Leah Mueller

Prizefighter

1980,
lying in bed
staring at the ceiling

in the middle of a
Chicago February night,
I thought,

If I’m this depressed
when I’m
twenty-one,
what will I be
like at thirty?

I assumed
my despair
would multiply
like fungus,
devouring everything
in its path.

No one
could tell me
about giving birth,
or buying my
second house,

or the first time
I would see
my poetry
in a magazine.

No one
could divine
my trajectory
of fortune

from highest
to lowest,
and back again:

a loop repeated
over and over,
like a cartoon rerun.

Still, forty
years later,
I wonder what
I’ll be like at seventy,
and if I’ll be able to
withstand the pressure.

I can’t imagine
a worse ledge
than the one
I cling to now with
my perspiring hands,

but for some
goddamned reason,
I won’t let go
without another fight.

Daniel S. Irwin

I Went to Prison

I went to prison today.
‘Go there most every day.
‘Work there from three to eleven.
Just another medic in the
Joint’s Health Care Unit.
I go in the cell houses and
The cons say, “How ya doin’, Dan?”
I usually reply, “Terrible.
Could be better, could be worse.”
“Yeah,” they say,
“It could always be worse.”
We all readily identify with that.
Some inmates got a different
Outlook on ‘caring’ for their
Fellow man, or woman.
Like my man what blew the back
Of this woman’s head off ’cause
He couldn’t stand to see her suffer
After he shot her twice in the gut.
Is that a tender heart or what?
Proof positive, chivalry is not dead.

Mark Tulin

Cowboy’s Mirage

My horse died,
but I keep walking
When will it rain?
I ask the Arizona sky

I pass the bone dry rivers,
abandoned crops,
and dying cacti
that barely stand

I’m the only one left,
while others go in panic,
abandoning their homes,
ranches and cattle,
and probably their brides

As I keep walking,
the mirage is ahead of me,
the pool of glistening water
invites me to strip naked,
as I cleanse myself
of all the desert dust.

Paul Tanner

renting

Argentina on my wall.
Argentina of light
on my wall.
splodge of sunlight shaped like Argentina
on my wall,
projected from
the rip in the curtain.

lovely, that.
but it’s not my wall.

neither’s the curtain. I’d say I wouldn’t wipe my arse with it
but at this rate I might have to.

John Tustin

THE HEART BEATS

The heart beats
Like tiny fists on the wall of a padded asylum
In the otherwise silence of the night.
The wind whips outside
And you lie in bed untouched by it,
Kicking off the snake of a bedsheet
That is no longer either warming or cool.

You’re nothing in this moment
But a housewife who sees ghosts that aren’t there
Or a businessman who will call in sick to work tomorrow
Even though your body is well.
You are as infinitesimal as the mysterious itch
That comes to the small of your back
As soon as the lights go out.

Well, it’s beginning to rain now
And there is some thunder in the distance.
The clock becomes nothing
And you can no longer hear the tiny fists in your ears.
Your eyes close and the world becomes just dark enough.
Lightning illuminates the bottles of vitamins that line your nightstand
And, suddenly, the sheets return – warming now and just exactly cool enough.

You sleep.

THERE IS NOT A ROSE LEFT ALIVE

There is not a rose left alive
With the sun dripping blood
Through the running fingers
Of the clouds and onto the
Gardens and streets where
You and I try to live without
Life killing us inside and woe-
Fully dreadfully failing every
Day the blood red roses dead
In the blood dripping orange
Sun as the clouds laugh between
Their angry gray rainy fingers
That allow rays of death to fall
Onto our roses with the subtlety
Of a sun making a compact with
The moon to keep us in our
Perfect and unsurmountable

Misery

And
There is not a rose left alive
Not one

Howie Good

Life and Nothing But

The police nowadays consider a gathering of three or more people a riot. I try desperately to speak out, shriek like someone warning of an approaching fire, but can’t, because of a sudden terrifying lack of breath. All these events, crises, dramas, convulsions – literature pales by comparison. When I cross any border, there is always an uneasy moment when I feel myself automatically regarded as an enemy. We are surrounded by murderers. Like those jellyfish on the beach. Children stab them with sticks without realizing they are living creatures. Life is nothing but being stabbed, knifed. We are the wound.

After the Bomb

A former beauty queen has been found in her bedroom decapitated, limbless, a chainsaw nearby.  The floor is littered with discarded gloves and face masks. On the wall, a decorative wooden sign says, “Breathe deeply and calmly.” How do you do that? This might not be hell, but it definitely isn’t heaven. We need a plan, an intervention, something. In Hiroshima after the bomb, they piled the bodies in the swimming pool at the college and cremated them with scrap wood. The smell of smoke chokes us; the heat scorches our eyeballs. Sirens scream in the distance. Assume the monster is everywhere.

Judge Santiago Burdon

Two Dollar Talisman

I have never professed to know much, although what I do know,
is there’s a distance between want and need, the road is plagued with rain that in time causes your ambition to rust, and your ego to bleed, your hunger doesn’t entitle you admission, to take part in the soul feast, believing no one’s pain is greater than your own, you’ve paid your dues now fate owes you, but you’ve defaulted on the loan.

If ever your want becomes a desire, for someone other than the image reflected in a selfish mirror, then you’re damned to keep counting blessings, always coming up short, feeling cheated out of what was never yours.

Still you ask why your prayers go unanswered, self indulgent wishes are ignored, worshiping the two dollar Talisman, bought at the thrift store, it has exhausted any cosmic goodwill it never had before, turns out to be just another poor choice, as a last resort. if a line between right and wrong ever existed, you snorted it long ago, and conscience you considered an encumbrance, was shedd in liability’s shadow.

I’ve lived in the underbelly of an existence, the reward for addiction and a troubled mind,
been to places where Jesus was afraid to visit, acting on some drug’s bad advice, I learned the less I wanted, the more I understood what it is I need, it rains diamonds on Neptune, and there’s blue sunsets on Mars, but what do I know,
I’m just an imitation of me.

Judge’s poems can also be found here, check it out!
https://5d1dd405a81e9.site123.me

Stephen Jarrell Williams

Beirut Timebomb

Mind trip
on your back in a blur
staring up with eyes closed
tempting you
not to face the outside
tribulation

But the bomb blew a daddy mushroom
sky-high over the port coast
thousands of windows shattered
thousands of rooms torn apart
thousands of homes in heaps
thousands of people hurt
too many killed

So-called accidental mass destruction
or demon savages letting it loose
from underground catacombs

Six explosions spaced eleven seconds apart
(The info is out there if you look deep enough)
then the main mama-moo-er climax
killing men women children and babies

Nobody knows nothing
except those
that will eventually go to hell

Their mind trip a ticking timebomb.

Rioter

You should change
the way you see me,
for it is eating you up,
concaving your body
and contorting your face.

Your zombie mouth moving
before you’ve thought.
Your mind overselling
missing the mark.

Your pointing finger
bending into a fist
and you don’t even know
how to throw a punch.

At least read a manual
before you march.
Knowing the full truth
is a good place to start

You Can’t Get Away

You can’t get away from them
They’re tracking us
One way or another they’re sniffing us out

Settling in our ears
Injecting into our skin
Floating in our veins
Tinkering with our brains

But not able to change our hearts
Yet….