Jon Riccio

Jon Riccio
is a queer poet living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. His chapbook Eye, Romanov is forthcoming from SurVision Books. He serves as a contributing interviewer for the University of Arizona Poetry Center’s 1508 blog.


Life Reckoning with Lineage and Viola

Saints roll their haloes at my wish to prevent John the Baptist’s beheading.

Longevity, how do you taste to a martyr? Diane Wood Middlebrook’s

biography of Anne Sexton claims there’d be no Madonna without

Confessional’s progenitress, Truth or Dare what I saw wearing

eighth grade like a diadem not due to love that violinist until

we watched Star Wars, soul baring harder than landing

the Death Star in a bandshell. // Auditioning, I fought

a Juilliard faculty member named Sam over a Bartók

excerpt marked adagio religioso, shrapnelled my self-

advocacy, and made it in. Not confidence but a neuron;

sometimes I prodigious. // Early sick, my dad asked

What are you, Howard Hughes? He says it’s a good

thing I didn’t go to Juilliard. Imagine agoraphobia

in a city bigger than Cleveland, my efficiency unit

weathering a dick graffitied above the bathrobe hook

and faucets that perfected handwashing with OCD.

My trick to managing anxiety attacks? Cut the legs

off your jeans. Sever whatever gets a hitchhiking think.

Madonna, disinfect. Achilles, milk the landfill of reprieve.

// The professor for whom I produced my first illness

writing had a micro-bathroom and communal-oval

soap. You’d impersonate him with brown socks

and cenotaph tattoo. He came to a reading of my disorder

poems where a cohort trolled him for a kitchen punch,

mentor among arena silverware, truth taking a harrumph

to a shed. Baptismal John, a Herod cubby for your head. //

Ken who owns a rototiller business offers to set me up

with his cousin. I hear date, leap semen, courtship’s edict

almost. It’s not my fluids that throw me for a loop: mucous

a gel cap’s stage coach, seminal turning the happy trail to algae.

// There’s a silkscreener in Hattiesburg named Clinky. Next to

his shop’s a basketball court, its floor the readout of a granite EKG,

soap pump a whorl sarcophagus—his bathroom you’d mistake

for a calendar of outhouse commodes. I wanted him to custom-

print a T-shirt: John the Baptist on front, conditions for coupling

with me on back. Riccio, you may have cured, but your inner-

Gregorian chants agoraphobe. Retcon, pilot me a crystal ball

pruned of the enjoinder altogether on a day I’m not patrolling

my footpath for medical waste. // A minor school of thought:

WD Snodgrass’ “Heart’s Needle” catalyzed Sexton of the Cigarettes

who trained the smoke to dial Kumin, Maxine. The focus gone

from WD’s coparenting to thread-seminary, Anne self-canoning

in my creed. // OCD did not live through this. This is vicariously

OCD. I almost called it “The Fluidphobe’s Guide to Good Health”

but that would position me major domo instead of D Major

nine years from my last gig, at the Canton Palace Theatre

(its teak prone to break), to day of viola sold. I should’ve

de-splintered the edge where my bow thought allegro

vivace was a wood chipper’s permit, should’ve cleaned

the rosin off, that fingerboard up-tempo AstroTurf. // Have

you seen the Sexton documentary (′66), camera lensing her

pharmacopeia nightstand while she reads “The Addict”?

Anne apothecarious, those twist caps have three years

on the moon landing. Madge, the men I love don’t know

“True Blue” from “Eighteen Days Without You.” Heart’s

needle? WD, I’m the Roundup of Confessional’s family tree.

Grandpa Madonna, you should see all my bedlams partway through.


Biography in Aviaries

My father brings jewelry from the department of torn mail to our pierceless house.

A robin dines in the feeder built at Dad-and-Me weekend where a pastor

preached similes deemed interfaith. Sunday I molt to mother-defender.

If math, algorithm for mama’s boy, twig years as gate.

When contemplating the grackle bible remember a bird christening

at Confirmation. One day I was heathen Jonathan. A workbook later,

Cygnet standing near Andrea Trumpeter. Our chorister-on-stilts

had soloists aim their throats at a mouthprint preened on chalice rim.

Not wings but a way to pat the tops of crosses, he told us before a pelican

transubstantiated the archbishop of its gullet. // I cull incense into a kerosene

lamp whose odor theater improvises a vigil for tumors of the bladder’s orchestra

pit. The postman who raised me fought sepsis after the procedure to clear

his ureter turned furnace. Kairos thermometer, fatherless if centigrade roulette.

// On a lark my parents named me after Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Early in the hug catalog the mesa of their clavicles would lock

with my tanager pec. A cutting board to her twenties, today

my mother’s sorority paddle is a sliver conservancy

stored with a Milton Bradley based on Marcus Welby.

Optimism glutton, I debunk the dices’ withered probability

and throw double-fives to match the corset holes in a bodice

with kitsch. Want to unbox a mothball dreamboat? Here’s

your chance. // Ages four through twelve, my sister studied

at Dance Incorporated, its recitals perpendicular to the legwarmer

shop. Balletically, I patented the ‘fisherman’—upper thighs as if hula

hooping a catamaran, the left reel-retrieving, rod-hand like holding

a torch—premiered on a balcony whose rails bore that arms-will-bend-

the-bars-in-a-strongman-movie look. Slide a chef’s toque through them

and you have words I don’t speak to my brother. // My five-year soccer

run, goal free. Two-month baseball team, no diamond all demean.

Dad de-helled me from that one. Umpire, I had the nightingall. //

My therapist’s video, “Managing OCD,” recruits a shore’s contralto

undertow. Every grain, compulsion obeyed. The ptarmigan figures

we can re-choreograph, should I self-fulfill like a fuselage,

though an ibis promised, unraveling’s not until the entr’acte

then she threw a date my way. March 16, an Indiana tollbooth

and those always comorbidity with infamy which sounds like

a sprinkler flossing a rattlesnake. Hoosier, mason me

a headstone. Was it jizz, ides-adjacent? Biohazard embodied?

Sidenote, I’m steeped in Rorschach, re-imaging biohazard

or FEMA gone Olympics ring. Do you see Prince Alberts

line dancing? Sargent Pepper’s ménage à trois? Showerhead

trinity? Scorekeeper, when biohazard enters I cease. //

Return the hot-tub consolation prize I never use—admit it,

they revile you too—and cull a Ferris wheel from stock-market

ticker tape so the lyric agoraphobe “I” can say it did New York

like all the unafraids it tried to chameleon and I’ll answer

what befell me on March 16, 2003. Was it trial-by-OCD?

Weigh-station’s supermedicalifragility? Strapped for spout?

How about aftermath: The clinic receptionist’s bougainvillea tattoo.

// The grackle deacon lays its pinion-on-sinner then worlded I launch.

My parents ask, how much have you got salted away? The boogeyman

was my budget director. Careers when you’re an agoraphobe: thin

mint cookie with day-old stubble and four-finger gloves stationed

at the caring kiosk. Development manager of a Christian nonprofit.

The 4-H funds I raised went to chainsaw safety lessons, millennial

farmers fully digited throughout the Mitten State. OCD: a kowtow

TKO. Fallback or failsafe? Either’s the anvil to a whippoorwill’s

pas-de-deux. Yes, I began as a germaphobe. A handwasher,

I scrubbed my lifeline plum through. Sterile’s a vulnerability

so far. // I saw Communion wafers strung into anklets during a life

review, pontiff on a piano, quarter notes the noisemaker undead.

Orientation, have you got room for intelluctuasexual as valid thread?

Experience? I’ve only sipped through a flamingo straw once, humility

talon-proofing the strut that answers how sick were you?


Week #5

to the nigerian people, my friends and fellow poets – stay safe, stay alive!

click on poet’s name to read their poetry



Nadia Arioli (nee Wolnisty)

Kevin M. Hibshman

Damian Ward Hey

Chisom Okafor

Tim Goldstone

Shitta Faruq Adémólá & Adebayo Oluwatomisin

John Dorsey

Andreas Fleps

Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan

Scott Ferry

Jon Riccio

Jason O’Toole

Jessica Rich

Ajani Samuel Victor

Olajuwon Alhaytham Adedokun

Paul Brucker

John Grey

Jonel Abellanosa

Somjeeta Pandey

Winifred kijie Odu

Aderolu Nuriyah

Daniel G. Snethen

J.D. Smith

Susan Kay Anderson

Hawwaa Wintope

Adrian Koesters

Patty Tomsky

Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe

Adedoyin kayode

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Adedoyin kayode

Adedoyin kayode
is an emerging writer of both poems and short stories. His writing explores pain, love and depression. He was a member of the Transcendence master class facilitated by Aremu Adebisi Adams. His poem has appeared on Librettong Magazine and he was short listed for the African writers lockdown challenge. Watching in sigh-lens is his best way of recording scences.


My grief needles me & like a deflated ball,
I fear i might be unable to bounce back to sanity.

I watch my dad pay attention to every letter on the daily times but
He never saw the headlines of frustration boldly written on my face.

My mum places a pacifier in form of  ” we’ll talk later ” on my lips
But she never creates time to talk.

Yesterday, my lover saw my scars & mistook them for tattoos
Not knowing they are short- hand symbols of  word  ears  has refused to accomodate.

My mind is becoming my only interlocutor & words in me are getting heavy-
I fear i might fall to the ground soon / unheard.



When i first learnt silence,
it was through my mother.
In the name of being submissive,
her tongue; a scroll of words folded behind her lips

You would know she has a lot to say
When you find her in the kitchen slicing her thoughts like onion as they tear her
or when you catch  glimpses  of her lips wobbling with broken words, seeking path through them.
She says  here  in the house of a male chauvinist, silence is a feminine dialect.


Mother taught me to respect silence,
to grill words on the griddle of my tongue till it tastes voiceless.
to pronounce the word pain with a teary eyes,
to explain violence with the scars on my skin & the reflection of his palm on my cheek.

How do i forget this tongue that shredded my
mother into pieces,
because like my mother did, i’m holding my voice in my hand like pills about to swallow.

Will I die too?

Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe

Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe
is a writer, poet and mathematician. His works have been shortlisted for the Brigitte Poirson Poetry Contests and Eriata Oribhabor Poetry Prize. He has works published or forthcoming from Eyes To The Telescope, Star*Line Magazine, Ngiga Review, Kalahari Review and elsewhere. He tweets @OluwaSigma and writes from Lagos, Nigeria.


My country bleeds from different places. Her children cry in the streets. We have become motherless, sent to early graves by the ones meant to protect us. We have become lost children, seeking peace wherever it may be found. We are being killed because we dared ask not to be killed. Suddenly, black lives do not matter anymore. Suddenly, our lives have become playthings for the bastards in power. Our pain had become a source of joy to these tyrants. Our screams of anguish are like music to their ears. So when I am asked, which country are you from? I reply with profound silence. Because no mother should be able to throw her own children into the sea without batting an eyelid. No country should kill citizens who only wanted to be treated better. I have no country. I am motherless.


Tell me, if it isn’t madness. Peaceful protesters praying for peace. Soldiers opening fire in the dark. A governor denying everything. Young people killed at the order of political godfathers. A silent president. A broken country. A riot on the streets of a megacity. Anarchy, but organized. Anarchy, but guided. Terrorism, but state sponsored. Citizens too scared to leave their homes. But death finds them in their rooms anyway. Peace is non-existent. Democracy is dead. Everywhere we turn, we see three constants; sorrow, tears & blood. Tell me, isn’t this madness?


Let it be known/that this was the day/we lost our brothers & sisters/to a senseless act of violence/Lagos bleeds, Abuja groans, All of Nigeria mourns/I saw a flag drenched in blood/& I can’t get the image out of my head/when I think of my country/tears well in my eyes/I think of every minute & the people dying/I am lost in my mind/I am lost in an abyss/I am lost & cannot find myself/maybe I do not want to be found/I am stuck between sleeping/& fighting sleep/I do not want to have nightmares/but I am living in a nightmare already/I wake up every morning/& the first thought on my mind is/will I be next to die?

Patty Tomsky

Patty Tomsky:
“I’ve been published in many journals (Allegheny Poetry Village; Paterson Review; Kota Press: Lilliput Review; US 1 Worksheets) and placed twice in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize. My poetry circus, Rock n Roll Hootchy Koo, a multimedia narrative and music event won a Pikes Peak Arts Council grant for ArtPop 2019.


Pandemic brain

The old paneled walls of Aunt Sensodyne’s lake house a shack really
Boards like old crone’s teeth in a fence with no power. The rooms
You walked through as a child holding your breath. This house is now that.

The air a different flavor spent in the body too long, no breaks, the run
Flap of canvas shoe; dance of sunlight leaves; your mind floats up and leaves;
The new gardener you are still kills things all day. Bent seedlings twisted dry.

Soils without quotidian flesh—reading late into the night.
You can feel the tomato plants wilting on the deck. Dream sense stalking.
Your anodyne heart your fetching mind your last gasp of meaning.

Adrian Koesters

Adrian Koesters
holds an MFA in poetry from Pacific Lutheran University and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her book publications include Many Parishes and Three Days with the Long Moon (poetry), and the novels, Union Square and Miraculous Medal (2020). She was a graduate assistant editor for Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, taught creative writing at UNL and Creighton University, and recently retired from the U of Nebraska system. She lives in Omaha, where she is currently working on a third novel and a new collection of poetry.

A Nun Walks Around a Hanging Terrace in El Guano

            for Peggy Shumaker, after Pablo Neruda

It so happens that when I came here I thought I was making a great donation to the lovely poor of Hispaniola, because the poor, you see, if they are going to be always with you, might as well be beautiful in spirit and love everything you give them, everything about you, even the fat on your legs, but by the time I got to the hanging terraces, walking with my little hostess sister Marianne, it so happens that I had turned paper-thin and had ripened to the color of milk chocolate (but it so happens that I was still fatter than all of them) and my hair had started to turn rickety green-yellow on top of the brown, the same color as all the five-year-old beach-ball-bellied kids,

and it so happens that it was noon, and I wanted to take a walk, and Marianne was sent to go with me, we were given an umbrella, our feet tumbled on the rivuleted paths that passed for roads, the sun so hot even the dragonflies stayed down, and the pillagers, and all I could think was how much I hated to eat there, and how magical it was to be turning into milk chocolate vellum, how the lluca root was inedible, and the boiled platano even worse, how I wished the family would stop giving me their only egg, each morning floating in peanut oil and red onions, how courtesy kept me from pushing it away or even throwing it at them, and how I wanted to hurt someone when the cousins visited and pulled little Adolfito over, especially the man who stretched out the elastic band of his little shorts, and leered to me, “Macho!” and sometimes reached in and pinched the little penis, and how Adolfito stared at me while they held him in their arms.

It so happens that I often hate being poor, a hatred that surprised me when we finally arrived at those hanging terraces. I try to ask Marianne who lives here, but either she doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to, she shrugs and starts kicking a stone around on the road, as I look up, and see a patio, with patio furniture lazing in the shade. A man in a white shirt holding an iced drink comes to the door. He wears a watch. He smiles, and I return the smile, he is the first thing I have not hated all day. He speaks, I am sure he is inviting us to come up and rest, but Marianne says no and pulls me around to go home, and it so happens when I arrive back that I’ve gotten heat stroke and the mamá puts me to bed, Adolfito comes into the room and jumps and screams on the other bed, until I cry out, “Fito, por favor!” and Mamá shoos him away and brings me a tisane, and I cry in her lap, my head shuddering and blasting, yearning for the patio above the hanging terraces.

And it so happens that on the last day, Marianne and I stood out on the patio and kicked our legs high up in the air, as if we were both twelve, and she took me aside to the patio to teach me tatting, “Así, así,” and I acted as if I would be there always and that the publico was not coming and yet it came before I said goodbye to them all, but, still, I felt so satisfied when I climbed in on top of the half-dozen others going into the city, and I said “Lo siento por eso,” and the driver replied to his friends, “Ella habla el Espanol” and it so happens that they all murmured proudly about me, so I felt even my green hair was  fluent, as fluent as the green skirt that I would wear again back at the convent, and it so happens I remembered the pesos I had tucked inside my shoes and had pushed far under the bed of the mamá, and it so happens, it so happens that I was not a Samaritan or a martyr or a missionary of any kind or even a friend, but only a child, a child of North America, staring from the publico window down the ravines, happy to be rumbling for the last time down past the delicious hanging terraces.

Hawwaa Wintope

Hawwaa Wintope
is an African google eyed poet from Nigerian Western Africa.
She writes poetry to create relatable emotions for lovers of the art.
Hawwaa hopes to write about death someday while she sits on a giant icecap in Alaska.


Diaspora is today’s new word.
Lips widening, parting and closing
Over and again –
The word is attractive.

Today, home is a couple of burning streets.
Home houses new corpses of young men.
They were guilty of having guns.
Even headlines are crazier than yesterday.

I had read that a new kind of nectar was discovered.
Fallen in love with stale newspapers:
I kept a pile beneath my bed.

Tonight, sleep steals my eyes, leads me
To see people in the diaspora
We always feared,
Relics from the time we savoured
Now long forgotten.

Statues, those of men we mold,
We have few of them at home.
The men bold enough to shake the streets,
Light up car tyres, leave people in tears.

Men are those who store courage
To use later, to impact figures
To lead them:

23 officers feared dead,
Mob burns more homes.

Susan Kay Anderson

Susan Kay Anderson
is the author of Mezzanine (Finishing Line Press, 2019), a book of poems featuring her work as a graveyard-shift custodian at a university, which was her MFA thesis from Eastern Oregon University and directed by James Crews. She is the recipient of the Oregon Young Writers Award, the Jovanovich Award, fellowships from the University of Colorado, Telluride Writers, Aspen Writers, Ragdale, and stipends from the Student Conservation Association, AFS –Finland, and Study Abroad-Tuebingen University. Her poetry has been published in Barrow Street Journal 4 X 2 Project, BlazeVox Journal, Caliban Online, Carolina Quarterly, Mudfish, Puerto del Sol, Square OneTom Clark Beyond The Pale, and other places. Anderson has been short-listed for numerous manuscript publication prizes, attended Tin House, Colrain, Windward Community College Writing Retreats, PEN Writers-Hawaii, Volcano Arts Center, AWP, 24 Pearl Street/Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and presented Mezzanine at The Montana Book Festival. She was the poetry editor of Big Talk in Eugene, Oregon, a free publication which showcased up-and-coming NW punk bands, published by Hank Trotter. Anderson earned degrees in anthropology from the University of Oregon (BS) and English Literature/Creative Writing from the University of Colorado-Boulder (MA).  Her thesis was directed by Edward Dorn. Anderson worked in Hawaii as an educator and interviewed Virginia Brautigan Aste; this project and its resulting memoir, Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast, is forthcoming in 2021 from Finishing Line Press.   


Western Winter Wonderland 

At The Shelter
They fall, fight, and stumble.
I am afraid to touch his urine-soaked blanket

he says it got wet, he says he’ll die
out there
and I look out there.

Losers.  Evicted.  Probate
rejects.  Raining cats and dogs.
Nobody cares about the homeless
he says

there is nothing out there
but more ‘travelers’
a nice word
on the move
into the hungry shadows
of your own home town.

They Crave
milk.  They crave honey.
All they get is sugar.
Upside down.  Shoes abusing
crystals on the floor
mental toughness
is this sliding scene. 
Shuffling anger
the size of a forgotten

war.  My mind gets taken away.
Alarm set to nowhere
no time.  Might I trouble you
for a moment, just a moment. 


Sugar Mountain 

It’s a long way to Sugar Mountain
a long way to Candy Cane Lane
the ideal time to visit would be never.

Way past the willows weeping
red drips like lava flows
I carved my name into the aspens
which way tell me which way
the sign is saying? my eyes are closed.

Waiting For Prince Albert To Speak

     “We’d prefer to live with our fantasies of ourselves.
     –Phyllis Rose 

When they find the reason for what’s bad
held up for all to see.  I won’t be your friend   
but your sister.  Like one of Mom’s sisters.
Carrying that much weight.  Maybe Dad 
but not Dad either.   

I wanted to be loved.  Solid.
I wanted to love you.  Solid.
I don’t love it.  Understand.
I hate it.  Understand. 

I wanted to be admired, forever.  Starting after my career 
as a drunk sixth grader.  I guess I blew this
as a drunk seventh grader when you and Corine
put a paper bag over my head.  In our room in Reno.
As a drunk eighth grader in Missoula.  A drunk ninth grader 
in Tettnang.  Let’s skip past college. Let’s skip past your wedding
Denise still alive and calling Robert 
on the aquarium phone.  Let’s skip how I miss them.   

I wanted to be accepted for who I was understanding.
Just your sister with no questions asked.  I ask them now.
Judge Judy with lots of Chaplin thrown in.  Clowny clown. 

The mere placing of our names side by side:  Tina, Susan.
I thought that the self was a sister.   

Rubble Women 


She says this was 
Steineklopfen gehen
when she was seven.  Says
she did not mind it, 
part of their routine
the Truemmerfrauen knocking rubble,  
cobblestones, bricks    together 
after the bombing
stacking it all–
gritty, chalky  mountains        hills
knocking mortar off

The light could go in and out of the butterfly loom
Shadows of the shadow self with a rock to sit on
move light from below
support its shape
the shape of a butterfly.

I saw how it looked.
It looked like danger
if you somehow got caught
inside its intricate weaving. 

My Heathen Holiday

Part One.  The Bear’s Paw

His grip was strong.  I didn’t know
how his cave could be so warm and inviting.
The lavender would not say.  Another gripe:
time with a capital T.  Isn’t this the case?
My own cage was rattling and  I could hardly 
remember it clearly.  Point it out,
I thought, make it stay.  Remember when.

Part Two.  The Strawberry Moon

It got divided up after the dogs ran loose.
It came to be and nobody could see it.  It got that far.
Put it away now that you’ve used it, been it, said it.
Learn its lumbering talk.

American Dipper 

He is minister of that linear territory.  Flashing eyes
and extra eyelids.  Daring to go underwater.  He feasts
on nymphs for breakfast then gets eaten
by a Dolly Varden at noon.   

He is always in danger.  They say
you can only love one landscape
one lifetime.  How untrue.   

J.D. Smith

J.D. Smith’s
fourth collection, The Killing Tree, was published in 2016, and he is currently circulating two other collections. He works in Washington, DC, where he lives with his wife Paula Van Lare, their rescue animals, and no small amount of trepidation. Twitter: @Smitroverse

One Must Be of One’s Time

The fingerling swims in its given waters,
the raptor strikes from a certain sky,
nesting in a tree of particular earth,

and one is presently of a moment
where tabloids open with reports
that pages one and six have merged,
that among the nations and their trades
the tribes of scribe and scholar
count decreasingly because
they do not shout or sing
in arenas, flanked by dancers.

This is the moment one must
embrace to press the pages
into a summary ball, to which
one may set a match.

Daniel G. Snethen

Daniel G. Snethen
is an educator, naturalist and poet residing on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Kyle, SD. He teaches indigenous youth at Little Wound High School. Snethen’s favorite piece of literature is Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.  He has coached two students as finalists in the National Poetry Out Loud Competition. Snethen’s advice to all poets is two-fold: write about that which you know and be not afraid to bare your soul.

Chernobyl Forest 

Thirty years old now, the irradiated
Soviet wasteland has become  

an unprecedented Ukrainian Garden of Eden. 


The boreal forest flourishes 

and the concrete buildings have become
jagged escarpment for climbing vines
and cliff nesting raptors. 


Moose, red deer and roe buck
have claimed these woods
along with hares, wild boars
badgers, bison and brown bears. 

Barn swallows, cuckoos,
swans, owls, bats and other
winged creatures navigate
the cesium-contaminated forest.


Mutations occur and radioactive
accumulation in the tissues of voles
will likely cause some mortality
to feasting predatory carnivores. 

But, the wolf population, hunting
the 16,000 square miles of exclusion zone,  

is greater now than when humans
inhabited it—with numbers exceeding
those of the packs of Yellowstone. 


And endangered equine specters  

of Przewalski’s horses
lurk in the radiated ruins of Chernobyl.