Poetry by Michael Mark, Ndaba Sibanda, Alex Hughes, Darren Demaree, Jose Trejo-Maya, Daniel Barbare, Tobi Cogswell, Mark Mansfield, J.H. Johns, William Miller, Changming Yuan, and Peycho Kanev

Three Poems by Michael Mark


The Regular

Before he’s two steps into the place

the counter crew sings out his name,


their voices carrying back over the line of

indistinguishables, of which I am one.


The barista stops the order he’s working on to

begin his, while he takes over his part of the world.


At home, frequency gets him a shrug

of indifference and two wags from his friend’s tail,


even as he places his respectable paycheck on the

kitchen table and kneels to scratch a favorite spot.


Here, others must be patient while he is served

with a complimentary cookie and squeeze of the shoulder.


As he surveys his kingdom he notices me looking

at him under the Latte-A-Thon poster,


his legs stretched over the extra chair he’s

co-opted from another table.


He acknowledges he is being recognized with a bored,

royal nod then turns his attention to the subject at hand,


to rule whether the hazelnut macchiato is hot and foamy enough

and if the cookie is a sufficient offering.


He bites guardedly and considers wrapping half for someone

at home with whom he would like to curry favor.



 All the little fella wanted was

to splash in the fountain.


He deserved to,

for having to wear that

“Poops, I did it again” shirt.


I judged the mother as selfish

for holding him back

by his belt loop, his arms,

his neck.


What joy he would have brought

the shoppers and peppy

mall walkers.


Everyone would take out their phones,

and instantly he’d trend on twitter.



But Reggie, or, as his mother kept

calling him,

 “No Reggie No,”

was not allowed in the fountain.


She pointed to the sign,

Entering the fountain is not permitted,

and explained, “The

policeman will take you away to jail –

and you will never see mommy again.”


He listened, then broke free again,

climbing the short wall

before she brought him down, hard.


No Reggie No was a warrior! Willing

to sacrifice what was most dear for his dream!


In church, you’re taught there is a God.

In nursery school, you learn conformity is success.

In the mall, the lesson is that the world hates kids.


Stores filled with stuff you can’t touch,

endless waiting while parents ooh

and aah but not over you; forced

still, arms up,

while shirts are pulled off, put on

and on and on.


But then, in the middle of this hell, is a fountain!


Rainbow colored lights, 

pennies and dimes sparkling,

warping under the water.


But you are not allowed in!

No, No Reggie No, you

cannot get soaked and dance to the

mall music, make clappy hands,

find treasures for mommy, splash her.


So, out of solidarity and boredom,

as my wife was still in the stores,

oohing and aahing over something  

other than me, 

I began to untie my shoelaces.


And wondered where I could buy

a “Wild Thing” shirt.


I’d pick up two.


Fresh Air

Drape your arm

around my neck,

I feel your five year old hand

reaching for your father’s.


Put your head

in my lap,

I hear your infant cries for

your mother’s milk.


Hook your finger

around my belt loop, and

tug me to your side

I feel you in the womb

refusing to leave.


Say you can’t help

but be possessive of me

because you love me more than

your own breath,

I feel your pillow pressed over my face.


Threaten I would be no one

without you,

I feel the fresh air

from a cracked window

in an apartment

that has no number or letter or name

on the door.


Food for Thought by Ndabal Sibanda 

Food For Thought 


to swig  because

something is given

is to tempt and test

the patience of such

comrades as Sir Vomit

or Constipation too far

like a silly bare tongue

kissing Ms. Electricity



to dance to the tune

of a sick fire is only musical

when the extinguishers

and firemen are working


to make a series of  turnarounds

till one is really dizzy and does

not know where and how to stop

is to have an upside-down dream

whose closest relative is Nightmare


Three Poems by Alex Hughes


Beautiful are Turtles and Snails

Beautiful are turtles and snails and other

Be-shelled animals; descend the secret

Nautilus. Compressed odors grow stale

In the inner smoking-room; rotting colors

Hide in darkened corners; weakness strides

In strength beneath that sheltering dome,

A child imprisoned thinking prison’s home—

And ever on they forward move, behind

That shell and shield, till death’s power

Stabs or the secret terror yields—


Inscrutable and beautiful.


The Curse of Peace

Many an evening I wonder whether

Past blessings are atonement for

Future wrongs. A golden youth

Reaches spider legs through time

To spin a web of fear and longing:

At best, I know, I’ll maintain the status

Quo, and at worst—oh, and worse!

The whole world spins beneath that

Dangling web. The silken tendrils

Quiver at the shiver running through

My hand—then snap! The Fall waits

Before all men, lurking with waiting

Blade to cut the cord. And in that

Certain plummet, I’ll have time to

Ponder whether that sheltered youth

Was a blessing or a darker truth.


The Whorl of Humanity

There’s a flower in the desert.

It’s tilted and sun-wilted and

Rather small, but sturdy and

Hardy amid the lonely desert

Sprawl. A bird of prey screams

Over from horizon to horizon,

A beautiful terror from the devil’s

Dreams, and the flower braces

Against the roaring power. One by

One its petals tumble as the

Ground begins to rumble, singing

A song of right and wrong, until

Only the hardened stalk remains

To feed anger to its desert pains.


 "Folds" by Darren Demaree




The man is creased, ropey

in fact, all weight


& muscle, without strength

& thus, we can give him


not a single gift

that he can keep forever.


How useless to look

like a god, to carry nothing.


"System of a Down" by Jose Trejo-Maya

System of a Down



hear the

voices of

the Lakota

Ghost Dancers





             the system

             is down or

             look on the periphery.


              To perceives

               not to go back

               to the past these

               are fine prints to

               remind you we are

               All brethren and one.

                           I write because I can,

                           others are ________. 

                           It’s a mixed bag there’s

                           an old Arabian proverb:

                           I thank you for your Life.





to be said

not what most

want to hear:_________.

________________ some

one is missing something somewhere.

To the Inipi/Sweatlodge Ceremony will

revive the lost story. I still remember—these words

Brother you are an Aztec you do not need no passport.

This more than a reference point I too don’t condone ignorance with rapport:

Panquetzaliztli Macuil –Acatl Chicueyi Acatl [Gregorian Calendar: December 29, 1890] 


Three Poems by Daniel Barbare


Whitman’s Sampler

2 pounds 8 ozs. Box. Bluebird.

Basket of flowers. Coconut.

Caramel. Molasses Chew.

Maple Fudge. Toffee. Pecans

and English Walnut Cluster.

Vanilla Butter Cream. Fruit and

Nut Caramel. Cashew Cluster.

Chocolate Truffle. Chocolate

Whip. Milk Chocolate

Messenger Boy. Chocolate

Covered Almonds. Chocolate

Covered Peanuts. And not but

least Cherry Cordials.


To the Rescue

Hilton brand.  5.99 a container. Southern

Homes cocktail sauce.

Slippery oyster on a fork and

dipped and down the throat. The

fishy ocean on my breath. As

Coca-Cola to the rescue

and two pieces of Whitman’s chocolates.


The Mouse in the House

The tiny blur all fuzzy

and gray. Around the kitchen

counter. Stops. Looks with

big eyes. Runs behind the

couch. Around the Christmas

tree all aglow in the den. Goes

behind the TV.  Towards the

hearth. Makes a quick u-turn

on those silent little feet. My

wife as if to tiptoe and scream

and shout in the house.


"Inattentive You" by Tobi Cogswell


Inattentive You

You’re the kind of father

who rides up the hill in front,

and never looks back.

You don’t even know if your son

is wearing his helmet,

or if he is off his bike

running to catch up with you.


You’re the kind of father

who loudly watches

the most violent movies.

You don’t even know that your son

is peeking from around the corner,

or that he tosses uneasily at night,

hoping the terror changes to peace.

You won’t even know when your son

hits someone at school.


You’re the kind of father

who will stay out until dark.

You don’t even know that your son

stands by the window, missing you so badly,

wondering what he’s done wrong.


You’re the kind of father

who invites judgment

by someone much more important

than I.


Five Poems by Mark Mansfield


Uncle Siddhartha

The future’s just coming for a visit,

dragging along that cat of a different stripe.

Meanwhile outside of the once-thriving mining camp

of Grand Nuance,

you’ve been nabbed

comparing more apples and oranges.


Scattered reports have also resurfaced

of your being spied chasing rainbows

out behind the Old McDonald place, 

while on at least one occasion you were spotted

catching a falling star

without putting it in your pocket.


Needless to say,

we have had it with you.

This time we intend on taping your mouth shut for good

with soap.  


Oh yes, you will be worse

than sorry.   God may even lead another

one of his Victory Parades,

cartwheels turning

somersaults and everyone crossing that bridge


over Spilt Milk Canyon. 


The Straw Room Mambo

Rude awakenings happen upon you

with more frequency than zombie extras

doing zombie-ons

in The Night of the Living Dead.


A cross-eyed pessimist, your upper lip’s

usually about as stiff as a Shirley Temple

with the extra cherry.


Old Mother Hubbard’s your patron saint

and her dog, Cupboard’s

your guardian angel.


Wandering gamely as a cloud,

you recently awoke to find yourself

strapped to a gurney while your Doppelgänger 

and the ER staff finished wolfing down cake emblazoned:


Happy Birthday, Markles!!! 


For you, the glass has never been so much

half-empty or half-full

as typically aimed at your skull

by one of life’s less amiable patrons.


Next to you,

Rumpelstiltskin was Mister Rogers.




Love doesn’t mean never having to say

you’re sorry; love means being sorrier than

you would ever have thought imaginable. 

Got a few likes and dislikes?   Forget that. 

Love means to have you nodding like a windsock

every other waking moment whilst you assent

to harebrained schemes, half-baked notions, pie-in-

the-sky pipe dreams, I’ll-have-my-cake-and-get-

yours, too, rhetorical cookoffs, plus the odd

bout of full-throttled lunacy.  Love conjures

any and all of the following pleasantries:

socializing with those you’d just as lief

nudge in the path of a basilisk; summarily

relocating somewhere in the environs of

ultima Thule; and/or divesting yourself

of any shreds remaining from your formerly

so-so life prior to morphing into

a human Smiley Face.  Typically, love

loves showing its own smarmy puss

whenever, wherever, and however it damned

well feels like:  curdled pop ditties, winsome

soaps operas, bodice rippers, artsy-fartsy

masterworks, poetry, and the like,

all fairly ooze with the stuff, largely due

to our peculiarly persistent mania

for divorcing ourselves from reality

almost as often as from each other.  Love, O, over-

reaching, overbearing, overpublicized

Love! careless as you are—why’s it so few

ever truly give you the old heave-ho?


Useful Insights


is thinking of you without

being aware of it.

                            Amy Gerstler


Let's try another example. 

It's Wednesday,

late evening,

the planets and stars,

the moon most probably

are out there trining, sextiling,

etc., so that you can enjoy a meal with friends,

but don't overeat or spend too much. 


You are sensitive to your surroundings now

and may have useful insights.

Why not make a to-do list of household chores? 


Might you feel better

if you let someone get close?


The Lost Cause Saloon

Deciding to make camp here for the night,

you plop your ass down in the least-lit booth

right by the shitter in the old Lost Cause Saloon.

First tossing back a few perfunctory shots

of Rebel Yell faster than Grant took Richmond,

you attempt to saunter toward the Rock-Ola

as if your name were Lyle or Vern, and you

damned well fucking meant to spill your drink,

as well as every bit of change you own,

along with your keys, credit cards, two M

&Ms, and a napkin from another bar

whereon is scrawled apparently what could be

part of someone’s phone number, or name. 

Casually picking your crap up off the floor,

you start to scrutinize the juke, while trying

to figure out precisely why ZZ Top

and Skynyrd never merged, so every frigging

selection then could be by “Skynyrd Top”

or “ZZ Skyn,” perhaps.  Still swilling down

the contents of your empty glass, you opt

for Don and Phil, soon joining the two of them

in elegiacally bleating out “Dreeeaammmm,

dream, dream, dream, dream,”

while poking at the word REPLAY until it breaks.


By now, feeling pretty maudlin in a shit-

faced sort of way, you note the rebel sentries,

posted, keg-like bellies to the bar,

and disguised as denim-  and leather-clad bikers,

all tarted up, sporting colors which read,

Confederate Nose Punchers, Cooterville 

and who have begun to slowly start to move

their hirsute lips en masse while staring holes 

through you the size of Scooter Pies and looking

increasingly like the mullet Mafia.


Determined to try to elude Goober Patrol,

you manage to stumble outdoors on to what

appears to be The Smallest Parking Lot

in the Northern Hemisphere, where you spy

one of the sentries’ mounts still idling.

Hi Ho Silvering your ass astraddle “Traveler,”

you wheelie halfway round the lot before

you surface near enough semi-consciousness

to conclude you never really did much care

for The Wild One—or Easy Rider

for that matter, as you start to clutch while choking

the bejesus out of your handlebar-like reins

(and broncing your sorry ass very near

perpendicular) while more and more

roundless doughnuts pockmark the lot, with you

now fanning more clouds of gravel, sand, and dirt

than a drunken posse at high noon, seconds

before one of the gnarlier-looking sentries

wildly charges out of The Lost Cause, grabs

a-hold of your magic reins, then rains the first

of many well-aimed nose punches down on Yankee

                                                                       Doodle You.


Two Poems by J.H. Johns


Jury Duty

                                    I got the letter

                                    in the mail—

                                    for jury duty;


                                    but, it seems,

                                    they don’t understand

                                    that I’m maxed out

                                    on being in the jury box;


                                    watching the government kill

                                    my friends and buddies

                                    in Viet Nam;


                                    watching my own number

                                    come up;


                                    watching a bunch of bankrupt people

                                    try and cripple an entire generation;


                                    watching my father die

                                    from a form of leukemia

                                    because he shoveled uranium

                                    for the Department of Energy;



                                    they really don’t understand;


                                    I’ve seen enough—


                                    I’ve had my fill of

                                    “jury duty”

                                    to last a lifetime—


                                    no thanks…



                                    I’ve done my jury duty;

                                    I’ve sat there,

                                    and after due deliberations,

                                    I found all those people in my life

                                    “not guilty”

                                    and undeserving

                                    of the death penalty…


Safety Deposit

They kept the peace,

to get their piece

of contents unknown;


cramped in a small room,

both womb and tomb;

waiting for the unknown;


they opened the locks,

they took out the box,

eyes wide for the unknown;


slowly lifting the lid,

both rabid and fervid,

they gazed on time postponed;


safely in the box,

was a timelessly dead clock,

whose hour is now unknown;


voracious sets of eyes,

mouths plying all sorts of lies,

with hearts as cold as a tombstone.


Two Poems by William Miller 


Wordsworth’s Bucket

He opened the door himself,

offered you a chair

across from his.


He read your letter

of introduction; his wife

brought a tray of tea,


butter and toast. You

hoped to see the poet

who rambled across


the fields of France

during the revolution--

or the bard of Nether Stowey


whose shepherds and peddlers

were heroes of the pasture

remote mountain trails …


But, he wasn’t there, just

an old man disgruntled

by one more pilgrim …


He didn’t understand

the new poets “ in love

with easeful death,”


how they fled the country,

as if English bread wasn’t

good enough for them …


You ask the question

you really came this far

to ask.  Would he and


Coleridge ever write poems

together, great ballads again?

His answer was to stand up,


Slowly, show you the door.

there was a painted sign

And a bucket on a nail:


“Sir or Madame, kindly pay

for your tea, butter

and toast.”


And you had to guess

How much the tea and toast

Of the greatest living


Poet was worth ….

Outside, at least, the lake

Was the same,


choppy from the breeze;

a young man rowed hard.

And there were the hills


where a wanderer told

of a ruined cottage,

beauty in its sad decay.


The Plastic Surgeon’s Lament                    

For years, I peeled faces,

swelled many  breasts

with implants.


I made money, bought

everything there was

to buy, loved my

summer house

and pool the best.


But one day, a young

woman, so beautiful,

told me what she wanted

and began to cry.


For once, I asked why,

and she told me her face

was flat, not like

the models with

high cheekbones,

not like them.


I told her she was perfect,

didn’t need the table

and blade, to go home

and be happy.


She only smiled and asked

how much, how soon …


Under the hot lights,

I saw that face again,

hesitated, then cut a line—

a scar she’d always see.


I thought she’d cherish

the beauty around it,

the face my knife

didn’t touch!



She sued and sued,

won almost everything;

the state took my

license away …


I live in my  summer house,

my only house, room

after empty room.


Sheets on the mirror

keep me from a man

who wants to nick and dye.


I float in my pool

and never read

a glossy magazine,

see the perfect

faces of girls cut before

they’re twenty.


Sometimes, I float for hours,

age in the sun

that ages us all,

though money buys

a beautiful corpse.


Two Poems by Changming Yuan


Would or Wouldn’t: The Variations of the Wing

If every human had a pair of wings

(Made of strong muscles and broad feathers

Rather than wax like Icarus’)

Who wouldn’t jump high or become eager to fly

Either towards the setting sun

Or against the rising wind?


Who wouldn’t migrate afar with sunshine

And glide most straight to a warmer spot

In the open space? Indeed


Who would continue to confine himself

Within the thick walls of a small rented room?


Who would willingly take a detour

Bump into a stranger, or stumble down

Along the way? More important


Who would remain fixed here

At the same corner all her life

Like a rotten stump, hopeless

Of a new green growth?


On Another Rainy Day

Again, water splashing against walls

And windows with each car

Passing by, colored umbrellas moving

Above unidentifiable human legs

Red light blinking towards the storm and

White noise, every cherry tree skeleton

Trying hard to find a shelter, a long-necked man

Hopping around with yesterday’s

Vancouver Sun on top off his bald head

An oversized truck full of

Thick cement pipes making a large turn

As a bus is waiting for strangers

To get off or on


Two Poems by Peycho Kanev 


The Twin

He is inside me

and with me

from the day

I was born.


We think

the same things

about our world.

I got my face,

but he is in control of

my brain.


And even more!

When we walk under

the sun his shadow

is thicker than mine.

“How is this possible?”

I ask my self.

He says nothing.


He never says anything

at all. He’s mute as a mule.

Yet women adore him.

They follow him through

the streets with hollow eyes.


We sleep together at night,

and he dreams my dreams.

But when I wake up

we are the same person again.


And I’m sure it will last

forever. Unless I do something

about that. So I decided

to take  him for a walk.


I took him to the fields.

And when I showed him

the scarecrow he began

to tremble with fear.


Ah, the way he screamed in pain.


At the End

At the end of a long day

everything around breathes again,

tranquility hangs,

like a pendulum above the ground.


But that’s good, I say. Let it rest.

The greenery, the crosses on the tops

of the churches pointing to heaven,

darkness sneaking behind the mountain,

bringing new life to the creatures

of the night.


At night the stones speak. But not everyone

understands them. Not everyone has the dictionary

of the centuries. But those who have it may hear

the darkest story. It begins anew each day.





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