“Fragmentation” by Brandi Bolt

When your mother told me about
how you used to lay along the sidewalk
and pet blades of grass, I knew that
our children would be good. Their souls
would stem hope from your
familial roots. They would build homes
from cushions and wear blankets
as capes to fight off villains made from
tree trunks and strange shadows. Your
bravery would flow through their blood.
And even when they cried, we would
laugh at your faces and hold onto
jokes told only by fathers. I loved how
they loved you, and held onto the promise
that you would come home soon.


Brandi Bolt is a graduate of Salisbury University, with a degree in Elementary Education and a minor in English. She currently resides in Ocean City, Maryland.

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“Outside Irondale” by Jesse Breite

Outside Irondale,

we bought our hearts
in recreational explosives,
lit them with the ends
of our cigarettes, and shot them
from car windows.

Out of gas on highway 78,
grass grew through tractors,
and blue jays watched.
Landry pulled and I shot
empty cans silver-speckled with a 22.

The wood linage was half-green,
half-spiked as desire.
Over boring fields, a blood fox
shimmied and bobbed.
The jars of corn liquor gone dry,
I bet Landry 50 bucks he couldn’t
hold an M-60 through the boom.
He lost a pinky and bent up his ring.

When the buzzards came,
their wings opened like glossy
brush strokes, sloppy with paint.
They cloaked themselves,
bundled in the pine branches.

What had died? We wondered
as we set the ’76 Mustang to fire.
Fed by breath and silence,
it burned with a star’s fury
beside prodigal constellations.


Jesse Breite’s recent poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Spillway, Crab Orchard Review, The Briar Cliff Review, and Prairie Schooner. He has been featured in Town Creek Poetry and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume V: Georgia. FutureCycle Press published his first chapbook, The Knife Collector, in 2013.

“If the World Ends While I’m on Campus” by Keri Withington

If the world ends while I’m on campus

If we could hold Neyland Stadium 
in a zombie apocalypse
we’d have plenty of gates	fences
concessions to raid	clothing too

Most people wouldn’t survive the first wave, of course,
	campus would stink of the dead  
	the rotten eaten and eating
but if we survived	made the first crucial days

We’d need to focus on survival.
The end-game.
 
We could farm on the football field
corn on the twenty yard line
peas at the ten
forage from student center, the Strip

That sucker is huge	
We’d need a team		enough people 
for watch-duty in sky box, guards at the entrances,
work on fortifications

Outside the world goes to pot
zombies munching their way through fraternities
under giant We bleed orange billboards

We’d sleep safely at night
	despite the screams
find haven on the cheap seats
burn old playbooks

We’d discuss our old departments
stay alive, gain an education.

Keri Withington is an educator and poet who lives in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, surrounded by TVA controlled lakes and rivers. Her work has previously appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, recently including Blue Fifth Review, Feminine Inquiry, and New Plains Review. Keri enjoys beating her partner at board games, watching nature documentaries with her kids, and going on adventures.

Two Poems by Jeffery N. Johnson

Last Ride

My elder brother was a Godly sight
riding that Shetland pony to the end
of the pasture and back – a smiling boy
on a galloping midget. She had legs
in her youth, heft under hair, and
enough stamina to carry the day.
When I grew old enough I saddled
her and forced the bridle between
those stubborn yellow teeth, but
the old mare wouldn’t budge.
She ambled only to the four-board fence
and tried to scrape the load off her back.
With Raskolnikov watching, I cursed
and kicked my heels deep into her flank,
but she just stood there hating me, and I her.
Our relationship went on like this
until I developed a system. I walked
her into the pasture, mounted, and let her
trot back to the barn lot to scrape me off
on the four-board fence. It wasn’t everything,
but it was something – a taste.
But one day she refused even that
and while I stood there brooding
in the barren pasture I began to notice
how the passage of time had affected her:
the mud-caked mane fallen to one side,
hooves curled and cracked, everything
about her drooping on four tired legs.
So I took to her with a brush and pulled
her winter coat, watched tufts of hair and
dander sail airily over our ancestral fields.
From nose to rump I went over her, recalling
my brother and the freedom together they
had exuded, streaking across the green field
as one. Her pungent dust settled into my
hand-me-down flannel, I left her there
in the barn lot, alone with her memories.


A Jazz Moment

Billy raised his horn and blew
notes like rays of light.
A genus loci of the mind,
creating a new space and time.

Notes like rays of light
warm the girl already bright,
creating a new space and time.
This one, Billy thought, is fine.

Warm is the girl already bright
as she spread her arms to catch the light.
This one, Billy thought, is fine,
as she swayed from side-to-side in time.

Spreading her arms to catch his light,
her husband stepped between them.
They swayed from side-to-side in time,
held each other, bump and grind.

The husband wedged between them,
Billy frowned, stroked his horn,
wed together, notes sublime,
joined together like a sign.

Billy frowned, stoked his horn,
but in her place a spirit shined,
joined together like a sign,
love’s fluid fleeting residue.

Then in her place a spirit shined,
a genus loci of the mind,
love’s fluid fleeting residue.
Billy raised his horn and blew.


Jeffrey N. Johnson’s poems have appeared in Birmingham Poetry Review, Gargoyle Magazine, Red Rock Review, South Carolina Review, and Roanoke Review. He was awarded the Andrew Lytle Fiction Prize at the Sewanee Review, and his debut novel The Hunger Artist was a finalist for the Library of Virginia’s People’s Choice Award.

Two Poems by Steven Knepper

The Storytellers

They felt at ease within the speechless world
Of beasts, in long hours spent alone in fields
Or in November blinds where they became
Like stones with roving eyes and rifles in
Their laps. Even working side by side
They didn’t mind a silent stretch of time.
Much to the consternation of their wives
They’d say the grace then eat without a word,
Sit staring at a winter fire all night.
But sometimes on the steps outside of church
Or gathered round a gambreled buck, when they
Stared out across the growing rows or passed
The water jug beneath a pasture tree,
When children chirped around their knees, the words
Would come to weave again the history
That lay across their lives and land, the things
They’d seen or done or heard from those before,
Like dried out beds that unexpected rains
Fill up again, renewed geography.


Trespasses

A man who posts his ground should get his wish.
I don’t want hunters tramping through my woods,
And sometimes I could stand the hermit’s life
Myself. I understand the signs and gates,
But what about those dummies that he strung?
That’s taking things too far, it seems to me.
The lane back to his place was lined with them—
The rubber masks they sell at Halloween
On scarecrow bodies lashed in trees. There was
A grinning devil with its wings spread out,
A clown with bloody teeth, a werewolf creeping
Out a limb, a vampire upside down.
It was a hunting camp before, and he
Had pried the antlers off the shed and fastened
Them to masks. What do you make of that?

I know one thing—
Dumb kids were bound to take it as a dare.
It took the mom a couple days to call.
She didn’t love admitting that her sons
Trespassed to throw some corn up on his roof.
But he had shot a couple rounds off in
The dark and she was scared he’d seen their car,
Might track them down to carry on his quarrel.
She’d seen him once in town and said his eyes
Looked plenty murderous enough to her.

So I drove over there to have a talk
With him. The gate was closed and padlocked shut.
I hollered but he didn’t answer me.
Halfway up the lane on foot, those faces
Leering down at me, my neck hair was on end.
He’d turned the yard into a garden patch
But it had gone to weeds. I had to wade
Through them to reach the porch. At first I thought
It was another dummy sprawled across
The rail, but then I saw the flies. His face
Had curdled up like week-old milk gone blue,
And they were swarming on his eyes and tongue,
Just flitting in and out between his lips.
A gun was on the floor, the action open.
Christ almighty. What a sight to see.
There never was a mask that looked like that.


Steven Knepper teaches literature at Virginia Military Institute. His poems have appeared in journals such as Pembroke Magazine, The James Dickey Review, SLANT, Third Wednesday, The American Journal of Poetry, Floyd County Moonshine, and Rotary Dial.

Two Poems by Jake Sheff

To a Roadside Memorial

Your teddy bear has weathered well.
The plastic flowers look alive
enough to fool a hummingbird;
one just came by, but at the well
of grief, it understood: it heard
a falling leaf. A votive drive

to honor what we’ve lost is why
I’m here. Your cross and intersection
point the same direction bells
and I must go. With dates, subtraction
tells me she was seven; I
am not. And heaven knows (but tells

only the chosen) why she had
to leave so soon. A sign nearby
says Please Don’t Drink and Drive. This state
has moved to ban erecting sad
memorials; I forgive them. Fate
is not for hummingbirds to die.


Near Fort Pierce, Florida

The space shuttle Endeavor
avowed its name above
the Indian River. Viewed

by my brother and me – two
princes in the harsh
perfume red drift algae

rinses Titusville with in
spring – it too avoided
being seen and heard. To

consider brutal truces
unseats a babysitter: a
mantis shrimp crawled

in the shallows near us;
to brother him I bet
he wasn’t man enough

to pet it. Cut to a crippled
minute later: a thumb
split by feigned hubris;

a second bris. No cuter
with a rosy beard, his thumb
was flayed to seaweed

and sewed up in the ER
to become a killer shrimp
in time’s rough gloss.


Jake Sheff is a major and pediatrician in the US Air Force, married with a daughter and three pets. Currently home is the Mojave Desert. Poems of Jake’s are in Marathon Literary Review, Jet Fuel Review, The Cossack Review, and elsewhere. His chapbook is Looting Versailles (Alabaster Leaves Publishing). He considers life an impossible sit-up, but plausible.

“Still Points” by Stephen Reilly

The winter of ’77 already made its mark.
Snow flurries freckled Fort Lauderdale.
Frost after frost froze tomatoes to the roots.
Three space heaters warmed
nights barely bearable in that cottage –
not meant for more than the overnight stays
of tourists in the Fifties. For us,
the floorboards arthritic under the softest step,
tumors bulged from under the kitchen floor.
Call it a home but fleeting as Florida snow.

No reason for her to catalog the night
or tuck it away like a photo in a shoebox.
Curled in a chair, in her tan flannel pajamas
with the small print roses, hemming the hem
of her waitress whites. Canned laughter
from a sit-com on our second-hand Zenith.
Our cats sleep in the bedroom. I’m lying
on the couch, fretting about this or that bill.
Reading, my eyes skim the surface of words.

She sets her uniform aside, pours Chablis
into her glass from our nickel-and-dime carafe
on the coffee table. She looks up, laughing
at a punchline or two. I look up, too,
into a still life, into a calm like a pre-dawn calm
on a lake. Her smile. Sips of wine.
A kiss more tender than any lover’s peck.
What like a paraclete — if any— embraced
this evening? I could not say, still can’t,
nor why this night resurrects on nights like tonight.

We never saw spring. Not together. I see how
the calm sky of a hurricane’s eye seduces,
the light winds and low pressure,
the gulls and terns, circling in flocks, caged
by fair weather deceptive as half-truths.
Our horizon darkened, crept closer.
Words lashed out, flailed us in bitter torrents.
When it was over, we knew it was over.
We took what we owned, not what we had,
salvaging what we could, settling elsewhere.


Stephen Reilly’s poems appeared in Wraparound South, Main Street Rag, Broad River Review, Cape Rock, Poetry South, and other publications. One of his poems appears in the anthology Florida in Poetry: A History of the Imagination (edited by Jane Anderson Jones and Maurice O’Sullivan, Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Fla. 1995). He works as a staff writer for the Englewood Sun, a daily Florida newspaper with circulation in south Sarasota County, Charlotte and DeSoto counties.