• 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 Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize, and has been nominated for a handful of recent Pushcarts plus Best of the Net Awards. Gerry is widely published in academic-related journals (e.g., University Chicago, Stanford, Oberlin, Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Pomona, Johns Hopkins, Wesleyan, University of San Francisco) plus national (e.g., Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, MiPOesias, American Journal Of Poetry, Clementine, pamplemousse, Deluge, Poetry Quarterly, Hypnopomp, Free State Review, Poetry Circle, Poets And War, Wordpeace, Cliterature, Qommunicate, Indolent Books, Pandemonium Press, Texas Review, San Antonio Review, Brooklyn Review, San Francisco Magazine, The Los Angeles Review and The New York Times) and international publications (e.g., Review Berlin, Voices Israel, Foreign Lit, New Ulster, Southbank). He’s authored the collections Homeless Chronicles (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014), Melting the Ice King (2016). Gerry is a physician who’s built and staffed clinics for the marginalized as well as a Stanford professor and healthcare CEO. Currently he is devoting energy/ resources to deal with global warming. Gerry’s been married since 1969 with three kids plus six grandsons, and is looking forward to future granddaughters.


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Postal Sonnet

Jefferson Carter


Today’s mail: an invitation to join

Arizona’s liveliest burial society.

Another illegible, handwritten note

offering to landscape the front yard.

A letter from my shrink informing me he’s

closing his practice. He extends best wishes

for my future health & happiness.

I don’t panic. I suppose I’m cured.

I’ll miss our sessions, discussing poetry

& joking about a better life through chemistry. Now who will answer my inconsequential

questions, the ones nobody else cares about? Did you know in Eastern psychology,

the word “personality” means scar tissue?



Jefferson Carter has poems in Carolina Quarterly, Barrow Street, Cream City Review, Rattle, and New Poets of the American West. Chax Press published Get Serious: New and Selected Poems, chosen as a Southwest Best Book of 2013 by the Tucson/Pima County Public Library. Presa Press has just released his eleventh collection, Birkenstock Blues. He lives in Tucson with his wife Connie. He’s a passionate supporter of Sky Island Alliance, a regionally-based environmental organization.


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The Trust of a Robin on Sunday

~ for Gord Downie

Chad Norman


No other day than that day

I fed the crows beneath the flags,

one for Nova Scotia, and

one for our country, Canada,

the lone bird 3 parking spaces

down the paved, well-traipsed hill,

sat in the shadows of trees known

because of the seasons' kind teachings.

And did not move, or fly away

all the time I was there, even

when I stood still and stared at it,

a robin, and it knew in that stare

something I may never know about,

our similar obvious lack of hurry.

Perhaps the bird

simply brilliant enough

to trust its decisions

to not allow me

any superiority over the choice,

its choice, to enjoy the day of rest,

soon to endure the return

to a more southern shade.



Chad Norman lives and writes in Truro, Nova Scotia. His poems have appeared in journals and anthologies around the world. His new collection, Squall: Poems In The Voice Of Mary Shelley, is due out May 3rd from Guernica Editions. His love of walks is endless.



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The Tricorne Hat Lady

Annie Pluto


I coveted her when I was a child. I wanted to be her—the made in Occupied Japan figurine—her hat at a jaunty angle—blue and white as Delft but with a hint of pink in her basket of flowers—always smiling—her china hair is a lighter shade of pale—almost silver as my own became—early—her 18th century peplum jacket and skirt—she is looking at someone—was there a male companion—a Ross Poldark of sorts that was making her laugh? Someone that was lost or broken.


My mother didn’t give her up easily. She gave me the fisherman—the Dutch girl bell and the Delft windmill salt and pepper shakers. But the Tricorne Hat Lady came with me after my mother’s stroke—wrapped in newspaper and hidden in the boxes of jewelry that I brought from Brooklyn to Boston on my first trip back.


She lay in the box for 7 years—in the fallow field of a bedroom closet—wrapped in history until this year when I found her again—my pretty old friend—smiling and shiny blue—her skirt always in alignment with her jacket—the flower basket on her hip never bothers her—the hat always right she sits on my desk amid the papers and books—the lists of things I need to do—her ghostly face a doorway back to dreaming of what could happen next.



Anne Elezabeth Pluto grew up in Brooklyn, NY before it was cool. She is Professor of Literature and Theatre at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA where she is the artistic director of the Oxford Street Players. She is one of the founders and editor at Nixes Mate Review and Nixes Mate books. Her latest book is The Deepest Part of Dark, Unlikely Stories Press, NOLA, due out in April 2020.


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Smoke

Jane Banning


When you sit in the deli

for a long time

the smell suffuses your clothes

like smoke.

The creases of your elbows deepen as,

leaning in,

you cry a little.

When pain wears you down,

the deli is a place to go

with a friend who doesn't mind

the waft of beef.

With a friend who knows

the elbow-leaning angst

of what to do next,

how long to wait,

what might go wrong.

When the second glass of wine arrives,

and she has had none,

she keeps her gaze on yours,

steady as a good sandwich

made with sturdy bread

and warm, still,

from the kitchen.

When she says "get a second opinion",

you bite down into something

well-spiced and tender,

like you've always

loved this thing

that you've never tasted before.

The flavor shines softly,

like the bottom of the glass,

the smoke in your clothes

just

right.



Jane Banning lives in northern Wisconsin and has had over thirty of her stories, poems, and flash fiction writings published in various journals, including the Boston Literary Magazine, the University of Iowa Daily Palette, and Long Story Short, among others. She was a finalist in the Glass Woman Prize and the Micro Award. Asparagus Roots was published in February 2018 by Big Table Publishing and is a compilation of flash fiction, essays and poetry. Her novel, Silo, is looking for an agent and while it's out looking, Jane goes kayaking.


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Radio Days

~ for Ronnie McLeod

Margot Brown


The walk home from school was level till

the bridge over Aberjona Brook, then

I furtively looked for Jeannie’s cracked

leather jacket and hoodlum boots, hair teased

wide, ratted so high, she loomed taller

than her target. On those frigid days

slush flushed the Weejuns on my feet

as I trudged up Canal Street. Barren

goldenrod stalks bent uneven paths

where I slogged, while Jeannie cawed

If I ever see Ronnie look at you again, I’ll slice you —

I saw razors, Brylcreem, and pimples. Black pants

gleamed grime in bright winter light; the tight fit

outlined his briefs. The teeth

of an unlocked zipper pressed his flesh

with the clasp of a safety pin. I felt nothing

but disgust for him. A Lucky Strike dangled

from his plum lower lip. I had visions

of animals in heat, felt the shock of the slow kid

who slipped from the limb of a dead tree

while perched by my bathroom window.

If I ever see Ronnie look at you again, I’ll kill you.

Today I heard the Shangrilas on WMEX ask

is she really going out with him?

I wonder if he liked me.



Margot Brown writes from her home in rural Illinois where she lives with her husband and two rescued cats. Margot migrated from Massachusetts to the Midwest to attend Marquette University. Decades later, cleansed of her Boston accent, she still misses the ocean and compensates by putting too much salt on her food.


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A Chilly Sunday Morning in the Neighborhood

Xavier Combe


The station wagon pulled away from the curb. It was filled with suitcases and boxes but I could also see men’s clothes on hangers, a framed painting, an old guitar and a lamp. The driver glanced sidelong at my dog and me, he seemed aghast. In the window of the house a woman in a robe was staring out and taking quick puffs from a cigarette. A little boy was standing in front of her with his nose and the palms of his hands pressed against the glass. He didn’t draw or write anything in the fog his breath made.



Xavier Combe is a freelance conference interpreter and translator. He teaches at the University of Paris X. He has authored two non-fiction books in French as well as op-eds in the French press. His story The Games People Play won 3rd Prize at the October 2019 Bath Flash Fiction Award. He writes and produces audio fiction with 2-time Peabody award winner Jim Hall at muffydrake.com. He has two adult sons and lives in the Paris suburbs with his wife, their two teenage daughters and their dog Zelda.


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Leaving the Modernist Myth Behind

Cara Armstrong


Beneath a chandelier of seashells and drinking glasses,

I toss my crosshatched aspirations aside.

I want to splatter rooms with drooling little leaves,

make paper chambers that rustle when we walk in them,

blister ripped fabric with corrosive acid,

and staple them on white cubes.

Give me glowing spurts of orange and red,

showers of blossoms, citrus peels, and dried blood,

a handful of little faces with cut-out eyes.

I long to inhabit collage pieces that dress drywall in floral-print,

a luminescent temple to worship all our pretty-ugly souls,

where everybody has some sparkle,

like butt-to-butt guests mingling at a good party,

reveling in the charmed mysticism of a drag queen.



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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The Big Show

Nathan Granziano


Again he appears on my Facebook feed

although I haven’t seen him in twenty years

and didn’t know him well when we lived in

the same Rhode Island town and we both

had mullets and wore flannel shirts and lifted

our chins when we passed in the hallways.

Yet each day I watch his life digitally unfold

like thumbing through a stranger’s photo album,

each small joy and misery captured: the ex-wife

and the new girlfriend pass through the turnstiles

of a technological narrative, his heart on a sleeve

of emojis and overshares and saccharine selfies.

In elementary school, we called him Booger,

a name he never rejected due to the fact that

he was a proud nose-picker, placing his bounty

on sheet of loose-leaf to show off to anyone

willing to view the rows of snots, the museum

of mucus he kept beside a pencil box inside his desk.

But Booger could throw a fastball and a hook

and by high school he’d attracted a few scouts,

sitting in the empty bleachers with radar guns

as Booger mowed down batters, one by one.

Booger pitched a year at the community college

until his girlfriend got pregnant, a hanging curve.

I browse the pictures of Booger and his new fiancée—

his face, once thin, filled in with flab and loose skin,

and crows’ feet are stamped on the edges his eyes.

He and the love of his life flash past my laptop screen.

And I wonder if Booger still dreams of The Big Show.

If, like me, he hides his regrets from his Facebook feed.



Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. His books include Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press), After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press) Hangover Breakfasts (Bottle of Smoke Press in 2012), Some Sort of Ugly (Marginalia Publishing in 2013), and My Next Bad Decision (Artistically Declined Press, 2014) and Almost Christmas (Redneck Press, 2017). A novella titled Fly Like the Seagull will be published by Luchador Press in 2020. Graziano writes a baseball column for Dirty Water Media in Boston.


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Honor Roll (after Sam Cooke)

Jack M. Freedman


Don’t know much about history

but every future requires presence


Don’t know much biology

but seeds of love bloom in my DNA


Don’t know much about a science book

but I am a library from which I lend my heart


Don’t know much about the French I took

but my denouement includes mon amour


Don’t know much about geography

but I’ve plotted the path of my evolution


Don’t know much trigonometry

but this tangent leads to affection


Don’t know much about algebra

but there are constant variables inside me


Don’t know what a slide rule is for

but I know I measure up to someone


I don’t claim to be an A student

but honor is a roll I rarely slow


If we can fill bubbles with compassion

What a wonderful world this would be



Jack M. Freedman is a poet and spoken word artist from Staten Island, NY. Publications featuring his work span the globe. He is the author of ...and the willow smiled (Cyberwit.net, 2019), Art Therapy 101 (Cyberwit.net, 2019), and Tobias (KoA Media, 2020). Along with Jared Rich and Beth Greene, he co-authored Offerings (KoA Media, 2020).



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Insatiable

Camila Lopez-Passapera


My insides are radio silence,

illustrated in television static,

intermittent blinding flashes

of light that illuminate for half

a second and dissolve into hours

of darkness. I didn’t know love

could stop being sufficient

for my body until I started using

it up at a thousand measures

a minute. What unit does it

even come in? Kisses? Hugs?

My mother’s eyes when I come home?

I eat all of these up like a lioness

who hasn’t hunted in days, vicious,

roaring—for my survival.



Camila Lopez-Passapera is an aspiring writer who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and is a student of Psychology in Bel Air, Maryland. She has been published in The Drabble and Terror House Magazine, and will be featured in the Scars’ Publications Down in the Dirt magazine as well as Ethel Zine, both to be published July 2020.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *


Making Waffles

Richard Martin


My favorite childhood chore

to watch the little orange light

first one took forever

the light went out

signaled Mom it was ready


First one plopped on my plate

scooted down in my chair so I could

scan all tiny ridges and valleys

from eye level seemed huge

almost perfectly round


Fork in left hand knife in the other

spread peanut butter to all edges

creamy style topped by

warmed maple syrup

formed a pool in the middle


Wondering how they made

brown bottles shaped like people

chewing and smiling

at the same time those

perfect Sunday mornings



Richard Martin lives on a quiet lake in Northern Wisconsin. He is a retired marriage and family therapist who has returned to writing for pleasure after producing 40,000 notes about his clients. With gratitude, he comes from a long line of Norwegian story-tellers. In 1969, his creative writing professor encouraged Rick to submit his poetry for publication-proof that he has some turtle ancestry. He recently found the key to his file cabinet chock full of spiral notebooks he wrote in after his Smith-Corona broke down. This marks his first submission.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *


Broken Sonnet for a Girl

Lynne Viti


The baby came where the land edges into Appalachia,

where the supermax spawns jobs, supplanting factories.

A childless couple placed an ad in the local paper—

seeking to adopt, an open arrangement,

the birth mother welcome at Christmas, birthdays.

Lawyers drew up the papers— they kept the boy’s name.

An only child, he learned chess, became fluent in Italian, but

friends were few— by his teens, he played video games all night,

dropped out of college, slept days away on the sofa.

I was meant to be a girl, he said. The shrink called this

disordered thinking. Don’t have the surgery, she warned.

He wanted to be called Magdalene— started hormones in the fall.

Spring brought bulbs and forsythia back to life –

but not her—exit bag on her head, gas canister against the wall.




Lynne Viti is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Baltimore Girls (2017) and The Glamorganshire Bible (2018). She received Honorable Mentions in the Glimmer Train Short Fiction Contest, the 2018, 2019 and 2020 WOMR/Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest, the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest, and Grey Borders Wanted Works. Her debut short story collection, Going Too Fast, is forthcoming from Finishing Line in March, and Dancing at Lake Montebello, her full-length poetry collection will be published this November by Apprentice House Press of Loyola University Maryland.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *


The Balloon Sellers

Larry D. Thomas


Of fine porcelain, fashioned decades back

by the artisans of Royal Doulton,

the couple looms side by side on a glass shelf,

their shiny glaze radiant with the setting sun.

They’re sitting, clothed in hand-me-downs,

stooped from the relentless pressure of old age.

Perhaps they’re selling balloons in the city park

to supplement their meager pension,

oblivious to the gossip of pigeons.

The balloons’ bright colors seem out of place,

belying expressions so wrought with grief

their features sag like wax beside a flame,

their eyes of stone wistful for the clay of passion.



Larry D. Thomas is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and served as the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate. He is proud to be a longtime contributor to the Boston Literary Magazine. The most recent of his twenty-two print books of poetry is In a Field of Cotton: Mississippi River Delta Poems (Blue Horse Press, 2019). He resides with his wife and two Chihuahuas in Las Cruces, NM.


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