Photo Art by Fabrice Poussin

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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.

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.