a flock of spandex cyclists take the unexpecting road like fighter jets
a blunt contrast to the rickety wheeled meth head
twitching towards them
cars oink by
quaking over that too thin white line
quivering to devour them all
because this road
been on a bender
cars can barely hang on
as it jokes and chokes the hillside
with corn stalking the banks
wishing it was a river or the seaside in summer
just at the right time of day
when the sun and the moon shine down together like a cross-eyed girl
stuck in the warm fluffed bed
wreathed by domesticats and dogs snoring
made a sandwich of myself
I will live off the stored fat
until there is nothing but crumbs
the purrrrr of the skin and bone feline
king of the mountain
syncopates with the rumble of cars
patting down the street
rat a tat tapping my windows
unopened books and a revolver on the nightstand
not enough blanket to cover my cold feet
I thought I heard you in the kitchen
running water dirty feet
saw the tip of a head above the door behind me
reflection of someone riding a bike in the hall mirror
must be the ghost you insisted we had
dog toys rolling uphill
the cat staring down the corner
but where are you now
maybe you just could see the future
so who is haunting who…
running each other over every day
sandwiched like a mack truck
maybe we made it
no death comes early for the poor man
with a wink and a nudge
and vultures don’t give a shit
we pass yawns back and forth
almost as intimate as french kisses on the porch swing
catching whiffs of nostalgia
needling into that summer dress
and I was such a good girl
sit lay roll over
it’ll be over soon
so lily livered
swallowing poppies like candy
staining the grass with her perennial gardens
glads winking at her nose
changing her diaphanous mind
quicker than a soiled diaper
a little too late for the wrist cut roses
trickling warm and salty over her cuticles
telling her to replant before someone else does
Marcella Benton lives in Lakeland, Florida, with her husband and pets. She and her husband own and operate a screen printing and embroidery company, Whatever Tees.
by Bakhyt Kenzheev
Empty streets, deep gaps beneath the doors.
The autumn world is cool and fleshless.
The forty-year old poplar above my head
still rustles with its tinfoil foliage.
Its owner, by next summer, is bound
to saw it down—so it doesn’t block the sun,
so it doesn’t rustle, doesn’t sing above me,
doesn’t wreck the pavement with its roots,
and you can’t breathe deep enough—but want to—
of even the September bitterness, the final feeble sun…
by Anna Akhmatova
I was raised in checkered silence,
in the chilly nursery of the young century.
The voice of man was harsh−
it was the wind whose words were dearest to me.
I cherished burdocks and nettles−
most of all the silver willow.
And, gratefully, it lived
with me all my life, its weeping branches
fanning my insomnia with dreams.
−Strangely−I outlived it.
Out there a stump stands, and other willows
speak with foreign voices
beneath our skies.
And I am silent…as though a brother has died.
by Andrei Voznesensky
Someone is beating a woman
in a car so hot and dark
only the whites of her eyes shine.
Her feet batter the roof
like berserk searchlight beams.
Someone is beating a woman.
The way that slaves are beaten.
she yanks open the door and drops
onto the road.
Someone races towards her,
flogs her, drags her
face down in the stinging nettles…
Scumbag, how deliberately he beats her,
Stilyaga, bastard, tough guy,
his dashing shoes, as slender as a flatiron,
stabbing into her ribs.
Such are the pleasures of rebel soldiers,
the delights of peasants…
Somewhere, stamping under moonlit grasses,
someone is beating a woman.
Someone is beating a woman.
Century on century, no end in sight.
It’s the young that suffer this. Somberly
our wedding bells stir up alarm.
Someone is beating a woman.
And what is with the blazing welts?
That’s life, you say—how so?—
someone is beatin a woman.
But her light is steadfast,
death-defying and divine.
She lays there placid like a lake,
her eyes tear-swollen,
yet still, she doesn’t belong to him
any more than the stars to the sky.
And the stars? They’re pounding
like raindrops on black glass.
her grief-fevered forehead.
by Miguel Hernandez
The cemetery lies close
where you and I are sleeping
among blue prickly pears,
blue ancient-plants and children
screaming full of life
if a dead body darkens the road.
From here to the cemetery everything
is blue golden crystal clear.
Four steps and the dead.
Four steps and the living.
Crystal clear blue and golden,
my son, out there, seems far away.
Domenic James Scopa is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. His work was selected in a contest hosted by Missouri State University Press to be included in their anthology Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, volume 3. He is a student of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Program, where he studies poetry and translation. He is also a staff writer for the literary journal Verse-Virtual, a book reviewer for Misfit Magazine, and a professor of literature at Changing Lives Through Literature. His poetry and translations have been featured in Reunion: the Dallas Review, here/there: poetry, Touchstone Magazine, The Bayou Review, Three and a Half Point 9, The Mas Tequila Review, Coe Review, Cardinal Sins, Boston Thought, Howl, Misfit Magazine, Poetry Pacific, Untitled with Passengers, Gravel, Crack the Spine, Stone Highway Review, Apeiron Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Literature Today, Tell Us a Story, Verse-Virtual, Malpais Review, Les Amuses-Bouches, Shout Out UK, Fuck Art, Let’s Dance, Sediments, Birds We Piled Loosely, and Empty Sink Publishing.
after Richard Aldington
Ice encased the rosebushes—
The frozen flowers’ colors
Like fluorescent fish
In cloudy water.
The elk at the water’s edge,
Massive and horned and red,
Look back at the towering limestone
Adorned with lodgepole pines.
The highest of the green needles,
We think, seem to scratch
The azure sky. To this mountain
Of green and grey, the elk are like
Red sparks from a distant fire.
And we are even smaller—like
White specks floating in a cave
Filled with water.
Seeing you there—blue on blue—
Your feet in the warm Adriatic
Is the licking of a pleasure-tongue
Inside my sleepy head.
The merry completion of anticipation is
An empire of catkins sending
Dreaming gleaming grains
Across tender fields.
Fears from the past, at last, vanish
Like a swirl of angry blackbirds:
All that remains of self-loathing
Can fit inside a pyx.
The thinking of strange thoughts, and with a loss of words:
Faint shapes in a faded tapestry, on fire.
The darkness deflected merely by candlelight.
The scent of satiety. On a table,
The cool wetness of empty shellfish,
Bread crumbs, the remains of asparagus,
Two punch bowls of chardonnay.
In the background, a melodic web
Of Otis Redding. Close your eyes,
My dear, and you become Otis, singing.
To a child of winter, the cattails of heat.
To a child of summer, a barrage of ice.
To a child of fall, a pint of pollen.
To a child of spring, a cup of colored leaves.
The rain falls round the patio
In clear lines ending in clear starbursts.
Here is a crystal architecture
Where what is built was never fully designed,
Where what is designed can never be built.
The sun perches
On creamy clouds. The day
Through the oaks makes
An adagio. There’s the
Happiness of honeysuckle.
There’s mint. Birds skip about
And thoughts coalesce.
The mind drifts
On the eyes’ sea until
There’s a soft rupture:
Light yellow bleeds through
Fluffy white, pale blue
Descends on green leaves,
Everything moves more,
Moves more in a sudden breeze.
In my eyes and
Through the breeze
A woman stirs
On a green knoll, her flesh
Fusing with a shower
Of shadows sprayed onto
The ground by the oaks.
Her hair dances round her.
I can see
The amber of her eyes
When she stares back.
It’s a subtle refinement of nature,
The ability to shift, to sway,
To change eternally, to tower above
The mind and eyes, only to shrink
Into grains of thought.
And this new woman,
In the wind and sun-play,
Like the land itself,
Shifts and sways too.
As do I.
We each adopt the attributes
Cast upon us by the other. We each
Consent to the other’s vision.
If joined as one
We’d be a kaleidoscope revealing
A thousand moving shapes
Through a single lens.
after John Ashbery
A Melanesian girl, in Sami clothing,
On the road to Dushanbe? The glissandi
Of birdsongs, how they’re draped in carmine?
Lake Louise? Or this striving
Towards something? Something
Arcane? Though we plead
To know it and clarity too? Will no one
Envisage the different visions
We have envisaged? Perhaps
They will. But it’s all been shattered
Like a fish bowl striking wooden floors,
The wooden shelving having collapsed.
So what? Will an empire of palm leaves
Still fill the vision of she who sees?
Kjell Nykvist was born in Kalmar, Småland, Sweden, but grew up in Butte, Montana. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Museum Studies from Baylor University. Kjell is currently a museum curator in Houston, Texas. He recently married his long-time love, Inga Stefánsdóttir, who is a harpsichordist. Kjell’s work has appeared in such publications as Poetry Super Highway, La Noria Literary Journal, The Deronda Review, and Asinine Poetry, as well as in several American and Canadian anthologies. (Kjell Nykvist is a heteronym of Bryan Damien Nichols, who writes his poetry through Kjell, and another heteronym, Alexander Shacklebury. Kjell and Alexander’s debut collection of poems, Whispers From Within, will be published later this year by Sarah Book Publishing, a small, independent Texas press.)
If the ocean was
full of flowers,
how long would it
take for them to wilt?
How long before petals became chips?
Natural with sea salt.
And would they look
When you bite a clover flower
and press it between
somehow that blossom
unfolds on the buds
of your tongue.
-no, the flowers
aren’t bouquets or
accordions but carousels like
sticky fingers, maybe?
But the ocean is full of them and so
is your mouth-
your lips spit pollen;
there is no ark to
Your head is a buoy,
stems, sepals, petals, seeds.
Close your mouth
I told you I’m allergic to pollen.
hand me that leaf
we rescued last fall
to press between the p’s
it paled anyways
like a dry wrist
all we have are the photographs
of our fingers
dusty with chlorophyll
It’s hurricane season
-so sue me for
boarding up my windows
you didn’t tell me you would
be here throwing
Josey Parker is a frazzled student and coffee enthusiast who somehow finds time to write copious amounts of poetry and flash fiction. Her work has previously appeared in the Claremont Review. Although she is an author, she is not in fact, dead.
scaled for living
presses against a zero-degree sky,
the day’s beginning light
opening like a book.
The morning so frozen
will not allow the gibbous moon
hovering over still-waiting lamplights,
all their nightly duty done.
And I: supine across the linens
before this scene
as in a Rousseau tableau,
lying like a cut-out
in my own jungle,
each part outlined clearly
like the white snow-capped roofs
against the icy blue horizon.
I think that you will edge me off the canvas
and paste me to the section
where you live.
honoring Pete Seeger
We’ve assumed you
beyond your natural shifts and turns,
morphing historical perspective,
birthing ourselves into your river grace,
iron and metal bridged
across your girth,
wave against will.
Adaptable in a marketable world,
your iconic flow
your pristine nature filled
with natives and intruders,
the lush natural and
the burden of the built,
from ambitious towers
to towering trees
to the tread of silence
near old wilderness.
You begin at the north,
and push your power south,
delivering in a democracy of spirit,
challenged, fierce then passive,
history glinting off your journeys,
truth remaining in your depths,
powering through the harbor,
your own story
obscured by ours.
An early April day, arms full of grocery bags,
frost in the air not yet done,
I walked toward the house, stopped,
shocked by the sudden sight,
their gleaming bodies
laid out across rocks rimming the fountain
like civil war soldiers
waiting to be recognized and buried.
The porch where I sat evenings
watching the small waterfall
leech through rocks,
frothing into a pool rimmed with tiger lilies,
was far from soothing now.
How to know the autumn before
that ice would seal a wet tomb
before those innocents could escape?
A city girl, I couldn’t warn them
of nature’s ways.
Bags fallen at my feet, I spotted him
through our picture window,
sitting casually, New York Times in hand.
How he loved the crossword puzzle,
its setup of boxes, the clean, neat lines,
the completion of tiny words,
the supposition of victory.
This was complete, too:
death at the end of long years,
memories frozen over with no future,
laid out to view.
He thought those frogs were a warning
but they were only seeking a proper burial,
of what was long deceased.
The truth is
this is a fearful place,
flanked with platitudes,
with magical thinking,
failure drowning in cocktails,
lust laughing in a sophomoric comedy
and smoke curling
the clouded forbidden air.
There’s a lot of leftover
and broken philosophies.
We assent to camouflage,
a whimsical toast,
a sea of well wishing,
the rejuvenation of a spa weekend.
Before the dusk of empty bottles,
pill prompted memories,
a closing door,
we consider praying again,
measures of redemption
kicking us back onto the cross,
always just shy of resurrection.
Karen Corinne Herceg graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University with a B.A. in Literature/Writing. In 2011, she received graduate credits in an advanced writing curriculum with emphasis on editing and revision. She has published in independent, small press publications and has published a book of poetry, Inner Sanctions. As a recipient of New York State grants, Karen has read at various venues, universities and libraries on programs featuring such renowned writers as Pulitzer Prize winner John Ashbery and has studied and read with such well-known poets as David Ignatow and Pulitzer Prize winner Philip Schultz. Publications include Literary Mama, The Furious Gazelle, Immortal Verses, From A Window: Harmony and Inkwell. Her short story, “Knitting In Transit”, was published in Chrysalis Magazine, and she has completed her first full-length novel, Diva! Her current writing projects include a new volume of poems and co-authoring a memoir with award winning music producer Glenn Goodwin. Karen is a featured poet on the Hudson Valley poetry scene. She resides in Orange County, New York.
Visit Karen on Facebook and at her Website: karencorinneherceg.com.
how do we bend the mind
to fit the sound of what is?
what is the tone and notes
of the chords of our dreams?
who asks the questions we
struggle to answer?
when do mind and memory
marry and live happily ever after?
where are we and what are we doing
when they come for us?
why do we vibrate like bees in a glass jar
when we are so alive with love?
Fish will walk on land, and frogs drop from the sky,
zeppelins will explode and rain fire,
newscasters will turn a blind eye to joy,
and meteorologists will forecast non-existent weather patterns.
My sweater is too tight, and my pyjamas don’t fit.
When Archduke Ferdinand starts out in his armored vehicle,
the world, at prayer and unsuspecting, will be caught off guard
and wobble off kilter the rest of its days.
Signals from space will be misinterpreted
as cosmic static and interstellar background noise.
My nose will be elected president
and declare a state of apathetic disenchantment.
Black ants and red ants will form an alliance
that will elevate water cooler small talk to metaphysical
speculation and force governing bodies to take stock
of entomological trends as socio-economic indicators.
Masturbation will become a national sport.
Hand towel stock will skyrocket.
Personal declaration will be denounced as capitalist claptrap.
My undershirts will go in hiding with the Witness Protection Program.
Pensive moments will be outlawed outright.
Last one to leave will be expected to turn out the lights.
Alan C. Reese owns and operates an independent subsidy publishing business, Abecedarian Books, Inc. He is the author of the chapbook Reports from Shadowland. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Smartish Pace, Gargoyle, The Baltimore Sun, Maryland Poetry Review, Potomac Review, Delaware Review, Welter, Grub Street, Attic, Bicycle Review, Danse Macabre, and the Loch Raven Review. He teaches writing at Towson University.
How it is and how it isn’t…
We look for you as if a lost key,
retracing our steps, constructing models,
comparing the right eye to the left.
We employ statistics, the blunt instruments
of guesswork and guesstimates,
and see little harm in chicanery.
Lies can be good for you.
We’re building a better monster,
history airbrushed, the rain holding off,
sin considered an accomplishment.
Now we’re tapping the collective consciousness,
a ready source of gods and archetypes.
We’re instructing you in the art of complacency,
the law on the side of the lawyers.
A hush falls over the Earth
as we prepare our presentation,
including suitable lighting and soothing ambiance.
Even the dead are invited to dine.
Even the living.
You were the Wife of Bath
and I was Claudius Ptolemy.
I was your sixth or seventh husband
and you were my invisible lover, Mrs. Succubus.
We played games in the sack by candlelight.
We crossed deserts.
Some days we didn’t even know each other.
Little wonder I was so confused.
How does one label their experiences
when rampaging Visigoth’s are at the gate?
With biblical floodwaters rising?
In these damnable firestorms?
One minute we’re Bedouins in a Saharan caravan
and the next we’re planting tomatoes back in Omaha.
“Now you see me, now you don’t,”
you cried out from behind a burning mulberry bush.
And I couldn’t have said it any better.
They wanted a volunteer.
I brought them a head on a silver salver.
I pulled your name out of a hat.
I gave them my neighbour’s phone number.
They required donations;
all for a good cause, we were assured.
So I took the loose change out of your pocket,
the gold fillings out of your mouth,
the two pennies reserved for your eyelids.
The gods demand a sacrifice, they insisted.
Of course, we nodded in unison,
jostling for the honour of being first,
taking turns jumping into the bonfire.
Unrestrained in our passion.
Pushcart nominee Bruce McRae is a Canadian musician with over 900 poems published internationally, including Poetry.com, Rattle and The North American Review. His first book, The So-Called Sonnets is available via Silenced Press and Amazon. To see and hear more poems go to ‘BruceMcRaePoetry’ on YouTube.
The thin-lashed girl gets it,
a single spinal chill at every roadkill.
It’s not real, she repeats, picturing
a purple pig balloon that’d careened
through the sky, tangling about its
one dimensional, curly-tailed string
and fell at such high speeds that it hit
a telephone pole line, exploding ham
on either sidewalk. Waiting
and watching for a good laugh,
the kids give her a home and lodge
their popcorn kernels behind her tonsils.
She shoves a finger through her ear
to scratch the roof of her mouth, to
speak again if a loved one has been affected
by mesothelioma, legal compensation is
just around the corner. As children use their
heels to scrape sulphuric tar from the
defrosting water line and then
examine candied teeth with a
knife’s thinnest glittering edge between
waves, sweat beads accumulate on
the girl’s palms like transparent
bowling balls. She holds them out and
notices tremors. Asbestos rains down.
The kids ask her to drink fluids to cure
that dry cough but all the water is
leaving to house fishes in the dictionary.
My aunt trims conversation with the real
estate agent. Mentions he might come back with a better
offer. All I ever wanted was a place to call home.
Deadheading helps the flower grow fuller, stronger, clearing her
throat with chested coughs, aunt takes cuticle
scissors to infected orchid roots hanging from slatted baskets
nailed to the mantle. Rotted tissue flutters mostly
to the wood. Careful to not slice any live stems, she issues
an apology to the dead leaves. My fingertips churn pots of fern
fiber and volcanic stone. I guide her root
before packing the surface with charcoal flakes. Now firmly
planted in the coconut shell, she emits a white
lemon aura. Her silhouette morphs. Purple fragile now, swallows
moisture from the air, and begs me to sacrifice
the bloom. Mindful of keeping her from lying in water,
I pray she’ll have room when fully grown.
But on a molecular level, dryness. No matter
the post-op sweat — her skin, like her emotions,
remains rubbery. To live in a white box shouldn’t cost
this much: a view of the stucco roof, its squares that
protrude from the ceiling to prop up a man in blue
who’s eating a wheat bread and jelly sandwich like
it’s the last meal. Scrubs, a patchwork of used vinyl
wristbands, collect in linoleum basements like fraud.
She drops her pendant cross in a tall glass filled
with denture solution, and hangs a row of teeth
from a silver chain around her neck. Her inability
to inflect certain vowels is as if her lungs occlude
apologies. Like the important things are slipping
away, she asks about the demon men in overalls
sitting at the foot of her bed. It’s hopeful to imagine
she’s talking about the food tray cluttering her toes.
His children’s only solace
is desiccation. I say
sorry, he’s hanging around
in my mind pissing himself.
The doorframe — humor and bloat
are observed by relatives,
I hate their stiff face muscles.
Were you close to him? I’m just
asking how a two hundred
fifty pound man fits in a
small mahogany box. Voice
mail condolences begin
jarring birds from telephone
pole lines. After falling through
a cracked window, their necks thud
against marble countertops.
Chaos is the only true
family history. Home-
made soggy meat loaf leaves blood
streaks along the sink’s steel walls,
but I don’t speak because none
of this can be removed with
bleach. The oven light’s broken,
treats smell guilty. Duct taped glass-
ware fails to keep the juice in,
and cellophane bubbles up
around paper plates holding
stale brownies. I’m wondering
why a blue dog leash would kill
a man. You may be seated.
Lauren Vargas is currently working towards an MFA at Queens University and is a full time writing curriculum-tutor in Southern California. She believes in the power of language and poetry. Her works have previously appeared in ElevenEleven, Ampersand Literary Journal, Chinquapin Literary Journal, and CalibanOnline.
Dear wife, everything is not a relationship:
the pipe below the sink leaking water
is not always an example of neglect changing everything
(old age has a hand in things, too)
this mop hair full of brownish grime
no longer able to clean surface scars
will be renewed with bleach and detergent,
even thick grass tangled into stubbornness
can be tamed with an adequate lawn mower.
Dear wife, friends are sometimes
enough. Enough to carry one day forward
into another. Night is not always a comfort,
yet it can be, and we can fix
this old house, reinvent it to ourselves.
Perhaps then you will be able to understand
thinking and passion do differ,
the full moon has the same beautiful face,
we are still invited to the canopy of the forest.
I nurture the wrong people,
gangrene girls with color scars,
small breasts like the yellow cusps of dandelion.
I have broken so many fights
the count is beyond fingers,
We walk the stone paths of the zookery.
Ivy, oat, barley. Great frogs, green shade,
wood ducks, a rock ledge.
water lilies like thick fish, spotted fish,
striped fish turning delicate hoops.
We eat lunch on stone benches jutting out over water,
a breeze ghosting through spiked grass.
Swifts move through the air like Chinese fighting kites
and there by the fallen tree, an egret,
wings stronger than hunger,
wings stronger than selfishness.
My girls do not see the wood duck, the swift.
They do not see the fish, the large frog.
My girls complain about the walking,
this was a trip to the zoo,
we came to see animals
not Lake Michigan,
not the break wall,
not a rumble of rock blocking waves,
the water green gray blue,
not shells, not algae,
not sand thick with alewives.
I nurture caged girls,
and when the rock dove lands by thrown bread,
I nurture girls who glory in the herring gull’s attack,
a rock dove retreating quickly,
wild wings sparking like fields of lasers.
we had to walk two miles into town,
the wind not the rabid raccoon we feared,
but the gentle new boy who also disliked baseball.
The fields snowbound,
everywhere fairy dust and stars,
the sky a frozen lake, thistle and cottonwood seed.
When we passed the high school, my son said,
“The new windows look nice.”
On the bridge, he pointed to the four deer
buried to their neck,
body heat creating puddles of snow
and the four of them stared at the two of us,
unafraid, unabashed, silent.
When we entered the first store,
removed our heavy scarves
and freed our hair from hoods
hot spiced apple cider awaited us,
and at the second and at the third.
We lingered with people we knew and people we did not,
shared stories of huge snowmen,
angels we drew with our arms
and then a man much older than all of us
entered the bookstore with a large snowball.
“Perfect for packing,” he said,
tossing it out the door,
We could not wait to get home and go cross country skiing.
the entire landscape a stained glass in whites,
tree limbs transformed into liberty roses
and white poppies
I will tell you this and I will tell you this this time
In the register of the person
In the rhythm of the building
In the stepping stones of one handshake to another
In the bathroom of broken concrete and scarred walls, graffiti and cracked windows
Twice the dream came over me like fog
Only more intense
Like thunder with lightning
A crack with fire
A break in the line
I woke crying and uncomfortable.
The terrible thing about writing in the morning is you forget that someone you love can
Or you never knew them before they die
Or the breath you breathe is meaningless because someone you should know is dying.
Then there is nothing left to tell.
Michael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses. His work has appeared in The Café Review, American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review, Poetrysuperhighway.com and others. In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including The Shooting Gallery (Samidat Press, 1987), Poems from the Body Bag (Ommation Press, 1988), A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), What Stone Is (Fractal Edge Press, 2005), I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011) and Firestorm: A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012). He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).
I slept through America on a Greyhound Bus and woke up for cities I know only from 40-year-old films I’d watch on VHS tapes in my grandma’s basement, but there’s miles and miles of track between me and that musky floral plastic wrapped living room couch as thick with dust as these woods are thick with trees and cabins and boys named Washington (I imagine)
Silos round as this planet, green as algae, companies named after oceans now only so much rubble in these soupy towns churning out noodles, and I remember where I am from people are as complicated as telephone wires but here everything is muffled by moss and cars crawl by like giant ants on the freeway, crawling across the horizon as I steam through America
I stare until my vision goes fuzzy and picture Iroquois between the grass, which only lives to grow, whispering the secrets of the soil to me through dirty plate glass windows, the backside of billboards in Baltimore, this town of broken glass and baseball, smoke stacks and advertisements for things gone long before I came
Boxcars stacked like Legos, these homes are shanties, no one lives here, and you’re a million times my senior, Baltimore, but I want to kiss each broken shard of your glass till my bloody lips are a map of your windows, and be as complacent in my own decay
These cities are islands of humanity amidst the trackside wilderness, floating like the gardens of Babylon, industrial relics alight in a sea of leaves and Little League and cherry blossoms every few miles among the parked cars and baggage, among the endless tracks and train cars who alone have seen the edges of America
Land of radio towers, as vast and quiet as the open sky, endless attics and fields of green and a water tower in the distance! Blooming big and blue! A truck depot! And the clouds seem bigger. Buildings standing on three legs with little boys on top blowing kisses to the setting sun, and the boy sitting next to me, fast asleep
We’re almost there, and I can see the border of summer is clouded by rain and floating petals
sneezed into the atmosphere, in front of me like a mirage waving back as we slow down for the Last Stop All Passengers Out.
MEDICAL RELEASE: On 3-11-2004, at approximately 3:45 AM, personnel from the Kings County Emergency Care Center responded to a report of uncontrollable dancing in front of a pharmacy at 4752 Cropsey Avenue. A small crowd had gathered to watch a young woman, possessed with what was posthumously diagnosed as terminal Boogie Fever, dance her life away in the middle of the street. She’d been there for hours, one woman said, performing every Latin American dance in alphabetical order, except for when an elderly gentleman asked to mambo even though she’d only just finished the bomba. She hasn’t said a word, one boy noted, but 27 separate prescriptions have fallen from her coat pocket. Tony can’t stop tapping I think it’s contagious, a lady shrieked, corralling her children away from the scene. Witnesses verify that, in the month of February alone, the ailing female had been seen waltzing in Westchester, cha-chaing in Chinatown, swinging in Sunnyside, Lindy Hopping in Little Neck, and twerking in Tribeca. In Ozone Park, she remained on point for two weeks until her nails peeled up and rats gnawed off her toes. Two pre-med students on Staten Island measured her heart beats with a snare drum and approximated that she spun at the same rate as the world. Construction workers in Throggs Neck observed that neither thunderclaps nor wrecking balls made her miss a beat, and thus theorized she was being rocked by the City itself. It was at 5:32 AM (sunrise, exactly) that she danced herself to death, sporadic fireworks erupting from her ears as she tripped on cement in the middle of a dougie and bled out through her feet. Upon autopsy, no space could be found between the bruises on her calves, and it was discovered her brain had over oxidized on street lights. Her insides were a nasty bloody failure, her ribcage in pieces, her heart in shreds, her mind in shards. The body was too broken to be buried; instead it was cremated. At the exact moment the ashes were released into the Hudson, 36 different FM radio broadcasts across the Tri-state area were interrupted by a whispered:
Oh baby, do you wanna dance?
I. Children in the time of technological revolution,
We are united in our conformity
To the blue paneled man.
We congregate on this combat zone of words,
Of suicide notes, soul-searchers, and virtual love,
To sacrifice our time
In exchange for pixelated satisfaction.
We send our thoughts and feelings out to sea
On emoticon-ships and status updates,
Trusting the world will see
About our wants and whims.
A generation lost online,
Individual personalities somewhat discernable
Between the crotch shots and the Photoshop,
The likes and the favorites,
Not flesh and blood but binary code
And computer innards.
Deleting loneliness by logging in,
The world grows larger
By becoming small enough to understand.
The exponential growth of pixels
The cancerous growth of machines
Our lives morph to fit into computer screens.
Wasting time, crossing space
The fabric of emotion unthreading into shapes.
We are natives to this electronic existence,
Fluent in its language.
We translate our dreams, translate our lives,
And feed them to the void.
II. On all fours,
The night falls back out of our mouths
As the world is filtered into colored light
And the human body decomposes into textured shapes.
Piss and blood and laughter
And that perpetual bassline
All surge and ebb with the beat of our healthy hearts.
Only we appreciate the many tiered flavor
Of a 3AM Mickey D’s cheeseburger,
The perfect smear
Of morning-after eyeliner,
The taste of a night shared with a smoker.
We treasure a day’s quirks
And never look at the bigger picture.
And though the lyrics don’t make sense
We respond to that bassline
Always the bassline
Trying to thrash out the music
Drink out the music
Forget the music,
God is long gone,
Heaven along with him,
And the static electricity in our bodies
Is far greater than any force in hell.
We are draped in shadows
And the night is cheering us on,
The chemicals in what we do so much stronger
Than the chemicals in what we are.
We are animals
Looking for the warmth of a whisper
The warmth of a body
With whom to share a cigarette
With whom to share these sunless hours
With whom to share this long winter.
Because it is cold
And snow is much softer
When there are two bodies in a nest.
Hannah Frishberg is a freelance writer and photographer whose work has previously appeared in the Huffington Post, Gothamist, Narratively, Curbed, Atlas Obscura, and Urban Omnibus, among others. She is a fourth generation Brooklynite and is working on a book about the Gowanus Batcave.
I want this to be easy.
Like blink and we’re there easy
think and it’s done easy
wish and you’re here.
I don’t want the involvement of any effort on my part.
Don’t bring me to the luminescence
bring the luminescence to me.
None of this waiting for a new moon
banging around in the blackness with strangers
keeping kayaks in a line
swinging paddles through the Puerto Rican deep.
They tell us:
put your hands overboard
wiggle your fingers in the water
watch the little creatures crackle to light.
Little dinos, little flagellates.
I imagine a tiny long-tailed brontosaur,
a billion of ‘em, biting my rude huge hand
defanged piranha zygotes
lost in the Caribbean. It’s a long way
from the Amazon, a long way from the Mississippi
a long way from the Mesozoic.
I imagine a shiny long-tailed comet,
just one of ‘em, igniting my rude huge planet
smashing the dinos to bits
soldering speck-sized lights into their dino DNA.
The dinosaurs never died away.
They didn’t evolve into rhinos or birds.
They colonized the Caribbean
turned the Puerto Rican tides into a star show
you can swim in.
I want this to be easy so
I do what I’m told:
put my hand overboard
wiggle my fingers in the water
watch the little creatures
the little comet bedazzled buggers
crackle and roar to light.
I’ve come a long way from the Mississippi
There are no locks. There are only high sand hills
which the woman in the house would not feel safe
without. Whenever the sun shines she thinks it’s a
gift from the gods of defense. The sun turns the sand
to coals the hills to flames and no one can get over
and in without a struggle.
The house has hardly a roof. The floors are flooded
with sand so the woman hears the wind whenever
she steps. She sees trees in the dunes and the horizon
through the trees and the lake below the horizon. She
looks for prowlers on the beach and watches them
drown climbing the dunes.
One day she sees the lake and the horizon congeal
to clouds she thinks or jelled waves. Something
is coming. The clouds are beasts cows like bulls running
to land and women like warriors with white skin wild
hair whale eyes and dark stiff dresses. The horizon
churns brown. The woman in the house runs but
has no chance. The sand on the floor is not meant
for more than a pacing.
A girl in a green dress appears and dances into
a side door. The woman spins her around and steers
her out. This is no time for turning mother. The cows
have jumped the hills. The women ride on their
backs. They surround the house and call the woman
across the sand. They list her looks her eyes like
theirs her skin the same her hair an echo of
the speed that they can run. But her arms move
different waving loose like the women’s
hair and the cows’ tails.
The woman in the house gathers the men around
her the ones she never trusted the ones the hills
kept out before needing their protection. They run
to a room that rises higher than the dunes and higher
than the women astride their beasts. There are open
windows in the room. The men lean out and laugh
and push the woman ahead.
The women on the beasts beat their chests and cry
a word that the woman hears but doesn’t know. She
feels her face sharpening her body rising with a rush
of air and she starts to circle the sand hills. She chases
the men down the dunes to the lake to the beach
ravaged by the cows to the dung pits made by the beasts
while the women take the house and call the woman back
to come land on their hands.
The women stay on. The men never return. The woman
circles the land that used to be her home. She circles
most at sunset while the women watch her fly and
list her looks every time she turns to home. The beasts
prowl the dunes and watch the horizon. They have no
memory of the opposite side they only see
a sun burning the lake.
A smell is not a soul. If only it were
I would have made you my wife
made your scent my mate for life.
We kissed against the wet stone walls
me leaning into you you leaning into stone
your back suffering the jabs of rock
making dents vents for your coconut scent.
Put your arms around me the scent whispered.
Trust me it told me ghosting itself around me
haloing our embrace. But your mouth
your soft speaking mouth your clutching
tongue tasted of need.
It clashed with the cigarettes I’d swallowed
soured the beer I drowned every night.
…And I never could stand the smack
of a woman’s desperation.
When we made it to a bed made our bodies bare
I melted above your smell became a ghost
of a man haloed by your arms your legs
your lips. By the time we were done
your scent made my body soft
my pores opened wide as the wounds
in your back. My drowned man’s
aroma drunk man’s
corona beer sweat
I don’t blame you for being gone before morning.
You never could stand the smack
of a man’s desperation. You left
behind what I was after anyway. Your mouth
your soft clutching tongue your soul
a halo around me.
René Ostberg is a native Chicagoan who still resides in Illinois. She writes a blog with a travel theme called ‘Writing and Wayfaring’. Her writing and photography have been featured at Drunk Monkeys, Literary Orphans, Booma: The Bookmapping Project, Eunoia Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, We Said Go Travel, Rockwell’s Camera Phone, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica blog, among other places. You can read more of her work at reneostberg.wordpress.com.
no hegemonic reserve
no final marker
no one and everyone
spent on the full valley
pulled by the panther into the night
into our night
my night your night the night we fought:
but no matter
the light comes by the day
and the end, being closer,
your face more angry,
the light glowing:
the rest of the end of the world,
the best of the least known chests,
skippered lightly under your blouses
& My mouse houses a world
under my bed
Was it you
who whispered ghosts
into my unrest
all of my past
without my realizing it?
we tilt with the rhythm of the hymn
locked boards seizing
our ship like an animalcule in rain water
spinning underneath the sun.
Robin Wyatt Dunn writes and teaches in Los Angeles. He’s online at robindunn.com
*Previously published in 1947 journal.
One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Below was another tiger. Desperate to save himself, he jumped, grabbed a vine, and dangled over the fatal precipice. As he hung there, two mice, one black and one white, appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine. Suddenly, he noticed a wild strawberry bush. He plucked a strawberry and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious! (traditional Zen story)
The man skids to the cliff’s ledge
After him a tiger
He looks down
Another tiger on the canyon floor
He must jump
Grasps a vine on the way down
Dangles on cliff’s edge
Two mice appear
Gnaw on the vine
Gnaw on the vine with truculence
The man spies a strawberry bush barely within reach
He grabs a strawberry
Tiger-breath bakes his calves
Toes cramp against the ledge
Are his shoes too small?
Wind whips his body
Vine furrows bloody his palm
Thick and sticky
Rotator cuff tears like a tooth yanked with plyers
Legs flail like a noosed man
He feels a tiger-breath chrysalis form around his body
Mice torture and twist
Pained strain for the strawberry
Tongue scrapes rough strawberry ridges
Sweet juice soulburst!
Paws pound the ground like bass drums
Mothers of thunder
His wheezes asthma the forest floor
Toothy pre-crunch requiem
Hand-skin rips like a butcher’s slice
Rotator cuff pops like a firecracker in a beer can
Lips slurp sweet strawberry nectar
Tongue-suck jails the juice
His smile sounds like a smile!
Olfactory offal terror reek
Perfume of prey
Acrid attar of lion-breath
Smell of blood
Torn flesh and vine stink
Aroma of here
Aroma of now!
Sweet saliva syrup
A little tart but in a good way
Palate of calm!
His world lies in a hospital bed
Her face sweaty marble
She’s not going to make it
Every vein pulses
A tsunami of dread
Death after him
Death waiting for him
For us all
Days into nights into days into nights into days
Thick tongue mouth sear
Dangling between panic and despair
Forty years married he
Bends towards her face
The edge of peace
He kisses her lips
1. The Open Window
2. Blue Nude
aren’t they all
3. The Conversation
4. The Painter and His Model
were one and the same
5. Woman with a Hat
spits at Carole Maso
steals her cahier
6. Bathers with a Turtle
he was just a turtle
out for a swim
7. Beasts of the Sea
8. The Music Lesson
slap my fingers again
9. Male Nude
they found water
in his lungs
10. Luxury, Calm, and Desire
set out the juice glass
watch the bees drown
we have time
1. I Mean You
Don’t look around
I’m talkin’ to you
2. How Insensitive
On line all day
Hoping to get offended
3. Alone Together
You thought we were friends
4. A Child Is Born
Every time you open your mouth
5. Come Rain Or Come Shine
You are so predictable
Liver flukes are more interesting
6. Autumn Leaves
Why won’t you
7. Take The A Train
It’s for a-holes
8. Day Dream
Is better than listening to you
9. In A Sentimental Mood
You hated sentimentality
Something no one will ever feel for you
10. How Deep Is The Ocean
Why don’t you jump in and find out?
Our living room in Cheyenne,
fifteen by ten, so large for my
five-year-old body. Two planters
at the far end of the room
filled with ivy and bougainvillea
a jungle where Tarzan protected
Jane and Boy from marauding natives,
lions, tigers, and English missionaries
who threatened with civilization
and school. In my planters
poison darts bounced off Tarzan’s chest
like tiny sticks, the natives falling to their knees
as he beat his breast in triumph.
In my jungle Tarzan tamed lions and
tigers, rode them like a rodeo cowboy;
chased missionaries who ran so fast
their safari hats flew off their heads.
Tarzan, Jane, and Boy used them for soup
bowls on cold nights in the Jungle.
The drums were loud that winter. Tarzan
held up his hand when Jane asked
what they said. It was important
to get it all. The drums said the white man
had made new suns that spread poison
clouds swarming over the land. Did the drums
tell Tarzan about my white count gone crazy,
about Sandy Risha who died of leukemia
when she was twelve; all those kids who fell like ions
out of mushroom clouds? Did he fear for Boy?
Tarzan watched my father wrap me
in a blanket – my ankles swollen again,
my throat sore again. They said I had Romantic
Fever. My dad’s hangover arms held me
to his scratchy face, his hands too unsteady
to shave. “It’ll be alright, Charlesy,” he said,
and carried me through the snow, to the car,
to the hospital, where nurses took my blood
every morning for six months, shoved a thermometer
up my behind every day, made me drink canned OJ,
and wouldn’t let me walk. In my five-year-old mind,
Tarzan waited for me with Jane and Boy
in my planters. He still repelled poison darts
and scared missionaries half to death.
I’d ride a lion through that hospital
one day, needles bouncing off my arms;
thermometers shooting out my butt. I’d scare
those nurses so badly their hats would fall off.
I’d tell Tarzan all about it.
Charles W. Brice is a psychoanalyst and a freelance writer in Pittsburgh, PA. His poetry has appeared in The Atlanta Review, Icon, Xanadu, The Quotable, The Paterson Literary Review, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Spitball, Barbaric Yawp, The Potomac, Shadow Road Quarterly, Wild Violet Magazine, Z-Composition, Arsonzine, Bear River Review, Jerry Jazz Musician, and The Front Weekly. Honors: “Goodbye,” third place, 2012 Literary Life Bookstore Poetry Contest (Robert Fanning, judge); “What She Held – 1966,” Editor’s Choice, 2013 Allen Ginsburg Poetry Contest; “Michigan Icebreaker,” semifinalist, 2013 Bailey-Beads Poetry Contest, University of Pittsburgh. Charles was recently named an International Merit Award winner of the Atlanta Review’s 2015 International Poetry Competition.
The revenue a chat room derives from a duodenum
and a stapled pouch,
a stomach’s subculture of gain, cleanse, loss
in the bypass
gifted to me when I turned nineteen.
The buffets it wrested,
the domain I registered,
all those ethers clamored around a meme,
the social word-shit one types
“like my lap band” “tweet my gout”
streaming on alt-dot haunts.
My searchability full-blown, I’m a phoenix
gone gastric with more boyfriends than you
have optic nerves and that’s Ohio alone.
Mother, I’ve macerated my tract,
the live feed of a chafing dish
less invasive than bariatric.
Father, meet Evan from Ashtabula.
He crowd-funded my flab,
one download from betrothed.
The writer wearing a mercurochrome corset
gives you a picture of half-eaten pie,
you inure a blood phobia,
the transitive inferred.
She sends the angel
with candy-wrapper wings.
The Rapture is a dinner bill, you
are its Andes mint. You jostle a trinity:
the abortion building
next to the Weight Watchers
near the Flapjack Shack,
rev the Z in Nazareth, smite its arcade.
I am the nightmare of every environmentalist
turned conversion therapist
hoping to biodegrade
the gay away.
Woe to the zealot
who’s chained himself
to my landfill, its damnables
poking out of a cardboard pond,
diorama forsaken because I ran out of tape.
tribunals and a tin glade.
My handrail, on eulogy,
saying, “absence of rings kept me
beautiful, self-realization drained him alone.”
Jon Riccio studied viola performance at Oberlin College and the Cleveland Institute of Music. A recent Pushcart nominee, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Paper Nautilus, Qwerty,Redivider, CutBank Online, Waxwing and Switchback, among others. An MFA candidate at the University of Arizona, he resides in Tucson.