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Tohm Bakelas

 

 

round cracker sparrows

on the front porch
we read poems to each other,
alternating turns while naming
every grackle “henry.”
the rain comes and goes,
like some magical waterfall
with a malfunctioning
on/off switch that never
worked right, like some
invisible god was paying
attention to our inner
most thoughts.

____________

the perpetual pain of red
for mark patterson

 

dead at 23 but brought
back to life after seeing
the other side

everyone these days
is on island time
and the mission’s
in need of a pump

36 years sober
but you could’ve
fooled me

i see you on your throne,
king of the cooked,
watching paint dry

____________

 

Tohm Bakelas is a social worker in a psychiatric hospital. He was born in New Jersey, resides there, and will die there. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, zines, and online publications. He has published 18 chapbooks and 2 collections. He runs Between Shadows Press.

Jason Ryberg

 

 

I Swear to God

sometimes it seems like
the goddamn cynics and nihilists
and various other strains of nattering
nay-sayers of hopeless negativism are right,
that nothing really matters
in the grand scale of things,
that there’s no real meaning to anything,
as in nothing you do can really mean
or change or add up to something greater
than just a lumpy sum of parts.
Or, at least that’s the line of (quasi) reasoning
I use, occasionally, to justify and / or excuse
those days that come along every now and then,
when you wake up around ten or eleven
and maybe it’s grey and raining
and thundering out there, or,
better yet, one of those quaint,
postcard perfect / phone-book-cover-photo-
of-a-perfect-spring-day-kind-of-days;
either way, probably best to spend
the better part of it in bed (just to be safe),
the shades pulled down most of the way,
some solo Monk or Red Garland on the radio,
a box fan blowing out a rough accompaniment
from the corner and nothing to do
but drink beer and write poems (maybe even
one about drinking beer and writing poems)
in bed all day.

____________

Blind Dog Barking at a Train

There’s a blind dog barkin’ at a train,
a bloodhound with the broke-dick blues,
a scarecrow standin’ at a crossroads,
a radio cryin’ in a one-hour room,
a radio cryin’ in a one-hour room.

There’s a moth circling the porch light,
there’s a jackalope on the hill,
there’s a sad boy prayin’ for his luck to change
but he knows it never will, Lord,
he knows it never will.

There’s a ghost out wanderin’ the back roads
and two mules kickin’ where there should be one,
there’s a stud-bull rubbin’ up against the barb-wire
and a mean boy lookin’ for his gun, Lord,
a mean boy lookin’ for his gun.

There’s a preacher shittin’ in the backwoods,
there’s a senator pissin’ in the wind,
there’s a poet in the graveyard
whistlin’ Dixie in the dark
and something creepin’ up behind him,
something creepin’ up behind him.

There’s roosters crossed with hoot-owls
crossed with crickets crossed with stars,
and blind bats flappin’ in the attic
and black cats scratchin’ in the barn,
wayward sons gone for months now
and mamas done worryin’ where they are.

There’s a statue of a little kid
pointing where the money’s hid.
There’s bones in the trunk of a car,
bones in the trunk of a car.

There’s a blind dog barkin’ at a train,
there’s a drunk man laughin’
at a silver dollar moon,
there’s a convict crawlin’ through a cornfield,
there’s a record skippin’ in a lonely room,
a record skippin’ in a lonely room.

Saints, outlaws and street cleaners,
eagles, earthworms and butterflies
big shots, bagmen and nobodies,
you better know it happens to everybody:
No matter how I struggle and strive,
I’ll never get outta this world alive,
I’ll never get outta this world alive,
I’ll never get outta this world alive ….

 

____________

Grandeur

The sky was the whole panoramic spectrum assortment
of Crayola reds, oranges, yellows and purples— a
piñata ripped wide-open like a giant ten-point
buck by the side of the road, soaked with
gasoline and lit with a blue tip match,
and we nothing more than madly
scrambling ants beneath its
hot and bloody grandeur.
Or at least that’s the
way it seemed to
me that
day.

____________

 

Jason Ryberg is the author of eighteen books of poetry,
six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders,
notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be
(loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry
letters to various magazine and newspaper editors.
He is currently an artist-in-residence at both
The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s
and the Osage Arts Community, and is an editor
and designer at Spartan Books. His latest collection
of poems is The Great American Pyramid Scheme
(co-authored with W.E. Leathem, Tim Tarkelly and
Mack Thorn, OAC Books, 2022). He lives part-time
in Kansas City, MO with a rooster named Little Red
and a billygoat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere
in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also
many strange and wonderful woodland critters.

 

Matt Borczon

 

 

Me and God

 

I heard
that some
people from
the back
hills of
Ohio believe
you should
never pray
if you have
alcohol on
your breath
but I can
only ever
even find
God when
I am drunk

he is the
guy at
the bar
who buys
me shots
and listens
as I talk
endlessly
about the
war and
gets me
drunk enough
to say
than you
for your
support
to every
dumb fucker
who thanks
me for
my service.

____________

The Motivational speaker

 

Was a
Marine about
35 who
lost both
legs in
Afghanistan
he said
it was
the most
important
thing to
have ever
happened
to him
outside of
having a
child

later I
tell him
I was
on Camp
Bastion working
in the
hospital the
same time
he lost
his legs
and he
says he
passed through
there on
his way
to Germany

he told
me and
everyone else
that he
died in
Bastion hospital

and I
wanted to
say I
died there
too but
this was
his story
and I
still have
both my
legs and

I am
Too old
to convince
myself that
any death
in that
war meant
anything

not his
not mine.

____________

The season

 

When heavy
horses trample
my smallest
dreams when
the slow
ox tries
the patience
of the
Buddha
when bear
skeletons decompose
faster than
my ambition
and the
path to
the elephants
graveyard is
littered with
burning tires

when old
stars fall
from moth
eaten skies
and you
feel certain
that hope
is a thing
without feathers
that it
doesn’t float
it just
sings off
key at
parties to
anyone who
will listen

like a
drunk uncle
at your
Christmas party
the one
you wish
would not
have come
at all

William Taylor Jr.

 

 

Welcome to My Poetry Workshop

You just gotta slap
the words down
and beat them
until they sing.

____________

Me & the Ghosts

There was nowhere I had to be.
It was late afternoon, I was on Market Street
in the midst of the financial district.
I was walking to the Ferry Building
for no reason other than it was a place to go.
It had bathrooms and people to look at.
It had little stores in which to buy food
and drink. People were getting off work,
rushing for buses, going in pairs and groups
to restaurants and bars. All of the girls
looked pretty, even the ones who weren’t.
All the old men seemed kindly enough.
On the concrete plaza the skateboard kids
were doing their thing, sliding down railings
and weaving through throngs of people
with the grace of birds.
The people of the street stood in groups
exchanging drugs and money with a studied nonchalance.
I entered the Ferry Building and used the restroom.
I bought a cup of coffee at a kiosk
went out to where the ferries were
and saw the people lined up to board.
I looked at the people drinking wine
and eating seafood on the restaurant patios,
talking about things they seemed pretty
sure about, businessmen slapping
each others’ backs and laughing like horses.
I looked at the ocean and a few ships
that were headed somewhere.
I looked at the bay bridge, filled with cars
and trucks and buses going in one direction
or the other. I eventually got bored
and started back along Market Street
with no destination in mind.
Everything around me, the people
and the buildings, the sky and the earth
all seemed possessed of some sense
of purpose and permanence
I’ve never been able to manage.
I didn’t mind so much, I was used to it.
Me and the ghosts, we just drift.

____________

Mourning

Lawrence Ferlinghetti died three days ago
and since then my artist friend has wandered
the streets of North Beach with a haunted face

his hands clasped tight behind him
like the old men of Chinatown

with the jacket, hat and scarf
he wears most every day, looking like something
from a painting by Toulouse-Lautrec.

When he passes City Lights he pauses
to gaze at the memorials, the bunches
of flowers strewn about the sidewalk
the notes and poems plastered to the building
the art and the blessings scrawled across every surface.

He solemnly kneels to read
something someone has written
on the concrete in bright pink chalk.
He stays there, motionless, his eyes
staring deep into some other place.

I’m not close enough to say for sure
but I imagine a single tear plowing
slowly down his cheek.

When he rises he turns to me and says
with a voice like something coming up for air

I’ve been interviewed by three television crews today,
because they could sense I was in MOURNING!

He speaks the word like he means it in the purest sense
and his eyes shine with grief as he wanders off.

A part of me considers it all a bit absurd
a performative show

but in truth he’s the only guy around
who remembers how to mourn a poet
the way a poet should be mourned

another art all but lost into
this dark mess of everything
devouring whatever light
we try and give.

Jake St. John

 

Pint of Loneliness

Leaves ring
on wood

drips of water
leak down glass

tears searching for
a destination

a fly buzzing
in the void

radio static
between stations

thoughts join
the downward spiral

attempting
to locate reason

seeking place
and purpose

lost on a barstool.

____________

 

Burning the Midnight Oil

 

Flames lick the air
lashing at darkness
that falls around me
like the final curtain
at a symphony
as the final notes
fade into empty corners
sharp and relentless
like Jack the Ripper’s blade
seeking perpetual
pleasure
slashing the night
in two
the alleys echo
with the cries
of the wounded.

____________

 

In A Sentimental Mood

 

She lay there
on the bed
propped up
on one elbow
silhouetted by
blue moonlight

a satin shawl
woven
by the thread
of night
falls over
naked shoulders

long pale legs
stretch and join
the blurred edges
of the room

her eyes
smolder
like embers
in the dark haze

the orchestra
of my heart
plays a jazz ballad
filling the room
before floating up
and out the open window

to join an ensemble of stars

____________

Jake St. John lives in the woods on the edge of the Salmon River. He is the author of several collections of poetry including Ring of Fog (Holy and Intoxicated Publications, 2022), Night Full of Diamonds (Whiskey City Press, 2021), and Lost City Highway (A Jabber Publication, 2019). He is the editor of Elephant and is considered an original member of the New London School of poetry. His poems have appeared in print and online journals around the world.

 

Aleathia Drehmer

 

Our House

Arm’s length in the middle of the yard
grass above bare ankles
finger on the pulse of the other,
heartbeats scattered in wind.

Lightning flashes
illuminating the truth.

Faces shine in momentary
half light leaving a fraction
of a second to realize
their cells divide the same.

____________

Sunrise

 

The rise of pre dawn bird song
and the fan whirring in the other room,

wakes me. Tactile memory pulls me
from the last tendrils of dream.

The ghost of your touch
is all that lingers.

____________

 

Filthy

 

Each day brings
an unfortunate opportunity
to relive the past where filthy
people sought comfort
for their personal devils
in the soft folds
of my body.

A hundred small hands
extend from the center
of my burning chest,
pale ghost fingers,
keeping the world
at arm’s length.

I am
still
alone.

Paul Corman Roberts

Bohemian Like Me

 

Long kicking rivulets of saliva
saturated numb with clove spice
run between the cracked valleys
snaking through the arid terrain
of my lips.

Took up smoking Djarums
after kissing me silly
after tongues in ears
& all this junkie ass thinks about
is getting back to that taste.

I tell you
like I tell anyone
I’ll never ask you
To drink my Kool-Aid
I want to be up front about that shit

So I can keep wondering
if that isn’t the deal breaker
when you take a photo of your pup
to the Black Rock arts fest
to ask if anyone has seen her
since she bolted
from your communal love tent

Even though I’m back here
at your apartment
taking care of her
while you’re out a ‘festin

I pull another DJ

light it

& draw

John Dorsey

 

Amazing Blues

between the sun
& a world of fence posts
thighs blessing the giddy sea
absurd waves of believers
return with coffee.

____________

Trust the Engine

not men
but dogs
frayed telephone lines
long memory
a bankrupt world
sniffing wind
lost fools
form bone.

____________

Yesterday

a dog curves beneath fence posts
this place of conscience
swimming away
a man will measure snow
& barbed wire.

____________

Ruin Beautiful Rivers

divert your breath
bored lovers
old fingers
wet grass.

____________

John Dorsey lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory, (Epic Rites Press, 2013), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016) and Shoot the Messenger (Red Flag Poetry, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019), Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020), Afterlife Karaoke (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2021) and Sundown at the Redneck Carnival, (Spartan Press, 2022).. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize. He was the winner of the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. He may be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com.

If Joe was here, I’d offer him tea, sugar bowl with miniature spoon,

Slice of lemon as if an English sophisticate

Able to quote Milton’s Latin poems without a stutter

I’d pinch my neck blue, credit a make-believe lover with eyes colored bruised

Put a single red rose, without a vase, on my old grey coffee table

Act as if the table held as much magic as any grey sky before rain

Sit a Spell

–John Dorsey
enlightened me to
the fact that dilapidated
houses in northern New
England can be worshipped

while listening to Gimme Shelter

was not just a
convenient irony.

Did We Ever Dance?

I always feared the devil
but did succumb to his
dances with the orchestra

many times.

Maybe you
were with me?

Statement from a Syllabus

Classic Literature is
insanity feeling good at the
moment of its conception.