Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Freeze Frame

by Bryan Murphy

Joshua is late for the longest night of his life.

The party has long since started by the time he reaches the detached house set back from main road and surrounded by stone walls. Despite their thickness, the walls are crumbling in places. The grounds of the house are darkened by thick trees. They seem to extend a long way behind it. The house itself is a concrete-and-glass construction with no distinguishing features. A heavy iron gate swings open as Joshua presses the bell. He walks up an unlit path toward the well-lit house, from which little noise emerges. The front door is ajar. Joshua goes in. No-one greets him; no-one challenges him.

By the time he reaches the most crowded room, Joshua has summed up the event as staid. The music is muzak; the guests might have been commissioned from a bourgeois Rent-a-Crowd. Joshua finds he can freeze the scene in front of him, to survey its individuals members faster and more closely. As he looks over their still figures, the little finger of his left hand instinctively traces the pattern of a recent scar on his cheek. His practised eye fails to pick out any potential informant, partner or supplier. Then he feels the pressure of a palm on the small of his back, and time restarts.

“So there you are.”

The words resonate first in his brain, then in his ears. The speaker moves round to face him. She is a woman near Joshua’s own age but small, slim, her hair short and black, her eyes dark and evasive, her features indistinct. Joshua knows he has never seen her before. Nevertheless, she takes his hand, her slender fingers enfolding his stubby ones, leads him across the main room and out of it, down a long, wide corridor, through a set of open French windows, across an unkempt lawn, into an orchard heavy with an aroma of persimmon and apples, at the heart of which stands a green-painted wooden gazebo. She pushes open the unlocked door and steers Joshua inside. Oriental rugs cover most of its floor. The air is cool and expectant.

Time clicks forward. Joshua lies on a rug, bare; the woman, the same woman, sits beside him, discarding her own clothing with flowing, languid movements. She turns to him.

“You can call me Ayeesha. I want to tell you about war.”

“I know about war.” Joshua pulls her down to him. “I’ve been telling the world about war for seven years. That’s how I earn my living.”

“It’s time for you to listen.”

He feels the satin texture of her flesh on his, and begins to listen.

She tells him about the long occupation of her distant homeland by people from far-flung islands; the oppression which everyone in the archipelago suffers for long years under a fascist regime only collapses on its own rotten core when its puppet masters discover that democracy is not incompatible with kleptocracy; the oppression and abuse she suffers personally and at length from her own fundamentalist society; her fight to be an individual, to be treated as a person not a chattel; about the tsunami; the slow reconstruction; the fragile peace that emerges and survives after the waves have washed away so much hatred with the bodies; the chance that peace brings for her to flee, to rebuild her life using reason, not handed-down prescriptions; the loneliness, tempered by hope, of her enduring exile. Joshua listens. As their minds and bodies came together, separate and return to each other, searching for ever deeper points of contact and understanding, Joshua drifts in and out of consciousness. The hours multiply.

Dawn comes. The tale of war and its aftermath continues, turning back on itself to garner fuller insight. The woman telling it fingers her long blonde hair as she expounds the details in the same intense, breathy voice that has instilled itself into Joshua’s brain, and made a home there during the night. Joshua is now watching her through the open door of the gazebo. She is squatting on the porch, hugging her knees through a thin sarong, addressing her words to an older couple seated a few feet beyond her, her green eyes fixed on them. The middle-aged man she is speaking to looks familiar to Joshua, although he cannot make him out clearly, the older woman barely at all, for she is partly hidden by the man. Joshua cannot bring her into focus, yet the silhouette of her head, like a child’s sketch, sets his mind trawling for memories he cannot quite bring to the surface. Her companion, his brow knitted in concentration, leans forward, as though to hear better, simultaneously running a finger along a faded scar on his left cheek.

Time fails to stop.

Joshua switches his attention to the story, listening with his mind and his ears, letting the words in the unknown woman’s clear, familiar voice flow into him.


by Alan Zhukovski

laughter shines in the abyss of darkness
fingers on the keyboard
the flowers are lighting my departure
the lake below the hill and above another hill
I will burn my vanity in the pyre of autumnal leaves
covering the water
while the trees in the haze are washing their heads in the river
in its remote and shadowy corners

you can absorb the visions of the shadows
who are sleeping below the bushes
until somebody touches them
who can notice your shadows in the bags of sunlight
they are hidden between the leaves
but the wind can unlock the envelope
and return the shadows to sender


by Jason E. Hodges

The wolves’ teeth are still sharp
A striking contrast from what was shown
The bitter taste of relief pushes us forward
Pushes us all
Like fuel to a piston
Like food for your innermost thoughts
Like everything that propels us to the next level
Like sugar, this drink is the enemy
With its transparent promises, it brings the hollow gift
Not showing its fangs until it’s too late
Raging a war on our bodies and souls
Swarming like bees in the spring
Ever so sweet at first
The nectar will eventually sour
Empty bottles
Empty promises
Empty for all to see

Of Tangles and Winter Light

by Rebecca Gaffron

Since you changed your mind, my hair’s grown long. It falls like tangled, curling ivy. When I pull the wild spirals straight they almost reach the small of my back, like fingers stretching toward the tree you once caressed with a familiarity that belied our experience. And you said we would have years together, that you would spend hours learning every contour of that pattern inked on my pale skin. Those words seemed to come from nowhere, much like our love, as I bent down to put something away in that kitchen that wasn’t a kitchen, while your fingers traced my roots.

It’s difficult to stand there now, as winter light slants through the widows like it did when we lingered together. The weak sun reveals your ghost. Its haunting aches in me sometimes, my own winter garden, filled with emptiness so complete and yet so temporary. I have faith that you are with me. I feel you. I hear your laugher. I see your face, all but hidden by my mass of hair, your hands caught in the tangles, as I lean over to brush your sweet lips with mine. These moments are real. They exist in me, because they still exist in you.

Since you changed your mind your hair’s grown long. It hangs limp around your weathered face. There’s more salt than pepper now, as I pass you on the street and realize it’s not you. Or not the you I know. The one who loves me. The one who explained that he could be content without me. That life would be okay, perhaps good, even in my absence. But only because we loved. And would love. Forever. The other you looks at me with deadened eyes and sees nothing special. He’s lost. And comfortable that way.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hand Me Down

by Chris Butler

Hand me down
to the next one who will have use for me

or at least handle my fragility with care,

but don’t give me
to the younger sibling who’ll wear out this skin.

I’m an only child.


by Aashish Thakur

Peel them, like you are peeling an onion
Cut them, like you are cutting meat
Knead them, like you are kneading a soul
Tears don’t taste sweet…
But happiness lies in pain
Throw garbage in to the cosmos
Because heart cannot take much.

the fall

by walter conley

i had a friend
named tim
who shot up
with his brother
then woke
in a
coachella vineyard

thought the
crosses bearing
stripped-out vines
were rows
of people
eyeing him

scared to move
he stood stock-still
till he couldn’t
hold up
dropped again
back down and gone
a false dawn
paler than he was

The Clean Prostitute

by Amit Parmessur

Nothing’s moving, not even the slightest emotion
And I know it’s not something you lack

Really, there’s nothing moving on that visage
And there aren’t any calls on your dark phone. You are,
For me, one of those golden obelisks from Egypt,
Crying silently near the same bench, again, this evening

Getting more svelte and dazzling
With time in this world’s careless eyes
You’re the city’s most distinguished dais,
A stuffed Eiffel Tower,
One upon which men mount
to win trophies of their own shame; it’s October,

With no roads and no possibility of roads
I know I will not mount your clean mountain
As my Christmas gift of courage is still due
There is no way for me to get up there
For now, and no great means to stay too

You don’t seem not uninhabitable
You don’t have time for emotions
Do you, clean prostitute?

I know something wrong has carried those
Rainbow eyebrows, dispersing onto the British bridge
Of your delicate nose, that golden bun, those lips with a
Bizarre African curl into the tornado of promiscuity

In fact, I need no gift to say I should have loved you
so, when your mobile rings tonight,
you’ll recognize my breath

and something’ll move in you

Were You Ever There? Are You Really Gone?
for Jim Carroll

by Mathew Richard Carter

Recently, I read a poem
about you and wondered why
I am just now finding out
that you had died, it was eerie
to read about you in a past tense,
so I googled you to be certain and
still I was in shock.
I could only envisage
the harsh and tattered
hours you spent
on the fringe
of recollection,
as your future
summits rise
like the oceans–
and true
with those stone-washed
denim eyes of the most
brilliant blue.
I wish
to have known you, to sit
and to speak of times when
life was worth living,
we could lay on rooftops, naked,
and feel the breeze propel the space
between us, we’d watch the air sift out
our smokedust to the Gods of Tomorrow
and everything else beyond
our human comprehension.
And though I am saddened in this hour,
there is slightness of comfort
knowing your voice and your
spirit are now harmonious
and free, even louder
yet inside these poems
I keep reading.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Gatherers

by Jason E. Hodges

The hunter gatherer is a thing of the past
Now some hunt, most will gather
They gather their paychecks
Then gather their groceries
Then comes the landlord to gather the rent
Then comes schools to gather tuition
Then comes the bank to gather the car note
Even the kids gather money for fun
Most all have gone to the gathering game
Letting their wants consume them
Saving has become something of a myth
Like a fairy tale
Like a fleeting thought
The smell of foreclosure has become an incredible stench
Why save when they live for today
This is exactly what the gatherers will say
They say with their actions time after time
All caught up in their gathering grind

Of Despair and Lotus Flowers

by Rebecca Gaffron

We grew, you and I, from different roots. First side by side, then gently touching, until our trunks entangled. We intertwined, slowly grafting to each other. Became a marriage tree. Proud like the very earth, we stood convinced that together was all we could ever be; all the while pounding one another like waves crashing against ageless crags, oblivious to the danger of erosion.

And the year our foundation crumbled felt like Fenrir swallowing the sun. We wept salt-rivers, leaving our fragments awash in mud. Our stars turned black and in despair I said we should be separate and you agreed. So we pruned ruthlessly, trunks and limbs, and following reason, doubted if anything could survive such a drought and darkness as ours. Then separately we turned the remains of our scarred and withered limbs in new directions, hoping to grow again.

Now there is a crimson lotus growing from my skin. I had it inked there just days after you left.

When the blood dried, I found the letters of your name woven into the flower’s curling, jade-green stem. Unintended marks, like some divine message that faith shaken is not the same as faith lost. And without realizing, we have tended each other’s roots, waiting. Knowing without knowing that lotus flowers grow deep in the mud, beyond the sun’s warming beams. Knowing without knowing that one day we would bloom again, bathed in the light of each other.

Woman Wearing Sunglasses

by John Sheirer

There she is--indifferent, saying hello, politeness alone. Her gaze is invisible. She's probably not looking at you. And there you are--two inches tall, a miniature reflection of a small man in place of her eyes.

super hero

by Devin Streur

they sing in the streets
and smoke cigarettes near small children
believe in the moon and in
cathartic pain
they suck comebacks into their
brains and
i always wanted to be a vampire slayer.


by Alison L. Peoples

chameleon character
naïve with wet fingers
that run the gamut of satiable
a single breath
raging like reckless fire
in a blanket of careless whisper
soft is the sway of dark hair
reaching to the wind
off some gentle breeze,
floating my way:
a backward glance,
a juicy smile;
an underestimated impression.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

v. to get on board

by Cameron Mount

Sit back
and let them wash over you
saturate, permeate, simmer
context clues will tend the rest
if only, if only
but I protest: the world was too big
to know what to know
it would come to me, surely
impress itself, naturally
me, standing idly in the center of a tundra
stark, expectant silhouettes in an encircling horizon
well? someone calls
forms, foliage, longings in between
but I have no words for them
their visions are indistinct and sheer
and I see straight through to the faces
make something, be something, embark before it’s gone
cries a voice, behind the mirage of an unknowable infinite
a voice of unsettling conviction
I tell him I’ll try
and I ask for a dictionary.

This, This is an African Moment

by Amit Parmessur

Lighting a crooked cigarette in a bus overfed
with bushed Sunday people. The young conductor
too effeminate to bring back order, with the smoke
stirring silent angry looks.

Sipping some stale
Coca-Cola while being already drunk, with the
body swaying to every whim of a hungry bus driver.

Watching then the tragic landscape
for a bit of elusive escapism.

Feeling too hot, and a bit frustrated
with someone’s beautiful wife sitting just in front.
Trying to swear in a language not resembling the
mother tongue but that of a faraway father’s habit.

Falling asleep after a few drags on the cigarette
that rebels and falls down
after being left alone between stinking fingers
as good as dry ladyfingers without balls.

Being laughed at by neighbors,
by well-dressed and perfumed neighbors
with intentions darker than lethal black ants.

Waking up to have a second drag on a cigarette
that is missing. Starting to
swear heroically, searching for the cigarette that
has rolled into someone else’s temporary territory.

Aggravating the situation by releasing
from the pocket a handful of stolen,
old and bent coins onto the ground, with them rolling
everywhere like the rapid shells of paralyzed tortoises.

The Seamstress

by Len Kuntz

Our bathtub is filled with buttons--
mother of pearl and metal,
plastic pea coat shapes with
embossed anchors,
wooden toggles from Holland,
horn and hemp.

Your hair is a gray dandelion gone to seed.
Your eyes flit like a startled squirrel
and saliva webs your mouth when
you open the door.
“What on earth?”
you ask.

In bed that night
I listen to your coarse breath, your frail bones moaning when you toss and turn.
But we were young once,
and you stitched beautiful things then.
You dressed queens and saints,
men with money.

I slink off the mattress now,
and click on the bathroom light.
As I slide inside the tub
the buttons chatter and gossip,
their color shimmering.

Perhaps you clipped them
because they reminded you of better days,
or maybe you overhead me on the phone.
Either way, I grab handfuls and watch them clatter
across the great heap.

When I look up,
you’re there,
naked but smiling.
You ask, “Is the water warm?” Then,
“Got room for two?”

Earthquake in a Glass House

by A.J. Huffman

He comes
in the darkest hours
of the seventh sun.
Carrying the sweet black candles
that sweep through my soul
like a half-finished dream.
And whispers the softer touches
of a forbidden god
across my lips.

The moonlight frees his hands.
And I am left
with a stone tongue.
And too heavy
to weep
for a broken world.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Little Night Music

by Mike Foldes

Moonlight walks among the shadows
stalking darkness, it’s white cape wrapped tightly
as Mick Jagger’s pants around thin bristles
of tall ash, tips whipping in Agamemnon’s
persistent last breath, a wild heaving from he
who would have none of it now, pacing
the cave floor where cancer spreads
like tundra moss into one of many throats.

You could drop him there like a rabid beast,
hear the music as its body hits the floor,
but misery loves company more than salt
and the butcher would not cut off his right hand.
So climb back into the cab of the truck,
take the mandala in your long red fingers
and listen to the gods sing through nights
of knives in hearts and arrhythmic beats.

Third watch on the conga, lately interrupted
Steps forward to argue with the buried kings.


by Alan Zhukovski

Do you remember me?

When I lit the routine with my tongue,
You said I was not my usual self.

I was trying to catch the rainbow.
But you said: “You haven’t got no job”.

Do you remember me?

When the worlds began to love,
You understood the beauty of my days.

Do you remember me?

Chino in the Dark

by Laila Abdulmalik

Cherry blossoms so pink and powerful
My window view speaks of better days
I smell plain rice being steamed on the stove
A sweet and sticky delight is imagined by my taste buds
Grandma is playing with her friends in the next room over
She is a powerful woman
       and a sore loser
I love this place, but I hate being here
Stuck in a rut in a beautiful paradise
My black hair is falling from the stress
Should I stay or should I go?
I know they would miss me ,
       but am I missing the person who I can become?

We’re All Human
to Pete Ham and Tom Evans in Memoriam

by David S. Pointer

After the first
Badfinger suicide,
I was thinking
about Pete Ham
singing Perfection…
there’s no good
revolution,.. they’ll
be no perfect man…,
and much later a
drug addict’s
drool like sewer
at the nurse’s
crash cart as if
he were fumbling
to safe crack the
hospital’s narcotic
safe back to sanity,
back to Perfection

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Gift

by Len Kuntz

She would hang them on walls and doors
or lean pieces in metal easels,
so many of them that her work space looked disheveled
and cramped but always colorful,
radiating the rich hues of spices
she’d grown as a girl in India.

I laughed when my newlywed wife undid the bow, unwrapped the box.
A single platter?
Her grandmother was rich.
She knew politicians and peacemakers.
“But this is special,” my wife said,
and I laughed a second time.

Once I found the old woman in the garden,
arms outstretched,
fingers feeling for something in the wind.
When I tried to skip by
she said, “Stop, stop right there,”
even though she couldn’t have seen me behind her.
She told me to close my eyes.
“Come on, Come on.”
She said, Do you see it, all the beauty pressed beneath the spaces?
Do you see the things that fly?

My new bride placed the plate
in the kitchen of our first apartment
so that the painted goddess would stare at me if I washed a dish
or poured a glass of water.
Many times I considered breaking it over the faucet,
yet the plate traveled with us,
back and forth through every relocation.

Today we buried my wife’s grandmother.
A village of people attended, more than a thousand,
young and old, famous or not,
all mourning.
While my wife’s on the phone
I take the plate in my hands,
feeling the cool ceramic,
and even though my eyes are squeezed shut,
tears spill free,
watering blue daisy pots,
splashing billowed orange skirts,
pelting the gray-white plumage of geese as they
rise and fly.

The Childless Couple

by Margaret Beaver

The oceans lap lovingly at their feet, gifts of
a white froth; sea birds converse in the distance.

She stands by his side; small transparent fish curl
in the rivulets around their toes.

There is a distance between them the size of a
small child. She is a photograph never taken:

by her absence, a presence. His youth is gone
as the wool from the heel of his socks.

He holds a slight shell to his ear, listening for
the child's voice as if a contained wind.

The sheer sash of the woman, wrapped loosely
about her body, lifts lightly in the air so like

freedom. She opens her mouth, embracing the
ocean, wraps her arms around a body only hers.

Dark Determinism

by Carmen Eichman

What happens when I crash into that gray slap of sunlight draped across
this road clogged, my own thoughts congested,
this typical work-day morning? Weekend joy disappears
with that occasional, black feral cat outside my window,
beneath the vine covered fence,
vanishes, the two of them, onto the dry, vacant lot on the other side.

Logic and emotion combat, drip a caustic, yet confectionery clarity
I know too well, like an insult tossed carelessly, noisily as keys
on a corner table, its dark determinism directs my day.
Where can I lay these thoughts, spread them out, foreign and familiar,
push away gently their creases, step back to examine their freakish, existential
patterns? If only I could sling them into the wash of what’s past, slam the lid,
grab my purse, leave them in my apartment.

But like the sunlight, the cat, the keys, my patterns, their cerebral combat ,
connect to and tick behind my hazel eyes, a collaborating continuum,
exquisite in its perfunctory timing and
pestilent punctuation.

Experiments in Degradation

by A.J. Huffman

Perfect is passé.
Try damaged.
It’s more forgiving.
It refuses
to crack.
Under the pressure
of your demands.
It is familiar
with those fights.
It plays with them.
Like memories.
Spinning them.
Until they are tired
and gone.
Isn’t that your real desire?
Of everything.
But the game.
Known as touch.

(after William Blake)

by Rachel J. Fenton

I drive wrong way on one-way streets
along the harbour front and docks
and note the locals in bare feet
and tourists in white sports socks.

On every corner buskers sing
while people wait at traffic lights
and hear the crossing buzzer ring
but do not know their human rights.

Free of children, free of prams,
not for infants or the old
and the stores do not have ramps:
cripples left out in the cold

though one in seven claims to have
some form of disability.
Auckland's pride rests on the grave
of pioneer not charity.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Young Poet

by Chris Butler

Young poet
doesn’t write poetry.

Young poet
hasn’t written a word.

Young poet
hasn’t written anything
worth reading.

Young poet
has created
nothing out of

Young poet
writes only
what is known.

Young poet
knows everything.

Young poet
doesn’t know

Young poet
confuses information
with truth.

Young poet
blows his own
mind without a gun.

Young poet
is enlightened
under the fluorescent
dark ages.

Young poet
employs old English,
even though
Shakespeare is for queers.

Young poet
recites sonnets
through a
on the

Young poet
will never stamp
his letters on a

Young poet
hasn’t found
from inhaling

Young poet
sniffs lines that
are pasted.

Young poet
snorts lines that
are cut.

Young poet
is illiterate.

Young poet
doesn’t carry a
library card.

Young poet
blogs non-thoughts.

Young poet
hasn’t lived life.

Young poet
isn’t scarred.

Young poet
plans for old age,
although writers
never retire.

Young poet
stretches and exercises
to prevent the
carpel tunnel

Young poet
kills himself
across a canvas
in order to
create a
work of art.

Young poet
hasn’t tried to die.

Young poet
isn’t old enough.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cry African Girl

by Handsen Chikowore

Up in the azure sky
Shoots the sun’s rays
Rises to meet another day
Another promise
To me it’s not yet any hope
As each day brings more problems
Which trouble a thirteen year old girl
Setting alight fire early morning
Sweeping the sheets of dust and dirt early morning
A beast of burden for firewood so I am bound

All those long distances I have to walk
A throbbing ever throbbing pain to my foot
With the baby clinging on my yonder back
The thorn infested forests
The meandering long walks to boreholes and wells
The back breaking dreary buckets full of water
It's so tiresome my body sweats
It's so punishing my body cannot endure

All African girls
Cry for your rights
The rape, torture and victimisation
Our life an eerie furnace of denied paradise
A sad song of denied education
I am so weary, Oh weary, So weary
A breath for fresh air cometh not
Don’t fall African girls
Up and fight
Yearn for another life

A Decade of Disaster

by Handsen Chikowore

From the mountain tops where the bulls have been slaughtered
To the valleys where the farmlands have been eroded
There is no safe ground to tread and fresh air to breathe
Even the beautiful site of natural wonders of the world
Have been corrugated by corruption, chaos and confusion
What a waste of resources in a resourceful region?

The rivers that used to soothe our thirsty and hunger
Are now shallow streams we all fear to swim
From the politics of Rhodesia to zombies of Zimbabwe
AIDS, hunger, torture and cholera infiltrated the pathway
One man glued himself to the leadership altar
And thought that he was the only Messiah
Yet he is the cancer that contaminated Zimbabwe


by Handsen Chikowore

You are my destiny and my strong desire
You maintain strong ties and bond between families
And you sow seeds of sympathy and empathy
You drive us to a point of anxiety and excellence
And you prune us like orchard fruits

Even at funerals, you fill us with hope, peace and forgiveness
You also bridge the gap between friends and foes
And germinate roots of trust and togetherness
You are priceless even though you are remote to the majority
When will you fill everyone’s heart to the brim?

Some dream of you but dread your presence
Widows, widowers and wedding bells are all your fruits
Sweetheart, honeymoon and divorce are all your results
Where you fertilise your splendour, there is joy
Where your presence disappears like dew in the morning,
The void is unimaginable, unspeakable and undesirable

Events without Venue

by Handsen Chikowore

When the land was grabbed
The windows of chaos and corruption were left wide open
Whilst the seeds of nepotism was sown everywhere
And the fight was against fruitful farmers
Who made Zimbabwe the bread basket of Africa

In the heart of town and cities
City dwellers were forced to destroy their buildings
As the cyclone “drive away dirt” gripped Zimbabwe
The vulnerable and the weak were left naked

The economy failed to conquer the land seizures
And the dollar collapsed into the deep valley
Whilst the shop shelves were short of goods
The public were left wondering elections
Whether their votes were counted

To be an asylum seeker

by Handsen Chikowore

To be an asylum-seeker is like a jumbo jet
Your presence always creates noise
To be an asylum-seeker is like a media telescope
You are always in the media domain day by day
To be an asylum seeker is like an unwelcome visitor
Your departure date is always asked

To be an asylum seeker is like a cow in the paddock
Your movement and capabilities are strictly limited
To be an asylum seeker is like to be under house arrest
You report every week to the police station
To be an asylum seeker is like an orphan
No one likes to take the burden of protecting you

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pack Thi Bags And Guh, Lass, Teck Thi Ook Nar
(after Dylan Thomas)

by Rachel J. Fenton

Pack thi bags and guh, lass, teck thi ook nar
quietly, if thi fatha wecks, tha'll know.
Dun't darken this dooerstep, start thi car;

blinding me wi science, who d'yer think y'ar?
Tha wants t' ev some proper whuk t' show.
Pack thi bags and guh, lass, teck thi ook nar,
learn t' get thi ands black sumweer far
away, aht t' rooed, eeard darn low,
dunt darken this dooerstep, start thi car.

Am sick er folk like thee telling me ar
t' speyk, what t' seh, what t' write, un ow.
Pack thi bags and guh, lass, teck thi ook nar

Does tha think am simple, just cos er ar
a talk? Does tha think thar better? Daft cow,
dunt darken this dooerstep, start thi car.

Am norrevin thee meckin aht ah mar
thy histry; wiart rooits tha can't grow.
Pack thi bags and guh, lass, teck thi ook nar,
dunt darken this dooerstep, start thi car.

To A Leprechaun:
imagination is a treasure—
enchantment is a dance.

by Kevin Heaton

I will court you in the Gaelic,
drunk on Irish coffee; where
little people rosie round the age
rings of a tree. We will harken
to the shamrocks, count each others
fingers, then lie down on ‘Tiveragh
Hill,’ in velvet green.


by Michael H. Brownstein

threads of grass
thin as hair,
breath thick with light,
a path, stone,
one dark green river
silk weed and thorn.

light snuggles into the green,
rough hewn and knotted,
thick and crusted,
the softness of color,
the threadbare,
threads of grass.

Monday, February 14, 2011

In a Box

by Chris Butler

All of my past loves
are locked in a box
buried in the

Our repressed memories
live inside of a
cardboard coffin
sporting Air Jordan,

holding bouquets
of wilting plastic flowers
sprinkled with the ashes
of soulless photographs

and love letters sponging
up gallons of gasoline.
And in the box my loves stay
until a teen aged February day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


by Claudia Rey

At five in the morning the sky is black and clear over Amelia’s courtyard, and peppered with a million stars. Plastic chairs are arranged in front of a niche, where the Virgen de Guadalupe stands surrounded by flowers, palm leaves and candles. Bananas and oranges are scattered on the floor among the candles, red and green plastic balloons hang overhead – the pagan token in an otherwise Catholic celebration.

We sit in the first row, huddled against the cold. Other people smile their greetings, or whisper a shy Hola. They know who I am, but the moment is probably too solemn for the occasional chit-chat.

A scrawny dog wanders around, and today no one chases it off. But when sacred music blasts all of a sudden from two loudspeakers arranged on a windowsill near the statue, it runs away with a yelp.

The music sounds like popular songs rather than hymns, and after a while I realize that they are songs: they tell the legend of La Virgen appearing to a Juan Diego six centuries ago, or they wish her happy birthday, or ask for her blessing.

“Todavía esperamos los Mariachis”, We are waiting for the mariachis, explains Amelia. Apparently they have been singing in the nearby village but should be here any minute. And they soon arrive, four men with guitars and four more to sing along. No black costumes studded with round knobs, no gold trimmed sombreros. Today they wear civilian clothes.

As they start singing – beautiful tenor voices – everyone stands up and joins them in an impromptu chorus. “Tu crees que yo puedo cantar con ellos?” I ask Carlos. His face brightens. “Claro que sí!” So I do, and sing the lines that I’ve learned earlier: Desde el cielo una hermosa mañana – la Guadalupana – la Guadalupana – bajó el Tepeyac... An old lady near me smiles approvingly.

When the music stops half an hour later, the same lady steps in front of the altar and collects from a vase a branch of small white flowers. She murmurs a prayer, then chooses someone among the crowd: a pregnant girl, a boy wearing a SALVAVIDA sweatshirt, a kid. She brushes the branch over them, from head to toe – a sacred metal detector against misfortune – chanting what must be a special blessing.

The spell breaks when Amelia starts handing around glasses filled with hot chocolate and big, oblong brioches obviously called guadalupanas. I nibble at mine, I drink some chocolate, then Carlos, my son-in-law, decides that it’s time for him to go to work. Amelia gives me a second guadalupana for my daughter, and I thank her with a hug. It’s nearly seven, and in the pink sky hundreds of birds sing and chirp.

In spite of my cynicism, I feel a sort of peace. And I will sing La guadalupana, la guadalupana... for the rest of the day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


by Michael H. Brownstein

Carnival's dusty
oranges' yellow fading fast
bedrock, salt and water,
a snag among trees,
a tree among snags,
the wind pouring swiftly,
rain blowing past.

Cloud storms ending,
thunder could not last,
bedrock, salt and water,
torn roots in the water,
a water of torn roots,
wind mist and drizzle,
rain whimpers past.

Mud of evening,
orange yellow's shadow cast,
bedrock, salt and water,
fallen leaves with branches,
branches with fallen leaves,
the wind tired sore,
rain passed.

Winter Haiku

by Kenneth Pobo

stand-up comedians
falling down drunk

The Spirit Rock

by Peter Magliocco

It is whatever hardens
the nocturne of beauty
eluding you like a Tennessee Williams
heroine. Making your own play
up during life's boring moments,
at work in the pedestrian pawn shop
dominated by amber mugs & ashtrays.

Rising like pernicious Indian spirits at Red Rock
fast as febrile airs
perambulating through Vegas streets
you loved to cruise with boyfriends,
even your dialogue was premeditated
& meticulously scripted for
any routine noir felon

to emulate.
Long ago you figured out
the perfect crime
all thieves dream about
casing the expensive jewelry
so many customers ogled, daily.
Despite how common in-house theft is,

"we'll get away with it," you winked;
"we'll kiss this rat race adios, man,
& travel the Caribbean beaches forever."
Far from these deserts where scorpions
lurk under a plethora of chiseled rocks,
waiting endlessly, their crooked tails
yellowing from venom's excess.

One bit you in the form of a real policeman,
& whatever spoils esthetic distance
did you in, whatever illusions
real existence unkindly disseminates
to draw down a curtain on
a wannabe porn star
whose dreams

some disease vitiates.
Then security cams
catch you, red-handed
clutching diamonds,
to portray your final role
stealing a forbidden stone
eternal deserts burn.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Early Afternoon Sorrows

by Maxwell Baumbach

1 PM

last night
a mere mental mirage
at this moment

the necklace on the bedpost

comes all the way around 
   the way she never will
is the color of love
   a word she does not know
is empty in the middle
   the gap she leaves

she scoops it into her hand
smiles her indifference


bu Daniel Wilcox

Seven Catholic rebels hang by long ropes
from telegraph poles,
down the railing line
of tracks back to the future,
but around the necks of historical ire--
repeating rifles, revolting scenes;
we revel (ation or lution?)
from 1917, a year fat with sacrifice,
to 011 when Aztec gods decapitate the heads
(0 God!)
leaving no longer anything for a rope to cinch against
in Mexico. Oh, execute the reprieve.


by April A.

I'm riding the cloud of bright blanket dreams,
The coconut smoke entwines with the mist,
The potion of madness in violet streams
Is carving the urge that I cannot resist.

The mysteries find me still lying in bed,
Enjoying the pleasures of drunken grapefruit.
Just several gulps, and a room painted red
Will turn to a princess' incredible suit.

I'm a swift errand girl of my fortunate fate,
When my fantasies leak, the reality hides
In the weirdest world I could ever create
With my eyes tightly shut, with my heart as a guide.

A rose with sharp yet invisible thorns
Will bloom in my gardens in endless July -
The country of fairies and pink unicorns
Beneath the enchanting and welcoming sky.

I trust in the might of the element Earth,
However, the Air attracts me much more.
I'm hovering free, and I feel the rebirth.
This madness is tempting like never before.

I'm a swift errand girl of my fortunate fate,
When my fantasies leak, the reality hides
In the weirdest world I could ever create
With my eyes tightly shut, with my heart as a guide.

I giggle and slap the reality's face,
I found salvation in madness' embrace.

I'm a swift errand girl of my fortunate fate,
When my fantasies leak, the reality hides
In the weirdest world I could ever create
With my eyes tightly shut, with my heart as a guide.

The Voice In My Head

by Damion Hamilton
I didn’t understand what the drinking meant
Until I read Dan Fante’s 86’d
When I drink I never thought about the voice in my head
I thought that the booze just calmed the nerves and the body
I didn’t realize it quieted the voices in my head
The dozens of voices
The voices are self deprecating, analytical, silly and highly
Self conscious
When you listen to those voices long enough, you will
Probably never leave the house
I’ll take the stiff drink, and then suddenly
The dozens of voices are gone
And there is only one voice in my mind
And hopefully that will be
A kind one

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Traveling Within

by Daniel Wilcox
Allegedly, I’m bipolar
               but I spend all my days dream-widened by the
                              center-meridian at the equator,
               jungled warm in the lush verdancy.
Super-sized with earnest emotion,
               my every thought and act
                              floods with fervent intensity;
               compassion sunburns my inner skin.

No arctic cold hardens this human clay,
               no iceberg of a harsh snowy brow,
                              neither frozen north or south within.

I weep shards of scalding pain.

The endless sweat of warm mercy wellsprings
               in this tropical brain;
                              though I may not be lateral,
My temperament’s compass directs

               me sweltering true east toward the Son.

By The Numbers

by Devin Streur

neo christian I
neo pagan V
neo buddhist IV
neo muslim II
neo hindu III

Digging My Way to China

by Isabel Kestner

We dug holes. Before the home computer,
when there was only one TV in every home
and video games were only machines at the arcade,
we dug holes. Shovels went missing.

Constantly, all the kids in the neighborhood
taking their unscheduled turns dug into
the sandy dirt of the vacant lot three
houses from where I lived.

Sometimes we had several holes.
Not everyone always agreed on where
to dig and occasionally there was some
competitive digging. Our useless dent
in the earth is bigger than your useless
dent in the earth.

But they weren’t really useless.
Sometimes, scrap wood would cover part
of a bigger hole and they would often be
six or eight feet wide. It was not a useless
hole now. Now it had a roof. Now the
temporary runaways seeking shelter from
beatings for a few hours had somewhere
to run to, somewhere safe to call their own
and rest for a while.

We dug a lot of holes.

When they got so deep that the really
little kids couldn’t crawl out on their own
someone’s mother always made a few
older kids fill in the hole and thus
we had to start digging another.

We were going somewhere with our stolen
but sort of barrowed shovels. The kids my age
still thought we could dig our way to China.
We didn’t know anything about China.
I didn’t care about China. I just knew it
wasn’t Jersey and I wanted to get away.
I was digging to China. I thought
it would be better there.

We dug a lot of holes.

No one ever got to China. But every once
and a while one of the big kids would hand me
a broken shovel. Big kids never dug with little kids.
Age determined status. But every once and a while,
the big kids would let me dig a hole with them.
They knew I was trying to get to China.
They knew why I wanted to dig my way to China.
They knew I couldn’t dig my way to China.
But they gave me a shovel and hoped for my sake
I would find a way to dig my way there.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Last Year’s December

by Paul Vincent Andrews

If my hot mouth
could pray sounds
in the chilled
Autumn morning

Let them lay
brave honest
truths, in lies
planted in dry
summer earth

During other’s harvest
I will plant our other life
in the Indian summer

Where a year we ago
we met, and waited
for a new Winter

Everything is Written in Pencil

by Chris Butler

The eraser
the paper,

blank canvasses
with the graphite
ghosts of my

until my skin
off dead
tree cells

and brushes the
consequences of
thoughtless actions

Carved for the de’ Medici Tomb

by Mathew Richard Carter

Florence, Italy, the Uffizi Gallery
houses the great statue of David. In the hallway
that leads to where David stands are Michelangelo’s
“Four Slaves,” an unfinished endeavor. A blind priest
lurches toward the figures. Given permission, he is able
to feel the famous sculptures in their entirety,
every touch like a shaman restoring
strength to an ailing mammal. He
was no stranger to this procedure.

Observed in awe,
simultaneously amazed
and awakened within this
shockingly sensual act,
by the moment shared
between stone and man
and the implicit relation
between eyes and hands.

Our Love is a Constellation

by Maxwell Baumbach

the counties
and towns
that stand between us
do not concern me

the stars
that form the loopholes
of Orion's belt
are millions of miles
but it is still the world's best known
thread of support
and it remains
forever fastened

Only Dreaming

by April A.

My arms held so tightly around your waist
Just spoke for me, as I'd got my lips sealed.
At least they indulged in a new better taste -
Embraced by temptations, I chose to yield.

This night was a blinding exhilarant flash
Of life that's unfiltered, of love that's pristine.
You found the beauty within such a crash,
You planted some hope in the dream world of mine.

But pleasure is gone like this cherry cigar -
The dawn didn't let fortune's secret unfold
Or give me a sign, leading where you are.
A dream half believed in is all that I hold.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Whole Year Without Drowning

by Bryan Murphy

Houlihan discards his guilt at the water’s edge.
Chill Pacific tentacles tow his ankles in.
He dives below the surf, casts free his past,
takes the salty secretions of Yemenjà into his lungs,
lets her cross-currents tug their war
over the sponge-like carcass he has sloughed.

A pelican swoops at two bodies, veers off.
One moves, rises on unsteady limbs,
drags its fellow beyond the water’s reach,
with hand and mouth, human skill and flattery,
redeems its life from the sea-goddess,
then offers it back to fate
with kicks and blows and unkind blasphemies.

The pelican intuits carrion, yet Houlihan twitches.
The lifeguard has saved the year, Playa Chisme’s first
with no drowning. He has gone to its fiesta.
Houlihan is reborn, into a world of pain.
He cries from every orifice, convulses with cold
and possibilities, crawls among worlds in grains of sand
back to our own.

Match Boy

by Isabel Kestner

He was my Mexican Match Boy. Only a few years
younger than me, walking barefooted and selling
the bracelets his father made to the awing tourists.
“Isn’t he so cute.” They’d say and hand over a dollar.

I bought a bracelet too, but didn’t call him cute. “Cute,”
as if he were some fuzzy costumed cartoon character
at a theme park. This was no theme park. This was
survival and his father knew very well that Americans
will give a dollar to a four year old selling anything
but would not be so generous to an old man wanting
to support his family.

I had paid my way to Mexico by pan handling cookies
outside big box chain stores and groceries for all of the
previous Spring. I wasn’t as “cute” as he was anymore.
Not like I was when I was four walking the beaches of
Pine Lake in New Jersey trying to get the sunbathing tourists to go buy sodas and pizzas and ice cream
from my parent’s store. All the while knowing that we needed more business to cover the mortgage, to keep
food on the table.

“Isn’t she so cute.” They would say as they headed
to the concession window out the back of the shop
where my brother stood on an empty milk crate
taking their orders. Then them walking away saying,
“Isn’t that so cute, brother and sister. So cute.”

I’d never seen other kids like us in America. The other
little girls loved the stories of princesses and rainbows.
I understood the Match Girl. I was afraid of dying in the cold.

But in Mexico, I saw the Match Boy. He was not cute.
When four year olds work barefooted to put food on
the table, it isn’t cute. It just means Americans
would rather buy things from a little kid than from
a man trying to feed his family.

Bad Attitude

by Mark Reep

Lose all the good parts of Telan’s walk to work– the hike and bike path, the gorge, the creek crossing– start with a long look down the alley, a small hoodied figure turning in. Next panel, bring her closer, show details: Her hood’s pulled tight, she’s checking her cell. Last panel, she’s at the gallery’s back door, a light’s on inside. Small thought bubble: Crap.

The part of Telan nearly always occupied with these things decides yeah, that works. She closes the door behind her quietly, pulls her hoodie off, hangs it in the entryway. Tells herself: Remember. Make a sketch.

In the ladies’ she looks in the mirror, fluffs what the hoodie flattened. Her bangs are getting in her eyes again, a look she likes but can’t stand, too blink-making. Next drawing she sells she’ll get a trim. Or just do it herself again.

The restroom’s light yellowing her hair the way it does, rendering it no honest auburn but an unconvincing reddish-blonde she might have bought on sale, left on too long. More panels coming to her, looking in the mirror: “Hey,” she says, not loudly. “What?” her reflection says. Leans forward, cups a hand to one ear. Maybe they hear something, turn away in unison. Nah. Too cute.

Checking her boots, wiping mud from one. The basement door’s ajar, lights on in Peter’s office. In the Salon, the computer’s on, a stack of framed pieces on the counter. Black frames, like her drawings– They are hers. A consignment sheet with her name, a list of titles, RETURN in green letters. Kim appears at the top of the steps with a cardboard box, sees Telan, pauses. Kim works weekends, evenings, openings. Not mornings. “What’s up,” Telan says. Trying for casual, unconcerned.

“Hi,” Kim says. She doesn’t look at Telan, puts the box on the counter. It’s empty. “Um,” Kim says, tucks her hair behind her ear. “Peter wants to see you. He’s downstairs.”

For a moment Telan sees how she’ll draw this one too: Hoodie Girl looking stunned and stricken, well-dressed people coming in the front door. Perky Gallery Girl: “Good morning! Can I help you?” Telan takes a deep breath, starts down the stairs.

And so she gets fired. Peter’s got a list, a speech: How all the art majors in town want to work for him, every year dozens of applicants, blah blah. Unfortunately, Telan hasn’t chosen to take advantage of this opportunity. Hasn’t done her homework, gotten to know the gallery’s artists, collectors well enough. Hasn’t gone the extra mile, made the extra effort, tried harder to close sales. And of course– looking at his faux-Rolex– she’s regularly late for work.

“If nine-thirty is too early for you, Telan, I don’t know how you’ll…” Peter shakes his head. “Bottom line, Telan– You’re unreliable, and you’ve got a bad attitude. I’ll have to let you go.”

He waits like he expects her to say something. Telan can’t think what. Her face feels hot. But she finds she can look at him at least, look him in the eye, and she does. He’s calm and self-satisfied behind his big desk, blue eyed and still mostly blonde and probably sure the gray only makes him more distinguished. Leaning back now, not uncomfortable, only disappointed with her choices. Behind him, another of his scribble drawings, this one a big black square of scribble, tangle of barbed wire or pubic hair hung where everyone who comes in has to see it. Telan wants to point, say Peter you know what I’ve always wondered? What the fuck.

His eyes are depthless, empty as a bull terrier’s. What did she ever see in this guy. He turns to his monitor. “You’ll need to find another home for your work,” he says. Mouseclick. “Make sure you sign for it.” Click.

He’s forgotten to ask for her keys. She works them off her ring, tosses them onto his keyboard. Peter flinches, looks up quickly, reddens. Telan smiles. Peter’s face gets redder. He jabs a finger at her: “Telan–” She turns, walks out. Up the steps: Slow down, don’t hurry.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


by James Evers

I have places hiding
in each piece of boredom

latchkeys and bulkheads
sheds and boxes

I live on black horses
with a dogs head
tied to my mop,
like the last Oprichnik

I have hiding places,
in definite cracks,
in clattering deeps


by M.P. Powers

The wet sound of a violin floating
around the dark room.
A soft light bleeds on the edge
of the forest, the trees
shuddering in their dark bodies.
And I can see nothing
else tonight but my own thoughts.
I splash some Chilean wine
in a pickle jar, leaf through my papers.
And then it comes. The voice
of a little girl, or the pilgrim
soul of one, crying for her father.
She is out among the trees,
frightened, desperate.
And for months it's been going on,
maybe even years.
The same terrible words: "Why
are you doing this to me?
Daddy?" I scratch out a couple
feeble sentences, splash some more
wine in the jar. And sit here
like I aways have, paralyzed
by the dread
forces in me, waiting on the wolves.

a fragment

by A.J. Kaufmann

I didn’t know whose house I entered
thought it was some ragged old beggar, planting
resistance, realized I killed the mastermind

Adam of fatal soil, son of the void, painted matter
ghost of oil and mirrors, supporting the roof
of nebulae island, the place of birth and revolt

Different chick every day, sketches of sci-fi machines
walls white, bold with anger, the holy kind of
fury, the one fueled by fire, immortal

I reached out and I saw, from history’s dawn up to
day, the weary mammoth walk the trail
marked with napalm and silent weeds

While the night leaned on her crutch
the wounded veteran, perfect lover
sipping wine from crashing ships

The movie then cut to a city, webbed in sudden
twilight, uncensored, laid back, grooving
to a summer melody

We were strapped to our chairs, like awaiting
execution, the poverty row at its finest
we wrote scripts on the spot, on napkins

Songs were weaved faster than light cut down
the hostile cannibal heads, infidel policy
running with the Jokerman

Smiling only when I’m told to, don’t like that new
grimace, don’t like my haircut at all,
the shirt I’m wearing was yours in the first place

And the shoes I’ve had for two hundred years
the grizzly bear on a lulled Capricorn sea
pass the equator, Sicily virginious

Ice cream cracked moon on the highway
dawn visage on the rising storm
breathing inside of hitchhiker’s patient womb

Real Ghost

by Carmen Eichman

I want the wild wind to return,
to sear this sterile landscape sorrowfully sanitized
in my sophomoric rationality only bleak-hearted birds
are foolish enough to believe, my explosive expatiation on
a silent fall no one heard, no one saw, my deceased
passion-pitched platform where my real ghost now rests.

Bring back my maniacal misery that set fire to my chest,
slung hate and love and reckless joy within the daily darts of a thousand words,
hands that gripped my hair, gripped great gulping gallons of our hurricanic breaths
that spun poetic sirens plunging into the blood-filled pillars, molten heather
moors of our hearts where now only winter’s weary existence, its war-stripped sails,
sifts sordidly across, sequesters and petrifies, our silent, sepulchral plain.