through a small ghost – poems – Chelsea Dingman

through a small ghost
poems, Chelsea Dingman
The University of Georgia Press, 2020


Chelsea Dingman is a poet who makes you feel as if you’ve entered the dream a little early. Otherness is something that happens to others, and pain hurts in two places at once. In through a small ghost, it is this meditative displacement that allows the work to both worship and curse the prolonged destiny of its sudden and devastating inheritance. Be it a projected disappearance or a vanishing root, Dingman identifies first the caller of the form that keeps us from so many shapes, and then the unreal form itself. As any breathing in this held verse might poke a hole in the haunting and send a smoke ring to show the fog how its wheels have come off, the poems keep their witness on the made from and made by, achieving not only something to be seen, but also something protected from watching. And in this protection are many spiritually assertive mercies, elegant and ruinous, gifts from reversal of which the most healing might be that when a thing goes, loss doesn’t always get there first.


reflection by Barton Smock


book is here

Toxicon And Arachne – poems – Joyelle McSweeney

Toxicon And Arachne
poems, Joyelle McSweeney
Nightboat Books, 2020

Of course, being a weak writer, I want to say rare. I want to say rare in as few words as possible in the direction of Joyelle McSweeney’s Toxicon And Arachne. Somewhere two toothaches are perhaps reunited. Somewhere one is unpinned from the world while feeling in the dark for a donkey born without a tail. I also want to say playful, but no. Sadness loses all its money to sorrow and there is a jovial genius to the trauma of wordplay. I think what McSweeney does is done with what I’ll call, in my lack, the endangered available. Mouth of a gift hearse. Erasure’s only prediction. From such given, McSweeney recreates addendum without precedent. Think of what one hasn’t read, that is being written, and how briefly it will exist unwitnessed. And how fast the work of de-witness. And how suddenly we’re having the dream that just recently we lied about having. I love this work for its slowness, for the uninfluenced offhand of its disruptive healing. Here is a line from McSweeney’s poem PT Cruiser: ‘That’s like, harmonic. Monstrous.’ I am injected, I guess, to vaccinate the new you. Loss has two syllables: loss, comma, loss. The verse of Toxicon and Arachne lives in the present and in the present it took.


reflection by Barton Smock


book is here

{ Ribald – essays – Alina Stefanescu }

essays – Alina Stefanescu
INCH, issue 44
Bull City Press (2020)

The writer Alina Stefanescu is a student of curious worry, loyal to irreverence and a giver of passage and path. These essays, on sight, put one in the middle of understanding, where one knows perhaps how to read, but not yet how to re-read. As a child, I heard of a child who stopped playing hide-and-seek because they would forget to hide. I heard this from a child distracted by god. None of this is true, but it could be. Ribald is a work that continues to begin, that opens the body might it out what’s been baked into, that offers the unexpected as a cure to prophecy, that misplaces to protect.


reflection by Barton Smock


book is here

first exits

For submissions, [isacoustic*] is on an indefinite hiatus.

The one person I am is not always the right.

Reflections on the works of others will continue.

Be healthy, or keep others.


person Meghan Sterling, two poems

Meghan Sterling lives in Portland, Maine. Her poetry has been published in Rattle, Glass, Sky Island Journal, Cider House Press and others. She is a Hewnoaks Artist Colony Resident in 2019 and 2021. Her first full-length collection is forthcoming from Terrapin Books in 2021. Read her work at


Apology After the Fire

Worn down, the sea rolls beyond sight,

sand stretches the way a shadow is cast
from rock. The sun an unwanted heat.

We have grown our flowers in the shade of the razed forests,
our faces wrapped in gauze, our hands cupping the water

we save from the occasional rain and muddy stream.
How did we arrive here?

My daughter throws her scraps to the dogs
that wander along the highways that once were rivers

that once threaded themselves
through a softening of green.

My daughter knows the meagerness of water,
our constant searching.

But winds, fires, mud, rocks
are in abundance where once there was

grass, bud, butterfly.
I want life to bloom around her the way she blooms

and for her to know the quiet of leaves,
the hum of growing things,

these few seeds I nudge into flower as apology.


Camera Lucida

We were in love then. Early winter,
the alleys like paper scraps of snow.
Seeking each venue as if the next reading
could deliver salvation.
I wrote on scraps,
refusing to show the others,
letting those scraps grow damp between fingers,
pushing them against the seams of satin pocket liners.
In the alleys, we smoked Marlboros,
shaking in our acrylic gloves, in coats with too-short arms.
We quoted Kafka, pretended we had read everything.
You carried a small suitcase with journals, pencils,
sharpeners, a protractor—you wore your eccentricity
as an accessory. Without money for meals, we ate at bodegas,
saved our pennies for museums, for jazz.
You stole your books from the Strand.
We went for long walks in Park Slope,
looking into windows lit with abundance,
dreaming of living better than
boxes on the stairwell, found furniture.
Everything smelling of last week’s cooking.
At night, we huddled on the mattress,
read passages from Barthes’ Camera Lucida,
shared joints rolled from the cheapest shake.
But poverty wore, frayed like our sleeves.
You stayed out later, I started reading English novels.
Your father offered you a salary
to study business, and when spring came,
you tossed your suitcase out the window
into the muddy alley, your papers soaring
like white birds.


person Melissa Eleftherion, two poems

Melissa Eleftherion (she/they) is a cis queer human, a writer, a librarian, and a visual artist. She is the author of field guide to autobiography (The Operating System, 2018), & ten chapbooks, including little ditch (above/ground press, 2018) & trauma suture (above/ground press, 2020). Born & raised in Brooklyn, Melissa created, developed, and co-curates The SFSU Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange with Elise Ficarra. She now lives in Northern California where she manages the Ukiah Library, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series. Recent work is available at


Time Pocket

“Time has pockets”
said DiPrima or was it
herbarium like
love song
catching us up
and so we gather or are
gathered someone else’s
memory glow
a breath – is
that all there is
to connect

even now time feathers
dandelion lignin
and rockface
we ascend &
– stand clear
of the closing doors –
we metal
in the metal
clang of commute
and consequence
how we must sound
all fingers in the camera
amygdala in the bottle brush



all the cortisol
driving over Richmond Bridge
how shining mountain
magnanimous in distance
becomes oil refinery
the sky blue headache
again after wildfire sinus
we mask up to
drive the box to the
box store to buy more boxes
for our boxed escape
we need a boxed escape
we all need a little box to go green with


{ Unfinished Murder Ballads – poems – Darren C. Demaree }

Unfinished Murder Ballads
poems, Darren C. Demaree
w/ photo accompaniment of Ryan Barker’s ‘Midwest Nostalgia’
Backlash Press (2020)


The premise of blood is a color.
-from The Facts Persisted

On the occasion that flood brings you a painted body, know that I had everything to do with it…
-from The Cage Is Unwound By The Poetry Of Death

As if hiding in Eden after hearing a pop-gun, the poet Darren C. Demaree makes short work of vast vision in his Unfinished Murder Ballads, a collection of implanted cares and layered addictions as played for those still awake inside the cinema of the abrupt. Whether ashes or trailings, Demaree finds the evaporated clue and spirits it toward the character actor whose family feels abandoned by exit. Nothing in this meditation overstays, and at times it seems that words are at a loss for people. If the verses here make their first impressions hoping to access the fractured archive of impulse survival, the bodies that said verses nourish know, or pretend to know, that paranoia has only one hand. Water helps vacancy find a vein, and water goes everywhere baptism is not. Poison is the shortest story, and paint protects the frostbitten. A pair of bicycle legs dreams submergence, and a camera dreams god. Not everything comes to pass, but in the etching of this death music, in the crooked humming of shared worship and separate goal, a stillness is reached. Vignette is no small church.


reflection by Barton Smock


book is here

person Imran Boe Khan, one poem

Imran Boe Khan has recent work appearing, or forthcoming, in places such as the Rumpus, Cosmonauts Avenue, Yes, Poetry, and Sixth Finch. A previous winner of the Thomas Hardy Prize, Khan is a lecturer at Bournemouth University, and lives in Christchurch, Dorset.

When You’ve been Assigned the Addict

It begins with the one person you love
growing accustomed to the pleas, the threat
of a goodbye tied to an internet history. Trust
can be melted like ice, all that’s needed is the right
heat – a betting slip on the sofa, a Merlot under
the sink, the weight of a one night stand creased
in a brow. Forget the hands of their mistakes, forget
the sickness holding their form. There are too many
windmills smashing into too many neurons to bother
waiting for the version of you a little more merciful
than yesterday. I have gained nothing from what I have
waited for. No return could mask this abandonment.
A prodigal son is nothing but impermanence.

person Mark J Mitchell, one poem

Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Roshi San Francisco, was just published by Norfolk Publishing. Starting from Tu Fu was recently published by Encircle Publications. A new collection is due out in December from Cherry Grove. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian, Joan Juster. A meager online presence can be found at



The room has three doors
all locked
from the otherside.


An earthen burrow
surrounded by no trees.
The mouse
does not sing.


Dirty straw in a cage
that seems perfectly empty.
An artist has vanished.


The long dark attic
holds only damp sheets
and judges.


person J.D. Nelson, one poem

J. D. Nelson (b. 1971) experiments with words in his subterranean laboratory. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Cinderella City (The Red Ceilings Press, 2012). Visit for more information and links to his published work. Nelson lives in Colorado.


the lost apple of the walking ones

I arrived on a bush plane
mud makes me mad

salad green had something to say about eating nice words
the tortoise was bug-eyed and surprised when the hare swam by

why is there a drawing of a head on the wall?
the eyes are mandalas and the mouth is a portal into the next room

that train of travel will get you back to the square where you started
the apple was a circle on the board and it grew and grew and now it is the board itself

a young hum to start in the back of the ward
after the recollecting his honor will have the high toast ceremony

to make a name as the king of eating
I have the same recommendation for you