Archive for December, 2016

Three poems by Ben Rasnic

Posted in Ben Rasnic with tags on December 25, 2016 by Scot

Indian Summer

Late October
by the riverbank,
campfire flames dance
with blue and yellow headdresses
amid the smoky essence

of speared fish
resurrecting the spirit silhouette
of a great Cherokee Warrior Chief
from my ancient ancestry.

He joins us in our vision quest,
cracking jokes about
Andrew Jackson’s impotence,
whispering sun secrets
and drinking firewater.



Saturday Night Services

I methodically suck her toes
as she deliberately clips her fingernails
one by one,
“I can’t believe that you’re doing this”
she giggles
somewhat nervously quivers
just before shuddering,
then muttering soft strange sounds
and although she is not
what I would consider
a very religious person,
petitions the deity
not once, not twice,
but three times.

November 9, 2016
I just want to hop
a Norfolk Southern
& lose myself in the blur
of rail ties
and measured strobes
of sunlight filtering
lodgepole pines;
to time travel
through the ghost image
click and shutter sanctuary
of memory archives
& transport myself
beyond the realm
of the day’s sorry events;
from the mind numbing duplicity
from the blind hatred
of mob mentality
from the affirmation
of blissful ignorance
life’s tired absurdity.

Unaccustomed Mercy by DB Cox

Posted in DB Cox with tags on December 25, 2016 by Scot



A crumbling house hugs the side of a junkyard fence. A single lamp-lit window tools a hole through the middle of a Mississippi night. An old man sits alone at a kitchen table, bent over a cheap guitar. Spent ashes fall from a neglected cigarette jammed between metal strings where they run over the headstock. Open chords stumble & stagger behind jagged bottleneck riffs—a driving blues. His left boot pounds the wooden floor like a hammer as he sings in high lonesome moans…

Thought it was a nightmare,
Lord, it’s all so true.
They told me, “Don’t go walkin’ slow,
‘Cause Devil’s on the loose.”

Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Whoa, don’t look back to see….

Outside the window, on the other side of a chain-link fence, a midnight mockingbird rests on the rusty frame of a 1964 Mustang and sings along with this resident composer of twelve-bar concertos—small truths concerning drinking, rambling, gambling, and the devil.

A Vietnam veteran, an unknown blues man, lost in waves of cheap whiskey, washed up on this island of broken things—a castaway locked in the sweet release of addiction, a prisoner standing on his own chain.

Luther Whiteside stops playing, grabs a fifth of Kentucky Deluxe from the table, and takes a swallow.

Years ago, he traveled all across Mississippi and into Louisiana playing juke joints and roadhouses. Now, he plays for tips outside the Coffeeville  Greyhound station—too stoned to peel his back from the wall, singing his own secret sorrow into the concrete—broken lines caught between cracks in the sidewalk.

Lately Luther stays at home—behind locked doors. He sits. He drinks. He plays guitar. He stares out the window—mind floating, disconnected in time and space. To keep from disappearing, he sings to himself…

Over on the mountain,
Thunder magic spoke,
“Let the people know my wisdom,
Fill the land with smoke.”

Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Whoa, don’t look back to see…

He is scared, afraid of the things that go on outside his door. He used to have a television set. After dinner, he’d watch the 6 o’clock news. Then the stories started to terrify him, so he heaved the TV over the fence into the junkyard. Not knowing makes him feel safer.



Thunder rolls in the distance. Luther, guitar case in hand, moves along the shoulder of a two-lane blacktop, headed for town. He hasn’t had a drink in two days. He needs one bad.

Someone is coming up the road from behind. He turns and sees a red pickup truck. The driver seems to be slowing down. Maybe today, he’ll get lucky and catch a ride into Coffeyville—a little unaccustomed mercy.

The truck comes alongside where he’s standing. Someone rolls down the passenger-side window and fires one shot. Luther is hit. As the truck moves away, someone shouts “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

The bullet passes through the left side of Luther’s chest. He drops straight down to a sitting position, then slowly lays back into the wet grass. There’s something about that word, “America,” that echoes in his brain. Something from way back in grade school. He slides the palm of his right hand over to the left side of his bloody chest. What was it? The whole class repeated it every morning. He tries to remember, but can only recall the last line… “with liberty and justice for all.”

As he stares up through the rain, he is startled by the breathtaking splendor of a multi-fingered lightning bolt. Overwhelmed by the beauty, Luther Whiteside weeps.

The thunder speaks. Luther slowly closes his eyes.

“Don’t look back to see…”       




*Song “Run Through the Jungle”—lyrics by John Fogerty


Make America Grate Again by Donal Mahoney

Posted in Donal Mahoney with tags on December 25, 2016 by Scot


Before the Inauguration
the man must divest himself
of his stocks and bonds

close every hotel he owns
lay off hundreds of employees
so they have time to hitch

a ride to Washington and sell
red caps for his inauguration
to make America grate again.

Three poems by Karla Huston

Posted in Karla Huston with tags on December 25, 2016 by Scot


A passel of them, standing around
or operating heavy equipment,
hard-hatted and thick-booted,
while the machinery grinds
and growls, then backs up: beep
beepbeepbeep, circles and moves
forward. A wizard on a dozer picks up
buckets full of gravel or pushes
and moves, the excavator digs
or deposits debris, as delicate
as a woman setting plates and flatware
on white linen. Other men stop
to watch, hands in pockets, knees
locked or heels rocking, all of them
staring at the organized commotion.
The watchers, some of them with chairs
or walkers, memories of childhood
dirt piles, sand and yellow cast iron
caterpillars moving slowly
through their dreams, the dust clouds
and sifts. Everyone is touched by it.



Not exactly a patchwork, not
exactly a paisley print.
Small pieces of earth, woods,
river connected with stone
fences and puffs of green,
flags of wheat, spikes of corn,
those of flowering tiny rooftops.
I imagine a land of mischief
and banshees, and love poems.
Dark rooms of monks scribbling
their poor verses in the margins
of fields. Somewhere below
a man drinks his sorrows,
a woman worries hers, children
shriek and splash, the gods of long ago
swirl through their dreams.
We are traveling too fast. I can’t
hear the green stones calling,
only crying babies, a shift
of sky as we move through it,
the sizzle and whine in my ears:
you’re almost there.
You’re almost there.



And I don’t mean the car, but an excavator,
the kind that can flatten a house
in three swipes, then spin on its track
and pluck cut limbs and lay them
gently in a truck bed. This one’s a noisy
thug while the engine warms in front
of my house, roadwork the order of the day.
The operator is wearing Day-Glo
yellow, a shirt with cut out sleeves. He’s gentle
bellied and bearded, jeans slung low,
his hair wispy as wheat in a breeze.
But behind the levers of this machine,
he is genius, a conductor of an orchestra
of concrete and wet clay. Deep below
the street, the bucket digs
and with a flick of a steel wrist,
picks a load, positions its burden of muck
and tips it gently into a waiting receptacle.
How delicate this dance, such power
and precision, I can’t help but admire him
and marvel at his training,
his instincts and sense of balance.
My house shudders at the thought,
then settles for more.

On Eleventh Avenue by D. A. Pratt

Posted in D. A. Pratt with tags on December 25, 2016 by Scot

On Eleventh Avenue …

between Rose Street
and Broad Street
not far from the old
Army and Navy Store
there was a place
where I finally found
a copy of Fanny Hill …
where I bought
my first copy
of Lady Chatterley’s Lover
(the edition that matched
the book by John Cleland) …
where I bought
my first copy
of Tropic of Cancer
(the Grove Press paperback
with the blue cover) …
where I also bought
my first issue
of a monthly magazine
called Playboy
(when it mattered – I’m not kidding!)
where I bought
my first issue
of Evergreen Review …
I bought
a lot of other stuff
there too … everything
contributed to what I
am today … it was
a small store
that sold magazines
and pocketbook paperbacks
and probably tobacco …

The place is gone now
and so is the old
Army and Navy Store …
nothing much has replaced
either of them … but
I think of the place every time
I drive along Eleventh Avenue …
in either direction
since it’s no longer a one-way street
in downtown Regina …

AMERICA, INC. by Jason Ryberg

Posted in Jason Ryberg with tags on December 14, 2016 by Scot

for Tom Wayne

Hello, you’ve reached the homeland offices of America, Inc.
and its various affiliated client states.

If this is an emergency, hang up and dial 9 / 11
and a response team or drone squadron will be sent
to your GPS location, immediately.

All of our operatives are currently busy assessing other
consumers, but your call is important to us and vital to our
national security, so please stay on the line.

If you think you know your political party’s direct
intentions, please state them now, otherwise,
you may choose from the following menu:

for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, press 1,
for Truth, Justice and the American Way, press 2,
for God, Guns, Guts or Glory, press 3,
for Art vs Obscenity, press 4,
for Honor and Duty, press 5,
for Freedom and Responsibility, press 6,
for Equality Before The Law, press 7,
for Plausible Deniability, press 8,
to report suspected dissidents, drug users
or other enemies of the Homeland, press 9,
to speak to an operative, press 0, or just stay on the line.

This call is being monitored for quality assurance
as well as for your own safety and protection.

Thank you, and God bless the Homeland.

Ghost Out Wandering The Backroads (Or, John Brown Returns To Kansas) by Jason Ryberg

Posted in Jason Ryberg with tags on December 14, 2016 by Scot

There are plenty of paintings
and a few photographs, even,
so we know someone
fitting his description
once moved amongst us
and has allegedly been witnessed,
recently, slipping in and out of
the fitful dreams of the CEOs, holy men
and politicians of Kansas (running guerilla raids
and counting coup, no doubt).

They appear to us somehow more shifty,
nervous and disingenuous than usual
and, reportedly, state-wide sales
of expensive scotches,
designer anti-depressants
and blood-pressure medications
are through the roof.

They say he observes them often from the tree-line
behind their palatial guest houses,
from bus-stop benches down on the street
across from their office parks and complexes,
from over their shoulders in the mirrors
of exclusive country club and executive washrooms:

his eyes like signal fires on distant hilltops,
like lanterns leading us through swamps and hollers
and piney backwoods on up to Freedomland (glory be!),
like klieg lights calmly surveying and laying open
the meat-processing plants and voting stations
and payday loan offices and publicly subsidized
million-dollar mega-farms and mega-churches
of the over-worked, under-paid,
trans-fattened heart of The Heartland.

He has no visible means of transportation;
he is always just suddenly there and then
just as suddenly not there, and certainly doesn’t possess
quite the ferocious bearing and terrifying tornadic stature
transmitted to us over the years by Curry’s paintings
in the state capitol building.

Yet, there is always a quicksilver halo
of ghost fire around him,
a layer of graveyard mud on his boots
and an expertly tied noose
(with exactly thirteen knots)
hanging from his neck.

And when the time inevitably comes
to raise the question of what
it could all possibly mean,
everyone of these generous job creationists,
these steely admirals of the fleets of industry,
these selfless stewards of the souls of men,
suddenly seems to scurry away to some
dust-bowl era storm cellar
somewhere deep within themselves,

while their eyes try to focus
on some distant flittering thing
on the far, fabled horizon
of whatever’s left of the 21st century
American dream.

at the edge of town by DB Cox

Posted in DB Cox with tags on December 13, 2016 by Scot


where the outbound ends
just across the tracks
a hobo jungle grows
partially in the shadows
of a brightly lighted sign
covered with the saintly
image of “good king trump”
seated in his lofty chair
with both thumbs
straight up
toward his kris-kringle red baseball cap
the time magazine
“man of the year”
looks down majestically
on the frames of fire-gutted cars
& moon-white bones
of lost dogs that no longer sing
of lonely things in the night–
supreme ruler over a kingdom
of homeless addicts
early releases from the institute
war-shocked veterans
teenage runaways
& drunken drifters–
a village of undone citizens
with bad luck & trouble
tied to their raggedy asses
like clanging tin cans
as they march hopelessly
in circles–
round & round
the unholy ground
totally fucking ignored
by the smiling
billboard savior
trying hard to hide
the lies behind
those paper-thin eyes

wrack (2016) by Rich Follett

Posted in Rich Follett with tags on December 13, 2016 by Scot


truth is fluid
reason goes begging
hope is poverty and
fortune follows the imbecile

pundits are lepers
enmity blooms
ignorance is airborne and
opportunity courts privilege

when fear drives decisions
democracy dies
dreams are defiled and
bedlam ensues

Gifts Ungiven by Nathanael William Stolte

Posted in Nathanael William Stolte with tags on December 1, 2016 by Scot


When I was 15, Zack de la Rocha told me with a whisper
Your anger is a gift
I didn’t understand what he was giving me
I didn’t understand what this meant
But I liked the way it sounded
Still do
His words have stayed with me through the decades

When I was 25, Vic Ruggiero told me
Every day the human race is
filling me with more disgrace
This I understood
These words have been a mantra
As I’ve trudged in heavy boots
Through a cringe-worthy world

When I was 35, she asked me
Why don’t you write love poems
Or poems about nature?

Every poem I write is a love poem
While Mother slowly dies
Everything I do is an expression of love

Look around—
This place
The way we treat one another
The way we value
Imaginary assets &
Fiscal idolatry
Over bodies
Over trees

Is a maddening disgrace
That shames us all

The modern day Atlantis is in the
Pacific Ocean
It’s made of North American rubbish
It’s not getting any smaller
Toxic algae blooms
Choke the coastal beaches

It is said that by 2050
There will be more
Plastic in the oceans
Than fish

When Her last hummingbird
Fills the air with its final poetry
Will we regret what we’ve swapped?

When the last great whale
Washes ashore
With a belly full of plastic
Will it curse us with its final breath?

So yeah,
This is a love poem
And I am angry
And it’s a gift