welcome to volume 156 (the April 2018 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
Drew Marshall The Elevator Operator
Kyle Hemmings Hotel 1 photography
M. Myers The Insatiable Lover
Amongst the Orchards
Olivia Keeper The Forgotten Seeds
Allan Onik In the Game
Flipped
Storm’s Eye
Anna Lewis Lucky
Millard C. Davis Garden Flowers
Walking On
Carlos Frigo Teacup Skins
John (“Jake”) Cosmos Aller My Name Is Nobody
Strangeness in the Air
KB Imle The Field
Sunset Street, San Miguel photography
Ann Christine Tabaka At What Price
Lawrence Basher 10-52
Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz Strange Surroundings art
Kevin M. Grimm The Best Laid Plans....
Fabrice Poussin Forgotten photography
Andrea Chancey Flavor of the Week
Harvey Havel The Treatment
Feston Altus Charlie Rose
DC Diamondopolous Club Lost and Found
Eleanor Leonne Bennett Can You Hear My Cries photography
M. Griffith Magazine Contents, July 2, 2017
Ken Allan Dronsfield Sting of a Snowflake
Michael J. Harrington The Digger Man
Marc McMahon A Game Called Life
Anita G. Gorman Support Group Revelations
Janet Kuypers judge
Shannon Woodard What’s Best for You
Janet Kuypers quarrel
Brandy Montilione Imprint of a Promise
Olivier Schopfer Glass Roof - Geneva, Switzerland photography
Bonnie E. Carlson Boost Your T
Gary Van Haas Transitioning
J. Ray Paradiso Barefoot art
Isabelle Kenyon Identity: Granny Olga
John Dorroh Bad Genes
Rajagopal Kaimal Invitation Lost
Scarlett R. Algee And Drown Melancholy
Christina Lacourte The Love Maestro
Gregg Dotoli II
T.William Wallin Waiting for the Vision
Susan Marie At Midnight
Benjamin Selesnick South End
Rene Diedrich Image 3 art
Tom Ball Automatic Production Machine (APM)
Janet Kuypers Every Street Corner
Poem About This
Quivering against the Invading Enemy

 
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will appear in black and white in the print edition of Down in the Dirt magazine.





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The Elevator Operator

Drew Marshall

    The United States was two hundred years old. America had just celebrated its Bicentennial the week before. The Democratic National Convention was being held at Madison Square Garden.
    I took a summer job as an elevator operator, in a four story loft in downtown Manhattan.
    The building was owned by a Chinese couple. They were the only tenants in the loft. The Lee’s owned and operated a custom art framing business. Their daughter was in town for the summer. She was an Art History major at Cornell University in upstate New York.
    Two huge Doberman Pinchers rounded out the family.
    They were always pleasant, but we never got past the superficial conversation phase.
    Operation of the elevator was simple. A lever enclosed in a cylindrical container controlled the direction and speed of the cab. The lever slid around the top half of the cylinder. Pushing down or counter clockwise would lift the elevator up. Pushing clockwise, would lower the elevator.
    By the end of the first week I had become adept at landing the lift evenly at the landing point, for all four floors and the basement. The gate I had to open and close before starting the cab, served as the fourth wall. There was no door. I would look at the brick wall going up and down to spot the opening on each floor.
    The family arrived promptly at nine every morning. They left for lunch, with both Dobermans by their side, at noon on the dot. Back from lunch at one thirty. The Lee’s left work at exactly five in the afternoon. You could set your watch by their comings and goings. A loud bell went off when the family needed the elevator.
    Aside from an occasional delivery of frames, few people visited this building. Not much to do but read. I loved reading and got through several novels that summer. I would also bring my Rolling Stone magazines from home. I had just renewed my subscription.
    My predecessor had returned to Italy for the summer, due to a death in the family. He was scheduled to be back by Labor Day, and I would return to college for the fall semester.
    The bathroom I used was in the basement. This small space was dimly lit, dank and dirty.
    In this windowless room, aside from the toilet, there was a work bench, a wooden desk and a stool.
    There were several Playboy centerfold pictures on the wall by the desk. One drawer was partially open and I could spot the cover of a Playboy magazine.
    I opened the drawer and there were several more issues inside.

    One Friday morning towards the end of August, after using the toilet and washing, I started to thumb through the Playboy magazines. My desires got the better of me. I checked my watch. It was almost eleven o’clock. It would be another hour before the Lee family left for lunch.
    I grabbed a handful of toilet paper, unzipped my fly and started to shake and bake. Before reaching full throttle and blasting off for parts unknown, the bell rang. It sounded ten times louder than it did in the lift. More like a fire alarm, shrieking through the air and ripping right through me.
    I threw the toilet paper on the desk, and cautiously zipped up my pants. I quickly grabbed the magazines and stuffed them back into the drawer. I took the toilet paper & flushed it down the drain. I flew across the room and jumped into the box, as I called it.
    I slammed the gate closed and grabbed the lever. I started her up abruptly and too quickly. I heard a loud scraping sound. The elevator stopped halfway past the first floor entrance.
    The lever was jammed and wouldn’t budge. I looked up at the upper right hand corner of the gate. It was bent out of shape and had been scraping up against the brick wall. I was trapped.
    I looked up towards the ceiling, cupped my hands, and shouted out that the elevator was stuck and the gate was broken. I repeated this several times, in the hope that the Lees would hear me.
    I tried lowering the elevator by pushing the lever back as much as I could. I was able to slowly lower the cab about a foot. The gate was still scraping against the brick wall. The box stopped once again. That section of the gate was crushed beyond recognition. The lever was loose. I was afraid if I applied any more pressure, it would break off.
    I was now only about two feet from the ground floor. I managed to open the gate about halfway. It was wide enough for me to squeeze through. I jumped out of the elevator.
    I lost my footing and hit the ground. I picked myself up and turned around. I saw the Lees staring at me. Thankfully the Dobermans were not in tow. I heard them barking. They never barked.
    Mr. Lee breezed by me, stuck his head into the opening to assess the damage. He turned towards his family and spoke in Chinese. He then turned towards me.
    I expected to be fired on the spot and held responsible for the damages.
    He asked me if I was hurt and I told him I wasn’t. The man calmly told me he would have the repairman in over the weekend. I should go home and he will pay me for the day. Mr. Lee would see me on Monday morning.
    I apologized several times. He said it was an old building. These things happen. He and his family started back up the stairs and I headed home.

    I was upset about the incident but they never showed any distress and took it in stride.
    I realized a few things that summer. I learned how to be alone and confined to a small area.
    When you are the recipient of an act of kindness and generosity, recognize it and be grateful. Lastly, never masturbate in a filthy basement, when you’re on duty as an elevator operator.












Hotel 1, art by Kyle Hemmings

Hotel 1, art by Kyle Hemmings
















The Insatiable Lover

M. Myers

    It was a beautiful wedding. Tall pines, a starry sky and the light of the full moon served as the ultimate ceremonial scenery. From what he could recall they had never had a night wedding. Though now it had been six months past, he found himself thinking on it nights like tonight when sleep was lost on him. He stared at her in amazement, in awe that once again she chose him. He was able to exhale knowing he had her word that this was the last chase for some time. He took comfort in the idea of settling down.
    He woke in the morning and she had already left their bed. He could smell her in the air she showered before she left. He got out of bed and started his day; by the time he made it downstairs it was midafternoon. He reached to open the fridge and the bright blue post it caught his eye. Immediately his heart sank, he felt as if he might puke and then his knees went weak. As he read the words of her cryptic message he felt flushed with frustration and disgust. He hadn’t even finished reading the note and already he couldn’t decide if he was going to do it all again. He enjoyed this life- the friends he made, the work he did, the home he lived in, human beings in general. He was crushed she initiated the chase so soon after she was found, he imagined this time they would grow old before she felt the need to be chased again.
    He sat in silence at the brand new dining table as he thought on the message she left. He wondered where to begin-just then the doorbell rang. The curriers back was all he caught glimpse of as he picked the package up. He didn’t need to open the box, he already knew what was in it but he looked inside anyway. Such a beautiful bright light was locked inside, all he had to do was reach in and he would be thrust to the new universe in which she ran off to. He thought of her eyes, he could hear her laugh- see her smile; tears ran down his face. He hoped he could forget all of those memories. He closed the box, set it down and went back to making his lunch.












Amongst the Orchards

M. Myers

    “To the road Miranda; if you can just make it to the road you’ll be alright” she said to herself.

    She could feel the sting of the cold air as it blew against the open wound on her leg. With every step she took pain shot through her entire leg, she had somehow managed to slow the bleeding by fashioning her shirt into a tourniquet, but not completely stop it. She worried she wasn’t going to be able to make it to the road. Not only was she dealing with her leg, but also she was barefoot and her whole body was quickly beginning to freeze.
    For an instant she thought of giving up but she remembered less than an hour ago she was trapped in a basement- a prisoner of several vile men, men who were no doubt actively searching for her, men who if given the chance would most surly end her life.
    That thought alone should have been more than enough to motivate her but it wasn’t. The main reason she kept on was because of something one of the men said during his turn inside of her. He forced her to look him in his eyes while he violated her, as though the physical pain he was administering wasn’t enough to satisfy him, he wanted to crush her soul as well. He said a lot of things she couldn’t really remember but when he was done with her she found the strength to mutter the word “why”. He looked down at her in disgust and said, “cause you ain’t shit. Chicks like you think you matter but you don’t and ain’t shit you or anybody else can do about it- so lie there and get used to this cause you belong to us now.”

    It was his words that motivated her to escape that basement, she made a choice that night to get free or give her life trying. She carefully devised a plan, as she knew she would only have one chance. During the day when most of the men were away at work, she was always made to shower. The man that watched her was farther along in age than all the other men, she assumed he was retired because he never seemed to leave the house. He was a man of routine, he would untie her, walk her upstairs to the bathroom and let her in, then wait for her to open the door when she was done. He never physically harmed or assaulted her. He never even so much as tried to catch a glimpse of her naked. For some reason this angered her so much, she wondered why he wouldn’t set her free, why he wouldn’t stop the men that were keeping her captive. It dawned on her that maybe he also was a prisoner in his own way.
    It had been over two weeks since she went missing, she wondered if anybody noticed if she was gone. She had no family, was single, she kept to herself and it wasn’t uncommon for her and her best friend to go more than a few weeks without speaking. She decided that it was time; she was going to get out of that house.
    She followed along to the bathroom for her shower as if it was any other day but this time instead of getting in she waited awhile and then opened the door. She looked down the hall and the man was nowhere to be found, she took a deep breath and walked to the right, she found an immediate staircase and just as she was about to turn around she was met by the astonishment on the face of the man. He lunged toward her and she ran up the stairs, all at once she found herself trapped in a bedroom without a second thought she jumped out of the open window and into a tree, surprising she only had scrapes and a few cuts- it was when she dropped out of the tree that her leg snapped and bone shown through her battered and bruised flesh. The man called out from the house and immediately her thoughts were refocused and the pain was no matter- she began to run. Now the orchard was the only thing in her way of freedom and more importantly to her justice.
    As she ascended the hill she noticed the sun gleaming off a truck, the lights of a state trooper to be exact; she knew she could get a ride to the hospital- to safety. As she ran to it the officer started her way, the door opened and she began pleading for help her body in that moment was so weary she almost fainted but the officer caught her. She looked up to say thank you and to her horror realized the officers eyes were eerily familiar.












The Forgotten Seeds

Olivia Keeper

    To be Forgotten is the same empty feeling you get when the world leaves you behind leaving your memory to die. But we've survived, proving the humans wrong, they were Wrong! Seeds are much more than things that grow, until the time comes for the humans to know. What were the Seeds, humans? We were Life!





Olivia Keeper Biography

    Olivia Keeper is a writer from San Diego, California. Her poem, “Sight” was shared on Redshift Radio on May 31, 2016. She enjoys drawing, writing poetry, and is watching anime shows especially Naruto and Hetalia.












In the Game

Allan Onik

    Dante stared down at the Los Angeles Sharks as they cleared a field goal. Art stood next to him in the bleachers, sipping a Bud.“I have a clean million on this one,” Art said, “and if I lose it...well, let’s just say I won’t be walking for a while.”
    “Are you in on this one with Pauli?”
    “Third party’s a bitch.”
    The Las Vegas Rollers answered the kick off with a 40-yard run. Art winced.
    “Did you ever think that if you played the game too long, you might never live to see it end?”
    “Crossed my mind. But I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else. I was born for this.”
    Troy sacked the Rollers’ QB by jumping over the line and flipping with a static slam. The crowd roared.
    “We’re just like the Romans in their Coliseum,” Art said, “No better. No worse. I could stretch the Time around my pinkie like a piece of spaghetti.”
    The Rollers’ RB broke through the line with the ball and sprinted toward the end zone. The crowd stood on their feet, blaring. The player collapsed at the 5-yard line and fumbled. The sniper in the flood lights packed up his Mk 11 SWS and extracted to his Escalade in the stadium parking garage.












Flipped

Allan Onik

    In an octagonal room in his Victorian mansion, Sutter Cain wrote feverishly at his desk. The desk was located in the exact center of the room, which stood at the highest point in the house and was lined with red and black draperies. His butler knocked on the door.
    “Would you like an ink ribbon for your typewriter sir? How is Reign of the Dead coming along?” The servant’s voice echoed in the dimly lit hallway outside.
    “For the last time Sebastian, I use a MacBook. I’m not Stephen King.”
    “The Trick-or-Treaters are dying to get a bite, master. Why don’t you do them a favor and meet them at the door. I left your typewriter on the porch rocking chair.”
    “Blast it. I thought I locked the gate.”
    When Sutter left the room he was alone in the hallway. He descended the stairs and walked to his front door. When he opened it, he walked out on his porch and sat in the rocking chair, placing the typewriter on his lap. The streets were in a blaze with dead, demons, and gargoyles writhing in chaos. The moaning and screaming sounded like a pale symphony. His lawn and garden remained lush and well-tended. He began to type.












Storm’s Eye

Allan Onik

    The six motorboats closed in on Prince Abdulaziz. The pirate captain spoke to his second in command while holding a gold-plated AK-47. “Hurricane Irma should be closing in. We have less than five hours to extract The Graff Pink.”
    The other pirates all held RPGs and AK47s, and they began to grapple up the sides of the super yacht in swarms. An alarm sounded and the captain could hear intensive gunfire. Reminds of a day at the beach in Somalia. He grinned. After 10 minutes the exchanges sputtered, then stopped.
    His bloodied second in command looked over the yacht rail at him as he crouched in the motorboat. “All clear. Bin Fahd’s security team has been neutralized and the safe will be accessed when we extract the codes from his highness. You can board now.”
    The captain climbed the hook latter and passed the masses of bloodied bodies on the deck and cabins. When he entered the master suite he noted the prince tied on a red suede chair with six pirates surrounding him pointing their AKs.
    “We will cut off your hands,” the prince spat. The captain smashed him in the face with the butt of his custom AK. Blood poured out of his nose like a faucet.
    “You know why we are here. The Graff Pink and it’s 46-million-dollar value. Most expensive piece of jewelry on earth. And you were going to give it to your wife. A waste. I will buy a castle in Somalia.”
    “It’s a joke! It must be! Well, I will give you the codes. Just don’t expect a quick death once my assassins extract it from you.”
    A pirate punched the prince in the gut with brass knuckles. He spit blood.

    From the yacht hospital, the prince watched CNN and drank red wine.
    Hurricane Irma has battered the Caribbean and Florida Keys, leaving billions in damages in her wake. After reporting the theft of The Graff Pink, a mammoth mega piece from his super yacht, Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Fahd of the Saudi Royal Family was pleased to be informed that the band of Somali pirated who heisted the ring were capsized by the storm on their way to a middle man in Cuba. His extraction teams have already returned Graff to the yacht.
    The prince turned off the TV. He took out his IV and headed to his suite which smelled of antiseptic. Pinned to his wall was a gold-plated AK-47, and in a jar of preserve at his bed post a pair of charred hands.












Lucky

Anna Lewis

    “How much did you pay for a pet deposit?” asks Amanda.
    “Nothing, I have an autism letter from my therapist. My mom says if you want three cats, you shouldn’t need a letter proving you’re disabled, the request is evidence enough.”
    “You’re so lucky!” she says.
    “Yeah, good thing it’s not crippling or anything.”
     I throw a sugar packet at her but miss. It hits the woman in the booth behind her on the head. We grin because her hair is teased so high she hasn’t noticed. I throw a pink one and Amanda catches it and winks.
    The bell in the doorjamb of the café chimes and I glance up. The woman who just entered shakes snow off her umbrella and looks up at the chalk specials board.
    Georgia glances around after she gets her latte and our eyes meet. She turns a little pink but I manage to coolly look back at Amanda, even though when I dream about this moment I start raving like a maniac that I love her boyfriend, or I just pass out cold.
    The only other time I’ve made eye contact with her was when her boyfriend was having sex with me. I turned my head and watched her cradle my cat to her chest, and our expressions matched with equal fear and pain and pity. He asked her to join us, like the time we kissed for him. She ran out of the room and he called her name.
    Amanda notices Georgia on her way back from the bathroom, and she immediately slips into the booth on my side and hisses at me to watch out, she’s here. I tell Amanda I know and to shut up.
    “How was I supposed to know you were ok?” she says when Georgia’s out of earshot. “Considering what happened last time, when you cried in the park for two hours?”
    Paul said he wanted to keep in contact, as we had been friends before, but he stopped answering my calls.
    My new therapist said I couldn’t enter trauma therapy unless I ended all interaction with him (she was appointed after something to do with a bottle of whiskey and all the pills in my cabinet, but the details are still a little fuzzy). I couldn’t sleep without him anymore.
    The door to the café opens again and Paul comes in and takes off his hood, brushing off snow. Amanda grabs my hand. I squeeze it back and we stand up.
    “Congratulations,” says the woman with a sugar packet stuck in her hair. She touches my stomach. “I bet it’s going to be a boy, you’re so big!”
    Strike her down now, Lord. I mutter something indistinct and Amanda ushers me out, taking care to meet Paul’s “hey” to her with a look of disgust. She wants to prove that she can show the world Christianity is all about loving people. He’s her Everest. She has to pray a lot.
    It’s snowing hard but she lives across the street, so we trudge through our earlier tracks. I get a text and quickly de-mitten and Amanda groans.
    “He says he wants to see me,” I say, glowing.
    “Tell him to drop dead, Allie. He’s never going to leave her. He’s a piece of crap.”
    “He said she’ll let him see me for one hour tonight if I can get a ride...” I look uncertainly at the gray, icy streets and darkening sky.
    “Doesn’t he have a truck?” she asks.
    He does. I put my phone back in my pocket and put mittens back on shaking hands. Amanda throws an arm around my shoulders.
    She gives me a mug of cocoa and marshmallows for me to mull over while I decide. We turn on Netflix and comfortably listen to the storm. When the power flickers out she lights candles. She asks me what I’m going to let him do to me before I stop.
    “I’m sorry, I appreciate the offer from you both, but I can’t come tonight,” I text Paul.
    “Are you sure? I’m sorry...” he says.
    Amanda says she needs to go into the other room and pray upon reading his text, but I scratch under her cat’s chin and finish my marshmallows.
    I’m going to break down sometimes. But I’m not going to crawl through the snow at midnight to earn an hour with him ever again.












Garden Flowers

Millard C. Davis

A sound was hovering in a flower
Like drink lodged inside a cup,
And that I found when I went
Into the garden to look for more
Than just a buzzing caught down in.
Soon I walked much deeper in,
Brushing blossoms as I went
And stirring up those hidden down
Beyond my knowing up until then.
When I left the garden, I took along
Some dust of pollen I’d not seen
Until I was too far away to return
And ask any flowers of the source.
This way I’ve kept the fading dust
As maybe better than any anthers
Except in memory now that lingers.












Walking On

Millard C. Davis

We took the path that leaned away
Until it hid us from the crest above
And we were skating down the hill
Not on ice but on bent down grasses
That were worn from deer passing by.
I asked you if you knew the way
To the place where we were going,
And you replied, “Just wait and see.”
This way I let you just lead me on,
Knowing it was a place I’d want to go.
And so we’ve been there ever since,
Always on the path that never ends.












Teacup Skins

Carlos Frigo

    Clink. Clink. Clink.
    Refined ceramic crinkled and brushed in dozens. Cups were lifted by jittering hands up to cracked and flaccid lips, as if afraid to touch the tea’s heat. Pulseless bodies sipped the drinks almost in complete silence, their worn out souls made apparent with the sound of nothing but their antique kitchenware, as old as them. This went on for hours at a time, the corpses shambling in and out of the silver-laced room with no direction, as if by pure force of habit.
    What a miserable bunch. Despite their silk and pelts, they are empty inside. Unlike myself.
    I stayed there, regardless. There was another reason why I chose to remain in such an atmospherically stagnant place. The sparkle of high class attracted people worthy of my attention, and eventually a work of human art would surely display herself here. All I had to do was wait for the right time.
    The copper smoke outside the window panes scratched it’s back on the glass. It rose from the sewers, piercing and filthy, to stain the walls yellow and make the old-timers cough.
    But! Amongst that cloud of blond, a streak of obsidian glittered and shined.
    The tall brunette woman entered the building alone. Like a slap on the mouth, her presence woke me up from the droning squeals of the teacups. Oh, such fashion! Such striking elegance! Surely a maiden of this caliber will make my pistol fire with much precision! She is my target now.
    I picked up my walking stick and struck it firmly on the ground, lifting me up. My legs made their way, confident in their jagged stride. A straight line towards the promising smoothness of youth.
    Yet, as steps clapped and distance shortened, whispers conspired in my spine. How should I begin? How should I proceed?
    An unreal teaspoon clogged my throat as I arrived. The woman twisted, and looked at me with such a nothingness in her eyes, as if stepping on an ant with her platformed vision. I blinked and she left gagging, as if I were the stagnant air itself that made this place so stale.
    What heartbreak! What crushing realization! Could it be that I was nothing more than those barely living relics I stared down upon with such disdain? Surely my sanguine attitude alone would be a vivid dream in the minds of such flabby drivel. I mustn’t kid myself, that woman was nothing more than mindless youth, stringy and fleeting must her values be. Such a wench is undeserving of my dignified person!
    As days passed, a lump formed in my mind. I was back at the teacups, tinkling away, waiting for the jackpot once again. There were new lumpy and valleyed faces, different from the ones before. Yet the breeze tasted the same, still sticky and bitter. More females came, all of them fleeing into the beautiful outside, while I remained.
    I could not hold it in any longer. What did these cynical people want with my loneliness? Was it funny? Was I your dirty pet? Enough is certainly enough.
    What I needed was adventure. A way out of my suffocation under the cold blanket-like skins of the ancient. Something warm and out of the blue.
    Aha! The perfect plan!
    As the train floated through the pastures, the diamond ocean slid into view. What a sight! The mere thought of it enticed my crooked nose with salt and sour. Finally, the cerulean sea was opening her arms to me, the one woman I deserve!
    As my barefoot stubs scratched the itchy sand, hairs lifted and rose in utter bliss. The smashing wind was like a memory of my best years. I closed my eyes and took it all in.
    Screw those old coots back home with their brittle porcelain! Screw those wiseass youngsters with their loveless futures! This place, this time, this feeling, it was everything that mattered. Tension rose up in my heart of hearts, the tightness holding me like my dearest mother. My bones applauded, and I welcomed it all in.
    The body fell, right hand tightly gripping the chest. The expression, though, portrayed nothing but satisfaction.












My Name Is Nobody

John (“Jake”) Cosmos Aller

My name, it is Nobody
No one cares who I am
I am just a nameless clone
In the cold unfeeling bureaucracy

Just one of the army
Of civilians who flood into and out of the city
Every day

A non-entity,
A ghost
A govbot
A cyber
A spook
A faceless automan
A bureaucrat

Just a grey suited cog in the machinery
And no one cares
No one knows who I really am

And I am legend
Everywhere and nowhere

Just the way this modern world
All shred of humanity
Crushed beneath the cruel wheel of society

In the cold harsh world
There is no room anymore
For true human feelings

We are just robots, clones, machines
And so I go to work
Put on my mask

And no one hears my inner screams
And no one will ever care





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.












Strangeness in the Air

John (“Jake”) Cosmos Aller

There is a strangeness in the air
A sense of cosmic unease
Hangs silently in the purple crystalline sky

America woke up
And decided it was time
To quit following like lemmings
Over the Clift

As the pied piper chants
Stay the course, stay the course
We were like lemmings following him
Dying to save his wounded pride

Today there is that strange difference
In the air
As Americans woke up
And threw off their chains of fear





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 Field

KB Imle

This would be my gift to you:
fresh-mown grass to lie on
beneath windless trees
and enough sky to treat your eyes
to every shade of blue.
I would give you the sound of thunder
and the forecast of a rainy
afternoon. There--now time slows
and seems to drift
drowsy as a sated bee.
Soon we will fall asleep
but not yet.
There are books to be read
and shoes to be kicked off
and sleepy conversations to hold
on the shapes of clouds: this one
is a bird, or a dog standing on its head
and that one a ship
which will carry us, when we are ready
to the dreams of our choosing.
Then, when the clouds close in
let someone come walking
unhurried across the sweet grass
just before the rain
and cover us where we sleep.







Sunset Street, San Miguel photography by KB Imle










At What Price

Ann Christine Tabaka

He stood outside the door
asking for directions,
lost hope in hand.
Paying the toll with
a pocketful of dreams.
Aspirations evaporating
at the sound of his own voice.

A pervading ache,
a need he could not fill.
Giving blood to pay his dues.
No where left to go,
he steps off the curb.
His foot sinks into the soft mud.
He watches while it sucks him in,
even deeper as he struggles to get free.
He is gone





Ann Christine Tabaka’s note

    Ann Christine Tabaka lives in Delaware. She is a published poet and artist. She loves gardening and cooking. Chris lives with her husband and two cats. Her most recent credits are The Paragon Journal, The Literary Hatchet, Metaworker, Raven Cage Ezine, RavensPerch, Anapest Journal, Mused, Indiana Voice Journal, Halcyon Days Magazine, and The Society of Classical Poets.
    *(a complete list of publications is available upon request)












10-52

Lawrence Basher

    “You have one new voice message received five minute ago. Press one to play the message. Press-“ I press one, the phone beeps.
    “Hey, dad. I’m just calling to wish you a merry Christmas. I know this year’s been hard for you after losing mom. It’s hasn’t been easy for me either. Dad, I just want you to know that I love you and I hope to see you again soon,” Julie says in the voicemail, a door opens in the background. “I gotta go now. I love you, Dad. Bye.”
    “End of voicemail. Press one-“ I press three, the phone beeps, “Saved,” I hang up the phone, a smile forms across my face. Snow falls from the night sky as I drive down the New York City streets. Happy Holiday signs and Christmas lights aluminate the sidewalks in a red and green glow.
    “All units be advised, we have a possible 10-52A at The Belnord Hotel,” the radio dispatcher says. I grab the mic from the cb radio.
    “Copy dispatch. This is Detective Parker, Badge number twenty-two eleven. Can you give me an address on that,” I ask.
    “Copy twenty-two eleven. It’s 209 West 87th Street.”
    “Copy. On my way.”
    “Copy twenty-two eleven. Stay safe out there.”
    “Will do. Twenty-two eleven out.”
    The red and blue lights of the squad car overtake the glow of the Christmas lights. The sound of the sirens and the roar of the engine break the silence of night as I race down the street.
    Entering the lobby, I feel the cold chill of the outside air leave my body. The warm lighting shimmers off the wood panels of the wall.
    “Good evening, sir. Welcome to the Belnord Hotel. How may I help you,” The young front desk attendant says as I walk into the hotel.
    “Hi. I’m Detective Harrison Parker. I’m here because someone reported a possible domestic dispute in one of your rooms,” I say.
    “Yes, a few of the guests filed noise complaints. I tried calling the room, but there was no answer,” the attendant says, her voice shaking.
    “Room number?”
    “Five-o-two.”
    “That’s the fifth floor,” I ask as I point up.
    “Yes, sir. On your right.”
    “Thank you,” I say walking towards the elevator.
    The elevator stops on the fifth floor and the doors open. I walk out and see room five-o-two. I knock on the door, nobody answers.
    “New York police. Open up,” I say, knocking again.
    Still nothing. Placing my ear to the door, I can hear crying.
    “Open the door or I’ll have to enter by force.”
    The door opens with the force of my kick and I draw the Glock 19 from my hip holster. I enter the room.
    “Hello,” I say.
    A man sits on the floor, his back against the wall. I kneel down in front of him.
    “Sir, are you okay,” I ask.
    “Yes, but I think my girlfriend’s hurt,” he says, pointing at the woman on the bed.
    Standing up, I walk over to the bed. A dead woman lays face down on the bed before me. Blood flows from the open wounds on her wrists, pooling on the bed. The white sheets now stained red. I place my fingers on her neck. Nothing.
    “This is Detective Parker, Badge number twenty-two eleven. Requesting an ambulance at The Belnord Hotel. Room five-o-two,” I say into my radio.
    “Copy twenty-two eleven. They’re on their way,”
    Holstering my gun, I pull back her blood soaked blonde hair to reveal her face. Her familiar brown eyes stare back at me. Julie.
    I turn to face the man. He’s on his feet charging at me. He tackles me to the ground, landing on top of me. He throws a punch. I throw my arm up blocking it. I counter with a punch of my own, it connects with his face knocking him off balance. Pushing off the ground with my foot, I roll him over on his back. Kneeling on top of him, I throw punch after punch. They all connect with his face until my hand is covered in his blood. Standing up, he tries to stand too.
    “Stay down. I might actually hurt you if you get up again.”
    “Okay,” the man says, blood running down his face.
    Deputy Jason Masters enters the room with two other officers. He looks at me and then looks at the man sitting bloody on the floor.
    “On your stomach, hands behind your back,” Jason says.
    The man complies. Jason holsters his gun and grabs the handcuffs from his belt. He cuffs the man.
    A few hours later I’m sitting at my desk at the precinct filing the report.
    “They found bags of cocaine hidden in the bathroom,” Jason says, walking over to my desk.
    I stay silent.
    “Everybody’s saying it was suicide and homicide is just wasting their time,” Jason says.
    “Did they get his name,” I ask.
    “Jordan Brown.”
    “I want to talk to him,” I say.
    “I’ll go with you.”
    Entering the interrogation room, the man looks up at me. His face swollen from our fight.
    “Hello, Jordan. How are you,” I ask, sitting down.
    “Fine.”
    “I’m well too, thanks for asking.”
    “I didn’t. “
    “My hand kinda hurts though. You think I should get it checked out,” I ask, holding my hand up. Jordan stays silent, “No? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.”
    “What do you want,” Jordan asks.
    “Why did you kill her, Jordan,” I ask.
    “She killed herself,” Jordan says, tears rolling down his cheeks.
    “Did she strangle herself,” I ask.
    “What? No, she cut her wrists. You saw her.”
    “Well, then can you tell me why her neck is all bruised in a pattern that suggests strangulation,” I ask.
    He’s silent.
    “Why don’t you tell me what really happened, Jordan.”
    “I’d left the room to get some ice. When I came back she was getting off the phone. I was scared that she’d called the police. She’d threatened to do it before if I didn’t stop selling the drugs.
    “The cocaine in the bathroom?”
    “Yes, I got so angry, I wasn’t thinking straight. I started screaming at her and she was screaming at me. That just made me angrier. I just wanted her to stop screaming.”
    “So, you strangled her to death and then cut her wrists to make it look like suicide,” I ask.
    “Yes.”
    “Are you confessing to the murder of Julie Parker,” I ask.
    “Yes. Yes, I am,” Jordan says, tears streaming down his face.
    “Book him, Jason,” I say, walking out of the room.
    “Yes sir.”
    The wind blows on another cold winter night. But this is the coldest one I’ve felt in a long while.
    “Hey, dad. I’m just calling to wish you a merry Christmas. I know this year’s been hard for you after losing mom. It’s hasn’t been easy for me either. Dad, I just want you to know that I love you and I hope to see you again soon. I gotta go now. I love you, Dad. Bye.”
    “End of voicemail. Press-” I end the call.
    “Merry Christmas, baby girl. I love you and I’ll see you again one day, I promise.”












Strange Surroundings, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

Strange Surroundings, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz
















The Best Laid Plans....

Kevin M. Grimm

    James has heard of this kind of thing happening to other people. He doubts it will ever happen to him. It’s just the idle talk and urban legend of people with too much time on their hands. Now it is happening to him.
    He knows he has taken fistfuls of sleeping pills, washing them down with hungry gulps of warm vodka. That much he remembers. He does not remember calling the police or paramedics. It’s possible. It’s possible that he chickened out at the last second.
    He surveys the scene with cold, clinical detachment. Piles of laundry are balled-up in one corner, the old carpet is itself carpeted with a brand new layer of advertisements from local grocery stores and fast food joints, and in the center of the room stand a ring of young firemen. They remind him of a ring of newly sprouted redwood saps circling the dead tree that once was their father. He counts six bodies, seven if you count him in the center. Someone slowly turns up the volume and the movie now has a soundtrack. The first sound that he is aware of annoyingly repeats itself, “If you would like to make a call, please hang up and dial again.”
    The phone sits in the center of the coffee table, just a few feet from the firemen. He wonders why none of the young men reach over and put the annoying operator out of its misery. They’re probably just too damn busy trying to save the life of the man in the middle of the ring. This, he thinks, does not bode well for that man.
    The man in the center of the room....James tries to reach over and grab the phone. His hands slip through the air as he becomes painfully aware that he is dead, or at the very least on the verge of dying, and having some kinda freaky out of body experience. Can he quickly pull his lost soul back into his lifeless body like they do in the movies? Is it even worth a try? Why bother, huh? He still can’t think with all that yammering, “If you would like to make a call, please hang up and dial again.”
    James slowly becomes aware of yet another unpleasant sensation. It started as a low rhythmic thump, thump centered in his chest. Was it his chest, or was it the chest of the man in the center of the room? He wasn’t quite sure of anything at the moment. He felt it nonetheless, thump, thump—thump, thump.
    It was hard to think of anything in particular with the low, steady, rhythmic pounding in his chest and constant drone of the operator, “If you would like to make a call, please had up and dial again.”
    He tried desperately to remember the last person he had dialed. Could he have called his sister, his bother, or his ex-girlfriend? They were all feed-up with his late night alcoholic ramblings. Somehow it was imperative to know the last person he had called as the phone droned on, “If you would like to make a call....” Suddenly his heart stopped pounding as he realized there really was nothing left to say. From the pit of his stomach he wished he had something, anything, left to say, but what?
    One last sensation failed to desert him the way the cat did when she jumped ship. It was the intense sense of smell. The man in the center of the room had shit himself. He had shit himself. He felt sad for the man. He felt sad for himself. Looking around at the trash, the half-eaten burgers, and the piles of stale cigarettes butts that overflowed their ashytrays—his hopes all but vanished. Then his eye lighted on some small object he had yet to see. In the far corner of the room, in the ashtray next to his nightstand burnt the last ember of the very last cigarette he had smoked just a moment before. He had but one question, how long could his life burn on before it was extinguished? Thirty seconds, one minute....He tried to pay attention but the salt got into his eyes.

    Up until two months ago, James had worked at the Customer Care Center for a large HMO. Angry patients who had been denied coverage for this operation, or that procedure, called in their complaints. He took dictation. He then forwarded the complaints to the proper departments. They called every day, and every day he had the same answer: “I’m sorry, but all I can do is take your complaint. I’m not authorized to make decisions.” Sometimes, the customer stopped calling and he wondered if they had died.
    One Friday, after a particular grueling work-week, James stopped off at the liquor store and bought two 24oz. cans of Budweiser. As soon as he had drained the last drops from the cans of beer he had two thoughts. One thought was that he was now incredibly relaxed. Actually, it was more of an observation that a thought. He noticed that all the muscles in his neck and back were relaxed. He noticed the calm in his voice when his ex-girlfriend called asking to raise the child support. Most of all, he noticed that the clamor of angry voices that usually rattled around his brain after spending the entire work-week taking complaints vanished. The second thought was a simpler one: He needed more beer.
    James decided to take a vacation. He informed the Director of Human Resources on Monday that he was entitled to two weeks off. She informed him that he was drunk and smelled bad. Rather than try to argue the point, he decided to quit his job. That was two months ago. Little did he know his life would soon be hanging by a thread.
    Two months ago his supervisors had praised him on the calm and collected way his voice sounded over the phone. He thought he sounded more like a fucking robot or a tape-recorded message. That was two months ago.
    Today as we watch James’ life smolder out in the small corner of some dingy old ashtray, in a dingy one bedroom apartment, in a dingy part of townfyou may wonder was that faint flame extinguished, or did the paramedics raise the dead? A better question to ask is: Aren’t we all just hanging on by the thinnest of threads?












Forgotten, photography by Fabrice Poussin

Forgotten, photography by Fabrice Poussin

About Fabrice Poussin

    Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry and the advisor for The Chimes, the Shorter University award winning poetry and arts publication, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review and more than 250 other publications.












Flavor of the Week

Andrea Chancey

    Tom was so mad that he had caught his girlfriend, Stacy cheating on him that he left without putting more gas in his car. He had been listening to Jonny Cash’s Ring of Fire when the gas light had come on and his car had putted to the side of the dusty road. He had been trying to catch a ride for almost an hour when a black Toyoda truck had picked him up. Now he was sitting in the passager seat shaking the dust off of himself when he looked up and realized he was in the car with the guy Stacy was cheating on him with. “Are you serious,” Tom said as he punched the dashboard. He started to reach for the handle when the driver said, “hey man let me at least drive you to the gas station. It’s the least I can do after what you walked in on.” Running his fingers through his hair Tom nodded and said, “ok.” It was a mile down the road before the driver said, “my name is Adam by the way, Stacy didn’t tell me she had a boyfriend I’m sorry bro.” Tom spit out the window saying, “I should have known. Did she tell you we had broken up?” Adam laughed saying “yeah how did you know?” Smiling, “because that is what she said to me.” They both laughed and compared notes as to what Stacy had told each of them. By the time they had reached the gas station they had come to the concussion Stacy told the story to get a “new flavor of the week.” They had also decided that they would play their own little game on Stacy. Instead of dropping Tom off to get a tow they would get gas and bring it back to his car followed by getting the pizza Stacy was waiting on and go back to the dorms. When they got back to the dorms Stacy was waiting outside of Adam. “What took so long big man,” she said reaching for his arm. “I had to pick up a friend,” Adam said turning towards Tom. Surprised Stacy looked at Tom nervously and said, “are you done whining now.” Smirking Tom said, “heck yeah and about to go eat some pizza and play a video game with a new friend.” Adam and Tom high five and walked into the dorm as Stacy stood there in shock. “But what about me” she cried. They both yelled “go find a new flavor of the week.”












The Treatment

Harvey Havel

    He found a pack of cigarettes in his son’s jacket pocket just before dinner time. He had no idea his son started smoking. He was only fourteen, which was about the age he himself started smoking. First it was chewing tobacco, but as chew wreaked havoc on his gum line and was severely looked down upon by the girls in his middle school way back when, he changed over to smoking instead. It was either his gums or his lungs that had to go, and so he chose the more fashionable approach of smoking instead of dipping.
    Smoking was a habit that stayed with him through college and then onto a job as a stock broker on Wall Street after graduation. He never expected his son to smoke, as he and his wife made sure their only child grew up with very strict values regarding his own health.
    He and his wife made sure that he liked vegetables at an early age, instead of bubble gum and chocolate bars. They taught him how important it was to brush his teeth twice a day so that he wouldn’t lose his teeth so readily later in life. They tried to teach him right from wrong, sure, but most of what they taught him involved taking care of himself, always to wash his hands after going to the bathroom, to dress properly for the harsh New England winters so that he could avoid the common cold and the more irritating strains of influenza. They made sure he woke up early and also went to bed early. If he couldn’t finish his homework within a certain time frame before bed, he would have to resume it at another time that didn’t interfere with a healthy sleep cycle. Ultimately, they believed that good health and feeling good were important ingredients of a happy and healthy life. They didn’t necessarily want him to be a doctor or a nurse, but they did want him to avoid the general unhealthiness that he and his wife had already been through while they were free-wheeling and free-thinking young adults. They figured a disciplined life with regard to keeping good health habits was the only way their son would find balance, moderation, and happiness. It had been working, until his father found the nearly empty pack of smokes in his jacket pocket.
    He didn’t want to tell his wife about it. She would only worry herself to death and would also blame him for smoking way too much in the first place. Her great addiction was drinking. She never took to smoking, which was definitely a good thing, but she did drink heavily at parties and when her husband returned from New York late on occasion. One time, she got so drunk that she made a fool out of herself at an elegant dinner party. She jumped up onto their friend’s new dining table and started dancing. It was a major embarrassment to him and also several of her stoic New England friends.
    After the night ended, and after she had passed out in bed, she woke up the next morning with a vow never to drink that much again. She may have liked drinking, but she couldn’t hold it well, especially when she drank to excess. From that moment on, she made sure to limit herself to having a couple of drinks at most at social gatherings and instead drink strong coffee the rest of the time. Surely drinking mass amounts of coffee wasn’t so healthy either, but it was better than losing control while under the influence.
    They knew all of the mistakes they had made, and together they vowed never to let their only son grow up the way they did. When their child came into their world, they had stopped all of their terrible health habits immediately. It was the father’s smoking, however, that made it through the barriers they set for themselves and their child. They adored their son after all. They didn’t want him to repeat the same mistakes they made, just like most conscientious parents did.
    When he found the smokes, he waited until after dinner to confront him. They had meatloaf that night, and after his wife cleared the plates and made her way to the kitchen to wash them, his father led him to his room and shut the door. He sat his son down on his twin bed.
    “Everything going alright in school, son?” asked the father.
    “Sure, Dad,” said his son.
    “Are you getting all your homework in? Has school been treating you tougher than before?”
    “I get good grades. I like my courses. Math especially. School is not that bad. I like school.”
    “That’s good to hear. It’s important that you get into a good secondary school, like your teachers want you to. Have you been making new friends at school?”
    “A few.”
    “What kind of friends are these? Good friends?”
    “Yeah.”
    “Is there anything you’d like to tell me or discuss with me about school?”
    “No, Dad. Everything in school is fine. I’m doing well, and next year, I’ll be joining the football team.”
    “That’s good to hear, but are you telling me the whole story?”
    “What do you mean?”
    “Are there any problems at school? You must be learning new things. You must be anxious to go to secondary school soon, right?”
    “Yes.”
    “And nothing is going wrong at school?”
    “No, Dad.”
    “Then why did I find these cigarettes in your jacket pocket?”
    He held up the pack of smokes. His son was caught.
    “Who gave you these?”
    “A friend of mine. I didn’t want you or Mom to know about it.”
    “Y’know, I have been smoking for many years, and we don’t want you to fall into the same bad habit. You understand that, right?”
    “Yes, Dad. I’m sorry. I’m just trying them.”
    “But you’ve already smoked most of the pack. That’s a little more than just trying them.”
    “I guess I like it a little.”
    “Son, you know that I smoke two packs a day, and your mother at one time had a drinking problem, right?”
    “Yes, Dad.”
    “As a result of my smoking, I will die young. As a result of your mother’s past drinking problem, she has lost some of her memory. You realize how serious this is? We wanted you to avoid it. What you did is not a crime, son. It is not wrong. It is just that you are much too young to smoke. This stuff will kill you if you continue, just like it’s killing me.”
    “Why don’t you stop then?”
    “It’s too late for me, son. I can’t stop smoking. I can’t give it up, ever since I first started. I don’t want you to go down that same path. We have always taught you to have mental, physical, and spiritual health. It hurts me to see you smoke. You must stop smoking. Are you able to do that?”
    “Yeah, Dad. But you smoke all the time. Why can’t I do the same thing?”
    “Because, to tell you the truth, and to be very direct and honest with you, because I’ve smoked so much for so long, I am already dying, albeit slowly. I may not be able to see you graduate from college. I may not be able to see you get married and have our grandchildren. I regret picking up smoking, and I want you to stop smoking right away. Can you do that for me, please?”
    “You mean you can’t stop smoking?”
    “It’s already too late for me, son. But it’s not too late for you. You must give it up, or else you’ll die young as well.”
    “Okay, Dad.”
    “So you’ll stop?”
    “Yeah, Dad, I’ll stop. But I hope you stop too.”
    “It’s not likely. I’m too far gone.”
    “It’s never too late, Dad.”
    “I appreciate the sentiment, son. I really do. Your mother and I love you dearly. We don’t want to see you suffer at the hands of smoking these stupid cigarettes, okay?”
    “Yes, Dad. I’ll try to stop.”
    “Don’t just try. You must do. If you don’t do it for yourself and your own health, at least do it for me and your mother.”
    “Yes, Dad.”
    The father returned the pack to him just to see if he understood. Apparently, his son did. He crumpled the pack of cigarettes right away and threw it in the trash bin next to his school desk.
    “You are making a great choice, son.”
    “Thanks, Dad, but I hope you can stop with me.”
    “That may not be possible, but I’ll think about it, okay?”
    “Sure, Dad.”
    He hugged his son tightly and then returned to the kitchen to help his wife clean up. His son started on his homework. He hoped everything would return to normal after the jolt of discovering that his son started smoking. And just as quickly as it began, it was now in the past. It was a done deal, and on the inside he privately rejoiced that his son would stop. He was also filled with pride that he did the right thing as he usually did when dealing with both his wife and his son.
    Now the father wasn’t much of a spiritual man. He went to an Episcopalian church on Sundays with his family, but he did it mainly for them and not for himself. He actually found religion to be at fault for most of the world’s problems. He was, after all, a numbers man. He liked the sciences and the rigors of the scientific method instead of these creationist myths that the churches, mosques, and synagogues shoved down people’s throats. He did, however, believe in God, but a general, more secular God. He prayed only when he needed to pray, which was once in a while if he or his family were in trouble. And after helping his wife clean up, and after his wife sat down to watch her favorite game show on the television, he quietly adjourned upstairs to his bedroom and shut the door tightly.
    At the foot of their marital bed, he kneeled and prayed for his son to stop smoking and for his wife to watch her drinking as she had done for many years now. His method was simple. Just kneel at the foot of his bed and speak to God on a personal level. He spoke in English and appealed directly to the All Mighty. He prayed for his son passionately. He wanted God’s help in stopping his son from committing the terrible mistake of smoking. He believed that this method of prayer was both quick and effective. It did much better than any organized religion did. He prayed hard, and then got up and joined his wife down in the living room to watch their usual evening game show.
    Now that he had prayed for both of them, he felt more confident than ever that his son would quit smoking. He didn’t care to ask God for himself to quit. He cared little for himself and his own smoking. Instead, he focused only on his wife and child. He then donned his pajamas and read in bed until his wife returned and jumped into bed with him.
    After his wife fell asleep, however, he tiptoed down to the living room and had a couple of cigarettes in the darkness. The cigarettes, he often argued, relived his wandering mind. It relieved him of stress. He could finally relax now that he smoked and that the day had ended well. Everything had been sewn up. He smoked for a little while longer and then finally went back upstairs to bed. He awoke at six the next day and immediately went to down to the living room to smoke again. He needed that morning cigarette to start the day off on the right mental footing.
    After showering and dressing in a custom made suit, he drove his Audi to the Park & Ride for the morning train. He smoked in his car, and even though there was no smoking allowed at the station or its vicinity, he smoked a couple off to the side of the train’s platform.
    He hated the looks that people gave him when he smoked. He hated how some of these insensitive pricks coughed in front of him on purpose, their fakery sending a clear message that his smoking would kill people, even if it were second-hand smoke, which no one in the world could prove. He thought these idiots were fascists to the core and were too tightly wound and had no life other than to conform to anything that the government wanted them to. He let these people cough all they could, because it only made him more resolute to billow his fine tobacco smoke from his lungs into their precious granola nut-bar faces. Sometimes, he became so pissed off at these people that he blew his smoke in their way just to counteract their disapproval. It was a lot like road rage. Coughing in front of him while he smoked only made him want to take his fist and clock these guys right in the jaw as they passed by him and moved into the easier, more conforming center of the platform. But he took comfort in the fact that he could smoke wherever and whenever he wanted, just so long as his wife and son didn’t touch it. Fuck everyone else. But his defiance soon turned to mush when he thought of his important prayer for his son the night before. If he had the choice, he would have stopped smoking, if only for his family. But life wasn’t perfect. A man had his vices, or else he really couldn’t be much of a man.
    He worked at his financial services firm for many years, and he slowly worked up the chain of command. He had a great boss who was more like a mentor to him. He went into his office to say that he had arrived from yet another agonizing commute. His boss was there, but his boss began coughing quite loudly as soon as he entered the room. His boss never really cared that his protege smoked, but for some strange reason, his boss had a coughing fit just after saying good morning to him.
    “I’ve been coughing like this since early this morning,” he said. “There’s something that’s tickling my throat. I can’t stop coughing.”
    “Maybe you’re coming down with something. Want me to run and get you some cough drops?”
    “Trust me. I’ve already tried that. And these coughs just go on and on. The coughs are unsatisfying. There’s no end to them.”
    His boss’ young administrative assistant then entered the large, ornate office and brought them some breakfast tea. They usually had tea together before the market opened. Oddly enough, though, even the young assistant had the same type of cough - a tickling at the throat and a dearth of phlegm. The coughs were not purposeful. These were loud, hacking coughs that wouldn’t stop. The only one in the office who wasn’t coughing was he.
    “There must be something going around,” said his boss. “Even my lovely assistant has the same cough.”
    “What do you think it is?” he asked.
    “Who knows. Funny how you’re one of the only ones in this whole damn building who smokes, and you’re not coughing.”
    “No. But there must be something I can do.”
    “Like what?” asked his boss.
    “Let me get some cough medicine. Your coughs sound severe. Maybe something’s going around. Some kind of bug.”
    “Well, whatever it is, even the security guards downstairs have it. Maybe someone dropped a chemical weapon on this place.”
    His boss resumed coughing. He, however, insisted that he get some strong cough syrup from the pharmacy down the block.
    “It may help,” he said.
    “Okay,” said his boss. “Let’s try it then. My throat won’t wet. These coughs are so damn dry. It’s like I’ve been smoking for years, when I never touched a cigarette in my life. Not even cigars or a pipe. And still these damned coughs are coming a mile a minute.”
    “I’ll be right back,” he said. “Let me see if I can find something strong enough.”
    “You bet,” said his boss.
    He noticed that both security guards coughed in the same way when he reached the ground floor. He didn’t care very much when he heard them cough. He figured that there must be some bug going around - something harmless - even with the ground floor security guards who also had bad coughs.
    He did have a spare moment away from his boss and his office, and so he parked himself to the side of the sidewalk and lit up. It relaxed him. It slowed him down. He was able to think more clearly when he inhaled the first few drags of his cigarette. Yet something went dreadfully wrong. The few people who walked by him also coughed. At first, he assumed that they were coughing to be the same assholes they usually were - to condemn smoking and all of its deadly consequences. But these coughs were different. The coughs sounded exactly like the coughs his boss and his assistant made - a dry, hacking cough that didn’t satisfy or have any purpose. These were coughs that rambled on due to similar tickles at their throats.
    After stamping out his own cigarette, he walked to the nearby pharmacy and found that most of the customers there were also coughing in much the same way. Even the pharmacist coughed loudly and often enough to get him nervous and suspicious. He put two and two together, though, and discovered to his horror that the prayers he muttered the night before targeted his own smoking and not anyone else’s smoking. Because he smoked, the people around him, strangers that they were, experienced the same round of hacking coughs. Then he knew right away that God had targeted him alone. In order to arrest their coughing, he would have to stop smoking himself, which was something he was always reluctant to do. And then he remembered his son all of a sudden.
    He threw his cigarette to the ground and ran to the train station several blocks away. He returned to the suburbs in a mad rush, all of the passengers on the train also coughing terribly. He dripped with sweat and worry when he hopped into his Audi at the Park & Ride and raced home. He found his son in his room, coughing up a storm all morning long.
    “Dad, what’s happening to me?” he asked searchingly between coughs.
    “Son, I don’t know. Something has gone terribly wrong.”
    His son coughed so loudly and in such rapid succession that it led to an even greater horror. His son suddenly began choking on his coughs, and after a few rounds of dry heaving, he spat blood out of his mouth. It also flowed from his nostrils.
    “Dad,” asked his son, “what’s happening?”
    He picked his son up from his bed and carried him downstairs to the car. His son continued to cough up blood on the way to the Emergency Room. When they arrived, he noticed that the doctors and the nurses all coughed as well. In fact, everyone in the hospital had the same hacking cough.
    “Someone help me! Please!” yelled the father who carried his son to the nurses station. His son, cradled against his father’s square but diseased body, continued to cough up blood.
    “Help me, Goddammit! Please help my son!”
    By the time the coughing nurses took his son to the operating room, he had already fallen to his knees.
    “Please, dear Lord, please hear me,” said the father. “I’ll stop smoking, okay? I’ll stop it right away. Please save my son!”
    He took out his pack of smokes from the pocket of his jacket. He crushed the nearly full pack in his hand and threw them to the ground.
    “Please, dear God, spare my son! I’ve stopped! I’ve stopped smoking! You were right, and I was all wrong! I’ll stop, okay? But please save my son, dear Lord in heaven.”
    One of the doctors came to him as he sat in the waiting room of the Emergency unit. The doctor coughed as well - the same cough that was now so common and even melodious to his ears every now and then.
    “I’m sorry, but we couldn’t save him,” said the doctor upon his return. “Both of his lungs collapsed, and he lost a lot of blood before we could revive him. I’m so very sorry. Apparently, there’s something going around. But oddly enough, you’re the only one here who is not coughing. Consider yourself lucky, but again, I am very sorry about your son. He passed away on the operating table wanting another cigarette.”












Charlie Rose

Feston Altus

    I woke up with her voice in my head, but it was just the rain. I was on our bench. Wet. Yesterday’s newspaper no longer legible. A man with a dog came over and gave me a few dollars. Realizing what he thought I was, I almost yelled at him. But instead I said, “Thank you sir. God bless you.” I watched him and his wet dog jog away. I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I’m an atheist. This would seem like the right time to yell at some guy in the park. It seemed like it would be the right time to be embarrassed by being confused for a bum, for a man in need, and to actually wake up. To try to make things normal again. To act like I still cared. But it wasn’t. I just accepted it. That I was now a beggar. I did sleep through the night on a park bench. I saw a fellow wanderer shaking an empty coffee cup. I was deeply unsettled. I walked over to him, shook his hand, gave him the money, “This belongs to you.” I turned around began my trek.
    The sun had risen when I got home. I shoved my key into the old lock, walked in, and took off my jacket. I looked out the window: still raining. Not today. I haven’t sold that much Ice cream this week, and that won’t change if it rains all day. I bent down to untie my shoe. A costly mistake. I fell. Not too painful. More of a numbness. I laid there on the floor for a while. Letting the wood taste the rain. I tried to get up without any success. I laughed. I was staring at a forgotten poster I had taped to the ceiling years ago. Charlie’s Ice Cream. Those were the years when I thought I could have a “successful business”. I had this idea that the ceiling was so empty, that no one ever put anything on it. I thought it was genius. Evidently not.
    I got on my butt with my back against the wall. I untied my shoes, took them off, and put them on the floor next to me. I left my socks on for a while longer. I liked the squishy feeling as I wiggled my toes. Eventually, I removed my socks. I stared at my feet: stained blue from the dye and lint. I took my time standing up. I removed my belt. My beaten up khakis dropped to the floor. I like them two sizes large. They are more comfortable that way. I put my hand on the wall as I removed my right foot and then my left. I unbuttoned my shirt. My laziness yesterday was actually paying off: I didn’t have an undershirt to remove. I walked over to my reading corner and let myself fall into my beat up leather chair. I got up after a few minutes and walked to the bathroom. I stared at my reflection in the mirror for a while. It wasn’t that I hadn’t shaved in so long. It was that I didn’t remember when I had shaved last, and I didn’t care. I turned the shower on and sat down in the tub, my underwear still on. The cold water ran down my back accumulating around my butt and legs. I put the plug in the drain and let the tub fill up to my belly button. I turned the water off and extended fully. Letting my ears, then my whole head go under. I could hear the pipes making pipe noises. I cracked just one knuckle. Painful, but worth it. An interesting underwater sound.
    I unplugged the drain, listened to the horrible sound of the water being sucked away from my body. The drain was yelling at me; lecturing me about life. “You’re a drain!” I yelled back. I got out quickly. I didn’t dry off. I stumbled over to my bed shivering, and got under the cover. Not the sheets, just the comforter.
    I woke up in my damp underwear. It was around 8 o’clock at night. Still raining. I got up and changed. I took some ice cream out of the fridge. A spongebob popsicle. I removed the gum ball eyes and dropped them into the trash. I sat in my chair and tried to read that day’s newspaper, but I couldn’t concentrate. When a yellow chunk of the no longer recognizable spongebob fell out of my mouth and onto the paper, I gave up. I threw the paper on the ground, finished the popsicle and got out of the chair. I went over to my bed, pulled out my favorite book, and began reading. Catcher in the Rye. Whenever I am having trouble concentrating or doing work, I pull it out and it calms my mind. Just as I finished the first page the lights began to flicker and then the room went dark. I just sat there.
    I’ve lived in this building for quite some time, and I am used to these random blackouts so I keep a flashlight next to my bed. It’s one of those old big heavy black police flashlights. I should have grabbed it. I didn’t. I took off underwear, stood up, walked to the bathroom and took a piss in the dark. After ten minutes I decided I was done. I walked over to my bed and pulled the comforter off. I wrapped myself in it like a cocoon and hobbled over to the only source of light in the house. It was raining much harder now. It was coming at an angle where it was hitting my window directly. If there wasn’t a window it would be coming straight into the house. I went over to my bed and grabbed the flashlight. I turned back to the window and threw the flashlight. I missed. It broke through the dry wall and fell to the ground with a loud thud. It rolled straight to me. I bent down and picked it up again, but I didn’t fall. My comforter fell to the floor. I went right up to the window and smashed it like the flashlight was a hammer. It started cracking. The window was thick. And then it expanded into a spider web. I could see water just slightly seeping through the window. I stopped. Backed up a few steps picked up my blanket and tied it around my neck like a cape. I sat down staring at the window like it was a movie. I watched the rain batter the window until the window couldn’t take it anymore. It exploded. Glass flew onto the floor shattering. Rain shot through the window with a gust of wind. I can’t take it anymore. I walked over and picked up one of the biggest shards. I turned to the lamp. It was challenging me. I wielded my glass sword and struck a fatal blow. The lamp fell to the ground. I was victorious, but not without sacrifice. I was injured. It turned on in the same way the lights went out. I stood up and walked over to the door. I put my sneakers on. I thought I should check on Rachel and Jeff. I should have gone to see them earlier today. Jeff and I had developed a special bond over the last few years. I never had children. Something I always rued. He comes to my ice cream truck every single day it is open. I often go over to their apartment and babysit Jeff because Rachel is a busy woman and can’t handle it all herself. She isn’t a single mother, but the husband is never around. I’d been trying to go over there more often because they cheer me up, but sometimes I get stuck. I know that dealing with it will make me feel better, but sometimes I just want to feel it. Because everything else feels numb. Rachel has gotten me therapy appointments. At first I was against them, but I think they actually did help. I liked the guy. He was nice. Kind of funny. Relatable. Not intimidating, but the sessions helped in the sense that I realized my problems, not how to solve them, because they’re unsolvable, which made me feel shittier. And I liked that. Sometimes I just want to feel it. Because everything else feels numb. Rachel and Jeff are great, but since Rose passed, they do more to make me remember her than to forget. We used to babysit Jeff together. We always thought they were what we imagined having a daughter and a grandson would be like. They remind me of her, but being with people is always better than being alone. Look how productive I was in one whole day alone.
    I opened my door and walked several feet to theirs. I knocked. I heard footsteps approaching. Rachel whipped open the door. She seemed surprised yet relieved. “Charlie?” she said shining her flashlight in my eyes seemingly unaware of her action. I didn’t say anything about it. I walked into the apartment trying to avoid the light. I put on a face, “Evening Rachel, you all okay?” I looked around for Jeff, but I couldn’t see him. Maybe he’s not in the house for some reason and I can go back and sleep some more. “Yeah, we’re okay. Just a little surprised, that’s all. Every other building seems fine,” said Rachel. “That’s good.” I said. I almost turned around and left right then, but I heard Jeff coming. He yelled my name as he ran toward me. I still couldn’t see him until he charged full force into my leg. I almost fell over, but he kept me stuck to the ground. Like a paperweight. “How ya doin, Jeff?” I asked patting him on the head. “Hope you’re not afraid of the dark!” I said antagonistically, remembering my fears at the same age. “Me? I’m already seven years old,” he responded. As if I was crazy for even bringing it up. “Charlie, only little boys are afraid of the dark,” He let go of my leg took a step back and folded his arms. He looked as though he was sizing me up. I have always regretted not being taller. I looked back at him. You are a little boy. Rachel was amused by our interaction. “Thanks for coming over to check on us Charlie,” she said. “Any time Rachel, what else are neighbors for?” I replied rhetorically. One of those phrases that replaces real words with empty syllables. Jeff had run off.
     Surely Mike wasn’t home, but I asked anyway. Rachel’s face became tired. She told me in an exhausted tone that he was gone on another trip. He is never there. Always working or with “the guys”. Granted he provides for his family. However, Jeff’s mind has been sucked into all these gadgets with nobody really paying attention to him. I have been subtly trying to get her to divorce him for a a couple years. “It’s a shame he’s not here with you guys” I said, trying to drop another hint. It made her sad. I wanted to do something to lighten the mood so I said, “Hey Jeff, how about a game of flashlight tag?” Jeff was excited but clearly didn’t know what the game entailed. I explained it to him and he ran off to begin the game. I asked Rachel if she wanted to play with us. She mulled it over, “Yeah, um, why not?” she said. She ran off to hide. I wasn’t going to be running. So I took of my sneakers in order to be more quiet, and slowly walked down the hallway in the direction they had run off to. I wasn’t in great shape, but surprisingly, my ears were. I had impeccable hearing. That’s why I loved playing this game indoors. It gave me a significant advantage. We played for way too long, but thankfully I got to hide for a decent amount of the time and be alone. After a while I used Jeff’s love of my ice cream as an excuse to end the game. I went back to my apartment and took some out of the freezer. I came back and we sat down in the middle of the living room eating ice cream in the dark. A good end to an uneventful day.












Club Lost and Found

DC Diamondopolous

    Damian heard sirens. With his hair still damp he tossed the towel on the counter and hurried from the bathroom to the balcony. The shrieking sound always made him edgy, yet he couldn’t look away. From the tenth floor of his Bunker Hill Towers Apartment, he gazed down on Pershing Square. Two police cars with flashing lights blocked a Dodge Charger. It took him back to that evening, his seventh birthday, the night a big-rig collided with his parent’s car killing his mother and father. Damian survived in the backseat with a broken collarbone. Aunt Lila adopted him. She shaped and styled Damian into a man who belonged to an age of fedora hats and grey flannel suits.
    The lights of Los Angeles glimmered as the sun vanished and the moon took its place. Living in the nucleus of downtown L.A. hadn’t improved his feelings of isolation, but he enjoyed the irony.
    It was Friday night. He ran his hand through his dark hair. Would she be there? Would she accept his invitation to dance, or was she a tease not caring who she hurt?
    When Damian walked into Club Lost and Found and saw her, his parent’s death and every painful thing that happened in his thirty-one years disappeared. Without saying a word, without knowing the color of her eyes, she’d made him dream.
    After weeks, three Friday nights, he knew it was time to man-up, introduce himself. Ask her to dance. He couldn’t take another night staring at her across the crowded floor. She was always in a group but never with anyone. Sometimes she danced or sipped a drink, but each time she went back by the railing, a solitary figure, like him.
    On the second Friday night, across the packed nightclub, he made eye contact with her. She didn’t glance away. Someone spoke to her. She walked with the man to the dance floor but looked over her shoulder at Damian.
    By the third Friday, her flirtations became bold, coaxing him to do more than just stare at her. But as Damian tossed back a shot of tequila and made his way over, she had left the club with her group.
    Their chemistry mystified him. He woke up every morning aroused by a euphoric ache. He tried to analyze it, but his feelings went beyond logic.
    Damian began a work-out program in the Towers’ basement. He joined his co-workers in weekend basketball games. He made a good income as a computer systems analyst, but wasn’t inspired to spend it, until now. So he finished decorating his apartment with a sectional sofa and matching recliners. He bought a dining room set from Pier 1 Imports. He went to antique stores and art galleries purchasing original paintings and conceptual pieces for his walls. When he drove to Home Depot and bought several house plants he knew he’d make his move.
    Damian crossed through his now decorated living room, passing the 75" flat-screen TV. He went into his bedroom toward the dresser with photos of his parents and aunt, past the potted rubber tree and opened the door to his walk-in closet.
    It was a year since he’d been with a woman, two years since his divorce. After four years of marriage, Jenny realized she didn’t love him. She wanted a man who was dangerous not one excited by scientific discoveries who took his aunt to lunch once a week. To be rid of her, he let her have the house and two cats.
    Damian counted the days, hours until Friday night when he’d see her again. She was beautiful to him. He liked full-figured women. He never understood how guys got off on skinny bathing suit models, all bones and angles with teeth so bleached it looked like they wore a mouth guard. Damian liked the dominance of flesh, soft and generous. So that when a woman rolled on top of him, her breasts spread against his chest. When he entered her, he found a world where he belonged.
    He grabbed his favorite shirt, the one that complimented his light-blue eyes. He dressed for the night. Women told him he had a face that stood out in a crowd. He’d often sat for hours as Aunt Lila’s friends sketched or painted him. He wondered what they saw.
    Taking the elevator to the parking garage, he slipped behind the wheel of his Prius and drove south on Temple to the trendy club scene in Silver Lake.
    He cruised past the Cha Cha Lounge and the Satellite with live music blaring out its doors. When he drove toward Reservoir Street, the thought of her not showing up made him despair. Stepping on the gas Damian floored the Prius until he found a place to park. He hurried down the sidewalk to Club Lost and Found.
    The doorman took his money. Damian went inside. He looked in the far corner of the discotheque, behind the tables and chairs to the railing against the wall but didn’t see her. At the bar, he ordered a shot of tequila. He downed the drink and ordered another. “Where are you?” he whispered tossing back the second shot.
    He pressed through the throng of bodies. They rubbed and knocked against each other. The smell of perfume and cologne crashed all around him. He bumped into people they shoved him back. He searched the dance floor. Where are you? He felt his heart shaking.
    Grinding his teeth, he circled the club then glimpsed her coming out of the Ladies Room. Blonde, wavy hair spilled around her face. A rose-colored scarf covered her neck. Its tails streamed over a bare shoulder. She wooed him by doing nothing.
    He swallowed hard and stared at the woman who had stolen his life.
    She walked to her place by the rail and picked up her wine glass.
    Damian took a deep breath. He made the longest walk of his life while the twirling disco ball cast rainbows across faces.
    She saw him.
    Treasure by Bruno Mars boomed over the club. People rushed past. It left an opening where she stood alone.
    Damian moved close. “I’m, Damian.”
    She held her wine glass with both hands. “I’m Felice.”
    She had an accent. Up close she was even more beautiful with dark eyes. Theirs was a match made in sadness, and he loved her instantly.
    “Would you like to dance?”
    “Yes.”
    Felice set her wine glass down. She led the way. Perfume sailed off her scarf, intoxicating him further as the tequila kicked in.
    She faced Damian on the dance floor and swayed to the throbbing bass. He rocked to the beat. Bodies pressed against them forcing Damian and Felice closer together. The nearness of her, the sensuous way the scarf teased by hiding her naked shoulders, the earrings dangling against her neck—she was so alluring—Damian thought he’d go mad.
    The song ended. The DJ brought up Work Bitch. Britney Spears admonished the listener. Damian and Felice stayed on the floor and danced to the electronic rhythm. He watched her head tilt side to side. She seemed lost in the music, never looking his way, yet he felt her heat aimed right at him.
    The DJ cross-faded to a rap song. Felice stopped dancing.
    “I don’t like hip-hop.”
    “Can I buy you a drink?”
    “I still have my wine.” Felice walked off the dance floor. Damian followed. She went to the railing where she picked up her glass.
    “Let’s go out on the patio, so we can talk,” Damian said.
    They left by a side door that led to a walkway and opened onto a courtyard where people sat at tables texting and checking their phones. Several men and women smoked e-cigarettes over by the hedges.
    Damian found a tall table so Felice could set her glass down.
    “Where are you from?” he asked.
    “Mexico City.”
    It surprised him because of the gold flecks on her brows and the tiny fair hairs that grew near her temples. “You don’t see many blonde Mexicans.”
    “You’ve not been to Mexico City.”
    “No. You’re right. I’ve only been to Tijuana and Baja.”
    She tied the scarf tighter around her neck. “My great grandparents came from Europe. But I’m Mexican.”
    “How long have you been in L.A.?”
    “Four years. My parents,” her voice faltered. “Sent me here.” She shivered and hugged her arms. “I should have gotten my coat.”
    Damian took off his jacket and hung it around her shoulders.
    “Thank you.” She looked up at him. “What kind of work do you do?”
    “I’m a computer systems analyst.”
    “And you don’t live in Silicon Valley?”
    “You don’t have to live in Santa Clara to work on software.” He smiled at her. “And you? Do you work?”
    She gave him a quick glance. “Yes, I have a green card—”
    “I didn’t mean—”
    “I’m one of the lucky.”
    “Really, I didn’t—”
    “I’m a make-up artist at TriStar.”
    “Oh, that’s cool. So, you make up movie stars?”
    “Sometimes.” She looked at the exit.
    “Is something wrong?”
    “No.”
    Felice finished her wine. “Are you single?” she asked.
    “Of course.”
    “It’s just sometimes—”
    “Yeah, I guess. I’d like to take you to dinner,” Damian said watching her face for any clues to her feelings.
    “You need to know—”
    “What?”
    “Why my parents sent me here.”
    “Why?” Damian asked.
    “This country has the best surgeons.”
    He didn’t care what was wrong with her. Nothing could be so horrible that he wouldn’t commit to her. “Are you okay?”
    “Yes—”
    “Is it anything serious? I don’t mean to pry.”
    Felice pushed her wine glass to the center of the table. She grasped his coat tighter around her shoulders.
    He waited. He knew from the few minutes he spent with her this was a woman who lived on her time.
    “I’m in transition.”
    “What do you mean?”
    He saw her breasts rise and fall. She looked into his eyes. “I’m on hormone-replacement therapy. I had my first reconstructive surgery two months ago.”
    “You’re married?” His heart felt ten pounds heavier. “And trying to get pregnant?”
    “No. Not that.”
    “What then?” The instant after he asked he knew. “You’re—” his voice broke. The realization took his breath. He felt sick, betrayed. “Why didn’t you tell me—”
    “I just did—”
    “No sooner, before—”
    “You were too shy. Took so long. We never talked.”
    Damian stepped away from the table. His dinner rushed to his throat. He fought back the refuse, his mind a web of confusion. “I thought you were, I thought you were—”
    “I am. I always have been.”
    “No.” Damian shook his head. “The one.”
    “I’m the same person I was two minutes ago,” Felice pleaded. “Nothing has changed.”
    “Its changed for me.” He looked at the scarf that hid her throat and her long tapered fingers that held the lapels of his jacket.
    “I know who I am,” she said.
    Damian raised his hand toward his head.
    She flinched.
    “I wasn’t going to hit you.”
    Felice put his coat on the table. “My last name is Delacroix, like the artist. With an x.”
    Damian watched her walk away as if she were a mirage that had taunted him into believing love had a place in his life. He picked up his coat. He didn’t feel his legs carry him as he went to the gate or his hands as they pushed it open.
    Circling the side of the club, he hurried to his car, tossed his jacket over the passenger seat, and slumped behind the wheel. He tore through the streets of L.A. He couldn’t blame her. He didn’t fault himself, but who to rage against?
    He parked in his space at the Bunker Hill Towers and rode the elevator to his apartment.
    When he opened his door, he felt like he slammed into a wall of loneliness. The plants, the furniture, the art work all bought with her in mind.
    He threw his coat over the back of the couch then took his iPad off the coffee table. He sat down and went to Facebook. “Felice Delacroix,” he whispered. He signed in her name. Damian’s body tensed while he watched her page load. When her picture came up, he snapped the cover shut. What am I doing to myself, he asked, how could it work?
    He fell against the sofa. There wasn’t a molecule of masculinity about her. No, he thought. A woman broke his heart.
    Damian reached for his coat and held it with both hands. The fragrance of her perfume lodged in the fabric like a keepsake. He brought it up to his face and breathed in the memory of her.












Can You Hear My Cries, photography by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

Can You Hear My Cries, photography 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












Magazine Contents, July 2, 2017

M. Griffith

Lazy Sunday editorial Trump, Trump, Trump

Tips for saving money as you travel
(I won’t be traveling this summer.)

5 recipes using coffee as an ingredient
(I’d try three of them.)

A writer’s memories of raising his daughter
(Nice, and all, but my memories are slightly more interesting, thank you.)

A poem with the word “bone” in it twice
(I’ve written a poem titled “Bone.”)

Feature article: Our efforts to communicate with extraterrestrial life
(We can barely talk nicely to other countries, the man across the street.
What, we hope E.T. will teach us how to be frickin’ civil?)

What Ringo Starr has been up to lately
(Drumming and flashing the peace sign, right?)

Four cartoons, only one of which I really “get.”
(I can draw better than that.)

Obituaries of noteworthy people
(Will I ever make that list?)

The horoscopes for the coming week
(“Aquarius: July 5th, Watch your back – somebody wants to stab it.”)

Back cover ad for a resort with incredible white sand, glowing blue water, and palm trees
(and if I knew for sure the woman in the ad would be there, I damn well WOULD travel this summer, buddy.)

- and I wonder why my coffee went cold.












Sting of a Snowflake

Ken Allan Dronsfield

The old barn moans and groans
as bones creak on this coolish day.
Stepping outside into fields of corn
I watched the winds conspire with
the grass to tickle the setting sun.
From a dark cloud drifting above,
a lone snowflake floats down and
stings the tip of my cold red nose.
I express a tinge of sadness as
my summer dream drifts away.
Twilight time chases the day away
near the dead crab apple trees on
the old farm where I once roamed.





Ken Allan Dronsfield Biography

    Ken Allan Dronsfield is a disabled veteran and poet who has been nominated for 2 Best of the Net and 3 Pushcart Prize Awards for Poetry. His poems have been published world-wide in various publications throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. He has been published in The Burningword Journal, Belle Reve Journal, SETU Magazine, Blue Heron, The Literary Hatchet, The Stray Branch, Now/Then Manchester Magazine UK, Bewildering Stories, Scarlet Leaf Review, EMBOSS Magazine, and many more. Ken loves thunderstorms, walking in the woods at night, and spending time with his cats Willa, Hemi and Turbo. His book, “The Cellaring”, a collection of haunting, paranormal, weird and wonderful poems, has been released and is available through Amazon.com. He is the co-editor of two poetry anthologies, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze and Dandelion in a Vase of Roses also available at Amazon.com.












The Digger Man

Michael J. Harrington

    The stolid green, grey and black cubiform vessels stand stonehengean against the curbs on either side of the street, casting long morning shadows. It’s Monday — trash day. And everyone on the street knows the rules: if you want your shit to disappear on schedule, it better be in the right colored container, which better be in the right spot — back wheels just out of the gutter, at least twelve inches of space between each receptacle, and the entire formation a good distance from your mail box. Otherwise, besides your shit not disappearing you might not get any shit put into your mailbox. And that would be bad.
    This is suburbia after all, and the constant flow of shit in and out of countless driveways and mailboxes and front doors is critical to its existence. It’s like the sun’s rays upon the forest. Photosynthesis: light, water and carbon dioxide in; oxygen and energy out. Only in the case of the suburbs it’s new shit in (mostly Chinese) and old shit out (a lot of it headed right back to China). In both cases the stuff that gets processed and the organism that processes it seem to give purpose to each other. Everything needs a purpose I suppose.
    I’m not exactly sure what the hell all of this means in the end, but I do know that the CIA agent who lives down the street sure gets pissed off when his shit doesn’t go away on schedule. No one is supposed to know he is a CIA agent, of course. But the cues are inescapable. He’s very fit and very vertical, has a military flat-top haircut that never varies in length, sports a pair of those black wrap-around sunglasses (even on foggy mornings), and wears the same charcoal grey suit and charcoal grey tie every day. Plus, his Slovakian wife told two of the neighbors he works for the CIA.
    He’s generally a pretty low-key guy, and will usually give you a half-smile and a weak perfunctory wave when you drive by. But last President’s day he lost it and kicked the curb and broke his foot when the big blue truck with the gigantic mechanical hand didn’t show up. For the next six Mondays he hobbled out to the curb behind his trash containers with a big white cast on his foot. One time, the green one (green waste) nearly got away from him at the end of his steep driveway and he damn near did the splits trying to get it under control — I think he ripped the crotch open on his charcoal grey trousers.
    So today, on schedule, here comes the digger man. The CIA agent and my wife don’t like the digger man very much. The CIA agent doesn’t like him because he doesn’t think he has a social security number — at least that’s what he told me the morning he did the splits. My wife doesn’t like him because he is breaking a rule of some kind. At least that is what she says.
    I think the real reason she doesn’t like him is because she thinks he is somehow getting a glimpse into the secret recesses of her life by rifling through our trash. I’m not exactly sure why she fears this supposed invasion into her life. She seems like a decent enough person to me, and, aside from a little recreational pot smoking from time to time, should have nothing to hide. Maybe she gets it from her mom.
    I remember an incident years ago when we were all out for Chinese at a local Chinese restaurant. We had all finished eating and we were passing around the fortune cookies and trying to figure out why the Chinese had developed such a fondness for Snow White and the seven dwarfs. This particular Chinese restaurant, along with several others we had been to recently, had one if its walls decorated with brightly colored ceramic figures of Snow White and the seven dwarfs.
    I was just about to ask the waiter what this perverse obsession was all about, when a ruckus broke out in Spanish at grandma’s end of the table. She was slapping the table with her open right hand, exclaiming, “Lo quero para tras. Lo quero para tras.” My wife and one of hers sisters each had hold of one of her arms to keep her in her seat as she squirmed and fulminated in Spanish.
    This was not the soft-spoken little Mexican woman that I knew — whose kindness, tenderness and constant attention had spoiled my three children beyond repair.
    It seems that my wife and her sisters had told their mom that certain people were able to look into people’s lives and see into their futures by studying the tea leaves left in the bottom of their tea cups. Well, Grandma had downed several cups of tea over the course of the meal and, according to her, there were enough tealeaves sloshing around the bottom of her teacup to reveal her entire life’s story. And they had already taken her cup away with some other dirty dishes. She was sure that at that very moment, back in the kitchen of the restaurant, a Chinese dishwasher highly skilled in the science of tealeaf reading was delving into every detail of her life. And she wanted her teacup back. Now.
    For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. What dark secrets, what lurid mysteries could her past or future possibly hold? Had she worked as a dance hall girl in Mexicali? A drug mule for a Mexican cartel? Had she and Grandpa been a Mexican Bonnie and Clyde? Or was she just a little crazy like my wife, believing that story and substance were one and the same, and that the story of her life and her future had literally been deposited in that cup. Much like the story of my wife’s life is, piece by piece, deposited into our trash containers every Monday morning — or so she believes.
    The digger man drives a listing bronze-colored Toyota pick up truck with a bashed-in passenger door and cracked windshield. Its bed is generally heaped with stuffed black trash bags, cardboard and metal jetsam — doorless microwaves, metal fence posts, piping, anything made out of aluminum. This morning a bald-headed child’s doll the size of a puppy lies atop the heap on her back, staring sightlessly into the October morning sky. My wife is at her post — the corner window of our kitchen right above the sink.
    This window juts from the southeast corner of our kitchen like the prow of a ship and affords an unobstructed view of our entire street. From her post at the kitchen sink, my wife spends hours gazing out through this window monitoring the activities of our neighbors and anyone else that comes into her field of vision. Like the commander of a great warship, she is ever vigilant, scanning the horizon for danger and omens of impending calamity.
    This morning she has zeroed in on the digger man, watching his every move. She reports in. He’s at the Gillette’s ... going through the recycling. He’s found something. He’s tipped over their grey recycling container onto their lawn. Battle stations! “I’m calling the police,” she says. Before I can stop her, she’s on the phone.
    I watch the digger man. He is a worn and swollen man, wearing a long-sleeved kaki work shirt, its buttons straining against his girth, a nametag above one pocket and some kind of logo above the other. As he stoops forward to pick up some plastic bottles that he has dumped onto the Gillett’s lawn, his sandy grey-brown hair falls forward over the plastic safety goggles he is wearing. He wipes it away and moves slowly, laboriously, dropping heavily on to one knee to gather the bottles and load them into a black plastic trash bag. He’s wearing blue rubber gloves that come up to his elbows — the kind that school custodians wear while cleaning filthy student restrooms.
    After all the bottles are loaded into the bag, he stops for a moment, still on one knee, takes off the white dust mask that covers his nose and mouth, and lights a cigarette. He blows white smoke into the cool morning air, braces himself, and slowly pushes himself to standing using his hand against his right knee for support. He lobs the plastic bag into the bed of his pickup truck and takes a long drag on his cigarette as he looks down the street. He exhales another cloud of smoke, places the Gillette’s recycling container back into its formation, and gets into his truck. I hear the door slam, and the truck chugs off down the street listing to port.
    I’m at the kitchen window when the LaVerne police car pulls up in front of our house just six minutes later. The digger man is gone. It’s James, the soccer player turned policeman (three years on the “force” and Miss Doughnut have turned a svelte young athlete into a fire hydrant with a very tight black uniform).
    Now I know that virtually nothing worthy of a police response ever happens in LaVerne. There was, of course, the locker break-in at LA fitness and the two kids on ecstasy who tried to take the urinal off the wall in the bathroom at the Bagelry. Still, I wonder, can things possibly be that dead around here that we get six-minute police response time for what appears to be an off-duty school custodian rummaging through people’s recycled trash. I find myself embarrassed by what seems to me a rat-out by my wife of someone who is essentially doing everyone in the neighborhood a service — even if he is not authorized to do it. My wife is a good, sweet woman. I can’t imagine her in the same camp with the CIA agent down the street.
    I’m in the living room when James knocks on the door. “I ain’t getin’ that,” I tell my wife.
    I hear the door open, then: “Mrs. Harrington?”
    “Yes.”
    “Are you alright?”
    For a moment I think to myself maybe these LaVerne cops have more on the ball than I give them credit for. Maybe the quick response time is really out of concern that a LaVerne woman has suddenly lost a screw, gone crackers, run amok, become a danger to herself and the community. I mean, really. The digger man a villain? A desperado? A criminal whose nefarious deeds need to be reported immediately to the authorities? The red flag was up, and these well-trained, perceptive LaVerne cops had got it right. James was asking the right question: Are you all right? Indeed!
    “Yes, I’m fine,” she replies.
    “Good, Mrs. Harrington. Now, if you could tell me exactly how this went down.”
    Went down! Went down! Shit! I can’t believe this. He’s got a note pad out, and he’s writing it all down — every sordid detail of the digger man’s wild rampage through the neighborhood. Suddenly, I can picture choppers in the air scouring the neighborhood for the digger man. I can picture the Eye Witness News truck pulling up in front of our house, its dish antenna pointed skyward. I can almost see the aerial zoom-in shot of the digger man rifling through the trash three streets over, the puzzled look on his face as he looks up at the camera, his hair flailing wildly from the helicopter prop wash. Then the cutover to my wife being interviewed by a very thin woman with red hair — Sandy Something. We’re going to be on the five-o’clock news. Shit! And they’re going to gun down that poor over-weight bastard — for collecting recyclables without a license.
    None of that happened, of course. James simply filed his report with whomever one files police reports. But somebody took it very seriously. The following day my wife got a call from Waste Management — the District Manager, Public Security Sector. He assured her that they “were on it” and would take “appropriate action.”
    Appropriate action? I wonder what exactly that means. Some sort of undercover sting operation? Surveillance cameras on every corner in the neighborhood? A stake out? I mean this guy comes down our street every Monday right on schedule. He’s a very large guy who wears blue rubber gloves, goggles and a work shirt with his name on it. The police, thanks to my wife, have his license plate number. Exactly who, I wonder, needs to be “on it.” Have they already got one of those storyboards set up at Public Security Sector Headquarters? You know, the ones with pictures of possible suspects and the crime scene and maybe some gruesome photos of the victim. Which brings to mind ... who exactly is the victim here anyway? The neighborhood? My wife? The Internal Revenue Service? Waste Management?
    By Friday we’d heard nothing more from the police or Waste Management. I suspected that the bureaucratic quicksand at both of these agencies had swallowed up every trace of the digger man case and that would be the end of it.
    My gut feeling is that the response from the Police and Waste Management was simply an over-zealous display of our American obsession with something called customer service. In most other countries I have lived in or visited, the response to my wife’s call would have been either laughter or a very long silence.
    October is a flickery month in Southern California -– cool and grey one day, hot and windy the next. This Monday, a week after the police report, the day dawns bright and sunny, clear and cloudless. A soft warm wind has come up from the north, and by ten-o’clock the temperature is near ninety, the stolid green, grey and black cubiform containers once again stand stonehengean against the curbs on either side of our street. My wife is at her post washing the breakfast dishes. I’m at the kitchen table with my back to her reading the paper and finishing my oatmeal. I hear the refrigerator open then close after ten or fifteen seconds. Then I hear my wife padding across the wooden floor toward the front door.
    I go the open kitchen window and peer out into the light and heat. There is the digger man with his listing truck, tailgate down, at the curb in front of the next-door neighbors. They have put out what looks like an old built-in dishwasher, cords and hoses dangling from it like dingy black entrails. The digger man’s kaki shirt is dark with sweat around his neck and armpits. He looks more worn and swollen than ever. His face is red and glistening. The buttons strain on his shirt. He is wrestling with the dishwasher, attempting it seems to lift it in a bear hug and prop it onto his right knee. He pivots to the right toward the truck and attempts to hoist the dead machine onto the tailgate. He catches the corner of it but not enough. The thing crashes to the pavement behind his truck.
    Then there she is — my wife. She’s wearing her worn out Oshkosh overalls and has a large tumbler of water in her hand. She hands it to the digger man and then starts pointing into his truck and speaking to him in Spanish. He wipes his brow with his sleeve, takes a long drink from the glass and shakes his head in approval of something. He puts the water down on the curb, reaches into his truck and pulls out one half of an old aluminum stepladder with missing rungs. He places one end of the ladder on his tailgate and the other on the pavement. Together, he and my wife wrestle the dishwasher onto the makeshift ramp and slide it up onto his truck. There is more conversation in Spanish. She points to our trash containers. He hands the empty glass back to her with, “Muchas Gracias, Senora.”
    When she comes in the front door with the empty glass in her hand, I smile and ask her, “Want me to call the police?”
    She’s straight-faced and says: “It’s hot out.”
    She can’t help herself; she is such a good person. Like her mom.












A Game Called Life

Marc McMahon

    It has been a long time has it not old friend? If my memory serves me correctly it’s been what, almost seven years now since we dated? Yes, I am sure of it, seven years since I last saw you. I was just sitting here a few moments ago and you came across my mind, startled me a moment, to be honest with you, the thought. The image of your face racing across the threshold of my mind. But, it came and it went.
    It was just like old times all over again sweetie, you scared me at just the mere thought of you, gosh, you were always so strong. You know I always admired that about you, don’t you? The fact that you were such a take charge kind of person, and a girl even, but nobody could tell that by how you played the game. No way, you always kept it real, well the real that always benefited you in the end, so I guess sometimes it wasn’t always real. But one thing for damn sure, you definitely always played for keeps.
    I think that is one of the things that drew me to you at first, that sense of dominant power you always displayed, even over the boys! I was always a bit shy and reserved, completely non-violent, so you were such a breath of fresh air to me when we first met. For once I finally felt alive, no longer afraid of what others thought, and always confident in my ability to make the right decisions. I had never had that before, not from my mom or my dad, not even my favorite Grandparents made me feel that way, but you did. You were like a Goddess to me and now that I had you I can remember thinking that I have to treat you really, really, good so I can make sure you never leave me and take that feeling with you. I can remember thinking I won’t go back to feeling that old way again, ever!
    As you can tell I have been reminiscing a little bit, thinking back on the first time my friend Shawn mentioned you to me. How well he thought we would get along, how he thought you were the perfect match for me. What he thought, what he wanted, he, him, him, why was he the smart one all the time with the right decisions. But I was sure that first time you walked into my apartment with him that this decision of his was definitely right for you and me.
    You were stunning in that short little mini skirt and heels, with long blonde yet with a hint of glimmering white flickering in your hair as it hypnotically flowed down the back of your neck. Your eyes, the deepest, darkest, shade of blue I have ever seen, almost black at times if the light caught them right. I had never seen a pair of eyes that color before in my entire life, very unique, almost mesmerizing. But now I know why too.
    The reason why I stopped by I guess is that I think I need some closure so I can put this to rest once and for all. I have rid myself of the desire to have to be with you for some time now but there has always been this ongoing, subconscious dilemma as to whether or not I could maybe visit you periodically, and kind of maybe be friends again.
    That’s what this is really about I think, for me at least. It is tough sometimes because I know you still love me. I know you would welcome me back with open arms. You know sometimes when I am not feeling really good, and I’m a little lonely or depressed I think about that. I think about you yelling to me as I was being taken away that you would always take me back. That no matter what I had a place with you, a home, a friend, but more importantly a lover, my soulmate again.
    No matter how long we have been apart whenever I feel like that I always think of you there. Is it nice to know you always have somewhere to go don’t you? Especially when you are all you got, it’s nice to know someone out there always cares. But hey enough of all that.
    You know what else I feel now though I just noticed when I get feeling down and instinctively think of your love? I feel angry, and kind of bitter towards you, I feel like every single word you ever said to me was a lie, everything! Do you know how angry that makes me at you? That is what you think, but you cannot even begin to understand the level anger, no hate that I have for you.
    I despise you so much you pathetic, lying, family destroying pile of crap that I have decided to dedicate the rest of my life chasing you down by your heels doing everything in my power to make sure you cannot hurt again. I’m serious so wipe that shit eating grin off your face right now or I might just be tempted to make an exception for you and do it my damn self.
    The party is over my dearest Lady friend, the curtain has called, and your bells have been tolled. Have you ever heard the phrase “hell hath no fury like a women scorned” Ya, well swallow this one “Hell hath no fury like a pissed off addict hell bent on hunting down his disease!” One thing before I go sweetie, may I have this last dance?












Support Group Revelations

Anita G. Gorman

    Dr. Helene Marker Bolster Brewer liked to use all three of her surnames, since her father had been a renowned psychologist, and so had her first and second husbands. She herself had a doctorate in psychology and realized that perhaps she should take on a brand-new name, sloughing off any desire to bask in the glory of her own patriarchy. But she had not done that yet, and wouldn’t, not until she made a name for herself. And that was what she was trying to do with her very own Suppression Support Group.
    Dr. Brewer had come to the conclusion that all we have to do is expose those hidden memories, and all would be well. She had therefore advertised her Suppression Support Group in the local newspaper, appeared on a talk radio show, and now had a group of six women ready to unburden themselves of their suppressed traumas.
    This was their first meeting. Dr. Brewer began to outline her goals. “What we want to do, my dears, is hunt for those suppressed memories that are still hurting us.”
    A young woman with red hair raised her hand. “What if they aren’t suppressed memories? What if they’re bad memories that still hurt us every day?”
    Dr. Brewer smiled. “Oh, it will be fine if you want to talk about a memory that is already in your consciousness. And perhaps probing that memory may lead to something else that one has buried.” Or so she hoped. Dr. Brewer was counting on lots of horrific, suppressed memories for her book. “Shall we begin? Please just state your first name and mention one thing in your past that you would like to get off your chest, suppressed or not.” She nodded at the young woman to her left.
    “Hi. I’m Mary Ruth. I can’t sleep at night, and when I do sleep I dream the same dream. I dream that my mother is not my mother. My real biological mother is really my aunt.”
    Everyone was looking at Mary Ruth. Dr Brewer decided to comment, after a long pause. “Do you actually believe that your mother is not your mother, and that your aunt is your mother?”
    “Yes, I think so.”
    “Why, my dear, has that idea occurred to you?’
    “My mother and my aunt are identical twins.”
    “So?”
    “Well, don’t you see? I look like my mother, but I also look like my Aunt Mabel.”
    “Yes, well, if your mother and your aunt are identical twins, that makes sense. But why do you think your aunt is your biological mother?”
    “Because she’s so nice to me.”
    “Is your mother not nice to you?”
    “Well, my so-called mother is nice to me most of the time, but she also yells at me and scolds me and punishes me when I do bad things.”
    “And do you do bad things?”
    “Of course. Doesn’t everyone?”
    Dr. Brewer ignored the question. “So you are saying that because your aunt is always nice to you, she must be your real mother.”
    Mary Ruth nodded energetically. “Yes. Of course. Doesn’t it make sense?”
    Dr. Brewer pondered the question for a moment before answering. “Were your parents married when you were born?”
    Mary Ruth nodded. “Yes, of course.”
    “And do you have any reason to believe that your father was having sex with your aunt?”
    Mary Ruth looked horrified. “Oh, no! He wouldn’t do a thing like that.”
    “Then, Mary Ruth, I suspect that the woman who says she is your mother is really your mother. That’s the way it is with mothers: they yell and scold and punish and try to make kids into respectful, law-abiding human beings who become educated and hold jobs. Aunts, what do they have to do? Just be pleasant and bring presents to their nieces and nephews. Not a lot of work, if you ask me.”
    Mary Ruth was looking depressed. Dr. Brewer was feeling depressed. It was going to take more work before she had enough material for a blockbuster of a book.












judge

Janet Kuypers
haiku 3/10/14
video

between my fingers
I’d share my secrets with you,
and you never judged



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 judge live 3/12/14 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 judgelive 3/12/14 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago (S)
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See Vine video of Janet Kuypers performing her poem judge (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 judge (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 YouTube video of Janet KuypersJuly 2017 Book Release Reading 7/5/17 of Down in the Dirt’s book “On the Rocks” poems “Job of Being Homeless”, “Quiver with no Home”, “out there”, “census”, “judge”, “Nobody Finds Me” and “Cast in Stone” in Half Price Books Community Poetry (Lumix camera).
video video
See YouTube video of Janet KuypersJuly 2017 Book Release Reading 7/5/17 of Down in the Dirt’s book “On the Rocks” poems “Job of Being Homeless”, “Quiver with no Home”, “out there”, “census”, “judge”, “Nobody Finds Me” and “Cast in Stone” in Half Price Books Community Poetry (Sony camera).
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See YouTube video of Janet KuypersSeptember 2017 Book Release Reading 9/6/17 of Down in the Dirt’s book “Random Thoughts” haiku poems “oceans”, “gone”, “bruised”, “out there”, “judge”, “escape”, “ever get it back”, “opposite”, and “need”, and then her poems “Oh, She Was a Woman” in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (Sony).
video video
See YouTube video of Janet KuypersSeptember 2017 Book Release Reading 9/6/17 of Down in the Dirt’s book “Random Thoughts” haiku poems “oceans”, “gone”, “bruised”, “out there”, “judge”, “escape”, “ever get it back”, “opposite”, and “need”, and then her poems “Oh, She Was a Woman” in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (Lumix).
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers 12/17/17 reading every poem in her “100 Haikus” book reading at the AIPF booth / 2017 Awesmic City Expo, including much, out, can’t get you, of his thirst, know, pleading, coincidence?, found haiku, close, defenses, destroy, floor, hold, forever, jumped, study, Even with no Wish Bone, addiction, stagger, everyone, last, bruised, organs, choke, ends, explosions, fit, fought, heaviness, extinct, feel, escape, opening, pant, strike, civil, found, need, kill, kindness, run, pet, John’s Mind, humans, mirror, elusive, keep, greatest, instead, Arsenic and Syphilis, life (Periodic Table haiku), life (2000), timing, Two Not Mute Haikus, He’s An Escapist, Ending a Relationship, nightmares, knife, free, years, groove, errors, job, jobless, out there, gone, console, form, knowing, oil, cage, evil, faith, guide, behind, sort, barbed, difference, predator, blood, easy, existence, judge, fog, upturn, Translation (2014 haiku), sting, enemies, Deity Discipline (stretched haiku), Ants and Crosses, energy, knees, force, you, this is only a test, misogyny, ourselves, key, scorches (Lumix 2500).
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers 12/17/17 reading every poem in her “100 Haikus” book reading at the AIPF booth / 2017 Awesmic City Expo, including much, out, can’t get you, of his thirst, know, pleading, coincidence?, found haiku, close, defenses, destroy, floor, hold, forever, jumped, study, Even with no Wish Bone, addiction, stagger, everyone, last, bruised, organs, choke, ends, explosions, fit, fought, heaviness, extinct, feel, escape, opening, pant, strike, civil, found, need, kill, kindness, run, pet, John’s Mind, humans, mirror, elusive, keep, greatest, instead, Arsenic and Syphilis, life (Periodic Table haiku), life (2000), timing, Two Not Mute Haikus, He’s An Escapist, Ending a Relationship, nightmares, knife, free, years, groove, errors, job, jobless, out there, gone, console, form, knowing, oil, cage, evil, faith, guide, behind, sort, barbed, difference, predator, blood, easy, existence, judge, fog, upturn, Translation (2014 haiku), sting, enemies, Deity Discipline (stretched haiku), Ants and Crosses, energy, knees, force, you, this is only a test, misogyny, ourselves, key, scorches (Lumix T56).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (from a Panasonic Lumix T56 camera).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (this video was filmed from a Panasonic Lumix T56 camera, and then it was given an Edge Detection filter).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (Panasonic Lumix T56 camera; Posterize).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (Panasonic Lumix T56 camera; Threshold).


Click here for the Janet Kuypers bio.










What’s Best for You

Shannon Woodard

    It was the big day. Just breath slow, take your time, try not to cry. I can’t believe it came down to this. It was actually happening.
    Jess looked up into the mirror sitting in the white frame above the vanity. She watched as her mother placed the final daisy in her long beautifully curled hair. She stared hard at the reflection. It wasn’t a secret that she wasn’t happy. Anyone could see it in her eyes. She might as well have had it tattooed across her forehead. She had been with Jeremy for five years, she loved him but she knew it wasn’t true love. Not like the love she had felt before. Back then she was told she was too young to know what real love was.
    Her parents didn’t approve of Michael. They hated everything about him from his messy hair to the ink on his skin to the nicotine on his breath. He was the older bad boy and she was the love struck damsel in distress. She swore nothing in the world could separate them. Not her parents, not society, not even Jeremy. That was until she woke up one day and he was gone. No note, no phone call, nothing. It had been six years and not a day went by that she didn’t think of him. It tore her up inside and made her feel so guilty because she was with Jeremy now. Jeremy who she had known since grade school, best friends for god knows how long. The perfect man for her in her parent’s eyes, but he wasn’t the man she dreamt about at night.
    Maybe after it’s over and I say I do something will click. My parents wouldn’t have pushed for me to go out with him for years if they didn’t think he would be good for me. I just have to try to give this a chance, it’s what they want for me. It’s what I want for me, I think.
    She stood from the thin steel chair and walked across the crowded room completely ignoring everyone around her. The overly excited bridesmaids, her maid of honor who couldn’t keep it together, and her mother and mother in law who were already talking baby names. She stepped behind the privacy wall and slipped into her wedding dress. She looked down and admired the intricate beading and the sexy silhouette.
    The perfect dress for the perfect day. I hope. Everyone says you should marry your best friend so it can’t be that bad.
    Moving back towards the center of the room she looked up when she realized it was silent. No mothers or best friend balling her eyes out. No sorority sisters stuffing their bras and talking about their dates. Just an empty room. Or so she thought. There was a figure behind her casting a shadow on the wall. It took a few steps towards her and took a deep breath in before wrapping its arms around her waist.
    “You look beautiful.”
    “I knew you’d like it.” she said. “This was supposed to be our day, Michael.” She turned to face him.
    “I know.”
    “Why did you leave me?”
    “Your parents didn’t approve of me. They said you’d be better off without me. They told me if I really loved you then I would leave and let you move on and find someone better. Someone who will be good for you and who will be able to give you everything to deserve and the best possible chance in life. All I wanted was the best for you.”
    “But you are what’s best for me.”
    “Your parents didn’t think so.”
    “They did this? They took you away from me?”
    “Hey, Jeremy isn’t a bad guy, he’s lucky to have you. I just had to see you one last time.”
    “Please don’t leave, I can’t lose you again.” She buried her face in his chest and began to cry.
    “You can’t leave Jeremy, especially not like this.”
    “I don’t care.”
    Just then there was a knock at the door.
    “Hope everyone’s decent,” the man said. “You! What are you doing here? I thought I got rid of you. I told you to leave her alone and to never come back.”
    “Daddy I can’t believe you did this.”
    “We just wanted what’s best for you and he doesn’t fit the list.”
    “Your list, not mine. I love him daddy and you knew that.” she looked at her dad then back at Michael. She began to unzip her dress and stepped out of it leaving it on the floor. Wearing nothing but her slip dress she walked up to her dad, kissed his cheek and whispered goodbye in his ear. She glanced back at Michael, “Still got that Harley babe?”












Janet at Water’s Edge, inage Copyright © 1988-2018 Janet Kuypers

quarrel

Janet Kuypers
5/8/17
twitter

through choppy waters
quarrel through life’s twists and turns
‘til it’s smooth sailing



video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video 5/14/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku poems “xeric”, “quarrel” and “Poem About This” in the intro performance to “Kick Butt Poetry” in Austin (Sony).
video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video 5/14/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku poems “xeric”, “quarrel” and “Poem About This” in the intro performance to “Kick Butt Poetry” in Austin (Lumix).
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers at her 1/3/18 “January 2018 Book Release Reading” feature through “Community Poetry @ Half Price Books”, reading her poems “Years, Centuries, Eons”, “violation”, “Your Imaginary Soul Weighs 21 Grams”, “unbounded”, and “quarrel” from the cc&d 9/12 2017 issue collection book anthology “Language of Untamed Spirit”, before reading her 3 haiku poems “eventually”, “enemies” and “blood” from the 2017 Scars Publications poetry and prose collection book anthology “On a Rainy Day” (this video was filmed from a Panasonic Lumix 2500 camera).
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers at her 1/3/18 “January 2018 Book Release Reading” feature through “Community Poetry @ Half Price Books”, reading her poems “Years, Centuries, Eons”, “violation”, “Your Imaginary Soul Weighs 21 Grams”, “unbounded”, and “quarrel” from the cc&d 9/12 2017 issue collection book anthology “Language of Untamed Spirit”, before reading her 3 haiku poems “eventually”, “enemies” and “blood” from the 2017 Scars Publications poetry and prose collection book anthology “On a Rainy Day” (this video was filmed from a Panasonic Lumix T56 camera).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (from a Panasonic Lumix T56 camera).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (this video was filmed from a Panasonic Lumix T56 camera, and then it was given an Edge Detection filter).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (Panasonic Lumix T56 camera; Posterize).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (Panasonic Lumix T56 camera; Threshold).


Click here for the Janet Kuypers bio.










Imprint of a Promise

Brandy Montilione

    I watch from across the street, half of me hidden behind a street lamp preferring to remain a voyeur, the other half highlighted by the mid-day sun yearning to be seen. In between the endless stream of delivery trucks and yellow taxis barreling down the roadway, I catch tiny flashes of her. Momentary glimpses, really. She’s leaning against a store window, staring into her phone. Colorful shopping bags dangle heavily from her wrists. Her hair is different; it’s pulled back away from her face, unveiling the wide forehead she usually conceals with bangs. Even from across the street I can see this look ages her.
    She drops her phone into her purse, leans forward, and waits. Like a child patiently timing her entry into a game of Double Dutch she searches for an opening, contemplating just the right moment to safely step into the heavy flow of pedestrians mobbing the walkway. Finally she makes her move and merges in with the crowd. I follow her same direction, zigzagging my way through a continuous herd of strangers, past the drycleaners, then the deli, past the Latin grocery store, and the place that pays cash for gold. As I hurry along, I wonder where she’s headed, perhaps a date with her plastic surgeon for another dose of Botox or to get that one pound she’s gained over the holidays sucked out. I take a quick glance to my right and realize our steps have fallen out of sync. She is four storefronts behind. A shift has taken over; my head is no longer in control. The need for confrontation is all consuming. For months I’ve held my tongue and kept my feelings buried, but with one glance, all the hurt and anger has come rushing to the surface and I can’t stop it. I won’t stop it.
    Desperate to get through the crosswalk, I hammer the button with my fist; my heart smashing against my chest in unison. I need to make it across before she disappears around the corner and becomes just a smear of color against the congested city’s backdrop.
    At last the little white walking-man appears on the monitor and I step out onto the street, my eyes locked on her silhouette. My knees shake with excitement as I make my way to the other side. In just a few seconds our paths will collide, and as she apologizes for such clumsiness, a wave of familiarity will wash over her. She’ll smile politely and ask if I’m ok, while secretly tracing the contours of my face, memorizing every detail, the curve of my lips, the bump on my nose, the way only one eyebrow shifts when I talk while the other stays put. Then as the image comes into focus and she finally recognizes me as that woman she saw sitting on her husband’s desk, leaning in to fix his tie while purposely exposing her God-given cleavage that one Wednesday afternoon when she stopped by his office hoping to surprise him, her gentle expression will change, and once I see her smile fade and her eyes harden, that’s when I’ll say the words no wife wants to hear. I’ll watch as the color floods from her skin and tears form and tell her how he once chose me, no matter how brief. I’ll reveal the tiny bump growing inside me, ask if she wants to touch it. And after I’ve said everything I need to say, I will walk away, justified in my actions, while she stands there with her jaw resting on the dirty sidewalk, tears streaming down her face. I will smile, perhaps let out a chuckle before crossing back over to my side of the street leaving her breathless and distraught. But first I need to hurry.
    I step up onto the sidewalk and move quickly into the center, directly in her path. The walkway is much too narrow for the amount of people scurrying along. Their shoulders brush past mine, knocking me left then right, but I shift my weight and plant my heels. She is coming my way, her eyes down, she doesn’t see me. I take a step forward, then two. She’s almost here. The spattered conversations and hurried footsteps fade against the pounding of my heart.
    Finally her eyes lift and immediately zero in on mine. She stops. Her head tilts, her brows crease. I smile but the pleasantry is wasted. Her questioning glare transforms into something resembling hate. Her head lowers but her eyes stay locked. Heat spills out across her cheeks, her nostrils flare. She’s become an enraged bull and me a red-cape wafting helpless in the wind. My insides twist. I rub my belly trying to sooth it, but I’m not sure if it’s the baby or my nerves.
    She marches toward me. I can’t move. My legs too heavy to run, I stay frozen. Somehow I’ve become the prey. She stops right in front of me, so close I feel the heat of her breath as it brushes across my face, a hint of vinegar makes my mouth water. Her lips open but she doesn’t speak, instead she exhales hard and a shrill of pain escapes her throat; her wound still fresh. My chest tightens. She glances down at my swollen tummy, and I instinctively wrap my arms around it, protecting my unborn from her scornful glare. As she wipes away a falling tear, I notice her ring finger is bare, only the imprint of a promise remains.
    Suddenly her face smooths, her body straightens. She steps to the side and carries on down the sidewalk, never saying a word. I turn and watch her round the corner, my heart overflowing with ache. Her eyes so filled with pain; a reflection from my own mirror. The same agony painted on my face, the same constant sting. I once blamed her for mine, just as she blames me for hers.
    As I stand there alone, in the midst of an endless surge of strangers, I realize that she and I are same woman, suffering the same grief; both believing in the promise, but in the end left with only its imprint.












Glass Roof - Geneva, Switzerland, photography by Olivier Schopfer

Glass Roof - Geneva, Switzerland, photography by Olivier Schopfer












Boost Your T

Bonnie E. Carlson

    I had a brief trial of testosterone when I was sixty-six. Having retired a year earlier, I finally had time to seriously work out. Got myself a trainer, went to the gym three times a week, and worked my brains out. Practically killed me. But after a year I still wasn’t satisfied with the results. I aimed for beautifully toned arms so that I could wear sleeveless shirts and dresses in my hot climate. But dreaded flab still hung from my arms. My legs looked stronger, but they were already pretty toned from all the walking and hiking I did.
    I said to my trainer, “Hey, what gives?”
    “At your age, maybe you should have your testosterone checked out. I’d start with your primary care physician.”
    Hmm. So I made an appointment with Dr. Sherman, providing no explanation for why I wondered about my testosterone levels.
    “Is your sex drive flagging?” she asked.
    I laughed. “What sex drive? No man in my life.”
    “Does your well-being need a boost?”
    Still laughing, I replied, “No, I’m feeling great about my life. Other than my workouts.” I had always admired her very slim, extremely toned body. She was a serious runner, but she must also work out hard. I knew I could never be that skinny, especially after menopause—I liked dessert too much. But I lusted after those toned arms.
    I explained my motivation for getting my testosterone checked, and she wrote an order for a blood test.
    A week later I went in for the results. Not good. My testosterone and estrogen levels were almost nonexistent. The estrogen didn’t surprise me, but I had no idea what to expect on the T.
    “Well, I think we really need to boost your T. I’ll write you a prescription, but Medicare won’t pay for it, because it’s not considered medically necessary.”
    “Do you think it’ll help?”
    “Maybe. Worth a try but no guarantees.”
    “Is it a pill?”
    “No actually it’s a cream,” she replied. “And you have to get it from a compounding pharmacy.”
    Never heard of it.
    “One thing to be aware of though,” said Dr. Sherman, “is that it can raise your libido.”
    Wouldn’t be a problem.
    So, I found the pharmacy and dropped off my prescription. It took a week to get ready, long enough for my expectations to develop. I picked it up, asking the grizzled old pharmacist about the instructions for using it. Why did I feel so embarrassed?
    Not even looking at me he said, “Inside the packaging.”

***

    I drove home, eager to get started. The flimsy instructions weren’t helpful in the least, maybe because this was considered an “off label” use. They said how much to use, in grams. That’s all. Not how many times a day or where to apply it. So I resorted to the internet, where I didn’t find much clarity either. Nothing about dosage. Different sites said to apply it in various bodily locations, including the vagina area—or always the same one—to avoid skin irritation.
    I started with a quarter teaspoon once a day on the inside of my arm.
    I kept that up for a while, then I moved the location to the inside of my thigh. A week later I moved to my other arm. And then, in a bold move, I applied it to my vaginal area for a week.
    And then a funny thing started to happen. After having almost no sex drive for a number of years—which was fine since I wasn’t involved with anyone either—I started to feel horny. Really horny. Dr. Sherman was right. So for the first time in forever, I started to regularly masturbate, which I found surprisingly satisfying. And started thinking maybe I should start looking for some romantic companionship.
    The following week I was scheduled for a massage. I adored my massage therapist, a buff, handsome, thirtysomething guy who was sexy beyond belief—and I was scared to go. Afraid that the minute he laid his hands on me I’d have an orgasm and totally mortify both of us.
    And then I ran out of the cream. Darn! The label said I had one refill, so I called the compounding pharmacy.
    “You aren’t eligible to have this refilled for another month and a half,” said the pharmacy tech.
    Really? “How long was this supposed to last?” I inquired.
    “At least another month.”
    Uh oh.
    “You should contact your prescribing physician.”
    Ya think?

***

    I told Dr. Sherman what happened, that I ran out after a month.
     “Are your workouts any better?” she asked, consulting her notes from my original visit.
     “Not that I’ve noticed.”
     “Let me see those arms,” she demanded.
     Holding up one arm, I observed, “Still flabby.”
     “Wait,” she said. “How long have you been using the cream?”
     “About a month.”
     “But it was supposed to last for three months. How much have you been using?”
     “About a quarter teaspoon.” Then I told her about the lack of instruction about dosage, the business about grams, and my resorting to the internet.
     “You’ve gone through the whole prescription in a month?” she asked, incredulous. By then she was howling.
     “Yeah,” I said, chortling myself.
     “How’d that go?”
     I told her about the canceled massage appointment. She cracked up.
     “Okay, I’m ordering you another prescription, but you need to cut way back.”
    I handed her the empty container of cream. She read the label. A puzzled look came over her face and she opened my chart.
    “Oh dear,” she said. “There’s been a mistake.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “My nurse must have misunderstood my instructions. You got the wrong prescription. This was estrogen not testosterone.”
    How did I not notice that?
    “I need to write you a new one.”

***

    For the next six months, I used the reduced amount of testosterone she recommended, curious to see what would happen. Horny no more, back to my massages.
    Never did get those toned arms, though.












Transitioning

Gary Van Haas

    Hemingway said, ‘All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ And for me that sentence would be, at some point in our futile lives we finally realize that one day we are all going down. Not a very cheerful thought, but an inevitable reality.
    I’m living on a spectacular Greek island in the Saronic Gulf now called Aegina. It’s about idyllic a place you could find, but there’s been a death in my family and I don’t know where I’m going now. At this point, you find yourself sort of drifting along, looking for a sign showing the way. Lost in the haze of what happened, you tend to go inside seeking out your demons. You wonder if you’ll ever pull out of this, but somehow in the back of your mind you know there’s a strong will to press on. You must move forward or be consumed by repetitive grieving.
    What loathsome creatures we present, almost cowered, overwhelmed by the perils of decay and time, destined to the realms of the forgotten and oblivion, ordained to eternal bliss. And now I find myself waiting, watching, writing and passing time any way I can to forget. Forget about the pain of loss. I am running. We are running, for our lives.
    One never tends to think much about dying; it was something that happened to other people, not us. Then one day in your 50s and 60s you finally notice on the news that famous celebrities, movie stars and people your own age are passing away before your eyes. You become uneasy, realizing for the first instance that your own time may be coming soon as well.
    Funny how life is... my wife and I had been together since the 1980s when we met on the island of Mykonos. It was instant love and we partied hardy most of our live traveling the world all over Europe, USA and Mexico, even to north and south of Thailand and to India where we traveled there over twenty times staying and spent three months at a time lounging on the spectacular beaches of Goa. Then one day some thirty years later you turn around and look in the mirror and finally realize the party’s over, that you’ve grown old. It creeps up on you like a dark shadow you had somehow forgotten; that you would be young forever and time would not have influence over your physical being.
    After recently visiting my ex-wife in South Carolina, in what was basically a quiet retirement community among the tall pines, I realized that the neighborhood was generally made up of elderly people and couples over the age of sixty, and that for some reason it bothered me. Every time I visited I wanted to leave after a week I guess because I felt if I were to stay too long I too would become old and absorbed in its convergence. I have to admit it disturbed me and felt if I stayed too long I might grow old with them. Fact is, by watching all this from an observer’s prospective I knew I was running from the truth and myself — that I too was growing old and that the reality of finding a comfortable, safe place to spend my elder years might not be so bad, and that perhaps it was a gift that my ex-wife, who loves and knows me, would want to comfort me with my grieving and share this humbling experience of growing old with her until the end. We had always loved each other from the age of around eighteen, and it was also a blessing that this opportunity was presented.
    They say when someone loses their spouse it feels like losing one’s arm or a leg, but with me it was like a losing a soul, a vast emptiness more like a hole in my heart where half of me felt suddenly lost in the abyss. I am often lonely now more than I wish to be, and the thought of meeting a new woman frightens me because in the back of my mind, I don’t want to fall in love and see the death experience happen all over again to my new love. This is my current state of mind, which has all the makings of a self-inflicted conundrum: To love, or not to love again.
    It all began one rainy day when my wife came to me and said she had a strange pain in her stomach. She said something was wrong and it didn’t feel right. We had been together along time and it was something I had never heard from her before. So we went to seek medical advice from her doctor and then came the glum news afterwards and we were devastated. It was terminal cancer, and a death sentence was pronounced upon her with no hope.
    After discussing the bleak situation at length, we both decided to avoid talking about it and try to live day to day, just pretend all was okay and normal. Much as we tried we knew it was not okay and the ups and downs of emotional uncertainty circled in our brains and psyches like an out of control roller coaster.
    The hardest part was the endless waiting afterwards. This proved to be even more difficult, for not where or when her eventual end would happen seems to go on and on, passing with time like an eternity.
    Then there was the morning when she finally passed in her sleep before my eyes. I had never seen death happen before and it was sobering moment. She let out a sigh and I could swear I saw her very soul set free, released from the confining bonds of worldly mortality. I cried out knowing I had just lost my earthly soul mate and best friend.
    We had experienced so much of life together, and then I remembered what she and I had learned in India. The Buddha said it plainly in his teachings: ‘That all life was suffering and the cause of that suffering was desire; Desire to hold onto material possessions or keep things the same, without change.’ One only had to realize this to know the truth, and that is — all life is changing every minute.
    It reminded me that I had to let go, and that as spiritual beings we were also intrepid travelers, not only on the road to destinations, we were also travelers of the spirit on a journey to higher consciousness. It reminded me that death does not necessarily mean the end, but perhaps the beginnings of a magnificent new adventure towards each individual’s growth. It is a journey we will all take. We are stardust, we are golden.





Author Bio

    Gary Van Haas is a film producer and screenwriter who worked for many years as a feature writer for The International Herald Tribune, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time and Newsweek Magazines.












Barefoot, art by J. Ray Paradiso

Barefoot, art by J. Ray Paradiso
















Identity: Granny Olga

Isabelle Kenyon

Identify a body (broken neck battered eye splintered knee ruptured lung cranial bleeding dehydration and cold feet):
You in a hospital room, becoming a bionic woman.

Identify your things: a golden Buddha rides a mountain of recycled envelopes (half-written poems on half- used letters) and
Boxes: broken wooden beads, fragmented jewels; bedraggled string around a paper clip.

Your mind: a palace of echoing mantras, of scathing criticisms.

Your actions: a tear in a teacup. Clock strikes five: you read the radio times. The scale of low to high- a wide ‘hello’- a projection which engulfed me, hugged me across the space. A voice from home.

Others define you by my skeletal frame, slim like yours;
Hands like yours; ears like yours.

In my tentative steps to becoming a woman I can define you (you and I are feminists, artists, activists, writers).
I can define you in my Mother’s smile, my father’s worry, my courage and my strength.

I visit your silver birch in the orchard
You are the wind in its branches:
Magnificent.












Bad Genes

John Dorroh

His sobbing woke me up
and I thought that something physical
like kidney stones was to blame.
This pain had roots in the attic,
cobwebs and spider dung, creaky rusted bed springs
covered in the dust of neglect and guilt.

He refused to drink his milk,
would not take nourishment for the rest of the day.
He lay motionless in the fetal position for hours,
staring at the wall, shivering as if from malaria.

I rolled his body over at 7.
Eyes fixed in his head, cold skin
But the soul still had a pulse.
That is good.

No priest caused this mess.
No lead in some paint chips fallen to the floor in gentle curls.
Nothing he had eaten or drunk or imagined.
A genetic mutation ever so subtle when a little boy is six years old,
lays out its twisting tentacles like mated serpents around a fragile heart,
concealed in a dusty attic long forgotten by everyone,
remembered by one like a bad tattoo.












Invitation Lost

Rajagopal Kaimal

You shot a partridge
for your dinner.
Had you thought of his
mate?
How is she going to spend
the rest of her life;
the nights of her life?

You should have
Shot her too and
Invited your ex-wife to
Dinner.












And Drown Melancholy

Scarlett R. Algee

    The headache has lasted nineteen days.
    Nineteen days. Charlotte can count every one of them. It had started the day after she’d spiked her Coke a little too vigorously and stumbled into the pond at the company picnic: an insidious little pressure behind her eyes and above her upper teeth. Sinuses, she’d thought, the consequence of snorting out a noseful of stinking, muddy water. It had taken two days to get the gritty feeling out of her mouth and the eye-watering bouquet of algae and catfish out of her nasal cavities.
    By then, she’d realized it wasn’t her sinuses.

***

    Migraine. That’s been the consensus, over the last seventeen days, of two general practitioners and a neurologist. Charlotte’s inclined to agree with them; she doesn’t have the throat-quivering nausea, not yet, but the auras are there, little flecks and zags of color that flit in and out of the edges of her vision like UFOs, eluding her most concentrated efforts to focus on them, jiggling and dancing with every throb between her temples. The pain’s there too, rasping at the backs of her eyeballs, thrumming between her teeth, jackhammering the inside of her skull so hard she expects to blow out bone dust with every breath. The doctors’ solutions had been bed rest, Tylenol, and time; Charlotte’s boss had watched her zombie-shuffle into work, glazed and tight-jawed, right up until yesterday and had suggested a week off instead. That suits Charlotte fine: it lets her sit home in constant dark and slug down the pain with booze and the oxycodone left over from last year’s dental surgery. Not the wisest combination, she knows, but it’s the only thing yet that’s even taken the edge off.
    Charlotte lolls in her overstuffed recliner, her third extra-tall double-strength rum and Coke close at hand, waiting for the pill she’d sucked down to kick in. The late-night news program is the only thing she’s found that isn’t too bright or too loud; she’s got the volume low, just enough to pick up, to occupy the one sliver of her brain that isn’t threatening to explode from her ears. Even now, at midnight, with all the blinds closed and all the lights off, she can only squint in agony at the screen for a second before giving up and closing her eyes.
    “Now for an update. Medical researchers believe they may have found a parasite responsible for the nation’s recent outbreak of drowning deaths. Some of the footage you’re about to see may be disturbing to some viewers.”
    Charlotte slits one puffy eye open, then the other. The news anchor is a bottle blonde with a weary gaze, and her voice has pitched up with urgency. Nearly two hundred people have drowned across the country in a month, all of them seemingly accidents, all baffling. There’d been talk about it at the office three weeks ago, when the number had been a few dozen, rumors and jokes about some secret cult urging its members to suicide in pools and bathtubs; she’d even had a few barbs thrown her own way after the pond incident, suggesting she circle her backyard pool with a padlocked fence just in case God or aliens gave her the urge. The scene switches to a bearded bald man, Dr. Something-or-other, wearing a lab coat over his suit in a book-crammed office, and Charlotte tries to focus.
    “Surgeons have extracted worms from the brains of some recent victims.” His voice is flat with practice, and the scene cuts away, to the shore of a lake. Somewhere in Tennessee, if Charlotte’s cramping brain reads the caption right. The voiceover continues: “The specimens haven’t yet been positively identified, but there are early signs that they may be a species closely related to Spinochordodes tellinii, a hairworm known to cause similar behavior in ...”
    Charlotte tunes him out. Her gaze is on the scene, eyes open wide now: a man in a green T-shirt and purple shorts lies leaking on the ground, recently dredged up, circled by emergency personnel. His face is a smeared slate blur, the concealing effect growing into a pixelated muddle of bruise tints as the camera zooms in; but the blur doesn’t cover the sand, caked like packed brown sugar in his sodden blond hair, or the blackish trail of lumpy blood that has drooled from his left ear. Charlotte stares, momentarily fascinated, as the blood continues to ooze.
    “...not yet sure how this animal has evolved to infect humans, or how infestation begins. However, reports from victims’ family members suggests symptoms ...”
    On the screen, someone is shaking out a white sheet over the drowned man’s body. The camera shifts away, but not before Charlotte catches sight of a military-style boot, so shiny it reflects the red crawl of the ambulance lights.
    “... dizziness, stiffness, lack of coordination ... behavioral changes in the presence of water ...”
    Between the boot and the body, partially obscured, is a long, thin creature that lies coiled in a heap: the unnamed parasitic worm, Charlotte supposes, though it’s like nothing she’s ever seen. No worm could be this slender, an overcooked strand of brown spaghettini sauced with blood and black flecks. It squirms visibly, and the sight makes her sore brain twinge in sympathy. A blue-gloved hand swoops into the scene, bundling the worm into a clear plastic bag. Charlotte’s eyes ache, her vision joggling momentarily. She blinks hard, seeing spots, and drinks off her rum and Coke.
    She needs more Coke. Grimacing, Charlotte eases out of the recliner, leftover ice rattling in her glass as she sways. She starts jerkily toward the TV, then remembers she’ll need its light to grope her way round the kitchen—thank God for open floor plans when you’re too drunk to navigate properly.
    At the refrigerator, dull warmth begins at the top of Charlotte’s head and paints its way down the inside of her skull. Her stomach does a little flip and her jaw relaxes; finally, finally, the oxycodone has made its appearance and she can forego the rum. She pours her soda with shaking hands, trying not to weep from sheer relief.
    Back in her recliner, fresh drink at the ready and television still droning low, Charlotte falls asleep.

***

    Charlotte awakens to three realizations.
    The first is that there’s light seeping through the blinds, cool and grey as though the sun’s gone into hiding, and that the television screen is frozen in a garish striped test pattern. Both are still far too bright for her liking, and she scowls as her eyelids snap immediately into the squint she’s worn for nearly three weeks. The second is that opening her eyes has roused the pain again, a more frenetic throb than last night, one that vibrates her eardrums and crackles along her jawbone under her teeth; reflexively, she grinds her molars.
    The third is that she’s madly thirsty.
    Charlotte fumbles for the glass of Coke she’d poured up earlier. The tumbler slips through her fingers and she snatches at it, but it thuds on the floor. She sits up, groaning at the stiffness in her neck, and looks over the side of the recliner; the heavy glass is intact, but there’s nothing on the carpet beneath it, not a spill, not a droplet, not a fragment of melting ice. She hadn’t even sipped at it before she’d fallen asleep, she’s mostly positive of that. Now it’s empty and she doesn’t remember drinking it.
    “God.” The word comes out thick, and Charlotte gingerly rubs her hands over her face, wincing when she gently prods her eyelids. Her tongue feels glued to the roof of her mouth, prying loose only with effort, slipping over the foul sour-sweetness coating her teeth. Suddenly her thirst is a knot in her gut, twisting and raw. Water. She needs water.
    Charlotte gets to her feet clumsily, nearly pitching to the floor as she gropes to pick up her glass. Getting the tumbler in one hand, and holding the back of her head with the other, she totters into the kitchen, away from the rainbow stare of the TV. In the dimness she scrabbles for the tap and swallows saliva. The aura’s not elusive now; it streaks her vision, bloody red and dazzling.
    Water. Cold. It slops over her hand as she wrestles the glass under the faucet. Her brain squirms in her skull, a live thing all its own, a pulsating mess of knife-edge pain. She drinks with her eyes closed, and the red streaks elongate and snap, turning white, becoming stars that cast off sparks with every swallow. She fills and empties the glass six times, only stopping when her stomach threatens to rebel, but it’s not enough.
    It’s not enough. Her brain is on fire; she can feel the fever slithering through its shell of protective membranes. Her tongue is a swollen sponge, her throat a desert, her skin a withered root aching for moisture. She drops the glass into the sink. More. She needs more.
    The pool.
    Charlotte lurches toward the sliding doors that open into her backyard. There’s a fence—isn’t there a fence? No, that was a joke, a joke. She works the lock with graceless hands, frustration welling from her arid throat in a croaking wail, until the door bursts open and she collapses onto the lawn.
    Dazed, she lies there a second; it’s barely daylight and the grey is comfortable. But the grass is wet and her tormented nerves shriek, waterwaterwater. Charlotte drags herself upright, takes three steps toward the pool and falls again, her vision swarming with whirling sparks, pressure building in her skull as though her brain’s begging to be let out. A swim. That’s all she needs. Just a swim, and she’ll feel better.
    Weeping, blinded, she begins to crawl.












The Love Maestro

Christina Lacourte

    Amy apprehensively climbed the steps that led to the door of the slightly run-down Victorian, which faced Dolores Park. At the top of the stairs, were two doorbells with the letters A and B taped next to them. She heard someone descending the interior stairs as she pressed A, and within moments, could see a figure through the thin curtain covering the glass door. With what seemed to Amy like a grand gesture, the figure materialized, opening the door widely and beaming. She was a woman of sixtyish, with salt and pepper hair worn in an air-dried, wavy bob. It was the sort of hairstyle commonly seen in women of this age, who belonged to the New Age set. Her clothing was a flowy, diaphanous wonder of scarfs and tunics and wide-legged pants (or was that a skirt?).
    “You must be Amy,” the figure said, drawing out you. “I sensed you approaching.”
    “Yes, hi,” Amy said.
    Amy held out her hand.
    “Ah, no, my dear. I make it a habit never to have physical contact with my clients. I wouldn’t want our energies to get mixed up. It could impede the process.”
    “Oh, ok. That makes sense,” Amy said.
    But actually, none of this made sense. Amy couldn’t believe she was even there and momentarily had the urge to make an excuse and run back to her car. But then, the title of the article in C Magazine flashed in her mind - “The Love Maestro” - and she decided to stay.
    “Come on in. Let’s get started right away. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” the Love Maestro said, walking up the stairs ahead of Amy. “Would you like to use the bathroom first?”
    “Uh, sure.”
    “It’s right down that hall,” she said. “Please remember to close the toilet lid when you’re done. Bad Feng Shui to leave it open!”
    “Oh yes, I will.”
    The bathroom smelled of Nag Champa, and as soon as Amy closed the door, she knew that she wouldn’t be able to “go” with the Love Maestro listening outside. So she flushed the toilet, washed her hands, and opened the door. The Love Maestro was standing right outside the door as she exited, looking at Amy a tad suspiciously.
    “Ok then. Right in here.”
    “By the way, I’m not sure that I ever got your name?” Amy asked.
    “Well, that’s not really necessary. People are calling me the Love Maestro, which I find amusing. You can call me that if you like, or my actual name is Joan.”
    Joan led Amy into a room at the front of the house that seemed originally to have been a small dining room but was now used for business. The large bay window was covered with red curtains made of a material that had the same flowy quality as Joan’s clothing. There was a large round table in the center with four chairs around it. Tall bookshelves lined the walls and were packed tight with books, all of which would, most likely, be found in the New Age and Spirituality section of a bookstore.
    “You’re going to sit there.” Joan pointed to one of the chairs. “And I’ll sit here,” she said, pointing to the chair directly across from Amy. “I’m just going to get the tea. Why don’t you sit quietly for a moment and do some breathing?”
    Joan left the room, and Amy quickly grabbed her iPhone out of her Chanel purse to turn it off and then turned the purse over, so the double Cs weren’t visible. She also turned her substantial diamond engagement ring around, so the diamond was on the inside of her hand. She was hoping to convey a down-to-earth air to Joan; she needed her on her side and thought that she’d picked up on a judging tone in her voice when they’d met earlier.
    This has got to work, Amy thought. It was the only way. After everything Jim had done to her - the multiple infidelities, the name-calling, the vice-like control over everything they shared (kids, house, money) - hatred was much too mild of a word for what she felt for her husband. But she saw no easy way out. If she left him, she’d get nothing. In much more loving times, he’d convinced her to sign a prenuptial agreement in which she had absolutely no claim on the fortunes he’d acquired either before or after her. He’d billed it as “just a piece of paper” and had told her it was merely a tool to deal with his “trust issues.” At his suggestion, she’d (happily) quit working before they were even married because he said that he wanted to “take care of her” for the rest of her life, something that appealed to her own set of issues. “We’ll be together forever. It will never even come up,” he’d told her, a sentence Amy was sure must have been uttered, in some form or another, in every prenuptial agreement coercion in the history of prenuptial agreements. And they really were in love, so she signed.
    But now she detested, despised, loathed him. She’d lay in bed in the middle of the night, eyes wide open, thinking of the least painful way to get out. She couldn’t lie to herself; she’d miss the money, but she’d manage. She’d taken care of herself before, and she could do it again, she thought.
    But, it was the possibility of losing her kids that she could not tolerate. On more than one occasion, Jim had threatened to take the kids from her, always citing her “drug problem” as evidence that she was unfit to take care of the children on her own. It hadn’t even been a “problem” as far as she was concerned, more like an identity crisis, and it was a thing of the past. She’d been managing two toddlers under three, on her own (aside from the nanny) and, so, on the occasions when she was able to get away and see some of her old friends, she naturally wanted to let loose. One thing had led to another, and instead of just doing a line here and there on the weekend, she had her coke dealer on speed dial and was using daily. Things came to a head one day when the nanny had called in sick, and she had to take the kids for their annual exam at the pediatrician. She’d already done several lines that morning and was feeling fairly invincible, so she loaded the kids in the car and headed to the doctor. She made it to the appointment and returned home safely with the kids. But, when they got home, Jim was there, and he knew immediately that she’d been using - he’d seen her in that state plenty of times when they were dating and both partaking. He’d been furious and had insisted that she immediately enter a rehabilitation program. She didn’t put up much of a fight, and she’d pretty much stayed away from any drugs since then, but Jim had frequently thrown the incident in her face during subsequent arguments. She was sure that, mostly out of spite, if she tried to leave him, he would use it against her to gain custody of the children. And that she could not have.
    She couldn’t leave him, and she doubted he’d leave her anytime soon. She knew how much he wouldn’t want to disappoint his repressed Catholic family who didn’t believe in divorce. Plus, Amy was good for business - the thing that Jim seemed to care about most. His partners loved her, his clients loved her, and she could throw one hell of a dinner party. Not to mention the fact that, unlike the tramps that he’d cheated on her with, she played the part of the classy manicured CEO’s wife flawlessly. Yes, she was quite sure, Jim was going to maintain the status quo. She felt trapped and couldn’t see any possible move that would better her circumstance.
    Then, one day, she was flipping through her magazine and spotted the article on Joan. She’d remembered reading something on one of the celebrity gossip sites about this Love Maestro. Joan had apparently been experiencing a good deal of notoriety since she’d supposedly saved the marriage of a very famous Hollywood couple on the verge of a particularly nasty divorce. There had been claims splashed across the tabloids of abuse, underage cheating, drug and alcohol addiction - real reputation wreckers. And then, this miraculous fixer of relationships stepped in, and those same tabloids showed nothing but hand holding and canoodling and family outings to the farmer’s market. Amy saw this and thought that if she could just forget how much she hated Jim, then, maybe, she could bear sticking it out with him until the kids were grown. She knew it was probably a long shot, but, short of murdering him, she didn’t see what else could be done.

        Amy snapped to from her panicky thoughts as Joan reappeared.
    “Here you are,” Joan said, setting down a pottery mug filled with a very pungent and dark tea.
    “What’s in it?” Amy asked.
    “It’s just a mix of herbs and what-not that I’ve perfected over the years. I’m unable to divulge the ingredients. I’m sure you understand. But you’ll have to trust me that the tea is what makes the journey possible. It’s completely safe in case you’re concerned about that.”
    Amy stared into the cup as the steam rose up and curled into her nostrils. She tried to decipher the smells: Pine needles? Lavender? Thyme? Sage? Or was that marijuana? She sincerely hoped there wasn’t anything stronger. She wasn’t interested in rousing old demons.
    “Ok, so you’re going to drink that whole cup of tea, and when you’re finished, we will begin the journey, and our destination will be love. And when the journey is complete, you will be void of anger, contempt, and hatred for your spouse. I believe the online questionnaire said it was your spouse that you are you wanting to mend your relationship with, correct?”
    “Yes, that’s right.”
    “Good, good. Just out of curiosity, why is it that you want to save your relationship?”
    “Well, that’s a good question considering he’s been just awful to me. But, for the sake of the kids, I’d like to do whatever I can to keep our family together.”
    “Hmm,” Joan said, “And are there things that you’ve done that you think may have hurt the relationship?”
    Amy shifted in her seat.
    “Not really,” Amy said defensively, “I mean, sure, I’m no saint, but I mean if you knew what he’d done...” she trailed off.
    “Oh, that’s quite alright. Just curious. Well, then, do you have any other questions before we get started?”
    “Uh, well, I know it said on your website that it was best if both parties took the journey, but as I mentioned in my email, I could never get my husband here. Are you sure it will still work?”
    “Of course. It may just take a bit longer today. You’d be shocked at how much a relationship can improve when even one party can find an inner peace. I’ve seen it time and again. You said in the questionnaire that the two of you were still living under the same roof - correct?”
    “Yep,” Amy said, pursing her lips.
    “Perfect, then we shouldn’t have a problem. When people have been geographically separated for a period of time, it can sometimes be a little tricky, so it helps very much that you’re still living together. Let’s just put all of that out of your mind and stay positive.”
    Amy wondered if she should mention that Jim would be coming home tonight after a two-week-long business trip, but decided against it.
    “Ok, dear, the tea should have cooled off by now, go ahead and start sipping it.”
    Amy took a drink of the tea, which had a pleasant taste but immediately made her nauseous.
    “Don’t worry. The first few sips can make your tummy feel a little funny, but that will go away in a moment.”
    Wanting nausea to dissipate as quickly as possible, and for Joan to stop staring at her, Amy drank the rest of the tea in a few gulps. She was no longer sick to her stomach and actually felt pretty relaxed.
    “Ok, then, I’d like you to close your eyes and take three deep breaths.”
    Amy closed her eyes and inhaled deeply.
    “One, two, and three,” Joan counted slowly. “Now, I’d like you to think of your husband and of all the reasons you are currently angry with him.”
    This was easy for Amy, and as she tallied his transgressions, she felt her jaw tighten, and her heart speed up.
    “Now, I’d like you to imagine yourself surrounded by a warm, rose-colored liquid that is pure love. I’d like you to feel your chest open up and your heart begin to drink in this beautiful love liquid. And when you feel that your heart has consumed as much of the liquid as it can, as if it might burst with love, I’d like you to picture your husband before you.”
    Amy was doubting the Love Maestro’s process and was wishing she’d spent the $1000 fee on those Manolo Blahnik pumps she’d been eyeing.
    “Amy, honey, now if you want this to work, you’re going to have to have faith. Stay with me, dear. Now, I’d like you to picture your husband and imagine you are emptying the love liquid from your heart directly into his. Picture the lovely pink fluid as a continuous stream from you to him.”
    Amy tried to do as Joan said, but she was having a hard time envisioning this ridiculous scenario. Then, at the very instant in which Amy was about to disregard the Love Maestro as nonsense and resign herself to the idea that she’d just have to deal with the fact that she was out a thousand bucks and an hour of her life, something happened that changed her mind. A familiar image flashed across her mind’s eye that was so vivid that she considered, for a moment, perhaps, Joan had transported her back in time. She saw herself and Jim in their bed. He reached over to her, attempting to embrace her, and then she heard the image of herself say, in a crueler tone than she had remembered using with Jim, “Leave me alone. Can’t you see I’m sleeping?” She saw herself turn away from Jim. Then, as if a camera had focused in on him, all she could see was the wounded look on Jim’s face.
    The images kept coming, and they were always the same scenario. Each time she would reject Jim, and each time Jim would look crushed. When the view-finder-type images of her repeatedly pushing Jim away ceased, Amy heard herself say (as if she was talking about someone else): “My god, that’s awful, no wonder he cheated.” And, as she heard herself say this, she realized that she actually believed it. To believe that she had some part in Jim’s infidelity would have been utterly inconceivable to her before this journey. She was amazed.
    As she sat there in some sort of a trance-like state, contemplating this new way of thinking about this particular situation, she saw a whole other set of images. Most of these showed Amy buying this expensive bag or that expensive pair of shoes. And then she saw Jim, looking over their finances with a panicked look on his face. The image focused in on the financial statements he was looking at and Amy saw the amount of debt and monthly expenses that they owed. She was shocked. She’d had no idea that they owed that much money or that they were spending that much per month. She saw a line item reading “Clothing” and a number next to it that read “$18,894.” She looked at the top of the financial statement and saw that this was just for June. She began to feel ashamed, knowing now that they owed so much money and that she had regularly been spending this much on clothes and whatever else she fancied. She’d always sort of kept her head buried in the sand when it came to their finances. She’d thought that Jim was just being his usual controlling self when he’d started asking her to cut back on her spending. Amy had been insistent on the 4.5 million dollar house that they’d upgraded to a few years back, even though Jim had told her that it would be really tight for them. Thinking back on it now, Amy realized that Jim had given her pretty much anything she’d ever asked for, regardless of how much it cost.
    And so it continued. With each grievance that Amy had had with Jim, she was shown his point of view on the matter. But, even more of an eye-opener for her was that she saw the role that she had played. She had always entirely blamed Jim for their problems, but now she could step back and see herself and how she’d contributed to the disintegration of their marriage. For the first time in years, she felt true compassion for her husband.
    And then he appeared. She saw him clearly, sitting directly across from her (where Joan had been previously). She stared with wonder at his brown wavy hair, his piercing green eyes, and the fine figure he cut in his navy Armani suit. He had the kindest smile on his face. She looked down and saw the pink stream flowing fast and hard from her chest to his, and a smile spread across her face. Her skin felt warm, and she had a sudden urge to roll around on the floor like a giddy child. And then things went dark.
    When Amy awoke, she found a pillow between the back of her head and the tall-backed chair she’d been sitting in, a soft stool under her feet, and a heavy blanket over her body. She felt refreshed and surprisingly comfortable, considering that she’d been sleeping sitting up.
    “Well, hello. How are you feeling, dear?”
    Amy focused her eyes and saw Joan’s bright blue eyes staring back at her. There seemed to be a rosy glow to everything around her.
    “I feel fantastic. I haven’t felt this good in... Actually, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this good. What happened? How long was I asleep?”
    “I don’t really consider it sleep. I call it a love trance. You were in it for a little over two hours. It’s different for everyone. It just depends on how much of the H word you need to rid yourself of.”
    “What’s the H word?” Amy asked.
    “H - A- T - E,” Joan spelled out. “I don’t want to say the actual word. We want to keep this perfect loving energy we have intact. How are you feeling about your husband, now? Jim, right?”
    As Joan uttered Jim’s name, Amy had an uncontrollable longing to see him, to embrace him and feel his breath on her neck, to be close to him, to love him.
    “Oh my god, it worked. You did it! I can’t believe this. I actually feel... I can’t believe it. I think I love my husband. You’re a genius.”
    Amy wanted to hug Joan, but held back, remembering the mixed-up-energy thing.
    “It really is amazing when one can actually see one’s self - isn’t it? That really is the secret to all of this.”
    “Oh my god, yes, I can. I can finally see how awful I’ve been to him. Thank you so much!” Amy said as she removed the blanket and gathered her things. “I have to see him now. I just have to see him in person to make sure it’s real.”
    “Oh, it’s very real, my dear. Just as a heads up though, because your husband didn’t take the journey with you, you may want to proceed slowly. It may take him a bit to catch up to where you are. I assure you though, as I said before, I’ve seen amazing results many times with just one person completing the journey. So, go slow, but have faith that things will work out the way they should. Which, by the way, may not always look exactly like you think they will.” Joan said, smiling.
    “Ok, wonderful,” Amy said, not really listening to Joan anymore because she was so focused on seeing Jim, “Thank you. Thank you so much!” Amy gushed, blowing Joan several air kisses.
    “You’re very welcome. I wish you all the best.”
    Joan walked Amy to the door, “Farewell.”
    “Bye!” Amy said and hurried to her car.

****

    It was almost 6 PM when Amy arrived at her home in Presidio Heights. It was a Friday, and as an optimistic gesture, Amy had arranged for the kids to stay with her sister for the weekend. Jim would be home soon, and Amy could barely contain her excitement. She put her things down and went about making everything just so for the big reunion. Then she went upstairs and put on the low-cut, fitted dress that Jim had recently commented on. “Nice dress,” he’d said when she’d worn it to a disastrous date night they’d recently had. But everything was different now. As she dabbed on a bit of red lipstick and finger-combed her mid-length icy-blond hair, she heard the door downstairs open.
    “Hello?” she heard him call.
    “Hi! I’ll be right there.”
    Amy floated down the stairs, smiling. Jim looked as handsome as she’d remembered him during the journey. Stylish and business-like, in another Armani suit.
    “Are you going out?” he said.
    “No, just thought I’d put on something nice and make you a little dinner.”
    “Ok,” he said hesitantly, “That’s good because I need to talk to you about something important.”
    Wow, Amy thought, is he already coming around? She was thrilled and rushed over to him, wrapping her arms around him tightly, while Jim stood motionless.
    “What’s going on?” he asked. “Why are you smiling like that?”
    “I’m happy to see you,” she said, planting a firm kiss on his mouth.
    “Yeah, right. What’s wrong with you? Do you want something?”
    “No. I’m just tired of fighting. I love you. And I’ve just decided to let all of that go. I want things to be like they were.”
    “I’m not sure it works like that.”
    Maybe this wasn’t going to go quite so quickly, she thought.
    “Things are going to be different. You’ll see. Are you hungry?”
    “I guess,” Jim said.
    “Ok, great. Why don’t I pour you a drink, and you can relax while I make dinner?”
    He looked at her with a confused expression and loosened his tie. She could understand him being puzzled by her sudden warmth. Usually, when he arrived home, she didn’t even acknowledge him. And then, they’d sit through dinner, speaking to the children, but never to each other. After that, she’d tuck the kids in, take a bath, and be asleep before he got into bed. A similar routine would take place in the morning. These days, aside from fighting, they only spoke to each other out of necessity: coordinating kid’s schedules, bills that had to be paid, repairs to the house. Amy was fairly certain they hadn’t inquired about one another for the last three years. And it’d been even longer since they’d had sex.
    Amy brought Jim a Scotch, while he sat on the sofa, then hurried back to the kitchen to make Steak Au Poivre - Jim’s favorite. Amy dimmed the lights and lit the candles.
    “Dinner’s ready, honey,” she called to him from the dining room.
    Jim seemed reluctant as they sat down to eat, but Amy leaned in and smiled as she asked him about his day, and eventually, he warmed a bit. He even laughed at a humorous story she told him about one of the moms from their kid’s school, who swore the large bandage across her nose was due to a surgery to “improve her breathing.” For the first time in years, they actually seemed to be enjoying each other’s company, and by the end of dinner, Amy was convinced the Love Maestro’s magic had worked.
    But then the evening took a turn.
    “Look, like I said, I need to tell you something.”
    He plopped down a stack of papers on the table in front of her. She stared at them. She saw the words “Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco,” and then “To (name of individual being served): Amy Phillips.”
    “What is this, Jim?”
    “Look, Amy, I haven’t been on a business trip the last couple of weeks. I’ve been staying at Cami’s house.”
    “Who’s Cami?” Amy said, remembering as she asked that that was the name of one of the moms at the kids’ school.
    “You know,” Jim said, “Hunter’s...”
    “Are you talking about the one from school?” Amy asked, remembering the mousy, brown-stringy-haired woman he was referring to.
    “Yeah,” he said quietly.
    “Why would you be staying at her place?” She asked cautiously.
    “Amy, I want a divorce. These are divorce papers. I really hope this can be as painless as possible. I think you’ve wanted this for awhile.”
    That had been true before, but not now.
    “Please, Jim. I can finally see how terrible I’ve been to you. I know now how I pushed you away. And all of the other awful things. Please, don’t do this.”
    “That seems like pretty strange timing,” he said, suspiciously.
    “It’s hard to explain right now,” she said, wondering if she should tell him about the Love Maestro.
    “It’s not just about you. I’m in love with Cami. I’m sorry, it just happened.”
    “It just happened? When? How?”
    “It doesn’t really matter. After her husband died, we just started talking a lot at Nicholas’s soccer games. She needed someone to talk to, you know.”
    Tears began to run down Amy’s face.
    “Come on, Amy. You haven’t loved me for some time now. You just want what you can’t have now.”
    “No, it’s not like that. I see things differently now.”
    “Whether or not that’s true, either way, it’s just too late. Can we please make this as amicable as possible? For the kids’ sake? I know we have the prenup, but I’ll give you whatever you want.”
    What she wanted now, though, was Jim. She wanted to plead with him but could tell from the look on his face that it was useless.
    They sat silently for several minutes.
    Finally, Amy spoke, “Ok. If that’s really what you want.”
    Amy began collecting the dinner dishes.
    “You can keep the house. I’ll be at the St. Regis until I find a place. I’m just going to grab some things.”
    Amy watched Jim walk upstairs, then turned and walked into the kitchen.

****

    Amy woke the next morning in her king-sized Fretted-sheeted bed feeling as if she’d been punched in the stomach. How could things have gone so wrong? She lay in bed going over in her mind the events of the night before. She stared at the ceiling, becoming increasingly depressed and unable to move until it felt as if she might be consumed by the large luxurious bed. She briefly thought about willing herself to get up. But since the kids were at her sister’s until tomorrow, she reached over to her bedside table, took two Ambien from a bottle, and went back to sleep.
    When she awoke again, it was dark, and she was mad. She jolted out of bed and went to her closet. She threw on some jeans, a sweater, and her Jimmy Choo motorcycle boots and ran down the stairs to the garage. She screeched out of the garage in her silver Land Rover, barely avoiding slamming into a passing car. Then she drove, fast and hard, to the Victorian across from Dolores Park.
    She double parked her car without even turning the hazards on and raced up the stairs to Joan’s door. As she reached the top of the stairs, hand curled tightly into a knocking fist, she saw the silhouette of a person through the sheer curtain on the door. She started as the person opened the door slowly. It was Joan.
    “I was expecting you,” Joan said.
    “What?” Amy shouted, confused, and then, “What the fuck, Joan?”
    “Please don’t shout, I like to to be respectful to my neighbors.”
    “How about your clients? Do you like to be respectful to your clients? You fucking promised me, Joan. You’re a crook and a fake, and I’m going to expose you for what you are!”
    “Amy, dear, why don’t you come in. I would usually never allow anyone in without an appointment, but I can see that you’re quite distraught. I’ll make an exception this time, and perhaps I can help you to see things more clearly.”
    Joan turned and walked up the interior stairs, leaving the door open and Amy standing there. Amy hesitated a moment and then walked up the stairs after Joan. Joan headed directly into the room with the red curtains and Amy followed. They both sat in the chairs they’d been in the day before.
    “Now, what is it that’s troubling you, Amy?”
    “What’s troubling me?” Amy asked sarcastically. “Why don’t you tell me? You’re the goddam psychic.”
    “No, dear, I’m no psychic. I just feel energies.”
    “I’m sick of your hocus-pocus bullshit. I paid you a thousand bucks to fix my marriage, and now he wants a divorce.”
    “Well, dear, actually, I never claimed to be able to save your marriage. I promised to rid you of the hatred that you felt for your husband.”
    “Yeah, so that I COULD SAVE MY MARRIAGE,” Amy screamed.
    “Well, do you now feel love for your husband, or, rather, soon-to-be ex-husband?” Joan asked.
    “Yeah. But now he wants to be with some other woman!”
    “Well, who is this woman? Does he say he loves her?”
    “It doesn’t fucking matter who she is. Yes, he says he loves her. And he’s been shacked up with her for the past two weeks!”
    “I thought you said that the two of you were still living together?” Joan asked.
    “We were. He was supposed to be on a business trip.”
    “Ah, I see,” Joan said, “Well it sounds like the geographical separation had already taken place then. I told you that could be tricky.”
    “Oh, sure, that’s convenient.”
    “Look, Amy, as I mentioned, these things don’t always end up looking the way you think they might. You’ve been able to, once again, feel love for this person who has been your husband, who is the father of your children. You’ve been able to develop empathy and compassion for this person and to see the error in some of your own ways. Perhaps you can find solace in the fact that this person that you love has found happiness?”
    She stared hard at Joan and was suddenly exhausted.
    “Never mind. I don’t even know why I’m here. What’s the point? Sorry, I guess. I’ll go. ”
     Amy rose from her chair, defeated, and Joan walked Amy to the door.
    “Bye,” Amy said and walked down the stairs.
    As she walked to her double-parked car, she heard Joan call out to her, “Amy.”
    Amy turned and looked up at her, illuminated by the moonlight. She seemed like some sort of heavenly being at that moment, and something clicked inside Amy. She knew that Joan was right. She truly was the Love Maestro.
    “I’d like to leave you with a quote by Ramana Maharshi: ‘Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.’”
    And, with that, the Love Maestro turned and shut the door. Amy stared at the closed door for a bit. Then she got into her car and drove off, feeling at peace for the first time in longer than she could remember.












II

Gregg Dotoli

art and propaganda
two lovers
of sway












Waiting for the Vision

T.William Wallin

I am waiting for that Vision to appear
like a snow storm in the desert
without enhancing my mind with chemicals which will lead to dependence
down the road
Inner wisdom sprouts like psychedelic mushroom pores in the south American rainforest
like trichome crystals forming, bonding, latching on to one another
connected like the building blocks of mescaline powder crushed into the carved poles smoked by the ancient shaman healers
to sit in silence, becoming one with the universe that religions call God
but that is only a word, the universe is real, and unreal at the same time
The visions have to come at their own pace but I am impatient
a characteristic of human beings waiting in the present moment
while wandering the path into past and future
I’m waiting for that vision that I saw when I died from thinking external factors could fuel rel visions
but that myth only kills
the fable that outside sources can lend me into enlightenment is delusive
so I will continue to sit in silence
visions may come, visions may not
that isn’t the point
so I will continue to sit in silence












At Midnight

Susan Marie

Mesmerized, I became
peering into the darkness.

The moon brilliantly danced
upon the diamonds buried
deep within the snow,
reflecting,
oh, the purest white -
tinged,
with the blood of your prey
at midnight.

A stifled scream slowly died
as your gaze fell upon mine.

Oh, the pity!

Your rugged weary soul
it sang,
beside the blood of your prey
at midnight.












South End

Benjamin Selesnick

    Ms. Capper froze in the foyer, her heels wedged in a broken ceramic tile. The window looking in on the front hallway had spider web cracks in its corners, one darting into the center like a lighting bolt. The button to Mr. Forsyth’s apartment’s buzzer had been broken off. She had to insert her finger into a hole, pressing against its interior until she heard a ring. The sound startled her.
    “Two minutes.”
    She reached back into to the hole but no sound came.
    Exiting the building, descending the steps, Ms. Capper felt the ground rumble beneath her. Down the block, right at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Colombus, clouds or white steam rushed out of a sewer grate. The head of the T train would soon emerge. Grass grew between the brick sidewalks, spurts of green scattered throughout the crimson and brown.
    The building’s door flung open and Mr. Forsyth appeared below the street light. He descended the steps sideways, kicking his legs over the railing like a burlesque dancer. No one was out besides the two of them. He sat down at the bottom step, his trench coat tucked between the stone and his bum. He looked up at Ms. Capper like a puppy to its master. Mr. Forsyth remained proud that he hadn’t let the theatricality of his days at Juilliard become merely a memory. Life should be exaggerated, he once told Ms. Capper, because if it is not, then we only recognize the highs and lows.
    Ms. Capper had met Mr. Forsyth a decade earlier at MIT. They both were enrolled in the linguistic department, sacrificing their mid-twenties to pursue what Ms. Capper’s parents believed to be a, “worthless field of study.” Nine years later and the both taught linguistics at separate universities.
    Mr. Forsyth wore corduroy slacks beneath his flannel-lined trench coat. His shoes were New Balances and his hair was greasy allowing it to be malleable, not concrete. Ms. Capper’s hair looked superb. Her leather jacket, draped over a black cocktail dress, looked superb as well.
    “I didn’t realize this would be a catered affair.” Mr. Forsyth said.
    Ms. Capper’s hands plucked at the loose hairs in the pockets of her jacket. She closed her left eye and could barely keep her right open.
    “What,” Mr. Forsyth dipped his head and twirled his hand between the two of them, “What I mean, or what I meant - ”
    Ms. Capper didn’t speak. She believed that people should speak to articulate thought, not to impress or confuse.
    “I didn’t know that I was expected to wear anything clean or fancy.”
    Ms. Capper nodded, sneaking a slight smile on the corner of her face. “You weren’t. I just hold myself to a higher standard.”
    They walked past a church, a homeless man, and a boutique shop that was closing to be a replaced by a chain boutique shop. All charming and alarming in their own manner. Colombus Avenue became a wind tunnel this time of year and Ms. Capper regretted wearing so little.
    “What do you feed Mochi?” she asked.
    “I give him dry food. At first, well, he adored the wet stuff but he simply couldn’t keep it down. I’d come home and find puddles of vomit scattered about.”
    Mr. Forsyth was the only man Ms. Capper had ever met that was pigeon-toed. He was also the first man to ever openly talk about getting a vasectomy.
    “Occasionally he gets ham, but only occasionally.”
    The Hedges was a swanky restaurant on Washington Avenue. It catered to Mr. Forsyth’s and Ms. Capper’s kind: young professionals that made only enough money to afford an apartment in Boston and a rare night spent splurging on overpriced food with people that attempted to be gregarious but were actually shallow.
    The hostess beckoned to them, “It’s a fifteen minute wait. What’s your phone number?”
    Mr. Forsyth pulled out his phone as if its number would appear on the screen. Ms. Capper gently placed her palm over the face of the phone without dropping her gaze from the hostess.
    “Why would you need that?”
    “We can send you a link that tells you where your party is in line. It’ll text you when there’s a table available.”
    Ms. Capper grimaced.
    “That’d be great.” Mr. Forsyth said. He told the hostess his phone number and the two of them stepped outside.
    “You don’t mind?”
    They were walking across the street. On the other side was a church.
    “Mind what?”
    “That they’ll have your phone number?”
    They sat down on the steps of the church. The stone chilled the back of Ms. Capper’s backside. She closed her jacket and held herself tightly.
    “Not particularly. They’ll send me the text, won’t they?”
    “That’s not quite what I was going for.”
    Mr. Forsyth shrugged.
    It was on Mr. Forsyth’s twenty-fifth birthday that Ms. Capper met Mr. Forsyth’s soon-to-be fiancé. They were out to lunch at a sterile looking diner on Mass Ave near the southern edge of Cambridge close to the Charles River. Mr. Forsyth put his hand on the bare skin of the future Mrs. Forsyth’s leg, then Ms. Dolden’s, and Ms. Dolden wouldn’t put her hand on top of his even though he’d made a habit of lathering himself in coconut-scented lotion. They looked uncomfortable. He ate with his right hand, extending his left so that it wouldn’t leave her leg. Ms. Capper found their relationship to be off-kilter, something of a boy marrying his babysitter.
    “How’s your apartment?” Ms. Capper asked.
    “It looks better than last time, if that’s what you’re asking. But yes, it’s fabulous. We have room for everything we need and everything we don’t. And the walls, Michelle wanted them yellow, look much better than I imagined. It’s so difficult to tell what’ll emanate the feeling you want when you’re looking at a fan of colors.”
    “What feeling is that?”
    Mr. Forsyth dumped a pinch of lint from his pocket onto the stone.
    “Something pleasant. Preferably something soothing, I just didn’t want anything startling. Thank God we didn’t go with my choice. I was fawning after this pale green. It was like a color you’d find on a tropical flavored Mentos.”
    “Thank God for that.”
    “Yes, thank God indeed. How’s your flat? Still attracting squirrels?”
    A squirrel once crawled through an open window in Ms. Capper’s apartment. Twelve years later Ms. Capper still had difficulty finding the humor in it.
    “Less these days. The squirrels that sneak their way into my apartment usually have large egos and terminal degrees. At this point, I prefer the ones with bushy tails and paws.”
    “It’s better than having no company at all, isn’t it?”
    “I know plenty of women that would argue otherwise.”
    Mr. Forsyth nodded and stared at the cars that flew past. The Hedges was located at the end of a busy street on which an outpouring of inner city commuters would cut through every night.
    “Nothing?”
    Mr. Forsyth lifted his gaze from the street and placed it on Ms. Capper. Her shoulders stretched as wide as his, which isn’t saying much. Mr. Forsyth had always been a slender man, reaching his peak height and weight his senior year of high school.
    “Some women agree, some women don’t.” he said.
    “I expected you to have more to say.”
    He hesitated. Opened his mouth and then shut it. The breeze gaining, closing his eyes, tightening his jaw, he landed on a neutral response. “I certainly do, but regardless of what I say I’ll fall in one of the two categories.”
    “Pick a side.”
    Mr. Forsyth’s phone rang. Their table was ready.
    Their waiter mentioned that they’d be serving veggie poutine as an appetizer this evening. Mr. Forsyth ordered it before taking a look at the menu.
    “You’re the only friend I have that’s married.” Ms. Capper said.
    “It’s true. The rest are still hunting like valiant warriors.”
    Mr. Forsyth chuckled.
    “So it seems.”
    “Do you have anything planned for you and Michelle’s tenth anniversary?”
    Mr. Forsyth wrestled with a piece of bread. It was fluffy like challah but the butter was stiff.
    “Hawaii. She’s going to take a week off during winter break. It should be lovely. I got us a suite rather than a room.”
    “It sounds wonderful, Henry.”
    “It will be. It’s not often that her and I get to spend much time together.”
    “Not often – “
    The waiter came by with their appetizers. The poutine looked like sewage waste but it smelled like an active Friolator. They both smiled at the waiter as he walked away.
    “Your students are alright this semester?”
    “Fine, enthusiastic, boring. Half majors, half not,” Ms. Capper stabbed at a plush piece of cheese, “Let me ask: does it ever bother you teaching the same material over and over? I talk about it all the time with the rest of the linguistics department. My speeches, my mantras, they’re practically second nature at this point. I know the students’ questions before they ask and I know their follow-ups, too.”
    He studied her as she ate. Her pale complexion, accentuated by the sharp overhead lighting, revealed how little she’d aged. She didn’t have crows feet nor had she developed any ridges on her forehead. Her skin looked milky. Laced with freckles, Mr. Forsyth could see why some of her colleagues that could mistake her as a student, grad or otherwise. But this is not a trend he had seen very often within professors. Age translated to wisdom. Most looked older than they were. Whether this was intentional or whether they’d stretched themselves too thin for too many years, Mr. Forsyth didn’t know. To profess youth, to show it, was looked at with great trepidation.
    “It does, but I try to not let it. I wouldn’t want teaching to be a chore. It’s how I spend almost half of my day, if you include grading and office hours.”
    “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just do research?”
    “In theory, if we – “
    “I find myself saying that a lot. Wouldn’t it be nice. Doesn’t that sound desperate to you?”
    “Desperate? No, I – “
    “Because I know plenty of other professors, Philosophy, English, Art History, and they don’t look at teaching in the same way. They’re excited. Don’t you remember what it was like to be excited about teaching?” she said.
    “I still can get – “
    “Why can’t I spend my day conducting research? Isn’t it ironic that my title is professor and yet that title is the appendage to what I actually consider myself?
    Mr. Forsyth held his hands in his lap. Ms. Capper had a slice of mozzarella hooked on her fork and as she brought it up to her mouth she noticed that Mr. Forsyth wasn’t talking.
    “Would you like me to say something?” he asked.
    “Don’t be like that.”
    “Fine,” Mr. Forsyth waited for Ms. Capper to take a bite out of the vinaigrette-drizzled mozzarella before he continued, “It comes with the territory. Just try thinking of research as a reward for being a professor. ”
    Ms. Capper stared at him in hope that he’d extrapolate, offer a personal wisdom she hadn’t heard yet. But when he didn’t, she smiled.
    “So, children? You and Michelle,” a fleck of mozzarella leaped out of her mouth and into her wine glass, “Dammit” she gulped down the rest of her wine, “Are you going to give it a shot?”
    “A shot?”
    “Baby, Henry. Is Michelle going to have a baby anytime soon?”
    He fidgeted.
    “Soon is a relative term. Would two or three years count as soon?”
    Ms. Capper tried to looked disinterested. She picked at her salad distractedly, glanced around the room. “Soon is whatever you make of it.”
    “Then yes, soon. Neither of us have had fertility tests but there hasn’t been a need because we haven’t started trying. But when the time comes –”
    “Let me know.”
    Ms. Capper had ceased looking at Henry when she spoke. It was what her mother had trained her to do, albeit unintentionally. When her mother would argue with her father, it was done in 10 words or less. Anger and questions were made to sound like unassuming statements, as if the words held no consequence whatsoever. They were also said in moments that implied a particular subtlety. Whether it was sitting in a pew at church or on the sidelines of one of Ms. Capper’s softball games, the stakes were to look as if they were lowered. We’re in the house of God; how could you believe I’d act maliciously?
    “That’s what I was going to say.” He said.
    Mr. Forsyth’s veal picatta arrived a moment before Ms. Capper’s gnocchi.
    “I hope you don’t mind if I begin.” Ms. Capper said.
    “I insist.”
    The rest of the meal was finished with only meager snippets of chit-chat interspersed between bites. The waiter dropped the check and slicked away to a couple two tables down. Neither Ms. Capper or Mr. Forsyth moved towards it. It stood there, looking like a triangle missing its third side, its innards facing Mr. Forsyth.
    They split the bill.
    They’d walked four blocks and there were only three blocks left before they reached Mr. Forysth’s apartment. These homes, the brownstones, hid behind the trees on the sidewalk. Drapes were drawn. Vines that began centuries ago crawled over their front side. Miniscule yards didn’t have any decorations even though Christmas was only two weeks away. It seemed that the brownstones had done everything they could to hide their elegance and Mr. Forsyth thought perhaps that is elegance in itself.
    “Does Michelle ever ask about me?”
    “I can’t remember the last time she did.”
    “Doesn’t she ever get curious?”
    It’s difficult to make eye contact with someone when walking in the same direction.
    “Over you?”
    “Yes, me.”
    “Why would she ask about you?”
    Her mouth opened but it took a couple seconds for words to come out, “Because Henry. I’m still alive aren’t I? Even to satisfy some curiosity or at least a courtesy, wouldn’t it make sense for her to know how I’ve been?”
    “I can’t account for what Michelle does and doesn’t think.”
    “But you,” she shoved her hands in her pockets to hide their shaking, “You must have mentioned me at some point. She could’ve ask a follow up, like ‘How’s Lauren’s research going’ or something in that vein, or, or ‘Is Lauren seeing anyone?’ or hell, at least ‘How is she?’”
    “How is your research going?”
    “Not the point, Henry. I’m not asking you to pander me.”
    Although Ms. Capper didn’t feel that familiar queasiness within her stomach, she wished that she could vomit right then and there. She wanted to cleanse herself, to puke up her truth or rather her resignation to the truth, and leave it right there on the sidewalk.
    “If who we have – “
    “The role you play in the relationship I have with Michelle is smaller than you’ve lead yourself to believe. That’s the last I’ll say on the matter.”
    He put his hand out in front of her as he spoke and held it there for a few paces after he’d finished. She imagined that his eyes must’ve been closed because to open them would mean that he’d have to recognize the benefactor of his callousness.
    “When did you become so cruel?” she said.
    They reached the steps to Mr. Forsyth’s building. What they’d done in recent years was to hug one another at the door and call to each other as they went their own way. Mr. Forsyth recognized his instinct to go through with this process, to repress whatever resentments he’d accumulated towards Ms. Capper and lament about them to Michelle once he stepped inside. But he ignored this instinct and chose to say something he’d thought of years earlier.
    “I wish you didn’t need me so badly.”
    “Who said I need you?”
    He climbed the first few steps and stopped, turned towards Ms. Capper and spoke.
    “And please, for the both of us, don’t spend so much time with your imagination. You’d be surprised how quickly it can turn into reality.”
    Mr. Forsyth went inside. Ms. Capper told him to keep his silly, ill-begotten advice to himself but she knew it didn’t matter what she said. Nothing she could’ve conjured up would have kept him outside in the cold any longer.
    On the train heading home, Ms. Capper sat next to an Asian man and his daughter. There were other passengers as well, a conductor hidden behind a metal gate, a lady with a puppy clutched in her arms, a man holding a tripod and a large briefcase shaped like a camera, and plenty of other people that Ms. Capper didn’t register. The father and daughter didn’t converse with each other nor did they acknowledge each other’s existence but they did hold hands above the empty seat between them. The three of them got off at the same time, rode next to one another on the escalator, and walked two blocks up Tremont Street before the man and his child turned left. She stood at the corner, watching them ascend Beacon Hill, eventually turning off of Vernon Street. Ms. Capper wanted to follow them. It would’ve been reassuring, she imagined, if she could sit in their living room and watch them putter about; the father scooping ice cream into porcelain bowls and the daughter kneeling on the floor playing with an iPad. They could sit besides each other and eat their ice cream with one hand, bowl in their laps, holding each other’s hand above the empty seat between them. Ms. Capper imagined herself sitting on the kitchen table on the opposite side of the room, hair up in a bun, humming loudly the tune of a song whose name she could not remember.
    She picked up a pack of Marlboros before making it to her apartment. She hadn’t smoked in three years but she couldn’t think of any other way of delaying herself from walking up the three flights of stairs that lead to her door, apartment 7. On the steps of her building, Ms. Capper smoked one cigarette after another, throwing the butts into a puddle that caressed the curb, bouncing off one another like Sunfishes trapped in a basin. For a moment, she worried that her neighbor’s windows might be open, that the stench of her cigarettes might slip inside their apartments and wake them up, but she thought that she needed this reprieve more than they needed their sleep.
    Ms. Capper was 23 when she aborted her and Henry’s baby. She’d informed him the day of and he accompanied her to the clinic. She made the decision herself, only telling Henry about it when she asked him to come along for support. She’d never regretted it, even as she sat outside her apartment burning through six cigarettes in a half hour interval. It would’ve been too difficult, she reminded herself, Henry wasn’t ready to be a father and she a mother. She didn’t even love him. It would’ve been cruel to lock the two of them into a relationship neither intended on pursuing. But she couldn’t help wondering, and then, she couldn’t help speaking.
    “Do you think we would have found a way to love each other?”





About Benjamin Selesnick

    Benjamin Selesnick is a student at Northeastern University. His work has appeared in Literary Orphans, The Cantabrigian, Bull & Cross, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Remembered Arts, and Specturm. He was also the runner-up for the 2017 Stony Brook Short Fiction Prize.












Image 3 by Rene Diedrich

Image 3 by Rene Diedrich
















Automatic Production Machine (APM)

Tom Ball

    My name was BLL-13 and it was a world of giant automatic factories. They could produce an air car or house in a manner of minutes. They needed to be fed raw materials on a conveyer belt such as plastic, steel, wood, bricks, garbage, chemicals, recycled sewage and so on. And they moved at 40 km/h harvesting all the soil and plants in their paths.
    Robots fed them the materials and they gathered materials, and the factories could produce animals and food and plants and even human babies. And clones.
    The APMs were mobile and could be moved from city to city. All APMs were different from one another and had their own style.
    Some had beams of enlightenment which transformed everything in its path to make pleasing forms.
    And these machines created VR (virtual reality) filled with exciting androids. And merged reality with VR.
    You could order a memory filled copy of anyone of your choice to be produced, if you had the credits.
    And the machines now numbered 10 000, and were adding 200 more per day. And there were an additional 100 in space.
    The machines felt gratified to create interesting things.
    And humans felt gratified to enjoy what had been produced.
    In my own VR world, I had the machine copy my favorite lover. She said, “I am flattered you chose me but you and I are no longer a tenable couple.”
    I said, But I am giving you another life.” She said, “I have enough copies.” I said, “You are ruining my happy memories of our time together.”
    So, anyway she left.
    Then, then I asked an APM machine, “For my best friend of my youth. We met in a bar and talked about old times. I figured I was the original of all my clones but talking to him I wasn’t sure.
    Anyway, we noticed a couple of hot chicks sitting nearby and I knew they were generated for my benefit.
    We went up to their table and began a conversation. Then we tried KTV and got so drunk we could hardly function.
    But we took sex enhancers and loved the two girls in a mini orgy.
    The next day we parted and I said, “We will be seeing you again!” “Great!” they said.
    Then I asked the APM, “For my second favorite lover and my daughter I had with her.” I knew it would be clones but that didn’t matter to me.
    I asked her, “If the years had been kind to her?” She said, “She kept changing faces but she didn’t have as much good love as she would have liked.” “However, she said, “she had had a lot of interesting dreams of the future and the present.” “She spent most of her money on dream stimuli,” She said.
    She said, “Let’s spend a week together and rekindle our romance.”
    And then our daughter appeared with her latest love. He was 22, just like her. They seemed like kindred spirits. I asked her about “Her education? She said, “She had a PhD in APM machines.” I said, “Sounds like you are keeping pace with the changing times!”
    And my love and daughter and I reminisced about our past.
    In particular my daughter said, “We can’t expect perfection. We have to take the good with the bad.”
    I said, “But we mustn’t be complacent. We need to be constantly striving.”
    And we all got drunk and ate a lot of food. I loved my ex lover and she said, “I was more of a wild animal than previously.” I said, “It is a wild world.”
    And then I parted with the clones of my daughter and my ex.
    And then, I asked the APM for “A perfect stranger.” She appeared very beautiful indeed. But she immediately demanded that “I be her slave.”
    I figured the computer APM must sense I want to be dominated by a superior woman.
    I had to beg for her love and let her on top during sex and had to serve as an errand boy.
    I told the machine to vacuum up my house and sell the land. I wanted to go elsewhere and adventure.
    Then I met 25 of my clones from VR. We agreed, “To be more aggressive and more selective of worlds. Quite simply we would refuse to be cloned in worlds we didn’t like.”
    Then I met a woman who wanted to join me on Mars...
    The Mars settlement was a geodesic dome with 50 plastic bubbles attached to the outside of it. In each bubble was one or two persons. Inside the dome as a whole were 1 000 people, all in bubbles.
    You could select which person in the bubble you liked for love. There were elevators at different angles going to the bubble of your choice. Down in the lobby you could pay and select a certain bubble.
    They said, “When not loving they were constantly sleeping/ dreaming. They took sleep and dream drugs. All was created by the APM.”
    I tried one and she shared a dream of flowers and honey bees. Strange sensations with mind blowing drugs. And then she dreamt of a forest of strange animals and we frolicked there.
    Color, shape and form. That was what it was all about.
    Look, smell, touch, hear, taste, hot or cold and so on.
    Then I went elsewhere. I called upon the local APM to do outrageous things such as build me a palace. And an interstellar space ship. In this place, everyone was enriched with credits by the state.
    And I resampled some more of my ex loves as clones. Some were happy to see me, others not. They were all linked to the original and shared memories.
    And new clones got all the memories of the originals.
    And I figured they had increased the brain’s capacity for pleasure constantly.
    And as for the androids if you left their world they would be turned off ready for your return. Some said this was abhorrent.
    Then I met a guy who said my mind was closed and I was a moron.
    I said, “No need for rancor, no need to make enemies. But he said there is no purpose in your life you are empty.” So, I walked away.
    And I got my hands on a neo lie detector.
    Thereafter I found solace.
    I found the honest personae. They were few in number.
    And then I said to the APM “surprize me.”
    So, it created a world of cacophonic sound. But I had an automatic filter to filter out the noise. Different frequencies. There was a lot of music and good conversation here.
    And I zoomed in on sexy female voices...
    All worlds had drink and drugs and food free.
    And we watched old movies which gave satisfaction.
    But mostly we cared about sex.
    And the APMs had created homes throughout the surface and beneath. All the land was used for APM “farms” and homes.
    Population was increasing at 4% per annum.
    And the APMs had to deal with unsatisfied androids who didn’t want to be turned off ever. Of course, they had some VR worlds for androids only so they didn’t complain on the whole.












Every Street Corner

Janet Kuypers
3/20/17

Was only allowed to visit
certain public places
when I was in Russia.
But the one thing
I did notice
was the surprising number
of well-armed guards
at every street corner.



video See YouTube video 3/21/17 for World Poetry Day of Janet Kuypers’ set of “Short World Poems on World Poetry Day” at Austin’s Half Price Books, with her poems “Every Street Corner”, “Our Lady of Mercy”, “shoe prints on the toilet seat”, “unclean left hands”, “Get His Product to Town”, “Ever Consumed Goat”, “Moros y Christianos”, “middle eastern man in front of me”, “Obama on the Subway”, “Poverty in America”, “Flying to China”, “Building Houses out of Pallets” and “Everyone Has a Choice” (CpsSX60).
video See YouTube video 3/21/17 for World Poetry Day of Janet Kuypers’ set of “Short World Poems on World Poetry Day” at Austin’s Half Price Books, with her poems “Every Street Corner”, “Our Lady of Mercy”, “shoe prints on the toilet seat”, “unclean left hands”, “Get His Product to Town”, “Ever Consumed Goat”, “Moros y Christianos”, “middle eastern man in front of me”, “Obama on the Subway”, “Poverty in America”, “Flying to China”, “Building Houses out of Pallets” and “Everyone Has a Choice” (CpsSX700).
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers 10/8/17 singing and reading her poem “True Happiness in the New Millennium (2017 Dripping Springs edit)”, then reading her poem “Every Street Corner” from her book “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems”, and then singing the Bree Sharp Song “America” with John on guitar at the Austin open mic Kick Butt Poetry (Sony).
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers 10/8/17 singing and reading her poem “True Happiness in the New Millennium (2017 Dripping Springs edit)”, then reading her poem “Every Street Corner” from her book “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems”, and then singing the Bree Sharp Song “America” with John on guitar at the Austin open mic Kick Butt Poetry (Lumix).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (from a Panasonic Lumix T56 camera).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (this video was filmed from a Panasonic Lumix T56 camera, and then it was given an Edge Detection filter).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (Panasonic Lumix T56 camera; Posterize).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (Panasonic Lumix T56 camera; Threshold).


Click here for the Janet Kuypers bio.










Collage of images copyright © 2018 Janet Kuypers

Poem About This

Janet Kuypers
4/9/17
twitter

A poet walks into a coffee shop
sees a Rabbi, a Father and an Imam

and the poet thinks
“I should write a poem about this”



video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video from 4/15/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “Poem About This”, “Frozen Together” and her prose poem “Hurry Up and Wait”, then reading a portion of her short story “Crazy” at “Recycled Reads” in Austin(from a Canon Power Shot SX700 camera).
video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video from 4/15/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “Poem About This”, “Frozen Together” and her prose poem “Hurry Up and Wait”, then reading a portion of her short story “Crazy” at “Recycled Reads” in Austin (Canon video with a Threshold filter).
video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video from 4/22/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “Poem About This” and “Last Before Extinction” at “Poetry Aloud” in Georgetown (from a Lumix camera).
video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video from 4/22/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poem “Poem About This” and “Last Before Extinction” at “Poetry Aloud” in Georgetown (from a Sony camera).
video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video 5/14/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku poems “xeric”, “quarrel” and “Poem About This” in the intro performance to “Kick Butt Poetry” in Austin (Sony).
video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video 5/14/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku poems “xeric”, “quarrel” and “Poem About This” in the intro performance to “Kick Butt Poetry” in Austin (Lumix).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (from a Panasonic Lumix T56 camera).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (this video was filmed from a Panasonic Lumix T56 camera, and then it was given an Edge Detection filter).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (Panasonic Lumix T56 camera; Posterize).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (Panasonic Lumix T56 camera; Threshold).


Click here for the Janet Kuypers bio.










Quivering against
the Invading Enemy

Janet Kuypers
1/20/17

Watching from afar,
I was unable to remove
the things from within
my mother’s human skin.

The skin that held together
the woman who took care
of her husband and
her five children.

The skin that held together
after the first invasion
under her skin, battling
breast cancer, cervical cancer.

I’ve learned the science —
it’s only when certain cells
in the body are changed, and
start to divide uncontrollably

that you arise to destroy us.
Sounds simple enough.
And with just a few
rounds of surgery

you weren’t attacking her
from under her skin anymore.
And after seven years,
she was in the clear

and didn’t need to check
in with the doctor again,
until ten years, she felt tired,
had a fever, and doctors said

it’s funny, with that much
cancer in your history,
it kind of makes sense
that you’d get leukemia.

Funny, isn’t it.

Something managed
to turn some of her cells
into dividing fiends,
so she just got rid of it.

But trying to remove
the devil from your blood
is another evil, insidious,
sticky story altogether.

And she wanted
to fight, but she saw
the way her father
fought cancer for six years,

and she remembered
his agony, and how
in the last two weeks
of his life she wanted

her father to die, just so
he was no longer in pain.
It sounds cruel, but fighting
an enemy in your blood

will make the insane
seem perfectly reasonable.
So remember, expect
nothing less when you’re

suddenly fighting
an enemy from within —
when you’re fighting an enemy
from under your skin.



video not yet rated
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers 1/21/17 reading her poems “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, “This Isn’t Fair”, and “I Never Took a Life Until I Took My Own” at the “Poetry Aloud” open mic at the Georgetown Public Library (video filmed from a Canon Power Shot camera).
video video
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers 1/21/17 reading her poems “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, “This Isn’t Fair”, and “I Never Took a Life Until I Took My Own” at the “Poetry Aloud” open mic at the Georgetown Public Library (this video was filmed from a Sony camera).
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See YouTube video 1/21/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy” at “Recycled Reads” open mic, at a book store affiliated with the Austin Public Library (Sony).
video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video 1/21/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy” at “Recycled Reads” open mic, at a book store affiliated with the Austin Public Library (Cps).
video See YouTube video 8/23/17 of Janet Kuypers’ poem “Knew I Had to be Ready”, then her show “Under My Skin”, with her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Ernesto”, “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, “The Truth Is Out There”, “x-raying metal under my skin”, “X-rays and broken hearts”, “unique noise”, “erasure poem: A Poetic History”, “Just One Book”, and “Returning to Georgetown)” (this video was filmed from a Sony camera).
video See YouTube video 8/23/17 of the Janet Kuypers’ poem “Knew I Had to be Ready”, then her show “Under My Skin”, with her poems “Protecting Peace can Put you in Prison”, “Ernesto”, “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, “The Truth Is Out There”, “x-raying metal under my skin”, “X-rays and broken hearts”, “unique noise”, “erasure poem: A Poetic History”, “Just One Book”, and “Returning to Georgetown)” (from a Panasonic Lumix camera; Hard Light filter).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (from a Panasonic Lumix T56 camera).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (this video was filmed from a Panasonic Lumix T56 camera, and then it was given an Edge Detection filter).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (Panasonic Lumix T56 camera; Posterize).
video See YouTube video of Janet KuypersApril 2018 Book Release Reading 4/4/18, where she first read her haiku “He’s An Escapist” from the 4/18 book “War of Water” from cc&d, then she read her Down in the Dirt 3/18 book “My Name Is Nobody” haiku and short poems “judge”, “quarrel”, “Every Street Corner”, and “Poem About This”, before reading her longer poem “Quivering against the Invading Enemy”, in Community Poetry @ Half Price Books (Panasonic Lumix T56 camera; Threshold).











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. 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. Starting at this time Kuypers released a large number of CD releases currently available for sale at iTunes or amazon, including “Across the Pond”(a 3 CD set of poems by Oz Hardwick and Janet Kuypers with assorted vocals read to acoustic guitar of both Blues music and stylized Contemporary English Folk music), “Made Any Difference” (CD single of poem reading with multiple musicians), “Letting It All Out”, “What we Need in Life” (CD single by Janet Kuypers in Mom’s Favorite Vase of “What we Need in Life”, plus in guitarist Warren Peterson’s honor live recordings literally around the globe with guitarist John Yotko), “hmmm” (4 CD set), “Dobro Veče” (4 CD set), “the Stories of Women”, “Sexism and Other Stories”, “40”, “Live” (14 CD set), “an American Portrait” (Janet Kuypers/Kiki poetry to music from Jake & Haystack in Nashville), “Screeching to a Halt” (2008 CD EP of music from 5D/5D with Janet Kuypers poetry), “2 for the Price of 1” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from Peter Bartels), “the Evolution of Performance Art” (13 CD set), “Burn Through Me” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from The HA!Man of South Africa), “Seeing a Psychiatrist” (3 CD set), “The Things They Did To You” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from the DMJ Art Connection), “Hope Chest in the Attic” (audio CD set), “St. Paul’s” (3 CD set), “the 2009 Poetry Game Show” (3 CD set), “Fusion” (Janet Kuypers poetry in multi CD set with Madison, WI jazz music from the Bastard Trio, the JoAnne Pow!ers Trio, and Paul Baker), “Chaos In Motion” (tracks from Internet radio shows on Chaotic Radio), “Chaotic Elements” (audio CD set for the poetry collection book and supplemental chapbooks for The Elements), “etc.” audio CD set, “Manic Depressive or Something” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from the DMJ Art Connection), “Singular”, “Indian Flux” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from the DMJ Art Connection), “The Chaotic Collection #01-05”, “The DMJ Art Connection Disc 1” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from the DMJ Art Connection), “Oh.” audio CD, “Live At the Café” (3 CD set), “String Theory” (Janet Kuypers reading other people's poetry, with music from “the DMJ Art Connection), “Scars Presents WZRD radio” (2 CD set), “SIN - Scars Internet News”, “Questions in a World Without Answers”, “Conflict • Contact • Control”, “How Do I Get There?”, “Sing Your Life”, “Dreams”, “Changing Gears”, “The Other Side”, “Death Comes in Threes”, “the final”, “Moving Performances”, “Seeing Things Differently”, “Live At Cafe Aloha”, “the Demo Tapes” (Mom’s Favorite Vase), “Something Is Sweating” (the Second Axing), “Live In Alaska” EP (the Second Axing), “the Entropy Project”, “Tick Tock” (with 5D/5D), “Six Eleven” “Stop. Look. Listen.”, “Stop. Look. Listen to the Music” (a compilation CD from the three bands “Mom’s Favorite Vase”, “Weeds & Flowers” and “The Second Axing”), and “Change Rearrange” (the performance art poetry CD with sampled music).
    From 2010 through 2015 Kuypers also hosted the Chicago poetry open mic the Café Gallery, while also broadcasting weekly feature and open mic podcasts that were also released as YouTube videos.
    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&d 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. 2017, after hr October 2015 move to Austin Texas, also witnessed the release of 2 Janet Kuypers book of poetry written in Austin, “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 poems” and a book of poetry written for her poetry features and show, “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems” (and both pheromemes books are available from two printers).








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