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.
Girl of the Lower Forty-Eight
Burying my nose in the old sweatshirt
smell again the lonely armpit of afternoon bar
where whisky and I fought
for the attention of that New York woman;
soaked in her aroma of clean reason
prim, drunk, authoritarian, alert, erect
as I waved the prism
of my glass to over-state: we’re the minority here, I mean, people
thinking how the sweet nicotine night never
really comes home, or conversely, it is ever milky dawn
in Valdez, rainbow oil on the uneasy streets
built for solo stampede of the scared, brown bear.
Again, I stumble to the toilet reeking of confused urine
like that mountain man
who fell asleep in 1896 but staggered back in 2014
for his cell case.
In my rental, again the seduction stevia of stolen Rocky Road
slurped under exhortatory, totalitarian posters: be happy!
love! live! You fuckers.
In studio, the black piano smelled of true lilac
where the pimply young girl sang
quando rapito in estaci
open trance of the frontier, how later our lunch smelled of starving tins
and when I walked outside the smokers exhaled the green that lives forever
Brother Movie, Sister Film
One night we jumped the rope at the multiplex
to catch four feature films in a stretch.
sure, I’d once seen “Mother and the Whore” twice in a row
all 450 minutes but these were ordinary action flicks.
At hour six I wondered how we’d climb back on that carousel,
to borrow the metaphor, you use to explain evolutionary biology
your field of study; you, a proud atheist who designates us
not leaders of nature but more like that popcorn machine
that keeps churning kernels whether or not anyone buys;
by the third film I felt crazy, there was no telling land from dream sky.
Goodbye! I hugged your pale and exhilarated self as you returned to the snap back
seat not longing for the old velvet that use to hold our print, maybe, for one more night.
Merridawn Duckler is a poet, playwright from Portland, Oregon. Her poem from TAB: Journal of Poetry and Poetic’s was nominated for 2016 Best of the Web. She was runner-up for the poetry residency at the Arizona Poetry Center, judged by Farid Matuk. Her manuscript was a finalist at Center for Book Arts and Tupelo Press. Recent prose in Poetica and humor in Defenestration. She was a finalist for the 2016 Sozoplo Fiction Fellowship. Her play in verse was in the Emerging Female Playwright Festival of the Manhattan Shakespeare Project and other work was a finalist at the Oregon Play Prize. Fellowships/awards include Writers@Work, NEA, Yaddo, Squaw Valley, SLS in St. Petersburg, Russia, Southampton Poetry Conference with Billy Collins, others. She’s an editor at Narrative and the international philosophy journal Evental Aesthetics and co-owner of the artist promotion company, 2B Writing.
Department Store Mannequins
. . . look terminally serious,
lips pursed, mouths pouting slightly
with corners turned inward.
They seldom smile
or display the smallest pleasure,
even when meticulously dressed
in the most sublime couture.
One hand is on the tilted hip
to show off the flow of fabric;
cheekbones flat and thin
without the fleshy apples
that tempt eyes away
from the neutrality of brand.
sometimes headless or abstract;
no delight or euphoria here.
After all, smiling mannequins
might scare customers
if they flashed teeth,
seemed to be eavesdropping,
or appeared to have an opinion
about the cut of a cardigan.
Mannequins have nothing to say
but everything to show,
with their blank runway stares
fixed on some obscure,
that reflects our own.
Removing the Wallpaper
She’s scraping, scraping,
wondering who did this,
whose hands set traps for her,
whose bad taste caused
a conflagration of orange mums
to engulf the bedroom walls.
Will she ever peel away
this gaudy scrollwork
emblazoned with thumbprints
and flecks of red crayon?
Time has burned its emblem
into the garish flowers—
an umbra oily with hair gel
from her careless ex-husband
who read magazines in bed.
Hours pass; the room
is a mess of wet petals;
her shoes stiff with glue.
She will not be satisfied
until paste melts to the floor,
fresh paint is spread on plaster,
and her new life begins
with the stroke of a fiery brush.
Donna M. Davis is a native of central New York. A former English and creative writing instructor, she currently owns a résumé writing and book design business. Her poetry has been published in Third Wednesday, Pudding Magazine, Slipstream Review, Poecology, Carcinogenic Magazine, The Centrifugal Eye, Red River Review, Ilya’s Honey, Gingerbread House, Red Fez, Oddball Magazine, Aberration Labyrinth, Halcyon Days Magazine, The Comstock Review, and others. She was a special merit winner and finalist in several of The Comstock Review’s national awards contests.
When Uncle was buried,
it was on top of Great-Grandfather
for the cemetery had long been full on the ground floor.
Uncle was able to meet Great-Grandfather
for the first time since he was seven.
Uncle was surprised by Great-Grandfather’s gingham dress,
which, Great-Grandfather explained, was Great-Aunt’s.
Being buried next to each other, they had
mixed together during their melting period.
They were looking forward to what Uncle would bring.
Would he ante up a new toe for the ones that were lost?
(Such is the absent-mindedness of the dead.)
Great-Grandfather/Great-Aunt also needed a belt
and memories of a colorful bird in a green, green tree.
They wanted again to see what the eyes see as they rot away,
the beautiful distortions of the earth.
Your hair is an answer to the light.
It is “no.” It is “scat!” It is “don’t
come sniffin’ round here no more.”
And so the light
must find another place to scavenge,
to curl into a ball and sleep restlessly.
The light sinks into your eyes,
nests in your mind,
casts shadows as words and nipples,
flickers and twinkles and sighs.
God, An Autobiography
I arrived in the town when it was dark.
The place was quiet.
The people hid in closets, unable to sleep for days.
What’s come before has changed this place forever.
There were accidents and an epidemic.
The blood turned to dust in the veins, stopping the heart.
This didn’t affect everyone—there were survivors.
Dirt in a flowing stream can remain suspended for eternity.
The bodies, as always, flowed down the river,
Were buried by more fortunate towns downstream.
The survivors are no longer men,
Only the shepherds in the fields still really exist.
Things I Remembered After Getting Off the Phone With You
The name of the new woman at work who dries up pens with her touch.
What I need from the grocery store.
There’s a movie I should tape for Rachel.
There was a sad note in your voice.
Ryan said to tell you hello. He’s thinking of getting a cat.
I never finished copying the cake recipe. All is incomplete.
I need to vacuum behind the couch for the needles I dropped there last night.
Your voice was a bright light—startling, beautiful, oppressive.
The litter box needs changing. There are bones in there.
You never finished your sentence on your reason for calling,
The reason your voice was 1000 miles out and sinking.
Danielle Hanson received her MFA from Arizona State University and now lives in Atlanta, GA. Her book Ambushing Water is forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press. Her work has appeared in over 45 journals and anthologies, including Hubbub, Iodine, Rosebud, Poet Lore, Asheville Poetry Review, and Blackbird. Currently, she is on the editorial staff for Loose Change Magazine. She has edited Hayden’s Ferry Review, worked for The Meacham Writers’ Conference, and been a resident at The Hambidge Center. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.