Three Poems by Heikki Huotari

Free Will Was Had By All
in the face of fate
the argument and magnitude
consider complex numbers
argument evaporates
but who’s on first
suspended     my legs waving
only gravity can talk me down
nay-sayers of three microcosms
contemplate the perfect crime
I’m neither colorless nor odorless
nor in between
extrapolate the day
the violence is isolated
hemispheres are crudely glued
you’re both right     it’s exquisite
and obscene     a squirrel makes
a hyperbolic cosine of a hanging cable
and a helix of a tree


Not Onomatopoeia
the consonants are silent
so in nature there
are no straight lines
each season features ashes
ashes flat     as big as hands
as sunups add a third dimension
so a mass of gravitons is
tantamount to an event
one end-of-tunnel light
white-washes all the others
terror and elation     what
would there not be a downpour of
for rising I would optimize
complete this sentence     win
the consolation prize

Be Square Or Be Pentagonal
skirmishes in my periphery
rectangular coordinates on my horizon
equanimity is split
it’s it’s dictionary or dichotomy
the rules evolving with the game
the more meticulously I describe
the less meticulously I explain
I’m filling spacetime with deceleration
and the exoskeleton that I’ve outgrown
I’m walking barefoot on bare pavement
so     bionic hand meet paper flower
paper flower meet bionic hand
at what point is this straight line
tangent     and to what


About the Poet
In a past century Heikki Huotari attended a one-room school and spent summers on a forest-fire lookout tower. He’s a retired math professor and has published poems in numerous literary journals, including Spillway, the American Journal of Poetry and Willow Springs. His fifth collection, “When Correlation Is Causation,” is in press.

Unexpected by Shereen Akhtar


Your mother was here today, she squeezed my leg under the table,

to stop the anger becoming permanent. Outside was a sandcastle moat

with a leaf in it putting up a finger. God keeps a basic distance

at times like these but I prefer my brand of fervour – like cigarettes,

cellulite and aches collecting and escaping over the months, unsure,

the way time glitches for a squirrel. I asked her what makes nobility,

she said it’s a lottery. Plus, she’s always been a coercive force, eyes

burning to a quick. I was reminded of the fact that lightning strikes

a thousand times a second or five percent of the time, depending.

And the five rivers of Punjab echo with the laughter of the little boy,

Imam Ali. She nods. God runs simultaneous experiments on us, wondering

which of us has steel balls and which of us learns to run and dodge.

Hers is a lost diplomacy, born of bright stars who also desire to be fed.

I put on oversized pajamas and walk to the burger joint, stopping for

smokes for tomorrow, potentially. A boy walks past in shorts and flip-

flops and true, it is a mild December. If this worldly game is played by hosts,

I appreciate the humour of it. As I consider quietly topping a top,

a song arrives on the algorithm that sounds like N*Sync meets Tiesto

in Egyptian, and your voice sings along with mine, our breath snaking away

into the Christmas air where the pressure is rising heavenward constantly

and this water vapour that once fed dinosaurs is expanded in to cold electricity.


About the Poet

Shereen Akhtar is a writer and poet. She identifies as queer and British-Pakistani. She has had work published in Ambit, The Masters Review, Magma, Palette and Poetry Wales, among others. She is the recipient of a London Writers Award 2021 and is currently at work on her debut literary fiction novel.

Two Poems by Joe Balaz

Golden Station                                                                                                              

Suddenly indecisive
and numb to it all
da emotional atmospherics
dat stay emanating from da brain
is kinnah different
den da locomotive
dat wuz once pulling da train.
Let me apply some scrutiny
and put wun x-ray on da situation.
I can see lately
dat it’s very complicated
and sometimes frustrating
cause da scope
of wat it’s really about
no boil down
to wun perceptible sound bite.
Sliding into doubt
or second guessing
can derail anyting
and send you into wun ditch.
In da face of dat
no come all bent
and trow your hands up in da air
cause da golden station
is always deah

waiting at da end of da destination.

Deah’s too much power
available in da engine
to not get back on track
and race down dat dream.


Convenient Excuse 
Wit all of your words
you are just hydroplaning
on da asphalt
and choking on da steering wheel.
It’s so ironic
to slide past dat stop sign
and end up ass backwards
near da entrance
of wun dead end street.
Dats wat happens
wen you listen
to da telepathic reasoning

from da sudden alien in your head.

Speeding along
you wuz running from
or trying to justify someting.
Maybe if you had calculated
da mileage wit wun abacus
it would have given you
moa time to tink.
Too late foa dat now—
Wen you shake off da close call
on da rainy highway
you’ll still be intent
on heading
into da opposite direction.                                                  
Stunned and stalled
your shaky hands
reach foa da ignition.
Deah’s wun point
dat you are journeying away from.
To your soon to be
former partner
your explanation
will simply sound

like wun convenient excuse.


About the Poet

Joe Balaz writes in Hawaiian Islands Pidgin (Hawai’i Creole English) and American English.  He is the author of Pidgin Eye, a book of poetry. In July, 2020, Balaz was given the Elliot Cades Award for Literature as an Established Writer.  It is the most prestigious literary award given in Hawai’i. Balaz presently lives in Cleveland, Ohio.



Two Poems by Andrew Hanson

After Caravaggio’s Saint Jerome Writing
This parchment once was a calf dappled in fear but here Jerome extends himself over
the rack while a rose through the ages silently swallows his tight strung skin & read in
the red folds letters made of a madder plant the words of a slave suffering above him in
the faint slivers of widening light sliced with a knife that flays no mistake but dull mutters
like a flame until the cardinal consumes him—


Ars Materiarum
The eddy
that unravels in the air
ahead of us

& the flickering lamp

the wax lemon
that waters a child’s mouth

the control & cadence
of a dump truck driver

the meter of everyman,
woman and myth
that appears like a question

& we wake up
& palm it
under an overpass

where the old beer
of a reaved one
is poured out as a libation

that quenches the concrete
& the faint worm
in the pocket of dirt
on the sidewalk


in the rhythm of

all things


About the Poet

Andrew Hanson is a writer and poet living in Miami, FL, and has been published in the Broadkill Review, the Bookend Review, the Ekphrastic Review, Agony Opera, Thirty West and more.

Two Poems by Zebulon Huset

The Buried Poem

  1. Buried

“The Buried Poem” is a sort of Anti-Erasure poem of my own devising. You start with a short poem or bit of text (I prefer using a famous poem or quote), and without changing the order of the words in the original poem, add in a bunch of your own words in between them to create a brand new, original story or poem that is much longer than the original and is wholly your own, by you, and likely about something entirely different—however should someone want, they would be able to make an erasure poem out of your piece to reveal the original “Buried Poem” that you used as the piece’s impetus/constraint.

The original poem can be something like Rae Armantrout, Sappho, a girl you know on Instagram—the idea is to pick a direction and start running, using the original words as your guideposts, like an open racetracks’s turn markers.

Don’t worry about telling a full story, flash, vignette, even longer poems are good for me. Armantrout’s poems are perfect, because she gives you a solid core that allows you to start running your story in any direction. Ideally, for the purposes of these Buried Poem exercises, if you’re to use one of her poems about a bus, the piece has to use the bus, but its focus shouldn’t be all there, the poem or story should stand up as its own piece aside from the original piece.

  1. Look Closer

“The Buried Poem” is a sort of Anti-Erasure poem of my own devising. You start with a short poem or bit of text (I prefer using a famous poem or quote), and without changing the order of the words in the original poem, add in a bunch of your own words in between them to create a brand new, original story or poem that is much longer than the original and is wholly your own, by you, and likely about something entirely different—however should someone want, they would be able to make an erasure poem out of your piece to reveal the original “Buried Poem” that you used as the piece’s impetus/constraint.

The original poem can be something like Rae Armantrout, Sappho, a girl you know on Instagram—the idea is to pick a direction and start running, using the original words as your guideposts, like an open race tracks’s turn markers.

Don’t worry about if you tell a ‘full’ story—flash, vignette, even longer poems are good for me. Armantrout’s poems are perfect, because she’s a writer that gives you a solid core that allows you to start running your story in any direction. Ideally, for the purposes of these Buried Poem exercises, if you’re to use one of her poems about a bus, the piece has to use the bus, but its focus shouldn’t be all there—that poem or story should stand up as its own piece aside from the original piece.

  1. A Priest’s Blessing

The boats sluiced waves by the Lucille Sound. Brother Clifton—formerly head pontiff at St. Mary’s—stands on the shale hills thinly blanketed by weak soil. He speaks softly to himself and to God: “May the wind blow, may the tide that is entering even now recede at the shoreline and not spill over the lip of our understanding, leave our homes and lives as you carry out your duties, your natural pulse, the wavelengths that you know in and out. May the sky alone remain beyond the reaches of our fingertips, and may we face the strange and shifting mask of fear. May you kiss every droplet of rain, every breath of the wind then release it to us who both accept and reject it, turn from it while glancing over our shoulders certain that if it is your will, you will love us so fiercely that your front and your back disappear and we can never recognize what is the gravity of your love and what is the gravity of our spinning planet. May you open our hearts to your eyes, our lungs to the nurturing water of life beyond unexamined desire, the blanketing water waving forever from the horizon ever inward, and may you, in your glorious innocence and devotion, sail those turgid waters through the sound to us from the unobservable, perfect land—show us the pathway from this to that.”


When Down, Brown Butter

Do not worry about burning the butter,
watch it. Stir it. It will not burn
unless it is your will. You—

control the butter, not the reverse.
It will not look perfect— a thin
layer of particulate will settle—

do not be so easy. The parts may char,
but do not despair. You control the butter.
The world waits on your command.

The clarity inured is clearly tarnished
but there are steps to clarify. One:
sieve the silty solids that’d scorched.

Two: marvel at the ability of butter
to transmogrify—the clear nuttiness it inures
it embraces. Things will get better.


About the Poet

Zebulon Huset is a teacher, writer and photographer living in San Diego. He won the Gulf Stream 2020 Summer Poetry Contest and his writing has appeared in Meridian, The Southern Review, Fence, Atlanta Review & Texas Review among others. He publishes the writing blog Notebooking Daily, edits the journals Coastal Shelf and Sparked, and recommends literary journals at

Two Poems by Thomas Allbaugh


An adjective, everyone knows, is a dandelion,
painting lawns with first grade primary colors
turning to old lady hairs winded to seeds.
How then it becomes that lustrous dance partner
taking more than he gives, luring
like a shivering child or
a gentle man, lying like a
silent killer. Many, in the end,
are the nouns missed.

Taking away even as he adds generous
height or light of day,
or beauty or weight or sound or sight
and smells of nothing when sidled up to, leaves
a world more impoverished,
many are the nouns missed,

In rooms never believed he dares enter,
subject complement or
in Spanish entering
second, after a grander noun,

but in English, coming out “the mean
short order cook,”
all of my writer friends
cut off the head, send them all

single and alone
where the whole category awaits the return
of early spring where, taught
by second grade teachers as
good description, dandelions across the lawn,
many are the nouns that are

This is the staying power, hope eternal,
all flowers are weeds until
they are pretty, all mortal men great leaders,
all revving engines and lucky fools silent dead,
intelligent babies going
where many the nouns
sometimes go,
Many are the nouns
that are missed.


Boundary Grief: Toward another String Theory

I look across at the lobby
and wonder what I am doing meeting
new acquaintances. I should be in
an asylum meeting Napoleon Buonaparte or
JFK and they should help me plot
an escape. Instead, as usual near this
abyss you left to us, I balance a tea
and reason in pop psychology
with someone again who has never met you—there are
more of them these days, but you
do come up again, into present tense again
into the day I am forced back into
seeing you as a balloon floating away
because she talks you into an artifact
and asks, “Was he

Blinded with a grief no one sees, I listen to her
“He must have been. Suicides often are.”
Well I never thought you were, but were you?
In a few night dreams you have appeared
as your eight year old self, bold with
boundaries, running through defenses,
ready to race into walls, leap from ledges.

Always, this comes when I try to tell
that you lived, that you did this and that, that you stood
there on the edge. This is the model,
installed as she says, this new acquaintance,
all analysis, no rhyme, for my new day dream,
You the balloon
on long string,
the wind keeping you up
where the string may not hold,

to make me think. You’ve appeared
in dream far off shore, a small elementary boy,
with long dark hair, bobbing to your chin
in the tide far from the rest of us treading
the same water close to shore
and away from us, in calm deceptions of broad

in the dream
this is what I hear and see, you all out there,
the swells slow but there.

And though
you may rise at first, it only happens that you must
fall to earth. A last boundary
must be kept.


About the Poet
Thomas Allbaugh is the author of a novel, Apocalypse TVSubtle Man Loses His Day Job and Other Stories, and The View from January, a chapbook of his poetry. His work has appeared in a number of publications, including River Heron Review, Broken Sky 67 and Relief. He is professor of English at Azusa Pacific University, where he teaches composition and creative writing

Two Poems by Matt Cariello

Misreading Keats
This living hand, now worn to bone, now bent
to steel, would, if it were cold and in
the icy silence of the tomb, so haunt the days
and chill the dreaming nights that science made
(taking an hour from the end of the day
and stitching it to the evening, and saying
time was saved), that thou would wish
thine own heart dry of blood: so my heart
at the edge of the red-burnished wood,

so this hand would be better than any heart,
love stitched on the lace of my veins,
so in those veins my life might stream again.
And so be conscience-calmed. And bend.
I hold it toward you, the hand in the hand.


The machinery of the garbage truck delights me,
the whine of the gears, the strain of the engine
toward the next stop in the alley. I stand there,
amazed at the way the men who follow that truck
allow it to perform, the careful clicking thread
of the cable that lifts my refuse to the open cavity
that accepts all, that takes and takes again
without a single complaint. My left leg aches.

The spots on my hands are my mother’s hands.
What’s left of my hair is grey. I toss the bags
into the can. When the truck stops to gather
what’s left, I gape in wonder by the gate, strain
under the weight that holds me up, stagger.


About the Poet

Matt Cariello’s second book of poems, Talk, won the Lauria/Frasca Prize, and was published in the spring of 2019 by Bordighera Press. His first book, A Boat That Can Carry Two, was published in a bilingual edition in 2011. He’s had stories, poems and reviews published in Voices in Italian AmericanaOvunque Siamo, Poet Lore, Evening Street Review, Modern Haiku, Heron’s Nest, Daily Haiku, Frogpond, Ohioana, The Long Story, Indiana Review, Iron Horse Review, and The Journal, among others. Currently, he’s a senior lecturer in the English department at OSU in Columbus, Oh.

Moxie on My Breath by Jennifer L. Collins

Moxie on My Breath[1]


Before the dark went away:
.        coyote eyes by the wheels of the Corvette you bought,
.        looking for shelter or scraps, warmth maybe;
.        a figure on the porch across the way,
.        cigarette dangling from fingertips, frozen;
.        a child’s crying coming through some window,
.        not here, and not far away;
.        and you, there and snoring,
.        breath shuffling in and out of healthy lungs
.        in the hard ease of our bedroom.

I could have been
shedding off one more layer of skin
and laying out cries as if
they mattered (to you)
or could make it into the night,
out to what else might listen.

From beside you
that first night,
freedom just a step away,
I could have jarred myself
into something more
and heard the yowl of those coyotes
up close, closer,
as I fled
before the dark went away.


Well, there’s no way to tell by that first kiss,
but it’s occurred to me since
that I should have known
sin by the way your
fingers pressed
into my biceps and curled rather than caressed,
grew cold rather than hot.

Feelings amputated from my heart
long before you found me:
.           the pink of innocent affection
.           waiting still for lust;
.           the newly green envy of fascination
.           wanting more of something just glimpsed
.           from a stranger’s eyes;
.           the slimy blue of love.

I didn’t think of love like grease then,
slick and dangerous and willing
to fall, but
I could have, in blinking neon,
if I’d paid more attention
to fingernails dipped in sin
and already haunting (me).

But, well, there’s no way to tell by that first kiss.


Dear stars, Dear God, Dear fates and fashions
and whirlwind, drifting clouds that slide in white
across the sky and invite dreams:
.           I prayed to you, I wished to you,
.           I dreamed to you.
.           I thought of love and I whispered
.           my heart out of my veins
.           in hopes that he’d catch the gore
.           and pull it back into strains of worth,
.           thinking on your guidance
.           to make his hands pure.
.           You didn’t answer, and I didn’t ask, but
.           I should have before I prayed and wished
.           and wondered hard—
.           Does he, or this, I’m asking now,
.           change the course of rivers
.           to pain your fates,
.           or pollute the moon and stars?

I saw the night blurred by gin and hurt by the past,
and I thought it was all of you
when it was him, who may
as well now be you,
you dear stars, fates, fashions, or gods, the same.


Heartbreaker, backbreaker,
mindbreaker, dreambreaker—
you’re the world I thought of,
torn by shrapnel and played into my bloodstream
like a fleeting stray’s call
into the darkness.

I could have anchored down the bedsheets
with nails instead of folded moments
and better found my way,
breathing space into the world between us
with hardened kernels
of what passed for love (between us).

Did you think about that?
That I might have, I might have:
.           paced out my attachment
.           so that you couldn’t hold
.           my breath in your palms
.           staccato and pounding
.           like you did for so long.
I might have, I might have:
.           caught you instead
.           and made my will
.           something more special
.           and mystified, worth
.           quoting and pounding
.           upon into the night
.           without it ever
.           wavering or turning
.           beneath your skill.
Even if I didn’t,
I might have,
and you mightn’t have wondered
at the fact that I survived,
dreambreaker, mindmaker, heartbreaker.


I hear that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace
and that peace can adulterate the night
till there’s nothing left,
and you’ve taught me the same.

I think, sometimes, I see your eyes,
your motherfucking eyes
crowning the shadows around our space
with corneas that glow against mine
and triangulate space
and tell me in another language
that the night belongs to the two of us
when we take it together,
and to nobody (when we’re apart).

And sometimes I wonder
if you, my calming Satan,
are little more than peace:
.           wrapped up and coddled
.           into collusion with dead dreams,
.           pushing me to quiet
.           what I used to be (so?)
.           you can keep holding
.           what used to be mine
.           for better or worse,
.           better or worse,
.           stained or created.

Curled between you and the coyotes’ eyes,
you and the stranger’s cigarette,
you and an infant’s screaming cries,
it’s hard to define freedom
without gasping
for breath I’m no longer so
sure is mine.

But I hear that Satan sometimes comes as a man of peace.


I can see gods and their neighbors,
angels peeking downward
through our windows and blinds
as if to check in (like you do),
.           They don’t make nothing here no more
.           like what used to come
.           out between them,
.           this love and that
.           what used to be something
.           here.

And, what’s worse, I can lie
down in your shadow
and think them wrong,
those gods and angels seeing us.


Blood on my knuckles and streaming
down from blisters borne again(st)
the world and reddening
your palm by mine,
with moxie on my breath
and your lips (again)st my ear,
there’s a way to pretend
that this pretense is a dream made world
I sought out myself
without succor or help from
any Satan, any angel, any danger, any you.

The world could come to an end
tonight, but that’s alright
if you say it is so
and pull me in for a goodbye (bite)
of something more than love
since, let’s be honest,
what we’ve always had
is more like a swan’s scream
mourning the last freshwater pond
that might have been.

But what you’re doing here:
.           is what I’m doing here,
.           playing porcelain dolls that can’t break
.           dancing away from concrete
.           and into crockpots slow-roasting
.           lovesongs into blues rhythms
.           that’ll dream about heaven
.           while making love
.           in hell
.           or
.           somewhere we can be
.with blood on my dreams and streaming.


An easy demand in the middle of this darkness,
when I tell you out of the fire,
Don’t fall apart on me tonight.
When I tell you, from beside you in the dark:
.           I’m not the me I was
.           who you found
.           but I am yours
.           and this is the best (love) song
.           I can do,
.           if it’ll do
and if you
don’t fall apart on me tonight.

[1] In each section of this poem, one line (or two) comes from the song on Bob Dylan’s Infadels which accompanies each stanza in number.

About the Poet
ennifer L. Collins is a tattooed poet and animal lover who grew up in Virginia and has recently relocated to Cape Coral, FL., where she and her husband have four rescues – one neurotic hound, and three very spoiled cats.  Her poetry has been published in various journals and nominated for a Pushcart by Puerto Del Sol, and she spends her summers as an instructor of creative writing and drama at the Cardigan Mountain School.  Her first chapbook, Oil Slick Dreams, is available for sale from Finishing Line Press.

Two Poems by Ethan Cunningham

Ugly Sweater Story

it came in the mail                   a gift from the wife                 striped like sick zebras
sheep gone ill and florid         woolen and hot but not           quite the right size, she
begs me to wear it to               work, to outings, for               walks in the street, but I
want to vomit                          Christmas                                this is not
under no obligation                 should I wear this                    abortive painting across
my tentative breast.                 fast forward a year                  I wore it once and

scared shitless to be seen        hide behind cubicle walls       obscure the abomination
stretching over poofing arms  “It goes with your eyes”         say the women
“It looks so good on you”       they say                                   are they liars?

or color blind?                         “I wouldn’t be caught dead    in that thing”
the men groan                         “looks like tie-dye                  gone awry”
pack it away                            deep in drawer’s pit                beneath stacks of socks

never again                              will light shine on this            gift from the gods of ugly
until the giver beckons me      wear it again, swallow            my fashion sense shame.
later,  I walk alone on             the street in Kenmore Square  where the hip and chic

count coup and announce       wardrobe prowess in               long confident strides
noses held high and away       from dirty groundlings            then there’s me
no bones of thread artistry      in this whole dumb sack         sidewalk to square

(a triangle, really) divides       like a concrete star                  upon the squares that follow
the blacktop, only he and I     fashionisto and bland me        raptor and pigeon
passing on the wing, wearing the same plumage                   our eyes lock a moment

as if to say                               “I didn’t choose this sweater  help.”

9:15pm, Last Flight to Nashville

It’s a dance through Detroit’s airport             actually I’m running with luggage
muscles emasculated by 13 hours                   of hunger 6 hours of waiting on flights
delayed in some college party town               (they’ll say it’s a storm)
but when I board the big thing                        they’ve run out of beer (it’s complementary)
19-year olds raided the liquor cabinet             to death it seems I’ve been freezing my ass
off in nowhere New York waiting                  watching                     withering
for planes that didn’t come except in             my many fantasies when books batteries ran dry
landing in  De  –  troit  only to discover         all connections to Le Ville de Nash
disturbingly severed by the first flight’s         lateness desperate for nourishment for a
companion to share bitter ironic maybe         witty remarks (if they’re witty) wallowing
in this winter of discontent                             like a sheep sauntering to slaughter in its
own house I wait in zigzagged lines               two hundred people long with only one
axeman executing sheep and another helping (or  not  helping) the same tubby
bald-headed couple for seventy-five              superb minutes and thirty minutes left on the
last flight out and the minutes ticking down   off       and      away into yesterday
forever I consider it                                        sleeping in the terminal
but remember my crisping contact                 lenses desiccating in red-cracked eyes
I’ll have to get rid of them then                      navigate Motor City while driving blind

The crowd stirs restless   a woman                 angry talks at her kid with cusses for the
predicament she’s in   desperate                     dying to leave but afraid of losing my
two-hour spot I grab a working woman         passing by and beg for help
her eyes look at me like a starving                 Ethiopian wasting to sticks awaiting a ticket
to the States she slips me a secret                   number in a huddled exchange and five
minutes later she snatches a spot                    at 9:09pm                    boarding one minute ago
a quarter mile away    somehow                     I reach the gate to freedom
runway lights like pulsing diamonds              fallen through a torn night pocket left scattered
on the slate tarmac for the long-nosed            birds to solely subsist upon (this strict diet of
paying passengers only to shit them out         somewhere else for some other bird to suck up
incestuous       pornographic               take     your pick) we lift off thrust into fluffed sky
strewn with cotton candy colors                     and away         into the dark    night
one last flight              to Nashville                 9:19pm            free   at   last.

About the Poet
Ethan Cunningham’s short works appear in print, on-screen, and on the stage. Most recently, his publications include pieces in Abstract Elephant, New Plains Review, and Topical Poetry. Although we live in uncertain times, his hope is that each of us can find comfort in discovering the universality of the human experience through poetry.

Two Poems by Tom Barlow

Twelve Examples of Liberosis
“Liberosis-The desire to care less about things.”
from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, John Koenig

1. Our cat refuses to sit on my lap. Wanders just outside my reach. Gnaws on my Air Jordans. Hearts should never break this way.

2. As a child, while others prayed for the rapture I prayed for the ability to turn invisible. We were all quite disappointed.

3. I excel at raising weeds. They require so little competence compared to those prissy vegetable seeds.

4. Any day now, I expect to find discount coupons from morticians in my sack of donuts.

5. At six, I learned to never trust anyone enough to play on the seesaw with them.

6. I grew so angry when I saw knees on throats on NBC that I quit watching the news. As far as I know, this doesn’t happen anymore.

7. When I oversleep I often wonder what I’ve missed, while I often wish I’d slept through that which I did not miss.

8. I bury my beef in a bun to muffle the sound of the feed lots.

9. That bastard in the panel truck just cut me off. Luckily, I predicted this would happen by reading his bumper sticker as he passed.

10. We are two, but five refugee families could live in a house our size. We recently built an addition for the extra elbow room.

11. Those characters in books don’t deserve my affection when I don’t even love the Rohingya.

12. I don’t have enough money. You don’t have enough money. Nobody has enough money. Lay me to rest in an Amazon box.

“Ringlorn- the wish that the modern world felt
as epic as the one depicted in old stories and folktales…”
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, John Koenig

I am ringlorn since the day I picked up Tolkien,
since the day I thought I spotted a glass slipper
in the trash, since the time I read about the boy who
trades his Harley for a handful of magic beans.

I confess my kiss has woken no princess, though
I have rescued a young maiden from her parent’s house
in Dayton, Ohio, and we have lived quite happily
ever after. No wolf has threatened to blow down

our house, but there was a derecho that sent our
porch umbrella soaring like Dorothy and her little dog.
We haven’t caught sight of any dragons either, so the kids
believe they are nothing but television hokum: ditto for ghosts.

Lastly, I have yet to stumble upon a damn sword in a
damn rock, though, if there had been one, I’m sure Disney
would have extracted it with a crane already and built a
theme park around it. Yes, I am ringlorn right down

to my worthless fingertips, from which no magic
has ever emanated, despite my prayers. All they do
of an afternoon is feed the cats, brew coffee and
turn more lying pages.

About the Poet
Tom Barlow is an Ohio writer of poetry, short stories and novels.  My work has appeared in journals including PlainSongs, Ekphrastic Review, Voicemail Poetry, Hobart, Tenemos, Redivider, Aji, The New York Quarterly, The Remington Review, Aurora Review, and many more. See more at