KD Williams

Trophy of Action 

My grandfather made a jackalope, 

A monstrosity, an abomination,

Out of meatless corpses and antlers shed. 

How is this any different from a poet 

Conjuring a fearsome critter from thin air?
I’ll tell you, she says, and then 

Old Jackie sings a raspy Lucinda Williams lilt, 

Turned up from whisky, she spills herself over the logs by the fire

And laughs when the bottle drips dry. 

Oh, a trophy of action! 

She lines her shelves with glass, takes one down,

Passes it around. 

Bill Gainer

Never Less than Harmful 
  
 Every night 
 the hand of god 
 is there 
 on my chest 
 threatening 
 to crush me. 
  
 Feeling every weight 
 of every challenge 
 every loss 
 that didn’t have to be. 
  
 Arms out stretched 
 I keep the world 
 just that far away. 
  
 The only safe place 
 is alone. 
 Even there 
 I’m haunted. 
   

Noel Negele

For my mother 

When my mother was younger 
and got a bit tipsy 
at friends 
or family gatherings 
she’d paint a tooth or two
with a black marker 
and pretend she was this dumb hillbilly 
and clown with everybody
and I have faint memories of this 
and have seen photographs of this
with all of them laughing around a table—
having a good time.

A couple of months ago 
we talked for hours into the night
because we both have sleep issues
and I listened to her stories 
from back when we still used to be a family,
about her first dates with my father,
about my uncles playing chess 
and having ludicrous heated political debates,
about my grandparents and our neighbors 
and at some point we went over some
old photographs from back then,
their 80’s clothes and hilarious haircuts 
and in one photograph it was my mother 
in the military from back in the communist regime
surrounded by her female comrades—
this line of sweet and laughing teenagers 
looking at the photographer 
and holding submachine guns 
and I thought :
Damn, this bitch is cooler than I thought.

The next day she called me
asking for help,
she was in a sad predicament.

The rich couple for whom
she worked for for the last 
twenty years had now grown
terrifyingly old as time has it
and the husband’s skinny, wobbly legs
could not hold him most of the time
making the walk from bedroom to living room
and back a true odyssey
and so but then what had happened was
upon limping back to bed after day drinking 
because what else is there to do besides drink 
when you’re barely alive,
he had fallen beside the bed 
and upon impact had also lost control of his bladder
and pissed himself.

Upon hearing the thumb 
my mother had tried lifting him up
and Marina, the wife, the much older 
from the two had also tried to help
much against the advice of my mother 
and had also ended up on her ass
next to him
with my mother almost throwing out her 
middle aged back trying to lift either of them
but succeeding with neither of them.

So she had called me 
to go and lift them up
because her back was about
to give.

I made my way to their
rich people neighborhood 
contemplating of having all the money in the world
but being trapped inside the prison of your aging body
like a much more horrific and helpless  
Count of Monte Cristo 
because this is one prison you can’t escape from.

And when I stepped in that bedroom
I tried to hide my sadness looking at
these two souls just laying there helpless
like mummified relics,
one of them in a puddle of piss
and I said jokingly 
“ Old age is a bitch isn’t it”
and then said
“Ladies first”
as I put my hands below the armpits 
of Marina and held her up as softly as I could 
while Vasili from below trying to help me
by pushing her up
and then I did the same with him
not caring about the piss that doused my jeans
while my mother, mop in hand got into the room.

I slowly led Marina to the living room
while she narrated what she did with her days
and when she sat in the couch I handed her the 
TV remote, her best friend for the last couple of years
and she tried slipping me 50 dollars
because I guess that’s how rich people
show gratitude 
but I refused kindly and almost burst out crying 
right then and there.

On the drive home
we were both silent 
my mother and me.
And I thought about her impending 
old age nearing in like dark clouds
in the horizon,
the things I owed her 
that I’d need several life times 
to pay the debt of
and I wanted to say thank you 
but sometimes a verbal display 
of gratitude ruins the moment.

I’m away from home now 
like I usually am
and I guess what I want to say to you
is that to simply say I love you
does not do it justice
and as long as I draw breath 
you won’t be alone 
and that no matter how many times you fall
I’ll put my hands below your armpits 
and it’ll be your own son lifting you up
instead of someone else’s 
and if that cursed day comes
I’ll be coming in your room—

mop in hand.

Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozabal

Immense Shadow

 

I come to you as a shadow,

with no weight to my existence,

and if I kiss you it is just a light

brush of a breeze with eyes

closed. I come to you at night

inside an immense shadow.

In this obscurity there is no

limit to my disappearance.

In the light of day I become

the smallest shadow on earth.

Wash It All Away 

Share with me the bitter

taste of life. Partake the

sourness of lies. We can

wash away it all away 

with dreams we have

not fulfilled. In the deep

abyss where sadness lives,

let us share a room, pull

up a stool with me.  Drink

this nightmare of a world 

away with me. Before it

is too late, let us dance

our selves clean. Sweat off

the bitterness, the sour

lies, and nightmares, do

not let death have its way 

with us. And if we end up 

dead and buried, let us

make sure our souls are

not buried with our bones.

Jck Hnry

old poems 

she said, 

go read this poet 

and that one 

and maybe the other one 

over there 

blow off the dust 

and crack the old pages

 

i follow footprints 

atop floorboards 

went up old stairs 

pull the string 

that ignites an exposed bulb 

the room 

bright and dim 

at the same time

 

shadows move 

and i wait 

perhaps spring will 

share a better story 

perhaps my lies 

will not linger as long

 

i breathe in the smell 

of dirt and mold 

and old words that rot 

between pages 

i read this poet 

and that poet 

and the other one 

over there

 

the door handle rattles 

but when i check 

down the hall 

nothing lingers 

except  

a cold damp breeze dancing 

through  

open windows 

# # #

come 

they come in spirts 

across fresh linen, 

faster and faster, 

each one unique, 

each original 

but anchored  

in tithing memory.

 

some days they come 

quick, without reflection, 

consideration, or spell check.

 

some days they hide 

deep in the flesh, timid  

and shy, flaccid and cold. 

no mouth to breathe 

life onto a shriveled 

vessel.

 

and some days they don’t 

come 

at all. 

it is not worth the effort, 

not even a pill could 

get you to where 

you want to be.

 

but when they 

come 

fluid and sloppy 

across the page, 

swimming with 

life, there is  

nothing better. 

when they  

come. 

Mark Tulin

The Backdoor to Freedom

 

I changed my trajectory,

left a lifestyle without saying a word,

escaped a career

through the backdoor

because of a steady numbness

creeping through my body

 

I didn’t want to die

like my staggering co-workers,

another casualty at an office park,

hunched over a desk

inside a cubicle of misfortune

like those who receive gold watches

and not much else

 

I took a chance like Kerouac

I hitched a ride out west

with a crooked thumb,

went from Barstow to Lompoc,

and ended up at a fleabag hotel,

a fifth of whiskey,

typing my memoir

on an old Smith-Corona.

Ian Copestick

Pete, I Think

Earlier, this afternoon
I was talking with a guy
I vaguely know, who I
usually see hanging out
in the town with a can of
super strength lager in his
hand.
He told me that I probably
won’t see him after Xmas.
His doctor’s said that he’s
got less than a month to
live.
Liver problems.

Living problems.
As I said, I don’t know him
well, I can’t even remember
his name, but whenever I’ve
spoken to him, I’ve liked him.
He’s somewhere around my
age, I think he’s a couple of
years younger, in fact.
I found this heartbreaking, what
was even sadder was the way
he said it.
In a matter of fact way, as if
it didn’t matter, that dying in
his mid-40’s of cirrhosis of
the liver, was nothing more
than he expected.
Nothing more than he could
hope for.
He told me that several of
his family members died in
quick succession, and this
led him to a three month
binge. During this time, the
only liquids to pass his lips
were alcoholic drinks. This
caused his liver to pack in.


I must be unbelievably lucky,
because my wife and I went
for several years with drinking
only alcohol. Her liver is not
in good condition, and I doubt
mine is either, but no one has
told us that we are about to
die.
She went for a liver scan, just
last week, and was told that
she’s in reasonably good shape.
I have annual blood tests, as
I had a stroke, nearly 15 years
ago, and they always tell me
I have nothing to worry about.
We both must have the angels
on our side.
Or the constitution of a pair of
elephants.
But, that’s no consolation to the
poor bloke from Kidsgrove, who
doesn’t expect to see spring.
I hope he’s okay, he’s always
made me laugh, whenever we’ve
talked. If someone makes you
feel happier after meeting them,
you can’t ask for much more
than that. 

Howie Good

The Art of Getting Lost

Van Gogh once ate a two-ounce tube of French Ultramarine. Geronimo got drunk one night and fell from his horse and saw in a vision the Statue of Liberty answering a huge stone telephone. He then went stumbling off into the dawn in search of new highs. It’s important to reach a stage where you don’t consciously know what you’re doing. No one will believe you can play the blues if you wear a suit – unless, that is, you look like you slept in it. 

J.J. Campbell

the dreamer in me

three in the morning

and i’m thinking of this

woman i love in colorado

i often wonder if she will

ever love me as much as

i love her

but that has never stopped

the dreamer in me before

of course, now i’m in

my forties, heartbroken

a few hundred times and

noticing the end of the

rainbow appears much

larger in the mirror these

days

my inner child believes

i am meant to die alone

never married, no children

to hate me as i get older

but this darkened heart

still thinks of hope as

something that at least

should exist

and those lovely eyes in

colorado scream to me

in the middle of the night

one day, i hope to taste

my dreams and prove

my inner child wrong

once again

that fucker thought

i was going to be

president one day

Joe Sonnenblick

Pretty Baby

It’s a Carvel ice cream cake sort of sendoff

See you all in the hell you’ve created

Danger stays in the picture

A tilted human sloth

Likened to a dog bothered by a fly

Never moving but expecting to catch it

The breeze of breath of drunk stablemate

Hot junk.

I hope this simulation knows what it’s doing

How it brought me from yesteryear to a helpless bunch of drowning stiffs

I’ve got no arms left to give

Burn the city to the ground and start over

Build new jobs, build new people, build new violence

Brick by brick,

But leave the old habits in the dustbin

With that parting cake.