• Big Table Publishing

MAY, 2020


Communion, Spring, 2020

Charles Coe

Do you remember those days when we’d all meet

at some favorite restaurant? Stepping in from

the cold, breathing in clouds of garlic,

shrugging off coats for the welcoming hugs?

We’d examine the menu with the care of archeologists

blowing dust off a newly discovered Sanskrit tablet.

And we’d sit so close, touching sometimes,

passing platters back and forth, everyone

yakking at once, struggling to hear

each other above the music.

And finally, as our ravaged plates made

their way back to the kitchen, sometimes

we’d pose for a picture taken on someone’s

phone by an indulgent server, arms wrapped

around each other, grinning like high school

kids at graduation.

Now, some of us who shelter alone

busy ourselves in our kitchens,

search cookbooks and computers

for the dishes we make for one,

and posting pictures of our creations,

not to brag, but to share communion

The only way we can.

Charles Coe is the author of three books of poetry: All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents, Picnic on the Moon, and the just-released Memento Mori, all published by Leapfrog Press. Charles is also author of Spin Cycles, a novella published by Gemma Media. He was selected as a Boston Literary Light by the Associates of the Boston Public Library and is a former artist fellow at the St. Botolph Club in Boston. Charles was a 2017 artist-in-residence for the city of Boston, where he created an oral history project that focused on residents of Mission Hill. He is poetry editor of Multiplicity, an online literary journal. Charles has served as poet-in-residence at Wheaton College and at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State and is an adjunct professor of English at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, and Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, where he teaches in both MFA programs. 

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Velvet

Coleman Bomar 

The velveting buck’s

antlers stuck in wire fence wire

wreathing the bean field 

just wanted to scratch their youth off

in strips

shaking at the scent

of brown brown brown eyed 

blinking fawns who grew up

faster than spring

Coleman Bomar is a writer who currently resides in the mountains of East Tennessee. His works have been featured by and/or are forthcoming in 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, Altered Reality, Impressions Literary Magazine, The Scarlet Leaf Review, The Heartland Review, Danse Macabre, Anti-Heroin Chic, Showbear Family Circus Liberal Arts Magazine, Rats Ass Review, Nine Muses Poetry, 4starstories, Plum Tree Tavern, Prometheus Dreaming, SOFTBLOW,  Poets’ Choice Zine, Coughsyrup Magazine, Isacoustic, Ethel Zine, New American Legends, The Collidescope, Star*Line, Misery Tourism, Detritus, Beyond Words, Drunk Monkeys, Open: Journal of Arts and Letters, and Eunoia Review.


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At the Canyon

Darren Black

the photo would have been morning perfect

at the canyon's lookout

squinted to a wafer

in the newlywed husband's viewfinder

his partner in pre-smile

selfie pose yet to be

struck like god and goddess

an instant both thought

would hover one day

in their smart phones

palmed in hands over cafe lattes

in morning's aging light

proof of that day at the lookout

of love, of eternity

but for the wind's capricious hand!

and now they tumble, vitriol grains

down to the canyon's scrub green floor

ballooning blue windbreakers

poor substitutes for wings,

A timeline jackpot

for thousands of eyes, dulled, now open 

by light emitting diodes, living

their own sudden falls

in waking hands

a perfect Twitter tragedy

in which to believe

Darren Black continues to work on his poetic skills in local workshops and has served as an associate organizer of the Boston Poetry Marathon. His first published poem appeared in the fall online issue of the Muddy River Poetry Review. He holds a BA in English from the University of Notre Dame and an MS in Rehabilitation Counseling from U. Mass Boston. As a person living with blindness, Darren savors his unique experiences and draws on a life's history of negotiating environments that are not made for persons with disabilities. He hopes that a bit of queer sensibility and irony touches everything he writes.

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Something in the Wind

Charles Coe

A car waiting at the red light has a dog

with head stuck out the back window,

tongue hanging, snout twitching, beguiled

by some intriguing smell. The average dog nose

is a million times more sensitive than a human’s,

a bloodhound’s nose, a hundred million times.

This dog’s a mutt, not a bloodhound,

genetic fruit salad, a United Nations of Dog,

but it has a fine nose, and appears

unconcerned about its lack of pedigree,

focused instead on whatever it’s sniffing,

and it occurs to me there might not be

a more contented creature on the planet

than a dog with head stuck out a car window.

The light turns green, the dog moves on to new

olfactory adventures, and I wonder what it

smelled here, what it smelled that

I could never detect with this feeble

human nose, even if that nose

weren’t covered by this mask I’m hoping

will protect me from something in the wind

I can neither smell nor see.


Charles Coe is the author of three books of poetry:All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents,Picnic on the Moon, and the just-releasedMemento Mori, all published by Leapfrog Press. Charles is also author ofSpin Cycles, a novella published by Gemma Media. He was selected as a Boston Literary Light by the Associates of the Boston Public Library and is a former artist fellow at the St. Botolph Club in Boston. Charles was a 2017 artist-in-residence for the city of Boston, where he created an oral history project that focused on residents of Mission Hill. He is poetry editor ofMultiplicity, an online literary journal. Charles has served as poet-in-residence at Wheaton College and at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State and is an adjunct professor of English at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, and Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, where he teaches in both MFA programs. 

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Three Stories

Michael C. Keith

Spam Stew

He wanted to make a lamb stew on Day 89 of the Coronavirus shelter-in-place order but due to the meat shortage, his local market was out of what he needed. He thought about what else he could use and discovered there were options. This realization kept him from losing it entirely.

Issue Resolved

She has hung her laundry out to dry her entire life but now is afraid to do so as someone has been cutting the crotches out of her underwear. This has forced her to do her delicates at the local laundromat. She has considered buying a dryer, but it seems like an extravagance on what she receives from Social Security. Then it occurs to her to simply stop wearing underpants. When her daughter learns of this, she tells her mother she will buy her a dryer. Her mother objects but her daughter says she won’t allow her to sit in her new car without wearing undies. She enjoys taking rides with her daughter, especially in the late model Hyundai, so she reluctantly accepts her daughter’s offer of a dryer. Everyone is happy.

The Curious Act of a Stranger Long Ago

“I can see myself in the glass,” said the child staring at the display window of Pettigrew & Stephens on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow just before I stole her away.

It was that which was written on a postcard dated April 12, 1904 and found tucked into page 103 of Claude Bernard’s An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine in Paris’s Bibliotheque de la Sorbonne.

Michael C. Keith is the author of 20 books of fiction.

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For Suzanne Wherever She May Wander

Stephen Barry

Friday nights in Healeys’ Bar

in the sacred midnight darkness

of beer and Irish chaser benediction,

I slid quarters down the slot.

Softly singing along

“For the Good Times”

on perpetual play

while the amber and the gold

stood side by side

like poisoned lovers on the mahogany.

The whiskey tastes of sadness

and the beer of faded days.

Sepia reflection in the dusty mirror

still I drank with your memory

as my heart danced with your ghost.

While you slept beside your new husband

a hundred miles away

barely recalling my name.

Stephen Barry is a Dad and trial lawyer living in New York City. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals including Boston Literary Magazine, The Magnolia Review, and The Stray Branch.


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A Convention of Bandits

Steve Klepetar

“And in the growing darkness

the almost empty town,

palled in dust, swept by bitter sea-spray,

and loud with the shrilling of the wind,

seemed a lost island of the damned.”

 ~ Albert Camus, The Plague

I walk on empty streets, almost empty

but for the couple walking their black lab

a safe distance ahead, and a utility truck

sweeping dust from the curb.

It swirls in thin clouds as wind kicks

through the pines, and I close my teary eyes.

I’ve forgotten what day it is, so I stop

to check the mail, but it hasn’t come yet

or maybe it’s Sunday

or the Fourth of July for all I know.

In Florida the beaches open,

people crowded on sand as the surf rolls in.

Schools remain closed. I haven’t seen

a child for weeks, the basketball court silent and still.

In the grocery store we wear masks,

a convention of bandits

slinking down the one-way aisles,

looking for pasta, beans, and rice.

No yeast again, or buttermilk.

A woman cuts me off to get to the eggs,

apologizes profusely, as if she fears my wrath.

“It’s fine,” I say, making a wide turn

around her cart looking for the pickles we love.

I stand behind her at the checkout line

on my own space marked with little red feet.

Out in the parking lot we wave, and she waits

to let me pull out first, a little kindness or a way to even the score.

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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Downward Flow

Phil Temples LakeFest was held annually at the edge of Pine Lake. The celebration marked the end of autumn for the sleepy town of artisans and eclectic folk. It attracted picnickers and music performers who came to enjoy one last dip in the lake before the winter chill arrived. “Everything flows down toward the lake both geographically and emotionally,” explained the mayor, adding, “The spiritual ‘runoff’ means there is a ‘downward flow’ of energy to the lake. It’s cleansing. It’s what makes our village magical.” Unbeknownst to the mayor and other town leaders, two nearby septic systems were leaking badly. The runoff contaminated the lake causing a cholera outbreak, sending two dozen swimmers to area hospitals—causing a downward flow of a different nature.

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 GrubStreet writing center in Boston and the Mystery Writers of America.


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The Morning After

Jason Fisk

I walked out for the newspaper

and heard the birds chirping

Their crisp twittering songs

circling strong in the still air

And for the first time in my life

I realized that mornings magnify sound

I went to get the mail after the storm

and the fresh-earth scent

was the most enthralling

aroma I had ever inhaled

And for the first time in my life

I realized that rain magnifies smell

And later that night

after a few hours of sleep

I woke up 

alone

and I felt a deep sorrow

like never before

And I realized that

silence

magnifies mistakes

Jason Fisk lives and writes in the suburbs of Chicago. He has worked in a psychiatric unit, labored in a cabinet factory, and mixed cement for a bricklayer. He was born in Ohio, raised in Minnesota, and has spent the last 25 years in the Chicago area.

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Flicker

Christine Gelineau

Grey spring day.

Even the rhododendrons with their extravagant crimson spheres of trumpet-mouthed blooms are muted in this light.

A friend will be here with us tonight but now she is driving from her home to the hospital nearby us where her elderly mother lies in the wake of what may well be the final episode . . .

Waiting for Marsha I see in the garden my first goldfinch of the season flit past in its undulating finch flight :

a feathered yellow heart that falls     and lofts        falls    and lofts

like some simulacrum of hope                   a flicker to cherish for this day. 

Christine Gelineau is the author of three full-length books of poetry, most recently Crave from NYQ Books. A recipient of the Pushcart Prize, Gelineau’s poetry, essays and reviews have appeared widely. After more than 25 years, she will be retiring this summer from Binghamton University but will continue to teach in the low-residency MFA program at Wilkes University.

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Black Fly Season

Laura Rodley

Cinnamon scrinches up her muzzle,

rolls it back, showing off her yellow teeth

in pleasure as I sooth her ears

with Bag Balm, defense

against rampaging black flies.

This is after I’ve convinced

her that this will help.

First, she rolled her eyes at me,

wishing to dance, her dish size

hooves making us unequal partners,

nothing in her ears, please,

then, I sneak in Bag Balm,

soft as butter, wipe gently against

where black flies have nipped

the inside of her ears raw.

As soon as the second ear

is done she crinkles her top lip,

thanks, now I get it,

and wipes shedding hairs

off her nose against the thighs

of my jeans as though I were

another horse, just another pony.

Laura Rodley, Pushcart Prize winner, is a 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, 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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The Gorilla Habitat (Houston Zoological Gardens)

Larry D. Thomas

reeked of decomposing

vegetable and animal matter.

Gray stucco simulated the stone

of a secluded mountain grotto.

A fake waterfall

trickled from a hidden spigot

encrusted with the greenish,

recalcitrant deposits of minerals

in the humid exhibit

where my wife and I whispered

as he peeled a banana

with the manual dexterity

of a surgeon, his black fingernails

glinting the light of skylights.

He basked in the green,

rarefied reality of a schefflera,

squatting beneath a huge, glossy leaf,

fixing his unblinking stare squarely on us,

humanlike as a dark, brooding ancestor

whose shadow loomed large, ungraspable,

deep within the branches of our family tree.


Larry D. Thomas, a longtime contributor of poetry to the Boston Literary Magazine, is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and served as the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate.  The most recently published of his twenty-two print collections of poetry is In a Field of Cotton: Mississippi River Delta Poems (Blue Horse Press, Los Angeles, 2019).  He lives in Las Cruces, NM.


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Grampa’s Life of 86 Years

RM Yager

They called me from the Nursing Home

to come and collect his belongings

So I went

Gathered up, a Red clock radio, 

orthopedic tennis shoes, several Readers Digests, wool socks, boxer shorts,

yellowed t-shirts, 12 flannel shirts in many colors and plaids, a blue velour bathrobe with matching slippers.

Old sweatshirts, many mismatched pairs of sweatpants, several pairs of Sansabelt trousers, some old books,

a wool overcoat, old umbrella, and several containers of talcum powder,

vaseline, Ben Gay, Vicks Vaporub, Polident, toothbrushes, 3 plastic emesis basins, a plastic wash basin

One pair of Ted hose, an ace wrap. an old warn wristwatch with a metal stretch band. A scratched up uncharged cell phone.

His old worn billfold contained an expired drivers license, voters registration card, Butchers Union Card, from the 1950’s, and a $20 bill.

I put all the family pictures in a small cardboard box

These he had kept on his dresser and bedside table so they would be the first thing he saw when he woke up in the morning.

I carried out the remains of his life possessions

In 4 big black plastic bags.

RM Yager is a nurse/teacher/photographer whose topics are marginalized, at risk populations, poetry is her vehicle to deliver words most people find unspeakable, hopes to offer inclusion, wants to stop you in your tracks with controversial humor/tragedy within family and relationships, also writes about whimsy. She just began submitting poetry in the past 18 months despite being a writer for 50 years. She has works that have been published in the Rockford Writers Guild, Avocet Nature Journal, East on Central Highland Park as well as the Highland Park Muses Galery and Poetry Challenges, Winnetka Living,The Blue Collar Review, The Front Porch Review, PKA Life is Good Magazine, and Stepaway Journal from the UK.

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High Winds Likely

Peggy Schimmelman

My brother holds forth in the kitchen

his natural exuberance bolstered

by the King of Beers, his companion.

Pressure plunges, the wind picks up

and now it’s hailing

high school hijinks and basketball glory

all over our family reunion.

The 1971 Southeastern Conference

Free-throw Champ

replays his and our adolescent escapades

while the Van Buren Bulldogs

team, coach, classmates

cousins and neighbors (some long buried)

crowd into the kitchen

lean into the huddle

to listen, recall, and relive.

Remember those kids?

Remember that teacher?

Remember the creek?

Those floats down the river?

Remember the cyclone?

Remember the flood?

Remember that game where

the whole team played hammered?

That last-second tie-breaking

game-saving dunk?

Remember?

Oh say, remember that time?

We think we might, but

while the outside breeze blows Ozark southern

here in the kitchen the wind might come

from any direction

whipping up a twister of fakes, shuffles, pivots

behind-the-back passes

so that with each recounting,

a memory, like any good game,

is fluid and unpredictable enough

to astound us all over again.

Peggy Schimmelman is a San Francisco Bay Area poet. Her work has appeared in North American Review, Comstock Review, Pacific Review, Willingwriters.com, and other print and online journals.

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