• 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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