Category Archives : Poetry


“Remembering Ali” by Frank De Canio

I’m standing in line. Boxing’s ringmaster
is about to autograph copies of
his book. In his prime, no one was faster
with either dancing feet or jabbing glove
than this gentle man who now emerges,
tied to apron strings of celebrity.
Drones of “oohs” and “aahs,“ as the crowd surges.
Invocations begin: “Ali! Ali!”
as if to exorcise demonic time
and resurrect together with the chant,
the lightning fists and tantalizing rhyme.
They chuckle at his jibes like sycophants
at the court of a king. “You blocks! You stones!
You worse than senseless things,” a cashier groans,

 

echoing Shakespeare. And I start to think.
Isn’t this the Caesar of the 60’s
Olympics? The Pax Romana who’d link
legions of imperial victories
to the farthest reaches of the world, while
civilizing the pugilistic mind
with grace and humor? He coaxes a smile
from a black woman who’s standing behind
a row of books. She exults: “You’re the champ,
Ali! You’re the champ!” Ali sets the bait.
“I’m a tramp?” he mugs. “You called me a tramp!”
“No, I didn’t!” she cries, less to placate
his mimic rage, than to admonish him,
who served the disenfranchised from a gym,

 

like some pastoral priest ministering
to his congregation. But Ali was
no paschal lamb sacrificed to the ring.
His two-handed offering gloved the cause
of underdogs. Knightly deeds looked easy.
Twin-fisted monsters dispatched with aplomb
made guardians of the grail feel queasy.
Their forked dragon was just another bum
who preyed on fear left over from youthful
nightmares. With gaping mouth and mocking frown,
he’d comb its lair with regulation tooth
and nail, then cut the puffed-up monster down.
In storybook style, he battled and won;
forging greatness in a spirit of fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank De Canio was born in New Jersey and works in New York. He loves music of all kinds, from Bach to Dory Previn, from Amy Beach to Amy Winehouse, and the poetry of Dylan Thomas. He also attends a Café Philo in New York City.


“If There Had Been Rain” by Lana Bella

It was a windy day in the city with
little clouds and tossing leaves. If
there had been rain, it would have
snuck through the colorless sky,
spilled of droplets white, and blended
in my hot cup of spearmint tea, cooling it.
If there had been rain, I would have
seen the reedy clump caught where
the water churned low, gasping. If
there had been rain, those marigold
seeds just freshly sewn inside my
flowerbed would have hollowed out,
bare-skinned. If there had been rain, the
earlier impressions left by my son’s
bicycle track would have washed
along with the shadowed bones,
emptying out to sewer. If there had
been rain, a small girl edging near
the levee deep would have leaned
back where the ground grew muddy
and slick, darkening her yellow dress.
If there had been rain, the deafening
chaos of the outside would have
dissolved into fly speck, seeking refuge
in a heavy dew. As such, all things bend,
curve, fade, or turn in the rain: light, dark,
laughter, tears, grass, stardust, flesh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lana Bella has a diverse work of poetry and flash fiction published and forthcoming with Anak Sastra, Atlas Poetica, Bareback Magazine, Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination, Buck-Off Magazine, Calliope Magazine, Cecile’s Writers’ Magazine, Dead Snakes Poetry, Deltona Howl, Earl of Plaid Lit, Eunoia Review, Eye On Life Magazine, Family Travel Haiku, First Literary Review-East, Five Willows Literary Review, Foliate Oak Literary, Garbanzo Literary Journal, Global Poetry, Ken*Again, Kind of a Hurricane Press, Marco Polo Arts Literary, Mothers Always Write, Nature Writing, New Plains Review, Poetry Pacific, Spank The Carp, The Camel Saloon, The Commonline Journal, The Higgs Weldon, The Voices Project, Thought Notebook, Undertow Tanka Review, Wordpool Press, Beyond The Sea Anthology, War Anthology: We Go On, Wilderness House Literary Review, and has been a featured artist with Quail Bell Magazine. She resides on some distant isle with her novelist husband and two frolicsome imps.  facebook.com/niaallanpoe


“Big Mama” by Sharon Smith

Each step closer
I could hear
Choo-Choo…Choo-Choo
Big Mama said, “Let’s hurry”
A brisk walk or a scurry
I cannot really remember
But the blasted inferno
In front of my eyes
Belched steam or so I thought
I had only seen trains on TV
The power of force
Built up inch by inch
In the great belching machine
It began to move forward
By leaps and bounds
We sat on the train
Big Mama, me, and Brother Ronald
Brother Ronald did not say much
But he did smile for a while
Big Mama shook her finger
Telling us to be on your best behavior
Cause you are the only two
Black children on this train
So I guess Brother Ronald understood
The virtues of solitude then
We traveled forever it seemed
Three days until we reached Kalamazoo
All the while big Mama smiled
Uttering the same comforting words
“We will be there in a short while
Just lean on me little children
A short while to go”
I can remember calling
“Big Mama, Big Mama
Is this real, what I see
Out of the window
Cows and horses just like on TV?”
The train kept moving on the tracks
I fell asleep in my Big Mama’s arms
When I awoke, we had arrived
Big Mama said, “Come on children
Let us go enjoy a while, let us go enjoy”
Big Mama slowly walked, leaning
Side to side carrying heavy bags
Pulling her east to west
Like a bobbin in the wind
Her swollen ankles peeked
Out of each of her shoes
The felt hat she wore
Pulled over her left ear
With a long curved feather
Caressed by the north wind
Big Mama’s long black hair
Dangled at her shoulders
Big Mama said, “Hurry Ronald
Before the rain comes
We will be at Katy’s farm
Before the morn’s dawn”
Big Mama’s step quickened
You could hear the rustle of her
Garments in her hastened
Movement carrying the load
And calling me and Brother Ronald
“Come on little children
Let us go enjoy awhile”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharon Smith is a graduate of Metropolitan Vocational and Career College in Long Beach, California.


“Dining With Thich Nhat Hahn” by Ruth Z. Deming

When I began eating my omelet
sprinkled with scallions
and melted cheddar,
hot to the tongue
and thought of my Christmas shopping
and the places I’d go

 

I asked Thich Nhat Hahn to
sit with me in the kitchen
to help me savor my food

 

In dark robes
he bowed his head
over tea I prepared,
delicately lifted the white cup
as he bowed again
meeting my eyes,
eyes that have seen much
some of it wrapped into books
or poetry or praying for peace

 

Taste returned to my tongue
the omelet and the goodness of
the hen who had given her life for me
I became one with the morning
The sun shone into my living room
I bowed my head in thanks for its
arrival that morning
Then lifted my glass of water
stared at the clear cold liquid
then drank,
it is cold and it is good to me

 

And the master across the table
smiled
pinkie lifted as
he drained the last of his jasmine tea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruth Z. Deming has had her poetry published in literary journals including Metazen, Mad Swirl, River Poets, and Eunoia Review. A psychotherapist and mental health advocate, she runs New Directions Support Group for people and families affected by depression and bipolar disorder. She lives in Willow Grove, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia.


“Driving Through Marietta, Ohio” by Robert Bartusch

Fishing boat crosses
Under this bridge.
Rivertown houses,
Old gas stations.
Old men drink
Whiskey on their porches
Next to freshly cut flowers
That their wives put there.
Trees surround me,
So many potential stories here.
Drift
Through this pretty town,
I’m on my way to other places.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Bartusch is a bar manager in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has a BA in English from Ohio University and has been writing in his free time while working in bars and restaurants for 17 years. He is also a songwriter for the rock band Hurricane Hotpants. twitter.com/hhpants


“Talk to Me” by Mike Nichols

These jagged, oval walls I climb
toward the haloed light of sky,
but the voices ease me down again
shifting, settling inside my mind.
Keeping me company
though I don’t want any.

 

They showed up,
skulking one by one
like junkies
propped against the payphone
outside the Kwikee Mart.
Always getting words in
edgewise or otherwise.

 

Lately, I worry.
What if there’s only one?
Some Rich Little type
muttering allegations,
his impersonations soured
with the subtle flavor
of martyred mother.
And I say, softly, to myself
Here, mom.
Take my hand, mom.
Don’t be afraid, mom.
Come down off the cross, mom.
We need the wood, mom!

 

Whatever.

 

An orderly bunch
these voices are
like an A.A. meeting,
no leaders only
trusty servants – twisty serpents.
And the voice who showed up first?
Yeah.
He’s the worst.

 

I was three or maybe four
and half asleep
lying on the floor
when he first pressed into me
like a palpitating marshmallow
his bouncing bass beat.
Whispering:

 

Life – Is – Dangerous. Repeat.

 

 

His voice lucid,
sensible if insensitive,
inserting reproving tones
inside my frightened child’s head.
He coerced me
down into the well,
safe from…
death by car and
addictive drugs and
brass cased slugs and
feelings that frame
hospitals
aortic holes
sickly reddish iodine and
teenage suicide and
cells that have metastasized and
one-ton bedroom doors behind which
Cancer sits up, cries out, VICTORY
and the brimstone and fire of eternal hell and
this earthly hell in which we dwell and…

 

Huddled in darkness
Let me rest
and cool my cheek
my child face pressed
against these jagged walls.
Then I’ll stand
to climb
with ragged hands
because

 

It’s cold. I’m lonely. I can…

 

Shhh.
There, there.
It’s safer.
Down here.
In the well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Nichols was born all in a rush just after midnight, with no assistance from doctor or midwife, under a waning Tennessee moon on a chill October night behind a partition at the back of a tar-paper shack in which his unwed mother had holed-up for a time. Mike won the 2014 Ford Swetnam Poetry Prize. His fiction and poetry may be found at Underground Voices, Bewildering Stories, and Black Rock & Sage.


“A Measure of Time” by Miki Byrne

Time is measured.

Poured from an unseen vessel

volume unknown.

Doled out in random offerings.

Some drink their fill,

paddle in a surfeit.

Others receive enough

for short sustenance.

Many take only a sip.

Never reach full hydration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miki Byrne has written three poetry collections, had work included in over 160 poetry magazines and anthologies, and won a few poetry competitions. She has read on both radio and TV, judged poetry competitions, and was a finalist for Poet Laureate of Gloucestershire. Miki is disabled and lives near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, UK.


“Palomino” by Rose Marie

On a beautiful
80 degree day,
That breathtaking Palomino horse
Is waiting to come out of his stall

 

I set him free

 

But he comes back to me
Big round innocent eyes
meet mine
and it’s like I’m in another world
where sadness no longer reigns

 

His gallop so soothing
I ride all day
No place I’d rather be-
That Palomino

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rose Marie is from Valley Glen, California. She loves barrel racing and has two horses of her own. She says she’s extremely fortunate to come from a Mexican family: the food is delicious, the music is irresistible, and the people are very humble. She also enjoys hiking the desert hills and spending valuable time with family and friends.


“Chances” by Bob Lind

The stars held still in their places.
Below them, the majestic earth
Rolled easy through the night,
Moving with purpose but in no hurry.

 

On the ground, there were
Lilacs and Poinsettias.
There were spaces between
Peaceful, strong-limbed trees.

 

And in those spaces, endless
Opportunities for joy and well-being pulsed,
Chances to dance; chances to smile,
Happy life waiting to bloom and stretch
And reach out beyond itself.

 

Between the Earth and stars,
He scowled at his watch,
Slammed his tray table up
And thought he might be
Catching a goddamn cold
About five seconds before
The plane began to crash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bob Lind is a musician whose songs have been covered by more than 200 artists, including: Cher, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, Marianne Faithful, Glen Campbell, Kingston Trio, Dolly Parton, and Nancy Sinatra. His lyrics have been taught in colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and Canada.  He won the Florida Screenwriters Competition with his script Refuge.  He won the Southern California Motion Picture Council’s Bronze Halo Award for his play The Sculptors.  He also has poetry published in Iodine Poetry Journalwww.BobLind.com


“Learning and Studying Went On Far Into the Night” by Avagyan Ester

Learning and studying went on far into the night

as if the height of my knowledge reaches the Tower of Babylon.

But at the end, we all sit next to the Socrates,

Tapping on his shoulder because it seems he was right about humanity

knowing absolutely nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avagyan Ester is situated in Valley Glen, California. She is intrigued by poly-syllabic words; ancient, rusty time pieces; and novels about ancient, rusty time pieces that include poly-syllabic words.


“Worthwhile” by Tom Pescatore

You type
what comes first,
then you print
labels, pull those out
of printer smelling of
heated glue and paper,
smelling like newspapers
and running belts and wheels,
smelling like childhood memories
you can’t quite recapture
with the smell gone so
suddenly leaving.
Afterwards you remove
labels, place on folders
and stamp times new roman
red letters once
for stampings sake.
Place the folder
in its categorized,
alphabetized place
between other folders
placed in their
categorized,
alphabetized place.
Then you leave it
alone, knowing
that you may
never go back to it,
knowing, maybe,
it’s possible that
no one else ever will,
knowing that this folder
will outlast you,
and your children,
and your children’s children,
knowing that what is in
that folder is less than
worthless,
knowing that all of
your effort is meaningless,
knowing that eventually
everything but those
folders will die.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Pescatore grew up outside Philadelphia, dreaming of the endless road ahead, carrying the idea of the fabled West in his heart. He maintains a poetry blog. His work has been published in literary magazines both nationally and internationally, but he’d rather have them carved on the Walt Whitman bridge or on the sidewalks of Philadelphia’s old Skid Row.


“The Godess of Night” by Cara Vitadamo

The Goddess of night
weaves around mindless, black light.

 

She waits for brass heroes
that talk in riddles
to make her Queen
of a castle with no moats.

 

Anticipating her change,
she found she makes her home
beneath rocks
as ruler of cadavers
and worms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cara Vitadamo is a registered nurse that enjoys poetry. She has been published in Torrid Literature, All Things Girl, and Mused a Bella Online Literary Review Magazine.


“Change Entrails Green” by Twixt

The wary and tarry of change succumbs
to what it is weary and teary of.
Change is digestive tract: the lovat of
caterpillar purtenance dissect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twixt is the mononym-onym of Peter Specker. He has had poetry published in Margie, The Indiana Review, Amelia, California State Quarterly, RE:AL, Pegasus, First Class, Pot-pourri, Art Times, The Iconoclast, Epicenter, Subtropics, Quest, Confrontation, Writers’ Journal, Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and others. He lives in Ithaca, New York.


“Shaker Furniture” by Ruth Z. Deming

(at the Philadelphia Museum of Art)

 

Narrow wood
and fair
cut from trees
of another America
furniture
plain
worn at the
touch points
shy furniture
caught behind the museum’s glass wall
like a ballerina hooking up her dress.

 

The desk and rocker
the candelabra
upended like a bird on wing,
flow without order or design
in their latest
retirement place. Another
room, dark as
a porch in twilight
houses a high, narrow bed.
We can’t go in.
Who warmed their legs beneath these sheets?
Or dreamt of forbidden touch?

 

Really, it wasn’t so long ago that
they left, half a century merely,
the Great Ones, sitting in
the farmhouse for
their last regal portraits,
turning their ancient heads
like captive eagles
listening
still listening
for the scuff of shoes
on the kitchen floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruth Z. Deming has had her poetry published in literary journals including Metazen, Mad Swirl, River Poets, and Eunoia Review. A psychotherapist and mental health advocate, she runs New Directions Support Group for people and families affected by depression and bipolar disorder. She lives in Willow Grove, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia.


“Dawn In Palm Springs” by Robert Halleck

As light slowly appears
dawn is approaching.
Above are streaks of lightening
followed by thunder.
It’s 6 am in the land
of second homes.
The sprinklers start
as raindrops dot
the sidewalks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Halleck is a hospice volunteer and retired banker. He has written poetry for over 50 years. Recent poems have appeared in Bluepepper, The Camel Saloon, and the 2014-2015 San Diego Poetry Society Anthology.


“Hapa” by Sam Louie

I don’t quite fit in,
not 100% Asian,
nor 100% “American.”

 

Call me, “Hapa,”
Hawaiian for mixed,
half-breed,
bi-racial,
rejected, not accepted,
unwanted,
no tribe to call my own,
all I want really is to belong,
a place, I can call home.

 

I live in the land in-between,
Like the Hebrews during Exodus,
wandering in the desert,
looking for comfort and rest,
searching for my identity,
only to have others say quizzically,
“You don’t look like me!”

 

Not White enough to fit in with the mainstream,
nor Asian enough to be a minority.
I’m constantly teased,
not comfortable being just me.

 

I’m confounded,
conflicted,
cursed,
caught in a cultural cross-fire.
Who will leave me alone?
Better yet, who will accept me as their own?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sam Louie is a first-generation Chinese-American psychotherapist with a focus on Asian addictions and cultural issues. He is also an Emmy Award-winning former journalist who currently writes for Psychology Today on issues related to race and culture. In addition, he writes and performs poetry addressing issues related to immigrant experiences, culture, addictions, and recovery.  samlouiemft.com


“Observation” by Yusef Tahir

defined by reputations and reality shows
is the essence of why
as a nation of black people we
can’t grow
almost like we need ignorance to be relevant
socially accepted negligence
by standards unprecedented
selling our story for small profit gains
numb to the internal pain
because within reach
is fortune and fame
force-fed propaganda walking down unattainable roads
only to react with shame
to see for what our dignity was sold
see, when brothas claim pimp, playa, thug, and killer
and shout that they spill more blood
than that of a river
imagine what these kids visualize
to be when they get bigger
misconception and misguided direction
mentally we have no protection
from psychological irrespective devastation
arguments over who we are and are not
verbal death sparring
dwelling in the enemy’s plot
instead of fighting against the problems
that affect everyday existence
we pull guns on
the next man for the simplistic
desensitized to violence
foreign and domestic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yusef Tahir was born and raised in Massillon, Ohio.  He began writing poetry as an outlet to express his thoughts in a creative way and has been writing for over 10 years.  He loves the idea of putting words together to paint pictures.  Yusef hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Kent State University.


“Birds at the End of Summer” by Miki Byrne

Broad acres. Green, shimmering.
A nap of waves ruffled. Gusting winds huff.
Race in cold tumbles over open ground.
Grass raises moist silvered tips, patches clumped
in congealed wads—detritus from the last mowing.
Compacted like chewed cud, bleeding sap.
Mayflies hover, flip-flap in dark thousands.
Buzz like bees in a jar. Snatched from the air
by dipping swallows that swoop with eye-blinking speed.
Dives drop from cloud-shadow’s morphing camouflage.
Unending gyres twist the air, white bellies flash
against grey sky.
At ground-level a flock of starlings feed.
Rise in one great cloud. Settle like smoke solidified.
Roll in a great curl as those at the back feed
then flow to the front. Continuous motion,
smooth compaction of a thousand parts.
Suddenly they lift. Soar like handfuls of pepper grains
hurled skywards. To group, zoom, swoop.
Off to further feeding grounds.
Past the shadowed horizon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miki Byrne has written three poetry collections, had work included in over 160 poetry magazines and anthologies, and won a few poetry competitions. She has read on both radio and TV, judged poetry competitions, and was a finalist for Poet Laureate of Gloucestershire. Miki is disabled and lives near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, UK.


“New Year’s” by Richard Hartwell

Cats cuddle closer, fur fluffed
preventing heat loss, wintry
revelers toast in a new year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Hartwell is a retired middle school (remember the hormonally-challenged?) teacher living in Moreno Valley, CA. He believes in the succinct, that the small becomes large; and, like the Transcendentalists and William Blake, that the instant contains eternity. Given his “druthers,” if he’s not writing, Rick would rather be still tailing plywood in a mill in Oregon.