Ross Vassilev

go ask Alice

lazy as a caterpillar blowing smoke
into the curtains
I see a sky full of third eyes
and "hope" is the thing that flies away
and lays a white shit on my shoulder—
while the patriots fight and die
in Afghanistan
I'm lying on a bed of dreams
growing shoots and vines into the walls
wondering what it's like
to be a starving yogi,eating
only a palmful of grain every day
till you're all skin and bones
and beautiful brilliant shining eyes
that see the true reality—
and while the bodies pile up
to feed the madman's itch
while they throw saints and Buddhas
into the prison-industrial complex
I say to the old bearded fuck
with the stupid hat
Fuck you, Uncle Sam
you're an old whore
going blind
in the rich man's broken sunlight.


idle hands

I hear
the seconds
tick
from my watch
on the nightstand
as I lie in bed
doing
nothing at all.
doing nothing
is what I do best.
high school cheerleaders
are good
at bending over
and I'm good
at doing nothing.
sometimes
I talk
to the faces on the walls.
or I sit
by the window
and stare
out at the parking lot.
sometimes I go
for a walk
and give the finger
to complete strangers.
so if you see me
wandering the streets
lost and lonely
be a good soul
and offer me
a goddam ride
outta this place.


cherry blossoms

don't know what I'm doing here
as the clouds swim through blue sky

it's good to drift through life
whether you're a cloud
a whale
or a Bodhisattva

and you can ponder the meaning of nothingness
till your eyes devour the Hiroshima sunrise

it helps when there's nothing around
but screaming insanity
and angels falling from the sky
on broken wings

and times like these
there's really nothing left to say but
OM.

Tom Pescatore

Cibola Sleeping
 
The Bears never came.
 
Last night, charcoal gray sky
Filled with stars, more stars
Than the eastern skies allow,
Watched over me as I climbed toward
Clearing to piss into the stillness
Of cool night at 3am,
 
Fire burnt down to embers.
 
I took a deep breath, 
Closed my eyes, tried to imagine
In the great emptiness, where I was, 
Where I had been, where I was going still,
What I had left, what I had to go back to—
I listened for any rustling in
The 1.6 million acre darkness beyond
 
The woods, ancient, tall, breathing,
Looked into my tired soul, 
 
I faded like falling stars in their stare.


Jonathan Butcher

A Confession

An overt flash of a sudden
crowd, no solitude keeping 
us under false pretentions.
That shimmer in the darkness
from those eyes that widen 
with each word, that falls
from your tongue and rests
at my feet. 

The last thing any of us need
is another round of drinks, 
that we drag together with
end of the month scrapings.
Again we remain closed, 
as another murmuring
of questions is on the cards, 
pulled from an incomplete deck.  

Singular street lights make
double shadows, which hide
me from your temptations. 
allowing me to mask that frown
that you trigger with each 
sentence. I escape that slow
pendulum swing, that once
again, fails to hypnotize.  

Jeff Weddle

Ragged Angels
 
Young ones 
in small rooms 
chasing the poem 
chasing the story 
 
going crazy 
 
starving for something 
they cannot name.
 
Drunk 
at noon
and midnight 
and four a.m.
 
Young angels
wandering 
hard streets 
with desperate eyes 
angry 
and in love 
 
lost on the edge 
of nowhere.
Beware them.
They are vast 
and magic 
 
as the moon 
soothes nothing 
as the sun 
burns their eyes 
as the sidewalks 
lie hard 
cracked 
and unforgiving 
beneath 
their holy feet. 
 
They are
explosives
meant
to shatter you 
 
and keep daggers 
hidden 
in worn notebooks 
which you will someday 
plunge willingly 
into your own heart.
 
They need nothing 
you could ever give.
 
Heaven means only
the right words spilling 
from their hands.
 
This is their salvation 
all they ever 
desire.
 
I know them.
Beware.
 
I was once
among their
host.





Advice for Cannibals
 
First of all, no one loves you, 
so don’t expect many 
social invitations. 
 
Bar mitzvahs
weddings
birthday parties
— pretty much anything 
where food is served — 
you can forget about. 
 
No one wants to be reminded 
of your regular menu 
especially when they’re trying to eat.

No one loves you, 
though you are occasionally 
good for a laugh 
if some joker is feeling funny 
and wants to crack everyone up 
at your expense. 
 
Of course, no one is really surprised 
if those people end up gone 
a day or two later 
and you walk around town all greasy 
or gnawing on long bones. 
 
You can forget about women, too, 
unless we are talking ingredients. 
 
I’m sure you understand. 
 
So you’re going to be lonely. 
That’s fine. 
 
Stick to your task. 
Fulfill your purpose.
 
Full pots and roaring fires
sharp knives and axes 
will be your companions.
 
You were born to your nature 
and that’s how the universe likes it. 
 
I cannot speak for the others, 
but I will not blame you 
for long gazes at people 
enjoying their lives. 
 
Your regrets may be profound 
and connections must be taken 
as they come.
 
No one loves you. You know why.
Might as well enjoy the feast.




Leah Mueller

Strange Tequila

At the border crossing
from Mexico to the US, I stood 
with my filthy backpack
in front of a customs guard.

He scrutinized my face
without expression, and said,

“Will you please take that off
and place it on the table 
in front of me?” Instead of terror, 

I felt a Yoda-like calm, though
I knew my two tequila bottles
filled with psilocybin honey 

would soon emerge into the harsh
desert light, clutched inside
the guard’s imperious grasp.

He extracted the first bottle
from the damp underbelly
of my dirty underwear

and squinted at the grainy bits
of mushroom heads and stems
floating in viscous soup.

“This is strange tequila,” he said.

“Yes,” I agreed. “It was a gift.” 

Technically, that was true.
A man had given me the bottles
at a Palenque campground, because

he liked my energy. I left before I
had the chance to prove him wrong.
My energy was like a two-year-old 

child’s crayon drawing. Yet now, stoic
and self-assured. The border guard
shoved the bottle back inside my pack
and pulled out my cannabis pipe.

“I suppose this is also a gift,” he said, 
but his voice was gentle, inquisitive.
“I hope you haven’t used it.”

“Of course not,” I said. “I just
like the way it looks.” He nodded,
thrust the pipe back into my pack
and smiled. “You can go now.”

I hoisted the load across my shoulders,
gave him a jovial wave, and strolled
back into the country of my birth.

A pockmarked sign above read, 
“Welcome to Texas.” So many
miles to go until Wisconsin. Good thing
I still had my strange tequila.





Todd Mercer

This is Your Fork in the Road
 
 
Cain
said
“Hey, Bro.
What’s that noise?”
Abel looked outside
and didn’t see his end coming.
How many murders since then? We’re surprised every repetition.
If Cain could take it back, would he?
He’s the first villain,
the O.G.s’
O.G.
Flawed
man.

Bruce Mundhenke

Those Days

In those days,
Everything was new,
The smell of fresh green grass,
And spearmint...
We sat outside,
Listening to AM radio,
Transistors, playing top 10 hits,
Or baseball games.
At night, we watched the stars
With wonder, wondering...
Death was far away,
And love was just
The way we lived.
Laughter all the time,
Embracing what was seen,
Never fearing what was not.
Anything could happen any day,
And in those days,
Something always did.
In those days,
We were living the dream.

S.F. Wright

PARENT-TEACHER NIGHT
 
Leave early,
Beat traffic.
Sit at your desk,
Grade.
 
6:00:
A few parents in the hallways;
None come to your room.
 
6:15, 6:30, 6:45.
Much grading.
 
7:00: a woman enters,
Along with a girl—
One of your students.
The mother asks
How she’s doing;
Fine, fantastic
(she has an 81);
Love having her in class
(she barely talks).
 
7:15, 7:30, 7:45—
Over the P.A.:
Parent-Teacher night will soon end;
We hope you had
A productive evening.
 
7:59: stand by the door,
8:00: lock it.
 
Driving home,
Remind yourself
To tell Melissa
That it was nice

Meeting her mother.

Howie Good

Insectopia

It’s a country one only hears about when there’s a military coup or a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, or when the bird flu crosses the species barrier to humans, but it’s where, after the clock wound down, I ate a picnic lunch beside the grave of the patron saint of outcasts and rebels, and later, wearing a knockoff of Kafka’s barbed-wire halo, I climbed the steps carved into a hill to visit a holy spot once reserved for virgin sacrifice and now a gathering place for toothless old women in babushkas who believe it’s bad luck to ever kill a ladybug.

Jeff Weddle

Ragged Angels
 
Young ones 
in small rooms 
chasing the poem 
chasing the story 
 
going crazy 
 
starving for something 
they cannot name.
 
Drunk 
at noon 
and midnight 
and four a.m. 
 
Young angels
wandering 
hard streets 
with desperate eyes 
angry 
and in love 
 
lost on the edge 
of nowhere.
Beware them.
They are vast 
and magic 
 
as the moon 
soothes nothing 
as the sun 
burns their eyes 
as the sidewalks 
lie hard 
cracked 
and unforgiving 
beneath 
their holy feet. 
 
They are
explosives
meant
to shatter you 
 
and keep daggers 
hidden 
in worn notebooks 
which you will someday 
plunge willingly 
into your own heart.
 
They need nothing 
you could ever give.
 
Heaven means only
the right words spilling 
from their hands.
 
This is their salvation 
all they ever 
desire.
 
I know them.
Beware.
 
I was once
among their
host.
 
 
 
 
How It Goes
 
The girls in their pretty dresses 
protected by desks and distance 
from the dumb, eager boys 
and the old letches with their books and chalk
and dandy dreams, heroes of past seduction
and then the hallways 
packed with no one wanting to be there 
and the girls in their pretty dresses 
and first-try makeup 
lipstick bright and shining 
sometimes sad often laughing 
these queens 
of every imagined romance 
objects of hard desire 
and all the old men 
in the teachers’ lounge 
heading home to old women 
or empty rooms 
while the bright, clear day 
becomes dark 
and soon is years past 
and years more gone 
and the girls in their pretty dresses 
try to remember the good times 
of their glory 
and maybe laugh at the awkward boys 
who wanted them 
way back in the day 
with no thought of the old teachers 
who watched them come and go 
and come and go 
until they finally died 
as the girls will someday die 
and be taken to the last place 
in pretty dresses 
with one or two left to think about nothing 
but home and a late lunch 
a cat to feed
and what they might do tomorrow 
who might be around to do it with 
and maybe something 
about the day after that