Paul Ilechko: “Pig Roast Sonnet”

Pig Roast Sonnet

They all wore black and stank of last week’s 
Miller Lite     they stank of smoke and memories
they stank of bitterness     that picked up speed
as it tumbled downhill and across the town
before it skidded to a halt in front of the fire
where a pig’s head stared vacantly into 
the middle-distance     unfocused clouds for eyes
they all wore camouflage as they blended
into suburban life in a small New Jersey town
where cathedral bells were tolling to remind them
of the ones they left behind     in rough pine boxes
buried shallow     or nothing left at all except
the smell of meat and a memory of a face     staring
emptily through the stink of whiskey and pain

About the Author: Poet and songwriter Paul Ilechko lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ. He is the author of several chapbooks. His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including The Night Heron Barks, Feral Journal, Iron Horse Literary Review, Gargoyle Magazine, and Book of Matches. His first album, “Meeting Points”, was released in 2021.

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Image Credit: The natural history of quadrupeds, and cetaceous animals. Bungay, [England] Printed and published by Brightly and Co,1811. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (public domain)

Victoria Twomey: “The Healing Properties of Tony B”

The Healing Properties of Tony B

that long winter storm
left you with no power for eight days

stubborn, independent old man
stoic child of the depression, brave survivor of war

huddling by your fireplace for days
skin so cold to the touch when we arrived

we brought you to our house after a small fuss
you were too bone chilled, pale and weary to say no

and oh to watch you warm and melt
and get the pink back in your face 

sitting on our couch
after a hot shower

wrapped in a blanket, your hands curved around a hot cup of tea
a warm buttery-sweet croissant on your plate 

I put Tony Bennet on the stereo
you smiled said hey! this is my music

told us, you didn’t realize 
just how cold you had been 

what a gift to hold you in memory
all the rest of my days like that

you letting me love you, listening to Tony B
the warm steam rising from your cup of tea

About the Author: Victoria Twomey is a poet and an artist. She has appeared as a featured poet at venues around NY, including The Poetry Barn, Barnes & Noble, and Borders Books. Her poems have been published in several anthologies, in newspapers and on the web, including Sanctuary Magazine, BigCityLit, PoetryBay, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, The Tipton Poetry Journal, Verse-Virtual, The Agape Review, The Trouvaille Review, with many forthcoming. Her poem “Pieta” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Comfy leather and burled-wood chair in the Round Room, the center of ranch gatherings and entertainment at the A Bar A guest ranch near the town of Riverside in Carbon County, Wyoming” (2016) The Library of Congress

LB Sedlacek: “Black Truck, Stopped”

Black Truck, Stopped
		
Black truck, old man
white hair
wearing brown cap
pulled down low
over the forehead.
			
Black truck, stopped
in the driveway
white dog
tongue flapping
head hanging out the window.
			
Black truck, old man
commanding
black dog
barking
to stay at home.
			
Black truck, stopped
like the time the
policeman stopped me
under a bridge
to give me a ticket.
			
Black truck, old man
living alone
giant creaky house
tomatoes for sale
in the front yard.


About the Author: LB Sedlacek has had poems and stories published in a variety of journals and zines. Some of her poetry books are “Swim” (Alien Buddha Press), “I’m No ROBOT” (Cyberwit), “Happy Little Clouds” (Guerilla Genesis Press), “Simultaneous Submissions” (Cyberwit), and “Words and Bones” (Finishing Line Press).  Her first short story collection, “Four Thieves of Vinegar & Other Short Stories” came out on Leap Day 2020 from Alien Buddha Press.  She also served as a Poetry Editor for “ESC! Magazine” and published the free resource for poets, “The Poetry Market Ezine,” from 2001-2020.  In her free time, LB likes to swim, read and attempt to play the ukulele.

Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith: “Interior of an old, rusted truck outside the Cutler General Store in the Carroll County, Indiana, settlement of Cutler, which was laid out by John A. Cook during the construction of the Logansport Crawfordsville & Southwestern Rail Road in 1871” (2016) The Library of Congress

CL Bledsoe: “Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?”

Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?

The man on the other side of the table
is a variety of sneezes, held together
inside beige by sheer force of lack 
of will. What he’s smelled out there 
is more sensible than me, but I don’t 
so much fault him as marvel at his 
restraint. In the face of all joy, this
man chooses the sour eye. He gets 
excited at the prospect of a new tie 
on father’s day. His hair is a damp 
smattering of crumbs from other 
people’s meals, and he’s proud of 
its pedigree—carries a laminated 
copy. Everything about him is 
something I don’t understand, something
I would avoid at all costs, and vice 
versa, but the difference is he holds 
the soft feathers of my future in his 
sweaty palms and all I hold is the bill.

About the Author: Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than twenty-five books, including the poetry collections Riceland, Trashcans in LoveGrief Bacon, and his newest, The Bottle Episode, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue located here: https://medium.com/@howtoeven His own blog, Not Another TV Dad, is located here: https://medium.com/@clbledsoe He’s been published in hundreds of journals, newspapers, and websites that you’ve probably never heard of. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Office Interior” (between 1980 and 1990) The Library of Congress.

Carolyn Adams: “Forecast”

Forecast

I’ve started to think in weather,
to measure time that way.

I don’t know what you’re saying 
if you don’t tell me
it’s raining, 
or there’s snow coming,
or give me the percentage 
of sunshine to expect.

My friends tell me
the frost is gone in Galway.  
Late-winter
is moving through.

These and other forecasts,
accumulate 
all the news I need.

Snow has softened
everything
in Santa Fe.
Cold ventures
in from the wilderness.

Gusts roll in the Cascades, 
transient clouds obscure
the summit of Mt. Hood.

Rain is expected in Borneo.
A heat wave in Sydney.
Extremes mark every hour.

Hello and goodbye 
are steeped in tempests.


About the Author: Carolyn Adams’ poetry and art have appeared in Steam Ticket, Cimarron Review, Dissident Voice, and Blueline Magazine, among others. Having authored four chapbooks, her full-length volume is forthcoming from Fernwood Press.  She has been twice nominated for both Best of the Net and a Pushcart prize.

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Albuquerque Stoplight Sunset” (2021)

Troy Schoultz: “Abbotsford Cemetery”

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About the Author: Troy Schoultz is a lifelong Wisconsin resident. His poems, stories, and reviews have appeared in Seattle Review, Rattle, Slipstream, Chiron Review, Fish Drum, Santa Monica Review, Steel Toe Review, Midwestern Gothic, Palooka and many others in the U.S. and U.K. since 1997. He is the author of two chapbooks and three full-length collections.  His interests and influences include rock and roll, vinyl LPs, found objects, the paranormal, abandoned places, folklore, old cemeteries, and the number five. He hosts and produces S’kosh: The Oshkosh Podcast. For more information check out https://troyschoultz.wixsite.com/website

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Crow on a Fence” (2021)

Steve Brisendine: “The Gray King of Winter’s End”

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The Gray King of Winter’s End

We have lions in Kansas, of a sort, but
our sort skulks, yellow-eyed, and slinks
               from one shadow to the next.

Here, March comes in like an old badger,
surly and still possessed of claws
               with a few good scratches left.

It growls through whipping prairie grass, 
burrows down past-dusk suburban streets 
               daring you to try and stop it.

In its prime, it bit with teeth of jagged
ice, dug holes in houses, picked off and
               picked clean the unhoused.

Even in twilight it is nothing you want to 
fight for long; even dulled, its weapons
               still sting, still buffet and bruise.

It chases thunder east to Missouri, nips
at lightning’s heels, gnaws all night
               at chattering screen doors.

Whatever comes to take it to earth at last
will not wear wool, but feathers, and fly
               full speed into April, talons bared.

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About the Author: Steve Brisendine is a writer, poet, occasional artist and recovering journalist living and working in Mission, KS. He is the author of two collections from Spartan Press: The Words We Do Not Have (2021) and Salt Holds No Secret But This (2022). His work has appeared previously in As It Ought to Be Magazine, as well as in Connecticut River Review Journal, Flint Hills Review, Circle Show and other journals and anthologies. He was a finalist for the 2021 Derrick Burleson Poetry Prize.

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Image Credit: Russell Lee, “Weather vanes, Sheridan County, Kansas” (1939) The Library of Congress

Larry Smith: “March 31, 1852 in Thoreau’s Journal”

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March 31, 1852 in Thoreau’s Journal:
What would the days, what would our life, be worth, if some nights were not dark as pitch, – of darkness tangible or that you can cut with a knife? How else could the light in the mind shine? How should we be conscious of the light of reason? If it were not for physical cold, how should we have discovered the warmth of the affections? I sometimes feel that I need to sit in a far-away cave through a three weeks’ storm, cold and wet, to give a tone to my system. The spring has its windy March to usher it in, with many soaking rains reaching into April. Methinks I would share every creature’s suffering for the sake of its experience and joy.

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March 31, 1852 in Thoreau’s Journal:

What would the days, what would our life, be worth, 
if some nights were not dark as pitch, 
of darkness tangible or that you can cut with a knife? 
How else could the light in the mind shine? 
How should we be conscious of the light of reason? 
If it were not for physical cold, how should we 
have discovered the warmth of the affections? 

I sometimes feel that I need to sit in a far-away cave
through a three weeks’ storm, cold and wet, 
to give a tone to my system. 
The spring has its windy March to usher it in, 
with many soaking rains reaching into April. 
Methinks I would share every creature’s suffering 
for the sake of its experience and joy.

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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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William Taylor Jr.: “Little Windows and the People Behind”

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Little Windows and the People Behind

They finally fixed my busted heart with a brand new 
robot valve and after a week in the ICU I’m well enough 
to be moved into a regular room.

The other bed is empty
so I have the place to myself .

From the hallways and other rooms I hear 
the sounds of people vomiting and moaning, 
bargaining with gods they don’t believe in, 

asking the nurses when they can go home 
or how long they have to wait before 
they can take their meds again.

I have a little chair and table by a window 
overlooking Geary Street and if the people
below look up they can see me here

gazing at crows resting on the tops of streetlamps
reading an old Sherwood Anderson novel that nobody remembers
breathing in and out and marveling at the fact of it.

The nurses bring me drugs and jello of myriad colors.

Countless days I’ve passed this building
on my way to the store or somewhere and I’ve always 
glanced up at the little windows and imagine 
the people behind, feeling both afraid of and for them.

And now here I am, one of the window people
sitting with my laptop writing the first 
draft of my first hospital poem.

I wave down to the sidewalk folk,
give them a thumbs up to let them know
that things are alright, and it’s not so bad 
except for the food.

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About the Author: William Taylor Jr. lives and writes in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco.  He is the author of numerous books of poetry, and a volume of fiction. His work has been published widely in journals across the globe, including Rattle, The New York Quarterly, and The American Journal of Poetry. He is a five time Pushcart Prize nominee and was a recipient of the 2013 Kathy Acker Award. Pretty Words to Say, (Six Ft. Swells Press, 2020) is his latest collection of poetry.

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More by William Taylor Jr.

“The Fire of Now”

“One of Pessoa’s Ghosts”

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Image Credit:  Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc. “Triboro Hospital for Tuberculosis, Parsons Blvd., Jamaica, New York. Typical six-bed ward, to balcony” (1940) Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Matthew Wallenstein: “Washington”

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Washington

Low 
tide. Across the bay 
the mountains are blue in moving fog. 
Animal 
corpse
in the brown grass. 
Headless and skinned.
About the size of a dog. Max says 
he thinks it is a deer that went 
In the ocean and drowned, 
washed up on shore. I nod, 
I don’t smile and I don’t mention its flippers.
Around a bend 
on the beach we find another—
skinned, headless. 
Its ribs grey, yellow, bending 
from its pile of body. It smells 
like seawater and rot. 
The flippers are splaying out 
more obviously this time, 
he sees them. 
“Oh,” he says, “it’s a seal, they are seals.”
I don’t let him forget 
that he thought it was a deer 
that went swimming.

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About the Author: Matthew Wallenstein is a writer and tattooer. He lives in the Rust Belt. Much of his work concerns growing up in poor rural New Hampshire, the deportation of his wife, and mental illness, though it also captures every day life.

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Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith, “A distant shoreline view in a Washington State town fittingly called Long Beach, since it advertises its 28-mile-long Pacific Ocean strand as “the world’s longest beach.” (2018) The Library of Congress