Ace Boggess: “Flight Risk”



Flight Risk

Prosecutor spoke two words,
froze me with outrage
as if I had won the dirty lottery &

didn’t want the prize: a slow-drip death.
I had no passport, money, friends
living abroad like celebrities—

my world so small it could be a cell.
I locked myself in a room
with anxieties, rarely left the house

except to score dope or cigarettes.
No god opened his doors for me
except the god of powder-white pills

who offered space &
a hard bed, said, Stay here &
 always be close to home.



About the Author: Ace Boggess is author of five books of poetry—MisadventureI Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It SoUltra Deep Field, The Prisoners, and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled—and the novels States of Mercy and A Song Without a Melody. His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Mid-American Review, Rattle, River Styx, and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. His sixth collection, Escape Envy, is forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press in 2021.


More by Ace Boggess:

Rock Garden

And Why Am I A Free Man?

Why Did You Try To Sober Up?


Image Credit: Russell Lee “Corner of attic bedroom in farmhouse. Williams County, North Dakota” (1937) The Library of Congress

R.T. Castleberry: “Stopping to Leave”




Stopping to Leave

Dire drift, the afternoon lurks—
flood forecast, prayers rising
from upraised hands, open text.
Rain passes over,
seedlings, oak and elm stirred
by South Coast wind.
Cell phone walkers stretch a crosswalk light.
Food trucks pack for dinner destination.
Pocket park slowly closes—
cigarettes smoked, office lunches done.
Coming off the bridge,
an Audi slips left lane to right,
driver dreaming at the wheel.
Yellow vest workmen scuff
to Ram and Silverado,
helmets and coolers thumping at hips.
Parking lots empty to open arid space,
to painted white lines and chain link.
Captured bags flutter like half-mast flags.
Metal doors and lights lowered,
we are locking down to leave.



About the Author: R.T. Castleberry is a widely published poet and critic. His work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Trajectory, Blue Collar Review, White Wall Review, The Alembic and Visitant. Internationally, Castleberry’s work has been published in Canada, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and Antarctica. Mr. Castleberry’s work has been featured in the anthologies, Travois-An Anthology of Texas Poetry, The Weight of Addition, Anthem: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen and You Can Hear the Ocean: An Anthology of Classic and Current Poetry.


More By R.T. Castleberry:

Down Cold Lanes

July, Roadhouse Dinner


Image Credit: “Detail of east side of overpass, showing spandrel beam, piers, roadway and guardrails. View to southwest. – 86th Street Overpass, Spanning Interstate 35 & 80 at Northwest Eighty-sixth Street, Urbandale, Polk County, IA ” The Library of Congress

Ten Big Things to Know About Roy Bentley: A Review of My Mother’s Red Ford: New & Selected Poems, 1986-2020  By Mike James

Ten Big Things to Know About Roy Bentley:

A Review of

My Mother’s Red Ford: New & Selected Poems, 1986-2020 

By Mike James




Roy Bentley started out as a poet concerned with his own life and his Appalachian and Ohio upbringing. In those early poems about his fire-lipped mama buying a car and an uncle who joined the navy when his wife sent him out to purchase bread, he wrote like a great and natural conversationalist. Those early poems are handled with subtlety, humor, and clear-eyed toughness.



At some point, Bentley decided he could write about anything. As the book progresses from the earliest work, Bentley’s subjects broaden while he deepens his skill. He has poems about Jim Morrison, Robert E. Lee, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He has a poem about losing his virginity in a whorehouse and a poem about listening to a boxing match on the radio. Whenever he is writing about a subject he fully occupies it. He’s not a poet who believes in sprinkling. He is a poet of submersion.



Roy Bentley knows how to end a poem. Here are a few random last lines. “The only rising we do is out of the body.” “That awful need to believe in God or nothing at all.” “The hardest part is living without hope.” “Something a boy says to no one in the night.” “Even shadows want to leave here.” (It’s good to be able to quote lines which speak for themselves and need neither footnotes nor back stories.)



His last lines can wallop or kiss, but he never takes short cuts to get there. Bentley might be a good guy to play cards with because he doesn’t seem to know how to cheat.



He is an Ohio poet. There must be something good in the Ohio water. Other Ohio poets include Kenneth Patchen, Rita Dove, Larry Smith, James Wright, Sherwood Anderson, Jeff Gundy, Hart Crane, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Mary Oliver, Paul Zimmer, and George Starbuck. That’s a partial list. There must be something in the Ohio water.



This is poetry without pose. His beer poems and pharmaceutical poems are matter-of-fact. He follows the poem wherever it takes him. He never sounds like anyone other than himself. His voice is distinct and only muddied when he is gargling with river water.



Filmmaker genius/artist/raconteur Jack Smith once wrote, “The title is 50% of the work.”

Based on that, Bentley’s poems are half-way successful at the start since he never provides boring or lazy titles. Some invoke curiosity about happenings, such as “Why William Earl “Bill” Hagerman Carried the Casket” or “Coal Town Saturday Night.”  Some place the reader in a landscape, such as “Body of a Deer by a Creek in Summer.” Others are more musical like, “Eggs and Butter and Milk and Cheese.” (Do you notice how that title starts and ends on the “e” sound? Do you notice how a grocery list becomes a short litany a child might chant to her mother as she helps put groceries away?)



Most of these poems either relate or create an anecdote for the reader. To call them narratives might indicate they are longer than they are. (His average length is one or two pages.) Some don’t so much tell a story as create a scene where a story might take place. Think of an Appalachian David Lynch driving through small towns, past closed drive-ins.



Bentley’s references are wide ranging and fun. He loves Jerry Lee Lewis as much as he loves Salvador Dali. He likes Walt Whitman and Arthur Rimbaud. He loves Elvis (who doesn’t?) and Batman and zombies. Did I mention strippers? He loves those too.



Bentley has not only grown more skillful with age, but also more productive. Six years passed between his first and second books. Then fourteen between his second and third. Then seven more to the next. Then only five passed to the next two! And now this robust selected appears two years after the last two collections. Bentley is bending time in his direction these days with his well-told reckonings and his joyful, verbal leaps.


My Mother’s Red Ford: New & Selected Poems, 1986-2020
Lost Horse Press, 2020
Poetry, $24




About the Author: Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. He has published in numerous magazines throughout the country in such places as Plainsongs, Gargoyle, Birmingham Poetry Review, and Chiron Review. His fifteen poetry collections include: Journeyman’s Suitcase (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), First-Hand Accounts from Made-Up Places (Stubborn Mule), Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), My Favorite Houseguest (FutureCycle), and Peddler’s Blues (Main Street Rag.) He served as an associate editor of The Kentucky Review and currently serves as an associate editor of Unbroken.



More Reviews by Mike James:

Mike James reviews Mingo Town & Memories by Larry Smith

Mike James reviews “Dead Letter Office: Selected Poems” By Marko Pogacar

Mike James reviews Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader and Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney

John Grochalski: “ridiculous male bravado”



ridiculous male bravado

used to have these standoffs
in high school

we’d go to some undisclosed location
like a bus stop or the park

the combatants would stand face to face
glare and try to look hard

maybe one pushed the other
and the other pushed back

to tell the truth they looked scared
like they didn’t want to hurt anyone or get hurt

but were caught up in this ridiculous male bravado

kill or be killed in america

there were never any girls there
they were off being told a different kind of lie

after about fifteen minutes of this sideshow
all the hoopla began to die down

the fighters couldn’t remember
what they were mad about anyway

and one by one
we walked away from the stalled melee

slinking back into our own
little internal dramas

pacifists anew.




About the Author: John Grochalski is the author of the poetry collections, The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), and The Philosopher’s Ship (Alien Buddha Press, 2018). He is also the author of the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013), and Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press 2016).  Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, in the part that voted for Trump, so may God have mercy on his soul.


More By John Grochalski:

grape drink and snuff

to abby wherever you are


Image Credit: Wilhelm Trübner Scuffling Boys” (1872) Public Domain

Meg Pokrass: “Blueberry Blue”




Blueberry Blue

At sixteen I lay on the floor of my closet. I listened to music that reminded me of him. I ate salad and danced alone in there. Imagining. My eyes were bright blue blueberries, my mother told me no one was perfect, the salad of my hair spilled out of my crocheted hats. My secret closet life. Making blueberry pancakes while thinking about his body, about the world that was perfect with him in it, the world he made ripe.

At sixteen, living in my closet, thinking of him next to my music.

At sixteen, the world said nothing bloomed for long.

At sixteen, blooming. Because he could swallow me whole.



About the Author: Meg Pokrass is the author of five flash fiction collections and a book of prose poetry, Cellulose Pajamas, for which she received the Blue Light Book Award. Her work has been widely internationally anthologized, most recently in New Micro (W.W. Norton & Co., 2018), Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015) and The Best Small Fictions 2018, 2019. She serves as Founding Co-Editor of Best Microfiction 2020 and teaches flash fiction online and in person.


Image Credit: Detail from the cover of “Rayner’s Berry Book” courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library, Creative Commons 2.0

Jason Baldinger: “where are you now benny santiago?”



where are you now benny santiago?
(for tony gloeggler)

improbable opening day
the swelter of july
the fate of the season
the fate of the country
hangs suspended
in this unsafe air

it’s been years since
I made it to an opening day
last one so cold
the stadium universally
voted a campfire
as between eighth
inning entertainment

previous year was shirt sleeves
forty year old benny santiago
whacked a triple
even from the upper deck
you could see his eyes wide
digging for second, spare
parts strewn across the diamond
he slides winded into third

I wasn’t thirty yet
I already knew
what that run meant
how each stride felt
benny retired the next day

I look over this year’s opening
day roster, selfish I know
the ‘rona cost a chance
to see a historically
bad pirates team lose
over a hundred games

I’ve sat through seasons
like that before
listening every night
to a roster of aaaa players
not looking for wins
hoping for attrition

I don’t think this season
will ever finish, suspended
in an open ledger like’ 94
no boys of october
the crisp of autumn
ushered in without ceremony

tonight stallings
the backup catcher
drops a single, brings in two
the bucs never catch
the cards though

they need magic
come the ninth
with a couple runners
on, only one out
they get lightning instead

harmless double play ball
game ends, soon forgotten
stadium lights blink out
the dustbin of minutia

I turn off the radio
settle back into a book
breathing water in humid night
sometimes it’s attrition

where are you now benny santiago?




About the Author: Jason Baldinger is a poet from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and  former Writer in Residence at Osage Arts Community. He has multiple books available including the chapbook Blind Into Leaving (Analog Submission Press) as well as the forthcoming Afterlife is a Hangover (Stubborn Mule Press) & A Threadbare Universe (Kung Fu Treachery). His work has been published widely in print journals and online. You can listen to him read his work on Bandcamp and on lps by the bands Theremonster and The Gotobeds.



More Poetry by Jason Baldinger:

This Ghostly Ambience

It was a Golden Time

Beauty is a Rare Thing



Image Credit: “BASEBALL DIAMOND, LOOKING EAST – Roosevelt Stadium, State Route 440 & Danforth Avenue, Jersey City, Hudson County, NJ” The Library of Congress (public domain)

Ariel Beller “ad interim”




ad interim

the birds went quiet
and the air became static and ticks
all it wanted was to get inside
the shadows began to flutter in panic
and the core swelled shut
a blue jay guided the moon reflected in several kitchen knives
                and this old deep couch
which fits me sideways like a hacked apart machine
                I put my cigarette out in a pistachio shell
look around
everything changed
everything the same



About the Author: Ariel Beller was born in Portland, Oregon in 1976.  His work has appeared in The Bicycle Review, Driftwood Press, Amsterdam Quarterly, Luna Luna, Tears in the Fence, Queen Mobs Teahouse, Gobbet, The Wolf, Exquisite Corpse, and many other places.  He currently resides in New Orleans.


Image Credit: Gemeinnüzzige Naturgeschichte des Thierreichs, Gottlieb August Lange,1780-1789. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Tim Heerdink: ’70 Chevelle



’70 Chevelle

A dream I once held in the past passed away today
with the final sell of my father’s ’70 Chevelle.

See, the dusty shell was not just an old car
but a hope to rebuild and journey through memory.

My parents went on their honeymoon to French Lick
with bold black stripes across the stark red hood.

I recently came across a photograph of these moments
snapped thirty-six years ago as of last month
in my search for my mother’s youth
as she slowly slips with the cancer in her head.

February of ’84 saw several feet of snow
mixed with influenza that failed to ruin romance.

Perhaps I’ve never seen the kind of money in cash
it takes to purchase a dream like the hotrod I never got
the chance to take a ride in on a warm sunny day,
but there still is family and a little time for us to spend.



About the Author: Tim Heerdink is the author of The Human Remains, Red Flag and Other Poems, Razed Monuments, and short stories, The Tithing of Man and HEA-VEN2. His poems appear in Poetry Quarterly, Fish Hook, Flying Island, Auroras and Blossoms, Kissing Dynamite, Tanka Journal, and various anthologies. He is President of Midwest Writers Guild of Evansville, Indiana.


Image Credit: John Margolies “Uniroyal Tire, I-94, Dearborn, Michigan” (1986) The Library of Congress

Tim Peeler: “Drive-in 21”



Drive-in 21

Through the pounding thunderstorm,
They endured blue lightning flashes,
Great drops of steaming rain,
And on the screen, the first of
A double feature, Invasion
Of the Blood Farmers,
A film shot so poorly
That day and night shots
Were jumbled together;
So cheap, the actors were paid
With six packs of beer
To play blood-seeking druids
On a mission to save their queen.
They gritted their teeth
As their wipers slashed,
The speaker crackled, and
The parking lot emptied
Of all but the stoners
And the crazies awaiting
The second feature,
Shriek of the Mutilated,
Wherein grad students
Undertake a field trip
To Boot Island in search of Yeti,
And the hardcores were rewarded
When the summer skies cleared
And fell silent as the hairy
Beast began his carnage.




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.


More By Tim Peeler:

Modernist Hay Making

Paramnesia 2

Ballers 2, the Star’s Monologue 3


Image Credit: John Margolies “Augusta Drive-in Theater, Route 11, Augusta, Maine” (1984) The Library of Congress

Diana Rosen: “Mrs. Reagan, Who Lived Next Door”




Mrs. Reagan, Who Lived Next Door

Mrs. Reagan, (Elizabeth only to childhood friends,)
walked ramrod straight even into her nineties
as if her Lord and Savior was watching.
A believing Methodist doing all the good she

could all the times she could, showed thrift,
practicality, by example, weaving rag rugs,
preserving her garden gifts into winter’s food,
storing seeds in coffee cans for next season’s

sowing. She made the best popcorn while
babysitting us on the rare nights our parents
went out, amusing us no end with her drum roll
after-popcorn snores. Her thrift, coupled with no

small amount of style, showed in the clothes
made for our dolls. She only ever raised her voice
to my sister and me when she caught us
gobbling plump Concord grapes peeking

through the wire fence between her massive
garden and our unkempt patch whose only
proofs of nature: fuzzy pussy willows
tickling noses; under chin reflections of buttercups;

sunny dandelions seeding into feathery bristles
blown away with our wishes; gigantic crab apple
tree, a canopy for summer reading. “Look at that
old man,” Mrs. Reagan pointed at through her

dark kitchen’s window (electricity was for
nighttime only.) The man, bent like a toppled
letter L, lumbered down the unpaved alley
towards the garden gate, another day older and

deeper in debt to the masters of anthracite. He’d
settle in front of their aged television set,
the screen barely six inches, sipping on soup
served with stale saltines, his wife’s effort to

“make dinner,” unchanged for the five decades
they were wed. She often commented,
“Mr. Reagan said …” although no one ever heard
him speak or even saw him except for those

work day plodding-alongs in the alley behind
the garden where his wife, in frayed hat, sturdy
work gloves, sensible dress (always hand-made,)
rested on the swing under the oak tree, “just a

second” before returning to her corn stalks
towering several feet above her, the Roma
tomatoes plump and sun-reddened, the usual
yellow wax and long green beans, squash, peas.

Today, as I was rinsing out the jar of tomato
sauce to store some rice, the mailman arrived
with a letter from her daughter:
“To the astonishment of all, Mother decided

to lie down for a nap this afternoon, and that
was that. She was ninety-eight and longed
to be one hundred, but that was not to be. Still,
it was a long, useful life, and for that we are grateful.”




About the Author: Diana Rosen writes flash, poetry, and essays with recent published flash and poems in Existere Art & Literature Journal (Canada), Potato Soup Journal, and WildforWords (UK) and an essay in “Far Villages”, an anthology from Black Lawrence Press. She lives and writes in Los Angeles. To view her work, please visit


More by Diana Rosen:

Hollywood Freeway

Dinner at Six


Image Credit: John Vachon, from the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress) Captioned: “Nothing wrong with these shelves. Shelves like these may be built in a well-ventilated cellar, cave, or closet where it is cool, but not cold enough to freeze, and where there is no strong light. They are wide enough, they are built of strong boards, and they are braced with sturdy supports. One hundred feet of twelve-inch shelving will hold five hundred jars. Notice the orderly arrangement of jars. All foods of one kind are together” (1939)