The Doctor at the V.A.

 

tells me it’s all in my head. The cough,
my back, the pneumonia, the memories,

my future, his past, the smooth leather
of chairs, the story of Snow White,

the Qur’an, the weather, this hospital.
He writes on a slip of paper for me to slip,

fall, tumble, collapse into my own eyes,
swallow myself in a mirror, and I try.

For three weeks, I attempt every word
he tells me. The chairs becoming air.

The leather being eaten into nothing.
The ability to see no snow . . . I go back

to the hospital that doesn’t exist.
He pulls out an encyclopedia, shows me

that there are more Christians
than Muslims in the world. I pull out

a brochure that shows him there are more
Muslims than Christians in the world.

A Hindu shows us a wikipedia entry
that states there are more Hindus

than people in the world. The people
of the world all pile into the office,

billions, so that the ceiling Alices.
It rises like a crucifix and impales

the glass ceiling that holds us all
back.

 

 

My Best Friend Attempts Suicide, Fails

 

I wonder sometimes if failing
is a good thing, that if Jesus
could have convinced everyone

he was the son of God we wouldn’t
have had a crucifixion. Instead
it would have been all peaceful

at the Last Supper. The Last Supper
not being the last, but instead
one in a long sequence of suppers.

Jesus getting fat as Elvis,
dying on the toilet after too many
cheeseburgers, too many fish,

too much wine, too much talk,
too much laughing and fishing,
too much fish, the fish growing,

getting bigger and bigger in each
story Jesus tells, where it’s a cod,
a shark, a whale, a fish never yet

created, a dinosaur, so that no one
in the bar is left believing a word
Jesus is saying. Not a word.

 

* * *

 

Ron Riekki’s books include U.P. and The Way North. His fiction, poetry, and non-fiction have been published in New Ohio Review, Spillway, Verse Wisconsin, Moonshot Magazine, Cease, Cows, and many other journals.

songs of strange language

 

as he guided the blind woman’s finger tip along the lines of his drawings, outlines and form, she would speak to him of color, what her fingers knew, in songs of strange language. you had to believe, the grace. she had once been his whore, tracing the face of shame on hearts in dark places. but they had changed things around, the man and his whore, by the words of a prophet, a spoken vision. life can offer so much with the right people, at the right time. it went well.
 
the paintings sold wherever they went and people were quite amazed at the sight of them, the disheartened and those who faced death. they had stopped to get work done on their old silver station wagon, a Ponitac Safari, new parts old adjustments. the man and his blind woman were now sitting in a clearing by a river behind the What If Diner, waiting for the mechanic to get it all done. it was good to rest and watch the river go by, they traveled so much. had been some kind of resort area this place, a long time ago, there being picnic tables and bar-b-cue things all around. broken up now. a pinball machine sat a ways off, in the open, under the sun. faded out and cracked. it had a Three Magi theme, they who believed Heaven had opened and made their offerings. down the river was a shut down amusement park with an ancient Ferris Wheel, animal figures were painted on the seats, very muck like those animal figures drawn by the cavemen in their caves. the man took it as a kind portent and magic. “people gone away from here,” the man said nicely, always telling the woman various things being that she was blind and could not see for herself. but still a touch of meanness in his voice from how he used to be.
 
the cook from the What If Diner came out, taking a break from cooking. he brought with him some fresh baked pie that was a favorite around here for the people that were left. super ingredients. it was a glorious morning and he liked his new friends so he began talking things about this and that, not having really talked for a great while and and needing to talk. these people were friendly of course, the kind of people it was good to talk to. they listened with all their hearts.
 
they all began talking about things good and bad, the way things went. what people do to each other, tearing away at each other and life an how they wanted to be most important when it didn’t even matter at all. its all about lies when it comes down to it said the man, lies make us feel more powerful than love. the blind woman said love makes us want truth, which was a pretty good thing to say. but then people could be good too, said the cook, because we know that is what we are here for but we just want to get away from ourselves is all. nowhere is somewhere when you need it he said and then he confessed his fears and hopes and sorrows right then and there. soon after he went back to the kitchen with a new idea for chili sauce.
the man and the blind woman decided to go to a movie to wait a while longer with the hope of a fixed car. they went to the How About Theater to watch a movie, So Much So was playing. a really great movie revealing the meaning of life as it unfolded in our hearts and minds with truth and grace. funny thing, about halfway through the movie, the part during the parade, the blind woman was able to see, her blindness had gone, sight was given to her eyes. that’s it, she said out loud, I can see. new eyes were born you could say. the man got up to dance, with madness and ecstasy, to her songs of strange language.

 

* * *

 

Robert Paul Cesaretti has published in many journals.  He is the founding editor of Ginosko Literary Journal and a native of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Accelerated Office

 

Inside the office you are born. Inside the office all insignia expire, your name becomes meaningless; all doors are now locked.

The music plays, like Salome, dancing for you, whirling like Saud with the scimitar, every beautiful note an exquisite escort to your death.

“Let me out of here!” you scream. Your desperate shout is beautiful, a rocked wilderness. Your fear expresses a deeper need: transfiguration.

Our friend wheat births agriculture and the temple, and then the scribes multiply. We end the blue collar and soon the white, approaching gold: Gold Collar, King of the Robots, is coming, but you’re stuck inside the office and there is no way out.

You throw the chair at the window

“Fuck you! Fuck you, Santa Monica!”

But Santa Monica fucked you first. The millionaires outnumber the working people 4 to 1. The radiation increases. Your screams are being fed into a recorder: your beauty astonishes all living things.

Open up your veins.

But the sharp objects available in the office have been carefully dulled; they only redden your skin, unable to make the smallest break. You begin to sob.

Accelerated time or accelerated divinity, euhemerism on steroids, you are the sacrifice but you are a phoenix too; you will be revivified by satellite on television. The children will know your name.

“LOVE!” shout the robot voices from the walls. “LOVE MORE!”

You try to bang your head against the plaster until you bleed but the walls turn to rubber and you’re a bouncy ball.

But of course. The telephone. The sound from afar like the music of the spheres! You pick it up and listen to the sound of the object in your hand: the dial tone is like quarters spewing from the slot machine, like a cute co-ed cumming beneath you, so hard it echoes off the walls, it’s DIAL TONE. Now available in your ear. Collect all five.

“Hello?” you say. Your voice; it is still your voice.

The dial tone is still there.

You understand, somehow innately, the way that Einstein understood relativity from a sunset, or the way God created the universe on a whim or a dare, just to see what would happen, you feel your brain seeping out over the telephonic wires, a feeling not unlike your first kiss, slipping into the lips of Margaret Starlight, her saliva the nectar that liberates consciousness from the body . . .

Writ in your body is the spirit of the time; your middle name is Zeitgeist. You walk into the office on Monday and now you are everywhere. Simulation or nightmare, if it quacks like a duck and fits like a duck, just put it on your head.

“It’s me again, isn’t it?” you say to your clone, who is shining and metal, sitting behind the desk, a cute little telephone glued to its cheek.   More than the transfiguration of Christ, a mysticism that rivals the transformation of matter into light within the secret heart of the sun, the office has made you yourself at last, inside the aleph, the scroll is unwound forever . . .

 

* * *

Robin Wyatt Dunn lives in southern California and is the author of three novels. He was born in Wyoming in the Carter Administration.

On De Kooning’s Woman I

 

Woman smeared in grease, brush-strokes of red,
blue of uncooked meat, saffron, the black
of fingernails after an afternoon changing the oil,
all scooped out and scribbled on canvas
edges. He painted your skin all the luster
of lard, spat rouge only on your nose,
no nipples on your breasts, plastic bags
once filled with soda water now sucked dry.
But through that mess you smile—
five fangs chiseled dull as horse teeth—
you flaunt your overbite, saying:
what if you stick your tongue at me,
I’ll bite! And your eyes, the mud basins
of the Mississippi, yet wide open, glaring
at the one who had the nerve to paint you.
Leather shining on a General’s
boots would not make you blink.
With a shopping bag in your right hand,
clothes iron in the sinister, you’re armed lethal,
ready to wrestle all of Manhattan’s taxis. Fueled
with peppery mezcal, you look me
in the eye the instant before you open
the crystal door to Saks Fifth Avenue.
And you’re ready for a bargain, you’re thrilled
to live on credit. Your feet, goat-hooves,
click in midair.

 

* * *

 

Anthony Seidman’s poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Ambit, Caliban, The Bitter Oleander, The Black Herald Review.  His second collection of poetry, Where Thirsts Intersect, is available from The Bitter Oleander Press.

Another One Cuts Her Wrists

 

So many gadgets I notice now have me, the talking
armchair, the whizzer, the little pump, the tool for cutting
hair and nail and any bad connections. The tool:
“only connect,” I told them today, like it was me:
I said, the world will not be clearer, don’t pretend,
but it will somehow shine. There are depths, I lied,
and heights, and time will get you there. I told them:
fight the gadgets. Fight the power. Fight the fat
and turbulent and dull. Fight me, I told them,
rather than not fight. I rock, I rock, the armchair
talks in its low girl’s voice and the whizzer peels a thing.
The Nirvanaphone is quiet. The automatic purrer is turned off.
Somewhere else in this pile of cells a gang of transistors says
bird. Then magic. There is static, as if things
were breaking down. I told them to connect,
and break things down. Don’t worry, I said,
there are always fixers everywhere, they get paid.
There was an empty seat by the window
in the third row, I know that absence, that turn-off,
that’s the one who writes a microscopic hand, always
of death. I know what she did. They said,
she won’t be back this year. Pressure, they said: something
pressed, and then she got a phone call, and she broke.
I told them, break things down, break the beast, break me down,
rather than break nothing, but christ don’t you see,
somehow you must not touch the things that are made to harm you.

 

* * *

 

Jerry McGuire has published three books of poems, The Flagpole Dance (Lynx House Press, 1991), Vulgar Exhibitions (Eastern Washington University Press, 2002), and Venus Transit (Outriders Poetry Project, 2013). He has won a number of prizes and awards, including The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review Prize, the PublishingOnline POL Poetry Contest, the Louisiana Literature poetry prize, the Primavera Award, The Allen Ginsberg Competition, and the Outriders Poetry Project Competition. He teaches Creative Writing, poetics, and film studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Tortuguitas

 

Newborn sea turtles erupt from their nest
like lava from El Momotombo.

With a slingshot, he shoots a seagull
that flies away with a hatchling.

Neither survive the fall,
and he buries them in the sand.

He leaves home, where the taste of a glass-bottled
Coca-Cola is as sweet as a first kiss,

and the white sand between his toes
never burns his bare feet

to return to a beach lined with fewer palms,
and to find sparse footprints of tortuguitas

like the memory of his first kiss, when he was
a boy yet to discover the point of a broken promise,

and the memories that lie beneath the surface—
a slingshot, a seagull’s bones, and a turtle’s carapace.

 

* * *

 

Onnyx Bei is an undergraduate student at University of St. Thomas in Houston, where he is working towards a BA in English literature with a minor in creative writing. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Midtown Journal, Laurels, Glass Mountain, Columbia: A Journal, and others. He is a recipient of the Susan T. Scanlon Scholarship in Creative Writing and the Danny Lee Lawrence Writing Award for Poetry.

The Chaos Orchestra

 

A thunderstorm sweeps in over the foothills. Lightning sets fire to several firs clinging to a sandstone cliff above town. All the lights go out. Rain beats against roofs, windows, doors. Inside the church at the center of town, a man with a stocking pulled over his head begins to pull bell ropes. Fire spreads through the hills. He smiles at the church custodian, bound and gagged, slumped beneath the belfry window.

Everything is going according to plan: first, he’d thrown turtle shells into glowing ash, interpreted the cracks as time lines; then, blindfolded, he’d thrown darts at a map of the world; and finally, he’d drawn cards from a deck illustrated with every musical instrument known to man.

He doesn’t wonder what would have happened if he’d pulled the saxophone card instead of church bells because he doesn’t believe in chance. He is certain that he – and everyone else in town – are part of a divine plot. They have always been destined to play in this orchestra of fire, smoke, bells, and rain.

A woman rushes out of her dark house, into her garden, following the smell of smoke. The sight of brilliant magenta petals shining in the downpour ignites her brain, strips all questions from her. Next to the fierce purple flowers are seven black pansies; black hands, pushing through wet soil, like Cimmerian worms swaying in the night, called up from the underworld by the cacophony of bells.

 

* * *

 

Christien Gholson is the author of the novel A Fish Trapped Inside the Wind (Parthian, 2011). 

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

game of chicken with
errant thought about
Rodin’s thinker results in
cheap substitute answer

ideological bugaboo
linked to fluoridated water
crazy talk overheard
during debate on
nude or violet color palette

narcissist feigns collapse
blames bombing suspect
for obsession with
wearing a gray wig

officials scuttle raid on
sequestered jury after
deliberation returns verdict:
dog eating money
must improve diet

old man unable to befriend
TV characters who are adults
turns to cartoons
with outcast scripts
to improve his social reflex

***

New Surveillance Opportunity

bridge closed over bay
for Greek Festival
ouzo drinkers dance
around disabled vehicle

tons of dirt wheeled in
to cover city street
neighborhood grows potatoes
for dissidents and pit bulls

prison crop science
proves bigger tomatoes
new surveillance opportunity

stress data from road smog
confirms new drivers
getting smoking gun tattoo

PET scan of
substance abuse counselor
reveals surprise package
of tiny child beggar

rioters sing
national anthem
recording available
on home server

***

Tim Kahl [http://www.timkahl.com] is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books 2009) and The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, Parthenon West Review, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup (http://greatamericanpinup.wordpress.com/) and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios [http://linebreakstudios.blogspot.com/]. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song [http://www.cladesong.com]. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center.

Beatrice

It is just as well, O sublime one, insulated as you are
from all who would eat you throughout the ages
as Rome simmers and troubadours juggle and burn
and cannibalize and ordain.

It is just as well the twin ignites as she contests
as in the mouth of the wolf mother, ever egg-smooth
alabaster as a moonlit bell you stick not
entirely to your guns,

but to plain truth hiding in plain sight.
It is just as well gargoyles
safeguard the monument your chastity is
but what might I know of chastity?

What might I know of that angel
through the window? He holds his own
upright in hand, his trumpet and blows.
It is just as well I eat my words

as you more obedient ones eat your hearts out,
just as well that God of yours unbuckles
and belches laughter, when the feast is done,
so taken by surprise, by storm,

so shaken, stirred–
And just as well it is to imagine
a poet’s stab at piety might be loaded with whatever
light it musters or throws

off, jettisoned mystery to embroider these consecrated
enclosures, the just desserts our divine bodies are
into which God sinks serrated teeth as we serenade

limited by tongue of meat and cartilaginous
throat adequate to charm a snake into believing
in the preposterous notion of heaven anywhere
but here and now.

And it is just as well that God
in whom your confidence nests
can neither be created nor destroyed,
who comes in all colors and a variety of flavors

that God, of many moods, whom it is within
my power, I must insist, to please,
no matter what you and God
and all the other experts say.

***

Native New Yorker Michele Madigan Somerville is the author of Black Irish (a collection of poems,
2009, Plain View Press) and WISEGAL (2001, Ten Pell Books). Her verse has appeared in numerous
journals–Hanging Loose, Downtown Brooklyn, 6ix, Pagan Place, The Brooklyn Review, Puerto del
Sol, Mudfish, The Nervous Breakdown, Eureka Street, Huffington Post
. Her most recent collection
of poems Glamourous Life recently received an Honorable Mention in Bahuan Books’s May Sarton
book Prize. She lives in Brooklyn.

Two Cents

 

Loosely knitting bones to stories broken,
by the weight of coincidence in the garish
collapse of moody into more. Catching
ears on the listen for cracks in the banality.
Figurative into fallacy. A chance to mend
motives after the facts have left the room.
Roaming the prairies of assumptions
inherent in the pause to reflect. A medicine
of manners moldering. Waiting for the joy
of sewn odes in the field. Swath of pieces
missing moxie’s flair for assemblage, at
putting skeletons together for a brunch of
snaps and crackles in the heat of being who
you are. A blustery rapport of underbellies
exposed to shadow. A silhouette to others.
The bob of a noggin in deference to the
enormity casually slighted everyday.

 

 

Specific

 

Amalgated with clues but no hard stuff
peeping through to say we’re one. Of a
mind the matter knows, as master in the
molding of a common space. Floor to
feeling human. Joined at the hip thrust
of the argument, for goodness sake of
others in the bosomy hold. Touch telling
stories. The crippling of excuses to run
for cover of privilege, in knowing the
tenuousness of the bond soliciting antes
from us all. To be as if. Getting the place
ready for a narrative to tidy the loose
ends of time, ticking both ways to
circle the coming and goings of
a sensory presence in the loft.

 

* * *

 

Philip Byron Oakes is a poet living in Austin, Texas. His work has appeared in Blackbox Manifold, gobbet, Cordite Poetry Review, among other journals. His third volume of poetry, ptyx and stone, (white sky ebooks) was released in December 2013. http://philipbyronoakes.blogspot.com/

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