You Spent the Night Painting?,
by Sam Ruff

Your neighbors are drinking, laughter bristling
through these thin, cracked walls. Your roommates,
watching a movie don’t hear it, feel it, like you do.

Your best friend is playing video games in their chair
you always sit in while your aging family is dealing
out their frayed deck of cards once more this night.

Yet you’re here, making me. At least there’s music,
nice choices by the way. Your face is smooth and blank
with each stroke, but you pause, and then you smile

at me, brightly. I’d smile back, but you haven’t
given me a mouth, will you? We’ll see.

I suppose I’m honored, if I can feel honor. An
adventurous Saturday night and you’re with me.
Some would say this is sad, but I don’t think so

We’re keeping each other company, even if
you don’t quite truly know it yet.

9 Months,
by Sam Ruff

Mothers cradle their newborns, looking
on with a newfound affection. It crawled
out of her and she loves it.
She strokes the new skin softly and coos

I want to do the same, with my uterus.
1 ounce. I’ve grown this and it needs me.
It is me. To drag my finger across it’s pink cheek
and watch as it wraps a tube around my finger
in a weak grip.

I would curl my lips at it, just like a mother,
bare my teeth in a shower of joy. Put my mouth
against the brand-new surface, Life flowing so
close. I want to pinch it. With my teeth. Gnaw
its throat open. My creation; my choice.
This is my agony, my pride, His mistake.
I love it. I am nothing without it. I hate it.

Sam Ruff is a Michigander from Milan, currently studying English and Art in Toledo. She started writing poetry mid-2022, though her family can vouch that she’s been writing with vigor since she could get a strong enough grip on a crayon and close enough to the wall. Despite this late start, Sam has amassed over 150 poems so far, and has many more to come. The source of her inspiration stems and echoes from her keen eye of the world and all that is beyond it.

King of Pentacles (Reversed),
by Robert Beveridge

his office is not the largest
in the building but he chose
it anyway so he can sit
by the window and see cargo
in its endless flow between docks
and warehouses sometimes
the early janitor comes in
and finds him slumped
in his chair where he fell
asleep as he calculated profit
down to the penny

Shear (for Andy Grant),
by Robert Beveridge

You think about the houses
up the hill, whether their occupants
might have fire extinguishers.

Thick black clouds billow up
from the accident in front
of the sulfuric acid tank. In minutes,
perhaps less, consumption will
rupture, release the hydrogen
trapped in the tank, level two
blocks of factories, mines,
a single dive bar in its death throes.

You ponder the cigarette
between your fingers, wonder
if you should light it, if
you will be able to start off
in the opposite direction.

Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise ( and writes poetry on unceded Mingo land (Akron, OH). Recent/upcoming appearances in Bond Street Review, Live Nude Poems, and Down in the Dirt, among others.

First Blossom,
by Casey Laine

The first blossom
On my winter squash
Is female.

Lacking a male,
She will fade,
By evening,
And her fruit will fail.

Still, she opens in beauty
Under the sun
And offers her grace
And optimism
To the day.

So too may we all,
And that is quite enough.


Casey Laine (she/her) comes from a long line of talkative women. She has worked as Fantasy Editor at Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores and published two anthologies of fiction and poetry for her online writing group, Writers Assembled. She mostly writes fantasy, but occasionally pops out a review, an article, or a poem. In her spare time, she takes long walks with her giant dog and chases butterflies with her camera.

by Chris Wood

Dust particles float over my desk
highlighted by the August sun,
my fingers warm as they click letters into words
on my desktop monitor.

Numbers blur on the spreadsheet.
Disappointment clouds my vision.
Monotony weighs heavy on my eyelids.
A boring day leading to a lonely night.

An alert wakes my iPhone.
Another possibility on lifts my eyebrows,
my spirits, my hope, my inner longing or
really just my lusty desire.

His words scripted to flatter.
Flowery phrases written in bold letter font.
Profile pics colored in cockiness—
fitted blue jeans, broad shoulders, and piercing brown eyes.

Your half smile draws me in.
Yes, I’ll meet you at Applebee’s for drinks

and yes, I plan to take you home tonight.


Chris Wood lives in Tennessee with her husband and several fur babies. She is a member of the Chattanooga Writers’ Guild, and her work has appeared in several journals and online publications, including Poetry Quarterly, Panapoly, and the American Diversity Report. Learn more at

A Sometimes Gardener Contemplates,
by Carol Lee Saffioti-Hughes

The zinnias and marigolds straggle
seeds were never my strength
I used to hold the quack grass at bay
its roots run deep and long in this sandy soil
and now it straddles the rows.

Sedge grows too, with bushy heads
a pale red color that takes over the pale thyme.
Even hearty rosemary can’t win the fight
but as things go
oregano likes my garden too much
I can only make so much pasta sauce.

The bees, well, they may not like the rest
but swarm the oregano, spreading pollen
like the foragers they are.
Mint returns, holding up over winter.

The Indian paint brush makes its strokes
where I never planted it, painting its own
look of native pride among the dill
which doesn’t do so well in drought.

The chive returns, tough to cut now
and I let it bloom. I like the purple flower.
The onions move out,
the crabgrass moves in.

I let the intruding
sundial plant grow that follows the horizon.
There’s a nest at the edge where
the tomatoes used to be—
I see the ground squirrels in the morning
and when they see me, they stop chewing
the chamomile that I planted to cut for tea.

Dew in the morning, rain other time
is all the nurturing now
and was, I suppose. All these things
have their way, leaving me
gathering what I can.


A retired college professor and log cabin librarian, Carol Lee’s work includes appearances in The San Antonio Review, Dos Gatos Press, The Greensboro Review, Ekphrastic Review, Poetry Hall, Of Rust and Glass, The Awakenings Review, among others. The Root River Voices anthologies contain her poems in the annual and collective publications. She is also in the anthology Unsettling America, published by Penguin Books, New York, and is a prize winner in the 2023 Rosebud poetry competition. Her most recent chapbook, When Wilding Returns, is available from Cyberwit Press and elsewhere online.

On Athenor,
by Mark C. Amos

It’s a dark world, even a dark world—a red shimmering-like-clotted-gelatin-awaiting-the-spoon.
It’s a pouring down, drowning sulphur-gray rain of stone/unburied ash that fails the lead sky.
It’s a death-train, a chamber dis-consecrated, ovens blazing, brazing flesh and bone and tears.
It’s Luther’s last legacy of hate, his ultimate thesis, a crucible now transforming his progeny into fearsome fiery solutions, here.

The Valkyrie sing—they drop their dust and ash like a spider-offering in the charred Valhalla of this chancellery.
They sing a horror-hymn of Wagner. They whisper wandering in their pillage—and sacrifice to unholy fire-triangulated patches of stars.
They scream, the dark priests in this torrid temple cry, “We are robbed of our gold!” Yet their gods cower in clouds of fear.
They chant the last dirge of drunken stumbling giants who marched, in ragged time, over bleaching bones and sought their final solution, here.

The sear of sun will scorch this acrid place so deeply on this summer day.
But cankers and blisters and sores carved by his grievous glance will scar, hidden;
Will soon show only blank cords and smooth knotted spaces where his glare lights and solves and renders like oil melting from skin.
We now see only swirls of paper that echo breaths of ghosts, the sighing of shades describing underlying tissues.

Our eyes now tire of vision telescoped and blurred and scratched by time.
Our ears now empty of fitful prayers that leaven lives of those who yet remain in line.
Our hearts now choke of stifling strata, a geography and culture of golden grime.
Our souls peer inward, yet avoid that dark red world, that clotted core of our crime.

Now, outside, there is a field; a potter’s field devoid of quiet graves.
Inside, there is still ash and bone meal drooling dryly from the haughty stone this day.
Time opens before, to swallow mortal men who walked once this way.
Time closes after and seals up men who seek to hide this place in the pit of history.


Mark Amos is a retired information technology professional with a literary bent. Most of his writing has been technical, but adult fiction has been his passion since retirement. He’s always been interested in poetry and enjoys writing thoughtful and emotional pieces.

Capital Irony,
by Jill A. Jablonski

Hey, hey!
Laboring your day away
Selling cell phones cheap
Like a dime house creep
In a department store
Never has there been a more
Ironic way.
To spend your Labor Day


In between Jill Jablonski’s adventures of traveling the world as a student and assistant teacher, she writes poetry, short stories, and scripts, and works as a professional ghoul at Cedar Point. Finally, stateside again, Jill is putting her degree in Public Folkloristics to use as a county employee for her hometown museum in Michigan. Much of her work can be found in other issues of Of Rust and Glass and early issues of the University of Toledo’s The Mill magazine.

Hanging Clothes Outside,
by Julie H. Bolton

I hang clothes outside to dry for the first time
       in thirty-five years, I remember:
The wet slap of wash just out of the wicker basket
       blowing in the sunny wind.
Or the white sheets my brother and I would cling to
       pretending we were hanging on pirate sails.
Until our grandmother noticed our yelps and dirty handprints.
I think of the dank basement with darkened rooms 
       where I first hung diapers to dry.
Then, how lovely to finally climb the stairs hauling laundry into daylight.
The fresh smell and intimacy in the rhythmic folding. 
       sometimes a toddler pulled at my clothing.
When we restored our house, I gave over
       the clothesline and poles, where instead I hung geraniums.
I had a dryer, but no diapers anymore.
Today I remember the pleasure of hanging 
       clean clothes to dry in the sun.
Each clothespin pegs me with sweet smelling memories.
       I thought I was a good mother. Then.
Julie Bolton is Professor Emerita of a small liberal arts college in the Midwest where she taught performance courses and directed plays. She performed with professional theatre companies throughout the Twin Cities as well as doing voiceover and on-camera work. In addition, she was an Artist-in-Residence in Hawaii where she taught acting and wrote, performed, and toured a play about Princess Kaiulani. She also participated in the Model Cities program in Minneapolis. She lives in a Minneapolis suburb, where she raised two sons and two stepsons.


Sweat From Our Foreheads,
by Dan Denton

we wipe sweat from our foreheads
as giant industrial fans
hum above us
fans made impotent
by heat
and humidity

bosses breathe down our necks
as we hang precariously
to middle class life
one step ahead of the repo man

we wipe sweat from our foreheads
while the CEO collects luxury sports cars
and civic awards

investors hoard dividends
and build small fortunes
dividends earned by our carpal tunnel
and varicose veins
fortunes built by our arthritis
and surgically repaired backs

we wipe sweat from our foreheads
waiting to hear if our name
is on the Sunday overtime list
we don’t ask for anything
but a chance to feed our families
we don’t ask for anything
but health insurance
and a chance to retire
while we can still walk

we wipe sweat from our foreheads
while limping out of the gates
we crawl into our Jeeps
and drive home to working class neighborhoods
we eat dinner
and collapse into recliners
to watch sports
on our big screen TVs

we swallow down some aspirin
and fall asleep in our beds
and sleep about half of the recommended hours needed
to live a healthy life

we wipe sweat from our foreheads
and watch our dreams
slip away into the night

we wipe sweat from our foreheads
while worrying about paying for braces
or for our daughter’s college tuition

we wipe sweat from our foreheads
while never asking for a goddamn thing
but a chance to push our kids
a little higher up the caste system

we’re a proud bunch
us factory rats
we sweat and we bleed
we ache and we limp

we wipe sweat from our foreheads
while politicians talk about us
like we’re numbers on a chart

we wipe sweat from our foreheads
and we barely notice
the industrial fans
that hum above us

Dan Denton is a former union autoworker turned full time writer. His poetry and short stories are widely published, and he is the author of multiple novels including his most recent The Dead and the Desperate (Roadside Press, 2023).

Learning How to Drown,
by Joseph Kerschbaum

Traffic lights flashed slow yellow
            over intersections where no one

crossed paths at that time of night.
            Yield in every direction. Vacant Walmart

parking lot looked haunted, where faint spirits
            drifted under fluorescent lamp posts,

but if you looked close enough, it was
            just August air thick with humidity.

Most households were turned down for the night
            as I drove through the streets

that I could navigate
            with my eyes closed.

Everything felt exotic in the dark
            with no one around.

Police cruisers followed me,
            running my plates for priors

or outstanding warrants. Analyzing my driving
            for signs of intoxication

which was commonplace
            not long before midnight.

The message was clear,
            I wasn’t supposed to be there.

Anyone on the streets at that hour
            was suspect somehow.

Thread the needle of driving
            under the speed limit but not so slow

I made my avoidance apparent. No rolling
            stops at stop signs. Gave the bored patrol

no reason to pull me over and find
            the weed in the glove compartment.

Mine was an inverted existence
            where night was my day and day was night,

working third shift as a temp at the plastics factory
            for the summer. Time and my place in it

wasn’t clear or linear. I was a tourist
            wandering through lives in progress.

In a few weeks, I would be gone
            on my way wherever

my unfolding path would lead.
            This is why no one bothered

to learn my name.
            Most of the skeleton crew

looked exhausted
            before the shift started.

Still, we had eight mind-numbing hours ahead.
            The brittle thin couple, Amy and Jim,

were androgynous, interchangeable.
            They could pass for twin mannequins

except they walked and talked.
            They were already tweaking

and fidgeting. Most nights,
            they crashed before lunch.

We formed a crescent moon
            around Bill, our mumbling shift manager,

who looked as wrinkled and threadbare
            as his faded flannel shirt.

If Dr. Jekyll had kept a menagerie
            of Mr. Hydes under his skin

and they took turns on the carousel
            of his consciousness, this would be Bill.

There were as many versions of him
            as there were flavors of alcohol

or varieties of narcotics.
            Tonight, it was ‘Pills Bill’

who appeared when we clocked in
            then disappeared until dawn.

What reaction is justified after you reach
            the arduous peak of your life

only to realize you were scaling
            a mountain of garbage?

All of this was according to employees
            who mocked Bill,

gossiped in the parking lot,
            and snickered as he called out

who would work each press for the night.
            There was no winning or losing,

all of the machines were equally
            tedious and soul-erasing.

Each decrepit press was kept on life support
            well beyond its intended lifespan.

They labored heavily as if running in place
            with a collapsed lung.

As each machine gave up the ghost
            an alarm would ring

like a heartbeat flatlining on a monitor.
            With each mechanical breakdown,

a voice that sounded like a refrigerator
            thrown down a flight of stairs

erupted in a stream of obscenities.
            You could hear the fury of a life wasted

patching together so many things
            that wanted to stay broken,

machines or otherwise. Watching that fucking boulder
            roll down the same goddamn hill

again and again. Todd, the third-shift mechanic,
            was a perpetual ball of rail-thin, grease-covered,

speed-addled, balding rage menacing the factory floor
            like a schoolyard bully in steel-toed boots.

The ever-present wrench in his white-knuckled fist
            always looked like a weapon.

Each press was an unwilling Lazarus
            dragged back to life night after night.

Less a savior, Todd was more of a masochist.
            If machines could feel anything,

they would have a shared sense of impermanence
            with those of us who occupied the assembly lines.

Together we forged hot plastic
            in the shape of big gulp cups.

All summer, all of us made
            low-quality promotional plastic products

for an animated movie no one remembers,
            sold at a burger chain no longer in operation.

Everything we made was disposable
            detritus that had no value

and now overflows landfills.
            Anyway, Candy would say, it’s a paycheck.

Who gives a shit where this garbage goes?
            Someone is going to make it,

and might it as well be her.
            She was behind on bills,

and her car needed a catalytic converter.
            And they didn’t do drug screenings,

which is an invasion of fucking privacy
            by the way, she reminded me frequently.

What she does in her free time
            is none of their goddamn business.

She walked out to Kyla’s Ford Focus
            where they smoked meth during lunch.

Alone in my Mercury Comet,
            I ate a baloney sandwich and sparked a joint.

The sun would rise in a few hours. I would
            be gone in a few weeks,

back to state college. Blue-collar, free-lunch,
            food-stamps kid who sold plasma

twice a week to pay for textbooks
            and worked at factories

over breaks to pay tuition. During that long,
            exhausting summer, I felt

misplaced in the world. I was a tourist
            everywhere. I didn’t belong anywhere.

Inside the other parked cars,
            red tips of cigarette cherries

glowed in the dark.
            Smoke rolled out of the windows.

Faces gazed out into the night.
            Small embers pulsed with each deep inhale,

thinking about whatever other people think about
            at three in the morning, alone in their car,

when the August heat
            doesn’t relent even at night,

just like everything else that stalked
            in the dark at the edges

of the yellow lamp post light.
            One moment of turbulent peace

before heading back
            into the belly of the rusted beast.

At four in the morning, time contorted.
            Early morning hours elongated

like taffy sagging in the middle as it stretches.
            The second half of third shift

always felt twice as long
            as the first half.

Mixed with moderate insobriety, the monotonous
            sound of the machines became a rhythm

that lulled anyone into a dulled existence between
            waking dream and sleepwalking reality.

Operating a press for hours was muscle memory,
            rhythm, and timing. Nothing to do with skill.

Close the metal door, open the metal door,
            pull out eight hot plastic cups,

place them in a box, close the door, open the door,
            hot plastic cups, stack in boxes,

open, cups, box, close, open, cups,
            box, close, open, close, open,

close, open, cups, box, close, open, cups,
            box, close, open, close, open,

close, open, close, open, close, open,
            close, open, cups, box, close.

Urban legend said if you disturb a sleepwalker
            mid-dream, they would be shocked awake

and have a heart attack. This is not true.
            Otherwise, we would have all been casualties

scattered across the factory floor when the bell rang
            at the end of our shift every night.

We walk fatigued out of the building. Jolted
            by sunrise, fresh air that wasn’t toxic,

and a rush of nicotine from the first drag
            off the first cigarette in hours.

Cicadas were already stirring up their singing.
            Low hum in the morning

with a deafening assault in the afternoon.
            As scheduled, their brood returned

after seventeen years.
            Staring through her thick sunglasses,

Candy said, Jesus Christ, has it been seventeen years?
            I started working at this fucking place last time

those disgusting bugs covered everything.
            I was a temp worker like you, she said looking at me.

During the summer of the previous Brood X,
            Kyla married that cheating piece of shit Rick.

But that was a great summer, she said,
            nothing like this one.

In unison, a dozen cars pulled out of the parking lot.
            Morning traffic was flowing

in the opposite direction. Nothing exotic
            about driving home at sunrise.

The Walmart parking no longer looked haunted.
            Daylight had exchanged one kind of ghost for another.

No cops followed me home.
            They were perched

under overpasses hunting
            for speeders on the interstate.

I smoked one last joint before pulling up
            to the duplex rental across from the county jail.

I met my father as he opened the front door,
            framed like staring into a mirror

that reflected a future
            that waited at the end

of a long road of difficult circumstances
            and bad choices.

You’ll never know
            which ones are the bad ones

until it’s too late.
            He nodded and said there is still coffee

as he headed out for first shift
            at the driveshaft factory.

Rinsed off and laid down, I listened
            to the rattle of the electric gate

across the street, open and close as cops
            ended and started their shifts.

Woke mid-afternoon in a haze, unsure
            if it was morning or evening. All summer,

I existed outside of time and inside a future
            that was already waiting,

all I had to do was nothing
            and it was ready to begin.

Like learning how to drown;
            just stop moving

my arms and legs, don’t panic
            as the surface disappears.

Or chose to swim until I lose sight
            of the shore, until I have no choice

but to keep swimming
            out into the bottomless dark.


Joseph Kerschbaum’s most recent publications include Mirror Box (Main St Rag Press, 2020) and Distant Shores of a Split Second (Louisiana Literature Press, 2018). His recent work has appeared in Reunion: The Dallas Review, Hamilton Stone Review, The Inflectionist Review, Main Street Rag, In Parentheses, and Umbrella Factory. Joseph lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with his family.