Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rockford Poetry Slams

Rockford poetry slams. Everyone knows that. The very same economic and cultural conditions that lead some to become violent, hopeless, or pessimistic lead others to become defiantly optimistic that the power of words can be used to educate, to motivate, and to lift the spirits of those demoralized by corruption and decay. Kudos to all Rockford poets. No place needs poetry more than Rockford. 

David Pedersen is a perfect example. In his quintessentially Midwestern book Love Is Meat, Pedersen writes about how his parents at a meat processing plant in the titular poem. It was one of my great honors as an editor and supporter of Rockford area writers to have edited this book, which mostly just entailed writing him emails saying "good job." But I realized walking the streets in Downtown last week that my grandparents had almost exactly the same story. My grandmother worked for the late part of her life carving meat for a small meat processing company in Lena, Illinois. And my grandfather for many years worked skinning the pelts of animals at a furrier in Forreston. For them their love of their family was quite literally directly related to meat. I remember my grandmother's mangled hands as I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle for the first time this year. I wrote this poem about them.

Perfect Citizenship Award 

my grandparents 
never dared 
interfere with 
the lifelong civics 
lesson that 
from classrooms, 
radios, factories, 
encyclopedia salesmen, 
faucets and 
Hee Haw 
so when they 
had the decency 
to die weeks 
before retirement 
the government 
sent a 
Perfect Citizenship Award 
and a check 
not big enough 
to box up the remains.
-Thomas L. Vaultonburg

For six years I have lived at the geographic heart of Rockford, Illinois, in a tall building with a bird's-eye view of the street below. I have seen my neighborhood, still America's 3rd most dangerous, start to turn around and the beginning stages of gentrification take place. The East Siders who wouldn't have dared come here only five years ago now attend a wide array of music, arts, and cultural events Downtown. The bands, artists, and restaurants that kept those events coming are no small part of the upturn. Zombie Logic Press is where I edited this Review, published books by Jesus Correa and C.J. Campbell, and started my new venture, Outsider Poetry.

I hope to stay here to see this renaissance play out. I'd like to think I'll be part of it, and that I'll be able to use Zombie Logic Press to publish books by the best writers in Rockford. I like the place where I live. I am proud of its art community.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Outlaw Poems By Thom Young

One of the things I love about editing ZLR is I get to read poetry of all kinds. Sometimes I might even be the first person to ever have read a particular poem. I think that's pretty cool. Sometimes I go for weeks without posting anything new, and sometimes a batch of poems comes in and I want to post them the same day. Recently I was reading Gangsters, Harlots & Thieves: Down and Out at the Hotel Clifton, an anthology of Outlaw Poetry founder Todd Moore, edited by his son Theron, who is a good friend of mine. When these poems came in today it just re-enforced how influential a poet Todd Moore was. Not only in the types of content poets feel comfortable writing about, but the form itself. Outlaw Poetry lives!, it thrives, and I love publishing it here at Zombie Logic Review. 

Thom Young is a writer from Texas. His work has been in 3am magazine, Word Riot, The Legendary, and many other places. A 2008 Million Writers Award nominee for his story Perico. His books are popular all over the world including his latest GRINDHOUSE which hit #1 Kindle Free Horror four days in a row.


I don't need
a reason
to love
aren't you


one more cigar
one more beer
one more chance
at love


there's a sadness
her eyes that
can defeat
the world
and a lie in
her smile
about the love she has
the one she wants
as her life
slips by
like a forgotten


there's a certain
rhythm to love
she dances to her
own tune.

Her son

She didn't
want her son
but he was
already dead
she kept his skeleton
propped up in
the corner of his room
it was all so strange
but I suppose everything
I waved goodbye
and got the hell
out of there.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Poetry By Richard King Perkins II

Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a  three-time Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee. In a six year period, his work has appeared in more than a thousand publications including The Louisiana Review, Bluestem, Emrys Journal, Sierra Nevada Review, Roanoke Review, The Red Cedar Review and Crannog. His poems are forthcoming in The William and Mary Review, Sugar House Review, Plainsongs, Free State Review and Milkfist. He was a recent finalist in The Rash Awards, Sharkpack Alchemy, Writer’s Digest and Bacopa Literary Review poetry contests. 

Condors and Hummingbirds

You’ve never believed people were meant to fly.
Doubtful as silence or dull knives.
The condor, a faithless creature, her Google Earth.
Even the most glorious killers choose life.  They’ll live until they can’t.
You’re more skeptical than the Sargasso Sea.
A bean is the form of a child. A vine to the clouds.
Almost flying, nestled in sun.
You always feel like sautéed cotton, and you are.
You always feel like euphoria, and you are.
You’re skeptical.
You’ll reel in old tires from the sky.
Then hummingbirds flee from your pasty tongue
as they spit dew into your blindness.
After the storm, I still can’t find my calm.
Angels pull at the insubstantial like pilgrims on holiday.
As you live, men will chum the clouds to find your reflection.
The night sky will darken to find you still aglow.

Homage to a Cousin Emerald

This might have been the moment
where she could have found life
but I had given it away, lost it beyond the shingle,

outside a cloud emptied of its memories, her night song
of eternity, the random thoughts that compose
the expectations of history.

In the creeping bleed of night,
she ignores my meaningless gestures, permanent imprints,
static; giving her supple whiteness so that I might evolve.

Her ending, my beginning; timelessness.  But for
our dissimilarities, uncertainties, the healing of feet
completes the discord; she is free to go anywhere.

Sometime, past the nights that brokenness rejected,
her final pastel whispers erode, weakened, but true,
like the thought of  skin growing a glassy shell

a protection of  soul venerated as a cousin emerald
and of such great depth
that she is impossible of being seen through.

Snowdrops and Shields to Endure

Soured on the first drink of obsidian heat, your summer’s crystallizing at
the bottom of a tall glass. Instantly, a strange harmony and then the advance
of crocodiles. The waters are possessed with a quiet euphoria since all curses
have been previously forgotten. You’ve given me a morning of bilateral
symmetry pressed against a cushion of rhythm, a transition filled with the
rarely touched and commonality of earth.

Singularly, I humble across a marshy path where my growing intrepidation
begins to border on a factory of glass.  As has happened untold times before,
I’ve placed too much trust in my own resourcefulness so that I’m taken
away by the false inheritance of consumption. Deer burrow outside the
dreamtime of years I was counting on my fingers and toes and have become
an intractable calculus growing on the underside of my scraping belly.

Tomorrow, a rarity of moon will invigorate me with the unpredictability
of moths. I’ll consent to a change that will cause me to become completely
unrecognizable—  though I’ll still look exactly the same. We mustn’t swallow
words in the softest air; star-bleached, keeping tempo, the treble line of staying
hidden and aloft. Within the almost alien light of the inner earth, the constant
weight of silence emits a deafening echo.

These are the fears that are hardest to admit to. Legends leave and new legends
return. For vanity reasons, you’ve kept your body despite the cost of appearance.
I’m outside an industrial complex where I’ve dug marbles to replace your
missing interior. This is connotatively still me, definitely breathing, possibly
still alive in a shifting pocket of dirt. What exactly have I become; removed
from the planet of my birth but lying motionless on a borrowed cot.

I’m still filling in your cavities from the greatest possible range, continuing to
stand in the way of our own contentment. All liquid loses fluidity. Glass will
break; the sun tea on the back porch spilled, forgotten. Perhaps we intentionally
drowned. Conscripted to a meditative August, roots are cautiously searching for
water— or a semi-positive direction, and soon, our last thought will be to taste it.
This is the right move for neither of us.

Nothing much happens in the sunless hours but we’ll do what we can; barely
anything. Either that or we haven’t yet noticed we live in a crematorium made
for snowdrops and synesthetes, convinced of the importance of our own frenetic
stupor; never envisioning that we are the only metaphor that can be applied to
ourselves and that this is the elusive serenity of our birthright—to create the
monsters of our own despair without first creating the sanctuary to captivate them—

or, at the very least, the necessary shields to endure.

Himalayan Dynamic

An impact of birds are dissolving mountains and gentle slopes
above the jigsaw pavement;
at night: the city prowls

and where there is no city, the sun panders,
crashing through a hymen of sophistry and bumpkinism;
the forest floor rolling and shrouded like the slow ride
of red velvet and splotchy flesh on a cadaver road.

The bodywatcher has counted up the telling hashmarks
as feathers give outcry to supernal effects.
Relics will spread dust on rooftops
and whatever remains
malingers grey above the cowering ditches of India..

A few visitors flee the tintinnabulation that strangles—
a gibbet too easily attainable.
A soft thud; then the capture of loam.

Outside the sedentary stupor of sand,
carnivores steal organs of diminishing warmth;
tigers contract a muscular torso,
low-ranging wolverines pivot on weaponized claws,
letting go posterity, foraging jawbones
which will crater a swaddle of monstrous valleys.

Each flight must be precise, and yet, birds still soar,
kept aloft by parliamentary currents,
strangers we hadn’t thought could become such intimate friends.

Loosened in the oppressive pall,
gudgeons fill depressions of absent lacquered bone.
Air and its water-sister are purposeful in their orgy of disregard
and of random integrity.
Ravening birds have no choice but to preen in briefest serenity.

Ruins prouden the residue of all that’s missing—
an obsequiousness of acrobatic curvature,
plaudits taken by fish within a wave
while gliding weeps the eagle in a sponge of air.

The most derelict humans are reluctant to deny any bird
the glory of air’s transcendent hum,
yet the few who give voice in harmony spew dahlias uncountable.

Depleting from Sun to Sun

Lost amid faces and actions never taken,
you tried, in a way, to retroactively soothe us by
downstroking our hair, kissing our eyelids,
plugging in a humidifier, offering compression,
decompression, rest.

Yet, before the abstruse potter’s field smiled,
the ground calmed beneath your words
and you witnessed the hairsbreadth of ages,
allowing serenity to take in its organic vowels
directly from the reluctant mull of the east.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jack Phillips Lowe Kiboshes the King

 Jack Phillips Lowe has been kicking around the small press world for almost 20 years now. He has contributed poems to Clark Street Review, Nerve Cowboy and The Bitchin' Kitsch, among other outlets. His most recent chapbook, Cold Case Cowboys, was published by Middle Island Press in 2013. He is a lifelong Chicagoan, currently hanging my hat in Addison, IL. I liked these poems immediately. He had me hooked as soon as he kiboshed the King. This sentence where I'm writing Outsider Poetry has no place here. 


Buchman had invited his mother out to dinner.
The two of them were in Buchman’s car, on their way to the restaurant,
when Kentucky Rain by Elvis Presley started playing on the car radio. 
Buchman’s mom reached for the dashboard and turned up the volume. 

“I forgot you were an Elvis fan,” said Buchman, brightly, as he drove. 

“It’s a good tune,” said Buchman’s mom, humming the melody.
“You know, your father and I were supposed to go see Elvis
when we went to Las Vegas, the year before you were born. 
Dad put the kibosh on that at the last minute. I don’t remember why. 
We did see Don Rickles, though.”

Buchman’s mind drew a picture of a Las Vegas hotel room in 1969. 
In it, his parents were seated on a couch before a TV set. 
Buchman’s father was consulting the TV Guide.

“Fuck Elvis,” said Buchman’s dad, pointing to the magazine in his hand. 
“Bonanza is on tonight. Looky here, Marie. This week, Hoss meets a leprechaun.”  


Tomas and Vinny were welders.
Until they got laid off last November, that is. 
Now, to keep in touch, the pair meets once a week
for coffee in the only restaurant they can afford—
a diner that’s so cheapshit-greasy,
Alice, Flo and Mel are working the breakfast rush there.

“Vinny,” Tomas says, sipping his coffee,
“we’ve been going about this job search all wrong. 
I’ve been praying to Saint Jude until my ass droops,
for all these months, and nothing’s happened.”

Vinny slouches over the tower he’s building out of
little plastic tubs of butter and jelly on the table.
“No shit,” he sighs. “So what?”

“So I think we’ve been praying to the wrong guy,”
says Tomas. “Yesterday, I saw this show on PBS
about ancient Roman gods and goddesses. 
The show said the Romans built a rich empire 
while praying to their Roman gods for help. 
And their gods must’ve helped them. It was clear
that those old Romans were ass-deep in bank.”

Vinny swirls his coffee in its cup.
 “What’s your point, Tomas?”

“I’m saying forget Saint Jude. 
The head Roman god is named Jupiter. 
Nobody prays to Jupiter anymore. Maybe if we did,
Jupiter would be so grateful, he’d help us get jobs.”
Tomas smiles and drains his cup. 

Vinny sits and stares at Tomas. 

“One thing, though,” Tomas adds. “We couldn’t just pray to Jupiter.  
Those old Romans were always sacrificing sheep and  
cattle and stuff to their gods. Jupiter works on commission.”

Vinny gazes quietly into his cup, his face a pinched expression 
that’s halfway between puzzled and pissed off. 
Tomas fidgets in his red vinyl seat. Finally, Vinny speaks. 

“I’ve got a nephew who works in a butcher shop,” he says. 
“You bring the matches; I’ll bring the lamb. 
Meet me in the forest preserve at nine o’clock on Sunday.”  


Recently, the FBI released one of two previously top secret
files it compiled on what the Bureau considered to be 
one of the most seditious rock bands of the 1960s. 
The Rolling Stones? The Doors? The Grateful Dead?
No. And not the MC5, either. 
The subject of both files was, in fact, the Monkees. 
Yes, really. 

The declassified file consists of impressions of a 1967 Monkees concert,
written by an FBI agent who was clearly both middle-aged and clueless.
There’s no need to quote it here. Just imagine what conclusions 
Dragnet’s Sgt. Joe Friday would’ve drawn if he’d spied on 
a junior high school record hop of the same era. 
That’s right—much ado, as Shakespeare said, about nothing. 

But what about the other file?
The one the Bureau deems, after almost fifty years, 
to be still too hot for Mr. and Mrs. America to handle? 

Picture it: the office of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, 1968.
At a large, polished desk sits Hoover himself. 
Before him are a yellow legal pad and a cassette tape player. 
There’s a pen in his hand and headphones on his ears. 
Hoover’s face is scrunched in concentration. 
He’s listening to Daydream Believer. For the 123rd time.
“‘White knight on his steed,’ my ass!” Hoover exclaims,
scribbling furiously. He hits the rewind button again. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Poems By John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Big Muddy and Sanskrit with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Owen Wister Review and Louisiana Literature.   


She won't deny
she's got a cigarette going
some place in the house,
she's got a man
waiting somewhere
in the city...
he glares at her...
silence can't turn to stone
quick enough...
she's weary of that
slow dance in bed, she says,
his tired waltz,
her unfulfilled music...
he begs her to stick around
figures those that remain alone,
go mad and search about
the rooms like they're the past,
like somehow they can hear once more.,
the truth might even sustain them...
they hear it in their heads as song,
like the flutter of the curtains,
the tinkle of ice as she stirs her third gin,
upstairs, an only child,
too young to belong to herself alone,
still awaits the word from solitude...
she won't deny
it’s some place in that house.


For a tree, you were the sobbing kind,
lowering your branches at my sister's mournful aria,
shedding leaves for the stale half loaf of bread

broken up, spread among the starving finches.
You didn't let up even when night closed over
and people inside houses went about their business

in dressing gowns, like voles, digging themselves
a path toward sleep. The wind would have driven
you to tears if you weren't already mere.

Likewise the rain, that incessant summarizer
of all the tragedies you've seen over the years.
You were a funeral tree, a baseball spilling

through young fingers tree, even a robin baby
splattered on the driveway tree, a forty foot
tall empathy in wood and chlorophyll

with enough regrets, enough pain, enough spilled
twigs, sap-riddled bark, dropped fruit, for all of us.
As a boy, I climbed into your upper limbs.

As a man, I crawl down into your shadow.


The sun is determined to cook my skin.
Dirt and sand under my fingernails...
a little of the earth, at least, wants to be seen with me.
My brother flexes muscles at the far end of the beach.
He's tall and blonde, the way the ocean makes them.
I'm just the useless boy, thin and unnecessary.
The bullies need not bother with my 98 pounds.
The sea-wind slaps my face enough.
My brother has a job, has a girl,
has a brand-new fiberglass board.
I have a poem itching to get out
and an overarching fear of water parks,
especially the one that curls high above my head,
corkscrewing kids from heights I can't even imagine,
into a splash pool where they survive
but I'd drown,
Why bring me to this hot place?
My parents preempt love for torture.
For my mind has pale skin and freckles easily.
The nights haven't invented Goth yet.
They haven't made it possible for those my age,
my attitudes, to wander dark streets, to accumulate in black,
to take on the sins of the world and not its tan lines,
to adopt those transgressions into a waiting art-form.
The waves have no use for vampires in waiting.
They tickle my feet when I'd rather they go for my throat.


Oak tree cried out to me for help
but what could I do about it,
I was a sick boy
with barely breath enough
to make a lung shudder.

And wind wondered if
I was on its side
but I was always
sheltered by window and walls,
reading half my life away,
and spending the other half
under headphones,
listening to what God had to say
through his musicians.

The sun couldn't get through to me.
The possum on the roof
was dumbfounded
that I didn't come out for conversation.
But I was watching TV.
I was eating breakfast.
I was thumbing through the newspaper
to see what was happening on the outside,
so many excuses there, in black and white,
for why I shouldn't participate.

The earth wants me tramping its field
or plucking its roses.
What’s the problem?
My carpet's not good enough?
It insists I should breathe in
the cool clear .air
but I get by just fine
on this third hand stuff.
Sure, my skin is pale
but it's not complaining.
And my eyes are dulled
but I can see what I'm doing.
I live indoors.
Sorry, that's not where the world is.
The birds said it best
except I didn't hear them.


I wasn't trying to eavesdrop
but what can you do,
the tables so close,
and some couples louder
than us,
who never stop talking,
while we have such silences.
It's that vacuum theory again,
the sucking state we make
when we settle back
in our chairs,
look here, there, anywhere
but at each either.
As our lives shrink,
theirs are on the march,
expansive, imperialist,
soon stake their flag in mine.
Suddenly, I feel her complaining, his anger.
And when bitterness turns to sorrow,
to apology, to smiles,
I'm right there with them.
Sure I tell you I love you.
But he loves her is what I'm really saying.


Dostoevsky and rain every morning this week
intellect and mud
umbrella except
the house of the dead
has a few dry spots outside
the battle-fire of weather
the old drops rust drainpipes.
the younger ones stone butterflies
to keep the soul hell-ward. They splat and kick
and cuss like dreams
the old roulette-obsessed Russians asks
isn't weeping as even as rain
as dust from the earth wallows
in its new depths, new toughness
someone says a little rain is a good thing
a little rain
that reads to us
from the book of rain



To the one who only owns a couch,
who imagined herself out there
somewhere, in sad camouflage,
drowning in a field of her mother's prize tomatoes,
who, if she had children,
someone else would get custody,
whose wedding ring would glimmer
from the third shelf of a pawn shop window,
who if you mentioned "good life",
would sneer good-natured as a gulp of whiskey,
who dragged that couch from one apartment
to the next, a ball and chain hacking
into her ankle that she saw as an over-stuffed child,
to pat its wooden flanks and imagine the factory
sweat that made it happen, on her part,
on the part of someone unknown,
who watched a favorite sister die of cancer,
who was an artist for a month,
more paint on her than on
the canvas, was content with that, even
spilled a little on that ubiquitous couch,
who'd sit cross-legged on the floor
and watch it occupy most of her small flat,
like seeing a sailboat at anchor in the
harbor, proud to be in its cramped space,
smug with ocean stories, who sat on
it with a man, with a children's book,
with a needle, who could shovel whatever
was available into her arm some nights
but not this thing that made her comfortable,
that rose up all around her like a letter
from home, whose habits sprouted parallel
journeys, one toying with her brain, the
other making everything, even the present,
seem like a memory, whose veins got so
lazy one time, they refused to budge,
who dropped her rusty weapon on the floor,
kicked it underneath that couch with her
last effort, who flopped down on its softness,
squeezed her knees up into her chest,
the last invitation one part of her body
would proffer to another, who was carried
down those creaky stairs, one August night,
followed by her couch.