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Issue #1 | Zero Readers

In the grounds

Her coffee
could wake the dead,
quite literally.

This secret menu was real.

The body lay on three tables
pushed together
while his father sipped mint tea
in a corner after hours.

The recipe, simple:
too many beans
dark, oily
crushed by screaming burrs
water, too hot
in an antique espresso machine,
made of hammered brass.

The too much of it all,
became pure alchemy,
though she and her tip jar
always sat empty.

Once an act of love,
now a simple bread job
gone stale.

A drink against nature
cascaded into a tiny white cup.
Then she dolloped icy milk
into the noisette from hell.

From her apron pocket,
she pulled out a nutmeg seed
the size of a lump in a throat.
With a tiny metal grater between her fingers,
she dusted the coffee
with sparks and spice.

The father looked up from his tea
as she pressed ceramic to
cold lips.
Dark coffee
and darker magic
slipped down the desiccated throat.
A moment, a lifetime later,

                               the body breathed

His blue eyes, now turned brown,
stared up at her.

Live or die? she asked
because you always had to ask.
Live, he said
because everyone always said live.

she would never know why
her mother had said die
and would spend the rest of her life
brewing and wondering.

Nathalie Lawrence was once a bureaucrat but now works as a technical writer in Chicago. A long time ago, she studied to be a mechanic. Alas, she received a slightly wrinkled degree in English and Nonfiction Writing from George Mason University instead.

Isolated Piano

His notes smell of cognac—dark old wood
and finesse. The tip-snifter rests on top
his home spinet. Was a time he would
fill it with warm, brown liquid, then practice.
Now it holds dust and matchbooks. Still, he could
smell brandy as he plunked black keys. Dark wood
still echoed as he played for no one to stop
his old thirst. Love songs and murder tunes should
keep sad hands steady. He’s starting to miss
slack drummers and reed players. That’s not good
for someone playing cognac notes on wood
older than his father. He wants to mop
a ghost spill. His soul wants to play like this….

Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. Previous to the pandemic, he worked as a tour guide in San Francisco. The temporary death of tourism has left him unemployed. Before that, he worked for 30+ years in the wine and liquor business at the retail and promotional ends of the industry. He is very fond of baseball, Louis Aragon, Miles Davis, Kafka and Dante. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist, Joan Juster. His most recent collection, covering his guiding years, is Roshi, San Francisco (Norfolk Press)

Sixteen, doing buggies at the Shop-n-Save

gaze beyond the bridges
as the early evening sun
dips into the tail
of the Ohio river 
two cloud-making smoke stacks
puff away
a rippled reflection of it all
in the iridescent flow

smell of fried fish
wafts up
from the fast-food joint
across the parking lot
mixes in
with the sweet gasoline 
of exhaust fumes   
rumbling out of tail pipes 

rattle of the cart wheels
across scattered gravel
drowns out voices

oil drips make
pavement-puddle rainbows
after cars pull out   

crickets and frogs
hide the highway noise
once the sun disappears

we chase the runaways 
laugh as they pick up speed
ride them
when the bosses aren’t looking

Ma’am, I’ll take that.

Jason Melvin is a father, husband, grandfather, high school soccer coach, and metals processing center supervisor, who lives just outside of Pittsburgh. 

Corner of the Eye

Like the candles lit,
by strangers at Easter
in homemade gowns.
Once they’re secluded,
they point their fingers
at their recent culprit.
That same day
they taught how
to steal the Mona Lisa.

Michael Igoe, instructor at Boston University’s Psych Rehab Center. City boy, neurodiverse, Chicago now Boston. Numerous works appear in online and print journals. Twitter: MichaelIgoe5. Erstwhile scholar, Tai Chi student. Urban Realism, Surrealism. I like the night.

A Piece Retrievable

                                  Election Night 2020

I’ve used these thousand poems as a record:
not the whole of any life, yet each
a piece retrievable, a broken funhouse
mirror shard that cuts unless it’s fingered

gently. Chicken flautas in the oven,
lettuce crisping in the fridge. A fifth
of whiskey on the counter, shadow long
as any bishop’s on a chessboard. Check

for brownness, reads a frozen-pizza box
in the recycling bin. My wife has gone
to bed, swing states a lullaby, a hammock

on a restive night. Outside the sliding
door, an ocean’s swallowed all the world:
the kitchen hardwood sways beneath my feet.

Thomas Zimmerman teaches English and directs the Writing Center at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has taught English at the high school or college level since the 1980s and has edited The Big Windows Review, https://thebigwindowsreview.com, since 2011. Tom’s website: https://thomaszimmerman.wordpress.com.


in the margin between the sun and moon
spending so much time wiping the drip 
                                                     drops of others

how you wonder … when you will let yourself

in the sun saturating
          of you
   blues and purples


into the muddy sky because you have the  l o n g e v i t y 


tell the opaque spaces you are unavailable
light is calling and you must get home 

                  it is getting late

you have to make it back for the moon to
pinch your shoulder blades reminding you 
it is real
this luminescence of yours  

back and       forth 
          back            with force
jesting with the sun  
                             and moon

Paris Jessie (they/she) is a black, queer writer and budding creative. She is a moon enthusiast rooted in peculiarities. Find more at iamparisjessie.com.