Tuesday, December 29, 2015


artwork: ralph murre

by Scott Thomas Outlar

We’re all looking
for something better
than what we are;
something deeper
than what we’ve felt;
something stronger
than what we’ve sensed;
something more honest
than what we’ve
been telling ourselves;
something more steady;
something more calm;
something more real
than what we’ve experienced;
something that never
winds up hurting us
in the end;
something sweet
that isn’t addictive;
something alive
that doesn’t die on us;
something powerful
that never loses its grace;
something that never runs dry;
something that never talks back;
something that comforts us
when we are hurt;
something that understands
the existential pain;
something that does not lack
in the moments
when we need it most;
something that is brave
when we are full of fear;
something that fits the bill;
something that naturally
smiles for the camera
without having to fake the cheese;
something rich without pretension;
something high without a kite.

~ first published in Dissident Voice

Thursday, December 24, 2015

when your grandmother . . .

artwork: ralph murre

by Marty McConnell ~

when your grandmother mistakes your girlfriend for a man,

do not rise up over the dinner table
like a sequin tornado

or a burning flag. it is Christmas.
though the forks

curl their tines into tiny silver fists
and the frost-

rimmed windows blink in embarrassment,
focus on your lover

as she clears her throat, extra low, passes the salt
to your grandmother

who thanks the young man with the strange
haircut and delicate

hands. this is no time for declarations and no one’s
seemed to notice

though the milk’s gone solid in the pitcher
and your father

is suddenly fascinated by the unmoving air
in the other room.

your mouths do not move, except
to chew. this is family,

this is holiday, there are no affairs, no
addictions, your family

crest reads in elaborate embroidery
the less said,

the better. though your father did offer once
to pay for your therapy

back when no one you knew was in therapy
and there was no way

you were going to talk to a stranger about things
you’d never say

to your mother, even drunk, even on Easter. so
to say something now

about what might be a mistake, or just the easiest way
to explain a mohawk

would be bringing sand to the bank. unprofitable
and a little bit

insane. you study your lover’s chin. the tweezers wince
under the sink.

she could be a boy, you think. apocalyptic Christian
emails aside,

maybe your grandmother is progressive. astute
in her own

Southern, incidental way. your voice offering her
the butter is a punk band

playing an abortion clinic. all feedback
and nobody wants you.

she’s your grandmother. she’s nearly 100.
your uncle

took thirty years to get sober. your grandfather died
still owning the manual

to every piece of machinery he’d ever owned.
you still

don’t know how to make any kind of pie.
there are no

family recipes. in the far corner of your liver
your other grandmother

looks up from her patient sectioning
of a grapefruit,

offers you a chunk of your own atrophied
tongue, trembling

at the edge of her serrated spoon.

~ first published in the Beloit Poetry Journal

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Night with Ukelele

artwork: ralph murre

Christmas Night with Ukulele
by John Sierpinski

I am twelve, sitting in a chair in a new striped
polo shirt, and cuffed, corduroy pants.  My
hair is slicked with Vaseline and water, shaped
and parted like Roy Rogers’.  When I smile,
there is a gap between my front teeth.  The new
transistor radio I unwrapped earlier crackles,
“Chestnuts  roasting…”  Tinny.  The radio
is the size of a brick.  Uncle Ted appears

at the top of the basement stairs and says
“Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christ…”  He stumbles,
swallowed into the great white, flocked tree.
The color coordinated ornaments and spotlight
shatter.  Crunch.  Are pulverized.  At the end
a remote sick, little bell tinkles.  Aunt Junie,
Ted’s wife, curses like some deranged drill
instructor.  Ted lies on the thick shag, fine

shards of red and green glass sprinkled in
his graying hair.  He attempts to get up —
a slow motion roll, a shuffle of feet.  “I’m
sorry,” he drones, with a faint smile.  Aunt
Hilda comes to on the sofa, looks at Ted,
and declares, “Let’s all take our clothes off!”
I sneak a glance up her pleated skirt.  My
mother catches me (a scolding look).  I feel

more and more uneasy, and  steal down
the stairs to the knotty pine, rec. room bar. 
My father is singing, “All is calm…” Uncle
Sy strums four strings, the little woman- 
shaped body of the ukulele.  I ask, “Can we
go now, Dad?”  He continues to sing: shot
glass in one hand,  lips slack, a lopsided oval.  
I ask again, “Can we go?”  I touch his sleeve.  

His hand slaps hot behind my ear, pushes me
away.  Tears slip from my eyes, the enamel 
orchid on the stringed instrument grows fuzzy. 
Later, I’m in the backseat of the car.  Wheels
slide  in rapidly falling snow, and my mother
shouts, “Be careful, dammit!”  The dashboard
light like a match flame, illuminates their bloated
faces.  The falsetto speaker hums, “I’ll be home
for Christmas.”    I stare out the window.  Crystal
snowflakes fall without menace or harm.

~ first published in North Coast Review

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mermaid Tattoo Becomes Enmeshed . . .

artwork: ralph murre

Mermaid Tattoo Becomes Enmeshed
in Her Relationship
by Sylvia Cavanaugh

I was crafted carefully and with cunning
to link my ink to this relentless red flow
nailed down to the pulse 
like a seashell ocean’s echo my 
two dimensions bend and arch
they ache to the rhythm of his three as
I’m plastered flat to a twining twitch
of muscle and deeper down
I sense the bone I cannot grasp it makes
my stomach turn and yet my
tiny nipples burn I yearn for him
trapped beneath the death of him
as his outer layer flakes away
and I’m the only witness

we hover over women with
their open legs like rowboat oars
the wretched separation 
distantly they beg for us and
gnash their teeth
we heave and sweat
the salty sea and thrash
a flash of scale on
spangled tail
'til his eyes roll back
and stare through mine

~ first published in Peninsula Poets

Monday, December 14, 2015

The truth is often hidden . . .

purse by turtle ridge studio

 by Firestone Feinberg

The truth is often hidden
As if it's made of gold —
Although it can't be stolen
Neither bought nor sold
Nor stashed away in purses
Nor kept in wallet fold —
The truth is — truth is worthless
Until the thing's been told.

~ first published in Verse-Virtual

Monday, December 7, 2015

Venus de Milo Goes Bowling

artwork: ralph murre

by Kelley J. White ~

Venus de Milo Goes Bowling

and you gotta love her, she’s just no good at it,
but she gamely stumps forward, ball pressed
between her chin and breast, and it keeps falling
out, clunk, clunk, and rolling in the gutter

and she’s up against Michelangelo’s David
with all that long-limbed, lazy power
concentrated in his wrist, looking out
of half-closed eyes at his own powder blue ball

and the Discus Thrower, wired tight as a Banzai
tree, all speed and follow-through, and she
would like to drum her fingers, she would like
to chew her nails, she would like just this once

to tear her hair out of that classic bun, then
the doors open on the outside furnace heat
and in comes Kali, on a tongue of white flame,
Kali, in her Blue Avenger Aspect, and

Kali she shifts her face, click, click, serpentine,
to each side of two mudra’d hands, catching
our girl’s eye, with that Ray Harryhausen classic
movie animation motion, then

whack whack whack, whip whip whip, smack smack smack,
strike, she rolls a prefect string with the house black

~ previously published in  Ze - Books

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A closing

photo by rose mary boehm

A closing
by Rose Mary Boehm

On the other side of you
there is a no place,

where silences build
bridges across hidden waters,

where Pirandello’s actors
are searching for a stage,
lost for a script.

Concrete begets concrete,
and the heart can no longer
accommodate love, or perhaps

it just dies,
of negligence.

~ first published in Ann Arbor Review

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

At Bus Stops on Thanksgiving Day

artwork: ralph murre

At Bus Stops on Thanksgiving Day
by Donal Mahoney

Before dawn, people
who work on Thanksgiving Day 
wait in the wind for a bus
to arrive or maybe not.
It's too cold to talk 
so the people stand
like minutemen and plan
a revolution that would shock 
nice families who drive by later,
children tucked in scarves
and mittens, laughing
all the way to Nana's house 
for turkey, gravy, stuffing
and later in the day
a ballerina of whipped cream
twirling on pumpkin pie.
Thanksgiving is the day
America asks for seconds
and sorts its servers
from the served.

~ first published in Eye on Life Magazine

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Connoisseur of Canoes

artwork: ralph murre

The Connoisseur of Canoes 
by Jimmy Pappas

Nursing a drink in my right
hand, I enter the boathouse
and wonder how long I can
pretend to be sipping the few
drops I have left. The group
forms a circle shoulder to
shoulder in my peripheral
vision. Occasionally, someone
glances my way and turns
back quickly to avoid eye
contact, while I stop at a boat
and touch the varnish with
one finger from my left hand.
I pretend to be a connoisseur
of canoes, an aficionado of
aquatic vehicles, all the while
wishing the ice in my glass
would melt faster so I could
take another sip. Until it does,
I stare at my reflection and
wonder if people had it wrong
about Narcissus, that he
didn’t fall in love with
himself, just out of love
with the rest of the world.

~ previously published in Atticus Review

Monday, November 16, 2015

Seeing Mountains

photo: sharon auberle

by M.J. Iuppa

Seeing Mountains

in shades of amber, an ecology of ash
& aspens, their expansive reach to a cloud
chasing sky casts a spell  over me . . .
 I look up into heights I rarely perceive
from a farm whose land was once smoothed
by the press of a glacier’s hand.

                                                      And so, I slide
into the pool of my shadow & sit there quietly
waiting for the windless explosion of monarch

wings or a thousand  leaves  tumbling like loose
coins tossed into autumn’s sunlight to take
 my breath away.

~ first published in Blue Heron Review

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


artwork: ralph murre

by Michael L. Newell

A hat properly aged
releases the fisherman
cast inside a steel worker,

the dancer shimmering
in an accountant's figures,
the sailor deep

inside a coal miner,
the woodsman wandering
in a priest.


A hat aged properly,
stiffness mellowed into character,
smells of salt water

brine pickling skin, rain
streaming through Douglas Fir, firewood
kindling friendships, pipes

lit from embers
warming conversation, contains
sun, earth, tree, fire, rain, and moon.

~ first published in Bellowing Ark

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Water Sign

artwork: ralph murre

Water Sign
by Margaret Hasse

Two-year-old Charlie loves water,

loves the force of water 
in gutters, pipes, the second hose
bought to keep peace between brothers
who spray tomatoes with the intensity
of fire fighters at a five alarm fire,

loves the sources of water:
faucet, penis, rain, spit.

He longs like a pilgrim for wet places
where his worship is
complete submersion:
bathtub, swim pool, lake.

To praise water,
he secludes himself in the bathroom.
Ascending a stepping stool to the sink,
he opens valves to an endless rush
of new pressure in copper pipes.

So much water, why not share it?
Give it away until it seeps
through the floorboards,
showers into the kitchen,
fills the bowls on the table,
flows on the heads
of his amazed mother and brother
who do not immediately recognize
that grace might descend like this –
inconveniently –
from a complete enthusiast
who needs to be forgiven
for being generous
with whatever he loves.

~ previously published in Milk and Tides (Nodin Press)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

So, This is What Living Means

artwork:ralph murre

So, This is What Living Means
by Angela Consolo Mankiewicz

What a relief, to finally know
what living means:
an extra skate key
stashed under a garbage can,
on the right side of the stoop.

Years ago, I tried to ponder all
the great questions.  I read Nietzsche
and Dostoyevsky and fell in love
with a bulge-eyed Frenchman.
I tried to do what was expected
of a working class kid in a state college:
think, read, talk the big questions;
prove your mother right.

But I was a fake.  Friends read N and D too,
and understood them.  They were impressed
by my love for the bulge-eyed Frenchman,
my facile quotes delivered with meaningful
pauses.  They didn't know I yawned through N
and read D because he told a good story.

Marriage and a real job distracted, just in time.
I had things to do and need not ponder
what living means.  I stopped reading N
and fell out of love.  But kept D by my bedside.

Later on, with divorce behind me and poetry on my mind,
I watched my cat play with a terrified lizard;
I looked at rain; I choked on hot winds scorching
my tomato plants and began to ponder again,
but nothing happened.

I read N again and the bulge-eyed Frenchman, but I
didn't fall in love.

I understood better this time, but I was still
shaky on details and settled down with D
to forget myself.

"Why" is a good word, a solid word that can
occupy a lifetime.  But an answer to why isn't meaning.

"Is" is a good word too.  Something of substance.
Like an extra skate key stashed under a garbage can,
on the right side of the stoop, just in case,
just in time.

~ originally published on AmherstWriters.org

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Case for Ghosts

digital photoart: ralph murre

A Case for Ghosts
by Sara Clancy

Though you think otherwise
I am aware of an intrusion into the day
that feels like any afternoon in reverse
where conversation is complete
recollection plays the radio
and we are all present.

To arrive here you need nothing
like faith. Though I believe in memory
don't you? These dubious apparitions
insist on clarity, if only the relief
of your forehead glimpsed against
the steady shade of my hand.

In the end I will trade the familiar
cold spot with all its calibrations of doubt
for evidence of your dazzling absence
in the instant you cool your coffee,
your inexplicable breath
warm and expired.

~ previously published in Houseboat

Monday, October 26, 2015


photo: ralph murre

by Bruce Dethlefsen

these people
these place
these time of day

these breeze oh ain’t they sweet
these air to breathe
these sun wet world
these whole big blue green deal

and then these night
these children moon
these stars on strings
these stars
these twang of things


~ previously published in Unexpected Shiny Things
   Cowfeather Press

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Recipe for Autumn

artwork: ralph murre

Recipe for Autumn
by Joan Wiese Johannes

You do not need a recipe.

All you need has gathered
in your freezer, on your doorstep,
and on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator
where the bunch of celery, minus
the thin stalk the cookbook called for,
begs you to let it flavor soup.

You do not need to leave home.

In the freezer there are ham hocks boiled
when the price was low
and corn on the cob bought from the farmer
who crumpled your money
into the pocket of his overalls,
making himself richer, making you richer too.

You do not need the market.

Use the potatoes that appeared at the office
next to the sign, Help Yourself,
tomatoes from the picnic table
where your neighbor puts produce
she wants to share,
the purple beans the poet brought you,
and the stray peppers left on your porch.

You do not need to wait.

Even the catsup to thicken and brighten
your broth has settled in the plastic bowl
where your husband poured it after he
knocked the bottle off the pantry shelf.

You do not need a recipe;
all you need is here.

  ~ first published in Wisconsin Trails

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cezanne Jelly and Paper Kites

artwork: paul cezanne

Cezanne Jelly and Paper Kites
by Albert DeGenova

in our Cezanne season when reason was treason
blue was the color for days and nights
jelly on crackers the Tao of our Zen

the then of amen again and again
undulating shadows red lava light
that Cezanne season when reason was treason

sunshine like thunder begun and undone
purple and yellow crepe paper kites
jelly on crackers the Tao of our Zen

you were the one the one the one
to bless the black cat with child sight
a Cezanne season when reason was treason

I painted poems with naked pen
to remember black coffee mornings and nights
jelly on crackers the Tao of our Zen

and now our cold toes touch almost like then
when we danced in crackling firelight
that was our season when reason was treason
jelly on crackers the Tao of our Zen

~ previously published in The Blueing Hours
   (Virtual Artists Collective)

Thursday, October 15, 2015


photo and scarecrow by ralph murre

By Shoshauna Shy ---

at a Citgo station.
I am still married
and neither of us suspects
I will become my husband’s ex,
then Bill’s live-in girlfriend.
Next I’m his almost-fiancee
till drunken hijinks
with his best friend
gets me pregnant.
As things go, I miscarry;
Bill forgives me; we get
back together; we break up.
This goes on for years
while he travels to Key West
and dates someone else’s wife.
Meanwhile, I give birth
to a couple of his kids;
we get a license;
we have a wedding,
but before I know it
all hell breaks loose

and I’m his ex, Bill’s very own ex.
I figured I was olly olly in free
but as Bill says, guy reaches 40,
he’s bound to have an ex;
maybe even two.
This makes for a handy excuse
when my successor, a pretty
wanna-be-Mrs named Alyssa
prepares to present her case.
Bill can shake his head
and damn if that’s not all it takes
for her to know she should get real
or get gone - It won’t get
any better than this.

~ first published in stoneboat

Friday, October 9, 2015

Pan's Lament

artwork: ralph murre

Pan’s Lament
by Rose Mary Boehm

Grandmothers wore sadness wrapped in black.
Pan’s duduk no longer moved their feet in dance.
The young wore rape and shame like the end
of a world where their lives had been broken.
Sons and lovers, husbands and brothers,
their blood running over the heavy stones of betrayal.

When I left my
Armenia and my mother
like a thief in the night, the outcast, the coward,
I saw my father’s face ripped away by a Turkish bullet
before I stole away, and all I felt was hot pee
running down my stockings, smelling of fear.
I had reached the bottom of my chasm,
the six-year old could not climb up.

What do I remember? Not my father’s face.
Nor can I recall my mother’s. Pourasdan, my sister,
was full of life, her skirts whirling to Pan’s
enchantment. That was before. The only
one left to receive me, I found an old woman
with dead eyes. Who am I?

I have climbed to the highest peak around
my village. Across the valley a mountain top has chosen
to be dressed in virgin white. Give us back our innocence,
so we can dance again. Pan’s lament
is floating up on the evening mist, haunting
my memories, weaving bereavement, singing my chasm
where I now find a wistful symmetry.
I will not be sad in this world.

~ first published in Poetry Quarterly (2011)