Sunday, August 9, 2020

Gale Acuff Presents an Excerpt from the Miss Hooker Saga


In Sunday School I asked Miss Hooker why

I was ever born, I'm not old enough

to ask how - don't ask me why I don't know

why not - and she told me to wait until

class was over and she'd fill me in, like

I'm one of those circles that are more like

zeros on the fancy answer-sheets for

our test-papers in regular school, fill

'em in with a No. 2 pencil, no

lighter nor I reckon darker and what

-ever else you might use don't use an ink

pen but what happened was I'd asked her at

the wrong damn time, Miss Hooker that is, we'd

just finished with the Lord's Prayer, we say

it at the beginning of class and half

-way through it and at the end, I call it

a trinity of Lord's Prayers and I

just made that up and that's no lie as God

is my witness and Jesus and for good

measure the Holy Ghost so I guess what

I did was I spoiled the moment, spoke out

or is it up too soon after Amen,

which we all say together, shout it's more

like it, I like religion when it's fun

and sometimes it is, but in church I fall

asleep, not so easy to do since our

pastor hollers and dances and stomps while

he's preaching the Word, a whole slew of words

is what it is, and I hardly ever

get a chance to ask difficult questions

in there or of Miss Hooker in Sunday

School class and usually by the time

it's over I'm anxious to get the Hell

out of there and go home, there's nothing like

running away to stay interested

but anyway after class and after

our final shouted-as-one Amen I

went up to Miss Hooker behind her desk

and asked if she had time to handle my

question and she took off her spectacles, I

wouldn't call them glasses, they're spectacles,

and looked up at me since I was taller

with her sitting down and just me standing

and smiled about as widely as you can

smile or is it broadly and as for ear

to ear, nobody smiles like that except

in comics and cartoons and my sister's

puppet collection, the clowns I mean, and

said Let's take it to the Lord in prayer,

Gale, I'm lucky that she didn't see me

roll my eyes, so we dropped to our knees and

Miss Hooker did all the talking though I

grunted a few times in the right places

and then when she finished I helped her out

with Amen and then up on her feet and

then she asked me how I felt and if God

had given me His answer yet so I

said Nah, but maybe He's busy right now

and Miss Hooker laughed and pinched my right cheek

with her right hand, only not hard enough

and I don't know why I said that, maybe

I should've asked her to do it again.

Good and Mad

I'm in love with my Sunday School teacher,

Miss Hooker, but there's not much hope for us

because I'm 10 to her 25 and

by the time I'm her age she'll be past it

by plenty, fifteen years if I'm counting

right. What I need is a miracle from

God, that He'll put us on a par, the same

age and the sooner the better. Just how

He'll do it is up to Him, I guess, but

He'll have options and I can remind Him

in prayer every night - for example,

He can hold Miss Hooker to her age now

until I catch up or at least until

I'm 16, which seems mature to me, what

with shaving and a driver's license and

my voice like Father's and a part-time job

even though I'll just be a sophomore.

Or He can make Miss Hooker age backwards

to ten years old. I hope He'd do it fast

but even then we'll be too young to do

everything married people can do, like

 stay up too late and have babies and pay

taxes, or not, or at least fudge them some.

But if God makes me older faster and

Miss Hooker younger and quick about it

then we might meet halfway, say 18,

if He takes my advice, not that I'd give

Him advice, exactly, but just point out

His options, like I say, then how could she

turn down my proposal when I put it

to her? Unless there's a lesson to be

learned and I have to learn it the hard way

and it's for my own good and I'll fear Him

even more than I do now, or think I

do. Maybe when we're both 18 I'll pray

to be older the next day when I go

back to ply my troth again, but maybe

God won't answer that prayer, or answers

no. And there I'll be, eight years older and

all of it gone overnight, for nothing.

Maybe then I'll just get mad, good and mad,

and tell Him straight, tell Him that he tricked me,

tell Him if it was He who came to me

and asked me what I asked of Him then I

would've been square, would've played the game out

but good. And I'd see the look on His face

and turn on my heel and ignore His pleas

to forgive Him, it serves Him right, let that

be a lesson to Thee, I'd say, I'll find

me another God Almighty--Jesus

wept, I'll remind Him, and now You know why.

Or maybe He'd get on His hands and knees

and I'd have mercy on Him. Maybe not.

Odds are I'll get no miracle at all,

of course - they don't happen to real people

save the ones in the Bible and those French

kids at Lourdes and maybe some Mexican

Catholics and some Christian Scientists

and Chuck Heston in The Ten Commandments

and Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz

and Willie Mays in a game I saw once

on TV, and folks who win lotteries

(the chances of winning are so slim that

surely winning is a miracle) and

Captain Kirk getting out of those tight spots

and that swimmer winning seven medals,

all gold, and Ringo replacing Pete Best

in the Beatles. I could go on and it

would take time and by the time I finished

I still wouldn't have one my very own,

a miracle I mean. Maybe that means

 I should be giving them, not receiving,

but that would make me God, I guess, a job

I'd probably hate, if I'm any judge. 


Our God is a good God, says Miss Hooker.

She should know - she's our Sunday School teacher

and is probably closer to Him than

anyone else I know, except for dead

people and babies who've just been baptized.

And maybe nuns but we're not Catholics

so I don't really have an opinion.

Anyway, a God who made Miss Hooker

is all right with me. She's beautiful and

every night before I go to sleep I

pray for a miracle - if you're going

to pray you might as well pray big, I think,

go all out, the whole hog, go bananas -

that one day we'll get married even though

she's more than twice as old as I am, say

25 to my 10. There's not much hope

but I guess that's what prayer's for, a shot

at getting what's impossible. If God

will slow her age down and speed up mine some

then we can meet halfway one day. And if

that happens then it's almost a sure thing

that when I drop to one knee and propose -

that shouldn't be hard, I'm small for my age -

she'll accept me, which means that she'll say Sure

and then we're off to be married and then

on to our honeymoon where God shows us

how to make a baby, or a dozen

but not all at once. And maybe she's wise

already to just how and will show me

because, after all, she is a teacher.

Red hair and green eyes and skin as smooth as

the legs of a grand piano, I'll bet,

not that I play, and a mouth full of keys

and all ivory-white. An angel. And

sometimes she wears a yellow dress and

the next week blue and the week after that

pink or green or some color I don't know

but a thing doesn't have to have a name

to be pretty. She's easy on the eyes

inside, too, I think - she's got the skinny

on the Bible and can tell the story

of David and Goliath just like it

happened yesterday or she saw them fight

on her way to church this morning, so if

we're on the sofa and tired of watching

cartoons and wrestling and infomercials

on TV, she can tell a good story

from the Bible and those old times when folks

didn't drive or use a Dutch oven or

talk on the telephone or go to school

forever or almost get run over

crossing the street to check the mail, like me.

So when Miss Hooker says that God is good

she's damned right. I haven't seen everything

in life, of course, but when I look at her

I've seen it all, and I just made that up.

After every class I almost tell her

that but I'm too shy and always back down.

Mother says, Faint heart ne'er won fair lady,

which she stole from the Bible, or Shakespeare,

or maybe Liberace. Anyway

when I asked her for advice about gals

she probably thought I meant those at school.

Maybe the miracle I want is guts

to tell Miss Hooker what's in my heart. Yes,

I think I'll try that tonight, right after

I say the Lord's Prayer in the dark while

I stare at my attic ceiling, where God

must be, too, because He's everywhere

and didn't Miss Hooker say so last week?

Last night I dreamt I held her in my arms

but I had four of them, the better to

hold her as close as I could. It was good

that it was dark so that she couldn't see

so that she wouldn't be afraid she was

in Hell. In Sunday School this morning I

tried to catch her eye to see if she'd had

the same dream last night. She just smiled at me.

Old Glory

Down at church I'm supposed to worship God

and in Sunday School the focus is on

Jesus but when I'm home, especially

at night, all I think of is Miss Hooker,

my teacher - red hair, green eyes, and freckles.

And sometimes painted fingernails--Mother

doesn't approve but she'll never stop us

getting together when I'm old enough.

I'm just 10. Miss Hooker's plenty old at

25, almost too old, in fact, but

not nearly as old as Mother, Father

too, for that matter. They're over 30

and that's getting up there. All three must die

 long before I do, if everything

works out well and I'm not killed in some way

other than old age. I'll wait a few years

and ask Miss Hooker out. If her hair's gray

by then I'll just think of peppermint or

two of the three colors of Old Glory.

Last week her fingernails were blue. That's three.

Last night I dreamt we had a baby, or

she did. I'm not sure how we pulled it off

but I've heard stories, though not from Mother

or Father. He says he doesn't know. He's

kidding, I hope. I asked Mother but

she said it's been so long she's forgotten.

I told Father that and he just laughed. But

then he frowned and told me to go outside.

He didn't add to play. He just wanted

to be shunt of me. So that's how it is.

But when I'm old enough I'll have a child,

or Miss Hooker will, and somehow I'll help.

That's all the truth I know. Is it enough?

And then I guess he'll come to me, or she,

to ask how they were born. What will I say?                                                     

The truth must be a little terrible,

as bad as death, or damn near, or even

worse. So I don't know where I came from and

I don't know where I'm going. Wonderful.

In Sunday School Miss Hooker says I'll go

to Heaven if I'm good and Hell if I'm

bad. I'm some of both but I think God takes

the average. He totals up the times

for each, divides, and compares. That seems fair.

And she says that all souls come from Heaven

does Miss Hooker. If I was ever there

I don't remember. It's like the time I

was playing monkey in the privet tree

and the rope snapped and the next thing I knew

I was lying on the ground out of breath,

I mean I was out of breath, not the ground -

I didn't hit it hard enough for that

but I did hit it hard enough for me.

Someone helped me up. It was Father. He

asked me if I knew who he was and how

many fingers he was holding up and

my name. For some time not time I didn't.

I bet I'll never be that smart again.

When it all came back I was ignorant

as usual. Do thumbs count as fingers?


After Sunday School today I threw up

behind our portable classroom so no

one could see or hear me but Miss Hooker

did and came to the little round window

and pushed it out, I didn't know it would

open but sure enough she stuck her head

out and kind of downward and called Gale, Gale,

what's the matter, Honey, have some bad break

-fast? so I looked up to answer but she

was gone and about two minutes later

she came around the end of the building,

of course there are two, two ends I mean, I

mean the east end but the way my head was

spinning, spinning, it might as well have been

the west but doesn't it say in the Good

Book somewhere about the end and the be

-ginning and the Alpha and Omega

so maybe it doesn't really matter -

Miss Hooker arrived as I was spitting

up the last of my breakfast, which was zilch

since I woke up late and was afraid to

miss Sunday School, God might get me for that,

Jesus and the Holy Ghost, too, and then

there's Miss Hooker, who chewed me out last week

for being ten minutes tardy and made

me stay late to stack hymnbooks and dump trash.

Then she laid hands on me, well, the right hand

but then again it might've been her left

on the small of my back, that's right above

my butt and below my actual back

and I shouldn't say butt, that's a dirty

word and you go to Hell for smuttiness

Miss Hooker says but anyway it felt

fair and so I did it to her, too, I

did it in return that is, that is when

I was standing tall again even though

I'm not, I'm only ten years old and small

for my age and she gave me a look that

meant if I hadn't been upchucking then

she'd have slapped me if I'd been old enough

and then, right then, I wished I was and still

do, then maybe she'd know that I love her

and want to marry her one day and her

slap would've stunned her as well and she'd be

my gal from that moment on so much so

that her attention would last until I'm

old enough to marry her and to Hell

with a first date, sometimes first love is last

and this is one of those times. I wanted

to kiss her but she's too tall, even on

my tiptoes, not Miss Hooker on mine, ha ha,

that would be a Hell of a miracle.

Then I followed her into our classroom

and we sat together on two stools in

front of her desk below God-become-man

on the Cross behind her desk. Then she said

I'll give you a ride home but I said, No

thank you, ma'am, I'll walk there same as always.

Then she said, Well, I'll walk with you and that's

how I fell out of love with her. I said

I'm sorry, ma'am, but where I'm going you

cannot come. It's damn-near like religion.



After Sunday School this morning I asked

Miss Hooker, she's my teacher, I asked her

what if God and Jesus and the Holy 

Ghost were the first three batters in the line

-up who the clean-up hitter would be but

that one stymied her, it's got me beat, too,

you got a man, though it's more than a man

though most baseball players are if you ask

me, I'm just 10, I should know about man

-hood - you've got a decent lead-off guy and

a second batter who can move him o

-ver and batting third someone with power

but behind him who's the man? Miss Hooker

said that she didn't begin to know and

I said, Well, that's okay, I'll figure it

out and then I asked her her favorite

player and she said The late Roberto

Clemente and not just because he could

go out of the zone to smack anything

but his humanitarianism

and he died trying to help others and

not only others but others a lot

less fortunate than he was so I said

Yes ma'am - I didn't know what to say since

when I grow up I want to play baseball

for a living, I mean in the majors

and make a million bucks a year and not

even Hank Aaron's making that and I

told Miss Hooker so, about my dream is

what I mean and she replied, Well, if you

make enough money for what you need and

a little left over to deposit

in the bank then I'd say you're plenty rich

as it is so I said Yes ma'am again,

what can you say to good sense like that when

it's wrong and the truth is really the truth

like the Bible says inside somewhere, is

it Jesus, someone asks Him Who can be

saved right after He's just said another

impossible thing, shades of Miss Hooker,

and He answered something like With God all

thing are possible but not with just-folks

or something like that, if it hasn't got

pictures and stories about Superman 

and Batman and the Teen Titans I don't

read it but I've got a fair memory

for what folks tell me so before I said

Goodbye to Miss Hooker and See you next

Sunday I looked her in the eyes, I looked

so hard that I stuck myself in there and

was twins, identical to boot, on left

and right or right and left, anyway you

count me, then I forgot what I wanted

to say so instead I said Roberto

Clemente is staring back at me, which

was a fib but it got Miss Hooker good

and this afternoon I'm going to watch

The Game of the Week with Curt Gowdy and

Tony Kubek and Father and my dog,

not all of us inside the tube of course

and I don't know which teams are playing but

I don't care, I just want it to be good

and sometimes the clean-up batter leads off,

especially during a perfect game, 

which I've never seen. Or maybe I have.

 Gale Acuff has had hundreds of poems published in several countries and is the author of three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the US, China, and Palestine.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Shawn Yeager And The Lady Behind The Counter

"Lady Behind the Counter at the Convenience Store"

She stands
Behind the cash register,
Makes coffee,
Stocks shelves,
Cleans the bathrooms,
Takes out the trash.

She smiles.

She's "mature,"
Yet girlish.
Yet open
To suggestion.

She has felt
Her share of heartbreak,
Her skin has wrinkled,
Hair has grayed,
Muscles atrophied,
Bones weakened.

She is like a clay skeet
Hurled into the heavens,
Gets shot down sometimes,

Even blown to bits sometimes.
But she pulls herself together,
Best she can,
Throws herself
Back up there.

As she ascends,
She has to remind herself
To savor
That moment
When she can't go any higher,
Just before gravity
Takes over
And she falls,
Or a bullet hits her,

and she explodes.

Like most people, Shawn is trying to make sense of the current situation and its implications for the future.  At the same time, he has enjoyed taking on the role of court jester in his new working-from-home office that he shares with his wife, son, and two cats.  He has been re-reading his new favorite poem, Strand's "The Room," and trying to figure out what it means.

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois Follows Deke Through The Michigan Winterscape, Calypso And Reggae Tunes, Grand Rapids, Hailstorms, The Crusades, And The Heresy Of Joan Of Arc

My Friend Can’t Seem to Let Go


My friend Deke
drives his Corolla
through the ice and snow
of a barren Michigan winterscape

 and worries if the tread on his tires is thick enough
to hold him to the slick pavement
or if it’s been worn too thin by his
daily rural commute

 He wonders if he’ll end up
dead in a ditch
in the service of

specifically an obscure, mediocre liberal arts college
whose architecture pursued the style of

late Greek Revival Automobile Manufacturing Plant

and in whose faculty lounge hovers

a pall of dejection, defeat and decay

Deke also regrets that Global Warming will not progress fast enough

to cover the low hills with palm trees

and the fields with sugar cane

during his lifetime—

his prediction is that the transition

won’t complete itself

for at least another century

As he drives

he simultaneously visualizes the Age

when mile-thick ice crushed the land

and the future in which waving stalks of sugar

smell so fragrant, so sweet

and erase everyone’s childhood traumas

and fill their nerve endings

with pleasure

The Michiganders will turn ultra-violet dark

dark as Sri Lankans

their hearts thawed, to their own amazement

their prejudice and hate dripping away

They will leave the taverns where they’d been hiding

stand in sunshine

and strip off their flannel shirts

blue jeans soiled with mud

boots caked with cow shit

From now on they will go barefoot

and will open their hearts

to Jesus

They will strive to be

like Jesus

A woman

plays the fool after she stops a coconut’s

fall by catching it in midair

Am I an Olympian, or what, she asks her young son

who is crawling in the dirt

collecting multi-colored tropical insects

who never bite or sting

and, with their antennae and hind legs

sing calypso and reggae tunes

He puts them in a tray to

form a choir

He is careful as a Jain

not to hurt them

When Deke is in a Grand Rapids nursing home

the staff will ridicule him as the old prof

who thinks he is living in Hawaii


Deke is on his way from the frozen lake

next to which he lives

to Frozen Lake College, at which he teaches

and he wonders:

Why do I continue to do this?

Why am I a captive of decisions I made decades ago

when I was closer to being a Boy Scout

with all its frustrations

than to the age I am now?

A couple of students see Deke enter the college’s circular drive

and say, not with great fondness: Here comes Lumpy

because his car is covered with dings

from when he visited me in Denver

and one of our infamous hailstorms caught him unaware

He ducked his head and ran

onto a stranger’s porch

while his car cowered naked in the street

Let’s Go Places, Toyota’s slogan

never meant: Into a fierce hailstorm

Meanwhile, after receiving only two hard blows

that sounded like a furious pitcher

was launching fast balls against the side of my truck

I fortuitously pulled under an overpass

Later, Deke, seeing my largely unscathed vehicle said:

You bastard

I boasted:

I have New York parking karma

and Denver weather mojo

When Deke looked skeptical, I continued:

I’ve never been electrocuted hiking in the mountains

which proves it

Deke considered my existence

my hikes onto fourteen-thousand-foot peaks

with my childhood’s purple

lucky rabbit’s foot

in the pocket of my nylon REI pants,

and how I move from place to place

allegedly collecting species of luck


In Michigan the skies are dark grey

six months out of twelve

Sunshine is hostage

with no ransom offered

It weighs Deke down

keeps him also a captive

(He and the sun are held in the same vault

but they are blindfolded

cannot see each other

cannot feel each other

Deke is cold all the time)

History is a grimy snowbank

shoved into existence by the rusty blade of a plow

at the edge of the Wal-Mart parking lot

where the morbidly obese

go to die

and Deke wonders: Why?

I don’t remember

what crime I committed

to subject me to such a long sentence

The students also call him Lumpy

because Deke is sort of fat

though not as fat as true Michiganders

for whom Obesity is

e pluribus unum

Deke is a professor of Medieval Studies

His head is full of

the Fall of the Western Roman Empire

which set everything in motion


Invasions, mass migrations

though he himself is stagnant

His head also reverberates with his wife’s voice

nagging him

to do something about the dented car

The hail was big as golf balls

He can’t bring himself to respond


Deke worships the events

that occurred before he was born

for example:

the Crusades to wrest the Holy Land from the Muslims

by soldiers mounted, gleaming, and shitfaced on ale

sworn to defend an ancient mythology

the same ancient mythology we defend today

against the same enemies

though now we have better dentistry

One of his graduate specialties was Scholasticism,

the movement that joined faith to reason,

and the forming of the Universities--

he shared the impulse

perhaps a compulsion

to pass on knowledge

a “noble” calling

Do you know that the Black Plague took down sixty percent of Europe’s population?

Dante mapped their Hell

Wasn’t it amazing how Marco Polo’s men carried so little baggage with them

and drank milk from the horses they rode into battle against the Chinese?

Isn’t it all so interesting?

Deke is Deke because his parents named him Deacon

They, especially his father, wanted him to be a religious man

a leader of the Church

but Deke didn’t have the feeling for it

nor the ambition to meet God

He had little ambition whatsoever

That he received a PhD remained a constant source of wonder for him

So how could he just drop

the transmission of a knowledge collection

that he tried to make colorful

but which

for his students

never quite came alive?

The idea that they could understand the world they lived in

by understanding how it got that way

never gained traction

They were the children of farmers and merchants


How could he just walk away?

Who and what would he be if he wasn’t displaying his Wisdom

to the ignorant

like a missionary

working to bring Jesus to the savages

of darkest Africa?

Could he drop the mantle and succumb

to being just an

Ordinary Man?

Who would admire the vast volume

of learning he had consumed

but which sometimes threatened to come up

like acid reflux?


He was like a rabbi

squeezing the Torah to his chest

as the world tried to wrest it away

and burn it

Torah was God Himself

The rabbi would never let go

Deke held the hope that one day

--quite miraculously--

his students would

“get it”

and atmospheric conditions would cause the large pockmarks

on his hood

to simply pop up

and disappear

as if his car had never endured that hailstorm

The anti-Vaxxers and their children would all die of Measles

the public school system would be lavishly funded

stupidity and ignorance would vanish from America

and Republicans would lie down with lambs


He sometimes thought of retiring to Mexico

but was afraid of the diseases

that were rife down there

and the fact that seventy journalists had been murdered

in just a few years’ time

and that none of the murderers had been

captured and brought to justice

Deke felt that a historian was a kind of journalist

which made him vulnerable

 to bandits, revolutionaries and

other desperados


His commitment to the past

anchored him

How could he mindlessly fly into the future?


His students—what did they want?

Not wisdom

not even knowledge

All they wanted was

for someone to treat them kindly

and to keep treating them kindly

as their lives dribbled into the interminable future

as they lost their youthful beauty

and aged into ugliness

Unfortunately, like all of us, they believed that they must

keep jumping through hoops

to collect enough win signifiers

(like college degrees)

to prove that they

were good enough

to qualify for kindness

that they were loveable

(Deke doesn’t treat them kindly

when he writes his snide, red comments

on their awful papers)


Those were dark ages

that Deke had chained himself to

and a dark state—Michigan—

in which to teach it

Joan of Arc was convicted of witchcraft and heresy

and burned at the stake at age nineteen

the age of a large proportion of Deke’s students

so many of them, boys and girls, still virgins

Deke looked at them

marking his roll book

and casually wondered which ones were experienced

which of them had

floated in the Purple Haze

and which of them were still locked

in fear and isolation

The Pope had fled to France

but where could Deke flee to?

He only had a hint:

somewhere warmer

and brighter

somewhere like Hawaii

Work by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois appears in magazines worldwide, including RASPUTIN. Nominated for numerous prizes, he was awarded the 2017 Booranga Centre (Australia) Fiction Prize. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and as a print edition. His poetry collection, THE ARREST OF MR. KISSY FACE, published in March 2019 by Pski’s Porch Publications, is available here. Visit his website  to read more of his poetry and flash fiction.  

Monday, May 25, 2020

Bart Solarczyk's Handful of Haiku

I lie when
I drink - 
I’m not drinking

he drinks - 
bend to rain

more reason to weep
without a dog

(for Deanna)

some mornings shimmer golden –
red hair framing flesh
in last night’s dream

eating chips
& writing poems
with salty fingers

our parrot
sweet talks my wife
in another man’s voice


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

John D. Robinson's Tiger-eating Worms, Love in the Prison Exercise Yards, and Calls to Heaven and Hell


‘Not even the tigers beat the worms
at the end’
and as we face an unknown, face-
less lethal enemy without
prejudice across the globe,
I have consumed a bottle of
diablo’s chardonnay and
smoked frequent joints, I’ve
swallowed codeine and
diazepam and I step awkwardly
into my back-garden,
wondering how many more
times I’ll have the honour
and pleasure of doing this,
I look toward heaven,
breathe deep of its beauty,
savouring it
like it was the
last time.


Love can be found in
the most damned
in the ravaged souls
of those
whose lives have been
taken by poverty and
disease and
in the hell-holes of
addiction, in the
corners and crevices
of the madness of
every day, in the
shadows of sex and
the silhouettes of
regret, in the
hearts of military
conflicts and the
exercise yards of
prisons, in the
hovels of dirty
desperation and
the quietness of
loneliness, in the
voices of protest and
the songs of
in the eyes of the
young, you can see
it, pure and
you can find it
in this poem
and its for you.


She told me that
‘I’ve been fucked in heaven,
I’ve been fucked in hell
and I’ve been fucked here’
she gave me a smile that
had been broken and
ignored by most for so
long, for too long:
I smiled back and told
her that I wasn’t going to
‘You know’ she said ‘I
want to believe you’
and I think for that
moment only she did:
‘You call me’ I said
and those were the final
words between us,
face to face: she never did
call and she never will,
maybe I should have
called her but the lines
of heaven and hell are
constantly engaged and I
didn’t have her
personal number.

John D Robinson is a UK poet: hundreds of his poems have appeared online and in print: he has published several chapbooks and 3 full collections: his latest publications are 'Red Dance'  (Uncollected Press  USA) and a poem was included in 'The Ragged Lion Press Journal #2'  UK:

Monday, May 18, 2020

Mark Young Follows Lines Of Crypto-Current Fur Trade, The Rains Down In Africa, And Bruised Sun Tzu Hip Bones

A line from Marguerite Duras

A study of Disney theme
parks indicates that cryptocurrency
has few commonalities
with gold. It's just that the

listener is seduced even though
the storytelling itself is suspect
& it's sometimes hard to understand
what is being said. We've

gravitated toward the fur seal
trade. Illegal but clean — there are
no vacations, but no blockchain
hangups to bring you down.

A line from R.E.M.

Only the shoreline feels
certain. There are surfers
nearby. Today's warm up
sketch is a complex chem-

ical reaction between oxy-
gen & that Toto song
Africa looping endlessly
in the Namib desert. Con-

sider this. Some noise on
an evening contains hot
stoves. Elsewhere it may
just be icebergs colliding.

A line from Ferdinand de Lesseps

My browser does not currently re-
cognize any of the video formats
available. It requires two strong men
to carefully keep it in place until

the spawning season is over. I do
not shut my eyes. Patterns form
behind my eyelids. I try to recall
things I have read, have heard. Sun

Tzu comes to mind. Camp on hard
ground, he said, even if you get
bruises on the sides of your hips. It
will help to improve the reception.

Mark Young's most recent books are a collection of visual pieces, The Comedians, from Stale
Objects de Press, & turning to drones, from Concrete Mist Press.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Brian Rhilmann And The Barbed Wire In The Oak, The Wretched Gap, The Tangerine Sun


I’d rather be anything
but this oak tree—
a gnarled old thing, half-rotted
nothing but layers of secrets
wrapped in secrets
awaiting the blade
and revelation

years of sickness
years of drought or infestation
carved initials inside hearts
now returned to the soil
barbed wire absorbed
rusty nails embedded in its flesh

deep—a black layer
fire scars concealed yet remembered
and above, last year’s withered leaves
still cling to the branches
and hiss when the wind blows
the dead, once more
speak louder than the living


my earplugs are in
so I don’t hear him
don’t notice as he
sits at the other end
of the long table

until I feel the vibrations
across 8 feet of hardwood—
the pounding of his middle fingers
on the keys
like angry little fists

I stare until he
looks up, then away
continues to pound

he either does
or doesn’t understand
what the look is about

I clench my jaw
against the words
kicking the backs
of my teeth
and try to work
try to finish the poem
I’m writing

a hundred times a day
I’m called to reconcile
what I’d like to do
with what’s socially acceptable
but there’s no reconciling them—

I can only squirm
in this wretched gap
where I live


life is the real poem
but it moves
way too fast
and the nets
of our eyes
are full of holes
and so—
we must
with words
with lines
like these
lines like photographs
of lightening bolts
of leopards in pursuit
of lovers on a beach somewhere
swathed in the fading light
of a tangerine sun

Brian Rihlmann was born in New Jersey and currently resides in Reno, Nevada. He writes free verse poetry, and has been published in The Blue Nib, The American Journal of Poetry, Cajun Mutt Press, The Rye Whiskey Review, and others. His first poetry collection, “Ordinary Trauma,” (2019) was published by Alien Buddha Press.