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Molotov 

Three drops of potential poison in 

the glass. Is half empty 

really the appropriate solution 

to the tumultuous night- 

toned deviations we weave 

through our smiles.  We act 

like nothing matters.  But “us” 

is a word too complex  

to dissect.  In the dark, 

we mix/stir/combust in sound- 

less gravity.  More fire 

will burn the skin.  Senseless 

is always the drug of choice. 

Poem by A.J. Huffman

Image by Adam Strong

A.J. Huffman is a poet and freelance writer in Daytona Beach, Florida.  She has published 27 collections and chapbooks of poetry.  In addition, she has published her work in numerous national and international literary journals.  She is currently the editor for Kind of a Hurricane Press literary journals ( www.kindofahurricanepress.com ).   

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Aftermath

A bird built that nest from wig bits, or human hair, hard to say. Must
have been some time ago. Before the storm, the bomb, the plague,
whatever it was, who remembers? No bird, no eggs. Just discolored
shell fragments and dried yellow goo. Depressing, don’t you think?
Talk to your therapist about that and watch your step as we crab
through the rubble; keep your beady eyes peeled. Alas, all these
broken bricks put to rest the myth of the third little pig, if you know
what I’m saying. maybe not. We tend to speak in metaphors these
days, thus disguising our duplicity, confusion, and scorn. Everything
doesn’t have to mean something, though everything usually does. You
want the meaning of life? That’s it, in a nutshell, hombre. Keep
moving, don’t stop. Feral dogs have been sighted. They don’t beg for
treats. That monstrosity by the toppled tin water tower used to be a
bridge. That’s right. I once rode my ten-speed over it. Nice view of the
city then. Still kinda nice, if you thin your eyes. That red fork tangled
in the rebar—it used to be a tricycle. Yeah. Another metaphor.

Poem by Salvatore Difalco

Image by Adam Strong

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Iron

Iron is about the difficulties of being with one person, about not feeling slighted or making the other person feel

   slighted.

Iron is about the iron and phosphorous molecules that float between you

and Patrick in the meat department,

Patrick in a long white blood-streaked smock.

Iron is about a night with Walter, crossing a bridge

on your way to a club that later will crowd with flashing

   lights

and dancers, but right now Walter is warning you not to

   tell the girls

you’ve been in a war.

You remember sunlight, morning muster

those times you saw your double, same eyes, same rifle, in

   Chu Lai.

Iron is about sides of beef behind the steel doors Patrick

   exited through

after you two traded stories of your lives since high school,

neither one with a spouse or children, nor the wish to see

   each other ever again.

You remember a night with flashing lights and music

and Walter dancing alone to Steppenwolf.

Peter Mladinic’s fourth book of poems, Knives on a Table is available from Better Than Starbucks Publications.

An animal rights advocate, he lives in Hobbs, New Mexico, USA.

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What Michael Found that Afternoon

The sun sets behind the old oak tree on top of the hill, branches reaching long shadow-arms
across grass that is spiky with old nettles and flowering thistles. Michael catches
grasshoppers in his tiny fist and feels them tap, tap, tap against the insides of his fingers,
trying desperately to get away. The barn cat watches from the branches, and the white-and-
black dog lies curled up in the shade, panting with a smile.
The air is colder next to the little creek. Crystal water floods over pebbles, and
Michael’s feet go numb as he sticks them in. A tweet, barely a sound at all, rises like a dream.
At its root, a baby bird, all beak and stuck-up feathers. It cries, crumbled on the ground, no
parents in sight.
Michael remembers the time the dog would not eat for days and how his mum could
fix it. Determined, he scoops up the bird and feels its clockwork heart flutter against his
palms. He rushes through late summer grass and air that smells like thunderstorms, the dog
bouncing happily at his side.
Before he arrives at his front door, the bird is dead.

Flash Fiction by Laura Martens

Image by Adam Strong

Laura Martens is based in London, UK, where she writes things and sells books. She loves skyscrapers, busy train stations, and cafés with window seats. Her writing has appeared in CP Quarterly, the Journal of Erato, and others. 

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Happy Beings

Happy Beings

“Humans, attention left,” drones the android.  

I’m excited. My son? No.

“Attributed to an ancientnamed Adam Peterson, only this porch remains from Before Town.”

Projections appear: Adam smiling on the porch, then setting up a tent on green grass with a boy the same age as mine. Happy beings. 

We’re not.

“The porch survived due to the wood’s extreme levels of chromated arsenicals, fumigates that accelerated The Collapse.”

Venturers prepare to exit the transport for a closer look. They, my sad child, climb into bubble shields.

I stay behind to ask advice from long-dead Adam, great-great-grandfather to single father. 

Story by Karen Walker

Image by Adam Strong

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An Outing

It’s a Sunday ritual, this absurdity─ two sets of flailing old bones trying not to injure each other─ but it’s the conduit to the weekly movie, which is what she’s really after. If the movie is bad, it still leads to a visit to the bistro. Tea and cake, cake and tea.

Husband and wife take their seats in the theater, and she recognizes the man next to her. Her cells know─ a tingle traveling along her spine into the roots of her hair─ before her brain catches on. She once slept with the man on a bed piled high with overcoats, the voice of her husband cracking his party joke in the next room. Now her husband is reaching across her lap to shake the man’s hand.

“We were neighbors thirty years ago,” he explains when the man looks confused.

“Sorry. I have trouble remembering things nowadays. My doctor has me on medication, but it’s not helping.”

The woman heaves a sigh of relief. Her one loose end, her big secret, is smothered and safe in the pocket of some overcoat somewhere.

Turning to face the silver screen, the man gives her a sidelong wink.

Story by Cheryl Snell

Image Courtesy Adam Strong

Cheryl Snell’s books include several poetry collections and a series of novels called Bombay Trilogy.

Recent pieces have appeared in Cafe Irreal, Roi Faingeant, New World Writing, and elsewhere.

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Fado

When things I knew faded,
I made up facts.
Glazed with my charm, they
kept trouble away.
My stories turned emptiness
to childlike eagerness
but always devolved upon
some dragon.
Driving and sailing
over each continent,
I wasted the wealth
of my era and class (what’s
the point of wealth without
waste?). Tried to use
the most passionate words
I encountered, unsure
what they meant.
What I didn’t have,
could have used, were names.
Payphones had fled. Cities,
campuses where
I’d hypothesized contact stood
empty; temp angels
who lent me their couches
and kindness were sacked.
If I had it to do over again
I’d be a song, with unpicturesque
europoverty stamping
its feet, the river
too near, the singer
thinking to claim
the gold in the eye of a listening girl
but it’s only for me.

Poem by Frederick Pollack

Image by Adam Strong

Frederick Pollack is the author of tw0 book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both Story Line Press; the former reissued 2022 by Red Hen Press. Two collections of shorter poems, A POVERTY OF WORDS, (Prolific Press, 2015) and LANDSCAPE WITH MUTANT (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). Pollack has appeared in Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Magma (UK), BateauFulcrumChiron Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, etc.  Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire  Review, Mudlark, Rat’s Ass Review,  Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, etc.

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Her Name

I wanted to name our daughter Nessie, partly for the Loch Ness monster in Scotland and
partly for a wild girl I dated while studying abroad in Edinburg, but my wife wanted to name her
Mildred after her grandmother who had been a lindy hop and jitterbug dancer in prominent clubs
in New York back in the 1940s, who had been on Broadway, and who had starred in a couple of
Marx brothers films. Her grandmother had died before we were married, and though I didn’t
know her, she was described as flamboyant and always had a martini glass in her hand. I
protested and said I didn’t feel that was a good image for our daughter. My wife countered that
Nessie was a monster and our daughter would be bullied in school. We settled on Elizabeth after
the Queen and hoped she had a long and wealthy life.

Flash by Niles Riddick

Image Courtesy Adam Strong

Niles Reddick is author of a novel, two collections, and a novella. His work has been featured in over four-hundred-fifty publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIFBlazeVoxNew Reader MagazineCitron Review, and The Boston Literary Magazine. He works for the University of Memphis in Tennessee.

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Empty

“You have an empty heart, you know that?” he exclaimed and stared at her unblinkingly; his piercing blue eyes brimming with tears. She looked down at her plate, avoiding his gaze. She shouldn’t have ordered the Caesar salad, she thought. Even without the chicken and the croutons, the dish still had at least two hundred calories. “Unbelievable”, she could hear him murmur as he got on his feet; a stifled sob escaping his lips on his way out of the restaurant. She wasn’t fooled by his theatrics. She knew he didn’t care about her. Two years ago, before her weight loss, someone like him wouldn’t even have looked at her. Or worse, would have made fun of her. Every little comment, every little joke, seared into her brain; neatly sorted by date, location, people involved. People who looked like him, with their cheekbones, their abs, their soft hair. He didn’t care about her. She put down her fork and scanned the room; looking for the next person to fall in love with her empty stomach.

Flash Fiction by Sally Wagner

Image by Adam Strong

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A STUPID THOUGHT

Raindrops—

Vanish

As they 

Descend:

You

And

Me.

Image by Adam Strong

Poetry by S.F. Wright

S.F. Wright lives and teaches in New Jersey. His work has appeared in Hobart, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, and Elm Leaves Journal, among other places. His short story collection, The English Teacher, is forthcoming from Cerasus Poetry, and his website is sfwrightwriter.com.