Sunday, March 28, 2021

Red Bugs by Jessi Lord

“Don’t touch that moss,” Mama said.
“It’s got red bugs in it.
They’ll crawl up under your skin
and live inside you
like the fear of God himself.”

She had her back to the wind
to light a cigarette
and I put the moss on my head
like a Dolly Parton wig.

The red bugs must’ve crawled
into my ears,
cause a couple years later
they started whispering.

I took scalding baths
to drown them,
dumping water on myself
with the same pitcher we used
to make Kool-Aid.

Red bugs don’t mind water.
Moss hangs low from the trees
like a heavy, damp
breeding ground.

Jessi Lord is a creative writing major at the University of Central Florida. An Amelia Island native, Jessi enjoys writing poetry at the beach on her flamingo raft.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Pills Make You Gray by Jessi Lord

Lithium: beige, round, tastes
like the nosebleed in Tommy Linshaw’s pool.
Clonazepam: green, round, tastes
like the airport at 5 a.m.
Olanzapine: white, round, tastes
like dropping out of college.
Swallow each with Glacier Freeze
Gatorade from a Dixie Cup.
Tell your doctor if Russian spies
dance naked in the Target parking lot.
He might adjust your dose.
If Chris Rock and Marilyn Manson narrate your life
(since Thursday after Dad took you to Chili’s),
tell your doctor.
He may switch your meds.
Clozapine: yellow, round, tastes
like the branch in Grandma’s back yard
that grabbed your face like a dead arm.
If you are the second coming of Jesus,
levitate fruit loops in aisle seven,
and tell Mom halfway through Eat Pray Love,
she will tell your doctor.
If you crash Mom’s SUV into a Public Library sign
because (per Chris Rock and Marilyn Manson)
it was a portal to another dimension,
you may go to a treatment center in Tampa.
Paliperidone: gluteal injection, feels
like missing Dad’s 60th birthday,
laceless tennis shoes,
and spreading grape jelly on toast
with a plastic spork.

Jessi Lord is a creative writing major at the University of Central Florida. This is her first time being published! An Amelia Island native, Jessi enjoys writing poetry at the beach on her flamingo raft.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

No Shoes Required by Amy Lerman

When we shared a bedroom, my sister and I loved The Room
Is Mine
, a story of sisters who divided their own bedroom
with a jump rope. Like those sisters, we stretched the rope
vertically, then stood on either side, our toes tickling the shag
carpet, as we repeated their dialogue, “Everything on this
side is mine,” I, the proud owner of a hurricane window
and The Wizard of Oz poster, my sister’s settlement portion,
a small desk and the room’s door. During those separations,
I would pretend to have a bicycle awaiting on the roof—
Dad had shown us how to crawl out the window if ever
there was a fire—so I could still exit, my hair immediately
forming into silky braids despite Florida humidity, my feet
propelling me skyward until landing me in a technicolor
world of endless paths, only the happy parts of Dorothy’s
adventure—no flying monkeys or green-faced witches—,
nor older sister telling me “I won’t be your friend anymore”
if I didn’t bring her cookies, or crew-cutting my Malibu
Barbie’s once-waisted hair when she promised “it would be
a trim,” no—

there would just be me—

singing along with these weird, new friends who didn’t
care how sweat-stained my checkered dress, my bare
feet skipping as far as I could go.

Amy Lerman was born and raised on Miami Beach, moved to the Midwest for many years, and now lives with her husband and very spoiled cats in the Arizona desert, where she is residential English Faculty at Mesa Community College. She received her Master’s and Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Kansas, and her poems have appeared in Rattle, Smartish Pace, Common Ground Review, Prime Number, Solstice, and other publications.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Runner Upstairs by Jeanne Julian

After dwelling where the only morning sounds
were squabbling geese, cicadas, purr of a passing
johnboat and its wake wheedling squeaks
from the dock, you’d think this daily pounding,

the rhythmic thump of footfalls from above
accompanied by a soundtrack’s rumbling
bass-notes rattling our lamps—evoking Thor
flat-footed on a thunder-powered treadmill—

would be at best annoying, at worst,
a sign that condo life was a misguided choice.
But no. Nestled in our last (perhaps) haven,
our corner of the sacred hive, we harken
to the hubris of youth, and mildly rejoice.

Jeanne Julian of South Portland, Maine, is co-winner of Reed Magazine's Edwin Markham Prize (2019). Author of Like the O in Hope and two chapbooks, she has published poems in Comstock Review, Kakalak, Poetry Quarterly, Naugatuck River Review and other journals. She reviews books for The Main Street Rag.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

What We Can Rely On by Angelica Whitehorne

The skins of a pomegranate unfurling in our palms like a lonesome heart, seeds
bursting between our teeth, pleased. Being continually two sunrises away from
the hard throws of a depression, and two more from a perfectly sculpted mania.
Dried spices dusting a full meal, one of which your sweat has seasoned, just a drop
or two, a piece of you in what you eat or feed to others. The simultaneous steps of so
many we’ll never know or walk past, stepping off the ledge, or into their lover’s doorway,
or into the throws of a life we can only imagine or view through our computer screen.

Angelica Whitehorne is a New York artist who writes poems, pieces of fiction, and stanza-formatted rants about the world we’re living in. She’s not creative enough to write about some other world, so this one is all she’s got. She has published or forthcoming work in The Laurel Review, The Cardiff Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Mantis, Ruminate, and Hooligan Magazine among others.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Spring Mud by Frank C. Modica

After breakfast I walk my dog.
In the early morning haze,

he hops over fallen tree branches;
Mud and peony petals litter our path.

He bristles at the big dog across the street
I brood over vaccinations, quarantines.

We both seek a safe way home,
face a longer road to serenity.

Frank C. Modica is a retired teacher who taught children with special needs for over 34 years. His writing is animated by interests in history, geography, and sociology. Frank writes to satisfy an itch that never seems to go away. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rat's Ass Review, Dodging the Rain, Blue Mountain Review, and Raconteur Review. Frank's first chapbook is forthcoming from Alabaster Leaves Publishing.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Rainelle, West Virginia by Abby N. Lewis

          —Appalachia Service Project Volunteer Site

We use water-resistant paint
on the concrete stilts;
the house is perched above,
climbing from the flood
that destroyed its shadow.
One set of stilts supports air alone
while the owner lives in a tent nearby.
We are quiet as we paint his.

It rained many times in the week
we were there. We were told
the locals fear the rain.
Most importantly, they told us
the people here are not victims—
we were never to use that word.

Abby N. Lewis is a poet from Dandridge, Tennessee. She is the author of the chapbook This Fluid Journey (2018) and the poetry collection Reticent (2016). Her work has appeared in Timber, The Mockingbird, The Allegheny Review, Sanctuary, and elsewhere. Follow her website:

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Picture It by Abby N. Lewis

The college girl who died when her blood sugar
dropped and her car careened off the highway,
her sister writing to the Internet for answers;

my great-grandmother who made angel food cake
taste better than I imagine even the clouds must—
her face in the casket, her red lipstick a final flirtation;

and the boy I loved when we were only children,
the stolen kiss under the dock,
the water up to our chins.
I was so nervous then.

His death a striking image. Picture it:                      We met in elementary school, nap time:
the ceiling                                                                                                                 the floors
the cord, yellow,                                                                                 the mats, blue-red-blue
the noose taut                                                                                           the hand extended
the swaying                                                                                                           the silence.

Abby N. Lewis is a poet from Dandridge, Tennessee. She is the author of the chapbook This Fluid Journey (2018) and the poetry collection Reticent (2016). Her work has appeared in Timber, The Mockingbird, The Allegheny Review, Sanctuary, and elsewhere. Follow her website:

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Stained-Glass Colors by William Doreski

Bright winter Sundays, stained-glass
colors draped over the pews.
I ushered the eldest, seating them
so gently their dentures remained
firmly clamped while they sang
tremendous mouthfuls of hymn.

Then home to a roast the color
of fine old English leather.
Pinned to cork bulletin boards,
those Sundays linger in glazed
sermons delivered according
to the latest, greatest theologies.

After sixty years of ennui,
I stay home to hear deities
murmur over the airwaves,
their frequency so high only dogs
can make out every command.
No stained-glass colors puddling

on the floor of my garage where
I crouch before a wood stove
to absorb and savor the heat.
These lonely snow-tinted Sundays
prepare me for the absolute dark
my childhood denied could happen.

The spirits on the radio boast
of creations yet to animate.
The listening dogs bark and howl
in praise or terror while I make out
only a word or two of Greek.
The wood stove crackles and smiles.

I could write a hundred sermons
for myself, all true and glistening
with lard, but no one else
would believe them, the lack of stained-
glass colors indicting me
and the voices I learned to trust.

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.

Monday, March 1, 2021

This cannot protect you by Doug Holder

The books you stacked
dusty columns
the entitlement
of their bold titles--
the absolute
of their authors
fall with a shut
of the door.

This cannot protect you.

Your safe harbor...
some flimsy
false, fantasy
would not
outlast the

This cannot protect you.

you said,
"No one dies at the Au Bon Pain"
At least in your favorite cafe
a bagel
a New York Times
the transitory
assurance of the

This cannot protect you.

You look to the early morning sun,
you thought this would bring
yet another day
the string of relentless rituals
the list of chores
checked out
in a strict chronological

This cannot protect you.

You assumed
her hand
pressed in yours
finger to finger
veins twisting into veins
the skin between you
a spotted history
this bond
cannot be broken.

This cannot protect you.

The cat curls up to you
it knows the scent
and something pierces the whiskey fog
of your long journey into night
and there is the sweet, ethereal horn
of a long dead jazzman.

All this
will not protect you.

Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press. His work has appeared in The Worcester Review, Rattle, Caesura, and many others. His latest book of poetry is The Essential Doug Holder: New and Selected Poems (Big Table Books).