Friday, October 16, 2020

Two Poems for a Late Friend by Robert Demaree

1.

Someone said that we have come
To Golden Pines to die.
My friend said: No—to live.
Well past 90, he played golf,
Wrote and recited
Long strands of verse,
Robert Burns and Robert Frost,
And his own wry take on the world he saw.

Soldier, actor, salesman,
Student, scholar, leader,
Husband, father, teacher, friend,
Adored by the grandchild in us all,
Deeply faithful to his school, his church,
To those who counted on him,
Spinner of yarns born of
A South Carolina growing up,
Child of a minister who held,
As our culture holds,
That he has gone now to a better place
Where he can speak of
Poetry and decency and grace
With those who precede him there.
For us, this place, this firmament
In which we dwell for now,
Has lost a star,
Shines less brightly
Than yesterday.

2.

The afternoon following the service
And the eulogists are at loose ends.
Intense that morning with texts
They wrote and read
To honor the professor,
Their mentor, their poet-friend,
They begin now to settle in
To the deep unendingness of his,
Of anyone’s, being gone.

What do we believe, they wonder,
What should we believe?
Could we be persuaded like Paul,
By Paul,
Is it a long, deteriorating sleep,
Or, one smiles to ask,
Should we play along,
Just in case, faith
A comfort to survivors?
Will we see the light
Jane Kenyon saw?
Guess we’ll find out.



Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders, published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Clouds by Howie Good

It’s late in the day,
and the clouds
are mischievously shaped

like swan boats,
ripples on a pond,
like a face whose once dear details
I’m trying to remember

and can’t.



Howie Good is the author of two new poetry collections, The Death Row Shuffle (Finishing Line Press, 2020) and The Trouble with Being Born (Ethel Micro-Press, 2020).

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Misanthrope's Talent by David Spicer

I’m not prejudiced, I hate everyone, my father liked
to say, and that includes me. I never asked him why:
maybe he failed in the jobs he worked at haphazardly,
for this short man had less patience than a bored judge,
but one task he undertook with a grace nobody matched,
the one skill other people envied? His penmanship,
imitated by sisters and brothers, daughters and sons,
customers marveling at the way he handled a fountain pen:
his stroke quick and sure as he wrote his name, the J
of his James looping like a sail on a white sea of paper,
the serifs on the gate of his initial H four fancy curling waves,
and the S of his surname a musical note that sang in silence,
he wrote his name with a statesman’s pride. Then, the man
who couldn’t love soared like John Hancock’s ghost.



David Spicer has published over seven hundred poems. Nominated for a Best of the Net four times and a Pushcart twice, he is author of six chapbooks and four full-length collections, the latest two are American Maniac (Hekate) and Confessional (Cyberwit.net). His fifth, Mad Sestina King, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Amputee #10 by Matthew Borczon

The amputee
worked hard
in the hospital.

Determined
to stand
when he
received his
medal.



Matthew Borczon is a poet and Navy sailor. He has published thirteen books of poetry and is included in numerous anthologies, journals and college textbooks. He is a sailor in the Navy reserve who recently returned from deployment to NYC to help fight the Covid-19 outbreak. He is married with four children.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Amputee #6 by Matthew Borczon

The soldier
asked me
if I knew
what happened
to his
boot.

He never
asked
about his
foot.



Matthew Borczon is a poet and Navy sailor. He has published thirteen books of poetry and is included in numerous anthologies, journals and college textbooks. He is a sailor in the Navy reserve who recently returned from deployment to NYC to help fight the Covid-19 outbreak. He is married with four children.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Amputee #4 by Matthew Borczon

Looking at
a Marine
with one
arm gone
and thinking
he was
pretty lucky

was the
day I
realized
I had
been in
Afghanistan
too long.



Matthew Borczon is a poet and Navy sailor. He has published thirteen books of poetry and is included in numerous anthologies, journals and college textbooks. He is a sailor in the Navy reserve who recently returned from deployment to NYC to help fight the Covid-19 outbreak. He is married with four children.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

What Is Wild by Jean Ryan

"I won't hurt you," I want to say
to the spider crouched in my shadow,
to the lizard ready to run,
to the finch startled from the feeder,
to the squirrel already gone.
I have tried, again and again:
whispering the words,
slowly offering my palm,
searching those glossy black eyes,
as if I will never learn
that what is wild wants only
my distance.



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. She has also published a novel, Lost Sister, and a book of nature essays, Strange Company.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Shadow & Light by Carolynn Kingyens

Shadow:

He once called her
his better half –
before the arrival
of children,
the car payments,
and bankruptcy,
before the sex addiction,
the mistress,
and murder
in the middle of the night –
“a familicide,”
they called it
on the six o’clock news.

It always starts a seed,
a snag, some technicality –
a lust so small
you have to squint
to see it.

Light:


Now the heroes,
those firefighters,
who’d storm
the Twin Towers,
carrying the weight
of breath in tanks,
before climbing
an infinity of stairs
to an awaiting doom.

Or how that rookie cop,
the son of a veteran,
delivered a baby boy
in the backseat
of a beat-up Buick,
outside Vegas,
gently placing the
wet, screaming newborn
inside the warmth
of his coat,
before bringing him
close to the heart.



Carolynn Kingyens’ debut book of poetry, Before the Big Bang Makes a Sound (Kelsay Books), can be ordered through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Greenlight, Book Culture, and Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop. In addition to poetry, Carolynn writes narrative essays, book reviews, micro/flash fiction, and short stories. Her latest short story, "Fast Car," can be read here. She lives in New York City with her husband of almost 21 years, two beautiful, kind daughters, a sweet rescue dog, and a very old, chill cat.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Coupling (2008) by Carolynn Kingyens

I listened to you retell it,
the story of how we first met
to our new friends
from our new church.
I sat in silence
with my hands under the table,
wrapping my dirty, cloth napkin
around a small fist.

Your version of events
were tidy and clean,
when you said
you knew I was the woman
you were destined to marry
the moment you saw me
in your doorway,
punctual as always,
asking for Harrison,
my blind date,
and your perpetually late
roommate.

Our new friend, Allison,
cocked her head, cooing out
a falsetto's squeal
to her mute husband –
Isn't that romantic.

If she only knew our truth;
you had no interest
in wanting to marry me
the day I showed up
in your messy doorway
with empty chip bags and t-shirts
strewn across wood floors,
that it had nothing to do
with coupling.

I was ripe, hot,
willing to please -
not yet the bitch
you would later marry.

I was naïve in a white,
strapless sundress,
and long hair still shower-damp,
smelling of mint and clover.

I let you kiss my mouth,
my neck, my back
in your bedroom;
let you hide me
inside your closet
when Harrison rapped
on your door,
asking about a girl.



Carolynn Kingyens’ debut book of poetry, Before the Big Bang Makes a Sound (Kelsay Books), can be ordered through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Greenlight, Book Culture, and Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop. In addition to poetry, Carolynn writes narrative essays, book reviews, micro/flash fiction, and short stories. Her latest short story, "Fast Car," can be read here. She lives in New York City with her husband of almost 21 years, two beautiful, kind daughters, a sweet rescue dog, and a very old, chill cat.

Monday, October 5, 2020

I am hired after the management company is fired for not collecting the rent by Sharon Waller Knutson

The 19-year-old tenant
slides out from under
the Chevy leaking oil
in the driveway and
tosses his cigarette butt
on the lawn. Sorry
I can’t pay the rent
because I have car
payments
. I hand him
an eviction notice.

His 17-year-old wife
stomps bare foot. I don’t have time
for this. I’m late for my math
class, I’ve been puking
all morning, my poor
grandmother is on Social
Security and thanks to you
she is broke
. She slams
down a check on my desk.
By the way, she says, the faucet
is dripping
, but the plumber
says it works just fine.

The mayor calls and says
the city is paying their rent.
Why? I ask. He beat
her and left her pregnant
and penniless
. I look out
and see him changing a tire
flat as her belly as she
stands by the Chevy.
He is still here. The check
arrives in the mail.

The cigarette butts pile up
and oil drips in the driveway
daily as she tells me
about the termites, the ants,
the mice, the fried wires,
banging pipes. Something stinks.
I know something stinks
as the experts bill me
for their wasted time.

I’m stuck with them because
the rent checks keep coming
from the county, the state,
the Baptists, the Lutherans,
the Presbyterians, the Methodists,
the Mormons and the Unitarians.
My patience is as thin as her body
as she demands: Shampoo
my carpet before the baby comes
.
I tell her I’m the manager,
not the maid, and to stop bothering
me with her nonsense.

The due date arrives and departs
but there is no baby and no check.
I watch her empty her vacuum
bag in the front yard before
calling and shrieking: The carpet
and yard are filthy and I’m not
paying any rent until you clean it up
.
I know she’s run out of charities to con
and hand her an eviction notice.
She smirks. Legal Aid says you
can’t evict me for complaining
.



Sharon Waller Knutson, a retired journalist, writes poetry from her Arizona desert home. Her work has appeared in The Orange Room Review, Literary Mama, Verse-Virtual, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Your Daily Poem and The Song Is…. She is the author of five chapbooks: Dancing with a Scorpion, My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields, Desert Directions, They Affectionately Call Her a Dinosaur and I Did It Anyway.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

First Day 2020 by Jack Powers

On this early September morning the neighborhood is loud with children
posing for pictures in driveways, waving from bus steps, adjusting new masks,
nodding to the driver in gloves and shield, settling into Lysol-scented seats

and now parents wave as the yellow bus moves to the next driveway
and the scene repeats. Leaving pods of parents waving in the distance,
a lawn's length between them, the roar and stop, roar and stop receding

down the tree-lined road. No parades this year growing at each driveway
and pausing at street's end for the group photo of jostling children
scoping out the new year's pecking order, showing off new backpacks, lost teeth.

No parents mingling outside the school, inhaling the hope of a new year,
exhaling the sadness of a summer gone. No chatter as they return to their offices
and their errands past straggly tomato plants, weary-leaved maples and oaks.

This year they mourn in solitude or in pairs, take the steps back to their desks
and monitors, stopping first to wash their hands as they sing a little song.



Jack Powers is the author of Everybody’s Vaguely Familiar and has had poems in The Southern Review, The Cortland Review, Red Eft Review and elsewhere. He won the 2015 and 2012 Connecticut River Review Poetry Contests and was a finalist for the 2013 and 2014 Rattle Poetry Prizes. He recently retired from teaching special education in Redding, Connecticut. Visit his website: http://www.jackpowers13.com/poetry/.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Grin and Bear It by Martha Christina

My surviving sister tells me
she went alone to scatter
our older sister’s cremains
over the family plot where
our parents are buried, and
was surprised by a tiny angel
shining among the bits of
bone and ash; the pin
our mother gave our sister
as a birthday gift, years ago.

She pressed it into the soil
above our mother’s grave,
and left it there.

We are half a continent apart,
connected by FaceTime on phones
neither Alexander Graham Bell
nor our parents would recognize.
A toast, my sister suggests, and we
raise our glasses, hers in Indiana,
mine in Rhode Island. Here’s to
a better rest of the day
, she says,
and let’s grin and bear it.



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, Crab Orchard Review, and Tiny Seed Literary Journal's Pollinator Project. She has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press).

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Cookie-Cutter Dream by Martha Christina

We’re at the drinking 
fountain, just in from 
recess. My third-grade 
boyfriend’s wearing 
his Cub Scout uniform 
and opens the wallet he 
made at camp to show me 
a picture of his grandsons; 
two never-born boys 
with his red hair and freckles. 



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, Crab Orchard Review, and Tiny Seed Literary Journal's Pollinator Project. She has published two collections: Staying Found (Fleur-de-lis Press) and Against Detachment (Pecan Grove Press).

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Long Division by Barbara Alfaro

          for Sheridan Smith

I never told the first man in my life I loved him.
I never thanked him for helping me with math.

He could do long division in his head.
I never said how impressive it was that he

graduated from high school at fifteen or sad
the money he’d saved for college paid for

his brother’s surgery. I doubt my grandmother,
an Irish immigrant, knew about scholarships.

I never thanked him for being the only one
who didn’t judge me when I left my husband.

Four or five years old and curled on his lap,
I played possum and pretended to be asleep

because I knew when my mother said, “Sherry,
put her to bed,” my father would always answer

“Not just yet, Irene, I don’t want to disturb her.”
I never told the first man in my life I loved him.



Barbara Alfaro is the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Playwriting. Her memoir Mirror Talk won the IndieReader Discovery Award for Best Memoir. Barbara’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poet Lore, Boston Literary Magazine, Trouvaille Review, Voices de la Luna, The Blue Mountain Review and Variant Literature. http://www.BarbaraAlfaro.net

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Hand Holder by Allison Futterman

A cold, wet day—
They make their way to the museum.
Never a gentleman,
he holds the umbrella only over himself.

They’re engaged—
adjective, not verb.
A rare Saturday spent together,
which feels no different than being alone.

They work their way through the exhibit—
he walks ahead, oblivious to her.
She sees a little boy grab his hand,
obviously mistaking it for that of his father.

He shakes the small, sweet innocent hand—
out of his own.
Shakes it with force and revulsion.
In that moment, she knows they’re done.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Judith the Obsessive by Kyle Hemmings

She places a vase of plastic peonies
square center of the dining room
window.

She composes her water color paintings,
especially the ones of geese in the park,
strictly according to the rule of thirds.

She hates it when they guard their
mates sitting on their eggs, or flap 
their wings when she gets too close.

Over time, she learns to respect
DISTANCE.

As a rule of thumb, her husband will
come home and ask what she's cooking.
By now, he knows she only does microwave.
She tells him to wash his hands for 30 seconds.
Dinner will be served in twenty-two
minutes. It’s a little joke between them.

As usual, she will seem distant, distracted
by something she can’t quite grasp.

But it’s nothing at all. The great artist
who composed all of us will sooner
or later place everything in its
proper place.



Kyle Hemmings has been published in Sonic Boom, Right Hand Pointing, Unbroken Journal, and elsewhere. He is the ex associate editor of Yavanika Press.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

What I Remember About Kissing Ricker Kentroff by Shoshauna Shy

on my basement sofa
one August afternoon
was the moment we happened
to look up through the window
at my mother unpinning
bed sheets from the line
her dress a full billow
like a sun umbrella
the nest of fur sandwiched
between mammoth thighs

how Ricker rolled off me
Didn’t visit again



Author of 5 collections of poetry, Shoshauna Shy's poems and flash fiction have appeared in a variety of anthologies, journals and magazines, and even on the hind quarters of Madison Metro buses. She usually gets ideas for new poems and stories while stuck doing something else.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Her 90th December by Shoshauna Shy

Sun hesitant this short day
During her husband’s funeral.
Crowding into the church

Muscles his youngest brother
Who died on a 16th birthday;
The twin sons another long-gone brother

Did not have; the daughter of a third brother
Who perished in a fire at the age of six.
There are the brothers and sisters

That she herself was not given
In that silent channel she paddled
Called childhood. Squeezing into place

Beside her two daughters
Are the handsome virile men
That they befriended time and again

Yet never married,
Along with the in-laws
Not acquired, the grandbabies

Never born.
So full the sanctuary,
Even while empty.



Author of 5 collections of poetry, Shoshauna Shy's poems and flash fiction have appeared in a variety of anthologies, journals and magazines, and even on the hind quarters of Madison Metro buses. She usually gets ideas for new poems and stories while stuck doing something else.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

I {Heart} My Wife by Shoshauna Shy

My husband loves me, too,
but what kind of man plasters
a sticker like that onto the bumper
of his pick-up?
Perhaps it’s an in-law’s inside joke
or his wife slapped it on
after a week-long rage when
the truce included that he
broadcast his passion, let it serve
as fair warning to any woman
at bartime – Oh, that silver
in his sideburns, the diamond glint
in dark eyes, even his thickened
torso courtesy of apple pies
in matrimony’s kitchen!
Although he could have rubbed
that sticker on himself knowing
ladies try harder, sigh deeper,
treat him more tenderly when
propelled by jealous surges,
are compelled to try a shoplift
of a man wussed by wedlock
while the unmarried get wistful,
the long-married depressed.



Author of 5 collections of poetry, Shoshauna Shy's poems and flash fiction have appeared in a variety of anthologies, journals and magazines, and even on the hind quarters of Madison Metro buses. She usually gets ideas for new poems and stories while stuck doing something else.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Man Found Dead in City Park Restroom by David B. Prather

Thistle and primrose blur
along the street, those untended patches
in the breeze of passing cars.

Long-suffering purple
flowers shake their foolhardy heads,
even this close

to bike paths and tennis courts.
Yellow blossoms promise renewal
as they shiver through

chain link fence. Sunlight
leaves tracks up and down the arms
of oak trees here, where

every other road ends
in shadow shift and curb despair.
It gets so a body can’t leave

the house without stumbling
over addiction. Knotweed leans
against block walls, closes its weary eyes.

Some of us never mean to leave
this world. We mean to rush away
with daylight, ready to rise

anew after the mortal hours
of night. How telling, the flowers,
goldenrod, yarrow.



David B. Prather is the author of We Were Birds (Main Street Rag Publishing). His work has appeared in many journals, including Prairie Schooner, Colorado Review, and Poet Lore. He studied acting at The National Shakespeare Conservatory, and he studied writing at Warren Wilson College. He lives in Parkersburg, WV.