poetry · Uncategorized

4 Poems by Alessandra Simmons


Words dock
on our tongues.
Our mouths
must be an ocean.
We learn
to pronounce
or drown.


Bees once were wasps —
wasps are carnivores. Perhaps
years ago, a wasp followed
its prey into the cave-lip
of a flower & found
a golden suitcase
a silent, still sugar.


In 1917, we sow
three million new gardens.
A speedy victory:
our war,
our hunger,


Between 1718 & 1786
the e was added to hony —
Its symmetry now golden
stuck to our tongues. A slow
champagne, a dear copper —
talking sweet honey,
the honey of our breath.

Alessandra Simmons is a poetry editor for cream city review and English PhD candidate at UW Milwaukee. This year she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has poems published in The Other Journal, WomenArts Quarterly, Rabbit Catastrophe, Hawaii Pacific Review, Limestone and other journals. Her current obsessions are ringneck snakes and pawpaw trees. She interviews working writers on her blog: alessandrasimmons.com


Four Poems by Tara Isabel Zambrano

nervous, hopeful

A ring of sunlight around a cloud,
a deserted nest, discerning wind
winds the long, gray days
like sleeping hours in a clock.

Trees lit with frost, wait for the warmth,
suggest survival in the deep curve of this earth,
a pale moon walks on the circumference,
unable to melt its snow.

In distance, whirls of smoke escape
into whole-milk sky. An old cup
with dark circles sits alone,
nervous, hopeful to touch warm lips.

Aubade: a wordless twilight

Kissing you feels like a water fountain.
The dawn is near. Before I knew you,
I knew a night would come when
we’d dance and sink into sleep
cautious not to douse in each other’s dreams.

Yet we floated upon a wordless twilight,
locked in without a key, our shadows
like something zipped and unzipped
with care.

The hours peel the light, our last embrace
curdled as milk by the side of the bed,
your eyes barely open. Before I knew you,
I knew I’d walk away still wanting you.
Kissing you feels like a memory.


My eyes, a half-remembered dream,
struggle to see within,
disrupt their

Glowing in ivory grace,
my body, a moving beast,
is a poem upside

My heart lies between
possibility and loss,
a shadow borne so lightly,
hoping to fall up.

dead clocks

let’s stay in the dark and break stars,
rummage through the sky and wake up dreams
that are like children on bunker beds
holding dead clocks next to their hearts.

let’s walk the moon, realize its dew-devoid beauty
and calculate the time to go a full circle
of solace, mark galaxies that bend
the symmetry of our thought.

let’s fill the glasses with songs and malt,
our eyes with light so we cannot un-see the truth,
order the oceans to take us in, release our souls
where they came from.

Tara Isabel Zambrano lives in Texas. Her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Healing Muse, San Pedro River Review, Moon City Review and several other journals. She is an electrical engineer by profession.


Three Poems by Robert Vaughan

Gauze, A Medical Dressing, A Scrim


When they converted the basement into his room, Billy was too young to know any differently. He just wanted his own space, didn’t want to share it with his five older siblings anymore. Then when he was around ten, he stopped eating dinner with the rest of the family. His mother placed his dinner plate on the top stair every night. In exchange he only communicated by notes he’d send or receive by pulley-pails through the laundry drop.

A Medical Dressing

One time when Ethyl, the family dachshund, accidentally ventured downstairs, she was never seen again. Same for one sister, Darla, who thought she’d left a sweater atop the laundry machine. Disappeared. Eventually Billy was indistinguishable from any basement dweller, resembling the spider realm. Webs. Gossamer silver. Detecting vibrations, lurking toward eventual prey.

The family nearly forgot he existed.

A Scrim

Then one day while folding laundry, his mother noticed a note and she decided to read it aloud to the rest of the children at dinner that night: Here is your stormy day, the one with pressing clouds and chilling breeze. Here is your way you fall in step, synchronize laughs and moderate beliefs, acclimatize moods and medications. Here, then your last vestige of blue sky and fortitude. A mélange of mercurial designations. Bastion of sailboats emptying out horizons.

They all craned their necks toward the basement.

When He Left it all to Me

He had to leave he said
though we’d met only days prior
and like with any men
breaking boundaries we’d lain
together despite barbed wire
fences, pools with fathomless bottoms.

The morning he split, he thrust
his blue down coat into
my arms, said I won’t need
this, but it was a bitter
cold day that December I
found the tape in its pocket.

Eva Cassidy sang Fields of
Gold and I can’t forgive
her for dying so young. Where
did you go? Still can’t listen
to more than the first half;
no, less than a quarter of that song.

Ten Notes to the Guy Studying Jujitsu

1. A smile when you read Brave New World, a sort of smirk, like you’re getting away with reading literature that was once banned. Like this is better than Japanese ever was. Except one time when you dreamed that Yoko Ono walked all over your back and ass. This doesn’t come close to that.

2. You took up whistling, jingles from television commercials. Samsonite, Sony, tampon and yogurt ads. It was almost as bad as my ex, Tony, who whistled “If I Only Had a Brain” until I accidentally called him a moron.

3. One morning I woke up thinking, I can’t remember the last time you used the L word. And then I can’t remember the last time you went down on me. Then I recall they used to be linked together.

4.The first time we hooked up was in the back of your truck. It was a hot summer night in the Haight, mosquitoes, scant moon with flutter clouds. It was rough and fast, and you pinned me at one point so I couldn’t move. My neck hurt for a week. And nothing has compared to it since.

5. When you started seeing Brandy, and I’d run into you, you seemed so happy. So alive, when I just wanted to crawl into a hole for a year. I remember thinking what’s she got that I don’t? I mean, besides the obvious. And when I found out she was knocked up , I knew.

6. All that dog shit I shoveled out of the back yard. And it was your dog. Not mine. My yard. But your dog. Yours.

7. My sister would call on Sundays. You’d mouth “not here” and point at yourself. Which clearly was a sign of your inability to commit. Or mine. I’m not sure which.

8. I’d left the gym and saw you that day sitting on a sofa in a coffee shop. Really close to that girl, Tracey, who used to sell us pot. You were laughing in a way that I knew. And for a split second I was thrilled that you were cheating on Brandy. When I got home I drank a six-pack in less than an hour.

9. The weekend before you moved out, you farted in my sister’s elevator and other people got on and you said my name and fanned the air. I pretended it was funny. By then you farted so many times I honestly thought it was me.

10. Seems like someone’s always missing someone. My sister told me that she doesn’t have time for missing anyone- let alone loser ex-boyfriends. Thing is, I don’t really consider you a loser. A little gassy, perhaps. Something always takes the place of missing pieces.


Gauze, A Medical Dressing, A Scrim originally appeared in Flash Fiction Chronicles and won second place in the 2013 String-of-Ten Five Flash Fiction Contest. It also appeared in Vaughan’s Addicts & Basements (CCM). 

When He Left It All to Me and Ten Notes to the Guy Studying Jujitsu also appeared in Vaughan’s Addicts & Basements.

Robert Vaughan teaches workshops in hybrid writing, poetry, fiction at locations like UWM, Red Oak Writing, The Clearing, Synergia Ranch and Mabel Dodge Luhan House. He leads roundtables in Milwaukee, WI. He was a finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award for Fiction (2013, 2014). He was the head judge for the Bath International Flash Fiction Awards, 2016. His short fiction, ‘A Box’ was selected for Best Small Fictions 2016 (Queen’s Ferry Press). Vaughan is the author of five books: Microtones (Cervena Barva Press); Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps); Addicts & Basements (CCM), RIFT, co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press) and FUNHOUSE (Unknown Press). His blog: http://www.robert-vaughan.com.


Three Poems by Lana Bella


In front of me is a frozen scene of
an accident; the sentient rot
being pumped out so spreading I
think it might be a red sea. In
the pale tips of my shoes, dermis
moves through slick rawhide
and skin, uncaring to the gradual
weight still sutures with noon’s
jaws rust shut. Perhaps this calls
into fear where lush of mortal and
bewildered laughs into billfolds,
cinches yet my damp curls so cold
that I can almost hear the tonal
attributes of sod that churns liquid
cement. Who among us does not
transpose from impression to refuse,
spilling of roses down the under-
belly of things, each keening distant
point seeds like empties the farther
back they go, when all that remains
are easing light contrasting the black.

Not What Is No Longer Here

How you mimed through what
rhapsodized in the raw bent
of empties, dialing into havoc
as if every ohm was a dust
flying through the ether. It has
long been time you ached in
the body swung on slim bones,
eyes looked out the back of your
head, conceits felt phantom like
monarchs over flames. Where
the light was low, how its halos
of manic bromide grated orange
in refraction as soft myriads of
instances ritualized, before you
aged tenderness on each pasture
of mind, recouped memory at
the glass edge to the flesh held
tight unmasking weathered years.


You saw red in the autumn foliage,
fraught with seeds of spilling
pomegranate, dark for a thousand
years. Palms upturned, stilled in
the light spilled back, motley blots
on skin being snowplowed, clutched
you to the dry heave of seasons
drenched in nervous sweat. Wished
away the jolts with sleep inside,
your shadow took left where arms
and ribs crooked over a shift of wind,
in which red quartz poured from
slack-jawed birds, courted idylls for
you through their swoops and dives.
You were ten, and the world was
larger, willing to brave by what you
summoned, heathering languor in
such plenitudes that skies and earth
always close at hand, uneffaced by
your evidences of scattering touches.

A three-time Pushcart Prize & Bettering American Poetry nominee, Lana Bella is an author of three chapbooks, Under My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016), Adagio (Finishing Line Press, forthcoming), and Dear Suki: Letters (Platypus 2412 Mini Chapbook Series, 2016) has had poetry and fiction featured with over 380 journals, including 2River, Acentos Review, Comstock Review, Expound, Grey Sparrow Journal, Ilanot Review, Notre Dame Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, San Pedro River Review, Waccamaw, and Word/For Word, among others.


Two Poems by Darryl Price

Plant Me

If you find the place they forgot to bomb send me a
hot pink postcard. The planet is only so big. We’re already dipping
our heels into the waters without wanting to become true believers, miserable
followers. The bedtime stories will have to change their heroes into fish,
their fish into men, their men into mists. And hope for rain.
And hope for the storm to end all storms. To bring the

purple dawn. To be a light peeking through the swollen blocking rocks.
Look what’s the point of being quiet? Anything they shoot will have
been us. It’s easy to see yourself as something moving in a
lit cloud, but, really, we all want to be held and allowed
to openly weep for the young victims. Choose your weapon. If you
find that place they forgot to mow down plant me a tree.

If you find a place they have forgotten about please destroy the
map. If you find the peace you deserve tell your love I
am thankful for her tower. If you find a place they forgot
to bomb don’t let on. Don’t do anything different. They are looking
for war with their one revolving fiery mad eye. War is on
their sick snarling snake lips. You can see their diets hanging from

their teeth in tattered bloody strings. But keep a cool head. Laugh
but let it go. Cry but let it go. Bury your dead
but let them go. Keep dreaming. Fill the world. Smile but let
them go. We are not the innocent ghosts here. Not yet. We
are the beacons, talking our beauty into the dark places. We are trying
to figure out what it means to care after all care is

wiped out of the air and off the ground. That’s where you
come in for me. You are an outlawed song I can remember.
I love that song as much now as the first time I
heard it. No world should be turning and twirling without it. No
new bird should attempt to sing a bud to life without it.
That’s as much of an explanation as I can offer. If you

find a place they forgot to remember, then celebrate the chosen days
that are left with everyone you meet, regardless of their animal nature.
If you find a place they forgot to bomb try to stay
there for me. The flood is not going to care if you
are beloved or not, if you are one of them or not.
But remain vigilant. But keep trying out new things. If you find

a place they don’t believe is magic, don’t forget what you see
with your eyes closed to the money. But keep your head open.
But keep your heart awake. This is no time to pretend you
don’t love poetry. If you find a place they forgot to bomb
make a joyful noise and release it into the shadows. Heal it.
But keep trying out more ways. But remember where you heard this.

Meadow Grass for the Lonely

“In my life
Why do I give valuable time
To people who don’t care if I live or die?”—The Smiths

For all the young poets

My broken heart is still alive,
You can’t really trust me to just
Sail away. My broken heart is
Still wounded and perpetrators
Of war are still at it like the
Little naked emperors that

They always are. My broken heart
Is still writing and there is more
Death than bees in the friendly skies
These days. I suppose that is to
Be expected. Broken and still
Alive and some persons have been

Shown to be more conforming to
Cultural pressure than others.
Even if my heart’s alive you
Don’t owe me an explanation,
I don’t need to be forgiven.
My broken heart is still around.

So many machines, so little
Kind words. Is there an answer? Gun
Sadness, little gun sanity.
I would never leave you behind,
But I don’t need to talk to you
Any more as a matter of

Urgency. I don’t want to go.
My broken heart is still alive,
You’re still being personified
In your female form as cool, blessed
And tempting. My broken heart is
Still kicking and sometimes I don’t

Know what I’m doing here at all.
My sad self’s still here and I’m just
A silhouette of strangeness. Each
Broken heart brings a cold ocean.
The disappointment tides on your
Face like a mathematical

Problem. My ruby heart is sunk
In a circle of overgrown
Stones. My broken heart is very
Much alive, sentient as the
Earth itself. My broken heart is
Still active and sometimes I wake

Up in the middle of the night
Lost in moonlight. My broken heart
Has elected to finish this
Song’s journey. My broken heart is
Spouting a tiny blue flame. This
Broken heart is still human and

Not a databased illusion.
Still beating, I believe it may
Yet do good if I don’t stumble
Sorry-eyed and afraid over
My own words. My broken heart’s
Against the loss of any real love.

Darryl Price is the author of Holding Your Light and The Ferocious Silence. He has published dozens of chapbooks and his poems have appeared in many journals. He is currently the poetry editor at the Olentangy Review


Three Poems by Bill Yarrow

Autobiography In Italian

A 19 anni, ero seduto nei Giardini Boboli leggendo Mickey Spillane.
(At 19, I was sitting in the Boboli Gardens reading Mickey Spillane.)
Al 29, mi hanno mandato al Festival di poesia a Genova.
(At 29, they sent me to the Poetry Festival in Genoa.)
A 39 anni, frequentavo la padrona di Leopardi, travestita dalla saggezza.
(At 39, I was attending to Leopardi’s mistress, ill-dressed in wistfulness.)
A 49 anni, il mio unico compagno era Ingrid Bergman nelle sue vesti Rossellini.
(At 49, my only companion was Ingrid Bergman in her Rossellini robes.)
A 59 anni, sotto i cieli di Dante, sopporto placida inferno del decadimento del corpo.
(At 59, under Dantean skies, I endure the placid Hell of the body’s decay.)

The Protoplasm! The Protoplasm!

I should know Propertius! Edward thought
and commenced a study of the poems
in which he saw his second love
as clear as first firmament in the mind.

I must petition the blood! Edward mused
and commenced a scourging of his flesh
through which he remembered
the darkness following dirty Judas.

The heart of archness is betrayed!
Edward felt and commenced a counting
of the times proud Faust slowed
down and took his raging pulse.

Propertius is too obscure, scourging
hurts, archness has no heart; let me instead
forbear and descend into the blistered quiet
and the intoxicated calm, Edward decided.

How Poets Die

Mark Strand

over decades
a steady diet of diction
enlarged his heart

one day it just burst

Robert Frost

a crazy idea
that he could
build a wall
without mortar took
possession of his mind

he piled stone
on stone higher
and higher until
they toppled over
crushing him beneath

Wilfred Owen

a bullet (not his own)
to the brain

Dylan Thomas

many believe he died
from alcohol poisoning

that’s not so
early on his brain caught fire

and it took twenty-two years
to burn itself out

T.S. Eliot

hardening of the

Allen Ginsberg

run over
by New Jersey

Wallace Stevens

of indemnity

William Carlos Williams

He (an obste
trician)              died

he dis

he could
                                               l o n g e r

          de   live   r

John Berryman

jumped off
Hart Crane’s

Hart Crane

without ears

it was only a matter of time

Bill Yarrow, Professor of English at Joliet Junior College and an editor at the online journal Blue Fifth Review, is the author of The Vig of Love, Blasphemer, Pointed Sentences, and five chapbooks. His work also appears in the anthologies Aeolian Harp, Volume One; This is Poetry: Volume Two: The Midwest Poets; and Beginnings: How 14 Poets Got Their Start. He has been nominated eight times for a Pushcart Prize. More information about Bill can be found on his website: https://billyarrow.wordpress.com/