By Michael Chin

My first time with a ring rat, she said I was one of them.

         You know how long I’ve been bringing wrestlers back here? She asked.

        There were clues. Her bedroom something like a pro wrestling museum, wallpapered with advertisements. A newer, full-color glossy flyer selling El Generico vs. Kevin Steen. Old school posters that listed the card in red ink, red and white photos of the main eventers on top. Ted Dibiase and Randy Savage on one. Harley Race and Tito Santana on another. I think it’s Bob Backlund on another, but it’s too faded and my eyesight was too bad to really make it out from her mattress on the floor, to that upper, cobwebbed corner.

           A long time, I guessed.

           You ever hear of Paul Steer? She had varicose veins on her forearms, on her shins, neither of which I could see under a long-sleeved shirt and jeans, but it was all on display now. The both of us naked, her leg snaked around mine, cheek to my chest until she propped herself up to look at me. The boys used to call him Steer the Queer, no malice behind it, just was what he was. Bisexual actually. We hung out a few times, and he’d have me help him out, shoot the juice up his ass. Said he was too scared of needles to do it for himself. You believe that? Great big guy, gets smashed with steel chairs and ring bells, but he’s scared of a little needle?

           I’d never stayed this naked this long with someone, just talking, not even kissing. This exposed and this free to explore.

        It wasn’t so different being in the ring, I told myself, out there in my underwear for all the world to see.

        It was real different, though. No underwear, no kneepads, no boots. It was my feet I was most self-conscious about. I had a great big blister on my right foot, second littlest toe. I lost my right boot (I have to assume one of the boys stole it—a rib until he didn’t give it back) and another one of the boys gave me one of his extras and it was too small and clearly faded next to my left boot’s newer, glossy black exterior, but what else was I gonna do, and it wasn’t like I could afford another pair of boots, so I went on using that little right boot until I’d hurt myself.

           You’re one of them, she said again. New school. Not like one of the old tough guys.

        I’ve been trying to be like the old guys. Tough. Hard. Following all the rituals like shaking everyone’s hand in the locker room when I come in and offering to carry the veterans’ bags for them. There’s something about this ring rat seeing through all that that hurts my feelings, but I guess that proves what she said was true.

        But that’s not all she said. She looked me straight in the eyes. You’re already dead inside. Nothing in there. You shouldn’t look like that so young.

        I accepted this all as true. When she closed her eyes and kissed me, I was grateful I could close my eyes, too, and keep all that emptiness hidden. She grappled with me. Wanted me to get her in a Camel Clutch. Wanted me to get her from behind. Wanted me to pin her down. She bit my trapezius until it hurt, until she drew blood.

        Afterward, in her bathroom, where only one of the three bulbs above the sink worked, where the bathmat sparkled, made of some sort of jelly and glitter, was so soft beneath my feet, I looked at myself in the mirror. In the eyes. I tried to see if I could spot anything. To see what she saw, when said, I was one of them.




Lord Byron Resents The Demands Of Cyberpets


Then the mortal coldness   spewsome, thumbsucking or bright-eyed

It cannot feel                       a devo rapport of foofy pixels

That heavy chill                   buzz-crushes temper, all scrinchy

And tho’ the eye                  cotches, these mutts are dead meat soon


Glossary: Devo – Robotic; Foofy – Prissy,  Buzz-crush – A Downer;  Scrinchy – Grumpy;  Cotches – Relaxes.


POETRY REVIEW: I’m Sorry For Everything In The Whole Entire Universe by Kyle Flak

POETRY REVIEW: I’m Sorry For Everything In The Whole Entire Universe by Kyle Flak

Look at that title up there. Should Mr. Flak have included the word “whole” and the word “entire”? The academy, by way of Coleridge, would say no.

Mr. Flak knows how to not give a shit correctly. Poem after poem he deflates the very beach ball he’s trying to sell you. He apologizes again and again, “I’m sorry if this book / turns out to be really terrible.” That’s on page 3. On every other page he gives you an out. He’s practically begging you to leave. It’s sour milk he insists you taste, and you not only taste it, you turn the page for more. He’s a master of using self-deprecation, inane pop culture references, and surface level dalliance to ultimately project a magnetic persona and poetic confidence.

Coleridge said, “Poetry is the best word in the best order.” Half of Mr. Flak’s words are verbal tic. The other half is humble, sometimes disorienting tonal persona. This book’s gender is “Jane Seymour’s character in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.” And I can say, miraculously, like a wild hair up your friend’s brother’s butt, this collection’s a good time.

Flak’s persona is at once aroused by a yellow dress, and taunted by nostalgia for the present moment. The Buddha said to forget the past, while Flak attaches the past to the present. Flak’s persona is like a Holden Caulfield who’s been smoking dope and putting a red bandanna over the lamp and everything’s all loopy and introspective, anaphora and subclause, all building to the final “aha!” Literally the poem about the yellow dress ends with “aha!”

Flak’s speaker says trees are hugging him when he slips on the icy sidewalk and crashes into them. He rambles from one topic to the next, feeling sorry for the dead trees he’s writing on. He jumps from 1040a tax forms to some dude whose dad owns a vinegar, mustard and ketchup business to Zorro. Like J.D. Salinger, Flak enjoys a good digression. Often Flak digresses, in an endearing way, into self deprecation. Once you start, you’ve got to keep reading to keep the bully Kyle Flak from beating up on the poet Kyle Flak.

Flak makes far too much stupid sense to be language poetry, and he talks about too much stupid stuff, in too casual a way, to ever be “literature”, yet here we are. I wonder if Gold Wake Press let this book run around unleashed in its backyard. How long did they shout “literature” before it came? I’d guess several times, over many weeks. I know for sure when they called it “historically relevant”, it dug a hole under the fence and ran away. I commend Gold Wake for the aesthetic success of this collection and for immortalizing such a bizarre persona that goes against academic common sense.

Folk poet Johnny Huerta predicted this collection of poems would soon accrue a cult following. It’s a cult of inane pop culture digressions like name dropping Hanging with Mr. Cooper and then dropping dope lines like, “The midnight grass / Will never know so many soft and splendid footsteps / Again.” Wow, look at this guy, reading grass’s mind!

There are moments in this collection that don’t seem literary at all, or even useful. For example, “warehouse type of buildings”, “frankly at all possible / Is just / Basically /,” “investment deally thing”, or my favorite, “sure make sure”. The academy, as a general rule, frowns upon phrases like “sure make sure”. And that’s one of the things I find remarkable and endearing about this voice.

Flak is not like John Ashbury, dressing inaccessible passages with common language so they’ll look accessible. Flak unpacks himself at every line, it’s just the unpacking involves all this weird stuff spread out on your counter and you’re thinking about Eddie Murphy and chlamydia and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Billy Corgan and like it or not, you’ve just been Flak-ed. He’ll be wasting words left and right, and then he’ll drop something crystal clear yet unlike crystal it doesn’t break when it hits the wall.

Don’t take my advice. And don’t take Flak’s advice, whatever you do. Everybody that talks about this book, and even the book itself, says STAY AWAY. Don’t you dare join the cult of I Am Sorry For Everything In The Whole Entire Universe.

Visit Gold Wake Press, buy Flak’s book because you can’t help it and read the grand first poem of his collection.
-Tim Staley
Las Cruces, NM

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From The Cabin

Inside the cabin, the piano music plays.
Lamp light supplements the early morning glowing.
Walls and windows and places to sit,
eat, or sleep. And someone
is inside the cabin whose job, he feels,
is to notice, to be aware;
otherwise, all of this might disappear,
and then what?
No bears might come out of the woods at night
to forage.
No deer to stand as if hypnotized
under a street light.
No flow of time ever leading to
snowfall or blossoms.
No waking up to what might
always have been there,
but hidden
under layers of unconcern, denial, self-pity, inertia.


Find Joseph Somoza online.



  —for Simon Ortiz

Are there Indians living in Las Cruces?
You don’t see them much, not like
you do in Albuquerque.
Once at the Dairy Queen in Flagstaff,
a young Indian asked me to buy him
an ice cream cone.
He seemed like a nice kid.
His drunkenness seemed to give him
a confident swagger,
but he staggered,
and his eyes
weren’t seeing clearly,
you could see.
So there was no real way
to talk and find out what
it was like
in a place like Flagstaff for him—
so near to the Navajo and Hopi
but with all those white college kids
taking classes at Northern,
and the European tourists spending
nights in motels
on their way through
to the Grand Canyon.


Come back to Cacti Fur this Wednesday at 4:21 PM (Mountain Time) for another NEW Joseph Somoza poem!

Find Joseph Somoza online.


Photo by Katie Goetz.


POETRY: KYLE PERDUE – “Breakfast With a Skeleton”

“Breakfast With a Skeleton”

I walked down the morning stairs

a skeleton sat at my typewriter

he was turning the wheel

trying to get the paper through

“you have to guide it through.”

I said through a yawn

he looked at me snide

his bone and marrow yellowish from decay

what are you looking at?

I thought

you’re a god damn skeleton

he took a sip of coffee

I watched it go into his jaw

through his throat

down his belly

and onto the floor

he’d gotten the paper in

and I could hear him now from the kitchen

he was typing something


I called out

no response

I walked over

he was head-down, still typing


he screamed


I made the eggs— dashed with some cinnamon

I sat on one end of the table

him on the other

I watched the eggs travel through his body

and splat onto the floor where my dog ate them


he said

“is that, is that cinnamon?”

what was left of his face cringed

“what were you writing?”

no response

“what were you writing?”

he took another bite of eggs and said:

“a body for myself.”

“a body for yourself?”

“a vessel for this hollow, lonely, useless, irritating,

appalling arrangement of calcium.”

“that’s what you were writing?”

“that and a love poem.”

“for Meryl”

“but how do you write a body?”

I asked him

“the same way you write a love poem,

it writes you.”

I had a sip of coffee

“I like you, skeleton, you should stick around.”


I’ve got to get an x-ray today.”

he showed me his broken arm

“you ever tried writing a love poem with a broken arm?”

he asked

“no, but I have with a broken heart.”

we sat in silence

just before he read me his body

and his love poem

I cried during both

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