las lobas – lisa tellor kelley

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Women transform into wolves
and drink Shiraz made from smoke
and blackberries. They cut red
meat close to the bone, untie the forgotten,
strong warriors, burn gentle wild fires
and spread angel bait around before laying
down to sleep. They shelter the young
females from being stunned and eaten
and make them strong. Women

run with wolves and follow
a path straight to their soul
where their spirit connects
and nurtures the earth. With their souls
they listen to their mission
story. They write it

bone against bone, braid it
into hair, intermingle it into their war
cries rippling gentle and stern
from this wild, endangered species

 

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Bio: Lisa is the 2015 State of Illinois Emerging Writer of poetry. Currently, she is a lecturer of English composition at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and teaches creative writing at Lindenwood University Belleville-Illinois.  Lisa is the “name giver” of the River Bluff Review journal.  She is published in journals such as OVS-Organs of Voice & Speech, River Bluff Review, and Rhino.

 

Photo: Tahoe Beetschen 

three poems – j.c. reilly

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Tempest

On the pier at Hawley Arm,
their legs hanging over the edge,
the sisters watch a storm
punch its way from the west.

As the bruised clouds spread,
the air, thick and woolen all day,
shifts and trembles. The lake
blackens in response, while gators,

like logs, sink beneath the surface,
ripples vanishing almost instantly.
A pelican on a cypress stump
takes fright, takes flight, its white

feathers a momentary erasure
of the sky’s embittered indigo.
The sisters ought to go in; a storm
like that can bludgeon a body with hail

faster than they can run the quarter-
mile to the house, but they know
what they will find there: broken hearts,
broken hearts, faded magnolias.

A Syllable, a Dove

A dove drops from your mouth,
round and fat at my feet.

I pick it up, my hands a bowl
for its milk-white body;

it trembles but does not flinch
its gaze. Shell-pink beak sings

of what you could never speak:
your wish to find a sky

unspooling with clouds
of loss, of wind crystal time,

of desire that pelts like sleet.
Song complete, the dove lifts

into the air: your voice on wings,
Goodbye falling, a forgotten feather.

Proverb

In my dream, a bride visits
a blue crystal rotunda, where

an elephant lives in sequins and silks.
If it looks at her with its left eye,

her marriage will be happy,
but only as long as the reach

of wild lemongrass. If it stares
with its right, the couple’s first

thousand days will be as the endless
mangrove, thick with an underscrub

of despair. But should it fix her
squarely with both eyes, blessings

will fall like a shower of silver
rupees on the bride and groom

till they drown, drown—
and the elephant drowns, to bestow such joy.

 

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JC Reilly writes across genres and has received Pushcart and Wigleaf nominations for her work.  She lives with three cats, one of whom is a Communist. When she isn’t writing, she plays tennis or works on improving her Italian. Follow her @aishatonu on Twitter or jc.reilly on Instagram.

 

Photo: Luca Carrà

i am from a lie – nicki quinn

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I am from a lie
From a sad truth that turned into a lie
I am from a place of sadness and depression
I am from a rose that cuts and tears your flesh
I am from a tree of death and darkness
From hell itself
I am from the sex gone wrong
From a waste of time and slavery
I’m from a trench that was dug for me
I’m from Hawaii. A beautiful place
From Hawaii, and a state of regret
From a mother that was a teen
I’m from a sex addict
From a woman wanting to be an owner

 

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Bio: Nicki Quinn is an idea. The main thing to know is that she seems to be one thing but sometimes is another. It all depends on the day, mood, and time.

Photo: Buzz Andersen

death valley – paul ilechko

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Clubfoot bravado
in seventies cheesecloth

he curses as the freighter
pulls away         his heavy

stare reflects a hatred
for all things golden

he lives for concrete
he lives for the hot

black ribbon beneath
a desert sun       a locked-in

world of tinted windshields
and leather plumage

rejoicing in the dialogue
between metal and stone

a voice that oscillates
across the valley

till twilight falls
and the new-found stars

weep again for the madness
of his remembering.

 

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Paul Ilechko is the author of the chapbooks “Bartok in Winter” (Flutter Press, 2018) and “Graph of Life” (Finishing Line Press, 2018). His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Manhattanville Review, formercactus, Sheila-Na-Gig, Marsh Hawk Review and Rockvale Review. He lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ.

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Photo by David Everett Strickler

two poems – bruce mcrae

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Tugging On The Invisible
It’s in the Great Subtraction where the takers reside.
Their houses are without doorways and walls.
They’ve removed the light from their windows.
In their lives something vital is missing.

The takers, whether you’re fleeing out of Babylon
or staring down a sewer pipe
or rounding up your Christmas chickens –
they’re there, but in and of themselves solely.

Sometimes it’s a seat on the bus or last of the cornbread.
At other times it’s a kidney or a faint breath,
the takers only too pleased to shift the unmovable,
to create an aching from absence.

What began as a fist has turned into a finger.
From beginning to end, our lives are dreamed into being.

 

Banished
Bundle-of-lint, get back into your cubbyhole,
into your linen drawer, your kettle of fish heads.
To the seeping wound from whence thou came.

Silk-purse-out-of-a-sow’s-ear,
get back down into your hole of holes.
Return to the smirking mouth of the salamander.
To the bottom of your olive jar.
To the glove compartment of a burning sedan.

Mister-face-like-a-slapped-backside –
exit with the staged play’s walk-on mob.
Back to your shallow-dug grave in the woods.
Return to your shoebox hidden under the bed.
To your gouged hill scarred with aircraft debris.

Go, and never trouble this existence again.
And may your shadow never cross another’s.

 

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Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with over 1,400 poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His books are ‘The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press), ‘An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy’ (Cawing Crow Press) and ‘Like As If” (Pski’s Porch), Hearsay (The Poet’s Haven).

 

Photo: Mikhail Shchupak-Katsman

exorcism / the expulsion – kailey tedesco

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exorcism / the expulsion

in the same way your mouth

refuses to close

as you apply mascara

there is a ghost here

the world behind you

reflected in the mirror

is unreal

there is only wall

but the house

keeps growing

eating parts of itself

i can hear you arrive

before you’ve even

fingered for your keys

this is no time at all

for games

as a child i’d wait

for snow

my mother would say

it will not come

if you wait for it

what i know

is i’ll die when i expect it

the very least

 

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Kailey Tedesco is the author of She Used to be on a Milk Carton (April Gloaming Publishing) and These Ghosts of Mine, Siamese (Dancing Girl Press). Lizzie, Speak, her most recent collection, won White Stag Publishing’s full-length poetry contest. She is an associate editor for Luna Luna Magazine and a co-curator for Philly’s A Witch’s Craft reading series. You can find her work featured or forthcoming in Witch Craft Mag, Bone Bouquet Journal, New South, Fairy Tale Review, Black Warrior Review, and more. 

 

Photo: Zac Durant

what the sky looks like right now – justin karcher

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Sometimes I pretend the sky & clouds
are just pieces of really expensive paper

shooting stars are just really beautiful papercuts

when you’re young
you stare at the sky & write with your eyes
imagination is just a really nice optometrist
who encourages your vision even if it misses the mark

as you get older
you stare at the sky & write with your fists
it’s a little more violent

you dream of rocket ships exploding in earth’s atmosphere
jet lag confetti raining down on rooftop parties
where evil men drink hallucinogenic bourbon
out of the skulls of orphan babies

you dream of planes crashing into gated communities
where the rich never leave their mansions
spending most of their time
ripping out pages from chapbooks
written by overworked poets
always on the verge of suicide
making paper airplanes out of the trauma
throwing them into fireplaces

when you’re old
you don’t even look at the sky
every room in your home
in your heart
in your brain
has become a basement
full of wet boxes
caused by leaky pipes
you don’t bother to repair

all the suicide notes & love letters
you’ve penned over the years
disintegrating into mush
the words that meant so much
running into one another
like when cops break up a party
the words left behind
form new sentences
you must dig out of the drowning
then you must read what you sew:

there are no windows in your life anymore
all the lovebirds stuffed into a drawer

tenderness is a thousand dolls taking your breath away
a thousand cats pulling your ribcage like a sleigh

the death you deserve, fireflies sinking to the bottom of an ashtray
you’ve always been an origami car stranded on the highway

and the sun is always setting somewhere else
you just wanted a hotter melt

 

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Justin Karcher is a Pushcart-nominated poet and playwright born and raised in Buffalo, New York. He is the author of several books, including Tailgating at the Gates of Hell (Ghost City Press, 2015). He is also the editor of Ghost City Review and co-editor of the anthology My Next Heart: New Buffalo Poetry (BlazeVOX [books], 2017). He tweets @Justin_Karcher.

two poems – kathy o’fallon

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Longing Still the Ruin of My Existence
                                                      for Tom

I always thought he’d come back
like this, wrapped in his youth,
spook to my banshee.
The thin man, I’d once teased—
huddled like an Einstein
crouched in the basement trying
to figure things out: aeronautics,
magic tricks, why
our family made no sense.
Bred in his lab
like little white spirits
or gods called by name,
rats nibbled crumbs from his lips,
staved his hunger,
but the lure of the airplane glue
proved too fragrant to resist,
formulas floating
clear out of reach, and then Boom!
a hole in the paneling closer
to the boiler than one cared to think.
Our father, who art not in hell,
didn’t like that too much, the trapped
pet rats now scurrying to get out,
racing against the poison-filled smoke.

I always thought he’d come back like this,
show me a smile could be sober
without losing its bliss.
Oh, how I’ve missed you, I said,
ten years of loss melting at my feet.

Umbilical Cord

The gravel granite path across
the cemetery crackles like rock candy.
What I’d give for a piece
to suck like a thumb,
weaned from the nipple.

I take off my shoes
so the stones can scar
something into submission.
I don’t mean to dissect the worm,
but I’m glad to, first-born of eight—
we craved the same nourishment.

I scrape fingernails along tree bark,
and its dust stains my skin.
She is here, reclaiming my body.
I kneel and cling to exposed roots,
can’t think       which one to follow.
They reach where I can’t so I pull,
but they break into little carcasses.

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With great assistance from her mentors, Kathy OFallon‘s poems and short stories have been published in numerous literary journals, magazines, and anthologies, as well as three chapbooks.  She is a psychologist living in Fallbrook, California, self-proclaimed avocado capital of the world.  Without poetry, OFallon asks, how would she know her own heart?

Photo: Tomas Tuma 

paper towel roll – jacob butlett

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“Gay males are thought to only represent 5% of the total male population but among males who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay.” – National Eating Disorders Association

 

While the moon yawns outside the bedroom window,
I think of him as a white paper towel roll at a party:
In the beginning, a baby in the plastic-tight embrace

of his mother. Smooth, sensitive, plump,
he eyed others crowding around him, squeezing him,
soiling him with dirty hands of disappointment,

he believed. Holding me in the bed we used to own,
he once told me he hated himself for being himself,
for being the vanity’s prank upon the planet.

Since childhood, he’s thrown sheets of himself, papery
shreds of flesh, into the trashcan of life. Nothing remains
except a cold gauze of skin over his bones, the exposed

cardboard roll of his spine, which now I caress as he
falls asleep dreaming of what? Dreaming of food he’ll
never eat? Acceptance he’ll never accept?

I don’t want to compare him to a paper towel roll—
to any other object, for that matter—but as long as he retreats
into himself, refusing my help, how can I not see his body broken?

His spine’s a cracked telescope, fractured kaleidoscope,
revealing little in its lens, in its limited lightshow:
a glimpse of the brilliant borealis of his upbringing,

a glimpse of his future—colored slides in the light?
I imagine pressing an ear against his sunken chest,
a smashed treasure chest harboring, I hope, an ocean’s lullaby,

an ocean’s laughter. But now I hear him—
snores hoarse, whimpers raspy—begging to be more,
to be firm as muscles, firm as fat filling dead space.

Tomorrow we’ll talk. He and I will talk about this tomorrow,
before he fades forever like a breeze in the trees outside.
Until then, I close the curtains, tucking the moon into bed,

snuggle down under the covers, dark as an ossuary,
and dream of him—his smile wide as the crescent moon,
his once bulky body now protected in the warm plastic of my arms.

 

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Former poetry editor and longtime gay author Jacob Butlett (he/him) holds an A.A. in General Studies and a B.A. in Creative Writing. In 2012 he earned a Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Gold Key for his fiction, in 2017 he won the Bauerly-Roseliep Scholarship for literary excellence, and in 2018 he received a Pushcart Prize nomination for his poetry. Some of his work has been published in The MacGuffin, Panoply, Cacti Fur, Gone Lawn, Word Fountain, Ghost City Review, Lunch Ticket, Fterota Logia, Into the Void, and plain china.  

Photo: kaluci

what is this oblivion? – larry thacker

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Returning to where we’re from,
to before waking into the question.
Fresh grass taken into the mouth, chewed, swallowed,
brought up, swallowed down to a blankness.
What was the child’s first words? Why me, mother?
A truth-flavored, empty dark scripted of dreamlessness.
Housedress pockets bulging, hanging,
with sleeping river rocks.
Ask anything into an abandoned house’s broken mirror.
Light from a dead star, roaming and waiting
to be seen and named by the fading eyes
a beast stuck by a vehicle
and resting on the roadside.
Empty well. Empty well. Empty well.
Knowing where all the bodies are buried.
An antique typewriter’s stuck, melting +/= key
on the eighty-seventh floor.
The one balloon, released.
Dust on a window brushed by a man’s black wool-
suited shoulder, glanced through
from inside by the retiring barista.
Cup of black coffee, evaporating on a picnic table.

 

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Larry D. Thacker’s poetry is in over one-hundred-and-fifty publications including SpillwayStill: The JournalValparaiso Poetry ReviewPoetry South, The Southern Poetry Anthology, The American Journal of Poetry, The Lake,Illuminations Literary Magazine, and Appalachian Heritage. His books include Mountain Mysteries, the full poetry collections Drifting in Awe and Grave Robber Confessional, the chapbooks Voice Hunting and Memory Train, and the forthcoming full collection, Feasts of Evasion. His MFA in poetry and fiction is earned from West Virginia Wesleyan College. Visit his website at: www.larrydthacker.com

 

Photo: Todd Downs