Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Many Happy Returns by Jackie Craven

Long before periwinkles appear, life is hoed
into tidy blue rows on the 1040 I prepare
for the government. Radiators hiss and sing of dividends—
ordinary or qualified? Sometimes I fill notebooks
with leaning towers of calculations. Sometimes
I work in the pixilated glow of a MacBook Air—
miles of depreciations before I sleep.
I am teaching myself Excel. I am watching crocuses
push through mud. Shall I itemize on Schedule A or settle
for the standard exemption? Beyond my window,
a weeping cherry tries to bud. For the first time in years,
I see the blooms spread wings. Every spring I used to fly
to my stepfather who dozed in his swivel chair,
feet submerged in statements and invoices,
coffee-stained receipts, pages torn from ledgers,
cancelled checks, insurance claims, photocopies
of my mother’s obituary, numbers clipped and bound
with rubber bands. He struggled over line 45—
How can a minimum have an alternative?—
and I thumbed through sepia folders,
stirring dust and the scent of cigars, racing
against a deadline we could never meet
because he was born on April 15.
Neighbors brought balloons and a frosted cake.
My sister called from the kitchen—
Just file for an extension. Blessed be the IRS
for granting us more time.



Jackie Craven is the author of Secret Formulas & Techniques of the Masters (Brick Road Poetry Press, forthcoming summer 2018). Her chapbook, Our Lives Became Unmanageable (Omnidawn, 2016), won the publisher's Fabulist Fiction Award. Recent poems appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Spillway, and elsewhere.
www.JackieCraven.com

Monday, April 16, 2018

Pageantry by Cindy Benabderrahman

In second grade,
my mother and her best friend
Rebecca took the shortcut
home from grade school,
fashioned a beauty pageant
from ribbons and flowers
they found in the trash out back
of Sweeney-Dodd's funeral home.

"In Memorium" and "Dear Husband"
sashayed home with lily-scented hair,
their pageant sashes sparkling with glitter.



Cindy Benabderrahman lives in Amsterdam, Ohio in a 19th-century company house with her husband, Oualid. She left K-12 education for a career in telecommunications, and she does freelance editorial work on the side. She is a mixed media artist and writer, and her work has been published in journals including Red Fez Review, Orange Room Review, and Arabesques.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Cow Creek Snow by Al Ortolani

I remember you running
through the curtain
that was the door to your
bedroom, and retrieving
a hatchet from under
your bed, just a fragment
of a memory, boys
with important plans
that required a small axe
to cull a clearing
along Cow Creek, sharpening
stakes into lances
for a rampart, or rather,
a redoubt.

I sent flowers to the funeral home
after a Facebook post, having read
that you were a grandfather,
retired from a lifetime
of sharpening stakes, from
tearing down and rebuilding
in a town we'd never considered
as boys. Along Cow Creek
in the dense vine-hung woods,
we found a fox skin in the snow,
you peeled it from the bone
with the hatchet's edge, the fox’s
red tail soft, windswept
in the winter sun.



Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His newest collection, On the Chicopee Spur, will be released from New York Quarterly Books in the Spring of 2018. Ortolani is the Manuscript Editor for Woodley Press in Topeka, Kansas, and directs a memoir writing project for Vietnam veterans across Kansas in association with the Library of Congress and Humanities Kansas.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

DNA by Al Ortolani

He's always been good to us
was a line my mother used
when referring to someone the family
could rely on. Her words
elevated them to an ally,
like the optometrist
who took payments for
eyeglasses, a little a month
squeezed out of my father's
teaching salary, or the owner
of the grocery store on Joplin Street
who ran an account,
paid once a month when the check
came in. It was a poor person's line,
a reference of respect to those
who didn't hold their position
like a clipboard of overdue slips,
or rustle a sheave of eviction notices.
My mother’s people were Irish,
forced from Kerry to Appalachia, then
from Kentucky to Missouri, finally,
scattering in Ancestry.com files.
The line was engrained in her DNA.
Field after field, they set
the plow-turned stones
in fences with narrow stiles.




Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His newest collection, On the Chicopee Spur, will be released from New York Quarterly Books in the Spring of 2018. Ortolani is the Manuscript Editor for Woodley Press in Topeka, Kansas, and directs a memoir writing project for Vietnam veterans across Kansas in association with the Library of Congress and Humanities Kansas.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Martha by Martha Christina

. . .the very last pigeon of her kind.

Suppose you shared a name
with the last passenger pigeon,

and suppose your husband,
though not named George,
had, like hers, died
in a facility where he
was thought to be safe
and getting good care.

Small wonder then
you’d also feel

. . .a barren relic of past abundance.



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 the anthology Ice Cream Poems from World Enough Writers. She has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press).

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Call and Response by Martha Christina

I do the supper dishes alone,
after another supper alone;

Ellington’s Solitude, turned
down low on the CD player.

Over that aching music,
a male cardinal riffs

seven notes, and from
the distance: an answer.

One calls, one responds,
over and over, changing

solitude to just another
way of listening, until

the lingering light
of the new Spring fades,

and the cardinals’ voices,
like yours, fall into the dark.



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 the anthology Ice Cream Poems from World Enough Writers. She has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Early Spring, Without You by Martha Christina

The pair of cardinals
you photographed
last fall returns
to the feeder.

Under the budding lilac:
a single mourning dove.



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 the anthology Ice Cream Poems from World Enough Writers. She has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press).

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

playing it safe by J.J. Campbell

two dark souls
united for one
last ride that
hopefully ends
in a beautiful
death

there's a
revolution
at hand

and i'm tired
of playing it
safe

they only build
statues for people
on the wrong side
of history in the
south



J.J. Campbell (1976 - ?) is currently trapped in the suburbia, waiting for the revolution to begin. He's been widely published over the years, most recently at The Beatnik Cowboy, Mad Swirl and Horror Sleaze Trash. You can find him most days on his mildly entertaining blog, evil delights (
http://evildelights.blogspot.com).

Monday, April 9, 2018

Appropriating the Dance by Emily Strauss

White people shuffle sheepishly
in a circle following the leader
watching their feet, trying to sway
to catch the rhythm of a frame drum

three Modoc women in braids strike
at sunset, the yellow rays fingering
the far hills across the green hay fields
a fire built to lend smoky atmosphere.

White people circle, grinning
in solidarity, look— they're dancing
stepping on toes, trying to feel
the land's spirit, pretend they know

the words of the chant or the coming
night out on the desert while they retire
indoors, plug in the hair dryer, the drums
gone by then, echoes of a heart beat

lost on the smooth road back home.



Emily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. Over 400 of her poems appear in a wide variety of online venues and in anthologies, in the U.S. and abroad. She is a Best of the Net and twice a Pushcart nominee. The natural world of the American West is generally her framework; she also considers the narratives of people and places around her. She is a retired teacher living in Oregon.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Silent Retreat by Emily Strauss

A silent retreat— though some folks
can't resist writing notes all over the board—
'meet at 8 AM for a walk'
'the keishe was great-- try some'

or mouth whole conversations
to their friends, or even ask aloud—
'where do you find mugs?'
I try to scowl, need more practice

don't want to speak, nor even see
another person, nor hear a chair
dragged across a floor, or catch
a light on at night unless it's miles
away down the canyon or across a wide
valley, a far twinkling of a populated
land, a ship passing in the strait

silent retreat— air, birds, surf, bees,
especially the jays— calling, crying,
complaining, stealing whole figs
off the fence, begging, fighting
the only distraction but for sunset
when sometimes the sky turns
pink-orange-yellow over the sea
a solitary feast for a solitary day.



Emily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. Over 400 of her poems appear in a wide variety of online venues and in anthologies, in the U.S. and abroad. She is a Best of the Net and twice a Pushcart nominee. The natural world of the American West is generally her framework; she also considers the narratives of people and places around her. She is a retired teacher living in Oregon.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Third Connecticut Lake by Robert Demaree

He got the idea from John Irving
In A Prayer for Owen Meany:
Driving the length of New Hampshire,
To the end of U.S. 3,
At the border with Québec,
North of the notches,
Past the sites of grand hotels,
River towns, the paper mill,
The faded-paint dignity of
Hard-scrabble farms,
Into the remote woods,
Fishing camps, logging trails,
To a destination,
The Third Connecticut Lake,
Mist, forty-degree September morning,
Sometimes a fisherman or two,
Always a penetrating calmness
Announcing the difference
Between solitude and loneliness,
Why he does not go to Mexican restaurants
On mariachi night.



Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders, published in June 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club, and have appeared in over 150 periodicals. A retired educator, he resides in Wolfeboro, N.H. and Burlington, N.C.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Flying Standby by Robert Demaree

He remembers times
When a few people would board a flight
Without a pass,
Their patience, their sense of daring
Rewarded. He wonders
If salvation might be like that,
A few souls let on board
In the event that some of the
Elect failed to show.
He does not fly at all these days
But remembers also
Half-full planes,
Dimly lighted,
A weary cheerfulness,
Late at night, after a conference,
Changing in Memphis,
Young attendant smiles:
Open seating this flight.



Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders, published in June 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club, and have appeared in over 150 periodicals. A retired educator, he resides in Wolfeboro, N.H. and Burlington, N.C. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

the mathematics of distance and regret by John Sweet

not alive yet,
but getting there

eyes almost open, driving
north past collapsing barns and
empty pastures

smell of magnolias

smell of gasoline

considered telling my children
the truth but, in the end,
lies were easier

you learn to write
away from a thing

you approach it obliquely, from
a different direction entirely

the woman is
naked and beautiful

the trip is over

i sat there in the car waiting
for someone to come out
and greet me, but no
one ever did



John Sweet, b 1968, still numbered among the living. A believer in writing as catharsis. His latest collections include APPROXIMATE WILDERNESS (Flutter Press) and the limited edition HEATHEN TONGUE (Kendra Steiner Editions). All pertinent facts about his life are buried somewhere in his writing.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

@ the café in austin texas by Justin Hyde

-alexa
turn on the radio
-alexa
put the thermostat up four degrees
-alexa
will it rain in atlantis tomorrow?

the café owner laughs
rolling silverware alongside
a waitress
in the pre-dawn trill
of the freezer & cold case motor

he knows he’s going effete
all this ludicrous technology
interdicting some vital human component

but his belly is full
esophagus clean
it takes the food
the tecate & the tequila @ night
like a porcelain funnel

proud of his belly
like his grandfather rogelio
who would rub his own belly
after the evening supper & say: hijo
a man with a full belly
owns the pearly gates

then he would
light the big cigar
they would sit on the outdoor porch

relaxed
yielding
feet splayed under the stars

as he is now
rolling silverware
alongside the waitress.



Justin Hyde's books and other poems can be found here: http://poets.nyq.org/poet/justinhyde

Friday, March 23, 2018

Spring Break by Nancy Byrne Iannucci

Birds sound like spring
snow clips our wings

treading in Vans &
Janoskis

Sloshing over mashed potato streets
from Arden to Mayfair

Savers is closed
& so is the Dollar Store

lights are on
sun is out

Side-blinded by
ice shards

walking backwards
in slow motion

cassette tape garbling
vinyl scratching

playing rewind
to winter.



Nancy Byrne Iannucci is a historian who teaches history and lives poetry in Troy, NY. Her work is published/forthcoming in numerous publications including Bop Dead City, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Star 82 Review (*82), Gargoyle, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Riggwelter Press, Poetry Breakfast, Rose Red Review, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Picaroon Poetry, Dying Dahlia Review to name a few. Her debut book, Temptation of Wood, is due out in May, 2018, published by Nixes Mate Review.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Self Medicating by Ben Rasnic

Beyond this secret window,
ice water
trickles
from the gutter

forming sharp needles
to elucidate
the mind numbing

effects
of the elements;

observation made
under the slow drip
of Ever Clear

with a twist
of lime.


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

Saturday, March 17, 2018

baseball cards by John Grochalski

we were like addicts

looking under couch cushions
for loose change

checking inside washers and dryers
and public telephones for the errant nickel

trading like stock brokers
at picnic tables and on the street
under the hot sun of summer

our parents never understood this addiction

my old man said, we used to flip those things
or put them in the spokes of our bikes

my mother used to sit in the car
or bored on a bench in the mall
outside of every baseball card shop
in the surrounding pittsburgh area

don’t you think that’s a waste of money, she’d ask

when paper route paychecks and allowances
went to wax boxes of topps, fleer or donruss

to fifteen-dollar rookie cards
sold to us by fat men with fat moustaches
who smelled of cigar smoke at baseball card shows

don’t you ever want to save
and make something for yourself in this world?

they slaved forty hours a week at worthless jobs
they broke open piggy banks for dinner

but we were going to get rich off of those cards

opening every pack was the potential for wealth
a market raising boon at the next swap

some rated rookie card
some misprint
this year’s hero snagging line drives on the hot corner

we had no clue that they were mass producing them
we had no clue how worthless those baseball cards were
we had no clue how much money went down the drain

money for the hot school lunches we wanted
money for the name brand sneakers our parents couldn’t afford

trying to feed the beast that raged inside of us all

i wish it were that easy now
finding money underneath the couch
to pay off the bills and the student loans

an errant twenty rolled up in the washer
to take care of the liquor or the dinner

i don’t even have any of those cards now

they went to my brother when i was done
and then they ended up with his ex-wife when she threw him out

but honestly i don’t think
i’ve ever been as excited as anything in my life
as i was back then opening baseball cards

going sweaty palmed into the drug store
reaching inside a wax box to pull out a pack from the middle
tearing them open walking home
letting gum and paper liter the street
putting the stars in plastic sheets
in binders
in boxed sets
circling card shows in mad fits
getting the DTs the day before my allowance
racing him and him and you and you
and all of you
down sun-soaked corridors of the mall
to be the first one inside the baseball card shop
where, if nothing else,
for a moment i felt like a king

and my little life
made just a little more sense.



John Grochalski is the author of The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), and the forthcoming The Philosophers’ Ship (WineDrunk Press, 2018) He is also the author of the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013), and Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press 2016). Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where the garbage can smell like roses if you wish on it hard enough.

Friday, March 16, 2018

colin rides the R train by John Grochalski

colin rides the R train
with his son, who has to be twelve now
i try to avoid him in the neighborhood
since the old drunk at the bar days
but even new york city is sometimes too small
and then there’s colin on the street
colin in the grocery
colin riding the R train with his son
we don’t have much to say
most of our talk back then
was drunken gibberish about books
colin looks too sober now to discuss anything but rent
he says he doesn’t even go to the bar
on the weekends now
he rolls his eyes and motions toward his kid
who looks bored looking out
at the graffiti on the subway tunnel walls
back in the day, colin had a bar schedule
every week day from six to seven
and then from four to five on the weekends
he used to send text messages
to the sexy bartender who liked to fuck her boyfriend
on the men’s room sink
but that was back when his son was a baby
then one day colin’s wife said,
no kid wants to smell beer on their daddy’s breath
and he was reduced to weekends only
a few beers on the couch
then nothing
i don’t know what colin does for kicks now
hangs in his man cave looking at his old cds and guitars
extolls the virtues of sobriety to his face in the morning mirror
loiters outside the bar window
wishing that he was someone else
spends as much time as he can with his son
truth be told, i don’t even go to the bar
as you get older you get sick of things
i wonder what colin is sick of these days
what books he’s read
but suddenly he says, this is our stop
and he and his kid get up and leave
even though i know that it isn’t their stop
and it hits me that maybe colin has been
trying to avoid me in the neighborhood too
turning down the block when he sees me
avoiding the grocery store
maybe i remind him of something he’d rather forget
like the past
like the good old days
of hangovers and hell
or maybe he just always thought that i was an asshole too
and there was no one else in the bar to talk to
and that colin was just too lazy back then
like i was
to get up
grab his beer
and move his seat.



John Grochalski is the author of The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), and the forthcoming The Philosophers’ Ship (WineDrunk Press, 2018) He is also the author of the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013), and Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press 2016). Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where the garbage can smell like roses if you wish on it hard enough.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Overdose by Howie Good

One by one, the mourners heft
a shovelful of cold, lumpy earth
from the heap beside the grave
and tip it, with seeming reluctance,
into the hole. The first shovelfuls
hit the lid of the plain pine coffin
with a thump. “Saddest sound
in the world,” my brother says
as he hands off the shovel to me.
Why even mention it? I wear nothing red,
nothing that is the color of blood.



Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of The Loser’s Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize for Poetry from Thoughtcrime Press.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"Sweet spring worms..." by Bob Carlton

Sweet spring worms
rise from
soaked soil
to greet the hunger
of returning birds.



Bob Carlton (
www.bobcarlton3.weebly.com) lives and works in Leander, TX.