issue 1 · fall 2016
A Tanka (prologue) · Pris Campbell
rolls up the coast
to three anchors we wait
with the shivering birds.
Buckshot Words · Bart Solarczyk
not a sniper
just a poet
with poor aim
blasted in a world
6 something am · Dan Flore
the street roar commute
glory & doom dueling on sidewalks
a free cup of coffee just isn’t going to be enough.
Southern Comfort · Dan Flore
as a South Carolina morning
and her lips blow a wish
out of this dandelion mind
Fog Window · Belinda Subraman
I accept my strangeness
big loves faded
on a messy desk
that could be my cane
dreams in a river
the idea of India
is taffy in the bend
of a warm spiced pull
memories warp into mood
belief in all stages
time is weather
life is a water-color
of angels in the rain
Hagiography of Magellan · Michael McInnis
We could hop a freight to McDonalds, you said, and dip our fries in a strawberry shake and wait for the waves to wash away the parking lot and carry us back down the tracks.
We could read new books and burn the old ones, I said, and from the ashes of this bonfire of vocabularies a new ink is mixed and mortared and new words on new paper are written.
We could block out the sun, magnify the moon, you said, or estimate the day and hour and minute when the Hadron Collider rips gravity out of space and restores balance to the tides.
We could, I said, stand in the middle of the road and, like Magellan before us, circumnavigate our world just by touching fingers and lips.
We should, you said.
Ostrich Days · Pris Campbell
next Lancelot, had I not listened
to the warning the mockingbird sang.
You were there for lust and adventure,
head stuck in the sand when trouble hit,
unable to offer your arms for comfort,
only to hold yourself up
when you fucked me.
Girl Poetry · Heidi Blakeslee
oh, girl poetry,
it’ll be another one
or staring longingly at someone
but in reality
we write about
freedom to speak
spoken words that ripple
through cool air
women write hard
against the spite
spines of books creased
from heavy reading
women write about whatever shit
when a woman reads
a good poem
there is a whoosh of silence
at the end
a skipped second
where everyone is forced
Opposition · Gloria Mindock
Petunias · Heather Sullivan
I will dig in the dirt of your grave with my hands,
trowel forgotten in the trunk of our rental car,
plant the three roadside nursery petunias that
we will have picked out minutes earlier,
not knowing whether or not the groundskeeper
will mow them flush with the earth after our ritual.
With the pads of my fingers I will rub the
asparagus colored moss from your gravestone,
I will touch the unmarked spot of your mother,
promise her again that when the time is right,
I will buy her a stone that I can tend to every year,
mark with flowers and tears,
as I do yours.
Hoping that my words reach you on the
wings of the mosquitos that surround me,
the blood sacrifice given in payment for their
The Chloe Vignette · Jeff Weddle
I was right behind the screaming woman. For some reason, she limped on her right leg and couldn’t move too fast. I caught up with her at an alley just past the sex shop and, keeping an eye on Chloe’s rapidly shrinking form a block further down, shoved the screaming clerk as hard as I could into the alley. I watched her fall a good eight or ten feet away from the sidewalk. She was screaming now, bellowing.
“Police! Somebody get the police!”
I walked into the alley and told her to shut up.
“Somebody help me!”
“Shut the fuck up.”
It was harder than you might think to get my hands around her throat, but I did and I squeezed hard until I was sure it was finished. I placed her body behind a couple of garbage cans so that it couldn’t easily be seen from the street and was about to get out of there and look for Chloe when the boy appeared on the sidewalk, pretty much where I was when I pushed the woman in here. He was maybe ten, maybe twelve. Brave. Looking right at me.
“You okay, mister?”
I had a choice. Chloe would be blocks away by now. Maybe to the car, maybe even back on the interstate. Maybe I could find her. Just run past the kid and hope for the best. Or, I could take care of this last detail and then look for her.
“I hurt my leg,” I said to the boy. “Did you hear me yelling?”
He nodded and said “yes sir.”
He had seen me, but he didn’t know what I had done. If I wanted to, I could just walk away.
“Can you come help me? Just let me lean on you till I can get to my car?” He hesitated for a moment, then took his first step toward me.
“Okay,” he said.
As he got closer, my every thought was about Chloe. She might as well be in another country.
“Thank you,” I said, sure I was smiling. When he got close, I saw that he had blue eyes and freckles, a good looking kid. I took his hand and held it. My other hand covered his mouth.
You’d be amazed how many people hear a scream and decide to nose around for trouble. Only a moment after I had laid the boy beside the sex shop lady, here came another rubber necker. This one was an old man, at least fifty, rail thin with rheumy eyes.
“What’s going on back there?”
“Something bad happened, mister. Can you help me?” So, he was a dumbass, too, and I had to find a way to wedge him in. The alley was getting crowded, but the universe is nothing if not funny, in a spiteful sort of way. A young girl with a cat wandered by on the street and passed a fleeting glance my way. I ran out and got her, but not the cat. The cat scratched me and ran off, which was a shame, because I’ve always enjoyed strangling cats. I was tired of trying to keep things tidy, so I pretty much tossed the girl half on top of the boy, half on top of rheumy eyes. After that, I got out of there fast. Jesus Christ. What a morning.
I wandered the streets for a while, looking for Chloe, but had no luck. After a time, I found myself once again in front of Julie’s Sex Shop. Since I had no pressing engagements, I went inside. There was a new clerk at the counter in the back of the store. She had a penis strapped around her forehead. Chloe.
“Hey,” she said.
“Hey.” I complemented her on the penis.
“It’s a strap on,” she said, then, “Listen, this isn’t working out. I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong with you and I think we need to say goodbye. I’ve decided to stay here at the sex shop. You do what you want.”
That hurt, right inside my heart.
“Well, I happen to know they need a new clerk,” I said. “But listen, let’s not do anything stupid. Before you decide your future, come let me show you something.”
She was reluctant to come with me, but did. I took her to the alley and showed her the pile I’d made.
“Holy Toledo,” she said.
“It’s kind of a mess.”
“Did you do this for me?”
“Pretty much. Yes, I guess so.”
“Well, okay then. You can come back to the shop.”
We went back and worked at the sex shop for a couple of hours. A balding old lady came in and bought a large, curved pink dildo.
“Where’s Julia?” she asked Chloe.
“Tell her Trixie said to feel better soon.”
When Trixie left, Chloe turned to me. “Can you believe that was Julia herself when we came in here? To be the owner, she had the worst customer service I’ve ever seen. I don’t want to be associated with that kind of attitude and I can’t work here anymore.”
I followed her outside and straight to the car, two blocks away.
“I still think there’s something wrong with you,” she said. “I’m pretty sure of it. But I guess that’s okay. I’m going to get in this car and drive away. If you want to wait in this spot, I might come back, might not. It’s your call.”
And that’s what she did. I waited for twenty minutes, then started feeling like a chump. The only places I knew to go were the sex shop and the alley. I flipped a coin and it came up heads. Sex shop it was. Just as I turned to go, here came Chloe’s car. She stopped beside me. I opened the door and climbed in. The whole backseat was filled with sex toys. Chloe had gone back to the shop and pretty much cleaned out the place before she came for me.
“Chloe,” I said, “I am on fire with love.
“Yeah, well, that’s the way it goes.”
It wasn’t long before we were back on the interstate. Decatur is a fucked up town. If I ever go back there, I’m bringing my own fun with me.
my vagina is a battleax · Heidi Blakeslee
that is said to have once
sailed in grandeur
pressed velour flags flying
amidst sea birds
a treasure chest
in the hull
pirate boys scrubbing the decks
a maiden at the helm
looking out towards
the bow spirit
shined and oiled wood
on the quarter deck
a proudly driven vessel once,
afloat in a sea of fog
a rusty anchor waiting to sink
into the cold
of sea weed
Transcript from Lucy Ricardo's Therapy Session (#1) · Taylor Liljegran
About chocolate and arroz con pollo. About my husbands hands; how they smacked and sounded against a soft stretch of skin the moment I began to love him. About the censors, the just lip kisses, our beds: parallel plots. About the baby. The “How?”(as if there wasn’t the kitchen counter after dinner dishes, the damp bathroom floor before showering). About the way my Mother is always looking slightly above my eyes when she speaks to me. Calls him Mickey. Hates the ride to see us. About my best friend; Her “No” as “Yes.” About broomsticks sounding against ceilings and grapes between your toes. About my closet, my costume. My pins and polish. The henna rinse. The lip stick. And all the other ways I have chose to be
Transcript from Lucy Ricardo's Therapy Session (#2) · Taylor Liljegran
my heart out flat across the kitchen counter.
Wrote out his ink-dark love for me across all four chambers, gave it back blanched on a bed of satin—
a valentine. All schoolyard. All paste and puncture.
I grew grey at the absence. The walls lost all color.
Next, laughter: first soft from the farthest stretch of the room then sharp—
broken plates, forks and knives hitting floor, tea kettle cackle—
I was outside of myself then.
He held me in his hand so easy,
so Morning Paper,
I was my own gift, and I said “thank you” to the open wound between my breasts
Transcript from Lucy Ricardo's Therapy Session (#3) · Taylor Liljegran
I think this person must have been a man.
I think this person must have had a wife who wanted too big.
I want to tell you about early morning. When the lights aren’t up yet. When I lean my body out the window into the thick soup of the city, and everything is, again, just beginning.
This is the moment right before the Wish:
When he walks in about to say something
that will shatter me.
The plan before the punch line.
The air a thrown pie sails through.
The dark you sit in as the spotlight searches for your skin
(When you are nearly nothing, when your heart is not a poem or a symbol or a theme song –
but an organ, that is heavy and mostly tired.)
This is bringing teaspoon to pursed lips.
The sharp intake before the unraveling,
When I want to weep,
Forgive-Me-Not · Mari Deweese
He’s got a
mouth full of
that twitch in
bend of his
like the most
she has yet
in his smile,
she wants to
the ice and
skin like it’s
in a shower
of acid rain,
Day Dreams · Matthew Borczon
Down Shirley Street · Rusty Barnes
all the folks are out
there’s a killer light wind
sending the ocean smell
all the way to Bell Circle
two drug deals I interrupt
in front of the Cambodian
market while the Sound
throws up big waves I can
see stopped at the red light
at the bottom of the street
into the subways. I want
pastries but get some
fake Twinkies at the Tedeschi’s
instead. The fakies are OK
but like with breasts I prefer
the real thing and whatever
Shirley Street becomes at night
is more real than most.
Sometimes I get out of the car
just to smell it.
cred · John Thomas Menesini
en route to work
I hear a man on his porch
to my right tell his friend
“there goes that white boy
he got that tiny wife
they walk everywhere
he’s the only white boy around here”
At the Fisherman’s Feast of the Madonna Del Soccorso di Sciacca · Michael McInnis
I discussed crime and publishing and anarchy with four Charlies: Ponzi, Bukowski, Simic and Manson, the friend said.
I smelled molasses and rising seas.
If the seas rise we should line a cement bin with rubber and sail to Newfoundland.
Why Newfoundland, why not Greenland, or Iceland.
In Newfoundland, the friend said, we could fish the Flemish Cap from dories, stringing out our lines for cod and haddock.
Why fish the Flemish Cap, a boy said to his friend, when we could plunder Vinland all over again.
Kathi and the Spinning Spider · Ron Androla
Dad finally looks at us. “What’s the matter?” The smile begins to drop from his lips as he looks at his kids.
Kathi sobs like a big fat baby as the ride dips & ends. I pull up my t-shirt to show him what Kathi did to me, “& that’s why I’m mad!” People emerge from their slippery seats & follow the circular outer walkway, all excited & talkative.
“Get out of this goddamn car, & shut the hell up! That cut ain’t nothin’!” Dad lowers his face to Kathi’s level. “Are you okay, princess?”
He picks her up as he exits the ride. She whimpers, wet & snotty, on his shoulder. Over my father’s shoulder, Kathi sticks her fat tongue out at me – only I see it. She squeezes Dad’s neck more, which expands his love for his little princess.
Watching · Dominic Albanese
missing the trees
river run by
every thing in Florida
great Chief Oceola
was really a guy named Billy Powell
running from a murder beef
Belle Isle Marsh · Rusty Barnes
I feel like a six foot three 300 pound target.
No crime takes place there that I can see
But any time I walk into the reeds I expect
to see a body or a rape taking place. Before
I had this feeling we buried my daughter’s
dead hamster Brownie there under six
inches of loam and a rock pyre
in memoriam. My daughter didn’t know
better so I went with my ace plan
at the burial: I recited from the Tibetan
Book of the Dead. O soul of Brownie
as you confront the endless void. . .
Then I forgot where I was and had to start
again at the beginning while inside I thought
Brownie you stinking offal in your expensive
cage I am reciting this because my daughter
does not know how to lose you and is chirping
back tears and even as I speak I do not
know how to lose her among these endless
alphabets of rock and starshine and tears
so I stand here in the marsh and gibber
silently to myself years after the fact in
this place I fear for both what it holds
and what may happen, neither of which
I can control.
Lords of the Wichita · Anne Elezabeth Pluto
High grass to winter wheat
eastern horizon ending in pinpoint
precision on the Great Plains
the Buffalo come to feed
in the morning stumbling
forward nostrils flared in
the weak winter sunlight.
We search for them in the Wichita
mountain preserve wild longhorn
cattle graze in dry pastures – subtle
noses find what tastes best – spotted
hides and painted markings – calves
stray close to their mommas – and
all is still – hawks on treetops
perched – a lonely life of watching
time – deer bed down to catch
the high noon overhead – prairie
dogs protected too in the Wichita
peeking out at passersbys – in the trees
hidden a longhorn bull chews patiently
grown into his great beauty waiting as the cow
eats; he has all the time in this world
for her and they will make another
spotted calf next spring the Buffalo
leave a trail – wet patties to trace
the course of their long protected
walk – we find them – a phalanx of five
heads tilted west as the wind stirs
the great prairie – giant as boulders
easily mistaken for Gods.
Tilted World · Bart Solarczyk
there’s a blind man happy to oblige
for every sock lost in the dryer
there’s a weary amputee
I walk in peace, I mean no harm
still the crow shits on my head
such exquisite balance
requires a tilted world.
Disgruntled Folk Artist Yells at Wind · Red Focks
A gentle breeze through a vortex.
A wormhole, slap dab in the middle of existence.
Gravity creates tragedy.
What a back-stabbing travesty
Eh tu Brute?
“Just going with the flow of things.”
Little rocks and blocks.
Blunt objects off of the ground.
Hold it down.
The scientific art of not letting nature push your ass around.
But there’s no correct answer.
Take back your stuff, end up with lung cancer.
This shit you’re in, gets hot and runny in the sun.
Everybody just wants to HATE someone.
God, the holy fucking father.
The dog from Fraizer.
Interchangeable celebrity #2297
Or all the other haters.
Slow news day.
Tell them to hate the air next.
See what they say.
Month Mouth Moth · Dan Raphael
When we had 6 fingers on each hand
One egg for each hour
When the thumb could wrap all around the pinky
With 6 no fingers in the middle
Yes a thumb is a finger
What if we were double jointed and the fingers could fold either way
Delicate handshakes organic gloves all in it together
A body calendar:
Yearning with 12 mouths, 30 teeth each, on average
Depending on the light, as if a window but couldn’t be
3 walls tween me and outside
A train a torpedo a refrigerator box
Brain Dead · Matthew Borczon
at 5 am
a little more
lived or died
Hands · Lauren Leja
We first noticed the place this summer when the Work,Inc. van dropped off in front of the building. “WORK, INC: WE HELP THE DISABLED BECOME ABLE”, was painted in rainbow letters on the van doors. When the van stopped, flashing lights went on. CAUTION: CHILDREN CROSSING.
Brenda squealed and pointed: “Children my ass! Look — they’re all too old!”
We were expecting a couple of kids in wheelchairs or maybe on crutches. Jesus, even a blind kid. But they were all pretty old, some twenty, some thirty, and a few teenagers, and they all seemed a little fucked up. They lurched and jerked out of the van like mini-Frankensteins.
A few had really big heads and little bodies. A girl with red hair was drooling, the spit in little webs from her chin to her chest. She wore a bib. A short fat guy in brown polyester pants with suspenders was dragging a giant rubber snake in the gutter, through the dead leaves and losing scratch tickets and Burger King wrappers that flew up like butterflies as he passed. A wiry looking kid with scratches all over his arms wore a hockey helmet covered with Muppet stickers and he was rocking back and forth. And hopping out of the other side of the van was a really hot guy with a black wispy mustache and long hair. He wore a faded KISS baseball shirt.
“Shit, he’s foxy!” Brenda whispered. “He must be the driver–he’s the only one who doesn’t have a giant Mr. Potato Head head.”
I had to admit that I was checking him out too.
Then a frazzled black lady in a pink smock zoomed around with a clipboard, herding the Work, Inc.-ers closer to the van. Her giant gold earrings tinkled like Christmas ornaments. “Okay you kids — I need to count you all to make sure nobody snuck out of the van. Frank, Frank, hey I see you!”
Mr. Plastic Snake smiled and whipped his pet around his head with a big whoosh.
“Okay, I see that Julie is here.”
The drooling redhead girl was lying on the sidewalk. She wasn’t going anywhere.
“Julie, please wake up. Thomas? Thomas?”
A crew cut guy with Mickey Mouse glasses waved his hand in the air without interrupting his quiet chant: “5 times 4 equals 20, 5 times 5 equals 25, 5 times 6 equals 30, 5 times 7 equals 35…”
The lady called out “Alan”, and saluted Hockey Helmet and checked off her clipboard. “And Rob, Rob, are you with us today?”
Our hottie answered, “Hey Marcia, I’m cool”, and waved. He had no hands.
Brenda and I freaked.
Instead of hands there were little bumpy knobs at the end of his wrists like tiny play-dough fingers that had never been stretched out.
“Shit, I never thought I’d think a guy with no hands was sexy. Man I didn’t know. Hey Karen, swear you won’t tell anyone, okay?”
“Who could I tell? I thought he was way sexy too!” I told her.
And that was the day my obsession with Rob began.
All day in summer school I kept thinking about Work,Inc. and Rob. Behind my fanned geometry book I retraced RobRobRob with my see-thru rainbow pen in red, blue, and green. Why was he at Work,Inc.? What did he do there all day? Was he retarded too or was it just the hand thing? Was he born without hands or was it from a snowblower accident? Was his family normal? What was Rob’s favorite tv show? How did he eat? Gloves or mittens or the dangling sleeve in the winter? Did he wear a watch? Could he ride a bicycle? How did he pee? Did he like to get high?
The teacher’s voice droned and drifted: “parallelogram, trapezoid, rhombus, equilateral triangle… measure off 60 degrees from the center with your compass…”
I imagined myself combing Rob’s long hair and feeding him Doritos one by one while we watched The Night Stalker. Rob would kiss me during the Stridex commercials and I would smear cherry chapstick all over his lips and we would be very happy.
Brenda and I went to the fire escape practically everyday and she brought her Mom’s binoculars and we started to figure out what went on at Work,Inc., the rhythms of the day. The main thing we realized was that everything took much longer for them than for regular people. Just putting away their lunchboxes and taking off their coats could last an hour. Some couldn’t unbutton themselves. Some couldn’t stop buttoning and unbuttoning, like firemen in a time drill. Some just stood there helplessly, forgetting what they were supposed to be doing in the first place. We stopped seeing the big picture and noticed the details even more: the chin hairs, the Ronald McDonald striped socks, the soggy candy necklaces staining chubby necks. Karen said she kept going because the Work, Inc. people made her feel better about herself and she liked to spy and we were the only ones from the high school cool enough to do it. I was too afraid to confess my crush and claimed to be doing research for the next science fair.
As far as we could tell, the Work,Inc.-ers did the shitty jobs that no one else would do. How were they going to be picky and say no? We chainsmoked and watched from the HairHutt fire escape as the workers tested Christmas tree bulbs in July. They each had a long board with six sockets on it. They had to screw in six bulbs at a time, flip the switch and see which bulbs were burnt out. Then they had to throw the lousy bulbs into a “Bad” box (with a magic marker sad face on it) and put the others into a “Good” box (smiley face).
No one could seem to get a handle on it. Frank-the-Snake kept stuffing the bulbs into the snake’s mouth; the snake soon looked like it had swallowed a rabbit. The Chanter was great at screwing and unscrewing all the bulbs into the board but couldn’t get much further than that. Julie-the-Drooler seemed like the only one who could master the complexities of the project even if it did take her an hour to go through twenty four bulbs. She chomped down on her fleshy tongue and squinted in cartoon concentration as she worked.
Operation Light Bulb lasted almost a month. Even though we were both fascinated — the total slow motion underwaterness of it all, the very real confusion — sometimes we just had to escape to save our own already shaky mental health. Brenda would take a Sun In break and squirt our heads with the sticky goo and I would do a puzzle from my Word Find book and we’d run off to Brenda’s house for a box of Jax Snax. And when we’d start watching again it was like we’d never left. Work,Inc. was like our own private family reunion and we were always the success stories.
I think it was between the popsicle project (“Please make a bundle of ten (10) popsicle sticks and secure them tightly with two (2) rubber bands”) and the soap bags (“Please insert one (1) miniature Irish Spring Deodorant Soap Bar into plastic bag; Next, please insert one (1) 15–cent off coupon”) that the binoculars and I figured out what Rob did at Work,Inc. He was not at the long tables with the others and the piles of popsicle sticks and tiny green soaps. Standing on the milk crate, I could see in a corner, near the Sad–Kitten–Doing–A–Pullup poster (Hang in There!), an easel and paints and family size cans of brushes and some scuzzy rags and a radio and an avocado green corduroy Lazy Boy recliner.
Rob’s hair was pulled back in a low ponytail and he was painting with a long brush in his mouth like those cigarette holders in old fashioned movies. There was a ripped out page from National Geographic clamped to the easel and Rob was slowly copying its bald eagle flying over the snowy mountaintops. Except in Rob’s version, the eagle was blue and purple and shooting out of the flames and oozing lava of a stumpy little volcano floating in the middle of a foamy green ocean. My Rob was an artist and artists are different than the rest of us — they don’t have to explain things, they just have to make stuff.
I watched with the binoculars until I got a headache from squinting. Rob painted very slowly. Every few minutes he put down his brush and sipped MelloYello through a crazy straw and stared at his project or tried to push back falling hair with a tiny hand. He never seemed satisfied, adding more fire, more lava, a few rockets. Brenda reminded me that the binoculars were hers and that she needed to check out Rob’s amazing mouth action for herself. I told her she wouldn’t understand but handed over the binoculars. While Brenda was spying, I put my magic marker in my mouth and tried to write my name on the cover of the puzzle book. It was impossible and the slimy marker kept sliding out and I felt like Julie-the-Drooler and I realized that Rob must truly be a master.
Rob’s painting changed everything — we would live in the mountains and I’d set out his MelloYello and his paints and I would feel like Audubon’s wife, and prop up the dead birds in plastic branches and styrofoam rocks and fill their beaks with gummy worms. Rob would be famous and sell his mouth paintings to museums and rich game show hosts and senile kings of faraway countries.
On Sunday I went to the Mall to meet Brenda and spend the money my mom gave me for school clothes. I got an Orange Julius from the Food Court and glided and slurped up the escalator to look for Brenda at the caboose shaped TShirt Xpress. I saw a strange flash of pink and turned. Sprawled on the ground in front of the Stairway to Heaven Headshop was Julie-the-Drooler, twisting the straps of her plastic bag tightly, so tightly the bag unwinds really fast like a small pink helicopter over her head. She smiles and with her red hair and orange sweatshirt she looks like a giant cotton candy explosion.
“Julie, are you okay?” I asked, actually talking to her for the first time though I had been spying on her for two months.
“Jean, my name is Jean. Jean Nate, just like the yellow lady on the television.” She smiled and patted the wrinkled pink bag. A snail’s trail of drool oozed from the corner of her mouth.
“Ok, Jean, are you here by yourself? Are you lost? What’s in your bag?” I asked her, still sprawled on the tiles. What the hell was the Headshop doing, selling paraphernalia to a retard?
The Mall security jerk came over to see why I was talking to a chubby mental girl happily lying on the floor. “Move along ladies,” he said, while smoothing his bushy mustache with his pointer finger. “Move along”.
I grabbed Julie’s hands and dragged her into a sitting position.
“My boyfriend is coming,” said Julie. “We’re going to meet the kittens at Pet Town. Want to come too?”
“Thanks but I’m meeting my friend in a few minutes.”
“The kittens are so cute and I bet you want to marry my boyfriend. All the girls in the stairs do.”
What the hell was she talking about? What went on in that puffy red head?
“It’s true, all the ladies love me,” said a voice behind me.
I turned and it was Rob, shorter that I expected, but Rob.
“I’m Karen. Are you Julie’s boyfriend?” I stammered.
“That’s her version, not mine. We work together.” Rob pushed his long hair behind his ear, a sliver of pink flashed from the cuff of his jean jacket.
“I think I’ve seen you at Work,Inc. Your name is Rob, right?”
“Yeah. The only way I can get out of the house is if I take Julie with me — she’s my 200 pound watchdog, and she’s my sister.”
This made no sense but maybe it did in a weird way.
“But you guys look nothing alike.”
“Kittens! Kittens!” wailed Julie, collapsing back on the floor.
“Christ, shut up Julie!” Rob yelled. To me he said, “We don’t look alike because we have different fathers. Our mom was a boozer and a groupie so our dads could be almost anybody with a warm van and all her drinking really fucked us up. That’s why she’s a retard and I have these.” He flapped the wrists of his jean jacket. “They’re the first thing everyone wants to know about so now the mystery is over. I’ve got it worse than Julie because at least I know I’m doomed but she has no clue that she’s a freak.”
“Come up to my office,” Rob commanded and started walking to the door marked GARAGE STAIRS at the end of the hallway near the telephones. He walked without turning as if he knew that I would be right behind him.
I followed, leaving Julie crying and drooling on the Mall’s checkerboard floor. Suddenly I didn’t care if she was molested in the bathroom or kidnapped for medical testing. Suddenly Julie became disposable.
He led me to the top level of the parking garage and we sat on the steps, leaning against the rough cement of the orange walls. The town looked flat and grey from so high up and far away. I tried to figure out why I lived there, why anybody did.
“My dad, or the guy who thinks he is my dad, is Gus from Gus AllBrands Vacuums. When my Mom took off we started to live in the back of the shop. He thought she might come back if she knew where to find us. It’s been seven years. There’s no kitchen or real beds back there — just a tv and a hot plate. I’ve slept on lawn furniture since I was in junior high.”
Rob wasn’t embarrassed or mad; he was very matter-of-fact. It was just the way it was. I remembered walking by All Brands a few times, a sad store with a year round display of dirty snowblowers chained together outside. Once a guy wearing a blue jumpsuit and an orange hat was leaning against the doorway with a can of cheap beer.
“Get out the bottle from my pocket,” Rob instructed, and twisted, and offered me his side. I stuck my hand in his pocket, feeling sharp keys, a lighter, maybe a purse–size Visine, a linty lifesaver. I pulled out the bottle. It had its own little plastic cup on top. Nyquil.
“We eat a lot of cup-a-soup and cereal and sometimes toast cooked in Julie’s easy bake oven. The hard part is making the bread tiny enough to fit through the door. Julie folds it up and it’s like eating origami.”
I opened the bottle and thought about the swan toast and pressed the bottle to his lips and he guzzled most of it, watching me. I drank the last sickly sweet sip and kissed him. His lips were slippery and when he smiled a single blue drop slid from the corner of his mouth.
“Okay, it’s your turn,” Rob said.
“What do you mean?” I asked, wiping my lips on the back of my hand.
“Don’t give me that confused suburban-chick shit. You got the sob story you wanted to hear. Now it’s your turn,” he repeated. “What are going to do for me?”
I shook my head. My mouth tasted like medicine.
“Let me decide for you,” he said.
Rob pushed my head down with one hand and I closed my eyes and I bent over and he was pushing his hand into my mouth and I could taste him and the denim scratched my cheek and I sucked and pulled on the little fingers that weren’t, trying to make them grow, to stretch them like a starfish, and I knew then, in that perfect moment, that I would never comb Rob’s hair and feed him Doritos — I would be lighting his cigarettes and forging his disability checks — I would be his hands — and I knew then, as I was tracing the little nubs with my tongue, that I would never be happy.
Karakoz · Anne Elezebeth Pluto
They claimed your name
the black flag gang
of killers and camp followers
strings of wives in black
and silent resignation – spying
on their neighbors in the name
of an absentee God. You rest in
Nile ooze – always flowing
in pleated linen and gold
sandals – lapis and scarabs
Cleopatra wore you as a necklace
a second skin – a suicide note
written in snake – You never
die – riding hippopotamus side
saddle in the muddy underworld
welcoming souls and taking their
measurement in careful hieroglyphic
script they raise their awful flags
and cover their faces – the executioner’s
visage is always well hidden good
riddance let the rivers open – the sea
part and swallow them whole. You will
turn a tired painted eye as they are
hurled before you legions of killers
suicide vests remaining on spines severed
heads from bodies – no Karakoz* virgins waiting
in this hot heaven – you will unleash
the peacock angel – and the murdered
mothers and grandmothers bones made
flesh in the resurrection of Sinjar – the
unearthed mass grave – what horrors
they have left in their wake – in the
mouth of the goddess with the
Immortal · Heather Sullivan
untying mud smeared flesh in
swirls of colored sound,
each widening sphere,
loosening the hold of hem and haw.
Swimming in vapor,
my words held power,
hair on end,
Priestess of Athena,
I submit to the weaving,
take the warp and weft,
lay my body on the loom.
the moon calls,
strapping on sandals,
my terrifying radiance,
A Late May Day this Dark Confuses my Sense of Spring · Dan Raphael
gradients of silver
if i don’t just sit here
random as a mood-ring
the hottest colors are beyond our visible
to slice and cauterize, seamless
if i could unbutton my chest
if my parts could be replaced as easily as a cars
how the air i breathe isnt a solid wave
but several furling threads, tiny cylindrical tornados;
the air comes out of me like a sandstorm in a forest,
almost half exiting through my skin, not mouth or nose
the wind takes a quick nap
the highway is sheathed in a stocking of silence
only my noises—typing, the tides of body maintenance,
what sounds like an enclouded plane inside my chest canyon
if i starve can i still sweat
if i hover in my sleep how wide can i open the windows
i hear a crow breathe, i hear a dogs collar
clocks that arent silent call too much attention to time
calendars that flip themselves cant be trusted.
Elvis Presley Discusses the Nature of Reality / Love in the Age of Intelligent Machines (with dialogue from ‘GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS’ - 1962) · Andrew Darlington
al-ive in a storm, she says
indulge in antique rituals
the touching of alien skin
the ceremonies of probing
dried folds and apertures
of flesh, making (pseudo)
love with the TV on
I don’t know, I guess maybe it’s
because everything seems more
intense, more real, says Elvis
indulge in ancient ceremonies
of waiting, of penetration
of silence, of shifting
of engulfings and
to shared TV memories
this is real, she says
yes, says Elvis
while we indulge in
withered games of breathing
that leave us just as empty
and withdrawals that leave
the same vacuum, the same
unease that remains
you sound doubtful, she says
you’re not too real yourself
words that are just as
unformed and unspoken
not yet, she says
‘GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS’ © 1962
Dialogue by Edward Anhalt/Allan Weiss
reproduced by kind permission of
I Was Thinking About · Mari Deweese
I’d peel the strips of mottled flesh
each oh-so-satisfying length
pulling away light
and soft as cloud
down the spongy shaft. To take
and taste the curved pillar now
exposed with pink
tongue would surely
be a most natural thing to do.
But I’d rather enjoy you sliced and
drowning in my milk,
pairing with the crunch of grainy
bones between my gnashing
It's about that hour · Dan Flore
has come to stalk the house
rattle his pill bottles,
peer in the windows
I left open
in my mind
Alchemy · R. M. Engelhardt
Complete & unshaken whose voice remains
For the sake of determination.
Mind you, this is truth without the lethargic séance
Of years, mind you
That these are the words of
Hypocrites and players, dreamers & fools who would
Assume or consume your heart with their
Calculate and transcend the towering dooms of doom
Love & cherish all faces equally at the mere
Mention of sirens or hollow men
For beauty is a butterfly up in a tree or quite possibly
The sound of one devoted heart, not a superman
Nor a super model nor the uncontented cries of
Oversexed rock stars.
Time will do quite fine
Without them when time knows what desire
Beholds between the moments & the distance of
To · Dominic Albanese
of a dream
recall a kiss
be enchanted by
is what poetry is
along a trail of whispers
for good night
A Tanka (epilogue) · Pris Campbell
by a howling nor’easter
steadies us between waves,
safe harbor an illusion