Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Octopus Review #5: Summer '18

Oh Friends!

Here it is!  When the Octopus Review #4 came out I was afraid I would never be able to live up to that again. But here we are with another collection of some of the biggest, moodiest, most cathartic, utmost confessional poems to ever slide down this screen.

Not to mention the art, perched like vultures between the words to shock you out of your scroll-weary reverie! I hope you’ll enjoy reading the Octopus Review #5 as much as I enjoyed assembling it.

Speaking of that…you may notice a slight format change. I usually showcase each writer separately, but I noticed a dynamic interplay in this batch, so I “lost the cubicles” so to speak. Let me know if you like it, or want it switched back to the old way immediately. Feedback always welcome!



My piss smells like sweet cake
so maybe I should take a photo
of my piss cake because these days
the photos poets take of themselves
seem to get more attention than their poetry.
Maybe I should drink more,
piss all over another glass
cake plate and then break it down.

Apply some trendy cupcake frosting over my bleeding lips
and spew it out.  Batter up,
splatter down, (be)rate
someone else's cupcake color, size and shape and then
piss all over another face.

Juliet Cook

"Riverdale Liverfail" by KEITH WINKLE

when I go out into the street

when I go out into the street I see
the people are all afraid
there’s a hush
as neighbors size each other up
now is that the kind of person who’d
burn a cross in someone’s yard,
would they rat me out,
will they call the cops when the wives
are getting their beatings?

when I go out into the street I see
the people are all afraid
in stores we shift our eyes downward
people are afraid to peek
into the lives of the people next to them
they are afraid to see themselves
looking back

when I go out into the street I see
near-terror unspooling
heightened rabbit-sense
people sharp
and ready
for the gun to go off
carefully wrapping their hurts away
and steeling themselves
for the coming war

Heidi Blakeslee


Camp Bastion
 9 months

after I
left Afghanistan
4 marines
were killed
in the
spot we
used to
duck the
wire to
sneak to
the next
base for
and when
they closed
the camp
later that
year I
don't remember
being anything
like happy
just relieved
like you
feel right
after puking
or burning
a tick
off your

Matt Borczon

"After the War in Heaven 1" by MATT BORCZON


Hurricane husband
battered at the door of my heart
His wild wind words   that
sliced and diced at    100 miles an hour
stripped my soul bare
His voice forced my eyes closed
to protect them from the splinters and slivers
that caused my psyche to shiver
in the corner of my brain
In his wind tunnel world
where those words
stretched the skin back from my face
I lived with gale force words
which left our relationship
barren of any life
Listless and breathless 
I waited
on the roof of my soul waving my white flag
Where was the rescue crew?

Thasia Anne



The bone exposed

Too close to the surface
wound too deep

Fragments of white move in muscle
carried by blood

They will be removed
then discarded

Once part of me

Metal on bone
Knots in flesh
Hold me together
define what I am now

the care of others
some who can't always care

Mending takes time
Time melting slowly

Nurses doctors aides
Forms and faxes
Pills injections IVs and tubes
Words I will never remember
names I could never spell

Define me this 
defective me

In a bed not my own


the care of others
and my own

Mike Griffith

Photo by ROB PLATH

Case #4167 (a)

Dear Rory,

I know you won’t be *you* much longer. I need to get this out. You were so awake in the questioning room, I’d love to be that awake. How do I become awake Rory? What is yoga for if I don’t have clear skin and shiny hair like those agents at the climbing wall? They look good in less clothes Rory. But you know that now. You swagger and tip. Your jeans are tight. You aren’t afraid. Walking down alley ways, leaving that office supply warehouse. Even if I ask you the right questions I know you are going to start to lie Rory, (The ink is taking control. You are becoming one of them.) 

Options for me now in the questioning room as a Female citizen of sunshine nation are  1) call for back up 2) turn on the black light.  3) tape the hole in your  forehead shut. 

Rory I’m so sorry.

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens


the high tower

shaking and quaking and
trembling in the light of day
into the dark of night, then feeling trapped
quickly and with absolute certainty.

ragged and burned edges
ripped and raw,
open and spewing sorrow
and all those things made of dark matter…
remorse, regret, blame, shame
and guilt.  they are harshly built
and pile up and around and over
you with those haunting sounds.

peek over that high tower that encases and entraps
you, your mind, your power.
climb up and out and away from
the dark sounds that smother
and choke

shake out the taste
of the pasty wasted man
who is more dead than alive...
more dead than death 
and do not mourn him
because he doesn’t know and he
cannot hear you.  there is no
reflection in his mirror…
just smoke and cinder, for he cannot feel.
his eyes are cold.

drive fast and far away from that dreary place
and free yourself in the cool air
with loud sounds of your own selection
that will wash away the empty
vibrations that are not real.
for you are more real than
any of this and you are strong and
made of silk and black leather.

Lois Betterton [2-9-13]


She's writing down names and numbers 
& I am just an anchor 

I ask her whose numbers she wrote down
but I am just an anchor

Double check she's got the lady
who schedules her shifts at work
she picks up her phone
punches in the pass code
writes down Margarita
though I want to be a buoy
I am just an anchor

she knew this was coming
a vacation in the psych ward
so when we left this morning
she grabbed her essentials
which in retrospect was odd
but I said nothing 
because I am just an anchor 

I tell her I love her
that I don't even have to question
because when she hurts, I hurt
which I don't make secret 
and it draws her down deeper 
but even though I see this 
it's not like I stop
I hold onto my heart ache
divorced from my conscience
making my love another of her enemies
along with her guilt and self-loathing
and me, just an anchor

they told her more than once
she can't save herself from drowning 
with me in the picture 
a shadowy figure
greedy, ill-intentioned
not bad but misguided 
she pulls me through the water
I love her so much
but even I can see
that I am just an anchor 

so I can't save her
she doesn't tell me what she's thinking
but I know she can see it
that I am just an anchor

I want to cut myself off
as much as I want to pull her even tighter
but love that is pure
would do what is right
and hope just to float
tread water long enough to see her
sail off into the sunset
and disappear into the horizon.

Luke Kuzmish


sweet amnesia 

she liked 
to braille 
the thick
raised scar
my palm 
from a 
punched out 
& hold it up 
to her 
cool lips 
& for a 
little while 
my flesh 
lose its 
of fire

Rob Plath

"After the War in Heaven 2" by MATT BORCZON


My cousin didn’t inherit her mother’s craziness.
No stacking her house, floor to ceiling,
with old magazines, unmatched plates 
and teacups, newspapers dating from birth.
No hand slaps across faces or verbal degradations,
though she did have hints of her mother’s ill temper.

When a tumor coiled around the major blood vessel 
in her esophagus, unbeaten by radiation,
an operation impossible, her anger rose its genetic head, 
aimed both barrels in my direction.

She refused to speak to me 
throughout the year she was dying,
instead, calling the long-loved woman 
who had cut short their sexual tryst to marry,
to camp by her bedside, hold her hand
in this perceived family abandonment.

I don’t know where her ashes are scattered,
what her last thoughts were, or if she remembered
before the light went out that I had cared for her.
I flip through my photos and see my cousin,
a toddler again, tagging after her sister and me.
I see frown lines gradually replacing the dimples.
I see spaces she would inhabit, had she lived.
I see ghosts fading from the life she might have had.

Pris Campbell


Writing poetry #2
 since the

war is
raising a
dog that
was beaten
half to
death by
its last

it bites
and will
hurt you
but you
can't blame
it for
it's suffering
or yourself
for loving
it any way.

Matt Borczon


Case # 4167 (b)

Dear Rory,

I tried to go on vacation with Z. but it was all work. Three beheadings in three hours. My zoot suit was ruined with ink and goo. Rory don’t worry about your ink. It will be like blood but cold. I know you will start to feel it take over. It begins up top. Works down. Sometimes I wish I could be subsumed Rory. The twenty oceans scare me Rory. 

I’m still saying your name Rory, trying to keep you with me. Are your eyes still hazel? Citizens don’t like my non-committal colored eyes, but isn’t it better to be adaptable? Not the same way all the time? 

How much time has passed since the infection? Don’t answer that. I know how much time has passed. It’s all I think about.

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

"Blue Girl" by KEITH WINKLE

To Serve and Protect (Out of Order)

in his cell, a team in riot gear storms in and swarms
while he repeatedly says he can’t breathe

            He is lying on the prison bed naked,
            gasping out his last inconsistent breaths.
            An officer's armored foot stomped down
            on the bed beside his head
            to serve and protect this dying man.
He begs for water and
is given half a Dixie cup as he heaves,  
has a mask placed over his face,
he’s then given an injection 

            They wheel his dead body out
            like it's another slab of nude dead
            disposable meat on a cart.
            It doesn't mean anything to them.
            Dead hearts are just a part of their job routine.

Attorneys say an ambulance was never called.
Brown was eventually brought to a hospital,
where he was pronounced dead

            It's up to them to quickly decide who is nothing
            but another dead body part rammed
            into their broken down meat machine.
            After all, they're the ones in charge.
            So what if they're out of control.
            Unfair, unjust, who cares?
            What are you going to do? Arrest THEM?

Brown has said he can’t breathe at least 20 times.
Then he is left naked in a cell,
not blinking or responding

            They're the ones with the badges and guns
            to serve and protect against unnecessary violence
            by working for a system rigged with unnecessary violence.
            Conducting their own violent attacks and getting away with it.
            Choking the head that dissents from this power structure.

 Help me! Help! I can’t breathe!
I’m choking on my blood! Help me!
I’m choking on my blood! I’m choking on my blood!
I’m choking on my blood!

            What is your life worth anyway?
            Another bloody stuffed animal hung
            on the wall like an ugly display,
            then torn down and thrown away.
            You might have tried screaming,
            but your voice never mattered enough.

(This poem was inspired by Sgt. James Brown, an African-American active-duty soldier who checked himself into county jail for a two-day sentence for driving under the influence, and ended up dying while in custody. Authorities claimed he died due to a pre-existing medical condition, but years later, new video from inside the jail raised questions about what had happened.

The lines in italics were taken from news articles about what happened.

The last four lines in italics were taken from Sgt. James Brown's own voice in the video.)

Juliet Cook


beg to differ


Rob Plath

"After the War in Heaven 3" by MATT BORCZON

Selective Mutism

my fourth grade teacher
Mrs. Shultz or some variation of it
always underestimated me
but one day when she called on me
she took a different approach
in fact I believe to humiliate me
into forced speech
“Fine, since you won’t speak—”
she was always pestering me
to at least say “yes” or “no”
or “I don’t know”
(Idon’tknow) became my muttered mantra
“go to the blackboard and point out
the answer from the overhead projection”
this I did smugly, effortlessly
she seemed surprised
like oh, all this time I thought
you weren’t listening
yet I still remained in the lowest
reading group
silent and misunderstood
because the vocals wouldn’t come
thus I soured like milk left out in the heat

Jennifer Behling



He said it is his breath, and
a part and portion of his blood through hungry veins
He said that his brain screamed
Nothing else mattered

Not his kids,
Not his parents,
Not even his Gramma can quiet the scream
when he needed the scream to be quiet
He said
he would do ANYTHING,
anything to stop the octopus inside from reaching its tentacles
squeezing his heart
smashing his lungs

He said the drug is his breath

Thasia Anne

"Rawktopus" by EMILY WARZENIAK


Lipstick stains my wineglass.

I loved her long before the grapes were harvested,
turned to a red deeper than her stain
but less intoxicating than her lips.

Stick to stone, break the bone.
Broken bonds and words 
can always hurt me.

Vow          do us          part.

Death may still kiss my bride,
a willful bride to a willing death.

She: Look how lovely in white!
He: How handsome in his best suit,
gray as cloud-layer atop a pyre.

Mike Griffith


2nd female citizen from sunshine nation faces off with one light sucking demon

she says she trespassed in a dream 
of rainbow earrings of $55 synth transfusion

He is too much of a sieve in his own mugger story
still life photos that castle rock climb 

in brown eyes dead
sucks the sun down a straw and

massacres that crinkle brunette curl 
a need  to please before he kills, 

the most dangerous kind. 
so cold once you get inside his flannel.

once he flaunts his fake hair dryer heat 
launders your arms and wrists scoping for a way in

every day since that day
she craved violence 

He rupped the tremors out of her person
she whispers at night 

cept u and me babe. ‘cept you and me babe  

longs to sucker punch him by the fridge. 
a force like sharks 

like torso electric timing. 
don’t tangle words. 

waltz with her at dawn.
you eel

mewl your need into the literature
sweep tears off my back.

the man in black and the man in white 
need to swap.

the deep deep voice of the crinkle 
unhinges his jaw  

hands come out, reach for her clavicle.

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

"Untitled" by KEITH WINKLE

doors & tables





Rob Plath


Writing poetry #5
 since the

war is
a bone
saw I
am still
to learn
how to

Matt Borczon

"Phoenix Rising" by MAGGIE DAVENPORT

(Lido Tiki Bar 9-5-16)

His look is overpowering - the glance, the grin, the sideways smile.
That unimaginable strength takes my breath away.
My heart screams in silence, trapped in a sweet but slow reality.

I close my eyes, I smile.

Arms the size of trees,
Chest with the depth of a forest.
Voice - liquid velvet, soft, surprising.
Samson, Goliath, Man of Men.
He shines.

I dare imagine.

I am a tree, my limbs sway with the warm wind.
I offer them to him for his arrows, his bow, his home, his comfort.
He respects my will to serve, to give, to be his ally.
And I replenish my wounds with his love of Nature.
We are one and yet we are alien creatures
Invented and envisioned and loved by the Source.

I understand,
I dare imagine.

Lois Betterton



Emily Warzeniak is a prickly, desert dwelling hobgoblin who spends her days hiding in the shadow of sand dunes and under cactus patches but also likes to make art sometimes.

Heidi Blakeslee lives and writes in Ambridge, Pa with her seven cats and her partner, James.  She has authored two poetry books, "Should the Need Arise" and "The Empress of Hours" as well as a novel, "Strange Man."  She is looking for a publisher for a new completed novel, "The House."

Jennifer Behling: I am a recent graduate of Saginaw Valley State University. I studied English literature and art. My poetry has also been featured in the Haight-Ashbury Literary journal.

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens lives in Midwest and is the author of four full length poetry collections: "Your Best Asset is a White Lace Dress," (Yellow Chair Press, 2016) "The Messenger is Already Dead," (Stalking Horse Press, 2017,) “We’re Going to Need a Higher Fence,” tied for first place in the 2017 Lit Fest Book Competition, and “The Vitamix and the Murder of Crows,” (full length collection,) is recently out from Apocalypse Party Press. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. She is also the author of ten chapbooks. Recent work can be seen at or is forthcoming from The Pinch, Black Lawrence Press, Prelude, Cleaver, Yalobusha Review, decomp, and Inter/rupture. Visit:

Juliet Cook is a grotesque glitter witch medusa hybrid brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, and dark red explosions. She is drawn to poetry, abstract visual art, and other forms of expression. Her poetry has appeared in a peculiar multitude of literary publications. You can find out more at

Keith Winkle: Visionary? Yes. Artist. Hell no. But I love art and I try to create when I feel the pull. I was born in Ohio but raised on the offshoots of Jupiter. I graduated from Ms. Elkis’s art class, Riverview High School.

Lois Betterton grew up in Yonkers, New York and now resides in Sarasota’s Historic Rosemary District Florida. She began reading and writing poetry as a young child and has embraced the written word all her life.  She founded and hosts The Word Show at The Reserve SRQ in Sarasota that showcases local, free range, organic, Poets.  Publications include ‘Dr. Alfonz Lengyel, RPA China Connections, US-China Review Winter 2010 Edition,’ her poetry blog ‘New Words,’ and edited ‘GUANYIN The Art of Compassion – Guanyin And the Welfare of Sentient Beings:  Images from The Medieval Period of China’ by Dr. Chang Qing.

Luke Kuzmish is a recovering addict and poet from Erie, Pennsylvania.  He considers himself a deconstructionist and confessional writer.  His latest collection is entitled LITTLE HOLLYWOOD (Alien Buddha Press, 2018) a collection of 18 poems dealing with stigma, love, depression, and struggles to find a philosophy to make sense of this world.  It is available on Amazon and at the author's website:

Maggie Davenport graduated with a BFA in painting from Ringling College of Art and Design in 1999. She currently lives and works in Sarasota, FL. Much of the imagery in her work depicts her experiences of finding connection to a higher state of vibration or “being in the flow.” This is the state she works from when painting. A place of being open and connected. There is no thinking, just painting.

Matthew Borczon is a poet and navy sailor from Erie, PA. He publishes widely in the small press. He has published 6 books of poetry, the most recent The Smallest Coffins Are the Heaviest was released through Epic Rites Press this year. He is the father of 4 kids and he works way too many hours to survive. He also holds a degree in fine arts from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

Michael A. Griffith began writing poetry as he recovered from a life-changing injury. His poems, essays, and non-fiction articles have appeared in many print and online publications and anthologies. He resides and teaches near Princeton, NJ. His first poetry chapbook is slated to appear later this year.

The poems of Pris Campbell have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including PoetsArtists, Nixes Mate, Rusty Truck, Bicycle Review, Chiron Review, Pulse, and Outlaw Poetry Network. Nominated four times for a Pushcart, the Small Press has published nine collections of her poetry and Clemson University Press a collaboration with Scott Owens. “My Southern Childhood” from Nixes Mate Press is her most recent book. A former Clinical Psychologist, sailor and bicyclist until sidelined by ME/CFS in 1990, she makes her home in the Greater West Palm Beach, Florida. 

Rob Plath is a 48-year-old poet from New York. He has published 20 books so far. He is most known for his collection A BELLYFUL OF ANARCHY (epic rites press). Rob was once a student of Allen Ginsberg for two years. He lives alone with his cat and stays out of trouble. See more of his work at 

Thasia Anne is a great-grandmother and Edinboro University senior in social work. She uses her writing to help clients realize that they are not alone. She has a chapbook of domestic violence poems, titled Love and Licorice Whips, and three children’s books that she uses in her domestic violence education program to help children understand better their own living situations. She has been published in Our Favorites; Poets’ Halls Press, Spitmag; Art and Poetry Magazine, Poetry of S.O.U.L. An Anthology of Selected Works from Poets Around the World, and Word Stock.

1 comment:

  1. Octopus Review #5 is an amazing collection of writing and art that have blossomed in this new format to a unique and wild flower of it's flowing humanity stem cell descriptions and mind cloning exuberance. This will take a while to digest but I will savor every mind bit.