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Table of Contents
Pg. 4 - SONG AND DANCE AND AFTER, Nolan Liebert Pg. 5 - GOSPEL OF GARISH GRATITUDE, Dylan Weir Pg. 6 - FAMILY VALUED, Ken Schweda Pg. 8 - HOME TO LOS MUERTOS, Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois Pg. 10 - FIRE AND SMOKE, Jeff Burt Pg. 11 - THE FLEETING THOUGHT THAT NAGS, Julia Guarch Pg. 12 - HOW I LEARNED TO WALK, Vanesa Pacheco - MCKINLEY (6:16), Patrick Williams Pg. 13 - TAMWORTH TRAIL, 7:12PM (ON BEING A WOMAN), Lauren Elma Frament - THE TRANS-O-LATOR, J. Alan Montrose Pg. 14 - BOTTLE MESSAGE, Luis Neer & Kenzi Burchett Pg. 15 - SURFACE MIRRORS, Shola Shankar Pg. 16 - QUIET LIPS, QUIET EYES, Reeves Stockard Pg. 17 - TWO CONVERSATIONS, Christopher Morgan Pg. 18 - I AM IN THE MIDDLE, April Salzano Pg. 19 - DIVING INTO HOME, Tom Loughlin Pg. 22 - EXPIRATION DATE, Ed Ahern Pg. 23 - THE SEEDY SIDE OF SALEM, Steven W. Baker Pg. 24 - BOOTS, Wiley Birkhofer Pg. 25 - ODE TO THE SNOWY PLOVER, Kurt Cline Pg. 27 - OVERUSE LANGUAGE ENOUGH AND THE FORM BECOMES, Lauren Brazeal
Pg. 29 - EDITORIAL STAFF Pg. 31 - CONTRIBUTOR BIOS
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SONG AND DANCE AND AFTER Nolan Liebert
The girl with one and a half legs, plus the short stub that slipped into her prosthetic, played clarinet and tenor saxophone, improvised mixolydian solos and smiles, all air through her teeth under a window of cornsilk hair and perfect skin – beneath, a heart that marched and swaggered and leapt and danced through the wallflowers with a boy, who kissed her soft, all hard metal mouth and trumpeting lips, before she taught his fingers how to unstrap her plastic appendage instead of unzipping her green, green dress.
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GOSPEL OF GARISH GRATITUDE Dylan Weir
" After Jeffrey McDaniel "
She says you watch too many movies. That you still sleep with your baby teeth tucked beneath your pillow sheet.
She teases with pinches that you mistakenly take personal. In a ring, afraid of committing to the ropes, you’d fly before touching fists.
Never escape to the bathroom. Never let yourself out on her
You never wanted to be happy. You wanted to live. Do not fight the shame,
let it drown the sink salty. Let it subside. And stop. See her, don’t just wait for her eyes to go silent. She will
get angry at you for not listening. But you need to listen to her, to lose any delusion of this fight
sacrificing her chainsaw smile. Let the whole party see you study her screaming lips like she’s spitting up soul.
Always go down on her. Always wake up first, Cry in front of her father. Feel no shame for any of this.
Just remember – you never deserved this.
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FAMILY VALUED Ken Schweda
I didn’t know my wife personally but I do know she was a good mother to our children. We were married ten years and she faithfully reported for sampling every month. We have an absolutely beautiful family of 120 to show for it. My work never allowed me to be involved but she managed to stay in touch, if not with each child, at least with each child’s mom. That’s not easy. Most wives start to lose touch after fifty or sixty.
Me? Thank you for asking. I think I’ve been a good husband. I faithfully provided her and all the surromoms with their monthly stipend. Never missed a payment. And I’ve usually granted special requests, except the time she wanted…well, never mind.
Will I miss making all those payments now that I don’t have…what? Oh, miss those playdates? Definitely I will. Once a year wasn’t too inconvenient. It was always a bit awkward having to see them. I guess I’ll miss them.
So yes, I agree completely with the statement that we led a happy, efficient, and reproductive life.
“Thank you Mr. Cole Dash One, that will be all.”
“Mr. Cole Dash Two will you take the stand.”
I loved my unwife dearly, and I knew her intimately. We were best friends; completed each other’s sentences. Unfortunately our unmarriage of ten years was legal in only one state, _____ Inc., but I swear I tried to secure funding throughout. She always dreamed of having a small unfamily, maybe one of each, but her job took her away too often.
No, she wasn’t embarrassed that it was her monthly paychecks supporting us. It made me feel very unmanly but she never brought it up or let it affect our relationship.
Me? Of course I’m embarrassed. How good of an unhusband could I be? Like I said, I couldn’t provide for us financially. I was unable to give her the children she wanted, even if circumstances had been different. I failed her. And now I’ll never have a chance…are we through here?
Happy, efficient, reproductive life together? Happy. Somewhat.
“Your honor, I think we’re done here. Mr. Cole Dash Two you can step down.”
“Your honor, given what we’ve just heard and previous testimony from law enforcement I think it’s clear where fault lies in this case. True marriage, as defined in our time-honored statutes, consists of several components. And it is well-established that the first component, the creation of life, is the most sacred and unselfish and therefore the most fundamental.”
“Mr. Cole Dash One was completely faithful in funding not only the marriage as a whole but the sacred monthly reproductive ceremonies in particular. As a result we as a society benefitted as well as his wife and all those wonderful children. I dare say the one who received the least was Mr. Cole Dash One himself. Therefore, I believe the court should find Mr. Cole Dash Two liable.”
“Thank you for your time counselor. I see no need for further deliberation so I will rule from the bench. In the case of The Honorable State of ______ Inc. versus Mrs. Audrey Cole, in absentia, I find Mrs. Cole guilty. In addition I find her unhusband Mr. Cole Dash Two liable for full restitution to the State and to Mr. Cole Dash One for all fines, fees, and encumbrances associated with Mrs. Cole’s suicide.”
My love, I am so terribly sorry I was unable to provide you with the undivided love you deserved. I want you to know I did not enter into the Contract of Life willingly. Just know I tried to make the best of an intolerable situation for so long only because I had you.
I have no doubt how the court proceeding will turn out. But perhaps you can find consolation in the fact that this was my choice, freely made. You always loved that about me, my silly free spirit. I can only hope Dash One, as unmanly as he is, will find some reason to take pity on you and lessen your financial burden.
Forever in love, Audrey
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HOME TO LOS MUERTOS Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois
My horn is made of metal and comes from Chicago. How it got down here, I have no idea. How does anything get down here? How did I get down here? Life is not what we were taught in the University of Rational Living. That school was a hoax. The Universe is irrational, and so am I. So are you, and so are the twisted words that run between us, and so is the music that pours from my horn. But the irrationality is beautiful. So you light a joint and kiss your woman and sway to the smog and crime and luck.
" METH-MALNIK "
Madame Armadillo has four children: North, South, East, West. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west on the Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and Holy Criminal and Holy Prude. Nothing new there. The mud was orange ointment, a salve made from palmetto swords, and puke donated by alligators. I lay in bed, my head to the North, my feet to the South. Wisdom is easy if you don’t add complications. Yes, alligators feel love, for their own race and for humans, even for their prey. All the love humans have abandoned has to go somewhere. As physics teaches: energy neither created nor destroyed. I’m awoken by the sound of tenor saxophones coming in my glassless windows. A mosquito is sucking on my eyeball. I swat it, but make things worse. Wisdom is easy if you don’t add complications. When I cut Tu’s clothing with sewing scissors, when I peeled the cloth from her body, her molten blue flesh, immersed in the ooze, hissed like serpents. One of my wives calls me for coffee. My other wife is frying eggs and drawing pictures on flour tortillas with black and red magic markers. Neither of my wives knows about Tu. Smeared with ointment, I was aroused like never before. God created Tu to excite me. God created me to excite Tu. There was no other reason for us to exist. My wife #2 has written my name on one of the tortillas, not Mitchell, Miguel. She’s misspelled my middle name, like this: Crack-Malnick. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell her I don’t smoke Crack anymore, she keeps tormenting me. If Tu and I stopped exciting each other, we would die, like tomato plants at the end of the season, gnarled and bitter. Sometimes Numero Dos writes: Meth-Malnick. I tell her I’ve never done Meth and don’t intend to start, even though her brother is cooking it out in the desert. Crawdads scuttled out of the way, propelled by the wake of our transcendence. Orgasm blew my head off, more efficient than any sniper. My first wife tries to look severe at my second wife, but can’t keep up the pretense. They drink tequila from the bottle as they finish my breakfast. It takes two women to make my breakfast. Wisdom is easy if you don’t add complications. The crawdads ran like hell, as if they were trying to outrun a nuclear blast.
" EL KROCHMALNIKO "
An entire race of people banged blocks together, nodding and smiling, deafening Tu and I. Orgasm has coated me like non-stick oil sprayed on a pan, like egg yolks on a rare foggy morning.
I cannot open my eyes, don’t want to either, even though it is the first day of the Fiesta of the Sacred Cross, and I am the star trumpeter in this village. They call me El Krochmalniko. Lightning bounced off the orange ointment and illuminated their slant-eyed faces. They were the opposite of zombies. They had come to live in the swamp because they had so much excess life, they needed to damp it down. When I was a child, my father beat me because I refused to learn to play the accordion, his chosen instrument. He couldn’t play it anymore, because a drug cartel had chopped off one of his hands. I had finally found release. I had found love. Tu and I were one organism. Tu and I had forged the ultimate marriage. I didn’t like the accordion. It was too heavy. It hung from my shoulders like the Titanic, threatening to take me down to the bottom of the desert. Out of the violence of war had come compassion. He beat me for my obstinance. I picked up my trumpet and sent a blast to his cauliflower ear. (He was a boxer who fought in the Olympic Auditorium, in Los Angeles. He got beat up more than he won. My memory of him is with a bloodied face. He fed his grandiose fantasies of winning a championship long, long after it was conceivable.) Then I ran like hell, never stopped running until I arrived in this town, with its sculptures of Los Muertos which gave the town its name. I made it my home and, even though I’ve left for long periods, I’ve never abandoned it. There was no reason in the world anymore. There was no unreason. My father is dead now. I did not go to his funeral. I am alive. I spit on his accordion. I raise the trumpet to my lips and send a blast out my bedroom window, over the pigs and chickens and goats and ducklings and agave plants into the village, an announcement, like those Arab mullahs in their towers. Our brains were dribbling onto the orange ointment made of alligator puke and palmetto spikes. It is the Fiesta of the Sacred Cross. Everyone get out of bed! Get up! Join me for a drink. Then I’ll raise the horn to my lips and won’t put it down until my lips are bruised and bloody and I can no longer play, and the village worships me as a martyr.
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FIRE AND SMOKE Jeff Burt
I run into the first line of fireplace smoke, the faint beginning of the burn, the almost fragile breath of fire that a single deep inhalation seems to break. I lose it, suddenly, then recapture it, walking down the street at night with the drizzle of the fog dampening every household and raising shoulders and lowering expectations, the early fires in the woodstoves and inserts that bring smoke barely curling out of the flues and chimneys, low pressure forcing the smoke to the sidewalks and lawns and streets for the few who walk them, for the wanderers either purposefully wandering or simply lost. The sheer whiff of smoke tricks the body into feeling warmer, memories of Mother on her knees ripping the newspaper into burnable sheets, stacking the kindling in a crazy crisscross, the log at the top, then the long match struck and the flame bright yellow as the paper burned, the fir kindling snapping when sap explodes, the bark on the log flaring before coasting to a thin blue aura, memories of huddling, memories of sharing a blanket but Father perched on alert for sparks passing out of the grate like a dog might sit at attention tensed to the merest movement in the brush, a fire lit that is always too dim to read from in a chair, and too warm to read by when you are next to it, the warmth so unlike the sun’s warmth which emboldens and brings energy forth, restlessness, the fire’s warmth melting the skeleton and sinew into a puddle of human form resting, exhausted, contentment even if poor or sitting on a pile of chips waiting to cash in, the faintest hint of smoke. Like a friend inviting you out of your loneliness to a campfire. Like a neighbor summoning you to the bonfire of leaves burning at the gutter where you stand silently next to others warming first your front rubbing your hands and then your back again rubbing your hands as if purifying them, cleansing them in the smoke, the smoke washing and cleansing your soul and silencing your thoughts, eyes with a reflected core of yellow as if a new and softer light had indwelled as if to vanquish the darkness that lives within. Now I smell the smoke. Now I do not. I stop walking, stand in one spot and a slight curl of smoke returns. I move and catch another in a few steps, a blessing here, a blessing there. Haze softens the appearance of all buildings. Lights between the fog and the smoke dim and diffuse. Mufflers of cars muffle as they should, footsteps soften against the cement, dogs growl but do not bark and their chains tinkle. Knob cone pines drip the stripped fog from their needles with a soft drop on the ground. Distinct reds, blues, greens, yellows, purples, and pinks all turn into a soft monochrome. The world is no longer confused by color, no longer intrigued with the conceit of pastels and subtle hues used for mimicry and fetching, the allure of color’s cleavage now closed behind the blouse, colors no longer blaring like commercials to be heard, no longer primary but secondary, the clash of attractions and hostilities surrendered to the intimacies of grayness, the nuzzling of lovers in the low light of a fireplace, the woman unwrapping her hair and letting it fall on her lover. I am her lover.
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THE FLEETING THOUGHT THAT NAGS Julia Guarch
I am glass poet surrounded by spark plugs and porcelain; I am a performance poet with no audience a spoken poet with no audio a political poet without a clear cause.
I am a female poet, a queer poet, a joyous poet, a mourning poet, a loving poet, a heartbroken poet, I am a poet in need of help.
I am a poet who drowns alone under the covers in her hollow room, light afraid to shine, and an iPod screaming in her ears.
I am a poet who sees laughter, hears smiles, smells opportunities fading.
I am a poet who pulls her hair hard enough to snap her head in half.
I am a poet who doesn’t want to care.
I am a poet who curls up, stretches out, blows her tears and chokes her eyes.
I am a poet who repeats and repeats and repeats
Until she sees herself pristine.
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HOW I LEARNED TO WALK Vanesa Pacheco
My eyes dripped stones. Indentations formed on my thighs yielding inwards stalactites – my cilice – to gnaw with every step forward. The meat frayed like jeans tattered from sidewalks; thighs rasgadas por dentro. In frustrating falters, I swiped my tears with quick kicks, each stone shrapneling against the ground. But no sound; no whimpering, except cringes until the lagrímas subside and I tighten my own tourniquet.
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MCKINLEY (6:16) Patrick Williams
We stopped here on the way back to the airport, after a night spent shaking your mother's post-surgery look. The first thing she said to me was please no photographs, right there in the recovery room. We caught a super-hero movie about the effects of unnatural levels of radiation on regular people. One struggles, then thrives. It usually turns out differently, but she's somehow stronger now, stronger than we'll ever learn to be.
TAMWORTH TRAIL, 7:12PM (ON BEING A WOMAN) Lauren Elma Frament
this is how i remember her: laying pretty on the deck my dad built with his bare hands // she smokes a Virginia Slim, paints my nails while the curlers set,
says, your beauty is ahead of your time //
her breath, flummox of feathering smoke / my mother watching from the kitchen window (or where was she?) //
something about never leaving the house or a man without looking like a beauty queen & she unclasps the curlers, brushes my blonde ringlets into supple waves, says,
you look just like Marilyn
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THE TRANS-O-LATOR J. Alan Montrose
It was called the trans-o-lator. Seriously, I couldn’t make that up if I wanted to. It looked a lot like one of those old walkmans from the 1980’s but with a screen and keypad. You typed in the words you wanted to translate, pushed the green button, and then a horrible computer voice said the words in Arabic. Something only the Army could come up with. The first time we used it we just typed in ‘hello’ and this robot voice said ‘Marhaba.’ The Iraqis, mostly kids, smiled and said Marhaba to the box. Two older guys pushed their way to the front of the crowd. One of them grabbed the box and started talking into it. When it didn’t translate his words into English, he started shaking it and I guess he was pushing the green button because the box kept saying Marhaba Marhaba – hello hello. We had no idea what he was trying to say so we took the box and typed in ‘don’t understand you.’ The Arabic translation came out and the man threw his hands in the air and started screaming at the box. I guess he thought the Trans-o-lator didn’t understand him.
BOTTLE MESSAGE Luis Neer & Kenzi Burchett
Leaping lost in seas of gravity, bottle messages lost in mouths of whales,
we are fragile beings, lost in the incessant current, space and time, lacking imperium to stop wandering toward extremities
Lost in rain mirrors, drunken watercolors locked beyond light,
unaware, blissful, reading incomprehensible maps of stars, enticed, following endless routes
Lost in curiosity, we drift toward distant glimmers of hope
Unable to balance on strained cosmic tightropes, we fall without grace,
lost, wide-eyed, bleak, bare and hollow-hearted across 1,000 miles of concrete, splicing atmosphere, external—
we are home and we have no home—
we are walking blindfolded on the edge of a knife—
hold on to something
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SURFACE MIRRORS Shola Shankar
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QUIET LIPS, QUIET EYES Reeves Stockard
" I’m drowning in the space surrounding the space I take up. "
Breath catches in the center of my chest, the weight of the pressure stopping my heart, I’m nearing collapse. I’m suffocating in the massive empty, so close to death my eyes are blinded. It weighs me down, reaching before me my hands barely able to sweep around, hoping for something solid to hold on to.
I try to hold on to anything, a minute a moment a hand so warm and smooth but almost too smooth, slipping through mine, always slipping just too soon, leaving me in black…
…and then there’s yours, large and stiff, thumb and index finger nearly ripping my hand from my wrist, my head snaps back with the tug of my arm pulling me hard into your chest. Where are you walking? My foot constantly finds itself sinking into your footprints, following lightly, slowly…but following still.
I find my eyes sliding gently against the things you might have looked at, in my mirror, that soft eyed girl whose face you pressed your palm against, that first time feeling someone feeling her. It stuck inside, compressing organs to bone to muscle till it was hard to breathe, till all I wanted during those moments with your mouth to mine was to swallow you down, squeeze you into the narrow space inside.
Side by side you press your sharp hip to my waist, hand on my shoulder, pulling my ear to your lips, every word you say wets my mouth with desire, to climb into the fantasy world you design, the one that of course seems so much more than mine, blinding neon colors, thick sweet air, soft edges.
I lay awake and stare at your quiet lips and quiet eyes, white sheets bulking around your limbs, coating you as though you were lying on a cloud, something ethereal, something unnatural…
Your face is a mudslide, trickling down the skull, appearing to pour very slowly into a prominent chin. The tiny strands of hair thickly clotted at the bottom of your face strangely gives you a youthful appearance.
Your eyes are large, ovular bulges of clear white and deep brown and the lashes on the lids that cover them curl at long lengths against the rims. Your full lips are a dark purple, grasping every lick of lips seated relaxed below your nose. Your voice is slow measured steps treading gently against the ear. A reaction, a slamming of nerve endings against the flesh, a trembling, goosebumps and pulsating and what you say…
It’s something like magic, like a knowledge of what to do to pull the secret person out of me. She leaps in anticipation, posing nude before you, bare and vulnerable, but comforted by your gaze, no fear is felt, insecurities melted down and puddled at the feet.
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TWO CONVERSATIONS Christopher Morgan
" I. " My Heart: I feel weak at times, shallow, exposed—like a satellite could see right through me. " The Satellite: I do, but judgment does not belong to the objective. So I compute. " The Satellite: My light-network brain flies through shadows. So I compute. " The Satellite: My years are seconds—are yours? So I compute. " My Heart: Restless sentry, I must sleep. My chamber’s steady rowing slows. " The Satellite: This is true—I detect a pending silence. " My Heart: Yes, soon I will resemble a mechanical thing being turned off. " II.
" Shadow: I could grow the largest jaws you’ve ever seen and you’d still never see me. " Light: I make everything more clear. I have arms stuffed with constellations. " Shadow: I am hungry. And sad. I deserve no candle. " Light: You have never felt a star in your hands. But you will. " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " 17
I AM IN THE MIDDLE April Salzano
of life. Today’s rain is ironic, a wet slap to a wrinkled face. Gravity defies Botox eventually. Paralyzed muscles learn to surrender to others surrounding them. Husbands upgrade washing machines and chop wood. Utility bills increase in spite of these efforts. Children defy orders and pull hamstrings, break televisions and tear at loose strings on sofa cushions that were expected to last forever. Long before we were a family the patriarch’s face set in stony frown, his sofa waited to be jumped on, torn. It looks at me now with gratitude, one cushion the victim of a botched polyfill augmentation, Nothing is ever really good as new. No replacement will ever be as comfortable as the arrangement chosen first, when life was viewed from the edges, before we reached the fragile fabric of center.
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DIVING INTO HOME Tom Loughlin
I like me a good dive bar. There is something about the atmosphere of a little hole-in-the-wall, out-ofthe-way, off-the-beaten-path bar that reeks of home. Give me a place where the beer is cheap, the locals abound, the talk is convivial, and the lights low, and I can nestle comfortably in such a place for hours on end. Nothing beats it.
I have to say, I’m a little conflicted about coming to the unexpected realization that I am pretty much most at home when sitting in a dive bar (a good dive diner takes second place). After all, I’m a family man, have three kids, my parents are still alive, my brother lives in the house on Long Island where we both pretty much grew up. I’ve lived in my current house for 27 years, the longest I’ve lived anywhere. It seems that, for me, home is the place where people absolutely accept you for who you are and what you do. But when I took the time to examine my past and think of the places where I was most “at home,” the various dive bars that I have patronized over the years kept coming up again and again. Go figure.
When I was growing up on Long Island, there used to be a lot more neighborhood bars around. The first one I ever frequented was somewhere in Mineola, in the proximity of the building that used to house the Department of Motor Vehicles. I was underage at the time - which meant I was 17 - but the bartender was a helpful soul who knew that a boy needed someplace to come home and relax after a hard day of parsing Latin sentences. The first time I walked in and ordered a rum and coke (the only drink I knew how to order), he asked me if I had any ID on me. Fearfully, I reached into my wallet, knowing full well that my drivers license would betray my age. But before I could pull my wallet from my back pocket, he said, “Oh no, I don’t want to see it. I just want to know if you have it on you.” A rum and coke then promptly appeared in front of me. Good to be home.
A couple of other places stand out from those days as well. There was a bar just north of the Stop 20 Diner on Covert Ave. where I got absolutely hammered the night before my wedding. The combination of that joint and the Stop 20 Diner was irresistible. And then there was Leo’s in Garden CIty, located somewhere in the Franklin Ave. shopping district. This place had nice wooden high-backed booths, and sort of an air of sophistication that made it seem more than a dive (it wasn’t). It was a favorite location for getting back together with high school friends during summer months away from college.
I was fortunate to attend college in a small upstate NY city whose claim to fame was that at one point it had 104 bars located within the city limits. Finding a great dive bar was no problem; in fact, it was hard not to trip over one traveling back and forth from the campus. My all-time favorite was McCarthy’s, a small neighborhood joint carved out of an old house, located, oddly enough, in the Polish section of town. In the front room, men played cribbage and talked mostly of work, wives, and hunting. The back room was almost exclusively the domain of the college’s theatre department. Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, after rehearsals and “work party,” we would head off to McCarthy’s, line up the tables and chairs, get half a dozen pitchers of beer, throw a bottle of Guinness into each pitcher, and play poker for match sticks, “Up Jenkins,” or just shoot the breeze. No jukebox, no TV, no distractions from each other’s company. It was a ritual practice to put all our loose change on the ledge that ran along the wall. This was our emergency beer fund, and when we ran out of money, we’d scoop the change off the ledge and could usually count on two more pitchers. We had to drink pretty fast, because last call was 1:00 AM. We were quite effective in making sure we had a solid buzz before then.
McCarthy’s was the go-to place, but if we wanted to play pool, then Lil’s Erie Tavern fit the bill, with its
collection of stuffed animal heads along the walls (so homey!). My final college apartment was located across from Kelly’s, and it was far easier to cross the street to Old Man Kelly’s and pound a few rather than keeping beer in the fridge. I should note that none of these bars were “college bars.” They were all small little dives that welcomed the few of us who patronized the bar for the extra dollars we brought in. There was a strict code of honor in terms of not revealing the location of these establishments, as they feared being overrun by “college hippies.” Failure to respect the privacy of the local residents was enough to have you bounced out of the place.
During my “starving actor” days in the late 1970s, I found two cozy little dives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. One was Macaleer’s Pub, on Amsterdam Ave. between 80th and 81st St. It was right around the corner from an old college classmate’s apartment, and its best feature was darts. I never excelled at darts (or pool, for that matter), but I got into it for awhile, as it was the way to get into the “regulars” club. Macaleer’s remains open, but it has succumbed a bit to gentrified trends. The more famous P&G Bar, originally located at 73rd and Amsterdam, closed first in 2009, and then again in 2011 after it tried to reinvent itself on 78th and Columbus. It was a joint not only with a long and tawdry history, but with a unique blend of customers: jazz musicians, stagehands from nearby Lincoln Center, the occasional actor or two, and bookies. In the 70s and 80s the place was appropriately seedy, with just the right hint of 40s and 50s New York leftover. Sports betting, particularly on horses, was a popular pastime, but I stuck to the bar pools. The only pool I ever won was a Belmont Stakes race for a total of $165.00. Naturally, I bought everyone in the bar a drink in celebration, a considerable cut in the winnings. That’s dive bar code.
By far, though, my all-time favorite dive bar has to be Ray Flynn’s. Located on the corner of Virginia and Main St. in Buffalo, it has since been torn down. It had its heyday between about 1985-1999, when it finally closed. The owner, Tommy Flynn (whose father Ray owned the bar before him), and his sidekick Marie, ruled the place to the vast joy and delight of its denizens. The bar was originally patronized by blue-collar workers in nearby factories such as Trico, and also became the watering hole of the newspaper people who worked at the defunct Buffalo Courier Express. Both these clienteles were drying up just as the theatre scene in Buffalo began to explode. It became a well-known and popular bar for theatre people, and everyone who was anyone, or wanted to be someone, in Buffalo theatre went to Flynn’s.
The bathrooms stank of piss and were riddled with graffiti. I’m not sure the place was lit at all. You had to be buzzed in through the front door. Closing time was 4:00 AM. The jukebox was an eclectic mix of polka, Irish fiddle music, jazz, 50s and 60s AM radio hits, show tunes, and crooners. From 11PM-4AM it was sometimes impossible to get a seat. The place reeked of beer and cigarette smoke, so much so that it was often necessary for me to take my clothes off in the basement before heading upstairs to sleep off the buzz. You could run a tab for months at a time. Buybacks were frequent; some nights you could go without ever buying a drink if people had seen and liked you in a show. Opening nights were a blast. If you had a birthday, Marie would stand on the bar and sing “Happy Birthday” to you in her raspy, smoke-drenched voice (she sometimes sounded like Elaine Stritch).
These were my people, and this was home. I had conversations with Chris as he sat in his corner stool about Irish football and Sam Beckett. I had intense conversations about the state of American theatre with Tony, Tim, Richard, Nancy and Bob. I flirted with Eileen, Lorraine, Maggie, Pam, Roz, Adele, and sometimes Barbara. I drank with local TV weather icon Don Paul during his drinking days. I got several acting jobs from just being in the bar (in fact, you went there to drum up work for yourself). Often when I was buzzed in, I would shout out “Hello, beautiful” to Marie, who would promptly shout back at me “Shut the hell up, you!” and then throw her bar rag in my face. I will be forever grateful to whatever
cosmic forces exist beyond our senses for guiding me home safely without ever causing an accident or ever getting so much as a DUI. Ray Flynn’s had the maximum of whatever karma a good dive bar can offer. Nothing has replaced it since its closing.
It’s been awhile now since I’ve frequented a dive bar. One reason has to do with growing older and having my gallbladder removed, which puts a crimp on my alcoholic intake. Another reason has to do with being so busy that there is seldom time to head down for a cold one. There is one dive in the small, rural, blue-collar city in which I live, Payne’s Kettle and Keg. I’ve been in a few times, and it holds promise. Often, as I pass by returning home from a gig in Buffalo, I long to stop in. But it’s late, and I’m tired, and I have to be in the office in the morning. There is a stool there with my name on it, I am quite sure, but it may have to wait for me to claim it until after I retire.
Home, as Robert Frost observed, is the place where, when you return there, they have to take you in. I’ve never been refused a place at a good dive bar. When I’m in a dive, I’m not a college professor, or an actor, or a family man, or a husband, or a writer, or a son/brother/uncle, or any other identity we are forced by society to assume. I’m just an old bald man with glasses who’d like a bottle of Yuengling’s Black and Tan, please. Home, sweet home.
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EXPIRATION DATE Ed Ahern
"You're going to die if you keep on like this. I'm your friend and doctor, and have to tell you that you're obese, definably alcoholic and a strong candidate for lung cancer." "I picked my life style decades ago. I live by satiation, well on my terms, badly on yours. Rochefoucauld quipped that hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue. I don't need to pay you that tribute. Gratification is my life learning, and I'm post-graduate." "You're cutting your life short by decades. Think of your family." Snort of laughter. "I think of myself like delicious German beer or French brioches窶馬o preservatives. But you're in the business of pickles and prunes, prolonging withered lives that no longer remember what is was to be fruit, bursting with juice and subject to rot." Sigh. "You'd have a better life, not worse. Physically active, clear headed, mentally awake窶ｦ" Half smile. "I explode with sensations, doctor, and there's very little I won't try to add to them. You see me as a chart, but I'm just garish graffiti. Try and enjoy what you see." "Think of the pain you'll undergo, what your loss will mean to your children, your wife窶ｦ" "Ex wife. And I'm saving drugs for that phase of my existence. You wouldn't let me suffer in pain, it's against the pickle code." Wrinkled frown of displeasure. "But you're just numbing and dumbing yourself down until you're inert. What kind of life is that?" Several second pause. "You are a friend, I know. But you measure quality of life by length, and I by a pleasure meter that I want to frequently peg. Think, you might just be a vintner pruning away at our lives. Once we're sprayed and sunned and plucked and crushed and fermented you put us in a bottle labeled with our birth year so we can be consumed at what your medical taste buds tell you is the right time. Not me. I'm just a satyr with the life expectancy of a goat. "I don't want to be poured into your bottle. Your mercy for my life is to not try and strain it. Just spill me on the ground as a bad batch. Then, my friend, sooner rather than later, I'll be thanking you." end
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THE SEEDY SIDE OF SALEM Steven W. Baker
Others come to this old New England city Struck by the surviving historical buildings And the formerly quaint waterfront. A three-master floats at Pickering Wharf And just down the street still stands Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables. Shops full of witches’ gear and New Age knick-knacks line the narrow streets. The past seems to touch the present.
But, perverse person that I must be, I’m more taken with the darker oddities... The Laotian manager of my convenience store Who is invariably surly, impatient, and rude. When I ask him why, he tells me That I can’t appreciate his humor. Then there’s the house I came across, A lovely old two-story brick federal, Covered in ivy—including all the windows!
The smokestacks of the generating plant rise Above the tidal coves around the Willows. Though the smoke can’t be seen by humans And the huge piles of coal seem clean. That part of the coast is still a wasteland Devoid of the once proud houses along the sea Which were long ago moved inland or destroyed. They call it electricity here in New England But in most countries it’s called power, yes it is.
Then there’s the dull black church building With chains across the doors and a sign Saying, “Not a church. Get over it.” And, though surely we all have gotten over it, We still wonder what the heck goes on in there. On the other side of town, with its gold turrets, The Russian Orthodox church is still a church With services harking back to Constantinople And the wreck Constantine made of Christ’s life.
After the mysterious summer dark descends It is not witches on broomsticks that I see Or goblins fluttering across the silver moon But the ranting homeless with nowhere to go And the desperate drunk quiet ones who pack All that they own or push it in grocery carts
Wandering like the victims of some bombing Past the perfectly restored sea captains’ houses Seeking some refuge not on rich men’s lawns.
Not far from the House of Seven Gables Stands the home of a woman I once loved, As simple and as pure as the surging tides. We shared only a moment in Salem’s long history But it was the most important moment to me. I don’t know if I was as invisible as the homeless Or as boring as smokestacks without smoke Because, in the end, no love that I gave could keep the witch from spiriting away.
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BOOTS Wiley Birkhofer
For three months I was too tired to have sex I left you alone
Climb two mountains a day and then talk to me about prayer Then talk to me about defense wins championships
My boots are not epic They are sad like animals Eating other animals
ODE TO THE SNOWY PLOVER Kurt Cline
" (written in appreciation of the Snowy Plover Protection Area, Ocean Beach, San Francisco) " i. a sea-grey gull flies out of my forehead as i gaze across the waves
the snowy plovers skitter ii. she`s a panther a temptress she`s feeling a bit impish tonight changeable as the moon flinging foam in the face of a stranger a child of the sun iii. i asked the ocean her secret she whispered there’s only that line of tide washing away footprints in the sand iv. to punch holes in my story the homicidal harmonica ran off with the soluble homunculus a fistfight began when words took effect v. always in danger of being swept away always one step ahead of the rainbow bubbles o plover o snowy plover yr heartbeat quickens
with the encroaching tide foam flecks you follow tidal spin of sand & salt vi. the tide is going out, palimpsest of ancient treasure maps waves wavering the sun going down tide coming in i`ll see you again someday & love will open the way vii. slow motion wave splash silver-white in the backwash giving up on words to say anything the sun just as red as the law will allow viii. lilies breathe the wind an hour goes by in the flap of a butterfly`s wing ix. concrete blocks in a tumble pebbles & rocks all a-stumble. the ship doesn`t move the sea does
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OVERUSE LANGUAGE ENOUGH AND THE FORM BECOMES Lauren Brazeal
" Overuse language enough and the form " becomes distorted in the echo. It's common for diminished and unasked-for words to gather like useless lotto tickets into gutters. It's common, they possess a freak sad magnetism. Degeneration
and abandonment attract. Abandon
one degenerated house, commonly a second comes. One abandoned child turns to five, then fifty degenerates. Kill everything you love replacing a degenerated
Mother/Father with a box. Abandoned, I replaced my Mother/Father with a box timed to feed me ter en die, water every other hour.
I covered it with sheepskin for cuddles and for warmth.
I covered it with sheepskin and survived degeneration almost forever with its daily reassurances: my own looped voice reminded me, I am loved. I survive my own looped voice, reminding me I was never loved. I can survive, my own looped voice reminds me. I will be loved at a distant point in time.
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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Jordan Rizzieri is the 90's-loving, extremely tall founder of The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society. After a having brief love affair with Western New York, Jordan now resides on Long Island, NY. She holds a degree from SUNY Fredonia in Theatre Arts (aka lying before an audience) with a minor in English (aka lying on paper). Jordan briefly experimented with playwriting (The Reunion Cycle - 2011 Buffalo Infringement Festival) and her mother's primary caregiver for over two years. She has been running a caregiver's blog on her experiences since 2011, as well as publishing essays on the topic. Now, Jordan spends her daylight hours arguing with her boyfriend's cats and at night takes on the identity of Pyro & Ballyhoo's sassiest critic, The Lady J. When she's not watching pro-wrestling or trying to decide what to order at the local bagel shop, she is listening to Prince and writing letters to her pen pals. Feel free to contact her with questions about the Attitude Era, comic book plot lines involving Harley Quinn, The Twilight Zone and the proper spelling of braciola.
NON-FICTION EDITOR Jennifer Lombardo, Buffalo, NY resident, works full time at a hotel in order to support her travel habit. She graduated from the University at Buffalo with a B.A. in English in the hope of becoming an editor. When she isn't making room reservations for people, she reads, cross-stitches and goes adventuring with her friends. She is especially passionate about AmeriCorps, Doctor Who and the great outdoors. Ask her any question about grammar, but don't count on her to do math correctly.
POETRY EDITOR Bee "Internet Coquette" Walsh is a New York-native living in Bedford–Stuyvesant. She graduated from SUNY Fredonia in 2010 with a B.A. in English Literature and a B.S. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. Reciting her two majors and two minors all in one breath was a joke she told at parties. The English Department played a cruel trick on her and pioneered a Creative Writing track her final year, but she charmed her way into the Publishing course and became Poetry Editor for the school’s literary magazine, The Trident. Bee has spent the past three years trying different cities on for size and staring into the faces of people in each of them who ask her about her "career goals." An Executive Assistant in high-fashion by day, you can find her most nights working with the V-Day team to stop sexual violence against women and young girls, eating vegan sushi in the West Village or causing mischief on roofs. Run into her on the subway, and she'll be nose deep in a book. She holds deep feelings about politics, poise, and permutations. Eagerly awaiting winter weather and warm jackets, she’d love to talk to you about fourth-wave feminism, the tattoo of the vagina on her finger, or the Oxford comma. FICTION EDITOR Adam Robinson is an aspiring writer and barista languidly skulking the wetland void of Western Michigan. Following acceptance in 2012 to Grand Rapids' Kendall College of art and design in pursuit of an education in graphic art, his love for language and literature was made priority. Now, an English major on sporadically perpetual hiatus, you can most often find him pulling shots of espresso, keying long paragraphs in the dark, secluded corner of a local café, or taking lengthy walks through the dense Michigan woods conveniently placed in his own backyard. Monotoned, fond of the semicolon and existentialist literature; listen closely and you can sometimes hear him beseech advice from the ghost of Dostoevsky (who tends not to reply).
ASSISTANT POETRY EDITOR Wilson Josephson splits his time between the backwoods of New Hampshire and Northfield, Minnesota, where he attends Carleton College. Wilson spends the majority of his waking hours swimming back and forth over a line of black tiles, so he spends any dry hours he can scrounge up flexing his creative muscles. His prose and his poetry have appeared in Carleton’s literary magazine, he regularly performs in the student dance company, and he even directed a play once. Wilson is also the laziest of all the founding members of Literary Starbucks, and he still writes jokes about obscure literary figures when he has a little free time. His newest passion is making people laugh, usually by making himself the punchline, occasionally via the clever deployment of a slippery banana peel.
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SOCIAL MEDIA MISTRESS Kaity Davie is an overly enthusiastic gal taking on the world of the ever-evolving music industry, talking music by day and lurking venues, NYC parks, and pubic libraries by night. Currently, she makes magic happen across a number of social networks for a number of bands, brands, and writers. After having several poems published in The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, she began managing their social accounts in early 2015. Kaity keeps her sanity by writing rambling lines of prose and celebrating the seasonal flavors of Polar Seltzer.
Contributors Nolan Liebert hails from the Black Hills of South Dakota where he lives with his wife and children in a house, not a covered wagon. His work appears or is forthcoming in freeze frame fiction, Plasma Frequency, An Alphabet of Embers, and elsewhere. He can be found editing Pidgeonholes or on Twitter @nliebert.
Dylan Weir is a Chicago poet who will be pursuing his MFA at the University of Wisconsin Madison next fall. Dylan earned his MA in English at DePaul. His Poetry appears in (or is forthcoming from): After Hours. Cleaver, Mobius, H_NMG_N, Literary Orphans, The Legendary, Red Paint Hill, and others. You can find him at dylanweir.com
Ken Schweda’s work has appeared in Perihelion SF, JML, Spank the Carp, Black Heart Magazine, and others. His flash piece was selected for inclusion in The Bookends Review Best of 2014 Anthology.
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over eight hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for work published in 2012, 2013, and 2014. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. He lives in Denver.
Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California. He has work in Storm Cellar, Agave, Wayfarer, and other publications. He has worked in manufacturing for thirty years.
Julia Guarch is a recent graduate of Lafayette College. She is published in The Marquis, Lafayette College’s Literary Magazine. She has also co-won the MacKnight Black Poetry Award for the poem "Our Beloved Miracle Man," and received special mention in the Jean Corrie Poetry Contest for the poem, "Ode To My Hands." Her current poetic muses are Louise Glϋck and Elizabeth Bishop.
Vanesa Pacheco is a Bostonian wanderlust. She graduated from Wheelock College where she received her BA in Literature and Communications. Her poetry has appeared on Delirious Hem’s 2014 advent calendar series and in The Rain, Party, and Disaster’s March 2015 issue. She currently writes for Bustle’s fashion and beauty section.
Patrick Williams is a poet and academic librarian living in Central New York. His recent work appears in publications includingPrelude, 3:AM Magazine, Lime Hawk, NO INFINITE, and Heavy Feather Review. He is the editor of Really System, a journal of poetry and extensible poetics. Find him at patrickwilliamsintext.com and on Twitter @activitystory.
lauren elma frament is a writer & feminist living in Manchester, NH. her work has appeared or is forthcoming in FreezeRay Poetry, The Harpoon Review, Electric Cereal, Nailed Magazine, & Again I Wait for This to Pull Apart anthology (FreezeRay Press), among others. influences include Adrienne Droogas & Jeanna Fine. she likes cross-stitching & standing in the front at punk shows.
J. Alan Montrose is an American author and expatriate living in Germany. His fiction has appeared in Knee Jerk, War, Literature, and the Arts, Cheap Pop and others. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Athens and a veteran of the U.S. Army, he served in Samarra and Balad, Iraq as an infantry officer. After being discharged he studied at the University of Hamburg, Germany where he received a post graduate Master’s degree in Peace and Security Studies. You can read more of his work at www.jalanmontrose.com
Luis Neer and Kenzi Burchett are co-authors of a chapbook of poems, Fire Songs. Find them on tumblr at blue-egg-interior.tumblr.com and plantkittxn.tumblr.com, respectively.
Shloka Shankar is a freelance writer from Bangalore, India. Her poems, erasures, visual art, haiku & tanka, have appeared in numerous print and online anthologies and journals including, Silver Birch Press, Kind of a Hurricane Press, Otoliths, Jaggery, Bones, Moongarlic e-zine, The Gambler Mag, and so on. She is also the founding editor of the literary & arts journal, Sonic Boom.
Reeves Stockard spent the last 21 years of her life with her head turned over her shoulder as she traveled forward. Her writing is a reflection of that. She's worked her way through two different universities and one art college without a degree or truly learning a thing that trespassing through the minds of strangers hadn't already taught her. She's managed to maintain a general existence while rummaging for life.
Christopher Morgan is the Chapbook Editor for Nostrovia! Poetry, an Editor for tNY Press, and the Editor at Large for Arroyo Literary Review. He grew up in Detroit and the Bible Belt of Georgia before settling in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he received his M.A. in Creative Writing and American Lit. His prose poems and fables have been published at Gargoyle, A cappella Zoo, Voicemail Poems, Little River, Fruita Pulp, and Skydeer Helpking, among others.
April Salzano teaches college writing in Pennsylvania and is currently working on a memoir on raising a child with autism along with several collections of poetry. Her work has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Award and has appeared in journals such as The Camel Saloon, Centrifugal Eye, Deadsnakes, Visceral Uterus, Salome, Poetry Quarterly, Writing Tomorrow and Rattle. Her first chapbook, The Girl of My Dreams, is forthcoming in spring 2015 from Dancing Girl Press. The author serves as co-editor at Kind of a Hurricane Press.
Tom Loughlin lives in the economically depressed city of Dunkirk NY, on the shores of beautiful but polluted Lake Erie. He works on occasion with the theatre community in Buffalo NY. He has a few more years left teaching at the State University of NY at Fredonia.
Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He's had over seventy stories and poems published thus far, as well as his collected fairy and folk tales ( The Witch Made Me Do It, Gypsy Shadow Publishing) and a mystery/ horror novella (The Witches' Bane, World Castle Publishing.) Ed has his original wife, but advises that after forty seven years they are both out of warranty. He's lived in Germany, Japan and England and speaks excellent German and French and excremental Japanese. He's visited sixty other countries. Ed dissipates his free time fly fishing and shooting.
Steven W. Baker has essentially lived two lives as a poet — as a young man in college and shortly after, when he published a lot of work in underground newspapers and obscure journals, most of which are now defunct. His second life as a poet began a quarter-century later. He has now gathered a large body of unpublished work from this period that was written for himself and his close friends, and has started getting work published again. His poems have appeared in “Eat Sleep Write”, “Silver Birch Press”, and Flink.to, where his poem, “Picture of Marigot Bay” won the 2014 Poetry Contest.
Wiley Birkhofer (1987-2014) was a poet, musician, and artist from Menlo Park, CA. He studied English at Stanford and poetry at the graduate writing program at NYU, where he earned his MFA in 2009. Other poems can be found in Split Infinitive, Word Riot, Punchnel’s, and at wileybirkhofer.com.
Kurt Cline is Associate Professor of English and World Comparative Literature, National Taipei University of Technology. Â Poems and stories have appeared, most recently, inBlazeVOX, Danse Macabre, Shotglass Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, HuesoLoco, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Black Scat, and Clockwise Cat. Â Scholarly articles have appeared in Anthropology of Consciousness; Concentric, Beatdom Literary Journal; and Comparative Civilizations and Cultures: Journal of the Jean Gebser Society.
In her past, Lauren Brazeal has been a homeless gutter-punk, a resident of Ecuador's Amazon jungle, a maid, a surfer chick, and a custom aquarium designer. Now she spends most days in West Texas agonizing over line breaks. Educated at Bennington College's low-res MFA program in poetry, other work of hers has appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Natural Bridge, Folio, is forthcoming from DIAGRAM, and has been featured in Verse Daily. www.laurenbrazeal.com.