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Poetry Unplugged

Variations on Desert Life



He sidles up, flicks his tongue

Between the words: What do you want,

A nice gig, a nice house, a yard, a basement

You can do over, a car for your wife, one

For your daughter, one for your son, a big

TV to watch the game, hi-definition

Popcorn for the whole gang, a dog and cat

That hug the couch, is that it? Why not

Say so? Why not get something like that,

Safe and traditional, comfortable, easy,

Something real that makes it worth it, that

Provides the kind of certainty you can touch,

Listen to, you can see. You can always pay

Later, stretch it through the years. Even if

Something goes south, you lose your job,

You come down with something, you

Can always get something to keep yourself

Going, flipping burgers, watching shadows,

You can always make money. Well? You

Only live once. What do you say, huh?




I want my little seed

Of money to grow a tree

That come hard times


I’ll shake for its dimes

And dollars and splurge

Which rhymes with urge


To be replaced by stuff—

If that’s all there ever was,

It’s just not enough.



Richard Chetwynd is the author of two full length books, Heroic Age and Turkeys & Peacocks, and four chapbooks. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and teaches literature and writing at Emerson College.

Clare’s in the Joint


Clare’s the one woman in the audience at a strip joint.

On stage, it’s all bouncing breasts and G-strings

while she’s bundled up in a winter coat

sipping on a chilly bottle of Coors.


Don’t look to her for pole-dancing,

to shove her butt in the bulging eyes

of the fire-breathing front-row clan.

No lip-licking, no thumping the air


with her sideways thighs.

There’s no tease in her, no shamelessness.

Her body’s not for sharing,

not with the guys, not even with herself.


She just wants a drink

and this is the only place that’s open.

And she goes unnoticed.

To this clientele, a woman’s a woman


if she’s dancing on a table, not just sitting at one.

That doesn’t bother her. In her past,

there’ve been men that have tried it on.

Even a woman as butch as bulldog.


She’s never been sure what they want of her.

What’s up on the stage? Then they’re wasting their time.

Or what her mother gives to the bully she married.

She’d rather keep company with a toad.


A dancer sidles up to her, spies the bulge of

her breasts, steps discretely away.

The stripper wonders what’s a woman doing in a place like this.

Then forgets all about it. Clare’s not part of her routine.



John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident. His work has been recently published in Hawaii Pacific Review, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty Magazine, with work upcoming in Blueline, Willard and Maple and Clade Song.



The Dutch talk with a hot potato in the mouth,

while Danes are gargling with porridge.

Spanish is pebbles rattling in a tin can;

Portuguese the same, half filled with water.

The Queen’s English is sharp hail on a greenhouse —

at least it’s clear, to compensate for the chaotic spelling.

Americans are sloppy; especially in the South,

mouths anaesthetised by corn liquor.

Jamaican patois is sinuous women and Hawaiian guitars —

but Bahamian is an angry chef chopping carrots.



Robin Helweg-Larsen’s poetry is published internationally. His chapbook Calling The Poem is available as a free download from Snakeskin Poetry Webzine, issue 236. He is Series Editor for Sampson Low’s “Potcake Chapbooks — Form in Formless Times.”

Icarus In Our Time


Down, down he sails, arms out,

legs spread, screaming toward the ground

at terminal velocity. How does it go

from here? He hits the ground

like a pheasant full of buckshot,

gets up, brushes himself off, then

struts over to his girlfriend’s house

before waking to light through

thin curtains. Such dreams are

the most exciting part of his day.


Or, he pulls the ripcord and

a gaily colored canopy pops

above him, and he drifts gently

swaying down. Or it doesn’t.


Or, at the “last minute,”

a bungee cord plucks him from

“certain death,” and he bounces

like a sine wave with decreasing

amplitude. Or it breaks.


Or just before the big ledge

the rope comes taut, and

he can laugh about it with his

climbing partner. Or there is no rope.


Or he simply splashes into

the bay from the bridge. The body

doesn’t surface for some time.



Joe Fitschen taught writing and philosophy at Lassen Community College in northeast California for many years until he retired and moved to New York to marry the fair Rosamond.

A Glorious Mystery


in so many ways

the voices lie

but you never know this

until you do


it could be a man

whose throat your mind crushed

in its bloodless fingers

a hundred times . . .


but he begins to fall

from a ledge

and something reacts

to pull a string

to reach out your hand

to grasp his wrist

and feel the panic pulse

just beneath the skin


as you brace yourself

and pull



Brian Rihlmann lives in Reno, Nevada. He writes about the inner and outer worlds, and the fuzzy intersections thereof. He has been published in many magazines. His book, Ordinary Trauma, (2019) was published by Alien Buddha Press.

Dear Virginia


Did you carefully select your skirt?

And did you carefully select the stones?

Did you rub each one, feeling its smoothness

against your skin? Did you put them

carefully into your pockets, making sure

the weight was even? And as you made

your final walk, did the words you needed—

words that the rest of us still cannot find—

float through your head? Or, for once,

were you without words, allowing yourself

to flow downstream for the first time?



Diane Elayne Dees has two poetry chapbooks forthcoming. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana, also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women's professional tennis.

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