it is better than an empty closet,
for it encourages thrift
and reminds us
that we can, indeed, slam
those rosewood doors,
a cautious sanctimony
tucked in the scarves
of the accomplished
and inarguably well-spoken moms
who told us of regrets
we ought not to strive for.
and reach as lost stars do.
the clothes on our backs
flapping in light autumn sweat.
ready to be folded
again, near public showers.
Kristine Brown is a freelance writer and editor located in Southwest Texas. Her writing has been featured in Forage Poetry, In-Flight Literary Magazine, Dulcet Quarterly, Thought Catalog, Journal of Asian Politics and History, and Sanglap: Journal of Literary and Cultural Inquiry. While her work is driven by research, Kristine aims to expand herself creatively through poetry and prose. She experiments with writing at her blog, Crumpled Paper Cranes (http://crumpledpapercranes.com).
A Brand New World
Strange cracks evaporate,
buckle like a sky that has forgotten
its blue. Clouds
crawl off the floor, point
accusingly at stars swearing
they are innocent as a bathroom
mirror. Three leaves send up smoke
signals, invitations to tomorrow’s mess.
Of Onions and Umbrellas
Parallel creatures of hanging,
droplets are their common denomination.
Production vs. repellant. Necessity
will decide as I stand in abandoned
by solace, I waver
between kitchen cabinets and countryside
pathways. I inhale
freedom-scented winds from both sides.
I wonder if I held
a match between my teeth,
would I spark, change
the weather or the world?
Midnight in Central Park
Clock tolls, harsh tones
of deadline’s passing. Old contracts
now void; New contracts, yet to be
inked, lay stagnant on conference-room table.
The squirrels and pigeons have spent hours
painting protest slogans on posterboards,
now firmly fastened to limbs
graciously donated by the trees. Morning
will find a feral picket line rising
with the sun. Let the tourists try
and cross. A mouthful of human nuts might be
an interesting change of pace. Thoughts darken
as demands are prepared for release. Select
branches have been branded, stand ready
for wind’s first liberation movement. Seeds and
crumbs to be bickered over, most will be fodder
for the camel-cracking straw: Respect. Less
smoking. The flowers feel brown tint
is a terrible shade to bloom. No stilettos. The grass
is wimpy, sparse at best, already aerated enough.
Absolute banishment of Alka-Seltzer.
Some urban legends need not be
granted acreage for daily testing by teenagers.
Mandatory permits for artists and musicians. The
ability to hold can or conversation does not make
a Monet or Missy Elliot. Little reprieves
that might make the daily doses of drunks and
muggers bearable. The last
[semi]natural wildlife in this city is crying
out for compromise.
Dawn comes, as do the villagers. Both storm past,
ignore flurry of fur and feathers, paws and wings.
These mindless migrants remain
too blinded by their own
desire to beat the rush, to make the train.
A.J. Huffman has published thirteen full-length poetry collections, thirteen solo poetry chapbooks and one joint poetry chapbook through various small presses. Her most recent releases, The Pyre On Which Tomorrow Burns (Scars Publications), Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink), A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press), and Familiar Illusions (Flutter Press) are now available from their respective publishers. She is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2600 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, The Bookends Review, Bone Orchard, Corvus Review, EgoPHobia, and Kritya.
Through shoes with cardboard soles that sport a clownish grin, my blackened toes flash like rotten teeth. Crows, spooked from the pizza box atop the trash, hurl their curses from the wires on high, to the concrete canyons of misty light.
Chalk colored piles with dark swirls,, like rippled custard, dot the box, and I wonder at the absence of odor, as I lift the lid. One piece is better than none, a find at last, and some fluff for a bowel that growls.
Sitting on the curb, my breezy feet to face, I figure that I have had worse, and smack the pizza down. Time to nap, I scan the shadowed doors about, and see my pick is occupied. A lumpy blanket squeezing hair, with weathered boots parked aside.
Removing my flaps of shod I waft to the shadowed lee, do a trade and carry on.
The crows are quiet as sin.
By The Sea
Arching its neck over the undulating highway to feed from the other side, an orange dinosaur fittingly forms a gateway for my passing, a secrete portal to new things in a world of vivid color. In awe of this unexpected find, I smile and look aside at the jungle flashing by. Along its face smiling heads of scaly creatures look out to welcome me. Huge friendly eyes, shaded by leathery furrowed brows, seem to say, “What took you so long?”
Turning to Bill to share my joy, I exclaim, “After all the looking, I have finally found it!” Bill is undisturbed to part from his muse and turn his mask of calm my way. Simply meeting my eyes, he knows, yet he needs not say. Turning back to his muse and calmly tooling the little VW through the herds of prehistory, Bill drives on.
In the back seat Rocky laughs and says, “Danny tried to set me on fire.” Looking back between the seats, I see that Danny has lit a cigarette, its blood red swirls of smoke flashing tracers from the rear window sunbeams. Immune to Rocky’s claim, Danny returns my look and shrugs. Rocky immediately forgets his outcry but likes the attention anyway. Scrunched together, excitement in their eyes, like Bill, they are watching. I watch too. And together, the miles suck us in.
For a moment the late autumn sea leaves me a child standing in the middle of an empty slate dump, grey expanses running to steep hills of leafless timber. Then, I am here again, as slate grey seas kiss a cumulous scattered sky.
Danny squeals and dances in the surf while I and others sit in the sand, our sneakers wet by his dance’s reach. Suddenly across the tableau of what seemed untouchable for so long, a string of pretty girls parade, all enjoying the ancient interest of our smiles, yet bemused by them a stitch.
Wildwood by the Sea blesses our short stay as another portal begins to close. Still whooping and high kicking the curled white froth, Danny does not see. Grinning at this sight, like a silent monk, I wait. It will not be long now.
Charles Hayes, a Pushcart Prize Nominee, is an American who lives part time in the Philippines and part time in Seattle with his wife. A product of the Appalachian Mountains, his writing has appeared in Ky Story’s Anthology Collection, Wilderness House Literary Review, The Fable Online, Unbroken Journal, CC&D Magazine, Random Sample Review, The Zodiac Review, eFiction Magazine, Saturday Night Reader, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Scarlet Leaf Publishing House, Burning Word Journal, eFiction India, and others.
Setting the Landlord on Fire
Let me explain something first.
This was by mistake.
Although I remember a motivational speaker
saying something about how there are no mistakes.
And it was only his face.
I was trying to do a circus trick.
I was drunk.
He had a giraffe shirt on
so I couldn’t miss him.
I spit the vodka aflame into his face
and he had a beard
and fell back
into the Christmas tree,
which wasn’t my Christmas tree,
because I’m not Christian
and I don’t own a saw.
which is a people
and maybe this is the first time you’ve ever heard of us,
in this poem
about my landlord
in the thorns
of silver and gold
orbs and beads and crucifixes
do stick in backs
and he didn’t die
or even get wounded
It was more embarrassment.
Like every time I go to the slot
and put the check in
and realize I can’t even hear it
hit the bottom.
I don’t even have the satisfaction of that.
The EMT Instructor Shows Us a Video of a Man Falling to His Death
There is, of course, absolutely nothing
to be learned from this.
Other than I should have spent more money
on the college.
Except this isn’t really a college.
It’s more of a basement in need of a shave.
The man keeps falling in the video,
mostly because the instructor keeps playing it
and laughing and he looks like
he’s eaten people’s dreams his whole life.
Not the man falling. The man falling
looks like nothing. He looks like a flash
of flesh. He is nameless and he’s not
nameless and I look at the teacher
who doesn’t teach who looks like
he was eating a dream last night,
all night long, in his insomnia,
and I wonder what happened
that made him think he can do anything,
say anything, and have no repercussions.
It’s a city.
You’ve never heard of it.
It was New Year’s Day.
You’ve never heard of that either.
It’s a day in the U.S.
where everyone commits suicide.
I’m defining Negaunee for you.
I can’t explain New Year’s Day.
It’s too complicated.
It’s sort of like Christmas
but with more syphilis.
We went out to go shovel
but the shovel was buried
under ten feet of snow,
because I come from a place
where we have to shovel
a hole up to the sky,
building a ladder
so that we can crawl
out of our homes
up onto the snow banks
where the crows are waiting
to eat our eyes. But if you’re fast,
you’ll eat theirs first.
for Kevin Simmonds
German wonder crook,
the talk to the lot of us
could be so lethal,
and yet, even told that,
and don’t even wonder.
Not the women, not the men,
not even when the blood
legs its way over to us.
and blink and four years fly by
on our new island, walled and chained.
from the Gaelic, ‘ruler of the world.’
We hear your magnificent
of pus and drool.
Ron Riekki’s books include U.P.: a novel (Sewanee Writers Series and Great Michigan Read nominated), The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book from the Library of Michigan and finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award/Grand Prize shortlist, Midwest Book Award, Foreword Book of the Year, and Next Generation Indie Book Award), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2016 IPPY/Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Great Lakes—Best Regional Fiction and Next Generation Indie Book Award—Short Story finalist), and And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press, 2017).
A Seminary Education
The most interesting thing I’ve learned while
at seminary was not taught to me in a class, but
something I observed gradually around campus:
amid this gluten-free fitness-freak city it seems I’ve
stumbled upon some holy place for women who are obese—
everywhere I turn there’s a thigh as wide as my waist
gyrating against its mirror, and I can hear seams
screaming, clinging like lovers being dragged apart—
I cringe, and cannot help but wonder why, what it is
about the religious life that beckons to them.
Of course in my heart of hearts I wonder if
I’m being an ass, if just having this thought is
offensive—but if I can’t even ask, if I can’t
wonder aloud in my own head, what’s the deal
with all these fatties? then I’ll have sacrificed
truth, or the pursuit of truth, nailed it to some
crucifix in favor of a world where young girls
can eat through their sorrow, can gorge with
sticky fingers upon words that whisper: doesn’t
this feel good? who needs beauty when you have
the grease of misery? If I can’t ask what all these
bowling balls are doing here, can’t wonder how their
wobbly pins don’t snap in half, then the world will
keep spinning and young women will keep turning
to Jesus, for he’s the only one to dry their tears
after a binge when the night is empty, the only one to
make them feel loved, the only one to look upon
all these obese women on campus who have, at long last,
given up hope, and told them it will be alright—
if I can’t even ask, then nothing will ever change.
Lost & Found
Or at least that’s what the sign says.
I watch the severed hand
scuttling and rummaging through
diamond rings and key chains and
Kodak cameras, through sunglasses
and eyeglasses and pocket-sized maps,
through coffee cups and baseball caps
and phones too stupid to find their way home.
The sleepy-looking boy had looked at me
in mild disbelief when I told him I lost
my soul in room 3-3-0—it must have
slipped between the covers when
I wasn’t looking and hid, listening,
or else it dove into the crack
between bed and wall—I don’t know
why it left me but I know I want it back.
And now it could be anywhere,
anywhere except here in the blue
bin at the concierge.
Alex Andrew Hughes lives and works in Los Angeles. He splits his time between his training in clinical psychology, his research in existential crises, and his fiction, poetry, and sketching. Sometimes, however, he does absolutely nothing, and he enjoys that time the most. His poetry has recently appeared in Thin Air, New Plains Review, Firewords Quarterly, and elsewhere.
The Monkey of Anger
does more than fling poo. Sure, he’s a master craftsman
and dead shot, able to fling without being seen,
and disappear after the deed is done. And he is careful
to point a finger towards the pack, and wag it suggestively.
The monkey of anger is a connoisseur of dung, a fierce,
biting and snarling competitor for the best excrement
available. No matter whose. He plays no favorites.
He hoards it near his banana stash, mixes it
with small stones and chewed straw until its consistency
is firm enough to remain a ball in his hand, and balanced.
Only then does the monkey of anger reveal his intentions.
Does his anger unveil itself, and his need for a target manifest.
The monkey of anger has his sights on you. You wrongly
assumed your umbrella will shield you, your reflexes
are superior. Your awareness of environment and superior
knowledge will not grant you poomunity. You are doomed.
Your fate complete, and ignominy your new name.
The Giraffe Who Swallowed Wrongly
died while gargling, a slow death, exacerbated
by allergies to pollen, a fear of heights, knocked knees,
a too-keen awareness to the nearness of stars
and the moon’s atavistic nature, as well as complications
of multiple herniated discs caused primarily
by Acute Peeping Tom Syndrome. The service
and feast were held the same day: all who attended
enjoyed a long repast.
The Aardvark of Unwanted Adverbs and Unwelcoming Adjectives
has taken up residency in the Swedish embassy, having sought asylum
after uploading a smorgasbord of grammatical impurities
to every English Department and laundromat on the planet.
He/she, no one knows or is willing to suggest, has demanded
nothing, suggested less, insisting they (the sexless they) are not
the arbiters of language nor the ambassadors of lexicography.
The rotation of the earth has slowed noticeably, due, possibly,
to the collective breath intake of all English majors, and minors,
not to mention Endowed chairs, Professor Emeriti, and tenuously
tenured faculty members. Committees have been formed worldwide,
and are meeting on days that begin with W, and months ending in E.
There is hope yet for a solution, or at least a truce. A partial withdrawal.
Untutored minds are quick to realize the End has come ‘round.
The Speed of Dark
has challenged you to a race, a duel of sorts,
a journey beyond the universe’s edge.
Winner take all. Loser required to pay
God’s outstanding tab. In your defense
this challenge arrives every year exactly now,
at the High Time of Golden Impatience,
when most everyone else has fled this galaxy
or the next, bored with weather patterns,
bothered by an influx of tourists (you never know
where they have been), being fleeced by balding
gypsies. Bad timing can never be made good.
But bad decisions, that is another story.
Just not this one. This one will lower the net
so that all shots land safely in play. It even allows
for Mulligans. What do you have to lose, I hear you
say to yourself. And truthfully I say to you,
God’s a teetotaler. Never goes on a bender.
Never buys the next round, or drinks for the house.
Truth be told you could throw the race, and find a way
to come out ahead. It’s clear you are leaning
towards accepting this farce of a proposal. Science
is in your favor. Always has been. Most likely will be
after the sun has imploded. So what’s the problem?
You worried about your streak of perfection?
Unbeaten since…always. It’s not pride that beckons,
or ego that prods. You are simply bored with the unchanging
all-ness of it all. And know that rubbing Dark’s nose in it
will give no satisfaction, offer no closure or resolution.
You are the rock and the hard place.
Alpha joined at the hip with garlicky Omega.
And worse, you know without a doubt
this slow death will never end.
Richard Weaver is an unofficial snowflake counter (seasonally) in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Recent poems have appeared in the Southern Quarterly, conjunctions, The Little Patuxent Review, Gloom Cupboard, Red Eft Review, The Literateur, Five 2 One, Steel Toe Review, Crack the Spine, StoneBoat, OffCourse, and the Stonecoast Review.