Distant by Alina Macneal


When you don’t come home for dinner
I check the calendar.

Boston. Oh. San Diego. Oh.
Or nothing. I like nothing. I like losing track of you.

I let dishes pile in the sink. Pour a vodka tonic.
Put on Lucinda Williams.

If you opened the door now, jacket over your elbow,
I’d be disappointed.

Did you remember I was going out? I’d say.
And I’d go.

Sometimes we touch along the edges
where our circles overlap,

then spin away, silent
like planets.


Alina Macneal is a Philadelphia-based educator, writer, and architect. Her poems have appeared in Apiary, Poems for the Writing, The World to Come, Poetry 24, Welcome to the Resistance, and other publications. Born in Poland, she came to the US with her family as a child, growing up bilingual in the mono-lingual suburbs of St. Louis. She lives in University City and has been on the faculty at Drexel University for 30 years.

Ordinary Substance by Laura Grace Weldon

Ordinary Substance

Our implausibly tough luck
suggests the floor is lava,
the apple is poison,
the underbed monster
is on the loose

yet proves, time after time,

benevolent strangers,
enchanted gardens, and
magic potions are also real
each entirely made of
an ordinary substance—


Don’t imagine some
sweet scented gauzy thing
held together with whispers.

Her power grows muscled
with use. It can be summoned
instantly, even during the most
wretched trials.
Especially then.

Gratitude’s face may be bittersweet,
but her feet
are on the ground.
Try to knock her down,
she will rise for another round.
She will rise and rise and rise.
You will rise with her.


Laura Grace Weldon lives on a small ramshackle farm where she works as a book editor, teaches writing workshops, and maxes out her library card each week. Laura served as Ohio’s 2019 Poet of the Year and is the author of four books. Connect with her at lauragraceweldon.com and on the twits @earnestdrollery.

How to Prep for the Next Apocalypse by Vernita Hall

How to Prep for the Next Apocalypse
Stockpile toilet paper.
Make amends. Hurry.
Avoid snakes religiously. That apple a day—a banana instead?
Pack a deck of cards. The Cherubim is a fiend for solitaire.
Hoist two flags: Stars and Stripes, Confederate. What the hell.
Pascal’s wager on belief in God? (Three out of four, you win.) Hedge your bet: believe.
Light a candle. Say a prayer. Toss salt over your left shoulder.
Place sugar cubes in your pockets for those pale horses parading past. Couldn’t hurt to
get on their good side.
If you spy moon-eyed, slow-mo marchers slide your way, stiff-armed like sleepwalkers,
don’t shake their hands, don’t offer them candy. They are not trick-or-treaters.
Draft contingency plans. Perhaps reincarnation, as a cockroach or tardigrade.
When you hear the chorus sing, hold your applause until the end.
Should you feel your body rising, yes—do go into the light. You’ll be eternally grateful.
If not, better luck next time.
Vernita Hall is the author of Where William Walked: Poems About Philadelphia and Its People of Color, winner of the Willow Books Grand Prize and of the Robert Creeley Prize from Marsh Hawk Press; and The Hitchhiking Robot Learns About Philadelphians, winner of the Moonstone Press Chapbook Contest. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, American Poetry Review, African American Review, Barrow Street, The Common, River Styx, The Hopkins Review, Arts & Letters, and Obsidian. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College and serves on the poetry review board of Philadelphia Stories.

four ‘Memory’ poems by Luke Johnson


of my mother
with a sponge

and a bucket
of a bleach.

How she’d

while scrubbing

from white tile
my mute

sister scrawled
in crayon

and ask
for a melody,

the pitch
of a bird,

to rise
from my lips

and lead
her out,

into the
radiant snow.



of my sister

like miniature

and my


picking up

But never

the right

right comb,

the wrong

happy instead
of help


of water,
the not

of her

to know.



of my ear against
the ground
& my mother
above me
begging for answers.
How the nest
with a crack
in the concrete
then moved
up the walls,
like fears
in the form
of a question.



of the ghostly
croon of Emmylou

while my mom
clipped mint

and pruned bovine
and collected

peas so sweet
I thought

of the fair
and cold coke

and cotton candy
shared between

my sister’s
hands and mine,

while we circled
sky in summer

and saw nothing
but blue

nothing but birds,

their blurred


Luke Johnson’s poems can be found at Kenyon Review, Narrative Magazine, Florida Review, Frontier, Cortland Review, Poetry Northwest and elsewhere. His manuscript in progress was recently named a finalist for the Jake Adam York Prize, The Levis through Four Way Press, The Vassar Miller Award and is forthcoming fall 2023 from Texas Review Press. You can find more of his poetry at lukethepoet.com or connect at Twitter at @Lukesrant.

johnny got his gun by Marsha Owens

johnny got his gun*

as leaves fall into brown piles splashed
with red and while the wind romps across
my yard, i drink coffee and read about troops
marching through headlines in Ukraine
leaving behind corpses just like in the U.S.,
but the bodies here are at the mall where she
went shopping and was gunned down,
and at the school where children squirmed
in their desks, not having learned yet they
will never get old because on this day—
pick a day, any day—someone has a gun
bought at the gun show and someone needs
to kill because he’s mad because she, the bitch,
refused to have sex or because baby cried
all night. . .so johnny got his gun, sits now
at the stoplight, pissed and driven to kill
anybody because he can, and not until later
do we see the video surveillance, how he pulled
slowly into the school parking lot, stepped out
of his car, calm, like he was just coming home
from work, something slung over his shoulder,
like it was just his day to take out the trash.

*(Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo)


Marsha Owens is a retired teacher who lives and writes in Richmond, VA,. Her essays and poetry have appeared in both print and online publications including The Sun, Huffington Post, Wild Word Anthology, Dead Mule, and Streetlight Anthology. She co-edited the poetry anthology, Lingering in the Margins, and her chapbook, She Watered Her Flowers in the Morning, is available at Finishing Line Press.

I Started Early, by Carolyn Miller

I Started Early,

took my dog, the one that has been dead now
for more than sixty years, and I took some Duncan Hines
blueberry muffins tied in a bandanna, and
my TWA bag and the itinerary for my bicycle trip
to Europe in 1961 and the pop-up card that Bill Henry
made to celebrate my trip, and a baby nightgown
that ties at the bottom, a silver bracelet,
my mother’s diamond ring, and my white suitcase
with a lining of blue taffeta, and we set out toward
Big Piney by way of the German village
my great-grandfather escaped from, the one
that is no longer there, and we looked around
at the empty fields and wondered where
my cousins were, the grandchildren
of my grandfather’s brother, but no one came
along the road and no doors were there
to knock on. Then we set out for Ireland,
though I didn’t know how to find the place
Peter and Bridget Kelley fled from, what county,
what low house, what blasted fields they left behind,
so we sat in a green field, my dog and I, and thanked them
for their courage and their desperation, and I sang
a little song to the ocean Emily never saw,
and to the journey and my dog, who even then
was digging in the dirt, still hoping for a groundhog,
and finally I struggled to my feet and started off
for Big Piney Township and the farm, the lost town
and the lost farm, the lost cave and the spring
and the bullfrogs in the spring branch, calling.


Carolyn Miller is a poet, painter, and freelance writer/editor living in San Francisco. Her books of poetry are Route 66 and Its Sorrows (Terrapin Books), Light, Moving (Sixteen Rivers Press), and After Cocteau (Sixteen Rivers Press), and her essays have appeared in The Sun and The Missouri Review. Her poems have been featured on Poetry Daily, The Writer’s Almanac, and American Life in Poetry, and have appeared in Smartish Pace, The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Georgia Review, among other journals.

The Boy by Karen Friedland

The Boy

Was 7 or 8 years old,
only wanted to kill the baby, tiny fish
that idyllic summer day—

to gather them in warm runnels,
then throw down armloads of sand,
then stomp them
with all his might.

His mother sat placidly nearby,
reading a book;
his baby sister
dug industriously with a tiny trowel.

I sat feet away,
at this gleeful mass murder,
but mute.

Because on beautiful summer days,
all the world over,
boys will be boys.


A nonprofit grant writer by day, Karen Friedland’s poems have been published in Constellations, Nixes Mate Review, Vox Populi, and others. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, received the 59th Moon Prize from Writing in a Women’s Voice, and had a poem hanging for a year in Boston’s City Hall for a year. Her books are Places That Are Gone and Tales from the Teacup Palace. She lives in West Roxbury, MA and is currently duking it out with incurable ovarian cancer.

Hunger Is the Opposite of the First Dandelions in the Grass by Lisa Zimmerman

Hunger Is the Opposite of the First Dandelions in the Grass

The rumple of discarded baggage is my exhaustion upon waking.
How can a suitcase carry more darkness when closed?
It is a sad cave left on an empty train platform.

The darkness stands between snowy tree branches,
watching the sparrow who watches the birdfeeder.
Somewhere there is a sparkle. The light
presenting itself just before nightfall is useless,
even with its golden seam, its momentary fanfare.

Darkness is helpful, and not, depending on where
you don’t look, or how you imagine birds and seeds.
Darkness against anyone’s body is so complete,
so quiet, until they’re touched by someone.
Then—where does that bright white singing come from?


Lisa Zimmerman’s poetry collections include How the Garden Looks from Here (Violet Reed Haas Poetry Award winner) The Light at the Edge of Everything (Anhinga Press) and Sainted (Main Street Rag). Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Redbook, The Sun, SWWIM Every Day, Cave Wall, Poet Lore, Vox Populi, Book of Matches, and many other journals. Her poems have been nominated for Best of the Net, five times for the Pushcart Prize, and included in the 2020 Best Small Fictions anthology. She teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Northern Colorado and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.

for luck: an Arkansas Sonnet by Wendy Taylor Carlisle

for luck: an Arkansas Sonnet

There is no new weather here /so close to the well of being
wasp in the lampstand tick in the beard /moon visible day and night
but I’m grateful for azaleas /coming back grateful for muck boots
for folks who fix things/ for hummingbirds’ full feeders
and dead carpenter ants for gardens and hoes and summer
tomatoes above all grateful for /walking the train tracks
with two new pennies/ you and me looking for luck.


Wendy Taylor Carlisle was born in Manhattan, raised in Bermuda, Connecticut and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and lives now in the Arkansas Ozarks in a house she built in 1980. She has an MA from The University of Arkansas and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of The Mercy of Traffic (Unlikely Books, 2019), Discount Fireworks (Jacaranda Press, 2008) and Reading Berryman to the Dog (Jacaranda Press, 2000.) Chapbooks include They Went to the Beach to Play (Locofo Chaps, 2016), Chap Book (Platypus Press, 2016), Persephone on the Metro (MadHat press, 2014), The Storage of Angels (Slow Water Press, 2008), and After Happily Ever After (Two River Chapbooks, 2003.) Her work appears in multiple anthologies.

Second Marriage by Daniel Romo

Second Marriage

Everyone knows sequels are usually worse
than the original and second-guessing isn’t

preferable to simply going with your gut.
I’m all for stars being stuck to the top of

the page noting a child’s best efforts, but
why is gold the standard when silver’s so

much prettier? I have loved and lost and
learned that beating oneself up only ends

in a draw. Gladwell says to become an
expert at something it takes 10,000 hours

of practice, but I wonder how many hours
it takes to become just okay at something

you need simply to get by and if one can
just fake it until they break it. I’m still

learning the value of domesticity—how to
maximize dishwasher space and when to

confess to my wife that my soul feels like
it’s been forgotten in the dryer and keeps

tumbling with each new load. Rocky loses
in the first film but wins in the next because

I imagine he vowed he and Adrian will never
throw in the towel and in the process has

learned how to how do his own laundry,
how to separate the light from the dark,

the pain from the stain.


Daniel Romo is the author of Bum Knees and Grieving Sunsets (FlowerSong Press 2023), Moonlighting as an Avalanche (Tebot Bach 2021), Apologies in Reverse (FutureCycle Press 2019), and other books. His writing and photography can be found in The Los Angeles Review, Yemassee, Hotel Amerika, and elsewhere. He received an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, and he lives, teaches, and rides his bikes in Long Beach, CA. More at danieljromo.com.