Thursday, July 18, 2024

GAS Featured Poet: Bruce McRae

Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with poems published in hundreds of magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. The winner of the 2020 Libretto prize and author of four poetry collections and seven chapbooks, his poems have been broadcast and performed globally.

Looking Back

Objects in the mirror

are closer than they appear.

Objects may appear to be subjective.

Objects in the mirror

travel at the speed of light.

Objects in the mirror

may appear or not appear.

Prone to mood swings,

they appear to be dispassionate

but only want what's best for you.

They've suffered greatly in your stead.

Objects in the mirror

may appear to be drunk

or on heavy medication.

They make foulmouthed and fiery execrations.

Objects in the mirror

reject their status and protest

the viewers's overarching reflections.

Objects in the mirror

stand for the human drive towards acquisition.

The mirror represents introspection.

The mirror manufactures distances.

That which is conceived creates conception.

Objects in the mirror

appear more handsome than they are.

They may appear sullen and jaded as well,

depending on your latitude and inclination.

Objects in the mirror don't exist.

There is no mirror.

Abandon your ego.

Keep looking ahead.

Drive faster.



This sentence will be short

and straight to the point.

This sentence will wander about,

a lamb loosed from its pasture,

curious, but shy, hungry, yet cautious.

This sentence doesn't know what

it's talking about and will throw in

a mention of the honeyguide bird

because no one is expecting it.

And this sentence is part of the whole.

Another sentence will follow it blindly,

hoping to make sense of itself,

attempting to fathom its purposes,

inevitably failing the collective.

And why is this sentence

in the form of a question?

The penultimate sentence feigns a reply.

The last sentence, always enigmatic,

turns toward the bottom of the page

and refuses to tell you the truth,

the whole truth, and nothing like the truth.

                                   The Last Christmas

                                    It's Christmas morning

and the wind has stopped

its constant jabbering,

the sea lying in late

after a year of god-looking

and revving the planet.

Children have freed themselves

from the webbing of their beds

and are quietly screaming

(you mustn't wake the dead).

Outside, the back end of darkness

shudders in its long coat.

You can smell the blizzards in its hair.

A mouthful tastes of old Decembers.

Christmas morning and a single star

is all that remains

of the ruckus in heaven.

The angel at the top of the tree

is unaware that she's been raptured

and continues sleeping.

Somewhere they're ringing bells

and lighting scented candles,

but here, in the forest of the heart,

the trees are huddled with snowfall.

Aching for summer they number the winds

on their various journeys.

A cathedral, a colosseum,

the forest is waiting for a second god

to shake the world out of its slumber.

Christmas morning and its quiet

as a Jesuit graveyard in a snowstorm.

I have given you the gifts

of salt and cellars, meadows of seagrass,

a sullen winter.

And I have given you the gifts

of kismet, librettos, animals.

I have carefully wrapped and bowed

a box containing other boxes

You asked for a labyrinth and mazes.

You wanted a world that's peace-riven

and a balm for your spectral longing.

A dime store Santa, all I've given you

is your mother's voice

and the glow of celestial kitchens.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

GAS Featured Poet: Kathleen Hellen


Featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, Kathleen Hellen’s work has been nominated multiple times for Best of the Net and the PushcartShe is the recipient of the James Still Award, the Thomas Merton prize for Poetry of the Sacred, and poetry prizes from the H.O.W. Journal and Washington Square Review. Hellen is the author of three full-length poetry collections, including Meet Me at the BottomThe Only Country Was the Color of My Skin, and Umberto’s Night, which won the poetry prize from Washington Writers’ Publishing House, and two chapbooks.

… a second’s delay

“They make a desert and call it peace.”—Tacitus


sunlight bleaches barricade. buildings in the empty 

streets appear like chalk in frame,

a man in Arabic, explaining, 

the voiceover, translating

they shoot at legs … 

the annexed lands creating barriers: failure

of contradictory interpretations. failure 

(with accusations) 

 rat-tat-tat-tat as natural

sound as sorry, the reporter says, slipping 

dangerously close to engagement … failure,

a beggar 

walking away from the table.


little capitalists


Who grind your dreams like an Arabica, pull up your pants, step outside each morning when the birds are interfering with the playlist, the rumble of the world like a hunger—you, who charge your dreams like an electric 
vehicle. file reports. handle claims. take the temperatures. who stuff your lungs with the exhaust of Chinese markets, avoiding detours flagged by migrants. who point your snout toward truffles e.g 5G eg. sick leave. bend your knee to shadows asking for the rent. the interest on the loan. the next installment. who buy into the ads that subtract you. 
On the bookshelf where the weight has bent my thoughts, the gloomy ghost of Marx looks down, a paperback.

hallucinating the end of the world 


the grass is buttoned with explosives

toadstools—in trinities of clover


mock portobellos, slippery juliets

in their caps, the glut of mucus 


tricksters, pretending to be oysters

champagne sponges swamping poisons 


shamans, conjuring in pyramids of mud 

sleeping deities, sprouting each 

a universe, then annihilating.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Su Zi's Essay/Interview with Chester Weber

Chester Weber

There are endeavors which transcend culture, which transcend time, which have centuries of esoteric skills, and which ever lie under threat of extinction.  Sometimes, those practices have been memorialized in museums, visited in a hush; sometimes, those practices have modern play -- a common enough notion when considering theater. That which is lost we rue. Unfortunately, modern culture encourages an agoraphobia that has progressed to a bomb shelter mindset; children meet cartoon creatures and rarely pet a real rabbit. Eventually, some of us sense this loss of felt fur and become seekers: we begin to look to our most ancient lore, our most revered traditions and lost arts. Eventually, there will be a habit we can add to our lives that brings us that ancient comfort, be it birdwatching or the herbal garden; however, we cannot be true to history without eventually remembering the horses.

When one practices a skilled endeavor, there is craft involved, there is history. We walk where our ancestors once did. So too did horses. Our history is built with their strength: our roads and vehicles based upon the width of a hitched pair of horses and is thus the measure of what we build to house those vehicles since. Horses are our heritage; yet, they have been forgotten too often, and what they have to teach us is being lost.

Horses require land, and it is the land itself being taxed and stressed these days—a veritable tumult in atmosphere. With the human sprawl thoughtlessly ejaculating concrete into agricultural lands, those of us in areas of human density might feel only the need for food without care of where it comes from: the core of disposability. Yet it is the land which tells the air here is glowing green life, or here is a smelter of poison. Yet, we still revere that ancient lost green. Our language includes a horse pasture as an homage to natural beauty; our iconography includes horses in a variety of ways—yet some cities resent even a two-mile loop for a leisurely carriage ride welcoming visitors. This amputation of horses from human life parallels the untethering of human concern from the very planet upon which we live.

Perhaps it’s a matter of if we see ourselves as transient, or rooted, mused Chester Weber, in a recent (20 February 2024) interview. Weber was born in the community in which he resides, is raising his children there as well, and says that “My family has been here in the horse business since the roads were dirt. We were raised with the values of stewardship of the land.” He thinks that people feel when “it really is your home” that they are “rooted there, are people who care about the community and land.” Weber himself is a competing equestrian, having had “some luck in the sport of carriage driving”. While the history of carriage driving extends to before that of written language, Weber says that “there’s a lot of tradition in horse sport by its own nature. It became a joy, a hobby, a sport. Horse sport grows in popularity because of these magical creatures, the horses and this energy that is very open and pure”.  

It might seem impossible to remember when the arts and the sciences, the loftiest doings of humanity were all seen as that of craft. It does us well to remember the musical arts, a revered history that involves collaboration. So too does it happen that a dance with a horse becomes its own ballet. “Driving horses is a lot about harmony. The art of it is the ability to connect. I am proud when I train, and I make the most beautiful music. Horses have taught me about life and people. Horses communicate in nonverbal ways; they communicate in energy. Horses are these magical creatures. That ability to create harmony has to do with creating synergy.” It is this energy, this joy of feeling, that draws us to the arts, all and any of them. We seek to remember what we don’t know we have forgotten.

As we stride forward, seeking solace, it is our most ancient wisdoms which resonant with us. We search beyond the sterile for that which frees us. We are required to halt and squarely consider our position. Let us remember and honor more ancient practices, as we can; but we must always honor in the now as the then, our debt to the horse.

Su Zi is a writer, poet and essayist who produces a handmade chapbook series called Red Mare. She has been a contributor to GAS from back when it was called Gypsy Art Show, more than a decade ago.


Check out her author page on Amazon.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

GAS Featured Poet: Arvilla Fee

Arvilla Fee teaches English and is the managing editor for the San Antonio Review. She has published poetry, photography, and short stories in numerous presses, including Calliope, North of Oxford, Rat’s Ass Review, Mudlark, and many others. Her poetry books, The Human Side and This is Life, are available on Amazon. Arvilla loves writing, photography and traveling, and she never leaves home without a snack and water (just in case of an apocalypse). For Arvilla, writing produces the greatest joy when it connects us to each other. To learn more about her work, you can visit her website:

Neurodivergent Processing


people pressing,

elbows and shoulders

jockeying for position;

there are so many,

too many,

and suddenly, I can’t breathe,

the air is hot and humid

with a million moving lips,

and there are lights everywhere,

florescent overhead,

luminescent signs saying open,

saying 50% off sale,

saying buy one get one free,

and the noise rises

up, up, up to the vaulted ceilings,

creating a ringing in my ears,

so many voices and sounds,

chatter, laughter,

the squeak of tennis shoes,

the man at a kiosk

asking if I want to try a sample,

a sample of what, I don’t know;

I can’t look at him,

can’t think, can’t hear;

I’m drowning in a sensory pool,

the water closing in over my head,

the smell of fish and pizza and tacos

nearly making me ill;

I strip off my jacket

as if the release of this one layer

will somehow free my body, my mind,

but it doesn’t—so, I walk outside,

leaving the crescendo behind

and stand, eyes closed, in the muted air.

Room to Breathe


I broke free of skyscrapers,

            free of concrete,

            free of freeways,

            free of suits,

office-gray cubicles,

long lines at the coffee shop,

overpriced bagels and lattes;

some called it a mid-life crisis;

I called it coming to my senses,

although I have to admit

the new yellow convertible

smacked of middle-40s.

But I never felt more authentically

me—the first time I saw a sunset

free of obstructions,

free of constraints,

free to blaze like flames

in the wide Nebraska sky.


You Know


You never really know someone,

they say—but you do know;

you know when he slips out at night,

you hear the squeak of the hinges;

you know he’ll be down on 5th street

and that there are dealers and users

congregating like brothers and sisters,

lighting up, blowing out, snorting;

you know he’ll come back high;

he’ll hug you and be sloppy-mouthed,

pupils shrunk to pinpoint black;

you know that he’ll deny everything

in the morning—make that noon-ish,

when he finally rises and breathes

unbrushed breath over your shoulder

while you are trying to eat your lunch;

you know, but don’t say anything,

that he will not look for a job today,

nor any day after because that is work,

and he doesn’t have time for that—

you know he simply lives

to keep his hands from shaking

to keep the demons off his back.


Meet Me by the River


where the bank is muddy

and the water is cool

we’ll go on pretending

our daughter’s in school


we’ll imagine her home

at the stroke of four

hungry for dinner

banging the door


we’ll talk about boys

we’ll talk about plans

she’ll practice the tuba

she plays in the band


I won’t watch your face

if you don’t watch mine

we’ll go on pretending

things are just fine


that day didn’t happen

the freak with the gun

didn’t unload a clip

and put a hole in our sun


we never got the call

that ended our world

we’ll head back home,

see our little girl


meet me by the river

let it drown our tears;

what do we have left

but empty-nest years



legs stretched              long, lanky—

sweat drawing circles under armpits,

a heart beats, beats, beats, beats

in rhythm to trainers slapping pavement.

She’s going somewhere;

happiness lies

just over the next hill,

or is it the one after that?

The hills all look alike,

that row of pines no different

than the last,

but she picks up speed,

forges ahead;

perhaps one day she will outrun