Poetry

Black Molasses and other poems

by Cesar Love
Black Molasses

Light cannot pass through me
I swallow every spark
I put out each candle
I smother the streetlamp
I douse the lighthouse

The moon, the sun, and the day
Down they go in my distillery.
Everything bright milled by my night.
There I make them black like me
There I make them pure like me

When I am ready, I make the world sweet
Give me flour, I make gingerbread
Give me water, I become rum
Give me an audience, I become music

I am black molasses
I go the speed that I choose
They say I move slow, but really I move free
In this sugar, you meet freedom
In this, sugar, you become four-alarm cool.
The bongo of minutes, the gong of the hours,
Simple flickers on the still of your soul.

 

The Garbage Men

They come while you sleep
And they wake you,
Clanking their truck,
Rattling their giant cans
They take what you leave for them
Torn clothes
Worthless paper
Broken toys

They return in your dreams
And ignore you
They cruise right by
In their noisy truck
And don’t pick up a thing

But if you learn their language
If you trade shoes with them
And follow their dance
They free you
They take everything
You want to be rid of

 

Flavor of Lemon

Bake your pie of lemon
Invite the forbidden one over
There is no time
For plates and silverware
Eat it with her
As fast as you can
Destroy the evidence
Before she leaves
Lick every crumb
From her face

Cupid’s dark twin
Hands you
The handsome fruit.
He tells you, smell it.
Isn’t this exquisite?
I dare you to taste it.
But if you like it,
If you want more,
Laws will be passed
Against you.

In a ball of innocent yellow
A flavor that strips
Your varnish
This is the taste
Of Love’s confusion.
This is the taste
Of Love’s certainty.
His nakedness
That begs for sugar clothes

The sky will rain sour
No umbrella
No lifeboat
The lifeguards laugh
You must drown

Then bake your pie
Save her the last slice
Savor the last slice

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César Love writes under the influence of Pablo Neruda, Lanston Hughes and the Asian Masters. He is a native of California with roots in Mexico. He recites his poems at open mics in the San Francisco Bay Area.
These poems will appear in César Love’s soon-to-be-published book, Birthright.

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Donald Helton

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Poetry

A Road is Just a Trail Made Dangerous Through Improvement & Sunshine

by Crawdad Nelson

 

A Road is Just a Trail Made Dangerous Through Improvement

The strip joint sits on a low rise
about a mile away

from the useless but ominous cone,
from the piles cooling,
gradually, a thousand years at a time,
lethal rods bathed in clear pools,
men keeping the eternal valve open
smoking only where allowed,
preventing disaster,

looking across mud and waters,
near whizzing highway. Enormous trucks
howl off to appointments, head toward unknown scales,
unpredictable ordinances, secret restrictions,

while the strippers give it all, sometimes
pleasantly authentic, almost real,
pretending to care about the truckers
drinking watery beer in the front row,
the mill hands looking so deep
they see themselves,
bare skin, big hair,
thighs on the pole, high heels,
wobbling a bit,
showing, but not showing,

when someone stops in
two and a half days later, explicitly pale
and emaciated, all there is after the money
is lost is the way it feels in your hand,
you can always tell,
once the road is traveled,
the highway crossed,
it is clear:

A road is just a trail the governor discovered
on a map and drew lines over
until it was gone, until engineers had
measured and figured the precise amount of earth
and degree of difficulty; it started out safe,
in the morning with a packed lunch going fishing,
but got worse with time: someone dug in, hardened,
and simplified the hill itself, a long curve now
cuts it in half, and the trees at the bottom are scarred
after decades of intercepting lives,
providing closure, closing deals.

A road is a place you can’t walk;
you’ll get run down;
someone will chuck a half-full beer at your head
from a moving automobile,
someone won’t see you,
someone will plow into the shoulder at seventy
miles an hour and destroy a hundred yards
of white picket fence hung
with nasturtium; you can’t relax,
you may have to suddenly leap
into wild tangled weeds and vines,
beer cans and cinder block fragments,
granite, glass, toxicity
squalor and risky behavior
cuddled in roadside weeds;

a road is just a trail
with safety removed, a tunnel through timber,
surface upon muck, flat spot, wide spot,
spot with nothing left to give, a dangerous ribbon of
pressed layers, of death underfoot,
anonymous and pointless.

Three days later they pass once more,
hundred miles an hour,
middle of the road.

 
Sunshine

The sun rises and falls over the continuous moment; the moon rolls through the sky and plunges into the sea just after breakfast each day, the size of a gull’s egg, on a secret nest; the sky reveals its broken wings, a stroke of light across the infinite, a stone in the sea; the bones of the pioneer dead lie gathered and counted. Most of what occurs is a kind of mud capturing the repetitive tasks of life. Let’s see if you can figure this one out. Someone with a knife is at the door. Go on down to the personnel office and ask the right questions. After a few drinks people soften into slightly less intimidating postures and the tobacco smell darkens. We sit there alone staring at each other. Standing in line to eat. Standing in line to take a shit. Standing in line at the gate. The door swings. The door swings inward. You go in. The sun comes over the ridge and punctures the soft moon, lying invalid on the water, the sun rises to an unlikely height, the moon is a soft white blossom.

 

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Crawdad Nelson has published poems, stories, essays and articles in the small press for over twenty years. He has been editor, pasteup man and photographer as well. He currently works at a community college helping people understand what they think about things they read and write.

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Roy & car

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Fiction

The Taints

by Jane Gilday

 

Heidi listens with mischief in her heart. She listened like that as I described the strange sense of having a whole new sex growing–or blossoming–between my balls and my ass. She said “Janey, that’s the Taints Region cause it tain’t one nor the other.”

Wise guy alpine cowgirl.

But I don’t know how any of it works. Not one minute, grain or word of it. Maybe you do so I’ll pass along some selected moments, like a Hallmark Kodak cavalcade, only honest, meaning this: how real can any love be that’s been sold for all occasions at $1.99 a pop fourteen-and-one half-billion times a day forever? This is love for taints and tin ears, you damn civilians.

The first time I listened deep to Horses I lay flatback on an indian bedspread in a Manchester attic. Above me the sheetrock ceiling vanished, giving way to a vault of deep blue that was heard not seen, and children began to sing those hymns you knew before some man put the fear of god in you. I smelled seawater, bird dung, and henna and knew it was all temple stuff, like playing the outfield forever. I was completely sexually aroused without any sense of body or mind, all motionless. It was taint sex, as has been rumored of the Texas that was Truly Texas, before being replaced with a body double. It was part of an Egyptian Mexico.

The wolves were everywhere. They all had the last name of Wolf, guns in glove compartments or purses, vans full of serious stolen military technology. They were beyond arrest. If I made up a song in the afternoon, they would be singing it that night as I heeled into the drag bar. Any curiosity I exhibited toward any subject, no matter how far-fetched, would be answered with wonderful onion-layered jokes.

One day I thought “Does anyone in the phone book have the last name of Queen?” Picking up the Hartford directory, I located one–and only one–such listing:

Queen, Cleo ……………………….321 Niles Street. 297-6666

I dialed. A voice of indeterminate age, race or gender answered. “Janey Janey Janey, won’t ya come along with me?…Janey Janey Whoo!, Janey Janey.” I swear on the bible this really happened.

I left town the next week, moving to a telephone booth on an unmarked industrial access road near the refinery district of Maytree. They called me as soon as I was all settled in. I gave up trying to hide, and went to a midtown Manhattan address, as they instructed. I expected to be found floating in the Hudson. Instead they told me to learn how to dance and gave me a blouse and a little book called ‘it ain’t what you think’. I began to feel like a beautician or just look like one.

Walking back to The Port Authority Terminal, I passed Andy Warhol, just leaning in a doorway. Amazed, I shouted “hi Andy.” He just pointed to a nameplate on his denim jacket, the kind of nameplate that people wear at those business-card-swap networking power breakfasts they hold for the damned. Moving closer, I could make out a name on the badge. It read ‘Theresa’.

Feeling foolish and hick, I mumbled “sorry, Theresa.” She said “just call me Sis” and said I seemed kinda tainty for a boy but not to worry about it.

So.

I went down to the Upland Empire, the totally-liberated zone in the high appalachians that neither Confederacy nor Union could ever invade, defeat or even engage in combat. Any army that managed to reach the entrance gaps was met with sudden typhoon-force winds and grapefruit-sized hail, although the skies far above the mountain tops kept on shining blue and clear.

The only way in, then and now, is through those gaps, and to enter you gotta wear a nametag. Uniforms are forbidden.

Winding high and higher above Kingsport, I ended up at the Carter Family Reunion, playing mandolin behind two fiddlers–both named Charlie–along with Edith Gilliam on guitar, her 78-year-old fingers nimble as a catamount on highground. All night folks danced barefoot on the lawn, right in front of us as we played. The powers-that-be don’t publicize any of this cause it terrifies them and the locals just figure that anyone who does show up is some sort of kin. We played until the only light was the milky way above the dark mountains and high lonesome wind.

The next day, self-consciousness overtook me. I dressed so different than anyone else there. My hair was so long and my clothes so ragged. My small boobs showed through my ‘felix the cat’ t-shirt. My cheeks reddened furiously, as I thought “they probably all think i’m crazy–and what would they think if they’d seen me last night in the motel room, wearing my long black gauzy nightgown?”

At that exact, precise, moment Dewanna leaned over towards me, winked, and whispered conspiratorially. “Person’lly, I tain’t never met anyone who tain’t a little crazy, have you? Ya know what my favorite song is? It’s that ol’ Long Black Veil–it’s really purty. And didn’t that ol’ Milky Way shine sooooo purty last night?”

It sure had, but you had to look up to see it, and the lowlanders rarely look up, being so grounded and wary of taints.

All these are true, really true, events in my life, and I still don’t understand any of it or try to.

I’m still feeling like a flower, like a taint–and I’m still singing and Heidi still teases about my lower regions.

 

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Jane Gilday is an artist, poet and musician who lives in Pennsylvania. Her artist statement: “jane gilday is 8 years old and likes to color”

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Jane 29Painting by Jane Gilday

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