Two Poems by Claudia M. Stanek

Ars Poetica

A kettle boils for lemon tea, its scent
remembered like the chalk
dust of grammar lessons
on a thundery afternoon.
Words steep into endless
weeks of punctuation and run-on
sentences left to boil themselves dry.
But tea is less beverage
than act of literate poise
better kept to the ceremonial.
Lemon dresses it. With a twist,
all is solved in the tongue of ritual.
Do not ask whose tongue.
Do not ask whose ritual.
Do not dilute lemon tea with milk.
Add sweetener, if you like.
It remains lemon tea.


Transparent Language

When you raise your eyes
To the punctuated sky, you see
Letters of all scripts, scattered
In mock collage.

When you shield your eyes
From the glory of the sun, you see
The random spatter of the words
That matter most on your palm.

When your eyes no longer see
Anything but a mist of light,
The magnifier that should illumine
Sentences will brand your hand.

When you wish you had never
Known sight, you will listen
For transparent clauses
But hear the lonely Braille of “I.”


About the Poet
Claudia M. Stanek’s chapbook, Language You Refuse to Learn, was a co-winner of Bright Hill Press’s 2013 annual contest. Her work has appeared in Bitterzoet, Ithaca Lit, Sweet Tree Review, Redactions, and Ruminate, among others. In 2010 Claudia was awarded a Writer’s Residency in Bialystok, Poland, where her work has been translated into Polish. Her poem “Housewife” was selected for a commissioned libretto by Judith Lang Zaimont for the Eastman School of Music’s 2009 Women in Music Festival. She holds an MFA from Bennington College. Claudia lives among the birches in East Rochester, NY with her rescued pets.

Two Poems by Heikki Huotari

The Stationary Point
a                                                                                                                         after reading Psalm 23

There needs to be a magic minimum because at both the end and the beginning there’s an infinite accrual and, God-given, it’s continuously differentiable. My enemies will envy me when I have table manners in their one-horse town, with knives and forks galore, what’s this one for, and manna only of my own.


Blind Spot

Hats do not just happen. Hats are caused by some one or some thing. The uncorrected full moon is a rosary, the rosary the opposite of entropy, the entropy the car of which the clowns do not come out. The muted trumpet plays a one-night, one-note samba, plays it soft. Some optic nerve you have – on endorsing one conceivable interpretation you’re implicitly dismissing all the others.


About the Poet
Heikki Huotari is a retired professor of mathematics. In a past century, he attended a one-room country school and spent summers on a forest-fire lookout tower. His poems appear in numerous journals, recently in Spillway and Diagram, he’s the winner of the 2016 Gambling the Aisle chapbook contest, and his first book, Fractal Idyll, will be published by After The Pause Press in Fall 2017.

Two Poems by Peter Grimes

Pillow Talk

He recalls another clothes-captured primal scene
of dream: he being he and she not she, they shrug
off their skins. For sure it’s what he wants
from others, what each one can’t give being she, he
needing others. For shame. Yet her underclothes read
the same. A clipped hedge like a lipless friend,
shaped in the high beams at driveway’s end, his icy
car sliding home. Tonight he greets the shrub,
pruned over a cavern to mimic fear, a duck,
raccoons rinsing claw-punctured apples, a grackle,
the topiarist gloats. When did she decide
the design of her groin? He crouches inside her
thighs, his prize spouting a tiny message—
preliterate mouse seeks friend, house for moving in.                      
Or through. No object of marvel, abject, half-
larval, he descends the hole toward the oldest place.
What are dreams but seizure, wings batting his craft,
a spaceship placebo, through wood and wormhole, trapped
and shuddering in cumuli of doubt, out
to land beside that same bed-warm human? Still
life. He flips on the mounted light, squints as he reads,
my wife. Garden of my shame, always it is you.


In Decision

I love all a little too plenty.
I’m like a plain sandwich fingered by mustard,
such density has me prancing, a geometer’s
cousin, struck by beauty others wrought

at random. It seems I cannot write mother,
who languishes daily in saloons,
her hair put up in cowboy couplets, without
begging for re-birth, a second
son. It seems my song is renowned
among the lowly, fingers crusted with spite
for a grip on the moment. I sing milk crates
lowing in the field, frog ponds spilling

into streams of you. The point of you,
perched in Spanish Influence, that Kingdom
of Kentuck, twenty-three miles and counting
pylons, as though they were planets


of the Sun. There is a grammar I cannot
parse, parched lips I suck. I speak
in mowing pitches of well-sown grass,
of waves, the lawn of landless ships.


About the Poet

Peter Grimes is an assistant professor of English at Dickinson State University. His fiction has appeared in numerous journals, including Narrative, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Mississippi Review, and Sycamore Review.

Three poems by Lana Bella

Today, she broke hard bread with
hands of need; breaths caverned
sugar pills beneath diphthongs;
cloven teeth piped of slumbering
toxicity. Alone, she hurt in fierce
company of a Milwaukee winter;
its salient plane carried pale over
the svelte heights of her wooden
house on stilts, taking the shape
of goblin wings. Held and rasping,
she expelled a shock of mist from
red-scorching cheroot, sidling past
the running chatter of wine with-
out purchase, weaving where hem-
lock walls exploded in yellow lines
of her life blazed in domestic script.


Red-Lace Dress
The shadows won’t have
anything for her this evening.
But, the woman in red lace
dress turned fair beneath
the dissonant chords of pale
Paris, like bleached penne.
Fingers raised to rouge-edge
undertone, lips devoured
pochette motes at the Louvre,
inviolable as the grief she
tried to starve into a swallow
glass. Tracing wrist where
scars kissed ribbed and easy,
she burned cold suffocation
until the knuckles swept
concrete, magnificently bent,
where ash of a slim Gauloises
felled as bright as mercury
through the grate, terribly still.


You thought of Eve near the sea
and heard the first blue line
train sparked to a stop.
You saw her with a Chilean sky,
charquican writhed in the pot,
comforted the dark-creased
hands from reaching out,
reaching for the rosewood box
of her baby boy’s ash. Sand dug
in eyes, cherubic refrains
tarred with spaces of his wake;
stilted fingers rose like darkness
perching, in strands the color
of felled leaves, reflecting grey in
the gleam of goose fat. Torn
from early pages of solemnized
years, you dreamed of the sealed
room in that house, of Eve’s
plaited hair spilled white like
poplar in seeding, every unslept
night kissed her at the temple,
turned up now as artifacts
for keep, where elegy consented
to smooth black the scenery.


About the Poet
Lana Bella is a four-time Pushcart Prize, five-time Best of the Net, & Bettering American Poetry nominee. She is an author of three chapbooks, Under My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016), Adagio (Finishing Line Press, 2016), and Dear Suki: Letters (Platypus 2412 Mini Chapbook Series, 2016). She has had poetry and fiction featured with over 450 journals, Acentos Review, Comstock Review, EVENT, Ilanot Review, Notre Dame Review, Rock & Sling, The Lampeter Review, The Stillwater Review, and Aeolian Harp Anthology, Volume 3.

Convolitions 2 by Kit Wienert

Convolitions 2
(Escapes and Attitudes)

Escape artists and
Copped attitudes

Wield forms of speech
That sound like they

Say or mean something
Worth repeating or

Unwittingly intuitive
Such as “Forgive me for

Speaking out of turn
But my bus just left

For downtown Milwaukee
And now I’m stranded

On its outskirts, no escaping.”
It’s true that I’ve since decided

To shut down feeling
In my unresponsive side

While what I think drifts
Up and away as the constant

Whiz and whir of traffic
Rushing by tears my hair,

Twists my neck, and numbs
My butt, which makes this

Fake injustice just another
Unknowable but inescapable

Attitude adjustment of
Battered body left behind.


About the Poet
Kit Wienert is a Chapel Hill poet whose latest book is Analogs of Eden. His out-of-print chapbooks include The Everywhere ProvinceThe Love UnitIncidental Musics and FictionsIdylls and Admonitions, and Doctrines of the Moment. His poems and other writings have appeared in The Lampeter MuseCredencesTellusThe PearlExquisite CorpseOyster Boy Review, and North Carolina Literary Review, as well as in the anthologies Sparks of Fire: William Blake in a New Age and Gathering Voices.

Two Poems by David Tuvell

Forward Plain


Begins as breath. Titter, sniffle.
The little voice. Unabridged, sans serif.


Dress it pretty, then. Skirt, bonnet.
Hushed as a comely girl.
Have her sit, play “Für Elise.”
A tidy scene, like a sentence
without vowels. Craft clarinets,
not whistles, my pet.
Music, not screaming.
Nothing is painful between the knobs,
crags of consonants.
How lovely, flutters and tumults
under an airtight veil.
The bride to be. Or,
what your bride might be.
Depending on tradition.


Sinuous, the hours.
Differences of tree and fruit
cradle days: nervous
grenadiers without targets.
Panic greets a whoosh, another
voice, around a kindled wick.
Frenetic cull of beastly
sounds, common threads. Fuses,
not clothes. Braided
lengths of pity, like absolution.


The blank pages welcome
any big bang: howling, breathy
charges, or calmly packed dummies,
birthing quiet, loose anatomies.


I hope you never come down,
from so high up on life’s stage.
The audience applauds any show
that pities sin’s lavish wages.

I hope you never come down
from what a pretty face I have,
and how I’ll just be handed
all the things you never had.

I hope you never come down,
again, long enough to feel
that piled-up need to butcher meat
until it looks the way you feel.

I hope you never come down,
so I’ll always feed you sugar,
ant-infested—plus a laugh—
for your diabetic coma.

About the Poet
David Tuvell has written poems appearing, or forthcoming, in Coe Review, Easy Street, Minetta Review, Mud Season Review, New Orleans Review, Steel Toe Review, and other publications. His Bachelor of Arts in English comes from Kennesaw State University, and he also studied substantially at the University of Florida. Outside of poetry, David’s path has been quite various, and he has made his way through things like information science, information technology, and labor.

Two Poems by Judith Skillman

Field of Statice
In July the bright ones come
from the ground.
Stars on rented stalks
cover strings of silver
strewn by elven-folk
who live for but a day.

Tell me any color—
sea lavender,
limonium, marsh-rosemary—
I tell you l believe
in any memory
come from water.

A sky full of foam,
a fire burning
down the hatchery,
that’s the madness of July.
Give me the herb,
the everlasting calyx.

Dry me a bouquet
and quiet the wind.
Let night put out
even the boldest blues,
the most outrageous purples
and dissolute creams.


The Jacarandas
I left them
on boulevards,
veiled figures wresting
purples from the earth,
the breeze stirring
a kind of trouble.

I left them
as I left my youth—
a memory vivid only
in dream. I left
with my fingers
crossed behind
my back, the countryside
dry and golden
or simply brown,
ready to catch fire
with the first strike
of lightning, the cigarette
thrown from an open window.

I left my inks
there as well,
and the pens. If you don’t
believe me there are stories
of other women
equally bereft.

About the Poet

Judith Skillman’s recent book is Kafka’s Shadow, Deerbrook Editions, 2017. Came Home to Winter is forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions later this year. Her poems have appeared in journals including PoetryFIELD, Cimarron Review, Shenandoah, and in anthologies including Nasty Women Poets, Lost Horse Press. She has been a writer in residence at the Centrum Foundation, and is the recipient of a 2017 Washington Trust GAP grant. Visit www.judithskillman.comjkpaintings.com


Two Poems by Eric Fisher Stone

Laika the Space Dog

Alone, she entered an abyss
bejeweled with blue giant suns,
white dwarfs, black holes, quasars
and nebulae like clouds of gnats
in the deep, the clockwork spin
of galactic arms across all dreams
as Laika, the Soviet space dog
was launched into heaven
for the Motherland and reached
the tonnage of night without food
or water and died, memories stirring
of chasing fireflies through sweet grass,
her hot breath lost beyond worlds,
Earth’s scent wisped to her brain
until her last thoughts began:

Look, there’s a darkness
and the blue globe is dimming.
I wish I could take the Earth in my mouth
and run with it across the stars
where my grave is laid in a bed of stars.

Here without hares or foxes
life is bigger and blacker
than I thought it could be, my paws
like wings floating in this gray car
where I’ll die lonelier than snakes
and drown in night’s deep river,
crossing the boundaries of touch
without stone or soil to walk on.

People sent me to the forever
where no flowers open smells,
only glittering specks blossom
and sleeping I dream of dogs
running over glaciers, chewing antelope,
chasing shaggy brown beasts, their tusks
like sharpened moons—I carry
my kind’s history to the end of ends.

Howling towards shadows’ outer layers
my ghost is fleeing to the world.

Dying I will come back, Yes, I’ll taste
tender air and amber sunlight
back from immensity. I’ll climb
the rainbow’s stairs earthward
back to green shoots and streets
cobbled with hardness, back from the timeless
seabed of space to the churning ground. Back.


Poem for Bobby Fischer: 1943-2008

Nothing soothes pain like human touch—Fischer’s reported last words

The universe scrolled on, stars like spurs
in heaven and northbound geese swept
over Reykjavik where he played
C4 for the first move of game six
and where he died bearded and schizoid
as King Lear, an anti-Semite loved
by his Jewish mother. At fourteen
he was the American chess champion,
a high school dropout, and afraid
the government read his thoughts
through tooth fillings. Yet

he stood like a kraken risen
above white whales drumming in the deep,
a god rounding islands with his will
while galaxies burn and wheel
their dreaming work on his grave raging
Icelandic poppies from the earth,
the sun’s wellspring soaking glaciers,
his rooks, knights, kings and bishops dance

in memory, before we, like all
who lived, wither heroically
vulnerable in our last nights
while our tears rust into frost
and the ocean rolls over its deep bed of stones.

About the Poet

Eric Fisher Stone lives in Fort Worth, Texas where heI graduated from Texas Christian University and work at a PetSmart. He is an incoming graduate student at Iowa State University’s MFA in Writing and Environment. His poetry has appeared most recently in Borderlands: Texas Poetry ReviewZetetic: A Record of Unusual InquiryEunoia ReviewNew Mexico ReviewUppagusYellow Chair ReviewTurtle Island Quarterly and Third Wednesday.

Two Poems by Richard King Perkins II

Our Dear Creatures

The morning before the first faith, light is moving pharmacologically;
you choose not to consider the furniture;
the earth gives fever to our enclosure/forgets to breathe— uneasily
the chest that expels the sparkless ruin abandons itself to visible:
we’ve found the aftertaste of condemnation pinioned
around the dripping framework of delicate and venial knives;
of our thoughts replaying a Nehru blazer in velvet paisley blue,
fitted— neck loosely collared like guilty fondness in the backyard—
you discover chicken-wire, the first thoughts of incarceration,
footprints of giants permanently cast. We grope for veins of pleasure,
blindly exchanged like last night’s eventual riches,
protected by small nests slithering across botanical sand rifts
hoping to make sex and crazy babies together but it seems we both doubt
the motility of such sounds/waiting to be plucked like strange florets;
our dear creatures retreat/to later skulk back; don’t mention the position
of earth— foreign lands may sometimes obscure your guerilla vision
removing surest eyes/ I’m a smiling hostage to my own checkered plan,
an event dismissed by the greater requirements of background love;
outside the oppression of lubricant the world runs more loudly,
unwilling to do anything more than arouse without coming any closer:
in a stillness; we struggle to subconsciously/reveal translucent fruit
and optical crown, wearing the ribald face of shredded decency,
the curl and forward bend of your intimate body harshly maintained
by rejecting the wanderings of rogue surface waves running deeply.


Velvet Wolves

Inside you are two loves—

composed of velvet wolves
and predictable visibility
sinking beyond all inclination.

In the bleak museum
hundreds of feet within you

we spend hours leaning
beneath the rockabilly shirts
and mistaken claims

the pictures you refuse to return.

This sounds like a harpsichord—
whatever it is that’s going on between us

silk and gabardine fit perfectly
the duality
of our confused history

until a polar swarm
cuts across our branch-swept path.

Love is jealous of every other creature

real or imagined,
that dares to share its name.

About the Poet
Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.

Two Poems by Kristina Mottla

Tending by Succulents

Aloe, sedum, fox tail agave,
painted echeveria
and their baby-plump cheeks,
their water-storing tissues,
a hillside tutorial on thriving
sunbeam-leashed or less.
Hardihood, longevity, reaction, analysis,
I see them coat the fat like rind,
the veins a secret trailing
my lifeline and pinned thorn-point
inward. Drying out to the brink,
pushing blooms through
near loss, I will only think the name.

On a hike I never venture—
rattlers under rock—
spiny glimmer, green satin, pearly
tips, sleek skin, warm center, swollen
flesh strike love pierce my chest
like primal life and make of me
a desert.


The Overlook

Rail-side, people bend
like angle rulers to ogle
the lower-stream fish rush
and its fleet of fins
and its snippets of shimmer
baiting the river to rise
halfway and offer more,

or they scan the landscape
as if it were Atlantis
dug up and displayed
so that some eyes fill and others
fall somber. One fan twitpics it
“not a fiction, but true”

Skyward, flocks of chatter
dive through blue
as a larger bird swallows
its distant kin,

wings, beaks, feet pushing

off canyon like fog

on a panorama settling up.


About the Poet

Kristina Mottla’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Barrow StreetBarnstormHartskill ReviewPotomac Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook On Either Side of Rain (FLP) released in 2017.