John Riley has published poetry in Mojave River Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Connotation Press, The Dead Mule, Better Than Starbucks, and many other journals and anthologies. He works in educational publishing part-time and is a full-time nanny to his beautiful granddaughter Byl.
When animals are caged, it is a loss of what they are. –K. A. Applegate
Imprisoned in a glass cage
Colossus squats, haunches pressed against the cement slab floor
Hosed down for the occasion
His right foot shackled to an iron ring
The silverback doesn’t struggle
Children tap, tap on the glass
Make funny faces and whoopy noises
Coaxing him to respond
With paws on knees, his body still and voice quelled
All proof to the uneducated heart
Of wildness subordinated
He contemplates his visitors
His head slowly pivots
Liquid brown eyes scrutinize each face
He fixes me with a doleful gaze
Like magnets our eyes lock, our fragility on full display
Behind his stare, his power to speak a great language,
I sense intelligence
Indescribable patience. And pain
My eyes hold, then flicker, and slide away
Suppressing my sense of unease
That he had spoken, and I had understood.
*At five hundred pounds Colossus was one of the largest gorillas to be held in captivity.
Educator and poet Mary Crane Fahey holds degrees in English Literature and Teaching English. Her work has been published in several journals including The Poets’ Touchstone, Poetry Quarterly, and Haiku Journal.
You say your grandpap fought at the Alamo,
your brother Tom’s got a yacht on the Ohio?
Uncle Ben marched with Sherman down to the sea,
your cousin Bob is rich as old John D?
Now, I’m not one to brag but I think you’ll agree
I got a few good apples on my family tree.
My uncle Will was a hero in World War II—
got a purple heart and the bronze star, too.
Most decorated man in Company B—
oven blowed up while pulling KP.
And I point with pride to my cousin Ralph—
raised his family from hand to mouth.
Blowed his welfare check on the K Y Lotto,
pulled five and a day for grand theft auto.
Called to preach by the Lord, pitched a tent on the Tug,
sold miracle water—dollar a jug.
Now, take a look at me, for I once was poor,
barely kept the wolf from the door
until the good Lord helped me get on the draw
with lower back pain from a deer stand fall.
Now I get free beer by the bottle and the can
since my daughter had a baby by the Budweiser man.
Gayle Compton’s stories and poems have appeared in Tipton Poetry Journal, U.S. 1 Worksheets, Adelaide Literary Magazine, and Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel. He is the winner of Adelaide Books Children’s Literature Award for 2019. Gayle lives with his wife Sharon in Pike County, Kentucky.
An Apostate and a Heathen Try to Book a Church
I walk to my car
arm around my fiancée’s shoulder
trying to comfort her
as she sobs into a tissue.
She loved the old Catholic Church:
late nineteenth century Gothic,
gilded cross on the tallest steeple,
thought it would be the perfect place for a wedding.
The parish priest granted us a meeting
asked us some very personal questions
frowned at every answer
said we could not get married in his church.
We had to be members of the parish.
We had to go to church weekly.
My fiancée is a divorced Protestant.
We live together in glorious sin.
I left Catholicism out of boredom
at the age of seventeen.
Remembering the old priests of my youth,
I ask if we can use the building
bring our own justice of the peace.
Before he can answer,
I open my wallet
say there might be a donation in it for him,
maybe a few bottles of good scotch.
He calls me an apostate
tells me to get out.
Getting up to leave,
I tell him the Unitarians
would have never given us this much shit.
John David Muth was raised in central New Jersey. For nineteen years, he has been an academic advisor, working for Rutgers University. His latest collection, Reassure the Phoenix, was published by Aldrich Press and can be found on Amazon.com.
A Waterfall 1910 by John Singer Sargent (1856–1925)
Seven Generations Down
He had hoped to be a doctor
his way of redressing the balance
he gave it his best
for a while
before his focus wandered
people would hear his name
“Like the gun!”
as if it meant something
he would smile politely
change the subject
he once told me the truth
that Colt’s blood pumped through him
seven generations down
there was money in his family
though he preferred to make his own
he didn’t watch the news
had never even held
the gun that bore his name
Steve Denehan lives in Ireland with his family. He is an award-winning poet and the author of two chapbooks and two collections (one upcoming with Salmon Press.)