Alan Catlin

Holiday Spirits

 

The after Christmas parties

are the sordid ones, all that

desperation and fear, trying

to hook up with last remaining

unconnected female/male standing

before time is called, the occasion

turning chronological adults into

morons, acting out their inner

child with party favors, dance steps,

noise makers, silly hats they wouldn’t

be seen in the same room with eleven

months of the year, soul kissing complete

strangers, all reticence abandoned,

drowned by designer cocktails, cheap

champagne, participating in crowd

noise making activities that ordinarily

would be associated with a riot in progress

but is regarded as normal at this moment,

as the party goes on.  Heedless to the outcome,

willing, even eager to drive after, to participate

in the human bumper car/pinball game,

contest of life at high speeds on four lane

freeways, tote board scores tallied by spinning

lights: the red, the blue and the white, dead lucky

to wake up at all on the floor, half-naked  under

the overturned artificial tree, the dog barking at

the door, frantic to get out.

Brad Rose

Carpenter

I’m happy, but not go-lucky. I have no idea why Victorian houses are haunted. It’s an unreal thing that actually exists, like reality TV. Whenever I dance, it’s a square dance. It’s not a swagger, it’s a righteous gambol. Once, I sought redemption in the New Math, but it just didn’t add up. Maybe that’s why I don’t trust the trustees. Anyway, like a baseball bat on a soccer field, redemption would be wasted on me—wasted as a heart attack on death row. Janine says, it’s all a part of the inhuman condition. You’re a good man Leon, but in a bad way. She knows I’ve served my country. I pay my taxes. I do what I’m told. But in my truck, I’ve got an eight-pound hammer that likes revenge. Everything I hate becomes a nail.

Bruce Mundhenke

Dreams

Will I remember all this,
Or will it be lost,
Like a dream
Slips away in the night.
Many of those I have known
Are now gone,
I almost hear their voices sometimes.
There are many of them that I still long to see,
Many I still wish were here,
As long as I breathe I remember,
Are they still remembering me?
They’ve gone away
And are lost to my senses,
Still alive in my memory.
All of them have fallen asleep,
Some say never to dream,
Except In the dreams of others,
Able to awaken from dreams.

Noel Negele

Work and some living

The shifts are 
twelve hour shifts
and a worker’s biggest daily struggle is,
as often is the case with repetitive jobs,
boredom.
There is also exhaustion,
you are, after all
working for the better part of a day,
but you can fight exhaustion 
with a good meal and some courage.
Boredom is a different beast.
It requires you to dig deep.
It requires some philosophy.
You have to be okay with who 
you are to deal 
with it.

Sometimes the boredom
will become so grand 
you’ll fake a bathroom visit 
just so you steal away ten minutes 
of not being a cog 
in a machine you can’t know where it begins 
and where it ends—
the warehouse is so big.

And you’ll take a leak
and then wash your hands 
and then your face 
and then look at yourself in the mirror
and think:
“ I didn’t know you to
be so lazy”.

It’s the repetition 
you see.
It will get anyone.
Anyone with a soul,
no matter how desperate.
I don’t care if you’re 
a single father with three daughters
and one of them is 
not all up there in her head,
and you have to make target everyday,
you’ll still visit those bathrooms
more than your bladder needs you to—
those bathrooms are always full.

And then there’s the demeaning moment of
waiting to clock out, finally.
All of you in a line, trying to respect
the social distancing rule
but doing a terrible job at trying,
some not even trying at all,
and some just staring at that last minute 
in the clock, ticking slowly towards
the end of our shifts.

And then, finally, a breath away from leaving,
you have to go through security 
because apparently, people steal,
it’s a warehouse after all
a monkey can do it.
Don’t expect to find the 
elite of Bucharest here.

And then, zoom out from work
and you have daily life
because you have to live too,
at least just a little.
And so the days
pass slithering from your life 
in bad and cold and wet weather—
obnoxious snow every other day,
in the kitchen over the stove
cooking or doing laundry 
shopping necessities,
taking up books again and weed
and getting an Amazon prime account 
because you have to have things
to look forward to.
Otherwise life just sucks.

You have to have some things.
Just some aggressive fucking 
and alcohol and a movie 
and a Macdonald’s meal every week
is not enough.

“We should fire some weapons”,
you tell her
panting still and sweaty on the bed,
“There’s a firing range close by 
we should check it out one of these days.”
Or maybe go to Scotland for the weekend.
Ride some horses. Learn new poets.
We could go skydiving, she says.
No, fuck that. I wouldn’t do it
if they paid me.

And then her hand 
is reaching for your dick
again and soon her lips follow
and you’re thinking about things
to look forward to,
and that you need more of them.

That this is like a silent but very loud
scream of fear.
To need more and more things to look forward
to. Like a fear of death.
A middle age crisis
on your late twenties.

You’re thinking 
you’ll never blow your nose
in public,
you are that self conscious.

You’re thinking that 
you’ve wished for your own death 
with a whole hearted honesty 
but how does one decisively 
jump in a pool of nothingness
without second guessing 
how to slip into an irreversible
and forever-going and amnesiac 
abyss
without looking back.

You’re thinking that it’s nightmarish 
to get stuck in a public bathroom 
and reaching for toilet paper
after a hopeless shit you couldn’t avoid
and not finding any.
What else would one do
but scream for help?

You’re thinking there’s
a broken spring in your bed
and it’s fucking with your back.
That it’s snowing outside
and that inside it’s nice and warm
and that she is nice and warm on you.
That lust is like rabies when it gets a hold of you,
and that there is a lot of mindless violence
out there and ruthless competition 
and that you have to be really careful
if you want to make it 
if you want the house and the car and the garage 
and the dog and your peace of mind—
none of it easy
you have to be weary of people 
most of them don’t want you in peace 
most people are polar bears feasting 
on guts and blood 
and that the modern poem has become 
more like the writer 
talking to himself 
rather than the writer 
that writes a letter with heart and dream and mind 
and puts it in an almost empty whiskey bottle
and then sets it on the waves and watches it go.

You are hot she says
touching your thigh with her lips,
meaning your temperature 
thank you, you say,
I work out and she laughs 
and says hotboxing a car
is called submarine in Bulgaria
and you laugh 
because you’re high and she plucks 
hair from your chest 
and she has an ear fetish 
and you don’t work tomorrow.

Amory Paul

“i wanna kill a tech bro”

i wanna murder

a rich millenial

i wanna grab him by his undercut and scream,

“look at me,

look at what you’ve forgotten

look at the reincarnation

of the impolite and failures of life.”

i wanna strangle

a hip university tech bro

i wanna cut off his head and mount it and

carry it to columbia university and say

“i’ve killed the best of what you had to offer and

here is my art piece.

here is my art piece.

hand me a scholarship or two and i’ll kill whatever you throw at me

whatever promising future you give me

from whatever old loins you’ve been reusing.”

i wanna murder

a rich millenial

and paint myself with his

beautiful blood

and walk into the nearest art studio and say

“i am your ally

i am your friend

here is the skin

of an old man recycled

and i’ve brought it to you to make it

something new.

something real art.

something

real.

give me your money or i’ll

kill you, too.

i am a fucking artist and that means

i will kill you, too.”

Ian Copestick

Write, Rant, Scribble, Scrawl


I’ve hardly written anything
for the last couple of months.
I’ve had a lot of stressful things
going on in my life.
It feels so good to feel the urge
again, the future looks like one
huge, white, blank page. I’m going
to write, rant, scribble, scrawl,
and draw surreal caricatures.
Take photographs of the mind,
snapshots of my surroundings
in words.
Poetry, prose and all points in
between, whatever I choose,
because there are no rules.
I’ve never understood those who
talk of the tyranny of the blank
page, all I see are opportunities.
Places to place my phrases,
playgrounds for my sentences.
I’m excited about the uninvited
writings about to issue from
my pen.

Howie Good

About Some Meaningless Events

The TV news anchor is counting on her fingers the day’s number of meaningless events. You can wait for the darkness to lift on its own or you can try your voice and rattle windows, shake pictures off the walls. Your fate is a matter of indifference to the oligarchs, who only pretend for the cameras that the opposite is the case. You have acquiesced too long in the charade; you might even be okay with living in a cage if it had Wi-Fi. Wake up, wake up. There’s nobody to teach a child to not step on a caterpillar.

Ahoy!

Lady Ogre was working out on her Peloton bike when she felt faint and dizzy and puked up a junkie. Downstairs, her sometime boyfriend, alias Captain Dread, stood with one booted foot on an alligator skull, preparing to address his talented but perverted crew of underground cartoonists. “Don’t let the page be gray,” he said in his best pirate growl. “Make it jump! Make it crackle! Blister their irises!” While he spoke, a tree had grown out of the grave of Tom Paine, patron saint of outcasts and rebels, its leaves rippling like lacerated flags bearing the skull and crossbones.

Melancholy Melody

There were weeks of paralysis when I couldn’t make rent. The landlord, who smoked in bed and was always catching fire, had finally seized my belongings – books, furniture, etc. – while I was out at the symphony. I rolled my coat into a ball just to have a place to sit down. The only other option would have involved a gas station stickup. I stared across the room at the empty space on the wall where a poster of Chagall’s cheerfully nihilistic “I and the Village” had been thumbtacked. My blood sang in my ears like a nightingale with a toothache.

Isaac Kulp

a prayer for times of desperation

let me sink into the arms of the Mother

and clutch my way back to her hidden and sometimes barren womb

that once claimed me and held me infinitely

and balanced my embryo between space and time.

spared from the range of human emotion

only an egg and a sack of skin and flesh and bone

tightly wound in a sequence of repeating letters

of primordial stew.

let me be seated in the arms of The Virgin Mother,

wounded and bleeding and wearing a crown of thorns

that I have fashioned out of my own desperation,

the thorny and wild crown that seeps into my skull

and where milk flows from my mouth and eyes

let there be honey instead.

and let there be the sweet lilies adorning my crown

while Saint Peter paces at the gate waiting for my return.

oh, my prodigal son!

let me crawl into the mouth of God like a moth

with wings and all,

gently seated on the back of her tongue

where I will devour the soot of anger

and swallow last Sunday’s cigarette butt without any qualms for I will

be the gift that keeps on giving.

Tony Pena

The dark side of car karaoke

Gene Kelly can get drenched

in the summer rain if he wants,

singing and hoofing

from lamp post to lamp post

as a change in weather

intensifies the drops

of a passing drizzle

to a muggy monsoon.

I’d much rather turn

the volume knob in the dry

cabin of my true blue

Accord as high as can go ,

caterwauling to whatever

classic rock tune comes on

for the millionth time

on a steamy August day.

I bypass Boston to attempt

a Bohemian Rhapsody solo,

multitasking Freddie Mercury

lines like a fucking Vienna

Choirboy strung out on speed

hyperventilating vowels

as the wipers tango

across the windshield

till at the only light in town

some guy in a copper

colored pick up truck ahead

of me rolls down his window

in the pouring rain and waves

a burly arm tattooed

with swastikas and flags

of a southern confederacy.

I figure with the rain and all

maybe the big malcontent

needs directions or something

but then he’s screaming out

faggot this and faggot that,

stomping towards my car

and I knew his GPS was looking

for a face to land a right cross.

Bully pulpits make wild dogs

mad enough to unleash

a hurting of biblical proportions

so the foam drooling out

his toothless mouth and an NRA

bumper sticker gave common

sense a pregnant pause

to consider flight or fight.

I unholstered my only line

of defense of a recording

smart phone to combat

the stupidity of hate as drivers

leaned on their horns ,not

to protect my ninety eight

pound weakling ass, but to get

to wherever the hell they had to go.

A cop came around with sirens

blaring and Anytown’s finest

ushered the heathen back

to the truck and sent him

on his way before pointing

at my cell phone and saying,

“I’m going to have to give you

 a ticket for using that while driving.”