Destinations

By M.V. Reisinger

At 85 miles an hour,

past steer heads, trucks and on into

the static of social status,

we zoom.

Outcasts, misfits, poor bastards

trade in their shoes for diesel fuel 

and ride a bucking grey “outhouse

on wheels!”

Outside my window, ducks fit

into arrowhead formations,

maybe they have the right idea –

going the opposite direction.

M.V. Reisinger resides in Southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley with his wife, two dogs and a houseplant jungle. He teaches elementary writing and reading. His published work has appeared in Bomb Fire, The Circle Book 2021: A Conejos County Anthology and Lumberjack News.

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None of My Business

By Katie Lynn Johnston

So, we were driving. This stretch of highway I’ve been on so many times before. The city was already far behind us, and the sky was starting to fade into inky pinks and soft oranges, rose colored clouds swirling into mountains on a silk-screen sky.

     The sun was bright coming in through the windows—bright, but so small, and these tiny black piles of melting snow were still there (despite that deadly January warmth), hiding in the growing shadow of the Jersey barriers from its hot, cherry light.

     Monster-tall transformers stood high above us on either side of the salt-gray road, glaring down as they reached toward the curling Japanese mountains in the sky with their wiry arms. They cast long, black shadows across the dirt and the grass and the road, caging everything down below them to the dry ground. The grass was dull under their feet: brown and crunchy—I could almost feel it sticking in between my toes—with not a patch of soft green in sight. The houses outside my window seemed to mimic each blade’s mediocrity as they flew passed, reflecting each sharp grass blades’ dull color and worn, tired air. The few cars that drove along with us went like lazy streaks of lighting down the highway, never passing us but hovering there beside us in their dirty bright colors and boxy shapes until we sped up passed them. Peaks inside someone else’s windows led to nothing more than an awkward split moment of eye contact—no one danced like they did in the summer—contact I wasn’t going to break, “Watch the damn road.”

     It wasn’t outside my window where I saw him.

     There, only cinnamon blades of grass swayed, stretching up to the sky, limp and so exhausted in their pursuit to reach the silk mountains above them like the transformers.

     No, it was yours.

     Far ahead I could see this dancing, vivid patch of green amidst so much dead—the only color there but for the sky and those slow, primary cars beside us. The toll was beyond him. I watched him move, quick and exasperated as he flicked and spun and screamed, livid. We came up and I watched him as he kicked and he yelled, pointing in every direction like he was surrounded by the cruelest enemies we could not see. His hair came up like fire, muted crimson like his screams from under the wind and the radio. A green sweater—grass blades in the summer—and a white dress shirt—as the sky had been—floated around his thin figure like the clouds over head. His pants didn’t fit him, they were far too short and far too big. I can’t remember if he was wearing any shoes. But his cheeks stuck to his skull, and his eyes—eyes with those colors I can never bring myself to see—stared wildly, saw all and watched me just as intently as we passed him. Your window was down just a crack. You kind of slowed down and I waited to hear his screams. But I didn’t. The radio was too loud (a terrible song). He pointed at me. He was inches from your window. And we kept driving.

     I said, “That’s something we should call the cops about, isn’t it?”

     You had your hand over your mouth, and I craned my neck around to look at him while you stared into the rearview mirror, watching him. He crossed the highway, manic yet so slow, and I was afraid I was going to see his blood splatter against the white semi-truck coming up behind him.

     Suddenly, you kind of shrieked.

     I could see the red against the cloud-white metal—I could see the ground under his legs torn away from him, splayed out, tumbling over the hood, he smashed the windshield on his way over the container and fell to the salty asphalt of the highway, dead there like a rag doll.

     And the truck kept going.

     I saw it—I saw it in my head and then I saw him cross the street with his long, lanky legs stretching across the road like a spider. He just made it passed the truck in time, his clothes billowing around him as the truck rushed by.

     “Is he okay?”

     I told you he made it to the other side of the highway—to the transformers and cinnamon grass and houses—and was now trekking across the crunchy blades.

     I switched the station and turned up the radio.

     “I thought he wanted to get hit,” you said.

     “Me too. He stared right at me.”

     You laughed. “I’m sure he saw right into your soul.”

Katie Lynn Johnston is a queer creative writing undergraduate at Columbia College Chicago, born and raised in Michigan City, Indiana. She has been an editor for the Columbia Poetry Review, Mulberry Literary, and a production editor for Hair Trigger Magazine. Her work has appeared in Hair Trigger, Hoxie Gorge Review, Lavender Review, and others. When she is not reading or watching classic movies, she enjoys baking mediocre banana bread for her family.

Native I Am, Cocopa

By Michael Lee Johnson

Now once-great events fading

into seamless history,

I am a mother, proud.

My native numbers are few.

In my heart digs many memories

forty-one relatives left in 1937.

Decay is all left of their bones, memories.

I pinch my dark skin.

I dig earthworms

farm dirt from my fingertips

grab native

Baja and Southwestern California,

its soil and sand wedged between my spaced teeth.

I see the dancing prayers of many gods.

I am Cocopa, a remnant of the Yuman family.

I extend my mouth into forest fires

Colorado rivers, trout-filled mountain streams.

I survive on corn, melons, and

pumpkins, mesquite beans.

I still dance in grass skirts

drink a hint of red Sonora wine.

I am a mother, proud.

I am parchment from animal earth.

This poem is a reprint from White Cat Publications.

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.  Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, DuPage County, Illinois. Mr. Johnson published in more than 2,013 new publications, and his poems have appeared in 40 countries; he edits, publishes ten poetry sites. Michael Lee Johnson has been nominated for Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net awards.

The Desert

By Tom Probasco

Borne by dreams and desperation,

we’re taken to the edge

of the desert,

and out into it.

There to contend

with heat and cold and mirages,

until our final day and night

and illusion.

But some they say

find an oasis,

or learn magic

and make their own.

There to gather strength

to push on through

and view the beautiful,

undrinkable ocean.

Tom Probasco has had poems published in INPRINT (Indianapolis Free University Writers’ Center), the first volume of Indiannual (Writers’ Center of Indianapolis), and the Northwest Indiana Literary Journal, and in addition to writing the occasional poem, he plays harmonica in two Indianapolis bands, The Full Benefits Band and True North.

Gamble

By Hardarshan Singh Valia

He was used to storms plucking away some leaves

taking down some branches, leaving him in tattered clothes. Was

Pandemic, a part of the same storm, hell-bent

to deprive him of his dignity –

to strip him naked. To drain

his meager savings, rob his strength, and keep him awake. To

listen to the caged bird, the only companion he had, who

wouldn’t stop chirping –

“I love you.”

Welcome to Phase IV.

He welcomed the news with an overflow of joy. Wind

before the storm blew hard, he rushed to his car; and,

drove to the casino as fast as he could. Storm

blew through the unlocked door. Freed the caged bird,

into the arms of the darkened sky.

He returned home to an empty cage,

With a jackpot and shortness of breath.

Hardarshan Singh Valia is an earth scientist by profession who sings songs of earth and conveys its wonders through story-telling at venues such as schools, parks, and places where curious people are eagerly awaiting to quench their curiosity about this magical place called earth. His poems stories essays have appeared in Wards Literary Journal, Northwest Indiana Literary Journal, Poetic Medicine, River babble, Who Writes Short Shorts, Dove Tales – Writing for Peace- an anthology, Dreamscapes – an anthology,, Pages Penned in Pandemic – A Collective, Art in the Time of Covid-19 – an anthology, Caesura, Sage-ing, Literary Veganism, COVID tales journal, Right Hand Pointing Literary Journal, Poetry And Covid, Huffington Post, Northwest Indiana Times, and in books such as Diamonds-75 Years of Indiana Poetry, Hoosier Horizon, A Magic Hour Family Christmas, and Undeniably Indiana (Indiana University Press).

Blankets

By Ben Boruff

I used to make sense of the world through needle points

pinpricks of light

coming through a soft, warm blanket in my mind

like polka dots.

I liked that.

But now the blanket is old and worn

and the dots have become holes

and the needles have been replaced by thick, metal rods

poking and ripping my blanket

until it is shreds of cloth,

trying and failing to block the light.

It is blinding.

And my eyes hurt.

Ben Boruff is a high school English teacher who writes poetry and indie comic reviews. He was a 2018 Yale Educator Award Recipient, and he participated in Chicagoland’s This Is My Brave event, a live collection of shared stories designed to end stigmas surrounding mental illness. He has a cat named Roundabout (who was found near a roundabout).

A Disturbance of Air

By Patrick Kalahar

The BB gun was brand new.

Plastic stock made to look like wood,

barrel gun-metal black, satin sheen.

We boys were ten or eleven,

walking through the second-growth pines

like warriors or hunters,

instincts etched in brains of a thousand generations,

raised on war movies and TV westerns.

We shot at trees,

make-believe enemies

distant and unreal.

No blood and no pain,

but there were birds and squirrels

living and moving through the pine branches,

more exciting and challenging than ersatz foes.

We saw a small bird

gripping a low branch very near.

My friend took aim and fired,

almost soundless,

a slight recoil of spring,

a disturbance of air.

The bird fell

like a pinecone

like a broken twig.

We couldn’t believe it.

Million to one odds.

“A lucky shot,” I thought, my child brain devoid of irony.

We ran to where the bird fell,

trembling among the pine needles,

a spot of blood on its head.

I picked up the very small bird

and felt its heart beating impossibly fast

and saw the fear in its eyes—

not of dying—the bird knew no more of dying than I.

The fear was of me.

I knelt, rooted and silent as the bird died in my hands.

Setting it down gently as if it mattered,

I dug with my fingers through needles,

then into soft, moist, black earth,

smelling rich, moldy, and slightly bitter,

placed the bird in the hole and covered it,

and then my friend and I walked away

in opposite directions.

I wonder, even now:

was my final gesture and act of belated remorse,

or the hiding of a sin?

Patrick Kalahar is a used and rare bookseller with his wife, Jenny, and a book conservationist in Elwood, Indiana. He is a veteran, world traveler, avid reader, and book collector. He was one of the main interviewees in an Emmy Award-winning documentary on James Whitcomb Riley. He is a member of Last Stanza Poetry Association. His poems have been published in Tipton Poetry Journal, Flying Island, Rail Lines, The Moon and Humans, Last Stanza Poetry Journal, and A Disconsolate Planet.

All of the Notes

By Holly Day

When our son is born, I will write his birth announcement

on the river, fill my pen with ink and dip it into the current

with hopes that the note will reach you, wherever you are

even if the words need to be carried all the way to the sea.

From the deck of your ship, you should see my message coming

possibly broken up by tiny whirlpools caused by rocks and twigs

perhaps even gnawed on by mischievous fish. Most of the words

should reach you, though, if not in one piece then in an easily-assembled

string.

I will choose my language carefully

so that even if most of my message is missing

you’ll know what has happened back here with me

and why you need to turn back and let the tide drag you home.

Holly Day (hollylday.blogspot.com) has been a writing instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Hubbub, Grain, and Third Wednesday, and her newest books are The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), Book of Beasts (Weasel Press), Bound in Ice (Shanti Arts), and Music Composition for Dummies (Wiley).

West Side Theatre Guild to air Black History Month special

By Joseph S. Pete

The West Side Theatre Guild  in Gary will celebrate Black History Month with a special program that will air online and via streaming.

The WSTG-TV Black History Special will be broadcast live on YouTube at 7 p.m. on Feb. 14, as well as on the Gary TV channel that’s available on Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV and Android TV. It will feature hours of historic programming for binge-watching later.

“During the month of February, it has been customary for over 24 years to head over to the West Side Theatre in Gary, IN to watch an inspiring performance presented by the West Side Theatre Guild,” the community performing arts theater said in a press release. “This year, the Guild has created a dynamic virtual Black History experience loaded with performing arts staff interviews, films, WSTG performances, video from Coretta Scott King’s visit to WSTG in 2005, and footage from the celebration honoring the 50th anniversary of Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher’s historic 1967 victory.”

Mark Spencer, the director of fine arts for the Gary Community Schools Corp., produced and directed the virtual black history celebration. He also will direct a performance of Ben Clement’s play “The Book Thief” featuring Gary students and produced by the Gary Literary Coalition that will air as part of the program.

The virtual experience will also include the premiere of the WSTG-TV program, A Day in the District, hosted by Chelsea Whittington. Her special guest will be Dr. Paige McNulty, Manager of the Gary Community School Corp.

Marjorl Rush Collett will discuss the legacy of Harlem Renaissance writer and poet Langston Hughes in a studio interview. And the new WSTG-TV show, A Day in the District, will premiere. Host Chelsea Whittington. will interview Dr. Paige McNulty, manager of the Gary Community School Corp., in the debut episode.

For more information, find The West Side Theatre Guild on Facebook.

Joseph S. Pete is the editor-in-chief of the Northwest Indiana Literary Journal.