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RAVEN- Issue Eight (09/06/2020)

Image Source: Jason Sebastian Russo

#visualart #drawing #abstract #jasonsebastianrusso

Tree of Blood

Written by Jason Sebastian Russo

(Listen to this poem's audio HERE ON SOUNDCLOUD!)

this arm an old lady’s arm a crone’s arm why is it

attached to me

why is it wrapped

in this tourniquet

reaching out to type

right before

I conjure that perfect little

tree of red

blood that perfect

red bloom so terrifying

& finally so quiet

Author bio: Jason Sebastian Russo is a writer, composer, musician, and digital marketer based in Brooklyn. He's recorded and toured with bands that include Mercury Rev, Kevin Devine, Hopewell, Pete International Airport, Nicole Atkins, and Guiding Light, which releases a new album in January 2021. He’s also working on a novel and currently exploring forms that combine poetry, music, and technology, as well as scoring podcasts for the New York Times and others.


One More Moondance, My Love

Written by Kimberly Ray

A cool October evening presented itself in front of us,

the full moon in the sky hovered above, and the tension

between us lent itself to lyrics that resonated to every 

following Autumn. 'Can I just have one more Moondance 

with you, my love?' you sang as we walked arm in arm. It

was our first song, my first song sung to me. And to this 

day, the smile, the tone of your voice, the way you 

captured me, still sends shivers right through me.

From the first taps of the piano to the trumpet blaring

three-quarters of the way through, it all sends me back

to you. I halt everything to remember your voice, your smile,

to be wrapped in a moment with you once again.

Author bio: Kimberly Ray, a Virginia native, is the author of the poetry series Coffee Shop Sessions (2018, 2020). She has been published in Clay Literary, 3 Moon Magazine, and Teen Belle Magazine.  Her work primarily delves into the intricacies of relationships and the complex nature of discovery, attainment, and loss. Her poetry has been identified as a "working out the desires and interior of one’s heart." 


Nowhere, 4 AM

Written by Daniel Southwell

Sometimes, just before dawn, the truck stop felt like the emptiest place in the world.

Most nights that’s when she turned the radio off, because after that many hours alone it became clear that every song was a lie. Usually she mopped something. Putting breakfast items on the roller grill seemed futile. It felt certain that no living being would ever stop there again.

  Sometimes she looked out at the lot, at the sleeper cabs parked and silent, just to remember there were men alive out there in their Kenworths and Macs and Peterbuilts, men who in just an hour or two would lumber in for coffee and tinfoil biscuit sandwiches and pop-packs of little white pills. And talking. The truckers stored up days’ worth of talking, nights worth of restless thoughts, and when they saw a person they let it all loose. But at 4:00 AM she couldn’t imagine what in the world there was to talk about except:

-ranks of Dr. Peppers turned to all face forward

-ice scrapers with extendable telescoping arms

-John Grisham audiobooks in a plastic spinning rack

-lotto tickets

-Camels, Kools, and Marlboros

-Men’s Health (untouched) and Maxim (sold out)

-sharpie scribbled over the bathroom graffiti

-floor tiles in a dark gray/light gray checkerboard pattern

-flickering lights above the gas pumps


She stepped outside. It was cold. She was glad the car lot was empty. All the bad shit happened in the car lot. Drugs and revolvers and impromptu parties. The truck lot was more in tune with the disembodied peace of the non-world. She walked around the building and counted ten sleeper cars in the dark, humming to heat themselves.

She walked among them all the way out to the chain link fence on the edge of the asphalt. Trash was blown up against it and threaded into its wires. She stood there for a long time holding onto the fence and looking at the bare windblown hill behind it as though it was something special.

It wasn’t special.

She heard bikes coming down the freeway and headed back because she knew they would stop. Everybody stopped, just to remind themselves that human civilization existed. By the time she got back, they were gassing up. She went inside and fired up the register. The bikers wandered the truck stop with their leather chaps squeaking. Everybody wandered before they paid. They hadn’t seen anything in a few hundred miles and they needed to pretend they’d arrived somewhere, even though they were nowhere.

They loaded up on:



-20W-50 synthetic motor oil



Two of the bikers sat on stools by the door to eat their Tornados but the youngest one leaned on the counter and took some time ordering a lottery ticket. He scratched it in front of her and grinned when he won $2.

Come with me, he said, when he took back two of the three dollar bills he’d paid for the ticket. I’ve just come into some money. I’ve got room on the back of that hog. Nothing but open highway all the way to Chicago.

It had been the last tightly curled ticket on the roll. She opened the compartment and set a new roll in place.

Sorry, he said. You probably hear that all the time.

She was quiet, thinking about the things she still needed to do before the truckers woke up:

-put breakfast sandwiches in the heating rack

-check the showers

-boot up the load board

-look in the mirror and remind herself to believe she existed

Long night? he asked.

She shrugged.

Sorry, he said. It’s been a long ride.

Yeah, she said.

You hear that a lot.

Yeah. He had his $2 but he didn’t leave. Nobody left right away, not when it was so dark out.

I bet you hear some good stories. You remember any good stories?

Not really, she said. They all start to run together.

I bet. Working here must be nice. Just chill and quiet.

I guess, she said. She couldn’t remember how long they’d been talking.

You get out on the road for so long, you start to want to talk to people.

I know, she said.

I bet working here is the same way. Always wanting a good conversation.

It wasn’t, but she didn’t know what to say. She wanted to be in a crowded place where she could be sure the world was real, but where she didn’t have to talk to each person.

He moved over to the breakfast counter just a few yards away and sat in one of the stools. He turned the next stool with his foot like he wanted her to sit in it, but she stayed by the register.

I’ll talk, he said. You can listen. If you want to.

Sure, she said.

Where are you from? he asked.

I thought you were going to talk, she said.

He laughed. Alright. I’m from Washington State. You know where Walla Walla is?

Yeah, she said.

I’m from near there. I just sold my house though. I joined these guys around Spokane. I was working at a feed store and one day I said, fuck it, and walked out.

Yeah? she said.

Great feeling, he said. I bought a bike. You ever ride?

A long time ago, she said.

I half thought I’d ride till I got to somewhere like this, then ask for a job, and just stop wherever that happened to be.


But I gave that idea up as soon as I walked in here. He looked around the truck stop. As soon as he was quiet they both noticed the humming of the lights. You ever think about doing what I did? he asked. Just walking the fuck out?

She shrugged.

I mean, do you even know what day it is?

It’s Wednesday the 10th, at 4:16 AM, she said.

Wow, he said. I think I’d lose track.

That’s the only thing I know for sure, she said. Five minutes after you leave I’ll have to check the security tapes to see if you were real.

Damn, he said.


She left the counter and started running fresh pots of coffee in each of the tall stainless percolators. Breakfast blend, house blend, Columbian, HIGH VOLTT – all brewed from the same bag of generic brand.

Come with me, he said, we’ll have some fun. This isn’t a real place. It’s just somewhere between places.

I know, she said.

So come.

I would, she said. But those truckers need coffee.

Come on, he said. He walked to the racks of black riding leathers and shifted them around. I’ll buy you a set, he said. You put the money in the register and then shut everything down and jump on behind me all the way to the end up the highway.

She turned around. It sounds great, she said. One of the coffees started gurgling. But what did your kids do when you sold the house?

They were at their mom’s he said.

Figured. You at least give them any of the money from the house?

He was quiet. Everyone ended up quiet before they left, for one reason or another, pre-echoing the quiet of the road ahead of them. Then he hitched up his new riding chaps and walked back out to his bike. The door rang as it closed.

After the sound of their bikes was gone, she went out back, behind the shower house, and lifted the tarp over her old Road King. She looked at it for a long time. Wind howled across the prairie. The truck stop sign turned in slow circles on its tall tall pole. She thought about hitting the road. She thought about checking the security video to see if he’d been real.

Sometimes, just before dawn, the truck stop felt like the emptiest place in the world.

Author bio: Daniel Southwell is a freelance writer and former farmhand, roofer, roughneck, roustabout, and surveyor. He lives in Lancaster, PA with his wife and two children. He likes quesadillas and the Detroit Tigers.



Written by Ruth Taaffe

He toes the wire which sways like a hammock

outstretches his knotted arms of rope.

Ears ringed gold as a sailor of air.

His back and chest inked by compass,

star. Fixing his eye low on the horizon

where he’ll land in time with our ovation

he climbs the unicycle, inches backwards

slowly unwalking the plank.

We buoy him up with our applause

become his crew, his wave and tide,

life vest of his triumph. And he ours.

Four clubs fly like seagulls

mobbing a fish or words trying to land

on a line. Each catch sharpens our awe.

Then he’s passed a fifth on fire!

We stow the clapping, trade in calm.

For this moment we anchor him

with our belief as the solo drumbeats start.

He catches in time, leaps to land

and signs a charter of hope on our hearts.

Author bio: Ruth Taaffe is from Manchester, UK, and currently lives and works in Singapore as an English teacher. She is taking a Masters degree in Creative Writing with Lancaster University. Some of her poems have been published in the online journals Creative Writing Ink, The Poetry Village, Allegroand in print and in print in Acumenand Poetry Birmingham.


Who Are the Heroes?

Written by Jason de Koff

The flame started small, but the embers grew, heating the air, tempering the future, catching the diaspora of homeless, as they sheltered in place, there are no lines to cross here, not anymore.

The wasteland of forgotten heroes, of triumphs gone stale, envelops the high towers, with ideals no more lofty, than the shifting sands beneath, lacking the understanding, that they lacked the answers, finding instead solutions, to all the wrong problems, the survivors now grind their bones, as they roam the forever.

Author bio: Jason de Koff is an associate professor of agronomy and soil science at Tennessee State University.  He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife, Jaclyn, and his two daughters, Tegan and Maizie.  He has published in a number of scientific journals, and recently has had poetry accepted in other literary journals for the first time. 

#poetry #shortstories # danielsouthwell #ruthtaaffe #jasonsebastianruffo #jasondekoff #kimberlyray #ClayLiterary #RAVEN #litmag

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