Thursday, July 16, 2015

Blast Furnace Volume 5, Issue 2

A Lesson in Cartography

I find it best to
start at the broad, fleshy hummock
comma-shaped and
shored up by the slope
of aquiline mountain
that stretches skyward
before descending again
into bottomless sockets
that seep whole salty streams
at times.
Follow the wet rivulets
left, like tracks,
over and across
vast soft peachy planes
to where the droplets catch,
just so,
in the valleys that are
your smile lines.

I have traversed the small rut
that bridges the gap
from your lips’ twin peaks
on up to your nose
then back down again
over and over, a tiny mountaineer—
well do I know the way to your mouth.

There have been others before—
explorers, like me.
I know; they’ve left marks—
theirs were claims staked
and forfeited, their losses
etched in each gently creasing
cling-wrap fold, that spiders out and away
from your eyes,
off into templed no man’s land.

But I have mapped the whole,
found purchase where
others could not.
The contours of your
match perfectly the byways
grooved deep into my palms:
pitted ruts and blistered lanes,
trenches dug for something
other than warfare.
(Though there is that here, too).

And the fawn-colored spots
that make shallow pigment pools
seep and stain the back of my hand,
because that is how well I know you.

This land is mine.
I know it best.
Its name is Home.

Allison Collins earned a degree in English Literature and works presently as a newspaper writer for Oneonta, New York's The Daily Star and also as a preschool teacher.

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Night on Memorys Convoy, or, Ohio

Silent, I feel the shadowy mass of Ohio
lean a broad chest upon the window;
silent, the train serpents through onyx
heartland—long blurs of black.
              This is the sea the Midwest knows.

I know nothing of Ohio, only
that it’s a place I have not searched,
that remains unturned. Here and everywhere,
your face fogs the glass: a sudden, shifting bog.
              In memory, you and I have wintered

every December’s petulant tantrum,
and we have missed the breaking blossoms
of milestone and notches. I wait
for you every season to arrive.
              You must be exactly like Ohio,

at song in every damning corner
of its impressive girth. I will say it
again: Mother, there is war
in this life, everywhere trenches lie open
              to those who fight for you,

who walk by them in the night’s dark edifices
unprepared and disillusioned. Tell me
as I see you in everything black enough
to be reflective: that you will come back,
              that this heartland will someday thaw.

An Epistolary Poem For My High School Boyfriend, After Coming Out at a Red Lobster

I. l'esprit d'escalier 

Dear Jason,

Where is your name,
inside this empty mailbox? I check
every day. I walk with purpose
down the drive, entitled to your name.
It is but one of many empties. The mailbox
isn’t a mailbox, but the house we said
we’d share. Other names visit there,
we send our wishes to other towns,
but this is ours. I’d hoped
you would show up, palms open,
and toothlessly eat my loneliness.
I'd expected nothing less
than cartography, your name
in the empty box on the legend.
At the very least, a co-explorer,
a colonizer of memory's landscape.
I'd expected the terrain to be lush, well-watered,
the flora and fauna to be full of seeds,
and the locals hospitable.
My expectations now are like that mailbox,
empty, full of webs, a great living room,
where the furniture is respectfully covered
before being taken to the morgue. 

II. What I Actually Wrote

Dear Jason,

I'm sorry, I won't

apologize now, pushing thirty
and still gay. It's the tipping point
of not-talking and talking. I’m always
talking about the home of my life:
There are many shelves. On one,
there is a photograph of me
as a blue M&M, and you
handsome in your "I'm With Stoopid" shirt.
We danced in the middle school gym
in a ballroom of fake cobwebs—I keep
doing that, using metaphors of death.
My girlfriend got cancer and busted
up my heart, and love no longer
waits in the wings to be a star. I'm sorry,
I won't, is that too much?

III. Not a real response. This never happened.

Dear July,

I got your letter, I'm sorry

I guess, for your grief.
I stick to paths, myself.
I don't go there. My mother says
you write. I got your letter,
your picture. You look
like a working girl, a show pony
touring the back room circuit.
What I mean to say, is you've got
a used look to you.

I got your letter, and a new tattoo, over your name,
it says rancid.

Don't come here.
There is no water in this well.

July Westhale is a poet, writer, and activist. She was a finalist for a Creative Writing Fulbright to Chile, and has been awarded grants and residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, the Lambda Literary Foundation, Sewanee, Napa Valley, Tin House and Bread Loaf. Her poetry has most recently been published in AGNI, Adrienne, burntdistrict, Eleven Eleven, Sugar Mule, The East Bay Review, 580 Split, Quarterly West, and PRISM International. She earned n MFA in Poetry from Lesley University. July was the 2014 Tomales Bay Poetry Fellow, and is the 2015 Poet in Residence at the Dickinson House in Dienze, Belgium. Visit her on the web at

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Why I Havent Written

I was afraid the laundry would moulder
in the wash. I got caught up

in television—we so seldom have it on.
The printer started making

a funny noise and I was out of pens.
I've started up my love affair

with wintergreen again. I am not
saying it was your fault.

The ashes wouldn't come clean.
The paint started to run in the rain.

But you could have told me sooner.
I am bread on a slow rise. I am

filling with air. I am waiting
to be punched down. You have

to understand—I am the first,
long gin and tonic of the summer.

I am drunk against the kitchen
counter in the heat. And you

have been the red shadows
fading on the insides of my eyes.

Sunday, Late March
Down here, it is warm enough
for rain, barely, but somewhere

above is heavy with cold.
Snow again today, enough
to gather on the driveway

and pile weakly on the mailbox
before vanishing like March—

worse than it should be
and remembered as something
it doesn’t pretend to. Listen:

it isn’t enough for the shrunken banks
to come clean. Even the sharded ice

from last month’s endless white—
lifted and flung, pushed and tumbled—
grips its black. Like the macadam.

Like the mailbox. And I
almost never think of you now.

Ruth Foley lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches English for Wheaton College. Her work appears in numerous web and print journals, including Antiphon, The Bellingham Review, The Louisville Review, and Sou’wester. She is the author of two chapbooks, Dear Turquoise (dancing girl press) and Creature Feature (ELJ Publications). Ruth serves as Managing Editor for Cider Press Review.

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Fog Delay

Life is suddenly smaller,
cloistered in the blank.

Black jags of branches
and livid stop signs

hang their strangeness
on the soft gallery wall.

Justin Longacre 

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Ode to Hat Boxes

In shellacked wood or cardboard,
cylindrical mysteries, painted with
flowers, vines, leaves, paisley designs.
Monogrammed in script. Inside,

where felt and velvet, plumed or bowed,
hid in darkness. Found folded in tissue
paper, photo of a lover lost in war.
Letters tied with lace and ribbon.

That moment of lifting the lid
to see what's within. Cloud of dust
motes, dry scent of attics. How
the past comes rushing back,

with the roar of a train approaching.
A woman stands along, expectant,
her one good wool coat already
too tight to close against the wind.

Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and has been a Pushcart Prize nominee. Author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Off the Coast, Kestrel, Slipstream, American Journal of Nursing, The MacGuffin, Mezzo Cammin, Buddhist Poetry Review, and The Nation. Joan ran away from the hurricanes of South Florida to be surprised by the earthquakes and tornadoes of rural central Virginia, where she writes poetry and does paper art. Learn more about Joan at

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Green Bananas

"Well, I wouldn't buy green bananas," is how the oncologist answered his question.
He tells me this in the first minutes of our first hospice visit.
As I leave, he asks if I could pick him up some cheap cigarettes next time.

In Vietnam, his post was 5 miles form the fighting.
"5 packs a day to kill the boredom. And 2 a night to kill the rest of me."
His jokes are to put me at ease, I know.

And my job is to comfort, I argue with myself.
Even on death row they get a last request.
Four days later he looks half the size.

"My cigarettes!" he cheers, when I put a grocery bag on the table
with his lighters and two ashtrays overtaken by butts.
He tells me about his life and makes more jokes. He's a great guy.

I want him to open the bag. He'll laugh, I hope.
Either way, I'm telling my joke," I hear they smoked 'em in the 60's, man,
in 'Nam. You're just going to have to wait 'til they ripen."

Michael Mark is a hospice volunteer and long distance walker. His poems have appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle Magazine, Gravel Literary Journal, Prelude, Rattle, Spillway, Sugar House Review, Tar River Poetry and other nice places. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee.

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[Prompt: Make a list of memories that were fast-paced in your life. Pick the juiciest one. Tell the story with the same speed as it happenedno line breaks & no periods will let the pace of your poem reflect the pace of the moment. Your poem should ARRIVE at something and then end there - almost as if being run off a cliff. You'll know it's the last line when you get there.]

To the woman who mailed my wallet back after takin it*

dark street dead end your gun in my ribs telling me to give you money and I am
thinking what the fuck I gave you a ride and there is your perfume you in my car
and your bag and you were nice till you started telling me to drop you somewhere
else somewhere else where I don’t know and the streetlights aren’t on and then
you stick your finger/gun in my side say give me money and it is dark I think
you’re lying and I say no I say no cuz I don’t know I think it’s your finger in your
pocket in my ribs not a gun not a gun and I just gave you a lift and its just you
and me no cell phones and you’re a woman a small woman a woman but joke’s
on me when you get out you already have my wallet so I don’t know what the
finger/trigger was for I don’t know why I picked you up just I was goin’ that way
and once you start you figure why not and the why was you asked me for a ride
and you were a woman a small woman small and the why not was my wallet
showin’ up in the mail a week later cause you knew I didn’t know a gun from a
knuckle how much I’d be missing the photos of my mom and dog in the dirty
laminate how much you needed the money how much I needed to believe.

*Ends up, if you drop a wallet in the mailbox the USPS will mail it to the owner.

Leslie Anne Mcilroy won the 1997 Slipstream Poetry Chapbook Prize for Gravel, the 2001 Word Press Poetry Prize for her full-length collection Rare Space and the 1997 Chicago Literary Awards. Her second book, Liquid Like This, was published by Word Press in 2008 and Slag was published by Main Street Rag in 2014 as runner-up to their Poetry Book Prize. Leslie’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Grist, Jubilat, The Mississippi Review, PANK, Pearl, Poetry Magazine, the New Ohio Review, The Chiron Review and more. She is a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee and managing editor of HEArt—Human Equity through Art. Leslie works as a copywriter in Pittsburgh where she lives with her daughter, Silas. Check out her books and more at

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[Prompt: Resulting from a little exchange done with friends...Look in on a live Webcam site at at least three different moments, writing short takes for each viewing.]

Hays Eagle Cam

Summer 2014
There's a camera installed near the eagle's nest, with sound.
The train jostles the image, surrounds it with industrial disclaimer.
It's a real raccoon that tries to raid her nest,
but it looks like the Hamburglar.
She raises her wings like Count Dracula.
When raccoon scares off, she starts counting her eggs with her beak.
Then she sits in profile and looks like an American caricature:
pissed off and standing her ground.

March 2015
The eagle near the river is sleeping.
Headless, a football of feathers in twigs
and the city's incessant mouth-breathing.
She laid a clutch of two eggs this year,
one is broken, the other is starting to roll.

The train pushes through,
all the bluster of March in its horn.

Still she sleeps, oblong pillow
in the middle of the nest,
the egg like a pill underneath.
Across the river,
in the Hazelwood landfill,
new rats screech blindly for milk.
Fast food for the eagles, I think,
though I know I love no animal
until I've learned to love the rats.

April 2015
The nest, as it said
in the paper: abandoned,
a crosshatch of flash-bleached twigs;
last night, when I heard the news,
I visited the webcam site
and saw one of the eagles asleep.
In the morning, by 7, the camera
was farther away, high above
the nest.
            In real time, now, it waits
like a creche for its reason to be.

May 2015 
We are shopping near the old Homestead Works.
In the car park, I'm shocked to smell weed
wafting from a Cadillac with open doors,
a child in the backseat. Lots of people,
you tell me, have to smoke in their cars.

It's the safest place for them. What of the woods,
I ask. But the woods are under surveillance.
The camera is trained on the empty nest:
the inverse of Warhol's Empire, the nest splays
in the high crotch of the roost tree, listening,
a satellite splintered by imperial noise.

Ellen McGrath Smith teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and in the Carlow University Madwomen in the Attic program. Her writing has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Los Angeles Review, Quiddity, Cimarron, and other journals, and in several anthologies, including Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. Smith has been the recipient of an Orlando Prize, an Academy of American Poets award, a Rainmaker Award from Zone 3 magazine, and a 2007 Individual Artist grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her second chapbook, Scatter, Feed, was published by Seven Kitchens Press in the fall of 2014, and her book, Spear to Sphere, will be published this year by the West End Press.

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A wild mix of Polish 
and rap’s machine gun beat 
danced down the aisles of the store, 
past freezers packed full

of kiszka and czarnina, 
spun through the bakery next door, 
that heaven of lost confections. 
Down the block, the Polonia’s

patrons, as if out on parole, 
grew edgy after an engine 
backfired. The drive home led past 
a Piranesian

factory, where, eyes down, collars up, 
the night shift trudged, single file, 
through security, whose lens 
lit in turn on each blood-less face.

Nick Conrad's writing has been widely published and anthologized. His poems have appeared in a number of national and international journals, most recently the fall 2014 issues of Orbis (UK), no. 168, and Southern Poetry Review, vol.52, no.2, and soon, Badlands.

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My son calls from a payphone
in Western Kansas to tell me he's joined
the carnival. Mentally,
I trace the twigs and branches
of our family tree of gypsies,
orphans, traveling thespians, artists of canvas
and liquid glass until I rest upon the nook
from which my mother's branch emergesnot
the massive trunk from which this all began,
but the limb that is my grandfather, named for a poet,
a carni at thirteen.


Flat and dusty as a rainless highway
in Wichita, my son’s voice bounces against
the glass enclosure before its journey
through the network of wires
& switches that connect us. I hear
traffic. Somewhere in the distance
air-brushed diesel trailers 
parked uniformly by the side of the road.
Carnis watch my son through
cigarette smoke, waiting for a turn
on the phone.


My son marks time in cities. In Lincoln,
he worked concessions, in Guymon,
ticket sales. Holton, where he once took
a blue for the bottle-baby calf he raised
holds the promise of kiddie rides, but tonight
he works the ring-toss game
on the Midway.

Lisa Hase-Jackson teaches English and Poetry at the College of Charleston, SC. Her current projects include an anthology of poems celebrating New Mexico’s 2012 centennial and a manuscript of her own poetry. Her poems have appeared in Kansas City Voices, Pilgrimage, Jasper/Fall Lines and elsewhere. She is the review editor for South 85 Journal.

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Triolet with a Line from Traci Brimhall

The first night you don't come home
I don't notice the difference.
Not true. I wait hours by the telephone
the first night you don't come home.
But I'm not designed to sleep alone
and it was easy to clean up the evidence
the first night. You don't come home.
I don't. Notice the difference?

Jennifer Saunders is a U.S. citizen currently living in Switzerland and pursuing her MFA through the low-residency program at Pacific University in Oregon. Her poetry has appeared previously in Blast Furnace (in 2011) as well as in Addana Literary Journal, Found Poetry Review, Heron Tree, Ibbetson Street Magazine, and elsewhere. 

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[Prompt: Resulting from various prompts as part of a bi-monthly writing workshop the poet assists in facilitating.]

Field Song Fable
for William Elliott Whitmore

Will Whitmore is not a tall man. When he walks,
he leans just a little bit forward, waist bent slightly
like a pocket-knife with a loose hinge. He's got
a hesitation caught like a feather on his tongue.
Drawls when he speaks, like his mouth is a lazy river,
like it ain't in no got-damned hurry to get nowhere,
like the words are gonna come out anyhow,
so what's the rush? Makes his way through the crowd
careful as a hen in a fox house. Tries to go unnoticed,
but he's damn gracious if you catch his eye.
He's got a firm grip, a rock-solid handshake
that believes itself to be as binding as a contract
signed in blood. Says he don't need no god
to save his soul, but he's got the gospel in his lungs.
Churns out mercy from the stage with a banjo
& a boot-stomp. He hums like a rumbling steamship
& out from his mouth comes a prairie, a whiskey-
soaked field, a row of daisies growing through
the bird skull buried in the back forty. A tar-paper
shack in a thunderstorm, hallelujah. A train whistle
in the midnight mountains, amen. And oh lord,
here comes the gravel from his throat. The fog
rolling off a winding river, that hymn song fading
away into the Iowa sky. He's not a tall man,
but he's big as the untamed west, stretched taut
as a split-rail fence or barbed wire. One hand
plucking a ghostly melody on heaven's guitar strings,
                                the other dug deep into the soil.

William James is a poet, punk rocker, and train enthusiast from Manchester, NH. He's a contributing editor at Drunk In A Midnight Choir, whose poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Hobart, SOFTBLOW, Atticus Review, Emerson Review, and The Rain, Party & Disaster Society, among others. His first full length collection "rebel hearts & restless ghosts" is forthcoming in 2015 from Timber Mouse Publishing.

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Where we learned to play ball

After Dad sipped his whiskey
& the old men smoked & laughed
& the shuffleboard disk whispered
down the waxed table & the Friday
night fish special was announced
& we ate like ravenous foxes, Mom
gathered & herded us out into the Black
Walnut air. The pink Windmill
glowed behind us luminous
in the parking lot lights swarming
with spring river bugs. We found
the ball field & felt the bases rise up
like little stages under our damp sneakers.
Mom wound up on the pitchers’ mound
tight as Tom Seaver, announcing
her sequence. Imaginary balls looped
toward us in the batter’s box
fat curves, sly knuckle balls, sinkers.
We squinted in the dusk settling down
& pounded out pretend hits,
rounding bases, thin arms pumping.
Played the field like raging Pirates
running down flies, scooping grounders.
Mom in her summer shift & thin flats,
we, in shorts and rumpled tee shirts
believing in this world of more
than a small chance, this dark
soft glory of what could be.
Our new bones lifted
without wings,
a moist sky, the safety
of her sphere, rising, rising.
The invisible fly ball,
airborne in the dark,
& infinitesimal.

Ellen Stone teaches at Community High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her poetry collection, The Solid Living World, won the 2013 Michigan Writers Cooperative Press chapbook contest. Ellen’s poems have appeared recently in Dunes Review, Gravel, Melancholy Hyperbole, Neat, in the anthology, Uncommon Core, published by Red Beard Press, and forthcoming in Passages North.

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Lincoln at Gettysburg

Whether his first words or last
were yet within reach,
Lincoln rose to his feet chilled
by the faces in front
and the silence underfoot.
God is on neither side, he thought.
This was a war between men,
men filthy, stubborn and proud,
men so distant from God
each was his brother’s heathen.
Truth was, Lincoln had lost faith
in men but not in mankind,
which made him a brother to Jesus.
Still, unable to raise the dead,
unable to walk them home
he’d wept for them instead,
rivers so fierce they’d gouged
canyons on his face.
That face now met the sun,
peculiar for November, the light
so sharp it cut though any hope
of grace or absolution.
Four score and seven years,
he began, the past as clear
as the morning, the future
nearly all in silhouette.

Jeffers, Dying
Carmel-By-The Sea, 1962

From my bed by the window
I hear the ocean stand and fall.
The light’s too dim now, day or night,
so my ears and nose must guess the hour
and gather wood for dreaming.
And yet no dreamer built this house,
this quarry ship and Gaelic tower.
Each stone in place knew this shoulder
and this shoulder every weight. You don’t
build a house of rock from gentleness.
Everything I am was built from love and rage.
I had to scream to keep the nightmare at bay.
This ocean was my heart, my trapped
and brooding twin. I won’t miss this world
and its manic ways, just one woman in her tower.
And this ocean, jailed for the price of man,
pounding its fist on the door of the day.

Peter Serchuk'spoems have appeared in a variety of journals including Boulevard, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Denver Quarterly, North American Review, Texas Review, Nimrod, Poet Lore and others. His poetry collections include Waiting for Poppa at the Smithtown Diner (University of Illinois Press) and most recently All That Remains (WordTech Editions). He lives in Los Angeles. For more on Peter, visit

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Shatter of Her Dance

Outside my window, masquerade greens and blues,
gold, white shimmers, the perfection of the wild words
still alive. We humans practice an obsession of naming,
naming, naming everything our little eye is drawn to see.

We name this prairie preserved, kept somewhat as
it used to be. Wooded trails and ocean cliffs within bounds
are unchanged. The Federally Official remains,
ideals of preservation for future children’s eyes.

It is the unpreserved that linger in my guilty heart.
Living beings stand too tall, too wide along the fence.
The Poplar tree whose girth no arms could span,
whose cloud-high branches were home to birds,
year after year waiting patiently for their return.

Many men were required. None wielding honest ax
and cross-cut saw, tools of ancient prairie men,
but huge power saws, heavy trucks with lifts
and giant chipper machines. It took all of these
and more to bring this poplar down.

Leaves still wet with dewy prairie mist, branches still home for nests,
began their rustle and quiver in the morning sunlight.
Dignity of acceptance swayed her every branch, as men
wrested to fell more life than any of them shared together.

Their cuts and pulls were ugly. Heart-breaking pain to see.
But, OH! the twirl and shimmer of each green leaf,
the mighty swish and swirl of every swaying branch.
The ground-shaking shatter of her dance
was miraculous to see.

Laura Moore says that ;iving on an island has changed her poetic expression. She writes as a means of connecting her interior world with the exterior world. Participating in a performing arts group and doing public readings has increased her desire to share words and visions with a larger poetry world. She is excited by the variety of words poets find to communicate their unique visions of being human in a changing world.

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Being California


San Francisco
is eucalyptus pugnacity,
enough one-ways
to push anyone to walk,
electric razors, dust-guilded shops,
water pressure applied with a frosting knife,
salty wine and silver buttons.

A waterlogged full moon wakes me.
5am, out of bed
to write by bathroom lights;
tile is colder than any storm
and mats wear thin just standing on them.
Does anyone go back
to being a Californian?


I could live in Oakland.
My girlfriend and I were in a gallery there,
and she looked at the openness
provided by hardwood floors
and large windows, limited walls 
and a patio on the 2nd floor.

This, this could be our forever place.
It's what I already had in mind
and sketched a dozen times.

Mother raised me to love the ocean and the desert.
My birth certificate says I am Californian.
It's official bear doesn't suit me,
it holds onto a lie just as well
as all the stretch marks of ricochet across the country.
I live, dug into a Mid-Atlantic basement row house
but the sand and Pacific curl around my toes.

Elizabeth Ashe is a visual artist, poet and travelholic, who earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University and a second MFA in Multidisciplinary Art from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She was as Associate Editor for The Fourth River literary journal. Between graduate programs, she was Director of Mavi Contemporary Art. Her poetry has appeared in Yellow Medicine Review, Le Petit Press, Sundress Press' “Best of the Net – 2012,” Flycatcher: A Journal of Native Imagination, “Haiku for Lovers” by Buttontapper Press, Vagabondage Press, The Legendary, Glass: A Literary Journal and Bird's Eye reView, among others. Liz lives in Washington, D.C., where she works as a vintage furniture restorer. On the side, she spearheads as many art events as she can and wants to learn to tight rope walk but for now, settled on tango classes.

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[Prompt: a call for submissions by Found Poetry Review for their La Bloom Issue, in celebration of Bloomsday 2014, a found poem composed from Chapter 8 of James Joyce's Ulysses.]

Memorypillowed sleep

On the screened sunporch      sticky with heat
two women      willing      stretch out

tips visible        yellowgreen ferns
rhododendrum        grass fields beyond

evening sky purpleblack
faint sound of waterravished pebbles

Winebuzzed        fullopen glowing
as if undersea       caressed in coolsoft press

your eyes heatherbrown
blouse breastfull        nipplepouting

we tell silly joys      secrets    
eyes touchdown on mouth     neck     nape   

linger       in the swell
veiled lips       warmfolded


Karen George's books include "Into the Heartland" (Finishing Line Press, 2011), "Inner Passage" (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Swim Your Way Back (Dos Madres Press, 2014), and The Seed of Me (Finishing Line Press, 2015). I've received grants from Kentucky Foundation for Women and Kentucky Arts Council, and my work has appeared in Louisville Review, Memoir, Permafrost, Blast Furnace, Still, Wind, and Blue Lyra Review. I hold an MFA in Writing from Spalding University, review poetry at Poetry Matters, and am fiction editor of the online journal, Waypoints: My website is:

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Brooklyn, 1952

Shades kept light at bay, their crocheted tassels hung
in meager sun, behind draped inner curtains and darker
patterned brocade. The old apartment, a cave, a lair.
Armchairs rested on their haunches, moody under

fancy antimacassars, ancients huddled on the oriental rug.
In the kitchen, smoke and words swirled. Backed into the corner
the coal hod sat beside the stove. The white lip of the kitchen
sink curled, a place they rested elbows, leaned, pondered

the unfairness of the world. The boy they sent off
to the basementout the wide front doors, then down
the concrete steps. He lugged the trash into shadows
of boogeymen, slanted eyes of rats, the sound

of threats and laughter from above, older boys who
flicked the wheels of lighters, coughed and spat.
The girl crouched beneath the table amid sensible shoes,
one finger traced the leaves on green linoleum,

waited for someone to lift the scissors, snip the cord
tied around the white box, take up the knife and slice.
On good days, a carriage nestled beside the curved entryway,
a great-aunt on the first floor rested a pair of flattened

forearms on the windowsill, watched the baby sleep.
The mother knelt in the bathroom, breasts pressed
against the tub, held the board, slapped heavy sheets,
scrubbed, short wet hairs clinging to her neck.

Widow with empty hand

My vision’s full of holes—the empty cup
of earth beside the river where the boulder lay,
thin footprints in mud, the shoulder of ice
on the lawn with caves of air. I ache
for warmth, shuffle into soft bits

of forgetfulness. On a hook in the entry,
his worn brown sweatshirt cradles the hoe.
I slip it on, step into fertile air, make a row.
I kneel in dirt, dropping small seeds.

Another spring. Tongues of snow slip
back into the woods. The earth
turns up rocks, leaves, a rusty worm,
the mole’s small bones. The gravel rakes
hard, scratches into piles. Raw green leaves

of skunk cabbage push up, turning
for a bit of sun. The dog paws over
the soil, eager for what’s below
pine cone, severed root, shriveled fern.

My knees leave twin hollows. The earth packs
down beneath my palm, moist, expectant.

Judy Kaber previously been published in The Maine Times, Poetry International, Nerve House, Thieves Jargon, Eclectica, Off the Coast and The Comstock Review. She also won the Maine Postmark Poetry Contest in 2009.

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[Prompt: After the painting "Sappho" by August Mengin.]


Your face is a tablecloth waiting to be set.
Your breasts, spoons waiting to be emptied.
Your hair weeps: a cataract.

The waves of the Aegean are arms
with foam tattoos rowing
against the moon’s urgent gravity.

You pull us into the tenebrous abyss
where rocks wear skirts. You said

remember whom you leave shackled by love
and then plunged your eyes
like weighted curtains left in the rain.

Different Death      
for Anne Sexton
Let me lead you
to a different death.
Let me hold you, too
tight in the grip
of a sorry mouth.
The arguments of light
in the city windows
blind our eyes
and the setting sun
incinerates our backs.
The voices of furious robins
choke in the innocent throat.
Once you were the child
on the swing, the sun
rushing down like a flood
of butter on skinny
legs pumping.
You would have trespassed
your eighty-eighth
year this year.
Let me try to imagine
the crooked mouth
blinking away cigarette smoke
from eyes the color
of noon, the trail of breath
the errant flame.
A thousand poems
consuming you
like a deep and narrow river
or an unmade bed.

Anastasia Vassos is a poet living and working in Boston, Massachusetts. She is a vice-president of marketing for a global engineering firm. Anastasia follows the tradition of notable poets like Dana Gioia, Wallace Stevens, and Ted Kooser. She began writing poetry around the age of 9. One of her first poems was a tribute to her father, written in Greek, in iambic trimester. Her work has appeared most recently in Haibun Today.

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