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

Advertisements

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.

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.

There’s Nothing to Be Ashamed Of by April Salzano

Classic line in a lower middle class family,
used in reference to food stamps and government
cheese, blocks of hard butter and plenty of free
eggs. The school across the street from the apartment
where my grandmother lived, drunk on pain
killers, with her husband, Joe, who bruised her
in obvious places because he didn’t care who saw,
and she’d had Stockholm Syndrome for so long
there was no saving her, gave out free lunches
in the summer, even on weekends. While Joe
and my grandma babysat us so my mother could work
day shift in the nursing home, we got our boxed sandwiches
and fruit, maybe a cookie, plastic container of orange juice,
still frozen. There was nothing to be ashamed of, Joe said.
He worked at the school as a janitor and helped himself
to all the paper and toilet tissue he could carry. Chalk,
crayons, markers. There was nothing to be ashamed of
in taking from the kids who had nothing at home
in the town intersected with long-rusted railroad tracks,
graffitied trestles, closed factories and ghosted buildings.
Most of the kids at free lunch Saturday were black,
so we stayed away like we were told, took our food to go
while they sat in the parking lot, on curbs and steps,
poking the tinfoil tops of the drink cups open, stabbing
at the ice with skinny, pointed straws. No one asked
who qualified for the food, did a credit check or took inventory.
We could have more than one lunch if we came back,
and sometimes we did to bring one home for Grandma and Joe
to wash down the midday booze. If you lined up, you got fed,
it was that simple, which gave Joe time to knock my grandma
around a bit before we got back. She put eye shadow and lipstick
on our faces while the ash from her cigarette grew like lace
before falling off. We smelled like French whores,
my dad would say before he sent us out to play,
giving him time to bust a few walls with my mother’s shoulders
before we came back for dinner with nothing to be ashamed of.

Three poems by Rob Plath

UNTITLED

one dark night of the soul
instructs us more than
10,000 everydays

VICELESS

my ex-vices only fueled
this superabundance
of the blues

WALK ABOUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN, MOTHERFUCKERS

you pass it by

a cat crushed
on the shoulder
of the road
at 10 am

but you know
it isn’t just
a dead cat

it’s a sort of
flat, crystal ball

it’s king of
wizards

offering us only
one vision
which matters

Two Poems by Cassandra Dallett

The City In No Particular Order

In The City once a year it’s hot enough to ride the 5 Fulton to Ocean Beach
Where crashing surf eats sand by the mile
an undertow so hungry it pulls icy toes out from under you
you can only get more than a foot in if you are drunk ,drunk, drunk,
Malt liquor Mickey’s 40-ounce drunk and I got in to my shoulders that way once
a sensation colder than my whole snowy upbringing.

San Francisco is Buckwheat driving a cab through the Castro tourists in the backseat stare
as a man fucks another man against a tree pulls his dick out causing a shitty waterfall.

We were drunken teenagers skipping down Haight Street
Suzanne in the lead always climbing to the top of light poles and teetering on the edges of cliffs
she was carrying a Mylar balloon that night
lost it around Clayton in front of the fruit stand
it flew right up into Muni lines
sparks rained down and store windows fell into darkness
roaring and cheering we ruled the city.

All those times we had to fix the glass front door
all those bodies launched through it drunk and desperate to feel
slamming the gate shaking the flat calling down to Johnsons
and scraping up the money to replace the glass again, like Suzanne kicking and screaming
that she wasn’t scared that she would fight us all.

Once in a flat down on San Jose Ave. we had to pull Danny Lucky off her
his teeth entrenched in her forehead
Once I left them in my room while we went to the radio station
late night for the metal hours we returned deep in Jack Daniels
and found every poster lopsided furniture upside down
Danny and Suzy more into killing each other than fucking.

My City was Bags the Skinhead,
I shaved my head traded squeaky combat boots for Doc Martin’s and braces
circled the block all day long to stay near him
on my knees bent over at parties blacked out in alleys trying to get closer
when we were alone we talked and fucked all night
did speed in the pink palace went back to my place
caused an uproar with my roommates
alone at night I crossed my fingers asked God
to make him love me make me his woman
tall muscled tatted,
drunk enough he played his flute and I followed.

I walked home alone a lot, beer cans hurled from cars through Fillmore
I took dangerous routes on purpose the city was mine.
Three a.m. a guy walked out of the Palladium and punched me dead in the face
And just kept walking probably thought I was a dude standing there
bald headed drunk daze on my way to the pit to drink more.

In San Francisco I sat at Hamilton Recreation watching my boyfriend Dre
play Basketball. My hair grown out blonde still wearing fishnets from the old days
but sucking candy sticks and trying to act all cute and sassy like the black girls.
I was his girl we rode the bus on dates. I wore a letterman jacket and Reeboks.
We drank milkshakes and rocked Stan Smiths. He claimed me.
We beat the fuck out of each other his feet and fists crushing me.
His flesh under my nails, breaking me, holding keys scaring his face,
him chasing me, me chasing him, me filling sunglasses with tears black eyes
Him spending his first night in jail after they led him out, left me unrecognizable pile of purple bruises.

My first night in jail, Cookie was one of my cellies, brown scars covered her limbs
she called it staph she was Greek had a lived a life more than heroin
but you couldn’t tell by looking at her. I was a kid who’d never changed in a locker room never got dressed for gym,
flunked in fact, stood in dirty water naked like everyone else.
They called me Brooke Shields. Hey Brooke what you in here for a B case huh?
Prostitution was always assumed I was white and not strung out what else could it be,

Jail freed me,
from me
so alone.

Ocean Beach Babylon
(For Brad 5/9/1970-4/23/2012)

When I stopped doing drugs
my friends were just getting started.
Fighting in their underwear over needles and dope
in the day light of our front door.
from the top of the stairs
I scream at them to shut the fuck up.
I worked all night on phone sex lines
and I‘m just trying to sleep.

Brad screams back at me calls me a bitch,
says, it’s no wonder that my boyfriend
beat the shit out of me.
“A nigger” that’s what he calls me.
his face is a mask of dope and sickness.
I’m already down my“boyfriend” just stomped me
into the ground while saying he loved me.
I don’t speak to Brad for years.

He goes to jail then prison,
violates parole every eighteen months,
and spends close to a decade behind bars.
I forgive and live, but I never forget.
That early morning scuffle on the stairs
how quickly he turned on me.
Me, trying to keep it all together,
rent paid and the phone on.

Brad was once my best friend,
he was even a boyfriend.
Stood on his tip toes the first time we kissed
at a party, his girlfriend scared of me,
the big skinhead girl.
We were thrown down two flights of stairs
by the bouncers, for drinking straight from the keg,
and stealing the donations.

We left his girlfriend there
and got stung by bees hiding from the cops in Golden Gate Park.
Fucked on the roof of Chinese Projects
staring drunk and cold over the twelve story edge.
Defying gravity we tried to sleep up there
made it home on the bus where he stayed with me
till he went to Log Cabin.
When he escaped he went with my best friend
but it was cool
he was one of us and he went out with all of us over the years.
At parties me or him always got in a fight
swinging through the crowd to the other’s side
We were 86d from everywhere.
We shared blonde hair, high cheekbones,
and something that ate at us
from the inside out.

Six years after the stairs Brad called me up
“I heard you wanted to talk but I didn’t believe it” He said.
He was an ex-con, tattooed“Dirty White Boy” across his back.
From segregation back to our yellow crew
of half black and Chinese babies.
I always dated black guys had even left him for one.
I never knew where that left us,
except friends,
cause he had to do what he had to do
on the inside and I understood that.
I think.

We got together,went out to the beach.
We sat on the wall, drank,
told stories of the old days
History ate at us like the waves ate the sand.
At nightfall bonfires lit the beach
We were sure we’d find the heads and the parties of our past.

Instead the clumps of bodies
we eased into were dry
fire warmed faces grilling hot dogs, popping sodas.

Church groups, they invited us to join,
Back in the day it would have been Sunset Pods,
Head bangers or skins lighting up the beach,
scattering from cops searchlights.

Our adventures had been stolen and replaced
with the squeaky clean church folk.
It was tragic and scary,
or maybe we were.
Maybe they
invited us to church
cause our asses needed to be saved

Four Poems by William Taylor Jr.

To Let Others Walk the World

I was born into the winter months
with a weak heart and frightened eyes

I met the big nothing early on
took it inside and became immune

I never bothered with the future
because the moment in hand
was always burning

abandoning dreams of justice
to sit beneath the sky
and watch things fall apart
in their fashion

to let others walk the world
as if they had some place in it

myself content with dreams
of little rooms with little windows
looking out upon the rain

sad music and wine

afternoons spent
in libraries and bars
with the drunks
and unemployed poets

all of us hungry for some quiet place
to escape the indifferent sun.

Even in This

I write poems for all the little things
that might otherwise be lost,

convincing myself I am somehow doing good
in keeping things alive a bit longer
than their natural span.

But maybe all the sad
and pretty moments
have no desire to live
beyond their tiny flash,

and I craft my words
only to try and make myself
feel somehow less alone,
selfish even in this.

The Dead Horse of Our Love (a poem in two voices)

The beauty of you was unexpected,
an accident, surely meant
for someone else

but for the strangest of moments
it was mine.

It wasn’t much, just a thing that happened.

I’ve never known
how to let go of anything,

I hoard every shard of every
perfect thing I’ve ever broken.

Dude, be a man about it.

The memory of laughter in sad hotels,

a photograph that proves
we shared the same space,

It’s over, bury it, let it go.

how you once imagined me beautiful
and the desperate way you loved,

I was mistaken.

I will carry it all
in the junkbox of my soul
for the rest of my days

Weak as fuhhhk.

and on nights when the joy
and the rage and the sorrow of everything
rises up within me like an impossible wave

I will think of you and sing.

Whatever.

If There Must

If there must be an afterlife let mine
be a little bar in San Francisco
somewhere near the ocean
an endless grey sky stretching
out over everything
dim lights
and a soft rain falling
with grand windows to watch it through
a bartender with an honest smile
leaning to fill my glass
a jukebox with all the right songs
and endless credits
to the left of me sits a blowzy blonde
with enormous laughter
and to the right an old man
with shining eyes of kindness
and stories to tell of days long passed
and we will talk
if we want to talk
or just be quiet and listen to the rain
time is obsolete
and there’s no place anyone ever
has to be and maybe an old dog
the color of gold
asleep in the corner
and people could smoke if they wanted to
I wouldn’t
mind.