Betsy Martin

Standing As Instructed


My mother still

under her sky-blue shroud,

with her head turned to the side.

I lie down beside her.


With my face close to hers,

hers unstirring,

I take her face in my hands.

Her cheeks, two peaches

left on the ground

after the frost,

grow warm and her eyes

open—her blue-green eyes

so rich with enigma.

She smiles

and the dew

of her single breath

awakens the closeness

we never had

and that I find

only in a poem.


My mother still

under her sky-blue shroud.

I stand

ten feet away,

as the funeral director

has instructed,

for reasons of sanitation.



Summer Vacation In Europe


Light glints off

my father’s ivory suit

in pointed rays like swords

that outshine even

the intense summer sun.


Thus armed, he orders

the day’s essentials

from restaurants, hotels.

I long for his gleam.


My mother’s is hazy,


as she explicates

walls of paintings and frescoes

in every museum and church.

I linger behind,


a reluctant tourist

in the dappled region

of age fourteen,

where, as in the arched womb

of a huge cathedral,

the perpetual dawn or twilight

smells of stone and mystery,

and glimmers flutter

high above

like white birds

caught under the ceiling.


by Betsy Martin

Betsy Martin works at Skinner House Books in Boston. She studied at Harvard University, where she earned an AB in English and American literature; the Pushkin Institute in Moscow and the Middlebury Russian School, where she graduated with an MA in Russian language; and Brown University, where she received an MA in Russian literature. When Betsy happens by a window in her busy schedule, she enjoys bird watching with her husband and playing the piano. Betsy’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Alembic, Assisi Journal, Barely South Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly (Best of the Net nomination), Existere, Front Range Review, Gemini Magazine, Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Helix, Limestone Journal, Louisville Review, Magnapoets, Minetta Review, Organs of Vision and Speech, Pirene’s Fountain, Sanskrit, Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts, and Weber—The Contemporary West.



What You Do In the Dark

He had only caught you a few times, sneaking up from behind, each step as stealth as a tiptoeing cat, shattering the silence with a WHAT ARE YOU DOING that booms in your brain but, in reality, is barely above what school teachers call your “inside voice.”

You do not answer and he does not need you to answer because he saw. On the edge of the bed—your side of the bed, not his, you remind him—you are hunched over, your back curved like a crescent moon or maybe a crescent roll with your feet dangling a foot above the floor, clipping your toe nails not into the trashcan, like he asks, but onto the carpet where your feet, not his, you remind him, step each morning and each night.

It’s what you do in the dark, you tell him.

The lights are all on, he says.

I can bring you a trashcan, he says.

That’s not the point but you let him anyway. You feign laziness. When he leaves, you return to clipping your nails over the carpet until they align perfectly with the edge of your fingertips. When you are done, you look down at the chipped nail polish-adorned toenail clippings—sharp confetti. Spreading them evenly across the carpet before you, your toes run through the razor sharp blades that will disappear when you vacuum on Sundays, only to be replaced by a fresh brood days later—virgins filed in millimeter-sized rows across your toes, steadily progressing towards execution.


by Melissa Darcey

Melissa Darcey is a writer based in San Diego, CA. She has a soft spot for Jane Eyre, coffee, and her orange cat, Milo. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Gravel, Extract(s), Litro, Black Heart, Cease, Cows, and elsewhere.

Craig Kurtz


“You wouldn’t abandon ship in a storm

just because you couldn’t control the winds.”

— Thomas More, Utopia.


Last call for the patriots,

last stop for all apostates;

the last train to freedom is

now boarding from Abaddon.


Every time it rains

the fixtures blinker out;

no coincidence, this:

the governance installed the sky.

There’s rows of voices

over all the houses;

advances in bipartisanation

amplifies people’s dependence.

No, this isn’t really hell,

they got it wrong, it’s overdone;

hell is a better composition,

its design is still untried.

If you read the manifestos,

it’s evident life’s counterfeit;

unknown ideals speak truth to practice,

panacea, comrade, can be obtained.

Now, this “perdition” is a travesty,

it’s ersatz, faux and fraudulent;

real hell’s supposed to purify,

not profit small-time bureaucrats.

They got their knobs, test-tubes and dials,

vast screens to engineer nightmares;

these are cheap tricks, mere brummagem,

effects lacking organic woe.

I want a hell that’s fair and square,

where punishment’s unbigoted;

I have it here, inerrable,

in documents, with principles.

If people would just cogitate

and sublimate their fallacies,

then they’d see this nether world

an apotheosis to behold!


Last call for provocateurs,

last stop for all demagogues;

the last train crash to eidolon

is boarding now from Abaddon.


Permanent Austerity


“These are the waning days

of aristocratic socialism,”

she lamented with a shrug.

“We heard the speeches

as the ice cubes melted

and I fear our marching orders

won’t resemble plangent posters.”

’Twas then the scullery maids and

stable hands dismantled chandeliers.


“I’m inclined to agree, dialectic theory

has devolved into a grotesquery

of polity,” I assented with a survey

from my broken monocle.

“We all embraced the slogans,

shibboleths as well as anthems

but, in practice, I concede, the enemy is us.”

’Twas then the valets and chauffeurs

voted themselves out of existence.


“It’s curious to note, if not

a little indiscreet,

Lenin in the Kremlin

has domestics and a chef,”

she said with minor malice

and a misanthropic laugh.

“The fastest telegraph in this umbrageous

Soviet transmits from servants quarters

of the General Secretary.”


“Marat, too, had his housekeeper,”

I noted cynically, “and why would we expect

dictatorship without starched collars

for a bureaucratic caste

‘engineering social progress’?

Sooner the state withers away,” I chuckled,

“the better chances for shareholders.”

’Twas then the doorman and au pair

quit their posts, with ready rifles.

Anatomy of a Catastrophe


“These are barbaric days,” she said,

pointing to the effigies

and criminals in the stockades

whose crimes were but a lack of rent.

“Tight credit is the cause of this,”

I interjected sententiously,

observing all the foreclosures

which turned the commons into sludge.

I shuddered at investments lost.


“I, for one, blame the court

for lavish wars which made a sport

of brinkmanship over rare gems

not worth their weight in guts,”

she said, and not without embarrassment.

“Yes, it’s true, diplomacy

has been misused by bunglers

who curdled treasuries in vain,”

I did rejoin, most ruefully.


“The problem, as I see it,” she continued,

“is this culture of ineptitude,

rewarding hordes of savages

who disrespect propriety.”

“Ah,” I nodded fatalistically,

“here is where I disagree:

the issue of the state’s decline

owes to factors of finance;

morality is petty cash.”


“This is where sexes diverge,”

she added with a mild reproach;

“business aims the industry

of state conquests, I will concede,

but first and foremost, I aver,

psychology directs commerce

and dominance is revenue.

Patrician excess, nonetheless

has made a botch of chancery.”


And so we stood, near pillories

where internees moan for reprieve

as soot enveloped villages

once renowned for piety.

These are dark days, and the malaise

owes to the government the most

we did agree, while neither side of the

debate could quite admit, the evil was



by Craig Kurtz

Craig Kurtz resides at Twin Oaks Intentional Community where he writes poetry while simultaneously surviving the dream. Recent work has appeared in The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Conclave: A Journal of Character, Danse Macabre, Drunk Monkeys, East Jasmine Review, The Kitchen Poet, The Literati Quarterly, Maudlin House, The Recusant, Teeth Dreams, Three and a Half Point 9, Tower Journal, Veil: Journal of Darker Musings and Zouch Magazine.

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