Monday, April 30, 2012

Coyote
for SJ Tucker

by Jessica Otto

the words travel across the page in a folk song your voice bleeds sunset following the line down a drop of ink on your tongue a body stumbles against the rumble strip a casualty of wandering and diesel fumes skinned haunches and shattered nose point towards the ragweed the beginning of the line dresses itself in a drop of ink a hemorrhage here is the horizon bleeding down generations of sunrises and sunsets light comes up light goes down when you lick the paper the road allocates the flesh of the coyote absorbs blood bone and skin stretched to a fine film between the rumble strip and the verge the road stretches out sniffs with a dead thing’s nose gulps rainwater through broken teeth

Dimly Lit Room

by Rebecca Miller

Darkness fell -so did my slip, dress and heels.
He switches off the lights, I turn them on.
Absinthe scorches my lips, his thighs.
We tango hip to hip, my feet never touch the floor.
He trademarks my neck with his teeth.
Green nymphs parade across his shoulders as we dance.
Fast, slow, matching, pacing.
His smirk, a result of my rowdy lament.
Multiplication is my specialty.
Bound, by his coarse hands and palatable cologne.
I am useless.
He divulges my fabrications like a theatre production.
Ribbon working like chains, and it's his turn to bat.
I tease, he begs, I relish.
Edging too close, I bring him down.
Finishing line crossed,
He leaves me wanting.
A migraine replaces ecstasy's face.

Icarus

by Marc Carver

I told her
that nothing could hurt me.
I had drunk enough
to kill most men
been in lots of tight scrapes.
My luck had run out a few times
but in the end
it had all worked out okay.
Sometimes you really can feel immortal
and on other days
well
you sail            just that little           too close to the sun.

Knock. Knock.

by Peter Franklin

To you I might be
nothing – discarded, outcast refuse
washed up on your pristine beach.
I am mysterious, unknown, and am unable
to communicate how terribly hungry –
hay hambre – yo lo tengo - I am,
or how fearful I am – hay miedo – that I
have nowhere to go, and no idea
whether my family made it out or not.
Alone.
Solo.
Nadie.
“Next,” you sneer.  “Cockroach.”
Cucaracha? I don’t think so…in my country
I was a successful businessman –
a lawyer – abogado – but like everyone you
see here, stretched out before you,
I chose to leave…was forced to leave…chase a
dream to live without fear. Without persecution.
Either that or die, over and over again.
We are now all the same, but I am no cockroach.
If you just let me in – I am healthy, you see –
strong teeth, clear eyes…my beautiful hazel eyes…
I will make you proud, and will give
you no problems – you won’t even know I am here.
Invisible –
a shadow – la sombra.
Perhaps you could look at my form one more time,
and maybe while you are looking over there
At that colicky baby – el nino - crying and carrying on
(does the echo in this hall bother you, too?)
perhaps I could slip through this…how do you say…
torno de entrada – and find my way out.
I have this uncle, you see, and surely
I can find him and he will take me in.
I am more than you think I am.

Refusing Free Will

by A.J. Huffman

I am the rose
trapped
inside your empty bottle.
I will not grow.
I cannot die.
I have not air enough
to be anything
but plastic.
You toss me a dollar.
And place your wish.
As blood beads --
red --
on my thorns.
It hurts less
than I thought it should.
Which leads me
to believe.
It is yours.

Sunday Morning

by Will Monigold

Again.
I tried to end
The world last night.
I think I’ve run far enough.
The thing about rain
Is that it makes
Everything look clean.
I suppose it’s the way she
Holds her mouth
When she kisses me.
I was born to be a fool
I had to have been
Otherwise my tools
Would fit
I could fix things.
I can still smell her
Still feel her.
I wish I was still
Pressed against
Her breasts.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Africa

by A.V. Koshy

You were the first born, Africa
among the continents
God created you, as the best Woman Mother of the lot
Adam and Eve and the garden of paradise,
the tree of life and the tree of knowledge
of good and evil
and all the birds and animals
the dinosaurs and behemoth and the unicorn
and the dragon and the wild ox were all found first in you
gold and bdellium and onyx and cedar
and diamonds and precious ore
Your people, tall and ebon and beautiful
the fathers and mothers of the whole human race
Africa my Love, no one knows of your contours
how daily I wish for your white sand interiors
and golden green curves
and birds of brilliant plumage
and forests and rivers and miles and miles of deserts
your children spread to Asia and
South America
Australia New Zealand
North America and Europe
The future may belong to the children
but no one has breasts like you
And when you stand up, the whole world will tremble
At your stride
for yours is the future
You the first born daughter of Mother
Earth
for there is none like you
and your people
will use the countless riches of your body
wisely
and well
for the healing of the nations
Africa
I salute you
and look forward to that day
When the mighty shall tremble and lay their riches before you
for protection and help
and be found to be very small
O Africa
always misunderstood
but not by the ones who have been there
in you and seen your promise galore
You are old as the earth
and young as a baby
and in times to come
will astound the wise-men
who always called you a second class citizen
of the cosmos
but they do not know
the people of Africa
and the stars are both gods
and wait for the shaking to rise up and dance
and finally be given by the Same God who made them,
their just dues
and then they shall rule
and of their kingdom and dominion shall there be no end
for all their slavery and misrepresentation and mental suffering leads to eternity's and infinity's reign.

DOLORES

by Bryan Murphy

He knows she is there.

The air is heavy with the aroma of coastal flowers and the Pacific humidity he associates with Dolores. The guitar awakes to Hamish's touch as he tunes it. The audience looks bigger than those he is used to.

Hamish felt very lucky when the leader told the band they would be playing the Jazz Festival at Zuntema, just along the coast from Playa Chisme, where he had met Dolores. He was sure she would come, for the rare treat of live jazz, if not for him. She had captivated Hamish by her easy sociability, by her height, which matched his, by her being at home in her own skin even amongst the lost souls of Playa Chisme.

Hamish, though, failed to prise Dolores away from the surfer. Four long months have passed since then: plenty of time for Dolores to have grown out of him, or tired of him.

The act before the Oaxaca Jazz Ensemble is playing. Its music barely creeps into Hamish’s awareness. He thinks of the music the Ensemble is to play, and suffuses it into his mind with the essence and the allure of Dolores.

Now it is they who are playing. Hamish produces his allotted notes. He would love to follow the tenor sax beside him into the heights and beyond them, but his instructions are to stick to the score and not try to show off his technical skills. Those skills had brought him invitations first to jam with the Ensemble and then to join them, an honour for a musician barely out of his teens that recognised his Oaxaqueno status despite frozen-north birth and features. Hamish is happy to do what they tell him.

At the end of their second number, he catches sight of Dolores. Has she changed? Her hair has bleached to a lighter brown. She is as self-composed as ever, at ease in town clothes. She slips out of his vision amongst the families replenishing plates and glasses.

Into their third number; his playing takes on an urgency. He is playing for Dolores, of course, calling to her, urging her into his orbit. By the fourth number, he is not showcasing his technique, he is his technique. Dolores is forgotten. The drummer starts to play off him, echoing Hamish’s chords in new riffs. Expectant looks are exchanged amongst the band, though Hamish is oblivious to them. They urge each other on with flickers of improvisation. The tenor sax dives deeper into the music and leads it in a new direction. Hamish follows him and then is following no-one, rearranging the tropes of the genre to outline new possibilities and then explore them. This is no longer technique but raw feeling.

The music stops rather than ends. Applause takes its place. The band stare at each other, exhausted, elated, astonished.

Hamish is back in his own head. He remembers Dolores. Now is the time to find her. He sets his instrument down at the edge of the stage and takes the steps that lead off it. High-fives and back-slaps mark his passage through the crowd. He has never experienced a reception like it. But where is Dolores?

The next band is tuning up when he spots her. She is not alone. Hamish recognises four of the group from the Playa Chisme summer. The surfer is not amongst them. Tomas waves him over. Greetings are effusive, congratulations sincere. But it is an age before he can get Dolores to one side, out of earshot of the others. He asks her to come to Playa Chisme with him, alone, now. She can’t. He insists. She won’t. He cannot believe her reluctance. He entreats her.

“Look, Hamish, you’re a nice guy but you’re just not my type.”

Hamish’s world stops turning. His blood has frozen in his veins. His liver has turned to lead. His head hurts.

The figure of Julio comes into Hamish’s peripheral vision. Now he is going to get hell for his disobedience. Julio nods at Dolores.

“Hamish,” he says, “we have to talk”.

But the band leader is beaming.

“Let’s get some beer and fix you some solo time for the gig in Puerto Desaparecido.”

Hamish is back in a turning world. He is starting to feel good.

I NO LONGER KNOW THE QUESTION

by Michael H. Brownstein

One by one the cliff erodes,
ice bores deeper,
words stop making sense:
abyss, crucify, alliteration—

passion comes in through fog.
Who claims we must remember?
Skin always knows pain.
fingertips happiness, feet satisfaction.

payback burns

by Linda M. Crate

I stained you in pomegranate, let
my bitterness sink into your bones —
then I fled from you into the shadows;
you thought when you broke me I’d lay there
and wilt like my sisters: the lilies, but
I allowed you to suck out all of my rage so
freedom would ring like wedding bells, and
so I could finally breathe again;
my spirit was grateful to be void of your
hate which you projected on me —
it was so loud that my ears bled from
the dulcet tones; you dripped your lies
into my tea, so I used them to sour your
apples and you never thought twice about it;
you never thought that I wouldn’t break
like the limbs of a tree, you greatly underestimated
me when you told your honeyed lies here.

Prague and Tongue

by Karina van Berkum

Like Tongue, the word
Prague is spelled
for its swollen center

and placement,
which snakes before
it stalls.

This winter I hid inside
both for a while
while the leadfaced

neighbors worked fast
on their own
obsessions. Alone,

I learned to be in love
with neither town
nor appendage

whose shining, wasted
forms ache against
one another:

Prague from Tongue
in a moment of silent
lunacy, say,

and Tongue sitting wet
in a gray station,
dying to go.

Recipe

by Melina Papadopoul​os

Sometimes, I want to ask you
if my name still tastes like something.
it's taken every last drop
of summer's sunlight stamina
for me to finally feel like a picnic.
I've just begun to dot my I's
with watermelon seeds.
I could be an ant farm if my blood cells
give out and decide that oxygen is too heavy
to carry to another breath I'll take for granted.
I don't have a Mount Zion in me.
I can't make internal pilgrimages worth it.
perhaps one day, my brain
will decide that it was trivial to carry
a name outside of childhood where you could
have called me that kid or something
and I would have been just as lost in my own skin,
even if someone replaced my heart with a compass
and my feet with a map that knows the way
without my reading so deeply into its travel lines.

So refresh my memory.
Put a familiar taste on my tongue,
a foreign one even.
Is my name still something
that you don't even chew before swallowing?
Don't worry, I don't want to melt in your mouth.
I am afraid of melting because
it could be the only death that doesn't come equipped
with an afterlife.

Is it too much of a hassle to still call me sweet?

I that know cavities are a burden.
I know that dental drills scold before forgiving.
Eventually, you hear your mother's voice
in that spinning snarl. Eventually,
you remember that your mouth is wide open
and that you're wide awake.
you begin
to think of names that you can't assign to nouns,
just adjectives and so I'll just come right out
and say it,

is my name still beautiful?
Could it be the real name
of a real wildflower?
If not, that's okay, I want
to be a scientific name.
I want to flavor soup
in Latin and, if I must,
with my death-cap tendencies,
I want to put out a dinner party
Linnaeus style.

But sometimes, I want to do more
than ask you. I want to tell you
to close your eyes and open your mouth,
and I want to place this name of mine
on the taste bud with the best memory
I think you'd forget me
if I let you keep your eyes open.

Sweet Love

by Nazra Emamdee

What will you try to save me from
If I screech vibrating silence
And pierce through aching muscles amidst the night?
Can you put those dark green straws
Through which run revenge and pleasure,
With kisses and sweat back to meditation?
Will you put me down when I fly, screwing,
With the devil’s wings towards forgetful karma?
If I say that I love every piece of you,
Will you love my dead nail
Under which lies a pretty history of blood crystals?
Will you love it through a coated sham or naked
If it promises to uproot itself off my skin
And neglect me?
What will you love me for
If tears of an unknown manufacturer,
Like final products are spilled on your sweet lullaby?
Will you force me to sleep amidst quenching dreams
Which squeeze the life out of my garden?
If I grow cancer in my heart,
Will you love the living me or the leaving me?
If I hammer twice my ring finger,
Will you put that ring through
And feed me with strawberries
Or saw the flesh and bones off me?

The Universe

by Bobbie Troy

the universe
an intangible thing
that seems to grow larger
as i become smaller
and less confident
and so confused
about the relationship
of macrocosm to microcosm
and microcosm to macrocosm
that the only decision
i can make
is what to have for dinner

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Button Up

by Laura Close

A year from now, maybe I will
button up. I will take a vow of silence

before the weather turns bitter.
               I will ask the vicar.

October is sometimes cold enough
to ask for a row of buttons or for

old overcoats to recreate recycled
notions from old coats’ buttons;

as for the fine fabric itself I cannot
recycle it; I don’t know how; I seek out

electric sheep and a row of quiet dreams.

Centerfold

by Alan S. Kleiman


But I’m usually more shy
I don’t centerfold regularly
I don’t centerfold happily
I centerfolded only a time or two my whole life
And I wasn’t thrilled centerfolding at all.


Shyness doesn’t mean you are shy
it doesn’t mean you want to die
or hide from each face
like a butterfly.

It doesn’t mean you are timid
looking
or speak with a quiet sound
or laugh only when laughed at
or sing when the voice is laryngitis hoarse
when even a cry won’t sound.

Shy’s when inside you’re scared
and say truth to yourself
never
When you must be shy
because pain bars the doors.

Even a fire in the stables
won’t let the horse escape.
Burn before leaving
Put water in a dish left outside the stall
and think it will hold back the flames.

Only water will lash the storms
of rage, the visions of self
crashing the rocky shore
Hard.

The dish won’t burn,
like the burning bush, truth
won’t escape. Flames
won’t lick the dew off grass or upper lip.
Stand tall
Remember
Duty has no meaning in a colored light
Shifting sands mean everything.

Freedom

by Kim Wilson

I wanted to be left feeling invisible because to remember would be unfeeling; compassionately socializing with the enemy shouldn't deliberately weigh on my feelings. Why would my sanity truly depend on your survival; that can't be. Why can't the feelings of being down have its window shut; spilling to the ground. The explanation of when I rage; has been shut up so long that I've forgotten the rules and pleasures to openness; if there's really still a place for me. The only thing that's changed is that the applause is only quieter. The bright lights of 'insane'; frightening nights is what my soul knows to be forgotten amongst the sane. I try not to weep or willow but out-casted is, as out-casted does. Don't cry for me because I hide part the way; let's get it straight. My forgetting my whole self because I have been born again and again and again and...; I ain't mad, I go on. How do you unscramble a rattled mind that's struggling to be born again with the hope I have left; I've lived in the flesh, now die in the Word. God has plans for me, as soon as I figure at what they are.

Paper cuts

by Susan S. Keiser

A sharp eye hones
and paints the outlines
of a world invisible to ours,
cutting at the certainty
of paranoid dimension,
stark gingerbread
scissor-made and snipped
from adjunct dreams.

Idle generations carved
of iterative black and white
drift from fingertips
into a filmy paper land,
people spilling into cities
and the countryside;
men and women, hopes
sliced from dreamlands or
pale, illucid memory,
drifting on a tissue breeze
toward genesis, imperceptible
in its minute savageries,
controversy biting at
a deft and bleeding hand.

Reptilian Mind

by Wayne Lee

In my reptilian mind, I still crawl
on my underbelly
through the primordial ooze
inexorably toward evolution.

I am not yet ready to stand, to sire
live young, to bleed, to oppose
forefinger and thumb.

Everything is either food
or not food.

I miss my tail.

This Shirt Belonged to My Father

by James Babbs

this shirt belonged to
my father
every time I wear it
I think of him
pouch of Red Man
chewing tobacco
tucked inside his
left front pocket and
I remember
the way it burned
my tongue when
he let me try some
how I immediately
spat it out
while he sat back
and laughed
watching him
working on
something in the garage
his sleeves rolled up as
he reaches for
the ball-peen hammer
pounding the piece of
metal he has
clamped in the vise
the sound of it
still
ringing in my ears

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

“How do I get to Elm?”

by Joseph Hargraves

A thin, black-haired, blue-eyed
girl stopped me on
High and Main Streets.
She asked me “How
Do I get to Elm?” Because I say
whatever pops into my mind
I told her I once stabbed
a guy on Elm because he
called me a “faggot.”
I explained how easily
the knife entered
up under his rib-cage.
She asked: “How
do I get to Elm?
I told her I would
exchange good directions
for her phone number.
She wrote “Becky: 327-9553.”
When I got home
I dialed knowing
she gave me the number
to Luigi’s Pizza Parlor.
The phone rang and
a sweet voice said:
“Hi Joe, this is Becky
I was hoping you’d call.”

Always remember:
People are unpredictable.

Deadwood

by Summer Qabazard

I’m scared of this dark
in blood cells
in space
in skulls
felt it flutter
nightly

I’ve seen the base of it
its taproot
wire bone
stone gray

trunk grows
around grave

I grow a foot
imprint
hold it to the ground
I’ve known it struggle
pathetic wing-pinned
flailing, flapping

smoke snakes in breaths
turning tones of ash
of such force, a storm

even in darkness
want shadows
shadows

I have to
scream
now.

Gum Chewing Not Allowed

by Annmarie Lockhart

I don't like gum chewingyou said
Yeah, well I don't like
being overlooked
I replied

We pondered these
limitations, wondered
what they meant

I will make you feel safeyou said
Yes, and I will make
you feel strong
I replied

And so negotiations began
and preliminary terms
were struck

I added
a monitoring clause
that wouldn't pass review

and the unseasonable storm
wound down, sunshine through snow
flakes, light, heat, bed, bear

and I wondered why any woman
would ever consent to a man
who didn't love her hair

The Cart Pusher at Wal-Mart

For my brother
by Zach Fishel

Struggling with
frozen gates and people who drive
while texting,
he pushes on.
Making due in the sleet,
hail,
downpours of misery in the small
town that only
equals dead end opportunities
except he
doesn’t get the benefits of
the Postal Service.
He gives a damn,
making sure people aren’t
trashing the lot
with their fast food wrappers
and commodities,
he doesn’t know hot water
tanks or gas bills
that exceed warmth.
He gives a damn,
like a priest celibately struggling
through a whorehouse.
One day when
he leaves that town,
he will take his work ethic
with him,
and nobody can take that
away as the carts
pile up
in parking spots like corners
of never
cleaned houses.

The Dissatisfied Mirror

by Glenn Cooper

A mirror grew dissatisfied with its human.
Another mirror said, a man cannot help his own reflection.
That may be so, the dissatisfied mirror said, but nor can I help the desire for something more.
If you break your human you will endure seven years bad luck.
Who said anything about breaking him?
It’s in your tone.
I think the silent treatment should more than suffice …

The Reason That Drunks Dont Recycle

by Jenny Catlin

Humiliation, morning seven am embarrassment.
The clanking of cans
chirping clank, too many bottles compete for space.
Hang dog slide down the fire escape. gotta wait. for the right moment
No neighbors in the hall
smiling maintenance guy. judgment eyes
party in a one room apartment, 105 no ones invited!
Clink clang click…nothing good ever comes in or goes out in a black bag.
Porn and booze and bodies.
Space out the symphony with folded pizza boxes.
Sunday morning functioning, the church bells of shame
But Wednesday, that’s another thing entirely.
Rock paper scissors, who gets the job? Three days a week of pile up and stock up
Gotta go.
Gotta go down all five flights no matter how careful the tip toe
The side step
Still the shame-siren wails in the parking lot
Neighbor’s pit bull head cock. No chicken bones, or other forbidden goodies.
No food for days, just bang-smash the bottles and cans…I can identify the brand
the sound of opening, parlor trick in a parlor-less walk up…but still.
the old woman who swims the dumpster for these lost fortunes
one more guilty verdict for her jackpot.
Think about global warming, the trash island.
Guilty gap mouthed purple plastic is giving me the eye again,
While I feed it’s too full neighbor up with all that broken music.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Story

by Holly Day

once upon a time
we were in love
and then we weren’t
time has turned my hair gray
and my skin gray
and my eyes blind.
I wonder how he’s aged.
I hear the dirt moving
far above my head
the shovel draws close.
pebbles fall on my face as
metal bites into wood.
I have composed
so many love letters
down here, in my head
started conversations
mumbled explanations
but I can’t say a word that he can hear.
I see his face in the opening
framed in moonlight and wet earth
if I could feel
I’d feel him pull the ring from my finger
the skin sliding off the bone with
the cold metal
if I could speak
I’d ask him about the new girlfriend
ask him
if she’s prettier than me.

Halfway to Naked

by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Among hobbledehoys, some simple friends seem more adept at dressage
Than do slatternly peers with obdurate, chthonic tendencies.
Those others, who also perform the rites, remain all but larky.
Hardihood lacks sufficiency to face down persons engaged accordingly.

Consider that carnal factotums, after a time, disintegrate to dust.
Similarly, blackboots, selectively mute, can be found risen to grandeur,
Or otherwise assigned to mirandole princes devoid of ugly-minded gaffers.
When such peerage shakes, the world rushes to videotape their trembling.

As for the rest of us, we homunculi, no amount of alacrity gets us
Beyond halfway to naked; it’s a shamefaced truth that minions
Decenter their superiors time and again out of need, nefarious intent notwithstanding.
If only, liberties were equitably spread, we might better our lots, rejoice, rebel.

My Dead Come Down

by Art Holcomb

In the early hours,
my dead come down
from the alder tree behind my house
and drink from my swimming pool

cautious hands dip
scoop by scoop,
eyes on me,
as I stand on the other side
of my patio door.

I sip my coffee
and slowly crack the door open
just a bit,

     just a little bit.

They (suddenly) do not move.

And I quietly, through the crack,
steal a breath of
our common fortune

I hold that breath;

     it’s heady

and they,
having had their fill,
retreat back through the landscaping,

to vanish

electric coil glow like taillights
as we both make for the dawn.

Rotation Alley

by John Pursch

Hark, our feelers are coaxed into auction shorts and quaffed donuts, mesmerized by plenitudes, and chuckled at by savage hair nets. Modern man goes loyal at the sight of ankle jobs, sacrificing clay pots, reindeer, coulisse, ear-wax, real teeth, nostrils, snake pits, surface bangs, bludgeoned mice, fields of treats, and buzzing cattle; all for a hook, a menagerie of diamond numbers, a gleaner of the loosened chaste. A bowl of minnows cans peaches in a celluloid basement, swirls to centrifuge a meager rat, and irrigates a bunion, half complete. Cobblers crown a chortling monkey preened for stays of restitution, reinforce a Day-Glo hindrance, and titillate the moribund sexologist. Climbing on a cyborg, armatures finned with ballast, we answer merry lipids, defenestrate a bobbin, and circulate nude lacquer chips.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Eating an Orange

by Jessica Otto

I pick up the orange of the kitchen counter
and cut into it with a haphazard, serrated blade
crusted with peanut butter sleeping in the sink
next to a greasy tilapia spine that found
its final resting place in my coffee mug.

Inside the orange is something like the pulse that
floats beneath your heart murmur.  The juice
stings a paper cut when I try to dig out a seed that
is not the pearl I was expecting from this thing that
is not an oyster.  And eat it anyway.

Fuck You, Fuck Me

by Cynthia Ruth Lewis

I'm almost glad I gave my heart to you, asshole;
I'm almost glad you took me for a ride—
you really opened my eyes

I already had a bad attitude
when it came to men
but I took a chance on you
because you seemed so damned sincere,
but you ended up being
the worst one of them all

You stole what little faith I had left
and hung it out to dry
but I can't rightly say I hate you—
I hate myself more
for even falling for your shit
for giving you a chance
for stupidly thinking "maybe this time"....
for being hungry enough
to swallow your fucking bait
but it taught me a lesson;
one I won't easily forget

damn you
for stripping away my last shred of hope

damn me
for being foolish enough
to grab onto the frayed end of that fucking rope

Gently Flows the Rhine

by Paul Hellweg

Beauty intimidates, and
ego’s desire yields nothing.
My body in Room Nine, Joshua Tree Inn,
my timid soul needs to check in too.
Lavender bedspread, mirrored dresser,
floral drapes, paisley pillows,
room once used for nude photo shoots,
home of the singing Lorelei and
exuberant female sexuality,
unapologetic, undaunted.
Mermaids, Sirens, Lorelei
lure men to their fabled doom,
favoring those who fear the female,
murmuring rock, lurking rock.
Women have the incubus, men the succubus,
equal-opportunity demons,
both genders with something to fear,
intimidation, timidity, restraint,
limitations to lose ourselves in,
barring entrance to that Room Nine
where reality awaits the dream.

Hide and Seek

by Savannah Stuitje

Love is not to be found in the backseat of a car
A circle of moonlight on a glossy front lawn
A musty basement spangled with cobwebs
In a nook, a cranny, a crawlspace
A library, a movie theatre slick with pop corn grease
Love is not shoved up against a wall
Wrists held down, breasts pushed up
Like a paid actress with goods for sampling
A housewife with a plate of finger sandwiches, pigs in a blanket
It is not stroked down its stomach like a purebred dog
Trembling into submission by a firm hand
Or groped through a flimsy dress
Love cannot be gripped by the thighs, made to ride like a cowgirl
Love does not rake its hands down your back
It is not made to moan and thrash
Or hold you in its hands like a prize fish
Mumble rosaries as it prays to you, its mouth open and regretful
Love does not scramble for its clothes in the dark
Or leave an earring behind; breathe something hot and moist into an ear
Love does not wander fingers down its body looking for souvenirs
Love does not wipe itself down with printed napkins
Or lose its underwear, a necklace, a sandal
Love does not sit in the bathroom and take inventory
Text a friend, call a cab, scrawl goodbyes on credit card receipts
A number, an exclamation, a drooping smiley face
It does not leave with its skirt caught in the car door
Love does not drive to a diner and eat pancakes
One after another, moistened with syrup and butter
Crunchy bacon and flaccid eggs cooked sunny side up
To lose the taste in its mouth
Love does not smoke bummed cigarettes
Or swallow handfuls of water in a gas station bathroom
Walk to a local pharmacy for little pills and take them dry in the parking lot
Bury the packaging in the trash
Love does not picture the darkness of its insides,
Porous white egg shell and minnow quick movements
Love does not curl its body into bed at 9 in the morning
In a little black dress, no underwear, and cold sheets
Love does not dream of babies rolling in lazy somersaults
Their eyes closed, hands folded, waiting patiently
Of bellies rounded with expectations
Seeds that smell the dirt like heaven
That come through cracks in the sidewalk
Their necks held out for execution

Landscape of Reason

by Austin McCarron

Behind chrome plated forests
there is a stump
of light and bright
is the flame of its inner machine.

Hot as a roast the meat
of its gleaming fist.  On tours of air
the destination silence cherishes.
Its heart trembles like wood.
Plagued by doubt, its greatness of
spirit is revered and its life is a song
poured out of
concrete furnaces like a cast of wires.

The land is sweet, full of religious
smells.  Out of roots of chaos, springs
of water, wearing caps of snow.
On legs of blood
a journey through gates and passes,
where trees
with animal fur over time begin to thaw.

Rapscallion

by Mike Berger

I've been down this ugly road a dozen
times or more. I've done some damage
along the way; leaving a string of broken
hearts. Striking up torrid love affairs, then
leaving without a word.

Always able to find a job and make a
little money. Dollars were made to be
spent and I rarely have cent to my name.
I drink only good scotch and I know how
to romance a woman.

Driving a new Porsche, I'm six months
behind on my payments. I don't fear the
repo boys, I'm gone before the can
track me down. It's a perpetual game
of hide and seek where the repo boys
are always it.

I'm getting old and not as quick as I
once was, but I still have my mojo.
I hold to the principle that good die
young; that way I will live another
thirty years.

Refraction

by Rebecca Gaffron

I look in the mirror of your eyes and see myself, as I see myself, and wonder what you see. You, who called me beautiful while your calloused thumb rubbed traces of Halloween-costume-freckles from my smooth cheek. You gazed at me under a streetlight all but over-powered by the orange glow of a harvest moon. And it was clear you loved in that moment before your lips met mine. For an instant I wondered how and then the feel of you made me forget to question.

Now all I can think of is the reflection of your smile distorted by glistening water. A line whips and circles in the air.  A lure, so light—freshly  tied and real. The cast is perfect. I am mesmerized by infinitely swaying loops outlined against sky, like some complicated incantation, working and weaving the designs of the universe into our own desires. Willing this fish to strike.

And I can’t tell if I’m the fish or the fisherman. Not sure who is catching who.  Not that it matters. The hook is set and the work begins. We play each other. Reel in the slack and come up close, close enough to look in the mirror of the other’s eyes, where we see ourselves as we see ourselves and wonder what the other sees.

I could be a fish in your grasp. Caught. A gift you’d gaze heavenward and give thanks for. Or you, slick in my hands . A gift I’d tremble with gratitude for. But the run isn’t finished yet. So speckled, iridescent skin slips through hesitant fingers and the line pays out again.

I ache to trust you the way I have never trusted. I ache for you to kill me fast and set my soul free. I want to feel you split me open. Offer my depths to the river and watch as spring-cold currents wash away this mistrust. This doubt. This fear of surrender. I would do the same for you. Rub you down with juniper and salt, protecting more than flesh. Preserving those bits you thought you’d lost.

We could accept the gift of a magic fish. We could look into its eyes and see ourselves as we see ourselves, but also possibilities—a lifetime of harvest moons together and the lingering sound of your guitar, or my words, or the laughter of our children.

But then your lips meet mine and I wonder if this is refraction or reality, before the risk of losing you makes me forget to question.

Soul Star

by Raymond Keen

Why would I
not sing to you
in tears of
vermillion fire?
Sing the fires of blue flame,
sing the rage of form.
For these words
no location,
in the blood-red
depths of an apple-green
paradise.
Yes, yes your azure eyes
speak mine.
You breathe Bordeaux.
Your body is a rainbow
in this gunmetal world.
Heather me, feather me
in this gunmetal world.
Your seraphic soul
a star sapphire,
your roots a verdant green.
Awaken me
you do
in this
most pale night.
You cry out in me.

The Digital Clock Hotel
South of Hartford, Connecticut

by Noel J. Hadley

I kid you not. Pain and agony – there
is no healthier way to put it.
To say my bones ache, ha! I think my spine
just exploded. All night iron
fists pulsate my back. And then, reaching for
pain killers, a land mine detonates!

That is about the extent of my night –
In bed, cold, swallowed in agony.
I shall never forget the sting of death,
as though all my youth had been bested,
beaten in one final blow to the bone.
That is the full degree of the night.

Except I have failed to cite the length of
the slow drive through a despondent blizzard,
and how, when pulling off the interstate
I spilled charred coffee across my lap.
The only hotel was blistered in heaps.
True, but everyone swore it wasn’t.
The gas station attendant, the Waffle
House hostess – they pointed me in this
direction. Five times – Yes, I say five times
I spun my car down the icy hill,
crossing ghost paths with a charcoaled hotel.
Then, on my sixth try, I kid you not,
I stumbled upon this place, VACANCY
sign aglow – the V and N darkened.

That is about the extent of the night.
Now I am in bed passing the time.
Cold, broken, alone – Death molested me.
Where are you youth? We were together
for a moment, it seems, or perhaps two.
A moment, a day, a week, decades,
what does it matter? Everything before
perdition is a childhood dream. Now
seconds tick as minutes – hours as days.
Please, grant me the breath to kiss the flesh
of youth, if only in a lucid dream.
To grace, let me sleep, fashion a beard.
I fear I shall never leave this place – that
the sun shall never rise – that this
bed should always plague my bones – this hotel,
that it would descend into ashy
embers, plowed by an eternal blizzard,
that I should be a covetous ghost
in winter, always alone, – craving youth.

So, that is the extent of the night.
Still, the part that I will not soon forget
isn’t the blizzard, coffee, hostess,
burnt down hotel in heaps, nor corpse groans.
The greatest torments of hell rest not
in those, but in the damned digital
timepiece taunting me from the in-table.
Yes, taunt! That miserable device,
inching ever so slowly through the night.

Wondering

by Kyrsten Bean

I am thinking of all the ghosts I know
who are still alive
and I wonder if they are watching me or
if I’ve become a faint blip on their radar

I am another person inside this person inside this person
nested like Russian dolls
open one and you get another and another and another
and there are so many pieces of me smashed across the continent

we are missing smashed pieces our entire lives
and we can never recreate the whole glass bottle
because someone up there or out there has the pieces in their hands
is holding them. Is laughing.

But what do I have if not this: This attempt
what I had, what I did
so many pauses and starts
so many fits and gasps

Everything falls inevitably
cherry blossoming to the ground
And I spin through this bourgeois world wondering
And I spin through this bourgeois world wondering

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Coda

by P. L. Powell

Many of us
normal lives
underneath
            strangenesses.

A roof leaks.
An old couple
persists.
This is what

breathing becomes.
In the morning
another reason
on warm sheets.

An eclipse ends.
The moon remains.

crop circles in wood

by Lynne Hayes

i saw a man in the coffee-shop
he sat near the door,
feet moving
in that still-walking pattern
that said take me there
anywhere, somewhere.
observing his profile,
the unshaven jaw twitched
as if biting on an unsaid word.
i wondered if he would spit it out
or swallow with the next sip
of his dark Colombian.
i stared at the man by a door
waiting for an imminent departure
so my feet could rest
in the circles made
on an old wooden floor
taking me somewhere,
anywhere.

exiles

by John Grochalski

b.j. looks happy

in the window
of the new bar

drinking his bud

talking to don
who’s keeping watch
over the basket of cheez-its

when i walk in
it’s like the mayor
has shown up

shouts and pints lifted

i think
well, i’ve finally made it

but to where?

i take a seat next to b.j.

the new bartender
gets me a beer
after i tell him what i want

this is something that i haven’t
had to do on this street
in almost four years

i ask b.j. and don
what happened at rooney’s

but instead they tell me
where everyone else is drinking now

b.j. says
they want to have one
last go round at the old joint

but because it’s closed down
the cops will probably come
and cart us all off to jail

so it’s going
to be a picnic instead

everyone from the joint

their families
their kids

reunited

he says he’ll email me the details
when he knows for sure

then jr slaps me on my back
and starts to talk to me
about books

while i take a good pull
on my draft

look around

trying to remember
where the bathrooms are
in this new joint.

Picking the Bones Clean

by Cynthia Ruth Lewis

I should have known
that eventually you'd come slithering back
you crashed into my life
like a train wreck
and completely turned it upside-down;
fucked with my mind
screwed with my heart,
basically made me realize
that Satan is very much alive and well
and living in California
I must say the experience
really opened my eyes
and taught me a lesson I will never forget;
it's been a tough road,
but I'm a lot stronger because of it all
since then I've taught myself
how to pour alcohol directly into the wound
to help it heal,
notch the skin and suck out the venom
and build a barbed-wire fortress
around my heart
you managed to make quite an art
of emotional and psychological torment;
one can only assume that you've experienced
more than your fair share of that
at some point in your past,
but what amazes me
is not only that you scraped my own plate clean
while casually picking the remnants out of your teeth,
but that you had the balls to come back
for seconds

The Sea

by Roger Butterfield

I wanted to be higher than you one time,
Not knowing
What that would mean.

Knowing hasn't changed much,
Only from where I'm looking.

The Short Story

by Brittany Fonte

SETTING: Many weeds grow green in the Mid Western wilds of cows and plains, mosquito-filled lakes and conservative politics. Wisconsin happily barters in cheese curds and whey (sown by serial killers), the twin Dakotas dapple in deer ticks, dust and durable durham wheat. My Minnesota, though, touts corn and soybeans, also gun racks, goys, and cheap ale. Ice fishing holes, sans crops, are stuffed with mammal heads and hookers as company-come-tail. I was raised here, shallow soil et al; “gay” meant “jolly,” only in the way it was used in famous Broadway musicals recreated at the local (Norwegian) rec center. Here, lefse is rolled as much as Mary Jane, and Mary Jane marries men.

CHARACTER: Mary Jane married three men, maybe high, but I hoped for more. I held Ellen a hero without a hampering cape, or male hormones. Nineteen and nit-witted, I coddled visions of karaoke love songs in my mind of minimal focus and tone deafness. Feeling powerful with temporary parental leave, and teenaged volcanic panties primed in electric shocks, I panted after—preyed— on pretty coeds without guilt, without redneck perceptions, concepts of “perversity,” or narrow-minded prattle. Until.

THEME: Until Eternity: This is what I promised her. I kissed her once, offered, “Until we meet again.” Until the clock struck twelve and my spring break curfew counted, I held her hips until the cows came... I thought of her driving home, got a speeding ticket from a dyke who couldn’t see me for who I wanted to be. I thought: Until the fat lady sings. Until the end. Later, I told my parents until I was blue in the face: I loved her. Juliet and Jolie-Pitt. They were silent. They wouldn’t accept it, not until Hell froze over. Sex equaled guilty until proven guilty.

POINT OF VIEW: Guilt from Her. Mom. The old-fashioned. The bigoted. The Christian Right. The Focus on the Family, not mine. The Majority. The Man. The Commandments. The hope for a grandchild. The neighbors and what they might say, have said, have seen over a privacy fence. The hurt I might contend with. The discrimination. The “phase.” The idea of tab A and slot B without silicone accoutrements. The slut. The family friends who will not accept me. The fa├žade. The children with no father. There is, also, God.

PLOT: My God, Thanksgiving came gifting and I, riding shotgun in my mother’s shuttle van, thinking of tofu turkey and brown buttered biscuits (basic human rights) showed my cards: I shouted, “I’m in love. With a woman.” Torrential, tyrannical screams ensued, and then my ride was wrought with the most soundless of nauseated silence.

(
)

It was clear I would not break breads of bartering, then. There was not one loaf for all, and I had to bide my time until a foreign taxi could return me to sender, reset my sexuality, tally all of my wrongs as a child and all of my tuition costs.

CONFLICT: The cost is more than I have

 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Airplane Bottles

by Kevin Ridgeway

six months dry and a sip
of bottom shelf Kentucky bourbon
out of an airplane bottle

gag reflexes dance across the seething nodules of my throat,
sour world worms wiggle along the linings of my intestines
which writhe into arms that want to crawl out of my ass
and produce a sharp blade in one arm
slicing the main line of this head
with an aluminum bat in the other arm to shatter the skull

removing the brain delicately like a newborn
and spoon feed hunks of gray matter
past my bitter lips down
the slide of fire and out of my ass again
to shake hands with this doomed clown
plastic bottles on each finger dancing a horrific
deluded dance with the Devil.

CALIFORNIA FIRE

by Stephen Jarrell Williams

Near dawn I'm sitting on the edge of bed,
everything with a tinge of black
pulling me back into the night,

you're behind me breathing hot on my neck,
your hands snaking around to my belly,

pressing hard against me
your cool breasts...

California fires burning on TV and you
lasting like a line of flame across the entire valley,

never forgetting this
our last night together

sprinkling ashes of glowing orange outside the window,
bed squeaking like an old woman,

you thinking
you'll never be alone,

mountainsides burnt with stumps of trees and bushes
once strong and green,
canopied by an arc of tainted sky.

Goodbye, So Long, and Farewell

by Danica Green

i. Goodbye

Rain is the sad weather,
Snow is reflective,
Such pathetic fallacy.

You'll still be dead when the sun comes out.

ii. So Long

I've never flogged a dead horse,
But I've kicked a dead rat.
I found it in the garden last summer,
Not a mark on it,
But covered in flies.
I kicked it to check it was really dead.

iii. Farewell

I'm taking the good china when I go,
You never used it anyway.
The duvet cover you said was too vintage,
The tacky seashell lamp

And maybe
Wait
...yeah

Fuck it.
I'm taking the cat.

HISTORY ON A FLATBED

by Robert E. Petras

First to go was the lawn tractor
swept away by a flatbed,
then came the strangers to the auction,
and they took things,
things like Betty Jane Demerit’swasher and dryer,
things like Betty Jane’s flat screen TV,
things like Betty’s jewelry,
her pearl necklace, her mother’s brooch,
carried them off the hill
like ants carrying crumbs
as the auctioneer warbled on and on
and they carried away more things—
just things—the grandmother’s wedding dress,
a mother’s ring,
the daily reminder blackboard
erased, the erasers, too.
Another flatbed rolled into haul away junk
as the auctioneer warbled on:
Going, going, gone forever.