Chalk Level

 

Once the penguin appears from his foiled teepee
Navigating the pervious rocks
Of dried tributaries, you stop burning
With emphasis to wake up

From this elderly world of disparate parts
Made up of the harder building blocks
And submerged theories
That carry those battery acid
Kind of numbers; and so on

It was the best of times, the worst of times
Through the poisonous shrubberies
Towards the clearest chapter of the nightmare
That should have been a dream, but turned to be

The near and dreary future in which mystery
Would stream in motor pools
Some of which can be found here
Where your voice is pitchy
From kissing frogs week after week.
It must have felt like Armageddon and the Apocalypse
All rolled into one!

Now that would be horrifying, suffering the consequences
Of the kiss
Without any upswing or outburst
Knowing that

In the least likely places, gypsy store fronts
After a rain storm,
It’s the glow of old photography that counts

And drives you across the rickety bridge
While beneath you, a celestial being
Is popping balloons.
 

 

Katabasis

 

So you bought a headlamp, begged
for detachment then slipped into the subversive.
        Don’t be such a dud. I, too, pined for the helical tusk
of the narwhal. However, my theme song got old, I couldn’t quit clicking my tongue.

Upon reentering the world, I dove into an emptiness that shattered

my green age. For days, former things glistened and passed without feeling.
        To recover I discussed antimatter with abuse-counselors, admitted my sole
ambition was to mount the highest pile
of sawdust while wearing the cover of a yeti. This was expected and frowned upon.

But if you do (by chance) break from the maw of that cave, I’ll offer

only a towel, a pack of cigarettes along with the best course
        of action, which is to cram your mouth with cotton and nod
with conviction for some time. If speak you must confess you are confused,
incapable of being honest with yourself, but have found worth in your wounds.

 

 

Sharp Angles

 

I spend a lot of time in icy puddles,
brawling with an angel, a foul-mouthed

tobacco-dripping scrapper who takes life
by the sawed-off barrel. You can almost

hear the click before he pumps me full of lead.
It is almost beautiful, like stirring upon a ledge,

the horizon between fried and scrambled.
It is almost beautiful—like walking in April

but with broken legs, to what might be
my last measure of rest.

 

* * *

 

Eric Helms holds degrees from Furman University and Columbia University’s School of the Arts. He works at Columbia University and is an editor for Redheaded Stepchild. His latest work can be found in American Athenaeum, Death Hums, Souvenir and Blunderbuss.

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The Bear

 

 

      When I got home from work, the black bear was in my living room, sitting on my green couch, one of those modern types with three metal legs and two rounded cushions for the arms. The bear’s 350 pounds of weight was bending the frame down in the middle. The apartment smelled like a cross between pine trees and a dumpster in the sun.
      I’ve been waiting for you, the bear said. Its voice was deeper than I remembered.  Its snout was red and patches of its thick black hair were matted.
      Have you been drinking my milk? I asked. The gallon carton lay on the floor in a puddle of white, punctured by three claw marks.
      Sorry, it said. I got thirsty.
      How’d you get in?
      The key under the mat, it said. Easier than busting in.
      But I moved it from the last time.
      Well, duh, the bear replied. I looked around.
      I glanced at my hands and arms. The bruises from the last time were just healing, now a faint yellow, and no longer the harsh purple of a bruised plum.
      Why’ve you come back again?
      I have to come back, the bear said. You know why.
      You didn’t do so well the last time, I replied.
      I got tired. Even bears get tired. That hibernation thing doesn’t fix everything.
      I have a date tonight, I said. I can’t spend all evening trying to fend you off again.
      Is she nice?
      Yeah, she’s really nice.
      What does she do for a living?
      She owns a vintage furniture store.
      Sounds pleasant, the bear said. Wish I could do something like that but I’m the bear.
      You can’t be on my mind while I’m on the date, I said. It’ll be distracting.
      I’ve already come back a couple times, the bear said.
      I know. I picked up my Louisville slugger baseball bat that was leaning in the corner of the room. I had just put it there a couple mornings ago just in case.
      Really? the bear said, unimpressed.
      I’m not going down without a fight, I said. Her name is Polly. I like her. I’ll do anything I can to stick around.
      She know about me? the bear asked.
      I’ve mentioned you. She’s concerned but still interested.
      The bear sucked on its teeth, the color of rust and blood, and suddenly lunged at me, its body gracefully rippling as it silently soared at me, grazing my left arm as it skidded to the wall and turned. I raise the bat.
      We stood there, a face-off.
      Sorry, it said, sounding embarrassed. Sometimes I just can’t stop myself.
      It towered above me, its body the size of a car turned on its rear bumper.
      I’m ready for the fight, I replied.
      Hmmph, it said. Okay then. I’ll let myself out then.
      It dropped to all fours and went out the already-opened back door. As it vanished into the darkness, I heard it knock a planter over. The sounds eventually dissipated, leaving me with the quiet, knowing that the bear would, eventually, return.

 

* * *

 

Ron Burch’s fiction has been published in numerous literary journals including Mississippi Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, Eleven Eleven, Pank, and been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Bliss Inc., his debut novel, was published by BlazeVOX Books; Aqueous Books is publishing his flash collection, Menagerie, later this year. He lives in Los Angeles. Please visit: www.ronburch.net.

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In the Woods

 

The oak snooker table, the actual wood
outdoors, the sky is blue
dad’s last book stuck there to prevent sparrows
long silences
among the sounds, I miss most
you could tell the time of day

I know it’s boring if everything is day
Euclidean geometries bending toward the wood
our games on the edge of a hill most
glorious blue
morning enduring scooping silences
at my typewriter, sparrows

smashing into the glass, sparrows
look a little ominously at the day
run from the silences
water lapping at wood
boxing the lake, glorious blue
writing of being and most

failed brickmaking a canopy for most
but in the end other gifts, tiny bones, sparrows
dimensions, a stone chisel, everything blue
a brass spittoon, night and day
and wood
a painting made of silences

sink all the colours and you’ll find silences
in the room he loved most
teetering, like his mind was half wood
a garish machine dreaming of sparrows
bent over day
there, cobwebbed, explaining blue

a measure of blue
salvaged from silences
the cottage understands night requires day
and why in those years I carried you the most
in the songs of sparrows
all the way down to the wood.

 

 

Tragic Dressmaker

 

My mother had five sisters
in badly damaged garment factories
the dexterity of war
discussed in Morse code
by a farmer
a horrifying legacy

early one morning clothes
arrived
subtract five years
privilege
we miss her
better
when she died.

 

* * *

 

Lillian Necakov is the author of a bunch of books of poetry, including The Bone Broker (Mansfield Press), Hooligans (Mansfield Press), Hat Trick (Exile Editions) and Polaroids (Coach House Books). She runs the Boneshaker Reading Series in Toronto, where she lives with her family. In the 1980s she used to sell her book on the streets of Toronto.

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The Solitary Skater

 

He knows she’s watching him this morning as he skates all by himself in Delaware. He figures she had to first hand-warm a bedroom window pane to get the outside frost to vanish, and he knows she’s looking at him now and having coffee from a tumbler someone else brought back from St. Thomas over a thousand days ago. The ice skater keeps holding on to his sharp image of her, at the cost of missing the screams of cranes killing one another a mere mile to his west, and the redness of this year’s marsh grass, grown high and well in all directions. He questions out loud just how long she’ll keep watching him, and when might the coffee or something else make her have to leave and go potty. He questions whether or not in all that’s out here going past him as he skates with speed and flourish, whether or not in all of this, there isn’t someone kind of like her in-waiting, and wouldn’t she too find herself introspectively imprisoned if the day ever came when, having all the world to choose from, she drew near faraway places with faraway names, like Chicoutimi or Segbwema.

 

* * *

 

William C. Blome is a writer of short fiction and poetry. He lives in-between Baltimore and Washington, DC, and he is a master’s degree graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. His work has previously seen the light of day in Amarillo Bay, Prism International, Laurel Review, The Oyez Review, Orion headless, Salted Feathers, and The California Quarterly.

Epilogue: The Improbables

 

Opals, not apples, grow in the orchard.
A tooth appears in the mouth of an orchid.
Ocean salt becomes sugar and sweetens
the fish. The rivers return to the mountains.

Dollars flop out of change machines—
the change, too painful, the slots, too narrow.
Arrows cling to their taut bowstrings.
Ammo remains in snug magazines.

A ram shaves his wool and tattooes
the name of a ewe on his skin. A duck
uses one of her plumes as a pen.

I swore I’d forget you when all
these things came to pass. And none has.

Your memory greens in me like the grass.

 

 

Letter from Philadelphia, Winter, 1765

 

It seems a sort of holow day…

She signs it yr divoted wyf.
She can’t spell.
Few people can.
She writes faithfully and well
to her husband in England
who enjoys the gossip and endearments,
local apples and hand-
made stockings she sends
from the town he’s seen just once
in fifteen years.

When the packet boat arrives,
Philadelphia occurs to him
but not for long.
Home is London now.

She’s alone.
An ox is a-rosting on the River
and Peple take their plesure
on this winter afternoon.
Light fades from the seasons
and she will not see Benjamin again.
That’s what she doesn’t say.

Rather, she writes:
It seems a sort of holow day.

 

* * *

 

Sarah White lives, writes and paints in Manhattan. She is the author of Alice Ages and Ages (BlazeVox, 2010), a book of variations; Cleopatra Haunts the Hudson (Spuyten Duyvil, 2007), a poetry collection; “Mrs. Bliss and the Paper Spouses,” (Pudding House, 2007), a chapbook; and the book-length lyric essay, The Poem Has Reasons: a Story of Far Love online at www. proempress.com. She taught for 23 years in the French Dept. of Franklin and Marshall College.

Broken Gold

 

Delilah rode my ass all the way to Bethlehem,
but we still couldn’t make rent: those bankers
just don’t tip like they used to since they broke

gold’s back with their fat wallets. The smell

of their hands on my mouth trying to block
the screams, the sight of their blood in my teeth:
that’s why my tongue turned blue, but I’ll still

waggle it for a buck if you need your flower

plucked. I sing songs about sweet Andersonville,
the acrid taste of Delilah’s bit connected to the silk
rope she’s slowly slipping around my neck.

I’ll learn to dance to the song of my own breath
as it rattles the time. I’ll sleep under the stars
and use those banker’s asses for my pillow.

 

A Snowflake’s Chance in Arkansas

 

I sold my guns to pay for gas but barely got enough to make it to the mountains. I left a trail of
apple smoke and acrid oil fumes to settle over the rice fields in their leveed rows; you can taste it
in the film left on your teeth. I heard the muffler drop but kept rolling; a colony of mice moved
in once it cooled and used it as a staging ground for their war of aggression against the owls.

I ate nothing but potatoes for six years, grew my beard long enough to weave a tent to protect
tunnel children from the rain; the slow days of my youth eked out in the weft and weave of it. On
sunny days, they used it for a trampoline.

I’m not saying I’m better than someone who can’t tell the difference between a man and a
woman unless they’re married, or someone who thinks literacy is a form of enslavement. I’m
not saying time should always move forward, only that inertia is a character flaw, not a sign of
stability. Wisdom adds weight because it’s often wrapped in chocolate. But not always.

Someday I’ll roll out of these mountains and trample the mouse hordes with all the weight I’ve
gained. They’ll say I’m in it with the owls, which isn’t true; only a mouse thinks there are only
two sides to choose from.

 

* * *

 

CL Bledsoe is the author of five novels including the young adult novel Sunlight, the novels Last Stand in Zombietown and $7.50/hr Curses; four poetry collections: Riceland, _____(Want/Need), Anthem, and Leap Year; and a short story collection called Naming the Animals. A poetry chapbook, Goodbye to Noise, is available online at www.righthandpointing.com/bledsoe. Another, The Man Who Killed Himself in My Bathroom, is available at http://tenpagespress.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/the-man-who-killed-himself-in-my-bathroom-by-cl-bledsoe/. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 10 times, had 2 stories selected as Notable Stories by Story South’s Million Writers Award and 2 others nominated, and has been nominated for Best of the Net twice. He’s also had a flash story selected for the long list of Wigleaf’s 50 Best Flash Stories award. He blogs at Murder Your Darlings, http://clbledsoe.blogspot.com. Bledsoe reviews regularly for Rain Taxi, Coal Hill Review, Prick of the Spindle, Monkey Bicycle, Book Slut, The Hollins Critic, The Arkansas Review, American Book Review, The Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Bledsoe lives with his wife and daughter in Maryland.

A Bad Day

 

 

I blew out the front tire of my bike, trying to hop it over the curb at 6th Street and Avenue C.

“Fucking shit,” I muttered, dismounting to check out the bent spokes and twisted rim.  I’d have to walk my busted bike back to my apartment building, then carry it up the four flights to my cluttered railroad flat where I’d try to fix it.

Freeze,” a guy with a brown bag over his forearm hissed. “I got a gun in here that says I now own some wheels.  Take your hands off the bike and walk away and don’t look back or I’ll fucking kill you!”

I returned to my apartment to find the door kicked in and the lock smashed.  All of my good stuff, such as it was, was gone.

I walked over to Avenue A and bought a new lock and a sandwich and then went back to my building.  As I entered a voice called out from the darkness under the stairwell: “Stick ‘em up!”

What the fuck!” I said, “I just got robbed! I got nothing left!”

“What’s in the bag?” the voice asked.

“A new lock and a sandwich,” I answered.

“Hand ‘em over,” the voice said.

“Can I at least keep the sandwich?” I asked.

“No,” the voice answered.

 

* * *

 

Ron Kolm is one of the founding members of the Unbearables literary collective, and an editor of several of their anthologies, the most recent being The Unbearables Big Book of Sex! Ron is a contributing editor of Sensitive Skin magazine and the editor of the Evergreen Review. He is the author of The Plastic Factory and the co-author, with Jim Feast, of the novel, Neo Phobe. A collection of his poems, Divine Comedy, was published by Fly By Night Press last year, and a new one, Suburban Ambush, has just come out from Autonomedia.  He’s had work published in Live Mag!, Gathering of the Tribes, the Poetry Super Highway, Urban Graffiti, MungBeing and the Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. Kolm’s papers were purchased by the New York University library, where they’ve been cataloged in the Fales Collection as part of the Downtown Writers Group.

 

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The Dance of the Remarkable Ham Sandwiches

 

When high, flimsy cirrus
Throw fits of Salvador Dali onto the floor

We harness the shimmer.
We melt all our clocks.

& dancing the dance
Of the remarkable ham sandwiches

A man without shadows omits his own essence.
He still loves the Pyrenees.

He is burning last winter out of its bones.
Under the fire he cooks.

It is now the 2nd Century ab ovo.
His wrenches are golden as dreams on his pillow.

In the last flicker of dusk
He witnesses a rock slide

Speaking about since
Not merely the masculine.

 

* * *
Raymond Farr is author of numerous books in print, including Ecstatic/.of facts (Otoliths 2011) as well as Starched, Rien Ici, & Writing What For? across the Mourning Sky. His latest book Poetry in the Age of Zero Grav is due out in 2014. He is editor of the experimental poetry zine Blue & Yellow Dog (http://blueyellowdog.weebly.com).

Piano Hunting

 

At his house in the woods, he offered her purple grapes with his hand. She had a bit of a problem about hands and food.

“Please don’t worry,” she said when his dog stuck his nose into her crotch. “I’m used to this.”

He was annoyed with his dog, kept saying “Down! Down!” which made the dog more amorous.

A smile obscured her face, a moonish smile, the kind of smile most men would take a photograph of if they had the right camera.

She wanted to see his piano. This is why she had gone there, mainly. This was her idea. She may want to buy one, someday. After she learned how to play one.

“May I see it?” she asked.

“Sure. What kind of music do you generally play?”

She knelt and smoothed the dogs ears.

He shuffled off to the kitchen, tools clanging like church bells inside his belt. He returned with mugs of hot, mulled cider. She hoped it was spiked. She walked over to the living room with him and his dog. She liked being desired because of the scent of her jeans.

“Your living room is vacuum-packed,” she said. It was stuffed with items. One could hardly move, there was nearly no way to get to the piano. Furniture grew out of furniture. She did not know where to sit, or where not to. He had never been married. She wished in a way she had never been married. There were ways to pretend nothing had ever happened to you.

 

* * *

 

MEG POKRASS is the author of the forthcoming novella-in-flash Here, Where We Live (Rose Metal Press, 2014) and Damn Sure Right (Press 53) a collection of flash fiction. Meg’s stories have been widely anthologized, most recently in the forthcoming W.W. Norton Anthology of Flash Fiction International (Shapard, Thomas and Merrill, 2015). Her flash-fiction and micro-fiction stories and humor pieces have appeared in around a hundred and fifty online and print publications, including McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, PANK, Smokelong Quarterly, Mississippi Review, MidAmerican Review, NANO Fiction, 100-Word Story, The Literarian, storySouth, Failbetter, Gigantic. Meg’s humor pieces, co-written with author Bobbie Ann Mason, have recently been showcased in TNB Original Fiction. Her flash fiction has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations, been showcased for Dzanc Books’ Short Story Month and nominated for Best of the Web, Best of the Net, and Wigleaf’s Top 50 [Very] Short Fictions. She currently serves as an associate editor for Frederick Barthelme’s New World Writing.

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Tin Ear

 

Musical ability is out the window.
It’s not the thrashing skins next door,
or the plops in the porch bucket,
or my grandma’s steady snoring from her bedroom,
or my buzzing brother with his head in a dead beehive.

It’s the cars with unserviced shocks carving out an erosion speed divot outside,
It’s the screech as the drivers momentarily confuse a bald pantiless doll for a child.
It’s the ping of pennies fired from Dad’s coin gun rebounding off side panels,
It’s the outrage in the voices toward my Dad’s confederate brother slinging lit water balloons at
the windshield and daring a chase.

Take that, Dad mutters.
An empty click.
Dammit. Never dry fire son, he yells down the stairs.
Dry fire is wild fire, messes with your aim.

His careening laugh causes me to miss a beat of
My inhale,
My death metal symphony about me shifting lines,
My smothered chorus hooked rib high,
My synapse sputters, writhes and fuses dendrite refuse from the evolution.

 

* * *

 

Paul Handley has had fiction and humor pieces included in Gargoyle Magazine, Monkeybicycle, The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He had a play performed for Pulp Diction III and another published in The Mayo Review. He has poems included in a full length collection 5-Tool Poet (Punkin House Press), on-line chapbook, Life Is for Us to Keep (Silkworms Ink), publications such as Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Pemmican, and others.

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