Sunday, February 7, 2016

Jason Irwin

To have known you then –
the summer of your senior year,
posing bare chested,
like Charles Atlas,
in front of a ‘52 Impala,
a boyish grin, a lock of dark hair
hanging over your eyes –
I know we would not
be friends. The way
you can envision
the flight path of a hawk
as it circles and glides,
almost hanging in the air,
until, suddenly it swoops down
to snatch a squirrel
from the tree outside
your apartment window.
I’m sorry for it all:
our not being friends,
the years
and the disappointments
they’ve brought,
wanting at times to be cruel,
to diminish you, yet still
needing you. For all the words
that stick in our throats
and remain unsaid.
It’s as if we’ve been stranded
on opposite shores
of a frozen lake. We both know
that if we venture out
onto the ice, it will crack, 
and neither of us has courage
enough for that.

* * *


The old man next to me at the bar
smelling of Bryllcreem
and a kidney infection, his face
the color of uncooked chicken,
mutters into his glass:
“Walt Disney? General Patton?
Fuck ‘em. I know what’s what.”

* * *

Jason Irwin is the author of Watering the Dead (Pavement Saw Press, 2008), winner of the Transcontinental Poetry Award, and the chapbooks Where You Are (Night Ballet Press, 2014), & Some Days It's A Love Story (Slipstream Press, 2005), and A Blister of Stars (forthcoming: Coleridge Street Press, 2016). He has also had work published in Poetry East, Sycamore Review, Confrontation, and Poetry Ireland Review, among others. He grew up in Dunkirk, NY, and now lives in Pittsburgh.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Nahshon Cook

Her Burial

it’d been decided
her final resting place
would be next to
our great grandmother
and was prepared
with a cement vault
that lay waiting patiently
to receive her
beautifully held body
eight of us carried her
from the hearse
to a forest green hilltop tent
stretched out over
a skirted stainless-steel rectangle 
perfectly picture-framing
the heavy-heartedness
she was slowly lowered into
once we’d all said
our final goodbyes
my father and I
stayed to watch
the undertaker supervise
his gravediggers
in covering her casket
first with the vault’s lid
then a dump truck bed
full of wet heavy earth
he shook hands with us both
and apologized
for our unfortunate loss
before explaining
how they’d allow the dirt
to settle during winter
then cover her plot
with sod in spring

* * *
Nahshon Cook is a poet from Denver, Colorado. His poems have appeared in publications including Nepantla, Rhino, and Split This Rock. His most recent collection, The Killing Fields and Other Poems, was published in March 2015 by Shabda Press. His next collection, Communion, will be published in 2017 by Shabda Press.   

Friday, February 5, 2016

Michael Gushue

Love Taboos (Field Studies)

We meet on a path. You run away and hide behind a tree. Later, at supper,
you bring me food in a bowl but do not give it to me. You throw it on the ground and run away.

We meet on a path. You step off and stand with your back turned until I
walk by. Back in the village, we do not come near each other, or shake hands, or give each other presents, or anything.

We meet on a path. I throw myself off the path into a green thorn bush while
you pass by without turning your head or looking at me, pretending I’m not there, although I am whimpering. I do not say your name and avoid using any word if it forms part of your name, or rhymes, or almost rhymes, with your name.

We meet on a path. We both turn aside, me jumping off the path into a red
thorn bush, you putting a raffia basket over your head and running in circles. We are allowed to talk to each other only by shouting from so great a distance we cannot make out each other’s words and with a barrier between us so that we cannot even be sure it is us.

I was walking on a path after a heavy rain and saw some footprints that I
thought were yours, so I turned around and went the other way, covering my eyes with my hands and whistling loudly.

We meet on a path and cannot avoid each other, so we both throw ourselves
off into thorn bushes, you on one side, me on the other, shouting, “Gee, what a great thorn bush I get to be in with no one around.” Also, there is a nest of wasps in my thorn bush.

If you like something, I say I hate it. If there’s something you hate, I run and
kiss it. If your friends are walking on the path, I leap out of hiding and push them off the path into a pit I have dug.

We are made for each other.

* * *
September 7, 2015

It’s 89 degrees in the nation’s capital but it feels like 93
across the street piles drivers hammer poles into the ground
the jibs of tower cranes are turning like the hands of a clock
because a Bible Museum is getting built right across the street
I’m looking out an office window     having ramen and checking facebook
when suddenly on a sidebar up pops with the clickbait
Lana Turner collapsed and Keith Richards snorted his Dad’s ashes
and Susan Sarandon carried Timothy Leary's ashes in a Burning Man
ceremony and now this     I have never been on a Segway
never been to Burning Man it sounds too much like a party
where everyone knows each other but I don’t know anyone
and though I have behaved badly it never involved
snorting a close relative or building a museum or having enough money
but I could lie around all day and not feel bad about it at all
I love reading and napping especially reading and napping with you
Oh Katy Perry you’re going to be okay but what     what     will become of us?

* * *
Kama Sutra For Older Couples

When a man lies on his stomach with his limbs akimbo, snoring, 
            and the woman sits up and watches A Game of Thrones on her 
            laptop, that is called The Beached Walrus.

When a woman is lying comfortably on her left side and the man reaches
over her to grab her chocolate chip cookie but then hits her 
in the eye with his elbow, that is known as The Clumsy Fox.

When a man lies on his side, immobile, and the woman lies
between the man and the wall, that is called The Trapped Bladder.

When a woman is curled up with her hands under her cheek and the man 
            gets out of bed to get a “glass of water,” that is known as The Spy 
            Who Wanted a Slice of Cake.

When a woman is trying to read, and the man turns from one side
to the other repeatedly, that is called The Annoying Fish.

When the family dog is sleeping between the man and the woman, and the
man is pushed closer and closer to the edge of the bed, that is known as The Roadrunner Tricks the Coyote Again.

When a man is in the bathroom brushing his teeth with the water running
and the woman asks him a question from the bedroom which he cannot hear, that is called The Deaf Husband.

When the man and woman lie next to each other, and the phone on
            the other side of the room rings, that is called The Mexican Standoff.

And when a man and a woman face each other, arms and legs tangled
together, and talk of inconsequential things, and make each other laugh deep into the night, this is known as The Marital Bliss For Realz.

* * *

Michael Gushue runs the nano-press Beothuk Books and is co-founder of Poetry Mutual/Vrzhu Press. His work appears online and in print, most recently in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, the Michigan Quarterly, and Gargoyle. His chapbooks are “Gathering Down Women,” “Conrad," and "Pachinko Mouth” (from Plan B Press).

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Tony Mancus

the future emojis are the same as the new emojis are the same as your life

when the skate park closed
no one was there to notice
the sound of the garbage
truck was something
everyone could sense

incessant backing up
through yards and stoops
sentimentalizing everything
in its rubbery way

cover the wits and the windows
with your dreams it said
like they’re a certain thread count
sheet and not simple disposables

the doctor always told me this
to feel like the rabbit on fire
running through the forest
spreading light with its fur

but there’s a fine line between
grinding and sex           one that usually
involves knowledge and another body
or at least some kind of physical

conditioning I still don’t see
the emotional response I want
among all of the stickers of this
scantron world

(no one continues
to notice anyone
noticing anything)

we’re busy with these bubbles
filling in our future and the choices
suggest ideal occupations for each of us
if you fill in the right pattern

you can be anything (including
but not limited to:
garbage, the person
backing a truck up, the memory
of a skate park, a digital
representation of e-
motion, the laundry
stiff and crying as it freezes
on a rope) between here
and tomorrow.

* * *
Tony Mancus is the author of a handful of chapbooks, most recently City Country (Seattle Review). With Meg Ronan, he co-curates the In Your Ear reading series in Washington D.C. He works as an instructional designer and lives with his wife Shannon and three yappy cats.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Joseph Ross

                        On A Classroom Discussion of Langston Hughes’ “Harlem”
                        “Or does it explode?”

                        for Drew

                        We held Hughes’ question in our hands
                        with the danger it deserved.

                        Then talked our way through the brown
                        sweet of a raisin, the yellow

                        disgust of a moist wound.
                        We held our noses to guard

                        against the assault of decomposition,
                        the stench of failed flesh turned

                        the color of no.
                        We nearly smiled at the morning
                        pastry, the candied version
                        of our country’s sin.

                        We wondered about the dead
                        weight, the way it lies and drags

                        down every hopeful shoulder.
                        But when faced with the threat

                        in this final question, you see
                        it for the terror it is.

                                            * * * 

                       On A Classroom Discussion of Frederick Douglass’
                        “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

                        for K.A. and M.T.

                        He sat on the edge
                        of the classroom, having learned

                        the safety of edges. Before him,
                        American Literature, a stone
                        of a book, lies open to
                        a lion’s page. Douglass’ questions,

                        a low growl, quiet for now
                        but their teeth are poised to sing

                        an attack, to devour anything
                        the color of complacency.

                        Last night as his human eyes
                        stalked this speech, this student

                        caged the words in his own notes,
                        furiously underlining and writing

                        like the skin of our century
                        hunting down the answers

                        to Douglass’ questions that live
                        to haunt his country.

                        Today, those questions claw at this
                        free student, stunned by their teeth.

                        As the discussion begins, the lion’s
                        words lunge off the page.

                        Everyone in the room panics
                        and scatters into brilliance. Some are

                        unprepared for the animal precision
                        of this nineteenth century

                        man the slave breakers
                        could not break. But this student’s
                        pulse thrums with post-slaughter
                        adrenaline. Never before has he

                        seen words rise up and fight
                        like the predators they are.

                                         * * *

Joseph Ross is the author of three books of poetry: Ache (2017), Gospel of Dust (2013) and Meeting Bone Man (2012). His poems appear in many places including, The Los Angeles Times, Poet Lore, Tidal Basin Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly and Drumvoices Revue. He has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations and won the 2012 Pratt Library / Little Patuxent Review Poetry Prize. He recently served as the 23rd Poet-in-Residence for the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society in Howard County, Maryland. He teaches English and Creative Writing at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. and writes regularly at

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Nicole Yurcaba


“I read the lines…you left for me.”--Wolfsheim

Today, Socrates,
I think of a day when at 17
I fulfilled Glaucon’s role:

imitating Castilian’s rapid r’s:
“rojo,” “raja,” “rojo,” “raja”--
weaving mimicking strains
until you cried “Perfecto, mi querida!
and I, in scholarly humbleness,
blushed and mouthed “Gracias, senor.”

“Wunder Frau,” you declared,
“perhaps we should begin practicing German.”
With teenage ignorance, I confessed
“Herr Socrates, the only German I know
is from listening to Rammstein and Wolfsheim albums.”

Ten years, fast forward, in late July’s heat,
we trek the peach-laden orchard,
and I tell you, dear Socrates,
that in Ukrainian it’s pronounced
Ihor not Igor, and “one” is odin,
“two” is dva, “three” is tri,
i tak dali, i tak dali[i],
each step another foot ventured
into the Old East Slavic beast’s land
until in an attention-deficit moment
you pose “Tell me, Wunder Frau,
how is your German these days?”

With teenage ignorance’s residue I sheepishly confess
“Herr Socrates, my German has not progressed
much passed lyrics from Rammstein and Wolfsheim albums,
a line or two from Kafka.”
And with a near-70 snicker, meine Socrates,
you wonder aloud “Tell me, Fraulein,
if you think perhaps there is a bit of Gregor
lurking inside all of us?”

[i] Ukrainian for “and so on and so forth”

* * *
Nostalgia Via The Cure’s “A Letter to Elise”
for my 17-year old self

Perched upon the Building Trades classroom’s dusty, scarred work tables
lover-holding the perfectly tuned Ovation acoustic,
first period calculus loomed
threatening to forbid  languidly strummed bliss.

Only the shop teacher recalled Robert Smith-like melancholic emotion
as he, through your tempered slow-strumming,
relived sweaty nights he’d spent skulking English goth clubs
circa the ‘80s where Doc Marten-clad, obsidian-cloaked
sorrow-eyed imitation Siouxsees pined, without exception,
for their souls’ simultaneous disintegration.

Funny isn’t it, how—unknowingly
from doom-gloom’s acknowledgement
friendship bloomed:
personified in the ostracized safety-pinned, ripped-patch shroud
offset by bondage-strapped crow black dreams;
externalized via one sentence:
“There were girls like you, girls who smoked clove cigarettes to the nub,
prayed for rain in cemeteries, pined for Bela Lugosi’s tears,”
whilst you trembling fingers picked
the song’s final few notes,
wished for ‘80s-era London or Manchester,
prayed-prayed-prayed for a sudden lockdown disaster
that would banish your bats to this cave and the guitar to your hands
for a fewmorejustonemoremaybetwo-hell, you’d take three—hours
where someoneyessomeone-an authority figure at that—understood
black nail polish and gray eyeshadow’s penned metaphors.

* * *
Nicole Yurcaba is a Ukrainian-American writer and internationally-recognized poet and English instructor at Bridgewater College. She has been published in venues such as The Atlanta Review, The Bluestone Review, Philomathean, Midway, Still, The Tishman Review, VoxPoetica, and many others. Yurcaba's first poetry and photography collection, Backwoods and Back Words, is available through Unbound Content on Amazon. Yurcaba is also the 2nd place winner of Australia's Sans Frontieres Hemingway Contest and a finalist for Salem College's International Poetry Rita Dove Award. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Charles Rammelkamp

A Lifetime in Dog Years

We were married forever,
it seemed like.
Andrew was fun at first,
but he just got more abusive
as time went on,
shut himself up in our bedroom,
reading the news online,
playing video games.

When Audrey was born,
we got a puppy for Mickey.
He was three, resented his sister
as if she were an alien
invading the idyllic island
of our two-bedroom apartment:
he had to share with his sister.

Once she was housebroken,
Kelsey was the perfect pet,
devoted to me, Mickey, and Audrey,
protective as a celebrity bodyguard.

Andrew never warmed to her, though.
When she got old, puked on the carpet,
he’d storm about like Zeus hurling thunderbolts,
threatening to have her put down.
Audrey and Mickey cried, horrified,
knowing their father would do it.

And when Kelsey died in her sleep,
the kids, teenagers now,
absorbed in their own lives,
that’s when I knew
it was time for me to move on, too.

 * * *

Charles Rammelkamp edits The Potomac an online literary journal, and is the Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, MD, where he lives. His latest book is a poetry collection called Mata Hari: Eye of the Day published by Apprentice House (Loyola University).

Greetings from CL Bledsoe, Guest Editor for February

Hi Folks, I'm taking over for February. I've got some great poetry lined up by some of my favorite poets, so enjoy. And, of course, if you like their work, reach out to them. Buy their books. Go to their readings. Send them presents. Thanks for reading. Best, CL Bledsoe

Truck's new driver for February 2016

Thank you, Michael Rothenberg, for a splendid whirl through the first month of 2016.

Please welcome now our driver for February -- CL Bledsoe. CL, you'll find the keys up over the sun visor, or wherever Michael left them.

Truck's drivers--past, present, and future--as of Feb.1, 2016


CL Bledsoe


Mar. 2016 -- Paul Sampson
Apr. 2016 -- Lynda Schor
May 2016 -- Allen Bramhall
June 2016 -- Joanna Howard
July 2016 -- Robert Archambeau
Aug. 2016 -- Lori Horvitz
Sept. 2016 -- Tero Hannula
Oct. 2016 -- Laura Young
Nov. 2016 -- Ric Carfagna
Dec. 2016 -- Philip Garrison


Apr. 2011 -- Kate Schapira

May 2011 -- Wendy Battin
June 2011 -- Frank Parker
July 2011 --  Skip Fox
Aug. 2011 -- Ken Wolman
Sept. 2011 -- Michael Tod Edgerton
Oct. 2011 -- Kelly Cherry
Nov. 2011 -- Andrew Burke
Dec. 2011 -- Lewis LaCook

Jan. 2012 --  Larissa Shmailo

Feb. 2012 -- Gerald Schwartz
Mar. 2012 -- Jukka-Pekka Kervinen
Apr. 2012 -- Lynda Schor
May 2012 -- David Graham
June 2012 -- Lars Palm
July 2012 --  Elizabeth Switaj
Aug. 2012 --  rob mclennan
Sept. 2012 -- Georgios Tsangaris
Oct. 2012 -- Douglas Barbour
Nov. 2012 -- Dirk Vekemans 
Dec. 2012 -- Erik Rzepka

Jan. 2013 -- Alan Britt
Feb. 2013 -- Mark Weiss
Mar. 2013-- Mary Kasimor
Apr. 2013-- John M. Bennett
May 2013-- Orchid Tierney
June 2013--Victoria Marinelli
July 2013 -- Volodymyr Bilyk
Aug. 2013 -- David Howard
Sept. 2013 -- Philip Meersman
Oct. 2013 -- Chris Lott
Nov. 2013 -- Alexander Cigale
Dec. 2013 -- Catherine Daly

Jan. 2014 -- Maria Damon
Feb. 2014 -- John Oughton
Mar. 2014 -- Colin Morton and MaryLee Bragg
Apr. 2014 -- Alan Sondheim
May 2014 -- Glenn Bach
June 2014 -- Bill Pearlman
July 2014 -- Edgar Gabriel Silex
Aug. 2014 -- Jerry McGuire
Sept. 2014 -- Karri Kokko
Oct. 2014 -- Márton Koppány
Nov. 2014 -- Anny Ballardini
Dec. 2014 -- Chris Lott

Jan. 2015 -- Marc Vincenz
Feb. 2015 -- mIEKAL aND
Mar. 2015 -- Eileen Tabios
Apr. 2015 -- Crag Hill
May 2015 -- Rudolfo Carrillo
June 2015 -- Gwyn McVay
July 2015 -- Matt Margo
Aug. 2015 -- Volodymyr Bilyk
Sept. 2015 -- Stephen Vincent
Oct. 2015 -- Maxianne Berger
Nov. 2015 -- Alexander Jorgensen
Dec. 2015 -- Jane Joritz-Nakagawa

Jan. 2016 -- Michael Rothenberg