Archives For Issue 9 (Feb 2016)




Graphic artist and painter Allen Forrest was born in Canada and bred in the U.S. He has created cover art and illustrations for literary publications and books. He is the winner of the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University’s Reed Magazine and his Bel Red painting series is part of the Bellevue College Foundation’s permanent art collection. Forrest’s expressive drawing and painting style is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of van Gogh, creating emotion on canvas.

Caribbean Basket

No free verser, John Keats,
nor confessional diarist, yet we hear

beneath his ode’s loud swallows
a wet consumptive cough that ran

through father, mother, brothers
and we catch his seductive joke–

his “living hand” that didn’t haunt Fanny
still mocks our timidity. Tireless,

earth’s gravity stalks us, tugs each
hem and cuff, jaw and anklebone.

In Limon, deft women sit in circles
shaping bright trash into bowls,

passing news of deaths, love, births,
and bread in banter by turns sharp

and consoling. From them, I have
not a word–just a basket, green

and red. It holds peaches, bananas
going brown, and a bit of morning light.

Your Absence

offers itself to me again,
having preceded all those

losses by which I slowly learn
that my death will be news

most unsurprising to others.
You recede year by year

reaching through the calendar
twice per annum as days

drift into white erasure.
The war ate at your belly

long after discharge and froze
what might have healed you.

For us, you stayed sober
workdays, chopping steaks

to earn cash, knowing all along
how little you’d ever keep.


Michael Lauchlan’s poems have landed in many publications including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, English Journal, The Dark Horse, Nimrod, Tar River Poetry, Harpur Palate, Southword, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and The Cortland Review. They have also been included in anthologies from WSU Press and Oxford University Press. He has been awarded the Consequence Prize in Poetry and recently been featured in The Writer’s Almanac. His collection, Trumbull Ave, is available from Wayne State University Press.

though like the Turtle in that she moves slow
(if this be motion, housed within a shell),

she’s also like the Wildcat, comet-quick
(when far away: appearances deceive)

as well as like the Bear for might and size
(galumphing along till hibernation time).

But if a tortoise, she’s the one that wins
the race; if jaguar, she is fed and resting;
if grizzly, she must feel wee, too, and meek.

(The kitten on my face to whom I wake
today slept underneath the bed last night.
Now, as I start to stir

starts to purr . . . )


James B. Nicola has had poems in the Southwest, Atlanta and Lullwater Reviews. His first full-length collection, Manhattan Plaza, is just out. His second collection, Stage to Page: Poems from the Theater, will be out in June 2016.

casinos are closing, one by one
all bets are off

on the sidewalk
girls draw with colored chalk

images of green-billed birds
in the cold wind their legs

redden and roughen and plump
someone’s purse has spilled

mints and gum and little white pills
claws clack

like broken piano keys
the celebrity chef

restaurant has lost our reservation
we pound and we plead

we get no signal
a fountain burbles another dead song

windows hang open in limp defeat
and we stand coughing at the back of the line

Steve Klepetar’s
work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. His latest collections include Speaking to the Field Mice (Sweatshoppe Publications), Blue Season (with Joseph Lisowski, mgv2>publishing), My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto (Flutter Press), and Return of the Bride of Frankenstein (Kind of a Hurricane Press).

–for Aria and Emma Cappeluti

The late afternoon, December sky
floats in the lake.

A woman on a bench
takes it in
with her two granddaughters
one on each side
telling them when
she was a girl
every summer she’d lean from a boat
both hands in the water
watching the sky
float through her fingers.

Her fingers joined with her granddaughters’
join with the lake
and the sky
floating to summer
and back again.

The bench is their boat.

Jo-Anne Cappeluti
has poems forthcoming in Concho River Review and Cultural Weekly and poems recently appearing in Common Ground, Lyric, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Grey Sparrow. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of California at Riverside.

I want to drive across the country,
but I’ve only ever cried on trains.

I wouldn’t know how to navigate
based on a poem appropriated

for a Levi’s ad. How do I transport
you, passenger, when you’re sure

you want to see the Western world
with a girl who almost missed Newark

while sobbing into a backpack
filled with maps you had disputed?

I’m so used to tempering my lust
that every day I must remind myself

you would indulge my fantasy
of living where winter doesn’t exist,

where I can pick ripe citrus
on a day I would’ve spent cursing

the wind. You used to say, “There’s no
sense in moving for sunshine and food.”

But I’ve proven to be efficient. I lean
toward light to sustain activity. After a life

in the shade, I’m amazed by your smile
of recognition: you pick me but don’t pick

my fruits. On a Malibu promontory
I’ve never felt so warm. You know plants

can be fussy. Brush my carpel with your musk
and remind me I’m fine. Baby, shrubs don’t cry.

Laryssa Wirstiuk
lives in New Jersey with her mini dachshund Charlotte Moo. Laryssa’s collection of short stories The Prescribed Burn won Honorable Mention in the 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have been published in Gargoyle Magazine, Word Riot, Barely South Review, and Up the Staircase Quarterly.

 for W. R. Backer

As a baby, I slapped the globe until it creaked
for the pure pleasure of spinning.

I flattened tangerine peels and learned how
canoe-shaped segments cloaked a sphere.

In school, there was a mechanical model
of the solar system, but the crank was stuck.

I asked my father which way the earth
revolved around the sun: clockwise or counter?

I needed to picture how the planets moved.
My father replied: “That depends where you are.”

His answer threw me
into the Milky Way of vantage points.

If Antarctica tops the planet, all continents point up.
Africa changes from cashew into comfy chair.

South America is no longer an ice cream cone
but the wing of a landing swan, the bosom
of Australia becomes a ragged, double-bottomed heart.

The National Geographic map cut Asia in half,
positioning where I lived in the center of the wall.

But the world was not flat, and I lost certainty
in what was left and what was right.

Where was I?
Was outer space dark or dazzling?


Winner of the 2015 Turtle Island Poetry Award, Sara Backer’s hybrid chapbook of essays and poems, Bicycle Lotus, is forthcoming from FootHills Press. Her poems recently appeared in So to Speak, New Welsh Reader, Crannóg, Gargoyle, and The Pedestal Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @BackerSara or

That is what I remember: the canoe,
Unsteady in the water, the paddle
Suspended, and my horrible listening
Against a water waiting flat as a mother-in-law’s
Mirror. You cannot come here with me.
You say that you can, but in saying this
Your mouth grinds the air like
A boat’s roughly hacked prow
Rushing the sand of an island’s beach;
And I am already believing
That yes, that was the sound. That
Single sound and
No other like it. I had been
Listening; and then rising to me
Was that one sacred sound
That I passionately, unwisely, imagined
To be despotically unnatural. And
I dipped the tip of the oar ever so
Emotionlessly into the water,
The lone actor with his lone action,
And it was gone.
You were with me.

Ken Poyner’s
latest book of mini-fictions, “Constant Animals”, is available from Amazon. His next book, “The Book of Robot”, speculative poems, is due in early 2016 from Dark Renaissance Press. On the web, find him in “Corium”, “Mobius”, “Unbroken”, and at dozens of other sites.

“No man is an island…” John Donne

In Trenton, somewhere, irritating baubles
Split for reprimanded helices, boondoggles
Unannounced as crocus frills. A lovely, living
Character is passing through a single day
Afraid the rent will not go through; a pancreatic
Islet cell is sure tomorrow’s coming, sure
Enough to burrow down the week. A calcifying
Notion in the human head is falling out of reach,
An almost perfect thought, just like the aggregating
Aimlessness that’s feeding on him. The baseball
Team he loves: they’re shoring up their pitching
Staff by trading off his favorite player and a player
To be named later: he blames this for his belly
Pain and weight loss in November. Embedded
In the pluripotent winter solstice, he is
Alone with his cherished books and dogs,
The immemorial stars are shining on him; women
Everywhere are unaware he is. A lot to examine
Comes up after the New Year: creepy-crawly
Spindles pinwheel through his abdomen,
Excavating and interrogating: “What’s for dinner?”
In February March is looking dim, and past
Him; nothing can be certified as metastatic:
The blank spaces in his memory. The idea of
Bypassing an hour to recuperate a day is discussed
Somewhere. A bubbling, gurgling contrition
Drums and drums as if it is immortal, as if to
Know thyself could buy time for spring training.


Atypical Presentation

You have wrung dry the education
of a doctor. You have misplaced
the wire. That was supposed to run
from you to the sun and back
to the good apples that rest
for picking. That was supposed to run
through Wisconsin and travel overhead
to the far-flung reaches of your able-bodied
directives. You persist in keeping with
the antibiotic in a metaphysical lair; I
mean, you cannot renounce that triumph
a crab had wrought on your mentor’s prostate?
Pathetic. I think it’s best if you return
the scalpel. There are rightful owners waiting
in all of history. There was nothing so great
as your fallen alternatives: to be tall,
to be happy, to be lakeside, to be drunk
with two-thousand years on your back
and not slipping. I have never prayed
for the right to come home and ignore
the worst things I thought of: diagnoses
so pretty I held their weight on my tongue.

Jake Sheff
is a captain and pediatrician in the USAF, married to a Corri whom he produced a modern Maddie with. They, in turn, were adopted by four animals. Home is currently S. California. Poems of Jake’s are in Otis Nebula, Poydra’s Review, Foliate Oak and elsewhere. A chapbook of his was published, “Looting Versailles,” (Alabaster Leaves Publishing). He considers life an impossible sit-up, but plausible.

The gardener stooped under the apple tree blossoms
to enter your house, neck noosed by a red kerchief,
you served imaginary tea in toy china cups
he hummed Tannhauser but you thought it Lohengrin,
sour heat flashed from his mouth while fingers darted
like silverfish through his hair and your porcelain
baby dolls stared up at him dumb and dewless-eyed.

You pretended to run for more cream and he chased
you from the orchard to the grove of horse chestnut
trees with swooping dragon neck limbs kissing the earth
to offer rough backs to your papery white legs.
A breeze fluttered the canopy of branches, fans
of leaves applauded, thousands of dimples of sun
penetrated dappling the mad dance of his hands.

John Francis Istel
has performed as an actor, parked cars as a valet at a fancy NYC restaurant, taught college and high school English, bartended in Times Square, raised a family in Brooklyn, worked as an arts editor, wrote about theater for The Atlantic, Elle, The Village Voice, American Theatre and elsewhere. His poetry won first prize in poetry from Southampton College and has appeared in such publications as New Letters, FarmHouse, Brooklyn Free Press, Up the Staircase and Off the Coast.