welcome to volume 143 (the April 2017 issue)
of Down in the Dirt magazine


Down in the Dirt



Down in the Dirt

internet issn 1554-9666 (for the print issn 1554-9623)
http://scars.tv/dirt, or http://scars.tv & click Down in the Dirt
Janet K., Editor



Table of Contents

AUTHOR TITLE
Lisa Gray Three Times a Week
Ben Rasnic 40th High School Class Reunion
Joseph Kraus Pheochromocytoma
Janet Kuypers falling
Juan Zapata International Half-Breed
Andy Schenck Waterlogged
Janet Kuypers timing
Matt Ferra Four-Wheel Death
Eleanor Leonne Bennett Metalmeal 146 art
Allan Onik The Window
Trey Hines Unknown Journey
Janet Kuypers faith
Donal Mahoney Back Then and Write Now
Ryan Daff Gone Missing
Marc Carver Crazy Crazy
Shame Shame Shame
Stefan Benz a little time gone & a little time imagined
Scott Hicks A Butterfly’s Vulnerability
Dressed In Low Clouds
My Time Between Face and Mask
Joey Holland First Day Out
Fabrice Poussin Almost Sunset art
Shelly Sitzer Disappearing Statues
Jan Marquart Seed
Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz Hush Hush Little Darling 4 art
Jan Marquart A Memoir Begun
Marc McMahon Anger is not a feeling but a reason to hide
    whatever it is that hurts me inside!!
Sana Khan Well Played
Eve Dobbins The Weeping Wail
John D Robinson the Story of Jean Grenier
The Young Apprentice
Linda Blackwell Simmons The Woman on Sunday Morning
Janet Kuypers jobless
Betty J. Sayles Annie’s Present
Jeff Hill The Distraction
Kristyl Gravina Love
Carla M. Cherry Common
John (“Jake”) Cosmos Aller Charles Bukowski Road Not Chosen
Peter McMillan The Concert
Janet Kuypers musical
Drew Marshall Through European Eyes
Raven J. Cole Ravens
Steven Pelcman Passchendaele
Harmony Campbell The Art Collector
Olivia Thompson My Life is Ending: Literally
Lindsay Flanagan Do Not Carry Me Home
Janet Kuypers organs
Over the Cracks (I Don’t Need You)
Queen ISIS (battling for peace)

 
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Three Times a Week

Lisa Gray

    She’d done it three times a week. For years. Different men. Different faces. Different places. All because of Joe.
    It wasn’t getting easier. It had taken her twice as long to get ready to look half as good. And she was feeling tired.
    Maybe tonight would be different. That’s the one thing that kept her going. The one thing she’d searched for all her life. And never found.
    She twisted round on the bar stool and surveyed the room.
    At least this is better than some of the joints I started off in, she thought. Or maybe not.
    The joint was classy. But dead. No takers. Only the elderly couple in the booth, the bartender and the beat-up looking dude at the end of the bar, his bowed head begging his Jack Daniels to banish all his miseries.
    Worn, brown leather bomber jacket. Blue jeans. And sneakers. She was surprised the bartender had let him in. He hadn’t even made the effort.
    Why the hell didn’t men make the effort? she thought.
    She looked at the expensive short chiffon dress that slipped seductively from her shoulder line, her bright red perfectly manicured nails and silver sandals that Cinderella would have died for. And thought of all those other guys. In woollen sweaters, open necked tee-shirts and sandals. Whatever happened to collars and ties? The bastards were all damn lazy. Or arrogant.
    Well, she needed this one. This would make her third this week. Beggars couldn’t be choosers. She slid her glass along the bar counter till it stopped inches from his, slid off the stool, walked provocatively towards the guy and settled herself on the stool beside him.
    “My drink seems to like yours,” she said.
    The guy didn’t raise his head.
    Damn him! she thought.
    Detective Shepherd stared harder into his drink. He was tired. Years of tiredness. And it told on him. A broken marriage. Unsolved cases. Going back years. A career going down the pan. What the hell was it all for? Tonight he was off duty but the last thing he needed was this dame trying to pick him up. He knew the dangers of getting involved. He said nothing. Maybe the dame would go away if he ignored her.
    “You’re fuckin’ friendly,” she said.
    Give him a hard time, she thought. Men like a hard time.
    He turned a hard eye on her and said, “The language doesn’t go with the dress.”
    “Well, it got your attention, didn’t it?” she laughed.
    He had to admit her laugh was sexy.
    “Is that what you want?” he said.
    She looked at him and thought of what she wanted. She could almost bet he was nothing like it.
    “It’s a start,” she said.
    “And then?”
    He looked directly in her green eyes.
    She wasn’t happy, he thought. But who is?
    He resumed his study of glass.
    He was annoying the shit out of her. Why was she bothering with this ass-hole?
    But she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing how she felt.
    She curled a hand round his glass.
    “I’m a bit like this drink. One sip and you might feel better,” she said.
    “The question is would you?” he replied.
     She reeled back like he’d struck her.
    “I don’t need you, buster. There’s other fish to fry,” she said, sliding off the stool and vacating the bar.
    He watched her. She didn’t head outside. She headed for the elevator. He resumed his glass study.
    Whatever made a woman act like that? he thought. A lack? A lack of something.
    He knew all too well what it was. Love. That was part of it. Though that could die. Loyalty. That was more important. Because the second fed the first. The woman had neither. And neither did he.
    He was there the next night.
    “What the hell are you doing here?” she said when she saw him.
    “I’m keeping an eye on you,” he said. “You look like you need it.”
    She slunk away from him towards the far end of the bar and seated herself beside a dishevelled guy in a suit. She was getting desperate. She’d only done it twice that week. The third seemed to be eluding her. And this was the twentieth year.
    It was that bum. There’d never been a problem before him. He’d changed her luck.
    She didn’t score a hit with the guy in the dishevelled suit. And the week was drawing to an end.
    “No luck?” he said as he saw the guy beat a hasty retreat.
    He was beginning to feel sorry for her. She reminded him of himself. Drowning her sorrows in a bar.
    Don’t! he told himself. Don’t get involved.
    But it seemed he already was.
    “What is your problem?” she said sitting down beside him.
    The bartender slid her another drink as if he’d anticipated this.
    “Same as yours,” he said.
    “You don’t know what my problems are,” she replied.
    “Maybe I do. Mine are not that much different.”
    She should have dumped him then but there was something about him that intrigued her. He wouldn’t be her third. That she knew. Instinctively. But it didn’t seem to matter.
    “Why don’t you give it up?” he said.
    He was staring at her.
    “I would if I met the right man,” she said.
    “Would you recognise him if you did?”
    “Sure I would,” she said. “He’d be like Joe.”
    She backed off the stool, aware she’d said too much. Spilled her guts so to speak. To him, of all people.
    He watched her walk away. Now that she’d stopped trying and no one was taking her on she had an almost childlike walk. A vulnerability he found strangely enticing. Maybe that’s what others had felt. And taken advantage of. The old story he thought. Bastards take advantage of nice people. He was sure she’d been born nice. Like he’d been.
    He was there the third evening she walked into the bar. He couldn’t keep away.
    She was strangely glad to see him too.
    “Are you giving up?” he said, as he ordered her favourite drink.
    “I can’t,” she said. “Because of Joe.”
    She opened the outlandishly large purse she was carrying. It didn’t seem to go with the outfit. She drew out a photo. Something she’d never done before.
    But this guy was different. She could talk to him.
    “That’s Joe,” she said.
    He looked at the old, dog eared photo.
    “He must have been very special,” he said.
    “He was,” she said simply, sliding the photograph back in her purse. “I’ve been looking for someone like him ever since. Three times a week for twenty years.”
    “Do you think you’ll ever find him?” he said, staring sombrely into his glass.
    “I’ve got to keep trying,” she said. “You understand?”
    He nodded. He understood all right. She was just like him. Keep trying. Never give up.
    She slid off the stool reluctantly as a suave-suited businessman settled himself on a stool at the bar.
    This was her last chance this week. She had to take it.
    Third time lucky, he thought as he watched them leave the bar arm in arm.
    But not for him.
    They didn’t take the elevator. They left the hotel.
    I can’t let her do it, he thought, following them at a discreet distance. They hailed a cab and he did too. The cab made one stop at a florist’s, the guy emerged with a bunch of roses and then the cab sped off.
    Detective Shepherd sighed. That only confirmed his worst fear.
    The cab dropped him outside a seedy apartment.
    Some businessman, he thought.
    He saw the top floor front light go on and the girl appeared in the window to draw the drapes. He had to stop her. Before it went too far.
    The door of the apartment block flew open and a woman emerged screaming. For a split second he thought it was her and his heart sank. Then he realised the shouting was in Spanish. He jumped out of the cab and flashed his badge. The woman grabbed him and pulled him inside the building, up the first flight of stairs and into the open door of an apartment. Flames were leaping from a saucepan on a stove. He grabbed a cloth and threw it over the pan. The screaming woman hugged him, chattering rapidly in Spanish all the time. He tried to extract himself but the woman was hysterical and wouldn’t let him go.
    Damn! Damn! he thought. He’d be too late.
    He pulled the woman’s arms from his body and headed for the stairs, aware he had wasted valuable seconds. He took the stairs two at a time and ran the length of the corridor. He tried the apartment door. Locked. He put his shoulder to it and forced it.
    She was kissing a photograph and laying it on the corpse’s face. She smiled when she saw him, placed the baseball bat by the side of the body and laid the six red roses in their cheap cellophane on the lifeless chest.
    “Me and Joe DiMaggio,” she said huskily, her voice broken.
    She looked so vulnerable he could have cried.
    “He left roses on her grave three times a week for twenty years,” she said, looking at him. “That’s the kind of man I wanted. Not this kind.”
    She pointed at the dead guy on the floor of the apartment.
    “That’s why I killed them. Three times a week for twenty years.”
    “I know,” he said.
    He’d been on the case for years.
    He walked over to the body. The photo of Joe DiMaggio on the guy’s face did not waver. He picked it off the guy’s face and removed one rose from the cellophane.
    “You’d better come with me,” he said, handing her the rose.
    “Strangely enough I want to,” she said as he led her to the door of the apartment.
    “You’re the only man I ever felt I could talk to,” she added, as he placed the handcuffs gently on her.
    He could have wept.
     “What’s your name?” she said.
    He didn’t answer for a second or two. And when he did his voice was strangled.
    “It’s Joe,” he said, handing her the photograph of Joe DiMaggio.
    “I knew it,” she said, looking at him and then the photograph.
    And Joe smiled back like he always did.












40th High School Class Reunion

Ben Rasnic

She remarked how handsome I looked,
how I hadn’t aged a bit since she saw me last,
then apologized for breaking it off that time
less than a week
before prom.

I didn’t have the heart
to tell her about the pin cushion doll
I crocheted into her mirror image afterwards,
except with her ass
three times its actual size.












Pheochromocytoma

Joseph Kraus

    “That’s what it is all right,” Maggie says. She sits atop the examination table spread with a strip of tissue paper whose crackling beneath her always makes her question if she’s really supposed to sit on it. The end of that paper, where she’s mangled it and possibly infected it, will be torn free, disposed of, and replaced as soon as her time with Dr. Daniels comes to an end. “The nurse who took my blood pressure said it was up, didn’t she?”
    “Now Maggie-” Dr. Daniels replies.
    “Didn’t she?” Maggie doesn’t need his affirmation. “She takes my blood pressure every time I come here, and it’s always normal. That’s the only symptom I wasn’t sure about, but now I’m sure.”
    “It’s probably elevated because you’re getting worked up. You have to calm down about this.” He’s scrolling down her annotated medical history on the computer that is attached to an extension arm so he can wheel around the office on his stool and take his information with him. He barely manages to look her way when she comes in, always gaping at that screen no better than anybody under thirty on the bus or the streets these days, afraid to look up from their phones for fear of missing something when all along they are missing everything.
    “At night it feels like I swallowed a goat.”
    The comparison causes Dr. Daniels to look away from the computer, frowning to let her know she’s exaggerating, except he never grew up with a Toggenburg named Bernie who bucked at the gate of his pen out back to escape until the latch finally gave way, Maggie’s father sending her to track him three properties over where he could undoubtedly be found gnashing up Mrs. Watt’s sunflowers. When Maggie would finally corner him and secure her hand around one of his horns with Mrs. Watts crabbing from her porch for Maggie to keep that goddamn goat off her property, Bernie would hitch his head back and forth as she tried to get the rope around his neck, finally resorting to bursting forward to crash the roots of his horns into her belly just below the rib cage. That’s exactly how it feels now, forty years later with Bernie and her father long gone from this earth, a force as hard as horn and skull, enough to knock her over, only now Bernie is ramming her from the inside and can buck and buck, but will never get free. “It’s worst at night.”
    “What else is there?” He has abandoned his searching through her history to gape at the chart of lungs on the wall, the insides filled with pink bulbs and arrows swooping around to show the paths of air coming and going.
    “Cramps, especially in my legs.” Though the real pain isn’t due for hours, she kneads one thigh with her fingers like she did the night before, the polyester leg of her Ben Franklin uniform scratching the skin underneath. The inky veins squiggle across the carved out bones of her hand in a way that makes her have to look away, examining the lungs herself, though that isn’t her problem. Where is the hand that thirty years ago clasped Jerry Tuttle’s as they walked along Callhoun Road after ditching Spanish class together. She had never before skipped a class, rarely even stayed home sick because that just meant more time for chores, but was so easily convinced by Jerry’s insistence that they couldn’t possibly sit in class when the sun was shining so brightly outside. On the walk home when she wasn’t looking at those sideburns that informed the world Jerry didn’t live by their rules, she stared at her own hand swinging between them because simply feeling his hand there in hers, feeling his tender fingers and leaky palm, wasn’t, and could never be, enough.
    “But last night it felt like every muscle was pulling at once.” She goes on without him prompting her. “And my skin is like a sheet. I looked in the mirror and thought I was dead, and I couldn’t stop sweating, and my heart beating out of my chest. It’s everything they list. It couldn’t be anything else. I can barely make it through work. David, my manager, complained I was freaking out the customers.”
    “It could be a lot of things. You have to be careful of the internet.” This coming from a guy whom she’s seen punch in her symptoms on his computer to find out what he’s dealing with and what medications work best, learning to be a doctor as he goes along. Maybe he should look up something about bedside manner. “You can punch in any symptom and find a hundred conditions associated with it. And everybody who can make a website has a diagnosis. These days everyone’s some kind of medical expert. You have to be careful buying into it. It could send you over the edge.”
    “I didn’t find this on the internet. I don’t even have a computer. I read it in a book.” She has the book right in her purse, Differential Diagnosis, but thinks better of producing it. She chose it from the box marked Free out in front of the World’s Book Store mostly because its obnoxious lime green cover caught her eye. It was happenstance, and what if she hadn’t noticed it, hadn’t walked by that store on her way to get coffee because for once she didn’t want to sit alone out back in the concrete walled break room that always makes her feel like she is waiting to for some cop to enter to start an interrogation, sometimes wishing that were the case so at least she wouldn’t have to drink her coffee alone. What if she threw the book into her closet, another free thing that in the end isn’t worth anything, and never stumbled onto what was inside her? Who would’ve ever known? The sweat running down the inside of one arm sends a tremor through her.
    “There are tests.” He is back to looking at the computer. “But you were in not six months ago, and we ran blood, urine, nervous system, and even an MRI, though I didn’t think it was warranted. I just thought it might put your mind at ease. Sometimes that’s all it takes. I don’t think the insurance company would approve another round of them. These things don’t just pop up overnight. We would’ve noticed something irregular back then.”
    “Don’t bother. I don’t need a test. It’s right there, on the adrenal gland.” She presses her fingers down into her abdomen until she feels a knot there, producing a peristalsis that runs from her pelvis up her throat to her tongue where she clamps her mouth closed and gulps back the nausea.
    “Have you slept at all lately, Maggie?” He leans close, but keeps his hand cupped around his mouse.
    One more swallow just to be sure. “Insomnia. That’s part of it. Who could sleep with the cramps and the pain? And knowing all the while it’s growing.”
    “I could prescribe something for that. Not getting enough sleep will bring on any number of problems.” He is already typing it into his computer to whoosh it off to her pharmacy of choice that she provided him long ago. Problem solved.
    “I’ve taken those pills. All they do is cover up what’s really wrong. You just want me to forget what I have. There’s no pill going to fix this. I need surgery to get it out. Now.”
    Bernie comes at her again, driving his horns through her belly, dividing her flesh, but stalling at her spine, folding her over onto herself and pushing her lumbar vertebrae out in a hunchback. She vaults forward on the table, nearly leaping off, the paper underneath her crackling with the same sound it had Christmas morning so long ago, and she slides her hands underneath it like she did the flaps of tissue paper within that clothing box so big she could barely hold it on her lap. She knew by the size and density of that box that it was a coat before she even removed the lid, knew which one too because she had shown her daddy the Nil’s white Penny Down coat, had slipped it on while with him at the Peppermill indoor mall 10 miles away from their house during one of their infrequent trips into town, had swiveled in front of the three piece mirror and swanked across the floor for him so he could see just how fresh she looked in it and so there could be no doubt in his mind which one she wanted to replace the thread bared parka she had worn at least one winter too many. He even scooped back her bangs from in front of her face and said she looked really pretty in it, so much like her mother that he could hardly believe it. She thought for sure he’d gotten it for her, but she should’ve known better after seeing her only other Christmas present, a pair of clunky tan Caterpillar work boots that promised to wear like tree stumps on her feet but would also be something she’d grudgingly appreciate when every puddle in the field no longer drained through the cracks of the ancient leather pair she had been living with for too long. She should’ve known that the clothing box was just a little too dense feeling to contain the fluffy white jacket that he had told her would never be practical with all the work she had to do around the farm, even though she assured him that she would wear her old parka for nasty jobs, be extra careful when she did wear it doing everything else, and clean off anything she got on it before it could even dry. When she pulled away the tissue paper, it should’ve been no shock to find a Carhart winter construction work coat that would be so much warmer than the Penny Down coat she had requested and be as durable as tire tread, but would guarantee her slot among the select group of farm boys who started their day at least two hours before everyone else, arriving to school with wind chapped faces, mud streaked hands, bags beneath their eyes, and pig shit rimming the souls of their boots which promised to keep everyone all day as far away as possible.
    A hand falls onto her back. “Maggie, did it happen again?”
    She slowly sits up straight, shedding his hand and rattling the paper again like she had when she’d folded the paper back over the coat that she knew would keep Jerry Tuttle from ever thinking of asking her to skip Spanish again. “Yes, usually it’s only at night, but it must be getting worse. It needs to come out.”
    He sits back on his stool, but seems leery of taking his eyes off her. “Just take the pills. Let’s get you rested. You couldn’t undergo surgery in this condition anyway. Let’s just wait on it, okay?” She doesn’t miss his eyes flicking toward the clock in the corner of the screen.
    She slides off the table, tearing in half her section of paper like she wanted to do to the piece in that box. She wouldn’t have skipped Spanish with Jerry again anyway, not after the first time she told her dad why she was kept after school and lost an hour of daylight, her confession bringing silence to the house the two of them shared since her mother died of lung cancer years before, only the slither of his belt slipping free of its loops and outside the wind hushing across their three acres and shuddering against their loose windows with the realization that she might look out any one of them for as far as she could, and not see another house nor aside from the animals in the yard, another living soul.
    She slips past Dr. Daniels out the door, hearing her name as she makes her way to the waiting room, dodging a guy in his forties being led by a nurse to an examining room where he will undoubtedly receive a clean bill of health after already providing them with his insurance information back at the front desk because somebody needed to pay for the delivery of all this useless information.
    Her legs begin to seethe as she steps up onto the bus, and the college kid driving sees something in her face that compels him to ask her if she’s okay, reaches out to help her up the last step. He’s better at acting concerned than Dr. Daniels. On the ride home, a mother with her two kids riding next to her in the seat ahead of Maggie keeps glancing back to evaluate the woman huffing breaths in and out, either willing Maggie to shut up or deciding if she needs the Heimlich or something.
    Pain churns in her belly by the time she walks the two blocks and arrives at her first floor apartment. The dwindling sun floats in a haze through her patio door on the plains of airborne dust, the wall that surrounds her patio blocking most of it out along with any kind of view aside from the tips of the swing sets in the neighboring daycare center, the shouts of play that usually sprinkle into her boxy living room gone quiet for the day. The approaching evening drags like funeral gowns from every protruding piece of furnishing, decolorizing the print hanging on the wall over the couch of Van Gogh’s ‘Cypresses’ that she used her 33% Ben Franklin discount to custom frame, the fields turned to concrete, the sky to slate, and the cypress to a raven’s wing.
    The red light on her phone blinks singly, and she punches the button, switching on the lamp as she does, but only producing a basketball of light against the enormity of the dusk.
    “Hey Mag, it’s Gal.” After Gal sees her seven and ten year olds off to school each morning, she works the register at Ben Franklin until she’s due to meet them coming off the bus. She was working three today next to Maggie on two. Three months before, Gal, having had her kids visiting grandma for the weekend, asked Maggie to grab a drink after work, but after Maggie’s insistence on having to go home without any particular reason why, Gal hasn’t asked again, maybe just hasn’t been free of her kids since. They still chat between customers, but Gal’s never called here, doesn’t even have the number.
    Gal explains how after Maggie left early, they got slammed, and Dave had to hop on a register to get the cattle through, something he never does while running the show in the day and a main reason he applied for assistant manager in the first place, to avoid customer interaction at all cost. “He got really pissed off about it,” she says. “I wouldn’t think about calling in sick tomorrow.” She leaves it at that. Dave pissed. That’s something new. He’s attending community college to get his degree in communications and is sure he’s going to be some hotshot, on location, TV announcer for the local station when he finally gets his degree and can tell Ben Franklin Crafts to kiss his ass. He’d have canned Maggie long ago if she weren’t so in with the owner, had already known him a decade back seven years ago when Dave was just sixteen and turning in his first applications to everyplace in town, praying for anybody to give him a chance. Now he wants to recreate Ben Franklin in his own vision with a young, vital, fun staff. The young always think things would be so much better if nobody old was around, never can seem to recognize where they and everyone else are headed eventually.
    Maggie retrieves the green book from her purse and drops it on the coffee table next to a hard cover of Gray’s Anatomy and a crummy plate on which she had toast that morning. Maybe she will check through it one more time, make sure she isn’t wrong. She’s been through it a dozen times already, though. Nothing else matches so exactly.
    She spent last night tumbling in sheets soaked cold with her sweat, glued to her and then peeling off as she tried the to find perfect position to quiet the yanking in her thighs and the battering in her belly, all the while not inhibiting the stampede in her chest which might stop cold if she didn’t give them the necessary room to run.
    The only thing that got her through to morning was promising herself it was the last night of this, that when she told Dr. Daniels, he would promptly cut it out of her. He never will, though. How can he know what’s wrong with her body when he doesn’t even look at it, let’s her sit on that table and tell him all about it, while he nods and sighs and wonders if he’s yet displayed enough concern to show her the door? She can get a different doctor, but he’ll say the same thing, probably won’t even agree to see her if the insurance has given up on her.
    Bernie butts her just to make sure she doesn’t forget him. He was at it the whole way home. He wants out. “Just take the pills, Maggie.” She mimics his exasperation with her, but her attempt falls dead in the room like a desperate comedy routine that some sap has only ever tried in front of his mirror and his mother, both of whom howled and assured him soon enough he’d be able to quit his mail carrier’s job to make people laugh full time.
    Maybe Dr. Daniels is right, though. She has the old bottle somewhere right below the sink. Maybe if she only gets some sleep and gets a handle on things, he will open her up to see how wrong he was.
    She goes to the bathroom and flips on the light to see in the mirror how years have ruined her, the brown in her curls gone to lead, her cheeks withering peaches sinking into themselves, and her eyes slithering beneath the plastic lenses like pebbles at the bottom of a stream. The closest thing she wears to make-up is the Chapstick coating her lips in wax, and the only jewelry is a beaded chain wrapped around her neck and attached to those clunky frames to prevent them from shattering to the earth and leaving her a squinting mole trying to find her way around.
    She recognizes herself like never before, the woman who dodders along the sidewalk oblivious to the people glaring as they dart around her with someplace important to go, the woman who carries on a conversation with herself at the grocery about what to make for dinner unaware of the strange looks she’s getting from all the passersby, and the woman who buys one scratch ticket each week sure this will be the week she’ll hit the jackpot but never quite sure which ticket she should choose this time and deaf to the line of sighs and grumbles behind her as she stands at the counter and points from one to the other and then back again.
    God, she used to hate those women. A cramp seizes her thighs and releases, sending her against the open door and slamming the knob into the wall. Bernie spears her for good measure, and she gladly drops to her knees, away from the vision of herself that couldn’t be true.
    When did she stop wearing make-up? She sure remembers when she started, about the time she received that coat and needed some color to offset the brown shell that had consumed her. She would hunch down in the seat as soon as the bus pulled away from her stop, staring into her oyster shaped compact and caring so much who stared back at her, painting over her chapped lips, powdering over her freckled Opie cheeks, and lining black sludge along her eyes to sharpen the corners into stingers. Jerry noticed the change, but instead of asking her to skip Spanish again, he offered her a ride home in his car, dropping her off where her bus was supposed to so she could walk down the road and into her driveway like any other afternoon. Unbeknownst to her father, that was how she began getting home every afternoon for over a month, until that one afternoon Jerry drove into one of the subdivisions not too far from school and up to the split level that was his house, while nobody else was home. That was the day he took Maggie away forever.
    From her knees she opens the cabinet beneath the sink. The pain comes again, not blunt this time, but searing, not the root of the horn but the tip, sinking into her. She latches onto the cabinet, feeling the top hinge give enough that it will never close right again. She claws out the package of toilet paper, the three remaining rolls tumbling from the plastic onto the floor around her feet, her fingers fumbling through a tangled strip of gauze and over crust covered bottles, shoving them out and spilling something goopy over the floor, the wet coolness of it finding its way into her ancient leather shoes like so long ago the rainwater in the fields.
    She’d been over two hours late by the time she got home that night, well after the day was shot, and her father stood in the living room fresh from out back, unshaven from the morning and work pants doubly soiled from doing both their shares, his features shading as the sun descended on the day. He didn’t say anything to her, just stared until she answered a question unasked. “I was just with a boy from school.” He didn’t respond, his only movement a dirty hand reaching to grasp the back of the rocking chair in front him, his fingers compressing in a fist around a spindle as the silence expanded between them and reached critical mass. “We just went over to his house for awhile.” Still nothing, and the silence came again with the compelling need to fill it. The rest came out piece by piece, his face sometimes tilting ever so slightly at points he knew she was holding back, she inevitably telling him more than he needed to know, right down to them doing it on his parent’s bed. Anything to keep the silence at bay. She should’ve told him how Jerry had asked her more than once if she really wanted to, helped her trembling fingers with every button, ran his fingertips across her body with no more pressure than the touch of a summer breeze, and molded himself into her after it was over to make sure she knew she wasn’t alone. His arm wrapped over her body was the only thing keeping her from crying into his parents’ lilac smelling sheets for no reason she could discern except maybe the dawning realization that he had taken her so far away from where she had existed every other day of her life, leaving her to wonder whether coming home with him was the best thing or worst thing she’d ever done. The longer he held her, the more she knew the answer, would’ve told her dad that it wasn’t having sex with him but lying together afterward that had delayed her so much. That was the part she remembered most, the part that meant everything. She eventually just said, “He really cares about me,” but she wasn’t even sure of that herself.
    Her father broke his silence. “He does, huh?” He nodded as he said it. “I bet he loves you. Because he knows he hooked himself a sure thing, some gal willing to come over anytime his parents are away. ” His voice was a fifth of whiskey and 200,000 cigarettes later. He and his wife, two chimneys in love. He had quit after she died, but the stink still oozed out of his clothes, could never be completely expelled from the pockets of the house, and never could he manage to cough up all that gravel left over in his lungs. She knew he had since been sneaking them now and again too, when he was stuck awake in the middle of the night remembering his wife with glass in hand or when things got so tight with the bills coming in that trying to hold onto the farm felt like carrying a Buick on his back. He probably had a dozen sticks while waiting for her to show that afternoon. “Guess that’s what I got for a daughter now. A goddamn sure thing.”
    She wasn’t really sure if he was telling her or asking her, but she shook her head just the same. He dug a hand in his back pocket and pulled out a flat bottle half gone. Must’ve taken it into the fields with him. He sloshed it back in his throat and went on. “But I guess I knew that all along. Now come on over here. Show me.”
    She remained by the window and glanced out, but beyond the pane was nothing but miles of open land with only one road cutting through it that was only ever traveled by them or Tom Douger who lived alone a couple miles down and was too old to drive at this time of night, too old to be good for much of anything. She started toward him, and he reached for that belt, unbuckled it and pulled it free from the loops, but that night, he didn’t use it on her backside, slung it instead over the back of the chair where his fist had just been, and there it stayed until morning.
    She looks straight down between her bent thighs at the rolls of toilet paper melting into the puddle of silky brown liquid. A bolt hits her, and her legs pinch together. Not tonight. She fumbles into the cabinet below the sink for the pills, but in the darkness retrieves an artifact, a Gillette double edged Knack safety razor her dad every morning had dragged down the flaps of his cheeks, curled along his jawbone, and chipped at the strip under his nose. For some reason, she included it with the small box of items she claimed from his pigsty of an apartment following the stroke that took him five years ago, 20 years after he lost the farm trying to work it himself. Back here using the old blade still petrified with cream from the last time he shaved his face, she ran it along her legs, achieving the closest shave she’d ever had, but in the process turning her calves into a crime scene. She bought a new box of blades, but instead of throwing out the old one, tossed it into the top bathroom drawer where each time she retrieved her hair brush, she eyed its body there at the bottom melting into rust and cautiously avoided catching her fingers on either of the two edges.
    After that first time, she continued to use the Knack razor for another month with improving skill, though still hacking herself at least a couple times each go round, causing the insurance guy she was seeing at the time to joke that her legs sure would be a whole lot nicer without all those scabs. She went back to the Bic, ten-to-a-bag, pink plastic disposables soon after, but it’s been a couple weeks since she’s found the energy to use even one of them, not that anybody nowadays is running his fingers over her calves, or even getting a peek at them. Not even Dr. Daniels disrobes her anymore.
    She rotates the bottom of the shaft, and the top of her father’s old razor hinges open like the electronic glass doors at the grocery store. The double sided blade she removes is corroded along both edges from disuse. She gets herself to her feet, her shoes slipping in the spill and her thighs knotting up into fists. The reflection of herself melts around the edges as her vision fails, and she stops looking before she loses it all together. The muck on the blade remains stuck under the water from the faucet, forcing her to slide a nail along the metal to remove it, the edge catching her across the pad of her thumb. She shuts off the water and pops the thumb into her mouth like a sucker. Sharp enough.
    She sets herself down on the toilet as another burst comes from her belly like somebody shoving a broomstick down into the hollows of her pelvis. Her throat emits a moan as the stick burrows through her organs knocking them aside. The blade quivers in her fingers, nearly dropping and being lost forever. She sets it delicately on the edge of the sink when the pain subsides, knowing another bout is not far behind. She unbuttons her pants and strips them away down to her knees, leaving herself naked from belly button to knees, a hash of blood appearing on the inner waistband of her pants from her sliced thumb. The single hand towel hangs off kilter from the bar, smudged with the something that looks like the mustard she slathered on last night’s dinner of microwaved hotdogs. She needs to throw the whole set of towels in the wash, should be washing her towels and sheets every week whether they look like they need it or not. Who knows what’s growing or burrowing in that thick fabric?
    She positions the blade between two fingers and watches as the flesh of her belly palpitates. It’s not Bernie in there but something that breathes separate from her, will grow and steal from her to live, steal until it steals more than she can give. Her legs stretch out in a narrow V in front of her, the waistband of her pants shackling her knees and her shoes punched against the wall in front of her. One more night, and maybe it won’t be so bad, not this bad. Then the thing hits her hard enough to squirt vomit up onto the back of her tongue.
    She closes her eyes and runs the razor three inches straight down rib to navel, but when she looks, it’s left nothing but a course white line like the scratch of a fingernail. “Get rid of it,” she says. She should’ve ordered Dr. Daniels to do so back at the office, should’ve refused to leave until he did.
    After that night her father had deemed her a sure thing, he couldn’t stay away. For too long he’d been biding the isolation of not having his wife anymore, trying to sweat it out during the long days of work and drinking it away during his nights like a dark curtain drawn around his memory. Maggie supposes she made him feel something again, something as her pleas, shouts, and struggle relented to silence, tears, and rigidity, some kind of comfort from being close to another person in the darkness with the bourbon that made him forget who it was, nothing more than a dream to take him through until the sun rose again with a crashing headache and the brutal line of tasks awaiting for them with no time to speak or even look at each other, both holding onto the belief that it had never happened, that tonight would be back to normal, them resuming being just a father and a daughter again.
    She brings the razor back to the start and this time pushes the corner of it downward, denting the skin, pushing deeper and then piercing it. She keeps her eyes open and draws it downward by inches, a pink agitated fissure appearing behind it and the blood surfacing like spilled ink in the fold, pink stained to black, the blade occasionally slipping free from the path so she has to back up, find it again, and continue on. It feels and looks like nothing more than a line drawn down her belly with a red ball point pen, but by the time she gets to the bottom, the top has started to ribbon over the side.
    She let Jerry invite her over one more time after the first, but this time the tears did come, so many they had to change his parents’ sheets afterward, and when he tried to comfort her by wrapping his arm around her, she shrugged it off and curled into herself until he told her they really needed to get her home. Never again would she see the inside of his house or even look his way in Spanish class. He knew his sure thing was over, but a few weeks later he did step up to his responsibility without questioning the decision she made for the both of them, just grateful to be off the hook. She expected nothing except for him to skip school to drive her, give her a hundred bucks that nobody in his family even missed, and wait outside in the parking lot for it to be over so they could commence forgetting they ever even knew each other.
    Inside the frigid room, cowering within her gown atop the vinyl examining table, she told the doctor flat out, “Get it out of me.” He paused there and looked at her as if he’d never met a girl before who’d requested such an atrocity be done to her and him never before having to perform it. For that instant, he didn’t look like he could. He did, though. Dr. Flores. He was a doctor who knew when his patient was really sick.
    “Close,” she says. The word sheds spittle from her lips. “Very close. I promise.” She isn’t through yet, though, and begins to cut the line once more, pushing blood out from the seam. Her forehead feels like cold mayonnaise. She swallows over and over, but her mouth is always full, saliva slopping over molars like waves hitting the sea wall. A single trickle of sweat courses down her cheek and plops onto her hip. She travels the entire three inches, and the air sizzles in the wound, devouring all her body’s other complaints. She controls it now. No damn sleeping pills needed.
    The razor leaves her fingers, falls flat on the side of her belly, but with a shiver of her body, rattles to the floor. She’ll need to find it again. Blood filters through her ashen pubic hair, strings down her thighs, and plinks into the toilet water below. She’s always wondered if Doctor Flores missed something in her back then because as she climbed into Jerry’s car, she felt it heavy in her and continued to feel it as she stared straight ahead during the interminable ride home, has felt that something left behind carried with her all these years.
    She reaches down to try to find the blade, but she can’t look down, and her fingers don’t even hit the floor. It’s an impossible search. She remembers something, though, opens the drawer next to her and dabs her fingers around the bottom until she finds it, sliding her fingernails underneath to pry it loose from its fusion to the wood. It’s a miracle that she retrieves it without cutting off a finger, but she comes out with the blade he’d left for her in the Knack razor.
    Whatever it is inside her is buried. It’s no wonder Dr. Flores couldn’t reach it with his hooked blade, nor Dr. Daniels with his urine tests and MRIs, but there’s no hiding now. With enough swipes of her father’s razor, she’ll get there eventually.












falling

Janet Kuypers
haiku 3/1/14
video

falling from the sky
I can only hope I’ll be
landing on my feet



twitter 4 jk twitter 4 jk Visit the Kuypers Twitter page for short poems— join http://twitter.com/janetkuypers.
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku falling in Chicago 3/17/14 (C) at the open mic Waiting 4 the Bus
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku poems, “falling”, “sort”, and “upturn” from the v252 issue of cc&d magazine, titled Beyond the Gates live 10/22/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery (C)
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku poems, “falling”, “sort”, and “upturn” from the v252 issue of cc&d mag, titled Beyond the Gates live 10/22/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery (Canon Power Shot)
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 6/4/16 show “Obey” at Expressions 2016: June is a Woman! in Austin (Sony), first reading her haiku poems progress, extend, falling, civil, and greatest, then reading her poems Earth is a Topiary (her 1st of 2 poems where she used a voice modulator to reads parts of her poem in a male voice), On Becoming a Woman (an editing and expansion of her 1999 poem Becoming a Woman), Viewing the Woman in a 19th Century Photograph (an editing of her 1991 poem Photograph, Nineteenth Century and her 2nd of 2 poems where she used a voice modulator to reads parts of her poem in a male voice), Content With Inferior Men, portions of her poem In The Air with slightly altered wording, and Oh, She Was a Woman (an editing of her 1997 poem She Was a Woman).
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 6/4/16 show “Obey” at Expressions 2016: June is a Woman! in Austin (Cps), first reading her haiku poems progress, extend, falling, civil, and greatest, then reading her poems Earth is a Topiary (her 1st of 2 poems where she used a voice modulator to reads parts of her poem in a male voice), On Becoming a Woman (an editing and expansion of her 1999 poem Becoming a Woman), Viewing the Woman in a 19th Century Photograph (an editing of her 1991 poem Photograph, Nineteenth Century and her 2nd of 2 poems where she used a voice modulator to reads parts of her poem in a male voice), Content With Inferior Men, portions of her poem In The Air with slightly altered wording, and Oh, She Was a Woman (an editing of her 1997 poem She Was a Woman).
the “Obey” 6/4/16 chapbook
Download all of the show poems in the free chapbook
Obey
6/4/16 at Expressions 2016: June is a Woman! show in Austin


See the Janet Kuypers bio.










International Half-Breed

Juan Zapata

    “I would die for my country. This is my home.”
    My father roars with laughter. “You’re not an American.”
    “Yeah, totally American, with your Mexican-looking face and cactus nose.” My mother rolls her eyes.
    I’ve heard these kinds of remarks for years—all throughout middle school, high school, and now college. These depredations always stem from family members—cousins, uncles, aunts, you name it. I’m not alone in this. Many foreign-raised children experience this, and I am willing to bet they feel my overwhelming frustration. These insults may seem harmless, but to many of us, they are a horrendous attack on our persons.
    I was brought into the United States at the age of four. I grew up here and assimilated into the culture. Everything I know is American; I am American. When “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays at sports games or public events, I feel an onrush of pride at the opening. I slam my hand across my heart and stand up straight, staring at our flag, unwavering. As the song continues, my heart feels fit to burst—I picture a battle—bombs bursting in air, brave men running forth, charging with guns. Fighting for freedom, screaming—yelling battle cries. My eyes water, my skin tingles, and love rushes through my heart.
    I don’t know the Mexican anthem. Not a single line, not a single word. I look upon the Mexican flag and see something foreign, something that I’m not. I don’t feel anything for that banner. Why would I? I haven’t stepped on Mexican soil in the past fifteen years. I don’t know their story, their free, their brave—I don’t know their fights or dead heroes or graves. I wouldn’t stand up for their anthem. So I ask: how am I not an American?
    Then there’s my home country’s language. I know Spanish, but English is my dominant language by far. I’m a university student at Alabama A&M—I’ve been published in several literary magazines; I’ve gone to school in the U.S. since kindergarten. My English vocabulary is quite advanced. In Spanish, however, it is equivalent to an eleven or twelve-year-old’s. I can’t hold deep discussions with family members. I can’t form graceful compliments or romantic dialogue; I can’t speak of my ambitions with fervent passion. I can’t opine on politics in depth—and I certainly can’t write. I have a cage holding me, strangling my wings, grinding me down. My first language is a prison, the foreign one my freedom. How am I not an American?
    Loyalty and love—these two feelings form my life’s aspirations. I wish to pursue a career in law enforcement or perhaps even serve in the U.S. military. I am willing to risk myself for this country—for my home. What about Mexico? What about it? I feel no love for it at all. I wouldn’t die for it; I wouldn’t pick up any gun for it. I feel respect toward U.S. soldiers when I see them—standing in full battle gear, rifles at the ready, or walking down the street in dress uniform. Grim-faced, determined. I feel gratitude. By contrast, there is a hopeless void when I see Mexican troops. My family tells me most are bought off by cartels and allow corruption to run rampant in their nation. Where were they when their university students were gunned down during a protest? Where are they when people are beheaded or abducted from the streets? There’s nothing to be proud of. Just things to be ashamed of. Look into my heart. How am I not an American?
    I feel invalidated that my family cannot truly see who I am. Perhaps they wish to remind me of my Hispanic roots; this is fine, but their methods are insulting and do little to sway my heart. The United States is called a melting pot for a reason; I have joined it, and I am devoted to it. As a consequence, my family’s rebuttals are a challenge to the very person I am. This draws much acrimony. It’s galling how much racial discrimination they employ against me. You don’t have to be white to be an American. To subscribe to such a requirement is plain asinine. Are African Americans, Asians, and Native Americans not true U.S. patriots? Does their loyalty count for nothing? Does mine? I loathe that remark about the nose and facial features—it’s elementary, crass, and in poor taste. My person is not defined by ethnicity.
    Yet, throwing all of that aside, for me, and many others in my situation, there is a catch-22. Even if I were to proclaim my own nationality, my family and others within my ethnic group would likely turn around and say NO. In my case, they’d probably drill me on the Mexican anthem, history, traditions, and then leap at my ignorance. They’d say I’m not a “true” Mexican. Then what the hell am I? Nothing? Is there no way to stave off the loathing? I’m sick and tired of the double standards; I cannot adhere to whatever label is cast. They bring me here at the age of four, and I grow up like any other child—white, black, Asian—and then they have the audacity to say that this isn’t my home? That I’m not American like those who have grown beside me? They get offended? It’s their fault. They brought me here. They made me who I am.
    Perhaps they can’t assimilate into American culture, but I have. In my heart, I am American. It’s a plain and simple truth for me and for many others. It’s astounding how native-born Americans can be accepting over this, but my own family can’t swallow reality when it smacks them in the face. Ultimately, however, the only thing that matters is what I believe. And I believe I am a beautiful red, white, and blue—awash in breathtaking, luminescent stars.

 

Previously Published at GFT Press












Waterlogged

Andy Schenck

    I’m gonna rip his head off! I’m gonna take him up the tower and hang him from his toes until he apologizes for the absolute hell of a night he has put me through. As I stood outside in the pouring rain, I fantasized about ways to pay back that miserable security guard who slammed the door in my face. Since when was asking to use the phone a capital offense?
    Forget pitter patter, they were bullets raining from the sky. It was sometime after 9:00PM, dark, and desolate. Titans of Korea’s new international city, dimly lit skyscrapers, stood over me without the slightest interest in my dilemma. Not ONE taxi. If I had been a bomb, the entire island would have blown to smithereens. I wanted to explode, but the continual downpour of the monsoon, which decided to start the minute I moved my suitcases out of my old room, snuffed out my fuse.
    Two beams of light emerged from a wall of impenetrable murk, and a halo with 4 beautiful letters – T-A-X-I. My metallic savior arrived. “Trunkhu Yora Jusayo!” I shouted at the taxi driver to open the trunk, but he stared at me like I was Frankenstein. Korean is a tough language. Next, I tried a game of charades. I pointed to the luggage, and made some weird gesture to fly my bags into his trunk. The driver didn’t want to play. He just gave me a blank stare instead. Bomb or no bomb I was going to explode.
     Just as I seemed to be making some progress, a lanky young Korean guy came up to the taxi. He didn’t look any older than 21, and I figured he must be one of those college kids from the local campus. No matter how kind he looked, his approach was an assault. That taxi was MINE! I switched into goalie mode, trying to anticipate which way he would try to slip past me. But I was never good at soccer. He slid in and said, in nearly perfect English, “I have reserved this taxi.”
    Utter deflation, like the time my front tire blew out on the Thruway. I was grounded. The taxi driver wouldn’t send anyone. The door shut and I waited. One minute...two...three... It’s no use. I will not be able to get to my new apartment today. I turned and walked back, soaked through to the bone with water and disappointment.
    Wouldn’t you know it. As soon as I got far enough away from the glow of the taxi stand to render me virtually invisible, a taxi approached. And with the luck that only I seem to have, another passenger was right there ready to get in. I ran for the taxi anyway, flailing my arms like a shipwrecked sailor. Hope sailed away as the car began to move into the gloom. “Fu*% ... Son-of-a-*#%&!” Nearly every curse word poured out in a display that would have horrified my mother.
    Just as I decided to go back to the security guard and give him a piece of my mind, the taxi suddenly made a U-turn and came back to the taxi stand. The passenger got out, and the driver let me in. He was kind and helped me with my luggage. Thank goodness the driver was able to spot me before he drove away.
    It turns out that the college kid, the person I would have called my mortal enemy a few minutes before, reserved the taxi for me, AKA “the soaked 200-pound white guy.” You know, the simplest things in life make the biggest difference. The student’s kindness made me realize the goodness in people. I always hoped that I would run into him again, just to say thank you.





Andrew Schenck Bio

    Andrew Schenck has taught English learners for over 15 years. He currently works as an ESOL instructor at SUNY Stony Brook in Songdo, South Korea. He is also a doctoral student at the University of the Cumberlands, studying to obtain an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership with a concentration in English.












timing

Janet Kuypers
haiku 2/8/14
video

just when you feel hope,
then they take it, quickly. it’s
all in the timing



twitter 4 jk twitter 4 jk Visit the Kuypers Twitter page for short poems— join http://twitter.com/janetkuypers.
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku timing live 2/12/14 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago (C)
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku timinglive 2/12/14 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago (S)
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers hosting the open mic and reading this poem 2/12/14 at Gallery Cabaret’s the Café Gallery in Chicago — including reading this poem
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See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku timing as a 6 second JK Poetry Vine live 2/12/14 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago (C)


See the Janet Kuypers bio.










Four-Wheel Death

Matt Ferra

    The streets were dark, the only source of light coming from the streetlights above. Charles sprinted across the asphalt, panting. His heartbeat echoed in his ears like a rapid soundtrack. He held Becky’s hand as he ran, as she was having a hard time keeping up. In his other hand, Charles held a pistol, the clip already half empty.
    Charles turned his head back for a second. The Cadillac was still pursuing them, its headlights piercing the darkness. The steering wheel turned even though there was no one driving the car. The grill of the car was caked with blood from previous victims, dented from multiple fatal, head-on collisions.
    The two continued to run, and Charles squeezed Becky’s hand tighter as he looked away from the car and at the road in front of him.
    Suddenly, Becky tripped, letting go of Charles’ hand. She felt onto the ground, scraping her hands and knees. The Cadillac swiftly approached her. Becky screamed, throwing her hands in front of her face as the car’s headlights illuminated her terrified form.
    Bang! The Cadillac’s left headlight exploded in a shower of glass and sparks. The killer vehicle swerved blindly and veered off track from its target.
    Becky looked back to see Charles standing with his pistol raised, the barrel smoking.
    “Come on,” he said as he grabbed Becky’s hand again.
    The two ran down the street farther until they found a dumpster. They leapt behind it, making sure that the Cadillac was far enough away so that it couldn’t see them.
    As they hid behind the dumpster, the car rumbled down the street with its one headlight. It swerved like a drunk driver.
    “We can’t keep running like this,” Becky said. “There’s got to be a way we can end this for good.”
    Charles put his hand in his pocket. “There is.”
    He pulled out a small, remote-like object with a single red button on it. Becky gasped, her eyes wide.
    “The professor’s detonator,” she said.
    “I can use this to blow up that thing for good,” Charles said.
    “But you need to be a foot away from the car to use the detonator,” Becky said. “Being that close to the explosion will kill you.”
    Charles’ face took on a grave expression. “I know.”
    Tears streamed down Becky’s face like rivers. “No. Charles, no. I can’t let you.”
    “Somebody has to,” Charles said, grabbing the sides of Becky’s face. “I won’t let that thing kill anyone else.”
    He pulled Becky in for a long kiss, then broke it as he walked out from behind the dumpster. The Cadillac noticed him, and revved its engine as its single headlight shone on him.
    Charles continued to calmly step forward, the detonator at the ready in his hand.
    The Cadillac raced forward, getting closer and closer to Charles every second.
    Right before the car could crash into Charles, the man clicked the button.
    Becky covered her ears as the street erupted with the sound of thunder, a great fireball pluming from where the car once stood. Charles’ charred remains flopped lifelessly across the pavement.
    Becky got up and approached the smoldering wreckage of the Cadillac, which barely resembled an automobile at this point. She wiped the tears from her eyes as she viewed the metal corpse of her enemy.
    “It’s finally over,” she breathed.
    As Becky stood in the crisp night air, the screen faded to black and the credits began to roll. The lights in the theater flicked on as the audience began to exit.
    “Well that freaking sucked,” Allen said to Barry as they exited the theater.
    “Well what did you expect from a movie called Four-Wheel Death?” Barry asked.
    “I don’t know,” Allen said. “Substance, maybe? Logic? Like, why would a scientist build a detonator for a sentient car that could only be activated one foot away from the car?”
    Barry sipped on his half-empty Diet Coke. “Why would a scientist build a sentient car that had the possibility of turning evil in the first place?”
    “And there was probably a more effective way of killing that thing,” Allen said. “Like, they could’ve made it leak gas, have it make a trail of gas, and then lit the trail on fire. The car would’ve blown up and Charles wouldn’t have had to die.”
    “And are the car’s headlights its eyes?” Barry asked. “How does that even work?”
    Allen groaned. “Why do all modern horror movies have to suck so much?”
    Barry shrugged. “It’s a lost art, I suppose.”
    The two friends walked through the night as Allen sighed in disappointment and rubbed his forehead. Barry quietly sipped on his soda.
    “But we’re still gonna see Night of the Living Dump next month, right?” Barry asked.
    “Oh yeah, totally,” Allen said, a smile appearing on his face. “A horror movie about evil, sentient garbage? How could that possibly fail?”
    As the two friends high-fived, the sound of a car engine echoed through the street. A Cadillac burst from a nearby alleyway. Its steering wheel turned even though there was no one driving the car. The car whipped around and turned its attention towards Barry and Allen.
    The two froze in fear, eyes wide. Barry let his soda fall from his hand and crash to the ground.
    “Do you think it heard what we said about it?” Allen asked his friend.
    As if to answer, the Cadillac revved its engine and raced towards the two friends, who sprinted down the street as fast as two slightly out-of-shape nerds could.





Matt Ferra Bio

    Matt Ferra is a Creative Writing student at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. When is is not writing short stories for school or his own pleasure, Matt likes to read comic books and catch up on the latest hit shows on Netflix.












Metalmeal 146, art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

Metalmeal 146, art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

Eleanor Leonne Bennett Bio (20150720)

    Eleanor Leonne Bennett is an internationally award winning artist of almost fifty awards. She was the CIWEM Young Environmental Photographer of the Year in 2013. Eleanor’s photography has been published in British Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Her work has been displayed around the world consistently for six years since the age of thirteen. This year (2015) she has done the anthology cover for the incredibly popular Austin International Poetry Festival. She is also featured in Schiffer’s “Contemporary Wildlife Art” published this Spring. She is an art editor for multiple international publications.

www.eleanorleonnebennett.zenfolio.com


















The Window

Allan Onik

    In the dark room, Tab looked out the window. Snow was falling, and he saw a child building a snowman. Soon the snow was gone, and he saw a teen at a bonfire with friends. When the fire went out he saw a man getting married on lush, green grass—later his children playing football under a setting sun behind a house. As he continued to look out the window he saw the man now very old, lying on some peat. The old man was dying, and soon the snow came back with no one to enjoy it.
    Tab turned to a corner of the room and saw a glowing demon eating a cockroach. “Simple karma,” it said.
    Tab turned to another corner and saw a floating angel emanating light. Tab was enveloped in the light—warm, bright, calming. He thought back to the snowman. “Love?” Tab asked.
    “Inside you all along,” the angel said.












Unknown Journey

Trey Hines

    They had been driving for more than an hour already and still he had not said a word. The driver kept his eyes on the road, leery of the kid he had just picked up outside of Philadelphia. He didn’t know where he was going or why, and that worried him. He leaned over and turned the radio down.
    “So where ya headed kid?” said the driver with a heavy Texas drawl.
    The kid looked up from his book and said, “As far away as possible.”
    “I’m Michael by the way, most everybody calls me Big Mike.”
    The kid shrugged and looked back to his book, ignoring Big Mike. All he knew was he needed to get out of Philadelphia and as soon as possible. For a long time he had been having dreams that something bad was going to happen, something beyond anything he could comprehend. He saw fire, and a cloud as large as a mountain in his sleep, and it terrified him. Only yesterday he packed a backpack full of clothes and some extra food, a knife he had stolen from his father and several bottles of water. He needed to think smart and be ahead of the curve. The fear of the future permeated his thoughts and his mind making him paranoid and evasive. He knew he needed a friend though. He looked up from his book and looked out the window and spoke softly.
    “I’m Andrew, all my friends call me Drew.”
    Mike smiled and turned the radio off. He kept his eyes on the road as the setting sun darkened the cabin of the truck. He wasn’t in any hurry to let this kid go off on his own without anyone to look after him. Mike was worried about him, he didn’t know why, but something inside of him gave him red flags.
    “So the kid is alive. Glad to meet your acquaintance Drew. Seeing as how I’m givin’ ya a ride an’ all, why ya getting’ outta Dodge so quick?”
    Andrew shifted his weight around nervously and continued looking out the window, refusing to make eye contact.
    “We’re all in danger, I see it every night in my dreams. Something bad is going to happen.” Drew said with a troubled look on his face.
    “Well, we’re about an hour outta Philly. Not a soul in sight except a random bear or hawk. Nothing gonna happen way out here.” said Mike.
    Not ten seconds after he stated his assurance, the front tire blew out with a deafening sound akin to a bomb. The truck slid violently to the left as it veered into the oncoming lane. Mike did his best to control the truck and bring it into a ditch on the side of the road. He lost his self-control and raised his voice. “Ah gawd-dangit....why now???”
    Drew looked even more worried now as the sun was starting to set and the air was getting colder. Mike got out of the truck and examined the flat tire. They weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Mike raised his voice so Drew could hear him, “Come on out son, we’re gonna have to make camp out here in the woods somewhere. We gotta wait till daybreak to get help.”
    “I can sleep in here Mike, it’s fine.” replied Drew hesitantly, his eyes darting across the horizon in fear of his dreams.
    “I gotta tent in the back we can put up, everything’ll be all right son.” Mike tried to reassure him. Drew nodded and gathered his things and exited the truck with reluctance. Together they pitched the tent and settled in for the night.
    The next morning, Drew woke to the rising sun blinding him and his knife still in his hand. He looked around him and didn’t find Mike. Panic quickly set in and he stood up and shouted, “Mike!” He continued to look around with anxiety.
    “Right over here kid!” a voice shouted in the distance. It was Mike who was putting the finishing repairs on the truck. Drew picked up his bag and walked to his new friend’s voice.
    Mike patted the hood of the truck with confidence and said, “Let’s get this show on the road.”
    Drew nodded in agreement and they both climbed in the truck and continued their journey to an unknown destination.












faith

Janet Kuypers
haiku 2/17/14
video

why do you insist
we have faith in you and make
us denounce our brains



twitter 4 jk twitter 4 jk Visit the Kuypers Twitter page for short poems— join http://twitter.com/janetkuypers.
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku faith in Chicago 3/17/14 (C) at the open mic Waiting 4 the Bus
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading many of her poems live (8 haiku poems, 4 poems, and a Periodic Table poem) in Chicago 3/17/14 at the Waiting 4 the Bus open mic INCLUDING THIS HAIKU
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See a Vine video
of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku faith as a looping JKPoetryVine video live 3/17/14 at the Waiting 4 the Bus open mic Jaks Tap in Chicago (C)
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See a Vine video
of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku faith as a looping JKPoetryVine video live 3/17/14 at the Waiting 4 the Bus open mic Jaks Tap in Chicago (Canon, negative w and saturated filters)


See the Janet Kuypers bio.










Back Then and Write Now

Donal Mahoney

    When I began writing in 1960, there were no website “magazines.” Print journals were the only place to have poems published. Writers used typewriters, carbon paper, a white potion to cover up mistakes and “snail mail” to prepare and submit poems for publication. Monday through Friday I’d work at my day job. Weekends I’d spend writing and revising poems. Revising poems took more time than writing them and that is still the case today, decades later.
    On Monday morning on the way to work, I’d sometimes mail as many as 14 envelopes to university journals and “little magazines,” as the latter were then called. Some university journals are still with us. Some are published in print only and others have begun the inevitable transformation by appearing in print and simultaneously on the web.
    “Little magazines,” especially those published in print without a presence on the web, are rare in 2012. One might say, however, that their format has been reincarnated in hundreds of website publications that vary in design, content and frequency of publication. Depending on the site, new poems can appear daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. For many writers, these websites are a godsend. Some “serious” writers, however, still feel that a poem has not been “published” until it has appeared on paper.
    I can’t remember what postage cost in the Sixties but it was very cheap. Nevertheless, it would often take six months or more to hear back from many editors of university journals and little magazines. Sometimes I would get no response despite my enclosing the mandatory stamped self-addressed envelope (SASE).
    Submission etiquette at that time required that a writer send nothing other than the poems, usually a maximum of three, and the SASE. What’s more, simultaneous submissions were universally forbidden. I don’t remember any editor wanting a biographical note until the piece was accepted and sometimes not even then. All that mattered was the poem and how much the editor liked it.
    Today, in contrast, some web editors want a letter from the author up front “introducing” the poems and/or some aspect of the author’s life. I’ve never been comfortable providing that kind of information in front of poems I’m submitting. I can’t imagine lobbying for poems that I hope speak for themselves.
    In the Sixties, my average acceptance rate was roughly one poem out of 14 submissions of three poems each. Two or three poems accepted rarely happened but my hopes were always high.
    The rejected poems I’d revise if I thought they needed it; then I’d send all of them out again to different publications. Often the poems would have to be retyped because the postal process or some editor’s fondness for catsup or mustard would result in messy returned manuscripts. I followed this pattern of writing, revising and submitting for seven years. I loved it because I didn’t know any other way. I had no idea that in 30 years there would be an easier way to submit poems, thanks to the personal computer. What a difference. No more carbon paper. No more catsup or mustard.
    In 1971 I quit writing after having had a hundred or so poems accepted by some 80 print publications ranging from university journals to hand-assembled little magazines. I even made it into a few commercial magazines and received checks for as much as $25.00. I was on a roll or so I told myself.
    The reason I quit writing poems is because I had accepted a much more difficult day job as an editor with a newspaper. Previous editorial jobs had not been that taxing. I still had enough energy to work on poems at night as well as on weekends. But the new job wore me out. The money was good and helped me deal with expenses that had increased as my responsibilities had increased. Other demanding jobs would follow in subsequent decades. As a result, I didn’t return to writing poems until 2008 after I had retired.
    I hadn’t really thought about working on poems in retirement but my wife bought me a computer and showed me where I had stored—37 years earlier—several cardboard boxes full of unfinished poems. It took a month or more to enter drafts of the 200 to 300 poems in my new computer. It took longer to revise and polish them. Finally, I sent out the “finished” versions by email to both online and print publications.
    It took a few weeks at the start but eventually lines for new poems began to pop into my noggin. Alleluia! I was ever so thankful to “hear” them because it answered an important question—namely, could I still write new poems after such a long hiatus?
    I found submitting by email a joy. For a while I sent an occasional poem by snail mail to journals that did not take email submissions. But in six months I stopped doing that. I did not want to lick envelopes any longer. Looking back over the last four years, I’m thankful for the response my work has received from various editors in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.
    Since I am an old-timer writing and submitting poems, I’m sometimes asked if I notice any difference in the “market” for poetry in 2012 compared with the Sixties. I’m also asked if I would I do anything differently if I were starting out today.
    Yes, I notice a difference in the “market” today, and, yes, I would do some things differently if I were starting out now.
    If I were starting out now, I would revise poems even more than I did when I was young. I revised a lot back then and I revise a lot today. I believe strongly in something Dylan Thomas once said—namely, that no poem is ever finished; it is simply abandoned.
    It’s taken four years for me to gain some sense of how the “market” for poetry has changed over the last 40 years. In preparing my own submissions, I have had a chance to read a lot poetry by young writers, some already established and many unknown. Sometimes I compare their work in my mind with the work of poets I remember from the Sixties.
    Although Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, among others, had their followers back in the Sixties, and still do today, I find that in 2012 “confessional” poetry has become even more prominent. Some of it strikes me as good, both in content and technique, but that is a subjective assessment. Much of it, however, strikes me as “raw,” for want of a better word. In some cases I also find it difficult to distinguish certain poems from prose disguised in broken lines. I don’t remember “prose poems” as a category unto itself when I started out. Today prose poems seem to be very well accepted in some circles but I suspect they would have been a hard sell in the Sixties.
    I suppose as a stripling and now as a codger I have written what some might call “confessional” poetry, both good and bad. Nevertheless, I think a young writer does well to write about someone or something other than one’s self. Observing other people carefully and writing about their mannerisms and aspects of their behavior can help to develop one’s craft. This is important because as most writers know, writing poetry or fiction is as much a craft as it is an art and without craft, writing may never reach the level of art.
    Perhaps it is my imagination but it seems that over the last couple of years there has been an increase in poems written about broken relationships or other distressful matters of the heart. The writers of these poems seem to be primarily women who sound very angry and no doubt with good cause.
    Apparently male poets find it easier to move on from a break-up and seek love or companionship in all the right or wrong places. I don’t think that’s a new development, men being who they are. I hope it’s not chauvinistic of me to suggest that the power to motivate a man to behave better usually lies with the woman. I feel that a woman has a gift she should not unwrap too quickly no matter how eager a man may be to undo the ribbons. Not many ribbons were undone in the Fifties prior to vows. In that era, of course, women were old-fashioned by current standards. The ones who were not “old-fashioned” were called a lot of things but not “liberated.”
    There are other types of subject matter common in poetry today that didn’t appear too frequently in the Sixties. Graphic sex, science fiction and horror seem to appeal to many male writers, although some females also like to write about these subjects today.
    I’ve never been interested in horror and I doubt that I would have the imagination to handle it well. I never fantasize about anything that even borders on science fiction. Sex, on the other hand, is a different matter. But sex has always struck me as the easiest subject to write about. I could write about sex well, I believe, but why should I? Why should I make my wife angry? Even if I were single, I suspect I’d be restrained by a line from Emily Dickinson that I first read it in college. Ms. Dickinson wrote, “how public like a frog.”
    In contrast with my early years in writing, I am never satisfied today with a poem even when it has been published. If I go back and re-read a published poem a year later, I am certain to find something “wrong” with it and I feel obligated to fix it. Sometimes I can’t fix it but in the process of trying, I occasionally find that I am suddenly in the middle of writing a different poem, an offshoot of the original piece or something entirely different. I’ve found benefits and problems in that.
    Rodin’s “The Thinker” is set in bronze and marble and not subject to revision but few if any of my poems acquire that status in my mind. And if one of them does, I eventually come to feel the poem could be improved, even if at that moment I might not know how to make it better. Maybe in six months I’ll read it again and hear something errant in the lines that I will suddenly know how to fix. It doesn’t hurt, I believe, for a writer to listen to a poem the way a mechanic listens to a motor. Both want to get everything right.
    My purpose in writing this piece has been to record “for the ages” what it’s been like writing and submitting poems in two distinct eras. I certainly like the ease with which technology today has enabled me to compose a poem. The “delete” key is wonderful. But there is something to be said for the anticipation caused by finding an envelope in the mailbox from an editor, the way a contributor might have done back in the Sixties. One knew immediately by the thickness of the envelope whether all three poems had been rejected or one or two of them had been accepted. That was a wonderful time for a young writer to cut his or her teeth.





Donal Mahoney bio

    Nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize, Donal Mahoney, a product of Chicago, lives in exile now in St. Louis, Missouri. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune and Commonweal. Some of his online work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs=












Gone Missing

Ryan Daff

    I am on the bus turning into Circadian Street when I see Marlow. Or I think I see Marlow, walking with his back to me on the opposite side of the road, carrying a briefcase, and talking animatedly on his mobile as he passes quickly through the swarms of afternoon Christmas shoppers. I get up and fight my way to the front of the crowded bus, struggling past a young mother with a pram, and an old man with a walking stick, all the while exclaiming to the driver to stop the bus and let me get off.
    “I don’t stop here,” he explains in an apathetic monotone. “You can get off in a minute.”
    By the time the bus slows to a standstill at the station and I disembark amidst a line of slow-moving passengers, I have begun to lose hope that I will catch up with Marlow at all. But then I see him again, walking out of a High Street bank across the road and boarding the ramp up into Ward Street Station. He is on the phone again, or still on the same call as before. I quicken my pace, pushing rudely through the throngs of shoppers in the direction of Ward Street. Twice, I unintentionally slide forwards on the thin ice that has formed underfoot, but regain my balance before I fall onto my backside. I reach the curb and see Marlow turn a corner inside the station and disappear out of sight, just as a bus and three black cabs drive into my line of vision, obscuring my view across the street.
    Ten or so seconds later, when the convoy has cleared, I dart across the road in the midst of more pedestrians. I reach the pavement, and push past a woman with a clipboard who wants to ask me some questions about Christianity. I then jog up the ramp, push through the crowd, and continue into the station in search of Marlow.
    Initially, I see no sign of my old friend; only scattered groups of people carrying luggage and/or carrier bags full of Christmas shopping, moving at varying speeds and in different directions. The scene is chaotic and threatens to fill me with hopeless resignation, but I continue onwards, past the shops and down the escalator.
    On a whim, and in my desperation to catch Marlow before he leaves town, I ask the lady at the Information desk where and when the next train to the city is due. She tells me platform 7A, but the train is at the platform now, and is about to depart. I take off again in the direction of 7A. Absorbed with my chase, I bump into a crouching busker tuning his guitar, who then shouts some indistinct profanities after me.
    Increasing my pace to a careless jog now, and panting, I fish my mobile out of my trouser pocket and frantically search through the M’s in my address book as I go. I dart down the steps onto the platform, and catch sight of the train—just as a muffled announcement is projected through the overhead speakers, stating that it is departing. The train begins accelerating away, and I jog alongside it as it starts to pick up speed. I push through yet another crowd, this time stationary people hovering on the platform to wave off relatives or friends. I peer into each carriage I pass, quickening my pace to match that of the train, and I receive some curious glances in reply from the seated passengers.
    Finally stopping dead in my tracks, I ring Marlow’s mobile number and hold the phone to my ear, my heart beating hard in my chest, my breath heavy. Surely this is hopeless? I’ve tried his number countless times before today. I hear an automated message stating that the person I am trying to reach is engaged with another call.
    I start walking again, with the phone still held against my ear. I am muttering something into the phone along the lines of Come on, Marlow, hang up; come on. I have reached the end of the platform in a resigned stride when I do see Marlow—sitting by a rear window of the increasingly distant train, still talking on the phone, and smiling now with a distant look in his eyes. He catches my gaze and his jaw drops, the smile now vanquished from his face. All colour drains from his previously healthy-looking complexion until he resembles a corpse. His lips stop moving, but the phone remains next to his ear. I imagine the person speaking on the other end: Hello? Hello? Are you still there?
    And then Marlow is gone again.

#

    I am sitting by the window in a trendy High Street coffee shop called the Wake Up Bar, when a bespectacled middle-aged man walks in, his shoulders hunched a little from the cold and the wet. He relaxes his posture, removes his glasses to wipe away the condensation that has formed on the lenses, places them back on, and surveys his surroundings. I recognise him from the picture in his advertisement, and I sit upright in my seat, gesturing to him with a wave of my hand. His eyes continue to dart around the room—presumably searching for a man in a red scarf, and then he sees me, as I’d described myself, surrounded now by hyperactively chatting students and solemn, suited business people reading newspapers. He gestures that he’s seen me with a brief nod of his head, orders a drink which he requests to be brought over to him, and then walks over to where I’m sitting. He extends his hand without sitting down, and I rise out of my seat to shake it.
    “Gregory, is it?” he asks with a slight smile. We shake hands, and I make a little subconscious note of his peculiarly weak grip. The handshake ends, and I notice that he wears a dreamy-eyed expression, which also strikes me as being somewhat out of place.
    “Yes,” I reply, realising that I had hesitated. “Thank you for coming. Mister P. Remsley, is it? Sorry, I’m useless with names.”
    “Yes, that’s it,” he says, smiling softly still, but I am a little taken aback that he doesn’t give me his first name.
    He sits down. “How are things?” he asks casually, which again strikes me as peculiar, considering the nature of our meeting. My first impression of P. Remsley is that he is full of surprises.
    “I’m . . . confused,” I reply, and then manage a timid smile myself to match his slight grin, which now seems to be a constant mask.
    “Well, yes. It’s a confusing business, isn’t it?” he asks rhetorically, removing his scarf and gloves without taking his eyes off me. “Give me some background information on Marlow, will you? I think that’s the best course of action to begin with.”
    I nod in agreement, take a deep breath, and then sip my black coffee just as his decaf arrives. He thanks the waitress and fixes his smiling eyes back on me.
    “Marlow and I,” I begin, “we went to the same university, and studied for the same degree. We were good friends right up until we were in a serious car accident together one Christmas. Marlow went missing from the wreckage; I had blacked out in the passenger seat, and when I woke up, he was gone from the driver’s seat.”
    “And how long ago was that now? Six years, you said?”
    “A little over six years, yes. He’s all but presumed dead now—all but declared legally dead, and last thing I heard, the case on him had been dropped.”
    “You haven’t spoken to the police about it recently?”
    “No. Not for about a year. Everyone seems to have moved on, including Marlow’s family. It’s surreal, really, considering that no body was ever found within miles of the crash.”
    I tell him a little more innocuous back story regarding my good friend Marlow and me. There is nothing remarkable to relate—nothing that has ever helped me to understand why he simply disappeared.
    The man across the table from me sips his decaf. He’s not what I had expected from a private investigator, with his lined face and his bookish demeanour—not to mention that calm, almost Zen exterior, which makes him appear lost in some distant reverie.
    He asks: “Did Marlow ever live or work here in town, back when you knew him?”
    “No. When I knew him, we both lived, studied, and occasionally worked in the city.”
    “But you’re certain it was him? Walking away from Circadian Street and boarding a train at Ward Street Station?”
    I pause, and try to gather my thoughts so that they don’t come out in a jumbled mess. “It was him,” I say. “I ended up seeing his face, and I know he saw mine too. There’s really no doubt about it being him; but there is something that struck me as rather odd.”
    “Go on,” says Remsley, blowing on his decaf to cool it down.
    I say, “The reason I wasn’t sure it was him at first, was because he had his back to me and he was on the phone. So I tried phoning his number, rather pointlessly because that number has been disconnected for a long time now, since the police stopped trying to track him down—not that I believe they ever did try that hard. My trail of thought at the time, was that when I called him, if it was him walking into the station, his number would be engaged—giving me some kind of proof it was him, see? It’s ridiculous, I know.”
    “But you did get an engaged message?” asks Remsley.
    “Yes, I did! I got an engaged message, right before I saw him in the train carriage. It wasn’t until the whole thing was over that I realised I had dialled his old number by mistake—the one he only used occasionally, socially, and which only his close friends knew about.”
    “So, despite leaving his old life behind, he still uses an old phone number?” the smiling man named Remsley enquires, attempting to clarify things, but with a pointedly sceptical tone.
    “Apparently, yes,” I say. “Although I’ve been unsuccessful in trying to reach him a second time; I suppose he’s finally had that number disconnected too.”
    “And you think that he’s in town on business?”
    “Hard to say. I only think that because he had a briefcase, and carried out some kind of transaction inside a High Street bank . . . It crossed my mind that he might have relocated to town, like me, but then of course I saw him on the city-bound train.”
    The smiling man nods.
    “That’s something I was going to ask you to look into actually,” I say. “Could you try and find out what name he was using at the bank? Maybe track down his account details—can you do that with your resources?”
    “I’ll certainly try,” he says, but somewhat dismissively, I feel. He even shrugs his shoulders a little, as if what he’s really saying is, It’s pretty hopeless, Gregory. Then, standing up, he shakes my hand and says, cryptically: “You and Marlow are in my hands now. Don’t worry.”

#

    I am in a taxi heading away from Jung Street when I see Marlow again. He is on foot, wearing a long trench coat and carrying an umbrella to shelter from the falling snow. He is on the phone again. This time he carries no briefcase, but I see him in full profile for five or so seconds, and it is unmistakably my old friend.
    “Follow that man,” I say to the taxi driver, too preoccupied to care about the terrible cliché.
    “What man?” he replies in a heavy Asian accent.
    “That man on foot, with the umbrella and the phone, just across the road . . .” I lean forward and attempt to point Marlow out, just as he enters into a melee of people, mostly rowdy students let loose to survey the local nightlife.
    “Never mind,” I say. I pay him quickly and exit the car. I chase after Marlow on foot again.
    I follow him through the whole of town, through various clusters of people who look dressed up and lively for whichever bar, club or performance they are attending. There are multiple occasions when it is just Marlow and me, walking down a side street or along a main road, beneath streetlights that illuminate my friend in a veil of falling snow; and yet I follow only from a discreet distance. I need more information. I need to compile, to research, to study the facts here. If I apprehend Marlow now, he will never simply give me those facts; I need to extract them from him against his will, without him knowing. I need to play detective myself, if I ever hope to uncover the mystery of his disappearance.
    I hear his familiar slow and steady murmur as he continues his mysterious phone call, but the distance between us, plus the sounds of the wind and our own squelching footfalls on the snowy ground, all prevent me from distinguishing any words.

#

    I continue to follow him, until he reaches a small hotel on the outskirts of town called the Sleep Easy, and walks inside. Standing outside, I see a light go on in the foyer, and assume that the scene is just my old friend and a member of the hotel staff, and if I were to follow him inside, my cover would be blown. Instead I wait five minutes, while Marlow presumably collects his key and climbs the stairs up to his room.
    I am contemplating following him inside, having allowed a sufficient break in my pursuit, when I see another light come on—on the fourth floor, on the west side of the hotel. Ten minutes later the light goes off again, and I am confident in my assumption that that is Marlow’s room, and that he has gone to bed.
    I then begin to brainstorm. Marlow’s hotel stands adjacent to another on the same side of the road, the Bedside Manor. The Bedside Manor has rooms on the east side, with fairly sizeable windows from which I might get a good view into Marlow’s room—if I also book into a room on the fourth floor. At the very least, I will be able to keep track of Marlow when he leaves the Sleep Easy in the morning.

#

    Ten minutes later, I am lying in bed in my darkened hotel room. I glance to my right, out the window, and inwardly delight at how well my plan is coming together. All I see now, by the glow of an outside streetlight, is Marlow’s own dark room. But neither of us has cared to draw our curtains shut, so, if I arise when he does, I should be able to observe his movements. I start to wonder why I ever involved P. Remsley at all.

#

    It’s daylight. I am brushing my teeth with my finger and some toothpaste, while pacing near the window of the bedroom—and so is Marlow. It’s a miracle he doesn’t see me, frankly. A little later, he is sitting on his bed reading a discarded newspaper, so I sit and pretend to read a newspaper I found too, so that he doesn’t catch me watching him. He then watches television. I also turn on my television, in the hope to find out what he’s watching. But there are only seven channels to choose from, and there’s nothing revelatory or sufficiently distracting on any of them.
    Marlow eats breakfast when I eat breakfast; I wonder if we tipped room service an equal amount.
    Where did you go when you left me, old friend?
    I make the agonised decision to phone Marlow; it’s the only way to find out what’s going on. I don’t need to give my name, after all. I don’t even need to use my own voice—I can try to disguise it a little. I’ll just phone his hotel, find out the number of his room, and—
    My hotel room phone rings. I rush to the window, my eyes wide, my heartbeat and my breath heavy. Marlow is holding his mobile to his ear, and he’s looking directly at me.
    The phone continues to ring, so I answer it. “Marlow??” I ask, anxiously.
    “Hi, Gregory. No, it’s me, Remsley.”
    “Oh,” I say, deflated. “But Marlow was making a call—” I look out of the window, but it seems that Marlow has gone. It is now impossible to see into his room—a supernaturally bright, white light fills the window frame, and I have to avert my eyes as if I were trying to stare directly at the sun.
    “Marlow is gone,” confirms Remsley.
    “How do you know? And how did you know where to find me?” I ask.
    “Don’t worry. You’re in my hands,” he says cryptically, for the second time since I’d met him. “I’m sending over the results of my investigation,” he continues. “It’s a case file—it should clear things up for you, Gregory.” He hangs up the phone.
    I’m still sitting with the phone receiver in my hands, feeling a little bewildered, when there’s a knock at the door. I place the hotel phone back on the hook and open the door—only to discover that there is no one there, just a black notebook left for me on the carpet outside.
    I briefly survey both ends of the corridor where my mystery visitor would have had to flee to (unless he’d come from one of the other rooms), and then, wondering how Remsley even found out I was here, I bring the unlabelled book back into the room. Then, without taking my eyes off the case file, I absent-mindedly kick the door shut and wander back towards the bed. I sit down and open the front cover. The first page says, more drawn than written, and in a large, sloppy idiot scrawl:

#

    START FROM THE BEGINNING AND WORK YOUR WAY TO THE END

#

    P REMSLEE

#

    Well, thanks, Mister Remslee, if that’s how you’re spelling it now. How else was I going to read this thing? Can this guy not even write, or spell?
    I turn to the next page, but there are no words, only small, indistinct smudges. I turn again; more smudges. I flick through the entire book, holding the damn thing at different angles, under different lights, at different distances from my eyes. There’s nothing here! I flick back to the first page, only to discover that the letters have inexplicably rearranged themselves into seemingly meaningless shapes:

#

    TARTS ROMF HET EGINNINGB NDA ORKW OURY AYW OT HET NDE

#

    REMSLEEP

#

    The phone rings again and I answer it, increasingly confused now: “Remslee, what’s happening?”
    Remslee laughs. “I’m sorry, Gregory. I forgot you’d have difficulty reading in a dream.”
    Pause.
    “In a . . . dream?” I ask.
    “Yes. Dreaming and reading are controlled by different brain mechanisms. Dreaming is a right-brain activity. Sometimes left-brain activities like reading or puzzle-solving are carried across into dreams—if they are sufficiently intellectual or addictive. But it’s still very rare, and even then you only perceive that you are reading. Everyone is severely dyslexic in his or her dreams—focusing on actual words, and making sense of them, becomes impossible.”
    “I’m dreaming?”
    “Yes. I’m afraid you are. I hoped you’d have worked that out. Start from the beginning of P REMSLEE and work your way to the end? That’s REMSLEEP. You know, R.E.M. sleep? Most of our more vivid dreams occur during R.E.M. sleep, after all. And all of those place names . . . come on! Ward Street? The Wake Up Bar? The Sleep Easy hotel? The Bedside Manor? And you and Marlow in adjacent rooms, with just those open curtains between you? In adjacent beds!”
    “Okay, okay, what are you saying then?” I enquire, slightly shocked, slightly scared, wholly confused and pissed off. “A hospital ward? Adjacent hospital beds?”
    “Yes,” says Remslee. “You were both in the car crash that Christmas. Marlow had been on the phone while driving, and he lost control of the car on the ice. You both wound up in deep comas. Marlow has gone now, and you’re not far behind. You’re in my hands now—both of you were, in the grip of deep sleep. I’m afraid this is the end, Gregory. I’m sorry it’s been such a jumbled mess for you, but you only have your own damaged psyche to blame, you know?”
    “And who are you?” I ask calmly. “Are you my coma?”
    Remslee laughs. “If you like, Gregory. It’s your dream, and it’s nearly over. I’ve just been here to help you make that last little connection.”
    White light fills the room.












Crazy Crazy

Marc Carver

There are a pair of pants on top of the small roof next to my toilet.
I know because I threw them there.
Sometimes people walk by
Talking about them
Like there were some tourist attraction.

Some people have flags of their country flying from their roofs.
I have a flag of underpants from the country of crazy crazy
And it is the only country for me.












Shame Shame Shame

Marc Carver

As ride of the valkyres came on
I had an urge to leap from my chair
put my feet on the shoulders of the boy in front
and fly up into the air.

Push up around the dome of the royal albert hall
circling everybody as I soared above like a big bald eagle
and just for a second I was sure I could do it

but I didn’t quite believe enough
what a shame.












a little time gone
   & a little time imagined

Stefan Benz

in the field
where I grew
up poppies grew and grow
still. after such a while of life
they grow in flocks,
they grow a-
lone. They grow arching
through leaves of grass and towards
the moon or sun, somewhere, bright in

sun-drenched red transparency hangs
in petals loose trying to be petals
bulging
fragile into memory

and i see poppies walking by
i see children racing fireflies that rise
over familiar fields and chase
the weird borders
of a little time gone and
a little time imagined

poppies pull my daydreams
and pick a warm
kiss of good-
bye.












A Butterfly’s Vulnerability

Scott Hicks

Sunlight reflects off the moon.
The moon can only reflect on things
it has witnessed in darkness.

The earth
carries the weight of our mistakes.

How do I explain this to my children?

Always too little time,
vulnerability dangerously exposed,

the frailty of their place.

Like butterfly’s wings
covered with scales of innocence.

The simple obsession
of a child,
to chase the butterfly.












Dressed In Low Clouds

Scott Hicks

Ghosts hidden in the fog blend
with the blankness of time.
Condensation

on leafless branches
soaks cells.
My narrow tree rings,

circles contain circles,
history

counted
in decades.
Zero,

the beginning.
To plant a seed,
the number one.












My Time Between Face and Mask

Scott Hicks

Smooth worn stone –
rub its history away
and time disappears with it.

Flowing water floats dreams
on abscised petals

in yesterday’s sunlight. Instead, store today’s
history in stars before the rain.

I, like a circus clown,
understand smiling sadness,
incongruent masks as distractions.

Which life is real?
On whose head
will the falling leaf land?












First Day Out

Joey Holland

    The breeze blowing through ancient live oaks bordering the street gave a twinkling effect to the late morning sun. He swung down from the stairway leading out of LRADAC, the detox facility from which he’d just been released.
    “It’s gonna be a beauty,” he said as he positioned himself on the edge of the bus stop bench. The mid-autumn morning was indeed beautiful, warm but with just a hint of the coming winter. The fall foliage against the depthless blue sky was almost overwhelming.
    He wasn’t sure if the bus scheduled to arrive at this particular stop was the one he needed, but if not, he could transfer downtown. He had the whole day to kill before the 6:30 Narcotics Anonymous meeting. He could not miss the meeting because missing would mean homelessness. He was booted out of the recovery house where he had been residing just prior to checking into detox the week before; using drugs and/or drinking while living in a “sober living” facility was frowned upon, generally an unpardonable offense, but after some fast, smooth talking, the director had given him One Last Chance.
    “Just be at the meeting tonight, John John, and be there clean,” the director said, “and you can move in, but you’ll be staying at the old building. I can’t let you back into the main house. Hell, I don’t know why I’m letting you back in at all. Don’t fuck this up, buddy!” But John John didn’t need to be told; he knew the consequences of messing up again and the thought of homelessness, no contact with his daughters, frightened him badly. “That, by itself, will keep me clean,” he thought.
    He felt he needed time to take stock of his current situation and steel himself for a new life without drugs, so a good long bus ride seemed just the thing. “All I gotta do is follow the suggestion. It’s not like I don’t know what they are. I’m a fuckin’ expert after three treatment centers and what, four or five detoxes. I just gotta do it!” His mind continued in the same vein until the bus pulled up. He took a deep, shaky breath and climbed aboard.
    “Does this bus go to the hospital?” He asked the bus driver as he fished his token, supplied by the detox facility, out of his front pocket.
    “Runs right by there. You going to the main entrance?” the driver answered.
    “No, sir; the emergency room entrance.” As he answered, he felt a tightening in his groin. “Damn,” he whispered to himself, “I didn’t need to tell him that!”
    “Not too many people ride the bus to the ER,” the driver said, staring fixedly at John John.
    No explanation was offered, so a loud silence ensued as he tossed his token into the hopper and moved toward the back of the bus. The conversation with the bus driver had shaken him; he felt as if he’d been found out. He tried to focus on the trees lining the street. The leaves were at their peak of autumnal beauty, with soft oranges blending with fiery reds and pale yellows. He took a deep breath and relaxed and once again felt happy to be given this lovely day and the opportunity to begin a new life.
    After a pleasant half hour’s ride, he saw the façade of the hospital and pulled the cord signaling the bus drive to stop. He resolutely repressed the familiar twinge he felt deep inside whenever he did something stupid, or dangerous. As he walked toward the emergency room entrance, he was glad he left his suitcase back at detox. Walking through the door, he set a very convincing look of anguish on his face.
    “Can I help you?” the woman at the information desk asked. He took a deep breath and replied, shakily, “Yes ma’am; I need to see a doctor. I have kidney stones.” He strongly identified with the role he was playing, that of a man in great pain; he’d become a good actor over the years. He described perfectly the classic symptoms of kidney stones, an extremely painful affliction. He also gave the receptionist his history of past kidney stones, of which he claimed to have had many. Since tests could not confirm or deny the existence of at least some tiny particles, the “kidney stone ploy” was the most likely to succeed.
    After the intake information was given, he took his seat and began what he hoped would be a relatively short wait. He knew it sometimes took several hours and he had allowed for that if need be, but he hoped to be able to enjoy at least some of the day after he was finished with his errand. Besides, he wanted to explore the neighborhood surrounding the new halfway house. He wanted to make a good impression on his new house mates, but if he was going to start a drug-free life, he really needed to make this last stop to put him in a good frame of mind. Painkillers soothed him and gave him a much-needed enhanced sense of well-being.
    He was accustomed to the procedure: urine sample (with a drop of blood added), prostate check (no fun, but necessary), followed by a shot of strong, opiate pain medicine and a prescription for painkillers. Sometimes the doctors ordered X-rays with special dye injected into the veins to show if there were any stones present. He hoped they would skip this; he had a feeling nothing would show up.
    He was pleasantly surprised with the emergency room visit. They took him back after less than an hour, and after the urine analysis and prostate check, gave him a shot of Demerol, a strong opiate painkiller. The doctor did order the injection of dye, but by then, the drugs were coursing through his body and he didn’t care a bit. He was fine wherever he happened to be.
    The test showed no evidence of kidney stones. He was sent on his way with a prescription of twelve Percocet, another strong painkiller, and an admonishment from the doctor to make an appointment with his family doctor.
    Though twilight was fast approaching as he left the hospital, he still had an hour or so to explore the new neighborhood after he filled his prescription. Chewing three of the yellow tablets, he strolled back to the detox facility to retrieve his bag.
    As the Percocet began mingling with the shot from the ER, he walked slowly through his new neighborhood, confident and optimistic about his new life without drugs.












Almost Sunset, art by Fabrice Poussin

Almost Sunset, art by Fabrice Poussin
















Disappearing Statues

Shelly Sitzer

Everything is transitory
Even statues are disappearing
Talk in town says “Dismantle Robert E. Lee from his horse.”
Let him disintegrate like winter’s snowflakes or last year’s trash.

History being wiped off the slate
Like pastel chalk from a board.
The name of the park
Changed forever

Disappearing Statues.
Nothing is lasting
Burn everything so future generations
Don’t have to be reminded
So it never happened.












Seed

Jan Marquart

    She told me to go to hell, and that she hates me, won’t call, but she wasn’t always like that. It seems so long ago now that she used to tell me how much she loved me wrapping her small arms around my neck after I tucked her in at bedtime with butterfly kisses on my cheek. I can still hear her ask me each morning to do her hair in the way she liked before leaving for the school bus, and tell me that I was her favorite person as we sat on the couch eating popcorn watching cartoons. I can remember it as if it were happening in this moment, how she’d climb the steep school bus steps, her precious pigtails curled and bouncing barely reaching her shoulders, pulled up high on her head bound with silky pink ribbons.
    I did everything I could to protect her from my life. While she was in school my days were filled with medical tests and treatments that left me fighting with all my might to make it through the day so I could see her again when the school bus pulled up to the house at the end of her day. I’d wait to hear her tiny knock on our big red front door. My daily fight behind me I knew I could no longer indulge in my illness. Now was the time to allow the joy to enter.
    She didn’t know what opening the door to her embrace and smiling face, bright as a full moon, meant to me or that I had just slid down 15 steps on my butt because I couldn’t stand up having gripped the toilet bowl vomiting up whatever chemotherapy did to my cancerous body for hours. Cancer on one end, me on the other, each fighting viciously for my life. And with all my might I was going to win, not for myself, but for my little girl, precious as could be. I wouldn’t let myself think of not being there for her. Little girls always need their moms and I wanted to be needed by her. I needed to be there for her.
    Eventually, those secretive treatments allowed me to win the fight. Losing my breast meant nothing if I could keep my life, for her sake. I’m not sure where it went wrong. Was it because she simply grew up to be her own woman? Was it because I tried too hard? No. Neither one of those reasons is good enough. Love often surprises me. It can turn so easily without warning. There is no turning back to undo the catalyst that threw everything into chaos because whatever caused it can’t be identified. Sometimes the process of daily living can make things change. Sometimes love can crack into brittle pieces. The fight to win the battle for my daughter’s sake, the seed of my heart, seems almost easier back then with all the chemotherapy treatments than the absence of her in my life now.
    I often think of my daughter. I miss her on our birthdays when we used to hug and share and laugh. I miss putting up our favorite tree ornaments and talking about bras, boys, makeup, and music. I miss her pigtails and those squeaky cartoon voices.
    I would never give up the journey we once shared. I find myself in constant hope for a rebirth of it all. Those precious memories are all I have and, for right now, I’ll savor the opening of hope for healing someday, sometime, somewhere. What else can a mother do whose daughter remains the seed of her heart?





Jan Marquart bio

    As a psychotherapist and author of 22 books, Jan Marquart is inspired by the stories of others. She teaches The Provocation of Journal Writing for those over fifty and Unveil the Wounded Self - Write to Heal for those with PTSD, and online writing courses for StoryCircleOnlineclasses.org. Learn more about Jan through her websites: JanMarquart.com, CanYouFindMyLove.com, and JanMarquartLCSWwordpress.com.












Hush Hush Little Darling 4, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

Hush Hush Little Darling 4, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz
















A Memoir Begun

Jan Marquart

    With her pen poised, she began to write, “I am in love with my mother.” Her heart filled. Her pen stopped. What more could she say? One big cloud covered the morning sun and moved slowly passed the window while the daughter pensively stared into the sky. There was more. There was so much more. Her heart and mind were crammed full of stories, so why couldn’t she put them on paper? Her mother deserved a loud statement about her life, if for no other reason, than to share the rich wisdom her mother gave her that impacted her life until her mother left her with a young daughter of her own.
    It was no small impact. Her mother taught her daughter to live a life with a heart full of love and appreciation, discipline and respect, and above all, to find what joy she could wherever she went. In a slow and deliberate way, the mother slowly crafted her daughter’s identity and place in the world. The daughter felt confident when her daughter was born because she had been left a matrimonial legacy that would never lead her astray. Without those lessons the daughter couldn’t imagine what kind of life she could have lived on her own without her mother let alone now, a mother in her own right, with a small child depending on her for wisdom and direction.
    The daughter squeezed her pen in frustration as if that very act of squeezing would make the words pop out of the pen and onto the blank page. At every chance the daughter read other daughter’s stories about their mothers hoping to gain an insight into how to get started on such an important task. Sometimes the stories about other mothers inspired her and she got to see what the lives of other daughters were like, but her mother was different from theirs. She struggled to find just the right words using a dictionary and thesaurus night and day. The daughter sat with a still heart hoping to hear where to start but the mere hesitation of it all made the daughter feel as if she were betraying her beloved mother’s life.
    Each morning the daughter sat at the computer where her fingers froze. Despite the painful plight, the daughter showed up at her desk day after day, morning after morning.
    Then one morning, out of pure frustration, the daughter picked up her pen, felt the pen directly attached to the arm that directly attached itself to the chest that held the tender heart. She began to pour out single words:
    Love
    Kindness
    Mercy
    Hugs
    Stories
    The next day the daughter wrote the words into phrases:
    deep love
    abundant kindness
    relentless mercy
    warm hugs
    life stories.
    The next morning, the daughter took those phrases and made them into sentences:
    My mother’s deep love was unconditional, pure and trustworthy.
    My mother’s abundant kindness warmed the hearts of distressed strangers.
    My mother’s relentless mercy put the most harmful criminal into a place of peace.
    My mother’s warm hugs sent me into pleasant and deep sleep each night.
    My mother’s life’s stories told about a woman who suffered greatly at the hands of Hitler but who committed her own heart to not spend a second of her own life in such inhumane hate.
    And then, the memoir began.





Jan Marquart bio

    As a psychotherapist and author of 22 books, Jan Marquart is inspired by the stories of others. She teaches The Provocation of Journal Writing for those over fifty and Unveil the Wounded Self - Write to Heal for those with PTSD, and online writing courses for StoryCircleOnlineclasses.org. Learn more about Jan through her websites: JanMarquart.com, CanYouFindMyLove.com, and JanMarquartLCSWwordpress.com.












Anger is not a feeling but a reason to hide
whatever it is that hurts me inside!!

Marc McMahon

    Is anger really a feeling? Or is it simply an adjective that our mind uses to best describe the feelings we can’t put a name too? Or could it be that anger is just the emotion we use when when we are feeling scared, hurt or all alone? The answer to this I do not know for sure but my gut tells me that I would rather be angry at someone or something than to have to admit to myself that I am really frightened, hurt or feeling unloved. That I would rather be angry with someone then to have to take a realistic look at my situation and possibly realize that maybe I am truly at fault and that my anger should be redirected at self so that I can make an honest appraisal of the situation. Running the risk of having to possibly apologize to someone for me being wrong.
    I mean, what good has ever resulted from me being out of my mind angry at someone or something? You know, I cannot for the life of me think of one instance where me being angry has proven to be beneficial to anyone including myself. I can on the other hand think of a few instances where my anger has brought undesirable results. Like getting pissed off at a friend over what was really my own crap and ruining a good friendship due simply to the fact that it was easier on me of course to be angry at them v.s. having to swallow my pride and admit to myself and to another person that I was the one who was actually at fault, then having to apologize, sealing the deal that the error lies within myself.
    No that would be way to much for this addict and his ego to swallow. It’s just way easier projecting my fault onto someone else in the form of anger. Or another wonderful benefit of me allowing myself to get angry is that it allows me to not have to look at myself but instead push my blame onto someone else in a fit of rage allowing my mind to be blinded to any common sense or rational thinking so that I can just say the hell with all this recovery stress its not making things any better therefore justifying my behavior and giving me a reason to go get high!!
    I mean, after all the world isn’t fair anyways and I always seem to have to be angry at some one all the time, and I was never this angry when I was using so what the hell I’m gonna go get high!! Justifiable homicide of self then begins, again!!! A subconscious reservation to get high is formed and rationalized in my mind to be ok and I crawl into the back seat of my car, give my addict the keys and say take me to that place where we can forget all about this world, these feelings, and this hurt.
    That place over by where we were last time. I mean, don’t drive us to the exact same place we were last time cause that place almost killed me and today I don’t want to die. I just want you to drive me close to that place. The one where I had all the fun, where I didn’t have to feel anything or even have to think about anything. The place oh kind addict sir, where I just get to be high, relax and let you call all the shots, because I know that this time will be different, that this time everything will be ok.
    I mean, after all you promised me that this time you would have my best interests in mind and you know what, this time, I believe you!! So lets not tell anyone we are doing this, ok my friend. I just want to do this one more time to relieve myself of this anxiety then come back and be clean again. Just one more time for old times sake, ok?? Now please sir take me to that special place!!
    That is all anger is to this dope fiend. It is simply just another reason for me to justify getting high, just another door that leads me straight back to the hell I been so desperately trying to stay away from. There is nothing healthy for me in it and like I said, I do not really think it is even a true emotion but more like an all inclusive adjective to describe the true feelings that I a) don’t want to admit I have or, b) can’t seem to identify good enough to give a name.
    Anger, the luxury of those with a normal cognitive thinking mind, a feeling that those who are not addicted can have and act stupid behind if they choose to do so, but not a luxury that this addict can afford to mess with. Normies can act stupid behind this feeling all they want and that’s fine by me because the stakes for them are not as severe as they are for me. They get angry and sometimes act the fool but I get angry, relapse, and possibly DIE!!! I have to see anger for what it really is. Anger is just another weapon my addiction uses to try and kill me. It’s a trigger to use masked as an emotion. A lethal cocktail mixed by the master mixologist of death in hopes that he can fill my cup, get me to take a sip then hand him the keys so he can drive me home.

TO HIS HOME THAT IS!!!

    To the dungeon where only he holds the key!! Not the special place I asked him to drive me to but the special place he has been preparing for me since I chose to get clean. The place where he has all control and I have none. The place where he shows himself strong and where I am weak. The place where he is master and I can only serve!! A place where his darkness thrives and there is no light!! As I am Chained down, shackled at the ankles and gagged with a rag my monster looks me in the eye and whispers,

recover from this!!!





Marc McMahon bio

    Marc is a 47 year old emerging new writer who resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. His hobbies include hiking, fishing, and mt.biking. He is also the proud father of one amazing young man.












Well Played

Sana Khan

    This is a game. I make my move to make you fall. But I fall along with you. It doesn’t seem to hurt, the piece of me missing was surprisingly shaped like you. For if we break, you’ll take my pieces with you. I’m not asking you to fix me, no. Just hold me. Your voice is a clairaudience which brings me back when I’m surrounded by my darkest desires. Is our checked board a happenstance or has faith been laughing at us? We aren’t black and white perfect squares, but our battlefield is make of blackholes and stars turning grey when we edge towards closure. We aren’t in a different universe. We are the universe. We are slayers. Slaying all the darkness that comes our way. Your demons are my angels. When we come close, our fingertips touching, sharing the same breath. We’re pulled apart. And the game begins. Again. And you make your move. We hurt each other, and caress each other’s bruises. Clinging to the memory of our kisses and silent gazes. Oh, how destiny fools us. Bringing our paths so close, but never intertwining and then pulling us away to separate corners. Darling, my eyes never leave yours. We’ve left our bodies long ago, but are souls mingle. Waiting for the moment when we finally collide. It makes me wonder if that is why destiny mocks us. Knows that we posses such power, and yet are deemed powerless without each other. Are we playing the game? Have we become a part of the game? Or have we turned into the game itself.












The Weeping Wail

Eve Dobbins

The weeping wail
I saw in Israel
When I was young and green
It meant so little to me
Rather I thought it odd
That we needed a weeping wall
As I watched the men wailing around the wall
And as I got older I understood
Sometimes the best we can do
Is lay our grief down
And move on
In commiseration we all feel pain
Whatever side we are on whether we are
Refugees, migrants, or settlers
We all shed
Red blood when we lose someone or something
 Valuable to us.

It is the wailing wall and the definition eluded me, so I refreshed the meaning....
Sharing lamentations, grief, strengthens us much like our voices uniting in prayer or
Chanting each week in church or on the invisible back road of our own temple
 Offering solace and a temporary refuge from overwhelming sorrow.












the Story of Jean Grenier

John D Robinson

In France; 1603; a 16 year old boy
by the name of Jean Grenier was
accused and put on trial for
being a werewolf;
2 of the 3 witness’s were a
13 year old girl and a 10
year old girl and they
relayed to the court how Jean
had told them stories of
changing into a ferocious
killing wolf when he had
adorned himself with the
full length pelt of a
crazed wolf and that he
had killed and eaten
livestock and had drank
the blood of his victims;
Jean Grenier was 16 years
old and had the intellect
of a 7 year old with a
wild imagination;
and when questioned
further Jean admitted
to slaying young children
in nearby woodlands and
that on some occasions
he was accompanied by
his father who was also a
werewolf and further
atrocities were admitted
and Jean Grenier was
sentenced to life in the
strict isolated confines
of a
monastery and he died
just 7 years later aged
23
and his father was tried
a little while later but there
seems to be no record of
what happened to this
father whose son had,
unfortunately for him,
an active and
deadly imagination





John D Robinson bio

    John D Robinson was born in 63 in Hastings, East Sussex, UK; his work has appeared widely in the small press and online literary publications; including Rusty Truck; Rats Ass Review; Red Fez; Bareback Lit; Dead Snakes; The Kitchen Poet, Underground Books; Pulsar; Poet&Geek; The Commonline Journal; The Chicago Record; Mad Swirl; The Clockwise Cat; Poetic Diversity; Your One Phone Call: Ink Sweat & Tears; Horror Sleaze and Trash; Poetry Super Highway; Zombie Logic Review; Opal Publishing; Hastings Online Times; Bold Monkeys; Napalm and Novocain; The Legendary; Yellow Mama; Winamop.com; The Beatnik Cowboy; Outsider Poetry; Revolution John; BoySlut; The Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine; In Between Hangovers; Eunoia Review. Locust Magazine; Hobo Camp Review; Message In A Bottle; and poems appearing in; The Sentinel Literary Quarterly; Cavalcade of Stars; Degenerate Literature; Anti Heroin Chic; Haggard & Halloo.
    He is a contributing poet to the 2016 48th Street Press Broadside Series;
    His latest collection ‘When You Hear The Bell, There’s Nowhere To Hide’ (Holy&intoxicated Publications) carries an introduction by poet and novelist John Grochalski.
    He is married with 1 daughter, 2 grandchildren, 3 cats, 1 dog and he likes to drink wine whilst listening to quietness.












The Young Apprentice

John D Robinson

“He was a good kid; 17 years old;
he was an apprentice and a good
one too; he took the work
seriously; the kid was good
looking and he had a lovely
girlfriend and he always
seemed okay, you know?
I never saw him laugh
but he was young and
always friendly and he lived
at home with mum and dad
and one afternoon, after work,
he climbed into the loft,
he found a length of cord
and formed a noose
and this snapped,
he found some more
stronger rope and he
strung himself up again and
he was found a little
later by his father;
a letter was found and the
young man confessed his
love for his family; for his
girlfriend; for everybody he
knew
except himself;
he hated himself
but he was a good kid,
he was 17 years old and
he was good looking and
a good apprentice
and he killed himself
and no one
knows why he did it”





John D Robinson bio

    John D Robinson was born in 63 in Hastings, East Sussex, UK; his work has appeared widely in the small press and online literary publications; including Rusty Truck; Rats Ass Review; Red Fez; Bareback Lit; Dead Snakes; The Kitchen Poet, Underground Books; Pulsar; Poet&Geek; The Commonline Journal; The Chicago Record; Mad Swirl; The Clockwise Cat; Poetic Diversity; Your One Phone Call: Ink Sweat & Tears; Horror Sleaze and Trash; Poetry Super Highway; Zombie Logic Review; Opal Publishing; Hastings Online Times; Bold Monkeys; Napalm and Novocain; The Legendary; Yellow Mama; Winamop.com; The Beatnik Cowboy; Outsider Poetry; Revolution John; BoySlut; The Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine; In Between Hangovers; Eunoia Review. Locust Magazine; Hobo Camp Review; Message In A Bottle; and poems appearing in; The Sentinel Literary Quarterly; Cavalcade of Stars; Degenerate Literature; Anti Heroin Chic; Haggard & Halloo.
    He is a contributing poet to the 2016 48th Street Press Broadside Series;
    His latest collection ‘When You Hear The Bell, There’s Nowhere To Hide’ (Holy&intoxicated Publications) carries an introduction by poet and novelist John Grochalski.
    He is married with 1 daughter, 2 grandchildren, 3 cats, 1 dog and he likes to drink wine whilst listening to quietness.












The Woman on Sunday Morning

Linda Blackwell Simmons

    There she was again, coming up the hill carrying the stained blue cooler, puffing for breath, carting more weight than she could bear.
    I had seen her a couple of times before on my frequent Sunday morning eight-mile walks from my home to a local park. On that particular Sunday morning, I spoke to her. It was about ten o’clock and, although long before the hottest part of the day, the heat was sweltering and my clothes were drenched—just as I like when I walk. The woman continued to struggle with the climb and the load she was carrying.
    “Are you ok?” I mustered up the courage to ask as my step was even with hers.
    She stopped, turned to look at me, and appeared surprised at my voice, but said nothing.
    “Do you need some water?” I offered my bottle but suddenly wondered how I would share it if she said yes.
    “No,” she replied, “I got water in my cart here.”
    “Do you live here...I mean, you know, here on the streets?”
    “Oh yeah,” she replied with a faint grin as her eyes finally met mine. “Yeah, I lived here in Fort Worth for almost ten years now. Come down from Oklahoma City back then, walked the first ten miles, and then caught a ride to the shelter up over on the next street...over there,” she explained as she pointed across a field, under the freeway, past the train tracks. “Second best thing I ever done I guess, coming to Fort Worth. So much better than Oklahoma, at least for people like me.”
    I wanted to know more, but afraid of prying or offending, I hesitated for a moment.
    “Where do you sleep and eat?” I asked wanting to further the conversation, but realizing I was starting to embarrass myself. “I mean I was just wondering where you eat and sleep?”
    “Oh, I have one of them mattresses you use in a swimming pool, and just sleep there in the park around the corner, and I get my meals at the mission. It works pretty good. I stay busy going back and forth,” she spoke as her smile widened.
    “I hope you don’t mind me asking you these questions,” I awkwardly continued.
    She said she didn’t mind at all, and that it was nice to talk to someone, that most people looked above her, to the side of her, or even through her, but very seldom at her. She spoke these words, looking directly at me, with the confidence of a strong woman.
    As the temperature approached the mid-nineties, we stood under an old live oak tree while a sudden breeze, although short lasting, came upon us and made the heat more bearable. I lingered there on the sidewalk listening to her answers, the words between us becoming more relaxed.
    With her gray hair pulled into a tight ponytail, her features seemed almost girlish. For a moment, I caught the face of a young woman, someone who had hope for life. But then the youth disappeared. When her smile faded, etches in her skin became permanent and the toothless spaces in her mouth revealed her years had not been easy. Her eyes were light blue and clear, much like the sky above us that Sunday. They belonged to a woman sure of herself, meek, but self-determined, a woman who had utilized self-reliance for the better part of her years—and surprising to me, a woman who liked herself. At first I thought her to be older than middle age, older than I, but realized as I continued to speak with her, she was probably younger. Her name was Iona, a rather sexy exotic name for a person on the street.
    “Do you mind if I ask you another question?” I continued. She shook her head sideways in reply. “Are you happy out here...without a real home?”
    “Happy? Oh, happy. Well, heck yeah, what would I do with a house or a room, just something to have to worry about. The gas station ‘round the corner lets me have all the free water I want from the restroom sink, and I got bath taking in that ‘ole basin down good. Long as I have my food and a place to sleep, I don’t worry ‘bout nothin’ else,” she reassured me.
    “Do you worry about crime down here where you stay...you know, like being attacked or something like that?”
    “No! Shoot what ‘a I have that anybody ‘ould want? They don’t mess with me. One time though about a year ago where I sleep at the park, there was an ole man, older ‘n me, and he started pulling at me, nothing bad, just bothering me,” smiling as she shared her story. “There ‘as some other men folk that came over and stopped him, got him right away from me. People stick up for each other out here.”
    At one time many long years before, she had a husband whom she loved, but he died of cancer at a young age. She had no parents, no children, no siblings, and, as far as she knew, no distant relatives. Her only friends were here, on the street with her. She and her husband lived in Oklahoma City when they were married and led a rather unremarkable, normal, existence there. At the end of that era is when she lost her way.
    Iona’s concern was her next meal, and she sometimes worried her pool mattress would be stolen from where she hid it in the park during the day. At that instant, for a moment, the thought ran through my mind about what I worry about at times—where my next vacation would be or perhaps what kind of wine I should buy for my upcoming party.
    “Well Iona, take care, it was nice talking to you. Maybe I’ll see you next week. This is my Sunday route. I turned from her and took a step forward but then looked back. “Oh, Iona, what was the first best thing you ever did?”
    “Huh?” she looked confused.
    “You said coming down to Texas was the second best thing you ever did.”
    “Oh yeah, my husband used to have a sayin’—‘Don’t breathe life into things you can’t change.’ I guess he taught me to be grateful for what I got. I learned not to want for nothin’. I just like what I got, so I guess that was what I done best, I made myself happy, ” she answered while displaying the wide smile I had seen a few minutes before.
    I smiled back and gave her a gentle wave, turned, and continued on my way.












jobless

Janet Kuypers
haiku 3/25/14
video

people ask for change
but you’re jobless, have no money

what do you do then?



twitter 4 jk twitter 4 jk Visit the Kuypers Twitter page for short poems— join http://twitter.com/janetkuypers.
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku jobless live 3/26/14 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago (C)
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku jobless live 3/26/14 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago (S)
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading (S) her poem jobless from her “Partial Nudity” book release feature live 6/18/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading (C) her poem jobless from her “Partial Nudity” book release feature live 6/18/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery
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See Vine video of Janet Kuypers performing her poem jobless (originally in her books Partial Nudity and 100 Haikus) live 12/17/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery (Canon)
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See Vine video of Janet Kuypers performing her poem jobless (originally in her books 100 Haikus and Partial Nudity) live 12/17/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery (Sony, posterize)
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See a Vine video
of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku jobless from Scars Publicationscc&d book “Clouds over the Moon” as a looping JKPoetryVine video on 7/23/16 (filmed with an FG smart phone @ a bamboo forest).


See the Janet Kuypers bio.










Annie’s Present

Betty J. Sayles

    Annie slipped the little black cocktail dress over her head and smoothed it over her hips. She sighed, her little black dress wasn’t so little anymore. Not that she was fat, just no longer a size 12. Well, she still had good legs and a pretty face and one thing she was sure of, Claude would love her no matter what she looked like. He always saw her as she looked the day they married ten years ago. He was still jealous of every man she talked to.
    Claude had worried for weeks about Annie’s anniversary present. It had to be good; this was the big One O! He had never stopped marveling at his good luck when Annie said she’d marry him. He knew that he wasn’t much to look at with his prominent nose and just a fringe of hair around his shiny dome. And he had always been skinny, with a potbelly because he hated to exercise. What he didn’t know was that Annie saw a smile that delighted in the world and all it’s crazy ways. And mischievous eyes that danced when they looked at Annie.
    It seemed a stroke of good luck when Claude heard a couple on the subway talking about the dancing lessons they were taking. “Of course,” he thought, Annie loved to waltz and Claude had never learned. He had never seemed to have an aptitude for dancing. But he hated it when Annie danced with other men, even the 80 year old ex-mayor who thought she was delightful. But then, every man thought Annie delightful, there was no dodging that fact. Shortly after hearing the conversation, Claude stopped at an Arthur Murray Dance Studio and signed up for waltz lessons.
    Claude had always known that he was a blue collar kind of guy and Annie was a classy woman. He still worked at the same printing company, although he had been promoted to manager. Annie owned a beautiful beachfront home on Lake Michigan and worked at volunteer jobs. They talked about moving to the city to be closer to the shops and theaters, but they both knew that Claude would do whatever Annie decided.
    Now, Claude had to take dancing lessons without Annie knowing, so he could surprise her on their anniversary. Annie knew Claude was up to something. He was only secretive when he was planning a surprise for her or being devious about some prank he meant to play on someone. Usually, it was a male who found her attractive and voiced his opinion. He was in high spirits over this intrigue. So, Annie watched and waited.
    Claude showed up for his first dancing lesson on time and eager to start. He had told Annie he was going to play cards with some friends. Even though Annie knew he hated cards and didn’t have any friends who played cards, she nodded and said, “Have fun.” Claude’s dance instructor was a middle aged woman named Miss Caperino. She was tall, a head taller than Claude, had a beehive hairdo and a glorious bust, which she showed to advantage in a low cut gown. She was a business like woman and got right to it. After pushing Claude around the floor for an hour, she gave him a book of diagrams and told him to practice at home.
    “Sure, Miss C, that was a good start,” said Claude. Miss C rolled her eyes.
    Annie came home from a volunteer turn at the hospital gift shop and discovered Claude skating on the living room floor. He had pushed back the rug and was surely skating on the wood floor. He would take a long stride, then do a tight turn and another long stride. He couldn’t possibly be meaning to take her ice skating. She was 65 years old. Quite spry and energetic it was true, but she would not go ice skating.
    She called to Claude and he quickly put the rug in place and hid a book under the sofa cushion.
    “Claude, did you ever ice skate when you were younger?”
    “Sure, I was pretty good, could turn circles and everything.” he answered. “I’m pretty rusty now though.”
    Annie said, “I never ice skated when I was a child and it’s too late now. I would never try it now.”
    That’s the wrong attitude to take, Annie, a person should never close oneself off from new experiences.”
    “No,” said Annie, firmly.
    “Sure, Annie,” said Claude. When she checked later, the book was gone.
    Claude’s second dance lesson started off badly, his feet got tangled together and he ended up on the floor on his back. He had taken Miss C with him and his prominent nose was pushed firmly into the crease of her bountiful bosom.
    “Mr. Panney,” croaked Miss C.
    “Oh, sorry, my trick knee,” Claude said, as soon as he could get air.
    “Mr. Panney, I really don’t think you are cut out for dancing,” said Miss C.
    “Oh, I’m sure I am,” replied Claude, “I once saw Fred Astaire dancing in a movie and had a strong feeling that I could move like that. Let’s try again.” Miss C sighed and pulled Claude to his feet.
    Annie was at a loss to figure out what Claude was up to. His intrigues had never gone on so long before. She tried to subtly question him, but he evaded her questions. It just wasn’t like him; it was exasperating. So much so that she bought him something for their anniversary that she knew he wouldn’t like.
    Claude’s third dancing lesson was a short one. Miss C said, “Well, that’s the best we can do, there’s no use having you come again.”
    “That’s okay, “ said Claude, “I can waltz fine now.”
    Miss C shook her head.
    Claude took Annie to the country club for dinner. He got them a table near the dance floor and after the meal he stood, took Annie’s hand and said, “Happy Anniversary, Annie, would you like to dance?”
    Annie’s surprise and delight were short lived. Claude was no Fred Astaire. He pushed her around the floor and stepped on her foot. He told her about the wonderful Miss C and how she had taught him to dance. When Annie told him she was tired and they sat down, Claude asked, “What did you get me, Annie?”
    Claude opened the envelope Annie gave him and pulled out a certificate for 10 dance lessons at Arthur Murray’s Dance Studio.
    “But, Annie, I can already dance. Maybe we can get a refund,”
    “Maybe you should use them, Claude, if you keep on you may dance like Fred Astaire.”
    Claude closed his eyes, saw Miss C smiling at him and saying, “We’ll make a wonderful dancer of you, Mr. Panney.”












The Distraction

Jeff Hill

    Cheryl’s the one. That’s what I keep telling myself. I’ve been in college for a few years longer than I had expected to be, but that was fine. But if I hadn’t failed so badly that first semester of school, I wouldn’t still be there. And would have never met Cheryl. She’s four years younger than me, but that doesn’t matter. Nothing matters, because she’s the one.
    I told her that the other day.
    Bad timing on my part, because her parents were having their annual Fourth of July family extravaganza in Hickville, her hometown. I’m not really sure what the actual name is, but that’s what I call it. I’ve never actually been there, but I’m going to find it. I kind of have to. And I have less than twenty-four hours to do so. Under any other circumstances, that wouldn’t be a problem. But this is any ordinary one.
    She wants me to meet her grandma. Fine. She wants her sisters to approve of me and her brothers to have something in common with me. Great. Her mom wants to see if I’m as good looking as my pictures tell her. Sweet. But her dad wants to know that I’m not a complete jackass. Damn.
    “He’s going to be testing you the whole time you’re here, Pete. I just want you to know that before you get here.”
    Her voice sounds so far away, but I know it’s just a mixture of the crappy Midwest reception and my imagination.
    “Cheryl, I just don’t get it. Why couldn’t you have waited like another two days and just come out here with me?”
    “Because, baby.” She laughs. “This is the first test.”
    “Great. What’s that supposed to mean?”
    “Daddy thinks all city boys are the same. Test one, and this should be a freebie for you, is that he thinks your directionally retarded.”
    “Right.”
    “You’ll do fine. Just use the map and my directions, but throw away the cheat sheet as soon as you get here. Eat it or something.”
    I start to laugh, but then stop, because something tells me that she isn’t joking.
    “Seriously, I think you’ll... Oh, crap! Dad’s coming. See you in a day or so!”
    “Bye, babe. I’ll...”
    And she hangs up.
    I pull into a gas station, appropriately titled “gas” and check all of my gauges and make small talk with the attendant. He tells me where Cheryl’s part of the wilderness of nothing and toothlessness is, kind of, and tries to get me to buy some bait. I tell him I’m good, thank him for his help, and pay him. When I give him a five dollar tip, he looks at me strange. I think he’s either insulted or really stupid, because he gives it back to me.
    I’ve got about a day’s drive left, so I’ll be needing to check into a motel or something in the near future. I guess I’ll drive and maybe stay at a bed and breakfast or something like that. I’ve got a good five or six hours of daylight left, so that’s quite a ways off.
    So I drive.
    Then, like thirty minutes later, I see them. Just a bunch of kids. They’re literally just sitting at a table in the middle of the road. The closer I get, the better look I get. It appears that they have a lemonade stand and they’re just typical little kids trying to make some money. Poor little guys, they’re out in the middle of nowhere. Good luck making anything.
    The weird part is that there isn’t a house in sight. They must have lugged that table and all of their supply at least a mile or two. But from where?
    I start to slow down a bit, assuming that they will try to run in front of my car and stop me. Damn it. I really don’t want to buy these hick kids’ crappy drink. The sign hanging on the table is visible now, and I can see that they’re not as dumb as they look. The lemonade that they are selling is five bucks a cup. Ha.
    Then, out of nowhere, one of them actually does run at me, but he just stares at me and screams, “Stop!”
    So I do.
    Rolling down my window, I ask the kid if he’s alright. He doesn’t say anything. Then I ask him if he needs me to use my cell phone and call someone. He doesn’t answer. Finally, I stick my head out the window and ask him what’s wrong. Still, the kid is silent.
    He walks over to my side and is panting, like he is out of breath.
    “What’s up, kid? You guys okay?”
    “Yeah,” he finally says.
    “Then what’s going on? Do you need something?”
    What he says next would creep me out if it weren’t broad daylight.
    “I’m the distraction,” he smiles.
    Then I think about it for a bit. Sure, we’re in broad daylight, but where the hell are we? Before I can even form a rational thought, all three of my other doors open and the other kids pile in. I turn to my right, as the kid in the passenger seat turns off my car and pulls the keys out of the ignition.
    “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
    I turn to look at the ‘distraction,’ but he’s gone. The next thing I see is the back of a shotgun.
    I wake up and it’s dark. I can’t see a thing. But I can hear a few things. My head hurts, and I can feel the dried blood on my forehead and on my lip. I’m pretty sure my nose is broken. I hear footsteps on gravel, a grunting man, and some kids whispering. Then I realize I’m not blind, but blindfolded. And I hear something else. It’s weird, but it scares me. It’s some sort of squeak, like a door that needs to be oiled.
    I feel like I’m floating, but I’m not. I’m being carried. Oh, shit. Now I am flying. No. Not flying. Falling.
    I land on what feels like rocks and I feel water rushing over the dress clothes that I was wearing to impress Cheryl’s dad. I twitch around and frantically try to rub my head against something that will move the blindfold. I hear the squeaking and footsteps, and I’m pretty sure whoever threw me in here thinks I’m dead. They’re leaving.
    This is my chance! I have to see where I am, so I can look for something to cut the rope my hands are tied with. I rise to my feet and walk, but keep sinking in what I’m assuming is mud and shit and whatever is in this hole. I reach what seems like a manmade wall, and start moving my face up and down it, successfully removing the blindfold. Then I look around. It’s dark outside now, but not pitch black. I wish it was. I wish I couldn’t see what I’m seeing.
    The mud, the water, and the rocks aren’t what scare me. The weird noises and the weird kids who beat the crap out of me and did this aren’t even what scares me. It’s what I’m looking at. This pit, it’s full of bodies. Some fresh, some skeletons.
    Son of a bitch. I have to get out of here. The squeaking noise starts again, and I hear a noise that should have given it away the first time I heard it. Footsteps are matching up with every other squeak. It’s some sort of leg brace. Good, I think to myself. I grab the top of the pit and start to pull myself up. I can see the guy with the leg brace, probably the bastard that hit me in the face with his shotgun. He’s walking toward me, but I can outrun him. The question is, where the hell do I run?
    I don’t even know where I am. He sees me. Shit. I have to run. I have to just, I don’t know, use the moon or something. I have to get away from this place. I have to find a way out of here and still manage to get to Cheryl’s parents’ house. And when I do, her dad better be fucking impressed.












Love

Kristyl Gravina

Love,
does not exist
It is a mere illusion
created by the human race
to satisfy a need we feel deep within us
A dream, an imagination based on the sweetest lies












Common

Carla M. Cherry

    I was lounging at Red Rooster with Yolanda and Dee and the two men Dee met at Corner Social, Michael and Baraka, came over.

    Then i was pushed off into a corner, unsure if it was the glasses i wear because
    i was looking hot in red sandals/white top/black wrap/jeans rolled up to show off shapely calves.
    Baraka the tall handsome one, 39, single, with two baby mamas he didn’t marry because they wouldn’t cook. Now that he was drinking/disheveled, and into Dee anyway, thought:
    it is just as well.

    Just sipped the fruit punch that Michael, the married one, bought to keep me occupied, while he flirted with Yo and explained why he took off his ring when he went out without his wife.

    i was taking in the ambience and they started talking about
    how hard it is to be single
    and Yo says i needed to join the conversation.

    Michael said
    there are a lot of diseases out here like herpes and HIV
    and being single is scary
    and Dee says
    yeah but being married can be even scarier because of the men who cheat
    and Baraka says

you have to pay a lot for clean pussy

    I said, What did he say?
    Yolanda repeated it.
    I said, What do you mean by clean pussy?

    he said there are some chicks
    and I cut him off
    why does she have to be a chick a chick is a baby chicken
    and what do you call a man who sleeps with a chick
    and Baraka said what do you call him
    and I said I’m asking you

    Baraka said well chick is a colloquialism, and
    I said I know what a colloquialism is
    and it doesn’t justify your double standard.
    Why do you feel comfortable disrespecting us?

    With the joy sucked out of my evening I told them I was going outside.
    Yolanda asked where and I said I don’t know, I just need some air.

    Baraka apologized (to impress Yolanda)
    but Daddy raised me better than to waste wisdom on a dude
    who may not have had a father to teach him—
    discerning women who cook willingly are earned with love, commitment, and honorable purpose.

    It ain’t easy holding out for the right thing but it’s better than partnered misery.
    I stood in the glare of the bright lights outside the throngs of couples and singles on the prowl thinking I might go home alone
    but Yolanda and Dee came out.

    Dee said, see, that’s why I let my friends introduce me to men.

    Off we went, our hips swaying in unison to the beat of our heels click-clacking against Harlem pavement.





Carla M. Cherry bio

    Carla M. Cherry is an English teacher and poet from New York City who has been published in Anderbo, Soar, Obscura, Dissident Voice, Random Sample Review, Eunoia Review, and MemoryHouse Magazine. She has also published a book of poetry, Gnat Feathers and Butterfly Wings. She hopes to earn an M.F.A. in Creative Writing.












Charles Bukowski Road Not Chosen

John (“Jake”) Cosmos Aller

While reading Charles Bukowski poetry
On the metro ride home
Listening to Buddha bar music
On my oh too hip IPod

I begin to see myself as I was
Over 30 years ago when I was merely a bit player
A minor character in a Charles Bukowski poem

A wild young underemployed intellectual
Hanging out in dismal bars and dives all over Asia and California
Hanging with disreputable women and drunks and drinkers
And characters out of his kinds of haunts

A mad poet bard of the underground
A drunken poet in a drunken bum show
That nightly played in his head

Then one day I met the women of my dreams
And went down a different path
A long slow path to respectability

And now 30 years later
I am no longer a wild man
I am still a poet at heart
But I am now also a bureaucrat
In a button down suite

Doing the people’s business
Working for the Government
I’ve become the Man

Sometimes I wonder
Would I have been better off
Going down that another path

Would I have ended up
Somewhere else
Doing something else

Would I have been as happy
Would I have been as successful?

There is no answer that satisfies
The longing in my heart
For that wild thing
That still lurks beneath
It’s civilized cover

And I know that I am still
A mad poet at heart
Railing against the injustice of the world

As I work day by day in the belly of the great beast of State
I recall the ancient Chinese saying,
“Confucian during the day while Taoist rebel at night”
Playing out in my head and nightly dreams
In the true American Upper class patrician tradition

I close the book and look out the window
Get off the train, and walk slowly home

And realize I had no choice
But to take the path that I’ve trodden on

And so I put aside my misgivings
And say goodbye to my “Bukowskian”desires
For another night of domestic contentment

Was it worth it all to take the conventional path
And not take the bohemian road to hell and back

I look at my wife and realize
I had no choice, had no choice
But to follow her to the ends of the earth

And beyond by her side as we walked our path
Of shared destiny

Goodbye Charles Bukowski wherever you are
May I meet you in a bar in the next life
And figure out where we should have gone

Until then the drinks are on me.





John (“Jake”) Cosmos Aller bio

    John (“Jake”) Cosmos Aller is a novelist, poet and former Foreign Service officer having served 27 years with the U.S. State Department in ten countries - Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Korea, India, St Kitts, St Lucia, St Vincent, Spain and Thailand. and traveled to 45 countries during his career. Jake has been an aspiring novelist for several years and has completed two novels, (Giant Nazi Spiders, and the Great Divorce) and is pursuing publication. He has been writing poetry all his life and has published his poetry in electronic poetry forums, including All Poetry, Moon Café and Duane’s Poetree. (under the name Jake Lee). He is looking forward to transitioning to his third career – full-time novelist and poet after completing his second career as a Foreign Service officer, and his first career as an educator overseas for six years upon completion of his Peace Corps service in South Korea.












The Concert

Peter McMillan

    Until today, it hadn’t rained in a month with temperatures in the low 100s. Now all of sudden it was pouring, flooding the scorched grass and dripping off the wilted leaves of the trees and manicured shrubs. The bandshell was barely visible from where Ethan sat in his deck chair covered in a bright yellow poncho. He was the last member of the audience—all the rest having fled to dry safety. The orchestra continued playing “Ride of the Valkyries” through the summer rainstorm—as long as there was no lightning. On stage the conductor kept his eye on his audience, not wanting to give up the show if even one person remained.
    Then, just as suddenly as it came the rain went and the clouds broke open to let the late afternoon sunlight through. The air was 10 degrees cooler but still hot and muggy. With the return of the sun, the audience took up their places again, having only been waiting nearby in their cars for the downpour to end. The ground was nearly dry again, the rainwater greedily soaked up. Meanwhile, the conductor led the orchestra through one piece after another.
    After an hour and a half, the concert was concluded. Once again the folding chairs were packed up but this time for the evening. Several members of the audience approached the bandshell to talk with the conductor or one of the musicians. Ethan remained seated while all the rest moved their belongings to their cars.
    Gradually, the stage started to clear as the musicians wiped down their instruments and packed them away. The sun was still shining and would continue for another two hours before sunset. Ethan made his way to the bandshell and up onto the stage where he headed towards the conductor.
    “Andrew!”
    The conductor turned around to face a large bearded man in a yellow poncho.
    “I see you’re still squandering your opportunities,” said Ethan in a challenging voice.
    “Who are you?” asked Andrew.
    “Ethan, you remember me don’t you?”
    “Yes, but you—”
    “Lost at sea. That was staged for the sake of my creditors. You should know a thing or two about staging things.”
    “But how—”
    “How is what I’d like to know after all these years. Let’s start with how you sabotaged my performance of Dvořák’s New World Symphony in Berlin—”
    “I didn’t sabotage anything,” said Andrew, remembering the concert now. “It was your decision to go onstage with a high fever.”
    “Pshaw! The entire strings section was off and the 4th movement was a debacle. The acoustics were awful as if there had been a draft across— God! It’s a wretched hall to play.”
    “Still the same old Ethan—ever evading responsiblity.”
    “So, how in the world did you come by this local ensemble of amateur musicians? Last I heard you were replacing me in New York.”
    “It’s a long story.”
    “So’s mine, but I’m putting an end to it.”
    With that Ethan pulled a large knife out from underneath his poncho and stabbed Andrew in the belly. He dropped the knife, stripped off the poncho, and hurried to the stage stairs.
    Three musicians ran to Andrew’s side, and two more ran Ethan down and took him in hand. The bloody knife lay next to Andrew who had apparently not been fatally stabbed.
    “You never could finish anything, Ethan,” he half-shouted before groaning and passing out from the loss of blood.
    “We’ll see about that,” said Ethan as he bucked loose from his handlers and reached down for the knife.
    Before anyone could stop him, he had plunged the knife deep into his own chest. He collapsed and landed on top of the unconscious Andrew.
    The paramedics arrived and separated the two men. Down in front of the stage, a handful of young boys played soccer on the grass.












Musical

Janet Kuypers
Spring 1995

she never wanted to sing,
dad was the one that was more musical,
i guess, she always said she
sounded just awful, and dad even
agreed. he’d make a humorous threat,
like, be careful, or i’ll make mom sing.
but one thing mom was always
musical at was yawning,
i think she could hum a song while
she yawned. usually, though, she
would just start her yawn with a
high pitch, then change key by key
for five or six notes. the most unique
yawn i’ve ever heard. sometimes
we’d all just be quiet watching
television and out would come one
of mother’s original scores. it would
always make one of us smile.



video videonot yet rated
Watch the YouTube video
Published in her book Close Cover Before Striking, read (for future audio CD release) 06/28/11 on WZRD radio, from the mini camera
video videonot yet rated

See feature-length YouTube
video 06/26/11 of ~45 minutes of the WZRD radio show with her reading poetry (including this poem) from the mini cam


See the Janet Kuypers bio.










Through European Eyes

Drew Marshall

I was living in Holland in nineteen eighty one
I stayed with my older cousin in The Hague
She had left New York a few years prior

I found Holland a mixture of British and American culture
The streets were always remarkably clean
No graffiti on the buildings

Only the very elderly did not speak English
They were the friendliest people in the world
They loved Americans
They did not love the British

The Brits get on the dole and dig into the drug culture
Then look down their noses at the Dutch
My cousin knew a wide variety of people
Her closest friends were mostly British

It seemed everyone viewed us as unpredictable and violent
John Lennon had been assassinated several months earlier
Ronald Reagan was president then
They felt he would push the button and end it all

Yet they all wanted to come to the U.S.
They believed all Americans were rich
The streets were paved with gold
Once they were here, their fortunes would be made

These Europeans constantly asked if they could stay with me
If and when they ever made it to New York
I barely knew most of these people
I was often at a loss for a response

That is the image we want to project to the world
The land of plenty, the land of opportunity
If any of those lost souls did manage to cross that ocean
They would be in for a rude awakening












Ravens

Raven J. Cole

My mouth opens and a million black ravens
free fall from my lips
I always wave goodbye and smile them away,
feathered mouth and all

They won’t come back
but that’s probably for the best
new ones will arrive any moment
with the rustle of uneasy wings
and dark sounds that get stuck at the back of my throat

I didn’t even know that my mouth was big enough
to accommodate all these fucking birds

and did you know that the collective noun for a group of ravens
is an unkindness?

An unkindness of Ravens
lives in me
and I don’t know how to get them all to leave
they have nestled in the shadowy cracks of my teeth
claimed my body as home
sometimes their call is the only reminder that I still exist

My mouth opens and unkindness free falls from my lips
launches into the heart of anyone standing too close
They tilt their heads and stare at me
and I am spitting feathered apologies
and promises with an iridescent sheen

I can’t remember when the birds showed up
maybe they have always been here
waiting for me to open my mouth












Passchendaele
(First World War -
“The war to end all wars”)

Steven Pelcman

For years afterward
trees remained skinless
appearing as dim flashes
of lightning, wobbly and fading
in the water’s reflection.

The brown water
of helmets still bob
and the memories
of hunched soldiers;
countless wax figures

in a muddy death,
alongside paths
made of wooden duckboards,
and crushed trees;
solemn bystanders

where the young
are forever young,
now and then rise
to the surface
with the slip of bone

and the gurgling mud
still sloshing through
a hollow skull
where frogs continue
to find refuge.

The marshland grabbed hold of them,
tugged at them from beneath
and pulled them away
from the ant colony of trenches,
from the mustard gas,

the constant bombardments,
the blown-up shell holes,
and out of the heavy rains
only to sink deeply
into the curdling darkness.

They are still there;
shattered voices echoing,
staring at the barbed wire
slithering between the dark
earthy mounds and searching

for the wooden ladders
across the mud and crawling
in the fog and hiding among the
furrows of new born
ploughed earth.





Steven Pelcman Bio

    Steven Pelcman is a writer of poetry and short stories who has been published in a number of magazines including: The Windsor Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, Fourth River magazine, River Oak Review, Poetry Review Salzburg, Tulane Review, noah magazine, the Baltimore Review and many others. He was nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Prize. Steven has spent the last fifteen years residing in Germany where he teaches in academia and is a language communications trainer and consultant.












The Art Collector

Harmony Campbell

    “Little girl. Sing me a song?”
    Lila froze. What had she just heard? Wasn’t she alone? She fumbled for her flashlight, turned it on, and scanned the room. It was small and dusty. A storage room for the museum: half dozen paintings propped up around the room, a janitor’s cart, and a few tool boxes.
    She spread her blanket out in the corner and lay down. She looked around the room once more. She couldn’t keep her flashlight on long for fear of being spotted. The museum’s alarm and cameras automatically set after closing. There were also motion detectors and she might trip them. As long as she stayed in here until morning, she would be okay.
    She tucked her arms under her head. She buried her face into the old wool blanket and inhaled. The scent of her father was beginning to fade. She laid the flashlight down and took a drink from the canteen. It tasted metallic and bitter. It was her father’s too.
    She clicked the flashlight off. “Little girl?” The voice sounded far away. She clicked the flashlight back on and sat up.
    “Who’s there?”
    No answer.
    Lila wasn’t exactly a little girl though. She was almost old enough to vote. She was old enough to leave and find her own way. “Who’s there? Answer me.”
    “Little girl. Sing me a song?” She stood up. It was an old lady’s voice, much cleaner and closer now.
    “Where are you?”
    “Right here, little girl.” Clearer and closer still.
    Lila’s heart quickened. Her hands trembled. There was nobody here and no place for anyone to hide. She moved the light around the room. The light rested upon one of the paintings. Weren’t they covered up when she came in? She got closer to the painting keeping the light focused on it. It was an old lady sitting in a rocking chair knitting. Below her, on the floor, were three kids playing, indifferent looks on all their faces.
    The old lady turned to look at Lila. “Won’t you come sing me a song?” Lila dropped the flashlight and backed away. Her heart was thumping in her ears. Was she breathing? Now she was. But her breaths were hard and shaky.
    She picked up the flashlight and shone it toward the painting. The old lady was gone, the rocking chair stopped. The three children looked at Lila. She stepped closer. “Who are you?” They looked at each other and then back at her.
    “Stay out. It’s a trap,” whispered a little blond headed girl, stepping toward the edge of the painting. Lila took another step back.
    “How long have you been in there? Umm...Where exactly are you?”
    “Nowhere,” The little blond girl said, looking over Lila’s shoulder. She went and sat back down on the floor by the rocking chair.
    Lila turned around. There was the old lady. Lila gasped. “What do you want?”
    “You’re an unhappy child. Why don’t you come with me? You can play and be a child forever.”
    “No. I don’t think so. And where exactly are you from?”
    “The painting, of course.”
    Lila sighed. “No. I’m okay right here.”
    The old lady smiled. “You’re not even supposed to be here. Are you?”
    “It’s only temporary,” Lila said, shifting the flashlight to her other hand.
    “Take my hand child.” The old lady reached out to Lila. Lila stared at it.
    Lila’s heart softened and she craved to go with the old lady. When she reached out to take her hand she felt warmth and comfort. Then the old lady’s face changed. Her eyes were black holes. She smiled and showed several rows of razor sharp teeth. Lila tried to pull away, but the old lady tightened her grip.
    Pat, the museum director, came in the next morning to inspect the paintings that were donated. She bent down to look at the uncovered painting. There was an old lady in a rocking chair with a hymnal in her hand. Next to the old lady was an older girl. She was sitting on the floor on an old wool Army blanket. And she appeared to be singing. Three other, younger children sat on the floor and played. Pat looked at the frame. There was a small gold plate with the words Child Collector engraved on it. She covered it up until she could decide what to do with it.












My Life is Ending: Literally

Olivia Thompson

    “...if something within him remains unbroken to the end, then the power which destroyed him has not, after all, crushed everything.” The Survivor, Terrence Des Pres
    Day Three: Takin’ A Life or Two
    “Eric has AIDS and I am marrying him.” There it was. There was no warning, no precursor. She said it and there was no taking it back.
    “Are you insane? What are you talking about?”
    “Eric has AIDS and I am marrying him,” she said again.
    “AIDS?” The word hung like a swinging rope from the gallows. The word echoed in her mind. What did it mean?
    “How do you know he has AIDS?”
    “He told me a few days ago. Mom, this is the right thing to do and I’m doing it. You can support me or not, but I am getting married.”
    This time her mother stood, but she seemed to have trouble meeting her daughter’s defiant eyes.
    “Zaba...” she paused. She raised Zaba so well. She raised her better than any mother could. There were private schools, tutors, extracurricular activities, PTA meetings. There had never been an ounce of defiance. Now this? Why now and why in such a crazed way?
    “Are you mad at me?” The mother asked.
    “We love each other and – “
    “Love? Love is bullshit. Love is a motherfucker.... It’s a damn motherfucker.” She’d never used those words around her daughter. Yet, now she found herself struggling to stand, struggling to think clearly. AIDS. Her daughter was marrying a man with AIDS? Over $210,000 had been taken out in loans to send Zaba to college. No one, not even Zaba’s father, offered to help pay for her braces when she was in middle school. Zaba blamed her for having to wear them. Said she hated her. She never appreciated the pains her mother went through to give her everything.
    “I know that this sounds crazy, but hear me out. The doctor said he doesn’t have long to live. The strain of AIDS he has isn’t responding to medication well. None of us know how this happened. We just –”
    “Do you have it? Is that why you’re marrying him? Did he give it to you?”
    “No, of course not. Do I look like I have it? ... That was stupid to say. Mom, listen, I just want you to understand what’s going on. There’s nothing you did wrong as a parent. This is just something I have to do,” Zaba explained.
    “You’re not making any sense! This is...this is crazy! This is insane! You’re not marrying him because you love him; you’re marrying him because you feel sorry for him. I feel bad for Eric, but he brought this on himself. You don’t have to punish yourself because of the stupid decisions he made,” the mother chastised. She’d regained her senses now. Finding her strength, she stalked over to Zaba and stared her right in her eyes.
    “What do you think is going to happen? You think you’re going to ride away on some white horse? That he’s going to magically find out he’s cured and that the test was meant for someone else?” Mara asked.
    Tears slid down Zaba’s face.
    “I hate you!” she shouted and ran to her room.

**************************

    Day Two: Drink It Up
    Zaba had yet to leave her room. She couldn’t stop crying, no matter how hard she tried. She listened to happy songs, but they only reminded her of the brooding storm approaching her and Eric. Songs about love and happiness now amounted to nothing more than mockery, a taunt, a well-planned lie. Perhaps the liar deserved never-ending applause, for the truth was that disaster didn’t discriminate. Disaster didn’t care if one was at the top of the world; it struck. Disaster didn’t care if one had a family to support; it devastated. It didn’t care if a person had only known abuse and pain since childhood and had now, finally, finally tasted an ounce of pleasure only to have another hurdle give a deadly blow. She and Eric were minding their own business and disaster came as if it had a personal vendetta against them.
    She didn’t know if she could call it unfair. Yes, it was very unfair...but was it? This unfortunate reality attacked people every day. It was the luck of the draw. Yet, all before those tragedies happened to other people. They were distant stories on the news or told through a friend or some lady at the mall. Back then, she and Eric were safe. Now, they were in the middle of it. Only no one would care if some random young man died from AIDS.
    Why didn’t he use a condom? Why didn’t he this and why didn’t he that? He wouldn’t be just another number; he’d be number zero. That was what Mara didn’t understand. That was why Zaba had to marry him. She had to make him real to other people. She had to make them see that he was a person, a life, and he meant more than some thing, because he wasn’t just something. He was her friend, and now more than ever, she knew, in truth, she was born to love him.

**************************

    Day Four: Eazy-er Said Than Dunn [sic]
    Zaba’s underwear always had a smell to them, which is why she wore so much perfume. She hated this about herself. No amount of hygienic care settled the matter. Thankfully, she hadn’t always had this problem. She met Eric less than a year ago and that’s when the problem arose. Since then, she always caught a whiff of a funky odor down there.
    A friend of hers once said, “You’ll know you’ve met the right man when you start leaking all the time.”
    The smell didn’t stop Zaba from wearing shorts. Today she was casual. She styled her hair in beach curls and donned a beige, crochet knit top over a white tank top, lightwash jean shorts, and brown, strappy sandals. As she rummaged through her jewelry chest, she scraped the skin on her knuckle on a pair of earrings Eric had bought for her. They were green shells.
    It was odd. Eric never wore green. Eric had never seen her wear green. Why did he buy her green earrings? She’d told him of an unpleasant memory that occurred at the beach with a shell. She’d put a shell to her ear and something crawled out and bit her. Ever since then, she’d hated the beach and anything that reminded her of it. Yet, Eric’s boyish dimples deepened whenever she wore them.
    Her phone buzzed.
    Eric was outside.
    That old feeling never went away. Just the thought of him, seeing his grinning face and sheepish eyes, had her panties stinking again. Yes, she’d tried putting up a confident talk, but her mother saw right through her. In her heart, Zaba believed she was doing the right thing, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t afraid. Her life was blossoming while Eric’s was fading away.
    She couldn’t think about that now. He was waiting for her. She pressed on the earrings and hustled downstairs. Her mother was peeling an apple and crying at the kitchen island. Their eyes met.
    “Zaba –”
    “I’ll be back in a few hours. Goodbye mommy. I love you!” Zaba grinned so wide her eyes disappeared.
    “Hey, you,” Zaba said. She stepped down the porch and embraced Eric. As she pulled away, she spotted a small red dot at the nape of his neck.
    “What’s up?” He said.
    “Nothing much. Same ol’, same ol’,” Zaba shrugged.
    Eric opened his car door and Zaba slid inside. Eric was the only man Zaba knew who owned a 64 impala. It had hydraulics and everything. The outside had gold trim all along the sides and on the rims. A pair of dice hung from the mirror. Naturally, the car did a hippety-hop bounce that used to make Zaba nauseas.
    “I think I wanna be buried in this car. At my funeral, I want the hydraulics going.... Yeah, leaving in style,” Eric said.
    “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. Can you imagine?” Zaba chuckled.
    “Yeah, I can just see my body bouncing all up and down. Just like in the bedroom. And then, then, some crazy stuff happens where my body starts bleeding and my blood is spraying everywhere,” Eric laughed.
    “Oh, great. Then we’ll all have AIDS,” Zaba laughed along.
    “Haha, yeah like ‘okay, we all have AIDS now.’ What would that news caption read like? The AIDS Funeral? People Went In To Say Goodbye, But Came Out About To Die?”
    “They’ll be like, ‘nooo, Eric gave us AIDS. NOOOO!’” Zaba laughed so hard that fat tears dropped from her eyes and she started wheezing.
    “I’ll still be looking good, though.” Eric said.
    “Yeah, that’ll be everyone’s best memory of you. Eric Johnson – he always had style,” Zaba said.
    It was true. Eric was a beautiful man. He had thick, glossy hair blacker than coal. Zaba used to rub her face against it, inhaling the scented conditioners he used. When he walked, one would think he was a moving Pantene commercial. Some even made joking remarks likening him to Samson. Women loved running their fingers through his bountiful hair, especially when he had Khloe Kardashian curls. There was not a blemish on him, not a one...except now.
    “Hey, where are we going?” Zaba asked. It was later than she thought. The sun was setting.
    “Kent’s having a party tonight. Thought you might want to come. I didn’t feel like being home. You know my parents are a trip now. Mom’s always bitchin’ now. Can you believe they make me use a different soap, like I’m some kind of parasite?” Eric asked.
    Zaba wondered what to say to a man who was dying. Was there anything left to be said? It’d all be a lie anyhow.
    “I wish I had AIDS too,” she said.
    “There’s not a single fuck I had that was worth it, Zaba,” he said.
    They arrived at the party sooner than expected. Zaba made small talk with a few classmates while Eric went straight away to the ladies in cutoff jeans, MAC lipstick, and cutout tops.
    “What’s up with E? I’ve never seen him drink so much!” A classmate of theirs was paying more attention to Eric’s affair than Zaba cared for. She gulped another shot of a fireball.
    “Hey,” the classmate began rubbing her thigh, “I always thought you two were like...a couple or something.”
    Zaba winced. She took yet another swig.
    “You completely stopped talking to me once he popped up. Just discarded me like trash.” The guy was drunk. That was evident. Zaba didn’t care to soothe his hurt feelings. She couldn’t even recall his name.
    “He doesn’t even want you now. Whenever he’s around free pussy he treats you like a disease...like...like a pariah or something.” There it was. That comment had done it. Zaba should’ve left his side sooner. She took responsibility for allowing herself to stand and listen, knowing his tirade would only get worse, more personal. She slapped him. What else could she do?
    Just as she turned to walk away, she saw Eric leading a lady, Rebecca, up the stairs to a bedroom. Her bottle dropped. He wouldn’t. He couldn’t. Her mind told her to run after them, stop them, talk some sense into Eric. Yet, her legs wobbled and her breath grew short. The room started to spin. She stumbled and grabbed onto the edge of a couch for leverage. She looked up once more and through a haze of tears she saw Rebecca giggle and turn crimson as Eric whispered in her ear and they disappeared behind the corner.
    All of her emotions came forward in the form of projectile vomit. Zaba dropped to her knees and cried. Someone tried to console her, but she pushed the person away and ran from the house, tripping over herself all the way.
    “What’s up with her?” someone asked.
    “She saw Mister Lover Boy go upstairs with another chick,” the guy she’d slapped said, laughing.
    “Poor girl. She’s known him all this time. I don’t know why she’s surprised he’s only interested in one thing.”

**************************

    Day Eighteen: Known As The Thief and Murderer
    Eric had to visit his doctor. He told her not to come. To ease her mind, she flipped through a photo album of just them. Less than a year and she had taken over eighty pictures.
    *flashback*
    Zaba, Eric, Kent, Nicholas, Lashayla, and Otis were playing Kings. It was Zaba’s and Lashayla’s duty to cheer the men on. Their eyes all burned from the cloud of smoke lingering. It wasn’t a game of Kings unless a minimum of three bottles of Olde English 800 and two of Gentlemen’s Jack Limited Edition were present. Rolled joints littered the table and countertops.
    Zaba’s mother would be at church these sorts of nights. She went to church whenever Zaba was with Eric. She knew – mothers always did – that the man had death in his eyes. That was fine as long as he didn’t drag her baby to Hell with him.
    “Eric, your breath already smells. You don’t need another shot,” Lashayla said.
    “Fuck you. That’s the smell of pussy,” Eric grinned, wiggling his tongue at her.
    “Well damn, what stank raw fish you been eating?” Nicholas asked.
    “Man, fuck all y’all,” Eric chuckled. He gulped from the bottle and slammed it on the table. “I never met a piece of sushi that I didn’t like.”
    “That’s your problem.... Yours, too, Kent, so I don’t know why you’re laughing,” Lashayla said, rolling her eyes.
    Eric coughed.
    “No need to be jealous. You can get it, too, Shay.”
    “Anyway, can we continue with the game, please?”
    Eric erupted in a coughing fit.
    “Are you okay?” Zaba asked.
    “Yeah, just all this smoke.”
    “Your lungs are trying to tell you something.”
    There was banging at the door. It made a few jump. Nicholas cussed when a bottle of Jack Daniel’s fell over.
    Although it wasn’t his apartment, Eric answered the door. Joseph was at the door. He used to date Lashayla before she began dating Kent. Kent was a strong guy on the Football team, so Joseph felt that he had something to prove by fighting Kent. They’d fought at school, but no one knew how he learned where Kent lived.
    “Can I help you?” Eric asked.
    “Move aside. I’m looking for Kent.”
    “Don’t tell me what to do. Is this your motherfucking house?”
    “My problem isn’t with you, Eric. And if Kent was a man he’d come out here and fight me himself,” Joseph said. He raised his voice so that Kent could hear.
    Eric tried to close the door in his face. Joseph pushed it open and grabbed Eric’s collar. Then he shoved him back through the doorway. Eric was tall, but slim. A medium was large on him. He was easily taken off his feet. Just the same, he was quick to rise and even faster to begin scuffling with Joseph. His Guess shirt had been ripped when Joseph grabbed him and that was reason enough for him to lose his temper.
    True enough, Joseph was much meatier, but a punch to his neck immediately dropped the man to the floor. Moaning and dazed, Joseph was clunked over the head with a liquor bottle. Only then were Eric’s friends standing by his side.
    “Is that a booger in his nose?” Nicholas asked.
    “Man, what did you do? My mom’s going to kill me. I already know I’ll have to hear her talking about taking my license, now,” Kent fussed.
    “I don’t care. He ripped my Guess. This’s a two hundred dollar shirt,” Eric said. Beads of sweat bubbled on his forehead. He took a step forward and stumbled. Joseph was out cold. Eric must’ve been stunned by his own behavior. That must have been why he was sweating profusely and breathing so heavily all the sudden. What else could have been the reason?
    “Take him outside,” Eric said.
    Kent and Otis dragged Joseph into the hallway. They laughed about Eric’s mean right hand. They said they saw a knot forming on his forehead. Eric laughed the loudest. He wiped at his forehead and realized his hand was bleeding. There was an oozing cut above Joseph’s eye.
    Once it was all said and done, Joseph woke up, gathered himself, made idle threats, and was on his way. They’d go on to see Joseph between classes, but he made a point to avoid them in passing.
    *end of flashback*
    That cough.
    That night was the beginning of Eric’s coughing. To most, a cough meant nothing more than a possible cold. A virus easily fixed with a bowl of soup and a warm blanket. At the time, no one knew it meant more. It meant he was dying and as much as she tried to ignore it, it was all Zaba thought about now. Why hadn’t they met sooner? Why hadn’t she been a better friend? She should’ve saved him from himself. He was so reckless; why had she always ignored it?
    Zaba wondered, was Joseph now HIV positive?

**************************

    Day Twenty-Three: Another Sequel
    Eric’s hair was thinning. It wasn’t very noticeable. But, it didn’t have it’s usual sheen. When he unrolled the flexi-rods, several strands of hair had broken off. Zaba saw it. She ran her fingers through his hair. It was still soft. The healthy bounce was still there.
    “You need better conditioner,” she said.

**************************

    Day Twenty-Nine: Parental Discretion is Advised
    “I like this ring.”
    “It’s eighty bucks. Don’t you want a real diamond?”
    “No, this is fine. I’d marry you with a paper clip ring if I had to,” Zaba said.
    Eric offered a half-hearted smile. He rubbed his eyes. There was no storm. Nothing leaked from the roofs, but Eric’s eyes were cloudy as if he was standing in the middle of a sheet of rain.
    “I think a Friday is better than a Saturday and –”
    “Zaba, this is crazy,” he said. He looked up at her now. She stilled. Afraid. He took her hand and she felt her heart shatter, the shards slashing her insides.
    “You’re right. Getting married on a Sunday is-”
    “Zaba, we’re not getting married.”
    “I can wear my Resurrection Sunday dress –”
    “Fuck, Zaba! We’re not getting married. Okay?” Eric rose from his seat next to her. He paced around her bedroom. His eyes morphed into angry slits when he saw she’d covered the entire wall beside her bed with pictures of them. Seeing those fond times when they had the whole world ahead of them and not a single care infuriated him. He couldn’t stop himself; he punched a hole in the wall. He punched a hole through the collage. Then he dropped to his knees in pain.
    “Are you okay?”
    He slapped Zaba’s hands away. She saw another sore had formed near his ear. He had put on foundation to cover it. Still, she noticed. She felt the tears pool in her eyes before they fell. He was what AIDS looked like in the 80s. This wasn’t supposed to be what AIDS looked like in 2015. Not with all the medications and medical advancements.
    “Your face...it’s –”
    “I look like shit! I look like a fucking bum. Look at my nails...they’re turning black. I’m going crazy. I can’t stomach looking at my hair. My hair’s receding! My body hurts all the time. I have to wear makeup now!”
    Zaba held him. It was all she knew to do. She held him as he let out the most blood-curdling cry she’d ever heard. It was like the howl of a tormented wolf, abandoned by its pack.
     “Life is real fucked up, you know. Real fucked up.”

**************************

    Day Thirty-One: Any Last Words?
    “People don’t get AIDS in 2015.”
    That’s what Zaba heard someone say and it’s all her mind repeated. Finally, she knew how Eric had caught AIDS. It was no mystery. No one talked about AIDS anymore. It was a disease of the 90s. Maybe Eric was just another sap who fell into the trap of believing that if you ignore it, it goes away.
    Everyone loved Eric. He’d slept with two girls since he was diagnosed. He told Zaba that he had no choice. If he didn’t, they’d get suspicious. It wasn’t so big a deal that Eric had AIDS. Not in 2015. That’s what he and Zaba thought until he fainted at Kobe’s Beef Restaurant.
    AIDS didn’t kill people anymore. It wasn’t a gay disease anymore, no longer known as “gay cancer”; AIDS affected just as much of the straight population. Regardless, no one would be surprised if a homosexual announced he’d contracted it. Many people thought Eric was homosexual because of how he was so into his looks. If they knew he had AIDS, they wouldn’t be shocked. It was 2015, yet they’d dismiss his situation and brand him as an “other,” not as a part of them. Us.
    “Am I dying?”
    Magic Johnson had AIDS and was a 1000 years old.
    “No...you’ll never die,” Zaba told him.
    “Am I beautiful, though?”
    “Yes. Very much.”

    “I don’t want to go to school anymore. I don’t want to do anything. I’ll be dead in three days,” Zaba told her mother.
    “What kind of craziness is that? Why would you say that?” Mara asked. This, of course, was a mother’s worst nightmare. Often, mothers told their children that if they could take their child’s pain away they would. Mara could have made such a mundane statement, but what would it help? Zaba’s tears filled the house.
    “Look, Zaba...you’re only in high school. Who knows how long you two would’ve remained friends? The best way to keep his memory alive is to be happy for yourself,” Mara said.
    Zaba was still. She didn’t even blink. Her eyes gazed at the ceiling, fixated on the spinning fan. Her hands were clasped together above her stomach. The tears ran down the sides of her face onto her pillow. The clock ticked.
    Finally, Zaba opened her mouth.
    “You’ve never loved anyone, so you don’t know what this feels like. My soul, my heart, every part of me was tied into our friendship. We had so many plans. So many plans for our future. Now, he’ll be dead soon and it just doesn’t make any sense. What’s the point of anything? Why go to school? Why go outside? Death doesn’t care. It doesn’t care that I love Eric and now I’ll be all alone.”
    “You’re not alone. You have every reason to live. He chose this! He did this to himself by having unprotected sex! Why would you even want a friend like that?”
    “Because someone has to love him.”
    *************************
    Day Forty-Three: It Aint Good For Your Health
    Eric was in a coma. He had bald patches on his scalp. His nails were black. His face had hollowed out. He looked like a cadaver.
    Zaba could not do anything to dry her tears. She lied in the hospital bed with him, hoping her beating pulse could revive him. Sacrifice. Her name meant sacrifice. She wished she’d told him. She wished she could’ve made love to him. It was unfair he had to suffer alone. She begged him to sleep with her before he got this sick, but he wouldn’t touch her. He only laughed and said she would be too tight for him. He didn’t tell her he loved her. He didn’t need to.
    She couldn’t leave his bedside. She’d die next to him. He was beautiful, as he’d always wanted to be. Even in this state he was the most alluring man she’d ever seen.

**************************

    Day Forty-Seven: I’m Here to Save You But Who’s to Save Me?
    Eric Johnson was buried June 8th, 2015. Zaba wept over his grave. He had no family. Eric’s mother never loved him; she loved his brother more because she loved his brother’s father, so Eric ran away. He’d found a friend to stay with in Zaba’s city and enrolled in her school.
    “Zaba? What the fuck kind of name is that?” He’d asked.
    She took a switchblade and cut along her wrist horizontally, smearing the blood over his name on his tombstone. Then she fell asleep.
    Zaba, it means sacrifice.

    Epilogue:
    “Eric, are those bubbles?”
    “Yes.”
    “Oh.... Are we in Heaven?”
    “I don’t think I’d make it there. I was never baptized.”
    “Baptism doesn’t save your soul, Eric. Only belief in Jesus can do that.”
    “Just the same, I don’t think I’m in Heaven.”
    “Wherever we are, we’re here together.”
    Zaba took a hold of Eric’s hand. Although she had a firm grip, she was able to see right through him. She, too, was transparent. She looked around them. Tall sequoias, luscious bushes of berries and roses, and a crystal sky stared back at her.
    “Are we going to be happy here?” She asked.
    “We can be,” Eric said.
    Zaba kissed him. It was okay now, wasn’t it? Here, there was no life or death. There wasn’t sickness and health. She kissed him again.
    Eric pulled a ring out of his pocket and slid it onto her finger. A single moonstone gem was at its center. A tear slid down Zaba’s face. It was beautiful. Too beautiful....
    “This isn’t Heaven, is it?” She asked.
    “No. Zaba, you don’t belong here. You have to go back; your mother is waiting for you,” Eric said.
    “But I love you.”
    “I know, but you can’t stay here with me.”
    “I can’t go on without you. Please don’t make me leave,” Zaba cried. She fell to her knees. “This doesn’t make any sense!”
    “This is all a dream, Zaba. You have to wake up and go back home.”
    “No!”
    Eric grabbed her now.
    “Listen to me! You can’t stay here! You don’t belong here!”
    Zaba wept. Then she struggled with Eric until, finally, he let her hold him, rocking back and forth. She cried harder and harder, snot running down her nose. She beat her fists against the ground. She screamed. She yelled. She cursed.
    Nothing changed. Nothing moved.
    “You don’t have to feel sorry for me. I’m okay here.”
    “But, but we were going to go to law school and become senators, and...and...be god-parents to each other’s kids. We had so many plans.”
    “That’s okay. You can still live out those plans. Please, Zaba. I’m okay here. Let me be. Let me live.”
    “But you’re dead.”
    “I’m only dead if you let me die. Wake up...go to your mother. She already hates me enough. I don’t need her hating me even now that I’m dead,” Eric chuckled. He smiled for her.
    “I love you,” he told her. He’d never said it before. Ever. She smiled back at him. He was right. She had to live, so he could live. She’d join him again, one day. Yet, for now, she had to live. The world around them shattered into a million pieces. She saw blackness all around them. The only light came from the moonstone.
    “Thank you,” she said. “I have something to ask you, though.”
    “I already know. I’m ashamed of what I did with those women. I was a coward. I was afraid. I couldn’t even admit it to myself. But, here, now, I can’t do anything about it. That’s even more reason why you have to go back Zaba, and tell them. Remind them, everyone,” Eric said.
    “AIDS sucks, doesn’t it?”
    “Yeah, it’s a motherfucker.”
    Zaba kissed him one final time.
    “Can I keep the ring?”
    “Yes. One day, will you give it to Rebecca’s daughter? She’s pregnant with our child, but she doesn’t know it yet.”
    “Pregnant?”
    “Yes. Let her love me though, Zaba. Don’t let her hate me because I was a coward.”
    “I won’t.”
    “Okay, it’s time to wake up now.”

 

    *This short fiction, although not in any way a reflection of Eric “Eazy-E” Wright’s life, was inspired by him to raise HIV/AIDS awareness in 2016. All titles are snippets of lyrics from N.W.A. songs and Eazy-E songs.*












Do Not Carry Me Home

Lindsay Flanagan

    Listen.
    It’s here. It is sighing and singing for me. I can hear it unfolding itself and laying down, waiting for me to open the door and take it into my arms. But I will not. I am leaving today, and I will not be persuaded to stay, no matter how it whines and whimpers for me.
    I will not.
    This place is not what it once was. We tore down the memories of the tragedies and built a faç ade so the tourists don’t know of the brittle bones hiding deep in the closets. We hope the movement of the earth will break our bones. But we are cursed, because if they shatter, they turn into sand, dusty particles that seep into our senses and bleed into our skin.
    It is not only the skeletons we can’t bear to see. It is also the ghosts that linger around every bend, in every field and forest, on every mountain top, and in the halls of churches and schools. It is those who pierce into our veins who haunt us. They lurk on back roads and dim-lit street corners, their eyes down and their images blurred.
    But they are there.
    I wonder if he is still there, still driving past my old home, or sitting in that coffee shop, leaning back with one leg up on the booth and his head tilted back, his bright eyes sparkling as they once did in my direction. If I could lift back the pages of time, I know he would be there, smiling at me without any ill will or accusations. If I could re-write our story, I would change what I said to him and then maybe he would not be a specter in me, a fragment of my life.
    But I do not think I’ll hear his voice again, because the only sound here is noise. Trucks bellow their way down our main street; they roll through without looking back at us, or stopping for us, since our coffee shop is now an Italian restaurant. No one born and bred here who still sees the image of a small farming town wants phony Italian food. But the tourists do. They are the only ones who want to stop in our shops, because the gifts we sell are worthless but over-priced, depicting images of what we once were. The shouts to friends no longer come from the other side of the street; they come from strangers in cars passing by, cursing the traffic that now clogs the central artery of the town.
    This place is too much for me.
    My bags are packed and my car is loaded. I can’t stay here any longer. The trees I had played in are gone. The acres and acres of free fields are developed and built up with people who never knew what once roamed there, who never laid down in the sweet grass of the field and stared at the airplanes buzzing overhead. Those are the fields I had held his hand in. That is the grass that his fingertips touched, those fingers that were stained with all the years of his young life. No, they do not know he was once there.
    I stand, for the final time, in the last surviving field my family owned, one that would be cut and divided into lots too small for a yard but big enough for a house. The road leading out of town is so inviting. There is a world beyond this place, one untouched and unmarred by me and the spirits that tag along beside me. I give one final sigh and open my car door, but I feel something creeping...
    I cock my head to the left. My eyes travel the expanse of my valley, across the mountain tops, into the waters of the lake, into those green fields whose seeds have not yet left me. I want to shut my ears to the freight train of longing, waiting to drag me back down its tracks. I do not want to hear it calling me back.
    I do not want to be carried home.
    I stand there in silence, because I know it is coming.
    The wind sweeps from the edge of the valley; it rolls in like the tide and gathers every ghost into its outstretched arms. They glide along within its grasp, stretched and sprawled, larger than life and not life at all, but a heart pulses inside it. I feel it approaching me although I cannot see it. But I hear it. I brace myself for the roar and the growl and the ferocity of the phantoms inside it, but it reaches me as a calm before any storm does, like a warm whisper. It simply slips into my hair, lifting the locks away from my ears, and whispers to me, asking me to listen.
    Just listen.












organs

Janet Kuypers
haiku 2/17/14
video

I have to take showers,
scrub skin, rip out organs, to
rid myself of you



twitter 4 jk twitter 4 jk Visit the Kuypers Twitter page for short poems— join http://twitter.com/janetkuypers.
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading (C) her poem organs from her “Partial Nudity” book release feature live 6/18/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading (S) her poem organs from her “Partial Nudity” book release feature live 6/18/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery


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Over the Cracks
(I Don’t Need You)

Janet Kuypers
7/22/16 (based on the poem
“no there isn’t”, written 10/11/98)

I can stand alone
I don’t need you
and you think there’s
more to it than that,
but no, there isn’t
well, sometimes you’ve
got to do what you’ve
got to do, and you just
get it done. when it’s got
to get dome, you have to
remember that people,
when actors and actresses,
who do it on television,
well, they and the
directors have no
idea how to get it done.
Well, sometimes the
world and everything kind of
shows what it’s made of
and sometimes you have
to survive all the crap that’s
thrown in your direction.

So sometimes it’s important
to understand that I don’t
need all the crutches that
people usually give
themselves, but it’s true, I
don’t need you, and I can
get along fine without you.

Sometimes you can avoid the cracks,
but sometimes the crack
open up to a gorge
and sucks you down
and swallows you whole.

Learn to avoid the cracks,
or learn to crawl your way
out of the chasm...

And shake off the demons
from the abyss
after you managed to break free.

After I live through something like that,
do I feel any different?
Should the world be now revolving
at a different pace?
Or was everyone just used to the
change of the earth’s speed
when it changed, as it
something whey just never
chose to think about?
Was everyone just used to
the world when it
started to feel this way?

So many people go through
life with a lack of emotion,
or a lack of feeling, or a
lack of thought. And I’ve never
been asked to find out information
like that, I’ve never been asked
to function that way,. I’ve
never been able to just let life
go by.

Maybe life stepped on me a few times.
Maybe life opened up it’s cracks
and it made me battle against humanity.

Maybe those cracks opened up
so I’d lose the ground underneath my feet.

Gravity, like death,
pulled me into the abyss,
and I had to claw my way
until my fingers
were bloody from scraping,
and I bled rivers,
the oceans filled with my sweat
until I was able to break free
from earth’s gravitational well.

Well, you know what I’m
getting at with these metaphors...
Maybe if life is just cruel that
way maybe life is storming
away and if you happen to be
in the way, well maybe life will
just accidentally step on you,
or leave cracks in your world
so that you will slip and fail.

Well, at times
like that you just have to be
ready for a battle, maybe it’s
a battle you weren’t expecting to
run into in the first place, but
sometimes you just have to be ready
for a conflict like that.

Even if it never comes to get you,
you have to be ready for that
potential problem, just in case.
Just in case it happens.

And I tell you,
I’ve made myself ready.
I’ve had to.

And this is why
I want you to understand.
You think there’s more to it,
but I just don’t need to anymore.



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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poem Over the Cracks (I Don’t Need You) in the second round at the final Austin installment (at her house) of the Poetry Plus open mic 7/22/16 (Canon Power Shot camera).
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poem Over the Cracks (I Don’t Need You) in the second round at the final Austin installment (at her house) of the Poetry Plus open mic 7/22/16 (filmed w/ a Sony camera).


See the Janet Kuypers bio.










Queen ISIS
(battling for peace)

Janet Kuypers
started 7/29/16, finished 7/30/16

Try to remember your breathing exercises.
Inhale.
Exhale.
The drive-by media talking heads hurl
insults,
hatred
for either contender for the next President of the
United
States.
See the screen’s ticker of the number of dead
from the last
mass
shooting.
Fort Myers. Dallas. Nice. Orlando. San Bernardino.
Sandy
Hook.
Try to remember to focus on your breathing.
Inhale.
Exhale.
The past floods you. Boston. Columbine. Waco.
Wisconsin’s
Sikh Temple.

This breathing alone doesn’t take on terror.
When strikes
hit Egypt,
remember the Egyptian Goddess ISIS, patroness
of nature
& wisdom.
Her crown was actually a throne, the seat for
her child,
the Pharaoh.
She listened to the prayers of the aristocrats,
the wealthy,
the rulers,
but she was also friends to the downtrodden,
the sinners
& the slaves.
Goddess of rebirth, ISIS was first child to the Gods
of Earth
and Sky,
ISIS was also goddess of reincarnation and the
protector
of the dead.
Isis’ magic spells & rituals were revered for
protection
& healing.

You know, this breathing is getting easier now.
Inhale.
Exhale.
But it angers me how her name’s been usurped
by terrorists
who kill.
And sure, ISIS was worshipped in Pagan religions
but Iraq
& Syria
took her name and changed the meaning from
another
God
to cause chaos, spread their hatred & slaughter the
masses
with impunity.

Wait a minute. Get back to breathing.
Inhale.
Exhale.
Because the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
may mean
evil,
but these terrorists will never win when you have
Earth
and Sky
on your side, because peace isn’t magic when
health
& protection
are on your side, thanks to the better ISIS, ruling
nature
& wisdom.

I tell you, remember to keep your breathing.
Inhale.
Exhale.
Because if history battles for the ISIS name,
remember:
the legacy
of true peace and love with the Goddess ISIS
will
always
win.



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See YouTube video (Sony) of Janet Kuypers performing her poem “Queen ISIS (battling for peace)” in the lotus position for her 8/6/16 showThoughts on Peace” at Expressions (of Peace)! in Austin’s the Bahá’í Center.
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 8/6/16 show “Thoughts on Peace” at Expressions (of Peace)! in Austin reading her poem “Queen ISIS (battling for peace)”, then portions of her editorial from cc&d’s v249 book Invisible InkChoices We Make”, then her poems “Everything was Alive and Dying (2016 cruelty to animals edition)” and “On a High Horse Like This(Cps).
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 8/6/16 show “Thoughts on Peace(Sony) at Expressions (of Peace)! in Austin reading her poem “Queen ISIS (battling for peace)”, then portions of her editorial from cc&d’s v249 book Invisible InkChoices We Make”, then her poems “Everything was Alive and Dying (2016 cruelty to animals edition)” and “On a High Horse Like This”.
Thoughts on Peace chapbook
Download all of the show poems in the free PDF file download chapbook
Thoughts on Peace
including her poem “Queen ISIS (battling for peace)”, then portions of her editorial from cc&d’s v249 book Invisible InkChoices We Make”, then her poems “Everything was Alive and Dying (2016 cruelty to animals edition)” and “On a High Horse Like This”.
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her 3 poems “Queen ISIS”, “Motorcycle” and “They Called It Trust” 8/14/16 at the Austin open mic Kick Butt Poetry (video filmed from a Canon Power Shot camera).
video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her 3 poems “Queen ISIS”, “Motorcycle” and “They Called It Trust” 8/14/16 at the Austin open mic Kick Butt Poetry (from a Canon Power Shot camera w/ a Threshold filter).
video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her 3 poems “Queen ISIS”, “Motorcycle” and “They Called It Trust” 8/14/16 at the Austin open mic Kick Butt Poetry (video filmed from a Sony camera).
video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her 3 poems “Queen ISIS”, “Motorcycle” and “They Called It Trust” 8/14/16 at the Austin open mic Kick Butt Poetry (from a Sony camera w/ an Edge Detection filter).






Janet Kuypers Bio

    Janet Kuypers has a Communications degree in News/Editorial Journalism (starting in computer science engineering studies) from the UIUC. She had the equivalent of a minor in photography and specialized in creative writing. A portrait photographer for years in the early 1990s, she was also an acquaintance rape workshop facilitator, and she started her publishing career as an editor of two literary magazines. Later she was an art director, webmaster and photographer for a few magazines for a publishing company in Chicago, and this Journalism major was even the final featured poetry performer of 15 poets with a 10 minute feature at the 2006 Society of Professional Journalism Expo’s Chicago Poetry Showcase. This certified minister was even the officiant of a wedding in 2006.
    She sang with acoustic bands “Mom’s Favorite Vase”, “Weeds and Flowers” and “the Second Axing”, and does music sampling. Kuypers is published in books, magazines and on the internet around 9,300 times for writing, and over 17,800 times for art work in her professional career, and has been profiled in such magazines as Nation and Discover U, won the award for a Poetry Ambassador and was nominated as Poet of the Year for 2006 by the International Society of Poets. She has also been highlighted on radio stations, including WEFT (90.1FM), WLUW (88.7FM), WSUM (91.7FM), WZRD (88.3FM), WLS (8900AM), the internet radio stations ArtistFirst dot com, chicagopoetry.com’s Poetry World Radio and Scars Internet Radio (SIR), and was even shortly on Q101 FM radio. She has also appeared on television for poetry in Nashville (in 1997), Chicago (in 1997), and northern Illinois (in a few appearances on the show for the Lake County Poets Society in 2006). Kuypers was also interviewed on her art work on Urbana’s WCIA channel 3 10 o’clock news.
    She turned her writing into performance art on her own and with musical groups like Pointless Orchestra, 5D/5D, The DMJ Art Connection, Order From Chaos, Peter Bartels, Jake and Haystack, the Bastard Trio, and the JoAnne Pow!ers Trio, and starting in 2005 Kuypers ran a monthly iPodCast of her work, as well mixed JK Radio — an Internet radio station — into Scars Internet Radio (both radio stations on the Internet air 2005-2009). She even managed the Chaotic Radio show (an hour long Internet radio show 1.5 years, 2006-2007) through BZoO.org and chaoticarts.org. She has performed spoken word and music across the country - in the spring of 1998 she embarked on her first national poetry tour, with featured performances, among other venues, at the Albuquerque Spoken Word Festival during the National Poetry Slam; her bands have had concerts in Chicago and in Alaska; in 2003 she hosted and performed at a weekly poetry and music open mike (called Sing Your Life), and from 2002 through 2005 was a featured performance artist, doing quarterly performance art shows with readings, music and images.
    Since 2010 Kuypers also hosts the Chicago poetry open mic at the Café Gallery, while also broadcasting the Cafés weekly feature podcasts (and where she sometimes also performs impromptu mini-features of poetry or short stories or songs, in addition to other shows she performs live in the Chicago area).
    In addition to being published with Bernadette Miller in the short story collection book Domestic Blisters, as well as in a book of poetry turned to prose with Eric Bonholtzer in the book Duality, Kuypers has had many books of her own published: Hope Chest in the Attic, The Window, Close Cover Before Striking, (woman.) (spiral bound), Autumn Reason (novel in letter form), the Average Guy’s Guide (to Feminism), Contents Under Pressure, etc., and eventually The Key To Believing (2002 650 page novel), Changing Gears (travel journals around the United States), The Other Side (European travel book), the three collection books from 2004: Oeuvre (poetry), Exaro Versus (prose) and L’arte (art), The Boss Lady’s Editorials, The Boss Lady’s Editorials (2005 Expanded Edition), Seeing Things Differently, Change/Rearrange, Death Comes in Threes, Moving Performances, Six Eleven, Live at Cafe Aloha, Dreams, Rough Mixes, The Entropy Project, The Other Side (2006 edition), Stop., Sing Your Life, the hardcover art book (with an editorial) in cc&d v165.25, the Kuypers edition of Writings to Honour & Cherish, The Kuypers Edition: Blister and Burn, S&M, cc&d v170.5, cc&d v171.5: Living in Chaos, Tick Tock, cc&d v1273.22: Silent Screams, Taking It All In, It All Comes Down, Rising to the Surface, Galapagos, Chapter 38 (v1 and volume 1), Chapter 38 (v2 and Volume 2), Chapter 38 v3, Finally: Literature for the Snotty and Elite (Volume 1, Volume 2 and part 1 of a 3 part set), A Wake-Up Call From Tradition (part 2 of a 3 part set), (recovery), Dark Matter: the mind of Janet Kuypers , Evolution, Adolph Hitler, O .J. Simpson and U.S. Politics, the one thing the government still has no control over, (tweet), Get Your Buzz On, Janet & Jean Together, po•em, Taking Poetry to the Streets, the Cana-Dixie Chi-town Union, the Written Word, Dual, Prepare Her for This, uncorrect, Living in a Big World (color interior book with art and with “Seeing a Psychiatrist”), Pulled the Trigger (part 3 of a 3 part set), Venture to the Unknown (select writings with extensive color NASA/Huubble Space Telescope images), Janet Kuypers: Enriched, She’s an Open Book, “40”, Sexism and Other Stories, the Stories of Women, Prominent Pen (Kuypers edition), Elemental, the paperback book of the 2012 Datebook (which was also released as a spiral-bound cc&d ISSN# 2012 little spiral datebook, , Chaotic Elements, and Fusion, the (select) death poetry book Stabity Stabity Stab Stab Stab, the 2012 art book a Picture’s Worth 1,000 words (available with both b&w interior pages and full color interior pages, the shutterfly ISSN# cc& hardcover art book life, in color, Post-Apocalyptic, Burn Through Me, Under the Sea (photo book), the Periodic Table of Poetry, a year long Journey, Bon Voyage!, and the mini books Part of my Pain, Let me See you Stripped, Say Nothing, Give me the News, when you Dream tonight, Rape, Sexism, Life & Death (with some Slovak poetry translations), Twitterati, and 100 Haikus, that coincided with the June 2014 release of the two poetry collection books Partial Nudity and Revealed.








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