Tony Brewer

Our Solemn Debris

In the quiet of the evening of the end
with the sidewalks empty and traffic nonexistent
one by one neighbors wheel separate trash and
recycling totes to the curb automatically
trained and uniform as their gray and yellow bins

We are keeping it together one foot from the street and
at least four feet apart so tomorrow morning
the mechanical arm of the upgraded trucks
can grip with assurance and hoist
receptacles like whiskey shots

knocking back into a wet brown gob
compacted toasts for every human
the virus tucks away behind nuclear doors
inwardly thrashing with panic yet calm
enough to save reusables from a landfill fate

Bogdan Dragos

bit by bit, little by little

there were times when she bit and
chewed the inside
of her elbow

to spit the bits of flesh
and the blood
on her grandma

but those times were over

almost forgotten

along with the teachings that
her blood is poisoned
because she was conceived with the
wrong woman, meaning
not the one grandmother intended for
her father

But today all those
people were dead. Only father was
alive

He was all right. A hard working
man, busy with life

busy enough not to notice
that his daughter
is constantly sprinkling ashes in
his food and coffee

He’d almost consumed the
contents of
his mother’s urn

there’s just
a bit left

we gotta spend more time together

“I was ten years old,” she said,
her head resting on
my shoulder. “And the flames
covered the damn sky. Though our
neighbor was actually
lucky. Lucky I
didn’t burn his house. I mean,
motherfucker had it
coming. You don’t run over a girl’s
puppy and expect to
get out scratch free, you know?”

“I too had a neighbor
who ran over
my puppy with his tractor,” I said.
“I think I was also around
ten.”

“And what did you do
about it?” she asked

“Nothing,” I said

“What? But how?”

“Like I said, I was just some
insignificant kid from
the countryside. All I could
do was cry.”

“My God,” she said, “that’s so
fucking lame. Where’s
that neighbor of
yours today?”

“I’ve no idea. Perhaps he’s dead.
He was pretty old
when it all happened.”

“If that’s the case then
you have the duty to
go piss on his grave. At least.”

“Um… I wouldn’t know where
that is. And besides,
I learned to forgive.”

“That’s what the weak say. What
kind of man are you?”

“One who doesn’t hold grudges?”

She sighed. “We gotta spend
more time together.”

“And learn from one another?” I asked

She didn’t reply

John Grey

A YOUNG GIRL IN A SHACK

Your boundaries are all around you

from the broken planks of the kitchen floor

to the nails, many times driven up from below.

Cradling a cross in a mongrel bed,

with a dog the color of murky dusk,

nibbling on anything-will-do food

with only a scar on your wrist for guidance,

no longer thinking up excuses to love someone again.

Parents thrown together without inspiration,

on some street named for a cure for constipation,

rough as the switch leaning against the wall,

learning the lingo of frog croak.

Wind through cracked window,

fierce as the eyes of some old wretch

trying to pick up children in the park,

and unintentionally critical

like everything that touches you,

even those undisciplined hands.

Snake slid in here once, you remember,

a wake-up call for someone who didn’t sleep so well anyhow –

it didn’t bite –

not a snake anyhow,

just some man who said he was your uncle.

2. A.M., BARS CLOSED

My buds have taste memory.

That’s why they’ve not moved on

from alcohol.

At least, the weather’s in the now,

even if its only wind

and rain.

I stand here,

snarled in dampness,

skin shivering,

hair a thick brown puddle.

Drops penetrate my lips.

I can taste myself.

She’s not here.

No arms caress me.

My ears are whisper-less.

It’s up to the booze

to encompass,

the weather to embody.

And the rain keeps falling,

dares me to do the same.

But my hand is raised.

I’m looking for a taxi.

If one stops,

surely it will take me

some place.

I live in hope.

Maybe it can drive me there.

HAYMARKET

I stand in the shadow of the city.

Its silhouette pats my head.

Around me, stalls and pushcarts

sell the wares I smell.

It’s almost dusk.

The choicest of the choice are gone.

The rest have been picked over.

What’s not green is red or yellow.

But for the fish,

their gray scales topped with ice,

forlorn faces gazing up

at the darkening sky.

For five bucks, I have myself

a box of mangoes,

immigrants far from their homeland,

a taste of the tropics in Boston.

The vendors are packing up.

Customers drift away.

Nearby, Quincey Market

is about to shake off its history,

become night-life.

A desire for something fresh

vacates the shuttered stands,

is taken up by bars and restaurants. 

Colin Rutherford

home run

driving west on dodge, listening

to the royals and the indians on the radio

the commentary was  grey and foggy

like the missouri river in november

as we got to 72nd street

george brett hit one out of the park

that’s twelve and counting so far this season

looking thru the windshield I could see

the moon was punching a hole in the night sky

right then she told me she was leaving

all she ever did to me was walk away

anyhow the royals won the game

in the eleventh inning

it was a double header

Matthew Borczon

Get ready

Our CO
says because
people are
going to
die in
our care
and if
you don’t
know how
that will
make you
feel you
need to
get ready

while those
of us
who already
know who
have put
a rigid
body in
a white
plastic
bag or
wrapped
a dead
child in
a towel
like a
wet puppy

we already
know you
can’t get
ready
any more
than you
can make
it rain

or stop
the dreams
after it
happens.

How drunk is drunk enough

To forget
That hiccup
cough that
intercostal
tightening
when a
patient is
too far
gone

how drunk
is drunk
enough to
forget the
Afghan child
you wrap
in a
blanket to
hand back
to its
mother

how drunk
is drunk
enough to
face the
memory
of telling
your wife
how good
joining
the Navy
will be
for your
family.

To the twenty something who tried to give me advice on how to write poetry

Son
at 55
my advice
to you
is in
your 20s
try harder
to live
than
to write

the world
already has
too many
white boys
who think
they can
play the
blues.

Donna Dallas

Creep
Like I
can’t write but I
can hold this baggie with the pinkies
and the greenies
hold it like the bread of Christ
rub the smooth plastic
with my fingers
to feel the chalky grit
and pop em as I need em

envelope myself into
a white fuzzy
dim lit
dim wit
dense and loose
burdened with the fear
or the lack there of — if
baggie goes bye-bye
my heart stops

alone in my head
all the ghosts float back in
through the holes of my eyes
left open from shock waves
never fully closed since birth
lazy eye
fuck eye
touch my pocket – we are good
I feel the baggie
lips quiver
sigh of relief

endless need
for relief

Daniel S. Irwin

Honky-Tonk

Back in the proverbial ‘one horse town’,
I get stir crazy sittin’ in the house.
A man needs stimulation for the brain
Or, at least, some peter risin’ woman play.
Went to the honky-tonk of my runnin’ days.
Still pretty much the same smell of spilt beer.
The music’s still old-time country and loud.
Nobody really listens. We know all the songs.
Music’s nothin’ but a back drop for hollerin’
And feedin’ lines to the local ladies who are
More than capable of cold cockin’ ya
With a beer bottle or bootin’ groin on a whim.
Don’t see nobody I used to hang with.
Most of them Jimmy Jo’s and Billy Bob’s
Done got real jobs and settled down.
Might as well say the rest, including me,
Just ended up cowboys in the sunset.

Michael Lee Johnson

July 4th, 2020, Itasca, Illinois (V3)
(Hamilton Lakes)

Stone caved dreams for men
past and gone, freedom fighters
blow past wind and storms.
Patriotism scared, etched in the face of cave walls.
There are no cemeteries here for the old,
vacancies for the new.
Americans incubate chunks
of patriotism over the few centuries,
a calling into the wild, a yell forked stab me.
Today happiness is a holiday.
Rest in peace warriors, freedom fighters,
those simply made a mistake.
I gaze out my window to Hamilton Lakes
half-drunk with sparkling wine,
seeing lightning strike ends,
sparklers, buckets full of fire.
Light up than dark sky, firecrackers.
Filmmakers, old rock players, fume-filled skies,
the butt of dragonflies.
Patriotism shakes, rocks, jerks
across my eye’s freedom locked
in chains, stone-carved dreams.

J.J. Campbell

the bible said populate the earth

society breaking at the seams
every dumb fuck thinks their
opinion matters

imagine if they voted, imagine if
they understood what the powers
that be are actually doing to them

but effort doesn’t grow on that
money tree they hope they just
planted in their backyard

the bible said populate the
earth, i declined

i feel better about that every
day that passes

my luck, my kids would have
started this pandemic and
expected me to be proud

and sadly, that little fucker inside
of me that loves chaos would have

been beaming

other than a story no one wants to hear

whispers turn into wishes as the
moon fades into the dawn

i’m too old to yearn

too old to feel like anything good
is coming this way

misery has a way of leaving scars
on the body that never amount to
anything other than a story no one
wants to hear

it’s a corner seat in a bar

a bottle of rum and an old soul
watching a demon dressed in
red across the floor

each sip reminds you, you once thought

you only needed a chance

the last horizon of sin

embrace the pain
like a lost memory

an old song that
a lover took you
to the edge of the
world with

a match

a spoon

the endless depth
of the last horizon
of sin

the last dirty needle

you’ll ever need