Monday, February 19, 2018

Chad Haskins


Looking me in the eyes,
sliding her chips forward,
she says, "all in,"
muddled by a history
of aloof boldness.

Holding a pair of twos,
a crime not to fold,
I play to the end,
losing everything—
except the fucking truth.

Chad reads "Bluff":

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Chad confesses nothing.

CHAD HASKINS lives in Georgia. His writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Untitled Country Review, Yellow Mama, Spinetingler, Golden Sparrow Literary Review, Citron Review, Horror Tree, Barefoot Review and Flash Fiction Offensive.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Michael A. Arnzen


She was incurable
so she asked me to kill her.
"How could I?" I asked
and she put her hand on my arm
and said
"If you love me,
you'll surprise me."

And so I took my time
hoping maybe they'd find some cure
other than murder
until I discovered
that she'd contracted her disease
from another lover.
"How could she?" I asked.
She'd surprised me.

So then it was my turn,
and I started counting
the daisy petals of doom:
How could I? How could I not?
all the way up till Valentine's Day,
when I gave her a cliche box of chocolates.
She laughed as she opened
the big red heart made of cheap cardboard
and with a head-shaky smile refused to eat
the dark truffles it contained
clustered and bulbously evil
as unexpected polyps.

"Too predictable," she said,
rolling her tired and bloodshot eyes
and refusing to take a taste.
"You'll have to do better than that."
And so I kissed her
while the contact poison
I'd sprayed onto the wrapper
of the heart-shaped box
entered into her system

And then I carefully plucked
a candy out from its holder
and popped it into my mouth.
"I love you to death,"
I said smiling all chocolate
and she laughed again,
or rather, her lungs did,
wheezing out her final breath
as we locked eyes like true lovers,
both of us, surprised by the timing.

Mike reads "Surprise Me Deadly":

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Mike confesses: "I am fascinated of those assorted chocolate sampler boxes. The hidden wonder of which flavor is which, the surprise nougat and nuts. There's usually a secret code to what you're going to eat, but it's on the bottom of the box where you can't see what you're doing. It's always a surprise. Anyway, I myself was surprised so soon after New Year's to realize that these heart-shaped candy boxes are for sale all over the place now—so I decided to write a crime poem about them."

MICHAEL A. ARNZEN ( holds four Bram Stoker Awards for his dark fiction and poetry. He teaches full-time in the MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University, near Pittsburgh, PA.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Jeff Bagato


She had a bullet
hole in her black
leather Gucci
bag and we all
wondered if it
was a real

hell, we all knew
the bullet hole
was real cause
Marcus was in
the hospital for
3 days and never
told Sally
why his left nut
was missing and
how those jeans
got ripped at
the crotch
like that

Jeff reads "Like That":

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Jeff confesses: "I feel fortunate when I can channel characters and listen to them tell their stories. There’s a responsibility to stay true to the storyteller, no matter where they take you. Reports of women who take violent revenge on cheating boyfriends certainly had an influence."

A multi-media artist living near Washington, D.C., JEFF BAGATO produces poetry and prose as well as electronic music and glitch video. Some of his poetry and visuals have recently appeared in Empty Mirror, Futures Trading, Otoliths, Gold Wake Live, H&, The New Post-Literate, and Midnight Lane Boutique. Some short fiction has appeared in Gobbet and The Colored Lens. He has published nineteen books, all available through the usual online markets, including Savage Magic (poetry) and Computing Angels (fiction). A blog about his writing and publishing efforts can be found at

Monday, January 29, 2018

Susan Montag


Our father liked hearing the stories
about Tom's fist fights—
my adolescent brother acting out his part
in the middle of the living room
Bam, bam, bam!
while dad sat on the couch
smoking and laughing along.

They got what was coming to them
sometimes, I'll admit,
like when Brian Kincade lifted
cash out of wallets in the locker room,
and everyone knew he did it,
or when Jason Klingensmith
grabbed Molly Ritter's ass in art class.
But other times, it was just because
some guy from a rival town
showed up on the main drag on a
Friday night and acted a little too hot.

Somehow Tom's now 55,
needing a knee replacement
but too stubborn to get it,
about seventy pounds heavier
than he was back in those days.
He's a church goer now too,
and doesn't want to lose his post office job;
the risks outweigh the satisfaction
of breaking some dumb fuck's nose.
Anyway, Dad is no longer there
to laugh along with the story.

Yet, Tom holds firm to his fighter's view,
the idea that most problems could be solved
with a smack down of one kind or another,
if only we could take certain people
out into the woods and teach them a lesson,
if only we were allowed to take our gloves off
to get our guns out, to let our bombs drop.

Susan reads "Out into the Woods":

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Susan confesses: "This is a part of a fictional series. I drew inspiration for this piece from my memories of growing up in a small town in southern Iowa, where violent solutions were often proposed as “common sense.” Not that this violent mindset is limited to Iowa! You can find it anywhere."

SUSAN MONTAG is the author of Finding the Way: A Tao For Down-to-Earth People, 2005, from Nicolas Hays Press, and Nude Ascending a Staircase, 2001 Bellowing Ark Press. She has been a teacher, a publisher, and briefly, a used-car salesperson. Currently, in addition to a series of narrative poems, she working on an essay collection and a novel.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A.F. Knott


His first mistake was the circumcision,
Pulling off all the baby's foreskin.
"The one mistake you could make with a Gomco clamp"
And he made it, a one in a thousand.
Stood at the foot of the mother’s bed,
And explained.

Forty years later, he told the press,
"I don’t know how many people I've killed. Hundreds, maybe."
His family always laughed when he said that.
But didn't laugh when he added,
"They'll eat you alive if you let them."

Plague doctor, he limped
Through quarantine zones,
Him and his peg leg, him and his dead parrot, him and his piss stained pants,
Shining light into their eyes,
Feeling the weight
Of his little black bag,
The yoke of his stethoscope,
Slouching up the hill
to kill his patients
At the top.

Wearing his blood stained
Rank and file rubber gloves,
He trusted only the pilot
Who staggered away from HIS crash,
Who killed half HIS passengers,
To give him flying lessons.

"The biggest mass murderer in the history of the United States,"
THEY said: The biggest, the most, the greatest;
He knew what the fans wanted
And provided.
Holding his breath, only for a second,
Before entering the exam room
Before turning himself ON:
"If you were my brother; if you were my aunt, this is what I would do..."
That semblance of honor
Before killing them all

Tony reads "A Real Doctor":

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Tony confesses: "I practiced as a family physician for a number of years. Every 'real doctor' finds themselves responsible at one time or another for the death of a patient. This is medicine. The bigger the practice, the greater the risk. The harsh ambiguity of this experience informs the poem."

A.F. KNOTT is working on his third novel. He sells collage and graphic designs. Recent short work has been published or will be published in Shotgun Honey, Yellow Mama, Dialogual, Apocrypha and Abstractions and 521 magazine. His websites are, and

Monday, January 15, 2018

Joe Nazare


The first time, he was looking for clues in a warehouse
And ended up studying the backs of his eyelids
When the night watchman sidled up and sapped him—
One quick, clipped blow, tender as a sledgehammer.

A mere love tap compared to the work of Angel Devine.
Girl had the kind of curves they post road signs about,
And proved just how dangerous she was when she
Unceremoniously knighted him with a fireplace poker.

A has-been pug and would-be enforcer for Slick Mickey Hart,
Trying to dissuade his investigations with haymakers.
Automatically, he’d cracked wise to the thug after each blow.
FYI: it works much better when the wrist isn't limp.

Same racket, but with badges: that boozehound Blaxton
Made a Monster of the Midway look like a puppy dog.
Had to be a graduate of the Inquisition rather than the academy,
The way he conducted interrogations with his brass-ringed knuckles.

Such scenes he can recall, so many others lost to the shadows.
Trouble is, his ship’s hull of a skull wasn’t enough.
Despite his determined efforts to embody the hard-boiled,
He apparently failed to prevent a belated scramble.

Would've raised his rates had he known the protracted cost of business,
The terrible theft that had gone undetected all these years.
Last month his doctor hit him with some ominous acronym,
A condition he couldn’t even begin to understand.

Privatized, he sits in his armchair, gun nested in blanketed lap.
Never ventures out: isn’t a street now that doesn’t seem mean to him.
These days, the only one he suspects is everyone,
And none moreso than himself.

Gerald So reads "Thought Crime":

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Joe confesses: "Diagnoses of CTE in former football players got me to thinking about another profession that traditionally involves repeated hits to the head. This poem is my speculation about what the latter days of a Chandleresque hard-boiled detective might be like."

A personal trainer by day, JOE NAZARE spends his nights working to get readers bent all out of shape. His fiction, poetry, and nonfiction has appeared in such places as Dark Discoveries, Pseudopod, Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix, Star*Line, Grievous Angel, Death in Common, and The Internet Review of Science Fiction. He is also the author of the collection Autumn Lauds: Poems for the Halloween Season. His blog, Dispatches from the Macabre Republic, is published at

Monday, January 8, 2018

Donora A. Rihn


Ask what an assault is,
I will tell you:
my body clanging hot
with virus,
glass by our bedside.
Thick paper,
paper you could cut a man with.
How I love him
in red light, white cells. Green.

Donora reads "January":

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Donora confesses: "This poem was inspired by having the flu during the holidays, which always feels like an assault itself, and the detritus that Christmas leaves behind. I am always hyperaware of my body and its surroundings, especially during that time of love and heat and color; here's to the new year."

DONORA A. RIHN is the author of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: An Election Cycle (with Andrew Rihn; Moria Books/Locofo Chaps, 2017), a poetry chapbook that was sent to the White House to protest the first 100 days of the presidency of Donald Trump. She is also the author of Jeff Bridges (Cobalt Press, 2016), The Plagiarist (NEA, 2015), The Aphasia Poems (S▲L, 2014), and several other works of poetry and theory. Rihn’s work often appears in Hint Fiction (W.W. Norton & Company), Pedagogy, Women in Clothes (Penguin Random House), and other anthologies and journals, and she frequently performs her work across the United States. She lives in a tiny house in the Portage Lakes area with her husband and their two rescue dogs.