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.

Jeffrey Zable

 A GLORIOUS LIFE

And when I dipped my big toe into the marmalade

it sent an electric current to my brain, reminding me

of the time I rode my skateboard to the ocean to drown myself

over the termination of a 7-minute relationship with the most

beautiful girl I’d ever known, but once I got there I shivered

and kevetched about forgetting to wear a jacket.

Upon returning home, I got ready for college where I studied

the art of nasal irrigation, pubic hair plucking, and how to shaft

others who disagree with my perspective.

I created a life that was a model for others who had nothing

left to lose in the final seconds of a glorious life. . .

Theresa C. Gaynord

Ashes to Ashes Tribute to David Bowie

I imagine nothing happening,
a pair of glasses, an oversized
armchair; a pronounced
experiment in failure for you.

I don’t understand this rational
approach that has you dying
so you can be reborn again,
into the corner cafes and tea

houses where the artistic is a
bridge you must cross desensitized
from the muse who follows wherever
he is led.

There are adjacent streets to walk
in, to raise eyebrows with, polluted
from use in the cheapest of ways,

and you’ve seen them all,

those ominous signs of communal
ideas to earning triple digit profits,
not with poetry of song but with entitlement.
Disgusted, you swore you’d never

write again, sing again, perform again;
but then you hitched-hiked to that
place in Brixton, where the soot-smelling
dreams of all things romantic and unique

resonated within you. Carrying six dollars
and a knapsack you bought from a vendor,
you were reborn many times as you rode
the rails of life like the junkie you were,

feeling the uptown beats of inspiration.
Spontaneity was your rap, your flow,
the monster you hauled through every
road stop in spite of cash.

There were those that chucked and criticized
you for cramming it all in, for truly feeling,
when they felt nothing. A true artist is this,

a true artist is that,

presumably they questioned in the solemnity
of those cheap moments where there was
never to be a suitable answer, if ever,
to keep them satisfied.

That will cost you five dollars, maybe one hundred,
we’ve got your bag all right. The artist’s left now.
Sorry folks, the stage is closed. Fade to black,
empty, ominous quiet.   

Emalisa Rose

my fall girl

she fell on the sword

for us, first time, the

counter of Gimbels

when we ‘borrowed’ 

that pouty girl pink

when Mae wasn’t looking

untangling our vine

when the thorns had

outnumbered the roses

i heard she took sick

in the spring

my counterpart artist,

painting the trees i’d 

be poeming about

we harkened to sounds

of the colors, just in

our diversified dialects

but we laid down like leaves

drunk on the gospel of autumn

first night november.

half past tequila

the serrated edged blues

marinate with the triangular

greens. Rain beads the baritone

branch as it slides down the

cobblestones. Leaves puddle

like brush strokes on watercolors.

**half past tequila at Tommy’s..

somewhere in the Keys**

a good time to grow hips again

perhaps it’s time to grow

hips again..as this virus

gets real to the marrow.

Why starve as a 0 petite

with a closet of dresses,

when there’s no place 

to wear them these days

i’ve been thin, i’ve been

fat. Thin looks real sweet

but fat feeds the void as

i wait for that life i had taken

for granted, hoping the cows

will come home again.

Howie Good

Heart Sounds

You unbutton most of the buttons of your blouse. The doctor places a cold stethoscope against your chest. He listens in silence to your heart. He listens with his eyes closed. He listens for what soon seems to you an unusually long time. You start to wonder what it is he’s hearing. The dry rattle of old heartaches? The volcanic rumblings of pent-up emotions? The beats your heart skipped last night during the exertions of lovemaking?  The doctor is frowning in concentration as he listens. Whoa, he finally says, there’s a lot going on in there.

Claw

There’s a lump about the size of a marble under the skin of my left palm. I showed it to my brother, a doctor, when he dropped by the house. He felt the lump, pressed it, asked me if it hurt. He said I had something called Dupuytren’s Contracture. As I age, my fingers will contract inwards. Eventually my hand will turn into a kind of useless claw. I won’t be able to put my hand in my pocket anymore or pick up a coffee cup with it or cup her breast. I’ll have to learn to grasp at straws with just one hand.

John Grey

WATCHING THE DRYER IN THE LAUNDROMAT

I’m accepting of the shirts,  

            the underwear,

that show up in the glass,

            while never asking myself once

            what I think about Twain or Whitman or Goethe

or even pink lips

            and the fumbling of my heart –

instead my eyes dry in tandem,

ears lock onto the motor hum,

and I am losing the point of myself  –

            it was blood and bone

            that separated itself from heaven,

            that leaked over time,

            that set its weaknesses up for cancer –

so why do I spend precious time

watching clothes lose their fluids

in the dryer,

the constant looping –

            I’ve lost my ability

            to be malleable –

                        man with issues

                        morphs into laziness,

                        proceeded by his spine,

                        his spirit –

I’m all pipes with rusted joints,

selling off my copper,

accepting the inevitable,

as round and round and round it goes –

as round and round and round I go.