Gale Acuff: “Rub”




One day when I’m dead I won’t be, I’ll be
alive, they say, in Heaven or Hell, and
I’ll go to one or the other depend
-ing on how I behave on Earth, either
way I get eternal life but to get
it I’ve got to die, there’s the rub, that’s what
the Bible says or maybe Shakespeare or
Stan Lee or Stephen King or some kids-books
authors but anyway for ten years old
I’m pretty awful, if I died right now
I’d go to Hell and you’d never get to
finish this poem, lucky you, ha ha, I
mean finish reading it, of course you might
finish writing it for me and then you
go to Hell, too, like I will, then again
I could wind up in Heaven, a mistake
made by God’s accounts, say, you can show me
how you completed this poem and if you
didn’t care for the lines I wrote before
I croaked you can help me revise ’em, I’m
pretty easy that way, and besides I’ll
be dead and so will you, if eternal
-ly dead but anyway what can I do
in Heaven at least to wreak revenge and
as for Hell it might be neat to have folks
torture one another instead of Old
Scratch having all the fun for himself so
be gentle, you can’t get much more vulner
-able than dead, I think, you’re pretty weak
then, even a baby’s stronger, even
if you can’t be touched, or maybe you’re both
weak and strong. You might as well be living.



About the Author: Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Chiron Review, McNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008).

Gale has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.


Image Credit: Carl Fredrik Hill “The Cemetary” (1877) Public Domain


Alice Teeter: “Directionless”




West from here, the land goes up and up —
dry desert mountains bare of trees and hot —
dun undulations — veined pale gray tones of mauve.

Eastward, in field after field, amber
sunflowers stand tall in full bloom,
heads swiveling in the morning sun.

North, cracked land —
mud flats as far as the eye can see
rich dark red ruts with pink flat tops.

To the south, blue rounds of water make
polka dots midst diagonal dark rows —
short trees, viridescent, heavy with orange.

We left as soon as we could —
formed caravans —
headed east to west —
north to south.

One, overloaded camels —
the other, weighted wagons
pulled by oxen.

Dust and animal smells
fastened us tight.


About the Author: Alice Teeter’s most recent book Mountain Mother Poems was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press. Previous books include Elephant Girls (2015 Adrich Press), and When It Happens To You… (2009 Star Cloud Press). Her poems have appeared in The Atlanta Review, Poetry Daily, The Tower Journal, Per Contra, and Kentucky Review. Her chapbook String Theory won the 2007 Georgia Poetry Society Charles B. Dickson prize. Teeter was awarded a Hambidge Fellowship in 2010. She was adjunct professor teaching poetry writing at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, from 2011 to 2016. She studied poetry with Peter Meinke at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Teeter is a member of Alternate ROOTS, a service organization for artists doing community-based work in the Southeast; a member of the Artist Conference Network, a national coaching community for people doing creative work; and a member of the Atlanta Women’s Poetry Collective. With Lesly Fredman, she leads Improvoetry workshops combining theatrical improvisation with poetry. She lives with her wife, Kathie deNobriga, in Pine Lake, Georgia.


Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Andreas Canyon, Palm Springs” (2019)

John Grochalski: “grape drink and snuff”



grape drink and snuff

once as a kid

i made jackson pollock 
splatters of purple chunks
on the hot pavement

i made getting sick an art

walking home in a daze
under the blistering sun

throwing up
throwing up

the latch key kid of the avant garde 

half a dozen cartons of grape juice
and a bottom lip full of mint-flavored snuff

for lunch

as the neighbor lady asked me if i was all right

and i wanted to tell her
that those free summer camp kids
who thought they had my fat boy number

those prince and princesses
of this tin-shack suburb

could never tell me that i wasn’t solid
that i didn’t live up to my potential

that i was art
as royal as they came

but instead
i spewed up my genius
in violet hues

all over the concrete again.


About the Author: John Grochalski is the author of the poetry collections, The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), and The Philosopher’s Ship (Alien Buddha Press, 2018). He is also the author of the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013), and Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press 2016).  Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, in the part that voted for Trump, so may God have mercy on his soul.


More by John Grochalski:

“to abby wherever you are”


Image Credit: “Childs’ rare flowers, vegetables, & fruits” (1902) Public Domain

Martina Reisz Newberry: “74th BIRTHDAY”




This was the birthday I began to clean out, examine, scan,
re-read. Each place I looked were those “what if” items:
What if the boys were to come for a visit? What if
daughter and hus- band should want to stop in? What if
in-laws or old friends or new friends should come to call?
These red dessert plates might come in handy then. This
marked- up book of recipes might be something my
daughter might treasure (though she’s not asked for it).
This wooden tray can hold 5 tall glasses of iced tea or
soda even if it is a bit scraped up. This old drawing by my
college roommatea drawing 56 years oldand the frame
still is good, still sturdy, though the drawing looks nothing
like me anymore. I thought I’d thrown out the meat patty
maker when we stopped eating meat, but here it is, faded
plastic taking up space and maybe the neighbor (who only
eats fast food) would like it. Birthday done. The box I
brought up from the basement is so full I can barely lift it.
I put the lid on and, through small holes and dings, the
foxfire, the glint, the flare of wealth that never was shows


About the Author: Martina Reisz Newberry’s newest collection, Blues for French Roast with Chicory is due for publication from Deerbrook Editions in late fall, 2019. Her latest book is: Never Completely Awake (Available from Deerbrook Editions). Her work has been widely published in the U.S. and abroad. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Brian Newberry, a Media Creative.


More By Martina Reisz Newberry:

Venerating the Transitory

Dietmar and I Talk of Angels


Image Credit: Harry Whittier Frees “The birthday cake” (1914) The Library of Congress

Kevin Ridgeway: “Son of the Late Bloomer Bandit”



Son of the Late Bloomer Bandit

The cops raided our house
and my parents were both taken 
to jail.  I had no choice but to 
identify my father 
in surveillance videos.
I was subpoenaed 
by the district attorney.  
I sat in the echoing marble halls
of the courthouse 
across from the young bank tellers 
he terrorized, both of them girls 
my age who glared at me 
when they recognized 
his sinister face in mine. 
My testimony helped
send my father to prison 
for the rest of his life.
It’s been ten years 
and now my mother 
is dead and no longer held 
captive in the epic misery, 
of his fiendish lifelong search
for a chemical escape.
He said heroin made him 
closer and unafraid of death, 
numb to his own doom.  
They announced his 
life sentence on the front page
of the local newspaper, my 
name was never mentioned.
They did not want to believe 
he had a son who 
was more dangerous 
to them with deep wounds 
gone unhealed.  I will kidnap 
their fathers if I ever decide 
to return to claim 
what they all robbed 
from me.  I will be 
reunited with 
my father in prison, 
where we will start 
a massive riot to burn 
the walls down,  He 
and I will escape from 
the smoking rubble
back into a world 
where people tried
to throw us all away.



About the Author: Kevin Ridgeway is the author of Too Young to Know (Stubborn Mule Press). Recent work has appeared in Slipstream, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Main Street Rag, Cultural Weekly, Gasconade Review, The American Journal of Poetry and So it Goes:  The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, among others.  A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, he lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.


More By Kevin Ridgeway:

Fake Dad

500 Channels and Nothing On

Sally with the Accent

Good Timing


Image Credit: Charles Street Jail Complex, Jail, 215 Charles Street, Boston, Suffolk County, MA. The Library of Congress

Connor Stratman: “A Drunk”



A Drunk 

I rip the basket from the lamp
and hope with the sheer force
of a tree in a tornado that you’ll
see something salvageable in the flame.
It’s been the same wick for a decade
and in that time I’ve played the game
of waving rapidly my hand over
the sparks, tempting extinction. 
At 28, I sawed the lampstand
in half and sold it in parts. 
I convinced people they needed them,
these possessions of mine, which were sacred
because I’d touched them. The profits were swallowed
and I found myself in a ghost town, thinking
I was a tourist of the living, while it was the living
touring the dead man who knew not how he came there.



About the Author: Connor Stratman lives in Dallas, TX. His books and chapbooks include Some Were Awake (plumberries, 2011), Volcano (2011/2017, Writing Knights), and An Early Scratch (Erbacce, 2010). His work has appeared in journals such as Ditch, Counterexample Poetics, Earl of Plaid, Etcetera, Backlash, Moria, Dead Snakes, and Otoliths.


More By Connor Stratman:

“Doug At My Age”


Image Credit: John Margolies “D.T.’s Liquor sign, Cheyenne, Wyoming” (1980) The Library of Congress

Larry Smith: “The Story of Stones”



The Story of Stones

They lie along the pond’s edge
refusing to nestle or speak.
Their acceptance is to sun and moon
all types of weather.

Sometimes a kid comes
and casts them out yelling wildly,
another gathers them up 
and scurries them home. 

And sometimes a father 
tries to name them
pointing to their faces and bodies,
but kids ignore this
and hold the stone up close,
its surface touching skin
to hear their real names,

Later they place them by their bed
to dream upon—
stones that break open into crystal,
stones that shed a white milk,
stones with stone hearts,
stones to swallow as candy. 

Days and nights, weeks and months, 
until a mother gathers them up
and throws them out into the yard.
Under sun and moon again, 
they are kissed by weather.



About the Author: Larry Smith is a poet, fiction writer, and editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio where they feature a Working Lives and an Appalachian Writing Series. He is also the biographer of Kenneth Patchen and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He lives in Huron, Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie.


More By Larry Smith:

Forget Math and Science


No Walls


Image Credit: “Pont de Sallanches” V. Muzet (1860s) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.