Keith Burkholder was published in Creative Juices, Sol Magazine, Trellis Magazine, Foliate Oak Literary Journal, Poetry Quarterly, New Delta Review, and Scarlet Leaf Review. He has a bachelor's degree in statistics with a minor in mathematics from SUNY at Buffalo (UB).
We Don't Ask to be Born
Think about this title for a moment,
We don't ask to be born,
People obsess over being parents,
In the end of it all we all die,
Why do we obsess over having children?
There is an excessive overpopulation in the world we live in,
Meaning, planet Earth,
Natural resources are being wasted,
The world continues to get worse each day,
Again, no one asks to be born to live in this world,
How can the world get better?
This is a question that is hard to answer,
People are afraid to love on another,
We live in a society that is fake in so many ways,
Just by being good helps the situation greatly,
Being a human is a reality,
Choose before reproducing,
Think about the consequences about bringing a life to the world we exist in,
Again, we don't ask to be born,
Take care for now and spread goodness,
This is all you can do and all anyone can really ask for us,
Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his other half and mounds of snow. His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Anitgonish Review, CV2, PRECIPICe, Existere, Windsor Review, Vallum, The Dalhousie Review, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.
Why Glass Ceilings will Always be Broken
She walked into the building
and asked to see the manager
and when she was told there was no manager
to speak of
she turned and skipped back out
past the concierge
who, holding his hat in his hand,
knew nothing of Oliver Twist
or the opium trade
or how to rebuild an engine
of flesh and
How a Fire Escape Becomes a Marriage
Carve me another neophyte, mister Brubaker
more tripwires than shacks in the woods
and I have seen the communiques –
panic at the highest levels
the people can never know or they must stop
being the people
there must be confidence in the general paradigm
petrol stations full of cars, all that…
lovers in beds soaked through with perspiration
acids and antacids set in opposition.
I love my job, don’t you Miss Klein?
Get Pederson on the phone so I may suckle
from the dry sulking teat of injustice.
The Gasoline Heart
The great gall of drunkenness slides down the bar
wood over wood, the redundancy canal birthing all over again
the bartender watering down the drinks, the drinks firing up the neurons
lustful doe eyes painted and large as super moons
the phone numbers scrawled on bathroom stalls always fakes
like hiccups in a wax museum
and the drivers are no longer all black in these parts
we have made strides but still cannot master the fax machine
our necks great albatrosses of skin
the gasoline heart pumping hunger to clumsy extremities
delicatessen animals shaved down to meat silence
every man imagining himself quite the Casanova and never Hitler
and the ladies all look signed postcard beautiful under dimmed lights
their prospective heavy lifting men all toasted into single syllable slurring
I adore this city, the hustle
cars like sharks down the avenues
back alley blowjobs without teeth
the cathedrals and the nightclubs lit up
so you can’t tell the difference,
people spilling in and out, their own brand of religiosity
and the horses over cobblestone provide a certain charm
though they have been broken
and the sleeping bag bums do not require bedtime stories,
only the bottle,
and climbing the stairs at 2 in the morning is better than heaven
there is a personal sense of accomplishment there
that is not present in celestial notions of shortcutting
and the bed is glorious, each pillow a friend
soon you will be snoring loud as the factory floor
Ceci n’est pas une pipe, either!
There was no robbery. Nothing was taken.
The man who said there was a robbery died 300 years ago.
He lays in a pit somewhere, happy to be out of work.
Relatives? Why yes, there are relatives
but there was no robbery.
There are bugle boys in decorative knee highs.
And thriving band saws too.
I lose the logic like smiling milk carton children.
Misplace the hand you once touched me with.
The peeling skin of time.
Ever seen a train stab its way out of a fireplace?
I have. There was no one in the room.
No obvious light source unless you were to count the mind.
But you can’t see the mind, can you?
This is not proof of a robbery. The mind may still be there.
But the chance it is not, that’s what makes things fun.
There was no robbery.
The Many Stray Cats of Rio
The death of Mrs. Waverly
was not a surprise
in her 94th year
but everyone acted like it was
trying to see who could shed
the most tears.
Speaking in low voices when it was not natural.
Comparing bouquets of flowers.
Showing up with sickly children in tow
they had to care for.
And then came the matter of the inheritance.
The meat and bones of it.
Who got what.
And she had been one frugal old bird.
Came from a good family.
Collected her dead husband’s pension
And as the executer of the will read out
that 2.4 million dollars
had been left to the many stray cats
and nothing to all the rest
the faces grew pale.
One after the other.
With nothing to say.
Like everyone was a ghost
I grew up in a small town called Colden just outside of Buffalo, New York. I completed my M.F.A. in Creative Writing - Fiction at California State University, Fresno. I have previously published both poetry and fiction in The Trident, Lipstickparty, and The San Joaquin Review. I currently work as a professor at Medaille College and as a journalist for Mix 247 EDM.
Orlando Kept Me Up at Night
When we slept through my alarm
the third day at magic kingdom
I woke up to your screams and
mad twisting like strings on a loom
though you weren’t disturbed at all
as the blow and amphetamines
still worked themselves out
in every bucket of salt and water
threading into the off-white sheets.
My first memory of achievement
that doesn’t involve a podium or plaque
but the ever-lovely influenza instead
happened when I was eight
I closed the Jurassic Park ride
by furiously coating the exit gates
with ten dollar hot dogs and stomach acid
I remember hearing the announcement
it would stay closed the remainder of the day
I laughed through the blisters of fever
marveled that one body could do such a thing.
One Pill is a Windmill
For Mike, after Marilyn Chin
One pill tastes like grit and wheat
One pill is blue, oblong like a daisy petal
One pill snuffs easier, one gums quicker
One pill has black specks, one has red flakes
One pill makes you see a windmill
One pill takes the windmill away
One pill, kissed toxic by dragonfly wings
One pill is synthesized with countless, nameless others
Understand they killed you more than they would ever save you
Understand their vacuity; that broken on/off switch buzzing in the back of your head.
Pedagogy for Heroin Abandonment
A close friend’s father
stayed awake for three days
his first time
with one deep inhalation
of bronzed powder.
He wrote essays on physics,
created electric gridline diagrams,
and scaled the fibrous texture
of black lithograph
all while working his night shift,
digging graves in Cedar Hill.
And on the third day
his eyes, like a discarded pet
abandoned on a country farm,
~ ~ ~
I passed a man on Venice Beach,
uncouth in ragged leather, caked in caramelized dirt,
track marks visible as any wristwatch
his eyes red as any shelved wine.
He wasn’t screaming, but begging,
not begging for money, or even acknowledging
the mindlessly vibrant hipsters walking past,
but asking himself in curdled, humid bouts of air
where his mother was.
~ ~ ~
My third year of undergrad
a close friend relapsed after two months,
suffering spasms that could’ve evolved
into catatonic heart failure
and pneumonia from passing out in his car.
The night before he went to rehab,
we played Cards Against Humanity,
a game with where the goal is to play the most shocking,
offensive card to get the best reaction.
And my same friend played
8 oz. of sweet Mexican black tar heroin,
to answer What keeps me up at night?
Robin Wyatt Dunn lives in a state of desperation engineered by late capitalism, within which his mind is a mere subset of a much larger hallucination wherein men are machines, machines are men, and the world and everything in it are mere dreams whose eddies and currents poets can channel briefly but cannot control. Perhaps it goes without saying that he lives in Los Angeles.
it's underneath everything
barnacles scraping the sky
you and I mirrors of the void
hold me tight for the star
and for the dart over the board
hold me tight for the sword
at my throat
and hold me tight
for the entropy within my bark
over the night
give me everything
and the void
give me the truth
these days it's hard to make a living
hard to make a killing even
everyone keeps crawling out of the grave
and pissed off
unable to find a doctor or a home
me, I keep fighting the good fight with the coffee percolator
putting it in
turning it on
and watching the water quality drop
me, I keep my eye on the sky
where we have written clouds
these words are gods,
small and delightful
agents from another planet
whose mustard gas is a mild fart
whose righteousness is only mild indigestion
and whose rutabagas shine in the sun
come in to the shadow of my evening glasses
we are making coffee
this tree is my friend
the stalwart weight of my bones
and the sound of talking
in the evening
when I was a boy voices were like planets
moving over my head
now they are like birds
on my shoulders
these times fall over my head
in encephalitic bliss
slow and fine
a sledgehammer made out of years
place the rack back on the bun
and sun the fanny till it's done
she's got a lot to let out
from her gout
and her earnest narrative
of the people's escape from slavery
these times imprison well
with the ludicrous swell of the gun of the stars
firing the earth into space
firing the brain to the hands
firing the words to the year
Now, I must lie to you
Though the lie is also the truth.
The limits of my range are showing
Forty meters hereabouts
A certain oven
Strand of trees
No one hereabouts hovers right
On the right side
Near the exit
From the cave
It's all one thing, of course
I'd be lying--and I am--
If I said there were clear distinctions
Marks on the path to tell you where to go
A feeling in the bones to mark the perturbation
In the stillness of thought
Haven't you seen me somewhere before?
I thought I knew you too
When I saw you walking.
so shine me on
in this bare moonlight
whose essence is the sun
and in your eyes
shine me on over the dark
whose essence is your soul
liquid and fire
rambunctious and afraid
shine me on into the fire
whose name is my own
older than me
older than the rocks
each life makes a heart
whose circumference circles the void
steepled and shaped over the aeon ravaged cursus of you
whose hue rouges the lime light
prosody or war
striking the tent
and moving over the light
Prison, prison prison
Prison my prisoner
Prison once meant "prize"
Hold it in your hands
This beautiful thing
Concrete and blood
It keeps you awake at night
it sleeps under your bed
It marches centuries
over your eye
I am your prisoner
I am your prison
the right goes up and down
over my back, fine wires sketch other sounds:
years and years.
Everything I want is far away,
And all that's near is so dear I fear it;
Why should I love these simple things
so easily taken away?
What is it I've been listening to,
Since I was a boy?
bent right our reaver smokes the grave
or the nearness of now
some headache or music
the bastion of the sky
flirting with events
rash and diligent
exploding colors over the mast of the forest
whose barren burden
blacken the midnight of their passing
enrichment inside the snow-filled winter
filled with the blessing of agony
minutes mirror over the roof
where he stares at me
our reaver banes and bones the back and brain
bullets and graves
pull the curtain and declare the voice god
and your arms props
run into the snow
For Roberto Bolano
Poets chew on my balls
And climb over my back
Swing from my hair
Dangle over my grave.
The poets are watching the sky
To see what is written on it
And they are playing basketball, with a telephone.
Poets have come over to stay in my house.
They have found the food, and are cooking it, on the roof.
They will not give me any of it.
Also, they are reading my books and are complaining.
The poets are angry about reality
It is not conforming to their expectations.
Some of them make love in the doorway,
To prove that reality is wrong.
One of them is beautiful, a woman.
She will not look at me.
Over in the clouds the poets have parked a judicial system
Complete with a god and a justice of the peace
But no jail
They take turns being the prosecutor and the convicted
Wearing the haloes.
In the kitchen,
They have begun to smoke marihuana,
And talk about sunsets.
Sunsets are boring, they say.
And they nod, sagely.
I do not want to say goodbye to the poets so I invite them to stay at my house, even though we have run out of food.
The socialists have pointed out that the state should have provided food for us; most of us agree except for Jose, who points out it is immoral to eat food. We agree with him also.
Outside, it has begun to rain,
And we are sad.
There is no sadness like the sadness of rain.
Like the sadness of their faces, in marble.
Thieves before the execution, laughing.
each light makes a spark
in the light
where it existed
where it is thinking about existing
each spark makes a light
inside the space where you are sleeping
“each light makes a spark” first appeared at Duane's PoeTree blog, Jan. 25, 2017.
Death to California, USA
Death to the Caliph
Death to Sacramento, and Los Angeles
Death to all of the Angels
And their Gods
Death to Turtle Island
Death to all the names
Death to the King
Hold his head in your mind
Over the precipice
The people are rejoicing
In his blood
Death to the idea of the idea
Death to the trajectory and the orbit
Death to the hurry and the wash
Death to the flag
Ride the bear
To the bonfire
My friend loves me
No telling when
Or the bark
Or the bank
what worth is the human soul
and fragrant with god
with the truth
whose agency ignites my spirit
over this pedestrian park?
imagined and nightmarish
impossible to imagine
his love binds me to the earth
who is only a servant of higher things
whose mind is the febrile corner of the stars
makes me dance
my friend dances too
like a bad actor
like a haunted house
coursing over the mind of a cinema-addict
drunk and happy
it is all right to know nothing
of what came before
in evenings like this
it just is
and your friend is back
leering and elegant
a full sport
in a dignified failure
of a nation.
the full value
of a huge equation
spilling its variables over the paper
over the chalkboard
over the university
igniting the library
each luminary descends
to remind us to keep quiet
before the book
and the water
but Bobby is still singing
because he is happy
beat down the grum
who suns the dome of your hearsay
who opens the tome of your caress
who burns the name of your regret
who loves you
stunning and bright
limning your body with fire
Ashley Swanson has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University Moorhead. Though originally from Arizona, she currently lives in Iowa, where she teaches writing at William Penn University. When not teaching, reading, or writing, she likes to spend time with her husband (Josh), daughter (Grace), and dog (Wiley). Her work has been published in Midwestern Gothic, 50 Haikus, and Penn & Ink. You can follow her on Twitter at: @AshQSwanson
The professor carries a cup to class.
Am I half empty or half full?
chalked across blue plastic.
Classes carry on. Still,
I don’t know.
cannot see inside.
do not know the answers.
keep coming, searching
for a sign of what’s inside
Am I half empty or half full?
Will we ever know?
I like to think I’m Orange.
Vibrant, distinct, fresh
peeled clementine in the afternoon
but not always so sweet
darker too, deeper
burnt orange, terracotta. Dust
kicked up by wild hooves mingling
at desert’s dusk
I’d like to think I’m that, but
I’m really the color of cheddar cheese
not even the sharp stuff
that leaves its mark on your tongue
Mac ‘n Cheese orange
Goldfish cracker orange
But it’s okay
My daughter loves those things.
Sparkle, my dear.
Shine with the heat of all
that you are
Glitter falls around you
a Christmas snowglobe
Shake the world.
Philip Elliott is Irish, 23 years old and editor-in-chief of Into the Void Magazine. His writing can be found in various journals in nine countries, such as Otoliths, Foliate Oak, Flash Fiction Magazine and Revista Literariedad. His first book, a collection of fictional letters, is forthcoming this year. Stalk him at philipelliottfiction.com.
When naked feet found the freezing floor of the bottom
I thought of moths and how they seek the light.
Is it fear of the dark that drives them, I wonder,
or something more primal, like love.
For fear is a learned thing, absorbed by tiny brains
when watchful, shining eyes see too much.
Perhaps to a moth the lure of light is no different than
the dark that drags us screaming from the light,
nails clawing at everything but failing to snag
on the cold ground that disappears
faster than the light can reach us.
Maybe somewhere, a dazzling
lamp spits white blinding light;
powerless to resist, a million
moths circle endlessly,
Ode to a Weary Soul
Kavanagh, I know how you felt
With all your outsider aloofness,
How the blood sang in your veins
When she spun you down Grafton.
I know how your spirit shuddered
When you gazed into those forever eyes
Knowing your time was limited there.
I know how it stung, Patrick, when
They laughed at your enigmatic
Ways, know how desperately you
Yearned to escape that infinite exile,
That prisoner’s cage, how when
You did it offered no release, how the
Loneliness stretched on and on and on.
I know how you felt, Dreamer, when you
Bathed in the light that makes the masses
Scream, know how suddenly it fades,
Know the longing and the ache for
That which can never be revealed.
Kavanagh, I know how you
Felt when, finally, you said
Goodbye, let it all go,
When you died.
There is something about darkness
& how it waits for you with an open
mouth like a saltwater crocodile
expending as little energy as possible.
Sleek & jagged, perfectly adapted
to snatching the unsuspecting, the
exhausted, drowning them, devouring them,
what need has a crocodile to hurry?
Darkness lurks beneath the light,
silent but hungry hungry hungry;
it blinks once before snuffing you out.
any one of them could do it to you again
each face half a second from a snarl
too many times you ventured out
too many times you were bitten
these woods are not safe
all you can do is shiver
the woman in you
I have seen you take the strain
bear the yoke
bear the brunt
stumble over, stumble through
somehow, a little stronger,
somehow, still the same
spirited and smiling
full of love,
full of hope
you are awesome
i am amazed
even not there
you hold my gaze, you,
take my breath away
a little older
rainclouds and thunder chasing across a sunny day steal the bright
snatch the light
but not for long
a little change
alittle bit of silly
sometimes crazy, sometimes strange
pockets of wisdom, flashes of smart
always breathing truths,
Pranab Ghosh is a journalist, blogger and poet. His poems are published in Tuck Magazine, Dissident Voice, Literature Studio Review and this magazine among others. He has co-authored a book of poems, Air & Age. He has also translated a book of Bengali short stories into English. The name of the book is Bougainvillea And Other Stories. He, at present, works from Hyderabad, India.
Waiting for the New Leaf
By Pranab Ghosh
A leaf is turned
Life stares at you…
A blank look, from
A blank space…
You do not know
Where to go … what
Is in store as you
Look back to find
A leaf is turned and
There are images
Standing side by side…
Letters piling up to
Form sentences that
You cannot read…
Nor do you know what
The images are. You
Try to find meaning…
Meaning that will bring
Sense back and destroy
The uncertain times
You are in.
A leaf is turned and
You find yourself standing
In front of a void that
You want to fill…
Memories come and go…
New Year arrives with
No new destiny, as you
Languish from the bite
Of a jobless time looking
Ahead to a future that
Is all gloom with
No visible respite!
A leaf is turned;
There is cash crunch
In the market suffering
From demonetization of
High value currencies.
Till the other day you
Had the surety of a
Month-end pay cheque
Now it is gone as if
A dream has come
To an end, but the
Night ahead is long.
You try to sleep to
Catch another dream,
But you toss and turn.
Sweat trickles down
Your forehead; what
If it is winter?
A leaf is turned,
And in front of you
Stand eager expectant
Faces that depend
On you. You had brought
Smile on those before…
You know not whether there
Would be smile tomorrow
As you wait for another leaf
To turn that will bring new
Light, new meaning and
Smile back to you and
Those dependant on you.
You wait for the New Leaf!
Smoke spirals out of the
The cigarette burns.
You puff at it … one
Two… three… four…
Five… there is no break;
As you exhale a thin
Layer forms and
Slowly withers into the
Night outside. It’s one o’clock.
The smoke disappears into
The air that embraces
A sky without a single
Star… without any light
That nights otherwise have.
You look at it for direction.
Is there cloud up there?
In the evening the sky was
Clear blue. Did you
Spot the moon then?
Why has darkness, darker
Than the night has descended
On earth? Why has the
Stars gone into a hiding? Why
Are there no street lights
To illuminate the horizon?
Far away beyond the horizon
Is there a hint of light?
The darkness perhaps is
Symbolic of the time
That we are in; of the
Time that has engulfed
Us, where people stand
In long queues to take
Out their money
From the banks and ATMs. A few
Of them do not return home
With money so desperately
Needed by their loved ones!
They die while standing in queue!
People file pass the dead;
They are more anxious to lay
their hands on their money
than helping the dying.
Could the dead not have lived
If help was at hand!
The dark night outside has no answer;
As you stare at the darkness outside,
You perhaps are aware that
You are alive but, you
Are too scared to
Acknowledge it. Perhaps
You were better off dead,
With no queues to stand in,
No loans to repay, no family
To feed and no urge to
Earn a living. Perhaps you
Were better dead!
Ode to Manhood
By Pranab Ghosh
He is a high school boy,
Stays in apartment block ‘o’
Bang opposite his block oh toy!
Lives a model of size ‘zero’.
She comes back home at 8 o’clock every evening
And removes the curtains of her windows with great yearning!
With her mind’s eye she spots
The boy, who from his darkened room with camera shots
The beauty down to her bare essentials
And she contemplates of rescuing from him all her testimonials!
The high school boy has gone crazy,
Because every evening she sends him into a tizzy
With her pleasant undress
That puts the boy under extreme duress!
Enough of hide and seek
Thinks the boy and takes a decision sleek
To confront his object of passion,
When every morning she goes for her gym session.
That morning was out of the world
When the boy met the lady up there
Right in front of the apartment block
With her scarf hiding her lock.
The boy could not find his words
The lady helped him by unlocking her hair
‘You are lovely,’ blurts the boy,
Oh! Thinks the lady this is a nice toy.
The game begins in all earnest
With the boy giving his dream
Every morning a chase in real jest
And one Wednesday after the gym
They together had ice-cream.
This is heaven! This is bliss!
Thinks the boy
When next Wednesday she gives him a kiss.
But how long would last his joy?
The lady wanted the boy to be prudent
Because she found in her company he grows diffident.
The crush is all very fine
If it teaches the boy to toe her line.
She is a model aspiring
Would to become a model be the boy’s yearning?
The boy has no answer
As he wants to be a photographer.
The model and the photographer can work together
And be with each other ever after!
I am too old for you o boy!
To me you are just a nice toy!
Together we could be for sure
But your romantic dreams
You will have to abjure
The boy gave it a thought
His passion for lens too great
For an alternative to be sought.
The crush comes to an end
With the lady getting a young man to tend!
Pain in the lower back…
Pain in the neck…
Pain in the back of the head…
Pain in the mind gone numb!
They say you are becoming aware,
They say you are getting illuminated.
I say it’s karma baby,
Not only of yours, but others’ too
That’s making you numb,
As evening sets in.
It’s soul-transfer time baby.
The dusk will dawn on you.
It’s time for some fun baby,
As you lay still,
Unable to move.
It’s Lenon or it’s Marx?
Tell me who you want to be?
I want to be a workman’s hero
That’s all I want to be!
Jacob Santos loves church. Especially when he waits outside to sell Pupusas to the departing parishioners. He listens to the stories of his elderly customers which will, later on, be his own. His work has appeared in Eskimo Pie, A Day with Graham-Pa, and Forced Entries.
To the Imago
Born a child of green
the slave of faded beauty
destined for transience.
Bites advance the plague,
everything insight is missed
and seems far away.
My body melts to
a bubbled boil, in silence,
like a jilted soup.
My wing craves the air,
breaking through the glass coffin
adhered to the ground.