Monday, November 22, 2021

Sharon Waller Knutson

—Spectator at the execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades

Banks of black clouds
swirl like smoke
in a ghostly sky
as I leave Albertson’s
with a bottle of water
and organic bread
baked with grains and seeds.
For some strange reason
I wonder as I walk
across the parking lot
if a burly stranger high
on meth will be waiting
in my car and put a gun
to my head and force
me to drive him to the bank
and then rape and shoot me
nine times and leave me dead
in a field outside of town
like he did the pregnant
school teacher in 1987.
Then I remember the triple
murderer was put down
like a rabid pit bull
in a Boise prison ten years ago.
I relax and take a swig of water
and eat a slice of bread.

Aja Beech reads "The Devil Has Gone Home":

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Sharon confesses: "We moved from Idaho to Arizona in 1998. We returned on family business. I realized I had left the car unlocked in the same parking lot where the school teacher had been murdered in the eighties and was inspired to write about it."

SHARON WALLER KNUTSON has published most recently in Verse-Virtual, Muddy River Review, Red Eft Review, Your Daily Poem, Trouvaille Review, and Spillwords. Kelsay Books has recently released her first full book collection, What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and her seventh chapbook, Trials and Tribulations of Sports Bob, both available on Amazon.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Toby Widdicombe


They say one of them jumped from table to head twice.

I don’t wonder why:
Senseless acts are just that.

No. I wonder what it would feel like under your feet.
Would it feel no different from bouldering?
Is a head jumped on squishy as a PB & J
Hard as a dried-out granola bar
Or somewhere in between?
An over-toasted crumpet.
There’s no way to know without doing it.

And I wonder why he didn’t fight back.
Crying out and flailing with the tide ebbing
Seeing boot soles crashing from above
That’s not challenge; that’s acquiescence.
Did he feel like a spectator at his own death?
Did he welcome an end to a life
Braided by failures, twisted by mistakes, shot through with vicious and
neglectful acts?

Most of all I wonder what it felt like
In mid-jump.
In midair.
Would there be comfort in knowing gravity
Would force the act to its conclusion?
And if regret bubbled to the surface
Like so much gas from a stagnant pond
How would you feel for that second suspended
Before the inevitable fall?
If he or they or you could take it back,
Would you?
Or would anyone joy to see the event to its conclusion:
A unique sensation next to which death
Any death(by road, in bed, at night, on cross)
Sputters into silence, dwindles into distance, touches only lightly.

Of course, they have to write about the crime.
Of course, I wonder at it.
But I know senseless acts are just that.
So, how is jumping from a table not the same
As giving birth, as dying, as making love, as eating.
These are all and always grotesque.
We accept these. We embrace those. We spurn that.
And I wonder: Why?

Toby reads "In Midair":

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Toby confesses: "Twenty years ago there was a rash of attacks in Anchorage, Alaska against the homeless. This one murder has stayed with me because of its brutality and senselessness. The poem took a couple of unexpected paths: towards what murder feels like for the murderer as well as the victim; and towards what else is grotesque in life."

TOBY WIDDICOMBE was educated in England and the United States. He has been a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage for nearly thirty years. He writes poetry, nonfiction, children’s fiction, and academic argument--lots of the last.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Henry Stimpson


Bang, bang, bang, bang echoes in the concrete library
as my assistant nails together a picture frame he’ll trade
with another inmate for two six-packs of Coke.

A tall, broad-shouldered lifer in his late 30s,
Bob was his own boss until I, a new master
of library science, came to reign two months ago.

“Don’t do that,” I tell him, but he keeps hammering
until he overhears two guys talking about their cases.
Bob points at them and booms, “Never admit it!

I don’t care if my wife caught me in bed with five broads,
I’d still deny it. Admit it, and it’s over. Deny it, and there’s
always that bit of doubt.” He grins. They chuckle.

Bob scours our law books for ways to cast doubt
that he was the one who raped a teenage hitchhiker
and shoved her body from a bridge onto the river ice.

Henry reads "State Prison, 1976":

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Henry confesses: "What Bob says in the poem is my best effort at a direct quote. His brazenness astonished me. Having exhausted appeals based on DNA tests, which didn’t clear him, he remains in prison. Two years before that killing, Bob’s ex-girlfriend disappeared. He is the only suspect in that unsolved case."

HENRY STIMPSON's poems, articles and essays have appeared in Poet Lore, Cream City Review, Lighten Up Online, Rolling Stone, Muddy River Poetry Review, Mad River Review, Aethlon, Bluepepper, The MacGuffin, The Aurorean, Common Ground Review, Vol1Brooklyn, Poets & Writers, The Boston Globe and other publications. He’s been a public relations consultant and writer for decades. Once upon a time, he was a reference librarian, a prison librarian, and a cabdriver.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Charles Rammelkamp


Why’d I kill Brian and Kelly Sue?
Ten years older than me,
he’s always pulled that Big Brother shit,
Mister Know-It-All Pharmacist,
looking down his nose at me,
but he was killing people
with those Covid vaccines.
I knew it, and he knew it.

Time was short, too. I told my mom
the FBI was coming after us.
Of course, she didn’t believe it, worried
I was going mental on her.
But she’s an old lady, like her friend Becky.

I didn’t want to hurt Becky,
but I needed her car, that big old Lincoln
she never drives anyway
except to go to Burger King with Mom,
two old ladies in their eighties.

After I shot Brian and Kelly Sue,
I knew I might as well give up.
But I’d always wanted to drive
Brian’s midlife crisis mobile,
that little red Corvette of his,
the one he taunted me with,
just a loser taking care of our mother
as far as Brian was concerned.

I drove that baby all the way to Davis,
in the West Virginia Canaan Valley,
along the Blackwater River,
spent the night at the Billy Motel & Bar,
flagged down a firefighter next day,
turned myself in. As I explained,
I had no choice. I was forced to kill them.

Charles reads "Little Red Corvette":

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Charles confesses: When I read about this obvious 'loser', a middle aged guy living at home with his 83-year-old mom in rural Maryland, killing his older brother, a pharmacist, for administering Covid vaccines, my first thought was rightwing nutcase, swayed by the disinformation industry, but when I read that he’d made off with his brother’s Corvette, I wondered if there weren’t something more elemental going on, in the Jacob-and-Esau sibling jealousy and resentment mode."

CHARLES RAMMELKAMP is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, where he lives with his wife Abby. He contributes a monthly book review to North of Oxford and is a frequent reviewer for The Lake, London Grip, and The Compulsive Reader. A poetry chapbook, Mortal Coil, was published in 2021 by Clare Songbirds Publishing and another, Sparring Partners, by Moonstone Press. A full-length collection, The Field of Happiness, will be published in 2022 by Kelsay Books.