Baseball is the only game you can see on the radio.
—Phil Hirsh, The Chicago Tribune, 1985
The door knob’s gone missing. There’s no leaving
today. And tomorrow won’t miss you
until cool sunrise charts its early path.
Get up. Draw your bath. Light will bleed through
what was once a lock. Wait for afternoon:
The radio proffers a task, a game
to carry sunlight through drawn drapes, false doors.
Hear Summer. No two plays are the same.
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 and a novel are forthcoming. He is very fond of baseball, Louis Aragon, Miles Davis, Kafka and Dante. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian, Joan Juster, where he made his marginal living pointing out pretty things. Now, he works doing guy stuff, go figure. He has published 2 novels and three chapbooks and two full length collections so far. His first chapbook won the Negative Capability Award. Titles on request.
A meager online presence can be found at https://www.facebook.com/MarkJMitchellwriter/
A primitive web site now exists: https://www.mark-j-mitchell.square.site/
I sometimes tweet @Mark J Mitchell_Writer
they walked hand in hand
blossoms fell like cherry snow
April in Tokyo
Haiku and photo (April 2017, Tokyo) by Shane Huey, editor.
Pete and Richard’s orange safety vests glowed a blinding light under the scorching sun, and their sweat dripped onto the pavement as they stood in the middle of the right lane on Highway 61, staring at an opossum lying stiffly on its side.
Richard handed Pete a dirty shovel. “Scoop it up,” he said.
Everything made Pete queasy. He once fainted at the sight of a moldy loaf of bread. Even so, he decided to take on a thankless summer job as a roadkill cleaner. At least he didn’t have to deal with many people.
Richard nudged Pete. “What are you waiting for?” he asked.
Pete squinted at the creature. “It’s not dead,” he said. “It’s just sleeping.”
“Are you sure?” Richard asked as he scratched his beard. He had one of those beards that looked like it would give a chainsaw a difficult time.
“Yes,” Pete said. “I just saw it twitch.”
Richard walked back toward the shoulder of the road and popped open the driver’s side door of a rusty pickup truck. “Alright, let’s go.”
Pete shook his head. “We can’t just leave it here.”
“It’s not our problem,” Richard said. “They tell us to do with the dead ones, but not the ones that are still alive.”
Pete crouched down and took a closer look. “We need to get it to safety,” he said.
Richard sighed and walked back toward the opossum. “What if it wakes up and attacks us?” he asked. “That thing could have rabies.”
“I don’t think anything could wake it up right now,” Pete said.
Richard belched, “It’s an ugly son of a gun, isn’t it?”
“I think it’s so ugly that it’s cute,” Pete said.
“No one ever says that about me,” Richard said with a chuckle. “I guess I just haven’t crossed into that territory.”
Just then, a car sped by and swerved over into the next lane. Pete and Richard dashed out of the way.
“People drive like animals!” Richard said. “We’d better get going.”
Pete took a deep breath, slipped his gloves on, gently picked up the opossum, and carried it into the woods.
“What are you doing?” Richard asked. “Are you crazy?”
After nestling the possum into a bush, Pete smelled the scent of burning wood. He gazed out into the clearing and noticed a plume of black smoke billowing into the sky. The sparrows scattered away, and the trees stood with their limbs spread, as if they were about to be crucified.
“Jesus Christ,” Pete whispered under his breath.
Pete picked up the opossum and turned back around.
Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories appear in Reed Magazine, The Coachella Review, Maudlin House, Still Point Arts Quarterly, B O D Y, Ruminate, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. His chapbook Tiny Universes (Selcouth Station Press) is available in paperback and ebook. He lives with his wonderful wife, Kelly, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
daisies in a blue
vase under a summer sun
dazzle on the soul
· · ·
dive after the gale
‘where’s beauty?’ I ask the fish
· · ·
sea scales burst aflame
ugly starlings flee southward
in bright multitudes
Joan García Viltró is a poet based in Cambrils, on the south Catalan coast. His poems often reflect Mediterranean mythologies and his concern with Nature struggling under human pressure. Published or forthcoming in The London Magazine, Green Ink Poetry, Punk Noir Magazine, etc. Highly commended in the 2022 erbacce-prize for poetry.
the smell of chlorine
our dog chases dragonflies
I melt with the sun
Melanie Browne is a poet and fiction writer living in Texas. She has been published in many online journals and anthologies including Citizens for Decent Literature Press, Every Day Poets, and Poetry Superhighway.
when dreaming of you i go home
what a treat, tonight
tell me you can see
rippling stands of
creeping foxtail can’t
you hear their foot pads
hitting with force as if
they’re trouncing the
swaying stems yet
all that happens is
quick sways in
forms outlined tell
me you can see them
one of many private deities
basis of my spirituality
known to me alone if
anyone’s reached similar
conclusions i have no interest
in sharing my myth
with anyone who didn’t help
affirm that we’re all born with
a sliver of god in our heart
study of enlightenment shows
one of the hardest earthly
attachments to let go is doubt
doubted that i’d ever dream
again & feel at home, when
i let go, saw the racing packs
numerous transparent wolves
suddenly i settled into theory
i thought my passion for anthro-
pomorphizing grassflows was a
pathology, now i see it was a howl
let out by infernal spirits yearning
to bathe in moonlight
Thomas Jackson is currently a Junior at North Carolina State University in the United States. Thomas self-published a poetry collection centered on his experiences with suicidal thoughts and nature titled "growth" through Amazon when he was seventeen years old. In February of 2020 delivered a spoken-word poem at TEDx NCState titled "I am so proud of you" which was shared to the official TEDx talks Youtube channel. His poem "afterparty" appeared in Issue 20 of Emerge Literary Journal. He received a first place prize for “The Big Mistake” and an honorable mention for “body parts” in two contests for the North Carolina Poetry Society’s Pinesong Awards. Most recently, his poems “Portrait” and “sacred sites on this planet are few & far between” in NC State University’s Windhover Literary Magazine. You can engage with his work further at www.thomasjwrites.com, www.instagram.com/jtommyj and www.twitter.com/tommybbyboy.
I hadn’t meant to start a war, but his email was so petty and it rubbed me the wrong way. You have to understand. I think anybody in my situation would have reacted how I did. I sent the final draft of the project, and everything was good to go. I was ready to move on with it. The client was happy, everybody on my internal team thought I’d done a great job. Then Todd’s email came. He was even smug enough to send it with a High Importance tag. He said:
First of all, nice work.
But look at page 67: the graphic you placed at the left-bottom of the page, it’s a little off-center with the one on the right. Please correct and send back ASAP.
And OK, maybe it was slightly off, I’ll admit. But it was a big project, I’d worked on it for months, little mistakes like that happen but they never get noticed. Where did he get off on being so petty and pedantic? He could have fixed it himself if it was that big of a deal. Hell, typing up the email took more time than it would have for him to fix it himself. But here’s what set me off, what set The Great Petty War in motion: he copied my manager on the email. He hadn’t been on any of the emails before, but then this pedantic prick face Todd decides to rope him in as some way of tattling on me and holding me accountable.
Well, that didn’t sit right with me. The first shots had been fired. I was the victim of a needless attack, so I fought back. I responded with the corrected version, and this time I copied Todd’s manager on the email.
And what does this asshole do? He replied:
Thanks for fixing. We can’t be making mistakes like that. Let’s not make it a habit.
On this email, he copied the president of our company and our client’s entire C-Suite. The nuclear missiles had been armed. Troops were advancing inland. The war was on.
So, I immediately replied:
You got it, boss man.
And in the words ‘boss man’ I hyperlinked a definition of the word ‘pedant.’ I also copied everybody in our entire company on the email. Over four hundred people received and read that email. I had nuclear missiles, too, and they were aimed directly at Todd.
He replied with another pointless, curt comment—both of us were hellbent on getting the last word. And he copied everybody in the client’s company.
So, I fired back. I sent my troops and copied a couple other clients on the email.
Todd replied, copying all of our clients on his email.
I copied everybody I knew, friends and family and loose acquaintances, and sent my response.
Todd copied everybody he knew.
I stared at his email.
The message glared off my blue light glasses. I scrolled through all the names on the email. There were thousands of people now involved. It was between Todd and me, and I sort of felt bad for bringing others in, but it needed to be done. It was a part of The Great Petty War; it was how the game was played.
I looked online, and I found a database that let me pull every email address in the United States, and I threw them on the email chain.
Todd replied with all of North America.
Have a good weekend.
You too Todd.
With all of Europe copied on the email. I logged off for the weekend, thinking the war had ended with my final word.
Then on Monday morning I logged on and saw this fuckhead had copied all of Asia.
Hope you had a good one.
I fired back, bringing South America into the mix.
Todd pulled the big guns and brought everybody else in. Now everybody was in the fight. North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, hell, even Antarctica had some skin in the game.
The entire world watched our emails go back and forth, salvos of corporate pettiness volleyed from target to target.
Monday at 5:40, I logged off and went home. That night, I turned on the TV and every station was talking about us. Apparently, Todd and I had started quite the fuss. People were taking to the streets, proclaiming their side. Some were Team Todd, others were Team Josh. It split households and friend groups. A small newspaper in Albuquerque had dubbed it The Great Petty War, and that name stuck.
The Great Petty War kept raging the next morning. I replied, Todd replied. Nothing of substance was said. At many times, I wondered why we even kept up the war. It had been going on so long that sometimes I forgot what we were fighting about anyway. But then I’d remind myself it was about pride, it was about principle, it was about the good guy coming out on top. So, I kept the war going.
The whole world paused for The Great Petty War. There was no more fighting in Myanmar or Afghanistan or Yemen. Colombia became peaceful. Somalia dropped all their arms to watch. The entire world was invested in The Great Petty War.
World leaders and countries took sides. Kim Jong-un and North Korea sided with Team Josh. I had some compunction when I first heard this. I knew he wasn’t the best ally to have, but I figured, hey, despite everything, he at least had good judgement. So, I gladly accepted his support. The European Union disintegrated over The Great Petty War. There was too much of a divide between Team Todd and Team Josh supporters. The United States couldn’t unify for a side, either. States became factions, then cities and counties, then small militias formed for each side.
The first casualty in The Great Petty War happened on a Thursday, six days after the start of the war. Some drunk Team Todd supporter got into it with a Team Josh supporter at a bar in Delaware, and he shot and killed the guy outside. “Viva Team Todd!” he yelled, as he drove away from the scene.
Both sides took up arms, and Todd and I kept emailing. We were impervious to any of the real fighting. We had become figures—we were no longer just people. We were symbols of unity, but at the same time symbols of division. The people knew taking one of us out would be fruitless for their side. If a Team Josh supporter assassinated Todd, Todd would become a martyr, and the history books would say Team Todd came out victorious.
So, the people took to the streets and made it their battleground. They fought over Todd and me. The whole time, Todd and I sat in our cubicles, only fifteen feet away from each other. Either one of us could have walked over to the other and settled the thing in person. We’d probably just laugh about it and get a beer after work. It was petty, we both knew, and the project ended well, but the people were involved. We had to think of the people. So, we kept emailing and they kept fighting, even though Todd and I had both lost interest. The email chain had run so long, it meant nothing.
My replies devolved into emojis at one point. I sent the thumbs up, the smiley face, the OK fingers. Then Todd replied with a gif, and that really pissed off Team Josh supporters. That was a whole new weapon; it had to be in violation of some Petty War convention.
Three months after the start of The Great Petty War, Todd put in his two-week notice. He found a job somewhere else that paid 30% more. Todd and I didn’t dare disclose this to the people, though. We didn’t want them to know that their great war would end soon, that it would end so anticlimactically. Though neither of us cared, we kept the war going, for the people. Truthfully, I was happy for Todd. He’d been at the company for a while, and he deserved better. But I couldn’t let Team Josh supporters know this. In their eyes, Todd was my sworn enemy.
Todd’s final day came. On his way out, I nodded to him. He nodded back and smiled. It had been a hell of a war, and it was over now. I sent one final email to him, with the whole world copied on it. He was moving companies, he no longer had access to the email address. Team Josh had won the war. Almost a million casualties were suffered on both sides.
Things settled down after a week of no emails. A month of no emails, and fighting started up again in Myanmar and Afghanistan and Yemen. Colombia went back to war. Somalia picked up their arms. The Great Petty War was reduced to small fringe groups fighting for the cause in contained firefights. A year passed, and many had forgotten why The Great Petty War was fought in the first place; the email chain was so long, who had the time to go back through it all. Five years passed and The Great Petty War was a distant memory for most.
I ran into Todd the other day. I’ve since moved jobs, moved cities, but I ran into him when he was on a work trip. We caught up over a few drinks, and toward the end, when we were both feeling drunk and uninhibited, he confessed, “You know, I didn’t really care about that graphic alignment. I was just having a shit day, man.”
I looked into my beer and bit my lip. I took a big gulp. “Todd,” I laughed. “It was pretty douchey by you, but I definitely overreacted. I mean, the hyperlink, the emojis. Way too much, man.”
Todd slapped his hand on the bar and laughed.
“I was sick of taking so much shit there,” I said. We both laughed.
Todd grabbed my shoulder and looked at me. His eyes were glazed; he was about to say something sentimental. “Hey man,” he said, “it was a dumb little thing, but it’s over now. At least we came out of it fine.”
Riley Winchester is from Michigan. He's been nominated for some Pushcarts and he's been shortlisted in some contests, but he's never won anything.
to be a bird.
i’ve navigated these lows
so long with the aching desire to soar.
in the low-country hills, in the wash of spring
a dead groundhog is splayed on the pavement:
his intestines a rosette of color on the algid gravel.
my tires barely miss him; i issue a prayer in the rear-view mirror,
as i am certain my mother has done for me over the years,
watching me drag the baggage of myself across the verdant hillside of my home.
in the rush of city traffic, i shrink to my smallest
form, injured peregrine, white belly from months of isolation.
i dive into the backroads, back towards home.
the groundhog, having heard or not heard my prayer, still spills himself as an offering, a red-shouldered hawk perched atop his carcass,
trying unsuccessfully to carry him away.
and i wonder which one i am more like –
the hawk, given brilliant wings, but unable to fly,
or the groundhog, offering his insides to the world, and no one able to carry them.
Mela Blust is an award nominated poet whose work has appeared in various literary journals such as The Sierra Nevada Review, Rust & Moth, The Bitter Oleander, and many, many more. She has written two books of poetry with a third on the way, and can be followed on twitter as @melablust.
This is not haiku.
You can’t tell me what to do
or how to rhyme schemes.
This is not haiku.
Pigeons in the sky high coo.
We know not bird speak.
This is not haiku.
It’s reverse psychology.
No hidden truths here.
This is not haiku.
flower lamp is life.
This is not haiku.
Bowl of bone marrow broth stew;
dip at your own risk.
This is not haiku.
Why are we still reading this?
Just go outside, bitch.
Jamie Lee Knight is a super duper poet muppet hula hooper artist from the midwest living in Colorado. She planted too many tomato plants & now lives in a cherry tomato jungle gym. Send machete.