The Wars That One Can Not Win

“Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness

and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save

your souls.  (James 1:21 RSV)


I scratched, pinched, bit my way through today

as if I didn’t come from a long line of God fearing folk

but from Darwin’s monkeys being provoked with pokes of fun

by human aliens all safe on the other side of the hellish cage.

I dug a deep trench hiding safely behind garbage bags of self pity

then started a sunrise war with my defenseless family,

went on to battle an army of co-workers until lunch hour found me

picking fights with unarmed cashiers, shoppers, fruit vendors,

with noses lifted so high in the air they could probably

identify by smell the flowers in heaven but not tell me..

I missed when I tried to kick a snarling dog

on the leash of a snarling man both of whom barked

at me with mouthfuls of long, white teeth, crooked

like the interlacing necks of hungry trumpeter swans

I saw later while sitting on the bench but didn’t care to feed.

Beating it home, I blasted the horn, shook a mean finger

at a gang of elementary kids playing dodge ball in the street

then couldn’t find a song on the car radio that

didn’t fill me up with great big foul irritation.


Saying prayers while I brush my teeth and my husband snores

I ask God why he gave me the burden of so much anger today

even though I know He didn’t, will mercifully forgive and help me

once I  accept the blame, humbly drop to my knees to pick up

the empty cartridges of my wicked weapons of words and deeds,

that I pray have left no permanent wounds in the lives of others.

All that I have won today is a flag of guilt slapping me in the face

with the filth of my own hands; a flag at half staff with it’s metal pole

jammed deep into the shallow ground of my soul.           


Carol A. Oberg


During her writing career Carol has published widely with Blue Mountain Arts, Inc., was one of three featured poets (10 works) in Ancient Paths, issue 16, and has also published with Carcinogenic Poetry, The Avocet, Extract(s), and in the fall issue of The Fourth River (Chatham University). This poem was first published in Ancient Paths in 2010 and was nominated for a Pushcart Award.

A Daughter’s Birthday

Methylphenidate is the name I use

To lull my child to sleep,

Swaddling her diaper rash in vinyl chloride.

I haven’t slept in days but no matter, red eyes

they suit me like latex gloves.


[What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
Or else,
The pricks of a thousand chemicals
grow you new tumor friends
to show your family and coworkers.]


Paraben is the name I write on my mailbox

to ensure everyone knows not to write.

I’m not home, but I am

Inhabiting the home.

Breathing in lingering Febreeze fumes,

my mouth pressed against the armchair arm.

While the baby’s red mouth squalls.


Hetrocyclic amine is the name I say

on my child’s first birthday,

to call her out from hiding under the stairs.

I wrap my arm around her chest

and urge her to pet the neighbor’s snarling dog.

While his wife frosts a high fructose cake

and counts out Styrofoam plates.  


Meagan Maguire

Meagan Maguire is a 22 year old poet living and occasionally working in Portland, Maine. She enjoys reading, running, and informing people there actually is another Portland besides the one in Oregon. Previously her work has been featured or will be featured in The Alarmist, The Golden Sparrow Literary Review, The Eunoia Review, Words & Images, and Marco Polo Arts Mag.

Burning City Of The Heart

for Susan


It’s the voice that puts

me to sleep,

something like a waltz,

the dancing to the end of love,

Leonard Cohen’s hoarse slow

tempo moving through the heart

like streets without names.

At night I stumble

into other people’s dreams.

I could simply leave

through the keyhole

but there is food

on the table,

a woman combing

her hair who looks

so much like

my first love.


Vladimir Swirynsky


Vladimir’s 20th book of poetry Poetry: The Tedious Mining Of The Words is due out in October from New Kiev Publication.

Christine Reilly poems

For the Ghost in My Bed


Negotiating the sheets, playing my feet —
an instinctive prelude!  You’d been once
a wholly authentic person: fingernails, aquiline nose.  
Now there’s a chilling patience
to you: half-exposed, half-sparkling.
We build our nest like a sleeve of jazz.  There’s company
and a cake and some words no one
means or hears.  We speak a language
of soft bullets, a code of violet rats.  Where truth
is not dissolved it is kept fuzzy. You (my soft friend)
watch me eat.   Tonight overflows
with stars and wishes not for
the good to start happening but for
the bad to finish.  The scary may remain
with a person (however
discreet). I’d been lonely
a lot as god sent
very little.  There are those
in this bleeding world who need
ritual but now I have you
my ghost and we let
what’s terminal coexist.




The night of the party, at three am, nobody knows if you’re using the bathroom or lying in a ditch five hundred miles away.  You call 911 and hear she’s leaving home after living alone for so many years.  You call Sanctuary but you can’t use electricity today.  Shabbat Shalom.  The ditch looks like you can fit two or three people inside.  Writing this means you’re not healthy anymore.  It’s a pretty good party.  Everyone’s drinking gin buckets.  The last time they made gin buckets you lost your underwear.


Christine Reilly


Christine Reilly lives in New York and teaches writing at the Collegiate School.  She used to work at Tin House and Gotham Writers Workshop.  Christine has been published in over fifty journals.  She received my MFA from Sarah Lawrence and my BA from Bucknell.  

Elevator Girl

Red coat. That’s the first thing I see when she walks into the elevator. She’s pretty. She sees me there standing between six others in a cramped elevator. We lock eyes. She smiles. I blush. A scent passes my nostrils. Spring time rain. I envision lying in a field in a soft springtime drizzle. I look up and see her. I smile. A loud conversation carries around us, but her and I stay silent.

She reaches to press her floor button, 6. I see mine, 9. Damn. Not enough time. The elevator stops at the third floor. The crowd around us leaves. We make eye contact as the door closes leaving the two of us alone. We both look back down, smiling to ourselves.

Fourth floor. I start to sweat. I check my phone out of habit. The silence is stifling. I gulp nervously.

Fifth floor. Wait what could I do? What can I even do now? Is it too late to start a conversation? No! I need something more direct. This girl must obviously be someone special. She’s even wearing rain-scented perfume, I love the smell of rain!

Sixth floor. She looks at me, smiles nervously. I smile back hesitating. The door opens and she starts to leave. I grab her by her hand and she looks back at me surprised. I smile and pull her in to kiss her. Inches closer and closer. She snaps out of my hand and slaps my face disgusted

“Oh! Sicko!” She yells.

She grabs her bag and guards her body as she strides quickly off the elevator and out of my sight.

“Well I misread that,” I say to no one but myself as the elevator door closes behind her.

Bryan Crumpley

Bryan Crumpley is a Chicago writer, currently studying fiction writing at Columbia College Chicago. He has spent half his life in California and half in Chicago, but he’s spent the entirety as a writer both in craft and soul.


1. A Steinbeck Aha


Peering upward from the apogee

of infinite soaring mirrors

I watch you stray far off course.

Thus is produced an aha moment

as luck exits the equation.


You’re exposed like a water lily

that floats on thick firmament.


I fix my focus on

your dusty gray work shirt

as you stoop to pull chickweed

from ever widening cracks

in the pavement.


A bitter wind whips waves—

the lights of Seaside

cauterize Monterey Bay.



2.  Transmogrified


He was kept after school

due to acute insubordination.

He fought substantiation,

a train at the roundhouse

getting loaded with coal.


He weathered transmigration

across riven continents

to make a stand as a race

that in time gained ground.


He tossed formulas down

crevices of secret canyons,

learned his lessons

devoid of impressions.


In accordance his teacher

made him recite ABCs

backwards endlessly.


3. Hat Trick


My shoulders pressed firmly

against the back wall

of McFly’s nightclub

on Saturday night.

Capitalist ESPN beams

Giants battling Dodgers.

Budweiser ubiquitous,

the assembly salubrious,

will reach fever pitch

once music commences.


Then a commercial:

the black bear

bounces a basketball

between its hind legs

like a Harlem Globetrotter.


The best mudder won

the Derby this afternoon.

Subway cars ramble,

rattle in my ears

like bulletproof cobras.



There are quite enough scallywags

and false prophets among us

to swindle any god

out of every drop of blood.


We evidence ostentatious laissez faire

connoisseurs of exotic wines and fruits

along the palatine boardwalks

that span massive galaxies.


Surrounded by scoundrels, would-be

devils and and ghouls we’d just as well

skedaddle, lest lay black tracks

while evaporating in a vapor trail.


Resonance is tested as resistance

evinced by the rooster’s boisterous

cock-a-doodle on a dim chilly morning

when coastal fog gives up the ghost.



Thomas Piekarski


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