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.

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.

to be human is not an act of desecration | Laura Leigh Cissell

Image: Mohit Tomar
to be human is not an act of desecration
to live humanly is not anathema to nature. 
I do not apologize for my humanness.


I do not apologize for the flower I picked
and carried in my hand to the mountaintop.
I spoke to the flower like an old friend 
then loosed her on the wind 
watching petals and stamen soar 
across the river rich valley below.
I do not apologize for this.


I do not apologize for the shade I stand in
cast by brick and mortar and bitumen.

I do not apologize for the steel faucet I turn
loosing earth-cooled water from buried pipes,

filling my mouth with metallic-tinged life
crystal and blooming, pouring down my chin, 

splashing crisp against my bare feet.
I do not apologize for this seasonal waterfall.


I do not apologize for trails followed through grass and wood,
for the dent in the forest floor where I sat 
and shared lunch with a kingfisher: 
----------He, a silver-green fish, snared fresh
----------I, clementine, grown far from this alpine stream.


To be human is not an act of desecration.

I am nature as trees
nature as salmon spawned in rivers far from the sea
nature as lichen on scree
nature as lion, as leopard 
----------as beaver, as bison 
nature as wildfire, as hurricane
as water lifted as mist, as water dropped in flakes
as daisies carpeting desert sands.

I am nature as the curious cat–
slow stalking intrigue
delight of game, of pounce
of crunch, of blood
glutted and full of mouse.

I am humanness.
I am holiness. 
I am a masterpiece.

Laura Leigh Cissell (she/they) is an autistic, queer Texan expat residing in the Colorado foothills. They are the head of data analytics for a tech startup, an MFA candidate at Regis University, a spouse, parent, and occasionally a poet. Laura’s greatest sadness is that all the sea turtles of the world will never know how much she loves them.

A City Story | Jennifer Maloney

A City Story

Once upon a time, our town owned a story —  William Stafford

This town once told a story.
It was all about our goodness,
our presbyterian Jesus, embodiment
of meek and mild, 
knew just when
to shut his mouth.

We might’ve owned the world,
but we knew we owned this city—
it looked like us, grey-faced, combed-over,
Our uniforms—

blue coats,
white coats,
top coats,

peaked caps,
and stethoscopes—

they could have stood up empty,
could have stood up on their own,
so upright were we, so stiff, 
so erect with straightness—
the bleach of it burning 
our eyes, our throats,
our thoughts—our thoughts

were all about this city, 
what it needed,
what we’d give it,
whether it needed it or not:

white-gloved crossing guards
blonde, baton’d majorettes,
a thousand brushcut lunchpails, 
a parade of white bread wonder
fed into the factory daily—
while we kept

the wheels turning,
kept the peace
at the business end of the nightstick,
kept the hysterical sedated
with TV and Black Velvet 
and small pills
for big-mouthed women—

this town once had a story,
a secret underneath its skirt—
the pressure point of the club handshake, 
the sweet grease for the palm-reader—
the future
was ready-to-wear. 
We believed it, believed in it, believed we’d

what we wanted, 
the trophies we paid for,
the money, the manna, the mammon—
we’d get everything
we deserved.

It’s not the dogs,
not the fire hoses 
that ended this tale.

It’s the photographs the press took,
how it looked 
on the news. Operations interrupted
for awhile as we smiled, 
shook our heads, said
what a shame,
we must do better…
and we got better.

At the story.
At the inside jokes. Got degrees 
in Women’s Studies, hid
in Diversity Departments.
Learned to murder Black kids,
but phrase it right on resumés,
and get a job as the director
of the Police Accountability Board.

This story keeps on rolling.
This story is a running joke.

This town elects its drug dealers, 
pays its whores with plummy titles,
keeps its finger on the pulse,
says we have no DNR, 

so the ventilator breathes for us,
the psyche meds think
and dream for us,
the generic Viagra fucks for us,
the Trazodone tucks us in.

In fiction, there are endings, 
there is meaning, sometimes lessons, 
but this story,
like this city,
has a life of its own.

And who am I to judge it? 
To defend it? To defund it?
Who am I to count its blessings?
Or to number all its bones?

This city is American.
This city could be anywhere.
This city never pays for guardrails
if it can vote for guns

This city is my hometown.
This city isn’t getting better.
This city has no place for me.
It’s my hometown,
but it’s not

Jennifer Maloney writes poetry, fiction and plays from her home in Rochester, NY. Find her work in Litro Magazine, Panoply Zine, Ghost City Press, and many other literary magazines and journals. Jennifer is the co-editor of Moving Images: Poetry Inspired by Film (Before Your Quiet Eyes Publishing, 2021) and the author of Don’t Let God Know You are Singing, Poems and Stories, forthcoming in winter, 2023, from the same fine press. Jennifer is also a parent, a partner, and a very lucky friend, and she is grateful. For all of it. Every day.

Aloe: Affliction. Grief. Bitterness. | Vanessa R. Bradley

Image: Alli Elder
Aloe: Affliction. Grief. Bitterness.
I get a sunburn at your funeral.
My mother slathers me with cheap
aloe, sticky and dyed green.
I bought an aloe plant cause I liked the way
it felt when I pressed leaves
between fingers

and you told me aloe is for grief.

I look it up after in the book you left behind
soothing burnt, aching shoulders 
with vermouth from the family fridge.
Page 30: bitterness and grief in floral language
Break off a piece and squeeze until it bursts

It tastes like shower cleaner and acid reflux
the sound of my own voice in a snowstorm
a shot of rubbing alcohol 
a still green banana
that time you ate brie and yelled at me when you felt sick—
----------How could you let me 
-----   do this to myself?

Vanessa R. Bradley (she/her) loves fantasy novels and writes a lot of poetry about dirt, divorce, and discovering queerness. She lives in Epekwitk (PEI) with her wife, where she is working on a collection of poetry about the meaning of flowers. You can find her on Instagram @v.r.bradley and on Twitter @vanessarbradley.