Five Poems

Kyle Heger

Why I Will Not Be Using Positive Reinforcement on You

I’m all for positive reinforcement,
and I’d be happy to reward you
except for two problems. First,
I don’t approve of any of your
behaviors. Second, I can’t think
of anything that you would consider
a reward that I don’t find objectionable:
cheap praise, trite advice, specious
sympathy, mindless music and
food that is high in salt and high
in fat and highly processed. The
best I can offer is that I’ll try
to avoid punishing you.


An Inoculation

As the toddler’s parents
look on, clucking warmly
and nodding their heads,
the vile old soul stoops
over their child and croons,
in response to his frightened
comment, “Don’t worry,
I’m a good people, and I
hope you’re a good people
too,” doing her part, in
one comment, to inoculate
the next generation against
both good grammar and
critical thinking.



As people throng
the bluffs, coaxed
away from the hotel’s
amenities– gourmet
meals, feather pillows,
silk sheets, hot tubs,
Olympic sized pool,
wide-screen TVs, gift
shop, full bar–I hurry
toward them, believing
that some North Coast
spectacle has drawn
them out to brave the
fog and wind: a golden
sunset, a passing pod
of whales. Only as I
get nearer do I see that
what I believed were
binoculars or cameras
that they hold so close
to their faces are really
cell phones on which
they hope to read what
Facebook friends think
about their latest Tweets
or to see photographs
of what their sisters ate
for dinner, and that they
have been driven to
land’s end by the rumor
that some geophysical
freak will allow them to
be able to get better
wireless reception there.


It Does Not Take Two

If life, as those who account
themselves as wise are wont
to say, is a dance, then it turns
out that I’m the only one who
knows the steps, who moves
his feet, who hasn’t gone
completely limp, who isn’t deaf
or paralyzed or semiconscious.
My arms are tired from carrying
a weight so much worse than dead.
Conventional wit notwithstanding,
it most emphatically does not take
two to tango. Nor to do the waltz,
the jitterbug or freak dancing or to
trip the light fantastic in any of
the other forms that I have been
trying with such determination.
All it takes is endurance.


Floor Show

The teenage boy who was
caught stealing tips lies
whimpering on the floor
in a fetal position, almost
sucking his thumb. Silver-
haired, a restaurant owner
towers over him, after kicking
him repeatedly in the kidneys
with shiny shoes that look
as if they were sharpened
for just this purpose, having
had more fun than he’s had
since the last time he deveined
a shrimp, grinning at his customers,
encouraging them to share his
amusement. Now for a little
applause, he’d be more than
willing to do an encore.


Kyle Heger, former managing editor of “Communication World” magazine, lives in Albany, CA. His writing has won a number of awards and has been accepted by 64 publications, including “Birmingham Arts Journal,” “London Journal of Fiction” and “U.S. 1 Worksheets.

Feature: Poetry

Tom Montag

“The Woman in an Imaginary Painting”

Let me teach you
about silence,
says the woman

in the painting.
Sit with me here
in the dark

of this museum.
Listen to the world
slanting towards

evening. You hear
traffic. Do you
hear the cricket?

Do you hear
the stars? Sit
with me, she says.

Let me teach you
of stillness beyond
the empty heart:

Death is not
as perfect
as this is.

“The Woman in an Imaginary Painting”

Her hands know nothing,
which shows in the way

she holds them. The pose
is her own. No one

told her to sit like
this, not the artist,

not her mother who
taught her other

modesties. Her hands
are not like birds at

evening gathering in
the branches, not like

flags in the morning
sun. Her fingers don’t

show a secret code.
They haven’t found

meaning beyond one,
and five, and ten.

They cannot touch
the greater darkness.

“The Woman in an Imaginary Painting”

Art is,
in a way,

a sacrament.
It might

be communion,
it might

be priesthood,
it might

be extreme

its blessing
oily and

O, she says,

the woman
in the painting,

I am married
to color,

to canvas,
to the shape

that is this.
Is that what


“The Woman in an Imaginary Painting”

She thinks of those hills
she loved as a child,
of the grasses who

were her friends, of
Old Grandmother Pine.
As reminder now

she has only this
worn wooden table,
the straw mat on it.

And her memories.
Her memories still
hold endearing warmth.

Even in the cold
museum, she knows
she is not alone.

“The Woman in an Imaginary Painting”

long enough

standing here
before her

you may lose
your place

and find there’s
no way back.


Tom Montag’s books of poetry include: Making Hay & Other Poems; Middle Ground; The Big Book of Ben Zen; In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013; This Wrecked World; The Miles No One Wants; Imagination’s Place; Love Poems; and Seventy at Seventy. His poem ‘Lecturing My Daughter in Her First Fall Rain’ has been permanently incorporated into the design of the Milwaukee Convention Center. He blogs at The Middlewesterner. With David Graham he recently co-edited Local News: Poetry About Small Towns.

The Titanic Sails at Dawn

Howie Good

My maternal grandparents arrived in America

on a ship built in the same shipyard as the Titanic.

All these years later, white judges in black robes

are still pondering who was ultimately responsible.

Sometimes they burst into tears, sometimes into laughter.

Often they slurp Chivas Regal straight from the bottle,

and when they do, destroying angels clink glasses.


Howie Good is the author of THE DEATH ROW SHUFFLE, a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

Review: The Snow Dead

Marc Zegans

The Snow Dead is an unconventional, title-less book of poems that work in tandem to weave together love and loss as it is depicted through the metaphor of snow. Lines like “They leave their offerings” throws you in the heat of the moment, knowing not agency but place. This is the strongest work possible given its clever interweaving of theme, place, loss and heartache. I very much recommend The Snow Dead. At 23 poems, it is both expansive and clever. A win all around for Marc Zegans.


Marc Zegans is a poet and creative development advisor. He is the author of six collections of poems, The Snow Dead, The Underwater Typewriter, Boys in the Woods, Pillow Talk, The Book of Clouds, and La Commedia Sotterranea: Swizzle Felt’s First Folio form the Typewriter Underground; two spoken word albums Night Work, and Marker and Parker, and the immersive theatrical productions Mum and Shaw, and The Typewriter Underground. The Snow Dead debuted theatrically in Erotic Eclectic’s “Sin-aesthetic” at the Lost Church during San Francisco’s 2019 Lit Crawl. Marc lives by the coast in Northern California. His poetry can be found at, and he can be reached for creative advisory services at

Three Poems

Remy Ramirez

No Blow Jobs

Honestly though, no blow jobs.
Not permanently, but for a while while
you penises figure it out. Stop

putting yourselves everywhere,
this schizo shit makes me nervous,
the muffled anxiety pushing outward—

are you reflecting on your nature? Think of your
future, think of your mother. It’s like
worry got the better of you,

in darkness so often, concealed under
cotton. Two parched plums make
cruel companions, I know,

I know. I get it though: the desire
to be seen is consuming. Last night
I dreamed I was swimming

in a black sea, and a school of you
circled me: tiny Cyclops creatures
darting fragilely,

mimicking the unit, urgent
to conform. I asked one its name
but it had no identity

and they all swam away.
What we’re left with
is what we memorize, after all;

The reach so endless
and the gain so small.
Loneliness looms:

the black of that black sea.
And yet, the grieving being
exposed to itself

is more dangerous than any beast
the deep could muster, more
than any lover.

Still, I refuse to graze
or tongue you. A pool of water lilies
unfreezes at the other end

of that aching. And the perfume
it’s making wakes me
suddenly, as if from fainting.

The sky above me—so empty, but so
infinitely blue—echoes where those
revived before me flew.


Spanish Linguistics, 2002

In your class,
language is a string of chaoses

formatted to your maps
and your angry martyred armies.

I am thinking of things
apart from the Iberian Peninsula,

the invasions of Arabs.
Despite my slogging, my useless

redirection of thoughts to your
linguistic discovery, I am simply

less interested in your dark histories
than in tonguing darkly, the faint

possibility of naked
thighs, of strong fingers,

of fires. In the end,
aren’t we better

educated on human hurt
and contradiction

by the feel of cashmere
hands turning to sand

on our hips, than by the evil Christian
politic, the distant voices of Visigoths…?



At 2AM we left
Joel’s apartment and his dad
fat and Christian sleeping
under the windows opened
to the freeway buzzing
and the ceiling fan spinning
a clicking noise so that
we could have sex at
a friend’s house whose mother
was too drunk to ever
hear our sounds which were the
awkward and predictable sounds
that one might imagine.
But now
a grown woman
I remember them
as apple cores I threw
out the window as I was leaving
only to return and find the changing years
muted in the shade of enormous trees
and the smell of fruit blooming
everywhere in the streets.


Remy Ramirez is a poet, essayist, editor, and pop-culture journalist. She has an MA in creative writing for poetry from the University of Texas at Austin and has been published in The Southern Review, Cherry Bombe, NYLON, BUST, and Tidal (where she is currently the executive editor), among others. She lives in the Arizona desert because the thrifting is good and so is the karaoke.

Three Poems

Laurinda Lind

Elsewhere, Seventeen

Four hundred seventy miles south
of where I sat with molars jerked
from my jaw I saw the jerker,
my dentist down the road at home,
in the Smithsonian standing under
the Spirit of St. Louis, which was
suspended from the ceiling like
an interlude of novocaine. From
the balcony above I didn’t breathe
but no sixth sense made him look
to where I stood in his sky with
a hand hiding my mouth. I was
away with my aunt where in a city
of seven hundred thousand, eight
staticky hours straight down across
three states, no one could expect
to see someone else from our cold
ruined corner. Two years later in
the city for a second time I saw
a couple of so-good girls from
school in my tiny town on a senior
trip, square in my path at the zoo
carrying purses so full of purity,
they could not stand this surprise
from someone who had escaped
but was supposed to stay in place
far north. So it turned out they too
were unnerved by extraction and
wondered, I did too, how I had
dropped down in their lives like
an outrageous engine. Like
wreckage from a root canal.


Drive Into France with Your English Car

Venez! You’ll like it. Probably
no one will bomb the Chunnel
while you’re chugging through
it under water. Vraiment. Your
headlamps aren’t right for
running around par ici but feel
free to spend un peu on peel-
off deflectors plus le crap
you need to carry in the boot
but will never use. Enjoy driving
at the droit edge of the lane
while guessing what goes
on at the gauche. Souriez for
the photo; you’ll look so bon
for the fine. You didn’t need
all those euros anyway.


After It’s Over It’s Not Over

David Berkowitz found his birth family
while his neighbor’s dog was still telling
him how to take down more dark-haired
women. Reimagined genes weren’t about
to weld his wires. What kept you so long,
he said, once the heat finally figured
him out. They filed him away at 24
and today he’s 40 years older and, guess
what, saved. Every second year he passes
on parole review. Even my youngest
son’s older than he was then, a blacked-
out light, a guy getting girls the only
way that worked but now he is
a persistent preacher shooting that shit
as far as it will fly, because belief
goes broader and infects them so much
faster, much better even than bullets.


Laurinda Lind lives in New York’s North Country, near Canada. Some poetry acceptances/ publications have been in Constellations, The Cortland Review, Paterson Literary Review, and Radius; also anthologies Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan (New Rivers Press) and AFTERMATH (Radix Media). In 2018 she won first-place awards for the Keats-Shelley adult-poetry prize and the New York State Fair poetry competition.


Donald Hubbard

Our dogs introduced us, I walked my beagle and she chased her loose dachshund and we tracked down her dog and like our dogs we later mated.

After we had real children, I watched her play with them and marveled over how seamlessly she brought our dogs into their playtime and how sweet she was as or dogs aged and died. How wonderfully she explained to our children about how our dogs were in a far less unkind place, all this before The Lion King was released and postulated the circle of life.

We bought new dogs and she lovingly welcomed them into the family, rescue dogs who no longer needed to worry about having enough to eat or beatings from masters. Only hugs, I hugged the dogs and she hugged the dogs, and though our love for each other grew, eventually we only expressed intimacy through our dogs.

Our children left home, though they returned for holidays and their mother’s funeral. I embraced my children and we wept and I gave my dogs to a young couple who had contemplated divorce before my gift to them.


Donald Hubbard has written six books, one of which was profiled on Regis and Kelly and another that was a Boston Globe bestseller and Amazon (category) top ten. Two books have gone into a second edition and he was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame as an author in 2015. A chapter of one of his books was published in the on-line edition of Notre Dame Magazine. His published stories include those in Funny in 500, Quail Bell, Praxis, 101 Word Story, Flash Fiction Magazine, Crack the Spine and Oddville Press.

He studied English at Georgetown University and the University of Kent. Law at Notre Dame.

Three Poems

John Grey


A heart must take care of its needs.
The head will follow in time.
But then there’s Jenna – not an ideal subject for thinking straight
though she is among the most intelligent of all women.
Add her silky black hair, slim figure, soft voice
and what do you have?
Thoughts, thoughts and more thoughts.
Jenna’s family includes: Rosalind, Michael, Sean.
Jenna has a large dog, a Newfoundland I believe.
Jenna could be a noun – a soft sigh expressing joy or accomplishment.
Jenna has traveled to every continent except Antarctica.
Jenna is opportunistic, but not cruelly so
Jenna is the brightest in just about every kind of company.
Many have had to admit their error in her presence.
Jenna has a way of communicating with her eyes
Jenna doesn’t play the field, plans to be with only the one man.
It would be a triumph indeed to be that man.
Since the end of adolescence, with a growth spurt,
and the fading of various species of acne
she has been the proverbial cynosure of all attention.
Even when she only drove that blue Honda Civic.
Lawyers, teachers, construction workers –
all have taken a number at Jenna’s door.
Each in turn has learned there’s someone out there
more than what they are.
I can’t imagine Jenna as an old or ugly woman.
Everything she does, no matter how modest, how minor,
is one more note for a love poem.
Oh she has dated. But nothing serious.
I think it’s best to just be liked by her,
to be witness, but not take responsibility beyond yourself.
Today is Friday. I haven’t seen Jenna in weeks.
She is out there somewhere.
I’m content to let that be enough.


I showed him my passport.
He stared at it intently
like it was a crime scene
and he was looking for clues.

I was guilty of having
my photograph taken
and slipped inside
a small booklet

but nothing more than that.
He rippled the pages.
He held up the picture
against my face

like he was a witness
in a police lineup.
He didn’t say anything
but his silence

was hanging-judge severe.
Finally, he waved me through.
There was nothing he could do
about me, my body,

my feelings, my thoughts,
my associates, my history.
He left it to his country
to find me out.


She was barely noticed, scrubbing floors on the margin,
always on the brink of what would finally kill her,
death threats in the intestine, cruel jokes played on knees,
the rising monster in her left breast.

Sometimes dreading, sometimes forgetting,
but always a time when, with mop and bucket,
brush and soap, she bent her back
just to make sure a hospital ward was spotless.

So much sweat went into someone else’s benefit,
so much dying into the life around her,
besides the daily dilemma of food and rent and bills to be paid,
on a paycheck that never broke minimum.

And now the question arises:
who’s to make the necessary arrangements?
And one even more pressing according to some:
did she live on the right side of the church?

Oh she had an occasional vision, a dream
of something she couldn’t quite see
but whether they were reflected this life or the next
never made a difference either way.

Their meaning was untidy, like the grubby tiles before her
and her course involved neatness and cleaning.
The rules dawned on her clear at birth.
Do what’s expected and you’ll be paid to be black.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in the Homestead Review, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Harpur Palate, the Hawaii Review and Visions International.