J.J. Campbell

a tragedy worth having

 

it’s a simple beauty

on a sunny day

 

angelic eyes glancing

from across a crowded

room

 

you could tell from her

lipstick she’s a tragedy

worth having

 

buy her a coffee and

watch her take out

a flask

 

those are the ones you

wanted to marry when

you were younger

Dale Champlin

His hidden heart

 

the best thing his mother-in-law

can say about the bullrider

is the guy sure has a lot of dark hair

that and perfectly straight even teeth

 

but she doesn’t like

the way he treats her daughter—

he expects his new wife to wear

jeans and a barn shirt to fancy parties

 

he doesn’t allow a dress or heels

bitter jealousy stuck in his craw

the way she sways on her

beautiful dancer’s legs

 

driving him crazy

if she smiles at anyone but him

his lack of trust

leaves him chapped with desire

 

so he goads her into housework

straighten his crap—sharp steel

scissored  jumbled and rusting

on the driveway

 

women’s work to clean up

his dog’s shit smeared in the garage

his almost black blue eyes bore into her

with dilated bottomless pupils

 

the mother-in-law

before she was his mother-in law

had a sinking feeling a foreboding

on the day of the wedding

 

the way-over-a-hundred

hottest day that summer

in already stifling early June air

the saddest day of her life

 

as she remembers it

his hollow stare and claw-like hands

the limited vocabulary

to be kind about it

 

his mother-in-law had never seen his grit

his glory days on the circuit

the inborn tenacity and steely gaze

clinging for dear life to the bull’s tilt

 

legs splayed like pliers

the brute force of muscle memory

vice gripped on the heaving bull

with his landed eight second ride

 

she only saw the result—the crabbed rodeo hands—

one arm wrenched clean out of it’s socket

hanging a couple inches lower

on his shoulder

 

he didn’t expect marriage

to be such a hurdle

to be ridiculed

because he didn’t believe in global warming

 

his body wrung out

more like a trample than a spill

and his mind full of words like cunt—

after berating his wife

 

he admits to being a prick

but when she tells him

she’s pregnant again

he asks who’s the father

 

 

Ian Copestick

Wasted Years

As the end of another year gets near
It’s hard to not look back
In shame and frustration
At all the years I wasted
Getting wasted. Telling myself
I was having fun, when I was
Really self destructing.
Falling deeper into debt
And depression, paying for the
Poison that was killing me.
Well, yes I’ve been
A long time clean, but still it hurts.
Life doesn’t last long. There’s
Not enough time to waste.
I’ve got nothing
Against drinking and drugging, But when it’s the only thing
In your life. It’s time to take
Stock and re-prioritize.

Lyn Lifshin

In memory of Lyn Lifshin
(1942-2019)

The collection of the following poems were first read by the world in The Best of The Beatnik Cowboy Volume #1, one of her final collections of poetry to be published in her legendary career. In celebration and in honor of her life, we present her collection of poetry for the first time online.

 

THE MAD GIRL WONDERS IF SHE’LL EVER FEEL

swept away again, feel love or
lust like a tornado? She tries
to imagine rushing out in a blue
denim mini to knock on some
door until her knuckles bleed. Or
driving to his all night to dawn
show, frantic, weeping how
she didn’t want anything from
him, only to keep him in her life.
She uses her poems as a lure,
leaves a note with so much
left out he could imagine anything
he wanted, as now, years later,
she scribbles notes in this
spiral wire notebook to
finish what she never could then

THE MAD GIRL LONGS FOR THE BLUE FORDS OF THAT SUMMER

when all that mattered
still seemed ahead. It
was before the names
she scrawled on a poem
that had nothing to do
with them, lovers now
mostly dead. Their faces
thru a hazy gaze still
blossoming in her mind
like artichoke flowers
on distant mountains

THE MAD GIRL REMEMBERS AFTERNOONS THAT SEEMED SO DARK

sleet then snow. It must
have been November.
One minute the sun
was wild, then it was
snowing, covering the
dead thing. Maybe a
squirrel, half formed, or
maybe a rabbit. She was
at the kitchen table
hours before taking the
metro into town. How
much less dark inside
her, how much less
terror, hurrying to find
a way to end a poem
before ballet as the dark
washed over the boulevard
like a flock of crows

THE MAD GIRL WATCHES THE LIGHT DISAPPEAR FASTER

the cat sleeps in. The dark is full of
sadness. Willows take on the
fading yellows. The veined leaves
have their own history. Under
the quilts she yearns for
Consuming Desire. Something
that will keep her starved
and longing, a luscious chocolate
and caramel cake she can’t keep her
hands from. Or a man, preferably
one she can’t quite keep but will die
trying, takes little gulps of, an
agony to ecstasy roller coaster, her
hair flying, her skin a blush of rouge. The
beauty of hard muscle in an Argentine
tango hold whispering hold me baby,
pressing into her so deep she can
do nothing but follow

THE MAD GIRL FEELS NOVEMBER MOVING DEEP

into her fingers. Past falls, like a
cuddle in rumba, press her into
warm arms that stay only in
dreams, wouldn’t always
be there to hold her. She strings
amulets of love and dark purple tear
shaped tattoos of grieving.
If only she could be Rapunzel,
braiding long blond hair
into a lasso, rope not to lower
to any lover but to shimmy down in
to brightness, into a cove of
light where she will be
stunned by the sudden beauty
she has longed for
more outlined and fierce
outlined by the darkening blue horizon

THE MAD GIRL DREAMS OF THOSE DAWNS IN MOROCCO

birds and roosters
days after the storm
of rice and flowers.
Roosters and dogs,
a bracelet of amber
thighs. Hers circled
your body like an
anklet of silver as
the light held them
like a cobweb and
the air doesn’t move

THE MAD GIRL FEELS SHE IS LOSING

all the things that mattered so,
that flat taut belly, legs she couldn’t
walk down Main Street without
a blare of whistles, Now she can
wear size 0 or 00 and not worry
about gaining a pound, something
she wouldn’t mind doing. She
longs for her old voice, whispery
as Marilyn Monroe, seductive as a
hot weather girl, something she
did on the all night radio show.
She’s lost her family, hair so thick
it had to be thinned, lost cats
and lovers. Lost men

she was sure
she couldn’t live without. Lost
publishers, the smoothest skin, desire,
perfect turn out, balance and still
shakes at how much more she
has to lose

THE MAD GIRL REMEMBERS MORE KISSES

past that first one near the rail road tracks
and the Episcopal Church when Doug
smelling of Clearasil swooped down,
past the barberry. Afterward she said
“we cant do this too often. She must
have kissed the man on her mother’s
blue couch when that man pulled her
hand down to his crotch, said now
you’ve done this you have to do
something. There was the kiss under
the chuppah remembered only in
photographs but were there kisses of the
ones she remembers most, the man
who held her in his brother back seat
Chevy, Al Martino’s Oh My Love playing
as he cupped her breast under the
pink checked cotton. There must
have been kisses from the man on
all night radio, before she kissed him
where he moaned and moaned. Though she
remembers what she wore with each man,
the first and the last time, the kisses blur.
Yes some where there were especially good lovers
but what of the kisses? What of the ones
as hands slipped inside clothes in the
back of the cab rushing to the airport
or just before going under the knife

IT’S NOT ONLY IN HER DREAMS THE MAD GIRL IS TURNING INTO CINDERELLA

the gray days have dogged her
for years, each day
scrubbing the cat box, the mounds
of polished silver. Her hair
hangs greasy and lank. She vacuums
loss by the hour. If there was some
one to talk to. If someone knew
her name but the others don’t
see past their gold pleated
Lamborghinis and diamonds. But
the mad girl knows before the
moon is eclipsed, turns blood red
and vermillion, she will step
from her tattered rags, rinse
sadness and shame from
her as she washes the dust and
grease from her curls that suddenly
are golden and pops two drugs
as she slithers into silk and lace and
rhinestone shoes and dashes
to the ball where for as
long as she’s able, as long as
the pills and magic hold
she will fly thru arms that couldn’t
imagine her not as a beauty
until the feels the magic
start to go, the wicked hour sliding
closer when all the beauty
goes way and even if
she hasn’t lost a shoe or had some
prince of a man follow and
find her she feels the
high fade away and tears her
Dolce Gabanna she’ll never wear
again shredded and stained
as she will feel
by dawn

BEFORE SUBWAYS

late at night, standing
on a deserted platform
when I got on the
wrong. Arlington
Cemetery—9:30 or 10.
The subway slower than
ever. Each shadow scary
until the car stops and
the doors open. A relief
and the people with
empty seats between them
and the poster of the
famous country star
touring again, reminds
me of my upstate life
when a plumber came,
saw a poster for one
of my readings, said with
a scowl you may be
Lyn but you ain’t no
Loretta Lynn

THE MAD GIRL WANTS TO LIE IN THE DARK

listening to the oak leaves,
to small animals, a rabbit
maybe or fox running thru
the mounds of them. By
morning the hurricane
could make its own music.
For now, she leans against
the stained glass, twists
the grainy amber. The same
two horses come to the pond
pulling the last of the wild
flowers by their roots, grazing
so close to each other,
this last light can’t move
between their bodies. Nutley
Pond slides of the falls. From,
two rooms away, she can hear
the cat softly sleeping

THE MAD GIRL DREAMS SHE WAKES UP IN A BURKA

already shivering, her heart
pounding, sweaty. This new world
is a world of forced marriages,
young widowhood, imprisonment,
abduction and fear. She jolts
up, tries to turn on the light,
takes a valium to calm down. When she
reaches for the switch she pulls the
lamp to the floor, cringes sure the
dream is real. Too paralyzed to move
she is sure if she opened the blinds she’d
see a desert road with blackly camouflaged
women under a blazing sun. She is
terrified if she goes outside
she will be abducted and forced to
marry a foreign fighter. Her internet is
down but she doesn’t care. She
would see people in the outside world
and it would only make her sad.
Seeing the outside word would be just
another sorrow. She never befriended the
women in the caliphate. Life was
filled with love, children and
the joys of domestic life even though one
propaganda film showed a Jihadist from the
Netherland showing off on Twitter
an Oreo cheesecake she had made. No,
the mad girl knows she will quickly find themselves
part of an institutionalized near assembly
to provide fighters with wives, sex
and children. And when the
husbands are killed they are expected
to celebrate their martyrdom .
She can’t believe this is real but can’t
shake off the horror. All she can
think of is beheading, of being kidnapped, of
losing her daughter. She’s heard of
women put in prison, told to marry a
foreign fighter or have their
heads hang in the square. The mad
girl shudders to know young
girls can be married at age 9, made
into sex slaves and goes into the next bedroom
to hug her daughter, brings her
back to her own bed for the rest of the night

THE MAD GIRL DREAMS SHE COULD BE FALLING RECKLESSLY IN LOVE AGAIN

could fall for men who never
were available but made the
most scrumptious subjects
for poems, the agony to
ecstasy rollercoaster. Her
bikini slim thighs and hair
too thick to clasp in
combs, like her longing. Past
days she’d knock on a door
until her knuckles turned bloody
and the phone’s stillness
knifed. Now she wants to feel
what she hasn’t even if it
turns her heart to shreds

THE MAD GIRL READS ABOUT THE ONLY PAINTING DONE AT THE SCENE OF LINCOLN’S MURDER

“Lincoln Borne by Loving Hands.” She imagines
she is the woman with the tiny face, her eyes
dabs of black paint, a smudge of pink, her
expression, horror. She has seen Lincoln being
carried out of Ford’s Theater after being
shot by John Wilkes Booth. She can feel the
horror in the ghostly light of gas torches
from the theater reference. The moment the
word of the assassination reaches the crowd
and a moment of celebration turns into one
of disbelief. The mad girl feels the chill of the
night, the stunned panic in the crowd as
Lincoln is carried across 10th St NW to the
boarding house where he dies. She can see
the bearer ease Lincoln over the curb of
the street, his face framed by what appears
to be white cloth of a pillow. His head
is bandaged. His eyes are closed. She sees
a smear of blood on the bandage. The
mad girl feels like the woman in the Edward
Munch painting “The Scream.” Moments after
houses were lit up and hung with bunting, parades
marching down the streets, waving flags and
then the streets suddenly went quiet when the
shout came from a window in the theater “President
Lincoln has been shot came from a window in
the theater, “clear the street.”

John D. Robinson

THE CUCKCOO

 

When the police raided the

property they found 6

machetes, a large quantity

of heroin and cocaine,

two persons sprawled

drug-unconscious on a

sofa, a large sum of cash

and 2 teenage boys

hiding in the loft, who

had been reported

missing a couple of

weeks earlier:

the official tenant was

not present and

would not be found

until 2 days later

when a dog-walker

found her body

hanging from a tree

in a local woodland.

 

 

Anthony Dirk Ray

Too Soon?

 

headed to get groceries and

run errands with my wife

I notice the the gargantuan flag

at Camping World, where they

sell recreational vehicles is at half mast

this flag is the biggest

that I have ever seen

I ask my wife

“what happened, why is that flag at half mast?”

she doesn’t know

she hasn’t heard anything

I haven’t been keeping up

with the news lately myself

we get our groceries and

on the ride home get to the intersection

of 59 and 90

where roughly thirty flags fly on poles

and none of those are at half mast

then it dawns on me that maybe

nothing at all had happened

maybe the workers at the r.v. place

are just too lazy to lift that

heavy ass goddamn flag

and to justify their said laziness

assume that another mass shooting

will happen soon enough

 

 

 

 

 

More Than Expected 

 

perusing the telephone

singles lines in the late nineties

listening to 20 second messages

a decade or more

before any dating apps existed

where pictures are seen

and locations are known beforehand

this was the Wild West

Russian roulette in a sense

a true gamble

you went by voice and actually

had to trust that the person

on the other end was who

they said they were

trust in humanity?

I know it sounds ridiculous

but I digress

I used to make actual

lists while talking to girls

as to why I shouldn’t be

talking to said girls

but sometimes against

my better judgement

or out of sheer desperation

I would want to meet occasionally

so after a little while on the phone

one night with a cute sounding girl

I got her address and headed her way

it was about a half hour drive

with vague directions

roughly a decade before

regular people had GPS

I was somewhat familiar

with the area so I had that

going for me

as I made the left down

the dirt road into a trailer park

I started to get that

‘what the fuck are you doing’ feeling

and when I pulled up to the dilapidated

mobile home I audibly said

“what the fuck am I doing?”

I soldiered on

I got out of my car and

walked toward this movable home

I passed piles of trash

dogs on chains

and a beat up

El Camino on blocks

I knocked on the door

and a dirty kid answered

I asked for whoever 

and the dirty kid screamed out

whoever somebody’s here for you

as I peered through the door

numerous inbred looking faces

looked back at me

there must have been ten

people in that living room

finally she emerged

In all her glory

we locked eyes

and both gave a good

once over to each other

I was shocked

but the first thing she said to me was

“you are bigger than I thought you would be”

I was taken back

and a little embarrassed

but totally confused at the same time

because as I eyed her I noticed

a well defined at least eighth month

pregnant belly on her

I took a step back and said

“well that makes two of us”

I laughed and cursed all the way home

 

 

 

 

 

The Man From Dublin

 

there was a man from Dublin

he celebrated St. Patrick’s Day

with boatloads of Guinness

he was a catholic who dressed in

scary costumes to ward off

spirits during the festival of Samhain

he listened to music heavy

in fiddle, piano, and acoustic guitar

combined with instruments like Irish

bouzoukis, uilleann pipes, and

celtic harps known as clairseach

he danced in Irish jigs, reels, and step

he wore wooden shoes and dresses based

on designs found in the Book of Kells

he believed in the banshee

the tales of Fionn Mac Cumhaill

and leprechauns

he loved football and potatoes

he only read literature by

Swift, Yeats, Wilde, Shaw, and Stoker

he was the town weirdo

an outcast

because the man was from

Dublin, Georgia

 

 

 

 

Night Moves

 

at a strip club in Theodore, Alabama

white trash

redneck

ambiance

it’s dark

but neon lights illuminate

the toothless meth-heads with tits

“coming to the stage, charlotte”

says the dj

then it is seen

a half naked woman in bra and thong

takes the stage

only one thing

she has one normal arm

and one little chicken wing arm

she tries her best to be sexy

prancing around the stage

then

the pole work begins

she rests her little deformed arm on the pole

and walks around it

normally girls would be

swinging and twirling

my friend pity tips her

I say to myself

this is fucked up

she should be waitressing

at least she has one good arm

to hold the tray

 

 

J.J. Campbell

the best years of your life

 

wasting what is

supposed to be

the best years

of your life

 

all the factory

gave you was

a broken back

 

the love of your

life took half of

everything and

went to live on

the other side

of the world

 

take a look at

the shotgun

in the corner

 

the only friend

you have left