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


A Poem by Cassandra McGovern

Wing Walker

A few remaining members from your flying circus
airshow share memories about you and themselves.

Wonder what you felt standing on the bottom wing of a biplane,
balancing with arms outstretched, somersaulting untethered. I remember

when I was a child hearing gasps, cheers, applause from the stands.
After the memorial, we all eat pieces of your favorite chocolate

cherry soul cake, with a biplane taking off in red and blue goo. Then
Uncle Charles and I board his two-seater. I had gently shaken your cremains

out of a flowered Asian urn onto a long silky salmon-colored scarf,
rolling it up, with a little slit at the top, so I slipped my fingers through

to hold it. I remember you jumping off while delaying opening
a parachute ’til seconds before you might have pounded into the ground.

As we gained enough altitude I leaned out the window, slowly unfurling the scarf,
your bones and flesh puffing out in white streams, your spirit a prolonged contrail.

Cassandra McGovern writes poetry and memoir. Her memoirs have been published in several literary journals, including The Massachusetts Review, and in the forthcoming issue of online OxMag. Cassandra’s poems have been published in two anthology collections, Five Poets Write about Aging, Illness, and Mortality and Fresh Pipes. In July 2015, she was a finalist at Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award through Chicago’s Guild Literary Complex. Recent poems have been published in Olentangy Review and forthcoming in Not Very Quiet’s inaugural September issue.


A Poem by Sierra Jacob

Caneland — VIII

What if I dreamed an ocean of sugar?
On the other side of every fence line, corridors
of watering ditches are only graves. Horse ribs
moon out of the grass. Pyres of cat fur. I knew
two girls missed after a week of rain. Both
bodies were found miles away from their back
yards—all I can imagine are pink inner-tubes deflated.
These are not for play. The set irrigation
runs a pair of falls through the gulch
behind our house. Call the dogs. Slit legs on
fields of sleeping grass. Cool everything
in the deep muddy pools for hours.

Sierra - Cover - Final - CopySierra Jacob‘s chapbook Caneland is now available from Atomic Theory Micro Press. Order your limited edition, hand-sewn copy now!

Sierra is an MFA graduate at the University of Montana, where she received the Richard Hugo Memorial Scholarship for poetry. Her poetry has appeared in Cream City Review, Sonora Review, Yemassee, The Louisville Review, Hawai‘i Pacific Review, Pacifica Literary Review, Pretty Owl Poetry, among others. Sierra is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. She was born and raised in Ha‘iku, Hawai‘i.


A Poem by Sam Rasnake

A Tuesday Afternoon, “The Architects of Fear” on Mute

There is nothing wrong with your television set.
Do not attempt to adjust the picture.

On the edge of limits of all shapes and
sizes and time, the empty dark — or so
we’ve come to trust, as in counting
all our chickens before they hatch
and so forth – squeezes
tighter and tighter. 

                                              Thin platitudes of grace
will their whispers as far as they’ll go,
stretching one good deed to the next,
until the world makes perfect sense —
at least for the moment.

                                                      And sometimes,
that will do. That’s all you need.

Like one cup of strong coffee, a wash
of morning at the window, the dull embers
from night’s deep burn still throbbing.

Regret is the sweetest ache to let go —

A constant summer wind in black pines,
then I turn around and it’s winter above
the creek, ice over stone, my breath
a dust of words, and I’ve no idea how
I got here — wherever that is.

Getting old is the easiest thing
you’ll ever do. You won’t even
notice. The lines you cross will
always be with you.

                                              I don’t count
the days anymore. That’s the math
of grief. I’ll take the given
and forget the rest.

                                             I don’t question
what I’ve seen. I’ve come to believe
my tongue knows the truth when it says it,
that what’s here is gone already, that dusk
sways the web just to tell the spider a story
of the world – as if she didn’t know already
the difference between history and the last
quiver of panic, as if the telling were reason.

No need to drag Heraclitus or Plato into this —
or their wild notions of cosmos and reason.
Let them be dust. Something to look
forward to, I’d say —

                                                 So, let my silence then
be my silence now. Things end the same way
they start: nothing, then something,
then nothing again.

Sam Rasnake’s works have appeared in OCHO, Big Muddy, Spillway, The New Mississippi Review, Wigleaf, Poets/Artists, The Southern Poetry Anthology, MiPOesias Companion 2012Best of the Web 2009, LUMMOX 2012BOXCAR Poetry Review Anthology 2, and Dogzplot Flash Fiction 2011. His most recent collection is Cinéma Vérité (A-Minor Press). He has served as a judge for the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, University of California, Berkeley.


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.