Trajectory

A poem by James Croal Jackson


I equate falsities with wheat; groves as tea-
leaves in lands of blue sun. I confuse distance
with fair weather– idols in my mind: the beach

or Joshua trees. Golden fields have I never tilled.
Toiled, yes, in my lugubrious way, driving through
vast swaths of America, pasteurized pastures often

teeming with cows. Thinking of scale, it is
impossible to be upset at mathematics. But
I do aim anger at trajectory. For years I had

my eyes closed, pointed at a spinning globe.
When I opened them, in Mom’s basement,
my feet were planted where I remembered.


James Croal Jackson (he/him) is a Filipino-American poet who works in film production. He has two chapbooks, Our Past Leaves (Kelsay Books, 2021) and The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). He edits The Mantle Poetry from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Check out his website.

Powerless to be Born

A poem by Fred Pollack


In the dream, I both was and wasn’t

an intolerable uniformed bureaucrat

(but everyone wore uniforms)

responsible for lawns around a ministry.

I didn’t mow them myself.

I roamed with whistle and clipboard, supervising

the unreliable Socialists

who tended them. My technique

was lightning inspections at all hours

throughout the twelve-hour day.

I tallied bags of fertilizer.

I allocated water.

I bowed at ladies with bustles and parasols,

strolling the grounds; saluted gentlemen;

clicked heels for soldiers, spoke when they asked

of my old and present battles.

In the dream I rested on a bench and dreamed.

A crowd had gathered and was dancing.

At first they wore traditional garb,

then factory rags, then scanty alien things,

then next to nothing, nothing.

I remonstrated, blew my whistle.

They laughed, but that may just have been high spirits.

In the dream I could not assimilate

the fact that my Ministry, all the ministries,

were gone; there was only grass

I screamed at them to vacate.

Same as It Ever Was

A poem by James Croal Jackson


I am reliving and reliving the remote
control buttons then buttons
in your bed, golden room of silk
and how many times did we drink
like that? Dropping beer after beer
at Zeno’s then groaning summer sleep
right after. What were we dreaming
about? The cat was snoring and
what an endless loop! Blinking
awake and wanting to crush
night back with aluminum eyelids


James Croal Jackson (he/him) is a Filipino-American poet who works in film production. He has two chapbooks, Our Past Leaves (Kelsay Books, 2021) and The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). He edits The Mantle Poetry from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Check out his website.

Patrick Caulfield

A poem by Fred Pollack


When Pop Art crossed
the pond, it paused –
perhaps from British phlegm
or self-doubt, or perhaps
they wondered: Need one celebrate
every aspect of commodity
fetishism; must one replicate
glut? And Caulfield posed
a hanging conical lamp by a lattice window,
placed a glass,
half-empty or -full, on ledges and sills.
Reality was disciplined
black outlines. After lunch,
a waiter leaned in them on a half-door
to a kitchen, no less weary
than six chipped oblongs were a ruin.
The chairs in vacant foyers
were as primary as their colors,
yachts on a blue bay
joyous beneath their bunting, which was gray.
I saw a future where the green lane bent.
I thought the rudimentary orange hermit
had everything one needed.
Later came thicker paint, a sculpted
tomb in Highgate playing
with the letters of the word “dead.”
Between lay the ever-rising sun
of Thatcher. What was it she said?
“There are no such things as rooms. There is only rent.”

The Poet’s Hand, the Fool’s Tongue

A poem by Geoffrey Heptonstall


Say what you have seen with words
that we may understand
what moves the world in harmony
with the laws of transformation.
Say what you have seen
of those who are passing by the door
that is open, like a mouth
that sings of many heavens.

*

The wolves patrol the midnight streets,
keeping silence like a secret
that is the way to survive
the indifference of nature.
There may be a purpose found
when all that can be happens.
Until then there is the forest
where stealth is the watchword.

They see an old man’s madness
that summons the spirit of night
as the wolves reach the city limit.
The king and his daughters,
two of whom are treacherous,
are told in many tales
The fool is he who tells it well.

*

Snow falling in spring stills the world
that was listening for birdsong.
Flowers, bewildered, fail so see
the life they were promised underground.
For the poor the answer is written
in the tracks of barefoot children
returning home from a day’s labor.

The poet’s hand warms at the candle
as the light of his art fades.
If you seek his memorial
then read the life in words.
They were spoken in the fields of youth
before he found taverns to his taste.
Words have no season but always.

The Dog That Howled All Night

A poem by Geoffrey Heptonstall


“What does not change is the will to change.”

– Charles Olson


Of a possible election:
then in the sight of darkness
a lantern light
moving to close of day
above all the armadillos
from the vantage tower
in celestial time chiming…

Of the harvest angel
scattering our marvels
at the sight of disaster
naming where the stones
keep silence on vacant ground
when fate may seem indifferent
though this life is familiar…

Of a lyrical persuasion:
invisible in the ruins
too late to save the spirit
that blessed the city opening
to the world’s worst
and in there hearing
the dog that howled all night…

Have Heart

A short story by Benel Germosen


My heart walked out on me today. It just left. I woke up and it was standing by the door, looking up at me thorough its ventricles. It was just staring at me, not saying a word. Then it turned around and walked out the door. I didn’t get up and go after it. I figured it just needed to take a walk on its own. When I came back from work though, it was still gone. I haven’t seen it since.

I was a little bit relieved at first. My heart hadn’t been working well for months. It ached at times and it made it hard to breathe. It used to pump just enough to move the blood around. My heart was threading water for a long time. I didn’t appreciate the lack of effort.

Sometimes it would just stop dead on me. If I was stressed out or working too hard or if I was laying on my back or something, it would just stop beating. I had to punch myself in the chest to get it going again. I could tell it didn’t enjoy that because it would tighten up as soon as I did it, but what was I supposed to do? I like my blood. I like having a heartbeat.

Anyway, I thought things had gotten better. My heart seemed happy to be beating again, but I don’t know. It’s been two days and my heart isn’t back yet. I’m starting to get worried.

~

Things are weird for me without a heart. For one thing, I notice things. I’m not more alert and attentive but I notice things. I notice things about people, about how they act around each other, and the decisions they make, and how they form relationships. I talk a lot less too. I don’t say much to people at work anymore. It’s made me more productive, I think. I’m getting a lot more done.

I’ve taken extra shifts at the firm, working late on weekdays assessing account overheads. I’ve gotten our books straightened out and about four years of balanced budgets done from here to 2016. I might do estimates for the four years after that, but I don’t know. I haven’t decided if I should start on that or spreadsheets.

Anyway, yeah. Things are a lot different now that my heart is gone. I sleep a lot these days. I go to bed at eight and I wake up around six. I get home at around four and decide what do then. I used to watch T.V or read or play music or work out, but none of these things interest me anymore.

My Saturdays are my days off, so one week I started cleaning my apartment. I cleaned the floors and the windows. Then I cleaned the walls and the rooms. I make the beds; I dust the vacuum and arrange the things I own. It takes most of the day to get everything in its right place, but I take my time.

I wake up early on Saturdays to do it and then I go to sleep around eight. I finished scrubbing the bathroom tiles today. Everything is now clean and organized.

Clean and oraganized.

~

I put everything I owned into boxes and labeled them. I went through the house, organizing things. Now my house is neat and tidy. Neat and tidy. Clean and organized. There was nothing left for me to do after work, after everything was boxed and put in its place, so I started going for walks.

I like taking walks. I get to see things. I notice a lot more things now. I notice how disorderly things are compared to my apartment and that the outside world is just filled with things out of place. The hallway leading up to my apartment is crooked. On the sidewalks, there are cracks and holes where weed grows up thorough the cement. Cars don’t stop when the light turns red. No, they slow a little while after and then stop, as if the light would do them a favor and just let them pass. I noticed that people don’t wait in straight lines.

There is a lot of disorder with people. I hear people talk around me all the time. If you’re really quiet and listen, people don’t notice you, so they say things they normally won’t say.

People at work talk. Susie in accounts is sleeping with Rob in I.T. and Rob is married with kids and Susie might be pregnant. Least that’s what Janis told Becky in the break-room. Arnold works in the cubical next to me and he wants to get promoted. Anthony, our supervisor, said that Arnold is probably getting laid off at the end of the month. He and a few other people.

I think that should be funny, but I can’t seem to laugh anymore.

It’s been three months since my heart left. I don’t miss it, but I think I should.

I was in Cleveland for a business conference this week. There was a convention downstairs and Anthony talked me into getting passes and walking the floor. It was a sales convention and he thought it would be a great way to network. Anthony talked to people while I watched and listen.

The convention was disorganized, but at least it put on a professional face. A lot of people were unhappy waiting outside the hotel ballroom before it opened. The organizers tried to placate the people with complementary buttons. The people behind the booths were disorganized too. Some were late, some were under-prepared. Flyers and leaflets and papers were left out on tables in neat piles, but when
people took them they didn’t bother to restack them. I noticed that and it should have bothered me but it didn’t. It was just something I noticed.

I know when things should bother me. When something is out of place or something isn’t right, it should bother me but it doesn’t. I notice things, lots of things and lots of should bother me but nothing does. It know that’s not good, but I can’t change things. I don’t have a heart anymore.

After the conference, Anthony and I went to the hotel bar. Anthony wanted to talk to me about accounts when he started drinking. The more he drank the less he talked about work and the more he talked about the cute booth attendant at one of the tables. Finally, he stopped talking to me and started talking to another guy at the bar and eventually he left with him. I stayed at the bar.

I ordered a mojito because I remember thinking that I used to like them a lot and I was trying to figure out why. A woman sat next to me and ordered a white wine spritzer. She wore a pale purple dress with heels and a mother of pearl necklace coiled around her neck and I thought she looked pretty but I didn’t say anything to her.

I sipped my drink and she looked at me and she smiled. I looked at her from the corner of my eye and then I smiled, because that’s what you do when people smile at you. I turned my eyes back to the bar. After a while, I noticed that she was still smiling at me.

“Yes? Do I know you?” she said, but I shook my head. She didn’t stop staring. “Yeah, yeah, I know you. I saw you around last year. Um… what was it? … the Telefax retreat in Austin. You were there and there was another guy. What was his name?”

“Arnold?”

“Yeah. Arnold.”

“Right.”

“Yeah… You don’t remember me?”

Last year, I went to a company retreat. There were motivational seminars and a weekend of conferences and bar-hops. I got drunk one night and sang karaoke at the bar in front of a bunch of people. Arnold was there. So were Anthony and a few other people. She was a speaker at one of the seminars and might have been there, I think. I didn’t remember her name.

“I know… I know.” She cupped a hand around the glass and sang into it like a microphone. “’Don’t cry. Don’t raise your eye. It’s only teenage wasteland.’ That was you, right? The Who guy?”

I looked at her and after a while I nodded.

“Yeah.” I said. “I’m the Who guy.”

She laughed at that. I didn’t know why. She must have thought it was funny.

“Oh man, you were so great. You were the highlight of the retreat. That thing you did off the stage…”

During the breakdown to “Baba O’Reilly,” I windmilled my arm like Pete Townsend and caught the edge of the microphone stand, cutting open my hand. I was spurting blood but I finished the song. I even managed to slide off the stage on my knees. I was drunk and I sang all the way to the hospital.

She looked at me and smiled and ordered another white wine spritzer.

“So, how’s your hand?”

“Good.”

“Okay. Good. Good.”

We were silent for a while and then she said, “What are you drinking?”

“Mojito.”

“Is it good?”

“I dunno. They used to be.”

She laughed again. I looked at her.

She ordered me a fourth mojito and I ordered her a white wine spritzer. I listened to her start talking and we kept drinking. I was drunk but I didn’t feel buzzed. She was drunk and she couldn’t stop giggling. The bar closed at eleven and we stumbled out into the hotel lobby.

She said, “Do you wanna…?”

“Wanna what?”

She smiled at me and I must have smiled back because she licked her lips and took my hand.

“Oh…” she said. “Your hands are cold.”

“Yeah.” I never noticed that before.

We went up to her room. We fucked a couple of times. At around three, we fell asleep in each other’s arms.

When I woke up, her side of the bed was empty. The shower was running in the bathroom. When she got out, she seemed surprised.

“Oh.”

“Hi.”

“I thought you’d be getting dressed already.”

“Um…”

On the dresser was a ring and she walked across the room and took it and put it on. She looked different with it. She wasn’t the woman in the purple dress and the mother of pearls. She looked older. Like someone’s mom or their wife. She was the same woman but her skin seemed different.

“Look, uh… I wish I didn’t have to say this but…you’re a nice guy and… I mean, no. I mean… you know that last night was—“

I looked at her and she bit down on her lip.

“I was really drunk.” She said.

“Yeah.”

She sighed and then she had this look in her eyes like she was going to rip off a Band-Aid.

“You should go.”

I got dressed and left.

~

My heart left me a voice mail. It said:

Hey, hey pal. Long time, huh? You miss me? How’s everything? Are you okay? Are you doing alright? I was just hoping to hear from you. I’m in New Orleans at a jazz festival. I’m a little… I’m little drunk right now to be honest and I was just… I was wondering what you were up to.

Look, I kinda wanted to tell you… I mean, I wanted to talk about… I wanted to let you know that I’m doing alright. I know it’s been a few months and everything and I Just want you to know that I’m okay and I’ll be home soon.

Look, I’m not proud of the way I did—I mean, what I did. I’m not proud of walking out like that, but I’m proud that I did walk out at all. I got out and… and I went to see the country man. I went to Venice Beach, I went to the Grand Canyon. I hiked up the Rockies. I saw Florida! I went… Oh man, listen to me rambling on. Look…

How can I say this? I guess there’s no right way to say it. I’ll just… say it. I just… I miss you. I didn’t realize how much until last night, though. I didn’t realize…

I’ve been doing some soul searching and I came to realize that I can’t be mad at anyone. Everything that happened, it… it wasn’t your fault and it wasn’t my fault. I mean, it was and then it wasn’t. It’s not all you and it’s not all me. It’s about us, together, who we are as people. People and bodily organs.

There’s things I want that I can’t get from you and there’s things that you want that I can’t give you. I can’t be your lovely little metronome and you can’t be my thrill-a-minute… Indiana Jones, I
guess. I have to pump. I need to squeeze. I need to feel life flow through me. I can’t just do twenty minutes on the elliptical—“Here you go!”

That’s not me. I have to feel… something. Even if it’s just loneliness.

But I still shouldn’t have left you hanging. I hurt you and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to abandon you. It’s just… I’m sorry. I wanna come home, man. I wanna come home. There’s just a few more things I’ve got to do here. There’s a few more things I need before I come back. I just wanted to call and tell you to wait for me. Can you just wait for me, please? I’m going to be home soon, okay? Just… just wait for me… okay? 

I love you. Bye.

~

I take a shower but my hands are still cold and clammy. The sun is going down. I’m lying in bed and I’m thinking about the last few months. I think about my heart and I remember it beating in my chest and how it used to make me feel. The blood coursing thorough my veins, hot and red. I think I miss the blood pumping the most. I miss the feeling of being alive. Sitting here, in my bed, I think I should be feeling hope right now.

But I don’t.

 

The End

Woodland Pond

A poem by Richard King Perkins II


Through the stray ebb of night,
swirls of black water form her

in a meager grove
of orange-leafed trees.

She studies the bracken and reeds,
looks past the embankment

to figures standing in the distance;
the man in the straw hat

leaning on a grey fence
talking to his daughter.

In a few desperate sentences
he speaks of things to deny or embrace

the endless sky
the empty earth

ghosts of the north country
conspiring with fire.

The girl listens momentarily,
begins to drift away

floating through leaves
and tresses of moss

alighting on a small shoreline—
folding in, turning back.


Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, Illinois with his wife, Vickie, and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.

An Astounding Perimeter

A poem by Richard King Perkins II


It’s not a dream
but a slightly bygone world
covered in frozen mist.

Sparrows alight on the small shoreline
of an astounding perimeter—
a sanctum whispering in white.

I study the icebound bracken and reeds,
gazing past the embankment
to this vacancy of snow where your car once slept.

In the old meeting place, I still look for you—
where our conversations spilled upon gentle light;
simple confessions of twigs and soul.

But we’re left with only a few desperate sentences;
having spoken of things to deny or embrace,
the evergreen ghosts of our endless north country.

Now you’re stranded on a bridge in St. Louis
with no money and no credit cards
and your passenger side window broken out.

I’m in the bristling pines laced ivory
where someone once wrote a song about you;
how your eyes extinguished sensibility,
how your eyes painted light into every corner of darkness.

Can you recall how desperately we believed
that the return of robins and sharp shadows
could change everything;
that crocuses would ignite life in themselves?


Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, Illinois with his wife, Vickie, and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than a thousand publications.

Nurserymen and Psychedelia

A poem by Jake Sheff


Encyclopedic hands reach
to reassess squat and woody
cycads. Branchless plants

embrace fingers in recesses
questing for meaning and
other pests. Struck by ugly

pleasure’s naked structure,
collectors pay high prices
for loves like leaves sprouting

from no trees. (Cycads generate
heat for male cones to repel
insects toward a more temperate,

fervent sex. Harvest trickles
relative to nature’s truckloads
of relaxed approaches.) New

York City nurses doctors
stalking neurotoxic and self-
similar geometries at home;

garment-shredding spikes are
brushed like hair, loosening
deep time’s translucent hour.


Jake Sheff is a major and pediatrician in the U.S. Air Force. He is married and has a daughter and three pets. His current home is the Mojave Desert. Jake’s poems have been published in Marathon Literary Review, Jet Fuel Review, The Cossack Review, and elsewhere. He has published a chapbook: Looting Versailles, available from Alabaster Leaves Publishing. He considers life an impossible sit-up, but plausible.