R.T. Castleberry

TWO WHEELS (IN THE GUTTER)
 
Low buzz sibilance of
voices from distant backyards
pulls me to the patio.
Dropping to a cane-back chair,
I cure the hangover taste of
cigars and Busch beer with
Cutwater margaritas, microwave tamales.
No Zoning in this quadrant, my place
overlooks green space squeezed between
industrial beige office parks,
faltering shops, roach coach regulars.
 
I wouldn’t mind some rain,
to slow the beat, the heat,
blast-white sun at two.
Shades on to cut the driveway glare,
I watch neighbor dogs roam,
owners wrestle and race after them.
Fence sparrows dart,
circling the confusion.
Green lizards skitter the breaks of
storm-scattered branches.
 
I feel like I’m driving with
two wheels in the gutter.
I’ll shower soon, change
from my overnight clothes.
There are pinto beans simmering,
ready for white rice, buttered rolls
subbing for cornbread.
Jimmy Reed is low from my cellphone,
slow-walking the blues.
Yeah man, I bought some insurance.
It’s not helping me today.
 
 

“ALL I HAD WAS GONE”
 
Draped in Union blue
I take a 12-month chip,
a copy of The Iceman Cometh,
cultivate a salesman’s grinning grip.
Miles registered in a company car,
a Valley trip lies ahead.
 
Spring becoming summer,
there’s a ghost in the garden,
a feral cat sensuous in the drying grass.
I light a Tiparillo,
block walk the gentrified greenery:
open lawn, fenced lawn,
high oaks arcing the boulevard.
Black dirt dust from a truck farm town
cakes a two-toned Chrysler.
The 5-column church is silent
this Thursday afternoon.
Doors are locked. I tip my hat
to the service schedule set
and framed in quarry marble.
 
A Hickey-Freeman summer weight coat
is thumbed over a shoulder.
There is no place left I seem to see.
Cigar ash flurries in the wind.
Tied with a 4-hand knot,
The Countess Mara silk stays tight.
An oil derrick figure on tie clip and cufflinks
mark ten years service.
 
Down a distant circular drive,
a lone boy pushes a bike.
He hops the seat, gains the pedals,
wings around the median.
I’ll bring a survey team
to this memory next week.

Adesiyan Oluwapelumi

'Miserable'
You cannot lighten my misery
nor can you sweeten my bitterness

my bones are crumbling away like the sands of time
and my faith is not steadfast;it is weakening

I long for death from the Devil himself
but it does not come, it tarries like every God's promise to me

my sighings had become a new tongue
but it seems demons understands this language

my groaning is like the water
and I suffer fear over this deathless penury

my soul is troubled
and I'm not at ease because trouble ever calls.

John Tustin

RINSED BRUSH

 

We had so few nights together

Over those years

That it’s almost as if

I can remember each one individually

And totally.

Almost, but I don’t.

The nights mix together like paint and flow away,

Running down the drain from a rinsed brush.

 

I recall nights when it was raining or snowing

And nights when the moon almost burst in

Through the window.

I can see moments in my mind

In three different houses

And they all run together in my thoughts.

Walking out of a restaurant

Or driving from her mother’s place to mine.

It’s more about reliving the feelings I felt

From moment to moment -

As she looked at me from across the table

Or how her legs looked in those long socks

As she sat there in her t-shirt and panties

And I tried to concentrate on what she was saying.

 

My mattress was on the floor.

Watching her sleep there is what I remember most.

The warmth inside myself of this complete love,

This utter certainty

That I have not felt before

Or since.

The false warmth inside myself

That told me as long as I stood upright

Everything in life would have to work out.

 

I had a dream about her this morning

For the first time in a long time.

She kept shuttling me from room to room

In an almost empty apartment

In order to hide me from various visitors.

I don’t need a therapist to figure this one out.

I wake up and it’s light outside.

I go to the mirror and I look so much uglier

Than I did when we were together

Or maybe I’m just noticing it now.

The walls themselves seem to writhe in pain

As if they are being burned by the light coming in

And I go back to bed, my nice cool bed,

Lying on my belly and trying to forget

All of the things that I’ve just told you.

Sayani Mukherjee

Possession.

Greys and browns
A dark runs through,
Crayons that tattooed our childhood
A Mischief branches above
Running through walls and refrigerator lights
Worn out patches
Upturned toys that stare away
A greyhound's own place
Thinking turns into object
A touchstone, a nameplate upon us
Until they spark away
Little faucets , little unnamed flowers.

A Housekeeper's vigilant footsteps
A multifaceted colour palette
At my balcony
Early monsoon fall
A bright rob of a sunset
A magic coup of daily grindings
When the last halt comes
A finesse of a landfill
Familiar migrant birds of coastal sweepings
Brown and black heads
Turning down
A hoosh upon my home
Keys, vigil and possession.

Ian Copestick

The Salt Mines


The salt factory
was a really tough
gig.

That's why I
jokingly call
it the salt mines.

It was 12 hours
per day.
Six a m. until six p.m.

It's one of the
hardest jobs,
I've ever had.

Those bags of
salt were heavy.

Very heavy.

The way that
the machines
were set up was
pure Hell.

Sheer sadism.

As soon as
you'd managed
to move one
big bag of salt

Put it on a pallet,
another would drop
through the hopper.

If you had to
sneeze, or
cough, you'd be
behind, then
there'd be two
heavy bags of
salt to move.

When the pallet
was full, and you
had to move it
with a pump truck.

Put another pallet
in its place.

Well, then the whole
production line would
be filled with big, heavy
bags of salt.

Until they were
stacking up on
top of each other.

Then some would
fall to the floor,
there just wasn't
enough space.

Then you really
had to get stuck
in.

By the time you'd
managed to get rid
ot the backlog, you
would be pouring
with sweat, all of
your muscles nearly
paralysed in pain.

Then, the pallet would
be full again.

And you have to go
through the whole
thing again.

12 hours of that.

I used to regularly
fall asleep on the
bus home.

Either way, I'd
get home
My wife would
have cooked me
an amazing meal.

I'd soon be falling
asleep, face down
in my food, whether
I'd had a drink, or not.

At the weekend,
all I could do was
sleep.

I remember that one
time I slept for a full
twenty - four hours.

That's how tired I was
No amount of money
can make up for wasting
your life like that.

I was only on minimum
wage, anyway, but sixty
hours a week of minimum
wage is still quite a bit of
cash

I lasted as long as the
job did.

Until Xmas, then I was " let
go ",
Thank fuck for that.

Steven Leake

Plush Safe


I want to be so good the government kills me

where my phone dings all day
healthy and beloved

the stars see the error of their ways
and dazzle me to sleep

each night

where echoes of your laughter
birth new universes

Howie Good

Interview Questions for a Job Yet to Be Invented

Have you ever demanded, received, or paid a ransom? Seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe? Spent a night in the gorilla cage? Bought a human skull on Etsy? Shared an elevator with the eighteen smallest dwarfs in the city? Laughed so hard you dislocated your jaw? Asked Alexa the actual color of the Red Sea? (Intense turquoise.) Been bound and gagged and stuffed in a wheelie bin? Visited a parent in prison? Shrieked like a peacock or impersonated a disreputable poet with a pointy beard and long wool scarf? Dreamt you were dreaming? Put a smiley face at the end of a sentence? Hummed while performing cunnilingus?

Judge Santiago Burdon

Suffering Pleasure

I lit candles throughout my Studio apartment not so much as to create a romantic or Gothic ambience, but instead to be able to  navigate around my four hundred square foot living space with a small amount of light. Evidently, it seems my memory has been on a bender. Once again it got drunk and forgot to pay the electric bill. The Electric and Power guy pointed out I've used that somewhat creative as well as almost humorous excuse far too often. The novelty has worn off with the consequence  being orders to confiscate the Electric Meter and return it to the office. Which meant he couldn't just turn it upside down and push it back in. The company mid-level suits  had become sabe to me pulling it out then placing it back into the service restoring my power after the power guy left. I guess I'll be playing pioneer for a couple of days.  However, the neighbors are leaving on vacation for a month in two days, so I can jump their power and their Cable.  Then I'll try to get my T.V. out of hock or maybe just borrow one of my neighbors TV's.  This guy will be living like a suburban scumbag.

"This has to stop Santiago. There's no future in what you refer to as a recreational activity." I said out loud.

"Ya I know." I answered back with a four a.m. honesty.

"When do you think  that  might happen? Do you envision it as a revelation or an epiphany?  Maybe an intervention,  or a never-fail cure, incarceration."

"It doesn't matter. You've gotta get clean." My voice echoed in the near empty apartment

 "Ya it'll happen. I just can't say when."  I answered back to  myself in a sincere tone.  I stabbed  the syringe deep into my vein. I didn't  even have to pull back on the plunger to register.  My dark, thick, rich, red, blood  billowed into it as a preview of the explosion about to erupt inside my body.

Boom!

Michael Pollentine

Immaterial

 
Do you ever feel
You haven’t looked
At the sky
Enough?
Not taken in
The stars?
Or the mountain?
Or her face
Even though your eyes
Find themselves
Absorbed constantly
Almost like
Osmosis
Sight loses to feel
Like memory
Impressionist
Brush strokes
Coax and tickle
Senses
With smatterings
Of taste
And tendrils
Mental shards
Scatter
A reflection of
Moments
To chew
And glue with
Saliva
And blood
A collage of
Sand
In the shape
Of a mountain,
A painted sky,
Her face
Full of our life.

Alan Catlin

Guns ‘R Us

“Your rights end
where mine begin”

The guns and ammo
guy’s t-shirt said.

Was selling targets
of Obama’s and Biden’s

faces with bull’s eyes
dead center in their

foreheads. Buy in bulk,
or spend a yard,

and receive, free, targets
of #44’s and #46’s

extended families, no extra
charge. All persons

purchasing items are
automatically eligible

to win a modified-for-
maximum-effect AR.

Void where prohibited
by law.