J. Archer Avary

FAIRY TALES

my dearest daughter 

how absurd is it that we

should not know each other

after all these many years

part of it is my fault

my parental responsibility

overshadowed by my hatred

for that woman

you call a mother

in another universe

maybe things would be different

but I never read you 

fairy tales as a little girl

and I’m sure as hell 

not going to start now 

Judge Santiago Burden

Who The Hell Do You Think You Are

I’m a recovering Catholic 

drug fiend and addict,  

a drunk, a thief and an ex-con, 

musician, writer,  half assed poet, and fighter, 

a grifter , failed husband and father, 

horrible dancer, an excellent cook, jokester and scholar, 

a liar, a crack shot, and a great driver. 

dog person, sports fan, trilingual, and a smuggler

too old to do any more time,

so I’ve retired.

Stephen Jarrell Williams

In A Far Yet Near Land

They come to tear us down

For we have suddenly been outlawed

No longer appropriate to salute and stand for

They enter our sanctuary of graves

Our tombstones tens-of-thousands

That fought and died for them

We cannot stop them from where we are

As they spit and kick

Knocking over our crosses

Our cemetery being bulldozed flat and forgotten

And you ask could this happen

In a far yet near land as here?

J.J. Campbell

too much dysfunction

i have never

been a big fan

of the holidays

grew up with

too much

dysfunction

i suppose

and as much

as i try to put

on a good face

for my mother’s

sake

everyone involved

knows i’m fucking

miserable

happiness anymore

comes in a bottle

a lonely saxophone

wailing in the

background

Howie Good

The Elements of a Crime

One night I sleepwalked into my parents’ room while they were lying in bed watching TV. “Here,” I squeaked in my 9-year-old voice, “take the knife. I killed him.” Then I sleepwalked back across the hall to my own bed. The next morning my mother was laughing and smiling when she told me during breakfast what I had done, but I felt – I don’t know – discredited. I had never sleepwalked before. The fact that I could act without being aware of it badly spooked me. It still does. Every night the sky is seething with headless birds in zigzag flight.

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.