Working Royalty – a poem by Torri Brooke

Working Royalty

My father climbed into his semi
like a king onto his throne.
His skin was stained brown by
the harsh sun, unprotected
by the tractor he commanded the eve’n before.
His sleep came inside an old coffee thermos,
the one thing he was never without.

My mother watched as her beloved chased
yet another paycheck down the highway;
her calloused hands wiped my tears
as confidently as they ruled our little home.
You could see the worry she held
by the way she always double-checked
that our doors were locked at night.

A steady flow of tenderness and faithfulness
radiated from their worn faces.
The endless hours they toiled
taught me the meaning of work
and I began to realize that it’s best done
when done out of love for another,
not love of thyself.


Torri Brooke is an undergraduate senior currently pursuing a degree in English and Creative Writing. Torri is also the managing editor of a Nashville based literary journal, The Cumberland River Review.

The Monarch – a poem by Christine A. Brooks

The Monarch

He floated in, as if he had been here before, as if,
He knew his way.

He stayed, moments only, perhaps,
Strong in the warm summer breeze,
Of his ability to fly away at any time,
allowing me in,
Ever briefly.

Dancing the fragile dance,
That afternoon
Both strong apart —

He fluttered, opening his strong wings emblazoned with bold orange and
Black so dark it appeared blue

Until the moment his colors
Burst into flame,
And he was gone,
Leaving only his imprint
On my soul.


Christine A. Brooks is a graduate of Western New England University with her B.A. in Literature, and is currently attending Bay Path University for her M.F.A. in Creative Non Fiction. Most recently a series of poems, The Ugly Five, are in the summer issue of Door Is A Jar Magazine and her poem, The Writer, is in the June, 2018 issue of The Cabinet of Heed Literary Magazine. Three poems, Puff, Sister and Grapes are in the 5th issue of The Mystic Blue Review. Her vignette, Finding God, will be in the December issue of Riggwelter Press, and her series of vignettes, Small Packages, was named a semifinalist at Gazing Grain Press in August 2018.

Perfect Vision – a poem by Gale Acuff

Perfect Vision

In Sunday School today I saw Jesus
open His eyes–well, one of them–as He
hung there on the Crucifix. Miss Hooker
was talking about something, I forget
just what, when my eyes strayed like little sheep
up the hillside of the wall where Jesus
is nailed and as I stared and stared–and I
confess I was sleepy, I don’t get much
of that on Saturday night and too much
of my comic books but–I’ll swear that I
saw Jesus peeking over Miss Hooker’s
shoulder on a stack of Bibles. I mean
I’ll swear it on a stack of Bibles. And
I damn near pointed but it came to me

that if I squealed on the Savior I’d be
just like Judas, or not much better, and
would’ve sold Jesus out a second time
and I’ve got problems enough as it is,
being short for my age and then I failed
second grade not because I’m stupid but
because I didn’t care. Oh, alright, I’m
stupid then, stupid in a different way.
Or maybe not, I’m not smart enough to
judge though that never stopped me before and
judging is a sin but somebody has to
judge me and it might as well be me if
not God, or I’ll let Him do the big part

when I’m dead. And then I thought I’d raise my
hand and tell Miss Hooker what I saw but
I don’t think she would’ve believed me, I
can hardly believe it myself, and light
plays tricks with your eyes sometimes and of course
my classmates would’ve laughed at me so what
could I do? I saw Jesus’ eyeball
moving, too, wandering a little like
Miss Hooker’s lazy eye until you think
she’s looking right at you but somewhere else
as well, out the window maybe. Jesus
could control His, though, so He brought it back
until it was looking steadily at

me. It rested on me, I guess it was.
I propped it up, you might say, by being
in its path, almost like it created
me. Nobody can stare down Jesus so
I blinked and blinked–it’s not a shame for God
to get the best of you, it’s evil that
we have to face down–and then I opened
my two eyes again to Jesus’ one
and saw that His was shut, or shut again,
I guess I’ll never know. Then Miss Hooker
asked me what was wrong so I told her that
I had something in my eye–in both eyes
–which was both a lie and good enough for

truth. I blinked and blinked again. Then I said
I’m better now, and smiled, but sometimes smiles
mask fear and not so well. Just barely. But
after class when all the other kids had
left I crept up to Miss Hooker’s desk and
cleared my throat to get her attention and
she looked up and smiled. I was close enough
that her lazy eye could par her good one
like a matched pair of buggy mules so that
it didn’t stray and would plow right through me.
Yes, what is it, Gale, she asked, putting down
her hymnal. You look like you’ve seen a ghost,
which was funny because that’s what one of
the characters in my comic books said

last night, though not to me, of course. Yes ma’am,
I said. I got something to tell you and
I hope you don’t think I’m going bats but
–then I looked over her shoulder at Him,
the Son of God, but on the wall He’s wood
just like His Crucifix, if you come near
you’ll see that they’re one piece instead of two, which
is pretty fair carpentry, I must say,
I know because my father sells lumber.
I mean he works down at the lumberyard.
I mean he used to before he was fired.
Yes, Gale, Miss Hooker said. Is something wrong?
Oh, no ma’am, I said–it’s just that I want

to ask a question and my question is
Do you think Jesus would’ve worn glasses
or contact lenses, I mean if His sight
wasn’t already perfect? Miss Hooker
smiled again and said, I don’t know, but why
don’t you pray about it before you fall
asleep tonight? Yes ma’am, I said. I will.
Then I left but stopped at the door and turned
around and saw Miss Hooker gazing up
at Jesus. Then she took off her glasses.
Then I left before I could see too much.

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, McNeese Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, Weber, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, Slant, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, South Dakota Review, Orbis, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives. He has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.

Lost in the Choir – a poem by Scott Waters

Lost in the Choir

A sun rises
among the voices
on the stage

glowing on the lakes
of their eyes
the dunes
of their cheeks

a golden-pink
uprush of glory
that takes
even the singers
by surprise

the sunburst
spills over the edge
of the stage

and now a warm river
swirls through the audience

sweeping tables, chairs,
plates, glasses,
purses and cell phones
toward a brown
and burnished delta
on the eastern horizon

where no one can tell
the singers


the song.


Scott Waters is a poet and songwriter living in Oakland, California, with his wife and son.  He graduated with an M.A. from the San Francisco State creative writing program, and has published previously in The Santa Clara Review, The Pangolin Review, Oblivion, and NatureWriting.


I Inhabit A Simple Crystal Vase – a poem by Dan Cardoza

Art is magic delivered from the lie of being truth–
Theodor W. Adorno

I Inhabit A Simple Crystal Vase,

it’s my hyaline avocation. Flowers I clutch, not
so much an enigma, at least to me. My betrothal,
an entrustment of emotion, witnessed in equal

proportion, that of art & science. The bloom is
my palette of joy that I calculate, in all its
telling. So in keeping, I say a long stem rose

may have longevity but is soon forgotten in the
allure of dazzle & delight. Conversely the
hypnotic orchid, though short-lived, is not so

effortlessly abandoned. I’d say in matters of the
beauty of la vie & de mort, there is no enigma

of apportionment; it’s the orchid’s peloria of
petals, lips that keep the hush of eternities

Dan Cardoza has a B.A. in Psychology and a Master of Science Degree in Counseling from California State University, Sacramento. Partial poetry credits include: Ardent, Better Than Starbucks, California Quarterly, Curlew, UK., Esthetic Apostle, Poetry Northwest and Vita Brevis.

The Essential Task – a poem by Will Stenberg

The Essential Task

Forgive me, there is space in heaven.
Forgive me there is time inside me.
Inside all things a massive quiet.
Outside, the scream.

Wholeness in the rich good sun,
words that work,
All things in time.
Breathing is the essential task.

Love leads to love, or despair.
No one knows.
Off we go.
This is the door of fear,
of danger, but the only way forward –
the dilemma.
Some of us are broken before we barely start.
And we’re moving forward.
And we’re crying in dry rooms.
Our souls like corn husks.
Our souls all gathered, acidic.
Our souls needing love.
Love leads to love, or despair.
No one knows.
On we go.

Stupid skies and rich land,
silent earth and shouting skies.
Between we run, desperate for each other.
For another.
To stop or stall the sense of self.

When will we be healed?
When the light pour in?
Empty your heart.
Stand sober before the groaning sea.
My friend, you will not survive this.

You don’t need to,
here before the moaning sea.
Here before the healing sea.
These choices made you
before you made these choices
and all of these paths
lead back to where you started
at the place where light was born
and no one needs to be forgiven.


Will Stenberg is a musician, writer, bartender and boxer who was raised in the wilds of Northern California and currently lives in Portland, Oregon.