Our Habits Beginning Again | Ralph Salisbury

Image: Manikandan Annamalai

Our Habits Beginning Again

My oldest living brother a farmer; a writer, me;
my sister a banker; my youngest brother a nuclear bomber pilot;
our other two brothers long where
our parents have gone, we stare
at the dew-starred earth
we’ll soon become
and, though grown, wonder,
like errant planets or wandering asteroids
how much more mischief we dare.

Ralph Salisbury (1926-2017) grew up hunting and trapping, for meat and pelts, and laboring on a family farm which had no electricity or running water.  He attended university on the GI Bill after WWII and retired as Professor Emeritus from the University of Oregon, Eugene, where he taught for 43 years. His prizewinning memoir, So Far, So Good (recipient of the 2012 Riverteeth Literary Non-Fiction Book Prize), his three books of fiction, and his eleven books of poems evoke his Cherokee-Shawnee-Irish-English-American heritage. Poems from his twelfth book, seeking a publisher, have appeared in Northwest Review, About Place, and elsewhere.

Book Review | Another Death Bed by Jasmine Maldonado Dillavou

Another Death Bed by Jasmine Nicole Maldonado Dillavou
A review by Chris Bullock

“a moment of pause with things that matter” 

Jasmine Nicole Maldonado Dillavou

Another Death Bed (but this one is more comfortable, and the sheets just came out of the dryer)

During my time “studying” in China, I learned to see art not as much a hustle and grind, but rather as way of being. While taking an introductory Mandarin class, most classmates said they were pursuing business and politics, which only elicited a nod from the teacher, a middle-aged guy from Shanghai. When I said I enjoyed art, he gave a pause and a grin, then said an artist is blessed because an artist is never bored. From others there I got the same impression, a few said they wanted to be friends with an artist because an artist thinks differently than most, offering refreshing if unpredictable conversation. I had a local Chinese musician buddy who offered me drugs, guns, and often spoke his mind. When I said I was studying education, he interrupted me to say “Chris, you are not teacher. You a fucking artist.”

Artists, poets, and other rabble often share with us the process of discovering themselves and the world, and Another Death Bed by Jasmine Nicole Maldonado Dillavou, or Jasmine, offers that insight of a sitting in her brain as life unfolds. She rummages through the closet for an old stackable chair and offers us a seat in her mind, and she points out things which are as new to her as to you. You might expect to read a few pieces and set the book down, but time has suddenly passed and you have finished the book and wondering if there is something you missed. These are notes in the head of a creative, and as she puts it “a moment of pause with things that matter.”

I had first made her acquaintance upon returning from China to Colorado Springs, and attending a monthly discussion salon put on by Non Book Club Book Club. I had lived in the Springs and never found it repressive or backwards, rather I had come upon the same inspiration that has made it attractive to artists since the Broadmoor School. It was a bohemian life, piecing together rent how I could, playing concerts, going on tour, attending poetry readings, wandering art galleries and alley ways. In contrast to Denver, where quite a few were on hustle and grind mode and unwilling to open up for fear you might plagiarize and profit, in the Springs I found a tight knit and relaxed misfit milieu wherein just seeing differently made you different. Similar to my time in China. Fucking artists. 

A few things had changed since my time away, however. All these creative students and faculty from UCCS were not only putting on events, but also inviting you out to see it. Living downtown, meeting up just to chat about what we are up to. Trying out unusual ideas, without even a business plan or a merchandise table. It is true what Denver diehards might say, the Springs could be boring, but it also encouraged you to do something to fill the boredom, even if as in her case, “riding a Lime Scooter the wrong way down Bijou Street with a big black hat on.”

This collection is the writer discovering her mind as it emerges, and sharing it with you. An invitation to sit in her head on an extra chair pulled from the storage closet, a place which is rough around the edges and unaccustomed to guests, but will make do if you show up. A peek into Tejon Street bars, rubbing elbows with the most normal people imaginable, as an artist with other oddballs making things happen in warehouses, restaurants, bookstores, parking lots, on the street, wherever there is an emptiness screaming to be borrowed and occupied temporarily. Art for art’s sake, after which the observer can’t point out any details but just feels like something invisible has changed. 

One moment it is “the girl whose thighs don’t touch leaves the bathroom in front of me at the punk show” and the next is finding graffiti in the bar that says “I want to be dead with my dad”. One moment it is living your Boricua being and all the cultural weight and expectations, the next you are really just an artist and you are your “own greatest fear,” writing down your mind as you uncover it. Even after the tour is done, I am still in the chair on a dusty studio floor, and one of the legs of the chair is off-balance. But instead of complaining about it, I just rock a little, for art’s sake.

To grab a seat of your own, you can pick up the book in Colorado Springs at True North Art Gallery, Garfield Gallery, or Westside Stories. Or you can contact her on IG @jasminrunswithscissors or Jasminedillavou.com and if you are feeling extra boring, try Amazon.

About the Reviewer

Tall City (Chris Bullock) was born and got bigger on Long Island, New York. He did a few things then moved to Colorado Springs after trying to study in Paris. He did a few things there too, then moved to Denver, where he went back to school for foreign language. A couple of years on scholarship in China, and he is back in Denver. 

The Meeting | Jim Landwehr

Image: nikohoshi

The Meeting

Everyone around the table was
navigating through the meeting
casting noncommitments around freely
evading work with vagueness and excuses
nodding to the boss with their
personal variations of the boss nod.
The meeting was a formulaic soul killer
serving no measurable purpose
except to do what meetings do best
which is to generate more meetings.
Attendees took notes at times
but those who wished they
weren’t there in that meeting
did not take a single note.
I did not take notes.
The meeting dragged on and on.
Its leader, clearly new to meeting leading,
stopped caring himself halfway through.
I actually saw his spirit leave his body
as it yawned itself toward the ceiling.
And once everyone had their shot
at dropping a few buzzwords
leveraging the platform
empowering the Tiger team
using synergy to increase market share
while ensuring ROI for Q3 on the R2D2
They eventually called the meeting done
in part because of the realization that
it could have been an email, but
mostly because it had become
that wet log you try to burn
in your campfire
but it just won’t start.

Jim Landwehr has four published memoirs, At the Lake, Cretin BoyDirty Shirt and The Portland House. He  also has five poetry collections, Thoughts from a Line at the DMVGenetically SpeakingReciting from MemoryWritten Life and On a Road. His nonfiction and poetry has been featured in numerous magazines and journals. Jim lives in Waukesha, Wisconsin and was the 2018-2019 poet laureate for the Village of Wales, Wisconsin.

Quilt | TAK Erzinger

Image: Victor Grabarczyk


Yes, there is a finish

life, it twists, frayed
at the edges, its seams
expose where dreams and disappointment touch

the day’s reach, slenderest blue
heaven, heaviest cloud, longest hour
past youth’s back door, what we experience

how many twists can be endured,
split, cross section after cross section
each thread pulled through the eye of a needle

it appears misshapen but every block creates a pattern
mistakes, landscapes of torn cloth create a thing of beauty
as each fabric, stitch and multi-layered piece
completes the bed we can finally take shelter in.

TAK Erzinger is an award-winning poet. Her collection At the Foot of the Mountain (Floricanto Press California, 2021) won the University of Indianapolis Etching Press, Whirling Prize 2021 for best nature poetry book. It was also a finalist at The International Book Awards 2022, Willow Run Book Awards and Eyelands Book Awards. Erzinger’s forthcoming poetry collection Tourist (Sea Crow Press, Massachusetts) is due out in April 2023. Erzinger is an American/Swiss poet and artist with a Colombian background. She lives in a tiny hamlet in Switzerland with her husband and two cats.

The Birth and Death of a Homegrown Star | James Callan

Image: Scott Webb

The Birth and Death of a Homegrown Star

—–I found a head in my garden. Not a lettuce head, but among the lettuce heads –an actual head. A human head. It was wide eyed and alluring, a bit like Jeff Goldblum. At second glance, a lot like Jeff Goldblum. This head, it was Jeff Goldblum’s, or if not, an exact replica, nothing to distinguish it from the real thing. It wasn’t severed off, the remains of an act of violence or some horrific accident. Instead, it had smooth, unbroken skin under the chin where a neck should have been. No scars. The head was always a head, not a head that had been removed from a body.
—–A bit disturbed, I buried it. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t need a bodiless head in my life. So I dug among the lettuce heads and deposited the actual head –the human head– into the earth. I watered the spot, thinking of Jeff Goldblum down there in the dark under my feet, thirsty maybe, even if he had no stomach to store the water. I patted the soil, got sentimental, and fertilized the patch with liquid seaweed. With luck, the head would take root and grow. Into what? A full embodied star.
—–Then I waited. But nothing came. In a way, I was relieved, though a larger part of me felt the weight of disappointment. I tried to ignore it: the pang of loneliness that came with a world free of your own, personal Jeff Goldblum. But in the end, that small seed of desire grew larger than a prize-winning cabbage head. It grew to fill me entirely, the height and weight of a man.
—–Weeks later, when it was time to harvest the lettuce heads, I decided to unearth the actual head –the human head. When I dug down, I grazed two elastic ears to hit the broad foundations of a wide set of shoulders. I kicked aside the lettuces, no longer caring about the sauerkraut I had planned to make. I dug, and dug some more, six feet or maybe six-foot-three, because that’s how tall he is, that’s how tall the fully-formed body had grown beneath the ground among the writhing earthworms and teeming microbes.
—–“Can you speak?” I asked him.
—–Then, with the bedazzling charm and charisma one might expect from Jeff Goldblum, he spoke in rich, honeyed, tones –all confidence– his words streaming in profusion in that Jeff Goldblum way, a way in which one’s dialogue fails to keep up with a mind that is churning ideas faster than a cocaine-amped cheetah with its ass on fire, yet still flows from a set of delicious lips with adequate eloquence and a unique, amusing delivery. I couldn’t tell you exactly what he said, but it left me weak at the knees. The one thing I do recall from that sermon of silver-tongued soliloquy was the comment and question that came at the end.
—–“That’s a whole heck of a lot of cabbages there, my friend,” Jeff Goldblum said with jovial wonder. “Say, how would you like to gather those big boys up and make a tremendously large batch of sauerkraut, maybe some kimchi? That is, of course, if you’re a spice kind of person, and you strike me as a spicy kind of person, if you know what I mean.” His wink and smile was so Jeff Goldblum. I wasn’t about to say no to making sauerkraut with this wonderful man. So we gathered the cabbages and went inside.
—–In the kitchen, we lay out the purple and green brassicas, each one like a furrowing rosebud the size of a human head. I fetched the great ceramic crocks that would house the fermenting cabbage while Jeff got busy with the grater. He was very lively, energetic, and like a newly-opened jar of pickled vegetables, was fizzing with enthusiasm for the task at hand. And it was his hand, in fact, that he nicked, somewhat careless, which took his graceful finger clean off his immaculate hand.
—–“Whoops,” Jeff casually remarked, offering a comic, oops-a-daisy face and shrug, before placing his severed finger into the crock along with the shredded cabbage. I nearly dropped the cabbages bundled in my arms, such was my shock at seeing the layers of vegetable fibers on display across his open wound, no blood or bone to speak of.
—–I set down the large vegetables and gathered my calm, finding both my voice and my courage, before asking a man who by all appearances seemed to be Jeff Goldblum, yet grown from the soil, apparently made entirely of cabbage, “Are you the real Jeff Goldblum?”
—–“Of course,” he said, and smiled with the same knit eyebrows and are-you-crazy? expression that I had seen on the face of a beloved actor so many times in so many wonderful films over the decades. But then he sneezed and his forehead flapped open, a crisp and fresh green cabbage head.
—–I asked for the grater, which the cabbage man yielded up, but not without a winning smile that nearly left me paralytic. I waded through his uncanny charm, his insanely weird sex appeal, and with effort, took up the grater. I looked at a man-shaped cabbage who was the spitting image of Jeff Goldblum and decided I couldn’t trust a brassica that had more charisma than me. With difficulty, I reasoned that I didn’t need a heartthrob vegetable in my life.
—–So I took up the grater and shredded Jeff Goldblum into ten thousand tallies of anemic green. I stuffed every bit of him, every scrap of cabbage confetti, into one of the great ceramic crocks and entombed the Jeff jigsaw with the placement of its heavy lid.
—–Weeks later, lonely yet again, I opened the lid in anticipation for I knew not what. A gentle fizz aerated with seductive song from underneath the cabbage leaf seal, which I peeled back and discarded like the clothes from a lover who was ready to be ravaged. I smelled its pungent odor, its astringent tang.
—–I took a bite, shoveling a sample in my mouth with my bare hands, and gasped in a pleasure accentuated by the purest of pain. It was hot, like a flame, like kimchi on steroids. I thought of Jeff’s words, his assumption about what sort of person I am, how I struck him as a spice kind of person.
—–I swooned and hit the floor. He was absolutely right.

James Callan is a dual citizen of the US and NZ. He grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and lives on the Kāpiti Coast, New Zealand. His wife and son are human, but the remainder of his family are an assortment of animals, including cats, a dog, pigs, cows, goats, and chickens. His writing has appeared in Bridge Eight, White Wall Review, Maudlin House, Mystery Tribune, and elsewhere. His novel, A Transcendental Habit, is available with Queer Space.

tassili n’ajjer (cave in algeria) | Dan Fijolek

Image: Azzedine Rouichi

tassili n’ajjer (cave in algeria)

when the earliest shamans
emerged from the primordial mist
adorned in skins and skulls
with fists full of mushrooms

the dimensions flowed freely
like rivers cutting through the rock
after the younger dryas impact

our spines and chakras were aligned
to receive those dimensional outputs
magnetic bands of frequencies
flowering from the gravitational center of the universe
like a fractal mandala

shiva and shakti
creating and destroying everything all at once
bringing balance and purpose to the whole

but we became too focused
on the physical environment
overly busy avoiding predators
while hunting and gathering food

our powerful thoughts
became consumed with fear
bending our spines
and misaligning our chakras
filtering out the higher dimensions
hardening the density of physical 3d space
replacing balance with chaos
adjusting our bandwidth
away from the meridians
of the universal body
trapping us in the concrete filaments
of our devolving human minds

Dan Fijolek is a writer and poet from Longmont, Colorado. He has previously been published in Boulder Weekly & Jasper’s Folly Vol. 1

Unbearable | Jenn Zuko

Image: Jr Korpa


I writhe in the bed alone
clutching a million imaginary illnesses
that become real as I brood on them.
Wrap one cloth around me
and try to breathe

When that pain wracks my bones
In between shuddering waves
I sigh in pleasure
Yes. Give me more.

Push the threshold until it dissolves
pain bleeds over into ecstasy
give me more.

Angels straddle the line.
That’s why shepherds cower
when they appear.
That’s why their music is death.

Van Gogh. Poe. Marat/Sade.
Even their names sound like moans.

When two opposite sides of the coin
melt together into mercury
unbearable nirvana

Jenn Zuko (she/they) received their MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University back in 2001, and has been teaching at the college level ever since. Some highlights of their published work include: Stage Combat with Allworth Press (2006), “I Do My Own Stunts” in the Fight Master (2014), and two series of cultural commentary articles, titled Problematic Badass Female Tropes and Problematic Toxic Masculinity Tropes, found on Writers’ HQ and A Wandering Road websites, respectively (2018-2020). Her Substack newsletter is called Zuko’s Musings, with regular original work posted three times a week. She has been professionally involved in live theatre since the ‘90s, and is active today as a fight director and intimacy coordinator. She also co-produces and performs in an old-school, ribald variety show called Blue Dime Cabaret. Her Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok accounts are all named Jenn Zuko. Her Twitter is @Bonzuko.

Book Review | without water by Lawrence Mack

Hugging the hurt: without water by Lawrence Mack
A review by Chris Bullock

“bravery is hugging the hurt you know will come” 

Lawrence Mack

Several lines stood out to me while reading without water by Lawrence Mack, but this seemed to encapsulate not only the poetry but the whole approach to writing and living. Lawrence’s poetry is not only hugging the hurt, but anticipating the hurt, welcoming the hurt, and dancing with the hurt, finally making the hurt feel at home as a guest or part of the family, with some tea set out on the table. It is a book of poetry both deeply personal on an emotional level, but also as approachable and light as two strangers making small talk in the bar.

I had known Lawrence mostly through dance, as a frequent guest to several events around town, as someone who may study dance but still also enjoys dance. I had no idea he was a poet, but some of the best poets out there have developed lives which in turn inform their writing, like a written mirror held to life, and without water is not only a mirror, but a moving mirror, as if the surface of the bay, on which we float, until we wash ashore at the end. 

These poems have a very casual air, recommended for any aficionado of Frank o’Hara and the New York School. Frank narrated his day with minor inconveniences and pleasures until learning that Billie Holiday had died, writing about the small everyday things in a way that underlines both their simplicity and importance. Tributes to friendships and relationships as important elements of life, with the brevity and wit of social interactions, wherein we let slip a penetrating insight between remarks about the weather. 

Small talk hints at bigger things, or small talk avoids bigger things, but why do we need to address bigger things? Agnostics believe that the mind of man could not possibly comprehend the mind of God, so why try? Live how you are, who you are, when you are, with others or alone. It is what it is. We construct an independent image in the mirror, but we are also our past, with or without a family environment. The made could not possibly comprehend the maker, so don’t worry about it.

Probably the one that stuck in my mind after reading was “at least there are snacks”, picking up as a casket is lowered, and ending with the little things hinting at the big things “Pops says don’t forget the sandwiches in the trunk / Mom curses—she wouldn’t have bought so many / if she’d known so few / would show up”

This book really is a dance in stepping from pain to redemption to dry wit to exhaustion to joy within a single page, but also with the sense it was no big deal, just a dance, so lighten up if you can. Part of the environment is a newfound sobriety and understanding that sobriety can be the ultimate high, and taking please in noticing everything with a clear mind, and making the conscious choice to welcome the hurt that underlies any addiction. The hurt re emerges, the hurt approaches you, the hurt seems frightening, but it is also part of you, it is you. Once you accept it, you hug the hurt, dance with it, even welcome it into your life. And after any big welcome, there is small talk, topic to topic, and without water is a book of small talk which not only welcomes you and makes you comfortable, but also honors the struggle we may have endured to reach such nonchalant comfort. 

How do you get a copy of a book if the poet is always out dancing awake and asleep? I would try an email to lawrencewritespoems@gmail.com and he will get to it when the music stops.

About the Reviewer

Tall City (Chris Bullock) was born and got bigger on Long Island, New York. He did a few things then moved to Colorado Springs after trying to study in Paris. He did a few things there too, then moved to Denver, where he went back to school for foreign language. A couple of years on scholarship in China, and he is back in Denver. 

Goddess Wept a Daydream | Lee Frankel-Goldwater

Image: Ksenia Yakovleva

Goddess Wept a Daydream
into echoes of silence and storm

Sarah danced through green grass
across a field, a river and rocky plains
gathered water from the well-springs,
bathed in starlight infused pools

Morsels of sweet grew on reeds
and beds made from its stalks
Beside the fresh baskets…
Fire spoke with moonlight
and sleep behind her eyes

Dreams of quiet leopards in the night
Raindrops petal upon thatch-top and stone
As light painted gently upon her eyes

Fresh air and dew
pooling water in baskets
whispers of times yet passed
the catch of small fish
she washed with root
and healed with twig
in devotion to spirit
and great grass sky

holding hands with the wind

Lee Frankel-Goldwater is a teacher and a poet seeking the sage’s path. He knows it’s about the journey, and yet dreams of the destination. One of peace, one of less fear, or worry, or shame for all. He believes there’s some good in this world worth fighting for, and prays that his every deed is made into this backdrop. Lee writes at the Writer’s Block, dances at Mi Chantli, and plays around Boulder, CO. He’s always ready for a story.

Ladders | Shome Dasgupta

Image: Mike van den Bos


Sun—suppliant. Folded skies,
a swallow: mirrored creeks,
trailing—drifting, forever
a mashing, mashed—fists
of bark, scratched and scarred
like beaks of melee—like eyes
full of mud, stung from powdered

Juxtaposed: craved teeth, snarled brow—
a puff and a pout, such were the memories
of glass and dew—of patched mounds
tied by clasped grass, fingers crossed—
a crossing among sticks of light, like
hypnotic grazes of skin and bone, a release.

Pebble for pebble—a toss and a skip,
a broken roof made way for a charm,
floating—bumping—a ray of shadow
for tongues to find the path, a path—
wayward fallen upon knees, thin
and pressed—one leaf or two, feathered
like a rooster’s crow—so let it be gone—
so let our failures dwindle in our palms
as those who stagger and find bits
of rope to climb until we look down
and see the dirt of our wrists.

Shome Dasgupta is the author of The Seagull And The Urn (HarperCollins India), and most recently, the novels Cirrus Stratus (Spuyten Duyvil) and Tentacles Numbing (Thirty West Publishing House), and a poetry collection, Iron Oxide (Assure Press). His writing has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet TendencyJabberwock Review, New Orleans Review, New Delta Review, Arkansas Review, Magma Poetry, and elsewhere. He lives in Lafayette, LA and can be found at www.shomedome.com and @laughingyeti.