Plato's Cave, by Clinton Van Inman

               Of course the rooms are still filled with shadows
               While lazar lights and computer programs prove
More cost effective than fire yet the cardboard
Cut-outs and the curtains have remained the same
As well as those old lies that trees are real,
That the way out really goes somewhere,
That Math leads more than circles
And that the Wizard himself is behind the curtains
All of which keeps their domino world from collapsing.
Only a few banned poets or other down and outers
With only a pocketful of Zen dare climb
The arduous way out as most prefer
To sit and argue about living conditions
Relationships and other mumbo-jumbo,
And mostly about the quality of food
As all having learned to love the rope
while accepting some back door reality.

Clinton Van Inman was born in Walton on Thames, England in 1945. He received his B.A. from San Diego State in 1977. He is teaching high school in Tampa Bay but plans to retire this year. He lives in Sun City Center, Florida with his wife, Elba.

*********************

The Ankh of Newfoundland, by Jake Sheff

Exsanguinating in a spacesuit, floating
Beyond the outer reaches of the solar system;
Or drowning beneath a glacier, surrounded by
Narwhals looking on with pity in their eyes;
Or maybe failure is a gulp of air
Before seeing how long you can hold your breath.
The bear balancing on a ball is stymied, so
It waits for early autumn, when Pisces leaps
Into the furry brown fat of Ursa Majorís big dip.
The female poets buried in New England
Are held by the roots of fir trees and willows;
Only the moss accepts their loss,
Being wisest, meaning: too busy knowing
It will die soon. I bequeath to my sisters
(One drowned, one burned at the stake) in Salem
A canary, with a wrought-iron Victorian cage.
And to the mistress who miscarried my blood
In Georgetown, a shoebox of twigs and twine
Refashioned as twenty-odd crosses; her garter
And blue ribbons for Prudence, the chaste
Debutante of Terre Haute, with a secret, lifelong
Crush on Houdini. She knows thereís no success like
A recording of Sappho on vinyl, the needle
Skipping. Iím skipping the last rest stop on the way
To Corpus Christi, pushing this old pickup
To the beaches that look like mashed potatoes,
The mottled seagulls that betray neither piety
Nor heresy, and the Gulf of Mexicoís bloodlust:
Leviathan, with an undertow inkling.

*********************

The Bird, by Jerry Durick

What does
it know
this crow?

It gives life
to the tree,
this black leaf
of winter,

but its song
seems
wrong,

a pose it knows,

like stiff-legged
death
in a tree

waiting
patiently
for me.

J. K. Durick is a writing teacher at the Community College of Vermont and an online writing tutor. His recent poems have appeared in Literary Juice, Jellyfish Whispers, Third Wednesday, and Common Ground Review.

*********************

Malibu, by Christopher Mulrooney

perpendicular to the reign of terror the analysis
of all this place
five will get you ten
ten will get you twenty
and the Riviera is not a convertible sofa

*********************

porcupine, by Christopher Mulrooney

the surfer's joy
the Aussie faction
the call in arrears
the long mandate and many superscriptions
let's make a list of them
working our way though college

*********************

Lunch Break by Sy Roth

Lunch breakís quiet snapped like a number two pencil.
At home, usual repast set.
His turtle languished under its plastic umbrella
resting among floating bits of green and meat scraps
murky water that needed changing.
Enflamed faces on either side of them
kitchen knife brandished
their words carve the air.
The boy sits head, el-bent, over his tomato soup,
grilled cheese sandwich a hibernating bear,
spoon clicks jabbing the bottom of the bowl,
syncopates with each hurled word.
He slices at them in the stormís eye.
Interminable seconds tick,
mark the rounds and a ping
lunch break ends.
Turtle lumbers to the other side of his bowl,
boy shifts in his seat, and he rolls to the door.
He returns to study the origins of rayon.
They glare.
Knife maintains the peace
uneaten lunch,
growling stomach
combatants war in his brain.

Sy Roth has been published in many online publications such as Parentheses, The Circle Review, Poetry Super Highway, Millers Pond Review, Rockhurst Review, and many others. He was twice selected Poet of the Month in Poetry Super Highway. His work was also read at Palimpsest Poetry Festival in December 2012. He was named Poet of the Month for the month of February in BlogNostics. He was included in Poised in Flight and Point Mass anthology published by Kind of Hurricane Press.

*********************

Passed Over, by B. Z. Niditch

When you are passed
over like cargo
between two oceans
with yesterday's news
crumpled in lukewarm
hands on the steamboat
with no passport
green or jail free card
to get you out or inside
of your first steps
to circle Ellis island
when a solitary poet
hears the harbor's whistle
amid loud cheaters
at cards on deck
knowing that in the seas
are skeleton swimmers
whom night vanishes
as foreign bodies
of forgetfulness
drowned with
open fingers holding on
not laughing at death
without ceremony
gripped by the grief
of sisters.

*********************

Still Life, by Donal Mahoney

"On the window sill
the sun's pure gold today.
Usually it's white,"
says drooling Nell,
in her hospital smock,

her tea turning cold
as she braids
ram horns of hair
high and tight

to the sides of her skull.
"On gold days
like this, I warm
my hands for hours
on this sill.

"Yesterday, the doctor said
someone should paint me,
the fool. A still life,
that's what he said."

*********************

Shimmer of The Buzzy Newcomer, by Greg Farnum

Instructions For Best Preparation: Dissolve more
in fancy background.
So now itís true
--I valu-ize! And after I shop?
Aleve
McChuckers, extra wago. . .
ďYes, itís cedar-free novak hinkles!Ē
says the excited announcer
before going to a break in
the Land of Old Clocks
with its intersections in the sky.
How to recognize your homepage.
Custom Spanking the Olivia machine.
So many messages. . .but thatís not my message.
My message?
           Have a happy fun time!
My message?
           Taylor Swift.

Who is the buzzy newcomer who shimmered unforgettably on the red carpet?
The one who upstaged Taylor Swift I mean.
That one.

Isaf takes all reports of civilian casualties seriously, and we are currently assessing the incident.

Greg Farnum is the author of a book of poetry, Doctorís Testament; a novel, The Event; a memoir, The Pizza Diaries; and the experimental narrative The Celestial Railroad. He is currently working on a new novel, Farther Than I Thought.

*********************

Checkpoints are Toll Bridges, by Christy Hall

Check points are toll bridges,
underpasses are points of reference
and pillars of memory; played out
over the soundtrack of pop/rock
on a clapped-out tape deck.

Street signs, miles and miles,
are nostalgic; place-names as ex-girlfriends,
flash past: Lincoln, Peterborough,
Cambridge, Warwick Ė first class,
all A1 stuff, A1 (M)
were those her initials?

Service stations are cast as
stops Iíve made before, with you,
or her; whether Iím falling fast towards the M25
or being sucked back north,
       dusk is solace
next to an IKEA or ASDA store.
The film winding the cassette sticks,
my hand slips Ė remember this?
       And checkpoints are toll bridges.

Christy has recently published his debut chapbook Later, Your Returned to the Sea, and is currently in the process of writing his first full length collection.

*********************

The Seaside, by Morgan Bazilian

Houses growing from the bay.
Black rock creeping from the sand.
The water reaching for the road.

The town nearly quiet.
A young girl driving too fast
Down small roads.

An old harbour
Facing an older church
Reachable only at low tide.

The beach faces North.
The boats are man made,
Wood stretched over angled hulls

The fishing is good
For salmon and gar.
The sea transparent.

Two small pubs
Their taps run late
Acting as modern lighthouses.

An evening coming swiftly,
Composed of a girl
And a vivid memory.

A scent of sandalwood
Infused into the fabric,
The center of the world.

A change of name
A brown, seaweed-smelly landscape,
A pool of clarity.

Warmer than the big sea
Protected by mussels,
Clams, sharp stones, and a promise.

Morgan's last five stories were published in: Eclectica, South Loop Review, Shadowbox, Embodied Effigies, and Glasschord.

*********************

End of the Bar, by Melanie Griffin

What we do
for a little piece of another:
Pounce, then back off
And wait.

While we wait, we:
Are starving but can't eat
Because what if there will be food -
Later?
String our nerves tight
Like a violin, ready to sing
Turn our phones off
Because they're empty, then
Turn our phones on
Because what if we're missing something -
Now?
(We're not.)

We rotate through variations of self
Until, when we are finally called,
(when the rat lever finally works)
We rush out in
Whatever we had on last
To the end of the bar
(But which end?)
for our chance.

*********************

Plato's Cave, by Clinton Van Inman

The Ankh of Newfoundland, by Jake Sheff

The Bird, by Jerry Durick

Malibu, by Christopher Mulrooney

porcupine, by Christopher Mulrooney

Lunch Break by Sy Roth

Passed Over, by B. Z. Niditch

Still Life, by Donal Mahoney

Shimmer of The Buzzy Newcomer, by Greg Farnum

Checkpoints are Toll Bridges, by Christy Hall

The Seaside, by Morgan Bazilian

End of the Bar, by Melanie Griffin

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All poems are copyright of their respective authors.

Exercise Bowler, editor, Julie Kovacs. 2010-2016