Leslie Dianne: “Pumpkins”

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Pumpkins 

Let’s search for flawed
pumpkins this fall
go to the field
and find those
that rolled away
were pushed away
slid on the mud away
from their vines
let’s gather up the
shrunken ones
the shriveled up ones
the nobody will want them
ones and let’s want them
let’s give them some
reason for having broken
the soil, lost their flowers
sucked up the water
and fought to live
because if only for a minute
their orangeness
brightens the field
and our gloomy day
they’d teach us that
everything is useful
even the dying
fruit if it is
given a reason
to live

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About the Author: Leslie Dianne is a poet, novelist, screenwriter, playwright and performer whose work has been acclaimed internationally in places such as the Harrogate Fringe Festival in Great Britain, The International Arts Festival in Tuscany, Italy and at La Mama in New York City. Her stage plays have been produced in NYC at The American Theater of Actors, The Raw Space, The Puerto Rican Traveling Theater and The Lamb’s Theater.  She holds a BA in French Literature from CUNY and her poems have appeared in The Lake, Ghost City Review, The Literary Yard, About Place Journal and Kairos and are forthcoming in Hawai’i Review. Her poetry was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Pumpkin stand in Southington, Connecticut” (2011) The Library of Congress

John Dorsey: “Walt Disney and Richard Branson Will Meet Again at Freedom Mausoleum”

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Walt Disney and Richard Branson Will Meet Again at Freedom Mausoleum

past lives are all we have here
the grass kept green for golf tees
& billionaires in a space race with mortality

smoke coming from burning buildings of the dead
& the stained glass ears of a technicolor mouse
who makes us all feel safe.

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About the Author: John Dorsey lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory, (Epic Rites Press, 2013), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016) and Shoot the Messenger (Red Flag Poetry, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019), and Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020). His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize. He was the winner of the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. He may be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com.

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More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

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Image Credit: John Margolies “Mouse hole, Mauro’s mini golf, Hazel Park, Michigan” (1986) The Library of Congress

Paul Ilechko: “Five Fragments of a Narrative”

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Five Fragments of a Narrative

Arriving by plane
at a western airport     somewhere
below in that spreading purple

and orange wilderness     there are people
searching for whatever
it is that means freedom to them

*     *     *     *     *     *

sandstone being the inevitability
of erosion     an elementary
exchange from water to air

as the wings wobble very slightly
from side to side     a silent salute
to the vast expanse of mountain

*     *     *     *     *     *

the people of the desert follow
at a distance     their boots leaving
tracks in the tainted earth

above them     a sudden glint
of sunlight on metal     a quiet hum
and a flash that trails the range

*     *     *     *     *     *

tired passengers press their faces
to the glass     watching for a plane
that never arrives     the desert

burning red and gold beneath
a setting sun     the walkers holding
close to the memory of a shadow

*     *     *     *     *     *

in Black Diamond Bay     Dylan sings
of Walter Cronkite as a metaphor
for honesty     vestigial     as we

no longer have his equivalent
we must realize that the fate
of the plane may never be determined.

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About the Author: Poet and songwriter Paul Ilechko is the author of three chapbooks, most recently “Pain Sections” (Alien Buddha Press). His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including The Night Heron Barks, Rogue Agent, Ethel, San Pedro River Review, Lullwater Review, and Book of Matches. He lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ.

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “LAX At Sunset” (2021)

Joan Mazza: “Bargains”

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Bargains

We arrive before dawn and shine
flashlights on battered dressers,
bookcases and tables. The wide,
overstuffed chair and ottoman
I want for my screened porch is up front,
among couches and rockers
in stages of shabbiness.
Writing SOLD on masking tape with a Sharpie,
I slap it on. We choose two smaller chairs
for Kevin and Jess, dig into cartons
for canning jars, make a stack
of small wooden frames for Thea.

On the ride back, I wonder
at the wisdom of adding this chair
where I might sprawl and read
until heat or cold forces me inside.
It’s clean enough in daylight,
but I remember the couch I put out
to the curb for bulk trash. Within an hour,
someone snatched it up, ignorant
of the tick infestation.

When I broke off my engagement to Bernd,
he packed his stereo first. I moved
the couch away from the wall
before he could stop me. Crumpled
tissues two feet deep avalanched
onto the rug. “I didn’t do it!”
he said. “Who did? The dog?”
I turned to his friend helping him
move and willing to rent him an empty condo—
“Good luck. He doesn’t bathe.”

Michi lets me know she sniffs something
inside this not-new chair. “Mouse?”
She barks and runs twice around it.
I lift the cushion to find wrappers wadded
so tight they could still hold hard candy.
From the crevice under the arm,
I pull tissues, the packaging for Snickers bars
and Butterfingers and long strings of dental floss
Michi begs for. I run to wash my hands.

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About the Author: Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist and psychotherapist, and has taught workshops nationally with a focus on dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), and her poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The MacGuffin, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia. www.JoanMazza.com.

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Image Credit: Bernard Gotfryd “American antiques auction at Greenwich Auction Room, NYC” (1982) The Library of Congress

A Review of Escape Envy By Ace Boggess

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Mike James Reviews

Escape Envy

By Ace Boggess

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There are a few facts to consider in regards to Ace Boggess and his work. First fact: He spent five years in a West Virginia prison. This is a key part of his biography and a sometimes subject of his poems.  (Poets serving prison time is nothing new. For famous examples, go all the way back to Villon or look recently at Etheridge Knight. Place Oscar Wilde, sad, strong, and fabulous, somewhere in between.)

The second fact is more important than a prison time blip. Reality for Boggess exists as a subject for poetry. Poetry is how he processes the world. He writes about traffic jams and family visits, awful jobs and bad lunches, historical artifacts and growing old all with the same high level of empathy, skill, and interest. Any subject might be “inspirational / even when it’s cruel.”

In one poem, he writes, “I’m a failure & a god.” That duality is clear throughout this collection. His speakers are often conflicted and pockmarked with guilt as if each is a “visionary weighted down from years of longing.” They are neglectful adult children who visit their fathers “as though preparing / for the last distance to come.” They are adults who watch teenagers “providing new ways to curse & regret.”

The title links the entire collection. All of the speakers are trying to escape something. They are running from memories or from bad jobs. All want what they don’t possess. More than greed, gluttony, pride, or lust, the characters within these poems are all defined by envy. They map situations by absences rather than inclusions.

In what might be the best poem in the collection, “You Salvaged What Was Left of Me,” Boggess outlines a life in 29 perfectly measured lines. He begins with a great opening, “The year I stopped caring.” Then he adds details of place, but throws in humor along the way. He writes, “It got so bad I started reading Sartre for fun.” Line-by-line the poem surprises. The ending is not cheap, easy, or expected.

Throughout the collection, Boggess enthralls the reader with his confident mastery. He is like Merlin doing card tricks. Samuel Johnson said that although he loved poetry, he seldom read all the way to the end of a poem. These are poems Dr. Johnson would finish reading. They are skillful, heartfelt, and real.

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Escape Envy by Ace Boggess
Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021
Poetry, $15.95

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About the Author: Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. He has published in numerous magazines, large and small, throughout the country. His 18 poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), and Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), He has received multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations.

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More Reviews by Mike James:

Mike James reviews Mingo Town & Memories by Larry Smith

Mike James reviews “Dead Letter Office: Selected Poems” By Marko Pogacar

Mike James reviews Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader and Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney

LArry Smith: “Erasers”

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Erasers           

How I longed to be picked
3rd grade 1953,
Mrs. Balzoni’s classroom.
Finally after math,
she wiped off the blackboard
releasing our minds to
drift out the windows
into afternoon light
or to plan our way home.

But wait…
someone would be asked
to dust the erasers outside.
And today that someone
would be that quiet kid
sitting in the back—Me.
Delight streamed from my face
as I gathered them up
8 erasers into the grocery bag.

Out in the cold without a jacket
I began clapping them together hard
mittens making white clouds
of dust into playground air.
Coughing wildly I began pounding them
against the building’s brick.

When Gretchen came out to fetch me,
she yelled, “Oh, no! You can’t do that.
It’s against the rules.” I looked around
at my beautiful design, each pat
a brick of white. “She’s gonna kill you!”
she said and disappeared. I laughed,
then cried a little, as I took off my shirt
and began to erase.

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About the Author: Larry Smith, director of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio. Smith is from the industrial Ohio Valley and a professor emeritus at Bowling Green State University with over a dozen books of fiction, poetry, and memoir.

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More By Larry Smith:

No Walls

Union Town

At The Country Store

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Image Credit: Frances Benjamin Johnson. “Bell Flower (campanula)” [between 1915 and 1935] image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Ronnie Sirmans: “Booklife”

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Booklife

I turned the page of the old book
and was ready to read the end
of the chapter. That’s when I
noticed a pimpling of the pulp.
Booklice had moved in, bumping
up against passages, as foreign
as phrases I’d have to look up or
like marginalia by some other hand.
The tiny reduced-wing wildlife,
relegated to domesticated booklife,
was cream-colored like the pages
it had chosen for wordly habitation,
and I also couldn’t help but think
about how the page’s punctuation
—the bug wasn’t much bigger
than a comma but appeared shaped
more like an exclamation point—
had decided to move around, how
small symbols can shift meanings
of the sentences resting on the page.
For this interloper, this interjection
instinctively brushed off, I figured
it would take flight as the smallest
and plainest of angels wish to do.

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About the Author: Ronnie Sirmans is an Atlanta print newspaper digital editor whose poems have appeared in Tar River Poetry, Deep South Magazine, Atlanta Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Fathom, and elsewhere.

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More by Ronnie Sirmans:

Sloughing Words

The Word with the Schwa that’s Really a Short U

Remembering the Great Flood in the Frozen Food Aisle

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Image Credit: Jan Davidsz de Hem “Still Life With Books and Violin” (1628) Public Domain.

Sushant Thapa: “Fragments”

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Fragments

Stones and parched land

Hunger in lizards and crocodiles

That swallow little and more.

Mind and marathon of life.

Ants and their hills

Debts and bills

A closed shop with goods

That cannot open up for late night little

Cigarette cravings.

Highway and Hills,

The legs that cannot rest.

Youth is also a chair

Swinging in comfort.

The old age plans to sit

On the same chair

And breathe till death.

Certificates in frames hanging

Jobs in the newspaper vacancy rattling

Pebbles on the shoes that

Try to sleep for eternity.

Fragments of dream and its death,

Life and repeating survival.

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About the Author: Sushant Thapa is a Nepalese poet from Biratnagar, Nepal who holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi,India. His English poems are widely published across the globe. Some of his publications include Trouvaille Review, The Piker Press, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, New York Parrot, Atunis Poetry, Visible Magazine, Litehouse exophonic Magazine, Impspired, The Kathmandu Post, My Republica, EKL Review and Harbinger Asylum. Sushant is the author of the poetry collection “The Poetic Burden and Other Poems” published by Authorspress, New Delhi, India.

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Image Credit: Carleton Watkins “Seal Rocks from the Point” (1866-1868) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Rocío Iglesias: “the Human Body is a Nightmare”

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About the Author: Rocío Iglesias is a queer Cuban-American poet and multidisciplinary artist with a law degree. Her work has appeared in various print and electronic publications and can most recently be found in Rejection Letters Lit Mag, Tilted House, and “Firmament” from Sublunary Editions. She divides her time between Miami and Minneapolis.

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Image Credit: Hilma af Klint “The Large Figure Paintings, No. 5 Group 3” (1907) Public Domain.

Brian Rihlmann: “Heart Leaves Whispering”

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Heart Leaves Whispering 

I could stare
straight at the sun
this morning
a harmless pink disc
in the sky
half as bright
as a full moon
the smoke smelled
sweet as apocalypse
the mountains fled coughing
over the horizon to hide
as the rose of Sharon
bloomed laughing
and the heart leaves
of the redbud
wilted weeping
whispering to me
in a language I wish
I didn’t understand

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About the Author: Brian Rihlmann lives in Reno, Nevada. His work has appeared in many magazines, including Chiron Review, The Main Street Rag, The American Journal Of Poetry, and New York Quarterly. He has authored three collections of poetry, most recently “A Screaming Place,” (2021) by Cajun Mutt Press.

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More By Brian Rihlmann:

The Whole Point of the Game

Unknown Soldiers

Certainty

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Image Credit: Jan Stanislawski “Sun” 1905 Public Domain