What’s Next? by Linda Lowe

Posted in Linda Lowe with tags on June 8, 2020 by Scot


No sense worrying that the car’s gone. You’re beyond transportation. You’ve entered the twilight zone of essential need. You read about dystopia back before they shut down the papers, burned the books, screwed up the internet. So now it’s here. What’s next? What’s left in the cupboards? There’s peanut butter. They always ask for peanut butter, the charities. It’s got protein they say. Your mother spread it on white bread, removed the crusts the way you liked it. You want to call your mother but she’s not there. She’s not anywhere. Not for the last thirty-three days. And fourteen hours.


Linda Lowe’s stories and poems have appeared in Outlook Springs, What Rough Beast, Crack the Spine, Star 82 Review, The New Verse News, and others.

Burning Flags by D.B. Cox

Posted in DB Cox with tags on August 25, 2017 by Scot


Down in Jackson-town a sweat-stained street preacher dances along cracked concrete and prays over abandoned cotton mills, boarded store buildings, and one defunct movie house—stone-dead illusions that can never be raised from the ground. Holy invocations ride the evening heat waves on a feeble breeze.

Sunset drains crimson remains from gray clouds. Thunder rumbles in the distance and night comes down like a gate on a chain. As Blood Dixon moves along the downtown sidewalk, he can sense wary eyes shifting in his direction. He’s back home in Jackson, Louisiana—land of underworked citizens and overworked churches. Hopelessville, where it’s easier to find a place to rob than it is to find a job. A closed circle where fear accumulates like dust in every dark corner.

Bobby Lee “Blood” Dixon is a bad hallucination: clean-shaven head, mean black moustache drooping over the corners of his mouth, a long scar down the right side of his face that looks like a river marking on a Louisiana map. He’s wearing jeans and a short-sleeve, black T-shirt. On his prison-developed right forearm he has a tattoo—a confederate flag. The caption below the “stars and bars” reads “White Makes Right.”
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flash fiction by by Sarah Russell

Posted in Sarah Russell with tags on July 13, 2017 by Scot

Figure Drawing at Community College


I’m getting goosebumps from a draft, though the class doesn’t notice. Most are open-mouthed, charcoal scratching paper, concentrating on the weight of my breast, curve of hip, sag of buttock. I bite my lip, think of the rigidity of a villanelle, try to compose one in my head while the old guy in a beret for god’s sake, studies the cleft, the pubic mound, then meets my eyes.

I want to yell, “I just want to earn enough to get cable,” but I look away, try to show disgust without showing disgust because the woman who will pick up kids from school at 4 is drawing my face. My arm is falling asleep. The instructor said to tell her when I need a break, but the young man by the window is so intent, I hate to interrupt him. I start to tremble, try to shift but not throw off the line. The villanelle becomes a limerick.

There once was a nude on a table
Who couldn’t afford to get cable…

Trembling. Can’t feel my arm at all.

She posed for a class
Where an old man was crass,

Ah, the instructor is announcing a break. I raise my body off my arm and feel electric shocks as blood starts to flow. I reach for my kimono. The old guy sidles up to me.

“Coffee later if you are able?” he asks. Shit, he’s finished my limerick. I walk away rubbing my arm. “Maybe tomorrow?” he calls.

D NER by Sarah Russell

Posted in Sarah Russell with tags on January 20, 2017 by Scot
Wish it had been the R that fell, she thought.  Then it would say DINE, like the food was good, like it was more than runny eggs and meatloaf.  But it was the I, and everyone called it the DEE-ner, like some hillbilly joint.  Jake said it gave the place character, didn’t even know where the I had blown to after all these years.
She hated waiting tables.  Her mama said she was uppity.  “Worst thing we did was name you Chelsea after that foreign place,” her mama said.  “You get off your high horse and make peace with staying here.”  But she never would.  Never!  She’d get a little money ahead and clear out.  Go where Chelsea was an OK name, and DINE was what folks did, and tips were more than a quarter.
“You gonna stub that smoke and get back to work? I ain’t paying you to be on break all day.”
“When you gonna put the I back, Jake?”
“No time soon, Chelsea girl.  No time soon.”

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


Last Chance Motel by DB Cox

Posted in DB Cox with tags , on April 25, 2012 by Scot

A rundown motel clings to the shoulders of a narrow highway. A blinking neon sign shoots holes through the middle of a Mississippi night. Enfolded in the semidarkness of a lamp lit room, a young man leans over a table etching straight-razor phrases into the pages of a motel notepad.

Mind overturned and burning somewhere near Kamdesh, Afghanistan. Lost. Can’t find his way home. Past the possibility of finding things to count on: like the orbit of the earth around the sun—like moon-swung oceans guided by gravity’s hands—like a lucky star to steer his feet past lonely streets that lead to places like this Last Chance Motel—where he sits with pen in hand, a pistol on the table, and a bible in every room.

Available at Amazon

Lunch at the Castle by Henry Denander

Posted in Henry Denander with tags on October 24, 2010 by Scot

Every summer when I was a young boy we stayed in our summer house in the countryside outside Eskilstuna, a wonderful place for children, with a nice, long sandy beach not far from our cottage. Near the beach there was also an old castle, an enormous building, a huge house all in white where once the Swedish prince Eugen had lived. It was now also a restaurant and a museum.
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Nightmusic by MP Powers

Posted in M.P. Powers with tags , on June 2, 2010 by Scot

On a dingy corner across from the Moulin Rouge, this little beautiful madam takes my hand and draws me into the sadistic darkness of her strange ambrosial cave. S’asseoir.” I sit down on a fat sofa. “Something to drink, monsieur?” “Heineken, please…” Smoke tingles in a soft blaze of soiled lights, walls aquiver. A big, buxom African whore in clinging semitransparent lingerie moves under the chanting red globes. Something  begins to diminish. The decomposing dribble of a moment jiggles via the infallible hands of timelessness, perhaps?

Here, the dead have dressed up in their oral traditions, god plays grim his violin, light fails, and the prostitutes hit the floor, shoving precisely though the pushandpull of orchestral despair, their bounding feet transfigured on a steep current of swollen logic. It sits at the end of some foreign tongue, volumes of dirty eroticism slowly expanding until the keen queen-of-all-kings coyly emerges. She hurls a handful of lilacs on the floor, spits, and as she begins pouncing on them with her happy jouncing feet, I observe the glad awful screaming of her profane flesh; the sweaty waves of palpitating flab among whose largeness even oblivion would be feign to blush. My beer arrives, green and glowing. It’s handed to me by some Turkish pimp of the dime-a-dozen kind, donned in large white collars and a black bullying blazer stuffed with shoulders, his gold tooth and earrings emitting sharp glints from the hellish neon, his face a dull retching of perfect
evil, like a serpent, or a toadstool. His loafer slightly pronounces itself, he pirouettes, one arm does a fat sweeping gesture, and the big African whore descends upon me, pink drink in hand. The pimp nods, nods again. “For the lady,” he says. “Merci…” she says. “On me?” I ask.

But he’s gone.

A cloud of silence covers her face. Immense, beautiful, perfectly insipid. She takes a sip from the straw. Two hungry thighs squirm before me and she unleashes her top. She cups the roundness of her heaving breasts and gives them a good upward squeeze, lets go. Plunk. Then her fingers find my thighs and I feel like all the others, hooked in the gill, waiting to be dragged along the wake and then eaten. The room spins its fuzzy red syllables. A purple curtain parts. A man in a cape begins to sob. Or sing. Or something. And I am the man in the cape. I have no home. Just this perverse little cave of a room, in my soul, or across from the Moulin Rouge, where a purple curtain closes, and gods play grim their violins.


Posted in T.R. Healy with tags on April 21, 2010 by Scot

“Maria Roberge?”
Thinnes reached into the canvas bag strapped across his chest and took out a small bottle wrapped with a pink ribbon and presented it to her.
“What’s this?” she asked, puzzled by the offer.
“Something from an admirer.”
“From you?”
Shyly he shook his head.  “No, ma’am, I’m just the messenger.”
Her sliver of a mouth widened into a cryptic grin.  “Well, thank you, young man,” she said, after accepting the bottle.
“My pleasure.”

Moments later, back on his Italian racing bike, Thinnes swerved around the corner and headed north toward the river.  The next delivery on his schedule was to the manager of a vintage clothing store on the edge of Chinatown.  He had three more bottles to deliver then he would be through for the day and would not have earned a penny.  Swift Spokes, the courier service he rode for, had volunteered its riders to participate in a fund-raising project, sponsored by the Children’s Hospital, to benefit heart disease research.  The idea, according to a hospital spokesman, was to spread the message of love across the city.  Specifically, people were encouraged to donate ten dollars for the opportunity to write a love note to someone and have the note placed inside a bottle and delivered to the person.  When he arrived at the banquet room of the hospital this morning, he was startled to find two long cafeteria tables set up with manual typewriters at which people could write their love notes.  He had never seen so many typewriters in his life, only the couple in the attic at his grandmother’s house.  He was amazed how loud they were, making as much clatter as dancers on a hardwood floor.

Abruptly, a horn blared, and on his left a dented panel truck roared by, the driver blaring his horn twice more.
Bastard, he thought, pedaling hard as he strained to make it through the intersection before the light changed.
“Bastard!” he shouted once he got through, though he doubted if the guy could hear him above the buzz of traffic.
In another moment, weaving around a fuming station wagon, he spotted a clock on the side of an insurance building.  It was almost three-thirty and he figured he should be at the vintage clothing store in a couple more minutes.  Curiously he wondered if the manager would be as composed as the last recipient or would she squeal with laughter as two women did earlier this afternoon.  One even embraced him as if he had been the person who sent her the note.

“I can barely make out a grocery list, let alone write something from my heart,” he admitted to her after explaining the purpose of the peculiar project.
“Whatever, sir, you’ve certainly made my day.”
“I’m glad.”
“And I hope whoever receives a note from you is half as happy as I am.”

For a split instant, as he waited to collect his first batch of bottles this morning, he sat down at one of the typewriters and attempted to write something but was unable to put together a coherent sentence and got up and left in frustration.  It was always difficult for him to articulate what was in his heart, the right words proving as hard to find as pebbles in a cloudy stream.

As he swept around the next corner, he spotted a green lantern gleaming above the front door of the vintage clothing store and immediately looked for somewhere to lock up his bike.  There wasn’t a rack in sight so he figured he’d secure it to one of the many parking signs on the block and dismounted and walked his bike toward a bent sign right in front of the clothing store.  Through the cluttered display window he noticed a young woman with frosted hair behind the counter and assumed she was the one who would be receiving the bottled note.  Her smile was so lavish and infectious he was sure she had received many tokens of affection in her short life and doubted if she would be upset if she didn’t receive one today.

Impulsively he got back on his bike, turned around, and pedaled past the store toward Chinatown.  There was a hostess at one of the restaurants there he was very fond of but was unable to convey his feelings to her so he decided to present her with the note intended for the clothing store manager.  Maybe then she would realize how much he thought of her.  It was worth a try, he decided, as he crouched over the handlebars and raced down the narrow street.

AN OLD POET’S LAMENT by Terry Sanville

Posted in Terry Sanville with tags , on April 15, 2010 by Scot

Dear Ethan,

What more should I say that hasn’t been said already? I’ve worked with words, lines and stanzas all my life. The world’s language flowed through these spotted fingers that tapped computer keyboards, typewriters, or clenched leaky fountain pens to engrave white pages with verse that few will ever read.

Just what more is there to say? I really want to know. Should I sing the praise of daffodils, stain your mind with analogy, simile, metaphor? Should I rail against the politics of the day, as if Caesar never lived and men never before killed on the Ides of March? Should I paint a picture of personal tragedy – a child lost in a chemical undertow; mutated cells destroying healthy tissue; the suppression of desire? What more should I expect of myself?

I know one thing: I am too old for new crusades, even though the young poetry Turks shy from the lance, from the righteousness of the truth, from the heart of the matter. Where are those who will speak out loud and bold? Are they silent upon a peak in Darien? Christ, is that all I can conjure, fragments of Keats from my youth?

I remember my life on a two-masted schooner anchored in Sausalito harbor, long before Ferlinghetti came on the scene. My father worked as a Navy welder, my mother waitressed at a greasy spoon in the Tenderloin. On calm summer mornings I’d dress in a sleeveless blouse and shorts – my legs were worth looking at back then – and stare across San Francisco Bay. The oily-sheened water looked like a varnished painting. I thought about Jack London on his adventurous fish patrol, about syphilitic Al Capone crouched in his cell on Alcatraz, and dreamt of sailing under the Golden Gate, out past Land’s End, into the deep blue thick of things.

Now, after a lifetime plying literary seas, I need directions on how to find the horizon. My compass swings wildly and I search for friendly shores to beach my craft. Notice my clever use of the word craft, its double meaning. Pay attention; your son might find it on a future examination:
“Explain what the poet intended by her use of the word craft and its relevance to the poem’s overall theme.”
God, nothing destroys the spirit of poetry more than being forced to study it. Yet one of the ironies of my time was that poets became teachers, or got jobs working the docks unloading freighters inbound from the Orient. They wouldn’t let girls work the ships, so for more than half a century I taught creative writing. I admit that being immersed in youth gave me fortitude…and the University helped publish my work. But all that is past. I now step carefully onto ice floes, watch the progress of cobalt blue cracks, or of lumbering Ursa as she approaches, grinning. But mostly I long for adult conversation, something to spark these aging synapses.

I’ve been blocked before. But this time it feels different, feels more final. Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful that you introduced yourself, an admirer of my old songs. We should speak of the world, of your wife and children and the bustle of life in this fair city. Maybe I should look to those aged scientists and find solace in their proclamation that matter cannot be created nor destroyed. Or best yet, I should remember the English bard’s exquisite counsel:
“So long as men can breathe and eyes can see,
so long lives this and this gives life to thee.”

Maybe this letter is my new this. I have written it just for you. Will it pilot me through the Golden Gate once again? Will I be up to the task of sailing? I end with more questions. I hope you will help with answers, challenge me to write something new, avoid tired old phrases, clean my palette of crusted paint, and breathe out new songs. I must keep writing until the answers do not matter, until some younger voice, separate from the mumbling crowd, does not derail me utterly by asking, “How is your new work going?”

Hoping for patience,


first appeared in the March 2008 edition of The Boston Literary Magazine.