Hallucinogenic Love


I see them dancing on the roof

and no-one seems to care.

Fire weaves its way

feeding on 99 cent novels

making pine trees cry

and I can still trace your love

in every crack on my knuckle.

I wish you would stop

because it bleeds into my ink.

Stars breathe,

according to you.

Worst of all

they remember.

Me, myself, and I

You, yourself, and still I

I, recorded with you in starlight

when all I wanted was a dance

until I started setting fires

and seeing things in you

that simply weren’t there.


Michael Adams




The quick, sudden thing

left without remorse.

It took away the beating,

skipping that my elated heart

favored, and gave me

an ache that elevated—

choked. The dread settled

in, leaving me for dead.

But, the taste it left on my lips;

a sweet cherry recently

stained and harbored.

My tongue wiped the

sweetened stain, and

every day I had to

steal that taste.

Until recently, that sweet

taste became bitter, and I

could no longer savor

my memory.


Danielle Lambert

Empire City

Rising, rising through the Empire City,

 the moon light shimmers

against ninety flights of glowing glass.

On top of the city, the streets bustle with life.

Against the merciless wind,

the iron wrought fence turns crimson

in the breeze.

At touch, the oxidized metal feels calloused

against your hand.

Despite the intoxicating stench

of iron lingering

in the air, 

across the sky, city lights dance

against the starry abyss.

Fiddling with a penny in your hand,

how fast can Abraham fly?

Beneath the empty gaze,

thousands of cars hum

against the beaten path.

Trudging through the light filled city,

normal people resemble ants

through the city that never sleeps.

In the distance,

boats beat against the Atlantic,

bellowing as they navigate

amongst the sea.

Past the ships,

the Brooklyn Bridge yields

to traffic as it comes;

it too, fights the  ocean’s onslaught.

As mesmerizing as the horizon may be,

a whole new world awaits below.

At ground level, the babble

of passing pedestrians fills the air

along with the aroma

of rising dough and freshly brewed coffee

from dimly lit bakeries and coffee shops

advertising the city’s best bread and coffee.

Beyond the pack,

a quiet street gives way to a moon burning

through the placid dusk.

As you peek

up through the crowd,

colossal sky scrapers appear

to peek just into the heavens.

This foreign land, New York City,

a city so great, they named it twice.

New York City,

how will you ever live



Ashley LaClair

Lonely Knowing

I believe in the warmth within you.
I watched it light the cold corners of your eyes.
I thought: I could believe anything you’d say if you’d let me.

You mumbled of the swirling suction, which pulled you into that dark place.
Your feelings were a black hole, and you swore you were falling in.
You refused to explain, but I knew what you were feeling.
I felt it, too.
We both feared the same thing.

You loved me for a night, and I knew you wouldn’t remember.
You don’t remember.
We fell asleep sharing a sweet, subtle secret.
When I woke up, I was the only one who knew.


Meaghan Hayman

An Attempted Explanation

Today is the day we have been anticipating all semester. Every notebook page filled with unintelligible scribbles led us here. All of our ideas and thoughts begging to be shouted to the world. Some thoughts more important, more desperate to be shared, others would rather stay hidden, but need to be said.

Students gather in the small, dimly lit theater. The brightest light already focused on the lone microphone at center stage. It waits there for its first victim. Somehow it wears a smile that seems inviting, but promises something akin to torture. That microphone will feel the pain that radiates through the words of students who will voluntarily share their souls with the world.

“Poetry is meant to be shared.” That’s what Mrs. Hechlik always tells us. I think she means to be encouraging, but it just leaves me with a strangely protective feeling in my gut. I need to protect the words that mean so much. I can’t share my poetry; it would mean I would have to admit to the world that I have real emotions. Those don’t need to be shared; well, some of them don’t. Some people might think I’m overly humble, but no one would understand even if I tried explaining everything. So, why should I expect anyone in this room to understand that when I step on that stage and open my mouth, I am releasing secrets I’ve been keeping from everyone, including myself?

It’s not until I look at the list of brave souls that I remember that I asked to be one of the first. The reason I asked, well, she’s not here. If I don’t constantly remind her of things, she will forget. As much as I want my mom to hear the words I will later spill, I’m glad she’s not here. Having her here would make this that much harder. I would get on stage and see her and watch as she hears the feelings I’ve been bottling up. She would see the tears that will most likely stream down my face, but she wouldn’t believe me, anyway.

My nerves drown out the speakers before me. I flex and relax my hands over and over trying to stop them from shaking. My knees bounce up and down rapidly in anticipation. I really need to have faith that the crowd here understands what I’m about to say. I’ve never said this to anyone for fear that they won’t understand, that I won’t make sense. It’s always been difficult for me to say things, especially the things I should say, but I’ve never had enough faith in myself to be able to explain it correctly.

“Up next we have Courtney Gage and her poem ‘An Attempted Explanation.’”

“Crap,” I mutter to myself before taking a deep, shaky, breath and heading to the stage. My friends in the audience shout words of encouragement as I slowly take my place, not ready for this, but I guess I have to be now.

“Um, Hi. My name is Courtney, and this poem is called ‘An Attempted Explanation.’” Awesome, I already sound like an idiot. There is no way these people are going to believe me now, especially with the way my hands are shaking. I should have just memorized this thing, but I probably would have forgotten it when I got up here. I just have to hope I can get through this without dropping to the floor. I have to hope that my message makes sense, hope that I make sense. I take a deep breath, and force myself to continue.

“Alexithymia, noun; the inability to express one’s feelings.” More like inability to communicate with true dialogue, heck, even not at all. Goodbye primordial right.  My mind goes blank. I have to focus on the page; I’m not really sure if words are coming out of my mouth. I guess it makes sense that I forgot to remind my mom about today. Most of the time, I can’t even answer the simplest of questions.

“Don’t force these questions on me.

The reaction in my brain

Creates a tidal wave of panic causing

The lump in my throat

To block the sound

Of my voice”

I don’t know where to look. The paper in my hand is shaking as if my arm were a tree branch and the paper a leaf. Am I still breathing? I think I might be. It’s like every difficult conversation I can’t have, only instead of talking to one person, I’m talking to fifty. Nothing will change if I can’t stop this fear of saying the wrong thing. Maybe I don’t want change. Maybe I’ve been thinking too critically, to the point of stopping change from occurring. I’ve been stopping myself from ever being able to effectively communicate.

“My brain believes that every word

Must be chosen carefully and specifically

For a better purpose

But the only adjectives I have

Are profanities,

“I” the only noun,

A skip-skipping record in my head.”

I can feel it: I’m crying. That is exactly what I didn’t want to do. I can’t breathe again. I’m shaking so much my voice must sound like I’m talking into a fan. I can’t stop. I have to finish this. I just really have to hope that they can still understand me. I hope that everyone here realizes that the reason that tears are streaming down my face is because I am finally releasing the things that have been weighing on my mind for so long.

“‘Just tell me!’

‘I’m trying!’

But the answers are now gone,

Replaced by the pathetic whimpering

Tears streaming down my face,

The disturbing sniffles

That attempt to draw back in

The slimy evidence of my frustrations.”

Almost done. Just a few more lines and I can go hide in a hole for the rest of the day, or the rest of my life. As I say the final words I feel lighter somehow, almost like I’m floating.

“Thank you.” I quickly step off the stage and to the row my friends are sitting in. I guess, that even though I wasn’t able to say what I needed to the right person, at least I said it. A weight has been lifted off my chest, my breathing now in control. Hopefully, someone out there understands what I’ve said. I feel like someone who was oppressed and unable to speak and who finally got the right to speak up. Everything, and yet nothing, has changed.

The next day the prizes are awarded to participants of the Poetry Slam. I won the top prize: “Most Emotional Poem.” So maybe someone really did understand.

An Attempted Explanation


Alexithymia, noun;

The inability to express one’s feelings.


“How are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why did you do that?”

“I don’t know.”

“How can you be failing?”

“I don’t know!”

“What is wrong with you?”



I don’t know how to tell you I’m not okay.

I don’t know how to tell you I’m angry with you.

I don’t know how to tell you I’m not as smart as you think I am.

I don’t know how to say what I’m feeling

What I’m thinking.


Don’t force these questions on me.

The reaction in my brain

Creates a tidal wave of panic causing

The lump in my throat

To block the sound

Of my voice


This laryngitis is brought upon

By serious and debilitating

Bouts of frustration that force

My brain into an unending

Loop of distress

The only thoughts left are those

That continue to choke

Me and spread my paralysis.


My brain believes that every word

Must be chosen carefully and specifically

For a better purpose

But the only adjectives I have

Are profanities,

“I” the only noun,

A skip-skipping record in my head.


“Just tell me!”

“I’m trying!”

But the answers are now gone,

Replaced by the pathetic whimpering

Tears streaming down my face,

The disturbing sniffles

That attempt to draw back in

The slimy evidence of my frustrations.


“Stop Crying.”

I can’t.

I can’t do this.

I can’t tell you.

I’m afraid you won’t like the answer.

I’m afraid you will make this my fault.

I’m afraid you won’t understand.

You never do.

You laugh in my face

And tell me to

“Stop being so Over Dramatic.”

All you ever do is tell me to get over it.


I’m tired of trying to

Find the right words,

It’s time to find the wrong ones.


“What do you want for dinner?”

“I don’t know.”


Courtney Gage


i am thinking of you r.g.

a piano teeth smile

that played the loveliest harmonies.

on days the sun clings to branches

like a needy lover.

clutching the other’s shirt

that rips at the stitching.


i am dreaming of you r.g.

each time i hear a song

whistling through the trees.

i wonder if you found an answer

to the question your grandson asked you

a product of a broken home

held together by loose screws,

rusty nails,

and self-doubt.


are you still courting the muse?

writing poems for her each night?

do you speak of her caked cheeks

colored rose pink

and white hair?

is she still beautiful?


i am praying for you r.g.,

that one day, on an afternoon like this,

the wind will bring me back to you.


Thomas Dunn

Scenes from a Moving Vehicle: Five Tanka


She sings her screw-loose rhythm and blues

in worn out tennis shoes.

with a flame that will set the Midwest ablaze,

I trace the maze of capillaries and veins

back to her arteries.


We wait for the moment to pass,

finding beauty in the rain;

softness between steel.

The road bends—her lips curl.

Hands steady. Eyes on tar-marked Asphalt.


Turning off the radio she says:

“that even rain has a melody

that forces us to harmonize.”

I laugh. She frowns. I smile.

“this is Nature’s Jazz.”


The rain is the sound of serendipity,

accompanied by random percussion;

it’s layers of complexity we can’t think of;

it’s a love we can’t force,

we just have to let happen.


Raindrops against the windshield;

an elegance I won’t soon forget.

Rhythmic phrases I will lose in time;

harmonies that will fade with age

but I’ll take memories of you to the dirt.


Thomas Dunn

*** A portion of tanka #4 was published on Twitter and Tumblr.****


It’s summer.
Heat swelters outside
Breezes blow through trees
Children play in pools
A tear drops onto the floor.
Each tear steals a little of your life.
Trickling down your cheeks, running into your mouth
Dripping onto the floor.
You’re helpless now.
You’re alone
It seems your entire being is sucked out
You’re left drowning in midair.
And it’s summer
At that exact moment, mere feet from you
You stand.
You’re staring at yourself through a portal of memory
And you realize you had it best then
Then it was a summer you could enjoy
And a single tear steals its way down your cheek.
He’s leaving.
He was everything.
And now he’s leaving you
Your daughter stays
But he’s gone now.
And it’s summer
June, July, August.
Months pass, years even and it is summer yet again
Heat beats down on your brow
Sweat mingles with blood
It’s not yours, but it covers you
It’s hers.
The product of your own flesh and blood
Your daughter
She stares up at the sky
A drunken act, and she’s gone
Your tears come now
But they’re worse than before
Now they’re accompanied by screams
Screams at the sky
And it’s summer,
Free, beautiful summer
Now you sit
You’re in the sun
The doctors say it’s only a matter of time now
They say there’s nothing to be done
Except wait
So you do
You call your sister
You talk until your words are gone
Then you cry until your eyes are dry
Then you hang up
And sit there
And then you stop staring.
Your eyes close
It’s quiet
A breeze brushes your cheek
A bird sings your serenade
The smell of fresh-baked bread tickles your nostrils
And it’s summer.

~Kaleb Yaeger

In the Dark Velvet Night

Two emeralds
in this bowl
of stones

beauty marks
only they know.

little gold nails
scratching skin.

whites of eyes
curling toes.

will be cut
but –

silk sheets
feel better
with no clothes.


Caleigh Wesmer

Aqua Vitae: A Practical Recipe

Ponce de Leon sought the Fountain of Youth
upon the Isle of Bimini, but instead
he ran aground in Florida
and founded St. Augustine. Ever since then,
people have flocked south,
as if those waters bubble up from the Everglades,
or perhaps the dank recesses
of a central Floridian swamp – where cypress stand
a stoic watch, arms outstretched
and roots exposed like legs poised to dance
with demons driving men to drink
without fathoming their thirst for an impossible elixir,
or chemicals churning in an I.V. drip.
Such youth is stale. Like a cracker left out of the box.
Yet south they still go, as if word of this fountain
were only now trickling out
to hospitals,
to clinics,
and gated retirement blocks:
promises clutched in gnarled fists,
orthopedic shoes shuffling to a doctor’s didactic chant.
But the aqua vitae they seek
could never be extracted from a marshy bed,
or by metaphorically delving
the depths of an ailing heart.
Instead, distill legend from bitter truth:
And to this essence apply alchemical flame;
close eyes, conjure Caribbean thoughts,
then sprinkle these ashes
upon a moistened tongue.

~Bryan Hall