Looking for Vermeer by Ruth Mark, from Issue #1

Looking for Vermeer

In search of Vermeer
they pointed the car in the
direction of Delft, got out
after finally finding
a parking place – right beside
the windmill, under the
bridge, and walked
following the drums and
caterwauling of the street
music – an organized, yet
chaotic gathering of Heineken-
swilling kids in t-shirts
and grown-out fringes, men
with goatees and shorts.

Periwinkle blue sky
softened with pink and
grey and green clouds –
clouds were never
white, not if you looked
at them properly, not if
you studied them with
a painter’s eyes, not when
the paints were expensive
the white formed from ground
bone, linseed oil and a
great deal of elbow grease.
Not when you had a family
to feed that was growing
almost by the year
and the house was almost
coming apart at the seams.

They turned a corner
just by the church and
came to the first canal –
a disappointing mud-colored
strip of sorry-looking
dishwater, slop-water,
shit and grit and
not blue. In no way
was the water blue,
yet it was glassy, mirror-like
not a ripple, no barges,
boats, or any manner of
water traffic on it
no source of ripples
no kids to throw stones
in, no milk maids or
girls with earrings
to dip pails into, draw
water to wash clothes in;
your clothes and theirs.

A line of Delft pottery
tile of all hues, blue on white
of course but some more
modern than others in
their gloss, their brightness
their uniformity. They
could tell which ones
had been hand-painted,
which ones pressed on
pictures reproduced in
their hundreds, thousands
perhaps. They wondered if
you ever stopped to
admire the tiles or if
they were below you,
you, the master painter
who painted to order
for all your rich neighbors
a slave to their whims
a whipping boy or a
shrewd businessman
looking to make a quick buck?

And then they saw
A plaque declaring you
existed. That you had lived here
high up on a wall embedded.
They’d have missed it had
they not stopped for coffee.
Delft remembers you in a
plaque, countless reproductions
of your more famous paintings
found these days on everything
from t-shirts, to mugs to
toilet lids. Would you have
approved? Seen the profit
margin, the investment? Or
would you have despaired,
felt you’d sold yourself
to the people, diluted
your talent somehow?

They’d come looking for
Vermeer and found him –
in the colors of the sky,
the clouds, the cobbled
streets, the very air,
tangible, yet elusive
but there just the same
in Delft that water washed day.

Smell a Book by Joseph Quiroz

Joseph Quiroz is a 29 year old male from North Arlington, NJ who has been performing at poetry slams and open mics all throughout the New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania areas since Dec of 2013. He represented Rock Slam out of Nyack, NY at the National Poetry Slam in 2016. His work has been published in Degenerate Literature, TL;DR Magazine, Horror, Sleaze and Trash, Philosophical Idiot, Gimmick Press, Blue Mountain Review and The Platform Review: Arts By The People. He can be found on Instagram at JosephAndrew27, on Youtube at J Andrew and on Twitter at JoeWritesPoetry.

Telling You Everything by Cindy Hochman

Telling You Everything

“Be brief and tell us everything.” —Charles Simic

I am all moan and bone and dangling participles. My body is hamstrung and jagged. I am a bellyful of barren. I am all chocolate bars and razor blades.


Telling You Everything (political version)

I am all moan and bone and dangling participles. My body is hamstrung and jagged. I am a bellyful of barren. I am all chocolate bars and razor blades. There was no collusion.


Cindy Hochman is the president of “100 Proof” Copyediting Service and the editor-in-chief of the online poetry journal First Literary Review-East. She is on the book review staffs of Pedestal magazine and Clockwise Cat. Her most recent chapbook is Habeas Corpus (Glass Lyre Press).

Two poems by Kristin Garth

My mom’s idea: reduce the tits.  His looks
are merely consequence.  The problem’s me,
a girl, sixteen.  Surgeon consulted, booked 
to intervene.  “You must say you agree.
They overpower anyway. Attract 
attention, evil kind.  Your clothes can’t hide 
what ails men’s minds.”  An attack 
I ponder teary-eyed.  These breasts, my pride,
atop, preside, a freckled flesh of flaws
not yet my own.  A dream to flee and be
intact, full grown that turns to stitches, gauze,
a chest he won’t desire.  She won’t hear pleas.
He’ll ask for thanks, my dad, who makes her quit.
The looker is the one who saves his tits. 


Men Are Giants When You Are Five
All men are giants when you’re five.  Childhood
is something to survive. Drunk carousel
he lifts you up to ride.   You learn the good
in small is you can hide. Princess he tells
a story under sheets — apologies  
for violence he repeats.  All mixed up
inside with fairytales, mythology,
incestuous details.  A pink teacup
a monster cracks.  Primate who breaks you rough
then glues you back — carelessly. Damage shows.
The source of trouble no one knows — this gruff
behemoth in puritanical clothes.
Because of him you are both dead, alive
inside. Men are giants when you are five.


Kristin Garth is poet from Pensacola and a sonnet stalker.  Her sonnets have stalked the pages of Occulum, Ghost City Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Murmur Journal, Fourth & Sycamore, Rise Up Review, Drunk Monkeys and many other publications.  Her poetry dollhouse chapbook Pink Plastic House will be published by Maverick Duck Press in early 2018.  Follow her on Twitter:  @lolaandjolie.

An interview with poet Kailey Tedesco



Kailey Tedesco is the author of She Used to be on a Milk Carton (April Gloaming Publishing) and These Ghosts of Mine, Siamese (Dancing Girl Press). She is the editor-in-chief of Rag Queen Periodical and an associate editor for Luna Luna Magazine. She also performs with the Poetry Brothel. Her work can be found in Grimoire, Phoebe Journal, American Chordata, and more. For other information, please visit kaileytedesco.com



1. Much of your work tends to have an otherworldly quality to it, as if you intentionally reach beyond the ordinary when you write. Where do you draw your biggest inspiration from?

Yes, I’m definitely preoccupied with all that is otherworldly and phantasmagorical. I get most inspired by images that I have difficulty explaining, but can easily understand. Films like The Neon Demon, Mood Indigo, The Haunting of Hell House, Picnic at Hanging Rock, anything David Lynch, etc. can inspire me for days — they are just so rich in their visual sense of self. I hope to achieve a similar sense with my poems.

I’m also inspired by other worlds in general. When I was young, my grandma had this huge mirror that she kept on a slant in her kitchen. I used to just sit in front of it, staring at the way it looked like if I leaned forward I’d fall forever into what was behind me. That sensation thrilled me, even when I knew it wasn’t possible to just tumble through mirrors. I still like to think about all of these multiple realms interacting with one another, and that’s largely what my first collection, She Used to be on a Milk Carton, is about — a girl moving through realms of trauma, girlhood, death, the afterlife, and hauntings.

2. Did growing up in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey influence your story telling abilities? Do you have any interesting stories from your childhood there?

Yes, for sure! My parents both love horror and the macabre, so scary stories and movies were a huge part of my childhood. We used to camp just down the road from the Leeds’ house where the Jersey Devil was born. When I was six my dad took me and my uncle (who was also really young) for a walk in the woods at night and told us about Bloody Mary for the first time. I was terrified and ran all the way back to my grandparent’s camper by myself. But afterwards, I basically recounted the story at every sleepover I ever attended.

Once, I got in trouble with my Girl Scout leader because I made up my own story about a doll that comes to life and cuts off people’s fingers. I got pulled aside for a long time, and the GS leader just sort of told me how inappropriate that was. Making up spooky stories was so encouraged in my house though, so I was just like umm… okay.

My mom always said that there were too many real life things to be afraid of, so there was no use worrying about dolls coming to life and cutting off fingers or the Jersey Devil coming to spoil our milk. I like to explore this idea in my writing too — how the fantastical or supernatural can act as a mollifier for “real” horror.


3. You have an impressive editing background. As an editor and publisher, what do you most look for in submissions, and what defines, for you, a poem that demands attention?

Thank you! At Rag Queen Periodical, our goal is to publish work that is well-crafted, but also work that advocates for bettering the world or the self in a way that is truthful and real. We’ve published gorgeous pieces about motherhood, compassion for animals, mental illness, addiction, identity… it goes on. I definitely seek work that can speak on many levels.

My most enthusiastic YESes always go to pieces that create some sort of unfamiliar world, either with images or language. As a reader, I like feeling a little displaced at first, but propelled by the quest to orient myself within the experience and language of the poem.

My favorite poems are always very thickly wooded.

4. Tell me about the Poetry Brothel in New York City, where you have a recurring character. How do they present their performances, and does your work there inform how you perform at other readings?

The Poetry Brothel is a really unique and awesome organization. I perform as Hortensia Celeste, a cursed soothsayer. The whole experience breaks down a lot of barriers, and brings poetry to both literary and non-literary communities in an almost sneaky way. People enjoy themselves so much, I think they forget the stigmas that can sometimes surround poetry readings.

Basically, an audience comes into a whole new world, listens to talented poets read their own work as a character on stage, and then they can pay a token or two to hear their favorite characters read to them privately. There’s a ton of other happenings throughout the night like burlesque dancing, tarot readings, and a lot more. It’s really just this big, wild circus of a time.

I was still fairly new to reading out loud in general when I did my first Brothel event a few years ago, but I loved the idea performing in character. I did fine my first time on stage, but I stammered my way through my first few private readings. I remember people politely asking me to read louder, but I was just feeling so shy and awkward. My most memorable reading that day and maybe ever was with a woman from Europe. While I was reading, she started to cry and then she just hugged me so tight. We had a really long and personal conversation afterwards about my poetry, and she gave me her home phone number. She told me to visit her if I ever found myself in Sweden. I realized the magic of the Brothel then— connecting with strangers through words! I do my best to channel that vulnerability and intimacy in my non-Brothel readings now.

5. You put out a chapbook with Kristy Bowen’s wonderful Dancing Girl Press. How was that experience? You also have just published your first full length collection. How intense was the process for choosing what you wanted to represent your work as a whole?

Dancing Girl Press is fantastic. I’m so inspired by Kristy’s creative energy, and how well she is able to grasp the heart of each collection when she designs the covers.

My first full-length collection took about three years to complete, and a lot of that time was just editing. I’ve known the world, or worlds, that I’ve wanted to build for years, so my vision was there long before I started to write. It was mostly a matter of figuring out how to best communicate that vision, and there was a lot of trial and error in that process. I have a very early draft of She Used to be on a Milk Carton saved on my computer, and it is just so completely different than the book that’s out now. I had a bit of a poetic growth spurt while writing this manuscript where I began to discover the moves that worked for me, and stopped trying to push the rest. There were things I was so stubborn about in the first draft, and for a while I didn’t want to accept that they weren’t working. So, finally accepting that some poems needed to go was both the most difficult and most fruitful part of the process. I read the collection over after those cuts and was just like, yes, this feels much better!

I’m also grateful to have had many eyes look over the manuscript at different stages. My professor, Genevieve Betts, read through probably three different versions of the book over a span of just a few months. She really helped me crystallize my intentions, and I’ll always be so thankful for that.


You can find Kailey’s book, “She Used To Be On A Milk Carton” right here.

Midnight by Lori Cramer


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.