The Baggage by Chumki Sharma

In the flight I shut the
murder mystery
and take a nap.
The protagonists walk out
of my imagination
and step back into the book,
shut the windows,
close the curtains,
lock the doors,
light a candle
and pour a drink.
The last ten pages
left me breathless.
I alight from the plane
lift the glittering
red handles
of a suitcase
you have to sit on
to latch.

Chumki sharma

Chumki Sharma is a poet from Calcutta, India. She is widely published and her works have appeared and are forthcoming in several publications like Expound, The Birds Piled Loosely, Tuck Magazine, Oddball Magazine, The Shot Glass Journal, I Am Not A Silent Poet etc. She is also a renowned spoken word performer and has been featured on the radio and other media. Currently, she is working on her manuscript ‘Running Away With The Garden’ when not engaged in her day job as a Banker.

Tammy by John Grochalski

oh tammy
with your tall tales
of twelve cocks over
french fries and beer
at the squirrel cage
who could forget
the leopard print thongs
that you showed us
under the streetlights on forbes avenue
mixing beer and happy pills
was that a smart choice, doll?
taking hits on my joint too
making hints and hard-selling innuendo
drunken lipstick smeared tammy
climbing in my lap to bite my neck
calvin waiting for you outside
it was a forgone conclusion
that someone was getting laid that night
still it wasn’t going to be me and you
no matter how nice those nibbles felt
your tongue on my chin
i was licking my wounds
nursing the blonde hangover
you and i were never meant to be
although at times
i’m curious what  you thought about
a couple of hours later
taking his virginity
outside of that mcdonald’s
on mcknight road
was it him
or one of the illustrious dozen
that you hungered down on
when the nights
got too hard
to catch your falling star.


John Grochalski is the author of The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In The Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), and the novel, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013). Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, in the section that doesn’t have the bike sharing program.

Merry-Go-Round by Bryn Fortey



How Did That Happen?

To say that the 2014 publication of my debut collection was ‘a dream come true’ would be stretching the truth. In all honesty, I had never considered the possibility and had even turned down an earlier suggestion, not thinking I had sufficient material of a good enough standard. Anyway, my brief moment as a footnote in the history of short stories had occurred in the seventies when editors of the calibre of Mary Danby, David Sutton and Kenneth Bulmer had used some of my work. I doubted that more than a handful would remember or be interested in a name that had gathered a lot of dust.
Following my initial burst as a writer of fiction I had been seduced by poetry, editing two magazines and self-publishing a number of chapbooks. Life intruded, however, leaving my wife and I devastated by a loss from which she, in particular, never fully recovered. Writing was pushed to one side as I spent a number of years concentrating on her, and then I lost her too.
Johnny Mains, renowned ‘horror’ writer, editor. publisher, commentator and historian, had previously contacted me when researching Mary Danby’s Fontana horror anthologies. He called again and, finding me at such a low ebb in my life, encouraged me to start writing again. This led to some anthology acceptances (plus some rejections, but that’s par for the course), which in turn led to Peter Coleborn of The Alchemy Press stating an interest in publishing a collection of my work. It was his idea that the collection should cover my whole writing life, and include poetry as well as short stories. I still had doubts regarding the amount I could put together – I had never been a prolific writer – but surprised myself by ending up with a quite substantial volume of over three hundred pages.
Both the fiction and poetry cover all my writing interests: science fiction, horror, mainstream and the downright quirky. Music references find their way into a number of stories and a selection of jazz poems are included, as are one grouping which are presented as poetry but were originally song lyrics.
All in all, it might not have been a dream come true, but it was a wonderful surprise, and I am eternally grateful to Johnny Mains and Peter Coleborn for their parts in springing it upon me.

Bryn Fortey

The Bearded Woman by Scott Thomas Outlar

I saw the bearded woman
in a documentary
about an angry poet.
I was eating salmon sushi.
I nearly gagged,
sickened at the sight of this old hag
with white hairs
hanging nastily
from her chinny chin chin.
The irony was
that the poet which the film documented
was a belligerent sot,
and the old, ugly hag
was the mother of his child,
and I was writing coarse poetry
all the while as I watched,
mimicking the coarse emotions
in my own splintered way.
Then came the horrific vision
of the bearded woman.
Then came an appetite
being harshly suppressed,
though the bottle of white wine helped
immensely to immediately rile it back up.
Then came the pen
being put to paper
one more time
to catalogue
that vile, disgusting, wretched,
bearded woman.

Scott Thomas Outlar

Scott Thomas Outlar survived both the fire and the flood – now he dances in celebration while waiting on the next round of chaos to commence. Otherwise, he keeps things fairly chill, spending the days flowing and fluxing with the tide of the Tao River, laughing at life’s existential problems, and writing prose-fusion poetry dedicated to the Phoenix Generation. His work has appeared recently in venues such as Section 8 Magazine, Dead Snakes, The Chaffey Review, Corner Club Press, Black Mirror Magazine, Dissident Voice, and The Kitchen Poet. Scott’s first attempt at a blog is

Eagle Scout by Jay Passer

Through blinking velvet cobalt
Past clamoring tourism and bone marrow chill
Cement shoes destiny shaped
Playtime undermined by misbegotten success
Led him up the steps to the great span of the Golden Gate
And other cumulative ideologies
It took about 10 seconds to learn to fly
Though in the morning papers
It was reported a leap
Followed by a fall
A shadowy obit penned on
The slippery ceiling of surfaces
Looking out past Alcatraz

Jay Passer 2

Jay Passer’s work has appeared online and in print since 1988. He lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth. His latest chap, Flower Omelette, co-authored with Misti Rainwater-Lites, is available from Lulu.

The Sunday Chimes by John D Robinson

It was a Sunday and
the church bells were
calling and reminding
the faithful
it was time,
I was outside, crouched
down in the porch having
a smoke
and inside I
listened as my wife
and our
two grandchildren sang
songs and
at the end of
each verse they cheered and
clapped and it was
a Sunday
and church bells cried and
I listened to Carmelina
Grace and Ava
and felt a warmth, an
enchantment and heard
the echoes
of tenderness,
of natural human
and sentimentality;
nothing like
you’d  ever hear
in a church sermon
no matter
how much
you put in
the collection box.

john robinson

John D Robinson was born UK in 1963; began writing poetry aged 16, 1st poem published a year later; over the years many of his poems have appeared in the small presses; of recent, his work has appeared in Bareback Lit; Red Fez; The Kitchen Poet; Dead Snakes.

Poem For B. by James Diaz

Live a house inside my bones
live with bones inside my sleep
don’t tap your fingers
eat the walls
cringe cause names are awkward
and when you say each, love is murdered

having to put my foot into the stain
smoking in sad motels with the lights off
skeleton porn
and race horse monuments
in the darkness in the tired rise of life
go away

one of these moments
held close to recall
but the body doesn’t remember anything
of its own movements
recollections for the fire
fire for the soul
you don’t seek much
blistered snow
road maps
caffeine on your toe nails

having to put life behind you
your mouth where your words are
echoed in empty subways
how I had a dream B,
and you weren’t so cute in your madness and Benzedrine
out spent
moments where the “It“ strove for perfection
tired sidewalks
ocean where my heart hangs its erection on a nail
no sleep
the nerve is endless…

James Diaz

James Diaz lives in New York. You can find more of his writings, if you are so inclined, in Cheap Pop Lit, Ditch, Pismire, Collective Exile, and The Idiom.

It is Time to Write a Poem by PW Covington

It is to write a poem
A poem about riding a Trailways bus through Alabama
A poem about Piggly Wiggly state policemen
And flags and grits
And backyard-bred attack dogs
Gun shows
Southern pride

It is time to write a poem
Because what we’ve been busy with
isn’t working
These guns and prisons
Banks and borders
These laws and churches
These immigration mazes, religious hatreds
Must all have seemed like good ideas
at some point

All these wars

When I see your face in the morning
Before the news of the day comes charging in
Before the screens start screaming with page
Before the bodies roll in on the tide
Before the pragmatism of decades takes hold
It’s time to write a poem

It is time to write a poem to mail
away to foreign lands
To send off to the moon
(Remember, the moon, my love?)
To the planet Mars
To the core of this Earth
To the cosmic Colorado rubbage man
Because prayer isn’t doing the things it used to

It is time to commit poetry

It’s time to write a poem of witness
A Trans Atlantic “YAWP”
A “Yes, Yes, Y’all…and it don’t stop!”
It is not the time for ballads
I carry no corrido but my own
It is time to write a poem
‘cause it ain’t coming on TV

It’s time to write a poem
On a Tuesday, on a Saturday night
Drunk or sad or covered in sweat
Shivering on a park bench
or washed in on the tide
With tubes and machines hooked to my heart
On our last good day together
Before opening the condom wrapper
Before paying the toll
Before making the reservations
It is time to write a poem

It is time to write a poem
Because we won’t last forever
And no one else is writing about
the smolder in your eyes
Because all those millennial promises
never came true
And 15 years is long enough to wait
It is time to write a poem

It is time to write a poem for Highlights magazine
for children in medical waiting rooms
A poem for Sky Mall magazine, glanced at once
at 30 thousand feet
A poem folded into a box and sold from
a cigarette vending machine
(Remember cigarette vending machines, my love?)
It is time to write a poem
use only what’s in your pocket
use only what you know is yours

Poetry ain’t shit, most days
It is time to write a poem
While we still can

I’ll only be a moment

It is time to write a poem

pw covington

PW Covington is a disabled veteran and convicted felon. His work has been published by both universities and underground ‘zines. He travels widely, but lives in rural Texas with his bulldog, Chesty.

A Ten Question Interview With The Artist…Emily O’Neill

Why do you write?

The simplest answer to this is that I write to explain things to myself. I have pretty extreme anxiety and am easily overwhelmed and having a notebook in my lap at all times to doodle in and vent to was an early coping mechanism that I’ve carried with me for most of my life. More often than not, when I sit down to write a poem, I’m not quite sure how the subject of the poem or story or essay is working on or in me and I need to make myself a map. The map doesn’t even have to be readable to anyone else, but as long as it at least offers some impression of the shape of a given emotional experience, I consider it a success.

What books do you read?

I’m tempted to give the Sarah Palin answer and just say “all the ones that have come across my desk all these years” but I don’t own a desk and I don’t want to lie to you. I am on a train right now and the three books I have in my purse are Tell Me by Kim Addonizio, Salt is for Curing by Sonya Vatomsky, and Above All Men by Eric Shonkweiler. I just finished reading Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places yesterday, which I bought in the Des Moines airport on my way home from a wedding a few days ago and liked a lot more than Gone Girl. On the flight out to Des Moines I reread Didion’s Blue Nights. Poetry collections I’ve recently spooned/cried over/loved to pieces/forced my friends to borrow: Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night by Morgan Parker, The Pulp vs The Throne by Carrie Lorig, Soft Threat by Alexis Pope, Blood Work by Matthew Siegel, The Jitters by Anne Cecelia Holmes. Poetry I can’t wait to read: The Crown Ain’t Worth Much by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, Love The Stranger by Jay Deshpande, Naturalism by Wendy Xu.

I probably read more poetry than prose because it’s easier to carry several volumes around at once and float from book to book easily, but when I do read prose I lean more towards nonfiction than anything. I’ve read Anne Helen Peterson’s Scandals of Classic Hollywood three times this year. My favorite book I read this year is a memoir by the former editor in chief of Interview magazine, Bob Colacello, called Holy Terror, which I picked up in Pittsburgh while doing research for this manuscript about Andy Warhol’s Factory that I’ve been kicking around for a few years.

What inspires you?

I would make you a list, but it would probably just include too many things because what drives me to write really just depends on the day. The new thing I’m making lately that I’m really excited about is a series of poems that are kind of like collages of food and wine and cocktails while also being a cycle of love letters. I work in a pretty loud, weird, awesome izakaya and find that really stimulating in terms of content. There’s always some new sake to taste and try to make flavor notes for, or some kind of fish with a wildly beautiful name that tastes like sitting next to a bonfire. I eat out a lot, talk to people about what they like to eat and drink, and it’s all filtering down into my work in one way or another. I took a Bar Smarts course for work recently and that plus a shift in a relationship is what pushed me into writing the first poem of the series, a piece called “Preparing My Own Death,” which just got picked up by Heavy Feather Review. The history of distillates and names of all the things a competent bartender uses to make drinks (or as they say in the course “soften spirits”–see, isn’t the language of it amazing?) is really fascinating and so I’m swallowing all of it and repurposing it into these letter-poems.

I don’t really believe in inspiration in the traditional sense–there is no such thing as a lightning bolt moment for me when I simply must write something down or I lose it forever. I sit down to write every day. I sit down and do the work and sometimes make things I’m really proud of and sometimes throw every single draft away and move on. There are poems I hold in my mind for years before sitting down to work on them and that feels healthy. I also have poems I make in one sitting and barely touch afterward, and there’s something healthy about that to. The ability to walk away from something and know when me touching it can’t improve it anymore. So, by that token, everything is inspiring. Being alive is hard and weird but usually good even if only in small ways, and I try to collect as many of those as I can.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?

I’ve always made things and was luckily encouraged to do so by my family, I think because they were afraid of what might happen to me if I wasn’t making things. When I was little, one of my uncles used to tease me and called me The Renaissance Woman because if I wanted to figure out how someone did something I would just teach myself from a book and start doing it myself all the time. I did this with drawing and sewing and all kinds of needlework and writing was always a thing I did as an emotional outlet in the background of all of my other projects. I kept a really exhuatsive diary from a young age and would write poems and stories all the time but it was just part of a larger conversation I was having with the world as a highly emotional person in need of as many outlets as possible.

When I arrived at college I realized that the visual art department, which I had attended for, was deeply disorganized and lacking the resources to challenge me in a way I felt would be productive, and honestly, I was devastated. I had gotten into a great studio art conservatory as a junior but my parents hadn’t allowed me to go because they wanted me to finish high school, and it felt like my reward for going along with that was ending up in a place where painting would be impossible for me. I was a painfully shy teenager, younger than most people in my year in school and deeply socially anxious, and in an attempt to break myself of that I had been going to poetry open mics on campus pretty much since orientation. I was terrible. Shaky knees and voice, really ill-formed pieces, but I kept going back because it fed me. As studio classes felt less and less like safe, productive places for me, I spent more and more time writing, and writing in seriousness. I was surrounded by a lot of people who were also trying to figure their relationship to their writing out but were equally serious about the role of art in their lives, and we grew up together as artists in this pressure cooker kind of situation. That all started when I was seventeen.

How do you deal with rejection?

I send out five or more submissions. I try to have at least 25 submissions out being read at any given time so that if I get a rejection letter it doesn’t gut me in the slightest. I was in a long, live-in relationship when I started submitting and my ex was very fastidious about submissions, which definitely rubbed off on me at the time. I’m a very different writer now than I was then, and my list of places I send my work to has grown exponentially from the list my ex worked from, mostly because I discarded his idea that publishing online is somehow unworthy of one’s times. Sure, there are print magazines I’ve had my heart set on for a long time, but it’s more about finding the right home for the work than it is about having a resume studded with gigantic recognizable names on it. I never want to place a poem that isn’t ready and also never want to place a poem somewhere it doesn’t live well.

Who are some writers you admire?

SO MANY, & in no particular order

Woolf, Plath, Didion (my holy trinity) / Daphne Gottlieb, Beth Bachmann, Lynn Melnick, Angel Nafis, Meghan Privitello, Sam Sax, D.A. Powell, Sara Brickman, N.S. Koenings, KMA Sullivan, Emily Kendal Frey, Aricka Foreman, Jacob Rakovan, Ocean Vuong, Rachel McKibbens, Casey Rocheteau, Sarah Xerta, Jeremy Radin, Chelsea Hodson, Rachel Hyman, Caroline Crew, Cassandra de Alba, Jess Rizkallah, Sophia Holtz, Sean Patrick Mulroy, Simone Beaubien (who doesn’t publish but is a force of nature), & I am forgetting so many but this is a good working list of people I often gasp at when I encounter their work

Is writing the only artistic medium you do?

I used to draw and paint almost every day, and I miss that, but with my schedule it’s not realistic. I definitely make at least one or two paintings a year as a rule, just to give myself access to the stillness I get from that that I can’t get anywhere else. I make collages a lot, which seems to take up less brain space in the doing than working on a painting does. I make little sculptures. I really like assembling things with my hands. As a nervous person, having something to do that requires fine focus is really important to keeping me sane.

What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?

Be as patient with your own failings as you are with other people’s. Walk away the first time your gut tells you to, not the fifth. But if you do wait until the fifth time, you are not wrong to have stayed. You are not the things that have been done to you. You are not the things that have been done to you. Be gentle with yourself. Make time for quiet. Make time to recharge even when you think you don’t need it. You have permission to be in pain when you are in pain; do not wait for anyone to confirm this, just tend to what hurts how you need to. Don’t apologize for crying when you are overwhelmed. Survival isn’t something to feel guilty for. Growth isn’t something to feel guilty for. Leave when you need to. Come back when you need to. Set boundaries and let in only the people who respect those boundaries. Make whatever you need to out of everything that happens. Worry about what it means only when someone asks you, and if you can’t find an answer don’t be ashamed.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If we’re truly a community, we have to act like it, and being aware of who is rewarded and who is passed over when it comes to opportunities is really important if we want to promote equity and move towards a less racist, less misogynist world. Everything we do is political. The people we publish, the books we buy, the readings we attend, the programs we give our money to. Vote with your feet. Vote with your wallet. Use your privilege to help those who have less of a platform or less safety moving through the community than you. Seek out books that make you uncomfortable not because they’re trying to be shocking but because they ask you to interrogate how you benefit from moments when others are marginalized. Write as yourself, warts and all. Be willing to learn in public, in real time, when someone calls you out. Be willing to be quiet. Be quiet for longer than you think you can stand and see who gets space to speak because of that.

What is your writing process?

I take a lot of longhand notes on receipts or other scraps of paper that I then stuff into my pockets over the course of the day, either taping them into my notebook eventually or transcribing them. My notebook is the brainstorming place where I make lists and free write and sometimes hammer out two or three drafts of a new pieces before ever touching a computer. With other drafts, on days when I wake up and start writing as soon as I’m up, I pull a word or phrase from my notebook or phone notes and type it at the top of a document to use as an organizing principle and then free write directly into the document. When editing, I read a piece out loud four or five times and listen for moments that don’t feel quite right in terms of sound or pacing and then start moving things around. I’m notorious among all of the groups I workshop with for writing my first lines at the bottom of a first draft, meaning my first instinct is to land a poem where I should probably be starting the poem. So I also play a lot of sentence Tetris and take whole chunks of what I’m working on and try to see how they feel somewhere entirely different within the poem. There’s a lot of movement and cutting and then more movement and then writing into the places that feel too thin until I have a draft that feels mostly complete. Then I start submitting, usually before my stomach has really settled into feeling fully okay about someone else reading the poem. I live for that weird shaky feeling of “does this communicate what I want? what will someone see in here? is it what I intended? is the result better or more interesting than the place it came from?” On my best days I write a thing that feels unrecognizable once it’s done.

Emily O'Neill Author Photo 2

Emily O’Neill is a writer, artist, and proud Jersey girl. Her recent poems and stories can be found in The Journal, Horse Less Review, and Washington Square, among others. Her debut collection, Pelican, is the inaugural winner of YesYes Books’ Pamet River Prize and she edits poetry for Wyvern Lit.