L.I. Henley

My Mother’s Robe

I wear my mother’s terrycloth

four in the morning     back in her home


renting for cheap while it waits to be sold & I wait

for a signal


wait for the coffee machine to finish


for ancient crumbs

in the knife grooves of the cutting board

to tell me a story


how to solve the equation of winter

plus no propane

plus no wood


The answer is always

So what

I like it that way…


Hello old home!     Hello hard pain!


*           *           *


Maybe I am building     sure

hammering something into shape

something that can be hammered

stone or leather



There is air moving through

a conch that I have never seen but often hear

louder & louder

it is carried to whatever desert I fling myself

it arrives in the early morning

& I must get up     get up & do what?

Dance around a bit     drink coffee fast

go to work


I am my own little shadow

& someday my body will give the gift

of availability the easiest way it can

which is to say    it will stop


*           *           *


Here we do not recognize walls as walls

& so the weather lives with us always


Last night I dreamed again about the meth-head

neighbor who drove right through

our chain-link gate


Today you & I will burn the stumps

lining my mother’s driveway

After that     we’ll take apart the redwood fence

that I used to seal & re-seal for summer cash


Today I heard a voice rushing through a conch

& got up to find the mouth      Today

my mother’s robe

is wearing me around


Keeping Our Own Names

We have one photo of the courthouse wedding

us in our shorts with two of my grandparents

in attendance     champagne & cold cuts came after


My grandfather     the retired naval officer

was only a year from death & so

drank the most     blessed us with his dancing


For the honeymoon we moved

to a cabin in Joshua Tree where


scorpions ran around the porch

like Arabian horses     Tarantulas

with monkey faces moved in like carnivals

that broke down & never left


We made a movie about escaped convicts

living on the lamb

poured brandy on our collection of stab wounds

gleamed from the local bars


& ha     remember how worried they got

when we decided to stay ourselves?

L.I. Henley was born and raised in the Mojave Desert village of Joshua Tree, California. Her chapbooks include Desert with a Cabin View and The Finding, both from Orange Monkey Press. Her full-length, THESE FRIENDS THESE ROOMS, will be published by Big Yes Press in June, 2016. She is the recipient of the Academy of American Poets University Award, the Duckabush Poetry Prize, and the Orange Monkey Publishing Prize. Her work has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, RHINO Magazine, Main Street Rag, Askew, and other places. She co-owns and edits the online (and soon to be print) journal Apercus Quarterly with her husband, poet Jonathan Maule. Despite having multiple auto-immune conditions, she is an amateur bodybuilder and is studying to become a personal trainer.


Michael J. Orlich

San Bernardino Streets


I come from the west.

You have to start somewhere.

I can see straight

down this road

for miles, but not today.

The arroyo is big, empty.

A woman picks.

Walls of comfort have gaps.

Across the tracks, the Meridian.

Arroyo Valley hawks circle

the stadium.


Tacos Mexican (what other kind?),

Rico Taco, Taco Grinch, Taco Central, Tacos L, Taco Bender.

Across the great river

of north and southbound lanes,

the smog corner, the fun corner.

Quick pawn. Fame liquor.

Dollar king, dollar tree, dollar general,

all Smart and Final.

Crossing Waterman.  I don’t know, Jack-

Is there a way out-of-the-Box?

The road is rising.


Milk dairy. Crazy Frank’s.

Auto spa, center, zone.

Universal Tires and Unified Baptists—

let them introduce you to the way.

Gina’s thrift, Charlie’s cars, Dale’s TV, Sam’s something.

Pain’s corner. Wayne’s RV storage. The House of Plywood.

Pepper tree restaurant.

Sam’s bargains. Gina’s thrift store again.

Maybe it moved already.

Sam and Gina seem to get around. (Or was it Gino?)


Welcome to High-land.

Sterling Street—still waiting for gold.

D&D furniture. The next sign explains.

Debt and Depression.

Three towers point the way—

open spaces, climbing.

Mobile homes—still.


Eternal fire is burning.

The police stand watching.

The churches sit on Church Avenue:

First United Methodist (must have beat the Baptists).

Saint Adelaide’s.  A graceful spire.

A proud tower.  A gilded arch

against the mountain peak—

San Bernardino looms large.

Straight ahead. Above the orange blossoms.

A marker laid down.

A city laid out.

A street laid straight.  Again?

You have to start somewhere.



E Street

The SBX (its name

almost exciting

for a bus) says

“out of service”—

seeming sadly wise

despite its shiny

red paint and CNG

and dedicated lanes

and high capacity

(for emptiness) in this

broad valley of open

urban spaces.


The sign

red and square

arched and gold

says 15¢ hamburgers

and a many-zeroed number sold,

but none for sale

here and now—

for what prophet

remembers his home

when profit calls?


But burgers endure

at burger-market and -mania

the little Gus

the In-’N-Out-backed

Harley man, he too riding

shiny red, without

the empty seats.


Other tarnished temples

remain and retain

or try to recall

an uncertain sanctity

of short school days

sleek, long cars

fresh, sweet citrus

and sixty-six—

remembered now by

the family service center

the Asian seafood market

NAPA’s omnipresent parts

trucks and taquerias

the Indian-band ballpark

Christ, the scientist

and other vacancies,

a shrined (or coffined) carousel.


Above it all

in sparkling steel and glass

a block or two off Easy Street—

the Center of Justice.



I travel south, the way of waters

fleeing down from the mountains,

the old Arrowhead pointing the way,

where water brought healing and hype,

where drought is bottled

and shipped for sale;


to the center of town,

the hallowed and the hollow,

with its Wienerschnitzels and wigs,

that center of dismantling

where it’s legal to pick-a-part,

with bail bonds and bótanicas

for those who suffer.


The left promises to deliver

as trucks back up to

endless bays without water,

which is pumped from the ground

toward the sea it will not reach,

ions exchanged for its TCE.


Roofing tiles sit stacked, silent.

Golf greens fly flags and flowers

in mourning.

Drab green fencing

seeks to hide the horror

so fresh, foreign, familiar.


The road goes on

watered by tears,

and ends in a Little Hill

in the place of remembering.

Michael Orlich began writing poetry in 2011.  Since then, he has hosted a small monthly poetry group in his home in Reche Canyon, in Colton. He has lived in the IE since 2008 and works at Loma Linda University as a preventive medicine physician and researcher in nutritional epidemiology.

Cynthia Anderson

A Tale of the Pleiades

On the longest night

they glow in the east,


a glittering diamond clasp—

sisters who flee their father


who decide to die together,

who escape to the heavens


to find a new home,

who shine from there


on Coyote. Found out,

they let him prevail,


let him ride to the stars

on the back of the youngest


who throws him off

when he cannot keep


his hands or his penis

to himself—


And though he falls

to earth and dies,


that does not stop him.

Bird songs tell


how the sisters rise

in their diadem of safety


while Coyote howls,



and immortal.

Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her award-winning poems have appeared in journals such as Askew, Dark Matter, Apercus Quarterly, Whale Road, Knot Magazine, and Origami Poems Project. She is the author of five collections—”In the Mojave,” “Desert Dweller,” “Mythic Rockscapes,” and “Shared Visions I” and “Shared Visions II.” She frequently collaborates with her husband, photographer Bill Dahl. Cynthia co-edited the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens.

Ryan Mattern

The Wind in Stanzas

He came to town and stomped the dust from his boots in our entryways and blushed when our daughters knelt to clean them. He urged us all medicine from vials. Trees matured from a twisted cap. Their roots took home in the crooks of sifted rabbit holes. He shaped the wheel from plowing squares and wore a halo of blurring mosquitoes. He measured the wind in stanzas and sang out in light from the fields. When it was time, he packed our secrets in a suitcase and walked to the edge of the village. His distance came at a price of haze, a man at odds with the sun.

Ryan Mattern holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from California State University, San Bernardino and M.A. in English from the University of California, Davis. He is the recipient of the Felix Valdez Award for Short Fiction. His work has been published in Ghost Town, THE2NDHAND, Poetry Quarterly, and The Red Wheelbarrow, among others. He currently serves in the United States Army.

Yuan Changming


Between two high notes

The song gives a crack

Long enough

To allow me to enter

Like a fish jumping back

Into the night water


Both the fish and I leave no

Trace behind us, and the world

Remains undisturbed as we swim

Deeper and deeper in blue silence


Upon my return, I find the music

Still going on, while the fish has

Disappeared into the unknown



Just Another Leaf

Shaking off all the dust

Accumulated long over the season


Flapping your wings against twilight

At the border of night


Like a butterfly coming down to

Kiss the land

As if to listen to

The heartbeat of the earth

Only once in a lifetime


Yuan Changming, 9-time Pushcart nominee and author of seven chapbooks, published monographs on translation before moving our of China. With a PhD in English, Yuan currently edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver, and has poetry appearing in Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Threepenny Review and 1149 others across 38 countries.

Micah Tasaka

i am riverside

After Jayne Cortez’s “I am New York city”


i am riverside

take my brain of buses,

of gunshots, of siren screech

take my heart of foggy tap water

my hands are dying orange groves

my buildings are choking on smog

look at my coyotes, my homebums, my tumbleweeds

approach me, mountain lions

on my camp outs in Box Spring Mountain mineshafts

approach me, empty pizza box

at parasite infested river bottoms

i rub my fingers through the traffic at the 60 split

sting my palms on smashed beer bottle glass

i lick the slime from barred windows in the east side

i am riverside

here is my mouth of black sidewalk gum

here is my nose of train track hum

legs apartface between knees, faded

watch me vomit in alleyways

drunk piss behind a tree

i am riverside

look i sparkle heat steamed blacktops

and midnight bike rides to liquor stores

my shoes stomp petals of cigarette butts

my eyes bleed graffiti filled gutter walls

touch my guts of rotting Baker’s ketchup packets

smell my lungs hacking tar, sucking meth

hear my clanking Cobra 40’s and

no sleep, all night dreaming –

and under-freeway tunnels:


smoke crack with me.


Micah Tasaka is a queer biracial poet from the Inland Empire exploring identity, spirituality, gender, and sexuality. Their work seeks to make a playground of religious myths while de-centering the patriarchal god of their childhood for queerer deities. They have performed throughout Southern California and have featured in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Palm Springs. Their debut chapbook, Whales in the Watertank, was self-published in 2014.

Marcia Barnes

The Meadowlark


We hear the meadowlark no more

For she has flown away..

The fields are gone to houses

And she has no place to stay.

The land will sing with traffic

Where the children run and play.

But the meadowlark will not be here

For she has flown away.


Residing in a rural area in the Inland Empire  since 1990, Marcia Barnes has been a fused glass artist, a visual artist,  & a  hobby farmer, as well as writing poetry when the spirit moves her.  She sees the Inland Empire as place of great beauty that is often overlooked in spite of the ever encroaching urbanization of the area.  Her muse is the Earth, the Wind, & the creatures we share it with. When she rides her horse, she becomes one with the land, the hawks, the ravens  &  the meadowlarks that she still hears on occasion.

Robin Dawn Hudechek

Thirsty Leaves

(The California Drought, years later)


The only clouds we see are

useless as smoke.  I walk alone

on blistered roads crisscrossed in veins

of tar.   Few cars pass.

The sky above us is burning.


My water bottle shimmers,

a liquid jewel.  When I set it down, tree limbs

bend, shading the spot above my head.

Perhaps now, the peeling eucalyptus will begin to heal.


We should have fixed this years ago,

gathered the water in ancient pots and cisterns

as desert dwelling peoples have always done.

Now oak tree limbs are exposed bones

and the people have gone.

Nomads, heads bent under broad hats,

shielding sunburnt faces

return in tens of thousands

to the states of their parents

and grandparents, understanding only now

what their grandparents understood

from the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.

Some moments should never be forgotten.


When a stranger with parched lips

lifts his head, let him drink.

Pour the last drops of water on the mound

below the tree trunk.  Sprinkle drops on exposed roots

and whisper: it’s raining.  Thirsty leaves curl inward,

catching precious blades of water.

It’s raining.  Soon the sky will wash away,

this empty sky scorching our hills,

until we are all laid flat and bare,

and the rain washes over our faces

and pours into the open palms of leaves,

a singular blessing:  first a sip, then a drink.



Breathing in Water


I was nine when my mother took me fishing

and taught me how to use live worms as bait.

Impaled and wriggling on a fishhook,

their last moments of life

were as cruel as any death sentence

handed down in a human court.

They were caught in the indifferent jaws

of fish, who would meet death by suffocation

at the end of a line, thrashing

and rippling  waves behind them

threaded in blood, pierced by the hook

as Christ was, by a centurion’s sword.

Yanking hooks from slippery bodies

we dropped them into our pail.

Feeling sorry for these fish

with their gills rising and falling

in currents of air when they

should have been breathing in water

we tossed them back.

No one mentioned the puddle of

red that appeared behind their fins

on the water.  No one thought of

the predators who would be drawn to that blood

by our careless hooks.


Doesn’t it hurt?  I asked on behalf

of worms and fish who would never speak.

My mother shook her head.  Worms have no feeling.

Why then did the worm’s head curl and twist,

and bunch lower in my fingers whenever

the metal point of the hook drew near?

My mother had no answer.



The Woodsman


The tree is a lens, an ancient eye

blinking,  a web of frost

melting in an empty socket,

a pond disturbed.

He can feel it burning.


Sleet scars the bark in icy lashes; he circles it with his hands.

The tree is a throbbing vein; he can hear it breathing.


The woodsman laughs, and lifts his axe,

dreaming of a house flickering warmth,

a candle tucked among snow drifts.


Soon his children will scramble onto his lap,

a daughter and son

who know nothing of trees and sap

their arms and legs, tender as branches

tangling playfully.


Mallards and Blue Geese rise up from their streams

as the axe falls and the trunk splits into halves, then quarters.


Two hawks circle the sky

and a field mouse sniffs the wind.

A shadow of a wing catches the man by his foot,

a shadow of a wing drops over his head.


The tree is a heart.

To save himself he must slow its beating,

lift the axe once more.

A deer emerges from the woods and blinks at him.

a single horned owl perches in its trunk nest.

The woodsman coughs and raises his hand to shield his face.


From behind rocks and under branches,

he can feel their eyes

on his boots and the back of his neck.

The forest is a cacophony of cricket song and scratching claws,

hooves advancing in new snow

and the mournful howl of wolves.


Eyes moist and teeth bared, glinting in the moonlight,

they are waiting for the axe to swing

the wrong way,

and the woodsman’s leg, to fall–

severed from his body

sky throbbing red in his ears.

Robin Dawn Hudechek received her MFA in creative writing, poetry from UCI. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications including Caliban, Cream City Review, Blue Arc West: An Anthology of California Poets, Cadence Collective, Gutters and Alleyways: Perspectives on Poverty and Struggle, East Jasmine Review, Hedgerow: a journal of small poems, Silver Birch Press, Right Hand Pointing, Calibanonline and work forthcoming in Chiron Review. She lives in Laguna Beach, CA with her husband, Manny and two beautiful cats, Ashley and Misty. More of her poetry can be found at robindawnh.wordpress.com

Shittu Fowora

featherage of the interim


All it takes

for me to fall

into an equation

and endure mortality

like a life-sentence

is a string

of words and I come,


I touch the moment

by light words,

I test it by the featherage of the interim


my lantern invents

an idea of strength

it draws in air for inspiration


Densities and words

lyrically erase my eyes

and I am a punctuation

drenched in words.


Storyteller, poet, freelance writer and editor. Shittu Fowora, a lifelong fan of history and the power of scented words has recently been motivated by the winsomeness of birds and the wisdom of ants. Having been stung more than twice while attempting to lounge in trees to write verses, he now spends more time around PCs and electronic gadgets,at other times,he’s in bed, not sleeping.
His works have recently appeared in or forthcoming from Sentinel Quarterly review, Cha, Monkeystarpress, StoryMoja, Elsewherelitmag, RousingReads, Thewritemag, Helen Literary Magazine,NaijaStories.com, DANSE MACABRE,WritersCafe.org, National dailies and various literary outlets.

Cindy Bousquet Harris


Constellations pad

the sky paths, leave puma

prints above my head.


Bed Sheets and Dental Floss

Laundry crept into my head,

folded me, hid me

in corners, pressed me

to the edge

you didn’t notice

the count was off,

had to be,

could have been

much worse, sheets

dangling from the ceiling

like a sentence.

Floss from razored boxes

tripped me,

wound its minted accusations

through my brain;

all those hours of weaving

couldn’t know

if it would really hold

to lower me

outside the walls.


Cindy Bousquet Harris is a poet and a licensed marriage and family therapist. Her poems have appeared online and in print journals, including Indiana Voice Journal, Snapdragon, Eclectica, and Blue Heron Review. Cindy’s had the pleasure of giving poetry readings at the Claremont Library, the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, and at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice, CA. She lives in southern California’s “Inland Empire” region with her husband and children.