Two Pieces by Luca Penne

In the Flood Zone

Most of the roads go nowhere, the bridges out but replaced by flimsy plank excuses, the asphalt stripped to reveal boulders abandoned by glaciers eleven thousand years ago, before anyone had learned to read the bible. Downtown, dirt tracks intersect among buildings wrecked and lacking facades. Only the pharmacy remains open. Ken in white jacket disperses painkillers in blue, pink, and green. Behind the shops the canal sulks in muddy withdrawal. Beyond and parallel, the railroad high on its embankment still functions. Long freight trains from Canada rattle past. Nothing derails the rush of commerce, but the town no longer pulses with corruption. The realtors and selectmen have drowned, the lawyers have slunk away. Big houses built by speculators collapsed when foundations cracked and the wetlands had their revenge. Nothing left to brag about. The state and federal governments looked, promised, and left. The last adolescent lovers claim a half-toppled house for their noisy, feverish sex. The child they’ll abort will ghost above the ruins forever. But once the roads repave themselves and new speculators enrich themselves that spirit will tatter like a flag of surrender. The winter light hangs overhead in sallow tones unflattering to survivors.

Guppy Adrift

His brittle fins look frail as mica. “Throw that thing out,” you say. But guppy looks clairvoyant in death. Not like tea leaves, though. Instead of sinking he floats like a compass needle. He doesn’t point north but toward the sea. “Get that thing out of the tank before it poisons the other fish.” A pair of angelfish nose the carcass. Guppy swells a little, and then, as we stare at him, pops. Yellow scum leaks from the split seam. Disgusted, you scoop with your empty coffee cup and corral the mess. “I’m tired of cleaning up your little disasters,” you observe. The angelfish nose up to the surface, blowing tiny bubbles. They seem disappointed that the carcass has disappeared. I think they were happy that guppy bloated and died. You look at me sideways, hoping that when I die you’re far away, enjoying the tropical sun.

Two Poems by William Doreski

Talking to the Hanged Man

The small crowd disperses. The air
hums with fragmented hymns. Sunday
always feels too vague, the hills
burdened with what Yeats called “autumn
glory” and others call “sorrow
of leaf-fall.” Somewhere a python
digests a full-grown man. Somewhere
a bomb erupts in a trash can.
Somewhere a mob of rapists
plots to ravish a tiny village
where the men have died in war.

Here in the brassy roadside weeds
of New Hampshire, plastic bottles
sulk unredeemed, little crimes
that define us. I consume
more than my share of culture,
but like the snake spend little time
with mastication and far too long
with digestion. This afternoon
the slant of light re-sculpts the trees
to suggest a Halloween terror
not even tiny children believe
but everyone wishes were real.

I recall the garage down the street
where a man hanged himself to prove
his love for his unfaithful wife.
More than half a century ago
I tormented myself by staring
into the dark of that ruin
until I saw the hanged man hanging
and forced him to catch my eye.
The creak of rope on rafter
still lingers. The whisk and shudder
of windy leaves across the highway
suggests many lost conversations;
but my foolish attempt to talk
to that hanged man is my only
instance of self-defining speech.

Guzzling Red Wine with Woody

A restaurant-bar off Broadway.
Guzzling red wine with Woody,
I rant about bell curves, pensions,

and the state of the arts. The waiter
blushes when I claim Boolean
algebra has sinned against the heart.

Woody nods, scanning the room.
His red hair has faded, leaving
his lumpy features exposed.

I want to explain why photographs
trump the landscape of the body
in a truly hedonistic world.

But the words become silt choking
a famous river in Europe,
and the English language resists

my palate, assuming sharp angles
derived from Greek. Woody sighs,
recalling his many lost loves.

They don’t stay lost, their faces
drifting over Central Park, their smiles
busy as chemical sunsets,

their angelic poses threatening.
I explain in sharp-cornered speech
why love between men and women

no longer seems as natural
as garnets blossoming in schist,
and describe a paradigm shaped more

like a haunted house, every room
glowing blue and uttering groans.
Woody doesn’t dispute me,

but we’ve drained two expensive bottles
of cabernet, and the opera begins
in ten minutes. The waiter, pleased

with his tip, waves us goodbye,
and our last tatters of small talk
leave hints of tears in his eyes.

Two Poems by Gordon Mason

Sometimes I dream in Spanish

Sometimes I dream in Spanish,
an impression in my pillow.

Here I am a passenger
of my inner thoughts,

the tallest voice
in a village constructed

from bricks of my past.
I bite into fragile fruit

stolen from mute wasps
and sit in my guilt

with voices like fingernails
to pick at my neck.

Their words are my island’s
and I am the stranger,

chaotic with verbs
and letters of sleep.

Flight from Frankfurt

His head is buried
in Aldous Huxley;
his feet are buried
in twelve buckle leather boots.

Huxley is open
at page 23;
his right boot is open
from toe to instep.

Huxley in paperback;
sole in loose-leaf.

Two Poems by Stephanie Smith


They say we all have to begin somewhere
A little speck captured in a sonogram
grows into the teenager
you want to slap in the face

I found my wife bathing in the sink again
I can tell she’s had sex with the neighbor
She can no longer sit in the tub because
the drain’s filled up with hair

She feels guilty and I feel guilty
for wanting to slap her in the face

They say we all gotta go sometime
and there’s no time like the present

I’m feeling guilty
as I clean up the blood in the bathtub,
scrubbing away all traces of her scent


Imagine being
raped by your own past
and carrying the
cross forever
Why bother going on
when all the bars are closed –
and blood oozes out
from underneath the doors,
out of every single pore?
You can’t strip this skin,
this dirty skin you’re stuck in
And the past just laughs
and slaps your face
and wonders who
else you’ve been with


About Me

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