John Tustin

ALL THESE SMILES OF CHILDREN
 
All these smiles of children that life has slain
In the microscope of its reality.
I have found a smile in this one memory
When I was a boy and digging for dinosaur bones in my backyard –
Something that has come to me
As I fold my shirts and think about how good it felt
To fold my children’s shirts and put them away
Another life ago when I was with them every day
And they were my only reason to look forward to tomorrow
In a life of otherwise torment.
 
All these smiles of children that are removed by the realities of life:
I can see them now thinking about my dinosaur books, my wildlife books,
My book on the birds of North America
And how I would use them to draw all day and night
Back in those days
When I was not thinking for a moment
That anything was possible or impossible
Or what would happen beyond
The next day or week or month.
 
All these smiles of children and I think about
My children who do not smile 
And sometimes it is because of me
And I hope they have memories like mine
Of digging in the yard or whatever they loved
At a similar moment in their time
And that it is possible I helped to give them
Such a memory
And it keeps them warm
On this cold cold night.
 
Of that I pray
And it is my only
Prayer.



LOVE AND DISASTER
 
I loved her when she hated me
And now that I hate her at last
She has decided again to love me.
It’s too late for me, 
I’ve already been ruined by her
But I think about her decision anyway,
Knowing that no matter what happens
I will die alone one day
In a bed without affection.
These magical threads
That twist, hold us still and bind us –
Part mud, part thunderbolt
Slogging through and jolting our veins,
Gunking up and jumpstarting our flabby hearts –
Of human confusion and nuisance
That for thousands of years
Have linked love and disaster
As I grow older but not wiser,
Standing in my doorway waiting
As the shadows overtake me
The way they overtake us all –
Slowly and without notice.

Emalisa Rose

Booze, bondage, B. Street

I grabbed two from the cupboard, 
left by his ex-wife, Maria.

“Forget the glasses,” he said. 
“We’re far from the crystal type.”

It was cheap vineyard grape, along
with the left of the leftovers, we threw
in with the Sunday night sauce.

So we chugged it straight up, then 
played in his den; whips, chains and
cabernet, clinking our bottles. Two

etch a sketched poets, bare feet on land
mines, in uncharted fields, where
we’d landed this moment - a moment
best left, undefined.

Judge Santiago Burdon

Naked Truth
"Famous isn't good for a writer. You don't observe well when you're being observed.'' 
Ken Kesey

I mentioned to a poet friend of mine, one of the few I respect, if he believed a writer could consider himself a success by the amount of nude photos of women and surprisingly a few men are sent to him.
I'm not sure how to measure my efforts as a success or as a failure. My point of view is if I am doing what I've always wanted to do as a profession, then I have achieved success.
I've mentioned my somewhat modest expectation to others when discussing the subject and it has received a variety of comments. But the comment that has been most popular is; "Bullshit! You can't tell me you don't want your book to be a best seller or  have your books made into movies and make a shit load of money. Come'on everyone wants to be famous and I'm not talking the Warhol fifteen minutes kind."
That would be a wonderful perk without a doubt but it is not my reason for being a writer. I sincerely am not concerned if what I write is accepted or rejected. Rejection letters are just fuel for my creative fire. I selfishly write for myself not for an audience. Twisting your prose to fit the perimeters of an audience is a fucking trap without any hope of escape.
A true writer knows this predilection is actually a curse we're born with. It manifests in our souls, with an insatiable need to be recognized. I described a writer in a poem written years ago.
"A Poet is an Artist that paints in darkness
Words of the poem are colors creating light 
A Writer is blessed with all of the answers
Cursed with the search of which questions to ask."  
It's the first time I've directly quoted myself.
"Okay, but get back to the  naked pictures, will ya. No one is interested in this boring literary mumbo jumbo." 
Who said that?  I was just thinking the exact same thought. Now that is an incredible phenomenon. 
So I've been receiving what I consider a large amount of nude photos on my WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Gmail accounts and have become curious about its relevance in determining my success as a writer. I've researched the subject to investigate if other writers have experienced the same anomaly. I haven't discovered any mention of it being so. I surely can't be the only writer out there that has received this type of appreciation in response to their work.
I don't write erotica although I've described brief moments of sexual activity in some of my stories. 
So my poet friend said he'd get back to me, it was something he had to think about. Although I judged him as an accomplished poet, he turned out to be an unreliable counselor. He would've made a terrible bartender without the ability to give advice. After a week I contacted him to ask if he had made a decision concerning my question. He first apologized and then started laughing, commenting he didn't think I was serious. He believed it was all a joke, a setup or research for a story. Now I had his complete attention after convincing him my question was authentic. 
" In order to make an educated decision I'd need to look at the pictures. Do you think that could be possible?" He inquired.
" I'm not sure how seeing the photos would help in determining an answer to my question. Besides, all the senders asked me to keep them private and not share them."
" How many photos exactly have you received? Are the women totally naked and can you see their faces?"
"I guess close to twenty five including the three photos of men."
" Were there suggestive messages with the photos? Also, are you sure they were sent in response to your writing? Are you on some type of dating site?"
"Yes, some included sexual messages. Most mentioned my poems and I'm not on a dating site. So, what do you think?"
"I rarely receive more than fifteen comments on my poems when I post them." He said with a sarcastic  tone. "So I'm going to conclude yes, it does have a relevance in determining your success as a writer. Although, the most viable explanation is that your poems appeal to a unique audience of sick, twisted and perverted readers." 
The phone hummed a dial tone without a goodbye.
And I thought; What was with the Dutch uncle's attitude? Why did he say it like it was a bad thing?

J.J. Campbell

with some more wine
 
a gypsy once told me
i would die a lonely 
death
 
i asked her would 
that vision change 
with some more 
wine
 
she laughed and 
said no
 
i believe i was 
drunk enough
i swore i would 
prove her wrong
 
just more of the 
usual bullshit that 
comes from liquid 
courage

Howie Good

Collide-O-Scope
 
I admit I may have had one glass too many, but used paper face masks littered the ground. How’s that allowed? Even the crows on the wire must have wondered what the fuck. A series of incidents doesn’t necessarily add up to a plot. 
&
We are the rifles our ancestors didn’t have. At the Battle of Marengo, Napoleon’s soldiers urinated on muskets that had become too hot to handle from constant firing. The bold red patches on the shoulders of uniforms alluded to Christ’s wounds.
&
That country no longer exists. Yet some who came from faraway to be there refuse to leave. They burn flags in protest, chant revolutionary slogans, throw rocks and bottles. Police in riot gear struggle in vain to restore order. And why shouldn’t they? Each night the moon just grows fatter.
&
A lot that happened just sort of happened. I probably shouldn’t compare myself, but Roal Dahl also had eighteen teeth pulled. He kept a caged bat as a pet, feeding it a diet of milk and bread, a crime gorgeously lit by big arched windows. 
&
When the wind ripples the leaves, the leaves speak in the doomy voice of prophecy. It’s like one of those maps on the wall with an arrow saying, “You are here.”

David Brehmer

232 THIS YEAR, SO FAR

I find myself lost in the news
of statistics. The economy glazes into
columns of indistinguishable symbols,
clouding into some grim portent under which my primitive
mind can only tremble and hope.
 
Polls tick off who might think what now and when
but math seems irrelevant in the shadow
of amoral calculus. Numbers wilt against the wall
of willful ignorance, like a dog forgotten in the sun,
still worthy but abandoned.
 
And the people. Counted. Dead.
Four or more (not including the shooter),
grouped and catalogued and added and subtracted
and piled on the fire, glowing hotter
and growing closer, leaving behind charred families
and chasms, but not yet large enough
to threaten us all.
 
Though smoke has infiltrated
the movies and the malls and the arenas
and the churches and the mosques
and the synagogues and the schools
and the businesses and the homes
and the streets, the entire world
is technically not yet on fire.      
                                                     
I find myself lost in math.
I understand what equals what,
but it doesn’t seem to mean anything.

Howie Good

Death Trains

 

Chimps living in captivity are known

to throw their poop at their keepers,

and so it is that as he looks out on the railyard,

where special police in black uniforms

enforce the loading of a long line of boxcars,

the inoffensive little clerk with a clipboard

is very glad that people aren’t like chimps.

Orman Day

Affection Bandit Blues
 
Decades ago my green canoe ran aground, 
so I’m slumpin’ on a sandbar surrounded 
by ardent bucks paddlin’ the River Amore
unwary of wakes, snakes, a treacherous shore.
I’m a retired Ol’ Man tryin’ to forget my regrets,
bouncin’ my shoes to the affection bandit blues.
 
Floatin’ down the River in my thirties, 
my squintin’ blue eyes searched the levees,
like a bald eagle seekin’ catfish and carp,
wantin’ to see a smilin’ gal wavin’ to me,
blowin’ red kisses, beckonin’ my boat 
to a ramp of crushed rock or a rickety dock.
 
Steered clear of nasty women lookin’ for screws,
but she could be oblong, obese, oddly hewed.
On the muddy bank, we’d bed down on a blanket
cushioned by cattails, blue verlain, coneflowers.
Touched ‘em feathery (no scratch or neck bruise).
A spiritual connection of an hour’s duration or two.
 
Even if they wanted a gown, a weddin’ cake,
I launched my canoe, left ‘em in a watery wake.
They had proved I was lovable. That was enough.
Beamed as I paddled past bluffs, huffin’ barges,
not realizin’ my fevered gazes and gallantry
expressed nuthin’ but my affection banditry.
 
No druggin’ pills like the funny TV father,
no job promises or threats like the producers,
no unzipped pants or grabbin’ like the Presidents.
Yet I wonder now if some women remember me
and shout “MeToo’s” to the skies. That’s why 
I blush and sing the affection bandit blues.
 
Memories come in a meanderin’ stream. 
Lonely gals who loved me for a night, 
then waited for a call that never came.
When a friend was liftin’ the trunk of her car,
I caressed the plums of her tree ‘til she swatted free. 
Names that make me feel guilty: Cindy, Cathy, Nancy.
 
Now I’m an Ol’ Man drained of pirate dreams,
watchin’ other fools comin’ unspooled
in the steamin’ whirlin’ pools of the River Amore.
Sure, I was wronged as much as I wronged,
but now that my paddle’s been termite chewed,
all I can do is bray the affection bandit blues.
.

Michael Lee Johnson

Poets Out of Service (V6)
By Michael Lee Johnson
 
Like a full-service gas station
or postal service workers
displaced, racing to Staples retail
for employment against the rules of labor,
poets are out of business nowadays, you know.
Who carries a loose change in their pockets?
Who tosses loose coins in their car ashtray anymore?
iPhones, smartphones, life is a video camera
ready to shoot, destroy, and expose.
No one reads poets anymore. 
No one thumbs through the yellow pages anymore.
Who has sex in the back seat of their car anymore,
just naked shots passed around online?
Streetwalkers, bleach blonde whores,
cosmetic plastic altered faces in the neon night;
they don’t bother to pick pennies
or quarters off the streets anymore.
The days of surprise candy bags for a nickel
pennies lying on the countertop for
Tar Babies, Strawberry Licorice Laces
(2 for a penny), Wax Lips, Pixie Sticks,
Good & Plenty are no more.
Everyone is a dead-end player; he dies with time.
Monster technology destroys crump fragments of culture.
Old age is a passive slut; engaging old age
conversations idle to a whisper and sleep alone.
Matchbox, hand-rolled cigarettes,
serrated, slimmed down, and gone.
Time is a broken stopwatch gone by.
Life is a defunct full-service gas station.
Poets are out of business nowadays.