James Bates – fiction

Patchouli Oil

The stink of the diesel idling outside their apartment agitated the old man. His caregiver opened a vial of patchouli oil and wafted it under his nose. Instantly he calmed. A smile formed as he remembered the sixties, a long-haired, tie-dyed hippie in love with life and a flower child named Sunshine. Who became his wife. And caregiver. He watched as Sunshine breathed in the scented fragrance and put a scratched Jefferson Airplane album on the old turntable. Then she joined him on his lap and held him tight while Don’t You Want Somebody To Love played. It was perfect .





Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared online in CafeLitThe Writers’ Cafe MagazineCabinet of HeedParagraph Planet, Nailpolish Stories, Ariel Chart, Potato Soup Journal, Literary Yard, Spillwords, The Drabble and World of Myth Magazine, and in print publications: A Million Ways, Mused Literary Journal, Gleam Flash Fiction Anthology #2, The Best of CafeLit 8, Nativity Anthology by Bridge House Publishing and Gold Dust Magazine. You can also check out his blog to see more:


John L. Stanizzi – 2 poems


8.47 a.m.

47 degrees


Phoebes tend the woods around the pond this morning,

oratorical crankers of Feea-Beee…Feea-Beee.

Nobody, except the mourning doves with their squeaky wings, could use a

drop of WD-40 more than the rusted phoebes’ shrill songs of spring.





3.11 p.m.

59 degrees


Palazzo of mud and new grass, the green frog has

overdosed in the cool splendor of spring sun, and is

numbed by the heat on his rigid back.  Asleep, this

dappled creature is attainable, but why?  His sleep is more captivating.



John L. Stanizzi is author of the collections – Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, High Tide – Ebb Tide, Four Bits, and Chants.  His newest collection, Sundowning, will be out this year with Main Street Rag.  John’s poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, American Life in Poetry, The New York Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, Blue Mountain Review, The Cortland Review, Rattle, Tar River Poetry, Rust & Moth, Connecticut River Review, Hawk & Handsaw, and many others.  His work has been translated into Italian and appeared in many journals in Italy.  His translator is Angela D’Ambra.  John has read and venues all over New England, including the Mystic Arts Café, the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, Hartford Stage, and many others.  For many years, John coordinated the Fresh Voices Poetry Competition for Young Poets at Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, CT.  He is also a teaching artist for the national recitation contest, Poetry Out Loud.  A former New England Poet of the Year, John teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT and he lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry.

Simon Robson – 1 poem



Stooped over with a crooked bad back –
how many years building red sleeves at Jubilee Mail Centre
an hour early before your shift, no more terrorist outfits, Father Christmas,
a snowman, a ship’s captain, Woking, 2C Horizon, a crooked back,
saluting you, fellow workers,
a gallery of photos to treasure in your eventual retirement, Vaz –
how much time spent, bad smells up your nostrils, hooked nose, discarded anchovy and Marmite pizzas, pigeon shit, Post Office dust up your flat Sri Lankan Hoover
for a nose, clogging your arteries, sixty-eight years old, maybe you should stay on until you’re seventy.


A working life at JMC, collapsing cardboard boxes, work until you’re seventy,
Jubilee Royal Mail Direct to London Central, he’s retiring now,
prawn tikka massala for breakfast, pineapple jam, action women to distract him,
unwanted attention from the mental midget managers here at JMC,
playing chess with Jim in the canteen, your Sicilian defence strategy,
full of abuse and scorn for his limited efforts, unappreciated –
we appreciated you Vaz,
dressing up, pirates, ship’s captains, gold braids and cuff-links.


A terrorist outfit once, cardboard rifle, gun –
maybe you should have should have been Superman, running on kryptonite
just to confuse the managers, none of them able to raise a hard-on,
ten packets of Viagra, out of sight –
here’s to you on your eventual retirement,
raising a flag-pole in your pocket, a salute.



Simon Robson

Steven Edgar – 1 poem

On Hove beach

It was the night after the tornado

had torn the roof off Patrick Moore’s observatory.
The wind still coming from the south-west
drove the waves onto the beach,
shifting the tons of stones and shingle
that prompted an American tourist to ask
why we put such things on our beaches, why not just leave them as sand?


The esplanade, covered in parts with the stones,
in others cleared by people who possibly realise that their actions are futile
but who return the stones and other debris to the beach
only to come back the next day,
and the next to find that others have taken their place.


Me, I help them in their task by firing the odd shot,
with left or right, then turning to celebrate the goal alone.
Or, throwing into the foam of another wave,
unable to hear anything save the relentless wind and surf.


A creel lies at the foot of some steps, above the water for now,

broken in places and barely held together by its net meshing.

Further along the beach a couple of anglers stand watching their lines,

their light stronger than the three-quarter moon waxing towards completion,

only to topple over towards darkness in a few days.


Fish-heads and cuttlefish bones mark high tide against the sea wall

mixed in with the seaweed, food for the beach,

the stones which can only shrink, will never grow up, only older

until they become sand, to satisfy the American tourist.





Steven Edgar


M. A. Istvan Jr. – 1 poem

Queer Fish


suicide note: “Why go on

giving them the satisfaction

of another month’s rent?”


striving to achieve in life the agency

that most achieve only after death when

the wishes of their last wills become commands


she could not bring herself to finish

the book on her dead husband, it being

her way to avoid relinquishing him


pop music, pop holiday, observance to keep intact

the same reality that your radicality threatens to shatter;

sticking close to your country’s embassy in the alien land


returning home from having had to kill even children soldiers,

most likely he can barely stand the “Welcome home, hero” signs,

let alone the stick figures of him mowing down the bad guys


we used to thank God that we were there

to prepare the body for burial with our own hands,

but now we thank God for the opposite


the law on the proper way to communicate

sexual consent demands a “Yes” be given,

not a nod, a kiss back, or even a “Hai” or “Si”

sticking around only to show

you were not lying

about loving her

if the comedy club

were not dark, so often

we would be too afraid to laugh

forming memories

is a form of writing, and writing

is a form of forgetting

are albino fingers really magical?

vomiting upon the strangled face, hands still clenched


the taboo against masturbation is good for getting us out of the house


not unpacking, due to lack of trust in the situation


tattoos turning out to be mere testaments to manic episodes


bonds only with characters in movies watched again and again


shame sleep


scared to improvise,

knowing that improvising

reveals who you truly are


the present thief that is

lust for the future

often makes hell bearable


having failed at the compromise, you wonder

why you ever let fear stop you

from going after your dream


inspired by all the social media posts

of elk heads high, in innocence

he posts the trophy of his elephant hunt


behaviors not understood to be

consequences of racism cited

as justification for the racism


the whole summer vacation in a backyard tent

every experience here, no matter how exotic,

is always tinged with a sense of being regular:

the first taking of Christ’s body, the first bungee jump


rejecting the ugly

even as we cannot fathom

how people can reject a whole race


surprised to learn that the one

whom you could have sworn was gay

is the biggest skirt-chaser or them all


those who have died young

enabled by a culture

not wanting to fat-shame.






M. A. Istvan Jr., PhD, born and raised in a functioning ghost town (now turned hipster haven), has a gift for sensing the vibrational frequencies—the earth spirits, if you will—of even the densest flesh: tree, stone, mineral. A certified (but failed) forest-bathing therapist, Istvan writes best—bestial—faded into the backgrounds of brothels, tended to by the ladies for whom his focused presence proves that men can want—can be—something more. Most people stay out of Istvan’s vicinity. His hurried step, fierce expression, and wild hand gestures while speaking (speaking in what is perhaps best described as auditory cursive) set off the insanity-detectors ingrained in us by deep history.