• Poems

    P M F Johnson: a senryu

    P M F Johnson: a senryu

    refugee–
    where to bury
    his child

     

    P M F Johnson has placed poems with Evansville Review, Nimrod, North American Review, Poetry East, Threepenny Review, and others. He has won The Brady Senryu Award from The Haiku Society of America, been a Finalist in The Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest, and been shortlisted for a Touchstone Award. He lives in Minnesota with his wife, the writer Sandra Rector.

  • Poems

    Ave Jeanne Ventresca: SELF PORTAIT / reading between the lines

    Ave Jeanne Ventresca

    SELF PORTAIT / reading between the lines

    in the background, rainy day people
    walk through abundant sorrows. have
    learned how to balance through early
    morning wind, between thick cracks
    of concrete and kicked cans of red.
    feeling sad, heart in this noisy gutter,
    another life lost to a sharp blade
    in his back and
    friends that failed
    to understand. deciding not to report
    what he witnessed, was a decision
    he would live with, wear like a badge
    on his denim jacket. hoping others
    wouldn’t see. he attempts to read minds

    of others, empathize with threadbare children
    who are all alone. notice their shadows upon
    the shoreline, like a novel with corrupt
    antagonists, they shuffle across dusty roads.
    durable survivors, all of them. whose entrance
    and exist is of vital importance to read.

     


    Ave Jeanne Ventresca (aka: ave jeanne) is an American/Italian poet, who delves into social and environmental concerns across nine poetry chapbooks. With a notable editorial background, she edited Black Bear Review and served as publisher of Black Bear Publications (USA) for two decades. A poem  from her latest collection, Noticing The Color of Ordinary, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2019. Look for her poetry in lHRAM’s Literary Magazine.

  • Poems

    Arvilla Fee: The Ballad of Returning Soldiers

    Arvilla Fee

    The Ballad of Returning Soldiers

    If you look into my eyes
    you might see a shade of blue;
    I hope you notice in your hurry
    that I still shed tears too.

    Just because I’ve fought in wars
    doesn’t mean I’m granted grace;
    turns out when they send you home
    you can lose your safest space.

    Dead men often come a-knocking,
    pounding on the door of dreams;
    when I’m face-down on the hardwood,
    I can hear their fetid screams.

    I know you probably look at me,
    a grizzly man with cardboard sign
    and entertain a fleeting thought
    before I vanish from your mind.

    I truly cannot cast the blame,
    for I was once like you,
    things to do, things to see;
    the day was mine to choose.

    I guess the hardest part of all
    is knowing I’m still here
    while all others have forgotten
    as though I have disappeared.

     


    Arvilla Fee teaches English and is the managing editor for the San Antonio Review. She has published poetry, photography, and short stories in numerous presses, including Calliope, North of Oxford, Rat’s Ass Review, Mudlark, and many others. Her poetry books, The Human Side and This is Life, are available on Amazon. Arvilla loves writing, photography and traveling, and she never leaves home without a snack and water (just in case of an apocalypse). For Arvilla, writing produces the greatest joy when it connects us to each other. To learn more about her work, you can visit her website: https://soulpoetry7.com/

  • Poems

    Gil Hoy: You Wouldn’t Know

    Gil Hoy

    You Wouldn’t Know

    he was my father.

    I never knew him
    very well
    because he wasn’t around
    when I was born.

    You wouldn’t know
    he married my mother
    when she was just 16. That he
    took my sister to the park
    most Sunday mornings
    so my mother
    could sleep in.

    You wouldn’t know
    a lot about any of that.

    That he was passionate
    about lifting up the weak
    and the poor
    that he believed America
    is a great Country.

    You wouldn’t know
    much about any of that.

    You wouldn’t know
    that he began to question
    why we were there
    before he died

    that he forgave his enemy
    who planted the mine
    that blew off his leg
    on a faraway field.

    You wouldn’t know
    anything about any of that.

    I’ll never forgive
    those who sent him there,

    I can’t.

    I know his small, rectangular
    white marble marker
    because it bears his name.

     


    Gil Hoy is a Best of the Net nominated Tucson, Arizona poet and writer who studied fiction and poetry at The Writers Studio in Tucson, Arizona and at Boston University. Hoy previously received a B.A. in Philosophy from Boston University, an M.A. in Government from Georgetown, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. He finished in second place in the New England University Wrestling Championship while at BU at 177 lbs. Hoy is a semi-retired trial lawyer. His poetry and fiction have previously appeared in Right Hand Pointing, Third Wednesday, Tipton Poetry Journal, Unlikely Stories Mark V, Chiron Review, One Sentence Poems, Rusty Truck, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, The Penmen Review, Last Stanza Poetry Journal, Bewildering Stories, Literally Stories, The New Verse News and elsewhere.

  • Poems

    Micky Shorr: Changing the Narrative

    Micky Shorr

    Changing the Narrative

     

    This is one of the stories she told. I was almost four, and got angry at her. I decided to run away from home. Mother would explain how she helped me pack. Wished me good luck. Amused at the cuteness of her version.

    What I remember… My feelings have been hurt. I’m voicing my objections. Mother suggests maybe I’d like to run away, could live on the next street with Aunt Lilly. Despite some reluctance I take up the challenge. Tell her yes, I want to do that.

    Excited, she picks out some clothes and a snack. Wraps the items in a kerchief, ties them to a stick, hands it to the little girl I am. Imagines me some hobo in a Mark Twain adventure. She opens the door to the staircase that leads outside, cheerfully wishes me good fortune. Waits while I take a few steps down before she shuts it.

    There I am in that dark hallway, backed into a corner but refusing to back down. I’m working hard to figure it out. How to save myself, not seem weak, but not have to leave.  A solution comes to me, it’s one I can live with. I turn around, climb up the stairs to remind her. I’m not allowed to go into the gutter so I can’t cross the street by myself.

    Years later, my little boy at a similar age, he’s expressing dislike for something I have or haven’t done. I find myself driven to offer him a similar choice  . To run away, live somewhere else. He says yes and for a minute I think I’ll have to keep on with it, have to help him pack and leave.

    Instead I come to my senses. Save myself again. Say that I’m sorry, tell him “I don’t want you to leave”. Tell him “I love you, please live here with me”.

     


    Micky Shorr is a retired school social worker/psychotherapist. Micky lived in the Hudson Valley, NY for several decades, and facilitated a monthly poetry reading, had some of her work read on public radio, and was a featured reader at local venues, and in the metropolitan area. Micky returned to Brooklyn recently, still misses her garden, but loves getting to see firsthand her grandson becoming himself. Her poetry has been published in Poetrybay, Trailer Park Quarterly, and soon in Wordpeace. Work also appeared in the award–winning anthology A Slant of Life and in Walt Whitman 205 anthology.

  • Poems

    Mark Danowsky: Flashback at the ER

    Mark Danowsky

    Flashback at The ER

    I could have tried harder

    to force you to go

    after I held you drenched

    in the downpour

    after I left work

    in a focused panic

    after you finally admitting severity

    no police you insisted  

    me searching the bridge for you

    under the bridge

    finally finding you

    quaking drenched

    holding a soaked tote bag

    containing your favorite books

    your long terrible sobs 

    no 302 you begged 

    a psych visit already scheduled 

    apologies & assurances  

    before I left you huddled on the porch 

    with your new guardian

    a man who it turned out did not comprehend 

    the scope & imminent danger

    just as when I backed away

    I said, I need you to let me go

    but it was only meant for days 

    just for those few days

    to attend a wedding 

    I needed to be there for

    & still missed  

    & I tell myself I cannot have known

    how a so-called accident 

    waiting to happen

    does not hit home as accident

    the gut punch you never see coming

    is the hit you convince yourself

    you are tensed up

    prepared to take

     


    Mark Danowsky is Editor-in-Chief of ONE ART: a journal of poetry. He is the author
    of four poetry books. His latest poetry collection is Meatless (Plan B Press). Take Care is forthcoming from Moon Tide Press in 2025.

  • Poems

    Jianqing Zheng: Four Poems

    Jianqing Zheng

    The Chained Woman

    A case of human trafficking and ill-treatment exposed to light in 2022 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xuzhou_chained_woman_incident)

    What must be chained
    to the neck & locked
    in that dirty hut
    are devils of cruelty,
    barren fields of moral illiteracy,
    cold faces of idiocy,
    & dumb heads of vacuity
    that show human apathy
    in a land with a long history
    of civilization.

     

    The World Has Changed

    Give an eye

    to the breathing sun & moon,
    to the hugging sky & earth,
    to the shifting continents,
    to the creeping magma & lava,
    to the gazing stars & ghosts,

    to the tugging war & peace,
    to the dying children & the savaging killers,
    to the crying sympathy & the smirking absurdity,
    to the silent desperation & the exploding bombshells,
    to the dream never realized & the reality never dreamed.

    Give an eye & see
    the change is turning desperately
    like a gyre.

     

     

    The Apron Blues

    after Eudora Welty’s photograph “A Slave’s Apron Showing Souls in Progress to Heaven or Hell”

    O, Lord, we have been working
    all our lives from sunup to sundown
    in planters’ kitchens and cotton fields.

    O, Lord, our pains and sufferings
    have sharpened our eyes, coarsened
    our hands and strengthened our legs.

    O, Lord, our souls are faithful,
    voices graceful and dreams beautiful,
    and we work hard for nothing bagful.

    O, Lord, where shall our souls go?
    To heaven or hell? Will the journey
    be too long to overcome?

    O, Lord, are you listening silently
    to our quest for the promised land?

     

    Scar

    Grandpa was beaten to death when the Cultural Revolution broke out. After his remains were cremated, Dad brought home the urn and placed it before Grandpa’s serious-looking portrait. We bowed and sobbed. Grandpa was a history teacher, denounced as a reactionary for disloyalty to Chairman Mao because he refused to group dance for the great helmsman’s longevity.

    autumn gust
    memories spiral up
    into choking dust

    Grandpa was locked in a dank cell at his school and often taken to the rallies where insane radicals, colleagues, and Red Guards raised their fists and shouted hysterically, “Down with him!” Those Red Guards, who were his students, pressed his head down before the Mao poster, punched him in the chest, kicked his legs to make him kneel, and forced him to say he was an anti, but he clenched his teeth. Beaten for two hours by the savage beasts, Grandpa fell to death, face deformed and ribs all broken. No one was blamed, no one was arrested, no one was guilty about what they did in the lawless time.

    violent death
    a yellow leaf falls
    on the wet ground
    covered soon
    by the darkness

    Yesterday was Grandpa’s death day. I went to see him—his grave looked stoic in autumn wind. Kneeling before his stone, I burned incense, wishing the ruthless age would never return like a rough beast to suck the blood of civilization. I never forget his death day because it’s like a scar remaining thick.

    heat mirage
    Mao’s mausoleum
    a rocking cradle

     


    Jianqing Zheng‘s poetry has recently appeared in Birmingham Poetry Review, Mississippi Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, and New World Writing Quarterly. His poetry awards include artist fellowships from Mississippi Arts Commission and Gerald Cable Book Prize.

  • Poems

    Norman Abjorensen: Two Poems

    Norman Abjorensen

    Old Woman, Cambodia

    I died long ago,
    I die every day,
    every hour, every minute.
    My life is constant death,
    I am always dying,
    I do not live.
    I am become death.

    These eyes have seen too much.
    The horror has no name.
    An empty darkness there,
    beyond all measure;
    an impenetrable zone of negation.

    Not mute, but silent:
    in such a world laid bare,
    words have no meaning.

    There is no one left.
    All memory is obliterated,
    the past erased.

    Only an interminable present,
    a time outside of time,
    a moment lived again and again,
    a present that is always there.

    I cannot die, but I am dead.
    I cannot remember, but I cannot forget.
    I am the darkness that fears itself.
    I am the end that never ends.

     

    Killing Fields, Cheung Ek

    The hen and her chicks
    are pecking over the mounds,
    dipping into the shallow pits.

    Outside the wire fences,
    peasant children from the paddies
    beg for change.

    Silent visitors file through
    awed into disbelief
    at the history of this tranquil scene.

    Glass cases display bones and rags,
    all that remain of those
    who drew their last breath here.

    Yet life goes on in this terrible place,
    as the chicks peck and the children play.

    Outside the gates
    mine victims minus limbs
    rattle their tins.

    The rattle of dead men’s bones,
    the rattle of the death trucks.
    The rattle of weapons reloading,
    the rattle of gunfire.
    The rattle of metal on skull,
    the rattle of fear in the heart.
    The rattle of the ebbing pulse,
    the rattle in a dying man’s throat.
    The rattle in the tail of the viper,
    the rattle of forlorn hope.
    The rattle of frozen desire trapped forever.

    The rattle of something small
    lost and tumbling in vastness.

    The rattle of something in nothingness.

    The rattle of your soundless scream
    echoing forever.

     


    Norman Abjorensen is an Australian poet and playwright.

  • Poems

    Jimmy Pappas: Crazy John

    Jimmy Pappas

    Crazy John

    We called him Crazy John
    because his epileptic
    seizures caused his eyes
    to roll in his head
    as he moaned
    with clenched teeth.

    At an assembly once,
    the teacher made me
    sit by him so we could
    fill in every seat.

    In the middle of a speech
    by the principal,
    he had a seizure
    and drooled on me.

    The rest of the day,
    I laughed about how
    Crazy John
    gobbed on my pants.

    Later that evening,
    while I was walking with
    my friends, he greeted me
    with a rotten-toothed smile
    as if he were my best buddy.

    I watched him walk
    into the front door
    of an apartment building
    we used to call
    the Puerto Rican ghetto.

    He opened the door
    by the window
    that all year long had
    one red Christmas bulb,
    an open invitation
    to all takers.

     


    Jimmy Pappas served in Vietnam during the war training South Vietnamese soldiers by teaching them English so they could work with American helicopter pilots. He retired from teaching at Somersworth High School in New Hampshire where he created the greatest accomplishment of his life: a popular philosophy class.  Jimmy Pappas won the Rattle Chapbook Contest with Falling off the Empire State Building, won the Rattle Readers Choice Award for “Bobby’s Story,” and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Rattle for “The Gray Man.” He now moderates a weekly themed Zoom event called “A Conversation with Jimmy and Friends” that encourages audience participation.

  • Poems

    Jimmy Pappas: Saigon Tears

    Jimmy Pappas

    Saigon Tears

    Tear gas drove my friend and me
    into an isolated area of Saigon.

    We passed through gates
    where South Vietnamese
    guards urged caution.

    Half blinded by the fumes,
    we sought refuge in a small hotel
    where we washed out our eyes.

    Long past curfew,
    we decided to stay for the night.

    A man came into our room
    with a line of young women
    and asked us each to pick one.

    Their eyes looked down.
    The weight of countless men
    fucking them like killing chickens
    had turned them into things.

    Laughing that he
    beat me to her,
    my friend made his choice
    of the prettiest one.
    His loud groans would end
    in an even louder sleep.

    I made my choice
    of the saddest one.
    My quiet voice would
    be a pathetic attempt
    to soothe her pain.

    I wanted her life to end
    with me holding her.
    I wanted to take her away
    before the man came back
    for her the next morning.
    I wanted to free her from this life
    that stole her humanity.

    Instead
    I cradled her in my arms
    to protect her from
    the rampaging engine
    of suffering roaring
    down at her,
    while my tears
    dripped down her back
    like holy water
    spilled over an altar
    to a godless world.

     


    Jimmy Pappas served in Vietnam during the war training South Vietnamese soldiers by teaching them English so they could work with American helicopter pilots. He retired from teaching at Somersworth High School in New Hampshire where he created the greatest accomplishment of his life: a popular philosophy class.  Jimmy Pappas won the Rattle Chapbook Contest with Falling off the Empire State Building, won the Rattle Readers Choice Award for “Bobby’s Story,” and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Rattle for “The Gray Man.” He now moderates a weekly themed Zoom event called “A Conversation with Jimmy and Friends” that encourages audience participation.

  • Poems

    Mary Alice Williams: Raising Gardenias

    Mary Alice Williams

    Raising Gardenias

    A woman raises
    seven children
    and gardenias in pots
    set out on tar bejeweled
    with broken glass
    next to the stoop
    in a public housing project.

    What will grow
    will grow,
    her credo.

    Gardenias she knows
    must be coaxed
    from balanced soil
    water and light provided
    in exact proportion
    fertilizer applied precisely.
    She knows

    they bruise,
    discolor
    at the petal’s edge

    at any point
    of heedless contact.
    Such blooms,
    fragrant, creamy
    demand
    deserve
    protection.

    Watched with care
    her potted prizes
    thrive.

    Given a lick and a promise
    by random elements
    cooled or warmed,
    parched or slaked,
    the children
    grow
    haphazardly

    bruised around the edges.


    Mary Alice Williams, a Rhode Island native, writes in Grand Rapids MI. Winner of the Dyer-Ives Poetry Contest judged by Conrad Hilberry, she is published in journals including Ekphrastic Review, Blue Heron Review, Peninsula Poets and the anthology, Sunflowers: Ukrainian Poetry on War, Resistance, Hope and Peace. She is a member of the Poetry Society of Michigan.

  • Poems

    John Hawkhead: politician’s pledge …

    John Hawkhead

    politician’s pledge
    if only there was more
    than teeth in his smile


    John Hawkhead is a writer from the South West of England who has published over 1700 poems all over the world. His book Bone Moon placed third in the 2023 Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards and follows his 2016 publication Small Shadows – both from Alba Publishing.

     

  • Poems

    Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco: Gentleman’s Uniform

    Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco

    Gentleman’s Uniform

    I want to talk about
    George Santos.

    The whole vibe.
    The layered sweaters.

    Where I live it is too
    warm for that, you’d take

    the blazer off. Loosen
    the tie. Scuff up

    the shoes. You’d clean
    your glasses on

    a corner of your shirt.
    I don’t like knots,

    is what I’m saying, how they coil

    around inside.
    I want things clear. I want

    the whole worm, not just whatever
    sticks out.

    I’ve known some liars.
    There’s a story

    that I always will avoid
    and seek — sometimes

    at the same time.
    White teeth blue

    eyes. How I thought then he might
    be dumb.

    I want to talk about
    what happens afterward. When

    it’s all over. How he pins his lapel pin back
    on his coat when he stands up.


    Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco lives in California’s Central Valley and works as a librarian at UC Merced. Her work has appeared in numerous print and online journals and in several chapbooks. She co-edits One Sentence Poems and First Frost.

     

  • Poems

    Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco: Earth’s Birthday Party at the Retirement Home

    Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco

    Earth’s Birthday Party at the Retirement Home

    At the Earth’s birthday party,
    we don’t celebrate in years.

    That’s not a thing,
    the kids might say, or maybe

    did. Years
    were a construct, a way Earth

    could see itself.
    It was like pictures:

    here I was in my goth phase, and here’s
    where I had dinosaurs. Earth

    couldn’t talk to us, by now, its teeth
    were gone. We draped

    a sash across its shoulders, found a crown. It
    was a theme, as much as anything,

    a way to pick the music. Green and blue and brown
    balloons, just like from space.

    Aged to perfection, said a sign,
    like Earth was food.

    We had a cake and sang and Earth blew

    out its candles, asked
    who everybody was, when we would

    leave. We laughed and laughed. When

    it rained, we moved
    the party back indoors.

    Something happened, and the toilet
    overflowed, ran down the hall.

    If no one cleans it, there’s
    a canyon, someone said, like

    this was news.


    Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco lives in California’s Central Valley and works as a librarian at UC Merced. Her work has appeared in numerous print and online journals and in several chapbooks. She co-edits One Sentence Poems and First Frost.

     

  • Poems

    Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco: Body Talk

    Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco

    Body Talk

    What if you’re Helen
    but their boats were made
    to kill?

    What if each part
    served some small
    purpose — here:

    where they will melt you
    down.
    Or here: where they will rip

    you up,

    will take your insides
    out, will tell you what they are. Say

    that you’re Helen, sick
    of hearing how they made

    the fucking boats.

    What if a woman
    and a whale are the same

    thing?