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Poetry Winter 2023    fiction    all issues


Susan Wilkinson

Selena Spier
Red From The West
& other poems

Pamela Wax
Talk Therapy
& other poems

Ana Reisens
Honey Water
& other poems

Mark Yakich
Necessary Hope
& other poems

Bridget Kriner
A Few Lies & a Truth
& other poems

Keegan Shepherd
Silver Queen
& other poems

Alaina Goodrich
Sacred Conflagration
& other poems

George Longenecker
Those Who Hunger
& other poems

Hailey Young
Ball Room
& other poems

Sébastien Luc Butler
& other poems

Savannah Grant
Ever Since (v.2)
& other poems

grace (logan)
& other poems

Samantha Imperi
A Poem for the Ghosted
& other poems

Corinne Walsh
& other poems

Kayla Heinze
Stop checking the score
& other poems

Richard Baldo
Chasing Through to Dawn
& other poems

Alex Eve
A moment
& other poems

Robert Michael Oliver
Prison Hounds
& other poems

Writer's Site

Robert Michael Oliver

Prison Ball

Wire defines the outfield.

The door to the Yard leads

to the Diamond, with brick

the color of the backstop.

From atop the embankment

across Route 35, I witness

bare muscled men in grey

T-shirts, cagey base-stealers

with black toes, country boys

with antelope legs, scowling

forearms that can snap a bat,

and a guard playing umpire.

A homerun bounces on tar.

The centerfielder thanks me,

when I, the Warden’s son,

toss its horsehide back

to his leather-bare glove.

The horn sounds; players

line up, not in teams of skin

and cotton but in an algorithm

known only to convicts

as they roll like shadows

across the Diamond and

vanish into iron.

Before Prison

On a hard floor,

cheeks blubbering

bubbles of pout,

I stare up the long

staircase at Momma,

cigarette like a gun

aimed at her coffee.

She kisses Father

goodbye, dancing

to a chorus of metal

mugs and fierce chants.

I know his absence.

I suck the air: silence

is my pacifier thrown

in a tantrum against

a white wall. I know

only the smudge left

as it falls to the floor.

James, the Trustee

On the day I broke the cup,

I discovered him, an obelisk—

tall like my Dad but black.

The dappled glass lay in ruins,

or so my ears informed me,

on tiptoe at porcelain’s edge.

I had lifted the chalice above

my head—a sacred rite,

a sky not pierced but saluted.

The man I wanted to become

placing it blindly—shattering—

guilt strewn in a basin.

James raised each shard

like a wafer placed on a tongue

and never acknowledged.

My calamity, he promised,

his voice too callused to cry,

would ripen into rough hands.

Over green beans that evening,

the cup, I said, parents listening,

had dropped into forever.

Prison Hounds

Across the road,

bloodhounds weep

for a pulse:

a shade scurries

across asphalt

into oblivion.

Howls erupt.

Poplars shake

their gnarled limbs.

I wait on knees

bent at my bed

till high school.

On Mondays

the prison gates

swing open.

Father rides


to purgatory.

I listen for

the chatter

of inmates.

I hush myself

with prayers

wagging my tail.

Sunday Slaughterhouse

The priest sanctifies love

in absència—the gold

doors of the tabernacle

cloak a breathing Jesus.

I visit the slaughterhouse

behind our State dwelling,

atop the hill next to the gully

where the Dogwoods bloom.

I push the wooden gate

open onto a passage—not

labyrinth—spiraling inward

toward a crucible of flesh.

My little soldiers dance

on tiptoe among the globs

of spattered red matter. I

hop over pools of dung.

The cattle are not there—

they are funny that way,

disappearing like shades

into mud with a single thud.

Hearing my daydreams

screech, I want to pray

for the convicts who, with

stunners, blast cattle

into dark pastures, but

language fails, for nothing

suffices to quell the roar

of what I once loved.

Robert Michael Oliver I call myself a Creativist: a person immersed in creativity regardless of activity. I am a poet, educator, theatre artist, playwright, father, administrator, screenwriter... With my wife and creative partner Elizabeth Bruce, I co-founded The Sanctuary Theatre; I founded The Performing Knowledge Project. My first book of poetry, THE DARK DIARY in 27 refracted moments, was published by Finishing Line Press. Currently, I am a Co-Host of the podcast Creativists in Dialogue @

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