issue 12 · summer 2019

Welcome to Issue 12 and the summer of treason, of treachery, of internment and concentration, of horror and Uranium 235, of tankers and drones, of obfuscation and incompetence, of poetry and prose. As the thunderstorms pass you can smell the rising seas, taste the aluminum-like ozone, touch the poetry and prose in the cooling air and maybe you’ll see a double rainbow, one matte, the other glossy and shimmering.

Table of Contents
Ghazal of Sleep · Mark J. Mitchell

Ah, it’s Good Friday night and I’m going to write what I want.
— Jack Kerouac, The Vanity of Dulouz

Comfortable fog wraps the city. It sleeps
uneasy. Low horns rumble through sleep.

She called out your name, didn’t she?
You don’t understand her words in sleep.

Mornings drop, pink and silent, through a tree.
She rolls over and dives back into sleep.

You’re flat on your back trapped in the mystery
of this ghazal. You won’t be going back to sleep.

From outside the aroma of new coffee
leaks in, tempting you from the love of sleep.

Cities crumbles. Walls fall. The fog will flee.
Breathe in the marks that guide your sleep.

No Trespassing · Jyl Ion

One day, I’ll walk
without invitations for rides
shouted by men in
pickup trucks
driving in the opposite direction.
Straight to hell.

And wait
without an incessant flow of questions
about my marital status &
whether I’ve been incarcerated
or not, as though that
would explain why
I’m not married
if I’m looking for a boyfriend
and why not,
whether I’ll take their phone numbers
to call when I’m ready
for one.
Constant harassment
embeds itself
in me.

I think I’ll tattoo
“No Trespassing”
across my chest
after all,
and walk with
a pit bull named \\”Happy\\”
my body between
sandwich boards that read,
like the sign
in Isabel’s bedroom did,

No hunting
or fishing, here.

Separated from Others · Melanie Du Bose
Separated from others the shape of an ear catches my attention I don’t know where to start, she says and I overhear him begin to give her advice. I don’t know where to start, where to continue or where to end. You just sit there writing, a man says to me, how do you know if what you are writing is any good? Driving fast in the darkness I take the curves hoping for the best, but it is very dark and I don’t really know the way, though the road seems familiar. I am growing weary and images, shadows of trees the color of your eyes cross the windshield. Are you just making it up as you go along? he asks. I think so, but at times order seems to assert itself. Last night moths, spread out evenly across the sky like 1950’s UFOs, dipped toward me as I stood holding the back door looking upward. It seemed a bad sign. A person sleeps on the street and I long to put a pillow under his head but we all accept gifts so badly.
Call me · Maisie Houghton
Call me when you leave
Call me when you arrive

Call me when
You die risen from the dead.
Call me when the roof blows off
the effortless blue of the sky
and the cat becomes a lamb
every springsummerfall.
Call me when the river dries
and fishes triumph into kings.

Call when You need me,
only when You want me
Grief · Nathan Lipps
Up here in April
winter remains
in the shade of the woods
waiting for a larger portion
of what everyone else
has already accepted.
Thirst · Len Kuntz
We were too thirsty. We carried cedar caskets on our shoulders, three dead boys who didn’t know they were dead, bowling down the same wounded gravel we’d been born on, kicking cans of piss while our footfalls lit everything behind us on fire.

We hadn’t seen a bird in weeks, though sheets of feathers stuffed the shriveled gullies. Every tree looked like a felon, out on parole and agitated. We could hear those coyotes howling for a ransom, even at noon.

Manny had predicted it, the way the sun foresees its own mugging by the moon. He had a new dad with an O.J. knife, shrapnel knuckles and an itch in his crotch.

When I looked up, I saw the sky smirking. Where its mouth was supposed to be, someone had painted a crimson X.

Gordie played Russian Roulette with a cap gun, eyes rolled back like a stoned lemur. He claimed to be practicing eventuality.

The air tasted untrustworthy. My pulse needed second opinion and my bones had turned too dry, like cracked concrete, rattling around inside my boots, the hollow of my skull.

Manny was a dumb grenade, as thirsty as ever. He sucked on a mouthful of magnets and looked through the blistering sheen, even with all those needles in his eyes.

I took my time with the silence, then shattered it.

I told Manny first, Gordie second.

I told them what I would do because I loved them like that.

They didn’t believe me, but then they never understood I was thirsty in a way that was different from them.

I needed an ocean to set me free. A tsunami. I needed a real weapon and three hot bullets.
Card to Thompson Jan. 5, 2019: Kitchen Confidential Revisited · Alan Catlin

They all had names like:
Cutter and Bone, Animal Mother
and Mad Dog. Wore head bands,
neck bands, wrist bands, to absorb
the sweat.
The really cool ones, the super stars,
wore samurai head wraps like
Christopher Walken in Deer Hunter
when he was doing his Russian Roulette
They were never women, though
they liked to fuck them. Even the waitresses,
especially the waitresses, who otherwise,
had no use at all.
All the cooks agreed there was a song
about their lives called, “I Walk the Line”
and it was sung by a man in black.
They laughed when they said it but no one
thought it was a joke. They were all crazy.
Every single one of them. Maybe it was
the heat. Maybe they were born that way.
Maybe it was came with the job.
If you worked there, you just had to go with it.
After all, they all had knives they knew
how to use.

issue 12 · summer 2019 · page 2

What Passes for Salvation in Salina, Kansas · John Dorsey
you cannot buy beer here after midnight
but we watch as a strung out girl
in camouflage yoga pants ties one off
in a gas station parking lot near iron ave

history just moves slower here
with its tall waitresses & buckwheat pancakes
just looking for a little laughter

it’s poetry in motion
waiting for the punchline
on handwritten checks
from the local diner

the billboard in the center of town
says that you can have a hysterectomy your way

that’s what drives tourism now
removing parts of a whole

with lingering doubts
on our tired tongues

silence is the only form of currency
that the wind seems to recognize

we just accept its terms
& go inside

we are all alone at the party
no matter what time it is

tomorrow all of this
will be someone else’s problem.
Poems from Three Sherwin-Williams Paint Colors · Pamela Miller
1. Bamboo Shoot

Six o’howling a.m. and we’re
cranking up our hearts’ black gears
as we strompa strompa stromp through the mushy jungle
in our pixilated wingtip shoes
to shoot the sadistic bamboo
right in its corona of fangs,
our rickety bazookas just barely held together with goo.
The sun is a lichenous splotch on the sky
and the oldest of us is fifteen.
We’re the doomed Pediatric Battalion
of Ankles, Ohio,
about to disappear into quicksand’s shifty lips,
yawping a lugubrious battle cry,
our voices too vast for our heads.

2. Dard Hunter Green

The middle of gangly May and we’re
belly crawling through the screeching forest’s
corridors of sodden fronds,
our miniature jetpacks chirring,
our combat boots beribboned with earthworms,
to hunt the inexplicable dard
that spits noxious green gunk like a chlorophyll cobra.
But are we tremblers? Spiff spaff!
We’re the mad-beard Commando Furiosos,
ornery as oak gall pie,
our Teflon chests relentless,
our rifles bristling with chutzpah,
oh we’re Kali-armed pinwheels of destruction,
blasting Death’s teeth out one by one.

3. Belvedere Cream

London in the crevice of 1943 and we’re
sidewinding like spirochetes down espionage’s alleys,
an inch of blood asplosh in our brogans,
to cream that turncoat Belvedere,
that pianist of pain they call Hitler’s Grater,
before he strangles us with poisoned gloves.
First we’ll sizzle his molars till they pop!
Then we’ll shove him in the avalanche machine!
But he slips through our flaccid grasp every time,
his fake skin crumbling in our hands.
We’re the muck-it-up bungle-thumbs failure brigade,
useless like paint that’s allergic to walls,
forever unbuttoning humiliation’s blouse
beneath a sky full of snickering stars.

The Color Blue Is Never Mentioned By Homer · CL Bledsoe
There is a story that, when
the Conquistadors first came
to the New World, the natives

had never known anything
like the Spanish warships and
simply couldn’t see them, like

ex-lovers at the bar. Their
shamans had to come explain
that these were the gods, returned

finally, finally to
murder the faithful, to bring
rest. Similarly, it’s said

that the trembling Greeks couldn’t
distinguish the voices in
their heads from the jealous tones

of angry gods, their own Ids
ordering young goatherds to
ravish the lusty swans, tear

their ignorant pink hearts on
the flower’s – the river’s – thorns.
You and I, we see the ships

and the lies, the flower’s thorns,
our throats the bleeding rivers
the gods ache for. We’re the gray

ones whispering the secret
math of the pyramids in
the ancient’s ears. But this is

just another story; baby,
you’re not even real. You’re just
a voice I made up so I

wouldn’t be alone when the gods
return. I’ve been faithful,
and I’m waiting for my reward.

Interviewing Wayne Gretzky, Hartford, 1980 · Barry Peters
He doesn’t look so great,
a tired pale blue suit
slumping around the mall
alone in the afternoon
like he’s just been fired.

Later that night he goes
to work carving a sheet
of ice, the puck soft
on his blade, the bad
guys left in cold dust,

and after the horn
he sits on a bench
in the locker room,
bowing his feathered hair,
steepling his fingers,

mumbling answers
to a mass of inquisitors
of which I am one,
a saprophyte trying
to suck something

out of this teenager,
maybe cook up a quote,
taste that greatness,
put food on the table
for a child of my own.
Headfirst · M. J. Turner
Surf down the stairs on my white flannel
belly, a bruised boogie board. The smell of carpet
and fresh blood. Muffled thumps, my mouth hitting each
oak tread. Count: one, two, three…

   Tooth fairy, don’t visit me tonight.

Bank shot off the paneling, skim
the sharp-shanked balusters by the open wall.
Arms out, arms out.

   My arms and neck, forgive me.

Below, the floor tightens
its slate tiles in anticipation. I can hear it breathe.
Sympathy · Max Heinegg
She’s all five. If she can rise at four for iron
with the dead, hip-bones half cadaver, so
can you. A falling axe clobbered her in the garage –
but she rose, a la the wife in Tampopo. She survived
a bacterial assassin, & wandered out of Maternity
with a cyclical fever, until a sister cell-phoned
a Hail Mary, insisting on an ambulance. She enlisted
L’il Napoleon to break her arm between textbooks
to miss gym, rewarded w/a flight down the laundry
chute. Drinking, smirking at what’s left of a 6th grader’s
finger, Is that ketchup? Her second C-section visit
was like getting my nails done. She’s a mother, pushing
her girl into a midnight pool to swim with sharks –
if there’s no one to forgive, there’s nothing to fear.
Picking Crab · Max Heinegg
Stripped of his armor, the crab’s still admirable.
Micah reminds me not to pull too quickly-
the big claw’s best broken slowly.
Its translucent blade of cartilage brandishes
a hollow threat, but a gesture I respect.

This largesse once joined the bugs
my brother-in-law calls loppers, sideways walkers
who crossed the trap’s kitchen to the parlor,
baited by racks of the same silver & blue sea
herring they scour the rocky bottom for.

He’s done the brunt already, boiled both cancers,
the Jonah & the Rock, removed the plate,
brushed away the dead man’s fingers, saved me
admitting I don’t want the tomalley.
I cheat further with scissors, & roll a pin

over his barbed legs, the thin chambers
damp, shells clinging to the flesh. Salty
nutcrackers & picks menace the broken
exoskeleton. This hour for ounces, jaded
by fragments, after the lump sum.
Omelette aux fines herbes, 1970 · Susan Goodman

The omelette is a meringue
Of trussed dimensions. I am in my prairie skirt,
You in your pastel bouclé. We lunch
Near the department stores at a café blooming
With butter and whispers. Gene Tierney
Excises escargots across the room. We draw up our seats
To the starched tablecloth as if swearing an oath to make
This ours always – where herbes are fines
And pommes angled, not potatoes but slender
Iterations, where bread is aigu too, uncreaseable.
I was in a dream state then, but knew I’d keep that room
As a compartment, followed by shipboard and other
Windswept romances, while documenting
Lunches on afternoons of barely kept appointments.

It was many years after The Beatles had landed, and just about the time Jimi Hendrix died. But ladies’ lunch spots remained prevalent on Manhattan’s East Side. The one I write about still exists.

issue 12 · summer 2019 · page 3

Omelette aux fines herbes, 1970 · Susan Goodman

The omelette is a meringue
Of trussed dimensions. I am in my prairie skirt,
You in your pastel bouclé. We lunch
Near the department stores at a café blooming
With butter and whispers. Gene Tierney
Excises escargots across the room. We draw up our seats
To the starched tablecloth as if swearing an oath to make
This ours always – where herbes are fines
And pommes angled, not potatoes but slender
Iterations, where bread is aigu too, uncreaseable.
I was in a dream state then, but knew I’d keep that room
As a compartment, followed by shipboard and other
Windswept romances, while documenting
Lunches on afternoons of barely kept appointments.

It was many years after The Beatles had landed, and just about the time Jimi Hendrix died. But ladies’ lunch spots remained prevalent on Manhattan’s East Side. The one I write about still exists.
Untitled 1 · Khadijah Lacina

glass spun
of watermelon
the air
that fills
it up

Untitled 2 · Khadijah Lacina
she sees
the mountain
in for the
long wait
above sky
the overture
Untitled 5 · Khadijah Lacina
redbud jelly
the edge
of a silver
lilac your
an empty
Today’s Goddesses: My Daily To-Do List · Sarah Bigham
I. To counteract

The colleague who married three times, with multiple public celebrations and elaborate gift registries, who complained about receiving too many serving platters, and, when I later got married, the first and only time, sent a whisk

The mother writing to a columnist about what interventions might be appropriate for her second grader facing extensive dental work, who indicated that her daughter had an appropriate respect for authority and would probably not need anesthesia because the child knew to obey those in a white coat

The exchange student who arrived at school with an attitude that implied worldliness, education, and experience beyond our comprehension, but who later described the indigenous population of her country as drunks by the side of the road

The grandmother discussing her granddaughter’s challenges in school, who after being encouraged to help the child thrive in her strength areas, flatly stated that she did not know what those areas might be

II. To amplify

The friend, unable to attend my wedding reception due to a previously scheduled lifetime event, who loaned me her beautiful pearls to wear when I eloped in a beautiful Vermont garden

A friend of a colleague (someone I have never met, but trailed on social media) who endured years of invasive fertility treatments, all while celebrating the pregnancies and births and adoptions of those surrounding her, who ultimately doubled the size of her family with the help of a surrogate

The famous author who took the time to listen despite a snaking line of fans and genuinely thanked me for my words, plus the new author who wrote a moving piece about difficult experiences who thanked me for helping her be brave

The students who, despite childcare challenges and low-paying jobs, divorces and car trouble, family deaths and early traumas, come to my classes and share their lived wisdom, as we try to make today better for ourselves and those around us

Lights in Dark · Sara Epstein
Just beneath my breastbone
anger circles spin.

Caught in their subtle pain,
I still my heart’s longings,
hold my breath,
lost in angry circles.

My thirteen-year-old favorite
Cyclotron ride in the amusement park
spins me till I stick to the spinning wall,
floor drops out from beneath my feet.

Ball of wax, blades of steel wheels;
the sparking friction toy I push and push
to see sparks fly from spinning metal through plastic colors,
red white and blue.

The rest of my body waits,
hostage to angry circles,
hungry for sensation, softness,
Stretching, salivation, sex.

Breathing, I give space to the circles.
They spread, my body a thirsty sponge,
soaking and sparking and sinking in.
Bouyant new form.
Plastic · Gloria Mindock

X was only two months sober and was telling everyone he had a date. Despite being told to concentrate on his sobriety and not women, he would not listen. The next day, he said they went out for dinner. Afterwards, she invited him to her place for coffee. When they walked into her apartment, there were dolls sitting at the kitchen table, on the couch, in the bedroom, and even on the toilet. Doll eyes watching him. Creepy. He left.

We all teased him and said he should have kissed a doll. There would be no heart beating. All he would have to do is keep his lips closed. Then there would be no feelings.


X was sitting in the car with his date, about ready to go to dinner when she said, “wait! I have to wrap my head up in tin foil! It is important for me to communicate with the aliens.” X looked at her in disbelief. He took the tin foil box from her and wrapped his head up with it, waiting for a miracle.


It has been awhile since X went out on a date. He sat in the car with her as she smacked her gums and then stuck the chewing gum on the dashboard. Then she dug out her lipstick from her purse. X was still focusing on her gum on the dashboard. He looked around her car more closely and saw gum stuck all over the place. He felt a knot in his stomach and was disgusted, got out of the car without saying a word. About a block later, as he was thinking, he reached in his pocket and unwrapped a piece of gum and chewed…


The sirens were going off. X knew it was time to get out. His heart was beating quickly. X was scared he would not make it. Heavy black smoke was filling the apartment up. He jumped and realized it was just a dream. Next to him was a woman, young and very pretty. His heart smoldered… He thought, what did I do to deserve such a thing. Just then, a fireman knocked down the door and resuscitated him. There was no girl. Just a firehose through the broken window. Sometimes X, a flame is just a flame.

issue 12 · summer 2019 · page 4

The Judge · Robert Steward
Naples, Italy 2003

“So in part one of the speaking test the examiner asks you some questions about yourself like, where you’re from, or what you do, or why you’re studying English, things like that,” I said to the judge.

“Okay,” he nodded thoughtfully.

He was medium height for an Italian, about five foot eight, a bit smaller than me. His face was round with bulging brown eyes, a Roman nose and thinning black hair. He wore a blue suit with no tie, making him look smart but relaxed. On the wall behind him hung typical pictures of England: a red telephone box, a Beefeater standing outside The Tower of London, a chocolate box cottage in a remote village. This was the room where I waited for my interview a few months before. Then it was a waiting room, now it was my classroom, my domain. We sat at the end of a long table, stretching from one side of the room to the other, and out of the window you could see the prominent outline of Mount Vesuvius rising up into the blue morning sky.

The judge was only doing the First Certificate because his teenage son was doing it, and he only had a month to prepare for the exam. But there was something about him that convinced me he would pass; maybe it was his charisma, or his enthusiasm, or even his quick sense of humour.

“So, here’s the first question,” I said, looking at my photocopy. “What do you spend your free time doing?”

“That one’s easy, Rob,” he laughed. “Driving my wife crazy!”

“Really?” I grinned, thinking it would be funny if he said that in the exam.

“My wife,” he said, shaking his head with his eyes closed. “I don’t know how she puts up with me!” he laughed. “One time, when we were just married, we went out for dinner–to a trattoria–Nennella I think it was called. Anyway, at the end of the evening, instead of driving home, I drived her to the house of her parents–like when we were…” He searched for the word– “fidanzati.”

“Going out?”

“Yes, going out–boyfriend and girlfriend.”

“What happened, then?” I asked, writing down some language errors.

“She just looked at me as if to say: ma sei pazzo?–are you crazy? I just completely forgot!” he said with tears in his eyes.

Was this guy for real? I couldn’t help but laugh.

“No, really,” he continued. “In my spare time I like to watch sport like football, tennis, rugby. By the way, where are you going to watch the Rugby World Cup Final?”

“I’m not sure yet. Isn’t it going to be in the morning?”

“Yes, I think in Australia the game starts at eight in the evening, so here it’ll be eleven in the morning.”

“Maybe I’ll just watch it in my flat then.”

“I’m going to watch it at my friend’s bar near here. Would you like to come? I promise I’ll support England!”

“Yeah, okay then.”

“Good, we’ll arrange it next week,” he said. “So, what’s the next question?”

I looked down at my photocopy.

“The next question is about holidays.”


“Is there anything you always bring with you on holiday?”

“Hmm,” he said, holding his chin pensively, “I’d say coffee.”


“Yes, Kimbo coffee.”

This was a man after my own heart.

“And why coffee?” I licked my lips with anticipation.

“Because when you go to another country the coffee is, is…” He made a gesture with his thumb and forefinger that Neapolitans use to show something doesn’t work, “…is terrible!”

“I see.”

“I even took a packet with me when I went camping in the Sahara Desert.”

“Wow!” I said, impressed with his appreciation for coffee. “Okay, so the next question is about work. Do you prefer working on your own, or with other people?”

“Er, well that depends,” he said.

I tilted my head.

“Allora, in my job I must work with many people, for solve the criminals”

“To solve the crimes?”

“Yes, the crimes.” He screwed up his face. “What did I say?”

“The criminals–they’re the people. The crimes are the, the delitti.”

“Ah gia!” he said, nodding his head. “The crimes, the crimes.”

Just then, the classroom door swung open. We both turned round in our chairs. There was an old priest dressed in black from head to toe murmuring something in Italian, his face was waxy, his eyes closed, his eyelids fluttering to the rhythm of the words. Next to him was Nino, the owner of the school. His long tanned face didn’t have that usual reassuring look about it. He seemed rather serious, almost worried. I found it funny how he never thought twice about interrupting my lessons. Normally, it was for something trivial like asking if I wanted a coffee, or showing me photographs of when he was young. Last time it was to show me his football medals. Apparently, he used to be a goalkeeper and had a promising career until he got injured.

“Scuateci,” Nino apologised, the light reflecting off his balding head.

Before I could reply, the priest sprinkled water over us, flicking it randomly around the classroom as if sowing seeds in a field, his silver crucifix playfully bouncing on his chest.

Nino gave a warm smile, and then they were gone.

I looked at the judge open-mouthed; this was definitely a teaching first!

“What was that all about?” I asked, wiping the water from my face.

“The priest? He was er…” The judge’s brow furrowed, looking for the right words; he cast an eye at the ceiling as if he would find them there, “come si dice, he was er benedicendo la scuola,” he said finally.

“Blessing the school?”

“Bravo.” He wiped his brow with a handkerchief.

“I see,” I said, slightly confused. “And why?”

“Why?” He looked at me as though I had asked him if the Pope was Catholic. “Per allontanarsi il malocchio.”

“To keep away evil spirits?” My voiced went up into a falsetto. “You can’t be serious.”

“Ma certo,” he said as if this was the most natural thing in the world. “Some people even have their cars blessed,” he added with an air of defiance.

“Their cars?”

“Yes, when they buy a new car, they take it to Pompeii to, to…”

“To have it blessed?”

“Sì, sì.”

“You’re joking!” I laughed. “Do they have to pay?”

“Let’s say they give a little donation.”

“A donation?” I grinned. “Do they get a discount on their car insurance?”

“No,” he laughed hesitantly.

I felt that we had drifted off topic somewhat, and wondered whether we would have enough time to get through all four parts of the test.

“So, what were we talking about before?” I asked, looking down at my photocopy. “Ah yes, your job. So, you were saying that sometimes you have to work with many people.”

The judge looked confused.

“Ah, già,” he said, looking at the ceiling again. “Allora, usually I work with many different types of people, but sometimes I prefer to work alone.”

“Okay.” I nodded. “So, in what situations do you work alone?”

“Beh, one time, I was involved in an investigation.” He paused and wiped his brow again with his handkerchief. “And there had been a come si dice? Una strage.”

“A killing?”

“No, many people.” His face looked serious.

“A massacre?”

“Yes, a massacre.”


“Yes, many people were killed.” He cleared his throat. “When we analysed the proiettile…”

“The bullets?”

“Yes, when we analysed the bullets, we realised that they had come from police guns.”

“What?” I couldn’t believe what he was telling me.

“Yes, and it doesn’t finish there.” He rubbed his neck.

“We discovered that the guns came from our, our commissariato.”

“From your police station?” My voice went up again.

“Sì.” He nodded. “For identify the assassin I had to work secretly.”

“So, the murderer was a policeman?”

“Worse.” He looked over his shoulder as if someone might be listening. “After weeks of investigation, I realised that the murderer…” He leaned forward, “…was my bodyguard!”

“No!” I whispered. “But, what did you do?”

“Beh, for days I had to pretend I didn’t know.”

“What, until you were certain?”


“It must’ve been terrible,” I said. “Were you scared?”

“Terrified,” he said, looking me squarely in the eyes. “If he knew that I knew, then…”

He put two fingers to his temple as if he was holding a gun, then pulled his thumb down.


Just then, the classroom door opened, and I jumped with a start. It was Manuela the receptionist. She poked her head round the door, in her hand was a little tray with two espresso cups.

“Sorry to disturb you.” She smiled sweetly, her dimples turning into inverted commas. “Would you like a coffee?”

Psychokinesis · Robert Rickelman
It was a Tuesday night in early March. My wife Pat had obtained a court order for me to spend 72 hours on a psych hold. According to the order, I was a danger to myself. This wasn’t the first time I’d been held for psychiatric observation. I didn’t want to be in this hospital, but I knew that it was for my own good, and that Pat needed a break from my self-destructive behavior.

I walked into the recreation room. I was surprised to find the room was empty. That was a rarity. The movie Armageddon was playing, and I sat down to watch. That’s when a young woman entered and took a seat in one of the worn out leather recliners.

“Hi, I’m Aimee,” she said. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Hi, Aimee. I’m Rob. Sure ask me whatever you’d like.”

This woman was sending out some peculiar vibes. She wasn’t your run of the mill psych patient. We all have a certain weirdness quotient; I know that. But I felt creepy and flustered, and somewhat defenseless. I sensed peril. From what, I couldn’t say, but the danger was there.

She stood and faced me. “Look at me,” she said. “Do I have camel toe?”

Camel toe. Jeez. That’s a very graphic reference to a woman’s pants riding up her crotch and drawing attention to where your eyes shouldn’t be looking.
“Camel toe? No . . . no, I didn’t notice.”

“Well, take a look. Do I?”

I obliged her, quickly scanning the area in question. She was very pretty. Petite, about five foot two, maybe 110 pounds. She had smooth, dark skin; a cute, turned up nose; and sensuous, full, lips. But it was the alabaster white of her large, almond-shaped eyes that drew my attention. Not a hint of red or yellow, just pure, perfect white. Her hair was a different story. She must have cut it herself, and the result was a mangled set of bangs that jaggedly framed her otherwise lovely face.

“No, I finally answered, no you don’t.”

“Thank you for checking.”

What was I supposed to say? “My pleasure”?

“You’re married, aren’t you?” she asked. I wasn’t wearing my wedding band. I think the intake people were afraid I’d swallow it.

“Good guess; yes I am married.”

“It wasn’t a guess. I’m psychic. I can tell you the name of your wife.”

“Okay, what’s my wife’s name?”

“It’s coming to me. Kelli. Your wife’s name is Kelli.”

“Actually, it’s Pat.”

“But everyone calls her Patty. Right?”

“Um . . . no . . . they call her Pat.”

“Okay, but I will tell you this — your Karma’s in serendipity.”

I had no clue what that meant.

“So, what else can you do?” I asked.

“Well, I’m psychokinetic. I can move things using only my mind.”

“That sounds cool. Let’s see you move some stuff.”

“Like what?”

We were in the TV room, so I suggested she move the DVD player.

“Okay, here goes.”

I wasn’t surprised when nothing happened.

Not missing a beat, she declared, “You know, I can blow up a light bulb just by willing it to explode. I mean implode it – I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
Gesturing to the ceiling, I asked, “Can you implode one of these fluorescent lights?”

“Hmmm . . . fluorescent’s a lot harder than a regular light bulb. But, I’ll tell you what – tomorrow at breakfast, I’ll implode every light in the cafeteria. They are going to freak out!”

“I’m looking forward to that,” I said. “You know, the last time I was here I met a woman who said she was a medium.”

“A medium, right. What’d she do? Never mind, it doesn’t matter. I don’t believe in that medium crap. Mediums claim they can communicate with the dead. I don’t believe in ghosts and all that spooky mumbo jumbo.”

I didn’t say anything. I just sort of shuffled my feet.

“Do I make you nervous?” she asked.

“A little.”

“I could tell. You’re cute when you’re nervous. You’re a genius, aren’t you? The reason I know is that I’m a genius too.”

“Genius?” I asked. “I really don’t think I’m all that smart.”

“I wasn’t always a genius myself, but the strangest thing happened to me after I was hit by a car. I wasn’t hurt bad, but — this is amazing — after the accident, my intelligence increased by 14 times. And, ever since, I can speak 14 languages – French, Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese – you name it, I can speak it.”

I reached into my bag of foreign idioms.

“Well, I’m pretty tired, and it’s been a long day. I guess I should say, ‘bonne nuit.’”

“Excuse me?”

“Good night. I said good night in French.”

“Oh — yeah. You kind of mumbled it.”


Il est tard. Je suis très las. It’s late, and I’m very tired,” I said.

“I don’t need a translator. I told you I was fluent in — ”

“Yeah, I know, you’re fluent in 14 languages.”

“Wait,\\" she said. “Can I ask you a big favor?”

I just wanted her to leave me alone, but I nodded. “Sure, then I have to get to bed so my sleep meds will work.”

“Yeah, the window.” She meant the window of opportunity the sleep meds have to work. If you lose that window, you could be up all night.

“So, what can I do for you before I hit the sack?”

“Kiss me on the lips, please.”

She didn’t just ask me to kiss her; she couldn’t have. Holy fucking shit!
“I’m sorry, Aimee. I’m very happily married.”

“Just one kiss. I promise. Perfectly innocent.”

“I can’t. Really, I just can’t.”

“Don’t you think I’m pretty?”

“Aimee, I think you’re beautiful, but . . . my wife. I can’t kiss you. I love my wife.”

“Okay, then just a quick kiss on my cheek.”

“I’m sorry, I just ca–”

Before I knew it she’d planted a soft kiss on my left cheek.

“How was that?”

“Very nice,” I said. “It was a very nice kiss.” I was blushing. I could feel the warmth on my face.

“G’night,” she said. “Can’t wait to blow out the lights in the morning. You’re gonna love it.”

“I’m looking forward to it. Good night, Aimee.”

I headed quickly to the safety of my room.

The next morning, the cafeteria lights remained intact. There was not so much as a burned-out bulb. But something was off. I felt like every staff member was staring at me in an indisputably disapproving fashion. Had someone seen “the kiss,” and even if they did, how was that my fault?

issue 12 · summer 2019 · page 5

The Last Word in PTSD is Disorder, Which is Not Exactly the Best Word Choice · Ron Riekki

as if it’s all about organization.
Although maybe it is. The organization
I was involved with was the military
and I go to the V.A. and in the waiting
room we wait, hard core wait,
where it’s hours and hours where I have time
to count all of the missing arms and legs,
the missing organs in these men
who joined the military to get money for college,
except they didn’t realize how hard it is
to get through college with a traumatic brain injury
and I sit there on the hard chair
and think about “stress order,”
what it would be like to put all my stress
into a single file line,
the way we’d stand in boot camp,
a camp for boots,
where I still can’t believe
how much time we spent
in boots,
shining our boots,
and our drill instructor, swear to God, even calling us “boots,”
his nickname for us,
this man whose job was titled “drill instructor,”
whose job was to drill,
to make holes
and they did,
ten holes,
as ten people died
and I fall asleep and think of the yard of graves,
falling asleep,
fall in,

Lifeline · Agnes Vojta
Instead of calling
the suicide hotline,
you make an appointment
to get a haircut:

you know that your sense
of responsibility
won’t allow you
to stand up your stylist.
Unsaid · Agnes Vojta
The unsaid words
are bitter stones
in my mouth.

Do you know
the world’s saddest word?
Open 24 Hours · Paul Negri
“When do you close?” He’s in a ratty raincoat, sneakers without socks, has an eyepatch, his one eye wild. Old, his hair moussed with dirt. 3:30 a.m. We’re alone. No one but the moon outside.

“We’re open 24 hours,” I say.

“Yeah? So, when do you close?”

I put my hand on the bat under the counter. “Never.”

He lifts the eyepatch and his eye – oh Jesus.

“You’re open forever?” he says.

“You could say that,” I say.

“Then this must be the place,” he says. Takes out a .38 and puts it to his head.

“We’re closed,” I yell, too late.
Lost · Terry Persun
Ekphrastic poem for: Concentric 2 by Gail Larson

Now that I found the thread
where did I place my buttons?

Excavations 17 · Doug Bolling
Each day an adventure in the story
Of yourself
So Auntie Louise was once fond
Of saying from her antique Morris
Chair in the sun deprived parlor.

A boy of maybe ten, I listened
Or didn’t.
Loved the peppermints she
Sometimes passed around,
The strange scent of the
Past she exuded.

Grown now and in charge
More or less of the 80 acre
Farm, I keep busy with cows
And chickens, the three fields
Of corn and bean, the small
Long suffering orchard where
Apples try to make it through
A season.

But I want to talk about the
Henhouse and a red fox
And what these can do to
An innocent/not so innocent
Sojourner who found himself
Astir right in their middle.

That July morning I headed for
The hens to drop off some feed
And do the usual look around.
What I found was three dead hens
And a bloody floor, a bend in the
Wire fence just big enough for
A fox to enter uninvited.

We’d been careful, knew the
Enemy was always around
Ready to grab and go.
But this time the system
Failed, badly.

I could see the plotline.
A blood trail led straight
To that fault in the fence
And on out through the
Red had made off with
One of our prides,
Took no prisoners.

No heavy thinking needed.
I took off after that chart
Of blood mad for a kill,
Or justice some might say.
You choose.
We’d raised generations
Of mother hens and their chicks,
Sold enough eggs to fill a room,
Loved those gawky, strutting
Beings like a bunch of angels.

A quarter mile on I caught up
With the last chapter in this.
County road 401 marked the
North boundary of the

There in the far ditch a
Wounded fox and the
Red smear of what
Had been the hen.
Some vehicle must have
Caught the pair in that
Pot holed strip of bad
Asphalt and worse

0ur hen was DOA but
Red still gasped and
Shuddered, let out
Small cries from
That greedy mouth.

What to believe,
What do.
I had come for revenge,
Mad with it, hell bent
To right a wrong, play
God. Or what.

Now a quivering fox
Seemed to hold me in
Its fading eyes as if to
Beg mercy.

Well. Crazily perhaps,
I saw myself along some
Deserted path half dead
From dying,
Hoping only for some
Stranger’s sudden hand
To bring me back to
More long days and
Nights, a dawn’s
Lifting light over east
Hills silken in their

I lifted up that blood
Drenched mess and
Turned back to where
I came from,
Back to where warmth
And bandaging and
Maybe a splint might
heal, turn loose a
Killer free to do his
Thing again.

So it was.

issue 12 · summer 2019 · page 6

From a House · David P. Miller
I come from a house built within whiff of breweries now corked,
set at the crotch of a valley whose brook now runs within tubes.
House laughing with tailors, machinists, and trainmen,
brooding with knitters, waiters, furniture movers,
birthday-full of chauffeurs and ironworkers,
vacated by painters, insurance clerks, stagehands.

I come from a house traded and kept by Doyle, Ryan, Daley, multiple Murphys,
by and by Zuber and Zwerdling,
doorbelled with Jaime, Rosado, Vassily,
rent-fretted by Baez, Kirikaos, Van Looy,
trudged home and paced overhead by Duggan, Rodriquez, Solsida.
Where home-comers shook off their days of National Shawmut, Somerset Hotel, Frank’s Lunch, Chimes Brownies, wafted their dinners or scooped them from cans.
I come from a house where I came to my she-out-of-thin-air, my karate heroine, siren of newspaper personals.

I come from a house of quadruple mortgages, when flappers verged on breadlines.
A house whose glass eyed Downy-Flake Donuts, Hauschildt Distilled Spirits, Roxbury Mattress. (A pox after that of emptying lots.)
I come from a house bought out from under city-condemning, its price nailed to the porch, upper third hollowed of walls and pipes.
A house with decades of martial art foot landings, massaged hard into blonde polish.
That held itself free from sparks of the torched mattress née stringed instrument factory. (The lot’s palimpsest soil turned up tubes of catgut.)

I come from a house with bedroom carpeted floor to ceiling, a flipped shower where Cold is code word for Hot.
A house where four now go out and come back, and a homebody mouse. (Surprised in the kitchen, it dives down a burner.)
A house rooted on thickness of puddingstone.
A house that shares the water of earth in its basement.
A house that stirs in its sleep with the passage of night trains.
Round Trip · Anatoly Molotkov

You took a train. I took a train. How could
we know where the rails might
bring us? I dreamed I’d reach you in
my lifetime.


Years passed. I had a desk, a chair
in my train car. I didn’t leave
the train. Did the train
leave the station?


Out the train window, the house
passed like a dream, yet you
knew: inside those blue walls
you had impossibly lived all

these years – your true self, just miles
away. Should you go back? Your small
room: a desk, a chair, the brown
carpet on the stairs. The fields, a still

life through dirty glass. Your fear
of darkness. And in the evening,
into the fields, up the hill, down
the road, to watch the train.


The train stopped still like death, and through
the open window, endless fields invaded, wrapped
me in. Red barn, lit up with colors, beckoned,
With years, I found a smaller barn inside,

with a small railroad. And through the small
open window, endless fields.


You imagined everything combined, unthinkably
close: my chair, your childhood, my barn, your
fear of darkness, endless fields. Years
passed. I waited for the train whistle. It

never came. I was thinking of you.


The train station once existed, and even if
we arrived free of promise, promise
was given us. Even if our times didn’t,
match the place did. The rails were removed while

we lingered. The walls crumbled. The empty treads
reminded us of our reasons. And we
reminded each other about each other. If we
invented the train long ago, we can

invent it again, imagine a new life, ride
away together on bright new rails.


Years passed. When two trains collided, you
and I landed on a soft patch of grass, no more
hurt than others our age. I shared my thoughts
about how this might end. You frowned, Why

should it end?

Because We Had No Maple Tree · Laurel Miram
My father gifts
This cello
Lost to frenzy
He asks if I still intend to air it
And each time we both
At the waste
Wasting what is lovely

I am little before this
In all his visions I’m bequeathed
I only reach
Another day’s shadow
Our cello waits
An organ
A bridge trussed for tapping
I will play the sap
I will thrum its bleed

Did you know
A cello’s voice is nearest the human,
I say
And he, Of course
I knew
I couldn’t show you all the things
I didn’t know

I gave you music
So you might know sound hands
There Are Still Deer · Melanie Greenberg
A man with too much money bought Spieden Island in the 70s to hunt exotic game. It was small but not too small, around 500 acres off the coast of Washington State. Its cliffs were the sheerest in the San Juans. He paved an airstrip and let loose fallow deer from Europe and sika deer from Asia and mouflon sheep from Corsica and too many gem bright birds. One side went barren from overgrazing.

This reminds me of us but i don’t know how. Am i the stolen deer or the bitter land itself? Have you conquered me? Are you the men or their dogs or the ever-hungry grazers? Am i just one bird fleeing?

Maybe you are the men and you are letting your dogs loose and i am the earth they tread on. Your deer run over my hip bones, graze at the soft place between each rib. Your birds make small homes in my eyelashes. The taxidermists wait in their cabins.
What I’ll Miss · Ed Meek

Swimming with you in a glacial pond in Wellfleet
– water warmer than air in September –
so clear you can see twenty feet down,
perch flitting in between—miniature
submarines. It takes us all summer
to get to where we can swim
across and back Long Pond.

We need to relearn to relax and breathe,
turning heads to capture air,
returning to a fluid world
our bodies seem to remember
somewhere beyond thought – our arms extend
to pull and push the water behind
where legs scissor and feet paddle.
We slice through – smooth as seals.


Maybe this is the world we’ll return to –
the one we were baptized in,
the one where we spent most of our first year,
hooked up, enveloped, floating
in viscous warmth
until we grew too big to carry
and had to emerge
into the light of this world.

Could it be like that? Not heaven
but the murky dusk of our subconscious
where now we nightly float
and where we will return to remember
how to breathe and swim and see.

End Note · Sibani Sen
In your mouth, ruined content,
Everything dies in it: fantasies, food, language and lovers.
A week’s short span gushed you out in Technicolor –
Season I refuse.
Already I grasp this last shoot of summer,
Trodden vine, some ghost seeds rattling the husk.
You used to dip, like a gardener, parting brambles,
Sweaty amidst the plumbago. Now blood blooms
Like late chrysanthemum, garish in the leaden field.
Already your heated gaze tapers, light scatters dust,
Skin, somnolent. I kiss air.

Fonts used:
Arvo for text; Merriweather Sans for titles; Montserrat for button and navigation text; Cormorant for issue title.

All works copyrighted by their authors; all rights reserved.

Cover image copyright Lauren Leja

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