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At Last by Kristan LaVietes


The restaurant is called Soap. We are here by accident, by bike-ride. It
is him and me and the white, white teeth of Los Angeles, and Mark
Harmon has a corner table, and the waitresses are haloed, and each
person swishing past on the sidewalk flaunts a gourmet coffee or a
yoga mat.

Are we lost now, or are we always lost, or was there never such a find
as this ingénue of a place where the fog dissolving into baby aspirin
hums the city’s theme song with minty, healthy fervor. Where every
day we live our wakeful hibernation in the sun and dream up another
true story.

We grow full and pet the tablecloth, and the lurching napkins of the
gesturing butter-knife wizards cleaver slabs of conversation, and the
wine stems of the sipping eyelash sorceresses verb-verb-verb, and
what they say is, “I live for raspberries like these” and “Breathing is
my comfort zone” and “Hey, pretty lemon, what’s your daddy do?”


Farewell to Key West by John Coggin


After the flag of the Conch Republic submerges,
and the concrete seawalls become coral catacombs,
and the barracudas have finished their sunken
table scraps with a snaggle-toothed sneer,

Poets will raise a cup of grog and swear on a salvaged barstool
that once an island existed for artists, misfits, and madmen.

Paradise where the almighty sun picks your pocket
but the trade winds blow in delicious relief
in time for a hammock siesta and the tuna run
but sometimes your tackle is too light and your big fish
lands your big ego in drydock.

That sloppy saloon with bougainvillea gardens
and cocktails that hiss like a yellow-crested cockatoo.
Those gypsy chickens that beg for Key Lime pie then
cock their heads to one side and crow
an earnest plea for whipped cream.

Sunburned, seasick, drunk on the wine of denial,
Florida shrugged and took the hand of Dionysus
for one last cha-cha, then sank in a megahurricane.

Key West stills glimmers in its grave,
its waters embezzling all Earth’s turquoise.


Ghosts by Raina Allen


there are ghosts only i can see.

the limping wanderer, bleeding
as if by amputation –
something lost, she can not find.

swallows circle overhead,
singing hymns to the overgrowth,
nursing on what lies beyond the soil.

vegetation and rainwater pools
drench shoes with sockless feet –
the sky is a cold rinse.

i feel her bones creaking,
with years of watering-can smiles,
and i do not ask

how much it takes
to wash the blood away.


It Cost No Room by Olivia Stogner


One afternoon you were clearing out a drawer in your wardrobe.
I suppose because I kept shopping. I do that on holiday.

              You took a small, round box from a shelf.
You were so like a happy child, as you began to sift through the cargo
of that little box. There were shells from the sea, a pebble from a river,
a stone cut in half, exposing amethyst crystals, a fallen leaf, a yellow feather.

You were going to throw the feather away.
              You paused with it pinched between your fingers.
                          It quavered in your indecision and the window’s wake.

It was from your grandmother’s pet bird. And it was, after all,
only a little thing.


            Why not keep it?
            It cost no room.

Olivia S

The Astrologer by Bethany Reid


She arranges the tools
of trade at the kitche
n table,
astrolabe, ephemeris, a book
of signs and wonders, sheets
of graphed paper, ruler
and pen. The light overhead
is harsh, the window over the sink
stares into dark.
Clouds cover the stars that guide her.
With date and place of birth
she creates a chart like a compass,
but with intersecting lines, a spider’s web
tugged to one quadrant.
The lines show Pisces
Ascendent and Mercury in the Twelfth House.
An artist’s sensitivity, she writes
in her profile, and a temper
that flares like phosphorescence.
She pushes back her chair.
Is it her kitchen she labors in,
her light, her chair?
I have no chart
to illumine her life. But now
dawn seeps through the window
and I see her rested and ready
for another day. Her walking shoes,
like mine, wait at the door.
Her moon in Aries.

If You Are Careful, I Think There Is Probably Nothing That Cannot Be Retrieved by Cory Crouser
After Barry Lopez​ 

Lay me down.
And if raindrops fall in my eyes
Just cradle my face like you did before;
Pull down my eyelids with your thumbs
The way you've seen it done in films

And kiss my forehead, (what’d’ya say? If only just for old times’ sake).
And when you find my skin is cold, go on, go on,
Because my last thought was winter, is all:
How the snow hare kept
after it, girdling the cottonwood
While the crows unzipped its hide and ate.

Then go ahead and make your cut
Straight from my throat down to my gut.
You've done it like this before, albeit in a gentler way,
That old crucifix around your neck
Tracing the line each time you went down.

And simply open me up.
And should you find it, let it out,
Because somewhere along our little broken way
I lost heart and swallowed the monarch I’d kept so long in my cheek:
Vision, I think, or something like it.


COLD CORE by Steve Sibra

Animals go away to die        we die
then refuse to go away          stay
like cold cups of coffee        serving no one
leaving indelible stains on the birthing cloth

Winter always comes        She smiles
under cover of cold, white darkness
       invites us to spend the night
       folds back a smooth blanket of snow
       implores us lay down in our own
angel        spread our wings one final time
then she covers us with so many
frozen tears        we become tears        more
than tears we become a quiet howl of sacrifice

we run wet down the walls of Christ’s house
our blood paints over stained glass --
pools in the halls        we are hopeless puddles
red with the smell of rotting happiness
thirsty as the full mouth allows



Jumping to My Conclusion by Daniel Pié


          Movies—my default source for wisdom—don’t prepare you for the shock that you have died. I should have known this from repeatedly watching The Sixth Sense.
          When I awoke to the reality of my own death, it was at first no different than my eyes popping open to a new day after a nightmarish sleep. All pain was gone. My fingers softly probed my abdomen, bracing for the lightning bolt of stricture caused by the tumor.
          Nothing. No sensation whatsoever, unless, perhaps, was that pleasure I’d just experienced?
         Only a day earlier, my fingertips had been the torturous tools of a mad scientist, reminding me with the slightest touch of the decay throughout my gastrointestinal tract and the poison drip of Mengele’s treatment.

         My hands darted from one spot to another for evidence to refute the remarkable transformation. Nothing, again. And then I had the epiphany of all epiphanies.
         “I’m dead.”
          Most people live with trepidation over this moment. Even on their most blissful day, the fear whispers its smokey warning, sometimes not until the very moment they are about to drift off to sleep. Beware the Ides.

           I was able to face mortality, especially in the horrible final months, by embracing the comforting thought that in death, I would be reunited with loved ones who had gone before me. I thought of my mother first. Sorry, Dad, but Mom raised us and got us through the worst of it.
         I’d lost a dear, sweet sister, Mary, too, for whom my heart yearned to see again. However, it was my late older brother, Paul, who I’d always imagined would be there to meet me at the gate.
         As I was thinking of Paul, how he might playfully apply a headlock at our reunion, I was no longer in my hospital bed surrounded by the whir and beeps of modern medicine. Neither was there the antiseptic aroma, which had been replaced by the sinus-clearing salt spray of the ocean.
          My toes wiggled in warm granules of the undulating dunes. The beautiful beach was a veritable postcard of the little patch of shore where we siblings spent the days of summer in our youth.

          What there wasn’t was any sign of Paul or anybody else. Indeed, there weren’t any gates, as our Catholic teachers had assured us. I’ll confess here that I panicked. I’d already forgotten the miracle of escaping all that pain. I quickly twisted the idyllic setting into some sort of Twilight Zone set. I was to spend eternity in this balmy paradise but in total isolation, without a single other person with whom I could share a thought.

          My heart ached and my eyes filled with tears as, in desperation, I futilely yelled into the wind for Paul to come out of hiding and jubilantly hoist me in his bear-like arms. “This can’t be the end of everything. Please.”
          Then, there he was. Not refreshed, having been cleansed of all of life’s burdens, and beaming at the sight of me. His wrinkled dress shirt was partially untucked, the collar open and exposing a sweat-saturated t-shirt. He looked unshaven for a few days, haggard, a billiards cue in one hand and a Styrofoam cup in the other.
          He didn’t look up when he spoke.
          “Would ya go on down and get me some breakfast, would ya? An egg sandwich and a cup of coffee. You want something, Charlie?”
          “Charlie? What happened to Chuck? But, hey, it’s so great to see you again. I dreamt of this moment so many times. Put the pool cue down and let’s go celebrate.”
         Paul rested his head against his hand and took a deep breath.
         “The pool game is over when Fats says it’s over. You can’t see it, Charlie. You’ve never been able to see it. I came after him.”
         “Him? Who’s him?”
         “I’m gonna beat him, Mister,” Paul said. “I beat him all night and I’m gonna beat him all day.”
         “Wait, wait, wait. I’m not Mister and you’re not my brother Paul. But you do look really familiar. There’s been some kind of a mix-up, I think.”
          I tried to make some sense of this scene. “That’s it. This is all a scene from that movie. Jackie Gleason plays the pool shark and you, you’re, like, all possessed to beat him. The Hustler. Yeah, that’s it. Your PAUL, oh my god, NEWMAN. Sorry. Didn’t recognize you. I think of you as that
old guy in Nobody’s Fool.”
          He looked at me in disbelief.
          “Kid?” He used to call me Kid when, as boys, I’d tag along after him. “Next time I say let’s go someplace like Bolivia, let’s go someplace like Bolivia.”
          “What?” I looked around. We no longer were in the dunes but on a precipice high above a river. “Jesus, how did that happen? Look, Paul, I don’t know what’s going on here, and I’m very honored to meet you, but—”
          “No, we’ll jump,” he said. “It’ll be okay. If the water’s deep enough we don’t get squished to death.”
          Death. There was that word again. I’d convinced myself that it would somehow be a joyous occasion and not the horrifying end of everything. Now, here I am about to leap off a cliff with a Hollywood icon.
          “Look, I just got here, Paul. You understand. I mean—”
          He stared into my eyes, and I knew. We both dashed for the ledge.
          “Oh, ooh, oooh, shiiiiit.”

          “Easy does it, Sundance,” the day nurse said, gingerly removing the bed pan from beneath me. “Whoo. Looks like somebody had a big night.”

Red Arrow Highway by C.W. Bigelow


          “Don, you have to have it towed away.” Grant stared into his coffee cup.
          “I know, Grant. Do you suddenly need that space?” He knew by then that wasn’t really the reason.
          “I will eventually, but it’s not that.” He sat back in the booth.
          “Do you need more money?”
         Grant sighed. This conversation had replayed weekly since it happened. “You know that’s not it.” He checked his watch as he always did each time, he met Don at the Red Arrow Diner.
         Don nodded as he pushed the envelope of cash across the table.
         “If I don’t accept your money anymore, maybe you’ll have it towed to the junk yard,” he threatened softly as he always did before picking it up with his thick oil-stained fingers. His fingernails were always dirty. Slowly and carefully, he stuck it into the inside pocket of his grimy gray coveralls. “I gotta get back to the bank before heading back to the garage.”
          What Grant was saying, what he’d been saying each time they met for breakfast, each time he handed him cash after the accident, was true. He turned and gazed out the window. It was November and the leaves were displaying wide splashes of orange, yellow and red, as they
dropped like punctuation marks from the maple and oak trees in the chilly breeze.
         The summer residents were back in the city, where he should have been, though autumn was more beautiful than he had ever imagined. He and Marsha never visited the cottage this late in the year. Now they never would.
         “Do me a favor. Give me an hour there before you go back to the garage.”
         Grant stood up and stared woefully down at him. Don had aged obviously in the last five months, but then who wouldn’t? He nodded as he gently grabbed Don’s shoulder before walking out the door.
          He watched Grant climb into his tow truck, the same truck that had towed the car to his garage, then gazed around the empty diner before leaving ten dollars on the table for two cups of coffee.
          The trees chattered in the breeze that swirled the crisp leaves across the brown grass of the veteran’s park that bordered the Red Arrow Highway. Threatening clouds raced above.
          He climbed into his Cadillac, the one Marsha refused to drive, because it was too unwieldy, and backed out onto the empty street. She was more comfortable in her 1962 Sabra convertible. She claimed she could control it better.
         He rolled the windows down as he turned onto the empty highway and drove slowly down to Grant’s Garage. The cold slap of the wind on his face gave him courage. The gravel by the side of Don’s Garage crunched as he pulled up and parked. The Dairy Queen just down the 
Red Arrow
highway was closed for the season, but he kept his eyes on it as he climbed deliberately out of
his car.
          “We’re going for Dairy Queen,” Marsha announced that early June night. “It’s time for the first ice cream of the season,” she slurred as she finished her gin and tonic. “Make sure I have another one ready when we get back.”
          “Take the Cad,” he suggested as he poured himself another drink. His suggestion was met with the bang of the screen door and the cries of three youngsters.
          “We can all fit in the Sabra. It’s only a mile down the road,” Marsha laughed.
          Under a black tarp, weathered after three summer months of heat and thunderstorms, covered with a thick layer of dead red leaves from the Maple that hovered over it, was the Sabra.
          The tarp crumbled as he lifted and pulled it back over the front hood to reveal the smashed engine in the shape of a closed accordion. The length of the Sabra was half its original size. The steering wheel pierced the back of the driver’s seat and the head rest tilted like a
drooping praying mantis. His stomach rumbled and vomit gushed up his throat and coated the faded blood stains that painted the whole interior.
          And those last ecstatic cries of his youngest daughter Anna, and her two cousins, Sally, and Karen, echoed on the chilly wind drifting across the highway from the local cemetery.
          He walked, with trepidation and a grimace on his face, down the highway to the tall, scarred oak tree. It was the immoveable object that was the only survivor of the crash. He knelt on the ground and felt the frigidness seeping through his pants. His bare hands roamed over the
raw wood where the bark had ripped away. Taking a deep gulp, he grasped the bare spot as if he were holding her head and tasted his own tears before kissing the spot his family were silenced forever.

Openminded by David Larsen


    Ira Kanter hung his sport coat in the hall closet and slipped out of his cordovan weejuns; he left the shoes on the floor at the foot of his and Rebecca’s queen-size bed. She’d pick them upand put them away in the morning when she made the bed. When he was angry with his wife, as
he was tonight, he didn’t want to have anything to do with her, talk to her, have a drink with her, even go to bed with her, though eventually he’d have to, but a goodnight kiss would be perfunctory and nothing more. They’d done their talking in the car, arguing mostly, bitterly.
Twenty-eight years into marriage, two children, grown and out of the house, she had a way of getting his goat, needling him about the most trivial matters.
    “Are you still upset?” asked Rebecca. She had changed out of her new soft blue dress and had draped her beige terrycloth robe, her birthday gift from Ira, over her shoulders. Her breasts showed intermittently as she moved carefreely around the kitchen.
    He sat glumly at the table, a glass of orange juice in his hand. He didn’t bother to look up at his wife, though her exposed boobs had caught his attention when she came into the room.

    “I’m not mad,” he said. “It’s just that whenever I have an opinion about something, you have to make a big deal about it.” He turned the glass in his hand. “All I said was that I thought a black wedding dress is inappropriate.”
    “And all I said was that it’s none of our business what Zooey wears at her own wedding.”
    Rebecca sat across the table from him. He could feel her gaze on his forehead.
    “People gasped when she walked down the aisle with Julian. If I was her father, I would’ve refused to have any part in a ceremony like that.” He looked up and glared into his wife’s blue eyes. She’d removed her lightly-tinged pink lipstick, but her fragrance, the one she only sprayed on for special occasions, still lingered in the air. “And what kind of church was that? The minister looked like he belonged in Haight Asbury—fifty years ago. He could’ve at least trimmed his hair and beard. My whole family was there. I think that preacher was stoned.” Ira paused. “I think the bride and groom might have been zonked out.”
    “They weren’t.” Rebecca smiled. “If it was what Zooey wanted...and your sister and Julian didn’t have a problem with it...what’s it to us? You’re just getting crotchety in your old age.”
    “I’m as openminded as anyone,” he said. “It’s just that there are norms that people expect you to observe. And what’s the deal with her carrying black roses? And the groom, what’s-his-name, wearing a white suit? I felt like I was an extra in a Fellini movie. And why did she have to marry
a non-Jew? Just to drive the family nuts?”
    “You were at a nice wedding in a Unitarian church,” she said. “And I didn’t think you paid all that much attention to what was going on. You seemed to be more than slightly interested in the woman across the aisle from us. The silver-haired woman in the gray dress.”

   Ira felt the blood rush to his face. His wife notices everything. The stunning woman, maybe fifty, sat cross-legged to his left, not more than four feet away. A silver, not glittery, high-heeled shoe dangled from the painted nails on her long, narrow foot. She was striking. He was stricken.
Rebecca never polished her toenails. The woman was exotic. Her stern-looking husband sat with his arms crossed throughout the whole ceremony; the stuffed-shirt didn’t deserve her.
    “I just thought her hair was unusual,” said Ira. He couldn’t deny noticing the woman, but he could downplay his interest, his infatuation.
    “I suspect it was more than that.”
    “I hardly noticed her. What I did notice was the fiasco my niece made us sit through.” Ira sat back and crossed his arms, like the woman’s bald, stuffy husband. “She was fifty, if not older. I’m too old to pay attention to other women. I’m almost sixty, you know. Women aren’t interested in men my age.”
    Rebecca shook her head. Then stood. “I’m going to bed. You’d better take two Tums after drinking orange juice this late. Otherwise, you might wake up in the middle of the night with acid reflux. A man who’s too old to notice attractive women needs to be careful.”
    Her robe open, her legs and breasts exposed with each step, Rebecca walked across the room. Ira stepped to the sink and rinsed his glass. He thought, “It’s written somewhere, ‘A person may not drink out of one goblet and think of another,’ but what do the rabbis know? If Zooey can
get married to whoever she wants, in some Christian church, to some hippie who won’t convert, then I can take an antacid and have thoughts about anyone I feel like. What difference does it 
make? I’ll make up with Rebecca and take a load off of my mind. Two birds with one stone. If
it’s openminded they want, then I’ll give them openminded.”



House of Cards by Bobbo Byrnes

00:00 / 02:57

Cover of "Volare" by Laura Giannini

00:00 / 03:14

About You by Cory Crouser

00:00 / 05:55
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