Samuel J Adams, Ben Berman, Kevin Casey, Kira Compton, Savannah Cooper, Jen Davis, Yoni Hammer-Kossoy, Howie Good, John Grey, Crystal Ignatowski, Brooks Lampe, Stephen Mead, Todd Mercer, Michael Neal Morris, Shloka Shankar, Annie Stenzel
by Dale Wisely
I’ll soon retire from the public school system where I’ve worked for the last 12 years. I’ll draw a pension and will start my next job, which will be about 4 days a week. My current employer is going to contract with me for the other day of the week to keep doing some of what I’m doing now. So, as retirements go, it’s not one. That will come soon enough.
I work with many nice people, but it’s the Piggly Wiggly across the parking lot that has me teary-eyed at the prospect of retiring. I will not see nearly enough of their wonderful employees once I start working on the other side of town.
Most mornings, I get out of my car when I get to work and walk over to the Pig for breakfast. This morning, I had this encounter with one of the nice women who work in the deli, cheerfully interacting with people like me.
LaBrenda: Morning! Can I help you?
Dale: I’m not sure. I'm not sure if you can. I don’t know. I’m not that hungry. But I have meetings this morning and if I don’t eat now, I’ll start feeling weird by 10. Also, I come in every morning thinking about my weight and how I need to just get a bit of scrambled egg, maybe a small piece of grilled chicken. Or maybe just get some fruit and oatmeal. But then I see those big beautiful biscuits and that giant pan of bacon and sausage and that’s what I usually end up getting. I think I have a self-control problem. Also a pork problem. And a biscuit problem. I have a lot of problems, LaBrenda.
LaBrenda: (maintains eye contact and listens patiently)
Dale: (checks behind to make sure no one is in line) I know I need to eat better. I’ve struggled with it my whole life. I mean, it wouldn’t kill me to skip a couple of meals. But not breakfast! They say that’s the most important meal of the day! I’m not sure what they base that on, but …hey, this smoked sausage doesn’t look bad. Are those fried chicken patties plain today or hot & spicy? It doesn’t matter. I probably should just have a bit of egg and, uh, tell you what: Let me just get a bacon biscuit.
LaBrenda: Okay, Baby. Welcome back.
Birmingham's Highlands Bar & Grill just won the James Beard award for best restaurant in the USA. This is deserved. The food is fantastic. The ambiance is lovely and the service impeccable. But no one on the wait staff will call you “Baby.” That’s why James Beard’s people ought to be looking at the Piggly Wiggly across the parking lot. I know it's not a restaurant, which is why James Beard's people ought to give an award to the best grocery store deli department, hot foods division. Because I'm telling you, you can step up to the counter at this Piggly Wiggly and buy dinner for two for maybe $15. See what $15 will buy you at a fancy restaurant. I'll tell you what it will buy you. An appetizer. (Crawfish beignets with a lemon mayonnaise, on a herb salad.) Or a dessert. (Pinebloom Farms blueberry cobbler, with buttermilk ice cream, paired with a 2012 Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise.)
Now for some actual literature. Our thanks to all contributors to this issue and to the fabulous editorial team: Laura M Kaminski, José Angel Araguz, F. John Sharp, and the ever-eagle-eyed F. J. Bergmann. Enjoy!
The Flower Syllabus
The flower syllabus
like it's yesterday
On the hillside rising up from the pond,
a new wooden cross among smooth granite
and ancient limestone, lichen-stained—
a boy's name and the numbers that tally
his brief time here routed into its cedar.
The boy now beyond anyone's care,
in this cold spring wind my worry alone
is for the wooden cross that will soon lie back
among the stones, forgetting and forgotten,
much more akin to flesh than monument.
Nine lines of just nine syllables each
Nothing to be done. I say again:
Do nothing. Now face due west. Repeat.
The rose of the winds will not help you.
To use another’s voice is pointless;
on a ship in a storm, you’ll be mute.
Box the compass. Choose the obscure way.
Pretend you were once a pirate queen.
The island where you buried treasure—
marked on a map you drew in the sand.
To the lilies in a strange-shaped vase
I think I'll let you go today
before your beauty
changes to decay and your petals
into ghosts of their quick glory.
Some people are opposed to flowers
cut and sold, doomed to be kept indoors
for a fraction of the lives they'd lead
connected to the ground or tree.
Forgive me: there are times I need
to be force-fed this lesson in mortality.
Say what you will, these lilies had a job
to do for me, and did it well.
Now I Lay Me
I heard what sounded like gunshots, so I went to the front window and looked out. Only a few people seemed to be hurrying to get off the street. Everyone else was calm, just going about their own affairs as if they had been conditioned to occasional chaos by years of coping with the vagaries and vexations of autocorrect. That night the big storm that struck the city would just miss us. I would imagine I smelled the greasy black smoke of a burning human body. There would be a Bogart movie of a Hemingway novel on TV. I would turn it off and go up to bed. Loaves of bread would fly over me in my sleep.
Life Is a Mixed Bag
Worry about the future,
solve an algebra equation
chewing bubble gum,
and never trust a blueberry.
Make someone love you.
[Nothing succeeds like excess.]
Never complain, never explain:
I’m a woman. I can be
as contrary as I choose.
Night follows day
like the flapping of a black wing;
a fixed and unalterable thing.
A score of noun substantives
built of glimmer and mist
woolgather in my mind,
waiting for the common sense
About Time (2013 film)
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
How to Ride a Unicycle
I imagine it feels
like a midsummer sunrise,
tender light revealed
in quarter-note hues
while distant streets
trace known and unknown ways
to the end of night.
Elemental, contradictions held
upright, I tell this time
without a clock
until I’ve forgotten
what I was dreaming.
It’s like you’re at the corner store and a quarter skates across the floor until it stops somewhere under the bubble gum and newspapers. You know the coin is there, just as you know the pull-cord for a dim bulb is somewhere in the fog of a windowless basement. It feels lost forever until it’s not, until you flub that slug between your thumb and forefinger, until you finally stand breathless and wonder aloud, what’s the big deal about a dropped coin?
into the sun
the scribbled note
to its wing
It’s almost dawn and my wife is so sound asleep I couldn’t wake her if I tried—each breath a sacred utterance of the spirit, a transcendent awareness of eternal consciousness and the illusion of duality, as she inhales stillness and exhales oneness from the very depths of her being.
My daughters, on the other hand, sound as though they are writing a doctrine on The Varieties of Breathing Experiences— panting and puffing, heaving and sighing, my three-year-old snoring in staccato while my one-year-old chirps like a mating cricket. Even in sleep they are constantly interrupting one other, giving voice to the restlessness of their generation.
I’m on the couch in the living room, struggling to make sense of all these breaths in conversation with one another, as I work on a poem about a boy who died a few seats in front of me on a chicken bus back in Africa, and those labored final gasps that he took on his brother’s lap as the sun rose over the mountains with such resounding indifference.
Nature Boy's Nest
in giant letters.
Drive 'til the road stops, then walk in.
My abode’s below the “Y.” Best view in town. No cops.
I’m free here. A tarp slakes off rain.
Love and be loved, friend;
that’s my theme.
from "Water Angels"
it is the water's mating season,
a pond opera
performed by buccal cavity—
ribbit, ribbit, ribbit.
It is now twilight.
Time for me to go in.
It's a sadness to give up
on such a sound.
Michael Neal Morris
sometimes i know larry norman
is dead but this morning
i learned again and remourned
the loss(es) of his light(s)
and the dimming of mine
brother asks once a month
if martha is dead
and i try to keep it together
while mom retells the sad
story with strange delight
exit one: departures
drinking rum alone
on an aeroplane
flying over a sunless
it softens the heartbreak
makes it something
more easily carried.
turtle shell with your
hidden away from sight.
can we rot?
can we rot?
can we mold over,
become fragrant with
the odor of death?
I think so
I think so
I think someone
left me in the sun
Yellow Flower Reflected, Refracted
Narcissus, you are
such a lovely shade
of black and white
in a filtered photograph.
You lean over the water,
and this is who you are
from roots to bruised petals.
It’s time to accept that
to uproot you, to transplant you,
would change your inherent nature,
and you will wilt and wither
before you allow that to happen.
I’ll breathe in your fragrance,
admire your beauty,
and think of you fondly
as I pass by the angry river.
Portrait of a Nude in a Storefront Window
She turns her bare back to the whole town,
to the padlocked doors, the barred windows,
the shuttered stores that stare into the street.
Could she speak, she might say
It is enough, glancing over her shoulder
at the movie theater marquee that wears only
the letter F like a last-ditch badge,
signifying nothing. She doesn't speak, though,
only studies the curled fingers
of her right hand that lie on the folds
of pale blue fabric. It is enough, she might say,
while behind her turned back, the fountain
in front of City Hall sputters.
Samuel J Adams
With the roadie there had been good times and nearly a baby, but when no baby came and the days the couple spent together darkened, Joanna departed the roadie for a shoe salesman who lived just down the road. The shoe salesman was kind and had a remarkable equanimity about being loved to spite another; Joanna thought it his best quality. He had a lovely patio and they’d begun to decorate it with things—potted ferns, cherubic statuary, windchimes—they could enjoy on afternoons when the roadie came by and parked his truck along their curb, his speakers blasting power ballads to win her back again.
Your name in past tense
is no longer foreign
in my mouth.
Is. Was. Was.
Samuel J Adams is an MFA candidate in fiction at Bowling Green State University. His recent stories appear in BULL, Spork, Beecher's, and New World Writing.
Ben Berman's first collection of poems, Strange Borderlands, won the 2014 Peace Corps Writers Award for Best Book of Poetry and was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award. HIs second collection, Figuring in the Figure, came out last spring from Able Muse Press. In addition, he has received honors and Fellowships from the New England Poetry Club, Massachusetts Cultural Council and Somerville Arts Council.
Kevin Casey is the author of And Waking... (Bottom Dog Press, 2016), and American Lotus, winner of the Kithara Prize (forthcoming, Glass Lyre Press). His poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Rust+Moth, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Pretty Owl Poetry.
Kira Compton is a storyteller who resides in the Boston area. See more at kiracompton.com.
Savannah Cooper holds a BA in English-Creative Writing from Lincoln University and currently lives in southern Missouri with her husband, dog, and two cats. Her work has previously appeared in The Coe Review, Plenilune Magazine, and Mud Season Review.
Jen Davis peddles her wordly wares in Northern Kentucky. Her poetry appears in Door is a Jar, Whale Road Review, Peacock Journal, Licking River Review, Eclectica, and others. Jen is seeking shelter for her unpublished works and compiling a list of potential titles for a memoir she isn’t writing.
Yoni Hammer-Kossoy’s poetry is forthcoming or has recently appeared in Forage Poetry, Muddy River Poetry, Dime Show Review, the American Journal of Poetry and Songs of Eretz Poetry. Born and raised in the US, Yoni now lives in Israel and when not writing, pays the bills as a software engineer.
Howie Good is hitchhiking through the apocalypse.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Nebo, Euphony and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly. John had a poem in Issue 2 (2004) of Right Hand Pointing.
Crystal Ignatowski's poetry has been featured or is forthcoming in Tuck Magazine, One Sentence Poems, Contemporary Haibun Online, and more. She lives and writes in Oregon.
Brooks Lampe lives in Oregon and teaches at George Fox University. His poems have appeared in Little River, Peculiar Mormyrid, and elsewhere. He runs Uut Poetry.
A resident of NY, Stephen Mead is an outsider multi-media artist and writer. Since the 1990s he's been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online. He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the health insurance. In 2014 he began a webpage to gather links of his poetry published in such zines as Great Works, Unlikely Stories, Quill & Parchment, etc. For links to his other media (and even merchandise if you are interested) please Google Stephen Mead Art.
Todd Mercer won the Grand Rapids Festival Flash Fiction Award. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, appeared at Right Hand Pointing. Mercer's recent work appears in 100 Word Story, Literary Orphans and Praxis Magazine Online.
Michael Neal Morris teaches English in a community college near where he lives outside of Dallas. He is the author of In Domestic News. Much of his day to day life is spent Facetiming his grandchildren, watching soccer, and maintaining his extensive coffee mug collection.
Shloka Shankar is a freelance writer and visual artist from Bangalore, India. She loves experimenting with Japanese short forms of poetry, as well as found/remixed pieces alike. Her work has most recently appeared in Failed Haiku, Shantih Journal, Unlost Journal, and elsewhere. Shloka is the founding editor of Sonic Boom.
Annie Stenzel's book-length collection, The First Home Air After Absence, was published last fall by Big Table Publishing Co. Her poems have most recently appeared in Eclectica, SWWIM Every Day, and The Lake (UK). Born in Illinois, she now lives within sight of the San Francisco Bay.