in fist, she is the true star of this show, does not stop
as long as the orchestra plays.
Salena Casha Twins and Twines
We used to be bound up
Immobile, prone, breathless,
our seams rending
from a joke
whose ghost haunts my
I never thought it would unravel,
that we would become dis
joint, spliced by the paring
knife of a single crack
on a windshield.
Our twinned laughter skipped
and tripped and
as we wrenched to
a grinding halt, ending
like spider-web silk
snapped off in a car door.
You and me
twinned and twined,
our sutures clumsy
done by hands unable
to bind us with
thin wisps of
They sewed you up,
cold skin pierced and piqued
in scarred black
A sentence you never
wanted set in
I waited for the
severed sky to settle, my
stitches left loose in bloody
Over and over,
I pinched at the threads,
unable to knot myself back
Margie Shaheed CATCHING THE BUS #1
1:00 AM Newark, NJ 07106
She: “Can I please gid a free ride? Me and mah boyfrien’ jus’ got in na fight and he threw me outta tha house wid no money. Ah’m jus’ tryin’ to go to mah mama’s house.”
Bus Driver: “MISS! We don’t give free rides! But, gon. Ah’ll let chu go dis time. Go sit down.”
She: “Thank you. God bless.”
CATCHING THE BUS #2 11:01 PM Cleveland, OH 44105
The paradigm for safety has shifted. As I’m getting ready to leave my daughter’s house she tells me not to go to the same bus stop I used earlier in the day because at night it’s dangerous. She said a few weeks ago a man was beaten and shot on his way to that bus stop late at night. I blame myself for not leaving earlier. I dread the only alternative—a 10 minute walk out of the way to the other bus stop where the street is lit, although dimly, and the bus is known to run slower at night. Her boyfriend insists on walking with me to the bus stop, and says he’ll wait for the bus to come. Outside, the cold has thrown a damp cloth over the night air. We brace ourselves for the long walk. When we finally get to the bus stop he puts my bag down on the ground. And, as is habit for folks who catch the bus, we take turns walking to the curb, leaning our bodies over its edge like question marks. We angle our heads in the direction of the bus and look up the street—and as if waiting for Jesus to come back—with conviction, we keep constant tabs on the bus’ headlights because doing this makes us feel like it will make the bus come quicker. The bus arrives 20 minutes late.
CATCHING THE BUS #4 12:20 AM East Cleveland, OH 44112
The houses surrounding the bus stop are sad and desolate. Dilapidated and overgrown. I’m tired and just want to be at home in my bed. The schedule says the bus won’t come for another 25 minutes—so I wait. I need a car I think to myself. A man walks up, speaks to me, and sits down, careful not to invade my personal space. The chrome bench is cool under my thighs. It’s quiet. At first we don’t talk then the man lights a cigarette and asks me between puffs how long have I been waiting. I tell him about 15 minutes. I notice on the ground to the left of me is a pile of clothes lying next to a garbage can. I wonder why the clothes didn’t make it in the bin. It’s raining so they’re soaked and littered with city dirt. Bored, I get up from the bench and find a stick nearby. I use it to fish the items out of the pile one by one: an electric blue swim suit, black stretch pants, a yellow flowered hoodie, a white bra, and one sneaker. I look up at the man who’s been watching me all the time and I say, “I wonder what story these clothes do tell.” He looks directly at me, shrugs, and says, “who cares?”
Joseph Johnston Int. Kitchen Table – Night
skunk wafting through open window
weak firecrackers from storefront dealer
ditch weed same source
it’s a high sky summer
and I’m 16 and delivering papers at
five in the morning and it’s too dark
and too early to be this hot
later that afternoon a devil in my ear
will suggest a trip to Shields for rush
and new music, pulling a gun on an old
lady for cutting us off on the return trip
it’s a high sky summer and
the air in the whole house is thick and wet
with that skunk and
that ditch weed and
those firecrackers and
the remembrance of a
terrified old lady in a
Russell Brickey Overhead as a Grandmother Explains Moses to Her Grandchild
…but you know, Moses was
over 900 years old.
if they was on
the same calendar as us…
A.J. Huffman has published eleven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new poetry collection, Another Blood Jet, is now available from Eldritch Press. She has two more poetry collections forthcoming: A Few Bullets Short of Home, from mgv2>publishing and Degeneration, from Pink Girl Ink. She is a Multiple Pushcart Prize nominee, and has published over 2100 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. www.kindofahurricanepress.com.
Salena Casha's work has appeared in over 30 publications. She was a finalist for the 2013-2014 Boston Public Library's Children's Writer-in-Residence. Her first three picture books were published by MeeGenius Books, one of which was featured in the PBS Kids Summer Learning Project 2014. She is represented by Carolyn Jenks of the Carolyn Jenks Agency.
Margie Shaheed is a community poet, writer and teaching artist. Her manuscript, The Playground is the winner of the Hidden Charm Press Chapbook Contest and is scheduled to be published in June, 2015. Her chapbook, Mosaic published by NightBallet Press released June 2013 is in its 20th print run. As well, her work has appeared in print journals including Essence Magazine, Black Magnolias, The Mom Egg Review, Blackberry and online at TimBookTu and Femficatio.
Joseph Johnston is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and musical instrument repair technician from Michigan. He received a BA from Alma College in 1997. His short movies have been selected and rewarded on the Midwest regional festival circuit and last year his film "Fragments" was the winner of the Iron Horse Literary Review's inaugural video literature competition. His poetry and prose have appeared in Rawboned and Old Northwest Review. He resides in metro Detroit with his wife and two children and is currently working on a documentary about the history of boxing in Detroit.
Russell Brickey has collections out from Aldritch Press and Spuyten Duyvil Press, and forthcoming from Wild Leaf Press (Fall 2104). He holds an MFA from Purdue University.