{ :boys – poems – Luke Johnson }

poems, Luke Johnson
Blue Horse Press, 2019


Luke Johnson is a storyteller who denies the braggart and kisses the ear of those mourning the loss of spectacle. The poems in Johnson’s :boys are surely tough, are more surely ecstatic betrayals of a hand-me-down confidence, but also seemingly say, hey, this is the horse that came with the farm, and then go on to conjure from the workmanlike darkness a scribble of possessed ants. In this place, decay, a day early, falls asleep and never wakes up. In this place, one can imagine another place where perhaps a city gargoyle resigns itself to being erased by its love for scarecrow. Johnson does not sell the work’s violence to surrender or resurrection, but instead positions it might it be seen by the lowest bidder whose home is far enough away that to walk there would soften the lower back of any boy holding a knife. Any boy whose father runs ahead to pocket the stone before it learns of a second bird.


reflection by Barton Smock


book is on amazon, and here:

person Kristin Garth, one poem

Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Best of the Net & Rhysling nominated sonnet stalker with sonnets in magazines like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of twelve books of poetry including Dewy Decimals (Arkay Artists 2020) and Flutter: Southern Gothic Fever Dream (TwistiT Press 2020) Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie) and her website http://kristingarth.com



You never were alone in life. A doll
dissected with a pearl handled knife — held,
allotted days inside crocheted shawl, all
communal gifts since you were small. She fell

into an early grave, the half of you
who won’t be saved. A heart conjoined
severed by rot, you stalk in holes dug, new,
the family burial plot. Adjoined

cadavers in longleaf pines. Love and lust
robust inside your wounded mind — for ghosts
no longer humankind. Seek, dirty, dusk
two apparitions you never find. Most

days dialogue with moths, unbodied doll.
You whisper kisses which never enthrall.


person Jason D Ramsey, two poems

Jason D. Ramsey resides halfway between Detroit and Chicago, and serves as the publisher/editor-in-chief of Barren Magazine and Barren Press. His poetry and essays can be found or are forthcoming at Parentheses Journal, After the Pause, Rhythm & Bones: Dark Matter, and more. Find him on social media @JasonDRamsey.


cider press

we skipped in circles & tiptoed over rinds. we stirred
straw & pomace with wooden pestles, back & forth,
like oars in rainwater – air sweet with galas, tart from

pink ladies, ripe as orchards lathed in rows. floodlights
danced at nightfall. barn skin splayed gray & faded,
dry as poplars before first snow. death became a

shivaree: spoons clanked; kettles clamored; mill
barrels rotted through their oak. still, we churned as
nectar leavened; a looming winter brined in tow.


Where others break bread, we break ground.
Iron shovels upturn soil – blow after heavy blow.
Claws crack on hard plains, pall-like urns for

cinder stain as willows weep for day & night –
daylight to trench paths back to beds where
empty bottles breed red eyes & bedsheets twill

in casing. Our hands blacken, knees bend, eyes
burn as caverns strafe silently along reeds. Dirt hills
dot mothered terrain. Our ribs are clean for taking.


person David Spicer, two poems

David Spicer is a former medical journal proofreader. He has published poems in Santa Clara Review, Synaeresis, Chiron Review, Remington Review, unbroken, Third Wednesday, Yellow Mama, The Bookends Review, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Gargoyle, The Midnight Boutique, and elsewhere. Nominated for a Best of the Net three times and a Pushcart once, he is author of one full-length poetry collection, Everybody Has a Story (St. Luke’s Press) and six chapbooks, the latest of which is Tribe of Two (Seven CirclePress), released in September 2019. He lives in Memphis.

g h o s t   a p p l e s

for Brenda Landman

Look     ice hostages
trees their frigid hotels
Stop for a moment at least

The Arctic air their host
At some point their fruit plops
from the bottom     holes

serve as clear round gates
for mush that drops     steals
into snow     vanishes into the past

Breathe slowly     and hope
you catch them before it’s too late

                      after Terrance Hayes


My father squeezed my neck until I turned blue,
and my mother smashed his head with her Sunday purse.
She bought me a Greyhound ticket to my grandparents’
trailer park in Rapid City. For ten months, my grades
blossomed, and I listened to my grandmother berate
my grandfather: You and that Jackie Gleason fatso fool
are two buzzards of the same feather
. I smiled at my
grandfather, tall and quick as an aging basketballer.
All he’d say was, Aw, shut up, Millie, and cook supper,
and kept watching The Honeymooners or Twilight Zone.
I’d like to see men try having babies, she’d continue.
My grandfather’d say, Let’s take a walk, son. I’ll teach
you to shoot snooker.
I could have listened to them forever,
but my father drove a thousand miles to father me again.

person Henry Brown, one poem

Henry Brown is a student and activist from Austin, Texas currently involved with the Democratic Socialists of America at Carleton College, where he is a junior-year Religion major/Spanish minor. He has previously published poetry in Wax Poetry & Art’s Eleventh Transmission and has a poem forthcoming in Bitchin’ Kitsch.

Instagram: @henry_d_brown



weight of a water-wheel, filling and spinning
                    pinning down for good me &
the old priest with his bucket

one milligram and half, twice daily with food
                    strewed across the laundry room: urgent!
sins of a nation left between pairs of socks

fifty milligrams at night, dead priest sidles off somewhere
                    are you there? i thought i could cry out
each soft-shadow glance at your face

were we there? keep it down! milligram and a half!
                    now laugh! caged cockatiel keeps count on the perch
of every ghost here that burns the roof of your mouth

repent, repent, repent


person John Grey, one poem

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in
That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work
upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie
Review and failbetter.



Man’s digging for bones
in a field in a corner of Nagy’s farm.
Not the ribs of cows
poking through their leather vests
but the remains of ancient creatures.
He’s a paleontologist
not some guy who’s having a hard time
remembering the last time it rained.

But what’s Nagy to do?
This professor
is paying him good money
which is more than he can say
for his scrawny cattle.
The possibility of a wool-less
woolly mammoth
is keeping his family fed.

Life’s not working out
for those making their living off the land.
So maybe it’s the turn
buried somewhere below
where old man Nagy’s standing.

The professor’s found some kind of skull
and he’s celebrating.
Nagy learns there’s joy to be had in the dead.
But the dying’s another story.