Poetry Unplugged

Branding Branders


Is there anything more to life-creation

than mechanistic murder?


Consider anyone’s darling,

some steamy union’s hapless fruit


that plumpened until it was time to be pushed

out into Adam’s lost Eden,


a punitive state of perpetual peril

where every arrival is left in the lurch


and the ultimate prospect is soil enrichment

and embedment beneath tended turf.


If guilt is assuaged by supposing your loves

are bound for compensatory bliss


since anything less would be wrong,

overriding all proud celebrations of birth


a constant chorus of hopeless keenings

keeps bewailing new tributes to earth.


So whenever I hear they’re out fighting crime,

I recall what creation’s Creator said


about whom to finger first.


Poems by Tom Merrill have recently appeared in two novels as epigraphs. His latest book, Time in Eternity, can be purchased from Ancient Cypress Press.



Burned my fingers

on the oven’s crusted shelf.


Plunged my hand

into ice water. Heard insistent


ringing. Knew it was you

calling from work


but didn’t touch

the dirty white phone.



Barbara Daniels’ book Rose Fever was published by WordTech Press. Talk to the Lioness is forthcoming from Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. Daniels’ poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, and other journals.

Wide Awake


Ghosts of memories.

Memories of ghosts.

What separates the two

when one is haunted by both?


Walls utter obscenities 

while preparing for the stranglehold.

Nowhere to run.

Embrace it.


Decorate this room with cheap ornaments 

that remind you of a life you never lived.

Populate it with your poignant pestilence.

How profound.


This is no normal nightmare.


I’m enjoying myself.

In situations like these

regular people hurl horrific howls at the sky 

and ask why, but not irregular me.


Invite death over for dinner and ask him

how’s life?

with that stupid smirk on your face.

Then give him a hug.

How smug.


This is no normal nightmare.


Tell him you’ll see him when you see him.

No rush, but also, don’t be a stranger.

You get lonely and enjoy the company.


One day you, him, those ghastly reminders

and those walls that close in

can get together for some cards and cigars

and yuck it up about the good ol’ days

that exist the same way the yeti does.


This is no normal nightmare.


For Heaven’s sake,

I’m wide awake.

J. Thomas lives just outside Philadelphia with his wife and two cats.

Lady Peony


I emerge stillborn, misshapen. Exit life tearing mother’s

Camellia-pink insides: squelching wet, bleeding in

Scarlet spurts. Blood bubbles, metal smelt

On nitrile gloves, powder-blue, rubber snaps. By God, I have

Ruined her. Skin seared, scar stretching on lower belly where the

Skin wrinkles like milk-curdle, melting candelilla wax.

Flesh perforations, collagen pinstripes as

Dashed and dotted lines. It was me, I was the assailant.

I flash my thorn-teeth and bloom:

At last, spring, with meek and wiley April maiden sends her

Rain, hateful drizzling over parched soil.



Emily Tsai is an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park. This is her first publication.



We’ll go easy on him since he’s young

He’ll learn it is alright

It will be okay


When he’s a big scary adult


We’ll squish him like a plump grape


And all the crimes of his youth

Sealed and expunged at the moment of his rebirth

Will be exhumed

Set ablaze

Held aloft

A torch

To light his way into hell



K. Alex Mills spent eight years getting a PhD in Computer Science. Now he is paid to spend most of his time coaxing code into doing his bidding. This task requires little in the way of human language, so he writes poetry as a way of spending his leftover words.

All My Horses


Training by that graceful river

of snowmelt I tasted one Spring

I was made a trotter for country,

state fairs, famous tracks – Del


Mar, Downs, Belmont, Pimlico

the way to this different pasture

although seldom I finished last.

I haven’t gripped a bit in years,


heard silken jockeys pleading

to gallop quicker, take the cup,

satisfy our patron. In standing

sleep I don’t recall the trophy,


horseshoe of roses at my neck

in photos, racing for strangers

calling, calling my name so I

knew they loved not because


I’d win. On dams I never saw

I fathered ponies men desired.

Fillies and colts I dream jump

the starting gate, riders falling,


take the lead, each by a nose.

Unsaddled, all tie for first then

leap a fence, gaining now with

newborn ease escape to grass


by water I remember, without

halter, bell, whip, horse to beat.

They only graze and drink and

rest even when they bolt in joy.



Nels Hanson’s fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award and Pushcart nominations in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016. His poems received a 2014 Pushcart nomination, Sharkpack Poetry Review’s 2014 Prospero Prize, and 2015 and 2016 Best of the Net nominations.

A Waterfall 1910 by John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)

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