Song for a Roadside Motel Room

Gravel crunches as I pull into an almost empty parking lot
Cut the engine, watch it shudder a weak protest
Slump back in the torn leather seat
And light a cigarette
Eyes jumping to and from the few scattered cars
Like an old detective film
Make sure the coast is clear

Office door creaks open just enough for me to slip through
See a lonesome burning smoke in a overflowing ashtray
Call out a “Hello” in a shaky voice
Then stammer an “Is anyone there?”
He lumbers out, another cigarette stuck in his unshaven face
Caters to my demands, passes a worn silver key
The door shuts itself on the way out

Unlock room 23 and make a beeline to the mini bar
Drink a fifth of Gin and stare at the peeling paint on the ceiling
Breath in deep and try to subdue qualms
Misgivings are unattractive
Though more faithful for certain
Drain the remaining 1/4 and toss the bottle at the trash
And duck out for a six-pack of Bud from the corner store

The knock is soft and drawn out, almost ghost-like
Before the door opens and she enters
Unsure steps and uncertain smile
Watch her clumsily undress behind a curtain of blue smoke
Fumble nervously with your keys
Take one last swig of beer
Then hold her like you would a dying child

Wake hungover the next morning
Wearing nothing but a tee-shirt and a headache
Blindly reach out to the bedside drawers
In search of the remains of last nights crumpled soft pack
Strike a match and light
Focus gets shifted to the fire fly like ember
Meekly smile and turn over to find her gone

Office door is stuck tight
Spit out a string of expletives while banging on the smudged glass
Stubbly smile soon appears behind
Eagerly ushers me in, exclaiming that he saw
A pretty young thing leaving earlier on
He bums a cigarette and raises his grubby hand in hope of a high-five
I leave him hanging

Damn New Yorker has trouble starting
Splutters and then purrs
Under a murky grey impressionist sky
Press last limp excuse for a cigarette against a solemn mouth
Bid farewell to a road-side motel
That rings a little close to home
Gravel crunches as I pull out of an almost empty parking lot


by Benjamin Blake

Benjamin Blake was born in the July of 1985, in the small town of Eltham, New Zealand. His fiction and verse have appeared in numerous journals and magazines including, The Los Angeles Review of Los Angeles, Morpheus Tales, Black Petals and Danse Macabre. He was a contributor to the 2012 anthology, A Feast of Frights from the Horror Zine. He is the author of the poetry and prose collections, A Prayer for Late October, Southpaw Nights, and Reciting Shakespeare with the Dead. He currently lives in a cabin, somewhere in the New Zealand countryside.


“The rain fell like applause”

(M. Ondaatje)



The rain fell like applause

it fell all night

and it fell like applause

though for whom or why

I do not know

it fell and it fell and

I couldn’t help but wonder

if perhaps it was for the moon

this hollow moon

or the trees drained of birds

there was rain

and the applause fell like thunder

broke like glass

on an iron floor

since the birds had flown

the air was full of something sinister

there was something sinister

in the applause

which fell all night

like rain like

night like


the rain fell like applause

though for whom or why I do not know.


by Jamie Thomson

Hummingbird Becoming

red drop

blur down

hover first, then

rush with helicopter

sound on mute, between

a Monday and the lavender

bush, aligned aside a

moment you forgot to even

notice; still, on wings, it

seems to rise in up and

down motion, the hope of each

becoming squeezed inside

the beat of wings, a

quantum fine that lasts for

you a glance or two but

for the hummingbird

a lifetime.


by K.C. Bryce Fitzgerald


K.C. Bryce Fitzgerald has been writing stories since he learned to read. A native of Los Angeles, he is inspired by the daily truths of the world around him. In addition to moonlighting as a bartender, he is an avid writer and filmmaker whose production company C4 Films specializes in visually groundbreaking, character-driven storytelling. He has had several screenplays featured on Hollywood’s prestigious Black List and was recently the featured author in Burningwood Literary Journal. When not sending rich producers and literary agents gift baskets, he is hard at work perfecting his craft. He has currently written numerous short stories, two books of poetry, a debut novel, and many screenplays.

Three Changes

This isn’t about a man evaporating to skeleton,

or joe bargaining with air

from a combat zone

as his father lies on the crucifix bed,

moaning so coherently the sins of the world

coalesce, come forth in black chugs

of foam, intestine, final whispers of God.


Not the twenty-by-twenty-foot crater

where the memory of joe’s name lay

less than a week before,

and the surgically sliced face of Khobar Towers,

and the blood, and the globs of flesh

that may someday be you or me.


Not even the memory of morning drill

at Rocky Mountain Arsenal—numbered

chairs matched to numbered masks,

assigned lanes, impromptu sirens,

seven-second scramble to don

writhing rubber faces before nerve gas

can drop the body in a heaving break dance.

And after, stepping outside, the ice fog lifts

as from a lunar landscape,

iridescent sun rising between snow plain,

mountain and smog crest.


This is what joe means—three changes

of clothes (enough in his college days),

three pairs of shoes with no holes (enough

for old age), a quiet room with comfortable

bed and covered mirrors.


by Will Harris

Originally from San Antonio, Texas, Will Harris was born into a military family and spent most of his public school years outside the U.S., particularly in England and Germany. After serving two military staff tours in the Middle East, he left the military but returned to live in the United Arab Emirates. He and his wife visit the U.S. during the summer months. Will’s writing is forthcoming or has been published in African American Review, The Austin Writer, Cold Mountain Review, College Language Association Journal, Colorado-North Review, decomP, Eleventh Muse, Existere, Mantis, MELUS, NEBULA, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Storyscape, The Trinity Review, Voices in English, Wascana Review, Word Riot, Writers’ Forum, and The Zora Neale Hurston Forum.


A Ghost of a Chance

You must have had the same experience. You meet someone and in an instant, you know they’re the one. That’s the way it was with Maggie. The fact that she’s a ghost created complications, sure. But when you’ve fallen in love, you’re not stopped by the first hurdle.

Hugging was a challenge. I wound up caressing myself, and her arms passed through me. So I make a circle, locking my hands, and Maggie stepped inside. She doesn’t squeeze.

We close our eyes when we kiss and allow the mental image to transport us. Nice.

Now, we’re working on making love. We can’t unfasten each other’s clothes, so we strip ourselves. God, is she beautiful. A little pale, but a vision nonetheless. At first, I kept falling through her. It’s an odd sensation. I thought to rig up some sort of suspension for me above her, but that was too restrictive. Maggie had the solution. She got on top.

I think Maggie’s smarter than me.


by Joseph Giordano

Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their little shih tzu, Sophia. Joe’s stories have appeared in more than sixty-five magazines including Bartleby Snopes, The Monarch Review, and The Summerset Review. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, will be published October 8th by Harvard Square Editions. Read the first chapter and sign up for his blog at


Michael Salcman

The Eloquent Insufficiency of Poems

—James Woods, The New Yorker


They may begin with a stutter and a pause—

the interruption grows,

reality first distends then explodes

in silence, like a spider’s web struck on purpose

by a trowel.


The sun isn’t better seen

by the shredding of the filmic screen

but the heat I feel more intently is like a burn

rubbed sore

because pain is such a pleasure.


In a delicate moment

the beautiful web is sundered, over-revised and gone;

you search for but can’t find

its worm-like thread on the ground

where the earth is turning the color of excrement.



The Free Market


What shall we eat—high carb or low carb?

I want to tell you something you already know

but don’t know how to say—

the uncommon speech of the everyday, always a new routine.

Science is so imperfect and cancer in our gut so common.

Here’s the pitchman selling his speech

his thoughts like a harvest of grain,

each stalk a new solution, each harvest the same.

The MRI says it all, our shrunken lobes paddling in CSF

like poisoned fish, unnaturally thin and swimming out of habit.

We will die on the coasts swelling with melted frost

one limb at a time, charity floating away on a raft

of good intentions. You speak and I hear the cant of can’t,

how hopelessness echoes from shore to shore.

It’s late in the day; the orange sun seduces the sailor

with its adjusted color and a heat hotter than hot

spelling frost. The commentaries you read and trust

are cold eyed. The damsel in distress at the countertop pulls on

a chemise that will make her thinner, even serene

and the would-be boyfriend thinks her a queen, not rot.

I’m standing against all advice, to make it new or do it again—

life caught in the net or, if literary, trapped in the seine.

We are baking lies like Christmas pies and eating them

like a drug. The Greeks fell for ambrosia not heroin.


by Michael Salcman


MICHAEL SALCMAN, poet, physician and art historian, was chair of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland. Recent poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Hopkins Review, The Hudson Review, New Letters, Ontario Review, and Rhino. Poetry books include The Clock Made of Confetti, nominated for The Poet’s Prize, and The Enemy of Good Is Better (Orchises, 2011); Poetry in Medicine, his anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors and diseases has just been published (Persea Books, 2015).


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