Paul Rogalus

Giant Rat

There was a giant rat that lived in our basement floor apartment in Boston that year. I lived with two guys that I didn’t know very well—and we were all very different personality types. One guy, Tom, worshipped David Bowie. He was a skinny, angular blond guy—with David Bowie hair and clothes. He called himself “Major Tom.” The other guy was Irish Mike. Irish Mike liked the Pogues and the Dropkick Murphies, and all things Irish.


The three of us didn’t have a lot of common interests to talk about. Therefore, we got stoned a lot, and we’d sit around in the living room—which was also where Irish Mike slept—and zone out, watching TV. And the giant rat would lumber across the living room floor, waddling like an armadillo. And we’d be dazed and numbed out, but we appreciated having the rat to focus on. “Holy crap,” someone would say, “that rat is huge!” “It’s more like a dog.”


The rat would squeeze into a hole behind the radiator in Irish Mike’s room and disappear. But then one day the giant rat got stuck. We could hear it—wedged in between the wall and a stud or a pipe in the corner of the living room. It would emit a low squeak and wiggle and push.


We told our landlord about it, but he just sent over an exterminator who left a lot of trays full of poison lying around the apartment. That was the end of the giant rat.


It was sad, like losing a pet. And we didn’t talk to each other about it. We just went about our lives, sharing the painful, tragic glances of parents who silently mourn their lost children.


Johnny Fist

A muscle-bound young blond man strode up to the bar and slapped both of his palms down hard on the wooden counter to get Sherry’s attention. She looked at him, expressionless. He held up six fingers.

“Six beers for Johnny Fist.” He was wearing a tight t-shirt that read: Johnny Fist will Kick some Ass tonight.

“The limit is two,” Sherry answered flatly, putting down two bottles.


Johnny Fist threw some bills onto the bar and smiled, picking up the beers.

“I’ll be back,” he announced.


I’d only been working at the bar for a couple weeks. I’d never seen this guy before. “What’s the deal with the inflatable man?” I asked Sherry.

“Johnny Fist? He’s here quite a bit. He’s a small time professional wrestler—you know, like in that movie with Mickey Rourke. He wrestles down at the armory—I guess he almost always loses. Somebody told me his tights have a black circle on the crotch, with a bright red fist in the center.”

“Figures,” I said, watching Johnny as he worked his way over to a table of girl-women near the bar.


“Who’s got a cigarette for Johnny Fist?” he barked out.

A girl in leather jacket, with a Nascar t-shirt gave him one. Johnny Fist nodded.

“Johnny Fist likes action,” he said with a smile.


“Oh Jesus,” I said, shaking my head.

“He’s all talk,” Sherry said. We watched him pose for the girl-women, flexing his muscle. “I carded him the first time he came in.” Sherry smiled. “His real name is Wendell.”

by Paul Rogalus


Technically, you’re doing a poor job. You have no form.

The hatchet flails down into the uprooted stump.

The beagle howls. George Williams, Mr. Horton, Hilliary,

and the other neighbors spring up in their beds.

The dog’s mug and paws clatter the chain-link fence

like an ambitious kid assigned to the chimes in music class

sweeping the tiny stick over the metal bars

in gloriously abrupt, halted, and sped up glissandos

that out perform the glockenspiels and make the triangle feel

even more alone and pointless.


Despite the fact that everyone you saw yesterday seemed

so much happier than you, don’t you feel a bit better right now?

Your work may achieve what the Roshis speak of: 

Wabi-sabi in the stump. Perfection in imperfection—

gashes si-goggly like fallen trees in a forest

or the green of moss glowing on anything when it’s grey out,

or the hatchet tilted in the corner of your living room

and your decision to take a night off of listening to Stereolab

on opium, and going out back to shave,

whittle, chop, and cut at a piece of hickory.

The neighbors’ kitchen lights flick on,

visored faces against the windows.


by Noah Burton


Jacob Valadez



she is all the red square cathedrals

dipped in honey.

krasnaya, they say archaically.

to my ancient soul

she is an lp’s grooves, that smile

upon fresh rained pavement or,

gliding under the silvery stars,

cosmos borealis.


she rode her turquoise bike away

on a rainy day near the end of the world.

she had an empty wire basket on the rusted front.


five of us


we’re them’s enabler,

so the dealt is done.


burrow deep our friends,

the sun is hot salt.


them doesn’t like us,

like grapes who eats one?


we knew magic. them

died, smothered from love.


i, in time


i read somewhere that time

   or their time or her time so

   this magnificent quote, i thought

  was not the same to any one person

 and when i came across

 i should take my time

 how my time was different from your time

   caught on a crisp autumn breeze and no more

 slip by the most fluidly, scarves

   and live for the times that seem to

 subject to time than am i.


run away wheel


pitter patter, pink matter,

can you hear the hamster breathe?

pretty lights up resuscitation’s reach

tunnel’s end beyond reasoning up

throw god shaped lightning bolts control-

ed by a rodent spinning out of sight.


pity stares past sight,

look, pay attention, hamster matter-

s aren’t about control,

but correcting the way you breathe

and blank and bring up

how Reich sounds three things away from reach.


hamsters race along sulci reach-

ing down into depths, sight-

ing scopes to clean up

rainbows of red and red matter

that chokes, rainbow roots breathe

for you. what lies? control.


you have black holes in you that control

singular processes like when you reach

deep in your lungs for air, breathe

in singularities hamsters see under a microscope’s sight

so they can tell how the dark matter-

s. so please hurry up.


hipster hamsters know what’s up,

but up can be down if the control

room gets messed up, what’s the matter

with death riding bengal tigers that reach

for food that’s not a sight

unseen in a neuronal ocean that can breathe.


hello house. hello hal. just breathe

pops, read something to keep up

the spirits bought in a paper bag sight-

ed by cops dressed as hamsters who control-

s how now? brown cows reach

for golden status to be false matter.


vital is breathe you while mind in kept, matter

that hamsters own your to up sanity for try a, reach

than perfect more sight no knows control


small birds


i am sitting at the top of a building in the rain

there is always the now if the then was kept forgotten

the cold salt 

a small bird wakes in the nest

eyes open

i like his skin too cool

the small bird cries out on the edge of the nest as the wind whips around

my heart is pattering and he sees it

i am he and he is i

it patters in time with the rain

harder and harder like the ground the bird hits

i lose them to rain down on him and he feels their sound

the pattering heart holds me still and devours me

the shadow deafens him to the birds song

the skin too cool reaches me and I am fed

i am the bird

i am the man

now i can lie like the birds and their young 


by Jacob Valadez


Mr. Valadez is an aspiring writer who is currently attending the University of California San Diego as an undergraduate.

Paid Dues

Excerpt from Lily’s Odyssey, a novel, published with permission by All Things That Matter Press; its first chapter a Short List Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award for Best New Writing


At the next session Dirk said, “To end your sense of abandonment you should find companionship. You have one foot in the traditional role for women and the other in women’s lib.” 

Yes, I’d been guided into the pink coral and branded with the “Triple O”: Obligation to God (church) and parents, Obedience to church and parents, Others take precedence over you, before being released to the marriage market; if I hadn’t returned to Nicolet City, I probably wouldn’t have strayed. I didn’t say anything so he continued; “I see about three months of work to get a new coat to protect yourself against obsessions.”

I stared at the hem of his pants and recalled Cal saying after first seeing Doctor, “It’s the first time I’ve seen a doctor wear leather pants. Is that some European thing like his mustache? He sure charges enough to make himself look like a doctor.”

“Do you think I should give Thomas Hirsch more information about what I’m doing?”

“Go right ahead.  Where’s the danger of letting it be known you’re doing so much because your bastard of an uncle won’t help?”

I was so surprised it was a moment before I said, “But it’d show him up,” frowning at the stained glass white dove with the black branch in its mouth.

When he folded his arms and said, “You’ve more than paid your dues,” I was surprised that being a Christian he’d say that. Yet, Doctor had said it too.


by Carol Smallwood


Carol Smallwood co-edited Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching (McFarland, 2012) on the list of Best Books for Writers by Poets & Writers Magazine; Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing (Key Publishing House, 2012); Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity, and Other Realms (Anaphora Literary Press, 2011) received a Pushcart nomination. Carol has founded, supports humane societies.

Drunk Dream

You and me and brightness

You and me and pink and

Purple widening circles.


The pale skin on your neck,

That red cowlick like Tin Tin’s,

Your eyes, wide and blue.


Someone sings in a high,

Clear voice. We come close

To kissing, but don’t.


by Catherine Simpson


Catherine Simpson is a cellist who lives in Santa Barbara. She has been previously published in the Big River Poetry Review, Right Hand Pointing, Spectrum, Step Away Magazine, and Into the Teeth of the Wind. 

Samantha Seto



Breaking before our eyes into a sound,

as whoosh and swish of the ocean tide.

In constant as rhythmic strokes

branches crack and are thrown into the stream.


I stood among the trees and watched,

immobile in the cooling shade,

the leaf surfaced, face up beneath the bridge.

Woooh, the wind howled,


Cut limbs falling, the crack they make,

each dropping from its trunk as though for once

the last branch of winter made us trim.


Lost for violence of mid-air branches,

soft current dragged on as wind chimes

blew at the stretch of the dam.


Wading water into land, downward

as the deep blue sea, at times where

the light reflected a bend.


Slowed the surface calm waters,

evergreen trees lined the banks of river,

as natural forces contained the seed of life.




The windows are blown out.

Abandonment offers silence,

our yard grown wildly immeasurable

in green, red, yellows, and browns.


Long recollection of a story roars out.

Sagging doors creak, left ajar, stuck in hinges,

we meet halfway.


Closing the door to those that left for good,

ways of going away, leaving our forsaken home.


We used to have our meals and slept upstairs,

the wooden floor makes hisses at us.


Spiral staircase leads us nowhere now,

quiet whispers we murmured before bed,

shhh – everything is truly silent.


by Samantha Seto


Samantha Seto is a writer. She has been published in various anthologies including Ceremony, Soul Fountain, Blue Hour, Carcinogenic Poetry, and Black Magnolias Journal.

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