What You Didn’t See Coming

The first time you get

the wind knocked out of you,

you will be astonished

by what seems a fatal wallop—

one moment running,

the next, bulge-eyed and gaping

like a carp tossed in a rowboat.

No one prepares us.

We face this first shock

as innocents, unwarned

of the breathtaking thwack,

unassured of its passing.

Having lost what was thought

a basic given, it’s only natural

to reconsider the dependable,

and adopt, perhaps,

a more cautious posture,

for who could frolic

in their stocking feet or leap

with quite the same abandon,

once they know

how slick the footing,

how sudden and cruel the blow?


Angie Hexum is a speech-language pathologist by trade. A Nebraska native, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area after graduating from Swarthmore College. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Caesura and Gyroscope Review. She currently resides in Campbell, CA where she enjoys hiking, cycling, and singing in a chorus.


Angie Hexum

“Not everything’s a poem”

When she said that,

I think she has never tasted how a good Irish whiskey

echoes in your mouth after you swallow its heat.

Or understood the way lint can reveal the archeology of your life.

Her comment tells me she has never watched

a vivid crimson cardinal alight on the halo of a basketball hoop

in the fading light of an afternoon.

If she can say that, I’m sure she hasn’t felt the love

when the wind caresses the yew tree.

And she will be mystified by why you must throw away

the first crepe in the pan to the dog.

When it comes to believing in the curative power

of the medicine of tears, she probably doesn’t.

And if she cannot hear how the meter of the telegraphic SOS

from the Titanic can truly break your heart,

She’s just not listening hard enough.


Larry Oakner is the author of three chapbooks of poems, including Unwinding the Words (Blind Tattoo Press) SEX LOVE RELIGION (Blind Tattoo Press), and The 614th Commandment (under his pseudonym, Eleazar Baruch), along with a chapbook, The Canticles of Private Lucius Swan, (Pen & Anvil Press). Over 50 of his poems have appeared in publications such as The Ekphrastic Review, Red Eft Review, Red Wolf Press, WINK, The Oddville Press, Tricycle: Buddhist News, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Lost Coast Review, The Long Island Quarterly, and many others.


Larry Oakner

A New Term for It

Indoctrinating myself

I shuffle towards the polls

And pull the lever

Expecting a trapdoor to open up

And plunge me into the awaiting waters below

The Styx or just a secret underground channel

Leading perhaps to the East River

They’re both abysmal passages

Whichever way you cut it

But some abysses lead to an absence you can’t come back from

So I guess decisions matter



Josef Krebs has a chapbook published by Etched Press and his poetry also appears in 77 issues of 35 different magazines, including Burningword Literary Journal, Tacenda, The Bohemian, Organs of Vision and Speech Magazine, Free State Review, and DASH Literary Journal. A short story has been published in blazeVOX. He’s written three novels and five screenplays. His film was successfully screened at Santa Cruz and Short Film Corner of Cannes film festivals.


Josef Krebs

Everywhere All the Time (with a Line from Ashley Capps)

I hear a shotgun crack and find mother

at the woodpile—she’s shot another rat snake.

“But,” I say, “they keep the rabbit population down?”

“I like rabbits,” is her reply. “But your garden,” I say.

“Nothing anyone can do about that,” she sighs.


Here, it’s rabbits everywhere, all the time.

It’s like my brain conducts this leporine improvisation

of a to-and-fro mind, of a heart running for cover,

of jumpy, interrogative eyes.


When I mow the fields they watch me, race by my side.

When I search the night for satellites standing mother’s

living garden, there’s always one or two bunnies there,

piebald hearts beneath a half-stoned moon, stunned.


Rabbits manage nests from their own hair mixed with

scratched out soil. There’s one by the split elm, another

in the clover beneath a pram carrying eight kinds of mint.


Mom finds a new nest beneath the Muhly grass’s

pink pencil-troll head. We count nine newborn rabbits

pulsing as one like the heart Kate and I watched together

on a sonogram screen in a small, dim basement room.


I walk away and stand between two sunflowers tall as me.

I’ve caught them at the end of their conversation. One

sunflower says, “I am greater than or equal to the lack

and luck is weather that permits my red begonias.”


I count seven sunflowers, heads perfect size to be arranged

in a vase for an anniversary, but I let their necks hang free,

bent down toward one another, yellow, green, and brown.


Eric Roy is the author of All Small Planes (Lily Poetry Review Press 2021), which received the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions nominations for its hybrid writing. His recent work can be found or is forthcoming at Bennington Review, Fence, Iowa Review, Ploughshares, Salamander, Third Coast, and elsewhere.


Eric Roy

The Museum of Future Affairs

To go back is as hard almost

as forward.


We all got a little silence lodged

in our molars some time


in middle school, mostly.

Field trips to the museum of future affairs,


long bus rides, behind the glass

our taxidermied bodies


in frozen poses of parenting,

pharmacy lines, conference rooms.


On the ride back we did not discuss it and also

there was no ride back.


We lived there in the museum, locked in,

setting fires in the courtyard to keep busy.


No one came for us

and we liked it that way.


Wrapped our fists in the curtains,

broke the glass,


hauled out our own effigies.

Only warmed them by the fire.


To go forward is much

harder than backward but also less impossible.


They came for us, pounded on the doors,

begged and begged.


We would not budge. Not locked in

but them locked out.


The smoke they thought

was signal was just s’mores.


In the basement canned food

for any number of eternities.


Draped our arms around

ourselves and sang songs


we didn’t know yet.

The silence dried up,


our teeth gleamed, a new silence

came to cushion us.


It was different, springier,

a shared give in the air.


Oh, sure, there must be lots we’re missing,

but we’d just be missing more


out there. We’ve seen enough.

No season left to tempt us.


Katherine Tunning lives in Boston with her partner and a highly variable number of cats. Some of her recent poetry has appeared in Red Rock Review, Prime Number Magazine, and The Westchester Review. Her work has been nominated for the Sundress Best of the Net anthology and the Pushcart Prize and awarded the 2020 Penn Review Fiction Prize. You can find her online at www.katherinetunning.com.


Katherine Tunning

From across the Tracks

Up county, here in Mount Kisco, the men

from across the tracks wait patiently

at the station every weekday morning,

not for a train, but a day job, seated

on the edge of the sidewalk or against

the fence, near where cars enter to drop off

or pick up, all expectantly catching

the gazes of incoming drivers,

signaling silently, Whatever it is

you have to do, I can do it for you.

By noon, many head home to emptiness,

their wives away to serve as maids for

the more well-to-do. I wait for the train

from the Bronx that brings my housekeeper.


Jim Tilley has published three full-length collections of poetry and a novel with Red Hen Press. His short memoir, The Elegant Solution, was published as a Ploughshares Solo. His poem, “On the Art of Patience,” was selected by Billy Collins to win Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize for Poetry. Four of his poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His next poetry collection, Ripples in the Fabric of the Universe: New & Selected Poems, will be published in June 2024.


Jim Tilley

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