Category Archives: Poetry

Answer: What Is a Balloon?

This is the only truth there is
until you wish to believe another one,

so I stand up, and the earth recedes just enough,
the inspector general wearing a donkey-skin hat.

I make a cameo appearance in the movie,
and the character I play never even arrives.

A: An air liner
Q: What is a balloon?

Now play the infamous March of the Luminous Footsores
like a creature squeezed from moonlight.

When the word neuter barked at me, I sat up and listened.
The son of a bitch was old and hilly and gravel-eyed, but

I objected to the objectionable material, and
I discriminated against the discriminators.

Accidental clumps of horseshit convicted the gardener
of almost doing his job recently.

I paid attention to the next litter of kisses,
but many interesting obstacles can be hidden in big hair.

Don’t muddle in warm box of trollop. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.
Don’t dance unconvincingly moist. Just don’t.

And no more symphonies for wayward strumpets. None.
Oh lo so many dreams ago.

A rubbery interference of distemper, a mind like a broken canoe
at once filled with the same intrusions and departures.

We waited like nervous hummingbirds––
unsweetened thrumming just about to poke into.

There were several unconvincing yesterdays returning
in the manner of unsung lumber businesses and clever nurseries.

Don’t can’t me more, he thinks, like an unroofed box
strangle-floated and couch-gripped.

Something wonderful inhabited me. Perhaps
it could be related to what we’ve been discussing––

accrued to sundry distortions of my personage.
Deformed yes and crippled oh yes.

Little ant-thoughts swarmed lightly over sisterly delight mounds
like a rufous-sided nuthatch darting through the hose’s nosespray.

Bowl song, oatmeal song, song of eating slowly,
and spoon song singing like a gentle shovel,

digging deeper and swallowing and coming back,
a pleasure unavailable to lesser expectorants––

song of taking in everything possible to return
transformed and long for last joyful song of internal labor.

Rich Ives has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and the 2012 winner of the Thin Air Creative Nonfiction Award. His books include Light from a Small Brown Bird (Bitter Oleander Press), Sharpen (The Newer York), The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking (What Books) and Tunneling to the Moon (Silenced Press).

All the Missing Girls

Every time I read a novel about a missing girl,
I think of you, though as far as I know

you might still be living. But whenever
there’s a blonde who disappears

from the mall or the fairgrounds or a beach,
I think of your long hair, and blue eyes,

your pinched sensitive face and I wonder
what happened when your family moved

From our sleepy, hollow, town. I used to spend
nights at your house when I was ten,

your butter-colored hair falling slick
and comforting over my face—and I could

imagine what it was to have a sister,
someone whose hairs were woven

into your very being. My own died
in infancy so, of course that is why

I read these books—for her, for you—
the protagonist’s longing for answers

to what happens after the head ducks
into the car, or the casket lid comes

down, or a small still body goes up
in flame, that’s the kind of quest

I understand. So, dear friend
in the ether, I let you know now

I’ll always remember how you stood,
one elbow akimbo, skinny hips at a tilt

and that you exist, bright head
in the limbo of every turning page.

Christine Butterworth-McDermott’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cimarron, The Normal School, River Styx, and Southeast Review, among others. She is the author of Tales on Tales: Sestinas (2010) and Woods & Water, Wolves & Women (2012) and is the founder and co-editor of Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. A chapbook All Breathing Heartbreak (Dancing Girl Press) and her next full-length collection, Evelyn As (Fomite) will both be published in 2019.


Henna hair, a burning Lucky Strike,
rescue dog in her bag,
she walks bright into the bar,
gestures with smile and sunglasses,
and is gone to a streetside table.
Tumbling her purse in searching,
she’s taken a photo of defeated guidons,
Photoshopped blue.
It gestures toward Li Po for a title,
the narrative of its evolution.
She’ll issue it with broadsides,
manifestos for a caring revolution.
Mani-pedi matching,
she slips out of her shoes,
hands conjuring illusions over Cabernet.
People like me, she smiles.
They follow at a discreet distance all day.
She takes her cell phone, films
cop cars as they cruise the lot.
Loosed from her lap,
the dog pulls at his leash.
Leaning over, she growls to him:

R.T. Castleberry is a widely published poet and critic. His work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Comstock Review, Green Mountains Review, The Alembic and Pedestal Magazine and has been featured in the anthologies, Travois-An Anthology of Texas Poetry, TimeSlice, The Weight of Addition, Anthem: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen and Blue Milk’s anthology, Dawn. His work has also been published in Canada, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and Antarctica. His chapbook, Arriving At The Riverside, was published by Finishing Line Press. An e-book, Dialogue and Appetite, was published by Right Hand Pointing.

The Farthest Idea to Have

           —Miami, Florida

Was it live oak we drove beneath
in Coral Gables, or some other
large and looming force full of
moss and weight and light?
Delicate architecture, beautiful country,
the sun buried every block in gold.
Neat lawns imitated wild, built
every breath of green from shade
and shadow. Strange birds blinked
from the lowest branches, and we—
we drove ourselves through the summer,
parked the car beside the bookstore,
walked in sweating like hurricane boards.
What are we after again? Something that sings,
let’s say that. And soon, in the AC’s hum,
we found a poem about a distant land
of snow and rock and ice, glacial tilled,
leaning toward a foreign season’s grip.
It seemed odd. It seemed the farthest idea
to have. How could it ever find us—
here with the glade and bog and ibis flight,
here with the egret’s easy blue and bluish green?
On the way home, you pointed from the car.
Look, spanish moss, it’s everywhere.

Travis Truax grew up in Virginia and Oklahoma and spent most of his twenties working in various national parks out west. A graduate of Southeastern Oklahoma State University, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Salamander, Quarterly West, The Pinch, Sonora Review and Bird’s Thumb. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.

January Storm Warning

The waitress with the steam rise
from an ice shift lake voice
takes my empty wine glass without asking:
brings it back full.
No one else in the bar.

The defeated afternoon sky
dense as cellar stored root vegetables
dense as surge debris
sags just a little like the sifting snow
the drift breakers that form in the avenues of trees.

Tonight’s storm, the tv above the gin bottles warns,
promises that brutality of January
that huddle hides people
that wind wipes away texture:
bark, bird tracks, friction, snow ridge roughness
the grain of asphalt turned to quartz.

And in the morning when everything
is the off white of an unlit bulb
I will think white

I will think At what temperature below zero
     does boiling water thrown into the air
     crystallize instantly?
think When I walk outside will I feel naked?
think How many minutes for my skin to freeze?

White.  Every day for two months.  White.

Until the strengthening sun unglues palings.
Until the sun cleanses them.
Until the sun turns them wooden again.

John Walser is an associate professor of English at Marian University-Wisconsin.  He holds a doctorate in English and Creative Writing from UW-Milwaukee. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Spillway, Mantis, the Normal School, The Pinch, december magazine, the Superstition Review, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, Sequestrum and Lumina, as well as in the anthology New Poetry from the Midwest 2017.  A Pushcart nominee and the recipient of the Lorine Niedecker Poetry Award, John is a three-time semifinalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry.

Lot’s Wife

          “Just because you’ve had enough
            doesn’t mean you wanted too much”
                        (Dean Young)

The myth that an owl can turn its head completely around
is, like many others, true; just because you grow up knowing
something doesn’t guarantee one day you’ll turn to find it’s
gone, or worse. There are angels among us. They smell of camphor.
They are good with explosives, and their lips are full enough
for even the smallest uncircumcised cock. The fact that an owl
can look behind it without moving its body grants it access to
information most animals are not allowed. The body is made
of between .15 and .2 percent sodium. Excess salt in the blood
leads to hardening, thickening, sluggishness, stroke. Camphor-
sulfonic acid is used in the form of a salt as a stimulant for
heart failure and shock. When he felt her hand growing hard,
he tightened his grip but did not stop running. When he could
no longer drag her, he let the hand go.


When he could no longer drag her, he let the hand go.
Wir haben, wo wir lieben, ja nur dies. The practice of salting
roadways in winter continues to have the unexpected effect
of increased collisions with wildlife drawn to the salt.
Impulse. Instinct. The desire to look. The genitals of fetuses
are, like angels, initially ambiguous: the pushpin stump
of the clitoro-phallus, the just-parted lips of the scroto-labia.
Hyponatremia, the deficiency of sodium in the blood,
can lead in athletes to muscle cramps. He ran and he ran.
Historically, salt licks were used to hunt game: the slaughter
of many for the preservation of few. In fire, the wings
of angels retract. A week later, after the smoke had cleared,
he followed the tracks back through the sand, but when
he finally found her, the features were gone.


When he finally found her, the features were gone.
Lacuna. Laconic. In 1960, the residents of northern Japan
consumed 10,300 milligrams of salt per day, whereas
in the Amazon, the Yanomami consumed less than 200.
But this is not a history of salt. The myth says Orpheus
was punished for looking back. The myth says the punishment
was that Eurydice died twice. Leaving town, the angels
shake ash from their feet. The practice of salting flesh
is called curing, but many prefer the flavor of smoke.
A hallucinatory smell of burning has occasionally been known
to presage a stroke. In hindsight, she must have had
a name. In hindsight, the angels looked just like us.
What she knew was privileged. She lay like an owl
with its head twisted completely around.

Kent Leatham’s poems and translations have appeared in dozens of journals, including PloughsharesPrairie SchoonerFenceSoftblowAble Muse, and Poetry Quarterly. He received an MFA from Emerson College and a BA from Pacific Lutheran University, served as an associate poetry editor for Black Lawrence Press, and currently teaches creative writing at California State University Monterey Bay.

Media Updates

The herd of sparrows in the yard bends,
Breaks, then coalesces again, following
And leading, losing and finding each other
To blend and vie, serve and dominate.

I don’t know what their tribe has in place
For sexual misconduct. I don’t know
What stories they tell about longing
For home. I’m not sure they’re good

Analogues. I can see their hunger
And their flight, their vulnerable mastery.
When they scatter at my approach,
I work to decipher their language
Etched in the loose top soil, easily
Meaningless, mysterious, and erased.

Jared Pearce’s poems have appeared or is scheduled to appear in Southword, PIcaroon, Wilderness House, Triggerfish, and THAT.  His debut collection, The Annotated Murder of One, has been released by Aubade Press.