A Good Cause
Feature Author Interview: Agate Nesaule
Poetry II
Poetry III
Fiction II
Fiction III
Cigar Lounge
Z's Reviews
J. Conrad's Reviews
Links & Resources
Submission Guidelines
Second Annual Short Story Contest Guidelines
The Editors

Photo courtesy of Jay Peasley


when I see you

by Gary Aker



it’s like heaven burns my eyes, my throat opens and the words pour out like cool water rushing happily over rocks. Sun glistens in your sea spray making rainbows where the sprite hides and music plays never heard, when you move in me, breathe into me and dance along a line between twilight and forever. Are you the stars in me or just the constellations kneeling in your hair, waiting for your head to turn, laugh, sway, nod, appear again around this part of the world turning.


and when I see you, never comes undone and always has a loud, hearty laugh like a giant chasing dragons that have been terrorizing the children, so no one has dared come out and play for years. Hurling spears of fire, now no one is safe from your eyes’ smile ruining sad creases hugging grandmother’s terse lips, open, saying, everything is going to be okay. You know the sun and moon really do love each other and can share the sky, don’t have to eclipse each other.


when we see you, there’s something holding us closer to the center and we’re not all spinning faster, out and away from each other. You hold us down, feet stick here, stay close to the ribbon around earth’s heart, like a long red bow, we skip along this path together, light as French pastry, and lift a long kiss on our eyelashes sweeping you into our hearts…don’t even notice how much we missed you, because all we know is you are here, and we are here with you now is now is now, never another time, the waiting time, to be born, to die, to start, to finish…we made it.


when I hear you sing this way, shouting above the crowd, leading us on, it doesn’t hurt, can’t hurt much when the wind of your voice fans the fire that wants out, and knows the only truth is its release, pure and wise, that never ends, circulating through every thing under the underneath, that hears your voice and comes rushing out around the room in mad, glad circles when I


love you this way, not the old way that must run away or towards, but simply walks straight and tall as the tree cut down for Christmas in the Square, lit up to all the people cheering at you, at me, the tree that grows in my heart when I love you this new way, that doesn’t have a name, a plan, a defense, an offense, doesn’t even score any points, it just loves on and on and on….


when I touch you this way, like the skin is gone and two spirits are crackling on the earth like sparks thrown from the fire in the same spit, and I know it’s so quickly forever the time is now to hold you in like a long inhale, exhale and gone, a touch that seeks to know itself and be known in this time to dance, to touch, to love to breathe….


when I see you and my eyes burn from heaven’s eyes looking into me, through me, taking me all the way to the bottomless bottom or the sky above the highest throne I have no desire to sit upon today, worshiping this or fearing that, I melt in the simple candy moment, savored above all the noise a million miles below, I battled through with you at my side, fighting for me, through me, and because of me, we laugh at ourselves and all that has fallen away, unspoken, unnamed, and dance towards the next horizon. 


Gary Aker loves poetry. He writes poetry. Sometimes his poetry gets published. He also writes what he likes to call sudden memoir and, let's not forget, his two unpublished crime novels. Lately, he aspires to be a better dancer, photographer and blues harmonica player. Life is getting very young at 56.


Gary also has poetry in this issue.



Chinese Takeout

By Kyle Hemmings


Nursing our crantinis with lemon twists, she says she’s really not in the mood for Chinese. It always leaves her hungry afterwards. Another drink, I ask, hoping she’ll say yes, grow moon-lit and pliable. No, she says, her smile changing sweet to sour.

She tells me that she’s in love with Garson, a one-leg veteran from the Gulf War. “Garson,” I say, the words jumping from my mouth like undigested cherry pits.

That night in my room I conjure her and Garson, what movie lines he whispers in her ear, how or what he does so she won’t feel wanting for someone else. I can hear their silence crystallize, this fine China so perfect, so easily breakable, one of which I am too envious. I envision their imperfect union at the seedy hotel, his heroic attempts at super sex, she, stroking his hobbled ego, disheveled bed sheets like crumpled flags.

I peruse an old Chinese takeout menu on my desk. Some people say that Chinese food leaves you hungry afterward, all that water content. But I never thought of it that way. Rather, it imparts a sense of what is truly palatial, the belly, host of a many-splendored house. One could add another guest room for a Dragon Phoenix, a chamber for the castrated King of Lobster Lo Mein, a private bedroom for the wispy Princess of Szechuan.

Later, I’ll dream of water-cress lips, wounds tough as horseflesh, or whatever lies sunset at the bottom of egg drop rivers.


Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey where the winters are long and the summers are not long enough. He also wishes he could play surf guitar like Dick Dale.


Leaving the Life

By Michelle Reale


 The neighbors threw them a party the night before.

 A move to the other side of town, out of the old neighborhood, was a cause for celebration. The revelers smiled the distorted smiles of the envious, though they were secretly hopeful: it could happen to us, too. Amber beer bottles were opened, cigarettes lit. Pans of baked ziti bubbled and the cheese stuck to the cheap paper dishes. Voices hit a pitch that would later make them cringe when they thought of it, which they would do often. All that talk about the good times. They partied until they were tipsy then called it a night. They carried their sleepy children into the cold and walked back into their own house, a few doors away.

 They imagined what was said when they left: who the hell do they think they are? Too good for us! They knew because before they got lucky, they did the same.

 In the morning, snow covered the neighborhood like a membrane. The car was running in the driveway and would be warm when they climbed inside.  They told each other to look around carefully, in case they’d left anything behind.  The mother wondered if anyone would open their front door and say a final goodbye.

 The silence was like a cold shoulder.  The mother ran upstairs one last time, scanned the room, breathless. “All clear up here,” she called out, but no one heard her. The children were already outside on the pavement, their small mouths open, catching snowflakes on their cherry tongues.

 The father scraped the snow off the windshield, stamped his feet against the cold. His shoulders slumped as though he carried a burden. The mother turned the key in the lock and walked down the front steps for the last time. Everyone was in the car now, waiting. The mother raised her arm over her head in an arc, giving a last wave to everyone and no one at all before getting into the car.

 They drove away, slow. Their street was bumpy with frozen tire tracks.  The footprints they left in the snow from their front door to the sidewalk would be covered in no time at all.


Michelle is an academic librarian working in a university library in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her fiction has been published in a variety of venues, including Verbsap, Elimae, Monkeybicycle, Blood Orange Review, Apt, Pequin, Dogzplot, The Battered Suitcase, JMWW, Willows Wept Review and others.




Missing You

by Leigh Linley


It was the flash of colour that caught her eye. It was a grey morning and it seemed as if the heating had not been on all night; the house’s heart was frozen and shivered along with her. Moving round the place was hard work; even getting ready to leave, her icy fingers trying to tie her shoelaces, seemed a chore in the cold.

The postcard was stuck to the fridge door with a blob of elderly blu-tac. From its glossy face shone a scene of heat; of high, hard blue sky and floury sand. He was sitting on the blanket, his toes dug into the sand, smiling that smile of his that captured her the first time she saw him. She traced the line of the stick he was using as a tool, turning over the mussels on top of the bucket-barbecue; the heat from the coals creating a haze over the shiny black shells.

The holiday, the hotel, the stall on the pier that turned your picture into a postcard.

She remembered telling him to choose another shot; this one was too nice to have glittery writing emblazoned across the bottom of it. Missing you, it said.  Another hollow sentiment. She wondered if he missed her now. Probably not. Just like him to turn the honeymoon into a cheap postcard a gesture, an obligation.

Anger rose in her throat and she tacked the memento back onto the fridge door after reading the back. She had read it a thousand times and the words seemed more and more spiteful the more she read it but she just couldn’t stop her eyes following his handwriting, reliving the humiliation over and over. Her hate for him ran like a river under a thick sheet of ice; bubbling under, ready to break the surface at any time. Controlling it took strength; deep reserves that were running out.

The clock told her it was time to go; he didn’t know she still had a key to the house, and after all these visits whilst he was at work, this was no time to be getting sloppy.


Leigh hails from Yorkshire, England and writes in his spare time between visiting ale-houses. He counts David Lynch and Mark Eitzel among his heroes, and makes a mean chicken pie. His work has been previously published at 3AM and Sein Und Werden.

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