ISSUE 34: DEDICATED TO
PUBLISHER/EDITOR-IN-GRIEF: Alison “Clockwise Cat” Ross
RAD-ASS REVIEWER: Cindy Hochman
POET-IN-RESIDENCE: Felino Soriano
FEATURED FEMME: Varies Each Issue
COPYEDITOR/PURRING EXPURRT: Soleil
ART DIRECTOR/FELINUS FEISTUS: Quetzal
Clockwise Cat is a division of Klox and
EDITOR’S SCRATCHING POST:
Nelson PRINCE Rogers: A Perfect Sign O’ the Times
This past year has seen a staggering number of artists - writers,
musicians, actors - pass away. On the one hand, it would appear that
something is in the water; on the other, it's clearly the natural order of
things, and we must embrace, however resignedly, the idea that more of
our idols will pass as time goes on. This seems blatantly obvious, and yet
we as a species seem to have trouble acknowledging the deaths of those
close to us or those whom we admire artistically. We are a death-denying
society, content to pretend that immortality reigns - until we are shown,
with a hammer to the heart, a scythe to the psyche - the crushing contrary.
The deaths of otherworldly artists whose influence cosmically reverberates
are especially tricky to process. David Bowie and Prince are not supposed
to die, we tell ourselves. They are supposed to be immune to extinction.
Now, some may be commencing heaving sighs and quaking head-shakes
and epic eye-rolls at that last statement, and that's fine. Not everyone
cared about Bowie or Prince, and not everyone idolizes artists. Sure, idolworship
can be toxic, but in my view, cultivating a healthy admiration for an
artist can be one of life's exuberant joys. We look to artists to inspire our
own imaginations, since, imagination, is, as Einstein said, more important
than knowledge. Indeed, imagination is everything; it is the fertile ground
on which we live our lives more fully - if we use our imaginations in the
right way, that is. So much of our imagination potential is tragically
squandered, consumed by mundane matters, and often hostilely thwarted
in the workplace.
Like Bowie, Prince was a visionary. He melded funk, jazz, rock, and
rhythm and blues and forged his own pop paradigm, and managed to lure
in an audience way wider than many black artists before him. His funk and
glam persona, replete with flamboyant purple costumes and quasi-Jeri Curl
hair, and his infectious tunes - all were infused with erotic mischief. A sultry
sense of things pervaded his early work, and enabled other artists to more
freely indulge their own sexual fantasies through song as well.
I am not very familiar with Prince's later work, but I am fully aware that he
was musically active until the end. Recently, I have seen some of his
performances of his latter-day work and they are a sight and sound to
lovingly behold. He stayed true to his eccentric, exotic colors until his last
I was, like countless others, a huge Prince fan in the 1980s. My fondest
fandom memory is the time when I was traversing Europe with my parents.
I was 17, and the year was 1984. I clutched a clunky, red Walkman -
probably a cheap knock-off, as the casing was plastic, whereas I
remember Walkmen being metal. In any event, as we took endless strolls
to endless ruins (I only became a fan of architectural ruins as I aged; back
then, I nurtured a typical teen apathy toward them), I would program my
Walkman imitation to play "When Doves Cry" over and over and over.
Entranced with the minimalistic, post-punk disco beat, calm croon, and
sensual lyrics, I floated Zenfully into my own world, and could ignore
the exhausting exhortations of my parents to zestfully appreciate the
historical prizes before me. Prince was the here and now, while Pompeii
was so 6th century.
Unlike Bowie, I never saw Prince live. I had the chance to, very recently, in
fact. He played Atlanta on his acclaimed "Piano and a Microphone" tour,
and I was very tempted to get tickets. But, as the show was announced a
mere week before, and the venue was intimate, I felt I had no chance of
scoring a seat. So, I declined, reasoning that I would catch him again when
he came back around to a bigger venue.
But Atlanta, famously, was Prince's last show. One should always make
valiant efforts to see cherished icons.
Lesson learned. Long Reign the Purple Prince, whose titanic talent
GUNS! GUNS FOR EVERYONE!
By Ian Hecht
I’m no longer surprised by the usual suspects crawling out of the woodwork
in the wake of a mass shooting, wanting to add more guns to the mix instead
of taking away the ones that are causing the problem. I wrote about this back
in 2013 and nothing has really changed since.
Let’s game out the scenario where adding guns fixes the problem: So you
now allow students, faculty and staff at colleges to carry guns. Shooters
recognize this and choose a softer target – the next mass killing is at a
McDonald’s. So now you say McDonald’s employees should be armed.
Great! Shooters know this and choose a softer target – the next shooting is at
a hospital. You say hospital staff should be allowed to carry weapons for
their own protection. Fantastic! Shooters get the memo and go for a softer
target – a daycare center is next. You say daycare workers need to be armed
in order to protect their charges. You no longer have a country – you now
have a series of armed enclaves, joined together by roads. Congratulations,
it’s the Mad Max future dystopia you’ve always wanted!
None of this deals with the problem that even as a responsible gun owner on
a college campus, you have no idea if the armed individual across the quad
is an equally responsible gun owner hoping to “resolve” the situation just
like you, or is in fact the armed aggressor. Getting that wrong could be
Maybe consider that guns aren’t the solution – guns are the problem, and do
something about it.
Only no one will. If Sandy Hook, and the inaction following it, taught us
anything, it was that the US is willing to have the occasional school full of
dead children as long as no one takes away their guns. It’s a price they’re
willing to pay.
Statistically, gun ownership puts you more at risk, not less. Perhaps it’s time
to do something about all the guns.
Editor’s Note: This piece is an authorized reprint, originally appearing at
Marturia.net in October, 2015.
(A blason populaire)
By Chris Stewart
She was crispy fried eggs in pitas for breakfast,
Gulas and offal for tea.
Brash guttural vowels
That sounded like a permanent argument
And the soft pronunciation of my name.
She was my Polski Dot;
My Polka Dot;
But she was an Amazonian at 5”11
With boxer’s shoulders.
I loved it when she smashed me in the ring.
She wasn’t even Poland.
She wasn’t concrete communist blocks,
Grey skies or even Auschwitz.
She wasn’t a painter and decorator -
She’d never offer to pave your drive.
She was those knife fights in Prague;
Parties with Mafioso types;
That ménage a trios;
An illegal manoeuvre in the street;
She was her own special pair of scissors,
That fringe she cut herself.
Meanwhile, I was
Thinking Norwich isn’t as flat as they claim it is;
Hoorn, in the Netherlands,
Screwing in air conditioning ducts;
Corfu a procrastinating waiter,
The only waiter who didn’t get laid
In a village nicknamed ‘Shaggiopi’.
A clumsy greeting at an airport terminal;
Tripping off kerbs with nerves;
Toppling pint glasses like we were Banana Republic rebels;
We were confusing
But never in bed.
We were chlorinated yawning...
And in amongst those pillowy curfews,
The give and take of intelligence exchanged
Behind enemy lines,
She confided in me her childhood
Had been an empty supermarket shelf,
Though, she wasn’t rationed.
She was the whole dictionary,
And two other’s besides.
She said she was ready to be an oven
And I could be the baker,
I had yeast.
Which stands to reason,
As the Poles are known for two things;
Being stupid and killing Jews -
Me and my Polish ex-girlfriend
Yawned at the same time once and she said,
“We’re chlorinated like those synchronised swimmers.”
She said I was Pol-Pot;
A fascist regime;
A ban on holding hands;
An honour killing in the making;
A cat-a-holic? She was a dog person -
It was never gonna work.
She made me feel
Like my life was already hummus
Pushed through a letterbox;
I was a blank passport
And her lips? Customs officers,
Who made frequent body cavity searches.
She said I use humour,
“As an automated aggression.”
So I corrected her.
She was my Polski Dot;
A song I’ll never hear;
That flower I picked,
Did not know the significance of;
An illegal manoeuvre I couldn’t approve.
Crispy fried eggs in pitas;
A special pair of scissors;
She cut herself;
She was that fringe
I daren’t exceed.
She said in me she’d found,
It’s where you go when the holiday gets old
And nothing less than the full English will do.
It's only words. What can words do?
Spin crystal spheres around the earth,
Make reasonable men drown women,
Stack tires on people of a higher melanin content
And set them alight.
So, what have I achieved?
Every single lady knows
Author bio: Chris Stewart has a poem forthcoming in the international annual Great
Weather For MEDIA. He plays at the Cheltenham Literary Festival in 2017. He was
long listed for the CYCLOP International Videopoetry Contest 2015. His poems and
stories appear in a variety of magazines including The Wrong Quarterly, The Atticus
Review, Freak Circus and Outdoor Photography. He's anthologised in Break-Out (Ek
Zuban, 2013). Tweet him @SideBurnedPoet. See his award-winning filmpoems here:
a real life prison drama
by Robert Michael Oliver
I can only imagine the
his Hollywood disguise lighting
a marquee with a Technicolor
I can only imagine the
a preacher-to-be with a
eyebrows arched, trigger
a ladies’ man with one gold
a toothpick dangling from his
like a modifier. I can only
four decades past the day
his warden’s chair, heading
to the library:
to "Self Reliance" and a stare.
That killer spliced my dad's
below his second rib, inserted
“Oliver, where is he?” “In the
the man groaned, his beating
twisting as the shank. The
and the chair swiveled in the
Father stood at the shelf, his
seeking transcendence. He
"What makes a man turn into
with locus-swarms and
an angel whose fluttering
cast shadows over wailing
Dad scrunched, scanned the
for a conch shell, buried ridge
the kind Emerson left
in the rush of too much
too few words to conjure a
out of spirals of jut and
The doors burst open; eyes like twin
hurricanes roared past the front desk,
leaving a trail of splattered footprints.
My father in meditation: his reverie
on the lily pad and the Nor'easter—
its winds whipping havoc on reason.
The guards rushed in. Father turned
and witnessed the storm and its hunters,
book in hand and squall in mind.
In that moment, like a boy
in a priest’s arms: what must
In that moment, in a flurry of
without tongue—I call out,
my voice, in tremolo, sounds,
too high for dogs to hear.
Does a killer's blood peel like
old paint, or does it flow in
like rivers flooding a town.
The killer smirks; shackled
to hand, he's dragged across
floor each time a bloodhound howls.
Author bio: Robert Michael Oliver is a poet, playwright, theatre artist, and educator
living in Washington, DC. Co-Director of the Performing Knowledge Project, Michael
performs two solo poetry-in-performance pieces: Embodying Poe and "Song of Myself":
the WHITMAN Project. Although he has written poetry for over 4 decades, he has only
recently sought publication. He has published his work in several online journals. To find
out more about Michael go to rmichaeloliver.com.
LIKE LOTS OF TINGS By Joe Puna Balaz
Like Buddha taking wun selfie.
Like hunters eating vegetable soup.
Like eternal peace aftah da bomb explodes.
Like Santa and Satan wit da same letters.
Like ants in wun birdcage.
Like wun priest in wun whorehouse.
Like wun kite on da moon.
Like wun refrigerator in wun igloo.
Like virgins wit experience.
Like feelings to wun robot.
Like wun monk wit wun Mercedes.
Like convictions made of vapors.
Like silver spoons in wun orphanage.
Like wun praying mantis witout claws.
Like dyslexia to wun blind man.
Like light to wun black hole.
Like concentric ripples reversing.
Like mirrors in wun parallel universe.
Like wun elephant’s trunk searching through papers.
Like lots of tings in blinking and tinking.
Author bio: Joe Puna Balaz writes in Hawaiian Islands Pidgin (Hawai'i Creole English)
and in American-English. He edited Ho'omanoa: An Anthology of Contemporary
Hawaiian Literature. Some of his recent Pidgin writing has appeared in Otoliths,
Snorkel, Juked, Hawai'i Pacific Review. Balaz is an avid supporter of Hawaiian Islands
Pidgin writing in the expanding context of World Literature. He presently lives in Ohio.
By William Doreski
Author bio: William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and teaches at
Keene State College. His most recent book of poetry is The Suburbs of Atlantis (2013).
He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His
essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals.
As Likely to Eat as be Eaten
Someone has painted a railroad track
on the shoulder of the highway.
A pattern, not a depiction,
this string of crosshatching leads
to the city of blue mandolins
where the last cannibals have crept
with their cookpots in search of work.
The finest restaurants scorn them
and their pagan cookery. Hash joints
and clam bars prefer teenagers
who work for minimum wage.
I lived in that city for several years
and don’t need a spray-painted
picket-fence pattern to follow
to find the darkest alleys where
cannibals usually camp. They light
tiny fires and cuddle around them
with their beautiful smiles glinting.
We’re supposed to agree that no one
has ever eaten people except
by mistaking them for mushrooms.
We’re supposed to assume that people
as pale as these cannibals
never cross the railroad track to see
what customs occur beyond.
Whoever painted this pattern
assumed that I would follow it
and perhaps become fodder.
Being as pale as a cannibal
because born with bone-deep hunger
I’m as likely to eat as be
eaten. The city of blue
mandolins cowers ahead.
The sun neither sets nor rises
on it, but shivers overhead,
emitting the strangest vibrations.
Already I can smell the campfires
of the cannibals, and already
I feel their hunger surge in me,
their fear of me quicken, the spray
painted pattern of railroad
actually an endless row of teeth.
Running off to Ischia
So we abandon two houses,
four cars, ten cats, two dogs.
We surrender maybe fifteen
thousand books between us.
We disappoint four old uncles,
six aunts, four siblings, two
sleek lawyers, three physicians,
two dentists. Better not mention
three grown children and six
grade-school grandkids. You laugh
because I omit our spouses
from the list. They’ll gaze tearless
into the dusty holes we leave
in the ether. They’ll sigh and agree
that our absence costs less
than our presence. Meanwhile, lush
and smelting in the Bay of Naples,
those thermal spas will overheat
in anticipation of the lust
our slack old selves will deploy.
Atop the ruined acropolis
German tourists will savor
the sea-mist and blush as they grasp
each other with powerful urges
that like the shock wave of a bomb
will transform dry old attitudes.
When we step off the plane a mob
will shower us with orchids
grown in the local greenhouse,
and officials will greet us in gusts
of Italian we won’t understand.
Later, snug among other tourists,
we’ll slump over cocktails
and relate to each other
so gently the stars reflected
in the Mediterranean will smile
in full prismatic bloom.
The people and pets and estates
we abandoned will forget us
with a few last sighs except
for the books: their pages stirring
while our fingerprints subtly,
over many years, morph into text.
By Sheila Murphy
She Would Rise
Oath points cindered the affair
before reversion to a hold-still altitude.
She relinquished heaven for familiar steeds.
Meantime, he wintered elsewhere.
She would rise and smother
her intent to weave from scratch
some modest reverence.
The would-be sitcom rankled
eminence as gruff.
Kept going askew. The suicide,
mere water after
lifetimes of excessive dew.
Morning lay bare innocence
still rumored to be known.
And sequins rode tolled effort,
of the formed and upturned stones.
That’s Three Doors Down and Up Two Flights
A queasy feeling about boundaries recurred
just as she started fitting in.
A cameo appearance in the studio apartment of indifference
turned neighbors into patty melts.
Her etiquette reverted to an unvoiced brand.
Most delicious moments on their way to being solid
stay occipital in tone.
Author bio: Sheila E. Murphy composes poetry both in tranquility and fever with equal
fervor. She resides in the desert Southwest, where she writes, draws, crafts keynote
addresses about doing business with power and grace for conferences and conventions.
She is a business author and teacher, as well. She blogs at blog.worktransformed.com.
Her literary and artistic information can be found at
The Price of Things
By Gj Hart
I was stupid, not paying attention and now the house prices are rising and I'm exposed. I
live in a place where tides meet. A nexus of doffed hats and carriages and lies stuffed
with additives and the truth is: they’ll never know. Here, the starving split seats and the
rich pound rubber piped from gun barrels. Where nostalgia is the taste of Mie Goreng,
costing more than rent on the home they left to afford more than Mie Goreng. Where the
poor hang mid-kiss, after money's crush is minted down to an electronic wink, bullet
I pass terraces bristling like weightlifters and townhouses that march toward the station
carrying lamp posts like umbrellas. My ear buds protect me from failed economics, but
not these prices that sweep me up with lucky cats and tambourines for Jesus. A man
passes, still smiling, in a phone kiosk smaller than a restaurant toilet. Others cling to pita
and cement sacks stuffed with Senbei.
In the distance I see them, Sailing slowly up Hill Street, Scented like roses and looking to
trade with sweetness and the glint snapped from budding stones.
They loosen ties and discuss where best to eat.
I was stupid, not paying attention. I point myself toward an unlatched window. The house
prices are rising and I'm exposed.
Author bio: Gj Hart currently lives and works in Brixton, London and is published or
queued in The Legendary, Yellow Mama, Spelk Fiction, Schlock Magazine (UK), Horror
Within Magazine, Three Minute Plastic, Literally Stories, Fiction on the Web, Shirley lit
mag, The HFC journal, Under the Fable, The Unbroken Journal, The Pygmy Giant, Flash
Fiction Magazine, The Drabble, The Squawk Back, 521 Magazine, Visual Verse, Fewer
Than 500 Magazine, Scrutiny Journal and others.
Dearest Justin Keller (Polemic/Letter to Editor)
By Alison Ross
Dearest Justin Keller,
I am so sorry you must stare human misery in the face in your beloved city of a whopping three
years. When you moved to San Francisco, it seems you were shockingly, shamefully unaware of
its legacy as a city that was at the forefront of the hippie and civil rights movement, that
incubated a counter-culture and that embraced the down and out, those victims of a viciously
capitalistic system. Oh, wait, I forgot - you seem to think that a wildly unregulated free market is
a benevolent thing, and that those darkies and other smelly indigents are clearly just willingly
choosing their path of sleeping in their own feces.
It's frat boys like you, of course, that help further divide the haves from the have-nots, by
swooping in with your start-ups, happily paying egregious rents, contributing even more
malevolently to the lack of affordable housing problem that creates so much unsightly "riff raff,"
as you so lovingly termed human beings whose "pain and struggle" is so offensive to you.
I do find it humorous that in your god-awful prose that the one thing you apologized for is calling
the homeless "riff raff," as though the rest of your pathetically misguided tirade is compassionate
Why don't you take your tech-bro millions and actually contribute it to attempting to help the
homelessness, rather than disparaging them so callously? Oh, wait, you're an educated white male
- why would you help out those who are systematically disenfranchised - mainly, the black and
I do not live in San Francisco. I live in Atlanta. I'd invite you to move here to get away from the
reeking riff raff, but we have reeking riff raff of our own, as seen in these pictures I've attached.
You see, Justin, I actually give a shit about the homeless - and I'm privileged AND white AND
educated! For many years I did weekly soup feedings in the park, and communed with some of
the nicest, most interesting people. Yes, Justin, the homeless are actual PEOPLE, with actual
back stories, and actual feelings and personalities!
These days, I continue to interact with the homeless, under bridges, bringing them food, and
engaging them in conversation. And I'm in the midst of writing my city about ways we can help
these hapless human beings - after all, Utah has virtually erased chronic homelessness through its
housing subsidy program, so why can't Atlanta do the same?
Of course, that idea would be abhorrent to you. After all, you're a self-made man with your fancy
start-up and your Socrates quotes. Of course, you can't even use the language correctly (it's "in
fact," NOT "in-fact," - but hey, I'm being petty, because you do look smashing in those
sunglasses), but I digress. As a wealthy person, you "went out, got an education, work [sic] hard,
and earned it," and you shouldn't have to see the "pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people"
- those very people whose condition you helped create with your egregious flaunting of your illgotten
You're a callous misanthrope. One day, the tech bubble will burst. May your fate be unpleasant.
By Bob Heman
Artist bio: Bob Heman’s collages have been published by Otoliths, Mad Hatters’
Review, Big Bridge, Skidrow Penthouse, Fell Swoop, Key Satch(el), and others, and are
upcoming in Caliban online and Right Hand Pointing. They have appeared on the cover
of the most recent Brevitas event book, and on books by David Mills, Cindy Hochman,
Karen Neuberg, and Evie Ivy. His other art includes “cut-outs” [participatory cut-out
multiples on paper], as well as drawings and drawing poems. In the late 1970s he was an
artist-in residence at The Brooklyn Museum.
By Marcia Arrieta
Author bio: Marcia Arrieta’s work appears in Fourteen Hills, Of/with, Wicked Alice,
Moss Trill, Eratio, Posit, Catch & Release, Melusine, Web Conjunctions, and Great
Weather for Media, among others. The author of two poetry books: archipelago
counterpoint (BlazeVOX 2015) and triskelion, tiger moth, tangram, thyme (Otoliths
2011), she edits and publishes Indefinite Space, a poetry/art journal.
it was the day she decided to sleep in (9 am ) & crashed into the dictionary instead
where other people’s lives became fractions she needed to assemble into a whole
but the rain came & the boxes almost emptied needed to be broken down while others
still needed to be filled
arc light synchronicity
hat pins & fishing poles a pink star insulate isolate the book has gotten lost dreams
of houses with many rooms shape shift eagles bears we board the train outer hebrides
inner stoic salvage renovation revelation the angel’s wings the bullet holes on main street
we seek shelter
Author bio: Marcia Arrieta work appears in Fourteen Hills, Of/with, Wicked Alice, Moss
Trill, Eratio, Posit, Catch & Release, Melusine, Web Conjunctions, and Great Weather
for Media, among others. The author of two poetry books: archipelago
counterpoint (BlazeVOX 2015) and triskelion, tiger moth, tangram, thyme (Otoliths
2011), she edits and publishes Indefinite Space, a poetry/art journal.
Flaubert’s Guitar Midnight June 13
By Saira Viola
Lucky lips wet, soft, tastes like peach honey
neon pink negligée on sale
Love rock wizard and belly buster
Slide into the dime store
Dance in the elevator
Driving on the interstate low rent
In a sea of sycophants , backstabbers
and sales junkies
We need cleansing in the Pierian Spring
We fall into the folds of another
And shimmy shimmy shuffle to the
Author bio: Saira Viola is a fiction writer, song lyricist, satirist, gonzo
journo, and creator of sonic scatterscript .Much of her work is infused with
undercurrents of dark humour, social commentary and philosophy. Her work
has been widely published in poetry magazines and arts journals on both
sides of the Atlantic.
By Marie Lecrivain
I got seven days to live my life or seven ways to die. -David Bowie/Hours
The woman regards the tiny sodium cyanide capsule between her left thumb and index
finger and then closes her fist around it, fearful it will slip from her grasp.
The hastily written note is propped up against the vanity mirror which reflects back a
skillfully made up older woman with a stylish hairdo dressed in a blue Dior gown. A
white band of skin on the third finger of her tightly clenched fist winks back at her. She
stares at it; her heart hammers.
A neat glass of scotch stands by the note. She picks up the glass. The sweet smell of
alcohol beckons, her mouth waters.
Today, she treated herself to a final beauty regimen. Pedicure, manicure, shiatsu
massage, hair colored and cut, and finally, a make-over from the Clinique counter girl at
She remembers snapping at the make-up girl. The woman suppresses a pang of guilt;
the girl couldn’t have known that the woman was allergic to the eye shadow sample she’d
dusted across the woman’s lids. A cold compress, and a free $100 gift certificate set
matters to rights.
The phone rings, stops, and then rings again. She knows it’s him. She knows he’s
coming, but she ignores it. She’s left the front door unlocked.
The glass is held at the ready. The capsule is now held in front of her mouth. The
woman in the mirror appears calm. Her mouth opens. Sweat glistens on her neck. The
capsule is placed on the tip of her tongue. Her pupils expiate. Her breath quickens…
Frustrated, the man flicks his cell phone closed.
He turns back to the table. On its formicated surface a small revolver rests along with
a half-filled glass of Merlot. The overhead light projects the arterial color from the wine
over the gun and darkens the pearl handle to a shell pink shine. The reflection of his face,
widened with despair, wavers inside the barrel.
He sighs. She calls… and he answers.
The man doesn’t want to go, but she sounds so calm and sweet, the antithesis of how
she’d behaved during the last six months.
Reflexively, the man rubs his bald head. Her request for him to come over tops off his
already bad day. The phone call momentarily severs his resolve, the resolve he marshaled
to hand in his resignation to the nonplussed young hot shot exec at the office and then to
break off his assignation with the part time cosmetology student.
He remembers the moisture that broke out as his index finger curled around the
trigger, and the metallic tang of fear mingled with the cool taste of the barrel as he placed
the gun in his mouth moments before the phone rang.
He picks up the gun. He wonders, Why is she bothering me now? It’s over. The papers
are signed, the property divided, the goodbyes said.
He sighs one more time, and then puts down the gun. He checks his pocket for his
keys and wallet and then walks out of the kitchen. At the door, he pauses and turns back
to regard the gun and the glass of wine. He smiles. They’ll still be here when he gets
The young executive leans against the lamppost on the corner of 5th and Main.
His vision wavers as the five beers he imbibed at the bistro and two Seconal tablets
he’d stolen from his secretary’s desk work their magic. He loosens his tie.
The young exec waits for the right moment. Timing is everything. He knows that one
must not only take into account all the perspectives of a situation, but one must anticipate
He failed. Today, his former supervisor handed in his resignation which foiled the
young exec’s plans to fabricate the evidence he needed to set up the man for
It would’ve never worked, he realizes. His former boss was honest and meticulous to a
fault. The partners would never believe the man stole the money, despite his messy
divorce and expensive alimony payments.
He’d kept his cool from the most of the day, through the board meeting, and then
through a conference call. Only his secretary seemed to divine that something was wrong.
He’d caught her staring at him several times through the afternoon.
Timing is everything, he repeats to himself. The young exec counts cars as they pass.
He’s waiting for the right momen for something big and flashy, like a Hummer or a
BMW X5. He might consider a bus; plenty of them whiz by at five minute intervals, but a
bus is so ordinary.
His eyelids grow heavy. The lights from passing cars sprout beams like starfish; their
tendrils brush against his eyes, his cheeks, and his lips. He hears the familiar roar of an
SUV in the distance; the urgent rumble of the engine as the vehicle speeds closer to the
Smiling, the young exec counts; one… he straightens his tie … two… he opens his
eyes wide to welcome the shining beams of light… three… he steps off the curb…
The candles glimmer over the surface of the water as the secretary slides her naked,
slender body into the tub. A rubber ducky floats by, its head comically bobs up and
A tear escapes her right eye and slowly drips down the side of her face where it lands
with a soft “plop” in the water. She giggles at the sound. Plop, flop, stop… the finality of
her situation weighs upon her brow.
The stainless steel blade cuts through the water as her right hand emerges, holding
tightly to the knife’s wooden shaft. The secretary leisurely bends the blade back and forth
in the candlelight, and watches the light prism against the blade where it then bounces off
Today was supposed to be her day. She was going to tell her boss she loved him…
and while she knew about his embezzlement scheme, she would do anything she could to
help him… because she loved him.
Her opportunity slipped away as soon as her boss’s former boss walked out of the
office. She heard a series of low, guttural moans on the other side of the wall that
signaled the end. She tried to convey her intent with every glance she gave him, but he
patently ignored her.
At the end of the day when she returned from the washroom after freshening up she
found the top drawer of her desk ajar. When she counted her Seconal tablets, two were
The secretary went straight home. She missed dinner with her brother. He called to
find out what had happened to her, and she told him she had a headache, which was
true… at least it’s true now.
Her boss is not coming back. She can handle the whispers, pointed looks, and snickers
that will happen behind her back, but she doesn’t want to go back to work tomorrow,
because he will not be there.
Her left arm emerges from the water. She stares at the blade.
It’s a vertical cut-a quick vertical cut- down the center, she recalls, staring at the pale
scar on the inside of her left forearm. The blade gleams brightly through her tears and as
she lowers it to her left arm…
The wind whistles through the cracks in the basement and whips up goose bumps on
the brother’s thin white arms as he stands perched on the end of a chair while adjusting a
His twin sister sounded strange on the phone. He’d wanted to tell her goodbye, but she
never showed up for dinner at the bistro.
He’d killed time by watching a young businessman quaff beers and spin his cell phone
across the bar counter. There was something familiar about the guy, but he couldn’t place
it. After an hour, he left.
The brother’s T-cell count has dropped to 100. He hasn’t told anyone. The cocktail no
longer works. He’s bone tired but he’s determined to finish the job the virus started on
him 12 years ago.
His last lover, a nurse-practitioner with negative status still drops by, but hasn’t called
or come by to see him in the last three weeks.
Which is just as well, the brother reflects, I don’t want to have see me… like this…
A wave of dizziness sweeps over him, and he drops back onto the chair for support.
He slowly maneuvers himself into a sitting position and places his head between his legs
while he takes deep breaths to clear away the nausea.
His head spins, but the brother hardens his resolve. He straightens up and reaches into
his front pocket. He pulls out a picture; it’s a picture of his twin sister as a baby, laughing
and playing with a rubber ducky in the tub.
The brother stands. Carefully, he steps onto the chair, grabs the noose and then puts it
around his neck. He gives the girl in the photo a gentle kiss and clutches the picture to his
chest. Closing his eyes, he takes a step off the chair…
The nurse practitioner is holed up in his apartment. He sits on his bed with a plastic
baggie and a roll of duct tape. On the nightstand is a half-empty bottle of Benadryl and a
bottle of filtered water.
He’s reached a crossroads. The image of his last lover, whom he has not seen in
almost a month, looms large in his mind. His current lover, a part time cosmetology
student, is supposed to come over tonight.
He has to tell her two things; first, that it was a mistake to get involved with her, and
that he may be sick. Two months ago, the nurse practitioner and the cosmetology student,
long-time friends, got piss drunk and ended up in bed together.
He’d told her he was inexperienced when it came to women. It was the truth. She had
been his first. He didn’t remember much of the experience, except that when he woke up
in her tight, clinging embrace with his head pillowed on her generous chest, he felt – for a
moment – a profound peace descend upon him.
She wasn’t like anyone he’d ever met, literally and figuratively.
The shame from the shabby and cowardly way he parted from his last lover melted
away as he and the cosmetology student spent night after night exploring the novelty of
each other. So intense was their passion at times that he forgot to use protection,
preferring the feel of her tight wetness around him to the vague sensation of moisture
whenever he wore a condom.
The nurse practitioner cringes. This was a repeating pattern.
He’d often done the same thing with his last lover, and with every encounter
rationalized that since he was the one doing the penetration, that he wouldn’t get the
virus. But, he knew better.
Two weeks ago a sudden, brief bout of flu caught him unawares.
Since then, he’s dropped weight and attained a lethargy that hadn’t been there before.
The lymph nodes in his neck and under his armpits are swollen, which he’d patently
ignored until yesterday.
He doesn’t want to be responsible for anyone, for their future, or their downfall. The
fear eats away at his stomach lining. He is afraid to lose her. He knows that if he’s sick,
then there’s a very good chance she will be too. Women can catch the virus a lot easier
Fear, in the form of bile, rises up the back of his throat. He grabs the bottle of
Benadryl, twists off the cap, shakes out a handful of pills and then pops them into his
mouth. Grabbing the water bottle off the nightstand, he quickly takes several swigs. He
can feel the pills pass down his throat into his esophagus.
For the next half hour, he sits. A blanket of sleepiness descends. It takes a great deal
of effort for the nurse practitioner to put the plastic baggie over his head.
The roll of duct tape is heavy in his hands as he attempts to peel off a couple of feet of
adhesive. With difficulty, he lifts the roll to his neck, places one end of the adhesive over
the bag and starts to wind…
The cosmetology student stands atop a ledge next to an open window of an insurance
building near the university. The stars compete with the university lights nearby.
The cosmetology student is dressed in sweats. She is warm and comfortable, a far cry
from six hours ago when she stood with her aching feet in cheap high heels wearing her
only suit; the uniform of a Clinique counter girl.
She stifles a sniffle. She cried off and on during the afternoon. Her efforts to make
over an obviously unhappy woman were met with derision. She’d no idea that the woman
was allergic to the eye shadow, and the woman herself had picked it out.
The cosmetology student pulls a piece of paper from her sweat pants pocket. Marked
on the paper is an “F’” next to the words “final presentation.”
Her new, older lover called today. He told her that they were through. She wasn’t
surprised. She’d met him at the bistro one night, pissed out of her mind at the thought of
sleeping with a gay man who she knew wasn’t sexually responsible. She was too terrified
voice her fears, instead she preferred to distract herself with mindless, temporary
Her mother’s not going to be pleased. The mother gave her daughter the family
savings to finish the course. She was so close to certification, but she screwed up the
bleaching elements for the volunteer’s hair; the one who’d been assigned to her for the
She watched in horror as the volunteer’s hair came out in handfuls after she washed
out the bleach. More hairs broke off at the crown.
The volunteer, a young woman with shoulder length tresses, cried for half an hour and
then in a sudden courageous move, requested what was left be shaved off.
The cosmetology student stares longingly at the university lights. She applied for
admission, and with her good grades, she got accepted. But her mother said there was no
money for “fancy learning” and that she should learn a trade. Her mother chose
cosmetology school; she figured that for someone as smart as her daughter, it would be a
A breeze, the student thinks, yeah… right. She doesn’t want to go home. She can’t go
to her new ex-lover’s place. She doesn’t want to go to her current lover’s apartment. She
can’t afford the school of her choice and she can’t afford to repeat the cosmetology
Where can I go? She ponders.
Up or down…
Forward or back?
A gentle breeze brushes against her cheek… she rocks back and forth on the ledge…
she opens her eyes and regards the still-open window… taking a deep breath, she takes a
Author bio: Marie Lecrivain is the editor of The Whiteside Review: A Journal of
Speculative/Science Fiction, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and writer-in-residence in her
apartment. She's the author of several works of poetry and fiction, including The Virtual
Tablet of Irma Tre and Grimm Conversations.
ARTWORK By Jacob Russell
Author bio and artist statement: “I’m a working artist, poet, novelist, activist and street
medic. When I was a kid, I loved science and art. I took children’s art classes when I was 6 at the
Chicago Art Institute. I made regular visits to the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, the
Aquarium. I devoured books about animals. And I painted. And drew. Was always enrolled in
classes. In college, I majored in biology one semester, changed to art the next. It went on like
that. Anthropology to art. Biology again - back to art. In 1964, I came to Philly on a motor
scooter from Wichita, and in 1970, set up a pottery: built kilns, wheels, and made functional
stoneware until forced to close the shop in 1978. It wasn’t until July of 2012, after more than 40
years, that I again found myself with physical space and time, and was able to shake the demons
that had told me I wasn’t good enough, that I began, at age 71, to do the only thing I had ever
really wanted to do - to make art. At first, I made assemblages from street trash: take the debris of
our failed capitalist Empire of Money and Death, and reimagine them as part of another world. I
began to paint again, acrylics, watercolor, and recently, have been experimenting with silverpoint.
And drawing. I love working with crow quill pens, the finest pen points. Almost like meditation.
Although most of my finished work is non-representational, abstract - drawing for me is the
mother of all visual art. The hours I spend drawing are the source of my vision--a double-vision:
seeing what is there, and translating what I see, into what I see within. My finished work is what
emerges from that second vision. These drawings mark that border, between what I see, and what
I see more truly. I sign my art with my birth name: Willard, to honor my grandfather who I was
named after, and died 2 weeks before my birth—and my uncle, Willard Hardin, an artist and
mentor. You can see more photos of my art on my blog: Jacobrussellsmagicnames.com. “
Brief Autobiography of My Mind
By Edwin L. Young
I found myself doing most of the talking, describing, in sketch form, what my career had
been and been like. I wound up telling her about my hermetic life and intellectual
isolation. Again, she was unusually empathetic. The upshot was me confronting, again,
the inevitability and the gloominess of that isolation, which has been dogging me since
childhood. It was nice to experience her empathy but left me no less alone in my
perpetual gloomy state of being. My intelligence and my unique philosophy and vision
of the origin, destiny, and nature of human existence! My blessedness and accursedness
for having this gift! At that point, she could only offer 'sympathy.' Déjà_vu all over
"Was the feeling any less when you were at UT in grad school?" No. Well, maybe a little
with Diane. She had a faint glimpse of what I was getting at sometimes. I appreciated
the fact that Frank appreciated my mind but he was nowhere near understanding my
'worldview or philosophy.'
The breadth that my understanding of the origin, destiny, and nature of existence seems
to be shared by few people around the globe today or in more ancient times; people more
intelligent than I. Ancients, like Galileo, Socrates, Kierkegaard etc. certainly knew my
kind of gloom and despair over the nature and destiny of our species. Some, like the
female Egyptian mathematician, astronomer, etc. (Greek origin) Hypatia1 suffered a far
more horrendous fate - in the end, men intimidated by her extraordinary brilliance,
executed her. So, my gloom is very mild in comparison to theirs.
Well, you might be surprised to learn that Jesus felt the same pessimism and sadness
(even anger and disdain) over the ways and minds of the masses (especially the political
and religious leaders) of humanity. One big difference between me and all those
mentioned above and many more like them is that they lamented humans' way of being in
the world, while I turn that on its head and lament the structures and systems that have
evolved with civilizations and thereby determined the personalities and belief systems of
contemporaries in each age. I don't feel dismay against misguided world leaders or anger
against criminals as I know their foibles and evil deeds have been and are determined by
structures and systems in each period of history within which they live(d).
That is why I turned away from psychology and psychotherapy and embraced,
wholeheartedly, the (my) natural systems philosophy of the exclusive deterministic force
of human societies' structures and systems as the sole and primary causal factor
controlling what humans' mistakenly believe is their 'free will': so well enunciated, so
gloriously, so nearly universally revered by intellectuals, and, yet, so erroneously
proclaimed in that immemorial poem "Invictus."
This egregious error is the horribly fateful flaw of belief in 'free will' that plagues
humanity as though it were its banner, its crest, held high and valiantly leading the way to
humans' unwitting and inevitably self destructive, final, mass march toward extinction of
all life on earth. So heroic it has been and yet such a completely sad and macabre
denouement and finally climax, it's suicidal ending, to an otherwise miraculous reign
over the evolution of our species. Inter-connectedness is so important for humans. Yet,
therein has lain their false sense of security.
By Mario Duarte
Alonzo wondered why such alienation from the triangle of her sex, or why the axe
stroke of fate strikes us down. Was he merely a scarecrow with a straw head and torso in
homespun clothes? In the blue fog of morning, why crawl under crows’ wings?
Death does not live in my books, he thought. No, he lives in me. Even the dagger
of time sinks beneath the waters of loneliness. Does anyone see me? Is life only black
coffee, scratching dogs, sneezing cats, or tropical fish turning weird eyes away.
With its swaying, enormous tail the truth struck him, his life was the longest death
he would ever know. Under the ochre sunset clouds on the horizon, the dazzle of his days
with her were over and mirrors reflected nothing. Was she a dream of a dream?
I close my eyes and her exquisite face hovers in the darkness, Alonzo thought. In
the corners of my pocket, I finger the grit and curse the scarlet insect flying slow solo
circles around my head. How invincibly remote the physical world actually is.
Author bio: Mario Duarte lives in the UNESCO City of Literature, Iowa City, Iowa. He
is an alumnus of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has published poems in Carnival, the
Madison Review, Slab, and the Steel Toe Review, among others, and short stories in
aaduna, Huizache, the Oddville Press, and Storyscape.
By Dr. Mel Waldman
AND I HIDE
And I hide
a convex mirror
the season of slanted rain.
And I hide.
A circle of celestial dreams
a cathedral in the turquoise sky
my pitch-black mind
The seasons pass, permeate the diaphanous consciousness
And now I hide
a concave mirror
the season of silky snow.
And I hide.
An opalescent necklace of perception
my oval darkness,
the swirling ebony shell
a crackling egg
And my secret self unveiled
a sea of enigmas
swims naked to an unknown shore never reaching land
free & real & free
in search of the indecipherable & beautiful
Jabberwocky City, I eat peacocks and butterflies
porcelain poems for supper,
my gold eyes taste the Heavens
inhale crimson revelations,
like pretty ballerinas through the French windows
my condo on the 180 th floor
the Tower of Babel, indecipherable messages from above
into my psyche.
the City of Chaos, I swallow the sweet aroma of red wine
from the sun’s glorious sphere, a ball of fire
into oblivion at sunset; and drunk
ecstasy as I witness the last dance, the Fire of Thanatos,
eat a Lewis Carroll poem for dessert
& laugh uproariously
I had swallowed laughing gas
Jabberwocky City, I eat peacocks and butterflies
& porcelain poems for supper,
nestled in my evening meal,
taste the unfathomable mysteries of the universe,
for the flummoxed and perplexed, incomprehensible
wafting from a red sun at sunset.
Author bio: Dr. Mel Waldman is a psychologist, poet, and writer whose stories have
appeared in numerous magazines including HARDBOILED DETECTIVE,
ESPIONAGE, THE SAINT, PULP METAL MAGAZINE, YELLOW MAMA. His
poems have been widely published in magazines and books including LIQUID
IMAGINATION, A NEW ULSTER, THE BROOKLYN LITERARY REVIEW, THE
BITCHIN’ KITSCH, CRAB FAT MAGAZINE, DEAD SNAKES, POETICA, RED
FEZ, SWEET ANNIE & SWEET PEA REVIEW, THE JEWISH LITERARY
JOURNAL, THE JEWISH PRESS, HOTMETAL PRESS, MAD SWIRL, HAGGARD &
HALLOO, ASCENT ASPIRATIONS, and NAMASTE FIJI: THE INTERNATIONAL
ANTHOLOGY OF POETRY. A past winner of the literary GRADIVA AWARD in
Psychoanalysis, he was nominated for a PUSHCART PRIZE in literature and is the
author of 11 books.
By Alan Catlin
Author bio: Alan Catlin may be the world’s worst two finger typist, despite decades of
practice and lots of acceptance in and on, everything from mimeos, to coffee cup holders,
to online magazines. He is a standoffish cat owner or rather play facilitator, for two
rescue cats who sleep, recycle cat food and basically shed on everything. His next full
length of poetry is “Last Man Standing” from Lummox Press.
Girls and boys
down by the river, leaning on metal
railings, smoking shit, talking stoned
crazy jags, faux hawked hair dyed
four different kinds of insane, body
pierced, all the stuff that was exposed
and some that weren’t; a new kind of hurt.
Clothes bought old and cut along the
seams, unwashed for overall older
look; no showering allowed bodies
inside. Boosting stuff all over town,
speech impediments, what is said sounds
like a speed freaking blues, communication
only with those of their kind, new youth
of America: trust funded, bankable,
their future as bright if they live to
inherit, congregate at band shells for art
rock concerts, spray painted with gang signs.
across the lake at night; amplified,
insistent, liturgical, like jazz. Lights
onshore reflecting inward, big zappers
sounds electric and hit, purple flames
winking out like stars. Floating, water
almost calm, latent scents if food
napalmed in barbequed pits. Smothering
smoke of it soiling the air, thickening
with night and fog. Muffled sound
of motor cars and steam engines,
incinerated flakes of formerly living
matter, chocking off serrated trees
in the dark, low rumble of exhausted
heat. Last streetlights implode one by
one, zapped like the bugs.
By Sheila Murphy
She Would Rise
Oath points cindered the affair
before reversion to a hold-still altitude.
She relinquished heaven for familiar steeds.
Meantime, he wintered elsewhere.
She would rise and smother
her intent to weave from scratch
some modest reverence.
The would-be sitcom rankled
eminence as gruff.
Kept going askew. The suicide,
mere water after
lifetimes of excessive dew.
Morning lay bare innocence
still rumored to be known.
And sequins rode tolled effort,
of the formed and upturned stones.
That’s Three Doors Down and Up Two Flights
A queasy feeling about boundaries recurred
just as she started fitting in.
A cameo appearance in the studio apartment of indifference
turned neighbors into patty melts.
Her etiquette reverted to an unvoiced brand.
Most delicious moments on their way to being solid
stay occipital in tone.
Pile on the Pylon (Music Review)
By Alison Ross
When REM was named America's Best Band by Rolling Stone in 1987, REM was quick to retort:
"We're not the best band - Pylon is." Like REM, Pylon hailed from the storied city of Athens,
Georgia. And like REM, Pylon's style of music had some pastoral post-punk elements. Of course,
REM's Americana dimension was more fully fleshed out and commercialized. Pylon's, on the
other hand, was much more nuanced, while their post-punk qualities were rather pronounced.
Indeed, Pylon gave fresh fuel to the post-punk ethos, with singer Vanessa Hay's throaty vocals,
and the band's sparse, asymmetrical sonics. Pylon, indeed, is among the trio of famous Athens
bands - REM/B-52s/Pylon are often mentioned in the same breath when discussing tunes with
music geeks who know their shit - but Pylon is obviously much less known among casual
listeners. The band's influence, however, cannot be overstated. In the documentary, "Inside
Athens, GA," all bands attest to the impact Pylon had on their own sound. Too, musicians such as
Mission of Burma and James Murphy of LCD sing their praises. And in addition to opening for
REM and B-52s in the 80s, Pylon also opened for Gang of Four and a little-known quartet named
The Pylon signature sound, at least on their 1980 debut, "Gyrate," is difficult to pin down. At
times, the songs sound as skeletal as demos - unstructured, and unconcerned with obvious hooks.
And hooks, of course, were one of the defining touchstones of 80s music, so it's a considerable
feat for a band of Pylon's stature avoid them as much as possible. It's not to say that there are not
hooks in their music at all, just that they don't seem to be the main force propelling the songs.
Instead, the songs are concerned with growing organically, and yet remaining rather primitive and
intuitive in nature. There is no pretense toward sophistication, and certainly not toward
commercialization. Sure, many of the songs have a danceable new wave sensibility, with a
bouncy beat and fierce fretwork. But Hay's vocals, tinged with menace as they are, pretty much
undercut what latent radio-friendly elements the songs might otherwise have. Lyrically, too, the
band veers toward the Dada-esque, with humorous demands to refuse to "be a void" and turn off
the TV because "you can learn more without it" ("Read a Book"), or Seussian chants: "I can
walk/I can run/I can see/I can talk/I can drive/I can steer/I can think/I can even hear/I can lift/I
can drop/I can sweep/I can mop/I can think/I can breathe/I can sing/I can even eat" ("The Human
Body"). Such reveling in absurdity combined with their refreshing lackadaisical attitude toward
true commercial success only enhances Pylon's mystifying charm. That Pylon broke up after only
three albums should surprise no one.
by Heller Levinson
a raspberry beret, ... traction,
gestalt, ... ReV!
the dispatch hardly & yet ferocious
bonding an enterprise dowsing timeliness
trajectorize time as sullen offshoot
love is the out-puss of time, the
excretion that temporalizes
down at the farm the flimsy cotton dress succulates the sun
the ways we break
Author bio: Heller Levinson lives in New York where he studies animal behavior. He has
published half a dozen books and his work has appeared in over a hundred journals. His
publication, Smelling Mary, was nominated for both the Pulitzer Prize and the Griffin
Prize. Black Widow Press published his from stone this running in 2012. Hinge Trio
was published by La Alameda Press in 2012. Wrack Lariat is newly released from
Black Widow Press. He is the originator of Hinge Theory.
Admit One, A Private Screening to the Truth
Please turn all cell phones off.
We are the sum of our synapses.
Reality not quite so existent
as we wish to believe in.
Merely brain pattern recognition
Breathing planets like a promise.
Some things all too easy to forget.
I blame my hippocampus,
if you know what I mean.
It means I filed info backwards chronologically
I forgot my beginnings like a failed Grammy winner
Whatever a Grammy stands for, anyway.
So whatever the hell you just told me isn't there anymore.
That was fifteen minutes ago, man, I’m trying to live in the present.
My amygdala ain’t feelin it or fearin’ it or getting ready to gear up in this bitch
and honestly, if my limbic system ain’t in it, that means my metaphorical heart.
That’s how the brain works, in case you were wondering.
The heart pumps blood. A lot of people confuse those.
It's uh. You need to brush up on anatomy without coming on to methe
house lights are dimming, my attention span is thinning,
My buddy over there is the reason the bartender’s grinning
(a well tipping regular without a sob story and a quick comedy act is a blessing, I would
I’ll greet the stage, I’ll spend my six minutes rhyming around the crowd
like I have something to say for once in my life despite never actually shutting up.
It’s been over a decade and I’m still pissed people clap at open mics.
Snap your fucking fingers, for five minutes can we pretend we’re in the movies?
Shit, man. Shit.
Author bio: El is a living fairy tale - an intersex American Indian from Providence
who’s spent too many years on poetry and still refuses to get their drivers license.
They’re contractually obligated to tell you they are vegan. You can find them somewhere
on the internet, probably. Look harder, squint a little.
by Jay Passer
Artist bio: Jay Passer’s poetry and prose has appeared in print and online publications
since 1988. He is the author of 10 chapbooks. This is the first representation of his visual
art online. Passer lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth.
By James Piatt
Lift up my poems to the world
Sarah Palin screams in happiness as she watches
My opinions drop
To the bottom of a spinning, progressive muddy eddy:
Covered by the brown political sludge of an ugly city’s, sewer main,
My ego is crushed into poetic… iambics, while she
Keeps sitting on her Villanelle butt slurping rhetorical pulp
While promoting the Trump, that odd little grump.
Keep languishing in the mushy manure of wandering
Conservative tongues that lash out at my sanity.
However, never question the veracity of my political poetic pulp
As it plops into the world’s banal opinionated mass of
illogicality, Adding more pieces
Of rhetorical political pulp to cover the stupidity in
the rest of
The, red painted portion of our split nation,
For they contain the angry contents of my liberal
Author bio: Dr. Piatt, a retired professor and octogenarian, has had poems nominated for
Pushcart and Best of Web awards and published in The 100 Best Poems of 2015 & 2014
Anthologies. He has been a featured poet in numerous magazines over the years. He has
published 3 poetry books “The Silent Pond” (2012), “Ancient Rhythms,” (2014), and
“LIGHT” (2016), 3 novels, 35 shorts stories, and over 860 poems in 90 different
magazine, anthologies, and poetry books. His books are available on Amazon, and
Barnes and Noble.
Although the word “fuck” is everywhere these days—in mainstream films, on the
sneering lips of children, even in the pages of that august publication, The New Yorker—
it is still considered too obscene, in our puritanical nation, for the cover of a book, or I
suspect, the contents page of the aforesaid magazine, The New Yorker. Hence, the
bowdlerized title above. But now that we are one paragraph deep into this essay I am
writing—and that you, motherfucker, are reading—allow me to state clearly and
exuberantly its thesis: Fuck You.
I have mentioned The New Yorker twice already (make that three times) because I hope
to sell this piece to (and here comes number four) The New Yorker, which, I am told,
pays a good deal more than the three cents per word shelled out by the scumbag editors
of e-zines devoted to vampires, ghouls, and zombies. For reasons pertaining to mental
health I no longer write for such e-zines, but still occasionally place short stories and
poems in what we in the trade call “litmags.” I hope, therefore, that readers of not only
The New Yorker (five), but of, say Infinite Pudding or Nostril Agony (where this piece
may indeed land) will likewise consider themselves the recipients of a hearty and echoing
You may wonder why I have chosen to address the reading public in this rude
fashion. The answer is that I believe, as did Jonathon Swift, that human beings are
“odious vermin,” (his words), or, (my words) “miserable fuckwads.” Had I a media
platform, like that miserable fuckwad Glen Beck, I would be able to say Fuck You to the
vast majority of humans who cannot or do not read, but spend their wretched lives
watching shitty television programs. I accept this limitation and happily promulgate my
message of loathing to a select few, while hoping that a television personality with a
greater audience than I will be inspired by my example to spend an entire show reviling
his viewers with torrents of profanity, avowing that everyone who is watching—even the
kindly grandmother in Dubuque who sent him a box of home-made brownies—is a dogfellating,
Such unwarranted vituperation begs the question, what is wrong with me? Plenty, I
would say, in all candor. But my flaws, appalling though they are, seem little more than
quaint eccentricities compared to the atrocious habits of everyone else on the
planet. Mencken equated most peoples’ lives to those of bullfrogs or houseflies. I say
his aim was too high. It is my desire, then, that every reader of this brief jeremiad—and
those who are made aware of it by means less arduous than reading—will accept my
declaration that they are no better than squalid microbes writhing in puddles of filth, and
thus deserve to be told, once again, and with great force…FUCK YOU.
Author bio: Gael DeRoane is a tennis coach in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. His work
has appeared in London Journal of Fiction, Page & Spine, Rose Red Review, Opiate,
Punchnel’s, and Fiction on the Web. His novella Arvin the Discontented Spider is
available as an e-book at Amazon.
By Patricia Carragon
if kittens could vote
Donald Trump’s wig would be sold
as kitty litter
blame it on Eve
in God we trust——speak American first
your second language—Monsanto, not Spanish
eat your death——GMOs landed on Coney Island
the GOP plans your parenthood——and will abort subversives
rosaries vs. ovaries——the Bible never lies
if dicks can’t rise——blame it on Eve
your paycheck’s on a diet——unemployment gets fatter
if you fucked up your life——who gives a frack
don’t ever complain——the taser will find you
the color of privilege——hates stained sheets
Global Warming, a liberal lie——blame it on Eve
spring is here, the air is dead——the earth pushes up cancer cells
Big Pharma is watching you——Fox News in denial
Washington war games——Xbox the spot
from school to senate——bullies rejoice, the Internet
synchronize your iPhones——they never promised you a hipster garden
chakras cross borders——exercise your inner Trump
breathe in, breathe out——smell the rat shit
good christians say——the end is queer
blame it on Eve——the Bible never lies
Author bio: Patricia Carragon’s publication credits include BigCityLit, Bear Creek
Haiku, Boog City, Clockwise Cat, Drunk Monkeys, First Literary Review-East, Home
Planet News, Yellow Chair Review, and others. She is the author of Journey to the Center
of My Mind (Rogue Scholars Press, 2005) and Urban Haiku and More (Fierce Grace
Press, 2010). Her new book, Cupcake Chronicles, is forthcoming from Poets Wear Prada.
She hosts the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual
anthology. She is one of the executive editors for Home Planet News Online. Patricia is a
member of Pen Women’s Literary Workshop, Tamarind, and brevitas.
TWO POEMS By David Thornbrugh
Author bio: Until he was twenty-four, David Thornbrugh thought Emperor Penguins
averaged six foot tall, thus enabling these royal birds to look human intruders in the eye.
The resulting shame and embarrassment he felt at the mockery of his peers drove him
into the arms of poetry, where he has felt only mildly aggrieved ever since. He thinks of
himself as following in the tradition of Archie the Cockroach, whose best work resulted
from throwing himself at the keys of a resistant machine, one bruise at a time.
How Was I to Know?
I didn’t know my father was Orson Welles
until his hand reached out for the TV sound knob.
“Nothing but rotten grapes” in the voice of Macbeth
letting us know the Martians were death-raying
the countryside and headed our way.
I didn’t know my father was Charlton Heston
until he called down the frogs, the flies, and the lice,
turned the water into blood and then looked
the other way when the big voice in the sky
said first born sons had to die.
I didn’t know my father was an alcoholic
until I won my first Oscar for best supporting actor
in a role I didn’t know I was playing.
I didn’t know I was the son of an alcoholic
until I was past thirty and using hangovers
for hand holds to clamber out of the ice of a frozen-over ego.
I didn’t know I didn’t know my father
until it was too late to know the man who raised me,
an actor of the old school, who could bluster but not emote,
who believed Marlon Brando was Emiliano Zapata
under a caterpillar moustache and raised a family in California
without ever eating avocados.
I didn’t know my invisible sister until
she showed up on my father’s radar screen,
somewhere over Korea dodging incoming fire.
I didn’t know my father until the damage
done his brain canceled the shame
he couldn’t share with the family he left behind.
What I didn’t know was how much
what I didn’t know
could hurt me.
Drawing the Wrong Conclusions
The man in the mirror I didn’t sketch yesterday
won’t be there today.
I have these impulses under my fingernails,
like little Oprahs of good intentions,
waiting to open umbrellas inside my brain.
I don’t trust cameras to tell the truth;
everyone knows the danger of being taken
out of context, like the racist in the bathtub
revealing the true color of his skin.
Electricity plays poker with my behavior,
bluffing when I hold an empty hand,
throwing out tells like confetti
when I’m flush. What I can’t win for losing
opinion polls tell me isn’t worth having,
but who wants to know better anyway?
The sketch I won’t make of today’s face
will no more represent me tomorrow
than it didn’t today, which is why
I have nothing to say.
Joyce Mansour and "Nightmare’s Alphabet"
Essential Poems and Writings of Joyce Mansour (Black Widow
Press) (BOOK REVIEW) By Alison Ross
If surrealism is a merging of incongruous elements into some sort of lucid whole, then
Joyce Mansour’s life seems to mirror that ethos. Born in England to parents of Jewish-
Egyptian origins, she lived in Cairo and Paris. After moving permanently to Paris, she
evolved into the most famous female poet of the genus surrealism. She was able to
coalesce her disparate geographical and cultural experiences into the life of an author
who wrote sometimes disturbing erotica. Some critics have even called her work
“violent,” and it does seem that she had a proclivity for aggressive evocations. That said,
what stands out for me in her work is how she seems to luxuriate, Baudelaire-style, in
“There are living corpses in the mouth of infants
Embryos coated with lying wax
In the aqueduct which flows
Over the plain
Tomorrow which will drink our fathers' blood”
These lines are suffused with dark diction and disorienting imagery; indeed, take note of
the contrasting juxtapositions - corpses (death) with infants/embryos (birth), willows and
plain (nature) with wax and aqueduct (manmade artifice) - and the vampiric allusion to
drinking blood (which could refer to birth or death). These contradictions create a dense
verse that revels in horror, and "prettifies" the pain.
What is most maddening, of course, is how sparsely celebrated Joyce Mansour is, how
eclipsed she is by Rimbaud and later writers of that ilk, those who clearly influenced her
or were her contemporaries, but who, owing to their, ahem, phallic endowments, are far
more well-known. She too, authored idioms of the dark imagination, "nightmare's
alphabet," where language is a vehicle to transport us into the cloistered recesses of the
mind and heart, those "forbidden-zone" subterranean spaces that, when fearlessly tapped
into, give us fuller dimension as complex beings.
Mansour's poetry is provocative, even inflammatory, but also, in a sense, playfully
"The dead breathe
Their gaze perforated
Their mouth stretched by the electric play
Of the immense yawning
Of the final sneezing
By the suction and sobbing
By the hiccup and the last burp"
Sex, mingled with death, is a constant theme:
"The night the sky is an open sex
The fire dozes idle water dies
The body loses its forces well before midnight
Desiring to see itself dead it dies already"
Maybe people just don't think it's "lady-like" to explore dark sensual impulses so
graphically. Maybe they fear a woman who defiantly delved into "taboo" subject matter,
and adorned it with disconcerting imagery:
Sitting on her bed with her legs apart.
A bowl in front of her.
Looking for something to eat but seeing nothing
The woman whose eyelids were eaten by flies
Flies came in through the windows
Left by the door
Hovered over her bowl
Red eyes black flies
Eaten by the woman
Who couldn’t see a thing.
Those of us who have fierce fortitude and a lusty language libido, however, swoon at
Mansour's sensually sordid phrasing. So what if it discombobulates the senses? That's
what the best poetry does.
By Don Campbell
Gallop through the rivers of my mind
Make me want to break out of skin
To not spend this day walking with the troubled many
Who carry briefcases, lunch bags, spare tires
Once I imagined a fish could break clear of a building
I knew then I only wished to jump off a wall
Leave shoes behind on the precipice
As testament to the gun in my head that imploded
I emerge a limber being, a phantom of my former self
Holding an unlit lantern to a future missing the past
As today’s sky shines around me
And trees frame my unleashed heart
The barbs that surrounded my skull moved me
To run from the hands that held me back
To never again be one of the cattle crossing
The muddy lake of dutified hours
Where I used to wallow
Half-submerged in sidewalks
The cornice of literature
Inside me barely seen
Until I escaped to steal my own life
Finally free to feel the sun rise on my face
Amidst brother arbors
Instead of hanging by facades
Waiting for a trough of money to guide me
I dove like a shark under clouds to muster play
Jagged rocks became parts of my soul
And equines neighed pleased at my process of departure
Author bio: Don Kingfisher Campbell, poetry editor of the Angel City Review, editor of the San
Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly and Spectrum, host of Saturday Afternoon Poetry in Pasadena,
Creative Writing instructor in the Occidental College Upward Bound program, earned his MFA
in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. For publishing credits, please go to
By Franco Esposito
There is purple in your hair
and purple in your eyes
there is purple I can see
and purple in disguise
there is purple on a cloudy day
when all other colors hide
there is purple in my heart
when all of purple cries
there is purple just for a prince
that no one else can wear
there is purple that leads us into song
that everyone can share
For my sister Maura who brought Prince into our household
Author bio: Franco Esposito was born in 1954, in Montreal, and began writing
poetry as a voyage of the heart, circa 2010. He studied psychology at Concordia
University in 1978: then worked as a teacher and Acupuncturist, also for Air Canada,
and presently has a coffee shop. Franco's writing is narrative and personal. His
themes often introspective, are about loss, the sea and the haunted spirit. In 2013 he
began Poetrypasta.wordpress.com and in 2015 published his first book, an
anthology and collaborative effort, entitled, "Our Day Of Passing". He is currently
working on a second book, a collection of poems and sentiments, under the working
title, "I Never Stopped Writing You".
“To Prince", is first published poem in a magazine.
By Felino Soriano
a selection from Fragmented Olio
because melody is song in silent
as when fingers are the danced
the ears a
parade of cultivated observation—
-ing the body from tribute is a form
to subtract misery
a goal to
-nounce what others’
syllables wrote into
the holding of chaos
music erases with
splayed revelation and
the listeners of
—for Paul Bley
1/10/32 – 1/3/16
Youth and the lack of __________
I believed the bottom
of my youth was
a dying configuration
of attempted expel of
I maintained language
of trust with the tongue
of my mirror’s elongated
philosophy, forgetting what
the classmate stated among
the timeworn tease concerning
stutter and the portrait of my
Variants of my name
A maker. A meander. A version
of what the prior miswrote. A
system of slants and mislabeled
mathematics. A concave. A
half-wing blur, slowed. A clarity
of moth in the throat of my voice’s
Author bio: Felino A. Soriano is a poet documenting coöccurrences. His poetic language
stems from exterior motivation of jazz and the belief in language’s unconstrained
devotion to broaden understanding. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize
and Best of the Net anthologies. Recent poetry collections include sparse anatomies of
single antecedents (gradient books, 2015), Forms, migrating (Fowlpox Press, 2015), Of
isolated limning (Fowlpox Press, 2014, and Mathematics Nostrovia! Poetry, 2014). He
edits the online journal, Of/with: journal of immanent renditions. He lives in California
with his wife and family and is a director of supported living and independent living
programs providing supports to adults with developmental disabilities. Visit
felinoasoriano.info for more information.
Reading Response: Regeneration
By Beverley Catlett
The Madness of “Shell Shock” in Pat Barker’s Regeneration: Warfare as a Crime
Rivers knew only too well how often the early stages of change or cure may mimic
deterioration. Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar. What
you will never find is a mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly, a fit
emblem of the human soul, for those whose cast of mind leads them to seek such
emblems. No, the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.
Narrated chiefly through the perspective of military psychiatrist Dr. William Rivers, Pat
Barker’s Regeneration is a commentary on warfare that transcends the realities of death
on the battlefield to reveal something far more disturbing and unjust: the resounding
experience of those horrors in the human mind. Rivers’ patients are the peripheral defects
of World War I, the “shell-shocked”: sufferers of post-traumatic stress syndrome,
survivors of an experience so atrocious, so incompatible with what the human mind is
prepared to endure, that sanity buckles under the weight of its remembrance. Within the
yellow-lit walls of Craiglockhart psychiatric institution, we see the victims of the warmyth.
We see those who enlisted as healthy, young adult men reduced to ageless defects.
Their mental illness emanates not from within – not from any chemical imbalance, nor
any organically erroneous component of their psychological composition – but from
without, from what they have seen and cannot un-see, crimes against humanity and
crimes against nature itself. These men have no natural environment, no place in nature –
their growth is stunted, physically as well as psychologically, for the injured and
amputees. Their age is meaningless, as is their progress: their youth is quenched by
disillusion and deformation, their age premature by their reduction to utter dependents
upon a system designed to accommodate their insanity. Their masculinity, independence,
and pride are smothered by flashbacks that turn the safest of environments into
hallucinatory horror shows; they have no natural place in the world, too ill to fight and
too ill to live the comfortable citizens’ life.
This is what Rivers ‘knows only too well’; that these men, though they may appear to
‘heal’ under his care, though they may one day regain their outward appearance of
youthful vigor and physical health. As does Burns, in the observation that precedes Dr.
River’s disillusioned speculation on progress and deterioration, tragically metaphored as
a chrysalis opening to reveal a still-born butterfly. Burns is a shell of a man, both
figuratively and literally: ever since he parachuted into the gut of a decaying German
corpse and received a mouthful of rotting human flesh, Burns has been unable to eat, and
thus his emancipation makes him a physical representation of what the “shell shocked”
soldier is reduced to. Enlisted as a healthy young man, Burns is one of countless victims
to the myth that successfully brought about the death, deformation, and psychological
decay of an entire generation of young men (indeed, the fact that the realities of
Craiglockhart reveal a destroyed “generation” of young men is noteworthy in
consideration of Barker’s title-choice for the novel). These are the products of shell
Through Rivers’s eyes, we see in each patient that the experience of combat produces
effects in the human beings involved that are tragic and unnatural. War, in itself, is
unnatural: nature follows an overarching framework of growth, compensation, and
regeneration – war follows an overarching framework of destruction, death, and
degeneration. Barker’s evidence of this manifests itself in numerous ways throughout the
novel, but the notion of war and nature being at odds with one another is particularly
interesting in the novel’s various references to shells. In nature, a shell is, as defined by
the Oxford English Dictionary, “the hard protective case” of a living vitality, be it the
vital organs of a shelled creature or the shell from which living creatures hatch (Oxford
English Dictionary, “shell” n.1). A shell, in nature, is either a source or preservation of
life. In warfare, a “shell” is, as secondarily listed by the OED, “an explosive artillery
projectile or bomb; a hollow metal or paper case used as a container for [explosives]”
(Oxford English Dictionary, “shell” n.2). A shell, in warfare, is either a source of
destruction - a weapon - or a preventative container that suppresses said weapon from
unleashing its destructive energies until it hits land, thus maximizing the potential of its
Before Barker nudges her readers to consider any of the above, however, she introduces –
through a skeptical dialogue about Sassoon’s potential insanity as it is to be presented to
‘The Board’ – the concept of “shell-shock”: a unique form of psychological distress
brought on by exposure to the atrocities of warfare. Taking into consideration the
aforementioned definitions of the word “shell” as connoted by warfare versus nature, one
could surmise – indeed, Rivers seems to, in his disillusioned speculation on
transformation and decay – that the “shell shocked” individual is a hybrid of the two. The
word “chrysalis” is as pleasing aesthetically, to the ear, as it is contextually, to the mind:
an emblem of emergent beauty, the chrysalis is the shell from which the adolescent
utterfly spreads its wings and emerges into the world as its fully developed self. The
“shell shocked” patient has nowhere to emerge from; the adolescent ‘shell’ that made him
victim to the war myth was obliterated by his proximity to death, his mind now enclosed
in a metallic, man-made shell of trauma, darkness, and an inability to forget. The shellshocked
patient does not emerge and spread his wings; he does not come-to-age
naturally. Rivers’s daily task is to ‘cut’ into him and find a living man rotten as the corpse
into which Burns plummeted face first; the shell-shocked patient stops aging just as
abruptly and indefinitely as any young soldier killed in combat. Moreover, to ‘The
Board,’ a “shell shocked” individual is ‘insane’ in that they are psychologically and
emotionally affected by their exposure to death on a massive scale – ‘sane,’ then, being
the condition of a man perfectly at ease with the gruesome and tragic ends of his fellow
In this, Barker calls into question a major issue with ‘The Board’s’ definition of “sanity,”
a separate thread of inquiry that encompasses numerous aspects of the novel but also can
be considered in light of war as a violation of nature: ‘sane’ being the state of the natural,
healthy human being. It is clear from the novel’s outset that the question of sanity, in
times of warfare, extends far beyond the walls of Craiglockhart. Through Rivers, we
attain glimpses into the experiences of shell-shocked patients that are beyond any
fathomable horror: indeed, to be anything but horrified by their experiences would seem
justifiably insane. That shell shock is the resulting condition of someone who was not
successfully obliterated by a shell, but is in prolonged ‘shock’ because they witnessed its
obliterating effects, suggests that the patients of Craiglockhart are parochial casualties of
war. They are frozen, in effect, suspended in the memories of their horrendous exposures
to death. They are at the crux of the inherent disagreement between nature and warfare,
physically intact (to the extent that they are still alive) yet psychologically desecrated.
Their inability to sustain the natural processes of human life is a testament to their
significance as walking, breathing man-made disasters: Burn’s’ inability to eat, nearly
every patient’s inability to sleep, the way in which Sassoon and other’s’ dreams
(nightmares, naturally) continue to play out after they wake – are testaments to the fact
that warfare is a profound violation of nature, and the myth of ‘war glory’ an outrageous
injustice to the integrity of the human mind.
Cultivating Secrets (BOOK REVIEW)
By Alison Ross
With one of their most recent books, A Secret Garden, Giles Watson and John Lincoln
continue their series of ekphrastic exercises, where Lincoln has created fantastical pen
and ink artwork, and Giles provides the poetic elucidation. In crafting fantasy-scapes of
his own that compellingly narrate his interpretation of the pictures, Giles simultaneously
validates the integrity of Lincoln's art while also spinning an intriguing thread that could
exist outside the context of the exercise - though certainly the symbiotic relationship
between verse and visual is sacred.
Lincoln's pieces at times resemble woodcuts with their bold carving style, but they are
also often as delicate as lace, the way their liquid lines intertwine to form perfect patterns.
His pieces scream symmetry, and yet even that balance is deftly disrupted by subtle
swishes or assertive strokes of the pen that keep the viewer just slightly off-center. Too,
the pieces mimic movement, and can be delightfully dizzying.
The Secret Garden is a slender volume, yet is lush with content. Lincoln's mystical
foliage, where faces are planted in the earth and men grow out of trees, provide a
symbolic space where one's private fears and desires are embedded.
Lincoln's visual voice is strong and stark, and is matched by Watson's stridently
straightforward tone. His narrations grow organically from the soil of Lincoln's pieces,
and at times, his language takes on a supernatural quality, as in "Moonlight in the Secret
Garden," the piece that adorns the cover: "At first, it was thought there was an intruder/in
the garden but he was distilled out of shadows/of trees in moonlight/his hat brimmed out
Other times, his voice sounds less haunted, and more intensely inquisitive, as in "Who
Frightened the Birds in the Garden": "Who stirred the beech leaves/ into frenzy, and left
the quite roses quivering?/Who bashed into the glaze, as a stone rips/through the taut
perfections of lake? Who/clicked her fingers, and clashed the dream awake?
At all times, of course, Watson's language strives to evince Lincoln's clear thesis about
the intricate interconnectedness of all facets of nature. In these pieces there are humans,
birds, plants, trees, stones, fish, cats, water, ferns, snakes...but they are all enmeshed,
swirled into one glorious whirling vibration. Watson captures this energy of
interdependence in "Iron Fence in the Secret Garden", where a cat, seemingly sprouting
from a fence, poses against a black lunar disc which is surrounded by surging leaves:
"From the moon-dark slunk a cat/whose eyes were sparks of night/and fence and cat
became as one/silhouette of white/a glaze of foundry-work and fur./The leaves vibrated
with her purr/and pulsed with sweet delight."
Gardens have both explicit and hidden elements in that they serenely showcase nature's
exotic bounty and also implicitly reveal the spiritual yearnings of those who tend the
gardens. The gardener plants seeds and cultivates secrets.
John Lincoln and Giles Watson celebrate those interior and exterior gardens with
luxurious lines from their respective pens.
Author bio: Kathleen Latham is a fifth-generation Southern Californian who has spent
the last twenty-two years in the Boston area cursing how long it takes to defrost a frozen
windshield. She received her undergraduate degree from Occidental College and a
graduate degree from Harvard University. She spent two years researching
hypochondriacs at Massachusetts General Hospital and four years working at the Rape
Treatment Center at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center. After that, she and her
husband returned to the NE where they’ve raised a pack of overly-enthusiastic hockey
lovers who, like her, believe deeply in social justice, comedy, and the power of words. As
a mother of four, her writing has taken place in weird locations during fractured chunks
of time - in her car, at a rink, during someone else’s nap. With her kids getting older, she
is just beginning to harness the luxury of being uninterrupted. Between raising her brood
and sporadically working on a novel that never seems to end, she has been the grand
prize winner of the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition as well as a finalist for
Shenandoah’s Bevel Summers Prize, a Press 53 Open Award, and the Southeast Review’s
World’s Best Short Short Story Competition. Her work has also appeared in Alehouse
and Lascaux 250. She’d like to think there’d be more to list if she wasn’t so easily
distracted by computer solitaire and her cat. She prefers poetry that is raw and honest but
also accessible. While her work may not always be autobiographical, she hopes it is
always emotionally authentic.
I would fly three thousand miles
just to stand outside the place
where you get your coffee.
I’d drag my luggage to the market
and duck behind the grapefruit.
Linger outside your work and talk
to the bums. Throw a fifty
on the sidewalk and buy everyone
Three thousand miles. Coach.
If only it would show me
that you’ve grown fat and bald
or old and ugly. That you’re mean
to small children or cheat on
your taxes. Anything, anything
to help me get over you.
In the economy of love,
that would be worth the price of the ticket.
The Difference Between Me and The Published
What they don’t have are family members
who call at four o’clock on a Tuesday
to say, Can you drive me to the airport
tomorrow? At rush hour? Can you watch
my kids? Water my plants? Arrange
the holiday gift exchange? They don’t
have a crescendo of voices singing,
It’s not like you work…
And all the while, I’m hemorrhaging
hours. Dying bit by bit, moment by
fucking moment. Too weak to say,
Enough. Too broken to say,
if I’m going to bleed, it will be for
This page, This ink, These words.
So the stanzas dry up, scraps of paper
forgotten. Better poets lift their pens,
while I load luggage and stuff envelopes
and dance with other people’s children,
until resentment becomes just
No one ever reads the martyrs.
My mother calls and asks me how my day is but before I can answer
she puts her dog on the phone or rather she starts talking to him
in that high-pitched voice only he elicits, that inflection of approval
of all things wonderful and pride-inducing like dragging a stuffed rabbit
across her lap or failing to pee on the floor when the neighbor stops by
unannounced. And though I’m trying to tell her something important,
something she really should want to hear, I find myself picturing
that little cow-eyed fluff who walks on two legs like a circus trick and
greets me unabashedly every time I come over as if I’m the greatest thing
he’s ever seen, greater even than his damn stuffed rabbit, and I understand for a moment
the allure of that kind of adoration and it makes me wonder how many times I’ve failed
to listen because I was preoccupied with my own circus-trick distractions
like men with tattoos or the hit of a cigarette or that really good show
I was binge-watching on Netflix. And for one dazzling moment I vow
to be a better daughter, to demonstrate joy and excitement and yip approvingly
and roll over on command, but then it grows old, this waiting to be noticed,
so I passive-aggressively announce some detail about my life while she’s not listening
so that later I can state, truthfully, that I had told her and maybe she’ll feel bad
about missing it. Maybe she’ll feel bad about missing me.
My mother absentmindedly acknowledges this half-telling half-heard
and I picture her standing in her kitchen, phone in one hand, rabbit in the other
held high above her head while the dog jumps for it and jumps for it
and when I hang up I can still hear her talking to him, still hear the tinkling
of his stupid collar and the clicking of his nails on the linoleum in full acrobatic trickery
and I realize, sadly, that one of us is better trained than the other.
LOVE vs. GRAVITY
You slid past me so swiftly
—plummet embraced, no sign of regret—
all I could do was reach out and grab the rope
You stopped mid-fall and hung there
the weight of your momentum
threatening to topple
Pull yourself up
I called, because I thought
you were a different man
How was I to know you carried
the secret of your surrender in your pocket
like rocks meant to speed your descent?
Guidebooks warn of excuses
heavier than truth, but they say nothing
of the cost of holding on
In the end, it wasn’t anger or pity or principle
that made me cut the rope. The truth is
I got tired of being strong
Your eyes, when I let go,
were the eyes of a stranger
I tell myself you were gone
The four of us sit around our mother’s table
avoiding the stare of alternatives.
About and between us—
a collection of coffee cups, stained brown,
a tablecloth of documents, none useful,
a hand-wound clock, off by three hours
keeping a threnodial beat.
There is the house to divide—
arrangements to be made of the most
final sort. Still we sit and wait for time
to right itself, for childhood grudges
to loosen their hold on our tongues.
I can almost hear the tread
of her slippered feet, see the path
her life took: stove, chair, sink—
an endless shuffle, until the end.
It is hard to name what keeps us here.
Our grief is too personal, our greed too varied.
Perhaps it is the echo of our mother’s commands—
Sit up straight. Finish your milk.
Don’t leave the table until you’re excused.
I imagine us sitting here forever,
waiting for a pardon that will never come.
On Running Into an Ex- Lover
They shouldn’t call it small talk.
There are no small sentiments here,
rather icebergs to avoid, elephants to ignore,
issues of longing and betrayal to navigate.
I wonder, while we chat, how you keep your smile
so neutral, your inquiries so perfectly canned.
After five minutes, I want
to thrust my tongue down your throat
until your manners are dislodged,
but I am deterred by circumstance
and this morning’s regrettable choice
of sweatpants. I laugh, too loudly,
drunk with the potency of things unsaid—
lips that once touched forced to spew platitudes.
Your eyes skitter to the horizon, forgetting me.
Good-bye, I think, smiling.
When we part, we leave behind a puddle of pretend—
the little words we’ve spoken sink to the bottom,
done in by the weight we’ve asked them to carry.
Editor’s Note: “On Running Into an Ex-Lover” was previously published in Alehouse,
Hell is Empty, and All the Devils are on Earth
(Book Review of Dystopia 38.10, erbacce press) by Alison ROSS
If utopia is the most coveted, yet out of reach, ideal, then what does that make its
antithesis, dystopia? It's certainly not coveted, and certainly not an ideal, but it's not
exactly not out of reach. Indeed, dystopia is very much within our grasp, which makes it
all the more harrowing. And, if we are to believe Matt Duggan, who scripted the
erbacce-prize-winning book, "Dystopia 38.10," utopia's evil fraternal twin is very much
alive and well, beleaguering us all, in the here and now.
The cover of Duggan's book is a dystopic vision which actually puts me in the mind of
Atlanta, the city where I reside. All around me are crumbling structures and struggling
infrastructure. Granted, gentrification is rapidly taking care of the decaying edifices,
transforming dilapidated buildings into slickly shiny, horrifically homogenized havens
for the blandly affluent. The infrastructure, though - you know, roads, the things we need
to drive on to get us to work (Atlanta metro is pitiful) - is less coddled. Potholes abound,
and yet the city turns a blind eye, because, you know, developer dick is presumably
tastier than the Department of Transportation's phallic treats.
So anyway, Duggan's book is divided into different zones, each of which represent the
multifarious iterations of hell on earth as we know it. In fact, there is a poem that touches
on gentrification, entitled "Neighbourhood!" in which Duggan laments, "The richer men
are culturally fracking the poorer neighbourhood." It would appear that gentrification in
Duggan's native England is no different than that here in the Deep Scary South of the
United States. If there is one thing that is universal, it seems, it's the rich screwing the
poor, over and over.
In Duggan's pieces, obvious themes such as apathy toward homelessness and
environmental degradation are touched upon, though not necessarily in obvious ways.
Duggan has a flair for mixing up tones in his poems, to the point that some pieces are
almost tirades, where righteous indignation is palpable, while others treat such themes
comically, though Duggan comes down more on the sarcastic side than the lighthearted
side of humor. Still, the humor employed leavens leaden subjects, provides breathing
room for potentially suffocating material.
Mostly, Duggan's poems are imagistic - in his poetry world, imagery transports import.
The meanings and messages conveyed are evinced and enhanced with unorthodox and
sometimes jarring juxtapositions.
In "No Hiding Place," for example, a commentary on the Orwellian survelliance state,
Duggan writes: "No hiding place for us/every door is an eye behind another window,
each frame of glass a caught moment/that we can upload and analyse/No hiding place for
us/we are the grains of salt glued between the fingers of the state."
Or, how about "Drone," where remote-controlled warfare has cataclysmic consequences:
"Our lungs the scars of Saharan dust/Petrol-dollars/sniffed and charred a killing canvas of
machine/sunlight rust day-scape of chrome/bone orange carcass of car/We see drones
flesh for public confetti/eyes that drink from the skull of licensed morality."
Duggan's acidic wit is on display in rhymed pieces like "The Human Herd," where he
caustically critiques the "sheeple" tendency of humans en masse, especially when urged
on by a maliciously manipulating media:
"Keep taming the bewildered herd
never allowing the herd to think!
So it can rage and destroy the organised class
Keep feeding the human herd heroic lies from an empiric past
with just enough necessary illusion
So the organised class can develop a system of bloodline and exclusion.
Allow the herd to scream their slogans of patriotic euphoria
distract and marginalise dissent through manufactured terror,
play the host of fear an enforcer of medicated hysteria.
The herd remains sedated via a media induced malaria,
keeping the organised class Unabated.
Or, try "Clause 44.453": "Have you ticked and signed your terms and condition?/giving
away your privacy without your permission/did you read the eight thousand word
document?/quickly scroll down and tick your acceptance"
My favorite piece in this collection is one which Clockwise Cat published in a previous
issue. It's called "Ice Cream Utopianism." I won't quote it in full, but it's well worth a
read for its ironic, sardonic tone that slices to the core of what's ailing society:
"We love all the ice cream round here!/overindulging ourselves in the utopianism of
mirrors/Where occasionally we look around the edges of our own reflections/opening our
eyes widely to see that behind each layer is a sugar coated illusion."
Using ice cream as a metaphor for our own willful blindness to how illusory and elusive
our freedoms truly are is a brilliant poetic tactic. Duggan is saying that we are all
children, blithely licking our triple-scooped ice cream cones in anarchic defiance,
oblivious to how controlled we actually are.
The only complaint I have about Dystopia 38.0 is that at times, it seems unfocused. Some
poems scattered throughout appear to be cryptically or tangentially related to the dystopia
theme. But maybe that's due to my inept reading. Or maybe the poems are too abstract or
abstruse to discern the thematic relevance. Or, maybe Duggan wanted to intersperse his
collection with off-topic verse to show variation. In any case, it was distracting for me,
but perhaps I am being nitpicky.
Duggan does best when he's writing in lyrical phrases abounding with sensory imagery
about our collective anguish, exacerbated by rapacious leaders who ravage our lands and
"We are the driftwood in an ocean our destination a far-away shore, the land is our
democracy untouched by the hands of working men. We can only dream of an alternative
deranged by the loneliness of our leaders, in sun drenched castles made from veins of sea
we sway left and right rotting from the inside, splinters in the bloodstream of giants
driftwood sailing towards a storm, desecrated like fish heads floating without any gills."
Dystopia never sounded so lovely.
Spring 2012, Paris
By Kent Weigle
I've got memories that writhe in the spicy damp beneath stones
like earwigs and pill bugs
but if it get's too cold they crawl out and squeeze under doors
and up through vents and get caught in dusty cobwebs
like stale dreams in an old dreamcatcher
they stay and remind until they're swept or washed away
with bleach and sharp red wine
out from between rigid gray matter folds
but they'll leave something behind
an antenna or a leg or a desiccated sliver of exoskeleton
something that'll blow around and land in a morning coffee
and have you itching at something right beneath your skin
beneath your shoulder blade
something you don't want to know but can't help
but pick at like an old scab or sun burn
Author bio: Kent Weigle is a young poetic ne'er-do-well and non-practicing nihilist.
Since graduating from the French and Creative Writing programs at the University of
North Carolina Wilmington, he's held several different jobs. He currently splits his time
between working and volunteering at the Carolina Raptor Center, writing, and waiting to
hear back from graduate schools.
By Heath Brougher
Author bio: Heath Brougher lives in York, PA and is the poetry editor of Five 2 One
Magazine. When not writing or editing he helps with the charity Paws Soup Kitchen
which gives out free dog/cat food to low income families with pets. His work has
appeared or is forthcoming in Yellow Chair Review, Of/with, SLAB, The Angry
Manifesto, Crack the Spine, Chiron Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Sonic Boom,
eFiction India, and elsewhere.
The knees of the bloodstained
village turn to tinkle at night
The foul-smelling twinkle runs down a gutter pipeline straight into the mouth of a
receiving her fix
are not really seventeen cards
The fluorescent-green spider floats on a bubble that eventually bursts its wintry
guts against the gossamer strings in the backyard of a homeless man
The swollen gums eat the turnpike like mints
Fallacies keep rubbing their way onto the pallid pages of every book
The standard flat tire has ballooned into an oncoming noontime burial as the
wind recklessly undresses the clotheslines.
Priests in The Vatican Bar,
heavy with drink,
broken glass slides down drunken throat
as the snake slithers on,
woeful empty bottle, plenty more,
play yourself, a nightly personal instrument,
head turns to puke,
piles of torn access,
battling God, all along the slippery way
rampant puddles have pourn themselves,
evening turns, a man in a black suit,
cry that empty cry,
preconceived tantrum bites down on soft heads,
ears become bloodspouting relics of the awful sound,
you hide your face behind the flammable brown holy water,
pipes play the intoxicant endlessly forgiven,
all that's meek, those starved puppies
in a rainy street corner box
blurt out their torturesong
while your stomach feels warm
and ripe from that bitter Russian juice,
wolves and spies, saints and snakes
commingle, press thick ears to thin walls,
only to hear you swear to Drunk you're not God.
by Valeri Beers
The purple flower
A tangible souvenir
Wish you could keep it
A Drab Internment
By Christie-Luke Jones
I fear for those most doomed of souls,
Who do not pain for knowledge.
Those who lack a thirst for words and maps and charts and music.
I’m sure that on this transient coil, to which they cling so thoughtlessly; their chrome and
bricks will bring them joy, albeit rather fleeting.
What flat and lifeless hell awaits, these hollow moulds of men? The devil deals in embers
bright; he has no time for matches spent. Nor has He a cloud to spare, for lungs that toil
in unenlightened air.
Then must noble worms and velvet moles bemoan their drab interment. Lifeless
neighbours they’ll remain, when they’re six feet underground.
Atop the flaked and barren soil, how best to sum them up? A polished slab of gleaming
rock, a faded plastic forget-me-not.
Author bio: Christie-Luke Jones is a poet, fiction writer and actor from Oxfordshire,
England. Christie-Luke’s writing is strongly influenced by the Gallic blood that courses
through his veins, as well as his interest in the more macabre aspects of the human
condition. To see more of his work, visit www.christielukejones.com.
STANDARDS OF SADIDDY, by Jonathan
Lit Fest Press (2016)
Book Review by Cindy Hochman
Oh, for a unique delusion!
Let us pray for a muse of other than fire
—Jonathan Penton, “Notyu Journal II”
For a poet, choosing a book title can be as precious as naming a baby (well, almost!),
and you can be sure that a poet who names his baby Standards of Sadiddy means business.
Merriam-Webster swears there’s no such word as sadiddy, but several online dictionaries
offer definitions ranging from conceited to snooty to cruel (think: sadist), which makes one
wonder: Are there really standards when it comes to cruelty? Jonathan Penton claims to
"write as though cruelty as a context," and a fair reading of the poems indicates that, for him,
sadiddy may very well be synonymous with the muse herself, and, although she is a
necessity, and perhaps a godsend, she wields a double-edged sword—and, sometimes,
enough rage to annihilate.
‘cause every poet’s just a militant
looking for a weapon he won’t have to put down
To say that a simple interpretation of Penton’s poems is a challenge would be an
understatement, but it’s the type of confrontation that the staunch poetry seeker hopes to
come face to face with. Although Penton’s whimsical titles (“The Way Buckeyes and Buds
Taste Just Like the Lone Star” and “The Turk in the Tenderloin,” for instance) belie the
gravity of the poems themselves, there are enough slant rhymes and killer lines (turning your
skin to Pepto-Bismol since your heart will always burn) for you to sink into and be swept up
by. Add a dot of realism, a dash of cynicism, and even a sprinkling of voodoo magic, and
Penton’s muse, for all his ambivalence toward her, lights undeniably beautiful fires. The real
hurdle, though, is keeping at bay her tendency to combust.
Pauline tells me she puts Kahlúa in her morning coffee,
sliding sensually into the day,
pondering the twelve words or so she might write in the afternoon.
There is no lack of tortured artists populating a Penton poem, and a high price to pay
for the gift of imagination. It is therefore no surprise that the poets to whom he alludes are
Bukowski (coffee by day, tequila by night), Kerouac, and Burroughs (it’s just great-uncle
Jack told us to travel like a child / even after Burroughs shot that hole in gramma’s head).
And there is no doubt a direct link from the inevitable alcohol burn to the creative
conflagration that comes with striking a Faustian deal with the muse:
They don’t tell you she sets herself on fire
They don’t tell you she uses ethics for fuel
mixes them with morals
and sets religious writers aflame
monks and mystics hissing in her fat
She lives off poetry, now
she drinks it like tequila
and any poem that can’t stick to her intestines
is one she never reads again
But did I mention that fires can be beautiful? Jonathan Penton declares that I don’t
have a fortress / I just have a paradox, and it is this dilemma that leads him to seize “the
blessed ur-poem,” even if it means navigating (bravely) through the flames to get at it. It is
clear that in the epic battle between “this de-watered reality” and “the fantasy of
immortality,” though skeptical of both, this poet leans toward the latter. When asked whether
you can cut me / to make our photos just pyrite, he is obviously aware that “pyrite” is Fool’s
Gold, and when he invokes the Haitian god Loa, he is acknowledging that the very act of
writing a poem is akin to magic—the poet’s chimera, even if it’s true that midnight is for
tequila and morning is for agony. While cognizant that adulthood finds you “burying the
furies you need most,” Penton puts more weight on what is felt than that which is merely
remembered vis-à-vis the sentimentality and false narrative of nostalgia.
although it is a waste / of time / to chronicle this madness / it is equally foolish / to try to
catalogue / the sane who sit / with / their birthdays / and their / no-truths-outside-of-things /
when there’s a common fire inside my body
In the end, no matter how much tequila is consumed, and no matter how zealously the
devil tries to throw gasoline on his art, Penton chooses to eschew artifice (I would rather be
in that thread where you don’t have to fake it), embrace authenticity, and, if necessary, walk
on the hot coals of inspiration. It is ironic then, that for this poet, validity lies along the “inkstained
asphalt stretched before me”—that is, the pure phantasmagoria of poetry is “more
permanent for the way that it will leave you.” Reading these potent and powerful poems, it is
safe to say that Penton’s standards of sadiddy are high, and, thankfully, way closer to apogee
than to apathy.
ARTWORK by Bill Wolak
Artist bio and statement: Bill Wolak is a poet, photographer, and collage artist. He
has just published his twelfth book of poetry entitled Love Opens the Hands with
Nirala Press. His collages have been published in over a hundred magazines
including: The Annual, Peculiar Mormyrid, Danse Macabre, Dirty Chai, Hermeneutic
Chaos Literary Journal, Lost Coast Review, Mad Swirl, Otis Nebula, and Horror
Sleaze Trash. Recently, he was a featured poet at The Mihai Eminescu International
Poetry Festival in Craiova, Romania. Mr. Wolak teaches Creative Writing at William
Paterson University in New Jersey.
Collage undresses the darkness with a mirror’s secret undertow. It’s a dance done
on burning kites while dreaming at the speed of light. Expectant as nakedness,
collage is a door that surfaces in the shipwreck of your sleep. It’s a caress with the
irresistible softness of a slipknot in a velvet blindfold. At its best, like poetry, collage
is a moan just beyond delirium. I make collages out of all kinds of materials. Most
are made out of paper engravings. Many collages are digitally generated or
The Photo Shoot
With Eyes the Color of Lightning
When Songs Overlap with Screams
How About Those Fucking
R******s? (RANT) By Adam Phillips
So, how 'bout those fucking R******s, huh?
Obviously, the name's going to go pretty soon, but someone needs to tell Dan Snyder
that before his handlers (Lanny Davis (Bill Clinton post-bj, Martha Stewart post-prison,
Penn State post-Sandusky) and Burson-Marellis (Blackwater, Three-Mile Island)) make
him look any worse.
A common P.R. ploy, when you want to keep doing something shitty, is to pretend
that a relatively simple issue is so complicated, so rife with competing and equally valid
viewpoints, that it's basically impossible to form any type of objective opinion. We can
only throw up our hands, agree to disagree, and move on with our lives. Dan Snyder's
version of this, addressing the perception of “R******s” as a racist epithet, goes “Taken
out of context, you can take things out of context all over the place. But in this particular
case, it is what it is. It's very obvious.” Now, he does a good job with the awkward
phrasing and the vagueness, but you don't have to be Jacques Derrida to understand he
probably should have stayed away from invoking context. Since context, in fact, is the
entire irrefutable reason that Snyder needs to eighty-six the nickname.
Native American opponents of the name speak from within a context of violent
hegemony and personal discriminatory degradation. To this, Snyder says “we respect
those opinions. But I hope they respect our opinion. The respect needs to be mutual, and I
hope they do.” First of all, he doesn't. Snyder entirely disregards their opinion. Native
Americans to whom this term is harmfully offensive aren't seeking a lively academic
debate. They want him to get rid of the name. If I'm dehydrated and I ask a guy with a
20-gallon tank of ice water for a glass and he says no, but he respects my thirst...
Here, Snyder is relying on the democratic and extremely stupid cliche that “every
opinion counts.” Which brings us to another common rhetorical strategy, that of
justifying, sometimes even (fucking terrifyingly) making, decisions based on the
uninformed, or in this case entirely irrelevant, public opinion poll. The Washington Post
reports that “a large...majority of Americans say the Washington R******s should not
change their team’s name, according to a poll released Tuesday finding over two-thirds of
the public does not think the name is disrespectful of Native Americans.” So if I'm
disrespected by something, but most people think I'm not disrespected, do I no longer feel
disrespected? How about if I have the flu, but two-thirds of people interviewed on the
street believe that I don't? Does that make me feel better? Which brings us to the hottest
of the hot button issues circling around this controversy. A can of tangled worms
involving first amendment rights, our country's racist history and racially oppressive
After the SAEs of UO were exposed in the joyous rapture of their racist party-bus
chanting, Rush Limbaugh, apparently outraged by this pernicious double-standard that
threatens to deprive whole generations of white frat boys their God-granted right to use
the n-word, said “If this had been a song by [Kanye West]...and they had sung this song
at the Grammy's...It'd be a hit.” (First of all…I don't listen to a ton of rap music, but a
puerile sing-song chant about discriminatory fraternity admission and lynching? Just
doesn't seem that topical, for one thing, and the target audience…Ooohhhh…I get it.
Rush Limbaugh, being both a dipshit and an old rich fat white guy who has never listened
to rap music, thinks that the entire genre consists of nothing more than a black guy
chanting n****r over and over.) Why, Limbaugh wants to know, is it relatively
acceptable for an African-American to use this term, but from the mouth of a white guy,
it's considered racist. Let me reply to Rush Limbaugh’s question with a question of my
own: Are you fucking kidding me? You need that explained to you?
Aaron Harrison muttering “Fuck that n****r” in regard to Frank Kaminsky was a
news story for a day. However, as a commentator on a popular sports site eloquently
complains “If a white kid had said this there would be weeks of hearings and news and
expulsions. If the white kid on a winning team had said this, we would be looking at him
being ejected from the tournament and this would dominate and supersede all other
coverage.” Yep. And if a high school on the rez wants to retain it's R****** mascot,
that's fine. And if a Hebrew school wants to call itself the K***s, or a school in
Chinatown the C****s, or if I want to found a charter school with a pizza-tossing mascot
called the Wop (see, that's the one I don't have to star out) I can.
Because repeating, ad nauseum, that this situation is too complicated to pin down with
any sort of ground rules has proven totally useless, the moral equivalent of continuing to
floor a car that’s been stuck in the mud for two hundred years. So let’s get glib. Here’s
the rule: the potentially offended group at which the slur is directed gets to use it, if they
want, and nobody else.
Is that a double-standard? Yep. Is it fair? Technically, no, but at worst it’s simply
keeping people from saying something they shouldn’t be saying anyhow.
Just like you said, Snyd, it's all about context. And in the context of a society that still
has a long way to go in its race relations, I think we can all agree that any nickname
following the rubric of “(Color)skins” is probably a lousy idea.
In the words of a fan tailgating recently outside of FedExField, "Politics and football
don't mix. There's a lot going on out in the world every day, and so football should be the
place where we don't have to talk politics." Totally.
Which is exactly why it’s time for Dan Snyder to kill this one-sided political
conversation by changing the team’s name.
Author bio: Adam Phillips currently splits time between Boise, where he makes a living
teaching and coaching at-risk junior high students, and Rockaway Beach, Oregon, where
he doesn't. Both venues are shared with his all-around impressive wife and pair of small
strepitous sons. He thanks you profusely for allowing him to participate in your mental
dialogue. You can currently see more of his sports-related work at Blue Monday
Review and Blotterature.
The ‘Cannibalistic’ Person-centered
Worldview of the Human Species
By Edwin L. Young, PhD
As a boy, I raised chickens for my family to eat and to sell a few to neighbors
now and then. I noticed that, when a chick was sickly or wounded, the other chicks
would peck at it until they had killed it. This became a sort of metaphor for what I was
observing in my friends. When a friend was weak, or an was an outsider, deformed,
somewhat mentally retarded, was of a different race, or was just vulnerable and easily
hurt, my male friends would treat them cruelly, would ridicule them, and even totally
exclude them. My friends seemed to lack empathy for whatever kind of weakness or
difference they saw in others. The bigger, stronger, or more influential boys would take
the dominate role in this behavior and their group insiders would follow and do the
same. I noticed that without regard or caring for the hurt they were inflicting they
seemed to enjoy depersonalizing those others and enjoy treating them in cruel and
deprecatory ways. They really seemed to take delight in hurting those ‘others’ with
impunity. Occasionally, if a deformed insider was able to rise to leadership, they
became the most vicious of all.
Later in life, I began to see the behavior of people in capitalist and free enterprise
endeavors from a perspective analogous to what I had seen in my childhood and
adolescence, in others words there were different forms of depersonalization of
competitors and even in a disguised way their customers. The lack of empathy toward
and requirement to exploit the weak, foreign, or almost any outsider that I saw in my
youth was like a metaphor for what capitalism and free enterprise demanded of insiders
if they were to survive.
Then I began to see that the way public schools were structured was also a
formalized way of mimicking, continuing, and perpetuating this kind of capitalist
worldview with its way of shaping personalities and behavior. With respect to
instructing in schools, students striving to make the best grade or good enough to pass,
and to how teachers evaluated students, it all mimicked the essence of capitalism. I saw
athletics as an even worse example of the nature of capitalism at work. There, in sports,
utality was idolized, praised to the point that it almost seemed like a form of worship
of brutality, winning, and gloating over winning against their defeated opponents.
Oddly, even churches seemed, while somewhat formally andmodestly, to exhibit
this same behavior toward those in other churches or of other faiths. If a person
belonged to a different denomination, they might be seen as an infidel and likely going
to hell. Those with no religion were regarded as damned and surely going to hell.
Everywhere I looked in the life around me, I seemed to be seeing various forms
of the same kinds of capitalist exploitative or ostracizing the non-capitalist
worldviews. Everywhere I looked, I saw ruthlessly competitive personalities but they
were disguised as amiable and even benefactors. In social gatherings of friends, I
typically witnessed one-upmanship behavior between each other. Extending this
perspective, I noticed species in the animal world exhibited similar
behaviors. Typically, their victims often suffered even worse fate.
I began to wonder if this way of being, these kinds ill treatment of each other,
was simply written into the genes of humans and animals. Primates almost all seemed to
exhibit the same capacity for ruthlessness toward the outsider or even toward one of
their own who was misbehaving. Perhaps this way of relating to ‘the unfamiliar,
outsider, or weak other’ was a pervasive condition of the whole of human and animal
What I had read about Jesus in the Bible had, from my readings as a youth,
seemed to be in opposition to this point of view or way of being. However, I did see
that Jesus denounced select groups of non believer humans if they were kings, the rich,
the powerful and ruthless, those in the military, or just the run of the mill sinners. These
were all denounced as faithless sinners whom he called to repent of their evil ways and
believe in Him or else they would go to hell. So, in other words, this would be the fate
of those who were, in some ways, nonbeliever, sinning, outsiders. According to Him,
they were supposed to be, at the very least, denounced as unbelievers and outsiders and
they were to be avoided. Especially one must avoid being influenced by those types as
those persons, ’in particular, were to be regarded as intrinsically evil and might cause
you to go to hell as well.
However, in later life, as I began to restructure institutions like prisons, mental
hospitals, and programs for the ghettoized poor, I came to see that it was the structures
and systems of institutions and societies the world over that were generating these
negative behaviors and negative perspectives toward and ill treatment of the different,
the misbehaving other or just to an ‘outsider.’
When I changed the structures of these institutions so as to bring out humane
behaviors in both the staff and patients, both the guards and the incarcerated, and within
the very poor communities, they all did, in fact, change to becoming kind and prosocial
and tended toward behaviors that were interpersonally, mutually enhancing.
When I had studied counseling in graduate school, I found that caring for the
individual disadvantaged, mentally ill, and deviant others was taught and
encouraged. On the other hand, this caring was directed toward ‘individuals’ while their
pathologically engendering structures and systems were never addressed. Later on in
life, I began to deeply feel that this view of and relating to persons was tragically
missing the most essential factors, namely that it was those structures and systems that
had been and were engendering all of these forms of pathology. Otherwise, It had to be
that humans were just irrevocably bound, genetically, to exhibit dog eat dog, insensitive,
depersonalized, socially encouraged and condoned competitive, down-putting, defeating
behaviors toward ‘the others who happened to become their targets.’ I saw that humans
were actually expected to exhibit these kinds of behaviors and if you did not succeed at
doing so yourself, you, your own self, were bound to become the loser, the victim of
such discriminatory attacks. The universal, unspoken but unconsciously accepted,
dictum of societies the world over seemed to be: “adopt this way of being or become a
Nevertheless, I continued to believe in, and somewhat futilely tried to promote in
others, the natural systems philosophy that I had accidentally derived form that my
structural reform efforts with institutions. Those reform experiences were what my
natural systems philosophy had evolved from. To me, inevitably, this philosophy has
evolved from those initial and successful restructuring experiences and should be
generalized to other aspects of societies. When I shared and promoted this philosophy
with others, I discovered that it almost universally and inevitably fell on ears. Those
ears had been deafened by the global, dominant worldviews. Only a tiny few of my
fellow humans espoused my philosophy of the way the world worked.
I now see that all human ways of defeating fellow humans, all failures or
ineffectuality of positive human enterprizes, all wars against other nations or between
tribes, are all result of this pervasive defect, not in the human genes, but in the world’s
cultures. The natures of all but a very tiny few of fellow humans will see and
understand this perspective. From the beginnings of our first small civilizations through
the long process of civilizations’ evolution into the present and even unto the
foreseeable future, this horrible human stigma, or stain will remain its same unfortunate
trend. It will continue until we see and understand and radically alter the causes of our
eventual and inevitable extinction of our own and all life on earth.
I cannot see a massive, population uprising that will encompass a saving change
so that a some kind of ‘Natural Systems, Structural’ philosophy becomes the dominant
worldview. Unless such a philosophy and its practical effectuation, with its
accompanying sweeping changes in humans personal, interpersonal, and societal
behaviors comes about, there may be nothing else that can save us from the next mass
Visual Poetry by Tim Lewis
Author bio: Tim Lewis is a Senior at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
Majoring in Critical Theory and Social Justice, Tim is passionate about
finding the organic moments where Continental philosophy can clarify
and/or positively affect the social justice issues of the present. In his time as
the lead student editor/managing editor of CTSJ: Journal of Undergraduate
Research, Tim has published two volumes of CTSJ-- cementing its place as
the national standard bearer in its field. Tim's poetry has been recently
published in the Fall 2015 Volume of Occidental College's The Fang
Magazine and the Spring 2016 Volume of Occidental College's FEAST
Literary Magazine and has been selected by Cherry Castle Publishing for
inclusion in their forthcoming Nelson Mandela anthology, Songs for a
Passbook Torch (Summer 2017).
M Train of Thoughts
By Alison Ross (Book Review)
Trains, by their very nature, have a pointed purpose: Arriving at select destinations
in an timely, efficient manner. Their trajectory may not always be linear, but they
must follow a charted path, or risk jumping tracks. Patti Smith's latest tome of non-fiction,
M Train, does not really mimic a train's trajectory in the sense that it does
not adhere to a pre-‐planned path. Instead, it develops naturally as it goes, and takes
many tangled twists and turns along the way.
The title, then, is meant metaphorically: the M Train is what gets Patti to her desired
destination, which is a place of peace. This place does, of course, exist tangibly, and
it conjures a mystical serenity for her. But to say, as some have, that M Train is as
captivating as Just Kids would be an overstatement, in my view. Just Kids was utterly
astounding in its elegant sparseness and intriguing glimpse into coveted 1970s NYC
M Train is beautifully wrought, to be sure, but it's a more sober affair than Just Kids.
Where Just Kids focused on Smith's life with Robert Mapplethorpe at the Chelsea
Hotel, as well as their development as artists and the downtown art scene, M Train
focuses on Smith's later life with her husband, the late Fred Sonic Smith, and their
children. It also focuses on her current reclusive existence. The narrative is loose
and jumps back and forth in time and space.
Patti's train never derails, of course, but always follows its own sense of direction –
much like Patti's career itself. This is a meditation not only on love and loss, but on
finding one's own way, and on relishing solitude as the only true mode of being.
By Scott Wordsman
Author bio: Scott Wordsman is currently an MFA candidate at William Paterson
University. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Thrush, Slipstream, Spry,
Main Street Rag, The Puritan, The Quotable, Mad Swirl, and others. He lives in Jersey
City and edits for Map Literary.
is ever quite
artless––says the sport
dealer, says the sport
owner, his keys
tuned to the
drum. This kind
might be the bestkept
in plain clothing.
In nice clothing
without or with
them, you have,
as I have, come
mouth a gasp
of ash, pressed
to the ground.
Prayer for the god satellite
fill a piebald
ways to say
up late nd
late nd up
FROM THE BOWELS OF UNSCIENTIFIC THOUGHT:
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PEOPLE IN CHINA? (SATIRE)
By John Alexander
For quite some time, I’ve been wondering: why are there so many people in China? I
think I have an answer, but let me give you a little background first.
I was reading the other day that the population of China is just over 1.3 billion
people. The U.S. population, in comparison, is slightly more than 323 million- and that’s
a big difference. So big that you have to ask: “How did it happen?” Especially so,
because although China has 1.3 billion people, if it weren’t for the famines, there could
have been even more!
Research shows that between 108 B.C. and 1911, China has had - at least - 1,828
famines. The death tolls of the most devastating famines are staggering. The number of
dead - in millions - of the greatest ones are 60, 45, 20-40, 9.5-13, 5 and 3. Further,
between 1959 and 1961 - depending on the source - between 15 and 45 million additional
Finally, for good measure, I’ll throw in the Cultural Revolution, which resulted in
over 1.5 million people killed.
So, let’s return to the question of “…why are there so many people in China?”
Well, as strange as it may sound, the answer is right there in front of our eyes - in
person and on television- they’re wearing masks! Yes! There are so many people in
China because so many of them wear masks.
Now, you may be asking, “How does that tie in?”
To answer that, let me ask a question. “What is one way - in today’s day and age,
short of violence and war - that people die besides old age or being in an accident?”
Well, the answer is - they get infected by somebody else? Right?
The tie-in between 1.3 billion people - and counting- and being infected is the
mask. Because so many people wear them, fewer and fewer people are infecting others,
which, in turn, results - over time - in a reduced mortality rate, and, thus, more people!
Simple enough, isn’t it? So, blame it on a little-bitty mask. Imagine that?
And, with that, I’ll say goodbye - until next time - from the bowels of unscientific
Author bio: After spending years in New York City, John Alexander has temporarily
relocated to the hamlet of Getzville, New York. He lives - and writes - there in the
company of his two favorite pets, “Bunny” and “Roma.” Most recently, John Alexander
has appeared in Straightjackets Literary Magazine (for a real-time email exchange, called
“Between Friends”: http://straitjacketsmagazine.com/support4/between.friends.htm
starting on the afternoon of 9-11 and continuing for a year) and Hackwriters: The
International Writers Magazine (U.K.). He also co-authored the online novel, entitled, “A
Vow of Silence.” (www.avowofsilence.net)
Living Alone and Loving It
By Lynn White
I’m living alone and loving it,
that I am.
I had a good ‘un though,
but wouldn’t want to train another.
Takes years to train ‘em.
That couple last night,
what a one she was.
You could see who was boss
in that marriage.
Ain't it funny that
you picked up on it as well!
I don’t like the shows, though.
That magician was terrible.
Worst I've seen.
Mind you, magicians are old hat,
In my opinion.
Still, better than sitting on our own
watching the telly.
I think we only watch it out of boredom,
being on our own.
I wouldn’t want another, though.
Well, I had such a good ‘un,
it would’t be fair.
Couldn’t believe it when she said:
“I told my first that I’d divorce him
if he got a pot belly
and look what I’ve ended up with!”
Must have hurt him!
No equal partnership that!
You could see she was boss.
Fancy you picking up on it as well.
Must have hurt him.
Living alone and loving it, I am.
Wouldn’t be fair to have another.
I’d be making comparisons.
He was so meticulous.
If he was taking something to bits
he’d make a drawing first
so he could put it back together.
No wouldn’t be fair.
Fancy us both picking up
on that woman last night.
Yes, you can see who’s boss
in that marriage.
No, wouldn’t be fair to have another.
Living alone and loving it,
that’s what I am.
Author bio: Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social
justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially
interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. Her poem 'A Rose
For Gaza' was shortlisted for the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition 2014
and has since appeared in several journals and anthologies. Poems have also recently
been published in anthologies including - Harbinger Asylum’s 'To Hold A Moment Still';
Stacey Savage’s ‘We Are Poetry, an Anthology of Love poems’; Community Arts Ink’s
‘Reclaiming Our Voices’; Vagabond Press’, ‘The Border Crossed Us’; ‘Civilised Beasts’
from Weasel Press; ‘Alice In Wonderland’ by Silver Birch Press and a number of rather
excellent online and print journals.
Excerpts from h.e/s.he scatology in 315 wor./d sec./tions coauthored
by Daniel Y. Harris and Irene Koronas
gabriele dannunzio and smiley by Daniel Y. Harris
epithets il vate decadence and somersaulted swings towards naturalism and
purity in the wake of the silly nothing of here o mi confession and dead from
the waist down comprises a yellow circle with two black dots employing
a colon and a right parenthesis to form sequences variant spelling smilie is
not as common as the y spelling noe the wak weight of dismiis variant
spelling smilie is not as common as the y spelling distinguished by such
agile graceil libro delle vergini dealing in radiant language with the peasant
life of the author native province intermezzo di rime coffee mugs
tshirts bumper stickers and many other items emblazoned with the symbol
and the phrase have a happy day with your runic symbol your nordic maybe
later gaelic symbolic special trope ertjnasfnlefkwifvskef gluten heavy with
cliche as dough this black sun of renaissance bishops we as among or when
you decide to be the master race even when you cook the new restriction on
schreeded beef smiley is loufrani points to early cave paintings found in
france for her culture of vintage cliches of a rats ass that simply does not
give a shit about the association cemented in the band bomb your apathy will
be judged pathetic you will be sentenced to death so pick the clip intentional
orthographic joke but this interpretation of the punctuation is disputed bun
the dead bodies of ruin burn any chance of return but this too is the f among
a rejected him as a perverter of public morals intentional orthographic joke
such as clothing various separatist groups throughout the balkans smiley had
acquired secondary meaning or that it is otherwise a protectable trademark
for epigrap hyultra nationalist and irredentist views to make alliances with
walmart sued online parodists home decoration perfumery plush stationer
had the same angular letter shapes suited hailed by fascists as duce del
dis like and simi lar by Irene Koronas
he feels distaste for or hostility toward his mistress death distress always dis
likes his death less aversion to life and those care bear blankets
helioseismology doilies his mother crochets madly his pivot tip toes through
garden planets molder in parenthesis another reason to feel cool death wrap
rubbery strands about his bob along between his legs the swing tilts to and
fro dis like eats pear and straight boat buckle aftershock flares pimple
sunspots on his nose his arm wrestle match between dis and flux he ropes
photons then gives boarding pass to neighbors like simi lar considers her
gleam cloud asset devotee daily wit full expressions lift his orbital fox trot
hostility groove performance in eleven ignore paperwork eclipses door mat
ascension rebate coupons she mails numbered slips in cardboard boxes to
old country landmark she wishes to travel blows pink ink letters address
night bus rides her stride right do right stability flowers yellow pray play her
chance morning run through front alley she cannot be his dis like her wage
swerve enjoys similar lemon drops dissolve in his mouth rain and wind
gridlock gate gallop goats dance frogs jump simi lar holds fuchsia polka dot
umbrella her red boots splash his black attire his long cashmere coat and top
hat something else in his flat line devastation marble blocks roll like dice dis
does what he does best he bets all his guts on one figure to preserve a place
for waiting becomes her party pantry ingredients against windsurfing fruit
and nut pie together an illusion about life lily lots touching objects majestic
makers bake them til done til tally tells him to shut up muddy landscapes
fade his obstinacy ignore oblivion blue plaid shirt his dark puddle pup on a
lease similar to feigning pain under eyelashes she looks at the nape of his
neck and she clutches her pocketbook
Editor’s Note: Daniel Y. Harris writes: “h.e/s.he is an experimental manuscript
comprised of 50 (25 by Irene, 25 by me) unpunctuated prose poems engaged with the
concept of male and female relationships at the archetypal, metaphorical and physical
level. We take our characters from the movies, television, philosophy, poetry, music,
psychoanalysis and art.”
Author bio: Daniel Y. Harris is the author of The Rapture of Eddy Daemon
(forthcoming from BlazeVOX 2016), The Underworld of Lesser Degrees
(NYQ Books, 2015), Esophagus Writ (with Rupert M. Loydell, The Knives
Forks and Spoons Press, 2014), Hyperlinks of Anxiety (Červená Barva
Press, 2013), The New Arcana (with John Amen, New York Quarterly
Books, 2012), Paul Celan and the Messiah’s Broken Levered Tongue (with
Adam Shechter, Červená Barva Press, 2010; picked by The Jewish Forward
as one of the 5 most important Jewish poetry books of 2010) and Unio
Mystica (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2009). Some of his poetry,
experimental writing, art, and essays have been published in BlazeVOX,
Denver Quarterly, E·ratio, European Judaism, Exquisite Corpse, The New
York Quarterly, Notre Dame Review, In Posse Review, The Pedestal
Magazine, Poetry Magazine, Poetry Salzburg Review and Stride. He is the
Editor-in-Chief of X-Peri.
Author bio: Irene Koronas is the author of Turtle Grass (Muddy River
Books, 2014), Emily Dickinson (Propaganda Press, 2010), Pentakomo
Cyprus (Červená Press, 2009), Zero Boundaries (Červená Press, 2008) and
Self Portrait Drawn From Many (Ibbetson Street Press, 2007). Some of her
poetry, experimental writing and visual art have been published in Clarion,
Counterexample Poetics, Divine Dirt, E·ratio, Free Verse, Haiku Hut, Index
Poetry, Lynx, Lummox, Pop Art, Posey, Right Hand Pointing, Presa,
Spreadhead, Stride and Unblog. She has exhibited her visual art at the
Tokyo Art Museum Japan, the Henri IV Gallery, the Ponce Art Gallery, the
Gallery at Bentley College and the M & M Gallery. She is the Managing
Editor at X-Peri.
White Duke/Blackstar (CD
Review) by Alison Ross
David Bowie died like he lived: in dynamic fashion. After his quiet start as a troubadourstyle
singer, he then materialized into one of glam-rock's most visible and
audacious pioneers. He was always one to metamorphose modes, both visually and
musically. By the end of his life, David Bowie had accumulated enough personae to
finally just relax into what felt "right" for him. Not that his multifarious personae were
necessarily inauthentic emanations of himself, just that on “Blackstar,” he seems to have
shed any pretense toward persona. Perhaps his looming death vividly articulated for him
the raw, loose style and shape of the songs. Certainly, Bowie does not sound "tortured"
on this album, but, rather, bravely embracing of the inevitable, and even making light of
it on songs such as "Girl Loves Me," where first there is a type of jabberwocky at play
(apparently a portmanteau, actually, of Clockwork Orange-speak and 70s London gay
slang), followed by an insistent inquiry, in an ironic tone, "Where the fuck did Monday
go?" echoing, of course, our frustrating passivity in the face of passing time. It's a wry
reflection on his own mortality. On songs like "Lazarus," his "mortality meditation" is
even more stark: "Look up here/I'm in heaven/I've got scars that can't be seen/I've got
drama, can't be stolen/Everybody knows me now." But then a bit later he seems to
celebrate his "freedom" in death - freedom from existential concerns, for one: You know,
I'll be free/Just like that bluebird/Now ain't that just like me?" His use of the ubiquitous
"bluebird" symbol and his vernacular employment of "ain't" hint at a playful resignation
to death. The video for "Lazarus" is far from playful, however, and is wrenching to
watch, considering how close to death he really was during the production of it. It's as
though we are watching him die, as he writhes around in a kind of dystopian hospital bed,
adorned with dirty rags over his eyes, and inhabiting a gaunt frame. “Blackstar's"
mingling of freeform jazz and asymmetrical structures with more orthodox rock moods
make it a freshly captivating listen from start to finish. It's Bowie's goodbye letter to us,
and while the fact itself is painful, it's a transcendent sonic experience. We are indebted
to Bowie for sharing with us his dynamic life, which we vicariously lived and were
titillated and transformed by. Even his death was a vigorously creative affair.
Stuffed Girl: A Recipe (SATIRE) By Zinn Adeline
ABOUT THIS RECIPE:
“How difficult they make it for us to become women,
when becoming poultry is what that really means!”
- Helene Cixous
YIELD: Serves 1 to Everyone
HANDS ON TIME: 30 seconds to as long as He wants
TOTAL TIME: ___ to Forever
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: scale, tweezers, plugs, mirror, cheesecloth
WATCH OUT FOR: Some say this dish is leaky. As Leaky a Vessel as was ever made,
they say. But I don’t feel leaky. I feel so full.
• 1 entire grade A Vagina; equal parts virgin/whore; make sure the whore hasn’t
been trimmed off; about 750 grams; easily available at your local grocer
• 2 Tits; organic is tastier and easier to work with but imitation meat will do if
necessary; use tweezers to dehair
• 1 quart She Blood; check your specialty grocer
• 75 grams pink curing salt
• 3 Holes; no wholes. It won’t work if you buy wholes instead.
• Optional: 1 Clitoris; plump or angular; season to taste
• Let ingredients come to room temperature before trying to clean or pluck. Time
varies depending on weight and dualism ratios.
• Scrub. Scour. Shine.
• Working one lobe at a time, using tweezers, plugs and mirror, split meat in two,
separating the virgin and whore lobes, and any other visible dichotomies.
• Remove all hair.
• Combine blood, meat, salt, holes, optional clitoris.
• Stir. Shake. Slap. Sprinkle.
• Slit. Slice. Stain. Scar.
• Simmer. Steam. Scold. Strain.
• Slide. Smear. Spread. Slather.
1. Stuff its holes, stuff and stuff for days, so it can get rich and fat and delicious.
And delicate. A delicacy in some cultures. Despised in others. So many others.
Crowds of others.
2. I am delicate. Then despised. The most delicate you ever put in your______.
3. Stuffed. As a turkey. Unable to leak, give, ooze. Oh, to ooze…
4. Go ahead, take a bite. You’ll see how full I am. Vast. Bite and bite and get
nowhere. I’ll put you right the fuck to sleep. Just one stuffing and it’s done.
5. No, not like a turkey. That is just another false trope. Turkeys don’t actually make
6. They tell me i have at least three holes. And it took awhile for me to be done.
7. I’m still undercooked, actually.
8. Maybe like foie gras. Goose, perhaps. Yeah, i’m like a fatty goose liver.
9. Silly goose girl.
10. No, the liver of a fattened Mulard duck. Yeah, i’m a domesticated duck hybrid. A
male Muscovey duck artificially inseminated into a female Pekin.
12. Bred just for stuffing—they have a mouth and an ass and, the artificial
insemination has to go somewhere. So two stuffed holes and one plugged up.
13. A fattened, buttery live liver. Pretty damn close.
14. But, no, not a duck either. i misremembered.
16. If i were foie gras, i’d be pâté. Pâtés are incredibly inconsistent. The ingredients
always vary. I don’t remember them all. So many ingredients, so many
17. But they all have that familiar texture. Ground and minced. And perfectly
18. A terrine, probably. Because i’d need another layer of unrecognizable fat that i
simmered in, cooked down, then served up still in that layer of fat.
19. Enclosed. Incased. Held together. All of my ingredients, all of the stuffing, held
together by a thin layer of slippery fat.
20. And then they slice into me and spread me on homemade crostini.
21. Mother makes a damn good crunchy fresh crostini.
• I’m finished with a nice cognac gastrique.
• You know, one more layer. Intricate. So you don’t forget.
• I forgot.
• But they say i’m delicious.
• A portion for you. And you and you. And all the others. And the others.
• A leaky vessel or a sinking ship. Same.
• No. Not the same.
• A vessel is something that holds. Collects. Protects. A vessel functions. If it leaks,
it lets the stuff out. Oozes. Gush. To gush, no. I’m more like
• a sinking ship. My vessel does not function. It has wholes holes and holes and the
stuff is coming in, a flood, through all my wholes holes, so many fucking holes,
• So many holes, and the stuffing, it is sinking me. Stuffed. Sunk.
• To leak would be a luxury. To leak would mean I am not from out, without, but
that I give.
• Liver Liveher.
• Ha… who can clean this shit up.
• listen. Listen. LISTEN.
• Who, me? No, that must have been someone else. Someone who died long ago.
Or someone who never was. A stranger you never met. But not I.
• I iiiiii
• i am not a tidy container. i don’t specialize. You can’t actually consume i.
Author bio: Zinn Adeline writes and loves in Portland Oregon, and is the Creative
Engineer at Corporeal Writing. Her work can be found in Blunderbuss, Cactus Heart and
Have They Run Out of
Political Correctness Yet?
By Alison Ross
Warning: Politically Incorrect tirade in progress. Proceed at your own risk. Mind may
be opened and possibly altered upon perusing this polemic. Viewpoints may be expanded
or obliterated after careful consideration of the contents therein. Alternatively, mind may
explode at the very idea that a self-professed progressive editor does not hew to all
proscribed and orthodox lefty ideologies, especially when said ideologies are toxic and
So. The literary internet nearly imploded in early April. Did you hear about it? Granted,
the literary internet is always quasi-imploding over SOMETHING, usually some
perceived violation of the tyrannical tenets of political correctness. Sometimes, these
implosions are justifiable (and therefore not emanating from politically correct
ideologies). Take, for example, when that white male dude submitted a poem to a literary
magazine under an Asian name to prove a point. I don't think I need to elaborate on why
that was crossing the threshold of what should be deemed acceptable comportment in a
This latest combustible controversy also concerns Asian culture, interestingly enough.
More specifically, Chinese food. However, unlike the situation where the Anglo writer
co-opted Asian identity, this latest bruhaha is entirely, egregiously unjustified.
Now, of course, I will be branded a bigot for this tirade - and likely pelted with every
other epithet the PC culture warriors can conjure. So be it. I don't relish the tarnishing of
my character, but I cannot control how people (mis)perceive me.
So, as you have probably figured out by now, I am not Asian. (I am Caucasian, but I
guess the Asian part of that word doesn't count.) But yes, it's true that I have not
experienced the heinous marginalization of being Asian in the US. I have, of course,
experienced other types of heinous oppression, owing to the fact that I have boobs and a
vulva. But this isn't about me.
So anyway. The controversy in question concerns a piece of doggerel written by food
writer and doggerel expert Calvin Trillin for the New Yorker, entitled, "Have They Run
Out of Provinces Yet?" The piece is about the bewildering array of culinary choices from
the various provinces of China. It is written in the voice of a snobby foodie who is always
trying to keep ahead of the culinary curve - trying to maintain pace with ever-evolving
ethnic food trends. The piece could have been written about any type of victuals, but as
Chinese cuisine is in vogue, Trillin adopted that particular food for his ditty.
The problem is - what basically broke the internet - some people missed the parody.
Naturally, one could argue (as some have) that the parody was not developed and
therefore the poem is "shitty." But if some people "got" the parody, does the parody fail?
For them, it does not. For those who didn't get the parody, the poem clearly fails. But this
still doesn't discount the poem's intention as parody.
One could argue - and there are these very arguments splattered about the internets - that
the poem's intention is nullified if it is misconstrued. And I would say if the intention was
more widely misunderstood than understood, then this argument has weight.
But how do we measure whether the poem's intention was more misunderstood than
understood? If we measure it by the number of negative articles written about it on the
internet, then we could say that the poem was more widely misconstrued. But if we
measure it by the quantity of comments negating the content these articles, then it would
seem many more actually grasped the poem's parodic purpose.
Some (non-Asian) commenters have cautioned that non-Asians should defer to offended
Asians in this case. I do see this point very clearly. But I have also read comments by -
and spoken directly to - Asians who were NOT offended by the poem, and even found it
humorous and understood its intentions. So which Asian voices have more authority - the
ones who were offended, or the ones who were not? Indeed, to whom exactly should we
defer? Maybe we should defer to our own conscience? After all, the offended - of
whatever ethnicity - cannot speak for everyone, just as the non-offended - of whatever
ethnicity - cannot speak for everyone.
All of this conscientious contemplation leads me back to my original premise: That
Trillin's poem is NOT bigoted, that its purpose was pure parody, and that it even succeeds
Now, that said, if you take the poem at face value, then yes, it could be construed as
flippantly caricaturing Chinese culture. And yes, it's true too that it doesn't matter that
Trillin happens to be an expert about food from many cultures, and intimately
knowledgeable about Chinese cuisine. It doesn't give him free reign to insult other
But, as we have established, he did not insult other cultures. He wrote a poem about food
and foodies in a playful way.
I think that the fact that so many misapprehended the purpose doesn't so much reflect on
the poem's "failure" as parody as it does on our overly paranoid politically correct
culture, which seeks to locate offensive intention in even the most mundane matters.
Political correctness is basically the policing of language from a decidedly leftist
viewpoint, and that ironically results in exactly the same thing as right wing
authoritarianism: Squashing the principles of free expression.
I am sure I have lapsed into political correctness plenty of times, but I do strive to keep
my linguistic interactions authentic. Free of bigotry, of course, but authentic in the sense
that they evolve from an internal ethical imperative, not because I want to "fit in" and
conform to certain progressive ideologies. I am fervently progressive, but progressive in
my own way, and this means veering from orthodox progressive principles when I find
them to be limiting. I find political correctness to be stifling and rigid. It militarizes
Political correctness is not progressive, ultimately. Many progressives adopt politically
correct ideals, and certainly some good things have evolved from politically correct
individuals. Indeed, some might call a group like Black Lives Matter politically correct. I
would not, but I am sure some of the individuals within the movement can be politically
correct. Most progressive movements have politically correct members - and I would say
those members typically are buzzkills to the movement.
Let's be clear: Doggerel is meant to be playful. It is meant, even, to be bad. The fact that
so many are lamenting Trillin's poem's "shittiness" are also missing the point. Doggerel
does not have pretentions to being high art. It's light, it's silly, it's fun. It's the perfect
vehicle to deliver a parody of food culture.
If anything, the poem is damning of bourgeois Anglo foodie-hipsters and their own
hollow bigotry toward other ethnicities, reducing those ethnicities to food-tourism. And if
anything, the poem elevates Chinese cuisine and culture to loftier heights than previously.
I am pretty sure most people who read the poem were not aware of the spectacular and
staggering diversity of Chinese food.
I have listened to all sides of the debate over Trillin's poem. I have (ahem) digested those,
and then re-read the poem from those different perspectives. I have done all of this and
can still only conclude that the poem is a silly satire of foodies. I still only conclude that
just because some people are offended by something doesn't mean that that something
contains offensive content.
What I have found again and again in the cloisters of the chronically politically correct is
that often, they can be the most smugly divisive, stoking more fires than
extinguishing. What I would say to them is, we have to see every issue on its own merits
and not have knee jerk reactionary responses when none are warranted. We must do this
for the sake of communicating clearly so that TRUE bigotry in all its forms can be
eradicated, or at the very least, minimized.
We - as humans of multifarious races and a baffling variety of voices - must be able to
reference the regions of Africa in verse without fear of damnation. We must be able to
poetically dissect the merits (or lack thereof) of haggis in Scotland without being spit
upon by the severely sanctimonious. We must be able to pen platitudes about Native
American spirituality, or script screeds about the funky taste of some Korean food, or
frame frivolous ditties around the multiplicity of religious denominations in the United
States, or scream songs about the delectable dishes of Latin America - all without being
on the receiving end of ill-spent ire among those who want to find offense in the most
We must be able to do all of this in a satirical, parodic, or respectfully lighthearted
manner, without regressive retribution. But if we do and get excoriated by the language
police, then we might as well summon the ghost of Joseph McCarthy and have a big
party in his honor.
Gaia’s Blues (Polemic/Satire)
By George Held
I am so tired of Earthers neglecting me, their mother Gaia, by doing the most wasteful,
polluting, and damaging things to foul their nest. I am that nest. And for all the comfort I
have provided in the form of a temperate atmosphere – neither too hot nor too cold except
at the poles or the Equator – the possibility to grow their own food and prosper when well
organized into social units, too many Earthers are abusing the reasonable limits that I
have placed on their ecosystem.
Yes, a few enlightened Earthers live simply, eating locally grown food, shunning
products in packaging that can’t be recycled, and composting their leftovers, which they
reduce to a minimum. These Archearthers, as I call them after “archangels,” belong to or
support conservation organizations, drive cars with good fuel economy, and consciously
behave in ways that limit human despoliation of the ecosystem. Some also practice the
most needed method of reducing the stresses and strains on their planet: birth control.
Despite the efforts of dutiful Archearthers to reproduce at a rate that will only
replace themselves – two children – or reduce population – one child or none – too many
Earthers, through either conscious or unconscious practice, breed at a rate that will grow
their numbers, thereby increasing Earth’s –Gaia’s, my – burden to feed, house, and clothe
And so I have embarked on a campaign of wreaking violent weather on the planet
to try to warn and chasten Earthers: either they rein in their ruinous ways or they will
perish as a result of Earth’s defensive intemperance, that is, Earth’s violent attempts to
save itself. It’s not my fault that Earthers, in pursuing their so-called elevated lifestyle,
have poured greenhouse gases like CO2 into the atmosphere and caused inordinate global
warming. Their very own actions – all that factory smoke and those stifling motor-vehicle
emissions – have triggered my climate mechanisms and created ever more frequent and
violent tornados, hurricanes, and tsunamis, droughts and floods of biblical proportions
(even worse, as I was around back in Old Testament times too and know the difference),
and, yet to come, species-killing summer heat and winters colder than meat lockers.
A good sample of my corrective power was the tropical storm that Earthers,
laughably, called “Sandy,” though it did wreck a lot of sandy beaches in the northeastern
United States. This terrific storm, like “Katrina” in 2005, was a strong hint to Earthers to
move their dwellings back from the shoreline or their rebuilt houses and boardwalks
would be visited with seasonal destruction. But I see that human effort has been
misplaced in rebuilding structures on the coast where they will be vulnerable to my next
You’d think that at least one of the world’s great religions would have begun
preaching conservation and birth control, but no, they still believe mankind is supposed
to exercise dominion over the Earth; and to call for fewer children, smaller families,
would be anathema to religions that seek to dominate the world. At least, unbelieving
China has tried to keep its huge population under control, with a one-child per family
limit. Meanwhile, Catholics, Hindus, and Muslims breed like rabbits, adding to the
planet’s stress. How unhappy will be the populations at current sea level after the oceans
have risen another few feet with the climbing temperature melting glaciers and land ice
near the poles.
It was of course the great divine and demographer Thomas Robert Malthus, in An
Essay on the Principle of Population, who, two hundred years ago, argued unequivocally
that “the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to
produce subsistence for man.” He believed that the “misery” caused by famine and
disease would keep the population in balance with Earth’s carrying capacity. That was
before the revolution in agriculture made huge harvests of crops and livestock possible,
reducing Malthus to a figure of ridicule. But now again his views deserve credence, for
soaring temperatures and fields parched by drought or flooded by storms will diminish
mankind’s ability to provide sustenance for the world’s increasing billions of people.
Added to the misery Malthus foresaw is the misery triggered by a population whose
numbers are out of control and out of balance in the wake of Gaia’s punishing efforts to
defend herself. Famine and disease will necessarily be among my weapons.
Meantime, corporate greed and rapacity continue to lead the assault on the Earth.
In the interest of growing their profits, industries continue to exploit the planet’s
resources: they are committing terracide. Their scientists and executives are terrarists. It
was only fifty years ago that the chemical industry rose in fury against a brave scientist
named Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring carefully laid out the case against
pesticides. Every time another Carson or Malthus publishes an argument against the
harmful policies of the status quo, corporate and political interests rise to attack them.
The Archearthers, try as they might, lack the power and money of the corporatists and
their advocates, like the infamous Koch brothers, so I can only conclude that their assault
on the world will continue. It’s already too late to prevent the vertiginous future of
drought and flood, fire and ice. People will hate me for my violence, but Archearthers
will know I had no choice, and they will defend me. For they know that human beings
must simplify, not further complicate, their lives, must mend and reuse, not discard and
manufacture, their garments and implements, must reduce their numbers in order to grow
harmoniously with nature. In the end, I will save us through attrition, or we shall perish.
Author bio: George Held, a former Fulbright lecturer in Czechoslovakia and an eighttime
Pushcart Prize nominee, publishes poems, fiction, and book reviews, both online and
in print, and Garrison Keillor read one of Held’s poems on A Writer’s Almanac. His new
book is Bleak Splendor (Muddy River Books, 2016). Phased 2 (Poets Wear Prada, 2017),
more moon poems, is next.
Pimpin’ the Chrysalis (CD
Review) By Alison Ross
How does one write about the one of the most hyped rap albums ever made without
resorting to cheap, obsequious behavior? How does one laud a universally beloved album
without unimaginatively contributing to the mundane monotony of accolades? Well, one
can't. So, my little review of Kendrick Lamar's remarkable album, "To Pimp a Butterfly"
is going to simply persist in the parade of praise, while offering up some terribly shallow
critiques that will be sure to miss the entire point.
I will say with assurance that Kendrick's music and lyrics are disarmingly cerebral -
much moreso than, say, those of intellectual poser Kanye West - and yet they somehow
still retain the commercial viability of some of his peers such as Drake. Granted, on
TPAB, the music is elevated by the likes of George Clinton and jazzmeisters such as
Robert Glasper, but even so, sonically speaking, the songs are not overly pedantic, to
where they alienate the audience with stuffy strains. The jazz on the album is aplenty, but
it's of the accessible kind, and serves as more of a bold backdrop rather than the
centerpiece. Too, the album dabbles in other nostalgic styles, such as funk and soul,
which lend dynamic dimension - a groovy danceability and fierce infectiousness.
This is not to say that the sprawling album is necessarily easy to pin down, either. Its
chaotic eclecticism can be discombobulating. The songs do not so much flow forward as
they hurl into each other with ferocious force. There is an urgency to the album that can
practically saturate the senses.
And we haven't even touched on the lyrics yet.
Lyrically, TPAB hews to an overarching theme - the challenges of being black in
America - which is arguably a tired topic, and yet not treated in an uninspired manner.
On the contrary, the lyrics are unexpectedly introspective and breathtakingly honest.
Kendrick implicates himself, even, in the race problems that plague the US. Take, for
example, "the blacker the berry," where Kendrick indicts himself as being the "biggest
hypocrite of 2015." Here he is exploring the latent tendency in some - maybe too many -
black people to discriminate against other blacks of varying shades, even as they call out
whites for their own skin-pigmentation bigotry. I believe this phenomenon is called
"colorism." Indeed, Kendrick's lyrics are roundly damning of this practice, as it can lead
to violence - as it did when his youthful mischief-making apparently led to the death of
one of his "homies."
In most of the song, of course, Kendrick is venomously condemning white supremacist
culture for wanting to eradicate the black race: "You hate my people, your plan is to
terminate my culture" and ironically employing crass stereotypes to nail home his point:
"My hair is nappy, my dick is big, my nose is round and wide. You hate me, don't you? "
Later in the song, Kendrick says he is as black as the heart of an Aryan, and he continues
to savage imperialist Anglo culture for enforcing self-hatred among blacks: "You
sabotage my community, makin' a killin'. You made me a killer, emancipation of a real
nigga." But by no means does he let himself off the hook: "So why did I weep when
Trayvon Martin was in the street? When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than
In other songs, such as the rousing, funk-infused "i," Kendrick implores black people to
love themselves, so that they can in turn live in harmony with others, and forge strong
ties with their communities to combat discrimination. Lack of self-esteem is perilous, and
erodes possibility: "Everybody lack confidence; how many times my potential was
anonymous?" Kendrick himself has witnessed a lot of violence, having been a denizen of
Compton, one of the most poverty-stricken places in the US, and so the song is both a
reminder to himself to push past the pain as well as a warning to others that giving into
self-hatred is corrosive.
In "alright" Kendrick explores a multiplicity of topics, including his ambivalence toward
his own indulgence in vice (drugs, women, money), but also and most importantly, the
imperative of maintaining sanity in the face of so much police brutality, which stokes
destabilizing fear among the black community.
"To Pimp a Butterfly" is a towering artistic achievement brimming with rapid-fire
rapping, free jazzing, and sampling, and interspersed with Beat poetry/spoken word that
polemicize on the plight of African-Americans. On some songs, Kendrick adopts
personae with quasi-comical voices, but the result is never so much funny as it is
tragicomic, given the context.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspects of this epic project lie in two non-musical elements:
First, there are narrative fragments strewn throughout the album of Kendrick's own
particular personal nightmare. The story is never fully fleshed out until near the end,
when you realize that the purpose of "teasing" us with these fragments is so that we
would listen to the whole album, itself a story of introspection and meditation on the ills
of a bigoted society.
The second would be the mock-interview with one of Kendrick's heroes, Tupac, that
culminates the album. Kendrick mines the wisdom of Tupac to show how little has truly
changed since his death.
Right before the interview, Kendrick decodes the title's cryptic meaning. We come to
understand that pimping a butterfly means cutting short a person's potential (not allowing
the chrysalis to break free from its barrier), but then also exploiting a person's potential
(the butterfly) for certain gain.
The black community has been pimped, repeatedly, by a white supremacist society - and
yet, as Kendrick lets us know through his viciously vivid verses, blacks will reign
supreme, and be the beautiful butterflies they were always meant to be.
(MOVIE REVIEW) By Alison Ross
Michael Moore is the Shakespeare of our times.
Now, if you regard that pronouncement as blasphemous against the Bard, bear with me.
What I mean by such an audacious sentiment is that Moore mixes the sprightliness of
comedy and the heft of tragedy with equal acuity. Just as Shakespeare excelled at shining
glaring light on the human condition through silly as well as serious situations and
scenes, so Michael Moore can weave a savvy tragicomic tale about modern life. And, of
course, both artists are adept at condemning corrupt political systems.
Obviously, the fact that Moore traffics in non-fiction while Shakespeare trafficked in
drama and poetry is where the two diverge. This is not to say that there cannot be poetry
in documentary films, just as clearly there can be plenty of drama.
So, (misguided?) analogies aside, comedy, drama and poetry abound in Michael Moore's
latest film, "Where to Invade Next." However, I would wager that this film is where
Moore takes a more serious turn rather than allowing too much hilarity to "invade" his
scenes. Sure, there's still the searing satire, and Moore's trademark goofy moments add
levity to somber scenes, but the director seems intent on cultivating a more sober tone in
this film, perhaps because he keenly recognizes the gravity of his subject and does not
want to muddle his purpose too much.
In any event, the film's premise rests on how instead of violently violating a country, as
the US government is wont to do, we should instead focus on peacefully "stealing" the
good aspects of other countries' resources - Finland's top-tier educational system,
Iceland's gender-proportional political representation, France's gourmet school nutrition
program, Italy's work-life balance concept, Norway's humane prison system, and so on.
As if to nail home how determined he is to eschew some of his signature comedy to make
a devastatingly potent point, Moore's movie features one of the most harrowing scenes
ever shown in his films: In compassionately calling for prison reform, he cuts between
the more equitable Norweigian prison system and the barbaric American system, where
black men, who disproportionately comprise the inmate population, are routinely abused.
Moore's thesis is that the modern-day American prison system is uncomfortably akin to
the US slavery system of earlier days.
What is most shocking, of course (and perhaps somewhat gratifying, at least if you, like
me, seek to cling to any debris of hope in our shattered system), is that most of the ideas
Moore advocates "stealing," we come to learn, were originally American ones.
So, in other words, the US has veered far from its values, and in the end, if it modeled
itself after other countries, it would essentially be "plundering" its own resources.
What Shakespearean irony, indeed.
Ghostal Highway (Music Review)
By Alison Ross
For the past two albums ("Where the Spirit Meets the Bone"
and the new one, "Ghosts of Hwy 20"), Lucinda Williams has
showcased a remarkably mercurial dimension. Whereas
previously, her albums were more or less symmetrically
aligned between buoyant country rockers and slow burning
ballads, recent years have Williams mercilessly mining her
down-‐tempo moods to craft songs that simmer with aching
sadness. Her father, for one -‐ the celebrated poet Miller
Williams -‐ has recently passed -‐ and, too, her own mortality
looms, just as it does for all of us as we age. Her voice, always
syrup-‐thick with Cajun tones, is a lethargic moan as the guitars
build to languorous crescendos. Here, on a 14-‐track two disc
album, there are mostly explicitly spiritual songs (such as
"Doors of Heaven") and bluntly existential meditations (such
as "Death Came"), and the whole raw affair has the cumulative
effect of being both mundanely depressing and mystically