Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


by Robert E. Petras

Time moves,
but I can’t see it budge,
like the morning fog cloaking my garden
as still as the suspended bird feeder above,
its liquid sugar like pink sand
suspended in time,
as still as the sock-hatted gnome
forever stuck in the act
of dumping a wheelbarrow,
as still and silent as the elf
curled snoozing under an orange mushroom,
as still as the mermaid in the pond,
topless, a model of one pose;
then there are cicada-winged fairies
frozen to tethers in the air.
Suddenly the gauzy horizon
is gilded by the sun and glides into blue.
A winged sprite appears,
a hummingbird, upon its throat a napkin of red,
body shimmering emerald, wings slurred blurring,
beak a sippy straw.
He hovers above the feeder
then dives and dips into the pink nectar
and figure-eights around
and around, flits, wheels and whirls
whiplashes backward, back
above the feeder
as though savoring the sweetness
and dives for more, boogying
his hummingbird boogie again and again
and in a wing beat is gone, a dot swallowed
by the sun—vanished—
like the pink sugar.

Time moved.

my relationships

by Steve Calamars

end like plane crashes
nose-dives into shallow
green fields
spilling into an overflow
of flying parts and
burning wreckage
where the women
i’ve grounded spring up
like sunflowers and are
picked by more interested
men with green thumbs
and soiled minds
while i sink down into
my own fertile imagination
sprouting poems
and watching the fruits of
my loneliness rot in my skull
till they fall and ferment
in my brain
sweetening my thoughts
and allowing me to intoxicate
a new girl with my words
who gitty and under the influence
will lower her defenses
and trust that with me
at the controls
our love will soar
in safer skies—

It’s Best to Leave Cootie Alone

by Donal Mahoney

"Damn the vernal equinox! Full speed ahead!" is all that Cootie Murphy would ever say when he sat on the last stool at the end of the bar in The Stag & Doe Inn. He wouldn’t say it very often, only when provoked by someone or stirred by thoughts known only to him. Mostly he would simply sit at the bar in silence, staring straight ahead, tapping his fingers now and then, and sipping his Guinness.

Cootie had held the rights to the last stool for more than 50 years, ever since he returned from Korea in 1953 after two years spent in conflict. Some people thought he suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome, although they didn’t call it that back then. Others thought he was nuts before he went to Korea and had simply come back a little nuttier. Both sides would find their opinions confirmed on nights when the moon was full and Cootie would throw his head back and howl like a wolf. Regular customers were used to it by now and they’d sometimes join in. The bartender would only say, “It’s best to leave Cootie alone.”

The bartender also said that if Cootie ever died, his stool should be buried with him. But the neighborhood mortician, Rory McCarthy, always a customer after a funeral, had said he had never seen a casket that would accommodate both a man Cootie’s size and his stool as well. He agreed, however, that he would see what could be done if Cootie ever required his services, provided the family didn't drive the body—as they did his mother’s—to O'Brien's, another mortuary a few blocks down the street.

McCarthy said that he knew of no law against burying Cootie upright—sitting on his stool, Guinness glass glued to his hand. That might be an option worth looking into. But it would require a customized casket of unorthodox configuration best ordered in advance. That would cost a little more, McCarthy said, but what's money in a time of grief.

There were no signs, however, that Cootie, despite his age, was a candidate for death. In fact, he took no medications. He was simply a strange and contrary fellow with many eccentricities.

For example, it didn't matter whether you were a regular customer who had known Cootie for decades or a first-time customer. He would respond in the same way. If someone asked him any question—did he have a match for a cigarette or did he know if the Cubs had won—his answer was always the same.

"Damn the vernal equinox! Full speed ahead!"

Regulars had no idea what he meant or why he said it. And strangers would walk away bewildered.

Sometimes, however, a stranger who had drunk too much himself would take offense at Cootie invoking the vernal equinox. Over the years, several of the strangers had threatened Cootie with a thrashing. Such a threat, of course, was like a call to prayer in Damascus for regular customers who, otherwise bored, would bow their heads and turn on their stools quietly toward the commotion. They knew that as soon as Cootie would hear a threat, he'd get off his stool and put his fists up, John L. Sullivan style, and start shadow-boxing around the stranger, flicking left jabs and then a right cross, all just inches from the stranger's chin.

With Cootie circling him, the stranger wouldn't know what to do. After all, Cootie might have been old but he stood 6'5," weighed at least 300 pounds and he had fists like bear paws. He didn't look his age and he moved and jabbed pretty well. Anyone could see that despite his years, Cootie looked capable of flattening anyone.

Even more discouraging, when Cootie was flicking jabs, was the spinning of his eyes. His face looked like a slot machine malfunctioning. And as he danced around, his tongue would emerge quickly from the corner of his mouth, much like the penis of a younger man on the first night of his honeymoon.

Cootie's odd behavior had begun 50 years earlier shortly after his return to Chicago from Korea. He came back bearing medals galore and a Korean wife who made her own kimchi, a spicy Korean condiment consisting of pickled cabbage and a variety of spices. One regular customer once said that nothing in Chicago smelled like Cootie’s kimchi. Not even the stockyards, which back then was still in operation.

Soo Loo Park, a good wife, would prepare the condiment with great care, pack it into clay pots, and bury the pots all over their small back yard. Wherever she buried a pot, she would stick a popsicle stick bearing the date the pot had been buried. How long a pot was allowed to ferment in the ground would determine the piquancy of the final product. Cootie liked his kimchi screaming hot, the cabbage leaves as gnarled as his hands, moist and glistening with red pepper.

Oddly, Cootie liked to share his kimchi. He always brought a jar of it with him to The Stag & Doe to eat along with the hard-boiled eggs and pickled sausages that sat on the bar in big glass barrel jars. Give him a few sausages and a couple of hard-boiled eggs, followed by a fork full of kimchi, and Cootie was a happy man. He'd wash it down with glasses of Guinness from the tap, managing to get the froth all over his considerable mustache.

Everyone was welcome to sample his kimchi. They didn't even have to ask. Regulars, of course, wouldn't go near the stuff but strangers occasionally did. On such occasions, the regulars would always have to suppress a laugh. Just a pinch of Cootie’s kimchi would make a Mexican weaned on jalapenos scream for a fire extinguisher.

One slow evening the bartender mentioned that watching Cootie arrange his glass of Guinness, sausages, eggs and kimchi on the bar was almost like watching a defrocked priest preparing to say an aberrant Latin Mass, especially since Cootie always made the Sign of the Cross and said Grace before he ate or drank.

He had been taught these and other spiritual practices by his brother, Paddy, a monk in a monastery located not too many miles away. Paddy was said to be a very holy man but maybe not a scholar.

Nevertheless, he had done well in the monastery, over the years, adding pecans to the tops of fruitcakes the monks would bake and sell by mail. He knew how many pecans a cake required and where to place them. He was the only monk trained for this job. He had no understudy. If Paddy had a sick day, some other monk would just plop the pecans on the cakes without any sense of order.

At communal prayers five times a day Paddy would pray for all the reprobates he had left behind in the old neighborhood. Cootie would give him a monthly update on their latest deeds when he'd visit him at the monastery. He would tell Paddy up front that none of the regulars had shown any improvement since his last visit. But, as Cootie would remind him, a lot of them had passed away and the future for the rest didn’t look too promising.

Each death, of course, would force Paddy to pray even harder because he felt that half the souls in Purgatory had probably come from his old neighborhood. Who knew if there'd be room in that Halfway House in the sky when it was time for Cootie and him to check in?

Cootie's sister, on the other hand, had been quite different than her brothers. She had been a nun and was said to have been very smart. But she had died, young and unexpectedly, while teaching a third-grade English class in the parish school. She fell backwards one day, like a tree falling, and was looking up to heaven from the floor just as the bell rang. She never moved.

The parish priest arrived in minutes to give her the Last Rites but she was already dead. No one had any doubts, however, that she was already in heaven, explaining to some saint weak in punctuation the difference between the usage of a semi-colon and a colon.

No autopsy was performed. And it seemed as if the whole neighborhood took a shower and put on their best clothes to attend her funeral Mass. Even a few Southern Baptists chose to enter a Catholic Church for the first time to pay their final respects. Some of them were surprised to return home spiritually intact.

Cootie never talked about the years he had spent in Korea, the battles he had survived, the number of enemy he had killed or the event that led to the plate inserted in his head. He never explained either what he had done to earn all those medals.

And Cootie’s lack of braggadocio was appreciated because when he first came home, one of the regulars in the bar, a fellow named Stanley, a veteran of World War II, had announced to all the other customers that unlike Cootie, he had been in the "real war," the one the United States had won.

Cootie didn’t say a word. But a half hour later, after a little small talk with Stanley, Cootie asked him to get off his stool so they could finally settle a bet made in high school as to which of them was taller. Standing face to face, Cootie indeed appeared to be taller. Then he hit Stanley with an uppercut launched from his knee. It took a bucket of water, a lot of encouragement and three sober men who had just walked in to get Stanley on his feet. Two of his teeth were never found.

After the Stanley incident, none of the regulars ever bothered Cootie again. And the bartender always told new patrons, “It’s best to leave Cootie alone.”

But occasionally a stranger, clearly out of his element, would arrive in a suit and tie or in Bermuda shorts and white bucks. Given the circumstances, it wouldn’t be long before one regular or another would engage the stranger in conversation and tell him in glowing terms about Cootie's status as a hero of the Korean War. He had won so many medals, the stranger would be told, that he needed a suitcase to bring them home.

Often the stranger, after a sufficient amount of Guinness, would stroll down to the end of the bar and extend his hand to thank Cootie for his service. Like others before him, the stranger would learn that it was best to leave Cootie alone.

As every regular knew, Cootie had little to say about the war America hadn't won. But if pressed to comment on the matter, he'd bounce off his stool and shout, "Damn the vernal equinox! Full speed ahead!" Everything else he said with his fists. And it was always a brief conversation.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Peeping Moon

by Brian Rosenberger

The moon watches as the kids next door destroy your mailbox
bouncing it off the blacktop
Blame it on adolescent testosterone
underage drinking
high school girls with mostly untouched breasts
and the desire to impress
Perhaps a failed education system is responsible
God, the President or too many cable channels
not enough green vegetables in their diet
nor enough visits to the library, church, the batting cage, the local drinking establishment, or whorehouse
or parents with enough problems of their own
besides an unwanted pregnancy years in their past
We forgive their trespasses but the cops don’t
armed with sidearm and flashlights and authority
No one answers the door but the moving blind reveals the lie
The kids are peeking, the moon is peeking, and so are you
The patient moon waits on the outcome like the rest of us.
hopefully coming soon so we can return to sleep and gossip
about the night’s drama
in the AM.

Within Your Love

by Sarah E. White

Love is not a room
It’s not a place you go to and sit
To truly be in love is not like that at all
Instead it’s more like an ocean
Constantly moving and flowing
Splashing against my skin
Knocking me over
Or floating with in its current
Being swept away
Invigorated and rejuvenated by the sights and the sounds
Overwhelmed by how huge this love is
The energy of the waves driving into the shore
The crash and splash of them in each heart beat
Each kiss
Each beautiful exchange of thoughts
Imagination and ideas that can be shared within it
The mysteries that lie beneath the surface
How deep can I plunge?
The undulation of the vast surface
Waiting to be explored
Looking forward to a lifetime of exploring its depths
Falling and floating deeper within your love
It moves me about and I am weightless
I am free to swim
Free to explore
Free to be me within your love

Duo Do-Over

by C.B. Anderson

If you should ask a mime
the time of day
or how it’s going, say,
then hands like semaphores
and moves sublime as Fred
Astaire’s will furnish clues
regarding words unsaid,
those orbs of yours
attuned to breaking news.

Detecting lies
in theater or dance
is chancy—no surprise;
to naked eyes that hear,
a fluid motion will
express no less
a cogent fiction than
does fluent diction to
a mesmerized tin ear.

Your thoughts can easily
deceive themselves,
their meager selvage hemmed
without a trace of will
to disbelieve.  The pace
of thimble-dodging needles
defeats your skill
to bind the nimble shins
of any Ginger Rogers.

Beer Money

Let the Beer Money Tango Begin!
A Play Boxed in Four Poetic Voices
by Darryl Price

At the Blue Corner: 1.
Sleeper Agent Man

They say there are mostly creepy things put away in our DNA
closets that haven't come close to seeing their last phoenix days yet.
We're literally time-bombs set to go off at any minute throughout all
eternity.So what's the use of freaking out?The good part of
our so-called mythological beasties is that they are very deeply embedded in
us by now and make only rare appearances in dreams where it's

child's play to cut them in half and send them back to
sleep between the stardust from whence they came. It's no great secret.
We're physically made from the same explosions in laboratories too cosmic to
remember. They are the memory lanes shone on a rubbery synapse somewhere
in the mystical realms of suspended reason. The bad part is that
they may eventually have a few ideas of their own someday away

from us, sort of like the cute and cuddly robots we currently
keep as pets to watch over our music collections are likely to
do. They'll want to know what an answer feels like. Numbers will
seem like a lie told on the ends of so many puppet
strings, like gutted worms hung out to draw in the fish. What
difference does it make? Choose a fish. Any fish. It's all connected.

What do you do after you catch the fish? What comes after
you eat it? Why?And isn't that the universe in a nut
shell? Where's the holy tree even standing? Where are its roots going?
Into what dimension? I'm just saying. We could be supplying the juice
to the whole thing without even knowing it. But even if that's
true I still would embrace its baffling mystery all because of you.

Rounding the Green Corner: 2.
Dip In The Ocean

Anything can happen to us now and probably already did. I mean how
Are we to know? When you are floating in all this green stuff
You become greenish. Your mind tells you to relax and you want to
Take its advice. But you are no longer in charge of things. You
Rise and fall without asking yourself to. You sink and sputter and sail
On to get a better look at something you all of a sudden
can't name. And fear swims everywhere around you. It takes the shape of
Shadows you can only imagine. But then something else kicks in. A kind
Of resignation to the facts at hand. You simply begin to be part
Of the breadth. Its heart is your heart. Its blood is your blood.
All the life and death in it is all the life in you.
If something grabs my leg now and pulls me under I'm going to
Look it in the eye and sing it a song of whale ghosts.

It's the Mauve Corner table for us: 3.
Worrying About the Bomb

I guess is just my own stupid
way of consuming the
cultural river of junk
along with the rest of us.
Here let me buy you a little
expensive toy,something
we can later dispose of
together.We're never at
any given time without
war. You'd think death wouldn't need

any help from the goofy
likes of us but just look at
the amount of promising
young persons scrambling to the
top of the hill to die for
the certainly setting sun.
Don't they know it will be back
by tomorrow as bright as ever?
Or the tomorrow
after that? Yeah I know it's

not that easy. I have two
brothers who both fought in Vietnam.
One's a hero and one
went crazy. When I asked him
what went wrong he said,”I just
couldn't take seeing one more
blown up kid.” I asked the hero
what he'd learned. He said, “People
are pretty much the same
wherever the world you go.”

Ah, at last, we have the little Red Corner: 4.
The Faun Part

I don't know why I looked at your feet when
I did. They just struck me as something worth looking
at. And then you sort of placed them like a
ballerina in a frozen sculpture of almost unbearable grace. I
don't know if that was for me or not but
I appreciated it. I wanted you to take off your
shoes right then and there and hand them over to
me. What I would do with them once I had

them in my hands I haven't a clue. I think
it's just the grand gesture that I wanted you to
make to keep the momentum between us still going our
way. That and the knowing smile that would surely pass
with it. But then the momentary window slid by like
a suddenly lurching bus and we were once again players
in the ongoing drama of our lives, surrounded by complete
strangers, each one vying for our loosening and falling sands.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Tanka

by William Cullen Jr.

The wooden footbridge
lost for years since the dam broke
was found still intact
with the names of old lovers
who crossed over long ago.


by Tyler Bigney

Hundreds, some speculate even thousands
of women, dead, decaying in the sand under the
Mexican sun. Good women who never dreamt
of having sand in their mouths. The man on TV
is speaking about some war on drugs, about becoming

a respectable nation for which one can be proud.
I’ve had a good life, but I’m unhappy for
the most part. I’d like to go back and do things
differently, but I won’t get that chance. This
is the real world, Tyler. There is no such thing

as a time machine, so stop staring into the mirror
as if it has the power to transport you.
The man on the TV is running his tongue over
blood soaked lips. There is a stillness. There is a ghost
lurking in the browns of his eyes. There are many.

The Caretaker

by Jack Foster

The radio mumbled with a bit of static as the two of us drove down the fifty-five freeway on a Wednesday afternoon. The traffic was surprisingly light, and the conversation between my mother and I was virtually non-existent. She sat in the passenger seat silently in her denim dress and plain, red blouse, gripping her cardigan closely to her torso. I noticed that she seemed more tense than usual, and she nibbled incessantly on the index finger of her right hand.

“Pull over,” she said suddenly. I stared at her blankly. “I said pull over, David!” Her face was red as she continued nibbling on her finger.

“Mom, I don’t think that’s the best idea. We’ll be at Robby’s soon enough-”

“I don’t want to discuss this with you, David, just get me to the nearest gas station.”

I gripped my hands on the steering wheel, trying all the while to maintain control. My knuckles whitened as I breathed in slowly. The woman beside me, the same woman that gave up her life to raise me, was beginning to go bat-shit, and all I could do was watch.

“Alright, Mom, but I swear those fucking cigarettes are going to kill you.”

“David!” she exclaimed dramatically, “I am your mother and caretaker. Why would you hurt me by saying those words? Your father always swears. You know how much I hate that.”

I sighed heavily. “I’m sorry, mom, but you know you need to stop. How do you expect to get better if you continue to smoke? You should have given up years ago. Maybe then you’d be more apt to deal with this.”

Apparently this offended her. Without hesitation, my mother slapped my cheek then proceeded to hit me in the shoulder. I used my arm to shield off her assault. “What the hell, mom, I’m driving for Christ’s sake!”

“Language, language, language!” she shouted, “just find a gas station!”

I swerved across three lanes of traffic and got off on Imperial Highway. We drove down to the Chevron on the corner and I slammed on my brakes in its parking lot. The two of us sat in silence. Even the radio had seemed to have shut itself off, probably in fear. Everything was on pins and needles.

“I’m going to go inside and get some cigarettes,” my Mom said calmly. “When I come back I want things to be better between us.”

I sat silently and looked at the wreck of the woman my mother had become. She grabbed at the collar of her cardigan and clawed softly at her chest. Her lungs expanded and contracted in her ancient torso, and she heaved and hoed in silent desperation.

“Alright,” I said softly. “I’ll keep the air on.”

My mother opened the door and walked out of the car, seemingly satisfied. She buttoned up her small cardigan and proceeded into the gas station. As soon as the doors closed, I jerked in my seat and slammed my fists into the dashboard. I thrashed around and threw bits of paper and discarded junk into the backseat, all while screaming “fuck” as loudly as I could. I finally found myself back in my original position, gripping the steering wheel tightly. From beyond the windshield I saw my mother approaching from within the gas station’s mini-mart.

“Now that wasn’t so bad now was it, Dave?” I rolled my eyes at her and placed my hand on the stick shift. “My lord it’s messy in here. What happened while I was gone? Did I miss something?”

“Nothing happened, Mom,” I lied, “I just couldn’t find my U2 CD.”

“David,” she said gingerly while fastening her seatbelt, “you shouldn’t listen to them. That Bono character is a socialist.”

I chuckled to myself as I shifted the car into reverse. As I pulled out of the parking spot and into the street, I noticed that said interval of time had been enough to make my mother cry.

I was genuinely startled by this. Again, she was gripping her chest, this time beneath her shirt – on her bare chest. “Jesus, Mom, what’s wrong?”

She trembled violently and seemed to paw weakly at her weak heart with one hand, while squeezing her pack of cigarettes with the other. Tears streamed down her face, and she let loose a guttural sound that made my insides churn.

“Christ, you’re scaring me,” I said, almost to the point of tears. “I know the appointment didn’t go as well as we had hoped, but-”

“It’s not about the doctor, David, can’t you see?” she cried hysterically. “It’s the Virginia Slims!” she managed to spout out.

Not knowing what to say, I said the only thing I could. “The Virginia Slims?”

“Yes the Virginia Slims!” She sobbed to herself and cradled the pack in her lap. “I hate Virginia Slims, David, I fucking hate them!”

Again, this response took me by surprise. I had never heard my mom swear before. However, I ignored this and attempted to comfort her. “Ma, there are hundreds of other cigarettes you could be smoking. If you don’t like them, just buy another.”

“I’m cheating on your father!” she ejaculated.

The two of us basted in the silence together. The cold air leaked from the vents in the car, and my mother scratched viciously at her chest. I placed my hand on hers – the one on her chest – and retrieved the cigarettes from the other. Opening the seal, I pulled one out and placed it in her mouth. Lighting hers, I placed another in my mouth and lit it up for myself.

“Don’t swear in front of me, mother,” I said while exhaling a flume of womanly smoke, “I’m your first-born and caretaker.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Israeli Jasmine, Manicured

by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Jasmine, hedge-high, bordering a beachfront bungalow,
Slung itself along the Mediterranean, in a land
Shaded by disputes of international stature, grows.

Pigeons, gray, brown-red, also white,
Opined witnessing to local, pedestrian issues
Missing all traces of ocean tranquility, take flight.

Conch shell inhabitants, tiny, maybe thumbnail-sized,
Chorused periodic flowery, feathery, or dysfunctional flash
Rumoring natives as no more than immigrants or tourists, slide.

Certain civic cases, cached by multinational requests for mollification,
Spun “insights,” didn’t offer counterpoints to foreign correspondents
Habituated in gifting bad press to residents, erupt.

Yet, all the beauty of sky-filled vistas, chain smokers, darting lizards,
Cedars, acacias, myrtle, oleaster, cypress, box trees, likewise elm,
Waylaid by dint of ill-intended, external aloquoting procedures
Designed to trump the population, continues on, unabated.

Summary Justice

by C.B. Anderson

If all the men who’ve ever plagiarized
were held accountable, and all the women
ill-treated by recycled lies disguised
     as truth were issued robe and gavel,
nearly every man would stand, a criminal,
     before the Court of his unraveling.

To pilfer words another has composed
deserves contempt, but even more abhorrent,
Her Honor judges, is deceit—case closed.
     The sentence: nine-and-thirty lashes
rendered in the mother tongue, a torrent she’ll
     deliver swift and unabashedly.


by Ben Rasnic

I awoke in a strange room curled fetal
on a stone floor mattress.

For breakfast I had water, some stale bread
and several sets of curious eyes
burning waffle lines into my forehead.

The Agency assigned me a number
to count floor tiles for hours
before being called to endure
a series of awkward pauses amid intervals
of incoherent speech.

Finally, I was handed a shovel and pointed
toward a pickup truck loaded
with people who look like me,

proving everything is not always bigger
or better on the other side,
not even in the Lone Star State.

Ordinary summer day

by Claudia Rey

Late morning, mid August. It’s a beautiful day, there are some errands that have been long postponed, and the township offers free parking for one more week. Why not go downtown, she decides.

She drives quietly for a while, careful as usual. She never rushes, and why today of all days? The traffic is sparse, lots of people have left, the streets are nearly empty. She thinks of the different things to do. And suddenly… screech, whack, bang! A white van rams into her little car. “Oh, Christ” she whispers. The van had right of way. She should have stopped and she didn’t.

But she has stopped now. Gingerly she tries to open her door and sees that it is bended at an ugly angle. The side window has exploded in a million green shards that cover the car’s floor and her skirt. More of them are scattered on the street. The whole scene looks unreal. The silence is eerie.

Stepping from the car she absently brushes the shards away, without checking if one of them has wounded her. She is too busy gripping her purse and car keys – mainly to prevent her hands to shake.

Three men from the van surround her. “Are you all right?” they ask. She nods. “Are you sure? Do you want to sit down?” “Heavens, no” she says, “I’ve been sitting until a minute ago…” One of them insists: “Wouldn’t you like some water?” “I would love a coffee” she answers, “but let’s think about this business first.” So the man calls the police and they start waiting.

Within five minutes two guys appear out of nowhere. They are not policemen nor curious passers-by: one wears an overall, the other a polo shirt, both have a logo embroidered on the breast pocket. Tow Service So-and-So… Repair Shop This-and-That. Two big tow trucks are parked nearby.

“Who called these two vultures?” she whispers.

“They probably have radios tuned to the same channel as the police” explains one the men from the van.

They wait some ten minutes more – the two vultures lingering in the background. Meanwhile the day has become warmer, then positively hot. Finally two policemen arrive on their motorcycles and start collecting information, writing down details, asking questions. Quick, efficient, very polite.

One of the tow guys notices that the policemen are nearly finished and approaches her. “You probably need to take you car to a repair shop, right?”
“Right, but I already called the free service from my insurance company” she lies. “Thank you.” Then she really starts phoning. The tow service is not so easy to obtain, and finding an open repair shop in August is even more difficult. It’s two o’clock, everyone is probably having lunch – if they are not already on holiday – and no one answers the phone. Finally an address is found. Her car is secured on the platform of the tow truck, she climbs up near the driver, and off they go.

The repair shop they reach after a long journey is closed for the holidays. A second one they try is closed as well. She has to phone the insurance company each time, to have the authorization to take the car to a different address. It’s half past three, and the driver starts to look slightly nervous.

In the end, he suggests the same garage his truck comes from, and the insurance company agrees. She enters a cool office and gratefully accepts a seat and a soda. The garage owner fills some forms, an agreement is reached, she signs the papers and is assured that her car will be ready as soon as possible.

She finally calls a taxi and gets home at half past five. Her sister has phoned her: she returns the call, explains her predicament, receives some words of praise: “How brave you’ve been, I don’t know how you managed so well, I would have panicked.” “Well, thank you…” she smiles before replacing the receiver.

And this is when she collapses and starts crying. She is so tired to be strong and independent, she wants to be consoled like a little girl who scraped her knee. She wants a band-aid and a glass of milk and a cookie. And a healing kiss from her mum. Maybe a drink would be just as good? But she hates whisky and never buys it.

So she blows her nose and makes herself a black, strong coffee with lots of sugar and cream. Adult comfort food.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Now that the Revolution Has Begun

by Craig Shay

Material things
definition –

Our eyes,
indefinitely hold
fear and trembling –

into assimilating
with consumer
culture –
though disinterested in the
charade of
selling one’s soul
for wireless, high speed
illusions –

While the promise
of enterprise
mystifies us
and forces
in the madness
of serial murder.

It is belief in
the fraud
of these illusions
which destroy us –

We live in an age
where everything
we know
is a blatant lie.


by Craig Scott

I am an old man reading his
I am a surgeon with broken
I am your son shouting hate
     at an aslant pencil.
I am notes about nothing written
     on scraps of dirty paper.
I am the lights going out.
I am the hungry mongrel dog in the
I am the lonely air waiting to
     be breathed.
I am to blame.
I’m sorry.

The Queen

by Brian Rosenberger

Full moon voyeur
dark woods
even the lightning bugs and mosquitoes
had retired for the evening.
We were at the Point
where the East and West forks
of the Whitewater river met
a crossroads of sorts
well past the witching hour
a time for revelation.
She admitted to her reputation
earned for her skills at sucking dick
the blow job queen
one I was not entirely unaware of
but I was more concerned
with catching catfish.
Weeks or months later I remember her and
her pet lizard, most likely a gecko,
my finger slipping effortlessly into her mouth
We all live with regrets.
My dick, her mouth
is not one of mine.


by Michael Frissore

If I told you that you have a head the size
of a zeppelin would you hold it against me?
Maybe let me fly it over Lakehurst, New Jersey
or stuff songs written by Dr. Pepper and beaded
jewelry salespeople inside of it?


by Ramesh Dohan

The car carried him
racing the obvious moon
slashing the trees like a white bird

The obvious upsets me
everyone has a scar which crawls
into the mystery of swimming trunks

The rain fell like applause
as I approached the hospital

It took seven seconds
as my feet strapped and senses

The room closed on me
like an eyelid

Waiting Room

by Rachel Marsom-Richmond

After the world becomes a hospital,
a content, controlled safehouse,

when men, women, children
live in every sense enlightened,

in a rush for nothing, a
moving outward, surrounded—

as when in your elderly years the
friendly neighborhood ladies so obviously

secure were only a few blocks away,
flaunting tied-back curtains, open doors—

everyone talked to them, everyone
hugged them every day, everyone watched

their routine of predictability—as
you all say when the day ends

at last, as you hide from the burst of moon,
as we are not here, we give up, and we are leaving.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hands Together

by Anastasia Placido

When we clasp hands, grip them together
as in prayer
funneling our separate, silent songs
into something that is deeper than
our own separate hands in union could ever create
When we touch hands together
as if
uniting our souls
and we tangle our fingers
waffle and intertwine
the hands of God
when first producing a rosebud
Our souls touch
And this meeting sends lightning bolts
Through our arms
So powerful
Zeus would be impressed
Energy cracks and sparks
As this electricity collides
A big bang that explodes into a
Universe of our own
So that we now hold our love in our hands
We applaud this creation
put our hands together in a silent,
brief clap
that doesn't exactly bring the house down
or culminate in an ovation
but reminds us of
the performance we are all
witnessing and taking part of
We touch palms
while not perfect reflections
fit together like two different book covers
different in size
a large hardcover and a small paperback
we pancake together the soft flesh
and wait
for the ribbon to encircle our wrists
and spiral over our hands

The Soothing Twist

by Sarah E. White

I’ve twisted my hair
For as long as I can remember
Remembering I have for a very long time
For sometimes I find myself nervous
Over and over I turn it again
Between my fingers and thumb it slips with a slow sliding rhythm
It relaxes me, my muscles start to loosen
Fall from their tightness of stress clinched emotion
The familiar feel of it all
Its bumpy texture soothes me
For, I am a child as I twist my hair
There is so much hair to twist
Twisting me back to a simpler time
When I could be me, where I could be me
Twisting through fingers again and again
I must twist it
Sooth it for a moment
Then again I twirl and wind it
Until my hands grow tired
My hands ache
But still my nerves need soothing
For my weary mind has exhausted itself
Through my fingers
It all slips away in the insane twisting of my hair


by Byron Beynon

Not an old man,
but a face worked
on by life and those
late evenings when he'd speculate
the bars with his friends
to drink a favourite share.
His voice recalled
when on one dark-
coated night,
the biting stars
pierced the skin,
I saw him
brought into the swaggering
light of a public house,
two men held him
by the arms, he paused
for breath, and sang
in Welsh a verse or two
in remembered pitch.
After the applause and dizzy
glass, he was gone,
the strong impulse to move on
before neutral time
called on him.

Most Exalted of Muse

by Taufiq bin Abdul Khalid

If I can say one thing
With certainty to you,

Is that on this trip,
You shall always
Be entertained,
You shall always
Be regaled with
Sights and sounds
To inspire
Within you
A lifetime of
Prose, song
And stories.

For you are
Yearning for
Intimacies with
The Most Exalted
Of Muse!

How lucky
Are you!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Waking the Dead in the Land of Make-Believe

Craig Shay

I am turning a concept of reality over in my mind.
Dragging it blindfolded through dead streets,
dissolving it in puddles of blood
and leaving it out in the rain.

I am lighting it on fire,
then saying a prayer to heal it.
I am giving it away to the homeless,
then grieving in the darkness for hours.

It is a lonely concept, this reality.
I am watching it through the keyhole of a church door.
I am looking through a spyglass atop a skyscraper.
Smoke rises from its breath,
and it sounds like the revving engine of a wrecked car.

Smoke curls appear around it, like the tail of a dragon.
It is everywhere, and inside of everything.
It is everything I am at my core and the absence of what I am.
It is immeasurable and microscopic.
It is every drop of rainfall over the ocean –
It is a pledge of freedom on a despondent planet.

It is living in the brains of the people of my town.
Breathing like a prisoner held quietly at gunpoint.
It is crying so loud, I cannot understand what it is trying to say.
It is the grotesquery of this modernized world.

It becomes a flock of white birds and then a giant albatross,
as it glides overhead –
Its body has changed so many times.
It splits and duplicates itself.
It even disappears for a time
and reemerges from the darkness as a billion drops
of October rain.

It is unexplained and mysterious,
the last man who tried to solve its riddle
lost his mind and became a shepherd.

It is in that body, pirouetting on the tightrope
over the edge of civilization.
It is in the oil soaked banknotes

It is in the gaze of women in dark sunglasses,
intensely reading, while curling her hair between her fingers.

It is turning itself around to face us,
becoming more and more like us,
opening a can of worms and seeing it there
inheriting our thoughts and emotions,
replicating our ideas and imagination.

It is leaving the school of wisdom
and setting the past on fire.
It is spreading out its vampire wings,
shedding its suit and tie
and flooding through the opened gate of the underworld.

It is in the condemned warehouses of time,
where heretics are placed to wander the streets after a nuclear holocaust.

It is the cracked hands of a pianist, a writer, or a painter
who remains, trembling beside the tomb of a pharaoh.

It is the stirring of life, in a reality upside down.
It has been diagnosed schizophrenic.
It is in no man’s land,
collecting shoes and dog tags of the dead.
Walking through the kingdom of creation completely disoriented.

It is a winter long bout of delirium.
It is a lifelong battle of xenophobia.

It is the energy of light, traveling across the cosmos.
It is a wink of the eye,
it is in piercing cry of the lunatic
as he wakes the dead in a land of make-believe.

Basement Feeder

by Chris Butler

The average human
swallows whole
several spiders
every lifetime,
so how many
arachnid crumbs
must I eat
before I think
that I have
fallen asleep?

The God of Wrath vs. The God of Mercy

by Mike Meraz

she told me,
if you knew me,
you would know
I’m a great believer
in revenge.

I told her,
I’m new
I’m “turn
the other cheek.”

The Grave Digger’s Son

by Donal Mahoney

In 1948 Booger McNulty's coal yard stirred constant gossip among the citizens who lived in the little bungalows on the narrow blocks in my far corner of Chicago. That was more than 60 years ago, a time when families took Sunday walks and went back home in time to hear Jack Benny on the radio. A Sunday walk didn't cost a cent, a price my parents could afford.

My sister and I always had to tag along when my parents took their Sunday walk, and every time we'd pass Booger's place, I'd hear my mother ask my father what could possibly be on the other side of Booger's 10-foot fence. Hoping to avoid a conversation, my father would always say he didn't know but he believed it couldn't just be coal.

Back then, every kid in the neighborhood wanted to climb that fence and look around. But Booger didn't tolerate visitors. According to the boy whose buttocks caught a chunk of coal from Booger's slingshot, there was nothing on the other side of that tall fence except for pigeons and a lot of coal.

In the bungalows surrounding Booger's place, immigrants from everywhere slept off beer and garlic when they weren't working, which was pretty often, according to my mother. My father always worked, digging graves with the other men, most of them, like him, from Ireland. He dug graves because in his previous profession some big Bulgarian broke his nose, after which my mother ruled no more boxing. He'd been undefeated until then.

I was ten in 1948 and I'd climb Booger's fence whenever I was certain he was gone for the night. Once inside the yard I'd climb the piles of coal until I got tired and then I'd go home and take a bath before my father saw me. My mother never let my father see me cloaked in the soot of Booger's coal and she always made me promise never to go back to Booger's again.

But on Easter Sunday in 1948, I went over Booger's fence a final time. My mother had taken pains that morning to get me dressed for the Children's Mass and sent me off with a caution to be good. I always went to Mass, every Sunday, and I would pray and sing the hymns and usually I was good. This time the weather was so nice I decided to go to Booger's instead. He wouldn't be there on Easter. It would just be the pigeons and me. I was gone for hours that day, and since no one knew where I was, a family furor flared.

At school on Monday, Timmy Duffy, unlike me a favorite of the nuns who taught us, told me that every other boy in our class had made it to the Children's Mass on Easter.

"And where were you?" he asked. I told him I'd been sick and that I figured with all the polio going around, I didn't want to cripple anyone on Easter. Timmy accepted my explanation because we were all still praying in school for our classmate Mickey Kane, who had spent a year, so far, in an Iron Lung.

"And so," said Timmy, "even though you weren't there to help, we sang as loud as we could on Easter," but that was something our class always did to keep the nuns in the aisle from paying us a visit.

I may have sung no hymns that Easter but I probably looked pretty spiffy scrambling over Booger's fence in my new blue suit, white shirt and tie. I had a wonderful time in the sun with the pigeons careening in the air and my imagination soaring up there with them.

I was free to climb my favorite pile of coal, toboggan down on my duff, and then climb a different pile and toboggan down again, far more fun than any sled in winter. Hours later when I got hungry, I went back over the fence and headed home for dinner.

Every Easter Sunday that I can remember, we'd have ham and yams, Brussels sprouts and rutabaga, favorites of my father from his youth in Ireland. But when I got home that day, we didn't eat right away after my father saw me. As I recall, his reaction was more Neanderthal than usual.

"Molly," he roared to my mother, with his hand gripping the back of my neck, "the little bastid says he went to Booger's! He never went to Mass!"

And then, despite my mother's protests, he grabbed a belt from behind the attic door that had been hanging there for years, waiting for a felony like mine to occur. I knew right away what I had to do and so I dropped my pants and bent over at the waist as far as possible. Without a word, he stropped my arse.

I didn't cry, gosh no, since tears would have brought additional licks. We were Irish, don'tcha know, so we didn't cry and we didn't watch English movies on TV, either. The accents of the actors would remind my father of the Black and Tans, the English soldiers sent to fight in Ireland after the uprising. They imprisoned him on Spike Island, off the coast of Ireland, when he was just 16. They grabbed him barefoot in a stream sneaking guns to the IRA. In 1920, Irish boys ran guns for the IRA barefoot through the bogs and streams, provided they were big enough to carry them.

Decades later in Chicago, a stranger, dressed like a Mormon on an urban mission, rang our bell and told my father he was from the IRA and had a medal for him in honor of his service 40 years earlier. The man said "It took a while for us to find you."

My father hung the medal in his closet next to the tan fedora he wore to Irish wakes. He always went to Irish wakes, even if he didn’t know the deceased, hoping to meet someone "from home."

So there I was that Easter Sunday, standing in our tiny parlor with my pants napping at my ankles, bent over at the waist and with my arse in the air, like a small zeppelin at moor. My predicament was the result of a wonderful morning at Booger's and a terrible afternoon at home. Now, 60 years later, when that Easter Sunday comes to mind, no matter where I am, I whisper, just in case he still can hear me, "Pops, I haven't missed a Mass on Sunday since I got that Easter stropping. I guess I learned my lesson."

And then I tell him, as politely as I can, that if he can get a pass from wherever the Lord has stored him, he can verify my Mass attendance with my wife and kids, the last of whom, a son, moved out on us last Christmas Eve, 2010, even though the boy had promised his mother and me a ride to Midnight Mass in his new Hummer. Two feet of snow we got that evening.

My father would have loved that snow. Back in '67, when we got 30 inches of it, some of it in drifts as high as Booger's coal, he was just delighted by the winter scene, so much so that he had the two of us shovel frantically for hours, albeit in our usual Trappist silence.

When we got back in the house, he told my mother, with more than a dollop of flair, that the hairs in his nose were frozen. Thank God my mother had his tea ready, steaming hot, as it should be, in its cozy next to his favorite chair. And she gave me lots of cocoa, swirling hot with a zillion marshmallows floating on the top.

Now every New Year's Eve at midnight (and this has been going on for years), I can see in the labyrinth of my mind those same marshmallows swirling when it's time for me to raise my glass and toast the past--Holy Week 1948, the week my butt survived Booger's slingshot and my father's belt.

"Praise the Lord," I shout, "and pass the ammunition."

As the years go by, fewer guests know what I mean when I offer my toast. But most of them never had a chance to hear Jack Benny on the radio. The young ones always ask where I got my old fedora. A couple of them have even said I should have it cleaned and blocked. But most of them, I'm certain, even though they went to college, never saw a relic. They think this old fedora is just a hat.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Death Waltz

by Craig Shay

We are waltzing instep to a cold wind,
blowing us toward extinction.

We are waltzing, in the glow of computer screens,
while specters haunt our American Dream.

We are waltzing, because we support illegal wars every day,
with our tax money and by pretending they don’t exist.

We are waltzing, while innocent civilians submit
to the brute force of our military.

We are waltzing through shopping malls,
while foreign cities are bombed to ash.

We are waltzing quietly,
unaware that our government,
which preaches freedom and equality,
is the world’s greatest purveyor of violence.

We are waltzing, with our hands held
tightly over our mouths.

We are waltzing, because the American Dream
is really the coma of consent.

We are waltzing through massively corrupt systems
of monopolies and oligarchies.

We are waltzing through decades,
suspended in consumer hypnosis.

We are waltzing up to voting booths,
believing lies, fed to us by puppets.

We are waltzing, while a handful of corporations
control the music of the dance.

We are waltzing, while our media provides
the chanting drone of obedience.

We are waltzing, because denial reigns,
like a pistol, butting everyone over the head.

We are waltzing through our empire of illusion,
too petrified to act out against it.

We are waltzing, while waves of false history
knock us back into the Middle Ages.

We are waltzing as serfs and peasants,
on the manors of dark lords.

We are waltzing on vast plantations,
working for ruthless masters and demonic butchers.

We are waltzing, like zombies down dead-end streets
with faded promises tattooed to our eyelids.

We are waltzing through a luxurious ballroom,
without realizing were are on a sinking ship.

We are waltzing, though the glass ceiling is caving in,
and water is slowly rising around us.

We are waltzing, without realizing that we are dancing,
with entities of death and annihilation.

We are waltzing with blindfolds on,
oblivious to the emergency,
with nothing but apathy in our souls.


by Craig Scott

He dyes his hair to look like a soccer ball.
His mother has a new boyfriend.
They leave him home alone most weekends.

He starts fires.
Your daughter let him put it in her mouth.
He downloads all the porn his young wrists
     can handle.

It’s not fair that things don’t always
     go his way.
He wishes someone would give him 10 billion $.
He burps & farts as loudly as he can
     in the library.

He doesn’t care about the future.
He is the future.

A Scare

by Douglas Polk

She said she was late,
And thought I should know,

Nervous she bit her lip,
The silence unbroken,

I shrug my shoulders,
and look away,

Her voice cracking when she tries to speak,

A tear falls as she turns and walks away,

Later a text,
“It is over“,

“All over”.



by Chris Butler

I do want to
marry you
Mary Jane,
and wrap you
in a cellophane
wedding dress
for that day
when chronic
coughs burn us
out into ash,
then we will
feel ok.

Post Puberty

by Andrew J. Stone

As a boy,
I was known
to comfort women
with chatter.
Now mundane
daggering from
my molten mouth
transforms bright eyes
to glazed glass.

Maribel’s Yearbook

by David Meuel

As Daniel Kessler opened the door to room B-9—his room—at McKinley High in San Jose that June morning, he remembered standing in the same spot the summer before with Bev, the English Department chair. He had punned with her about B-9 and “benign,” saying that he hoped the room number would be a good omen for his first year of teaching. She smiled and opened the door, and he saw the room for the first time. His eyes moved from the peeling paint on the walls to the torn curtains over the windows, to the desks with “Fuck you,” “Fuck,” or simply “Fuk” carved into them. This’ll be a challenge, he thought.

Now, ten months later, Daniel was starting the last day of instruction before final exams. Both the school year and his short teaching career were finally coming to an end.

As he sat down at his desk, Maribel walked in.

Maribel was one of the students from the terrible senior English language learner class he had been assigned that year, the class that, probably more than anything else, had convinced him that he just wasn’t up to the challenge at McKinley High.

She had had a sad history. Three years before, her parents had given all their money to a coyote, or illegal guide, to help their family cross from Mexico to the United States. She and her mother made it. But the border patrol caught her father and two brothers and sent them back to Mexico. She and her mother hadn’t seen them since, and now the two of them shared a small one-bedroom apartment with four cousins.

Her story touched Daniel, and he wanted to be sympathetic. But, along with the nine or ten other students in that class who cut regularly, talked incessantly when they were there, and even got into in-class shouting matches and fights, she was—he hated to admit—hard to like.

Needless to say, she and the others had learned next to nothing from him that year, had repeatedly failed the state high school exit examination, had failed his class, and would not be graduating.

Now, she just stood there looking at Daniel. He wondered what she wanted.

“Yes?” he said impatiently.

“Mr. Kessler—will you sign, please?”

From her frayed backpack, she pulled out a McKinley High yearbook. It had cost her—as it had cost all the students who bought one—$90.00. And, as Daniel paged through it to find a suitable space, he saw that it was filled with dozens and dozens of warm wishes and signatures. She had been working hard on this.

“This is very impressive,” Daniel said. “So many people have signed it. I hope I can find a space.”

She laughed. “Oh, you will, Mr. Kessler.”

Finally, he found a good spot, wrote that he wished her the best, signed his name, and gave the yearbook back.

“Thank you, Mr. Kessler. Now, I need to find more people to sign. I want to remember all people I meet here. This very, very happy time for me.”

“I’m glad,” he said, a bit startled by her last remark. “Say, Maribel?”

“Yes, Mr. Kessler?”

“I’ll always remember the story you told, the one about coming from Mexico. Do you talk to your father and brothers often?”

“Yes,” she said. “We talk every week to them. We hope they can cross in few months. We do not know, but we hope.”

“I hope so, too.”

She smiled, nodded, put the yearbook back into her pack, and waved goodbye.

He smiled and waved too, thinking how pitiful and grand she seemed at that moment, how hard her life was and would probably always be, and how privileged and easy his life was by comparison.

Maribel didn’t come back later that day for the last class meeting or two days after that for the final exam. But Daniel saw her at the graduation. She was sitting in the stands, and, when the name of each of her friends was announced, she stood, waved school-colored pom-poms, and cheered. Each time she stood, he smiled.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fall Back into Me

by Sarah E. White

Hanging by a thread as it chokes me slowly
If I could just release
Give in and plummet
I might get my feet back under me
So I could brace for the impact that’s coming
I might just land on solid ground once again
But instead I dangle, waiting here
Hanging by that thread once more
My arms and legs thrashing at nothing
Trying to break free from this madness
If only I could fall
To feel the wind rush past me
As I drop into the depths of the unknown
To feel the day in, and day out, blow by me
In an exhilarating blur of progress
Why can’t I just let go?
To feel the initial rush of the falling
Letting go of the familiar is so hard to do
My stomach now in my throat
Freefalling into the darkness would make me feel something
If only for a little while
That short fall would give me a lifetime of knowledge
The freedom of dropping
Where no one could catch me
No one could stop me
To land once more on my own two feet
Once again stand with the standing
If only I could let go
So I could fall back into myself
Fall back into me


by Jason E. Hodges
Ants running about always on the go
Their little bodies of red
Their red bodies so little
Defending their hill from footsteps of foe
Stepping not looking
Crushing their homes with shoe bottoms of force
So, make sure you don’t step on their mound
Because your foot will pay with a stinging encounter
But even after the encounter the ants will keep moving
Keep moving and wandering about
Always concerned with their neighbor’s concerns
Always in the business of their business
So the next time you’re out
Listen close to the ground
You can hear them crawling and searching
Moving through the green blades of grass
Tugging and pulling food home for their Queen
For she will always rule the mound
Energizing their works with sweet songs of singing
Making her little workers some of the strongest on earth
Lifting objects three times their size
And The Queen, The Queen, can even predict the weather
At least this is the tale the telling have told
But, I don’t know if this wise tale is true
For as the Sayers say on the farms of The South
If it’s going to rain and the mound has been broken
The ants will not be rebuilding their home
At least not until the very next day
This is what the old farmers would say in their folktales of telling
Ants, mysteries of small always moving about

Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear

by Chris Butler

In the rearview,
the road always follows close behind.

I watch as life passes by
inside of the double yellow lines,

while ignoring all the signs
of orange warnings and red stoppages

and the winged insects
splattering against the frosted windshield,

chasing the horizon
by trying to drive out to end of the earth,

where there is no dead end
in sight.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

High Gravity

by Kevin Ridgeway

escaping into the wilderness of the night
passed stagnant pools from flooding lawns
hiding from the streetlamps and a mad dash
around the corner with wack-a-mole playing
dog gnawing at the air between my head and
his blood-parched fangs

barreling across the three-lanes to the
center divider gliding across seas of pebbles
passed a deserted midnight lunch wagon
being utilized as an iron pillow by rattled
tweak bogeymen finally in the neon glow
of the Five-Star Liquor Store with its sing-song
welcome jingle to signal my victory
over trickster gutters

there in the coolerator gallery stand rows
upon rows of dusty silver tall cans pressurizing
the toxic spirits within pawing my lint trap pockets
for the coins I meticulously counted and counted
again affording me three of these beautiful beasts
no chit-chat with the glum faded clerk but
polite enough to count out the exact amount
due plus my pagan's tax

and backwards through the obstacle course
beyond children's voices behind screen doors
the wafts of suppers permeating the air
as I scream through to the garage and violate
the first aluminum saint into the dawn of my
blessed anesthesia, and a few more victorious
pulls and the country music anthologies
come rolling out of the stereo in my broken
winner's circle of squalor.


by Daniel Harmon

Everything. Stirs me the input is non-stop. Waiting for a friend in a bar. I watch a lemon twist hug the edge of my glass reading places with icecube reflections it seems so clear after a beer a shot and a prayer l seeom the scourage of waste and decomposure. Fascinated by mutation revulsed by mutilation and war that make us all such woeful sinners with such contrasting capabilites. Yet as we think we're fast enough to outrun the future we can't outwit nature. The doesn't play last laugh it just breathes constantly. Whether we pocket it with a stick or not.

The Confrontation

by Don Jennings

The interior of the apartment was cool but she brought the wet heat inside with her, her words erupting before the door had closed behind her. There were no pauses between sentences.

"Damn it, Gabriel, we got to talk, you are moving way too fast, I mean, I like you, I like you a lot, you know that, but you just got to hold your horses and slow down a minute."

She paused, breathing, waiting for a response.

"Hey Babe. Good to see you. How are ya?"

She stared, her forehead wrinkled as though his greeting had confounded her. Her eye shadow was almost sky blue, but not quite. More a faded-bathroom-tile blue.

"You send me a text and you're all, I'm in love and why don't you move in, and we only been dating a month, and my divorce isn't even final, and, well, you know I'm not ready. I mean, I want to, don't get me wrong, but I know I shouldn't because it's so soon, you know what I mean? Do you?"

Gabriel didn't answer. He might not have heard her, because all the while she talked, he'd been surveying her outfit. The star earrings. The cross around her neck. The vivid tri-colored, strapless dress.

"I mean, really, man, first I told you I wasn't ready for sex but you were all, it's okay, it's no big deal, we're all grownups here, it's just a physical thing, so I do and now you're talking about me moving in and, hell fire, I'm afraid. I don't know what I'm afraid of. I'm afraid of what you might say next. Of what comes next."

It was her shoes. They were purple. The color matched her eye shadow and dress well enough, but, well, they were tennis shoes. She was dressed to the nines, albeit in a hip fashion...and wearing sneakers.

"What? For crying out loud, what are you staring out?"

"Nothing. I was just listening. Thinking about what you were saying."

Their eyes met. Her lower lip trembled. "Be damned if I'm staying here tonight. Not tonight, maybe not ever. I'm going to Theresa's. For god's sake, what are you looking at? Why do you keep staring at my feet?"

"You're wearing purple tennis shoes. With a dress, and jewelry. I love that about you."

Her eyes moistened. He opened his arms, and she collapsed against his chest. His arms encircled her, forming a soft shield, a protective cloak around her shoulders. "Damn you," she whispered into the stiff collar of his shirt. "I'll make you pay for this, Gabriel. I swear I will."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Field, Corporate Greed, Monsanto and Dow Chemical

--for the Vietnamese people and the American Viet Nam Veterans
by Michael H. Brownstein

When I gather my strength and walk down a row
into my field where nothing can grow
(except concrete and gravel and a few hardy weeds),
I bend in surprise to find a half dozen seeds.

I pick them up gently and find them each a pot,
nurture them carefully hoping to fill the empty spots,
but my field has too many due to chemical scorch
and my field has too many because of war’s torch.

Earth tries to heal, but it cannot succeed,
the topsoil it makes is topsoil that bleeds,
and dead space creates dead space, everything dust,
my field, my people, dying slowly, land into rust.


by Jerry Fishman

Looking out with my six-year-old eyes—

Snowjello has gefrozen the universe.
Humps and hollows and mounds and marvels.

Staring at the snowworld,
I imagine I am one inch high.
A worm of an explorer,
In a parks made for a beetle,
With skis made for a newborn mouse.

I plod and plod up snow alps and down snow valleys.

Shouting into the snow wind,
The cries of a polar explorer.
Staring goggle-eyed
At the snowworld,
I imagine I am
George Washington at Valley Forge,
Three-cornered hat turned to
A meringue sculpture.

Staring at the snowmundo,
I imagine I am
Flying the Enola Gay
Over Hiroshima. Flying away as the giant snowman
Munches the sky.

Staring at the the snowscape,
I imagine I am Plastic Man
Become a skinny skin
Stretched over the snow.
I am the snow’s skin
Stretching everywhere.
But I never lose me.

Staring at the snowworld
I see Iraq
Totally covered in snow.

Only one spot of blood
A red eye in the snowall—
The bloody eye of a child’s face.

It pokes out of the snow--
A sugar-plum face.

With my six year old eyes
I feel like a snow eel
Slipping through
A snowstorm.

Snowjello has gefrozen the universe;

And me?

I am totalsnow . . .

King and Queen

by Erik Knutsen

The King lingers over the Queen's heart
Only in thin lines on a page.
His dull button silently clicks her facsimile cards.
O! Living miracle divine,
Meaning in a sign.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Picture, Cap and Gown

By Michael Lee Johnson

Cap and gown
history major,
minor in math-graduation under
the maple tree,
bright red leaves,
but the times don’t show it;
a full face grins.
There’s a shadow
below your nose
above your lips,
it settles into
a gray mixed day.
You stand on farm land
with no plow in hand
or in the distance bare;
no damn cows to be seen
no red barn or damn homestead
just open acres of space,
and downed fences,
and some idle brush
blending with quill feathers
flushed within a background
of branches.
Life is a simple picture.
Life is a simple picture,
repeating with tree shadows
hovering around leaves.
Dirt background is dances freely
it is here memories are folded
into prairie wind.
You are still framed
in solid black and white,
you can’t leave this space alone,
from now to your own eternity,
to your salvation or your grave.
Your whole life now has spots
and spaces behind it.
Did you grow older and have children?
Did you marry a man of the plow
or that chemist you had the brief
affair with in agricultural school?
Did the graduation certificate
rolled up in your hand
like a squashed turnip,
donut, or dead sea scroll
faded by moisture or sun
wind cursed with sand?
I pull down your life
and frame it here
like a staged curtain
hand full of future,
present, passed, and pasted
in a space dimension of
3” x 5” tucked beneath
a simple footnote of time.

Why Steinbeck Wept

by Chris Dabnor

Beyond the softly swaying trees,
the dancing white butterflies,
the terracotta roofed houses that punctuate the rich green rolling hills,
Boats carve great white scars across the Bay of Naples.
The sky is fat with thick grey clouds,
which threaten to devour a distant monastery.
The cheerful chatter of birds dances around a composition of Satie.
In the distance the bell of an unknown church rings.

I know now why Steinbeck wept.

Aunt Rose’s shallow heart

by Claudia Rey

Aunt Rose fell in love for the very first time in kindergarten. Paul had blonde hair and blue eyes, she was a perky brunette, and this difference was one of his appeals; but she liked the kid mainly because he didn’t pay any attention to her. Paul never teased Rose, never pulled her hair, never tried to steal her snacks. In a word, he simply ignored her. This made her crazy with love – and rage. It went on for a couple of months, then Paul’s family moved to another city and Rose never saw him again.

In secondary school she fell in love for the second time. Rita was new in town and sat near Rose in their classroom, so they became good friends. Rita was an excellent student, far better than Rose who wasn’t especially brilliant but very pretty. The two girls completed each other, in a way. One day Rose met Rita’s older brother. Lawrence wasn’t handsome, but he was tall… and Rose had grown taller than all the other girls her age. Lawrence was the only boy she could look straight in the eyes, which made him special; he called her Rita’s pretty friend, which was extremely flattering. Going to Rita’s place to do homework together became the most important event in Rose’s days. But soon Lawrence met another girl, a very pretty blonde according to Rita. For the first time in her life Rose felt ugly, and never forgave him for this.

Through her teens Rose had other flirts and crushes, but in her old age she used to dismiss them as mere trifles. She was just practicing for something bigger, she said. And when she was twenty-two that something came.

Joseph’s parents rented a house in the mountains near the one where Rose and her family went in summer. He played tennis and hockey, was a good climber and an excellent swimmer. Rose didn’t practice any sport: she didn’t want sweat to ruin her hairdo or make-up, and the idea of running after a ball or swinging a racquet, possibly breaking one of her perfectly lacquered nails, was simply absurd. But she liked boys who were into sports, if only because this gave them a healthy tan and interesting muscles. Joseph had both. He wasn’t very tall… but no one is perfect.
Encouraged by her occasional smiles, he became courting Rose. But at this point she started noticing that he wasn’t so interesting, that his conversation wasn’t so witty, that his adoring eyes were boring. Joseph was too nice, too kind. He was in love with Rose, so he didn’t treat her badly. Big mistake.
She kept him hanging on for two years. Then she surrendered, simply because many girlfriends of hers were already married and she felt that this was her destiny too. Young women her generation were supposed to marry, to have a husband and children, a regular family. Nothing different was socially accepted.

So she married Joseph. Life for the young couple was rather pleasant: Joseph had become an engineer who designed aircrafts for a big firm, he earned reasonably well and as a married man was invited to a lot of social events. Rose was delighted to go with him, of course. She was soon known as “beautiful Mrs G.” and being admired, wearing elegant gowns, flirting without depth became a sort of a full-time job for her. It was at this point in life that she chose to put her brain to rest. No need to be clever, she thought. No need to say or think anything too brilliant, since nobody actually listened to her. Men were too taken by her beauty, women too busy envying or hating her. Her conversation took a regular pattern: after a few pleasant futilities she quoted a funny thing she had read in a newspaper or a magazine, and everyone laughed. If something true or profound seeped in her sentences she quickly erased the feeling by telling a joke or something equally meaningless.
Poor Joseph looked at her from across the room, madly in love – and madly jealous.

He went on loving with his wife even when Rose developed a terrible crush for a very handsome and very married test pilot. For a while she actually thought to leave her husband and to elope with Peter, but the guy was wise enough to talk her – and himself – out of such a craziness. He then asked to be assigned to a different place of work, and she stayed where she was. Hurt, abandoned and resentful… and still adored by Joseph, who knew everything but preferred not to tell her. Their marriage survived; a war came and went, but children never came, so Rose didn’t have to share her husband’s affection with anyone.

Joseph died of a stroke at the age of eighty-five, and his last word was his wife’s name. Rose went on remarkably well. In her last years she had decided to love just herself and no one else, which was why she lived safely until ninety-seven. On her deathbed she was still a beauty: perfectly groomed and made-up, long nails lacquered with purple varnish, in a black silk gown trimmed with lace. A queen.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


by Aashish Thakur

I called a tree- ‘Tree’
Tree laughed,
And said-‘I am the wind’
I called the wind-‘Wind’
Wind smiled
And said- ‘I am the cloud’
Then I shout the name -’ Cloud’
I saw the lightning and thunder
Angry could said-‘ How dare you, I am the rain’
Then I asked the rain- ‘How are you river?’
After that, my legs never got dirty
And I never felt thirsty.

Bleeding the Words (Practicing My Trees)

by Darryl Price

I know you don’t want to see me bleeding the words together like this, not until the tee- shirt’s fully washed, finished and hung out to dry somewhere. Then it has every lucky chance of flying away on its own powerful flailing arms and becoming someone else’s lost treasure. Just not mine. That’s where the cut’s the most awful,the deepest I think. These new things keep tumbling out of my ears and putting on their oh so long glowing robes and taking their rightful places right behind me—ready to sing the life out

of the most sadly written chorus you’ve ever heard when I give them the cue. I can’t help it if someone strange thinks I can sing. I’ve opened my mouth to speak mountains and gotten clouds, to regurgitate fresh meadows and gotten factories, to moisten the heads of dolphins and gotten sand in a bottle. All these things I lay aside to put before you at some other time because they are failed attempts to say something without pretense. Why does it have to be explained any further than that? If I could I’d tie

them all up in a big blue blanket and fling them at the sopping stars hoping to watch them sink into the black cosmos like the little stones that they are. But we all know that’s impossible. Here’s two reasons. One. Because you are like a petal of exquisite hue that just so happened to fall on my head when I wasn’t looking. Two. And because I don’t believe you are a lie. Maybe I don’t care period. That could explain a few things. Nevertheless we find ourselves at a moment of beauty—it stays between us for as

long as we live and breathe. That I am sure of. But no more. Nothing else makes any sense to me. Nothing that I would invest with a soul. This map then that I place in your hands only works when you look at it—no one else will be able to read it as you do. That is its purpose. To give you alone complete access to its mystery. And if you have not the wellness to discover the center then let it go unexplored. It has been created with you in mind. Why do you think only in terms of people and places? There are

more things going on within the page than wood fibers and pulp. There’s pressure behind the ink to be sure, but that’s not to say there isn’t fire under the boiling water. Wherever you are being you the life knows its rightful heart. I don’t care if there’s proof or not, there’s feeling. We can’t always listen to their selfish, hateful nonsense. Sooner or later it’s goodbye. We have to fly. We have to try. We know we might die. But this old death has already forsaken us. We want more. And we want to be together.

Can you deny us the pleasure forever? This is the history of the world. It happens every day. It happens every minute. It’s happening now. To you. To me. To us. To the blades of grass. Will you really shoot the stalks to pieces? More will grow you know. More will come. In one form or another. They’ll raise their sons and daughters to be poets. When the daylight breaks something new is born even when the weather is at its bleakest. Come. Take my hand. Just for a moment, let us celebrate. Ah, I say, a big yes.

Jimmy the Blind Man Says He's in Love

by Donal Mahoney

Remember, a blind man can see things a sighted man can't. So let me tell you about her and then you can tell me whether I'm right.

The first time a man meets her, his eyes flicker and dart. Desire, an appropriate reaction.

The first time a woman meets her, her eyes pop out and coil on her forehead. Envy, another appropriate reaction.

Today, who can blame either? Today, who believes the canard about the true, the good, the beautiful, in theory or in a woman? I never believed it till the day that I met her.

And you won't believe it either unless you do what I did--frisk her for flaws that will allow you to live as you are, as you were, as I was when I met her. As for me, I'm no longer the same. Perhaps you can help me. My cane and my dog are no help in a matter like this.

The day that I met her, I was sitting on pillows propped against the wall of a building not far from Walmart. I had my cane and my cup properly positioned on the sidewalk. I was ready for business. And then I heard her heels type out on the pavement the story of my life. I could hear in those heels a woman who knew me although we had never met.

I had my baseball cap upside down on the sidewalk between my outstretched legs. It was full of my wares--pencils, spearmint gum and Tootsie Pops, free, for the children.

When her heels stopped in front of my spot, I sensed this lady, whoever she was, had bent over my cap and was checking my wares. Her hair was a waterfall licking at my knees. I was inebriated by her scent.

She selected two pencils and didn't ask price so I knew I had a real customer. And then with a wave of her hand she let paper money float through the air into my cup.

Believe me, a blind man can see with his mind the butterfly of paper money float to his cup. Any denomination, large or small, is a Monarch afloat on a zephyr.

Customers, you see, usually drop change. A blind man can tell you what coins a customer has dropped by the clink in his cup. So when I heard her Monarch take to the air, I forgot about my teeth and smiled up at her.

I usually don't smile on weekdays. I used to smile on weekends till that Hummer ran over my mother. She lived for a while but she was never the same.

On Saturdays she used to bring meals wrapped in tinfoil and labeled in Braille to tuck in my freezer. She wanted me to know which meals were where but I was never able to read her Braille so I ate whatever the microwave served.

This new lady in heels, however, has dissolved my bereavement and taken me captive. She has me smiling on weekdays. I've been stoned on her musk since the day that I met her and I'm becoming ever more wobbly. Everywhere I go her scent surrounds me. I'm an addict now and I need my cane and my dog just to get around the apartment.

So, please tell everyone now in the parade passing by to listen to her as I did. In time they may hear, as I can hear now, a year later, the cherubim sing as she blooms with our child like a sunflower in summer while I wonder, I try.