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