two poems by Kerryn Tredrea

only the good.

it was a very poetic moment
as she raised the frying pan
above her head, 
bared her teeth
and swung balletic with 
such momentum
he could swear this time
she would actually, finally
take flight.
it was a familiar dance, 
where he would read
a thousand nightmares
in her eyes while
she spewed profanities
and lashed out at the world, 
a screaming banshee.
in a theatre of war 
she would have been a major general.
the battle, he knew
was inside her head,
private, not for him to fight. 
so he retrieves her
tiny frame from the floor,
plants kisses on her forehead 
and tells her the only war cry he knows.
"only the good die young baby".
and hopes like hell
that it isn't true.

self reflection.

i accused mean mr. mustard
in the conservatory, with the whips and chains.
but the backlash is severe
on my fledgling hump when he says
“no one knows what love is!”
when you’re vicious pretty
the gymp suit never comes off.
i find my window of opportunity
and look through to the red light district.
but i’ve forgotten my green eye shadow
so not even the whores will accept me.
in a place where stranger and danger kiss
images of childhood nightmares play out
and it’s ok to use sins of the past
as tools of the present.
end of opening montage.
the ants have arrives early
to find me clutching at scarecrow straws
and howling at the moon.
but it’s really the thrill of the spilled blood
and the side effects of the egg donation
reeking havoc in my body and
even in a rerun melodrama it’s still
too early to return to the scene of the crime.
in no man’s land. “cocktails or slumbershades?”
flashbacking tragedies and
snatching morsels of affection.
but tomorrow is polly wally tuesday
in the united states of unrelentless
so smash the bulbs boys
cos I’m more ashamed of the light than the dark.
i may dance naked in front of the mirror
but I have no time for self reflection.

Poems by Jack Henry

into the abyss

we are all orphans
now
lost in the desert
alone in a crowd
clichés all
but still
buried in deafening truth –

we used to walk
together
in times of conflict and chaos
in times of celebration and survival
but those days
i fear
are gone
those days
but a memory

we are split
divided
a thousand tribes
balancing on a thin
wooden beam
a beam that crosses
a chasm between yesterday
and tomorrow

we struggle with balance
maybe the beam will widen
into two or four or
enough for us
all to cross

without falling deep
into the abyss

blur

i sit at a desk
in an office
behind a door without lock or key
people come and go
ask me questions –

i stare out my window
a damning sun
bounces
on fat beams of translucent smog –

jesus cleans
his fingernails with a switchblade
his smile fat and wide
his two front teeth missing –

our eyes catch, he nods,
i smile, sigh, and turn away –
i failed as a poet and suffer
a similar fate
with jobs and offices
and windows –

indifferent past, present, future
crumbling worlds……………. do not stir me
echoes of revolution………… do not provoke
fascist wannabe dictators ..….do not incite me

i wait on darkness
on echoes
on a comfortable space
where each act has a price tag

and every sigh makes sense

a demon in my pocket

there’s a
demon
in my pocket.

sometimes
he talks
to me,
whispers
bad ideas
into my head.

this demon
has ideas and
when i say
yes
to his ideas
all the other
demons
come out
to play.

sometimes
my demon
and her demon,
the woman at the bar,
(or man, depends on the bar)
talk.

suddenly there are
too many demons
but, for the moment,

i’m not alone.

Like Lazurus rising from the grave…

Hello, welcome back to Lit Up Magazine. It’s been awhile, well five years or so. But alot happened: 1) my father died, that was sad. Kinda lost my reason to write. Sons tend to want to make their fathers proud. 2) I fell off the roof, fractured my skull and many bones in both feet. Didn’t die, but had brain surgery (didn’t find anything) and was in a wheelchair for six months. So, I couldn’t walk, but I could crawl; seems like a metaphor for something or other. 3) I had an eight-month custody battle for my granddaughter. Went through 5 lawyers or so, finally ended up representing myself, and eventually got custody.

Anyway, you can see where publishing an on-line magazine got lost in the shuffle. Oh, forgot to mention: had severe anxiety/depression for about 6-7 years. Couldn’t even go outside, or do much of anything. Plus, all my teeth fell out. Kind of a bitch, but apparently they don’t grow back. So what happened was, I gradually got off all the prescriptions for bad back, bad knees, insomnia, and so forth. And years later, woke up from all that misery, and started to feel alive again.

So, what I thought I’d do is to start writing – how I feel about stuff; and also to promote my books, and those of some friends. And see where that goes. Whatcha think? So here’s my first book, Out There. You can read a few pages fer free, if you want, or log in to Amazon and review and rate the book. Plus… you can buy it! My second book Princessa is also available at Amazon. And you can find one or both at Barnes and Noble, and other book places.

And Joe Ridgwell recently published a new book (I guess he gots a whole closet full of ’em according to Lee Rourke) so you’ll want to check that out too. But as this is a literary magazine, here’s a poem.

Bartholemew, a short story

my granddaughter said
“remember that transient kid,
whose mom became a stripper,
and we played together when we were kids.
I heard from him,
he’s hooked on fentanyl now.”
and i guess he’s trying to destroy
what God made mockery of.
I guess he’s trying
to eradicate
the only eternity he ever knew
or ever will.
I guess he’s trying to punish
all that wrong, and wipe out
wipe clean his knowing it,
and feeling it, and being it.
This wretched cursed disease
that is at once and all the same,
embarrassed and ashamed
and ridiculed ridiculous
and living it
because that’s what he is.
And all his little life
will ever be.

 

two poems by Karl Koweski

the hyena in winter

the walls of his mental palace
are adorned with golden scenes
depicting his life’s seminal events
that almost could have might have
happened if things
were a little bit different

the hyena in winter
surveys his bar room veldt
and wonders how it came to be
even the early summer hippos
refuse invitations to his den

he’s spent a lifetime
nipping at the flanks
of alpha males only
to trot away at the
first gleam of barred teeth

his mobility
now hampered by
multiple knee surgeries
football injuries, he claims
face haunted by the ghost
of a shit-eating grin
though how a man can tear
his ACL while watching the
Crimson Tide on television
is left unexplained

for now Crown Royal crutches
and Hydrocodone braces
keep his haunches secure
he smiles out of context
the hyena in winter
imagining the shadow of a lion
hunting small victories
in a jungle of
continual defeat
unaware of the moment
his desperate roaring
segued to bitter braying

off brand cigarettes

pale blue eyes
ornamenting
the petrol
refinery
illuminates
the wet asphalt

from where I stand
in the doorway
of the Twilight Lounge
I watch the
cars streak past
interior eyes
alternating
between curious
and menacing
implacable
and apathetic

across the street
a rodent
scurries along
the gutter
as though it
has someplace
better to be

the slight pang
of envy I feel
chases me back
inside

Three Poems by Brenton Booth

THE BURNING SOUND OF NIGHT

the birds die at twilight
and the hero can’t stand
the roads sink like quicksand
the gospels lie as always
the birds die at twilight
and the planes explode in the sky
the teenage girls comb their
silky hair
the old man looks teary eyed at
a wall
the birds die at twilight
and the poets write second hand
lines
the bosses rub their hands together
in pleasure
the divorce courts are permanently
full
the birds die at twilight
and the dogs bark in the street
the villain is hard to see
the murderers kill for gods
the birds die at twilight
and the heart beats faster
the cage drips blood
the town is destroyed by the
city
the birds die at twilight
and the idols have no voice
the infants cry and scream
the firemen try to stop the
blaze
the birds die at twilight
here
on this tuesday evening
in sydney
and i remember all that i
have lost:
now that she is gone.

CHRISTMAS DAY

Its Christmas day & its rainin & I
sit alone on my sofa watching small
spiders bungee jumping from the
ceiling & feeling the hard sting of
solitude playing sadistic games with
my exhausted mind—
this is what stops progress
our inability to accept what we really
want
to be alone on Christmas day means
nothing more than any other day
& any other day I am happy to be
alone
though we are programmed from such
a young age that it does
like all the other things we are taught
that aren’t true
though essential to maintain the current
ways of our frozen world:
& stop any possible improvements.

MILES AWAY

We were drunk and the last two people
left at the Brian Jonestown Massacre
concert. She was younger than me. We’d
been talking for a while. She said I should
listen to a particular band because they are
real poets and what they write about is the
best. I told her I was a poet and she should
read some of my stuff. I looked up some
poems on my phone and handed it to her.
She exited the page and looked up the band.
I told her I didn’t want to watch them,
musicians don’t understand poetry. She
told me poetry is crap. I took my phone and
stumbled away alone and lonely:
but not lonely enough for her.

Meeting Dad Again by Donal Mahoney

Thirty years later, Dad came back
and we met for Ham and Yams at Toffenetti’s.
Pouring his tea, he told me he had
to restore power once
at a newspaper warehouse
and the storm broke again
and the lightning cracked his ladder.
He spent the whole day, he said,
sitting in that dark warehouse,
waiting for the lightning to stop
and for the truck to bring a new ladder.
He had a great time, he said,
sitting next to a flickering lantern
and reading for hours the Sunday comics
printed and stacked
six weeks in advance.

My father emigrated from Ireland to the United States in the early 1920s. He had been released from Spike Island by the English who “occupied” Ireland at that time. Spike Island was the “Guantanamo” of that era, located just off the coast of Ireland. It was there the English warehoused prisoners of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

My father had been imprisoned by the English at age 16 for running guns through the marshes of County Kerry to aid the rebels fighting to free Ireland from the rule of the English. Young Irish lads were recruited for duties like this because they would be less apt to be captured by the English–or so the IRA thought. My father was not coerced into doing this. He volunteered for the duty and would have done it again if the English had not insisted that he and other prisoners leave Ireland as a condition of their release.

On arrival in America, he found work as a grave digger in Brooklyn, NY. Later he boxed professionally and sang in night clubs that catered to Irish immigrants. After he got married, he moved with my mother to Chicago where he was hired by the Commonwealth Edison Company. There he spent almost four decades as a lineman, often working as a “troubleshooter” who was called out in the middle of the night whenever a storm knocked out the power. He liked this work and was very good at it or so I was told by his peers when I visited him in the hospital. They had gathered in the hall outside his room after he had survived an electrical accident that occurred high on a pole in an alley. He survived 12,000 volts, an incident that got his name in the Chicago Tribune.

In January 2012, decades after my father had died, my wife discovered a photo of him on the Internet. It showed him as a prisoner on Spike Island, circa 1920. He was a farm boy, poor as the chickens he fed as a child, but the English dressed him up nicely for the photo that accompanies this story. Perhaps they didn’t want his age to show and to a degree they succeeded in that. You would think they had treated him well but they broke both his legs with rifle butts and let him sit on an earthen cell floor for a long period of time.

In the photo, my father is in the first row, third from the left. He is identified as “J. O’Mahony,” which was the family name until he became a citizen of the United States. On that occasion, the judge suggested he change his name to “Mahoney,” which was “more common” in the United States. My father agreed to the change but it was a decision he would rue for the remainder of his life. More than once he told me, “I should never have done it but I was a greenhorn, what did I know?”

J. O'Mahony et al

My poem, “Meeting Dad Again,” was written many years later after my father and I reunited in Chicago briefly after he had been out of my life for awhile. His two years on Spike Island as an adolescent had taken a toll. He suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) before that ailment had been identified and named. Despite this problem, however, he was a sober Irishman who labored hard in Chicago for decades to save money to put me through college. His goal was to make certain I would never have to “work with my hands.” He didn’t have to worry. I can operate a hammer but have no manual skills beyond that.

My poem records our reunion when my father, back in town unexpectedly, phoned me at work and, to my surprise, asked that I meet him for lunch. He suggested a cafeteria that was then a Chicago landmark. No fancy restaurants for him, even though in retirement he could afford a touch of the posh. I can’t remember for certain but I doubt that he let me pay the check. He knew that I had bills as the father of five stair-step children.

The lunch went well. Conversation was light. I did not ask him where he had been or what he had been doing and he asked only pleasant questions about me and my children. He showed no mood swings to indicate that he had once been a guest of the English, a confinement that affected him far more, I believe, than absorbing 12,000 volts. The voltage crippled his hand and gnarled his arm but the English crippled and gnarled his nervous system. On this day, however, he was in fine fettle, as he liked to say. This time he was more interested in seeing me than my report card.

and you never stop being afraid to fall by Bradley Mason Hamlin

lost
the words got lost
when
I slipped
into a daydream
about
the way
her boobs
feel
against my face
I
had a good poem
ready to be
cut
like new wood
a totem to whittle
something to
shake
at the universe
words:
a poet’s
monkey claw
telepathy
stumbling over
the brook of mind
but I got lost
somewhere
along her curves
and the wet
electricity
of her kiss
spinning dials
of the animal wild
a preview
a small look
at where we came
from
the other world
we left
because of this.

Pink, In The Midwest by Jasmon Drain

 It was the first time that I’d seen them.  Probably the first they saw someone like me as well, especially going to same school.  I’m from Chicago, one of the major cities of the country, the city most people think of when you talk about the state of Illinois, or the Midwest itself for that matter.  I’d lived there my entire life up to the age of 12 or so, then things changed.  Drastically. I had to move.

My mom and dad had a long fight.  Looking at it now it was a permanent fight;  the kind where even if you aren’t looking at the person you’re angry with, you still argue with their shadow, or even yourself, as if they were standing right there, eyes focused on you.  That’s the way my mom and dad were always: fighting.

My father shifted to Wisconsin.  He packed no clothes – not one shoe – so there were no bags, or even a plastic grocery sack to carry that favorite button down shirt of his; the one with the sleeve longer than the other.  He went to Green Bay, Wisconsin.  I was supposed to live there with him initially because it’s assumed that a man can raise a man better.

Then, it was time for seventh grade and I was in junior high school.  In Wisconsin I was exposed to a town full of white people, only two or three blacks – who were really white – and them: The Indians. I’d spent all the years of previous schooling reading books influenced by the expeditions of Christopher Columbus and map making of Amerigo Vespucci.  They said I should expect to see men and women with faces redder than paint on new cars, muscular people with small flaps in the front of their bodies covering private areas, with fierce feathers flooding their heads, and they’d speak English in two-word sentences like;“How-you?” and “Me-Indian.”

That wasn’t the case.

Surely they had preconceived notions of me and my cultural traits before I’d arrived.  However, as I sat in the seventh grade classroom, the bright lights contrasting my dark skin and face weighed heavy from thick glasses, I could see how history books truly told lies.  And they lied to me, terribly.  The Indian skin was a beige tint, not red but pinkish, and just a shade darker than that of white people. Their hair was long – longlong, thick and fluffy, like it was made for blowing in wind.  I can remember how I wanted to touch it, make it my own.  At that point I was still uncontrollably influenced by society and its prejudices.

Often I wondered how these ‘pink’ people from the Oneida reservation viewed me.  I was one of the first ‘black’ kids to walk their halls. No, I didn’t have the baggy jeans or the stiff and stern stare that’s usually associated with Black people. Neither do I recall using my then miniature hands to grab a pre-pubescent crotch.  What did they really think, though?

There were white kids at this school; hundreds and hundreds of them because Wisconsin at that time was predominantly white.  So I stuck out, not like a sore thumb, because, to some degree it still resembles the other four fingers of a hand.  I ignorantly assumed though, that I’d be immediate friends with the Indians because surely they hated white people as much as I’d been taught by my surroundings to do.  They were cheated out of land, lost quite a bit of their heritage, lived on reservations sectioned from what I thought was normal life, and were virtually extinct.  Certainly we had something in common.

They didn’t agree.

During my first few days I ate lunch in the large cafeteria with forty or so silver benches that were bolted to the table.  Those benches were filled with other kids.  I was alone.  Initially I pretended that it was my intent to sit alone, with my dry salami sandwich on rye bread and nacho chips which needed more nacho than chip. But they made no contact with me, wouldn’t answer any question I’d posed, even after I’d asked for leftover packs of ketchup or if someone would like some of my nachos.

And at that age I was rather athletic, a quick and nimble basketball player, and assumed this would open the door to assimilation.  At worst I’d fall into another stereotype of all black people being able to run and play sports with exception.  I was willing to make the sacrifice.  Later in the semester there were tryouts for the team and I decided this was the perfect time for me to show what I could do.  I dribbled and shot the ball in ways I thought never possible for a pre-teen, begging for the admiration of other kids who wouldn’t give the satisfaction of speaking my name.  Not only didn’t I get that, but I didn’t make the team either. Never did I question the decision to leave me from the team was based of something other than sheer basketball playing ability, until later, older, I remembered the fact that the coach was from the reservation as well.

He was a tall and pudgy man, his body looked as if it decided to one day just grow in any direction it darn well pleased.  The coach was at least six feet or something, with that nice brown hair.  He wore it in a pony tail.  Coach never said a word to me directly, not even during the tryout practices.  Come to think of it, I never got a chance to really try out.  I only played in the pickup games that were set as warm ups, and when it was time to run and display your skill set, my number seven was never called.  No mind, at that time I had no clue.

That kind of treatment continued.  In class I made sure I sat way in the back, in the corner of the room where desk chairs didn’t fit, where dust safely accumulated. Initially, I assumed it was because of my thick glasses that no one associated with me, or maybe it was because I was ugly?  Sitting in the corner hid all those things.  I was safe with the dust.  As time went on though, even that didn’t work.

Things got worse.  My cornered and always silent mouth could not disappear far enough.  I began hearing the slight jabs: nigger, darkie, etc. I’d already expected that, but not from them.  Not from TheIndians.  In the beginning, it didn’t affect me much.  Their words blew in the wind like their hair.  No one was talking to me anyway, I played ball on the outside courts with another dreadfully un-athletic white kid in glasses.  Every afternoon I rode my bike home to a father’s house who was always working.  He’d come with hefty bags around his eyes, slouching his dense shoulders and dragging shoes that were too tight for his feet.  There’d be twenty-minutes for conversation, seeing as though he got in from work usually around 10:37 and I was to be in bed by ten.  So, my mouth would race to force out all the trivial things I choked on during the day: how the Indians called me coon, how my teacher’s were too busy to help with math, how my bike chain kept slipping.  It didn’t matter, my father was tired.  So, in the morning I was alone, in the afternoon too, and most certainly at night, even for those twenty-three minutes.

When I retuned to school one morning, a Tuesday, after a ‘normal’ night with my father and huffing and puffing from bike riding, I saw them staring at me.  Staring hard like I owed them money.  I’d grown frustrated and resentful but didn’t know why.  It could not have been only because I was black that they treated me so badly, there were a couple other black kids.  Maybe they were not from the city as I was, but nonetheless, they were there.

Loneliness is a feeling that even as a youth destroys all morality.  And those nigger and darkie insults, especially from Oneida Indians, who my father said spent all their time drinking and beating each other crazily, coupled with my insecurities, my loneliness, my failing math grade, made me miss home.

That’s when he walked up to me.  His feet stomped against the concrete like he weighed two thousand pounds.  The sun wasn’t shining but I could see he was taller than me, hair in a normal round cut, just below his ears.  I don’t remember his name but his arms were as big as my thighs.  And he was another seventh grader.  He called me those names and pressed his pink skin close to mine. The kids – white, Indian, I think the three blacks too – were laughing.  This Indian boy said it over and over.  The fact that I was homesick made the words seem like fists, hard punches right in the rib area that makes you want to throw up from spoiled milk. So I swung back, but really, I’d swung first.  We went back and forth by the bike rack.

Ironically it took only twenty-minutes to figure out that I was to be expelled from school.  They said it was because I started the whole thing.  Never mind the comments he made: nigger, darkie, etc. or the fact that I was ostracized for an entire semester.

Within eight days I was back in school in my old neighborhood, but for some strange reason, a reason I cannot figure to this day, I never was happy about leaving.