Monday, August 3, 2020

Grandpa Mack’s Grocery Store by Sharon Waller Knutson

sits smack dab
in the middle
of spud fields
on a highway,
a mile from town,
with a creek out back.

His wife runs off
with the freezer
salesman, his kids
grow up and leave,
and he marries
my grandmother.

Still sunrise to sunset,
snow or sunshine,
he sells bread
and baloney
to locals, sodas
and fudgsicles

to traveling tourists
and barters
with farmers
for fresh produce
and eggs. He still
refuses to close

after the freeway
bypasses the store
and chemo weakens him.
When he is gone,
my grandmother
sells the building,

which becomes a bar
where locals swig beer
from a tap and now a barn
housing horses that drink water
from the creek out back.



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 and Your Daily Poem. 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, August 2, 2020

Consistent with Lewy Body by Vera Kewes Salter

Abnormal deposits of alpha synuclein in the brain

He sits with his hands in his lap
          unsure where he put them
watches two women, one tall one short
          walk through the closet door

Swollen feet shuffle soggy paper towels
          to clean droplets from
the speckled tile floor -- he showers
          I mop -- then towel water from his back

At breakfast he asks:
          Why am I in Lewy's body?
we hang our answers
          on a clothesline

read the paper and pray
          for a free and fair election
together go into the garden
          turn on the sprinkler

admire the round red hibiscus
          he planted last year
watch a tiger swallowtail
          drink nectar from a tiger lily

At night he inspects the house
          turns on the porch lights
locks the terrace door
          that I left open.



Vera Kewes Salter is recently published in Right Hand Pointing, The Writers Circle 2, Red Eft Review and Writing in a Woman's Voice. Born into a refugee family in the United Kingdom she raised a family in the US and is a retired health care administrator and advocate.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Free by Holly Day

We put the small wire cage in the car next to my daughter’s car seat
where she can talk to the little purple-headed finch huddled at the bottom
while we drive it back out to the field where we first found it
lying in the snow, unable to move, almost dead.
We tried denying the little foundling a name, since we knew
we were just going to set it free once it was well enough,
but our daughter named it “Happy”
because, she said, he was going to be so happy we found him
he was going to be so happy living with us.

We get to the park and pull into the lot
and my daughter says something about Happy wanting to stay with us
and I have to tell her that birds want to live with birds,
especially wild birds, this is his home
and his friends are expecting him.
She wants to carry the cage
so we let her, it looks so big in her tiny hands
she has to use two hands to carry the small cage across the lot.

All the while, the little bird in the cage has been quiet,
hopping back and forth on the newspapered bottom to maintain balance
with the bouncing steps of the little girl
but I can tell he’s looking out through the bars of the cage
at a world he thought he would never see again
I can tell he’s wondering why we’re here.

My daughter sets the cage down on the grass and claws at the cage door
she wants to be the one to open it. I remind her that Happy
is too small for her to try to hold, like I’ve been saying all winter
that all she can do is open the cage door
and wait for the bird to come out on his own. Surprisingly, though,
it only takes a couple of seconds for the bird
to hop on the thin wire of the cage’s doorframe
as though he’s been listening to us
as though he knows exactly what’s expected of him.
“He wants to stay with us!”
says my daughter suddenly, slamming the little door shut
but it’s too late, Happy is already gone
a flutter of wings into the trees overhead.



Holly Day has been a writing instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review, and her newest poetry collections are Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), and Book of Beasts (Weasel Press).

Friday, July 31, 2020

In Order by Holly Day

The letters come in the mail and each one of them
is a detailed summary of the things you like to do to your new wife
organized coldly like a shopping list or a book report.
For some reason, I read each and every one of these letters
as though we’re still married, as if out of some marital duty
as if these are the sorts of correspondences that pass between
every other broken couple. I wonder how long

you’ll write me these letters, these summaries, if they’ll include
mention of your wife’s round, pregnant body, details of the birth
stories about babies tumbling around your living room, first steps
what it’s like to sleep with the same woman again and again
why and when and how you think about me in comparison.
Will they stretch on into the later years

when the children have grown up, grown out of the house
expand to include details of hip replacement surgeries,
therapeutic exercise groups, the aches and pains that come with age
what it’s like to feel your wife’s body, late at night,
when her skin’s gone crêpey, her bones suddenly hard and obvious
through the soft retreat of muscle? And what will you tell me about you
will you write to me as though you’re still some angry 20-year-old
reporting on everything withering to an end around you,
or will there be a man behind that pen that I don’t know at all
wouldn’t recognize if I passed him on the street
some stranger that barely remembers
why he started writing to me at all?



Holly Day has been a writing instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review, and her newest poetry collections are Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), and Book of Beasts (Weasel Press).

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Perfect by Holly Day

Let’s practice these worst case scenarios before they happen
practice our emotions and reactions so that they’re perfect
so that people won’t think something’s wrong with the surviving spouse
because there aren’t enough tears, there’s not enough screaming
it’s not like they show it on TV at all.

I will

drop to my knees crying, phone clutched to my chest
screaming “No! No! No!” as flustered onlookers come over
pat me on the back, wonder what’s wrong,
come to their own proper conclusions. You

will stagger a little bit, nod your head, say
“I see. Are you sure?” before hanging up the phone
drop to your own knees, bury your face in your hands. I

will drive to the hospital in a panic, fight noisily with attendants
have to be shown to a doctor who reads me something awful off a chart
offers me a sedative, a cot in the waiting room
a cup of tea, a ride home. You

will stride into the hospital as though you own the place
demand to be taken to my room, show your ID
as though it’s some sort of universal passport,
also be led to a doctor with a chart full of noise
shown to the lounge, offered a newspaper, a cup of tea, a ride home.

I will plan each step of the funeral myself, determined
that “I can do this!” but screw something important up at the last moment
but our children will step in and fix everything like they always do
our daughter will help me pick out a dress, our son
will call the newspaper, dictate an obituary,
make arrangements to contact the rest of the family. You

will probably let everyone else do the planning of my funeral
from the first step to the last, because you know
there are other people who do it better, you’ll pay for everything
but you don’t know where to start. Our daughter will pick out my dress
our son will drive you to the funeral parlor, show you the memorial he’s planned
it’ll be the longest conversation you’ve had with each other in years.

When the time comes, I won’t let them lower the casket into the ground, I’ll throw my body
on the flower-covered box and scream and cry just like they do on TV. Someone’ll
come and lead me back to the rest of the family, slightly embarrassed but happy
because this is what I’m supposed to do, they do this on TV all the time.
You will start to take a step forward, clear your throat, nod as the box is lowered into the ground
our daughter will lean her head into your shoulder, say, “Are you going to be okay?”
while our son will whisper, “It’s just a few more minutes. Just a few more minutes
And we can go.”



Holly Day has been a writing instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review, and her newest poetry collections are Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), and Book of Beasts (Weasel Press).

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Communion by Esther Ra

I still can’t eat South Korean blood sausages
with their translucent glass noodles, slipping soft
& unsteady on my tongue. But when you lifted one
packed with warm rice instead, saying Please—
we used to eat these in the north—
I couldn’t say no
& swallowed. In the approaching dark, we ate
our fill, north & south, hunger & hunger, two women
smiling simply and sharing blood.



Esther Ra is the author of book of untranslatable things (Grayson Books, 2018) and the founder of
The Underwater Railroad, a literary unification project. She has been the recipient of awards including the Pushcart Prize and the 49th Parallel Award, and works to support healthcare for North Korean defectors.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Photograph of My First Girlfriend by Zvi A. Sesling

Black and white photo from a Brownie flash camera
with a white border and scalloped edges. Her dress is white
and sleeveless and she dons cat’s eye glasses with rhinestones.
But now a glue backed piece of paper is stuck across the face
I no longer remember. Yet, I still remember our first kiss.



Zvi A. Sesling. Brookline, MA Poet Laureate, edits Muddy River Poetry Review. He has published four books of poetry and three chapbooks. His first book of flash fiction, Secret Behind the Gate, is due from Cervena Barva Press in January 2021.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Down the Street by Steve Klepetar

My cousins laugh all the way down the street.
They can’t catch their breath for laughing.
Their hands are empty, but for the rain.
They wear their mischief as a flowing cloak.
I fear they will not be able to breathe,
they will slide and fall on the muddy path
near the school.
The teachers will scold and slap.
Maybe they will be sent home to change
and my aunt’s fury will burn their skin red.
I worry that I will never catch up.
Their voices rise above the tree line.
Their bodies rise in the air like birds.
I offer my hands. If they need me, I will be their perch.
I offer my eyes. I will watch them forever,
as they circle above, building their nests out of golden straw.



Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. His work has appeared widely and has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He is the author of fourteen poetry collections, including Family Reunion, The Li Bo Poems, and A Landscape in Hell.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Making Soup by Steve Klepetar

My aunt opened the window.
She leaned out into the cool air.
The kitchen sink was filled with bones.

She sighed and washed them,
rubbing each one smooth and clean.
I assumed she was making soup,
because there were onions
in a bowl, carrots carefully scraped.

I wanted to help, so she let me
hold the mesh as she poured hot broth.
It splashed and burned my hands,
but just a little, and I would not cry.

My cousins told me secrets about her soup,
how it made their eyes glow,
how they could leap across the pond.
My uncle broke a baguette with his rough hands.
We ate, tongues blazing in our astonished mouths.



Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. His work has appeared widely and has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He is the author of fourteen poetry collections, including Family Reunion, The Li Bo Poems, and A Landscape in Hell.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Meteor by Robert Darken

I never knew the night sky could be like that,
the way you described it to her, moaning
into the phone’s receiver—even though she’d been
right there with you—and I pictured it
as I listened behind the door:
                                          Ocean-big, spread
quilt-like over the third fairway as lovers huddled
under a shower of stars. I was the good son,
home before dark, a life of pencil to paper
not skin on skin, never knowing first-hand
The stars’ cold burn.
                                  You, though, your life crackled
with confident mayhem, couldn’t go fast enough
in your Dodge Colt, skipping class with your
high-school blond, thrilling me
with fear, our father ranting red-faced,
our mother on her knees
whispering please, please.
                                           Even after you pulled
yourself together, got a moving truck, an apartment,
gathered furniture from curbsides, carved
your long, slow path to a PhD and we all ballooned
with pride, I never learned to quit my panic
when I wake in the dark to a gunned engine,
squealing rubber, headlights that splash their beams
for an instant across my bedroom wall.
                                                                In the blackness
of space, asteroids collide and fracture, a white-hot fragment
arcing into a canyon. I think of you
on your motorcycle in California
atop a mountain pass on a fresh and foggy
winter morning. When a phone jangles,
I brace for impact.



Robert Darken earned a B.A. from the University of Chicago and an M.A. in Education from the University of Michigan. Originally from the Midwest, he now resides in Connecticut, where he teaches English at New Canaan High School.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Please Scream Inside Your Heart by Howie Good

Often these days I don’t quite know
where I am, just that wherever I am,
dream, myth, fable, there are admiring statues
of homicidal generals on horseback
and many more of a white Jesus on foot,
and whether it was the Vikings or Columbus
who discovered America is immaterial,
especially as the clouds immediately overhead
resemble bloody scabs and crumpled dollar bills,
and the only advice anyone ever offers is,
if you have to scream, scream silently.



Howie Good is the author of The Death Row Shuffle, a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Nicotine by Ben Rasnic

Haven’t had
a cigarette
in years

yet today
I caught a whiff
of smoke

& it settled
in my
bloodstream

and whispered
softly
in my ear.



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.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Before the Storm by R. Kipp Miller

It isn't even here
but I live for it.

I'm so ready.
Wood hauled.
Water in the tub.
Enough food to last a week.
And for some reason, primitive but real,
my father's rifle loaded by the door.

Oh, how I live for what is to come.
The howling wind.
The rocking of this old house.
The sleet scratching to get in.
And, as night blankets all,
a childlike coziness, the utter
safety and warmth I'll feel
wrapped in a quilt before the fire.

Let it last for days.
All too soon the lights will come back on.
The printer whirring and chirping to life.
The neighbors checking in--wondering
after the third or fourth ring
if this was the storm that finally did him in.



A poet and freelance writer, R. Kipp Miller lives with his wife, the dancer and teacher Nilsa Villaronga, on a mountainside in rural Hancock, New Hampshire. His poetry has appeared most recently in The Hollins Critic and The Onion River Review.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Pasture Land by Don Thompson

Wind reads the open field like a palm,
tracing cattle trails that promise
impossibly long life.

It keeps probing for an augury
among desiccated fur and bones
that have no secrets—
that already reveal too much.



Don Thompson has been writing about the San Joaquin Valley for over fifty years, including a dozen or so books and chapbooks. For more info and links to publishers, visit his website at
www.don-e-thompson.com.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Querencia by Don Thompson

No one remembers whose cattle
died on these hills—
barren now, corrugated with gullies.

Rainwater runs off of them
like a rusted tin roof.

Not on any map,
but irrefutable, it’s a place
some cherish and come to

because here you can learn
how to hide in plain sight.



Don Thompson has been writing about the San Joaquin Valley for over fifty years, including a dozen or so books and chapbooks. For more info and links to publishers, visit his website at
www.don-e-thompson.com.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Shots by James Croal Jackson

At the bar, I ask if you want shots.
You say, no– 2X, so I ask is that Dos
Equis?
We laugh, then you tell me

2X is an IPA from Southern Tier.
When I order PBR you fire back
I don’t do that shit anymore.

At our table you lean into me,
staring at the red, paint-splattered wall.
You say I went to school with someone

who was killed in the shooting last
weekend.
I think– there were two
then ask if you’re okay. You

cock your hand on my thigh
and lift your bottle to toast me–
our clink of drinks a cold hard

cheers to the body of a rifle.
The skin through the holes
in our ripped jeans is heavy

against each other. You whisper in my ear
the world has too many people.
You shoot to the opposite

side of the table and ask,
how many people have you had sex with
who are dead?
I say none that I know of.

And knowing you want me
to ask you, too, I mouth,
you?

Your smile loads a magazine,
amber bullets in your eyes–
you flash me the peace sign.



James Croal Jackson (he/him/his) is a Filipino-American poet. He has a chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), and recent poems in DASH, Sampsonia Way, and Jam & Sand. He edits The Mantle (
themantlepoetry.com). He works in film production in Pittsburgh, PA. (jamescroaljackson.com)

Monday, July 6, 2020

Rude. by James Croal Jackson

Nearing the end of flu
season and I’ve made it
this far unscathed. But

today I ache–
head, a crushed bag
of ice; throat, sore,

a glimpse of Hell.
April coughs all it has
on me– rain, snow, hail,
sleet.

          Spring,
cover your contagious
mouth, please.



James Croal Jackson (he/him/his) is a Filipino-American poet. He has a chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), and recent poems in DASH, Sampsonia Way, and Jam & Sand. He edits The Mantle (themantlepoetry.com). He works in film production in Pittsburgh, PA. (
jamescroaljackson.com)

Sunday, July 5, 2020

On Union Street by Martha Christina

I turn to the garden,
seeking temporary relief
from the continuous news
of so many people hurting
each other in so many ways.

I kneel behind the fence
to weed among the hostas;
through the space between
pickets I can see, but not
be seen. A man, a stranger,

stops to let his dog sniff the
maple. He’s young, his hair
an artificial orange, his T-shirt
bright purple, his arms heavily
tattooed in those same colors.

He also holds the hand of a
young girl, who might be his
daughter, sister, niece, friend.
She looks to be about 4, and
she listens with the attention

of one who values this man’s
words: You want to be around
people who are good to each
other
he says. The dog tugs
its leash, and they move on,

leaving me still on my knees,
but uplifted, for 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, 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).

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Here by Martha Christina

          3 p.m., August 24, 2019

The bell
at St. Michael’s church
begins to toll, marking
the arrival in Jamestown
of the first enslaved Africans.

The bell tolls for one minute;
three seconds each for those
who survived the trip.

A few blocks from the church,
“cargo” that arrived generations
later, was locked in the warehouses
of the wealthy, devout, and generous
slave traders who donated the church’s
stained glass windows, saints’ faces
modeled on their own.



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).

Friday, July 3, 2020

Counselor by Carolyn Gregory

Sitting like a queen
with red hair flying
above a heart-shaped tattoo,
she took in my sorrows
and flights of fancy,
impartial as a small stone
Buddha on her shelf.

She heard my trouble with alcohol
and jobs,
isolation of northern winters,
listening to the lake blowing across
my childhood,
understood my wish to disappear
in mandalas and wild dance.

We only hugged twice.
I will miss her in her long gowns,
sitting in her very tall chair,
offering solace where there was none
and the photos of two hands opening
in acceptance above her.



Carolyn Gregory’s poems have been published in American Poetry Review, Main Street Rag, Off the Coast, Cape Cod Review, Cutthroat, Borderlines: Texas and the Seattle Review. She was nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and previously won a Massachusetts Cultural Council Award. Her two books were published in 2009 and 2015. Additionally, she has reviewed classical music and theatre over the past twenty years.