Dante Novario: Featured Author

The Very First Venus Flytrap

Who could blame your delicate flowers

For growing sharp teeth, for learning that flesh

Is so much tastier than sunlight


You found out it’s more satisfying to snap shut

Than it is to bloom, that it feels good to bite back

After being chewed on for so many centuries


Jaws of slender grass. Jaws of patience.

You opened your jaws once and wow

How delicious the world tasted


Look how your body transformed into a throat

Your roots into tongues and your blossoms into fists

I can hear your flora siblings whispering nervously


About the one who speaks in needles, who prefers

Blood to dew, pink fanged, an angel

With sharp wings of green, fallen straight into the dirt


Your life is now a feast of moth hearts

And iridescent beetle wings, bee stingers

With spider’s silk used as elegant floss


For your delicate lips of chattering

Knives, lips that wait patiently

To be kissed again and again


That’s why you were named after Aphrodite

Because eating the world counts as loving it twice

And who doesn’t want to die in the mouth of a flower?


Who doesn’t want to be sipped up by the Earth, cradled

Unconscious in the arms of soft petals, suffocated by sunshine

By the plant that turned into death itself?

Finally Appreciating the New Moon

It’s a blank slate, black-blessed, a moment

To enjoy the stars, not named

Like its big bright brothers are


But it should be, it’s a testament that huge unseen things

Can be floating directly above our heads and we’d never

Be the wiser, that even the persistence of sunlight


Needs sleep, no more secrets spilled

Under the moon’s sweet silver, no need for blankets

When you are concealed like an earthworm, a cavern


It’s the moon as whole as we’ve ever seen it

A clasping of two dark halves, providing rest

For our werewolves, a holy day of obligation


For all things nocturnal, if you picnic

Underneath it you enjoy the sensation of being swallowed

By the universe itself, returning to pre-light


When we didn’t have the sun to depend on

And the endless night sky

Was more comforting than any ball of fire

Phantom Hugger

Science has proven

That humans need at least eight hugs a day

And by golly I was going to get them

One way or another


I picked my targets carefully

Drooped shoulders

Downward glances

Unpresumptuous auras

All dead giveaways


I began with quick squeezes, innocent


Single hand behind the back

Over in a second

Painless pats

Short and sweet and good for everybody


But soon it wasn’t enough, the embraces

            Were lasting longer, becoming vulnerable

Soon we were eye-to-eye

            And it was becoming embarrassingly difficult

                                                                        To let go


People began seeking my services

On busy sidewalks and crowded nightclub

Dance floors, a vigilante

                        Of touch therapy, of a new

Public service


And it wasn’t long before I perfected

            My technique, transformed my hugs

Into something sacred, something



An embrace that turned me into Atlas, and you

Into the world

That wrapped around us

Again and again

Until we were lost

In a land of each other’s palms, that proved

The Earth really is

The center of the universe

That dissolved

The very concept of stranger

What I do is illegal in nearly 38 states

                                          But if you ever need me

Go out on empty nights and raise your hands

                                                                                 To the dark lonely air

I promise, eventually, I’ll be there

Dante Novario

Dante Novario is an internationally published writer from Louisville, KY where he works as a therapist with special needs individuals. Nominated for both the 2022 pushcart and rhysling awards, his writing has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Firewords Magazine, KAIROS Lit, Coffin Bell Journal, New Contexts 3, Nimrod International Journal, Thin Air Magazine and others. His poetry can also be heard on the literary podcast Strange Horizons. Find more of his writing on Instagram @dante_novario


Tobi Alfier

Bench Warrant Wednesday


You’re finally back in your hometown,

only snow greets your arrival.


Court date’s in a few hours,

just time to check into some


cheap hotel and change into clothes

that say I’m a good girl, clothes


that’ll be dumped at the charity shop

after free breakfast, local bank,


and go pay the fine tomorrow.

No time for visiting or sightseeing—


you’ll see all you want from the train

on the head-out-of-town express.


Window cracked to let a thin stream of smoke out,

you breathe in the incense of pines,


catch a quick glimpse of your old house

a little more canted, a lot less yours.


All the wildflowers buried deep until spring

do nothing to coax you back,


and you leave this town that doesn’t bear repeating

once again, the stillness of dusk broken only


by wisps of winter shadows through the trees,

a jukebox song of wild horses in your mind.



The Year of No Men


Granny’s on the front porch with me

playing gin and drinking gin.

I have a Jolt Cola to keep awake.


Mama’s coming to get me soon,

take me to the monthly family day

at the corrections house just down the road.


They call it “house” so it sounds nice,

but you can’t just leave when you want.

Daddy’s there for a while and that’s all I know.


We got a one-year lease on a nice double-wide,

Granny’s a couple rows over.

Other ladies and kids mostly fill in the rest.


Mama goes over to our real house every few weeks,

waters the plants, grabs up the bills,

cleans the messages off the garage door.


I don’t get to go ‘cause those messages—

they’re not too nice most times and mama says

I’m too young to understand.


So she brings me back a lemon pie

from the gas station mini mart

and I watch Granny get stuporfied.


Took a lotta years living

before I could sift through the truth

of our time at the trailer park,


and I made a lot of promises to myself

after that: no bail, no messages

written on any garage doors cause of me,


and gin would always be cards, jelly jars

only for juice and for baking, and “house”

would mean house, with toys in the yard.


Tobi Alfier

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” was published by Cholla Needles Press. “Symmetry: earth and sky” was published by Main Street Rag. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).

Bad Memories of the Good Old Days

The darkest hour is just before

the middle of the night.

Mishka Shubaly, “Destructible”


I climbed the infinite staircase

that leads nowhere;

it took me almost a decade,

a fractured ankle,

a fractured rib,

a broken tooth,

my peace of mind,

and half of my soul.


I played the eleven games,

those were happier days.

But I remember the rejection,

the taste of blood in my mouth,

the humiliation,

a pitch-black bottomless pit

of youth and sadness.


I know how it feels to be depressed

at your aunt’s birthday party,

to think about death at the dive bar,

I know the strange looks you get

when you make jokes about misery,

I know how it feels

to spend the entire weekend

under a fortress of shadows and blankets.

Endless Sundays,

unnerving Mondays,

Advil and beer for breakfast.

I know.

I know.

There, there.


Black and white movies,

empty bottles of cheap white wine,

broken glass on the carpet,

suicidal fantasies at the supermarket,

tears at the airport,

cold sweat at the parking lot,

hot coffee and antidepressants,

shattered dreams and broken hearts.

That’s all that’s left:

Bad memories of the good old days.


Juan David Cruz-Duarte

Juan David Cruz-Duarte was born in Bogotá, Colombia. He lived in South Carolina for 10 years. In 2018 he earned a doctorate degree in Comparative Literature from the University of South Carolina. His work has been published in Five:2:One, Fall Lines, the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Jasper Magazine, Blue Collar Review, Burningword, Escarabeo, Máquina Combinatoria, and elsewhere. He is the author of Dream a little dream of me: Cuentos siniestros (2011), La noche del fin del mundo (2012), and Léase después de mi muerte (Poemas 2005-2017) (2018). He lives in Bogotá.

Country Road at Night, North Carolina, 1979

Like eyes in a skull,

riveted on me,

I see the windows

of a white van

in my rearview



I speed up

so does he

and we keep

going like this,

the sweat of fear

stinging my eyes

till I am racing,

a rabbit, with

a fox that covets,



A sign for a business district–

the car, and my heart, slow

down.  I turn off, spy a gaggle

of little boys headed home

from Cub Scouts or Bible School.

Grateful to them, I stop, roll down

the window, tell the nearest child:

“I am being followed.

Could I use your parents’ phone?”

“OK”, the kid says “I live over there,

pointing down the road. “Get in,”

I say, “I’ll take you all home,”

and seven small boys

climb in.


I am driving slowly

when the sheriff


at the sight,

of a white lady’s car


with black boys,

stops me.


I look back and see

the white van

at the turnoff

to the town,




E. Laura Golberg

Laura Golberg’s poem Erasure has been nominated for a Pushcart 2021 Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Poet Lore, Laurel Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Spillway, RHINO, and the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, among other places. She won first place in the Washington, DC Commission on the Arts Larry Neal Poetry Competition.

How to draw a horse

Honestly, I can’t be bothered to find out

Whether there is already a poem

About how to draw a horse,

The words brushed sleek as the roan mare

You curried the summer you were fourteen

And horseshit was a perfume you sniffed

Eagerly as lilac, as bread broken open,

The linseed funk of a boy two years older,

His voice beyond breaking; his long lashes

Pretty as a forelock. Stables call for pen and ink

And a sure hand; you can use charcoal for a canter.

How to draw a horse– you’re thinking the horse

Stands for something else and it may,

They come standard in quartets for an apocalypse,

Well-matched, ready for a chaise and four

Like Bingley had, along with Netherfield

And Darcy’s impossible friendship, fronting

A dusty stagecoach in the Wild West. You listen

For hoofbeats similar to your systole

If you are not terrified, in a tizzy, falling in love

The way I fall down the stairs in my dreams, endless,

The fall through clouds on a gas giant, pocked Jupiter

Or Bespin, an asymptotic descent I cannot complete.


How to draw a horse:


Using your dominant hand,

Knowing the crest and the croup,

Still, breathless, tasting

The sweet green scent of masticated hay,

The antithesis of your adoration,

Knowing you will fail.


Daisy Bassen

Daisy Bassen is a poet and practicing physician who graduated from Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and completed her medical training at The University of Rochester and Brown. Her work has been published in Oberon, McSweeney’s, and [PANK] among other journals. She was the winner of the So to Speak 2019 Poetry Contest, the 2019 ILDS White Mice Contest and the 2020 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize. She was doubly nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net Anthology and for a 2019 and 2020 Pushcart Prize. She lives in Rhode Island with her family.

Featured Author: Michelle Cacho-Negrete

Grace in Four Parts



My mother enrolled me in a tap-dance class when I was five; I hated it. The little outfits hung awkwardly on me, the sequins always falling off.  The shoes hurt my feet. My steps were uncoordinated and always three beats behind everyone else’s.  I couldn’t twirl without stumbling.  Everyone else got that lovely tap sound as they danced across the floor. “She’s very pretty with those blonde curls,” the teacher told my mother.  “But she has no grace.”



Grace was my only friend in sixth grade. I was hers. We sat alone at our lunch table. We laughed together. If one of us had money we bought a candy bar to share. We exchanged books. One day I invited her home after school.  My mother bought cookies. Her parents didn’t want her to go, but she came anyway. We were happy walking home as I told her about my games and chemistry set, but when we got to our apartment my mother sent Grace home. I didn’t understand. My mother said, “I’m sure she is a lovely girl, but she’s colored. She belongs with her own kind.”  “She is my kind: we read the same books, laugh at the same things, like the same cookies,” I insisted, but my mother walked away.. Grace’s mother told her that she couldn’t have anything to do with me. The rest of the year I sat alone at lunch; no Grace.



My grace period for paying my student loan was up.  The credit mafia made threatening calls, sent threatening letters, even knocked at my door. “But I pay everything I can at the end of the month. I’m supporting two kids,” I told the man on the phone. “Sometimes I give you ten dollars, sometimes twenty-five but I always pay” The man scoffed; “Your money problems aren’t ours.” A friend who was a lawyer worked out a credit plan with them, but I was broke halfway through every month and lost any line of credit for seven years.

“Grace period is over,” they repeated to my lawyer.  “No grace left.”



“Forgiveness is an act of grace,” My husband told me when he broke my jaw after a disagreement about nothing important, something I can’t even remember.  “Just let it go. I’ll never do it again,” he insisted.  Then he repeated, “Forgiveness is an act of grace.”

I laughed and told him, “Everyone knows I have no grace.”


Michelle Cacho-Negrete

Michelle Cacho-Negrete is a retired social worker who lives in Portland Maine. She is the author of Stealing: Life in America. She has 80+ publications, 4 of which are among the most notable, 5 in anthologies, 1 won Best of The Net and another won the Hope Award.

Listed at Duotrope
Listed with Poets & Writers
CLMP Member
List with Art Deadline
Follow us on MagCloud