Catch and release
but first, after
the flapping stops,
pull a paint-dripping brush
tight down both
sides of its body.
White to teach
a lesson about survival
to it and
everyone who sees.
through the muck,
it will travel
hugging the river’s top ice
until the danger has passed.
I am painted white inside,
my muscles only know taught.
Different doctors say
this shouldn’t be happening
to someone my age.
Why so wired
and meditation only makes it worse.
I am counting down.
at its camouflage destination.
but ghosts are also white.
Three sheets I layer
to cover the ice,
I too have found a home here.
A red fish fibrillates
With a whimper,
If the ghost is me,
if the ghost is which part of me,
fish can fellowship
and compare our woes of white.
Maybe the ghost will be only my mind
and haunting is a boast
of finally free.
we will sleep
me on these stacked sheets,
the cod, bobbing in the current,
my meekly knocking heart.
About the Author: Brian Ed Boies lived by train tracks and transcribed train graffiti and used it as prompts. This poem is from that process. He has been published by the National Endowment of the Arts and in Punk Planet and ZYZZYVA. A story of his was listed as Notable Nonrequired Reading in 2012. He lives in Sacramento with his wife and daughter.
Image Credit: Public Domain image originally from The history of esculent fish London: Printed for Edward Jeffrey [etc.],1794. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.
in the pocket
a gold fish
has no memory
by the creek
full of water
making a call
to motivate kids
left to disappear
whatever is unwanted.
About the Author: LB Sedlacek has had poems and stories appear in “Impspired,” “River Dog,” “Hill Rag,” “Inverse Journal,” and “Iconoclast.” Her short stories “Sight Unseen” and “Backwards Wink” were awarded 1st Place Prose prizes in “Branches Literary Magazine.” For 20 years, she published the free resource for poets, “The Poetry Market Ezine.” LB also likes to swim and read.
Image Credit: Public domain image originally from Goldfish breeds and other aquarium fishes, their care and propagation. Philadelphia :Innes & sons (1908) Courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library
Passion Flowers and Puzzle Boxes
Scientists and poets alike have yet to find
whether certain experimental hybridizations
of radio waves and silver go-go boots in any way
affects the erratic trajectories of UFOs.
Though, they now know that the geometry of fireflies
may have some influence over the delicate symbiosis
of communication satellites, train yards
and Blue Turtle migrations.
However, despite recent controversial reports
there has been no independent confirmation
on whether the random arrangement
of orange blossoms on a city sidewalk,
slick with rain, has any more relation
to the performance of a North Korean
featherweight in the 9th than
a performance of Beethoven’s 9th
by the South Korean Philharmonic does
to the discovery of designs
for a steam-driven engine
written on papyrus.
But, one doesn’t need a steady diet
of coral calcium deposits or subterranean
cold-storage of arcane information
to see that a cracked engine block
is bound, cosmically,
to a crack-baby found
behind a dumpster in an alley
(alive and doing well we’re told),
that beauty-parlor patter is richly infused
with important information regarding escape artistry,
living in the desert, the number “0” AND,
stealing household appliances
(specifically, toaster-ovens, it seems)
and, most importantly,
that a strangely warm winter-breeze
witnessed stirring a light bulb
hanging on the end of a string
will eventually result in a brilliant idea
unfolding like a passionflower or
Chinese puzzle box of infinite digression
somewhere down the integer line
of an, as yet, undetermined causal chain.
About the Author: Jason Ryberg is the author of eighteen books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders, notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors. He is currently an artist-in-residence at both The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s and the Osage Arts Community, and is an editor and designer at Spartan Books. His latest collection of poems is The Great American Pyramid Scheme (co-authored with W.E. Leathem, Tim Tarkelly and Mack Thorn, OAC Books, 2022). He lives part-time in Kansas City, MO with a rooster named Little Red and a billygoat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also many strange and wonderful woodland critters.
Updates from Sour Lake
In Kansas there is still the prairie:
we saw sheep being trucked away
down the interstate, their baby faces white and moony
as they slipped and rattled in the steel.
At a rest stop, birds warbled ancient sets of sounds.
Then, at night, the grassland was so flat
a clear dome of stars went unbroken to the rim of land.
In California the mountains
were hard against the sky, with organic foothills—
rolls and tucks and crotches
green and stretched out, an ongoing body.
In Arizona we picked through purple and green rocks,
wary of scorpions, looking for gemstones in the sandy soil.
On the way back to the motel with the kidney-shaped pool
we saw someone slam his Jeep into a solid wall of rock.
We called 911.
For a split second, I said, I thought there was another road he was going down.
The cop nodded. The man hadn’t made it.
After a shitty fight in Texas,
I left myself at a gas station, but we didn't go back.
He* and I stayed together long enough to see a massive sinkhole.
It ate away at the land – it felt like the whole town might disappear.
*He could make the sound of a mourning dove,
breathing through his hands
like they were a flute,
fingers lifting away from each other
for the high notes.
About the Author: Carolyn Sperry is a freelance writer based in Rochester, NY. She has published articles in news outlets across the United States and is a winner of the Gotham Writers Stories Everywhere competition. She lives with her husband and two sons.
Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “The pumps have long been dry at this little truck stop east of the town of Sabinol, Texas” (2014) The Library of Congress (public domain)
TRIPTYCH FOR CLAYTON
IN MEMORIUM (Dec. 1954 – May 6, 2022)
Through a corner of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness
we hiked around the back of Quail Prairie Mountain,
to where it nuzzles the upper reaches of the Chetco River.
At the spot where Boulder Creek merges with the flow
we set camp on the high bank where water won’t reach
until winter or spring. This was August, 1976,
the river was low, but that didn’t stop us from fishing.
We scoped out the area, built a fire,
cooked dinner, then planned the next day
of basically doing nothing before
falling off to sleep as the moon was rising.
Clay shook me awake, Shhhhh, he said, pointing
down the bank and across the expanse of stones
to the river’s edge. A mama bear and two cubs
were drinking cool water in the bright moonlight,
their tails twitching toward us. He whispered:
Grab your camera. But I held off, concerned about
frightening them with the flash. Instead we lay there,
watching in wonder, hoping they wouldn’t notice us.
After a while, they ambled off easy upriver.
We looked at each other, grins filling our faces,
then slid back into sleeping bags and dreams.
It’s not important what argument started the fight,
there we were, rolling around on the kitchen floor,
fists flying. Clay got me on my back, straddled me,
throwing punch after punch. I was fighting just to
fend off his blows while his wife Sue, with
a terrified toddler holding onto one leg, and
balancing a squirming infant in her arms, did
her best to talk him off of me. Finally she
handed the kids to her friend, and pried us apart.
We were best friends.
Sue held Clay back while I lay on the floor
crying, poking around at a bloody nose
and what would become a black eye.
With his pummeling abruptly interrupted,
Clay noticed me sobbing. He helped
me up and out to the car. He got me into the
shotgun seat, then produced from the backseat
a fifth of whisky. I’m sorry, he kept saying.
I didn’t mean it. You don’t want to let anyone
see you crying like that though. A man ain’t
supposed to cry. He drove us around,
up the river and back, until I could stop
shaking and crying. It’s ok if you’re with me,
but no one else should see you like this.
I’m really sorry, man. Have another drink.
The next morning we both told people
some bullshit story about the black eye
and after a while folks stopped asking.
Do you trust me? Clayton asked.
Really trust me?
His face 6 or 8 inches from mine,
his eyes reflected the flickering campfire.
He held a bottle of whisky in one hand,
and his empty dinner plate in the other:
I know every inch of these woods.
He pointed with a sweep of his arm,
played here when I was a kid.
I know my way around in the dark.
You believe me?
Do you trust me?
Then follow me!
He threw down his plate,
turned and bolted off at a sprint
toward the nearest steep hill. He
shot up into the dark woods like
he’d just set a choker and had to
get out of the way of the cable.
I jumped and took off before I’d
lose sight of him, he had the whisky.
It was so dark among the trees I had to
follow his rapid footfalls across the
dry forest floor as he ran headlong through
the woods, blindly dodging trees and rocks,
scratching through the underbrush,
avoiding holes and fallen branches.
Me running behind him, just as blind,
amazed that I hadn’t tripped, fallen, or
run into something yet. Then he turned,
headed back downhill and I began to see
the light of the campfire through the trees.
He was waiting for me there, waving
the bottle around and calling to me to
come get some, telling me I’d earned it.
But when I went for it he yanked it out of
my hand. I tried again. He held it out of reach.
Our arms were growing tangled and then
we were rolling around on the ground,
laughing, wrestling over the whisky.
Finally he let me have the bottle.
We got up out of the dust and I took
a good, long swig before passing
it back to him and so it went.
We sat, still breathing heavy from the
exertion, passing the bottle back and forth
across the fire blazing between us.
About the Author: M.J. Arcangelini (b.1952 in western Pennsylvania) has resided in northern California since 1979. His work has been published in print magazines, online journals, (including The James White Review, Rusty Truck, The Ekphrastic Review, The Gasconade Review, North of Oxford) & over a dozen anthologies. The most recent of his six collections are: “A Quiet Ghost,” (2020) and “Pawning My Sins” (2022) both from Luchador Press.
Playing at Forever
The ocean never stops its tug of war
with beach sand. Its great democratic voice
consumes all the laughter and whispered vows
vacationers make on blankets, spread out
under brightly striped umbrellas under
the sun and our tans that end where our suits
begin. We have come as far away from
our careers as a tide of untimed time
could take us, yet we find there is something
naggingly familiar in the way native
children smile at us. They coax us to throw
coins they dive for, perhaps their only real
freedom. Resurfacing, their faces glow
brightly as their palms lined with silver.
Our minds float above us like jellyfish,
permeating our days with stinging
responsibilities. But here we are
untethered from time’s twins, and our bodies
ache to be calmed, cooled and retuned to whim.
We swim under water, holding our breath,
carefree as children playing at forever,
though we know we must come up for air.
About the Author: Richard Levine, a retired NYC teacher, is the author of Selected Poems, Contiguous States, and five chapbooks. Now in Contest is forthcoming from Fernwood Press. An Advisory Editor of BigCityLit.com, he received the 2021 Connecticut Poetry Society Award, and co-edited “Invasion of Ukraine 2022: Poems.” “The Spoils of War” is forthcoming in American Book Review. website: richardlevine107.com
Image Credit: Herman Hartwich “Cape Cod, Beach” (1894) Public domain image courtesy of Artvee
cold water glistens
we were raw souls
we didn't know it
sapling catalpas roam
subtropical summer sidewalks
desperate for a breath
inside the walls of swelter
there would be this electric
buzz rattling in the air
of our childhood bedrooms
our teeth would chatter simultaneous
then we would be in the streets
in our shorts, our underroos
the local fireman opened
the plugs, the water rushed
torrents along neighborhood curbs
all the kids were there
between parked car rapids
some feet in, some ass in
some attempt to swim
some erode into
the debris of the city
these little catalpas
inebriated in perfect equation
cold water glistens
meets summer afternoon
a still life in eternity
About the Author: Jason Baldinger was recently told he looks like a cross between a lumberjack and a genie. He’s also been told he’s not from Pittsburgh but is the physical manifestation of Pittsburgh. Although unsure of either, he does love wandering the country writing poems. He’s penned fifteen books of poetry the newest of which include: The Afterlife is a Hangover (Stubborn Mule Press) and A History of Backroads Misplaced: Selected Poems 2010-2020 (Kung Fu Treachery), and This Still Life with James Benger. His work has appeared across a wide variety of print journals and online. You can hear him read his work on Bandcamp and on lps by The Gotobeds and Theremonster.
Image Credit: Angelo Rizzuto “Young boy leaning on fire hydrant” The Library of Congress (public domain)
There were only insulation dreams while we lived in the tar paper shack down by the old steel mill on the other side of the river. The river no longer burst into flame, but now and then wild roses along the river’s edge made us think of fire. Our fingers would rub the insides of our pockets looking for matches. We never thought to sell matches to the men who spent their days in alleys and empty lots beside upright oil drums. We gave away what we had when asked. There were no threats. Our code name was never apathy. This was true even at night when we prayed with a penny in our mouths. All our prayers lasted more than a minute. The trick was to keep the penny on the tip of your tongue.
About the Author: Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. He has published in numerous magazines, large and small, throughout the country. His poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), and Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog.) In April, Red Hawk published his 20th collection, Portable Light: Poems 1991-2021.
Kiss the Cheffor greg edmondson
somewhere the 70s live forever
there’s always tequila overflowing
each story begins & ends at the mouth of a river
whether you’re a boy in the fields of tennessee
or the ghost of tennessee williams
screaming into the night
at imaginary gods of rage
it doesn’t matter
nobody is going to get to eat
an overcooked pork chop
until after you rid yourself
of the past.
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), Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020), Afterlife Karaoke (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2021) and Sundown at the Redneck Carnival, (Spartan Press, 2022).. 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 email@example.com.
Image Credit: Harris & Ewing “Ernest Zahn, chef” (1938) Public Domain Image courtesy of The Library of Congress
Smashing A Spotted Lanternfly At The 35th Annual Fall Festival
On a clear, hall-of-fame day
somewhere between the Yo-Yo swing ride
and Crazy Mouse coaster
under the canopy of the carousel
while calliope music mixed with
a thousand bustling patrons and peddlers,
I found myself in the shade on a bench
eating flash frozen ice cream pebbles
when an unmistakably stylish bug landed at my feet.
Just then, The Swinging Squares took to The Midway Stage.
Women dressed in five-tiered, earth-toned calico skirts
began to twirl as their partners circled them round.
Bright red petticoats flashed.
With deadly intent, I stomped the invasive pest
with the toe of my sneaker.
I felt satisfied, even, one might say, good.
I had killed to protect the harvest,
and I would do it again.
About the Author: A native of Pennsylvania, Lara Dolphin is an attorney, nurse, wife and mom of four amazing kids. Her first chapbook, In Search Of The Wondrous Whole, was published by Alien Buddha Press. Her most recent chapbook, Chronicle Of Lost Moments, is available from Dancing Girl Press.
Image Credit: Arthur Rothstein “Brownsville, Texas. Carnival ride” (1942) The Library of Congress