Sue Blaustein: “A Song for Noise”



A Song for Noise

Time has been called God’s way of making sure everything doesn’t happen at once. In the same spirit, noise is Nature’s way of making sure we don’t find out everything that happens.

– Hans Christian Von Baeyer (in Information, The New Language of Science)


I was there – passing by –
             on an April day
when industrial gases arrived.
A long truck parked on Holton Street –
Advance Diecasting – their new home.

I saw tanks secured on the flatbed.
Primary colors on Hazmat signs.
Warnings in triangles – yellows
and reds. The delivery was almost over.  

It was something that happened –
an event – so I marked it. Goodbye
welding gases I said. Cordial, to cylinders
in my rear-view mirror. Visit again sometime soon! 

I could’ve said goodbye
            to the driver too. 
Said goodbye, unloaders and signs.
Goodbye tires, goodbye pebbles
caught in the tread, rolling 

            away to where? 
When to leave off? To wrap it up –
when nothing’s really “over”?
It’s a never-ending, all-at-once
            overlapping onrush –

Something happened…What 
            What’s next?


About the Author: Sue Blaustein is the author of “In the Field, Autobiography of an Inspector”. Her publication credits and bio can be found at Sue retired from the Milwaukee Health Department in 2016, and is an active volunteer. She blogs for ExFabula (“Connecting Milwaukee Through Real Stories”), serves as an interviewer/writer for the “My Life My Story” program at the Zablocki VA Medical Center, and chases insects at the Milwaukee Urban Ecology Center.


More by Sue Blaustein:

A Song for Harvest Spiders


Image Credit: Reginald Hotchkiss “Shuck pile. Rock Point, Maryland. These shells are returned to river to start new beds” (1941) The Library of Congress

Ryan Quinn Flanagan: “You’d Think the Mafia Would Take the Year of the Rat More Seriously”



You’d Think the Mafia Would Take the Year of the Rat More Seriously

Close ranks, clean house.
Vacation for most of the year.
One behind the ear for good luck.

But it’s business as usual.
These wise guys don’t seem so wise to me.
You’d think the Mafia would take the year of the rat more seriously.
Look for wires in more than the backs of their televisions.

Old friends you haven’t seen in a while suddenly show up
wanting to get chatty.

To reminisce about old times
that are still open cases.

Leaning in close, so attentive.
But what do I know?

Some solitary Mick.
With no paid informants
of my own.

I’m sure the made men think they
got it made.

Down at the Mediterranean social club
where the old timers play dominoes.
Behind dark roaming sunglasses so thick
they could be a pound of butter.


About the Author: Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many mounds of snow.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, As It Ought To Be Magazine The New York Quarterly, Cultural Weekly, In Between Hangovers, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.


More By Ryan Quinn Flanagan:

“Robbie the Owl”

“He Brought His Canvases Over”

“Before Evening Med Pass”

“It’s a girl I can tell, we’ve had nothing but trouble”

“Why Answers are Never the Answer”


Image Credit: From “Faune des vertébrés de la Suisse” Public Domain. Image courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library

Max Heinegg: “Open Letter to Ezra Beeman”



Open Letter to Ezra Beeman
           Portland, OR 1997

I was losing her so I quit 
smoking Camels in kitchens, drinking Stone,
answering phones in undecorated offices
leaving behind the pallets in the carpet warehouse, 
the tight apartment share, the pool tables at the Silver Dollar  
& gracelessly, a huge phone bill.

You introduced us to Thai food, & the X-Files 
& drove me to the airport, blaring Cobain
who illustrated a pattern of Paradise 
& then blew it to bits.

You said you love the absence of clarity in a singer, 
how an open letter is read into 
according to what you bring to it,
but most singers are no surface
the listener can write upon. 
Down the highway, those notes of not fitting 
or wanting to fit were enough for me,

fearing return to where everything needed repair,
I said goodbye & wandered into the airport, 
on the other side of an ending, 
too close to the feeling to see its size.


About the Author: Max Heinegg’s poems have appeared in Thrush, The Cortland Review, Nimrod, Columbia Poetry Review, and Tar River Poetry. He lives and teaches English in Medford, MA, and is also a singer-songwriter (whose records can be heard at and the co-founder and brewmaster of Medford Brewing Company.


Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “The old Oregon Leather Company neon sign in downtown Portland, Oregon”  Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.


Chase Dimock reviews “The Premise of My Confession: A Dramatis Personae” By Sean Karns


Chase Dimock reviews

The Premise of My Confession: A Dramatis Personae

By Sean Karns


Many times, I have sat next to a random, drunk stranger at a bar, and he used the chance meeting to stammer and slur his words through his life’s story, the dizzying heights and crushing defeats. He has used my expressionless face as a sounding board for his ill-defined philosophies, raging impotently at foes he never really explained, pining for lost joys whose sweetness I couldn’t smell over his beer breath. He has seen a reflection of a younger self in my eyes, and tried to warn himself about the agonies of the future in which he lives.

Many times, that random drunk stranger at the bar was me. 

Maybe it’s because the bourbon has washed away all the specific contents of these tavern confessions, but I don’t remember any of them coming close to the philosophical depth and poetic craft of Sean Karns’ new book, The Premise of My Confession: A Dramatis Personae. 

The premise of this chapbook is simple. A retired magician meets an nameless stand-in for the reader at a bar and in 25 pages, we hear the rise and fall of a magician addicted to and debilitated by his craft and the audience’s adoration of his spectacle. The longform poem is set up like a dramatic play, though the only other character who speaks and breaks up the magician’s monologue is a nameless narrator who addresses you, the reader, to provide exposition. Yet, the narrator does not just describe the scene and plot; he also tells you how you feel and react while listening to the magician:

You impatiently shift in your barstool
And stare at your hands and pick at your nails.
You have no clear exit strategy

Perhaps I am in the minority here, but this voice of a narrator explaining my own actions to myself replicates my experience of drinking and remaining silent as others prattle on.

Karns’ chapbook follows a tradition of random encounters with monologuing, philosophical drunks in literature. As I read the magician’s story, I thought about Crime and Punishment and The Fall. Raskolnikov listens to the drunken laments of barflies who squandered their family’s savings and reputation as Dostoevsky explores what he called “the present question of drunkeness.” In The Fall Camus places the reader in an Amsterdam bar. You are the unlikely recipient of the confession of a once prominent and respected defense attorney whose fall from grace came from the paralyzing realization he did not authentically believe in the values he championed in court.

Karns’ Magician is somewhere between the drunken oblivion of Mameladov and the weary introspection of Clemence. Like both Dostoevsky and Camus, Karns’ perspective is existential. All the world’s a stage, and that is where the crisis of authenticity opens the void, or as the Magician explains, a wound:

When you’re a spectacle, you can’t be something else.
There are consequences for acknowledging

There is an absence. I didn’t want to be
A lonely spectacle…how’re we spectacles,

You ask? Why so dismissive? The Wound will
Let you know what you are or aren’t.

We’re formed by a collection of the Wound’s 
Memories, and through these memories,

We become a spectacle, a viewing pleasure
For others, especially for the Wound.

Here, I feel as though I am under the gaze of Jean-Paul Sartre, thinking of how we internalize the gaze of others and become not a being in of itself, but a being for others. When how we perform for others pleases the other, we internalize that role and mistake it for an authentic self. As the magician puts it “While performing a pointless trick/ Perhaps our real selves are locked in trunks.” 

As a young queer scholar, a short passage from Sartre’s Being and Nothingness redefined my understanding of my own identity. To illustrate the problems with authenticity, Sartre presents a scenario in which a homosexual man refuses to come out to another person who believes he has the right to urge him out of the closet. The homosexual man is in a bind here. If he were to lie about homosexual desires, he would be inauthentic with his true desires. But, if he were to confess, he would would be accepting the definition and expectations of sexuality that the other man holds, which the homosexual man does not agree with. He can’t deny himself, but he also can’t validate the flawed thinking of others that would place a label and category on him that doesn’t come from himself.

Karns’ Magician presents a similar problem with authenticity and being turned into a being for others:

As a spectacle, for it was all
I knew, and I knew I’d regret it.

Hypnotize, I’d regret it. Don’t,
I’d regret it. Disappear and relocate

An audience member, I’d regret it.
Don’t I’d regret it. Unknowingly

The audience follows the spectacle
Into ocean bound trunks.

Like Sartre’s example of the closeted homosexual, you regret staying in the trunk and hiding, but you also regret pantomiming the expectations of the crowd on stage. Even celebrated figures like famous magicians become bound by the persona needed to achieve applause. I wonder if those 80s and 90s bands, well past their glory years, that you see playing county fairs every summer ever feel this way. Could you find the guy from Smash Mouth sitting next to you at the funnel cake stand, confessing that he’d rather lock himself in the mic trunk than sing “All Star” one more time?

But here’s the inherent problem with confessions that the Magician, the homosexual man in Sartre’s story, and maybe even the Smash Mouth guy knows: they are always given to someone who does not possess the power to forgive them. As the Magician says: 

And I longed for forgiveness for years
Of deception, but the Wound ignores confessions

And redemptions–the Wound requires you
To absolve your guilt, alone.

Since in this poem, the person receiving this statement is “you,” I wonder if this means that the magician knows this barroom confession is invalid since he is not alone and “you” cannot absolve his guilt, like some people assume priests can. Maybe this confession is as much a performance for an audience as any of his magic tricks.

Or, maybe this is why “you” do not speak in this poem, and why he speaks to a random stranger. Even though you’re there to hear him, he’s still alone in the bar.


The Premise of My Confession: A Dramatis Personae is available via Finishing Line Press


About the Author: Chase Dimock is the Managing Editor of As It Ought To Be Magazine. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois and his scholarship has appeared in College LiteratureWestern American Literature, and numerous edited anthologies. His works of literary criticism have appeared in Mayday MagazineThe Lambda Literary ReviewModern American Poetry, and Dissertation Reviews. His poetry has appeared in Waccamaw, New Mexico Review, Faultline, Hot Metal Bridge, Saw Palm, Flyway, and San Pedro River Review among othersFor more of his work, check out


More Reviews By Chase Dimock:

A Review of All Seats Fifty Cents by Stephen Roger Powers

A Review of Willingly by Marc Frazier

A Review of Your Daughter’s Country by John Dorsey

Jonathan K. Rice: “Seagull”





Seagull perches 
on a chaise lounge


overlooking ducks,
a lone coot on a small lake.

I’ve heard they’re
intelligent and long-living,

that they’ll eat 
almost anything.

They can drink saltwater,
excrete the salt

through their nostrils,
shake it from their bill.

I think of Chekhov, 
Richard Bach, Hitchcock.

Years ago I read about 
a girl who was stranded 

on a small island
with no food or fresh water.

She survived on seagulls.
Wrung their necks,

ate them raw,
drank their blood.

This seagull preens,
mournfully squawks.

Gray and white plumage
rustles in the breeze

as it gauges distance, 
spots its mate, takes off 

beyond restaurants,
dumpsters and parking lots,

flying further inland
looking for another shore.



About the Author: Jonathan K. Rice edited Iodine Poetry Journal for seventeen years. He is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Killing Time (2015), Ukulele and Other Poems (2006) and a chapbook, Shooting Pool with a Cellist (2003), all published by Main Street Rag Publishing. He is also a visual artist. His poetry and art have appeared in numerous publications, including Cold Mountain Review, Comstock Review, Diaphanous, Empty Mirror, Gargoyle, Inflectionist Review, Levure Litteraire, The Main Street Rag, Wild Goose Poetry Review and the anthologies, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race and The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina.


More by Jonathan K. Rice

“Springmaid Pier”


“Stravinsky in the Shower”


Image Credit: Chase Dimock “The Seagull Who Stole My Taco” (2020)

Larry Smith: “At the Country Store”



At the Country Store

Outside of the town’s country store
stand two girls in high school jackets,
their sports names scrawled across the back.
Laughing at the greeting of cats,
they enter, sidling their way back—
past stacks of canned goods and chips,
pastas, plates, and mugs, bottles of Coke
and maple syrup, stacks of hometown t-shirts.
Rich aromas of fresh baked bread and flowers,
coffee aroma mixed with fresh cut cheese, all of it
pulling them to the meat counter.
The tall one stops, leans towards her sister,
says, “Remember now, she’s just lost her son 
in Afghanistan.” The younger one nods, 
looks up into the face of the older woman,
“Oh, Mrs, Murphy, we’ve come for Mom’s chickens.”
The older woman smiles, “Oh, if it isn’t Sherill…
and Marie. So good to see you girls.”
Names form a sacred bond here. 
“How’s your sister Margaret?” Sherill asks.
“Oh, she’s okay,” the woman lies, not wanting
to spoil their day, like that fish someone left out.
“Well, I’ve got your chickens already wrapped,”
she says, eyeing their fresh faces.
At the counter she touches each girl’s hand.
“You two be careful out there,” she says softly
into their eyes. “You know how we need you.”
A bell chimes as they exit the door.


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:

Union Town

No Walls



Image Credit: Marion Post Wolcott, “Selling drugs and medicines in doctor’s office in rear of country store. Faulkner County, Arkansas” (1940) The Library of Congress


Brian Rihlmann: “Certainty”




as I sweep the garage this morning, I
pause to watch the dust twirl in a
beam of sunlight streaming through the
window.  I remember pounding the
floral print cushions of our couch when I
was five, just to enjoy this same dance,
as Saturday morning cartoons droned
unobserved in the background.  then 
again, 20 years later, at seven a.m. 
on a Sunday morning, after putting all the 
stools up, and sweeping the broken 
glass and cigarette butts off the floor, 
while the last of my regulars snored 
off his whiskey with his head on the bar.
I’d lean on my broom and watch the day
pour in through the grimy window, 
revealing just how filthy a dive it really was, 
no matter how you scrubbed it…but the 
light itself, and how the dust swirled…
I smile at the continuity, the certainty—
there will never come a time when 
this mundane occurrence ceases 
to be also magical.


About the Author: Brian Rihlmann was born in New Jersey and currently resides in Reno, Nevada. He writes free verse poetry, and has been published in The Blue Nib, The American Journal of Poetry, Cajun Mutt Press, The Rye Whiskey Review, and others. His first poetry collection, “Ordinary Trauma,” (2019) was published by Alien Buddha Press.


More By Brian Rihlmann:

The Whole Point of the Game

Unknown Soldiers


Image Credit: Arthur Rothstein “Bartender. Birney, Montana” (1939) The Library of Congress