Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Trial By Looking By Juanita Rey

Your parents give me the onceover.
What color are the lips
that have sucked so deeply on your own
or the nails that have scratched your naked back?

I try to look my best.
Civilized at least.
But I’m unnerved by their eyes.
What if something grotesque is showing?

This hair has been combed
to the full capability of plastic teeth.
There no creases in this blouse
and it’s buttoned to the throat.
Sure, the jeans are tight
but, thankfully, my skin is tighter.

The truth is, if I’m to get on in life
I must fashion myself
in the ideas of others.
No animal looks,
no feral mating fervor.
Yes, there may be a grandchild someday
but assuredly a virgin birth.

Meanwhile, I must find a virtue in politeness
that was never there before.
They must find a virtue in me
that politeness never could.


Juanita Rey is a Dominican poet who has been in this country five years. Her work has been published in Mixed Mag, The Mantle and The Art Of Everyone.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Death Valley Seems An Understatement By Gerard Sarnat

Aptly named Furnace Creek CA, Torahs
in arks and normally Ethiopian Jew aardvark
skulls registered astonishing 129.9 degrees
Fahrenheit [54.3°C] at 3:41 PM PST Sunday,
August 16, 2020 -- which got rounded up to
130 in a final kosher report from NOAA*.

Above may have been the hottest reliable
temperature on record in all of world history,
eclipsing previous readings that include
Death Valley 1913, Libya 1923, Kuwait
2016…which measurements were later
officially decertified (2013) by WMO**.

Such said, belts of uninhabitability in swatch
between Middle East and East China regularly’ll
be dry as sub-Saharan bones (or horrible monsoons)
within that range so this Hebrew assumes our panting
alphabet soup gumshoe bureaucracy will soon declare
arc of new climate change losers, share lost leaders.

Exceptions now rule, can Noah float another boat?

* National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
** World Meteorological Organization

Gerard Sarnat MD has authored four collections: Homeless Chronicles: Abraham to Burning Man, Disputes, 17s, Melting Ice King. His work’s been published by Review Berlin, New Ulster, Gargoyle, American Journal Poetry, Northampton Review, New Haven Institute, Vonnegut Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Buddhist Poetry Review, Free State Review, Texas Review, San Antonio Review, Poetry Circle, MainStreet Rag, NewDeltaReview, Brooklyn Review, LA Review, Monterey Review, SF Magazine, NYTimes.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Follow That Car By David W. Clear

It’s a coverup, the whole thing is one big coverup and almost everyone knows it but almost no one wants to admit it. At eight years old he heard on the news that the files related to the JFK assassination would be sealed for 75 years. Why? At eight years old he answered his own question and promptly covered it up within himself as deep and sealed as the files themselves.

Still walking, he ascended a rise in the road which revealed a large sprawling cemetery. The first tombstone had his name on it- the epitaph read – he died unhappy because he didn’t try hard enough. He went to the next- it read - he died unhappy because he tried too hard. And then the next – he was to blame for everything. And then the next - he was not to blame for anything. Rows upon rows of tombstones, all with his name on them.

I couldn’t read anymore. I looked away, and saw not two vultures, but now two crows perched on an iron railing. Wait, this is the cemetery of past lives, that’s the only possible explanation. He came to a section marked- suicides. The first stone read – he thought he was going to get away from it all. He was wrong.

And then the next – he thought this would help him figure it all out once and for all. He was wrong again. And then the next – if you’re reading this, you’re still alive, so don’t do what I did. Or do, I don’t really care. What? No karma, no suffering depression as penance for committing suicide so many times in his past lives? He walked on, saw more epitaphs – he led an undistinguished life. But he was happy. He was kind. He helped people when he could, but he did nothing to write about in any history book.

And then he was aware a Cadillac El Dorado had slowly pulled up beside him on the narrow asphalt between the tombstones, its engine silent as the cemetery grass itself. The car had stopped that day in Dealey Plaza, too, although that part of the film was taken out. You hear what might be a shot and you put the brakes on? Or did he mean to do it? El Dorado; the golden one.

The driver, a dark-haired woman, asked him if he could drive her to Las Vegas. She said she wasn’t feeling well, she tried calling 911 but her cell phone battery was dead. She sat there briefly like a great blue heron perched on a favorite branch above a favorite fishing spot; silent and surmising the variables.

He said he would be happy to drive her, adding how familiar she looked, and that the last time he’d seen her she’d looked so sad. She just slid into the passenger seat leaned her head back and closed her eyes. She loves me, he thought. He knew it, he felt it, that she loved him, that she really did even though she might not outwardly show it. So many things didn’t show, didn’t seem to make sense, any sense at all apparently.

Like Catholic confession and the JFK files just to name two. Moreover, as he stole glances at her from watching the apparently interminable road stretched out ahead of them to the dusky desert horizon, he knew he loved her he really did. Scott really loved Zelda, Zelda really loved Scott, but they burnt out on their lifestyle.

She loved him he loved her but they were driving this Cadillac down a dangerous road. Never one to not fall prey to the most outlandish mental meanderings he considered that he had been surreptitiously programmed by the CIA rogues, all still alive and well, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the infamous assassins and usurpers of governments in the 50s and 60s and 70s, that when he heard a loud pop, he would stop the car.

And when he stopped the car that would allow the shooter a clean shot. That’s what they did to Greer. Like Sirhan, like Ruby, a hypnotic trigger to behave a particular, demonic way. Child’s play for the LSD scientists and behavioral modification experts. But it went deeper than that. Much deeper. He loved her she loved him and what they were doing, despite the outward appearance of apparent suffering, had a point.

All suffering then must have a point. Holocaust suffering had a point Hemingway’s suicide had a point, Zelda insanity and Scott alcoholism had a point. It was to achieve a better result. For me and the woman it was to live out our years without having to work or if we wanted to work to work at something we enjoyed and which made much more money than what we used to work at that we didn’t enjoy.

It was the holy grail, the alchemists stone – you don’t get that at Wal-Mart. It takes suffering apparently. Maybe there’s another way but so far humans have only been able to come up with suffering. Because direct knowing is too much of a shock- well some people can do it but most are fried- and then he remembered waking up from naps and contemplations with the startling energy of an electrical shock.

He would flee from that consciousness; it was too much he was not strong enough how do you get strong enough to withstand the full energy of God to put it a certain way- you suffer- a little or a lot – you can build strength other ways but you have to be able to withstand the energy. And then she told him telepathically that she was the lady of life’s lake.

That the nature of yin and yang, the truth of duality was as the sages of the east and many others knew for eons, was that there is a yielding and a forward motion. Souls incarnate as forward motion male energy and life is yielding feminine energy but they mix and they change and the truth and wisdom of it is to make a dance, a loving dance.

Rumi and the Sufis tuned in to this most poetically of course; to love all life to seek to please it as a seeking to please a lover so that then it seeks to please you back. Eyes still closed, she just smiled. They both knew. They both knew when they got in the car together that afternoon.

Don’t put the brakes on! Speed up, speed up dammit! He heard himself say, in a dream. And he was in the car, and he felt the pain of the bullet and knew the driver had slowed down, to a stop even, so as to assure the shooter the kill shot. But there were still a few seconds left. But nobody’s going to save us he thought.

May as well start carving that tombstone now. Checkmate is checkmate, that’s just how it is. For now. She woke up, she knew he wouldn’t stop the car until they got there. Well, maybe to pee. It would be ok to pee in the desert. The desert would appreciate it probably.

But she wouldn’t have to try to jump out of the car this time. Better to run away and live to fight another day. Demosthenes, 338 B.C. Oh well those Greek philosophers had an answer for everything didn’t they? No, they didn’t, they were stumbling around like we all have been forever, only occasionally tripping across a jewel. A particularly luminous seashell on our stoned walks on the beach.

We pick it up, feel it, look at it, sense it, maybe smell it, but mostly, know it. This is it, our shell, our special shell. We put it in our pocket and walk on, walk home, to our studio apartment maybe, put it on a shelf or in a drawer and forget about it. But now, he remembered the seashell in the drawer. It was shaped somewhat like a classic 1955 El Dorado Cadillac.

He knew who he was, he knew who she was, he knew why they were in the Cadillac and where they were going. He didn’t know how he knew only that he knew. This was going to take some getting used to, because most people could not be told these things he knew now. Socrates, remember? It wasn’t that he thought that highly of himself, just that he wanted to stay alive awhile longer, especially if it might be with her.

Yes, she’s married but she might not be later. Or maybe they could just be friends he thought. He knew she was well-read; literature, history, philosophy. She probably could change the oil in the Caddy as well if she had to, which she never would. Because of course, she was also rich.

But since that day she had been skeptical about letting other people drive her. Ok maybe they won’t shoot you but they might stop the car at the worst possible moment. They’d both seen the original, unaltered film. The car comes to a complete and total stop. The car and the country.

The fact that she let him drive her was an awesome display of trust in his ability to protect her. If she needed protecting, which she didn’t now, but it was a good feeling, a warm gesture after so many disappointments. The sun was coming up, they were approaching Las Vegas. Of all places. They should have just called it El Dorado, the lost city of gold, or city of lost gold.

It all depended on your definition of gold, and lost, and found. Are we really locked into pay as you go spiritual growth or lack thereof as he, and so many others had been taught? You’re sworn to secrecy, because, again, Socrates, Galileo, JFK, well you know the list.

But you go ahead, shout it from the rooftops if you want, and then, after they drag you down and William Wallace you, or Joan of Arc, or, well you know the list. Then you can come back and not get in the car if you don’t want to, but sooner or later, something will get you, if only your own reliance on prescription meds.

Sir Henry Neville could write Othello and all the rest today without fear or trembling of being imprisoned in the tower of London. He would have to contend with the tower of Babel still. No need to waste money on a ghost nom de plume pseudonym Shakespeare that would go on through centuries to come as the imprimatur of great literature.

No matter, Sir Henry knows who wrote what. They crossed the city limits, and then were in town. He pulled the car up to a decrepit dilapidating motel called the Blue Angel. They parked, got out, went into room five. A 20-year-old man was there crying on the bed.

The room glowed with warm, soothing Himalayan salt lamp light. How could such a room, in such a place and time, for such a sad young man, glow? Sufis again – when the heart weeps for what it has lost the spirit laughs for what it has found.

She took out her phone and showed him the most recent text from her husband. It simply said all is well. When did she charge the battery, he wondered? And then he knew. And then she went into the bathroom and came out with a warm washcloth which she placed on the young man’s forehead.

He breathed deeply, relaxed, and fell asleep. Their work here was done. They went back out to the parking lot and got in the car again. The young man was the young him, of course, broke and depressed in Las Vegas with a fake ID.

Creating one had been a waste of time. No one asked him for it. They were happy to take his meager earnings at 20 years old as they would be at 21 and beyond. Days later, bleary eyed from exhaustion and weeping in some end of the world place like Tonopah or Winnemucca, playing nickel slots in the bus station, an ancient security guard asked him for ID. Heart still weeping, spirit at that point couldn’t help but laugh. But now, he was with her and they were at Caesar’s. She had reluctantly agreed but insisted on choosing the game.

Fine. Roulette. A little illusion of European elegance in this corporate rodeo borne of mobster roots and rootless mobs. Here, no clocks, ultra-oxygenated air, and a wildly changing assortment of other psychotropic influences, they would put it all on one roulette number.

Lose. Of course. 38 to 1, c’mon! Except of course right now in this cosmic non-duality state of mind and being they couldn’t pick the wrong number, just couldn’t. They picked 17. 17 came up. She gave it all to the roulette dealer, a middle-aged woman whose credit card debt was almost the exact amount of the payoff and who needed to see a doctor about her bipolar condition but had no medical coverage. Back to the Cadillac. And the winding road out of town to a place called the Mt. Charleston lodge.

They were late; no, they were right on time, for a wedding. The crowd was already gathering. He didn’t really like crowds but this one was different; this one would help not hurt. He hoped Elvis would be officiating; real Elvis not some faux Vegas Elvis impersonator.

Real Elvis had a spiritual side that got lost rather quickly. And then found. There he was. Real? Real enough to officiate this wedding. They stood in the back, and then were called to the front as the witnesses. They knew the couple being married and they knew how much in love they were. And they knew, like Elvis, there would be some rough edges to smooth out.

But if Elvis could do it, and, obviously, he had. He stood there, young, slender, strong, vibrant, the sound simply surging from him even as all in the crowd and wedding party were silent, sensing the ceremony soon to begin. Best wedding I’ve ever been to, he thought.

I ought to know, she thought. And then he saw the man from the all the films and photographs walk up to her, and they were together again. Resplendent as usual in his blue suit, a man not just for all seasons and all countries but all times.

That’s why he was there. He was her bodyguard for the short trip. He helped her drive; she helped him know. Helped him know about the coverup, about why he knew there was one, and why, once he knew just how absolute it was, he knew what to do, and what not to do about it. He stayed behind now with the rest of the wedding party, including preacher Elvis, and watched them walk away together.


David Clear is a child of the 50s, nurtured by the 60s, inebriated by the 70s and 80s, married in the 90s, and since the 00s writing while keeping a day job. Originally from New England, he has one online work published at Amazon for $.99. What a deal!

Friday, February 16, 2024

Metropolitan Comedy Club By Ben Nardolilli

When I say I can't come to the show
Because the trains will be bad again
I'm telling half the truth

The trains that connect me with you
Are being severed this weekend
And the weekends after that

I’d have to go over with a transfer
And a bus ride now if I try
To go see you perform the skit you wrote

But there is another factor for me:
The show is on Sunday
And there is no holiday the day after

Yes, I’m no longer young enough to go
Out on proletarian eve, to watch,
Drink their minimum, then drink mine


Ben Nardolilli is currently an MFA candidate at Long Island University. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Door Is a Jar, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, The Northampton Review, Slab, and The Minetta Review. Follow his publishing journey at mirrorsponge.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

How Slowly By Thomas Zimmerman

Some days, how slowly flows the river: that
of consciousness, and I a crumbling cork
in it. Oh rudderless. I think of all
the swimmers in my streams, some surfers too.
All hunted down: white sharks. My screen glows whiter
than potential, clean blank canvas stretched,
which I, most days, mistake for nothingness.
Last night, twice, thunder shook the house. An inch
of rain. So muggier than hell today.
But after work, I saw a fawn, curled cool
in backyard spruce shade, looking at me with
intent, or so it seemed. But I admit
I often think that you are looking at
me that way too. You like to say you’re not.


Thomas Zimmerman (he/him) teaches English, directs the Writing Center, and edits The Big Windows Review https://thebigwindowsreview.com/ at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. His poems have appeared recently in dadakuku, Grand Little Things, and The Minison Zine. His latest book is Dead Man's Quintet (Cyberwit, 2023). https:/thomaszimmerman.wordpress.com Twitter: @bwr_tom IG: tzman2012 FB: Tom.Zimmerman.315

Friday, February 9, 2024

Know Your Enemy By Gabriel Bates

Are you sure
it's your jobless

Or that single mom
on food stamps?

Are you sure
it's that co-worker
who doesn't worship
the same politicians
as you do?

Or that guy
down the street
who's a few shades
darker than most?

Are you sure
it's not just you
and all the bullshit
you believe in?


Gabriel Bates is a poet living in Tiffin, Ohio. His work has appeared in several publications, online and in print. Keep up with him at gabrielbates.substack.com

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Marge By John Grey

She was a tough woman.
I reckon she ate nails for breakfast.
She didn't so much run her fingers through my hair
as clear a path.
She drove a truck
and her left breast bore a tattoo of the devil.
Try as I might, I could only state that,
not break it down into poetry.
I still refuse to change a tire.
I hate the smell of gasoline
and the thought of someone
sketching with a needle on my upper arm.
But I was loose at the time
and not always going in my own direction.
I hung around like fruit on a tree.
Marge was hungry enough to pluck anything.
Of course, eventually she dropped me
like a hitchhiker, married some guy on his way to prison.
I've avoided women with grease
under their fingernails ever since.
Still, she could be sweet, even kind,
when no one was looking.
Many the hurt dog at the side of the road
found its way into her healing arms.
But I was never the suffering canine
nor the one who could give as good as he got from her.
Sometimes different kinds of people
come together and they make it work.
But other times the vehicle breaks down on a highway some place.
It's often just the one who can get it going again.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in New World Writing, Santa Fe Literary Review, and Lost Pilots. Latest books, ”Between Two Fires”, “Covert” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the Seventh Quarry, La Presa and California Quarterly.

Friday, February 2, 2024

A Different Kind of Silence By James Lilliefors

Her eyes stay with the crushed rabbit
in the road longer than I like,
as if she’s never seen a dead anything before.
And then it occurs to me: maybe she hasn’t.

Within seconds, my thoughts have moved on,
and I assume hers have, too.
Nothing is said.
I’m used to things disappearing.

Weeks later, she is walking with me downtown
when a homeless man touches my arm,
and asks for money. I ignore him, and keep going.
But her eyes study my face, longer than I like.
Nothing is said.

Everything at her age is a lesson.
I want her to be good: person, friend,
student, citizen.
Once, I told her that silence can be
a good thing. But this is different,
a different kind of silence.
A silence of absence.

I, too, grew up without explanations
for certain things, and understand the lesson
that saying nothing sends.
The damage it can do.

But that’s another thought
I allow to disappear,
knowing the world will
absorb this silence, and
none will be the wiser for it.


James Lilliefors is a poet, journalist and novelist, whose writing has appeared in Ploughshares, The Washington Post, Door Is A Jar, Snake Nation Review, CandleLit magazine, The Miami Herald and elsewhere. He is a former writing fellow at the University of Virginia.