Two Poems by John Grey

On the Way to the Hospital

He screams
at the thickness
of the traffic –

his woman’s in labor –

where have all these people got to go?

he should have been there anyhow
but that’s another story,
his responsibilities like the huge vehicle
ahead of him
that blocks out the lights.
the signs,
that has him trapped
like a child
that can’t come out,
that will die in a womb
of noise and smoke –

he beeps his horn
in lieu of guilt feelings –

the guy in front
gives him the finger –

meanwhile,
a bus scoots down the express lane –
three on board –
triplets.

Calling the Suicide Hotline

The quarter moon is a waste of sky
and the guy on the other end of the phone calls her honey,
and neon is such a cheesy light source
as he speaks like a sermonizing preacher
with an exclamation point after every third word.
and her hair sits weird and tousled on her head
while he tries to convince her
that surely someone loves her.

Good old cigarette. Good old rancid city air.
And the ash that fells onto her torn jeans
would have its own story to tell
if it could speak.
But he only has her rapid, frantic voice
to go by.
Don’t do it! Don’t do it!
His words are like bullets fired into her skull.

Woman and apartment make such a perfect pair.
He doesn’t know it but both of them are on the line.
The sink full of dirty dishes is aching
to slit both its wrists.
the peeling wallpaper, cracked window,
clothes scattered across the floor.
are eying the bottle of sleeping pills.
He reckons he understands
but does he really know week old coffee
from a stack of unpaid bills,
cobwebs across the ceiling
from a stabbing pain in the heart
that’s aching for the real thing.

Not while he’s got paper to shuffle.
Or the phones in the background
confirm that, whatever it is,
it’s getting to everybody.
She’s not about to do the deed.
She figures it would take a kind of courage
more than just getting drunk
and wielding the television remote for a weapon.
So she gives him a fake name and a false address.
She’ll call again if they ever ring true.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

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A Poem by Sudeep Adhikari

what it is like to be a komodo dragon?

what it is like to be a bat? thomas nagel
once asked, the phenomenology
of experience is at stake here. i can do

the same, replacing “bat” with every
other sentient creatures,
like snakes or crocs;
then people i have assumed to know

all through my life, including nagel
and myself. but it is almost
the same alienation, the same sense
of cosmic loneliness
crammed inside my crafted littleness,

skateboarding on the bones
of my metamorphosed multitude,
across the phase-space of an existential
vertigo. really, what it is like to be myself?

there i exchanged myself
with a pocketful of morphine oblivions.

Sudeep Adhikari is a structural engineer/Lecturer from Kathmandu, Nepal. His poetry has appeared in many literary magazines. Also a Pushcart Prize nominee for the year 2018, Sudeep is currently working on his 4th poetry-book “Hyper-Real Reboots”, which is scheduled for publication in September 2018 through Weasel Press, Texas, USA.

Two Poems by James Diaz

The Story Was All I Had

“No one’s really been at their best.” -Lilly Hiatt

I walked a mile from here to there
from the canopy, the canyon
stretched thick on my tongue
when I think of dying
I think of all the ways of using a straw
other than for drinking / other than drying out
waiting for the door to become a door
instead of a bear trap
Chad said work the steps or die
Chad died on the stair well
of his dealer’s apartment
“I wish there were a river
I could skate away on”
I wish all this self sabotage were someone else’s fault
and not mine
I wish the poet got the girl
I wish the gun had a disclaimer; love yourself instead
my god you are not my god but if you have an extra ear
one that isn’t all spirit, that is pure bone,
can you tell me how long this pain is gonna last
can you open a window
somewhere in the universe
and let in a cool breeze
the right words
maybe a little sleep
a pallet on the floor
of this hard life

The Cold Light at the End of the Hall

I wanted to whiten
the opening of the wound
pour purr and pearl
over bad-won’t-make-good

make of daylight a home
creased in crinkle and satellite signals
scrambling my love-sigh
onto highway markers
into Memphis
gold to the touch
it ain’t the sting that makes you mean
that comes long after

trace your finger over the hardened skin
some weird angel
you become in this light
what do I call you when you dance like this –
against so much sorrow?

Let me scream
if that is my language
I won’t harden
as much as you think

night makes folds in the body
secret languages
no one else speaks
you and I – alone
in the horror
that is the black of the wound
blue-bird singing all wrong
in the shatter spot
I am careful who I tell this to
you seem also a traveler here
the scars on your face
rivers of light
cracking their song
on the ground

we both know the other side
has never been greener.

James Diaz is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger (Indolent Books, 2018). He is founding Editor of the literary arts & music mag Anti-Heroine Chic. His work has appeared most recently in Occulum, Moonchild Magazine and Philosophical Idiot. He lives in upstate NY and occasionally tweets @diaz_james.

Four Poems by Gale Acuff

Perk

I love the Son of God but then they say
at Sunday School, I mean Miss Hooker does,
she’s my teacher, that all men are sons of
God and I guess that includes daughters, too,
women anyway, but I forgot to
ask and anyway it’s in the Bible
somewhere, so I’m confused, not because it’s
in the Bible but because it’s two things
true at the same time, I guess they’re both true,
I have a problem with the truth sometimes,

especially telling it, I lie loads
for ten years old and I’m not saved yet and
Miss Hooker says that I’d better, better
get saved that is, because if Jesus showed
up today like He said He would, not that
He said He’d show up today but that
He can pop in at any old time, that’s
a perk for being the Son of God but
watch me try to, try to promise something
but go on and on without it paying
off for the person I promised it to

–well, that kind of thing can land you in Hell
and not only Hell but the hoosegow and
after class today I told Miss Hooker
that I don’t want to go to Hell if she
won’t be there, too, and I’m only ten years
old and I hate to admit it but she’s
a whole lot stronger, she’s 25, old
enough to know what’s going on, I mean
really going on, I mean God-wise and
Jesus-wise and Holy Ghost-wise, the things
that really matter except that man can’t
live by faith alone, bread’s damned important,
and then she fainted, I mean she flat passed

out but I was able to break her fall
though I had to touch some parts of her that
I won’t even touch on Mother and when

Miss Hooker came to again I was fan
-ning her and the breeze bounced her bangs around
like the Holy Ghost the tongues of fire at
Pentecost. So that’s what religion’s for.

10

At Sunday School there’s Jesus, of course–He’s
dead but then again He isn’t, He rose
eventually to Heaven, rose all
that way so He’s kind of alive, I mean
more alive than alive even though He’s
dead, at Sunday School it makes good sense but
away from there for six days in a row
it makes lots less with every passing day
until I’m back there on the seventh day
or is it actually the first, just
when the week is almost shot to Hell comes
the day of rest and all’s right with the world

says Miss Hooker, my Sunday School teacher,
I think she stole that from the Bible but
no matter where it’s from it’s a kind of
gospel and anyway she had a year
of community college and God saw
that it was good you could say and what’s more
He’s saving her for me, I’m only 10
but won’t be 10 forever, which is good
although it means that I’ll get older, which
is good but it means that before I know
it I’ll be out of years and ready for

death, that is if some accident doesn’t
claim me first but the real good in it is
that one day on the way, on the way to
death I mean, I’ll marry Miss Hooker, she
may be fifteen years older but at least
it’s a steady fifteen years, she won’t get
any older as she gets older but
like I say I’d be coming closer to
death and when you think about it, God makes

you, you’re always dying, maybe you don’t
notice it but sooner or later you
do or someone notices for you and
you do the same in return and it’s called
friendship and it’s called love when you want to
stop it and you think you can stop it by

holding it or kissing it or having
babies by it, I don’t know yet where they
come from but maybe in the hospital
there’s a special room as holy as our
church, up near the altar anyway, where

what you used to be, you and your wife or
husband, comes back to you and looks enough
like you to claim but he’s the same, or she,
yet different enough to be someone new
and that’s what’s called a family and as for
society I’m not big enough to
know but if Father’s going to stay in
business he has to sell his lawnmowers
and the rains have to come to make the grass

grow and that’s what I call the universe
and comic books and hot dogs and twist-off
bottle caps but I won’t know how they fit
in until after I graduate from
vo-tech. Mother’s dead but I still call her

Mama. That’s what’s known as Eternity.

Smitten

I don’t know why I go to Sunday School
except to see Miss Hooker, my teacher,
I never see God, nor Jesus except
as a little doll on the Crucifix
behind Miss Hooker’s desk and he looks dead
but of course He’ll shake it off, the real one
I mean, so the story goes, but other

than that I never get a glimpse into
Heaven save for Miss Hooker herself and
I told her so after class this morning,
she’s 25 to my 10 but I’m in
love with her and don’t stand a snowball’s chance
in Hell at ever marrying her so
my fear learned that it didn’t have much to
lose but to my surprise she told me, Gale,

you shouldn’t be a blasphemer, I’m not
God and no woman is but I thank you for
the compliment, then she blushed and so I’m
confused but the alternative, I guess,
is being dead and uncomplicated
but I didn’t say that, I just said, Well,
I guess that I was exaggerating
but you are pretty easy on the eyes,
which is something Father tells Mother, it

means that he thinks she’s attractive and so
Miss Hooker blushed again and then touched
me on my shoulder, I think the left one,
it’s the shoulder nearest my heart, and smiled
did Miss Hooker, but what I do is grin
usually, I’m just a kid. If God
made everything then in some special way
there’s nothing really ugly but it’s made

by some evil people, or earthquakes,
in our neck of the woods it’s tornadoes,
one of those could’ve carried Ezekiel
up pretty damned fast. Does Miss Hooker know

to be? I’d ask her but it’s a grown-up’s
question, if I took God seriously
folks would just laugh at me, and my buddies
would beat me up, and I wouldn’t blame ’em,
so would I. I guess there’s hope for me yet.

what I know, how innocent things were meant

Heavenly Bodies

One day I’ll be dead and that will be that
except for the cleaning up, not just my
old body, I hope it will be very
old, but my soul to boot, gone to see God
and Jesus and all the others up in
Heaven, where I’ll be judged, at least my soul
will be, I’m not really sure how much of
me depends on it, and if my name’s not
in God’s Book of Life then He’ll cast me out
and cast me one more time, into the Lake
of Everlasting Fire, not to make me
pure but just to burn the Hell out of me
forever just for the torment of it.
But if by the time I’m dead I was saved

then I’ll get to stay in Heaven for good
and, besides, Miss Hooker will be there, she’s
my Sunday School teacher and 25
to my 10 and if we can never get
married down here and if there’s no marriage
in Heaven, like she or maybe Jesus
said, at least she’ll be around and we’ll both
have new bodies there, Heavenly bodies
you might say, which suits me because the one
I use now will have gone to the worms and
ashes and dust and maybe nematodes
and maggots and mole and snails and any
-way I want to be taller and able
to throw a baseball equally well with
either arm–is that amphibious?
I’ll have to ask. I wonder what happens

when angels kiss, if they can, or they do,
if their lips go beyond their lovers’ lips.
Can they shake hands? dance? Are they ticklish? I
should ask Miss Hooker but whenever I
try to talk to her outside of class I
get so nervous that I forget just why
I’ve tried to get her alone–probably
for love as we know it down here, not that
I know much about love or anything
else but I’m just a kid, one day I’ll be
as fallen as any grown-up, although
Miss Hooker’s at the top of the bottom.
I think that I know how to talk to women.

Gale Acuff have had poetry published in Ascent, McNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He have authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008).

Gale taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.

Two Poems by Allison Grayhurst

Nocturnal Souls

Those pure, breathable love-notes
written on Japanese paper.
Our house, rain-cold
with dawn dying in every corner.

When you sleep
I believe I am made of ice. I travel
in my frozen figure, spiralling,
drilling up
into God’s domain. While you, flat
amongst the covers, breathe slow like
roots, touchable, sacred
as the shadows of my mortality are born
then perish in the wind’s mute philosophy.
Loneliness infects us all. You have told me,
there will never be a simpler tomorrow.

Cut flowers lean their bloom on pale walls.
I drop my mouth like wine dripped
on your shoulder.
You wake and find me,
hauntingly yours.

Kaita

It is sort of colourless,
the Earth. Though
I can hear the voice of spring,
I cannot help being disappointed at the slow
blooming flowers, that grow up
pursing the sun
to no avail.
Then I see the long boneless bodies
of angels
ascending like arrows
into the depths of a starless sky,
and I think to myself that he
who has gone into
shadows, hissing a private song
is much better off with his visible scars than
their invisible wings.
And I wonder, will he come home
or pass like water between unwebbed feet, to the ocean
where all that is written
is washed away with the sand?

Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Four times nominated for “Best of the Net”, 2015/2017, she has over 1150 poems published in over 460 international journals and anthologies. She has 21 published books of poetry, six collections and six chapbooks. She lives in Toronto with her family. She is a vegan. She also sculpts, working with clay; http://www.allisongrayhurst.com

Two Poems by Catfish McDaris

Swimming with the Wild Horses

Nine caballos in a spring fed pond
Lady Madonna blessed them all
Mick Jagger did the English rooster
on the telly with a wide-open mouth

Porterhouse started writing this poem
Sue his supervisor had just graduated
from the little Hitler school, the Post
Office required all bosses to attend

Sue’s hair was Texas blonde, she wore
skintight pants, everyone called her Ms.
Camel Toe, you could plainly see her
pussy, Porterhouse just wanted to be left

Alone with his words, Sue came out of
the ladies room with a toilet seat cover
sticking out of her jeans, Porterhouse
told her secretly, she blushed bright red

She asked him if he’d help her move a
couch at her new house, they arrived
he asked where to do you want it, she
just smiled and poured them some gin

There was a nice blanket on the couch
it had three cushions and a double camel
toe between the cracks, Sue returned in a
red see through nighty, they moved the
fucking couch all night long like maniacs.

Pay the Fucking Rent

Rent a word
a breath of air
a smile a laugh
a kiss an embrace

They don’t last
forever
forget about
owning them

She broke my heart
into tiny pieces
I shit blood
for a year and
a two minutes.

Catfish McDaris won the Thelonius Monk Award in 2015. He’s been active in the small press world for 25 years. He’s recently been translated into Spanish, French, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Bengali, Mandarin, Yoruba, Tagalog, and Esperanto.

Six Poems by Lana Bella

1) A COPY OF A COPY OF A COPY, AND.

To notice the cold I must spot
you, where snowfall weeping
over rocks. In Sapporo, once,
I trapped sun on bits of damp
cigar, startling your porous
shield until suddenly I could
hurt like that. Whisky and lit,
you broke the odd hollow each
time I sped at you like pale’s
peculiar velvet, too fast to hold,
scratched with my heart slow
into ribs to ache in its cradle.

As did the snow fall sideways
cleaving forward yet still, I drew
breaths branded by frostbite,
turning your name like a tooth-
lined artillery in my mouth, beat
and beat again the sounds of
winter on the hills. I looked back
into you as would us on a final
thrust, apologetically, made
tapered to a glimpse like a seam
that never knew what split it.

 

2) THOUGHT EXACTLY

The poem is red and you gather
its weight of lexicon poorly in
the nocturne. Back into two-fold
dimensions, sleep-bleared and
drowsy, you move blink to blink
on a ribbed rib of words, tick-
tonguing your way across the lay.
Quiet. Until what’s held down
you, vanishes, gentling like foot-
steps through the fog, crowned in
Gauloises and Tennessee whisky,
tailcoating the prostrate flight
of Das Lied vom lieben Augustin.
Only, you are never enough to
fill a pause, or hollow places about
love and heartbreak, thoughts
splintered in mid-air, in the way
breaths are halved then quartered,
clattering mouth of sonnets and salt.

 

3) GHOSTS IN LIEU OF SLEEP

The rowboat glided past and April
rain found liverspot on her hands.
She slowed behind a plate of glass,
as dark castled lonely over waves,
gorged on the raw pulps of dusk-
length oceans.

Each note, a breaking, she swirled
water with birds that no longer fly,
wings bluing, knowing too late how
they had cooed into the tides, press-
ing on through the moans of baleen
whales, peeking out from the mess
of wings.

Falling and falling in the water, into
the lisps and stutters across imperial
sea, she died far enough from what
suffered her, where sadness touched
ohms like arms in mad embrace, ship-
ping ghosts down the barracks of her
throat.

 

4) BUT YOU ARE NOT MADE ALONE OF MUSEUM AND SHOWPIECE

Sprawled as a hairy clock
tweeting the seconds, joyless
and mechanical, you touch
duress on shoulders pale
hoping to pocket the cower
in its seeds. But you are not
made alone of museum and
showpiece, for you ping with-
out rippling, carnation-eyes
walk crooked through edifice
of sky like fingertips on frost-
line, where cortege of cobwebs
yearn for light pulsing soft in
the grate. As if the flinty dawn
trails dew across your sleep,
you scythe the eaves to drops
of autumn rain fleshing wet
against a dead hemlock tree.

5) PEDESTRIAN
peeling off a ghost tale filled with
hummingbirds, she coaxed
melancholy and walked its south-
side of town like a paperback—

bony as a Los Angeles skid row’s
alley, grey eyes tugged the sky
down, feathered in embryonic crust,
splayed porous over the terrene’s
esophagus—

wrinkled through the decades with
traffic of ingénues weaving her

apologue, she tore the relic pages,
breaths knotted where memories
roamed empty over sunset street—

6) CLARA VENUS
After Rimbaud’s Venus Anadyomene

She wore the maudlin appetite of
Rimbaud’s Venus Anadyomene,
drought-spoiled, weeds growing
in clumps between tits. Gossiped
on like a pilgrim traveled beholden
and long, stems of hysterectomy
weighed in huckleberry shades of
red, slick with claws of pincers
picked into places where girth grew
spikes and cacti; conchoidal rings
of flesh flouresced from sinus to
diaphragm, lurching on nihilism of
soft sex, dressed to bare the oracular
dark to vanity’s orbit gypsy dances.

IMG_4907-5

A four-time Pushcart Prize, five-time Best of the Net, & Bettering American Poetry nominee, Lana Bella is an author of three chapbooks, Under My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016), Adagio (Finishing Line Press, 2016), and Dear Suki: Letters (Platypus 2412 Mini Chapbook Series, 2016), has had poetry and fiction featured with over 470 journals, Acentos Review, Comstock Review, EVENT, Ilanot Review, Notre Dame Review, Rock & Sling, The Stillwater Review, Sundress Publications, & Whiskey Island, among others, and Aeolian Harp Anthology, Volume 3. Lana resides in the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a mom of two far-too-clever-frolicsome imps.