John Dorsey: “Cancer Song #9”

Cancer Song #9

your first mri
you have to be pulled out 3 times
hardly able to breathe
now they place a towel over your face
& offer you a warm blanket
& some easy listening music
piped into your headphones
& it almost feels like you’re on vacation
& you dream about staying in there forever
safe from the outside world
somewhere cancer & time can’t follow you
& you think about squeezing a button
& ordering a cold drink
& asking about the inflight movie.

About the Author: John Dorsey is the former poet laureate of Belle, Missouri and the author of Pocatello Wildflower. He may be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Tunnel” (2021)

Robin Wright: “On the Ledge”

On the Ledge

1.
Minny reaches her arm out
the open window, sets
a glass of water next to me.
Head stretched as far into the air
as possible, she speaks but
never says, Come back in,
only talks about my kids, my cat,
how the blues and grays of my rug
swirl together like glass
in a kaleidoscope,
asks me what I use to clean it.
She piles one small word
upon another on that ledge,
dissolves the ugly
that pushed me out here.

2.
Jimmy bends to slip
through the open window,
eyes wide, breath held
until he sits next to me,
What now, he whispers,
reaches for my hand,
waits for my answer.
Silence wraps the air
around us like a sweater.
He squeezes my hand,
looks at me, waits,
sweaty palm holding tight,
for a minute, an hour, a day
until I decide.

About the Author: Robin Wright lives in Southern Indiana. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in As It Ought To Be, Loch Raven Review, One Art, Young Ravens Literary Review, Spank the Carp, The New Verse News, Bombfire Lit, Rat’s Ass Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Sanctuary, and others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her first chapbook, Ready or Not, was published by Finishing Line Press in October of 2020.

Image Credit: Jacek Malczewski “Sketch of a Woman in the Window” Public domain image courtesy of Artvee.

Tim Peeler: “Rent Due”

About the Author:  A past winner of the Jim Harrison Award for contributions to baseball literature, Tim Peeler has also twice been a Casey Award Finalist (baseball book of the year) and a finalist for the SIBA Award. He lives with his wife, Penny in Hickory, North Carolina, where he directs the academic assistance programs at Catawba Valley Community College. He has published close to a thousand poems, stories, essays, and reviews in magazines, journals, and anthologies and has written sixteen books and three chapbooks. He has five books in the permanent collection at the Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, NY. His recent books include Rough Beast, an Appalachian verse novel about a southern gangster named Larry Ledbetter, Henry River: An American Ruin, poems about an abandoned mill town and film site for The Hunger Games, and Wild in the Strike Zone: Baseball Poems, his third volume of baseball-related poems.

Image Credit: John Collier Jr, “Childersburg, Alabama. Rooms for rent” (1942) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress

John Brantingham: “Francisco Goya’s The Disasters of War: This Is the Worst”

Francisco Goya's The Disasters of War: This Is the Worst

My dead stand with me before Goya’s piece,
where a wolf conspires with priests to write down
orders for the poor, suffering behind
them. The poor here starve. They beg. They freeze.
The poor are not forgotten, and that’s the trouble
with people who put on frocks and play
at sanctity. It’s the trouble with the way
wolves wait and watch their desperate struggle.
But my dead whisper to me that he’s wrong.
The trouble is also that we think beasts
walk among us, but they’re ordinary
men who have discovered that if you’re strong,
you can have your way with the weak.
We have to tamp down our own cruelty.

About the Author: John Brantingham was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines. He has nineteen books of poetry and fiction including his latest, Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press) and Kitkitdizzi (Bamboo Dart Press). He lives in Jamestown, New York.

Image Credit: Francisco Goya, “Esto es lo peor! (This is the worst!)” Public Domain

Susan Cossette: “Magadelen with the Smoking Flame”

Magadelen with the Smoking Flame
-after Georges de la Tour


You see the polished skull
settled under my now-empty womb,
the books of scripture on the desk,
the unadorned wooden cross.

You see the leather scourge.
I am the perfect lover of Christ,
correcting myself daily,
now perfect penitent.

You will not see the red welts
on my back or upper thighs,
only remorse in lowered eyes.
Sweet burn, delectable wound.

The oily candle plays its tricks,
slim shafts of light on cave walls.
Peering into shadows,
I pay respect to the power of the dark.

My mind plays tricks on me.
Is it mother, laid out at solstice,
her face plump and purple,
the monsignor saying rosary?

Or something else drawn
out of the dark night of the soul,
longing for light.

About the Author: Susan Cossette lives and writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Author of Peggy Sue Messed Up, she is a recipient of the University of Connecticut’s Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust and Moth, The New York Quarterly, ONE ART, As it Ought to Be, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Amethyst Review, Crow & Cross Keys, Loch Raven Review, and in the anthologies Fast Fallen Women (Woodhall Press) and Tuesdays at Curley’s (Yuganta Press).

Image Credit: Georges de La Tour “Magdalene with the Smoking Flame” (1640) Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Jeanette Hutzell: “Wasting Disease”

Wasting Disease

The CDC states that the symptoms of Wasting Disease are
drastic weight loss, stumbling, and listlessness.

I saw a dead deer in the middle of Route 31 driving home,
and his insides were sucked in till his bones stuck out.

My dad tells me in a curious tone during our weekly calls
that the wasting comes in and eats them from the inside out.

He then informs me, in an even more drastic way,
that it can definitely spread to humans from the meat,

but I think, driving back to small town United States,
it’s already here.

I passed by my favorite restaurant during deep dusk,
and the windows were boarded up and already vandalized.

The main road into town is starting to wash away,
and flood control can’t hold anymore of its rubble.

That bridge they claimed they would fix became a crater,
and the orange work sign has become a vague, plastic white.

I turn on my high beams and catch the eyes of a young buck,
breaking quickly so I don’t catch him on my car.

He blinks at me and his fog breath hitches out in the fall air,
and I see his sides sucked in like an empty duffle bag.

I watch him leave and then sit for awhile longer realizing
the sign for the street I live on has been stolen.

I’m driving through a hot carcass that isn’t even dead yet.

About the Author: Jeanette Hutzell works part time as a server while studying English Literature and English Writing at the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg. She grew up on her family farm in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania.

Image Credit: Arthur Rothstein “Abandoned store. Cambria, Illinois” (1939) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress

R.T. Castleberry: “Items from the Wreckage”

ITEMS FROM THE WRECKAGE

The chant sounded overhead 
is a rosary of wails 
pitched upon the sea.
Feasting days are over.
As bodies, like incantations,
return as denial, as disbelief,
there is a need between us
to act the abandoned child.
We must appear as 
orphans of mothers, of fathers
who could not see us
except at drink or night brutality.

I have spoken to your fears
as best I could;
taken and turned what I know
to some attempt at service.
It is never enough. 
I must seem a fool
to attempt a patch upon a 
part that slips daily, grinding 
ever finer, ever closer.

Feasting days are finished.
And we are left consoling
our fathers, our mothers weeping 
in raging lines along the shore.
We must take the unkind step to
leave them to their grieving.
You and I must learn a new answer,
another offering to the tides.
In movement, past regret,
past unspent days and seasons,
we will lay claim to our own lives.

About the Author: R.T. Castleberry, a Pushcart Prize nominee, has work in Steam TicketVita BrevisAs It Ought To BeTrajectorySilk RoadStepAway, and The River.  Internationally, he’s had poetry published in Canada, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France, New Zealand, Portugal, India, the Philippines and Antarctica. His poetry has appeared in the anthologies: Travois-An Anthology of Texas PoetryTimeSliceAnthem: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, and Level Land: Poetry For and About the I35 Corridor. He lives and writes in Houston, Texas.

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Flywheel, Oatman” (2023)

Sterling Warner: “Kick the Bucket”

Kick the Bucket

Like a hollowed-out pumpkin
an empty orange bucket
sat on my back-porch stoop,
job completed, five-gallon
contents exhausted, container
just a lonely remnant inviting
children to flick it over, palm
the pleated bottom like a tabla
or pound corners with garden stakes
as if playing a floor tom-tom;
the pail’s white plastic handle
arced like an anemic tambourine
erect, bending indifferently
once flipped horizonal.

Oh, days came & went, tasks evolved,
trash stuffed space where machines
filled paint cans, shook pigment,
stamped a slogan that pealed
off the vessel’s exterior; creative
uses expanded, cobwebs cluttered
the uncovered lid before kicked
sideways so Scott could practice
golf putts till winter snowdrifts 
buried its Halloween semblance
welcomed springtime renewal
as rodents huddled, built nests
& guarded offspring oblivious
of their Home Depot connection.

About the Author: A Washington-based author, educator, and Pushcart nominee for poetry, Sterling Warner’s works have appeared in many international literary magazines, journals, and anthologies such as Street Lit., The Ekphrastic ReviewAnti-Heroin Chic, The Fib Review, and Sparks of Calliope. Warner also has written seven volumes of poetry, including Without Wheels, ShadowCat, Memento Mori: A Chapbook Redux, Edges, Rags & Feathers, Serpent’s Tooth, Flytraps,  and  Cracks of Light: Pandemic Poetry & Fiction (2022)—as well as. Masques:Flash Fiction & Short StoriesCurrently, he writes, turns wood, and hosts virtual poetry readings. 

Image Credit: Russell Lee “Old gold ore bucket at abandoned mine. Pinos Altos, New Mexico” (1940) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Howie Good: “Childhood’s End”

Childhood’s End


How would you describe your pain? Stabbing? Aching? Sharp? Dull? I would describe mine as a skeletal tree with twisted limbs rattling in the wind. Every day seems a bad imitation of the day before. If I look ahead, I see myself walking on corpses instead of the ground, and if I look back, I see night and fog, and my father angrily clenching the steering wheel and my mother locked in cold silence beside him, while alone in the backseat, I watch through the side window the black-veiled moon follow us home.

About the Author: Howie Good’s latest poetry book is The Horse Were Beautiful (2022), available from Grey Book Press. Redhawk Publications is publishing his collection, Swimming in Oblivion: New and Selected Poems, later this year.

Image Credit: Edvard Munch “The Sick Child I” (1896) Public domain image courtesy of Artvee

John Barnes: “Noah’s Bones”

Noah’s Bones

The jasper skeleton of fallen Noah
Fossilized in mineral rich mud
Not so far from the chalcedony beams
That buoyed a sprig cut from the 
Tree of life over the vast empire 
Of whale and shark and seaweed groves.

His skeleton may remember what the flesh 
Forgets.  Crustaceans devouring the drowned 
Bodies of soft skinned leopards and 
Once ferocious bears.   The sharks smell
Leaking blood and rend flesh with razor teeth. 
Sunken cities shelter fish schools in tedious numbers.

And yet one tender sprig of olive, severed by
Dove teeth returning to a vista of gray on gray
Prophesies a retreat by the watery empire,
A beachhead outpost for the kingdom of the firmament,
And wings and legs and hands and sharpened swords.

Was it a sword left Noah on his back in the mud?
Was it contempt or jealousy or bitterness 
Behind the hand that struck? What evil did that
Great flood wash from the sticky nature of man?

About the Author: John Barnes has been writing poetry for 42 years and has been published in The Chained MuseThe Minison Project Sonnet Collection Series and received the Winter 2022 quarterly award for his submission to The Lyric. He recently performed a featured reading at ArtNewCo in Columbus, Ohio.  He is a student of verse and believes in the value of self-education.

Image Credit: Ester Almqvist “Noah’s Thank-offering” Public domain image courtesy of Artvee