A wall built on tumbleweed, spit, grasshopper larvae
Help us, people–help us understand—help us visualize–
I understand none of this. Is there a way I can know?
A wall built of bone marrow mortar and dog piss,
Violent thought and disconnection, the rapid fire
Of bullet cored brick. Help us understand where
This river enters the realm, where this river empties
Its blood to the valleys of snow, how the impact
Of dour men with raccoon hat hair suck away the core.
First published in New Verse.
Bio: Michael H. Brownstein is on the roof of his old house, the roof in serious disrepair, and he walks on it as if he’s on a boardwalk – a squirrel falls through where he just stood – what is left to do but go to all fours, tread carefully until he’s on safe ground, call the roofers (he can’t fix this), and write a poem.
He’s walking across a great field, firecrackers exploding. He swats away at dozens of mosquitoes. Near where he teaches, the security guard tackles him and points out a sniper who has been shooting at him as he crossed. There is nothing else to do but conduct a poetry workshop in his algebra class.
He goes camping, and a rattlesnake crawls into his sleeping bag. Prayer and poetry – they really do go together.
On and on. Take a break. Write a poem.
Photograph by United States Department of Homeland Security.
Holding the brittle pages
I follow your terrible
From Omaha beach
Through blood and ice
Death the sentence
And the sentence
Death the work of your hands
Death coming for you
Stranger to stranger
The soft flesh
The sweet mouth
The eyes always open
In the machinery
The nightmares you won’t lose
Sixty years and more
Still trying to pull us
Down into the foxhole
Out of the line of fire
Mary McCarthy has always been a writer but spent most of her working life as a registered Nurse. She has had work appearing in many on line and print journals, including Third Wednesday, Gnarled Oak, the Ekhprastic Review and Earth’s Daughters. She has an electronic chapbook, Things I Was Told Not to Think About, available as a free download from Praxis Magazine online.
Painting by Teodor Axentowicz.
laughing their way
across the grass
a pair of quail
for a moment
we, too, feel at home
in this country
heads and flags
how little rain
before the next storm
Peter Jastermsky writes Japanese short-form works. His writing has appeared in many journals, including Failed Haiku, Haibun Today, The Cherita, and KYSO Flash. Born in Connecticut, Peter and his family live in Southern California, where he works as a licensed counselor.
Original photograph by Russ.
for Nevine Michaan and Charles Blow
—the body’s organized—on a square—so says Yogi Nevine—I walk around Tompkins Square—all four corners—surely this is the center—of the universe—the goal in life—should be joy—in Larung Gar—the Chinese—are tearing apart—Tibetan monastic—dwellings—plan your life—like a chess game—move analytically—with intent—it’s very practical—the way to attain joy—even for civilians—trapped in Aleppo—with artillery shelling overhead—defeat in life—is bitterness—buck up—writes Charles Blow—it’s over—the bully’s—in the white house—for the time being—alt-right is not—a computer command—they’re a batch of fanatical racists—if you’re happy—you’ll help everyone—if you’re miserable—you won’t help anyone—in Shuafat—a refugee camp—in Jerusalem—Baha helps the orphans—work, find direction, survive—then a drive-by—ten bullets—one of the children—will surely—take his place—you can follow—fake news sites—from one to another—unravel the molecular structure—of ribosomes—a tangled mess of rubber bands—and coiled wires—a new pattern—of income equality—life expectancy in the US—declines slightly—be careful—it’s like a string ball—if we keep going around—in the same direction—we will surely unravel— (1 Dec 2016)
First published in Rascal.
Barbara Henning is the author of several collections of poetry, her most recent A Day Like Today (Negative Capability Press 2015). Other recents include A Swift Passage (Quale Press), Cities and Memory (Chax Press) and a collection of object-sonnets, My Autobiography (United Artists). She has published three novels, Thirty Miles to Rosebud, You Me and the Insects and Black Lace, and she is the editor of Looking Up Harryette Mullen and The Collected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins. Born in Detroit, Barbara lives in Brooklyn and teaches for Long Island University, as well as writers.com. http://barbarahenning.com
Painting Loop by Jenn Zed. Used by permission.
Our thanks to Finishing Line Press editor Leah Maines and all her staff. Our editor Wren Tuatha‘s manuscript, Thistle and Brilliant, is a semi-finalist in FLP’s 2018 New Women’s Voices Chapbook Competition. The book will be published by FLP.
Thistle and Brilliant is a collection of Wren’s poems poking at and chewing on attraction, requited and not, from a bi perspective, more the nervous movements, rather than the still-portrait-smile of love. Stay tuned for reading dates and ordering information!
each to their own
thick with wine,
over the dirty sheets.
Blind-eyed nipples brush
the bedroom mantle,
cold a moment,
vague shocks down the back,
of a ghost fist balled
round my heart.
Could I leave him
with one last estranged fuck?
Soul says let me out.
Soul says no girl.
beyond species or sex.
on my chest—
how long do I get
before he turns over
turns the raw song off?
in the bed,
I’ll just remember
thrusting the summer air back.
Caroline Zimmer’s poetry, as well as her visual art, has appeared in The Maple Leaf Rag, Umbra and Unspoken magazine. She is a lifelong resident of the French Quarter in New Orleans, where she lives with her Doberman, Iris and her fiancé, fellow poet, David Rowe. Caroline tends bar and reads tarot cards out of her home.
I The Not Fair
so angry in the evening,
in the twilight with the carnival colors. Your
eyes were wet, cheeks, still dry,
hands on your hips, unsure of all but intent.
Everyone else got to ride the Cobra twice.
You didn’t care it was cold, I was tired,
we only had two tickets, and needed three.
All you saw
II Last Call
There were splinters,
and dock wood slippery
from deep waters, mountain cold.
There were the boys,
they moved without our fear.
Their joys circled jumping, plunging, sprints.
Circled like snows on the ridges holding the blues,
the sapphires, lazulines,
the forest tree greens, which might as well be blue:
they melted lake to hill to sky.
There was danger, but there was laughter.
And there was some peace
There was a day in July.
III Found and Lost
I found your kite this morning,
the one we flew that day at Ambler farm.
The one you flew. I watched.
You tried to coax the wind to work with arms
and legs, and passion. I watched you do it.
I still can smell the grass I sat on while
I didn’t help;
you asked a dozen times but I was anxious for
some e-mail or a call.
Remember how the fresh cut clippings clung
onto my phone?
Remember I said the kite could be repaired?
Morgan Driscoll is a long time commercial artist, looking to express himself in some other way than selling widgets. Poetry seemed the least commercial, and most under the radar way he could think of. So far it has been a satisfying, but obscure journey. You can find his work in The Amethyst Review, Humanist Magazine, and Mused – The BellaOnLine Literary Review.
Photograph by Morgan Driscoll. Used by permission.