Untitled Document

Issue 70


Wess Mongo Jolley


Elisha Wagman


Henrik Hoeg


Talia Monet Sharpp


Mary Jane Hale


L. Marie Cook


Chris A. Peck


Casey Renee Kiser


James Dickman


Kirsten Doggart


Gabriella Garofalo


Hanan Muzafar




Benjamin Williams




Five Poems
by Wess Mongo Jolley


Something to Remember You By


thank you for the memento


this piece of you for


my knick knack shelf




your sneer is gone


your rough palm


over my mouth


and the five olive bruises


on my forearm will


fade with time




so i’m glad you left me


something i could treasure


and that time will


not take away




i can look at it until the


light of day fades


and even then




i will always know


that it is there




Love Similes


To Peter


I fall for you like


    Karl Wallenda


fell for the circus


I fall for you like


Fat Man fell


for Nagasaki


I fall for you like


DB Cooper




My passion burns for you like


a helium balloon


in a solar flare


Like a noonday ant


under a bad boy’s


magnifying glass


Like the Hindenburg


burns for the


Passaic


Like a narcoleptic


on a tanning bed




I miss you like


a botched shot at


a charging rhino




I dream of you like


105 degree fever


in a funhouse




I desire you like


a bulimic longs for


chocolate bunny ears




I touch you like


a mink caresses


her leghold trap




I will love you forever


falling and burning across the sky


lighting up the ruins


of our abandoned church



Letting Go


on the train into sunset


my history is so brittle


ephemeral and fleeting




abandoned power lines


stand forgotten marching


forlornly along the tracks




old splintered poles tired from


half a century have dropped their


wire burdens into the underbrush


 


my eyes don’t focus like they used


to so I lean back like these poles


trying to see the details




afraid to touch the cable around


my ankles although I know


the charge is long gone




Excavation


They found my fossilized remains


while excavating a freeway on-ramp.


They were encased in volcanic


rock, millions of years old.


In fact you can still see the site today,


abandoned within the cloverleaf of I-89.


 


Of course, after the construction


all that remains is a vague outline—


a foot, some hair, a couple teeth.


And there isn’t even a plaque


to memorialize the find.


 


When I drive past my remains,


camouflaged in the army green rock


twenty feet above the roadway,


I try to remember myself and


my life lived among centuries of extinction.


 


But every year the rain washes a


a bit more of me away.


Freezing ice dislodges


a tooth or a patch of skin.


Birds carry off my hair for their nests.


 


The fallen bodies on Everest


lie trailside for decades,


climbers glancing uncomfortably down


to see them become more windblown and tattered


with each passing summer.


 


Soon my remains will be completely gone,


and only the hum of the traffic will remain.


Tooth and bone and hair will


go the way of all that decays.


Nothing but dust and broken fragments


lost amidst construction rubble


 


and plans for the mall expansion.




Tinder


summer sun pours wetly


through the convex lens of my desire


august heat weighs heavy on my chest


and the days are far too long


every golden haired thigh and muscled shoulder


gleams moist with need in midday heat


bearded and hungry faces meet my eye


and linger in the desperate imagination


of tangled limbs and salty tastes and sweat


that drips into the thirsty earth of dreams


 


dreams of the sunbaked barefoot path


that leads from his tongue to mine


of that fork where we do not part but grasp our


hair filled with summer heat bubbling our lust


into a frenzied cauldron of mud baked sweat tongued


too burnt to touch raw sunburned desire


 


dreams of the road less traveled thirst unquenched


baked earth and no shade but me under you under me


where i lie beneath your slick chest and


find solace in our hearts boiled together in blood


and meat and frenzied muscles that grip


salted shafts of sweat and mud streaked flesh


 


bearded hungry faces meet my eye and days are long


 


by fall heat will crest sweat dry thighs abate


but while august burns i will have that hot flesh at summer


crossroads sun cascading through the lenses of our desire


i will choose a path hoping it leads


to embers finally fanned alive in you


and us and in the red glow of a


setting august sun




Business Expenditures


I unpack my lust


in cheap hotel rooms


of cities I’ll never see.


 


I toss him carelessly


with my change and room


key onto the nightstand,


 


Where my lust sits forgotten


as I shower and gaze into the


night, dripping with neon.


 


My fingertips paint runes on


clouded glass, and we hear


laughter across the hall.


 


Fresh and clean and


newly dressed, my lust


sits forgotten.




I scoop my change


and room key back


into my pockets,


 


and leave him alone to


whisper his longings


to an empty room.




Wess Mongo Jolley is an expatriate American poet and poetry promoter living in Montreal. He is Founder and Executive Director of the Performance Poetry Preservation Project ( http://poetrypreservation.org ), and is most well known for hosting the IndieFeed Performance Poetry Channel podcast ( http://performancepoetry.indiefeed.com ) for more than ten years. As a poet, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Off The Coast, PANK, The New Verse News, Danse Macabre, The November 3rd Club, The Legendary, decomP, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, RFD, Warrior Poets, and in the Write Bloody Press book The Good Things About America . After a quarter century living on 60 acres of rural Vermont, he now writes full time from his balcony overlooking rush hour traffic in Montreal; a gorgeous, dirty, gritty, artsy, ecstatic, appalling, and vibrant beast of a city, which he has come to love the way you love a good-hearted uncle with Tourette’s. He can be found on the internet at http://wessmongojolley.com , and at mongo@wessmongojolley.com.


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Two Poems
by Elisha Wagman


Highway 16


 


Were any of us willing to say something.


Ghost women would not haunt headlines


task forces would be dispatched


a special officer deployed.




Instead, families tape


colored copies to hydro poles


Tabitha, 24, missing 8 months, 6 days


Jacqueline, 28, missing 3 months, two days


Symoboline, 32, missing 1 week, 1 day, 4 hours




Women abducted from Highway 16


where clothes, not cars are the attraction


tube tops, short shorts, stiletto heels,


bracelets, gleaming in noonday sparks




This is Canada 2016


native women are worth less, worthless


less worth than the cost of a national hunt


for the men who prey. 




Pray yourselves


beg your Christian,


Muslim, Jewish, Hindi,


Buddhist gods for absolution


wipe the blood of these women


from your palms.




The ground is soaked.


blood of Ojibwa, Assiniboine, Sitsika, Nicola


no amount of condominiums, big box stores


can cover sins of ancestors.


This blood is fresh, adobe bright


it stains.




A stop sign we refuse to heed. 


The list is longer than the stretch of highway


where no cameras were installed, no police posted


no surveillance vans parked in the ditch.


 


The new Tabithas, Jaqulines, Symbolines


stroll back and forth, one eye on the cars


the other on kitchen knives


tucked in waistband of skirts.




Self-defense failed their ancestors


may fail them too, as the rest of Canada


eats dinner, watches television


pretends genocide is an atrocity


of third worlds located oceans away. 


  


When these women are extinct


the tribes of our nation diminished


Canadians will console themselves with platitudes


fed to us since childhood. Fatty lies


that taste good on our serpent tongues.


 


Glossy photographs of these women will populate


our textbooks where their stories will spin to


mythical proportions. Disney will buy


the rights to their tale


granting them status never enjoyed in life,


status that would have saved their lives.




Soon, fall frost will freeze ground


sealing these women in soil,


their flesh the fertilizers of spring flowers.




Say Something




If you see something, say something.


It’s 2016


& Iran has nuclear weapons!




& people are avoiding each other


Since Giuliani bleached the streets


Persons displaced, Cristy, and Mary-Jane


Tossed in Jersey’s trash.


Man pees in phone booth, look away


& secretly call Crime Stoppers at the next station


While a tourist asks, “Excuse me, do you have the time?”




What time is it?


It’s stop and frisk time


It’s drugs of the decade time


It’s fucking futuristic time


It’s push a button time


It’s the end of time.


Press 7 to speak with a customer service representative


I’m sorry, your request cannot be processed at this time.”


Goodbye!




International relations are on rewind.


Make that double-rewind, where we regress so much


It must be the beginning of time.


So how come all we ask is, “Do you have the new iPhone?”


One minute you’re jumping for joy because Bin Laden is dead


The next, you’re thinking heightened security at LGA? No way!


Here come the tax hikes and long lines. Next, they’ll ask us to remove our eyes.


One minute it’s protect our country,


The next it’s wondering who will cover the cost.




It’s 2016


& Iran has nuclear weapons!


& everyone wants a little security.


We see al-Baghadi smoking a cigarette


With Bin-Laden’s fourth cousin on his mother’s side,


& wish we’d voted for more troupes.




Now, he’s the head of ISIS


So stop in for free tostadas at the corner bar


Except suddenly it’s a carnivore club specializing in hyacintho cadaver


& everybody here’s the 1%.


Because you get your fill of flesh without ever


Having to pull the trigger.


Except the menus are all in Arabic and how can you eat


Without giving thanks?


La tatliquu alnnar!




It’s 2016


& Iran has nuclear weapons!




The Arab spring is dry.


El-Sisi calls for religious revolution


As Egyptians stand in line for makeshift shelters


Where Peacekeepers hand out day-old donuts.


At least Tunisians are free to fire assault weapons at tourists.


Palestinians have met and decided it’s not an Intifada


They’re going to change its name to be more marketable to the West


& the educated elite of Europe.


But for the time being, they’ll use the word tremor.


Tremor? Personally, I’m in favor of calling a spade a spade


Only this shovel of shit doesn’t soften daily stabbings


Or cover the stained steps of Damascus Gate.




It’s 2016


& Iran has nuclear weapons!




A lasting peace between sworn enemies is Obama’s legacy?


The United States strongly supports the goal of two states


Israel and Palestine: living side by side in peace and security.”


I want security too, but there’s nowhere left to go.


At night, I fixate on the grayish glow of


Images and text provided for everyone,


But manipulated by a few.


Soon, everything will be ordered online and stores


Will become relics of a forgotten past.


The world is changing, but I’m not.


Trying to figure out where my taxes go


When, surprise! There is no accountability.




It’s 2016


& Iran has nuclear weapons!




Senor Banker! Right this way, please!


Excuse me, have to foreclose on this family,


Sorry.


Let all of us reach for the American dream again,


A dream that says if you work hard and play by the rules


You can have a good life and retire with dignity.”


What do we say to the million people who are newly homeless?


It can’t happen here because it’s already happened here.


Healthcare catastrophe steals life till we don’t even see it,


A country haunted by ghosts, meeting Death before their mid-life crises


While the Supreme Court forces states to marry lesbian and gay couples.


& be sure to send your complaints to the Minister of Bullshit to make the list


That grants TSA workers the right to search your bags a third time


As you pay student loans for life, and never get the degree.


It’s time to be a great dog owner.


Work long hours to afford the best dog walker while you’re away.


My dog is a rescue from Williamsburg,


A mongrel who didn’t play well with others at McCaren Park.


Don’t worry! I live near Tomkins


Where dogs reject socialization.




It’s 2016


& Iran has nuclear weapons!




And everything old is new.


Bed-Stuy’s brownstones a bargain at seven figures and


A bullseye on Harlem’s back. Don’t


Shoot the messenger, we all have a job to do.


Texting is 24-7, as couples find true love using algorithms


Personal values plummet as rental prices soar.


We’re headed towards something in a somewhat


Self-destructive, adolescent kind of way.




We can’t keep up with our lives.


Come on Mitalipov, where’s my clone?


Someone call Seamless, I’m starving!


Get on it, ban fracking before it’s too late.


It’s Earth Day again, if you can find a pristine piece.


Paranoia used to be a disorder, now it’s a national pastime.


Protect that second amendment, unless it’s used to kill school children


& poetry is the newspaper of the world


Only no one reads newspapers anymore, not even on Kindles


Where we can download them for FREE.


There’s optimism at the college club


The sushi bar is open


Excuse me, is there mercury in that salmon?


I’ll take the organic, heirloom chicken with gluten-free stuffing. Thank you very much.


They don’t even know what it is, but they’re buying into it.


Let’s not broker this deal.




It’s 2016


& Iran has nuclear weapons!




& there’s a woman on stage and she’s screaming at me


& she’s using words that don’t make any sense


It’s all prose arranged on the page like a picture


And it’s all irreverent ampersands highlighted in yellow


& all I can recall is the part about




It’s 2016


& Iran has nuclear weapons!




& around the globe there is a ring of impending doom


As terrorists strap monarchs to plasticine thrones


The web our only witness.


Click on it! Click!


Click! Click! Click!




Elisha Wagman is a professor of writing at Parsons The New School for Design where she teach freshmen students to craft short stories, personal essays and poetry. She live in Brooklyn, New York where she shares a tiny apartment with her dog Nosh, and over a thousand books.


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Two Poems
by Henrik Hoeg


Single




How will I know?


You always know, when you’re not in love,


You just know.


The air is turgid with desperation,


The wind giggles at you, not with you,


As it rustles through the grey leaves of Autumn,


And everything tastes like chicken nuggets.




No one can tell you that you’re not in love,


You have to discover it for yourself,


Like the wet towel of reality slapping you in the face


At the end of a really long day at the office.




But, ask yourself;


Is it not better to have not loved and not lost,


Than never to have not loved at all?




Have you ever been not in love?


Me?


No, at least not in a very long time.




Superpowers




I used to think that someday


Superheroes and I might be equals,


But I keep getting stronger


While they keep getting sequels




Henrik Hoeg is a Danish poet living in Hong Kong where he organizes and emcees Peel Street Poetry. His first collection 'Irreverent Poems for Pretentious People' was an awardee in the Proverse Prize 2015 and published in April, 2016. Both of these poems appear in his second collection, 'Away With Words'.


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Two Poems
by Talia Monet Sharpp


Poetry is not a luxury.




No crowd pleasers, please


leave your punchlines at the door and your soul on the mic dripping of inhibited inhibitions like


the solvent dripping free from the solution your truth is your solution your salvation lies within


you, poet, speak your truth.


Like deep creases in vintage mikes you cannot break free from your flaws find freedom within


them or wallow under the weight of the silence poet, speak your truth.


This ain't no cheap thrill, it will cost you your comfort. adrenaline rushes real raw reveal you,


relieve you, you live through, we love you, deep breaths we all feel you, poet, speak your truth.


Like time will tell your rhymes, though written well, won't trap your secrets or conceal the


silence of your insecurity in sound, there's no soundproofing your self, we hear you, poet, speak


your truth.


Always come correct, if not for you then for us and always know if you ever feel your words


falling beyond your reach, if you feel nervous, there's no need to imagine us all in our underwear.


We all out here naked just hoping that no one will notice.




It’s Mourning Outside




(Previously published in Whurk Magazine, January 2018.)




It’s morning here. Here, it has rained for three days straight.


We don’t stop moving, we stay dry.


But this place is mourning the lives lost.


Here, the weather wonders whether they ever mattered. Water that splatters from puddles and


small pools in the streets be monuments of our shared memory that force us to feel just a little


something, even when we’ve chosen numbness as a coping mechanism.


Condensation be like repression as we hold deep breaths simply waiting to exhale these inhales


that burn like chlorine traveling up through our nostrils. Meant to protect us, and still it hurts us.


Kinda like the police.


Precipitation. We hold our breaths a little longer, but this place, this place around us has released


a storm of sorrow that it refuses to hold onto any longer.


I wish to be like it, but still I wince at each raindrop on my brown skin knowing that it won’t be


long before my Black body is drenched in the type of despair that makes me question my


purpose. I ask myself, is this shit even worth it? It’s hard to tell in a world that’s shown me time


and time again that my life ain’t never been worth shit.


I can no longer see past the sea of Black bodies to buried.


Talia Monet Sharpp is a student at Hampton University where she studies philosophy, conducts research on the roles of women in revolutionary socio-political movements and teaches F(read)om School, a program that guides middle-school students through an exploration of Black literature. She enjoys biking, beaches, and brunching. Talia competes in campus poetry slams and performs regularly at local open mics.


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Three Poems
by Mary Jane Hale


Counting Girl




I am a counting girl


Laying, my back pressed


Against the silver-flecked tile floor.


Teardrops glisten like diamonds and fall


From my eyes and catch in the golden locks


Sprawled around me like a sunflower.




I take a strand and twist


The curl around my finger


Studying each hair and pressing


The soft strings to my lips.




You’re so beautiful when you cry”


You said, words echoing against the glass.


Would you find me beautiful now as I lie


Rivers dripping down my neck


Streaking the tanned skin


And soaking the nape-curls dark?




I am unrecognizable from the girl


I pretend to be.


She has glistening white smiles


And a laugh like dripping honey.


She’ll say, “Yes, I’m good, great,


So much to be thankful for.”




But she won’t tell you about me,


About the girl that’s made a game


Of catching teardrops in my hair


To stave off the myriad of emotions


That threaten to choke me.




Completely Alone In the Company of Another




Sometime when the moon casts a silvery glow


Through the slit in my curtain I lie
In my bed with my eyes open just staring
At the crystal bowl of the resting ceiling light,


The bare skin of my arm rests against another's,
My lover, but I couldn't feel more alone,


Like a child that sits on the edge


Of the sidewalk and watches


The other girls dance and play


In their fortresses beneath the play set


As I toss pebbles on the ground and watch


As even they roll away from me.
My mind opens up and I feel a tear


Roll down my face like rain on a window pane
And I don't turn to keep it from falling


Onto the ridges of my collarbone. I let it burn


Into my skin and I listen to the girl inside


As she cries for me to give her a voice.
I want to reach over and shake my lover beside me.
I want him to hold me in his arms and make me


Not feel so alone, but I don't. I simply lie


As the rain casts down on the landscape of my face
And I cry for the girl inside me. The one I've buried


Beneath in the basement of my heart


For so long she doesn't trust me anymore,
And know that these tears and the sound


Of her screaming inside me, scrapping at the walls


I've buried her behind, are the battle I've retreated


From so many times, locked away and almost forgotten


And I owe it to her to fight it alone.  




Looming Blue




The soft smell of freshly mowed grass


And light rain on the pavement brings


Me back to those mornings


I spent out in the garage with you.




My little white shoes tied tight and ready


To climb rough oak trees and skip fools


Gold rocks on the sidewalk and pretend


Those pebbles were our pirate loot,


For those few hours when I was allowed


To make the rules.




A hint of gasoline spilled from our new


Yellow Cub Cadet mower taints


The smell in the air the way


Your absence in the evenings


Does to the memories of summer dusk,


Catching fireflies in mason jars


And watching them illuminate your face


And light up your eyes, the looming blue


You gave to me.




I wish I could think about you


Without remembering the way


I ran down the driveway screaming


For you to come back,


But those unspoiled memories are lost


Like the hot pink butterfly


Catcher we left in the fields across


The street where we used to play.




And I want to be anything


But a grown woman with a child’s


Heart still whispering “daddy, daddy”


In hopes that you’ll come home.




Mary Jane Hale is a poet and novelist from Indianapolis, Indiana. She started writing as a young girl and continued her career by completing her Bachelor's degree at University of Southern Indiana and pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at Southern New Hampshire University. She enjoys writing while her cat, Eleanor rests on the back of her favorite chair and her husband tinkers with his antique restoration business.




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Five Poems
by L. Marie Cook


The Artist




This time, just as the last


I leave with a burning to create,


to write and purge the rush


that boils up through the voids


I can only see and feel


once the encounter is over




The man who doesn’t fully


Satisfy but has good parts


leaves room for fantasies


as an artist I craft


Beautifully


weaving through the gaps of


his unexpressed feeling, the


uncertainty of his attraction is


the man I dream up




Do I stay with all the doubts of


him to fulfill this freedom, to


nest inside him a creature I


Know




Proximity and convenience are


gratifying qualities appealing to


the laziness in us both, keeping


Us coming back for the ease


of instant gratification




In any match there will be


checkpoints that are weak;


schedules, chemistry, shared


Values, sexual style, all


breeding grounds for the


Comfort of my imagination, the


strongest being the selfish kind


of sex




How to win him over, the victory of


When one finally gives what’s


been teasing me, the attention


paid to my parts only as a


Witness and not as a tool for


orgasm




Little Voices




Amid the most ambitious of noises


Little voices peek out


Emerge


They call to me


Without my primary inquest


Perturbation




I have disregarded the voices in times before


Not being the ones I picked to hear


Softness and ease




Drowned them out by my loud and anxious


Questioning


To the mysteries of the forbidden


Unwanting, unseeable, unknowing




But the little voices have patience


They wait and continue to speak


Long after I tried to close my ears


Through the cracks between my fingers


Their words seeped




And because they were soft


They felt nice and I let go


Of my tight grip to avoid them


They whisper truths to me




Compliments or lies


It was truths I didn’t want to hear


Tell me I’m precious, beautiful, unique


Tell me anything to help me not think




But the little voices are gentle


They aren’t there to entertain


It’s something more simple, untrained


How are you doing?


I’m good


Yeah, but, really, how are you?


I’m OK


The little voices didn’t think so


So they hung around, for just the right pause


Between breaths


Until I was so tired of trying


to pretend


That there was nothing else I could do


Nothing left


And with the grace of a leaf


That catches the eye by simply falling from a tree


They little voices I fought




Gas Powered




I am annoyed by the sound of gas-powered tools


It reminds me of my childhood


When a troop of sweaty men


would invade my yard


taking all the wild out of it




It would grow back


I could play in the tropical islands


hiding in the ferns




But every other week


they’d return


bringing their noise invasion and blades


I’d wait at the window, watching, glaring


They’d smile and wave




I would go outside after they’d left


and feel sad


that the jungle was gone


again




The dirt would be smooth


Flower beds cleared


vast open spaces between the plants


where the rebels grow




I began to hate the smell of fresh-cut grass


The way one hates the smell of hospital




So when I hear a leaf blower, a lawn mower or


Weed-wacker


My blood begins to boil


My jaw becomes clinched


And I have to just breathe and remember




No matter how many times the men return


with their gas-powered tools


That the rebels are waiting


In little seeds


beneath the ground


ready to grow




The Heart Works




In all those times


it was never my heart


that was breaking


It was my ego




My Heart works just fine




Strange Girl




I am a strange girl


In an era of digital domination


I find great nostalgia and satisfaction


in utilizing the US Postal Service


to my full advantage




Post cards and letters to my ex-boyfriend


make their way through the sieves and sorts


just to really fuck with him




He never responds


Did I mention I’m a strange girl?




I still call myself a girl even at thirty years of age




The latest use of the Pony Express


is to send a package, a bundle


of ripped out journal pages, poems and


the birthday card signed,


You’re the fucking best, Love J.”




All of that paper is trash


And I don’t want to deal with it


Since it’s all about him


He who refuses to speak to me


He left a mess




So I’m just going to mail it to him


and make him clean it up




Did I mention I’m a strange girl?




L. Marie Cook is a freelance writer and the author of Lay Me Down, a First Prize winner in the Wild Card division at the 2012 Los Angeles Book Festival. She has a BA in Communications from the University of Hawaii at Hilo where she was the Arts and Culture Editor for Ke Kalahea. L. Marie has been published on Rat's Ass Review, Airplane Reading, Las Brujas de Yerbas, and Guerrilla Reads. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York and plays the Ukulele. You can also find her work on her blog: underlmarie.blogspot.com


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Five Poems
by Chris A. Peck


the summer I thought the sun would never set




the vine made a perfect swing


we felt the wind flow through our


summer clothes


we flew like the birds we threw


stones at


and we knew we'd miss


never was about hitting the things


it was a show of our innocence




the river went to my knees


soaked my shoes


they sank into the sand and mud


made a trail that would stain the river


forever


and over the river I walked


along the wide trunk of a


florida maple


scared to fall into the water below


water I'd walked in too often


and the prayer of the humming


cicadas pushed me on


past the trunks fork to the far side


far away from home




sunset kickball with ghost on second


he never made it home


because he was on second or third


I swear he was on first


we fought with our words


to end every sunny summer evening


letting the forgotten ball rest


at the sidewalk curb for the night


waiting for the next game


and argument over ghost-men




we kissed behind your house


I was ten and so nervous


we hit out teeth together


touched tongues off of a dare


and you tasted like honey-suckles


and the stalks of grass you chewed


our kisses were innocent and new


hidden away behind houses


and in the woods once in your bedroom




the rain made puddles


for out bikes


making tsunamis through sidewalks


soaking our t-shirts and hair


hands shaking on the handlebars


the rain was our god


thunder calling us home


but not until we touched


the next puddle and then the next


and the next never ending


even when we became the rain


water flowing through


the hallways of our veins


youth falling onto each


summer day and night


blocking the sun that would


never set but hang in the sky


past dinner time


past my childhood reading


and neared the horizon


as my eyes closed




and when I was eight


my parents gave me a journal


to write about what I saw


with my childhood eyes


and so I wrote and wrote


today is a good day


today is a good day


today is a good day


so much so that the


repetitiveness seemed to mean


that I wasn't paying attention


to what I was writing


but I was writing the way


that I lived in the forest


and in the hills that I saw


thinking they were mountains


my bones grew heavy


with the ink that filled them


there was a music


my writing spoke of what it


meant to have a good day




it was repeated




The Distance to Sirius




The star Sirius is 8.6 light years away;


which is over fifty trillion miles from Earth.




When I look up into the night sky in the early fall—


biking to work at 4:30 in the morning—


I see its old light shining.


Light that left the star when I was someone else.


It peeks up over the landscape made out of shapes


and I pedal the short distance in the cold


thinking about that light.




I am not seeing the star.


I am seeing a projection of what the star once was,


and I cannot know what it is now.


Like a time machine from the novels I read as a boy . . .


and still read,


I look into the past and see something that no longer is.


It's only a projection.




I read once—


in one of those novels that tell of things that


could happen—


That we are all bugs in amber.


That we are frozen in time and that time means nothing.


It's only a label


to help us distinguish the good times from the bad,


but really all the good times and bad times


are but moments that neither pass nor progress


and just are.




We are all dead.


We are all falling in love for the first time


and taking a bite of a cookie our moms just made.


We are all skinning our knees and getting lost.


We are all confused over the first question on the big test.


We are all learning to ride a bike.


We are all alive.




When my son asks his mother if I am going to die,


after I'd been admitted into the hospital while he was at school,


she tells him no.


She tells him that I will be home soon


and that I will be fine.


But like the star Sirius, 8.6 light years away,


I am already dead,


but I am also so very much alive,


like my son is alive


and like I am alive when I come home


and when I am in pain


and when I can not get up from the couch


And when I take him to the park . . .




I bike to work weeks later


and Sirius is much higher in the sky,


tracing its way to Orion's belt and on to Pleiades;


each arching in the sky.


And I know each star is dead


or will be soon,


but it is their light that illuminates the early, dark ride.


And it is their light that I look at, and trace


and see within my mere moments of time


standing still in the sky


like bugs in amber.




Ghosts




We sat around the fire, stars blazing through a clear,


turbulent sky. Rivaling the sea-moon—


milk, pouring over the horizon.


There was understanding between all present.


All young boys, filled with Vonnegut wonder


at the worlds surrounding us.


An unspoken bond of carbon-things.


The deepest intimacy.




The night—never cold—crackled around us;


glowed on our faces between ghost stories


and shivers that had nothing to do with the air.


I first saw the galaxy Andromeda while laying


on my back in the sand, listening to waves crash—


mimicking the moon light in ways that show


the inconsistency of existence.




There was little space between the stars then.


A barely noticed black back drop . . .


no, it was the silver and white and red of the


universes—the hidden lives—and second-hand


stars that kept me up until the ghosts arrived.




For sixteen years


I have not seen the stars in such brilliant


nakedness. All things eventually lead to a dim


memory.


The wind and clouds on the first night.


The ghost that kept me up towards morning,


and the embarrassment in confiding my fears


to my brother.


The stars on the second night,


and in the same place years before—unchanged


and still brand new—their age incomprehensible


to my thirteen years of existence.


And now, even that, some memory barely held.




If I were to travel


I would go to the center of the galaxy.


I would ask Sagittarius A what it had seen


and it would answer, in radio waves, of the ghosts


that stretched out like a dog in the sun


as they entered the super-massive black hole.


Like the two boys I barely knew


from high school that died, only to haunt the


universe in memories and radio waves.


Or like Lindsay—long brown hair I touched once—


made bald; sick, with a brain that taught her to love


and turned traitor; provided tumors that


eventually took her life; now a ghost,


forced to wander through the halls of our high school.


Forced to ride the bus, answer her door with


staples in her head, to forever say hello to me.




I drove up the canyon mid-winter some time back


and parked, alone. The dog-star was high in the sky


that night, and I watched it for some time, lying on the


hood of my car, hands aching in my coat pockets.


The moon glared in my eyes,


the air was not warm


and no ghosts haunted me that hour as


I laid shivering, staring up at the heavens.


All that there was, and will ever be


is the space between the stars,


blackness draping behind the light that


creates and destroys, only to rebuild everything


we will ever know and ever become,


over and over again.




When I Go




Do not worry about my belief.


Because when I go—like we all must go—


I will be a part of something,


even if I am hesitant to name what that is.


My father once told me to hold truths tentatively


And now, thirty years old, I find it hard


to hold anything in my mind for any


significant amount of time.




When I look out side,


I see a gray sky,


barren trees, calling out for their


lovers. I see time pass through my fingers


and it worries me. I feel uncertainty


through the changes that seep into my bones.


I am a thing that only knows change




and so, when I finally go


read the letters I received—the good, and the bad.


Speak of my flaws. Praise my good days


and my bad.




I am human. I am me, and we all are


brought through this together so that we may all


experience what it means to be held. What it means to be


touched, to feel the snow fall on our shoulders


as it passes through the space between the tree branches.




When I go, let my words mean something


for they were always for you.


Every scribble and crossed out word,


everything I uttered—mistakes and all—


were for you; for all of you.


Let the snow under your feet show the marks of


the tears that fall from my pages.


Let the wind that begs you to go back indoors


carry me far away from all I love


so that all you have to hold onto are my memories.




When I go, I suspect I will know little more than I do now.


Things come and go and my thoughts tend to wander


towards a world that will always be a part of me.


When I look for god




I find him in you.


I find him in you




and in your beauty, in your suffering, in the snow


and in the space between the dark tree branches


in the middle of winter,


when we are all huddled indoors on a Sunday morning,


watching the snow begin to fall.




Please.


Please, when I go, tell me you loved me,


because I loved you—everyone.


Compare me to the evergreens.


Shake my ashes far and wide and watch them


disappear into the Earth. Into heaven.


Into whatever future may come of me once I am gone.




I will whisper each of your names on the wind.


I will write into your veins of the love you gave me


and of the words I gave you.


We are one, and we always were.


You are my blood. My skin. My legs.


You are my diseased intestines, and crippled leg.


You are me. I am you—your hair, your lips, your fingers.




When I run from this life


Let me run.


Let me run, and follow me leisurely,


so that we may meet again, on the wind,


on a winter branch, in the sky; raining down


into the mouths of praying children.


Into this church of air and earth.




No Words to Express Disease




There are pieces of me that


no matter how I stand,


and how I try to tear them out


I cannot share.




I once stood in front of a mirror


in only boxers


and felt my clammy skin




No one was home and so I wrapped my hands


around my thighs,


saw the bones stick out from my


sides and back,


felt the hollowness of my eyes.




I counted once, and never revealed


the number


of times I vomited


in a single day:


seventeen.




And now,


my legs, my back, my head


bear scares I can't talk about.


This isn't something I overcame;


there I no glory to be found,


there is only a truth of the ugliness


of disease.




There is only a realization


of how simple a complex thing,


like the body, truly is.




And I realize now


why I never write about the blood


I lost


the pain


I felt


the wish to die


that had nothing to do with


depression, but only out of


practicality.




It is because there was never


a lesson in the words;


no meaning behind them


other than disease provides


no meaning;


that pain gives nothing.


That, while I may or may not have


grown from such an event,


the fact remains


that all lessons


derive from time.


And my time spent in bed,


measuring my thighs,


using a cane,


or trembling so bad


I could no longer catch my breath


left nothing but fear


that it will all come


sailing back.




Chris A. Peck is a high school English teacher and a member of the Utah Rock Canyon Poets. His poems have been published in several print and online publications, including Touchstones, Orogeny, and Wilderness Interface Zone. Other publications include the journals Intersections, and Essais, and Sci Phi Journal.


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Four Poems
by Casey Renee Kiser


Mornings Are Only Good for Calling Off Work




She lies on her back after the call


and listens


To the crashing of white rabbits,


To the punk frequencies that are rising up, tired of sharing the air


with shitty hipster spoken word


Sighs, as lazy ghosts hitch a ride on her fingertips


as she traces the word DREAM on her ceiling


She sinks into herself and hitches a ride on echoes of ego


She remembers back when she only traced the word SLEEP


She is waiting for the headless swans to return


and confirm


that the body is useless


And for the lake to pay off its debt to the moon


for keeping quiet




Fuck that lake


that lied to the swans for so long


Fuck going to work today, Fuck em all


She sinks into the bed and repeats


'I am not really here'




I Am Not A Ghost Yet




Your tongue was the only black you wore


to my funeral


You’re such a fucking rebel….




You were hovering,


salivating, breathing in my death


I felt your eyes dismember me




Everything was beautiful the day you died’,


you said as you touched my cold hand




You were hovering,


salivating


at having the last word




But I was holding a piece of the mirror


I had lived in for 3 years


with you




Holding it tight in my other hand


Split second




New life filtered through


One casket to hold all these personalities?


Ha! Who planned this funeral?!




Split your jugular


You were asking for it




I am not a ghost yet


but you are already boring me


in the afterlife




Glowing and Sassy




I built a rocket named


Suicide


and for 3 years, got lost in space


I gave in to the madness


and the blue-eyed abyss


My rocket ran out of fuel


and he was kind enough to replace it with


...Shame


I got shamed for petty things daily


I forgot who I was before the suit,


before gravity was ripped from my vocabulary


and I mastered the art of drifting


I forgot who I was before


the empty, e m p t y


stars


wished upon themselves




The moon said my spine was out of order


yet everything was in its place


The moon said a poet must drift sometimes


and I could only blame myself


for building the rocket




I told the moon tonight,


Don't think I won't reach up there


and slap your sassy ass




Shadow Bang




Darkness stroke


me like a kitten


again


You went away for a bit


to punish me? To scare me?


To keep me in line?


You know me


I will not stray


I only looked around (maybe too long)


But I never took off this black collar




I'll start whispering,


to you (retracing)my steps


since you last held me close


I won't leave out any details


Light the moon another cigar


Creep up,


cover my mouth


Throw me down like


you missed me


I’m your ragdoll, infinitely loyal




Casey Renee Kiser strives to expose the distorted mainstream ideas of beauty, while bringing quirkiness to the daring truth of self-reflection. With dark, abrupt and often unsettling humor, she writes about identity, relationships, depression, 'mental illness' and the human condition. Her recent work is full of undertones struggling to overcome the confusion, self-loathing and trauma of narcissistic abuse. She has birthed 12 collections of poetry and has been published with RaVenGhost Press, Holy&Intoxicated Publications, Horror Sleaze Trash and 48th Street Press.


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Two Poems
by James Dickman


Where You Call the Road Your Home




Nestled between Steinbeck Country to the north


and Point Magu to the south, lies a place,


A magical place,


Where you call the road your home;


Where the road is life;


Where the road is youthful laughter-


The laughter of children in summer playing on a sandy beach-


The laughter that comes straight from the joy in your heart;


Where the road is wind in your hair-


Gas in your tank-And freedom calling;




Where red-tiled roofs bake in the golden sun


Atop white-washed adobe Missions


Whose sonorous bells ring pure and true;




Where pier fishermen in the wee hours sit on weathered milk-crates,


Cast their lines off Stearn’s Wharf and wait;




Where orange poppies sparkle and crackle


Off the verdant hillsides like


Embers exploding from a California wildfire;




Where antique Spanish Moss drapes lazily


Across ancient oak trees;




Where the local favorite tri-tip sizzles and glows like red rubies


Upon red-hot charcoal barbecues in Santa Maria;




Where Hearst Castle resides high above on its splendid San Simeon throne


With all its decadent beauty;




Where “Farm to table” is a state-of-mind,


And trucks riding low with fresh-picked produce


Bounce up and down on two-lane country roads near Salinas-


The salad-bowl to the nation;




Where the fog slinks in cool, moist, and grey enveloping everything with mystery,


Above the rock-strewn, wild coast at Big Sur;




Where the wind-sculpted, deep green Cypress trees


March down the headlands to the craggy shoreline


At Carmel-by-the-sea;




Where the sun sets all fiery and red


Over the purply vineyards,


And the silver moon rises,


And brings with it the fragrant honey-scented


Manzanita bush and calls to you-


Calls you to the open road again-


The place where you call the road your home.




The Tale of the Urban Coyote




Frozen in my tracks, I hear her soulful wail,


She’s dressed in her mottled suit like Nature’s feral child;


With honeyed eyes averting mine, she slinks down a trail;


She casts a long shadow, this refugee from the wild.




For her journey is fraught with danger,


As far as the eye can see;


And dinner is an elusive stranger,


Which there can be no guarantee.




Hunted and exiled by those of narrow mind;


Who would forsake Nature’s accord to see this “pariah’s” life but short;


The world would be a starker place absent of their kind -


For conservation of our wildlife is not merely “A Gentlemen’s Sport.”




She sets the table for her pups -


The food they clamber for so dear;


And the yip-yip yelping reminds all its time for sup -


When the time has passed for fear.




So be mindful of our wizened friends;


When they sing beneath the blue moon -


That it’s not their evolutionary end;


And their lives of valor were gone too soon




James Dickman writes as if balancing on a high-wire; with the search for Truth on one side and on the other the search for meaning. He is a published poet and author that is enjoying the ride. Previous to that he was an executive in the deli meat business. He holds a BA in English literature from UCLA.


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Two Poems
by Kirsten Doggart


A Five-year Slump


We become older, grandparents locked in the bodies of youth. Soon


we’ll have separate beds and we’re not even married yet.


I feel the familiar brush of your hands on my thighs. We take


up the usual position, on the usual


night, for the usual stretch of time. You become




the boy I loved at fourteen pressing his huge


birdlike nose against my flesh. He’s off in Alberta,


becoming a doctor. We’d make love on the rocks


to the rhythm of the crashing river. He’d have bought me


a cabin in the mountains. You become




a friend, a class mate of mine. His beard neater,


and a softer voice as his great brown eyes peer into mine.


It’s strange at first, new, but he’s more near my


height and he listens when I tell him I need him. That evening,


he’d have brought me to see his play. You become




the man I saw on the bus, handsome, clean shaven.


Stroking my sides, he’d call me beautiful. He’d have


made dinner, something simple and hot,


have cleaned the kitchen before I arrived.




I lie back, you kiss me,


tuck me in with our quilt. We become one


great sleeping beast. We rest for tomorrow,


for dishes and work. To pay bills together,


eat dinner at four, grow old.




Black Hole




I want you


Pulled deep into me


Right to the centre


Where I turn and trundle


Full of mystery, history, and nothingness


Fill me up




Let me hold you


Let me pull you in with my weight




I love you


I’ll bend space to our will


Time too,


You can spend eternity here


Within me




Kirsten Doggart is a writer and artist from the small town of Castlegar, British Columbia, too quiet for most, not quiet enough for her. Kirstin has a BFA in creative writing from UBC and her poetry has been published in The Ubyssey, Spill Magazine, ad Inside Passages.


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Three Poems
by Gabriella Garofalo


Darn, so strange when trees climb up light, 
When winter of life shakes off men, 
And you eating bread or dim end - 
Get on it, they too have red earth, knobbly trees, 
Illiterate bodies that learnt 
Just white, just seed, the old taste of life - 
Soul, you think you play nice? 
They say no, they say you write 
Loss and amnesia too many times: 
Of course the moon reads, but dare not say 
They’ve just found some green on the road, 
She knows you listen to act kind - 
No more fibs, she’s right: 
For years and decades the word stayed exiled 
In the flimsy white of the waves, 
Water for trees and night hunters - 
Now she’s out, she meets stark bodies, raw food, 
Gives them the slip then hides 
Earthquakes, reminders and colours - 
In the attic? - 
They scare her, so used to the white - 
All the while you rattle on, isn’t she an electric chair 
The summer that hides from you 
Jitters and heat in the heart of the days - 
No one minds: 
Men shake dust from tangled hair, 
Women slake stares and desire, 
At long last the resident scribe 
Displays limbs to the creatures, 
So foxes can rush and grip some stylish fair ladies - 
All for the best, who knows, them 
And their maddening white.




Is that you? C’mon, c’mon, don’t shy away, 
Darn your polluted blood, there’s poetry there - 
Death you don’t curse if old hags 
At the bottom of the house give no shelter no food, 
But simply live your breath, your enemy at dawn - 
Stop saying fathers, 
Not wombs nor hands fathers got, 
Stop saying he worked by his hands, 
Stop saying this stop saying that - 
Oh, the dirt you can find in tabloids and souls: 
Locked doors, shredded glass all over the floor, 
The garden waits - 
You know it’s bound to happen 
So take care and hold your breath, 
Those crooked old branches don’t look 
Too keen on falling down, do they? - 
For next misapprehensions, soul, 
The garden still waits.




Will you believe me if I say how nasty? 
So many seekers downtown, they play, 
The breeze, the breeze” grins an old psycho - 
A friend of mine, yes, and she was lucky 
'Cause you can't, you really can’t predict 
Electra Glide skidding by chance, 
They both blue - 
Be it coincidence, fate or bloody choice 
They always limp back in shreds 
Comets, shut sky, a bruised light - 
Now listen, hatchets and knives, don’t you dare 
Mess up with soul’s photovoltaic spark: 
In that cross-eyed fire, maybe a leak, 
Kids are born, the missing blink on off, 
Batteries die - 
Yet among icy fields, icy shelves 
She sowed colours and jokes - 
The stones on her lips? 
They go roots, don’t bother, 
You know she fouls up 
Outcomes and him hitting back 
Among books, grass - 
It’s the electric blue, yes, 
The keeper of anger and trees - 
Can you reach him? See, he lurks 
And they’re different, 
Yours comes from lust 
His from burning births - 
They both blue - 
Thank God lust always plays nice, 
If Love does not.




 Born in Italy some decades ago, Gabriella Garofalo fell in love with the English language at six, started writing poems (in Italian) at six and is the author of “Lo sguardo di Orfeo”; “L’inverno di vetro”; “Di altre stelle polari”; “Blue branches”.


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Two Poems
by Hanan Muzafar


Divine Valour


Fear tamed, vengeance served;
Atrocities on rugged land:
I feed on rage, 
I bled in rain. 

An ant that eats flesh, 
A bug who quaffs;
Spider knitting Web. 

Filled with clamour,
How hell looks like:
Stinks all the time.

Repression: given in inheritance,
Survival in evolution, 
Resilience in wounds, 
unconventional, and unpredictable;
I stand up. 

He won't eat, won't sleep:
chosen modus vivendi,
till armour crushed, 
and nemesis crumbled. 

Divinity in kindness, and sacrifice:
White Tiger of Armageddon,
forging stealth horde, 
breaking the midnight dawn;
I'm ready my Lord.




Filthy Childhood




Little feet in plastic shoes, 
torn shirts, 
And filthy trousers; 
curly uncut hair. 

Pale faces of poverty; 
finding diamonds in dumps :
Wet knitted socks,
on lean legs,
in a stolen childhood. 

Boiled carrots, 
And peanuts; 
shivering bodies, 
And aching hands:
Only cold winter. 

Empty pockets, 
pretending rich; 
well mannered, 
yet ill treated.

Don't you listen! 
I say; 
show them you're happy:
Alas! Chap face betrayed. 

In a laughing circus; 
Jokers coming out:
A circus of pain.




Being from a conflict torn region, Hanan Muzafar saw misery found grief, saw violence met horror, saw rise observed fall. Somehow learned to survive, to be low and invisible.




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Five Poems
by Benjamin Williams


Shame


Now that cancer’s pressed


into my grandfather’s body, we all


find reason to assemble.




Our throats go sore from laughter,


the vibration buzzing through walls, furniture, fine china.


He sits in the back—


captured by the orchestra in the room.




His body is a machine of faith.


Though we don’t see him, we know


he’s there.




It runs like a river. His prostate


a failing system urging the bladder


to burst without permission.




My grandfather has left the room.


There’s an ocean of urine pushing


out of him. A shock of embarrassment


sprinting up his spine.




He changes his clothes—


heads to the porch for a smoke.




He is met by his wife and children


who orbit around his towering frame.




As if he has anything


to be ashamed of.




Papa Sleeps While on Chemo


After Rob Griffith




I give attention to his body,


its supine position, the hands


meeting at the chest.




His exhale’s a soft tune,


a murmur. Hard to tell


if he’s breathing.




I find it difficult


to bare—his stillness, the silence. My father


sleeping identically in the next room.




There is no “in between”


the rise and fall of breath—


no halfway point for the lungs


to meet when they grow tired.




The body eventually gives in,


and looks exactly like my grandfather




right now.




Granny Meets Papa




My daddy had taken your Aunt Joe and I


to this tavern in Bowling Green.


My boyfriend at the time was the drummer


of the band who was playing there.




I was sitting on a Coke cooler when your papa came


over and asked me to dance.


Me and Joe had spotted him earlier—


talked all about how he dressed like a white boy


in his pattern shirt and round-toed shoes.




So we danced. And he kept coming over


asking me to dance—so I kept dancing.




After it was over, I went to my boyfriend


and asked if he was gon’ take me home.




He said, “No. You have that big-mouth-nigga


you been dancing with all night to take you home.”




So I went over to your grandfather,


and of course he said yes.




And that was the beginning of it.




Shame, Or The Last Time Papa Saw his Father




It was the year following Brown vs. Board.


I was talking with friends when I heard


a white girl scream my name


from the class room window.




Is that your dad?


Weldon is that your dad?”




My father was walking


through the school yard, heading


to the feed store for work.




The railroad placed him


on medical leave the month prior.


The family needed money.




I watched as she studied him;


her eyes wide—paralyzed from shock




Where is he going?”


I don’t know,”


I told her, “I don’t know.”




Guilt




For months you’ve been praying


for your grandfather. Asking God


to lay a hand on his pelvis.


You’ve been doubtful.




The youth in his limbs have lost


their fuel. He trudges through


the final stage of prostate cancer.




He could survive another 5 years—


a chance that keeps faith knocking


on your chest. You know it’s God’s


reminder he’s listening.




Still, you are nothing short of heartless—


a thing that only knows of self-serving.




What weight do these poems hold?


What good are they if he doesn’t die?




Benjamin Williams is a poetry candidate in the MFA program at Columbia College Chicago. His writing addresses speaking of the black and human experience and dissecting the human psyche as it relates to emotion versus thought. He is also a performing poet and has featured/read at venues such as Mojo's Pen, Young Chicago Authors, Sofar Chicago and The Poetry Foundation. He was a 2011 college slam finalist at the Louder Than A Bomb poetry festival. He has previously been published by Solstice Literary Magazine, and has work forthcoming in Columbia Poetry Review. He currently teaches at Columbia College Chicago.


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