Saturday, May 25, 2019

Patience by Martha Christina

It’s the old name
of the card game
she calls “solitaire.”

Solitare, she thinks,
is a name that suits
her now. But when

the new widow
clears her kitchen table,
night after night,

and lays out hand
after hand, after hand,
she acknowledges

the old name, and
how much
is required now.

Martha Christina is a frequent contributor to Brevities. Longer work appears in Innisfree Poetry Journal, Naugatuck River Review, earlier postings of Red Eft Review, and most recently in Star 82 Review, and Crab Orchard Review. She has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press). 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Desperado by Carolynn Kingyens

Two women, no relation,
both exited a Whole Foods
in somewhat succession,
walked past my Audi Q5,
idling in front.

The first woman wore jeans,
the color of a sand dollar,
and a lemon meringue-colored sweater
that highlighted her dewy skin
as she sashayed.

‘Yale Law’ emblazoned in bold text
on both sides of her canvas bag,
in case I missed it,
filled, I’d imagined,
with delicacies for a backyard boil –
corn on the cob, red bliss potatoes;
shrimp — crawfish — sausage;
a bottle of chilled Riesling.

A man, around the same age as my father,
also sat idling inside his Silverado,
when the sashayed-one, a perfect vision,
walked between the chasm our cars made
in the Whole Foods’ parking lot.

I watched him, watching her
as she walked towards her Range Rover.

The second woman, in contrast,
wore black yoga pants stained with bronze streaks
I’d recognized from mist of spray-bleach.

Hair, hurried-damp;
facial features, much fuller
as she appeared to carry the burdens of the world
inside her brown paper bag.

The older man kept inching his Silverado
into the woman’s path,
his face bearing annoyance.

I’d seen that look before,
on my father’s face,
the time he asked me
to skim the aftermath of a summer storm
from atop the surface of the pool.

And when my skim-job didn’t meet the standard,
he snatched the gigantic butterfly net
out of my hand, turning his whole body away from me,
shaking his square head — a head,
I’d always thought, the shape of a thumb.

Carolynn Kingyens lives with her beautiful family in NYC. Her poems have been featured in Boxcar Poetry Journal, Glass Poetry Journal, Word Riot, The Potomac, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Across the Margin, and The Orange Room Review. Her poem, “Washing Dishes” was nominated for Best New Poets by Silenced Press.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Waiter by Dani Putney

He gets in a rusty ’76 Mustang,
an expedition east,
face pockmarked and pallid
in Tuesday evening twilight.
Empty Coors can
occupies the console,
Camel cigarette sings
between fingers, spare hand taps
tattoos at 10 o’clock.
He’s caught—
autonomy penetrates
Nebraskan blacktop, derelict dive bars.
He wants to tell
scraggly strangers his tale,
stuff crumpled thank yous
into an apron pocket.

Dani Putney is a queer, non-binary, Asian American poet exploring the West. Their poetry most recently appears in Brine Literary, Brushfire Literature & Arts, and Juke Joint Magazine. Presently, they’re infiltrating a small conservative town in the middle of the Nevada desert.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Round Up by Randi Lynn Sanders

Halter and harness
just aren’t natural
for poems. Sometimes
I try a two-finger whistle,
sometimes cupped hands,
sometimes gently,
breathy, whispery,
a secret to my lover’s ear.
They never come when I ask,
but when they are ready,
maybe for a carrot,
or just a rub,
they nudge me with
velvet noses.

Randi Lynn Sanders is currently enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing at Mississippi University for Women. Randi lives on the gulf coast of Florida, where she maintains her own financial advisory practice while honing her craft in her spare time, usually before or after market close.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Life and Death Manners by Janna Grace

It was all the more amazing the young mother said
that her baby sat on his hospital bed,
cooing and reaching for his plastic bracelet
because he was a man (she never went to men),
but we knew it wasn't anything special,
because Papa did that to everyone.

Hospital gowns and 6 month promises
turned to 21 paper-thin days,
leaving a deck half-painted
and a wife who didn't know how to pump the car's gas
couldn't take that something from him, in fact-
the nurses all agreed that he was simply the nicest,
that he had a Dick-van-Dyke twinkling
even when all he wanted was sleep
when we filled his room past visiting hours...

Even when they let us take chairs from down the hall and the little ones napped at the foot of his bed,
he kept his legs crooked and gave them his plastic wrapped deserts
(the only good part of the plastic wrapped platters),
and told them stories.

No, I wasn't surprised she took to him at all.

Just as I wasn't surprised when he apologized for how much he thought
he would be coughing
in the hours when his heart started to slow
and he knew his lungs would fill with the
push out.
He didn't want to inconvenience anyone when his muscles broke
down and the spit collected at the back of his throat.

They call it the death rattle, but that quiet wet rasp tip-toed around the back of his throat in one last instance of him.
Papa was always so polite and somehow stopped it
when his wife sat beside him.

He did not die until I promised to clean the moss from the cracks in the front pathway next spring

and to make sure she never gets to Empty.
Then, he did not die until she left his side.

Janna Grace lives in a half-glass barn and her work has been published in The Bitchin' Kitsch, Plastik Magazine, Cut a Long Story, and Quail Bell Magazine, among others. She teaches writing at Rutgers University and her debut novel is forthcoming with Quill Press in 2019.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Stagnant by Taylor Stuckey

It becomes a ritual -
taking trips to the store
where I wander in search
of remnants
of you.

My cart overflows with
clean linen candles
to keep by my bedside.
Pack after pack of Top Ramen
that I’ll never eat.
Just microwave and leave out on the counter
so the smell can
stick to the walls.
Flannel pajama pants and off white
throw blankets that look like
they’d blend right in
with your couch.

Even in the presence of
the negative digits
that glare at me
every time I check
my bank account,
I can’t bring myself to stop.
It’s all I can do
to keep your body
and your memory

Taylor Stuckey is an English major at Shippensburg University. Her fiction and poetry have previously been featured in 50-Word Stories and Ink In Thirds. Along with this, she has poetry forthcoming in Down in the Dirt as well as fiction forthcoming in Riggwelter.

Monday, May 13, 2019

My People by Julie Hart

loved the lake so much
they started to go more often
stay longer, live there, commute there
needed to get there faster
built wider highways
cleared forests
straightened curves
drove further faster
to get to the place
they could finally relax
paved the sand side roads
built malls and car dealerships
floodlit parking lots,
poured fertilizer on the sparse grass
in the sandy soil
made the algae bloom
and the fish die.

Now my people say
it’s not like it used to be.

Originally from Minnesota, Julie Hart has lived in London, Zurich and Tokyo and now in Brooklyn Heights. Her work can be found in the Brooklyn Poets Anthology (Volume 1), Anti-Heroin Chic, Beautiful Losers, Juniper, Rogue Agent, Noble/Gas Qtrly, Thimble and at She is a founder with Mirielle Clifford and Emily Blair of the poetry collective Sweet Action.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

ever come true by J.J. Campbell

i have wished upon
every shooting star
i have ever seen

none of them have
ever come true

lie number 6,285
of my childhood

J.J. Campbell (1976 - ?) is trapped in suburbia wondering where the lonely housewives are. He's been widely published over the years, most recently at Duane's PoeTree, Synchronized Chaos, Fourth & Sycamore, Cajun Mutt Press and Horror Sleaze Trash. You can find him most days on his mildly entertaining blog, evil delights. (

Friday, May 10, 2019

Every Fourth Day in May by Ben Rasnic

It starts
with the low grinding purr
of a six horsepower engine,
swooshing sound of rotor blade.

Younger men than I
in the neighborhood
ride their tractor mowers
or slip Ben Franklins
to Spanish landscapers.

But I love the feel
of freshly cut green grass
beneath my feet, sweat
on my brow;

a dose of ice water
to soothe a parched throat
from an old fashioned
porch swing;

the precise manicure
of fescue grass
and the satisfaction
of taking it all in

Ben Rasnic currently resides in Bowie, Maryland. Author of four published collections (three available from, Ben's poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Baby Boomer by Peggy Turnbull

My father played music on Saturday nights, slept late
on Sundays. We banged in after church, returning
to a kitchen of Holy Land scents, briny olives,
zingy red sauce that snuggled into al dente pasta,

the kitchen a strange riot after days of meat loaf and
fish sticks. Dad poured himself a glass of cold amber,
foamy enough to make a fake mustache with, though
we never did, not after tasting the bitter stuff.

We lunched with the TV on. Romy Gosz trumpeted
to a dance floor filled with locals in their Sunday
best, promenading to polkas and waltzes.
Some couples never stopped twirling. Mostly men

with women, sometimes two women. There weren’t
enough men to go around, I decided. At our house,
we knew not all had made it home, the jolly music
always in the way when we asked to find out more.

Peggy Turnbull has had work published in New Verse News, Poetry Quarterly, Rat's Ass Review, Wisconsin Poets Calendar, and other journals. She is a retired academic librarian who worked in Wisconsin and West Virginia. She is a member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

fallow by William Aarnes

The chemo had worked
and she had maybe more

than a fall or two
to walk the trail

along her neighbors’ fields
deciding if she could agree

with her late husband
that the color to prefer

was fawn, not fallow.

William Aarnes has published two collections with Ninety-Six Press—Learning to Dance (1991) and Predicaments (2001)—and a third collection, Do in Dour, from Aldrich Press (2016). His work has appeared in such magazines as Poetry, FIELD, and Red Savina Review.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

canopies by William Aarnes

She enjoyed nights in B and Bs
but tried to avoid beds
with canopies. As a child
she’d been frightened by 13 Ghosts,
the canopy creeping down
to smother its victim.

                                   One expense
of her daughter’s outdoor wedding
was the 40-by-60 canopy.

Then came that rainy day
Draymore and Sons provided one
over her husband’s grave.

She values the canopy
of the branches shading her house
but the oaks have started dropping limbs
so she’s hired Arbor Care
to dismantle them.

Now the August sun will bear down.

William Aarnes has published two collections with Ninety-Six Press—Learning to Dance (1991) and Predicaments (2001)—and a third collection, Do in Dour, from Aldrich Press (2016). His work has appeared in such magazines as Poetry, FIELD, and Red Savina Review.

Friday, May 3, 2019

When I Write of PTSD, My Best Friend, a Vietnamese Barber, Tells Me I Should Write about Sex Instead by Ron Riekki

And I think about opposites, about how I could never cut
hair, would cut myself, was what they call a ‘cutter,’
rubbing a paperclip over and over again against my calf
until the blood stood proud, and I think about the word
same, how it reminds me of Saame, or Saami, or Same,
depending on the spelling, how my ancestors lived in Finland,
but not inland, on the outskirts, on an island, where my great-
great-grandmother drowned, and I told my mother about
the drowning, in my research, and she told me about
a cousin who’d drowned last year and I didn’t even know.
How could I not know that? How could I live another year
with so little sex? And instead cling to so many memories
of my stupid late teenage years thrown away on war.

Ron Riekki wrote U.P.: a novel and Posttraumatic: A Memoir, and edited Undocumented, The Many Lives of The Evil Dead, And Here, Here, and The Way North. He has books upcoming with Main Street Rag, Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press, McFarland, and Wayne State University Press.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Staring at a Student Staring at the Cadaver in Class by Ron Riekki

I skulk behind a skeleton, not

at all hidden, but hidden, and
her eyes sweep over the skull

of a woman who gave her body
to science, except we keep
confusing carotid and parotid,

keeping our shirts tugged up
to our noses to avoid the smell
of our futures, the way that life
whips us into strange lives where
we cannot believe where we are,

who we are with, this woman
whose chest no longer has a rib-
cage, it lying next to her, the heart
hard, visible, and I watch her eyes,
the eyes of the woman still breathing,
and I wonder if I see a tear, but it’s not;
it’s a sort of awe at medicine that makes
me love people, love our heartbeats.

Ron Riekki wrote U.P.: a novel and Posttraumatic: A Memoir, and edited Undocumented, The Many Lives of The Evil Dead, And Here, Here, and The Way North. He has books upcoming with Main Street Rag, Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press, McFarland, and Wayne State University Press.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Why Whales Breach by Jean Ryan

And then a whale
surges out of the sea,
the ocean pouring off its bulk,
its great fins and belly
white against the blue sky,
where it hangs, stopping time,
before falling back
with a tremendous splash,
the sound of its weight
claiming all else.

How wonderful it must feel
to lift that tonnage,
to pause between worlds
for an instant of dominion.
There is no other way
to account for the effort.

Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in coastal Alabama. Her debut collection of short stories, Survival Skills, was published by Ashland Creek Press and short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award. Lovers and Loners is her second story collection. Her book of nature essays, Strange Company, is available in digital form, paperback and audio. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Sighted or Blind by Jean Ryan

Sighted or blind,
we dream of the same world.
Maybe not lightning,
or rainbows, or sunsets,
but surely the booming thunder,
the smell of rain on a dusty road,
a hot pool of sun on the breakfast table.
Not the green curl of an ocean wave,
but the creamy hollow of a seashell.
Not a dog running on the beach,
but the joy in its bark.
Not a beautiful face,
but the lip’s tender journey
across it: temple, cheek, mouth.

They have nightmares too, the blind,
more often than the rest of us,
scenes of falling, of losing their way,
of guide dogs gone missing.
They wake with a start
and hurdle into another darkness,
but this one with sheets,
a bedside table,
the jingle of dog tags
coming to the rescue.

Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in coastal Alabama. Her debut collection of short stories, Survival Skills, was published by Ashland Creek Press and short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award. Lovers and Loners is her second story collection. Her book of nature essays, Strange Company, is available in digital form, paperback and audio.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

"In a corridor of dreams..." by Ronald Moran

In a corridor of dreams
worth keeping,
I know you tracked them
before the day dimmed,
the door locked,
or the gas was

near empty,
leaving you to get
to the next substation
in that endless corridor
with few exits,

and an infinite number
of diversions, stops,
where you thought,
I'm OK. I'll make it.
She'll be there, waiting.

Ronald Moran has published 13 collections of poetry, two books of criticism (one coauthored), and hundreds of poems, essays, and reviews in a number of journals, including Commonweal, North American Review, Northwest Review, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, and Southern Review. His last six books of poetry have been published by Clemson University Press. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

A Death Next Door by Ken Craft

My neighbor died last week.
The plastic-wrapped newspapers,

Yellow, blue, unread,
Congregate at the end of her driveway.

The tongue of the mailbox
A communion of catalogues and bills,

Postcards to the dead.
I call the post office, recycle old news,

Wait for a strange car, sudden moving truck,
Distant relative, but none appear.

Each day, before dawn, the street flows dark
Below the grassy banks of her house.

Its candlelight bulbs illuminate all but one
Window, as if Advent were April, as if spring

Were prying open the last sash,
Trying to ignite its square of trapped night.

Ken Craft is a teacher and writer living west of Boston. His poems have appeared in The Writer's Almanac, Verse Daily, Plainsong, Gray's Sporting Journal, The MacGuffin, Off the Coast, Spillway, Slant, and numerous other journals and e-zines. He is the author of two collections of poetry, Lost Sherpa of Happiness (Kelsay Books, 2017) and The Indifferent World (Future Cycle Press, 2016).

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Cactus and Skulls by Steve Klepetar

“You make a better door than a window,” she said,
and I ducked out of her way so she could see the TV,
which was her kind of window anyway, opening
on a desert of flies and heat. Nobody was there,
only cactus and skulls, the white-hot sky.
We watched for hours as night poured down
and stars burned in the sudden cold. I was afraid
to touch the remote. She only spoke to ask
for lemonade and tea. The windows were boarded
up and the only light leaked in through long thin
cracks in the plywood, making shadows like long sticks,
bending by the couches and chairs. When she finally
fell asleep, I buried my head beneath an old, white
towel where I counted my breaths until morning
broke over my hands like water spilling between stones.

Steve Klepetar recently relocated from Minnesota, where he lived and taught for over 36 years, to the Berkshires in Massachusetts. His work has appeared widely in the U.S. and abroad, and has received several nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Recent collections include: A Landscape in Hell; Family Reunion; and How Fascism Comes to America.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Last Day of Tai Chi by Katherine Edgren

We’d learned thirty poses together,
practiced balancing, slowing breath,
searched synapses for the next pose,
as we slowly moved our bodies in ancient,
graceful choreography.

Forming our usual circle to close—
arms-width apart, feet together,
we relaxed our faces with a smile,
the warrior, arm bent, fist on the right
the scholar, arm bent, flat hand on the left,
then joined hands in front of our hearts
before bowing first to the front—to everyone—
then to a neighbor on one side, then the other.
I felt a twinge that it was over—
this group, this teacher, this mirrored room,
Thursday afternoons from 1-2.

After all the stepping backward, forward,
gathering with our arms, lifting our legs to corner-kick,
patting the horse’s mane, grasping the bird’s tail,
carrying the yoke, picking up needle from sea-bottom,
chopping through mountain, making cloud hands,
we were ending
in the same spot where we began.

Katherine Edgren’s book The Grain Beneath the Gloss, published by Finishing Line Press, is now available. She also has two chapbooks: Long Division and Transports. Her poems have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Coe Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Third Wednesday, Peninsula Poets, and Barbaric Yawp, among others.