Selections by Editor Richard Wink |

Will Schmitz
Sympathy Card

Smashed into a tree
Riding in a Corvette
Fiberglass splinters through
Your body.
We were off to fine careers.
Wheat drunk himself out of 1st year college
And got a job with UPS.
We sent off a few to the Air Force
On graduation night.
While our affluent friends went to real parties
We were in a dingy motel on the Berlin Turnpike
Watching Rice show us his luck with cards.
He'd turned down pitching for the Mets
A few years earlier.
Last time I saw him, his uncle
Had just gotten a heart attack.
No humor then. Marriage next.
Sent him a box of cigars from the island.
Visited once in New Britain
But it was all gone. He was working for
Stanley Tools. A few college classes
And you never want to go back to a blue collar.
Tried reading Aristotle and Proust
To cover my escape
But the island atmosphere caught me
And I never wanted to work again.
Let the machines do it.
We were not made
Except to adore the creation
Though now, it's totalled
And they're selling off the parts.
But, hell, I'm transformed
Throat slit with the knife
Of my wishes
Turning blue.

Chris Middleman
Behind the Wheel

Through rain and footsteps,
these sidewalk cigarette butts came apart
from their speckled paper wrappers
lying now on the concrete like
damp, used cocoons

Traces left behind by
VoTech students, the bad kids
who had no choice but to take up a trade
Their minds, not worth reaching

Amongst empty blunt wrappers
that blow down the gutter
I smell something other than
stale tobacco smoke

It's the beginning of a kind of dark-eyed
desperation I've seen in the eyes of
my friends' fathers and those of
men driving trucks on the highway

Holly Day
These People I Love

are turning me

into someone I don’t want to be. I lie awake

long into the night, hating this thing

I’ve become, wracking my braining, wondering

Have I always been so deceitful? So sneaky?

Have I always been

such a liar?

when I was seven years old

I wanted the kids at school to like me

so I told them Cheryl Tiegs

was my aunt

and stole candy bars

and bubblegum cards

to pass out during recess. Of course

no one believed the Cheryl Tiegs lie

and they knew I stole the candy

but they ate it anyway.

I used to lie awake at night then, too

wondering what was wrong with me, why

I was such a mess. Years later,

I found out my mother had been having an affair

with the drummer in my dad’s band

and my dad had tried to kill himself

because of it, but even that

doesn’t excuse what I am now.

Paul Hellweg
Some People

Some people
have never lost their glasses
nor worn mismatched shoes,
I'm not one of them.

Some people
have never fallen down drunk
and been unable to rise,
I'm not one of them.

Some people
can sleep the night away
undisturbed by demons,
I'm not one of them.

Some people
can make small talk
and answer the phone without cringing,
I'm not one of them.

Some people
don't let dirty dishes pile up
and clean their bathrooms,
I'm not one of them.

Some people
have never been paralyzed with ennui
nor traumatized by world events,
I'm not one of them.

Some people
are so bewildered and confused
they can't comprehend a damn thing,
and I'd sure love to meet them

Katie Moore
When I Left

When I left
the things you gave me
outside of your
apartment this morning
the sun was still hiding
behind the taller
The street looked
old, like somewhere
where the lighting
is always just so.
It felt right
leaving, without
a word, a girl
here then gone
in a silent second.
I wanted you to wake
knowing by the static
in the air
that you were alone
again, a single set
of footsteps,
looking for a matched

I left the things
you gave me,
the damn dog I hated,
the bottles of wine
so old and so good
I wasn't allowed
to drink them,
only have them,
and those shoes,
those weird wooden
shoes you brought
back from the trip
to Amsterdam you
didn't take me on…
I wore those shoes

over here. They suck.
They gave me blisters
in no time.
That might
cheer you up, and if
the dog is still there
when you go out
for the paper, then
it was the first time
he ever listened
when I said

I won't miss him,
but I should have
cracked those bottles.
Why didn't I drink
that wine?

Mende Elaine Smith
Karma Radio

Buddha glows like a wine bottle
illuminated by the fireplace in my bedroom
and the radio plays
badly scrawled blues on a local college station
I ask Buddha if I should turn it off
Buddha smiles as if to allow the pain of
just listening to not-so-great guitar and rugged vocals
holds the sound inside like a passage to the center of the earth
reaching kundalini spine tingles
pulling stars out of one very beaten sense
threading into the remaining four like tracks on vinyl wax
spinning the lines in four parts drowning the other
seeing eyes, hands to touch, mouth to taste, nose to smell
the flood of incense all these to stop the ears and then their
sense altogether is spinning faster
until the time passes and the audio assault ends
and then there is soft vocal apology from the incoming DJ
Buddha was right to listen with me
constraining my senses
all the way from my western house
to the gates of heaven

Davide Trame

It’s time, workday,
so sudden now, as ever when you are in it,
but the air has been so abruptly severe
this year, rain first then a northerly wind,
a smell of billowing autumnal sheets,
the whole low sky a grey eye
like a reminder
of duty and the necessity of being
back on track, so you are swallowing at each step
the sharp, subtle salt of its rhythm.

So silent, your steps under the clouds
on the empty streets, so utterly yours
in the beginning, in which you expect
every time a brand-new asset
out of nowhere, it must come –you feel-
to propitiate the gods who hide more and more
by invisible gates.
You cross the new bridge –it has to be this-
the glass of its sides makes clouds and time
breathe –the newness,
the present.
You are wearing a large raincoat,
your father’s, that was found
after his room was emptied and cleaned, now
for a moment you sense both his and your
steps on the way to work, on the track-
eager, even if not a very good prospect
looms ahead – eager for just being here.

The train has already stopped on the bridge,
same red light, not months, just a day
seems to have passed.
Cars whoosh on the road, each lashes
the still carriage:
a balance between quietness and hurry,
and quietness wins after all, like the staring
ripples of the lagoon.
You look at the sky, it’s clearing-
and almost detect a skin of friendly silence,
a few woolly clouds remain
with a hint of rose behind that stings
almost pleasantly in the corner of your eye
as if it hid a cheek, a peering gaze,
as if dawn asked face to face
to quieten each trace.

The train moves –dark days to come,
crisis, losses to bear, whatever…voices
like trimming bees in the mind
pummelling time’s meagre belly-
the train takes speed, sunlit wheels
roar against the looming
prospects, the dark veins.
And sunlight bathes at once
the fields and the fierce rims of the electric lines,
the day shakes its ruffled main.
Trench or trail, you are in it, it’s all yours.

Carol Carpenter
Two Pine Cones

I listen to crunch.
My boots squash paper
cups, one tin can,
three bottle caps
and oak leaves in fall.

I hear it all
as I walk. Murmur of voices
screened by mesh, a shout
metallic with gunshot fear. A dog
yaps, wind shakes maple
leaves that cling to wood. Every
star clusters above me. Around
the moon and over roofs, stars shoot,
burn hot, drop at my feet. One
wish I'm granted in all this noise.

Under a streetlight, scotch pines
needle me, rub branch against branch. I am
alone on suburban streets. My subdivision
waits a mile up. I know its name,
the house with my number, the place
I bring back what I have found.

I set together
two pine cones waxed with moonlight,
stuffed with seeds.
One balances upright against darkness.
One tilts on its side, damaged.
One slender twig cradles them.

Two broken scales. Love spirals
out of control. The red squirrel feeds.