Adrian Slonaker

Foot Rubs

Rub us!
Her pale toes wiggle as
he grips each one with
proper respect, never slipping a digit
between them because those spaces are
the mouths of the feet,
and he wouldn’t want them to gag.
The massages have been guaranteed each evening,
once her keys collapse on the counter
and her flats are flung off,
for two decades bookended by
student ramen and osteoarthritis,
every squeeze a symbol of solidarity
through flu and SlimFast failures and
families crumbling like
Gondwana.
Get the heel!
When tension seeps from a knob of bone
repeatedly plastered against
the steps of Robie Street,
she grinds her green eyes
into giddy slits and
festoons the cramped bedroom with
shrieks of relief.

 

Bio

Zigzagging back and forth across the Canadian/US border, Adrian Slonaker works as a copywriter and copy editor. Adrian’s work has been nominated for Best of the Net and has appeared in Pangolin Review, Aerodrome, WINK: Writers in the Know and others.

Julie Sampson

Solstice

This process of decay
quickens, the heart beat
comes too close, too close.

You tell me on the phone
your patient has died, at last,
you heard his final breath,
folded his wrinkled hands
holding on, not letting go.

Here, paint flakes, doors
refuse to shut, windows warp
and out through cracked glass
pinks and white-rose petals
photosynthesise, then
fall in shreds.

I remember my son aged three
tottering on wet grass
  tumbling,
    tumbling,
mum… my… wait for me.

Over there the gypsophilia,
we call it baby’s breath,
will soon overlay the cracked bird-bath
and below in garden’s hollow
where pool’s absorbing setting light
astilbes crest the golden lilies,
butterflies wisp over irises
and interleafing the surfacing fish those hostas
still whisper life-giving secrets.

 

Bio

Julie Sampson is a widely published poet. She edited Lady Mary Chudleigh’s Selected Poems, 2009 (Shearsman). She has two poetry collections: Tessitura, (Shearsman, 2014); and It Was When It Was When It Was (Dempsey and Windle), 2018. She was highly commended in the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize, (IDP). Her website is https://www.juliesampson.com/

Luke Kuzmish

lamb of god

Kaity has lipstick on her teeth
just an imperfection
that I don’t mention

there’s a baby faced kid
kissing a train wreck
stolen on her cheek
between total ignorance
of the present. Her cough
is hoarse
and her life is measured
in hard years
freebase years
shoplifting years
and time in between
jail sentences
family interventions
and maternal disappointments

& then there’s Brandon
I’ll miss him most of all
he’s trapped
between the death of the sun
& the cold vacuum of eternity;
trapped
like a ship in a bottle
talking
just to hear
his echoes hit
the wall

 

Bio

Luke Kuzmish is a new father, recovering addict, and writer from Erie, Pennsylvania where he was a 2018 finalist for Erie County Poet Laureate. His work has been selected for publication by the likes of Beatnik Cowboy, Rigg Welter, Call Me [Brackets], Ink Sweat and Tears, Poets’ Hall Press, Mojave River Review, amongst others.  His first full-length collection of poetry, “Little Hollywood,” was published by Alien Buddha Press in 2018.

Paul Lojeski

hospital visit

I long for the high
cliff above a battering
sea, the long fast drop
in slashing winds,
the howl of exit
quickly made, not
cemented into these
beds, vacant eyes
locked into sharp lights,
a mob of IVs jammed
into emaciated arms,
truth rough handled,
contorted by white
coated messengers
delivering death’s
missives, reports of
the body’s surrender,
until the smell of
my own demise is all
that remains of once
glorious dreams.

 

Bio

Paul Lojeski was born and raised in Lakewood, Ohio. He attended Oberlin College. His poetry has appeared online and print. He lives in Port Jefferson, NY.

Len Kuntz

The Next One

Did he kiss you first?
What were his hands doing?
Were the lights dim or bright?
Did he notice one eye is bigger,
one tooth slightly longer?
Were there splotches?
Did your air catch, your chest clutch?
Did many freckles dance?
How much time was allotted for staring?
What scents did he notice?
Did he ask, “Have you ever…?”
Did he ask, “What are you thinking?”
Did he say, “Oh my” and have to look away?
Were there any sighs?
Any tears, or just a goofy grin?
Did he trace curves and whorls,
find that tailbone bump?
Did he try to polish your nose?
Was there much laughter?
Any music playing?
What was the room doing?
What were you thinking then?
Did he kiss you first,
and if so,
what exactly did that
mean to you?


Bio

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of four books, most recently the story collection, THIS IS WHY I NEED YOU, out now from Ravenna Press.  You can find more of his writing at lenkuntz.blogspot.com

Andrew Dooley


Bio

Andrew Dooley is a graduate of Rhode Island College with a BA in English/Creative Writing. He has a self-published collection of poetry titled Shine Walker, and his first published poem titled “flicker”, can be found in Visitant Lit Magazine.

Dr. Susie Gharib

Release

Death was omnipresent in my childhood.
It had claimed many dear ones, my dog,
but it took Catherine and Heathcliff on the Yorkshire moors
to make me ponder over the metaphysical core
of such inevitability that most people abhor.

Emily Dickinson drove with Death in a carriage
but in an oven Sylvia Plath held her rendezvous.
Virginia Woolf embraced it with a pile of stones,
and Cathars gladly went into fire to defend their cause.

My own battle with death started when I was seven years old.
A fever devoured my brain cells and temperatures soared,
but I never felt comfortably numb as in Pink Floyd’s.
I only remember crawling on four
like a half-anaesthetized worm.

Now I daily think of death as an invisible boat
that will ferry me across the mud
to the other side of the cosmic road,
to a clay-free world,
where the light that is cloaked with so much fog
will be released from this bundle of bones.


Bio

Dr. Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in various magazines.

Jonathan Douglas Dowdle

Sooner

Sooner the wind’s song
Passing through the leaves
Early in the morning
Where the sun lays the heat of its head
Against the earth and
One might waken
To see the earth take shape
Within your eyes
To be blessed with a thousand names
Spoken into creation;
Yes, these are the moments
Truth is born from, and without them
It doesn’t exist.


Bio

Jonathan Douglas Dowdle was born in Nashua, NH and has traveled throughout the US; he currently resides in South Carolina. Previous works have appeared or are appearing in: Hobo Camp Review, 322 Review, The Opiate, The Right Place At The Write Time, Blue Hour Review, Whimperbang, After The pause, Midnight Lane Boutique, Visitant, Adelaide, Blue Moon, Bitchin’ Kitsch And The Big Windows Review. 

George Anderson

4 Leaf Clovers

At the backdoor
I wear ice skates
shiny blue pants
with white stripes
red socks strapped
to each thigh &
protective pads.

I kick at the door
You are by the wood
stove chopping kindling
the kitchen smells good
of apple pie and I listen
to the crackling fire as
you tug off my right skate
and then the other.

In my head
I’m still in the park
accelerating
speeding past
the awkwardly mobile
defenseman
deking the goalie
out of the net
& flipping the puck
into the top corner.

My father sits at the table
reading the Star. He grunts
unaware that his life is about
to change forever
unaware that his life
of careful construction
will soon come
tumbling down.

Before entering the house
I knock the snow from my skates.
My feet are frozen. I want to sit by
the fire and listen to you tell me again
how you found that miraculous
bunch of 4 leaf clovers in the park

that last summer before you died.


Bio

George Anderson grew up in Montreal and migrated to Australia in his early 20s. He has taught English in public schools for over thirty years and is long-term blogger and reviewer of alternative small press books at BOLD MONKEY. Recent or forthcoming chapbooks include Teaching My Computer Irony (Punk Chapbook Series Epic Rites Press), Shark in the Shallows (Analogue Submission Press) and F/wits & Angels (Holy & Intoxicated Publications).  https://georgedanderson.blogspot.com.au/

Victoria Pickup

Irretrievable

The beach is a vast realm of endless losses.
Things dropped by carefree people holding hands
are clawed into the fist of a wave, fizzing and frothing
as trailing footsteps dissolve into soupy sand,
the dust of pebbles held in a long-dead hand.
Something that matters is taken and
redistributed to some unreachable land.

On the ferry, back pressed against hard metal bolts,
the rusted cold paint peels onto shoulder pads,
fingers trace the heirloom wedding ring, reconfirm
the presence of a heavy watch chain which
from here could so easily fall into the infinite and
terrifying depths, to spend an eternity amongst
electric fish with dead eyes and sharp teeth.

L’appel du Vide, The Call of the Void, beckons
With a bony finger, pointing at the futility of resisting
The urge to jump. The pull, the draw, the thrill
Keeps me clear of the scalene cliffs, wire-strung bridges,
Shining buildings scraping the skies and mirroring the sun;
Blinded and flailing, the suck of gravity is hard
Nobody can bring you back once you’ve gone.

I dropped my daughter’s tooth down the sink when she
was seven. As she cried to the omniscient toothfairy,
I unscrewed the pipes, each one a perfect slimy O,
Confirming my fears that a piece of her was forever gone,
In the belly of a drifting whale-shark, or worse,
Her pale milkiness slowly eroding in the sewer dirt.


The Truth

Will you forgive me, I wonder,
For showing you the ugly parts
Of my soul.

Will you look back and feel tricked
That I waited until rings were on fingers
And babies had been born
Before I turned myself inside out
And dumped those gnarly entrails
On the table before you,
To untie and de-knot
and spend the nights
Rubbing them between your fingers
Like a fine gold necklace
Found in a long-forgotten pocket.


Bio

Victoria Pickup has written two collections of poetry and is a previous winner of the Café Writers competition, with her poem about a Bosnian chicken. Victoria lives in Hampshire with her husband and three children.