Four Poems by Marianne Szlyk

On This Heat Island at 9 AM

women with slicked-back chestnut brown ponytails
are carrying oversized Starbucks coffees, not iced,
to the office. Their French-manicured hands endure

heat from the coffee with coconut milk.
Without sunglasses, the women’s eyes don’t blink.
Their toned legs in black linen trousers

move like scissors through Indian paisley print.
The women talk quickly on their way
to lean in on the twentieth floor

where they could freeze in work spaces
cooled for men in their corner offices.
Instead they will unfold black cashmere sweaters

from desk drawers, sip coffee, and begin.


Temperature Inversion in November

The people on this street stay home tonight
watching TV. Each flicker of picture
siphons reds blues greens yellows
from dim living rooms and darker bedrooms
in moss-roofed houses and rain-colored bungalows.

In the temperature inversion, orange smoke
and tunnel vision will make you believe
you are walking inside your own body.
You are your own red blood cells.

Other streets will take you south
to the city limits and right-angled ranches
on steep, wood-chipped hillsides,
to Panorama Drive or Azalea Court.

There, in the fog, November’s Christmas lights
dissolve like liqueurs on your tongue.
Damp grass glints like crystal
beneath a streetlight.

Dead tree limbs akimbo,

lichen-stained brilliant green,
will block your path up there.

At night, you can go no further.
If it were morning, you could climb
to wait for the city’s fog to lift
and show you
what has been hidden all along.

Taking the last bus home, you return
to a room as big as a bed,
to your black and white TV,
to shows from your childhood
telling you that nothing will change.


Congress Heights

We stand at the wrong entrance,
across from the Jewish cemetery, lush
from last night’s storms. This is

the place I’d feared standing, imagining
the bullets spraying, the madmen targeting
myself and my husband for being white,

the wrong color in Southeast DC.
I wear pale gray; my husband, wears
bright blue and orange over shorts.

Today is a calm, sunny day.
We are waiting for our ride
to write haiku at the library.

Two young men walk past us,
laughing and gliding in warm sunshine,
their t-shirts as white as coconut

ice, their fades from the 90s,
my favorite decade. You can imagine
everything is alright. There is nothing

to watch out for here, nothing
to see but large green leaves
and red brick and blue sky

and t-shirts as white as coconut

ice. I wonder what the young
men see in all of this,

their neighborhood, part of their world.


Effaced Amy Winehouse

Ms. Hawthorn thinks about the space
where the sticker’s line drawing used to be,
showing how the singer in her afterlife
had hardened into a gaunt carapace.

Amy’s hair extensions were bundled
up into a cross between a beret
and a turban. Her face
sharpened. She was silent.

A matching powder blue wool suit,
white high-necked blouse, and pearls
covered her tattooed body
smeared with blacks, reds, and greens.

All this is gone,
the body cremated,
the sticker peeled off.
Ms. Hawthorn supposes
the voice will soon follow.

better picture of marianne and front room (1)

Marianne Szlyk edits The Song Is….  Her chapbook, I Dream of Empathy, was published by Flutter Press.  She is working on another chapbook, On the Other Side of the Glass, a collection of nature poetry.  Her poems appear in a variety of venues including Of/with, bird’s thumb, Solidago, Figroot Press, and Cactifur.


Six Poems by Lana Bella


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.



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.



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



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.

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

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—

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.


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.

A Short Story by Erhu Amreyan

I recalled being woken up by the cold wind that came bustling in through the cracked  wooden  window. I stretched out my legs and drew the cotton wrapper over my lithe body and wantednothing more than to go back to sleep but I was already awake so I went over to the kitchen where mama sat preparing food for that day. She was a very robust woman my mama, with surprisingly straight legs and brown skin. I had always felt unlucky because my legs were slightly bow shaped even though everyone kept saying they were legs meant for playing football. I doubted that and never attempted the sport.

Mama sat on a low stool near the timid fire as she heated the left over vegetable soup from the previous night. Her head went up sharply as she heard me come into the kitchen dragging my wrapper behind me.

‘’Nicodemus are you awake?’’

‘’Yes mama. I could not sleep anymore.’’

“Where’s Ruth?” She asked of my older sister.

“You know she never wakes up early.”

Mama smiled and dragged a stool slightly bigger than hers from among the fresh firewood kept in a corner and placed it near the window that was slightly ajar. It was getting brighter outside and I could clearly see the water running down the slope of the compound. I placed my hand on my chin and watched the rain drops fall on one another creating flowery patternsas they jumped up as if excited about something. I remembered the pawpaws I was supposed to get from the farm and became sad. If the rain had chosen not to come down that morning I would have been at the farm trying to pull down two ripe pawpaws with a bamboo stick. A slight gust of wind came through the window and I sneezed.

Mama quickly said ‘’Sickness be far away,’’ and made the sign of the cross.

‘’Nicodemus come closer to the fire. I don’t wantyou to catch a cold.’’
‘’Yes mama.’’ I moved closer to the warm fire and sneezed again. ‘’Mama,’’ I called.
‘’Is it true that Esther’s brother is coming from the city to take them away?’’
‘’Where did you hear that from?’’
‘’From Peter.’’ Peter was Esther’s brother and was the same age as I was.
‘’It may be true. I don’t know.’’
‘’If Esther is going away then I must follow her.’’

Mama started laughing and I wondered why. It was the truth. I had plans in the future for Esther and me. Although I was just ten years old I knew she was going to be my wife
someday. And if that was going to happen I knew I had to be with her every day to protect her from other boys because she was too beautiful. She could be snatched away at any moment.

Esther was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She had big brown eyes, fair skin, and a smile that always played around her thin lips. Her hair was brown and short but it only
enhanced her beauty. She was my best friend and everything about her made me feel happy all the time.

‘’Your uncle is coming this morning from the city. Don’t leave the house until he arrives.’’

I watched as mama pound the yam on the low wooden mortar. The mortar with its cracked edges and blackened exterior was older than me but the pestle had been changed twice. When she was done, she served my portion in a small bowl and served Ruth’s in another. As I ate, I recalled what Teacher Festus had told us in class the previous week. He had told us that eating fufu for breakfast was backward, and dangerous to our health. He told us to eat fruits and tea instead, that the result will be seen. I hissed and swallowed another morsel of fufu.

Fruits were not going to fill my stomach. Esther who sat close to me in class had whispered to me that Teacher Festus’ favourite food was fufu and bitter leaf soup, morning, evening and night. She said he only said so and so because he wanted to act like a white man. A shameful thing.

Ruth trudged into the kitchen as soon as I started cleaning my mouth, my bowl completely empty. She greeted mama and threw a frown my way then proceeded to sit on a worn out mat on the floor. Mama added more soup to Ruth’s soup bowl and joined her.

‘’Mama just told me Uncle Bernard is coming today,’’ I said. Ruth frowned some more.
‘’What’s wrong?’’ I asked her.
‘’Nothing, I just hope he doesn’t come with his evil wife.’’
‘’Keep quiet Ruth. Do not call people names behind their backs, especially your uncle’s
wife,’’ Mama shunned her. Ruth did not give up.

‘’But you know it’s true. The last time she was here, she treated us as if we were shit that
comes out from people’s buttocks. She said our house smelled. All because she came from
the city she acted as if she was bigger than us. I don’t like her at all.’’ This time mama could not say anything. She only sighed and resumed eating.

‘’I hope she doesn’t come,’’ I said hoping to join in the collective dislike for my uncle’s snob of a wife.
‘’Is it true your final exams have been cancelled Ruth?’’ Mama asked.
‘’Yes mama. We have to wait for some time before we can write it.’’
‘’What does that mean?’’
‘’It means that I’ll have to wait for some time before going off to the girls college in Ano. It may even be until next year.’’

‘’God forbid it. You will go this year.’’ Mama sighed again and lamented.
‘’When will this useless fighting be over?’’
‘’It will be over soon. We can only hope and pray,’’ Ruth answered.

When Uncle Bernard came later that morning, Ruth was ecstatic because he had had shown up without his wife and had bought us a thick loaf of city bread. Mama offered him some food but he politely refused saying he ate a lot before he came. He and mama sat in front of the house. The seemingly incessant rain had stopped falling and the sun struggled to find its way from behind the clouds. I could hear them talking out loud. No one bothered to speak in whispers.

‘’You and your children have to come with me to the city,’’ Uncle Bernard finally said after a few formalities. I could see mama’s legs crisscrossed and her head lowered as if paying homage to an unseen person in front of her. She did not answer immediately. When she did, she slowly brought up her head. ‘’Your offer has been heard and is greatly appreciated but my children and I cannot leave. I cannot leave my husband’s house or his farms unattended to. We are one of the lucky few whose farms has not being ceased by the government or taken up by Kertiyu village.’’

‘’But you can’t stay here anymore,’’ Uncle Bernard said still trying to persuade mama.

‘’There are rumours that the government will withdraw its soldiers soon. What will you do when the things start to go bad? Eh? What will you do?’’

‘’We will survive.’’
‘’How?’’ Uncle Bernard was getting frustrated.
‘’Even if I agree to go with you, what will I do in the city? I did not go to school. I don’t
know how to read or write.’’

‘’You can continue your trade. I will help you.’’ Mama was not convinced. I wanted mama
to consider the request, just in case Esther and her family moved to the city so that I would be in the same vicinity as her. I decided it was time to go see her. I wore a clean shirt and shorts before heading to Esther’s house. Kertiyu village and ours were at war and had been for a long time. What started it all was land ownership. Disputes arose everywhere on who owned the lands at certain boundaries and not too long after, the lands in both villages were being fought over. A few people had to die before the government stepped in. That was two years ago and the soldiers still patrolled certain areas to keep the peace. I wondered why the land could not be divvied up to pacify
everyone. I met Esther in front of her compound. She was walking with a slight limp.

‘’What happened to your leg, Esther?’’ I asked in an alarmed tone.
‘’A chair fell on it. But it’s better now.’’
‘’Are you sure?’’
‘’Yes.’’ She smiled and I was happy. ‘’You’re always worried about me Nicodemus. You
should care for yourself too.’’ She told me pointing at a few of my scars. I laughed at how
true her words were.

‘’Where’s Peter? I haven’t seen him for the past two days.’’
‘’He’s in the city with our brother.’’ My eyes widened in surprise and my heart began racing without warning. It felt as if my worse fear had just started its slow ascent to the surface.

‘’No one knows about it so let it be a secret between the two of us.’’
I nodded and asked, ‘’why did you not go with him?’’
‘’Mama wanted me to stay. It’s not permanent. Peter will be back soon.’’
‘’Ok.’’ I said feeling a warm ray of hope.
‘’Let’s go to the river side.’’ She said.

I followed her. Whatever she told me, I was always ready to do. After all she was
going to be my future wife. When we got to the river side, there was no one there. The
water’s current was high because of the rain, making it unfit for swimming. Esther went close to the huge washing boulder with a flat slanted top and sat down. This was the only enormous stone available to the women who liked to wash at the river and it usually caused quarrels among them. Esther beckoned me over when she saw I was hesitating.

‘’Nicodemus, ‘’ she called. ‘’Come.’’ I moved over and sat beside her not knowing what to
say. Only one question remained glued in my mind. I wanted to ask her but I was afraid I
would not like the answer. She did not utter a word too and kept on swinging her legs back and forth.

‘’Papa may say yes to my brother.’’
‘’What?’’ I asked pretending not to know what she had just said.
‘’My older brother Timothy wants us to join him in the city. Papa said he’ll think about it.’’ I bit my lower lip and forced back the tears. Esther’s father was one of those people whose land had been proclaimed by another family in Kertiyu as theirs.

‘’My uncle also asked us the same thing. He is at my house right now.’’
‘’Yes. Mama says we cannot leave.’’
‘’Why?’’ I shook my head so as not to tell her the reasons.
‘’She may change her mind though.’’ I said to give myself a little amount of hope.
‘’She will.’’ Esther said firmly.
‘’Why can’t this stupid fighting stop? We can’t even go to school.’’ I said looking at the river gloomily.

‘’It’ll surely end. Nothing lasts forever.’’
There was another round of silence. Esther started humming a tune. It was sweet and
soothing. It made me think of beautiful things and shoved the thought of the land dispute far away. She drew herself closer and placed her head on my shoulder. I felt sad and happy at the same time.

‘’Don’t go Esther. We have to stay together.’’ I blurted out.
She chuckled and said ‘’you know if my family leaves I will have to follow them.’’

‘’But we have to get married. We can’t do that when you’re far away.’’ she smiled sadly.
‘’We will surely get married. I have prayed to God.’’ She nodded.
‘’I will try and convince my mother to go with my uncle.’’

Esther threw her arms around my neck and grinned widely. I wanted to do the same but I refrained myself. She kept on humming the same tune over and over again. It deeply soothed me. I did not want her to stop. I just wanted to sit beside her, hold her hand and listen to her hum. We remained that way for a long time before Esther stood up.

‘’Let us go.’’ she said.
‘’Can’t we stay for a while?’’ I asked greedily.
‘’Tomorrow we’ll stay as long as you want.’’
‘’Do you want me to carry you on my back?’’ She laughed and walked ahead of me.
‘’Tomorrow I will let you carry me.’’
‘’We have to go my farm first.’’ I informed her.
‘’What’s in your farm?’’
‘’Pawpaw. Two ripe ones. You can have one.’’
‘’Ok. Let us hurry. Mama will start worrying and I’ll be in trouble.’’

We reached the farm only to find out that birds had taken a huge chunk out of one but the other was left untouched. I took the thick long bamboo from behind the cashew tree and brought the pawpaw down with it. It fell with a thud and Esther ran after it. She picked it up and dusted the sand off of it using her bare hands.

‘’What are we going to do now?” She asked holding the bright yellow pawpaw with her left hand.

‘’You take that one. Another will ripen soon.’’ I said looking up at the tree.

‘’Thank you.’’

‘’No need to thank me. When we get married you’ll eat pawpaw everyday and drink milk.’’

‘’Milk?’’ Her eyes lit up.


Milk was a rare commodity in our village and only a few like the headmaster and Irish priest could afford it. It came in brown tins and was usually brought in by Okoso in his bicycle from the big market. I had had milk twice in my entire life and it had tasted like heaven.

As Esther and I walked back home, we were accosted by Ulom and his gang comprising of Titus and Josiah. Ulom was in the same class with Esther and me and was known for being a nasty bully. Ever since the school closed down, all he did was terrorize his mates in the village with Josiah and Titus obeying his every command.

‘’Esther the beautiful one.’’ Ulom said as he walked up to us, his cohorts behind him smiling awkwardly. ‘’Where are you coming from?’’

‘’I don’t want to talk to you so get out of our way.’’ Esther replied with a stern face.
‘’Is that pawpaw for me? Oh thank you.’’ Ulom laughed and moved closer. I stepped in front of her.

‘’Let us through.’’ I said firmly
‘’Fool.’’ Ulom hissed and pushed me down with one hand. I tumbled on the wet ground; my shirt was stained with red mud. I knew mama would not let me hear the end of it when I returned home. Esther held the pawpaw under her arm and helped me up. She turned around to face Ulom with every emotion she felt projecting through her face. I was afraid too.

‘’Ulom, if you do not get out of our way, I swear to God I will kill you right here and now
with this.’’

She said brandishing the pawpaw in his face. ‘’Do you want to die today eh Ulom? Josiah?

‘’I…I … thi..nk we sho…. Should….go’’ Josiah stuttered taking a step backward.

‘’Yes, let’s go.’’ Titus added.

Ulom came in front of me and spat on the ground. The white mucus almost landed on my
feet. ‘’You’re not ashamed of yourself Nicodemus. A girl is standing up for you. If I were
you, I’ll go and drink poison.’’ That was a lie. I felt so ashamed of myself but I did not dwell on it because the girl was Esther.

They left muttering words among themselves. Esther laughed so hard after and I
congratulated her on her act of bravery.

‘’Who would have thought Ulom would be scared of you?’’ she shook her head and smiled.

As we continued walking, we noticed a throng of people moving fast toward a certain
direction. A few of them turned to stare at us as we gingerly walked. When we reached
Esther’s house, we saw what was stirring up the commotion. The house that had stood tall and proud that afternoon was ablaze and the acrid smoke that poured from it filled the evening air. I looked at Esther. Her face had lost its earlier glow and her eyes gleamed with tears. She ran to her mother who was wailing and raining down curses on the Kertiyu people.

Her mother saw her and hugged her tightly, both of them crying. Esther’s father looked on at his burning house with a strange look on his face. It was as if he did not believe what was going on. He was surrounded by a few men who consoled him but he was lost in another world and did not pay them any attention. The onlookers whispered among themselves and dished out their personalized curses too on the Kertiyu people. Apparently, the arsonists were the family in Kerityu that wanted Esther’s father’s land. They had decided on that very day to pass a message to him by setting fire to his house when no one was around. The next morning, Esther and her parents came to say their goodbyes to mama. They were prepared to leave for the city by taking the morning lorry in Ano. Mama wished them well. Throughout their stay, I remained in my room and cried. As they left the compound, I rushed to the window hoping to see Esther. It was as if she knew I was there and she turned around.

My heart leapt for a moment. I waved goodbye but she did not wave back. I knew as if by
premonition that I was never going to see her again.


Erhu Amreyan is a freelance writer from Nigeria with several short stories notched on her writing pen. She is an esthetics and fitness enthusiast and a sucker for everything made by Studio Ghibli.

Three Poems by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Remote Viewing

He had not worked in months
like a lightbulb you neglect to
change over

and when he showed me his hands
they were sofa cushion

a giant skylight in the back of each
so that we could look down
like gods

into the mud brains of inner Mongolia
which to our amazement
killed nothing that

A Mortuary Full of Applause

grim ballasts, I have abbreviated your tapas bar existence
down to the last black olive
trained ballerina toes of laced attrition
de-feathered the pheasant and the coward alike
resurrected sweet monsters of ugliness for you to climb
on hungry nights;
elevator knees, Catullus fragments that read like bad breath
peep freaks through frosted windows
the markets propped up like banana republic autocrats
demonology and infection control
race riots over a silver baton, 90 percent of the inner harbour
running anchor
and King David, don’t forget him, his many stone lions of chance
riptides of a loveless love
promises fleeting as bounding deer: away away…
the ghosts of old wars dug in for the fight
and I ask only for tea, a modest request in light of the recent unexplained:
kisses shared like miracles of saliva
and purpose.

Sufi’s Choice

burn all hope
even the ones in the phonebook
with long stockinged legs of gangliness
blister the hands with work
the gold casket of the rattlesnake
is not for everyone

and there is a reason infant men
fall out of women like a pop machine
and grow to the size of sitting chairs

and we are not privy to divine such reasons
but we fumble at them anyhow

shoot rockets at the moon with crusty bunk sock regularity

hold bags of frozen peas against child
knee scrapes of a fleshy imbalance

wail at walls
or kneel on rugs?,
it is Sufi’s choice
all over again

the opium runners all with funny comic book names
that make them sound like
strange soups

mice with human ears for backs
nuclear meltdown in a personal sense
hungover and dog-whipped and griping on
against any former sensibilities;

with all hope gone
we can start in on grace,
plenty of them in the phonebook
too –

blowflies through the no fly zone
ordinances in the yellow folds of sleepless
sweat drenched summer

forests of bent azure
pining after

the prototype of the
prototype lives on in bashful


Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his other half and mounds of snow.  His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Electronic Pamphlet, Word Riot, Clockwise Cat, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.

A Poem by Rajnish Mishra

My Rive Rests

My river rests.

It’s soundless

and no winds blow
Darkness, a distant din,

wave-twinkling bulbs –
Those bulbs, the stars

and the distant glow
of city lights, orange-red

over silver-black sands.

Black is the colour of darkness, they say.
It’s black,

but black of un-fixed hue.

Some are the nights,

when the river flows
Under the moonless sky,

it’s the black of tar.
Some are the times

that see the black with blue.
Such is the colour of night

while the young moon glows.
Some are the nights of light,

lamps near and far,
Lend light to the sky black;

black river too.

Rajnish Photo 12kb

Dr. Rajnish Mishra has been active in the areas of teaching, research and writing for nearly a decade now. He has written and published poems, articles, books, and blogs.  His writing can be found at his blogs: and

Five Poems by Joan McNerney

Lost Dream

I am driving up a hill
without name on an
unnumbered highway.

This road transforms into
a snake winding around
coiled on hair pin turns.

At bottom of the incline
lies a dark village strangely
hushed with secrets.

How black it is. How difficult
to find that dream street
which I must discover.

Exactly what I will explore
is unsure. Where I will find it
is unknown. All is in question.

I continue to haunt gloomy
streets in this dream town
crossing dim intersections.

Everything has become a maze
where one line leads to another
dead ends become beginnings.

Deciding to abandon my search,
I return for my automobile…
nowhere to be found in shadows.

Finally I look up at the moon’s
yellow eye…my lips forming
prayers to a disinterested god.


street corners

enveloped in
exhaust fumes
slate-like formations
wait for light
to change
her carbon dress
his face of ashes

crushed within
this granite body
we eat grey food
pulling empty
air thru narrow
passageway to
ink stain train
along blurred
landscape of city

inside myself
searching a
1 clear line
of perspective
which distinguishes
buildings from
streets & points
to where
the synthetic
sky ends



Sneaks under shadows lurking
in corners ready to rear its head
folded in neat lab reports charting
white blood cells over edge running wild.

Or hiding along icy roads when
day ends with sea gulls squalling
through steel grey skies.

Brake belts wheeze and whine
snapping apart careening us
against the long cold night.

Official white envelopes stuffed with
subpoenas wait at the mailbox.
Memories of hot words burning
razor blades slash across our faces.

Fires leap from rooms where twisted
wires dance like miniature skeletons.
We stand apart inhaling this mean
air choking on our own breath.


Eleventh Hour

Wrapped in darkness we can
no longer deceive ourselves.
Our smiling masks float away.
We snake here, there
from one side to another.
How many times do we rip off
blankets only to claw more on?

Listening to zzzzzz of traffic,
mumble of freight trains, fog horns.
Listening to wheezing,
feeling muscles throb.
How can we find comfort?

Say same word over and over
again again falling falling to sleep.
I will stop measuring what was lost.
I will become brave.

Let slumber come covering me.
Let my mouth droop, fingers tingle.
Wishing something cool…soft…sweet.
Now I will curl like a fetus
gathering into myself
hoping to awake new born.



What is never spoken of and pushed down
becomes mold crawling over hearts.

Strangling our voices, it scuttles though
corridors, tunneling, warping each day.

My body…this swollen thing carried by
legs too thin and crippled to uphold it.

Pushed down, tightly clamped in now
full of pain, gasping for each breath.
Smothered, silenced.


Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, Blueline, and Halcyon Days.  Three Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Kind of A Hurricane Press Publications have accepted her work.  Her latest title is Having Lunch with the Sky and she has four Best of the Net nominations. 


Five Poems by Sergio Ortiz


Night Bird

I ask for nothing
of this land
that has given me everything
I loved and hated its men
found my Adam he fled with a bodybuilder
as soon as I gained weight
I sought God
and in his place found knowledge
I discovered a home in my body
and since then
moved from place to place
without desires
this is my way
my destiny does not depend on luck
I am the night bird
foretelling death in its song


Fifteen Doors to Silence

Pain depends on the doors to silence.
Heavy syllables creep like body bags
full of calcined corpses and a neat bastard grammar,
a spelling that imposes its hopeless scorpion seal

on the calm. It is not pleasant to die on a cross of ashes.
It gnaws on your muscles forever.

Maybe at door nine you’ll find a bearable death,
fate on an altar of fireflies. But who are we cheating?

Gate ten or fifteen should be a better choice.
Distant doors like the tip of the sun celebrate winter.

Although on second thought, what is it like to die
tacked to a dead door? Maybe it is necessary to burn the ships
and flee through an iron path to the mountains of widows.
To die is to walk the Bible in reverse.


Autobiography of Eyes

The invisible, rooted in the cold,
maturing towards that light
that dissipates in every other light.
Nothing ends. Time returns
to its beginning, the hour
we breathe: like nothing,
as if it could not see a thing.
It’s not what it is.
At the edge of summer heat:
blue sky, purple hill.
The distance that survives.
A house made of air, and the flow
of air in the air.
How are you stones
that are unrolled against the earth.
like the sound of my voice
in your mouth?


The Problem with Traveling

Every time I’m at an airport,
I think I should change my life.
Behave according to my numbers,
set fire to disorder & crawl
below the radar like a Pitbull
― digging a hole
under the fence. I’d be woven
up to my neck, beautiful
beyond purchase, trusting
the creator, fixing my problems
with prayers & property.
I’d think of you, at home
with the dog, a field full
of purple buds― we are small
& defective, but I want to be
who I am,
going where I want to go
all over again.



I feel anguish
when breathing the smell
of dead sex. The hangover
of satisfied furtive pleasure
arrives, I put away
an unshakeable silence
when I close my eyes.
The skeleton of my last kiss
rests on your left thigh.
I set out to smoke on your lap
while I think about my short life.
Is there anything more important than this?
Beyond the dark glass of my window
birds sleep in an old tree.
They’ll never know of your existence
under this white concrete sky,
my lovers’ firmament. Insects
fight to the death in the mystical light
of my lamp. What beauty!
There is nothing more ephemeral
than love, pierced by sex.


Sergio A. Ortiz is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. 2nd place in the 2016 Ramón Ataz Annual Poetry Competition sponsored by Alaire publishing house. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in FRIGG, Tipton Poetry Journal, Drunk Monkeys, and Bitterzeot Magazine.  He is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.