Friday, May 31, 2019

Lessons by Robert Demaree

1. Swimming Lessons

Summer 1945.
Parades. Burning ration books.
How would we eat?
It was our first summer in New England,
In a shoe town, not a resort,
But they did have a lake
And on it a tutoring camp
Where my father taught boys
Who would now not have to go to war.
We’ve driven by that spot a few times since,
Returning from Canada,
Abandoned, posted, boarded up,
Locals not sure what went on there.
After sixty years, instinct takes me
To the place where I learned to swim.
I am envious today of those
Patient long-distance swimmers
Passing slowly, rhythmically by our dock
On a different lake, and I remember
Running, screaming from the Red Cross
Class in Dexter, Maine.
Later that summer I was taught the rudiments of
Paddling by my father’s friend,
And with it a respect and residual fear.
Kayaking around our pond,
I stay close to the shore, life vest taut.
These days people sell ration books on eBay.

2. French Lessons

1957: I was a day student
At the boarding school

In Pennsylvania
Where my father taught.
I studied French
(That may not be the word)
With the man I’d grown up
Knowing as Uncle Hal,
My father’s friend, his department head.
No one much cared back then
That Uncle Hal was not a native speaker, or
That his pedagogy did not match
An avuncular kindness to children.

We sat around a large conference table,
Polished cherry in which
You could see your reflection,
Arranged by rank in class,
With Benjie always next to Uncle Hal.
Exasperated at the rest of us,
He would place his knuckles
Against a balding brow
And moan: People,
Stupid, feeble-minded people.

Then he would turn to the
Chubby boy on his right:
Tell ’em, Benjie.

The table would not hold everyone—
The four of us at the bottom of the class
Sat against the back wall,
Including Neil Brooke, the playwright.
Uncle Hal once told my mother,
I bring in all these nice things to show them
But then I see Neil Brooke’s face.

Benjie died quite young, I think.
For his own reasons Uncle Hal kept company
With a widow on the office staff,
Aunt Peggy to me, of course.
I found out much later
About the Four Roses bottles
Left in his flat.

I took two courses in college,
Rather liked Racine,
But my spoken French was always
Wooden, unconvincing,
The only use I ever made of it
To order at a restaurant
In Qu├ębec:
Deux Big Mac’s, s’il vous plait.

3. Piano Lessons

My lesson was before school.
My father waited in the car,
Smoke from his Lucky Strike
Clouding the windshield of our ’48 Plymouth,
Against a gray January sky
In Pennsylvania—
We did not know to call it the Rust Belt then.
My spinster teacher walked about
Her Victorian row house,

Checking on an invalid mother
And calling out to me,
“I hear wrong notes.”

The house smelled of cooked vegetables,
Even at 7:30
When Teddi Kalakos came for her lesson.
She and I played a duet once,
Carl Philipp Emmanuel
Bach, it may have been.
Her family ran a restaurant;
She may have inherited it—I don’t know,
One of many threads of the plot
Lost over time.

Once a year Miss Edna would take us
Into Philadelphia, the Reading Railroad
More than a Monopoly card,
Elegant iron horse, cold coal-smoke dawn,
Dutch trainmen in shiny blue suits
Calling out the station stops:
Royersford, Conshohocken.
She let us shop at Gimbel’s,
Have lunch at Bookbinder’s,
Wasted on 12-year-olds,
And took us to the Academy of Music,
The children’s concert,
Peter and the Wolf, no doubt.
Years, years later
My mother asked if I remembered
Seeing Ormandy conduct.


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.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Lady in Blue by Ali Salzmann

She faces away from me.

I’m not sure why

I want the dusk

all the soft hues

her shoulders
can carry.

Ali Salzmann graduated with a MFA in Creative Writing from Texas State University, where she currently works as a Lecturer. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Austin Community College.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Overgrown by Phyllis Wentworth

You don’t have to keep up with the backyard –

The stonewall no longer visible,
the rhubarb gone to seed again,
the mint laying Napoleonic claim
to all corners of the raised bed.

It will all wait
for the grief
to ponderously lift,

the return of your spotted hands,
the rusted hack saw on the weed trees,
the swing made free
of the tangled vines.

Phyllis Wentworth is a Maine native who teaches in Boston. She writes poetry to stay in touch with the cathartic bursts of creativity she felt as a child. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Spring by Rebekah Keaton

Three men carry
the woman who keeps passing
across the street
occasionally coming close
to dropping her.
Her girlfriend shouts to another
further down
the street
April, April – she’s hurt—
Her voice slips
chills me where I sit
at the curb listening
to the car radio, waiting
for my date who has gone
for cokes and cigarettes.
The storefront’s neon beckons
its big block letter advertisement
“we never close”
twenty-four hour expectancy
no beginning no end.
I see the passed out woman
suddenly awake and smiling
everyone laughs
and I wait
impatiently for him
to return with smokes
cold cokes and the night
to go on.

Rebekah Keaton is an English Professor at Niagara County Community College. She teaches composition, American literature, and creative writing. Her poetry has appeared in various literary journals, including Blueline, Common Ground Review, Moth+Rust, Slipstream Magazine, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Earth’s Daughters, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Monday, May 27, 2019

At Dusk by Martha Christina

When I look out
through the new
leaves of the
weeping cherry,
trying to locate
the cardinals who
have suddenly
so much to say,
I see not the usual
evening squirrels
at the base of
the bird feeder,
but a squirrel-sized
rabbit, settled
among the daffodils.
Its eye is on me,
for this moment,
removed from grief,
and grateful.

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). 

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 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 across from me
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 toward
her Range Rover.

The second woman,
in contrast, wore black
yoga pants stained with
bronze streaks I recognized
from a 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 showing

I have 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 would snatch the gigantic
butterfly net out
of my hand, turn his
whole body away from me,
and shake his big, square head — 
a head, I thought,
looked like 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.