February 2017 (No. 57)

Devon Balwit

each night we practice being forgotten
curled in the bowl of our barrows
the hollows of our bodies awaiting offerings—
a bead, a feather, a ring, a stone

the hours carry away strands of hair
settle dust along seams of lip and eyelid
gather murmurers around the bed
to pronounce us good or not so

in cocoons spun of what if and why didn’t I
we await mourning
hear tiny claws scrabbling, both inside and out
feel busy tips prick thigh and temple

watch gradations of darkness
the faint soughing of the blinds
tally the bird calls, the passing cars
until, saying hush now, enough, we rise

Kara Cochran

Our separation was
certain as Catholics versus Protestants,
the drizzling skies and 60-degree July, days I spent alone
stealing Starbucks Wi-Fi and wandering outdated shopping malls
interviewing political thugs and ex-cons
in sleeves of ink or fresh-pressed suits
somber as the anti-Bush rallies and parades for the dead,
the beer we’d drink and the guy we invited over
who snorted coke off our bedside table
shitty as our Fitzroy Avenue apartment where I let you fuck
my skinny body wasted to keep you interested
chefs and their 3AM ragers, the leaking washer and dryer in the kitchen
the shared shower and the light switch for hot water
a bright-white chat window with your ex
i love you left open like a message to me
lonely as the night I was cornered by drunk men
who touched my Anglo-nose,
spat Catholic like a threat.

In the city of political murals and high walls
spiked gates and decade-old graves with fresh flowers
you said you were done with me

words caught like barbwire that topped neighborhood walls–
Donegall Square, Shankill Road, empty Friday night streets
and rough-faced children swigging beer in the glow
of flaming pallet towers
blazing war and death in the dark.

We had our dividing lines:
you at the arcade, me counting coins to buy groceries,
the hotel where I spent the last two days
getting wasted and throwing Skittles in daytime movies,
our changed airline seats, the love note from your ex
my mom found driving your car back to the airport

silence thick as grey smog, feuds old as dirt
other-worldliness that could only be survival.

Mother of Pearl

Grandma was classic slacks and pantyhose
flat-soled shoes, mushroomed hair and
yellowed perfume, skinny spine bent
concave as she slaved over stovetop pot
roast, as Grandpa cracked another beer
in his blue-corduroy La-Z-Boy. Classic
as post-war German-turned-American wife
as domestic pleasantries and marital
reverence, as respect your elders
and belted discipline.

She was classic as pearls, precious
wedding ring with gold-casted curls
cradling two pristine white orbs,
once invaders between shells cast
into layer upon layer, refined and
polished until scarab-sheened
and gorgeous. She was classic as
things hardened, flaws buried deep
transformed tolerable to the inner flesh
until something entirely different.

I marvel at her understated elegance,
her stunning opacity, the ring that survived
unscathed, her heirloom only months
on my reckless hand until I scratched
the nacre, blunted it straight through.

Darren Demaree
Donut Friday #43


& in the city,
with just enough

money for donuts;
I have given little
to my son to carry

& I have taken
absolutely nothing
away from him.

He can see every
constellation. He
has the wealth

of his whole self.

Maureen O’Connor
Leopard Slippers

Some mornings you are an ant
crawling across the rocky surface of the moon
until you fall into one of its pockmarked craters.

Other mornings you are an elephant,
grief inaudible to the worlds’ deafness,
body immobilized beside memory.

This morning you are in a forgetful fog.
Your fish-cold feet slip from under the comforter
and find their way into leopard-spotted slippers.

The furry beasts were a birthday gift from him.
You danced that night like the mating leopard
that he played for you on YouTube.

Slightly awake and enlivened
by the memory of being a wild animal in heat,
you shuffle into the kitchen for your morning coffee.

The pop-hiss, pop-hiss of the percolator
keeps time to the pumping of your heart
so you don’t have to think about his.

About how the many blood vessels
like a moat encircling his heart collapsed
while his tongue fell like a tiny drawbridge
inside your mouth.

John Grey

Doctor pins the x-rays
to a board of light.

In his head,
he constructs a model
of the perfect chest radiograph

then compares it
to what my lungs show.

At the moment
I am nothing more or less
than that comparison.

Nothing new here.
I’m always being x-rayed
in so many ways.

Only the heads change.



Samuel Vargo
Secrets of a Guarded Woman

She bought herself the flowers

He forgot to buy her

The day after yesterday and the week before

But it was really a year ago. Maybe even two

                                    And just yesterday she poured coffee for herself

                                    And the man who left two weeks ago

                                    Or was it for the man who left three years ago?

                                    Not an act of forgetfulness, but bold defiance and rage

                                    Steams from the ceramic top like volcano smoke

The man at work who lives most of his life

In the cubicle right across from her

Keeps looking, sometimes staring, at her

“Is he a pervert? Some kind of whacko rapist?”

He’s never talked to her. Not once

                                    She likes to watch football at the sports bar

                                    That has the most TVs and serves Fat Tire beer

                                    With the barmaids dressed decently, like Puritans

                                    And she always roots for the losing team

                                    She yells for teams that are losing terribly

                                    And always feels bad when a player is injured

                                    Sometimes she goes with friends, but mostly, alone

She picks up dogs and cats

That are stray and drops them off –

Sometimes with friends, other times with the humane society

Once she ran over a dog and couldn’t sleep

            For two days

                                    She bought a clock, then threw it away

                                    Two weeks later, she bought a watch

                                    She thinks she accidentally discarded it

                                    And just today, she bought another clock

                                    But she doesn’t like its face

                                    And she’s thinking of returning it



Haley Holden
Brittle Bones

     George didn’t ever want his empty glasses picked up, that way he could count how many he had drank, instead of having to remember. His memory was splintered now, from a cocktail of concussions and old age. Scott knew this, although it made him sad to watch the glasses pile up next to the man. George wasn’t as old as some of Scott’s regulars, but he was old enough that Scott thought of him as an old man. There was about twenty years and two million dollars difference between the two of them. In the beginning days of the bar George would loan Scott rent money so he could keep the bar afloat.

     So, when George wanted to stay past closing time the younger man didn’t shoo him out. Instead, Scott got out his phone to tell his wife not to wait up. George would always spot him on his phone and his shoulders seemed to sag a little bit, losing the athletic bravado the ex NFL star always carried. That was where they were now, on a Thursday night suspended in the shadowy hours between night and morning.

     “You ought to get going,” George said, glancing down at his glasses. He usually didn’t stay late, because he came in so early. But, on nights where he wanted to stay Scott couldn’t kick him out without worrying himself through the rest of the night.

     “No need,” Scott said, moving to start doing inventory. “My wife’s already asleep.”

     “And your kids?” George asked, hands clasped around his full drink.

     “They’ve been asleep for hours,” Scott said, shaking his head. “There’s no one up waiting for me. Doesn’t matter if I go home now or in another hour.”

     “I appreciate it.”         

     “Course,” Scott said, turning back to his work. He pulled out a small note pad, scribbling down a few orders that he needed to make. George took a sip of his drink and counted the ones in front of him.

     “You could always call that kid down,” George said, breaking the comfortable silence. “I know you’ve been renting the little apartment up there to him.” He nodded towards the stairs when he said it, then turned his gaze back to Scott. “You’re the boss, you can make that call.”

     “Tom doesn’t need to work right now, I’m here,” Scott said, continuing his inventory count. “Unless you’re tired of my company?” They both knew that wasn’t the case, smiling at each other as Scott said it.

     “If you think that I’d prefer that little jackass over you then maybe you’re the one who needs to get tested for brain injuries,” George said with a laugh. “The kid is alright for afternoon drinking but he gets fidgety at night.”

     “College kids are like newborns,” Scott said with a small laugh. “Their sleep schedules are all funky and they eat anything you put near them.”

     “You think that I don’t remember that? I’ve already raised three of them,” George said, moving one hand to fix his ball cap. “That’s why all of my hair is goddamn gone.”

     “How did the tests go today, George?” Scott asked, standing up to get his towel and looking him in the eye.

     “They said my brain is going to be soup by the time I’m seventy,” he answered, taking another drink. “That’s only four more years, Scotty. My kids have all got kids they need to take care of, they can’t be taking care of me too.”

     “You’ve got the money to have an in house nurse,” Scott pointed out, beginning to wipe down the bar. “I bet you could find one you can get along with.”

     “Yeah, I’ll hire myself a damn babysitter,” George said, pushing a deep breath out of his nose. “When I get real senile they can change my diapers. Fucking fantastic.”

     “Hey, that’s not-”

    “That is,” George interrupted. “That’s exactly where my life is heading right now and there’s not a damn thing that I or anyone else can do about it.”

     “If you keep mentally sharp they say that helps to slow it down,” Scott said, tapping the crossword puzzle on a newspaper resting a few seats away from George. “Maybe fill out one of those while you drink.”

     “I couldn’t have done that shit when I was twenty,” George said, waving a hand at the paper. “You think if I had much upstairs I would have risked it by banging my head against guys who were a hundred pounds bigger than me?”

     “You made a good living for you and your family banging heads with those guys,” Scott said, pulling his hands away from the bar.

     “What family? My three wives scattered around the country? Or the one kid per marriage who only call during the holidays?” George asked, laughter tainted with bitterness and alcohol.

     “I know for a fact that they call more than that,” Scott said, instead of arguing what type of family it was.

     “It just feels like they don’t,” George said, looking down at his drink. “The blows seem so much harder now than they did before.”

     “Brittle bones and all that,” Scott joked, watching a small smile curl George’s lips.

     “Brittle bones,” George agreed, taking his glass and tilting it back to finish it in one gulp. He set it down on the bar next to the others and stood. “You get home, Scotty. Wake your wife up and tell her you love her for me.”

     “She already knows you love her George,” Scott said, beginning to pick up the glasses as the old man headed for the door.

“It’s good to remind them,” George said, one hand on the door handle. He turned back to smile over his shoulder at the bartender before he headed out into the morning.  

Ben Nardolilli
Bad Status Line 1

During the connection attempt,
no response was received

Choose a new home group, see the full map,
no more dial-up ad hoc

Open the sharing and network center,
refresh all data, use a proxy

You have become a generator issue,
still missing merge fields

Unable to be included
by anyone as an interested party

Your search for “love” turned up 0 results
“she” not found


Vernon Jordan, III
To The Block

Nothing gets me goin’ like you do:
Doors don’t mean shit to me,
walls neither
When you ring the doorbell:
I can come out and play
I can come out and play.
Our limbs might rip through
gravity itself ­
pushed off the block
with spraying fire hydrants,
the homeboys on the corners,
and kids our age, or younger,
wanting to be somebody
water­uzis and bikes is all they got.
I’ll turn this time, I guess.
I wanna see you jump,
I wanna find your hid­ing space
before the street lights come on,
and Mr. John brings his old, black older­than­a­cadillac engine
into the yard.
It’s not everyday I’m out here looking at, laughing with,
standing on the same side of the gate with
a dope girl who compels asphalt and tar to peace
with her legs.
Always landing. Always strong.
When they call what you do “ghetto”,
your name, “ghetto”
show them your skill, your brilliance,
make them dig the earth, picking amethyst stones in your name
like i do.
I can come out and play
I can come out and play.
The dogs will bark, and
houses will glow, light up
with lamps and the smell of somebody’s cooking…
Momma’s gonna call,
Daddy’s gonna call,
Auntie’s gonna call,
and I’ll have to go inside.
I’ll have to leave you.
The seasons will change,
those water guns may become real ones,
Mr. John’s old, black, older­than­a­cadillac engine
will stop pulling into the yard.
We’ll outgrow our beds,
we’ll reshape our heads,
to find our legs stretched at opposite ends.
Maybe we’ll be facebook friends!
And depending on the day,
maybe we’ll come home at the same time,
of each other,
reaching for the keys, to find some sort of safety to enter
before the goodbye.
Someday, when I return to this block,
stretched out.
I’ll say:
I’d love to re­kindle and stay
I’d love to re­kindle and stay.


Lucinda de Leeuw
Had I held you long enough
to say you slipped through my hands and fell to the ceramic floor?

here, you are
in my wake

acting brave and beautiful
i want to bury these hands that betray
you should build a shelf of your own
sand it well, learn how to be an architect
so no holes can be carved or cracks born
here you will keep and be capable
now that I am clean of you

the sun will show you how
as soon as the grey veil lifts
the rain will gather at your door
now that the dirt has revealed itself
a knock arrives at the hand of somebody new
rise with the dust
i burn to ashes the scent of you

it was all so quick
deliberate and dishonest
nobody with enough honour
promises honey like gold
nobody knows how to break
quite like you
you’re exquisite the way you’re fragile
there was always something more I wanted

here, I am
on my knees, palms pressed pleading against the cold
clutching on to moments memoriam
there lies a pile next to me, it is on the brink
of becoming brave and beautiful

here, you are
in my wake


Janel Brubaker

          Numbness filled the crevices of my shattered self. The room was, in every possible sense, utterly chilling. Walls of pale blue reflected icy light from luminescent bulbs, the tiled floor was white and speckled with lapis flecks and did nothing to offer warmth or comfort, and the many stainless steel items in her hands sent shivers over my skin. But I was numb. I stared at the white ceiling, dead to the procedure invading my body. Warm, scarlet blood had been flowing out of me in thick, sticky clots the size of golf balls for nearly two hours. I had, all but surely, destroyed the passenger seat of my husband’s grey Honda CRX on the forty-five minute drive from our apartment to the hospital with the odd Picasso-like stains of my body’s blood, something I hoped he would forgive. The raging abdominal spasms, perverse contractions meant to eliminate the unborn life in my womb against my fierce and persistent objections, came and went in waves now, parallel to the bitter, angry tears of my confusion and grief.

            The obstetrician, a tall medium-sized woman with sandy blonde hair and grey eyes which communicated a mixture of mild compassion for my plight and irritation at being kept at the hospital past five in the evening, gently pulled the metal tools from what would have been my birth canal, peered above my uncomfortably widened legs, and said, “It seems as if the rest of the fetal tissue has been expelled, but there still could be some left, so keep a watch for that when you use the bathroom.”

            Keep watch…for the only physical remains of what was left of my unborn son or daughter as I continue to bleed into my underwear or the toilet. Like waste to be discarded, I thought. My eyes were focused on the unimpressive detail of the ceiling. The numbness of my internal condition cracked, like the glass of an antique mirror, and as the life of my child leaked onto the tiled floor, so too did the numbness leak from my damaged world. In its place dripped the dark reality of what had been lost and, without thinking, I stretched my hand toward my husband, my eyes pooled with hot tears.


Devon Balwit is a poet and educator working in Portland, Oregon. Her recent writing has found many homes, among them: The Ekphrastic Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Free State Review, The Journal of Applied Poetics, Lalitamba, Mothers Always Write, Oyez, Rattle, Red Paint Hill Publishing,Serving House Journal, The Cape Rock, The Literary Nest, The Prick of the Spindle, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Third Wednesday, Timberline Review, and Unlikely Stories.

Kara Cochran is a writer, editor, and instructor. She holds an MFA from Rosemont College in Rosemont, PA, and a BA in English Creative Writing and German Studies from Denison University in Granville, OH. She teaches English Composition at Temple University, Widener University and Delaware County Community College. Kara is also the former Managing Editor of Rathalla Review, the Assistant Program Director at Philadelphia Stories Junior, and a Mighty Writers workshop teacher, volunteer, and mentor. Her poems and essays can be found in Schuylkill Valley Journal, flashfiction.net, and Fiction Southeast, and she tweets from @philawriter.

Darren Damaree’s have appeared, or are scheduled to appear in numerous magazines/journals, including the South Dakota Review, Meridian, New Letters, Diagram, and the Colorado Review. He is the author of five poetry collections, most recently “The Nineteen Steps Between Us” (2016, After the Pause). He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology. He currently lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.

Maureen O’Conner has been a clinical social worker for 40 years and her work is extremely rewarding. She is very grateful to be able to partner with her clients, (children, adults, couples and families) in their work of self-discovery. She has been writing as an outlet since she was a child and more consistently in the past 10 years. She especially enjoys writing poetry and flash fiction. Earlier this year she had the opportunity to do a week-long workshop with one of her favorite poets, Billy Collins.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.

Samuel Vargo writes for progressive, liberal, online magazines that headline daily. He also writes for a few comedy and satire online mags with national, and even international, readerships (that also headline daily). Vargo spent most of his adult life as a full-time reporter and editor for daily newspapers and business journals and was fiction editor of Pig Iron Press for 12 years . He has been published by a number of literary magazines. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in English from a state university in the Midwest.

Haley Holden is a creative writing major at Bowling Green State University. She is the runner up of Dusty’s Short Story contest in 2016, along with the runner up of Ohio’s Reading Rainbow competition when she was in second grade. More of her writing can be viewed at haleyharmon.tumblr.com where her creative work is showcased for anyone who wishes to view it. She is also a writer for The Odyssey, where she flexes her use of real world analysis to gain writing experience that she hopes will one day help her to publish her very own novel.

Ben Nardolilli currently lives in New York City. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, fwriction, Inwood Indiana, Pear Noir, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry. He blogs at mirrorsponge.blogspot.com and is looking to publish a novel.

Vernon Jordan, III (King V, on the mic) is a Philly born ‘n raised Writer, Filmmaker, and Poet. He finds the supernatural, the technological, and otherwise speculative/magic stuff, as it relates to interior lives of Black people, to be dope. As an AfroFuturist, he believes Black artists play a vital role in shaping futures and recovering pasts. Vernon can be found in NYC, sipping various Teas and writing scripts, as a Screenwriting MFA candidate at Brooklyn College.  Follow him on Twitter @Afrojediii.​

Lucinda de Leeuw partakes in acts of magic-making, incl. short stories, poetry and essays. Her work appears in various creative journals.

Janel Brubaker recently graduated from Clackamas Community College with her associates in Creative Writing. She worked as a Student Assistant Editor for the Clackamas Literary Review for the 2015 and 2016 editions. She is attending Marylhurst University for their B.A. in English Literature and Writing. She applied for and was granted their Binford Scholarship, a fund specifically for creative writers admitted to their program. Janel’s work has also been published in Sick Lit Magazine, Ancient Paths Online, Heartbeat Literary Journal, The Bella Online Review, and will soon be published in Crab Fat Magazine.