Charles Springer

Inauguration Day

Wife calls me from her cell, says all the way to work whitetails lined the roadway, four and five deep in places, says they looked like passengers behind the line to board a train. I remind her that today’s the day the governor comes to town with his entourage and motorcade. I ask her if she saw the rabbits. Come to think of it, she says, it did look like the doe were wearing fuzzy slippers. And were there birds perched atop bucks’ antlers? Hundreds, maybe thousands, in the voice she gathers for amazement. She asks if they’ve all left their nests to greet the governor as he passes. I tell her each and every creature have been summoned for extinction. Did you not see the front end loaders, dump trucks in the background? Silly me, she says, you’re right, always with a new administration.



First Friday, and I am only visually deconstructing a mixed medium while sipping a snappy little chardonnay and blowing foam through my minced bologna when I trip over my own two feet and slice a piece of thigh on the slivers, squirt blood floor to ceiling on a new white wall and spectators gather while I text for an Uber to Urgent Care to get stitched up, then return to where everyone surrounds me like iron filings on a north magnetic pole, not out of concern for my accident but in awe of it although Pollock would deny the accident and I am gracious and even a bit proud yet properly acknowledge the on-call physician’s assistant, the glassblower, the grape stomper, the casing stuffer skyping from a range of locations and of course, my parents in assisted living for their feet in this.


Charles Springer

Charles Springer has degrees in anthropology and is an award-winning painter. A Pushcart Prize nominee, he is published in over seventy journals including The Cincinnati Review, Faultline, Windsor Review, Packingtown Review and Tar River Poetry, among others. His first collection of poems entitled Juice is forthcoming from Regal House Publishing. He writes from Pennsylvania.

Beach Trip

Sand is future glass, so get in the car,

fast-forward into the future, and stand

on the giant glass bridge of the beach.

We can listen to the waves while we stare

at the creatures frozen below, encapsulated—

there’s a crab mid-stride and there’s a plastic

cup.  There will always be a band-aid, and we’re lucky—

the washed-up jellyfish is under glass—just

step right on it and laugh.  Mostly there’s just rock, though,

and it’s too hard to sit on all day.  Let’s take the car

to the diner and the past.  Let’s stare out the window

and watch the fish bones and shells, glistening in the sun.



Danielle Hanson

Danielle Hanson is the author of Fraying Edge of Sky (Codhill Press Poetry Prize, 2018) and Ambushing Water (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in over 70 journals, won the Vi Gale Award from Hubbub, was Finalist for 2018 Georgia Author of the Year Award and was nominated for several Pushcarts and Best of the Nets. She is Poetry Editor for Doubleback Books, and is on the staff of the Atlanta Review. Her poetry has been the basis for visual art included in the exhibit EVERLASTING BLOOM at the Hambidge Center Art Gallery, and Haunting the Wrong House, a puppet show at the Center for Puppetry Arts. More about her at

Carlos Andrés Gómez, Featured Author




He looks like a more drunk, shorter Santa Claus, minus the charm & good cheer

except he’s got a fresh gash under his left eye that’s bleeding Christmas red & every word from his mouth is buckets, & I mean buckets, of cheap fifths of gin. This white homeless man, first asking then demanding a dollar from me & the woman I love in front of the pharmacy on the corner of 8th & University. I raise my hand, silent apology offered

as we move toward the door to find a birthday card for a friend. It’s people like you,

he says, catapulting his five-foot-four-and-a-half-inch frame into a monument of self-

righteous fury, and I’m talking to YOU, he barks the spit-laced words, calloused index finger nearly touching the raw umber hue of my fiancée’s clenched jaw—You’re not even

human, he says, you fucking monkey.



I knock him the fuck out—feel the sting

in my index & middle knuckles, relish

that crunch from when I sledgehammered


his jaw. His face becomes Mr. O’Reilly

telling me to stay out of trouble when

I came back to visit freshman year, it


becomes the mutiny of my body on

a dark street passing a man in a low-

pulled hoodie, it becomes my father’s


slight accent & my fifth grade friends

who giggled whenever he said the word

womens, it becomes my deeply buried


relief at knowing a cop protects me,

the time I carried my drunk hallmate

home in college, held her hair back


while she threw up for three hours, how

a hallway of mostly white faces still

assumes I fucked her.



When I write the story

in my head, I am always


the hero. In the old ones,

I was always the victim.



I easily have twenty pounds of muscle on this dude, not to mention

thirty years, seven inches, & one less extended tour at war—


not to mention enough light-skinned privilege of my own, enough

class benefit-of-the-doubt. I could pummel him into a coma


with a gang of NYPD officers nearby, explain why & have them chuckle,

nod, & say, Don’t worry, pal. We get it. Just clean up afterwards.



He follows us, my love in tears, as she retreats into the closest aisle.

I turn & face him: You just called my future wife a ‘monkey.’ Why?

You’re better than that. Imagine someone said that to a person

you love. And his eyes suddenly arrive—no longer

in Vietnam or his uncle’s basement in fourth grade chained

to a radiator or three decades’ worth of park benches—histrionic tears

start to drown the haphazard whiskers on his ruddy cheeks, as he pulls

sheets upon sheets of stolen frozen crabmeat from his tattered backpack,

his arms extended to her, offering them up as penance. The irony,

the allegory of this white man offering cold seafood to a Black woman

with a shellfish allergy.



A broken man has bullied the woman I love & anything I do will make me his bully.

I ask her, What would Darnell or Maurice do? What would Dr. King do? What would a ‘good man’ do? What should I have done? And again, the world demands answers from her but then mutes her response, silent as her voice in this poem, asking her to answer for something she has never owned nor sought. She’s between sobbing & punching the next man who talks, trying to busy her hands with Hallmark cards she can’t read through tears.


I imagine the scenario again, except this time while holding the hand of our six year-old

daughter & I am convinced that what just happened was either the bravest or most cowardly thing I have ever done.



I lie awake until we finally talk – she’s angry still,

the ache fresh as the gash on that hobo’s left cheek:


Honestly, fuck your social worker bullshit. He was

more important to you than me.


But, baby, what was I supposed to do? Beat his ass? What would that have done?


I don’t know, she says, I guess sometimes our options are only what is

least wrong.





At rest upon a body

of water without life


at the bottom of the earth

wedged between two peaks


in the middle of the Middle

East,    serene resort


in the midst of a cluster

of ubiquitous crisscrossing


wars that are now just

landscape: two bodies


learn how to float  again

for the first time. Two


best friends. Close

enough to the end to no


longer keep track of hours

or days. They carry


nearly two centuries

of stories and losses


and secrets between them

into this stinging cold


that refuses to let them

sink. Each refusing


to release the other’s

arthritic grip, knowing


they came here today to

let go—and so the lake


becomes a sea of schoolgirl

giggles hijacking their hoarse


throats, now laughing as

their scars make them


into glowing quilts beneath

the sheen of heavy salt. I see


only them in this sacred

pool that is closer to hell


than any other, called Dead

because nothing is able to


survive its grasp for too

long and yet here they are:


two old ladies   who’ve defied

death                       rejoicing.



Carlos Andrés Gómez

Carlos Andrés Gómez is a Colombian American poet and the author of Hijito, selected by Eduardo C. Corral as the winner of the 2018 Broken River Prize. Winner of the Atlanta Review International Poetry Prize, Fischer National Poetry Prize, Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry, his writing has been published, or is forthcoming, in the New England Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Yale Review, BuzzFeed Reader, The Rumpus, Rattle, CHORUS: A Literary Mixtape (Simon & Schuster, 2012), and elsewhere. Carlos is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.


it’s a question of relativity

ignorant view that there are two

split down the middle a brain’s

how and how not to see landscape

or hear a heartbeat an echo

a distraction from the other

and me thing and essence each

where are we even free

cut through the dry ochred earth

we need borders to cross

and again in almost

of work the transportation business

deficit and accrual an increase

effort of balancing side

is an abstraction rocking us

align to misalign

to the enormous

an exposure of the usual


consciousness divided

when we look outside

detect a rhyme one

by turns stroke evoke you

requiring for identity the other

to fly over this road

this line drawn in the sand

to find ourselves again

the same place this line

a kind of attention

of possible answers in the physical

by side even eye movement

from limbic to critique

a door swung wide

all we could ever ask

Alice B Fogel

Alice B Fogel is the New Hampshire poet laureate. Her collections include A Doubtful House, Interval: Poems Based on Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” which won the Schaffner Award for Music in Literature & the 2016 NH Literary Award, & Be That Empty, a national bestseller in 2008. Strange Terrain is her guide to appreciating poetry without necessarily “getting” it. Nominated ten times for the Pushcart, she has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, among other awards, & her poems have appeared in many journals & anthologies, including Best American Poetry, Spillway, Hotel Amerika, The Inflectionist, & DIAGRAM.

On The Complexity of Symbols

            He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly. —Ben Franklin


Right after my mother moved

to South Carolina, a man approached her

after church to show her the Confederate flag

in a stained glass window.

If this took place in a novel,

most readers would be able to deconstruct

the authorial intent

implied by a white man

showing a black woman

his heritage.


In Los Angeles, I drove an Oldsmobile,

a symbol of American engineering,

mass production, luxury . . .

It was a couch on wheels,

and one the most likely vehicles

to be used in the commission of a crime.

I could roam the streets of South Central

with impunity,

but in the Valley

I’d be pulled over for DWB.


In the rain and through a green-caged enclosure,

I marveled at a maimed bald eagle

and pondered at how

before the Constitution, the presidency,

the Bill of Rights, we placed it on a seal,

minted it,

then took it near extinction.

It shrugged its 6-feet of wings

and let out

an impressive scat.


Michele Reese

Michele Reese is a Daughter of the American Revolution and the daughter of a Jamaican immigrant. Her poetry focuses on this place of intersection as well as others including race, gender, and sexuality. She is the author of the poetry collection Following Phia. Her poems have also been published in several journals and anthologies including Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, The Oklahoma Review, Poetry Midwest, The Paris Review, The Tulane Review, Chemistry of Color: Cave Canem South Poets Responding to Art, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race, and Home is Where: An Anthology of African American Poets from the Carolinas. She is currently a Professor of English at the University of South Carolina Sumter.

Visiting Poet in Lockdown

All the students are sitting on the floor, so are several teachers,

even the principal. The visiting poet is sitting on a chair.


There are perhaps a dozen students — silent, serious, though

they exchange occasional knowing glances and smiles.


The visiting poet, too, is silent. So are four or five teachers

and the principal – the room soundless, except for exhalations


and the recorded message that harried them into this small room.

The room is the principal’s office and every available inch of floor


is occupied by the eighteen people summarily herded by the principal

into his inner sanctum. For once, the visiting poet is voiceless,


no well rehearsed lines on his lips, though his eyes take everything in.

The pre-recorded monotony of dread booms everywhere via the school


intercom — into every classroom, gym, washroom, office, stairwell.


This is a school lock-down.

Get into a classroom,

clear the hallways, or leave

the premises immediately.


The principal knows this is just a drill: a post-Columbine reality

of departments of education. His school has failed to measure up


in a previous time-trial at emptying halls, hence this repeat drill.

Teachers and students know the score. They know about the ominous


SWAT unit sweeping the halls for deranged gunmen and other such

non-conformists. Only the visiting poet is uncertain, wondering whether


he may somehow have inadvertently set all this in motion the moment

he set foot inside the school and headed towards the main office.


The principal checks his wrist watch again, giving it a shake as if to hasten time. The bored teens shift and re-shift their lank shapes as only teens can.


The teachers relax, their day now blessed by an extended recess.

The visiting poet muses on imagery inherent in the word lock-down,


its currency in prison language. Lockout, lockup, lock step, lock-box,

lock jaw, lock, stock and barrel. His mind spins combinations.


He has already noted the principal locked the door behind him

before sitting on the floor. It’s the first time the visiting poet has been


confined in a principal’s office – he reflects on the irony: it has taken

him almost a lifetime to achieve this rare distinction. He also realizes


that choosing to sit where he has, his head is the only target visible

above the window line. The poet has again made himself vulnerable.


The intercom monotony ceases as abruptly as it began. The principal

stands, thanks everyone for co-operating and this seminar of the silent


disperses. The pulsing din of academia bursts to life from the ashes

and in the visiting poet’s head metaphors ricochet everywhere,


as he now attempts to emulate the springy step of his nubile hostess,

trailing her down the now-raucous hall to where they await his poems.


Glen Sorestad

Glen Sorestad is a well known Canadian poet from Saskatoon, who has published over twenty books of poems. His poems have appeared in over seventy anthologies and textbooks, in publications all over North America, in many other countries as well and have been translated into eight languages.

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