Z.D. Dicks “Sleepless”



In late November 
our children baste
in the Forest of Dean
and we doze in lounge 

The raucous screen 
storms half shuttered
as commentators clatter
in sleep filled ears 

They cuddle soft toys
while we recline
separate on shared sofa
swaddled in dry air

I still feel the burn 
in backs of hands 
cracking gloveless skin
after leaving a cuddle 

It’s only one night
I remind us, face forward
They’ll be back tomorrow 
and I think of roots 

Thousands of trees
stirring as stones 
boar and deer masked 
the moon banished

And I, a sharp lump 
splintered in apathy
tell myself, 
Be a rock, that life 
as the blasting Severn 
will smooth your edges


About the Author: Z. D. Dicks is the author of Malcontent (Black Eye Publishing) described as ‘Uncompromising, sometimes controversial, but always entertaining’ by Clive Oseman and ‘Evocative, atmospheric, breathing new life into the everyday’ by Nicola Harrison. Z. Dicks is the CEO of Gloucestershire Poetry Society and Gloucester Poetry Festival. His work has been accepted by Ink, Sweat and Tears, Three Drops from a Cauldron and Fresh Air Poetry. He frequently reads at poetry events throughout the UK.


More By Z.D. Dicks:



Image Credit: Eugène Atget “Sapin, Trianon (Pine Tree Trunks at the Trianon)” (1910) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Caroliena Cabada: “True Story”



True Story

The river once flooded the K through 8
school in my hometown. When the waters took
weeks to recede, they held classes in the
town’s only peach-colored outlet mall. Lunch
in the food court. Economics in a
house of commerce. Recess playing four-square
in the parking spaces painted white on
greying blacktop, dodging cars. But it won’t
become a storied place. The town let the
mall fall apart, torn down for a Super
Wal-Mart where I once bought crusty bread and
salad greens with my dad on a health kick
and this was the cheapest produce in town.
I attended the new elementary
and middle built out of the old school’s kind
of red brick, Frank Lloyd Write Prairie Style (it’s
the Midwest) built further from the river
bed. In the sun-soaked nook of the middle
school library I read a book written
about those kids in that mall during that
flood, going to school. I wonder: Next time
the waters rise, what incongruous place
will house our learning? The second amendment
in a Bass Pro Shop, hunting rifles on
the walls. Gladiators in a professional
football stadium after a hurricane.
Science experiments in a farm-to-table
restaurant. A while back, people just called
that home economics.


About the Author: Caroliena Cabada is an MFA candidate for Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University. She serves as co-managing editor of Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. Her poetry appears in Eunoia ReviewThe Orchards Poetry Journal, and Lyrical Iowa

Image Credit: Carl Mydans “Ohio River in flood, Louisville, Kentucky” (1936) The Library of Congress

Jeff Hardin: “A Namelessness of Starlings”




Down hollows I go walking, nine years old,
as nameless as starlings on far-away fence posts.
To what larger world do I feel myself drawn?

I thirst after ripples dying out on an inland pond.
I dream a circumference of wandering along
until an answer blooms forth from the call of an owl.

Maybe already I have disappeared, a creek stone
no morning light falls upon. Sycamore leaves
drift and touch down and slide the sky along.

Syllables, too, can lengthen how we listen 
to an afternoon of wind through sage grass
leaning toward so many moments still unknown.

A sapling rises through the dawn come down
to find another fallen cedar, its privacy just one 
more face I’m happy to have mistaken for my own.


About the Author: Jeff Hardin is the author of six collections of poetry: Fall Sanctuary (Nicholas Roerich Prize); Notes for a Praise Book (Jacar Press Book Award); Restoring the Narrative (Donald Justice Prize); Small RevolutionNo Other Kind of World (X. J. Kennedy Prize), and A Clearing Space in the Middle of BeingThe New Republic, The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, Southwest Review, North American Review, The Gettysburg Review, Poetry Northwest, Hotel Amerika, and Southern Poetry Review have published his poems. He teaches at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, TN.


Image Credit: James W. Rosenthal “Close up view across stream to fallen tree – Middle Bridge American Sycamore, Near former site of the historic middle bridge, U.S. Route 34, Sharpsburg, Washington County, MD” (2006) The Library of Congress

Daniel Romo: “The Main Event”



The Main Event

The man standing behind me in Target tells his buddy 
his workplace is creating a fight club.
And I wonder if hands will be thrown in the name of
middle management and manhood 
or if the employees will simply be arguing back and forth,
pointing fingers like political parties stressing 
just how wrong 
         the other one is. 

I recently read about a man dying immediately after
entering a taco-eating contest.
The coroner officially listed choking as the cause of death,
but what are the odds the autopsy would also show 
ego and competition are 
kindred spirits?

           I understand the dynamics of blowing off steam.
           I’ve studied how the mouth forms a shape just small enough 
           to free the air from the toxic body,
           but large enough to proclaim and pronounce 

I struggle with how much of my personal life 
to share in a poem.
Should I say how the fissures from my own darkness 
spread until I was ready to stop lamenting 
the curvature of imperfect lines, 
finally ready to plug the cracks 
and resurrect the foundation?
Or should I just say,
    Earthquakes suck, man.

Is there a Richter scale that ranges from self-pity to rehabilitation?
How well can you withstand 
what is eating you alive?
It’s often a case of self vs. selfless, 
the poet vs. the person,
picking your punches 
as if the next uppercut to the gut
           could end it all. 


About the Author: Daniel Romo is the author of Apologies in Reverse (FutureCycle Press 2019), When Kerosene’s Involved (Mojave River Press, 2014), and Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013). His poetry can be found in The Los Angeles Review, PANK, Barrelhouse, and elsewhere. He has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and he is an Associate Poetry Editor at Backbone Press. He lives and teaches in Long Beach, CA

Image Credit: “A Boxing Match” (1890) The Library of Congress

Jason Baldinger: “it was a golden time”


it was a golden time

been on the road
long enough now
to feel like three
mummified frogs
dried in a tejas mudpuddle

a woman in a wal-mart
parking lot shouts
I don’t believe you
should leave a baby
in a car, even if its running

I’m gonna steal what I need
some scoundrel hunter
gatherer from ancient time

there’s a dead bear in an irrigation
ditch, it left me with the strange
feeling I’ve been here before

the windshield grows
a mustache, I see the world
clearer in my dreams
problem is, I never
remember my dreams



About the Author: Jason Baldinger is a poet from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He was recently a Writer in Residence at Osage Arts Community, and is founder and co-director of The Bridge Series. He has multiple books available including the soon to be released The Better Angels of our Nature (Kung Fu Treachery) and the split books The Ugly Side of the Lake with John Dorsey (Night Ballet Press) as well as Little Fires Hiding with James Benger (Kung Fu Treachery Press). His work has been published widely in print journals and online. You can listen to him read his work on Bandcamp on lps by the bands Theremonster and The Gotobeds.


More by Jason Baldinger:

“I forgot the earth and heaven”

“When Cancer Come to Evansville, Indiana”

“blind into leaving”


Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Deserted truck stop in Sierra Blanca, made a virtual ghost town when the interstate highway bypassed it in Hudspeth County, Texas” (2014) The Library of Congress

Glen Armstrong: “Bestiary”

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Three aggressive swans fall
in love with my daughter’s Tickle
Me Elmo.

I fail again
to observe the Feast
of Saint George.

So we drink.

Faces real and imagined,
flawed and remade
with cosmetics,

trade places.

So we drink and wash
the cheeks of dirty turtles.

We fail again
to completely fill

the crude alligator
form with plastic

and can only imagine
the edges that should be

smooth to the touch.


About the Author: Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters and has a forthcoming book of prose poems: Invisible Histories. His work has appeared in Poetry NorthwestConduit,and Cream City Review.


Image Credit: Frans Snyders “Cygnes effrayes par des chiens” Public Domain

Kevin Ridgeway: “Strange Rumination”



Strange Rumination

I am going to break free from this prison
that I built from twisted blueprints,
it’s ramshackle facade collapsing over me
like a Buster Keaton near
death experience. I will no longer
befriend isolation, because isolation
feeds me too many bad ideas,
most of which I’ve kept to myself.
I will no longer stare out the window
at other kids while they all become
close, lifelong friends and I am dragged
further away than any man or woman
has gone before, through the same
black hole my mother entered
when she tried to start a riot
with the blade of her cutting words
but her self-destructive quest for justice
enslaved her and me, a lonesome spirit
who doesn’t believe in a god
to perform miracles because
that would make the world a fair
and balanced place where they would
embrace my individuality. 
But I’m still here, stigmatized 
and staring out of the same old window, 
passing notes with poems 
written on them in chicken scratch
underneath the front door 
no one knocks on any more, 
out there in a world of freedom 
where I can see everyone but me.


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: Clip from “Steamboat Bill Jr.” with Buster Keaton. Public Domain