First Trip to the Strand

Gurgling, squinty-eyed

life form trying to make sense

of the alien sights and sounds

of a double date. My still-together parents,

weary from nightly feedings,

out of the house for once.

Another young couple in seats beside,

a good three months removed—as the stork flies—

from their own life-altering arrival.


The loud noises, a tub of new smells

being passed back and forth,

the incomprehensibly large screen,

whereon another scared, puzzled life form

comforts himself with Reese’s Pieces,

tries desperately to

phone home.


The darkened atmosphere

is my only reassurance. The dark,

I recognize. The dark, I know and love.

Which is why I’ll scream and shout

and cry and wail

until I’m taken to a place

free from strange noises and smells

and bright moving pictures. Back

to the familiar cotton embrace,

the faithful shimmer and twirl

of mobile constellations in the over-crib sky,

the sleep-inducing scent

of powder and safety.


Back to my home planet.


by Ryan Frisinger


Ryan Frisinger is a professor of English, holding an M.F.A. in Writing from Lindenwood University. He is also an accomplished songwriter, whose work has been featured in numerous television shows, such as America’s Next Top Model and The Real World. His non-musical writing has appeared in publications like Foliate Oak Literary Magazine and The MacGuffin. He resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with his more-talented wife and couldn’t-care-less cat.


This city is full of the dead

(I’m told by the living).

The Irish know their dead well,

6000 years of skeletons and coffins

and unmarked graves,

according to the living.


Here I am, alive in Dublin

drinking tea and listening to church bells

resounding like drunken teenagers

from a Cathedral older than my family name

sitting amongst the dead.


What good is life if we avoid

familiarizing ourselves

with the ninety-nine names of death?

She walks hurriedly around here, I think.

Death scurries from convent to church to pub

in order to meet her demands.


I’ve often considered inviting her in,

the poor thing,

for a cup of tea, or a pint,

or whatever it is death enjoys.

It’s not that I’m insane or anything.


There’s just something about this hallowed city

where the living manage to keep track of the dead

the way stockbrokers keep track of markets

and musicians keep track of the beat

that makes me pity death. She seems lonely

but far from idle. I sit here drinking tea


wondering if death would accept my admonitions

and take a nap in my bed,

curled up like a snail in a shell,

as the church bells howl

and construction workers laugh

above a slab of concrete where a man was shot,

whispering in her sleep about her many tormented lovers.


by Keene Short

Keene Short is a life-long resident of Flagstaff, Arizona. He currently studies English and History at Northern Arizona University, and when he is not writing or reading, he hangs out with folk singers and wayward preachers at local coffee shops.

Older Than They Used to Be

“Minimum-wage workers are older than they used to be.”

The New York Times, June 9, 2014



Yes, it’s true.

I have confirmed it by close personal observation of the girl behind the counter at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Union Turnpike.

I go in there twice a week for a glazed donut and a cup of coffee

And I always leave a $7 tip on top of my $3 tab.

And no, it’s not because she’s so cute

Although I can understand why you would think that.

It’s because she always refills my cup when it’s running low and because she lets me linger for hours sipping coffee and scribbling poetry and because I like to add a little supplement to her measly minimum wage.

Lately I have noticed little lines forming next to the corners of her eyes.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s still just as cute as ever, the little lines become her,

But they do lead me to conclude that she is indeed older than she used to be.


And it’s not just the minimum-wage workers.

I have also observed the manager of the Dunkin’ Donuts.

I see that his paunch has expanded,

Which could just be a side effect of the donuts he ingests,

But I also see that his hairline has receded,

Which I think is clear evidence that he, too, is older than he used to be.


And then there’s my dentist.

At my last annual cleaning, I noticed that his hands were shaking slightly when he stuck his instruments into my mouth.

I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by saying anything so I closed my eyes and pretended it wasn’t happening.

(I have found this to be an effective technique for dealing with the unpleasant or dangerous situations that come up in my life.)

But afterwards, when I was safely home again, I had to admit that my dentist is probably older than he used to be.


Hillary Clinton is definitely older than she used to be.

So is Derek Jeter.


Even Uncle Alvin.

There was a time when I believed that Mom’s kid brother would be forever young

But that was before Aunt Debbie died.

In just the six months since Debbie left us, Al has become noticeably older than he used to be.

His sparkle has diminished.

And that breaks my heart.


So it seems that just about everyone is older than they used to be

Except for the poets.

Not all, but most of the poets I know are younger than they used to be.

I don’t know why that is.

I think we need a crack investigative reporter from The New York Times to look into this phenomenon and find out what is going on with the poets.


by Pesach Rotem


Pesach Rotem was born and raised in New York and now lives in northern Israel. He received his B.A. from Princeton University and his J.D. from St. John’s University. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Voices Israel, the Deronda Review, Constellations, The Saint Ann’s Review, and East Coast Literary Review.

Ashlie Allen

Gardenia hues

A Gardenia

changing hues

in the summer temper

What color am I

when I am mad?


The toad is lonely too

A fallen tree

and a toad

following my heels

as I carry the weight

of both our loneliness


Leg ashes

Shadows glide across

her white face

as she stands and observes

the motion of my blistered feet

that walk across the ashes

of her legs


Grief and the gypsy dancer

Someone grieving over me

as I stand on the roof

and watch the mysterious movement

of a gypsy dancer


Bat flames

A pile of bones

and the ghost of a bat

circling the fire

I have started

just to dance

and feel exciting


by Ashlie Allen

Ashlie Allen lives in the east coast, where she plans to attend Literature school. She also has plans to study photography.



Damage, today I’m obsessed with damage.

The cored-out heart of the rose, not the bud

or the bloom, but root to flower—


whatever’s maimed, blemished, blistered, harmed,

this skin the talon, the thorn has hooked—

morning’s minion, ha—


and those shreddy clouds the sky assembles

only to have something fun

to tear into pieces. I remember Vuillard’s painting awash


with parlor knickknacks, his floral decor so chintzed

you can’t tell carpet from chair from curtain, can barely see

the old woman dying quietly in her rocker.


Down the street, in the corner shop the hollowed slabs

of ribcage swing. From the café radio

Janis Joplin’s ropy voice,

almost present, then static, then gone.


Something gleams from the hubcap, saying,

It’s evening, you lived so long,

what have you done? Answer it back, oh hubcap,


some things can’t be lived through—

the bolus we grow around—but there is

some endurable affliction,


the abscessed hoof sliced back until it bleeds;

we pack in the mud and wait and hope

enough foot grows back to nail on a shoe.


The long days are marked by waiting by the phone,

by the door, by the mailbox, and the sense

that the days themselves are passing.


by Helen Wickes


Helen Wickes lives in Oakland, California, and worked for many years as a psychotherapist. In 2002 she received an M.F.A. from Bennington College. Her first book of poems, In Search of Landscape, was published in 2007 by Sixteen Rivers Press. Her poems can be read and heard online at From The Fishouse. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI Online, Amarillo Bay, Arroyo Literary Review, Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, The Citron Review, Confrontation, Corium Magazine, Crack The Spine, Eclipse, Evansville Review, ginosko, Pirene’s Fountain, RiverSedge, Sakura Review, Sanskrit, Santa Fe Literary Review, South Dakota Review, Stand, Talking River, TriQuarterly, Runes, ZYZZYVA, Zone 3, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Collagist, The Hollins Critic, Jet Fuel Review, The Journal, Natural Bridge, Qwerty, Santa Clara Review, Folly, Forge, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Limestone, PANK, Mary: A Journal of New Writing, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Cloudbank, Bryant Literary Review, Eclectica, Ellipsis…, Southwestern American Literature, Willow Review, FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry, Hanging Loose, Prick of the Spindle, Boulevard, Soundings East, Verdad, The Coe Review, Concho River Review, Crucible, The Jabberwock Review, Kaleidoscope, Pleiades, PMS poemmemoirstory, SLAB, Visions International, The Griffin, Salamander, Splash of Red, Epicenter, Barnstorm, Poetry Flash, In the Grove, Freshwater, Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts, Weber: The Contemporary West, West Marin Review, Whisperings, Softblow, 5 AM, the Bennington Review, Picayune Magazine, Delmarva Review, The Tower Journal, Sagarana, and the anthology Best of the Web 2009.



Cumulonimbus Gastrus

Daniel said once that the clouds in Kansas look like giant gray brains.

Their thoughts all big and drifty and slow like ruminant sky gods.

Brains that hover over wheat fields and ineffable highways stoned

on the grandeur of their high seat until they die a raindeath or blow away.


Tonight though the sky looks hungry. Not brains but intestines.

A stomach twisting and digesting whole football fields of nimbostratus and dark Latin.

Birds scatter from wires leaving utility polls behind to hum and spark in the lesser acids.

We hear via radio of a possible tornado along I-25.

A black esophageal funnel that may or may not swallow.

The dogs come out with me onto the deck and bark death threats at the sky.

Low rumbles of famished drought-stricken thunder.


Water sits bubbling on the stovetop, forgotten, next to a package of dry spaghetti.

Only the wine makes it outside. A blood-red South American scud cloud

in a heavy glass tumbler. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight, they say.

And though I am no sailor, the wine pulls me further and further into the clouds.


by Michael Young


Michael Young lives in Fort Collins, CO. He studies microbiology by day and edits Rust + Moth by night. He has been published in Aries: A Journal of Creative Expression.

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