Thursday, January 6, 2022

Michael Lee Rattigan and a Fridge-Door to Heaven, A Tree's Seamless Hem, And A Cross Lit From Behind

Lines in Search of…   

foreign welcome       a switch on language never learned   

prayer for those who sleep in strips of cloth       a sought-for question 

a tear-polished image       a picture scribbled on a fridge-door to heaven.  


the eyes’ warmth

or heart’s milk pouring

down the neck

a tree’s seamless hem


to replace or repair


sky-cornered blossom’s comprehensive dazzle

bridging the way to will

the base of a cross lit from behind

wishing to be raised

golden-silver-white script’s

conquering sign

Michael Lee Rattigan (Caterham, UK) is a poet and translator who has lived and taught in Mexico and Spain. He translated the first complete collection of Fernando Pessoa's Alberto Caeiro poems (Rufus Books, 2007) and contributed to the Selected Writings of C├ęsar Vallejo (Wesleyan Press, 2015). He is the author of two poetry collections, Liminal (Rufus Books, 2012) and Hiraeth (Black Herald Press, 2016).

Monday, January 3, 2022

Miguel Escobar Guides Us Through The Familiar Trappings Of An Apocalypse, A Gold Rush Chaos Flash, And The Aftermath Of A Pleasure Cruise


the movement between truth and     no longer 

the not exactly     a grey spectacle what unfolds 

a question     of     consciousness’ presence as

 narrator     affixed like     appendage     the new 

as it breaks         one more        rigamarole 

could this be it     what         others proclaim

 an apocalypse     with such     familiar trappings 

leave it to the beavers     to build dams     bask 

in sunlight     with their         accomplishment 

because     where are we     purveyors     of failed 

condos     when from         a concurrent     sidebar 

clarity presents     and it is mommy dearest     you 

not quitting your     day job                     guarding 

a semblance     of     destiny     writ black     and inky 

yet even as     everything around you         twirls 

in the air     balanced             behind the scenes 

you know   the drill   don’t you s      staying alive 

the clatter     of dishes     being         cleared by 

a busgirl     the crystal  with residue   of tomato

 and spent lemon wedge                to   scent air 

itself     already                 colored by     sea salt

 this is where consciousness chose to         arrest

 you   lead you through a maze     to     a     cell 

proclaim   all  your   needs   met             except 

                                          just possibly the one


don’t ask was voiced but in the head    calling 

the meal Porridge       quaint micro       morph 

to the macro meta                 walk a thing back

 into childhood                                from grains 

& oats the safe familiar     enter               Funge 

it is not like     UFOs   or anything        meaning 

believing in them     says       we might   dare go 

ignite  some other  form of cognition     Thomas

the Bahamian does not go in VIP         or even 

in Focused for that matter     for the paradox of 

a ban on iconoclast art      segue          to when

irony is dubbed a thing verboten           witness 

my relationship     to mail     sent     from     this 

Blackberry       insert woman fishing thru purse 

insert beer so good it amazes     the city as We 

the city as We!     going through the roof     on 

every metric       here is what you need to know 

    except you don’t     gold rush     chaos  flash 

everything dead                        a true princess 

                           awe  this  one  lifetime knew 


a voice demanding     clarification     but only

 of sorts in all honesty     the whole of history

is a paraphrase     a repetition of only  France 

between untimely deaths                 an actress 

and her role     one of a lifetime         consider 

parallel wisps of clouds rise         from statues 

upended                                        death given 

meaning         a thing       outside         oneself 

incense             in veins               & tea leaves 

the city as We!                             the city as We 

                                       who find      cognition


 the question of outliers                         scores to 

settle rampant speculation     as to            a thing 

                                                     beyond grasp

                                    a missing metaphor 

                               that makes you         ache


inside a whirr of constant creation spinning black lace

what the daring system attempts outside


across the map     no longer paper    no longer dark ink 

gauge         from horrid aftermath of a pleasure cruise

the true meaning of pleasure 

everywhere you look 

nakedness is    voluptuous   alive     using     the wind 

choose a context even a cover-up or         a hoped for 

conceit     resurrect into     a lifetime              arrive at 

the soon to be preordained

stripped        of        what

 incessant everything lobbies hard to be 

something mattering 

a shade-less lightbulb to the stars gawking 

curious anti-shadow   to the spy     the cold    the bleak


back alleys             the side deemed wrong

a narrative

 wanting to pass for a thing called living         departed 

notion      of a theme           for the statuesque to bridge 

perception of the wide gulf                as any number of 

distant scenarios appearing     to     dissipate        rather 

than crumbling                 doubts surface      once more 

morphed from a time      years ago               when father

turned out to be                                                     mortal 

                                                                 and then again 

                                                    mother the same 

                                                                            the both 

deducing   the moral   of any      random               parable 

plays tricks                        might you       be fully destined 

to always         barely just                               discern them 

you may think                            you’re still about this thing 

only         break lapse  to find                                     newly 

prescient                                     one   actual   gulf   omitted

Miguel Escobar’s poems have appeared on-line at Vext Magazine, Diaphanous Press Fall 2017, Diaphanous Micro 2.5, Luciole Press, in the Wordpress blog community, as well as in smallish literary/art circles on social media both since late 2015 as well as circa 2007-2008. He resides in the northern California city of Sacramento, at the storied confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

John Tustin Ponders The Squeak In Your Bedroom Door, Being Fourteen Forever, And The Running Clockwork Keys Of The Sun


I reside in the puddle beyond your back door

Where the daylight stinks

And mosquitos spawn.

I am in your roof gutters

Strangled between the rotting leaves

And the bird dung.

I am trapped in the spider web

Spun on your windowsill, strangling

While the spider is away.

I am in your keyhole;

The squeak in your bedroom door;

The dust upon your books.

I live in the knot in your hair

You comb out again and again

After you bathe.

I am stuck in the grease

In the clog of your kitchen drain,

The cockroaches clambering over me for freedom.

I am in the drool stain on your pillowcase.

I am just where your lips

Meet the flesh of your sleep.

 I am everywhere you are.

I stalk you from the dirt and the mud

And the static on your radio.

I reside in the puddle beyond your back door

Where the daylight stinks

And mosquitos spawn,

 Rising out to dine

On the blood of the living,

Bringing pestilence and nothing more.

I am the small insignificant thing

That holds on to the mosquito’s leg,

Swatted down with it or escaping, depending.


Three A.M. and thinking about

How pretty some of those girls were

Standing on the subway platform,

Bending to adjust their socks

Or reading a book, back up against a column,

Wearing their best denim,

The trains going by and blowing their hair into their unclouded faces,

Oblivious to my glances

Or my hunger.

Thinking about the friends I had

(I thought I had)

Who flung their daggers

All along my back

As I felt not a thing at the time.

I am forty five now

But I will hear a song

Or smell a smell out of place

Yet familiar,

Or hear a coin falling to the ground and spinning

And I am reminded I will always be fourteen

Or sixteen or seventeen,

My heart a slimy frightened thing,

Beating in the shadows of the rest.

I am thinking about the woman I wanted to love

And how I was a fool and she a charlatan,

Whipping me with her duality

And her nonchalance.

I am thinking about my friend who, it turns out

Was anything but best.

 I remember names and faces

And I remember moments.

Moments when I thought I had found my tribe

And how little by little

Those affirming moments eroded with each truth

That they were not like me at all

And I was glad I was not like them

Although I wished so to belong.

Gradually I just came around less and less

And no one called me, asking me where I was.

It was right I should not be there.

One of them one day

As we were traveling by train told me,

“I don’t like you.

I don’t think we should take the train together anymore.”

Out of the blue, there it was.

The rest of them just said things about me

When I was not present.

He is the only one I respect.

He is still a fucker.

Just thinking about meeting one of them

Purely by chance on the street

Brings back my stutter

And a desire to duck into the next store,

Waiting for them to pass.

Coming close to half a century old,

I am still a little boy

Alone in his room

Crying over nothing

In the near dark

While outside

The rains falls

And falls,

Creasing the windows

From the outside.


I have not and will not forget

The blood that formed in my mouth

Like unearthed silver

The birds that swooped and glided

Before the trees that stopped their swaying

In a wind that carried you to me

For what turned out to be mere moments.

My heart, my lungs swelled with a love

That lasted longer than we

But are now shriveled and crumpled foils

 That rot on the surface of what was falsely believed

To be

A strong and fertile soil.

 I have not and will not forget

The blood that formed in my mouth

Like unearthed silver

And the perceived love in eyes

That seemed to be the turning of the world,

The running clockwork keys of the sun

 But I try

I try

I try.

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Yuan Changming Endeavors In The Most Mindful Moment, An Extra Year Of Satan, And A Jade Philosopher's Stone

Into the Reality

You see, here’s the leaf dyed with the full

Spectrum of autumn; here’s the dewdrop

Containing all the dreams made on the

Darkest corner of last night; here’s the

Light pole in the forest where gods land

From another higher world; here’s the swirl

You can dance with to release all your

Emotional intensity. Here you are in

Deed as in need embracing

The most

Mindful moment, when you can readily

Measure your feel with each breath, but do

Not think about time, which is nothing but

A pure human invention. Just point every

Synapse of yours to this locale. Here is now 

Features; for Hengxiang Liao

Not coincidentally, I have met many a person

With a strong appearance of a lower species

For instance, one school mate of mine carries

The features of a rabbit, another close relative

Those of a horse, a colleague of a familiar dog

An acquaintance of a hedgehog, a fifth of a

Snake, a sixth of a pig, a rooster, a rat, a water

Buffalo, a donkey, a goat or chimpanzee &

Each seems fated to fall within or without some

Chinese zodiac year

While my wife often

Looks like a nasty cat, she says my face oftener

shows all the hideousness of a demon, as if to re

Mind her like every other fellow human, I was

Born in an extra year of Satan though we were

All created equal in His image 

Lover’s Stone for a Shadow Wife: for Qi Hong

1/ Jinzhou, October 7, 2021

After celebrating your father’s birthday, you

Went out of your way to see my mother in

Jinzhou as my shadow wife rather than in

Any other dubious capacity. Though you

stayed there for 15 minutes only, you left a

Handsome red envelop containing all the

Filialness of a Confucian son on my behalf

Indeed, I may not survive the Pandemic, nor

Might she hold long enough for me to cross

The Pacific, but your special visit has given

Her the best comfort from a daughter-in-law

She felt sorry she did not take a photo with

You, but I assured her to commemorate the

Meeting in a poem in a foreign language

2/ Zhuhai, October 7, 2021

No, no, no, you should not have had a thief’s

Conscience when you went to see my mother

On my behalf, for a heart-stealer is no thief

To begin with

As for the gift of a big stamp

Jade, it was given not to you alone, but to both

Of us, which you can cut into two, one to

Carve into an artist’s seal for you, the other

A poet’s signature for me. More important

From the same piece of jade, they are one

And the same, if put back together

Like a philosopher’s stone

YUAN CHANGMING grew up in a remote village, started to learn the English alphabet in Shanghai at age 19 & published monographs on translation before leaving China. With a Canadian PhD in English, Yuan currently lives in Vancouver, where he has worked as a tutor, translator & publisher. Credits include 11 Pushcart nominations, 10 chapbooks, Best of the Best Canadian Poetry: Tenth Anniversary Edition, Best New Poems Online and appearances in more than 1800 literary outlets across 46 countries. Additionally, Yuan served on the Jury for Canada's 44th National Magazine Awards (poetry category).

Monday, December 20, 2021

Aleathia Drehmer Amidst The Hyparxis, The OCD Fingers, The Bad Viral Movie Lines, And The Vaulting Spines Of Ferrets


Sleep (Study 1)


turn life

upside down

creating hyparxis

twofold, and inversely


stand there

an inflated representation

of the man I love

nonchalantly telling me

your brain is near bleeding;

your life, measured.

What disturbs me most

is how I go about my routine,

OCD fingers in their motions

rotating stacks of papers

and books; double checking

keys jingling in my pocket

while your existence

hangs in the balance.


Sleep (Study 2)


a bad movie line

gone viral

            --dude where’s my car?—

frantic pacing

waiting for it to appear

in the sea of concrete

you tell me I parked

by the river

your brain is dying--

flesh sagging and 


i’m running through fields

to get to the water

legs made of lead



how will you forgive me?

how will I forgive myself?


Sleep (Study 3)


the river’s edge

I see it—the grey goose

only more compact

and incredibly wedged

between concrete walls.


boys fish on the shore

poles dipping the surface

pretending to whip flies

like those redneck boys.


water churns violently,

not with trout or perch,

but with vaulting spines

of ferrets—teeth bared

and angry.


roll up my pants

to cross the water.

It is my only chance

to save you.

Aleathia Drehmer was once the editor of Durable Goods and In Between Altered States, but now spends most of her time writing novels. She has recently published poems in Rusty Truck, Spillwords, Piker Press, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Cajun Mutt Press. Aleathia has upcoming work in 58 Poetry. Her first full-length collection Looking for Wild Things (Impspired) is due out later this year.  www.aleathiadrehmer.com

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Vernon Frazer Returns With A Burnt Symphony, A Lighthouse Resolution, And A Bandit Terminus

Driven Home by the Concert

linear loan forced 


                     a fashion 



new irrigation rollers

past any sextants to

cartilage incumbent


     a burnt symphony

connects worn dissonance 

     a faded

                  loop of melody trousers

   first sounds                    resound 

different canyons                    smoky

      cantatas roving undone

      straining where the frenzy

      gives operetta barging

                      the hard strategy

           daylight revenge    

                                       a sudden wisdom

     no translucence boogie

     from the curvature scanners

          the morphine tenant 

          dumps a consonance freak 


               against the listeners present 

               and set the tumult from their

               balding tympanist inanimate  

                                        centrifugal camphor             

      at histories          for the next titanium swizzle

the sending metronomes 


                                  other polyrhythms

                    imploding wisdom

                    a riff in crescendos lost

                    the spin-off veneer

                                sizzling reprisal listeners 

              never a marginal key

              past traction hemming the sky screen

                             overindulge clavichords 

                             while a wider ear diluted innuendo

Reflecting on the Future’s Past

gone brassiere

riffing the last pavilion

       its controller 

       grounded sky in enzyme flourish

       the nonchalance legation

          knows                            (brink included)

          effects     protruding

                          unstocked           congress

                          the isolate


                    iconic supplication

                              (     )

alien schemata

possible monetary detonator

     lighthouse resolution 

     the noisy panorama appetizer


                             commotion retching

before a protruding schoolhouse breath

     tensing            decorator pabulum

     to right             blockaded preface

                       full or fruitless

                              (     )

shrapnel bough

keeps many bursters bent

past an idling verb

                    a lowered patois

          good vowel          alongside

          workhorses          songbirds

                   screaming, bitten

“a verbal pandemic with an ovoid specular”




Stuck in Human Trafficking 

         deflation plastered

         ombudsman follow-ups

as thoroughfare sturgeon invigorated briar

         flayed adjutants 

         garbled past basilica jacks

                     not rooted in the motorboat

         valence returns

         pituitary facings

turbulent between padding cottages

sullen fellow, concrete protuberance 

                   sly timetables

                   the respite logarithm arrived

where the filtered make legacy babes turn castle

                                (     )

          coned samosa threesomes

          report kangaroo monsoons

          ramped with monosyllables


                    salutations humored illuminati

           rumor abduction 

           gathered regulations implosion

           bandit terminus

                    casually semantic

        the code stationer

                    then expostulated 

                    that atlas fulcrums 

eluded bland clients and humored bridging

                                (     )

     neurosis junkies

     benefit theatres learning



               a guildhall mechanism

               spotted lost pitchforks

                    where the backbone vesper

                    behind an octopus mascara

                    enhances a sonic wallflower

                                     from shallow fastening

                                     to the railroad’s thriller

                                            milking the portly mandarins 

Vernon Frazer’s new poetry collection is Gravity Darkening.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Laura Anella Johnson With A Periphery Sofa Stretch, An Ageless Residency, and Weekly Lesson Plans

my cat

(for Gracie)

 a creak—you nosing through the door  

to head butt, knead, and collapse.

a subtle swish and click—

pouncing, arching hair-tie whack.

a periphery sofa stretch.

a dark-hallway shift and glide.

i turn, adjust my eyes, 

it’s merely a shadow, 

a whispering mail-stack slide and clack,

a wayward breeze-tossed leaf (you’d like that),

a settling, cat-hair-sprinkled house, 

the dog lifting her head (remembering

your goodbye lick?)

a door-disturbing draft,

nothingness afoot,

or somehow my cat.


(for Anthony Perotta)

When you searched my eyes, our faces inches apart,

we were seated in a breath-filled dining hall.

Banter bounced off the 1970’s-paneled walls, 

silverware clinked dinner plates.

Seven or eight other writers-in-training sat around 

our white-clothed, breadcrumb-scattered table

still laughing about some thing you’d said at lunch,

too dirty, they surmised, for me to hear.

 “Whisper it in my ear,” I tempted,

and you—Mr. Laid-Back Uproarious Bostonian Accent—

looked at me—Mrs. Sheltered Bible Belt Twang—

like you were measuring something...until 

silver-and-purple-haired Susan’s “If he whispers that in your ear, 

your husband will have grounds for divorce!”

 and now it doesn’t matter of course because 

you’ve broken away, slipped unforeseen into 

an ageless residency midway through 

our writers’ residencies,

 and what made your eyes 

look like that...almost...almost 

telling me something you didn't tell me, 

what stood tipped-toed, peered out

your spirit window into mine,

what held it back and 

what wanted to let it go

 and the other whats 

that hid behind 

your eyes, and deeper, 

have drifted away...

floating intangible tidbits

—dirty, pure, painful, hopeful—

beyond reach somewhere.

Those ones you measured

and determined best unshared.


The inklings that nudged me while driving or in 

a meeting, or chipping away at some 

other required business, ideas I can’t list in

this poem because I’ve forgotten them... 

 the impulses I didn't 

explore have sunk and drifted deep beneath 

waves of things to-do...and will never be poems. 

                            I sacrificed them to 

busyness, to typed-up ESOL instructions

sent in the timeliest manner possible to 

my students’ other teachers,

to undoing my Infinite-Campus-online-gradebook

errors listed on my error report. 

To learning BlackBoard and loading it with 

content to show I've embraced our 

school’s vision,

 to teaching the newest high school generation—

a welcome reprieve from other responsibilities—

until the class clown in the front row yells

“I try! I try! I try! I try” 

while I give grammar warm-up instructions, 

then stop and fill out her lunch detention form;

 to weekly lesson plans 

laid out in six-by-seven charts,

to exit and entrance letters sent home to 

parents who may or may not read them,

who may or may not be able,

to our new way of testing new students, 

that one that pulls them away 

from more and more classes, as I am 

pulled away from another crack of light—

 an impulse sacrificed to my paycheck

which I’ll use to buy a new mattress

—whenever there's time—

to relieve the ache in my lower psyche.

Laura Anella Johnson is the author of Not Yet (Kelsay Books, 2019) and The Color of Truth (coming soon by Kelsay Books). Her work has appeared in a range of online and print journals and anthologies including Literary Mama, Snakeskin, Reach of Song, and Tipton. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University and teaches English/ESOL at Fayette County High School in Georgia.