• Big Table Publishing

FEBRUARY, 2020

Be Your Own Literary Hero

Chad Parenteau


Ignore.

Ignore.

Ignore.

Forsake even mirror.

Shave according

to reflection

of sexting roommate

in room behind you.

Dictate life's work

in packed theatres

during burlesque shows

to person next to you

watching for slipped pasties

and not taking dictation.

Save your manuscript

to be read in one sitting

at your funeral casket

in a long line of people

making sure you’re dead.

Have coroner

prop hands

to hold the book

before setting fire

to pages, which should also be blank.



Chad Parenteau is the author of Patron Emeritus, released in 2013 by FootHills Publishing. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tell-Tale Inklings, Queen Mob's Tea House, What Rough Beast, The Skinny Poetry Journal, Ibbetson Street, Molecule and Résonance. He serves as Associate Editor of the online journal Oddball Magazine. He has hosted the long-running Stone Soup Poetry series in Boston since 2004. His second full-length collection, The Collapsed Bookshelf, is forthcoming.


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Over the Fence

Steve Klepetar


When I was fifteen, I dreamed of smashing a pitch

over the fence into the tennis court. I’d swing

and just know the ball was gone, and I’d watch

it sail as I drifted into my home run trot, nonchalant,

like I did it all the time. It would be a walk off blast,

maybe a three run shot when we were down two,

and they’d carry me off the field on their shoulders

chanting my name. So I was batting with a runner

on first, a fast guy who broke for second on the first

pitch, but I missed the steal sign, swung and lined

the ball to left field, took off running but when I got

there the first base coach was jumping up and down

so I rounded the bag and went back confused

and then he said It’s a home run, man! Over the fence!

and I started in on the most awkward home run trot

in baseball history. I never saw my shot slam

into the tennis court, and when I got to home plate,

the guy who scored ahead of me gave me an earful

about missing the sign. I had that base stolen, dude!

We won 15 – 0. They called the game after two innings.

There is no video tape of my home run, but the guys

playing tennis that day swore it almost killed someone.



Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. He is the author of fourteen poetry collections, including Family Reunion which is available from Big Table Publishing Company.


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Lisa’s Final Uber Gig

John Sheirer


Lisa thought Bill looked spry for eighty. She picked him up at his trailer, helped him into her big front seat, stashed his crutches in the back. Routine surgery, drop-off at eight, pick-up at noon. “Come in and sign some papers, kid,” Bill said. “Just formalities.” Okay, whatever. Turns out, those formalities made Lisa next-of-kin because Bill’s kids live in three other states, haven’t seen him for decades. Bottom line, now she’s stuck with a ratty trailer, rattier contents, a copay for not-so-routine surgery, and an undertaker’s bill. The worst part? Lisa can’t get the old-man-smell out of her car.



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, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and his books include memoir, fiction, poetry, essays, political satire, and photography. His most recent book is a flash fiction collection, Too Wild.


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At Allen Ginsberg’s Grave, B’Nai Israel Cemetery, Newark, NJ, just off the 1 and 9

Josh Medsker


I.

I remember when it happened.

You and Bill Burroughs

back to back,

almost too much to take.

I remember talking to Vale in San Fran,

how you gave him money

to publish Search and Destroy.

I always admired your solidarity

with the rebel continuum

I can see you now, OM-ing full-lotus

in your blue buzz cut and

studded black leather jacket.


II.

I take two windy pictures and run back to my car.

My fingers run across his name,

his father's name (which

he helped inscribe)

as a train zooms by.



Josh Medsker is a New Jersey poet, originally from Alaska. His debut collection, Cacophony, was published in 2019 by Alien Buddha Press. His writing has appeared in many publications, including: Boston Literary Magazine,Contemporary American Voices, The Brooklyn Rail, Haiku Journal, and Red Savina Review. For a complete list of Mr. Medsker's publications, please visit his website.


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You Should Get a Rescue Dog

Paul Beckman


The dog’s name was Buttons

He was a lovable mutt

Who knew where he came from?

Or what baggage he was carrying, if any?

The daughters took Buttons for a walk in the park.

Both they and Buttons had fun playing in the colored leaves

floating down from the trees.

Through tears they said Buttons snarled

at a dog walker and her dogs;

broke loose, and bit the dogwalker, then ran off barking.

At dinner time Buttons came dashing in through the doggie-door,

Blood covered his mouth as he walked over to

his empty bowl and snarled.



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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This Story

Digby Beaumont


This story gives stories a bad name. It sends out the wrong message. Gives off a bad odour. Truth is, it has no business appearing alongside other stories at all.


Don’t just take my word for it. The story itself agrees. “Nothing to read here,” it says as it grabs its wool coat from the hall-stand and hurries out the back door into the windblown alley.


So what lies ahead for a story like this? A move overseas maybe. A beach community. Thailand. One of those small islands off Phuket. Hole up in some ramshackle, bamboo hut. Venture outside under moonlight. Run up tabs for hard liquor and fried pork rinds in unlit corners of all-night dive bars.


Gaping tourists will point. And this story will put on a front. “I know what you’re thinking,” it will say. “But no, it’s not me. Really. That was some other story altogether.”



Digby Beaumont’s flash fiction and short stories have been published widely in print and online literary journals and anthologies. His fiction work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology.


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Theology

Adam Hughes


The dung beetle’s god is an asshole.

(Yesterday I played rugby and made love

although not at the same time,

and today I am sore and tired and old

and tomorrow will be the same.)

At night the dung beetles gather in their burrows

and pray for a raging shitstorm to fall.

(But the rugby will still have been played

and the love will still have been made

and nothing in all the world will ever

be able to change that. If tomorrow

I were to die while mowing the lawn

I would die a rugby player and a lover.)

Somewhere the dung beetle messiah

is promising a world without plumbing

and the prophets are calling everyone

to the compost piles, where no one is ever hungry.

(God is throwing to me and my hands

are full of tremble for fear of missing the ball.)



Adam Hughes is the author of four full-length poetry collections, most recently Allow the Stars to Catch Me When I Rise (Salmon Poetry, 2017) and Deep Cries Out to Deep (Aldrich Press, 2017). Born and raised in Central Ohio, he now resides in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains where he is pursuing an MFA at Randolph College. He can be found on twitter @adamhughespoet1.


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In the Irish Village We Talk and

Riff the Better Part of the Day

Tim Suermondt


Lost and it’s raining (albeit lightly), so to cure both I share a pub table with some of the older locals. We’re right outside with just enough overhead protection to keep us dry. I ask questions about Ireland and tell them I know all the lyrics to Molly Malone (not true) and they seem impressed. One of the men asks me “How’s America doing?” and I can only answer “She’s done better.” We go on like this, ignoring time until rays of sunlight come out from behind the houses and charge down the street like thieves looking to escape in the glens, leaving a brief aftermath of clearing around the fogginess, a quietness that leaves us oddly soothed. I say “I’m ready for the night” and they all nod in delightsome assent.



Tim Suermondt is the author of five full-length collections of poems, the latest is Josephine Baker Swimming Pool from MadHat Press, 2019. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Stand Magazine, december magazine, and Plume, among many others. He lives in Cambridge (MA) with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong.


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The Artistic I

Ruth Housman


imagine yourself

at the prow of

your vessel

sturdy & strong

headed out to see

as proud is to

prow

you cut through

the buttery water

warmed by sun

designing leaping

figure

eights



Ruth Housman is fascinated by the stories we tell. Her poetry and writings are found all over the Web and in anthologies. She has written several plays, and books of poetry. Her children’s book, a fantasy about dreams, The Birthday Present, will be published in time for her granddaughter’s eighth birthday.


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Scenario

Janice D. Soderling


Maybe there was a woman who lived next door. And maybe she pretended to be afraid of mice and spiders and loud noises like cars backfiring.


And maybe one evening chopping onions or slicing an orange, she cut an itty bitty cut on her itty bitty finger.


And maybe her husband was away on a business trip. And so maybe she rushed over to your house holding her itty bitty finger with the itty bitty cut high in the air, wailing, I've cut my finger.


And maybe your husband who wouldn't notice if your arm was torn off at the shoulder (which it often was) led her to the sofa saying, Oh you poor kid sit down breathe deep breathe slow.


And maybe he said to you standing in the doorway watching, Don't just stand there get a glass of water, (no itty bitty please).


And maybe that woman goes Don't you have any brandy? with a little horselaugh before she starts hyperventilating again.


And maybe she goes Oh oh oh I can't stand the sight of blood. And maybe you almost say but don't, It must be hell when you menstruate.


And maybe your husband sitting beside her says, You poor kid let me see again and he takes her hand and turns it this way and that, kindly as a doctor might, and the evening sun falls on the two of them like in a movie, and you stand in the doorway watching.



Janice D. Soderling writes poetry and fiction. Her fourth chapbook, forthcoming in February 2020, is titled War: Make That City Desolate.


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Entwined

Connie Post


Your history

is tied around your waist

like a rope

you fling yourself

over the water

but the tire swing

beckons you back

you find a foothold

you don’t find a foothold

it’s always the same

the gravity

the incessant gravity

pulling you

you land wherever

the rope comes loose

you curse the murky water

for hiding

the tadpoles with broken tails

the moss that smothers your thoughts

nobody on the far edge

of the lake sees you

you go under

you become the body of water

you once hated

you are alone

you are not alone

you are the hue of

an unseen self

the water surrounds you

like the selective mutism

you had in second grade

the photosynthesis

keeps you holy

while you wait



Connie Post served as the first Poet Laureate of Livermore, California from 2005 - 2009. Her work has appeared in One (Jacar Press), Calyx, Cold Mountain Review, Crab Creek Review, River Styx, The Slippery Elm, The Pedestal Magazine, Slipstream, Spoon River Poetry Review and The Valparaiso Poetry Review. Her Awards include the Crab Creek Review Poetry award, The Liakoura Award, Caesura Poetry Award, and first prize in the Prick of the Spindle Poetry Competition. Her work has received praise from Al Young, Ursula LeGuin and Ellen Bass. Her chapbook And When the Sun Drops received the Aurorean’s Editor’s Chapbook Award. Her first full length book Floodwater was published by Glass Lyre Press in 2014 and won the Lyrebird award. Her second full length book Prime Meridian was released in January 2020 by Glass Lyre Press.


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Highway 99

Laura Rodley


Seventy miles per hour

on Highway 99,

heading for Chico,

eyes straight ahead,

rows of new almond trees

to my right, with white wrapping

on their short trunks,

then acres of wide flooded rice fields,

in Gridley, adorned with dipping heads of swans,

snow geese feasting, repairing from their southern flight,

Jean and I noting the Sunsweet plum trees,

going back to our wilder years when we lived

in Cambridge, then a silver car

jumps into the oncoming lane

passes a car in front of it,

bumps its lane, guns straight for us

in our lane, doesn’t move, still

coming for us in our lane,

swearing, we’re now

in breakdown lane, rumble strip,

the silver bullet missed us

at more than 90 miles per hour,

wind buffeting Jean’s 1990 blue Volvo

named Pearl. Another near miss.

Later, recounting this for Doris,

Doris speaks of driving at night

on a distant two lane road, when suddenly

two sets of headlights appear before

her and there is no rumble strip,

no breakdown lane. The only way

out is through the middle, and she

takes it, drives straight through.



Laura Rodley is a Pushcart Prize winner, quintuple Pushcart Prize nominee, and quintuple Best of Net nominee. Publisher Finishing Line Press nominated her Your Left Front Wheel Is Coming Loose for a PEN L.L.Winship Award and Mass Book Award. FLP also nominated her Rappelling Blue Light for a Mass Book Award. Former co-curator of the Collected Poets Series, Rodley teaches the "As You Write It" memoir class and has edited and published As You Write It, A Franklin County Anthology Volumes I-VI, which were also nominated for a Mass Book Award. She was accepted at Martha’s Vineyard’s NOEPC and has been a participant in the 30 poems in November fundraiser for the Literacy Project for Center for New Americans. Latest books Turn Left at Normal by Big Table Publishing and Counter Point by Prolific Press.


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Spot

Francine Witte


My husband leaves me notes in the cereal box. I love you, one might say. You’re my forever, one might say.


The first time I found one, I almost milk-drowned it before I saw it for what it was—my husband’s love on a tiny, crunched-up paper.


I know how this started. An x-ray with a spot. A spot so small I might have covered it with milk.


The spot became bigger than my life. Bigger than his. More years behind us than ahead.


Tonight, when we go out to dinner, we will give the spot its own chair. We will order small. We used to eat burgers. Now we order soup, chicken with carrots. The spot will just sit there, hungry.


Afterwards, we will come home and watch TV. Cars and weight-loss ads and detectives who solve everything. My husband on the couch scribbling on a tiny piece of paper.


I have each piece of paper stored in a coffee can. I imagine that sometime in the distant future, my husband will sit on his widower’s bed, unball each piece of paper as he sits there with the shades half-drawn. He will remember when he wrote it. Imagine how I opened it and held it in my hands. He will sit there, on his bed in the distant future with only the pieces of paper. No TV. No cereal. He will sit there all night until morning, the light of a thousand yesterdays pouring through the shades.



Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two full-length collections, Café Crazy and The Theory of Flesh from Kelsay Books. Her flash fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologized in the most recent New Micro (W.W. Norton) Her novella-in-flash, The Way of the Wind has just been published by Ad Hoc Fiction, and her full-length collection of flash fiction, Dressed All Wrong for This was recently published by Blue Light Press. She lives in New York City.


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Partners

Gerard Sarnat


Pre-dawn

push a button

to drip the coffee.

Assist

gathering ID

and insurance cards.

Two years

after helping me

get through surgeries

after which

I rebuilt strength

as well as mobility

now start

of our sixth

decade together

it’s time

to use that

new nimbleness

to do what

ever is needed

to help my love

recover from

shared travails

of septuagenarians.



Gerard Sarnat won the Poetry in the Art