John Haugh: “Thanksgiving Hurt”



Thanksgiving Hurt  

Twelve of us stand, hands encircling 
your granite-topped kitchen island. 
Eleven offer prayers of Thanksgiving, 
while you weep. 

Medicine’s cornucopia failed you. 
Now it’s pain and acupuncture, brutal, 
additive opioids or brain stem injections. 

Later, I take our four sons of two families 
romping through leaves from winter-bare oaks, 
to build driftwood forts by the Flatrock River. 
I can’t remember, in our decades as siblings, 
any prior moment when you openly wept. 

Our four boys imagine riverside wars, 
negotiate play-battle near a small pool 
of Rosyface Shiner minnows, 
separate from the Flatrock’s main body. 
You’re thinning toward gaunt, and tried 
to warn me by phone about your crying, 
but I had no concept. 

The Flatrock chuckles, November empty. 
Minnows flash over rotting leaves in just 
one pool, cut from Mother River by a fallen 
chestnut tree. Now, I admire courage, 
with an Irish respect for all things addictive, 
but please mind the cost of pain. 

One hard freeze or hungry bird 
could kill all those lovely minnows. 
Perhaps we could dig 
a channel from pool to river. 

I check my watch and shout, 
our boys settle final treaties. 
We can wish minnows 
had the life they deserve, 
but it is time to go.



About the Author: John Haugh lives in Greensboro, NC where he works in finance and is trying to assemble his first chapbook, Repurpose Those Ghosts.  Recent other publishing credits include poems appearing in Main Street Rag, Kackalack, the Roanoke Review, Peregrine, North Carolina Literary Review, and The Tipton Poetry Review.  Mr. Haugh was a finalist for the Applewhite poetry award recently, was a NCAA national champion in fencing years ago, and spent untold hours browsing Oxford Books in Atlanta and Powell’s City of Books in Oregon when young.


Image Credit: “Wagon hit with fallen tree” (1922) The Library of Congress



Brendon Booth-Jones: “Van Gogh, Roses, 1890”



Van Gogh, Roses, 1890
—For Mathieu & Rachel

Calendar above my bed:
the harsh grid of days softened
by almost translucent
blue-white roses
so close to dissolving—

how the plague of failure
must have fingered the wound of your gift—

the sad angles of the leaves
remorseful in the fading light
from the transparent evening sky
above of the sanatorium in Saint-Remy in May.

Knowing you had it—
knowing you would be forgotten
before you were even remembered—


About the Author: Brendon Booth-Jones is the Editor-in-Chief of Writer’s Block Magazine in Amsterdam. Brendon’s work has appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, Amaryllis, Botsotso, The Blue Nib, Ghost City Review, Odd Magazine, Peeking Cat, Scarlet Leaf Review, Zigzag and elsewhereBrendon won the 2019 White Label Competition for his debut poetry collection, Vertigo to Go, which will be published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in 2020. Find him on Facebook @brendonboothjoneswriter


Image Credit: Vincent Van Gogh “Still Life: Vase with Pink Roses” (1890) Public Domain

Paul Ilechko: “Lemonade”




A summer day     hot as lemonade stand
and there she was    a mere child     learning

capitalism from first principles     a folding chair
and a rickety desk     a stack of paper cups

or possibly plastic     who remembers such
details at this distance     and the honeyed jug 

ice cold in the quivering breath of heatwave 
continual now for days without respite

and there we appeared     to spend our quarters 
assisting in the catechism of commerce 

of location  location  location     as she pounced
on the closure of the general store

on this holiday     that suffered through 
the dazzling whiteness     we also suffered 

sweaty and parched   we dismounted from
our bicycles     first in dismay     and then relief

now     some years later   we observe 
                                                 in our rear mirrors

not weather    but a prophecy     
                                          speeding to fulfillment.


About the Author: Paul Ilechko is the author of the chapbooks “Bartok in Winter” (Flutter Press, 2018) and “Graph of Life” (Finishing Line Press, 2018). His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Manhattanville Review, West Trade Review, Cathexis Northwest Press, Otoliths and Pithead Chapel. He lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ.


Image Credit: Digital Art made from “Iced lemonade: cool & refreshing” by Currier & Ives (1879) The Library of Congress

Ace Boggess “Rock Garden”



Rock Garden

Stacked in awkward symmetry, 
fenced to keep the lot in place
like cattle. Grays, browns, 
opalescent pearls—monolith to pebble, 
they ride backs of one another
like children at play in the schoolyard mud.
Not even faded orange of a cigarette butt
has landed on this isle to blight it.
Old earth reclaimed by eminent domain:
what the city loses, we regain.


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:

“And Why Am I a Free Man?”

“Why Did You Try to Sober Up?”

“Are Your Emotions More Or Less Intense?”


Image Credit: William Henry Jackson “Balanced Rock, Garden of the Gods” (1880) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Jason Baldinger: “another monochrome day”


another monochrome day

at the dog leg light
with the ghost
house, memories
of prohibition era
bathtub gin leaking
fumes into an ever
darkening sky

pillsbury sign
skirmish of endless rain
noise spills out of
the horoscope lounge
another soulful strut
drunk takes wings
glides past george aiken’s
while corner horns
street lights blow
along to a four beat

the coffee shop
clings to a revolving
door of hangovers
it seems every soul
is wider this morning

saucers of the moon
lost in the iris
of this old neighborhood
song, I swear
I’m breathing again
fingers tap on steering
wheel, light blinks green
hand spun turns
another split atom
another monochrome day


More by Jason Baldinger:

“I forgot the earth and heaven”

“When Cancer Come to Evansville, Indiana”

“blind into leaving”


Photo Credit: Russell Lee “Drinking at the bar in Pilottown, Louisiana” (1938) The Library of Congress

Jenny Bates: “Patience not Panic”



Patience not Panic

Grandfather on the farm in Michigan
was a dowser, he’d raise his willow rods
their pendulum swing and shudder
always found water.
Back and forth, twisting down toward
underground flow.
Patience not panic, he’d say as his
body shivered with water witching.

I’d watch him suspend power 
in quivering air like the

           soothing trill of grey tree frogs
           at morning pond
           the rustle of wild turkey
           leaves a call to prayer

I’d watch the rods bend with grace like the

          prowl of feline
          shares a ritual hour
          vibrates stones and sometimes,
          the moon
          vain and vacillating as opal or rose
          a reservoir of temples and ditches
          lit by tapers,
          extinguished altar candles

I’d drink the cold stream cupped in hands like
they were a chalice of divination.



About the Author: Jenny Bates is a poet from the foothills of North Carolina. A member of Winston-Salem Writers, NC Poetry Society, NC Writers Network. She has two published books, Opening Doors: an equilog of poetry about Donkeys (Lulu Publishing, Raleigh, NC); and Coyote with Coffee, a single poem fine craft volume (Catbird on the Yadkin Press, Tobaccoville, NC). Her work has been published in Flying South, Wild Goose Poetry Review, and Old Mountain Press, and Hermit Feathers Review. She is a consecutive contributing poet in Poetry in Plain Sight and in 2017 she was a top 10 Finalist in the Press 53 Single Poem Contest. Jenny’s poetry has appeared in laJoie 2017- 2019a quarterly publication of Animals’ Peace Garden, dedicated to promoting appreciation for all beings. In 2019 her poem “Fame Looks Both Ways” was included in the Walt Whitman Bicentennial Celebration for publication in Poets to Come.  Her new book, Visitations has been published 2019 by (Hermit Feathers Press). Jenny currently volunteers as animal whisperer and helping hand at Plum Granny Farm. An organic local farm in Stokes County, North Carolina.


Image Credit:  Historic American Buildings Survey, Stanley P. Mixon, Photographer September 11, 1940 EXTERIOR VIEW OF FARMHOUSE & BARN STONE GROUP, SEEN ACROSS MILL POND. – Farm Group & Mill Pond, Cocalico, Lancaster County, PA. The Library of Congress

R.T. Castleberry: “July, Roadhouse Dinner”




No leg level, no 2 chairs bent alike,
café tables bear an Aztec mosaic top.
Blue neon of a “Family Service” sign 
blocks the windows view.
After early over-service,
office clerks stumble to SUV and sedan.
High chatter of children at their coloring
clip a drinking mother’s flirtation.
Plastic menu pages flap to flutter open.
Date night dinner decisions split
between barbecue and buffalo wings,
Jamaican beer, California merlot.
I top Bacardi dark with Mexican soda,
offer an excuse no one wants,
no one expects to hear.
A rockabilly band rumbles
at a Junior Parker melody,
chords fat as a freight train.
Phone cameras flash, texting screens 
vivid as a predator’s smile.
A table of wits withers the air.

The band breaks.
I take a bottle from the car,
leave my watch in its bag,
find a bench on the smoker’s patio. 
The skin of the sky is a wind of ocher sand,
the fracture of stars beyond, behind
the desert’s slivered moon.
There are county-wide flames to the west.
With a shift in direction,
fire breaks at the highway line won’t hold.
Ocatillo rattle against wrought iron posts.
Through the talk, no one is listening.


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


Image Credit: John Margolies “Mr. Peanut sign, (Half Dollar Bar sign), Route 1, Peabody, Massachusetts” Courtesy of the John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.