Smoke and Mirrors

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Contributor: Ann Christine Tabaka

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Words that do not say a thing,
spout vague persuasions,

dancing around on a tongue
of fire. Heads tilting, nodding,

turning, What was that you
said? Writing a thesis of the

damned, we follow bread crumbs
of doubt. Ring around the Rosie,

time has all but passed. Sweet
garlands of discovery, upon

the ocean cast. A breath held
blue, a quandary spent, we

plunge ahead anew. Devoid of
sense, we seek the prize, a

lanced boil. Meanwhile paintings
of colorful decent adorn a contrived

world. Rising from the throng,
visions of disbelief profess to be

real. Fabricated phrases fill our
lives with words that say but nil.

Alas, all is smoke and mirrors,
… and smoke

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Ann Christine Tabaka was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry, has been internationally published, and won poetry awards from numerous publications. She lives in Delaware, USA. She loves gardening and cooking. Chris lives with her husband and three cats.

While We're Talking Reparations. . .

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Contributor: Joselyn Colby Rastecov

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When the fury of a lost god
comes howling through the house
and the ghosts of the forgotten dead
the ghosts of an age
scream bleeding rebirth
and revenge
for lost lives
for times
when all souls were oppressed
for control
for cash
by psychopaths
hiding in the shadow of a cross
they professed
guided every axe
guided every stick
that built every pyre
defiled every unwilling temple
until none remained
until all the stolen gold
glittered on swollen fingers
fat with savage scarfing.

The ghosts of the wronged do howl
and even the staunchest houses do crumble
for nothing lasts forever
nothing, but the howling of the angry wind
nothing lasts forever.

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Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

When I Was a Child

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Contributor: Cynthia Pitman

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When they said there was a “window” of time
for the space shuttle to leave the atmosphere,
I thought they meant that a big window
would open in the surface of the earth,
and the shuttle would emerge from inside.

When they said “burning at the stake,”
I thought they meant laying someone on a grill
and cooking him outdoors, just like you would a steak.

When they said “convergence of the twain,”
I thought they meant “twain” as in “Mark Twain,”
never knowing it meant “two.”

When they said she was “drawing on her gloves,”
I thought they meant she was drawing pictures
on her gloves with a crayon.

All of these things I thought.
I saw no reason to think otherwise.

But when they said
“everything happens for a reason,”
I thought they meant for a good reason.
Now I see the one real reason to think otherwise:
human suffering.
What is a good reason for that?

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I'm a retired English teacher from Orlando. I have had or will have poetry and fiction published in Right Hand Pointing, Literary Yard, Amethyst Review, Saw Palm, and others.

Outer Darkness

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Contributor: Bruce Mundhenke

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When the lights in the heavens
No longer shine,
And an ocean of darkness pervades,
No sunrise to chase the darkness away,
No spoken words to be heard,
Nothing to touch and no one to touch,
And no scenery ever to see,
Only darkness; oblivion;
The absense of anything.

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Bruce Mundhenke writes in Illinois, where he lives with his wife and their dog and cat.

Cigarettes Will Always be Home

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Contributor: Cooper Shea

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I’m six years old, it’s Sunday.
Mom kneels at her garden,
which isn’t really one,
just a small patch of soil by the driveway for Hosta plants.
She stops, takes her pack of Marlboro Ultra-Lights from her sock,
lights one and says to me:

If you ever want to experience the hardest thing in your life,
start smoking.

I’m 14, it’s a Friday night
after the football game, behind the tennis court.
She wears ripped jeans, converse, a Pink Floyd t-shirt
and smokes a Methol Pall-Mall.
No girl has ever touched the back of my neck like this.
I don’t know how I muster the strength
but I kiss her and it tastes like broken rules and burnt cough drops.
After, she offers me the pack:

Have one.

I’m 16, a hot Wednesday night.
Mom sits on the porch.
She barely has time to snub out a butt before lighting another.
I come out, like she asked.
She’s smoking from my pack.

Recognize these?

She says but there’s no scold in her voice.
I just sit down
and she gives me a light.

I’m 10, it’s summer on my grandparents farm.
Grandpa teaches me how to chuck feed into the trough for the cattle.
When they’re all fed,
he takes his Winston’s out of the pocket if his snap button shirt.
He looks like a cowboy off a billboard,
hardworking man having a smoke at the end of a tough day.
He lights one,
coughs and says:

Goddamn, I outta quit.

I’m 21 and it’s winter.
Mom invites me out to the porch
to talk about how serious things are with my girlfriend.
She lights what she says is her first all day,
and offers me the pack.
I want it, God knows.
I say:

I’m good.

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A Day of Quiet Deliberation

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Contributor: Jane Briganti

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The commemoration
of a marriage
In other words - anniversary
a celebration of love,
a marriage -
two people committed
one to another
wanting to journey
through life together
A day which most
care to remember

Unlike others
who bask in the joy
of such occasion
she wonders why this word
in all its glory
powerful and sentimental
causes her such
Why this date in time
holds so much significance
with its twin
from so many years before?

Why has he forgotten their
anniversary - again?
How callous of him
Negative thoughts
now cloud her mind
Why did he not remember?
Is his action or lack of
conscious or accidental?
Is it deserving of
Should she remain
silent -
so the day just passes
like any other?

Have they drifted so far astray
that he deems their marriage
Why should she feel
of the woman who receives
a flower with a tender kiss,
an invite for dinner,
a song, a dance or
a lover's tete-a-tete?

this day of celebration
turns into a day of
quiet deliberation

A day of sorrow and emptiness
an acceptance of the truth
the bond between them
a cosmic, passionate love
is slowly dissipating
A flame of irresistible passion
once burning out of control
has burned the candlewick black

Their anniversary
a day she remembers
with endearment
has become nothing more
than a day of reflection
A day of quiet deliberation

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A Native New Yorker, she's been writing poetry for as long as she can remember. It is her hope that someone may find solace in her words.

Gold Toilet Royalty

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Contributor: By Betal P.K. Pelario

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The trending trendy
say the silence is coming
mobs of jobless masses
the joining rivers of refuse humans
one into another
eating each other
while the machines make
everything we want
nothing we need

Oh, to be gold toilet royalty
riding the rivers of the indigent
when it all falls down
when it all comes crumbling down
leaving nothing but the sick of heart
the lords of glittering trash
with everything they want
and nothing they need.

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From the Garden

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Contributor: Holly Day

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I come in from the garden and I’m covered
in slugs. Tiny slabs of snot with antennae waving
slowly moving over my sandaled
feet, pausing in confusion at trying to pass
a particularly thick black ankle hair
navigating the rough etched surface
of a heavy Tibetan silver bracelet.
I don’t touch my hair because
I don’t want to know they’re there, wrapped in tangles
dreadlocks with chewy centers.

I pull my clothes off by the washing machine
and start the hot rinse cycle immediately, reconciling
my guilt at running the washing machine
with only two items of clothing in it
with images of hordes of horrible soft bodies
tumbling through the soapy water with my clothes
hopefully boiled alive. If there were more clothes
in the mashing machine, the slugs would be trapped
throughout the load, might find sanctuary
in sweater pockets and socks
might make it out

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Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in The Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle.

Land of the Equator

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Contributor: Ann Christine Tabaka

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Under the blazing African sun
lies Kenya, land of the equator,
torn between present and
past. Proudly flying colors of
red, black and green. A
half century of independence
from Britain’s Union Jack.

Words fail what emotions
perceives. Awe inducing vistas,
mountains, forests, the bush,
and lakes, wildlife beyond any
imagination, all a touch away.
Love and despair wrapped
in a blanket of anticipation.

On the savannah wind excites.
Thunder, a roaring lion rushing
across the terrain. Lightning and
downpour at his heels. Day becomes
night in a single breath, as darkness
swallows the sun. Racing for
shelter, eyes widen, heartbeats
quicken. Forthwith, altercation
over, the sun emerges victorious.

Land old as the beginning
and modern as today,
intertwined in a collage of
smiling faces, vast wilds,
and high-rise edifices.
Beckoning tourists for a
livelihood of meager means.
Selling trinkets and dreams.

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Ann Christine Tabaka was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry, has been internationally published, and won poetry awards from numerous publications. She lives in Delaware, USA. She loves gardening and cooking. Chris lives with her husband and three cats.


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Contributor: Maria-Theresa Zehendstrom

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In my arms, you were always elemental
ice in your eyes
fire in your thighs
an earthiness between them

airy in your summer dress
and cutting all the same
cutting me down
dropping me amidst the leaves
like so much wheat
to take me
to bury me
and make me soft
to all of your hard needs
the husk of me
always discarded
beneath a sky
the same color
as your eyes.

- - -
Inspired by the writings of Herne, Norris and Moreno, I write the song that splashes from my hands when I pour my soul on paper.

When Love

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Contributor: Bruce Levine

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When love
Transcends time, distance and space
And takes hold of two people
Brought together by destiny and fate
The universe is renewed

Golden threads
Stitch the planets into a ring
And Saturn gives up its rings
As baguettes to surround the diamond
That once was the sun

And then
The moons and the stars
Shine down on the love
Like a rainbow of light
Catching moonbeams in its path
In a spiral of sparkles
Like fireworks on the Fourth of July

When love
Is so strong that it can
Overcome all obstacles
And join two people
Like an umbilical chord
Gives life to a baby
And each
Nurtures the other
With their hearts and their souls
As love unites them
For eternity

When love
Is so strong that the past disappears
And only the future remains
To be seen among the stars and the planets
In a universe of their own

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Bruce Levine, a native Manhattanite, has spent his life as a writer of fiction and poetry and as a music and theatre professional. His literary catalogue includes four novels, short stories, humorous sketches, flash fiction, poetry, essays, magazine articles and a screenplay His works are published in over twenty-five on-line journals, over twenty books, his shows have been produced in New York and around the country and he’s the author of the novellas Reinvented and An Accidental Journey. He lives with his rescued Australian Shepherd, Daisy.
His work is dedicated to the loving memory of his wife, dancer/actress, Lydia Franklin.

Shadow in the Porthole

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Contributor: Lyla Sommersby

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You were always my dragon
you were always my fire
I hate you
I love you
I need you
and yet I never want to see you
I never want to see you again
and yet I do
and yet I always do
and yet I'd throw open the door
if I saw your shadow in the porthole
I'd take your cruel hands in mine
I'd kiss your cold fingers
I'd kiss your lips
despite all the vicious things
you've said
I'd take you back in a heartbeat
regretting every minute of it
knowing viscerally
it's all a great mistake
knowing viscerally
that the love I feel is always one way
and this was only ever about sex for you
this was only ever about sex for you.

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I am a student in Miami, Florida. Painting is my other love. My first book, Sketches of Someone, is available through Thunderune Publishing.


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Contributor: John Ogden

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We still keep him
keep him as a reminder
of who we were

I like looking back
few do
most want only the now
only the new, the more,
listless for novelty
balloons on the winds
of progress.

I am not immune
I am a harem of Nagels
porcelain skin, blue eyes, black hair
serving only myself
a recursive loop
of endless echo chamber dynamics
spun between future
and past
but never the one
no longer the other.

Like a curiosity
we keep him in our midst
safe and sated
hivemind self-gratification
achieved with workings
of a sea of same and subtle parts

Nostalgia gives him context
all else has been ripped away.
his friends are lizards now, foxes
brass dragons
with solar-sail wings
soaring gas-giant skylines
all elegant and delicate
complex in body
infinite in mind.

Gone are the tenuous connections
of unshackled minds
simple skins
simple illusions
simple ideas and simple needs

The faustian bargain has paid in Nagels
in dragons, in flight
in a thousand awe-inspiring ways

The faustian bargain has paid in Nagels
and taken its own toll with shackles
with depression's venom
and novelty's constant bite.

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John Ogden was conceived of a government form and a passing mailbox. He lives somewhere out in the woods of a rural land more akin to the fantasy realms of literature than real life, and his favorite dirt bikes will always be the broken ones.

Last Days of What Was

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Contributor: J. White Welchev

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Last days of what was
and all I can think of is you.

Standing at the edge
pushed to the precipice
pushed to take flight
before I'm ready
as if I'd ever be ready
as if I'd ever want to fly away
from this
from you
from what we built
from what I sacrificed so much for.

Last days of what was
and all I want is another moment
and another
and another

Last days of what was
and all I want is a push against the inevitable
a push against the push
that gives
that just for once
just once
actually gives.

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Desiring Iapetus

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Contributor: Oles Karg Campbell

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I crawled into the depths of your heart
titanic and cold
all packed ice
all packed with screaming faces
packed with pain
all glacial,
all razor crystalline.

I thought I could warm you
I thought I could see heat
just waiting to be released
a heart in need
of tenderness
of touch
of love

You crushed me in those cold caverns
You sealed me in a tomb of ice
added me to the faces
locked away, screaming
forever desiring
forever desiring Iapetus.

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Terrible relationships make terrible people. I write poetry to break the cycle.

The Sweetest Sleep

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Contributor: Jane Briganti

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She sleeps
the sweetest sleep
Her head lies gently
upon her pillow
Clutched in her arms
is his pillow nestled
under her cheek and chin
Kneeling alongside the bed
he watches and wonders
"Is she dreaming of me?"
Quietly he watches over her
like a Guardian Angel
Slowly he moves in closer
placing his face in front
of hers upon the pillow
she holds so tightly
His lips just millimeters
from hers
His breath warms her face
He moves yet even closer
Kissing her ever so gently
his lips on hers so soft
He pauses and she wakes
to keep their kiss alive
Time stands still for both
face to face, gazing
into one another's eyes
His palm touches gently
upon her cheek
He whispers...
Sleep my darling,
the sweetest sleep
Dream of me for
I am here and
I love you

- - -
A Native New Yorker, I've been writing poetry for as long as I can remember. It is my hope that someone may find solace in my words.


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