Poetry

exactly like & literary whores

by Peter Bracking

 

exactly like

 

 

dawn ripples orange

chosen cherry blossoms explode imperious white

proclaim

perfect balance physics buried in chemistry

light rain

succulent spring soil earth’s awakening yawn

and soju drunks pissing on trunks

the cherries have arrived

and for that instant

your entire world smells exactly like continuance

 

 

literary whores

 

 

a pair of impoverished poets plastering posters around town

hawking hawking

wobbling shopping cart shuffle stuffed full of words

self agrrandized mumbled jumble

context bouncing off blind behind

grabbing snagging snatching tickling cajoling verbs

licking residuals from cat king lips

corporate poets squeak echo in the canyons of the city

 

 

  • * * * * * * * * * * * *

Peter Bracking tells tall tales. Earth point: tropical beach.

Words have been published from ocean to ocean to ocean by some really great literary mags in a growing number of countries on half the inhabited continents.

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jane19art by Jane Gilday

Standard
Poetry

Seasonal Affair and Funeral Lines

by Judith Steele

 
Seasonal Affair

 
May Day in Darwin, dragonflies in squadrons
Posses of fire-hawks cruise the air
I open your letter – familiar joy –and doubt.
In June fiery sunsets, and you
on the midnight plane.
Dry Season air of July is champagne
Our kisses intoxicate, our laughter sparkles
as if we never wept.

 
Late August wind blows down dead branches
We resurrect old anger, throw it around.
September builds humidity. We always return
to this sensual desire, and desire to be more than this.

 
Still October, still no rain, still purple clouds
without a breath of wind. We are careful,
speak of the past, but not the future.
November thunder drops sheets of water,
twisted sheets on our bed are soaked with lust.

 
Troppo December, and luminous bat-splat
on the only road out of here. You go south
to visit your children, return in flooded January.
We watch with envy reckless adolescents jump
off Nightcliff Jetty into monsoon seas.

 
February stars of wilted frangippanni
fall on ants recycling eyeless bird
in a mess of rotting mangoes.
Again, you ask me to live down south.
Again, I will not go. Again, you will not stay.
March mornings fall into a late monsoon trough,
breathe threat of cyclone. Again I prepare for the worst.

 
April is calm. Long Toms float beneath Rapid Creek Bridge
like Chinese brush strokes on pale green silk.
Torres Strait Pigeons have flown home. You too.
For each migration, a yearly return.
For every reconciliation, a separation

 
And then?
Anticipation …

 
May Day, dragonflies in squadrons …

 

 
Funeral Lines

 
Ephemeral beauty
born, grown,
mated, created
ephemeral life

 
Ephemeral beauty, scrub and shine,
make haste, vacuum time,
produce consume bigger and better
mountains of dust

 
Ephemeral beauty, make mistakes,
break your heart break your life,
we can’t go back, can’t restore
ephemeral innocence

 
Ephemeral beauty bound for dust
Create. From whatever you can.
Drudge when you must, compete if you lust,
make mistakes, weep and ache
Then Still Always Turn
to what you have to how you can
Create ephemeral beauty.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Judith Steele is Australian. Her poetry has appeared in Northern Territory and South Australian publications including Northern Perspective, Northerly, Dymocks Northern Territory Literary Awards, Friendly Street Poets. Poetry or prose has appeared on websites including The Animist, Four and Twenty, Islet Online (as Dita West), In other Words:Merida .

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Kreso6

art by Kreso Cavlovic

Standard
Poetry

Public Relations and other poems

by Christopher Prewitt

 
Public Relations

 
It has been raining
but only on that side of town.

 
I go in my quiet way
nursing a fire ball,

 
wanting to be held in the air
that is screaming at me,

 
signing in at the front desk
of an old building

 
stained with streaks of milk
on the windows.

 
A young woman in a black dress
comes from the back to take my coat

 
and my teeth.
I try to ask her

 
why do daughters inflict violence on one another,
but she’s already at work

 
on my tongue.
It’s a device

 
that was once bright
as the silver coins

 
Judas will feel sad about forever.
There’s no time

 
to think about the rust.
I have to go.

 
I have to sit at my desk.
I have to write something brief

 
and apologetic
on behalf of my top floor shadow,

 
spinning with gold in his lap
and blood on his cheeks,

 
the company president.

 

Moonlight over Meat-eating Plants

Here’s how I write poems.
I live in a town.
I open my mouth.
The first person to kiss me
I come to resent.
The first gentle rain
to sleep at my feet
I hand over to the authorities.
Anyone who dines with me
at a Waffle House or a Golden Corral
has a friend for life.
Anyone who writes poems and hates poems
containing more than one language
and/or positive feelings
toward chain family restaurants
might as well kiss me
con lengua y uñas.
At the end of a long day being no one,
I make a simple dinner
for my wife,
and then I rub her back
until she falls asleep.
Just as I’m about to fall asleep,
I take my 3 subject notebook
and mechanical pencil
from the floor.
Every night I write
these same 2 lines over and over:

Christopher Prewitt,
You are a liar.

I can’t keep my eyes open.
I never get the title right.

 

Poema with Roses and Snowstorm

 

My son, you are better off
than a nightmare, any nightmare,

 
all the nightmares you’ve ever had
where the roses sprouting from your head

 
have teeth and they’re all falling out.
The person you love more than anything

 
has a ruby between their eyes—I won’t pretend
to know whom you love—and they’re angry

 
at you, so angry, they are snowstorm
as far as explanations go, as far as

 
explaining how they came to bury you
like Satan in the ice and the cold—

 
this is only a dream but your heart
is the heart of the cat

 
who sought warmth in the car engine
to put it bluntly. You are not

 
pure fear that is self saying to self
something. You are paper boat we are trying

 
with breaths gentle and constant to blow
through a wall of flame. We love you

 
precisely because you are fragility hiding nothing.
Drink this the mountain dew of our love. You are shaking

 

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Christopher Prewitt is a writer from southern Appalachia. His poems, fiction, and reviews have appeared in The Four Way Review, the NewerYork, The Cafe Ireal, Ghost Ocean Magazine, Vinyl, The Iowa Review, among others. His awards include nominations for the Best of the Net anthology and the Pushcart Prize, as well as the Billie & Curtis Owens Creative Writing Award. He is a former poetry editor at Inscape and Minnesota Review. He is at work on a novel, a full-length collection of poetry, and he has a chapbook ms. under review by editorial staffs.

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Samuel11

painting by Samuel Barrera

Standard
Fiction

Jehrico’s Wolf Pup

by Tom Sheehan

 

When Jehrico’s wolf pup bit the sheriff, on his gun hand, and on his trigger finger to boot, things went from bad to worse. To begin with, Ruben Tarpon was a new sheriff with a fast gun and was trying his best to make his name as good as his gun and do a good job for the folks of Bola City. He was also checking out the pup as a curiosity, some folks telling him about it locked in a cage behind the livery. The sheriff had heard about Jehrico’s stunts and ventures into the business side of Bola City, like his hauling in the first iron bath tub to serve the hygienic needs of Bola City’s male population. Jehrico, Tarpon figured, was gifted with accidental entrances into things that made him money, and him being nothing more than a collector of odd things found in his travels, often just junk. Jehrico, however, knew firsthand the desert, older Indian sites and dwelling areas, ghost towns, closed-down mines, caverns and caves and canyons, and the community trash deposits for a hundred miles around that he reveled exploring in.

None of that stopped the bite when the sheriff put his hand too close to the pup.

And the bitten finger had a far-reaching effect on Bola City’s relationships between the law, local merchants and the bank. The sheriff, an elected official, said aloud to some confederates, “This is all the fault of that damned junk collector, him and his pup.” Though he was a stalwart among the men and a favorite of the women with his ruggedly handsome looks, he was aware of his status at all times, knowing it all came with the territory of the badge, the turn of a key to a jail cell, and the hangman’s noose when it counted.

It all had begun so simply for Jehrico in his newest venture into the world of collecting things. He came up with the pup at the back end of a cave in the mountains, born to snarl it appeared, but cute as a doll.

“Look for the dog in him, Jehrico. He’s as much dog as anythin’.” Jehrico’s pal Joe Brewster was laying it on the line about Jehrico’s new wolf pup he’d brought to Brewster to get his view on having one for a pet. Brewster knew animals, once having lived in the hills around the Strict Elsie settlement on the Guila River for at least ten years before he walked out of the hills one day and came to town of Strict Elsie, leaving all the genuine silence behind him.

He’d spotted Jehrico as soon as he cleared the pass at the high point above Strict Elsie, some vultures riding the thermals hundreds of feet above him, their wings, even that far, as wide as the back side of a pair of oxen in the traces. It was not until Jehrico came within fifty yards that Brewster knew he was carrying a bundle of fur. The way he carried it told Brewster the fur was alive and, of course, had to be a young one.

“Watcha got there, Jehrico? It’s near alive far as I kin see. It ain’t peccary and it ain’t cow, so I’d guess it’s gotta be bear or wolf, and if you say it’s wolf, make sure you handle it like a dog. Like I said, it’s much dog as anythin’.”

He shook his head and said, “If you bring it down into Bola City, be ready to get some sand in your grits; them folks down there don’t like anythin’ that even smells wolf. So best tell ’em up front it’s a dog you found with the momma dead. Them big male wolves have been nosin’ into the wind for a hundred years now. It travels on the breeze, in the wind, and if they find it like we do comin’ in from a month in the desert, knowin’ girl on the wind from a hundred miles away, they’d get mean at things plumb near forgot.”

Jehrico, all smiles, still holding the pup like he was a toy, ignoring the threats of real life, said, “What’ll I call him, Joe? Got any special names you ain’t used up yet? I favor south names, if you know what I mean.”

Brewster, looking at the vultures still at games, said, “How about Bruto, him bein’ so mean and all? Bruto’s good name for that critter just waitin’ to bite your finger off given a chance he come of age.” The two old pals laughed long and loud as they shared the bundle of fur, with white teeth in the middle of the ball.

“You keep to mind them teeth, Jehrico, ’cause they come to growin’ easy as the ground shakin’ when the mountain moves. Bruto get set to use them there’s no kiddin’ around on him. Them kind ain’t born to chew, I should tell you. They was plain born to rip things apart, one part from another, ‘specially they any meat in between or settin’ on them parts.”

The two friends of the animal world set about to make a cage for Bruto, after Jehrico poured some water from his canteen on the pup and said, “I bless you and give you the name Bruto. Wear it where you will, but for now in this here cage we got made, me and Joe. It’s just to keep you from the dogs in town, and there’s lots of them nosin’ around all the time.”

Brewster added a bit more advice. “You best let Bruto smell you every time you feed him, Jehrico. Let him get your smell down good in his belly ’cause it might save a finger or a hand later he come of real age and them teeth do the real thing.”

Jehrico had a rig behind his mule that he could tote the cage in, and that’s how they entered Bola City, Jehrico on his mule and the wolf pup in his cage.

For starters, the sheriff was practically out of commission, and most people around knew it, including some gang members sitting in a cabin at the back end of Snake Canyon off in the mountain range, and knowing the hand of the law was bandaged to a fare-thee-well.

“He ain’t so good a shot anymore,” Dutch the German said, talking to his small gang of robbers, all rested after their last robbery, and just about all the money spent. “He ain’t going to get the jump on us, his hand like it is. That damned wolf pup did us a great big favor. Bola City’s next for us, boys, and that bank over there. We ought to give a toast to that scrounger that brought home a wolf pup, thinking he was going to fool people making them think it was a lost puppy dog his momma run off or killed.”

One member of the gang, No-Foolin’ Toulin, at the back end of the cabin, whittling on a stick, said, “We gotta have a better plan than last time, Dutch. We was lucky on that one.” He rolled his eyes and flashed his hands in the air, both moves for base punctuation.

“Whatta ya mean ‘we was lucky?'” said Dutch. “We came out of there with a whole satchel of dough. So we lost Butchie. Well, he ain’t no big loss to us. You gotta admit he screwed up on the Timberfield job and I think he was asleep again this time. No way he shoulda taken one right in the face. Just wasn’t payin’ attention and somebody else coulda been dropped too, in case you ain’t thought of that yet.” He stressed his statement by pointing to each one in turn and saying, “You or you or you and even you. All of you coulda had the deep end of the tunnel all to hisself, if you really think about it.”

A small wave of mumbling ensued and Dutch the German knew none of the others would speak up; they were too scared, but Toulin came right back. “That stupid scavenger, that Jehrico lug, he ought to be part of us, way things happen with him. You heard about his bath tub and his pianer he brought back one time, like the whole world turned over on its backside for him. They say he smells like gold or silver up close and even gets a free bath once a week. Man like that could throw a whole passel of Rangers right off our trail, he give it a mind to do so.”

Dutch the German had a sudden idea, and he let it run around in his head before he spoke up about it. “What about this?” he said, leaning forward, looking them in the eye, drawing them in one by one. “We turn that wolf pup loose. Let him shake up a few folks, the whole town maybe, and while the pup raises hell of any kind, we rob the bank when they’re all messed up with the thing being loose, like maybe he’s gonna bite a kid or some old lady hangin’ up clothes on her line, or just layin’ around like nothin’ ever’s gonna happen, but the sheriff hisself is already punched out of action by a baby wolf.”

“He still keep that pup behind the livery, near the tub set-up?” No-Foolin’ Toulin obviously knew the answer to his own question. “Want I should take care of him, Dutch? I ain’t too queasy doin’ somethin’ like that.” His head came down into the circle where Dutch’s head had been, demanding attention, getting it, along with a share of responsibility and command. Smiling at Dutch, and then at the other gang members, he laid out a plan. “I figure I ought to feed him somethin’ good, what he likes, while he’s still in the cage. If he’s on the running line, loose as far as his leash lets him go, I’ll still feed him with that somethin’ goin’ to get his blood all lathered up inside, waitin’ to bite the hell out of anybody else comes near him. I learned a trick from an old Indian one time, about dropping a piece of meat in a special sauce, makes an animal go kinda crazy he eats it.”

“Sounds pretty smooth, No-Foolin’,” Dutch said. “He scare half the women in town to screamin’ and we got a walk-through at the bank, and Sheriff Tarpon ain’t gonna draw down on us no way, while all the men folk try to be heroes for their women and kids.”

It all went awry, of course, by the intervention of, not by Jehrico himself, but by his pal, the joker and animal man, Joe Brewster, who, during the darkest part of the night, extricated the wolf pup from the cage, put him in a box in the loft of the livery, and inserted a badger in its place. The badger was as mean as possible for one his size, and Brewster was just hoping to have some fun come morning.

He got all he was looking for.

In the forenoon of the day, a full night’s sleep behind him, Jehrico came to feed the pup and was surprised, but not amazed, to see an entirely different critter in the cage. Instinctively he knew that Brewster had been afoot in the night. He decided not to show any anxiety or any of his surprise, because he wanted to set off Brewster in his own way. The critter was a new one to Jehrico and he decided not to feed him, just to get back at his pal and omit what might be an exciting moment. He heard the wolf pup up in the livery and went to check on him and to feed him his morning ration.

Of course, the exciting moment came when an unsuspecting and usually morning-sleepy No-Foolin’ Toulin came to initiate his plan to feed the wolf pup and set him free to raise havoc all around Bola City. He did not pay much attention to the critter and when he opened the cage to toss in his “special food supply,” that all-out mean badger latched onto the ankle of his boot with a grip that was not about to loosen and sent No-Foolin’ Toulin in a mad, wild, screaming escapade all around the livery area. He wanted desperately to shoot the critter but he could not get his handgun free of his holster, falling knocked down repeatedly or getting knocked against a wall and further drawing out from his deepest insides the unholiest of screams.

Those screams swept across the morning of Bola City like a wild animal caught in a deadly snare, which did force the actions of an uncounted number of people within hearing range.

Jehrico thought it to be Brewster getting hung up in his own tomfoolery, Dutch the German and his gang thought it to be the outcome of the wolf pup on the loose, as promised by Toulin, and Sheriff Tarpon thought someone was being attacked by thugs or a wild thing inside the town limits.

Jehrico sat back in the loft laughing his head off, the wolf pup locked under a box with a heavy weight on top of it. Dutch the German and his gang rushed into the bank to rob it. Sheriff Ruben Tarpon grabbed a pistol in his left hand and fired a shot in the air, then fired another shot, in his attempt to scare off any wild critter or a thug on his rounds of doing nothing good, whatever was going on in his town.

When No-Foolin’ Toulin rolled out into the main street of Bola City, the badger let go of Toulin’s leg and rushed towards the bank in his attempt to escape. Some women screamed their holy terror. People on the wooden walk, which ran in front of the bank and the general store, rushed into the open doors of both establishments, spilling goods in the store and throwing the bank hold-up into absolute turmoil with every man in the place wielding a gun, some expecting to rob the bank and some expecting the wild critter to come right through the front door and were ready to shoot him.

Sheriff Tarpon ran into the street with the smoking pistol in his left hand and screaming all the while for his deputy to get on the job.

Jehrico stayed in the loft, the wolf pup under wraps, envisioning what pal Joe Brewster might be thinking at the time, all the screams and the gunfire and the general excitement gathering steam in the middle of town.

To his credit, pal Joe Brewster was on his horse outside of town heading back to Strict Elsie, hearing the gunshots, thinking that somebody in Bola City was taking shots at the badger out and about town, thinking of Jehrico looking for the wolf pup all the while, and he himself counting ahead to all the laughs they’d have next time him and Jehrico got together, away from Bola City, probably during one of Jehrico’s scavenger hunts.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Tom Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry, Korea 1951-52, and graduated Boston College in 1956. His books are Epic Cures; Brief Cases, Short Spans; Collection of Friends; From the Quickening; The Saugus Book; Ah, Devon Unbowed; Reflections from Vinegar Hill; This Rare Earth & Other Flights, and Vigilantes East. eBooks include Korean Echoes (nominated for a Distinguished Military Award), The Westering, (nominated for National Book Award); from Danse Macabre are Murder at the Forum (NHL mystery), Death of a Lottery Foe, Death by Punishment, and An Accountable Death. Co-editor of A Gathering of Memories, and Of Time and the River, two collections about his home town of Saugus, Massachusetts, both 400+ pages, 4500 copies sold, all proceeds from $40.00 each cost destined for a memorial scholarship for his co-editor, John Burns, in the Saugus School system as director of the English Department at the High School for 45 years. After conception of the idea for the books, and John putting out the word for material to be included by former students, and with a proposal of actions and schedules prepared for a local bank, ten of his former students signed a loan from the bank for $60,000 to print two books not yet written!!!!

And paid it off!!!

 

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kristi2photo by Kristi Harms

Standard
Poetry

Mask of Cherries and other poems

by Grant Tarbard

 
Mask of Cherries

To all the ones without a destination

The mirror doesn’t
exist when there’s no grooming
figure applying

a mask of cherries.
The periwinkle lipstick,
her ghost of blusher

in powder puffs of
orchids, her eye liner shields
a blue nebula.

The sloe mascara
that will be clotted tears by
the drone of midnight’s

liquor coated bells.
The mirror has a pasted
glue masquer with a

lone charcoal player
who exists in the crumbling
glimmer of sad songs,

a mask of cherries
orchid lipstick, eye liner
her ghost of blusher.

 
Lament for the Loss of Silence

 
there’s no frontier
in the old dog willows

of empty chip wrapper cables
that blow about in the wind

raw flesh given
to capture the last moment of calm

no newsprint boundary
no static radio no man’s land

rest is at work
hushing babes to sleep

the best silence
never happened

 
Life-cycles

 
1.

our lifecycle is
like a globe, when you’re
to the east of death
you end up in the
sunshine of the west
2.

the scene of the crime
was a lifecycle
burned in the fire
of Hades’ lust for
fair Persephone

 

New Years Eve, 1986

 
That vinegar taste,
my first sip of wine
at a party that
the girls took hours to
fabricate themselves,

hair in rollers a
week in advance. Oh
yes, that silver foil
for highlights, that old
rotten egg perm smell.

The pop delivered
from the milkman in
the morning, a case
of it stored in the
shed with the spiders.

We didn’t have fizzy,
except on Christmas.
The glass bottles of
different colours,
florescent orange,

florid sin crimson,
midnight black, to a
small flat boy it was
as fascinating
as the contrails

of a space shuttle.
Come the party, I
was plied with Guinness
and beer by the men,
white wine the women.

I spent the party
on chocolate stairs
hushed, playing with my
imaginary
friend in the alleys

of his village, no
one bothered me as
they were engaged in
grown-up talk, which I
now know is claptrap.

 

Lear and His Fool

 
Desperate in a daughter’s woe-be-tide
There lies a selfish boar, cherished, haggard,
Vain, and to Cordelia he denied
Her share, with hardly a rattled scabbard.
Pictures of what he once was are cracked, lost,
He’ll end his days upon the madness rock
They whispered, he’ll catch his death in the frost,
He’ll tempt his ruination with sweet talk.
While the world sleeps he watches the moon’s lust
Feather ivory across the mud smear
Sky. The king furrows his brow and throws crust
After spear and cries ‘the moon’s veneer!’
The moon is a kite owl in a silk pouch
Boxing with mist, all his former selves slouch

Disappearing as
quickly as they came,
rowing in the clod,
just waiting for the
suffocating hand.

Smell the blue air of
his no man’s land. His
mouths are fountains that
sprout trees, the death of
a film spooling out

in a collection
of light, the moon is
a kite. It’s roots are
zinc white. Move dust to
the light, move stars from

the night, solemnly
he writes. August is
his soul, kingly gems
thrown in a puddle
of mud, exile of

blood, his malady
is his clarity.
What horrors unfold,
his genitals are
frozen to the ground.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Grant Tarbard is internationally published. His chapbook Yellow Wolf, published by WK Press, is available now.

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Scott7painting by Skot Horn

 

 

Standard
Poetry

Speed Dating and other poems

by Julia Ciesielska

 

Speed Dating

he tried to be cool
the best football coach we ever had
always there to listen
I can’t remember him trying to change subject
when conversation grew strained
unlike most adults
he was awesome
our scores made us visible nationwide
we were young enough to fall for his lies
one yes to many no’s was all he needed
if our parents on their fixed incomes
were not so damned exhausted
I reckon they would have noticed
statutory rapes on minors
nobody gave us power over our destiny
we just sat still
posture: hands together in front
listening to the head master who reminded us
about the championship starting next month
the pressure school puts on us
we felt like ex-dates who traded
scholarships for keeping things quiet
behind school building walls

 

Daddy

were you there
when I was born to mother concrete
somersaulted across ugly backyards ?
I don’t remember seeing you
padding around the kitchen in slippers
the toaster full of finger prints
does not remember you either
you were probably gone
so I clung to a feeling
that you might watch me closely

fists tightened white to the bone
exchanged school for curfew
you were probably at work
when my knives collection gradually grew
sharper than anxiety
these demonic weapons
notched scars on many backs

you were in the same room
when I had to sign a charge sheet
your face shrank to a dry cloth
almost gone into shame
I might just as well ask
who are you to be ashamed of me ?

 

Against

it is a tenth time
since I have overcooked pasta
to achieve a delicacy of own skin
in Masterchef they would not appreciate it –
aldente rules
imposed reality
thin as an ice during a thaw
makes me question the purpose of obedience
an odd move
and you are drowned in insipid

in the bathroom hairdryer switched on
in the kitchen blender
I might consider a kiss with a socket
to resurface

 

P. O. Box

his P.O. Box was
a perfect rectangle
for hiding
convenient to reach
he was dreaming
it is a silky uptown hotel
he can scarce afford
checked in often
arriving from a world
of fags and booze for petrol
smoke-screened spaghetti junctions
junk food coating his spirit
with a rejection film
each check-in was marked
by a repetitive desire to enter
the alternative
own keeper
free to design
his insulation absorbed sounds
glad to let go:
a newspaper’s bang each morning
tension condensing between lovers
silent language filling to the brim
midday check-out
used to betray
where the inner world ends
and the other begins
he paid with cash
as no one lives anywhere for free

 

Klepto

did I see it or only want to
something inside me lacked courage to die
my weakness filters adjectives
with particular emphasis on ‘un-‘
for instance untight

weakness forms a denial
a denial forms into an outbreak
where to become a rebel you can
by doing absolutely nothing
above what is needful
use by date bargains, reductions
take my fancy at just wrong moment
– floor staff
passing I raise one hand in greeting
two raised in surrender

 

Count to Three & Be Awake

our times are not as hard
as in previous generation
fighting for cause
yet more tough
have to acknowledge caring less
be exposed to what they sense

our times should stash complaints
inside phone booths
if people still use them to communicate
but nowadays booths could do
only as exhibits
easy on the eye tour attraction
otherwise you enter
to bury anger beneath other people’s song
alternatively to sew lips shut
each time feeling urged to say inappropriate things

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Julia Ciesielska since 2006 lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where she works as a Translator and a Business Support in Recruitment organization known for Oil & Gas world wide. She has studied English Literature at Master degree and made certificate in Practice Personnel/HR at Queens University, Belfast. Apart from various literary magazines publications, she appeared in Shalom Anthology (Crescent Writing Group in Belfast) published in March 2015. Julia’s interests, echoed in her poetry, include the feminist revision of life or naturalistic perception of daily routines. After attending workshops of creative writing, organized by Lyric Theatre in Belfast, she also got interest in writing plays. Inspired by pieces of Martin Lynch she is working on a project that is presenting with the eyes of polish minorities their observations of living abroad.

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jane12

Long Dream

(acrylic on panel)

Jane Gilday

Standard
Poetry, translation

Two poems on bullfighting by Jack Little

Two poems on bullfighting by Jack Little
with Spanish versions by Fer de la Cruz
(in the context of bullfighting being banned in a growing number Mexican states)

 

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A Lament for Ponciano Díaz
after Federico García Lorca

In the ganadería de Atenco
Ponciano Díaz´s father fought bulls
with a cloth in one hand and his child in the other.

In the evenings, his brother would sit on the other side of the room
the semi-darkness of the setting sun would leave half shadows:
the day´s sandy footprints, the dry spittle at the side of the old man´s mouth.

Tonight proclaims his fate is preordained
under the breath of a thousand secret voices:
some of us dwell in our passions more than others.

But before the stain of crimsons spines, and viscera between his sequins
the sunrise will be another part-renewal, grown boastful with swollen pride

the fight is in his veins.

 

Lamento por Ponciano Díaz
A la manera de Lorca

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En la ganadería de Atenco sucedió:
el padre de Ponciano lidiaba con los toros,
capota en una mano, el niño en otra.

Por las tardes, su hermano se sentaba al lado opuesto en la misma habitación
en tanto la semi penumbra del sol al ponerse dejaba medias sombras:
las arenosas huellas de ese día, las comisuras tiesas de su padre
con un reseco rastro de saliva.

Esta noche proclama su destino
al aliento de mil voces secretas:
algunos habitamos las pasiones mejor que algunos otros.

Pero antes de que el traje de luces sea opacado por las manchas de víscera escarlata,
el sol, renovador de amaneceres, engreído de su orgullosa pompa

será uno con la lidia fluyendo por sus venas.

 

1st poem

 

Poem 2

 

 

 

 From Jack Little´s Elsewhere (20/20 EYEWEAR PAMPLET SERIES, 2015)

 

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Jack Little is a British poet who has lived in Mexico City since 2010 where he works as a primary school teacher. He won the Titchfield Shakespeare Poetry Competition in 2013 and is the founding editor of The Ofi Press. His work has been widely published in the UK and in Mexico.

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Kreso3

painting by Kreso Cavlovic

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Fiction

Lost

by Aaron Whitaker

 
“How did I get here?”

 
This is the question I seem to be asking myself as I stumble into this alley. Dark, lonesome, and musty; I would avoid this type of place in a heartbeat on a normal day. The walls look moist and slimy; perhaps that is where the aroma of mold is coming from? I manage to trip on some conveniently placed trash, but somehow catch myself just before my nose makes contact with the ground. Good thing too, because at that moment I realize that my hands are touching a surface that’s equally foul. Frantically I rise to my feet and wipe my hands on my pants, and turn to fully examine my surroundings.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
This setting is stark contrast to the one that I was enjoying a few moments ago. Savoring a big juicy burger topped just the way I like it, from this nice diner down the street. Adding in a homemade malt to wash everything down just right. Sitting alone and basking in the silent tranquility. Maybe that’s why I am in this predicament? Seems so far away now.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
My daydreams soon come to an end though. A swift punch in the gut brings me back to reality, and reunites me with my peaceful dinner. “Whoa, Carter you almost got some on me.” The sarcastic laugh was a dead giveaway as to whom it belongs, Francis. He’s your run of the mill sleaze and full of himself to boot.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
The more I ask myself that question, the more I realize that the answer is standing before me. Francis is a middleman, goes around collecting debts for his boss, a loan shark, if you will. “You’re past due.” I take another hit this time with his brass knuckles, which have a bizarre reflection off the slime-covered walls. I think a few of my ribs just cracked. I probably look pathetic hunching over in this dank alley. “Unfortunately we have to forcibly repossess our investment.” A final blow, a kick sure to shatter the rest of my ribcage.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
Am I going to die? Beaten, bruising, coughing up blood; and my day was going so well. Now I welcome the slime and make a nice bed out of it. It’s soft and eerily warm. “Thank you for your gracious payment, I believe we will reconsider our investment. See you next month to checkup on your progress,” Francis chuckles as he throws me my recently emptied wallet. He seems confident that I’ll make it through this ordeal. Either way, I can’t seem to keep my eyes open, perhaps a quick nap wouldn’t hurt.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
The darkness surrounds me; it seems like hands are gripping onto my soul as they pull me down into the abyss. As I fall into the nothing, I can’t help but ask myself the same redundant question; I thought I already knew the answer. It feels as though that this void is draining my emotions to balance my body with the landscape.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
Even though this place attempts to make me feel isolated, I can still sense the presence of others. Their voices start, quietly at first, no more audible than a slow, paced exhale. But breaths turn to murmurs, murmurs change to whispers, whispers progress into statements, statements become conversations, conversations morph into debates, debates lead to arguments, arguments evolve into yells, yells alter into screams, screams shift into battle cries, battle cries epoch at thunderous roars, “I can’t stand it anymore!” The voice that cries out does not belong to me, although it might as well. My rapid decent makes it hard to envision the owner, but as soon as I take notice my speed begins to slow. Perhaps this space wants me to absorb everything that was going to follow.

 
“I can not let this go on any longer,” the same voice screaming, whose body is emanating a light in stark contrast to the darkness around it; it’s almost painful to look at directly. A man in form, he tries to assert power over another figure that is his exact opposite.

 
“I’m afraid that neither of us have a choice in the matter,” is the calm feminine rebuttal. Her body is wrapped in a material that matches her background, just as dark if not darker. The only way I’m able to see her clothes is because of the thin strip of red that runs along her outline. If that wasn’t there, it would seem like her head and slender limbs were emerging from the ether.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
This scene confuses me; my drop is now a hover over the two conflicting entities. I can see them clear as day, but why haven’t they noticed me?

 
“He is only a child!”

 
“Quit acting like he’s innocent. That is something that he has lost long ago,” chuckles the mysterious muse, as chills run down my spine. I’m not sure if they are from fear or excitement.

 
“There are other methods to resolve this.”

 
“He desires punishment… retribution, and right now his focus is on that Francis fellow.” Right at this moment my heart skips a beat, realizing that they are talking about me. And whatever spell that was keeping me immune to their sight breaks with my spike in terror.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
Not sure if that question would be appropriate to ask here, considering I don’t know if I would like an answer from these two, so I say nothing. This doesn’t stop them from turning their heads towards me. A look of horror takes over the gilded man’s face, as if my very presence has increased the stakes of whatever dangerous game they were playing. He stutters for a moment but tries to retake control of this perplexing situation, “I do not believe… that this child of God is lost.” To no avail the woman steps forward, with each pace closer to me her smile widens; a sight that frightens to the core, but at the same time it could enchant even the strongest of wills. “You’re wasting your time. He has made his decision; I can feel it in his heart.” Before I know it she places her hand on my chest, with her free arm wrapping around my back to pull me in closer. Something doesn’t feel right, my skin feels cold from her palm; what is it? Fear… anxiety… acceptance? I’m not sure. As my thoughts begin to broaden, large wings spring from the woman’s back; wings with the same jet black hue and eerie illumination. With one powerful thrust, we are sent skyward leaving the man behind.

 
“Stop!” This is the only thing he can utter before he begins to fade. Some force drags him in the opposite direction to prevent any chance of him catching us. Even his light can’t protect him from what is coming; slowly but surely and resisting with all his might, the emptiness is devouring him. With her head crocked to enjoy the view, she gives only a single somber word response, “Goodbye.”

 
Attention returning to me, the enchantress looks deeply into my eyes. No further words are spoken, just her peering and prying into my soul. Then a sudden kiss, originating out of surprise … or expectation; sealing me to my fate, whatever that might be.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
Damp, must, slime; I’m back in the alley, and I’m standing! This can’t be, Francis nearly broke me in half. But the very thought of his name makes me realize that I am not alone in the alley. Francis is lying face down in a puddle of muck at my feet, with the ground around him flowing into a small river of crimson. “Francis?” I’m not sure why I say this; I guess I am hoping that by muttering his name it will create some miracle response of him getting up, or at the very least a groan of disturbance. Although a quick examination of his body proves that he won’t be moving anytime soon. A large hole has been punched through his chest, as if he had been hit with a cannon ball from point blank range with chunks of flesh frayed to and fro. What could have happened? A quick look at myself gives me the traumatizing answer. I’ve felt damp since I woke up but I only took it as water from the alley; wishful thinking. In reality, my arms are coated in the same dark crimson pulling from Francis. Did I do this? How? These questions echo in my head as if to taunt me for the act I just unconsciously committed. I look over the scene relentlessly, desperate to prove to myself that this wasn’t my doing. These hopes promptly faded away as I turned back to the slime. There are two menacingly bright red eyes staring back at me, but the eyes are my own.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
My feet soon take control of themselves, forcing me in the opposite direction. They don’t seem to care where they take me, as long as it is away from the gruesome attack. Sirens begin to blare in the distance, and they are only getting closer; are they after me? I should be running out of breath, but each stride feels longer and stronger than the last almost as if I am flying. Somehow I manage to find myself in front of my apartment building. Eager to receive sanctuary, I burst through the doors, not paying attention to anyone who may or may not be in the lobby. All I want is to get into my room, and pray for all of this to go away.

 
“How did I get here?”

 
I know deep down that I will never be that lucky. Even in my own house, I can only feel despair and foreboding. Everything is dark; it makes me sick how eerily similar it is to the void. The only glimpse of light in the entire space comes from a dim lamp on my desk. Resting peacefully inside the illumination is a photo… Oh Emma. The photo reveals a joyous depiction of my wife, Emma, and I. It was our first anniversary and we wanted to go somewhere special; she always was a little bit of a thrill seeker, so we went to the amusement park. Not the most romantic of places but I did try to redeem myself with a cliché candlelit dinner; at least we both got to enjoy ourselves. We thought nothing could hurt us. If I only knew what I know now. I would have never gotten myself involved with Francis and his boss; then Emma and I could have continued to live our fantasy. That’s why Emma’s not here; I wasn’t sure how far Francis was willing to go but I didn’t want her to get hurt because of my own idiocy. So I sent her away. Her mother has been sick recently, so it was a good excuse to get her out of the house. But would I want her to come back? Look at me now; as I glance at the mirror hanging on the closet door I can see a literal shadow of my former self. Patches of grey skin form around the stains of blood with eyes red as fire; what would she think of me?

 
“How did I get here?”

 
I think I know the answer to that question now. I don’t want to hurt anyone else. I have to correct the wrongs that I have done. I can’t let Emma see me like this. Easing myself to the window facing the street, I open it. “It should be quick,” those seem to be the words that escape my lips as I step out onto the ledge. But as soon as I’m about to take my leap, I hear two of the most gut wrenching sounds I’ve heard all night. Our apartment door unlocking, followed by an angelic voice, “Carter, are you here?” Turning on the light, a look of terror overcomes her as the sight unfolds before her. Why now; oh why Emma did you have to come back? Silence ensues. Eventually her body begins to relax but the look of terror remains; at this point, tears start to swell in my eyes. I can’t let this go on any further. I have to end it quickly. I don’t want to hurt her.

 
So… I lean forward. “No!” Emma’s screams reverberate in the air around me, spilling out into the street. To prevent any more damage, I look towards my fate. As I do, something else disturbs me entirely. Fire and brimstone breaks though the ground, lurching for me. From the flames emerges the woman in black, embracing me once more. Scared more than I ever have been, I look back. Emma, my angel, is at the window holding out her arm crying for my return. Her face was of fear, but now turns to surprise as another odd yet bone-chilling photo develops in front of her.
Instinctively, the demoness pulls me in closer and whispers into my ear, all the while smirking evilly at Emma, “Welcome home.”

 

 

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Aaron Whitaker is a senior at Heidelberg College, majoring in Anthropology and History. He’s from Woodstock, Ohio. This is his first published story.

 

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Samuel42

art by Samuel Barrera

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Fiction

Killing time till midnight

I didn’t want to shock Ellen, but, man, this guy was gorgeous! and he was giving me the look, so I borrowed a pen from her and wrote my phone number on a scrap from a placemat I tore off the corner. Ellen is pretty traditional, naïve. I love her but she just totally doesn’t understand how life is, if it’s any different than her sheltered little corner of it. So I was sitting there listening to her describe the current guy she has a crush on but will never get up the nerve to act upon, rolling this little slip of paper around in my hand, waiting for the right time to give it to him.

Which was when we were leaving. Ellen was fumbling around for the tip, her math is atrocious, so she always ends up way overtipping because she’s afraid of not leaving enough. He came over to clear the table and asked how we liked our pizza and I said it was great and his deep brown eyes slid over me and I gave him a good look, too, and discreetly handed him my number. He glanced down at it and nodded his head, just a touch.

Ellen missed it all, of course, and I thought about telling her, but didn’t. He called before we got two blocks, and we set up a meeting for later, after he got off work. I would be standing in front of the restaurant, waiting. His name is Chris. I like a man that doesn’t let his opportunities go wasted. Yes, I do. Especially when he’s built like Chris is. Oh, yes. I couldn’t wait to get down and explore every inch of that body. Does he work out? I wondered, Or is it just how young he is?

Ellen didn’t want to go home, so we went to a bar and she bought a couple drinks. I was broke, no surprise, it’s been ages since I’ve sold a painting, so I was a charity case, as usual. Living at my mom’s house, free rent, free food. My mom’s great, but life there is a little restrictive, I guess you could say.

I was just drinking beer, cause it’s cheap. Being broke is so awkward! I wait around for the go ahead that someone will spring for me. Ellen always pays, but I know she’s not loaded so I drink beer when I’m with her and I drink it slow. I don’t want to take advantage of her. Ellen is a sweetheart, but she can get so annoying, you know? She is so damned painfully shy and she talks about how hard it is to talk to people (except me, we have a bond) and all the things she dreams of doing but is too afraid to try, and I am acting sympathetic, but what I really want to do is slap her and tell her to just do it. Don’t think about it, don’t obsess about it, just fucking get out there and try.

Sometimes it’s hard to hold that down.

She likes to go to expensive places, but she doesn’t know anyone, so we sit alone, her pouring her troubles at me and me telling her things I think she can handle. She is fine with me being gay, but I don’t think she wants to hear any details, if you know what I mean.

We compare notes on guys, but her taste is so totally different than mine. She wants them dreamy and romantic and long haired, like a Heathcliff sort. I want mine athletic and manly. At least we are not fighting over the same guys, ever.

Of course, she also wants them straight, and where I can certainly confess to an attraction to various straight guys of my acquaintance, I don’t want to waste my time lusting after one. That gets you nowhere. I’ve been there, done that, had enough.

Ellen, however, is doomed to moon over some dream guy who has no clue she’s interested, cause she’s not brave enough to let him know.

We walked over to the park at 50th so she could catch her bus, and I ran into one of my students, who was out wandering around with his friends in that way teenagers do. They don’t need a reason to go out, they make their excitement. Rather like me, tonight.

Sean’s parents are getting divorced and he is having a rough time with it, so we’ve had lots of heart to heart talks about various aspects of the situation while we’re working, so we have a bit of a connection going right now because of that. He thinks I give great advice, but all I do is listen.

He is, to be honest, not much of an artist, which is a shame, because he puts his heart into it. I do the best I can with him, you never know, after all, and at least I can instill an appreciation of art in him and ground him in some of the basics. He’s a good kid.

I like being around kids and I will confess I’ve had some impure thoughts because there is something about the innocent, careless beauty of young people that is irresistible, but I toe the line. I can’t go taking advantage of my students. My rule. My personal code of ethics. I try to tamp down the inappropriate thoughts as soon as they pop into my head. Don’t want to go there, I just don’t. I can admit an empathy for those who do. I can see how it happens. I can imagine it every step of the way. Oh yeah. I’m surrounded by temptation every day with these kids, but I don’t let myself act on it. It wouldn’t be right.

Surprised to hear me say that, huh? I do have a few lines I don’t cross. Just a few.

Once Ellen told me I was her best friend in the world. I didn’t expect that. I felt sorry for her. It made her sound all pathetic, I mean, if I’m the best thing she’s got, the others must not be much at all. I’ve tried to be nicer to her since then. You know.

We met at an art show a couple years ago. She does reviews for a little giveaway paper, music, books, art, theater. She’s not trained for any of it, of course, but it’s just a little paper that doesn’t pay anything, and no one takes it seriously. We were sitting there at the gallery having a conversation, she didn’t realize I was one of the artists. She was embarrassed when she found out and tried to remember if she’d said anything harsh about my work. She didn’t, really, but when she worried so much, I figured she obviously must have some reservations and she was worried she’d blurted them out. I just let that go by, didn’t want to deal with it. So everybody doesn’t like everything I do. So what.

At first I thought she was more glamorous and connected than she is. I probably wouldn’t have bothered with her if I’d known what she was really like, to tell the truth, but it took awhile to figure out and by then I really liked her, so I guess it pays to take chances every now and then.

When we met, she had a mad crush on a guitarist in a band she was following around. The band all liked her because she gave them good reviews but the guitarist didn’t realize there was anything more going on than that. He thought she was hanging around cause she liked their music. Meanwhile, everything he said to her that could be interpreted as the least bit encouraging, she and I hashed over during countless lunches and dinners and sessions on park benches.

When he started going out with some airheaded blonde Barbie doll type, Ellen was all crushed and betrayed and despondent. We spent some months minutely examining each step along the way as she tried to get over him. It was a long, slow process.

Me, I would’ve hopped into bed with the next guy – there are plenty of rock guitarists out there, if that’s what she wants, and most are more than willing to get a good bang out of it. I told her all that and we actually went cruising around looking for replacement guitarists several times, but none of them could measure up. What that girl needs is to get good and drunk and get fucked, but will she do it? Oh hell, no. Her heart just isn’t in it. She thinks Prince Charming is going to come find her.

Sean and I talked a little bit and then I went strolling around all the usual places but I didn’t see anyone I know. I sat in the park awhile, but it was a little cold for that. I live so far out it wasn’t worth going home and coming back, and I still had a couple hours to kill. Sometimes it’s a real bitch being broke.

I decided to go see if Louis was home, because he lived conveniently close to downtown. He is another sort of odd duck, I seem to collect them. Louis wa sitting there on his couch watching tv. He offered me some Cheetos and some sticky orange pop. I didn’t tell him where I was going, because he’d want to come along and that would have been awkward. I just told him I came by to see how he was doing cause it’s been awhile. He said he was fine and we sat and watched Pawn Stars, which is a dumb show, I think, but hey, I was out of the cold so who was I to complain?

Louis doesn’t talk much, during the commercials he showed me some of the comic books he’d bought lately and the rest of the time I sat and thought about Ellen and Sean and my current situation and how broke I am and if I should be chucking the artist thing and finding a real job, although I’m not good for much and would maybe end up supervising a fast food place or something and that would be the pinnacle of my life. Not much to write on my tombstone, assuming, of course, that one of my relatives shells out for one, cause I won’t be able to afford it. This is the trouble with devoting yourself to one passion, you don’t have a backup plan to adopt when you figure out you’re not Picasso, after all.

Although I’m not trying to be Picasso, I’m just trying to be me. It would be nice if someone appreciated that, though. You would think after all this time I would have gotten somewhere by now, wouldn’t you? Is there some point where you realize you’re licked? I’m not sure how to tell when you’re there. I imagine it’s when the alternative starts looking attractive, and there’s no way in hell that slapping burgers in paper wrappers will ever look attractive, let me tell you.

This kind of life can sure wear you down sometimes.

Louis carefully handles his comics by the corners and slides them into protective bags and backs to keep them looking new. This is a ritual he’s been taught by other comic collectors and I think he is proud to carry it on. It gives purpose to his life. He buys special acid free bags and backs by the hundreds. He’s got boxes and boxes of neatly cataloged comics stacked along the wall.

I have known him since we were kids. We used to draw superheroes together. He wasn’t bad at it, but he didn’t stick with it. This never fails to baffle me, how someone with talent can just give up on it. Over the years I’ve seen it time and again. He still thinks he can draw better than me, but I have years of honing my skill, developing techniques, living the art. I don’t say anything to him, though. What do I care? If it makes him feel good to think that, let him have it.

I left earlier than I’d planned, I used my mom as an excuse, like I have a curfew or something, like she sits up waiting for me. It was too depressing there.

I walked around downtown a bit, things were quieting down, there weren’t so many people out. The streets had sort of a greasy shine, it hadn’t rained in a while. The air was thick enough to make halos around streetlights.

It ain’t much, but it’s my town and I love it.

I settled myself against a doorway across the street from the pizza place to wait for Chris. Cars went by impatiently, their drivers maybe a little drunk, maybe more than a little. A woman in a turquoise dress and turquoise high heels walked alone down the street. Not a hooker, though, you can tell. Anyways they keep them out of the downtown area. They hang more over by 36th. This was just a woman walking by herself. I kept checking my phone for the time and because I kept checking, time went along slowly, but finally the pizza place shut down and finally waiters started coming out by twos and threes.

I straightened up from my slouch and stepped forward, watching faces.

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Philip J Grant works in graphic design and lives in Kentucky. This is his first published story.

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Angie2

photo by Angela M Campbell

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