Archives Issues

February 2018 (No.69)

DS Maolalai
Waterloo Station

Escalators like grey candy necklaces
chewed and bitten off by ice-dull tiles.
And as we ascend
my uncle
describes
like death
a life working nights
on the tube,
dealing with drunks
cold weather
and lost things
and remembering once a month
the men that would come
ducked in masks and plastic overalls
serious, surly and uncommunicative
from some place full of mystic and technical things,
to venture
down dark into the dark place
full of fetid warmth underneath the motors,
heavy laden with backpacks and long tubes like rolled newspaper
built to hoover with roaring suck, and to hold
the gunk –
pink slime and new forms of crystalline life
like the liquid birthstate of chicken nuggets –
which gathered and bloomed each thirty days
out of the skin bits,
tears, hair and sweat
which dripped and snowflaked through the elevator cracks
shaken and shed, settled
and always settling.
Enough each month there was enough to fill 18 refrigerators
he said.
18 refrigerators or
55 plastic shopping bags.

 

Terry Brix
Frantic in the Rubble

I have this recurring dream of a bright shining new morning
until I walk outside the house. Everything within sight leveled—
London 1940 WWII blitz—rubble heaps taller than buildings.

Every misshapen concrete chunk, every splintered wooden stud
imprinted with names of friends cheated, promises un-kept, love trashed.
All documented in dried blood, ash, body char. I am the smoking gun.

I see my ex-wife standing in the rubble some distance away—smiling.
Head wrapped in paper bandages—written abuse scrawled on the backside
of the divorce decree, waving alimony checks the size of American flags.

Broken pictures of my children, pieces of their favorite toys everywhere
like we had just completed a weekend of play and were tidying up—
decapitated dolls, smashed computer games, burned kid books.

Everything seems raw inside me, pained, unplugged, pulped,
as though all my vital organs have been playing musical chairs,
extracted one by one until nothing’s left but bloodstains on a lone stool.

Past surely wasn’t this bad? But family portraits are on concrete slabs,
radiation shadows. Not just nuclear bombs for Hiroshima, Nagasaki. I
nuked them daily, weekly—family dying of radiation exposure to me.

Frantic in the rubble until tonight, when the dream comes again.

Steve Carr
Airborne

With rocks in the spare room in his oversized shoes, Casper stepped out of his apartment building and leaning into the wind began to take slow and measured steps. Bits of debris, dead leaves and litter, crashed into his chest and legs. He brushed off a used lottery ticket that landed in his thick red curly hair. A flier announcing a sale at a local store hit him in the face before sailing away. The rocks in his shoes were like weights that tested the strength of his leg muscles each time he raised a foot. The soles of his shoes made a pwat-pwat sound each time they smacked the pavement.

Sitting on the front steps of her tenement, Mrs. Agorn was breaking pea pods in two and dropping the peas into a bowl she had in her lap. Her blue tinted blonde bouffant wig sat askew atop her head and leaned like the Tower of Pisa. “Where you headed, Casper?” she said.

“Going to the doctor,” Casper said, continuing to pwat-pwat along.

“You sick?” Mrs. Agorn said as she snapped a pea pod. It cracked like a miniature fire cracker.

“I’m having a problem with gravity,” he said.

Mrs. Agorn dropped the peas into the bowl, tossed the pod into a plastic bag at her side and pushed her wig into place. “Never heard of such a thing,” she said. “You must stop by after you see the doctor and tell me all about it.”

“I will,” he said as he stepped off the curb into the street and onto the metal grate of a subway air vent. The blasting air rising up from the vent nearly lifted him from the ground. He quickly stepped off the grate and looked toward the clouds rushing by in the baby blue sky and heaved a sigh of relief. He crossed the street and walked along the sidewalk feeling the tug from the wind generated by the cars that rushed by. A block down he entered the doctor’s office.

“I’m Casper DeMille,” he said to the receptionist. “I have an appointment with Dr. Norris.”

She pushed a key on the keyboard on the counter and stared at the computer screen through the thick lenses of her glasses. She blew a pink bubble from the gum she was chewing and let it pop on her lips. “Oh, here you are,” she said tapping the computer screen with the long coal-black painted fingernail of her index finger. “Have a seat and Dr. Norris will see you in a few minutes.”

“Thank you,” Casper said. He sat down in a blue plastic chair next to an elderly man who was holding a handkerchief to his nose.

The man nodded and said, “My allergies have gotten worse.” He stared at Casper’s face. “You look healthy enough. What’s wrong with you?”

“I think I’m gravitationally challenged,” Casper said.

“Well, whatever that is, don’t believe the doctor if he tells you it will get better. I’ve been told for two years my allergies would get better, but they only get worse,” he said, then sneezed.

“I’ll remember that,” Caspar said.

A few minutes later a nurse came through a door and called Casper’s name. He stood up and said to the man, “I hope you get better soon.”

“I’ll be wheezing and sneezing in my grave,” he said.

Casper followed the nurse through the door and into a room with an exam table, a scale and equipment for taking blood pressure.

“Please stand on the scale,” the nurse said in a sing-song voice.

Casper lifted first one foot down hard on the scale, then the other foot. The scale shook.

“Do you have trouble walking?” the nurse said in a sudden shift of sincerity.

“I walk fine,” he said. “I have rocks in my shoes,” he added.

“Rocks?” she said. “Whatever for?”

“To add weight,” he said.

She wrote something on a sheet of paper attached to a clip board, then looked at the digital reading on the scale. “One hundred and seventy eight pounds.” She looked at his shoes. “How many rocks do you have in your shoes?”

“Just enough to keep me from flying away,” he said.

“You poor thing,” she said sympathetically. “Okay, please sit on the exam table and I’ll take your blood pressure.”

Casper sat on the table and watched as the nurse pulled the blood pressure machine in place and wrapped the cuff around his bicep. She pumped up the cuff with a rubber bulb then turned a knob on the bulb and as the cuff deflated she watched the gauge. “Perfect blood pressure,” she said, returning to sing-songing and writing on the piece of paper. “Just relax, the doctor will be here in just a few minutes.” She moved the machine back into place and left the room.

A few minutes later the doctor came into the room. “So, you have rocks in your shoes,” he said. “I’m Dr. Norris. He stood in front of Casper and stared at the paper the nurse had filled out. “Are you having foot problems?”

“No, the rocks hurt a little, but I keep them in my shoes to keep me on the ground,” Casper said.

Dr. Norris gazed at Casper. “Gravity will do that for you,” he said.

“Indoors, yes,” Casper said, “but when I’m outside and even in the slightest breeze I’m as likely to fly away as the fluff from a cottonwood tree.”

“Your weight is normal,” Dr. Norris said. “There’s no reason you would just fly away.”

“Nevertheless, if I didn’t keep rocks in my shoes I would,” Casper said.

Dr. Norris scratched his chin with the tip of his pen. “This isn’t a medical problem. I’m going to refer you to a psychiatrist. Whatever is making you feel this way, you’ll get better.”

Casper left the doctor’s office and headed back home.

Mrs. Argon was sitting on her tenement steps removing the husks from ears of corn. “So, did the doctor fix that gravity thing?” she said.

Casper grasped the railing on the side of the steps as the breeze swirled around his legs. He shook his feet, making sure the rocks were evenly distributed. “No, he thinks the problem is in my head.”

She ripped off a piece of the husk of a long ear of corn. “If I’m not being too nosy, what is the problem?”

“I can’t keep my feet on the ground,” he said.

“I know lots of people like that. You have to have roots,” she said. “You need to be in a relationship. It’ll ground you.” She ripped off another piece of husk and put it in a plastic bag next to where she was seated.

“You may be right, Mrs. Agorn,” he said, “I’ve tried that but it didn’t work out. By the time it happens again I could be swept up into the sky by even a slight breeze.”

 

Sitting on the edge of his bed, Casper looked up at the fan in the middle of the bedroom ceiling. A strand of dust stretched from one blade to the next. Fearful he’d be swept up into its swirling air currents he never turned it on. The last time he had chanced having the fan on was also the last time he had opened the windows. Stale and motionless air was little price to pay to keep from being blown or carried out a window.

He removed his shoes and grimaced at the sight of blood on the ends of his socks. He pulled them off and raised his feet and examined the sores and bruises on his toes then flipped his shoes over, spilling the rocks onto the floor. They too were spotted with blood. Walking on his heels he went into the bathroom and sat on the edge of the bathtub and ran warm water over his feet while watching the blood tinted water circle the drain.

Just as he walked into his living room with Band-Aids on the tips of his toes, there was a knock on the door. He peered through the door’s peephole and felt his stomach begin to churn. He slowly opened the door.

“What are you doing here?” he said.

Jenny brushed back a loose hair from her forehead and said, “I was worried about you.”

“It’s been a year since I saw you and suddenly you’re worried about me?” he said.

Her pale, freckled face reddened. “Actually it’s Mrs. Argon who’s worried about you. I saw her a few minutes ago and she said you’re having a problem with gravity.”

“Not gravity in general, just the gravity that should keep me on the ground whenever I’m caught in a breeze,” he said.

Jenny frowned. “Can I come in or are you going to make me stand out here in the hallway?”

Casper opened the door completely and stood aside as she walked in.

She stopped in the middle of the living room and slowly did a complete turn. On every wall there were posters and photographs of tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones and waterspouts. Hanging by fishing line from a mural of blustery storm clouds that covered the entire ceiling was hundreds of model airplanes along with toy plastic dirigibles, hot air balloons and miniature kites. Curtains with prints of flying birds and butterflies covered the window.

“Casper, this isn’t normal,” she said. “What happened to you?”

Casper closed the door and sat down on his sofa. He pulled his knees up to his chest and planted his feet on the edge of the sofa cushion. He wrapped his arms around his legs. “It’s not me,” he said. “it’s the wind outside that’s out to get me.”

Jenny sat on the sofa next to him and put her arm around his shoulders. “That’s crazy talk,” she said.

“Is it?” he said. “Three weeks ago a gust of wind carried me from the steps in front of this building all the way to 23rd Street. I’d still be flying around up there, or worse yet be sailing over the ocean, if I hadn’t grabbed hold of a satellite dish.”

“You must have dreamt it,” she said.

“I wish I had,” he said. “I recently tried to watch the movie Mary Poppins, but it was like watching a  horror movie with her being blown around with that umbrella,” Casper said. “It hit too close to home.”

“Poor Casper,” Jenny said. “Don’t you see, it’s all in your head. When did this all begin?”

“Right after you left me,” he said.

Jenny withdrew her arm. “Don’t blame this on me,” she said. “I may have said more than once that you were flighty, but I didn’t mean it in the aerodynamic sense.”

Casper unfurled his legs and turned his body toward hers. “Won’t you come back to me?”

Jenny stood up. “I’m sorry Casper, but I no longer love you. I made that clear when I left you.”

“I can’t stay on the ground without you,” he said.

Jenny went to the door and opened it. “Nonsense,” she said as she went out, closing the door behind her. Everything hanging from the ceiling swung back and forth, pushed by the gust of air caused by her exit.

 

With morning sunlight streaming through the bedroom window, Casper got out of bed and went into the bathroom and showered, shaved and applied new Band-Aids to his toes. Looking at his reflection in the mirror on the medicine cabinet above the sink he stuck out his tongue and decided it looked perfectly healthy. He opened his eyes wide; they were clear and his vision was perfect. He went back into his bedroom and dressed and put on a pair of his regularly sized shoes without the rocks.

He was filled with confidence that his problem with gravity had been in his head because of losing Jenny, but she had made it perfectly clear she no longer loved him, and he convinced himself he no longer loved her either. He bounded down the stairs and out the door.

At the top of the outside stairs a rush of wind scooped him up and carried him away.

 

Phillip Border
Bottled Love

Bottle of Vodka, on the kitchen table, half
full of stark or staggering silence? The other
smashed in the trash. What was said,
between them, spat like stones
thrown from children, or like
children, skipping, home
to broken home, settling,
finally, into a river’s white waters
thrashing; irretrievable. My answer
to our bed: a stiff
shoulder on the couch. The next day
I rose to work and returned
to your shaken hands
holding a clear, corked bottle full
of blue and maroon ribbons. Inside I pulled
the ends out and found your reasons,
glistening in silver sharpie,
why you loved me. To say them here
would risk the end of this world.

Kevin Brown
Do you like me? Check yes or no.

And when we watched them
giggle with other girls, tear
the note into tiny pieces,
not like they’re doing to

our hearts, but to our egos
and reputation and sense
of self, we wonder why
we bother to interact
with anyone. So now we’ve gone

digital, posting pictures or status
updates, showing an image
of our lives, checking to see if we
(not the pictures or statuses)

are liked, an online version of middle
school, only missing the anxiety
of where to sit (and with whom)
in the cafeteria. Sometimes

it’s not enough to be liked;
sometimes people check the right
box at the wrong time, and we wonder
who we are, what other people
see instead of the us we know.

Disappointed they don’t see
the image we have carefully curated
over the years, we sit alone with
a self we ceased to see years ago.

 

Jean Rover
Addie of the Strawberry Fields

Ah, the strawberry fields—the place where us kids could earn money and continue our socializing, once school let out. Mavis and me hoped to land rows next to Jakey Heiner, the coolest guy in sixth grade; one of the few boys who really knew how to dance. Instead, we drew spots next to Addie. She was a large woman in her middle years, with short blond hair and wide blue eyes. Normally, that combination could be pretty, but Addie, with her broad face and heavy body, looked like a clumsy tank with hair.

A light overnight rain made everything muddy. As we knelt on the damp earth at 5:30 a.m., searching the wet bushes for berries, I recalled the knowing looks my mother’s sewing circle friends gave whenever talk turned to Addie. It never failed; some sweet-faced church lady bit off a string of thread, set down her thimble, and wound her finger in a loop by the side of her head meaning Addie was “not all there.”

So naturally, we were leery picking next to her. I mean we’d never seen crazy up close.

“She lives with her sister in town.” I said, whispering.

“The one with the hair lip?” Mavis asked her gray eyes wide, her voice equally soft.

“Yeah. Their house is over by the water tower.”

“Scary stuff.” Mavis’s eyes didn’t blink.

“Dad said it’s a good thing they have each other.” I’d seen the sister, Freda, at our church. Tall, thin, older than Addie, wore glasses, had gray hair pulled straight back into a knot at her neck and a jagged scar on her upper lip. Definitely homely. She worked in the next town at the hospital doing something, I wasn’t sure what.

Addie worked in the fields. I guessed it was something folks thought she could do. I couldn’t picture her checking in patients at Doc Hill’s office or standing behind the soda fountain at the Rexall drug store.

She seemed to be a hard worker, humming Rock of Ages and other hymns to herself, snapping the red fruit off the vines with her thick, mannish hands, carefully filling the six hallocks in her wooden carrier. A fast picker, she was always a few feet ahead of us, much to my relief. I tried to sneak careful peeks whenever she hauled her filled boxes to the check-in table, to see if she had a crazed look or maybe was on the verge of exploding. My glimpses never got that high. The only thing I saw was a muddied green kneepad covering her bulky knee. When she returned to her row, it was back to humming.

Once that stopped, she blurted scripture to imaginary heathens. “Repent,” she said, “And your sins will be wiped out.” She glanced up, looked back at us, and smiled.

Mavis and I exchanged looks. Then Mavis abruptly shifted from squatting to bending over, her long blond hair blocking her face. “Don’t ever look crazy people in the eye,” she said in hushed tones.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Bad luck,” she said.

I tugged at the brim of my white bucket-style hat pulling it low over my brown curls to shield my face. I cast my eyes at the ground, glad they’d never gotten higher than her kneepad.

I heard Addie mumbling something else, but I couldn’t make it out, and I wasn’t about to look.

“Maybe she’s going to kill us,” Mavis said, her hand covering her mouth.

I couldn’t tell. I was just grateful for the other pickers around us.

By mid-morning, the clouds disappeared and the sun was back; by noon, we were sweating. The crew, mostly kids and a few moms, stopped to eat lunch, gathering in our little groups, under a big Douglas fir tree at the edge of the field, chatting as we ate. Jakey Heiner was a no show.

Addie sat off to one side, like an unmoored boat, taking bites from a chunky sandwich of homemade bread that seemed to match who she was, smiling and talking to herself.

I wondered about that. I mean her over there all by herself. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her, but couldn’t figure what to do. Our lives stretched ahead like a field of fresh clover. Addie’s had pretty much arrived.

“When you have plenty to say to yourself, you don’t need to sit with anybody in particular,” Mavis said, knowingly.

I opened my lunch sack. Discussion about Addie done, I said, “I’m gonna buy a pair of white saddle shoes. After today, I should have enough money.”

That didn’t impress Mavis. “I got shoes. I’m going to send away for another Elvis record, “All Shook Up.”

“Fat chance.” I laughed. You couldn’t buy forty-fives in Rivers, the town where we lived. You had to go into Portland, and Mavis’ mother would never hear of that. I doubted that she’d even let her order another one by mail, but Mavis claimed she’d already scissored the order form for the record store from the Oregonian newspaper.

“Hhmm hmmm, yay, yay” Mavis slapped her thighs to the beat as she sang, her upper body gyrating, her small breasts bouncing. “I can’t get enough of that man,” she blurted, her voice loud.

That drew a look from Addie.

“Shhh,” I said and nudged Mavis. “She might think we’re heathens.”

“Cripes” Mavis pulled a Hostess cupcake from her lunch sack. “Let’s cash in some of our tickets, so we can go see Old Yeller. It’s still playing at the show.”

“Mom says berry money is for school clothes.” Done with my sandwich, I tore the wax paper off my oatmeal cookie, but I eyed her chocolate cupcake with the white squiggly line of frosting across the top. Mom never got us store-bought cupcakes. She made everything from scratch.

“You don’t have to tell your Mom every single thing,” Mavis said, taking a healthy bite.

“The field boss won’t allow it, anyway,” I said. Mavis was now down to the surprise-inside crème filling. My mouth watered. “You’re supposed to cash in your tickets at the end of the season.” I was glad when the rest of the cupcake disappeared into her mouth.

Lunch over, we stopped at the rickety wooden outhouse before heading back to work. It was out of sight a ways from the field behind a cluster of smaller trees, near where they parked the flatbed truck. I always hated using it because it stunk in there, but we didn’t have any choice. Mavis held her nose as she entered. I waited outside.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around. Addie loomed over me like a giant walrus. My heart thumped. If she strangled me, who would know? There was no one else around, and Mavis was inside taking her time, probably drenching baby oil over her arms so they’d tan up.

“This yours?” Addie asked, holding out my white hat. I knew it was because of the red cherry image and the words, Life is just a bowl of cherries embroidered in black on the front.

How could she have my hat? I must have left it under the tree during lunch. It was precious to me. It not only kept the sun off my head, but I thought it made me look cool.

“Yeah,” I said, reaching for it.

She stood there for a moment, looking directly at me, her blues locked on my browns. It seemed as if she wanted to say more, but didn’t; just stared with a kind of yearning expression.

I clutched the hat to my chest. She turned away.

I didn’t even thank her. My feet glued to the ground, my legs shaking, I watched her big body lumber back toward the field.

Who was she, really? Did she have friends? Ever? What made her crazy? A broken heart? Maybe she was born that way? How did you get to be “off”? Could it happen to anybody, to us?

I told Mavis about it as soon as she came out of the john, smelling like a new baby’s butt. “Eeeew,” she said. She held her nose, the same way she did when she went into the outhouse. “Have your mom wash the hat.”

I didn’t answer, because I couldn’t stop thinking about Addie. She seemed stuck in a body that allowed no one in. Maybe she wasn’t crazy, so much as misunderstood. I mean she knew the hat was mine and thought to return it. I didn’t know, but that moment, that look, haunted me long afterwards.

***

Home from college years later, I learned Addie wandered through town, inviting folks over while her sister was at work, so she could give away “her” belongings—a cardboard box full of mason jars, an iron, some skeins of red yarn, her father’s mantel clock, a crystal relish dish, and their upright piano. No one seemed to know where she was planning to go, just that the minister thought people who went there and took the stuff ought to return it to the sister.

I think most people did, except for the ones that took the piano. Mom never got over that. “They ought to be ashamed, taking advantage of someone touched in the head like that,” she said, as we peeled potatoes together.

“And they call themselves good Christians,” she continued over dinner.

“Poor Freda,” Dad said, cutting his meat into small pieces. “You have to feel sorry for the sister.”

It wasn’t long after, Mom said they took her away. I guessed that meant to some institution. I pictured Addie sitting on the edge of a metal bed in a narrow, windowless room at the asylum, rocking back and forth, talking to herself.

I remembered the day she returned my hat, and that look that came somewhere from the depth of her soul. Maybe if someone had broken through and reached her back then, things would’ve been different. Maybe that someone could’ve been me.

Dennis Reed
I could always tell

I could always tell
when my momma

was talking to miss Ann
her voice would put on

Sunday clothes
But the dress was too tight.

It left calluses and bunions
on her heart, so filled

with unsung anger songs.
When I could hear the key

I would run to the door
only to be greeted

by the double barrel shopping bags
pointing at my face,

with that five-thirty expression washed
into the cheek I just kissed,

or was it six-thirty or eight –thirty
what is time I’d ask her

and she’d answer with
a washboard blood-tune of Black gospel songs

It all runs together I’d say
Like this room does, after a reefer

And now, standing here in my eighteen-year-oldness
I wonder, what is a multitude

 

Mike Puican
Golden Shovel for Chicago

City of car alarms, a chair flying through a second floor window—no one asks if
there’s a story. Cigarettes in a doorway, congregation at Sunday service holier than thou

but not indifferent to the braided cable of voices calling for change to be
now. A young mother hand printing FIGHT FOR $15/HR with plans for more

than quilts on the floor or cardboard covering the car window, with hopes for more than
watching the boy shot 16 times or listening to explanations of city officials who hate

to lose. “Black Lives Matter’ signs are posted in neighborhoods on front lawns or
in apartment windows while protesters take to the streets. An atmosphere

of outrage and sorrow permeates the city. The everyday stories of injustices step
through the thoughts and daydreams of bricklayers, smeltfishers, patched-up families in

line at Jewel, old women and men who walk down the street in splendor,
electricians and store managers tossing back shots and shouting insults to mortify

those impervious to the sounds of el trains, furniture flying out windows, our
stubborn cacophonous voices rising until we free ourselves of our willful wolves.

–after “Gay Chaps at the Bar” by Gwendolyn Brooks

 

 

Contributors:

DS Maolalai was born in Ireland and recently returned there after two years in Toronto, where he worked maintenance in a hospital at night and drank wine during the day. His first collection of poems, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden, was published by the Encircle Press in 2016. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Terry Brix, a green chemical engineer who lives in Blue River, Oregon, divides his time among Israel, South Africa, Scandinavia, Iceland, Finland, Canada, and Japan. Inspired by his travels, a collection of his poetry Chiseled from the Heart was published in 2000 by Vigeland Museum, Norway. His poetry has appeared in, among others, Dos Passos Review, Concho River Review, The Evansville Review, Fireweed, Curbside Review, Rattlesnake Review, The Antioch Review and North American Review. He is currently working on a new poetry collection written during his travels and a month-long writer’s fellowship residency at Playa. www.terrybrix.com

Steve Carr began his writing career as a military journalist and has had over sixty short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals and anthologies. His plays have been produced in several states. He was a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee. He lives in Richmond, Virginia and writes full time. He is on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012966314127 and Twitter @carrsteven960.

Phillip Border is a young, up and coming poet from the Appalachian region of Maryland. He has received a B.A. from Frostburg State University, with a concentration in Literature. His poems have appeared in the Literary Magazine Bittersweet, which he later directed as the chief editor. He spends his free time preparing for graduate school and giving his English Bulldog belly-rubs.

Kevin Brown is a Professor at Lee University. He has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. You can find out more about him and his work at http://www.kevinbrownwrites.com/

Jean Rover is an award-winning business and fiction writer. Recently, the PDX Liars’ League chose her short story, Secrets, to be read by actor Aundré Barnes. Others have appeared in Helix Literary Magazine, Gold Man Review, Paper Tape Magazine, Work Literary Magazine, Rose Red Review, the This I Believe project and various other periodicals. She had also published a chapbook, Beneath the Boughs Unseen, available on Amazon, featuring holiday stories about society’s invisible people. Her novel manuscripts Touch the Sky and its sequel, Ready or Not, are looking for publishers.

Dennis Reed is a poet presently living in Bowie, MD. Reed’s work has appeared in ESSENCE, CLA and BLACK SCHOLAR. Reed has taught writing courses at William and Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University and Morehouse College.

Mike Puican has had poems in Poetry, Michigan Quarterly Review, Bloomsbury Review, and New England Review, among others. His essays and reviews have appeared in TriQuarterly, Kenyon Review, and Brevity. He won the 2004 Tia Chucha Press Chapbook Contest for his chapbook, 30 Seconds. Mike was a member of the 1996 Chicago Slam Team and is a board member and past Board President of the Guild Literary Complex in Chicago.