Two Poems by Jonel Abellanosa

Lucid Dream
                  After “Human Condition” by Rene Magritte
Seeing the black ball
enlarged on the floor,
I remember the rubber ball
I use to lower my blood pressure,
making my hand useful,
deflating and deflating
when I’m resting
after doing nothing.
With that image of the ball
I know I’m in my dream,
I decide to do nothing,
just sit feet from the canvass,
to let the sea participate,
so I could see it
paint itself
into my waking
memory, bring
myself to calm.
Past lives like Leo’s nine stars.
I remember what I knew
before I was born, arrow-arced night
sky, lyric deja vu. Nonlinear time
pulls me like bowstring, the future
a hide of bronze, ancient past reflecting,
mythic as the mane in the mirror.
Temujin was a Nemean lion.
I see Mongolian Steppes, clear as grasslands
of my youth. Standing in Cebu City,
I hear hordes, behold horses sending dusts
skyward. I stand before pyramids of skulls,
captives impaled, bloodthirsty desire.
At peace with myself, I let myself
be Karma’s child, agreeing to pay
for my sins centuries ago. I look
at my homeless friend wagging his tail.
I say his new name – Genghis Khan.
Jonel Abellanosa lives in Cebu City, The Philippines. His poetry and fiction have appeared in hundreds of magazines including, North of Oxford, Fox Chase Review, Thin Air, The Lyric, Poetry Kanto and The Anglican Theological Review. His poetry collections include, “Songs from My Mind’s Tree” and “Multiverse” (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York), “50 Acrostic Poems,” (Cyberwit, India), “In the Donald’s Time” (Poetic Justice Books and Art, Florida), and “Pan’s Saxophone” (Weasel Press, Texas).

Sweet Pea by Jonie McIntire

Wild Sweet Pea
Sweet Pea
Child born early
            cusping April
who struggled    pale blue face
  to be born
            he shoots up
    green through sand
            tender petals curling
   back to find their edges
my daughter
       who is now my son
is learning how
   to drive
            wraps tendrils
around the wheel
   climbs from back seat
up front
     delicate face bright
              and forward
Jonie McIntire is author of chapbooks Semidomesticated (Red Flag Poetry, 2021), Beyond the Sidewalk (Nightballet Press, 2017) and Not All Who Are Lost Wander (Finishing Line Press, 2016). She hosts a popular monthly poetry reading series called Uncloistered Poetry, which brings poets in from around the country. She has received multiple Accelerator Grants from the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo. Learn more about her at

Peace by Charles Rammelkamp



Just before they stormed the barricades,
the Proud Boys gathered near the Peace Memorial,
at the foot of Capitol Hill,
where fifty years earlier
my friends and I planted flags
protesting the Vietnam War.
“A mishmash monument,” one scholar’s called it,
the muse of History on top,
forever reading the words,
“they died that their country might live,”
from the book she holds in her left hand,
while Grief hangs on her left shoulder,
weeping, and Victory gloats beneath them,
baby Mars and Neptune,
like cherubim in a sandbox,
playing with their sword and trident,
at Victory’s feet.
And Peace?
Bare-breasted, she stands alone
on the other side of the monument.
The beefy men in MAGA hats,
waving “Stop the Steal” banners,
bellowed like wild beasts
at the very place, a few days later,
photographs of Brian Sicknick,
the Capitol cop killed in the mob attack,
appeared next to flowers and American flags.
charles coffee
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore. Two full-length collections were published in 2020, Catastroika, from Apprentice House, and Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books. A poetry chapbook, Mortal Coil, was published earlier this year by Clare Songbirds Publishing.

Holiday Reading Recommendations 2021


A Little Excitement by Nancy Scott


Erotic by Alexis Rhone Fancher


Danish Northwest/Hygge Poems from the Outskirts by Peter Graarup Westergaard

red rover

Red Rover Red Rover by Bob Hicok


The Murderous Sky: Poems of Madness and Mercy by Rosemary Daniell

American Quasar CoverA Camera Obscura Cover

American Quasar with poems by David Campos and art by Maceo Montoya + A Camera Obscura by Carl Marcum

Bright Star, Green Light

Bright Star, Green Light by Jonathan Bate


The Likely World by Melanie Conroy-Goldman


Razor Wire Wilderness by Stephanie Dickinson


Adjusting to the Lights- Poems by Tom C. Hunley


The Philosopher Savant Crosses The River by Rustin Larson


Come-Hither Honeycomb by Erin Belieu


And So Wax Was Made & Also Honey by Amy Beeder


Poisons & Antidotes by Andrea L. Fry


The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett




Last Stop on the 6 by Patricia Dunn

Dunn Dolce Cover

By Thaddeus Rutkowski

In this fast-paced novel of tangled family relationships set just before the start of the US war against Iraq, Patricia Dunn tells the story of Angela Campanosi, a twenty-nine-year-old antiwar activist who returns to the Bronx after several years in Los Angeles. Angela has received an invitation to her brother’s wedding, but she doesn’t know why the invitation was so late in coming or why her brother is marrying this particular woman: a nurse who is about to be sent to Iraq. Further complicating matters is the fact that the groom is MIA when Angela arrives—and no one will tell her where he is.

Angela’s thoughts turn inward as she remembers sins she believes she has committed—deeds that caused her to flee the Bronx and lose touch with her family. “I needed to get away, far away,” she tells the reader. “Distance didn’t make the guilt vanish, but it had made life bearable enough for me to take action, make changes, and be a better person.” For a long while, we don’t know exactly what happened, but Angela blames herself for the accidental fall that put her brother in a wheelchair. She doesn’t know if he still holds that incident against her, because she can’t find him to ask. She receives no help from her stubborn mother, her unrecovered alcoholic father, her foodie uncle, and a onetime friend/boyfriend who has (almost) become a member of her family.

Things get wild when Angela receives a request to be her brother’s best man, makes a trip into Manhattan and gets caught in an antiwar demonstration, and visits an art opening where all of the works (by the friend/boyfriend) represent members of her family—all before she reunites with her brother. A subplot involves a large amount of money owed by the brother to some gangster wannabes. For much of the story, Angela is on the outside of her family, looking in. “All the years I’d been away,” she tells us, “I could only see [my brother] Jimmy from ten years ago, sad and hopeless. He’d moved on. He was able to express joy. He, my whole . . . family, was happy. Happy without me.”

The novel, by the author of Rebels by Accident, is published by Bordighera Press, a nonprofit dedicated to Italian and Italian American literature. As the story unfolds, you’ll meet characters living more or less as they did in the old country—but in the northern Bronx, at the last stop of the Number 6 subway train. In addition to Angela’s family, you’ll find various local personalities, including the Beach Chair Ladies, whose role is to keep the gossip going. Anyone, Italian or not, who has had an immigrant experience will appreciate the push and pull that exists between an original culture and a new society. “At the end of the day,” says one of the local characters (who turns out to be a building contractor, not a gangster), “there’s love.”

You can find the book here:

Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of seven books, most recently Tricks of Light, a poetry collection. He teaches at Medgar Evers College and received a fiction writing fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Reefer Madness by Robert Cooperman

By Charles Rammelkamp
The title of Robert Cooperman’s hilarious new collection comes from the 1936 melodrama about high school students lured by drug pushers. Reefer Madness became a cult classic in the 1970’s among the younger hip generation, for its unintentionally campy humor.  The lurid movie poster, warning ADULTS ONLY contained phrases like “The sweet pill that makes life bitter” and “drug-crazed abandon.” “Youthful marihuana victims. See what really happens.” In part one of this collection, Cooperman shows us what really happened, at least to him, and his experiences are so familiar to anybody born before 1960 and probably beyond.
After a poem about the meaning of “420,” the code for smoking dope, Cooperman launches into “The First Time I Tried Weed: Brooklyn College,” about his initiation into the rite. Though citing the familiar “Refer Madness” warnings in the very first stanza – “In high school, it was gospel / that one ‘puff’ would turn us / into groveling heroin addicts” – curiosity wins out, and just as the response to the old adage, “curiosity killed the cat” – “satisfaction brought him back” – that first time smoking with a college friend was glorious.  The poem ends with another nod to Refer Madness:
            Giggling at a joke only I could get,
            I fell into bed, the room a tilting merry-
            go-round in a Hitchcock mystery,
            but no desperation, thank god,
            to shoot smack.
  Then in one entertaining poem after the next, Cooperman details the whole project of “getting high”: The rituals of rolling joints, the exclamations of “I’m really wrecked!” that came almost like a testimony at an evangelical religious service, only instead of “Praise Jesus!” it’s “I am so stoned!” We read about the psychedelic songs of the era that were a necessary component to the experience – “White Rabbit,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” Jimi Hendrix.  There are poems about the various drugs on the menu of our youth – hash, angel dust, psychedelic mushrooms. “Worse” vividly describes a bad trip on mushrooms in the otherwise idyllic setting of the Catskill Mountains. “It’s in the Bag” is a poem about snorting cocaine and the energy-burst it provides – and recognizing how easily one could become addicted to it, reefers or not.
“Smoking Dope Outside the Keats Museum: Hampstead Heath” tells the story of two friends sneaking a joint outside the building while their wives linger inside, “maybe beside the very tree / where Keats had heard / his immortal nightingale.” Their spouses bust them, making them feel like kids caught breaking a window, but at least they avoid the surveillance cameras!
As the first section winds down, marijuana has become legal in Colorado, where Cooperman currently resides, though now in late middle-age, a little late to really take advantage. He recognizes his dope-smoking days are over, though he still enjoys the occasional “contact high” from the skunk-stink of marijuana drifting from the pothead neighbors or when walking by the school kids passing joints around. In “The Weed Tree,” he and his wife stroll up a hill after passing the kids,
            me floating a bit, pointing out to Beth,
            the red-tailed hawk making lazy, lovely,
            merciless circles above the lake.
“Got Pot?” and “AAA and the AA” explore the further implications of legalized weed, in the Trump era, when we all needed a crutch to make it through.
In “Now That It’s Legal” and “Now That Colorado,” he laments the loss of the risk-taking scoring dope used to entail, which added a frisson of “sticking it to the Man” to the alteration of one’s consciousness, an added bonus. “Now That Colorado” ends the first section and sets us up for the equally hilarious second part.
            In my day – geezer that I am – it took
            some discernment to score primo weed,
            and always the fear that the dealer was a narc,
            or if you sweated sauntering past beat cops,
            they’d stop you faster than Killer Kowalski’s
            professional-wrestler Atomic-Drop-Kick move.
           And now the Girl Scouts will sell cookies
           outside pot shops! I ask you, is nothing sacred?
“There are eight million stories  in the Naked City,” the iconic line at the end of every episode of the long-running TV series from the early 1960’s went. “This has been one of them.” Just so, Cooperman gives us over three dozen angles on the scene outside of The Wild Weed Dispensary in Denver as a Girl Scout troop sets up outside to sell cookies, in the second part of this hysterical collection. “The Girl Scouts of Colorado have decided it’s now cool to peddle their baked goods outside marijuana dispensaries,” a story from The Denver Post informs – the epigraph to the section – and Cooperman is off and running!
There’s the Larsen family, the jilted wife Wilhelmina, chaperoning her Girl Scout daughter Melissa outside the Wild Weed Dispensary, while the wayward husband Ron holes up with his sex kitten Clair. There are Leonard and Marissa Millstein, a public defender and corporate lawyer at ideological (and marital) loggerheads, and their Girl Scout daughter Emily, caught in the middle. There’s the cop, Malcolm Sanders, whose daughter Kelly is also a Girl Scout and remembers the note her mother left when she walked out on Kelly’s father, no longer able to be a policeman’s wife.  Poor Fiona Terry, shoved into the Girl Scouts by her mother, hates being there at all, always the odd-girl-out. Cindy Bartlett, another Girl Scout, is the daughter of Sonny, a Hell’s Angel-style motorcycle gang member whose ex-wife Jo-Jo is having an affair with the tattoo parlor owner Nick Breeze, all here while the Girl Scouts sell their cookies. Each uproarious poem adds a soap-opera-like tale to the afternoon sale.
Reefer Madness is a rollercoaster high, and the melodramatic warnings about pot? Still potent in the twenty-first century, as little Melissa Larsen tells us:
            Tiffany’s older brother tried to get us to smoke,
            but our teacher warned us we’d become maniacs
            and have to live in straitjackets, like forever.
So do yourself a favor and read this collection about “drug-crazed abandon.”  But a warning: read just a couple of these poems and you will probably be hooked!
You can find the book here: Reefer Madness
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. His most recent releases are Sparring Partners from Mooonstone Press, Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books and Catastroika from Apprentice House.

the deering hour by Karen Elizabeth Bishop

the deering hour cover

By Greg Bem

confession is built mouth
to open mouth until water

(from “honeyhive,” page 3)

In the deering hour, there is buried between an awesome and ecstatic lyric poetry is a timely poetics of isolation and survival capable of carrying a pandemic readership toward honest, patient movement. the deering hour is a book that feels as crafted by quarantine and introspective society as it feels a conduit for the ever-expansive world just beyond our walls. Throughout, Karen Elizabeth Bishop follows many veins, many threads, and finds her own natural space for foraging the wispy peripheries of a breathing world.

The book is divided into two sections. The first, of which the book’s title comes, is “the deering hour.” This sequence is a welcome beacon and blueprint in this cagey global moment, filled with discoveries and dances, flirtations and flashes that are utterly American in their experimentation, but also feel spread across space and time and culture.

as she falls we all fall hers is the history of
flight the future of lyric the winter of our ash

(from “the history of flight,” page 34)

Collective and personal, the general appeal of “the deering hour” as a section and as a book is the feeling of roots, of being bound as reader (through writer) to the primal or ancient. Ecologically, the verse often flutters through natural imagery and a spirited presence takes shape by way of the world’s many forms and their relationships. Even when poems concern movement, either forward or backward, inward or outward, there is a slow and mature consideration within the poem’s subtext; a peaceful tone of ritual, of intention lingers.

[. . .] here the surface
does not hold. where the final
hanging on comes to a close,
wea are sound receding in
waves, four hearts quiet
ascending, the light at the
border dark increasing [. . .]

(from “the deering hour,” page 13)

Poems vary in size and shape, but there is a propulsion to most of them. This rush within Bishop’s work can be thanked to the poems’ elemental foundations. Water upon stone, for example, is one of the most prevalent carriers of energy and ideas within the deering hour, and its emblematic presence demonstrates the timeliness of water’s power. It is also, in Bishop’s writing, reflective of a more sacred, finite resource. Ecology and the flight of the world that surrounds us may feel overwhelming in reality, but in the book we see transformation as humbling. This is a tempered and tempering volume that keeps reality in a perspective somewhere between balancing and revealing.

Following “the deering hour” is “Kilpisjärvi,” a shorter sequence that takes its name from a village in Northern Finland, where Bishop recently visited and stayed as a resident at the “Biological Station.” Unfortunately we do not know too much more than that, as a fuller description of this place is missing. Still, the mysterious presence and existence of this place lends itself to the writing Bishop does include.

While at first glance this second, closing sequence feels thrown at the end of the book as an addendum or “extra,” a deeper read reveals Bishop’s cunning: the prose and verse here demonstrates an example of source material, where the work and the mindset of “the deering hour” stem. Reading it reminded me of the works of Craig Childs and Terry Tempest Williams, who have sought the truth by being embedded by place and experience, by living through relationships and convictions: “We watch from the shore of the moraine as the future recedes,” Bishop writes in part IV (page 59) and: “Under cover, we speak in surprises, measure the fell in objects and action” she writes in part IX (page 72) are examples of Bishop’s relational journaling.

Near the beginning of “Kilpisjärvi,” Bishop writes, “I don’t need to get to the end to know I’m already living my future” (page 54). This is the illumination that rounds out a poetics of the pandemic so well. It is new and yet established, emerging yet defined. But the illumination can occasionally be too bright; aside from serving us with this well-rounded close, some of the book’s moments cascade into realms of twist and obscurity:

you didn’t say if you gave over, a last present
amidst our famine, or if you sought the wild
wasting of our white nights, the pleading scar,
fingers in the welt, the searing blightburn. [. . .]

(from “inflorescence,” page 15)

There is a play with abstraction that occasionally feels maddening in its confusion and disconnection, but it is ever-so-present and just barely heavy enough to be problematic. Instead, I took the abstraction to be an element of introduction and arrival, Bishop’s writing beginning its dance across a longer form of time. Overall, Bishop’s the deering hour is an enduring book of juxtaposition the succeeds in bringing two ends of experience together at once.

You can find the book here:

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at



Slap by Rustin Larson


By Lynette G. Esposito

Rustin Larson’s poetry volume Slap offers a wide variety of poetry lengths, forms and images. Published by Alien Buddha Press, it is ninety-two pages of insightful messages in poetic form.

For example, the poem Four Steps on page twenty-four, creates in thirteen stanzas, a situation of how many steps lead away from home when at the train stop and what it represents. Larson turns this image into the constant life journey of taking steps to all the doors that lead to or away from home.
                  Four steps, please. Four steps
                  into the train’s platform
                  in the middle of the night.
                 Four steps before you trip
                 and fall down the basement.
                Four steps into the bower
               of wild roses.  Four steps in fever
               into your mother’s arms
              in the cool kitchen of your childhood.  Four steps
Larson has used the image of four steps and varied situations to portray how close so many things in life are and what a difference this makes.  His exquisite use of the F sound and his skillful use of repetition control the poem to the closing single-line stanza:
              steps from all the doors you called home.
In contrast to this lengthily poem, Larson presents a little humor in his one- stanza, five-line poem Discard on page thirty-two.
                  Although I might be a discard,
                  like the man who believes
                  in extraterrestrials,
                  I say to myself
                 I am not alone.
The brevity of the poem does not reduce its effectiveness.  It takes a twist on the concept of the populace of Earth seeking other intelligent beings in other galaxies and looks clear sightedly at those who are perceived as discards on this planet. I find this poem hilarious. 
When the Shark Bites, is a one stanza poem on page sixty-two that presents a moment-in- time when Larson remembers having burritos with his daughters at Taco Bell in Iowa City and when his one daughter was little, how he put her to sleep with an unusual song. He begins the poem with:
                   Not to disagree with the song’s lyrics
                   but sharks don’t have
                   molars.  They rip and swallow
                   rather than grind and chew.  It’s
                   a fine point, but important I
It is interesting that he begins this poem with facts then throughout the poem remembers wonderful instances with his children.  He brings a time frame in, 1996 and calls it a premium year.  The poem suggests it is about one thing but when Larson calls his daughters my little sweethearts the reader can feel how full Larson’s heart is remembering this time with his daughters. It is a skillful poem with musical references that some of a certain age will appreciate.
Slap is an interesting tome with some poems being stronger than others.  The poems vary widely in subject matter and with interesting twists.  It is well worth a read while sitting in a comfortable chair.
You can find the book here: Slap
Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.

Literature and Random Chance

By Colin Dodds

Inviting Randomness to the Party

It was about a year ago, and I had a stack of notes that wouldn’t agree to be poems or stories – oddball refractory fragments that had accumulated over the years. Or maybe it was me who was feeling oddball and refractory. Either way, it occurred to me to fashion the best of them into oddball and refractory aphorisms and collect them in a book.

As I revised, rewrote and so forth, the question of how to order the aphorisms kept bothering me. There was a temptation to structure the book into discrete groups – themes or chapters or moods or seasons or something like that. But grouping the aphorisms like that felt like an apology, an immediate watering down of the individual force of each individual aphorism. And deliberately placing similar aphorisms far from one another felt artificial.

Not long after I’d sent an early version of the collection to some friends, one of them wrote me saying that she enjoyed flipping through the collection each morning and reading the aphorism she landed on. And I thought she had exactly the right idea. At the same time, I was chatting with my friend Matt Dublin about technology-slash-art projects. Those conversations with Matt, along with her comment made the randomized-aphorism app idea click into focus.

I imagined a book, where the pages hang on a single spine, transforming to something like a dandelion in late summer, when the white floaties stick off the seed head and a strong breath blows them all away except for one, or one of those plasma balls, where the pink lightning strikes from the core to the glass surface where you press your finger.

A Short and Inadequate History of Books and Chance

The idea of random chance interacting with literature isn’t new. Bibliomancy – the practice of flipping through a book and dropping your finger down to learn the future, or the will of G-d – is as old as the codex. It was how St. Augustine decided to convert to Christianity, according to his Confessions.

In the I-Ching, the reader navigates the text by flipping coins or other random means to arrive at the correct page for them in that moment. More recently, the cut-ups of William Burroughs attempted to expose intentional language to the mysterious dynamics and agendas of so-called randomness. There’s even a Cut-Up Machine that allows you to enter text in, and receive something else out. When I was pounding away at a manifesto/marketing document for Forget This Good Thing I Just Said, I dropped that document into the machine and read back – from among the block of text, if I squinted – the spooky phrase “Like don’t messages chance to say a reader’s idea?”

As the author, I had some say in how random I wanted things to get. And the cut-up approach gave chance more license than I wanted. I liked the aphorism as the unit of meaning, because it’s just long enough to make a statement, and too short for much equivocation or obfuscation.

Why Let Random Chance Speak at All?

Bibliomancy, the I-Ching or Burroughs’ cut-ups all embody a largely unspoken faith that what you most needed to hear in a given moment is likely a bolt from the blue.

It may be mystical. But there’s a lot of common sense in mysticism. Randomness, as an idea, smells like science. But it’s an unproven assumption. It’s a placeholder for something else.

What is that something else? I’d always had an on-again-off-again fascination with Jung’s idea of Synchronicity, or serendipity, and the idea that random chance was the camouflage for some unbelievable beast you could occasionally look in the eye.

Random chance, if it’s a mystery, can also be liberating. People like to say that we can forge meaning from randomness. But what if randomness is the one thing that’s uniquely poised to deliver the meanings that can transcend our habits and our hand-to-mouth scheming?

You can check out Colin Dodds latest project concerning literature and random chance here: Forget This Good Thing I Just Said