James Thomas

Requiem for an Empire

“Always, always you recede through the evenings
toward the twilight erasing statues.”
          —”Clenched Soul,” Pablo Neruda


I remember you with my soul clenched,

realizing the ground has given way.

This façade crumbles, a life envisioned

becomes a ruin before its construction—

our vast empire founded on untruth and decay.


I remember you with my mind blockaded,

every exit patrolled by the ghost of us.

Trapped within this hostile land

I hide in the shadows of monuments

dedicated to a god that no longer exists.


I remember you with my body broken,

blood that would have spilled for you

wasted on barren earth, boiling in the heat

of the sun that once polished your face,

but now blisters my eyes as I remember.


As I gaze upon our remnants,

sand claiming what was once ours,

I recall those earth-ending words—

they caught like bones in your throat,

until they lurched out, laying waste.


I stand here, in remembrance of our empire,

devastation ruling my heart, your name

treading the edge of my tongue

as I force myself to stone, yet crack.

I am all that has survived—


A crumbling statue at the center of nothing.


by James Thomas





They wake despite themselves,

backs still turned, each spine an abatis against intruders.


First-sleep is broken by the witching

time of night; Circadian servants rebel against their ruler.


Neither remembers why they’d fought,

or is certain that they ever had, confounded by dreams.


Wheel and pinion turn in unison:

mechanical precision, oneiric delirium.


Wordless mouths blindly advance,

mashing together with  sacramental stress.


Hands pass over skin like braille

their serpentine bodies  in blissful anguish.


Order’s simulacrum born

of bedlam: zealots under goose-down.


They offer sacrifices

to each other, prayers, seeds.


Unburdened and disarmed,

they end, captivated, entangled,


And drift

to sleep—their spirits cleansed, their flesh unclean.


by James Thomas






I dream of a corpse lying before me—

rigid and staring, eyes fogged over,

mouth tightened to a grin—

a warm gesture from my dead-ringer.


I smile back at this cold me, my knife

sliding down his chest like a lover’s

hand, lustful precision arousing flesh

to reveal its taunting secrets.


He opens up to me—a host of maladies

malign my inquiries—each adamant

about their role in my friend’s demise.

So I ask my corpse, “what killed us?”


His grin is less welcoming now, ribcage

glistening in fluorescent light, I dig

for answers. My knife nicks his liver,

like an eagle’s beak, over and over.


In the silent room I hear my own heart

beating back the stillness of death.

For an instant, it seems his heart beats

in time with mine, but no. I continue.


I grasp his heart, press it in unison

with my own—a last-ditch effort

of a  man wishing to become

Lazarus, but my prayer falls unheard.


I set my tools aside.

I glance back at my pale face—the eternal

grin mocking my  fear,

happier dead than I will ever be.


by James Thomas



James Thomas is a Senior at the University of North Texas studying Creative Writing.


She mumbles into tubes

and silver scissor.

They cut

her hair:

on the floor old dull needles.


I think of my mother

braiding my hair

half-asleep, her fingers weaving

in the dark.


Above the floor are

a mother’s fingers moving in and

out of the silver hair. The nurse sweeps

it into a bucket, the hand’s ghost,

the girl’s hair, their endless

inexorable braid.


by Brittany N. Jaekel


Brittany is currently studying communication disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and hopes to pursue a PhD in the field. She graduated with a dual degree in creative writing and psychology from Northwestern University in 2011, and writes poetry when she has a moment to spare.

If there was a new way to dance

If there was a new way to dance, I hope

the first step is to give your last dollar

to a stranger.  That you firmly hold

your partner’s hands and hips

while talking softly in the shower.

Instead of tapping your feet,

you’d pray for someone who isn’t eating enough.

You wouldn’t learn to breakdance, pop-and-lock, twerk:

but you’d savor a fresh cup of green tea and honey,

get sand beneath your toes while practicing

handstands on the beach, and take time for naps.

A new kind of dance, where there are no missteps

because there is no wrong way

to laugh heartily at a good joke,

kiss lovingly in a downpour after missing a train,

or watch a child learn to read.

In this dance, the music never stops

because cats don’t stop purring,

the wind will always blow over the grass,

while mothers coo at their babes, brothers argue

over who gets to be which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

as sisters joyfully sigh. 

And in this new dance, no one is sitting.  Everyone dances.

Every young man too shy to move

is greeted by a pretty smile.

Every elderly couple who thinks that

their dancing days are long behind them

find themselves singing while making

cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving with perfect rhythm.

And every girl who is timid

because they’ve danced with boys who have stepped on their toes

will find someone to write poetry with on planes.


by Max Henderson



Max Henderson is a doctoral student in physics at Drexel University. Originally from Coatesville, Pennsylvania, he researches neural networks and quantum computation when he’s not too busy watching Adventure Time. His poems are about making mistakes while drinking a good, dark beer. He has been published online in Black Heart Magazine, Crack The Spine, the Ampersand Review, and Citizen Brooklyn, and has work in Crack The Spine’s Spring 2013 Anthology.


They started seeping in slowly. None of us noticed. One or two, here or there. Easily explained.

 The doorbell buzzed and opened to a dreadlocked orange vest at the bottom of the stairs.

“I need to read your meter”

He starts forward. He wants to cut through the house.

 “I got a big dog in here.”

He doesn’t argue, just gives me a blank stare.

“Drive around through the alley.” I say, as he climbs in his truck.

He comes in the back gate. It took only a minute for the reading, nothing unusual. Except it was then that I saw them. The buzzing swarm.   He shoos them away as he slips back out the gate. I follow them. Droning and crawling inside the porch beams. Squeezing in between the slats. Dark vibrations shuddering under the eaves. Hundreds or more. At dusk I creep and hit them hard with creamy white oil from a lethal black spray bottle. I sleep content till dawn. Then through the window over the coffeemaker they come.  Bigger. Mad. Sickly. I spend more hours with the spray. Up on a ladder and down on crooked knees. I seal the holes with insulating tape and foam. But the carpenters are boring holes like cheese. I hear the tapping of their bodies against the tape. Louder. Harder. Inside desperate to get out, outside hell bent to get in.  I hear them zipping, darting, honing. Sharpening.  Meter man locked the back gate. Everything is moving. The house is alive and coated.  A massive hive.  The first sting starts the flood. I am puffy, soft and porous by the time I go down.

Elizabeth McGuire

This I Know For Sure

I’m writing this from Jeff’s Lazy-boy sofa. The cracks in the brown leather makes it look like an artifact from Constantinople, untouched by human hands for thousands of years. It’s almost as if he sculpted a casing of his bum’s shape in an impulsive moment of creation, like dentists do when molding impressions for night guards. The absence his real bum feels, exquisite, in a way — kind of makes me want to jump up and down on it. But I’m not going to vacuum the petrified mango chips in the pull-out bed unit. I’m not.

There are days where all I do is wait for you. Your silence. Is that the answer? When I read your preface to “How to Share the Skies,” I imagined you floating between Triangulum Australe (my favorite constellation), calling from the space station with your lyrics in progress: ‘But I’m already here. Like a translucent leaf. Half lit by sun.’

Remember that poem I wrote in Ohio during the private coaching hour? ‘Flowers in Winter’? It’s like that. Not Jeff’s elliptical in the dining room. No. It’s what he calls the swear word. The word that is not okay to talk about in our house. S-Oo-U-L. This makes me feel like a kindergartener again, always trying to hide my incompetence. Like what Oprah said in the summer issue of her magazine about how carnations are bogus. “This I know for sure,” she wrote. “Living a lie is a dangerous thing, like the dentist who loves veterinary science and resents himself for it, while sealing the tooth of fifteen year old kid in khaki shorts and flip flops.” When I’m at my dentist, I think about eggshells in the garbage disposal. Slipping my hand inside. Running from the sink. Facet left on hot. Blood on the white IKEA rug.

Sometimes, I give this wheelchair bound homeless woman a quarter, hoping she will reveal herself as an angel, instantly leaping out of her chair in humble service. My life has left me, I will say. And she’ll tell me exactly how to call it home — what train to catch, the best luggage shop in town, which socks to buy. The blue. It’s more likely she’ll just ask for more money while ranting on about the Vietnam War or past lives. She believes pain is inherited from generation to generation and that she was born at the beginning of time as a single celled animal. I can’t distinguish if this woman’s story is worthy of an e-mail to Oprah or not. Or if this will move beyond your agent’s spam filter. There is nothing I know for sure.

Gregory Josselyn

John Grey poems

Self Non-Explanatory


When anyone asks me,

I invoke the great-great-uncle

with the walrus moustache

who was lost among the wilds of New Guinea,

believed eaten by cannibals.

Sometimes I even recall a movie I once saw,

retelling it so dramatically,

hands waving, voice loud,

I’m all the characters at once.

If people wish to know who I am,

I divert them with fading photographs in albums,

books about Europe in the nineteen century,

a piece of music played the night before

an army went into battle.

Do they really want to know

the places where I scratch,

the baseball team I root for,

my favorite character in “Friends”

Dig up that great-great uncle if you will

but I prefer to remain buried.

Wait for that movie to be rerun on TV,

just not the one where my leading role

was reduced to a minor character.

I’m indifferent to the soliloquy,

prefer the conversation of others.

There’s so much that isn’t me

and that’s a great place to start.



In Cell Phone City


The woman driving the car is on her cell phone.

She’s in heavy traffic, at least all but her voice, and her ears.

Her hearing is well out of reach of the blistering horns.

the grinding engines, the guy beside her streaming

cuss words into the smoggy air.

And her tongue has no interest in making comment

on the world around her: the rear bumper of the

Nissan crawling a foot or so ahead, the lights

swaying above, as slow to change as Galapagos turtles.

“Yes, I’ll be there at eight. Mandy’s baby is due any

day now. Roger doesn’t want to make a commitment.”

Suddenly, her accelerator foot makes the wrong choice.

Her Toyota thumps into that unfortunate Nissan.

It’s 7.30 in the morning. The accident occurs on time.

The other driver is hovering over her car, waving his fist.

Could be his way of making a commitment.


John Grey


John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in International Poetry Review, Sanskrit and the science fiction anthology, “Futuredaze” with work upcoming in Clackamas Literary Review, New Orphic Review and Nerve Cowboy.

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