,
out-paced by Negro women pickers,
who giggled at how slow he goes, him busy dreaming
how far it is up the rope to touch black-tar.

Ahh, education days, summers off and on
odd jobs, a boy could pay his way through college then,
no loans, hard work, reaching for flue-cured leaves
curled in autumn colors.
Then later,
walking 8-inch construction beams in New Orleans,
18-foot rebars bobbing on alternate shoulders.
I glance at the clouds too long, stuck in the sky.
My coworker sees and shouts, throw off the bars.

In the distance rods clank. I snail along the beam, still
holding on to that line of light in air.

Envoi

Walking beams I leave behind,
turkeys peeping to be plucked,
sharp corn-cuts unkind, past events to make me …

who? Reaching toward tomorrow’s finishing line,
I reminisce. A dog’s sharp bark confirms I’m here,
a sere and subtle branch snaps under foot.