They Wait

In line, they wait. Their souls offered up for money that has touched the lining of too many unwashed trousers. Desperate, they trade favors with a god they don’t believe in and compose promises they never intend to keep. Biting filthy nails, picking at half-healed sores or chewing on their darkly painted lips, they wait, marking time with the song on the stage that provides their next meal.  Adjusting what little material covers their oiled skin, they shift from stiletto to stiletto making an effort to forget a family they no longer know.

The music stops, the microphone booms. Collectively they inhale and lift their chins. Unlike cattle headed for slaughter, they know their fate, their unexpected destiny. The next girl goes on as the other descends the rattled stairs, bare, belittled and destitute as the owner extends his grimy hand before allowing her to pass. Head bowed like a child she delivers the bills to him, wrinkled and damp.

He slaps her and the surprise sends her reeling against the metal stage.

She crumbles to the floor.

“Next time do better,” he says and steps over her naked body without pause.

The girls dissolve into themselves, blind to their reality for the sake of self-preservation, and they wait.



First publication rights for this poem at SickLit Magazine

Review | Post Road | Issue no. 29

Review  |  Post Road  |  Issue no. 29

Originally founded in New York City in 1999, this unique gem is now partnered with Boston College as a non-profit literary magazine published bi-annually.  They accept unsolicited material that include, but not limited to, poetry, fiction, non-fiction and critiques to name just a few.

The magazine is delightfully jam packed with an array of talented artists of the written word and of the hand, starting with the cover collage entitled, “High Priestess” by the gifted artist, Eugenia Loli. Ms. Loli, originally from Greece, is a filmmaker and vintage collage artist who now calls California her home.

Sixteen pages of color grace the section titled, Figure 8 + 8, all offering a mixed media meal for the eye. Two of my favorites include Oscar Martinez Heredia’s drawing, mixed media on watercolor, La Calaca. This piece has this strange juxtaposition of delicate feminism and dark betrayal and eloquently portrays The Mexican Day of the Dead Festival of which Calaca is representative of. I also favored Mike Cockrill’s, The Newspaper Reader, and oil on print masterpiece that evokes a remembrance of early 20th Century Cubism. All of the contributors in this section are worth further study, color and a rested eye as opposed to pressed together.

The Contributors Notes reveal fifty four writers/artists, most of whom I would consider seasoned with just a few beginning writers in the mix of this 207 page volume.  I personally gravitate towards the newer, less published authors being one myself.

Oddly enough, one my favorite pieces of this issue and the only one that is non-fiction, is from Nadine Ellsworth-Moran, a new voice in the writing arena but one I feel we will be seeing more of. Ms. Ellsworth-Moran is an ordained Presbyterian Minister from Charlotte, NC. She explains in her Author Note that she hope is to “bridge the sacred and the secular” and “give voice to the in-between place we all live”. Her non-fiction contribution, Notes from a Suicide, gripped my heart with her opening sentence, ‘“My father, the historian, could have started the story of my grandmother’s death with this: “Before she shot herself in the chest, we had one last phone call.”’  Her hope will be accomplished with writing like this.

This moving and mournful story gave a face to the painful reality of suicide by telling this tragedy in a slow motion and unfolding way that lures the reader into the sorrow but leaves us just enough outside the “window” to see the bigger picture and thus the impact of suicide on everyone affected within the family unit. Her wrap up of the memory served as a public service announcement of sorts and was not only effective but poignant. I have shared her line about Sylvia Plath with half a dozen of my writing friends who were awed as well. A sampling of each issue is available online, I suggest you check this one out for sure.

The Guest Folio of this issue includes fifteen poems with no set theme.  Deciding to read them all, I started with the first one by Robert Pack, titled Clayfield’s Vampire Fantasy. I imagine that this poem sits comfortably within the pages of Mr. Pack’s collection of poetry, Clayfield Holds on, however in this setting, the poem, while well written, is lost.  The reader can’t identify with the subject matter because the poem is part of a collection and therefore it sits without context. Including a post script to this effect would have been a beneficial tool.

Here Begins the Prologue to the Life of Blessed Anthony, was my favorite poem from this section. This moment driven story with clever verse and distinct word choices was a compelling piece of poetry that was not only rich with imagery but told of a prelude to the wondrous life that lay ahead for Anthony. Author David Craig, a Professor of Creative Writing at Franciscan University in West Virginia, uses words like an artist chooses his pallet, carefully and unpredictably but always with forethought of the final work.


The other poem that stood out for me was created by seasoned writer and fine arts painter, Kathleen Markowitz. Her submission entitled, Small Losses, is an endearing contribution to this issue with a story of the loss of her small pet bird and her description of how she felt as she held its lifeless body in her “cupped” hands anticipating, almost willing, for it to “call out to the backyard sparrows.”  This poem can be either be interpreted to be light or heavy on the heart, depending on the reader’s beliefs.

The fiction section is quite impressive with ten published stories ranging from light and funny to serious and memorable. Matt Tompkins’ plucky short story, Seeking Advice and/or Assistance re: Mountain Lions, is both smart and cleverly crafted, oh and extremely entertaining.  I read it to my 7 year old neighbor who laughed with wide eyes all the way through and then at the end stated, “I wish we had a basement for Mountain Lions” (No basements here in the South.) This fiction piece was a refreshing read.

The second story I would like to comment on is Phil Hearn’s story, Chameleon. First off, congrats to you Mr. Hearn on your first publication!  Well-deserved and may I say quite an accomplishment to have your first publication in such a prestigious literary journal.  I truly enjoyed the style of his writing. He told it as if we were sitting across from another at lunch.   The story is quirky, awkward and random yet…amazingly hypnotic.  I couldn’t wait for the conclusion which is tragically sad and while upsetting, it reveals the sincere darkness of one woman’s terror, her mind and all the things that fear and loss can do to a person.

Other remarkable pieces for me personally were Student Paper by Justin Taylor, In Her Place by Maria D’Alessandro and the clever and distinctive theatre contribution by Ben Merriman entitled, Path Finders: A Play.

For writers considering submitting I say go for it!  While there is a small reading fee, a publication credit in this journal would be worth it. As I stated earlier, they accept submissions of unsolicited poetry, fiction, nonfiction, short plays, monologues and visual art. Be mindful of their reading periods.

Overall, this journal is full of compelling works with diverse writers whom offer something for everyone. I want to give it 4 ½ stars but that’s not an option so I will bump it to 5 for its varied offerings (Recommendations, Critiques etc.) making it a comprehensive and most gratifying read.













Between the pages of your words is

the heartbeat of deceit      

pressed upon

your mind so firmly you

insist its truth                believe it

want it       need it

only to

lose it….

New Talent and Heavy-Hitters: California Lit Mag is a Two-Hundred-Page Gem

Review of Santa Monica Review, Fall 2015

Featuring fiction and non-fiction only, this literary arts journal had me gripped from start to finish. Authors, mostly seasoned with a sprinkle of budding writers in the group, seemed to be writing thematically about relationships of various degrees and from personal experience.

The exception to this would be the one non-fiction piece by by Peter LaSalle entitled “Two Things I Know About the So-Called Writing Life as the Years Trudge On.” However, after some thought, that too, was about relationships as well. Perhaps not the conventional ones we think of but instead ones more concrete like his relationship with the French Poet, Charles Baudelaire or to be more exact, A Postcard of Baudelaire, the title of his first thing learned. His description of the second thing he learned, Editors and Dying, was relatable to me and probably every other writer out there, which is the ever-changing relationships with editors. As someone who has been writing for over twenty years, I could relate to his feelings. On the flip side, as once an editor of an online social media news journal, his recollection of a particular relationship and feeling a degree of (Catholic) guilt was also cleverly conveyed. LaSalle’s personal struggle in this non-fiction piece was real and I appreciated the honesty in it. This piece, which sits comfortably as the last addition to the journal, is not only a well-written piece but one that is heartfelt and relatable.

This two-hundred-plus-page gem, at the cost of $12.00 per year, is published bi-annually by Santa Monica College and only has a spattering of relevant advertising in the back. Additionally, for those interested in possibly submitting, the editors strive to publish and encourage material from writers in Southern California.

Founded in 1988 by Jim Krusoe, editors read all throughout the year and make every effort to respond to submissions in six months or less, although on average they have a two month turnaround time. At the present time they do not accept email submissions.  The journal is distributed nationally.

Not sure if this edition had a specific theme, but all the stories revolved around relationships and striking self-awareness. Some poignant, some tragic and some absolutely endearing. I told myself that I would read half of them due to deadlines, making sure to read the newer authors in the lot, but ended up reading them all.

Let’s start with probably the most uniquely written fiction (borderline prose) that I have read in a long time. University of California MFA graduate and now resident Lecturer, Jonathan Keeperman’s “Dr. Sherry’s Sunset Kayak Partners’ Retreat” left me breathless and not because it was literally one long sentence that did not even end with a period–but because of its intensely written content.  He takes you inside the mind of Grace Molina as she tries to save her unsalvageable marriage to Ray Molina via a weekend Kayak Adventure, aka marriage retreat. Keeperman literally takes you on a ride through Grace’s every thought before, during and after, giving in depth description of the retreat juxtaposed with the thoughts in her head all concluding to an ending that will leave you feeling as if you just rode the rapids yourself. Through vivid writing, he reveals not one but three life-altering shocks that she now realizes had guided her to be on the retreat in the first place. I was so enamored by the piece, I re-read it the following day.

Let’s move on to another work of fiction, one that I felt was endearing. Penned by Michael Guista and entitled “The Bobcat,” this gritty piece follows one man’s journey from guilt to self-resurrection on the afternoon of his wife’s passing.  Over a course of an afternoon, his wife Betty slips in and out of consciousness during what will be her final hours. During this time he relives his life with her and how he failed her as a husband and role model to their daughter Terry through revealing his wife’s heartbreaking past with men and his neglect to truly show her how a man should take care of his wife. As he painstakingly recounts his wife’s decline he comes to the startling realization that it should be him in the bed gasping for air, not her. She was decent and kind and sadly only thirty-eight years old. He was selfish and smoked three packs a day and drank beer every night. He complained that his legacy in the family business was not going in the direction he wanted and clearly resented God for numerous things, one being the fact that his beautiful wife was dying. The other, the predicament he finds himself in as he comes across a wounded and dying bobcat.  He decides the suffering animal should be put out of its misery with the aid of his shovel and he blames God for putting him in the position to have to force the animal’s death. This parallels his feelings about his wife’s suffering, alone, back at their home and although he knows this he continues on with his task. He can help end the suffering of this bobcat but not his own wife. The thought does not hasten his pace to return to her as he knows it will make no difference. Then the story turns and he vows to finish this one thing and with his shovel he ends the bobcat’s suffering and proceeds to bury him in deliberate fashion as if prepping for what lies ahead when he returns home.  This endearing love story, while in appearances may seem brash, is actually one of quiet resolution and commitment to be a better man. To make a difference in honor of his wife and before he even puts her in the ground he vows to show her.

Mr. Guista is a superb storyteller who weaves a tale together with finesse, giving the reader an array of emotions in one short story. I look forward to reading his other work from his new collection-in-progress entitled, County Boys.

Whenever I review a journal, hard copy or online, I like to see who the newer, less published authors are and be sure to give them well-deserved attention. In this review I chose Jeffrey Steven Moskowitz’s piece, “Into This World” and if this story is any indication of his work as a whole, we will being seeing a lot more in print from this author. “Into This World” is a compelling story of one man’s relationship with his brother and the demons within himself. Struggling with the idea that his younger brother is in the process of being accepted to a monastery we experience his feelings and observations about his brother. He sees his change in disposition, his light heart and worrisome days working in the gardens of the monastery while awaiting word of acceptance of his application to join the other monks permanently. Things he, himself wishes he also felt. This engaging story begins with the main character asking a most unlikely question and ends with him opening a car door to answer it, but it’s the story within that captivates the reader.  The beginning and end merely bookends to a bigger picture that examines the concept that everyone truly does have a story to tell and not to look for others to follow, but to follow your own path, answer your own questions…find your own way.

Other must-read fiction in this edition include stories by Michael Cadnum, Susan Berman, Phillip Rowe, Skye Anicca, Andrew Tonkovich, Ann Lohner, Geoff Wyss, MFC Covino, Michael Jauchen, Andrew Porter, Julian Smith-Newman and cover art by acclaimed LA multimedia artist Andrea Bowers.

My rating for this fine collection of literature is 5 out of 5 stars. As a writer, if you are eligible to submit, I encourage you to. Having publication on the pages of the Santa Monica Review would be an honor.

One additional note: I found the journal’s opening synopses to be a graceful way to introduce the following stories as a type of Index for the Contents Page.