Friday, December 29, 2023

Gin and Tonics By Holly Payne-Strange


There’s something special 

About a good gin and tonic. 

Smooth as date ready legs,

And a bite

Like a joke that lands too close to home. 

A little bitter sometimes, 

An acquired taste. 

I like it like that. 

I like the weird, the strange, the 


And when you take it like a shot 

(Bad idea. But it’s how I met my wife)

It has one hell of a burn.

I like that too. 

I like it when it takes 

More than it gives. 

And when there’s nothing left, 

Nothing but a whisper at the back of your throat,

The memory of good times and how great it made you feel…

Hell yeah I want another one.  

If I didn’t 

I’d drink 

Carrot juice. 

PS: This poem is about 


Holly Payne-Strange (she/her) is a novelist, poet and podcast creator. Her writing has been lauded by USA Today, LA weekly and The New York Times. Her  next novel, All Of Us Alone, will be a recommended read for Women Writers, Women’s Books in December 2023.  She’s had her poetry published by various groups  including  Door Is A Jar magazine, In Parenthesis, Dipity Lit Magazine, and will soon be featured in Academy Heart, among others.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

I Claim This by Connie Johnson

You have a drink in your hand

And a mouth unkissed. You are

Moored to no one and no one

Claims you.


You’re the poison of sunblaze

And my skin is ignited

But I claim you.


I am my own remedy

A two/three finger reality

We are filtered with stars

We are immortal.


We roam; we smile faintly

When I kiss you, you’ll feel it

In this hurtled-thru landscape

Of scars and stars.

Connie Johnson is a Los Angeles, California-based writer whose  poetry has appeared or will be forthcoming in Iconoclast, Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Jerry Jazz Musician, San Pedro River Review, Cholla Needles 85, The Rye Whiskey Review, Shot Glass Journal, Voicemail Poems, Misfit Magazine, Mudfish 23, Exit 13, Glint Literary Journal,  and Door Is a Jar.    

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Tango with me By Thomas A. Thrun

Push the chairs

and the cafe tables

back against the wall.

Tango with me on the 

black and white 

tiled floor.  Tangle

your legs with mine 

where on a sultry

hot summer’s night 

the air blows the 

cafe's curtains, and 

your skirt billows and

flows to the tense beat

of the tango music

still heard in the dark

up the back stairs.

Thomas A. Thrun, a former weekly newspaper editor in Wisconsin and Washington State, recently was diagnosed in his retirement, with T2 diabetes, with complications of neuropathy to his legs and feet.  Not to mention sever weight and muscle loss, along with arthritis now in his spine.  His beer intake now is limited, but a shot of whiskey or Wisconsin brandy still go down fine.  Look for him in the 2024 Wisconsin Poets' Calendar.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

4:75 PM In the Afternoon by Rich Boucher

I got lost for all of my life for about a half an hour
trying to find the city library
and found myself at the cruel intersection 
of Saint Utah Street and Central Avenue; a hooker brunette
in Salvador Dali mascara and shiny mauve hot pants
glared at me in an accusingly and inviting way
on the southeast corner and the mountains behind her 
looked like they were gritting disgusted teeth;
diagonally across the way from her 
I watched a tall, filthy brown quilt 
shuffle unsteadily at Jim Beam miles per hour
along a chain link fence that shivered in the wind we had;
shivered in the wind we had, did that chain link fence 
and so goddammit did I. I lost the library
and I’d never even been there. Was supposed to be there
for a dear friend’s book release and at this point
I was already late beyond belief
and it was already 4:75 pm in the afternoon
and the Sun was already tired of watching me and you and us
and the Sun wasn't yellow anymore; there's a moment
high up in the late afternoon when the Sun's true color
can be seen, but only by people who just died or who are currently dying 
or who are currently killing somebody else
and at four thousand pm in the afternoon
the Sun was already clocking out and ducking behind the hills on the horizon
and that’s when horror was; that’s when revulsion was truly my why;
that’s when the light turned green 
and I stopped daydreaming 
and that’s when the gas was pressed on by my foot;
stinking diesel smell creeping in the car 
through the slit where I cracked the window
like the stink of the last swallow of Bud Light 
in the red solo cup on the back steps 
the morning after the party that began that raged that never ended
and that’s when I spied a different hooker 
a block away in some other direction,
this one with dirty blonde hair 
and makeup so awfully smeared
it looked like her face was trying to float away from her
and she was staggering down the street arms thrust out
in front of her shaking something off her hands, 
maybe prayers that hurt when they touched her skin
and she was hysterically sobbing
and I came within an inch 
of hitting the rear bumper 
of the tow truck in front of me
because her tears interested me 
but also made me feel guilty 
for my good fortunes
and also for first noticing her body 
first of first of first of all: 
did you know there’s an angel you can pray to
who watches over plastic bags full of shit caught up in chain link fences?
Did you know there’s an angel whose job is to listen 
to the prayers of people who get lost in the bad parts of cities,
who suddenly find themselves being spoken to by pimps at red lights?
Do you happen to know the name of the angel 
who records in that big, black, falling apart 
and dusty library book of life 
the first time each of us sees the color red? 
Can you get a hold of her for me?

Rich Boucher resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Rich’s poems have appeared in The Nervous Breakdown, Eighteen Seventy, Menacing Hedge, Drunk Monkeys, Pink Disco and Cultural Weekly, among others. Rich serves as Associate Editor for the online literary magazine BOMBFIRE. He is the author of All Of This Candy Belongs To Me, a collection of poems published by Jules’ Poetry Playhouse Publications. Peep for more. He loves his life with his love Leann and their sweet cat Callie.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Still Want to Do This? By Don Robishaw

Under the Christmas tree sat a Lionel model train set. 

                Later that morning, a boy named Donahue hopped his first boxcar, 

rode five miles on top, and walked home in a blizzard.            

~ ~ ~

Many years after, in a railyard on the east coast of the US, Donahue meets a stranger: Larry wakes to the drumming sound of a freighter coming to an abrupt jolt, shake, and halt. He hasn’t been riding rails long and sudden momentum swings freak him out.

Pinkerton head bangers patrol the yards, banging their batons on the sides of boxcars, adding to the ambience. Based on folklore or legend, he got hold of an agent’s bloody baton, sending the big bull and his dark blue uniform to early retirement.

How many days has Larry been in a hot, smelly freight car? A skull injury from a fall from a moving train turned his memories into a sieve. He was told his memory might improve.

He sits surrounded by a rough wooden deck inside a faded red boxcar. Can’t remember how he got here. He’s been on the move for a while.

Donahue wakes to the beat of a different drummer. Neither hobo nor wanderer, works overseas as Lead Service Rep for a consortium of companies who want to do business in Southeast Asia after the war. They're going to take an enormous loss in this venture, if it fails. When in the US, he continues to ride the rail. Been riding rails since his pre-teen days. He loves it.

He shoves off the opposite side-wall, rolls across the deck, and stands tall. With both palms, he pushes his wavy black hair backward and faces Larry. “Here we are.”


“The crossroads, man. Time to ditch this train.”

“When you get to a fork in the road, pick it up,” says Larry.

Donahue laughs and slaps his belly. He left the east coast near the start of his home leave. In a yard outside the Big Apple; he bumped into this stranger. They’ve been doubled-up and free riding across the US, stopping in places they’ll never be again.

Before he returns overseas, he needs to fill a short-term sales position, to help him open business opportunities in Viet Nam and the rest of Southeast Asia. No success as yet. Donahue has a soft spot for veterans and promises his companion a job if he cleans up his act, locates his passport, and gets a visa in time.

Larry, a former army interrogator/interpreter, still speaks fluent Vietnamese. As an African American father of a daughter in Vietnam, he’s heard discrimination stories and wants to find and bring her back to the US.

~ ~ ~

Two weeks later, they meet at the LA airport and go straight to a row of blue and red lockers on the main deck. Mr. Johnson shows up a new man. Amazing what a full head and face shave and new clothes can do for a man. Donahue removes a key from his special shoe and grabs a thick manila envelope from the locker.

Next, they make their way to the lounge and wait to board flight 770 to Bangkok. “Two Pilsners and a bowl of pretzels.”

“I used to eat them with yellow mustard. Pretty damn good,” says Larry.
“This week, an authentic original Pilsner Urquell on tap,” states Greta, the bartender.

“You’ll love it, man.” Pushing his black hair back, he grabs a brass rail, vaults high over and deep into a lush brown adjustable seat.

“Five-point-six percent alcohol. Made in the city of Pilsen, in the Bohemian style,” she adds.

Donahue raises a stein to his nose, inhales hops and barley, downs half the glass, and eats two mustard flavored mini-pretzels. He possesses a friendly side when he drinks.

Larry says, “you love your brew, sir.”

“As much as I dig riding the rails.” Upper lip and black handle bar stash crusted with foam. “Told you before, don’t call me that. We left the military a long time ago. Donahue was a reserve officer.

“Sorry, Mr. Donahue.” He squeezes his temple and shakes his head. After a few beers, a flight delay, shots of Hennessy arrive. Two men raise their glasses.

“Cheers! How did you get my paperwork so fast?”

“Ever hear of Mad Dog Carlson?”

“The General? He was a legend.”

“Retired. He got me in the National Guards. Still capable of pulling a few strings, even with the State Department.”

Larry asks, “where’s my papers?”

“Inside the locker with your per diem check.”

He rubs his palms.

“Set everything in motion beforehand.” He stares into Larry’s eyes. “You’re okay with this, right?”

“You can rely on me, sir. I’m clean. Memory is coming back too. Do you carry your passport on the freighters?”

“Hell no. Gave a buddy cash and paperwork for the airport storage unit. He buys a ticket, as everyone else does. Travel with no bread and no documents while riding the rails.”

“You are a crazy bastard, too.”

“Take after my uncle.” Eye-to-eye. “Still wanna do this? Go back to The Nam?”

The sound of clanging glasses and other sounds come from the kitchen. He takes a deep breath. Voices and music from the past enter Larry’s mind. He inhales again, holds, and exhales. It’s 1968. His first time in a bar, drinking a beer, and seeing her face. A shy boy and the first of many new experiences. He inhales and exhales.
Larry’s on a mission. He wants to find his daughter before Christmas and bring her stateside. Many Amerasian children have it rough growing up in Southeast Asia and in the US. He's committed to do whatever it takes to be a proper dad. He thinks it’s not too late.

Don Robishaw’s collection of five FF tales found in, ‘Bad Road Ahead’ was the Grand Winner in Defenestrationism, 2020 Flash Fiction Suite Contest.

Don’s short story entitled,’Bad Paper Odyssey’ was a semi-finalist in Digging Through the Fat 2018 Chapbook Contest.

Monday, December 18, 2023

The Hard Stuff By J.D. Isip

The smell could make your eyes hurt. You believed
it would take the varnish off the kitchen table. Nothing
could make you take a sip back then. Back when dad
would cup the snifter under your nose, “Take a drink,
son,” he’d tease, watching you squirm. “A real man,”
he would say, as your brother moved you aside, “Drinks
what he’s given.” When my brother lost the first baby,
he didn’t make a big deal. My father is dying, slowly,
but he doesn’t mention it. “It burns! Oh god, it burns!”
I say about most of this life. Because it does. It does.

J.D. Isip’s full-length poetry collections include Kissing the Wound (Moon Tide Press, 2023) and Pocketing Feathers (Sadie Girl Press, 2015). His third collection, tentatively titled I Wasn’t Finished, will be released by Moon Tide Press in early 2025. J.D. lives in Texas with his dogs, Ivy and Bucky.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

High Fidelity Reflection By Mike Zone

reflecting on

things said

things did

to you

for you

and what all that meant

what we ultimately meant

to you

how the silence screamed

through my bones

into my soul

whiskey in hand

the quiet

no longer

comforts me

Mike Zone is the Editor in Chief of Dumpster Fire Press, the author of Fuck You: A Fucking Poetry Chap, Shedding Dark Places (almost), One Hell of a Muse , as well as coauthor of The Grind. A frequent contributor to Alien Buddha Press and Mad Swirl. His work has been featured in: Horror Sleaze Trash, Better Than Starbucks, Piker Press, Punk Noir Magazine, Synchronized Chaos, Outlaw Poetry and Cult Culture magazine

Friday, December 15, 2023

Sunset By John Drudge


Abstract sensuality

An ecstasy of beauty

And truer forms 

Of meaning

Luminous realities

Of skin and touch

The allure

Of altered states

Of love and lust

And the inevitability

Of your leaving

Fading over 

Homeward horizons

As I sink back

Into the ocean

Like the sun

John is a social worker working in the field of disability management and holds degrees in social work, rehabilitation services, and psychology.  He is the author of five books of poetry: “March” (2019), “The Seasons of Us” (2019), New Days (2020), Fragments (2021), and A Long Walk (2023). His work has appeared widely in numerous literary journals, magazines, and anthologies internationally. John is also a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee and lives in Caledon Ontario, Canada with his wife and two children.


Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Enablers By Alec Solomita

I like enablers. If it weren’t for them,

I probably wouldn’t be drinking anymore.

Alec Solomita is a writer working in the Boston area. His fiction has appeared in

the Southwest Review, The Mississippi Review, Southword Journal, among other publications.

He was shortlisted by the Bridport Prize and Southword Journal. His poetry

has appeared in Poetica, MockingHeart Journal, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Amethyst Review, The Lake, The Galway Review, and elsewhere, including several anthologies.

His poetry chapbook “Do Not Forsake Me,” was published in 2017. His full-length poetry book, “Hard To Be a Hero,” was released by Kelsay Books in the spring of 2021.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Song for Sinners I Hope the Good Lord Allows into Heaven By John Doyle

Dreams are this tapestry 

a fading horse drew from dust

made limp in the Arizona rain, I see it creep all over me -

I am immune to such things,

but each night I pray to Jesus to rid my rib of guilt

is a night closer to a church perched on dawn’s succor;

the music Poseidon maybe made

through his drizzle-blur despair dwindles

though my sorry hinterland, standing

excused by lightbulbs smashed on floors of

boys whose fathers named them names of men

Jesus said were leaving redemption behind

in a garden

sinners painted whiter than a eucharist.

Penises and sadness along a water coloured sidewalk -

these mean nothing to a man who pretends everything is everlasting.

Heartless blue and water-cool windows

are a reminder of letters moaning for their words

on that white line they said they’d follow - follow

'til that jet landed and the planets imploded in alphabetical order.

The man in the short-sleeve mildew shirt

rivets his polystyrene pants around his simple carcass,

he has yet to die, yet his decay

climbs viciously up my nose,

watching him nudge his car onto my eyes

and beyond

a stinking horizon; a wingless sparrowhawk - a brother-in-law’s lawless funeral

every time the sun dared me to rise,

drugstore keys that wailed a jackal's pleas on his belt loops, and I watched

his inoffensive car plough through his cataract mirrors

like a small bullet-circled lamb

silver promised me would never wither in to gold,

88 kinfolk down at County morgue - dead-end chronology strangled in a trash-can newspaper -

guess they're cracking down on boxcar riders,

their Christ-yellowed skin

my horoscopes patch into lyrics for a dobro's darkest song.

Poetry shoots like asteroids.

New Mexico's

lightning symphony for midnight's flashing embers

feigns purple darks of rain-dribbled night,

a bloodless horse of passion the wild-lipped son of God

choose to trample dandelions in the dirty snow.

I prayed that February sundown, in the trembled fawns of 1980

as I prayed all that mongrel month of May, its ivy haunting 1974;

"Lord" I hollered, "take care of our bonny brother Ronald", his head like a 

viper choking on the gearstick's wilderness.

When he skipped Freo’s bulging wrecks on wheels that spat cold-blue lightning

I knew a hundred prayers couldn't match those one hundred and one

we'd set aside for the daughters made daughterless 

by a bone-emptied man's song of Winter's failures.

Rusted truck who slumbers in a field near Mandan, North Dakota -

sing for us a decade of the Rosary

and a song that sparkled like diamonds

when a fat-face tourist tugged at his sagging shorts 

and an avalanche crippled the souls of his children.

The hyenas have savaged the elk now, nothing speaks of a dreamer's love

more pale than morse code hammered on its carrion,

nothing tells me the city will someday burn

more than blood climbing on its subway tiles.

All these things mean nothing - or at least have a limited lifespan of relevance,

the script's an empty room of a dead person, 

who died the day before I started painting walls in the hospital;

looking across this piazza, an hour's consideration's

sweet and gorgeous like sunrise illuminating a peach, 

pigeons gathering in peace at a European church-spier.

The pink shop-front walls on the gorgeous eternity are black and limitless

for me,

driving home from all day shifts

life is a clutch of warm-brown dandelions Merton glazed his toes upon


Half man, half creature of very odd habit, John Doyle dabbles in poetry when other forms of alchemy and whatnot just don't meet his creative needs. From County Kildare in Ireland, he is (let's just politely say) closer to 50 than 21.

Drunk Haze by George Gad Economou

swilling down bourbon till the very end of memories,  stumbling my way out of the barroom engirdled by fancy dinner-goers in a bar not for d...