Sunday, June 26, 2016

Blast Furnace Volume 5, Issue 4: Final Edition

Winter Moan

Wait till a sickle sharp enough to slice the sun
appears between your bare brown branches traced with white.
Once day is said and sky’s pyrotechnics are done
this cold-honed blade will be all that is left of light.
Go ahead, meet its gaze. It won’t turn you to stone.
Sing it the word-less song reserved for those that grieve.
It waits to hear the lowest, darkest moan you own,
to know the hardest your two living lungs can heave.
The moon’s colder than Antartica’s worst winter.
If there’s a man on the moon, his ears starve for sound:
the moon doesn’t moo, neigh, oink, quack, yip, bark, or purr.
The woman on the moon’s shivering underground.
                Sing them the only sound a human mouth can’t fake.
                The sobbing song your broken breath was made to make.

Daniel Hales is author of the chapbook Tempo Maps (ixnay press), which comes with the companion CD: Miner Street Symphony. He has two additional forthcoming chapbooks. The most recent album by his band, The Frost Heaves, is Contrariwise, which consists of Lewis Carroll poems adapted for music. A small, intangible part of Daniel lives at


Silence is almost golden: Doctors
recommend 35 decibels, the hum
of the refrigerator in the kitchen.
Anything more and concentration’s
lost. Just ask Schopenhauer, who
railed at the crack of a drayman’s
whip, at the useless whipping of
all dead horses. “People,” he wrote,
“who are insensitive to noise
Are insensitive to argument, thought,
poetry, art”—to any intellectual
influence. Too much noise makes
rock musicians deaf, fan clubs
dumb, while classroom children
disturbed by construction cannot
distinguish very from berry.
What results is a life of
misunderstanding. Meanwhile,
when the refrigerator cuts off and
silence is golden, I hear all too well
the clock on the mantel,
the hummingbird at the feeder
the lub-and-dub of my own aging heart.

Claude Clayton Smith is Professor Emeritus of English at Ohio Northern University, the author of seven books, and co-editor/translator of two others. His own work has been translated into five languages, including Russian and Chinese.

Where I Picture My Husband (Because He Cant Be Dead)

a coffee shop downtown
his classroom at the middle school
the trails at the park
anywhere, really
except with his pale face against dark satin
that second-hand suit
those long eyelashes pulled together
his high cheekbones
fading behind flower arrangements
weepy relatives and
refrigerated casseroles
then waning from the bedroom
the nursery
the yard
from the golden beaches of my memory
the dance floor of our wedding reception
even the tree line at the park where the dogwoods
despite everything, are in bloom

Austin Eichelberger is a native Virginian who happily teaches as much English and writing as he can manage in New Mexico. His fiction has appeared in over fifty journals, including Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Eclectic Flash, Gone Lawn, and First Stop Fiction. More of his writing lives at


Chainsawed from a tree one of his grandfathers planted- the one that fell
in the winds of the last storm, he centers & mounts cedar between lathe spur &
live center. Shelving his coffee cup painted with the world’s map, he drops

his visor, toggles the switch, & the lathe moans to life so the hewn block
& empty space blur to a sphere he admires like the overlapping perimeters
of generations. Using the tool guide’s chrome bar as fulcrum,

he anchors the shaft’s foam grip, & seesaws the tool’s beveled head
into the working piece until its edge bites. His mind’s chatter stills as chips
ping his visor, apron, as he shaves the gouge right to left, rounding the corners

to gentle arcs where heartwood blooms. He breathes propane heat & cedar
as his gouge catches on a burr of silver, then copper. The steel penny
he many times heard his grandfather say he laid on the tracks by his house

a loaded coal train whinged into the tree beside a copper one his father
forty years later drove with a flathead & a three pound hammer. An orange
drop cord hangs above the dust glow where he holds his pliers & these legends

to the light. He must find himself, too, & so he works the skew’s carbide
through his grandfather’s coal seams, his father’s skinned deer ribboned now
at his boots. There. See his left atrium appear, ventricles in a purpled knot

as he removes what is not his. Soon there is only a mauve fist suspended
on strands of silk. Careful, he spindles the last bit of pith from a cove
around the trunk because his own story’s center is that fragile. He returns

his tools to their pegs, & a hole opens in his chest. Careful to avoid shards
of rib & tattered edges, he hangs his heart on a hook inside & smooths back
his flesh because anything laid bare must be considered just a little while

before it is walled away again in wood, in stone.

Jonathan Travelstead served in the Air Force National Guard for six years as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro. Having finished his MFA at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, he now works on an old dirt-bike he hopes will one day get him to the salt flats of Bolivia. Jonathan has published work in The Iowa Review, on, and has work forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, among others. His first collection, How We Bury Our Dead, by Cobalt/Thumbnail Press, was released in 2015.


I can feel pine-shaken snow
avalanche down my aorta

as his fist reshapes my cheekbone—rearranging
what is ugly, what is wrong,

just like Picasso. His bone-white
teeth bounce pearls

off the toaster. I don’t know him
or any of this: whose house

we are in, whose maple-bark knees,
whose sinew-red tooth

on the stove. I bury each one
in the garden: a row of canines, a patch

of incisors, thinking they might
turn into beanstalks. If you chopped me

at the middle you could count
the years since I was felled

on one hand. I imagine combusting

into a rocket, sending pieces of house,
a bath of shattered glass,

his patched-leather recliner
into a blazing waltz,

as I cover the forest
with my hands. Through the window,

an evergreen stands staring
into me, piney

teeth shaping a grimace,
as a yellow-eyed fox chants

run, run, run. Later on, a breeze comes rolling
through the broken window. My bedroom

fills with sharp, green needles, spinning

Kathryn Merwin is a native of Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Minnesota Review, Folio, Slipstream, Notre Dame Review, and Jabberwock Review, among others. In 2015, she was awarded the Nancy D. Hargrove Editors' Prize for Poetry and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She serves as Co-Editor-in-Chief of Milk Journal.

Motoring Past Suburban Exits

The windows open on tundras of clay
where excavators and porta-johns pose.
A highway is a mall, rest stop, rose,
and where it vanishes no one can say.

From mountain and valley everyone sees
the shadow of the wreck of constant purge.
It lets up briefly to again emerge
among blooms of asphalt metastases.

Here and there a Towhee stops to rest
and finds the landscape jumbled, though not yet
more than it can cope with. Only toxins
drive up the cost of its singing lessons.

They will not quiet in our time, I think,
but flicker through the shadows on the brink.

M.A. Schaffner has been published in Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, Agni, and most recently in Hermes, Modern Poetry Review, and Pennsylvania Review. Long-ago-published books include the poetry collection The Good Opinion of Squirrels and the novel, War Boys. He spends most days in Arlington, Virginia juggling a Toshiba laptop and a Gillott 404.

Armistice Day

Come what might,
they would assemble
to celebrate.

Late fashions of death,
of mustard gas and Browning gun,
could now be shut away

like gowns never to be worn again.
If they were afraid of armies
their fellows’ breath might carry,

they could make the streets
their hospital, cheering peace
behind white masks.

Hope’s false hygiene:
this foe would rush
the surgeon’s no man’s land.

Its world’s war
observed no armistice.
Somewhere in the newsreels, masked,

my grandmother parades,
released for this
from care of her three children.

I will never find her face.
Her daughter recalled
brushing her hair.

James Toupin is a previous submitter to Blast Furnace. A retired general counsel of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, he currently teaches in the law school of American University in Washington, D.C. In addition to having published about fifty poems in journals, James has published a translation, Selected Letters of Alexis de Tocqueville on Politics and Society, and writes on legal topics.

Man and Wife at Sea

A middle-aged man
conducts the air,
guiding me to other seas, other mountains,
which I inhabit like dreams and distant places.
He tries a variety of angles,
moving his arms like a windmill,
butterfly fingers stroking the air.
He has cultivated a paunch,
imitating a pregnant woman,
he looks outward and searches
the coastline,
rests both hands
on hips, his pointed elbows
the arms of a vase,
the completed work of a potter,
brought to maturity.
His wife cuts free
the green-skinned cucumber,
she sits carving a meal for two,
nudges her man to eat.
A shared refreshment
without words,
her name is already written
on the water.

Byron Beynon lives in Swansea, Wales. His work has appeared in several publications, including London Magazine, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Wales and Muddy River Poetry Review. His most recent collection is The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions).


one last elongated sigh
a final exhalation
walking drowsily
lights illuminated
pock marks and secrets
that were held close in
dancehalls and dives
now apparent in the white
iridescent haze of the street lamps

heads float over
disjointed bodies
waving down cabs and stepping
out of the gray anonymity
of steam skulking from sewer tops
cell phone conversations
entwine and heads
partner off to climb
trying to reconcile their legs

from this height
the air cuts like battery
through teeth pulled
down to the stomach
crystalline as the last light of
the harbor patrol extinguishes
itself and the first light of morning
breaks over construction sites:
skeletal enclaves of the day

Nick Whitmore has rollerbladed professionally, traveled across the country, and split most of his life between New England and San Francisco. He currently teaches at New Hampton School and his work has appeared in Niteswimmer and Be-Mag. Nick is a graduate of Boise State University.

Dinner With My Own Animals

Now home, I look toward the setting fall sun,
its pink light on an electric pole box,
housing the transformer I suppose
the pink glow makes me feel for her,
my colleague, recently diagnosed with breast cancer,
whom I met with today to discuss final exams
for our students;

her head scarf was lime green
and she talked fast as shes always talked,
wouldnt let me ask how she was doing, too much
to do, a student in her room wanting something,
still a glow about her face, her austere
blue eyes. The transformer box reflected it, the need
to avoid needing, Gods gloaming ritual,
the fact that Abraham raised his knife to the sky

before the god in his mind stopped him
and he didnt do it. I sense the world in that
stirring child, Isaac, the writhing body,
the shore the refugees land on with their water,
the water that lands along with the refugees,
and that pink box, lit pink by an uncaring sun,
yet full of love and home and sadness.

Alejandro Escudé is an Argentinean-American poet and teacher. He is the winner of the 2012 Sacramento Poetry Center Award. The winning manuscript, My Earthbound Eye, was published in 2013. He received a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from U.C. Davis and his poems have appeared in California Quarterly, Main Street Rag, Phoebe, Poet Lore, and Rattle, among other journals. Originally from Córdoba, Argentina, Alejandro lives with his wife and two kids in Los Angeles, California, where he works as an English teacher. In his spare time, he enjoys birding around the many natural parks in Southern California. Learn more about Alejandro and his work at


That story of Columbus and the egg—
how to make something stand

on its end, like the hairs on backs
of necks still responsive to a touch as

familiar as if it were a part of the self.
To think about the world in an entirely

new way, one that requires violence
to break through to the other side

of normal, expected. (Your persistent desire to
somehow penetrate the skin of me, spill the yolk.)

The existence of each one is a mystery,
like a year that seems to hatch from nowhere

except the turning of a page on a calendar.
What comes before it is either a yawning hole

or an explosion of matter, dense
and irreducible. It’s fragile, like all

time is, vibrating with possibility but easily
smashed or potentially abortive.

That’s a marriage—miraculously generative,
a story that gives birth to more days

together, shell around the chaos
of life. At its core, sustenance—nourishment

nourishing. The thing itself and a seed
of the thing—maddeningly self-reflexive,

what we are, and what
we might yet be.

Rachel Voss is a high school English teacher living in Queens, NY. She graduated with a degree in creative writing and literature from SUNY Purchase College. Her work has previously appeared in The Ghazal Page, Hanging Loose Magazine, Blast Furnace, The New Verse News, Unsplendid, Newtown Literary, Silver Birch Press, and The Great Gatsby Anthology, among others.

Winter Solstice

and turning
the tin lid pops
like the click
of a tongue.

Lifting the top,
peaches glow
as a summer’s day.

Savoring each bite,
slices fill me
with golden light,
against the rain.

Mark Thalman is author of Catching the Limit, published by Fairweather Books (2009). His work has been widely published for four decades, and has appeared in Carolina Quarterly, CutBank, Pedestal Magazine, and Verse Daily, among others. Mark received his MFA from the University of Oregon, and he has been teaching English in the public schools for 34 years. He is editor of For more on Mark, visit


A lacquered box.
Inside, a rattle of loose pearls,
their clasp, the frayed strand
that once tethered them.
In a wedding picture
they circle her slender throat
as she smiles up at the groom.
So lustrous against her pale skin
it is easy to forget
there is sand at their centers,
that only the oyster's hard work
keeps the grains from chafing.

Linda Jackson Collins has served as Editor-in-Chief of the Sacramento Poetry Center's journal, Tule Review. Her own poetry has appeared in The Cape Rock, Walrus, American River Review, Poeming Pigeon, and other publications. She writes in Carmichael, CA.

The Brides Anniversary

Not just any brides—specialists. Who keep iceberg dresses
folded in closet boxes for years without anniversaries,
who bear the burn scars of engagement rings now
lake-bottomed. Brides left at the alter—how many
do you suppose? Always, always a bride. Miss Havisham
most famously.

And if half of all marriages end in divorce, does that change
the almost-bride’s steely stare? Deprived of the chilly in-laws,
the disappointing children, the fanged lawyers, the gossip
of crows, the flying dishes, the infidelity—
deprived, yes. Safe, though, in the upstairs room, fading white.

Just once I would like to see in the Sunday paper
a photo of an octogenarian almost-bride frowning into the camera,
clutching the ruined ancient bouquet, fire in gray eyes, above
bolded text that says STILL WAITING—a column for
abandoned brides. For this I would buy a newspaper—for this
I would stand on the porch every morning and wait—oh, how I would wait!
for that freckled impetuous unreliable boy.

Lee Kisling is a retired engineer who lives near Hudson, Wisconsin with his wife Lori. He is a writer, poet, cartoonist, and pretty bad piano player. In 1992 his young-adult novel, The Fools’ War, was published by HarperCollins. In 2013 his first poetry collection, The Lemon Bars of Parnassus chapbook, was published by Parallel Press in Madison, Wisconsin. Recently, Lee has had poems in Stoneboat Literary Journal, Oberon, Eastern Iowa Review, Off the Coast, Slant, and other journals. Since retiring from his 36-year career in railroad signal engineering, he completed two years at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota and graduated in 2014 with a BFA in creative writing.

If I Write A Narrative Poem It Will Be This One

He orders tomato juice and I think, of course,
blood, and wonder at the sense memory, how
quickly it comes and from where. I ask, too,
if the thighs meeting under the table might
promise another hunger, but not like last
night, where ineffectual time had nothing
on the half bottle of cheap whisky
collecting in our chests, pulling our hand
strings closer to the other’s body.

I won’t admit remembering the stones
under his shoes as we ascended the hill
below that ugly church. Light gifted
from one of two streetlamps did not entirely
collect as champagne bubbles along the rough
line of his jaw. When fingering a gathered
bit of shale, now, in morning openness,
I am suddenly the widow on fire. I have become

the woman, he says, he might have wanted
before falling one too many times
from the roofs like those in the photo
he folds again as surrender, sometimes
as drowning, and he drinks the red thick
into his belly, where last night, my mouth
said an autumnal, honeysuckle prayer.

Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the U.S. and internationally. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has won awards for her poetry, prose, and scholarly work. Kelli served as Managing Editor of Natural Bridge, is the current Poetry Editor for The Lindenwood Review, and holds an MFA from the University of Missouri St. Louis. She is the director of the River Styx Hungry Young Poets Series and founded the Graduate Writers Reading Series for UMSL. Kelli is currently a Professor of Humanities and Creative Writing at Lindenwood University, and teaches for The Pierre Laclede Honors College at UMSL. Her full-length poetry collection, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, arrived from John Gosslee Books in 2012 and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Visit for more on Kelli and her writing.

Divorce Poem

So in love, we are enthralled,
the glint of possibility
off every surface—but already
it is over.
                    Already your smile
is the one I’ll try to erase and my voice,
the voice that will nettle.
                                                 There is nothing
to do but hate each other for who we are.
First we say hello.

In This as in All Narratives

You wait for your mother to yellow. She will become a photograph, and you will
bear this. Plot your grief on graph paper. Graph your grief as plot. You ought to
study narrative theory and thoroughly consider which self will undertake this
performance. You maintain as you wait, as she maintains, persists. She anticipates
holidays. Increased traffic, increased drinking, increased collisions and injuries and
fatalities. There is wild hope in death. You know what to expect, in this as in all
narratives. Events and people will worsen before they better. This speculative
convalescence cannot be trusted. There is always someone doing more poorly.
There is always someone closer to the hospital. You chart what you will regret not
knowing, though there is time to know and impracticable words in your throat. You
cannot tolerate proximity or the terrible breath that overtakes voice. Wait for your
mother to become not your mother, for the changes in skin and skull that will undo
her. Wait for your mother to yellow. She will become a photograph, and you will
bear this.

Jennifer Gravley makes her way in Columbia, Missouri. She is a writer of sentences and a watcher of bad television. Her work has recently appeared in New England Review, Rat’s Ass Review, and Sweet, among others.

July 5th, Lake Michigan, Chicago

The fish in the shallows are insubstantial
with see-through bodies and peppercorn eyes—
lighter than the lures the fishermen
flick from their long black rods, singing out
across the water to settle and sink.
Burnt and booted, these men wait deep
into the day, bound by something stronger
than the flash of festivity which brought
yesterday's crowd, briefly interested
(with the help of fireworks, parachutists,
and a screeching band), then gone, leaving
the lake for those more willing to wait.
They squint against the glare, red-skinned,
not bothering to reel in their lines until
they sense something worth keeping.

Tim Bascom has published poems in Spoon River Poetry Review, Slant, North American Review, and Spillway. He has also published widely as an essayist, garnering editor's prizes from the Missouri Review and Florida Review.

Doc Martens

Doc’s got a tough lineage, the mosh-pit Martens.
Working in the factory,
third-shift resentment brewing.
Underneath the black, lives black, loves black,
rubber bending back like cracked knuckles.

Three-inch thick sole,
steel-toed, crushing trajectory,
black on black, hardcore night wave shade,
hear the sizzle as he scorches the sidewalk.
Blue collar, cigarette stomping machine,

tattooed thighs, studded backbone, shockwave shorn hair.
He stomps, scoots and crunches,
heels licking the tough calloused skin.
Vodka in a stainless steel flask,
bleeding scab-pickers, mother’s tired fright,
Doc waits in the alleyway like he owns darkness
and slices his thumbs with a pocketknife, for fun.

“Doc Martens” is one of several poems included in Sarah Bryant’s undergraduate senior thesis creative project, The Weird and the Wonderful: Poetry Dedicated to Exploring Social Stereotypes Surrounding Mental Illness and the Misfit.

The Worker

His hands black as
coal, gruff as cows
hide. Tongue quenched to
dried like the Arabian sun.

Two bruised fingers scrape
the stone kiln where
the porcelain is fired;
a bowl darker than the
blind eyed crevice
of a peasants grave.

Kara Su—east of Erzurum is
where you can find Him,
working, slaving, sharpening
stone; whittling chopped
teeth to raw gum.

He enjoys this, of course;
the reddish musk that follows
suit to raw skin.

An Ox carved of
marble (perhaps, Yule, Carrara);
He treads, trudges, pulls
the yoke upon two
broad plateaus

who’s hands can mend
scorched valleys, infertile soil.

Hoist the brick;
the hands ache, they arch,
sweat collects above his brow
soaking the thick stone

spread between
Shatt al-Arab and
the mouth of

The man knows these bruises,
the burns that fold to scars.
Moist clay pulsing in the
palm, he molds, pushing two
fingers with applied force
along the rimmed husk.

His hands steady now, precise—
crafting Gods, and Saints
and Idols, he toils the
kiln, pressing his heart
to the flame

Jonathan Fischer is an emerging poet and short story writer from New Jersey. He currently attends Raritan Valley Community College as an English major. Jonathan writes short stories, poetry, nonfiction, and dabbles in other forms of literary experimentation. His poetry is forthcoming in Literary Orphans.

If Our Daughter Lived

There is a lake house set in stillness
That we might have visited, or the pubs of Dublin
When she grew and wanted to know your life,
Inheriting in those aching years the tumult and zeal
Of everything young; becoming old enough to stumble
On the streets like mom and dad—the day we started drinking
At 9 a.m., the narrow Rome alley bustling with purpose.
The night we held hands and walked around and around
The fragmented Coliseum—lento, largo, we described its crumbling,
Liking the feel of the words on our tongues. Or the night
We snuck potato pizza into the movies and you said
This is how an Irishman survives in Rome and later I cringed
At the heights of my mind and all you could do was laugh.

She would be old enough to fall like us, to love or otherwise,
To sling the world on her shoulders like a backpack,
And either buckler her knees against it or lose herself in the wind.

Laurin Maclos earned her MFA from the University of New Hampshire, where she taught on fellowship for three years, and am the programs associate of Poetry Society of America, after nearly three years as program director of Mass Poetry. Her work has appeared in Salamander, The Pinch, [PANK], Boxcar Poetry Review, Third Wednesday, and elsewhere. She lives in New York City.

3 Years Sober

Dylan D. Debelis, a founding editor of Pelorus Press, is a publisher, poet, performer, chaplain, and minister based out of New York City. Dylan has been published in more than twenty literary magazines and reviews including the Buddhist Poetry Review, [TAB] Literary Review, and Carbon Culture Review.


Scott Patterson is an emerging Northwest writer inspired by his careers, travels, and the politics of others.

Car Crash, Arrest and the Domino Effect

Jeff Bell is a London musician and poet.


Mark Antony Rossi's poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and photography have been published by The Antigonish Review, Black Heart Review, Deep South Journal, Ethical Spectacle, Flash Fiction, Japanophile, On The Rusk, The Journal of Poetry Therapy, The Magill Review, Sentiment Journal, Death Throes, Vine Leaves Literary Journal and dozens of other publications. For more on Mark, visit

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