doxology from a barroom window by Leland Seese

Colin Farstad_FOR SEESE-2


 

doxology from a barroom window

the fire engine blasts its horn and siren
southbound toward an elsewhere accident

two women in their twenties drinking vodka
flit about the edges of their readiness to kiss

a cough drop wrapper gold and black
blows up from the gutter to the sidewalk near a tree

a zillion other things in endless rearrangement
these three arranged like this are all i see


Author Bio: Leland Seese lives in Seattle. He began writing poetry after a bout of cancer finally convinced him to put his English/Creative Writing degree from the University of Washington to use. He has published poems in Pyrokinection and The Christian Century

Artwork: Colin Farstad has been at one point or another a teacher, editor, writer, photographer, event coordinator and connoisseur of classic cocktails. Currently he lives in Brooklyn and works at DeFiore and Company. For more information check out colinfarstad.com

A Tight Spot by Jacqueline Doyle

 Herrington_ FOR DOYLE_A Tight Spot


Sure I felt like an asshole. We’ve all been in tight spots made us think about what assholes we are, gave us time to ponder. I had all night, and then some.
        Seasonal work was the best I done last year, working for Mel’s Electronics for the Christmas rush. Black pants, black shoes, white shirt, a Santa Claus hat and red vest from Mel’s with a nametag read, “Happy Holidays! My name is Dean. Ask me a question!” Mel said a year ago was better, but far as I could see, they were raking it in.
        It was late afternoon on December 23 that I rung up this lady’s purchase, almost $4000 mind you, and just happened to notice the address on her ID, 1255 Cold Canyon Road, because I used to live in an apartment at 1255 Canyon Boulevard, a different neighborhood altogether, believe you me. I hauled this big-ass flat screen Toshiba TV out to the lady’s Lexus SUV, which was chock-full of presents, and she says, “I got my shopping done just in time. We’re leaving tonight for a party at my in-laws and won’t be back ‘til late tomorrow. I’ve barely got time to wrap.” She gave me a two dollar tip, even though they’re not supposed to.
        That night I couldn’t help thinking about all those presents. Mel’s gives seasonal staff a 10% discount, whoop-dee-do, and I bought my girlfriend Jolene an itty bitty Coby TV for our bedroom, but it didn’t amount to much, and that big Toshiba sure would look good on the living room wall, you know how people hang them up like pictures now? And I was thinking this lady’s got insurance for sure, and it’s not like the TV belongs to anyone yet. Or the iPods with Memorex Speaker Systems for her kids, or the Sony HD Camcorder for her husband. That was just what she bought at Mel’s. Who knows what else was in the car. I’m figuring, they haven’t even opened their presents and got time to get attached to anything. They can’t miss what they don’t even know they’ve got.
        So I decide just to swing by and look at 1255 Cold Canyon Road, just take a look at the house and the neighborhood. I wasn’t planning nothing, just thinking on it, taking a drive.
        Well you wouldn’t believe all the Christmas lights and decorations. Deer made out of lights in the front yards, Santa in his sleigh with a load of presents, all lit up red and green. Long paths lined with giant light-up candy canes. Big houses. Big yards. Lots of trees. 1255 Cold Canyon was set way back from the road, and without thinking I just zipped up the driveway with my headlights off, figured I could always say I had the wrong address, that I was in the neighborhood to hook up someone’s new TV. They’ve got that service at Mel’s and other places, and some of the help do it on the side, slip the customer their phone number when they load stuff in their cars. “If you have any trouble at all with installation, please just give me a call, ma’am. I can fix you up for less than Mel’s will charge you.” I never done that, mostly because I wasn’t sure I could handle all those cables and directions.
        I sit in the car for a spell, drinking a beer.
        After a while I open the car door real quiet, then freeze, wondering was there a dog. But I didn’t hear nothing. The house was dark, with just one little light in the entry hallway, shining through the thick glass panes in the door. No porch light, no lights anywhere else. I walk through the unlocked side gate into the back yard, just cogitating, scoping it out. I bang into the recycling bin, which gives me a scare. But the neighbors are much too far away to hear or see anything so I figure I’m safe. Someone down the street’s got a repeating tape of Christmas music to go with their Christmas decorations, “Jingle Bells” to “White Christmas” to “Deck the Halls” to “Silent Night” back to “Jingle Bells,” where it starts up all over again. That would drive me crazy. I’m just as glad I don’t live in this fancy neighborhood.
        House this big must have a burglar alarm. I’m thinking how would you get into a house like this without using a door or a window. It’s not like I wanted to rob the whole place. I just wanted to scoop up those presents and run, wouldn’t take more than a few minutes tops.
        Well Santa must have been on my mind, because it just come to me. Why not the chimney? Chances are the tree’s set up right by the fireplace and the presents are all there for the taking. I was always a good tree climber when I was a kid, and I look around, and sure enough there’s a tall pine tree I knew I could climb. I’d already had a few beers and a peppermint schnapps at home and probably wasn’t thinking my clearest. Hadn’t really thought about how I’d get the presents out without opening a door or window.
        I climb the tree. The bark’s all rough, and I get sap on my hands and scratches on my face from the twigs and needles. But it’s also kind of fun. It smells good, makes me feel like a kid again. When I get up there, it’s just a short jump onto the roof.
        So I’m up there feeling on top of the world, congratulating myself on my climbing abilities and great idea. It’s a cold night, but not too cold, and the sky’s clear. You can see stars everywhere, and way far off, the lights of the city.
        The chimney’s got some kind of grate on top, and at first I think I’ll have to give up my plan. Wondered for a bit if I could saw a hole in the roof instead, but of course I don’t have a saw. But then I feel around, and the grate’s got four screws on the corners and it turns out you can unscrew them with a quarter, which I do, feeling pretty smart. Looking down, the chimney is kind of scary dark, but the opening looks big enough, and I figure I’ll feel fine once I’m in the living room looking at all those presents.
        I picture Jolene watching “American Idol” on this big screen Toshiba in our living room, painting her toenails like she does, calling out to me, “Come in here. You got to see this, Dean.” The two of us cuddling on the couch, her sitting with her feet across my lap, cotton balls between her pretty toes.
        Or me kicking back with some of the guys for a football game, pizza boxes and beer bottles all over the coffee table.
        “Jeez man, where’d you get it?”
        “It was a floor model at Mel’s,” I’ll say all modest. “Discontinued. You just got to be in the right place at the right time for a deal like that.”
        I get a good grip on the sides and lower myself into the chimney. Turns out there’s a ledge not too far down where I can rest my feet. I angle my butt against the side and reach down to grip the ledge. Wish I’d thought to bring a flashlight, but none of this was exactly planned, know what I mean? I can feel soot rubbing off on me, especially where I’m all sticky from the sap. I don’t know how I’m going to explain that to Jolene, and it’s getting darker as I look down. There’s a goddamn bird nest on one corner of the ledge, but at least there’s no birds. I’m farther down, barely holding onto the ledge with my fingers now, squeezed inside the chimney, feeling around with one foot, then the other, for another toehold. The chimney’s narrower below the ledge. I’m wondering how far down it will be if I just let go.
        So you know what happened. I slipped and got stuck in the chimney.
        Newspapers say I was wedged in there for ten to twelve hours. I don’t know about that. I only know it was a fucking long time, and for hours and hours all I could see was a small square of night sky and stars above me, and only if I bent my head back, which gave me a crick in my neck but was worth it, since otherwise everything was black. I knew Jolene must be wondering where I was at, and my cell phone was in the car between the seats. Not sure what I would have said if I’d had it. “Honey, I’m stuck in a chimney?” I was thinking about all the dumb things I done, mostly with my high school buddy Roger, thinking this was a two-man operation, and if he’d been along, things might not have played out this way. And thinking how Jolene says I should grow up and maybe it was time.
        The stars started to disappear as the light got gray, and then lighter, and then kind of washed-out blue with wispy clouds. By now I’m sober as a judge. Leaving the car in the driveway was a dumbass move, but at least they’d know someone was here, so it was a good dumbass move. “You won’t be here forever,” I kept telling myself, trying to keep my spirits up. Especially when I felt like I couldn’t breathe, with my elbows jammed against my rib cage like they were, and me fearing the worst. I’d suffocate. I’d fall asleep and crash down into the fireplace. Or they’d light a fire and I’d cook to death before anyone heard me calling out. Or the family would die in a car crash, and I’d starve to death here waiting for someone to find me. I closed my eyes sometimes, did this yoga breathing thing Jolene taught me. “Long exhales,” she said, “long slow breaths,” and I think that saved me much as anything. A few times I heard cars on the street and tried to yell “Help,” but it was like my voice didn’t work, and they were too far away anyway.
        Finally, after what felt like days, I hear car doors slamming in the driveway and then kids’ voices in the living room. “Ho ho ho,” I shout out, my voice kind of squeaky. The kids are shrieking “Mom, Dad, Santa’s in the chimney!” and the lady from Mel’s is saying “Oh my God! Get out of there!” Everything’s quiet again.
        It takes a while, but there’s sirens, then clomping on the roof. Two cops silhouetted against the sky, shining flashlights down the chimney. I was never so glad to see cops in my life.
        The whole family’s outside on the front porch when they lead me to the squad car in cuffs. I couldn’t look that lady in the eyes. All I can think about is that two dollar tip and, “You really screwed up this time, Deano.”
        “You have the right to remain silent.” Well I didn’t have much to say, did I? All night to think about it, and ponder other mistakes I’d made in my life, and I couldn’t even come up with an excuse for this one.
        Jolene visits weekends, says she really likes snuggling in bed and watching that Coby TV I gave her. I hope she’s snuggling alone, that’s all. We’re aiming to marry when I get out, have kids, do the whole grownup thing. It’s time.


Author Bio: Jacqueline Doyle lives in the East Bay. Her work has appeared in South Dakota Review, Ninth Letter online, South Loop Review, Southern Indiana Review, and Confrontation. A recent Pushcart nominee, she also has a “Notable Essay” listed in Best American Essays 2013. She teaches at California State University, East Bay and can be found online at www.facebook.com/authorjacquelinedoyle.

Artwork: Alexandra Herrington

Just how we say what we say is what we say. by Julia Tranchina

Herrington_(Untitled Photo)_FOR TRANCHINA


 

Just how we say what we say is what we say.

This valley. Death shall be at the start. Drown the object in its history. Sank after it capsized; exploded in a ball of fire; derailed and plunged into a canyon; died at 97 of pneumonia. Tell the truth gradually, carefully. I’ve never met a man my age I wouldn’t have to carry around. It drained to the current level after a prehistoric earthquake. Erfam will go thirsty without clean water. The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our bones, the iron in our blood. I may go wrong and lose my way. Agua de Jamaica laced with white rum. Here then, was her liquid illusion of happiness. She over kissed. Your advice is truly profound when you’re snockered. Clear all the jelly! It was part of a cosmic order. Pain and suffering are the most fruitful sources of noble deeds. I just saw the police with a dump truck clearing out the homeless encampments down in the creek. Drought. A return to rambling. She taught me to tie my shoe laces with an unnecessary loop. Our dining room table is covered in lead. In Yugoslavian it means dirty drunk and dirty pig. A noun is the name of anything. Meta is conceit. The borders of my memory are shifting. How near winter death is. She is overcome. My father spends his mornings—after his wife died and I’m certain before—at the bar, where he’s able to buy cheap Gallo salami chubs from the bartender. All knowing is remembering. She is in no shape to drive. Gravity is a law of nature that controls all construction. The glass shattered under the weight of my wife and son. I will always be their second choice. The invisible monsters descend upon our human hearts. Side by side. We sleep in your shade. I took off his clothes to find the source of the bleeding. I love her but I don’t like her. Seeing his dead grandmother crawling up his leg, with a knife in her teeth. The emergency room was surprisingly quiet on New Year’s Eve. Where is mama’s bocchino? The gout makes him move like a weeble. I am quiet and keep myself to myself. Her history ended in Gridley. They like their martinis wet. Maybe this year will be better than the last. National Thank You Month! I’m joining our gene pool with theirs on paper. Your mother’s honesty borders the brutal. She looked great in a leotard. Drink lots of water and don’t eat fried foods. In a home she designed and had built in 1929. The resentment lingers. It’s the same season every day! The great arm of the sea. They dropped her to the ground, breaking both of her legs. I’m nervous. Giant black butterflies cover the sun. Tell all the truth but tell it slant. In her private life she was a popular hostess. That’s not her, she disappeared. They came for her in a windowless, white minivan on Super Bowl Sunday. Enough about the Filipino appetizers already.


Author Bio: Julia Tranchina is currently working on a series of 27 language poems. Her writing has also appeared in Barrelhouse, Monkeybicycle, Ohio Edits and Literary Orphans. She lives with her wife and two-year-old twins in San Jose, California. 

Artwork:

The Tricycle by Stephen D. Gutierrez

prints


        My dad picked up the tricycle for me from the Martinez’s around the corner.  I was afraid for him because my dad was sick, and the Martinez’s were tough, and I feared something wrong happening, something violent, something bad.  I watched him walk out of our yard through the gate at the sidewalk and limp across the street with the orange sunset filling up the ivy embankment of the Long Beach Freeway that slanted before him, filling it up in squares and chunks of orange, and below it, my dad an insignificant figure.  I kept my eye on him, my dad making his way to that weedy, overgrown yard where my tricycle lay on its side next to the older brother’s bike, who said he was keeping it, come and get it if I wanted it.  So I left.
        I had come home in tears.  And now my dad was on his way there in the pre-dinner hour when the street quieted and nobody went outside but for trouble.  I saw it that way.  I had seen a fight in the street once.
        But now my dad came back with my tricycle dragged in his hands, half-rolling, half-carrying it.  And he lifted it over the white picket fence that ran along the front of our small house in Los Angeles.  And he opened the gate and limped up the walk and made it to the front door.  He wiped his shoes on the mat and came in.
        “I got your bike.  Mr. Martinez was nice.  He said why didn’t you take it home?”
        I couldn’t tell him any of it.  I just turned away with a broken smile.


Author Bio: Stephen D. Gutierrez is the author of The Mexican Man in His Backyard, Stories & Essays, recently published by Roan Press. His two previous books are Elements and Live From Fresno y Los, which won the Nilon Award sponsored by FC2 and an American Book Award, respectively. He is well published in anthologies and magazines in both creative nonfiction and fiction, and has had award-winning plays produced. He teaches at California State University East Bay. Learn more about him at stephendgutierrez.com.

Artwork: Dan Stuckey is a Bay Area graphic designer and screenprint artist. For more visit www.dstuck.com.

 

“Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows by Larry O. Dean

Christopher Coffey_DUHRITZ_for Mr. Jones


 “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows

I heard it in the grocery store,
piped in so clear, there
in the canned food aisle; my hand
hovered in mind-reach
for eight ounces of tinned peaches
I planned to cook into a pie.
So taken was I my peach-search
was abandoned and I ran,
frantic and alive, to find

an employee crouched, shelving
toilet paper two rows away.
“No problem,” he said, even if
I had disrupted his task,
in truth, probably happy to take
an unplanned break, and because
he could not hear so clearly
with a mother and bawling newborn
nearby, we went back

to the stacked cans and stood
close to the speaker, tilting ears
toward the tinny sound
piping in through industrial
speakers. “That’s ‘Mr. Jones’
by Counting Crows,” he said,
and my first thought was,
“Who is this ‘Mr. Jones’?”
but I did not betray

the depth of my curiosity
and instead thanked him
for his help, relieving him
from customer service
to return freely and forthwith
to the squeezably-soft
Charmin previously assigned,
“Mr. Jones” la la la la-ing
in the air above every aisle now

as I jogged briskly
to the Customer Service desk
at the other end of the store,
where there was no wait
and a manager labeled Jeff
on a tilted white name tag
asked with a smile
just beneath his neat
mustache, “How can I help you?”
as I practically begged, “Can
you shut that horseshit off?”


Author Bio: Larry O. Dean was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. He attended the University of Michigan, where he won three Hopwood Awards in Creative Writing, an honor shared with fellow poets Robert Hayden, Jane Kenyon, and Frank O’Hara, among others; and Murray State University’s low-residency MFA program. He is author of the full-length collection, Brief Nudity (2013), as well as numerous chapbooks, including I Am Spam (2004); abbrev (2011); About the Author (2011); and Basic Cable Couplets (2012). His poetry has also been internationally translated and anthologized. In addition, he is a singer-songwriter, performing solo as well as with his current band, The Injured Parties; he has released many critically-acclaimed CD’s, including Fables in Slang (2001) with Post Office, Gentrification Is Theft (2002) with The Me Decade, and Fun with a Purpose (2009). Dean was a 2004 recipient of the Hands on Stanzas Gwendolyn Brooks Award, presented by the Poetry Center of Chicago. Contact him at larryodean.com

Artwork: Christopher Coffey