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# Letter From The Editor

# ‘What Music’ by David Anthony Sam

# ‘Desperate Glamour’ & ‘The Answer is Given’ by Edward Lee

# ‘Neon Dragonflies’ by Scott Tierney

# ‘The Cornbread Birthday’, ‘Bonefur’ & Type 3 Diabetes’ by Stephen Mayoff

# ‘Drinking from Your Life’ & ‘What to Call?’ by Michael L. Hansen

# ‘Steel Echoes’ by Morgan Boyer

# ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’, ‘Something’s Burning’ & ‘A Dream of Progress’ by Howie Good

# ‘A Thin Slice Among Impressions’ by Sharon Israel

# ‘Kid’ & ‘The Domestic Life of Black Holes’ by Christian Ward

# ‘Surroundings’ by Benedict Hangiriza

# ‘Heroes’ by Mark Rogers

# ‘Impound’ & ‘Denial’ by Aria Dominguez

# ‘A Moment in Time’ by Ralph J. Ehlinger

# ‘Extinct’ by Sherry Shahan

# ‘A Loaned Life’ by Jonathan Chibuike Ukah

# ‘Shadows on Our Bedroom Floor’ by Charlie Brice

# ‘The Trip’ by Anna M. Carroll

# ‘Bereavement Card’, Turning into the Skid’ & ‘Rescue’ by Dudley Stone

# ‘Ghost Truckers’ by Colin Gee

# ‘Still Standing’ & ‘Tall Trees’ by Maggie Daniel

# ‘Joseph Walks Quickly’ by Howard Moon

# ‘On Milking a Bad Situation’ by John Dorroh

# ‘Scrying’ by Robert McCready

# ‘What I Would Talk About If I Was In Therapy’ by K. Dakovic

# ‘Verdant’ by Lawrence Freiesleben

# ‘Breaking That Last Hold’ by Anca Vlasopolos

Read our all new Novel Excerpts Segment: The Desk

Featuring works by Jake Epstine, Gareth Macready, Jenny Morelli, Paul W Newman,

Grace Stroup, Martin Swanson & Christopher Pipkin.


Dear Reader,

Volume 7 of Spare Parts Literary has at last arrived! Weighing 34 contributors and measuring 6 whole categories of incredible works, this bundle of joy was worth every hour laboured over it!

All humour aside, in this letter I'd like to express some of the passion and the pain which went into producing Volume 7. After a staggering response to our summer call for submissions it quickly became apparent that this little magazine had recieved exposure from peers and resource pages in proportions resembling the effects of George's Marvellous Medicine! As I began to scale the mountain of emails amassing in our inbox, sharing and discussing them with a couple of volunteer readers, and started drafting our initial long-lists, I felt a torrent of conflicting emotions; gratitude danced circles over dread, excitement frog-leapt over the back of exhaustion, and shimmering awe gently held the hand of anxiety. Never before have I felt so stretched, so humbled and so immersed in purpose.


The foremost result of such a bountiful season in the life of this magazine has been a rich and moving collection of art, photography, flash and poetry, our first ever Play Manuscript and a brand new segment dedicated to Novel Excerpts! However, with all these exciting developments came a plethora of new challenges, which made for a significant delay in response times to submissions, a drastic increase in workload, even more delays in crafting and curating the volume and supporting materials, and a pressingly apparent need for a larger staff!

I can only apologize for the deceleration of our regular order of proceedings at Spare Parts, and commit myself as Editor to adapting how this magazine opperates so that we can continue to serve the phenomenal community of creatives who entrust us with their work. From submissions through to promotion, our goal is still to provide a functional platform for unique, expressive and captivating material and to support, encourage and spot-light the artists we work with. Consequently once the dust has settled after Volume 7's release we will be adjusting our publishing schedule to quarterly volumes and seeking to broaden our staff and enlist extra hands to lift up this project as it continues to blossom and mature.

At every hurdle, and in every moment where the fatigue of full-time employment has hampered the intensity of the editing process, the spirit and the talent of these 34 remarkable contributors has inspired and revived the drive to forge ahead and complete this mammoth edition; an edition which bristles with wit, vision and vitality, and an edition of which I could not feel more proud.

Thus it is with great thanks for your collective patience and continued enthusiasm for Spare Parts Literary, that I give you - Volume 7.

Oak Ayling

Oak Ayling

Editor in Chief

VOL 7.




What instrument plays you when you

walk through the remnants of the original

garden? What whisperings command

each step, breath, rhythm, tone?


The birds seem to waste their singing,

profligate in joy and warning. The sky

seems awash with oceans of clouds

ready to burst hot in stabs of fire.


Thunder closes the atmosphere like

a dungeon door. Birds flute jealousies

of mate and territory. Your life remains

strong–for now–but the instrument

that plays you is stronger than your longing.


I call my joys from the instrument

that plays me, letting it finger my stops,

percuss my steps, insert silences

between thoughts, and flood me with

dreams that fly on invisible wings.


Give silence its rest between each breath,

between each step, between each clap

of thunder or trill of bird. Silence lies

wise and wide like the ocean calmed.

David Anthony Sam’s poetry has appeared in over 100 journals. His collection, Stone Bird, was published by San Francisco Bay Press in 2023. Writing the Significant Soil (Wayfarer Books 2022) won the 2021 Homebound Poetry Prize, the 2022 Poetry Prize by the Virginia Professional Communicators, and first place for a book of poetry by the National Press Women’s Association. Six other collections include Final Inventory (Prolific Press 2018) and Dark Fathers (Kelsay Books 2019). Sam teaches creative writing at Germanna Community College from where he retired as President in 2017 and serves as Regional VP of the Poetry Society of Virginia.



Desperate Glamour Edward Lee 1.jpg


The Answer is Given Edward Lee 2.jpg

Edward Lee is an artist and writer from Ireland. His paintings and photography have been exhibited widely, while his poetry, short stories, non-fiction have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll. His poetry collections are Playing Poohsticks On Ha’Penny Bridge, The Madness Of Qwerty, A Foetal Heart and Bones Speaking With Hard Tongues.

He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Orson Carroll, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy.

His blog/website can be found at


(an extract from a greater project)

bY Scott Tierney



**警报** **警报** **警报**


            –MESSAGE. REPEAT:


            He peered incredulously at his smartphone, the screen crowded with characters – yellow, red, black, running downwards like the bars of a jail cell.

            Mandarin wasn't his first language, but he got the general gist.

            It wasn't good.







            He skimmed the message a second time, a third, scrolling the screen over and over in the futile aspiration that his sweat-slick thumbing would scrub the characters away like the foil from a one dollar scratch card.

            No luck. The message remained, its implications plain and undeniable.

            REMAIN INDOORS


            Condemning the smartphone, giving serious consideration to hurling the fucking thing against the nearest wall, he noticed that his other hand was trembling. Never good. Not for a guy in his line of work.

            Especially when you're holding a gun.

            The gun was still pointed down at the girl's head, but the aim had drifted to the right, mind and muscle wandering, wavering, the barrel no longer trained between her eyes. Even with the silencer, square as a brick and just as bulky, the muzzle blast would likely take the side of her face off. Effective, sure, but it wouldn't be what the client had paid extra for. It would be messy, the clean-up laborious, time consuming, leaving him with less time to make the necessary arrangements, cut his ties, and catch the first flight out of this god-forsaken country.

            Not that any of that looked to matter now.

            He quelled the tremor in his hand with a stiffened grip, pulling the gun back in line with the girl's forehead. The girl's eyes – green, glossy, phoney, as wide as a newborn kitten's – tracked it all the way. She hadn't taken her eyes off the gun since he'd pulled it from his jacket. Not even when the smartphone in her purse had chimed at the exact moment as his did she avert her gaze. No, she'd remained as stiff and upright as a china doll, perched on the corner of the bed with all the pomp of a peacock. If everything had gone like he'd planned she'd've been flat on her back by now, a hole through the centre of her skull as wide and circular as a won, lifeless kitten eyes peering up at the constellations of her brains splattered across the–

            “What are you waiting for?”

            He peered over his phone.


            Her cherry lips were pursed so severely they resembled umeboshi.

            “I said what are you waiting for? Are you going to get it over, or do I have time to go powder my nose?”

            She pronounced her English exactly. Formal, clean, precise, each individual word allotted its own space and consideration as though she were reciting the digits of her social security number down a bad line to a worse operator.

            Tough little bitch... He had to admire her audacity. He gave her his best shit-grinned smirk. The best he could manage, all things considered.

            “Are you in some kind of a hurry?” he asked pointedly “I know you charge by the hour, but what's the rush? Worried someone will find out you're somewhere you shouldn't be?”

            “I would say it is you who is worried,” she said acutely, acknowledging his smartphone and the sweaty disquiet its alert had brought over him. “Perhaps that was your wife calling, wondering where you are.” Briefly, she glanced to her purse. “Strange, though... We both received a message at the same time. Quite the coincidence.”

            Muffled through the perspex pane of the hotel room's window, the siren of a police car rang out across the city. From a nearby balcony a local shouted. Accent thick and fearful, from street level a second local shouted back. The siren grew louder. A shopfront door slammed. Metal trash cans clattered, followed by footsteps beating down an alley. A car door, an engine revving, bald tyres squealing for purchase. The siren gave chase, all spite and megaphone warnings. The room and its two occupants were momentarily ablaze in red and blue, blue back to red, spliced with flashes of brilliant and revealing white.

            Eventually the siren passed on. The room was reunited with its dimness and silence.

            “Yes,” the girl said coldly. “Quite the coincidence, wouldn't you say?”

            The gun was drifting again.

            In the corner of the room, facing the bed, was a cheap wood-framed chair. His trick knee having come over all shaky, he took a step back and sat down. He swiped the alert away and tucked the smartphone deep in his jacket pocket. The girl still had her attention on the gun, but now she was peering through it, beyond it, like it was immaterial and no longer relevant. He could practically see the cogs turning behind her clock face eyes, each individual gear sparking, ruminating, grinding itself down to the nub.

            With his free hand his fished around in his jacket, patting pockets. Slyly, knowingly, she slipped her fingers into her purse. Akin to a flinch, his military training took over. He clenched the gun, leaving no room for a misfire on his part or a case of misinterpretation on hers. Nonchalantly, taking her sweet time about it, the girl withdrew from her purse a packet of cigarettes. The box was copper-gold, shrink wrapped, the number one brand in the country. Like a kid offering pellets of chicken feed to a crocodile, she tossed the packet over to him. It landed upturned on the carpet, halfway between bed and chair. Now he'd have to get up, bend down, leave himself prone to a knee to the nose or a stiletto across the back of the skull. She was a smart one.

            Too smart...

            But he was smarter. Without taking his eyes off the girl or rising to stand, he shimmied the chair across the carpet. He stuck out a leg. With the heel of his shoe he pulled the packet of cigarettes toward him. The girl clenched, pink and blue fingernails digging into the mattress. Her thighs quivered like the buttocks of a greyhound in the traps, a cat ready to pounce on its prey. But at the last moment she thought better of it, good sense keeping her rooted to the edge of the bed.

            “Yeah... Always figured you for a smart kid,” he said provokingly. “At least smart enough to realise, deep down in your hollow bones, that you shouldn't be caught up in all this.”

            He wafted the gun toward the girl's skimpy one-strap dress, her dagger stilettos, her rhinestone purse, lying open on the mattress, brimmed with poppers, tricks, men's' greasy money – some of it his.

            Aping the girl's nonchalance, he slid himself and the chair back across the carpet. In its wake lay four grooves akin to fingernails scratched across the skin of a back.

             “Then again,” he added, collected up the cigarettes, “if you were all that smart you wouldn't have wound up in this shitty hotel room on a shitty night like this. With a shitty guy like me.”

            The girl gave no response. Dicks and stones.

            “Clammed, huh? Guess you're not paid to talk. But that's alright. I can talk enough for two. So my wives keep telling me.”

            With his teeth he tore the shrink-wrap from the packet, and pulled out a cigarette with his lips. Having fished a lighter from his pocket he lit the cigarette. It tasted good, real good.  Justifiably, considering the price. For most people in this country, one packet cost more than a week's wages. He wondered, How the hell could a hooker like her afford cigarettes like these?

            “You must be real good at what you do, Smarts. Or I'm in the wrong line of work.”

            He exhaled through his one working nostril. Smoke filled the room, creating substance in the rays of pulsing, blinking, multi-colour street-light which ebbed through the window. He wondered how long it would be before those lambent tigers and neon dragonflies were switched off, before the nightclub shutters came down, before the pattering of heels and sandals and drunken revelry subsided, leaving the streets barren, inescapable, with nowhere left where to hide except–

            There was a knock at the door. Quick as a whip he snapped the gun in its direction, then at the girl, her head, her purse.

            The corner of the smartphone sticking out from it.

            He stamped across the carpet and grabbed the girl up by the wrist.

            “Real fucking smart, Smarts,” he snarled, dragging her into the bathroom. “And real fucking stupid.”

Scott Tierney.jpg

Scott Tierney's writings include the sci-fi epic Tomorrow is Another Year, the novella Kin, and the comic book series Pointless Conversations. He also has a humorous weekly serial on WattPad, The Adventures of Crumpet-Hands Man. Many of his short-stories have been published online, including on Liar's League, Horror Tree, and HumourMe. He currently resides in the North West of England. Examples of his writings and graphic design work can be found at


by Steven Mayoff 


Is 63 the cornbread birthday, with its

Numerology -based 9 -shaped candle?

The triumphal single flame

silently exults: now we are upside down 6


before being blown out

into oblivion.


The short of it (as I find myself

well into Act III) is courting

gratitude to still be

playing the long game.


The sky is a starless

cobalt, soon warming to cornflower,

in late February.

We see

a perfect crescent moon.

Rounding the snowless corner

is Death, shuffling

warily along the frozen sheet of lane,

balanced upright

on scythe handle (its blade a curved


repetition of moon). He taps, taps,

taps the ice, careful not to fall

and break His cowl -swaddled neck bone.

The moon’s crescent, the lane’s

silvery bend and the scythe’s

curving blade

are three broken

sections of our mythical 6 (or wick -blackened 9).


The cornbread has been cut

into squares and kept fresh

in a plastic bag, the crumb -flecked Pyrex dish

forgotten by the sink.

A digital photo of pone, candle


and celebrant is but

a dark idea in the laptop’s

sleeping brain.




by Steven Mayoff


The dogs sniff out a skeleton

bleached white bones

with fur still on its paws

subject to the laws of the underbrush

where it shivered silvery and alone.


A sliver of once jack speed

in a wind -shiver of pine needles

a glimmer on the river

flashing through the summer

before lightning crashes.


A narrow brittleness in skull and ribs

the tufted paws in mid -caress

those tea -tinted leaves littered like love

arrayed by decay dictated from above

in the waning softly raining light of day.


The skeleton frozen in eternity’s headlights

a rabbit pose mid -spring stop -action

ringing in the brain minted in the heart

a hopping habit in the art of prayer

always there but never where you think.


Dogs straining on their leash get pulled away

whining desire tugging on the whimper

a simpler sounding out

a promise in the sample of something

more to come.







by Steven Mayoff


At first, I thought this poem would be about something lofty.


The human body as. A metaphor for politics or the environment or the world at large.

Until the nurse pricked my finger. Squeezed a drop of blood onto the disposable strip in

the meter. Glumly announced my blood glucose was 15 and I had better get back on



Start watching my diet and getting exercise and checking my sugars.

Start being more vigilant.


I knew this poem would be about something else

some unasked question.

About why.



I had gone off my meds 4 years ago.


Turning an experience into poetry is one thing. But poetry into wisdom is a different

leap. The physician who had diagnosed me and prescribed Metformin and monitored

the results of A1c blood tests and readjusted the dosage as she saw fit was herself

diagnosed with cancer.


And soon died.

Rather than meet with the doctor who replaced her I decided it was easier. To go off my

meds.To start afresh. To create a whole new belief system.


To re-diagnose myself with Type 3 Diabetes.



Diabetes is the Greek word for siphon. Short for diabetes mellitus.

The second word meaning honeyed or sweet.


An illness in the 17th century known as “pissing evil.” Ancient Indians tested to see if

ants were attracted to a person’s urine. In medieval times it was considered a death



Type 1 is the inability to produce insulin.

Type 2 is a resistance to it.

Type 3 is a state of suspended-deconstruction.


Rather than tingling and numbness there is an affinity to the abstract.

Instead of excessive thirst fatigue and cuts that won’t heal.

There is a tireless hunger.



To appease a wounded sense of entitlement.

Diabetes colitis gout depression. And that’s only the nameable afflictions in my family. I

wanted to trade genetics for karma. Not realizing karma will somehow find its way into

the blood. By karma I mean a far-reaching gauntlet of consequences to be endured. A

repayment for something beyond my control.


There is all manner of reparation for what was done in past lives. Not so much a matter of

vengeance or justice as an irreversible law of physics. There is sickness and suffering the

aches and pains of old age. The aftermath of self-indulgence and the ever-increasing

circles. Encompassing all society’s ills.




By genetics I mean.



The body’s propaganda.


I preferred to think that my meds had gone off me. Like a friendship that goes off the

rails or the convenient revising after. An affair that went pear-shaped. The failed

penitence for always living outside love’s veiled boundary.


In Type 3 diabetes it is poetry’s uselessness. Compelling one to never give up. The pen

siphons a sewage-sweetened vision of the world order. To reduce the sword.

To similes and facsimiles.


In modern times this usually means a death.

I preferred to sever ties from the day-to-day body count and blaze.



My own path on the great treadmill.


The 21st century is a necessary evil known as taking the piss. Out of illness. The poetry of

propaganda lies in its repetitions. A narrowing gene pool pushes all messaging to candy

apple levels. An ebbing vigilance promotes this nostalgia known as diabetes vos or

fear’s crazy straw and characterizes Type 3 as corkscrewing through the body politic.


A mutual form of magical thinking.

A magical form of mutual bondage.


Before the drop of.



Blood on a disposable strip dispels all metaphors.

Steven Mayoff.jpg

Steven Mayoff (he/him) was born in Montreal and moved to Prince Edward Island, Canada in 2001. His fiction and poetry have appeared in literary journals across Canada, the U.S. and abroad. His books include the story collection Fatted Calf Blues (Turnstone Press, 2009), the novel Our Lady of Steerage (Bunim & Bannigan, 2015), the poetry chapbook Leonard’s Flat (Grey Borders Books, 2018) and the poetry collection Swinging Between Water and Stone (Guernica Editions, 2019). Upcoming is the novel The Island Gospel According to Samson Grief to be published by Radiant Press in 2023.


M Hansen


In a souped up

metal flake moment

of downstream eddy


in the paradisical


of the dram


with a tongue

more clear

than mankind


excepting you Pablo

in the green ink

“TARDIS” of Your Odes


& again

they’re looking in

on you


from a kitchen

sink window

& with


the dishsoap


they rise


to make





not just



for a winter’s

turbid sugar

roiled by me


but also while

the different nector’s

are all sexy & voila!


to periscope


of treetops


trilling your

amorous G-force

to the earth


I’ve looked from

a plane



at the Andes-

old shadow generator

of stone


and at Andes


in so small an eye


with your pan pipe


wing beat past


or arriving

plumage plush

as reality gets



the ultraviolet



the sun’s

wee progeny

joust & love








the eon fine




of a flower


like embers

of incense &

smoke they’ll




the America’s



trellis by imbibing

the flowering air!


I’ve looked between

wing beats

for an answer to time


& for color’s that can

& cannot

be seen


in the Gitano


of the world’s soul.










Poems pop up


as mole mounds in winter


& I’m every bit as blind

except to the parts

of phenomena


that flower

into you

the pollen dusted


which is perhaps

no more strange that this barbwire fence

nearly under


water after days of rain

still wanting to enclose

the open field that floods


into drakes making

beautiful green



and still

I don’t know

what to call a rain


that brings erasure


to a hillside

already filled

with bare branches.

M Hansen.png

Michael L.Hansen has and is working on his suitcase phD as a Merchant Mariner, presently as part of the crew on the University of Washington Research vessel Thomas G.Thompson. He lives with his wife ,Diana in Washington state. Mike has written two self published books of poems- “Leeward Islands of the Mind's Eye” and “Open Ocean Tunings.”


By Morgan Boyer


Hear the ghostly echoes of a steel-rod producing

factory’s siren roaring, trying to silence the cries of

union picketers. Come ye, lovely, to the three-story


duck that was here for a mere month that people took

pilgrimages to witness and worship. Our bars shoplift

the carcasses of churches and inhabit them like


maggots. A student with drooling

mascara, filling herself with the

corpse’s fluid, trembles out with one high


heel on, screaming into her phone outside

of the retro-themed bowling alley next to the

Dunkin Donuts on West Liberty Avenue.

Morgan Boyer is the author of The Serotonin Cradle (Finishing Line Press, 2018) and a graduate of Carlow University. Boyer has been featured in Kallisto Gaia Press, Thirty West Publishing House, Oyez Review, Pennsylvania English, and Voices from the Attic. Boyer is a neurodivergent bisexual woman who resides in Pittsburgh, PA. 



Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - howie good.jpg


Something's Burning - Howie Good.jpg


A Dream of Progress - howie good.jpg

Howie Good's newest poetry collection, Heart-Shaped Hole, which also includes examples of his handmade collages, is available from Laughing Ronin Press. His collages have also appeared in numerous online journals, including Kitchen Table Quarterly, Blue as Orange, and Nebulous Magazine.




If you let me, I’ll drive you

back to the fairgrounds.


Leaning her burning

brow on his shoulder,

she could only say

I want to live.


After that, regarding

their life and death

I know absolutely nothing


(Just some movements

inside the light

and then

a slinking away)

Sharon Israel is a Sephardic-American poet.  Her debut chapbook Voice Lesson was published in 2017 by Post Traumatic Press. She was an early recipient of Brooklyn College’s Leonard B. Hecht Poetry Explication Award, was nominated for “Best of the Net” in 2016 and won Four Lines’ 2020 winter poetry challenge. Sharon’s work has most recently appeared in Flatbush Review and in the Orchard Lea Press anthology Close Up: Poems on Cancer, Grief, Hope and Healing.  Sharon hosts the radio show and podcast, Planet Poet-Words in Space, on WIOX 91.3 FM in the Catskills and streaming on  All podcast episodes are available on Google, Spotify and Apple.  Visit Sharon's website or click on for more information.  Sharon lives with her husband in Roxbury, N.Y. in the Catskills.




The biopsy revealed the pen

of a lymph node harbouring

a herd of rambunctious goats

ravaging the grasslands

of my body. Scans later 

discovered a solitary kid nestled

tightly in the mountain range

of my spine. Serene. Almost angelic.

Oblivious to toxic tonics of chemo 

drugs, a sun coming so close 

you might feel yourself turning to ash.



Years before the divorce, everything went weightless.

You struggled to hold down the bed in the morning,

almost crashing into the lightbulb's white-hot skull.

The shower flung its confetti of droplets upwards,

only to be caught by the bride of a ceiling. Coffee 

struggled in the pot. Clothes pulled away at every corner

while wrestling with the sudden lack of gravity.

Nobody noticed you levitating on the bus to work

or how everything on your desk hovered away from you.

On the train back home, you struggled in your seat.

Contemplated slamming the emergency button

and prying the doors open to fly to the moon.

Somewhere desolate. Away from everything you felt.

Remembering the pull of something powerful 

turning everything into a bungee cord — even 

your wife's heart — brought the thought back down.

Now, it leaked infrared light in the darkness

before blending into the night, and vice-versa;

almost like she wanted to be both at the same time. 

A contradiction waiting to swallow you whole.

Christian Ward is a UK-based writer who has recently appeared in The Dewdrop, Dodging the Rain, Blue Unicorn, The Seventh Quarry, Bluepepper, Tipton Poetry Journal, The Amazine and Rye Whiskey Review. 




In your absence, I thought of the coming

and going of a bullet into its target


Speech was once a purgatory; a desert

you couldn't cross


In the dark, eyes wander, mostly holding

things that would shatter if you picked up the phone


The wind still murmurs in my sea-shell

ears about the night we sat on the couch

to count the faces in the wine glass and chose not to.

Benedict Hangiriza is from Kampala, Uganda. He is in love with poetry and short fiction. His work has so far been published in The Kalahari Review and Writers Space Africa. He tweets @HangirizaBen 


By Mark Rogers


     The vendor stood by the shoreline, so close that the largest waves lapped at his bare feet. He reached into a green duffel and took out a doll-like figure not more than six inches high. Before he even had it unwrapped, Mexican children began drifting toward him. They knew the man and never grew tired of watching Batman fly.

     Did the Chinese laborer who made the doll get all of the details right? Not really. This Batman was bright blue rather than gray and his muscles were too big. But it was Batman nevertheless.

The vendor started out the day smiling but by this time—late afternoon—it was all he could do not to frown. His fingers separated the plastic parachute and spool of string. With a nod to the wind, the vendor tossed Batman into the air. The wind puffed under the parachute and a kite-like Batman lurched and bumped on the air twenty feet above the heads of the children.

     Two eight year old boys stood side-by-side at the edge of the crowd. They looked enough alike to be brothers—brown skin, flip flops, cheap shorts from the tianguis.

     The one with the chipped tooth, Angel, pointed at Batman above their heads. “I could play with that at home, at the end of the street, where there are no wires.”

     For a moment, both boys were quiet, imagining Batman so close to their homes.

     The other boy, Carlos, said, “Do you have twenty pesos?”

     Angel shook his head. “Are you crazy.”

     Carlos looked over at a plastic table and chairs arranged under an umbrella. Half a dozen men and women sat around the table, drinking beers from a Styrofoam cooler printed with an orange and red OXXO logo.

     “Ask your mom,” said Carlos.

     “She won’t give me money,” said Angel. “Maybe my brother.”

     “Let’s go find him.”

     Angel glanced down the far end of the beach, past the elevated pier. “He went to ride the ATVs.”

The two boys set off, walking on the wet sand packed hard by the ocean. The sun was descending toward the horizon. In a few hours it would set and the campers and homeless on the beach would set their trash fires burning.

     They passed the candy seller, with his wooden wagon arrayed with trays of candy open to the wind, sun, and sand. Further on was a cart selling elotes, roasted corn. A woman crouched over her toddler and the boys saw down into the back of her bathing suit bottom, into a darkness that seemed to lead to secrets.

     Angel looked over his shoulder and saw three Batman kites in the sky, with little kids holding onto the strings.

     “I want one of those,” said Angel.

     They slipped under the pier past the huge beams and braces. For a moment they felt a chill, being out of the sun. Then they were on the other side, where the ATVs were arranged in a line. A teenage boy and girl in bathing suits fired up one of the ATVs and set off across the sand, the girl holding tight to the chubby belly of the boy.

     A lanky young man in jeans and shades stood in the sun, his hand on the handlebars of one of the ATVs.

     Angel called out, “Have you seen Ricardo? My brother.”

     The young man pointed toward the road leading to Rosarito’s main strip. “He walked that way. But that was an hour ago.”

     “Is he coming back?”

     The man shrugged.

     Carlos said, “C’mon. Maybe we’ll find a Tecate bottle.”

     Tecate liter bottles were worth six pesos when returned to a liquor store. Most drunks kept careful control of the ebb and flow of their bottles. But sometimes a drunk would get careless and the boys would find a treasure.

     They walked further along the beach, which was now strewn with rocks. They rarely walked this far south. There was nothing here. No vendors. No banda musicians on the sand. No strangely shaped bathers.

     The shoreline grew dense with a bamboo-like growth called carrizo. The plants were fed by the nutrient-rich sludge from the adjacent water treatment system, a system always on the losing end of battling raw sewage. The boys were used to the smell. It was no more remarkable than the waves breaking on the shore.

     “Is Batman a hero?” asked Carlos.

     Angel was silent in the face of such a stupid question.

     “He looks like a villain,” said Carlos.

     “He’s a hero,” said Angel. “He fights the Joker.”

     “My favorite is Thor.”

     “He’s a pinche gringo.”

     Carlos lifted his arms and flexed his biceps. “Thor’s got bigger muscles.”

     Angel made a face like he was biting into a lime. “Thor’s a maricon.”

     They passed the water treatment plant and reached a condo development on the beach—a sprawl of one and two-story buildings painted white. No one sat outside on their decks and almost all the windows had their blinds drawn. A wooden stairway led from the beach to the condos. At the top of the stairway sat a security guard in the shade of an umbrella.

     The tide had been receding for the past hour, leaving behind a tangle of foul-smelling seaweed, plastic bags, and plastic water bottles, but no brown glass Tecate bottles. The boys shadowed the tideline, looking for anything they might sell.

     “We should have asked your mother,” said Carlos.

     “Let’s go back,” said Angel.

     That’s when they saw a clear glass bottle rolling back and forth at the tideline.

     Carlos snatched it up. A Jarritos pineapple soda bottle. Worth nothing. Carlos reared back to fling it into the ocean when Angel reached out and said, “Hey.”

     Angel took the bottle from Carlos. “There’s something inside.”

     Both boys inspected the bottle. Inside was a rolled piece of paper. It was then they noticed the bottle was sealed with a plug of some kind—a brown paste.

     Angel pressed his finger against the plug and it popped down inside the bottle. He shook the bottle until the rolled piece of paper fell at their feet.

Carlos snatched it up before it could get wet. He unrolled the paper and both boys leaned forward, reading the message:

        Help. I’m being held in condo 4-B. Please—call the police. The man holding

        me against my will is named Juan Pérez. He’s dangerous. He tells me he’s
        done this before. I’m scared. He told me his name. Why did he tell me his name?

        I’m afraid.

     The note was signed Maria Navarro and dated June 4, 2021.

     “I saw this in a movie,” said Angel. “A man found a bottle with a message and the note was a hundred years old.”

     Carlos tried to compute the figure in his head and gave up. “That’s old.”

     “It was a long story,” said Angel. “I fell asleep before the end.”

     Carlos pointed at the note. “This was written two days ago.”

     Both boys looked at the silent condos with their windows that told nothing. The security guard’s head slumped on his shoulder. Asleep.

     Angel looked down at the bottle in his hand. “You don’t get money for these.”

     “That other story was a hundred years old,” said Carlos.

     “Give me the note,” said Angel.

     Angel carefully rolled the note and inserted it back into the bottle. He scooped up some wet sand and sealed the bottle.

     “It’s too soon to find this,” said Angel, cocking his arm and throwing the bottle back in the ocean.

     Both boys watched the bottle bob in the outgoing tide and then sink out of sight.

Turning and walking back the way they came, Carlos said to Angel, “Do you think your mom will give us the money?”

     Angel glanced at the ocean and said, “Someday we’ll be heroes. Like Batman.”

Mark Rogers is a writer and artist whose literary heroes include Charles Bukowski, Willy Vlautin, and Charles Portis. He lives in Baja California, Mexico with his Sinaloa-born wife, Sofia. His award-winning travel journalism for USA Today and other media outlets has brought him to 56 countries. His crime novels have been published in the U.S.and UK. Uppercut, his memoir of moving to Mexico, is published by Cowboy Jamboree Press. NeoText publishes his Mexico noir series and Gray Hunter series.


by Aria Dominguez


Pedaling up the hill over the impound lot,

my son gasps, Ooh! Look at that truck!

It's squished to half its size. He's admiring

the brute force required to crush

one of the metal beasts that menace bikers,

but I cringe at the driver!s door, crumpled tinfoil

caved all the way to the passenger side,

knowing enough physics to understand

the truck was not the only thing to emerge

from that crash never to run again.

The lot is strewn with row upon row of artifacts

of somebody's worst day, somebody's last day,

somebody's airbag-cushioned luckiest day.

I silently beg the Universal Tow Service:

Don't let my soul be impounded just yet.

Let me raise this child, write this book.

Let me cruise this earth a little longer,

feeling the wind in my hair,

grateful for every goddamn mile.




If three times Peter could deny Christ,

who he knew to be Lord, perhaps

your denial of facts should not be so surprising.

If you don’t admit you have fatal cancer,

it won’t kill you. If you hide symptoms

from the doctor, they won’t have ill effects.

If you spend money like you have it,

the bank balance will always be black.

If you ignore our son as he weeps

over the death of his dog, his sadness

will slide off with every other concern.

If you refuse to hear how you’re crushing

me under your heel, you’re still a good guy.

Remember the fever you had after the transplant?

The crappy metal bedframe slammed against the hotel wall

as you shook, but you swore you weren’t sick,

even as I rushed you to the hospital

where the ICU team descended, a flock

of white birds hovering like seagulls

over a fresh fish flopping on the beach.

You can deny how you have shaken my heart,

deny how it has been slammed up against the wall,

deny how much it took me to save it.

In the end, I don’t need you

to acknowledge anything. I am not as cheap

as that rickety bedframe, nor as easily broken.

Aria Dominguez (she/they) is a writer whose poetry and creative nonfiction navigate the terrain between beauty and pain. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize, and she was winner of the 2021 Porch Prize in Creative Nonfiction, finalist for the 2021 Lighthouse Writers Workshop Emerging Writers Fellowship in Nonfiction, winner of a Fall 2021 Brooklyn Poets Fellowship, and winner of the 2022 Sunlight Press Essay Contest. Aria works with a nonprofit focused on food justice and lives in Saint Paul with her son.


A Play by Ralph J. Ehlinger





Chorus, the Greek gods of time: Aion (god of time as eternal), Chronos (god of time as we measure and name it), and Kairos (god of time as we live it moment by moment)







Scene: Dim lights, Hospital room. Memory care ward, Family photographs. Family bible on bed-stand. Dad sleeping on hospital bed. Lights rise on Chorus in the periphery.



Aion.             Time.

Chronos.         It passes,

Kairos.          It flies.

Aion.             It stands still.

Kairos.          It drags.

Aion.             It hangs heavy.

Chronos.         A stitch in it saves nine.


And continuing, one by one, alternating:


       • You can spend it,

       • save it,

       • keep it,

       • waste it

       • manage it,

       • do it,

       • lose it,

       • find it,

       • count it,

       • be over it,

       • be under it.

       • It is a lawyer's stock in trade,

       • a prisoner's punishment,

       • a musician's yardstick 

       • and a tag-player's break from the game.

       • You can be in it,

       • on it,

       • ahead of it,

       • behind it,

       • and out of it.

       • Theologians say it is something spun out of the infinite mind of God.

       • Einstein and Steven Hawking tried,

       • but one thing you cannot do is understand it.


Aion.              We are thrust into it blindly at birth like a child cast adrift

                   on an ocean without shores.                                            

Kairos.          And spend our lives floating on it, trying to reach islands that

                   keep disappearing when we reach them, sometimes before we reach

                   them at all.                                                                 

Aion.             From birth to death it is our constant reality.                  

Chronos.         Moments, minutes, years, decades- our many words for it- tell

                   us nothing of what it is.

Aion.             Only that it is, that it has been, that we expect it to continue

                   to be.

Kairos.          Our every act, our every thought, our every love, is entangled in


Chronos.         Cannot exist apart from it.

All three.      But even to the moment of death it remains

       Aion.            Unknown,

       Kairos.         Mysterious,

       Chronos.        Unconquerable.


Lights dim on chorus, rise on Dad asleep. Rose sits dimly lit in a rocking chair. Jimmy and Donny enter with flowers and a get-well balloon. Jimmy rearranges the blanket and pillow.


Jimmy.          It won’t be much longer now.

Donny.          It’ll be a blessing

Jimmy.          It was easier with Mom. She knew us to the end. Was able to say


Donny.          He doesn’t know anybody.

Jimmy.          It’s so hard not to cry.

Donny.          The doctor gave him a month to live. 


Lights dim on the boys


Dad.           (sitting up, speaking to Rose.)  What kind of gift is that? A

                month! Is it like the roses I always give you on Mother’s Day,


Rose.          (walking toward him) They were beautiful

Dad.           They wilted in a week,

Kairos.       lasted only until the memory faded.

Rose.          (holding imaginary roses) They are so beautiful!

Aion.          Memory is forever

Kairos.       Memory is now

Chronos.      Timeless

Rose.          (bending over to kiss him) I love you. I always will.

Dad.           When is always, Rose? Is always now?

Chronos and Aion.           Always

Dad           (sitting on the edge of the bed) What kind of gift is a month to


Kairos.       Accept the gift.

Chronos.      It’s time.

Dad.           Is it like the bunk beds we gave the boys when Donny outgrew his

                trundle? They arrived in boxes, had to be assembled.

Rose.          With metal posts of blue and yellow and a ladder of shiny red.

Dad.           (standing, agitated) Is assembly required, Rose? Will I have the

                tools? Will the instructions read like Chinese?

Rose.          Don’t worry, Darling. You’ll figure it out.

Dad.           (Sitting on bed.) How do you assemble a month to live? Will I have

                the time?

Chronos.      Time

Rose.          (hands lovingly on his shoulders) They loved those bunks. Slept

                in them for years

Aion.          Love 

Rose.          as Donny. (stepping back abruptly) I want to have the top,


Dad.           (standing, facing Rose) You’ll fall off the ladder, Donny.

Rose.          as Donny. I will not

Dad.           Take turns. A week at a time

Rose.          (helps Dad lie down, fluffing the pillow and covering him

                with a blanket ) They’ll outgrow them in no time, Darling. Then

                they are gone.

Dad.           They were so little. (sleeps)

Rose.          (returns to rocker) They faded like the roses.

Donny.        (Re-entering the light, passing in front of the memory of Rose

                and touching Dad’s shoulder) Hi, Dad, It’s me, Donny… Donny.

Dad.           (sits up, faces Donny) Be careful, Jimmy. Don’t slip off the

                ladder. Hold on tight. Both hands. (stands)

Jimmy.         (entering the light) He doesn’t recognize you.

Rose.          (as Donny, moving to Dad) What if Jimmy wets the bed and I’m in

                the bottom bunk?

Dad.           Well…

Rose.          (as Jimmy, different voice) I will not! (then takes hold of

                both of Dad’s hands)

Donny.        He’s somewhere else, Another time.

Aion.          Out of time. Out of time

Chronos.      In time. In time.

Dad.           (disoriented) Where ? Where?

Rose.          (hands on both sides of Dad’s head, looking directly into his

                eyes) Here, Darling.

Chronos.      In time. In time.

Dad.           You are the gift, Rose. It was years before you wilted in a blur of

                tears. Like the roses.

Rose.          I’m here Darling, Here. Now.

Aion.          Watered with tears.

Dad.           The boys too. We found the tools, built them strong. But then they


(Rose walks Dad to the bed, helps him lie down, returns to her chair, while dialog continues.)

Aion.           Floating somewhere in the unconquerable ocean.

Kairos.         As many oceans as there are lives to live.

Aion.           One ocean! Infinite “nows” flowing together, dissolving,

                 diverging, reconnecting.

Chronos.       Over and over in a jumble of whitecaps.

Aion.           Washing over the shores of islands in the ocean of time.

Donny.          He’s asleep. It’s so sad to see him this way. Lost in memories.

Jimmy.          Not even knowing us. Imagining Mom still alive.

Donny.          This morning it was Grandpa. He thought I was Grandpa.

Jimmy.          Lost in time

Donny.          I could have been anyone.

Jimmy.          Who knows who might be lost there, irretrievable.

Chronos.       Lost at sea

Aion.           Deep waters of time.

Donny.         It’s like they are here with him, all of them, Mom, Grandpa,


Aion.           Never farther away than the deep water of memory that lies just

                 under the surface where the day's winds blow.

Jimmy.         (Channeling the gods) We keep paddling to move through the

                 waves of time.

Donny.         (Channeling the gods) Mindless of the deep water that holds us


Jimmy.         (Channeling the gods) Fighting the waves to reach an unknown


Aion.           He is afloat in it, alive in it.

Chronos.       Reading the instructions, assembling the gift.

Dad.            (eyes closed, sleeping) The deep ocean. It holds me up, keeps me


Aion.           The deep ocean.

Dad.            Knowing it is here, always here. 

Kairos.        Always there.

Dad.            (Sitting up, suddenly awake) You are here, Rose, always here.                    You are here.

Aion.           Time

Chronos.       Time winds down.

Kairos.        Time is money.

Chronos.       If you've got the money, Honey, I've got the time.

Kairos.        Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. (Dad lies back and falls


Jimmy.         He talks gibberish. Nothing makes sense. He’s not here. Lost.

Aion.           In time.

Chronos.       Time is a non-spatial continuum in which events occur in

                 apparently irreversible succession from the past through the

                 present to the future.

Kairos.        That explains nothing.

Donny.         Seeing Dad like this makes you doubt God. (Goes to the bed and

                 takes the bible from the night stand) His bible. He would read

                 it while he still could. (He kneels at bedside and reads). “We

                 shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an

                 instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the

                 trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we

                 shall be changed.”

Jimmy.          Fairy tales. Nothing makes sense. Only what we can see.

Donny.          He rests quieter when we read to him. The bible. Mom’s love

                  letters. He saved them all.

Jimmy.           Maybe he can hear them, can understand. Maybe the sound is


Donny.          (trance-like) Letters capture time. Hold it frozen in an

                  unchangeable succession of words and the thought-sparks they

                  shoot out from the past, to the present, into whatever future a

                  reader brings to them.

Jimmy.          (trance-like) When we read them we duplicate their succession

                  within the continuum, creating the illusion that time is indeed

                  re-creatable, repeatable.

Aion.            Illusion? No. They endure. They exist outside the continuum. The

                  words may be mortal but the thought-sparks endure, even if the

                  pages fade and disappear.

Chronos.        So do the bonds between people who love but then are pulled

                  apart when “now” dissolves into time

Aion.            While whole generations of “nows” dissolve into the same ocean.

Donny.           That is the immortality that children give their parents. Lovers

                  give the beloved.

Jimmy.           It is the reason why each of us is really thousands of years


Donny.           We have to leave, Dad. We’re out of time. (Dad awakes)

Jimmy.           Take care, Dad. We love you.


(They exit. Dad stands and walks to Rose)

Dad.             Good bye Grandpa. Thank you for the bicycle. This was the best

                  Christmas ever.

Rose.            (Stands) I love you, Darling.

Dad.              I love you too,

Rose.            Always. (They embrace)

Rose.            Hello, my sweet love. Hello.

Lights fade, and then rise on the gods

The gods.       Time

Aion.            We are thrust into it blindly at birth like a child cast adrift

                  on an ocean without shores

Kairos.         And spend our lives floating on it, trying to reach islands that

                  keep disappearing when we reach them, sometimes before we reach

                  them at all.

Aion.            From birth to death it is our constant reality.

Chronos.        Moments, minutes, years, decades-our many words for it-tell us

                  nothing of what it is.

Aion.            Only that it is, that it has been, that we expect it to continue to


Kairos.         Our every act, our every thought, our every love, is entangled in


Chronos.        Cannot exist apart from it.

All three.      But even to the moment of death it remains.

Aion.            Unknown.

Kairos.         Mysterious.

Chronos.        Unconquerable.

Ralph Ehlinger.jpg

Ralph J. Ehlinger is a graduate of Georgetown Law Center practicing law in Milwaukee Wisconsin. You can find him at & on Twitter @ralphehlinger


Sherry Shahan.jpeg

Sherry Shahan watches the world and its people from behind; whether in the hub of London, a backstreet in Havana, or alone from a window in a squat hotel room in Paris; whether with a 35 mm camera or an iPhone.

Her photography has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Backpacker, Country Living, Christian Science Monitor, Josephine Quarter and other magazines, newspapers, literary journals, and anthologies. She hold an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.


By Jonathan Chibuike Ukah

Whatever you plan to do,
Whatever you wish to be,
Please make it fast, electric,

Like water rushing down the meadows,

Or rivers hurrying to their source,
Not feet-dragging, nor mouth-licking,

Nor standing before a mirror,

Watching your figure disappear

Like a soul without a body,
clacking your wagging tongue

against the roof of your mouth.

See the clouds have gathered,
The flowers bend their heads,

Leaves are falling and falling,

Thrown overboard by tired trees;

Chickens return to their roost,

Goats seek their barns and tethers,

Even as the crow raves at night;
A storm is brewing
With fierce gales and fire,
Its water is flooded and bloody

And it’s a small wonder we’re here.

Your life is on loan

And the clock is ticking aloud,
But I don't want you to lose it
Before you declare victory;
I break my mind every time
I watch you dither.

See, time is plastered against our walls

Where we see its hurrying figure every day,

In our kitchen when we prepare our meals,

In our sitting room when we watch television,

In our bedroom when we raise our feet

And stretch out to doze off at night

Jonathan Chibuike Ukah is a graduate of English and Law living in the UK. Some of his poems have appeared in the Sparrows Trombone, Discretionary Love, Skylight 47 Literary, New Note Poetry, New Reader Magazine, the Sweetycat Press, State of Matter, the Journal of Undiscovered Poets, the Whisky Blot Literary Magazine, the Pierian, Compass Rose Literary, etc. His poems, A Touch of Purple and On-Street Conversation, won the Voices of Lincoln Poetry Contest 2022, and his chapbook manuscript, The Last Anger of Man was Longlisted for the Kingdom in the Wild Competition 2022. He is also a winner of the Voices of Lincoln Poetry Contest 2022.


By Charlie Brice


Wisteria and oak leaves pulse

across our bedroom carpet

on this sun-glad Thursday

in Pittsburgh.


Who could possibly kill himself

after gazing at this inverse world?


Window panes divide this shadow-art

into unpalpable portions, portraits

of natural motion.


The tragedies of existence

shrink up against this moment

of mad glory, this tiny

life-preserver floating

on the quotidian sea.


No bullet, no noose, no plunge

into the abyss is necessary now,

only the presence of this

priceless bequest—

its lambent grace,

its lilting peace.

Charlie Brice won the 2020 Field Guide Poetry Magazine Poetry Contest and placed third in the 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize. His sixth full-length poetry collection is Pinnacles of Hope (Impspired Books, 2022). His poetry has been nominated three times for both the Best of Net Anthology and the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Atlanta Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Ibbetson Street, The Paterson Literary Review, Impspired Magazine, Salamander Ink Magazine, and elsewhere.


By Anna M. CarroLl


         Marie Karavich ground the stub of the first cigarette she had smoked in thirty years into the sandy road. Smoking was idiotic, on a hot day insane. A cool breeze off Lake Michigan cut across the railroad tracks behind her and soothed her head bristling with the first migraine she had had in thirty years. She looked over the spread of prairie land once known as Seeker Estates. A grove of poplar trees separated the empty land from the highway. Across the highway, the split-level houses and two car garages of suburbia buried the aroma of onion fields and the rustle of corn stalks Marie had known in her childhood. 

          Marie brushed the sweat off her brow, wiped her hand on the sleeve of her peasant blouse, and reached in the pocket of her beige skirt for the cigarette pack. She shook out a cigarette but pushed it back in at the rumble of a red dump truck approaching on the gravel road. The truck advanced slowly as if trying not to spill the black dirt piled in its bed. It stopped before making the turn onto the sandy road where Marie stood, and then came toward her. The driver pulled up in front of Marie’s blue Mercedes coupe, an anniversary gift from her husband. Mike’s Gardening, Nelana, Wisconsin, shone in gold letters on the truck’s door. A gardener wearing a checkered green shirt and jeans jumped down from the cab. He rolled up the sleeves of his shirt and came alongside Marie.  

        “Here?” The driver pointed to surveyor stakes marking off the strip of land in front of Marie. 

         Marie nodded. She had the surveyor out this morning.   

      “I’ll take a look.” The gardener leapt over the ditch avoiding a cluster of pink prairie flowers. He paced along one side of the strip of land, stopping at the sunken segments. “Do you want me to fill in the tadpole pond?” he called.   

       “No. Please no.” 

      The gardener paced to the end of the strip, walked along the other side, and jumped across the ditch to Marie. “I brought enough soil to fill in the sunken places,” he said. “But I’ll have to fetch a couple of planks from the nursery to roll the truck over the ditch. I didn’t know you were by the railroad tracks.” 

         “Have others come?” Marie fingered the letter in her skirt pocket. 


         “They fix up their places?” 

         “Some drive through. Some park their cars and walk around. Some climb the rail- 

road incline and look out at the lake.” 

         “But do they fix up their places?”     

       The gardener’s eyes clouded as if he understood what lay within the question. “Old guy drove down from Minnesota last week with a shotgun in his truck,” he slowly said. “He stuck a No Trespassing sign in the middle of his lot and drove over to the nursery. He wanted to buy lilac bushes to hedge his place. ‘The land’s too soggy. The roots won’t be able to breathe,’ I told him.’” 


          “Did he buy bushes that would grow in soggy soil?” 

          “Wanted to, so we stopped by the Chili Cafe for lunch and looked over hedge 

brochures I had. The guy calmed down after chili and a couple of Carta Blancas.  He told me about coming here from Milwaukee with his father on Sunday afternoons. They lobbed horseshoes and played catch. Too many divots for a baseball game. A boy broke his ankle one Sunday running after a ball. The guy paid the taxes for the lot after his parents passed away, but he only stopped by here once. It was in the dead of winter. He climbed the railroad incline and looked out at the frozen beauty of Lake Michigan thinking how it might have been for his kids. Told me he was born in Ukraine. His parents, fleeing the Soviets, brought him to America as a boy. Hot out here.” The gardener wiped his brow with his rolled-up sleeve. “Need something to drink?” 

“I am thirsty.” 

The gardener pulled a Stanley canteen out of the truck’s cab. He filled the canteen’s silver cup and offered the cup to Marie. The cool liquid soothed Marie’s parched throat and eased the migraine. 

“You’ve come a long way.” The gardener nodded at the Pennsylvania license plate on Marie’s Mercedes.  

“I had to.” 


Marie had had her afternoon planned. She would swim in their pool, stretch out in the sun, and read her latest mystery novel. Her two older children lived and worked in New York City. Abby, her little one, was at summer camp. Her husband, untangling a civil case, would be home late. A swim left her feeling clean and strong.  

The doorbell rang. 

     “Special delivery.” The mailman handed Marie a letter addressed to Mariska Namovaska, her maiden name. 

Marie’s fingers trembled signing for the letter. Special delivery letters brought shocking news, in your maiden name panic. She brought the letter to the foyer table and slit the envelope open with her fingernail. The letter was from a Madison, Wisconsin law firm representing the State of Wisconsin. The State of Wisconsin planned to take over the area known as Seeker Estates and convert it into a wetland for migrating fowl. Most of the Seeker Estates lots had been abandoned. Others neglected. For the few buyers, the state had been able to locate, a check for the original cost adjusted for the passage of time was enclosed. 

“No.” Marie hurried to the fireplace to double check that she had paid this year’s taxes. She kept the tax record, the payment book with her and her father’s fingerprints, and the Seeker Estates deed on the mantel next to the ikon of Our Lady of Vladimir. 

“What’s that stuff?” Marie’s older kids' friends would point to the yellowed papers and the ikon’s darkened gold leaf on the mantel.  

“Our mother’s things,” her pained older children would say. 

Abby, her little one, however, proudly told her friends the ikon was Our Lady of Vladimir who looks out for those in trouble. Her grandfather carried the ikon from Russia. If she were going through one of her times of nervous irritation. Marie would hear Abby praying to Our Lady of Vladimir for her mother.  

  Marie leaned against the fireplace mantel, her head pounding. 


“Ride with me to the nursery for the planks,” the gardener said. 

“I’ll wait here.”  




Marie watched the red truck disappear. She kicked a rusty Hamm’s beer can away from her lot, folded her skirt beneath her, and sat down on the edge of the ditch bordering the property. She took off her sandals. The long, low whistle of the Milwaukee Road Commuter train sounding out of the North had her ducking her head as the train approached.  She did not want anyone to know she was the lone woman sitting on a ditch in the prairie. Sometimes on Sunday nights Marie would sit here with her father. It was better here for her father than in the city.  

Marie abruptly stood up. A surveyor’s stick had fallen over by the tadpole pond. Avoiding the sticker weeds, she made her way across the uneven ground to the pond thinking of Sissy Starins. Sundays in late summer, wetness burned from the ground around the pond, Sissy and Marie would lie on their stomachs and watch the tadpoles becoming frogs. 

         “Remember the tadpoles, Sissy,” Marie knelt on one knee and peered into the water. “Remember what we said we would do if we were rich. I would build a house for my father. You would have an operation to fix your eye.” 

         Marie caught herself from a stumble as she stood up. Sissy was always stumbling on the uneven ground.  

          “Sorry,” Sissy would say after a fall. 

          “Don’t say that, Sissy,” Marie would tell her. “It’s not your fault you stumbled. It’s the fault of those men who promised to even the ground.” 

Sissy kept saying it. 


The men came in big hats and big cars. They came to the taverns and churches where the dispossessed sought solace. They came with pictures of prairie land straddling Lake Michigan. Land reminiscent of the wheat and barley fields of eastern Europe. Land that would be theirs instead of seized by the collective. Land sold with the promise of evened ground, rocks cleared from the beach, shade trees, maybe a baseball diamond. Land that would not stumble you and break your ankle. Land that would be drained of its wetness. A bargain for the future. A future that would become known as Sucker Estates. 

         The descending sun shone on the red truck with the planks turning onto the sandy road. Marie stepped up the ditch and reached for her sandals. Pain pierced her foot and sent her stumbling against the truck’s fender as the truck stopped.  

        “Sticker weed?” The gardener called out the truck’s cab. 

         “I guess.”                           

        “Hold on.” The gardener jumped down from the truck fumbling through a First Aid kit. 

“It’s swelling.” Marie lifted her foot. 

The gardener looked up from the First Aid kit and then at Marie’s foot. “Wounds swell as they heal,” he said quietly.  

Marie accepted the tweezers the gardener handed her. “I had to make the trip,” she said. 

“I know.” 


The arrival of the State of Wisconsin’s tax bill each year stirred Marie’s nervous irritation. She had thought of defaulting on the taxes a couple of times. Once she had. That led to such an eruption in her nervous irritation, she dashed to the post office with a special delivery letter begging the State of Wisconsin to accept the lateness of her payment. 

They had. 

Marie looked from the swelling around the thorn in her foot to the stretch of land once known as Seeker Estates. She thought again of Sissy Starins and she thought of the other kids and their families she had known here, and then with her migraine withering, she pulled the thorn out of her foot and lifted it to the wind.  


Marie guided the gardener as he rolled the truck over the planks. As the evening song of the crickets rose, they filled in the divots and built a hedge around the tadpole pond. The sun had gone low in the West by the time they finished. 

“Follow me to the highway,” the gardener said. 

“I’ll stay here for a while.” 




Marie took a trowel from the coupe’s trunk, sat down on the ditch, and dug an opening on the other side of the ditch from where she had sat with her father on Sunday nights. She placed the payment book, the deed to the property, the state’s check, and the 



 cigarette pack within the space and covered it with earth.  

“I’m leaving my father’s land,” she whispered, looking up to a flock of geese arching overhead.   

Anna M. Carroll is the author of the novel President Kennedy's Promises; Anushka: Stories of the Mind in Transition; and two books of poetry: Pieces of a Thief and Gulag.


By Dudley Stone




I am sorry you will die

someday.  May you


receive comfort in this evidence

of my affection before the fact


rather than otherwise.  The fashion

is to grieve without mention of death


or despair, to pretend you have elsewhere’d,

or “gone away,” implying some expectation


of return.  Congratulate your survivors

for not being suttee wives or Egyptian servants,


applaud them for abandoning your

sinking ship.  They are not to blame


for their buoyancy.  Survival

is just the start of their struggles.


My concern here is not them

but you, who will perish, you,


who, on some hypothetical day in the future

we will accurately describe as being irrevocably dead,


unwillingly (presumably) parroting the parrot

in the Monty Python sketch of the same name.


You will not thank me for these thoughts

and I apologize that the words are smeared and damp


but I am all out of stamps, and have so

many more to write.




You can save only one, and the clock is winding down;

Choose one of the following:


The Matisse or the madam drooling over it

(with whom you share the same DNA),


the stranger harrying your hurry with his hand

outstretched or the stranger’s mangy hound.


When you find yourself on a highway of hairpin turns

with loose guardrails and iffy brakes,


and from the bottom of a ravine wrecks beckon

you forward and down, remember that like you


they were sure they could handle the curve.

Here’s a pray before you go to sleep:


It’s only the news.  It’s not real.




We lolled.

We stretched the morning till its coat didn’t fit.

We were all hair and sweat and every which way.

We were rings of smoke and coffee, more

sheet than shirt.


We argued breakfast till brunch

and supper till sunset.  We thought

we might drop in on friends

who cooked or had a ripe

strawberry patch.


But all our friends were really

your friends, this bed

only a leaky lifeboat, and sooner or later

we would have to attend

to the tedious business of rescue.

Dudley S.jpg

Dudley Stone’s poetry has appeared in journals across the United States.  Additionally, he has had productions and staged readings of plays in Amherst, MA, Savannah, GA, Hartford, CT, Los Angeles, CA, and in Lexington, Louisville, and Richmond, KY.  He has a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Kentucky and studied playwriting at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.  Mr. Stone lives, bikes, writes, and plays the ponies in Lexington, KY.


by Colin Gee



There is a ghost truck that comes down from up the mountain the mesophilic stands of what look like pines, large oldgrowth pine trees, after dark on the highway that runs above the cabin where I am for some seconds every day forever petrified into my sleeping bag as I hear the gears shudder and tip the rig like a bit of dry glacier, full of woe and wood and hunters in leather thongs.


The truck driver speaks to me and he says, Young fellow why are you cowering in your bedclothes on a fine starry evening such as tonight? We are going all the way down the mountain, and his friends cheer from the dump truck bed, clinking authentic beers. My eyes peer like chubby stupid dog eyes out from under the sleeping bag, and nose snifles like the snout of a dog so I know I am sound asleep when he says, Gee we are going all the way into the big city, and yeehaws and yippiedoos, as his bony arm thrusts at the shifter like a painting of a rapist, trying to get the ghost logger back into first.


I tried to get on that ship in the night, in fact it was my only chance to escape, but I was too weak. Come on Gee, they cried between truly good belly laughs, trying to lasso my limp form with their icy rope, but the limp form just fell back onto the limp tick inside the cabin, onto the minus 30 zip-up bag with a pathetic whump, next to where I had my canteen and rubber poncho against the rain for moving under the trees when it drips on you.


The song they sang went, ¿Para qué me haces llorar?, ¡Que yo no sé sufrir! as the ghost truck rocks its merry way down, down around the bend, which is when my eyes pop open.

Colin Gee.JPG

Colin Gee is founder and editor of The Gorko Gazette, teacher and writer. His collection of stories and novellas The Penult is forthcoming from LEFTOVER Books in 2023, and novella Lips from Anxiety Press in 2024. Originally from Wisconsin, he has been in Mexico since he got there.


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Maggie Daniel is an avid photographer who has lived in Northern Colorado for 30 years. She enjoys the beautiful outdoors, frequently photographing landscapes throughout the state. Maggie is also a music lover and often captures local bands in concert for publicity purposes. In her spare time, she writes fiction and poetry, practices yoga and meditation, and volunteers in her community. Maggie is excited to share her work publicly and hopes her photographs help you experience the wonder and magic of the world in which we live!


By Howard Moon


Joseph Walks Quickly sits silently in class wondering how to become invisible. Wondering how to become hidden, unseen. Hoping that by sitting quietly he can escape notice.

Sitting silently, he remembers Grandfather telling him that if one is silent and quiets their spirit, they blend into nature and become unnoticed, invisible.

Joseph Walks Quickly thinks of the Coming-of-Age Ceremony he will soon undergo as he takes his place among his people. He silently sings the songs he has learned to himself.

Joseph Walks Quickly is startled from his thoughts.

Unfortunately, he had not become small or invisible. Unfortunately, he had caught the attention of Mr. Jones, the classroom teacher.

“Joseph, I told you more than once. I told you that I would not tolerate braids on boys in my classroom.”

Joseph Walks Quickly says silently to himself. “My name is Joseph Walks Quickly, not Joseph. These braids are part of the Coming of Age Ceremony. These braids are a symbol of my place in the Tribe. These braids are a part of who I am.”

Joseph Walks Quickly remembers Mr. Jones has heard all of this before. Mr. Jones does not care.

Joseph Walks Quickly realizes the White teacher will not understand.

Mr. Jones continues. “Joseph, you were warned what would happen if you did not cut your braids. Present yourself to the Dean of Discipline. Now!”

Joseph Walks Quickly silently stands, and heads out the door, and down the hall to the office. This is a trip he has made many times before.

Even though the school consists of almost all Native students, the teachers and administrators are all White.

In this school all rules set by the White administration. White rules, that must be obeyed.

Joseph Walks Quickly, does not walk quickly to the office. He walks slowly and thinks to himself; a White Dean will chop off the sign of him becoming a man. A White man will cut off his Native pride. A White rule will take his braid and attempt to take his Native heritage from him.

Howard Moon is a writer and poet whose work has appeared in multiple collections and anthologies, including Small Change, Montana Mouthful, Das Literarisch Journal, Of Poets and Poetry, and Native Skin. He is of Native heritage and identifies as BIPOC. In 2012, he suffered a brain injury and has been diagnosed with a mental illness — Pseudobulbar Affect. He has also been diagnosed with hemiplegia. He is retired and lives in central Florida with his wife and service dog.


By John Dorroh


It began as an injury,

let’s say slipping on a wad of blackberry jelly on the kitchen floor,

let’s say pissing on an electric fence, let’s say truly stunned.

Then let’s say that workman’s comp is a splendid idea,

something that the industrial complex invented for itself

to save itself from lawsuits & chutes & ladders,

and let’s add that it’s never enough to compensate

for all the aches & pains, & unzipped vacations

to the mountains, for all the years that they squeezed

out of me like a tired, spent lemon with not enough juice

to flavor a cup of chamomile tea.


There’s time to harvest the Hatch chilies that have

taken to the barren, silver soil behind the shed,

sprouting like fat green Christmas lights,

to count & examine all the corks collected

over the last 10 years,


to make my own soap with cucumber, ginger, &

cloves, to learn to make the perfect masa cornmeal tortillas

and perfect carnitas & read through all the journals

from the time my mother died on a brisk October morning

with her mouth open like a fully bloomed poppy

that wasn’t finished speaking.


I picked up trash in & along the rim of the ditch

that parallels my street & baked cookies

for Abigail Collins who inhabits space at

Peaceful Meadows who, on most days, can’t recall

what she had for breakfast but snaps her fingers

when she describes the taste of her mother’s ginger snaps.

I meet our mail carrier for lunch at Silver Creek Park

& host a picnic of cold fried chicken & spicy gherkins.


And then there’s 1001 cooking magazines to sort & toss,

cobwebs to dematerialize in the basement, and then

I have to return to work & deflect envious smirks

of colleagues who now may wish that they, too,

might fall victim to some force of nature

that decommissions them for at least a few days.

John Dorroh.jpg

John Dorroh may have taught high school science for several decades. Whether he did is still being discussed. Three of his poems were nominated for Best of the Net. Hundreds more have appeared in journals such as Wisconsin Review, River Heron, North Dakota Quarterly, Loch Raven Review, and Selcouth Station. He had two chapbooks published in 2022 – Swim at Your Risk and Personal Ad Poetry. He is a Southerner living in the Midwest.


By Robert McCready


I lean into the hall mirror and catch

myself on the other side looking back

at me in my white shirt and black pants.


I see so far into the glass that I see past

me to a fantasy where you and I are restored.

I pray to a principality to rectify the wrong path


straight back to God’s path, but there in the

mirror, I stand leaning in with my white v-neck

 t-shirt that you can see through and there you are


in my dream where I can cross your bridge

without a toll and even though I do not recognize you

I know your name without even three days of guesses.


Rice planter, planting beans with a stalk that grows up to the sun.

My biggest regret is that we lost the fun and traded it for the ho-hum of daily living.


Stand back, I say, I shoot and spit fire.

Stand-up, I say, let’s go down the path.


I see a bright light: a house with twizzlers

on the roof and a swiss roll chimney.


Trust me. Down this path. Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum.

Robert McCready lives in Florence, SC where he walks his dog and works for the DMV.


By K. Dakovic



     My mom was always a person of whims and fancies. One day she’d be putting tiles up next to our rusty old garage door or painting the columns of our house red, only to abandon those projects to doodle on the walls of our house.

     Her love for my brother and me was unparalleled. No one loved me as much as my mom. No one loved anyone as much as my mom loved us.

     When she left, a part of me died.

     They say being a child of divorce is especially hard on infants and young children. I think that no matter how old you are, divorce fundamentally changes the course of your life. We didn’t speak for three months. I missed her birthday. I will always remember the date because she used to say, the twenty-first of April. Just like the Queen!

     That year I missed her birthday.

     Now, almost ten years later, I think about all the things I blamed her for. For not being there when I graduated high school. For not being there when I messed up my university applications. For leaving us for some man.

     I didn’t understand the fundamental unhappiness of being a grown woman. I don’t think I will ever understand the pieces of herself that she sacrificed to my brother and me every day, from birth. I will never know what it’s like to put your life on hold for a child. What it’s like when that child calls you a bitch, even under her breath when she thinks you won’t hear her.

     The weight of motherhood could have crushed my mom. I had seen so many parents of friends and partners resent their children. While my mother gave freely of love and light and let her well run dry more times than I could count, others didn’t want to pour a single drop from a full cup. As a child, I couldn’t understand that there were people that lived without a mother’s love.

     One of whom was my father. In June, he told me that he knew his parents didn’t love him. Not in a real way. They couldn’t love full-stop. They believed they did. Oh sure, they believe they could. But, sweetie, real love is unconditional. And your grandparents don’t know how to love like that. The way he said it was so matter-of-fact.

     And I think, he said. I think that you’re not really facing things by not talking to them. When I argued back that I was, in fact, ‘facing things’ and he, out of all people, should have known how unreasonable his parents were, he shut down. He was always a damn stubborn man. We butted heads like goats, neither of us able to compromise, always threatening to send the other over the side of that rickety bridge. Why was it always so hard to lay down and let the other pass?

     It was the same when it came to piercings, tattoos, hair dye. He just couldn’t fathom why people would do such things for attention. It’s not for attention, dad, maybe some people just think it looks nice. I joked that if I could afford it I’d get tattooed tomorrow. Which earned me an unamused grunt.

I didn’t know that a person could be conditioned to live without love, and yet it had happened, had been happening, to my own father. I felt blind and at the same time like I always knew. Maybe it was different actually hearing the words come out of someone’s mouth.

     I suppose I assumed that in our family love was a given because it was always talked about so often. Family does things for family, family makes sacrifices for family, family bleeds for family. Because we love each other. Funny how it was always a sacrifice being demanded of you and never one given in return.

     I didn’t come here to talk about my dad.

     Some things feel too intimate to say. I want to talk about her protectiveness. How she tried so hard to shield my brother and me from the worst of the world. I want to talk about her commitment to making holidays and birthdays memorable. I want to talk about the losses that broke her. Some things you just have to keep to yourself. Some memories just rub you too raw. Some you need to keep in that safe warm place inside yourself. You take them out like little treats strategically hidden in the back of the cupboard.

     The last time we hugged was in 2015.

K. Dakovic is an up-and-coming author from Belgrade, Serbia. Her work has appeared in The Parliament Literary Journal.

In her spare time, she makes memes over at meaninglessnonsense.png on Instagram meaninglessnonsense.png


Verdant Sequence Gouache & Oil Pastel 75.3 x 56.2 (Terre Verte) Lawrence Freiesleben.jpg

A painter and writer since leaving home aged 16 in 1979, Lawrence Freiesleben, has lived in seventeen different areas of the U.K., many of them “for just long enough to remain unsettled”. The most settled period in his life was in an obscure part of inland North Devon from 1995 to 2009, after which his family made the traumatic but worthwhile shift to the wilds of Northumberland’s North Pennines. Seven years high in the West Allen Valley were followed by two under the Howgill Fells in Westmorland. During 2018 he relocated to a remote house on the marshes of the Kent estuary in Cumbria, with his wife and the
youngest of his children, shifting to Morecambe in 2021.

Exhibiting widely all over the U.K., ( abstractartist ) particularly in London and the South West, he twice won first prize in the Bridport Open. Alongside regular online features of art and literature, psychogeography and criticism and
polemic (
internationaltimes ), his most recent exhibitions were a series of shows with Atelier Think back in Devon and at the Terre Verte gallery in Altarnun, Cornwall from 2018 to 2022.

Lawrence’s paintings have always been heavily inspired by the surrounding landscapes, from the Tors of Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor in the South West, to the fading remnants of the lead mining and fluorspar industries in the valleys and windswept fells of the North Pennines and now to the seascapes and landscapes around Morecambe Bay.


By Anca Vlasopolos


the night after you died

the ‘80s bathroom mirror that came with the house

unhinged itself             clattered to the floor in an explosion of shards


wood   formica               even faucet steel bore gouges

past midnight i searched the house inside and out

            signs of violent intrusion


(for nothing     not even ice     sounds like breaking glass)

not knowing till i tried the bathroom door

            locked against inspection by reflecting chunks


in my whole rudely awakened yet unharmed   body

i knew your soul          (you who always scoffed at superstitions)

traveled over the continent to bring me news of your release


            old huge heavy mirror dispersed in myriad slivers

                        glittering like schools of new-hatched fish

            fearsome to skin though not a single one made a single slash 



is now freed from flimsy holds                       from endless round of duties

            showing images without once speaking back

                        but for this ultimate upheaval shaking the whole house                          


you      too       at last cut loose                        from body’s drag

            through miming the physicians’ seemingly endless “cures”

swims              free

Anca Vlasopolos.jpg

Anca Vlasopolos lived most of her American life in Detroit, both in its industrial and its post-industrial times. She now lives on a sandbar in Massachusetts, where she is eroding, like the shoreline. She is the author of the short-story collections The Invisible Daughter and Other Alien Encounters; the award-winning novel The New Bedford Samurai; the award-winning memoir No Return Address: A Memoir of Displacement; five collections of poems, Fires in the Dark, Often Fanged Light, Cartographies of Scale (and Wing), Walking Toward Solstice, and Penguins in a Warming World; three poetry chapbooks, a detective novel Missing Members, and over three hundred poems and short stories published in literary journals.

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