Midnight by Lori Cramer

Midnight

With a big-screen-baseball backdrop, the bearded bartender dispenses juicy slices of conversation like oranges in Blue Moon bottles.

 

Lori Cramer’s short prose has appeared in more than two dozen publications, including Fictive Dream, Ink In Thirds, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, Unbroken Journal, and Whale Road Review. Links to her work can be found at https://loricramerfiction.wordpress.com. Twitter: @LCramer29.

Two poems by Simon Perchik

Though they give nothing back
they’re weak and in the bargain
both eyes are overgrown

with branches, with hillsides
calling out from the dirt
that no longer knows the difference

–what they can still point to
you drink as thighs and breasts
and rainwater stroking the Earth

shaking it, almost a mouth
almost a sun, a smell
burning between, half roots

half far away, half squint
and your heart too is emptying
struggling, moist, around you.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ankle deep and these stars
expect you to come by
stomp out their flames

the way each sky
keeps its place in line
–even before there was rain

you needed streams
and slowly through your legs
the heart you have left

lets go these footsteps
shining in water
as if here is the fire

still beating as nights
as hair and lips
and overflowing.

Simon Perchik’s poetry has also appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker and elsewhere.  Visit him at www.simonperchik.com.

 

The Ice Pick Surgeon by Don Kloss, from Issue #1

The Ice Pick Surgeon
(For Frances Farmer)

The customers couldn’t see
the star you once were
as you had them sign the register
at the front desk, or called the bell hop
to collect their bags.

They didn’t know the Frances that
could not be controlled,
that bucked authority at every turn,
that engaged in dangerous politics,
that lived the role of raging, mystic
better than any role played on screen:
The Frances that escaped like vapors from a tea pot
that afternoon years ago
hidden from the reporters, the flash bulbs
in a private examination room.

No directors for your last performance,
no cameras, no costumes-
Cold sanitary room,
gown, sheets:
On the stainless table, you lay.

Only took a mild shock to put you out,
Dr. Freeman said to you,
and it will be over before you can count
backward, from twenty to one.

A nail punch slipped under
the eye lid, a tap with a mallet
punctured the bone,
broke the crust,
a few swishes back and forth
against the orbital plate
severed nerve endings
like Hollywood contracts.

They gushed, flushed
with relief at your bed side.
No more of your aggressiveness,
no more limelight or rage,
no more communist writings,
no more vitriol-
nothing but calm.
At last, for them,
you would be a good girl.

Three Poems by Holly Day

The Box

We pick it out together, giggle uncontrollably over the pastel lining
the superfluous pillows sewn to the interior, deny
the shadow of cancer and fear that hides in the shadows
in the dark space between our palms when I take your hand.
I call you “Mom” more often now, forgo introducing you by first name
even to strangers. These last days, all I want
is for you to be my mother.

This seems a good enough place to bury your secrets
cushioned in unrealized dreams
of running away. This will be a place
where shouted orders aren’t expected to complete you
where cracked pots and conceptual pieces aren’t questioned on merit
where bluebirds come gift-wrapped
and sing only of self-preservation.

How I Identify You             

I listen to your heart beating inside its cage of broken bones
the Braille graffiti of your chest, and even now I wonder
what things would have been like if you were whole when we met
if you weren’t so damaged by your past, would you have come to me?

I run my fingertips over the old cigarette burns along your arms
testament to a drunk stepfather who never bothers calling anymore,  wonder
if I could somehow put the pieces back together, fix this mangled child
how long it would take for you to decide you didn’t need me anymore

that without your damaged past, there’d be no reason to seek solace
against me and my own broken heart.

Wife in Denial

I hear the screams from the bedroom
imagine her staring back at me with wide, blue eyes
but it doesn’t do any good.
I tell him to pick up after himself when he’s done
I’m not doing the laundry this time, either.

I hear the conversations coming from the room afterwards
and I know it’s just him, it’s him speaking in two separate voices
his and hers, and it is nothing I want to know about.
I walk above the corpses I know are in the yard lightly
careful with my garden spade, avoiding any fresh-turned dirt
sprinkle wildflower seeds over the suspicious mounds instead.

 
Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Big MuddyThe Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, Ugly Girl, and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy. She has been a featured presenter at Write On, Door County (WI), North Coast Redwoods Writers’ Conference (CA), and the Spirit Lake Poetry Series (MN). Her newest poetry collections, A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press) and I’m in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.) will be out late 2018.

 

 

An interview with poet B. Diehl

b_diehl

B. Diehl is the author of the poetry collections Ballpoint Penitentiary and Zeller’s Alley. His work has been published by Hobart, BOAAT Press, Literary Orphans, Words Dance, Maudlin House, CLASH Media, and other venues. He is also one of two editors of Philosophical Idiot. When he is not doing writing, editing, or breathing in dust at his warehouse job, he is usually hanging out with his cats.

You can find him on the web at www.mynameisb.net

 

1. Tell me about Ballpoint Penitentiary. Where did the majority of the subject matter come from, and what motivated you to put it out under your own imprint? What sets it apart from your last book, “Zeller’s Alley”?

Ballpoint Penitentiary came together so fast. I wrote about 90% of the book in 2015, before Zeller’s Alley even came out. Basically, Zeller’s Alley got picked up by a small press I sent it to, and it took the press nearly a year to release it. During that waiting period, I was dying of boredom and anxiety. So I just kept writing.

Most of the subject matter for Ballpoint Penitentiary really just came from what I was going through or reflecting on as I was writing the book, which is why the whole thing seems unfiltered and reads almost like a diary. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship and my grandmother died, so a lot of that stuff is in there.

As for what sets it apart…I don’t know, really. It’s just a better book. Zeller’s Alley is the book I wrote before I knew how to write. Ballpoint Penitentiary is more emotional, less subtle, more personal, more everything.

2. You ran a successful reading series called I Hate Poetry, which is ending very soon. Why did you decide to end it now, and where do you plan to focus your energy now, and would you consider hosting another reading series in the future?

I decided to end it because I guess readings just aren’t really my favorite things. I love the idea of having some kind of community, but events depress me if I attend too many. I see a lot of people leaving right after they perform, not bothering to listen to the other artists. I see a lot of authors begging people to buy their books but then not buying anyone else’s. Seeing stuff like that at events makes me wish I had stayed home. I’m going to focus more on writing and publishing for a while because those two things make me feel most alive. I don’t think I’ll ever do another reading series, but I’ll still host or read at or just hang out at events sometimes.

3. What do you see in the near future for the poetry scene in the NJ/PA area?

I’m not sure, really. I feel like there are so many genius poets in NJ and PA that just aren’t getting acknowledged. Sometimes I’ll go to an open mic and hear a total stranger read, and I’ll be like, “Ah, this person is amazing. I gotta get one of their books!” Then I’ll find out they have never been published. There are poets way better than me who have never gotten a single poem published. It’s crazy. I think the poetry world will keep expanding. New people will enter all the time. Hopefully that’s a good thing. I think it can be.

4. Your lit zine, Philosophical Idiot, has really taken off. It seems like the “anything goes” concept is appealing to a lot of people, however, what is it that you wouldn’t want to see? How often do you and Kat butt heads over submissions?

We’ll read almost anything. We don’t like stuff that’s edgy for the sole purpose of being edgy. You can be an asshole. That’s fine. We’ll publish your angry rant about bologna sandwiches or whatever. We just won’t publish your blatant hate speech.

Kat and I agree on a lot of things. However, I’m quick to pass on submissions that “seem too complex” or “aren’t clear enough.” Kat is way smarter than me and never has trouble understanding anything. Even if someone’s writing isn’t 100% clear, she is able to fill in the blanks as she’s reading it. Whenever you see a really long technical piece published on our site, it’s safe to assume that Kat accepted it and had to explain to me why it’s good. I’m a sucker for the short and simple.

5. There has been a lot of debate as to what defines a poem these days, with the “Insta-poets” and “Tumblr poets” gaining more popularity. What do you think it would take for more traditional poets to be recognized, and what is it that motivates you to write?

Those Insta-poets and Tumblr poets are selling thousands of books. Rupi Kaur is selling millions. I personally don’t love the stuff these poets produce, but I won’t say it’s not poetry. Of course it’s poetry. And people aren’t “wrong” for loving it. Literature is a lot like music. Remember when nu-metal was popular? Hardly anyone listens to that stuff now. Everything is always changing. Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur sold over 3 million copies. One day, a “traditional” poet’s book will do just as well. Will this happen in our lifetime? Probably not, but we’ll see.

What motivates me to write? That’s another thing that’s always changing. Right now, it’s this interview. Tomorrow? I don’t know. I hear it might snow tomorrow.

 

You can find “Ballpoint Penitentiary” on Amazon right here.

 

Cabbages by K. Eltinae, from Issue #2

Cabbages

I remember the moment when I knew for sure,
I sat gawking at your knees,
jutting like fists,
twin cabbages,
two stubborn minds made up,
you were counting numbers,
until my tongue slipped into a sea,
of all the things you’d done for me,
the blame washed in and settled
I had used my last chance,
and your words could no longer save me.

I remember your quivering knees,
like the knobs of two doors,
I listened to your moist hands,
Breathe and sweat,
sans regret.

You have two hearts,
who have never come to terms with each other.
They are wrapped in inches and inches of cabbage skin,
they are dangerously polar.
You’ve kept them apart
auctioning each discretely,
but I am secretly afraid for you,
I hear them snap and lock,
snarling, like the kept prisoners they are,
your smile is growing less and less convincing
nothing will save you from the floor.

I stare closely at your knees,
willing their chambers free,
once your last words descend,
I hear each of your hearts explode.
Your expression is a picture,
collapsing like a yielding tent,
the floor beckons to you.

Traveler’s Therapy by Lennart Lundh

Traveler’s Therapy

Shadows on the road grow long,
become shadows of themselves
within the fans of headlights
when the sun is gone.

Moving west through some state,
right-angled to the new moon,
the concrete snakes through forest
like a lover heading for a mistress.

Six weeks on the road with six to go.
He’s tired of sleeping in strange towns.
He lies in bed, looking at her picture,
the one she sent two nights ago.

She is leaning against their headboard,
wearing a camisole with one strap
slipping off her shoulder. He dares
imagine boy shorts below the photo.

The paisley cloth is a Rorschach to him.
He sees her breasts, one boldly bare,
the other peeking timidly through hair,
a country river flowing down it.

 

Lennart Lundh is a poet, short-fictionist, historian, and photographer. His work has appeared internationally since 1965.