Michael Estabrook

Just a little

I’m not going to call
you today I’ll leave you alone,
leave you in peace for a change.
I called you 3 or 4 times yesterday.
“You can call me again later
if you’d like,” you were so kind to say,
so generous with your time. But,
I shouldn’t call you today I should
leave you alone. It’s good for you
to have some time without me,
some time alone with yourself
perhaps reading or walking the dog
or catching up with your friends.
Yes my love, you deserve
some precious time away from me.
You’re busy after all and can use a break
from being around me,
from having to pay attention to me,
from having the annoyance, the aggravation
(like swatting gnats from around your head)
of me following you around like the lost soul
that I am. No, I’m not going to call you today,
I’m trying not to anyway, trying to leave
you the hell alone. And maybe, hopefully,
when I return you might claim
to have missed me just a little.

John Yohe


the young man took his girlfriend to where he worked
a construction site, lots of heavy machinery
he brought her to the wood chipper
had her stand in front of it and told her to wait
he walked around, turned it on, returned
he must have had to yell, will you marry me?
and the poor girl confused and perhaps eager
said yes
he grabbed her as if to hug her, as if in ecstasy
picked her up and jumped into the chipper
she was saved only by him being pulled in first
blocking the teeth for a second so she fell away
will you marry me will you marry me

Drew Kalbach

Things that Should Remain Shut

Our occipital neuralgia is under control. Cocaine was prescribed alongside larger
refrigerator space and misplaced inter-cranial massage chairs.
The wife's mouth was open and several thousand baby spiders waved tiny tentacles hello.
The brother's mouth was open and we shoved our tongues inside it.

The bacon seeds were buried in our yard. The bacon tree grew slowly.
Children came to climb the bacon tree but the gardener's mouth poured pesticides onto their clothes.

We were lost but our genitals were open and spilling peanut butter on the pavement.

Leftover Animals Swimming

Feet smash into the mailbox.
Lights stay on specific streets like carpet cleaners
standing naked in an unfurnished hallway.
There are several empty shopping carts and one says
"place your tongue-depressor sticks into our mouths
and swab our gentle cheeks."
The doctor was late giving birth. Without a shirt,
service will be quick and dirty.
The deodorant sticks are flies in your mouth.
Sometimes clothes don't last.
Tatters of jeans accumulate in an empty closet.
The lips were large and bristling
with pre-pubescent fur.
Take the moments to cover your crotch.
Crocodiles were left in the refrigerator
and they feel like morning sickness.

David Massengill

Walls of Reading Gaol, 1895

The angels crept through the prison and sat on the cot where Oscar slept. They took turns letting saliva drop into his ear. "He still worries that what he writes is against what we wish," one said. The rest grinned with the certainty that Oscar could only use words he received.

Bosie lurched into consciousness amid dead pet portraits and halls that twisted toward boudoirs of family friends. The solitary 25-year-old only knew the precise locations of two creatures--the pheasant he'd shot in the drive and the 41-year-old who'd received hard labor for consenting to his sex. Bosie woke tonight because of Oscar, or rather the need to utter something that would give him that man's size. As stars withdrew, he fretted that strangers would measure him by action alone.

Meridith Gresher


The remnants of pensive Jonah are akin to a buy from his used book shop, perhaps a bit moldy, some brittleness, a mark or two from other hands. The pensive produces sleep that fills his mind with abstractions he will later paint while his room bathes him in the scents of licorice and mothballs. Jonah wakes asking, "Why must I give up Monte Carlo?" to a wall, bridal gown white, satiny if dusty of his one bedroom apartment.

He has dreamed for thirty-seven years of a James Bond type tuxedo custom made. Classic black tie: current cost estimated at five thousand dollars. He sees himself standing near the craps table having not yet bought in but surveying, Cuban cigar upon the air with and the taste of Cognac on his tongue.

Jonah tips his right hand off the bed and shakes it to stimulate a bit of circulation. Only quarter till eight. He'll draw for an hour refusing to believe he is not immune. The idea of diabetes bothers more than the pain of poor circulation or his weakening vision. His thoughts return to Bond and the girls of Bond.

He floats his memory to "You Only Live Twice" and deposits the eye of Tsai Ching's "Ling" while the mane of her back-teased hair becomes a wintry, engulfing sea engulfing. Jonah masks her image as she was only seen in the pre-credit sequence. He feels akin and inspired by the minor characters drawing and painting them into his oils.

No one notices the Bond motifs in each painting not even those rare individuals who buy Jonah's work for a paltry fee Saturdays at the flea market when the owner lets him set a display outside in exchange for ten pecent of the profits. No commitment on rental space. Most days Jonah goes home with nothing but the pleasure of salt pretzels dipped in mustard that the owner, Phil, sells at his concession stand.

Jonah bundles up his oils at the flea market only to place them down on the floor of what he calls his common room. He spreads them out like a giant jigsaw puzzle in the barren room with the bridal white if dusty walls that smell, too, of mothballs and licorice. In the far corner near the double French doors to his small balcony sits easel and paints. On the easel sits a painting of a man dressed in a tuxedo with his top two shirt buttons and bowtie undone.

The man curls over, nearly fetal, hunched toward a giant fire that burns with images of small paintings. The man sits in the belly of a whale. Jonah crosses to the painting and stares at it while images of "Live and Let Die's Solitaire" come to the foreground of his thoughts. "Why must I give up Monte Cristo?" he says to the painting as he slashes deep indigo across it obliterating both the whale and the man inside. Jonah, a man in the sea of his paintings, enveloped in the belly of his bridal white room.

Corey Habbas

I Know a Woman

Beneath a crescendo
she fans herself with notes,
wind's hidden syntax.

Something bays at it
raucous made-up girls at night
men arching their necks,

a man's bike chained to a
bosom gaudy with cleavage.
Girl's pay. Boy's night out.

The woman-ness crouches.
Wigged men read her abdomen.
Glass ceiling of what--
the oscillating black and blue sky.

Letters on the scales
reach everything but his heart.
In Marseilles it rains

people, lovers, candles.
Isolated cigarette
bringing up life and

all her boats are docked.
except for one--the plush green
leaf at the current.

Portrait of Olga

On any occasion when a girl might have cause to wear a white dress
but the time has passed, somewhere inside may be Dora Maar
matching a shadow against the white wall.

She always resides out of sculpture. The smell of turpentine
dissuades a venturing out into the rounded bodice of a full woman.

She slips back under the point of the sun's triangular ray
and how unfaithfully the colors mix in light; the flat orange
moon falls into the solid lake, the tree's oval mast hides her
view from the sky's flat plane, her long rectangular legs
dangle like Marie-Therese from the line tied to the square garage.

Her eyes only sway side to side, or out. We look
in but our gaze hits a black wall in a star field of pricks,
concealing with primary shapes all the brute innocence about us.

The Dance of Veils, side to side, never drapes around the men,
and the bullet of Jacqueline, just a small tear in the canvas.

John Deming

6: Eggs are hatching

safest to refer to it as a moment:
small, sharp beak breaking
through, the sky a resplendent
blast across little sparrow's
brain. Stunted sea turtle hatchlings
slapping awkwardly towards
dark water with sandy flippers.
Eggs everywhere hatching
into the potential for portentous,
unpredictable worlds: bubbles
and motes in vertical threads--
human heads on human bodies--
where the direct moment's
something smaller than a second,
and merely to live one moment
to the next is to hatch once more

10: Cataracts

he was the first to observe Saturn's
rings. It's disputed whether his blindness
actually came from staring at the sun.
Might stand that light can be un-
forgiving to the person who tries
to become it. Unglued, no longer listening,
she decidedly despises memories.
Too much racket above and below.
There are people standing around her,
"Mom, mom, it's me Mom, Angela,"
and it really whitens her face, the way
that forgetting everything resembles
remembering everything: the something
and the nothing weighed equally:
the first falling through the second,
producing the same end, which is flux

Marja Hagborg

from Head in the Snow

My mother pointed out the house, a big white painted house with many windows, on the outskirts of the village. It was the house where the youngest son had gone crazy after the Finnish Civil War. They were rich people, my mother told me, and I knew already as a child that rich people can do a lot of things others can't -- it was a law of Nature.

We. my mother and I, walked past the white painted house, and the wet snow fell down heavy and silent covering the dark earth, the yellow reeds, the sighing woods, the houses, the human beings -- big and small.

The son of the people in the big house had killed a "Red" -- a farmer -- and cut off his head in the kitchen with a knife. The hatred had made him do such a thing, my mother said. Then he had kicked the head through the window; the window had broken and the head had fallen down in a drift of snow.

We walked slowly, my mother and I, toward the village and when we walked by the military cemetery, she went on telling about the son of the rich people, the son who had killed the man in the kitchen. The window that was broken by the head of the dead man, was replaced, the glass was changed several times. It didn't stop the son of the house from screaming every time he entered the kitchen, he saw the face of the dead man, the man he had murdered, in the window. Nobody but the son saw the face, only he saw it -- the face -- clear and sharp -- gray, unshaven, with blind eyes. The son screamed, realizing that the dead man's face would never leave the house. The son went crazy and killed himself in the same kitchen.

My mother took my sweaty hand, squeezed it so it hurt, and started walking faster, bending her body against the increasingly snowy wind.

Kathleen Flohr


a small sound, a small spot
of red
in a yawning pine
forest I am beset
by blackflies.

the trees are
breathing, watching,
and I
stand and look
up to see a
thousand solemn
bowing branches
shut the sky.

I am a
small spot
of red.