Henderson, NE

By Brandon Best

Sometimes, I abandon all hope on Interstate 80
that anything exists outside Nebraska.
I can watch my gas gauge change
faster than anything else in the state.
I found a motel town populated by
a herd of school buses and a gas station,
called “Fuel Market Express” by someplace
corporate and far away. It gave me hope
that I could drive off quickly, before anyone
noticed I was trying to escape. Until, I
saw that these pumps can’t read credit cards.
and I would have to stand in line to pay
with the other drivers, frustrated and from
either Colorado or Iowa. Now, we’re waiting
in Henderson as the cashier flatters Marilynn,
the local, buying her cigarettes again.
“I hope you’re young enough to be buying these.” 
She laughs as he asks for another of her autographs
on a receipt, but I don’t know who’s young enough
to be in Henderson, stuck here and listening.

Brandon Best is currently pursuing a B.A. in English at Cedarville University. He enjoys reading Walker Percy, Annie Dillard, and Elizabeth Bishop. His poems have appeared in The Ibis Head Review.

* * * 

Arms on Fire

By Brad Garber

It’s what happens next that counts when the slap is heard across the crowded room and the old tire is replaced the nail removed the crack in the windshield fixed the floor washed and you know another one is coming but you don’t know which way to weave or duck or run the bullets glancing off stone knife piercing the apple above your head constant like the changing of the cells in the tissue you continue to poison and most times you are pinned like a moth collection to the couch the wall the tree one wing raised as if to offer an answer to the complexity of every numbing situation and you accept the blame to move on find another empty field to roam looking into the sky to follow the chimeric paths of clouds changing colors to avoid the hatred and grumbling spit of bent men backed against their own walls until they are bloody shadows the painted water flowing into storm drains and children wail in a swarm of arrows while their parents drink coffee file lawsuits send stories into space vacuum carpets never quite removing the filth of life the kitchen magnets falling to the floor books burning from disuse and neglect and memory jars shatter spilling their guts across a red hot stove top melting into a tarry pool. 

Brad Garber lives, writes and runs around naked in the Great Northwest. He fills his home with art, music, photography, plants, rocks, bones, books, good cookin’ and love. He has published poetry, art, photos, essays and articles in many quality publications. 2013 Pushcart Prize nominee.

* * * 

The Shard of Youth 

By Katherine Givens 

In the midst of a storm, 
clichéd, 
I visited my prison of girlhood days. 
My first glimpse in many years, 
darkened with gray fogs 
from clouds and tears. 
Between those faded brick walls
I suffered at the hands and words 
of hoods, 
and some nights, 
when the moon stares
back at me with its pale, full face,
I still wonder what cut deeper
into the veins 
of my soul. 
Bruises left by hands 
or self-esteem bruised by words? 
Both,
if my scars led me back 
to this ramshackle parking lot 
by the lowered flag beating 
against its pole, 
by the tennis courts scuffed 
by untied sneakers. 
Sometimes, when I stare 
at the pale face in the mirror, 
I ask what does it matter anymore?
Many of those hands 
cling to the bars of prison cells, 
and many of those
lips now mouth forgiveness. 
What does it matter anymore? 
Why do these memories 
live and breed
inside of me? I ask again,
irritating the ears of fate, 
and at last she answers 
as a girl comes from behind
those glass doors.
Out from the faded brick walls
she walks, 
stepping onto the cracks of the pavement, 
and behind her
a new generation of hoods
call names after her. 
Her face pinches, 
her feet quicken. 
She spins in the cycle of that prison,
and at night she stares
into pale faces 
pleading, begging, wondering, 
“Why do they bully me?”  
She bleeds her soul
in the day, 
and her wrists
at night.
I see in this girl 
myself 
seven years ago, 
my answer. 
My answer, 
But what Shall be hers?    
​​

Katherine Givens is working towards an M.S. in Library Sciences from Drexel University. She has publications in numerous print and online magazines, including WestWard Quarterly, Tipton Poetry Journal, The Copperfield Review, Nazar Look, and From the Depths. Learn more about Katherine and her writing here.  

* * *

Turning

By Tim Gordon

I was out of the light . . .
-Brian Wilson-
 
 
Already I can feel the red-veined maples pulsing
Into end-of-life, sun-dressed aspens rust-gold,
White willow catkins, winter-wind’s first kiss
Passing through the blue spruce, firs, pine baffles,
Settling over bright-green moss. Everything deepens,
Darkens, before what’s lost. The rest, we know, History. Fall.
And all attendant allusions. Blood thickens with the weather.
Grace, Purpose, if ever, gone to white nights. Turning away, turning back,
What we’re now not, maybe never were, when young and beautiful
On Blond Street, in Blond Forest Thickets, knowing we'd always belong to the light.
Blond-on-Blond. (As if).  Never-NeverLands wished upon polestars.
Sugar-Plum Fairies. Peter Pans and Pammys.
And so, the sage laments, begins grief.

 

Gordon's seventh poetry/fiction collection, From Falling, will be published January 2017 (Spirit-of-the-Ram P). Work appears in Agni, Kansas Q, Louisville R, Mississippi R, New York Q, Rhino, Sonora R, Baseball Bard, among others. He has been nominated for four Pushcart awards and NEA's Western States' Book Awards. He divides personal and professional lives between Asia and the Desert/Mountain Southwest.
​​

* * * 

Transfer Station Scene

By Rob Hunter 

The man who bullied heaps of refuse
into open-topped freight containers
with a beat up yellow bucket loader
 
and signaled to pick-up trucks
to move off the scale
from the door of his heated hut
with caked hands
 
and collected cash payment
from those who came
to dump their garbage,
 
recognized the wordless man in the khaki pants
and blue work shirt who materialized
every Saturday morning to comb
the stinking heaps of derelict furniture,
burned out appliances, rotting food, filled diapers,
broken-spined books, moulding Life magazines,
and misshapen bodies of greenblack plastic trash bags,
 
who sometimes panicked off with a treasure
in his arms as if it were something valuable
that he never meant to throw out,
or  a shadow he gently clutched to his chest
as if it were a life he could revive
 
and didn’t mind him as long as he stayed out of his way,
even chuckled with others at the possibility of accidentally
scooping him up and depositing the old wacko
into a giant bin with the other trash.

 

Hunter’s poetry has appeared in (or is forthcoming in): Poet Lore, Sleet, Wild Violet, Blueline, and others. He has been a featured writer at Hartwick College’s New American Writers Festival, and an editor of Birchsong, an Anthology of Vermont Poetry. In 2005 he published September Swim (Spoon River Poetry Press).

 

* * *

 

Good Blood

By Paul Ilechko
​​*archive currently unavailable 

 

* * *

 

Unknobbed

By Rick Jordan

*archive currently unavailable

 

* * *

Saving Frogs, Falling

By Steven Pelcman

*archive currently unavailable

* * *

Luna Moth Among Animal Bones

By John Robinson

*archive currently unavailable

* * *

Eden

By J.R. Solonche

 

We have lived without it

for so long, it must be clear

 

by now that we do not need it.

Maybe we need the memory

 

of it, or the mistake of it, the myth 

of it, or maybe it is just the word 

 

we need, that beginning in which 

we also find the end: Eden, Eden, Eden.

 

 

J.R. Solonche has published poetry in more than 400 magazines, journals, and anthologies since the early 70s. He is the author of twenty books of poetry and coauthor of another. He lives in the Hudson Valley.

* * *

Shared Hope

By Willard Stringham

Lying downtrodden
upon a bed of ill health,
I feel like a man
destined to rest forever.
 
The guttural bark
of a sun yellow Lab
draws my thoughts
from self to outdoors.
 
In his pen pacing,
he scans the yard
hoping so diligently
to also move outside.

Willard Stringham started working as a writer and poet in 1994 after graduating from Avila University. His work has appeared in The Mid-America Poetry Review, Snowy Egret and The California Quarterly among others.

* * *

The Hello

By Shirley Vernick

I saw you this morning,

bundled up, head bent.

Just a glimpse through the windshield as

the wipers pushed against breakers of rain.

I’m sure it was you.

 

I heard you this afternoon,

muted, striving.

Like a shadow moving on tiptoes,

jostled by the sidewalk crowds.

At least, I think it was you.

 

I felt you tonight,

airy, warm.

Tangled around me like a sheet,

right there with me, until you weren’t.

Anyway, I wish it were you.

 

Shirley Reva Vernick’s latest novels for young readers are Falling Stars (Cinco Puntos Press 2021) and Ripped Away (Fitzroy Books 2022). 

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