The Scandinavians by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

How is it the Scandinavians always look so clean cut
and put together –
even their drunks look like day traders
everyone over here is a mess, and they look the part
without exception:
the patchy beard, the glazed eyes, the tatters
for clothes,
arguing with mailboxes and coming to blows
taken away by cops that look worse than them,
this must be what Rome looked like in the final days
cobblers wearing shoes on their hands
and worshipping them as gods
everyone throwing lead on their faces
and fornicating with broken chariots,
but not the Scandinavians, no –
they were once considered the barbarians
can you believe that?
Have you seen how clean their streets are?
Some of the streets even clean themselves,
I saw this documentary about it.
Here, we have sinkholes with yellow lines.
And everyone is too hungover to care anyways.
Or strung out on crack, prostituting their children
in bus terminal bathrooms.
And the Scandinavians ride bikes everywhere
so as not to hurt the air.
Here, old ladies are mugged and raped
for five dollars.
Babies dumped in public toilets and left for dead.
I’m sure the Scandinavians have their problems,
everyone does –
but you never see them,
just pretty blonde girls with their pretty blonde men
feeding the ducks down by the water
which you guessed it,
is clean.

ryan-quinn-flanagan
Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a happily unmarried proud father of none. His work can be found both in print and online in such joints as Your One Phone Call, Homestead Review, Horror Sleaze Trash, and Dead Snakes. He has an affinity for dragonflies, discount tequila, and all things sarcastic.
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Absolution by Mike Zone

Crown of thorns
leaping into sound
frequency of the undying
visit thee in solitude
winding upon wandering stars
brightness shuns you
lie in the dark- spread
out on veiled roses
daisies bloom in the soul
as thorns stake the mind
blood mixed with dew
don’t let morning’s rainbow
falter the pleasure
of night’s virtue

mike-zone
Michael Zone is the author of Fellow Passengers: Pubic Transit Poetry, Meditations & Musings and Better than the Movies: 4 Screenplays. His work has been featured in Because Eileen, Dead Snakes, Horror Trash Sleaze, In Between Hangovers, Sick Lit Magazine, Three Line Poetry, Triadae Magazine and The Voices Project. He scrapes by in Grand Rapids, MI

Is There Anything More Depressing Than A Single Middle Aged Man Waiting For His Chinese Food On A Sunday Night? by John Tustin

When the early evening consists of a long walk in the cold
Imagining walking in a pair

When there is no chance the phone will ring
And a wonderful woman will tell him
He’s wanted

When the rest of the evening consists of dirty dishes from the night before,
Preparing for work, dirty laundry
Silent air
A malnourished will

The night is
The words of long dead poets
A new episode of The Simpsons
The children’s empty beds
And
Of course

Eating pork with broccoli
Alone

The fortune cookie
Unopened and
Unwanted

Waiting for sleep
The only thing he’s waiting for
That will actually come

john-tustin
John Tustin is currently suffering in exile on Elba. His published poetry is available at http://fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry/

Hazy Arizona Sky (V4) by Michael Lee Johnson

Midnight,
Sonoran Desert,
sleep, baby talk, dust covering my eyelids.
No need for covers, blankets,
sunscreen, sand is my pillow.
Adaptations
morning fireball
hurls into Arizona sky,
survival shifts gears,
momentum becomes a racecar driver
baking down on cracked,
crusted earth-
makes Prickly Pear cactus
open to visitors just a mirage,
cactus naked spit and slice
rubbery skull, glut open
dreams, flood dry.
Western cowboy wishes, whistles, and movies
valley one cup of cool, clear, fool’s desert gold
dust refreshing poison of the valley.
Bring desert sunflowers, sand dunes, bandanas,
leave your cell phone at home.

michael-lee-johnson
Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. He is a poet, editor, publisher, freelance writer, amateur photographer, small business owner in Itasca, IL. Mr. Johnson published in more than 925 small press magazines online and print. His poems have appeared in 27 countries as of this date, he edits, publishes 10 different poetry sites, with over 103 videos on YouTube. Michael Lee Johnson was nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry 2015, and Best of the Net, 2016.

Marriage & Black Holes by Caroline Hardaker

Remember my face, when you look up in bed
through the skylight, the net lace –
I’m the sucking goop between galaxies there,
spread thin like emollient blackcurrant jam
feeding seeds to our stellar satellites.
You could try to finger me, but you can’t anymore,
I’m soft and flighted, wider than the night
and inset with the sparkling stars of life.
And yet – you chose her, and strife,
and all the unknowns of a broken life,
a twister from our warren; that dense space
I’ve been compacting with memories just your size,
honeys, jams, and a wife the size of the sky
bringing in the Sunday news and hot, morning brew.

caroline-hardaker
Caroline Hardaker lives in the north east of England. Her poetry has been featured or is forthcoming by The Stinging Fly, The Emma Press, Neon Magazine, and Shoreline of Infinity. Caroline is a poetry and drama reviewer for the Three Drops From a Cauldron e-zine, and the in-house blogger for Mud Press.

A Small Gesture by Dawn Angelicca Barcelona

It’s taken me seven years to write about the roughness of your hands.

I wondered if this is what my grandfather’s hands would have felt like
holding mine when we met for the first time, unsure if it’s okay
to touch me like a doll, unsure if he could kiss me on the forehead like he’s
known me at all. I only remember a single phone call. Seven years old.
My mother told me to hold the phone and say hi. I wanted to drop the line.
One day, you would make it to America or I would be bold and find your home.

I imagine bringing you a plate of rice, looking at the callouses that cling
to your palms receiving my gift, me understanding you had a lifetime of
work and it is time for a meal. For a little rest. Finally, you’d become real.

What did your hands do when you weren’t eating?

I’ve missed out on a lifetime of you.

I’m sorry I couldn’t bring you to what I only knew
and couldn’t say enough about with the limits of my seven-year-old
mouth. I always wished I could have said some more. You’ve been resting
now for sixteen years. I hope it’s quiet and dry where you are so
you can hear me think about your life. You jumped at me, a grasshopper
walking the house you helped build. The dream after I touched the outside
of your casket, so white, my grandma’s ashes resting near you, in a vase.

I’m hardly closer to where you came from, the first time away from mom
and dad in a country where my tongue is still stupid and slow. This Rich Coast,
Costa Rica, lending an old man’s hand to me.
This country tries to pull me closer, into a volcano’s peak.
I wonder which of the old men’s smiles were the kind you would have give to me.
I hold on tightly and rise like a sack. If only I could see you when I got older.

For now, I cling to your voice, the words raspy and smooth,
and my words, stuttering, “I can’t wait to meet you too.”

dawn-angelicca-barcelona
Bio: Dawn Angelicca Barcelona is a New Jersey born-and-bred poet who graduated from Rutgers University in 2014. Her English honors thesis on Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee inspired her to live and work in South Korea for two years where she worked for The Fulbright Program, teaching English to elementary school students and serving as the Editor-in-Chief of The Fulbright Korea Infusion literary magazine. Now back in the U.S., Dawn continues to write poetry and works on the talent team at MuleSoft in San Francisco.

Pubic Transport by Paul Tanner

When you get on a bus
know
that you are being punished
for not owning a car
for not buying petrol

the bus fare
it is a pleb tax
for paying your taxes in the first place
and expecting them
to be used on things
like public transport,
cheeky taxpaying pleb that you are

look at your fellow bus plebs:

the young poised at 90 degrees
disaffection squirting out their sores
onto their impersonal technology

the shapeless middleaged hunchbacks
in faded 1990’s bubble jackets
propping up faded 1990’s bubble faces

and the biggest plebs of all
the old
how dare they get this far
how dare they win our wars
how dare they pay a lifetime of tax
and assume they’ll get some compensation
in the autumn of their lives

in the autumn of our country

it’s a jobcentre on wheels
and where is it you’re going?

‘Return ter the jobby please, driver.’

‘Feree twenee, lad.’

‘Kinell, it gone up again?’

‘Not enough,’ says Driver
waddling off to roll a rollie
‘hence me goin on strike,’ striking a match
on the sandpaper rust of the bus stop

and you’d make like a Tebbit
and get on your bike
if you had one.

Paul Tanner photo
Paul Tanner’s new book ‘Notes of A Pleb Vol. 4’ will be available soon and this poem’s from it.