Les Wicks

Photo Credit: remykennyl/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

A silent gift
though you seem unaware
like an earring dropped
the mercy of care, this
unexpected drug.

We have each other clothed only
in buttered afternoon light.
It is understood
we will tread lightly.

Our dogs have always treasured
the mysteries of human fingers.
Digits give us directions
to lovely ruin & understanding.
They stroke away the dust, the pain
of another decade’s living.
We discover this much
in sweat & laughter.

I am rich,
my poker face is broken.


Over 40 years Les Wicks has performed widely across the globe. Published in over 350 different magazines, anthologies & newspapers across 28 countries in 15 languages. Conducts workshops & runs Meuse Press which focuses on poetry outreach projects like poetry on buses & poetry published on the surface of a river. His 14th book of poetry is Belief (Flying Islands, 2019). Email: leswicks[at]

Two Poems

Tim Suermondt

Photo Credit: Vitorio Benedetti/Flickr (CC-by-nd)

The City Will Do

Best to go in later in the morning,
midweek, riding the subway
to the stop that has you come out
between the library and the church—
life and the afterlife staring themselves
down like gunslingers at the OK Corral.
Best to walk as aimlessly as possible,
chronicling everything large and small,
ugly and beautiful—keep moving,
with a pit stop at a café or watering hole,
until you tire and say that’ll suffice
and take the subway again, a good many
laps ahead of the rush hour, the work
days you remember for their exhaustion,
loneliness and, yes, moments of success
when the office bowed to you in thanks.
Watch the stations go by now in real time,
a few of your contemporaries on the old
concrete platforms waving you on home.


The End of the World Can Come Quickly

And when it does it will probably
find me sitting in shorts in my study,

trying to turn a recalcitrant stanza
into a dazzling display of clarity.

There will probably be scant time
for heartbreak, but a sober assessment

can be made beforehand, approached
like this: if I’m still writing, there is

another world—if I’m not writing, there is
no other world. How badly I want the former

to be true. I want to see my wife coming
towards me in the moonlight, waving,

oh waving with a book in her hand.


Tim Suermondt is the author of four full-length collections of poems, the latest one The World Doesn’t Know You. His fifth collection Josephine Baker Swimming Pool will be coming out from MadHat Press in January 2019. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Toasted Cheese, Bellevue Literary Review and Plume, among many others. He lives in Cambridge with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong. Email: allampoet[at]

For Sale

Kenneth Pobo

Photo Credit: Richard Cuppini/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

I can’t decide whether
to buy the red pair of gloves or the black.

A high school girl runs a kiosk
behind me. A shopper comes up
and says he wants to buy me—
I’d look good beside fireplace bellows.
I say I’m not for sale—the high
school girl has already begun
wrapping me up. I decide well,

why not? My life’s a failure.
I watch shows where Marie Osmond
says she lost fifty pounds. When he
gets me home, he stands me by the fireplace.
I look almost alive. The buyer

never talks to me. Why should he?
He doesn’t talk to his ottoman either,
dusts me twice a year, the same number
of times when he makes a fire
and heats my back.


Kenneth Pobo has a new book out from Duck Lake Books called Dindi Expecting Snow.  His work is forthcoming in: North Dakota Quarterly, Festival Review, The Fruit Tree, Backchannels, and elsewhere. Email: kgpobo[at]

Cleaning the Coffeepot

Barry Peters

Photo Credit: Cindy Shebley/Flickr (CC-by)

The nuns require weekly chores:
attendance taker, flag raiser, eraser clapper.
The one I fear is coffeepot cleaner.

The solitary confines of the faculty room.
The mysterious aromas of mimeograph and ammonia.
In third grade I know nothing about coffeepots,

their alien tops, thin cylindricals, perforated metal,
scalding water. The wet brown grounds:
Father Shriner might compare them to the muddy

sins of the soul trapped in odoriferous hell-heat
and I—well, I’m doing the good work, the purifying.
But no, Father, this is no metaphor,

no objective correlative. My first Sunday
as an altar boy, he tells me to light the candles.
I look at the matchbook, baffled. It’s foreign,

another coffeepot. I picture my mother
lighting a cigarette, my father lighting the grill.
Smell charcoal and methanol. I know nothing

about striking a match, the confident snap,
the angle that keeps flame alive. I touch it
to the wick—and to my fingers as well. That singe,

that heat, that fire: body and blood,
burning for the first time, the blister already
forming in the cold, candlelit darkness.


Barry Peters lives in Durham and teaches in Raleigh, NC. Publications/forthcoming include The American Journal of Poetry, Best New Poets, I-70 Review, Miramar, The National Poetry Review, Negative Capability, Poetry East, Rattle, South Florida Poetry Journal, The Southampton Review, Third Wednesday. Email: barry.peters79[at]

Three Poems

Edward Lee

Photo Credit: ALeX inSide/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

for A

Into your loneliness
we place our voices,
hoping our words
might comfort your wounded heart.

We do not mean
to remind you
of all you have lost
by extolling the manifold virtues
of your husband
now gone, but we are foolish
in the face of grief,
never knowing whether
to share our own
or simply listen to yours.

In truth, we know, without knowing,
there is nothing we can do,
nothing better, nothing worse;
grief spreads its wings
and only flies
when it is ready to fly,

and it will fly,
it will spread itself
across the sky,
becoming a gentler being in your world,
lighter and more forgiving.

It will, it will.
This much I know.
This much, at least,
I can give you.


An End
for PW

And that is it,
isn’t it, your life ends,
but our lives continue on,
days falling into nights,
nights renewing into days,
always, even as we wish
for time to slow, stop,
for just a moment, an hour,
a day, some amount
of time so we might catch our breath,
hold it, fall into senselessness,
that the pain of your absence
might recede from our hearts,
that we might know some of the peace
you now know, pain no longer curling
your being, your very soul,
that we might think of you
without tears staining our breath,

that we might grief
without grieving, and smile
without guilt, or regret.



You like the ice cube
in my mouth,
as I trace your body
with my tongue,
not wanting me to stop
until the ice is warm water
shining on your skin.


Edward Lee‘s poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll. His debut poetry collection Playing Poohsticks On Ha’Penny Bridge was published in 2010. He is currently working towards a second collection. He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Lewis Milne, Orson Carroll, Blinded Architect, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy. Email: lastimages[at]

How to Clean an Empty Nest

Tyrel Kessinger

Photo Credit: Patrick Maloney/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Misc. Yell a command to the house. Anything. Issue orders for a jacket to be put away, a trombone to be practiced (or mercifully stopped), video game controllers to be put down and that you don’t care they’re not at a “good stopping point.” You do it if only to hear a loud disturbance, to assure yourself that you still possess the authoritative tone of a parental figure known to light fires under asses. You remember the vow you once made: today you will clean out the junk drawer whose time has finally come. Dig your hands through the tangled mass like a greedy yet unsatisfied pirate. Organize the phone connectors and adapters and spare keys and all the various whatnot. Roll your eyes as you toss the odds and ends carelessly left behind: random pen caps, broken rubber bands, a bottle of long dried up whiteout, etc. Reach to the back and pull free the folded up paper wedged in the crevice, crinkly and nearly ancient. You open it and see a child’s drawing: a magenta-tinted, multi-eyed alien beast creature of some sort, posing clumsily under the auspices of a crooked rainbow, a malformed pincer claw presenting a simple flower the color of dirty cotton candy to the world. Out of reflex you look around for the child who drew it, itching so wildly to dole out praise that you can feel your heart beating through your palms. It’s beautiful. Perfect. A masterpiece. Oh yes, I’ll keep it forever, you think you told them, hope you told them—now worried you didn’t tell them. Wild horses wouldn’t stand a chance. (You probably had to explain that, telling them it meant that nothing you loved could ever be separated from you.) But of course they can’t hear you, even if you forgot that they weren’t there. You try your best not to get it wet. This was a mess some years in the making.

Sweep. Take your time. What’s the rush? As if there was anyone around to ask anything of you. Use a broom, for god’s sake, get some exercise. Push your body around the empty house and not think about how pregnant with life it used to be. Treat the cleaning apparatus like a dance partner. Queue up some eighties hair metal bands you like and go to town. Both a blessing and a stinging curse: no blushing, embarrassed faces to see you tango other than the house that somehow remains quiet even with Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love (A Bad Name)” arena-stomping the atmosphere.

Dust. The lack of constant movement, of wrestling bodies and no-sleep sleepovers, of treasured items being removed and returned, have afforded the grime and grit the insurmountable opportunity to proliferate and disseminate. You wipe all but one window sill clean, composing a message in the film with a finger, wondering if anyone will see it before the next generation of dust comes to roost in the empty spaces that give the words their shape.

Breaktime! You will consider taking up smoking again and why not? That’s what you did on your breaks when you were a server in college, that lighthearted rom-com era preceding the time of All This. As then, there are no kids to hide it from, no examples needing to be set. But there is time and empty hands to be filled. For now, you fiddle with your phone, bright with that initial possibility of hope that an armada of missed messages or calls or even e-mails await you. But there’s only a text reminder for your doctor’s appointment later in the week. (Dutifully, you text “OK” to confirm.) On TV it’s The Price Is Right. You doze off during Plinko. So many things change, you think, before you fall asleep, but not Plinko. Plinko has never abandoned you. You wake and eat the same leftovers you’ve been eating for three days now. Used to be everything was consumed by hungry, devouring mouths. Now the hungry, devouring mouths have licked their lips and departed, eating under the same stars and moon but different roofs.


Tyrel Kessinger lives in Louisville, Ky. He is the stay-at-home father of two wild animals. Occasionally he finds the time to write things. Email: tlkessinger[at]

Coffeehouse Poem #339

Erren Kelly

Photo Credit: Chris Blakeley/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Mourning doves coo
As the rain falls silent
As dreams
A girl types on her laptop
She wears her homeland
On her face
She shows me home
Through her eyes
They never lie
They tell me

pencilErren Kelly is a two-time Pushcart-nominated poet from Boston. He has been writing for 28 years and has over 300 publications in print and online in such publications as Hiram Poetry Review, Mudfish, Poetry Magazine (online), Ceremony, Cacti Fur, Bitterzoet, Cactus Heart, Similar Peaks, Gloom Cupboard, Poetry Salzburg and other publications. His most recent publication was in Black Heart Literary Journal. He has also been published in anthologies such as Fertile Ground and Beyond The Frontier. His work can also been seen on YouTube under the “Gallery Cabaret” links. He is also the author of the book Disturbing The Peace on Night Ballet Press. Email: errenkelly76[at]

hand me downs

Peter D. A. Wood

Photo Credit: Sophia Louise/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Grandma had dozens of books from her college days
the classics like Poe, Tolstoy, Hardy
no women though and oddly enough
not a single Bible. I pass my fingers over the dry
worn down pages, wondering who else has done so, too.
From the now-ignored shelves I spot a quintessential read—
The Idiot—how appropriate this would make for me
a half-joking birthday gift. There is a short note in
the back etched in now illegible handwriting.
Maybe it’s a confession, to murder or something more
sinister like continuing a lineage. I set the book
down before I read too far between the lines.


Peter D. A. Wood is an aspiring writer originally from Iowa most recently living in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Email: peter.david.arnould.wood[at]

Four Poems

Josh Smith

Photo Credit: Giles Watson/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Black Diamond

The easiest path,
through the most difficult woods
is still Black Diamond.


By The Knife

Everybody takes cuts in a knife fight.
Winning is about who sustains less damage.

Keep your arms in, except to strike or block,
always stay moving.

It’s what the Sharks and Jets knew.
It’s what our grandparents knew, on the old world streets.
Each fight—at least a scrape, which time adds up.
Each fight, building toward an eventual loss.

A moment’s pause:
an arm is dropped, a reflex too slow.
No one raises the victor’s hand;
the next challenger always steps forward to fight.


For Elise

Monsters make monsters.
I came to you—ball of clay.
What did you make me?


Poems About Me
(after Trace Adkins’s “Songs About Me”)

I met a woman at the café,
she spotted my notebook and asked,
what do you write?

I said, a little fiction, a lot of poems,
I’ll be reading them at the bar tonight.

She giggled, and hid her face behind her hand,
said, sorry, I thought you were in a band.
What made you want to write that sort of thing?

I told her, ‘cause they’re poems about me, and who I am.
Poems about learning and living,
and fairness to women, children and dogs.
Yeah, they’re all just poems about me.

So I gave her the address,
said, I promise, it’s not what you think,
when you hear the word ‘poetry.’
She said, I don’t expect to become a fan,
but I might swing by if I’m free.

Then that night when I got done with my poems
about the road, and home, and broken bones—
she caught me as I walked off stage,
and screamed, hey, you were right!

It was like you wrote those poems about me, and who I am.
Poems about learning and living,
and fairness to women, children and dogs.
Yeah, they’re all just poems about me.

So I’ll just keep on writing
until the whole world’s reading all those poems about me.
Yeah, they’re all just poems about me.


Josh Smith is to David Hasslehoff what David Hasslehoff is to Germany… which is to say he’s foreign to him, younger than him, and smaller than him. Josh lives and writes in Buffalo, New York. Email: joshsmithpoetry[at]

Four Poems

Timothy Robbins

Photo Credit: Jos van Wunnik/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)


I wish we’d kept in touch. I want to
tell you I’m rereading the Murakami
novel. I want to convince you of the affection
I feel for a minor character, the caretaker who
minds the power station and collects
musical instruments for their shapes as
I collect shapes for their pitch. I say “reread.”
Actually I’m listening to an audiobook.
I didn’t love the caretaker when he was mute.
I’ve fallen for him now for the narrator’s
voice like a wind from a world that has only
one wind.

I pray your kickboxing is still so
precise it’s not violent—pray you’re still
a percussionist not a pugilist in the ring.

I love the narrow forehead you try
to ignore, fearing your ancestors’
unkind love for the Mandarin’s
pale arching brow. In my nightmare once,
as you slept untouched beside me, you
took a knife to your hairline and thirstily
drank your blood till you drowned.

Imagine a pregnant girl who
doesn’t know what’s happening to her body
or how it came about. Your relation to your
beauty is that girl’s relation
to her gestating heir.


Blanket and Knife

There’s no blanket
we haven’t shared.

No hunger we didn’t
divide like bread.

There was a
game of expectations,
each a knife.

The first and last
act we committed with
the knife was to wash it.

Everything in between was
feint to get us from

the first to the
second cleaning.

Once it was clean, we
tested how long we
could stand to stare
at its shine
without speaking.


The Shape

It has only shape and light
like the form I see at head-
ache’s start. When data is

added it will be me pressed
to a wall, arms in a T—
and him, the prop. Then it

will be me fastening cloth
flowers to a spiked cross,
me driving it into parched

earth, right against the stone
which all visitors but him
will assume was there before.


Manmade Drifts

I whisper to myself. It’s
more effective than
talking. Stripping away
the vowels, reducing
verbal music to a fit of
breaths is often the only
hopeful choice. At 3:00
a.m. a snow clearer warns
me: not all voiceless
utterances are soft. In an
Oscar winner I saw last
Wednesday, a boy, with
violence surprising
from such skinny arms,
blocked his mother’s
hate-fueled screams
with a sliding glass door.
Boy and viewers—
though we weren’t lip-
readers—easily read
faggot! I wake and
see my husband’s mouth
doing, as usual, the work
of his nose. I doze and
rouse to his breath on my
eyes. It’s been so long,
the kiss surprises like
an expletive, scrapes
like a plough, exposes
where we are, clears the
way for where we’ll go.


Timothy Robbins has been teaching English as a Second Language for 28 years. He has been a regular contributor to Hanging Loose since 1978. His poems have appeared in Main Street Rag, Off The Coast, Bayou Magazine, Slant, Tipton Review, Cholla Needles and many others. He has published three volumes of poetry: Three New Poets (Hanging Loose Press), Denny’s Arbor Vitae (Adelaide Books) and Carrying Bodies (Main Street Rag Press). He lives in Wisconsin with his husband of 21 years. Email: robbinstimothy9[at]