Three Poems by Thomas Swiss

In Hospital
Your mischief subtracted,
Your temper withdrawn,
You lifted, at last, your hand.
Wounded, you were cartoonish:
An alley cat waving a kerchief.

Warehouse District
In a light rain we stopped at Moose & Sadies
And drank tea and talked for hours.
I watched the riders go over the river
When you took a call from work.
In the kitchen, someone turned on Pandora.
Bowie’s “Heroes” played.
FedEx rolled up. A bus pulled in.

Pedal Pub
A centipede in traffic with a bar on its back
Motored by barelegged girls.

Exotic in Minneapolis,
But not so glamorous inching past Mike’s Plumbing.

Under the stadium and over to Hennepin,
An almost invertebrate biomass trailing a slop of lager.

About the Poet
Thomas Swiss is author of two books of poems, Measure and Rough Cut. He is the editor or co-editor of books on popular music, including Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (U Minnesota, 2009), as well as books on new media literature, including New Media Poetics: Contexts, Technotexts, and Theories (MIT Press, 2006).

Three Poems by William Doreski

Like Jonah
As you look up at me with eyes
the color of Christmas I fail
from neck down, each organ clenched.
My dead parents approve. Their faces
have gone adrift, but in the rain
the flux of rubber on asphalt
invokes a dozen holiday trips
with gifts rattling in brittle wrap
and the dog so excited we stop
to let her vomit by the roadside.

They approve of your crescent smile,
your cast-iron hairdo, your love
of books too intense for pleasure.
They’re glad my organs misfunction
in your presence, glad the sidewalks
cough up earthworms in the dusk,
glad that in the restaurant the waitress
mistakes us for the famous couple
that reserved the corner table.

The distance swims in the corners
of your bottle-brown gaze. I’m sick
with envy of your clever stance
that braces the earth against you
rather than you against the earth.
But seated with white wine smirking
in fragile stemware we devolve
into that public conversation
that always spoils the local effect.

Someday we’ll brush against each other
in a scorch of displaced neutrons,
but not tonight, not with dozens
of strangers wallowing around us,
my dead parents acting fond,
and the waitress distraught because
she mistook us for celebrities.

The rain slathers on the windows.
We peer through our wineglasses
at each other and take great comfort
in distortions that distance us
like Jonah self-contemplating
at the bottom of the world.

Haunted Men’s Room
In the haunted men’s room the feet
of the dead man remain visible
to anyone who peers under

the door of the toilet stall.
This keeps half of the office staff
in a state of constipation.

You think that’s funny. Physicians
all over America agree
that the hazard of haunted toilets

is a serious health issue
the government ought to address.
Sometimes the plumbing shudders

in gray tones so depressing
computers go blank, ballpoints wilt,
and vital documents blur with tears.

Sometimes the entire staff, men
and women alike, falls asleep
at their desks and dreams that stones

intone King James rhetoric
in memory of vital fluids
we shed without remorse. You laugh

because the dead man when whole
and not merely a pair of feet
was the husband you downloaded

from an online dating site.
Tiring of him, you outsourced
his sexual function so he lost

his third dimension and died. His ghost
hasn’t completely faded
because you keep a photo beside

the bed where you freely exercise.
I’m not afraid of those feet,
but prefer to cross the road

to the Dunkin’ Donuts men’s room
where truckers and lumberjacks
combing their hair and washing their paws

frighten off with large hairy laughter
any ghost that fogs the mirror
and threatens to wrinkle their gaze.

Between Germany and Poland
The gap between Germany
and Poland is no wider
than the part in your hair. Rain sifts
fact from fiction. You linger
over coffee brewed to rival
jet fuel. You insist that Google
Maps no longer include
townships abandoned when cops
smashed down the doors to nab
anyone who voted Democrat.
You claim that the waiter who served
your bowl of mussels wore
spywear and looked sideways to catch
your profile cast in shadow.
I argue over my salad
that coefficients don’t apply
to factors based on the human.
You, with more serious math,
have cubed the effects of poverty
squared by terror. I can’t count
that high. Not enough fingers
and toes. Puddles in the street catch
glimpses of another world
and display them to pedestrians
splashing to the nearest bar.
We snuggle into our booth
and pretend the Second World War
doesn’t apply to us. The waiter
minces to our table and snatches
your credit card, presses it
to his heart. More black coffee
would cure us of the trembling
that always occurs at the border
between German and Poland—
the grumble of tanks displaced
by the angst of digestion,
the overcast of your gaze.

About the Poet
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and teaches at Keene State College. His most recent book of poetry is The Suburbs of Atlantis (2013). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals.

Two Poems by John Michael Flynn

A Daughter’s Safety, A Father’s Patience
A weary magpie
he blankets her from afar.

Dusk thickens
remembered promises.
He wants to tell her
he’s lived, died, become –

Vespers of rain begin,
sweeten the air
as he keeps to his vigil
knowing they’ll go inside when she says so.

He’d forgotten such rains
don’t alarm the playful.

Splinter, Rail, Couch
Like Ichabod Crane’s pumpkin,
like Yogi Berra’s mitt in need of oil
skin cracks boils and petrifies
until textured into horrid extremes.

You like to think you accept this, but you hold on
to smoother treacle-like notions of your face
as a once elegant strand fit for an impressionistic
rendering complete with Sunday picnickers and parasols.

Fading while falling out of the exploding regions
in your corporeal terrain and its various war zones
you raid your heedless senates and caterwauling closets
full of faddish cream-potions, antiseptics and unguents.

You hear again each dawn in the wake of your insomnia
those chases, provocations and longings that have defiled you,
each one like a beloved aunt dead and buried
that you’ve got a picture of but have never met.

Some sing of surfaces as realms and this offends you
as over-simplified, dishonest, deceptive.
You ask what it is about surfaces and stark associations –
what you bring to them and how they stir fires within.

For you, there are no realms, no frosted glass fantasies.
You open your eyes or else you slam another door.
There is the muck, silk, steel and played-out edges of self-knowledge.
The dream-fever train never stops. You ride or else you get off.

About the Poet
John Michael Flynn, a resident of central Virginia,  is currently an English Language Fellow with the US State Department, teaching English in Khabarovsk, Russia. His most recent poetry collection, Keepers Meet Questing Eyes (2014) is available from Leaf Garden Press (www.leafgardenpress.com). Find him on the web at www.basilrosa.com.

Austin Seventies by Janet McCann

Austin Seventies
and we are at the Sweet Pecan Cafe
sitting on outdoor tables leaning toward
the country singers up front and jumping around in the back
of the whole enterprise are rats! Waiter says
we can’t do anything about them so
we toss them our chips

now a poet reads about the
military-industrial complex which we hate
and will get rid of soon and we don’t ever see it all
coming, these little cafes all torn down
and the big dark buildings going
up and Starbucks instead of
this place we love

all we can see is happy rats
dancing and we throw them
our chips

About the Poet
Janet McCann is a crone poet who has been teaching creative writing at Texas A&M since 1969.  Journals publishing her work include Kansas Quarterly, Parnassus, Nimrod, Sou’Wester, Christian Century, Christianity And Literature, New York Quarterly, Tendril, Poetry Australia, and Mccall’s, among many others.  She is a 1989 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship winner and Professor of English. Her most recent collection is The Crone at the Casino from Lamar University Press, 2013.

Ode to a Bruise by Kathryn Hujda

Ode to a Bruise
The olive edges mark the outer limits
of the blood galaxy rising on my thigh –
like nebulous gases,
combusting in untouchable space,
my skin is bejeweled with magenta planetesimals
orbiting in otherwordly indigos.

Oh small contusial universe,
the pressures at your conception
astound me.

About the Poet
Kathryn Hujda is a performing artist and keeper of cultural memory working in the Twin Cities. Her poems have appeared in Stone Path Review and Hermeneutic Chaos Journal.

Two Poems by Frederick Pollack

Pentecost
The verb unite, from some lost manifesto,
has drawn them here. But there’s no sign
they will, or can: glaring, or attitudinizing
within themselves and carefully deadpan.
Some, at the lights, decide,
almost together, there’s light enough
from the windows, which are too high
to show anything but normal spiteful sky.
Others attempt to find a working plug
for the coffeemaker; then,
failing, observe the grey
tiles and chairs with their ambience of AA,
and each other. There’s no unity
where no one leads, and I
(thinks each of them) can’t. Won’t.
I have responsibilities. I keep
things going, to one bad end or another;
my role is not to choose but to regret.

So they sit and desultorily discuss
position papers, of which no two copies,
however, seem identically worded.
Someone has slipped up, or devolved
responsibility to the point there is none.
At the end of the long table joined
from smaller tables, someone’s mind
wanders. He’s a believer,
but worries whether after
so many years he can still shovel
energy and hope through a hole in the sky.
Could decide that ethics emerge by themselves,
or let them go … A woman mourns
(though no new furrow breaks her face)
how no one will now look at her;
urges herself to find
more interest in events like this,
a way through dry ideas to drier peace.

And one who has just sung a long,
detailed, heartfelt, humane and obsolete
aria finds his attention
drifting through the question period,
which also drifts. He recalls, perhaps, a sled.
Or the sled from a classic film.
In either case an object he once rode.
Remembers love, ideals, long-past
or never quite forthcoming afternoons.
Outside, a sullen rain begins.
Consensus builds towards lights.
The wall, however colorless, behind
each face creates a figure-ground
anomaly. Loose contacts, cut
and tangled wires yearn
for outright ruin or repair;
the sensitive are sensitive to this
and wonder which will be decided here.

The Maid
Sonia lives in a plaster mudpie
raisined with German, partisan, Serbian,
and NATO shrapnel and
stained where pipes break.
She works downhill and up another hill
in a glass lozenge
overlooking a much-visited
bay, cathedral, fortress, red
tiled roofs, and their photographers in shorts.

Guests from the EU, IMF,
OECD and the mostly German
bankers leave towels
in heaps, unspeakable sheets,
and broken glass but tip
like earlier Americans. Their advances
have a certain shamefaced charm,
verging (again like Americans) on
the confessional. Except when French.

More recent delegates (from Svoboda,
Jobbik, Golden Dawn et al)
to neofascist head-to-heads
with drug and arms mafiosi tip
not at all; are at least as messy
(unless sheer nihilism makes them neat),
and nasty. Sonia has wound up
pregnant once, in the hospital
twice, but needs the job.

In her scant leisure, she reads.
It is not man who commands the times
but the times that command man wrote
the oldest Romanian chronicler,
as quoted by Cioran, a favorite. Her one
prayer, entirely secular, is
that those who despise
others enough to kill them should
themselves be killed, except for her.

About the Poet
Frederick Pollack is author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness, both published by Story Line Press, and author of a collection of poems, A Poverty Of Words, forthcoming from Prolific Press. He is also adjunct professor of creative writing at George Washington University and has many poems in print and online journals. Poetics: neither navelgazing mainstream nor academic pseudo-avant-garde.

Two Poems by John Grey

Second Hand Book Store
If e-books had a conscience,
it would look like this:
musty rows of stuffed shelves,
light through webbed window
straining to make out an author’s name,
aged editions of the classics,
signed copies behind a glass case,
obscure dead poets, their gravesites
squeezed between film history
and “The Decameron” in Italian,
coffee table art books cover to cover
with rank travel guides to a younger earth,
shadows crawling up horror tomes,
moth buzzing about an early history of flight,
estate sale bargains stacked on the floor,
and, up front, the crusty old owner
behind a dilapidated desk
with, on one side, an adding machine
and, on the other,
a prehistoric copy of “Books In Print.”
But e-books have no conscience.
And either I wrote down the wrong address
or that store’s no longer here.

Immigration Officer
I showed him my passport.
He looked at it intently,
as if peering through
a magnifying glass,
looking for clues
to a robbery, a murder.

The passport picture did me no favors.
The contortions of my face,
all stress, all disappointments,
were as obvious
as a lounge lizard’s lines.

Yes, the stamps from many lands
told the story of my travels.
But I would always be this man
in that snapshot.
My hair would be unkempt,
my cheeks prone to fleshiness.

I’d be weak-eyed,
tremble-mouthed,
and on the verge
of losing it.

Eventually, he let me through.
But not until

he had no doubt

what his country was getting into.

About the Poet
John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in Paterson Literary Review, Southern California Review and Natural Bridge with work upcoming in New Plains Review, Leading Edge and Louisiana Literature.

Two Yelp Reviews by J. Bradley

Yelp Review – Lou’s Lounge
There are versions of your could-be self awaiting you at the bar. They will impart ravines; pictures would be cheating, they will say.

Walk away backwards, eyes closed. Catalog what is missing from you every morning, determine what is worth interring. Go back every evening until you refuse to flinch at what could come.

Yelp Review – Cross Seminole Trail
Here, you are the cabin, the moment between inhale and exhale. What will be recreated from the pieces? What will your name become to sleepy children?

About the Poet
J. Bradley is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals including decomP, Hobart, and Prairie Schooner. He was the Interviews Editor of PANK, the Flash Fiction Editor of NAP, and the Web Editor of Monkeybicycle. He is the author of the poetry collection Dodging Traffic (Ampersand Books, 2009), the novella Bodies Made of Smoke (HOUSEFIRE, 2012), and the graphic poetry collection The Bones of Us (YesYes Books, 2014), illustrated by Adam Scott Mazer. He is the curator of the Central Florida reading series There Will Be Words and lives at iheartfailure.net.

Two Poems by Richard King Perkins II

Pittsburgh Garble
Look at what he’s done to himself:
Flushed his cell phone to a Pittsburgh garble and a face
stuffed with something to ease his conscience. Untouched
seeds screaming to be jarred or eaten. It’s death in their
dissected eyes either way.

Half a book consumed and he’s in full-blown surrealist
mode, nesting on duck eggs while prattling on about
the indigestible souls of ruminants. The joke could end
here, minus a bitchslap and gold filigree, and everyone
would laugh at the only part he couldn’t forget.

That’s the way it is for old Zeke, ideas too fat for
the hang of his head, frayed fabric hung up on the thorn
of his dissected quarters. As if the bastard earth would
find the inclination to mock him. Communal shunning
is its sugar cane revenge.

On the day he was inundated by fanatic arguments
against himself, he stitched up a bedroll and jumped
ship partway through his own dry docking. The
misconception hit him like a wet blanket and he’s still
drowning, waiting for the vast waters to someday recede.

A World of Glorious Distraction
There was a time I seemed to exist as an unending string of numbers
on the crystalline spur of the horizon,
trying to breathe through a violation of spores.
Vaguely disembodied, I cannot find the dark-white, jagged shell
torn from the collet of a necklace.

I pan the vast terrarium of my enclosure,
filled with majolica and twisted glass,
placed here to give me glorious distraction.

I flail through red earth, sand and expected reactions
until I reach the polished, artificial barrier
that must exist at the end of any universe.

But I’m left wearing only a noose disguised as simple jewelry
and now the inner sea counts me down into raw exile,
quivering creature of pulp looking for a fashionable shell
to better endure the terrors of the great human experiment.

About the Poet
Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He has a wife, Vickie and a daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee whose work has appeared in hundreds of publications. He has poems forthcoming in the Roanoke Review, The Alembic and Milkfist.

Two Poems by Graam Liu

God Must be Tired
God told man not to cast the first stone.
Man listened.
Man casts the first brick.

God told man spread good will towards men.
Man thought only men.
Women receive nothing.

God told man all were his children.
Man rejoiced.
Man picks on his blood.

God told man not to kill.
Man did not kill.
Man executes justice.

God wanted a sandwich.
Man ate it.
God must be tired.

Jazz and Cigarettes
Life should be more jazz and cigarettes.
I don’t play jazz.
And I don’t smoke cigarettes.
But it should be.

About the Poet
Graam Liu is a writer, composer, and filmmaker living in New York City. He enjoys eating mysterious food when he is not tickling the ivories, or watching Captain Kirk get the babes on Star Trek. He thanks his family and friends for laughing through life with him.