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  • Big Table Publishing

APRIL, 2020

At the Lake House

Danny P. Barbare

With a clean sheet of paper

and a pen filled with ink

I remember along a road by

blackberries, golden rod

and queen anne’s lace

I walk to the lake where the

sun tosses or rather wind

and admire the great wide

 open filled with peace

I head home by the shrill of

cicadas close my journal

and eat catfish for supper.

Tomorrow I will pick the

blackberries plump and juicy

as I can’t wait for pie.

Danny P. Barbare resides in South Carolina. His poems have recently appeared in Fine Lines and Crux. He says he loves to travel to The Blue Ridge and Charleston, SC. He lives with his family and wife and small dog Miley in the Upstate of the Carolinas.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

A Little Sugar

Darrell Petska

James Wilbur‘s situation at Mt. Carmel had become untenable, so the day after his 87th birthday, he decided to die. His family had visited, wishing him another year. But he was ready now. It couldn’t be hard. He’d become a shell of himself. His heart beat so weakly he could scarcely feel it. Death would come, a gentle release. To accomplish this, he merely sat propped by pillows in his bed, closed his eyes, and let his awareness merge with everything around him. People spoke. Dishes clattered. Crows raised a ruckus. Peace descended upon him.

A kaleidoscope of faces and events flashed before his inner eye. His joys and sorrows bore the same soft glow.No regrets, no unfinished tasks remained.

James Wilbur felt himself passing from flesh into universal vastness. The nursing home, neighborhood, city and state—like concentric circles his being ranged free. Euphoria suffused him, mitigated slightly by the recognition that he had emptied his bladder. But nothing could stop him now. He was approaching his event horizon—neither precipice nor ascension, just the absolute purity of being, untrammeled by the crudeness of history.

His blood all but ceased to flow, eternity’s warm finger poised before the switch of consciousness. James Wilbur ceded himself to the infinite.

"Mr. Wilbur? Naptime’s over! Let’s clean you up so you can join the others in the day room. Nice flowers! A little sugar in the vase makes them last.”

Darrell Petska’s fiction has appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Frontier, Bird's Thumb, Right Hand Pointing, and elsewhere. With 30 years on the academic staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 40 years as a father (seven years a grandfather), and a half century as a husband, Darrell lives outside Madison, Wisconsin.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Too Much Information

Richard Nester

Most molars—yours included—have four roots,

but each of mine are doubled, which in X-rays

makes them look quite elegant, like sun-twisted

pea vines or twin tuxedoed dancers, twined

around themselves in the jaw’s ballroom.

Having double roots means my teeth

are screwed in very tight—like Fred and Ginger,

ivory bears in winter or birch-tree bark—

which no one knew until I needed a root canal.

The orthodontist was amazed, having seen hundreds

of roots but none like mine. This trait must come

from somewhere, certainly, packed like luggage

over mountains, seas, neither useful enough

to be adopted en masse nor so dangerous as to be

weeded out, a part of universal randomness,

vagabonds from steerage with their thin coats

and raging bellies in sight of land—

my roots, my hitchhiking strangers. My feet too

are strange, almost grotesque, but more nearly

functional, not art.

Richard Nester is the author of 4 books of poems, the most recent Red Truck Bear (Kelsay, 2020). His poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Cape Discovery: the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Anthology, Ploughshares, and Seneca Review and on-line in Qarrtsiluni and Inlandia.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Work Glove

Robbi Nester

My father worked for fifty years, got up

at two and three to drive a milk truck,

deliver pies, or labor over circuit boards

for NASA or the Navy. After he retired,

I seldom saw him without a screwdriver

or pliers, fixing an old T.V., rewiring

the house, or in the garden, planting.

After a stroke, my father couldn’t work.

I sold his house in Philadelphia, emptying it

first of his oscilloscopes and pliers,

screws and nuts, tubes and transistors.

He had been too ill to supervise the move

to a board and care far away. Before I left,

I spotted his old work glove on the stairs,

fat brown fingers like the crusty loaves

stacked at the bakery, still warm, as if

he’d just been wearing it. I thought about

his hands, always making something,

fixing, planting. Lying in the hospital,

my father told me he had to have

some tools, or else he couldn’t be a man.

His tools sat in a corner of the room

he shared with mom. He would take them

out and hold them, so his hands

remembered how it felt to work. 

Even now, it’s his hands I think of first.

Robbi Nester is the author of 4 books, the most recent Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag, 2019). Her poems, reviews, and essays have appeared widely, most recently in Pirene's Fountain Culinary Poems, North of Oxford, Ekphrastic Review, McQueen's Quinterly, Tiferet, Rhino, and forthcoming in the anthology Aeolian Harp 6.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Covid-19 – Mid March 2020

Michael Allyn Wells

Suffering comes in many sizes.

Broken down feet.

A curved back.

Standing on an escalator

rising in age

there is a jolt

and the steps collapse

one into another

on the race to old.

Sheltering in place

except for provisions,


work where I am mostly Isolated.

My children call their mom.

Where is dad?

Each has anxiety for different reason.

Michael Allyn Wells is an alumnus of the AWP Writer to Writer program -Spring 2017 session. He showed an interest in poetry during high school but did not engage as a serious writer until much later in life. He makes his home in Kansas City, Missouri with his wife and their 3 rescue dogs. His work has appeared in numerous print and online venues including, Remington Review, Best of Boston Literary Magazine Volumes I & II, Punchnel’s Magazine, Nude Bruce Review, Rockhurst Annual Fine Arts Review, Montucky Review and Apeiron Review.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

After Taking My Sister to the ER

Cara Armstrong

Melting medications swirl prior to each flush. Amazed by accumulation, variety, classifications; antibiotics and painkillers, opioids and antidepressants, anti-seizures to anti-everythings I can’t even identify as I empty out white garbage bags full of hoarded pills. I focus on color—the rainbow, rainbow, rainbow of uncaught fish in Key West’s harbor. I empty, flush, pause, bat the cat’s paw away, humming it all in.  The flush repeat. The flush repeat. The flush repeat of color.  Let me praise the reds, true standouts amidst beiges and blues, like cinnamon red hots burning through our lives and leaving trails on the tongue, the stain and knockout punch.

Cara Armstrong is the Director of the School of Architecture and Art at Norwich University. She is the author and illustrator of 2 children’s books, Moxie: The Dachshund of Fallingwater and the tri-lingual Counting with Cats who Dream/Compte avec les Chats qui Revent/Contando con Gatos que Suenan as well as co-author of Frank Lloyd Wright in Panorama and A Guide to Cleveland’s Sacred Landmarks.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Gregory John Pagano 

Grey skies and blue masks

Plague in the year of the rat

Where has the dog gone?

Gregory John Pagano is an American living in Northeast China who loves writing poetry in his spare time.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Licks of Ice Cream

Ed Ahern

My dead parents swirl like

multi-flavored ice cream cones

with essences nested but unblended.

Younger and older, angry and caring,

bitter and benign, hopeful and sad.

My father has faint flavors.

He died when I was ten

and the tastes I imagine-

dark chocolate and rum raisin,

are thin and runny.

My mother starts her cone

with strawberry and vanilla,

but widowhood and privation

add tabasco and nutshells

for my tongue to encounter.

Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had over two hundred fifty stories and poems published so far, and six books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of six review editors.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

She’s Twelve Years Old

Laura Rodley

If your dog has cancer

you cannot tell her so,

you cannot explain

two lumps in her liver

equal disaster; she lies

by your feet and sighs,

content. That you have

to wait for when she has

symptoms or pain to

give her medication

beyond the liver support

supplements, she has no

clue. She’s here now

until she’s not here now.

The vet told me he had cried

after her ultrasound,

before he told me,

that’s how I knew

it wasn’t good.

Three to six months,

there’s no way to know.

Options are limited.

But what am I to tell Tyndall?

Good dog, here’s a treat,

let’s go for a walk, stop

bugging the cat. Just the

usual. Nothing special.

Her fur is the color of our

oak flooring that we lay

down with mallet and nails.

She has one spot on the ridge

along her spine that resembles

a backwards paw.

She’s been walking forward

and backwards at the same time

her whole life.


Laura Rodley, Pushcart Prize winner is a quintuple Pushcart Prize nominee, and quintuple Best of Net nominee. Latest books Turn Left at Normal by Big Table Publishing and Counter Point by Prolific Press.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Timothy Gager

Going to heaven, tears

held back, snared,

in hell,

like a fly in a strip, stuck,

a glue tape restrictive

morphine-like soaring

into the Pro-zap or skipping Prozac,

the limbo of an insect’s life is

a human antonym, perhaps a hymn

of yang and yin, stuck within

majesty of dewdrops,

web affixed, holding

a place. On Earth,

unlike the Theridiidae, we beg

to hold the dying.

Timothy Gager is the author of fifteen books of fiction and poetry. His latest, Spreading Like Wild Flowers, is his eighth collection of poetry. He has had over 600 works of fiction and poetry published, of which sixteen have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work has been read on National Public Radio, has also been nominated for a Massachusetts Book Award, The Best of the Web, and The Best Small Fictions Anthology.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Revenge of the Pangolin

Keith Tornheim

I’m sorry, he said.

I only wanted to get

those pangolin killers.

So I borrowed a coronavirus

from distant cousin bat

and transformed it within me

to something that could attack

humans and quickly leap

from one to the next,

to the next, to the next.

But I didn’t know your airplanes

could extend the leap

from continent to continent

so none of you were safe—

even those who watched and cheered

for pangolins on PBS.

Thereupon he curled back into a ball.

Keith Tornheim, a biochemistry professor at Boston University School of Medicine, has five recent books, I Am Lilith, Dancer on the Wind; Spirit Boat: Poems of Crossing Over; Can You Say Kaddish for the Living?; Fireflies: Poems of Love and Family; and Spoiled Fruit: Adam and Eve in Eden and Beyond. His poems have appeared in Ibbetson Street, The Somerville Times, Boston Literary Magazine, Muddy River Poetry Review and Poetica.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Apples and Chamomile

Louise Worthington

Alice firstly disorientates the trousers by smacking out the creases then hangs them upside down on the washing line.

Next, she makes hostage of his blue shirts by pinning them down by the shoulders, firmly wedging the peg over the cotton so there is permanent tension in the shoulders. The scent on the garments is all her own making, a fresh fragrance of apples and chamomile.

Alice sniffs the air. A storm is coming, just as she thought. The sky has never been bigger, wider, darker.

From the kitchen window, Alice watches the restless wind circling the fabric, trying and failing to escape, like a trapped bird flapping against a window, seeking sky and cloud when there is only glass and window.

Alice opens the kitchen window just as the storm comes, raining anarchy on the house and garden, on the cornered garments, tearing shirts and trousers free from the washing line. The rain comes relentless and remorseless as his lies. She has packed her suitcase. The washing basket is empty.

Not all of Alice’s husband’s clothes would fit on the washing line – the rest lie in a heap on the lawn.

He always was insistent on having two of everything.

Louise Worthington’s short fiction has recently appeared in Scribble, Fresher Press, Paragraph Planet and Northern Flash Fiction. She self-published her debut novel Distorted Days last year.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Slam all the doors

Nina Rubinstein Alonso

Automatic chatter sounds like me

replying “fine” 

though act three fell hard

tossing routine phrases

for someone’s comfort 

not mine

doubtful list of

reasons why it happened

stupid idea 

accepting his ring 

people asking

when and where

nobody asks why

papers get signed due to 

a jumble of impulses 

why buy a dress instead

of running away 

too late to cancel 

so keep blundering forward

until the taste is too bitter

can’t stand any more

make clumsy escape

slam all the doors.  

Nina Rubinstein Alonso’s poetry has appeared in Ploughshares, The New Yorker, New Boston Review, Ibbetson Street, etc., and stories were in Southern Women’s Review, Peacock Literary Review, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, etc.  David Godine Press published her book This Body, and her chapbook Riot Wake is upcoming from Cervena Barva Press. She teaches ballet at Fresh Pond Ballet and edits Constellations a Journal of Poetry and Fiction.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Star of the Sea

Jean Varda

I was in a nightmare of Catholic girl’s camp

fluorescent plastic rosary beads on cement floors

butch nuns gnawing at my innocent soul

forced to eat sloppy plates of meat and

potatoes, lumpy oatmeal, cocoa with the

skin on top even if the girl at the next table

vomited in her plate

I was in a nightmare of gruff voices

and rough hands

where I cried in my sleep and wet the bed

My sister and I clung to each other

wrote tear stained letters to our parents

begging them to rescue us

I was in the icy Atlantic at seven every

morning, with no time to get used to the water

Feet ankles hips that last screaming

chill when your chest hits the cold

I made my bed smoothing the sheets

perfectly with my small hands

when I returned an angry girl from an

orphanage had stripped my bed and spread

sand on the smooth white sheets where my

body surrounded itself with fairy tales

at battle with her innocence

Jean Varda’s poetry has appeared in The Berkeley Poetry Review, Manzanita Poetry & Prose of the Mother Lode & Sierra, Avocet A Journal of Nature Poems, California Quarterly, and Third Wednesday. She has taught poetry writing workshops, hosted a poetry radio show and sponsored poetry events at cafes.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Ruptured Space Phil Temples

Scientists are baffled by the recent discovery of several towering, disk-shaped “pucks” of dark matter protruding for thousands of light-years above and below the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The researchers say the objects emit super high-frequency radio emissions and are some of the largest single features ever observed at the galactic core. Some of the pucks appear to be relatively smooth and symmetrical in appearance; while others are noticeably flattened and distorted “leaking” matter into space. It’s the first scientific evidence suggesting galaxies suffer from herniated discs.

Phil Temples resides in Watertown, Massachusetts. He's had over 140 short stories and a novella published in various print and online publications, along with three mystery-thriller novels, and a short story anthology titled Helltown Chronicles. Phil is a member of the Grub Street writing center in Boston, and the Mystery Writers of America.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Heather Browne

She’s going through the change.


like tacky pennies.


as cigarette butts

or tasteless wads

of Juicy Fruit.

Everything loses flavor with age.

Her body is an old bathroom wall heater

with smoky orange coils rattling.

A different decades’ model

charged obsolete,


She’s cold now,

or suffering from the flu,

and nauseous.

With flashes of heat soaking,

she’s left out,


to dry.

Heather M. Browne is a faith-based psychotherapist, recently nominated for the Pushcart Award, published in the Orange Room, Boston Literary Review, Page & Spine, Eunoia Review, Poetry Quarterly, Red Fez, Electric Windmill, Apeiron, The Lake, Knot, mad swirl. Red Dashboard published two collections: Directions of Folding and Altar Call of Trumpets.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

hallelujah bowl-a-rama

Jake Tringali [i] met god in a bowling alley, picking up spares with casual ease.  the florescent lights were blinding, against the waxed wooden alleys, the glint against the red balls, and god’s male pattern baldness. to this, [i] would submit. he took [me] back to his apartment, nervously stroking his neck stubble, and asked [me] about devotion before playing van halen’s greatest hits album. he smiled over [me], benevolently. he complained about the bowling league, his work as a vending machine repairman, his doctors, and then began the preaching. a homily about devotion. how to put others before yourself; your teammates, your lover, your god, all before yourself meaning [myself].  he seemed tired, for a god, and [i] just wanted to ease his pain, please him. [my] body was so small, his was so big and well-worn, so wide, with places to hide in, his body was the world, the whole wide world, he would devour and engulf and protect [me]. he smiles over [me], benevolently.

Jake Tringali thrives in a habitat of Boston dive bars, punk rock shows, and late-night adventures.  His first poetry book is Poetry for the Neon Apocalypse

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

In Gloom, Praise Too

Lindsey Royce

I celebrate snowmelt, Sandhill cries, breeze on tattooed sleeves—

I celebrate the rebirth of our dead who tread on lake’s ice, cataract-white.

I celebrate fields during this blight poised to wipe out nations of people. Isolated, no gloves or mask, I celebrate every living breath.

This morning, I dared to hike the mountain, no dust to kick up like clapped erasers. Light stippled the unearthed roots, and leaves dazzled like stardust—

I dared celebrate those flashy leaves whose vacillations ushered my path to you, passed from our world theatre— You shucked disease for freedom.

With luck, I’ll see the dead in lilacs whose barrel chests puff and swagger, who pulse fragrance, gush color— With luck, I’ll see them in the neighbor’s mare

who breaks loose to splash in the lake, hooves bucking up white fireworks— tame enough to respect danger, and wild enough to give way to praise.

Lindsey Royce earned a Ph.D. in Creative Writing/Poetry and Literature from the University of Houston. Her poems have appeared in numerous American periodicals and anthologies, including the Aeolian Harp anthology; Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts (periodicals and anthologies); Poet Lore; and Washington Square Review, to name a few. Her first poetry collection, Bare Hands,was published by Turning Point in September of 2016, and her second collection, Play Me a Revolution, was published by Press 53 in September, 2019. Royce teaches writing and literature in Northwest Colorado.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Party Shoals

Rick Blum

When you sidle up to me at the holiday party

to catch up on my kids’ latest exploits, or share

a joke that involves several seemingly impossible

sexual positions, or complain about the latest

screw-up your boss dumped on you without

warning or apology, don’t be alarmed if I just

stare back wordlessly; don’t feel insulted

when I fail to provide a ready retort, or break

into boisterous laughter, or sympathize

with your having to derive sustenance amongst

the duplicitous dolts of a disingenuous world;

and definitely don’t whip out your iPhone

to have Siri call an ambulance to whisk me

to the emergency room in my apparently

comatose state; instead, be patient, be serene,

for I am not being intentionally unsociable,

I’m just processing!

intently parsing the syntax of your perfectly-pitched

sentences, massaging every precious word ‘tween

the sagging folds of a shrinking brain, conjuring

connections to a memory bank of jumbled names

and fading events, while trying desperately to compose

a response that won’t embarrass either of us, one that

might even reflect a bit of wit if not deep wisdom,

or even, at a bare minimum, provide enough information

to push our conversation along a bit more than does

my increasingly frequent rejoinder:

Come again?

Rick Blum has been chronicling life’s vagaries through essays and poetry for more than 30 years during stints as a nightclub owner, high-tech manager, market research mogul, and, most recently, old geezer. His writings have appeared in The Literary Hatchet, The Satirist, and WINK magazine, among others. He is also a frequent contributor to The Humor Times, and has been published in numerous poetry anthologies. Mr. Blum is a three-time winner of the annual Carlisle Poetry Contest. His poem, “Tomfoolery,” received honorable mention in The Boston Globe Deflategate poetry challenge.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Fifty Shades of Coronavirus

John Sheirer

He entered the dim bedroom where she had been waiting. “Sit,” she ordered, and he willingly did as he was told. Without breaking his gaze, she removed her bra and lifted it toward his face. The fabric was thick and soft and suggested the scent of lavender as it enveloped his square jaw, manly nose, and slightly parted lips. She pressed it firmly in place and his breathing quickened. He closed his eyes and shuddered with passion as his skin tingled. “Oh, yes, my darling,” she whispered, pushing him back onto the bed. “This will make an excellent breathing mask!”

John Sheirer (pronounced “shy-er”) lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with his wonderful wife Betsy and happy dog Libby. He has taught writing and communications for 27 years at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut, where he also serves as editor and faculty advisor for Freshwater Literary Journal (submissions welcome). He writes a monthly column on current events for his hometown newspaper, theDaily Hampshire Gazette, and his books include memoir, fiction, poetry, essays, political satire, and photography. His most recent books are a flash fiction collection,Too Wild, and a fictional thriller, Uncorrected.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Brady Peterson

You knew a framer whose wife

left him for a doctor. She was the high school

beauty, and he was the star running back. They married shortly after graduating. One day she wakes up, he tells you during a break.

“What have I done,” she says to the ceiling.

Got to give her credit for good sense,

you say. That’s true, he admits.

But you should’ve seen LeRoy chasing

the doctor around the hospital parking lot

with a hammer, another framer says laughing. 

The whole crew laughs.

LeRoy died a few years later

while working a job in Dallas.

Heart attack. He was forty-one.

Joseph was a carpenter, but we don’t know

his story after Jesus was twelve.

Joseph, like MacArthur, simply fades from the narrative. Mary, on the other hand, is present at the cross.

The walls of the second Temple are torn down

by Roman soldiers almost forty years later.

The Jews driven from Palestine.

They rejected Jesus, your hometown preacher

offers as an explanation. They stood up to Rome,

you tell an old war buddy as the two of you drink

a decent reposado in a bar in New Mexico.

Brady Peterson lives near Belton, Texas where for twenty-nine years he worked building homes and teaching rhetoric. He is the author of  Between Stations, Dust, From an Upstairs Window, and García Lorca Is Somewhere in Produce.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Murray, While Mall Walking, Takes a Wrong Turn

Paul Beckman

How would Jack Reacher handle this? That’s what kept going through Murray’s mind and then he realized that Jack Reacher would’ve taken out the sneaker thieves before they could bind his hands, cover his head with a dark cloth and duct tape his mouth. He didn’t see the duct tape but that’s what criminals always use. He begins to shake and realizes how cold he is and remembers the glimpse of the Good Humor truck with its back door open just before the hood blackened his world. He shouldn’t have asked the burglars to get him a pair of expensive sneakers and should have been like his other mall walker friends. Toasted almond Good Humor –he can’t get the thought out of his mind. Murray’s uncomfortable and squirms around on the floor and feels something soft and with bound wrists opens his hands wide and grabs the thing that’s been poking him in his back. He squeezes. Murray thinks if he didn’t know better he’s squeezing a boob and running his thumb across a nipple. The boob? moves, jerks back and quick head butts him. He can feel blood dripping from his nose and realizes that’s what Jack Reacher would have done. Then it dawns on Murray. He’s a hostage. And with thoughts of boobs and toasted almond kicking like Rockettes in a line he’s head butted again and passes out.

Paul Beckman is a retired air traffic controller. His latest flash collection, Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press) was a finalist for the 2019 Indie Book Awards. Some of his stories are in Spelk, Necessary Fiction, Litro, Pank, Playboy, Thrice Fiction, and The Lost Balloon.

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