Preparing the Dead by Meg Yardley

Untitled


Preparing the Dead

                                                            for Jamie

To prepare the dead I dig out
one purple rubber glove
from under the kitchen sink.

The city of Oakland will take her body only
for sixty two dollars payable in person
between the hours of nine and eleven a.m. on a weekday.

Yesterday she was clinging to a sapling,
dark slit eyes in sharp pale face,
babies climbing over and under.

Today her belly quivers under my glove
as I draw her up. Wisps of hair, tough feet
sliding into a garbage bag. Sweet dusk

coming down over our heads. Your eyes are red.
Stripping off the glove, I put arms around you.
We too are bureaucrats of death:

for lack of an animal control officer
we let her die. From the deck
we could not see her pouch caught on a hook

in the tree (a hook we did not place
and did not remove). Holding fast, she weakened.
Tomorrow two of her babies will die

huddled in the rain even under
the cardboard shelter you laid out.
You’ll have to tell the children.


About the Author: Meg Yardley lives and works in Oakland. Her writing has appeared in Rattle, Hanging Loose, Leveler, AMP, and others.

Answering the Demand to Renounce Mostafa by Tamer Mostafa

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Answering the Demand to Renounce Mostafa

 1.

Do not assume my declarations are disingenuous,
that I have neglected the chronicle of records
and an epithet chosen for revelation.
This conviction inscribed in permanence
is existent, under the flaws of my practice,
the admission of failings skimming naked
like a wrinkled film of wax over a date’s skin.

2.

My father’s emigration began with a stage name
accommodated to a Western spelling and motif,
a mold of typecast formulas guised in his shadow,
anticipating the first film of night to surrender,
prostrate in salutation to this                  our soil.

3.

He was convulsed back to nativity, its wet heaviness,
the revival of deprivation, a fidelity for the familial.
They have not forsworn me, a memento of vicarious lore
natant through a cyclical undercurrent.

4.

There are others, universalities favored to reasoning,
the enmity of absent names from the optics of impotence,
a “Miracle Baby” dependent on rubble turf.
His name is Mahmoud, our emblem for unanimity
serenading the hands that hold him      those of wounds.

5.

I have been assumed access to this working microcosm,
my achromic skin a mute password to doorkeepers
deadened by an archival recognition of supremacy,
the progressive panic of a tempered power.
And I, with cryptic oriental vitals, will be revealed
testifying their sedated handwriting in ivory.


About the Author: Tamer Said Mostafa is an-always proud Stockton, California native whose work has appeared in nearly twenty various journals and magazines such as Confrontation, Monday Night Lit, and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change among others. As an Arab-American Muslim, he reflects on life through spirituality, an evolving commitment to social justice, and the music of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.

Warmth by James Croal Jackson

Untitled


Warmth

I want to fold the dog
into an origami pipe
smoke it
and forget this
was ever a dog

later I will want
this dog nestled
next to me
asleep
fire lingering

instead I
fold creases
into blanket
wrapping
out the cold

I can’t shake
but for what
it takes
to sleep
through dawn


About the Author: James Croal Jackson‘s poetry has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Rust + Moth, Isthmus, and elsewhere. His first chapbook is forthcoming from Writing Knights Press. He is the 2016 William Redding Memorial Poetry Contest winner in his current city of Columbus, Ohio. Visit him at jimjakk.com.

Rubber Love by Karen Petersen

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Rubber Love

Miss Tina, resplendent
in stilettos and fishnet,
lace-up black bustier,
size 38c,
cracks her whip
and he trembles,
waiting
for the pleasure
of her key
in his lock.
He’ll roll over
and play dead,
bark like a dog,
croak like a frog.
Whatever she wants.
You see,
on a bad day
she’ll give even the devil
the blues
But on a good day
she knows all
the right moves.


About the Author: KAREN PETERSEN, adventurer, photojournalist and writer, has traveled the world extensively, publishing both nationally and internationally in a variety of publications. Most recently, she was published in The Saranac Review in the USA, Antiphon in the UK, and A New Ulster in Northern Ireland. Her work has been translated into Spanish and Farsi. In 2015, she read “In Memory of W.B. Yeats,” at the Yeats Festival in Santa Fe and at the KGB Bar in NYC. She is currently at work on Four Points on a Compass, a collection of her short stories from overseas. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Classics from Vassar College and an M.S. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

 

Music Swells By Zephir O’Meara

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Music Swells

I tell my kids don’t worry
You’re not the ones
That gentrification is there
It’s happening
We’re not forcing anyone out of their homes

I want a big tent daddy, like the homeless ones have
I want one of those

We warm this house
You’ve never really been hungry
You’ll never really be hungry
Not if I can help it under this roof you eat
When they don’t finish their plate
When they casually demand breakfast
When we’ve been playing at the park well past dinner time

What part of the movie is this
Are we at the end
Has the redemptive bit happened already
Or is this part of a training montage
Where nothing we say really matters
As music swells to determine mood

Circle back around again it’s always food
For good or ill
Sitting around a table
Breaking bread is important
Systemic institutional ritual
Politics makes strange bedfellows should ever be discussed at the table

Is there anything more wondrous than smashing something
A bottle on cement
Priceless ming vase
A dropped pint
If you don’t know maybe you need to smash something
Maybe you need time to slow down
Think about what you’ve done
Think about what you’re going to do next
Because at this rate you might never catch up


About the Author: Zephir O’Meara’s writing has appeared in the Oakland Review, Be About It, sPARKLE & bLINK, Naked Bulb Anthology, and other secret places. He has three cats, two kids, and a dog.

Post-Industrial Idyllic by Natasha Dennerstein

post industrial


Post-Industrial Idyllic

 

East 12th Street, Oakland, the decaying light industry
harmonizes with the warehouses, alongside the BART line,
the disused freight train tracks, the bridge to Alameda.

The signs are a song: American Emperor,
Overseas Asiatic Coalition, Union Meat Company,
Five Harvest Wholesale and Fidelity Packaging,

where cheating-ass boys in unsmogged cars
get side-eye from their side-bitches in the back-lane
or get BJs from CDs on the DL.

East 12th Street, where the pot-holes hum in B minor
and the gas-stations and auto body repair yards
sing a chord with the discount furniture warehouses.

You find your tune again, by the meccano drawbridge
under the overpass, over the railway crossing,
fantasizing better days to come.


About the Author: Natasha Dennerstein was born in Melbourne, Australia, to a family originating in Belarus. She worked as a psychiatric nurse for many years, which gave her an interesting perspective on the human condition. She has an MFA from San Francisco State University. Natasha has had poetry published in many journals including Landfall, Snorkel, Shenandoah, Bloom, Transfer, Red Light Lit, Spoon River Poetry Review and Foglifter. Her collections Anatomize (2015) and Triptych Caliform (2016) were published by Norfolk Press in San Francisco, who will also be publishing her novella-in-verse About a Girl this Fall. Her recent chapbook Seahorse (2017) was published by Nomadic Press in Oakland.

At the Old Babar by Jan Steckel

brb by Kat Bing (www.katbing.com)



At the Old Babar

The poet cements her dentures in
before she approaches the open mic
for a semantically anarchic address
to hipsters in their thrift-store best.
Her cream-colored cable-knit cap
looks like her exposed brain.
Sea cucumbers taste like bitter tires,
she informs the members of the bar.
Many are cold, but few are frozen.
Chickens don’t have tits,
so it’s kosher to fry them
in their own eggs.
When the sun goes down,
giraffes begin their low humming,
the only sound they ever make.
Tuvan deep throat singers intimate
it’s time to drape that canary.
A blind woman wearing a fascinator
sits in the front row of the reading,
blocking the poet from view.
A former virgin, she chews
blackberry-hyacinth Gummy Pandas,
her ankles an archipelago of insect bites.
Trapped deep in Greenland’s ice,
88 yellow rubber ducks wait for the thaw
to form their synagogue under the sea.


 

About the Author: Jan Steckel is a former pediatrician who left the practice of medicine because of chronic pain. Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards for LGBT writing. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Bellevue Literary Review, BiMagazine, Red Rock Review and elsewhere.

Artwork: Kat Bing

Crocus by Halina Duraj

Art for Crocus (untitled_uncredited)


 

Crocus

J. and I

eat ice cream bars

on the front porch.

I am moving in

soon.

 

Somewhere, a shovel

scrapes dirt. Today

feels like spring

but isn’t yet.

 

Purple crocuses

grow thick and low

by the porch steps.

I put my face in dirt

to smell them.

 

It seem right,

greeting spring like this:

getting on the hands,

getting on the knees.

 

Yesterday

J. and our poet friend

stayed awake all night,

writing.

 

Our friend wrote

a book-length poem

about the crocuses.

He called them cups of light.

 

J. will design the book’s cover. Vellum.

Translucent as a bridal veil.

Red birds and clocks.

 

Later, the poet will burn all the copies.


About the Author: Halina Duraj‘s fiction has appeared in The Harvard Review, The Sun, The 2014 PEN/O. Henry Prizes, and is forthcoming in Ecotone; her poems have been published in Bat City Review, Cimarron Review, and the Poets of the American West anthology. Her debut story collection,
, was published by Augury Books in 2014 and was a finalist for the 2015 Council of Literary Magazines and Presses Debut Fiction Firecracker Award. She teaches literature and creative writing at the University of San Diego.

 

Girl in Fulton Street by Sergio A. Ortiz

fall2 by Kat Bing (www.katbing.com)


Girl in Fulton Street

 

They’re not really strangers
reflecting off the windows,
they’re men afoot on a crowded street.
I am one of them, a girl in drag
abating the neon lights.
Clearing my way through a wilderness
of leaves, dry and quiet rhymes
without stretch marks,
on the banks of a wistful sea of cocks
where metaphors grow old.

 


About the Author: Sergio A. Ortiz is the founding editor of Undertow Tanka Review. He is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. 2nd place in the 2016 Ramón Ataz Annual Poetry Competition sponsored by Alaire publishing house. He is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.

Artwork: Kat Bing

The Pickle Shelves by Holly Day

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The Pickle Shelves

this bomb shelter is packed with corpses, jars
of heads line the walls as if waiting
to be used as some sort of accompaniment
to mutant fresh vegetables picked from radioactive soil
in some post-apocalyptic orgy to celebrate
an anniversary of the end of it all.
white eyes stare calmly

out through the glass, watching nothing, dreaming
of nothing, just waiting for the day when the metal lids
will be uncorked, the contents of the jars overturned onto
gigantic platters held by grubby hands
for the salted flesh to be poked at with tarnished fork tines
for inevitable consumption. until then

the heads will sit on these shelves, undisturbed
wrinkled skin filling out, growing smooth in the brine
swelling to fit the smooth confines of their jars
like old sponges left in the sink for too long.


About the Author: Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota since 2000. Her published books include Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar All-in-One for Dummies, Piano All-in-One for Dummies, Walking Twin Cities, Insider’s Guide to the Twin Cities, Nordeast Minneapolis: A History, and The Book Of, while her poetry has recently appeared in New Ohio Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle. Her newest poetry book, Ugly Girl, just came out from Shoe Music Press.

Bird Song by Kaily Dorfman

two2 by Kat Bing (www.katbing.com)


 

Bird Song

oh we’re done with heaviness

let’s get some light between these ribs  

 


About the Author: Kaily Dorfman is from Santa Cruz originally and did her undergrad at Berkeley. She spent some time in Salinas working as a literacy tutor for underprivileged K-4th grade students, and more recently got an MA in literature from UCSB. These days she’s a grad school dropout living in Alameda and working at a bookshop in Berkeley.

Artwork: Kat Bing

TOUGH GUY LOOKING FOR TOUGH GIRL, MUST HAVE OWN BRASS KNUCKLES by John Grey

Image - Chelsea Moore (Instagram ww_chelsea)


 

TOUGH GUY LOOKING FOR TOUGH GIRL, MUST HAVE OWN BRASS

KNUCKLES

 

Model yourself
on the young Robert Downey,
only with more tattoos,
cuss and spit,
form out of nothing but your heart
and your image in the mirror,
a brutal package.

It will help in your relationship
with the one
who dotes on real bastards,
who’s aching for a bad guy,
can’t wait to go public with him.
She likes to live dangerously.
You need to be dangerous enough.

You haven’t met her yet
but she’s out there somewhere,
warding off the too-good-to-be true,
hungry for someone who’ll stop at nothing.
Be whatever it is
will more than satisfy
whoever she is.
Remember, the road to true love
is lined with other wannabe lovers.
So beat up some guys along the way.


About the AuthorJohn Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Schuylkill Valley Journal, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.

Artwork: Chelsea Moore

Dear Neighbor, by Alan Chazaro

FOR CHAZARO - DEAR NEIGHBOR - (from stockpile)


Dear Neighbor,

it’s no wonder we drive spaceships and eat
inside caves around here. Yesterday, a teenager

confessed to seeing his first murder. Said
the car pulled up his block and smoked a dude

quicker than his Black & Mild. I don’t know
why he told me this, standing at the bus stop

but now I’m telling you. I took out
my earphones and told him I could hear

the gunshots in my neighborhood, too.
He paused, his lungs a giant comma

of smoke, before offering his blunt. I told him I quit
a long time ago. He nodded, took two

deep hits, asked what I was
listening to.


About the Author: Alan Chazaro is a public high school teacher pursuing his MFA in Writing at the University of San Francisco. He is the current Lawrence Ferlinghetti Fellow and a graduate of June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program at UC Berkeley. Recently, his work received an AWP Intro Journals award and appears or is forthcoming in Huizache, The Cortland Review, Borderlands, Iron Horse Review, Juked, and others.

 

Crow’s Eponymous by John Oliver Simon

FOR JOHN OLIVER SIMON - by Alison Moncrieff


Crow’s Eponymous

Crow’s eponymous caw’s caught raw in my craw.
Tell me something I don’t know, crow. Something rhymes
with nothing, nothing rhymes with orange. Your range
includes my backyard, you’ve made that crystal-clear:

The air embroils your articulate passage
galaxies hook tentacles to dosey-do
sidewalk and street run outward to morning
white spaces, uncharted, dragons on the map.

We’re down to squirrels, cats, humans and crows
sturdy collard and stubbornly red beet greens,
fleas, cilia, viruses hardly alive,

proteins, preteens, protons, strange and charming
quirks of quarks. Crow’s cry awkwardly cracks a croak,
a step or two up the ladder of language.

 


About the Author: John Oliver Simon is one of the legendary poets of the Berkeley Sixties who has grown by steady dedication to his calling. Published from Abraxas to Zyzzyva, he is a distinguished translator of contemporary Latin American poetry, and received an NEA fellowship for his work with the great Chilean surrealist Gonzalo Rojas (1917-2011). He is President of California Poets In The Schools, where he has worked since 1971, and was the River of Words 2013 Teacher of the Year. His ninth full collection of poems is GRANDPA’S SYLLABLES (White Violet Press, 2015). For his lifetime of service to poetry, the Mayor of Berkeley, California proclaimed January 20, 2015, as John Oliver Simon Day. On May 14, 2016, the Berkeley Poetry Festival presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award. He is currently resisting a voracious retropetitoneal liposcarcoma.

Artwork: Alison Moncrieff writes, makes art, and tends chickens & children (and now rats and rabbits) in Oakland, CA. She does her stitchy art on the go and in the quiet moments between her duties as an unschooling mom & learning facilitator. Hand sewing connects her to centuries of women who used the very same stitches she does and gives her a sense of how small she is in the scheme of things, which she finds comforting. All of it brings her joy, and she hopes to pay that forward. See more of Alison’s mixed media stitch collages here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AliMoncrieffArt?ref=listing-shop2-all-items-count&section_id=19906188

Through with that by Kaitlyn Duling

FOR KAITLYN DULING - by Deanna Crane


Through with that

She says she dumped him just like this,
her back upright in the chair. The chair

against her shoulder blades. The chair
wooden. Its arms wooden. Outside,

the door of the U-Haul pushed up, he watched
its mouth slam open with less noise

than one might expect. Her, silent
and in the chair and considering the long

drive now behind them. The car radio too loud.
The thss, thss, thss of tires and how

the wind pushed on the side, the left
side of the car and the road kept going.

When he appeared in their front doorway,
it was their new house together, their one big

owned thing, and he saw and her in the chair
and What, I asked her, What was he supposed to think

was just about to happen? She told him the ride in the car
made clear their lack of love. He told her the house

was already theirs. She doesn’t remember what else
he told her, just the sound of the ceiling fan

she had switched on in preparation. The heat on her face
and the moisture there, the color red and its going redder.

Him, probably still standing for lack of a chair, for lack
of any close object but her back against it, the old one

with its arms and her arms upon them. There was a cold
in his cheeks as they realized together, his skin white

and flattened. Just like this, she said, and I noticed it,
that lack of color that happens, when it happens.


About the Author: Kaitlyn Duling currently resides in Pittsburgh, where she manages the Storymobile program at Reading is FUNdamental Pittsburgh. She is a graduate of the Program in Creative Writing at Knox College, where she studied poetry.  An Illinoisan at heart, Pushcart nominee, and winner of the Davenport Poetry Award, her poems have found homes in Denver Quarterly, Big Muddy, Ninth Letter, IDK Magazine, The Fourth River, Atlas and Alice, Catch Magazine, Wilde Magazine, and Naugatuck River Review.

Artwork: Deanna Crane

Ode to Rob’s Closet by Abe Becker

FOR ABE BECKER - by Lorenzo Tianero



Ode to Rob’s Closet

It’s not that the job market for White
Ethnic Studies majors was hit particularly
hard when I graduated. It just felt like it.

Rotting in the privilege I learned about.
Lost in the tiny matrix of my dad’s couch.
The chicken-shit son come home to roost

all over his earned retirement until
Rob called offering you: Rob’s closet!
You were my prison cell sized horizon.

Your guilt-free cheap rent, room enough
for what little self-respect I had left. I had
already slept a few months in an actual hole-

in-the-wall of another friend’s hallway—awkward.
That led to my dad’s couch, a.k.a. nowhere.
You had a sliding door that closed   almost.

You were a poet’s dream-nest, closet.
Not a metaphor. ALL the metaphors!
For example: If Rob’s room was his

castle then I was his Moat Monster!
My job: to fart Rob out of nightmares!
Instead of failing to become my dad’s

dreams I just messed up Rob’s rest.
And I really think we got each other—
Rob and I had this two-way telepathy

where I could sort of see him, imagining
me—who I really was—jacking off to
when I was in you. Closet: where I told

shame to fuck itself while I fucked myself
discreetly as a Moat Monster! Closet
where my starving-artist swagger

rocked the least-bad moonwalk ever
across that little patch left bare…
I called that your midriff, remember?

Sexy Closet, I called you Babbling Nook,
rough drafts of a future in verse I bounced
off the Make-Love-To-The-Earth eco-sex-

poster I stuck you with…sorry if that hurt.
I hope my Cats-In-Hats calendar didn’t feel
tacky, piercing your already peeling skin—Sorry:

That was a pin pun. That wasn’t the worst one.
I mean…Is it cool I’m pretending we have some
sort of human connection? I’ve wanted to ask

every person I ever met that question
but never you, closet where I sobbed until
linoleum peeled, your floorboards waterlogged

with who I should be someday dissolving as
Rob sighed as if to say I’MTRYINGTOSLEEP!
Such peace in my Oakland cocoon until

the BART train screeched the grind through
Rob’s window. And with the chalkboard-scratch
of your door I opened to a new day knowing,

like you: I can’t carry a bedframe but I’m more
than just hanging clothes. I don’t make dollars;
I take what I’m afraid of and I make poems

that turn self-hate to more love every day since I moved out –
I’m in a room now with a window and doorknob
but I stay humble. I think about you: raised

ceiling, your gargantuan, jarring lightbulb
illuminating where nothing was worth seeing
before you showed me that home has to mean

hope, has to mean growth—wherever I find it:
a friend’s closet, my notepad, the road, alone –
Wherever I already am hiding is the only place

I have to go and try and live half
    as much as I did
in Rob’s closet.


Bio: Abe Becker‘s poetry has appeared in After Happy Hour Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, Yellow Chair Review, Cal Literature and Arts Magazine, and numerous other journals and anthologies. He is a Grand Slam Champion of UC Berkeley and a four time finalist of CUPSI, twice as Cal Slam’s coach and twice as a poet. He also won Group Piece Finals at the National Poetry Slam as a member of the city of Berkeley’s team. Abe is the author of two plays and the chapbook Saturday’s Lunch Entrée. He works with quadriplegic people as a caretaker and lives in Oakland.

Artwork: Lorenzo Tianero

October 30th by Claire Scott

FOR CLAIRE SCOTT - (from stockpile)


OCTOBER 30TH

he steps into a crosswalk
carefully checking
the light is green
again
swinging a tennis racquet
hop-skipping across
eager to meet his friends
or
cane click-clacking
as his twisted body step-
stutters across the street
again
a car turns left
sunblind?
texting?
his body thrown
again
sirens blaring
bruises swelling
blood seeping
through his
brain

every October 30th
my son
with a cane?
with a tennis racquet?
steps into
the street
again

 


About the Author: Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has been nominated twice for the  Pushcart Prize. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Healing Muse and Vine Leaves Literary Journal among others. Her first book of poetry, Waiting to be Called, was published in 2015. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.

Instantaneous by Carol Dorf

FOR CAROL DORF - by Deanna Crane



Instantaneous

The curve’s tangents define velocity. No one tells a pregnant woman what labor or the first months will be like; that our velocity is not continuous. The body demands the chemical compounds of pleasure. As a child before gender, I desired flight, space, rockets. Later all my theories shrunk into a particular moment.

 


About the Author: Carol Dorf‘s chapbook “Theory Headed Dragon,” is available through Finishing Line Press. Her poetry has been published in  “Glint,” “Slipstream,” “Spillway,” “Sin Fronteras,” “Antiphon,” “About Place,” “The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics,” “Scientific American,” “Maintenant,” “OVS” “Best of Indie Lit New England,” and elsewhere. She is poetry editor of Talking Writing and teaches mathematics in Berkeley, CA.

Artwork: Deanna Crane

 

Yuletide by Daniel Romo

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Yuletide

I stand in the center of the store and question how I got here. Lost among seasonal blends and the past year. The baristas know my name and start making my drink, even before I pay. Is a man’s predictability worthy of pity or praise? I grip the holiday cup and Starbucks spins. Each past December is projected on the wall, mocking my current existence. A montage of smiling moments contrasting with this protagonist who sits at the coffee bar drowning his blandness in sweetened tea. One second I’m 7 and unwrapping an oversized plastic baseball bat. Then I’m 16 and it’s car keys. Neither of this happened, and this kid is someone else. Because I love punishment and don’t want to see myself happy at any age. Because I left and there’s an unhung stocking stuffed in the box, glittered with my name. My daughter will wake up early on Christmas morning with an eager smile and an absent dad. I’ll sleep in and be greeted to a few dirty dishes and a naked, plastic tree. She will wrap herself in a blanket and unwrap her gifts as the sun rises. I will drape blinking lights across my entire body to remember and rekindle any sort of warmth and illumination.


About the Author: Daniel Romo is the author of When Kerosene’s Involved (Mojave River Press, 2014) and Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013). His poetry and photography can be found in The Los Angeles Review, Gargoyle, The Good Man Project, Yemassee, and elsewhere. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and he is an Associate Poetry Editor at Backbone Press. He lives in Long Beach, CA and loves football, but he bleeds Dodger Blue… a lot… More and danielromo.net.

Artwork: Sean McCollum