John Bratingham: “Age of Isolation”

Age of Isolation

So many shops downtown are closed. 
The liquor stores are still there of course, 

but maybe every third store has been 
boarded up since the pandemic started, 

knocked out like teeth on a fighter’s mouth. 
Bookstores gone, coffee shops too. 

The place where you used to go to buy 
records gone, but you suppose that 

would be abandoned anyway 
like the video game arcade you loved 

before you discovered girls. 
You wonder if this is the way of things, 

the turning of an age as the world moves 
on to a new way of being alive. 

It feels like that summer day twenty 
years ago, where you were at the park, 

but realized that kids didn’t go there any more. 
It’s like those first days of COVID 

when you looked out your door 
and understood that you could have 

a picnic on the highway, 
and not a single person would care.

About the Author: John Brantingham was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines. He has twenty-one books of poetry, memoir, and fiction including his latest, Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press) and Kitkitdizzi (Bamboo Dart Press). He lives in Jamestown, New York.

Image Credit: John Margolies “Liquor store sign, Bossier City, Louisiana” (1979) Public domain image courtesy of The Library of Congress

Savannah Lauren: “If I ever have a daughter”

If I ever have a daughter 

We will sit by her bed at night 
Sing a song that we co-write 
–These are my arms 
They are good arms 
I use them to (fill in the blank)– 
We will roadtrip through our bodies 
Drift around ankles 
Hug tightly to curves 
Slow down over bumps and ridges 
Name them and be not afraid of ourselves
I have never seen my mother’s stomach 
But if it’s anything like the top of her shoulders 
It’s a galaxy of freckles 
8-children’s worth of ribbon curl folds and 
Hills and valleys and deep veins of ore that we were forged from 
Carried within like we were on her starry-sloped shoulders 
A home before we knew that her hands would not always be ours 

If I ever have a daughter 
I will pull my shirt up every night 
We will count the stretch marks 
I will let her drive her hot wheels 
Down the scars that made her 
And the ones that were there 
before she came 

–This is my belly 
It is a good belly 
I use it to carry you always–

About the Author: Savannah Lauren is a poet and photographer living in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York. The Bushwick part is very important to her, as are her small fox-dog, Morello, Vietnamese summer rolls, and the way the sun hits her disco ball in the winter. You can find her on twitter @sava_laur and on instagram @savannahlaurenphoto

Image Credit: Joaquín Sorolla “Mother” (1895) Public domain image courtesy of Artvee

John Dorsey: “Poem for Tohm Bakelas”

Poem for Tohm Bakelas

you are an old soul
with a heart full of stencils
with love mimeographed inside your chest
a born reader
a black rabbit trapped in a dusty shed
with empty cigarette cartons
& forgotten words of wisdom
hidden away in a field in new jersey
or some ohio trailer park filled with myth
your laugh is warhol’s never ending telephone
a collect call into the past
they don’t make them like you anymore brother
they never did.

About the Author: John Dorsey is the former poet laureate of Belle, Missouri and the author of Pocatello Wildflower. He may be reached at


Image Credit: John Margolies “Enterprise, Seaside Heights, New Jersey” (1978) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Ryan Quinn Flanagan: “Cat Tequila”

Cat Tequila 

Gathered ‘round a glass of milk,
the only question now:
who will eat the mouse tail 
in the bottom?
Mess themselves up real good?
The tail sucks up all the milk,
you see!

About the Author: Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many mounds of snow.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, As It Ought To Be Magazine The New York Quarterly, Cultural Weekly, In Between Hangovers, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.


Image Credit: Henry Pointer “The Old Bachelor” (1865) Digital image courtesy of Getty’s Open Content Program.

Richard Vargas: “when i was a UPS man”

when i was a UPS man


i was somebody in my brown
pants and shirt sitting high
in the driver’s seat steering
my monster of a truck one- 
handed while easily shifting
gears with the other 

we maneuvered through 
Anaheim traffic
a modern-day vaquero 
and his horse driving cattle
the two of us in sync 
anticipating the ebb
and flow of the herd

on those summer days
when the back of the truck
turned into an oven  
my sweat left streaks of crusty 
white salt on my work shirt
the customers always had 
a cold drink waiting for me 
knowing i couldn’t afford 
to drag ass or slow down 

the workday was just me and 
my truck making our deliveries
stop and go stop and go
each package an important one
each business eagerly awaiting 
my knock on their back door
or a receptionist with glossy lips
looking up and smiling just for me 
when i walked into her lobby 
carrying the anticipated
Next Day Air envelope

during the Christmas season 
i delivered the boxes
of chocolates and nuts
sausages and cheese
the gifts from all over
the country finding the
way to the doorsteps
of the homes on 
my delivery route
while the colored lights
strung across each house
flickered on and off
and the trees stood
in the windows
weighed down with
an array of shiny 

a flashlight helped me read
addresses in the dark
while i ran from my truck
to their front door then back 
trying to finish the shift by 8 pm


one hernia repair later
plus two bouts with pneumonia
and now laid up with a bad back
weekly computer reports informed
the bosses i wasn’t working 
hard enough fast enough
to suit them
their verbal warnings turned
into written warnings
my shop steward
pulled me aside and
told me to watch
my back

the doctor knew who was 
paying his bills and treated 
me accordingly
the day he offered me
a choice i knew the score
he could sign me off as okay
for returning to work 
no matter how my back felt
or he could classify me unfit
for the job

he stepped out so i could
mull it over and think about
the great pay and benefits
that were on the line
but i thought of the old guys 
a few years from retirement 
trying to hold on and not break down

a fishing boat and ice chest
of cold beer almost within reach
the look on their faces
at the end of the long day
as they sat down on the 
wooden bench in the locker
room and rubbed their knees
for a long time
groans slipped through
clenched teeth as they 
stood up and shuffled
out of the building

a week later i turned in
my work shirts and pants
cleaned out my locker
signed the necessary forms 
said my goodbyes

no one noticed

About the Author: Richard Vargas earned his B.A. at Cal State University, Long Beach, where he studied under Gerald Locklin. He edited/published five issues of The Tequila Review, 1978-1980, and twelve issues of The Mas Tequila Review from 2010-2015. Vargas received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico, 2010. Published collections: McLife, 2005; American Jesus, 2007; Guernica, revisited, 2014; How A Civilization Begins, Mouthfeel Press, 2022, and a fifth book to be published in 2023. He currently resides in Wisconsin, near the lake where Otis Redding’s plane crashed.


Image Credit: Gordon Parks “Untitled Photo” (1943) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Jennifer Klein: “Beanie Baby Angels”

Beanie Baby Angels

When I was young
I thought beanie baby wings
Were some of the closest things
To heaven
Like copper on pennies-

The sky was always teeming with
Beanie baby angels
More real than the adult world
Flapped their wings in bliss
And dusted my seams
In copper and gold

Were they handcrafted by
So-called “real” angels?
Modern beaned cherubim
For 90’s millennials?
Our true nature reflected
In their lush, plush selves?

Threw them in the closet
Their hearts now an end note
Is that why we craved rose gold?
The color of our wings
Before we didn’t believe
In angels anymore?

About the Author: Jennifer Klein is a writer, musician, and artist. Poetry is one of her favorite ways to make social commentary and merge her inner and outer worlds. Her poems have been featured or are forthcoming in Hawai`i Pacific Review, Fahmidan Journal, Bombfire, and others. She received a bachelor’s degree in English with minors in Dutch Studies and Norwegian from Indiana University Bloomington. You can follow her on Instagram @JenniferKleinReal


Image Credit: Detail from “Annunciatory Angel” by Fra Angelico. Public domain image courtesy of Artvee

Jason Baldinger: “this poem was written for john dorsey in the el bronco bar, richmond indiana”

this poem was written for john dorsey in the el bronco bar, richmond indiana 

chill as fuck
across gossamer ohio
through endless western sunset 

babe, I'm sorry it was you
cancer took to the prom
when friends hear you're together
they freeze in existential headlights 

brother, I'm sorry that grief
doles out shitty drunk lap dances
no care if those duckets
ever roost in a g string 

john, I promise fried chicken
and all world shaking doom allows
in less time than a waffle house day 

I'll be on the horn to gus's 
soon as I kill the engine
in the sky high pie parking lot
maplewood is an armadillo away 

over dinner the other night
I said magic and loss
I say it often, in and out of context
a friend replied, with enough time served
magic doesn't hold sway over
the ocean of loss we worship at now 

I can't say I disagree
except the waitress who calls 
me amigo like I've never left
just delivered a grande margarita 

in the hum of three hundred easy miles
and the shine of tequila 
I won't want to buy a camper 

but I have the receipt for short walk
in lights between speedway and meijer
lights that stretch from here 
as far as midwest wherever 
you know I'll be there soon

About the Author: Jason Baldinger is a poet and photographer from Pittsburgh, PA. He’s penned fifteen books of poetry the newest of which include: A History of Backroads Misplaced: Selected Poems 2010- 2020 (Kung Fu Treachery), and This Still Life (Kung Fu Treachery) with James Benger. His first book of photography, Lazarus, as well as two ekphrastic collaborations (with Rebecca Schumejda and Robert Dean) are forthcoming. His work has appeared across a wide variety of online sites and print journals. You can hear him from various books on Bandcamp and on lps by The Gotobeds and Theremonster. His etsy shop can be found under the tag la belle riviere.


Image Credit: John Margolies: “Package liquor store, Cheyenne, Wyoming” (2004) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Sandra Rivers-Gill: “A Distant Hymn”

A Distant Hymn

He owns a pre-loved sedan   
the shade of passive beige —                      
not at all rebellious or disrespectful. 
The four of us push open a dream,	
a distant hymn to buckle into.         	
Our journey is a shifting map.  

On Sundays the car sits in the drive,
stores up empty praises,                  
fills a collection plate of dim memory.         

I never heard a preacher’s faux sermon 
given from the pulpit of a couch — 
nor mumbling words from keys 
he keeps in his pocket.

The three of us march on		
wearing the rain of broken umbrellas.

About the Author: A native of Toledo, Ohio, Sandra Rivers-Gill is a writer, performer, and playwright. Her poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming in journals and/or anthologies, including Jerry Jazz Musician, Poets Against Racism and Hate USA, ONE ART: a journal of poetry, Of Rust and Glass, Common Threads, Death Never Dies and The Poeming Pigeon.


Image Credit: Chase Dimock “New Mexico Cloudscape” (2021)

Mike James “Andy Says…”

Andy Says…

I like to get going, then just go…It’s easy in the morning because sunlight’s in every
window, curtains open…Who needs curtains if you have no shame…Wake before
sunlight, there are lamps everywhere…Anyone will tell you the light’s not the
same…Light’s better in the summer…Duh, but true…Summer means no sweaters even
for an ice queen…Scarves are year round…I walk the same summer route every day, but
the view changes…Sidewalk people look scared or studious…Leash dogs look happier
than their walkers, especially in the park…Squirrels were created for distractions…In my
park there’s a hollow tree children whisper into when lost…I was often lost as a
child…People forgot me…Once I was left at a zoo…I stared at a lion all day…I still
can’t roar…I can draw a map, but can’t read one…I have no sense of direction…If it
wasn’t for gravity I might chase a balloon…Flying might be fun on heavy traffic
days…Also, I like watching television through other people’s windows…Everyone loves
trash on television, even when they hold their noses…Trash is an equalizer…The same
on any boulevard, in any zip code…Some people travel to prevent boredom…Nothing
bores if you don’t care about neighbors…Your mother might say some scolding
things…If you turn your back she’s in another room…Close your eyes and spin around
on Dorothy days…If it can be wished true in Kansas, those wishes work anywhere…

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 published his 20th collection, Portable Light: Poems 1991-2021.


Image Credit: Digitally enhanced public domain image of Judy Garland

Fay L. Loomis: “What He Wore, What He Said, What He Did”

What He Wore, What He Said, What He Did

Grass-green Crocs, purple poly pants
Flowery vines climbing over coral shirt
Gamboled grin

Deep dulcet voice. “You go first.”
“No, you go.”
Lopsided dance

He sashays into the store
I amble to my car
Cock-a-hoop heart

About the Author: Fay L. Loomis, member of the Stone Ridge Library Writers and Rats Ass Review Workshop, lives a quiet life in the woods in upstate New York. Her poetry and prose are published in a variety of publications, including most recently in Kaleidoscope, Redheaded Stepchild, Down in the Dirt, and The Blue Mountain Review.


Image Credit: Ben Shahn “Ohio farmer resting in car, central Ohio” (1938) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress