Jason Baldinger: “Beauty is a Rare Thing”




Beauty is a Rare Thing

on the back deck
of a civil war farmhouse
that survived gated in Pimlico
you pulled out these perfectly
rolled joints, the Reverend ran
into the woods to make water
on abandoned washer dryer combos

we watch the ghosts of owls
in an ancient walnut tree, you tell
me of your wife’s affair, your daughter
and the relationship you struggle
to keep together. Fritz the cat
sprays the basement floor
all your art piled up/ forgotten
age and time passing
depression its own hair trigger

I’ve heard it said
beauty is a rare thing
it seems my artist friends
know this and fear this equally
we scatter to document it
we post it where we can
proof this whole fucking human
experiment isn’t completely

that night we read in your shop
to six people, we ate in some
shitty bar in the Inner Harbor
you felt you had outlived yourself
depression pulled you in
I’m never sure you got back out

that night I couldn’t sleep
I got lost in the painting
in the dining room
flipped through myriad
books of photography
thinking on all our
faulty human prayers
after a couple years
I saw you again
friends heard
you were struggling
we came to watch
baseball, talk records

I spent the evening djing
while friends raided every room
trying to get you to sell
impossibly rare lps

after all these years
working around music
I see it like paintings
like poems, like sculpture
as something you can’t truly
own, we pass it, accept it
it feeds us as then we abandon
it to memory

I saw with each record
a look, painful
wash your face
you didn’t understand
couldn’t accept these things
were the sum of your legacy

after that the depression
pulled you back I didn’t
see you again, social media
tells me this mortal coil
finally shook you, I hope
somehow as you found
the end to this life
that life finally
gave you some peace



About the Author: Jason Baldinger is a poet from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He was recently a Writer in Residence at Osage Arts Community, and is founder and co-director of The Bridge Series. He has multiple books available including the soon to be released The Better Angels of our Nature (Kung Fu Treachery) and the split books The Ugly Side of the Lake with John Dorsey (Night Ballet Press) as well as Little Fires Hiding with James Benger (Kung Fu Treachery Press). His work has been published widely in print journals and online. You can listen to him read his work on Bandcamp on lps by the bands Theremonster and The Gotobeds.


More by Jason Baldinger:

“I forgot the earth and heaven”

“When Cancer Come to Evansville, Indiana”

“blind into leaving”


Image Credit: Lee Russell “Bartender and owner of tavern on the southside of Chicago, Illinois ” (1941) The Library of Congress

Howie Good: “People Get Ready”




People Get Ready

Any one of us is every one of us, if you get what I mean. I want to tap this guy and that guy and that woman on the shoulder and tell them, “You can’t be lost in your own world all the time.” But, of course, I won’t. The train is approaching the station, and the degree of courage required to board keeps multiplying. I look at the gray faces of the other travelers skulking about the platform. If they only knew that the same gene that gives birds the ability to sing gives us the ability to speak!




About the Author: Howie Good is the author of THE DEATH ROW SHUFFLE, a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.


More By Howie Good:

The Third Reich of Dreams

Two Prose Poems


Image Credit: Jack Delano “Freight train operations on the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad between Chicago and Clinton, Iowa. Every time a train is passed, the rear brakeman of each train steps out on the caboose platform, and if all is well, as in this case, gives the other brakeman the high sign” (1943) The Library of Congress.

Ken Hines: “What the Children Know”




What the Children Know

On a concrete bench in a hospital courtyard
I wait while my wife gets an MRI,
her own personal snapshot of the future.
The only painful part, I was assured,
is the thinking.

Nearby, cries erupt from children
at the hospital daycare center—
one of their parents, perhaps, now sliding
my wife in the lamprey jaws of the scanner.

The children’s sorrow spreads like a stomach bug.
A teacher’s voice wafts across the playground
Shhh y’all … What’s the matter?… C’mon now.

But the wailing only swells
filling the courtyard with birdlike
shrieks and hollow moans.

Nurses on break look up from their phones
a man in a wheelchair opens his eyes
nuns carrying lunch trays pause mid-stride
all of them wondering, like me,
what the children know.



About the Author: Ken Hines writes essays and poems on matters he finds puzzling. Some of those pieces have found their way into Philosophy Now, The Millions, Barrelhouse, and Mocking Heart Review. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.


Image Credit: National Photo Company “Playground” (between 1918 and 1920) The Library of Congress (public domain)

Larry Smith: “How Life Is Like a Jigsaw Puzzle”




How Life Is Like a Jigsaw Puzzle

We begin so eager and innocent
dumping out hundreds of pieces
certain of ourselves.
Then we get down to the
turning and sorting which
lasts longer than it should.

Crisp and flat in our tender fingers
each piece becomes its own.
In search of order we
border the puzzle in,
yet pieces range wide.

We divide the figures by likeness:
colors and lines, sizes and shapes.
The assembling begins in quiet—
trial and error our fallback tool.
We are going to need help.

Midway through the second day
we begin seeing pieces in our dreams,
find their shapes in our food and yards,
the faces and bodies of friends.
We sort and arrange, bridge
together what seems to belong.
Where could that missing piece be?
we ask yet know we hold them all.

Third day we’re at it alone
and growing discouraged.
It begins to feel like work,
yet we fear giving up.

There are lessons learned here,
a process taken in, the work
of mending, finding light, feeling
our way towards an end.
Something draws us, pulls us on
towards the rush of last pieces,
the satisfaction of making whole.

We stand back, take it all in,
then begin the taking apart,
piece by piece, and the
putting it away.



About the Author: Larry Smith is the editor-publisher of Bottom Dog Press in Ohio, also the author of 6 books of fiction and 8 books of poems, most recently The Pears: Poems. A retired professor of humanities, he lives and works along the shores of Lake Erie in Huron, Ohio.


More By Larry Smith:

No Walls

Union Town

At The Country Store


Image Credit: Alphonse Legros “Studies of Hands” Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.



Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal: “The Pipe Smoker”




The Pipe Smoker

The pipe was being smoked
by the invisible man I suppose
or by an actual ghost. It was
suspended in the air and the
smoke left its aroma in the air.

I thought twice about grabbing
that pipe. I did not want an
elbow to my ribs or to my face.
Who was I to stop an unseen
being from smoking a pipe?

Worst of all, what if I reached
for it and I missed, or if the pipe
was a figment of my imagination?
What if I was seeing things?
That would really drive me mad.



About the Author: Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal lives in California and works in Los Angeles. His poetry has appeared in The Abyss, Ariel Chart, As It Out To Be, Blue Collar Review, and Unlikely Stories. Deadbeat Press, Kendra Steiner Editions, New Polish Beat, Poet’s Democracy, Propaganda Press, Pygmy Forest Press, and Ten Pages Press have published his poetry books and chapbooks.


More by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal:

Beautiful Mournings

Eat Rain



Image Credit: Adrien Alban Tournachon “Dog smoking a pipe” (1860) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Nathan Graziano: “Reading “The Metamorphosis” with My Daughter”




Reading “The Metamorphosis” with My Daughter

After months inside the house, my body grows thick
with flesh and flab as I lie on the couch, feet kicked up
rereading the Kafka story my daughter was assigned

in her World Literature class, thinking it’s a good time
to talk about text with my sixteen-year-old first child—
we can make connections to current events in the news.

Halfway through, however, my daughter informs me
that it’s the dullest story that she’s ever read and nothing
happens except the guy turning into a bug on Page 1.

“What does this story have to do with anything relevant
to my life or the world? All he does is hide under a sheet,”
she says, tossing her battered copy against the wall.

Seeing it as a teachable moment, I take time to remind
my dear daughter that we’ve been confined to our home
for fifty-one days, losing our collective fucking minds,

and we’re still in human form without an apple lodged
in our spine so just maybe we can relate to the isolation
Gregor experiences—without Netflix or social media.

My daughter rolls her eyes, the totem of the teenage girl,
and leaves the room, the pages fanned out on the floor.
I stare out the window at a sky like a steel-gray sheet.


About the Author: Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, with his wife and kids. His books include Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press), After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press) Hangover Breakfasts (Bottle of Smoke Press in 2012), Some Sort of Ugly (Marginalia Publishing in 2013), My Next Bad Decision (Artistically Declined Press, 2014) and Almost Christmas (Redneck Press, 2017). A novella titled Fly like The Seagull will be published by Luchador Press in 2020. For more information, visit his website: www.nathangraziano.com.  


More By Nathan Graziano:

Homework on Uranus

Explaining Depression To My Cousin



Image Credit: “Abbildungen zu Karl Illiger’s Uebersetzung von Olivier’s Entomologie plates” Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Sue Blaustein “The Old Ways”




The Old Ways

So many atmospheres
to perceive
when it gets quiet!

Sometimes on 17th Street
I hear a train.
Though active lines

aren’t really near
I know. Then, the feel
of a dusty depot –

I lose myself in golden
            wheat fields

gracing the box
of Triscuits on
the counter.

Color lithography
has not entirely
lost its power.

Leaving the wheat field
where Triscuits are born
I lose myself again,

in a halftone
of mud-colored raisins
on another box.

A picture on the outside
showing what’s inside –
fifteen sticky ounces

of raisins. “Lion”
brand. Lion Raisins?
That’s funny.

But don’t laugh
at the lion in the logo.
He’s in profile –

the flow of his mane
modeled with simple
strokes. Just line art.

Just line art, it’s enough.
To show lion is stable
and strong. Run out of raisins?

It cannot happen.


About the Author: Sue Blaustein is the author of “In the Field, Autobiography of an Inspector”. Her publication credits and bio can be found at www.sueblaustein.com. Sue retired from the Milwaukee Health Department in 2016, and is an active volunteer. She blogs for ExFabula (“Connecting Milwaukee Through Real Stories”), serves as an interviewer/writer for the “My Life My Story” program at the Zablocki VA Medical Center, and chases insects at the Milwaukee Urban Ecology Center.


More by Sue Blaustein:

A Song for Harvest Spiders

A Song for Noise


Image Credit: Patricia M. Highsmith “Wheat field near Candor, New York ” (2018) The Library of Congress

Damian Rucci: “On Wednesdays”





We ignore the backdrop of condos 
the marble gated heavens 
that keep the clean faced 
from the people like us 

hiding from the rain in the gazebo
I come here on Wednesdays 
in my work boots, wait for my plug
read junkie love poems 
to rafael, joseph, and mark 
they pay me in stories 

rafael was the hardest working man
this side of the Mississippi 
until his youngest graduated school
now he’s back on the needle 
now he’s back living in a tent
up on the rocks that hangs over
the cresting waves, he put his time in

Joseph and Mark don’t talk much
they beat their feet to the rhythm
of our words, laugh and bare 
the purest smiles I’ve ever seen
everything is beautiful in this moment

but you’re looking down from your balcony 
with your golden straw, hand on your phone
ready to tell the pigs to come chase us off
to tell them we’re not gone like you want us to be

you can always tell how much money a man has
by how high he holds his shoulders
that’s why we’re down here sulking

as above so below 
you’re not so different though
you know that ATM is far away when you’re lonely
with that last twenty whispering to you
don’t you want to feel good?
don’t you want to feel like somebody? 


About the Author: Damian Rucci is a writer and author of five poetry books including his latest Don’t Call it a Relapse (Punk Provincial Press 2019), founder of the Poetry in the Port reading series, and was a Poet in Residence at the Osage Arts Community in Belle, Missouri. He can be contacted at @damianrucci on Twitter and damian.rucci@gmail.com


More By Damian Rucci:

One For Cory

Hound Speak

Melancholy and the Afterglow


Image Credit: ” GAP ROAD, LOOP OVER, VIEW INSIDE OVERPASS. – Great Smoky Mountains National Park Roads & Bridges, The Loop Over Bridge, Newfound Gap Road 8.6 miles from park entrance, Gatlinburg, Sevier County, TN” The Library of Congress (public domain)

Chuck Kramer: “The Cruelest Month”




The Cruelest Month

we stand at the end
of this stony, barren road
on the last day of April
peering through May
to the gates of June
and lush summer lawns
where we bask in the sun
sipping mint juleps with friends
maybe then we’ll forget
the isolated agony
of this brutal, crushing winter
but the exile might never end
as the evils of the last century
the death camps the bombs
the plagues the melting ice—
finally coalesce into
the lonely, terrifying nightmare
we can’t wake to escape
come August there may be reaping
a rich full harvest—
the end of the ordeal
but the ground may be barren
a biblical judgment on our rashness
and the quarantine an endless
sentence to pay for the
thoughtless crimes we’ve committed



About the Author: Chuck Kramer is a Chicago writer of fiction, poetry, and journalism. He has an MA in Writing from DePaul University and taught writing in the Chicago Public Schools at the Communication Arts Center. 

He’s currently the vice-president of the NewTown Writers, works on the editorial staff of the Chicago Quarterly Reviewand previously served as a workshop coordinator with the Chicago Writing Conference. He was the cohost of the long-running Weeds Poetry Open Mic.

He occasionally freelances for the Windy City Times and his journalism has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times, and Reader. His poems and short stories have appeared in many publications, both online and in print.

More at chuckkramer.webs.com.


Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith: “Dirt road to nowhere in rural Moffat County, Colorado; well, Wyoming, if you take the road far enough in either direction. It loops up over the Wyoming border going either east or west” (2016) The Library of Congress (Public Domain)

Victor Clevenger: “Thursday Evening in September “


Editor’s Note: This is the 3rd in a series of poems by Victor Clevenger about his son, nicknamed “The Milkman”


Thursday Evening in September  

for nothing more
than to close an open window
i rushed into the first room on the left
with a bust-down-a-door
cop mentality

& his sudden search for concealment

reminded me why
it’s always best to knock first
& wait for him to finish twisting the knob
before entering the room with caution

it doesn’t always take a gunshot
or a slice from a sharp blade
to leave a scar


it’s just a hard object
gripped by a hand


Victor Clevenger’s latest chapbook of poetry, Low-Flying Birds, is available here on AIOTB Magazine as a free pdf.


About the Author: Victor Clevenger spends his days in a Madhouse and his nights writing poetry.  Selected pieces of his work have appeared in print magazines and journals around the world.  He is the author of several collections of poetry including Sandpaper Lovin’ (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2017), A Finger in the Hornets’ Nest (Red Flag Poetry, 2018), and Corned Beef Hash By Candlelight (Luchador Press, 2019).  Together with American poet John Dorsey, they run River Dog.


More by Victor Clevenger:

$5.00 Wok

Milkman’s Mustache


Image Credit: “West bedroom, second floor, door to hall – Robert Pierce House, 24 Oakton Avenue, Dorchester, Suffolk County, MA” The Library of Congress (public domain)