The Blue Mountain Review Issue 9

Page 1


vt The Last Days of Friendship with Shawn M.



The Death of Baseball

Martin Turner was the orneriest neighbor of my childhood and it was years before I paid him back for all the misery he caused with his cranked-up ugliness. . . calling the cops every time we played baseball in the street.

a journal of culture



FALL issue #9 2017

If we were too loud with our water balloon fights or kick the can, a cop car would roll slowly down the street like a bull shark sniffing the pavement for what wasn’t right.

NPR Station Manager Richard Winham AUTHOR

Shawn, my best friend and juvie-bound, was seventeen. I fell right in behind him, father-less, and like a lemming, just looking for any cliff to jump off. Over the bass-driven beats above the loblolly trees bending in the breeze, a Deep Purple haze thumping from Shawn’s speakers as I drifted away from any major league dreams. . . Martin Turner called the cops for the third time in one day.

Interviews with

Dinty Moore




James Templeton of

James + the Wild Spirit Introducing

local artist

Laura McCullough

poetry from William

Walsh Annmarie Lockhart

Faces of Faith conversation with

Clifford Brooks

*All rights within remain with the respective Artists*

Cover Notes “Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Promenade” Photograph by Laura McCullough

A Publication of The Southern Collective Experience

Cover and Logo design by Laura McCullough Copy design by Holly Holt and Laura McCullough

Behind the Scenes Poetry Editor - Damian Rucci………………………….........……………. Prose Editor - Shane Etter……………………………………………….…… Visual Arts Editor - Peter Ristuccia ………..……………….…… Music Editor - Dusty Huggins…………………………………..……..

Interview Requests - Clifford Brooks..……



Intro by Casanova Green


x artwork in this section courtesy of Peter Ristuccia x

3 Jennifer Avery 4 ANNMARIE LOCKHART 8 WILLIAM WALSH 22 Helen Losse 23 Peter Ristuccia 27 Daniel Crocker 28 Mason Tyler Hill 30 Samanth Slupski 31 Kerry Trautman 32 Justin Karcher Scott Wozniak 33 Matthew Borczon 34 Kay Duganator 35 Kendall A Bell 36 Richard Gegick 38 Theresa Lynn Ast, PhD 39 Chapman Hood Frazier 40 Paul Koniecki 44 Matthew Hupert 45 Jason Baldinger 46 Nathanael William Stolte 47 Miriam Kramer 48 Benjamin Brindise William S Tribell 49 AA Thorton 50 Jeanette Powers John Dorsey 51 Beth Gordon 52 Joan Koromante 53 Joseph Quiroz Michael Griffith 54 David R Altman 55 Ryan Qyinn Flanagan Darren C Demaree 56 James H Duncan column

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Prose 58 62 64 68 72 73 75

Alyssa Hamilton Kelle Grace Gaddis Michael Ross Ault Sean Hastings Cheryl Taylor Glenn Johnson Theresa Lynn Ast

78 84


Visual Arts

Interviews literature 90 92 94 97

DINTY MOORE Annmarie Lockhart Alexzenia Davis Alyssa Hamilton


100 NPR Station Manager RICHARD WINHAM 103 Editor, Dan Pool

music 105 JAMES TEMPLETON, James + the Wild Spirit 107 ADAM MCINTYRE, The Pinx 110 Greco 113 Dropswitch 115 Tim Brummel, The Elm Music features MEMBER SPOTLIGHTS : 119 Mark Wallace Maguire 122 Papi Picasso (Mario Reyes) 125 Jerry Rumph 127 Faces of Faith with Clifford Brooks

Tabula iv | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 9


intro The Fall Season “How the mighty have fallen in the thick of battle!” -2 Samuel 1:25 (HCSB) Welcome to Fall. This is the time of year where everything winds down. The weather transitions from summer’s balmy heat to winter’s bone-chilling cold, the animals migrate to warmer pastures or prepare for a hard winter, and we put on our sweaters and coats and sip on pumpkin spice lattes and apple cider. However, the highlight of the season is when the leaves change color in ruddy splendor and then make their descent into death. The falling leaves are a necessary inconvenience because a tree in winter is incapable of holding on to the weight of ice and leaves. It must let the leaves fall off and be bare to handle the winter’s ice, snow, and cold. Otherwise, it will snap under its own weight and die. Over the past few weeks, we have watched many famous men experience falls from grace which have destroyed legacies and careers due to abuses of power and, more notably, hubris. In their prime, they were oak trees masquerading as evergreens. Their leaves were able to last season after season, winter after winter, without falling off. They stood as exemplars of grandeur and the test of time. But people were too afraid to look beyond the leaves and realize that there was a problem with the trees. The trees did not want to let the leaves go. They grew bigger and grander yet unchecked until the perfect storm came and destroyed them. We are all like trees. We have a façade of pride-colored leaves that cover up our bark-covered truth. Research has shown that leaves do not just fall off; the tree chooses to cut them off until there are none left and all that is visible is the barren tree. cont’d I ssue


Amid what we allow people to see, we must make sure the core of who we are is in place. Many of us are like the men who we have watched fall apart because we have our leaves, our pride, in full view and glowing green year after year. The weight of our own pride covers us and when the winters of adversity strike, the weight is too heavy to bear and causes us to break. Shedding your pride and letting your true self show allows you to grow healthily and have a deeper sense of who you are. When adversity come, you will have nothing to hide and be able to handle the weight. Rather than destroy you, it will make you stronger. As you read this issue of Blue Mountain Review, you are looking at the results of trees being laid bare. Every poem, story, picture, and work of art is leaves removed from the tree revealing a piece of the tree. As creative people, we are called to shake the branches a bit and not only look at ourselves but look beyond the leaves of the world and reveal the truth beyond it.

Pastor Casanova Green

Casanova Green is a writer, singer/songwriter, educator, pastor, and traveling minis-

ter and worship leader. He is a 2010 graduate of Ohio Northern University with a BA in Language Arts Education with minor in voice and is pursuing a MFA in Creative Writing at the Etowah Valley Low-Residency MFA Program at Reinhardt University in Waleska, GA. He released his first album, A Worshiper Mentality, in January 2016. Casanova is a member of the Southern Collective Experience and has been published in The Blue Mountain Review and the 2017 edition of Reinhardt University’s journal Sanctuary. He has done extensive ministry work since the age of nine and serves as the Lead Pastor of True Vision Christian Community in Lancaster, OH where he and his family reside.


Jennifer Avery

Apple Cider Edge This spring baby sings her song in autumn. No riot on the ear; only a sweet aching melody chanting through the wind. It plays like an amplified anthem that every year yawns more like a fugue. An ominous thing that heralds the eternal. Darkness stalks her early; verdancy falls, crumbles, and dies. Still she hums along with longing, stumbling toward the sunset horizon like the jewel leaves that fall to their deaths. The note rolls off her tongue like apple juice. But her voice lends the apple cider edge.

Jennifer Avery “One of my favorite metaphors for the metamorphic events that plague and bless a

fulfilled human life comes from the television series Northern Exposure. After Ed has cast his first official vote in an election and experiences a coming of age as a result, Chris tells him, ‘You were apple juice, and now you’re apple cider.’ So I have to give a nod to that early-90s gem for this poem; Happy Autumnal Equinox, friends. Indulge in some apple cider edge.”

I ssue


Annmarie Lockhart

Eve, Retrograde I always come back for the apple. I can’t help it. It speaks to me. Its seeds spill their secrets, the knowledge of that first-born tree. The snap of the skin, sugar on the tongue, melt of the flesh baked deep in a pie, these things please me, remind me to offer you the peel, a lick, a bite. It’s cold tonight, so let’s delight, rewrite, feel anything but contrite. No matter the dread of fall or the cost of it all, I come back, always, again, for the apple.


Annmarie Lockhart Blotting Out the Sun For Susan Bro, Natalie Romero, Tyler McGill, DeAndre Harris, Marcus Martins, Bill Burke, Jay Cullen, Berke Bates, and the unnamed survivors of the Charlottesville monument protest attack Is it two and a half minutes or is it a lifetime? Geologic time and space time barely register a glacier’s melt or a meteoroid’s arc. But you will live a handful of seconds over and over again, counting in heartbeats all that will never be and that which will still be. After two and a half minutes. what blots out the sun revolves making its orbit around a forever-shifted center between bobbling poles, gravitating toward the equator equilibrium, equanimity, equality still a long way off between bumbling poles and a never-centered shifting, counting in heartbeats the widening corona, corazon, cortege, fatality, finality, perpetuity, the perpetual motion of galaxies uncounted and solar systems. Is the lunar eclipse a plexus of sentiment, a nexus of molten emotion? Maybe it’s hope. Science assures us no moon can blot out the sun forever.

Eclipsing Thirty sleepless hours into a revelation that would not come for thirty days a whisper warns, take heed: my need, your greed retroactive gratitude for lunar bleed my willingness to suspend disbelief your willingness to sow poison seed hand-held thigh, uncovered knee silver tongue, breast bared to teeth Judas kiss, the moon’s conceit; there are some things that children should not see. What happens in moonlight stays silent in sunlight, unfixed and unraveled in lunar parallax tied to ghost-train tracks effortlessly freighted with commitments unspoken, entanglements unbroken. Half-truths and shadows edge handwritten lines on phosphorescent skin, and you whisper moonshine, Lift a touch you cannot afford, embezzle a kiss I cannot spare. But who can see the telltale scrawl on the hidden heart wall when the moon eclipses the sun?

I ssue


Annmarie Lockhart

Mother/Daughter, A Body in Two Acts My body bears witness. Connective tissue strains, fibers taut. Plasma matrix threatens to collapse, spilling blood from surfaced veins. Tendons tremble trying to keep this brittle skeleton from disintegrating. I long for a time before I knew the loneliness of holding a child’s hand through a night of pills, charcoal, questions. I am an empty stomach after years of gorging, an empty glass raised in a toast, an empty word lodged in a closed throat. If these tissues do not hold, a tsunami will wash away what is left of the pier upon which I stand poised on sand-worn wood, one foot at the edge of a cradle, the other at the edge of a grave. I long for a time before I knew the loneliness of waiting for a father’s heart to forget to do what it has always done: beat. I am a half-bandaged wound, a foreign daughter, a forgotten name. If these tissues do not hold, a hearse will ride off with the memories upon which I write, weaving the truth from facts and fallacies, leading you on, seducing myself with story. My edges have no center. I am a body without a rider, the memory of untouched glass ground into poured-out sand. I am a lament at a wedding. I am a dream burned in effigy.


Annmarie Lockhart

Reminders I will not give them my daughters. Nearly every day I receive a letter, brochure, or e-mail inviting my twin high school seniors to attend an open house, visit the campus of the liberal arts college I attended here in New Jersey. Priority admission status flyers flood my mailbox. I consider writing to the admissions counselors to tell them to remove my daughters’ names from their mailing lists. I imagine the words I would choose, the tone I would use for the flexing of muscle, baring of teeth, defense of my young. I was only there as a first-semester freshman. I am not an alumna, no one of count now or then. My daughters are not on a legacy target list. The admissions people do not know I was a problem solved by being encouraged not to return. Statistics tell the story as well as I do: Assaults occur most often early in the fall semester; freshmen women are the most frequent targets. Male athletes are more likely assailants than non-athletes; 47% of assailants were drunk prior to the attack. Today’s mail includes a postcard about the next open house. I toss it in the trash, remember the weight of a wrestler, the heft of forfeited scholarship money, the burden of silence. I do not ask the school to stop sending postcard reminders. But I will not give them my daughters.

Annmarie Lockhart is the founding editor of Vox Poetica, an online literary salon dedicated to bringing

poetry into the everyday, and unbound CONTENT, an independent publisher devoted to poetry. A resident of Englewood, NJ, she lives, works and wtrites 2 miles east of the hospital where she was born. You can read her words at fine journals online and in print. You can also find her featured in the Interview Section of this issue.

I ssue


William Walsh

The Last Days of Friendship with Shawn M. I.

The Death of Baseball

Martin Turner was the orneriest neighbor of my childhood and it was years before I paid him back for all the misery he caused with his cranked-up ugliness. . . calling the cops every time we played baseball in the street. If we were too loud with our water balloon fights or kick the can, a cop car would roll slowly down the street like a bull shark sniffing the pavement for what wasn’t right. Shawn, my best friend and juvie-bound, was seventeen. I fell right in behind him, father-less, and like a lemming, just looking for any cliff to jump off. Over the bass-driven beats above the loblolly trees bending in the breeze, a Deep Purple haze thumping from Shawn’s speakers as I drifted away from any major league dreams. . . Martin Turner called the cops for the third time in one day. Dropping our mitts in the grass, blackjack twirlers stopped their patrol car and splayed us on the hood, frisked us in front of all the neighbors for smoking pot under an oak tree. Shawn began to sniffle for fear his mother would send him away this time. II.

The Unrepentant

Martin Turner stared through the window of his front door like a bitter priest at two boys refusing to apologize for what we hadn’t done, but surely the old man knew what was to come. . . . . . however, this time he made a mistake.



William Walsh He let it slip to the police—he was leaving for vacation in three weeks. Europe!— and back to D-Day, an Italian mountainside, a wintry forest in Germany. . . wherever he left three fingers and the good fight. Rumor had it, he was behind all the missing neighborhood cats. Shawn—whom I have not seen since the fall when he ran away to Big Sky—drove to La Grange, to a pet store near the City Cemetery and bought 500 mice in white boxes, like Chinese take-out, but much bigger. No questions asked. No names given. . . fifty bucks cash in the slow summer burn of Watergate, Hank Aaron, and Patty Hearst. . . whatever life-changing events were out there for us as we learned to rationalize our misbehavior. It was a moral relativism taking hold in this new world of revenge, something G. Gordon Liddy might concoct, a burglary without the break-in! III.

The Juvenile Delinquents

While Martin Turner cranked up his morning sitting in a café on the West Bank, as crabby as a woman sweeping the sidewalk with a corn husk broom and two world wars rankling behind her, we emptied 500 mice through the doggy-door in the back of his house. 50 cartons of 10 mice! Enough mice to feed Ray’s Snake Farm for months. . . . We tossed the cartons behind Publix, laughed for hours as we sat in Valwood parking lot in Shawn’s red El Camino, smoking Lucky Strikes, both of us desiring Dee Dee Lind, the Playboy fantasy of all post-pubescent fantasies, a real woman who would carry me into adulthood for years. We were jazzed up as coke addicts, crying with hysterical laughter about the mice, drinking Mountain Dew and lying about whose breasts we’d felt.

cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc I ssue


William Walsh IV.

While You Were Away, the Neighborhood Changed

The next day, playing baseball in front of Martin Turner’s house, we glimpsed several mice scurrying up his cloud-sheer curtains. Worry began to settle deep in my gut for what we’d done. For twelve weeks Martin Turner was some bellboy’s nightmare, some chamber maid’s hairy armpit because she couldn’t pull the bed sheets military-tight, or some museum curator’s problem and Turner’s mantra: this-is-how-it-really-happened-boyyou-college-educated-kids-don’t-know-shit-you-oughtto listen-to-me lecture. V.

Do Not Let Your Heart Be Troubled

Shawn and I stayed away from the neighborhood, and he showed me how to meet a few girls at the bowling alley, how to snap a bra off with two fingers and a thumb. We got high for the first time on Grand Funk Railroad with those half-naked girls whose breasts bounced between us as we traded around, each desperate for some memories of their own, to bottle-up and cast into any ocean of acceptance, memories to float back to their rocky shore one day with fondness or perhaps regret because those girls made Shawn and I forget all about the mice. . . until the Old Man Turner returned home and opened the front door—mice streamed out like gray water pouring over the steps, a jungle documentary, an unsuspecting spider monkey disturbs an ant colony—utter chaos. VI.

Saturday Morning Cartoons

The mice had eaten through everything, like cartoon termites sawing off coffee table legs—saw dust and wood chips scattered throughout the house—electrical wiring was pulled from the walls and sheetrock with Swiss cheese-holes gnawed in it like a Tom and Jerry cartoon. . . . . . . the stench of urine seeped into the street and that was the end of baseball.


William Walsh VII.

The Cobbled Road To Bethel

Shawn and I stopping trying to make the team, stopped dreaming of a talent scout rolling down our street, sniffing the air for us. We stopped playing catch on the sidewalk or Hit the Bat with the younger kids. A television crew reported a freak infestation. The insurance adjuster declared the house a total loss with mice burrowing deep into piles of bath towels, into mattresses, cupboards, sofa cushions, into the walls. . . anywhere they could hole-up in the dark to breed. Fumigated, the interior was ripped out and replaced: every stick of furniture, every picture, string of carpet, every cheap piece of linoleum, every saved and treasured memento, coffee cup, bar of soap, piece of Tupperware, book, scrap of personal paper in every desk drawer, his wife’s urn, every damn thing in Martin Turner’s house was thrown out into three industrial dumpsters in his front yard spread like coffins for whales. Shovelfuls of dead mice—little hot dogs with tails—were tossed out! Every memory he ever had, like back-pocket road maps to his life, good or bad, whatever wasn’t held tight in the vice of his mind filled the dumpsters. The police investigated for foul play, asked a few questions, nothing much came of it—just a freak of nature. VIII.

Rebuilding Stardust Lane

Each day when the patrol car eased down our street there was no baseball, just another stale neighborhood of kids standing across the street watching men in Hazmat suits carry out the remnants of a cantankerous life from a house that always smelled like boiled piss and streak o’ lean. By late autumn, his house was rebuilt, and in January, on a cold gray day, Martin Turner sold his mansion of crabbiness and moved away to Omaha to live with his daughter. I ssue


William Walsh

Years later, I heard Shawn got busted for a stash of weed, did a little time. A good rumor, a lie, as my mother quipped, will travel half-way around the globe before the truth has a chance to tie its shoes, but the next one floated around like ash-wood smoke hovering around the tree tops: Shawn was dead. No one had any details.


Baptism in the Green Fields

. . . in the end, I hoped it wasn’t true, maybe Shawn was a manager at Toys “R” Us, sitting behind a desk in a comfy swivel chair, pulling in a few bucks, or, maybe at night sitting deep in a plush leather sofa with his little boys, side by side, watching a baseball game, together on a big screen television—maybe Shawn just a memory for me, a pocket charm to ride into adulthood, or perhaps I was the memory of Shawn’s childhood, the miraculous kid who could do everything really well but destined for some nostalgic tragedy—how once Shawn threw a football across four front yards to me, waiting in the end zone between a Chevy Vega and a Datsun B-210. Somewhere in Nebraska, Martin Turner survived—some place with land enough for boys with dreams—beautiful lush green fields where mice burrow deep under ground, where young boys can play in the road and no pain-in-the-ass neighbor will hear them for miles. . . and no child has to wait on his dreams to blossom—there is a place like that, some place where a young man doesn’t have to worry about a Goddamn thing.


William Walsh

If I Were a Super Hero

I. Nothing in this world is my fault. . . . . . and I should not be blamed for anything that happens anywhere even if I am involved to some degree on some level. I’m like Dilbert in the comic strip, despising everything the boss has to say, wanting to poke him in the eye with a pencil when he rambles on about his bratty kids, his new boat, or how cute Pookie was trying to order French fries but said Frank fires. . . . . . I almost fell over it was so incredibly funny. This is just one reason why I would be the worst super hero imaginable—uncaring, disinterested, lazy, saving only beautiful women who would reward me with pretty feminine favors. . . . . . Maybe I would fly around at night swinging from my string of web, peeking into their windows, watching them undress with my x-ray vision or maybe with a little persuasion I could fly this little pretty a mile up into the sky—Hey, would you like to join the Super Man Club. I am the superhero anti-hero, using my powers for my personal gratification. . . . Just because I have super powers doesn’t mean I have to be super good, ethical, or honorable. There’s no guarantee when these things are handed out. I’m just a man, ordinary in most ways, who would be a fantastic anarchist if the job paid more. Perhaps, I meant to say anti-Christ. Either way, I’m not much of a role model or Super Hero, but could be if there was more in it for me. I never promised I’d be a really good boy. . . . . . I’m just a man with super-powered ideas. I ssue


William Walsh Look away and like Kathy Griffin, do not criticize me or judge me for what I have just done or will do, but try to understand me. Even though I have said and done horrible things, you should forgive me for being the anti-super hero . . . and blame yourself for crying out loud because you were the one watching and listening, because without an audience, I am nothing— just an out-of-work super hero without much possibility for success or earning potential. . . . Yeah, I used to be diligent, rescuing all sorts of strangers from situations of peril, but I never got squat—hardly a thank you, not even a kiss on my super cheek. Then I got sued because I didn’t rescue some guy quickly enough. Why should I have to put up with paying malpractice insurance? That’s when I said to Hell with it and quit!

Now, it’s just me in my Super—Man—Feeling—Good—Super—Suit ready to break down barriers between me and that beautiful thing standing in line at the bank. . . II. I let it all go a few years ago, standing in the hall, trapped and listening to my boss’s worn-out stories about his fabulous life. I was leaning against the wall ready to Velcro his mouth shut with my super-fist of reality, but really hoping someone would go postal or maybe (God-willing) the front of the building would fall off and take me down thirty stories with it down down down to the very bottom where I would jump to my feet protected by my a super-hero suit, unscathed, dusting off the rubble of my bad attitude, my piss-poor outlook on all things that I don’t give a shit about (EVERYTHING!) and then I’d walk away. . . . . . across the street to Starbucks and order a venti caramel macchiato, and while everyone was running around in a frenzy trying to figure out what to do next, I’d sit outside under an awing in a comfy chair sipping my hot drink and think about finishing my Ph.D. in Interpersonal Relations. But nothing is my fault and I cannot take responsibility for anything that happens anywhere in the world even if the governor calls saying he’s in desperate need. Let him jump! I have absolved myself, stated my declaration that nothing, no matter how God-awful or even good, is a result of my actions. I have no guilt for anything that happens, did happen, or will happen in the future because I am now invisible, shielded by my super suit of invisibility. . . .


William Walsh . . . and, yes, upon my declaration, the world opened up, a vista of clarity, like The Gong Show gong bonging in the background when we finally figured out that Chuck Barris was a C.I.A. hit man. . . a moment of clarity. . . what else could he be so good at? There is a disguise behind everything, behind every Super Hero. We have had the wool pulled tightly over our eyes for years. . . . . . everything is the responsibility of someone else other than me. Look at me—what have I done? — nothing beyond driving to the same crummy job every day for fifty weeks a year, filling up the gas tank twice a week to make certain that everyone in America can own a television, a car, health care, designer jeans, Viagra, or any number of contemporary freedoms reserved just for them 200 years ago in the Bill of Rights just like the designers of the Constitution thought it should be—a right to this, a right to that as long as you get everything you believe you deserve. . . in your pursuit of happiness. . . . I want to do my new job from home but the boss refuses to allow anyone to telecommute. . . now my gas bill digs in to my vacation plans, so each week, in secret and anonymously, I post a Top Ten List on the bulletin board. When the boss rolls into my office to complain I act concerned when he asks if I have any idea who’s behind this horrible prank. None whatsoever. He steams over to the receptionist’s desk then his secretary. But, no, they are confused, too. His secretary is so sour if you say hello to her in the hall she claims you tried groping her. . . . . . . super heroes don’t grope. They just grab what they want. At least in this fantasy.

I ssue


William Walsh III. Someone knows who’s doing this, my boss yells. Are any of them true? I ask. He frowns at me. Just asking. The next day I post another list. The #1 Reason Most People Think Mr. F. is a Jerk Compensating for his high school diploma he wears college logos on all his shirts, talks about this school and that school as though the mere mention of their hallowed ground makes flunking out a rite of passage, soon to be overcome with an honorary doctorate from a third-rate institution. Maybe it’s the janitor, I suggest. You yelled at him one day because you didn’t like the color of the trash bags. Remember? You’re the only one I can confide in, he tells me. . . . my wife is somehow trying to drive me over the edge. We’re not doing well. All she does is spend, spend, spend. Take her on a world cruise for a few months. I’ll run the company while you’re away. Make her the center of your life. Stop screwing your secretary. You know about that? Business Strategy if Mr. F. was a Caveman 1. Stalk saber-tooth 2. Sneak up and hit Saber-tooth with fist 3. Return next month, use big rock or sharp stick this time— grip tightly with three remaining fingers and good arm One week, there was no list, just an enlarged Christmas photo of his wife gushing over the new H.R. guy, her left breast falling out of her dress. Top Complaints in Mr. F’s World (too many to list) 1. No one understands me 2. Death and famine (my eventual death and my craving for Big Macs) 3. Nothing else matters, only me, me, me Who do you think doesn’t like me, he asked? It’s inconceivable. Everyone loves you.


William Walsh “Who are you?” he scribbles in red marker across the board. “Show your face, coward!” Next week, early one morning, I post:

Top Worst Way to Die 1. Listening to Mr. F’s Stories

No. I think you should tell more in the daily meetings, maybe spend sixty to seventy percent of the time telling stories. They’re very funny. Tell us about your weekend, spice it up a little, exaggerate if need be. But, no, we love your stories. Include some famous people, drop names.

Are my stories that boring?

Post long holiday weekend when his wife was out of town with her girl friends, he yanked a posting off the board early Tuesday morning. Boss very angry. . . called me into his office. This has gone too far, he says shaking the list above his head. Mr. F’s Fantasy Sex List (who he thinks about when lovey-doveying his wife, always on the first Saturday of the month—list not in order)

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Scarlett Johansson Megan Fox Christina Ricci Kerry Washington Amy Adams Rebecca Pidgeon Parker Posey Miley Cyrus Halle Berry Ann Curry Lee Ann Rimes Ellen All three hotties on Friends Star Jones Rachel McAdams Jewell Beyoncé Faith Hill I ssue

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Shania Twain The Scooby Doo Girl Reese Witherspoon Meg Ryan Katherine Heigl Hillary Duff Michelle Obama Josey & the Pussycats (all at the same time) Natalie Cole (but not now that she’s dead, but who knows?) Heidi Klum Cat Woman Emma Stone Pee Wee Herman Vanessa Williams Zsa Zsa Gabor Mae West as a young broad Daisy Duke Isla Fisher Thelma on Good Times Kirstie Alley (before she fattened up) Doris Day Ellen Page (might be a tough nut to crack) Annette Funicello Emily Blunt Tuesday Weld Gidgit Lilly Munster Kristen Stewart Tootie on Facts of Life The doctor lady on Scrubs Jennifer Tilly Meg Tilly Charlize Theron Pam, Jim’s wife on The Office The Olsen Twins Jennifer Hudson Dolly Parton Madeline Albright Ginger and Mary Ann, the Professor, too Angelina Jolie (actual list approximately 2500)


William Walsh You know people, he said. Can you secretly investigate this for me—find out who this is? Here’s a thousand bucks—go buy some spy equipment. I WANT SOME ANSWERS. I may need more money if it’s to be done right. . . . Okay, just find out who it is. Now I will set a trap for the bean counter in payroll who refused to cover some of my expenses on the Chicago trip, ask him to pin a company picnic notice to the bulletin, make it look like he posted the Top 5 List of Names for Mr. F. if he was a Super Hero

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Super Cheap-O Greasy I Need to Wash My Hair-Man Don’t Know Grammar-Man Pear-shaped Body-Man Super Duper My Wife’s Sleeping with Everyone-Man Two Kids in Rehab-Man

What about David Letterman? And my addiction to sarcasm which is not much of a Super Hero trait? My obsession with lists is his fault. . . . It’s like Letterman stopped off at the house one night, pretending to be the tooth fairy, silvery tutu, leotards, receding hairline, truck stop gap between his teeth, but instead of leaving a few dollars under my pillow, he whispered in my ear a thousand new lists for the boss. . . . Being a Super hero bites! Especially if you cannot tell anyone, like the girl in accounting who is so good with numbers I bet she never bounces a check. I do not feel anything like guilt for anything that ever went wrong in the world for some poor ghetto slob or some Superman-needing woman who I don’t want to rescue from the grips of a bad guy tugging on her purse. . . .


William Walsh . . . Why should I when the accounting girl thinks I have no life outside the office? What’s the use for all my hard work. . . . . . they will forgive the bad guy for everything he does and let him go just a few days after I wrestled him to the ground for robbing a bank or mugging a bum. I capture him—then some stupid bastard lets him go. In America, they’ll forgive you for everything—being poor, getting fired, being lazy, for being stupid, for dropping out of school at any level, getting knocked-up, going bankrupt, making a mess of your life—they will forgive you for anything except the Cardinal Sin of being successful, like a Super Man. The accounting girl doesn’t know I sit at home all alone just waiting for the stupid super phone to ring. . . . Night after night no one calls except the mayor or the governor ringing me up on the glowing red phone. . . never a woman. . . . . . never the accounting girl dropping a dime to ask how I am, what am I doing this weekend, maybe we could get together—do you like spiders and snakes? She’s probably out with friends at a fancy restaurant figuring the tip to the exact penny. IV. I want to learn Spanish and flee to Mexico then Bolivia and become a bandit like Paul Newman and Robert Redford, using my super powers to rob banks and outrun the Almogavares, and I want to ride a bicycle with Katherine Ross on the handlebars, laughing and her thinking, “I’ve got to dump those other bums and run off with this guy, this Super Man of the 21st Century.” I can’t sing worth a flip, bellowing like Lucy while Ricky cringes, but if Katy-girl asked me, I’d sing “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” everyday for the rest of her life and I’d be there anytime she needed to be rescued. I ssue


William Walsh If there were no laws I wouldn’t have to stop people from doing whatever it is they are doing wrong, from the mistakes they keep making to complicate their miserable lives. . . and maybe I wouldn’t be in trouble at work for posting all those notes on the bulletin board and no one would think I’m a troubled bad boy when what I really need is a hug from a tree hugging Barak Obama-voting, Birkenstock-wearing accounting number-crunching girl standing in my kitchen in her flowered panties and bra who does not want any commitment, whatsoever, someone who just wants me several times a week to toss her on the bed and smooch all over her. . . . . . . I’m not perfect, and sometimes my super powers can’t evade the radar of being a jerk but after this long of sweating long hours busting down brick walls to save a scared dog, I have some pretty magnificent scars, but like all super-superheroes, we are really never injured, no gunshot wounds, no knife slashes on my arm, no conks on the head that actually hurt – the only thing that gets to a superhero is heartbreak. . . . . . . I don’t need guns and bullets or a fancy super-cool Austin Martin and girls in silver britches hanging off my shoulder nibbling on my earlobe saying lovey-dovey dreamy-eyed things like “Double-O Seven, you’re so naughty” because one morning while standing in line at Starbucks, the accounting girl walked in and I said hello and she said hello back to me and we sat there until lunch time talking and being late for work and when the boss got angry she lied and said we had a power meeting


to discuss budgetary cuts and paradigm shifts in an ever-expanding economy. . . which almost made his head explode. She said my Top Ten Lists were hilarious. . . . . . everyone loved them because they were so true. The number-crunching girl was glad I was not fired. There was a $200 office pool to guess the culprit, but no one picked me. My number-crunching cutie-pie Super Girl thought it was Ray Ray in R&D. You could be a spy, she told me, you are so coy and sneaky. V.

How much can you bench press?

I can lift the world upon my shoulders and it hold there if I chose, and on a good day I see myself with a mission, a journey, and maybe I’m not the super hero I always dreamed I would be, and maybe I’m not the kind of guy who can make a woman’s body hum but there are days when I fly off in secret to rescue what needs rescuing, a cat in a tree, unclogging the sink, or pumping the tires on a bicycle, not like the old days of chasing down a speeding car out of control or saving an ocean-liner in a hurricane. . . just me, being in complete control of the world. Isn’t being in control the goal we strive for now and just waking up without the bill collectors calling and perhaps having more than $92.10 in the bank on June 8, 2017. . .

William Walsh because, really, what kind of job can a Super Hero expect to have? There’s no dignity waiting tables or pumping gas, not for a Super Hero. . . . . . I can’t pound a gavel in a court room, write copy for the Chicago Tribune or cut someone’s liver out of their body. No. . . a Super Man is never satisfied with the ordinary. That’s the truth, and my fallacy is. . . I have to show the world every day that I am not ordinary. . . . . . . My best days are in front of me with super-husband skills needed around the house to kill the bug, unscrew a jar lid, stop the toilet from dripping, change the oil, or put batteries in a light-saber so it buzzes like a bug zapper in warp drive. But I have discovered. . . there are times when being a Super Man is just reading The Bernstein Bears and not wondering where my number-crunching wife is and if she’s really where she says and not in the arms of an anti-hero kind of bad guy putting pressure on my life with my wife’s affections being divided, my love life whacked down the center with a machete and rolling off the cutting board like a head of red cabbage splitting open. . . . Maybe I’m not the man who can save the world, protect it from evil lurking in the cracks of every tea cup, or from my former boss, who sold the company and ran off with his secretary to Costa Rica to sit on his millions, forgetting all the jobs that transferred to New Jersey, the lives disrupted, the friends never to be seen again.

Everyone looks at me for the answers and thinks, wow, he is such a super-awesome guy, fast, funny, strong able to leap tall women in a single bound over and over “how many bullets you got in that gun?” able to satisfy horny housewives in a single bound, but really, that’s not who I am. There is a veil of super gossamer to this hero. . . . . . I don’t have to be the super-duperist guy in the world, just good enough to get the job done, just good enough to be the hero in my own house. Or, maybe it’s as simple as when my son and I are walking the dog and he says, “Dad, I think Superman would be better if he was the Man of Reinforced Plexiglas.” Or, “I just flew in from Metropolis and man, are my arms tired.” Everyone needs answers, even this guy—The Superman of the Suburban Ranch of Excessive Consumer Spending. Just give me the normal life with my children snuggling up to me watching The Crocodile Hunter or Barney and Thelma Lou sitting on the front porch swing with Sheriff Taylor singing, “I got a line and you got a pole, let’s go fishing in the crawdad hole, honey, oh yeah, babe.”

William Walsh is an award-winning southern narrative poet in the tradition of James Dickey, David Bottoms, and Fred Chappell, whose most recent collection of poems, Lost In the White Ruins, was published in fall 2014. He is also a novelist, having most recently placed as a finalist in the Pirate’s Alley William Faulkner Writing Competition for The Pig Rider; his writing has been featured in numerous noted publications, and his interviews have been published in over fifty journals, including Nobel Laureates and Pultizer Prize-winning authors. Walsh teaches in the MFA Program at Reinhardt University. For more on his numerous books and other works, visit his website at I ssue


Helen Losse

A Question of Promise

Rosy Apparition The river beside the path where I seek quietude is no longer golden as sun sets on the winding trail. Twigs snap under my feet. Each sound leads to the same conclusion: Summer is an honest season. Rain rivers; mud puddles form; then how pink wild roses grow— greens & blossoms playful, shadows pensive. Is that the Blessed Virgin standing in undulating silver at this leafy bend on the trail where I kneel? Deep reflections accentuate the river. Malleable mystery ripples the woman beside me in the liquid mirror. Shimmering droplets & tangled beauty shine from the opposite shore. Rays from the setting sun tread water.

Summer is over; daily we yearn for a peace that satisfies and smells like lavender. News dims autumn’s tangerine blaze to a season of bleakness. Campfires burn to a smolder. We await the mighty power that will rise from ashes though our actions deny any knowledge of a covenant arriving at fruition. Why mention rose perfume and a birth in a cave? Fire that exhumes can also consume; strong hurricane winds blow over unsuspecting waters. Anyone who isn’t weary must already be dead.

May Those Who Have Ears Understand Gray clouds always gather both rain and silver in their infamous linings, even if you kick a Pollyanna in her teeth. I’m not writing a conspiracy theory to make you believe what’s against your will. True cleanliness never climaxes in the confessional but in the sacramental grace that follows. I would die from too much humanity, including that of the priest, if God did not inhabit solitude.

Helen Losse is the author of six collections of poetry, including Every Tender Reed, published by Main Street Rag in May 2016. Her poems have been anthologized in Literary Trails of the North Carolina Piedmont, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VII: North Carolina.


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Americans came to this life underdressed We knew it was a formal party but showed up Unshaven and reeking of alcohol, Sticky with dried sweat under our dirty clothes Say what you want about that Because we’re going to set your house on fire While we drink and fight with you all II What is the meaning of daylight? I feel it on my body but can’t hold it in my hands I don’t need you to explain it to me III Day X in black and white I submit for your consideration. People amassed Clad blank in formality Cars hulked on lanes Smoke from somewhere Off in the distance IV I played the fiddle for my supper Let strange men be my masters for a tune Clapping hands, stomping feet, whiskey breath A crust of bread I’ve been here before But I won’t come back I lifted wallets when the night Had last call

Peter Ristuccia

V Shoot the hog in the head-we’ll eat him later. We raised pigs on this farm for generations. Generations Have been the cursed profession of swineherds, the unclean beasts that Christ cast evil spirits into by their legions and who then committed suicide by drowning in their multitudes. My farm is in a wide flat open space given to flooding in heavy rains and we lose family whenever there is plague. VI Between sleep the finals of autumn, demi-lights candle the purple shadows of dusk and reveries passage full of yesterday’s palaces, ardent season of pageants the songs give us bonfires and wine as the wild hart of the good chase holds light cruciform in antlers for visions of translation, royal adoration of meaning outside caves

e I ssue


Peter Ristuccia VII Drinking worm-wood it’s a poisonous star, you know while I am writing in the madhouse the world as it is in starry night and for my folly God has given me tutelary woe and slandered death a halo not mine floats above the river where anonymous saints became drowned martyrs and the sky full of rust, blood spilled across a subaltern heaven, drinking the wine of the dead as I’ve said, that’s hard-core, but you can tell what year it was, where the blood was grown and taste its earth, mud, stone and grinding continents. These are just my well-meant intentions. Dark in front and dark in back, unable to answer for what has been done or what is about to be done. The anarchy of baptismal names. This mark set a cross on my forehead warning others not to kill me unless they meet the black dog that follows at enough distance it seems a stray howling lamentations so full that there are no words only bays and echoes VIII My skin was flayed, laying bare the the solid fact that I have partaken of the serpent’s nature for there was another skin ready beneath the one that was before, glittering, its scales jewel-like, each one a reminder of all the other skins I’ve worn You couldn’t have known it was there until it was cut away. IX The left handshake not taken Palms the air A christmas without mass or family Intercession with the hangman’s daughter Bodies dangle beneath altar cloth clouds Above sodden fields of black mud and dead grass When the hymns for star and moonlight Chorus the stained glass of the world Lights colored by glazier’s hands


Peter Ristuccia And framed in iron First for churches, now for museums X I hired pleurants to mourn at your funeral No one was sad to see you go Least of all, myself You were a stranger to me But out of some sense of Biblical duty I made sure dirges wauled the day and the night For myself I had a bottle of wine when I was alone And considered that at last I am free of your company XI Hands laved in mountain water The tarn a mirror of the sky And so heaven itself gave me frigid ablutions Clad in tatters amid the oldest peaks of the world Worn by the wind’s hand to smooth shoulders That home birds and trees Later, in the company of bears, I ate wild honey XII My pages taste like metal Because I’ve bled on them They are warped, discolored and brittle As though dried in salt-water These words were what I had to say I had a knife in my hand and I wrote with it XIII Prospectus of the night, a detailed summation of drunkenness and prostitution. I have catalogued all my sins but to be honest they didn’t seem sinful after dark in the early morning under street lights undiscovered yet still accountable in the end to all who have never witnessed me as I laid down the tracks of my life it was all good for now when the times have wings and are shod in hooves of iron

XIV Pure as milk intentions described in my letters, the designs of my croquis: a rough rendering of common people, ragged rural women barefoot ill clad in tattered shifts as they gather potatoes, such humble designations are always honesta declaration of the human condition’s reality, its full realizations something made warm by desparate melancholy, how many days did our ancestry eke their meager living, scratching the means of life out out of raw clay, their hands ruddied by work. XV The ending myths, the stories that made you lose beliefyou couldn’t make that stuff up if you tried but stranger than fiction it came down to you and your devices those things like flags were just waving banners for collective vanity, any sort of design or imposition comes after you gave it all your best shot and what do you know here you are with the same things you started with. I had power and influence even though the language was largely absent. Words fail me here but (are you still with me?) breaking laws means that you’re the one who is going to have to make new ones, if you only knew that ahead of time you would have been the biggest stickler for the rules, a kiss-ass who does what he’s told, it safer that way because if you write the laws after you’ve broken them sooner or later someone is gonna kill you. Revolution is the consecration of man And a sacrifice the world to paradise My metropolis, my city repurposed for massive crowds, There are no tea-houses in this sprawl Rebuilt outward from the ashes all hands assigned a function, factory work, it’s easier that way with the workers owning power that lets you speak, lets you print, lets you gather and above all else lets you drink and carouse and commit petty infractions you can feel regret about later, feel regret when older. I was a bad kid, you tell your friends over beers, The movies are playing and then its back to work on the Moon.

I ssue


Peter Ristuccia XVI I don’t want my past to look at me, to see what I’m doing now hidden away in another land that feels differently safe tomorrow than it was then. My life couldn’t be what it was and by leaving it came close to something I could breathe. The houses of before I paid rent or lived there when too young but it can unroll to now where I am fully aware in the senses I lacked before: irony, the color red and long days that were too long. The art of loss is the work of gain, a crime committed for my own benefit, every action undertaken makes the butterfly flap its wings and sends arrows in all directions at once. I met the devil, he was an epicene youth. He didn’t care if I knew who he was and he didn’t try to barter for my soul. My pacts were made with other people like myself.


When I was a boy I found I had another name kept secret along my life just beneath skins when the times of migration change the color of furs the name not a tale told but become in the city around sword and fire dances and the swollen ochre moons of the whickering nights scented with raw milk made holy by scythe wielding women shadowed in molten silver beneath tabernacles of wild leafless trees that straddle the worlds the wing-loud wood, silent in winter where men meet the gods amid precincts of stars that never fail and wheels turning free the holds of the storms above the un-girdled earth whose dragon murmurs with liturgical tongue’s flicker.


The unleavened days of work operas written in those blue lit hours of love without parole, departing while firm in commitment, monogrammed seals whose signet are our footprints, I’ve lived long enough to watch the trees grow and hear the stones, your names the memories of ringing bells when we were young the peals announce our arrival from afar, ourselves to the cities.

Peter Ristuccia is an entrepreneur and author. He is the Founder and CEO of Firefly Telecommunications, LLC, an international technology start-up company. He is also a historian, novelist, poet and essayist whose work has been featured on National Public Radio. Before he started his own business, he attended the University of Georgia, where he earned a B/A in History. Through social media, he actively spreads awareness of art-history, a passion of his.


Daniel Crocker

The Devil When I was young I believed in the Devil deeply We believed in demons possession, that any stranger could be an angel We believed oil anointed on the forehead just right could crush cancer cells like June Bugs Those that died either lacked faith or couldn't fight God's will We stayed still in our beds at night as spider stalk legs crept down the hall as shadows crept down the hall we still believed in a divide between the light and the darkness always at odds We thought Jesus was coming soon The Devil spoke to us through rock and roll music if you knew how to run your turntable backwards just right

When I was a boy I prayed ever waking moment I prayed every waking moment When I was a boy I prayed every waking moment I was so afraid of sin I contemplate all this over yet another mood stabilizer Between mania and depression what choice do I have but to accept the light and darkness as one as if there is no difference between what we do and say or who we are and who we are.

Daniel Crocker's work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Hobart, Big Muddy, New World Writing, Stirring,

Juked, The Chiron Review, The Mas Tequila Review and over 100 others. His books include Like a Fish (full length) and The One Where I Ruin Your Childhood (e-chap with thousands of downloads) both from Sundress Publications. Green Bean Press published several of his books in the '90s and early 2000s. These include People Everyday and Other Poems, Long Live the 2 of Spades, the novel The Cornstalk Man and the short story collection Do Not Look Directly Into Me. He has also published several chapbooks through various presses. His newest full length collection of poetry, Shit House Rat, will be available from Spartan Press in September. He was the first winner of the Gerald Locklin Prize in poetry. He is the editor of The Cape Rock (Southeast Missouri State University) and the co-editor of Trailer Park Quarterly. He's also the host of the podcast, Sanesplaining, about poetry, mental illness and nerd stuff. I ssue


Mason Tyler Hill

The Rosey Heart Within a world of hectic disarray, people tend to come to a grimly false conclusion- that they are their only defendant. They believe no one is there to help them, to guide them along through the strangely beautiful story that makes up the human condition. However, most people neglect to believe that there are others out there who do care, because they don’t wish to be seen as weak in a world where pride is the primary concern. The painfully true part of the entire conundrum is that there are people in this world with tender, wholesome souls, too afraid to open their hearts like roses; simply because of the neglectful manner in which the primary population frowns upon it. The sadness lies within, not those who oppress the emotion- but the ‘emotees’- the rosey hearts and the quaking hands of the gentle souls which inspire the wish to love one-another. If one could simply depict the entire systematic persecution of the heart’s desires, they simply need look at the social structure of our malignant society. The stoney souls of the bereft, weak to no-thing, to no insult, not even to the heart-seeking arrows of goodwill; however, the steel shell of the heartless is melted by the most ever-present item in the arsenal of man- tears. Much like the acid eats the steel, so too do the uncensored emotions of an equally uncensored rosey-hearted soul melt even the most impenetrable carapace of the most seemingly soul-less creature. One thing that many must realize is that, in today’s ever-changing world, one thing remains the same. There is a metaphorical fault-line; a horrid divisionThose who bolt shut their carapaces of emotion, and those who blossom their rosey hearts.

nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn 28 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 9

Mason Tyler Hill

A Boy Named Aaron Today, I have written a story. Once, there was a boy name Aaron. He was born, did great things, and died happy. The end. That is the extent of creativity society embodies. Because people have come to suffer from extremely short attention spans, they can no longer put forth the effort to appreciate extensive stories, art and other forms of creativity. So, in that same regard, I have written another story. This one is a little more tantalizing. Aaron loved books. He read them every day. Rather it be the modernized struggles of Thomas from the Maze Runner series, or the more mystical following of Bilbo and his merry band of dwarves in accompaniment, as visualized by Tolkien's own The Hobbit, he seemed to always be found with the tip of his nose buried within a book. He was swallowed up within the fictional worlds these stories created. His own world was seemingly lackluster compared to these robust and colorful universes, so gloriously rendered to him by the ink of masterfully handled pens. In his hospital bed, there was little else to do. He couldn’t get up from it, for he was too weak. The treatments left his limbs as limp as wet spaghetti noodles. So, in lieu of letting his attention drift to the beige walls, he delved within fiction. The stories of magnificent Knights rescuing princesses, of brave soldiers marching unto the beaches of certain doom, only to prevail- even stories of tragedy, where the hero does not fully estimate his opposition and falls before them. His parents, who were always at his side, listened to Aaron rave on about the newest story. They smiled and laughed, even shedding tears at the novelizations- or so Aaron took it. He didn’t, he couldn’t seem to imagine exactly why they would cry. Who could cry when they had all these wonderful books, these magnificent dreams built by intellectuals and authors? As the weeks passed, Aaron began to feel himself getting weary. His arms began to sag with the weight of his hands, the heft of the books. His mind began to drift off more into sleep, as consciousness became harder to sustain. Eventually, it came to a point where he could not even hold his own head up. His vision grew weak, and he required glasses to read. His parents cried more often those days. Had they been reading his books? He took it that he was only getting more tired because he was reading the same books. He requested even more, and read just as much. His hospital room became a haven of books, his own library. He could ask for any number of books, whatever genre or title, and it would be within his hands in the next moment. While his parents seemed to be so distraught, he had joy. Even when his arms could no longer hold up his books, he still had happiness. And when his eyes finally closed and did not open, he was happy. He had come into his own world, where his body was strong, and he could adventure with the heroes he had read of in the books that were his only accompaniment. With that story, allow me to make a revision to the first story I read to you earlier. Once, there was a boy named Aaron. He was born, read great things and died happy. Is there a point to the story? Objectively, no. There is no real underlying message. There is only the interpretation which you come up with. I can say that, to me, it makes a point that not every person is destined to magnificent things. Needless to say, I find joy in what I do; what I write. And I know that you enjoy your art, as well. The question is, what will you do with it?

nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Mason Tyler Hill is a student currently attending Pickens High School, in the graduating Class of 2018. As a

novitiate writer, he hopes to further progress under the guidance of editors, writers and other artists. Born on February 21st, 2000, Mason has aspired to write stories ranging from simplistic one-page fictions to intricate interminglings. I ssue


Samantha Slupski

for him & the haters and when they call you a trash person what they really mean is that they wanted to be the flame to your already gasoline drenched dumpster life and instead of being the fire extinguisher that you needed they thought walking away from the flames would be better than finding what started the fire in the first place and when i think about all the ways i shatter i think of you like a window and how the shards of glass taste like your name in my mouth you wonder why the blood that runs out of me resembles you and the way your eye color resembled some stained glass window of what i used to call my sanctuary and when you combine the way i set myself on fire for you with how easily i shattered in the palms of your hands all we have left is a broken down church with floor boards that can no longer bare the weight of either of our pasts they just live inside some dumpster now that we have to go digging for in the dark of night because god forbid anyone ever saw us dancing with the pieces that one day resembled us as a whole they'd find ways to hold those shattered pieces throw them in the trash set them ablaze call it nothing but a fire hazard

Samantha Slupski is a 23-year old poet and mental health advocate based out of Kansas City, Mis-

souri. She first stepped on stage in December 2015 at Uptown Arts Bar and stage has been her home ever since. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Poetic Underground, Slam Master of Kansas City Poetry Slam, a board member for Fountainverse, the Kansas City Small Press Poetry Fest, an ARTS KC grant recipient, and was voted the 2nd best spoken word artist in The Pitch's Best of 2017.


Kerry Trautman

Mankind College applications have been sent for this boy, a head higher than me— I refuse to say man when he was once the length of my ulna, skull barely a palmful. If he lived nearer Lake Erie he might climb shore boulders each morning. When sunrise is particularly pomegranate-stained, there is a gulp of hope. More often day seeps forward muddily and I doubt mankind as its whole. This boy—I refuse to say man when his tear ducts were born closed filaments my pinkie-tip massaged to clear the way for tears. He will leave home never having taken a car for an oil change. Most sunrises are throats willing to choke mankind down, and most deserve it, and most wouldn’t know how to fight their way out.

If he lived in the desert he might sleep midday away avoiding heat. Mankind might be better off if half of its bodies slept half their lives away alone. This boy will leave—I refuse to say man when his penis was once a jelly bean, both feet could have curled inside a plastic Easter egg. Will leave home never having chopped firewood, or scrambled eggs. Dawn chastises my disappointing mankind, my filling-out a lifetime of forms, useless checkboxes, sad data, waiting news of who will haul a hunk of me away. If he lived by the ocean he might never escape my salt.

Kerry Trautman is a founder/admin for and the “Toledo Poetry Museum” Facebook page. She is a poetry editor for "Red Fez," and she participates in events such as Artomatic 419, Back to Jack, and the Columbus Arts Festival. Her work has appeared in dozens of anthologies and journals, including "Midwestern Gothic," "Alimentum," "The Coe Review," "Five2One," "Naugatuck River Review," and "Third Wednesday." Kerry was a finalist for the "Slippery Elm" poetry prize in 2015, 2016 & 2017. In 2015, one of Kerry’s unpublished collections, "Leaning into it," was a finalist for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies Stevens Award, and was a semifinalist for the Crab Orchard Series 1st Book Award. Her second poetry chapbook, "To Have Hoped," is available now at . Her third chapbook "Artifacts," is forthcoming from NightBallet Press in 2017. I ssue


Justin Karcher, Scott Wozniak

The Death of Steve Bannon1 On a good night, all the world’s a stage Where sexy grandmas dig through bottomless purses Looking for special lipstick That will turn back the hands of time So their kisses can burn with youth again All I gotta say is, watch out boys On a bad night, there’s too much reality And we’re living in cities full of clay pigeons And demolished theaters where neo-Nazis Prance through the rubble and dead grass Looking for leftover love letters to burn All I gotta say is, watch out boys The very best of us move through life With winks and nods and well-timed punchlines And that’s enough…most of the time But some nights, we want to be chorus girls Singing our hearts out on a champagne submarine As an ocean of doll parts swirls all around us All I gotta say is, watch out boys

Drinking Draft Beer Out Dirty Lines2 In front of the bar a gun fired three rounds. Inside, no one flinched. Everyone went on raising glass to mouth, never bothering to look around. For these folks it’s been a slow run to the grave, a stray bullet would be a welcome bit of luck. And they all know, too damn well, that luck never shows its face in this place.

Justin Karcher is a poet and playwright born and raised in Buffalo, New York. He is the author of Tailgating at the


Gates of Hell (Ghost City Press, 2015), the chapbook When Severed Ears Sing You Songs (CWP Collective Press, 2017), and the micro-chapbook Just Because You've Been Hospitalized for Depression Doesn't Mean You're Kanye West (Ghost City Press, 2017). He is the editor of Ghost City Review.

Scott Wozniak is a poet/chaos enthusiast living in So. Oregon. His works are widely published, both online and in


print. His latest poetry collection, Crumbling Utopian Pipedream, is available from Moran Press. He has a full tank of gas and a half pack of cigarettes.


Matthew Borczon

The Small Good Thing in boot camp I looked daily for the small good thing the bright sun rise the singing birds the hot wind on a cold day I still search the horizon for friendly smiles or red hair among the nightmares and flashbacks I hope to hear the birds in with the screaming ghosts

Tonight The Rain

and ruined evenings so I look for new medication strong drink a letter from friends I served with anything no matter how small to hold like a life raft or wishbone or rabbits foot as I run the hallways of that hospital in Afghanistan over and over again in my dreams.

It's too hot for October and I am not sleeping again instead just sitting in the dark on my porch thinking tonight the rain is a benediction tonight the rain is a lonely jukebox tonight the rain is a sleeping dog a fresh smoke a cheap beer tonight the rain is a friend in need tonight the rain is a lovers kiss it's the next high and the opening chord to an old blues song tonight the rain is a wall of silence an only friend a long walk off a short pier tonight the rain is the eye of the needle it's the horse that pulls the weight of the straw that breaks the camel's back tonight the rain is the road not taken a poem by Ann Sexton the music of Chopin its sympathy for the devil and proof of God at the end of a week where the world caught fire and we were all standing too close to the flames.

Matthew Borczon is a nurse and Navy sailor writing in Erie, Pa he has published five books of poetry so far the most recent being Capp Road through Nixes mate press.

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Kay Duganator

Plastic Moonlight Moonlight glimmers on an empty plastic coffee cup That rolls on its side as cars pass by Going ninety in a seventy-five. The whoosh of a car passing too close sends It spinning off into the ditch. It clatters and then is lost in dark silence. The car that knocked it off the road Keeps on speeding Never knowing that it just upset The karma of the cup. The car is speeding in the darkness and it hits me. I am the bug that is splayed in the upper right hand corner Of the windshield. I am pinned by the speed of the car And I can feel my guts slowly leaking out. My life force is draining, but I am not yet gone.

Before I can contemplate this thought anymore It begins to rain. You turn your wipers on and I feel myself Go airborne once more, But it is not the glorious flight Of my own wings but the temporary Relief before the end. The night comes to a close, The moon fades away As the sun begins to rise Somewhere a plastic coffee cup sits on its side.

I watch as you careen around corners Tears streaking your face. As you follow the car in front of you. Papers are strewn on your passenger seat They look official But I am just a bug, so I can’t read. You seem to be talking to yourself But I don’t know about what. We continue on through the night then suddenly I find myself sliding As you screech to a halt. You turn the car off, the lights go dim. You sit and watch as the man In the car you were following goes inside. You continue to cry. For a moment it seems as if You will gather yourself up And follow him to his door. But something seems to stop you.

Kay Duganator is a Kansas native who was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas. After a brief tour of the Flint Hills

during her time at Emporia State University she returned home. Even though she has a day job that is only from 9-5. After that she is free to pursue her artistry. Which includes both poetry and fiction. A few of her works can be found in Quivira, The Bestof ESU and The Tin Lunchbox Review. She can also be found attending open mics and other spoken word events. Kay intends to spread art wherever she goes, both with the written word and visual.


This town is a black hole

This town cannot stop swallowing people in its orbit. It takes them in its mouth and spits them in front of trains, leads them to garages with running cars and a deep, deep sleep. It pushes the fragile to the steep cliffs of Alpine, gives a hard shove over the edge. The husks of the broken are scattered across the well kept lawns of cemeteries—all left as dates on stone, as fragments of the helpless.


driven through only to reach a destination with a decent pizza joint, and a gas station with a convenience store. It is all peeling paint and broken shutters on cracked cement. It is the short wave while sprinting to anywhere else. It is the sad, steady flashing red light on a cellphone tower. My body is the small pools of street water that tadpoles avoid. It is the sound of wind through branches, the echo of a popped balloon on an abandoned highway. It is removed from all maps, a footnote in a book with a broken spine.


My body is a ghost town

Kendall A Bell

Kendall A. Bell's poetry has been most recently published in Philosophical Idiot and Edison Literary Review. He was

nominated for Sundress Publications' Best of the Net collection in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015. He is the author of twenty one chapbooks. His current chapbook is "We Are All Ghosts". He is the founder and co-editor of the online journal Chantarelle's Notebook, publisher/editor of Maverick Duck Press and a music and book reviewer with Five2One Magazine. His chapbooks are available through Maverick Duck Press. He lives in Southern New Jersey. I ssue


Richard L Gegick

Girls in Pittsburgh (Shelly) I think about them often, these girls in the lobby of the skyscraper I work, the one’s who appear in dive bar mirrors. Like Shelly, who wore pastel scrubs and chain smoked my cigarettes. She kept talking about her friend who went missing a few months ago. I remember seeing his face on posters tacked on telephone poles around town, in coffee shop windows asking people to call if they had any information. Nobody had any information. His body was found in the Ohio downriver a ways, no foul play suspected. Poor kid probably got drunk one night and fell in somewhere on the river walk. I remember telling an ex one night that the universe is indifferent, there’s no good energy or power we can tap into. We’re born. Bad stuff happens. All of it random, roll of the dice probability. She wept when I said it, and I still feel bad, but the truth is just the truth. Some 23 year-old kid gets drunk and dies, how could the universe be anything but? Shelly kept saying, “I’m sorry, it’s over.” Nothing is over for someone lighting fresh smokes off already lit ones, so I bought her a beer even though she had to go, said she had a load of laundry in her car that’d been there a day, still wet. She had to go to this guy’s house she knew who had his own machines, said the sex was average at best, but whatever was worth it for clean and dry socks and underwear. I agreed. Those are the best things in the world. It was then I told her I had a dryer in my apartment if she wanted to use it that night instead. She laughed.


Richard L Gegick

CHEWED FINGERNAILS If I am impoverished, let me then remain in poverty whistling sad tunes under train trestles with empty pockets. If I am soulless, do not bless my forehead with your fingers, let my body remain without stir of longing or desire. If I am alone, do not let my name slip from your lips or rest on the tip of your wine stained tongue like gossip. If I am silent, do not engage me in your conversation, more than likely I am tuned in on those trains, the ones I can hear even with no tracks nearby carrying a load of coal, can pick them up like a Mets broadcast on a clear night, their sound coming to me in coffee shops, the restaurants, the bars where the jukebox blows all the hits, the misses of the previous five decades, where the hearts of the old men barely pump, sounding so close I could lay a penny down for the steel wheels to stretch like a nugget of taffy, so close I could hop a boxcar in a Kerouac wet dream where cowardice transforms into bravery, where fate and responsibility are fingernails chewed off and spit to the floor in anxious moments.

Richard L. Gegick is from Trafford, PA. His poems and stories have previously appeared in Burrow Press Review, Jenny Magazine, Fried Chicken & Coffee among others. He lives in Pittsburgh where he writes and waits tables.

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Theresa Lynn Ast

Late at Night sigh rest nightfall time slows down peaceful solitude soft gentle sounds slip through windows sky swarming with silver stars nestled in black satin illuminating distant worlds where they wait and watch breathe night air ponder pause sigh

With Children sun wind tall grass sweet children measured day-dreaming never-ending stream of questions. why doesn’t the sun turn to ash? why is the sky blue? why doesn’t? why does snow melt?

Theresa Lynn Ast grew up on military bases and spent twenty years teaching European History, at Reinhardt Uni-

versity, North Georgia. She began writing poetry five years ago after her father and younger sister died. Her poetry is influenced by her mother’s love of language and literature, her father’s love of history and geography, the sculpture, paintings, and poetry of her Polish immigrant family, and the years she spent in Greece, twenty minutes walk from the Mediterranean. For the past two years she has studied with the poet William Wright (editor, Southern Poetry Anthology, Shenandoah, Town Creek Poetry, and Hard Lines).


Chapman Hood Frazier

Following Whales Each night I paddle the river upstream following this barnacled body rising from the muddy waters in its leaving of the sea. I pass the marshy shallows of crocodile on mudflats among sea grass and fallen logs, ease through the dark lagoon of hippo, flicking their single, sunburned ear above the water line, and once ashore, find in this new time a skull like a grey hubcap on the bank of the Potomac above Stratford, where George Washington was rumored to have swum as a young man to cool himself in summer’s low-slung humidity. Perhaps, I was beached here by my need to find a new way through this spit of strange and risen shore. Though now each sea creature’s bone illuminates a mythology of its life, bound in this hard, red washed clay from what’s been left behind, this is the dross of what life has become the bones in sand of an almost hand transformed from its millennium at sea, the way all love is but the body’s chance of climbing to shore.

Chapman Hood Frazier, is Professor in Residence at James Madison University and was poetry editor for the Dos

Passos Review, and guest editor for The Hampden Sydney Poetry Review, has published poetry and prose in a variety of publications including: The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Writer’s Chronicle, Shenandoah Literary Magazine, College English, The English Journal, Antietam Review, The Cincinnati Poetry Review, The South Florida Poetry Review, Eclipse, The South Carolina Review and The Patterson Literary Review and has won several awards for both his poetry and prose. He is currently working on a collection of interviews with contemporary poets from the United States and Northern Ireland, titled “First Word, Last Word: Conversations with Contemporary Poets some of these have appeared in The Writer’s Chronicle. He lives in Rice, VA with his wife, Deborah Carrington, and they are currently initiating a progressive, holistic educational pre-school in Southside Virginia called The Sunrise Learning Center. I ssue


Paul Koniecki

compass mouth the last billboard reads forever is a whale traveling is an act of rebellion the top of the rocket is lonely and small intention is a memory somewhere we all hide your hand in my hand is an act of rebellion lonely and small we are leaving the planet earth the marble's shell peels away like a brume transfusion butterflies our hearts beneath the surface of a robin's egg they redact all the letters of conscription instant messengers reserve passage on the final comet out of town bernoulli's recipe is math stew of numbers corpuscle of logic our trajectory is a previous katherine johnson navigation the ghosts of carrier pigeons dance in the space between the lines the air is alive and shakes like a snowflake on a tongue supernovas melt as falling streamers buffeting the proscenium of us your pupils authenticate direction


Paul Koniecki

we race to meet the beginning of the end g-force stands in for deities and the confusion of momentum the force of attraction bifurcates the aegis and wishes you could fly tears are the window to the soul salt is pieces of god we will never feel that level of re entry pressure you are salt strangers have unsolved miracles this is as close as we come to equation on a friday whoever gets there first wins a kiss nothing holds galaxies the milky way blushes shell-less turtles cannot be unshelled by jealousy or hope this poem needs an end i name our rocket-ship after you i spellcheck daydream i cross reference the definition of reverie i wish i still wrote in tagalog or click each time i decompress the airlock you look deeper in to love trust cannot be mandated by law your secret name is a perfect egg

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Paul Koniecki

i say it in the last pod on the left shells again breaking it's not much of a sentence helicoid helicoid catenoid we move faster in a spiral in the ecstasy of obliteration no one can measure the modality of us now we are a somewhat elongated two-valved seed-vessel you whisper the definition of pod in my ear you tattoo a promissory note on my chest outside the rings of saturn the rings of saturn sing heaven is a new homemade old as jetsam flies off and we keep trying to escape one day we'll go walking in parks between trees hives of bees flowers running water to cool oxygen and moonlight to warm sun each planet is a flower flying away underneath we all hide the same


Paul Koniecki

white cross and wreath she touches books and knows where they have been

artist's implements her holy grail is the lost poet's

pencils brushes bottles of ink paint tubes anodyne preamble

tarot deck of america each time i leave her

white cross and wreath the long drive north will do

is a resurrection my soul is aging in reverse

for me what a daily commute could never absence

i am glad we take my friend's car my

makes the heart grow more desperate my lover is

love waves goodbye in the doorway sparks fly

a witch she knows the stories hidden in an

bruja's wail i pray for hard tires and soft rain

Paul Koniecki hosts Pandora’s Box Poetry Showcase at Deep Vellum Books in Dallas, Texas. Paul’s latest book, “After

Working Hours” is being released in July of 2017 from NightBallet Press. His chapbook, Reject Convention, was published by Kleft Jaw Press and his poems have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies since 1985. Richard Bailey’s film, “One Of The Rough”contains several of Paul’s poems and was shown at The Berlin Experimental Film Festival in December of 2016. He once featured at the Fermoy International Poetry Festival in Fermoy, Ireland and the Kansas City Poetry Throwdown in Kansas City, Missouri. He was chosen for the Ashbery Home School Residency in Hudson, New York. He and Reverie Evolving currently facilitate a Stone Soup Poetry workshop for The Writer’s Garrett of Dallas. Paul likes fig newtons. I ssue


Matthew Hupert

ever been given a gift you don’t want? my grandparents weren’t white enough for america. It took the ovens and the hunger of father & mother it took political necessity to make my people white. -ish. We had to be white enough to elicit sympathy and sacrifice and donations for war whiteness was handed to us like a prize with a smile expected to mollify modify sand off the jigsaw nubs that makes us unique re gifted – not long before the Italians and Irish and Poles were gifted– But somehow that was different – they wanted it – wanted belonging A woman I knew once called me a gringo But I told her the gringos que habían cagado en sus muertos that shit on her dead looked at killing us as venerable traditional revered I didn’t ask for this gift & while I know it’s bad manners I decline to accept The only good thing is now I can pass through the 1st purge at least

Matthew Hupert is a guerilla ontologist, and would be a hedonist if it wasn’t so much work. His poetry has appeared

in several salmagundi of sounds and words. Ism Is a Retrovirus, his first full-length collection, was published by Three Rooms Press in 2011. In addition, Neuronautic Press has released his chapbooks, including clouds gradually undrape the moon in 2012. Matthew is a founder of the long running Neurounautic Institute Poetry workshop at the Auction House in New York City.




Jason Baldinger

A Sermon to the Fluidity of Motion cleaning shelves, moving records the accumulations of life, your wife still hasn’t bought an urn, the box of your ashes, above your collection in front of the cell of cover art from your third lp, it once hung in the store you curated for over thirty years I’ve never lifted someone’s ashes before much like cemeteries it doesn’t register that this was once a person, it registers how heavy a person is once they’re gone I didn’t expect weight or heft, I didn’t know exactly what to expect here I am with Mike, rearranging a collection ten thousand lp’s, the accumulation of one’s life thinking how she said that if it wasn’t for her and the girls this collection would have increased exponentially this is the meaning of restraint with you gone, my own accumulations take weight I’ve been parting with more and more as if things no longer mean something or anything. It seems strange as I gut deeper into my forties, just how much life changes, how I start to feel my body it is no longer a sermon to the fluidity of motion I’m stacking box sets in your office looking around at cd’s, dvds and art the accumulations of life unknowable, unbearable become more than I can handle in a moment

Jason Baldinger has spent a life in odd jobs, if only poetry was the strangest of them he’d have far less to talk about.

He’s traveled the country and written a few books, the latest of which are The Lower 48 (Six Gallery Press) and The Studs Terkel Blues (Night Ballet Press). A short litany of publishing credits include Blast Furnace, The Glassblock, Lilliput Review, Green Panda Press, Pittsburgh Poetry Review and Fuck Art, Let’s Dance. You can hear audio versions of some poems on Bandcamp, just type in his name. I ssue


Nathanael William Stolte

Sleep Paralysis I awoke and everything was honey I awoke in honey, went to the bathroom and Awoke in honey, went to the bathroom, descended the stairs, and Awoke in honey, bathroom, stairs, ran water for coffee, ground beans and Awoke, honey, bathroom, downstairs, ground beans, went outside to smoke in the dawn, and Awoke, honey, pissed, descended, made coffee, went outside to smoke in the burgeoning morning, got a cup of fresh coffee and Woke up, honey, pissed, descended, brewed, smoked, cup, went back upstairs, and Woke up, honey, piss, descend, coffee, smoke, cup, back upstairs, began dressing for the day, and Awoke, honey, piss, descend, coffee, smoke, cup, ascend, dressing for the day, went to the bathroom again and I woke up and the darkness was on me, pinning me down, its formless weight on my chest making breath a struggle and— I awoke tired and wary That was months ago, I spend every moment in fear that I will awaken

Nathanael William Stolte is the author of four chapbooks, A Beggars Book of Poems, Bumblebee Petting Zoo, Fools’ Song & Unformed Creature. His poems have appeared in Ghost City Review, Guide to Kulture Creative Journal, Five-to-One Magazine #thesideshow, Rusty Truck Zine, Poems-For-All, The Buffalo News & Plurality Press. He is the Acquisitions Editor for CWPCollective Press. He was voted best poet in Buffalo by Artvoices’ “Best of Buffalo” in 2016. He is a madcap, punk-rock, D.I.Y. Buffalo bred & corn-fed poet


Miriam Kramer

To All the Moths I Resented for Not Being Butterflies As a child, I captured caterpillars from trees to raise butterflies to pollinate a garden I never had. Each cocoon kick starting a fluttering in a hollow space behind my sternum, envisioning cerulean and crimson wings. You never came out brightly colored. You materialized, unfolded like dry dirt. Post metamorphosis I gathered every pale, abandoned chrysalis and threw them in the garbage. With each one discarded my chest grew cavernous while you went off to dive bomb porch lamps. There are no definitive reasons to explain yourself destructive attraction to light. One theory suggests an escape mechanism. When in danger, you assume the light is in the sky and fly toward it thinking it safer than the ground. Now, when I watch this from my steps the beating is muffled and colorless in my carved out chest. Rustling up dust I exhale as smoke, I whisper apologies to the still wind. I cannot stand to look myself in the mirror with day old mascara dried beneath my eyes like flecks of soil. Dark circles growing in rings.

Miriam Kramer studied Creative Writing at Pacific University, and works at a local bookstore. She lives in Bound Brook, NJ, with her faucet obsessed cat, Ernie. She is overly sentimental, and has been known to rescue items from other people's’ garbage.

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Benjamin Brindise, William S Tribell

resurgence1 come up rise, like a city always up, but never quite there yet Share in the

loganberry wit the silly puns off names and places we still see only as a punchline

Something Wicked This Way Comes1 when its cloud finally arrives to rain I will edit this poem, roll it taught slide it into a bullet casing watch the end flare up, the ink mix with gunpowder, the words fold under the falling hammer, it will ignite into a firework, just like a poem is meant to be it will end up spray painted on police blockades, riot masks the lineation will create a face we could never really hold long enough to be taken seriously, an idea that can not be stricken down or legislated away, the sentiment that we are larger the way we die

Beyond a Star I'd go Sailing2 She likes to paint when she gets a little sad Ships tossed in a tempestuous pressing sea Somehow her steady patience calls to me A slow sadness yeah, but strong and honest When she is happy I can take it - some of it She gives it to me willingly, and she knows The difference shows - strong and honest Somehow gifted, a subtle unspoken promise Behind eyes that are really looking at me Now I am learning to paint her sad ships Mine are lost though, on a languid open sea Dark, haunting waters - adrift, and listing But star lit, perhaps even slightly embolden Hope of shore, to sea no more - given to me

Benjamin Brindise is the author of Rotten Kid (Ghost City Press, 2017), a debut chapbook featured in the 25th Annual Poets House Showcase. He is also a Teaching Artist at the Just Buffalo Literary Center specializing in spoken word poetry and fiction. He was a member of the 2015 and 2016 Buffalo National Poetry Slam teams, helping Buffalo to place in the top 20 in the country for the first time. He has most recently been accepted for publication in Trailer Park Quarterly, Your One Phone Call, The Magnitizdat Literary, Peach Mag, Foundlings, and Ghost City Review. 1

William S. Tribell was born in Kentucky. A perpetual tourist, Tribell has lived all over the country and the world. A long time resident of New Orleans Louisiana, after Hurricane Katrina he spent five years in central Europe. In 2008 Tribell served as state campaign director of Louisiana for Senator Mike Gravel in the 2008 presidential election. He is a multimedia artist. His interests are varied; he is a photographer and journalist, receiving a Lighthouse Media Award in 2015. A member of the Southern Collective Experience, Tribell received a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2016 for poetry and a nomination for 2018 Kentucky Poet Laureate, his work appears in journals and magazines around the world, including Mensa's Calliope, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel 16 "Apocalachia: Apocalypse in Appalachia", and Spudgun #1. Many of his poems have been recorded spoken word and with instrumentation by Radio Hall of Fame inductee Gary Burbank, actor John Blyth Barrymore, Red State Update's Travis Harmon and many others. 2


AA Thorton

Deserted I hope you’re happy in an empty bed and a room where silence echoesI can still hear our laughter most nights as I fall asleep miles away. It is deafening, shrapnela wound refusing to heal. Each turn is a dead end, each turn has no answersI am left holding dust and sand.

No Soliciting You traded your crown for thorns the night you decided to stop speaking in tongues and started delivering truthsit’s no surprise you’ve become quite the salesman. You know what to pitch and how to package, just like I know how to take out the trash.

AA Thornton lives in Small Town, Kansas where she dreams of big city life. AA spends much of her time knitting, writing, silversmithing, and exploring the vast Kansas prairies. She is currently working on her second book.

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Jeanette Powers, John Dorsey

Toby and the Switch1 She handed me the green length of branch off the peach tree with a command: If that horse even looks to the pasture you gonna wallop him good and hold his head hard to the road. As the light of my life, the last thing I wanted to ever do was beat this beautiful appaloosa. But, while neither me or the horse may have been born obedient, the switch is sure to do the trick for the both of us.

This Street Feels like Redemption2 for ray swaney

the morning comes to you like a lover offering no apologies for its scars the wind is strange fruit here

What they Say About Sleeping Dogs1 There are two dogs sleeping on the porch. One is dreaming: legs twitching running little pleading yips. This wakes the other up and he watches: concerned ears pitched forward head tilted in confusion.

the sun beating down is a crucifixion not unlike the end of the world just a few blocks away huddled in the rain.

Both think they are awake.

Jeanette Powers is an anarchist performance artist who uses poetry and art to question habitual behavior and to dismantle internalized obedience. She heads the generative, Kansas City based, performing arts venue, Uptown Arts Bar, and is acquisitions editor for EMP Books. She’s published a bunch of books of poetry, including the newest: “Gasconade” by NightBallet Press in April 2018. She is an alumni of Osage Arts Community and serves on the board for Fountainverse, an annual small press poetry fest in Kansas City, Missouri. She can most often be found near a river with her hound dog, Olly Mas 1

John Dorsey is the author of several collections of poetry, including Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle


Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory (Epic Rites Press, 2013) and most recently, Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015). His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize


Beth Gordon

At the Wood Shop for Cathy

My grandfather let us hunt squirrels and rabbits, collect mushrooms after thick rain, but never cut down trees. One year after we sold the land, they brought in a logger. A field of stumps greeted me when I turned the final corner. I knew I would never lay eyes on this patch of earth again. My boyfriend has a library card and promises me mimeographed blueprints of the town before our family owned a single inch of grass. I search for my grandfather’s fingerprints in between purchased county lines. The locals swear it’s haunted up there and I can’t disagree.

Beth Gordon received her MFA in Creative Writing from American University more than 25 years ago, yet she can best

be described as an emerging writer. She is the proud mother of three creative human beings, Matt, Alex and Elise, who fill her world with art and music. Beth resides in St. Louis, Missouri and spends most weekends in Highland, Illinois in the company of fellow writers, musicians, wine drinkers, and two dogs named Izzie and Max.

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Joan Koromante

Beatitudes for these times 1

And in these days They think it sacred this clouded peace oblivious in the absence of war They celebrate their magic push button Armageddon reward the counterfeit smile You awake in their determined night suspended from the magic wand like yesterday's blind circle like the good thing like the clean thing as you turn the second cheek again voiceless they did use you, child and darkness was in their benign look They think it sacred this clouded peace Blessed are the peacemakers who know which magic to sacrifice first


In this liquid eternity the color of breeze we hand pick our gods then devour our young secretly because all the people are small all the gods have names self-replicas in which to pour the Infinite Blessed are the meek naked bones & breath remove this bitter cup angels drank once

Joan Koromante lives in Topeka, KS where she works as a social worker. She has been a featured poet for the monthly

Speakeasy Open Mic in Topeka and at readings at the Raven Book Store in Lawrence. She has appeared as an open mic participant at Prospero’s Books in Kansas City and has been a featured poet at the annual Kansas City Poetry Throwdown since its inception. Joan is the author of two chapbooks “This Must Be Jazz” and “Musings in Feminine Blue.” Her poetry collection “Murmurs from Beneath the Merry-Go-Round,” was just released by Spartan Press, book #34 in the Prospero’s POP POETRY Series. Currently, she is working on a manuscript for Asinimali Publications to be released in December 2017.



Joseph Quiroz, Michael Griffith

The Journey1 I threw a poem out the window. I wanted it to sprout some wings and go one thousand miles. The only destination it reached was the ground. I stared and I hollered but it went nowhere. There was no wind. So the illusion of the poem going away with a force was not to be. And since I had no wind summoning powers, nothing could be done. Maybe the sun could melt the poem with powerful rays but that was unlikely and just some crazy idea I randomly thought of. The poem was stuck on the ground. Maybe one day it will get smart and fly. I couldn’t watch it anymore. The Internet needed me.

Junkyard2 Let me tell you about the junkyardsgiant fields of Fords and Flats, broken old things, things once were, things still is. Refrigerators, flat tires, bad ankle struts, cracked headlights, washer machines rats and dogs and broken people there, there I go, there I belong, there I is. Shocks rotted off the Cadillacs just like those driven by presidents. Rust, dead chemical smells, live buzzing noises, a movement where none should be but is. Junkyard man, junkyard dog. I can bark and bite with the best of them, the dirtiest of them, nasty like them. Excuse the limp and the blind stare that I is.

Joseph Quiroz is a 28 year old male from North Arlington, NJ who has been performing at poetry slams and open


mics all throughout New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania since Dec of 2013. He represented Rock Slam out of Nyack, NY at the National Poetry Slam in 2016.

Michael Griffith began writing poetry to help his mind and spirit become healthy as his body recovered from a


life-changing injury. His works have recently appeared both online and in print in The Good Men Project, the Starving Poets Tour anthology book, Stanzic Stylings, Degenerate Literature, NY Literary Magazine, and Wild Words. He teaches and resides near Princeton, NJ. I ssue


David R Altman

Turning Away from Sarah McLachlan “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.” --Edmund Burke

Backs turned against the stage, glasses lifted high, passing the blackened salmon on fine china, opening their monogrammed silk napkins, jammed into the center ring, paying no attention to what unfolded behind them, casually inattentive, like an unhurried cancer nurse whose patient would not know the difference. On they drank, mouths moving, lips snarling, crowing into the night, a dark murmur against a bright voice, their backs still turned against the stage, the performer sang on, unimpeded by the cacophonous guests, whose glass fruit cups and Cakebread Cabernet were emptied into their Lonely Hearts, who casually listened as though they were on their north Fulton decks listening to their iTunes instead of to this live angel just 50 feet away. On she sang, against the clanging of chairs, the grinning rich, the corn salad crowd, who were not going to be denied their dinner table conversation, even in the midst of this most virtuous voice of many octaves, melodious, soothing, defying the storm clouds, sweeping away from the disorderly with her songs and her sweaty blouse and tight jeans, reduced now to a piano bar singer.

Candles lined the inner circle, like tables in a bull ring without the bull, but with plenty of red tablecloths and strident groups of six, some family, some friends, all undeterred, uninterrupted, unaware of their surroundings, dispassionately musing just loudly enough for two rows up to hear about their little day and their important lives and the disappointing saltiness of their catered chicken salad. A final bow against the clicks of wine glasses and coiffed, middle aged men in nipple-soaked golf shirts, the performer thanked the crowd, but thought how nice it might have been to sing I Will Remember You to a venue where thousands might come to hear only the music, though knowing all the while that this place was special, and that the inner circle of silverware and candelabras and retirees were the night’s only true center stage, she waved goodbye and walked briskly away.

David R. Altman, an Ohio native who resides in Lawrenceville, Georgia, was nominated for Georgia Author of the Year for his 2014 chapbook, Death in the Foyer (Finishing Line Press). His poem "Picking Up My Crying Father at the Airport" was published in the July edition of the Journal of American Poetry. Altman is the Books & Writers Editor of the Pickens County Progress in Jasper, Ga. He is completing work on a second chapbook and also a personal memoir connecting two distinctly different parts of his life that he says his wife “…is encouraging me to finish but not to publish.” Altman says that he has been blessed with a wonderful spouse, three beautiful daughters and five grandchildren that keep him centered—and who keep him writing.


Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Darren C Demaree

Smitten Kittens1 Too many confuse being political with individualism. One is media and the other masturbation and most times even the experts can’t tell which is which.

EMILY AS WE NAME THE SEAS CAREFULLY2 The fish know which water they swim in. There are good reasons I use her name in all these poems. It’s the only name I can remember anymore. I know we have children. I call them my loves. I am drenched in her all of the time & I am asked to explain that wet drag of me through many places. I say her name as a reason & an excuse for why I don’t visit the ocean. The fish know. I rely too much on them as a metaphor for my unwillingness to care about other names.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many


bears that rifle through his garbage. His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The Blue Mountain Review, The New York Quarterly, Walking Is Still Honest, In Between Hangovers, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.

Darren C. Demaree is living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children. He is the author of six poetry collections. He is the winner of the Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press and the Nancy Dew Taylor Award from Emrys Journal. He is the recipient of ten Pushcart Prize nominations. Currently, he is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry. 2

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James H Duncan

StoryHarvest: Write for Yourself, Write for Us All Watching a twelve-year-old child working a typewriter is a special kind of magic in our modern era all on its own, but when he finishes and says he wrote about his feelings on police brutality and runs off to give it to a friend, that’s not magic, that a game changer. In September 2017, I was invited by the artists, educators, and environmentalists at The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY, to come to their StoryHarvest event, a community gathering where artists of all walks could get together and share the story of how food goes from farm to table (the denotative theme of the event) and talk about how art can create change and grow bonds in local communities (the connotative). The latter is where my own role came in, as well as that of poet Kenyatta JP Garcia, who agreed to join me that afternoon. We set up typewriters alongside one owned by event organizer and typewriting poet Meghan Marohn, known locally for her Troy Poem Project events at flea markets and libraries. It was a hot one, sun glaring down and crowds gathering around, the smell of cooking veggies and the warm aroma of pizza with locally grown produce as toppings wafting our way. We stood around, waiting, writing a few quick poems for ourselves. It started slow. Discreet but determined, JP and I shared a few beers in what little shade we could find as most people paused momentarily to glimpse at the typewriters and politely nod before moving away to other tables and booths. But slowly, one or two at a time, then in eager groups, children and teens began asking to use the machines, and once behind the keyboard, they always asked, “What do I write about?” If ever the creative soul had a question, it would be that—what do I write? Paint? Sing? Sculpt? Design? It’s a different kind of answer for everyone, of course, but we aimed for simpler territory, not knowing that simple and personal is actually the greatest and most valuable realm one can explore, for if done right and with enough heart and drive and awareness, writing about the personal is the most universal thing we can do. The teens wrote about home, wrote about the event pinwheeling around them, and then about the police, about why food costs so much, about pollution and the river, about race and friendship and love and even their own names and what it means to them.


James H Duncan

First-time poets can explore the depths of the human experience as well and with as much wonder as Pulitzer and Nobel winners any day of the week, if given the right push and materials. And it isn’t a matter of comparing quality, it’s a matter of doing. If you’re doing, you’re doing, and that’s all. A boxer boxes. A poet writes poems. A farmer grows a pepper or an apple. One young boy that day said he might try to be a writer one day, but he already was a writer. He sat and created, and it’s as simple as that. He was one and would forever be one, if he wanted that.

“...writing about the personal is the most universal thing we can do.” It reminded me that in my most complicated and overwhelmed moments of running a small lit magazine and working on novels and guest editing and submitting poems and running around to readings and release parties, that all of this is an over-complication of a very simple act—we sit down, and we put a little bit of ourselves into a new existence. It doesn’t have to be award-winning work. It doesn’t even have to be published. It just has to be. It has to have been created, by me, by you, by someone who put thought to paper or idea to screen. In our own harvest, we reap what we sow, and if he don’t sow, we reap that as well, what little there is to reap. Our lives are made better for this act. So fill your life, your pantry, your coffers, fill them with your own creativity and creations. Write about anything, the simple and the personal, about you and what you feel, and if done well, with heart and awareness, you’ll be writing about us all.

James H Duncan is the editor of Hobo Camp Review, a contributing writer-at-large with The Blue Mountain Review, and a former editor with Writer’s Digest. He is the author of Dead City Jazz, What Lies in Wait, Berlin, other books of poetry and fiction, and his work has also appeared in American Artist magazine, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Pulp Modern, Drunk Monkeys, and Poetry Salzburg Review, among other publications. He currently resides in upstate New York. For more, visit

I ssue


Alyssa Hamilton

Anatomy of a Chandelier It was a January afternoon, when the sun was a diamond behind a linen of nimbostratus cotton. I was sitting in a private study room off the University’s main library, attempting to gather my thoughts into a coherency fit for paper. He was a brass octopus carrying candles and scorched light with tarnished arms. He could not swim turned upside down, chained to a ceiling. He was stiff, stationary, and I saw in him I had grown nine sets of eyes lodged in his reflective skin—blind and oxidized. His body stretched, and his bottom disked to catch dust and dead flies for a feast he hoped to illuminate, but could not—all that was brought was a pile of books and a silence whirring in the baseboard heat. I asked him that first day, did you know fire? And although he did not answer me then, I imagined that he once did, that he knew the silk of melted wax on his then-shiny tentacles and the malleable heat hovering above him closer and closer still—a heat that could have been quelled by the skirts of the sprinklers surrounding him, or brought him back to life. I could not decide why he was chained, and he would not tell me: if he was tethered to keep from pushing air out of his scrolling syphons and escape through the blinded window, or if he never learned his own way of fluid-flying and was doomed to hang because of this. In the first month, he only moved in circles on his surface. When I turned my head or moved my arm, his skin mimicked mine, and I became yellowed and metallic. He did not do this to hide. And I could not hide there, even when I was alone, hoarding scribbles of incoherent ink and water-stained newspapers for my thesis. I tried to speak, but found my mouth heavy with saliva congealing to lead, slipping in between sets of eyes. But I understood him. He and I were the same in that room, things which were not themselves when still. His arms, fanning to hold those charred bulbs, kept singing my new eyes. They could not meet their origins to look back, no matter how I shifted—only spiraling around him like an unending kitchen drain. One day I stood atop the table, touched his finial to the tip of my nose, closing my eyes. I heard the hum of photophores from the cobweb-cirri draping down his arms. And I felt his warmth for the first time, not from the electric veins of cables that were forced into his body long ago, but from the firmness of his flesh—his gilded, ossified flesh. In the days after, I would lock the door behind me to keep the librarian from seeing me atop the table, the bottoms of my feet graining into mahogany, tapping on his soldered beak. It was April when he finally opened it. The sharpness came like peeled lead from the barrel of a torpid gun—my eyes snapped open, the tip of my nose bled into a copper-wetland. I collected my fragments from the desk, my nine sets of reflective eyes watching me, avoiding my gaze when I looked up, shifting instead to my lighter. I left him, hurrying past the hushing librarian, and did not visit again until September. I snuck in under the guidance of the waning light of lunar maria and the white pinheads of stars. I slipped into the window left unlocked by the inattentive librarian, knowing no security system beyond lock and key. I looked at the brass octopus. And I pitied him. To hang forever, hungry. To see through false-eyes with no will of your own. To never know the sea but feel the pull of the moon through a warping window. I couldn’t leave him like that. I knew what had to be done. I stood on the table, holding my lighter to the catching teeth of the sprinkler. When the water came, I closed my eyes, pressing my nose to his finial-beak. I heard the bulbs shatter, dropped from softening tentacles. I felt his arms in my hair, fastening behind by ears, beneath my jaw, the nape of my neck. They tightened—my feet lifted from the slick mahogany-pond. The beak passed by my nose, the back of my head. There was softness. Slow, sweet surging. I opened my eyes. Brine swaddled me in the blue-dark sea. There was no pressure in the deep. Something caught the filtered light before me. I pushed the water apart through cupped hands, kicking through a belly-hydrosphere. A veil of eggs hung in the current, reaching out to me. At first, they were white bullets strung together, but then I saw the ends—the sets of irises blinking blue and green and brown, nine sets over and over and over again. Something swirled beneath the viscous membranes, wanting to break free. They began to hatch.


Alyssa Hamilton

Love and Ichthyology I know what David will say. Foolish Mia, too clumsy in the shower. I first notice the specks of cinnamon by my ankle as I take a towel to my damp skin, then by my knees in ruby chips, and once more in cherry constellations on my thighs. The beading roses on skin slick with oil—the consequence of a dull razor I tried to shave with. I stare at the strange rills strolling down my legs, taking the time to conquer each furrow in water-diluted haste. I think of the dress I have the same color, pale carmine, and decide to wear it to dinner tonight. I wish I had microscopic eyes so I could watch the sanguine soldiers march to conquer, to ruin the hope of smooth skin for a man’s hand to know, instead finding clotted Braille. Sudden shivers, and I sigh as I wipe away the partially-coagulated rosaries. I know what David will talk about tonight, after I order the braised salmon and he a sirloin, the only thing he ever wants to talk about in the two years we’ve been together. He will tell me about the fish he visits in public rivers and lakes, how to go about catching them with a net-wall, about some males becoming red when sexually mature and others growing teeth from their heads to compete for mates. He’ll talk about them making their nests, then raising babies. He’ll talk about licenses, permits, local and state laws. He’ll mention a painter in California who came with him to study Black Bullheads, both trying to break new ground that no one would really care about beyond their fields, not wanting to admit it to themselves. He’ll apologize about the painter. He knows I don’t like him bringing her up. I always think of her feet muddied in a shallow stream, her fingers feeling his body like fleshy barbels, her mouth gaping open like the bullhead in open air, her belly tanning gold to show how badly she wants him. Both would gasp and gasp, scaring away the stable forms of life. I knew what he had done when he came home. His chest was rough. His waist smelled like warm acrylic. But it’s been three months since he came back. He thought the idea of a proposal would assuage all that. I moisturize my naked hands. I know that men will not change colors like trispot darters to tell me when they are ready for marriage. I know that men will not always break into their water-beetle sweetness to tell me when they fear my touch. But I do know that I can grow circles of teeth on my forehead to wound them when they remain the same, despite the promise of a single scale beginning to turn red under my touch. I am the one always turning red for him. I peel more rusty pearls from my shins. The phone rings, caller I.D. glowing his name. “Are you almost ready?” David asks me. He doesn’t say hello first. “Not yet. You said you’d pick me up in an hour. I’m fresh out of the shower.” “Okay. The door open?” “No.” “I’m on my way up. Unlock it for me.” He hangs up. I drape my robe around my body, walk to the door of the apartment. I consider leaving the lock latched. But when I hear his boots from the other side, I unhook it. When the knob turns, I hide in the bathroom. “Mia? Where are you?” I hear his muffled voice through the door, a faded song beneath a river’s current. “In the bathroom. Drying my hair. Give me twenty minutes, and I’ll be all ready,” I sing back to him, wondering if he would sit on the couch in silence or call that painter to see if she had a show yet. My comb bumps over something by my hairline, the edges of my temples. A new stream comes down, rouging my cheeks. I run my fingers by its origin, feel the ridges and sticky enamel. There are teeth beneath breaking into haloing rings. When I lay my head on his chest tonight, he will feel the band-incisors, and he will understand. He will turn red under my body. He will change for me.

I ssue


Alyssa Hamilton

Witch Hunt Baba Yaga does not live in the witch house in the woods off Washington Boulevard. There are no chicken-legged stilts running into the forest. I smell no frog legs, no newt hearts, no bat eyes to murk the air. There are no femurs of children to fix a fence, no skulls of rabbits lining the path. If that were true, Jack would not meet me now. He wants to know if there are other bones here. The spines hang from the slope of the roof over the porch, bone-chimes turning in the wind, twisting from chords I can’t see. The porch is all stained bone color, patched with peeled paint and rotting wood. The front door has aged the same way—time dragging its claws across it, leaving brown gashes in its wood-flesh. Shards of windows splinter from the corners of the panes, edges softened by rain, some still sharp enough to draw blood. I can’t tell what broke the windows—rocks thrown in, or empty beer bottles thrown out. I guess maybe both. Jack calls to me from the road. He can’t see me from beyond the lichen-cloaked oaks, the nets of changing foliage. I call back, my voice sticking to the shrinking chlorophyl veiling the woods. “It’s this close to the road?” he asked. “I didn’t realize.” “Yeah. I live a couple streets over. All the kids come around Halloween. My mom wouldn’t let me. This is where the crazies come when it’s cold,” I answered. “Do you really think Bobby’s here?” His little brother became mist last night. No one saw him leave the house, only found the imprint of his body in a vacant twin bed. His mother wailed Crown Victorias into the driveway, her tears shining red and blue. “It’s possible.” I shrugged. “He’s been trouble lately, right?” “He’s just a seventh-grader who wants to impress his friends. Maybe they all wanted to meet up, and he fell asleep here. You’ve seen kids here, right? I know some come here after prom. A couple of my friends did last year.” I nod, sometimes they do. He hesitates when he comes into the clearing. His eyes widen into vein-webbed moons. “Jesus Christ, we gotta call the cops. Who the hell did that?” “Calm down. They’re not real. I don’t think real spines stay together like that by themselves. Probably foam or something. You know people around here get dumb and bored. It’s October after all. Sick senses of humor. Who knows? Maybe they’re for love spells.” He shakes his head. “Hazel, let’s just look and get out of here. If my mom knows I’m out of the house, she’ll completely lose it.” He doesn’t really see me. He doesn’t see my lips curling into rosebuds to ask him to come to me. He doesn’t smell my cinnamon-tangled hair, the ground apple seeds I have in my pocket. He is only thinking of Bobby. It was a mistake to suggest we look here. He won’t understand me yet. “You coming? I don’t wanna go in by myself. No way,” Jack said from the mouth of the porch. I nod, following him. He still wants me with him. He tries willing the door open by shoving it, ramming his football-shoulder in commanding thuds. After a moment, he gives up, looks at me. “You know how to get it open?” “Yes.” I kick the bottom right corner, raising the doorknob as I turn it. After three kicks, the door has nudged past the frame. We’ve been allowed entry. Jack’s chest heaves a sigh, his breath illuminating the back of my neck. “You okay?” I ask before pushing the door fully open. “I just hope he got trapped in here. That he’s okay.” “I’m sure he’s okay.” “You really think so?” “Yeah. I’ve got a feeling.” His smile guides my hand to press the wood to open the house to us.


Alyssa Hamilton

There are footprints gouging through the layers of dirt, the rags of skeletons left behind by leaves. A trinity of life-remains. One to the left. One to the right. One up the stairs. Jack glances in the other rooms, seeing only rain-stained wallpaper and clumps of damp maple-fans ground like unintelligible tea leaves. “Bobby! Bobby! You in here?” Jack’s voice ricochets in deepening echoes. There is a coo above us. Almost human. Jack wraps his hand around my wrist, yanking me to follow, our feet clopping against the withering stairs in clumsy cries to find his brother. And that’s where we find them, the top of the staircase. The pigeons. The circle of them. Their necks snapped. A crow in the center. Wings plucked clean of feathers. Blood staining the nails and dark wood beneath. Their eyes are all beads of obsidian, reflecting a final sunset and our faces. Jack runs by me, and I hear the door hinges yelp as it slams shut. I stare at the birds, sit before the pigeon facing South, extend its wing. I begin pulling out feathers. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not.

nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

Alyssa Hamilton grew up excavating pyrite and quartz from her backyard in New England. She pretended her dolls were abducted by aliens and tried to make habitats for worms when she got home from school. She began writing as a young teen after receiving a short story assignment from a teacher, and hasn’t looked back since. She received a Bachelors of Arts degree in English in 2016 from Saint Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, NY. She is currently a student of the Etowah Valley MFA program at Reinhardt University. Previous work has appeared in Page and Spine, Wyvern Lit, and Halo Literary Magazine, earning a Best of the Net Anthology nomination in 2014. Her interests include long walks on the beach, local legends, and having vivid dreams. Twitter:

I ssue


Kelle Grace Gaddis

The Favor His coarse beard was an array of auburn, brown, and gray strands, hairs upturned and twisted out to the side refusing to conform to the lines of his face. The beard had become a statement. It had gone from trendy to appearing Hasidic, which might have worked for him if he were a more serious Jew. He told me it would be too much for his razor, and asked if I would cut it down to a manageable level so he could shave it off. I liked the unruly beard - except when we kissed, because it chaffed my face and turned it red and rough. On our first night, he’d drunk too much and passed out in my bed. I’d stroked the beard while he slept, as if it were a cat patiently absorbing my touch. When he woke he pulled away. But, before he left, he asked for my number and later he called. I searched the pillow he’d used for hairs from his beard and taped all I found into my spell book. And, when the moon was full, I used them in a love-binding spell. Eventually, I knew the route to his house by car, bus, and train. I knew that I could walk to it blindfolded, if need be. I knew where I’d exit the station and that I’d have to push my way out of the crowd or be swallowed up. I knew that I would apply lipstick outside his apartment and flip my hair to one side, the way he liked it. Today, I knew the look on his face before he even opened the door: courteous but removed, as if I were his barber or beautician, instead of the woman he’d been dating for nearly a year. Everything felt formal in spite of the intimacy of his home. When I followed him down the hallway, he turned and met my gaze only to quickly turn away again as if I’d caught him staring at another woman’s legs. As he hurried into the kitchen, I wanted to reach out and touch him, but he was moving too quickly, like a train on the way to its next stop. He sat in the only chair adjacent to the kitchen table and handed me the scissors that lay in front of him. I told him I’d bought a good pair, just for trimming beards. He offered to pay me, but I told him not to be silly. He tipped his head back and closed his eyes. Standing over him, scissors in hand, I hated how much he trusted me. I imagined myself pushing the scissors into his heart, so he would hurt as I did now. Instead, I stroked his beard and his eyes opened so suddenly that I wondered if I was secreting venom. I turned away and asked if he had a towel to lie across his chest to catch the falling hair. He pointed to a white towel on the counter. I unfolded it and placed it below his dark beard and began to cut until the it was stacked high with what, if he were Hasidic, would have been proof of his lost faith. I knew this because I’d asked Rabbi Moss why Hasidic Jews wore long beards at his brother’s wedding. The Rabbi explained, “Hasidic Jews believe that the greatest step one can take in one’s personal growth, is to bridge the gap between good intentions and the implementing of one’s ideals. The beard grows down from the head, to the rest of the body. It’s the bridge between mind and heart, thoughts and actions, theory and practice. Hasidic men don’t cut their beards to open a direct flow from the ideals of their minds into their everyday lives.” I was impressed. I liked the idea of the Hasidic faith; the tangibles made it magical. I fantasized about marrying my bearded Jewish man even though his beard at the time was new, sparse, and a long way from a faith rich Hasidic symbol. I carefully cut off the bottom of the beard and he appeared to relax under my touch, his breathing slow and calm. When his eyes closed again, I tucked some pieces of beard into my pocket. When I noticed his hands were folded into fists on his lap I ached for the distance between us. He had only asked for my help because I cut hair for a living. We hadn’t seen one another in weeks. He’d quit calling. When I called him, he either didn’t answer or said he was busy. With each snip, he looked less handsome and more like a mangy dog. Yet, when his eyes opened, I was the one that lapped up the smallest twinkle of approval. I was so close I could taste his breath and smell his skin. I wanted to kiss him, to devour him. I leaned into his legs, waiting for him to wrap his arms around my waist but he’d unclenched his fists and slid his hands under his thighs.


Kelle Grace Gaddis

I cut the beard as close to his skin as possible without a blade. I let the scissors nip his ear, and he yelped in pain. His eyes shot open again, narrow and angry; his heart felt as far away from me as ancient Israel, or Eastern Europe - or wherever deep Jewish faith hails. “I can shave off the rest for you, if you have a razor,” I said. “I can get it with my electric, it’s safer,” he said touching his ear. “Why are you doing this? I asked. “I have an interview at the bank. The further up one goes, the fewer beards one sees. They’re more traditional at the top.” “More traditional than faith?” I asked, sliding my hand into my pocket. “Faith?” He laughed on his way to shave, “What’s that got to do with it?” “Everything,” I whispered grabbing another clump of hair from the floor.

Kelle Grace Gaddis’s poetry collection, My Myths Poetry & Fiction, was published by Yellow Chair Review in De-

cember of 2016. Other recently published works appear in Chicken Soup For The Soul: Dreams & The Unexplainable, Dispatches Editions Resist Much / Obey Little, Vending Machine Presses Very Fine Writing, The Till, Five Willows Poetry Review, The Hessler Street Fair Anthology, LOLX, Moonlight Dreamers of the Yellow Haze, BlazeVOX, The New Independents Magazine, Thirteen Myna Birds Journal, Knot Literary Magazine, Entropy, Writing For Peace, Dove Tales: The Nature Edition, Blackmail PressesEdition 37, Knot Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. Ms. Gaddis has written several poetry chapbooks including It Is What It Is - It Was What It Was, Visions Of and American Discard. She is honored to be one of 4Culture’s “Poetry on the Buses” contest winners in 2015 and 2017 Ms. Gaddis earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington in 2014. She is currently working on her first collection of short stories and a novel.

I ssue


Michael Ross Ault

Swan Song The day began at a cool 92 degrees and warmed to a steady 130. The sunlight, tinted blue, cascaded down from the midday sky. It gave the unpleasant vegetation an unhealthy blue-green cast. Heat shimmers danced blurring the sharp edges of the dense, tropical plant life. A damp, carbon dioxide laden breeze, rustling the leaves. Other than the light rustle of the vegetation in the hot, sticky breeze, there were no sounds. No noise from scratching of small animals. Not even the monotonous, dull hum of insects. Universally, if there was anyone to see, was vegetation. An occasional outcropping of glittering granite poked through, yearning for the heat that poured from the sky. In the distance, almost at the vanishing point, a row of ruins smothered in the vegetation and heat. Imperceptibly, a sound grew, a low rumble. It grew and broadened, a muttering roar. High in the clear, cloudless, sky a shining dot appeared. The roar increased in volume, the dot grew into a graceful, rapier like craft. Descending on a blue tail of hydrogen-fueled fire to a graceful rest, next to the ruins. Its engines ticked as they cooled. A light whine sounded as the crew of the ship sampled for harmful agents. Later, a circular port dilated and a graceful ramp slithered to the ground. Avoiding the low rim of the airlock, the survey team descended to the planets surface. "Watch your air" the Captain sing-songed. "The carbon dioxide is high enough to kill you." The other members of the survey checked the gages on air reservoirs strapped to their backs. Each gave the universal sign, thumbs up. "Alright. La'thera, Rath, collect samples from those rock outcroppings. Artha, Il'lat, come with me. We will survey the ruins." The Captain strode toward the crumbling walls visible through the underbrush. They walked, talking in sibilant singsong. The heat, humidity and silence smothered all but the thought of shade and water from their minds. "Captain, over here!" The advance scout called. The team ran toward the call. The scout kneeled on a partially exposed black surface, obviously of artificial origin. She took a small piece of the crumbling edge placing it into a portable analyzer. With a hum and a click it produced its results. “Hydrocarbon waste, gravel and binding agents." She looked up. "Asphalt, or a close cousin." Ha’yara, the team captain, frowned, and then looked toward the ruins obscured by the jungle. “Let’s get to the ruins” he sing-songed. Climbing over twisted, rusted metal they broke through the last bit of vegetation-choked roadway. They stared at the ruins sprawling out in all directions. “Looks more extensive than we could see from orbit.” Ha’yara looked around. “Be careful, there may be subterranean passages that could collapse, ruins are always dangerous.” The older members of the team nodded sagely, the newer members gaped. The sound of their footsteps, muffled by the hot, oppressive air, echoed back, distorted by the ruins. Everyone glanced nervously around, starting at the sound of rubble that cascaded down from the vibration of their footsteps. Bending, Ha’yara picked up a crushed bit of metal. “Looks like aluminum.” He handed the scrap to the scout who confirmed it with the analyzer. “Spread out, aluminum means electricity. See if you can find any indications. Be careful, the loose rubble is treacherous.” The signs were numerous; wires, broken artifacts that could only work with electricity. Within a short time the team had assembled a plethora of items. Holding up a glittering, rainbow-hued disk Ha’yara asked: “Who found this?” “I did.” Answered the scout, “over there, in the ruin.” She gestured toward a large rectangular mass. “There was a large rack filled with them.”


Michael Ross Ault

"Any idea what it is?" He trilled his question. "It looks rather sophisticated, some kind of plastic?" He let the question hang. "Show me." He gestured to the scout. They followed her through the large, broken doorway of the ruin. Inside the walls, a large open space. Above them, regularly shaped open areas, cross hatched by strips of metal, still held scraps of transparent material. "This was a ceremonial structure." The captain looked around. "See the wide areas for the crowds? And over there," he gestured gracefully to a raised platform at the junction of two large halls. "That was a platform where the shaman or priest stood." The other members of the team nodded their agreement; it would be plain to anyone. This was a place where the dead race had worshiped. They followed the scout to a staircase of metal that lead to an upper level. "Is it safe?" The leader asked. "I believe so. It does not shake when you walk on it; it is structurally sound." The scout shrugged. "Do you want to live forever Captain?" With a look of amusement he answered, "Lead on scout. It probably leads to the living quarters for the priests." They gingerly followed the scout up the metal stairs to the upper area of the ruin. The heat, trapped by the ruin’s intact roof, was stifling. They walked over the remains of goods and materials, apparently tossed about at random. Most of the items they could only guess the purpose of. Occasionally, one of the team would gracefully stoop and retrieve an article. Soon they reached an area enclosed by an intact wall of transparent material. In the area around it, jagged pieces of the material lay shattered. “Have you analyzed this material?” The Captain touched the broken edge of an upright section. “Watch out, this is sharp.” “Yes Captain, it’s silicon dioxide, identical to the glass we use.” “I Thought so. Lead on scout. This looks to be some type of record storeroom.” They entered the enclosed area. Scattered in disarray were numerous disks. The floor littered with small boxes that contained thin streams of coated plastic. “Better take samples of these back for study.” The Captain watched as they sifted through the wreckage, retrieving many unbroken containers and more of the glittering disks. Later, as he studied the faded, glossy material pasted to the walls as decoration, the Captain’s air system beeped a warning to him. “Alright, grab some last samples and let’s get back to the ship. We don’t have much air left.” “Captain? Come over here!” One of the other team members gestured from across the room. The Captain hurried over. “Look, the disks fit in these.” He held up a small black box that rested comfortably in his hand. “Watch.” He pressed a small rectangle on the side of the box, a hinged cover silently rose. One of the disks nestled inside. Encrusted with grime, the box didn’t look like much. “Very good, see if you can find any more. But do it quickly, we must get back soon.” He checked his air reserve. The team member found several more of the odd devices and packed them into his backpack. The trek back to the ship was uneventful. The artifacts that the ruin survey team brought back almost made up for the mineral teams report. The planet had little mineral wealth; the original inhabitants had savagely plundered it of all but dross materials. After a rest period, Ha’yara went to the laboratories where the mysterious disks were being analyzed. “These are advanced record keeping devices.” The technician held up the disk, it glittered in the light and rainbows of color danced across it’s surface. “We examined it under a microscope and found that the color effect is due to multitudes of microscopic pores in the disk, etched in distinctive patterns.” He showed a picture of the surface, it had numerous square pits etched into its surface. “I thought it must be. Is it a form of writing?” “No, although we thought it might be when we found the optics system built into this device.” He held the box, now cleaned of collected grime. “Semantic analyses showed no correlations, though on some of the disks repeated patterns I ssue


Michael Ross Ault are clear." He paused. "These creatures were very intelligent, inside this box are small scale integrated circuits. We would have trouble re-creating them." He looked at the box; the longing for the technology it represented was obvious in his expression. "Any idea what killed them off?" "That was easy. They had a technology that was dependent on hydrocarbon oxidation. This produced carbon dioxide and other gases that trapped heat in their atmosphere." "The heat and carbon dioxide killed them? Why didn't their technology save them?" "I don't know, not enough data. There are also high levels of fluorocarbons. They strip the tri-oxides from the atmosphere, leaving the UV window open. This, in combination with the carbon dioxide and heat, caused forced mutation of the vegetation." "So?" "The vegetation is poisonous to any life based on carbon. They probably starved to death." The Captain looked thoughtful. "Starved, choked by their own emissions, bombarded by radiation, what a horrible way to die." He shivered. "It almost happened to us you know." "Yes, but as soon as we detected it we prohibited the use of hydrocarbons. Through use of nuclear fission as a bridge technology to fusion we survived. Didn't they have fissionables?" "Look here." The scientist showed him a picture of an imposing ruin. A huge dome shaped construction, partially completed, now overgrown with the poisonous jungle. "They had a few, and attempted to build more, but they were too late." He shook his head sadly. "What a waste, if this is any sign of their intellectual ability they would have made good companions." He indicated the disk still clutched in his hand. "What do you mean?" "It isn't a record, but it is communication as far as we can determine." "How can you tell?" “Look at this.” He deftly turned the box over and flipped open a small compartment. “A power cell fits here. We cleaned, lubricated and replaced components as best we can. Through analysis of the circuit we know the required voltage and manufactured a power supply. The disk rotates and a coherent beam of light reads the pits as a digital signal. The circuit decodes the digital signal into an analog voltage. The voltage should rise and fall in discrete ways to provide communication.” “How do we attach the power supply?” The Captain looked at the box and at the power supply, it wasn’t going to fit into the small compartment. “Look, they provided a connector for an external power supply.” “Clever, what is recorded on the disk?” “We still don’t know.” “What do you mean?” “Well, we traced the signals and they go to this connector here.” He pointed to another small hole next to the power connector. “What goes there?” “We don’t know.” At that moment the ships announcing system warbled to life: “All watches, set the night watch.” It sang. The captain looked startled and then glanced at the announcing system repeater and back to the small box. “Could the signal be sent to a repeater?” “You mean like our record cubes?” “Yes” “It would have to be amplified, yes that would do it...” The scientist muttered as he began thinking. “Call me when you are ready to try it.” “What? Oh, yes sir.” The scientist waved the Captain away. “Let me work.” With an amused look the Captain left the lab. Several time periods later, he was called back. A much rumpled, but happy scientist greeted him.


Michael Ross Ault "It turns out that the device does go to a repeater, or actually, to two repeaters. Though why two, we haven't figured out." "Have you tried it?" The Captain glanced at the chaotic array of components, wires and breadboard circuits plugged into the small box. “Oh, no sir, we were waiting for you, after all it’s a momentous occasion. For the first time, in nearly a thousand cycles, something from a member of this dead race will be heard.” “Let’s hear it.” The captain said quietly. The scientist selected a disk at random from the stack and carefully inserted it into the box. He pressed the lid down; it closed with a barely audible click. Connecting the power supply he operated a small switch on the side of the box.

The sounds issuing from the repeaters raised the Captain’s crest of red feathers. Liquid notes of such clear, crisp joyousness flooded the lab. Startled, a lab assistant dropped a file of record sheets. Ignoring the dropped sheets, he stared open mouthed at the strange device on the table. Later, they weren’t able to recall how long they were held in thrall, only to the wonder and delight of the sound. When the device sputtered, sparked and stopped they stood still for several moments. Finally the Captain broke the silence. “My God, what did they do to themselves? Such beauty! Such a loss! We must send another exploratory team and take as many of these as possible!” They caused quite a stir. The musical sounds of the dead civilization brought great joy and sadness to the farflung galactic empire. Among the most popular of the disks, the one most often copied and of highest value, was the one first played by chance in the ships electronics laboratory. Mozart would have been proud.

Michael Ross Ault has been writing since doing bad fan fiction on Man From UNCLE as a teenager. He is the author of over two dozen technical books, seven novels and one collection of short stories. His books are available on Amazon. I ssue


Sean Hastings

Divided Desires The bar was alive with conversations and exultations while two “friends” from college met for a drink after a twoyear separation. “Are you still with What’s-His-Name?” Joseph asked. “Are you still with What’s-Her-Name?” Mira responded. He took a sip of his bourbon. “That ended a while ago.” She looked down at her mojito while the bartender shook somebody’s James Bond martini. “Sorry to hear that.” They looked down and away from each other when the dialogue began to wane. Joseph kept having to resurrect it almost unilaterally. This meeting had been a half-baked idea that entered his mind when they bumped into each other randomly at the Lindbergh MARTA station three days ago. The pragmatic idea would have been to ignore her, or say “hello,” and quickly leave. “You never answered my question,” he said. A group of five men at the closest booth started shouting chants for some team, fraternity, or secret society he had never heard of. “Still going strong with Yogesh, after all these years.” She had to raise her voice to be heard over the enthusiastic “But you’re here, now.” “So are you. What’s that supposed to mean?” “I honestly couldn’t tell,” Joseph answered. “I was never able to keep track with y’all. Back then, you’d say one day he was your soulmate, the other…” “Why have you needed to keep track of anything? Why does my fiancé matter, right now? Or ever, to you?” “I’m just trying to make sure we’re on the same page.” “Look… My life is complicated, okay?” Mira said. “While we’re here, I’d rather not…” She paused and inhaled a gulp of mint-infused rum. She looked at Joseph but never got around to finishing her sentence. “Complicated.” Joseph chuckled. “That magic word, again.” “There was a time when you hardly paid it any mind.” “Yeah, but–” “Why are we here?” she interrupted. “Hmm?” “What is this? Is this you catching up with a friend or rebounding from… Whoever she was?” Joseph pursed his lips and took a sip of bourbon. He could feel her stern eyes boring two holes in his soul as the liquor gradually dissolved his verbal filter. “You want to know why we’re really here?” he asked. “I want to know every little intention and temptation going on in your head, right now,” Mira said. “I’m good at reading people, but you were always hard to predict.” He looked down, composed his confession, and took a deep breath. “The truth is I haven’t done something like this in a while. Not since… You know. And I’m an extrovert; I need to be around people. I was thinking about ending my isolation, then I ran into you at the MARTA station.” She squinted, then nodded. “Okay. That’s just a little needy.” He shrugged and took another sip. Her black cocktail dress went perfectly with her light-brown skin and her flowing dark hair. He was unsure if his jeans, black t-shirt, and dark blazer had been the right choice of outfit. He also feared that the strand of brown hair hanging over his forehead that he once thought was a trendy style now made him look too young. Being two years younger than Mira had always been his biggest weakness around her. “How’s work?” she asked. Joseph gave a blank, calm stare. “I… Let’s not go there.” “You don’t want to talk about the AJC? I was going to congratulate you for getting that job.” The five loud men started laughing at a joke Joseph and Mira had not heard. “I came here to have a drink, maybe two, and relax. Not to talk shop.” “Is this about me climbing the corporate ladder while you were still in college?” She smirked.


Sean Hastings

“You’re not always as subtle as you think you are, Joe.” He shrugged, undecided whether her indictment or her calling him “Joe” stung more. That same damn petname she had given to him when she tried and nearly succeeded in friend-zoning him three years earlier. “I don’t think you’ve ever told me much about Hyderabad,” he said. She raised an eyebrow and leaned back in her bar stool. “I mean, I only lived there until I was three. I don’t, like, remember that place almost at all.” “One of the last times we hung out, you said something about a monkey stealing a piece of fruit from you.” She strained herself not to giggle. “What?” “I mean, I’ve just wondered about it. You said, like, two words about and stopped.” Somehow, she managed to let out a laugh and roll her eyes at the same time. “Ok, fine. I must’ve been two or something. I was standing on our balcony with some mango in my hand. And this little guy just plops down right next to me. I thought it was funny, I thought he was being friendly. I broke off a piece for him, and he reached over and grabbed the rest from my other hand!” Joseph smiled and nodded. “And I was just shocked. Like, in the blink of an eye, he and my mango were all gone.” “Wow.” “So… That was random.” He wondered if she had caught on to his angle, distract her from awkward college memories by making her think about something else. Who was he kidding? She had been aware of it since the moment he began. Glasses clinked while someone congratulated someone else at some table hardly in earshot. “So, how is Yogesh doing?” Joseph asked. Mira looked down for a second before she answered. “He’s fine.” Her tone was higher, less confident, now. “We’re fine, right now.” “Your parents arranged you two, right? Getting married, I mean.” “Sort of,” Mira replied. “We actually knew each other in high school. We’d sneak out of class, hang out… Make out. When my parents started talking about arranging me with somebody, I asked them to talk to his parents. Our families arranged us after we had already dated for two years behind their backs.” “You can do that?” “I mean, I did. It’s kind of a new trend. Some people call it a self-arranged marriage.” “Well, I don’t get it,” he said. “Why go through the arrangement at all, then? Seems redundant.” “That’s because you’re not Indian,” Mira replied. She leaned closer and pressed an arm on the bar. “We’re not all one in the same, and even the traditional ones of us don’t follow all of the rules the same way. What I did… It was a compromise between modern and tradition.” “A compromise,” he muttered. “One word for it.” Three tipsy soccer-moms behind Joseph and Mira started to shriek about some exciting development. Sonic daggers stabbed Joseph’s eardrum before he could continue. “So, if your parents insist on arranging your marriage… Does it usually take this long?” “What do you mean?” “I mean, that was several years ago. Y’all are still engaged.” “It’s never immediate,” Mira replied. “Sometimes it takes months, in some cases years. First there’s the courtship, the bride and the groom get to know each other. Either one of them can call it off if they don’t like each other. Of course, Yogesh and I had already been through all of that. After that, it depends on factors like when do you graduate or when do you start making enough money to support a family. My parents didn’t raise me to be a homemaker. I’ve spent my entire life preparing to be a wife, a mother, and to have a career.” “They taught you to work your ass off.” I ssue


Sean Hastings “And I’m good at it.” She finally smiled. The bartender was struggling to understand the drink order from a sober Bostonian whose accent was harder to understand than the liquor-slurred speech he probably heard on a nightly basis. “Okay, one last question,” Joseph started. “Seriously?” She raised an eyebrow. “I’ll hold you to it.” “Your parents are so hung up on tradition… But they’re cool with y’all living together?” Mira looked Joseph in the eye, down at her mojito, then inhaled a third of it through the straw. The message he got was “again, it’s complicated.” “The simplest way I could describe it is that my parents are traditional but pragmatic,” she said. “They care that my husband is Indian, that he has a good job, that he comes from a good family. The details are more important to them than the ceremonies. What goes on between him and me, that’s private.” Joseph nodded. “This has certainly been eye-opening.” “The more you know, right?” “Yeah, for real. Honestly, though, I’m happy for you, Mira.” “For what.” “You seem happier. You seem more relaxed.” “It’s less happiness than resignation.” They stared at each other before she started laughing. “I’m kidding!” Joseph laughed a little. “I was being serious, you know? I mean, I don’t know how y’all have been able to keep it going this long. You could teach me some things.” “Wouldn’t be the first thing I’ve taught you.” Joseph’s eyes widened and face sunk like he had just heard his grandmother say “fuck,” while Mira threw her head back and she gave an evil cackle. “It’s the truth.” Joseph sipped more bourbon. “I was saying that things seem to be going well for you. You have a good job, you have a good relationship, you’ve managed to keep it going a lot longer than most people… I couldn’t say all of those things about myself.” “You have a good job, too,” Mira replied. “I only just started there.” She squinted. “And relationships have never been your thing, anyway.” “Alright, you got me, there.” He snickered. “It’s been tough,” Mira said. “It’s been really, really hard, sometimes. But in the end, it’s worth it. This is what I’ve been preparing for: my job, my marriage, this is what all-nighters in college and shitty networking events have led to. Life throws something new at you, you deal with it like you deal with everything else.” Joseph looked into his half-empty glass but set it down before it touched his mouth. “I lied.” “Hmm?” “I’ve got one more question,” he said. She smirked. “Knew it. You always have one more.” “We’ve talked about what other people have wanted from you, expected from you. What I’m wondering is… Honestly, this is something I’ve thought about since we used to hang out. What is it that you want, Mira? Is this exactly the way you always wanted your life to be set up? Or are there things that you wish you could do, that you’ve never told your family about?” She said nothing. She stared at him while someone dropped their glass and their friends reacted to it. She looked away as the bartender cursed the drunken fool under his mouth. Joseph looked around while Mira took one last pull on her straw and turned around. She looked at the drunk, dancing masses behind them and turned back to him. “Dance with me.”


Sean Hastings

“No,” he said. “What do you mean?” “I don’t dance.” She furrowed her brow. “Dance with me.” He put his glass to his lips and mumbled “I don’t dance.” Mira stared at him for a moment, then started to maneuver around tables and drunkards. She pulled her Blackberry out of her purse before she reached the dancefloor. She saw a text from her fiancé of five years, asking her when she was coming home, then clicked “Ignore” and walked back to the bar as Joseph was ordering another bourbon. “And another mojito!” she called out. “On him.” He smirked. “Not too long ago, you would’ve followed me out there.” “I don’t follow people anymore,” Joseph said. She raised another accusative eyebrow. “Oh… What, you just make them come to you?” He leaned back in his bar stool and smiled. “I mean, it worked on you.”

Sean Hastings is an undergraduate student at Oglethorpe University, working on his B.A. in History and Minor in

Writing. He also spent three months studying Creative Writing in England at Oxford University. He has wanted to be a novelist since he was fifteen years old. He has previously competed in online short story competitions and self-published two novellas, Legacy of Secrets and The Irishman, on

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Cheryl Taylor

Vernon is a Virgin Vernon is a virgin, we know this because Katie from the accounts department thought it would be funny to write ‘Vernon is a virgin’ on his motorcycle helmet. Katie used her mother’s long-lasting lipstick, Chanel’s Rude Red. The lipstick has stained the helmet’s white shell and no matter how hard Vernon scrubs, the words do not fade. A fact, Katie knows from firsthand experience, her mother’s mouth is always stained red. It’s an angry, critical mouth and using the expensive lipstick helps Katie feel she’s won a little bit. Her mother and Vernon ignore her, spurn her love and so she’s punishing them both. Vernon is ok with being a virgin, Vernon gets satisfaction from other pursuits. However, Vernon is mortified by the indignity of the public outing of his virginity status. Vernon has his suspicions regarding the culprit who wrote the lurid graffiti but he does not suspect Katie. Vernon avoids contact with people by keeping his head down, shoulders hunched, and until recently, wore his helmet most of the time. So, he asks, who was it that knew Vernon was a virgin? Vernon is a virgin and he’s also the valet at the swankiest hotel in town, where he gets to test drive the fastest, most expensive cars. Vernon is a virgin and the son of an equally diminutive and timid man called Warwick. Vernon and Warwick share a mutual love of knights in shining armor re-enactments and fast cars. Vernon’s father is loathed and excoriated by his neighbors because Warwick reveals his macho side by speeding his vintage corvette through the local streets, carving corners like a driver in a NASCAR race. Warwick wears aviators, soft, black, leather gloves and a racing jacket he purchased on eBay, reputedly worn by Dale Earnhardt. Vernon is a virgin and he’s a valet at the Ritz Carlton. Hand your keys to him and the shy, kowtowing lad grits his teeth in anticipation of driving your special car. Vernon is a virgin and he’s been humiliated. A burning shame now drives his desire for extreme speed. Behind the wheel of your pride and joy he raises gold aviators to the bridge of his nose, slips on the soft, black, leather gloves, adjusts the driver’s seat and mirrors, waiting for you to enter the hotel lobby, out of sight and earshot. Vernon revs the engine, engages the gears and your car surrenders to his well-trained driving skills. He spins out of the hotel forecourt, roars down the ramp into the parking lot. The noise of the engine thrills him, the raw power of the turbo kicks in and he feels the vibrations in his testicles. Vernon is a virgin and he drives your car, riding for release. Vernon is a virgin.

Cheryl Taylor, born and raised in Great Britain, pursued Business Studies at St. Albans College. (“I hated it.”) Her

career path included Advertising Media Planner-Buyer and Fashion Designer specializing in wedding attire. Her first foray into writing for an audience was providing fashion advice for magazines and newspapers. Cheryl enjoys reading and writing in many genres she is currently writing a novel which she hopes to publish.


Glenn Johnson

Truths of a 4 and 5-Year-Old I have many distinct memories of my childhood in the Atlanta bedroom community of Chamblee, Georgia. I turned 4 in 1960 to give you a reference to my world at the time. There were certain truths back then, as I understood them: Nature was full of treasures for all the senses: Blackberries and plums for eating Passion flowers that looked like ballerinas The mimosa tree with the fuzzy pink blooms that felt soft against the cheeks May-pops (or what we called pop-boom-balls) were the same color and shape as a hand-grenade and worked just as well when thrown hard against the pavement behind someone else. The honeysuckle vines tempted both the nose and the tongue. Lightening Bugs filled the summer nights with visual wonder. Everybody had a job: Parents and other adults went off to work, usually Monday through Friday. Mr. Welborn, across the street was a postman and Mr. McNeely was the manager of the Grocery Store so they also had to work on weekends. The children’s job was to go to school. Those that were old enough walked to school. Those like me who weren’t went to PlaySkool, which was just a cutesy name for the big daycare center in town. I didn’t have much use for shoes when I was home between the months of March and November. It was better to do as you were told. The consequences were always worse than doing the thing in the first place. There were 2 trails in the open field at the end of our dead-end street. One went to Dairy Queen where small ice cream cones and Dilly Bars were just a nickel each. The other went to the Fruit Basket, a small convenience store where candy was 2 for a penny and you could get 3 cents for an empty soda bottle. It was a big deal to drive all the way to the shops at Chamblee Plaza, that I now know was only 2 miles away. You can imagine my surprise and excitement that Saturday in December when Mom told me we were going to the Buster Brown Shoe Store. I was a bit confused because I didn’t ‘need’ new shoes, but it was exciting because it meant a car trip to Chamblee Plaza. When we walked in I was even more surprised by the man in a red suit and an oversized curly white beard who was sitting in a chair off to one side. Mom looked at me and proclaimed, “We’re here so you can see Santa Claus!” I climbed up on his lap and made a thorough evaluation of the gentleman. I could see tufts of his own dark hair peeking below the white wig he was wearing. The elastic straps wrapped around his ears and holding his beard in place were plainly visible, as well. Mom looked at me and said, “Go ahead, tell Santa what you want for Christmas.” I looked at her and wanted to explain that this man was definitely NOT Santa Claus, but remembering my truth about it being easier to do as you are told, I recited my wish list to this stranger sitting at the Buster Brown Shoe Store. I didn’t think too much about this encounter until the following year. Another December Saturday afternoon and another drive to the Buster Brown Shoe Store at Chamblee Plaza. We walk in and there sat the same man, wearing the same red suit, bad wig, and silly beard. But what I suddenly realized, I told this man what I wanted Santa to bring me for Christmas last year and most everything showed up. I knew this guy wasn’t THE Santa Claus but he must have some inside track to talk to Santa directly. Then it hit me! All adults have a job and this man’s job was to talk to children and pass that information on to Santa Claus. And if that was his job, then THAT was the job I wanted when I became an adult.

Glenn Johnson finally donned the red suit while sporting his own real white beard in 2010 and has been spreading the magic of Santa Claus ever since. After spending several years as a mall Santa in St. Louis and Chicago, including being the lead Santa at the DreamWorks Animation’s Adventure to Santa at Oakbrook Center, Glenn has returned to the Atlanta area full time. He can often be found hanging out at FoxTale Book Shoppe in his hometown of Woodstock. You can find more information on Facebook at I ssue


Theresa Lynn Ast


Theresa Lynn Ast

Thinking About Genocide In European History courses students often want to debate “genocide” and discuss atrocities. Occasionally they make unequivocal statements that Stalin or Hitler was the most evil dictator of the twentieth century and killed the most people, or killed people with the most brutal methods. Seldom do they offer evidence to support their statements; they are primarily operating out of strong emotions – anger, horror, fear. However, as citizens and as a nation, we need to be able to engage in “rational thought processes” and distinguish them from “irrational emotions and beliefs.” It is entirely normal and common for people to be emotional, but emotions are seldom conducive to logical or constructive thinking. In order to discuss history and politics productively, we need to teach ourselves to depend upon reason and evaluate evidence. Definitions of “genocide” range from exceedingly simple, “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group” (Oxford Dictionary) or “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group” (Merriam Webster) to the rather complex, “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical (ethnic), racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the groups conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group." (Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 1951). In spite of the United Nations detailed definition, determining which historical events meet the criteria of “genocide” and which events are best defined as “criminal and/or inhumane behavior” often devolves into frustrating and difficult debates. At times people speculate about which twentieth century genocide qualified as the most brutal, destructive, and deadly. In common parlance, which was the worst? Raw data, the number of people murdered by a regime, by a faction within a nation, does not provide the best assessment criteria for such questions and perhaps these are not the right questions to ask. For example, most university students are not sure how many people were killed in the middle of the twentieth century in Germany under Adolph Hitler, or in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. But in my teaching experience students (non-historians by definition) will usually assert, with little or no evidence, that Hitler and the National Socialists or Stalin and the Bolsheviks, definitely murdered the greater number of people and are the most evil. These are emotional reactions (not intellectual or rational or logical reactions), perhaps based on films, video games, or conversations with friends and family. What is usually lacking is broad exposure to careful research that would enable us to determine which regime inflicted what level of suffering and destruction upon the world. Clearly, there are multiple factors, concerns, issues to consider when we, or our students, are examining any particular genocide. Of course, the same is true when researching any historical movement or event, political issue or development, well, when working within any discipline and on any topic. Hitler was chancellor of the much lauded “thousand year Reich” for twelve years (1933-1945). He and the Nazi leadership were focused on territorial expansion, the creation of an agricultural hinterland in Poland and Western Russia, the complete eradication (genocide) of Jews (perhaps Gypsies as well), and decimating other national, racial, political, and social groups – Slavs (except a remnant to work on farms), Polish Intellectuals, Socialists, Communist officials, and Soviet soldiers. Using starvation, beatings, disease, the Einsatzgruppen (special forces operating in the East who went in behind the Wehrmacht, regular army, capturing and executing unarmed civilians), gas vans, and Extermination Camps) the Nazis murdered five to six million Jews and eleven to twelve million people (non-combatants, except for Soviet soldiers who perished in the Death Camps in Poland) if we combine estimates for both war crimes and genocide. (Films on the Holocaust are too numerous to list.)

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Theresa Lynn Ast Comrade Stalin was in power much longer, ruling the Soviet Union for twenty-five years (1928 to 1953). Some scholars attribute the death toll under Stalin to the power-hungry, cruel, and exceedingly paranoid nature of the man, placing less emphasis on Stalin’s or the Soviet leadership’s determination to eliminate particular races, nationalities, or social groups. Scholars used to suggest that Stalin directly executed (prisons, roundups, the Great Terror of 1937-1938) and indirectly murdered (malnutrition, exposure to intense cold, hard labor in the Gulags) from ten to twenty million people (Burnt by the Sun). More recent scholarship, conducted after the end of the Cold War and after Russian and Soviet archives were opened to Western researchers, suggests that six to nine million people were directly and indirectly murdered while Stalin was in power. Have there been non-European genocides in the twentieth century? There have been and one frequently mentioned, even by Hitler, is the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1922. Estimates vary, but it is generally accepted that the Young Turks removed from their homeland and murdered between 700,000 and 1,500,000 people. In Indonesia, 1965-1966, the PKI (communist insurgents) in six months murdered 500,000 civilians; they were extremely brutal, employing beheadings, evisceration, and dismemberment. (The Year of Living Dangerously is a romantic, at times melodramatic film, but accurately addresses historical events.) The Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol Pot, murdered 1,400,00 and 2,000,000 Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. However, some historians do not believe the Cambodian slaughter qualifies as genocide. (The Killing Fields is an excellent, although profoundly disturbing, film). Rwanda-Urundi, a German colony, became a league of Nations Protectorate in 1918 (Treaty of Versailles). Later the two territories were separated and Burundi and Rwanda were ruled by separate Tutsi kings. There were two major tribal peoples in the region and European colonial powers always favored one tribe over the other as a way to exercise local control. In 1972 the Hutu in Burundi murdered between 80,000 and 210,000 Tutsis. In 1994 the Tutsis in Rwanda murdered between 100,000 and 1,000,000 Hutu men, women, children. Most of the Hutu were slaughtered with hatchets and knives. (There are several excellent films dealing with the conflict.) The Bosnian Genocide which took place from 1992-1995 claimed between 8,000 and 31,000 lives. Have there been non-European, non-genocidal mass killings in the twentieth century? Scholars who study the Partition of India, 1947-1951, estimate that 2,250,000 individuals out of the 11,000,000 who left their homes (people of Muslim faith left India and moved to Pakistan, Hindus and Sikhs left Pakistan and moved to India) are missing and unaccounted for. In China, under Chairman Mao, during the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961), researchers estimate that 4,200,000 people were killed. Later, during the infamous Cultural Revolution, 1969-1979, another 2,000,000 people were killed by representatives of their own government. Estimates of the number of people killed by the Japanese on the Chinese mainland during World War II vary widely from three to six million. More recently the communist North Korean dictator Kim Jung-Il approved the execution of 1,000,000 prisoners confined in prison camps. By diverting money to weapons, security measures, and the military, rather that feeding his people, Kin Jung-Il indirectly contributed to the death of approximately 3,000,000 North Koreans. The estimated total population at the time was 25,000,000. ~~~~~~~~~~~ Patently, it does not seem useful or necessary to “rank” genocides. They are all monstrous, cruel, immoral tragedies. In some ways they are similar, in other ways different; it is more instructive to focus on the political, social, economic, and moral conditions that result in conflict, war, mass-killings, and genocide. We need to study history and national politics, but we are tragically remiss if we do not also learn how and where we have gone wrong, what did not work, and what might serve a preventative function in the future.


Theresa Lynn Ast

As a modern European historian, this is what most Holocaust experts agree upon: (1) Nazi barbarism and genocide took place within the context of a “civilized, enlightened, Christian” nation, with a highly educated population, in a society experiencing all the benefits of modern industry and technology. (2) An extraordinary number of Jews, between five and six million, were murdered in an incredibly short period of time, 1941-1945. (3) Participation in this genocide by German and other European citizens was widespread. We are mistaken if we assume that the Holocaust was entirely the work of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and card-carrying members of the National Socialist party. Many people participated, collaborated, assisted, or were bystanders who did nothing. Few people chose to be rescuers or resistors. (4) National Socialist plans were extensive and detailed, proposing far more than the elimination of unwanted populations, the “mere death” of millions of people. They subjected their victims to isolation, poverty, starvation, humiliation, disease, cruelty, torture, brutal and unnecessary medical experiments … and then shot and gassed them. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As a historian and a humanist, I find no benefit in encouraging people to rank genocides or atrocities. Engaging in debates about which atrocity, which genocide, which human disaster is the worst, is counter-productive. Doing so distracts and diverts us from focusing on the much more important things we need to learn … how to create stable and democratic societies, how to strengthen individual rights, yet protect the common good, how to promote ethics and strengthen morality, and how to mandate that reasonable and necessary limits be placed on power, whether it is political, economic, or national power.

Theresa Lynn Ast, Ph. D, grew up on Air Force bases and has spent the last twenty years teaching European Histo-

ry and Interdisciplinary Studies at Reinhardt University, a Liberal Arts Institution, in North Georgia. Her research and teaching disciplines are Modern Europe, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, History of Science, and Twentieth Century World Conflicts. She began writing poetry five years ago after her father and younger sister died. For the past two years she has participated in the Etowah Valley MFA - Creative Writing summer program and currently studies with the poet and editor William Wright.

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Mack Anderson

MACK ANDERSON, Painter Mack Anderson is a native of Habersham County, Georgia. Raised in the cotton mill village of Habersham Mills Georgia located on the Soque River just south of Clarkesville. He and his wife Sandra now reside in Alto, Georgia. Mack has been interested in art and music since early childhood. Owned and operated a leather shop in Helen, Georgia in the early 70's where he handcrafted functional pieces of art from leather. Mack's passion for painting came about as a result of a desperate effort to rescue himself from the computer. Being a CAD drafter and designer by trade, Mack found himself spending countless hours at the computer on his regular job and moonlighting at home. In May of 2000, he decided to take a basic oil painting class offered at a local tech school one evening per week just to change his routine. The inspiration that came from the freedom that painting provides woke a sleeping giant in him. Mack lost his right eye in an industrial accident in the mid 80's. Singular vision eliminates depth perception. As his passion for painting grew and the challenges that come with acquiring depth, his technique of painting is achieved by focusing more on areas and values of color than subject matter. Mack says, "There's no way to describe in words the thrill of taking a blank canvas and creating the illusion of 3 dimensions with values of color and texture. Each canvas begins like a new day that no one has ever lived in." Each and every painting is a learning experience in itself. Each one offers its own challenges and lessons. The paintings you see on his Facebook page are a few of hundreds that Mack has done since he began his painting journey. Mack gives all the credit of his talents as an artist, a singer and musician to The Almighty. He sees the opportunities to use these talents to bless and encourage the lives of others. Cultivate your gifts and talents and stay inspired ! May God Bless You !!!

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Laura McCullough

LAURA MCCULLOUGH, Mixed-Media Artist A wife and mother happily nestled in the North Georgia mountains, Laura McCullough is a writer, an artist, a lover of Faith and a believer in what is beautiful. When asked, she cannot remember a time when she “began” to create artwork, as there was never a time that she did not. Beyond drawing and painting, as a child she was constantly collecting and deconstructing things which caught her interest, combining and reinventing her findings into tiny “masterpieces”. She won her first art competition at age 9, and had her first poem published at 12. Throughout her life, that approach to the world of examining, collecting, deconstructing and reinventing has informed nearly everly facet of McCullough’s creative process, extending into not only her writing and artwork, but her education, career choices, and most profoundly her faith. Subject to an intellectually adventurous, and somewhat indecisive, nature, she attended college in the fields of Graphic Design, Interior Design, and Biology while pursuing a career in Nonprofit Animal Welfare. One could write an entirely separate piece on the various pursuits and occupations over the intervening years. This wealth of education and experience were a tremendous benefit in her finally chosen fields of Mixed Media Artist, Illustrator, Author and Homeschooling mother. As days and destiny allow, she will one day expand her resume to include Counselor, and perhaps Quantum Physicist. A love of Science, Mathematics and the beauty of Creation drive McCullough’s work. Not only the beauty one might readily observe, as one sees the reflection of the sky upon a pool of water, but rather, what beauty is there under the surface? The immutable, often unseen, beauty of secret places; whether they be the smooth mottled stones at the bottom of that pool, the perfect mathematic ratios of the watery roots pushing between them as they strive for life, or the cool shadowed depths of the human heart. She believes that if a piece of artwork is worth creating, if a piece of poetry or prose is worth writing, then it should give you a window into who that artist is at their inmost being; it should be a piece of their soul.

“The world will tell you to speak your mind. The world will forget you. Rather you must quiet your mind, and speak your soul.” - Laura McCullough 84 | the BLUE MOUNTAIN REVIEW Issue 9

Laura McCullough

Over the course of her artistic career, McCullough has worked in nearly every medium, although she has come to find a deep and tangible resonance in the combination of mixed-media collage and fluid acrylic painting. The juxtaposition of the precisely manipulated elements of the collage with the inherently uncontrollable fluid acrylics creates an energizing and vibrant dynamic that exhilarates both artist and viewer. McCullough has had pieces featured in the galleries of the Art Institute of Atlanta, eclectic galleries such as Wild Cat on a Wing, on television programs such as Good Day Atlanta, and is the current cover artist for the Winter issue of Rattle Magazine. McCullough works on both an original and commissioned basis, creating for such varied projects as children’s book illustrations, book and album cover work, manuscript illumination, logo design, personal commissions and prophetic pieces, craft and furniture pieces, drum and guitar painting, and fabric design.

More of McCullough’s work can be viewed, or she can be contacted, at and

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Dinty Moore


interview by Clifford Brooks What are a few things from your story that the readers need to know right off the bat? Where do you see yourself in the world of letters? That all sounds so fancy. I’m just a guy who gets up every day and tries to write something that will either entertain, interest, enlighten, or be useful to people who read. The “world of letters,” to me, is inside the box with my Scrabble board. How would you rank your books we are lucky enough to read? How would you suggest our readers attacking your work? Rank my own books? Are you crazy? What books have you yet to write? What are you working on currently? I have been struggling for longer than I want to admit with a book about the metaphor of Hell and the idea of original sin, loosely revolving around Dante’s Inferno. The central idea, as best as I can tell in the midst of an unfinished, evolving project, is that the idea of Hell, and the guilt that surrounds our man-made definitions of sin, just serve to make us feel miserable about ourselves and encourage us to find as little joy as possible in being alive. Yet we persistently insist on hanging on to these metaphors and man-made definitions. Over-eating, for instance, isn’t good for us, but it isn’t some inherent evil. The same with lust. There clearly are limits to how we should act on our lustful feelings, but the feelings are natural. Sin is man’s invention, and so is Hell, or so I believe, and these ideas may be hurting us more than helping us. What question do you never want to be asked again? Are you named after the stew? (I’m not.) What question have you never been asked that you'd love the chance to put on paper? (The answer?) Q: If I leave my multi-million-dollar fortune to you in my will, do you promise to use it to help other writers and to do good writing yourself? A: Yes. What are you reading right now? Michael Perry’s Montaigne in Barn Boots, Beth Ann Fennelly’s Heating & Cooling: 52 micro-memoirs, Steve Almond’s Bad Stories, and lots of depressing books about theology and Satan. Do you have any rituals that you through before, during, and/or after writing to keep yourself in the zone? Coffee.


Dinty Moore

What is your primary philosophy in life that keeps your head above water? We make our own misery, and we can choose to sidestep it most of the time. How and where can people see you read in the future? I travel a lot, and am lucky to read my work and teach workshops in lots of cool places. Upcoming venues include San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio, the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, MI, Creative Nonfiction magazine’s Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, the Creative Nonfiction Collective of Canada Conference in Toronto, and in July 2018: The Kenyon Review Writers Workshops, The Normal School's Summer Nonfiction Workshop and Publishing Institute in Fresno, CA, and the Baypath Writing Residency in Dingle Ireland. Have you ever cared for a baby elephant? Yes i have, one summer when I was working at the Erie (PA) Zoo, and it was the most amazing experience. Dinty W. Moore is the author of numerous books, the editor of Brevity, and has been published in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, Crazyhorse, among numerous other venues. Dinty lives in Athens, Ohio, teaching a crop of brilliant undergraduate and stunningly talented graduate students as director of Ohio University’s BA, MA, and PhD in Creative Writing program.

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Annmarie Lockhart

ANNMARIE LOCKHART interview by Clifford Brooks

Give us the roots of your unrelenting need to make writing the respite nothing else is able to rival? This is a great question!! It boils down to this: For every urge to write there is a need to hear. The dialogue between artist and audience is holy. And the give-and-take of creative collaboration is the most transformative experience I’ve witnessed. Once you’ve participated in that, how can you give it up? You know what I’m talking about because you’ve put these ideas into practice at the Southern Collective Experience, a living, breathing exercise in artistic support and collaboration. That is so very vital in this frail world. I, for one, want more of it. What set you on this passion I’ve noted in you for all the year’s I’ve known you? I think what happened to me was something that happens to a lot of people. One day I woke up writing again after not having written for decades. I haven’t stopped since. I can only explain the drought years as being similar to what happened to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz: I had to follow a yellow brick road to discover that language was my home and it lived inside me. Does that make sense to anyone but me? Who writing in today’s world to you consider a genius? My absolute all-time favorite genius poet is Ireland’s Louis de Paor. That man writes magic. He is everything. He writes in Irish and English and listening to him reading his work is divine. I would also include Claudia Rankine and Tracy Smith in the genius category. I like to read their work in sequence because it often feels to me like listening to them in conversation. What question would you love to never hear again? “Mom, can you drive me … ?” lol You have a magazine and radio show. Please tell us a bit about both and how readers may reach you to inquire more about both? I founded vox poetica (, check it out!) in 2009 because I wanted to engage with everyday writers in everyday art. As you know, because you were there from early on, it took off. Within a year writers were approaching me about publishing their collections. I’d worked in publishing forever so they were speaking my language and it felt like a natural progression. Two years ago, I brought on Nathan Gunter as Managing Editor at vox poetica because it was more than one person could handle. He has been a godsend. He is organized where I am not, he is focused where I am not, he has fantastic ideas, and he’s as good a collaborator as any I could find. His integration was seamless and he’s left his mark in the best of ways. The essence and sensibility of vox poetica are as much Nathan Gunter as Annmarie Lockhart today and that brings me great joy. The radio show, vox poetica’s 15 Minutes of Poetry, is my attempt at helping artists and their audience connect. It’s one of the most fun things I’ve done in this industry. I remember one of the episodes where I interviewed you. It was


Annmarie Lockhart

this Georgia gentleman and a Jersey girl talking two completely different languages, but in the artistic space, it worked. And it still makes me laugh. The show has been on hiatus for a few years, but we’re starting it up again. In fact, if any of your readers want to participate, please, reach out ( and we’ll get you on the calendar. Mostly I interview writers about their work, they read a few pieces, we talk about craft, process, and many other things along the way. We all have something to say about what we create and consume. 15 Minutes of Poetry is another channel for that communication. Who are you reading right now? Right now I’m reading Patrick Phillips, both nonfiction and poetry. And I’m always reading writers from within the vox poetica and Unbound Content family. We just selected and announced our Best of the Net nominees from vox poetica, still deciding who we’ll nominate for Pushcarts. That means I am reading and rereading everything we’ve published over the past year, experiencing the work again from a different perspective. I value every piece I publish, but the pieces that I nominate are the ones I love most deeply. It’s incredibly difficult to select 18 pieces between the two award programs from some 300-500 poems published in a given year. Nathan and I have talked about posting short lists of the work that came close to the nominations, but we can’t decide if writers would see that as an honor or an irritation. What upcoming projects do you have on the horizon? Do you host any literary festivals, and if so, how can we find out more? I’m not the logistical genius I’d like to be. Given a choice, you’d prefer to attend an event organized by essentially anyone other than me. That said, I’ll be attending some events in support of Cassie Premo Steele’s fourth book of poetry from Unbound Content, Tongues in Trees, this fall and well into next year. I’m also really looking forward to returning to the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival at Bridgewater College in Virginia in May. There are way more wonderful events than I can attend, but I’ll be getting to as many as possible. I’m always looking for ways to bridge the time/space divide, but I don’t always succeed. It’s one of our greatest challenges in the arts and in life. You can always find me in the virtual world. I had the great good fortune to be interviewed recently by another writer, Kenneth Weene, on his podcast, Walking on the Weene Side for It Matters Radio, on the subject of sexual assault. That interview is available on YouTube, where you can also find a recent reading I did at the Poetry and Art Barn in Cream Ridge, NJ, Ann Kestner’s new venture. Ann is the editor of Poetry Breakfast, a wonderful online poetic delight. I have recent and not-so-recent work appearing in a multitude of online and print publications. It makes me giddy when people I admire, like you and Ann and Kenneth, honor me by publishing my work. Thank you, my friend!

Annmarie Lockhart is the founding editor of Vox Poetica, an online literary salon dedicated to bringing

poetry into the everyday, and unbound CONTENT, an independent publisher devoted to poetry. A resident of Englewood, NJ, she lives, works and wtrites 2 miles east of the hospital where she was born. You can read her words at fine journals online and in print. I ssue


Alexzenia Davis

ALEXZENIA DAVIS interview by Clifford Brooks

Please let us in on your secret: Who are you? What moves you to write, dance, and groove beyond what the common soul is expected to endure? How do you keep going? What song stirs your soul the deepest? I feel like I am a lot of things. And at the core, I am an extremely spiritual being; even in my most worldly moments! As a friend, I am super transparent. And as an artist, I'm an incredible storyteller. And I think it's amazing that God gifts writers with insight and empathy that transcends beyond our personal realm of experience. We're challenged with telling stories for people who can't tell their own. Knowing that I can process heavy things and turn them into something beautiful, keeps me going... as an artist and as a person. It's funny that you mentioned "song," and I have to take it literally because, though writing is my passion, music was my first love. I've found solace in my catalog of music just like others do in books or film. Songs like Prince's "Adore" remind me that great art can touch every emotion in the span of minutes and still leave you feeling whole. How did “The Poet’s List” let you know you are the one to give it life, and now maintain the successful beast in the face of flood or famine? What higher places do you have in mind to see it call home in the future? I was in the process of promoting a short poetry film in which I starred. The short was literally traveling the world on the film festival circuit and it was just such an exciting time for everyone involved. But what I came to realize during the promotional stage was that there weren’t many poetry blog-news sites dedicated to promoting contemporary poets. So, in 2014, I created what I wanted to see. I created The Poet’s List from scratch, and up until this year, I tried my best to remain anonymous. I’ve grown with The Poet’s List. It started off as a passion project that was somewhat self-serving. But now I feel like I’m more appreciative and more protective of the poetry community than I’ve ever been. I’ve been writing since age six, but the respect that I have for the community is so much deeper since birthing The Poet’s List. I have a few huge dreams for the site which, for now, I think I need to guard closely. But my ultimate goal is to make the poet popular again. Poetry has a huge cult following. But for those who don’t like poetry, they tend to stay away. The poet’s mind is brilliant and necessary, and I want for people to fall in love with the poet behind the poetry. We live in a world where everyone has a platform. The opinions of reality show stars are given the same weight as a social justice advocate. I’m not here to judge who people should follow, but I want to help curate a space


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where today’s most compelling minds can exist. I want to help forge a much needed balance. And I appreciate people like Russell Simmons and organizations like Button Poetry who have been so successful at this. What are you reading right now? I’m reading a book that I picked up from a Christian bookstore called, “I Am Second”. It’s a collection of editorialized testimonies from people who have given their life over to Christ after having drifted so far away. It’s a good combination of stories about celebrities—like the lead singer of Korn—and regular, everyday people as well. I keep thinking that I can read this book in coffee shops. My lattes always catch a tear or two and it’s extremely embarrassing! What question do you hope to heaven or ask hell to never require you to answer again? Well... I have always written fictional short stories in addition to my poetry. And I enjoy creating characters and their backstories. I think people who are not artists always want to understand the “inspiration” behind a particular thing; and they want something concrete. So they’ll ask, “Who is the inspiration behind this character... or this plot line?” And a lot of times they expect to hear, “It’s based on a friend,” or something to that effect. But the truth is, I’m a creative. I’m a creator. And I have stories living within me, constantly. They rise up from my soul. I have some poems and stories that literally just came from God. Period. To be fair, I don’t hate the question. It’s only annoying when they don’t believe me. There’s always going to be that elusiveness that surrounds a person who’s operating within their gift. Not everything can or needs to be explained. What do you call the style of your writing? Do you have rituals you hold sacred as you write to make sure no nuance or clear simile is missed? Do you write to music? Is there a room preferable to attain the ire air your mind must find to fashion a poem out of blank space? I don’t know if I’ve coined a term for my style of poetry, but I do like to say that I write “for the page.” And, oh my goodness... YES. Everything has to be exact—from punctuation to word choice. And once I’ve finished a poem, I refuse to do any major edits. Sometimes poems will hit me, and I just need to get them out. And I’ll write them down on my phone or on a piece of paper as they come. I’ve written some really good stuff during writing exercises and workshops as well, but when I try to force a poem it tends to take me longer to complete. I love layering my poems with double entendres, hidden wordplay and metaphors. Some are blatant and some are subtle; but I try my best to never to point them out. I consider these nuances gifts to anyone who may want to revisit my work in the future. What do you consider “success”? I feel successful when I know I’ve given my all. I don’t feel successful yet because I know I have more to give.

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Alexzenia Davis

Creatively, who has influenced you the most? I have several authors and poets who I admire deeply. But my greatest influences are the music artists who shaped my upbringing. I've learned grand, but abstract lessons from their body of work and interviews. There are so, so many, but to name a few…: I will forever be in awe of Michael Jackson. He spent his entire life executing his gift with excellence. He came from so little and ended up leaving a barrier-breaking legacy of music. Just imagine the level of focus, discipline and fearlessness that it required. He inspires me to crave excellence. And there's J. Ivy. He's a spoken word poet, and when he dropped a verse on Kanye West's album, I knew I wanted to do the same thing. So I started placing music behind my spoken word YouTube videos. I loved that he had his own unique cadence. He wasn't trying to sound like anybody else. And, of course, I always respect someone who doesn't shy away from speaking highly of God. What is one challenge that you have experienced while running The Poet’s List? There’s really only one area that I would classify as challenging. And that’s how to respond to all of the many issues that occur in any given month, or week for that matter. I’m a black, Christian woman. I’m from New York City. I’m a U.S. citizen. I’m a college graduate. I’m involved with the arts community. So much affects me, whether it be Trump threatening to cut funding for the National Endowment of the Arts. Or whether it be yet another instance of police brutality against our black boys and men. Or whether it’s me trying to remain a pillar of spiritual strength when most of the world would rather be negative… Something always has my eye and heart. But I don’t want The Poet’s List to be my voice. I want it to be the collective voice of poets, who each have their own set of communities and battles. I can’t possibly say everything, so do I allow The Poet’s List to say nothing? I’ve yet to figure it out. What are you most proud of when it comes to The Poet’s List? Right now, I’m so excited about the Instagram community! This summer’s focus was to engage with poets on Instagram in a greater way because, for a while, the account more so served as a placeholder with very little activity. Now we do prompts and have weekly conversations… and the poets are so supportive of one another. The following is growing rapidly, and they are all so amazing. Their excitement gives me life. I want for people to find peace in their truth, and that starts with them feeling as though they can share it. Find more from Alexzenia Davis at: Instagram: Twitter: Facebook:


Alyssa Hamilton

ALYSSA HAMILTON interview by Clifford Brooks

Brains: Other than writing, learning is the seat of your soul. What lights that fire? Does the hunger ever subside? What’s the nerdiest thing you enjoy doing to unwind that the majority won’t walk near? I haven’t always loved school. I actually used to forge my mother’s signature on homework assignments for a special reading class I was placed in during second grade. Luckily, when I was prescribed glasses I became a much better student (the difference being able to see makes). I developed the habit of becoming engrossed with topics and researching anything I could about them. I loved horror as a kid and would check out books from the library about burial rites of different cultures, and that macabre preoccupation definitely influenced me as a writer. Currently, I’ve become enamored with local myths and legends, informing a long term project I’m working on which is a collection of short stories exploring contemporary American Gothic. Usually I start with looking at a basic Wikipedia entry (the most credible of sources, obviously), then moving to “news” articles, and eventually end up in paranormal forums wondering how I got twenty comments deep in a subthread. I also watch documentaries on Netflix or Youtube about deep ocean exploration or alien abductions. Something I wish I could do would be to carry a biologist with me everywhere I go to tell me all about local flora and fauna. Sometimes, nature is strange enough in and of itself to work into a piece. What are you reading right now? What kind of music do you prefer when you read/study/write? The most recent novels that I’ve enjoyed reading have been Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Isabel Allende’s Eva Luna. I also like to read a lot of literary magazines because I enjoy the experience of being exposed to a lot of writers in a collection. The New England Review did an issue specializing in translations of German poetry which I find myself being drawn to over and over again. I reread many pieces that I’ve enjoyed reading the first time to really get a sense of their craft, to dissect their success. For instance, right now I’m obsessed with Octavio Paz’s “My Life With the Wave.” I also dive into Twitter to find indie lit magazines because they’re not afraid to publish experimental works, things you don’t see published everywhere. Despite the fact that I’m primarily a fiction writer, I tend to read more poetry than I do prose. I’m fascinated with the amount of work that goes into short works, how the economics of language plays out in a single page. It may explain my affinity for flash fiction. I also love just how beautifully poetry manipulates language. When I study, I tend to listen to a variety of music. Lately I’ve been on a kick of throw-backs from my childhood: namely hits from the late 90s/early 2000s. Or metal covers of Disney songs. I ssue


Alyssa Hamilton

I like things which have strong beats or bass lines because it helps get me into a rhythm working. When I write creatively, I usually try to stick with ambient music like Port Blue or Lambert. I’m paranoid that lyrics will seep into my writing, but I break that rule for artists like Glass Animals or Hozier, where the lyrics are well-written. I can listen to white noise while I read, but music end up distracting me. What do you think of the current academic setting, and the graduate program, to which you now find yourself dedicated? I love my graduate program. I’m in my first year of the Etowah Valley MFA program at Reinhardt University. The way the program is set up is that each class forces you to examine with great detail an element of craft. It’s incredibly helpful for me because I can get intimidated by looking at something in its entirety. I find that discovering a work through its details makes for a better experience of both writing and reading something. All of the professors are incredibly encouraging and tailor their mentorships with you based on your input and interests. I’ve been exposed to amazing literature of all genres that I would have never thought to pick up by myself. They don’t try to change your work—they seek to augment your capabilities and develop your potentials. I’m very grateful to be part of the program and that they opened their doors to me. I can’t wait to go back to residency in July. What aspect of literature do you want to attack with both hands to see improved, wider-recognized, and/ or talked about in “pop culture”? Why? How can you see improvements made? Is there such a thing a “dreaming too big” too big in literature? I’m very torn about this question. In a basic sense, I just want good writing to be recognized, no matter what shape that takes. While I would love to see more experimental work gain notoriety, or non-romance based speculative fiction, I worry that its potential “trendiness” would suck all its integrity from it. It’s no secret that once something hits mainstream, it gets watered down for mass consumption—the last thing an artist needs is to be forced into a mold in the name of a wider accessibility. And while accessibility is important, I think it’s also important to accept that, depending on the type of work you do, your audience is going to be limited. That’s just the name of the game. As Dita von Teese once said, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” Something I think all writers need to ask themselves no matter their genre is, “Why is a reader going to keep reading this piece?” It’s easy to get caught up in ourselves and forget there is an audience we want to reach. Writing so often can become a solitary art, and that’s why it’s important we have a sense of community and peers that will give us helpful feedback. My early drafts make perfect sense to me, but to another reader, there’s something missing. You need someone to tell you what’s missing. As for dreaming too big, I think it depends on what genre you’re working in. The scope of a poem is different from the scope of a short story, just as the scope of a short story is different from the scope of a novel. What you want to say with a piece will determine its medium, I’d say. As long as all the loose ends find themselves tied together in some way, I think you can get away with close to anything. As long as the internal logic of the piece makes its course and outcome seem plausible, you can do whatever you want.


Alyssa Hamilton

What are things you'd like people to know about you from Jump Street? What are the maxims that define your ethical fiber? What is the Alyssa Hamilton Top 10 Rules of Life? When people ask what I write, I usually say, “Weird fiction.” I say that because I don’t know how to explain what it is that I do. My philosophy stems from something very simple: I can write about anything I can think of. I just happen to think strange things. My early base in horror and fantasy and later development and exposure of realism blended together to create my current aesthetic. There is a beauty in language which I don’t want to see lost. You’d have to pry lyricism from my cold, dead hands. I’m going to preface my 10 Rules of Life with this fact: I’m in my early twenties. I know I’ve got (hopefully) a long way to go. But, here they are:


Have no expectations of people, good or bad.


Make no promises you know you won’t honor.


Know where you come from and acknowledge its influence. Then move beyond it.


Do wrong to no one (intentionally).


Be aware of yourself. Don’t try to present yourself as anything other than that.


Allow yourself to fully experience the world, in all its glory and all its horror.


Love is the base of fulfillment, and it takes many forms.


Try not to let yourself get sucked into an echo chamber. It doesn’t promote growth.


Details matter. It’s the little things people remember.


Time is precious. Don’t waste it.

Find more from Alyssa Hamilton at: Past Publications:

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Richard Winham

RICHARD WINHAM WUTC Station Manager interview by Clifford Brooks

What about your youth shaped the drive to be at the forefront of music? What are some of your earliest memories? How do you feel now over thirty years in the Appalachian Mountains? I came of age in London in the 1960’s. The writer David Hepworth like me was born in 1950. In a recent interview he said: “I was born in 1950, and in popular music terms, that’s the winning ticket in the lottery of life.” I’ve said something similar in answer to your question, but I’m not sure many people have understood. Probably because I didn’t put it so succinctly. Popular music was the lingua franca in the 1960’s. It was still more than a decade away from splintering into a myriad sub genres and everyone seemed to be talking about the same songs and arguing the merits of the same artists. If you couldn’t enter the conversation you were…like the last horse in the race. Music was the catalyst for the explosion of popular culture that also included theatre, movies and fashion. Everything was ever changing almost daily and, as Dylan put it, “those not busy being born / were busy dying.” Music mattered. Songwriters shaped the conversation and everybody was listening and arguing over what they were saying about the momentous changes in the world. It was an incredibly exciting time to be alive. We were all young at a time when everything was about being young and energized in the belief that we were changing the world. The Beatles caught it all in the revolutionary singles they released every three or four months, and in the amazing albums from A Hard Day’s Night to Sergeant Pepper in less than three years. The Beatles were ingenious synthesists absorbing all of the new ideas buzzing in the zeitgeist and writing about them in songs like starbursts filling the room from the radio. Music was an escape from a world that was too often chilly and grey. It still is and every time I listen I hear reverberations from those first songs I listened to on a cigarette pack sized transistor radio that fit comfortably in my pocket and alarmed the older ladies I passed on the street. And most importantly I love the idea that no matter how long and how often I listen there’s still more to hear than there are hours in the day--and for the past thirty years I’ve been able to share it with people who care about it just as I do. What question would you like to never be asked again? Would you please turn that down? The first person to say that was my mother as I pinwheeled around the living room wailing on air guitar as The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” came careening into the room. I was 13. Not much has changed. I still hope that they’re coming into the room to pinwheel with me... What are you reading at the moment? What is one book you think of that means more to you than any other? Do you write by chance (music or longhand)? I just finished a wonderfully insightful bio on George Martin. So many people have claimed a piece of the Beatles’ story, but anyone reading Kenneth Womack’s Maximum Volume will almost certainly agree that there were five Beatles--two of them called George.

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Richard Winham

The book that changed my life was Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels. It was my introduction to what Greil Marcus calls "the old weird America." It painted a picture of endless highways and limitless horizons. A place where you could run and never stop. Freedom. It was an intoxicating vision for a 16 year old freshly released from Catholic School, but still fettered... I've written about music for several publications. I've never written any music myself, but well written prose is music on the page. I've never accomplished that, but as it is with my daily radio programs it's the horizon I'll always be striving to reach. What is three decades leading the charge at WUTC to you as you look back over so much music, talk, and world events? Where do you see the programming for your station cranking out into the future? The day I walked into WUTC for my first show I was shown into a room with the mixing board sitting on a wooden trestle table, a rickety neon light overhead, and fifty vinyl albums against the wall. I studied John Peel’s radio shows on the BBC’s Radio One for five years before I left for America to try my hand at making magic on the radio. For five years before Peel I had absorbed all I could from Top 40 radio on the offshore pirate ships that had brought freewheeling American-style radio to a country hungry for its blissful irreverence. Once here I inhaled all I could from the New York FM radio stations. I worked for a couple of commercial stations, but it was at WUTC that I was finally felt free to play in the ether. I finally had an audience willing and ready to play with me and together we have created something beyond all our imaginings. The door has always been open to creatives and I’ve been blessed to work with many inspired spirits including the wild-eyed poets who produce this magazine. Every day is another chance to reach the horizon. I never do, but man it’s so much fun in spite of my oh so frustrating limitations. But then John Lennon famously said he would like to re-record all of The Beatles’ songs so who am I to complain. What has it been like to work with the Southern Collective Experience on their show Dante’s Old South? Every time I work with the dreamers from Dante’s Old South I feel my spirit lightening as they carry me along with them in their imaginative, impassioned eloquence. Their show is powerful poetry on the radio.

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Richard Winham

It must be done: If you were going to put on the most mind-blowing, icon-filled, brilliant concerts on (of all time) who would you book for it? I am talking at least 10 bands, living or dead, whose line up would create world peace, or the End Times. (I have stock in both.) Roll up, roll up...Ladies and gentlemen may I present to you... Johann Sebastian Bach Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli and the Hot Club of France John Coltrane, Miles Davis. Bill Evans, Elvin Jones and Scott LaFaro. Leonard Cohen & Richard Thompson w/Danny Thompson, Herbie Hancock & Terry Cox Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, James Jamerson & Benny Benjamin The Beatles The Clash James Brown, Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, St. Clair Pinckney & Clyde Stubblefield Funkadelic Sly and The Family Stone Please give our readers a piece of advice worth its salt about getting into broadcasting? What is a fact about it that cannot be moved? Listen. Be yourself.

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Dan Pool


Editor, Pickens County Progress interview by Clifford Brooks

How did you end up behind the wheel of the Pickens Progress? Nepotism at its finest. The Pickens Progress is one of the few family owned newspapers left in the state and I’m the latest generation of the family to sit in the editor’s chair, following my mother, grandfather, great-uncle and great grandfather. (Incidentally, the chair is getting pretty worn). My family has owned the paper since the early 1900s. In defense of my hiring, I do have a journalism degree from the University of Georgia. What are a few little things about maintaining a newspaper that still makes it fun to do? Even after 20 years I get excited when big news happens. For anyone who started as a reporter, your heart-rate jumps when you hear sirens or someone passes along a great tip. There is also a chance on smaller weeklies to explore what catches your interest for features – unusual hobbies, businesses, events and unusual people all make great stories and are fun to report. What are a few tips you can give those who find their passion in newspaper reporting? Keep in mind you are a reporter not a writer. I go about once a year to talk to a journalism class at Reinhardt and occasionally at some Georgia Press functions at UGA, and I always begin by saying the job is simple, go to wherever the story is happening, find someone to tell you what happened, write it down accurately and then type it up. Editors can fine-tune the writing, but they can’t make a reporter develop a nose for news or an ear for quotes. You must be able to see some pattern or quirk out there and recognize that you can turn that into a solid article.

Our newspaper can be found at or on the dark plain at I ssue


Dan Pool What are a few "unspoken" rules of journalism that those looking at this as a possible profession should know ahead of time? Despite the public criticism, all professional reporters I know are mostly unbiased or keep their opinions to themselves. It’s like we’re watching the Cleveland Browns versus Cincinnati Bengals – who cares who wins but it may be a great game. Second, it has to be short, whatever you write most days. There is no reason to torment the readers by loading up a basic meeting story with a play-by-play analysis. It sounds backwards, but when you have enough time, you can write a shorter story. What are you reading right now? Well since you asked, “Adios, Motherf***ers,” a personal journal of 1980’s punk rock from Michael Ruffino. I wish you’d asked that when I was reading Tolstoy. Where do you see newspapers fitting into our culture in the next 20 years? We’ll still be here in some form, though there may be more news and less paper. There will always be people who want real news, as well as a go-to place for information on the local level – our challenge is figuring out how to get it to them in the preferred format of the moment. That being said, there should always be a place for print as it’s a true permanent archive. When we send out the paper every week it creates an unchangeable document, something that can’t be changed later to meet the whims of anyone wishing to alter history. What makes your brand of reporting different from what others do? Local. I am confident we have the finest coverage of our Jasper Lions Club, school system, area churches, and kids from the neighborhood that can be found. No one else is collecting and distributing news on happenings in Pickens County the way we do. What is the biggest threat to the news industry? It’s not the internet. But the internet has allowed people to find a single headline put up by an unverified source on social media as sufficient. This is appalling and scary that you can have a fairly complex subject like healthcare or the middle east and there are way too many people who will read a snippet from Facebook and form an opinion. To make it even worse, apparently our inability to realize that those outrageous claims on social media are fake has opened the door for a foreign government to exploit us. Regardless of your feelings on the president or the election, it is now pretty evident that Russia used social media to spread false stories and people fell for it. What are your hobbies that take your mind off the job? I have 1,001 different hobbies, none of which I am very good at, but most of which I am decently proficient. I get really into new hobbies about once a year then switch when I hit a mediocre level. I swap around regularly between road cycling (yeah, I’m that guy in spandex that is clogging up the roadway), mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, paddleboard racing, archery and gardening, among many other lesser ones. What are your top 5 favorite bands? Grateful Dead, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Ramones, Dave Brubeck, Johnny Cash.

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James Templeton

JAMES TEMPLETON James + the Wild Spirit interview by Clifford Brooks

Tell us your name, the band’s name, and why you chose the name for your group. What’s the heart of your sound? Please fill in the blanks on how you formed, what you’ve become, and what you expect out of the future. My name is James Templeton. I am the singer/songwriter for a band called James and the Wild Spirit. After being several other bands I decided to venture out on my own solo project. James and the Wild Spirit is gunslingin’ indie rock based in Nashville, TN. Imagine the music of a Cosmic Saloon, a Lunar Western. I’ve been fortunate to have had my music featured on networks like MTV, E!, ABC Family, and other networks. Along with over 20 TV placements, sharing stages with acts like Holly Williams, Butch Walker, Ben Folds, Kasabian, Andrew Belle, and more has been an honor for James + the Wild Spirit. People ask you constantly about the “secret of success”. There is no secret, but we all sacrifice different, precious things to reach goals. Without allowing too many “company secrets” out of the bag, what wisdom can you share to musicians to dodge unnecessary drama? How do you go about picking a band to join? What are a few signs the band picked is one that should be abandoned, post haste? In the music business there’s a lot of ups and downs. Learning to pick yourself back up and just keep chipping away is key. Being true to yourself, making music for yourself, being original is another important factor in success.

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James Templeton

The bands in the past I’ve played with were life long friends that I had known since 6th grade. James and the Wild Spirit are hired musicians who have become friends over time. Straight up, what is one story from the road that makes you laugh no matter how much time goes by? One of many, our guitar player received this note on stage. After the show, he read it. It read, “I saw you see me, call me sometime”. If you had a “Dream Team Concert” of bands/musicians to tour with, who (living or dead) would you add on the list? Johnny Cash Elvis John Lennon Tom Petty What are you reading at the moment? Currently reading nothing, the last book I read was Let the Trumpet Sound, a book about Martin Luther King Jr. When you write songs, do you have a certain room, particular people, and/or a ritual you perform to get the divine fire raging? Do you edit your lyrics in a particular process, or let the instruments feel out the snags? Do instrumentals or lyrics typically come first for you? Usually when I write for my music, I have a riff, some sort of melody and just stumble through til I hear the song. When I’m doing writes with other writers there is usually a theme or a topic/subject to write about. Doing the Nashville write thing is much different than my personal music. It’s a lot like writing for Tv/Film placements (songs to be used on television shows/movies) there’s usually more of theme or topic.

Find out more at

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Adam McIntyre


by Dusty Huggins As a young interviewer I have fallen into a style of questioning that has become somewhat routine. My subject this time, Adam McIntyre of The Pinx, deliberately circumvented that style, opting instead for a personal discussion entailing his life, beliefs, and of this thing they call rock and roll. Adam McIntyre was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1978. He grew up on a heavily wooded farm outside the city near an increasingly-abandoned railroad town called Ramer. The racial tension in Alabama was unspoken at the time, but young Adam would learn that associating with African American children would invite bullying, being called a “n****r-lover”, not that it changed his mind. “I got bullied for everything I liked and anything I did, whether or not it was genuinely weird.” He began to take solace in playing guitar at age 10, choosing to escape the world by immersing himself in music, but keeping his interests mostly private. “I did get up on stage with an R&B group called Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces when I was little. I was terrible but these old pros from the Rhythm & Blues circuit of the 60s and 70s admired my gumption.” The bullying continued into high school until meeting one of the “popular kids” changed his trajectory forever. Adam, then fourteen, was standing in line to sign up for a talent show to showcase his playing, an early step for any young ambitious musician. He was holding his father’s 1964 Gibson J-50, a modest but now vintage acoustic guitar. Sixteen-year-old Dwight “Bumper” Berry was standing right behind him with his father’s 1966 Gibson J-50. Noticing the coincidence right away, the two hit it off quickly and joined forces on the upcoming event with Berry as the lead vocalist and McIntyre focusing on guitar. Practices and performances solidified a deep friendship with a powerful social side-effect: Berry would demand that the other kids stop bullying McIntyre, as he was “one hell of a guitarist”. “He threatened my bullies with brute force.” It worked. Adam was never a “popular kid” but he now had a pass to be tolerated or even accepted by various cliques around school. Bumper Berry had no tolerance for intolerance and he kept Adam protected for the remainder of his life. The following summer, on the way to see Adam to catch up and play guitar, Berry was killed in a car crash. He was seventeen. At fifteen, Adam’s musical partner, best friend and protector was gone. “For years afterward I’d hear his steps coming down the hall to the living room, and I’d look up expecting to see him again with his idiot grin, holding a guitar, excited to play. It was his dream to move to Nashville and pursue music.” In 1996 McIntyre, possibly to honor his friend’s dream, moved to Nashville to major in music and studio production at Belmont University. At the south end of Music Row Adam learned how to write songs, act and think like a session musician, and work a tape machine. “I learned all about the music business right before it changed completely. Right as the change began with mp3s.” He also discovered his songwriting mentors , The Kinks. I ssue


Adam McIntyre

“Nashville is cruel to you for the first five years you’re there. And then it’s cruel for another five years, just to be safe. It was good to have such good music to latch onto in that time.” McIntyre tried fronting rock and roll bands only to be told that he “wasn’t frontman material”, he was a sideman in countless other bands both on guitar and bass, and notably joined forces with Nashville underdog legends Les Honky More Tonkies in 2004. Les Honky More Tonkies could accurately be described as long-haired, literate Southern Rock. “They toured and played great and terrible shows to huge crowds and nobody, and I began to learn that I’d missed something amazingly important with all my childhood ambition, ego and grief in the way: being in a band is about good times and bad times, life-or-death situations, changing people’s lives and making new friends, not taking over the world.”

“Nashville is cruel to you for the first five years you’re there. And then it’s cruel for another five years, just to be safe.” In 2006 he packed up his life and moved south to Atlanta, Georgia. His stint in Atlanta without a band would last a mere year, forming a trio in 2007 called The Pinx. The band would rock and roll all over Atlanta and the southeast promoting its first album, the McIntyre-produced “Look What You Made Me Do”. At its early peak, the group opened for Ben Harper & Relentless 7. McIntyre began producing EPs and albums for other Atlanta-area bands around this time. Things were looking up for The Pinx, but inner turmoil and fatigue within the band would soon set in after releasing the 2010 EP “Southern Tracks” recorded at the eponymous recording studio. Adam was producing several bands, playing with The Pinx and Yep Roc Records’ garage rock legends The Forty-Fives when he decided to take a plunge into the great wide open; he would join fellow Atlanta rockers StoneRider full time and head to Europe to tour. “We played some huge stages for lots of people and I really got a taste for what can happen when you play rock and roll to a bunch of people—I started to crave that for my own band [The Pinx].” Adam played for StoneRider and the doom metal band Demonaut for the next three years, but his heart was still with The Pinx. As he came home off of tour he began to write new songs and handpick new members for The Pinx. As the band and album began to take shape Adam realized that he was selling himself and his fellow band members short. McIntyre exclaims “I don’t like to half ass anything, so there came the time when I had to choose between StoneRider and The Pinx, so The Pinx were reborn.” In 2015 McIntyre rebuilt his Atlanta rock n roll powerhouse and began making a new album entitled “Freedom.” It was meant to celebrate Adam’s rock influences such as Cheap Trick, The MC5, Tom Petty and Motorhead. “I made sure that I made a record that effectively captured my happy place, of being a kid before Bumper died when I would just jump on my bed with a guitar and scream along with my favorite records. I wanted the whole thing to reflect joy, so as I made the album I made sure that I was loving what I was doing. If it didn’t feel joyous, I changed what I was doing. As I involved more people on the record, I asked them simply to ‘do what you do as well as you can do it and have fun’. I didn’t micromanage anybody. And everyone is proud of their work on the record, everyone had a good time.” On April 7th of 2016 The Pinx ended their hiatus and hit the stage for the first time in nearly five years; this time as a four piece. With their new album close to debuting and an arsenal of talented musicians, the group hit the ground running like it was 2007 all over again “but older and wiser, I hope” McIntyre adds. The album was met with glowing reviews.

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Adam McIntyre

Most recently, Mr. McIntyre has received one of the greatest honors a musician can achieve. He was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to play with his hero, Wayne Kramer of The MC5. “That guy dropped into my life, improbably and precisely when I needed him the most. I spoke aloud my wish to play music with him right around the time I was experiencing a divorce and a bit of an emotional breakdown. And then he arrived and just showed me that the music and the message and breathing are all the same thing if you’re doing it right. And it’s not about you, it’s about all of us together. Rock and roll is for the human race, not the glorification of the guy on stage. Wayne showed me that you’re doing it right when you’re doing as much as you can for the common good while you’re here. My hero sets a terribly high bar and he walks the walk.”

Anyone that knows McIntyre can attest to what The MC5’s music means to Adam. One could assume that the American flag guitar that Mr. Kramer plays may have had some influence on the “Freedom” album and the American flag painted hot rod as its front cover art work. Speaking of freedom, we have now come to my favorite potion of the interview. What has truly grabbed my attention and made a diehard fan until the day I die is that of McIntyre’s character. Adam and I meandered in and out of many topics during our discussion, but none of them more important to each of us than that of equality. I remember two very distinct quotes by Adam that will stick with me the rest of my life. First, we were talking about politics and their relation to songwriting. I asked Adam about the meaning behind the single “Southern Gentleman.” He paused for what seemed like minutes and said “I don’t usually write political lyrics. My goal as a musician is to distract people from all the politics and negativity in order to enjoy every second they can together, as one.” I am still curious if there was an underlying message that he shied away from, but I found beauty in this statement itself. I also backed Adam into a corner about some other hot topics that we have in common; being a Caucasian male in America. We were discussing the privileged and also some parties in our gender and race that give the rest of us a bad name. McIntyre’s response was, once again, right on point. He replied “The only thing that I can do as a proponent of change is to do everything in my power to convey to other genders and races that we are all the same.” This was also a brilliant statement to me. At times people want to fight hate with hate, but it does no good to anyone. When this happens we all suffer, disband and push one another even further away. Adam’s steadfast belief in love and leading by example is something that I will take away from this interview for all of my days. Adam McIntyre is what a southern gentleman of modern times should look like. The frontman truly loves for his craft, puts in the hard work needed, and has the gumption to stand for what he believes in. A humble man seems to be something that we read about in fairy tales stories when we were children, but I am here to tell you that they are alive and well. There is one in particular out there spreading love and rock and roll in the great city of Atlanta. Find out more at, ThePinxATL/ I ssue




interview by Dusty Huggins Many times in recent history I am sure you have heard the term “band of brothers” coined. This statement was, most definitely, created for the band hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, known as Greco. The four piece is a Modern Pop Rock band comprised of Sebastian (Vocals), Josh (guitar), Zach (bass), and Gabriel (drums). These ATL natives have recently immersed themselves into the Atlanta Rock culture with more than just their music. Greco has taken the bull by the horns when it comes to the Atlanta rock scene with their monthly band meet ups, extraordinary marketing, and unmatched drive to put on a show that is unrivaled in the area. Tell us a little bit about yourselves? Sebastian – We’re brothers who play rock n roll and like to party. Gabriel – We all live together, so the house is never really calm. There is always music playing, or someone working on something. It’s pretty common to have Zach playing piano in his room, Josh on guitar in his, and Sebastian working on lyrics in the living room. It’s a creative environment. It’s a musical environment. Zach – Our parents have been listening to incredible music since we were babies, so it was natural for us to do the same, and natural for us to want to play. Josh – And since we were poor, we didn’t get lessons, we just got cheap guitars and banged out chords, until we learned to play songs. How would you define your sound to the readers if they had never heard a Greco song? Josh – Modern rock, pop rock, with attitude. You’ll get catchy sing a long hooks, but you’ll also get cranking guitar solos and wild explosive rock n roll. Sebastian – Wait, isn’t the stock answer, “It’s hard to describe” and then you list off like 3 obscure albums references? Zach – It’s tough to describe, I’d say a cross between Mott the Hoople’s “Mad Shadows,” the rock edge from Storm the Crows, and Big Gipp from Goodie Mob’s album “Mutant Mindframe,” but without the hip-hop; instead substitute Daft Punk melodies over the back end. Josh – I really hate you guys sometimes. That’s what you get for playing with your older brothers. Zach – All right. The real answer, is upbeat rock. We have some classic rock beats and hooks, and we try to keep the crowd singing and dancing the whole show. So was this a group idea and goal or did it simply just happen? Zach - Music has always been a huge part of our lives. We’ve been playing since high school, and have always had the idea that we should be in band.

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Gabriel – They told me, “We need a drummer, you have about 3 months to learn the songs before our first show, oh and you have 3 months to learn how to play the drums.” Zach – Yeah but did you die? And how did the formation of Greco come about? Sebastian – Originally it was Zach and I, with some other guys playing as well, but at some point it evolved into all brothers and moved forward from there. Zach – Yeah Sebastian and I played with a few other guys for about 2-3 years before Greco formed. What took so long? Sebastian – Gab & Josh had to get old enough to get into clubs. It’s tough to sneak a 16 & 17 year old in a 21+ up club. Zach – Especially if one of those is a 6’4”, chicken legged, long haired hippie like Gab. He doesn’t fit well in a guitar case. Josh – I could have fit in the back of the amp or the bass drum case. You guys seem to take as much pride in your stage presence and marketing as any other band out there, what are some techniques you use to keep your fans interested? Zach – It’s all about the fans. Getting fans what they want, where they want it, so if our fans use Spotify we are on Spotify. If they want videos, we load them to YouTube and Facebook. Sebastian – You’ve got to know your audience. Our audience loves to come out and celebrate and have a good time, so we work hard on making all of our shows events. Making them a night they’ll remember. One of our fans, Kia, told us, “She makes new friends at every show, the crowds are just such good people.” Gabriel – That’s why we have the Greco Tribe. We want Greco fans to be able to connect immediately with each other. What about the non-traditional venues you’ve played? Sebastian – We love them. We try and do shows for everyone, and we know not everybody is going to be able to come to see us at a music hall, club, or bar. So whenever we get the chance we play shows outside of them. My personal favorite was last summer when we played at Camp Big Heart. They are a camp for developmentally delayed kids, and it was amazing. Josh – Best fans ever! Gabriel – Best show ever! Zach – We played in a small gym, with a tiny PA and no stage, and I 100% agree. Sebastian – The kids were awesome, they danced, they sang, and had the best energy. We brought a few hundred glow sticks and bracelets for the kids, so they got to wear them and party. It was incredible. We’re planning on doing it again next year. Josh – Events like that are really awesome. I ssue



What about the non-performance events, which of those are your favorite? Gabriel – PRIDE. We march every year to show our support for our friends, allies, and loved ones. Zach – Inclusion & equality really is our mission statement. We want everyone to feel welcomed in the Greco Tribe. Sebastian – We also attend USBG events (United States Bartenders Guild), since we all came from the service industry. And a large majority of the ATL service family come to our Thursday or Sunday shows. In fact, we do a service industry show every quarter on an off-night so they can come celebrate too, since they rarely get off on Fri/Sat nights. Where did the idea for the Atlanta Rock Band meet up come about? Zach – I’ve always been told about the incredible scenes of the past, Seattle, LA, even Atlanta with hip-hop and I realized, those were just friends who were into music. And as one band came up they pulled the others along, so step one – meet all the Atlanta Rock Bands we can, and with the internet and social media it makes the world so much smaller that it makes it easier and easier. What are your goals for the upcoming year? Zach – Already working on the next five singles. We are going to release a single then a video every other month for all of next year, so it will probably be pretty busy. We’ve also got a couple of awesome festivals and events we are doing. Josh – We’re expanding to 4-5 new markets next year too. Zach – That’s news to me, and I’m the one who works with the booking agents and show promoters, but if Josh says it, I guess we are doing it! Sebastian – Josh you should tell Zach that we are playing SXSW too Josh – Zach we are playing SXSW next year too. Zach – Fine. But I’m not driving the whole trip. Long term goals? Gabriel – Keep getting better, and doing more. Every day we learn a new piece of the music puzzle. We want to keep growing, keep sharing our music, and keep getting to be a part of this awesome journey with our fans. Zach – We are continuing to build out our markets, and keep getting our fans more of what they want. Really the end goal is to be able to pursue music and creative outlets with amazing people all over the country and the world. Will there ever come a point when the band feels “satisfied” with its musical career? Josh – Short answer “no”, long answer. We will always create and play music, I don’t know that we will ever reach a level where we say “that’s the peak, let’s leave it as is”, instead I think we will keep on rocking. But we are really happy with where it’s going right now, and we love the current state in our career. Sebastian – You’ve got to enjoy the journey. Find out more at:

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interview by Clifford Brooks Tell us your name, what you do, and what makes the music you spin and produce different from others. So we go by DropSwitch but our real names are Jake Brown and Richie Richardson. DropSwitch is a DJ and Production duo. What that means is that we write music, and we use DJing to perform it. We write predominantly electronic music, but don’t limit ourselves to any genre. One day we would like to be able to say we’ve produced a little of everything! But for now, our focus is EDM (Electronic Dance Music), Hip-Hop, and Trap. Being from Atlanta, Hip-Hop culture has played a huge part in our music progression. Producing beats has opened a lot of doors for us in our local Hip-Hop/Rap community. We take the “cookie cutter” music, and make it more danceable, and a little heavier. Where do you find the juice to create new sounds, tour nonstop, and keep life out of a chaotic train wreck? Aisle 5... Just kidding! Honestly, it’s been a learn-as-you-go kind of experience. The simple fact that we are having fun, and doing what we love is enough to get us through the harder aspects of life. What projects do you have on the horizon? We are proud to say that we are a part of the recently released debut album from talented Hip-Hop artists, Jimmy Wit An H. The album is titled HI’s And Lo’s, and we produced the 3rd track, “1’s.” This is the 3rd project we’ve done with Jimmy Wit An H now. We are really pushing our Spotify channel right now. We love the platform and aim to release as much of our music on there as we can. We also have a personally curated playlist on Spotify called “For The Love Of Trap” where we feature our favorite tunes of the week, while promoting the genre we love most! Aside from those, we have quite a bit on the horizon. We can’t say too much about that since we are still working with the labels they will be being released on, but we can say that 2018 is going to be a big year for releases.

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What acts are you known to bump into regularly? The whole DropSquad roster, Vandal Rose and Frankie Sinn mostly, but we see The Tripi Bandits, Archmage, and Shift Mojo doing their thing. Can you tell us more about the DropSquad? DropSquad is a collective of Dj's, Producers and Vocalists. It was formed by us and another member, Fritz, with the intention of giving ourselves talented people to consistently work with, as well as a way to network as a team. The eventual goal is to expand the DropSquad large enough to turn it into a Record Label geared towards finding smaller acts that deserve the chance to be heard, but don't necessarily have a large following. DropSquad currently consists of DropSwitch, Fritz, Macroid, Infexzion, Jimmy Wit an H, and 8NINE. Who would you love to collaborate with in the future? We've got more than a few notable acts that we'd enjoy working with. Richie: Honestly one of my biggest influences, and I could probably speak for the both of us, is Diplo. I'd love to get hands on with a twerky/dance hall tune with the twerk legend himself; someone like French Montana or Khalid on the vocals...Then comes Kid Cudi. He's got just the right amount of weird and funky that keeps me addicted to his style of rapping and his flavor choice in beats. Jake: Infected Mushroom definitely helped push me into electronic music. I love how complexe their music is, and how many places they take you in one song. So working with them would be insane! I'd also love to work with one of my favorite bands Nightwish. They are a symphonic metal band. They are so epic, and I feel they would mesh well with heavy electronic beats! A lot of my personal influence comes from metal so it would be fun working with a full band. How do you keep your image on fleek? Richie: That’s one of the most fun parts. I think there’s something empowering about wearing clothing that makes you feel like your very best version of you at that particular moment. Knowing I’m there to be the life of the party, it’s like a dress up game for me; If I look good, I feel good and therefore, I play well. If I’m going to a show or party, just like anyone else, you’re there to have a good time, right? For me, dressing in “weird” clothes makes me feel just enough outside of my normal comfort zone, and that’s where I excel on and off the stage. Jake: I truly could not have said it better myself. It’s an important part of your brand. Looking good helps your confidence and keeps eyes on you! Find out more at: Twitter @DJDropSwitch Instagram @DJDropSwitch

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Tim Brummel


interview by Clifford Brooks

Who are you and how did you get started in music? I am a 26 year old worship leader and singer/songwriter from Atlanta GA. I have a beautiful wife (Rachel) and 4 young children who are all boys! Since I was little I enjoyed singing and was drawn to music. Aside from church choir and playing violin for a few years I did not do much musically until later in high school. That is when I got a guitar and started to learn how to play it. I mostly just learned and wrote love songs at that time ha! When I was 18 one of my friends was telling me about a church that he was starting at a local college. I volunteered to bring my sister and sing some songs for it that next week. That began my journey of really becoming involved in music. I was apart of that church for over 4 years and became the worship pastor there. Since then I have had the privilege of leading worship at dozens of churches and even recorded an album. Music/ministry Inspirations? I have gotten a lot of inspiration from many groups who have really paved the way for modern christian music. The people and the music that make up Hillsong United and Passion have been big for me. The way they lead others and inspire others to fully pursue Jesus is challenging and encouraging! Why do you choose to use your musical talents at a church and not elsewhere? The church is the hope of the world. By God’s design it is the arms of the church that are to spread the love of Jesus to all mankind. I can’t imagine a better place to use my gifts than in the the church. On occasion I might be in a setting doing some cover songs and while that is fun it does not compare to leading people in worship. There is a great joy in being a part of people encountering God through music. I ssue


Tim Brummel

What are your thoughts on music and why are you so passionate about it from a Christian perspective? From the beginning of time music has been apart of peoples lives. It is a form of art and has a way of moving us in a unique way. It stirs our emotions and is a universal language. We know this because we can hear a piece plays in our lives. It is no different in the church and our relationship with God. Music is a way for us to worship and not even understand the language and yet we get inspired by it. I love the power of music and the role it God for who he is and all he has done. This is why I am passion about “church” music and why I want to continue to see it get better and better. We have the best inspiration and source of creativity in us and yet we are often behind in creating. The church should be leading the way in our culture through all art forms! What are a few favorite books? What are you reading right now? A few all time favorite books would be Fresh Wind Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala and Hearing God by Dallas Willard. Both of these books I read at very pivotal moments of my life. Currently I am reading Let Us Pray by Watchman Nee and SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner What is your favorite scripture and why? What do you do each day to keep on-point with the Word? Proverbs 2:7-8 He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. There are many incredible promises God gives us in the bible but this is one of my favorites. It has been an encouragement to me many times when things seem to not go as planned. If I remain faithful he will guard and protect my steps. I try to begin every day reading the bible and praying. This helps me to focus right away on what is most important. It is natural for us to wake up and start thinking about ourselves and all that we have going on. This habit helps us to focus on things of God and not just our lives. It is the best way to develop that relationship. The more time I spend in God’s word and in prayer the more I will know him. It has to be a priority! What is the Elm Music? The Elm Music is a project started by my sister and myself. This music started from the overflow of a very difficult season. My sister Brittany unexpectedly lost her husband Patrick in the Fall 0f 2015. This project was a way for us to process through what God had been showing us. We also hope and pray that it will be an encouragement to others. All of us are broken one way or another and face uncertain situations. We pray these songs will encourage people to trust God even in the hard times.

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Tim Brummel

Elm is an abbreviation we made up which stands for Elohay Mikarov. This is a Hebrew name for God used in Jeremiah 23:23. It means God who is near. We have experienced The God who is near and we want others to experience him as well. Most of the album can be downloaded for free at What was it like to record an album? A LOT OF WORK! I have a much greater appreciation for people who record music now than I used to. Doing it well takes a lot of time and money. I learned a lot through the process though and I look forward to doing it again in the next year. This time I will have a more realistic timeline though. It practically became a full time job for a few months to get it done in our time frame! What is something random or interesting about yourself? My family had a video of us go viral when we found out we were expecting our 4th son. The story was on international news outlets like Dailymail, People, Inside Edition and many more! Now I get random people recognize me because of it. You can google my name and it will pop up.

Find out more at: timbrummel timbrummel/

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Southern Collective Experience is an organization of the arts founded in 2010. A need was seen in the Arts community for increased professionalism and the tight-knit feel of a family within, and around, those who shared a similar vision. This is a group of men and women who not only dream of being an artist, but have gained success in that endeavor. They promote and provide personal support within their ranks to show through doing that not all of the Creative Ilk are incapable of sharing a stage. The cardinal virtue of the Collective is to promote the arts, in all its forms, proving that integrity, high standards, and classical understanding of the past, present, and future of expression do exist. Not only that, but they are thriving. Every member holds their own responsibilities within the organization, while gaining promotion for their own endeavors through social media, this magazine, and an NPR radio show called Dante’s Old South. With each issue of The Blue Mountain Review, we set aside a section to introduce you to some of our members, to highlight their endeavors, and to honor their creative contributions to the SCE. You can find out about our other members, and much more, by visiting our website,

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Mark Wallace Maguire

Member Spotlight

MARK WALLACE MAGUIRE interview by Clifford Brooks

What are some things about you that you want the writing world to know? I write for readers who enjoy a good story. As simplistic as that may sound, I create books that readers can delve into to escape the drudgery and grey mundaneness of the world for a while. In a nutshell, I wanted to write a book that I would want to read: a book with tension, mystery, rich in detail and flawed characters. Where do you see yourself as a longtime journalist and creative director working within the Southern Collective Experience? I am very enthusiastic about bringing my skill set to the Collective. I love collaborating. I love multi-media. I love seeing a story, idea or theme carried across the written word, spoken word, visual and musical landscapes. I have extensive experience in producing such works as a writer, musician and designer and I am excited about working with other members of the SCE to see their works conveyed in new and exciting aspects, so we might reach the public on a myriad of levels. I really like the idea of living in a pre-Internet era when Tennyson was the richest man in England. However, we are living in a time when we need to engage the masses through the best means possible. I don’t mean ‘selling out’ but making our art accessible, whether that be pairing a poem with striking visuals or using videos to let the audience see who we are and engage with us on that platform. As Yeats said, think like a wise man, but write in the language of the people. I want to take that phrase and use it across the spectrum within the Collective in the manner where I can fit in best. What stories do you want to tell through prose and poetry? Authenticity. Honesty. Humor. Rich detail. Those are broad terms, but, I believe whether it is a novel, an essay on my faith or a blog post on my special needs child, these are the key elements to reaching readers.

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Mark Wallace Maguire What are some of the biggest mistakes you think new writers need to avoid while testing the literary waters of publishing? There are so many pitfalls from the moment you sit down at a typewriter to the juncture when you are finalizing cover ideas. First and foremost, you need a good team. A group of people to bounce ideas off of, have critique your work, aid you with promotion, etc. Writing is a solitary art, however, being an author isn’t. If you choose to go it alone, you will miss out and the quality of your work will suffer. It is critical on the back end to have a positive attitude, thick skin and a group of people to help keep your chin up. The bottom line is you will get rejected. Either by an agent, publisher, an interview proposal or a reader who just doesn’t like your work and hands you a bad review. It is simply the nature of art, so you need to be prepared and not let the critics grind you down. What are you reading right now, and what music are you into that keeps you focused? I tend to keep a few different types of books by my bed, and, depending on my mood, decide which direction I want to venture in before dreams come. The last novel I read that really struck me was, “The Archer’s Tale” by Bernard Cornwell. Cornell is one of my favorite writers of historical fiction. The amount of detail and research he does is only rivaled as to how great a writer he is. Writing everything from a character’s personal struggles to the unsurmountable task of detailing an 11th century battle and tying in all the aspects from cultural beliefs to personal hygiene is a Herculean task and he does an extraordinary job. I also finished two recent books by Frederick Buechner, “The Remarkable Ordinary” and “A Crazy, Holy Grace.” I am a major Buechner fan and feel he is the most unrecognized author of the last 50 years. In regard to music, I love all types of music, but for my last novel - Alexandria Redeemed, the third book in the Alexandria Rising Chronicles - I listened to quite a bit of “By The Way” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The album takes a different approach than the usual RHCP mix. With the departure of longtime melodic genius and virtuoso guitarist John Frusciante, the album is less funky and plush than their recent fare, but has some outstanding layering and space aided by the addition of Josh Klinghoffer’s darker elements on guitar and the occasional piano or ambient noise track. For some reason, that album really clicked with me writing Alexandria Redeemed. I also enjoyed listening to The Police albums and Sting’s “Nothing Like The Sun,” album during this period. I suppose those albums tend to all have a strong tempo which matched the pacing of the book when I was writing it. When writing, I generally like to listen to music that is less intense and avoids complex lyrical or musical arrangements. Something I can turn down low, but still groove to. I love John Coltrane, for example, but would have trouble writing to Coltrane as I find his music in itself a feast and my concentration would wane, and one piece of art would suffer for the sake of another. To me, great music is like a fine wine and one can grow spoiled by it if one consumes it too much and tries mixing it with other mediums. The same goes for Jimi, Miles, Bill Evans, Paul Simon and others. What are three things about you that few know, but you’re damn proud of? I come from a long line of strong Southern men and women. My great-grandmother Helen Haskins Hall was a published poet, newspaper columnist, founder of the library and supporter of the arts when women were expected to keep to themselves and stay at home. My grandaddy Harold Maguire was a football player at UGA, an honored World War II veteran, and a longtime educator in various roles across the state including Dean of Men at Georgia Southern and as a school principal who stood on the right side during integration.

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Mark Wallace Maguire One of my paintings is in a time capsule in Charlotte, N.C. I am not a painter - my wife says so, but I think of it as a hobby, rather than a vocation or talent - but do enjoy dabbling, pun intended, now and then. I didn’t own a car until I was 21 and it didn’t stop me from working or college. The money I earned during summers went to help pay for college. My form of transportation for many years was a bicycle. Where did you grow up, and where do you call home now? I grew up in several cities across Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, South Carolina and Alabama. My father was a preacher and we moved every three years or so as he ascended the ranks of the clergy. By the time I was 15, I had lived in seven cities. I never had a hometown. I don’t say that proudly, I wish I was from somewhere. Not having that anchor has always been a source of pain for me. All that said, I’ve adopted Fayette County, Georgia as my hometown the last nine years. It is a gorgeous community in my beloved Red Clay Country. The countryside is that gentle middle Georgia landscape of placid pasture and winsome woods. No sharp interludes of mountains or vast lakes. Fayetteville is also home to the great Ferrol Sams, one of my favorite Southern writers and I feel his words still cast long shadows across the town. The library is first-rate. It is amazingly integrated and has a very proud tradition of not having any racial issues or strife. The special needs community here is very strong. And the people as a whole are extremely friendly. It is a pleasant nook of civility and gentility, nestled below the frantic nest of Atlanta. My family and I have really been blessed to find our way here. You talk about action adventure. What do you think of the genre now? While the genre might not be in vogue right now, humanity is always looking for a hero, and a good story where justice is delivered along the way. Who are your favorite writers? For pure wordsmithing, I think Pat Conroy and J.P. Donleavy have it nailed down and have written some of loveliest sentences in the English language. In particular, their ability to weave in descriptions of nature and relate them to the mindset of the internal character is bloody amazing. In terms of comedy, I love Roddy Doyle, Donleavy and Sams. As far as world creation and fantasy, I am a tremendous admirer of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Susanna Clarke. As I said earlier, Frederick Buechner is one of my favorite writers. In poetry, I love T.S. Eliot, Carl Sandburg, Seamus Heaney and Keats. As poets they inspire me as a prose writer to nail that right sensory description or feeling. Find more from Mark at:

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Papi Picasso

Member Spotlight

PAPI PICASSO (Mario Reyes)

interview by Clifford Brooks Where does the sound come from? 120 Bellamy Loop, apt 13-F, Bronx New York 10475!!! Circa 19801999 - that is without a doubt my soul’s center. That apartment was a safe haven for my HUGE family – between my block and my real family. My mother has 14 brothers and sisters; not counting the list that may as well be blood related, and Co-Op City – one community in the Bronx has 55,000 people living within it. Each building could outnumber a own small town and with all the shared space it was myriad of cultures that clashed the way paint does in a masterpiece– not to drown another out but to compliment them. Where does the music originate to not only move you to write, creatively, but to grow up in the Bronx, to the military, to the forefront of the IT industry, to the composer of symphonic poetry that keeps the crowd quiet? You keep the crowd quiet by telling a story. YOUR STORY. When the words you share are truth the story doesn’t waiver in the details. I’ve been speaking my truth since my parents took me to a speak pathologist as a child. The best part of receiving any recognition now is that my writing can literally be traced back to my freshman year at Blessed Sacrament High Schools English class. My teacher Ms. Noone told the class that no one ever memorized her favorite poem by Robert Frost, and if anyone did they’d receive an A that semester. Of course I was lazy and didn’t want to do any real work so I memorized it and recited it for the class. She fell in love with me after that; despite being probably the most annoying teenager ever. But that is definitely where the recognition of what it meant to write and communicate the intangibles inside oneself came from. The next year, same teacher (school was really small) my friend “Big U” came in with a new tape from Capone N’ Noreaga entitled T.O.N.Y. – Take Over New York. I lost my mind listening to that song. We immediately became “rappers”, the album itself “War Report” was littered with stories of the streets, to prison, to lust, and it occurred I can use my pen to capture any sensation or story from my perspective. I took that portal with me when I enlisted in the Air Force, and would write about the trials and tribulations of a cadet in basic training, then again in technical school, and finally while working in the INTEL community, before and after 9/11. I look at my yearbook from basic training and see signatures from old friends that read – “Really enjoyed your Raps Reyes!” There is a power that comes from being able to translate an experience along with all the fear, motivation, concern, struggle, anger, etc... And capture it for an under represented group. While in the Bronx we felt oppressed daily, by our parents, teachers, and officers, in order to be ourselves we created a lexicon that only we could understand. While in basic training, you feel oppressed the entire 2 months, so we communicated via text, real text as in hand written letters. While in the Air Force; especially being in the INTEL community you feel oppressed by the secrecy. Possessing a Top Secret clearance and supporting the War Fighter on various platforms you learn to speak cryptically outside of prose. I believe all this training in communicating metaphorically because of the sensitive nature of what I was discussing over the years has allowed me an informal education in being able to capture not only what I observe but also my emotions in my poetry.

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Papi Picasso

What is the top three lessons you've learned in your career (any of them) that if those coming up behind you need to integrate into their game plan? 1 – To hear you have great potential is the biggest insult you can receive. It means you have yet to do shit. Give someone the opportunity to compliment you an accomplishment. 2 – You are only as great as your discipline. Most people speak of what they could do, theoretically but very rarely demonstrate it. I like to give myself random fasts from my greatest indulgences just to prove to myself I have what it takes. 3 – Don’t make any major life decisions until you turn 30. Do not get married, do not buy a house, and do not have children. That’s not something I learned in a career but I think it is good life advice nonetheless. When you turn 30 you weigh your decisions differently. You are a lot less hasty and the chances of taking a loss on any of those important LIFE CHANGING experiences will be lessened. What question do you never want to answer, and want that noted right now? What’s my greatest fear? That would be something happening to any of the woman I love. I lived through that fear when my sister passed away from complications of Dermatomyositis when I was 26. She was easily my best friend and biggest advocate. She was only 30 when she died and I am now 37, older than she’s ever been but I still find myself relying on her saged wisdom. Truly an old soul and should be at the helm of my army of cousins. How do you see yourself fitting into the poetry scene as it's developing right now? Fit in for what??? Why would I want to? I’m a 6’5 Puerto Rican from the Bronx that lives in the south that says the N word as liberally as he wants. I’ve always been an outlier, nothing great comes from “fitting in”. I do however intend to create my own lane that can bridge my successes from my IT career with my passion for the arts, and my understanding of business structures. I want to be the Jay-Z of poetry. Someone whose art and business acumen are respected on the same level. Cultural Giants don’t fit in to a scene, we steal them. What in your soul sets you apart from others vying for their place in art? I’m not driven by anything outside of making my sister proud and leaving a legacy for my children; that includes all my 8 god children. I know my motivation doesn’t come with the hopes of incentive, instead it comes from a place just in its moral baseline. If I never become a Poet Laurate or world renowned it makes no never mind to me. I’ll be writing just the same so hopefully when I’m ashes those who care enough could read and have an intimate conversation with me. What is your story, in three sentences, to help those out there trying to spread the word about you do the best job possible? I am the rock that will shatter you glass ceiling, after watching me perform you’ll revisit and revise all your stereotypes. I am past mistakes, lessons acquired, accountable for myself, absent of excuses. I am my daughter’s template, my sons architect, I am Gods Hands.

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Papi Picasso

Tell us about your brand and trademarking art that's played an enormous roll in how fast, and effectively, you've stormed the stage while accurately selling your sound? Ironically I haven’t sold one thing yet. I’ve been contracted by Johns Hopkins, Coca Cola, Railroad Unions, and various other entities but I waived all fees. When I started my journey I told myself that I would be doing all things poetry via 2017 pro-bono. I’m blessed to not need the money and I feel, as with everything, you have to pay your dues to earn your stripes. I had no idea the brand was going to take off as fast as it has. The best part is when my book drops next year, along with the score and revolutionizing app. The work I’ve put in thus far will create a wave the poetry scene has never seen from ONE spoken work artist. I will say that I’ve seen some poets with great marketing talent and branding, the only thing that lacked was the poetry. Poetry does me, and as a child of graffiti, break dancing, and all elements of Hip Hop by default I think in art. So by choosing the moniker Papi Picasso – I’ve paid homage to my Puerto Rican roots, as well as the classic art of greats such as Picasso, Rembrandt, Michelangelo. Art has no boundaries so it affords my branding the opportunity to traverse all aspects of the art ecosystem. Also being 6’5 and photogenic helps to get my Instagram followers up! HA! Tell us about your book and the movement you’re creating with it? The book is entitled “A Son With No Father, A Book With No Author” – more details to come. Don’t you just love a cliffhanger? (CLIFFhanger – see what I did there, lol) Find out more at

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Jerry Rumph

Member Spotlight


interview by Clifford Brooks What are five things about you that you want the writing world to know? 1. I believe writing should convey a message. While language may have an aesthetic, it’s primary purpose is to convey meaning. I believe the message conveyed should be accessible; otherwise, the meaning is lost or never existed. 2. I wish my daddy and my paw paw were still alive. 3. I like making love (to my wife) at midnight in the dunes of the cape, but I don’t care for Pina Coladas. 4. I want everyone to find their purpose because the meaning of life is meaning. 5. I believe Earth is round, gravity and evolution are scientific laws, Jesus defined the word “neighbor” as broadly as possible, and despite whatever differences people want to see in people, we all have the same stuff inside. Where do you see yourself as an attorney now poet and working within the Southern Collective Experience? Whatever God, a/k/a Clifford Brooks, or the devil on my shoulder, a/k/a Clifford Brooks, tells me to do. What stories do you want to tell through prose and poetry? The truth, so deeply that people want to burn it. What are three of the biggest mistakes you think new writers need to avoid while testing the literary waters of publishing? Wasting time; relatedly, loading their writing in a shotgun and blasting it on anyone and everyone’s faces; being arrogant. What are you reading right now, and what music are you into that keeps you focused? I just finished The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride, and to me, it is the pinnacle of hybridity between prose and poetry. My musical taste is pretty eclectic, so it depends on what kind of mood I’m in. I’ve been listening to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald lately, but I dig all sorts of musicians. Just to name a few: Alabama, Alabama Shakes, Eminem, Christopher Cross, Black Sabbath, The Beatles, and Johann Strauss.

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Jerry Rumph

What are two things about you that few know, but you're damn proud of? My grandfather taught me how to express love as a man. I’m damn proud of my wife, Sarah, my son, Nathan, my niece, Alura, and my brother, Ryan, but that’s no secret. Where did you grow up, and where do you call home now? I grew up in the arms of my wife and the crucible of parenting. Geographically, I was born just down the street from the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, and aged in Georgia, Arkansas, and Florida. I currently reside in Tallahassee. Other than where my family is, I don’t know whether I’ve found home or not, but I’m still looking. You can find me on Twitter @jerryrumph, but I can be rather manic with posting. Right now, not so much.

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Clifford Brooks


Faces of Faith CLIFFORD BROOKS interview by Bernette Sherman

Does your faith play a role in what you write? I have waited a long time to talk about the Holy and how faith has sculpted everything I’ve accomplished. The topic is so deeply engrained in me, so private in nature I wish that I could remove “I” from this piece, altogether. However, that would rob the heretic from his stake in all this. That would also allow me to hide, which goes against the purpose of this piece. I cannot thank you enough for choosing me to fill in the Faces of Faith piece in the Fall 2017 issue. God was not forced on me. The philosophy of a Creator wasn’t strange, and in fact, it made perfect sense. My parents allowed me to believe and ask what I wished with the proper software honed from my childhood. Curiosity was prized by my mother (though it must have grown into an annoyance at some point – God bless her). My father was smart enough to stand out of the way. In my first book “The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics” I have a few poems that reflect my faith fused with my idea that music is the language God uses to speak to His children. However, to span the whole of the two-book collection, there are the poems Prayer, Hallowed Ground, finding ms. mary, Kneeling by the River, Quartet in A Minor, Unburdened, and Heretics to fill out the budding resurgence of the Almighty in my life. Of course, my magnum opus in that collection is the epic poem at its conclusion called The Gateman’s Hymn of Ignoracium. In that epic, after working in the social services vocation a decade, I wondered, “There must be a place worse than Hell for some people”. So, I created one. My second book “Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart” is not an interweaving of myth and faith. It is a faith in Truth and that my own mythology will sustain me on earth – and maybe help a few others brave this mortal storm as well. My second book, as the title indicates, is steeped in faith. My spirit is apart from the world, finding its place among angels, and way too comfy with demons (creature comforts). Even the go-between “compass” chapbook called “Exiles of Eden” speaks to this in title and its contents. There are no words lost, wasted, or used as a fool’s gimmick. It is what it is in the face: good, bad, or love.

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Clifford Brooks God gave me the gift of words and harmony that I fought like hell to suppress for the first three decades of my life. God gave me the strength to stand down from my labor with the State and take up the Southern Collective Experience as the future of my expression, sanity, and spiritual growth. When I turned 35-years-old I heard a voice that said, “Now, Clifford. Now.” I jumped and it was horrible for half a decade. Then, the blind faith paid off and the voice, recently, whispered, “Well done, boy. Don’t get cocky. Remember that worrying will only waste your passion.” I’ve done my best. I will continue that into the future, now surrounded by the right people. I don’t keep God in my pocket anymore. I have Him out front, and in my heart. How have you intersected your personal faith with the work you do, even beyond being a writer and poet? On the greater scale of my life, I’ve tried every day to intersect my faith with all I do. I no longer second-guess my gut feeling about society, potential new project albeit it personal or professional, members of the SCE, and/ or the pure business of numbers, ones, and zeroes. I understand why religion and government are kept on the opposite side of Jefferson’s great wall. The masses are swooned to do horrible things when these two powers are mingled on a larger stage. However, on a much smaller one, when the rules of ethics are not superseded by morals, the comingling of faith and facts are not so poisonous. “As far as you are able, join faith to reason.” That is a quote from the Christian philosopher, Boethius, said that. Of course, in his day, they set him on fire for the sentiment. Tell us something funny that happened to you that may have shaped your spiritual beliefs and understanding? There are deep, deep rabbit holes for those of us with a particular creative flair. Once, I went insane from a tremendous amount of stress, a decade of suffering the depravity of horrible people, and a single, worst kind of love that pushed me well over the edge as I tried a new life in Athens, Georgia. There were also many “what the hell have I done” moments at 4am, and that is reflected in the books mentioned above, and the recovery subsequent to it. Reality can get twisted when the reality is entrusted to man, alone. My brother helped tremendously in finding a therapist who I still see every two months. I prayed. I was furious in my madness that love failed me, that truth failed me, that the perfect plan failed me – but it was not failure, it was a test. Like the story of Noah, God asks great things from those who want great things. There is no punishment involved. It is to make sure the gift is not squandered by the unchecked hunger of the human condition. Or at least, that is how I see it. It is the way I accept it. It is the path away from the weak excuse that all our pain is random chance or the consequence of cosmic dice thrown against our favor. Amen. I’m curious. Given your Georgia roots, how big of an influence has Southern culture had on shaping your faith perspectives? It’s had everything to do with it. There is a Southern intelligence mixed with stories of an older faith reflected in many “Uncle Remus” stories. A majority of the world is blind to this. I was raised Baptist, but never heard a single story about burning in hell, how Satan waited around every corner to eat my soul, or how God’s divine

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Clifford Brooks love somehow twisted into loathing to cast me into fire for not living a perfect life. No, my pastors were both loving, educated, Seminary-educated men who taught us love is love and man creates his own hell. It is a misunderstanding of our nation, and worldview, that the South is steeped in hellfire and brimstone. Jonestown was not founded by someone below the Mason-Dixon. Sure, there are more than a few Southerners who allowed their hubris to begin a cult, but no more or less than anywhere else. My nanny taught me more about God and stories of the Old South that are largely remembered being told by Uncle Remus with the characters including Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear, and Brer Fox. In fact there are many other “Brers” or “Brothers” than we read about in books. Gin Gin (Virginia) my mahogany mother, was all love, as is my white momma. Gin Gin told me that God meant for us to sing and dance. She took me to her church and I immortalized it in prose. I Saw the Klan Today is about her. No part of my story is fictitious. The easy way to keep up with lies is to tell the truth. In “Athena Departs” there is the comingling of Old and New is the diptych Meeting Old Man Scratch 1 & 2 as well as Samson Regained. ”Exiles of Eden” is the collection of all these pieces, plus three poems that you’ll never see anywhere else. All of it Southern whether the rest of the world knows it or not, and that’s the best way to teach anything. It’s not to “preach” the superiority of anything. It is to show the practicality of a practice in the art is creates. There are some who believe that art, in many forms, is an expression of God. What do you think of that? I think that is the truth right on the nose. If you can tell me where the “inspiration” or “drive” comes from that evolves into “that thing” or that “divine fire” that compels creatives in either the wider-accepted “arts” such as painting, dancing, writing, etc – or, “arts” like neuro-surgery, landscaping, physics, etc: I’ll call you a liar. That “thing” cannot be taught. It is giving by grace. It’s the role of humanity to hone that “divine steel” into a blade sharp enough to slice through society’s dense blind spot. If you can imagine your inspiration snatched away and rewarded with….anything in its place, that’s not what you are meant to do. So much sorrow is felt by those who want to be “called” a writer or poet. That’s not “being” a writer or poet. The hard work must be done. Long, arduous, frequently unnoticed labor is required, and the exquisite madness of a soul meant for symphonies is the only source of strength great enough to never, ever give up. That is the power of my God. Exodus 35: 30-35 Ephesians 2:10 Would your “Blue” persona answer any of these questions differently? Which question would be most different than you? That’s the best thing about me and Blue: We are the same. God created me and I created Blue. God is the Great Designer and I am a wordsmith telling my autobiography in poetry. Hardly the same thing, but then we were brought from the dust to create peace where there is chaos in the hearts of men and children. However, we must first find peace in our own. I am nowhere close to that. Thank God. Learn more about Cliff and his unique books of poetry and the Southern Collective Experience at: I ssue



Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart and Exiles of Eden from Clifford Brooks. His wide-ranging poetry draws on his meandering personal journey from his youth to middle age and the real and mythological beings he meets along the way, as well as on music and literature, in an unmistakably Southern setting. Available on

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“If even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson


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