Mock Turtle Zine is a local, independent literary and arts publication supporting Miami Valley creatives. This zine is a collective effort that relies not only on contributors
for content but also on a talented group of volunteers that review, edit, format, print, and distribute the zine.

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Matthew Birdsall
Associate Editor
Fred Kirchner
Digital Editor
Robert ‘Scars’ Hernandez
Assistant Editor
Donald Weaver
Art Director
Melissa Bautista
Christina Dendy Gaspar

Copies of Issue 18 are currently available at the following locations:
Ghostlight Coffee
Dino’s Coffee
Spirited Goat Coffee House
Yellow Springs Brewery

Issue 18 is up on this site. Enjoy!

(this website is a work in progress)

A Tribute to Conrad Balliet (1927 – 2018)

David Lee Garrison

Conrad Balliet read poems on his WYSO (Yellow Springs) radio program, “Conrad’s Corner,” for twenty-five years. A retired English professor and Yeats scholar, he died recently at the age of 91. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Conrad was the dean of poetry in the greater Dayton area. He knew all the poets and supported their work. He came to readings, he hosted the Tower Poetry Group at his home, and above all, he read local poets along with the famous ones on his show, which will always be called Conrad’s Corner.

There are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of poets and wannabe poets in America. Conrad Balliet was not one of them. He was a reader. He read poetry because he loved it, and through his presentations on WYSO he inspired thousands of other people to read and to love it as well.

The pleasure he took in what he did was infectious, and his open and generous spirit was never more evident than when, at the end of each program, he would chortle his signature line, “Thanks for listening!”

Now it is our privilege to say to Conrad, “Thanks for reading! Thanks for your support! Thanks for everything!”

String Theories

Bill Abbott

You pull the string and the whole reality

Where is the science behind
A butterfly’s wings,
A meerkat’s leer,
An elephant’s picnic,
A snide stride down the staring contest
with a slothful skink?

Why does a pulled thread have to reveal
That the world is held together
By duct tape, fishing wire, wishes on stars,
Spit, bondo, and glue?

Why can’t society drop anchor
On a stability and kindness and
That would hold up to some string pulling?

And if it’s all so loosely bound, why not
Just pull all the strings at once
And see where we land?

Almanac Entry #218

Janet E. Irvin

Two days of cloudy skies and sporadic rain, then
the sun returns, sends a beam across the back yard,
fires the geraniums squatting next
to the blistered Charleston bench. Still cool,
low 60’s at 7 a.m. The early morning dip
a predictable lull before the dog day begins.
In the garden, asters stretch knee-high, the dogwood
sets spring blooms, petunias and begonias burn
calendar-bright. It is August 6, the day the United States
dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, welding
mankind to fire and fury, to rage and ash.
On my knees, weeding, I am caught in a firestorm.
As a child, I learned to hide beneath my desk,
to shelter if the sirens blew, to spy mushroom clouds
blooming in the sky-blue air. Now, as summer blazes
across the land, beauty erupts in black-eyed Susans.
The scarlet cardinal flashes. Terrible beauty
and beautiful terror, radiant as flame, sear the day.
It is August 6, too late to hide, too hot to pray.

Double Vision

Kathy B. Austin

One day I awaken
to a room that is doubled,
the bed, the pictures on the wall
all side by side.

I fix two cups of tea,
and two pairs of feet carry me
to the living room
where I look out
at a doubled world
from two windows.

Who knows what is real,
I ask idly as I sip beside myself
on the green sofas,
one sofa silently sliding
through the door.

Collateral Damage

Betsy Hughes

Driftnets stretching, reaching wide and deep,
gather mammals in expansive swoops.
Sharks and dolphins thrashing in upsweep
are tangled, maimed, and choked by lines and loops.
When brought aboard, they are discarded, tossed.
Rare turtles and endangered species bleed
their red into the blue, forever lost,
the brutal bycatch of commercial greed.
Along the California coast, the quest
for swordfish casts a web of wanton waste.
This trawling practice snatches all the rest,
drags living beings in haphazard haste.
When fisheries fling forth their walls of death,
sea creatures large and small must gasp for breath.


Ben Fitts

Ted scraped the dirt and sand off his spurred boots, tugged the wide brim of Stetson to keep the sun out of his eyes and walked up the rickety wooden stairs to the brothel.

He was nervous. He had never been to one of those kind of places before, but enough men he’d meet on the trails swore by them and enough cold, lonely nights in tents and rented beds finally broke him. Climbing the last of the steps, he pushed the front door open and trudged into a dimly lit room.

A heavy set middle aged woman beamed at him from a stuffed armchair.

“Hello, sir,” she exclaimed, her voice disarmingly elegant and unaccented for a small,
western, oil town such as this. “Are you here purchase some pleasure for the evening?”

Ted scratched the back of his neck uncomfortably. “Yes,” he said, taking the leap. “Yes I am.”

“Excellent,” said the woman, her smile revealing large, yellowing teeth. “That’ll be ten dollars, fifteen if you were hoping to spend the night.”

Trying not to show his shock at the price, Ted dug a trio of five-dollar bills of his dirty jeans. He was just passing through this town and had nowhere else to stay.

The portrait of late union general George Henry Thomas regarded him solemnly as the money changed hands and vanished in the folds of the madame’s long dress.

“Ms. Sally is free at the moment. I think she’ll like you,” she said handing him a key, her smile never wavering. “Third door on the left when you go upstairs. Please knock before ya enter.”

“You lock the girls in their rooms?” asked Ted, aghast.

“Goodness, no!” exclaimed the madame. “They can undo the lock from inside and leave whenever they wish. The locks ain’t to keep the girls in, they’re to keep any unwanted fellers out.”

Not sure what to say to that, Ted tipped his Stetson to the madame and headed up the stairs.

When he reached the third door on the left, Ted knocked as instructed. “Ms. Sally?” he asked, his palms sweating.

“Come in,” said a woman’s voice on the other side. Her voice was cool and sweet, with just the right amount of weathered roughness.

His fingers trembling slightly, Ted buried the brass key into the keyhole. The lock clicked on the third time he tried turning the key, and he gently swung the door open and walked in.

“Hey there, sugar,” said Sally, laying sprawled on the bed. “It’s always nice when Madame Johnston sending me a looker like yourself.”

Ted felt his blood boil in his ears. His cheeks flushed and his knees grew numb.

Sally was absolutely gorgeous. Thick, blonde curls hung down to her milky bare shoulders, exposed by the thin nightgown she was draped in.

He drifted towards her, feeling like a phantom in a dream. She locked onto him with cold, blue eyes.
“What do you want me to do to ya, sugar?” she cued.

“Everything,” gasped, the word spilling from his mouth like air from a tire.

Sally smiled at him.

“I was hoping you’d say that.”

She rose from the bed and strode across the little room to an oak shelf, from which she pulled a thick, red book. Ted stared at it dumbly. He had never learned how to read and was aware that he did not entirely understand the nature of books, but he was pretty certain that they had no tangible use in the bedroom.

Sally opened the book to its beginning, and began combing her lanky, index finger down the page. He watched her a moment, feeling the situation below his belt reluctantly calm down, then asked, “What’s that book?”

“It’s a Webster’s Dictionary, 1828 Edition. A bit out of date now, but it’s the only one I got. Used to be my mama’s.”

Ted was surprised to realize that he actually knew what a dictionary was.

“But what do you need it for?” he asked.

“Everything is a lot for a girl to remember off the top of her head, so it helps to have one of these things around for when gentlemen like you come along.”

The meaning of her words then dawned on him.

“You’re going to do every word in the dictionary to me?”

“Only the verbs. I’m not sure how exactly I would go around aardvarking you. When a fella asks for everything, I open this dictionary up at page one, do the first verb I come across then keep reading on down the page until I come across the next one, then do that to him and so on.”

“Oh,” said Ted, scratching the back of his neck. “When I said everything, I meant more…”

Sally grabbed him by his collar, catching him off balance and sending him tumbling onto the lumpy mattress. She landed on top of him, her pale face less an inch away from his.

This close, her face was a sweet, bulbous thing that filled his entire vision and distorted before his gaze. He could feel her breathing against his chest and the bitter odors of her breath and sweat washed over him. It had been a long time since he had held anyone this

“No,” she whispered to him, “I know what you think you meant, but I also know what you really meant. I know what all them boys really mean when they come into my room asking me to do everything to them. When you said you wanted me to do everything to you, what you really meant was everything. That’s what you really want in your heart of hearts, every little thing
imaginable from me. Am I right?”

“Yes,” he sighed.

She leaned in even closer, the warm corners of his flesh sliding against his. Ted puckered his lips in anticipation, barely even registering the cool metal wrapping itself around his wrist or the soft click that followed. Just as Ted began to feel the ghost of her lips upon his own, she withdrew from him completely, jerking back and rising out of the bed.

Ted reached out but found himself tethered to the heavy, double bed by a handcuff around his right wrist. He grasped for her again, but Sally was out of reach. A pitiful sense of bereavement flooded him, its waves icy cold.

Without another word, Sally walked straight out the door, leaving him alone and trapped.

Ted lay there for hours, alternating between feeling scared, angry and lonely. He wondered if she would ever return. He wondered if he was about to robbed, murdered, or simply left until he rotted away all on his own.

Eventually Sally returned, cheerfully strolling through the doorway with that same mischievous smile on her face that she wore earlier.

“What was that all about?” Ted demanded, ignoring his parched throat.

“Just doing what you wanted, sugar.”

“Like hell you were! I didn’t…”

Sally shushed him, and Ted was surprised to find himself comply.

She lifted the big, red dictionary and traced his index finger down it’s opening page.

“Abandon,” she read aloud. “Verb, transitive. To forsake or relinquish entirely.”

She turned to regard him again with her icy eyes.

“Honey, I told you this is what you wanted. You wanted me to do everything to you. The good and the bad. Being abandoned maybe wasn’t much fun while it was happening, but wasn’t it its own kinda sweetness when I came back and it was over?”

Ted had to admit it was.

Sally traced her finger down the page a little further, but not much. “Now, I’m going to abase you, sugar.”

And abase him she did, hurling cruel and disarmingly astute criticisms at him. She insulted his character, his intelligence and his body. His masculinity, his genitalia and his life decisions all came under the fire of her hateful words. When the barrage was finally over, the absence of her insults hanging in the air was a beauty so intense that Ted felt drawn closer to tears than by anything Sally had told him.

After abasing him she moved onto abashing him, which in practice, was a rather similar experience but with its own distinctive twist. Sally proceeded to run her finger down the pages of her thick dictionary, acting out each new verb onto Ted as they arrived at it.

She suggested he get up and stroll down the hall to stretch his legs. On his return to her room she leapt out at him from a shadow and pinned a thin blade
to his throat, ambushing him. She dug that same knife
into the bare flesh on his back, bisecting him with a fluid
stroke of the blade, but not killing or splitting him. She
stroked his curly, knotted hair and whispered syrupy
words into his ear, cherishing him as he had never been
cherished before.

And so they progressed their way through the alphabet, Sally enacted every verb she came across in the dictionary onto Ted’s complying person. As the pair worked their way through the letter F, he finally got to feel himself inside of her when they arrived on the word “fuck”, the only activity they engaged in that he had actually anticipated beforehand.

The word itself was too vulgar to be included in The Webster’s Dictionary but Sally remembered its existence on her own, fucking him right after she set a contained fire in the middle of the room, pulled Ted’s pants down and held him over it, frying his exposed buttocks.

After they finished fucking, they continued to next verb in the dictionary and Sally fuddled him with some tough brain teasers. In the scope of everything, fucking was nothing special, even for a prostitute.

She yanked open the fresh wound she had inflicted on his back, lapping at the spilling blood with her tongue, guzzling him. She pressed a pillow over his mouth, muffling him as he gasped for air. She bowed and prayed to him and made small offerings of trinkets, worshipping him.

Finally, and a bit anticlimactically, Sally divided his body into different sections with an ink nub, zoning him. She shut the dictionary with a loud smack and set it on top of her dresser.

Ted lay back on the bed, gasping and spent. He was covered in blood, burns, sweat, ink and other fluids whose nature he was not entirely sure of. His body ached, it stung, it howled.

He was completely satisfied.

She had done everything in the English language to him. Ted could speak no other, so there were no verbs left that he knew. In a horrible moment of clarity, Ted realized that there was nothing left for him. Sally had done everything to him.

There was no experience remaining. Nothing that would be completely new if it were to happen to him.

Nothing left to really live for.

“So that’s it?” he asked meekly as she collapsed beside him on the bed. She was as exhausted as he was. Ted had just experienced everything, but Sally was the one who had actually done it all.

“There’s nothing left?”

“Well,” said Sally, catching her breath, “there is one thing left.”

Ted perked up immediately. “There is?”

Sally nodded. She rose from the bed and walked towards her dresser, pulling open a drawer.

“It’s the one thing that I couldn’t do when we arrived on it alphabetically,” she said. “It would have made it impossible to finish all the other things left to do. But we can do it now that they’re all done.”

She withdrew a Colt revolver from the drawer and fed a bullet into its spinning chamber. She strode back to Ted and rested the loaded barrel against his temple.

“I skipped over killing you,” she whispered.

The happiest tears of his life leaked from Ted’s eyes.

Here it was, the last sensation left for him to experience, done to him by the most beautiful woman he’d ever known.

Death itself.

Ted smiled as Sally pulled the trigger.


Maureen Fry

Wind bites, sucks my breath. I make my way
over barren fields crusted with ice, snow
bones buried deep in the furrows,
a maelstrom of leaves in the sky’s gray
paw. To the woods: silent, still. As day
shifts to monochrome, shadow on shadow,
I lose myself; the world’s mad spinning slows.
At the frozen creek, the sun’s last rays
fall keening through the trees. Now, a spark
of white, movement—a dying buck. Crown
of antlers, wild staring eye; overhead,
a red-tail screaming. At this dark
year’s long end, I slip into my nightgown
and wait for the turn, cold in my bed.

Grief at the Window

Kathy B. Austin

Grief stands at the window.
She is a little girl.
You don’t know her.
She does not look like you,
darker skin and hair,
perhaps Hispanic or Romanian,
a refugee from pain.
She has hidden herself
in your DNA for generations.
You have carried her
to school, to work, sat with her
watching TV.
Now she stares silently
out your bedroom window.
You watch her, amazed,
wanting to comfort her,
not knowing how,
and suddenly she is gone,
that is, you can’t see her,
but she will always be with you,
carried along carefully,
the child that she is,
within you.

The Weed-Filled Path

Anna Cates

What lies at the end of the weed-filled path?
Autumn has come and the sun is missing.
Wild oats, wild grapes, or the grapes of wrath—
What lies at the end of the weed-filled path?
The end of days and all its aftermath—
Some surmise a bog with bullfrogs ever croaking.
What lies at the end of the weed-filled path?
Winter has come and the moon is missing.


Arthur A. Molitierno

I am in the parking lot
I press the keyless entry
Every horn goes off
Everyone comes running
Everyone gets into my car
They come home with me
It is not crowded
In my driveway
I press the keyless garage door opener
Everyone presses theirs with me
Every garage door opens
They all close behind me
Everyone is happy that I am home
We are all the same family
There are no distant relatives
I answer the phone
It is not a telemarketer
It is my best friends
Everywhere the same conversation
The same voices
We all speak the same tongues
I communicate across continents
Everyone understands me
I ask, “How are you?”
They answer, “We are all fine”
I promise to call back
I turn on the television
Everywhere the same news broadcast
“No one died today
Details to follow
Now for our feature presentation
Without commercials”
I am on every channel
I am the silver screen
Everyone loves me
I do not need makeup
My lighting is perfect
Each side of my face is camera ready
I have no moles
My nose is not too long
Wide, pointed, or crooked
My ears are the proper width
I offend no one by being different
I am interviewed late at night
I am neither man nor woman
A particular color nor ethnic identity
I desire no particular sexual preference
Nor am I disabled
I go to everyone’s church
Am everywhere blessed
Equally from pulpit and pew
My patriotism is unquestioned
I have no credit cards
I owe no one and no one owes me
I do not need to save coupons
I show no difference of opinion
I am the same to everyone
I see who is watching me
They too are we
We are one
They and I are all we
We are all equally entitled
We vote in the same booth
I go to sleep
In my dreams
I walk with the dead
And they with me
We are not in an asylum of resentment
I awaken to my dead parents’ faces
I see them for the first time
Smiling before and as I was born
I hear their voices
I am smothered by their embraces
Their hearts pulse in my hands
Their laughter awakens me
The next day
I again wake to find
They are also dreaming of me

Dorothea Fisher (1916-2006)

Ashley Moor

I was born
I was raised in a place
with no name
but I can still find it on a map.
The first words I wrote
as a child
were of Dorothea’s
funeral procession
and the brown linoleum
on her kitchen floor.
Now, I can’t seem to remember
her hands.
She grew up slow,
sifting the dirt with her hands.
Time moved against her
so gently.
Dorothea wasn’t scared
of the wind.
Dorothea died
two months before her 90th birthday.
I shut my eyes and smell
the rain from her front porch.
I close my eyes
to feel the open windows
of my childhood.
I remember buying ice cream
on the first day of Spring
at the cafe close by.
Why do we run from
what we know?
I want to find
all of the years
I misplaced under my fingernails.
I want to see
Dorothea standing in the kitchen.
I want to see
my mother happy.
lay dormant as death
but I have faith
that they find us
face down in the debt we owe—
dark, dim,
hungry for summer.
I believe in the reincarnation
of Dorothea
because I have found myself again
in her ghost.
I found the South
embedded in the spine
and scripture of poetry,
back porches,
pink houses,
love on an acre of bones.
I stay up late
to write myself into the arms
of an existence like the one
of Dorothea.

On a Visit to Pittsburgh

Anne Randolph

I meet, after years of separation,
my best friend from childhood at a museum.
Brown bangs threaded with silver,
she wears a hot pink scarf, lights up
the grey day, dark eyes sparkling.
Our words become shovels,
unearthing children’s lives,
the wedding this summer at a winery,
50th high school reunions we aren’t
attending, her mother’s health.
Words fly like flocks of doves
crossing mountains in a painting.
But then I start to sink as if in a fog,
embarrassed I don’t remember her wedding when
she begins to outline her 40th anniversary
trip to Alaska. I remember only the face
of her father-in-law, but nothing else.
When she looks concerned, I summon
courage, ask if I attended her wedding.
Her face relaxes into a smile.
Yes, she replies, you were there.
I tremble, having discovered
what I never lost.

My Strawberry

Kerry Trautman

I pinch
its leaftop like a cinched
umbrella, twist,
it knows just where to give
way. Boiling freezer jam
roiling red on my father’s
stovetop, pink foam floating,
“Don’t touch.”
The berry tastes of
new-mown grass—
clippings cupped
to confetti above my head.
I remember berries
tried to hide beneath
the leaves, taut skin near
rupture, and hearing stormwater
river through pipes
buried below the beds.
I won’t allow the juice
to stain my fingertips. My
berry’s one small bruise creates
the perfect breath of wine.

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

Herbert Woodward Martin

You felt death roaming among fabled leaves,
among yellow flowers that broke
the flight of your assured breath;
a bee heavy with pollen attached to its rear
tumbling under its weight,
a burden too heavy to be borne.
For bee, bird, man, flying as a seed
means descent is the only way down.
There is nothing in this world
beyond the shotgun positioned
carefully in your mouth.

Artists and Authors

Bill Abbott is the author of Let Them Eat MoonPie, the history of poetry slam in the Southeast. He has been published in Ray’s Road Review, Radius, The November 3rd Club, Flypaper Magazine, and The Sow’s Ear. He lives in Ohio and teaches creative writing at Central State University.

Kathy B. Austin‘s poetry has been included in the anthology, From the Tower and two Wright Memorial Public Library anthologies. Her poems have appeared in The Writing Path I Anthology published by the University of Iowa Press, the online Poppy Road Review, and various local publications such as Mock Turtle Zine and Flights. She has been featured and interviewed on Conrad’s Corner, WYSO 91.3, and enjoys giving poetry readings in the area.

Peter A. Berwald came to Ohio from New England for an Art teaching job at Springboro High School and stayed to make a family. He has also served several successful terms as Commissioner of the Oakwood Whiffle and Ale Club.

Anna Cates is a graduate of Indiana State University (M.A. English and Ph.D. Curriculum & Instruction/English) and National University (M.F.A. Creative Writing). Her first collections of poetry and fiction, The Meaning of Life and The Frog King, were published by Cyberwit Press, and her second poetry collection, The Darkroom, by Prolific Press. She lives in Ohio with her two beautiful kitties and teaches education and English
online, including graduate courses in creative writing.

Ben Fitts is a musician and writer whose stories have been featured in Bizarro Central, Bushwhacker Zine, Silent Motorist Media, The Truth Is Out There, AEA Zine and Weird Mask Zine.

Maureen Fry lives on a 150-acre organic farm/nature preserve in Champaign County. Her poetry has appeared in a number of journals. Her poem, “The Way It Is,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She retired in 2009 from a 30-year career at Wittenberg University, where she was director of the Writing Center and taught a variety of writing courses and seminars.

David Lee Garrison was named Ohio Poet of the Year in 2014 for his book, Playing Bach in the DC Metro, the title poem of which was featured by Poet Laureate Ted Kooser on his website, “American Life in Poetry,” and read on the BBC in London. His latest is Carpeing the Diem: Poems about High School (Dos Madres Press,2017).

Tom Gilliam is an IT professional and photographer. In July 2013, he created the popular Instagram account @daytongram to showcase the Dayton area. Tom is also a freelancer for Dayton.com and created the series, The Buildings of Dayton, in which he photographs and writes about the past, present, and future of historic buildings in the Dayton area. His work has been commissioned by Infiniti of Dayton, and featured at Yellow Cab Tavern’s Sideshow 13.

Betsy Hughes loves to write sonnets. She argues that their disciplines of meter and rhyme scheme are not constraining but liberating because of their inherent qualities of rhythm and sound. She has written two books of sonnets: Breaking Weather (NFSPS Press, 2014) and Bird Notes (Finishing Line Press, 2017). She taught English at the Miami Valley School for thirty years.

Janet E. Irvin is the author of two novels—The Dark End of the Rainbow and The Rules of the Game. Her work has appeared in a variety of print and online journals and magazines, including Flights, Nexus Literary Journal, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. Irvin loves travel, adventure, and chocolate. She and her husband live in Springboro, Ohio, on the edge of a nature park.

Herbert Woodward Martin served as professor of English and poet-in-residence at the University of Dayton for more than three decades where he taught creative writing and African-American literature. He has devoted decades to editing and giving performances of the works of the poet and novelist Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906). He has edited four books and has authored nine volumes of poetry.

Pete Mitas enjoys playing with materials and phrases to create unconventional art, poetry, and stories that surprise and amuse. Much of his work can be viewed at petemitas.wordpress.com.

Arthur A. Molitierno is a retired professor from Wright State University who enjoys playing to the dark side with a large bore euphonium and reading about the hazards of medical practice and gut-wrenching bacteria along with, of course, dark and light matter in and out of the universe.

Ashley Moor is a writer, editor, and daydreamer
originally from Dayton, Ohio, but currently digging her
heels into the teeming streets of Brooklyn, New York.
She has over five years of experience writing for print
and online publications including Elle Magazine, Rookie
Magazine, and Dayton City Paper, covering everything
from travel to culture and lifestyle.

Anne Randolph’s passion is writing in and about nature, as well as land preservation. Her work has been published in The Comstock Review, Mock Turtle Zine, Snowy Egret, Cloudbank, Willow Review and other journals. Her first chapbook, Growing in Light, was recently published by Presa Press.

Kerry Trautman‘s work has appeared previously in Mock Turtle Zine, as well as in various anthologies and journals, including Midwestern Gothic, Alimentum, Paper & Ink, and Free State Review. Her poem “Pixie Cut” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Slippery Elm. Her chapbooks are Things That Come in Boxes (King Craft Press, 2012), To Have Hoped (Finishing Line Press, 2015), and Artifacts (NightBallet Press 2017.)