Mustard Sky By Brenda Birenbaum
You stumble into the room (insert time of day, description). Daylight intrudes through a window the length of the back wall, hazy mustard sky and odor of sulfur are barging in. You step back, or pause, or something to do with halted movement (insert place). You're in the doorway, peering in (reverse angle). Could be a hospital room, a jail cell, a tombâ€”beds, cribs, caskets, things to lie in. A fuzzy figure is fluffing up pillows or spreading her legs or wielding a gun (insert job title, social status, probably not IQ). You drag yourself forward, you're looking for the phone book (seriously?) where your voice is buried. You know it's blank, lines in the sand, lapping waves, all gone. The far wall, the one with the yellow window, collapses onto the parking lot several stories below, taking the floors with it, breaking up the asphalt, rushing like a mudslide down the hillside, sweeping on the way cars and coffins and door frames andâ€” (insert new time, place).
You're in the ocean (the ocean doesn't need description), flailing limbs (phew, you still have four), eyes sting, salt in your lungs. Acid-spitting flying machines swoosh overhead, cutting up the thick air into uneven portions. You can't tell if you got dropped into the roiling waves, shot over the bluff with the mud, or drifted in gently, like an unwitting visitor from outer space. You're swallowing water, cement shoes pulling you down. Glimpses of mustard clouds come and go, shrieks (seagulls, probably) bob in and out of liquid hum, a jumbo jet (seriously?) crashes nearby, blowing a huge foamy mushroom into the murky atmosphere. It's quiet underwater, shafts of soft light are doing a dozy dance, air bubbles float up, pooh-poohing the whole absurd notion of gravity. No need to lie down or go into that room—(insert old time, place).
Okay. Just step back, save the damp footprints for the boulders and the sand. You've got your mobility, your ambulatory facility—kept those throughout the whole sordid affair, haven't you? You're in the broken entrance, gazing past the shifting floor, the gaping wall (reverse angle). Could be a tripwire, barbwire, a runway cluttered with stop signs flapping and rattling and groaning in the ferocious wind. Flying isn't allowed, never even mind the sulfur sky (insert new time, stretch old time). Start over (in alphabetical order). Breathe in. Close your eyes. Drown. Glide. Laugh? Time is up and there's no place to insert. You—
Brenda Birenbaum has recently joined Unbroken as Associate Editor. She is a reader for Pidgeonholes, and is currently working on her first novel. Find her @brbirenbaum
Two Prose Poems by Howie Good
Dream, Dream, Dream 1 Ghosts of memory circle my head like nagging black flies. We all go shopping together for a mirror to put above the piano. Attitudes have changed. Authentic social life has been replaced with its representation. A half-grown man in a baseball cap that says Vietnam Vet on the front visits me in my sleep, apparently just to ask, ―Which is correct, ‗each is‘ or ‗each are‘?‖ I don‘t even attempt an answer. Trees in the background are emitting spiky beams of yellow light. The same applies to the fleeing birds. Meanwhile, someone one is never really sure was there is climbing out the window.
2 Lincoln always appears in my dreams quoting ―The Big Lebowski.‖ He claims that he has seen the film 873 times. She takes a 25-caliber Berretta, a lady‘s gun, and not a really nice lady at that, and shoots him in the head. All she can say after is, ―Now what do we do?‖ His brains are leaking from the bullet hole as he drives down a tree-lined country road. He‘s alone in the car. The sun shines erratically through the leaves. Horses with shiny black coats graze behind a rail fence. His thoughts keep breaking apart. The car drifts off the road and rolls to a stop. He slumps over, dead. Everyone spills out onto their balconies to get a better view.
3 My wife says I was shouting again in my sleep. The crows sat quietly on the headstone as the women of the village beat someone to death with hoes all night long. When the wind blew, my porridge was full of sand. You should wake up in the morning glad you can‘t remember your dreams.
Some Sort of Shining 1 I started to write on the board Eichmann in Jerusalem, the title of Hannah Arendt‘s book about the banality of evil, but some professorial instinct made me turn around and ask, ―You know who Adolf Eichmann was, right?‖ In the buzzing silence I thought I could hear a beast with seven heads and ten horns scratching itself like a dog out in the hallway. I looked at a girl who usually knows the answer. She was looking down at her phone. It was my last class of the week, a sad little funeral in the rain. A better teacher might have had a different reaction. I just asked if they knew who Hitler was.
2 The scene was a synagogue, but had nothing to do with religion. It was simply physics. Eyeglasses went into one pile and gold-filled teeth into another. There was no place for stories. Out in the street, rain tap danced the Grapevine. The same drunken weather occurred simultaneously everywhere. Dumb shits on smart phones claimed that sunshine was overrated, when, in fact, the Golden Oriole, Yellow Hammer, and Goldfinch all have yellow-and-black wings that can look gold and gray in the setting sun.
3 The day is covered in the same cold grayness as the day before, with everything seeming either broken or old, when some sort of shining – a deer! – comes springing out of the woods and cuts across my vision for about half of a teachable moment. This isn‘t any ordinary day. Anything can happen. Backyard chickens can peck foxes to death, and a drunk traffic cop arrest a drunk driver. No one is safe. A couple with a baby stands in the black dust, talking, breathing, wondering at it. They lift their kid up, say, ―Look! Remember!‖
Howie Good‟s latest poetry collections are Bad for the Heart (Prolific Press) and Dark Specks in a Blue Sky (Another New Calligraphy). He is recipient of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry for his forthcoming collection Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements.
Message in a Bottle By Eva Roa White
After 30 years, my sister is back into my life. She was looking for a recipe for a dish online, when she came across my essay about our hometown. Her email said: ―Hello, I‘m your sister and I hope you will answer me.‖ In the space of a few lines, she reconnects me with the life and people I left behind. When I published the vignette, I thought I might get a book contract. Now, I see that I was sending a message in a bottle.
Eva Roa White was born in A Coruña, Spain and raised in Lausanne, Switzerland. She has lived in several countries including Saudi Arabia. She is at work on a memoir. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in Page 47 Online Anthology, Transnational Literature, disClosure, Natural Bridge, Marco Polo, Buhito Press and The Common.
Come Light By Randal Eldon Greene
The acrid smell of her stomach juices hits my nostrils like a belly flop. The guy is yelling, all excited because the sun is coming up, rising from the city skyline. I am kneeling by Mabel, watching her nuzzle the gravel. Weâ€˜re fifteen stories high. The guy yelling at us to look at the burning sun is the one who gave Mabel the shit that is making her rub her body on the rooftop. All I want to do is pull this gun out of my pocket. This gun with one bullet chambered inside. I have had enough.
Mabel at the bar, in the dimly lit corner, laughing with a man, leads to me grabbing her arm and us on the street, arguing under neon lights.
Sometimes Mabel is on the bed, a skin-colored chemise fitting snug around her ivory-colored torso. Her hair is dyed red or black. There‘s always mascara running down her face in these moments. Mabel is a movie when I‘m high. A tragedy. A romance. A porno streaming, but forever buffering, stuck right before the good part. She says she can‘t find the change. Mabel put it in her purse. I saw her. Just fucking empty it, I say. She‘s digging through the purse with her long, red fingernails. The change is in there—I know it. I saw her take the quarters from the top of the dresser and drop them in her purse. So I get out of the driver‘s side and walk around to the passenger‘s. I open the door and grab the purse from her. I shake it out. Hold it upside down and dump everything into the wet, slushy snow. Even after I see the quarters fall, I keep shaking. Lipstick, gum, cell phone, receipts—it‘s all on the dirty ground. I bend over, grab the quarters out of the snow, and pay the parking meter. Mabel finds me a little later. Her hands are red from the cold. There‘s a run in her nylons and her skirt is soiled around the edges. Mabel doesn‘t say what she wants to say. She stays silent. Maybe Mabel doesn‘t want to say anything at all.
I do pull the gun out. I do. But whose head will I put the bullet in? Will it be hers or his or mine? Will this bullet fly through a skull, through a brain, through a life and straight on into the sun? Snuff our glorious morning? Dawn is past, the light has come, and I have had enough.
Randal Eldon Greene holds a B.A. in English and Anthropology from the University of South Dakota. His short fiction has appeared in various publications including VLP Magazine, 34thParallel, as|peers, and online with National Public Radio. He is a volunteer judge of fiction for Heart & Mind Zine. Greene is the author of Descriptions of Heaven, a forthcoming novella from Harvard Square Editions. More @authorgreene & authorgreene.com
A Collection by Santino Prinzi
Submerged Your memory wanes as I descend towards the seabed. Lingering is your touch on my fingertips. I‘m long forgotten on yours. Deeper I dive, searching. You‘ve left me in my breathlessness. My lungs bubble. I want to swim towards the sunlight, but how can I resurface without hopeful warmth? The ocean soul envelopes me in ways you refused; now you‘ll never know the crash of my waves. Muted desires billow from my throat, dragging my voice to the depths, my cascade censored. My silence will stroke the shores. Put your ear to a conch shell; you‘ll hear my suffering, but will you listen?
Tempestuous I can‘t see your star; it fails to burst through the granite distortions swirling overhead. With hope I step further into the wasteland. I dare to find you. Your sweet whispers seem so hollow, turbulent, lost amongst my howling idolatry. I‘ve changed my mind; I don‘t wish to find you now, you‘re not you, you‘re different. Fists clench. Truth lies again. You‘re here, somewhere, or some version of you. Either way I dream to understand you, us, myself—I‘m empty. I stand in the eye of the storm, but I‘m out of your vision. Never has the silence between us screamed so loud.
Sequester I‘ll pretend I don‘t see you, but I can‘t pretend I don‘t still feel you. Your outline blurs when I glance at you with those two men. I think I‘ll stay here, out the way, in the background of your life. River runs over rock and lust, and it tries to erase my pain. I hear you bite an apple—your crunch ripples my blood. I won‘t taste your succulence. You risk a peek. In your nakedness, in your decadence, you smirk at the men; I know you‘re thinking of me, of us, bare and decaying too, but unlike you I can‘t ignore it. Unspoken words gnaw at my tongue; they try and pry my lips open. Still, I smile at memories I‘ve invented, at emotions I can‘t suppress. I‘ll never blame you for any of this.
Santino Prinzi is currently an English Literature with Creative Writing student at Bath Spa University, and was awarded the 2014/15 Bath Spa University Flash Fiction Prize. His flash fiction and prose poetry has been published, or is forthcoming, in various places including Litro Online, Flash Frontier, the 2014 and 2015 National Flash Fiction Day (UK) anthologies, Unbroken Literary Journal, and has been selected for The Best of Vine Leaves Journal 2015. His website is https://tinoprinzi.wordpress.com and his Twitter is @tinoprinzi.
A Collection by C.C. Russell
AUTUMN The clouds moved stealthily across the flat surface of the sky, an invisible highatmospheric current whisking them along while we, on our backs in the grass near the pond, were left untouched. The geese rattled their tongues in long ululations of grief at a disappearing season. You put your hand on mine for a second. You smiled. The wind paid no attention to this.
MORNINGâ€™S OPENING LINES Thank you stickers plastered over the plastic bags rustling along the fences. A homeless woman pushing her Target cart is asking for forgiveness, asking anyone who will listen to her plaintive, wailing voice. Outside of us, this heat, light. Whatever atoms we are made of. I am trying to read your body in the morning sun through the blinds, but you are suddenly foreign to me. You turn to your bedside table, grab cigarettes, pull smoke into your thin mouth and push it out again. Rhythms. Street steam. A boom box sings hallelujahs from below. I watch the notches of your spine in the growing light, try to remember the day that we met.
REVOLUTION(S) The effigies lean over in the wind, most still on fire, lighting the night in fits and cinders. Some dark pile catches, sputters and begins to burn. The night comes to life in a pastiche of flame as the houses sit waiting in patient lines, light and shadow in their violent choreography across their walls.
C.C. Russell currently lives in Wyoming with his wife, daughter, and two cats. He holds a BA in English from the University of Wyoming and has held jobs in a wide range of vocations. His poetry has appeared in the New York Quarterly, Rattle, and Whiskey Island among others. His short fiction has appeared in The Meadow, Kysoflash.com, and MicrofictionMondayMagazine.com, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for inclusion in The Best Small Fictions.
Abroad By Laurie Kolp
Beside me someone cries as I watch you make your way through customs. The crowd is thin, most of the others are still checking in their luggage. Behind you a young mother and two wiggling toddlers— the ones cried about. In a text I say you should make friends with them. Quick response: they don‘t speak English. You approach the counter confidently, your glowing smile a reminder of my late mother. It seems like yesterday I sent you off to preschool and lingered at the window. Now you disappear behind a concrete wall.
summer shadow—I can almost reach you
Award-winning poet Laurie Kolp is the author of Upon the Blue Couch and Hello, it‟s Your Mother. She serves as president of Texas Gulf Coast Writers and gathers monthly with local members of the Poetry Society of Texas. Laurie‟s poems have appeared in Maudlin House, Scissors & Spackle, After the Pause, Pirene‟s Fountain, Crack the Spine, and more. Learn more about Laurie (@KolpLaurie on Twitter) on her website, http://lauriekolp.com.
Seven Horns By Scott Thomas Outlar
Neurons frayed from a lack of sleep done purposefully just to reach an altered state so the words will flow from the bowels of a fiery abyss. Add coffee and nicotine to the party and achieve a purge of pacifism which opens the gates for raw rage to saunter through with a rant against the damned fools of this decadent world.
Wear a crown of thorns as the halo comes falling down with withered roses rumbling from the far side of the darkest chasm. Seven horns of death pierce the flesh straight to the marrow to spill toxic blood of a degenerate nature and send the gene swarm back to the entropic void where the devilâ€˜s minions wait with glee to swallow the last breath as oxygen expires.
Heavy metal apocalypse of revelation fever furiously swarming the scene with polluted veins spilling forth a final fatal kiss â€Ś then tossed off to the broken abyss with a silent sigh toward the last goodbye.
Scott Thomas Outlar survived the chaos of both the fire and the flood...barely. Now he spends the hours flowing and fluxing with the tide of the Tao River while laughing at and/or weeping over life's existential nature. His words have appeared in venues such as The First Line, Harbinger Asylum, Yellow Chair Review, Dissident Voice, and Belle Reve Literary Journal. Links to his published works can be found at 17numa.wordpress.com.
Two Prose Poems by Kyle Hemmings
We Can't Swim in the Dark You can't love me. When you press your ear next to my heart, you'll hear the swoosh of back history, dumpster mermaids and open hands. I recall the teeth of the night. No hot line for those marked with erroneous incisions. You still recite Marx from last semester and I still profess the world as my artificial limb. An arm that works like a fin. Not even. My words are clichĂŠs against your skin, borrowed from diverted divers, a whole Atlantis of lost head counts, when love was more expensive than crude oil under the sea. When I come apart in tiny rooms, under ceilings of asbestos and old paint, you'll remember me through a straw. For awhile, you'll bleed at a slow drip rate, not enough to disturb the neighbors. You won't
need goggles for the afternoon. You'll learn to cope in increments of two. Cheat at solitaire in the afterglow. You'll relearn to love yourself when the streets reflect patches of sky shaped like the islands in your eyes. You'll nurse yourself when the albatross fly back.
After She Buries Him, She Discovers Traces of an Affair 13 love letters on yellow paper, red-lined/ written in large sans serif/ addressed to a woman named as H./ 7 euphemisms like Aztec Two Step, angels carried me away, asleep with Jesus/ two references to a minor Egyptian goddess named Heset/ a sonnet employing a Mynah bird as a conceit/ coffee stains in the shape of slugs (she thinks: extinct mollusks)/ a lunch receipt at the old Tick-Tock Diner/ and underdeveloped photo./ Interpretation?/ Merely a conjecture: an X-ray of the night, an opaque core, an intersection of shadows. Memory as blue dye on a nuclear image.
Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published in Your Impossible Voice, Night Train, Toad, Matchbox and elsewhere. His latest ebook is Father Dunne's School for Wayward Boys at amazon.com. He blogs at http://upatberggasse19.blogspot.com/
Bring the Wheels of Time to Stop By Daniel M. Shapiro In prison, his job is to check machines, to make sure nostalgia has been removed. What he had done couldn‘t happen again: no more sitting in the last pickup, imagining to be one of the boys walking by. Secrets lived in someone else‘s tree house. To think you peaked in youth is to languish in a cell, anyway. Because of him, no one can get away with pretending, with remembering how they loved abusive fathers, pranks at their expense. Some of the programmers couldn‘t resist, setting up machines to miss restaurants that had burned down, athletics played for money. Uniquely capable of turning memories to happy lies, he can match them electrode for electrode, can identify the tiniest feelings with no purpose. He learned to curve his mind, to listen for commands such as go to the store, to make sure they don‘t really mean describe that store I used to go to when I was 6. Vehicles are to turn right in 500 feet, not where people used to sit in rooms to watch motion pictures. He is new at it but almost where they want him, almost able to forget what it feels like to wear clothes that fit. *Title is a lyric from “Turn Back the Clock” by Johnny Hates Jazz (#12 on UK Singles chart, 1987)
Daniel M. Shapiro is a special education teacher who lives in Pittsburgh. His book of celebritycentered prose poems, How the Potato Chip Was Invented, was published by sunnyoutside press on New Year‟s Eve 2013.
Two Prose Poems by Matthew Smart
You Will Surely Live Forever Now, Right So I've seen God run against the traffic like a cheap thriller car chase villain. God runs like a bitch and I'm not surprised since jokers win way too many contests of chance. All I know is our true love waits for our eyes to drop on them like a Siberian wolf in winter. We steal everything until we get trapped and caught. We all want to be Bonnie and/or Clyde. Kids will be kids oh, us kids. So what if we eat off plastic plates and rent our couches. Our ideas will burn the world anew. We will rend our rented furniture and slay our captured loves and damn this ocean looks large in this magazine compared to the dirt I can see around me here. My joker, that insult wasn't intended for you and I'm sorry you were caught in the crossfire. Yesterday I invested in a factory that makes lifelike fake foam rocks. I'm rich now. I suggest we each seek our highest viewpoint. We all have our personal Everest, and my height is not your height. The earth is curved away from
everything, steeply. This way you'll see further than anyone else unless of course the Siberian wolves took your eyes. But anyway I read that wolves are poor climbers. Still I hope you follow my advice, right, and you will surely live forever now, right.
Come the Inner War Taxidermy classes are starting soon and I'm hunting for a new career, all we do here is lean against things and knock other things down. Iâ€˜m a strawboss sucker hired to spit the loudest shit. It all stinks like a hurt infant, tender and alone but something we have to get through together. Once again I catch myself composing a soliloquy for the Head of Holofernes between mandated union breaks. By the end of the break I've forgotten what we're destroying. Such a way to make a living, fighting with other people making lives when we're all already alive. Without formal training I cast my own demons out with Goodfellas quotes and guesses at scripture. Keep ye soul safe at this font of bullshit. Keep ye arms and legs safely inside at all times. Just admit that we know fuckall about fucking everything. Other people lose their heads over this kind of drama. I am the foreman of this personal wasteland. I make the rules and an extra ninety cents an hour. I reside in rushes I fill a blood-soaked basket. Another vulgar victim of a Vulgate villain. None of the guys react to that one, or maybe never even hear me. My severed head rambles, a holograph in dead weeds.
Matthew Smart lives in a part of Michigan often overlooked by amateur cartographers. By day he works as an information technology analyst. In his evenings he writes poetry, fiction, and computer code. His writing has appeared in Vestal Review, Rawboned, Smokelong Quarterly and elsewhere.
A Collection by Annabel Banks
Give a Little Spontaneity is attractive. Will you try? For me? She said yes, although sure she wouldn‘t like their sea smell and slipperiness, like drowning in genitals, but doesn‘t want to be that girl, the one who says no. Spontaneity is attractive. Took the shell for the hell, tipped it back, smiled and swallowed. Disgusting, she laughed. But at least can say I have done it now. New experiences are all part of this contract, aren‘t they? There are things she wants him to try as well: recycling, self-care. Show willingness to be plastic. That‘s the problem right there. Would you? Maybe. Will you try? If it hurts too much, she said, I want you to stop. I don‘t think I‘ll like it. I sort of tried it once already and it made my belly sore. There‘s a
question of size, how much can be accommodated. If you can‘t talk about it you‘re not allowed to do it, she thought, but that doesn‘t mean I want to rake over the rake marks. Spontaneity is attractive. I want to be able to do what I want, but what do I want? That‘s the problem right there. How will he know when it gets too much? How will she signal this? Will you just try it, to see if it fits? He touched his finger to his lips. No, I don‘t think it‘s any smaller. Perhaps you have put on a bit of weight? She flinched. Perhaps. I‘ve missed Zumba every week since we met, because we can only meet on a Wednesday night. That‘s the problem right there. That‘s ok. Just try your best. She pulls herself in as much as possible, elbow snagging on the rough edge. This is definitely a different box from the one yesterday though, isn‘t it? No. Duck your head. Yes, good. See you very soon. So glad you‘re here. And now here is the box for today. Is he apologetic? She is not sure. Maybe he is just amused, as he holds up the shape. Will you try for me? Will you try? Spontaneity is attractive. Spontaneity is attractive. That‘s the problem right there.
Fixers We need to locate the point of contact. Are you watching? The wind sock flutters—chukkkerchukkker— then drops. This could mean the airfield‘s signal is lost. A dog chases its tail outside of the bank. The thin woman with seabeads around her neck, wound so tight she looks as though she is wearing a collar, seems afraid of the animal. She lifts her hands, waist high, to skitter past. This one who has had fingers nipped, we think, and if we zoom in we might see an uneven stubbing where younger flesh was clipped. Or maybe she was lucky, and just lost a nail. Of course, we can always go the other way, and suggest the beadcollar does more than decorate a (bittenuglyscarred) throat.
Connect? We can find places to land if we look carefully. There is always another way in, remember that. Find a line to follow, like here, where the shadows are thick and inviting. The concrete sends up its shimmer under the blaze of unexpected heat, and we can make out the man, sitting in his car, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. We can hear the air conditioning—hmmmmmmm— but he also has the window open. This may be to let out the smoke. Or it may be because he doesn‘t understand systems, the transparency of glass. Let‘s get in further. He has a child‘s toy stuck to the dashboard, a plastic mouse in a pair of red trousers, some cheaplymade silly free in a cereal box or with a fast-food chain‘s meal. We suggest he doesn‘t see it any more, for the mouse has tipped to one side, to view the world from an unlikely angle. Perhaps it was a favourite of his son, who he is not allowed to spend any time with because of his girlfriend‘s dissatisfaction with his drinking. Perhaps the child died. A misstep at a roadside. A hole in the heart, unknowingly finite beating. (Runtome!faster!goodboy!) We can get closer if we want. We could smell his resignation. Connect? We can also pull back. This is not as intricate as links but can be useful, can sometimes give a rounded perspective. Just don‘t forget to get back tight— mistakes are made when you extrapolate from the general condition. We can see the circling traffic and the externals of fields and hedgerows, uncounted pressures. The air-swiping of the turbine blade. The exclusion zone around these three buildings—see that? A clear pattern of security. Those empty sentinel spots are manned. Do you want to go in deeper? Thought you would. We can find a point of contact if we get down into the earth. The corridors are cool. Try this way. Yes. Here is a man, alone in a quiet room. No distractions. The terminal in front of him is a glass box of colours and perpendicular truth. Let‘s move into his ear. See that
scar? Perhaps he had surgery when he was young to remove a poisoned bone. Perhaps he doesn‘t hear as well as he used to, but hears well enough for the job at hand. (amreadynowyesyes) He flies without moving. Do it now.
Observation Of course, we all knew what was going to happen, you know? It was absolutely on the cards. Would have put good money. Saw it coming. Totally knew. After all, how ridiculous was the idea to start with? Even professionals wear safety equipment, have nets and harnesses keeping them from the smash-and-spill that— considering his age, the dodgy wire, the fact that he‘d said this was an unapproved, one-time-only attempt—inevitable. No one said anything though. Or perhaps they did, but we can‘t recall who it was or what was said, but there was definitely a feeling that someone should step in, step up, speak out. Call the security guard up to the roof. Call the police, if necessary. We had our phones out to take pictures. Perhaps we were out of signal, or all the ducting and aerials up there affected the connection. Anyway, we know that there was a move towards someone asking, or telling him, to stop. Perhaps. We think. When he fell we could barely watch. Someone said that someone should have stopped him. And someone should have. Our hands could have reached out and held him down, held him in place until agreement had been reached about what to do, who to call, and who should speak. Then he fell. Pity us, for we have seen a terrible thing. We are scarred by it not physically, but mentally, you know? We are afraid of talking about this too much, and gather in corners to whisper, intimate, raise eyebrows when we have to use words like height, fall, spill, in our everyday interactions. And his mother told us we weren‘t allowed to go to his funeral, so we held our own ceremony. Took a
picture from Facebook, one of him spinning the flame poi, to framed with flowers. We did a brilliant job. We took turns to speak, each of us recounting a particular memory, some outlandish dare that had gone well, followed by some soft private moment of when we had absolutely connected, when we had touched. We really made the most of it. We cried and held hands. It was awesome.
Annabel is an English writer of poetry and prose. Recent work can be found in 3:AM, International Times, Dirty Chai, The Manchester Review, and other journals and magazines. In 2015 Annabel was nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice (poetry and prose) and for Blazevox's Bettering American Poetry. See annabelbanks.com or Tweet @annabelwrites. She would love to hear from you.
Earthquake By Claire Polders
The steel-eyed businesswoman with whom everyone had been flirting all through her twenties, thirties, and forties, much to her dislike, or so she said, was not noticed now as she crossed the hallway on her heels during the symposium on micro-financing in Amsterdam, was even ignored by the trio of eager security men, and she felt the world tilt.
Claire Polders is a Dutch author of four novels. Her short prose in English has appeared or is forthcoming in Word Riot, Hobart, Folio, SmokeLong Quarterly, Pidgeonholes, Literary Orphans, and elsewhere. Currently sheâ€&#x;s finishing her first novel in English. She lives in Paris, but you may find her at @clairepolders or http://www.clairepolders.com.
Two Prose Poems by Jess Mize
The Gaseous Vertebrate Cazart! … A dreary haze of gray falls across the afternoon of the city. The branches of thick-foliaged trees come to life with the motion of the wind. The surf three-hundred miles away breaks and crashes over rocks and piers and sends banana boats swaying. Rain is in the air along with a fresh, cool breeze. It is five o‘clock in Asheville and behind me from the radio it is Steely Dan … Oh no, Guadalajara won‘t do …‖ In the spring and fall rain is exquisitely pleasant but in the summer it is altogether a gift from the gods. Soft drums of thunder; quick jagged bolts of lightning; incredibly white leaving the faint impression of yellow with a breeze that can give a mystic an orgasm. Wind-blown hyacinths treat the senses to a honey-like essence. I keep expecting Peyton Loftis to come in seeking shelter from the approaching storm and leaning over my shoulder to be my muse, our cheeks imperceptibly touching. She has a bottle of La Famiglia and makes a couple of drinks, setting my glass by the typewriter. She sips hers and looks directly into my eyes with her half-closed brown eyes searching my every thought. I take a long drink from the old-fashioned
glass as she walks over to the mirror and slowly undresses, admiring the curves of her body and allowing me to, as well. She flutters gracefully to again lean over my shoulder and to see what I‘m cranking out this evening, and enchantingly whispers, ―What‘ll it be, work or play?‖ laughing softly like a goddess. On waking, it was time to close and it had yet to begin raining.
The Feeling is a Wave A sprinkling rainfall disperses throughout the lackluster suburban landscape. The mist of morning folds and undulates through the fresh, fathomless air. The warmth of the dark morning permeates the soul‘s languor and its enervation. All things are silent because everyone has submitted to the habitual nocturnal slumber party. The rain continues. Slightly, rhythmically, sensually decadent water drops inspire romantic thoughts of other more exotic and unknown things. Purple thunderheads hang in the sky like junkies on Skid Row. It is the arsenical benediction of spring. Cruel, cruel April. The rainfall ceases and with its abrupt departure, desires are dispelled along with any remaining longings for the cognitive process. A place and a time where only the snakes are stirring.
After the rain, steam rises from the pavement in humid waves, giving a ghoulish quality to the atmosphere. The steam rises off the blacktop like mist over Lake Pontchartrain at daybreak. The scent of the southern spring air after the rain is sweet. The smell is like honey-suckle and mountain laurel and moscato. A heady scent that can almost get one high. The sun bears down, bigger and hotter than ever, instilling a hypnotic languor to the early April morning.
Jess Mize is a blonde-haired surfer girl from South Carolina. Her favourite author is Stephen King. She loves to drink and she loves her man. Vampire Weekend three albums in stores now.
The Uprising By Voima Oy All the cats lay curled in sleep, dreaming a new world. On the savannah, caracals leaped like birds and soared into the sky. Human eyes witnessed this murmuration, but it was dismissed as rumor, nothing more. Even video from mobile phones would have been considered suspect, much like the footage of UFOs in the earlier days. No one believed the tribal leaders and the women who had seen the flying cats with their own eyes. In time, even they began to question what they had seen. But this was only the beginning. From near and far, the tribes of tiger began to gatherâ€”lynxes and leopards, bobcats and lions, tigers, margays and jaguars. Even the tamest tabbies became wild again. They disappeared between the walls. They vanished from windows and alleys. They left without a sound. Within days, every feline on earth was gone. The world without cats was flat and dull, without mystery. It vibrated to a frequency of digital devices and clockwork machinery, not the rumbling of distant thunder, the trembling of whiskers, the reverberation of velvet paws. Where did all the cats go? That was the question people whispered to one another. No one knew the answer. Noted scientists speculated that it involved a space-time vortex, or as the poets had said, a door that is not a door, opening. If indeed the dimension of cats exists beside our own, how could we hope to go there? When they left, they took their secrets with them.
Voima Oy lives on the western rim of Chicago, near the expressway and the Blue Line trains. Her writing can be found in the FlashDogs anthologies, and online at Flash!Friday, Angry Hourglass, FlashFlood and Visual Verse. Proud FlashDog. Follow her on Twitter @voimaoy
The Moth By Banks Miller Pale green wings dance in the late afternoon, as the western sky grows rich with the gold and carnelian of approaching sunset, and the shadows of pine trees lengthen. A stream murmurs softly as the moth crosses it and disappears into the woods beyond.
the flying luna moth a soft whisper borne on wings green as the new leaves
Banks Miller has been writing poetry from an early age, but only began submitting it for publication in 2008. Banks graduated from Texas A&M University with a Biology degree in 2011 and now works in the technical writing field. He has had poetry published in Star*Line, Inkscrawl, The Fifth Di..., Illumen, and Scifaikuest.
A Collection by Charles Hayes
How We Loved Baseball How we loved baseball, Casey At The Bat. Ruthâ€˜s point lifted our hearts, Gehrigâ€˜s goodbye broke them. Battered like the balls we threw, our pastime, its name a vision gone, a fuzzy memory be. Trinkets, ribbons, a path to heroism penciled in, replaced our gloves and cleats. The luckiest Lou, many covered not meant to be, made it anyway. Booted blouses cracking cadence. Popcorn, crackerjacks, killing the umpire, a thought gone by. Nine men, the crack of the bat, faded to a ping, two fire teams in a squad, freeze dried in the gut. How we loved baseball, no Arlington to warm our memories, baseball could never die, but a play, it hides beyond.
School House Perspective The white school house, covered with years of coal dust, looks so much smaller now. A rusty flag pole, white when it adorned, lies among the busted mine machines that cover the grounds once for play. The mine gone, the coal trucks only noisy ghosts in my mind, can I have lived here?
Its little flat spot up against the steep land of the hollow where it came to be, my place to learn and grow back then. Marbles at recess, oral book reports to a room with two grades, and the growling gray trucks, humped with coal, that passed all day.
Broken windows, like eyes that only light can see, sadly look my way. And a missing door with only night beyond seems to say, ―Oh yes, I loved you then. I am not so bad. Look at you now.‖
The Lover ―Time for you to go,‖ she said. Yet slipping on my clothes and walking out the door, I turn to see her sleep.
Sitting on the curb coming down, swept like the chip bag that tumbles by, I bump the earth, my seesaw stacked. A news bundle drops across the way, its echo bouncing off the canyons of my turf. Like a little rat on the run, a quarter from my pocket falls, and spins for the grate. Fleet of foot, I mash it down. With just enough to get some joe, I shuffle to the coffee stand. ―Same as usual, handsome?‖ the barista girl inquires. Nodding, I dump my change and sniff the steam. The girl smiles and slides my coffee near. ―How‘s your gal?‖ she asks. Blankly, I meet her eyes. ―The one you strolled arm and arm with last eve.‖ Scalding my lips with a first sip, ―Busy,‖ I reply.
Charles is an American who lives part time in the Philippines and part time in Seattle with his wife. His writing interests centers on the stripped down stories of those recognized as on the fringe of their culture. Asian culture, its unique facets, and its intersection with general American culture is of particular interest. As are the mountain cultures of Appalachia.
Avoir du Chien By Zebulon Huset They found her, corset strapped so tight it was cut off, feet bound into balls, vomit crusting her lips. No foul play was the ruling.
Zebulon Huset is a teacher, writer and editor in San Diego. He is obsessed with the netherland between flash fiction and prose poetry, as well as the haiku's 'murican brother the American Sentence. He posts near-daily writing exercises at his blog Notebooking Daily, he moderates a private subreddit for serious writing workshopping and although he was once nominated for a Pushcart Prize, he is the recipient of zero Pushcart Prizes. He did receive an honorable mention for the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers in 2015 for his story "Being Memorable". His writing has recently appeared in The Portland Review, The Southern Review, Harpur Palate, The Roanoke Review, The Cortland Review, Spillway, Westview and Third Wednesday among others.
Humite By Linda Wojtowick Things are changing perhaps. His dreams are that he is a dog, running. He runs all over. He covers the land from the gulf to the larger sea. Though his feet register the spiky roots of bog trees and spines of desert rocks, they are numb, unaffected sensations. He tries panting, just to see. When he slows, his gallop thickening as if in sap, he steps down a little trail laid with planks, buttery-smooth suddenly under his paws. He goes to the swamp edge, finds his friend in the reeds. As usual it is submerged to the eyes. Itâ€˜s a terrifying
creature, green and pink and quick, but he knows it well and pays no mind to the carnage, the ripped sick piles he passes on the descent from the higher road, and that lies all around him smearing the stinking shore. In the dreams he canâ€˜t smell it and is calm. He asks his friend about the fading day. When he wakes he sees the oxygen tank by the bureau. Lately his chest holds but he fears that soon, again, he will have to keep it with him more, haul it on his walks by the rec center, over clay paths by the duck pond. There are others here, he supposes, that manage it with grace. Edna and Tom still walk tall and wheel their cylinders like business luggage through the carpeted halls. But he always feels like an artifact from space, not sleek or new but old, as if with hairspray, with silver sleeves. He loves going out in the orange sherbet of late afternoon. He drives lit by syruping light through the slower towns. Florida vines lacing the roads. Thick water, swelling roots. Grapefruit sun sinking dumbly toward the boats. On the way home he stops at a grocery store by the diving shop. The chain has a vulgar name and a gapemouth cartoon fish on the sign. But he goes there anyway for the produce which is of dependable quality. And bears the lowest price.
Linda Wojtowick grew up in Montana. She now lives and works in Portland, Oregon where she indulges her cinematic obsessions without restraint. Her wordstuffs have most recently appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Off the Coast, The Prompt, and Clementine Poetry Journal.
Flags of Defiance By F.J Bergmann After the grape jelly ran out, there was an ascendancy of marmalade, the sultan of the breakfast table, absolute monarch of the buttered bread. Chunks and globs periodically fell from grace on the way to the mouth and crushed into the carpet, snuggling up to dust mice and stray pubic hairs, until sucked into a wanton trombone. The regular arrival of dunning letters from credit-card companies made it necessary to begin consuming mussels and other shellfish less often, no more than twice a week. There was, however, no stinting on soap, regardless of how precarious the financial situation; hygiene is a serious business and the sequence of bathtime rituals a flagrant and glorious scuttling of pecuniary restrictions. Pivoting away from the gilt-framed mirror, the picotĂŠe shower-curtain ruffles its stiff flounces in a pique. The children succumbed to yaws ages ago, so there will finally be enough turkey for everyone this year, and the library books return themselves like homing pigeons, a whole flock looming like a small, pudgy cloud.
F.J. Bergmann writes poetry and speculative fiction, often simultaneously, appearing in The 5-2 Crime Poetry, Black Treacle, North American Review, Postcard Poems, Pulp Literature and elsewhere, functioning, so to speak, as editor of Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and poetry editor of Mobius: The Journal of Social Change.
For Want Of By Kevin Mulligan
Flying jabberwocky monkey pickles blew past the stop sign of endgame. Silent grief dropped from the sky, gluing itself to the parade. Garbage bag floaters shone like bricks melting on a grilled cheese cabbage. Alice drank her milk, thinking Kool Aid posters of dice on a blackboard. Meanwhile, Sherlock sluiced the kielbasa as Murdock fired up the Cadillac. Onward, crime sighters, throw down your periscopes. Methuselah waits on a pinhead, wishing for yarn, settling for spaghetti. ―Hunger, what‘s that?‖ asked the empty container. ―Can‘t say, can‘t stay,‖ replied the burning cornucopia. Toss down your pens, friends of change, the vending machines are ill and have eaten all the money. Funny. Money? Can‘t say I‘ve seen that, Honey.
Kevin Mulligan lives in Calgary, Canada where he writes both short stories and poetry. When not writing down his thoughts, he likes to play gigs with local musicians. You can often find him gathering inspiration as he hikes through wilderness that starts just past the city limits.
Two Prose Poems by Chaitali Gawade
Making of Time You have to have ribbons of steel flowing in your blood to perfect this craft. You have to gather eons in your mouth, let it sit, marinate a while. The taste should be enough to make you weep, little pinpoints of ecstasy all over your tongue. The stars sieved through, nights and days snapped together at the edges. Horizons split open with the seams ripped out. You gather some truths from endless possibilities of truths, like the unerring hand of a ragpicker. Along with all of this, you need to throw in some lies for seasoning. The fire from your hands should be hot enough to turn your bones black. Add in second servings of torn skies if the batter is not thick enough to make the earth tilt. Tears are poured in, though the difference they make
in the final product is minute. The air crackles and the ripped sky fuses together with the echoes of longing. A tiny crack, a loud sound, and time rolls out from my mouth.
Kaleidoscope I am a myriad of colours. Some, more dominant than the others. I am black, edging on the darker side of life. The green swirl of jealousy, envy breeds in me, but the green of new life and hope hold strong roots within me. The blue in me is of calm skies and placid waters holding a deep stillness within me. The red in me is an inch deep, anger and pain waiting to let loose. I am ethereal silver and a forged mould of gold. The orange hue of early dawn rises within me and brings forth each day fresh from the laundry. I am grey at the edges, gluing all the pieces together.
Chaitali Gawade is a freelance writer living in Pune. Her writerly musings are fuelled by tea and coffee. Her work has been published by Twenty20 Journal, Daily Love, Postcard Shots, Duckbill Anthology and Vagabondage Press, among others. She blogs at chaitaligawade.com
A Letter from Auguste Rodin to T.S. Eliot By Ophelia Leong You, whose words pepper the bland landscape of society with ruminations under streetlamps and languid women who peel back your skin with their judging eyes, is there any color your words can‘t paint? I slide my pen along paper hoping to catch the world on fire. I see women glide through the streets, hands clasped and limbs tucked under their heavy skirts, weighed down by propriety. I wish to undress them with my pen and see them supple and free. Happiness is hard to find; one must vigilantly search, peering into attics and cellars, pulling back window curtains, looking up into the branches of trees. Can you see it swimming in the ebony black of the ink you use? Or in the yellow smoke following your footsteps? I can stroke it with my hands with the marble I work with and I see it in the shining on the bronze. My eyes are never shut; I keep them open when I dream. Are your dreams gilded in gold and despair? You, a soul aching for discourse and the knowledge that he is heard, stick out your hands and touch what‘s in front of you; you won‘t be disappointed.
Ophelia Leong is a wife and stay at home mom who loves to write and Irish Dance in her spare time. She has been published in Mothers Always Write, Allegro Poetry, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Eunoia Review, Verse-Virtual, and others. Check out her blog here: ophelialeong.blogspot.com.
Public Displays of Thinking By Betsy Schaffer I‘ve seen it before. Maybe a frown or a chin scratch. Something telling the world that someone is thinking. This time it was someone I knew. I saw him at lunch walking alone. His hands were preacher-like at a pulpit, moving together, then up and down. They were trying to tell the church something important. His mouth was moving, too. Lips that couldn‘t quite close right because of the emphasis placed on the jaw. His eyes were motionless and his back was hunched from a bit of age and bad posture. Yet he walked the entire length of the street not seeing the space in front of him. His memory his guide stick. When I saw him later that day, I told him that I had seen him walking alone at lunch. I made a joke that he looked a bit crazy talking to himself that way. He agreed. He paused, thinking again.
Betsy Schaffer is captivated by, and curious about, the translation of thoughts into words. Her poems have been published in “More Voices, A Collection of Works from Asian Adoptees” (Yeoung & Yeoung Book Company, 2011), and “River Blood and Corn,” A Community of Voices Literary Journal. Her poems can be found at kdreamwriter.wordpress.com, and her other writings at thewritesign.wordpress.com. Thank you for reading and hopefully enjoying her words.
Two Prose Poems by T.L. Krawec
//A bread roll, 3 grapes She dreams of writing, dreams of those who spite her being other characters who love her in spite of her. So, she hasn't written since teach threw that book report in the trash but she knows the word protagonist and wants to be it, to be the most important and best. She writes a new-yet-cherished memory of being Prom Queen, all eyes on her. One hot moment in an electric blue dress. Tomorrow she will put red food dye in her hanky, cough weakly, not eat. Say I stay up all night and write because the universe talks to me. They will take her away when she passes out during a game, sliding from the top of the bleachers. She had that moment after all,
you will think, and the irony will bite you in the same place where you love her. Brandishing her food journal she will tell everyone on the ward: I really am a writer, I really am, with the evidence right there. Two bites of spaghetti and a bread roll, 3 grapes.
//To the well To the well she went for secrets; it gave her face, reflected. This she inspected for changes that foretell â€Ś only white scars of the past. So she made her own magic rule: three times praise the sun and promise, this brings wealth. She squinted until her eyes were light-blighted, pledging heart, self, strength and health to marrying the soil. She tended to it and it fed her, it was dependable and would always defend her. To the well she went again and dredged up mud, a bucket of mud. Out of it came a hand. She took it firmly and pulled.
T.L. Krawec doesn't know why, but will still let you ask.
Cliff Diving into the Underworld By Genevieve Mills
I jumped. You would have done the same thing if you spent your entire life surrounded by beautifully useless flowers and your mom was the goddess of fucking wheat. If you ran through fields of roses hoping you would step on a bee or a thorn just to feel something besides the gentle tickle of petals. If you had picked up a sad dead bee and wondered which of you had it better and the next second a giant pit opened in the ground in front you, you would jump. If the earth rumbled and cracked, if flowers disappeared and left behind the darkest black you had ever seen, you too would look at the gaping chasm and see an invitation. An escape. You wouldnâ€˜t be
thinking of your mom, or what might happen when you hit the bottom. You‘d curl your toes into the dirt at the edge of the cliff and you‘d take the leap. And don‘t tell me you wouldn‘t let out a scream on the way down, wouldn‘t open your mouth as wide as you could and push all of the air out of your lungs as adrenaline filled your veins. The roar of air rushing past you the loudest sound you‘d ever heard. It‘s not my fault that scream of excitement was later confused for a scream of terror. Girls who spend their lives working on their tans don‘t scream much. I was rusty. You would have done the same thing if you were a girl who had been hidden away in an eternal springtime, had been told every man was just looking for sex and once you gave it up no one would want you. If you landed in the arms of a handsome man with eyes like shadows, wouldn‘t you think that virginity was overrated anyway? If he offered to make you queen of the underworld, when before your only followers had been a few nymphs and the flowers, wouldn‘t you say yes in a heartbeat? If his lips met yours and made you shiver for the first time in your life, wouldn‘t you do anything to stay with him? You‘d take his hand and let him show you this new world of death and decay. You‘d like it when the dead bowed to you and the furies shrieked your name. You‘d eat some pomegranate seeds and stain your lips red. When you fucked him you‘d finally feel alive, in the world of the dead. The cold and the dark made me feel better than the sunshine ever did. I bet you‘d jump and trade flowers for bones.
Genevieve Mills graduated from the University of Louisville with a Bachelor's in French and English and a love of language. Her work has appeared in Crab Fat Magazine.
Auto Autonomy By Mori Glaser Flying headlit through night terrors, instruments wink at me as I blink through exhaust smoke at wing mirrors and I‘m transported into a parallel parking universe with transparent privacy to curse–gossip–cry–sing off key or phone a friend. Dreary toil for years–months–days–hours buys a metal combustion nest mounted on wheels of air with soft-sell interior and crumple-proof rear end that places me safe in face of squalls–sandstorms–turbulence–bedlam but not snow or ice, when foot skids derange fewer bones. With dual windbags and steering wheel that drops to avoid piercing my heart on full frontal impact, I dare high speed highways until failing senses ground me or until death do us part. In the fast lane sideswipes never come from left field.
Mori Glaser grew up in Britain and moved to Israel 30 years ago. She has blogged and written material for non-profits. Her poetry has been published in journals such as Writers Hub, Persimmon Tree, Crack the Spine, A Quiet Courage. Her prose has appeared in arc24, the journal of the Israel Association of Writers in English, and Akashic Books web site Thursdaze series.
Two Prose Poems by James A.H. White
Looking for This? A dog cries through the night because his owner has set a hedgehog constructed from manicured folds of cardboard on the living room bookshelf with a body reminiscent of the fat neighbor cat that brushes against the back patio ferns while curving her notables back and up. The dog believes the new animal and the cat are friends, plotters in on it together, finding themselves on the other side of the glass door where the dog usually goes wild. But tonight, he paces in front of the bookshelf like an impatient man with a question, waving his arm and snapping his fingers for the interval to call on him so he can ask: â€•Why is it I can never find a momentâ€˜s peace?â€–
THE ONLY LOVE LETTER I’LL EVER WRITE; A HAIBUN [FOR A HOMELAND] Tell the spring sea how peacefully it falls over
the Pyramids of Yonaguni-Jima, whose triangular rock has eroded into arcs and curves; to the demi-stages of the moon‘s cycle. The steps are a temple‘s whose flat landings were once meant for praying and not swimming. When diving for pearls becomes diving for God, the mussels open to unconventional wisdom.
James A.H. White is pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry at Florida Atlantic University. A winner of the 2014 AWP Intro Journals Project award in Poetry and nominee for Pushcart Prizes, James currently serves as a Poetry Editor for 3Elements Review. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, Gertrude, Hermeneutic Chaos, Tahoma Literary Review, and DIAGRAM, among others. His chapbook, hiku [pull] (2016), is forthcoming from Porkbelly Press.
Treadmill By Sandra Anfang The treadmills at the gym look out on Main Street. I'm long past squeamishness at being Exhibit A, a Macy's window poster child. A couple pushes a stroller past the brick facade. I wait for their child to plant his palms upon the glass. Sometimes I wave to them. When the mother stops, bends over the seat, I realize there's no baby, just a pile of coats and hangers, plastic bags and bungee cords. Her partner walks a few feet in front of her. As my brain tries to square this scene, a beefy boy-man two machines down says, That was strange. I know, I answer. There's no baby. I think they're homeless. Where's the shopping cart? he asks. They always have them. I'm Dante, by the way. For three minutes we dissect the couple. Dante, wedded to the shopping cart explanation, reaches hard for connection. Does he know I'm twice his age? Does he care? Iâ€˜m a splinter between aberrant worlds until I meet Pythagoras aping me in the glass. I smile at the well-trained animals of our bodies running their laps, ensconced in the capsules of our shiny metal orbits.
A prize-winning Northern California teacher, poet, and visual artist,Sandra is the author of four poetry collections and several chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals including *Poetalk, San Francisco Peace and Hope*, *West Trestle Review*, two *Healdsburg Literary Guild *anthologies, *The Tower Journal, Corvus Review, River Poets Journal, Unbroken, Clementine Poetry Journal *and* Spillway. *In her chapbook, *Looking Glass Heart* (due from Finishing Line Press in January, 2016), she explores themes of introversion and mirroring. Sandra is a new California Poet/Teacher in the schools and is the founder and host of the monthly poetry series, Rivertown Poets, in Petaluma, CA. She believes that poetry is medicinal and one of the highest forms of truth-telling.
A Collection by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy
Lunch Break I am writing this note to apologize for eating your lunch. Only after I returned to my desk did I realize it was not the House Special (tuna and tomato on white roll) I have every day, but the Siesta Fiesta (salsa omelet on whole wheat) that you must have ordered. There was not enough time to go back and try to switch them as I was already on the verge of being late for a two o'clock appointment. I should mention that despite the whole wheat bread it was a delicious sandwich, and I particularly enjoyed the combination of feta cheese and spicy green salsa. I had
never thought to order this sandwich before, but it is quite possible I will in the future, and if I do, I will probably remember how I sat through that meeting wondering if you thought happiness could simply be a matter of getting someone else's lunch by accident.
The Octopus One day an octopus knocked on the front door and demanded to be taken in. "But we already have a dog," I protested. "I know," he said, standing tall on the tips of several arms. His voice squawked like an oboe and there was something cooped up about the way he smelled. "I've watched you walk him in all kinds of weather, and you seem like a well-intentioned kind of guy. Never forgets to clean up and looks both ways before crossing the street. I lived in the house just over there for the last three years, but through no fault of my own it burned down last night with no other survivors." I felt uncomfortable when he said this, as I never realized my neighbor was a lover of exotic sea life. Just then, my phone trilled with a ring I didn't recognize and I softly cursed my kids who think it's funny to keep changing it. "Excuse me," I said, "this will only take a minute." But it didn't. And by the time I turned back, the octopus was gone.
Angry Gods To the mouse caught in the glue trap I baited with a bit of peanut butter and chocolate chips I must look like an angry god ready to pluck down the sun and boil the oceans. He can't possibly know I'm the one who feels tiny watching him struggle furiously in vain to get free. This must be how the world ends. If not with
a Vesuvius-sized bang that leaves us flash-frozen in ash, then one untranslatable siren after another until we all fall exhausted like moths under a bare light bulb on a moonless night. Millennia from now, archeologists will deploy the latest technology or invent a new religion and still find it difficult to explain what happened.
Originally born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Yoni Hammer-Kossoy has been living in Israel for the last 17 years with his wife and three kids. His poems have recently appeared or will be appearing in Pidgeonholes, The Hermeneutic Chaos Review, The Harpoon Review, Mixtape Methodology and Gnarled Oak. You can also connect with Yoni on Twitter where he posts as @whichofawind.
THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW By Kenneth Pobo Laura Petrie wore Capri pants, which Sally would never wear. Jackie Kennedyâ€˜s pillbox hat held no appeal for her. She joked with the guys, played piano, sang, and went home each night to Mr. Henderson, her cat, waiting for a man to call, a sadness that she reversed into laughter the next day in a cramped office.
Kenneth Pobo had two new poetry books out in 2015: Bend of Quiet from Blue Light Press and Booking Rooms in the Kuiper Belt from Urban Farmhouse Press.
Two Prose Poems by Cathy Shea
Mea Maxima Culpa First, before I do anything, I want to say I am deeply sorry for postponing everything from sympathy cards to tax returns. Sticky note to myself: Do what I must do before the last God damned minute! And stop swearing when I‘m late. Given every chance and all the warnings, I don‘t have a leg to stand on and I‘ve even been watched over by Mother Theresa from her heavenly wheelchair. Mother Theresa had tiny legs to stand on. In her quiet way she hid this shortcoming under the long skirts of her woolen habit, yet she got everything done on time and never blasphemed. Her only ―dammit‖ built reservoirs for the poor. And if she ever said ―fuck,‖ she would have been commanding married couples to procreate. Procrastinate, although derived from Latin, a language with which she was very
familiar, was not in her vocabulary. And she is amused now, but compassionate as always, as she observes me putting off tasks, which she gently reminds me must be done while there is still breath in my lungs, and from which there is no escape during my earthly existence.
Stuck Up Ticker Tape The growth of this business is of great monument to the stock exchange, for it is through the instant dissemination of the quotations made on its floor that the active and continuous interest in the markets is sustained. —Horace L. Hotchkiss, 1867 Stock ticker confetti once snowed heavily upon the Canyon of Heroes. Now the simulacrum of the stock market appears everywhere. I watch it proclaim wealth in distant galaxies, anything touched there turning more precious than the platinum of my planet. The ticker tape flickers past the white-haired man waiting for the #80, his tweed jacket molting like a bird‘s feathers, back pocket worn where his wallet flattens against the bench; past the teenager pushing her baby girl, whose piggy bank shuns pennies, who in a flash will be a preteen with breast buds and oily skin. Giddy ribbons swirl above my commute, the highway that severs my thirsty valley on the way to work. Coded symbols brag of riches, cry big losses I don‘t feel. I punch in early, know I‘ll clock out late.
Cathryn Shea‟s poetry is forthcoming or has recently appeared in Dirty Chai, Gargoyle, Gravel, Main Street Rag, Permafrost, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Snap Bean, is by CC.Marimbo (2014, Berkeley). Cathryn is in the 2012 anthology “Open to Interpretation: Intimate Landscape.” She is a past editor and adviser for Marin Poetry Center Anthology and is the author of dozens of software and database manuals (sometimes confused with creative non-fiction). Cathryn lives in Fairfax, CA and spends part of each day watching over a covey of California quail. See www.cathrynshea.com.
Two Prose Poems by Michael McInnis
Poetry at Sea Asked the recruiter would I be able to write poetry on a ship, stifled by discipline and regimentation and salt encrusted rails and salt encrusted slabs of lukewarm meat and beige chicken with a dollop of rice and water that always taste gritty with everything on the ship painted three shades of grey and a yellow that does not exist in nature just to break up the monotony of duty 4 hours on 4 hours off, six hours off if you‘re lucky so you can write poetry high on amphetamines, snorting or shooting with the burn down your throat, or the rush in your veins and there‘s no way you feel like Jesus‘ son, just a wired sailor in an 400-foot vessel—a Pequod of compartments and water-tight spaces and dogged doors, hatchways, bulkheads and ladders—sitting on a chock with a notebook trying to get some words down, or you can walk around the ship up the port passageway and down the starboard side and around the Captain‘s gig or the motor whale boat and head back up to the fo‘c‘sle because you‘re not going to find any solace or inspiration sitting on the fantail watching the sun set because sunsets on the ocean are pretty boring and always the same colors of muted red, white and blue and that‘s the truth because from the deck of my small frigate I‘ve seen sunsets and sunrises across half the globe, on both sides of the equator throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the only thing changing is the ocean, it never shows the same face twice, never rests during the day or night and the horizon is always just out of reach and if you ever actually sail to the horizon, reach the horizon before the world turns and the oceans splash across the face of the planet as if all the whales and sea monsters had swum to one side of the globe and drowned the land for the final time then that would be
inspiring and you‘d have to get a few words down and take a few pictures as the ship went pitch poling off the edge of the world.
Astronauts Destiny had always discounted her neighbor‘s complaints of flashing lights, multicolored streamers and shrill noises to failed weather balloon experiments, rocket circuitry malfunctions and distracted sonar men until she woke one morning to find a team of three astronauts in her backyard. One astronaut sat against the far fence, his head slumped on his chest weighed down by the white helmet, shimmering like a dwarf sun illuminating the dark side of the earth, beyond verdant forests and the shamals that blow across the sea as if enveloping Destiny‘s backyard in a vaporous whiteness. The other two astronauts lay on the ground, both on their backs as if irradiated beetles had grown in mass to occupy ponderous spacesuits, clouds like sprinkled white asterisks reflected on the darkened visors of their helmets.
Michael McInnis lives in Boston and spent six years in the Navy sailing across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the Persian Gulf three times, chasing white whales and ending up only with madness. He has published poetry and short fiction in Literary Yard, 1947, Dead Snakes, Monkey Bicycle, Cream City Review, 5x5 Singles Club, Facets Magazine, Arshile, Nightmare of Reason, Oak Square, Quimby Quarterly and Version 90.
Gossamer Web By Monica Flegg I wrote a poem about miscarrying my first child in Las Vegas, and an editor emailed me that the lines were too concrete. Should her womb be emptied and refilled with sorrow would she write in pencil? Would she be satisfied to hold a dust mite? Would she grasp at gossamer webs, or would she, like me, clutch cement beams? The wonder is that there are words at all, never mind that they are prose. solid.
Monica Flegg lives on Nantucket Island where she has taught poetry and creative writing. She walks dogs of various breeds and reads poetry of all creeds. Her work has been published in numerous journals including; the Aurorean, Ancient Paths, Mother's Always Right and PostScripts.
Two Prose Poems by Lana Grey
Cleaning Out the Garage at the Centralia House I‘d never realized how poorly gray plastic storage tubs held water. As I stripped what had once been papers and pictures apart from the sopping, color-bled mass that had been floating for untold ages within the tub—the water seeping in from a human-sized hole in the roof—I wondered what memories my father had locked away here and not cared to retrieve before the rainwater and cobwebs had claimed them.
In a patch of mud, I found the small, square case containing a CD burned by my mother a few years after the divorce, during that tense time they‘d considered reuniting, when I would‘ve done anything to have kept that from happening—to have stopped the arguing—like sawing off my own foot or spending my summer
sorting through piles of broken electronics and corroded boards with exposed rusty nails and half-rotted spiders in the garage at the old house my father still hadn‘t managed to sell.
At Least It’s Raining Now Instead ―My brother killed a man named Jack,‖ my friend tells me as we sit in our dorm in fall, the fan whirring from the green countertop, breaking the silence afterward. The only other sound in our own little space was the thunder, and even it has gone quiet. I tilt my head to look at her oddly, realize she isn‘t joking, and hop off the chair at her bedside to turn off the fan. I want to hear.
But now the crickets cry in time with the gurgling of the radiator, and I grumble as I return to the chair, cursing the cacophony. From her bunk, she looks out, and I know it‘s not the room she‘s looking for, but the past. It was 2010, she tells me, two days after Christmas. I try to reconcile this joyful time with such a tragedy, but I can‘t seem to connect them.
She says she was watching Princess Mononoke, and when her parents mentioned her brother‘s accident, she hadn‘t expected much from it. I remember now that she once said how often car crashes happened in her hometown. Fender-benders were expected. Snow was piled up along the road. She saw fear in the faces of her family members when they returned. They hadn‘t said much when they left, but when they returned, her stepmother was devastated, her father furious. Her brother would be fine, but not the other.
―Jack was a pastor,‖ she tells me now, her words soft amidst the cries of the crickets and the roll of thunder beyond our window. She says Jack‘s wife sang forgiveness of the snow‘s slip-up only to take it back the next year and curse teenage recklessness. Perhaps time wore her down, or perhaps she grew tired of pretending she held no ill-will. My friend says, as we sit through the storm, that her brother hasn‘t been the same since the mess created by the four-wheeler that slid from his truck to Jack‘s car in the crash—and the blood in the snow.
Lana Grey was born and raised in Illinois, and she currently studies English/Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. She intends to pursue an MFA and teach writing at the university level while continuing to write and publish her own poetry and prose.
By Jennifer Novotney He locks eyes with me and I melt. His eyes are blue, but not just any blue. They‘re not blue like the sky or a Robin‘s egg. No, his eyes are blue like tropical waters off an undiscovered island. I want to dive in stark naked. The cool iris bathes my warm flesh, sharp and refreshing like unexpected rain. I swim laps in the swirls of his variation and drown in the black of his pupil only to be revived again and again to savor the same asphyxiation.
A native of Los Angeles, California, Jennifer Novotney earned a B.A. in Journalism from California State University and an M.A. in English from Northern Arizona University. In 2014, she was a Moonbeam Children‟s Book Award winner for her debut novel, Winter in the Soul. Her poetry and fiction is featured in several literary magazines, and most recently appears in Poetry Quarterly and The Vignette Review. She has been teaching English and writing for over ten years to middle school, high school, and university students. Her website is JenniferNovotney.com
Skin By Lucy Palmer The skin on his face is so pale it‘s almost a whisper. So thin, so close to his skull. Sometimes I wish he would eat more so he would seem more real, more solid. Sometimes his skin makes me cry. He doesn‘t understand this. He says he doesn‘t want to be fat. I say he doesn‘t need to be fat, just not so … imperceptible. He tells me I‘m silly and we fight. Fight, then fuck, and I lick his blue skin, trace his outline with my tongue, adding form, pinning him down. You‘ll float away one day, I say. I‘ll open a window and you‘ll just drift away like an unanswered wish. Keep the windows shut, he tells me. There is a furious vein on his forehead, the colour of being alive. I like to watch it when he sleeps, like to see it keep time like an agitated metronome. I hated it at first; it appeared to have a life of its own, not a part of him at all but something
attached, clinging. But now it comforts me. I like to count the beats when I canâ€˜t sleep. When he showers the water kisses his body and I feel jealous. He brought me a pomegranate back from the market. I cut it open and it bled onto the table like an offering; a small death. Inside, dense, packed, worlds within worlds within worlds. We ate it together, picking out the arils one by one, then feeding each other, getting drunk on the fruitâ€˜s musky taste and our desire. I kept the seeds we rolled around our mouths and will plant them in the garden come spring. If he is here, we will plant them together, bury them in rich silky loam like a secret.
Lucy Palmer is originally from England but now lives in California with her husband and two children. She has a BA Honours degree in English and Music from Oxford Brookes University.
Untitled By C.M. Keehl
I. Frailty of mortality isn't what to seek/ isn't what to wish / to recount when reality is left scrambling in depths of your clothes trying to predict what you'll need; if anything at all.
II. 6 hours later & finally I was aware your wearable truth left leaking spinal fluid & fragments/ swollen eyes, a craggy nose the broken pieces spoke penumbras in tangible timelines; told the story that took creator of aesthetics & filled its sight
with envoys of procedures that looked inside from a once mouth—unburied red— blood from your head—telling of damage/ from violence from a was that should have not been you.
III. Pfiesteria & numb lips/ you can't remember, but that you turned your head/ to smell disaster that left you tangled in timelessness/ in hours / in surgery connecting IVs to life to death & back again. IV. Bed side I sat ghost sat sacred mumblings that exorcises mouths, that keeps me moving to faith-be-reals that hovered bedside vigils.
I was there. No doubt/ no gangs/ this crippling violence could pray me away. I was there even when you weren‘t.
C.M. Keehl is a writer, dreamer & destroyer that feels everything at once. She is the poetry editor at Dirty Chai Magazine. Her work has been published & forthcoming in: Great American Lit Mag, Trans Lit Mag, Electric Cereal, Reality Beach & Pigeon Holes Mag. She tweets about her amazing dog, Carver, @colleenmkeehl
Two Prose Poems by Joanna Drake
Between Silences Between silences I could hear the steady thump-thump of your beating heart; its inner chambers working to sustain life no matter how frail the body or brittle the bone. You would fill that space with eyes that pleaded, that wept, eyes that searched for escape or recognition. Between silences I created worlds for you, recounted all the lives you had lived. Those rheumy eyes once peered through the lens of a microscope watching life divide itself into a dozen different miracles. Those searching eyes often sought a dance partner on wood-paneled floors ready to dance the Charleston. Between silences, as you lay in a too-white room that smelled of formaldehyde and false hope, you saved the last dance for him.
Aokighara (Sea of Trees) It is a forest like any other. Light falls lazy between heaven-reaching cypress and cedar. Brown limbs gather, beaded with perspiration, roped together in whispered chorus. Hidden in the volcanic underbelly of Japanâ€˜s holy mountain, resting amid cool earth and smooth stone, swaying softly in needled pine is Motherâ€˜s sweet symphony. anguish and regret wrapped in midnight kimono blossom in the breeze
Joanna Drake is a recently hatched poet from Austin, TX who stumbled into poetry through good fortune and great coffee. She finds inspiration and the stuff of life rooted in poems written by her blue-eyed contemporaries. She hopes to apply for MFA programs this coming December, loves to laugh, and enjoys drinking poetry with her morning coffee. She has been previously published in Austin Community College's literary journal Rio Review. This is her first online publication.
Attached By Rebecca Dutsar Out of all the boys that liked to swarm around you, asking you for coffee, you chose him. He sat in his room and played the most beautiful songs on his guitar thinking that nobody would listen. He had given you tea before, blankets, even, but this time he held your left hand as you drank it, right hand clutching the mug. People were talking behind you but you didnâ€˜t notice. On the night you decided to make love for the first time, you were nervous. You didnâ€˜t want to get attached, not when you both swore over and over again that love
was something that didn‘t exist, but deep inside you knew it did. ―But you already are,‖ he would say. ―You bring me doughnuts every Sunday. That says it all." He knew you were too scared to bring up the romance you felt lurking in the way your hands grazed over each other. Of course he knew, but made sure it was all okay, even seconds before as he knelt above you, waiting for the nod. "I‘m sorry, I‘m sorry, I‘m sorry.‖ His words came in waves with the pulse of his body. You kissed him. He said it again. ―I‘m so sorry.‖ You couldn‘t understand why he would apologize for drowning you with this affection. It was his first time. You were his first. He considered it a gift. He laid back and motioned for you to come over. ―Come closer,‖ he would always say. ―I‘ll keep you warm.‖ You rolled into his chest and embraced the sweat on his chest like a comfortable shower. Every memory of all the times you knew you loved him came to mind. Again, he said, ―Come closer, I‘ll keep you warm,‖ and pulled you in tighter. You exhaled. He kept your heart on fire.
Rebecca Dutsar is a 20-year-old from Newtown, CT. Currently, she is a junior at Ithaca College where she is majoring in Writing. She is the Editor--in-Chief of a campus wide publication, The Mirror Magazine. She enjoys drinking tea while begging her friends to send her writing prompts. Find her on Twitter @beccsdutsar.
Two Prose Poems by Sarah Frances Moran
I’m Not a Child Anymore Let‘s discuss the appeal of tents made of Ninja Turtle Sheets. How when you‘re 16 you long for those things but ignore them because they aren‘t cool. Like how a guitar riff is cool but not that guitar riff, because it‘s too old and who is that guy with the long frizzy hair and who is this weird witchy woman with a voice that buzzes? They aren‘t cool. But I longed for sheet tent forts—for blasting Gold Dust Woman so loud the pitbull would howl. For writing reports on what drugs exactly Stevie was taking that made the whole class look at me with a level of suspicion I hadn‘t yet experienced. For the complexity and dual simplicity of those minor moments. Of small hopes and larger hurts. Of admiration that morphed into desire.
Wondering if her golden hair smelled like my momma‘s Pantene Pro-V. Wondering if the average sixteen year old had crushes on women in their forties. Wondering just how long I could endure squinty eyes and slow head shakes side to side. You touch, I have no choice … I have to stay. I had to stay. Oooooh I had to stay.
Junebugs Midnight trips across Galveston Bay. Saltwater lips and darkness. Exhaust fumes and cackled laughter from children wild with the night. We were June bugs on a trip into nothing. Bouncing our bodies off each other in the backseat of a too small Chevy Camaro. Sticking to whatever we saw. Those voyages catalysts for forgetting. A constant leaving behind. They didn‘t harbor the sounds of divorce. The screaming and then the drunk pleading. They only came with the ocean, The dead of night gusts of salt air. The feeling of being free inside the expanse of something more massive than us………… and of resilience. The way our hard outer shells masked the pain we endured. The way we slammed into life, maniacally, got up and kept on going. Like the Junebug …
that never minds the jitters.
Sarah Frances Moran is a writer, editor, animal lover, videogamer, queer Latina. She thinks Chihuahuas should rule the world and prefers their company to people 90% of the time. Her work has most recently been published or is upcoming in Drunk Monkeys, FreezeRay Poetry, Dirty Chai, Crabfat, Rust+Moth, Maudlin House and The Bitchin' Kitsch. She is Editor/Founder of Yellow Chair Review. You may reach her at www.sarahfrancesmoran.com
A Cold Spring By Will Cordeiro Sunrays riddled the snow-mounds, heartless as any gangster. Noon had detonated each vacant crystal. Old sneakers dangled from a tree, their shadows twisted. The river, swollen, dragged off the last dead branches. On its surface a few small clouds (dimpled on its mirror) raced toward the mountains, but the current fled where it always goes: elsewhere. And neither lover ever sent their long, their longing letters.
Will Cordeiro received his MFA and Ph.D. from Cornell University. His work appears or is forthcoming in BOAAT, Copper Nickel, Cortland Review, Crab Orchard Review, CutBank Online, DIAGRAM, Drunken Boat, Fourteen Hills, Harpur Palate, New Madrid, Phoebe, Sentence, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere (but not, as of yet, in elsewhere). He is grateful for a scholarship from Sewanee Writersâ€&#x; Conference and a Truman Capote Writerâ€&#x;s Fellowship as well as residencies from ART 342, Blue Mountain Center, OraLerman Trust, Risley AIR at Cornell University, and Petrified Forest National Park. He lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he is a faculty Member in the Honors Program at Northern Arizona University.
Archives of A Future By Scherezade Siobhan For Greg Bem
x If love as a body peeling its rind of bandages, then us browsing digital boutiques for fuchsia bondage ropes the colour of coral vipers. If the sloe-pupil of your camera as our handsome voyeur, then your hand on my neck, my leg on your shoulderâ€”each act as an acrobat for the trapezes of a less than domestic desire. We follow the bridge of breadcrumbs. Whole-wheat for Hansel and Gretel. We curl like circus animals. Our tails slimly licking the golden hoops of a deepthroated fire. You, flĂ˘neur. I, machinist. Together the metallic linger of mornings cusped on deboning knives & the odor of gasoline rising from the floorboards. You are practiced in prying meto an again unfathomed trench as if drilling for oil wells
in the heart of the Atlantic. We have diagrammed the debauchery. We have discussed the osmosis. I have shown you its where and water. Your hands reaching into my chest are twin snow leopards cleaning their teeth on deer marrow. Or the Ivy trellis of a church terrace. Or the gutter opium basement of a sweatshop. The borderland between perdition and the pleasure seeker. If love then nudge, merciless, mercenary pointing the riot to his bayonet‘s tip. If love then your card game tucked in my garter: the electronic kismet of hold the moan. Holed in halls the hull of humpbacked whales. Claws praised into a cocked gun. Kefir the colour of cum splatter growing in flesh satchels of Russian aristocracy. Rime & orifice; a string of pearls, amber liquor & the dust of angels coating the argot. You are drowsy. I am drowning. x You hate Tuscany. You think it resembles the frozen blood of an open wound left to mourn in snow. Even though it is your yellow-blaze, your sunflowered earlobe, your egg yolk canvas of Van Gogh. The table fan is stammering a feverish dialect across all its three tongues. Your body is a lyric for the loss we won‘t ever name. This here is the rented kitchen‘s granite riddled in zucchini skin mimicking the imprint of water snakes, a slab speckled in fish scales, unwrapped Hershey‘s kisses the same size as my nipples. This is your hand melting its raw butter between my breasts. This is between gutted and gluttony. A dinner menu & DMT. A freshly minted pornographer of kaleidoscopic sleep.
x We become what we borrow. A cat named Figaro pawing Indian gooseberry on the tin roof.My delta of Venus. Your bracken Equator. An astronomy of birthmarks and battle scars. A God who drinks from the clayen bowls of his concubine‘s terra cotta breasts. Altars of thuya. Puppet bones in mossy wells. Headless dolls buried under park benches. The faint teardrop of blood blotted on the bulge in your corduroy. I want an exhibition of dirty verbs. A lacanian parenthesis. A sleazy psychoanalysis of glow-in-the-dark handcuffs, bathroom stalls and broken stairwells . A thumbed Polaroid of your need to feed me smoked meat. Our impulse going from acid to ayahuasca. Dropping. Dripping. Drooping. If love then having a body that continuously sings about its silence. Praise for our bladed boundaries. Praise for our blurred bodies.
Scherezade Siobhan is an Indo-Roma writer, psychologist and an interpreter of mirrors. Her work has been published and/or is scheduled to appear in Queenmobs, Fruita Pulp, Cordite Poetry Review, Black and Blue Writing, Winter Tangerine, The Nervous Breakdown, Harpoon Review, DIAGRAM, Wasafiri, Literary Orphans and others. She is the author of “Bone Tongue” (Thought Catalog Books) and “Father, Husband” (Salopress). She is currently polishing her sparkling macabre while writing a noir novel with 15 strangers for tnyPress‟ 16-16 experiment. She can be found squeeing about militant rabbits at twitter.com/zaharaesque and www.viperslang.tumblr.com
Two Prose Poems by Jeff Burt
The L.A. Skyline at Sunrise Haze pink, a Hollywood cerise deeper than a pink flamingo or fandango pink and pinker than coral or salmon-crested cockatoo pink, darker than Persian pink or Persian rose of carpets, darker than raspberry, lighter than cranberry and deeper than watermelon, a cherry blossom pink less subtle than carnations and hung-over fuchsias, the forever amaranths face-lifted and drooping their heads in fatigue, a cotton candy mogul pink, a pig pink and tickle me pink, carmine from the crushed bodies stepped on to succeed.
Tapping the Taut Drum of the Street I switch from left side to right side to backside to stomach, and nothing works. I agitate like a tumbler deburring metals or polishing small quartz, but I remove no stubs or thorns that inject themselves into my sleep. I shift my legs so often I walk
on air, as if a vertical path were between my feet as I lie horizontal on the couch. I put on pants and a coat and walk into the flowing fog, moving inland like a river up streets and earthâ€˜s ravines and depressions. I see the drunken warrior withered to a specter that lurched from a bar at closing time and made it no further than the end of the brick patio where two Serbian refugees served him beer until he sank like a ship, filling, listing, then down with a streak. As I walk past him, I smell the beer and urine on his rags, the smell that separates the men from the boys when they enter the bar. He sputters into the gutter gibberish and mayhem, his red vest tucked into his trousers, his Navy seal of approval around his neck, a once brilliant bird now fallen. He is like a wound in my chest. For this man who seeks but cannot find, browned domes rotting in his mouth, blue veins breaking the pallor of cheeks, I wish for death, for the nothing he seeks, not the eggs and sausage and coffee he will be fed at eight a.m. with a sermon and a prayer, but the death of his private soul that his body public might live. And to wish for his healing is to widen the wound, so I walk when the light of morning is too long in coming and evening's dream of seduction is too far gone, and pass a paramedic signing a cross in the air, a young man between sheets on a stretcher in the vice of final isolation, his perforate arm strewn over his face. I walk to the voice of the gutter, of the hungry, of the given up, to the angry faces of bored men who live dead to the life and love and the gift one greening stem extends. And to walk is to stitch the wound and wait for the mending, to flesh out the bone in a movement of mass (remember the park! the fat lady dances, centrifugal force, but light and lost in centripetal mind). Blessed by the mist that washes my hair, awakened by the smoke from burning cow dung at mushroom stores which sear my nostrils, I am drawn by the craft of a grappling baker and pulled by the city rising. In the plain dull sough of the street passion stirs. And to cure the wound is to kiss it like a child with faith in his lips, and I hear the wooing of a whistling barber early
to open his trade, a mother and child chided by a silver bus with its airbrakes hissing like geese, I hear the faith of roses, roses, roses, the whisper of paper round roses, which men and women buy for whom it does not matter for it is the whisper of paper and the gift of roses. So I run to the second level parking lot waving my arms like divining rods of harmony to lead the forgotten celestial spheres and an orchestra of missing cars. Out of breath, legs like solid iron, lungs like turgid lava, I am healed, and the world I seek to heal remains hurt. A packing plant oozes the aroma of herbs, wind flushes the street, a block of unharvested weeds yields a dark swarm of starlings and one blue bird, a radio tattles a tip on playing the horses. At sixes and sevens, out of plumb, unbalanced, I and the world, a sum of thirteen, not the infinite eight nor heavenly nine, not the beginning and end found in ten, not the luck of eleven nor the even dozen, but sixes and sevens, thirteen, as in the one thing extra in the baker's dozen, as in unlucky at everything but love. So I rest. Non-linear people pour into geometric streets, bistros open and flophouses close, kisses replace daggers and guns, and a paperboy like a demi-god among clouds dodges the cars and dogs, tapping the taut drum of the street, leaping from iron railings, and his legs make a rainbow's arch in the phosphorescent fading fog.
Jeff Burt lives in California with his wife near the Pacific Ocean amid the redwoods. He has published in journals The Nervous Breakdown, The Rain, Party, and Disaster Society, Eclectica and Amarillo Bay, and has work forthcoming in Per Contra, Watershed, and Afterthepause. He was the featured summer issue poet of Clerestory, won the 2011 SuRaa short fiction award, and been nominated for a Best of the Net Award.
Two Prose Poems by Michael Julian Arnett
Saturday 10/10/2015 I wake with a sneeze and shift in my skin. A four year-old girl was shot in her own home by a police officer responding to a 911 call. She had been badly cut by broken glass. The quick-thinking officer felt that the right thing to do was to shoot the family‘s dog because the dog had charged at him but he missed and shot the girl (still bleeding) instead. Whoops! the officer probably exclaimed. Both the girl and the dog were unarmed. I go to the library because there is a book sale there, but all I find are dozens of copies of The Da Vinci Code and The Kite Runner and Angela’s Ashes. I come out into inexhaustible rain. I am only dressed for exhaustible rain. I spend the afternoon in two different book stores, going back and forth, indecisive. The rain comes and goes, gathers, disperses. I‘m wet and hungry and indecisive and hungry.
This morning in Ankara, Turkey 90 people were killed and 246 injured by a bomb blast during a peace rally. Tonight thousands more have assembled in the streets. But for the old couple at the window, two listless waitresses, and myself, the restaurant is empty. I pay the bill and down the dregs of beer and walk outside. The sky is a bruised shade of purple. The streets crouch and contemplate the concept of free will. There is a man playing a piano at the street corner. I give him the $3.78 in change that has been jingling in my pockets for the past eight days.
I’m New Here Settled as a marble sculpture at my desk by the window, soaked in the aluminum glow of a cloudful afternoon, the rest of the room shade by subtle shade getting darker. I didn‘t know the power had been out for four hours, KO‘d by the bluster aroused from the bay.
A procession of wracking gusts elbowing its way through town.
Tourists crouched into themselves, rattling across the street into the sanctuary of the corner antique shop. The tents at the street market under siege all morning. The black sand summoned by the gale stings like granulated sparks on my left cheek. The Olympic fires will revel beyond containment, whipped into frenzy by the wind. The glowing wound on the evening horizon will grow brighter, deeper.
The street vendors relent, pack up their fruit and flowers and go slouching home. My sweatshirt hangs by the hood on the hook on the closet door like a limp, freshly executed ghost. Shall I go to mass or sit staring out the window? Both can be occasions for devotion if the heart concedes to take off its hat and bow. The ebullient clouds still hang over the bay
after yesterday‘s squall. Or was it a gale? I‘m new here.
I should be writing you a letter and sending you books, but if you could see the way the sun smiles on my hand as it rests on the blank lined page you wouldn‘t write to you either.
I keep trying to find your smile in my words but
Tonight I parted my hair differently and ate dinner in front of the mirror, even wore my tweed jacket. I opened the window as open as it could open and invited
the streetlight in. Half a carton of leftover fried rice. Half a bottle of pinot noir in a bag under the bed. I should call my mother but she will just ask me if I have been eating well.
Michael Julian Arnett's work has appeared or is forthcoming in BOAAT, Eunoia Review, Queen Mob's Teahouse, HARK Magazine, The Altar Collective, and tNY's The EEEL.
Homicide, Suicide, Plea By Steve Passey
I don‘t understand suicide. Homicide, yes.
(False bravado now) Who hasn‘t wanted to choke the shit out of someone? Choke them until they plead with their eyes, watch the light go out and they are gone. Holding on to them dead until the sweat pours from our brow. Fuck yeah—Give me some of that. But we don‘t, because rules, you know.
(Real despair now)
A suicide, no, a suicide hides, leaves the world to the false sympathies of people who never knew them. You walk through that door but you can‘t close it so they pretend to know you, to have done something for you. They hold you up like an ad for their own sentimentality. A suicide is owned by people who hadn‘t talked to them in five years. That‘s them, not us.
We can see you forever in the frame. You are not gone like you thought you would be. You were with us with raised hands, at our best when we were winning. You are in there in our breath while we cried close together because we lost. When did losing become something to be ashamed of? You told me that. Don‘t say ―next time‖ and not mean it. So we few who knew you, you own us, there in the door frame where you crossed, where we raised our hands when we won, where we held hands when we lost. Where there is always we.
Steve Passey is from Southern Alberta. His fiction has appeared in Canada, the USA and the UK in such as Minor Literature[s], Big Pulp, and Existere Journal. If accepted, this would be his first published poem. Tweet to him @CanadianCoyote1
Now and Then By Deborah Guzzi The attic wants all loved things to come to it and remain. The timber expands in the heat, clamps closed in winter‘s cold. An evergreen branch, nailed into the rafters in nineteen twenty-eight, and the floor boards of King‘s Pine recollect the perfume of new cedar shingles mixing with the Old Spice on Grandfather‘s square Protestant chin. His old flannel shirt remains, doing worthwhile work even now, stuffed between the crumbling brick chimney, catching condensation, guarding the dust covered floor from damp.
Field mice skitter through plaster lath: yellowed news clippings
The attic has quite a view, of harrowed fields of rye, of the grandson‘s log cabin. The small six-over-one panes, on either end, toss daylight and breeze south to north. So much laughter has risen from the south-side porch, up, up, to the Dutch colonial‘s peak. In the evening, the bats fly from beneath forest-green shutters to meet the fireflies; in the wood outback, coyote‘s howl.
window glass rattles in a northeaster: the smell of chowder I‘ve tried to be a good caretaker to cherish all, from stonewalled cellar to gabled roof, but the attic has always called me. This treasure holder now enshrines my memories with old scrapbooks, Star Wars toys, and crocheted wedding quilts. What will it hold a century from now? Only the evergreen branch will know or the eight-armed, clothes drying, wrack remaining from the past owners squirreled away between the true two-by-four stud walls.
Deborah Guzzi is a healing facilitator. Her new book The Hurricane is available now through Prolific Press. Her poetry appears in Magazines: Existere - Journal of Arts and Literature in Canada, Tincture in Australia, Cha: Asian Literary Review, Hong Kong, China, Eunoia in Singapore, Latchkey Tales in New Zealand, Vine Leaves Literary Journal in Greece, RedLeaf Poetry, India and Travel by the Book, Ribbons: Tanka Society of America Journal, Sounding Review, Kyso Flash, The Aurorean, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, Liquid Imagination, The Tishman Review, Page & Spine and others in the USA.
Second Year Malaise By Josette Torres
I am sick of my voice. My teaching self talks too much. I use the grip tape wrapped around the red rails at the top of my spiral staircase to mark the boundary where I can speak my grievances. I use the street outside to mark the boundary of where I can't speak anything. On the evening commute, the phrase I miss you so much sticks in my throat to the point where I nearly fall into a puddle of drunk undergraduates climbing their own staircases. I am a wall I must climb, Michael McDermott sang on WXRT several lifetimes ago. I sing about how I admire silence under my breath as I walk. I was laughing when it hit me in the face. I laugh when I type I swear to God I will cut off her fucking hands because it won't ever happen. I think about real world applications of network architecture. I think about routing tables. I wish my bachelor's degree was in computer technology
instead of creative writing. I solve every problem by locking myself into an empty room and whipping out a laptop. I find myself impatient with small talk. I time arrivals and departures. I have an afternoon meeting flashback so disturbing I almost walk out of workshop. I tell a former co-worker about this via instant messenger and he sends me a webcomic in response. Webcomics are still not funny. A friend goes to the hospital and I tell her I think about you every day and Don't go to graduate school even though we've never met. I am not a liar to her. I think of her each time I walk the American Literature stacks. I think of her every time I pass my neglected copy of Sylvia Plath's journals. I think of her when I finish my daily self-care ritual of drinking until I spit flames and sobbing. I would give my voice to her if it would help. I am sick of my voice.
Josette Torres received her MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Tech. She also holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from Purdue University. Her work has previously appeared in HYGIENE, Ayris, The New Verse News, 16 Blocks, and elsewhere. She is currently a doctoral student in cultural thought in Virginia Tech's ASPECT Program.
Two Prose Poems by Elijah Matthew Tubbs
Pine Two brothers rip through the forest tripping over tree root, bramble and broken branches. They slip on the fallen leaves, their gaiety glows gold. Pine needles stick to the soles of their shoes, wedge themselves between the crevices while thicket scratches at their calves trying to hold them still—warning the boys, threatening. It is night and their only guide is the white of sunlight reflected off the moon. The brothers frivolous; a light push and pull as they trudge through the soil. They blindly head to a cliff nearby and the fire of their campsite can be seen the opposite direction.
A dark wind blows by Moonlight’s rays shine upon us Ash becomes earth soil
Nimbus Dusk soon approaches, and after dinner, I go out for my second walk today to get fresh air and clear my head of this day‘s prior complications. Rain clouds accumulate in the sky—massive, dark, heavy-looking masses drop droplets of rain onto my head, the water travels down the strands of my hair to my chin. The rain spots and speckles the cement a quail‘s egg. First gentle and altogether pleasant, then suddenly, as if all the complexities of everyone‘s day‘s manifested themselves into the nimbus, the drops become more abundant, violent even. I put my coat
above my head and continue down the street, which glistens under the streetlights. This is stunning and strange, like a dream I‘d want to last forever. It never rains in Phoenix, Arizona.
My co-worker, Slim—no one in the office knows his real name, offed himself today in his cubicle with the staple gun. The company is trying to keep it out of the public eye. Things like that can hurt a business. On this walk was the first time I‘d thought of you in over a month. Shadows get twisted and warped in the rain, especially when the light from the streetlamps refract in the puddles near a house or fire hydrant. The constant movement of the rainfall and myself make the shadows appear as if they are breathing, speaking to me. I keep my head down and look the other way. I pretend not to listen. The rain batters my skin like a thousand tiny dull needles, reddening but never breaking skin—clean my pores, rid my outer layers of whatever aura has been surrounding me this day. The lenses of my glasses are too blotched with water and smudged from my fingers wiping off the wet to see through them. I take them off; store them in the damp inner pocket of my coat. Everything is like looking through the eyepiece of a camera out-of-focus. New perspectives give birth to new thoughts, it‘s like seeing through someone else‘s eyes, I think— I didn‘t cry at first, when Slim did what he did. But after seeing Deborah and Pat spilling tears from their eye‘s like bathtubs overflowing I cried too. I‘m still unsure whether it was for Slim and his family, Deborah and Pat‘s tears, or us. Rivers run through the streets and cars move at twenty-five miles per hour in a forty-five zone. I give quick waves to the passing lights as I walk, there‘s few, sometimes I pretend one is you and you notice me. I‘m unsure about how late it is but the moon is high above the clouds, hanging there, piercing the clouds with
white reminding everything awake that things will be alright after the storm subsides; that it is the constant, the familiar, not the storm. Follow me, it says.
You came unto me in the bathtub, with such fervor I thought those feelings would‘ve never ended for you. I moved up and down your spine‘s currents with the tips of my fingers—a riverboat fisherman who‘s just hooked the biggest catch of his life. I casted my line into your waters, cupped your breasts with my palms, touched all of you, the reel spun and spun, you touched me back, tugged me further down the river away from home. I followed it and followed it until you finally snapped my line and swam away after I said us, leaving me, floating. Slim wasn‘t my friend, or even an acquaintance really. I‘m just the janitor in the building. I hunch my back, pull my coat tight around myself and push through these winds counting the cracks in the sidewalk as I walk over them. My skin numb now, feeling as if it is melting off my body, my eyes like they‘re about to drop from my skull, stinging. I am walking on sponges. Nothing but those shadows and me stir in the storm now. I sit at the curb on the corner of Fifth and Roosevelt in front of a closed café and let the remainder of the storm, like you, pass over me as winter does through one‘s bones when that first dry cold engulfs an entire city in it.
Elijah Matthew Tubbs is a writer living in Tempe, Arizona. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart prize and can be found in print and among the web. He is co-founder of ELKE "a little journal" www.elkejournal.com and is poetry editor for Superstition Review.
Two Prose Poems by Hermine Robinson
The House is Sad It shudders and sighs, exhausted by the wind that blows out of the west. The front door creaks with each load that goes out to the moving truck and empty rooms cry with the stark bleakness of their loss. This place will no longer be the anchor that brings our family together and binds us with gentle tethers of memory. Everything has been collected and stowed away into boxes and bags and trunks. With each room emptied, the dings and dents of life etched in its walls are laid bare, no longer hidden behind the bandages of family photos and furniture. The crime of horseplay is exposed when the dimple of someone's knee, hastily covered up by moving the couch, is discovered in the wall of the family room. We all point at each other, ―It was your fault.‖ Everywhere, scuffed doors and floors proclaim a family raised, a job well done. Memory sits for a while on the porch, and swings gently on the seat that hangs perilously on rusted chains, no longer able to support the weight of young lovers who cuddle together and dream of tomorrow. Time and circumstance dictate that we move on and fit our lives into new boxes—lovely boxes without
drafts or sagging floors—where every door is square and proud in its frame and the roof stands impervious to snow or rain. We comfort ourselves with the notion that our new homes, scattered like seeds, will grow their own memories in a bounty of multiplicity. Walls, floors and ceilings echo the footfalls of our family making one last round to check that nothing was missed. The house knows what it will miss. No more joyful noise as Momma sings ―Happy Birthday‖ out of tune. No more squeals of delight on Christmas morning. It clings to ghosts and memories. We say our last goodbyes and the house answers with groans of shrinking wood and the melancholy tune of wind whistling across the chimney. Farewell.
Nothing Changes A big fat balloon of resentment drives Mary and Walter to opposite ends of the couch before Mary finally transitions to her rocker and Walter escapes to the kitchen table where he shakes the evening paper with unnecessary vigour while he reads the daily news, although the crackle and snap of agitated newsprint is no match for the staccato click-clack of Mary's needles knitting up a storm, and neither Walter's pursuit of world events nor Mary's devotion to the endless scarf can compete with the malignant growth of silent discontent pushing them apart like an invisible wedge being pounded in by the tick-tock passage of time, thus marking yet another day in which the two of them have nothing left to say to each other—not even goodbye.
Hermine Robinson lives in Alberta, Canada where winters are long and inspiration is plentiful. She loves all things „short fiction‟ and refuses to be the place where perfectly good stories come to die. Her work has appeared in numerous on-line and print publications, including; FreeFall Magazine, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Every Day Fiction and The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir.
Thank you for reading our March/April issue, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Huge thanks once again to our amazing contributorsâ€”you guys rock! From RL, Brenda, and Dinoâ€”see you next time!