Horse Opera

They drifted west from the North and South to taste

a common dust in the rearguard of uncommitted cows,

 

Surprised maybe that they could dig their spurs cooperatively

into the partisan enterprises of ubiquitous rustlers.

 

Pinned down in a wallow, fighting for their left-over lives,

Union boys and Johnny Rebs passed the ammunition.

 

Behind pearl-button pockets, sick hearts healed

and soiled souls bleached cleaner under a wide sky.

 

They forked their broncs, built their loops, and knew

the stench of branding from their own seared hides.

 

The horses rode clean and hard through sweet-grass.

Eroded lakebed arguments of landscape didn’t matter.

 

They circled, sang to the night, and shaped an honest pride

that helped to hold the poker peace and scab the civil wound.

 

Robin B. Carey

Emeritus prof residing in Missoula, Montana, with wife and family. National Endowment for the Arts Award and Oregon Book Award, both in creative non-fiction.

A Man who envies Eugene Levy

is harvesting eyebrows grown in a petri dish teeming with a mixture of Minoxidil, Finasteride, (think recent, indecent President), sandalwood oil, lavender, rosemary, and thyme oils, or a mixture of hippopotamus fat, crocodile, tomcat, snake and ibex oils. Alternatively, in a mirror experiment, he parboils porcupine hair in creek water, which, when cooled, is applied to the scalp for four days. In his spare time he sautés  the left foreleg of a female greyhound in 50 weight motor oil with a donkey hoof, the smell of which he finds efficacious. He shies from the likes of Hippocrates, a shining dome himself, whose hoary recipe included horseradish, fresh pigeon guano, beetroot, opium, and an obligatory artillery of other spices, though not necessarily in any requisite order. In a later immodest proposal, he, Hippocrates II of Kos, none too gingerly suggested castration at an early age, an effective procedure confirmed by modern day researchers, but not advocated. When Jules Caesar began losing his hair, and minded, he tried everything to reverse the curse and hide his shiny pate. He firstly  grew his thinning mane long in the back and brushed it over his scalp in an early version of the Propecia comb-over. His lover Cleopatra recommended a home remedy consisting of ground-up mice, a neigh of horse teeth, and slathering of bear grease. This too had little effect. So the Roman dictator took to covering his scalp with a laurel wreath. Truth will out. The Ides will march. Though popular in ancient times, hairpieces were revived in the 17th century by such as King Louis XIII of France, who donned a toupee to mask his blinding baldness. Massive wigs featuring elaborate curls and peppered with white powder, raged among French and English nobles. Many superstitions surround hair and hair loss. A Man bemuses: most common in North America concerned disposal of hair combings. If a bird acquires the combings, the owner will go mad, lose what’s left his or her hair, or simply die. To lose one’s hair in a male pattern or female pattern can be extremely distressing. Modern therapy involves the use of topical minoxidil (2% and 5%) and oral finasteride. Excreta of various sorts have featured heavily in history’s baldness cures – presumably inspired by the same fertilizing properties sought by gardeners. A gentle physician in old Rome prescribed burning the genitals of a donkey and mixing the ash with one’s own urine to form a paste. While Aristotle may have applied goat’s urine to his scalp, King Henry VIII was said to favor dog and horse urine. Some Native American tribes preferred a poultice of chicken or cow manure. Ireland, 1000 A.D.: One Celtic remedy for baldness instructed patients to stuff mice, no matter live or dead, into a clay jar, seal it, bury it beside a fire, and take everything out after a year. A tip to the not so wise: Make sure to wear gloves when you touch what’s inside! If you don’t, hair will sprout from your fingertips. Meanwhile, the man, remember him, has lost interest in things depilatory, and gone madly Nair do well.

 

Richard Weaver

The author lives in Baltimore where he volunteers with the Maryland Book Bank, the Baltimore Book Festival, and is the poet-in-residence at the James Joyce Pub. More than 100 of his Prose Poems have appeared since 2016. He is also the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press, 1992), and provided the libretto for a symphony, Of Sea and Stars, 2005, performed 3 times to date by the Birmingham Symphony, and once by the Juilliard Ensemble. He is neither a blockhead nor a stanzagrapher.

Bitters

Take your sorrow soup,

sour mash of sand

that slipped through

your mother’s hands on

days spent resenting a husband’s

regretful weakness.

Trickle in the salt from old

wounds, sprinkle an ounce

of onion tears over whatever meat

you can trim from the fat

on her old chopping block.

Stir in the shadow of the owl

that passes overhead

whispering that necessary question

who cooks for you?

 

Kelley Jean White

Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner-city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books). She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

Bad Memories of the Good Old Days

The darkest hour is just before

the middle of the night.

Mishka Shubaly, “Destructible”

 

I climbed the infinite staircase

that leads nowhere;

it took me almost a decade,

a fractured ankle,

a fractured rib,

a broken tooth,

my peace of mind,

and half of my soul.

 

I played the eleven games,

those were happier days.

But I remember the rejection,

the taste of blood in my mouth,

the humiliation,

a pitch-black bottomless pit

of youth and sadness.

 

I know how it feels to be depressed

at your aunt’s birthday party,

to think about death at the dive bar,

I know the strange looks you get

when you make jokes about misery,

I know how it feels

to spend the entire weekend

under a fortress of shadows and blankets.

Endless Sundays,

unnerving Mondays,

Advil and beer for breakfast.

I know.

I know.

There, there.

 

Black and white movies,

empty bottles of cheap white wine,

broken glass on the carpet,

suicidal fantasies at the supermarket,

tears at the airport,

cold sweat at the parking lot,

hot coffee and antidepressants,

shattered dreams and broken hearts.

That’s all that’s left:

Bad memories of the good old days.

 

Juan David Cruz-Duarte

Juan David Cruz-Duarte was born in Bogotá, Colombia. He lived in South Carolina for 10 years. In 2018 he earned a doctorate degree in Comparative Literature from the University of South Carolina. His work has been published in Five:2:One, Fall Lines, the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Jasper Magazine, Blue Collar Review, Burningword, Escarabeo, Máquina Combinatoria, and elsewhere. He is the author of Dream a little dream of me: Cuentos siniestros (2011), La noche del fin del mundo (2012), and Léase después de mi muerte (Poemas 2005-2017) (2018). He lives in Bogotá.

Eminence

The land in Nevada seems barren

like evil witch skin until you get

a better view. Start with a

 

close-up of crater valley, five shades

of brown, the ochre lip of serious

plummage, cracked ridge,

 

circular but not perfectly so, its irregular

features staring up at feathery wisps

of malnourished clouds.

 

Something as forceful as god rearranged

what once was, what once lay dormant,

dehydrated rivers, quivering

 

with geologic memories, nothingness pre-

served, dead sea, land succession bolted,

flat-lined except for mountain

 

ridges, curved, curling up toward bleak sky.

Ancient birds, vectors of pestilence, rise

from pink ash beds, illuminating

 

the very place I stand. I reach out, I reach

up, grasping at history’s breath, pulling it

in on top of me, seeking resurrection

 

of soul, spirit, body; acknowledging

the eminent passing of all that I am

into the hot mouth of time.

 

John Dorroh

Whether John Dorroh taught any secondary science is still being discussed. He did manage, however, to show up at 6:45 every morning with at least three lesson plans and a thermos of robust Colombian. His poetry has appeared in about 80-85 journals, including Dime Show Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Os Pressan, Feral, Selcouth Station, and Red Dirt Forum/Press. He also writes short fiction and the occasional rant.

All That We Are

charlotte said

 

there are times when i feel like i’m observing

myself from a constellated distance in the same

way one would look at a starry sky or a pastoral

scene or a bloody gory picture show

 

and when i see myself

 

in this way

 

i am wearing a full length black dress

and my head is shaven in a haphazard

and misbegotten manner

and the background is so white

that it becomes a sort of nothingness

not quite an ethereal nothingness

but a quivering nothingness composed

of floating particles of debris that could be

flecks of white ash from raging wildfires

and so i wrap my quavering white

hands around my shuddering body

like a cowering child in a torrent of criticism

and all i can see are a set of white hands

wrapped around a flowing black dress

in front of a spectral white nothingness

and my chalk white face is emotionless

and my eyes are painted black coals

devoid of compassion or empathy

and i am struggling to keep my mouth closed

because i know if i open my mouth

i will release a stream of swarming plague locusts

and these locusts will be filled with lechery and greed

the sort of lechery and greed that devours defenseless

acts of kindness and helpless acts of tenderness

 

James Butcher

James Butcher’s work has appeared in Rivet, Prick of the Spindle, Midwest Review, and Cream City Review.

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