A poem from John Tustin

Stupidity Or Hubris

When stupidity or hubris of the heart is mistaken for bravery
It’s easy to see death as nothing
More or less than the ending of life;
See loneliness as a badge to wear when trolling the supermarket
For bare legs to look at and think about later in your bedroom;
See your face in the mirror, pretend a better face and believe it.
See other people as a means to an end –
Things to sullenly pile into your emptiness that will never be filled.

When stupidity or hubris of the heart is mistaken for bravery
It’s easy to see life as not much more than what passes the time
Before death
And death as that endless moment
When your emptiness empties at last.

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals in the last dozen years. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.

Two prose poems by Michelle Reale


I can’t get out from behind my own eyes. It’s not like it’s a secret. I wade into the imponderables and centuries of the nameless cling to me like a second skin. I have been told I owe them nothing. My father looked like Robert Taylor, pale with appropriate gravitas , though animated on celluloid. But that was way before I knew him and his penchant for deep sights and ingratiating gestures. I held onto this knowledge because it told me a little something about myself, the way I bind my own hands in front of me and the convoluted expressions I utter to the unsuspecting, but with utter sincerity. I imitated my father’s genuflect on the red carpet leading to an ivory altar on a lifetime of Sundays. It brought me down to where I needed to be. When I am subterranean, I can forget the cinematic world and how tired we are all from our lessons. I turn a fossil into bone I can use. I forget the process of evolving. Even the cockeyed could see how well my father constructed the vibrating, flesh and blood scaffold. Anyone with a heart could feel its flutter.



Beyond the dividing wall, the mother with the arched eyebrows and frayed nerves herds her kids to bed. At the same time my mother lays a towel over the clawfoot bathtub to wash my long, tangled hair. I hear the kids next door fighting over the Viewmaster, the one they can never really use, because they stick their thick fingers through the fragile film of the wheel. My mother digs her fingers into my scalp and I cry, silently, repression a skill. I pretend I am a house with twinkling lights strung across my rafters, party favors in pastel iridescents on tables with bows where my imaginary friends will join me. The Prell slides into my eyes and I can’t tell if I am crying or just stung. It is not the washing as much as it is the rinsing, the deficits and subtractions of everything. The Italian Presbyterian minister who soaked in this same tub a generation before my parents claimed it, may have been plotting how to lure his people from their papal tendencies. Coal was an option. Give with one hand, take away with another. Allow gratitude to be the dominant emotion. My mother’s fingers catch in the snarled strands of my hair, though my scalp throbs with cleanliness. I hear the kids crying through the wall, an extension of my family by sheer virtue of proximity. I can’t let them go. I could poke a hold through the thin wall and meet them eye to eye, but it would take them years to understand my needs; how there would always be critical corners I would find it forever impossible to navigate.


Michelle Reale is the author of Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press,, 2019) and In the Blink of a Mottled Eye (Kelsay Books, 2020) among others. She is the Founding and Managing Editor of OVUNQUE SIAMO: New Italian-American Writing.

Letter to Joe Arcangelini, On Another Coast by Mike James

Letter to Joe Arcangelini, On Another Coast

The coffee was delicious and the rain is good to see.
Add enough mornings, get a long life.
Is fake profundity what you meant to wake to?
Some mornings, the nearly true is all I can manage.
I look out the window and wait.
Hard rain scattered the birds.
How bare is the shelter of a leafless tree?
A little less than necessary, little more than nothing.
If you think absence tastes like air, you haven’t breathed here.
The factories closed years ago, an old odor stays.
The blanket sky is tattered in gray places.
That blanket is older than today.
The clouds look younger and younger.


Mike James lives and works in Murfreesboro, TN. Recent poems have appeared in Asheville Poetry Review, Main Street Rag, San Pedro Review, and Laurel Poetry Review. His fifteenth collection, Journeyman’s Suitcase, was recently published by Luchador Press. He served as an associate editor for the Kentucky Review and as an associate editor for Autumn House Press. He currently serves as an associate editor for the prose poem journal Unbroken.

Two poems by John Grey

The Butcher Of Valentine Street

It’s been years since
sides of beef, gutted pigs,
hung in his frozen vault.
His knives and cleavers
are packed away in a trunk,
no longer shining.

There’s still a call for rump and sirloin,
but he’s not the one being called.
And bells jangle in places.
But not the friendly alarm
of his butcher’s shop door
when a customer came n.

He sits out on the nursing home porch
waving to people he doesn’t know.
They don’t stop in for chuck or trip,
or a pound or two of ground round.
And he can’t smell blood any more,
just death.

Look at his hands.
Worn and weary
but without the consolation
of a hard day’s work.
No slicing and dicing a shoulder of lamb.
No grinding out sausage after sausage.
His job is staying alive.
He’s something of a slacker.

He wonders whatever happened
to the stray black cat,
the one that devoured the liver scraps
he tossed its way.
Or the woman he married,
the one who lived off his sweat.

Sun goes down
and he dozes in encroaching shadows.
A crisscross of light and dark:
an ancient tradesman
should be seen that way.

A Winter’s Shore

It’s miserable outside.
An unruly wind batters the trees.
The last of the leaves slowly zigzag to the floor.
Grass and garden shrivel from the cold.
Just the thought of the bitter sea
trembles my nerves.
Darkness settles into its slow, long hours.
Through the window glass,
I can hear voices without names
tick softly on the window glass
like rain.
I draw the curtain,
add more wood to the fire,
maximize how it is in here.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Sin Fronteras, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in West Trade Review, Willard and Maple and Connecticut River Review.

Two poems by Collin Kelley

Strange Angels

The week before my mother died
the house was full of wasps.
They buzzed and bumped along the ceiling,
got caught in the curtains and blinds.
Angry and in search of exit, yet refusing
every open door and window.

After the nurse came and told my mother
she would be dead in a week,
the wasps hovered near her
but never landed or threatened,
and she never swatted them away.

In witchcraft, a wasp is a strong feminine spirt,
a guardian and protector.
The caretaker, a deeply religious woman,
said the devil was in the house, unleashed
prayers and insecticide to down and drown them.
But these wasps were impervious,
resurrecting and wobbling back to the air.

The day after my mother died in hospice,
the husks of wasps littered the carpet,
seemingly fallen mid-flight.
Their manifest, tethered to my mother’s
mortal rage, gone out of them
along with the sting.


Terminal Agitation

The stacking and unstacking of pillows,
the pinning and unpinning of hair.

The rearranging and invention of words,
the unearthly cries and whispers.

Shouts and tears turn to low moans
then rev up to demonic growls.

Death has many faces, busy hands,
the work of leaving a kind of dismantling.

Maybe it is the sound and movement
of the soul coming unmoored

from its berth, the unsticking
and scraping away of one life for the next.


Collin Kelley is a poet, novelist, and journalist from Atlanta, GA. His latest project is co-editing “Mother Mary Comes To Me: A Pop Culture Poetry Anthology” forthcoming from Madville Publishing in 2020. www.collinkelley.com