Larry Smith “Guitar Lesson”

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Guitar Lesson 

My guitar has lost sound
shed like snakeskin
in a desert of neglect.
Wood and strings longing
for touch dry up and
barely whisper their song.

And I beg forgiveness,
shoulder in embrace,
fingertips stroking the pain
into song. Each day,
each hour, each moment
our love revives.

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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, and most recently Mingo Town and Memories: Poems. A retired professor of humanities, he lives and works along the shores of Lake Erie in Huron, Ohio.

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More By Larry Smith:

No Walls

Union Town

At The Country Store

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Image Credit: Juan Gris “Still Life with a Guitar” (1913) Public Domain

Ruth Bavetta: “Spell to Name the Unnameable”

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Spell to Name the Unnameable

Light small fires against the screen
that separates close from distant.
Petition the sea tern to spin the compass,
the horse to silhouette the sky.
Burn mushrooms, magazines,
and mayberries salted with stars.
Balance rainbow upon rainbow
until there is no trace of longing,
no residue of what was lost.
Follow the red clay road
over the hill to an unspecified town
where the houses are unnumbered
and the answer lies buried
under the doorstone. Leave
your footprints leading away.

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About the Author: Ruth Bavetta’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Nimrod, American Poetry Review, Tar River Review, North American Review and many other journals and anthologies. Her books are Fugitive Pigments and Flour, Water, Salt (Futurecycle Press), Embers on the Stairs (Moon Tide Press), and No Longer at This Address (Aldrich Press). She has been a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee.

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More by Ruth Bavetta:

Wildfire

A Murder

Neon Boneyard

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Take Off Sunset” (2021)

Jeremy Nathan Marks: “Edgemere Road”

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Edgemere Road

-for Ruth and Milton in memoriam

When there were pictures
on the wall
the house seemed larger
end tables in the hall
and someone answering
the phone

Telemarketers and fundraisers
would call but now no one does
because mail and bills are forwarded
to next of kin.

I remember both of you
moving from room
to room
creaking floors
and chiming clocks
every one of which spoke
of a particular purchase
or repair
work histories and earnings
wood grain walls
appliance doors grasped with a turning
of plumbing fixtures foot prints in linoleum.

I remember how you fed squirrels
picked beetles off of your plum tree
admired that flaming sugar maple
across the street

You cultivated tomatoes
and were proud to be
the first and only owners
of your house

You paid your bills and cut your grass
did all of the things responsible home owners do
taking a particular joy in your obligations because

They were yours.

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About the Author: Jeremy Nathan Marks lives in Canada. Brand new work appears/is appearing in Unlikely Stories, The Pangolin Review, Every Day Fiction, Bluepepper, Sledgehammer Lit, Ginosko Review, and New Reader Magazine.

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More by Jeremy Nathan Marks:

Plus Ten

Frontiers are Frontiers but Once

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Image Credit: Marion Post Wolcott “Mr. and Mrs. Elvin Wilkins (Rosa) discussing whether or not they will buy this linoleum for their kitchen floor. They decided it was too light and not wide enough and that they would wait. They came to Durham, North Carolina from their farm near Stem, Granville County, to sell their tobacco at auction and to do some general shopping” (1939) The Library of Congress

DS Maolalai: “Circles on a table”

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Circles on a table

driving a car
through the spilled
beer of morning.
tracing your path
in unpleasant
wet city – sleepy
and trying alert –

like dragging
a finger
over circles
on a table
in the garden
smoking patio
at a summer’s
evening party.

waiting
at a traffic
light – a red
flaring cherry –
someone stands
a moment,
lights a morning
cigarette.

next to me
a tram pulls up.
a woman
does her make-up.
uses the window
to see her reflection –
looks straight
at me looking,
doesn’t see me.

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About the Author: DS Maolalai has been nominated eight times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)

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More by DS Maolalai

“The work-horse god”

A Perfume

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Image Credit: Wasilly Kandinsky “Light Circle” (1922) Public Domain

Mike James Reviews “Erotic” by Alexis Rhone Fancher

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Mike James Reviews

Erotic

By Alexis Rhone Fancher

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Some poets bring a very cerebral enjoyment. Think of the pleasure of watching John Ashbery’s mind work as he leaps from surprise to surprise, tossing out great lines as extravagantly as a child tossing candy from a parade float at Christmas time. A reader comes away from his work with a voyeur’s amazement akin to watching a skilled acrobat do trick after trick.

Alexis Rhone Fancher’s work offers a different enjoyment. Though her poems display tremendous skill, it’s the stand out nearness of her images and the relatability of her stories which are most striking. She writes about break ups and disappointing relatives, about first lusts and “the regret that hides outside.”

As the title suggests, this collection is broadly concerned with sex. There’s a lot of it, with men and women. The narrator seems aware of every desire and records them with vividness. Her often long titles are a lot of fun and prepare the reader for what’s ahead. For instance, the collection’s second poem is titled, “Tonight I Will Dream of Anjelica, My First Ex-Girlfriend, Who Taught Me the Rules of the Road…” The title ties into Angelica’s T-Bird and what takes place there, which is a lot. The narrator tells us, “I’ve always been driven to sin.”

She writes poems about one night stands where, “We are each bodies, hard-wired for pleasure, / destined for momentary blooming / then extinction.” And she writes poems about relationships which linger past their shelf life. She tells us, “Tonight I am ripe for forgiveness.” She tells us, “We had a history / all dead ends.”

What’s most exhilarating about this collection is the number of risks it takes. So many of these poems would not work for less talented poets. Fancher is fearless in her approach to subject and form. This collection contains prose poems and free verse. It contains litanies and Americanized haiku. Fancher reinvents them all.

One of the best poems in the collection, “White Flag”, is based on an Edward Hopper painting. Fancher adds a sensuality to the occupants of Hopper’s world. Loneliness is what can come the night after a hook up or during the weeks after a break up. She tells us “No one paints loneliness like Edward Hopper paints me, missing you, apologies on my lips.”

Thankfully, no apologies are needed for these stunning, life-filled poems.

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Erotic; New & Selected by Alexis Rhone Fancher
New York Quarterly Books, 2021
Poetry, $21

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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 18 poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), and Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), He has received multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations.

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More Reviews by Mike James:

Mike James reviews Mingo Town & Memories by Larry Smith

Mike James reviews “Dead Letter Office: Selected Poems” By Marko Pogacar

Mike James reviews Beautiful Aliens: A Steve Abbott Reader and Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney

Tim Heerdink: “Storm is Chasing [sic]”

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About the Author: Tim Heerdink is the author of Somniloquy & Trauma in the Knottseau Well, The Human Remains, Red Flag and Other Poems, Razed Monuments, Checking Tickets on Oumaumua, Sailing the Edge of Time, I Hear a Siren’s Call, Ghost Map, A Cacophony of Birds in the House of Dread, and short stories, The Tithing of Man and HEA-VEN2. His poems appear in various journals and anthologies. He is the President of Midwest Writers Guild of Evansville, Indiana.

Image Credit: “Alphonse Legros “Storm” (French 1837-1911) Public Domain. Image courtesy of Artvee

Fabrice Poussin: “Waiting Room”

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Waiting Room

It is a few raindrops past midnight
the skies crossed by streaks of bright fumes
lay abandoned above the concrete floors.

Greenish plastic seats at least get a rest
from the myriad wary a traveler
malodorous business suits and naked feet.

It was another maddening day in the glassy hall
tall as a skyscraper without purpose
with screams, and calls, and cries.

A cosmopolitan world in transit
the ghosts of many souls remain
exhausted, ecstatic, fearful or perhaps broken.

Not a sound remains of this resonating chamber
with sterile tiles and stale coffee drinks
mausoleum in waiting of its next harvest.

I have often wandered those corridors alone
when the night had sent the mobs home
to recall adventures lived and not.

How eerie the deathly silence
where so much was alive
hiding within the walls to be born again.

International travels to begin and end here
dreams for those who have but a moment to hope
joy in anticipation of a vicarious journey.

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About the Author: Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and many other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review as well as other publications. 

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More by Fabrice Poussin:

Getting Old

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Image Credit: Historic American Buildings Survey Richard Koch, Photographer June, 1936 DETAIL STAIR AT SECOND FLOOR – First Skyscraper, 638 Royal Street, New Orleans, Orleans Parish, LA. The Library of Congress

Melody Wang: “When I Die, Liken Me to the Sparrow”

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When I Die, Liken Me to the Sparrow

Tread lightly near the clearing in fading
light; there is no telling which plants
contain pure poison nestled in
waxy-smooth petals and stems

Pretend not to notice striated pink-purple flowers
strewn about the forest floor — unsuspecting
creatures pulled from their nesting
place and tossed aside as an afterthought

Seek and find near a clump of irises: the cold
sparrow, cramped on its side, lurid flesh showing
more than it had in life, features oddly twisted and
sleep-softened eyes closed eternally

Revel in the sacred realization that it belongs
to the earth now, requiring neither proper burial
nor the slightest acknowledgment of the fact
that it is no longer among the living

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About the Author: Melody Wang currently resides in sunny Southern California with her dear husband. In her free time, she dabbles in piano composition and also enjoys hiking, baking, and playing with her dogs. She is a reader for Sledgehammer Lit and can be found on Twitter @MelodyOfMusings.

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More by Melody Wang:

All that My Mother Cultivates

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Image Credit: Illustration from “Coloured illustrations of British birds, and their eggs” London :G.W. Nickisson,1842-1850. Public Domain. Image courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library

Curtis Hayes: “Paradox”

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Paradox

The brilliance of the night sky
remains mostly hidden
over Los Angeles
with only the brightest stars
able to punch through the haze.
In the City of the Angels,
the dazzle of the cosmos
can only be seen
from the desert.

We were camping
deep in the Mojave,
the Milky Way above
glistening
more beautiful
than a thousand
cities of man.

We had pitched a tent
and a campfire, circled by stones
crackled and popped.
The October air was still warm
and we would instead
sleep outside,
the bed of my pickup
softened by army blankets
and unzipped sleeping bags.

We passed a bottle
looking out at the silent llano.
A shepherd rested next to her,
tired from the heat of the day.
Shooting stars crossed the sky,
so many that we stopped
calling them out.
She asked me if I thought
there were others out there
looking back at us.
I think there must be
I said quietly.
Do you think we’ll ever be able
To travel out there
And see?

I pictured miles of gravel roads
scattered houses peeling in the sun
rusted chain-link
dusty kids on dirt bikes
and the flags
that decorated the bumpers
of broken-down vehicles.
I thought about the Fermi Paradox
which is astronomer talk
for the theory that
any civilization
with the machines
needed to cross the expanse
would have burned itself out
before it could ever make the
final leap.

Her hair, golden in the firelight.
Stroking the dog
waiting for an answer.
The fire popped twice
sounding like the cap guns
I shot as a kid
and my voice
softly
Why would we want to be
anywhere
but right here.

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About the Author: Curtis Hayes has worked as a grip, gaffer, and set builder in TV and film production. He’s been a truck driver, a boat rigger, a print journalist and a screenwriter. 

He is the author of the non-fiction top-ten NYT bestseller, I Am Jesse James, and his first poetry collection, Bottleneck Slide, has recently been published by Vainglory Press.  His work has been featured in numerous anthologies and small press journals.

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Utah Sunset” (2021)

Samuel Prestridge: “Coyote”

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Coyote

The night before my 68th,  I dreamed

of walking a bookmarked scrap of land.

I saw a coyote following me.

He wasn’t threatening, just staring,

just sizing me up.  I didn’t want to

be sized up.  I walked the other direction.

He followed, ran to me, heeled.

We walked together.

I ignored him.  He stayed heeled.

We came to an abandoned stable, walked in.

I stopped in front of a stall.

The coyote climbed up the door,

arced his body across the gap, gracefully draped himself

              across my shoulders.

I stood there, not wanting to move, the coyote

snugged against me.  Maybe I worried

about fleas.  Maybe I was guarding his sleep.

               I don’t know how long I was still and quiet.  I don’t know

how time is measured there.

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About the Author: Samuel Prestridge lives and works in Athens, Georgia.  He has published or has forthcoming articles, poems, essays, and interviews in a wide range of publications, including Literary Imagination, Style, Appalachian Quarterly, Paideuma, Poem, The Southern Humanities Review, The Lullwater Review, The Arkansas Review, Autumn Skies, and Better Than Starbucks.

Regarding his approach to writing, he says, “I write poetry because there are matters that cannot be directly stated, but are essential to the survival of whatever soul we can still have.  Also, I’m no good at interpretive dance, which is the only other options that’s occurred to me.”

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Image Credit: Illustration taken from Wild animals of North America Washington, D.C.,The National geographical society[c1918] Public Domain. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.