SHOTGUN CHRISTMAS by Ephraim Sommers

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SHOTGUN CHRISTMAS

If you don’t believe in heaven, what then
is holy? Before dinner, your diabetic father
punching a syringe into his belly, fill your mother
with Rockstar and orange juice, fill
a wooden pipe with a squeeze of weed,
and she will have your father leaning back
in his wooden chair, laughing the tears out
of his eyes. Your mother with a dark tooth
up front, cock-a-doodle-dooing, palming
a stray punch sent from your sister to you
over the already-been-beaten beef, and the salads
oversalted the way your family loves them,
and the television’s volume pumped. Your mother
covers your eyes with a biscuit to keep the cold
from your dreams. The eighteen-wheeler queen,
she’s the hot hand in meatloaf. Your mother
would drag a boxed-up house on a flatbed trailer
to Baton Rouge tonight if you asked her.
But you’re staying scared of the outside world.
Frost is rumored this Christmas Eve, and she’s outside
axing the kindling, singing “Smackwater Jack”
as she wheelbarrows wood up the three front stairs.
And in she whishes in a wife-beater and pink slippers
and cut-off jeans with an armful of pine. Susan or Suzie
or How-Do-You-Do-Sue, she’s got your father
kneeling, balling newspaper into the fireplace,
your sister whipping double chocolate malts
as punishment. It’s past your bedtime, and in your dream
the clouds will crack like a ceiling, will suck you over
the barbed fences and almond orchards of a strange frontier,
will grind your teeth to a white dust something
like frost. You will wake screaming. Your room nightlit,
Santa won’t arrive in your doorway, but your mother will,
barefoot, in a nightgown and curlers with a sawed-off
shotgun dangling from her right hand. It will be
the most fragile thing you’ll ever see in your life.

 


About the Author: Ephraim Sommers is a doctoral fellow at Western Michigan University where he teaches creative writing. His work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Beloit Poetry Journal, Copper Nickel, Cream City Review, Harpur Palate, The Journal, Prairie Schooner, RATTLE, TriQuarterly, Verse Daily, Word Riot, and elsewhere.

Artwork: Sean McCollum

Bad xmas by Courtney Leigh

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Bad xmas

#hungrybutnotlooking: A Charlie Brown Story

Xmas is the emptiest time of year. Charlie Brown’s been eating chocolate santas all month in an attempt to stay warm. From cherry hat to toothache, he gorges on the supple little santas & kisses Lucy with bleeding gums & molars. She cums & goes home to her parents a vampire—such a pale Xmas miracle! They dress her in a gold funerary gown & put her in a coffin full of wilting hollies, covered in a coaled despair. May she rest in pieces, thinks Charlie Brown plopping another chocolate santa into his poisoned gut. He barks wildly the night searching for blood, maddened, stomach churning. A jovial toxicity swells as the santas form an insatiable hunger within him. He serves the bodies at Xmas dinner, stuffing every bit of bone & tendon down his throat, each psychedelic moment rip-roaring then swiftly fleeting. & when there are no more bodies lying in smithereens, Charlie Brown digs up Lucy’s snowy corpse & carries her home where he slides himself in her to keep warm, despairingly consumed with chocolate santas.

 

 


GRANDMA got EATEN BY #ZOMBIEREINDEER ON HER WAY HOME FROM

THE BAR ON XMAS EVE

Grandpa & I are cocking rifles, Santa’s here to plague us all.

Grandma got shit-faced on margs at O’Delles last night, didn’t want to pay for a cab, so she decided to walk home in a blizzard. It was like every other December in the North, her eyes were blinded by whiplashes of icy shards, tongue & lips dried out from the salt. Death was a distinctive taste in her mouth—she had felt it before the only way to cheat it was to vomit & as she expelled lime juice & tequila, every synch of warmth she held, death would not let her. A chariot of blood came plowing down the path pulled by a voracious herd of reindeer, skin liquescent & eyes paled. One sight & sniff & Grandma was being violently eaten by the reindeer, gnashing & gnarling over her floral gown, Santa bellowing a cold hard laugh.

Grandpa & I are wearing black & cocking our rifles. We’ve boarded up the cabin & we’re ready to war, Grandma’s pie covered in corpse flies at the windowsill. A football game roars in the background, the players are eating each other on the field—the referee calls a penalty for the home team. The channel turns to an emergency broadcast, but the newscasters are eating each other on screen. The radio hums through static—the voice on the other end, gargling madly. Grandpa hands me more bullets & nails. He’s going out to look for Grandma.

Grandpa returns with her, bungee cords wrapping throat, fishing pole pulling her behind. I’m not about to celebrate Xmas with the dead. I put my rifle to my shoulder & take a shot, missing her by an inch. Grandpa yells STAAAHHHPPP, but I take another shot & break the fishing pole. Her mouth collides with Grandpa’s throat & blood splatters the snow. I take a third shot & pop her blank in the forehead. Grandma falls beside Grandpa, slowly dying in his own gurgles of blood—

[a picture of two morbid snow angels on a greeting card.]

Merry Zmas & have a Happy End of the World.


#UNDERTHEMISTLETOE: A CHEMICAL WARFARE

The Earth is turning on us. She no longer wants human inhabitants—we are the cruelest. We tear down, we dig up, & bury the secrets of our resource & burn it all to hell. We endanger other species, we murder each other over & over again, a man-made cycle of death. We are no longer the natural order of things, no longer dwelling in this organic illusion. Mother Nature is out for revenge. She has grown chemical fangs & we gave them to her. In holiday spirit, she mixes blood with mistletoe creating a deadly swirl of toxic breath. Mother Nature is releasing her own apocalypse, her own deadly narcosis, expelling her own dramatic disease. This is how we die in the interim. One by one, slowly picked off like the lives on the ground we step on. As we kiss each other under doorways, hallway arches, beside the epic Xmas trees—she spreads her antibodies. This Xmas, we will die with the roses & fall with the bees. This Xmas, our Earth will mourn with us. This Xmas, we will re-discover lost hope in the violence of trees. We will open our throats to the moon, we will polish our ground in mourning.


About the Author: Courtney Leigh is the author of “the unrequited <3<3 of red riding hood & her lycan lover (Dancing Girl Press, 2016)”. Her work has most recently appear in Rogue Agent & Gone Lawn, & is forthcoming in Bird Pile. She resides in Arizona & is The Bowhunter of White Stag Publishing.

Artwork: Sean McCollum

Fruitvale Is by Rohan DaCosta

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Fruitvale Is

I know a place held together
By a level stretch of road
Two expressways
And a perfect myth
Where the houses are pastels
Broken Easter eggshells
Scattered about the chewed up hills
I know a dog named Bunny
That gets loose and chases pigeons
On the downward slope of Manzanita
I know a woman named Jackie
With a voice like a secretive canary
That bird only knows one tune
She hobbles over fissured slabs
Through the “murder dubs”
With a light in her heart
And Jesus across the chest
Fruitvale is on fire
Like that car melted in half
Clothes spilling out the back of an exit wound
Like every hunk of metal
Every gold-toothed grin
Like that temple riveted on high
Just briefly tanned in an tangerine syrup
At the breaks in conversation
The BART hums a thing soothing
Sings a note familiar
Wails a tale wretched
At the top of one hill
Live three wise men
Pacing well into the evening
A witch whose cauldron bubbles over
The finest solvent for miles and miles
I know baristas quite like Paul Revere
That tell me the skittish are coming
We won’t shoot until we see the apples on their Macbook pros
But Fruitvale is on fire
Like glow in the eyes of JKF
Like coal in the throat of PCR
I know a neighbor with an electric chair in her living room
I know a food truck like a medic
Like an answer
Like a second chance
I know a woman who whenever a seam came loose
Out of being either too wet or too damn reckless
She made it a rope to tie this place together even tighter
Dropping and rolling means stopping
And none of us can afford that
Fruitvale is on fire folks
Who the fuck is gonna put us out?


About the Author: Rohan DaCosta (MHDA) is multi-disciplined creator and curator out of Chicago. His work includes photography, clothing design, literature, and music production. Rohan DaCosta is the founder of GRACEGOD The Collective. You can see more of his work at gracegodcollective.com

What is Male Entitlement? by Meg Johnson

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What is Male Entitlement?

Please give this poem a chance
even if you despise the title.
I love men. Most guys are superb.

This poem is not about a first-rate
guy. This poem is about my ex
boyfriend masturbating in the
woods and ejaculating on a tree.

Imagine the serenity of nature
and then Once I was by myself

out here and I was horny.
I walked up to this tree
and lowered my pants. It felt
great coming on the tree.

 The bark transforms into
a sad pair of eyes, a head
in hands, a stone.


About the Author: Meg Johnson is the author of the full length poetry collection Inappropriate Sleepover (The National Poetry Review Press, 2014). Her second book, The Crimes of Clara Turlington, won the 2015 Vignette Collection Award and was recently published by Vine Leaves Press. Both books were NewPages Editor’s Picks. Meg’s poems have appeared in Hobart, Nashville Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Puritan, Sugar House Review, Verse Daily, and others. Her nonfiction has appeared in BUST and Ms. Magazine. Meg started dancing at a young age and worked professionally in the performing arts for many years. She received her MFA in creative writing from the NEOMFA Program. She is the editor of Dressing Room Poetry Journal and has taught writing at Iowa State University and University of Akron. Visit her at: www.megjohnson.org

For Jake: by Hanna Pesha

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For Jake:

energy flows like a blue dragon through your life
snaking through the time of your days
fast and bright as fireflies

magic birthright
blocked only by unwillingness
to feel the anger that is yours

nothing is wrong with plunging
a knife violently
into a lie


About the Author: Hanna Pesha lives in Oakland, CA. She has been published in Arcata Free Press and Steelhead Special. She has been a teacher with California Poets in the Schools, artist in residence at the Mendocino Art Center and has taught a workshop through Poets and Writers with domestic violence survivors. She has read at the Crow Show and Bay Area Generations.

Control Group by Heikki Huotari

jimi-evins
“Painter” by Jimi Evans

CONTROL GROUP

The ingredient in question
is extruded, pressed into
the shapes of animals
and offered to the criminals,
but not the kind we like.
The kind we like are put up in hotels
and given new identities,
careers and social skills. They can
have anything they want delivered
to their doors for their last meals.
Their catwalks are square circles
so whichever way they turn
they’re headed home.


About the Author: Heikki Huotari is a retired professor of mathematics. In a past century, he attended a one-room country school and spent summers on a forest-fire lookout tower. His poems have appeared in several journals, including Poetry Northwest and Crazyhorse. A chapbook is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

Artwork: Evins paintings are filled with vibrant colors and shapes that are alive with energetic movement. Evins states that his works are created to convey the acts and joys of “making marks”, what he calls the signature of the artist.

Jimi graduated with High Distinction in painting from California College of Arts (Crafts). Since then, his work has been influenced by his travels to Nigeria, Jamaica, Mexico, and Europe. He has been a multi-year CAC Artist in residence, worked on various collective mural projects in the Bay Area and was the site coordinator and lead artist for the initial phase of 100 Families; Arts & Social Change Project in Oakland.

Jimi has been awarded the Jan Hart-Schueyer Achievement Award, The Ebony Museum Pioneers Award, California College of the Arts Center for Art & Public Life Community Arts & Education Award, and the Alameda County Artist Leadership Award. Jimi recently received an Individual Artist Grant from the city of Oakland Cultural Arts Program.

Jimi has exhibited at the High Museum in Atlanta, GA., Oakland Museum of California., San Francisco Art Commission, Oliver Hyde Gallery at CAC., Canada College in Woodside, CA.,

 

 

COURTS-MARTIAL AND INCARCERATION: THE TRAVIS AFB ECSTASY INTERDICTION AND ITS AFTERMATH by Charles Von Nordheim

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COURTS-MARTIAL AND INCARCERATION: THE TRAVIS AFB ECSTASY INTERDICTION AND ITS AFTERMATH

Midnight is when we cast our net at the base’s main gate
Seeking hints of a pill with an X from a Berkeley rave
Every third car popped with a written golden flow order
Unless dogs provide cause by alerting on an odor

Seeking hints of a pill with an X from a Berkeley rave
First sergeants arithmetically tag schools of airmen
Unless dogs provide cause by alerting on an odor
Emitting from cannabis ashes beneath the back seat

First sergeants arithmetically tag schools of airmen
Flop-sweating court-martial should their debauch be detected
Emitting from cannabis ashes beneath the back seat
Gleaming from non-consensual semen stains on panties

Flop-sweating court-martial should their debauch be detected
Young airmen detour to vacuum rugs and burn evidence
Gleaming from non-consensual semen stains on panties
They forget the golden flow order’s specified timeframe

Young airmen detour to vacuum rugs and burn evidence
Consequences of discovery making them tremble
They forget the golden flow order’s specified timeframe
OSI agents duly databased their tardiness

Consequences of discovery making them tremble
Even though only their pee sample could betray them until
OSI agents duly databased their tardiness
Suspicious that missing gaps spoke of a guilty conscious

Even though only their pee sample could betray them until
The minutes spent at their cover-up attempt made the cops
Suspicious that the missing gaps spoke of a guilty conscious
Raising enough doubt to justify more investigation

The minutes spent at the cover-up attempt made the cops
Collect witnesses who recalled the girl’s hesitation
Raising enough doubt to justify more investigation
The Oakland girl only spoke if not asked how much she toked
Collect witnesses who recalled the girl’s hesitation
In front of a panel of young commanders, even if
The Oakland girl only spoke if not asked how much she toked
Guilty without exception is the board’s finding

In front of a panel of young commanders, even if
Military lock-ups overflow like clogged toilets because
Guilty without exception is the board’s finding
Equals three months for bad pee plus assorted repentance

Military lock-ups overflow like clogged toilets because
Every third car popped with a golden flow order
Equals three months for bad pee plus assorted repentance
When we cast our net at the base’s main gate


About the Author: Chuck served in the US Air Force for 22 years as an F-4 radar mechanic and a paralegal from 1987 to 2009. His duty stations included Clark and Kunsan Air Base, a TDY stint at the US Embassy in Baghdad, and stateside assignments at Eglin, Edwards, and Travis Air Force Base. Currently an MFA candidate at CSU San Bernardino, his work has appeared in Poetry Quarterly, the Five Two, Illumen, Northridge Review, and Statements Magazine.

If Grasshoppers Could Shoot Me by Nancy Kangas

 

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If Grasshoppers Could Shoot Me

or bite me venomously I would
not cut off their heads with scissors
as I currently do


About the Author: Nancy Kangas writes a poetry column, “Slides (Interpreted by Nancy),” for the online journal Ohio Edit, and a monthly humor feature for the children’s magazine Muse. For over a decade, she edited the internationally distributed Nancy’s Magazine. Organizations that have sponsored her poetry residencies and workshops include the Ohio Arts Council, The Thurber House, and The Wexner Center. She is currently producing a series of short animated films entitled “The Preschool Poets,” based on poems composed by the four-year olds she wrote with in a recent poetry residency. Nancy is also a librarian and flower grower.

I Want to Drink Like Don Draper by Alison Moncrieff

 


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I want to drink like Don Draper

—from an Old-Fashioned glass, all day long and a TV hangover. Safe in my starched white shirt, soft & thick in the shoulders. Easy in my creased American pants with their careless power, my missing self gently folded behind this drama-mask hairline, behind my 5 o’clock shadow & my gorgeous boredom at business as usual.

I do not mix drinks anymore.
since I left the children alone one night
to drive up the hill for a pale blue bottle of gin
that deadly hot summer when I pegged the laundry
on the line in rainbowthetical order
and waited to have my skull sawed open.

I filled their bright, shallow pool,
replenished their stacks of practical sandwiches,
stirred cans of tap water into concentrated fruit juice
while hovering police helicopters ate
the neighborhood’s weekday peace,
and 5 o’clock came earlier & earlier.

There’s nothing quite like pinning down a whole life
using just a glass & some liquor.
Nothing like watching antennae lose their signals
and panicked wings struggle less and less
against the heavy edge.

Everything’s more awkward now
since I ran out of drink tickets,
and I say the privilege of knowing that
and other feelings is a kind of power.

Still, when I watch him pour a fat glass of rye at any old time of day — he’s riled, victorious, bored. He’s broken-hearted with being — when I watch him rushing numb from his car-crash afternoon, his decent body, his fake freedom, and another brand of freedom moves in to stake its claim in the space of his heart, that’s when I want to drink like Don Draper.


About the Author: Alison Moncrieff writes and raises chickens and children in Oakland, her home of 30 years. Her work appeared most recently in Bay Area Generations, and she has a poem forthcoming in broadside from Little Red Leaves Textile Series. She is currently developing a series of sacred garments to boost the superpowers of 21st century people. Find her playing in the intersection of stitch and poetry at woolontheradio.tumblr.com.

NOW, FOR REAL by Paul Corman-Roberts

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NOW, FOR REAL

–   For Richard Loranger

Manners and mind games and mind games and manners matter more than mind games matter in the never ending I you we, I you we, I you we times three is all I need to get through this poetically selective gallery of vowels and/or processing to

you know

find ourselves or at least find myself confused & unable & unavailable & inaccessible & unclosable with marbles hemorrhaging out of my eyes, ears, nose, mouth and it’s not so bad, calming even; it helps with the healing from being stood up when you didn’t know you had been stood up.

It isn’t just drugs that are wasted on the young, it’s the privilege of living in a pause button DADA media interface context where there used to be a consensual reality. Seriously, who am I supposed to go to for help with this shit? Oh hell, I’m not rich enough to even ask that question in the first place.

I used to know what all these alpha-numeric symbols represented until the visions came and blurred them into shapes I couldn’t remember much less recognize. I need to get away. I may need to invent flight. But I don’t want to invent flight. Dwelling on the past should come with a mandatory cooling off period.

These are days when only the periphery holds, when I need something outside the tether of my own flesh and blood to demonstrate for me why a hot slug of metal boring a nice smooth canal through the center of my gray matter isn’t the best answer because for all the authenticity of truth and beauty they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be now are they?

I’m not saying I need you to have an answer but I may need you to drag me over to the next page and assign me a simple task like finding a hair brush or putting my shoes on or at the very least some kind of prompt for daily life but please I beg you, leave the affirmations at the door; those are what dragged me into this quagmire in the first place.

If the truth will set me free, and freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, then dedicating myself to truth must mean I’ve truly hit some kind of bottom at the end of my socially sanctioned rope and even then one can’t be sure the truth they’re getting is the really pure, un-stepped on shit; shouldn’t we all be doing background checks on all our truth dealers?

And who has the time for all that shit anyway and it’s late and it’s dark and all this truth and baggage is wearing me out. I’m tired of lying even though I feel completely unprepared to be emotionally honest with myself so I guess I’m not tired enough yet, huh?

Would you be willing to hang out with me if we just had a cup of tea? I think it might be getting close to time for me to shut the fuck up, to take a nap, to breathe slow and be patient enough to take a little time to inspect all my little creative spaces.

At least I know what to expect from a cup of tea, or a nap, or a slow breath. These things behave consistently, while things like caring and patience and listening require so much more work for so many of us. I’m not saying I don’t want to talk, I’m saying that at the moment I’m unable to talk like a rational entity. Later I will want to talk, but later is always too late.

Please just hang here with me for this cup of tea which I promise will not spiral into a cup of coffee, which will not spiral into an espresso, which will not spiral into a glass of wine, or shots, or a cigarette, or a joint, or a line of blow, which will not spiral into a three finger molly scoop, or Angel Dust or Heroin, or Jimson weed, or mushrooms or…

…well, wait.  Maybe the tea can spiral into mushroom tea and maybe then we can read the tea leaves and maybe that can all just happen later and maybe this is the right time for me to shut the fuck up now, for real.


About the Author: Paul Corman-Roberts is the author of ‘We Shoot Typewriters’ from Nomadic Press (2015) and is the co-founder of the Beast Crawl Lit Festival. He edits fiction for Full of Crow online and spent the night of the Rodney King riots barricaded inside a Circle K convenience store because he had a really great boss at the time.

Artwork: Hayden Martin

 

 

Backstreet by Anne F. Walker

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Backstreet

The ambulance sloshed
by today
siren cut and re-ordered
by leaves.

The harder you have to think
the simpler
the answer must be.


About the Author: Originally from Berkeley, Anne F. Walker grew up in Toronto, Canada.  There she began her writing and publishing career, studying with bpNichol, Frank Davey, and Susan Swan while earning a BFA in Creative Writing from York University.  She returned to California for her MFA from Mills College.  At the University of California, Berkeley she earned her PhD, studying with Alfred Arteaga, Lyn Hejinian, Hertha D. Sweet Wong, and Robert Hass. Her published collections include Six Months Rent (Black Moss Press), Pregnant Poems (Black Moss Press), Into the Peculiar Dark (The Mercury Press & The bpNichol Foundation), and The Exit Show (Palimpsest Press). American Urban Poetics is her published poetics book.  She directs the graduate writing program at Holy Names University, Oakland, California, and her new chapbook, when the light of any action ceases, is available through Finishing Line Press in spring 2016.

Who Ate Fire by Brynn Saito

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WHO ATE FIRE

I’ve seen the best men of my generation made starving
and small, made dust
by the thumb of oppression. I’ve seen the best women
of my generation
tend lonely to the men who claim to love, plant bombs
in their own throats for slow
exploding. What is the way of structural suffocation?
What is the howl
of one body taking out on another body his rage
against whiteness?
When you came calling me a corrupted sexual object,
I ate daisies. I ate sadness
hot as sun in a jar when you came into my life
like late lightning
from another sky. I silenced myself with myself. Sisters silence
themselves and swallow
their silence, protect the men who look like their brothers
because they look like
their brothers. Cradling that fire gets you nowhere.
Following that flash
across the southern desert gets you further from the sea.


About the Author: Brynn Saito is the author of The Palace of Contemplating Departure, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award from Red Hen Press and finalist for the 2013 Northern California Book Award. Her second collection, Power Made Us Swoon, will be published in April, 2016. Born in Fresno, CA, Brynn now lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Artwork: Ona Estapé Cortès 

Like Dinosaurs by Leah Tieger

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Like Dinosaurs

We ran out of beef in Texas and the women
are chewing their boots, hawking silver

and turquoise for lamb. They use their hats
to catch the neighbor’s chicken. They’re feeding

children hops and cornmeal mash, anything
the cows would eat. We slice the bison so thin

the marble becomes stained windows
and when there’s nothing left to look through

we come for the horses. The fajita plates are empty.
The barns are empty. We trade the saddles

and cast iron for deer. The grass is so high
the fireflies have taken over, and when the kids

run off the porch into fields, they emerge
like christmas trees blinking, decked and waiting

for the savior’s birth. The pastor said if they pray
his angels will bring us hamburger and ribeye,

but Mom and Dad don’t think that helps. They point
to the hide beneath the table and say remember?

We nod our heads even if we don’t. The kids ask
what were they like, and we tell them like dinosaurs.


About the Author: Leah Tieger is a graduate of Bennington College, a freelance writer, and a fiction and poetry reader for The Boiler. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Thank You for Swallowing, Menacing Hedge, and Off the Coast.

 

what if we knew by Georgie Abel

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what if we knew

i wonder if the haters
would still gossip
if they knew
i would probably make out with them
after hanging out three times.
it wasn’t always this way.
i used to believe in their words,
in whatever i heard,
in the tangles of lies that they spurred,
and in their lists of things
that were rumored
to make me
unlovable and unfuckable.
but now,
now people love me and fuck me
because of those things
and now,
i wrote poetry
in hopes of diplomacy
because god,
this shit is too short.
it’s late april.
since when it is not january.
because god,
prince just died,
and here we are,
because god.
what if they knew i wasn’t mad.
what if they knew i have defended
them
in conversation,
that i would give them a bobby pin
that i wish we were friends
and that i get uncomfortable when
their name is attached
to the word
asshole.
what if they knew it took one exhale
for me to fall in love with them
not because i’m all enlightened,
but because they heighten
my sense of self
and who does that anymore.
thank you.
and if you listen
closely
all of this shit-talking is mostly
a cry for poetry
in this supposedly
art-rich country
because god, how else can we ask for it
on this touch-starved
planet.
haters are howling for the wounds of their mothers,
howling for the anxiety of another
moment lost.
but they cloak their words in something other
than truth. because god,
we weren’t taught any other way.
and all of their words are
an attempt to smother their shudders
and cover these feelings of otherness.
because god,
i know this.
and i’m howling too.
i’m howling for something so basic
i can barely say it—
kindness.
because god,
WHERE IS THIS
i’m tired of being called a hippie for this
feminist for this (call me that all you want)
pacifist for this
as if those labels are evidence
against my intelligence
and my worthiness
because god,
when did benevolence
become so lame.
what if they knew i know i’m no more right than them.
that i’m only doing all of this
because god,
what if this is what we become.
what if this is what we already are.
what if we have forgotten that there is an end.
what if i didn’t want to make out with anyone
ever again.
what if they knew that this is the poison
that keeps our hearts frozen
that this is just another practice in
preventing human connection
because god,
we are sick
and we need your medicine.
because god,
what if the haters only knew this,
if we all only knew this
if this was as unforgettable
as our own names and this, what if this
was how we moved
and the ways in which we spoke about each other
became evidence of our luminance
and what if this
instead of violence
was how we defined what being human is.


About the Author: Georgie is a writer, yoga teacher, and rock climber from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of Modern Redpointing, a handbook that applies the principles of yoga and psychology to rock climbing performance. To learn more about Georgie and follow her adventures, check out her blog.

 

Crossroads by Jenifer DeBellis

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Crossroads

Hours after last call, after bars
send their last groggy-eyed patrons
home with a goodnight & hope

to see you soon, a man dressed
in black stands in the intersection
of the divided highway, shouting

obscenities at cars that slow
once they realize the shadowman
in the road is real. His pale face

& bare legs & feet glow in nearing
headlights the way trouble does
during fevered sleep. You’ll all pay

for what they done to me, he says
into our open window as we pass.
Pay with your pathetic lives. I have

seen his madness before in the eyes
of a loved one, seen the same darkness
consume pupils till the only light

left is the chaos glinting through
a roadmap of expanded blood
vessels that graph the way to hell.


About the Author: Metro Detroit writer Jenifer DeBellis is Pink Panther Magazine’s Executive Editor and eBook Editor and Poetry Reader for Solstice Lit Mag. She’s a Solstice MFA in Creative Writing graduate and Former Writer-in-Residence for the Meadow Brook Writing Project. JDB teaches creative writing for Baker College and Oakland University’s Meadow Brook Writing Camps. Her poetry and prose appear or are forthcoming in publications such as AWP’s Festival Writer, the Good Men Project, Literary Orphans, Sliver of Stone, and Solstice Literary Magazine.

Artwork: Gabriel Bernal

A Blue Jay Screams by Cassandra Dallett

bluebird by M. Avery


bluejay

About the Author: Cassandra Dallett lives in Oakland, CA. Cassandra is a Pushcart nominee and reads often around the San Francisco Bay Area. She has published online and in many print magazines such as Slip Stream, Sparkle and Blink, The Bicycle Review, Chiron Review, River Babble, and Up The River. A full-length book of poetry, Wet Reckless, was released to good review from Manic D Press in May 2014. A new book of poems, Bad Sandy, was released in spring 2015, and a book of short memoir is due in the fall on Punk Hostage Press.

Artwork: M. Avery

“The right to be forgotten” by Mindela Ruby

black-and-white-road-beach-sign-large


Being bad in a fun way is cool when I’m young
Dropping sugar cube acid with a poet at Mantara Beach
Grooving on pelicans, breakers, sand dunes
‘til we’re scared off by the cold and dark
and a seaside lurker we suspect of ill will
By sheer luck we escape both car crash and DUI

My blotter-paper venture with a different young man
includes no driving. We ingest our doses in his flat
with Stevie Wonder on vinyl, a magic mirror on the wall
and a bed for altered state sex (which proceeds poorly)
As compensation, we stroll to the corner grocery
and in states of sublimity drink apricot nectar from cans
My short, idealized, hallucinogen-curious past

But the past won’t stay obliviously gone
My blotter paper partner-in-mischief and I
exchange notes on LinkedIn, neither mentioning
“sex,” “LSD” or “mirror,” the burning question unasked:
Did I lie down in the market’s laundry aisle
tripping on engineered detergent smells,
making a joyous spectacle of myself?

The day after Mantara Beach, the poet and I awoke
to flashing patrol cars under my window
A suspect ran from the kitty-corner house
and was gunned down by automatic weapons
–a scenario we later learned involved hostages
If I could remember the poet’s name I’d Facebook him
and ask: Did we drive psychedelicized on freeways
at night–were we blithely that bad?
Did we watch a man get obliterated and think it a dream?

Or not friend. Not link. Not message. Not ask. Not recall.
Just let our past deeds go.
Fun in a bad way? No.


About the Author: Mindela Ruby is a writer of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and hybrid forms. Her novel Mosh It Up (Pen-L 2014) continues to garner literary reviews. Her short pieces have appeared in FRiGG, Melusine, Arcadia, Bound-Off, r.kv.r.y. Quarterly, Connotation Press and several other publications. A poem she wrote about brain cancer appears in the current volume of the anthology Puff, Puff Poetry & Prose. Her chapbook of prose poem-microfiction hybrids was a semi-finalist in a Slash Pine Press competition. Ruby’s poetry has won Emily Chamberlain Cook and Joan Lee Yang Memorial poetry writing prizes. She holds an M.A. from the University of Michigan and a PhD from the University of California. She currently teaches writing at a hard scrabble urban community college in the Bay Area.

Ode to MRE No. 08 Beef Patty by Aaron Graham

black bird


 

Out of sky
or stratocumulus
you drop
sailing
like a segmented, rotting lemon
once cool yellow hemispheres
matte brown.
Rhinoceros hide,
you
remained
there
attached to nothing.
Bird beaks
cannot gash
jaws of jackals
never puncture
your Internal organs.
Your life
your death
your sand
falling, moveable feast
My ka-bar scalpel
measures you
and empties you
in the air,
in the smoke,
the rending
tearing
teeth
the meticulous
surgical
incision,
in the broken alley
of summer,
reveals
some assembly
is required—
grey sheathed
patty coated
by greying
solidified lipids
smooth slicken
flow
after submerged
in the water
that is plutonium
of a magical
nuclear fusion
furnace that little
fucking phosphorous
heater and two
wheat snack breads.
spoke place.
Words here make
sense only if kept
aside myths
in your head.
Camel rides, bouncing
in a pickup truck bed
as it passes.


About the Author: Aaron Graham hails from Glenrock, Wyoming, population 1159, which boasts seven bars, six churches, a single 4-way stop sign and no stoplights. His work explores the relationship of desire and violence currently ostensibly through juxtaposing Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with classical exilic figures. He is an alumnus of Squaw Valley Writers Workshop and the Ashbury Home School. He is a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he served with Marine Corps Intelligence as an Arabic linguist. Aaron is currently finishing his PhD at Emory University; specializing in modernist poetics, Arabic language poetry, continental philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience.

 

Pour Marcel by Allan Tinker

Rishikesh Maskar_Untitled


“Et avoir un corps, c’est la grande menace pour l’esprit.” – Marcel Proust

The absence of Proust’s brother while his mother’s split in two, good granny and rival mama, suggests the anxious splintering of an imaginal if not wholly conscious fratricide, as in the cage with two fighting rats brought into the room of the whorehouse he buys (remember the policeman who in ISOLT is brought by the parents of the young girl that Marcel brings home to salve his broken heart after Albertine leaves him for good, this policeman, after the family-not-much-appeased-but-paid departs, tells him there are better places, safe houses, for assignations with little girls, a taste the policeman confides he shares despite Marcel’s protestations of innocence) and wherein he would lie beneath starched yet softest of cotton, brilliantly white and giving off the faint if reassuring odor of antiseptic, that is, bleached sheets he meticulously tucks up to his neck appearing as if from the height of some mythically giant beanstalk a napkin huge as a cloud has floated down over Marcel’s bent and upstanding knees transformed by his childlike imagination into a lofty Alpine peak he expectantly peers over at a spot across the room no longer occupied by the muscle-bound day laborer who, instructed to strip naked, remain upright and fondle himself, does so before fruitlessly exiting the space at the foot of the bed which gives way to a masked man who holds aloft an iron cage wherein two rats (not as moments before, two cages each with  a fat rat complacently sprawled across wood shavings, motionless as if injected with morphine, so tranquil, so still is each in its isolation until united in one cage two rabid combatants) lock tooth and claw in a raging ball of hair-on-end and raw flesh rolling about the now wildly swinging cage elevated like a lamp over the sickly despair of Marcel achieving a visceral response sufficient to move his fanatically germ-phobic, fragile, hysterically enervated, aged-and-ailing, dysmorphic, dysphoric body pinioned for a fleeting flash beneath the phantasm of two huge (don’t-say-Jew) Persian eyes lit with the fire of an otherwise perfect brother’s fratricidal desire when, one rat dead, the other raised its gory head and anticlimactically said:  “Do tell, for Marcel.”


About the Author: HSD, Oakland High School, BA & MA, San Francisco State University, ABD aka CPhil, University of California, Berkeley, Allan Tinker taught in the Creative Writing Department, SFSU, and the Rhetoric Department, UCB, then with California Poets in the Schools, Poetry for the People and lastly, before retiring at age 65, The Beat Within, having raised two remarkable children with civil-rights-lawyer wife, Arlene Mayerson.

Artwork: Rishekesh Maskar