Party Lines

In the headlights, fingers of fog weave

over the road, a seamstress just beginning

to patch together the loss of hours and years,

 

the maybe not and the not there yet.

I drive three hours to my mother’s house,

arrive an hour later than she expects,

 

still she’s waiting with dinner. She’s

seventy something, I’m forty-six, we’re still

mother and son. Before I’m finished with

 

the salad, she wants me to accompany her

to two parties this evening: a birthday

and a retirement. Between the roast beef

 

and mashed potatoes, it’s all guilt. I continue

to say, “No,” mentioning the chainsaw and splitting

wood for the stove, playing basketball with my son

 

and friends, and, of course, the drive, and in case

exhaustion isn’t enough, I accept the label

of neglectful son, and whatever else she serves up.

 

Plato, Socrates’ prize student, when he was eighty,

attended a pupil’s wedding party,

and during the celebration retired

 

to a corner of the villa to sleep in a chair.

He stayed there until the all-night revelers

returned in the morning to wake him,

 

but he had slept too far into the Elysian fields,

leaving us with the question: Is it marriage

or a party that leads to the death of philosophy?

 

by Walter Bargen

Walter Bargen has published 21 books of poetry. Recent books include: Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems (BkMk Press, 2009), Trouble Behind Glass Doors (BkMk Press, 2013), Perishable Kingdoms (Grito del Lobo Press, 2017), and Too Quick for the Living (Moon City Press, 2017). His awards include: a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the William Rockhill Nelson Award. He was appointed the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009).www.walterbargen.com

Michael Karl Ritchie

Chess

 

Inside one Russian doll is another,

dressed in a different nationality

and inside that one is yet another.

 

and so on until all of them

gang up and storm the opera house

demanding to see the mayor.

 

Which of them crossed the border

may depend on fingerprints

and the next referendum.

 

As one nation collapses,

another rises up from the same dolls,

each a pawn in a clever sacrifice.

 

  

Flatliners

 

So now the earth is flat

Since nothing’s truly round

Not even a plutocrat

Rolls without a sound

 

On wildlife habitat

Hydraulic drilling pounds

Skinning mountains flat

Unearthing sacred mounds

 

The Fed’s still keeping track

Of stocks that leap and bound

Payback for any kickback

Their graphs are never round.

 

In jazz clubs singers scat

Audiences spellbound

Because the earth is flat

Keep both feet on the ground

 

by Michael Karl Ritchie

Michael Karl Ritchie is a retired Professor of English from Arkansas Tech University with work published in various small press magazines, including The Mississippi Review, Margie, OR Panthology – Ocellus Reseau. He has had three small press chapbook publications and Winter Goose Press has just published his collection of poems Ampleforth’s Miscellany (2017).

 

 

Heath Brougher, Featured Author

Eyeless

 

When your eyes suddenly fell out,

leaving you blind as a bowl of soup,

you frantically began feeling around the floor.

 

On your hands and knees, crawling carefully

to make sure you didn’t crush

one of them with your four-legged steps.

 

Feeling nothing but grunge and grime on the that old linoleum,

you became more panicked with each passing second,

realizing, now that your eyes have fallen out,

just how filthy this world has truly become.

 

 

Noisy Noose

 

The spirit has slowly evaporated,

gradually turned jaded throughout the years,

quelled, wrecked by the jarring persistence of cacophony

that pours through the veins and hallways of this world.

Inspiration melted to a feeble pulp by the noisy noose

of the boisterous trucks and verbose dogs

that populate the neighborhood, filling the air,

the never-silent wind, with an incessant clamor.

 

The poet’s soul will soon be laid to rest among the din.

 

 

The Prevalence of Nothingness

 

Churning the nothingness into a somethingness

is tried. Doesn’t work.

Maybe half-works since I see

kids gathered

in the abandoned parking lot.

It’s like they’re living my youth

which allows me to vicariously relive it myself.

Hail pours from the sky.

Gravity still works.

That is, at least, for now.

 

by Heath Brougher

Heath Brougher is the poetry editor of Into the Void Magazine, winner of the 2017 and 2018 Saboteur Award for Best Magazine. He is a multiple nominee for The Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Award. His newest book is “To Burn in Torturous Algorithms” (Weasel Press, 2018). His work has appeared in journals such as Taj Mahal Review, Chiron Review, MiPOesias, and Main Street Rag.

My Last Screenplay

Whatever they wanted; I didn’t care one way or the other.

I didn’t care if the handicapped wife fell in the well

or the bad guy said he’d save her and didn’t

Or when later, her so over souped corpse

(this discretely off-camera)

was falling off the bone

And the righteous husband, asked by the honest retriever

if he wanted the head…

Take it or leave it, made no never mind to me.

Then…in the distance…the masked rider

galloping towards us

a savior, female,

the tension palpable as she nears…

(think Meryl Streep I’m told)

Could it be?

The return of the white hair woman!

Note for revision:

Introduce white hair woman before her return.

The righteous husband heads off with his young’ns and

the white hair woman to high prairie climes

dusted with snow and newly minted men.

Everything there is for the taking.

Everyone’s a pioneer.

And no one ever goes to the movies.

 

by Mark Stein

Mark Stein’s poetry and creative non-fiction has appeared in Exposition Review, Eclectica, Nimrod, Michigan Quarterly Review, Madison Review and Moment. His plays have been produced at Manhattan Theatre Club, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theater of Louisville, South Coast Repertory, Manitoba Theatre Centre, LA’s Fountain Theater, and most recently an award-winning production at Chicago’s Raven Theater of Direct from Death Row the Scottsboro Boys. He wrote the screenplay for the Steve Martin/Goldie Hawn film, Housesitter, and the New York Times Best Seller, How the States Got Their Shapes, which became the basis for a History Channel series by the same name. His other non-fiction books include American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why; Vice Capades: Sex, Drugs, and Bowling from the Pilgrims to the Present.

 

The Machinery of the State

A relentless South Texas wind poses impossible questions,

Flaps the smirking flags until they are upturned,

Mists the mown grass with evil’s sputum,

Ripples the lone unarmed security guard’s shirt

As he waves concentration camp employees

In and out of the unremarkable office park parking lot.

 

Outside the Casa El Presidente tender-age detention facility

Where children as young as one-month live in cages,

I wonder: How durable is the machinery of the state?

How many of us would it take

To brush past the guard in blue short sleeves

And blue shorts set against a darkening blue sky,

Bald, or head shaved—I can’t tell which with the sun

Dipping lower and lower into the night’s waiting grave—

And set free the children?

One? Ten? One hundred?

 

Does America’s strength reside in this man’s

Minimum-wage-routine, his indifferent pacing?

Do they that hired him have children, believe in love?

How does he feel standing there as darkness falls

And he becomes an inhuman shape silhouetted

Against an inhuman panorama of wind-tossed stars

And a low-slung office building where little children

Sleep the sleep of those who have lost everything?

 

I came here to bear witness.

I came to take a sabbatical from business-as-usual.

What I’ve found is the unimaginable turned banal,

Like a nuclear detonation mentioned in passing

Before CNN cuts for a commercial break.

 

The sun disappears. No one bothers to reach for a flashlight:

Nothing to see; the office curtains are drawn.

The night-shift staff arrives to relieve the day-shift

Like nameless mechanics just doing their job,

For in America we all have jobs, we do them well

And without complaint,

And we quiet our minds with the faith

That hard work can set us free.

 

 by Andy Posner

Andy Posner is a resident of Dedham, Massachusetts. He grew up in Los Angeles and received his Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and Culture from California State University, Northridge. He moved to New England in 2007 to pursue an MA in Environmental Studies at Brown University. While there, he founded Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit that provides small personal loans and financial coaching to low-income families. When not working, he enjoys reading, writing, cycling, and ranting about the state of the world.

 

Tobi Alfier

Abe:

 

Lives in the shadow of the Diner sign,

his bed a shadowy blue neon 24/7.

Ain’t nothin’ much in Ludlow—Abe

sells gas and gives directions to tourists

travelling the infamous Route 66.

 

Just over the tracks, the house where he was raised.

Main house and staff house, nary a window between

them both. He parks there sometimes,

watches the train through the ruined doors,

front and back frames open to the odd fox

creeping through.

 

Abe had his first proper kiss in that staff house.

It was spring, the dry ground blossom-rich

with yellow flowers, cholla standing straight

and proud as always. And Mary, a compass

of thought and feeling across her sunlit face,

knew Abe’s loneliness; she was a friend first,

lover second.

 

A sweet string of years, here and gone,

never forgotten. The streets go about their rhythms,

wind and weather mark the calendar, and every spring

the full moon bears the aching beauty of Mary,

her hand on his face as she kissed him one last time,

then boarded the train, the silhouette of her burning

through her thin flowered dress, lodging in his heart.

 

 

Running Uphill

 

She runs miles each day.

Even when the clouds are fraught

with snow. Even when the sun

shoots arrows through eyes.

She runs as if escaping,

and in truth, she is.

 

Demons from old struggles

follow from her days

to her nightmares.

A couple shots of Cuervo Gold

buys a couple hours

of dreamless sleep,

before it starts again.

 

Her choice of road rises

into foothills while dust devils

rake the desert floor below.

She climbs the distance

ravens climb. Cactus gives way

to fir, fir gives way to rock,

and still she runs.

 

A quick wind creases the air,

warns her to turn around.

Look at the horses already

reined in and protected,

the cottonwoods darkening

with oncoming weather,

not oncoming night.

 

Go home the voice in her says,

before the storm comes.

Runoff hustling over river stones

makes a good run a trackless

pick-your-path and don’t stop run.

Daytime fright with no tequila,

go home. So she turns back.

She is driven but not unwise.

She hits her door. The alarm clock

of the desert’s slow and seamless hours

explodes.

 

 

by Tobi Alfier

Tobi Alfier (Cogswell) is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee.  Her chapbook “Down Anstruther Way” (Scotland poems) was published by FutureCycle Press. Her full-length collection “Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where” was published by Aldrich Press. “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” was just published by Cholla Needles Press. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).

 

 

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