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"This is a photo that I painted over. Roberts Western World is a famous Honky Tonk bar located in downtown Nashville. It is well known among the "insider" crowd of music aficionados for discovering new talent in the country music field."
~Ed Rode, photographer

Laura Sobbott Ross



Chasing Ghosts in Charleston


Across cobblestones too notched

and pebbled for meandering,

the tour guide gives us the reason why

there are so many lost souls here.


Tragedy, he says.

His mouth forms the word

the way fever and high water

divide the spirit, sudden and startled

from it’s bones, leaving it to wander

and hold to grief like a stillborn baby,

or the limpets encrusting ancient seawalls.


There is music in the air and the cadence

of lit windows down every storied block.

The clattering of glass and silver and footsteps

stirs the dead air from the corners like a chime.

Tourists still lose earrings while trekking

through the old jail and take pictures in graveyards

at night, hoping for a smudge beyond

the camera lens to manifest into the ghosts

of squandered fortunes and consumption,

lovers lost when the mouths of cannons

were still rimmed in smoke and gunpowder.


We pass a crypt that suffocated a child

awakened from a coma

and headstones jostled by earthquakes.

There is a bed that was buried whole

with the woman who died in it.

Four carved posts still spire from the grave

because no one had wanted to touch

what they could not define.

And another soul was left to rise

from beneath her sheets,

and remember, and remember, and remember,

as if longing were a state of eternal limbo,

beneath the sway of gray moss in trees.





Smoke and Angels


My father kept German Shepherds,

dogs named for gods and kings

kneeling at his side in old photographs.


How exquisite the residue of tobacco leaf

where his fingers stroked their throats

and eager offerings of underbelly.


My father's scent defied wind. Ethereal

as smoke, it was a cell in every blade of grass,

a howl in a wilderness ancient as blood to which


those fierce and nodding dogs would acquiesce.

We, the yellow haired children of the house 

tottered between the hierarchy of dog to man,


became the sweet burden of early morning walks,

unearthed bones nosed beneath banana trees,

trampled the hibiscus with comprehending eyes


and drooling mouths and were never scolded for it.

Those dogs granted us an inroad, were satisfied

with the bits of barbequed meat tossed their way,


charred the way my father liked it.

They moved like cloud shadows across the patio,

dozed warm as sunlight on the cushions.


Where we they when he died?

Some green, green place without fences—

sniffing out the scent of Bolivar cigars.





Oscar, the Death Cat


Inspired from an article in the New England Journal of Medicine about a cat that seems to be able to predict the death of patients.


If they had awakened, they might have remembered

a trail of tiny footsteps flowering the hallway


and a certainty beyond soft music,

dimmed lights, aromatherapy, intravenous tubes.


There was something poised there, as if to divine

the twilight from the room. It was whisker-thin,


exquisitely kinesthetic— a shaft of light so ticklish

it might have gleaned a reflex from beneath


their blue-white skin. Who knew death wore a bell,

had green eyes, or an underbelly as creamy as a patch of sun?


And there was that sound, yes that particular sound,

somewhere between fire in a hearth and falling snow—


how it whirred and nuzzled and lulled like a spell

under which they would each fall in due time—


breathlessly, into the murmuring softness

that curled around them like a downy nest,


growing warmer as they fell deeper—

past the emerald portals,


the sandpapery effacement of darkness,

into the vast, silken furor of goodbye.



Laura Sobbott Ross is a freelance architectural designer. She was recently nominated for a 2007 Pushcart Prize, and has poetry published in New Millennium Writings, The Arkansas Review, The White Pelican Review, Kalliope, The Caribbean Writer, and the Baker's Dozen Literary Review, among others. She has poems forthcoming in The Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Wild Violet and The William and Mary Review. She also placed first for poetry in the 2006 Mount Dora, Florida Literary Festival and the Great Blue Beacon.


Scott Owens



13 Ways of Jars



Quart jars lined the shelves

around the kitchen, mouths

open, waiting to be filled.



During the storm the kitchen

became a tempest of jars,

wind pushing everything open,

pulling everything down.

From beneath the table

she watched the floor become

a sheet of shattered glass.

For weeks, touching anything

buried slivers beneath the skin.



You stole pennies from her dark

antique jar, buried them

near the well house, drew maps

to buried treasure, 13 cents

your brothers found and you got switched for.



He rose early to gather grasshoppers

for fishing, felt the velvet cling of insect legs

as he put them in or pulled them out.



She hid here once

where no one else dared

in her father’s hell of jars,

unborn faces of calves

pressed against glass,

tumors, amputated limbs,

gallstones, diseased organs.

They said they never

would have found her

if not for the screaming.



He kept the broken mirror

in a jar in the window,

so much glass reflecting light,

prism and starmaker,

seven years worth of luck,

charm against losing his way.



This one kept her urine

in jars.  This one clipped-off

fingernails, every last tooth,

sixty years of haircuts,

shaved skin of callouses

from hands and feet.

Each one his own peculiar collection.

Each one trying to save himself.



He tried saving the earth in jars,

sorted, compacted, stacked

on shelves, ready for consumption.



She gathered glass from the shore,

discovered 9 shades of blue,

10 yellows, 15 greens,

fell in love with the names

of glass: cobalt, cornflower,

citron, amber, aquamarine.

She coated windows, lined walls,

filled jars with shattered remains,

built a world that was always shining.



Loneliness, I have found a home

for you, put you in a jar to stay

safe and pure, untouched

by any blemish of desire.



She saved a jar full of rain

for any dry season she might have,

her own domeworld of wetness.




Who could imagine a jar

full of night -- the sound

of a whippoorwill like

blowing over a mouth of glass.



You know the jar waits

for the end of things,

the dessication of dreams.




A graduate of the UNCG MFA program, Scott Owens is the 2008 Visiting Writer at Catawba Valley Community College.  His first collection of poetry, The Fractured World, is due out from Main Street Rag in August.  He is also author of three chapbooks The Persistence of Faith (1993) from Sandstone Press, The Moon His Only Companion (CPR, 1994), and Deceptively Like a Sound (Dead Mule, 2008).   Scott Owens’ poems have appeared in Georgia Review, North American Review, Poetry East, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cimarron Review, Greensboro Review, Chattahoochee Review, Cream City Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Cottonwood, among others.  Born in Greenwood, SC, he now lives in Hickory, NC, where he teaches and coordinates the Poetry Hickory reading series.

Nicholas Ozment



About the Type



You know you hold a serious book

in your hand when it has a page

in the back About the Type.


Everything, it says, about this book

is a work of well-crafted art,

right down to the serifs on the letters

that form the sounds that make the words

that convey the author's thoughts to you.


About the Type is ninety-two characters

longer than About the Author

in the book I am reading,

so it must be important,


yet as I read how the designer interpreted

sixteenth-century typeface Bodoni

for digital typesetting


and how her font design has "classical proportions

with a strong feeling, softened

by rounded droplike serifs,"


I feel ignorant: I have never heard of Bodoni.

I confess I did not notice the type,

and to my untrained eye it looked

no different than the last ten books I read.


I stare closely at the droplike serifs,

but they look no more or less droplike

than other serifs I have slid along

in my flight for meaning.


If I opened it side by side with another book,

I'm sure I would see the difference,

but now I am wondering


about all the things I miss

as I speed through the day:

the care that went into the shelf

that holds my books, and the planning


behind where the stairs would go

in my two-story house,

and the thought that went into

the keyboard that I type this on,


and, outside my window,

Nature's design that makes the daylilies

in the garden bloom,

their strong feeling softened

by rounded droplike petals.





A Dying Poet, Mindful of His Legacy, to a Visiting Admirer



What should my last words be—

rhymed or blank, iambic or free?

Where is my muse?

<You, nurse, with all due respect,

are not her. Yes, you can take

that shit away. I'm done eating.>

Death row inmates

get a better last meal.

What was I saying?

I haven't said anything worth

quoting yet, have I?

The sum of my thoughts

in this crystalline moment—

all I can think of is the bed pan.

No, don't quote that!

Oh, go ahead if you must—

the just and the unjust,

rich and poor all suffer

the same ignominies

at death's door, and all that.

But that is a tired old theme.

A tired old theme.

My meter's running out.

Heh. That's a good one.

Well, goodbye.

Before you go, call my muse—

the nurse, I mean—

back for me.

I'll meet you again

(I hope) in an anthology.




Nicholas Ozment teaches English at Winona State University. His poems have appeared in numerous small-press publications over the past decade. Lately he is smoking CAO Sopranos Boss cigars. He lives in Minnesota with a wife who does not mind cigar smoke.


Jessica Barksdale Inclán


Birthday Fugue



Disturbed clouds wing the sky, my stomach

roils with migraine.


Yesterday, a wet drive up the coast

from a class I didn’t need.


These past two months living alone

in a house my husband wishes I’d never found.


Meanwhile, two voices, one called Stay, the other Go.

Stay is heavy, angry, strong, weighing in at three hundred pounds.


Go is the one with the wicked migraine.  She doesn’t

sleep.  She drives clutching the steering wheel as if there’s always a storm.


Go appears to be conscious, but Stay often has no

recollection of her, forgetting Go for days at a time.


Stay liked the class, asked questions, walked without an umbrella.

Go slumped in the corner, turned from the teacher, stared out the gray window.


Go wanted to leave early, cried in the bathroom.

Stay yanked her by her scruff, hissed, You’re forty-three.


Leave me alone, Go says every night to Stay.

You’re ruining my life, Stay says to Go.


Go rubs her forehead, moans, asks for help.

Stay rubs her round belly, demands more cake, more ice cream.


The wind throws acorns at the house, the car

slicks up the road.  The class is bad.  The candles burn out.


Stay calls her husband.  Go hangs up the phone

No one remembers anything.





Dream of Drowning



Not knowing what to grab, I grabbed a man

and then another, their bodies

turning to handles on a sinking boat.


Under water, the fish swam

by.  My hair a drift of brown

in the night sea, the moon

a wavery slash of white on my puckered skin.


Can you imagine how sorry I felt for myself, drowning

by no fault of my own—not my storm, not my journey,

not my idea this salt and water and wind―

clutching the handles, the wet wood pulling me under. 

Even the moon faded.


Remember the Indian wives, stars of flame

flickering on their husbands burning bodies,

suttees of failure?


Or what about this?  Remember the time when there was no boat,

no water, just you on that shore you cast

away from?


Finally, one hand slipped—oh how I missed

the wood against my palm.  And no, but no, not the other, and

then it was gone, too.


Did you know a blue whale’s heart is as big

as a Volkswagen?

Did you know that it can submerge for an

hour before needing a breath?


The last of my air bubbles burbled past my eyes.


I hung, wide-eyed, miserable,

so alive even as the bottom feeders

nibbled my shins, even as the whole

of the ocean closed over me, dark and full of stories.



Jessica Barksdale Inclán is the author of nine novels.



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