Thursday, February 26, 2015


To all those who have submitted work in the past fortnight, I humbly apologise for my lack of response but repairs to my laptop are taking longer than expected. Bluepepper should be up and running again in the first week of March!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New Poetry by R. Gerry Fabian

The Winter Of Our Discontent   

With apologies to Shakespeare and Steinbeck

The rusted square metal clothes pole
sits in three feet of snow
with stiff frayed rope
thrashing against the cold metal.

Where are the the warms breezes,
the robins temporarily resting,
the flapping of shirts and skirts?

- R. Gerry Fabian 2015

R. Gerry Fabian is a retired English instructor. 
He has been publishing poetry since 1972 in various poetry magazines. 
He is the editor of Raw Dog Press
He is currently working on a book of his poems.

Monday, February 09, 2015

New Poetry by Pattie Flint


She’s matchsticks, my baby.
I’m hoping she’ll rub up on
my five o’clock shadow tonight
burning my dirty fingertips 
with the way she fingers
her earlobe with two studs.
She laughs, tells me I am a
moderately sized fish 
in a really small pond,
I say it’s not failure
I’m afraid of, it’s contentment. 

- Pattie Flint 2015

Pattie Flint is an uprooted Seattle native toughing it out in Scotland binding books by hand. She has been published in Five [Quarterly], Hippocampus and TAB, amongst others. She is currently working on her MFA at Cedar Crest College. 

New Poetry by Seth Jani


It’s the raw nerve.
No more sex or whiplash,
Just the fire underneath,
The electricity.

For all the wondrous phantoms
That catch the flesh
It’s still just longing
In the end.

The old, flame-white face
Of desire
Still pulling us like a madness
Towards the beauties of the earth.

All these blood-soaked, irreplaceable things
That glow and perish.

- Seth Jani 2015

Seth Jani originates from rural Maine but currently resides in Seattle, WA. He is the founder of Seven CirclePress ( and his own work has been published widely in such journals as The Foundling Review, East Coast Literary Review, Red Ceilings Press and Hobo Camp Review. More about him and his work can be found at

Saturday, February 07, 2015

New Poetry by Mark J. Mitchell

This unmended gate
marks where my dream rests.
It’s lazy, creaky, it waits
for another snore to move
it, I guess.
Clever, it eludes
sleep even when I’m up late.
It never ends—it escapes.

- Mark J. Mitchell 2015

Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty five years, as well as the anthologiesIt has also been nominated for both Pushcart Prizes and The Best of the Net.  Good Poems, American Places,Hunger Enough, Retail Woes and Line Drives.  Two full length collections are in the works: Lent 1999  is coming soon from Leaf Garden Press and This Twilight World will be published by Popcorn Press.. His chapbook, Three Visitors has recently been published by Negative Capability Press. Artifacts and Relics, another chapbook, is forthcoming from Folded Word and his novel, Knight Prisoner, was recently published by Vagabondage Press and a another novel, A Book of Lost Songs is coming soon from Wild Child Publishing. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and filmmaker Joan Juster. 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

If Not Now, When?

Australia is suffering a crisis of leadership that goes far beyond the machinations of the Coalition party room. It is hardly a huge leap to argue that the latest leadership tussle in Canberra is merely a symptom of a much deeper malaise in Australian society that has rendered ours perhaps the most volatile of the Westminster democracies (with the notable exception of Kenya). Whoever replaces our incumbent Prime Minister (and it is only a matter of when and how), they will be the fourth leader of this country in as many years. And all this at the tail end of a period of unprecedented prosperity that has made us the envy of the world.

As this golden age draws to a close, and our politics becomes ever more fractious, someone is going to have to explain to future generations why we chose to squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to nurture a more equitable and cohesive society rather than the hornet's nest we have become. With the gift of 25 years of almost unbroken peace and prosperity, how to explain a society mired in debt and completely unprepared for the challenges of the 21st century? How to explain rates of domestic violence in this antipodean shangri-la that rank amongst the highest in the world, a generation of barely literate high school graduates, an ever-widening gap between rich and poor? If for the poet Auden the 1930's were that "low, dishonest decade", then the noughties were ours. It seems we are a nation who frets over its children except when it comes to the legacy they will inherit.

It is pointless looking to our political leaders for answers to these questions. Even those easing into a well-funded retirement are too busy sniping about their individual political legacies to acknowledge the collective damage they have done to this country through their mindlessly partisan, pugilistic brand of parliamentary democracy, serenely oblivious to the fact that a turd is still a turd no matter how much you polish it. The politics of consensus, the politics of grown-ups is, sadly, not a concept they ever embraced. The indigenous leader, Noel Pearson, showed what an inspirational leader can mean in his eulogy for the late Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, reaching beyond his own constituency to tell a bigger story that touched us all. But sadly leaders like Pearson or Whitlam are the exception that proves the rule. Pearson's eulogy was like a desert flower amid the arid fare of the spin doctors and the nodding heads of the 24-hour news cycle. It proved that even a society now bordering on sub-literacy can still be moved by the power of words.

The more nuanced thinkers amongst the Australian commentariat, such as Fairfax's Peter Hartcher, do, of course, have a vital role to play in salvaging something from this train wreck. But although it is not our role to influence policy per se, we poets and writers need to be mindful that we do not devolve into a class of glorified ambulance chasers, that our role is not merely to hold up a mirror to society, but to remind it of what it may have left behind and how that may effect what we are becoming as a nation. To do so we need to throw off the last of the old cultural cringe and glory in the language of Pearson and Whitlam, Slessor and Carey, Dransfield and Wright, that great gift from our forebears which in the right hands can be a remarkable tool for change.

Our researchers into Public Opinion are content 
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace:  when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

- W.H. Auden "The Unknown Citizen"

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

New Poetry by Robert Verdon


sleepless, I peer
through Soviet field glasses 
my father gave me
back in the 
Cold War

the dove dips 
toward the swell that snaps 
across its eyes,
boxes its ear-coverts, 
brittle as bakelite

the dove dips with
my heartbeat, through the
cross-hatched razor wire,
the shredded Southern Cross 
tottering above

sinking ship, 
deck peeled back like a scab,
while thunder wrestles with
the wind’s wet screech

the dove dips and flips,
and falls,
and fights,
and dips and drips like a dislocated tap,
skimming, gasping slowing

early in the morning, I rise in safety,
a waking after an operation, the insomnia gone;
like gongs
gangly girls and boys in gold, and green, call out
on the hard beach below.

- Robert David Verdon 2015

Robert Verdon is a writer in Canberra, Australia, and has a number of publications to his credit.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

New Poetry by Mark Roberts


the red car turns right 
& heads down the hill. 
in the valley the mist
whether to rise or to hang 
around for another 30 minutes.

i stand on the edge of the escarpment
& watch the mist rise slowly up the rocks
wisp by wisp 
disappearing somewhere above my head
imagine taking four steps forward & falling 
through clouds, waiting to be lifted up
by soft invisible hands – an australian accession.

the whip of a branch 
across my face
a crash of bone
against rock
look around
to see 
the last thyacline 
lapping at my blood.

- Mark Roberts 2015

Mark Roberts is a Sydney based writer and critic and editor of Rochford Street Review and P76 Magazine as well as being Poetry Editor of Social Alternatives journal. He has been published widely in magazines and journals both in Australia and overseas over many years.

Monday, February 02, 2015

New Poetry by William Doreski

My Shadow Has Thinned

All winter my shadow has thinned,
and no longer supports my weight.
The cars parked at Whole Foods grin
with dramatic chrome expressions
as I slog along with shopping bags
of flotsam fresh from Mexico
and Peru. The horizon lolls
in a wimple of pearly smog.

At lunch my friends insisted
that I eat more, that the flesh matters.
I’ve tried to plump up my shadow,
but it has lost its appetite
for landscape and the arts, has eaten
its last panorama of Paris
boulevards sprawling with traffic,
its last glimpse of Fifth Avenue
storefronts smiling for Christmas.

I noshed a decent salad, but stink
of fat and crunch of carbohydrate
numbed me to the finer things,
like bacon bits and slabs of bread,
blue cheese dressing and croutons.
Over the years the light has slaved
to cast as dense and flattering
a shadow as I could absorb. 

Now in the parking lot a gray
anemic blush trails me. Ashamed
of my limp display I pack my bags
into my car and drive away as fast
as I dare. The fruits and vegetables
bought with my last fistful of cash
wouldn’t fatten a greedy child
but will keep me alive for a week.                            

The horizon bends and swoops
and drops a few seagulls strayed
five miles from Boston Harbor.
Their appetites don’t inspire me,
but in passing they cast shadows
tough as oilcloth, and their cries
mock the elaborate human world
that can’t begin to account for me
and the vacuum I leave in my wake.

- William Doreski 2015

William Doreski's work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently The Suburbs of Atlantis (AA Press, 2013).

Friday, January 30, 2015

New Poetry by Martin Durkin

1. Khoba

A cowboy rolls in
takes the money.
his mind
is certain about the job
but he can't make a
decision about
more matter in fact
the past
his, hers, any of it


His body is in
the rain pours
only for him
as he feels he
doesn't deserve the touch
of the warm sun


His hand is quick
he believes in heaven
and hell
he holds no hesitation
about pulling the
where this path will take


One day he finds himself
inside a
sitting in a
he looks at
Jesus pulled down
from the cross
and he wonders
about a word
debt and sin.
although the body
of Jesus is
he sees something
in the statues


He pictures her in
his mind
frozen for him
and smiling.
his boot's shift under
the pew
as he reopens his eyes


There is a partial weight lifted,
his horse drops head and
he throws a leg over

- Martin Durkin 2015

Over the past four years Durkin has been published in various anthologies and literary magazines including: ByWords, The Dream, Niagara Falls Poetry Project, E-zine, Blurred Blue Tattoo,, Jones Ave., Origins, and Subterranean Quarterly. Durkin spends his time taking part in poetry readings across southern Ontario, being a freelance writer/photographer in Greater Toronto Area, and was the poetry editor for Origins Literary Magazine.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Words and Images by Wayne H. W Wolfson


Again, the twitched out rituals that always accompanied my preparations for travel. A lifetime of accumulating coins, nonsensical mantras and moments of silence, they were piling up so that it was becoming harder and harder to do on the sly. And the amount of energy which they demanded was becoming nearly as taxing as the worry which they were supposed to keep at bay.  I knew that I had to get rid of some of them. This fact was emphasized by how uneasy I became even upon initially coming to this realization. As much as I lived in my head, one foot needed to remain planted firmly in the real world too. 

It was faulty logic, trying to pick which irrational behaviors were the most practical to keep. I always worked hard not because I had to in the same way as someone in the nine to five life would but because I felt better when doing so. The contemplation of the cuts became too much a distraction from the pen. I pulled my sickness up over my head as if going to sleep on a cold winter’s night and temporarily let the matter drop. 

As beautiful as it was, even the city burning with the cicadas getting too close to the fire and then lighting off too late to escape, their sound was the fading piano at the end of a song, had come from a fever dream. What had I done lately? The pen had not mapped enough new terrain.   

With my work, I strove for a distinctive style and to avoid lapsing into merely mannerisms. Paris has always been my Mecca but the inherent inspiration which I knew it held for me was my “B” plan. Without the succor of most of my newly jettisoned rituals, I felt that the discomfort in the actual journey over would shake something new free from the barrel of my pen. I leaned my forehead against the cold glass of the window. Down below, abstracted patches of city as seen through the blurred arch of the propeller. 

The first time upon my arrival back into the city I had spent my first night in a hotel, it had not been by choice. The long term sub letter before me needed an extra day which he was given, I suspect for having paid for his entire stay in cash. 

The hotel I picked was nice. Nicer than where I used to stay all those years ago before I started subletting a place, when all I did was hotel living. My room was on an upper floor and afforded me a simultaneous view of Val de Grace, the Pantheon and over its left shoulder, off in the distance, the Sacre Coeur. 

Now I preferred my first night back to be in a hotel. To me, it was akin to when you buy a fish and upon bringing it home one leaves it in the bag, putting the entire thing in the tank by way of an environmental transition. 

Despite having spent some twenty hours in transit I had to shower as I could never bring myself to crawl into a bed, any bed, dirty. As it was a good hotel the water remained nice and hot for the entire duration that I stood under the spout, head upturned. 

After that I drank a bottle of vichy water somewhat too quickly and got under the covers. I fell into a deep dreamless sleep, waking several hours before dawn drenched in sweat which had dampened the sheets and smelled faintly of black pepper and flowers. 

Two weeks home. She was surprised, when I had sent her my first few letters and they were not padded with the usual observations about the weather, the journey home or reminiscence of views seen together during the time shared in the same city. In different ways to us both, the letters were the perfect device with which we could remain together and close. For her, our correspondence allowed for interaction but with the buffer zone of continents between us, it was as if she were viewing a wild animal but within the safe confines of a zoo. For myself, the normal social pressures of etiquette were reduced down to writing back, which I gladly did, in a timely manner. This missive me was a pleasanter fellow too as he was more giving of his thoughts since the usual mostly silent me would have just equated to a blank page which would be kind of an Avant garde slapstick. 

When I was a little boy, the first loose tooth I got, the idea of the tooth falling out frightened me. As to prevent it as long as possible, I would chew only on the other side of my mouth. I would keep my mouth open as to prevent any of the other teeth from accidently touching it and then as to not look like a circus geek, keep my hand over my open mouth. Now, a lifetime later I do not remember the actual loss of the tooth but only the torturously long time beforehand in which I tried to prevent the loss. 

I had been dreading first seeing Fatima in the flesh but had been so busy with planning the logistics of my return that it was low in the background. Now, everything else done it rose to the fore. When I went out to get supplies, should I go and see her at work right away while still a little tired and protected in that way by a sheen of fatigue? Over the course of our long correspondence the timber of her letters changed not merely being one way. Who knows what else has come into her life, what further sea changes may have taken place? Perhaps I should wait a few days until I was completely free of jet lag and had my sea legs. Why was I exerting energy in strategizing? Neither of us had promised anything to the other. If I had been in front of a mirror I would have seen my reflection slowly shake its head as I realized that there was a good chance I had just jinxed myself. 

I would go anyways, while on my way home from the market with the gaping mouths of my mesh net bags vomiting celery tops and leek stalks onto the still warm baguette.   

The start of putting in time at all my usual hunts, I stopped for a drink. I hung my bags on the little hooks which were hidden under the lip of the bar. From the end of the bar and I at my usual spot at the other end, time pays too much attention to me, and I know that I can not put it off any longer, it is time to go. 

I went in and her coworker whom I used to think was her slightly older sister saw me first, letting out an “ahhhhhh” which had been preambled by several clucks of her teeth. Fatima was finishing up with a customer. As they hunted for the correct change she made a crossing motion with her index fingers one over the other reprimanding me for not having written the exact day of my arrival and a handful of other such level of sins. The light in her eyes managed to betray a happiness to once again see me. 

Instinctually I still found myself keeping an eye out for her brother although it was now a moot point. 

In their tongue she quickly said something to her coworker, remembered how I hated that and apologized as she held the door open for me. We embraced. I was breathing in her scent and so her shoulder semi-obscured what she was saying but I knew it was what I had done wrong;

“I know, I am sorry.”

We made plans for the next night.

“We will meet where, you know, Verlaine died.”

She still did not drink but enjoyed the verbena tea which I did not understand as it was still bagged. I wanted some kind of a portent, which I knew could only be found in our kiss good night. It was warm and soft but remained obtuse as it was merely on each cheek. 

The next day I continued my rounds of reacquainting myself with all the usual places. I had lain out my clothes for the night on the dresser as I have always hated the visual of an outfit on the bed minus a body filling it. The crisp dress shirt whose color made my skin have a somewhat healthier hue than the reality of when I was caught up in work or having just arrived somewhere. The pants, whose waist offered a little room and so would not collude with the lack of vitamin C from my childhood, further altering my body posture with a tightness. 

I got there a little early as was my habit. Her simple black dress, my exact idea of her. I would have preferred to have had her over and made dinner but I did not want to force her hand were she fed up with me. I briefly smiled to myself as my inner voice once again mentioned as it must have when initially making plans;

“It is your place, should things go bad you would have nowhere to retreat to.”

I ordered her tea and something stronger for myself, the waitress mouthing our order without actually saying it as she bided her time looking us over to figure out where she knew us from.

“I received your Christmas card, thank you.”

I had pretended to be the good boy for so long that sometimes it almost felt real. The politely superficial, how was my trip over, were the tiny grapes with their razor like seeds still growing on the balcony, was safe for us as it was neutral ground. Or in its blandness, the perfect device to make any possible discord that was to follow seem all the more dramatic by the mildness of the prelude. 

Of course I tried to take my time with the drink but they were used to dealing with tourists and if one did not know the bartender then it was a tiny pour. I asked her if she was hungry. The shrug that I knew conveyed a “no” held back by politeness. We decided to walk around the Luxembourg Gardens a little. 

There were the people just getting off work taking a stroll to decompress after their office internment and the tourists who tomorrow would be heading back to their real lives wishing to despite having already gorged themselves on the city take one last bite. 

We stop by the fountain to watch children beg for one more minute of piloting their sail boats. The setting sun made everything emit golden rays. I lamented the dying of the day. Soon would be the night which held its own appeal but this, my first real day here I wanted to stubbornly hold onto. For a second I suddenly had the desire to be alone, accompanied only by the beautiful melancholy of Monk’s slowed down take on stride. Briefly, I think of someone I once hurt. I do not repent but there is an embarrassment akin to when one sees an old photo of themselves wearing an outfit which did not look as good on them then as they had thought then. 

Her fingers, delicately laying across the top of my hand, protected from the cold stone of the railing I was leaning against.

“What are you thinking? “

Had I any support system during my formative years, I would have become a great man instead of merely a strong one. With everything that I had done just to survive, it would have been nice to have had options. I probably would have still acted the same but at least for once, the choice would have been mine. 

I blushed and offered up a small smile.