“Thinking Clearly” by Susan L. Leary

The priest,
he assures us he is in heaven,
that he made it through the gates because he was not in his right mind,
because he was not thinking clearly.
Thank God for his suffering.
But his Son,
did he not willingly carry the cross?
Did he not choose to die
for our sins?
This story,
it is one of sacrifice, empathy, validation,
not a technicality of reason.
So I want to say:
Was Jesus
thinking clearly?
Was Jesus
in his right mind?
Might it be that we have gotten it wrong?
Why yes, and on the third day,
he climbed out from under his self-made tomb
and rose again.


Susan L. Leary is a Lecturer in English Composition at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL. Her most recent creative work is forthcoming in After the Pause.

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“1 of 52” by Joe Albanese

another week of job applications
another week with no responses

another week of writing
another week of rejections

another week of punching the wall
or door or fence until my fist
is swollen or bleeding, just
to expel something

the only thing that makes me crazy
is thinking next week will be
any different

but maybe it will be

yeah, maybe next week
I’ll use my left fist.


albaneseJoe Albanese is a writer of poetry and prose from South Jersey. Recently he had a piece published in the Fall 2016 edition of Sheepshead Review. In 2017, Joe has work to be published in Calliope, Adelaide Literary Magazine, and Concho River Review.

“Sterner Stuff” by Bonnie Rae Walker

Her graying braid coils up to a crown of plaited wool –
the august doyenne of the discount shopping aisle.
With her children to her chest, her body flowers full.

Hand-me-downs and papers sacks rush down the road to school.
Dog needs fed, dishes done and laundry’s in a pile.
She crushes palms to psalms, pressing life to be less cruel.

The bones, they ache sometimes with a heavy downward pull.
A collapse is near but there’s some mending meanwhile.
With her children to her chest, her body flowers full.

Kissing eight small heads she asserts life’s enduring rules:
trust your kin and beware a gift without a trial.
She crushes palms to psalms, pressing life to be less cruel.

She knows that we’re assembled without the proper tools,
but there is substance in the art of survival.
With her children to her chest, her body flowers full.

So she continues to grapple in a losing duel,
winning long forgotten, she hopes for points for style.
With her children to her chest, her body flowers full.
She crushes palms to psalms, pressing life to be less cruel.


bonnie_walkerBonnie Rae Walker is a graduate of UCI, now living in San Diego. She has been published in Right Hand Pointing, Ink in Thirds, and Lady Literary. To find out more visit www.bonnieraewalker.com.

Two Poems by Jon Riccio

The Alloy Marquee (a sword swallowers’ support group)

Here comes Bergen of the debauched lung, loincloth
at the permanent tailors, asthma eclipsing. Constrict:
a verb attendees share like kliegways and chrome thrush.

Poor Mike Smith, stage name The Alveoli Avenger
a shade cerebral for the carnival, years apprenticing
under a Winnipeg breath-master and only an ulcer

to his credit. There goes Gramolini Cadwalader
ruminating on the metrics of a mouth. So badly
he wanted to be a troubadour of modern lament

but the xyphoid’s all that panned out. Bringing
the donuts is Callum McLish, GERD robbing
the handle of his prime. He could always proxy

the artisanal like Bob Sherwick whose tongue
fungus forsook the rapier for the Florida citrus
industry’s themed ornaments division,

clementine magi trouncing the sinkhole
outside his bungalow, archangel potpourri
doubling as a crèche with the mind of a nectarine.

Hal arrives with decibel swag, a job on
the whistle assembly line far from his days
as a whole-blade Hephaestus, tent filler a five-footer,

the law of averages gerrymandering the molars
in his mouth. “It’s a matter of esophageal stealth,”
says Burt Hines, former lance king of Mobile turned

class ring resizer of the month, welter catapulting him
to the jade of engraved. Proud men, by the dagger
they connoiter, these gatherings not so much

about rust as loss. Better the haywire ebb,
a wound no greater than spectacle grown stable,
what legacy they’d barter for the alloy marquee.


Prom Season

Shave at night, by lunch you’ll whisker a Kaiser,
my trip to the deli after life reviewed in a tub.
The longer an ailment, the gossamer your duress.

A neighbor leaves for the afternoon chef shift, his
knuckles tilapia while mine contemplate appliqué,
convalesce to the TV where Gene Hackman’s Lex

Luthor yells “Miss Tessmacher,” the faucet’s cascade
contrasting the frozen-cake sound of a hard C-H,
superhero marathons one way to pass an intestine’s

autoimmune. In April, my father drives me to the pharmacy,
his stubble synced with boutonnieres converted to binary,
their tuxedos a shade of Gatorade mixed with colonoscopy

prep; happenstance: this century’s debutante inductionette.
Hometown recuperation has me remembering the day I won
third prize in a hat store’s chili cook-off, the haberdasher

a former meteorologist seated near the cigar baron funded
by the revenue of a humidor. The smaller the city, the more
you hear about niche fortunes and it rankles a Rotarian’s skull.

Presenting the bronze ribbon was a dermatologist who wanted
my birthmark for a brochure, his follicles a noir fan’s silver –
nobody dyes their sideburns here. Corticosteroids should be

kept as far from the perineum as possible, but that’s where
my body chose its vaudeville, the man who IV’d me to sleep
a mensch in mall-counter cologne. Brevity: sedated by an Ethan,

waking to a Naomi explaining the cocktail to the horseradish.
Half of me lives in Hattiesburg. I’ll return with or without a cane,
symptomhood reaching an innkeeper of its own accord.


Jonathan Riccio is a PhD candidate and composition instructor at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers. Forthcoming poems appear in Corvus Review, Jazz Cigarette, and Vine Leaves Literary Journal. He received his MFA from the University of Arizona.

Three Poems by Bobby Steve Baker

Thunderstorm #10

One summer day at the lake when I had just turned
thirteen, that day at the lake when the horizon
vanished through the wet electric air, sky to lake
monotone slate. Three beach girls I had been watching—
bronze and blond and long, took their high chinned
majestic stare turned it out to sea to face the storm.
With streaming hair with awe but not with fear this much
was clear to me they were in full belief they would
take the elements for a ride. At the first crack of angry
jagged electrons bolting to the sea, with the first clap
of Krakatoa sound, too loud to call it sound, the attitude
of fearlessness was sucked visibly out of their bodies
and they were stuffed back full with that bewildered
child style of fear, the kind that says run hide scream.
They turned toward my outlook in the dunes. They ran
and hid and screamed into my alcove ahead of the black
massive maniacal wall of moving sound. I was bewildered
shoulder to shoulder and leg to leg with these majestic
deities now morphed into adolescent quivering flesh.
They did not act like there was anything unusual about
pressing their bodies against mine. I’m not not sure they
knew I was there. They were hor de combat and nothing else.
It was too much for me. I ran through the pounding rain
the stinging sand to the swells of the water’s edge. I raised
my arms so I was the shape of a Y, face to the roar of the storm.
I could almost hear the wide-eyed girls say to one other—
My God look at that incredible boy.


The One Who Lives…

for Terry

binds scattered twigs of tenderness with twine.
Made kindling now the oak of branching trust.
A beggar’s burden on a bending spine.

hears angered prayers and toothless curses grind
as soon as spoken into threshing dust,
blown back on sticks of sorrow bound with twine.

holds hateful sacred ash enshrined
in a fisted heart marked black with unkind cuts.
A bloody burden on a beggar’s spine.

reverberates a circuit that has climbed
from back to limb to brain. Never enough
of wrapping sticks of tenderness with twine.

with crippled fingers, scratches against time.
shoulders a hand but can’t reverse the clock.
A beggar’s burden on a bending spine.

Memory will not work sand into the shine
of pearl; cherished spawns atrocity of loss.
So wraps those sticks of tenderness with twine.
So bears a beggar’s burden on his spine.


Wastin’ Time

I turned sixteen in a small town
in Eastern Kentucky
it took me about two years

my double-dip hormonal rush
produced a startling physical metamorphosis
but apparently was slow to cross the blood-brain barrier

resulting in bewildered Saturday nights cruising Downtown Somerset
with Fast Eddy and the Alter Boy

I remember everything about the first time
I heard Dock o’ the Bay
the Alter Boy (who stole the Sacramental wine for cruising)
had just hooted at a girl

when he settled back into riding shotgun
in my rusted out lemon yellow ‘59 Chevrolet Impala
he raised his Styrofoam cup and said
he that knows not love knows not God and downed the wine

just after that hysterically funny sacrilege
Otis Redding came over the air waves and we all quit laughing

sittin’ in the mornin’ sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evening come

so mournful so sexy and the crazy race
to fill that hole in my soul was on

sittin’ here restin’ my bones
and this loneliness won’t leave me alone

and man it wouldn’t leave me alone
a waft of patchouli
could send my heart rate out the ruthless roof
of cleavage

I believe Otis single handedly
flicked the switch of testosterone catalyzed neural circuitry
and my limbic system growled like a ram-injected muscle car
but that ain’t all

I can’t do what ten people tell me to do
so I guess I’ll remain the same

like cruising Main Street (nowhere town)
pretending my way through school (nowhere bound)
hating my job serving burgers (nowhere clown)
destination Nowhere East Kentucky Coal Town

I’m just sittin’ on the dock o’ the bay
wastin’ time

he never mentions women specifically
that’s what made it so perfect
because the ache─ the hole in the soul─
whatever it is
it wasn’t just about women

looks like nothin’s gonna change
so I guess I’ll remain the same

but inside the words the voice
sounded to me like something else

everything
everything is gonna change


headshot-rsb-smBobby Steve Baker lives in Lexington Kentucky with his wife, several male offspring who come and go. He has published recently in, The Tule Review, Town Creek Poetry, Kentucky Review, Cold Mountain Review, Prick of the Spindle, Picaroon, and Into the Void. His latest book of poetry and art is This Crazy Urge to Live by Linnet’s Wings Press.

“Death is a Festival” by Anis Shivani

36.

Presidents, naps, and a thick witney coat,
being cheated with false money in a message
or the conclusion of a letter. The aristocracy
dare not ask professors to dinner at the

time of their breeding, which is a wipe in
the eye. You saw nothing but a field or two
of great ice-crystals, the whish of a rocket.

What place is this? What a place is this?
The Weil-Felix reaction, almost utter weight-
lessness with small initials, two scales for
measuring general intelligence, graceful

error. Even dollars or calico, dead child,
why did you not tell me in the beauty shop?


37.

These last few hundred deaths when visibility
is zero-zero. Watch for word of new budget
cuts. Vapor baths and inner closets, an
excited Taiwanese photographer puts on

the zipper jacket and goes out, zip codes
and automatic telephone dialing, the plain
apron front, the peasantry from Abruzzo,
Calabria, and Apulia: it is good to see no

less than two sets of zampognas. Which has
a cotton wrap, unlike some symbolist writers,
which is a crack in the boards, the famous
cloves. He was a man with a catapult. On

November 15 I circulated an address, there
was not a speck of cloud from east to west.


38.

The yokel, being a yokel, the moon’s glare—
in the midst of supranational poetry events,
I find myself involuntarily imagining the
white cottage yonder. Sit down you there

at the door. We might both by modern stan-
dards be deemed old-fashioned, riding along
parallel but disconnected branches of one
gigantic universal death function, the sunny

coloring of the young leaves, a remnant of
our younger days. It is a long time since I
left her and went to serve a lady of fashion.
There was a native innocence in the New

York of both sexes, not more than painting
expresses—did you get my yesterday’s note?


Anisjacketphoto4Anis Shivani’s books published in the last year have included Whatever Speaks on Behalf of Hashish: Poems and Soraya: Sonnets. His next book of criticism, Literary Writing in the Twenty-First Century: Conversations, comes out early next year. New work appears in the Yale Review, Georgia Review, Third Coast, Gulf Coast, Subtropics, New Letters, Black Warrior Review, Western Humanities Review, Iowa Review, Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, AGNI, Denver Quarterly, and other journals.

“Orlando Furioso” by Hilary Sideris

You browse E-bay.
I scan Shakespeare: pleasure/

treasure, have/grave.
You find a deal out loud,

vieni, guarda, a leatherbound,
five-hundred-year-old

poem in your tongue, one
you won’t read, bid on

to show how you can snag
a Ludovico at low cost,

that beauty’s rose might
never die
, nor I deride

how you expend
time & money.


hilaryHilary Sideris is the author of several chapbooks and two full-length manuscripts, Most Likely to Die (Poets Wear Prada 2014) and The Inclination to Make Waves (Big Wonderful 2016).