POETRY: ANDREW HUBBARD – DANGEROUS

Dangerous

I keep a weasel for a pet
I feed him frogs and birds
He kills them even if he’s not hungry
Then kills them over and over—
Tearing them apart and shaking the pieces
With a rage that never, ever relents.

I feel just the same.

Sometimes he bites and bites
At the wire mesh of his cage
Until his mouth bleeds.

I know that feeling too.

We stare at each other
For an hour at a time
And I know his single thought:
He wants to kill me.

Sometimes I do too.

I don’t mind his death wish on me
I’m used to strangers wanting me dead
It just goes with the territory—

I was trained to kill
Trained to want to kill
Trained well and surely.

Now they’ve flipped the switch:
No more killing.
I’m latent energy
Like an unfired bullet.

They give me pills, counseling.
I don’t listen.
I don’t take the pills.

What would I be without my fury?

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FICTION: SUMMER – Jennifer Cerna

Summer

 

The sun, in its descent, turned green leaves a bright gold. Small flecks of dust in the air reflected that same light, falling onto the houseplants and the hardwood floor. The air was hot and still. The fan, broken, sat guilty in the corner of the room. Cicadas screamed from every tree in the mountain behind the house.

Sam twisted in her chair, popping her back. When the sun goes down, I’ll run, she thought to herself. She looked out at the hazy peninsula that she called home. She did not want to run.

Children screamed and laughed outside. Yet inside the apartment, there was a quiet tranquility accompanied with piano songs in minor. Sam sat in her faded chair, thinking about how her mood seemed to reflect her life: solitary and quiet, a bit detached.

She thought about home. How the peninsula haze carried with it the smell of home: a landlocked, flat nowhere. She remembered her childhood, also solitary, quiet, and detached. Birds in the distance cried out.

How time flies! It had been twelve years since she first experienced this smell. The distant memories of her childhood seemed closer here than anywhere else, even though she had never lived here as a child.

In one year, Sam would have to return home. Why, she did not know. All she knew was that she couldn’t be on this peninsula for more than one more year. So she had set the date that her work contract would end and spent her free time at home, sitting in her faded chair, reflecting on her past and thinking about her future.

She wished she could stop time. This was why she ran so much. Even when cars drove by, the sun sets, and house lights flicker on and off, time never seemed to pass as long as her feet kept hitting the pavement in rhythmic motion. Action cut through a frozen time before it resumed again.

The sun would not set for another hour and a half, but running would be tolerable in less than an hour. Sam shifted in her chair, bits of lint sticking to the backs of her thighs. She thought about Ella, the girl she fell in love with the moment she laid eyes on her in a college drawing class. She had a few interactions with her, but mostly, she only saw her walking around campus.

The night before, while scrolling through her social media feed, Sam saw that Ella was in a relationship with another woman, a surprise to her! She had spent all four years of college lusting after a straight woman only to find out that had she been brave enough, she could have had a chance with her. How sad, Sam thought. She would probably never see Ella again except on her social media “Friends” list.

The sun tucked itself behind the high mountains, though still some ways above the horizon set by the ocean. Sam stood. It was time to stretch.

Sam collapsed on the floor in a heap next to her bed. The run had been nothing special, but she felt exhausted. She stared at the space under her bed and watched as a spider crawled aimlessly. The sun had dipped below the horizon a while ago but still illuminated the sky a deep, but bright blue. The families in the houses close to Sam had already begun preparing for their evening meals.

The smell of fried chicken, teriyaki sauce, and freshly cooked rice wafted through the screen doors. Sam lay on her back with her head towards the screen door, staring at the remnants of light left in the sky, breathing in a mix of her incense and the smell other people’s dinners.

 Hungry as she was, the only food she had in her house for the next week was rice and eggs. She thought about Ella again and let her heart flutter at her memories of her freckles, eyes, and lips.

Ella was a mystery of beauty. She had shoulder-length, dark chestnut-colored hair that stayed shiny all year round. Her eyebrows were rather standard, but provided a good frame for her pale blue-green eyes. Her lips were always a darker red, as though she had been chewing on them. Even when she smiled, her eyes cast a shadow of faint and constant anger over her face. She was of average height, but her body gave the impression of being long and lean. Her style was always effortlessly and unexpectedly cool.

Sam sighed. Her chances of attracting someone like that wouldn’t change based on their sexual orientation. It would always be zero. She thought about herself, slightly shorter than the average woman, not curvy, and not thin: just kind of a blob somewhere in between. Her hairs was dark and frizzed most of the time, unable to decide unanimously if they wanted to be curly or straight, regardless of the humidity. Her skin was too tanned and her style never seemed to suit her body type. In her own mind, she was quite brutish and lacked grace. Even when running, the single thing she felt good at, her own feet kicked her legs.

Morning came and the birds outside screamed tirelessly as if competing with the cicadas. The sun had risen, but it was not six o’clock yet. Sam’s eyelids drifted open. She sighed. Another day, just like the rest. The only special thing was that it was one day closer to her last day on this island.

Two hours later, Sam was at work, sitting at her desk. The windows were open, and the air conditioner was off. The heavy heat gripped her neck and made her clothes feel like they were made of fleece. She thought about the invisibility that she felt constantly enshrouded in, even at work. She listened to her coworkers speak to each other, sometimes laughing, but often left at the end of the day not having spoken a word.

Once finally home, Sam stripped to her undershirt and thin shorts and settled herself once again in her chair, like she has done for the past three months. Like she will do for the next eleven and three weeks. She thought about Ella again, a topic of the past. She “Liked” the picture of Ella and her new girlfriend, though it felt insincere. She imagined herself putting Ella in a box, closing it, and pushing it into a dark corner, where she kept other memories and thoughts that she dwelled on occasionally.

She sat in the chair, watching the dust fall and the sun change its position, thinking about some obscure thing of the past or fantasy of the future until it was time to drag herself out for a run again.

So it went for the next eleven months and three weeks.

 

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POETRY: Erren Geraud Kelly – FLOWER LADY OF ECHO PARK

Flower Lady Of Echo Park

Rumor has it
She once tried out for
The Miss America pageant
In ’76
And narrowly missed the preliminaries
Some say she was once married
To a guy
Who worked with Donald Trump
But she just changes the subject
Whenever she’s asked

Her flower stand is in
Front of
Walgreens
Sometimes, I say hi to her as i’m
Going to a bookstore across the
Street

You can never read too
Much

Latinos
Outnumber whites in L.A.
Yet are killed more than
Whites
Mexican girls pretend to
“No habla ingles,” when they
Don’t want to be
Bothered
Condos are quickly replacing
The old school houses
Here

A Chicano poet
Thanks me for showing up
At a poetry reading on LaBrea Drive
Otherwise, he would’ve been
The only colored person there

I watch a white girl
Doing stand up
Wearing an NWA t-shirt
She does an impersonation
Of a Mexican
Cheech and Chong
Would appreciate.

I joke with her
Telling her, “she does Mexican
Well.”

Donald Trump is obscenely
Popular and no one
Laughs at the thought
He could be president

Mexican girls look like
Kate Upton
And white girls pay hundreds
Of dollars
For a tan
Some blacks and chicanas
Hate

I give the flower lady a
Five dollar bill
She tries to give
Me a bouquet
But I refuse

I know now the dirtiest
Word in the English language
Isn’t the words
I hear hipster girls use
As they talk over
Coffee

The dirtiest word is
Change.

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FICTION: WARNINGS – ADAM PHILLIPS

 

 

Warnings

    In the beginning…Ye shall not neglect not neglecting for a fraction of a second.  Nary a sunny field, a cave, the water, the dark (obviously the dark) shall go unexamined preceding entrance.  Send forth your weakest first.  Thou shalt not fall a fraction less than vigilant whilst sleeping, whilst wrapped in your mother’s hairy arms.  Thou brutish former self.  Flee fromst each noise, each bobbing leaf.  Flee the corpus, burst asunder, entrails strewn like petals of the loosestrife….   

    You were born with the ocean in your brain.  Even if you’ve never seen it.  Even if you’ve never imagined it.  The darkness and the ice.  Perpetual motion.  Darkness and perpetual falling.  The tantalizing vestigial memory of light without sight.  Eternity.  Mist.  Slickness.  Mist.  The alpha and omega.  Running in a dream.  Eschatological storm.  Sliding amorphous shapes.  Protean.  Do not go into the ocean.  Kraken.  Siren.  Lantern eyes, the size of multiple hearts.  Leviathan.  Goblin’s faces.  Creatures blind and flat.  Sea lions shrieking their fangs on rocks like men turned vicious slugs in hell.  Noah’s eyes, dull but moving, moving, choosing, picking sides…Picking the future and the past.  The smell of prosaic ubiquitous death.  Beware the corpse spit mockingly out, bloated and clownish, features blurred.  There, says the ocean.  Fifty billion years ago and now.  Now.  Now.  Every second, a fresh now.  Don’t come back, says the ocean.  Get back up on your fucking hill.    

    In the beginning there was water, and there was dirt.  

    Then we recognized water as separate from the soil, we moved it, we made it work, we grew corn.   We smelled soot on our hands, and we set that soot to work.  We smelled blood on our hands, and we spilled more and made a lake of blood and set it to work.  We smelled shit on our hands…We made every other living thing in the world stand where we wanted them to stand and declared ourselves no longer of the world.  Stay clear of the corn at night.  Marauders.  Look away, look away, from the bobbing lights in the corn at night.  Do not (do not!) fuck amongst the corn.  Trolls.  Don’t forget to throw a virgin off the tower, the rim of the volcano, the apex of the pyramid.  Do not incur the wrath of the river child.  Do not incite the manticore.  Do not misbehave.  Listen to your mother.  Smile as your father strikes you.  There are so many (so many!) things out there just waiting to eat the children.

    Do not incite the dead.  Don’t make fun of them.  Don’t use their parts.  Don’t piss on the dead.   Don’t claw their soil (it’s all they have).  Don’t bury them upside down, or face down.  Don’t cram them into something.  Don’t stuff more than one into a single hole.  Don’t put their hands on their crotches or their thumbs in their eyes (Us & Them).  Don’t forget to bury them.  Beware the corpse that has been scared to death.  Don’t rouse the dead.  Don’t arouse the dead.  Don’t tell them they’re dead.  Never use their names.  Never forget.  Don’t eat them, even if you’re starving.  Don’t take their stuff.  Don’t hump their wives or daughters.      

    Beware of things that are smaller or larger than they’re supposed to be.  Or misshapen.  Beware of fused combinations.  Beware of the man with a dog’s head.  Beware of the man with no head.  The snake with a man’s head.  The man with a vegetable head.  Beware of snake parts, no matter what the head and the body.  Beware of deep velvety flowers in the humid swamp at night.  Barbarians.  Beware of glowing eyes.  Dull eyes.  Spinning eyes.  The eyes of a rooster.  Beware of eyes like drops of oil.  Like buttons or stitches.  The eyes of a pig.  Don’t ever look / into any eyes.

    Close your windows against birds flying in reading tomorrow’s obituaries.  Don’t eat the dead sailor’s spirit.  Water water everywhere.   

    Don’t let your soul get trapped.  If another soul gets trapped, don’t break the receptacle.  Wash it facing south.  Grind the victim into dust.  Better yet, hide the fucking thing, so nobody falls in.

    When the world has grown uncontrollable, find something you can control and control it.          

    Then things get simpler.  Or stupider.  No longer does the thing necessarily match the source of death.  No longer does one avoid the shark to avoid being eaten by the shark.  [Suddenly, you prepare your food incorrectly or tell the wrong part of the sky to kiss your ass, and here comes the shark knocking at your door with an edict to eat you.  Fear the passage.  Do not forget to fortify the door, lay out food before the door, paint the door with blood.  Do not leave the door open (birds again…).  Don’t leave the mead hall.  Don’t sacrifice to the stone faces, who used to warn you against so much.  Do not steal, even if you’re starving.  Even if your children are starving (unless you want EVERYONE TO DIE!).  Listen to the king.  Don’t listen to the king.  Don’t kill the king and take his stuff.  Don’t think too much.  Do not forget to pray (cagily, now!) to the Destroyer.  Beware the Destroyer.  Burn meat for the Creator.  Go have your period outside the city limits.  Kill the wild man.  Do not ask why.  Align yourself with the wild man.  Watch for he who / is duskier than you.  

    Do not touch nor consent to be touched by the rats.  Do not go near the body in the gutter, bloating, black around the gills.  Do not dance with strange women on bridges, or at night, or when the atmosphere has grown disorienting.  Never refuse a dance with a strange woman.  If a man approaches you bearing a riddle, run.  Dwarves.  Beware the corpse stripped and robbed alongside the road.  Though we have finally lost the child-eater with his multiple heads wearing smaller heads (beautiful gossamer hair) on hemp ropes strung around his waist and throats, with the razor-sharp teeth pricking cracked black lips and  blood splotching his powdery white face, DO NOT (for a second) assume that the children are no longer being eaten.  The eater has simply become less outrageous, ostentatious, obvious.  Now it’s an old woman sneaking in on the breeze through a bedroom window, now it’s an old man selling snacks in the forest.     

    Do not let anything steal the women.  Everything wants to steal the women.  Or worse, impregnate the women, leaving us to raise the child and tend to the deranged limping women.  And then even if you do everything correctly, the goddamn bastard child murders you in your sleep.  Beware of women watching wistfully out windows.  Beware of elongated shadows crossing bed chambers, tallow from sperm candles dripping down long hairy fingers.  Beware the man with the face of a wolf, the hirsute torso of a wolf, the face of a rat, talons like a weasel, eyes like a spider, the hunched mien of a spider.  Beware the corpse drained like a fig.  Do not (do not!) go down to help the unidentified ship safely abut the wharf because the ship is (clearly) full of long-rotting corpses, and something will flash ashore, and the next thing you know the women (always the women!) are wandering the breaker wall in their nightgowns at midnight.  

    If the foreigners are destitute, cloddish, pock-marked, clad in rags, butchering / the language…let them pass.  Beware only the debonair, the velvet capes, the large hair.  Beware the rolling Rs.  Do not let the girls choose.  Do not let the girls travel.  Slaughter the foreigners in their beds.  Ask questions later.  Do not ask questions.    

    Don’t play god.  Of course you want to play god.  Don’t play god.  Messy business.  You sew it together, it shambles back.  Be gentle, You, you say.  It smacks you over the head (the thing that once existed only within your head).  It chucks the girl into the river.  You have no control.  You think you have control but you don’t.  

    Don’t fixate on the poetic revelation that, at root, all of them only want to be loved.  Don’t linger on the fact that they’re lonely and ugly and weird and deserving of our sympathy.  Don’t obsess over their insistence that they only want to pick the flowers, watch the butterflies, listen to the birds sing…They only want to touch the pretty hair of the girls.  Because even so…

     Even so, what then?  So fucking what?  What else are you supposed to do?  Regardless of the butterflies, the hair, the birds…They had their chance.  Even if it wasn’t a chance.  They’ve got to go.   

    Then, wait a minute now, everything has changed.  (Who…?)  It’s no longer the foreigner, the weirdo, the brute, the beast outside…but the monster within.  Inside of you!  Always brutish rising from the refined, never the opposite; never have the virile and bellicose feared discovering within themselves the homuncular soul of some effete bookworm.  Always the gutter or the jungle.  Always there, some thin relentless trickle of primordial ooze, waiting to feed some dark blossom.  A dark star passes through you, and suddenly off you go to stave in heads with canes or skewer heads on stakes.  (And admit it, you like it).  

    And nature.  Thousands of years spent stacking stones and harnessing fire, fighting to keep her from tearing out livers with her great green teeth.  Beating back the tomato vines, the roused dinosaurs, the drooping black serpents…And suddenly now, the goddamn opposite.  Cultivate the beast.  Do not use flashbulbs when photographing the beast.  Wear your slippers.  Kill those who would throw her into peril, and if not…

    If not, you’re living in sand, breathing fiberglass.  Air becomes chemical, water melts your throat.    

    Which brings us to the present day.  A puritanical voice shouting “Don’t go fuck in the woods.  Don’t smoke weed.  (Does this sound fun?  Of course it does, but don’t!)  Don’t be weird.  Don’t limp or stutter.  You will be culled.”  And the device, the tool, the reckoning comes limping big and bloodstained, shitty clothes, himself the victim of childhood ostracizing, swinging garden tools, faceless, voiceless, mechanical, no passion in his violence.  Beware of the beautiful bikini-clad corpse with her throat slit at the edge of the woods.  And here the warning is double-edged.  Don’t create this thing.  Don’t be a dick.  Don’t take everything you can have.  Cradle the reject.  Sleep with the nerd.  

    Then (the story goes) we invent microscopes to see the crossed wires in our bodies, the tangle of our minds.  We kill practically everybody and then write a thousand books confirming how repulsed we are at the prospect of killing everybody.  We have nobody to fight so we eat ourselves.  

    We look in a mirror.  We’ve become smaller than we remember we’re supposed to be.  Hunched.  Perforations like rudimentary gills.  And there, we say, pointing a gnarled finger…

    There you are.  

    All this time.  We’ve been expecting you.  

    Let’s put this thing to rest.  

 

 

     

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POETRY: FIFTY PERCENT – GERRY STORK

Fifty Percent

I’m one of those people who fifty percent
of the time sees the worst in things.
Fifty percent of the time I like my job.
Fifty percent of the time I’m crazy about
my wife. Fifty percent of the time I like
myself, my kid, my houses, my state.
Roughly fifty percent of my days
have been sunshine. Fifty percent of the used
vehicles I’ve owned have been up to snuff.
Last night for my birthday my wife
took me to our favorite Italian restaurant.
It cost about 50 bucks. It was one of those
times we really enjoyed being out together.
That happens about half the times we go out –
we don’t go out that much. I had a calzone
which was pretty good and a small pitcher.

She had the shrimp and a half carafe,
good but not as good as last time. I was so tired
on the way home the car drifted a couple of times
and I had to catch myself. No one was on the road
for Friday night and we made it without
incident. By the time I’d walked the dog
and visited with our boy awhile, she was sound
asleep. I read three pages and turned out the light.
This morning I got up, went to the bathroom
noticing I was damn thirsty, unusual for me.
I turned on the water to scoop a handful
into my mouth and thought suddenly of refugees
with dry throats, fleeing misery to misery, especially
refugees with tents. The water hit the spot.
At least half of today I’ll be thinking about
thirsty refugees, my good fortune.

 

Gerry Stork’s new chapbook available now from Grandma Moses Press. 

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