Poetry Drawer: Irene: Splinters: Garden of the Gods by Charles K. Carter


Irene took quickly to the scene,
Looking to discover new things,
Looking to be places she’d never been.

Irene quickly became a yes woman all right,
Saying yes to the men’s aberrant advances
And yes to the women’s aimless advice.

Irene took quickly to saying yes
Becoming addicted to their requests,
A few more track marks on her arms,

A few more heads up her skirt.
Irene quickly became a no woman all right.
She became no woman all right.


I have found solace in this fluid state, this comforting womb,
This escape from the reality of mankind’s mania,
Drawn to the water’s stillness, its silence, to its blue

But the waves have torn off this false merman tale
And spat me out saltily to the sands above
Bidding me no mercy, no protection as the ancient whale

Waves a gentle goodbye – I bring my wet, wrinkled fingertips
To brush away these ocean-like teardrops.
I pluck away the barnacles like scabs that have to be compulsively picked

Off like a fish being scaled, flaked until it is merely flesh to be devoured.
I am no longer welcome to live in a world where there is only peace.
I stand naked in my vulnerability, left human after the sea has had me scoured.

I step out of the water and find footing on solid ground,
Gravity weighing heavy on these shoulders
Taking in the sights of the green earth and the sky’s musical sounds

Channeling the mighty thunder of the gods to stand tall, to stay afloat.
Even though, I fear the wind will whisk me away to mere particles of dust
As the hurricane makes splinters of a small, wooden fishing boat.

I fear I would rather be splintered in the sea.

Garden of the Gods

I stand upon this rock where we had our second date,
then both spent and energized from lovemaking,
Dazed by the camel-shaped formation, the gods’ fate

that brought us here, miles from any sound but these beating hearts,
longing to be lost in each other’s touch again,
we climbed higher, fell deeper, believing we would never part

but as the space between the camel’s hump and its head grows,
so does the space between us now, both physical and beyond,
this space, this emptiness, this forest full of woes.

Every year someone falls to their death –
Dazed by the dizzying distance below, I find my footing,
pondering what hope for us there is left.

Charles K. Carter is a queer poet and educator from Iowa. He has an MA in creative writing with a poetry concentration from Southern New Hampshire University and is completing an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University. His works have been published or are forthcoming in Dodging the RainThe Mark Literary ReviewActive Muse, and Anti-Heroin Chic.

Poetry Drawer: Five Poems by John Sweet

owego poem, from a great distance

or all of us fucked like
dogs in the rain or maybe just
some of us beaten with
the myth of god

or of us raped but
all of us left for dead and
did you come to this town knowing
all doors would be locked
against you?

were you given a shovel and
a reason to dig?

a child of your own to break?

there is never any pain so
private it cannot be shared with
those who hate you most

for kristen, who got there first

and here we are wrapped tight in
the laughter of dead men
shooting their guns at the sky

here we are saying we are here
with our maps drawn in the sand

with the house not quite level
after 100 years of civil war

pictures falling from cracked walls

baby with a mouthful of
broken glass and
the trick of course is
to separate the symbol from
                   the symbolized

the reality is that a clenched fist
has no value in an empty room

your god has no purpose
in a kingdom of corpses

paint his picture on whatever
holy surface you can find
and all it does is fade


dull pewter skies and five below
zero when we get the news of picasso’s death and
then we are stoned when we hear about his
                                             lover’s suicide

ground too hard to start digging graves,
so i am swimming in your blood

you are drowning in my arms

subtle addictions and the frost that
crawls through our veins and
was i whole before i met you?

did he understand the trail of
wreckage his life would produce?

and he probably didn’t care and
we are too wired to sleep when his
widow puts the gun to her head

i am happy for the gift of absolution and
                        you are begging for more

pale sunlight though a haze of
january sky and we were laughing
at the idea of true love or i thought
maybe you were crying

thought you understood i
would always fail you in the end

the enigma in shades of grey on grey

set fire to the air
in the dead man’s house

make sure

says everything is okay, says
this is just a dream within a dream
but i have my doubts

i have stood on the river’s surface
on the coldest day of the year,
have looked down to watch the hands
pushing upward with diminishing strength

i have been god in the
truest sense,
but i prefer drugs

i prefer sex

pain and suffering on a human level
mixed with my father’s disapproval over
every choice i’ve ever made and
what i tell him that standing still isn’t an option,
                                                  he calls me a liar

when i talk about the future, he
puts the barrel of the gun in his mouth and
this is how we spend our last
fifteen years together

this is life in the kingdom of crows

i get married

learn to crawl blind through
any number of deserts of my own making,
but i hang onto this image of you from
when we were young

i hang onto
the idea of free will

the inevitability of a
diminished future

i will find you there and sing
bitter songs of hope
before the story ends

phantom hope

a million miles of static on
pilate’s radio but the asshole wants to dance

tells you the crucifixion is
all in your mind

says it’s a waste of time
being in love with an addict

thirty years and nothing to show for it but
cold sunlight down early morning streets

st elizabeth on her hands and knees
and crawling into the ocean in
some warmer corner of the world

silver chains and a cross of
gold and what if she can’t
remember her child’s name?

what if every moment is
the one that matters most?

you stumble through each one blind
only to end up lost

only to end up holding your
father’s ashes
in the middle of the freeway

a million miles of static in every
direction and that fucker judas with
his hand up your lover’s skirt

with his teeth filed down to
chrome points and his
tongue dripping poison

gives us all one last kiss
then says goodbye

John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include Heathen Tongue (2018 Kendra Steiner Editions) and A Flag On Fire is a Song of Hope (2019 Scars Publications).

Poetry Drawer: Manhattan: Cocaine: To Sara (From DQ): Buzz Burn: Shadows by James Croal Jackson


lack of grass–
a poodle shits
on sidewalk


I am too scared to snort
so I lick powder off the blade–
it numbs my mouth. I want to
trust you when you say
there will come no harm
my way but I’d rather ingest
rust. My lungs already cold
in gentle snowfall. And
I worry about the heart.
Why does it feel like
impending illness
when all I want to
do is snort-laugh
with you all through
the night?

To Sara (From DQ)

Wouldn’t call myself wild. Wouldn’t last a day–
before you, another home I thought’d be forever.

Some call my eyes crystal but I couldn’t predict
a future outside the shelter. I was scared yet still

nomadic to a fault– too eager to attach, I now
purr from afar– me, on a pillow on the carpet,

you, sipping coffee on the couch– just to say
I see you, I want to go there, just not yet.

I will never detail my past, its unimaginable
happenings that make me want to spill Cabernet

glasses, scatter shards of red on tile. I’m learning
to be comfortable in my surroundings, to love

and welcome love by others in this space. I leap
atop the cabinets to walk into your world, observe.

And at night I wait for you to lay in bed when,
at last, I can rest on your chest, close my eyes,

and be.

Buzz Burn

glass of prop champagne could
be a three thousand dollar shot

I can’t pay these costs the
moving parts all I want

is to buy you liquor an
André for us to drink

such fine and cheap champagne
in front of the camera I turn

to improv heroes and beg to
break the bottle I am stuck inside

of work yet warm in winter when
the bottle breaks I always crave


we are shapeshifters we believe
in the magic of night we blend
into shadows no one knows our
lust ogling us glowing knowing
yellow eyes watchful this world
we make our decisions the love
we choose to give and leave (oh,
the love we leave) in the light we
thought would blend into other
light but that is not the way the
sun operates it glints off car hot
metal to momentarily blind you
back into the shadows

James Croal Jackson (he/him) is a Filipino-American poet. He has a chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), and poems in Capsule Stories, SHARK REEF, and Ghost City Review. He edits The Mantle Poetry. Currently, he works in film production in Pittsburgh, PA.

Poetry Drawer: Grow the Fruit: Keep Your Balance: Hammer Nail and Wood by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal

Grow the Fruit

Some grew the fruit,
some paint it.
Some grew the fruit.
Some eat it.

Hard at work with
the harsh sun
at their back, the
workers toil.

The painter at
his workplace
or her workplace,
paints away.

The hungry with
the money
to afford it,
enjoy it.

The going gets
tough and the
worker applies
his and her

skill to make the
fruit grow and
gathers it for

The painter takes
a brush to
the canvas and
makes it live,

the fruit from the
fields, from the
vine; anoints it
with colour.

The consumer
buys it at
the price that he
or she can

afford. The fruit
is sweet and
and filling.

Poetry is
like fruit. It
can rot on the
page or be

the nourishment
the soul needs.
It satisfies
and provides.

Keep Your Balance

You try to keep your balance
as you are faltering
between vertigo and confusion
as a shower of light
washes out your eyes. The day
becomes night, you remain
clouded in your mind. You see
no clarity in the darkness
that rests in your soul. You seek
out the sun and the sweetness
of fruit. You keep your balance
tethering on the head of a pin.
You pray the year brings good
luck. You are daydreaming. You
are coming out of the abyss.
You believe the fortune cookie
and the wise words it chose just
for you. You are the river. You are
the chosen one. You are like the
tree with the sweetest fruit.

Hammer, Nail, and Wood

While we sleep
the hammer is at play,
nail and wood,
the hammering sounds,
a house is being built.

Early in
the morning, the sun is
still asleep,
the hammer does what
hammers do, pounds away.

Wooden and
metal handle, steelhead,
hammer, nail,
and wood. Walls, windows, doors
and fences being built.

Poetry Drawer: Dirty Devil Soul: The Freedom of Dreams: So Cold Here and There: Your Flanks by John Tustin

Dirty Devil Soul

I called you angel
Almost from the beginning.
You were
No angel,
The winds through the trees
Have whispered to me,
Dirty devil soul
Driving me to the brink
Of abdicating
Some of
My most tender dreams.

I try to think of the
Possibilities of the new her
And smile
But I can’t because
You stole that ability
Along with my dignity
And the bulk of my faith,
My heart

And now bloodless,
Sitting slumped
At the foot of
What was once
Our bed.

I will go home tonight,
Her voice on the phone
So fleet, so tender and so weary
Of the world.
Her cadence
Still in my mind,
I will

Open bottle after bottle
And imagine her body pressed to mine,
Her lips pursed and thirsty for mine,
Her ears opened and hungry
For the aural dance of my words.
I won’t think of you for more than a dry rustling

Her eyes are there when I close them
And I suffer knowing I am
Without much hope,
Admitting my meritless existence
Would only erode her heart
Like water on a stone
But maybe
Just maybe it’s different
This time.

Different than every

I contemplate that
And I pretend her
And I smile
But because of you
It’s a smaller smile
And when I see it in the mirror
I call myself
A no good

The Freedom of Dreams

Just in from the rain,
Hair dripping down,
Popping open a beer
And sitting in front of the window,
The darkened sky staring back,
Wet and tired
In a home that does not belong to me.

Beard wet with rain and sadness,
The night stalks on.
I close the blinds
And turn on the music,
Hoping the room will vibrate
With the clicking of the keyboard,
The filling of the virtual page
On the computer screen,
Knowing it probably won’t
But hoping anyway.

Begging for your love
Like a beggar begs for coins,
A waif begs for bread,
A homeless cur begs
To see another sun
As he shivers through another night
On the street.

Your love is a viola
From the hallway.
Your love is vines of crisp black hair
Pulling me toward the light.
Your love is tears on the page,
Blood on the cage,
The freedom of dreams,
The vast expanse of fantastical imagining.
Your love is your legs stretched out along the bed
As I caress them from top to bottom,
Knowing I have wanted them before I knew
You existed.

My heart bursts in the air
In spirals of sparks and colours
When you love me.
When you love me.
But now I am alone.

The rain picks up as the night carries on.
The beer is gone.
I fall naked to the bed
With my snarling mind
And my broken feet,
My hair dry now,
No music in my ears,
The words unwritten

As I wait for your eyes to meet my eyes
When I close them
Until the morning.

I am only free
In the dreams I make
But cannot remember.
Somehow I know
You are there
In these unremembered dreams
And you are holding me
And we are safe and home
And that is why
I am free there
And want to stay there
Even when another morning

So Cold Here and There

It’s so cold here
And I cannot afford to turn up the heat
So I shiver and open another bottle of beer
While listening to Caruso sing Je Crois Entendre Encore
in Italian then in French
And thinking about your own loneliness
And how cold you must be
Huddled in your bed with small dogs and your
Casual loneliness
As a wind so much colder
Than the wind that freezes my feet hits you
As I drink and type,
Not knowing what Caruso is singing
But liking it as much
As I like imagining
Your open legs
And open smile
Even though you’re so cold right now
Where you are,
Without me.

Your Flanks

Now you are here
With your flanks in my bed
I imagine
While William Bell sings
“You Don’t Miss Your Water”.
I listen while I vomit,
Waiting to finish so I can drink a little bit more.

All this American music coming from the church
Or from avoiding church
And the Louvin Brothers might have thought
That Satan is real
But I know better

As I hang upside down
Listening to The Christian Life
And knowing that, at most,
Jesus was a good guy

And I imagine that you are here,
Naked and wonderful,
Your flanks in my bed
And half as beautiful as Parsons and McGuinn harmonizing

In a mere moment
Before life does not matter much again
For 8 hours

Or more.

John Tustin Poetry

Poetry Drawer: The Trouble with Pronouns: Basket Weave by Robert Demaree

The Trouble with Pronouns

Two reasons to avoid pronouns:
First, inclusiveness,
Something preachers have learned:
God has God’s plan for God’s people.
Second, liability.
Legal makes you spell things out:
Do not take Zoltoff
If you are allergic to Zoltoff
Or to the ingredients in Zoltoff.

But then new uses for familiar words,
A way of saying who you are:
She, her, he, him, they, them.

The school association was meeting
In Chattanooga.
This was 1960.
The Latin teachers were packed
Into a tiny hotel room
To hear a paper on some obscure grammar.
A man about 40, a priest, I think,
Turned to the group, smiling
As if to reveal a monstrous secret:
You know the trouble
With the relative pronoun,
Don’t you:
They don’t always agree.

Basket Weave

Memory, that persistent puff of lint
Caught on the edge of the kitchen counter,
Preserved to no good use:
At the supermarket I lurk
While my wife considers cleansers,
Idly eyeing a shelf of
White plastic waste baskets.
Where in the world, a clerk once asked,
Did you find that beautiful basket-weave?
This was 40 years past,
In a discount store long since
Gone belly up,
Many towns and houses ago,
Along Route One,
Strip malls bulldozed out for condos,
Maybe just inside Fairfax County.
What has become of the
Basket-weave waste can
We bought that day
And the woman who sold it to us,
Remembered out of so much not,
How many check-out lines stood in,
How many white waste baskets yet to buy?

Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.

Poetry Drawer: Golden Eye by Amber Miles

Golden Eye

“Riches will rain,” the beast declared
And heard their whispered dreams.
With golden eye, he watched them work—
A charge atop the beams.

The dragon’s breath did light the fuse
But to their feet, no rain.
In dragon’s wings, the treasure piled
While flames consumed the plains.

“Your wings could blow the fire all down,”
Their cries cut through his glee.
“Just douse your hearths,” he fired back.
“It’s no concern to me.”

The village fell around the spoils.
The flames grew stronger still.
The dragon stayed and swam in fire.
No treasure would he spill.

Poetry Drawer: Four Poems by Neil Leadbeater

Lightbulb Moments II

Chadwick’s neutron, Fleming’s penicillin
and Dalton’s law of multiple proportion
was a GLS BC/B22 Opal Energizer
lightbulb moment.

Orville and Wilbur Wright’s petrol-driven aeroplane,
Daimler’s petrol-driven car and Becquerel discovering
the principles of photo-electric cells
was a JCB LED Built To Last instant start
lightbulb moment.

Cartwright’s power loom, Davy’s safety lamp
and Newton discovering the laws of gravity
was a Halogen linear instant full light 240 watt
lightbulb moment.

The invention of the lightbulb by Thomas Edison
and Joseph Swan
was an incandescent tungsten filament
lightbulb moment.

This poem is a white wax sentinel night light
with eight hours to burn.

Unslaked Summer

Punch-drunk in Rio you want the first breeze that comes along
to sweep you off your feet; whirlwind love
in the eye of the storm-
that burning testament of human endeavour
that opens windows on
a man and a woman
who are in the territory of the deeply-loved
will outlast all ends.


Dangerous in daylight
you stray into Lapa.
It’s just to look at the Arches
built in the time of the Viceroys-
to stand and behold
the narrow gauge streetcars
rumbling above
but it straddles a haven for muggers;
hop-heads, filchers;
land-rats; drunks
so you spend the day
jumping at shadows:
learn to live in terror
back pinned to the wall.

On The Forlorn Apathy of Summer Air

You never get used to this weather
the sort that says
what’s the point of tightening up
those isobars then throwing
away the spanner…
even the weather girl
has run out of passion
she leaves you thirsting for
rainy day showers
Jacuzzi skies
the hip-hop sparkle of wave water
careening into the Bay.

Poetry Drawer: Waiting Only For Spring: Diane: When They Go: The Chemical Fire: The Next Day by Holly Day

Waiting Only For Spring

We point out all the different birds to each other
like teenagers naming constellations:
anhinga, gold finch, chickadee
tiny juncos
entranced by the influx of new life along the river
summoned by the melting ice.

The air is filled with their tiny songs of joy
as clouds of insects rise from thawing mud
as though they had been frozen in just that spot
dormant and sleeping all winter long.


When I was 13, my best friend was a rock. I used to carry it with me everywhere
small and round in my hand, dream of having the courage
to hurl it at people who said nasty things about me. My palm polished it
to a near-reflective point, I could almost see myself in its surface
see myself the way I wanted everyone else to see me
or really, not see me at all.

If I had been cooler, my best friend would have been a rock
but I’m just lying, because really, it was just another girl
who didn’t actually like me, got me into all sorts of trouble
things she could walk away from but I couldn’t. If I had had a rock for a friend
instead of that girl, the one who ruined everything
things would have ended up differently. It would have been better.
I would have been better. I know I would.

When They Go

I open my arms and call my children to me, remind them
that nothing bad ever happens so long as I’m holding them.
My daughter wrinkles her nose at me and rolls her eyes, my son
just ignores me and walks away. I am no longer regarded as sanctuary
a bulwark against precocious misery and frustration, they don’t need me at all.
I close my arms, wrap myself in an empty embrace

dream of being the sort of mother children flock to unquestioningly
a fish mother who opens her maw to engulf hordes of trusting fry
a scorpion mother carrying her ravenous children across the hot desert
a snake mother nested in a knot of wriggling coils of tiny tails and teeth
all of these things but what I am: incomplete without a tiny hand in mine
a sweaty head pressed against my chest, the constant need that only I can fulfil.

The Chemical Fire

they found the dead janitor in the back of the warehouse
curled around himself as if against the cold. His skin
came off in handfuls of ash when they tried
to move him

black, greasy ash that would not wash off.

the two boys who first found him had gone through his pockets
only to have what remained of clothes, his wallet, disintegrate as well
dried out past leather, his face was barely recognisable
as human

mouth stretched out in a forever scream.

The Next Day

The alarm went off and we found that the world
hadn’t ended, that all the ramblings of the church elders
weren’t true. My husband sighed and rolled out of bed
found there were only dirty clothes left for him to wear
sighed again, dressed, went to work.

I could hear birds chirping in the yard
a squirrel on the roof, cars
passing on the road out front.
I held onto my dreams of apocalypse
for a few moments longer, savouring vision
of the angels, the devastation
that could still be waiting just outside the door.

Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review. Her newest poetry collections are Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing), Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), and The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press).

Poetry Drawer: In the meekest dreamery by Paweł Markiewicz

the dreamed red sun of the morning –
thus I get tender letters.
On wings of the morning glow –
I fly into lands of butterfly-like hearts.
In my vans – the poesy is indeed fulfilled.
I am looking at starry starlit moonlit night –
each starlets enchanting me on ways into ontology.
The silvery fantasy – heralds my ways to the dreamiest moon.
I am seeking the brightest star – the philosophical
as well as druidically poetical.
I will become blissful and Apollonian.
A meek elf showing me the moon
full of comet dust – the ambrosia
for dreaming souls.
Long live my auntie – the sibyl
with propitiously weird

Paweł Markiewicz was born 1983 in Poland (Siemiatycze). His English haikus and short poems are published by Ginyu (Tokyo), Atlas Poetica (USA), The Cherita (UK), Tajmahal Review (India) and Better Than Starbucks (USA). More of Paweł ’s work can be found on Blog Nostics.