Archive for February, 2023

Rebecca Schumejda

Posted in Rebecca Schumejda with tags on February 26, 2023 by Scot

The End of a Season

The sun is already starting to set.
There are more leaves crunching
under her cleats than clinging to trees.
She kicks the ball ahead of us
toward the parking lot. She doesn’t
answer when we call her. I catch up
and she’s crying. I know why
but don’t ask. An endless flock
of birds fly above us traveling away
from one season and into the next.
Somewhere else a girl has a father
to kick a ball around the yard with
after dark. He tells her everything
will be alright and she believes him.
But here, before halftime, when she
got close to that goal, I said out loud:
please let her have this, please
and my older daughter looked up
from her cell phone, holding onto
that same hope for a few seconds
before the ball smacked into the post
and bounced out of bounds.
Now the season’s over and we are
walking away. Leaves fall like feathers
and collect by the fence. I want to
pick her up and swing her around,
toss her gently into that pile of leaves,
reach inside of her and straighten
her spine, curved like a question mark,
curved like disappointment. When we
reach the parking lot I don’t tell her
to pick up the ball like I usually do–
instead, we kick it back and forth
as if the soccer ball holds the words
we wish we could say to one another.
There are losses more heartbreaking than death
like waiting for morning count to end,
so you can walk through metal detectors
to embrace your youngest child
under the scrutiny of armed guards.
When you get there you can’t remember
the conversation you rehearsed during
your four-hour drive to see him because
you are lost in how his skin sank further
below his cheekbones. How? Just, how?
What can you say when he tells you
he passes time playing cards for push-ups
with a cellmate who is serving time for rape?
His antipsychotic meds give him the shakes,
but he has read four books from cover to cover.
When you call him by his name, he looks
around as if you are talking to someone else.
Before becoming a number, he was your baby.
You will never hug him outside of designated
visiting areas, like this one, where you watch him
devour vending food machine until he vomits
because his stomach has become accustomed
to emptiness. I tell you not to go so often;
what good can come from secondhand suffering,
of shackling yourself to someone else’s sentence?
On your way home, you pull over a dozen times
because of intervals of torrential tears,
but you will go back next week and the week after.
You can’t accept he could have done something
so disconcerting, even though he did.
The only time I see you smile now is when you
tell the story about when you forgot his lunchbox
on his first day of kindergarten and he told you,
Don’t worry mommy, I’ll go home and get it,
you wait right here for me and I’ll be back.
327 Days After Sentencing
The snow, falling all day, makes me
think about you in your cell,
in your head, a clam in a shell,
high or low tide, murky water
that hides sharp rocks
Where do I even begin shoveling?
I dream of us clamming in
the Shinnecock Bay beside the
Ponquogue Bridge using
bare feet to find shells like we did
when we were kids, like we did
with our kids. Now snow falls
heavy like the relentless fear
that I won’t be able to protect
my own children from monsters
disguised as people
they were taught to trust.
Forgive me
for telling a new acquaintance
that I am an only child,
for wanting to forget you’re alive
while simultaneously wanting
to pretend this shovel is a clam rake
that the snow is the bay. Forgive me
for making icicles hanging outside
my window into steel bars,
for not being a better person
for letting all the snowfall
before starting to clear it,
for snapping the handle of my shovel
like how a lifetime ago
I watched you shuck a clam
and snap that blade right off.
Talking About Mental Illness with my Eight-Year-Old on a Snowy April Afternoon
I watch a cardinal use its orange beak to dig through snow for seeds.
A knight for a fish, my daughter asks, is a knight worth more than a fish?
She means bishop but says fish.
The snow was supposed to stop falling by noon, but it’s a quarter of three.
When she asks me how people know if they’re hearing voices that others
don’t hear, I tell her two rooks are more powerful than a queen.
I mean I don’t know, but point to the rook she is about to lose.
There must be at least six inches of accumulation.
On television, she heard siblings of schizophrenics are at higher risk for psychosis.
I ask her why she doesn’t watch cartoons anymore and in one move she puts me in check.
As I remove the skin from a clementine, you tell me
you may drop the Civics class you’re enrolled in
through the prison degree program because
it gets so loud on your block that you can’t think,
the indescribable sound of pent-up guilt is cacophonic.
I don’t tell you my husband brings our daughters
outside whenever you call. There are only a few
dirty mounds of snow left. I watch my girls run
straight to them with their good sneakers on;
I don’t tell you this either, instead I suggest earplugs,
meditation, humming to drown out the background
noises. You laugh and ask me to send you pictures
of everyone and I say I will, but you know I won’t.
I am pulling apart what you say section by section,
your words seep into invisible cuts on my heart
and sting. I imagine the inmates in your class
discussing citizenship, the rights and duties they
forfeited. Outside, my daughters bury themselves
in dirty snow as if it’s beach sand. You tell me how
no one else comes to see you besides a preacher
who reads to you from the bible then quizzes you
on the material covered. You tell him your meds
make you forget, even though the truth is you
aren’t listening. Really you are trying to tell me
there has to be someone listening to your prayers,
that you need me. I place the clementine down
on the counter. I look outside again and watch my
daughters sculpting tiny snowmen with their bare
hands. Hey, you say, look out the window at the sun,
tell me you don’t believe there’s a God behind that.

Iris Berry

Posted in Iris Berry with tags on February 26, 2023 by Scot


Portrait of My Los Angeles…

It’s the earthquake weather in me.

It’s my love for palm trees
and the way they line certain streets.

My love for supermarkets
with their big empty parking lots.

It’s taking long drives
through various canyons.

It’s being in love with
certain silhouettes and views
of trees and telephone poles
as the sun sets
because I’ve seen them
all my life
and they’re embedded in my soul.

It’s having love for certain streets
because they have no sidewalks.

It’s my ability to love the ocean
only through a restaurant window
but disliking it with its direct sun
if asked to lay in it
scantily clad
for more than 2 minutes.

It’s my love for the stars
the ones in the sky
and on sidewalks.

It’s growing up with an empty backyard
and having to drive far
to visit friends and family.

It’s only knowing the changing seasons
by what’s on display
on the shelves at the supermarkets.

It’s having to drive everywhere
just to get anywhere.

It’s being bummed when it rains
even though there’s a drought.

It’s talking on the phone with friends
more than seeing them in person.

It’s my love for the beach
but rarely seeing it.

It’s being guilty of saying,
“it’s hot but it’s a dry heat.”

It’s refusing to go somewhere,
because I probably
won’t find a place to park
and yet there are parking lots everywhere.

It’s all the famous streets and boulevards
with their incredible history.

It’s the many different cultures
and subcultures and cults.

It’s the place where people
come to “Be Somebody”.

It’s definitely a love/hate thing.
Sometimes it’s like the greatest drug
and the best place on earth
and sometimes it’s like telling someone
you love them and they don’t say it back.
But it’s my home
I was born here
I can’t imagine
living anywhere else
I can’t imagine
leaving Los Angeles…


 1/27/23 Midnight…

Michael Grover

Posted in Michael Grover with tags on February 19, 2023 by Scot



Were we better off not knowing
The secrets of the World
When we didn’t see the unseen
When we just walked blindly
The way they told us to walk
We had no idea there was another way



A Poem For Faith

I remember the day
You calmly told me
No shaking in your voice
That she needed a ride to the hospital
On the way I asked why
You were packed for a long stay
You said you were checking into the psych ward
You were hearing voices in your room
Seeing things in the hall
Things that could not be real

I tried to tell you it was the Poet in you
Your intuition, the truth
You disappeared into that hospital
When you came out I saw you once to
Load every thing you owned into my car
And drive you’re to her grandmother’s small house
On the East Side
Where you would hide from the World outside

William Taylor Jr.

Posted in William Taylor Jr. with tags on February 17, 2023 by Scot


The Only Time God Exists

There’s that thing in your eyes
I catch now and then
that says we’re broken
in the same way
and these days the only time god
exists is when we’re finally
drunk enough to kiss.
Your laughter in the dark
like a city on fire
a riot at the end of the world
like escaping through barbed wire
back into the sun
burning with the righteous
fury of the damned.
It makes me want to write love poems
now that it’s too late for love poems
because that’s the only time they’re real.


William Taylor Jr. lives and writes in San Francisco. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, and a volume of fiction. His work has been published widely in literary journals, including Rattle, The New York Quarterly, and The Chiron Review. He was a recipient of the 2013 Kathy Acker Award, and edited Cocky Moon: Selected Poems of Jack Micheline (Zeitgeist Press, 2014). Pretty Things to Say, (Six Ft. Swells Press, 2020) is his latest collection of poetry. A new collection is forthcoming from Roadside Press in 2023.

John Burroughs

Posted in John Burroughs with tags on February 17, 2023 by Scot



in the meantime this
is a lean time, a mean time
as well as an in-between time

a sometimes sublime time
a the-beat-goes-on time and please
not another rhyme time

while Facebook sighs that
wise Linda Pastan has eluded time
left behind Ethics and dogs
as temporal threads unravel
like Penelope’s dire tapestry

as it has to be

this is a blind time
an often unkind time
a strip-mined and behind time

so take care
and be kind for the future
is mined and there is no rewind


U.S. Beat Poet Laureate 2022-2023
Ohio Beat Poet Laureate 2019-2021
Founding Editor, Crisis Chronicles Press

Michele McDannold

Posted in Michele McDannold with tags on February 17, 2023 by Scot


doorbells, mornings and death

or (If you are Cunt)
when you start writing from the brain
chuck it out the door
feed the cats with it
call it meow meow chow
you’ve got to be heart, shit or balls
if you’re cunt
you better know how to translate
and yes, they’ll tell you to stop
and yes, they’ll have all kinds of reasons and critiques and
blowhard bullshit
you might even believe for awhile
it will throw you off
maybe you’ll take on an old fat fuckin mentor
start writing poems about doorbells, mornings
and death that does not
and maybe everyone pulls a few chains now and then
and maybe everyone has a critic in their heart
and maybe not.
you could or could not say
‘and’ so much
it wouldn’t matter
style has nothing to do with depth
if you shovel the shit long enough
you might forget what was under there
you might forget where you were going
you might forget how you were getting there
one day you’ll remember
you wanted to go
you’ll remember
earth doesn’t taste like
heat doesn’t feel like
and passion–
doesn’t need to be developed.

from Stealing the Midnight from a Handful of Days (Punk Hostage Press)

Dan Denton

Posted in Dan Denton with tags on February 17, 2023 by Scot


Walking Through Fire


almost got it right
when he wrote
“what matters most is
how well you
walk through the

that matters to some
those that care
about style
and saving face

but when climate change in your heart
brings stronger wildfires year after year
and you realize
it’s too late to change
your own ecosystem

when the divorces
and lost homes
the burnt bridges
and factory hours
when the chain smoked cigarettes
the un-cried tears
and lost dogs-
all start to pile up

when you run out of places to hide
and have no shades
to pull down
on the broken windows of your spirit
and the avenues
are empty
and you’re out of dead roses to hustle

what matters most is
that you keep walking
no matter how many
nearly bring you
to your knees

John Dorsey

Posted in John Dorsey with tags , on February 17, 2023 by Scot


Meth & Christmas Lights

for a few seconds
they both light up
the night sky

before angels & turtle doves
fly off the branches
of a dying tree
going in opposite directions

the baby jesus is crying
in a soiled manger
the paint is starting to chip away
from his rosy red cheeks
there is no money for food
other habits must be fed first
the wise men knit ugly sweaters
in front of an empty fireplace
wondering if things
weren’t better in the desert
while an old record player
gets turned up
to drown out anything
that doesn’t resemble
holiday cheer.


Jenn Knickerbocker & Jake St. John

Posted in Jenn Knickerbocker & Jake St. John with tags on February 16, 2023 by Scot


Observation From Booth

Drinking a beer
in the shadow
of Michael’s
Meat Market
taking in
bits of
they divulge
over wine
old friends
catching up
never missing
a beat
To my left
sits experience
more words
are said with
a look
than speech
has left them
a couple
now more
a single
With thoughts
the stars
near the
big moon
that hangs over
your head

somewhere else
like my mind


Naturalistic Colors

The man sits
upon loose stone
face in hands
taking that moment
alone and letting
his humanity
fall through fingers
turning stone
into deeper shades
of memory
mirroring the sky
heavy with sorrow
sharp intake of breath
attempting to hold
that life
once more



I’ve dreamt
of theme parks
I’ve never visited
empty and void
of life
I walk a stranger
among the growth

weeds wrapped
between the ribs
of roller coasters
strangling past lives
concealing thoughts
harboring secrets
steel wreckage
of dreams
under an old sun
that seems to fade
as quickly as I these days
after dusk
there are no lights
to illuminate
the bones
only shadows
and darkness
settle in
like an old friend
on counterfeit


Pris Campbell

Posted in Pris Campbell with tags on February 16, 2023 by Scot


Rape Camp

for the victims

She was young, barely 14,
breasts slowly ripening
that warm Balkan day, a day
when her future still was a carpet,
rolled out to greet her.

We’re taking you to your parents,
the soldiers said when they grabbed her.
Grabbed her and her friend from the fields.

Birds disappeared. Clouds rose into dark
peaks. A sudden wind raised her hair
where the soldiers had uncovered it.

She still wanted to believe.

Just up those stairs, they said,
pushing them, raping them
on the rough wooden floor.

When her friend wouldn’t stop screaming
they did it again with a bottle.
A broken one.

It took her two days to die.

No nice Muslim man will want you now,
the soldiers said, You and your half
Serb bastard son.

They cut her just for fun,
forced her to strip, to dance
for them nude at night, to do other
things she’d never imagined, cutting
her again if she refused.

She was the only survivor out of twenty
packed into that room.

Sometimes she thinks of before, of blue
skies, birds singing above her, golden fields.

She thinks of the husband she’ll never have,
or make believe babies tight in her arms.

Sometimes she pretends she’s a statue,
scars roping her body like blood congealing
down dead legs and arms.

Most of all, she tries not to scream.



Time’s Sand

Those of us from a certain era
applauded Burt Reynolds when,
as a playgirl centerfold, one hand
draped casually over his penis in his nudity,
he broke the previously unbreakable
barrier of only nude women, breasts
like balloons, lying in magazines.
calendars, cards, porn movies.

What older female doesn’t remember that photo?

Who cares if you didn’t like Smoky
or car chases or would never sing
I will always love you like Dolly Parton
in that little whorehouse he saved.
He came through for the flip in status
of all women where it counted.

Living in Florida, I met him
at a waterway arts and crafts show
not far from his Jupiter farm.
Loni, his wife then, and I shared
the same gynecologist,
charismatic doctor to the stars.
I suspect she impressed him
far more than I did.

But age and loss bent him over.
He called for Sally, his true love
as he weakened, but she didn’t come.
His grip had been too tight.
Friends dead, women no longer
beating a path to his door
he became like the rest of us,
our feet dragging, beds empty,
death’s sickle hanging lower each day.

He’s gone now.
Our own clocks tick faster,
more noticeable in the empty space.