Monday, August 14, 2017

Sara Tantlinger


26 Shabolovka Street
patrons arrive, waiting
not knowing my changed name
and the Red Army I left behind
but I carry rubies in my head
red, red, always red

customer wants to buy a horse,
wants to get to know me
lonely eyes easy to find
in these days of newly approved
private enterprise

the vodka is rarely refused
but always ready and offered freely
except for the price of rubies in my head,
my hammer raining down
their throats slit
red, red, always red

the swollen beetle-black
bags of corpses float down the river
and I am called the Wolf of Moscow
but Sophia doesn’t mind the howling—
my dear wife, my little helping sheep
does not have lonely eyes
but she is still easy to find
handing me the hammer
understanding crimson needs

understanding that murder
is an awfully easy job,
but the pattern bleeds out
and the wolf leaves prints
in the dirt for two years
no more private enterprise

and the last of lonely eyes
is the last time this wolf sees Moscow
sees Sophia next to me
the firing squad all lined up
waiting to complete
an awfully easy job
red, red, always red

Gerald So reads "The Wolf of Moscow":

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Sara confesses: "I was reading so-called last phrases by serial killers (for research purposes, of course), and Vasili Komaroff’s was that he described murder as 'an awfully easy job.' That, along with him being known as “The Wolf of Moscow,” inspired the poem. I couldn’t resist borrowing those bloody details!"

SARA TANTLINGER resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. She is the author of Love For Slaughter and has published pieces with Page & Spine, The Literary Hatchet, and the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume II. Find her on Twitter @SaraJane524.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Michael A. Arnzen


Crimes blur together till I am the crime, till I am the blur—
Standing behind the evidence room, breathing heavy.
I am the sin collector hefting my black duffel bag full of guilt.

Scraping and dusting and plucking hairs—
It is a fetish, this investigation of clues.
Containers and bags and boxes lick sealed with my spit.

I can no longer separate you from my workplace torment.
Case after case, I am quivering above alternative chalk outlines,
Shooting your death pics.

Mike reads "C.S.I.: My Psyche":

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Mike confesses: "I was just musing over the way the CSI TV series uses locations in their titles when the title for this one occurred to me (I think it sounds like "Miami" anyway). The series spin offs do this thing with location that is relatively uncreative (in my opinion) just to bank on the formula, and so I'd hoped that by shifting the setting to psychological ground and playing around with the letters C S I (the letters lead off every line, in case you missed that) I might discover something else going on behind it all. The piece ended up becoming a character study to reveal the dark side that we all have, even those who obsessively fetishize objective reality and try to shine light on it all. I think that's usually my approach to crime poetry: to turn rocks over to see what is lurking unseen behind the surface... particularly those rocks we've become so accustomed to—like TV show formulas and the motives of an investigator who relies more on laboratory work than an investigation into the human mind."

MICHAEL A. ARNZEN ( recently appeared in The Year's Best Hardcore Horror (Comet Press, 2017) with his catalog of morbid fantasies, "55 Ways I'd Prefer Not to Die." A recording of "Vampire Stories: Live from Transylvania" has also been published to Arnzen holds four Bram Stoker Awards for his dark fiction and poetry. He teaches full-time in the MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University, near Pittsburgh, PA.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Jeff Bagato


Mother Nature steals
back something for the wind
when she blows your tire
with a dropped nail

a hurricane steals a drugstore
roof and a couple hundred
condoms, roughs up the place
so no one will know what’s missing

the rain has stolen your sunny day

Devil’s Lake wants that whole town
in North Dakota to get out with
their hands up

like a loan shark it has organized
a billion drops of rain
to grab the real estate and hold on
for a higher price

meanwhile, the rains
are falling and rivers rise—
lightening strikes and grabs
at an apple orchard,
stepping back, belching

slipping into a grocery, you fill your inner
pockets and retreat, counting
the grab on the way home—
you can’t steal, it’s free, free,
and the rain knows,
the trees know, like the ants
that come in through the window

a lightning fire covers the tracks—
that nothing could be
free is the last law
of man

triumphant in the hills,
a rabbit gets another

Jeff reads "The Nature of Crime":

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Jeff confesses: "The Gaia hypothesis, Earth First! and paganism inspired the idea that Wild Nature would invert the materialistic values of western civilization. Various fantasy scenarios spring forth, which eventually become a justification for shoplifting necessities like food, part of some lifestyle experiments a while back."

A multi-media artist living near Washington, DC, JEFF BAGATO produces poetry and prose as well as electronic music, glitch video, sticker art, and pop surrealism paintings. Some of his poetry has appeared in Empty Mirror, Futures Trading, In Between Hangovers, Otoliths, Your One Phone Call, and Zoomoozophone Review. His published books include Savage Magic (poetry), Cthulhu Limericks (poetry), The Toothpick Fairy (fiction), and Dishwasher on Mars (fiction). A blog about his writing and publishing efforts can be found at

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tracey Ikerd


Neutral ports full of spies, Lisbon lay in wait
for this naive merchant of the sea.
Baixa, city of refuge,
how Tagus' smile greeted me,
and washed me in its blissful tide.
Like Sebastian so young and green. I longed
to herald my country's fame.
An agent in the doubles game.
I wanted that - I wanted more.

I fished along the alehouse shore
for my sweet Karin, but met instead
an Abwehr who favoured my dilemma.
For a little intel he would pass to her my letter.
The truth he asked I did not know
so I sold him what sounded better.
Little did I know his honey trap was set.
And I caught deep in blackmails slanderous web,
coercion most foul.
A convoy of secrets I betrayed.

Like Jonah, under storm cloud eyes
I sat upon the swell.
Espionage adrift.
As regents swarmed down tainted wires,
racing to England’s sunny shore.
Kedge anchor dropped its chain pulling
me towards my fate.
If only Garcia had sheltered me under
his double agent’s wing.
In secret I was met, feeding
false intel was declined. My value
would be better met as scapegoat for the rest.

Eighteen pounds paid for my noose.
They'll hang this lesson
from the dock.
The price of treason
for all to see.

Gerald So reads "The Downfall of Duncan Scott-Ford":

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Tracey confesses: "This poem was inspired by the true events of Duncan Scott-Ford who was from my hometown, Plymouth. Through Duncan's persona, I wanted to portray an alternate point of view, one that shows his naivety, and that if British intelligence officers had used him as a spy his outcome would have been different."

TRACEY IKERD is a mother of two wonderful daughters and a granddaughter. After spending her working career in management she took some time off to complete my BA in English Literature and Creative Writing where I am now patiently waiting for my results. She didn't write poetry until her final degree module and this poem is her first attempt at persona poetry.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Best of the Net 2017

Again this year, The Five-Two will enter Sundress Publications' Best of the Net competition. I am allowed to submit six of the poems that appeared here July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. Every poem I publish is my favorite in some way, so I leave it Five-Two readers to determine three of the six picks.

From 10:30 a.m. July 15 to 10:30 a.m. July 21, the five poems below received the highest combined number of blog comments, Twitter retweets, and Twitter likes. Three tied for third place, so I extended readers' say to five picks and made one of my own:

Thanks, everyone, for participating. Congratulations and good luck to the poets.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Karen Petersen


Dead male body in hotel room
age 23, overdose
with yesterday's tan.
Cheerful coroner,
little black bag,
"This one’s easy."
Hot sun melting
the weeping needle
Parking lot tar,
footprint by the door
the last evidence of life.
This kid was no one
but he had a past,
and dreams
The ticking clock...
all gone by the stillness of noon.

Karen reads "Persona":

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Karen confesses: "This poem was written when I read a small AP news item on the increase in drug overdoses in Miami, and I thought of all those young people whose lives were now over, and forgotten."

KAREN PETERSEN, adventurer, photojournalist and writer, has traveled the world extensively, publishing both nationally and internationally in a variety of publications. Most recently, she was published in The Malpais Review and Antiphon. In 2015, she read "In Memory of W.B. Yeats" at the Yeats Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is currently at work on Four Points on a Compass, a collection of her poems from overseas. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Classics from Vassar College and an M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Tonia Kalouria


Smart, dimpled, and graceful,
tall, handsome Kareem
shouts the FED EX’s message:
"MOM! I made the team."

Those plans made for law school
they now would abort,
for the future's a slam-dunk
when sneaks rock a court.

Proud Mom, nascent PRO,
– who both work without lull–
are so happy and giddy
they break for the Mall.

They giggle through colas,
and curled- ketsuped-fries.
"Now, let’s buy fancy sneakers!"
popped out Mom’s surprise.

"Those Airs you’ve been wanting,
–we couldn’t afford–
well, I’m proud of you, son!
They’re a fitting reward!"

Back home–in new sneaks–
Kareem heads for the park.
Shouting, "Don’t worry, Mom!"
"I’ll be home before dark."

He was walking on air;
life was nothing but net.
"I wonder what jersey...
which number I’ll get?"

While jumping and shooting,
his brain swirled and sang,
but with thoughts in the clouds,
he did not see... The Gang.

Bruised, broken, and bleeding,
Mom’s hero so sweet
on the Gang’s turf lay dying–
no shoes on his feet.

Thus, darkness struck early;
Mom’s heart skips a beat
as she I.D.’s her baby
beneath the white sheet.

Rosa's game plan each week's
now a trip long and hard:
Two subways, three bus rides,
one lonely graveyard.

Grieving Mom, supine pro,
still a team; both alone.
And her son's assigned numbers...
They're now etched in stone.

Tonia reads "LeBron Airs":

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Tonia confesses: "Unfortunately, violence over costly sneakers is not fiction, and not rare. They are a status symbol to be had at all cost by some young men. And some pay dearly."

TONIA KALOURIA is a retired Spanish teacher who played psychiatrist Tonia Wilson on Passions from 2002 to 2007. Her book, Aerobic Poetry: Critter Connections Collection, features humorous, rhythmic poems meant to be read aloud to help lower blood pressure and improve lung function. She has also published poetry in The Litchfield Review, Common Threads, and The Senior Years. She lives with her devoted husband of many years on the West Coast and has two wonderful sons and a lovely granddaughter.