We’re Still Here

Hi. I have been working 7 days a week the past couple months and haven’t had any energy for the magazine. For now I still plan to continue. The submissions email was blocked due to 90 days inactivity. It’s open again now.

What I plan to do is put some time in around Thanksgiving and Christmas and publish several poems during both those times.

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Avalon Graves

In Love With the Stars

You are the kind of beautiful
that’s kept away in
childhood dreams.
Scribbled thoughts
within diary pages;
words spoken
stuttered and misused.

I admired you in a
Cheshire Cat style:
I’d smile and disappear.

And it was clear to me
that if vibes had faces
yours would be the prettiest.

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Linda Wojtowick


Well, to mention, that year was spoiled meat.

The blood moon passed several times. Bees were mean, restless.

Elk moved to toward the dimlit towns and cried.

Something was happening, some hungry ghosts searching for food.

But this is about him. That year twelve, blonde as sun.

He loved baseball in the pressed-out corn field

and bullfrogs in the swamp. His body seemed normal.

Like all of us, he ate sugar and he skinned his knees.

No atypical muscle or cards. One night

he crossed the hall to his sister’s room.

Her lamp lit the papered walls in spray.

She set down her book. Her dolls turned

waxen and changed their mouths.

He strode to her open window and brought up his knees.

The sill was high, the lawn below a carpet churned by moles.

She saw him gather some unseen steam. Downstairs,

their parents ate pills and prayed to beads. See,

during the day their hearts were clear.

But after supper their sadness soaked through to the basement,

to the shale. Tell them I’m leaving, he said.

A scarf trembled in a wind around his neck.

She had never seen anything so beautiful.

She said he flew out like a wide bird, copied by stars.

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S. Thomas Summers

This Poem

Right now, there’s nothing as important
as these words, the way they trickle
down the page like a dark stream of water
or the way they remind me of bird tracks

cluttered in the snow beneath the bird feeder
or, for that matter, the fallen sunflowers
dotting the snow like the fragments
of a shattered shadow. I’ve little interest

in the flood of sunlight rushing
through the bay window, over the couch,
and onto the floor where the dog
has fallen asleep and is quietly yipping

at the rabbit she must be dreaming about,
the one I assume she wants to chase
in an open field where the grass grows
as thick as the shag carpet she’s sleeping on.

Nor do I have time for the weave of tree limbs,
oak and ash, birch and beech, that remind me
of a family holding hands, joining minds
and spirits in prayer. These words are soft

and cool, like a favorite pillow. They curl
on your lap like a old cat sinking into its nap,
purring, purring. Sadly, soon they’ll end.
The phone will ring or I’ll realize I’ve lost

my keys or the neighbor will throttle his motorcycle,
urge it to growl, unleash its dragon,
moments before he rumbles down the street
and over the hill, chasing the sunset.

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Allie Gove

Burn Worship

I had a friend once who like to burn himself.
The strips of skin glistened like the edges
of Bible pages—he said it was ritual-necessary.
Implosions hardened up, coiling the veins.
Flames like slick-tongued rites frothing the sagging skin.
When the lighter came away from it,
every sound was a meditation of oxygen and ice,
bleating in an ancient rhythm of power.


They’d carved fish eyes as kids into the yellow
walls of that house and sometimes she would sit
with them simmering, like a power-out full
with midnight.

Smackhammering her own fists into her own thighs,
smothering that thing still
bleached into her eyelids: her mother—

tunneled over the arm of the sofa
her insides spilled all over her head
like almost nighttime a violet sunset

The eyes are always the same,
little fish in the same yellow walls;
old family like a drawer of candles.

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Jacob Borchardt

In What Grove the Pig

I do not know where the road goes
or how old it is

but beneath my bare feet it is irresistible

soft, bone-white sand banded with clay the color of porphyry
the path is carnival-garish even in the shade of the pine forest

as I walk the wind blows and to either side
of the road cut, pine boughs rattle, pulse like muscles

the woods are a great green serpent
and I am stuck in its throat

I walk, wind or no
I do not know how far I have come
nor how far I am going

when I finally stop
a bristled hump blocks the path

a pig
or what was a pig

its coarse skin a-hum with flies
a yellowy crab apple oozes
between its naked jawbones

I smell dry pine needles and sun turned fruit

I do not smell anything like
an expired boar
sprawled in the close, hot air of the forest

the apple tumbles from the pigs ruined mouth
and rolls across the sand until it almost touches my big toe

the skeletal jaws of the boar open and I know now that I am dreaming

All eat and all are eaten
is today’s lesson

my back straightens –
it has my father’s voice

Do you know now where you walk?

I can not bring myself to speak
and do not know what I might say if I could

its broken jaw flaps
like the sole of a beggars shoe

Somewhere, now,

two strangers meet
and know each other only as heat
and a smokey red light

they will grow old together

they will sleep with their hands clasped and their foreheads touching

they will each feed on the others breath

they will raise fat, blue eyed children

but never–

the wind begins to blow again
hard this time– the trees bend and coo like bull roarers

–never will one know the other
as more than smoke and light

pine straw flows like molten copper into the road cut
hissing deluge covers baroque mingling of clay and sand and pig

and half heard sounds
they are strangers passing on a grander road than this one

this road is humble
most roads go many places, this one does not–

the hog with my father’s tongue is lost in a drift of resinous bronze

I drop to my hands and knees and listen,
with my ear to the needled ground
I hear only wind and a whisper

This road goes only one place
though I know not where

I know not where.

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First Place in our 10 year anniversary contest goes to…

Stephanie Hempel

and here is her poem:

You Used Your Hands-

I never passed the knot tying workshop
in Girl Scouts. More than anything I wanted
to add that laminated badge on my Brownie vest.

I never learned the chemistry of rope cord,
A real life-skill, the intermingling of knots
to save stranded tug boats or falling trees,
but you did.

They said you had the most callused knuckles
in all of Brown County,
and that’s exactly how I recognized them,
blessed to the bone from hard work,
patient with time.

Youth isn’t a word
that is always taken into consideration,
especially in the parts of the town
that nobody talks about.

It was something that nobody ever talked about,
just admired the way that your fingers glided
with ease over the body of a grain loader,
mighty driver of the plains, they said,
praising all those barrel palms could carry home.

You used to pick me up after Girl Scout meetings,
lifting me up into the cab seat to fasten me in,
your hands never failing to provide comfort
after a day of failed knots,
the space on my vest appearing a little less empty.

I admired you in a way I did not even understand
at an age where everything was still blooming
like poppy seeds,

On the afternoon I asked you if you knew how to tie bows,
you cut the ribbons out of my hair,
and tore apart the buttons on my jeans,

I don’t remember anything except
the way I shivered in the blankets
when you were through.
Going home to my mother
with not enough words in my
premature mouth to explain why
I flinched when she spoke

My stomach rung dry with dust,
and legs caked in your soil
that burned holes into my skin,
you dismantled a perfectly capable garden

You used your hands
to introduce me to a lifetime of anxiety attacks
with no previous explanation,
a long account given to lovers
about why my legs weren’t
capable of parting red-seas,
to douse their broken bread,
a wavering memory that still
shames my feminine hips,

They told me you had the most callused knuckles
in all of Brown County,
I never told them why.

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10th Anniversary Contest – Second Place

Second place in our contest went to Reena Prasad.
Here is her poem:


Dirt from another time
is lodged under my fingernails
In the freshly turned soil,
is a flat boulder bordered by wild flowers
A garden is also a grave

The sun pours out lethargy
The afternoon crosses through several skins
scorching, fading, eliminating them
Their contents lie
as cool mud in my palms
‘chariots’ of several thoughts flown
and I am one among them
teeth, bones, hair
All hand-me-downs from unknown ash

A hollow in the banyan’s trunk
holds glass marbles, sea shells, a feather, a ring
It is a secret chest of survival
watched over by tree spirits
A child’s stash is sacred

The mud fed on marrow, red, black and fertile
is human mulch
Seeds dig deep and bring up
the sleeping, undisturbed
in their buds
Within me, fallen leaves shift gently
My skin is a bark, forgotten
and the breeze is older
than my oldest memory

many worlds rest till they are called upon
to stand in for a forest
to hold back a river in spate
or replenish a barren womb
The warm earth in my fist
could be anyone from history

I blow it off my palms and a staleness
leaves me
For too long
this breath of mine has been
moving in and out of bodies

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10 Year Anniversary Contest – Third Place

Third place in our contest goes to James Blevins.

Here is his poem:

Wish, Coin, Word—for Girl as Old Echo

Ache, the ache of routine took as torn,
and bristling to be observed.
I whistle at my good good-fortune.

Below, beneath a moon’s swollen elbow,
canted just so, to frame the floor; a remedy
I air with poem, from lips humid with poetry,
or trying hard to be.

A well as deep.

I toss it as far up as my words can carry,
but it rarely clears the hole. So, with dirty
finger, I repeat my echoes from long, long ago,
from a well bare; save me and the froth
I collect for breath, and eyes that observe
such cave-ins in-progress.

The dirt of an evening.

Much harder than you know. Really.
When stopped to ponder from the distance of
many, many years, it really forms a position. It really
gets sassy, literarily speaking: It bleeds.
It, despite the grime of old poems,
the jaunty retrospect,
still bleeds fresh up to navels.

Below, beneath the bottomless well of my skin, I remember her echo.

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The Cold Hard Facts

I will be announcing the winners of our 10 year anniversary contest in the next week or two, but today I wanted to say something in response to the recent election.

Let’s look at the cold hard numbers.

2008 Obama 69,498,516
McCain 59,948,323

2012 Obama 65,915,795
Romney 60,933,504

2016 Clinton 59,938,290
Trump 59,704,886 (at the time of this writing – Clinton will end up close to a million ahead when all votes are counted)

As you can see for the last 3 elections the republican gets 60 million votes. More voted for Romney than Trump. There was no movement – no uprising. Sure, some of the old white voters who died since 2008 were replaced with disaffected blue collar workers. But the end result was still 60 million. The problem is that we are missing between 5 and 10 million votes. They simply did not come out. Those extra 5 to 10 million would have produced the same maps as Obama enjoyed. Why didn’t they come out? I really don’t care. The damage is done.

20 million will lose health insurance

Medicaid is gone

Medicare is gone – to be replaced by a woefully insufficient private voucher system.

Social Security is gone. Now I will say there is a glimmer of hope for Social Security. They obviously can’t take it from existing seniors or they would be swept out of office in 2018. I think what they will do is say that those 55 and older will still get Social Security. This will appease enough people that it won’t cause harm to re-elections. My only hope is that they allow 45-55 year olds to opt in as I just hit 45. Otherwise I will die in the street as a senior when I can no longer work. I’m not sure many people realize how few people can survive long in their old age without Social Security and Medicare (or a pension – which almost no one gets anymore). I would say less than 1% of the population. You’d need a good million dollars in the bank to generate sufficient income to pay for top health insurance and living expenses with the severely depressed interest rates we have. A million dollars would give you about 50,000 a year after taxes if invested conservatively. How many people have a million dollars cash? Yeah way less than 1%.

Marriage Equality is gone if Ginsburg dies.

A woman’s right to choose is gone. The rich will simply fly to Canada for their abortions. The poor will bleed and die in back alleys and then face prosecution and jail if they survive and are caught.

But in a way, worse than all this, is that there will now be unchecked violence, discrimination and harassment rampant in huge areas of the country, where it is no longer safe to be. Basically if the local town or county has not enacted local or state laws to protect you, you will not be safe there if you are a minority or gay. You will be bullied, ridiculed, harassed, and sometimes physically attacked or murdered. This has begun even during the campaign and it will increase a thousandfold. I lived in Alabama for many years and know what exists there. We are back to the days of saying “she’s my sister” to explain why you are living with another woman.

Worst of all, you will have a far right supreme court for the rest of your life if you are over 40. Let that sink in for a minute.

People point to hope for midterm elections in 2 years. Get real. The 2018 elections will make things worse. There may be hope for 2020, but that depends on how bad things have gotten by that point. I would not place too much faith in 2020 right now.

And lets get real about something else. Due to only republicans coming out during midterm elections they control the vast majority of state legislatures and have rigged the system with their gerrymandering. It takes a 10% democratic win to flip the house of representatives. This is what we saw with Obama in 2008 with his 10 million vote victory. His 5 million in 2012 was not good enough. LET THAT SINK IN. Having to get a 10% win or more to win is not democracy. We no longer live in a democracy. And I’m not talking about being a republic and the electoral college and all that. I’m talking about a plutocracy of the right.

Worse than this. Worse than this by far is that only half of all eligible voters voted. Bart Simpson or ‘this school sucks’ would have beaten either candidate. We are being ruled by 25% of the people.

I’ve mentioned hope several times, however I don’t really see any. I think the best we can hope for now is that Trump the president is more like the 1990’s party boy Trump. I think we saw a glimpse of that man in his initial reaction to the North Carolina bathroom law. Basically – why are they wasting their time with that nonsense. But then someone whispered the correct party answer in his ear and he later said that this law was good and necessary. I think losing the popular vote will eat at Trump. He should be reminded of it weekly. I think this will make him want to win the ratings/approval of the majority. He wants to be loved and adored. This means that he wants to be popular. Sure, he will crush some enemies, but to feel the love of his subjects he may seek to be benevolent. And in 4 or 8 years (if the job takes it’s toll on him as it has everyone else) he may be happy to continue to allow free elections and retire.

Do you see where we are? The best we can hope for is a benevolent dictator.

Protest is futile and will be crushed mercilessly. Even Occupy, under a liberal president and in liberal cities, was put down eventually when the authorities tired of their presence. Come next year that will occur on the first day and with live ammunition. Satire and parody and little skits and witty remarks on TV shows are futile. Articles like this are futile.

What to do? The only thing that matters is getting 65-70 million people to vote. And I think the only way to do that anymore is with a beloved celebrity like Tom Hanks. Obama had that celebrity magic in 2008. But just look how only 4 years later he lost 5 million votes. Already people were no longer excited enough to waste their so valuable time to come out for him. That is what our culture now values – trending celebrity. That is what has to be used to win in 2020, otherwise it will be a crushing defeat. In the meantime I would suggest lying low, staying in cities with local hate crime and anti-discrimination laws, or leaving the country if you can. Unfortunately most can not. It is not that easy to do for an american.

The damage has been done. No factory jobs will be returning. They want us to drop dead working our minimum wage job at 70 with no healthcare, pension, or security. And that is set to occur. I do not see any hope to stop it. And I wish I was 65 now instead of 45. I would gladly give up those 20 years of my life. That is where we are.

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