Monday, February 27, 2017

New Poetry by Kevin Casey

Safety Razor

I’m still enamored with the idea of it: 
that an antique safety razor—sporting
a fresh leaf of steel--might in the end
be more scrupulous than those newfangled 
plastic affairs, that this metal contraption 
could show these disposable days just how
a man of quality and character shaves.

But each time I try to accompany those ranks 
of no-nonsense men marching back into 
the 19th Century with their Barbasol 
and badger bristles, my cheeks end up 
a red deeper than shame could ever muster,
my jawline left a half-stubbled field too steep
and cragged for a horse-drawn mower to manage.

Still, every few months I take down one of these
eleven-dollar thrift store beauties 
from its glass-doored bathroom shrine 
and hold its golden brass to my chin 
|like a buttercup, risk rashes and nicks 
to see if I’ve grown worthy enough 
to join that group of well-groomed ghosts
staring back just beyond the mirror’s edge 
through a mist of bay rum and witch hazel.

- Kevin Casey 2017

Kevin Casey is the author of 'And Waking...' (Bottom Dog Press, 2016), and the chapbooks “The wind considers everything” (Flutter Press) and “For the Sake of the Sun” (Red Dashboard). His poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Chiron Review, Rust+Moth, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Ted Kooser's syndicated newspaper column 'American Life in Poetry.' For more, visit

Friday, February 24, 2017

New Poetry by Duncan Richardson

like painted

the funeral trade, you wait a lot she said;

gives me time to stop and think.

stop hurrying once they’re dead.

don’t let grief rattle around my head

view is grand, standing at the brink.

the funeral trade, you wait a lot she said;

don’t regret the lives I could’ve led

play with Ouija boards to keep the link

stop hurrying once they’re dead.

flashes and you’ll miss it if you blink

like to pause and soak it up instead.

the funeral trade, you see a lot she said;

like clowns with mouths wide and red.

grins die when the last applause has ended.

stop hurrying once they’re dead.

say I’m morbid even weird

the grief of others fills me with fire.

the funeral trade, you learn a lot she said;

stop worrying once they’re dead.

- Duncan Richardson 2017

Duncan Richardson is a writer of fiction, poetry, haiku, radio drama and educational texts. He teaches English as a Second Language part time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New Words and Images by Wayne H. W Wolfson


Most of the time I am in my own head which serves as a sort of insulation against all the things which could easily drive one who doesn’t have the mundane distractions of the nine to five work world crazy. Just as occasionally a random thing will serve as a source of inspiration so too can it create an oppressive feeling of desolation which resists being transformed into something productive.

Fortunately, this does not happen nearly as often.

Unexpectedly, the thing came and perched upon my shoulders putting its full weight to bear. It had been called forth by the sounds coming from below of people seemingly having fun that I had heard only because, by happenstance, Coleman Hawkins had just finished his solo.

I went to the window and looked down. Holding hands as their breath created trails of steam looking like shot down planes People walked down the street. The only time I can not retreat into my work is if I had just finished something.

To go out for a little while was a can’t lose proposition. Either I would kill time, one evening which was enough to recharge my batteries and shake free the thing which clutched at me or being among the crowd I would feel the appeal of the solitude of my studio. The cajoling of the street’s power neutralized, the thing did a competitive diver’s leap from my shoulders, running off into the night to find someone else to harry.

The street is not bad merely indifferent to suffering. I drink, not to forget but for the taste. This, when said out loud is a truth which sounds like a lie. The place closest to me would be fine as I was merely seeking minor distraction.

Several doors down I spotted Maryann gently feeding several white squares to the mailbox. I did not know her at all aside from a few brief superficial conversations shared while waiting for drinks or in line to use the toilet at a party.

She intrigued me as she looked like a well-known character actor only sparrow thin and with a mien to match. I did not poach romantic distractions from within my social circle, I had learned the hard way that much like dating a co-worker, it eventually becomes problematic as at some point things will sour and then you are still stuck in each other’s orbit.

I asked her how she was doing, there was momentarily surprise as I said “hello” but then her outward composure was regained as she tried to recall what she had heard about me and if she had personally ever witnessed evidence of it. 

("Maryanne", Watercolor & Paper)

Like myself, she had just momentarily popped out although with more a concrete goal in mind. Did she want to join me for a drink? Briefly she looked around to see if there were something to be spotted as to deter this new trajectory but there was nothing but people in stroll motion going about their own evenings. This added to by the fact that the cadence of my voice did not have any of that man talking to woman on several levels undertone made her agree.

Not counting being at a function as there is often a set, limited selection, it is usually pretty telling what a person orders to drink. Surprisingly she went for a gin and tonic. I stuck to my usual. Two rounds in and just being out and about I started feeling better and knew that later after falling asleep to music I would wake up my usual self. Maryann did not seem to be getting the same relief as I.

We left together, I did not think about it one way or another as I paid the bill, telling her that she could get the tip. Holding the door open for her I discretely inhaled as she passed by. There was dichotomy of dried flowers and under that a sort of ozone note akin to what would emanate the next morning from someone who had fallen asleep cocooned in a heavy blanket. 

Out on the street she once again looked around and I realized that it was more a nervous tic than my continued presence. As the hour was later there were slightly more people out on the street, slick with revelry. My opening to take my leave I noticed that she looked slightly crestfallen.

“Want to list to some music?”


“My place.”

My question caught her by surprise. She did not want to be alone but despite the fact that over drinks I had given no indication that I had ambitions towards the boy girl thing with her, she was not particularly eager to go to my place.

We would go to her place which was closer. Personally, with someone who I did not know well, I would rather be at their place so that if things go wrong escape is an option. Experience had taught me, easier to go home than kick someone out.

The place was small but clean. I flipped through her records, my eyes wandering to the knick-knacks on the shelf above trying to imagine each thing’s history. The collection was not great but there were few of the basics which everyone should have for me to choose from.

Coming back with a bottle of wine, I was surprised that she sat on the couch with me as opposed to the seat across.

Briefly we clinked glasses. The wine seemed both very sweet and very bitter. She now seemed somewhat more relaxed if not paler but her previous color could merely have been the warmth of bar light.

I would steal glances. The wisp of hair from her bangs took the job and place that would normally have belonged to an insect in warmer weather. Jumping forward it touched the tip of her nose before once again being blown away by the air emanated sharply from her jutted out bottom lip.

Coincidently I was looking at her, the hair was blown out of the way once again. It looked like she was going to say something. Her eye began furiously blinking. I assumed the tip of her swoop had poked it. A second later she slid off the couch. She was on the floor, flat on her back with her legs bent at the knees twisted up in each other. She started making a hard “G” guttural sound, both her wrists bent, hands balled into fists except for the index finger of each. All the color had drained out of her face which made the purple veins under each eye almost luminescent.

I was momentarily transfixed. She began shaking moving from side to side, twisted arms and hands reaching for something I could not see. Had she not been on the floor and had it not happened so suddenly, parts of it resembled an extremely demonstrative orgasm.

I snapped out of it and remembered something I had once read somewhere. I took my wallet out and put it in her mouth as to prevent her from hurting herself. I did not want to run and get a towel to put under her head, opting instead to stay with her and  put my tie between the back of her head and the hard floor.

Gradually she grew stiller and stiller. Her skin remained extremely pale. Laying on her back so still, she looked like a marble monument one might see atop a sarcophagus. Her eyes had been closed the whole time. Now they opened and met mine. Even with how spent she was, there was room in her thoughts for embarrassment.  

I told her not to worry about it. I helped her into her bedroom. Maryann did not want to call anyone as that had been the worst of it, all there was to do now was take her medicine and sleep.

As she got under the covers, I went into her bathroom to get her the pills and glass of water. I opened the closet door and took out a wash cloth which I let the tap make nice and cool. With one thin arm she reached up and took the pill and water from me. I stood there holding the washcloth which was now dripping on the floor. She looked at me puzzled.

“For your forehead.”

She did not need me to stay but I did until I was sure she was all right. I flicked off the record player on my way out.

I had originally hung out with her only on account of our chance encounter. It was not her seizure which had turned me off but in general priorities which did not include any kind of steady, formal social commitments. My sense of etiquette made me see her a few more times after that first night as I did not want to be thought of as that kind of jerk.

Our third time going out she picked up on my lack of serious interest and in retrospect I think I unintentionally hurt her more than if I had just disappeared. There was the consolation though for her of telling me that she no longer wanted to socialize.

I had not told anyone the story. I liked the novelty of being completely blameless and felt that were the story to get out, inevitably it would change and I would somehow end up the villain of the story.

I do not know if she moved but I never ran into her on the street again. Eventually I moved although not terribly far away. Having been invited to a party I was an hour into it when I realized that it was not going to get any better than it currently was.

It was roughly a twenty-minute walk home and I would stop at the first bar I saw which looked decent, with any luck it would be found somewhere around the halfway point. The perfect place, it was quiet with just enough customers to allow one to have something to look at. Going to pay my tab, I took my wallet from my pocket. I felt hairs on back of my neck prick, eyes upon me. With an empty barstool between us, Maryann was sitting to my right. Her face was in a deep blush as she stared at the teeth marks bore into the leather of my wallet.


- Wayne H. W Wolfson 2017

Wayne's new novel is out now!

Interesting Times

At Bluepepper we tend to leave off the editorials and let the poetry speak for itself. Momentous events of the past year have passed without comment here partly because we were rendered momentarily speechless, and partly because words and opinions were flying so thick and fast it seemed at worst a futile gesture, at best a hollow one to weigh in to the melee. Our position at Bluepepper should be pretty clear by now: words matter, opinions matter, but only if they can bear close scrutiny. We will spare you Voltaire's famous maxim, but as the world continues to coalesce into two angry, bristling camps impatient of nuance and all the million little contradictions of this life, it behoves us all to celebrate the restorative powers of art, and especially poetry, its power to shine the light on all those little nooks and crannies where the magic lives amidst the relentless hectoring and tub-thumping of what now passes for public discourse. Kindness is not weakness, it is to admit the strength of a bond.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame."

- W.H. Auden, September 1, 1939

Friday, February 17, 2017

New Poetry by Abigail George

A month of Sundays and prayers

(For Ambronese)

And all I can think of
is the River Ouse. Virginia Woolf’s
River Ouse pouring its
distillate of salt and river into me.

The leaves are as shiny as
Abalone in winter. They desire little or no sun today.
The earth’s veil and garment are wet
Through. No family structure of
Stars, sun or moon required. The
Sweetness of night falling all around
Me. Such is nature. The television
Said that Namibia is like a time machine.
Such is the nature of illness too. It comes
With the observations of a lifetime
Gathered there. Smoke holy. Men
And women holier than thou. You can also become a
poet writing poems about nature.

And all I can think of
is the River Ouse. Virginia Woolf’s
River Ouse pouring its
distillate of salt and river into me.

I want to live as near to the sea
As possible. Yes, please! So, I can wake up each morning
With my soul marked with water.
Winter comes with a map. She will
Have to give of herself first to the
Child before anything else. When it
Cries or wants to be fed. That is if
She decides to have children one day.
She comes with a map too. I have reading
Hands. Her storm river mouth is not
Quite as alien to me as it once was. She’s a leap of faith
That I need to take into the wild.

And all I can think of
is the River Ouse. Virginia Woolf’s
River Ouse pouring its
distillate of salt and river into me.

- Abigail George 2017

Abigail George is a South African poet, short story writer, aspirant playwright and young adult novelist. She was educated in Port Elizabeth, Swaziland and Johannesburg. She briefly studied film and her short story "Wash Away My Sins" was nominated for the Pushcart prize. She is the recipient of two grants from the National Arts Council in Johannesburg, the Center for the Book in Cape Town and ECPACC (Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council) in East London. Her poems have appeared in anthologies, widely in print in South Africa and some zines in Australia, Finland, India, the UK, the US, Nigeria, Turkey, and more.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New Poetry by JD DeHart

Like Learning to Read

A mark we all agree
on takes on a meaning.
We give it a sound.

A string of marks becomes
a string of thought.
We think in this new language.
We are the string bound together
with some semblance of meaning.

We mean something, we’re
just not sure what.

Our mouth forms our identity -
we are good readers, bad
readers, somewhere in between.

Language machines, we till
the earth of sound and figure,
to form the perfect imperfect.

- JD DeHart 2017

JD DeHart is a writer and teacher.  His chapbook, The Truth About Snails, is available on Amazon. More of his poetry can be found at

Friday, February 10, 2017

New Poetry by Michael Lee Johnson

Whispers from the Grave
(Heart attack 50 years of age)

What happened to 20 acres of farmland tilted toward sun angles,
those sharp stone edges cool fall comes
frost fields covered taking ownership of rented, abused, abandoned land−
10 years Phil has been gone, DeKalb, Illinois farmer.

Did he find salvation in those gold cornfields?
October orange colors, hayrides, and pumpkin harvest
of grey, grave bones buried near the deadly bicycle ride.
Mystery did his lover Betsy
(defense, prosecuting attorney, Elgin, Illinois)
stand by his site after she went through mourning,
the grandstanding at the wake at the farm,
the dimming of all candles, incenses, and memorial shrine
she held sacred within her bedroom walls, now faded.

- Michael Lee Johnson 2017

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. He is a Canadian and USA citizen. Today he is a poet, editor, publisher, freelance writer, amateur photographer, small business owner in Itasca, Illinois.  He has been published in more than 935 small press magazines in 29 countries, and he edits 10 poetry sites.