Heavy Hitter by Paige Johnson

Despite my red lips and white skirt,

you think I only bat for the other team,

tease me about the Braves throwing peaches

’cause I wear the colors and

come from tomahawk country.

But I’m a Florida girl at heart: batshit beach-bum

with wind-hurt hair and a salty tongue.

Would invite you over to feed my baby gator,

but Li’l Tator gets jealous of company,

and when you toss that baseball

straight up and down like a snipped yo-yo,

it’s too easy to mistake for an ibis. 

Hanging your student gov. button-up

on an office hook in Campus Life,

stripped down to a beige wife-beater,

you ask, “What happened to your girl Brittany?”

“Still breathing,” I promise. “She’s pom-poming for the blue-caps

right now.” I don’t ask why you’re not with the boys already,

’cause I know you saw me come back in for a spritz of perfume.

“She’s plannin’ to ‘accidentally’ kick a girl at the bottom

of the pyramid since she stole her shoes one night.

Tip-toed home to me, barefoot.”

You say, “Guess a sidewalk’s better than a bus.

But you two room? Where were you?”

Roaming the pretty campus carpets,

tying bows for other cheerleaders,

clinking pink lemonades with

blerds and school counselors,

but I can’t say that. So,

I excuse, “Practice.”

“Softball?” you bait, but

badminton’s tickly birdies

and musty black racket bags

don’t seem much less lezbo.

“Would you rather I slug like you?”

I pivot like hitting an invisible homer,

wishing I could slide under the bleachers

with you, tell “my girl” to leg it back to Atlanta.

“Slug me?” You laugh. “Naw, not into it.

Like a tough grrl, though.

A tomboy would look good

tugging at my sleeve.”

You saw me in yearbooks,

brandishing Wiffle ball bats,

striking out with gum-chewing,

pinstriped bubble butts on the team.

Because I liked their braids so much,

and they respected my “lifestyle” so little,

you even helped me Nair a few of their helmets.

But now I’m more passable, presentable, and you never

ran game on me then, all hippie-jeaned and jaded.

“It’s your loss,” I say, headed outside to spectate.

I can barely recall the name of our college team,

but know their batting average ain’t anything to brag about.

No, I’m here to slurp Powerade,

shit-talk study buddies,

and admire physiques.

Polyester makes even Pillsbury Boys pettable.

Brittany eyes me on the sidelines,

busy enough that I don’t have to feign interested,

as I scan the roster for my favorite player.

Said you’re on the team but I’d never caught an inning.

So now, I just spend nine of ’em day-dreaming:

Your caramel fingers plopping a Cracker Jack

sticker on my face, deeming me your prize.

Us cutting class and daisies beside the outfield,

asking the petals if we’ll still pass intro to chemistry.

Us loading squirt guns with lime-green Gatorade

to nail the blue-shirt ballers even though that’s more

of a pigskin tradition. But what constitutes more

“un-sportsman-like conduct” or goes against superstition

is our impersonation of the coach’s bravado. Our coupling

in general, the knotting of our limbs in the sand lot until—

Referee whistles sound and stands disperse.

Another non-win but players pat each other anyway.

Presumably, Brittany’s enemy is bruise-eyed by now,

and I guess you never found your uniform,

or maybe were reduced to water boy.

Hard to tell in the swishing throng.

I stick around the side-entrance fence,

appearing coy as I play on my phone,

content to scour for fallen souvenirs

once the crowd empties out.

Dark now, I collect felt flags,

unopened energy drinks,

and, purest of all,

a plush mascot:

Roary the Panther.

Pressing it into my pit as I bend down

for a few fallen bills left by an attendee,

I flinch when my name is called.

My head swivels.

Hardly anyone is within earshot,

seemingly no one watching me,

the male voice muffled to begin with.

Squinting, I sneak the cash into my high-tops,

pretending to tie my shoe.

Louder comes my name near the dugout.

Cautiously approaching, I suppose

a classmate recognizes me,

wants to swap homework

for something a little better

than what I found in the seats.

At the rail, I wave,

looking for a reciprocator.

I find the best one, still shouting me out.

The big man himself, Roary in all his furry glory!

Perking up at the silly sight of the mascot,

thinking he wants his baby back,

the cub clinging to my chest,

I wind my way down the steps.

I get to the batters’ basement,

camera-phone-ready, extending

my stuffed buddy for a high-five.

But the big cat shimmies to the left,

removing his bulbous head like a hat.

I gasp, not because I think panthers

talk and walk in navy shorts, but because it’s

your flattened pompadour and cranberry cheeks

that emerge, mask off.

“Don’t tell anybody,”

you say way too seriously

for me not to bust a gut,

laughing at the whiskered head

at your normally chino-clad hip.

I kid, “What’s it worth to you?”

Catching your breath, you joke,

“Hose me down. Literally.

I’m the merch mogul,

the sultan of swag.”

You cough, paws to knee,

then toss me a silver chain.

“Least that’s what Coach said.”

Backpacking my smartphone,

I inspect the branded jewelry.

It’s actually a charm bracelet

with a couple pieces dangling:

a circle with the uni’s insignia

and a cartoony Roary with claws drawn,

brows cinched in combat mode,

but face oh-so cuddly.

“Aw, you rock. This would cost the arm it goes on

if priced at the bookstore. Thanks a bunch.”

I slip it on and scamper over to the watercooler

to dump paper cones over your pre-soaked face.

I nod toward your severed head, say, “I thought

they put fans in those things like at Disney.”

“Cross-campus shuttles aren’t free.

You think the state’s springing for mascot A/C?”

“Poor baby,” I commiserate. On tiptoe,

I unplaster Cuban curls from your forehead,

bending them back into your black mane.

“Thanks,” you whisper

without any sarcasm,

staring too intently

at the runoff that drips

down my arm and onto

my cropped jersey.

“Shiny, isn’t it?”

I give you an out,

jingling the bracelet

that glints off the

stadium lights.

“Am I keeping you from Brit

or are you free?” you ignore.

I roll my eyes, bite my tongue

to suppress a smile. “You know,

I don’t only like girls,

and roommates least of all.”

“Ha,” you say with no sincerity.

My smirk ushers in more authenticity.

“Well then,

maybe we can

avoid her together?

I can be your alibi.”

Forgetting the ballgame

and foul curveballs

of our arms-length past,

I let “Take Me Out” lyrics

light up my mind.

“Sure. But, uh, are you

gonna stay in your fursona?”

I pinch your cheek

but you’re already cheesing,

heading for the showers.

I wait outside the locker room,

texting Brit not to wait up,

more focused on your gleaming gift

than her dull replies.

You return in your average attire,

looking like a tropical political portrait.

I watch your beautiful shoes slink over the tile,

tan leather cap-toes pointing me out like a line-up.

Your face & hair refreshed, tea-tree & mint wafting off.

“Where’s the suit?” I tease,

making my animal pal dance

for reference, emphasis.

You pat li’l Roary’s head, say, “Classified,”

as though I don’t presume students take turns

with the costume to spread out the sweaty job,

and Roary gets caged to a communal space

like a proper beast. A South Florida stalker.

You take another surprise from your pocket.

A neon baseball. “Up for a game of catch?”

Not what I had in mind,

but the moon and sky

look as gold and blue

as they should over this

spirited field—Plus, it’s

uncharacteristically cool

and you look too hot,

starlit, to tell no to.

We lob the ball back-and-forth, no scores,

speaking of electives and conspiracy theories,

legislative ambitions and awkward breakups,

gradually shortening our gap over the green.

You comment that my scarlet fishnets match

the stitching on the cowhide we toss to and fro.

Before I can deflect or return any compliment,

the sprinklers sprout like mini moles.

We shriek and giggle,

dog-waggle, but don’t

make any real move

to escape the


water park.

Too much fun in bob-and-weaving

the streams, twisting to make passes.

No ground balls allowed,

the diamond made lava.

Slipping in the clay,

you’re re-dirtied but accepting.

Cuter grass-speckled than costumed.

We play until the sprinklers hibernate,

our hair made long and heavy, breath

flitting between lilting and labored.

Some of the flood lights shut off,

leaving a few glittering dewdrops

to spy as we decide what to do.

You offer your letterman so I can kneel

next to you as you score our resting period

with Foo Fighters from your keychain speaker 

’cause Wasting Light’s our American pastime.

Almost midnight when we’re laid out on our sides,

contemplating futures, sharing home plate like a pillow.

It’s half-hard like a newsie cap or bike cushion.

The cantaloupe smell of fresh-cut grass surrounds us

as clouds smatter the stratosphere, roused by wind.

Your eyes caress the red

netting of my legs again,

my mouth if I seem turned

away enough not to call you out.

I bury my ear into the pentagon “pillow,”

making myself small

so you can rise for the kill,

easy like the golden apex predator

you parodied on the pitcher’s mound,

showing its softer side with jigs and gifts.

You lean over, fidgety but brave,

fingering the bauble on my wrist,

whispering “beautiful” regardless

of its rust or temporary debris.

Half- joking, the way we started,

you murmur, “Don’t tell anybody,”

then taste the craving, the waiting,

on my lips since our game began.

Paige Johnson is EIC of Outcast Press and author of Percocet Summer: Poetry for Distancing Dates and Doses, which cover everything from FL sweat to GA peach sweetness, gas station syringes and cotton candy softness. The next installment in the seasonal series will be Citrus Springs, coming out soon.  Find her on twitter @OutcastPress1

Ron Gant by J. B. Stevens

In 1987 Ron Gant was stronger than Hercules—

In 1987 my father was the strongest man in the world. You may think your father was more powerful—you’d be wrong.

My father was the strongest man.

In the world.

And in 1987 Ron Grant was called up to the bigs.

But in 2003 he fizzled out and left the league a husk of the player he once was, and he got a job on the radio.

And now my father has leukemia, spending his days hooked to a bag.

Last year I met Ron Gant—he is not a large man.

Go Braves!

J.B. Stevens lives in the Southeastern United States with his wife and daughter. His comedic poem, “Sangre Real” was nominated for the Pushcart. He has published poetry and fiction in many places. He is a veteran of the Iraq War, where he earned a Bronze Star. He was also an undefeated mixed martial arts fighter.  J.B graduated from the Citadel.

Find him on Twitter @iamjbstevens or his site JB-stevens.com

6 A.M., MIA(mi) by Paige Johnson

The bamboo blinds can only blot out so much.

Every night on Bay Harbor Islands sounds

like Tornado Alley, Santa Ana sanctified by salt.

The Gulf Stream street-sweeps away panhandlers,

side-steps shell palaces that plateaued in the ’80s,

yellowed like plantain chips or cigarette TarBars

scattered between the palms of Overhaul Park.

Sandcastle walls are better fortified than these.

Barriers of barnacles protect boats the color of bees,

but there’s not much for ears already overloaded by

multilingual hysteria, club bluster, and crotch rockets.

There’s a milky haze to the midnight street,

silenced like a mortuary, magnetized teeth,

between tropical breaths of the troposphere.

No more unmedicated crying, unmitigated craze

characterized by the bikini-strapped 305 or sun-

bleached Miracle Mile. Seems something lurks in

the serrated-sharp hedges: maybe a mouse you’ll

offer cheese at the bus stop—even if you won’t part

with more than a passing glance at the passengers:

gray SoundClouders, overenthusiastic Ethereuminers,

Marlboro bummers, flip-flop frauds, stage-named cruisers,

part-time pastors, then cell-swearing call girls in dirty sweats.  

Before you board the sonic jungle,

Bratz doll shadow stretching sexy

off the stop sign, you see another

sleek creature skirt between the

construction cones. A cagey stray

out to steal what took your scraps.

Paige Johnson is EIC of Outcast Press and author of Percocet Summer: Poetry for Distancing Dates and Doses, which cover everything from FL sweat to GA peach sweetness, gas station syringes and cotton candy softness. The next installment in the series will be called Cracked Leaves & Autumn Lines, about ketamine therapy and gritty love. Find her on Twitter   @OutcastPress1 

The Wreck of the Federal Express by Andre Peltier and Fred Shrum

Old #173 on the Pennsylvania Railroad

Boston to New York City to Washington DC

Left its origination 11:00PM

Winter 1953

At Penn Station they picked up both riders and mail

And the poor Pullman Porters they hadn’t a clue

Of chaos creeping down the line

As that lonesome whistle blew

In Landover Mr. Brower, he really did try

To apply screeching brakes but to no avail.

No dice just three cars would slow 

With sparks shooting down the rail.

The Federal was flying, the smoke was persistent

The Federal she hit a full steam 45

She flew below Florida, and passengers knew

They were lucky to still be alive.

The engine was just inches from a waiting room

All souls left with their lives

Passengers, crew, and staff

All left with nervous sighs.

There was not time for a complete cleanup 

Before that biggest of days

Crews worked nonstop for forty-eight hours 

And carried those train cars away 

The faithful station stayed open, alert

Pouring the temporary pavement 

Crowds arrived for Eisenhower’s inauguration

The Express engine hidden in the basement 

In hindsight, a tragedy narrowly missed,

In hindsight, there’s no guarantee

We won’t repeat that chaotic day of

January ’53.

Andre F. Peltier (he/him) is a Lecturer III at Eastern Michigan University where he teaches literature and writing. He lives in Ypsilanti, MI, with his wife and children. His poetry has recently appeared in various publications like CP Quarterly, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Provenance Journal, About Place, Novus Review, Wingless Dreamer, and Fahmidan Journal, and most recently he has had a poem accepted by Lavender and Lime Literary. In his free time, he obsesses over soccer and comic books.

Twitter: @aandrefpeltier

Website: www.andrefpeltier.com

Fred Shrum, III was born near Washington, D.C. and grew up in Florida. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Florida at Tampa. He enjoys the beach, tacos, music , baseball and all things crime.

Twitter: @fshrum

Website: http://www.fredshrum.wordpress.com

Mr. BBQ by Simon Nagel

Someone left a barbecue by the dumpster weeks ago. It was covered with rust and spiderwebs. A man stared at it for a long time one afternoon. The barbecue gave him a lot to think about. The man told all his coworkers about the abandoned barbecue. They politely listened and went on with their business. No one collected the barbecue by the time he returned from work. He counted the number of cars capable of hauling it away in his neighborhood. He was disappointed. The barbecue remained beside the dumpster for a month, which upset the man every time he emptied his garbage can. He told himself he’d write the city. He called about renting a trailer to haul it away but couldn’t commit to a price. Someone must take it, he thought. It’s the way of things.  Tall weeds grew around the barbecue. The man gently pulled them and maintained the ground near its base so it would look more attractive to potential takers. A season passed and the barbecue was gone. It left behind four deep holes in the ground where its feet had stood. The man followed the fading trail of dirt in the direction it was taken. Eventually he wandered into nature. With each step his heart beat for beef on steel and with every mile came another coat of rust. His eyes searched for rocks he could bash together and strike a fire for when he found it, and twigs he could use for kindling. A source of protein remained undiscovered. It will come back, he thought. Just like it used to be. It will come.

Simon Nagel is a writer from Edinburgh, Scotland. His works appear in Ellipsis Zine, Flash Fiction Magazine and Taco Bell Quarterly, among others. Look him up online at simonnagelwrites.com and find him on Twitter @simon_nagel

Scotch Cap by Travis Cravey

Scotch Cap

by Travis Cravey

Fireman Sean Kilpatrick had finished his first watch at the Scotch Cap Lighthouse at ten o’clock, and, happy to be relieved by Seaman First Class Ness,  he made his way through the dark corridors, down a flight of stairs to his rack. Spring in the Aleutians is still cold, and he shivered as he stripped down and hopped between the cold sheets. It was dark and quiet, save the snoring of his bunk mate, and as soon as Kilpatrick felt warm, he closed his eyes.

He woke some three hours later to the sound of himself screaming, falling through space, and hitting his head on the floor. He tried to rise, but continued shaking violently and convinced himself he was dreaming of being in a big storm. A large piece of asbestos fell from the ceiling and hit him across the back, knocking him to the floor again. He groaned in pain and was now fully awake. For the next fifteen seconds the building creaked and wailed as if it were being twisted,  and Kilpatrick spent the time avoiding everything that had once been on a wall flying through the air.

When the shaking stopped, Dykstra, Kilpatrick’s bunk mate, turned on the light to survey the damage.

“Jesus, Sean. You ok?”

Kilpatrick could feel the blood running down his face. “Yeah. Yeah. Earthquake?”

Before Dykstra could answer, the booming voice of their commander, Chief Petit, rumbled through the building. “SOUND OFF!”

After each man had proven they were okay, Petit began a machine gun volley of orders. “Ness, Pickering, damage report NOW. Dykstra, give me some goddamn power NOW. Colvin, Kilpatrick, with me NOW.”

Kilpatrick and Dykstra quickly dressed and parted. Kilpatrick found Chief Petit standing near the sea window, wearing pajamas, a pea coat, and a watch cap. Petit had been in the Coast Guard for twenty years, including the last two landing soldiers and Marines in the Pacific under Japanese fire. He was respected by all the men under him. He could laugh and play cards with them, but when he gave an order, the men knew to obey. As Colvin entered, Petit turned to them. He began to speak but noticed the blood on Kilpatrick’s face.

“You hurt?”

“I’m okay, Chief.”

“Good. Colvin, get up top and make sure the light stays working.”

Colvin ran up the steps leading to the lighthouse tower.

Petit was about to speak when the building again shook, throwing both men to the floor and sending large chunks of plaster and asbestos on top of them. After twenty seconds, the shaking stopped. Petit stood, his watch cap gone, and a large cut bleeding across his cheek.


“Are you okay, chief?”

Petit didn’t even look at him. “SOUND OFF!” 

After each man reported, Petit turned towards the steel door that opened to the second floor walkway and the sea. He then turned back towards the window. It was too dark to see anything, but he stared nonetheless. Kilpatrick could see him straining to listen. After ten seconds he made a fist and hit his desk softly a few times. “Goddamnit.”

“What is it Chief?”

He looked towards the steel door again, then at the ceiling, now cracked and crumbling. “The sea’s collecting rent today.”


Petit took a piece of paper and a pencil and quickly wrote a note while Kilpatrick stood by. When he finished he read it over, folded it, and held it out. “Take this situation report to Lieutenant Moore, best speed.”

Kilpatrick stepped forward. “Aye, Chief.” Lieutenant Moore was with the rest of the island’s guardsmen, some three hundred yards up the beach at the radio direction station. Kilpatrick started for the door, but turned when Petit called to him again.  “Are you married?”

“No, Chief, not yet.”

“Sweetheart back home? That sort of thing?”

Kilpatrick blushed. “No. Not yet anyway.”

Petit smiled, nodded his head. “Plenty of time for all that.” He took out a cigarette and lit it. Both men could see the cherry reflected in the window. It was pitch out there, the sea as black as the sky. “Plenty of time. Never married myself. Afraid I’d have to give up all this.”


Petit pulled a small book from his desk and held it up. “This is the Bible my mother gave me when I joined in 1926. I have it with me, understood? If she asks, I had it with me.” Kilpatrick shook his head, confused, as Petit slipped it into the pocket of his pea coat. “Off you go. Best speed, understood?”

Kilpatrick again made for the door, leaving the Chief alone, in the dark room, with his cigarette.

Kilpatrick ran as fast as he could up the trail, in the dark. The radio direction building came into sight, blinked out, lit up again, and then went dark. Kilpatrick could hear men yelling and cursing as he approached. He entered the galley door and called out for Lieutenant Moore. As he did he heard what seemed to be a freight train coming at the building and all the men stopped and stared at the wall facing the sea. Moments later the train seemed to hit them squarely, the building shook, and water appeared everywhere. Someone said “tidal wave” loudly and Kilpatrick, having been knocked over by the hit and sitting now in three inches of water, wondered at how high the wave had to have been to hit the radio building. Realizing that the lighthouse was at least seventy feet lower, he got up and went back to the door he had just entered. There was no light now where he had just come from, no foghorn. Kilpatrick knew they were all gone.

When the sun rose a few hours later, the sea was calm and the sky was blue. A few guardsmen walked down the trail from the radio building towards the lighthouse, only to find all but the very foundation swept away. Lieutenant Moore, after a brief survey and perfunctory search for bodies, estimated the wave height to have been one hundred feet. They would learn later that the wave was closer to one hundred thirty feet, twenty feet higher than the very top of the lighthouse tower, and had swept over the building at more than three hundred miles per hour. 

For several months Kilpatrick roamed the beach in his free time hoping for some sort of proof that anyone had been there, but there was none. 

Lighthouse Fiction

A Warning of Incoming Tides

by Jenny Wong

The lighthouse keeper tells himself the shipwreck was not his fault. There is no way anyone could sail a boat towards nine-hundred-and-forty-two-watts-of-lamplight on a clear night, and not be warned. He eyes the wreckage below. Hull. Mast. Splinters. Police tape flapping like streamers. Already, the reporters have subsided back to their cities and smog. The cat licks her claws, cleaning away the night’s mischief. Sometimes we’re only meant to pick up the pieces. The lighthouse keeper slips up the tower, up the thin spiral staircase to the lantern room.  He begins to polish the large mournful lens, feels its gaze echoing the same question that tosses to and fro in his mind: why?

An old gull lifts towards sky, spreads wings over rocks and waves, leaving the others behind to stand over their nests and nurse fragile cracks in their quiet eggs.

JENNY WONG is a writer, traveler, and occasional business analyst. Her favorite places to wander are Tokyo alleys, Singapore hawker centers, and Parisian cemeteries. Recent publications include Tiny Molecules, Kissing Dynamite, and Gastropoda.  She resides in Canada near the Rocky Mountains and tweets @jenwithwords

I’ll Catch You a Cod

by Nadine Klassen

She drives, as if she was the keeper of a lighthouse, and the cliff had come in – insisted, was empty: a passenger seat, a neoprene suit. Makes you think what else is real. The motor chuckles – an old Ford, they both agreed, was either a bad buy, or a Monday Model. But she dreamt, and he’d let her. She rolls the window down, almost reaching through his abdomen, almost surgical. In the footwell, his fishing boots and rod, bait and hooks. There is a photograph of him, stuck to the fan, and he looks so momentary in it. Taken mid-whistle on the black-sanded beach. Cream sweater, the bare feet in beach shoes he wears, walking the clearest shores, after that one sea urchin in Spain. Wind drools from his hair and there is scent coming through the AC, even though there isn’t. In the left hand corner of the photograph, there is a blur of her finger, and on some days, she needs this confirmation of her having been there – having seen him. The radio stutters, while the movie of the street passes, whistles through the slit of the window – she wore that same dress she is wearing now on the way to the hospital. Is there any song you don’t know? She asked, while he hummed the soundtrack louder than the TV in the double room. Thinking back, she doesn’t remember what he said. When she gets to the docks, she says, I’ll catch you a cod! When she closes the door, she hears him answer, Darling, it’s April. Darling, I’m gone.

Nadine Klassen (she/her) is a German poet and author of the chapbook Bruises, Birthmarks & Other Calamities (Cathexis Northwest Press, 2021). She was a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has been published in The Red Lemon Review, Midway Journal, GASHER and others. She lives in her hometown with her fiance and their dog.

The Turning

by Lucy Hooft

When the wick first takes, there is nothing but the light. The flame, magnified to the strength of a thousand candelas, folds you in its brightness and the world outside retreats. Only slowly does the darkness become clear.

For thirty years my days were bound to the lighting of the flare. Each day following the same inevitable rhythm, built up to the moment when the sun’s light starts to falter and the beacon takes over. There is a turning, a point at which it happens, that is imperceptible for some. For most people it simply goes dark. The trick is in catching the moment before, knowing with certainty when the light will change, before the shadows lengthen and then fade. I couldn’t tell you how I knew, but every keeper did. There was no easy way to measure and check, it was not something we could teach. But after all those years of watching, ten thousand days, it became as clear to me as waking. 

After the turning, the lighthouse is no longer a landmark, a feature among many of the daytime world. It becomes the guide and watchman for the sea. It is at this moment that all the day’s work becomes real. The tasks that by themselves seem small –  the dismantling of the mechanism, the careful cleaning with solvents to banish the soot, refilling the kerosene, trimming the wick, the polishing of the glass and endless battle against the rust – all assume their greater purpose. Across 17 nautical miles, our light shines its message of constancy in the drift.

I often wondered who they were, those who are looking for the light. Where are they going, carrying what cargo? Coming back or casting out? A story reached me once of a ship that narrowly missed the reef of the headland, a young family aboard. Disaster averted by our luminescence. I used to wonder how many other lives had been saved, how many ships put back on course because of the light. Would their stories ever reach me? I wondered also about those for whom we were too late.

If truth be told, I never knew why I had to go. What was it that automation and light gauges had, that I had not? How could the sum of my knowledge, my careful watching and meticulous care, be replaced by a mechanism, something discreet that could be taught? But the day came when they said I was no longer needed. My years of service cut short by a handshake; the flick of a switch. And I was cut adrift.

Work was what I knew. My routine had filled the spaces others may people with duties to family, to a wife or to children. My company was the light, its needs shaped and informed my days, its rhythm was my rhythm, its groove so deep it became something I could not shake. I filled my hours well enough. I approached my cottage as I had once done the lighthouse. I polished until kitchen windows sung and bath taps winked. I checked and tested wiring, dismantling lamps, replacing cords, sealing gaps where the dust might come in. My house became my workshop and when nothing remained to be done, I would walk. I covered long distances to tire my muscles until they craved rest. But when the evening hour came, when I felt the turning approach, I found I could not settle. Without the lighting of the wick, each day fell without shape, like a wave without a break.

And so I climb. Not with time to spare as I once did, but later now when I feel the turning is near. I leave my steady list of domestic duties, and begin the climb to the tower. The path from my cottage crosses the dunes before winding through the clumps of heather to the cliff’s edge. For most of the walk, the sea is at my back, and only as I push round the final ascent does it appear, unceasing, embracing the promontory on three sides.

At first, of course, the climb helped to calm my disbelief. Automatic acetylene operation sounded grand but what was it next to a lifetime of service? A quiet part of me was waiting for it to fail. Each night when the great light stirred and buzzed into life, I was always surprised. And disappointed. I had to be on hand, just in case. To be ready to keep the flare alight if its new mechanism should falter. But as the nights passed and my disbelief grew into glum acceptance, still I made the climb.

I cannot count how many times I have walked this path. Even when the world was still lucid, my muscles knew their way. My legs could carry me without aid, leaving my eyes free to look. The landscape never ceases to astonish. Where the dark core of the earth meets the brushed white of its fringe, the sand both rosy and pale under foot. Small trees and flowering creepers provide shade and with each week a new set of colours and scents. Down below great pillars of black rock stand stacked, improbable piles against the pounding waves.

I used to listen to the ocean behind me as I walked, its relentless push and break, trying to guess its mood from the music. I would try to picture which colour from emerald to flint would meet me at the top. As the water came into view, I would count the flashes of white crest, the number and size. I would scan the horizon for boats, trying to place who might be waiting for the beacon’s call.

I remember clearly the day it began. Black spots bloomed into my vision like corrosion consuming the core of a mirror. Left without check, the tarnished spots creep across the surface of the glass, sucking in the light but throwing back no reflection. When a mirror is spoiled, the light from the lamp within stays the same, but that which is cast out loses its brilliance. And so it was with me.

Even as the spots grew larger, I climbed as easily as I had before. I saw less, but the noises of the water, the warnings and celebration of the birds gave me all the details my eyes could not see.

Tonight the climb feels steeper. The note rung by the sea is pewter and deep. The wind seems to blow as if from two directions at once, masking the crash of the surf. My legs buckle on the final ascent and for a moment I have to stop. The birds are still tonight.

I don’t remember when the dark became the dominant. When the corrosion became so pervasive that the whole surface of the mirror was patterned with black. I became trapped in what I know. At home, surrounded by an environment that is familiar, I carry on as before. I limit my tasks to those that still make sense, relying on memory, rhythm and routine. But I no longer venture beyond this space of which I am master.

The climb to the lighthouse remains pristine. Thirty years of looking do not fade and memories of each time I have walked this path before fill the gaps in my dying reckoning.

I look out towards the swelling water, listening to its movement. The ground hums with the glow of the beacon at my back. I watch the sea, its rise and fall. So long have I watched this view, so deeply is its image imprinted on my mind, that I miss the turning when it comes. Thirty years of knowing and yet my intuition fails me at the last.

And then the light is out, and there is nothing but darkness.

Lucy Hooft is writing a series of spy novels based on her experiences living and working on four continents. She is currently based in Luderitz, Namibia, crafting stories and making films about the adventures of growing giant kelp.  

This story was inspired by a visit to the Fingal Head Light in New South Wales, Australia which was converted from a manned lighthouse, complete with Keeper’s cottage, to an automatic carbine lamp in 1920. Soon after, the lighthouse was demanned and the cottage destroyed; which left her wondering about the man who had been so unceremoniously replaced. Find her on Twitter @HooftLucy

September 11, 2001 Poetry

From A Roof-Top Balcony View

by Alan Bern

Lucinda, you have waited your life

To have this wide view of the world 

Close to your eyes, but not over them

That clear morning you climbed with coffee

To your roof as you often do

And looked to one Manhattan skyline

The blue of the late summer sky

From Brooklyn the significant island

When the second plane flew into it

As if you watched TV, your eyes closed.

Since we were children I have known your gaze

To watch the world burn and collapse

Not because it is not worth saving

Your life, our lives, but because it is the way

To save it since from hell you see one road

Reliving the Past

by Jason de Koff

There’s a hole in the sky

Where the lights used to be

Instead the air filled 

With smoke and debris

And frozen faces

Are now all that we see.

Olympic rings on the table

From a coffee cup

Waiting on the phone

For someone to pick up

Hoping its dead

But they are not

Twenty years is long

Without comprehension

How to let live this time

Without starting again

The same story we told

Ourselves to begin

That we are first 

And all others

The end

Stripping On 9/11

by Kristin Garth

Feels patriotic and this Sisqó song 

An anthem

Tandem table dances, gift 

Two girls for tragedy

Tonight you long to sacrifice  

Work an unscheduled shift

When your house mother calls 

Explains “Marines”

And you know she means money  

Then drive beneath a twilight sky

None in air

To windowless castles 

To dance for men in underwear 

A topless schoolgirl who 

Tonight removes the minuscule plaid skirt 

She never does because it hides her shame


Drops her pride 

Tonight should hurt

Belongs in thongs

America bracelets, 

A veteran buys some young service guys

Mispronouncing cities where they may die

This was previously published by Yes Poetry 

One O’clock Hour, September 11, 2001:

by Christian Garduno

makeshift morgues in Manhattan the NYC police are taking people away
i’m watchin tv & my eyes are getting scratched
blood shortage
type-o negative
everything seems so surreal
every move i make feels like tradgedy/
breaking news GIMME SHELTER i call you tell you
i love you, i love you

WTC fall to dust and by the time the sun comes up again
we will be at WAR WAR WAR WAR WAR WAR
american unity, where is the humanity today?
who stole the soul
my god where are you today?
oh my, world trade centers
no planes in the sky, federal mandate, Last Flight.
NYC ground Zero. USA in CIA mode
U.S. targets hit
from calm to the edge of the bomb
slow explosions
(all units available, we need more blood)
pray for the best, brace for the worst
air force one heading back to the white house
rumsfeld, sec Of defence @ pentagon, which was crashed
Newark, New Jersey to sfo
get out in the knick of time, water in the stairwell
ny, wash dc, va, pa
 shaking but cant move at all
-can we save the world?

“one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist”
                                                                    -primal scream
my brother, today you fly

Two O’clock Hour, September 11, 2001:

Living history, can you believe your eyes?
    crying eyes, gun to the head
who is alive? And who is dead?
who is responsible? For it all
For sure, someone is smiling on this
some nervous smiling soul
delighting in the debris, conspiracy
Everybody ready for real fall out?
and in front of the world, a burning New York City
loose confederation of rebels
u.s. trained bin laden vs russians
palestine, china, electronic intelligence
pray or cry pray and cry cry cry for a prayer
         Could you cry?
for a soul you’ll never meet?
Jesus, could you cry? 

Nobody Drives the Lane Like Fletch, Man by Jack Bedell

It’s good that Fletch is always looking out
for the little guy on the beach, that he’s willing
to stand up to the man over a story, go to jail
to protect his sources and all. He’s really nice
taking care of wives getting conned by their husbands
or parents living in the shadow of their crooked
son’s lies. That’s all fine stuff. But if you want to know
what makes Fletch a hero, watch him drive
the lane, man. No regard for his own well-being
when his team needs him to draw the hard foul,
take the forearm across his chin to get to the line.
That’s what makes him the real deal. We can all
count on him to sink his free throws
when there’s a game at stake. And that’s
when all the real counting counts.

Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s work has appeared in HADPidgeonholesThe ShoreOkay DonkeyEcoTheoThe HopperTerrain, and other journals. His latest collection is Color All Maps New (Mercer University Press, 2021). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019. 

The Boss by Dutch Simmons

Buying a pack of Marlboros for my dad, fifty cents.

The dead eyed, pimple-ridden clerk behind the counter doesn’t question me.

Nobody cares if I’m 13.

Rushing back to the running car, freedom awaited two hours down the blackened asphalt of the Jersey Turnpike.

Plink, Plink, Plink,

Dimes tossed into toll booth collection buckets

A staccato accompaniment to Hall and Oates’ “Maneater” blaring through the Pontiac’s tinny speakers.

Early morning push-ups till my arms numbed so my pubescent muscles would pop when I took off my counterfeit Polo shirt on the beach.

My corduroy Ocean Pacific shorts were legit and made me feel like one of the Beach Boys, even if they chafed. 

Creosote wrapped oily-tar scented arms around me,

Greetings from a long lost friend when we arrived at the boardwalk.

Pina colada-scented tanning oil a heady aphrodisiac as I trudged the grey-white sand strewn with pock marked clam shells like broken teeth.

Thundering waves and braying gulls were drowned out by

Clusters of girls in audacious neon bikinis belting out Cyndi Lauper’s “She-Bop.”

They had no idea it was an ode to masturbation.

I didn’t know that either, but it didn’t matter as I watched them adjust

Black rubber Madonna-inspired bracelets attempting to even out their tans.

My own carnal desires

Torn between the teased-up big hair and oiled bodies glistening in the summer sun and the

Sweetly pungent smell of fry grease from funnel cakes on the boardwalk.

Each promised instant gratification, and ultimately, regret and disappointment.

This was as close to heaven as a 13 year old could get.

Because it was the 80’s

It was New Jersey

Bruce Springsteen told me anything was possible at the Jersey Shore.

Dutch Simmons established a creative writing program for his fellow inmates while incarcerated for a white-collar crime.  He has been nominated for the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and was a finalist for the Texas Observer’s Short Fiction and the Julia Peterkin Flash Fiction Prizes. Rep’d by Maximus Literary.

He is a fantastic father, a former felon, and a Phoenix rising.

Folllow him on Twitter   @thedutchsimmons