“From Your Lover in the Middle East” by John Grey

2020 Pushcart Prize Nominee
2020 Best of the Net Nominee

I’m off to the hardware store
by way of Iraq and Syria,
then the dentist, in the family car
(okay so make that a jeep)
a hit-out at the local racquetball club
or a harrowing mission to the war zone.

I haven’t seen you in two months,
since the hot tub,
your nakedness supreme,
and greeting you with the word “Peace.”

The women I see on my travels
may be mysterious
but they’re fully clothed,
and just a little stiff.
and not forgetting their neglected smiles.

As for their hips –
I have a flag like that.
And their hair doesn’t pour.
I could easily thumbtack it to
the wall of my barracks.
You illuminate my dreams.
Their awkward, reticent bearing
wouldn’t make it through my first snore.

I wear a combat helmet.
I drive to the museum
where someone’s labored over what
they earnestly believed was beauty.
But, praying for flesh, they were stuck with sand.
The sculptors are either dead or in their dotage,
tribal elders, whose tribe has been
stolen out from under them.

That’s me piloting that blunt-nosed fighter.
Or watching the young woman drop her packages.
But I can’t help her.
Those boxes could be bombs.
And I’m working on the kind of chest
where majors could pin medals.
And I’m looking ahead to a day
like the one I’m looking back on.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in: That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly, with work upcoming in: Qwerty, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review, and failbetter.

“You Write Sixteen Lines and Whaddya Get?” by Ken Gosse

I write by the foot
using meter and rhyme
and my poetry’s light
almost all of the time.
I rarely mix prose
with a rhythm which flows
to the snags and the sandbars
which cause others woes
as its course twists and turns
through its trochees and dactyls
its iambs and anapests,
knotted like fractals
which sometimes go on …
on and on, on and on …
Unless they’re well-crafted,
attention’s soon gone.

I use many forms,
mostly those I’ve rehearsed;
there are dozens to choose from,
none best and none worst:
villanelle and senryu,
sestina, rondeau,
double-dactyl and pantoum
(I rarely use those).
Some are one line, some two
when a couplet will do;
most are four lines called quatrains,
and then there’s a few
where a line intertwines
like a series of vines
though the verses, called stanzas,
like extravaganzas.

Cinquains and acrostics,
haiku, elegies,
madrigals, palindromes,
and, if you please,
the Rannaigheact Mhor
(never heard that before;
I just looked it up
but I think I lost score:
heptasyllabic lines—
seven syllables per—
and so many more rules
that I think I’ll defer).
For the most part, I mix ’em
and ramble, like here,
using rhythm and rhyme
just to tickle your ear.



Ken Gosse prefers writing short, rhymed verse with traditional meter, usually filled with whimsy and humor. First published in First Literary Review–East in November 2016, his poems are also in The Offbeat, Pure Slush, Parody, Home Planet News Online, Eclectica, and other publications. Raised in the Chicago suburbs, now retired, he and his wife have lived in Mesa, AZ, over twenty years.

“Square Dance” by Leslie Lippincott Hidley

First, you bow – And if you don’t
The world won’t sing itself, it won’t
‘Cause if you’re doing all the talking
Like some guy like Stephen Hawking
You will miss the wedded notes –
The sounds from the angelic throats
It won’t mean anything at all
Without the swing.

But bowing goes against our bent
We’re fallen now – we’ve gone and went
Our own way, by our own direction,
Our hearts and brains are all a-scramble
We’ve cooked our goose, our spirits ramble
And haunt the world instead of sing.



Leslie Hidley has been writing prose and poetry for her own amusement and that of her family and friends and others for most of her 73 years. And one of her ten grandchildren is named Kalliope. She has lived in Walla Walla, Washington; Frankfurt and Bremerhaven, Germany; Upper New York State; Enid, Oklahoma; Montgomery and Prattville, Alabama; Lubbock, Texas; Dover, Delaware; West Palm Beach, Florida; Goose Bay, Labrador; Washington, D.C.; Fairfield, California; Omaha, Nebraska; and now resides in Ojai (Nest-of-the-Moon), California, where she continues to write.

“I’m Your Little Speedbag” by Shelby Wilson

A poet friend once told
me that Inspiration sometimes
interrupts her in the shower,
provoking a panicked, lathered,
toweled sprint to a notepad
to record her next masterpiece.
How rude of Inspiration, I thought,
before realizing my envy.

Inspiration strikes me, too,
like a boxer’s taped knuckles
on a speedbag—
I’m the speedbag in
this metaphor.
I rapidly recoil
repeatedly, too dizzy to
know what is happening.
My thoughts ricochet,
transfigure each time
my tormentor’s knuckles hit.

Nothing ever comes of these sparring sessions.

Instead, I plod noisily, though
unaware of my footsteps, crouching,
waiting outside Inspiration’s door.

I end up with a sore
jaw and pounding head.

Even now,
each word I squeak out
is uninspired,
heavily wrought, but written,



Shelby Wilson is a high school AP English teacher from Amarillo, Texas. He holds a BA in English from Texas A&M University and an MA in English from West Texas A&M University.  His work has appeared in Ink & Nebula and Madness Muse Press.

“Maneuvering Through Existence” by Charles Rammelkamp

When Henry Heimlich of the Jewish Hospital of Cincinnati
published his famous procedure in Emergency Medicine in 1974,
who knew he’d become a household name?
Or at least his Maneuver, approved by the AMA in 1975
and included in most CPR and First Aid classes,
and that deaths from choking on food,
the sixth leading cause of accidental death,
would plummet as a result?
Henry would become a national hero.

Just so we wonder about death and its causes.
Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, AIDS, car wrecks, gun violence….
(Who by fire and who by water?
Who by sword and who by beast?
Who by hunger and who by thirst?
Who by, etc. as the Unetaneh Tokef tells us on Yom Kippur.)

And underlying those, what are the reasons?
Smoking, drinking, drugs, promiscuous sex, carelessness, diet.
Genetic predisposition.
Anger, jealousy, rage, grief.

Is the ideal death from old age?
Passing away painlessly in your sleep
(and how peacefully passive “passing away”)?
Or is there something beneath this, too?
Heart, lungs, liver. Genes. DNA.

What about being struck by lightning?
Pure dumb luck or carelessness?
(He shouldn’t have been standing
under that tree during a thunderstorm!)

The subtext seems to be it could have been prevented.
But can it really be postponed in perpetuity?
Dodge death forever, cryogenics be damned?
Ain’t no such maneuver, Henry.



Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, was recently published by FutureCycle Press. An e-chapbook has also recently been published online: Time Is on My Side (yes it is). Another chapbook, Mortal Coil, is forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing.

“Pickings” by Stephen Kingsnorth

The dipper, rocking on his bolder watch,
alert, in crowded camouflage, discreet,
magnetic hands at ten to two, scarf smoothed
with charm, the smile and words to reassure,
observed by none, a gesture, token, trove
to join the piling posts in fencing shed.

Grandfather’s own from warring fields,
the wallet slipped, worn-leather shine,
is soon binned skip, of no account,
what worth that life-held photo snap?
It sandwiched with paninis, wraps
pork chops and pȃté, jumbled food.

Surveying bins for easy trash,
amongst pre-packed day-before date,
she saw pigskin beneath the tripe,
patina pointing to her Dad –
before the crush about her life –
and needed it before the scraps.

Her whorled prints scraped the bacon fat,
and there the image, pipe in mouth,
for grandparent she never knew
became the pin-up she withdrew.
Between the paper sheets and card,
it tucked, her corrugated love.



Stephen Kingsnorth, retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by Nine Muses Poetry; Voices Poetry; Eunoia Review; Runcible Spoon; Ink Sweat and Tears; The Poetry Village; The Seventh Quarry; Gold Dust; From the Edge Poetry Magazine and Allegro Poetry Magazine.

“Melpomene” by Jack M. Freedman

Muse of the tragic play.
Bearer of the tragic mask.
You ring in the literature
That brings morbidity.
Each piece is a memento mori,
A reminder that we are mortal.
A hint that even the mightiest heroes
Fall sometimes.
Let us ponder you.
Let us find peace in the inevitability
Of death.
You know tragedy will befall us eventually,
But that it need not be a total loss,
But a gain of the elders.




Jack M. Freedman is a poet and spoken word artist from Staten Island, NY. He is the author of …and the willow smiled and Art Therapy 101 (Cyberwit.net, 2019). Publications featuring his work span the globe.

“The Last Time I Had to See You” by Victoria Hunter

2020 Pushcart Prize Nominee
2020 Best of the Net Nominee

You sat them on an icy oak table–
the package of my father’s ashes–
like an old-fashioned box cake.

Your dusty, branch-colored fingers
gripped a pile of pearly white paper sheets
with the profiles of people you were to keep
until their relatives were ready
to let God keep them or send them
to the next place they should be.

Then I swore I could see my father’s ashes
throbbing through the box.
I thought he preferred
to be with drunks than with me.
I never got one call from him on a holiday.
I never got to know the strength
of his heart’s soul in a close embrace.

Why should I care about his ashes?

I remember the room space, an opened box
in the evening in a basement.
I remember I sat, stiff as new chopsticks.
My heart was cake, sunken in the center.
My eyes were acorns in a puddle.
Suddenly you said, “You can come back
for them another time if you like,”
and then drew on one of the sheets
the cost for holding remains of
a poor black man you do not know.



Victoria Hunter was born in Pennsylvania. She enjoys reading, gardening, singing, traveling, and looking at art. She was a distinguished writer for the Waco Cultural Arts Festival. Her poem, “The Woman You Never Tell Anyone You Know,” was on the shortlist for the Poetry Kit Online 2018 Summer Poetry Contest. She has two poems in the November 2019 issue of The Writers Magazine. Her work has also appeared in Wordfest Anthology, Bluehole Magazine, Crimson Feet, and others.

“Catharsis” by John P. Drudge

A smooth straight road
Remains visible
For miles
But the unknown
Only happens
Around blind curves
Around the bends
And turns
We need crises
On our path
To grow
Where fear
Is the catharsis
That molds us
Into shapes
Beyond our bounds
Our binds
And the shackles
Of our shelter



John Drudge is from Caledon, Ontario, Canada. He is a social worker working in the field of disability management and holds degrees in social work, rehabilitation services, and psychology. John has appeared in the Arlington Literary Journal, The Rye Whiskey Review, Poetica Review, Literary Yard, Drinkers Only, The Alien Buddah Press, Montreal Writes, Mad Swirl, Avocet, and Harbinger Asylum.  He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his book, March, is available in independent book stores across Canada and on Amazon.com.

“Les Murs” by Thomas M. McDade

Mia says the name of the place,
l’Auberge-in, is a play on words.
She’ll tell in time, prix fix is 43 francs.
It’s empty and candle lit yet grotto dim.
Antique labor trappings adorn the walls.
Mia sits under a yoke. A couple from our hotel enters.
Their table’s by a sickle, a hammer not far off.
“They’re commies,” whispers Mia, out the side
of her mouth. “We are struggling farmers.”
She reveals the French for “eggplant” is the answer and we order
a dish featuring it with couscous that’s abundant and delicious.
As if constipated old field hand, I choose a prune yogurt dessert.
It’s a hit but doesn’t measure up to Mia’s vanilla flan.
As we are leaving, one of our neighbors is running his finger
over the sickle blade. His girlfriend is laughing.
Mia hopes they dream tonight of wheat not chaff.
We cross the Seine near la Tour d’Argent to the Ile St. Louis.
Strolling narrow streets we window shop
stop at a cozy restaurant that’s appealing.
Letters and book pages grace its walls.
“Tomorrow,” says Mia. “I’ll translate a couple
while we dine.”
Back across the river, a tipsy fellow bumps into her.
She punches him hard in the arm. He laughs and salutes her.
She’s the featherweight champ of la rue des Ecoles.
Next day, we stop for a drink at Harry’s
New York Bar where heavyweight Primo
Carnera’s boxing gloves hang on a wall.
Mia says they resemble mutant eggplants.
“Aubergine,” I brag.
She punches my arm, but softly.



Thomas M. McDade is a former programmer / analyst living in Fredericksburg, VA, previously CT & RI. He is a graduate of Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT. McDade is twice a U.S. Navy Veteran, serving ashore at the Fleet Anti-Air Warfare Training Center, Virginia Beach, VA, and at sea aboard the USS Mullinnix (DD-944) and USS Miller (DE / FF 1091). His poetry has most recently been published by The World of MythLocal TrainAriel Chart and Pinnacle Anthology. He also writes short fiction that has appeared in: Punk-Lit, Close To The Bone, Between These Shores Arts Anthology and Spank The Carp.