Ace Boggess: “Why I can’t Play Poker”

Why I Can’t Play Poker

Cards feel like collectibles,
each ace the Honus Wagner.

I prefer not to lay them down,
give them up. Weakness 

of character: I love chaos after losing,
one of those rare times 

anger & emptiness overlap 
enough to scorch a desert twice. 

Besides, I think, what if I won?
How could I bear reality?

To surrender failings I embrace 
like a childhood toy? To gain 

but sacrifice my desperation,
doubt? I’d have to be a different me,

neither my goal nor a solution,
more like deodorant sprayed on later.

I’d rather not play a hand again,
except these sailboats in the hole:

how they glide across the table,
how they carry me farther out to sea

About the Author:Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, most recently Escape Envy (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021). His poems have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, River Styx, and other journals. An ex-con, he lives in Charleston, West Virginia, where he writes and tries to stay out of trouble.


Image Credit: Arthur S. Siegel “Detroit, Michigan. Poker hand and hands of girl players” (1941) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Paul Lamar “August 5, 2020 (for Mark)”

 August 5, 2020 (for Mark)

Enclosed with you. But rather with? No one,
Of course. We’ve fashioned decades side by side,
And some days it’s as if we’ve just begun
To see each other’s core. Pandemic’s slide
Into confusion makes life sharper than
The blurry days of running here and there,
Compelled and scattered. No need to plan
Each moment now-- my grasp is light as air
Though never tighter on what matters most:
Our children. Neighbors. Music. Books. The yard.
And thoughts about the wider world: the lost
Of every sort! The earth. I know what’s hard
Is yet to come, but soon we’ll crack the door,
And live in ways we should have lived before.

About the Author: Paul Lamar lives with his husband, Mark, in Albany, NY, where he teaches poetry, fiction, and memoir workshops; reviews theater for a local paper; and conducts a chorus. Over many years (he just attended his 55th college reunion, mirabile dictu!) his poems and stories have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Steam Ticket, Bloodroot, Southern Review, Off the Coast, etc.


Image Credit: Edvard Munch “Men Turning Toward the Sun” Public domain image courtesy of Artvee

Evan Myquest Reviews Pawning My Sins By M.J. Arcangelini

A Review of

Pawning My Sins

By M.J. Arcangelini


The depth and breadth of Joe Arcangelini’s life must make his confessional appearance in this volume of poetry one bad-ass day in the publishing world. The eponymous first poem has his first confession of the book—that he wouldn’t get much of a return at his mystical sin pawnshop. And this is his first sin of a lie to confess to the reader. Going by the sins in this book, I’m thinking Joe’s got a damn good pawn stub in his mitts.

Joe takes us through his experiences: weed patch sentry duty, the booze, and the seedy North Beach hotel stays, and even more life on the “interesting” side of town. We definitely have some librarians clutching pearls and clucking tongues going on here. Fret not, librarians, we have no full-monty tell-all here. What we have is an honest accounting of a wild life told in poetry—because that is what Joe Arcangelini is good at these days.

Especially at lines like these about the clearing out of his Dad’s place, “The bed that witnessed such tender gymnastics” not kept, but keeping the “1920s straight razor, a 1903 Colt .38 revolver, a decayed molar.” All those embedded memories offloaded to the page.

You don’t have to read very far to see that once past the deprecation of the first poem, the reader is off and running on what would singe the local padre’s “heard it all” ears in a confessional. Sure that the ears listening nearby are perked toward that booth.

Yes, Joe is raising the shades in Pawning My Sins. He is confessing to the angels (and us), but he wants the pawnbroker’s cash, not some nebulous absolution. I love the stark, honest, eloquent writing going on here. We get treated to both the significance and the insignificance of a life in these pages. The midnight quill scritching Joe is sharing has the oldest of intentions “not to do what I have done.” The thing I dig with this book of poems is that there is not a lot of resignation and sadness here. It is even hard to see apologetic regret. You know Joe will write another great book and move on from the fizzled fireworks, the hitchhiking, the rehabs, and lost friends and lovers—because in the clarity of his writing there is a survivor here, and we sure count on this loveable gentleman to go on “pawning” more of these wonderful poems off on us.

Collect those tickets, Joe, and get every last dime you are entitled to, because surviving and becoming the gentle artist we finally meet here is well deserved.


Pawning My Sins
M.J. Arcangelini
Luchador Press 2022
Big Tuna, TX (cool) –98 pages

About the Author: Evan Myquest lives in the Sierra foothills near Sacramento, CA. He has been married to his wife, Eva, for 47 years. His poetry has appeared alongside Jack Hirschman, Patti Smith, Leonard Cohen, Jim Carroll, and many others across the US and in Italy as well as translated and performed on video by Rome’s maestro Beppe Costa. His latest poetry collection, Cold Blue Roses, is available at Amazon in print and Kindle editions. This is his second book review, his first appeared in Ingrid Swanberg’s “Abraxas” about “Dorsey/Wagner.”

Sarah Carleton: “Guidelines for House Gecko”

Guidelines for House Gecko

Leave pearl eggs in dark spots—
behind sockets or bookshelves.

Crawl the walls on sticky toes, but if you see people,
scuttle to a crack and hide.

Squeak for help. Chirp for sex.
Eat bugs and multiply. 

Let the little ones dash across carpets 
but only at night.

You’ll last for years here, hovering 
in the laundry room, waiting for roaches

but even if a fleshy hand catches you and drops you
in the grass, don’t panic.

Remember, your name is House. 
You know where all the secret passages are.

About the Author: Sarah Carleton writes poetry, edits fiction, plays the banjo, and knits obsessively in Tampa, Florida. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Nimrod, Tar River Poetry, Cider Press Review, The Wild Word, Valparaiso, As It Ought to Be, and New Ohio Review. Sarah’s poems have received nominations for Pushcart and Best of the Net. Her first collection, Notes from the Girl Cave, was published in 2020 by Kelsay Books.

Image Credit: Illustration originally from Histoire naturelle de Lacépède. Paris: Furne, Jouvet et cie. Public domain image courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Steve Brisendine: “Found Boy”

Found Boy

Warm night wind, jukebox echoes, 
a long slow undertongue afterburn 
of pipe smoke and Tullamore Dew –

but there's no second star to be seen, 
only this thin high overcast and a 
streetlight gleam off a left-hand ring,

so it's a right turn onto my street,  
straight on to a slip-in-quietly bed,
a cubicle too early in the morning.

About the Author: Steve Brisendine lives, works and wrestles with words in Mission, Kansas. His most recent poetry collections are Salt Holds No Secret But This (Spartan Press, 2022) and To Dance with Cassiopeia and Die (Alien Buddha Press, 2022), a “split collaboration” with his former pen name of Stephen Clay Dearborn. His first collection, The Words We Do Not Have (Spartan Press, 2021) was nominated for the Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award. He is a two-time finalist for the Derick Burleson Poetry Prize. His work has appeared in Flint Hills Review, Modern Haiku, Connecticut River Review and elsewhere.

Image Credit: Louis Lozowick “City Shapes” (1922) Public domain image courtesy of Artvee

Jason Baldinger: “the only other thing is nothing”

the only other thing is nothing
(for will hackney) 

got your postcard
from the edge of civilization 
in a resort town where 
water stopped like time
in the shimmer of 118 degrees 
out where the sea level still
can't find the sea 

california has eluded me
I haven't seen the salton sea
but I miss zabriske point
I miss armed attendants 
pumping expensive gas 
under blazing mojave sun 
desert rats aware
apocalypse already flashed 

the last time we shared a desert
you were celebrating life beginning
as speeches and dances rolled
I was in the parking lot
cold moon rises full
over the sierra blanca 

attempts to be a dutiful 
if long distanced partner
lonely in the clash 
between living with abandon
and living abandoned 

I am yucca, sun bleached
blossoms mummified 
while she's hostile
brandishing the shovel
that would bury us 

come morning
I start east
my eyes on lubbock 
beyond roswell
I spy a pecan grove
symmetrical oasis
stretched miles under 
unforgiving sun
park between rows
stand outside myself
the only other thing is nothing

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 is the physical manifestation of Pittsburgh. Although unsure of either, he does love wandering the country writing poems. He’s penned fifteen books of poetry the newest of which include: The Afterlife is a Hangover (Stubborn Mule Press) and A History of Backroads Misplaced: Selected Poems 2010-2020 (Kung Fu Treachery), and This Still Life with James Benger. His work has appeared across a wide variety of print journals and online. You can hear him read his work on Bandcamp and on lps by The Gotobeds and Theremonster.

Image Credit: Arthur Rothstein “Type of land on project at Las Cruces, New Mexico. Note large yuccas” (1936) Public Domain photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Kathleen Hellen: “veiled fatale”

About the Author: Kathleen Hellen’s collection Meet Me at the Bottom is forthcoming from Main Street Rag. Her credits include The Only Country Was the Color of My Skin, her award-winning collection Umberto’s Night, published by Washington Writers’ Publishing House, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra and Pentimento. Featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, her work has appeared in Arts & Letters, The Carolina QuarterlyCimarron ReviewColorado Review, Massachusetts ReviewNew LettersNimrodNorth American Review, Prairie SchoonerSalamander, The Sewanee ReviewSouthern Humanities Review, SubtropicsThe Sycamore ReviewTampa Review OnlineWest Branch, and Witness, among others. Hellen’s awards include the Thomas Merton poetry prize and prizes from the H.O.W. Journal and Washington Square Review, as well as individual artist awards from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts.

Image Credit: Pierre Amédée Marcel-Beronneau “Salomé, L’oiseau De Proie” Public domain image courtesy of Artvee.

John Compton: “Your Fear Becomes Holy”

your fear becomes holy,

your marriage frail. you decide mine will ruin yours.

your sentences pervert scripture. plagiarize what

you believe is real. what you claim to conjure

you want god to believe. if no one else loves you

why should he?
your fear becomes holy, 2

amen. let me turn your heads:
jesus never married, had disciples: men.
judas turned against him. jealousy
comes from the bed. if i can’t have you
no one can.

These two poems appear in John Compton’s new book the castration of a minor god, available from Ghost City Press

the castration of a minor god” is built like a classic opera, composed of many lyric passages full of strange and powerful images cast in words, where dresses of flames mix horrifically with our culture’s dishonesty and secret perversion to cast a searchlight onto earth from the heavens above where this thing called god tells us to love one another, fully, completely, without exception. Compton’s short book of poems answers the implicit and explicit questions that other Book poses. Without apology or fear, anger is met with anger, love with love. While sometimes his metaphors go too far, other times the images created are perfectly beautiful and compelling. This is a book that embraces what was forbidden love and shows the reader the universality of fear, desire, and belonging.

-Fred Dodsworth, Dodsworth Books

About the Author: john compton (b. 1987) is a gay poet who lives in Kentucky. He lives in a tiny town with his husband Josh and their dogs and cats.

Image Credit: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner “Head of Dr. Bauer” (1921) Public domain image courtesy of Artvee.

Tony Gloeggler: “For Mom”

For Mom

The brother who gave me a kidney
for my transplant sent me an email 
telling me not to wear my filthy
Yankee cap to mom’s funeral
out of respect for my mother. 
Mom knew how I felt and we grew 
closer while I helped take care 
of her the nine months before 
she died. Besides, she’d hardly 
notice lying in her closed casket 
and if she did, she’d laugh, shake 
her head and pull me in with her 
for a hug, ask if Judge homered 
in last night’s west coast game 
against the Angels. Jaime was a baby 
when Dad wanted to kick me out 
of the house for hair hanging past 
my shoulders and mom kept yelling, 
over my dead body, until the next door 
neighbors, the ones my other brother 
named The Gruesome’s to rhyme 
with Newsome, threatened to call 
the cops and Dad told them to mind 
their own friggin’ business and forgot 
all about my hair, me. Jaime never 
could guess how much it meant 
that mom kept asking about my writing, 
the only one in the family who read 
my poems and never asked why 
I wrote that or told me not to write
this, sometimes reminding me 
she was the one who taught me 
to read, leaning into her arms, 
my leg in its brace, laid flat across 
the couch when I couldn’t go 
out and play with the other kids 
who sometimes called me names, 
her finger underlining letters, 
pointing out words, making me 
repeat sounds, and though she only 
met Jesse, the severely autistic son 
of the woman I briefly lived with 
three, four, times at holiday dinners, 
she always wanted to know everything 
about him, delighted to hear he spent 
his weekend skiing or climbing on every 
roller coaster, every whirling scary ride 
at the summer fair, not like you Anthony, 
laughing again when I nodded yeah, 
Jesse still loves ripping books into piles 
of thin paper slices, orders chicken fingers, 
French fries extra hot any time we eat out, 
and then she made me promise to take
care of that kid, now a man, good.

About the Author: Tony Gloeggler is a life-long resident of NYC and managed group homes for the mentally challenged for over 40 years. His work has appeared in Rattle, New Ohio Review, Book Of Matches, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy. His most recent book, What Kind Of Man with NYQ Books, was a finalist for the 2021 Paterson Poetry Prize and long listed for Jacar Press’ Julie Suk Award.  

Image Credit: Édouard Vuillard “The Artist’s Mother Opening a Door” (1886) Public domain image courtesy of Artvee.

Susan Cossette: “The Bones Know”

The Bones Know

Mama orders beef shank for soup.
I shuffle small feet on the butcher’s sawdust floor,
wishing for that elusive marbled steak.

Gramma Erzebet and I chop carrots and celery
then quarter the parsnips and turnips.

Dolgozz tovább, Zsuzsu.
Keep working, Suzie.

We watch the flesh bubble from the bones
in her cast iron pot and know
we will have supper for days.

Later, the cats lick slick grey bones
tossed on the yellow and green linoleum.

Come May, Mama and I plant pink impatiens by the porch.
Knees pressed into the newly warm earth,
we discover discarded bones of slain birds and mice.

My bones remember every place I go.
Each taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound,
every memory buried in spongy marrow.

About the Author: Susan Cossette lives and writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Author of Peggy Sue Messed Up, she is a recipient of the University of Connecticut’s Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust and Moth, The New York Quarterly, ONE ART, As it Ought to Be, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Amethyst Review, Crow & Cross Keys, Loch Raven Review, and in the anthologies Fast Fallen Women (Woodhall Press) and Tuesdays at Curley’s (Yuganta Press).

Image Credit: François Bonvin “Still Life” (1858) Public domain image courtesy of Artvee