Just Because, Bad Heart by Michael Lee Johnson

Just Because, Bad Heart

Just because I am old
do not tumble me dry.
Toss me away with those unused
Wheat pennies, Buffalo nickels, and Mercury dimes
in those pickle jars in the basement.
Do not bleach my dark memories
Salvation Army my clothes
to the poor because I died.
Do not retire me leave me a factory pension
in dust to history alone.
Save my unfinished poems refuse to toss them
into the unpolished alleyways of exile rusty trash barrows
just outside my window, just because I am old.
Do not create more spare images, adverbs
or adjectives than you need to bury me with.
Do not stand over my grave, weep,
pouring a bottle of Old Crow
bourbon whiskey without asking permission
if it can go through your kidney’s first.
When under stone sod I shall rise and go out
in my soft slippers in cold rain
dread no danger, pick yellow daffodils,
learn to spit up echoes of words
bow fiddle me up a northern Spring storm.
Do you bad heart, see in pine box of wood,
just because I got old.


Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois. Mr. Johnson published in more than 1037 publications, his poems have appeared in 37 countries, he edits, publishes 10 different poetry sites. He has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry 2015/1 Best of the Net 2016/and 2 Best of the Net 2017. He also has 169 poetry videos on YouTube. He is the editor-in-chief of the anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, and editor-in-chief of a second poetry anthology, Dandelion in a Vase of Roses which is available at Amazon. Michael is also editor-in-chief of Warriors with Wings: the Best in Contemporary Poetry, a smaller anthology available now.

Two poems by Ross Stager

The Madness of Sunflowers
after Robert Altman’s Vincent & Theo

Mix the food coloring with a bit
of butter for a paint we can spread
with our mouths.

He started with a palette.
The paint never got
on the canvass.

Yes, there is one original.
Just one. We live in it
all the time. Swim its rivers
constantly. We’re a gallery.
This is just one exhibit.
Each second of the day
a single case study in a file
drawer for which the clock & I
are negotiating still a name.

In the same vein, I turn
these poems over
for public examination.

Girl with Cigar
after Robert Altman’s Vincent & Theo

I plucked this one from the market
just like any eggplant or cantaloupe.

Now we’ve traded terms of value
on all minutes of the day, a cage

you’re glad to inhabit. You allow me
to capture you in pages, with language

& imagery. How my hands inquire
after the facts of sight & vision!

To witness you at our wits’ ends
& hold you so close. Tonight

a great haze clouds our inhibitions,
all that talk of once again making

discourse of shadows relevant
such are these wicked polygons

pursuing a modicum of sublimity.
But our principles of artistic system

outpace the alcohol, balance
the randomness. It’s a pattern

of cause & effect in theories
of order & chaos, metaphysical

schemas of greens, forms of yellow
& orange & reds in the context

of brushstrokes, oils & acrylics
in soul mechanics this wordy

abstract poetry a verbal energy
that insinuates a crazy music

exactly how the world idea
reifies itself, becomes actually being.

You just puff & puff until
we blaze & disappear into

the cloud of symbolic infinity,
fall on the canvass as our

bodies take shape & like paint
drip down & accept mixture

with impurities of the flesh
& spirit & a love of it all.


Ross Stager is a student of philosophy and English at the University of Minnesota and works as a night manager at a small grocery store in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis. He has published poems in such places like Otoliths, Alimentum, Inner Sins, Lunaris Review, Penwood Review, CultureCult Magazine, Chantwood Magazine, and 30 North, as well as a short-story for The Bacon Review. Catch him on Twitter with the handle @RossStager.

Three poems by Marisa Silva-Dunbar


There is some relief in this rejection.
Build a dam to where another life might’ve flowed,
that brook would never grow up to be a river anyway.

It is a sigh and a sting—the shedding of old delusions.

For my Friends with Lovers Better Left in the Dust


I’ve seen you shrink as she devours you.
You never ask what she’s taking—
the parasite consuming the host.

Her pettiness makes you weak,
runs you in circles. She promises paradise
served in a glass of lemonade.

I worry you will become a shadow woman,
a shell of longing and illusion.


Wedded young to a guy with no imagination—
overgrown frat boy wannabe. We knew he’d try
to box you in, make you a domesticated lady,
in a house that is really all his, you’re just an ornament.

You dream about decorating your skin, with a brightly
colored peacock winding its way up your torso, and back.
The ink peeking through your suburban mom uniform,
but even this he forbids, the only marks he wants on you—are his

You are a fire-sparked, earth mother with claws
ready to rip out throats. He’s running scared,
still a silly little boy zoning out in front of a screen.

The life you want is waiting for you.


Oh, Lonely Girl—worrying every man will leave you.
You have chained yourself to a guy too lazy to move.
He stopped working months ago, just sinks into your sofa
as the stress from your job wears you away.

He promises trips to a foggy city where you can lose
your troubles—those are the only things you own
these days. Even if you catch him with his fingers
in another girl, you’ll stay.


Spittle stuck to your cracked lips—
I have never seen a man drain youth
from a girl, like your lover does.
You are all teeth, jaundiced skin

and sunken eyes.
What happened to the wild raven
waves of your hair? What locks
did you give away when he was building
shrines for former flames?


Found poem from Francesca Lia Block’s Echo

A pulsing sacrifice—beautiful dark bruise.
Obsessive eyes like mouths.
You’re the perfect food,
My little blood orange.
Flesh—He eats bloody.
She’s disarmingly shady—a slicked mouth.
I wanted to erase her voice—the pleasure voice
telling me to breathe.

They separated me:
spasms struck,
bones break,
a curling stomach.

I dreamed:
I was translucent—a thousand ghosts.
Our bodies under water—
cut, blood marbling, flowering—
Dark circles under the eye—a fruitlike wound.

I see inside him:
He bought blood for the soil.
He was staring into a mirror—nothing stared back.

I tried to scream: Take me home!

Nothing comes out.


Marisa Silva-Dunbar’s work has been published in Rose Quartz Journal, Awkward Mermaid, Spider Mirror Journal, Mojave He[art] Review, Anti-Heroin Chic Magazine, Poetry WTF?!, Better than Starbucks Magazine, Redheaded Stepchild, Words Dance Magazine and Gargoyle Magazine. She graduated from the University of East Anglia with her MA in poetry, and has been shortlisted twice for the Eyewear Publishing Fortnight Poetry Prize. She has work forthcoming in Mojave He[art] Review, Sixfold, Pussy Magic, Midnight-lane Boutique, and The Same.

Two poems by Bruce Niedt


After transcribing scripture all day,
interrupted only by frequent prayer
or a Spartan meal, one would think
that those medieval monks would be anxious
to break out a little, to think outside the box,
or margins as the case may be. And they did.

After hours of drudgery copying Luke or Revelations,
after the day-in, day-out regimen of faith and devotion,
they strayed onto the edges of the parchment
and created something fanciful, a little divertissement
to amuse themselves – a snail with a cat’s head,
an elephant imagined with a wolf’s body,
a guy blowing a trumpet from his buttocks.

Then their pens would return to the realm
of rote and reason, as if nothing had ever happened,
as if imagination had never opened the borders,
but their smiles might last a little while longer.

The Back Door

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens….
– Talking Heads

There are chaise lounges lined up to infinity
on a cloud like a cruise ship deck.
Some people are playing shuffleboard
or ping-pong or mah jongg. Some people
are reading all the favorite books
they didn’t have time for on Earth;
some are binge-watching old TV series.
There’s a 24-hour buffet, and no one
ever worries about gaining weight.
There’s a party in the community room,
and there’s music playing but everyone hears
their own favorite music. I hear the Beatles.
People still make small talk so no one knows
how they really feel, and everyone leaves
at eleven o’clock. There’s a couple kissing
in the corner; they’ve been doing it all evening,
the same kiss over and over again.
A pretty woman who may have been a model
walks up to me and whispers,
“I’ve heard that Hell is more interesting.”
So we slip out the back door to find out.


Bruce W. Niedt is a retired civil servant and New Jersey native who is now enjoying the joys of grand-parenthood. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including Rattle, Writer’s Digest, Tiferet, Spitball, The Lyric, and US 1 Worksheets. He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. His latest chapbook is Hits and Sacrifices (Finishing Line Press).

Two poems by Linda M. Crate

Besting jungles

the poetry of your eyes
as the sun fell upon the hazel of you
made green glittering forests
dance and beckon to me,
and i fell in too deep as i always do;
you let me into your jungle
never warned me of the tigers
until they buried me
beneath the stars—
the rains poured through the tapestry
of big leaved trees,
and my pain ached like a river;
until one day i stood up and found a healing green
and forget the sharp daggers of your eyes
because i could never hate such a beautiful color
even if i would scrape it away from you
along with the browns
because you’re not worthy of them, either;
sometimes the villains
get the best lines
but one day i will write a poem
that will best your jungles and you will see that you’re
not the only one with universes.

to burn a nightmare

i was six
when you married her,
and you still loved me;
but somewhere
along the lines you stopped loving me—
you’ll claim otherwise,
but you were the one that told me
if you apology for the same thing more than
once you didn’t mean it;
so you meant to damage me—
took your own hurts and made them mine
a child should never have to carry
her father’s mountains,
but that’s exactly what you made me do;
instead of shattering the cycle
you broke me—
thin compliments and fragile mercies
sewed me back together with the hiss of your tongue,
but i knew it was a reckless and clumsy idea;
i rebelled against all your rigidity
you craved my vulnerability and fragility
and for that i gave you claws—
because sometimes light isn’t enough to fight monsters
sometimes you have to use your own nightmares
to burn them.


Linda M. Crate’s poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has five published chapbooks A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press – June 2013), Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon – January 2014), If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications, August 2016), My Wings Were Made to Fly (Flutter Press, September 2017), and splintered with terror (Scars Publications, January 2018), and one micro-chapbook Heaven Instead (Origami Poems Project, May 2018). She is also the author of the novel Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018).

Two poems by Marisa Crane

Who is the Boy and Who is the Girl?

Who is the boy and who is the girl?
So glad you asked. I am the great
white shark and she is the brilliant
octopus, and you are just as near-sighted
as the man on the street
who complimented my muscular arms
then reassured me that
I still look like a woman.
Listen, I sink my sharp teeth into the meat
of her ass. Her tentacles touch me in places
I hadn’t known existed. It is a dual
act of self-discovery, and it is
none of your fucking business.

The Sads

We must admit, we do the sad dance far too well
We do the sad rhythm and blues the sad twist and shout
The sad coffee break the sad Twitter scroll the sad going to sleep alone
The sad shower the sad workout the sad singalong the sad ghosting
The sad forgetting we have bodies the sad remembering we have bodies
The sad delusion of reality the sad sketch the sad wonder if they think of us
The sad walk around the block the sad buttered toast the sad morning mist
The sad need for connection the sad misunderstanding of what that entails
The sad mistaking wanting for loving the sad staying even when we shouldn’t
The sad sitting in the corner the sad happy hour the sad bank account
The sad acid under our tongues the sad contrived experiences
The sad editing of our identities the sad knowing most people don’t care
The sad aching for acceptance the sad never calling our parents
The sad therapy sessions the sad Lyft ride the sad confessions
The sad ocean waves the sad directionless leaps the sad sand we wipe away
The sad sads have fucked us
And tonight we are burnt out from chasing the moon
The sad exploration
I can’t keep time anymore
It seems I’ve lost my dancing shoes
Now my feet
I didn’t try to stop my disappearance


Marisa Crane is a lesbian fiction writer and poet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pigeon Pages, Pidgeonholes, Drunk Monkeys, Riggwelter Press, Okay Donkey, X-R-A-Y Magazine, and elsewhere. She currently lives in San Diego with her partner.

Madrid Sleeps by Donna Pucciani

Madrid Sleeps

in the bull’s bloodshot eye,
in the empty bull ring,
in the crowds’ wave of sound
muffled in a matador’s hat.

Dust rises above the past,
over the city’s crooked pavements
where old women walk their dogs
and smoke, their steps deliberate.
Sometimes two link arms.
They are carefully coiffed,
with earrings of real gold.

A door of ironwork and glass
abuts the sidewalk. Keys are retrieved
from black leather purses. Together
they’ll enter the tiny lift,
sip chamomile tea on the divan
five flights up, their dogs
curled in their laps. Then, siesta.

Trees line the curbs, their roots
and leaves birthed in this hard city.
One learns to sleep
through the nightly caterwaul
of garbage trucks and revelers.

In the morning, when the bars close,
the city slips into daylight
as if nothing has happened—
a civil war, museums
filled with elongated madonnas
and the royal family in wigs,
their sloe-eyed children and spaniels.

In an hour or two,
heat will embrace the city
with unbearable breath, the metro
will stink of piss, the banks and offices
unlock for the commerce of the workers
who clutch their cell phones,
forgetting the library that holds
maps on parchment, notation
for the trembling strings of a guitar,
hospitals full of the dying,
families living atop one another in small apartments
filled with the smell of cheese and ham.

The children next door can be heard
clattering through rooms, and soon the afternoon
bakes in the inescapable sun
while cathedral bells toll the hour.
Shops close for sleep; it is simply too hot to do anything
but shut one’s eyes and sit until the dark closes in.

Supper seizes the tired mass of humanity,
their tapas carrying them into the dark
where ghosts rise over churches
and statues of famous men. Above the plazas,
babies are scrubbed and tucked into their beds
with perhaps a story of princes and charms
in a whole world of silvery sweetness,
except for the hungry, the beaten, and
the ancient bellowing of bulls.


Donna Pucciani, a Chicago-based writer, has published poetry worldwide in such diverse journals as Shi Chao Poetry, Poetry Salzburg, nebulab, Istanbul Literary Review, Gradiva, and Agenda. Her most recent book of poems is EDGES.