A Hard Spring by Antoni Ooto

A Hard Spring
The trees held their place year after year;
until the ice storm, with its bitter night,
the sound of cracking that went on for hours—
And, they began giving themselves up—one by one.
Morning brought a quiet sun
shining on places where light never fell
through the window we stared,
like refugees of an undeclared war;
recalling our trust in nature—
the leafy canopy of trees.
Antoni Ooto has had poems published in Amethyst Review, The BeZine, North of Oxford, The Poet Magazine, The Front Porch Review, and many other journals and anthologies.

Fetus in Fetu by P.C. Scheponik

Fetus in Fetu
They began, two delicate orbs adrift
in an amniotic galaxy,
twin stars who silently collide,
one engorging the other,
the way Kronos swallowed his young,
the smaller brother, in the belly of the larger,
A Jonah child whose song will never be sung,
the whale’s mouth, permanently sealed.
He will grow more slowly, sinking inward,
half of him never revealed,
as if God stopped knitting.
While the larger son rises, floating toward the light,
a slice of horizon at the end of darkness.
The smaller one, tucked tight inside of him,
glowing like an unfinished dream,
legs and arms in motion that seem to move
of their own will, but no upper body.
Still this being thrives without hearing, without seeing,
strives to live his hidden half life deep inside darkness,
the pulsations of his umbilical,
 breathing the sweet, sanguine air,
 buried in his brother, become his wife, become his mother.
He lies there, the mystery of unbeing.
pcscheponikphoto (2)
P.C. Scheponik is lifelong poet who lives by the sea with his wife, Shirley, and their shizon, Bella. His writing celebrates nature, the human condition, and the metaphysical mysteries of life. He has published six collections of poems: His work has appeared in numerous literary journals.

The Ballad of Morbid and Putrid By Sawyer Lovett

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The Ballad of Morbid and Putrid
How many times
Did she tell me I’d be
p e r f e c t
if I were a boy,
further pulverizing my
tender lesbian heart.
& here I am
all these years later;
relocations & relationships,
addiction & recovery,
all these miles & memories later.
They say you never forget
your first
& I am certain, having outlived mine
remembering is memorial.
I will always wonder
what she would think
of the boy I became;
of the man in progress
of the person she knew
but never really met.
Would I be perfect now
in this same skin, differently shaped?
I will always miss her
will always wonder
if knowing myself earlier
could have saved us both.
Sawyer Lovett is a writer, bookseller, and professor. He is a pretty good person, but he is always trying to be better.

carry by S.M. Moore

I think I hear the music you’ve been telling me about.
I’ve been looking for it for a long while,
but it seems like every time I hear it,
it moves further into the distance.
Every time I get close,
I can hear it moving away
faster than I can move.
But every once in a while,
I hear the notes ring out from between brick buildings.
I don’t know the city well like you do.
It is easy for me to get lost in these streets,
and even easier for you to hide.
I hear your music though.
And sometimes I wonder;
do you want me to find you?
Loud are the horns,
but the streets are convoluted.
Maybe I could find you if you came towards me,
but you go the other way.
You go the other way when you hear me singing.
S.M. Moore has published a section of a novel he co-authored in a small newspaper based out of Bates College. Moore is also a regular writer for the Portland, Maine newspaper, Up Portland. His poetry is published or forthcoming in Down in the Dirt, Flora Fiction, and Literary Yard, among others.

From The Editors

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

covid 19 2020


 g emil reutter

thunder cover




A Feeling Called Heaven by Joey Yearous-Algozin

a feeling

By Greg Bem 

I wanted to show you something

that would give you pleasure

before the end of the world

(page 3)

Climate change. Ecological disaster on a global scale. The coming and going of empire, civilization, the human imprint. The collapse. The Anthropocene. It is all very present and very intangible and, no matter how we spin it, the end of the world (as we know it and have known it) is nigh. And so, what are we going to do about it? There are many who believe that the only two responses are complacency and response, where response is solution oriented. But there is a third, humble option: acceptance.

The embracing of finality is a core concept in Joey Yearous-Algozin’s A Feeling Called Heaven, a book surging with as much pause as activity. Within this remarkable collection, Yearous-Algozin takes the poet’s approach to disaster and hopelessness by finding a contemplative, curious, and stable position of observation. Not without difficulty, the poet’s form is as much didactic as it is conceptual: the poet is one of instruction and of a simpler positing within the calm reality that the horrific exists and it probably really is too large for us to manage.

I want you to focus your mind

on denouncing the hope

embedded in the idea

of our momentum as a species

the belief that we will somehow continue

even after we’ve gone

(page 40)

The book is composed of two poems: a first that lasts most of the book, and a second that serves as a coda to close out what is, overall, a sequence of meditations, mantras, prayers, and cathartic rest. The poems total just over 60 pages in length, and I felt them gently urging me on from the moment I opened the book. I felt the poet’s breath, the angles through which the dismal was approached, and reconciled, and I read on and on until the last line. There are natural pauses throughout the book’s first poem, “for the second to last time,” but they feel more like the space between the pulse than any full rest. It is an active book, after all, one that accounts for stillness but radically approaches stillness with full energy and availability. Even the title indicates that the fullness of acknowledgment and existent may sit within a single second, which for readers of poetry may be further elaborated as a single poem, a single book, a single read.

A Feeling Called Heaven is calm, and much of the calmness, despite the terror that surrounds us, can be connected to the simple and uncomplicated language Yearous-Algozin has filled within the pages. I attribute the plainness of the poet’s speech as a method of contrast to the failings of the human world’s complexities: what we, as a society, have created across time and space have led us to this point, this point that will soon be gone. Is it the poet’s job to continue the damned lineage, or offer relief and radical shift? The speaker here follows the latter path, though not without calling forth several examples of our burning world:

and the sun glints off pools of irradiated water

outside a freeway on-ramp

or hospital parking lot

in which a few discarded syringes

and fragments of plastic tubing

bob in the light breeze

(pages 12-13)

Like other post-apocalyptic descriptions as we’ve come to know them in recent decades, the imagery within A Feeling Called Heaven is as bleak and valueless as it is slightly exaggerated as relic and memento. It feels human while lacking the humanity, feels moving while utterly still in the confines of the poem. The poet, on the other hand, is not completely still. The speaker murmurs their way through the lines that scatter like dust across anonymous landscapes and situations that are grayed, sitting beyond the realm of truth and beauty. These moments that float through the page are as much liminal as they are in the center: the blind spot that is within each of us as we exist in an ever-fading moment.

Yearous-Algozin calls out this ever-fading moment as beyond-verbal. It may be hard to imagine a situation, a system, a reality that is outside of the confines of language, but that is yet one more radically-shifted premises of this book, and it is not just a premise but a truth that is absolute:

a non-verbal certainty

that a time will come

when the residue of the human

will have disappeared

almost entirely

(page 16)

When Yearous-Algozin writes “almost entirely,” it is the crucial piece of this recipe: we are not quite gone yet, and this is a moment we can refer to as the “feeling” of “heaven.” The last stretch before the end is one that is reconciliation, catharsis, and embrace. It is fullness. Finality. Totality. It is utter loss and the resounding silence we can feel at the end of our collective existence and knowing that it has come from us and will exist after us.

In Social Text Journal, Barrett White writes of Yearous-Algozin’s book, “Through its radical acceptance, A Feeling Called Heaven teaches an important lesson about pausing, being present, and deeply listening, both inside and outside ourselves.” While in agreement, I also believe that the book offers an additional lesson on our capacity as creators. Yearous-Algozin has written a book that offers a nullification of the creative process, an anti-inspiration to take the pause and escape the creative act; unlike any other book I have read, A Feeling Called Heaven positions itself as a rational counterpoint to tangible production and artistry. In the book’s second and final poem, “a closing meditation,” the poet writes:

my speaking to you now

produces an image like the reflection of the sun

or more accurately

a space for your thoughts to inhabit

(page 55)

Indeed, this book causes process to cease, time to fold, and the mind to warp beyond thought. For that feeling alone, I can’t recommend it more highly during this Winter, this season, this precipice we have found ourselves upon.

You can find the book here: https://nightboat.org/book/a-feeling-called-heaven/

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 gregbem.com.




Two Poems by Carl Kaucher

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Pond Scum
Henry David Thoreau made pencils.
I don’t know who made telephone poles.
I feel like an endangered species
looking for a habitat to survive in.
I was once born again on a dead end
but the details remain fuzzy
though my soul, my heart and my mind
feel pretty good about it.
I’ve been sermonizing my salvation
with each step I take.
The sidewalks are like scripture to me
each block unfolding like a new chapter
and the promise of a new beginning
is always at the next intersection
where I might muse about macadam
ponder the potholes
and contemplate the beauty
of concrete curbs and crosswalks.
I’m not interested
in the middle of nowhere,
I’m more fond of the edge.
I am hoping this train of thought
leads me down the tracks
to the stream of consciousness
where I might step in twice,
but very lightly
for there are slippery rocks.
I was wondering of the place
where form existed before the idea
but it was just a thought
I found in an old book of Greek philosophy
and I got lost in it
although if I keep rubbing words together
eventually I will spark a fire
and burn.
Eventually, even the most beautiful
flower will wilt and fall asleep
and if I find it lying mangled in the street
I might use it as a line in this poem.
If life is God’s music
will the chorus end with a round of applause
for a song well sung
or will there just be silence?
An ocean of silence
permeates a dream
in perspectives of wave
like a spastic swell erupting
from a bubbling cauldron
caressed by silvery moonlight
reflective upon the dark waters
of wisdom
I am floating within the waves
amidst one sea of many currents
that whips turbulent furies
of white foam upon gales spray
so that I can’t even speak
of sometimes ascending to crest
or brutally plunging to a crash
smashed upon a rocky shore
Then arising
in consciousness once more
amidst swarms of jellyfish
sea birds punctuate my phrases
with a deep dive
God help me, I’m alive
but breaking up again
yet, it is only then
that I become free
free to be – just a sea
Though my tidal drift
awakens slow
my current spirals
whirlpools to far below
into the inky darkness
among antediluvian caves
where all the lost waves
eventually go
sage of the late night college radio
haunting midnight vespers static free
all wise on high fidelity at 91.3
you made morning dew for the suffering
stones who stumbled about the lost years
guided only by the faintest melody
as yesterdays children danced
in the blue, blue light of midnight
the sacred rituals, rights of passage
the words you spoke, songs you played
the writing on the wall in the hall
a sweet litany of wildness
beyond the path beaten to your door
where we always found the answer
to be spontaneous, tribal and free
for each one of us manifested a shaman
bopping in subliminal drunken dance
to the primal beat and rhythm
so sad though, I never really knew you
in the dust and the poem of time
I only used you for this verse
for these modern rags I wear
I filled whole notebooks of nothing
just trying to be something more than I took
I was a young euphemism of rebellion
looking for a metaphor of God
in a bong load of dependency but not friendship
we were just free verse passersby
intersecting in an eternal high
years after they used to call you Heidi-O
I only remember you as Elaine
as a gold dolphin and a rolling rock
I don’t remember your major at school
or your philosophy on album covers
close to the edge at terrapin station
the metaphysics cut from the rock of truth
enlightening the semantics of our youth
for you were the lost flower who blazed the path
and I thank you for the generosity
I thank you for putting up with me
for disposing the flames of conformity
for inspiring the miracles
so necessary for my emancipation
that was only then beginning to arrive
Carl Kaucher is a poet, photographer, and urban explorer who lives in Temple, Pa. He is the author of two chap books, “Sideways Blues ( Irish mountain and beyond )”and most recently “Postpoemed” His work has appeared in numerous publications and on line. The writing explores his experiences wandering urban spaces near his home and throughout Pennsylvania. Using his photography and writing, Carl has been exploring the overlooked places and documenting the chance occurrences that happen to him and by doing so gives us the opportunity to reflect upon those similar events happening in our lives also. More info can be found at https://www.facebook.com/CarlKaucher/  and on instagram @Carlkaucher.

Endsheet by M.J. Arcangelini

On the last blank page of a used, mail-order paperback I find a careful pencil drawing of two people, a man and a woman, seen from behind in an airplane or bus.
The man is seated on the aisle, his short sleeve reveals tattoos rendered in fine detail. He holds a cell phone in that hand. There is a chain from his back pocket to his belt loop, each link distinct.
There is less to see of the woman, the side of her head, a dangling earing. The only feature visible on her face is a small mole midway between her invisible eye and her ear. She, too, holds a cell phone.
The artist captured her mole, the stubble on the man’s cheek, hints at a border between hair and hat, differentiating without defining, allowing ambiguity a chance to undermine presumption.
M.J. Arcangelini (b.1952 in Pennsylvania) has resided in northern California since 1979. His work has been published in print magazines, online journals, (including The James White Review, Rusty Truck, The Ekphrastic Review, The Gasconade Review, As It Ought To Be) & over a dozen anthologies.  The most recent of his five collections are: “What the Night Keeps,” (2019) Stubborn Mule Press and “A Quiet Ghost,” (2020) Luchador Press.

Situ by Judy DeCroce

Today, the wind carries ocean but is gentle.
Were you?
Your bench tells me so little.
For three days now, we have watched the waves…
                                                                              while sitting on Situ.
When you walked, The Depression hovered…
                                                                        and then the stubborn war.
Mornings or afternoons here, may have soothed
where you watched this same ocean.
Your footsteps linger under others, from now.
All I know of you is that you were well loved – “always”.
Your bench plate tells me that.
Judy DeCroce, is a internationally published poet, flash fiction writer, educator, and professional storyteller whose works have been published by The BeZINE, The Front Porch Review, North of Oxford, The Poet Magazine, Amethyst Review, OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters, and many other journals and anthologies.