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

John Brantingham: “Joan Miro’s Portrait of Vincent Nubiola”

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Joan Miro’s Portrait of Vincent Nubiola

Before he started painting, Miro had 
a nervous breakdown, which seems rational
given that this was Spain, and a quiet hell
had cracked open in Europe, his world gone mad,
and what could he do but watch and resist
as Franco and Adolph got together 
to dream up cynical new ways to sneer
at what could be if we would just coexist.
And then Miro started to paint, which seems
more than rational. More than sane. Portrait 
of Vincent Nubiola was an early piece.
Miro catches him in a pipe-smoking daydream,
his elbow resting on a table with fruit,
a tulip, and wine. He’s at the kind of ease

that Miro must have dreamed of. Fields stretch
out beyond him, fields where he will no doubt
return for the day’s work, worrying about
things that matter while Miro will sketch
and paint and find a place where he can stand
against what is coming. He will turn 
toward the surreal, even as Europe’s dictators
call it degenerate, and it is banned.
I imagine the two of them, Miro 
still young, but wise enough to be alarmed
at what is building. Nubiola is
a professor of agriculture who knows
Miro’s genius, a man with training and wisdom.
They sit and talk of the coming hostilities.

“It feels like the end of everything that’s right,”
my imagined Joan says. Vincent replies,
“Every generation feels this. It’s an endless fight.”
And Joan can foresee an endless night
of terror. He thinks of all who will die
and to him it is the end of everything that’s right.
And Vincent remembers stories of knights
in his childhood and King Alfonso’s lies,
and he knows this is an endless fight.
Old men get a sexual thrill at the sight
of young men dying. They get off on cries
of anguish, and maybe it’s the end of right,
but he tells Joan they’ll keep moving despite
the horror of old men’s pornography.
This, Vincent tells Joan, must remain an endless fight
because these old men live for this kind of blight,
but this world was made for Miro’s kind of beauty.
We must keep going to keep everything right.
That is the beauty of our endless fight.

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About the Author: John Brantingham was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines, Writers Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016. He has nineteen books of poetry and fiction including his latest, Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). He teaches at Mt. San Antonio College.

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Image Credit: Joan Miro “Portrait of Vincent Nubiola” (1917) Public Domain

Jason Baldinger: “temporal, temporary and gone”

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temporal, temporary and gone

it’s black out in bar harbor
days after a thanksgiving 
prayer that was spoken
with no meaning, here it’s 
offseason and sunday
few residents creak 
through the vacant glaze
the early arrival of pitch black
the stars not shielded by light 

I follow a fiddlehead fern
down to a trout hatchery
where generations of tourist
feasted, fifty cents for each
wild caught dream cooked
over fire, picnic benches
for the family while you wait 

next month, i’ll be miles down coast
walking rehoboth beach with wine
stains and fireworks, dolle’s taffy
orange and boardwalk lights
lead me back from the mouth 
of breakers, footprints already
washed away, the infinite space
stoned and stealing time again
the new year a dragon
slayed at my feet 

these places, theses years
whisk by, dust in my beard
atoms along the air, no meaning
in moments anymore
it all builds to crescendo
I’ll never hear, this reality
a bubble, a vessel through 

tonight, memories flood
a mad swirl of stations 
some past, some present
some future, all materialize
temporal, temporary and gone

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About the Author: Jason Baldinger was recently told he looks like a cross between a lumberjack and a genie. He’s also been told he’s not from Pittsburgh, but actually is the physical manifestation of Pittsburgh. Although unsure of either, he does love wandering the country writing poems.  His newest books include: A Threadbare Universe (Kung Fu Treachery Press), The Afterlife is a Hangover (Stubborn Mule Press) and A History of Backroads Misplaced: Selected Poems 2010-2020 (Kung Fu Treachery). He also has a forthcoming book with James Benger called This Still Life. His work has been widely across print journals and online. You can hear him read his work on Bandcamp and on lp’s by The Gotobeds and Theremonster.

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More Poetry by Jason Baldinger:

This Ghostly Ambiance

It was a Golden Time

Beauty is a Rare Thing

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Fiddlehead Fern” (2022)

Mike James: “Consequences of Elections”

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Consequences of Elections

It was about the time I added plastic house plants to my apartment. Fake foliage works for every season. I was still getting postcards from an ex-lover with a return address of Undisclosed Location. I’d given up Frisbee in favor of sitting very quietly in a favorite, stuffed chair. Much of my thought given to the new parliament. The old majority tossed out in favor of a coterie of meteorologists, nail technicians, and film noir enthusiasts. People were optimistic. I was agnostic. I never expected the wind to take on a new color which shimmered at the spectrum’s edge. And the wind blew the same as always. Though the moon, that old coin, seemed closer, brighter. It could just be I spent more time looking up. I no longer foraged with neighbors for cigarette butts and lost dreams.

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About the Author: Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. He has published in numerous magazines, large and small, throughout the country. His poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), and Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog.)  In April, Red Hawk will publish his 20th collection, Portable Light: Poems 1991-2021.

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More By Mike James:

Paul Lynde

Grace

Saint Jayne Mansfield

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Descanso Calla Lily” (2022)

Howie Good: “A Theory of Justice”

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A Theory of Justice

The medical assistant asked in a flat, toneless bureaucratic voice how I would describe the pain. Stabbing? Aching? Sharp? Dull? She entered my answer on the form, but without showing any actual interest in it. A philosopher once said – or should have – that a society is only as just as its treatment of its most vulnerable members: the old, the sick, the poor. Using a dropper, I strategically place .50 milliliters of Triple M tincture under my tongue. I wait fifteen, twenty minutes, and then gray-clad troops burst from the treeline with a rebel yell. The tongue is all muscle.

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About the Author: Howie Good is the author of Failed Haiku, a poetry collection that is the co-winner of the 2021 Grey Book Press Chapbook Contest and scheduled for publication in summer 2022.

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More By Howie Good:

The View from Here

Reason to Believe

People Get Ready

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Image Credit: Howard R Hollem “Transfusion donor bottles, Baxter Lab., Glenview, Ill.” Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Color Photographs. (public domain)

Julia Wendell: “Owl”

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Owl,

High up in the crown
of a Monterey cedar,
saucer-yellow eyes
blinking down at us.
“Bird,” says the wee one.
“Owl,” I specify.
Next morning, he’s still
perched on the shaggy fronds,
a mouse in his talons, blood
stippling his feathers.
“Mouse,” says the girl.
“Dinner,” I elaborate.
I am not above revealing
violent cycles of need
to even the smallest soul.
It will eventually make sense.
She will grow up
and learn to kill and kill and kill—
bugs, engines, books, time, love.
But for now, the bird stays high up 
at the center of our globe.
“Owl,” says the budding girl.
“Life,” says the old one, me.

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About the Author: Julia Wendell‘s sixth volume of poems. THE ART OF FALLING, will be published by FutureCycle Press in February, 2022. She lives in Aiken, South Carolina, and is a three-day event rider.

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Image Credit: Image from A Natural History of Birds (Public Domain) Image courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library