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Poetry Unplugged

Yes John Riley.PNG

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.

The Visit

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.

Bragging Rights


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


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

would say

“Like the gun!”

as if it meant something

something good


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.)

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