Elana Rubin: “For B”




For B

He chews a pen, the problem scrunched inside
the corner of his lip. He hasn’t quite
resolved it, but he’ll work until it’s right.
It’s 3:00 AM, and I’m asleep. Outside
my room he crouches to untie and slide
his shoes off. I don’t hear him come at night
or in the morning when he leaves, a slight
impression in the mattress on his side.

I never bought those silly sayings: “True
love conquers all,” the whole “soul mate” ordeal,
but I can see what might lead people to
when I wake up at dawn to pee and feel
him next to me. The infant sunlight slows
to soak his cheeks, an ink smudge on his nose.



About the Author: Elana Rubin is a rising senior at the Johns Hopkins University, majoring in the writing seminars. While she loves both fiction and poetry, she has a soft spot for form. Her poem “Student” has been published in Issue Eight of Minute Magazine.

Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Sunset” (2019)




Some choice cuts from

The Ghosts of Our Words Will be Heroes in Hell,

the latest book project by




Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner!  /  Jason Ryberg

The wind is whipping up
little cyclones of dust and leaves
in the ditch by the side of Old 40 HWY,

and there’s a star-shine gleam
to the chrome ball-hitch
of the pick-up truck in front of me,

and there’s road-side fences to the future,
telephone poles to the past,

and the sun, like a cyclop’s murder-red eye
is climbing up from behind the horizon
and right into my driver’s-side
rear-view mirror,

and Walk, Don’t Run by the Ventures
is playing now on the radio

and there, above it all,
a lone falcon or hawk sits, calmly,
surveying its little fiefdom from the top
of a billboard sign that reads,

Beef, it’s what’s for dinner!

You got that right, pal.



When You’re Poor  /  Damian Rucci

when you’re poor
you’re always fucking
or fighting

always fucking because there
is never anything to do
but thrust & moan

when that’s done
then you’re fighting
fighting to keep the lights on

fighting to keep the bills paid
fighting to find change to do the laundry
& fighting with the landlord
about that fifty bucks
he’s still missing

but it could be worse
you could always be waiting again
waiting for the electricity company
to finally kill the lights

waiting for that check to hit
the mail box
waiting for the winds to blow
luck your way for once



The Finger Has Got to Come Off  /  John Dorsey

crazy mark crushes his finger
in the back of a dump truck

instead of going to the hospital
he examines the bone

each angle
like the rings on a tree

each crack
a ridge of undiscovered country

clues to a past
that even he can’t quite recall

weeks go by
and the skin
just won’t heal

he says he’ll have to
cut the meat off himself
before it starts to stink
like a dying animal
left to rot
in the woods.



Lost Man’s Candle / Victor Clevenger

standing at the end of a cold day
we think about how it is always here
in some form good for a glow
hanging from a rope
tied to a breeze

it’s a lost man’s candle
the moon

creating the dull between the trees
branch’s shadows like arms reaching out
for a waist to grasp in dance
& we’re near

but there is no melody left in our breath
tonight     & there is no whistle
from the lips of the wind either

just the random cries of wild animals
that we’ve all heard
a thousand times before

as we stood there like fools

too fucking stubborn
to just find

a good path back home



The Ghosts of Our Words Will Be Heroes in Hell is available from OAC Books, and can be ordered via spartanpresskc@gmail.com or by contacting any of the poets on Facebook.



About the Authors:

Jason Ryberg is the author of thirteen books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders, notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be  (loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry  letters to various magazine and newspaper editors. He is currently an artist-in-residence at both The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s and the Osage Arts Community, and is an editor and designer at Spartan Books. His latest collection of poems is Standing at the Intersection of Critical Mass and Event Horizon (Luchador Press, 2019). He lives part-time in Salina, KS with a rooster named  Little Red and a billygoat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also many strange and wonderful woodland critters.

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

John Dorsey lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory, (Epic Rites Press, 2013), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016) and Shoot the Messenger (Red Flag Press, 2017) and Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019). His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize.He was the winner of the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. He may be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com.

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.

Paul Koniecki



today the sky is
a flag that helps everyone

you asked me to rub
my hand through your hair
natural and relaxing not relaxed
and i am a prayer bead
in a dream about cocoons

inside the prayer bead
is every room we will
ever visit and
the floors
activate only for us

opening lights and a place
to dance out loud or in quiet
celebration your shoes
need no excuse
or barefoot in the sand

like the southernmost tip
of mexico and all the pins
we put in the world-map
one of us hung up
on the wall of our first place

the second story i ever wrote began
when girls were petals and
i was an ignorant boy
now reality is a floor
and the lights

are all the space needed
for a slow-dance
see the night blooming
moon-flowers writing
to us from

the southernmost
tip of the moon
every time we see each other
is the first time again
because they like the view



About the Author: Paul Koniecki lives and writes in Dallas, Texas. He was once chosen for the John Ashbery Home School Residency. He is the Associate Editor of Thimble Literary Journal.


Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Sunset” (2020)


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