Friday, October 5, 2018

Michael H. Brownstein Brings a Missive from Cassandra, a Painful Latin Hallway, and Mascara with Knife


My dear Cassandra, I must punish you. From this day on you will only speak the truth, but no one will ever believe you.
          —Apollo to Cassandra after she broke one precept or another

My name is Cassandra,
But you believe me to be someone else,
And, yes, I am a woman.
Listen! My eyes are green,
My hair is black,
Greeks do hide in the belly of the horse.
I live here, behind that wall,
My bedding, that corner.
I need not latch my door
Nor do I need clothing during sleep.
Legs gapped open, I wait for you.



One morning you roll over and wake to a stranger,
your body splintering into hard time.
Suddenly fingers do not remember how to lift a fork,
feet need a rhythm to climb the stairs,
even hair refuses the demands of a comb.
At the hospital, they make a study in mistakes,
the hard gurney bending too much into the wrong shape,
doctors arriving to play doctor, tests made, blood drawn.
They check your ears, look long into your eyes,
move you from one room to another, tell you to go home.
Sometimes there is nothing more anyone can do.
They send you away with prescriptions for pain and swelling,
directions you can barely see, your eyes so full of fire,
the skin surrounding them sulfur yellow and rotting eggs.
So it goes. All of your life this is your body.
It did its work and brought comfort to you.
Tonight you try to walk a straight line down the hallway.

Even in bright light, shadows are instruments of pain.


Night is the perfect mascara
Every bump, every turn, every pothole,
Crack, fissure, splinter, snap,
Fracture, rupture, splatter, break,
Slit, slash, scratch, split, every tear.
And lipstick? A beacon. A breeze.

How someone connects to a knife.

Michael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses. His work has appeared in The Café Review, American Letters and Commentary, Rasputin, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, Poetrysuperhighway.com and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including The Shooting Gallery (Samidat Press, 1987), Poems from the Body Bag (Ommation Press, 1988), A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), What Stone Is (Fractal Edge Press, 2005), I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011), Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), The Possibility of Sky and Hell: From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013) and The Katy Trail, Mid-Missouri, 100 Degrees Outside and Other Poems (Kind of Hurricane Press, 2013). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

John Levy and the Slavic Guitar Center, Bonnard Bathtubs, Copenhagen Hippos, and Cygnets Fishing in Seaweed

Levy's Accordion Straps

They cost $19.99 at Guitar Center. "These
beautiful one inch leather accordion

from Levy's
style and security." I can imagine

meeting an accordionist who asks
"Are you related to the Levy
who makes those great accordion straps?"

Before today, April 26th, 2018, I would've been
baffled. I would've said "No," but known
zero about what those straps

exude. I happened to discover them
like most discoveries, at least mine--by
accident. In Gregory O'Brien's poem

"A Genealogy" I saw the word spelled "accordian"
and wondered if that's a variant. Googling it
(and not finding "accordian," although O'Brien

is from New Zealand and maybe that's
how it gets spelled there?) I found the Guitar
Center site and decided to educate myself

on accordion prices, never dreaming
I'd also see straps for sale, much less
that my surname and the manufacturer's

would match! Yes, an
exclamation point. What's next? YouTube.
Angelo Di Pippo playing "La Vie En Rose"

on a French accordion, viewed as of today
614,267 times. I can tell his strap is definitely
not a Levy's. One viewer remarked (in broken

English) of Di Pippo "that old man
looks like my father. I am almost
start crying." Whereas Tomas Pressel commented:

"I am searching a known accordion song
i heard in the TV
but dont know the name. Its

a faster music with happy mood. It sounds:
Ta Ti Ti Ti Ti Ti Taa, (Ti) Ta Ti Ti Ti Ti Ti Taa;
Ta Ti Ti Ti Ti Ti Ti Taa, (Ti) Ta Ti Ti Ti Ti Ti Taa. . :)
Anyone Tips?"

Can't say I recognize it.

One more related search and I find this regarding
"Slav way of playing Accordion":

"Tracksuit, Hat, Chain, Accordion. Thats all you need.
A bit of vodka wont hurt."

After this detour I return to O'Brien's poem
a changed man.


I look up this adjective: of, or relating
to, a bath, bathing or a bathroom. And I think
of Pierre Bonnard and how
often he painted his wife

stretched out in a bath-

tub (underwater). Balneary, an
alternate adjective, perhaps
works better, Bonnard's


to her
with just the water
between them. The water
under, which

as if it were her

attire. Colors

surround her and she, too, is

composed of so many
hues. She is at


as he
works be-
holding her.

Copenhagen, Late July 2018

On our last day there I
took a train then bus out of the city to
Louisiana, the art museum while Nat

stayed and walked to the zoo, where he saw
fed by a man who threw

green apples into their mouths.

A crowd gathered to watch him pitch
the fruit so Nat couldn't get close
to take a photo with his cell phone.

I walked around a jammed
Gabriele Munter exhibition then
lingered in the less

Giacometti rooms.
Nat also saw fresh water

penguins. We joined each other at
the end of the day. The day before
we'd spent at Tivoli Gardens, where I took

hundreds of photos in the aquarium
while Nat wandered.
There were sparrows I wanted to photograph

as they landed in a delicate bush with small
deep red leaves, but I didn't want to disturb
the boy

feeding bits of a roll
to the peacock (which chased the sparrows
up into that bush).

Letter to Ken Bolton

Dear Ken,

There's a crow in your 
poem "Italian Chronicles--Birds of Rome"
more than one) and here's
your lines I recalled
in Copenhagen:

"A handsome kind of crow they have around here--
two-toned, black & a lighter chocolate-charcoal colour."

The two crows I happened
near The Little Mermaid, at
a dock, were also two-
toned, but black and

silver. They walked
upon rounded rocks, dipped
beaks into water and
at squares the size of half
a postcard
made of what looked
to be asphalt that then they'd pick up
by their

as I snapped
photos. My son,
kind and at
a distance, sat at a picnic table on the other-
wise deserted dock since
it was early
and no one was there to
climb down into
boats. A swan
and cygnets

dipped heads into the
water through long green
thin ribbons (seaweed?) and

earlier I'd taken better
photos of them, which
was easy (that
is, getting "better"
photos) since
they floated inside or

the dark reflected and e-
triangle of a boat's

so visually there's more
going on
and off
and in. I kept
thinking of your two-toned
crow, wanting to show you these
two as they
leapt and flew

above water-
and I
and focused

while they held
in silvery-
black beaks.

John Levy's most recent book of poetry is an e-book, On Its Edge, Tilted, published by otata's bookshelf in May 2018. Earlier books of poetry include Among the Consonants (The Elizabeth Press, 1980) and Oblivion, Tyrants, Crumbs (First Intensity Press, 2008). His poems have appeared in otoliths, Stride, NOON: journal of the short poem, Shearsman, Origin, CLWN WR, Plucked Chicken, and other magazines.

Howie Good in a Lost Country with a Sacred Kissing Stone, a Suicide River, a Saltmarsh Sparrow, and God as the TV with the Sound Off...

Journey without Maps

We must be lost. As the driver, I should really know where we are. We drive around to get a sense of place and pass payday loan shops, the bloated carcass of a dog, streets with holes. A teenage girl writhes on the sidewalk, her right leg splayed at a gruesome angle, her face contorted with pain. Huddled over her are a couple of friends whose idea of help is to just yell, “C’mon! Stand up!” I keep asking myself what is happening to my country. "If you see me,” the mass shooter says in the latest tweet, “weep.”

A Low-Hanging Heaven

What happens after you pass this border? After you enter this gate? There’s no police force to protect the city, no soldiers to defend it, no doctors to heal the sick. It’s a city that breathes nothing, just like heaven. This is the best place for us. You kind of get to escape. The inhabitants could be sleeping, could be dead, could be dreaming – I mean, drunk. Look at the stones. There was a stone that people would go and kiss. The stone melted. From kissing, melted!

Josef K

This part of the river is popular for suicide attempts. But if you go early, it’s not very busy. And, yes, Josef K lived somewhere in the area, debt-ridden, detested, abandoned by everyone, communicating only with pigeons in the park. Just up the street, I encounter a wild-eyed woman walking in circles. “Please help, please help, please help,” she keeps saying. The air around us swarms with particles of ash and smoke, as if bodies are constantly being fed into industrial-size ovens. In point of fact, modern homes burn 8x faster. There are so many fires you can’t even see the sky.

A Kind of Dream

And so there I am, wondering what the music of the spheres would look like from the perspective of a spy satellite, when I’m invited into the garish and absurd by a choir of young believers who want the God of rivers and streams restored, and why shouldn’t I be, as I’ve displayed more than once the misplaced confidence of a small bird – a saltmarsh sparrow or a piping plover – that crashes full speed into clear glass, and only to find myself in a kind of dream, where a few dozen of us aged children are getting off a tour bus to the dark corners of a cherry red dusk.

The Misery Index

Today I went looking for flowers for the funeral, but the shelves held only bottles, broken auto parts, a basket with plastic eggs. On the way home, I saw, bent beneath a cat’s cradle of clotheslines, a mom submerge her baby in a galvanized tub. Birds pecked at her face, her hands, making a noise like “Ha-ha-ha!” as if there was something in the situation that was screamingly funny. Maybe I’m a bad person – I just kept on walking. When I got to the corner, I happened to look back. It was like watching TV with the sound off, but you didn’t need sound to know if there was a God.

Howie Good is the author of The Loser's Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize.  His latest collection is I'm Not a Robot from Tolsun Books. He co-edits the journals UnLost and Unbroken  with Dale Wisely.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Jeffrey Zable and His Request For Population Control, Tupperware and Bicycle Allowances, and His Appeal to the Presidency


If I say stop fucking more people into this world
until things level off, you must listen to me.
I can’t emphasize enough the need to improve
the conditions for the vast majority before we even think
of producing more people, most of whom just wind up
as numbers, throwaways, doing nothing more than
taking advantage of the system, skidding along on
tax payers’ dollars and burdening the rich and powerful
with a sense of guilt that they don’t do more philanthropic
work, donating to charities, and organizing food giveaways
outside their mansions. What I’m saying is that if more
women would just say no, and play more with dolls
instead of producing babies, and give men hand jobs
instead of allowing them to put their thing in that place
which should principally be used for expelling a variety
of liquids such as diet coke and coffee, the world could slowly
get back to the way it was when there still was an opportunity
for everyone to have their own plot of land, a refrigerator,
and an automatic dishwasher. . .


I wish they’d never been discovered, because if they hadn’t,
there’d be no rapes, child molestations, and unwanted pregnancies.
People would keep their hands to themselves and treat each other
with the respect that each person deserves. And there’d be no peeping toms lurking around backyards trying to catch an unsuspecting man or woman coming out of the shower or changing from their clothes into their pajamas. People would no longer need to lock their doors at night, frequent strip joints, or buy porno movies which only makes bad people a lot of money. Men would still be able to act like men, play real men’s sports like rugby, cricket, and tiddlywinks, and women would still be able to have Tupperware parties and wear the latest fashions without feeling threatened while walking in the street. There’d be more time to talk about important things in life like grandma’s new set of teeth, or how the girl across the street was finally able to buy a bicycle after saving her allowance for nearly a decade.


Can you feel my pain?
I can feel yours, so much so that I feel like giving you money
to take a lavish vacation in some exotic place
where you can forget about it for awhile.
I also feel like kissing your feet
the way Mother Teresa used to do
with the rejects of the world.
I’d do just about anything to alleviate your suffering,
not only because I feel it so poignantly,
but because in diminishing yours
I’d surely diminish a good deal of my own.
After that, maybe we could start a club
in which we take it to the people,
helping them with everything
from relationship problems to financial difficulties,
to the fear of growing old,
and ultimately the fear of death.
I would be president and you would be vice president,
spreading the word with regard to what we could do,
always comforting people and assuring them
that no matter how grim it seems
there is always hope,
always another way to look at things.
And with that, let us begin. . .

Jeffrey Zable is a teacher and conga drummer who plays Afro Cuban Folkloric music for dance classes and Rumbas around the San Francisco Bay Area. His poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and anthologies. Recent writing in MockingHeart Review, Colloquial, Ink In Thirds, Third Wednesday, Fear of Monkeys, Brickplight, Soft Cartel, After the Pause, Rosette Maleficarum, and many others. In 2017 he was nominated for both The Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Jason Baldinger Enjoys A Poor Man's Apple Cobbler, A Nest Of Copperheads, And A Trucker's Tan With a Green-Haired Waitress

Lee’s Famous Fried Chicken

Josh works the counter
at Lee’s Famous Fried Chicken
he’s got long, stringy hair
no front teeth, he compliments
my Bowie shirt, says it’s his favorite lp

Dorsey and I take a booth
Josh is wiping down tables
he’s got a bow and arrow
tattoo on his left calf
a primitive line drawing
perhaps a prison tattoo

he asks how the food is
says he’s worked there nine years
he loves his job
his favorite is the two thigh meal
with red beans and rice
and macaroni and cheese
he says sometimes he gets
the biscuits and the apples
if you mix them together
he says, you get a poor man’s apple cobbler

Ballad of Thirty Hours

I jumped in a car
two pm
left Belle Missouri
for Saint Louis
for a reading
then drove to Effingham
Illinois to sleep in a Baymont
pinned to the interstate
the whine of semi’s
rocked me to sleep
I didn’t mind
the desk clerk
blonde and sweet
seemed as kind
as any angel

I woke up in Effingham
ate key lime pie in Greenfield
Indiana, said hello and goodbye
to Ohio, Pittsburgh popped
through the tunnels
at 7pm and I hit a mayday
celebration, read poems
to anarchists, socialists
and other ne’er do wells
the room was electric
the blue grass old tyme band
was great and capitalism
is still bad

then time seemed a nest
of copperheads
I fell into the night
and hoped like hell
home might find me

Truckers Tan and the Midwest Night

I got truckers tan
one half beet red
the sun only shines
on one side of the world

walleyed, almost 500
miles, blue highways
not wanting to get dropped

but nowhere all the same
some died about
the time of sundown
town, where there’s
nothing quality
about the inn

hundred a night for a bed
in a sea of strip malls
sleeping, second
Mexican restaurant
teenage waitresses
with green hair

there’s a hole in the evening
              a hole in the night
              a hole in the sky
         pretty sure
      you can fit
the Midwest inside

Jason Baldinger is a poet hailing from Pittsburgh and recently finished a stint as writer in residence at the Osage Arts Community. He’s the author of several books, the most recent are This Useless Beauty (Alien Buddha Press), The Ugly Side of the Lake (Night Ballet Press) written with John Dorsey and the chaplet Fumbles Revelations (Grackle and Crow) which are available now. The collection Fragments of a Rainy Season (Six Gallery Press) and the split book with James Benger Little Fires Hiding (Spartan Press) are forthcoming. Recent publications include the Low Ghost Anthology Unconditional Surrender, The Dope Fiend Daily, Outlaw Poetry, Uppagus, Lilliput Review, Rusty Truck, Dirtbag Review, In Between Hangovers, Your One Phone Call, Winedrunk Sidewalk, Anti-Heroin Chic, Nerve Cowboy Concrete Meat Press, Zombie Logic Press, Ramingo’s Porch, Rye Whiskey Review, Red Fez, Blue Hour Review and Heartland! Poetry of Love, Solidarity and Resistance. You can hear Jason read poems on recent and forthcoming releases by Theremonster and Sub Pop Recording artist The Gotobeds as well as at jasonbaldinger.bandcamp.com

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Laura Johnson Drunk on Karaoke, Catching Pillow Quills From Heaven, and Vultures Skulking in the Rising Sun


Stephanie’s driving and the music’s blasting;
We’re setting fi-i-re to the rain, singing karaoke
like drunks. My mother always kept it low—
To hear the sirens, she said.

I’m lying back; one foot resting on
the open window, wind whipping through my toes.
My husband would explain what would happen
to my leg, should we crash.

He didn’t want us to go alone. “Let’s
do it anyway,” Steph said. She slows.
“Look, Mom, the Florida line.” I lift and tap
My iPhone, capture the sign.


The moon half fills my rear-view mirror, 
pale blue fading into the blue of morning. 
Soon it will be gone, and where and when it
will reappear is almost the mystery
I recall from long ago. A child, I
sat on the lawn and pointed to the empty
sky, "The moon was right there yesterday,”
“Where is it today?"  I've forgotten
the answer I didn’t comprehend.

A couple of computer clicks, and
I could know whether it will soon
loom large and orange on the horizon;
shine through backyard branches, full and bright;
turn up sliced-in-half, an after-party cake;
teeter ghost-like on my neighbor’s chimney;
freeze mid-fall, a pillow quill from heaven;
or hide out for a while—a weary celebrity.

I could study its hows and whens and whys...

In my mirror, almost faded away--
It’s an outline of loss and wonder.
I won’t be visiting NASA dot G-O-V today.

Driving to Work       
Up ahead, the sun rises, cracking the bottom
of a tall white wall. The splinters capture color
and spill it over wheel-holding sitters
in glossy machines. I drive through pink air,
thinking of manila folders and the forms inside
to be filled, copied, scanned, uploaded, and filed
so the state auditors can nod the accommodations
for my English learners--enough, but not too much--
and the numbers and names to back each decision.                 
Far above the sunrise, an airplane inches
over the white like a tiny black bug
crawling across an immense sprawl of sheetrock.
And across the mist, vultures hunch, boss-like,
anticipating what they will pick at today. 


Laura Johnson is an English/ESOL teacher at Fayette County High School in Fayetteville, GA. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing in 2017, and her
work has been published in Time of Singing, Blue Heron Review, Snakeskin, The New Southern Fugitives, and others. Her first collection of poetry, Not Yet, will be released by Kelsay Books next spring.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

John Patrick Robbins Wants To Run With The Wolves, Collect New Scars, Take The Drug Of Love, And Leave The Old Dives

You Had To Be A Pirate

You saw us as outlaws.
Our lives lived by the sword was the appeal.

For us it was never a choice.
We dreamed cause it was our only escape from the shit that was our existence.

We paid our dues collected scars, broke hearts, and lost our souls somewhere along the way.

You saw our failures as something noble.
Hero worship is for bloated egos and old men who wish to cast their opinions down upon others.

I rather that you give me a beer and give me my space.

For you it's a path to walk maybe get laid, share some laughs, and be part of a brotherhood.

Every pup wants to run with the wolves eventually.

I never knew another’s shadow for I carved my own existence by clawing my way up and stepping on whomever tried to stop me.

You saw the bullshit and never the truth when others cast labels upon us, and you just simply wanted in the circle no matter the cost.

Once you’re in you realize the ocean is a lonely mistress and the sharks are many.

Welcome to the club.

The scars we bare are many and the rewards few.

It's not a honor its the only existence we know.

You never chose to be a pirate or outlaw it’s just a fucking label.

And I'm over it already.

Why I Got Into Poetry

The page was just there it was like that first little girlfriend we all find when the world is new and your hopes are many.
She was my first and remained my eternal passion.

Through the rest that leave you she remained and I grew to be the writer I am today.
Hearts break, people pass, and the embers of a once raging fire are all that remain.

She lays with you and eats at your very soul like any drug she can consume you like all the rest.

The best drugs all resemble some sort of twisted version of love.

And I am the worst kind of junkie that ever did exist.


I was lost to a degree and unable to find my place but I damn sure found the bottom of a bottle.

Emptiness is a disease that eats away like cancer.
I wasn't in the fight anymore I simply hung up my gloves and said goodbye.

I didn't haunt the old dives that once painted the page.
I was a recluse a former outgoing semi happy fool who now was just miserable fuck who waited to die.

My phone rang and most gave up.

I wasn't in the mood to pretend to be someone I wasn't anymore.

And no longer were my vices charming I was a addict and trying to hold a conversation while pretending I wasn't a full blown train wreck was just more than I was willing to give.

I found silence more soothing than conversation.

And I no longer cared to make up stories to entertain.

Nights were the worst and sometimes I found myself reaching out.

I mainly wrote someone who no longer cared for my words.
She never replied.
She was like the silence and I imagined within it I was still with her.

And she was as cold and empty as ever.
We shared that common trait.

See you at sunrise.

John Patrick Robbins is a barroom poet who's work is a hundred percent unfiltered. His work has been published with Piker Press, Outlaw Poetry Network, Red Fez, Inbetween Hangovers, Blognostics , Spill The Words, Horror Sleaze Trash, Romingos Porch .Your One Phone Call.