2 Poems by Stephen Ground

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Running

strips of flesh running like broken
flapping in heat of endless breeze

please
paint them like black cats playing skunk
stitch tight with fish line or spears
lull meat to sleep in the sun
let it sizzle
burn
let it suffer and learn
that actions cause pain
and there’s safety
in torpor

 

Next Door

in the house next door
hairless chimps observe
painted zeroes and ones
stick tines in sockets be
cause it seems good and
theoretically feels it and
the chimps feel it too in
their tines and sockets
in the middle of the night
ogling glittering rectangles
in basements washrooms
perched on bowls like self-
waxing gargoyles silent and
still though they’re sure the
others on their ledge are
asleep but they’re not just
like hairless zeroes and ones
painted gargoylezees self-
waxing alone and together
in the house next door

 

Stephen Ground graduated from York University, then skipped town for a remote, fly-in community in Saskatchewan’s far north. He’s since returned south, and co-founded Pearson House Films. Find more at www.stephenground.com, or his tweets @sualtmo.

3 Poems by Tom Snarsky

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Moral Desert

 

Laura Jensen’s blog is called
spice drawer mouse and her avi
is a selfie with her flip phone

I long for this Game Boy
Advance SP energy renewable
battery pak no one start yet

damn I still have all these CDRs
left even though I used
like 40 to burn everything I had

by Lil Wayne for a stupid
reason at least I gave them
away no one need know

about the hours I spent
nor that this act was just
a placebo for the music

I wanted to burn and give
to you instead your whole face
your body on the roof with me

your mouth full of ropes

 

 

 

Theory of Suicide

 

I finger the airlock switch like
It’s a small, inconsequential thing

Life is way harder than reading
Wikipedia pages for trees

I watch porn on my phone instead
Of dancing and feel bad about it

It is funny and complicated
To be a window into grief

I have done almost nothing
All week and the sunrise is imminent

Hey let me borrow your shirt
The universe is about to begin

 

 


Psychometrician, Among The Flowers

I expect the love to end
Because instead of looking
At you I’m looking down

At the gladioli wondering
How they got so tall
And look so strong like

Two to five feet of
Worry + water isn’t nothing
Their riot of colors how

They flower every year if
Treated well if you got
Sick I don’t know what I’d

Do become a casualty
Of morning wash my hair
In secret I owe so much

Debt to your heartbeat’s
Chamber music arr. a
Mother with love from a

Piano piece that’s less
Well known now the tune
A warm memory when

You hear its new timbre
You become aware
Of a debt hand in the

River testing the water
In the dream I fall off the
Horse instead of talking

To the Dutch boy so you’ll
Be happy the pictures
I take will come out well

Terza rima will be re-
Instated starting now and
The belt you buckled

Round my throat’ll tighten
Like a shot of the lake
Moored boats like grave

Stones standing at
Attention walking on water
We need not rehearse

These debts recorded in
Pictures in the ledger
Of life a box somewhere

Unopened for years
Not hiding a secret   but
Not not hiding it either

 

Tom Snarsky’s chapbook Recent Starred Trash comes out soon from marlskarx.

“3 More Poems” by Josh Sherman

space junk

(cover art by Julienne Bay)

 

SPACE ME LIKE LAIKA

When I think of what I’m most jealous of
I think of Russian space junk
Satellites shot into the atmosphere
Laika burning up or lost, careening
cosmic software in need of updates
That famous photo of earth taken from
6-billion kilometres away

Indifference like CAA auto insurance
Uselessness like a store dedicated
to fidget spinners at the Dufferin Mall

*title was stolen from a Tinder profile

 

AMERICAN THANKSGIVING 

“I’ll see if my bitch-ass family is available,”
says the man with the knuckle tattoos
before exiting the train
with his girlfriend

It was American Thanksgiving
not too long ago

Around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019

 

HUMIDITY

On my way home
they were rolling a corpse out
of the seniors’ facility;
I didn’t see the body, it was wrapped
in a thick, white cover
—it was such a humid night

Aug. 13, 2019, 12:55 a.m.

 

Josh Sherman has not been published in Granta. 

“Coming Home” by Lynne Schmidt

 

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I never boxed you up
like the others.

Instead, the lucky coin you gave
stayed in my wallet so I could see you 

each time I reached for coffee.
You stayed in my words

so that ‘cute’ took on a
sarcastic tone.

You stayed out on display
so those who sat on my couch

Or laid in my bed
paled in comparison.

Because all those boys
who were packed into boxes

were labeled, dated, and buried
like lost loved ones.

And you stayed
where everyone could see you

because after all this time
I hold onto hope that you’ll come home.

 

Lynne Schmidt is a mental health professional and an award winning poet and memoir author who also writes young adult fiction. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks, Gravity (Nightingale and Sparrow Press 2019), and On Becoming a Role Model (Thirty West 2020). Her work has received the Maine Nonfiction Award, Editor’s Choice Award, and was a 2018 and 2019 PNWA finalist for memoir and poetry respectively. Lynne is a five time 2019 Best of the Net Nominee, and an honorable mention for the Charles Bukowski Poetry Award. In 2012 she started the project, AbortionChat, which aims to lessen the stigma around abortion. When given the choice, Lynne prefers the company of her three dogs and one cat to humans.  

‘Regret’ by G.P. DeSalvo & ‘Ambulating’ Pen Drawing

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i imagine getting older is a lot more difficult when you didn’t get to do what you wanted to when you were young

if you never danced naked anywhere– for any and no reason– in a crowd or far afield

time seems emptier when you never loved as hard or as often as your heart urged you… because your meekness of spirit kept your foot outside the door

the drooping eyes in the mirror reveal a dullness that belies the fact that you never met your match, your perfect fit… you squandered your vitality in human warehouses, static fields, killing markets or narcotic cubicles

you should really look a lot younger

aging is a yoke that breaks the shoulders and once sturdy backs of those who’ve never forged a signature identity of their own— truly found their strength

you had all the tools and opportunity to be far more successful but you were too busy selfishly replicating disseminating tabulating and playing dress up for ‘the adults’… something you never became

if time could be kind and rewind
you’re sure there’d be something better
if you could ‘do it all again’
there might be another chance to dance your legs down to the knees
to lift your voice above the glock and spiel
to get your due long overdue
love enough for everyone
a teaspoon of truth in a time of universal deceit

if you were granted another life…
another ride on the wheel…
you could do things a lot differently…

but… not likely

G.P. DeSalvo lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.  He is a civil servant,an artisan, a sorcerer and an amateur psychiatrist.  He has lived three or four different lives.  Now he’s getting to be an old man.  He may- one day in the near future- actually get something published.

You can visit G.P DeSalvo’s blog here: https://theblackboulder.blog
and follow him on Twitter here: @DurbanMoffer 

“Cheap Fish” by Addison Reilly

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I’m not really above it
like I like to think that I am –
I don’t ever put change in the
Salvation Army
buckets outside grocery stores,
Santa hats notwithstanding;
I’ll shoot a wasp
out of the air with a thick rope
of pesticide
for sport;
And I love the feeling of your
failure
because it makes me feel better.
But I’ve taken a moral stance
concerning the frogs.

You might never have seen the frogs.
I don’t see them in suburbs or the city
as much as I saw them in my hometown and all the little podunk cities
nearby.
But you’ve seen the cups of
solitary beta fish
at pet stores (cohabitation not advised)
and it’s the same idea.
They’re generally translucent,
long-fingered, webbed,
staring dumbly
in a plastic container with
nothing else
in it.
Totally still.
Until some jackass kid shakes the
plastic to-go universe they inhabit.
They scurry, nowhere to go
and then
eventually
settle back down.
Still.
Always.

Walmart.
$3.99.
Buy two get one free.

When I was a kid, I thought about
how boring that must be:
stuck in that see-through world.
How many frogs lived their
whole lives
there? Never finding an algae-frosted
home aquarium
replete with suckerfish and African cichlids
(the cheap fish).
But now that I’m older,
I don’t think that way.

I think about the horror.
Do frogs have that existential
terror of loneliness?
Of insignificance?
Of suffering so deep that
you can only detach and float away?
Ambivalent.
Amphibious.

I am afraid of the frogs.

 

Addison Reilly is a writer and ghostwriter based in Dallas. She received her Bachelor’s in Religious Studies from Southern Methodist University. Her writing has appeared in Black Horse Review and under various pseudonyms.

 

3 Poems by Josh Olsen

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Road Trip

Gas station cashier
told me my change
was $6.66. 

I said,
“I hope that’s a sign
of good things
to come,” 

& he replied
with a hearty,
“Hail Satan.”

 


 

On the 5th Anniversary of Taking My Daughter to Warped Tour 2013

“Sell out … with me, oh yeah” – Reel Big Fish, “Sell Out”

I was informed at the gate that I wouldn’t need a ticket to enter, because I was accompanying my 14-year-old daughter, & several of her underage friends, so I tried to sell my extra ticket at the door & was almost immediately arrested for scalping, but thankfully, I was not apprehended, which allowed me the opportunity to witness a Stefan Struve doppelganger get knocked out cold in a parking lot moshpit fistfight, while Reel Big Fish covered A-Ha’s “Take On Me.”

 


 

the big rig ladder

[found/erasure poem]

 

some people weren’t cut out
to be cooped up

maybe you’re one of them 

you want to climb
the big rig ladder
know what it is like
to swing up into a big rig cab 

show it who’s boss
make those 855 cubic inches
of raw diesel power
behave 

tame them 

drive trains
transmissions
braking systems 

move on to the real thing 

three tough weeks
on the driving range
& on the road 

backing
docking
coupling
reverse serpentines 

then taking the big rigs out
on the interstate 

you got what it takes
to take on the big rigs?

if you want to climb
the big rig ladder
start with the pros

Source: Ryder Technical Institute mail-in advertisement, 1975

 

 

Josh Olsen is a librarian in Flint, Michigan and the co-creator of Gimmick Press.

3 Poems by Brian Rihlmann

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MOSTLY TRUE
Those two…you ever seen
the movie, “Waiting?” Or maybe
more like the real life Beavis and
Butthead…always together,
clowning around, hiding out back
passing a joint before and
after the dinner rush.

Well, one day T shows up by himself,
goes straight to the kitchen, and starts
doing his prep, all quiet and withdrawn.
So I ask someone, ‘Where’s M?”
“T shot him!” “What?”

But it was true—they’d gotten
hammered after work and were playing
around with a nine, and….well,
accidents happen.  But before long
M was back, showing us the hole where
the bullet had passed through the love
handle fat and missed every vital organ.

He held up his shirt proudly, as T
reached over and flicked at the
scar tissue with his finger, then
ran laughing out the back door,
throwing a trash can in his path.
M chased him, and we all laughed.


LIKE SOUP
It was 2009. Mid-recession.  I was
still blessed to have I job I hated.  My
neighbor was enduring the gauntlet of
I’ll-take-whatever-I-can get.  We stood
on our balconies, ten feet away from
each other, drinking tallboys.

“Man…I dunno if I can do this much longer.”
“What?” I asked, “The telemarketing?”
“Nah…I had to leave that.  They wanted me
to bully old ladies into buying their crappy
timeshares.  But this new gig…I’m picking
up bodies for a funeral service.  Last week
they found an old man, dead in his
bathtub for like a month.”

“Jesus!” I said. “What was that like?”
His face wrinkled as he lit up, took a drag,
and exhaling smoke, said—“Like soup.”


LIVING URNS
we sit around telling war stories
and watching a grainy VHS tape
of a show we played 20 years ago
while the twenty something kids
grin, and roll their eyes when we’re
not looking, and the grandkids
play air guitar and bang their little
heads in imitation of the guys onstage.
guys with less grey. guys who could
play half the night, and party til dawn.
guys who had life firmly by the balls. guys
who could get away with anything, who
stole the reaper’s scythe and ran away,
laughing, and was that us? a resemblance,
yes…but as the night lengthens, as we
stand in the driveway still talking after we’d
said goodnight two hours before…
(It’s almost midnight, and we’re tired!)
as I’m reminded of taking over a small
town, how we terrorized the locals,
how we arrived like barbarians at that
spot on the river yelling and pouring
beer over each other’s heads, how we
scaled the razor cliffs and jumped
50 feet into the icy green water below…
(just how drunk and high was I?)
as I’m reminded of this and other
crazy times I barely remember…
I’m not quite sure, though they
assure me it’s true. I love these guys…
they’re like the living urns for the
ashes of my immolated, completely
taken-for-granted youth.

Brian Rihlmann was born in New Jersey and currently resides in Reno, Nevada. He writes free verse poetry, and has been published in The Blue Nib, The American Journal of Poetry, Cajun Mutt Press, The Rye Whiskey Review, and others. His first poetry collection, “Ordinary Trauma,” (2019) was published by Alien Buddha Press.

“Bleach And Cats That Are Black” by Ryan Purcell

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I woke up with your black cat curled up dead on my feet.
The black cloud was over me and I pretended she was asleep
and nudged her away and went back to depression sleep.
When I woke up she was right where I left her so I took her to the trash freaking out and the furry weight and her empty food bowl made for a fucked up midnight morning.
I drank tall boys until the pharmacy at CVS opened
and bought syringes for my diabetic mother but the clerk and I both know that judgy bitch is healthy as an ox and needs no insulin.
She could use the sweets if anything.
If I shoot enough electricity
I can sanitize this 600 sq ft apartment with bleach
that’ll reek out the building and make
that witch that lingers in the hall ask me
“What the fuck is good with that bleach?”
And I’ll say
“Fuck off Juanita, I got no time for your shit.”
But I’ve got nothing but time.
And echoes.
It moves slow and black through me and I clean the outside because I can’t clean the inside and don’t even ask me what’s in the fridge.
I haven’t gotten to that yet.
Just don’t open it.
You’ll miss the smell of bleach.
Not all my compartments are hollow but we keep them separate.
I put water in the cats bowl then remember and leave it anyway cause fuck, I might have
nightmared it,
and I could’ve sworn I heard a meow two seconds ago.
The oven.
I should really clean that oven.

 

Ryan Purcell is a poet and writer from the New York Metropolitan area. He writes about heavy topics like depression and addiction with the light hand of someone that has walked through them and come out the other side. A decade of bartending and eavesdropping has given him a special interest in communication, language and their inherent breakdowns/limitations.

“Eyes Ahead” by Kim Kishbaugh

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Past pitted buildings the boy tramps sidewalks by day
sandals padding hot pavement
loneliness icing his soul
he has learned to walk alert but calm
claim his space
look at no one
look away from no one
The dog that paces beside him
has no name
but has learned to wait for scraps
in exchange for the snarls she directs
at anyone not the boy
At night they bed together
mostly in silence

 

Kim Kishbaugh is a former journalist whose poetry has been published or is forthcoming at Escape into Life, goodbaad, Headline Poetry & Press, and Tiny Seed Literary Journal.
She wanders through the world looking for magic and sometimes finds it. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @kkish.