Category Archives: Poetry

Cadmus gazes at Thebes in ruins

By Penel Alden

Horror held me in place 
Held my arms at my ribs 
Wide thirsty nostrils clutching for the air 
Throat and soul gaping and parched 
As the ash rises and falls like dark feathers 

My daughter, in the palace of her son, 
The shadows on her face falling terror, all wrong 
Her eyes shaded glass gazing towards heaven

Already the great city had begun to burn 
Not even Thebes can grow bones strong enough 
To wage war against fate 
And the ivory structures of our grandsons 
Are now mere offerings to flame and carrion bird 

Behind me the cool breeze from the forest 
Is the last of the breath of the Maenads 
Their hymns offered to a void I cannot see 
Their torn flesh the body of the trees

Now the smoke is punctuated by crows 
And in their frenzied piercing prayers 
Is the song of the gods in their violent ecstasy 
Gloating over the vanity of man


Penel Alden is a mediocre and degenerate academic living on California’s central coast. Her recent poetry has appeared in Sierra Nevada Review, California Quarterly, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, and in her forthcoming collection, California (Kelsay Books, 2021).

County Road 18

By Penel Alden

A piercing cry cuts through the canyon’s stillness

A hawk

Whose aerial circles are seen only in fragments

Elevated above the mountain’s old oaks

You’ve seen their beginning
At first sparse punctuating across the hills
West of the highway
But have you seen their heart
At the center of veins
Dirt marked by the tracks of
Tires and coyotes?

Thick in the ravine trees eager to scrape
Their dancing limbs against
The sun sweet marbled sky

Inaudible is the cry that cuts through the canyon

The curve of my eyes leaned up to the pastel firmament

The vulnerable pink skin under nails

Pointed upwards between sight and sun

My limbs are also dancing


Penel Alden is a mediocre and degenerate academic living on California’s central coast. Her recent poetry has appeared in Sierra Nevada Review, California Quarterly, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, and in her forthcoming collection, California (Kelsay Books, 2021).

Tracking madness

By Penel Alden

I asked Leslie Hunter
If any of the old miners
Could describe the darkness
The way they could describe their trucks

Warm familiarity
Ambivalent hostility
Caressing the machines
Tracking madness through stone’s marrow

She said their hoary beards
Smelled of things that their eyes
Knew should remain buried

What the proletariat will achieve
By expelling the excrement
Through the pipes of our collective nightmares
Is no clean exit
No flight from the Minotaur’s labyrinth
Each of us still Pasiphaë

And perhaps our only salvation
Is enveloped in the violent
Chaotic crashing of the submerging ocean


Penel Alden is a mediocre and degenerate academic living on California’s central coast. Her recent poetry has appeared in Sierra Nevada Review, California Quarterly, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, and in her forthcoming collection, California (Kelsay Books, 2021).

Cavalry

By Pete Mladinic

Schaeffer writes:

Jeanne, before your grandfather 
was your grandfather, one afternoon
he towered in a door at the top of stairs
that led from the breezeway to a foyer:
a black fedora, full, trim white mustache,
black jacket, across his black vest a silver
watch chain.
I was five.  Looking up at him laughing I felt
alone, frozen there.

Three years later, in your cellar with its tiles
and knotty pine,
a daguerreotype from before the Great War:
his mustache a dark handlebar,
he wore a blouse, at his side a sheathed
saber, a tassel on its grip.
In the old country
he rode in the cavalry of Kaiser Wilhelm.

He towered in a door at the top of stairs,
the fedora’s tilt to one side.
Looking up I shriveled into the trim
of his white mustache,
misery white hot, balled
inside, three years before you were born.


Peter Mladinic’s poems have recently appeared in Neologism, Adelaide, the Mark, Ariel Chart, 433, Art Villa and other online journals.  He lives with six dogs in Hobbs, New Mexico.

Forgot Kid in Bar

By Pete Mladinic

Schaeffer has his favorite this
and that.  His favorite female singer,
Nancy Bradley, would be his age,
she died decades before he heard her
voice, such depth, clarity and range.
She chain smoked, and cigarettes
were not helping, nor was alcohol.
She married and had a daughter,
a short troubled marriage and finally
her ex got custody of the daughter,
but before that, there was a day or
night Nancy, in a bar, got so drunk
she walked, or stumbled or staggered
out of the bar, not aware her kid
an infant was there.  Good singers
do bad things sometimes, or don’t do
what they should, or like leave
the infant with a sitter or something
Nancy neglected to do.  It’s a story
Schaeffer heard, but mostly her voice
what remains is the thing, a voice
to his ear like no other, such range
clarity, the voice of Nancy Bradley,
what she’s remembered for, renown
to those who appreciate her songs.


Peter Mladinic’s poems have recently appeared in Neologism, Adelaide, the Mark, Ariel Chart, 433, Art Villa and other online journals.  He lives with six dogs in Hobbs, New Mexico.

the beats are all dead now

By Dylan Gibson

About as soon as I stopped drinking, I started smoking again.
This is how it goes, said an old AA head I knew years ago:
“always gotta keep one.”
It’s true, but for god only knows why.
The death drive, bad alchemy of the head, or perhaps
a part of the strange little litany of daily performances that are
birdsong for the American definition of “free.”

We wrote new songs to kill all our cowboys and, in doing so,
made them into monsters big enough to blot out the stars.

In my dream the elevator is plummeting from the sky
while the bald man beside me smiles without a face
and tucks his head into the corner, says “it’ll go quicker this way.”
Like some kind of weekend warrior.
But we’ve both been here countless nights before. 
Even in my dreams I’m thinking about work.

Take down the bukowski posters from your wall and concede
that moloch, mental moloch, has at last devoured us all.
When we smoked on the balcony together I told you we’d 
eaten all those mushrooms five years too early in our lives 
but it’s five years too late now and we know all the pretty colors 
are just travel ads for tropical getaways that’ve been glowing 
in the dark since the 1950s.

Maybe he’d have been a better writer if he hadn’t been so fucked up, anyway.


Dylan Gibson is an American writer living and working in Taipei. His work has previously been published in the Blue River Review.

Red giant

By Dylan Gibson

I know but not by choice a big ruddy man who’s
made himself into a special kind of machine
the mighty productive power of which lies in its ability
to erase itself from recent memory.

His colleagues and detractors alike know him to be
ever-present yet perennially useless like a Godhead, a ravenous
gaping chasm where the elders threw the undesirables,
where the suicides teetered and gawped,

a pockmarked red giant on the verge
of implosion under its own gravity.
Glowing red yet ever dimmer in the twilight of his 30s,
doggedly stumbling on well after last call,

scouring the recesses of 3am
for some last trace of 25.


Dylan Gibson is an American writer living and working in Taipei. His work has previously been published in the Blue River Review.