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A 357 Is Sometimes Better Than Santa Claus by Catfish McDaris

Riding the bus through the hood
everyday to work can try your patience,
I think like a scout, be prepared

2 young ladies blocked the aisle,
with baby carriages preventing 30
vacant seats from being used, I had
10 hours of being on my feet coming up

Asking politely if I might squeeze
by, you would’ve thought I asked
for oral sex, a race riot

Damn near started, this big furry
looking man with arms like
telephone poles glared at me

He said, sit your white ass the
fuck down, the only seat was
next to him & I was almost
on his lap like Santa Claus

Sitting there in a fog of b.o.
farts, halitosis, & swine flu,
I closed my eyes touching
my 357, waiting for my stop
& dreaming of Christmas.

The First Five Pages by John Sheirer

When Jack was twenty-three years old and imagining himself to be a writer, he met Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut was an author so famous he really had no business giving a lecture at the second-rate graduate school where Jack skipped classes in Colonial American Poetry and Deconstructionist Literary Theory to read 1950s science fiction novels and scratch out short stories for hours at a time in the window booth of the pizza place on Main Street while trying to build the nerve to smile at the pretty college girls who sat nearby.

The day after Vonnegut’s lecture, as Jack sat in that pizza place among all those pretty girls who had no idea who Kurt Vonnegut was, Vonnegut himself walked in, the English department chair trailing along behind him and talking nonstop long after the great author had stopped listening politely.

Jack had trouble smiling at pretty girls, but he knew a pivotal moment when he saw one. He walked right by that befuddled department chair and pushed a heap of paper toward Vonnegut, the only famous writer Jack had ever seen in the flesh.

“Would you read my story, Mr. Vonnegut?” Jack asked, looking directly into his face. Vonnegut took the story without hesitation, methodically counted out the first five pages like a cash register kid counting change on his first day of work, griped them tightly, ripped them away from the staple with one clean pull, and handed them back to Jack.

With a look of grandfatherly patience, Vonnegut said, “You keep these. At your age, the first five pages just say, ‘Hey, look at me. I’m a nice person writing a story.'”

Vonnegut patted Jack’s shoulder as he stared at him, his first five pages drooping in his sweaty hand.

The department chair gave Jack a dirty look that Jack didn’t notice. Vonnegut folded the rest of Jack’s story and stuck it in his back pocket as he walked away. “If I like this, I’ll find out who you are,” he said with a wave, “and you’ll hear from me.”

That was thirty years ago. Jack never heard a word.

(Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007)

To the Mother of All Mothers by Helen Peterson

Hail Mary, full of grace
In your warm bed of soft hay warmed
With bovine breath, sung murmured lullabies
By sleepy eyed goats and sheep, worthy of the guidance
Of angels in your labor, bringing forth the Prince of Peace
Who must have slept through the night the very first week, never
Spit up or pooped through his swaddling clothes, no terrible
Twos, straight As, never missed a homework assignment or permission slip
Nor ran through the neighborhood naked, avoiding baths, said yes please
And thank you ma’am….

We, your daughters, heavy with sleep deprivation
Up to our elbows in spit up, (and worse)
Who spent hours travailing in steel hospital beds
On sheets so crisp, in air so cold and sterile,
Staying up ‘til 10 helping with Algebra,
While keeping one hand in the tub, collaring
A cranky toddler who somewhere has learned to swear
Envy you.

two poems by Diana Rose

Beyond Closed Doors

Scent …clings to a room
Pervacent as cats feet across
mystic night air
It seeps in sleeping minds
with eyes wide shut,
Clandestine
redevouz in midnight hour
while a sleeping dog lies.

See spot run,
the drum beats the tune
and he runs
baying at moon with packs
of wolves in sheeps clothing
Pissing on fences
erected
for circumstantial reason.

Whispered words
italicized
centered focus
were more than the fine line
walked down the median
with headlights
blurring vision,

Lost…
between the sheets
of the fucked
and mind fuck
Beyond the
ass(sertion)
of reality
fenced framed and fucked again.
American whore
the pictures of her
on the players lists.

More than this
time ticked
tocked..
sands sifted through fingers
where and when
were we before this..
still whispered
were the words..
framed
warm inviting
like the kiss of Judas.

Omission
the slap
with a whip(lash)
discord(ant)
jazz chords
rift final notes
ass(ending)
beyond all belief
as you walked on down the hall..

The closed door
the tale to be told
in darkness
fringe
calculated
estimated
jaded
fucked again

Where The Road Leads

There was a time..

If I closed my eyes I could return

Return to the weekend trips

where life was the top down

my bare pink tipped toes propped up on the dashboard

sunshine on my shoulders that made you high

Didnt matter where we headed

trees drooped down to touch the earth

covering the world with tranquil simplicity

mountain streams rose crashing around us

where an inner tube was enough to

leave me dizzy.. and my laughter made you stop

quoting Kerouac just long enough

to start believing that the road of life

is what we traveled

to find the hope in each other..

Life can be measured in the roads we travel

it cant be seen in the material possessions

or the jobs we have

Life is the heart of the world

through the eyes of another

It can be as spectacular as a waterfall

careful as you scale those rocks..

they can scar your knees should you fall

and the rush

underneath the water

leaves you needing

leaves you wanting

to take a picture and remember

the moment that you knew

that someone else

saw the same thing as you..

That climb to the top

of that mountain.. hush of the world draped in green

the only sound a far off osprey

echoing our thoughts that bounce

from your eyes to mine and back

So many roads upon roads..

At what point do we stop

And just be..

Just breathe

Stop searching the world for completion

traveling each road for inner redemption

that is a long time coming

You cant ask me what road to take

the map I give will be highlighted with my own wants

It might not be the destination you need..

On this earth there are hundreds of roads to take

each one as valid as the last

You have to decide when to stop

changing direction

set the course, and a time of arrival

Cause baby.. only you know

what road makes your heart pound

makes you realize that at long last you are coming

to the end of your journey

and what destination will make your heart

know its home.

There aint no mountain high enough

you can scale to other side

take the path less traveled

search through endless deserts

that will complete you in a way that

says.. I made a difference in this world to

someone..

these roads we travel… we break down a lot

put our face in our hands and say shiiit

Where am I … who am I

and what difference does it make

Get out at that gas station

look in the greasy mirror of that bathroom

look long and hard

Somewhere

there is light on at the end of your road

there is someone there that makes you

understand what home is..

You just have to believe.

Me…. I believe in you

I believe in you so much that it matters not what

course you set..

I have traveled the roads less remembered

I have seen lifes endless highway

And the roads I have yet to take can be

with you or without you

It matters not… cause in essence..

Im not going anywhere..

My heart is home.. home and resonating with

life to give you back..

Should you choose

to just arrive.

this last road you take

could be your ride home.

DLR© 2009..all rights reserved.

The Aunt by Elaine Rosenberg Miller

All our lives, my sister and I had heard about my father’s aunt, how she had stayed behind with her elderly parents as her sisters and their husbands and children fled towards the Soviet Union.

The lull, following the first days of the war, had ended. The Germans were advancing towards their town, Ulanow, Poland. A Yiddish speaking Russian soldier had knocked on the door of their wooden house and said “We’re leaving in the morning. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll come with us.”

My teenaged father, five younger siblings, his parents, two aunts and their families, started their trek eastwards.

But Ruchel did not go with them.

She was twenty seven and lived with her parents, Ita and Rafael.

She was the child of their old age.

“I remember her standing there on the side of the road, waving at us,” my father’s sister once told me. “She wanted to come with us. But she didn’t.”

“Are you sure that your grandparents couldn’t have made the trip?” I asked.

“They would have died on the way or in Siberia.”

“When grandma survived the war,” I said, “she was one of the few people of her generation left alive. Her parents, siblings, everyone were gone. I wonder how she felt.”

She was silent.

“What was she like?” I asked.

“Who?”

“Ruchel.”

“Oh, she was very pretty. She had straight hair.”

“What color eyes?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Grandma had green eyes. Did she have green eyes?”

“I was just a child.”

“Did you ever find out what happened to your grandparents?”

She shook her head.

“How did they die?”

“No one knows.”

“No one?”

“I heard that they died in the street. I heard.”

“What?”

“From starvation.”

“And Ruchel?”

“Maybe Belzec. Maybe.”

For years, my sister and I heard about Ruchel.

Her act silenced us.

Whatever problems we faced, questions we had, the image of Ruchel waving at her departing family made all pale in comparison.

She was one of eight children. Dozens of her nephews and nieces lived in Ulanow. As the maiden aunt, she was a figure of affection, warmth to them, giving them treats, an admiring word.

For decades, Ulanow’s location remained a mystery to me. No map listed it. Then, one day, I found it in a book titled Macmillan Atlas of the Holocaust. It was perched at the divergence of the San and Tanew rivers.

Ulanow was real, not just a tale told by my father, another story of “the other side” as my relatives termed pre-war Europe.

Ulanow had been an important town in the first days of the war. The Russians had taken it, then withdrawn. The Germans had occupied it.

A photograph of Ruchel revealed a young woman who wore her hair in a bob. Her expression was determined. It seemed to say, that given the right set of circumstances she would have left Ulanow and moved to a city, gone dancing, been held by a man.

“When was this taken?” I asked my father.

“About 1937.”

“She had a nice dress.”

“She could sew.”

“Very modern.”

“I loved my grandparents,” he said. “I spent more time with them than my own parents. Whenever I would visit them, my grandfather would call ‘Ita! Give the boy something to eat!’”

My father, hobbled by osteoarthritis, sat in the sun of his Florida independent living facility and remembered his youth.

I wondered at how fortuitous his survival had been.

He and his family were transported by cattle cars to Siberia. Two years later they were relocated to Tashkent. Due to his mechanical ability he was chosen to be the chauffeur and bodyguard of the Governor-General of the region. He carried a sidearm. He was exempt from the military, obtained privileges and food for his family.

“After the war, did your mother ever talk about her parents?”

“No.”

I looked at my father. I recalled my sister’s phone calls detailing his increasing medical problems. His face was ochre colored, his eyes red rimmed. Purple splotches disfigured his hands. Still, he was as handsome as a matinee idol. His eyes, unencumbered by recently removed cataracts seemed more hazel than brown.

“C’mon, Dad. It’s time to go in for dinner. Let me help you.”

if we don’t make it by John Grochalski

laying in bed
she says
what if we don’t make it

what do you mean? i ask.

this, if this never pans out.
the writing.
all the time we’ve invested
all of the early mornings
and rejections.

i see, i say
i don’t know, i say

i just don’t want to think
that we missed out on anything, you know

like kids and stuff?

and other things.
it takes a lot to make it, she says.

i know, i say
but we’re doing all right.

do you think?

yes, i could go the rest of my life
having it happen here and there
nothing big.
what about you?

i guess i could too, she says.

besides, i say, the rest of them
have just given up.
they’ve let it die
just to settle on less and less.

do you think? she says.

i have to.
otherwise i don’t know how
i’d keep on going.

okay, she says.

we get the light
and no one says a word.

soon i hear her snoring
and then the world
just falls away.

Penn Station by Mike Finley

Passengers hug their luggage close
and check their watches as they wait
by the message board
for news of the delayed train.
There is anxiety in people’s faces.
One women clasps her red gloves and keys in one hand.
A student looks up at the board with open mouth.
Then the letters start flipping and
The speakers announce that the train
to Princeton Junction is cleared for boarding
and everyone breaks for the steps down to Track One,
clambering down like a centipede in suit.
Once situated in our seats, we look up, out, and away
as the conductor announces that a bridge in Newark
is causing problems,
and there will be an “indefinite delay.”
A groan goes through the car like an infantry taking fire.
“Jesus Christ,” mutters a man in a long coat,
who looks like he is about to cry, and who obviously
has someplace important he has to get to.
He and a dozen others bolt to their feet,
grab their bags and rush back up the stairs
to find a ride on another line. No sooner
are they gone than the address system announces
that the problems in Newark have been resolved,
and the car begins to slide forward in the station.
I ask the conductor if we couldn’t call
the people back, and end their suffering.
The man just punches my ticket, smiles and says,
“You’re going to be just fine.”

two poems by Paul Cooper

The Kiln

The cedars are still swaying
with the hot wind of the bomb.

The apartment block (the smell of Gori the cat,
the picture of Paris that never hung straight on the wall,

the rising damp behind the television)
grows flames from its rooftiles like moss.

Brother, you are not like the mountains of twisted metal,
all bent in the same direction by the waft of kiln air

That washed away the afternoon,
and every afternoon after that.

To an Electricity Pylon

Quick dart; windblown needle,
sew raindrops to the sky!
You are cloaked in a strangler fig of steel briars –
six armed, you are Vishnu,
rising from the lotus flower of England’s dour soil.
Sling your wires! Make sheet music of our skyline
and minuets of stars –
storm spider, weaver of rubber-coated copper,
lattice the land with slack cables;
lead your march of Eiffel Towers to
make every sad field a Paris.
Hornet warnings swarm, silhouetted
men caught in the moment of death.

poems by kelley davidson

neighbors,
up the stairs, wind on my calves, hello cat.
too cold for september. can it be september already?
in june i lived in a tent with whiskey and hunting for wood every night
and a fire, my dreams danced all around it
you could look over and see them waving, waiting to be invited to share the fifth and the light
tell me a story, dream, and ill then tell you about yourself
now i smell their refried beans, sopa con pollo
hear the mexican traditionals bellowing from next door
and i want to knock on the door and tell them that its okay
that i am homesick, too.

world traveller
think of india: skeletons sitting, shitting in the streets. they are saving their seeds.
think of athens: junky from germany pacing in front of my hotel “american, american? tight bitch? got some money, bitch? got some fuck?” hes all green lizard skin and caramelized sweat; i could probably peel his face back and find the devils hand stuck deep in his head, giving him tourettes, DT’s and the sweats.
think of the sweet swedish bartenders covered in glitter on the islands, stoic smoking cigarettes pot and pouring shots hiking up their tits for the two euro tips going back home to identical white box houses heads aching from house music and then taking a long shower. she wanted to be an actress, you know.
think of these my only bones, me the walking open wound, cerebrum circling around other souls’ maladies. when how many of them gave a bandage about my cuts, or a nod?

Liberty Expires by Noris Roberts
translated by Timothy Adès

Liberty expires
Fixed on its listless days,
man struggles in poverty,
harsh loneliness invades his face,
eyelids shrink and sweat
Everything stops

Liberty expires,
Pleas are unheard,
Prisoner, powerless, shouts urgent litigation,
no matter how late,
needs to be in the dawn of roses
…and nobody listened

Despair seeds impotence
Autumn is unable to hide the venous projectiles of his misfortune
…And goes on sleepy, under the same roof,
kisses the soil that saw his birth
No one misses him
In the bitter load of his destiny,
wanting to wake in the confessional of justice
Almost impossible.

poems by Ally Malinenko

 Délire de Négation

 “couldn’t quite seem to escape myself, far enough
far enough, far from Florida”
– Isaac Brock

These are the hardships of being dead
according to Jules Cotard especially
when one is still alive.
For instance, it’s frustrating to continue to have to go to work.
And shaving seems utterly pointless,
even more pointless than it did when you were alive.
And why does everyone keep reminding you to eat something?

That face in the mirror, does nothing for you,
because after all, you are dead.
Or if you aren’t dead, then you already lost your face,
so there is nothing to worry about.

Because that can happen too.
You can loose whole parts of you.
Organs left behind on bus stop benches,
blood leaked out like so much shower water
down the drain.

You are a negation.

The men with the coats call it extremely nihilistic,
but I’m sure for people like you,
and mind you, I’m not of your ilk,
but for you people, there must be a relief,
what with the warm weather down in Florida,
where your mother has taken you to help you recover,
the warm weather down in Florida being caused by the fires of hell.

You had already been so clear about being dead.

And you think to yourself, it is so nice of your mother to come down here
and show you around Hell,
what with it being your first day and all.

The Courts

-for Daniel Vernola

The tips of my fingers are starting to turn translucent
like an orchid petal
soaked in river water.
I keep coming back to these waterways
each season
like a pilgrimage trying to find that part of me I lost
dashed on the embankment back home.

I wish I was less liquid,
more fire and ice,
something you can gather around
cut into squares and take away with you.
But here I am, in the dawn of another year,
with last years problems resettling in the wake
of so much merriment,
like determined little stones.

Baudelaire had skull lined cemetery paths.
He walked a darkened road
like we did when we were younger, Dan
and now it’s Christmas Eve
and I’m rounding the same old block
listening for those same footsteps I have known for centuries.

We go back down to the abandoned courts,
and talk with our heads thrown back
aghast at all the stars in that little town,
aghast at the way you can feel the earth groan and roll over, sleepily
as if it were nothing more than a giant born from the worlds we invented.

We come back together again in this hallowed place.
You are wrapped in wool and seem almost electric
and I’m still water
parts of me are running off leaving dark stains on the concrete.
Still water, ever since the woods and the waterfall
all those rocks, all my blood
and the tears that he wouldn’t stop crying.

Goodness we were all so in love with each other.

Off in the distance another dog howls on this holy night
and you want to know how I write
the very act of it,
the angry violin strings in my headphones
the flickering candle
the alligator head and photographs.
You want to be in this moment right now, the keys tapping under my fingertips
cause you stopped writing when your journal vanished
in that heartbreaking city and you were too drunk to find it again.
You stopped writing when your dog was stolen.
When your apartment was robbed.
When the bugs marched in a single unstoppable line.
When you severed ties with the only living artist in that city
because alone is one of the few ways you find any peace.

I can understand that. Miles away from you, writing this love note,
I am feeling the same way.
I’m keeping track of the things you have lost, in the years I have been gone.
Out here in the freezing cold night
I promise you that I’m coming back and you feel so thin through that jacket
that for a second I worry,

But you haven’t got me fooled, old friend.
My twin.
You and I,
we are both unbreakable Gods and we know it.
This is just another winter, just another year,
in the longest lifetime we have lived so far.

Francis Bacon, 1909-1992

“the man who paints those dreadful pictures”
-Margaret Thatcher

Oscar, today I wish you lived here,
more than other days, when we are just
chatting about the heat and wine,
because today,
was the kind of day you would have liked,

and I didn’t know before I went,
that was it all teeth,
grimaces,
empty vacant eyes,
upside mouths,
skin flung to the floor,
or that Bacon would make these little
pen thin strokes, making cages
around his victims,
that he trapped in soundless glass boxes,
with nothing but their own screams,

and Oscar, it was one room after another,
it just kept going,
and in each space, you felt your stomach
flip like a rollercoaster,
except Bacon made this coaster out of the
spines of your loved ones,
and it was a nightmare brought to life,
but not the kind you run away from,
the kind that just stops you for a moment, in awe.
The kind you can’t look away from. Ever.

And then in the end it was just poor Frankie
all alone,
prostrate in grief,
his head in his hands.
Prometheus was gone,
the Furies were gone,
Dyer was gone.
It was one man alone with his head on a sink
locked in the space his love died in,
with no one left to paint but himself,

and I left the museum thinking
that the word “artist” gets thrown around a little too much
is used a little too loosely by people with nothing to lose,
and that I should work a little harder
that we should all be working a little harder,
at being butchers,
pulling out our vertebrae,
peeling muscle from bone,
unpacking the physical,
and therefore undoing the ethereal,
one by one
tacking them to the canvas
and never looking back.

two poems by Holly Day

The Ditch

the day my great-granddad died, he dug the hole
by himself, all the way square to six feet deep.
Jumped in the hole, lay down
pulled his gun out and
shot himself clean through the head.
His suicide note just said
“Shouldn’t be too much trouble
just push the dirt back in.”
apparently inspired by this story,
my grandmother’s first husband
hung himself in the bedroom he shared
with his wife, left the door wide open
so anyone coming into the house would first see
his shit and piss-stained body dangling from the ceiling.
My aunt and uncle, aged 5 and 7, found this waiting
when they came home from school.
when my husband talks about suicide
I tell him
make it clean.

Woman on the Bus

Sits so close to me, backed
In the corner, I can feel the knots down
under skin, the odd angles the bones have
been reset into from years of being
loved by one who tells her,
“I’ll never do it again.”
Want to lend my body to her,
strength to pull the trigger,
strike with kitchen knives. I wish for
her a mouth of teeth, and
eyes that open on their own, don’t
shake with fear—am I the one to tell her
this isn’t love?

Death. Not in the News. by Farida Samerkhanova

Three hundred and sixty five nights
Multiplied by twelve years
Plus the leap year nights
Make thousands of his nightmares.

In his troubled dreams he saw
Dead men, women, children, horses, sheep, pigs –
All in one huge messy pile
On the bank of the wide river close to his home.
The water was all red with blood.
In different dreams he was dead among the dead,
Alive among the dead, vomiting in the bushes
Or swimming in the bloody water.

He also saw his tank on fire
And his soldiers killed.
He had to go to the parents
And tell them that he had failed
To rescue their only twenty-years-old son in the battle.
The eyes of the mothers and the fathers
Would pierce him in his nightmares like laser beams.

One of his friends whose nose was blown off
With a grenade, haunted him.
Blood was pouring off the hole above his mouth
And the dark red mess was on the carpet
Near his son’s bedroom door.

Most often he saw the head of his
Bosom friend, cut off his body with a knife.
The eyes were open and
There was an explicit question:
Why didn’t you save me?
Though he knew that if he had saved the friend,
They would have killed him and then
Come after his wife and his little kid.

Another friend, saved by him
From being executed, would always
Meet him on the wooden bridge
And yell at him and point his gun because
He was doomed for a miserable existence
Without an eye, an arm and a foot.

He screamed and sweated in the night
When he saw men cutting stomachs of pregnant women.

The soundtrack of his nightmares was
The roar of NATO aircrafts, bombing Belgrade.
They also roared right above his head
When on a Sunday morning his friend
Was taking his little daughter to the church for Baptism.

He survived and he tried to be normal.
In the broad day he could manage it:
He worked and smiled and talked to people.
But the tension of the nights was unbearable.

Once the burden overweighed and
There was nothing he could do but
Take a grenade hidden in the ground
In the vineyard behind his house
And let it explode in his hand.

The replay of the horrors finally stopped.
Now his soul is in the mercy of the God.

poems by Sergio Ortiz

In an Hour

Like everything that finds me,
damned spring,
you’ve set the price
on what blooms around the periphery
of my brow.
And here I am drawing on
conclusions.
Who cares if love comes
and goes in an hour?
Goddamned lying spring,
allow me to kiss you as if a kiss
were more than just a kiss.

Fractal Moonlight

wait for the moon to break at dawn
over dunes of golden sand
wait until I bury
these pulsations
in your arms
fractal moonlight
glistens through paths
of leafless bodies
moaning & twitching
like liquid fire
breath thrust upon
the windmills in my eyes
wait for me in May

poems by Doug Draime

When Rock n’ Roll Was A Teenager

When rock n’ roll was a teenager,
Great Balls Of Fire
was throwing punches
at a man twice its age
on a gravel parking lot in
Westport, Illinois,
laughing and drinking Jim Beam
straight from
the bottle,
between ducks and jabs.

When rock n’ roll was a teenager,
Heartbreak Hotel
had its finger up the local car hop
after she closed down A&W for the night,
her hand around its hard dick,
pumping it slowly,
in the back seat at the drive-in movie,
Marlon Brando
in the Wild Ones
on the screen.

When rock n’ roll was a teenager,
Only The Lonely
was in the county jail locked up for
drunk and disorderly, reading
Tropic of Cancer and writing poems
of sex, rage, and revolution,
trying to conceive a way
to escape from jail by taking its own life,
but, oh, we all know, rock n’ roll
can never/will never die!

Jimmy The Toad

They said I was
babbling incoherently
and swinging at
anyone
who got within
5 feet of me.
No one in the bar
at the time,
could handle
the situation.
And Maxine ran
next door to
Ray’s Market
and got my friend
Jimmy the Toad.
All I know
is when I woke up
in the hospital
with a broken nose
and 2 cracked ribs,
Jimmy was leaning
over me
crying
and apologizing
for using a little
too much force,
offering me
a bowl of
orange sherbet

The unfair practice of catching foul balls by Mike Hammer

                                                                                 Once I hit a pop fly into the left field stands, funny thing.  About stars, they look just like dreams and there are so many.  It’s hard to judge, whether to jump three rows, or to sit tight. 

                                                                                 Sometimes I’m too short :to see the fireworks :but I see the fire.  It has a sound.  Whistling and clapping.  I’m overcome by foul balls and aching hearts.  Kicked in the shin.  The umpire screams about unsportsmanlike conduct. 

                                                                                 I tell him to screw.  There are cheers and jeers, then years, and lives.  The ball hits the ground.  It’s a shame, all the little ones are dead or dying.

cinquain by Alan Hilfiker

Howl

He lifts
His ache toward stars.
The bones of pines grow chill.
An echo peals; no answer but
His own.

poems by Mary McKeel

Absolute

The second
You open your eyes
You see the tacit
No Trespassing signs.
A few feet
From your bed.

You wince,
Because you know
When you go
To the front door
And open it, and stoop
To retrieve the newspaper
You will see
The bold print
Above the fold
Broadcasting your failure.
You wrote it yourself.

If you get up the courage
To put on your velvet dress
And go to where
There is dancing
You will stop
At the velvet rope.
You guard the door
Yourself.
All five feet
One hundred pounds of you.

Once someone said
There are no absolutes.
You heard him.
You rolled your eyes.
But now you berate yourself
For not fitting
Into a fixed outline
Where the label says “beauty”.
A perfect match
Gains you a stamp
On your hand.
The doorkeeper grants
Admission.
You avoid your own
Contradictions.
You take off your glasses
Before you look in the mirror
You used to rip up
Pictures of yourself.

Every day
You open the box
Where you treasure
Your own insecurities.

Susquehanna

The word-
Susquehanna-
Sound like another word
For a journey.
The whisper of the syllables
Stays behind your eyes.
The length of the word
Suggests a restlessness
All through your muscles.

You want to cross the train tracks
Over the river.
That’s they way
To your favorite place to camp.

Even if you live
In a place farther south
With no rivers
The exhilaration-
The water below-
Are somehow familiar.

The river had a name
Before there was breath.

Jump Jump Jump by Chris Cap

Let’s make some time go by, let’s make some time-
Skip, past the stars, stars; Gods cosmic middle finger to the earth.
Everyone needs to know how everything works.
“I could tell you how everything works” said the gang.
“I could tell you how everything works” said the clergyman, politician,
scientist, teacher, father, brother, mother, friend, military.
Which fool am I?

Lets stop some time let’s make time stop, stop lets-
reevaluate time, time to move on stop looking back, Lets kick some time to the curb.
Yeah curb stop time.
Picture this, someone dead.
Got that picture?
Snap. Ca-click, photoshopped then uploaded.
They died trying their best to jump over- Wait. Screw “They” “their” it’s not the ustedes “you all” general terms.
Its “him”, “he”, masculine, take two-
He died trying his best to jump over a fence into his pool.
He’s ugly. Not just because of the fence post that is impaled through his forehead.
The police officer, he shakes his head. Tisk-tisk.
Stop rewind. Let’s go back and unwaste time lets go smoke some heavy weed.
Of the cannabis type. He did. Right before he jumped.
At least he tied his sneakers but he’s not wearing pants or a shirt.
He’s nude besides the tied sneakers. Why?
Stop rewind ten years that’s 120 months that’s 5184000
minutes and you’re being yelled at by your dad or maybe its your mom
they’re being unfair you’re crying. “You’re” “They’re” “We” “Lets”
general you all, displace blame, it’s the word used to deny association
with. When really its “Me” “I” “Me” and “I” “us”.

“Jump, jump, jump!”
He jumps.
Close the dead, rotting jumpers staring wide open eye lids for him.
Why?
“For dignity, can you stop busting my balls? Why are you even here?” said the cop.
“I could tell you how everything works” said the law.
Look at the pole going through his dome look at him naked hanging there.
Blood splattered coagulated, red not the shade you’d expect
bits of pink not the color you’d think. Dignity he says.
He’s got a pole through his head he’s dead. He lost his dignity when he
tied those shoe laces.When he jumped.
I told the cop why I’m here: “They asked me to help”
Look past the giant finger in the sky, see clearly.
Transport to his room. Why did he decide not to wear clothes?
Look past it this time, look past time, wait.
Saw past seeing through the trick only for an instant.
Enough to see. He didn’t wear his pants because a girl was in the pool skinny dipping.
she shouts “Jump, jump, jump!”
Chanting it now, it’s a party and the Jumper, he’s bored.
“Let’s do some drugs, drinks or smoke something” said the jumper.
“Let’s do something sexy, lets skinny dip” that was the girl saying that.
“Sweet I’ll be right back I’m ganna’ jump from the roof!” that was the jumper that time.
“hahha dont do it –dd”
Can’t catch his name something ends it two d’s Teddy? No.
She’s taking off her clothes now there are those tits that defy
gravity. Shame our boy –dd can’t do the same.
“Nah don’t worry I do it ALL the time” said Todd. Todd was his name.
He’s not lying he does do it all the time, sober. He shot guns a beer.

“Jump, jump, jump!”
He jumps. Face free fall.
Shoes tied?
Check
Intoxicated and bored?
Check

Necessary velocity to impale your dome?
Check.
In fact he did not know it but a jump from two feet lower would have
caused him only a concussion to the head. Fate, but that’s boring. I’m
Bored let’s do some drugs lets pass some time let’s make time skip-
Close his eye lids for dignity? He looks like a Shish kabob.
Don’t do it, it’s time to unwind rewind look past the great big Godly
middle finger in the sky where if you have even an ounce of faith, if
you measure faith in ounces because I do not, I measure it in faith
units, you’d take the leap of one faith units. Find out how it all
works.
“Jump, jump, jump!”
We jump.

art by Lisa Marie Peaslee

Mid Winters Eve .jpg

Midwinter’s Eve

fs

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8899

 

8899

Tomas and Jenny by Luis (reprinted from Full of Crow magazine)

TOMAS

I like riding the bus. When I look out the window it’s like watching TV, everything happening all in front of you, cars zooming by, people walking by pushing baby carts, eating corn on the cob all covered with mayonnaise and cheese. I usually ride around the bus most of the day, getting on in Van Nuys and going up to Sun Valley or getting on another bus and going up to North Hills. No one bothers me after I show my day pass. I smell like Vodka and shit so I usually will get the entire back of the bus all to me, nothing and no one to bother me while I stare out the window.

Bobby from Cornerstone gives me the day pass every morning. Cornerstone is a place that helps people like me. People that need help, Bobby would say. Bobby’s a social worker there. Just stay on the meds and keep your head up, Tomas, Bobby would say. If a name is what everyone calls you, then Tomas is my name. I’m not supposed to drink when I’m on medication but sometimes I think of everything all at once happening and my heart starts beating so fast and so loud that it makes everything I look at shaky and I can hear my heartbeat in my ears, my chest going up and down like I’m running out of air and I probably am and I feel sick like I’m going to throw up and shit my pants all at the same time.

I also can’t get hard without being drunk. Jenny notices when I’m drunk and hard and smiles. I tip her all my money when I come by to see a show at the place. I’m her favorite.

JENNY

There’s an R Kelly song playing, slow and sexy. You could feel the bass on the walls and almost see it vibrating the glass. I love R Kelly. I’m taking off my bra slowly, pacing it out, while lying down on the small plush bed. I pull up my legs, my back still flat on the bed, tuck in my knees, reach down, sliding my hands down my thighs, slowly pull off my panties and toss them to the glass that divides myself from the customer on the other side that is masturbating frantically and we make eye contact for the first time in the whole show and just as soon as my eyes land on his he cums all over the glass, like a silent little milky explosion. The curtain falls back down and he walks out. I call over the cleaner. This is the fourth show so far and I’ve only been on shift for two hours. So far so good.

Some nights are great. You do six or seven shows, a couple of lap dances and take home about $200. Other nights, for no goddamn reason, it’s like a ghost town and you’re lucky if you walk away with $50. Nights like that I think of quitting, which wouldn’t be too bad considering how some nights my thoughts are much worse.

TOMAS

I used to live with my family when I was young but then I got crazy and I had to move out. I’m not crazy like yelling-at-random-people-on-the-street crazy, but Bobby says I don’t think like normal people do so that’s why I gotta watch out – especially what I think about. But my thoughts are my thoughts and no one else’s and are invisible until I speak them out loud then they are real and everyone knows them and hears them and they’re no longer mine so I can’t be held responsible for what happens after that, Bobby. Jenny understands this because she’s understanding. Who’s Jenny, Tomas? Bobby would say. Is she your girlfriend, Tomas? Of course not, I’m crazy. Crazy people don’t have girlfriends. Unless their girlfriends are crazy too, Bobby would answer back.

When I’m not riding the bus around, when I’m not sleeping at the shelter, when I’m not at Cornerstone I’m at the place where Jenny works. Jenny is a dancer. She gets naked behind a glass and men pay her. Sometimes she dances on their laps until they cum in their pants. We sometimes smoke cigarettes outside in the alley when she’s on break. She smokes all the time, so much so that she always has bad breath and there’s a permanent yellow film over her teeth but it matches her skin so it isn’t that noticeable. All the other girls there hate me or are afraid of me. He stinks, they always say or Hun, careful wit’ that boy, he’s gunna cut you up into little pieces and make a meal out of you one day, watch. But Jenny knew better. She came from a bad home too. She opened up to me one day and told me so. Her dad used to go into her room, drunk and stinking of cigarettes, and molest her on a regular basis when she was real young. She says she still remembers the way his beard used to feel rubbing on her back – like soft, wet sandpaper.

After a few hours, I usually run out of money and the guard asks me to leave. Be nice to him, Jenny would say. See ya next time, kiddo! We have a good relationship. Bobby doesn’t understand that we’re good for each other. She has things on her mind and needs me to listen and give her money; I have ears and money and need to see her cunt and tits and asshole.

JENNY

There’s a kid that comes by every now and then, not really a daily regular but at least twice a month. Quiet guy, even through the lap dances. We talk afterward, though. I mean, not like flirting like “Hey, cutie, wanna show? My name’s Jenny and I’m here from this day to that day and bla bla bla, uh huh, yea, come see me again, talk to ya later, cutie!”

This guy’s different. I feel I can open up to him and that’s definitely not something I’m looking for – I mean, at work. He’s got these real peaceful understanding eyes. And this face, a face I can tell anything too – all my deepest, darkest confessions. And after we talk, for whatever reason, I always feel better; it’s the same way I feel when I’m riding the bus. It’s soothing staring out the bus window, like watching TV, especially when it’s empty late at night. It’s the same way when I talk to him. It’s like a purging of all the bad shit in my life and he just sits there and nods and listens, making it all right by just doing that. The other girls think I’m crazy for wasting my time with him. Maybe I am. He’s harmless and sweet, though. And besides, I think we’re all crazy, some of us more than others, and it’s all a matter of degrees anyway. He agrees.

TOMAS

There are different degrees of craziness. Some people eat their own shit and fuck their kids. Some people cut their arms and drink too much or ride around on buses all day and night long. There are different degrees of craziness. That’s what Jenny says. Which one am I, I ask her. You, I don’t know. Whichever one you are, you’re harmless – so probably the drinking-too-much-and-cutting-himself kind.

Me and Jenny are alike.

JENNY

I used to dance at a few clubs around here and deeper in LA but I like this better. Less work. True, it’s less pay but when your looks start going and you know you can’t compete with all the new young pussy coming in, you take what you can get. The weirdos are up close and in your face at this place so you definitely have to be careful. Especially because security doesn’t really give a fuck here. They’re all in-house janitors who kick out a drunk on occasion and are paid minimum wage. If I get raped and murdered, it will be because some asshole didn’t wanna fork up the extra change and hire real security guards or pay these guys more.

Tonight I’m working late but I can’t stay any more. Too much on my mind, not feeling it tonight. Too many customers passing me by saying, maybe later, maybe later, and going to the next girl, the next prettier and younger and skinnier girl. My belly’s getting a little pudgier, my ass isn’t firm anymore, my tits are sagging. They don’t care if I’m here. They’re probably hoping I stop showing up to work. Hope is what gets people in trouble. I gave that up a while ago.

I gotta go.

Where’s that kid?

I gotta go.

TOMAS

Tonight I am going to see Jenny. It’s the first of the month and I got my social security check this morning. The bus ride from Cornerstone to the place is about 10 minutes. This is the last time, Tomas, Bobby would say. If you spend all your money on things you don’t need we are going to have to assign you a payee to better manage your finances.

I need Jenny and Jenny needs me. Bobby doesn’t understand.

JENNY

It’s kinda cold right now and it’s only 10 at night. The kid never showed up. I haven’t seen him since about a month ago. He usually shows up on the first of the month and spends most of his money on me and a couple of the girls. I kinda miss him. He reminds me of me, alone and stuck.

TOMAS

I’m late, I’m late, I’m late. And Jenny won’t be there anymore because it’s after 10 PM and she works until 9 PM. I’m angry and I feel sick like I’m gonna throw up and shit my pants at the same time. My heart hurts – it’s going too fast. My eyes are burning. I think I just shitted all over myself. I don’t smell anything. I only feel angry at myself and Bobby. I am going to kill Bobby. Everyone on the bus is looking at me so If I shitted on myself, it makes sense that I am being looked at. I am going to kill myself.

JENNY

The bus is here. I pay my fair and walk toward the back. And guess what I find?

TOMAS

I get off the bus in front of the place. There is no point. There is no point because if the point of the bus ride was to come here to see Jenny and it’s pass 10 PM and Jenny only works until 9PM, then it’s not there, the point, because she’s not there – there is no point now, 10 PM.

JENNY

Shit! A pile of shit smeared on the seat and all over the floor in the back of the bus. It’s fucking disgusting! I usually ride in the back but tonight I’m up front, looking out the fully-opened window, enjoying the cool soothing air blowing fast against my face, helping me forget about the smell, work and all the other shit in my head.

TOMAS

Inside the place where Jenny IS NOT I start knocking over things, breaking down glass shelves with my hands, all my blood gushing out, shouting at the security guards, NO POINT, NO POINT, NO POINT, I’M GOING TO KILL MYSELF AND BOBBY BECAUSE THERE IS NO POINT, and the next thing I know my face is on fire and I can’t see but I can hear R Kelly on the stereo and Jenny likes him and every time I breathe it’s fire so I fall to my knees to melt. I touch my face with my hands but my hands are on fire too and bloody and covered in glass. Security sprayed me with pepper spray. I throw up all over the floor. I’m running out of screams and replacing them with throw up. I’m melting into blood and throw up. I can’t think of anything, not Jenny or Bobby or R Kelly or nothing; I only feel the burning and my mind stops doing anything else, my body only throwing up and melting, no thinking, leaving my head quiet and only focusing on me melting.

poems by Regina C. Green

Iran

it’s fair to say…

in front of me
swirls courage
and heartbreak
there are those
that would die
for the sake of
nothing more
tangible than
weighty words
roaming
impossible skies
the small self thinks
i could not do this
partake in the fray
lose my heart to a
stubborn bullet
walk amidst chaos
shunning all fear
of losing face
in a crowd

i am lost
i know
my world remote
a dreaded isolation
of my own fashion
show me
o splendid martyrs
the way to heaven
there is no
living
true life
without a cause
to die for

a writer writing

writing pours from the veins
flooding apartments
capsizing small children
bearing false witness

it’s not natural
and yet for some
it’s the most natural thing

take a pen
punctuate the air
any remaining scalps
and you’ve lost the war

dominate your paper world
it’s all undone
or didn’t you realize

a hefty mouthful
and should you run out of words
take the risk
look in an alleyway
or climb the stairs
rub yellow all over you
dot the landscape
mire yourself in mud and mirth

the thing about writing
the thing that overwhelms
the person who writes

like watching your ice cream take a header
like stealing from your grandmother
like shifting from one foot to another

i am forlorn unless the paper
in front of me creates the snow-blindness
of a half-baked woman
or fornicates with a dying sheepherder
lost in the mountains

you cannot know
you cannot even think you know

i allow you here
but rules are made in black
hallways and doors open once
the keys return from holiday

shelby in three parts

shelby thrusts her head inside an oven
shelby professes sweeping inglorious love
shelby walks barefoot on a snowy midnight road

shelby wants you
right now

shelby paints herself across an open page

shelby lingers over your tongue

shelby mimics a soaring bird a head-heavy sunflower fast-moving rain

shelby is a slug oozing its way forward
you want to scoop it up
or crush it under foot

shelby loves you more than you love her

*

shelby is the dirty word
on the bathroom wall
the one you want to tattoo
on your right arm
singing the needle deep

*

shelby drives the midnight shift
making up wild stories
flirting with the hem of the highway
it’s not easy to relax with shelby
the way she risks it all
the way her eyes glaze over
during the long passive stretches
i can hear her humming
and out of the blue
she quotes sylvia’s
‘the hanging man’

“By the roots of my hair some god got hold of me…”

i could sleep then
knowing her unrequited love
her face wiped clean

me ‘n Scurv

me 'n Scurv

 

Survivor’s Rant by Scurvy Bastard

Hey baby
The 21st Century is already a 10th way done
Yet I’m still ALIVE
I’ve lost my family and home
Discovered the meaning of alone
Yet I’m still ALIVE
Don’t have a penny in the bank
Or a dream left in the think tank
Yet I’m still ALIVE
Been beaten and marauded
Plundered and defrauded
Yet I’m still ALIVE
Leapfrogged an ocean
OD’d on emotion
Yet I’m still ALIVE
Spent a night at the gates of Hell
Pissed into a wishing well
Wrestled with God ‘till the sound of the bell
Yet I’m still ALIVE
I’m not on the road
I am the road

Cotton by Alan Kelly

Brazen and vulnerable in my mother’s bed, wrapping my skinny arm over my tummy and twisting myself to hide my brokenness. Holding my body in such a way so it can disguise all the spaghetti shaped scars on my stomach. My stepfather is standing at the door, with a half-lit rollie clamped rakishly between his bitter lips, a grinning oil skinned poker with earthworms in its face. He comes into the room and I rip the lip of a condom package with the specific viciousness I always bring to my mother’s room. That mouth is a grinning toothless maw coming down to meet my body, I whisper to the cotton that he is only another “constant” an everyman whose snoring keeps me awake most nights. Since moving into the bungalow, I can’t sleep – the sound finds every dark corner. Moist breath is hot on my back before he turns me over, skin a violent rasp against cotton. I place my feet over his heart and the thump of his heart tickles the balls of my feet, he is pushing them further apart, I close my eyes and go into my head, where I take all my journeys and not long after, I am alone.

Constant Coversation by John Grey

The conversationalists are all around me.
No beginnings, no ends, just this confounded middle.
There’s never been this much talk that I know of.
Young, old, the dithering, the undaunted…
their mouths are open and their tonsils, tongues,
cut through space like broadswords.

Must be that opposites attract because, despite myself,
I’m drawn to the noise, to the chattering.
People need something to bounce off.
No better springboard than words.
Yes, no, maybe, I’ve heard them all.
But not felt a one, thank god.

I’m up to my elbows in the sure ones.
The unsure are down around my ankles.
And those that can see both sides of everything
settle in my two ears at once.
I even sacrifice my head to them from time to time
though I set my soul apart.
And my heart goes right on beating,
a worthy organ but wrapped up in its blood.

And what do you think, they occasionally ask me.
I reply with what I don’t think and that satisfies them.
But mostly I don’t even have to be there
though I must be somewhere
and conversation’s happening everywhere anyhow.
The conversationalists are so good at what they do
they don’t know what they’re saying.
Which is fine, because I hear only me.
And talk is cheap. The laws of supply and demand, I reckon.

Talk to the Stone Head by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal

Whenever I talk to the stone head
I always get sound advice.
The stone head’s eye winks.

If we all had the stone head’s wisdom,
we would be wise. I would like its hands
to crush the heads of my enemies.
I would not crush a flower.

I wonder if the stone head is blind.
Does its eye fill with tears like mine?
I want to see what it sees.
I want to think how it thinks.

There is a growth on its nose.
The stone head hopes to have a heart
to feel human. It would like to

hold hammers, one for each hand,
and to swing it around like a madman.

prose poems by Oskar Hansen

The Odium

Dead roses in a vase on my desk I moved
them away and remembered seeing my
brother, through a door ajar, getting up from
his chair, open the drawer where my pipe
collections were, and break them one by one.
A strange smile played upon his lips, and
I said nothing, didn’t know he hated me so.
He was the one with many friends, he was
the one who sat in the middle of the room
telling jokes at my expense while I sought
the corners. When he died, the chapel was
full of his friends the spoke so well of him,
but I sat there dry eyed all I could think of,
was my bloody meerschaum pipes
 
The Chair Person.

The woman, who was chairing the meeting, wore a flowering
dress of an expensive material, she wore much gold and with
her tan she looked almost like a rich gipsy lady only less elegant.
It wasn’t that she was very fat but her lips where huge, too red
and octopus greedy and her fingers, when resting on the table
looked like guillotined, corpulent men, blood still dripping and
when lesser charges shared it looked as she mentally hurried
them on so she could speak.
 
There was something insincere about her, maybe she didn’t
have problem, but this was the only place people tolerated her.
Beautiful summer evening windows open, I heard bird song,
sun was setting into an azure sea. at home I had a cold bottle
of white wine waiting. Must have dreamt there was a grave
silence in the room, I looked up the woman was glaring at me
waiting for me to share something, I looked up to the roof and
counted the beams and thus the meeting ended

Chicago by Peter Schwartz
chicago - small jpg

 

My Mother’s Song by Angela Koh

Raindrops on the window shield
make bleary shadows on my mother’s face.
Rosary beads hang under the rearview mirror.
My father is angry.

She likes to feel afraid
Staring as the dial climbs like a second hand.
She hears the pavement pass under the bald tires.
She fingers the door handle like a glossy key.

Midnight Graffiti by Katie Graham 

I found myself in an underpass at Midnight
under the City of Glasgow
I’d lost my purse, my phone and my friends
and this was the only way home

I saw a newly whitewashed wall
Wiped clean of graffiti
it looked like a page
All lit up with Orange light

I couldn’t resist
I knew what I had to do
I got out my eyeliner pencil
and I wrote out a poem

I told the walls about the things I wanted
About the things I couldn’t have
And
About the love I hadn’t found.

I said if you understand this poem
then sign your name underneath
sign it without love if you want
because I knew not everyone had enough to give away

Then I forgot
I forgot for 2 months
and then 2 months later
I was walking home again
 
but I wasn’t alone this time
I was with people I loved
and they noticed the wall
all covered in graffiti

I was about to walk past
and think what a mess
but then I looked carfully
and my heart filled with joy

Every inch of the wall
was covered in comments
all signed with love
Love they’d found to spare

Impermanent Love
Because Graffiti never lasts
but love all the same
from people I’ll never know

two pieces by Justin Heifetz (from The New Research Primer)

Hanged Man.

Wrap me up in
Wires and let me
Writhe
Because now I lay
In disconnect
In dissonance –
And time fades into fire flashes and then to vapory light:
Maybe it’s the light from far off horizons or the
Light that crawls out and up from beneath dreams.
It’s a familiar light
That brings me back to before I hanged myself mute at the heights of a TV tower.

Reserving Judgment

All controlled substances, check, with marked exception of crystal-meth and crack (ghettoes sounding like Whitney and smelling like Bobby, toss in some hopscotch too: no, no, no!); completed a rehab program (nothing like Girl, Interrupted prepared me for. Not to do with my gender, and I hadn’t been interrupted from anything, let alone distracted – but, mostly, left wondering where the fuck was my bath); alcohol pumped from stomach, check, too; antibiotics for an STD or an STI (or something with burning); and, ran endless gambit of talk-walk-talk – wait for it – yes, finally, talk-a-little-more doctors. After, graduated from a top-ranked college (child’s play). Moved up to corporate en masse mail-outs (unexpected). Played with suicide, but couldn’t finish it up due to engrained scholastic knowledge of word’s etymology (typical).

.

Congo Untitled by Ben Nardolilli

Simian hands and strokes,
Your work, no title,
You could not give it one,
In the corner you paint
With a periwinkle hand, open,
Ready to grasp at branches,
And not the brush, there
That brown stump, your old home?
They have taken you away,
But not put you behind bars,
In a room filled with oils
You mock Pollack, you mock
Kandinsky, you mock them all,
The dowagers and the agents,
The critics and galleries,
By the stump is a ghost,
The white man, hand outstretched,
Or the net itself? Figures in blue
Swim all around,
Fallen petals from overhead violets,
Or jeans creeping to capture?
There is a red river down the work,
Is does not fall evenly, it is not
A smooth journey you took,
There was no even trail for you to follow,
Through the jungle, down to the zoo,
Maybe liberated, maybe kept from display,
The illusion of liberation, freedom
Dangled as seductive bait,
They gave you a world to call your own,
To test a theory, to kill some time,
Hoping for three minutes on the news,
And ruffling the feathers of stuffed
And high perched critics,
To them all you have no story,
To them these are just colors, such a mess,
Story of the twentieth century…
And maybe the 21st, the animal
Returned to get rid
Of the pain in being a man,
Nothing making sense and the center
Flying wildly out of place,
I’m sure this was what you intended:
An apparition of yellow
Spilt in the middle of your canvas,
The last fresh banana?

Barbara, Dear by H.E. Mantel

Jena? Jena…? Je?…
BeBe?, wha’ is It? I was
aslee… Kin I come

in with you? I’m… Sure,
are you alright? Umm-hmm. I
was woked I didn’t

hear you, by what? A
noise…by my bed…my head hurts
Here, you can have my

pillow, & sshh, we
don’t want to wake mom, ‘k?
Jen, where’s daddy, how

come…? BeBe. But, I
miss him. We all…me too, he’s…
working, remember?

Umm, I think so. Jen?
Yeah? Dad flies in planes, right? Uh-
huh. Sometimes he drives

them Where? Oh, to some
places… Here? No. Jen? BeBe.
Does daddy shoot bombs?

Nothing Left by Dave Migman

I have nothing left to say. Clumping up the stone stair wedges of fossilised Brie
cock eyed drunks have lain a trail here. Above the roaches gather from the balcony to serve me eviction notices burned into their shells in triplicate. Cut and paste a dashing sense of intolerance a tiny fragrance of the fall.

You can taste it on the tongue elevating through the spine of this tomb of ages
hunched over locks, frantic to get in – lest the neighbourhood watch sight you
and gather round with tar and feathers (in a metaphorical sense that is)

Rapid fore horn beep of impatience like a trance beat for pill heads
ineffectual like a flies hovering by the ear when we lean out the window
who is that I’d like to give him a slap
Christ will he ever stop!? And you can hear the battery dying and it fades
to smiles all around. Get out and push ya dick.
Beep now ya bas!

In the hallway the skirting peeled back to reveal the real world
of wires and pipes juggling information, leaking and pumping it to the beast’s black heart
Its dirty rotten heart

Somewhere there is a room

but I have no words let others speak for me. I don’t mind the Polish
it’s the natives you got to watch
parasite minds cooped in tall towers and grey estates of nowhere
respect measured in bite size chunks of violence and crime

The pride was stripped away oh about twenty years ago
and the sons of the sons gather beneath a grimy star
shoot coloured balls and dream of easy lives and fast returns
but the wires suck their dreams sour like unripe milk

clotted dreams in throat of sewers
coughed into street corner initiations

Buck fast and cut glass
rape dreams and scapegoats

The horn returns. Bless the horn. Somewhere a dry palm presses
but someone is asleep
or peeping from a window laughing

The pipes the wires the ghost by the window
they conspire against my minds and suck the words right out my face so I can’t speak
so I sit in silence burying old photographs staring at foreign maps supping cold tea
from a fat cup mute

Anomalies by Howard Good

1
The young look at me with curiosity –
one might even say anxiety –
my heart leaking green brake fluid,
and the queen of nothing on her knees
drinking from the puddle.

2
But who was it,
was it you,

who had the question

mark removed
from my Remington

upright typewriter
and buried

at night without
ceremony

poems by Kathryn Mitchell

Wax Days

The days they melt
Cascading down like
Wax descending your candle
Falling into each other until
They harden
And freeze in time
Frozen over in this cold, cold city
Bitter winds and harsher hearts
Do you remember bedroom wall hieroglyphics?
Written in pencil
To be erased with the memory
Of stable times
What I would give for one autumn day
The crunch of leaves under heavy feet
And heavier hearts
Would be the sweetest melody

My flame is waning
Flickering
In and out of consciousness
Tonight, just this one night
I want to burn
I want to cast shadows
Into the darkness
Of figures from happier times
Tonight
I want to shine

Cameras With No Film

We were killing time to kill our minds
We filled ourselves with ten cent dreams
And even cheaper contradictions
We wrote basement manifestos
In used marble notebooks
And that smile your parents paid for
Outshone everything I had to say

For One Night Only

 That one October
We ran around like every night was Halloween
Today you can be ex-junkie in oversized shades
Tomorrow I’ll be hungover fuck up in last night’s clothes
Platinum blonde hair and Marlboro reds
Tripping our way down Bowery
To the Poetry Club
So we could see your boy of the day
Spit a mediocre rhyme
Over mediocre wine
And the early mornings found us in Brooklyn bathtubs
And through the window the jagged skyline jutted out
Just like your collarbone

But the winter froze your toes and iced your heart
You never got used to saying Houston right anyway
No goodbyes
Just a half-empty bottle of Tito’s with a note
“Drink it up and then fall down. But only in that order.”

They won’t remember your name
But I will
I’ll remember you in home-made soups
And corner booths

For a girl that bled the Texan sun
You sure were fucking pale

Band-Aids

Indifference sings songs of melancholy
Spitting jagged-edged words on eager ears
You swallowed glass-shard sentences
For four months
Spitting up bloody adjectives
Wants
Needs
Are you bleeding for me?
Or cutting your own esophagus
Hoping to find
What it was like in better times?
When autumn leaves fell
In perfect patterns around
Our youthful love
Drawings left on grayed walls
Whisper “love, you’ve flown away”
Just leave
Let the world swallow you slowly away
From my broken bottle love
This time I’m afraid this band-aid
Is just too small

Broken

Sanity slips through calloused fingers
Like sand falling through your sieve
I never asked for this
You spray-painted hate on the walls of my mind
So I can never love wholly
Never care completely

Now I scrub my hands raw
Trying to polish my tarnished Pride
“You’re broken” you said
Through indifferent lips in half-empty rooms
Where I gathered up the pieces
Of my paint-by-numbers life

So I stitch myself back together
In rag doll poetry
And chemical smiles
Because the sutures never hold
Long enough to catch my breath

Five Years

It’s been five years.
Your feet still dangle
In the backyard of my mind.
I tied a noose around my regrets
And hanged them beside you that day.

Now broken promises
Come creeping under bedroom doors
When we turn out the lights.
The boogieman is real.

And angry.

And blonde.

Sunday Morning

City days that sweat in exhaustion
And air-conditioned nights
The sage that burned
And lingered over the
Cigarette smoke
That whispered of love
And the morning found
Empty bottles that
Spoke of carefree nights
And I wanted to lay
Wrapped in you forever
In this autumnal bliss
Because perfection to me
Never sang of flowers or
Rainbows
But the tranquility of feeling at
Home
And the feeling that, for once, I should be
Right where I am

How to Decorate an Empty Room

We decorated your walls with records when the old player broke.
And we hung dirty sheets from dirtier windows
Because the morning sun could never stay the fuck away from drunk eyes.
And we twirled about our dysfunctional world
Like we were dancing to a song that they couldn’t hear.
Because they couldn’t.

It was a song you strummed on the ventricles in my chest
When we fell down on bare mattresses.
Like you always said, the music isn’t worth a fucking damn
If it’s not from the heart.

But you stopped playing.

Or I stopped listening.

We will never know for sure.

So eventually we pulled each other apart, from the inside out.
Slowly, as if to savor the destruction of something so beautiful.
Because you really were beautiful.
Just not as beautiful as you looked in pieces on my floor.

What color do you dream in?

Heartbeats racing
You flirt with
Kitchen knives on tile floors

Bare feet pressed against gas pedals
Empty streets
I’m only racing Time

Lights on
Beating fists on metal
Red handprints on redder doors
Because door kicks only work in movies

But the sandman only brings
White bandages
And white pills
And white lies

-

I never meant to leave you behind
You etched deserter tattoos
In invisible ink on my forearms

And just because they can’t see them
Doesn’t mean I can’t

poems by Phibby Venable

I Have An Ark

I have an ark with a spectacular view
The spine of it is lined with books
I have sealed the boards with honey
There is a soft rug by a leather chair
I sleep on the floor for better stretching
I have a small river that runs into a larger sea
Gray doves have built a nest in the far eave.
This is my special scroll I found
buried beneath the roots of a pale birch
Nothing is written on it but possibilities.
Have you heard the wind song of dawn?
Each morning she plays a blue pipe.
All the birds sing slightly off key.
It is the way their individual songs drop
from the varying height of branches.
There is a puppet of myself in the southern sky.
Some days I pull the strings of repetition.
It is little more than a ritual.
Angels stare from the laurel bushes.
Their eyes flower large and white.
Sometimes the church will bring someone
to hold under the river
They lift them from the water
singing praise, praise, holy.

Women in the Snow

Yesterday on the beach
she was a sea gull,
a seal heart,
a short coat unbuttoned
and reading aloud
In the spring she read
a bridal magazine,
chose houseshoes,
flung long soulful looks
into the large square
of the picture window,
where golden rings tightened,
around the drapery drawback
around her finger
around the crime scene
where the victim lay
where she witnessed
women in the snow
in the tarot cards
in an ice storm
in the restaurants,
of bad backs
and a laurel face
withered in the cold
The women in the snow
held empty bowls
and sturdy shoes
in the large bags
beside the sweet talk
of a loser
They cultivated gray matter
and spoke like wood chopping
on a dull stump
Some of the women screamed
in the snow with children
They were in agony
they got their feet wet
they threw shrill vowels
when the children vomited
They stuck lost kisses
on apartment shelves.
But the way
she wanted out
was in a strong wind, on a reindeer,
in the backseat of santa’s sled
with a moisturizer and a manicure
and a mirror that held a light inside
She wanted five hundred feet
from ocean front
in a short coat,
unbuttoned,
with a seal heart and a sea gull
and a new start
in a palm tree with a sun beam
with a red flower
and a book sleeve
where she could read
or she could write
till her eyes fell
on a fairytale
that she struck down
with a sea weed
then she read the part
in the gray print
where the brain lived
and she stayed there
till she grew up again
where the only rings
were around the sun
and around her head
when the hot breeze
and her hair flew
in the beggar wind.

 

The Heyday by Mick Brazel

Like illegal settlements in your imagination the heyday has moved in to your neighbourhood. Your serenity destined to be hot like that easterly that pushes with the desert wind. Trees fall favourably for those in the Party and management of resources is at an all time high. Why say why not when Yes is recommended. Brace your self, face your family, inform them of the scam to be, run with the easterly into the sea, into the sea, please take me. Lock your food away, look busy everday, keep a tidy facade and fill your heart with glass shards, the heyday has come to play. The films all glorify, typify, exemplify. The songs all sex it up, teaching kids how to dance. Gangsters grab the mic pump bullets into your psyche. You dodge but they lodge into the walls where the writing is. Leaving, a collage of prophecies, subjugation to militaries and the last ancient remedies passed down in melodies.

.

three poems by Mather Schneider

Socialism

The other day I was giving a lady a free ride home
from the hospital
where the state pays for her physical therapy
because she weighs 400 pounds
and fell and hurt her hip on the
way to the fridge.
It was the end of an 11 hour day and I was thinking
the only way to get health insurance
is to be either wealthy
or DIRT poor.
I was also thinking about how many taxes
come out of my check each week,
taxes to pay for this person’s health insurance
when I can’t afford any myself.
She sat in the back and looked at me
in the rearview mirror.
“You look bored” she said.
As if I didn’t have the right to be bored
taking her fat ass home
for the third time this week,
like it wasn’t enough to be paying
attention to the insane
traffic and keeping
us both alive.
I had to love her
too.

Bonita Familia

Carmen’s husband is an American Mexican
but Carmen is an illegal Mexican
so when they got in a fight
he called the border patrol on her
and they deported her
leaving their baby with him.

She tried to come back again
paid somebody a grand to smuggle her across the border
and then when she got to her meeting place
in Nogales
there were the police waiting for her.

She tried again
with someone else’s identification this time
and made it
and is now grateful to be back
in the States
with her baby.

Her and her husband have made up
and everything’s bueno.
She called my girlfriend yesterday
to see if she wanted to have lunch
at the mall.

My Boss is a Bitch

She totes a rotten soul
always doing the ugly selfish thing
just because she can
and proud of it
bragging and breaching
like a wide open
shit-dam.
She’s careful her crimes
are too small for the law
and too big to forget
and you figure if you throw
a fire-bottle into her window
you’ll get caught
but that’s what people like her
drive you to:
somehow you admire their
“will to power”
but eventually you are sucked
into their black hole of hatred
swinging greasy fists
as if you were the dragonfly
that could lift a human heart
and drop it over
the North Rim.
My friend suggested throwing
car antifreeze into her yard
so her dog will eat it
and cough up his guts on
her doorstep,
but I won’t do that.
That dog has done nothing to me
except lick my hand
and wag his tail
when everything seemed
so sad.
.

Fall by Brett Rosenblatt

There is the wheezing air behind my ears as I fall backwards through the diminishing sky. Then there is the rice-paper crackling of the tree line and then the wet-towel thump on the cushioned green ground and then there is Sara’s distant screaming and then there is nothing.

Consciousness flickers, falters, fragments of sounds pulsating through my mind, confusion against the numbness. Sara talking her way down, trembling but strong, me taking stock, imagining if I am dead or alive, unremembering. Sara’s voice keeps me thinly there.

In the distance, other voices. I try to tell Sara to stop talking please, but there is more blood than sound and then wracking coughs and suddenly I feel the pain, white hot in my back and shoulders, spindly and light down my leg. I slide my hand in the leaves next to me until I feel the revolver and then close my eyes and wait.

When I awake, Sara is above me blocking the sky with her huge head and teary green eyes, her competent hands moving fluidly down my body, opening buttons and zippers, removing shoes, tearing fabric, cursing to herself as she works methodically downward. She cuts the jeans away from a compound fracture, the thigh-bone sticking out jagged and sharp, thinking she can stop the bleeding. Pack it with dirt, I say as she stares at the bone. She considers this for a while.

The little girl stands off to the side, watching me with big, frightened eyes.

After a while, tickling my toes, tying ripped shreds of fabric here and there, Sara stops and leans down, her blonde hair surrounding my face, wet tears falling directly down, washing into the blood. Shaking with sobs, cursing over and over.

They’ll be coming, I say.

She doesn’t answer.

You have to go.

She’s a nurse, plugging leaks, postponing via triage. I’m an engineer, watching essential systems shut down as my body buys extra minutes.

They won’t come down, they won’t cross the river.

The little girl looks at the river, both ways, then back to me.

You can hear them Sara, you have to go.

I won’t go.

Her tears wet on my face; I am cold, hot, numb all at once. Pressure expanding and deflating inside of me; confused nerves course through my body, colliding like trapped insects. I can feel the buzzing in half-filled veins, the rattling echo of my heart as it pushes more blood through the holes.

Far above a lone hawk flies long, lazy loops, scanning the riverbanks for prey.

I won’t go, she says again, grinding her head into mine.

You have to go, I whisper back.

I can’t.

You have to.

I know I have to but I can’t.

She covers me with leaves and tree branches and snaps pictures from her phone in every direction for bearings. She keeps stopping to look at me, kneeling down and putting her lips against my nose and mouth to see if I’m breathing. I try to smile with my eyes, nodding weakly.

* * *
At some point during the night it rains.The wet leaves tighten against my skin and I feel better for it.Then the insects come out. I feel them crawling over me, under the leaves, small pains, sharp and random. River crabs too, but they don’t bother.

I lay half-conscious in the leaves, undreaming the past hours and days and months and correcting them. Sara didn’t have an affair.We didn’t come here, a peaceful, favorite, remembered place; a place to talk and to feel, to finish in a better way. We went someplace else, someplace to celebrate, someplace safe and civilized and romantic. I wore proper shoes and a pressed shirt; she an elegant dress with strapped sandals, soft makeup around her eyes, the scent of her jasmine shampoo trailing behind her. In this other place, we are happy.

We don’t cross the two men with rifles. Or we do cross, but we don’t see the little girl. Or we do see the little girl but see her sitting by a tree teasing a frog with a twig instead of lying pinned beneath the man, screaming.

Or we do see this, but we silently slip away, thinking it best to find help.The girl lives, becomes successful, happy, famous, and this helps us manage the guilt.

I walk up casually, plainly.When I plunge my knife into the man’s neck, the one watching from the side, the other man freezes, smiling wickedly at me and pointing a revolver at the girl’s head. Sara picks up his rifle from the ground, aiming it at him. The rifle sways and dips with her ragged breathing. I gesture with my hand from behind the man to cock the gun, my other hand holding the knife buried in his throat. He is somehow very much alive, keeping still against the knife, not talking.
Shoot him, I say.

The little girl stares at me, eyes wide with horror, blood coursing down her pale legs and forming a puddle beneath her.

To Sara, shoot him now.

The fading light makes it difficult to see. The rifle dips and jerks.

To the man, drop the gun or your friend dies.

That wound, he’ll die certain.

Sara holds her breath, tries to steady the heavy rifle.

Shoot him, I say.

I can’t.

You have to.

And she does.

I twist the knife, the man slackens and his body slides to the ground.
He has a revolver in a holster and green flashlight. I take both.

Sara kneels down low, whispers to the girl.

Then we hear more voices, distant voices that we don’t trust.

Sara grabs the girls hand and we run.

We cross the rope bridge that will lead us to the road. I stop, hacking at the supports with my knife, and it goes before I expect, and I go too.

* * *

When I awake again it is still dark, a country dark split by the moon, stars reflecting off the mottled glass of the river like neon jellyfish. I stare straight up, holding my eyes open, ignoring the dark, blurry fade around the sides of my vision. I am cold and tired, breathing shallow, liquid breaths. The voices descended upriver some, going the wrong way at first, receding and disappearing and then zigzagging back, becoming louder again, taunting.

To keep awake, I think backwards and forwards, randomly jumping circles we’ve crossed; the steward who opened the wine on our first Valentine’s Day; his name, where he lived, what he did the next day, who he served before us, who he goes home to. Vacant faced amusement park operators who spun us around, humorless taxi drivers who delivered us and drove on. Old couples who watched us stroll in the park, children who smiled at us, street kids who could have mugged us but didn’t. People we collided with, merged with for a time, then bounced off and eventually arrived here, this moment.
My skin blue, crusty and gritty from the rain. I hear the wind muscling the trees, the river caressing the stones, pulling relentlessly forward as I lay still. Under the wet leaves, the revolver cold and smooth in my hand, the weight of it comforting, substantial.

The sky turning crimson, the air thin and chill, night sounds folding into day sounds. The ground beneath me is soft and muddy with my blood and I am for some reason happy to feel this. I practice with the revolver, try to make sure it’s pointing upwards, tilting it back and forth, guessing at the angles and memorizing them. I close my eyes to listen better, then I fall asleep again.

A muted crack to the top of my head sends fresh pain shooting down my entire body, vibrating in my back, my leg, everywhere at once. I look to the side and see the shape of the boot as it comes again, crushing my nose. My eyes blur and stay blurred. When I try to look up no one is there.

Sideways, no one, no shapes that I can see. I pull my chin against my chest, gritting my teeth; looking down my body I see their legs by my feet. I raise my eyes, trying to focus, desperate to see. Two of them standing, laughing, no more than flannel blurs. One is poking the bone in my thigh with a rifle barrel and it hurts a lot less than it should.

The rising sun full on behind them now. I tilt the revolver, aiming like I practiced, trying to hold it steady as I fire, click-click-click. I keep firing long after the bullets are gone and the men lay dead at my feet. I pull my chin up further, dry firing again, at their heads, their feet, everywhere; I click until I my finger cramps up and won’t move again. The gun hot in my hand, the silence unnerving.

I keep my chin up as long as I can, dizzy and squinting, until I start shaking and my head drops back into to the mud. Against the sound of the river, I hear the voices again. I twist my head to the side and roll my eyes upwards, looking through the leaves behind me, but I can’t see them. When I look back down, towards my feet, I see the man’s hands clamped on my ankle, dragging himself towards me. I try to jerk my leg, to kick, but it won’t move. It takes him a bit of time, pulling by my jeans, my knees, even the broken bone from my thigh. When he finally stops, he is sitting upright on my abdomen, listing to once side, blood trickling through rotted teeth down into his beard. More blood gurgles through a hole in his chest as he breathes shallow, wet breaths, but he doesn’t seem to notice.

I see the knife in his hand and I hear the voices calling again and I am confused, trying to look around him. I raise my head again jerking my eyes wildly side to side. I want to tell him to stop, to wait just a little, but then I feel the knife sliding in and grinding against the muddy ground beneath me and I feel blood and air wheezing out and there is nothing else to do.

As he tries to unstuck the knife and pull it out there is an explosion of sound and the man jerks backwards, leaving the knife between my ribs. I tilt my head weakly and see a rough man in dark, cracked sunglasses, looking down the barrel of a pump shotgun. He talks on a satellite phone or walkie-talkie giving numbers, coordinates, elevations, asking for paramedics, airlifts. Then he cradles the shotgun in the crook of his arm and stares blankly. I close my eyes and just wait. I don’t feel anything.

After a while there is Sara above me, rubbing my temples, asking me please open my eyes, please, and I do, but I can see nothing. Her hair surrounds my face as it has so many times before, just like this, a translucent, golden fortress. I know she’s there, close, only the two of us inside, and I smile and breathe her in, taking as much as I can hold and not letting it back out, and she’s crying again, squeezing my hand.

She kisses my lips, my head, saying my name over and over again.

The girl, I say.

Sara.

The girl, Sara.

Yes, she says. Sara. The little girl’s name was Sara too.

Sara, I say, letting my eyes close.

Yes, she says. Sara.

There is the scattering of birds vacating trees, the ancient chorus of river frogs, the mourning wail of a lone coyote. In the distance the angry beat of a helicopter echoes in the early sun. There is Sara lying next to me in the leaves, the jasmine walls of her silky hair warm against my face, tears streaming down her muddy cheeks, Sara, holding my cold hands, saying my name and whispering softly of our lives. Then there is nothing.
.

three poems by Janet Freeman

Tree Frog

Tree frog, whip-o-will; a cyclone-dusted moon.
On a night like this, a secret spilled
could unend gravity, cushion all creatures
calling home the weightless sea: the whale,
heaving herself to shore as into
the swell of darkness a single star floats.

Old Woman, Bookstore

Like tracks laid for a train that never came,
each wrist stitched and bound in bandage.
These she removes, coffee cooling on the sill
as her counter-propped transistor delivers
its static-tuned warning: take cover.

Outside, clouds streak past like hearses
en route to city center; the darkening sky
a graveyard of hearts unmended.

Amidst these ruins she is called to speak-

Misplaced elder seeking undone sutures
In left wrist and in right-

But only if spoken to.

Yesterday at the Art Institute of Chicago

“I’m giving you culture, culture,
CULTURE,”
roared the vulture,
crashing from room to room.

She made quite a noise.

The baby bird trailing mama’s furious breeze
could only offer mild protests, new eyes
not yet accustomed to seeing
whisked past the mighty blue windows
dreamt by Chagall,
the Hopper hanging in Room 249
and a roomful of presents left
by J. Cornell:
bubbles and beads, butterflies and parakeets;
little dolls encased in glass.
Our selves, our souls,
unwrapped
while I stood peering in,
waiting for just one glimpse
of what lay within.
.

Ode to a Drunken Muse by Paul Hellweg

Last night I got lit up
and my muse and I
were on a roll,
together we created
several masterpieces,
maybe not Pulitzer
or even Pushcart,
but definitely publishable,
and I felt good
damn good
really damn good,
then I got up this morning
reread the batch,
all drivel,
worse,
they were boring drivel,
and I looked around
for you-know-who,
but she was gone
no note
no clue as to when
or if
she’ll be back,
but a muse is just like
a lover who breaks your heart,
you always hope
they’ll be back,
regardless of the cost
.

going down on The Queen by Mat Gould

we get so worried
oh
so worried
we stay up all night
and
pace to and from
room to room
we get a chair
we have a seat
chuckle up a few poem
we think
long
and
hard
talking to ourselves
we throw up our hands
I look at women
with
a curious soul
we reach toward fading light
how to keep a dream fulfilled
we keep the fat in our teeth
like
we just went down on the queen
sucking out the sweat
and
letting deep breath settle us
before
during
and after
we choke it back
and
once again
we beg
and
hold steady
as we put it to ourselves-
.

Another Unwanted Kiss by Michael Estabrook

She’s at her computer showing me
her new Facebook page,
her profile and friends and what’s
been written on her “wall.”

I lean in to kiss her cheek, but
she abruptly, automatically pulls away,
as if she touched a hot stove,
craning her head off to the side
to avoid my unwanted kiss.
Strange to be avoiding this little show
of affection, after all, we’ve been married
over 30 years. But not
so strange either, seeing as she rarely
appreciates my little acts of affection,
would prefer to do without
any affection from me at all.

“You’re distracting me,” she said.
Seems she was trying to figure out how
to put her maiden name into Facebook
to see who turns up from the past,
maybe old boyfriends or admirers
from high school or college
who think that maybe now
she’s a widow or a divorcee looking for some
companionship finally.
.

The Boy Who Wished He Was a Cloud by Nik Perring

The boy wished he was a cloud. He sat there on the floor, eyes closed, hands together, legs crossed and he imagined. He imagined he could float up – up – up off the floor, up through the ceiling, up – up – up into the sky. He’d meet other clouds there, his Cloud Friends. He’d talk to them, make them laugh, show them things.
That’s my school, he’d say. And that there, with the tall chimney, is where Daddy does his job. That’s Nanna’s house.
He would float, warmed by the sun, over and away from the village, over roads he didn’t need to worry about crossing.
He would keep going – exploring! – travel to faraway lands, see dinosaurs and sea monsters, pirates, and cartoon towns. He could look for spaceships, and wave at the aeroplanes as they flew by.
If he drifted lower he could wave at people, see them gaze up, excited, wide-eyed – jumping about and clapping as the Cloud Boy drifted over them. The people on the ground would wave back, and he would be too high for them to reach up and touch, even though they all wanted to.
The boy, eyes still closed, hands still together, legs still crossed, wished he was a cow. Wished he was the only cow in the whole field – he’d have all that grass to himself. He’d think: all that food for me!
Then he shivered and he wished he was a sheep with a thick, woolly coat.
He wished, hands still together, fingers entwined tightly, legs getting uncomfortable, aching, that he was an elephant – then he could bash the door open – trumpeting loudly – and not have to wait for Mum to unlock it.
Then he wished he was a snake, hissing and dangerous, or a roaring bear, or a mean stripy tiger, so he could knock her down, so he could bite. Grr. Roar. Hiss.
Then he would be a rabbit or a dog or a cheetah – anything that could get away fast.
Finally he would be an angel, so he wouldn’t feel bad and so he could be forgiven. And so he could hide amongst the clouds.
.

Mirror by Ivan Brkaric

Her cries went unanswered.
Into nothingness she once glared.

Her heart was hollow,
as it pumped loneliness
through her veins.

When her tears fell,
they ran down her cheek
to slowly drip from her chin.

Her tears were wasted when no one heard her cry.
I should have done something, but I didn’t.

I could have
showed her
how beautiful
she really was.

To let her know
that her heart
was filled with love,
instead of sorrow.

To remind her
that what people saw on the outside
was nothing compared to who she was inside.

She was a gentle loving soul gripped in a vulture’s claws.
Pressured to be accepted in order to survive.

But all I ever showed her
was an image of herself
that she never created,
but was forced to follow.
.

Shift by D.C. Porter

i stand at register #3 next to the new hire.
she’s the most beautiful girl i’ve ever seen.
it’s just me and her this wednesday.
customers drift in and out like passing thoughts.
i turn to her and say hello. she smiles.
i tell her life is a beautiful thing squandered
in the hands of humanity. i say
james joyce was definitely on to something,
linguistically speaking, but he became
too wrapped up in his own idiosyncratic studies.
she winks. “you’re a genius,” she says.

i just made that up.
the truth is it’s been 5 hours and i haven’t said
anything to her. the few customers
fade like smoke and the store crowds with silence.
i turn to her and open my mouth. she glances at me.
i stand like this for 8 awkward seconds
as the meaning of life / james joyce
monologue passes over my trembling lips
like a hijacked airplane i can’t shoot down.
but why can’t i?
why can’t i be myself? or at least
impersonate myself for two minutes.
i turn to the register and tap SHIFT.

her cell phone buzzes. she sneaks it
out of her pocket and places it
behind a stack of shopping bags. she squints
into the screen and laughs. i imagine
it was me who texted her. i wrote
something brilliant about the appalling lack
of symbolism in contemporary painting.
she’s a sucker for symbolism, it turns out,
and she falls instantly in love with me.

she starts typing a message back,
probably to her boyfriend, probably
about me: the pathetic mute.

i turn to the register and tap SHIFT.
she’s the most beautiful girl i’ve ever seen.
i hold my breath.
i place my fingers on my forehead
and stare at my empty hands.
.

warrior by Constance Stadler

Run –
to the west
to the edge
of earth,
to brink
of ocean
to the cusp
of blaze.
Pierce
the canyon gusts
the prayer of the Dead Ones
the Ancestor’s lament.

Fill steppes of the ages –
the fierce young ones
the unsentimental old ones
the remnant mothers
the murdered millions
dead, unblessed.

Bear the burden of the bones.

Run, you must not rest
in rest, there is sleep,
in sleep, death divides.

Climb the sheer rock face
Brave
Lone Ghost Dancer
Honor Mighty Fallen
Totem High.

Sister Sun
Rips breast open
Sparkling night
With star-lit soul.

Be the rock face
score its crags,
cry of small bird
fades below …
You stand aloft in black clouds
on lattice of ice maiden’s
nearing
Hilo’s hand.

Tomorrow,
The Bottle calls you.
This day,
You Touch the Sky.
.

Me and McQueen by Thomas Healy

I am an addict, I admit it, a true junkie when it comes to going to films. Ever since I was a kid and first saw droves of calvary troops charging across the enormous screen of my neighborhood theater, I became addicted, hoping to go as often as possible. For an hour and a half, maybe two hours, I was able to escape the littleness of my life. Always I felt a curious pulse of excitement when I entered a movie theater, much more so than I ever felt entering a church because the lessons and parables presented there were more relevant and comprehensible to me. They seized me in a way that the arcane language of the Gospel seldom did, at times practically pulling me out of my seat so that I seemed to be participating in what was transpiring on the screen.

All an actor owes his audience is a good performance and that’s all I ever expect when I watch someone in a film, but sometimes the appeal of a performer extends beyond a particular role. What is displayed on the screen serves as a template for others to admire and emulate. Humphrey Bogart certainly was someone whose screen presence remained strong many years after his last appearance in a film. I never understood his enduring appeal, however. He always reminded me of a grouchy geometry teacher waiting for the day he could retire yet revival theaters across the country continue to screen his films to audiences who have committed much of his dialogue to memory and are not shy about reciting it with him.

Over the years I have enjoyed the performances of numerous actors but the only one I ever wanted to be like was Steve McQueen. He struck a nerve, becoming more than a performer to me. He made me realize that a person could maintain his dignity in the worst of circumstances. He seemed so credible, in control of every gesture, able to impose his will on the most difficult situation. Others, though, were not as impressed. Robert Mitchum once said disparagingly, “Steve doesn’t bring too much to the party.” But he brought enough that he was always convincing in the roles he played. “I am aware of my limitations,” he acknowledged, “and that’s probably half my talent.” Unlike some film actor who bellow at audiences as if still in the corner of some dingy Off Broadway stage, he could convey his intentions with a raised eyebrow, a slight inflection of his voice, a nod, a stare, a wicked schoolboy grin. He was an actor who seldom appeared to be acting which made members of the audience believe that the person on the screen was not all that different from the person who left the studio in the evening.

Someone once said that the average American is above average and McQueen certainly represented such an American. He was not a physically imposing figure or someone who was stunningly handsome but was an average-sized man of modest looks and intelligence. He was the sort of person you might see shopping in a grocery store or standing in line in a post office. He could not depend on superhuman strength or some marvelous gadget to extricate himself from the thorny situations he found himself in his films but was required to rely on his cunningness and wit and charm.

A laconic actor more comfortable in silence than in dialogue, he was better known for what he did than what he said. When he stared into the bathroom mirror at the end of Bullit reflecting on all the suffering and damage that had occurred, everyone in the audience was compelled to ponder what they had watched during the course of the film. And when he made the motorcycle jump in The Great Escape, the audience shared in his quiet moment of triumph. The dialogue in his films was best conveyed through his startlingly blue eyes, they translated his thoughts and emotions more accurately than any words he uttered.

When I watched him I imagined I could do what he did, not unlike many others in the audience I suspected. He was one of us, coping with crises the way we might if so confronted. Always believable in his roles, he was never some caricature of an action star but an ordinary American struggling to prevail in the various predicaments he found himself.

Occasionally my identification with McQueen got carried away. After watching LeMans, I remember getting into my car, a decrepit Volkswagen not a Porsche as he drove in the film, and roaring away from the theater as if I were on a track in France. And soon after I saw Bullit, I had a chance to visit San Francisco and dutifully patrolled the narrow streets of North Beach in the manner of a police detective. But my strangest connection to McQueen occurred after I enlisted in the Army and was ordered to report to Fort Polk, Louisiana to begin basic combat training. I was told just to wear grubby clothes because soon after I entered the Reception Center I would be issued military fatigues. So I wore what I usually wore that summer, a cut-off blue sweatshirt, chinos, and desert boots, and it was not until my first night in the barracks that I realized I was dressed much like the Virgil Hilts prisoner of war McQueen played in The Great Escape. I was surprised, not having consciously intended to resemble him, and smiled to myself. I only wished I had brought along a baseball and glove so I could better pass the time in the suffocating Louisiana heat.

“Life is walking on the wire: the rest is waiting in the wings.” This comment of the tightrope walker Karl Wallenda of the Flying Wallendas was mentioned to McQueen while he was making LeMans and it corresponded so closely to his own attitude that he had it included in the script. The ultimate appeal of a McQueen film is that we can watch someone struggling to make it across the wire and at the same time imagine ourselves on the wire with him.
.

three poems by Wayne Mason

Swing Yr Pen Like A Hammer And Sickle

I’m guilty
of writing
poems of
heartbreak
on factory
floors but
now I’m
wondering
if the poor
blue collars
really need
another sad
damn poem?

Does the
forgotten
class need
yet another
proletariat
declaring
defeat when
he should
be declaring
a war?

Just maybe
we need
manifestoes
instead of
the blues

Just maybe
we need a
working class
poet to set
the world
on fire

To swing
their pens
like hammers
and sickles

Breaking
down the
class lines
and busting
down the
doors to
executive
board rooms

A Marxist
Whitman to
write poems
and prophecies
to make the
capitalists
weep

Sorry to say
I’m not it

I’m tired

It’s Friday
and instead
of war I’m
just looking
for a little
bit of peace
tonight

In This Place It’s Always Winter

In here
the sun
doesn’t
shine

The cold
drives a
dull ache
to yr bones

Shivering
in dreary
winter of
industry

Should
we set
this old
factory
on fire
just to
stay
warm

The American Dream

Just maybe
this good life
has killed me
this thing called
the American
Daydream

Hours melt
into days
stretching into
weeks before
years until
youth is utterly
swallowed by
the wrinkled
hands of time

The years
drip away
like a candle
soaked in
gasoline

and it gets
you this

A little house
you’re never at
a lawn you’re
too beat to mow
A family that
you never see

And in the
cracked driveway
a crappy car
that only takes
you to work
like a casket
on four wheels
only going forward
full throttle to
the bitter
fucking end
.

Stool Samples: Manhattan by Tim Tomlinson

Cool This

“Robert De Niro walked across this floor
ten minutes ago and placed a call from
that phone by the Men’s Room.” “So fucking what?”
“I’m just saying.” “Well don’t say, drink.” “Cool.” “Cool
this.” “Then De Niro comes back with a black
chick beautiful as a movie star.” “He

is a movie star.” “No, the chick I’m saying.”
“Well don’t say, drink.” “And the whole place acted
like he isn’t even here.” “He isn’t
here.” “No, then I’m saying.” “Well don’t say, drink.”
“You ever see Jaws?” “That’s not De Niro.”
“Who?” “Shut the fuck up.” “You guys ready,” the

barman asks. “Why not?” “You?” “What he’s having.”
“Get your own.” “I am.” “Mine is yours?” “Why not?”

.

Shelter Island by Elaine Rosenberg Miller

“Where is it?” she asked.

“What?”

“Shelter Island.”

“I don’t know. Somewhere up in New York. On Long Island. Why?”

“I like the name.”

She returned her attention to the wooden chopping block on which she had placed a hard, orange carrot. She continued to wield the large, sharp, silver knife, rhythmically comforted by the hollow sound of steel against fiber.

“How many of those are you cutting?” the other woman asked.

She laughed. “I don’t know. I get carried away.” She looked up and stared out of the kitchen window, taking i n the wide lawn.

“We had it fixed after the last hurricane,” she said.

“What?”

“The fence. I had it fixed. I’m just waiting for the next one.”

“We lost three trees”.

“It was awful. It undulated, like a wave. Back and forth. There was nothing I could do. The children slept through the whole thing. I was wondering if I would be like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.”

“Are you going away at all?”

“I can’t. No time. They return in a week.

“How does the little one like camp?

“She loves it. She said that next summer she wants to go for two sessions.” She scooped up the vegetables and threw them into a pot of boiling water. “Sometimes, I use leeks. It gives it a distinctive taste.”

“What are you going to do with all this chicken soup?”

“What do you mean?”

“You are just making tons of it.”

“Freeze it. They will eat it over the year.”

“I’m sure.”

“Did you want to do something today?”

“Not really. I just stopped by to give you the donor lists.”

“I’ll write them, thanking them. Anyone new?”

“No. Same old crowd.”

“I like your haircut.”

The woman touched her short, shaggy locks. ‘You do? Me, too. I finally had the nerve to cut it all off. Fernando talked me into it. He said it looked Grecian.”

“It does.”

“So what are you up to?

“What do you mean?”

“Dating anyone?”

The woman opened the refrigerator door and removed some parsley.

“You should put that in at the last minute. It tastes better.”

“You think so?”

“Definitely.”

“Coffee?”

“Thanks. I’ll get it myself. She rose and removed the glass carafe.

“That one has some chocolate it.”

“Even better.”

“I found it at the gourmet shop at the mall.” She returned the greens to the refrigerator.

“Well?”

“Well, what?”

“Are you seeing anyone?”

She laughed. “Of course not. No time.”

“Time is something that you have plenty of.”

“That’s not true!”

“No?”

“Look, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Why not? Why are you standing here chopping things and making enough soup for an army?”

“You don’t know what you are talking about.”

“I don’t?”

“No.”

“Since Mom died, I have been the only one to tell you the truth.”

“Stop. Stop right now. I don’t have to take your advice. I know what I am doing.”

“Do you? You married a jerk and you are still mourning over him.”

“I am not! It was the greatest thing that every happened to me, getting a divorce.”

“So?”

“It’s not that easy. Every day. People, people that knew him years ago, as a child, they say, they said, just the other day, that the youngest one looks just like him.”

“And?”

“He doesn’t even know it. He hasn’t seen her in years.”

“You feel sorry for him?”

“Yes.”

“After all he did?”

“Yes. He wasn’t always like that.”

“You are as insane as him. Dad was right.”

“You don’t know what you are talking about.”

She stood, her eyes narrowed. “I am sick and tired of you saying that, thinking that you are the only one that knows anything.”

“You have no right to comment on my life. You are not in my shoes.”

“I wouldn’t want to be. You can do nothing to help yourself.”

She turned in a fury. “I never asked you for anything. Except once. That one time in the hotel when I begged you to help me. You refused. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t understand it now. He was my husband, the father of my children.”

“I hated him.”

“But you had no right. He never did anything to you.”

“I never liked him.”

“That’s not the issue. You turned me down. And things just got worse and worse”

“You’re lucky to be rid of him.”

“But he’s not gone! He’s alive and no one knows where he is and every time I look at his daughter, I see his face. His eyes.”

“You’re still in love with him!”

“No, I’m not!”

“Look, the lawyer called me. Dad’s estate is ready to be distributed.”

“I don’t care.”

“You want anything? Any dishes or anything?”

“Keep it.”

“Something?”

“You took care of them, you keep it.”

“Fine.”

“This horse. The crystal horse. They bought it when we were young, before they moved to the big house. I remember it. It rose on its rear legs. Its muscles were so beautiful. I would like that.”

“I gave it away.”

“What?”

“I gave it to Maria, the maid.”

“Why?”

“You weren’t there. I did everything.”

“You should have asked me.”

“If you wanted to have been involved, you should have been there. I did everything by myself.”

“All the pictures?”

“In boxes.”

Suddenly, the sound of sizzling steam was heard.

She lowered the temperature on the range.

“It’s all gone.”

“What?”

“Everything. Everything we knew, had. Gone.”

“Oh, you. You are so dramatic. All you ever did was live in a fantasy.”

She turned and leaning against the sink, took a hard look at the other woman. She touched her sternum, gently massaging the membrane between her ribs.

“At one time, you were my idol. I looked up to you. I never wanted anything more than to be your friend.”

“Look, I have to go. I have a golf date.”

“Sure.”

“I’ll have the lawyer call you about the estate. There’s cash. I’m sure you can use it. “

“I’ll give it to the children.”

“Keep it for yourself.”

“I don’t want it.”

“Suit yourself. She rose, picked up a large black leather bag and slung it over her shoulder. “It was on sale at Rowley’s. “

“Nice.”

“I bought two. I gave one to my sister-in-law.”

They stared at each other.

“Even she can get a date. And she’s older than you.”

She turned and left.
.

two poems by Scot Young

tag team champs

dirty dick murdoch
and I shared the mic
on Mama Tried with a
whiskey twang of too
much jack and a left
over choke hold

after a championship
match
on stage with the
cadillac cowboys
in midtown
cowtown
we became merle
and lefty
two of the
toughest sonsabitches–

ever to sing
off key

smithereens

putting together
the fragments
of yesterday I sat in this
back street bar watching
the animated waterfall
fall gently
like a postcard vacation
the jukebox
spins 45s
pieces of lost songs
of faded love
of jaded love
of too many quarters
falling down
that sad slot
of swizzle sticks stirring
the last drink

putting together
the fragments
of tomorrow
I sit in this
lonely bar watching
the lazy-eyed blonde
black roots
bad rouge
kissing the napkin
with too much lipstick

knowing vacations
and getting lucky
really aren’t
what they
used to be.
.

spoken words by Belinda Subraman
and another

poems by Belinda Subraman

The Afflicted

Nothing ever leaves.
Life moves inward
as it disappears.
Word soup may dribble
from the afflicted
but it is a code to somewhere.
They dream out loud,
travel in their sleep.
Their psychotic clothing,
rotten with age,
tears with every move they make
but it is worn
as an imperfect skin.
There is a bridge to nowhere,
The void is on the map.
Sanity and clothing are optional.

7,000 Feet Up

Riding the wave of a wet near-dawn afternoon
Compacted loses swell with moisture.
Endings roll over each other and tangle.

All is what it is.
Faces in the sky change
but the sky expressively remains:
sheltering, nourishing, terrifying.

0300

This room I splashed
with one third of my heart
keeps estranged dolls
under tables
and a mosaic bust
sexier than mine
guards the bed
where I hope to sleep.
The lace gown curtain
over a non-screened
gaping hole to the world
invites the flies of night
to my tiny light.
They are drunk on heat,
banging the lampshade.
Their abandon inspires me.
I open my drawer of secrets.

Aging

It would be nice to be
philosophical about it all -
the way the light hits the trees
or is it the way the trees diffuse the light?

Perspective can only be seen
from a distance
and then it’s what angle
or metaphor one employs.
Light may be Love.
Trees may be minds.

Decades give, haunt and take away
until all we have is
a radiant, rich torture,
shadows to study,
smiles from nowhere
or stares,
until all we have
is how the light hits trees
or how the trees diffuse the light.

.
Bible Belt

In the Bible belt words squeeze into the tightest notch.
“Jesus,” “pray,” and “saved” are mandatory
on everyone’s proper mouth.
All must be “washed in the blood of Jesus”
and “know” what that means.

In the Coronary Artery Disease belt
God’s gifts from the earth
are fried, creamed or doughed into pie.
In time, the heart is squeezed too tight.
A family suffers in its grip
as a “saved” loved one dies
with blood squirting from his lips.
.

poems by William Taylor Jr.

The Piss and Sweat of All of Those Who Came Before

The day is stillborn

unwieldy
and collapsing
beneath its own weight

the blue sky

just something else
made for other people

something else
we can’t afford

and the bus seats smell
of the piss and sweat
of all of those
who came before

on a day when you
know you shouldn’t drink
but do

what with the world
always demanding

we choose
between life
and death

when we’re much more inclined
towards something
in-between.

.
The Same Fire

With any luck we are given
equal amounts of

days and nights
light and darkness
sun and rain.

We are given our share of
bone blood and skin;

it’s what we do with them
that makes the difference.

The thing to understand is:
every moment

we are the lion
eating the lamb

and the lamb
being eaten by the lion

and hell is found more often in life
than in death.

We all burn in the same fire
whether we know it or not

and in the end

we will be saved
or damned

by nothing other than
ourselves.

Where You Find Meaning

Where you find meaning is your own
business
as long as it keeps you alive
another day.

And beauty, too, is yours
to define;

the sacred carrot to hang
in front of yourself

to keep you moving
when you might otherwise
be still;

to make death work
at least a bit
for its filthy prize.

.
Take Them

The tiny moments of light
that sometime come
in between everything else

are what we wait for,

are what make all the
sad and empty hours
worthwhile.

Such moments come
only of their own accord

and are often few
and far between.

Sometimes
it seems the waiting
is all there is.

It may seem
like a rotten deal
and maybe so

but when they finally come
they are so beautiful,
so perfect.

They are a magic
that trumps even death.

So be patient.

Wait for them
and when they arrive

recognize them
and be grateful.

Take them
and run.

.
Another One

Riding the 38 Muni to work
and every time the automated voice
makes an announcement
a dapper old man
sitting in the seat behind me
replies in a quiet singsong voice:

Goddamn, talking bus.

Ding! Next stop, Geary and Leavenworth.

Goddamn, talking bus.

Ding! On crowded busses, please be mindful of purses and wallets.

Goddam, talking bus.

Ding! Next stop, Geary and Sixth Ave.

Goddam, talking bus.

I get off at 6th avenue and as I do the old man
looks me in the eye and says,

Another shitty day, asshole. Goddam talking bus.

And I couldn’t really argue with the man.
.

three poems by John Grey

Guy On His Way

I am sorry but I will be delayed.
Begin without me.

Kiss yourself.
Shake your own hand.
Talk to the wall.

It’s heavy traffic
or could be I overslept.

So undress yourself.
Fill in the figures
to the best of your ability.
Choose the movie.

Maybe I’m not coming
at all.
Did we even plan
to get together?

Eat alone.
Tell jokes to no one.
Sleep with yourself.

I’ll make it up to you someday.
But if someday I’m not there,
begin the making up
without me.

Gambler

The first pulled handle
of the slot machine season.
Wheels spin my luck in life.
A single cherry.
Kachung! Kachung!

The air is smoky yellow,
carpet’s as blue as the sky
I may not see for days.
The woman with the drink tray
is gold-lined, leggy.
The excited fat guy at the next stool
is counting quarters like they’re doubloons.
I haven’t the heart to tell him
he’d get richer flipping burgers.

The second pulled handle.
Nothing this time.
Two blue hairs squabble over
whose machine is whose.
Three rows of slots away,
a light gleams red.
I hear an avalanche of coins.

Third pulled handle, then the fourth,
then the fifth, and so on.
Sometimes Kachung! Kachung!
Mostly nothing but mismatched fruit
and one fat 7.
But I’m ever the optimist,
otherwise why are their handles.
And something keeps telling me,
someday you’ll hit the jackpot.
Another cherry.
Kachung! Kachung!
That’s what’s telling me.

What I Leave Behind

It’s not just my fingerprints
I leave everywhere these days
but my DNA.
A hundred years from now
when family have long forgotten me,
some expert will pick up my trail.
He didn’t work, he didn’t love,
he didn’t write a damn thing,
but he sure left behind
a ton of evidence.
Okay, so maybe they won’t bother.
They’ll be too busy solving crimes,
will probably bypass me
to get at Jack the Ripper.
He was really… take your pick:
queen’s surgeon, German butcher,
crazy artist, Russian seaman.
All these ways of identifying me
and no one will take up my case.
So forget the future, forget the fingerprints,
forget the DNA.
Whatever the signs,
either I find them or no one will.
Unless, of course, I commit a crime.
Is self obsession a crime, I wonder.
.

A Prayer of the Flesh by Victoria Clayton Munn

I want to be a piece of meat. I want to go to a bar and lean against the torn vinyl, sweaty palmed, and talk to the guy in the leather jacket wearing too much Polo. His eyes will burn me, my mouth will phrase things slowly, better than “nice shoes, wanna fuck” but not much. He’ll touch me, I’ll feel the sleaze, and welcome it as we walk two cold blocks to his one bedroom. I’ll take the tour, brown carpet, white walls and we’ll end in the bedroom where I wanted to start the whole damn thing, bend me over the king size – face to the comforter where I can smell sex and other women’s perfume and take me, take me not because I can make you smile or am intelligent or can speak three languages. Take me because tonight I am beautiful, I am a woman and I want to fuck.

Aspirations by Donna Vitucci

Cecil tended bar in an apron – bar in his basement and he his one customer. His mother’s aprons lay pressed and folded in the drawer of the dry sink. Behind the two doors sat all the liquor, nothing top shelf. Cutty Sark. Slutty spark. Slit, spit, curt, cart. Haunted and hunting and blue, he cruised his own blood.

Cecile pulled a fleece jacket on his arms and went to cruise the bars at College Corner, encountered Major’s Place, the usual pickled regulars inside there, the shriveled swine, who looked through him and his transparency, his negligibility, to the co-eds who followed in behind with their perfume, their giggles, shrieks and smoke.

Regulating the flow, Major stood shiny as an apparatus, giving off an aroma of deKuypers and dispensable advice: “If there’s a baby in your dream, the baby symbolizes you, the dreamer.”

“Now look, we got a Freud,” somebody said.

Clank clank clank rang the beer mugs and shot glasses on the wood plank bar. The bar had a crowd of cat-callers, commentators, a chorus.

“Walk the plank,” somebody said.

They said it to a girl on her way to the Ladies’ they turned to watch.

The Ladies’ had a bucket to catch what leaked from the valve when toilets flushed. The Mens’ floor, sticky and puddled, was a flotilla of cess Cecil forded. They ran rings around him, these girls. He was his own circus, circling one, then another, alert for errors on alabaster skin. He held back the urge to mar some smooth plate, fisted it like a pocket knife.

He laid foundation with her on how to mix a proper Rob Roy until the bomb ticking in his glare-eyed glee ran her off. She spread her virus, her inside scoop. It traveled the room, front and back, up side walls, leaping the pinball and the video, the bank of tv’s. That guy’s a freak. The co-eds, singly and in pairs, made end runs around him. On their way to the leaky bathroom, they locked their eyes away from his.

“I’m just drinking to exist,” one guy said.

“I’m just breathing to exist,” his crony chimed in.

The archives are waiting to exist, the archives of your heart, Cecil’s heart beat to Cecil’s brain.

“Fuck you, you fucking romantic,” someone yelled.

And yelling back, another someone: “Romantic, my ass.”

Seven men at the bar swiveled their stools, watching a girl on her way to the back.

“It leaks,” somebody called.

They, in unison, spit their mouthfuls.

“She’d be a mouthful,” one said.

“I’ll take her mouth anytime,” said another.

“Watch your mouth,” Major ordered, mopping their mess off the wood.

The snivelers and the cringers eyed their drinks. The rock bottom levels of amber brought a moment’s silence. Everyone bit their lips, even the girls, but they were biting for different reasons. They were working out attraction.

Cecil watched his mouth in the mirror behind the bar. He made it bwap bwap, fish-like. His whole bar neighborhood was underwater, the bar was an aquarium, filled with plant life and fish life, sand and a castle. Pretty rocks. His eyes filled with water. The pretty rocks behind the bar sparkled in the mirror. They duplicated, they halved, they multiplied, they photosynthesized, were made whole.

“Shut your hole.”

A fight ensued over some stupid thing, and Cecile watched the wave of it come and go. Osmosis and ketosis and scientific experiments on the bar room floor.

“This bar is an experiment.”

“The world is a fucking experiment.”

“And so is our Major,” somebody laughed.

“I’m God then,” said Major. “Major God.”

Someone complained, “God, shut up and pour.”

“Put up or shut up.”

Now they talked, as one scary crowd, to one of any of the girls on her way to the leaky faucets.

“I bet that girl’d put out.”

“You’d say anything to get her to, wouldn’t you?”

“I would.” Was Cecil who spoke, who made seven heads swivel.

“What the fuck you talking about?”

Cecil fingered where the frills of a short apron hem would shield his lap. He wore an apron in his basement where no girls lingered, where lonely beat his head in. No one here had a bead on him, a hard-on for him, no good or bad intent, no ambush. He inspired nothing in no one. In his mind he supplied ask and the answers: I am a cipher. I suffer. Insufferable. Able. Able and willing. Any one of those girls.

Out loud he said: “All it takes is an ask and a prayer.”

The bar sitters were on his side, they dripped with sentiment and banality and banal sentimentality. They were easy, they came around to his view, every one of the stingers, the stingies, the stinkos.

“Prayer to the almighty,” one said.

“Pray, you motherfucker, pray to the almighty.”

“The almighty dick.”

“The almighty cares dick about you and me.”

“Ain’t that the truth?”

“Nothing but the truth.”

“So help you God.”

“Anybody’s help. Any of those young lovelies over yonder.”

Inflamed by their talk, Cecile felt ready to strike down every sassafrass ass at the bar. Instead he tailed the last tail out, the last in her group, the last in her league, not a mark on her. Flawless flower she was, her face beaming up to the night, sucking in cold air like a carburetor. Ignite. Run, run.

Her friends paused and called, “Catch up, Janice,” trusting she would.

She wore a skirt short as an apron, frilly, flouncy hem. God didn’t work in signs more explicit. Cecile gained his sea legs, aquarium vanished in the gloom. In her fruit-
filled wake he walked the starlit earth. She would stagger with him. Prophesied, vilified, bonafide, amortized.

Drunk, she said, upon meeting him, “Are you the janitor?”

Through two-faced night, the tilted door, the guttered passage, the knife in his fist jumped the curb, the curve, the carve. The spring in its blade hummed flesh, flourish, shush. Janice lagged, she flagged, she bled. His brain carried on its singing. Cecil, Cecil. Cease. Still.
.

Swansea Doesn’t Understand You by Dan Gee

Today was the day I walked through the streets of Swansea, forever bumping into old ladies with no teeth who didn’t apologise for not looking where they were going; or seeing girls, pregnant twice before they were even 18, sneering at me in the park like snobs with their latest boyfriend, who sat pale like Casper the ghost but about as friendly as the people who queued in front of me in the chip-shop. They shouted at the greasy looking person behind the counter, they asked questions about how much things were despite the prices being clearly displayed in front of them. They spoke as if they owned the place in their cheap and dirty clothes; as if they were better than everyone else and knew everything; how to act, how to look, how to speak and how to walk, through the streets, of Swansea.

Walking through the town
I step into a puddle
and see my own face
.

two prose poems by Jan Oskar Hansen

Livorno Mon Amour

Livorno this dreary harbour port, not Rome and now in
winter a ghost town, every window shuttered telling not
of life inside. Into the bar came a young woman, long legs
like a colt, she was frozen warmed her hand and fanny by
the fire. I thought she looked like the American I had once
seen the shadow of in Trieste, I offered her a drink, she
had a coke, then she left to resume her lonely profession.
Later that night I saw her by a corner and as cold rain hung
In the air; I took her to an hotel, got heating going, she
jumped into bed ready to do her duty, but I was pensive
waiting to write a poem about Trieste.

When I awoke tired morning light seeped through holed
curtains, the girl had put a blanket around me in the night
I was grateful for that. We breakfasted; she had fried eggs
and ham, I drank coffee and a little brandy. Saw her dance
down the street, yes she looked like an eager colt. Hoped
she would meet a rich man, marry him and become his
respectable whore instead of ending up an old diseased
slag begging drinks from men who are ready to debase her.
Two days later I took the train to Trieste, I asked around
but no one had seen the American girl and the poem was
never written.

A litre of wine

The wine in the glass is full the red liquid arches the slightest
movement and it will spill over and run down the stem like
a bleeding stomach wound trickling down a petrified leg.
I bent down and inhaled the wine no spillage and I wondered
why it is so many people, in fact more and more drink beer
that is no longer a natural brew is it because we are no longer
a part of nature and seek and feel more at ease with man made
products and we will soon have a diet that fits with the work
we are doing, say if you want a double cheeseburger with fries
you first have to work shuffling coal for twelve hours,

but if you only want to sit writing a simple poem about
the country side low fat yogurt for you; if you have written
the poem under the influence of a steak you will be censured,
made to walk in the park and tell everyone you’re a crock of
empty of gold empty of anything a modern society such as
networking banalities and get people to buy what they don’t
need; men get medals and titles for doing that. So what do
I care, but it annoys me that I end up buying a soap which
name I have seen on the television and smell like everybody
else, yeah…isn’t that just nice?
.

Along the Automatic Pathby David LaBounty

They met. At school. At work. At a bar. Through a mutual friend. Through a relative, a coworker.

They dated. Went to places without knowing the reason why. Dinners and movie. Dancing.

They made love. They screwed. They fucked. They tried a variety of positions not knowing why they tried them. Positions they’d seen in movies. Positions someone else had told them about, positions they had read about, maybe in Cosmopolitan or maybe in Hustler.

They got married. They had a wedding. They bought an expensive wedding gown for her not knowin why that was so important. They ordered a wedding cake without knowing the reason for so many layers and tiers. Why did they have to get married in a church? Why did they have to do it in front of God? Did they believe in God, and if so why? And was a wedding away from a church not the same? Why was there a reception afterwards, with a catered dinner and assigned seating? Why did their have to be some sort of order for the rest of their lives?

They never thought to ask.

They bought a house. He got a job. A better job. He started doing sales. Wore a shirt and a tie not knowing the reason why a piece of cloth hanging from a man’s neck was necessary. He never even thought about it, never considered that maybe the piece of cloth hanging from his neck was some kind of chain. She got pregnant, not once but twice. They bought a bigger house. The kids grew; they enrolled them in school and signed them up for everything. They thought it was important, to have well-rounded and exhausted children. There were sports and music lessons. Sunday school. The kids never had much free time and were happiest when at home with the television constantly on even though it went largely unwatched and unnoticed. And that was another question they never asked themselves; why did the TV have to come on the minute someone came home? As if the silence was too uncomfortable to remain unbroken.

Their kids grew up. Left the house.

They stopped screwing, they stopped making love.

Eventually, they stopped talking.
.

poemsby Steve Young

Robert

Robert’s wife would come
over to our trailer
almost every night after dark

Me and my brother would lie
in the bunk-beds and listen
to her crying loudly
while our mother prayed
for her even louder

We asked my mother about
this and she explained
in horrifying detail that Robert
had put his thing inside
a two-year old boy’s butt
a lot

But when he was finally caught
the stupid police let him go
because they could not prove it

Soon after that talk
me and my brother were running
through the trailer park
to the bus stop

We had to hurry to make the
bus when an old blue
and silver pick-up screeched to a halt
in front of us and Robert jumped out

We didn’t stop running
but cut left through a row of tall bushes
that separated the trailer court from
an empty field

We didn’t get far
before Robert was right behind us

When I saw my brother almost disappear
inside his beard I kept running

But when I looked
back and saw my brother’s brand new
tennis shoes flailing
wildly and then vanishing
through the row of tall bushes
I stood still and screamed

Mel’s New Job

I hadn’t seen Mel for years
but now she was divorced and back from Europe
working for the police

I went with Jimmy to meet her
at a coffee shop in the early morning

She drove up in a white van that said
Evidence
she was still very pretty

She had blue eye shadow on and
her hair was down to her shoulders. It looked good
on her

We got our coffees and sat outside
so I could smoke

Mel started telling
us about her job. She worked as an evidence collector
for the Phoenix P.D.

At first she told funny stories about
perps and victims and the strange photographs
she had taken of them

All for evidence, of course
but she started to keep copies for her own personal
photo album

Jimmy and I laughed when she told of
the woman who’s husband had shoved a slice
of pizza up her ass

And the story about the man who had pooped
himself to death
with laxatives and Ziploc bags full of the stuff
scattered around the house and even kept
in Styrofoam ice-chests was
disgusting

But the way Mel told it was hilarious

We laughed and drank
our coffee and pressed her for details
while the stories became more bizarre

When she got to the story of the man
who had hung himself from
a bread-cart behind a grocery store
Jimmy and I started
to stop laughing

The guy was easily a foot taller than the cart

He had to hold his legs up and let himself strangle
slowly and Mel’s prize picture was
of this man dead, hanging
from a bread-cart behind a grocery store
with his hand forever frozen
in a single finger
salute

I thought of the rage and
balls it would take to hang
yourself from something
twelve inches shorter than
you and the effort required
to make sure you flipped
off the world in the process

Mel laughed but it wasn’t her normal
pretty laugh and I hoped that she would find
a new job soon

Crucified On a Dollar Sign

The bottles are shaped
like a shit-eating scowl
as he sits on the floor
dissecting Lucy’s Fur Coat

He pisses in the sink
and acknowledges the face
in the mirror

Good to see you again

Coughing and coughing
from inhaling a black
and mild cigar that a one
night stand’s husband left
behind when he came by
teary eyed searching for an explanation

He has to inhale it
there are no cigarette
ends left and the money
was gone even before the shakes

Yes yes quit
the job and quit
the wife and quit
the writing What in the
world did they ever do for you
anyway

Throw away the pictures
and throw away the light bulbs
and throw away the television
and throw away the conveniences
that try to make you like everyone else

But keep the bottles just
in case someone stops
by they can see you are not like them
at all

And keep the books
so they can all dig how well
read you really are

And though suicide is
for cowards don’t forget to
cut your chest
deep
with broken glass
so they can appreciate
how truly troubled you have become

Good to see you again

There now see
he is poor and alone
again finally able to play
the martyr he’s practiced at
for so long
.

My Body is Old Porridge by Eloise Williams

Now that I am thirty five
On honest reflection in the mirror
Without motive I can say, my body is old porridge.

Tits. Two (statistically I’m grateful). Gloopy.
Humungous gurgling roll where stomach used to be.
A sight that brings a globule of puke hacking. Hanging. Congealing.
Tasteless. Thankless.
Insipid.

Arse. A moon with craters.
Men don’t want to land.
There is a nose. Pocked. Crusted. Smelling sickly smells.

Heart clogged. Lumpen.
I am overall grey.
Recycling, though commendable, impossible in this case.
There is an indescribable scent. Pungent.
Years of stewing. Steeped in whisky. Ingredients stirring.

Fingers wooden, splintered, sharp
Itching to scour away spiteful skin. Scratching yellow, blue and brown.
Vagina (I am old enough to say that now) glued together. A skin formed over. Pasted.
Virginity regained. Unwanted.

Every so often sour jam, clotted, warm. A reminder of failure.
My use and use by date passing.
Yearnings. Put a lid on.
Bingo wings shake jelly like
Only to distract from deeper thoughts.

Despairing bubble eyes. Steel scorched and scarred.
Yes. I can hide it.
Smiling tightly. A shrill escape of gas.

Put away the glass.
Of the inside out.
Rockets. Shooting, steaming, simmering, exploding. Steaming, piping, sparking
hot.
Remembering love and childhood laughter. Sweetened.
Impish ideals. Idiosyncrasies. Intelligence. Condensed.

Dreams, boundless, endless, new.
Grateful. Thankful.
Eloquence evaporated. Afraid of escape through rotting yellow teeth.

The Hard Sellby Paul Cooper

Catalogue splits like a fish,
And three plastic-sheen ads thump
like rubber stamps.

“Love,” says the first,
the word puffed out,
Swollen like a pig’s bladder,
And a cartoon cupid
Surveys the border.
“Nothing else like it.”
Of course, there’s the termite-swarm
Of small print burrowing into the foundations,
And the gaudy health warning
Put there by the government.

The second advert is smaller, clearer,
For discount sunbeams,
The first sunbeams of summer,
When you feel them warm
Your back and you
Sigh
Because everything is. All.

Okay.

This ad is minimal
Because the product sells itself.

The third is black and white,
Just a few lines of text.
It sells sorrow.
“Sorrow is cheap,
And gets things done.
For the end of the day,
When the race is run.
It’s the dead-eyed way
You look at me,
Buy one sorrow,
And get one free.”
.

poems by Maria Gornell

Save the bluebird

Bukowski recites in my dreams
“there’s a bluebird in my heart
That wants to get out”
I know exactly what he means
As your cold eyes size me up,
And you pour liquor on promise
Then blow out a flame ignited.
You invade my dreams
With cryptic codes of
Mathematics of love
Imploring me to find a key
Unlocking treasure you buried
Long ago so deep.

I replace your bottle
With heart safely tucked
Between cracks and barbed wire
Waiting for skin to shred,
We make footprints our destiny
Before the tide washes us away.

I awaken to the suffocated
Song of a bluebird,
Pleading to be freed.
You lick the neck of bottle
Utter something crude
Your fans lap it up
Others leave in disgust
While I sing softly
For the bluebird
To be freed..

The blues

Open mic night
Singing the blues
In hushed whispers
Fiery lines flickering
Through mist and fog
Summer madness thick
Drenched in river songs
Inner city blues pouring
Forth humble faces turned
Towards lost infinite elation.

Audience participation needed
Raising laughter and elevation
Towards lost dreams transcending
Laughter our medication,
Visuals of dancing figurines
With 5 rhythms healing psyche,
Like sirens chorus for lost love
Political apathy and decriminalisation
Of drugs, drink, smoking and whores.

Singing working class
Middle class
Under class blues
Coke head snorts grimace
Stuttering over words,
Outside smokers laugh
Exchanging stories and hearts
On sleeves in desperation
For something more than
9-5 days and couch potato existence.

I stare down the bohemian street
Ostracised as smoker yet bringing
Us closer in unity one spirit
Poetry in motion mind bending
As heavens open with rain
And I forget to howl..

Josephine

Just lately I was reminded of you,
Pondering were you ever written about
In precious loving verse,
Or just a lonely spirit who’s middle name
Same as mine – proud struggle
My last remaining memory
Ashes to ashes dust to dust
As you were laid in cold dark ground..

A tall well dressed man stood
In distance watching with sadness
Paying last final goodbye,
We never did find out who he was?
I just 11 years old; head in clouds
Dreamed up fantasies of lost love,
Why didn’t anyone ask him
“who are you”
My mother later returning
To find a single red rose
Mysteriously laid amid the wreaths,
Did he also write you poems?

Burnt to ashes among the pictures
Furniture and grand piano for fuel,
In fires that couldn’t afford coal,
Empty bare cupboards of food
Treasured possessions lost to pawnbroker,
Yes struggle was a concept you know well,
Coming from Dublin 9 siblings,
Who left you to rot?
Red nights in light casting devils disgrace
On a woman desperate to simply
Survive mother of child born in work house
Cleaning up others shit..

I remember the beauty forgotten in pictures
Your smile, egg custard and apple pie,
The smell of lavender in bedroom
Mixed with moth balls in wardrobes
The pictures of Jesus hanging everywhere
God fearing and superstitious
Curse inflicted on Irish immigrants,
Taking solace in ‘Kevin Barry’ songs
Sang with all your might,
As the whiskey poured in dead of night..

Did anyone ever call you
Sweet Josephine whispering forever
In young eager ears,
I never knew
Maybe the well dressed man
Could tell a tale or two..

© 2008 Maria Gornell.
.

poemsby RC Miller

Happy Bank Day

The alien niche
That can own
Watches something suffer
Through my thoughts upon suffering
And then I puff
A kidney’s four yawns
Making myself the whiplash
Where the body is interlaced
An opal crib of trifling doubles
For demons not wattage
And there they glow
Diverting the night like wind
In or spiting pampered clover
Winded in a scene of panhandlers
Many as children my noodles may afford
All bound and money friendly
O God we shroud the wrong digits
And hustling fog
The choices move necessarily to comfort
A pamphlet against conductive thrills
As you whimper
Please
I am ready to settle
I’ll repay you on a score
Submitting the mannered and scripted
Sources of wiped happiness
That soon we’ll be stuffed with.

You Must Find Another

Humbled by the hate
Arresting nauseous planets,
I’m sorry you are cloaked
And will never be mined.

Seven cigarettes bide my gums
Tipped bites of cheek and then hooves pack
Raw egg fishing shacks
Betting the rind is sensual.

Deprived a roof our hose films a tower
Murmuring the hashed descent.
The tower percolates a mammoth
Parade of voluptuous addicts
Searing wrappers for our discounted props.

Some are a daybreak derangement from what I eat to tread.
Some was what you ate with toast.
And you are silly about what I ate while bait.
As today you is in limbo
Eating my ashes in the quandary of tomorrow.

Shit So Toy

Drained from its talk
A hillside rabbits toward the patter
Of aggressive windows bannered with leaps
Freed into idols splayed snout first.

The summer fawns
Glove an organ neatly razored.
And by the mow our jetty domes
Beneath hissing pallets soon extracted.

In practically dew
I swallow you
A queasy dip of mantis and hedge
Dreaming no light ever ruptured.

I’m jogged like everything else
Alone in rules of long before.
But your hips revive so much
Warming my thighs their eased seduction.

And just because it’s here we boom,
It doesn’t mean that we must live
A tuck or rather as vain splinters
Rousing most ourselves worn moist.

Heavy As Things Are Fleshed

Surfaced ripples of width
Intend another day.
Bones thrown where they belong
Disintegrate all the same.

I follow your skin
Feeling us for home.
You refuse me.
You refuse me nothing.

Our soul is the clay
Mending a vision after it funds
The chatter of other worlds and maps of horror
Our debt shall bring.

In time an eyeless mammal
Greases the frantic pavement
With our scorn
Clothed a treason because it whines.

O wrathful moon of solid bat,
My master licks the tickle of his stormy complication.
O solid bat moon of warped sunset,
My master won’t live through centuries lubricated.

I am followed everywhere I wane,
Breathless in rebirth
And broken to save
Violets for your tan.

Largo

I’m dying bugged if also quite simply.
My gold already was a substance mulched
For the loan of one grid
Daring the passion hunted animals mentor.

Singing our grace had in malls
And a split with gentle mates,
Of plump
My genitals wave hamburger space.

And I envy those odors
Loathing lactic stars,
Edible when your lover knocks
Bipolar on principle.

While lovely his noggin competes to rage
In spirals the condemned expect without,
You forage instead the pattied no joint of cram
And forget who I hurt and redistribute.

Where dots and vultures meet,
These beams from my decree
Sling a sleet
Claiming its empire is as useful
As flyspunk on acid drops.
.

poemsby John Grochalski

punched window

someone breaks
into this guy’s car
on the block,
and he stops me
in the cold morning
to tell me about it.
twenty years he’s
been living on this street,
and nothing like this has
ever happened.

we look his car over,
a fancy burgundy colored
sports utility vehicle
with a ski rack, new tires,
and a brand new hole
punched into his driver’s side
window,
with beads of bluish glass
on the seat
and on the pavement.

can you believe this?
he asks me.
i can.
i’ve seen worse.
i used to live on a block
in pittsburgh
near a busway
that divided the poor side
from the rich,
and every spring
like clockwork
cars of the destitute
and hungry came by
and broke into nearly every
car on the block.

mornings after,
the street looked
like a reflecting pool,
a translucent mosaic.
surprisingly my car never
got tagged,
or maybe not so surprising
because my wife and i drove
the oldest, ugliest car
on the block.
it looked like it didn’t
belong on that street.
maybe we didn’t belong
on that street.

can you believe this?
my car victim
asks me again.
it’s twenty degrees,
i’m running late for work,
my memory is in over-drive,
last night’s beer gave me the shits,
and my stomach is doing cartwheels
again.
what the fuck does he
want me to say?

of course
i believe it.
it’s the city.
it’s america.
it’s all a goddamned crapshoot.
it makes sense.
the asshole should just
be happy
that it took twenty years
for it to happen
to him.
i know i’m counting
my blessings,
few as they are,
because spring is coming,
and a lot of people
are starving around here.

revelation

not fitting in
is never a bad thing.
no one expects much
of you
or wants any of
your time.

when i was
a child
i always thought
there was something
wrong
with me
because i was often
alone.

but now,
as an adult
i see
that if i never
had anything
else
i had my solitude,

not a curse
but instead
a blessing
never fully realized
until
too late.

autumn again

i am up
the radio announcer
tells me it will be beautiful
i take his word for it
the old stadium has had
its last hurrah
the cats are hungry
i hope i still don’t
have the shits
the editor wants me
to email the publisher
about my messed up cover
the government does not
want to bail me out
but the bill collectors
want their money
i piss
i feed the cats
i put on a pot of tea
and look outside the window
at two old men
leaving for work
and talking under
the streetlights that keep me up
it is five in the morning
and i am glad
for once
that i am not somebody else
then the tea is done
i come in here and turn
on the machine
i wait
i have a good pull on the tea
and the radio announcer
tells me that this morning
is the beginning of autumn
someone sends me a picture
of myself on a web site
i stare it and don’t recognize a thing.
then i sit down
and begin to get the day
over with.

my soul is singed and the day is a cheap investment that never reaps any returns

we wonder if the lead singers
in our favorite unsigned band
are bankers in their spare time
or if the drummer is stuck all day
in the murder of a cubicle.
they are probably all unemployed
i say
or they are hedge fund babies.
it’s the only way they could make
the kind of upbeat music that they do.
no job or no worries.
if it were me, i’d probably write a dirge
or a blues.
i’d write a symphony with no
middle or end
or i’d skip the music and move
to florida
to drink daiquiris
and pretend that i was hemingway
in key west bars.
she laughs at this and we walk on,
watching the homeless pick through garbage
and left over beer bottles
while fools wait at green lights
or drink coffee at bus stops
and the plastic owl hanging in the
junkyard by the overpass
finally turns its head to the left
because it can’t bear to watch the next
moment
piss on itself and call a truce
with the day
before it really gets going on this block.
then we talk about
you
and something else happens
also.

trick with ice

she did this trick with ice.
she filled up a cup with chipped
ice, and then laid on the bed
and had me push the slivers
in her with my tongue, while
i ate her out.
it wasn’t really a trick.
i suppose the “trick” was
the ice made her orgasm right away.
if there was a trick involved,
the trick was certainly mine.
after all, i did all the work.
but i didn’t really enjoy her
little dalliance with ice.
most of the time it numbed
my tongue
and when it didn’t the sensation
was lackluster.
her pussy was cold and salty
when the one cunt i knew before
had been warm and thick.
my cock didn’t feel right when it
was inside her either.
i couldn’t come no matter
how hard i pumped.
without the ice, i could shoot
jism like a hose.
but with it, i was frigid and limp.
maybe i was just inexperienced.
still, one day i asked her to stop
with the ice.
i said, “couldn’t we fuck like regular people?”
she got mad and slammed the ice cup
on my desk.
some of the chips spilled on my newest poems.
she said, “that’s how regular people fuck.”
and then she dressed quickly,
not embarrassedly but overt.
she was letting me know what i’d be missing.
she left the bedroom and pounded
down the steps.
i heard her talk to my roommate
before she slammed the front door.
from my room, i could hear her car door open,
the weak rev of the four-cylinder engine,
and the screech of tires as the car
tore up forbes avenue.
then i was alone.
it was just me and the cup of ice.
it was a hot day.
late june.
so i sat on the bed and ate each sliver,
even the ones soaking my writing,
as if i were a starving man.

.

AFurther by Dan Pretzer

The road was empty not a car not a soul around.

He walked towards the sign to get a better look.

MEMPHIS 300 MILES.

He sat down and took off his right shoe. Inside he kept what little money he had left. He took out the crumpled bills and counted them.

13 dollars and a check his grandmother gave him for his birthday three years ago that he never cashed. He couldn’t help but smile when he saw her signature.

83 and still had flawless penmanship, she used to be a famous artist with work in the biggest galleries in metropolises all over the world or at least that’s what she told him.

.
I and Iby Sean McGahey

I and I’re responsible for di classics such as “I’m having my sister’s baby! & I’m a pikny prostitute”, and di one that got a mention on christian radio “I’m attracted ta paedophiles”.

I’m not boasie of dis ya but it generates us a likkle income and di occasional prize. all of our letters get a bad response probably read by people I and I pass in di street. di freakiest replies are from di happy clapping born again christians and scientologists. every now and again I and I reply ta our own letters and win likkle prizes like a digital camera or $50 ta spend at “di gap”. di ongle downside ta dis ya is that thousands of men and probably a handful of sisters read our fiction but I and I’d never get di recognition I and I deserve or a book deal.

that’s wa mek at tonight’s session I’m gonna suggest that I and I call it quits and possibly try sinting crucial like our own novels or short fiction. as I light my second cigarette dan strolls in clutching her well read copy of “choke”, she’s an alright sister, di life tall student living off grants and di pittance she makes at kfc. whatever di weather she’s always wearing di heavy black crombie coat and as always she’s wearing her now trade mark tight black jeans and mettalica t-shirt. she flops down opposite & takes one of my b&h and mumbles.

“hey patrick, how’s it going?”

“yeah things are kind of interesting at di moment. how’s work going?”

“shit, that’s how it’s going, although I get all di chicken I want for free.”

“still working on your novel? what’s it called again?”

“it’s called di question is…I actually want ta talk ta I and I about di group, I want ta work on my own shit, I and I know what I mean?”

“yeah I’m glad I and I mentioned that..”

as I started talking a large clap of thunder boomed out above di coffee shop and di rain started lasing down, too which dan shouts “sister that’s fucking freaky!!” di door swings open and sean stomps in.

“hey pat, hail dan. so what’s going on with dis ya weather?”

dan replies “yeah pretty screwed up”

sean pulls up a chair and takes one of my cigarettes and picks up dan’s “choke”
“wa mek are I and I re-reading dis ya shite?”

snatching it back dan snarls “I like it! that’s di fuck wa mek! I’m not one of those losers that just read fight club”

sean pouts her lips and replies “try reading anything by augustan burroughs or brett easton ellis”

“oh really? I’ll also join di new york times book club like all di other pretentious wankers that read ellis and burroughs.”

at dis ya point I interrupt. “guys come on calm down; I’ve got an announcement ta make”
I and I both look at I at first not saying anything until sean replies. “are I and I gay?”

“NO!”
.

three poems by Timothy Gager

“But we never discussed the Benefit Package”

Sunday you are penciled
into my busy schedule
the one that also says: KIDS

all month long,
you, continue
the job interview process,
we all call dating,
without me.

When I call on Saturday
you are forced to tell me
that I didn’t get the job.

Successful

Angel on the edge
of nostalgia
for her love is not death

but jumping,
the wind on her wings
down to earth
remembering how it was
to sail, that final time

The Inn at Castle Hill

I envision this place
as it was, in the 18th century
a single house,
with a fireplace,
producing a smoked scent
for our hair and clothes

Outside are bare trees, marshes
and evergreens
one side dominant
toward the sun
just like the arch
of the left side of your mouth
is greater than the other
when you smile—I imagine
you, a billowed dress and parasol
in a field with horses
men with wool suits and hats
and me, sipping brandy

.
Upon Witnessing Love by Heather Ann Schmidt

For Ann and Bill Cook

though illness has taken

movement of his body,

(In his mind)

he runs to her

when she is at the
edge of woods,
shivering from mist
collected around the
collar of her coat,

his left hand
covers her

when she cries
because she knows
he cannot feel her touch

or hold books
he collected for 50 years.

He rests things loosely on the space between his
thumb and forefinger and holds them.
I imagine his brush on the canvas.

She shows me his paintings
from 1974,

(before thievery)

and her voice rings out
brightness
flooding the living room
all the way to the bed
where he lay.

.

two poems by George Anderson

Avalon

I first met her
at a tent site
south of Narooma
at Mystery Bay
she lived in an
orange Kombi
van. I suppose it
was the bumper
stickers plastered
haphazardly on the
back window of her
vehicle which first attracted me to her:

KEEP HONKING, I’M RELOADING
CAPITALISM ATTRACTS FLIES
SAVE WHALES SAVE OURSELVES

She was certainly unusual
but in an interesting & amazing way.

In her Kombi
I was surprised,
astonished actually
when she placed
a couple of mussel shells
on my ears-
she told me gently
to keep my eyes closed.

At first it is like
I was meditating
searching the moment
focusing on the sounds around me.

She explains nothing
I like it that way
I go along with it
there’s nothing to lose
nothing at all.

There is at first
the careening fat buzz of flies
a remnant of an idea
only partially understood
the distant call of a Lye bird.

Within minutes
my ears
my mind
are for the very first time
like butterfly wings
flapping of their own volition
soaring free.

I hear things I never thought possible
I see things I never heard before.

I see the insides of a piano
all wires & springs
jiggling up & down
the whole time dancing
their praises to Art
to the imaginative life.

There is a barrage of clanging cymbals
a chorus of trumpets cascading from one
hemisphere of my brain to the next
a symphony of music-
& all emanating from those two
silvery concave shells.

This cluttered life
of excessive dodgy payments
to collapsing bank executives
& the hard sell of gambling away
Scrooge saved pensions
momentarily transcended.

There is an indefinable uplifting of being
A simple penetration of what it is all about.

The next morning
renewed
I pack my gear
she’s showering
her face
& breasts
soapy.

‘Where you headed?’, she asks.

‘Don’t know really. Somewhere down the road’.

Animal

reckons people who watch
the Olympics are insecure.
He reckons you shouldn’t
squeeze teabags because you
shouldn’t have to force it.
He says he can sell me a highly
useful sex tip for fifty bucks
he learnt last week in the Vaudeville Tent
at the High Sierra Music Festival.

‘Does it involve a hand?’ I ask
simulating it is a hand job of an idea.

Tonight Animal is on the internet
in the next room composing a letter
to his girlfriend in New Zealand. He
is attempting to explain to her why
he shagged a fifty-five year old.

He says to me that he was feeling
horny & thought it would be
interesting to try it with an
older woman. He says it is
ok to have sex with other women
as long as he doesn’t hide it from
his girlfriend. He says she will get
hot thinking about his infidelities.

Animal is ’til to 2 in the morning
pouring it all out onto the electronic pulse
of the page. How the 55 year old meant
nothing to him. How he will make it up
to her. How he may even forego a men’s
group in Auckland to see her sooner.

Animal clicks the send button &
the server crashes. His great message lost.

The following morning in the lounge
he wears gum boots & a black & white jumper
he says he has started jogging
he says, besides sex, it is the only hobby he has
he says it brings the animal out of him.

.

two poems by Nabina Das

Othello’s Path

Butterflies dropped dead from branches
Where they never grew
Dewdrops of nights that stifled dawns
Lay on your path

Or were they tiny handkerchiefs
Outlining a long sorrowful track?
White of course
Black with guile

Wordsmiths called
It green, envy
But when the foliage died
No one was left to pry

So, don’t walk that path dear Othello
Don’t wipe your eyes with
Those thunderstruck fingers, they’ll teach
You rage and us a loss forever to linger.

Bouquets

In very hot weather
Flowers wilt like bouquets
As do kneeling gardeners
But no one hears them.

It is fashionable for us to
Take bouquets – not words -
To happy or sad rituals where
No one deciphers the flowers.

We can shade the buds
But that may deter buzzing bees
Heavy with the delusion of summer
And the ensuing calm.

Easy PointsbyPaul Corman Roberts

He fucking found me.

I skipped out on the UFC Cage Slam for cutting edge poets. I skipped out on the Santa Cruisers and their righteous tribute to the palace.

& he’s been dead over ten years now. He of all motherfuckers, wasn’t supposed to find me here; out on this god forsaken warehouse pier on the bay.

He stares me down with as evil a smile as ever has landed on me; with an apple in his hand, never breaking eye contact.

He takes another bite.

I look down quickly. A quick glance back demonstrates that this will be of no use.

He’s strolling over with a gleam in his eye that shouldn’t be there.

No one here’s got my back & no one should. They’ve all got his back.

His voice, unmistakable; some kind of hybrid between a growl & a drawl that is, yes: effete; and that much more frightening for that very fact.

“So I hear you’ve been scoring easy points off my dead ass.”

It’s time to cowboy up writer. It’s time to own your shit. I look him in the eye & confess:

“Yeah I did it Buk. I shit in your wheaties. I spray-painted a booger running out of the nose on the Mount Rushmore of the underground. I sold you out to sell a book of poems I didn’t even write. What can I say? Take it personally.”

& he laughs. Laughs loud. Uproarious spittle flies in my face.

Should I go for it?

Should I take a shot?

They say he was the one who took down Papa in a New Berdoo cockfighting pit before Papa went back home to Idaho & pulled the plug. I’ve sucker punched him twice now & now I don’t have the balls to commit to a third. Everything here on out has to be straight up & he’s already looking at me like he knows it.

“Listen to me you little punk ass bitch…is that how you shitbirds say it these days? I don’t know, we never called another man a bitch in my day without someone losing teeth. In any case, I don’t really have much interest in leaving you a worthless, piddling blob of blood, piss and vomit to be stepped on by all these stinking hippies in safari clothing…I just want to smoke this joint and listen to just another band from East L.A. rock my ass off…Listen. I respect what you did. You have every goddamn right to call me a phony, but don’t call me a cheater. Do not call me a cheater, you punk ass bitch. I worked too damn hard at cheating to be stuck with that after I died.”

I realize it is my hang up. I’m the horde. I’m the common man, with the common lust and the common ambition, with the common jealousy and the common envy. I’m the asshole who wants too much from my heroes & he knows it & all the safari hippies know it & by the time I figure this out he’s gone back into the crowd of drunken deliriousness.

I know I’m cursed now because he will never really leave me alone.

.

two poems by Jack Henry

rivers

when roman candles burn through city skies,
i will flow through Los Angeles
the snapping turtles bite at turn signals.
i will flow through Los Angeles.
with songs of no tomorrow sound.
i will flow through Los Angeles.
and devils tell stories like nursery rhymes.
i will flow through Los Angeles.
when red sparrows drop from yellow leafed trees,
i will flow through Los Angeles.
and silver snap car crash silhouettes shine.
i will flow through Los Angeles.
trees weave in concrete towers.
and i will flow through Los Angeles.
concrete cascades list against fallen angels.
i will flow through Los Angeles
with dreams of purple iris.
i will flow through Los Angeles.
down on 6th I will dance.
i will flow through Los Angeles.
where bobbing lizards are all the rage.
i will flow through Los Angeles
and smell the first breath of light.
i will flow through Los Angeles.
my soil like ants in December.
i will flow through Los Angeles
and smile at transistor radios.
i will flow through Los Angeles
just as she flows through me.

when i flow through Los Angeles.
churches will explode with pyrotechnics
when i flow through Los Angeles.
asphalt rivers will bleed back to red.
i will flow through Los Angeles
and taste the salt of sated eyes.
and when i flow the sea will call my name.

drawn to your line

it started plain
down on LA streets
in gathering
clouds
lingering moss
your melody of life
music
bright and simple

and yet,

you failed
and fell
and floundered
across flat seas
your damning words
too simple
too naught
too nothing
for my tired mind
your fat cow tongue
speaks a nothing
language
words no man can
hear
no woman can share

it plods
and drags
and slows
my cancer breath
to a wincing
gasp
a low echo
a tired violin on
the edge of a
subway stage

it started plain
you and i
alive
NYC
LA
Boston
Chicago
tearing
asphalt from
black flat rivers
that flowed
with metal and tin
tearing voices from
tall ceilings
of libraries
and coffee shops
but now
you fail
me
now
you fell
down
on me
now
you dropped
your last
rose petal
on me

and now
hate and hate
and hate
and rage
you spurious
words
liver bled
reality
i cannot
step
across the same page
the same street
i cannot
suck breath from the
same luminosity
i saw you blending through lamplight
on a tired rosebud avenue
in Sacramento
haggard and washed out, a mere
brain flash from previous interpretations
alone there on the corner, with a little
hat and an old borrowed coat
you didn’t see me
or hear me when
i called you name

but before you
stepped to
the bus
before you stepped
from the corner
our eyes caught
blood flesh on barbed wire
and the burn
it grew
and grew

you took my last
dime
my last metaphor
my sentence
my line
my structure
my woman
my house
my torment
my demons
my devils
took them took them
buried them into
your black heart
and vomited
life, lightning bolts

and now you!
you!
you!
are king
and i am
nothing
but

dust

three poems by William Dean Freeman

I sought help from Rinzai in Reno,
doing Tai Chi in Taipei –
Zazen or Chachen or
whatever else you might wish to call it,
seeking the jade Buddha in the centre
of the dark lotus,
burning red carnations and black roses
against the graduated pallet of blues and greens
wherein someday I hope to lie.
And its times like these,
eyes at the cores of unchecked storms,
that, with tea in hand, I sit and ask
the one and only Koan:
What would Dylan Thomas do,
were he cast cold into the seas?

Disconcerted by the
kissing Christ-talk hypocrisy
of the bearded hep-cat
wanna-bes
chatting across the kitchen,
she sits in the corner
silently, shaman-like,
stridently admiring Sidhatta:
a porphyry-skinned
Arno Breker-woman,
sick and ill;
fetid and faded,
popping pills:
bennies and ludes
and who knows what else,
becoming madcap, wild-woman
(bat-outta-hell),
up and down,
bitchin’ Bodhisattva
wondering when the world will grow wise
and render chill.

Moment to moment,
Breath to breath,
I close my eyes
and smile in
silent contemplation of
a world both wonderful
and terrible,
burning while a thousand
little Nero-men
dance wildly in a forest
of catgut madness

Action Figures by Michael Jacobson
action-figures
three shorts by Crystal Folz

Gypsy Rondo

In the front room, three feet from the wall, the polyurethane coating has worn off the hardwood floor – not a large spot, just about the size of a child’s heel. A piano once sat there, a black grand with stiff keys and gold etching above the middle ‘C’. Kimball.

Twenty years ago, a girl sat behind the piano every afternoon for two hours; the first hour, required studies; the second hour, free play. Sometimes she would turn the knob on the timer, playing Hannon finger exercises with one hand to cover the click-click-clicking as she inched the dial towards the second hour.

She played Haydn’s Gypsy Rondo until her fingers held the memory, and her mind was able to wander. On quiet afternoons, she reflected upon her morning in the woods – the creek water slowly rinsing the bank, the clouds chasing each other like lovers amputated at the hip – and kept a mindful tempo. On afternoons when contentment filled the house, she listened for the bobbing of the needle on her mother’s sewing machine and kept a steady rhythm.

But most days, she leaned into the piano, back rigid, shoulders hunched, and thumped the keys until her mother’s screaming rampage was deflected from her siblings. Her mother would charge into the large room where the fireplace was never lit because it might leave soot on the furniture. She would straighten the drapes that framed the large, welcoming picture windows, which opened up to a world the girl wasn’t allowed to experience.

Her mother would stand next to the piano, salmon-colored cheeks huffing, fingers knotting themselves at her waist, and the girl would say, “I just want to play for you. Sit down. Sit down on the furniture I will never sit upon. Look through the windows at the world I will never experience. Listen.”

And she would watch the girl’s fingers cross and her wrists slightly turn towards the ceiling, while from memory, the girl began a new song. Her mother would back away towards the Victorian style loveseat with rose-colored velour fabric, and stare out the picture window towards the highway which led to places she should never allow her daughter to go.

The girl would press her heel into the hardwood floor, her fingers keeping a slow, steady, comforting tempo while her heart furiously pounded ‘The Dance of the Demon’.

Liar

I imagine the baby I killed had red hair. I can’t say for certain since I was nineteen, and that was a long time ago. I only saw him on the monitor at the abortion clinic, and I didn’t want to embarrass either of us by staring.

Heath had red hair with ends that were split and curled from being whipped around in the wind. Always once, during every motorcycle ride through the back roads, a lock of hair would catch the corner of my mouth. I’d spit it out and laugh in his ear, and we’d ride.

Five years after I left him, I confessed my sin on a short line next to the question ‘Is the your first pregnancy?’. Sitting in the doctor’s office, watching the receptionist eye The Price is Right while waiting for a copy of my insurance card to slide out of the printer, I felt certain that question was one of those true or false questions; otherwise, the line would have been longer.

For the next six months, people I didn’t know rubbed my swollen belly and asked if the baby was my first. I smiled, asked them if they could feel the baby kicking, and lied like the Virgin Mary to save myself.

I imagine the baby I killed had red hair like Heath’s other baby. I saw her at Christmas one year, a bow in her long red curls. She jumped off the curb outside the mall, and the wind picked up a lock of her hair, whipping it over her shoulder. I stood at the corner, holding hands with my blond headed son, and watched them ride away.

A Lonely Moment

We hear him skulking in the backyard. He lingers over the snapped branch, and I imagine his eyes brittling like ice. We don’t know when he will speak so we stand in the backyard with our fingers entwined, listening to his heavy breathing and the rain misting the treetops.

It occurs to me that I haven’t been this still for a very long time, and I think if I could reach out and touch them both, I could mold this moment like a piece of jewelry to wear a groove around my finger. Then the rain comes down hard and soaks the trees until they are black and wet like my insides, and I know I have to move or shake or let go of his hand.

We walk up the hill together, one of them on each side of me, and I want us to keep walking past the parked cars outside the barhouse, cross the road, and stop for a moment at the pond. There, we could stand beside each other and stare at our distorted reflections as the rain comes down and laughter leaks through the windows in the bar. We might be happy, the three of us, gawking at the smiling faces in the water. I know I would.

Instead, we go inside and sit at a round table. They talk about the noise on the tin roof, and I buy the three of us double shots of whiskey. I should feel caught or busted but I don’t.

The waitress brings a shot of Jagermeister, compliments of the gentleman at the bar.

They shake their heads as I drink it down. Cold, black, and wet, it coats my throat, feeling like victory inside.

Then there’s just us, the empty shot glasses, the last of the acorns pouncing on the tin roof, and the man at the bar patting the stool next to him.

six poems by Dave L Tickel

Not Rimbaud

I found a
Punk/New Wave
Bar even though I’d already moved on to
Early Dylan, Motown.

The first night at the bar
I knocked out the back light of my car
Leaving the crowded
Tired parking lot.

The place was
A haven in June, better than
Radio, even though the drinks were more expensive than
The old man’s bar.

However by
August, the joint was
Quirky, lacked depth. My days
(my college days too) were over.

I found a
Passive wedding band, a
Busboy job in
So-called family restaurant.

When I returned to college,
Almost two years later,
After my parents threatened to throw me out of the house, I was
Homicidal also.

I thought I was
An artist, thought I had a legacy but I was wrong. I
Used self-pity,
Too many chords

Robert Creeley

I
Staggered out in front of a
Car. The
Female driver hit one of the
Wood posts supporting the town’s electricity.
The driver
(thank God) wasn’t hurt.

But that was the last straw, according to the
Old bag district judge. I’d spent the summer
Gathering citations. She gave me
A few choices.

I used the
College money my mom’s mom–grandma was
Certainly no drinker–had left me. A B actress had
Done time at
The detox/rehab–

My
Sloshed buddies picked me up after my
Three week stay,
Just in time for New Years.

Both lawyers were unhappy,
Almost two years later. I didn’t
Say where I’d been drinking before the accident.
I was
A drunk, not a rat. The driver
Had also been partying
The night before

Revenge

Three thousand miles away it was the Summer of Love. I was
Six, walking down
The neighborhood hill. I spotted
Two
Older boys to my left. The
Smaller boy walked towards me. I
Trusted him, thought he might walk by but he
Pushed me down. I got up & ran. He
Laughed, didn’t run far.

I was a block away from
My house. There were
The two boys again, in front of
An inconspicuous house. The freckled slit-eyes of the smaller boy were down
At the walkway; I
Felt it in my gut; it was time to run. I ran
Along the side of the house, down the hill. A dark speck in the
Fall sun,
The killer stood at the top of the hill.

I lied
A lot, told
The kids I was
Twelve, in fifth grade–told them my mom
Was pregnant w/ her tenth kid–told them I
Knew judo–told them I lived at least a block from where I actually lived.

I got off at the wrong bus stop. As the bus driver pulled away, Slit Eye
Jumped out of the bushes, put his
Dirty palm over my mouth. He
Had my school book, ran away w/ it, laughing.

Slit Eye’s real name was Tommy, not Chipper. Chipper was
Tommy’s little brother.
My
Confusion made
Their mom laugh. My dad told Tommy and me to shake hands. Tommy
Didn’t think it was necessary. His mom
Threatened to whack him. We shook hands.

Nine years later Tommy and I met on a high school wrestling mat. I
Lost by one point.

Sweet Home Alabama

Is a
Decent song minus Ronnie Van Sandt. I’m not glad he’s dead.

“Hope Mr. Young
(I’m no
Neil fan myself), will remember/A southern

Man don’t need him around…Watergate
Does not bother me/Does your conscience bother you?…”

Ronnie Van Sandt was
Quite a street fighter, legend says. Everyone’s good at something. As a
Live performer he was no James Brown, no Iggy Pop.

How would he
Approach the song today? I didn’t spend the last thirty five years
In a museum

The Back of the House

I was
Suicidal, amongst the gifted. My
Companion at the dishwasher talked to
/gesticulated to himself.

Rick the manager wanted to move me up to cook
Or waiter but I was
Scared of knives, no
Smiling actor.

Lori was a waitress,
Germanic, Polish, physically in her prime. She read
Newspapers, Harold Robbins and Stephen King.
She sang Sea Cruise to me, she couldn’t sing,

She thought Sting could sing, not Jim Morrison.
I gave her one of my
Pencil drawings, my high school photo.

I always helped Rick
Unload the truck, Fridays. My co-workers
Were jealous. According to them, Rick and I were
Lovers.

Rick had a
Woman, a wife. He liked my “demented” sense of humor.
We both liked
David Bowie, Iggy Pop’s keyboard player.

I prayed when
God existed, when my
Nervous stomach was upset. Everyone was going to hell,
Barring some of my co-workers.

Ernie the fat
Black cook and I were classmates in junior high;
Ernie didn’t remember me. I was Charlie Watts,

Using my
Fist and palm on the
Metal counters; Ernie was Mick Jagger.

I quit hitchhiking. Too many
Perverts and drunks. I bought a ten speed,
Took the train

Dead Weight

I thought my
Sick dog had eaten some of her
Old food, hidden under the couch.
Or so I hoped.

The next day I had to
Fly to Alabama. My parents
Had bought me a ticket. It was
Ben Roethlisberger, their alma mater, the GMAC bowl.

The police museum in Alabama, w/ pictures of Patricia
K, one of Charlie Manson’s girls.
Seven floors up, my parents and I shared a room.

When I returned, I went to the used book shop, purchased a
Dull book on mythology, my
OK-appearing dog
Took me for a walk–

We
Trotted through the graveyard. She then lay down on
Someone’s lawn. Her body
Was a rocket, almost

May I?

The first day of kinder-
Garten Mrs. West
Dragged me into the classroom.

A
Big ugly girl sang
On the Good Ship Lollipop. The

Patient monkey bars. A
Cartoon amazon’s angry hammer, on
Holy Thursday. Cadwalder Park
Was a still life

Of George Washington sneaking across the Delaware.
Miss White was black.
Martin Luther King was
Like Einstein, a mad scientist.

Hell broke loose in second grade
But Mrs.Hill was nice. The vomiting and wet pants.
The Rhondels singing Leah

two poems by Richard Wink

The meek and the Mavericks

Again he is distracted
by the swifts that boom from the blue
zig zagging skyward
ducking and diving
like spitfires and hurricanes

he walks a deserted path
looking down to make sure the muck doesn’t ruin his white jeans.
He feels unsettled and lets out a forced cough
to dislodge the silence

Starry eyed architects seem to imagine the world better
buildings spring up suddenly
forming a new landscape along the horizon
this city panics as its history fades
the historic walls have now eroded
to a few clumps
that we walk past each day

Rising

I walked through the bakery
past the many loaves cooling off on the strong iron racks.
I drove past the bakery twice
navigating through the green twisting lanes
and the cradle bridge
that crossed the wide stream

Now I am here
a couple of women
wearing old fashioned aprons and white hair nets gossip in the corner
one of them, the doughier of the two
takes me through to the office.
The lady in the office sitting on a swivel chair is nearing retirement age
she takes down my details, working history
and financial particulars.
She then offers me a cup of coffee
I accept
white, two sugars.
I sat down on a wooden bench parked in the narrow hallway
watching a wasp knock against the window
trying to escape
outside

three poems by Zach King-Smith

The Patient Mountain

Renee and I sat
on the bed holding
each other after
my long absence
& I talked about
the trip in partial
detail-save some
sentimentally and
subjectivity.

I was trying
to be objective
in my account
of it all to her
but I’ve never
been able to
observe things
without opinion
or some kind of feeling.

She told me
how happy she
was that I was
home with her.

I kissed her on
the forehead with
out hesitation then
I remembered the
mountain I was
on in Gatlinburg
Tennessee.

That damn
mountain that was
unknowing & unforgiving
reached toward
eternity with a vast
hugeness no one but
it the mountain
could understand
waiting for something
that no one but it
I could understand

I thought to myself
waiting for what?
it’s just a damn
mountain that
truncated the land
for miles up into
the sky.

Nothing is worth
waiting for an
eternity to be
had; Give
up if you find
yourself on
that damn mountain
waiting with it

Only the mountain
can weather the storm
of eternity.

Tibetan Prayer Flags

A string of tibetan prayer
flags hang above my bed
waving so gently in a pre-dawn
breeze but this morning i
cannot sleep.

Even the dalai lama
is in exile.
i cannot sleep
under the false
pretenses of prayer.

Hank

I saw an old man
who liked a lot like
an old dead writer
that I admire on
the train tonight
& he was the conductor
on a ghost train that
traveled right through
my brain.

Scrambling sentences
that he wrote
in various flophouses
in Los Angeles and
New Orleans
drunk.

I couldn’t discern
from which with the
general confusion
that distorted my
perception with
despair and sadness.

He had the most
tragic yet warming
eyes I have ever
seen.

The Pursuit of Love by Alan Kelly

I woke on a cold kitchen floor with a bloody tissue stuck to my face ‘cocksuckers did it again’ Two friends were fisting each other in my spare room and I just sat by the door and watched, my right side numb.

I woke up with another friend’s fingers inside me, I could hear a radio playing, some pop singer long buried under the sheets of obscurity and I asked my friend to put another finger in.

I teased the eye of his cock with my tongue until he shot his load on my stomach, another guy asked if he could fuck me bareback and I was too polite to refuse so I said yeah.

One time a guy told me he liked me and I replied ‘just because you feel it doesn’t mean its there’ and afterwards I licked his pierced perineum.

I would lie on sweaty leather; a live naked wire without insulation. Watching, Touching, Tasting myself. Stare dead-eyed into a mirrored ceiling surrounded by the hands of strangers.

I took a homeless guy home once and sucked him off after he shot up, his cock was filthy but I didn’t care. I watched his mouth slack, his body a diseased thing barely lit from the buttery light of a streetlamp outside.

I knew a boy called Lee who I met in a bar in Amsterdam , I abandoned him in The Cock Ring only to wake the following morning with a ruthless depression. I left my hotel and went from hostel to hostel asking if a boy called Lee was staying, I didn’t ask his last name.

On the fag-end of Parliament Street I met a boy from Santa Monica just before Christmas. I stayed in his hotel for a week, on his last day he told me “there are moments and feelings in life that need to be made permanent” and I laughed.

I sit on a bean-bag now, chemicals burn through me, eyes dry. I imagine running a razor over my skin and hope the blood-loss will help my head fall, narcoleptic-like to sleep…

Vairocana by TS Collins

Honey-sweet luminous sun,
Nourishing the skin with seeds
For our sad selfish needs.
Shine light upon what we
Hide deep beneath
The darkness of our Dharma.

A vast gate serving two functions-
Enter and exit.
We were forced the former
Yet we rush the latter.
A camel caught squeezed
Within the eye of the needle.

Virgin white snow,
Compound of the pure-
Destroyed to a pragmatic putrid
Puke-green tint as the rays
Cast down into a spiral
Of disgusting relevance.

We do not share Dainichi-
But the sun still burns
Our retinas to pools
Of blistered black.
Everyone shares this
Trait that refutes beauty.

You at the Gate by Catherine Zickgraf

Should you ever decide
to stop by the house,
you’ll find me
where you left me
when you drove away.

Here on our porch
for much of the night,
I turn cigarettes into piles
of ash and sit
rocking,
rocking-
you’re
out there
somewhere.

Though the summer dust freezes
under snow globe glitter,
it will rise again when
the heat returns.

Maybe one day you’ll hang
that left through our gate
and rattle up the gravel
in your teal Toyota.

I’ll bow my head
against your neck,
your gentle frame in
my tingling arms.
I never really
deserved you anyway.

I know I was the faithless one:
betraying our rings,
believing their lies,
raiding your drawers
with my distrust.

You collected your things,
but mine are still strewn.
I can’t seem to fix
what’s so thoroughly broken.

three poems by David Stillwagon

I Cried

The time began, I smiled
The love grew, I agreed
The dice tumbled, I lost
The baby screamed, I ran
The smoke rose, I choked
The food burned, I ate
The love broke, I agreed
The sun smiled, I cried

Early Service

The sky breaks another cloud
as the sun loses hope for this day.
A dull coat of air primes
the low ground as the wind crashes
on the bare fields.
A pinecone Ping-Pongs down from branch
to branch as the squirrels “fly” and land
in corridors unmarked but well known.
A woodpecker pounds away introducing
noise to its world.

Idles burn in a circle.
The smoke weaves upward into a knot
with the sky.
The dead stay dead
and the living die with hope singed
with doubt as the heat
works, performs and finishes one
by one the confused, the accepted.
And the snakes hiss and change
as the water boils.
And the skin creeps upward
and the stakes burn down
and blow away.

Yellow Painted Barn

The Barn door is always open
Chickens totter in and out
Straw thinly adorns the dirt
The floor is engraved with hoof prints,
Chicken prints and various shits,
Rats lurk in the corners and in their holes
Steering clear of cats.
A hand full of hay is cascading down from above,
The light projects thru the holes in the roof
And piercing thru the widely spaced boards, give off
a barber shop pattern.
Smells of a potpourri consisting
Of crap, straw, and hay finishes
The milieu

Lyrics by Verless Doran

Folsom Prison Cell Block D Cell D138

“The song is ‘Love Me Tender.” Pablo says.
“Good song.” Hank muses. “Okay, who am I?”
“Your name is Brandy.” He says, closing his eyes. “You’re twenty two years old. You have short red hair and a soft round face. You have a birthmark high on your cheek that looks a little like a strawberry. You have green eyes. You have a nice, curved body. Some people might call you a little chubby, but not me. To me you are perfect.”
“What am I wearing?”
“You’re wearing a pink tank top and cut-off jeans. You’ve just come in from hanging out the clothes. You’re sweating, because it is hot outside.”
“Okay.” Hank says. “What am I doing now?”
“You walk over to the kitchen sink.” Pablo says, opening his eyes. “You are starting the dishwater. Putting dishes into the sink.”
“Like this?” Hank says. He gets up and walks over to the little metal sink in the corner of the cell. He starts pantomiming filling it with dishes.
“Yes.” Pablo says. “Just like that. I come up behind you. I am being very sneaky.” He gets up off the bunk. Walks over to Hank, softly. He puts his arms around his stomach. “Then you startle.”
Hank startles.
“You say, ‘Not now, the kids will be home in a minute.” Pablo says.
Hank says, “Not now, the kids will be home in a minute.”
Pablo kisses Hank on the neck. It is a soft kiss. “That’s okay, it should only take me a minute.” He says. “Now, you laugh and put your hands behind you, on my neck and put your fingers in my hair. Rub your butt against me, like a cat.”
Hank does this. “Now what?”
“Turn around and kiss me.”
Hank turns around and they kiss in the darkness of the cell.
“Now go down.” Pablo says.
Hank does. “Like this?”
“Yes, like that. That’s it.” Pablo closes his eyes as Hank unhinges his pants and begins to work. First with his hand, and then with his mouth. “Brandy.” Pablo says. “Say my name.”
“Pablo.” Hanks says, as his mouth wraps around him. He does this for several minutes, until Pablo almost climaxes, and then he pushes him gently away.
“Now lie down.” Pablo says.
“Like this?” Hank says.
“Yes. Let me take your clothes off.”
Hank does.
“Now,” Pablo says, “play with your hair. Twirl it around your fingers.”
Hank does. Pablo watches him for a long time.
Pablo climbs on top of him. He slips into him easily. “Now moan, just a little.”
Hank does.
“Put your hands on my back.” Pablo says. He closes his eyes again.
He does.
“Call me, ‘baby.”
“Baby.” Hank says.
Pablo moves a little faster. They kiss long and hard and deep. He has his hands all over Hank. He touches him like he is touching a woman. He does not open his eyes. “Now, when I tell you I’m sorry, you tell me it’s okay.”
“Okay.” Hank says.
“I’m sorry, Brandy.”
“It’s okay.”
“Say, ‘It’s okay, baby.”
“It’s okay, baby.”
Pablo puts his head into Hanks neck. He pushes longer and harder, but he is not hurting him. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, Brandy.”
“It’s okay, baby.”
“I don’t know why I do what I do. I don’t know why I am what I am.”
“It’s okay, baby.”
Pablo kisses Hank long and hard on the neck. Breathes into it hot and quick. “Tell me you forgive me.”
“I forgive you.”
“Tell me you love me.”
“I love you.”
“Say, ‘I love you, baby.”
“I love you baby.”
“Say, ‘We can get through this.”
“We can get through this, baby.”
“Tell me you’ll wait for me.”
“I’ll wait for you.”
Pablo groans, and spills himself into Hank. He tells Hank to touch his face. Hank does. Pablo rolls off of him. They lie together on the cell floor. They are both breathing hard, looking at the ceiling. After a few minutes, Pablo turns to Hank.
“Okay, your turn.” He says.
“Alright.” Hank says. “The song is “Lady in Red.”

They Call Me Names by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal

Nina said, “My mother is always lying about me. I did take all my medicine.” When informed that the neighbors witnessed her hitting her mother, Nina said, “I swear if you let me go home I won’t hit her again. If I get angry, I will go upstairs and watch television.” Nina looked into the doctor’s eyes with tears in her eyes, “I need to take care of my mom. There is a man that is trying to woo her. I don’t want her to get her heart broken again.” When asked about her father, Nina remarked, “My father left my mom. My stepfather ran away with the maid. Her ex-boyfriend used to sleep around too.”

Nina shouted at the doctor, “I need to get home to protect her. I am sick of being in this place with all these crazy people.” With her hands and lips trembling, Nina said, “They call me names like retarded and stupid. I am none of those things.” Nina’s voice softened, “I love my mother so much. I don’t know why she won’t visit me.” Her voice exploded, “She is really making me angry. You shouldn’t believe anything my mother says.” When reminded of all the times she struck her mother, Nina said in a matter-of-fact tone of voice, “That bruise on her arm was already there when the police came. She fell or something. I didn’t push her.” Back in her room, Nina was inconsolable. She talked to herself, “I am so sad right now because my mother doesn’t love me.” She remarked about her 65-year-old mother, “She is probably going to get married again and have another baby and she will forget all about me.”

Kruschev/Kennedy/Rope: A Love Story by Suzy Devere

We cannot leave it up to you
alone.
We both know
what is
and what knot
rests at the center.
We each have grabbed a grimy end
tight with our two hands.
Of course, you know,
we cannot leave it
up to you
alone.
The tighter we pull,
the tighter the knot,
and you and i both know, of course,
what that
will mean…
So watch closely
as i drop
the rope
with one hand
release!
And with that now
free hand
instead
reach toward
you…
you do the same and we will…
we will
turn
this knotted line.
We will turn it,
this roped catastrophe,
into a circle;
spinning so fast
it will change…
We will change.
We will become
weather.

Culturally Speaking by Allagash Sinclair

She wrote letters
in Japanese
on an antique English writing desk
framed by a massive window
overlooking Central Park.
A chunky, foreign tongue
in black
angular lines
be-bopping across the page
like crazy Jazz.
Letters to her sister
Letters to her Mum
Letters to herself
fueled by French Coffee
that I pressed myself
to the strains of a fountain pen on paper
and the Requiem, Op. 48 (Pie Jesu)
by Faure.

AgS/MjD ©2007 Copyright Protected Content

“Holy Toledo! The Sonnet River Volume” by John Dorsey reviewed by Jack Henry

“Holy Toledo!” is not a great title. This may piss off the writer or whoever came up w/it, but it reminds me of a Loonie Tunes Cartoon. And that image is 180 degrees from the strength of content just as All-American blue balled christians are 180 degrees from reality.

That’s my only complaint. Well nearly so. “Holy Toledo” is organized by year, 2007 to 2003. That is how it is organized in the text and that’s a mistake. The poetry of John Dorsey is a journey, deeply metaphysical and metaphorical, but a challeng-ing flight of growth and evolution. Putting newer poems to the front denies the reader to get the sense of growth, however subtle, however nuanced, of the poet. End complaints.

John Dorsey is a terrific poet. I used to think I was a poet but after reading Dorsey I realized I am a grave digger. With his unique use of what I call asymmetric meter, Dorsey’s poetry challenges the reader. It is different each time. While reviewing the text I read it several times, including back to front a couple of times. Below is an example of this asymmetric meter: From “canadian basement blues”

it’s true i saw
a girl dreaming zombie
blues shooting pennies out
of her little mary
sunshine until abraham lincoln
got up and walked
off she was the
ghost of calamity
jane

Dorsey denies the reader punctuation to know where the starts and stops should be, thus truly forcing the reader to insert their own measure and rhythm to a piece, and also forcing absolute reader interpretation of a given lines, stanzas and entire poems. This is subtle but very calculated. Any other poet might break blues and shooting pennies out on the third line of the above selection. Also, off and she was the from the seventh stanza might require a break but it would change meaning, and it would falsify the meter of style.

Another style characteristic true to a Dorsey poem are the one liners, or one-off’s, that may or may not hold value within the piece as a whole, but often demand their own attention in a singular us-age. For example: from “mermaid blues”

when you’re 16 yrs
old every little thing
feels like a love
song written in the
key of a minor apocalypse

A damning start to a great poem. Again the use of asymmetric meter and a purposeful lack of punctuation force the reader to interpret and think for him or herself.

One of the best examples of a Dorsey poem is listed below in its entirety: “the last stencils on earth”

it figures that the
last product of real
revolution would be hiding
in some cellar in
mexico pancho villa
gene bloom together
swallowing words soaked in
blood fighting mad in
the sacramento sun they
don’t make bullets like
this anymore some say
they never
did

The cadence and meter are strong but jagged, meaning that it is not a simplistic, linear voice, rather it rattles the reader in the manner they look at and absorb the words. It is challenging, intelligent but by no means simplistic. There is a great depth that the first blush and understanding. This again points to my desire to have the format changed from new to old to old to new. You get a greater sense of the poet’s growth. His form develops.

Some of the poems from 2003 and 2004 dig at the beginning of style. from “pink plastic flamingos”

exist simply
for those
who refuse
to put

a limit
on miracles
and everyone
else, well
fuck them
anyway

The ending is too easy. However by 2007 section you have a seemingly simplistic poem that is anything but: “the ballad of ass masterson”

america is a sad
cowboy song of unrequited
hate edited to the
teeth with love one
nation wire tapped under
god with liberty and
bootlegged sex tapes for
all

This is Dorsey in full effect. To conclude, John Dorsey is one the finest writers of this generation and writes to a level many poets should aspire too. Often a poet will write without a sense of style, I am guilty of this, many are, but if you write long enough, and are honest enough, your style becomes the yoke of every day writing. Dorsey has this.

“Holy Toledo! The Sonnet River Volume” is a great book. It includes many of my favorites by Dorsey and newer ones I am unfamiliar with. You get a sense of the growth of the poet’s eye and voice, as well as a definitive style. I highly recommend adding this volume to your collection.

~ Jack Henry

available via e-mail at luc.simonic@gmail.com $30 tell him John Dorsey sent you.

7 Responses

  1. […] Poems Published at Lit Up Magazine Click here to […]

  2. […] Team Champs                              Lit Up Magazine Smithereens                                        Lit Up […]

  3. […] Poems Over At Lit Up Magazine Three new poems of mine have just went up over at Lit Up Magazine. Crack a beer and give’em a […]

  4. Found the muse’s note: “More Hellweg!!”

  5. I don’t know If I said it already but …Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, :)

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

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