• Big Table Publishing

AUGUST, 2020

Updated: Sep 9, 2020


Doug Holder

I was here, there, nowhere...

Sitting with a crumpled bag of cherries

in Washington Square.

Far from the Midtown Tunnel

and the suburban bubble.

I watched the Greenwich Village livestream

junkies, poseurs, Three Card Monty shysters, closet queens, people of means,

fashion queens.

I thought I would get a room in the Washington Square Hotel

heard Dylan, Baez once lived there

cheap digs

a garret of

a writer

not yet


I was here, there, nowhere.

Looking across at the old man

on a bench facing mine

with a bag of crumpled cherries

he stared at me

and I at him

amidst the hawker's din.

He seemed like he never left

that bench

it sort of suited him.

I got up

and walked under the triumphal arch

to Boston

a garret of a room

the cherries were

pits in my stomach.

Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press. His new book of poetry is The Essential Doug Holder: New and Selected Poems from Big Table Publishing Company. The Doug Holder Papers Collection is being processed at the University at Buffalo. Holder was recently the judge for the Frank O'Hara Award for the Worcester County Poetry Association.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Summer Heat

Elizabeth Tornes

I straddle my first bike, a red Raleigh 10-speed

and go for a ride in the country, zinging past

tree-lined streets, past tennis courts

and the Bexley pool, where cicadas buzz, past

the mansion where Mr. Jeffrey hung himself

out to the rocky potholes, the asphalt roads

which melt and bind the tires, searing

my nostrils with a burnt rubber smell as heat

reflects up, and sweat puddles in my eyes.

Grasshoppers spring from blonde

grasses, fly into the spokes

like a thousand playful fairies.

I stop at an intersection between

two cornfields, when suddenly a pickup

roars behind me. The brakes screech,

a red truck pulls up: two men drinking beer.

The red-faced man in the passenger seat smiles,

You want a ride, sweetie?

No thank you, I say, very polite,

as I was taught to be. Screw YOU!

—they laugh, gun the engine and roar

down the road in an endless cloud of dust.

I mount my bike, start pedaling again

into the merciless light of my thirteenth year.

Elizabeth Tornes has published three award-winning poetry collections, Between the Dog and the Wolf, New Moon and Snowbound. Her work has been published in The Boston Literary Review, Boulevard, Field, Illuminations, Main Street Rag, The North American Review, Page & Spine, Ploughshares, and Yellow Medicine Review. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appeared in Poetry Daily. She’s also published a collection of Ojibwe oral histories, Memories of Lac du Flambeau Elders (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004). She earned a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the University of Utah, and lives in Lac du Flambeau. Wisconsin.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Creeping Charlie in the Graveyard

C.T. McClintock

I spend my time among dead people lately

to avoid getting sick and joining them

as the Catholic graveyard on the edge of Brooklyn

is where living humans don’t congregate

but the clovers talk to the creeping charlie

and the robins hop from Burgun to Wertzien

to the cryptic Steil-Ross, then into the oaks

and I wonder why so many graves lack first names

the footpaths laid in 1890-something

are warped and gnarled like the tin headstones

and the dwindling granite benches are lichened

only on the southern-facing sides

is this what it means to be truly grounded

with no purpose except to mark the greenery

to be kept away from the churn of the world

that has deadened into a standstill

still, those butterflies that look like real butter

spiral in the madness of procreation

and the petals from a blooming dogwood

have hitched a ride on the breeze to my feet

twice I've buried my sage ashes under the oaks

I idly wonder if that makes me responsible

and the adjacent L train stirs these thoughts

as it arrives for the 10th time in a row

for no one

C.T. McClintock is a writer and scholar of expressivism, trauma theory, and literacy theory living in Brooklyn, NY. Her poetry frequently appears in the indie journal circuit and can be found in Visitant, SoFloPoJo, and Remington Review among others. When she’s not busy fussing over writing, she is busy fussing over her tomato plants and romping around the various Northeastern coastlines.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Where is my Room?

Mugunthan Ganesan

Everyone had a room. Except me.

Their laughter bounced off

of the corrugated cardboard walls,

rolled down the balsa wood floors

and besieged the thin metal gates

of that model. Of our soon-to-be home.

Even the fake Gulmohar,

with its orange plastic flowers

and fern-like leaves -

who also had a spot

on the dark green grass mat -

couldn’t stop snickering.

What was funny about a simple

where is my room?

It was beyond the mental fences

of a nine-year-old.

The architect took a red marker

whose felt tip bled pity

and drew a small square

on the second level

and in one stroke made me belong -

at least in that model,

our perhaps-soon-to-be home.

I never lived in that room,

never got to put up posters of

Maradona, Tendulkar, or A.R.Rahman

on teal-painted concrete walls.

My copies of Advanced Calculus

and Oliver’s Story never lay open

on that brown mosaic tiled floor.

I bought a home with rooms

for everyone.

There are real succulents -

and orchids and peace lilies.

The walls are covered in

discounted art from Pier 1 imports.

The silent hardwood floor

holds each of us

and all that we carry.

This is home now.

Yet, I still sometimes wonder

where is my room?

Mugu Ganesan is an emerging poet based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He writes poetry in English and Urdu. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Hindu, Burning House Press, and Scarlet Leaf Review. He has participated in poetry workshops at the UCLA Extension and The Loft Literary Center. Mugu’s poetry is focused on expressing the strife that comes with being human through his observations and life experiences across cultures and continents.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Solitary Migration

~ for Bridget

Kathleen Williamson

Long before sunrise

she is on her bike,

her legs like pistons

on the old post road.

She sought solitude

but now she feels it

in her throat—

tears blur her path.

To rally she sings

in the dark, an old

song about surrender.

Out of the woods,

as if summoned

by her song,

bounds an eight-point buck.

He gallops beside her.

Clipped to her bike,

she pedals faster,

the buck keeps pace.

She never thinks

to stop. Her voice

is silenced, the only

sound the clatter

of hooves on pavement.

Her breath beats

time with his.

She smells his musty,

mushroom scent,

feels the heat

of his body

sees her reflection

in his black eye.

Kathleen Williamson won the runner-up prize in the SLAB Elizabeth R. Curry Poetry Contest and was a winner in the Poetry in the Pavement project in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Her work has been published in Ponder Review, Newtown Literary, The Healing Muse, Inkwell and The Westchester Review. She attended the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and takes classes at Sarah Lawrence College, Poetry Barn, and the Hudson Valley Writers' Center.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Larry D. Thomas

Before last Saturday evening’s vacate order,

he lived on a vacant lot overgrown with weeds

in a ramshackle dwelling of cardboard and twine.

I’ve seen him off and on for twelve years

in the neighborhood at all hours of day and night,

walking, often toting a well-worn paperback.

He still lives somewhere nearby,

because I saw him again this morning

during my walk at daybreak. In the drizzle,

suddenly, and out of nowhere he appeared,

walking down the middle of the street.

He wore a hat fashioned from a grocery bag.

At first I thought it was a makeshift crown

and he the strange king beneath it.

We moved with the stealth of shadows,

tenuous as the script of our names,

each a wormy little noun flung helplessly

against the bold, black verb of the universe.

Larry D. Thomas, a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate, has published twenty-two print collections of poetry, the most recent of which is In a Field of Cotton: Mississippi River Delta Poems (Blue Horse Press 2019). A longtime (and proud) contributor of poems to the Boston Literary Magazine, he has also recently published poetry in the Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies, Valley Voices: A Literary Review, Louisiana Literature, Delta Poetry Review, Red Dirt Forum, San Pedro River Review and elsewhere. A resident of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Thomas and his poetry will be featured in a forthcoming issue of the Delta Poetry Review.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

In Another Tree

Jeffrey Zable

Surely there are those who still want to live

and will spend their time creating some meaning

out of thin air whereas I gave up on trying to do that.

I just live as if I’m already dead and keep the bad news

to myself because I no longer care to engage with others,

and what goes on in the world is no longer of concern

so long as I have some milk to put on my cereal and

they keep playing reruns of the three stooges on one

of the cable channels. Other than that, I do enjoy watching

the monkeys in the tree outside my kitchen window

and often wish I could join them because they do seem

to be having the time of their lives, and when I throw

them bananas they always give me a thumbs up which

makes me feel good for a moment even though it never

outweighs my feelings of not wanting to be here which

I think is something I was born with and will be with me

until the monkeys find someone else to feed them bananas

in another tree . . .

Jeffrey Zable is a teacher and conga drummer who plays Afro-Cuban folkloric music for dance classes and Rumbas around the San Francisco Bay Area. His poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and anthologies. Recent writing in Nauseated Drive, Hypnopomp, Pensive Stories, Untitled Writing, After The Pause, Third Wednesday, Brushfire, Smoky Blue, Alba, Green Silk, Corvus, The Stray Branch and many others.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Did Their Best

Niles Reddick

After Mama had back surgery, she took a lot of Valium for pain and shouldn’t have been driving any more than Dad who had a stroke on his right side, couldn’t see out of his right eye, and was unable to shift gears in his truck with his right hand. He pulled the knob into second, but couldn’t shift up, and the Tacoma whined across town at thirty m.p.h.

None of us imagined, however, Mama would run over a college student cycling to the mall, that she would lug him to the back seat of her Lexus and cram the bike in the trunk. “He was speeding so fast down that hill that I never saw him,” she told the police.

“I did the right thing,” she told the officer. “I got him to the ER like the good woman I am.”

“He filed a suit against your insurance.”

“This isn’t about suing for mesothelioma or talcum powder. Shouldn’t sue one trying to do a good deed.”

In her mind, the good deed erased the first one, and she believed she’d keep her insurance rates low and not get cancelled, but she didn’t. We took their keys and eventually their vehicles, and they tell anyone who will listen how evil their kids turned out, how’d we’ll end up in hell, and how they did their best raising us.

Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections Reading the Coffee Grounds and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in thirteen anthologies and in over three hundred publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine, Cheap Pop, Flash Fiction Magazine, With Painted Words, among many others.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

A Promise

Brett Dixon

she’s supposed to meet me out front of the shelter at 9:00 o’clock. it’s 9:34. no call. i step out from the shade of the entryway and into the oppressive june sun, the heat rising from the pavement in waves. the earlier the better, she told me when we scheduled our check-in. the rest of her day she’s busy sharing a handle of vodka with violent, tortured men. 9:35. she emerges, dragging her feet, walking this way. her head is hung. i walk out to meet her. she hides her face in her donated t-shirt, a size too big with the neckline irreparably worn. i don’t want you to see, she insists. see what? she lowers her shirt. a fresh bruise, purple and red, spreading like an oil spill across her cheek. he sucker punched me, she says. i help her take a seat on the curb. she fumbles through her bag, retrieving a half smoked cigarette and lights up. i didn’t want you to see, she repeats out of the corner of her mouth, taking her first drag. promise me you won’t tell anyone you saw me cry. there’s a lump in my throat. tangled words resembling a promise i don't want to make. i hand her a tissue. my last one. she refuses the offer and wipes her tears with the back of her arm, revealing a tattoo that says TRUST in bold blue. the words unravel. i promise.

B. Dixon is an emerging poet whose writing draws on his study of Zen Buddhism and his work with those experiencing homelessness in Boston, MA. His writing has been printed in the J Journal, the *82 Review, the Frogpond Journal, Right Hand Pointing and the Unbroken Journal, among others. B. Dixon has also contributed articles to the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy's Quarterly Journal, Cushion and Couch.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Class Dummy

Zvi A. Sesling

We called him Elf because he was barely five feet tall. He did, however, have a great sense of humor, cracking jokes or pulling practical jokes on everyone in class. That he graduated high school is a matter of luck, or perhaps teacher charity. After flunking out of college he went to Canada to work on an oil pipeline. The last anyone heard he lost the job and chose to live among the natives near the Artic Circle. No one heard from him until the fortieth high school reunion when he showed up in a Rolls Royce with his six-foot blonde wife. He wore a tuxedo and a Rolex watch. She was decked out in diamonds. It was to let us all know – the doctors, the lawyers, the Madison Avenue executives – that he was wealthier than all of us. Living with the natives at the Arctic Circle he had grown fond of native art and statues. Oh, by the way, back in high school he was a real hot rod fanatic, working on engines and getting work in drag race pits. As a result he could fix any engine – car, truck, boat, snowmobile. If it did not run, he would get it to go. So when their vehicles broke down the natives paid him in art. Then they signed a contract that gave him rights to their work and he opened a store in Toronto, then Montreal and finally a string of stores in the United States. He made millions in commissions he earned from selling the art.

Zvi A. Sesling is Brookline, MA Poet Laureate. He edits Muddy River Poetry Review and is author of The Lynching of Leo Frank (Big Table Publishing, 2017)and six other poetry books. His flash fiction book Secret Behind The Gate will be published in early 2021 by Cervena Barva Press. He has published poetry and flash fiction both in the U.S. and internationally. He lives in Brookline, MA with his wife Susan J. Dechter.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

When I Floated By

Michele Rappoport

The river last summer and me, swimming with the fish in the sari-colored water. Remembering how he waited for me to float back so he could die. Angry to see his life flashing in front of him on the hanging TV, loud as a banshee. How his hospital pillow whispered it was time. I told him Dad, it’s okay to let go, and for once, somewhere in the deepening night, he took my advice. The lawyer said chin up. He left you nothing, and believe me, it’s easier that way. I drank with the lawyer. He left me nothing, too.

Michele Rappoport is a writer and artist who splits her time between Arizona and a hill on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies. Her writing has been published, or is forthcoming, in many literary journals, including Delmarva Review, High Desert Journal, The Centifictionist, Poetica Magazine, and Art in the Time of Covid-19, an anthology of pandemic writing and art.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

4 Boys in the Merrimac River

Louis Phillips

6 yrs old: Behind

My father’s restaurant,

What did customers eat for 75¢?

With my Flash Gordon space gun,

And my German Shepherd

I knew nothing about Thoreau

& his boat trip past Lowell,

Past so many things

But I was on the Merrimac’s banks

When our Greek Chef,

Whose name I do not recall,

Angry at a couple who added

Salt to his special dish

Before they even tasted it,

Tossed down his tall toque,