What did you see in those houses?
Those desperate pretenders clinging to some half overheard bar tale of suburbia while all around the seeds of hip-hop kleos bloom as lotuses in the puddles that filled our plungers when nobody had 50¢ for bodega water
Did the silhouette of a little girl twirl about your psyche the way we we spun our crack stems at the tail end of a hit, not to make sure the last of the oil ran down into the blackened chore but for the simple joy of motion?
I'm sorry that when you insisted we pull over and beg God for the cessation of the awful torment, I only half echoed your desperate pleas while wholly bent on how much time your diversion put between me and my elastic-wrapped divinity
I'm sorry that when I heard about your death, I felt nothing save the mild satisfaction of having one more friend's name to throw upon an altar already sodden with the blood of all I cared about
I'm sorry that the God you cried out to chose for his grace the one who joyfully hurled relapse statistics and barely understood French nihilism at every glimmer of sacred truth that cut through our endless fog, while the maggots devour your heroin soaked veins.
The project on James St.
Malformed streetlights reflecting off busted curbstones as I make my way to the gates of Dis
Within, where worn soles have slid trails of filth into delicate arabesques in praise of that which is most high in the minds of all addicts
Sense perception and vedanā birth craving, craving births clinging, and clinging births a demon whose karmic toll a lifetime of installment payments will not abate
The Impala busted, lying to my dad about owing money to the wrong people
Bound to the passenger seat of his Cadillac for that endless circuit Berlin to Hartford to Berlin to Hartford to Berlin to Hartford
Passing the exits that still hurl rocks of fear, joy, and unattainable hope into my mind's turbulent waters, until high holy 46 lifts its monolithic boldface sigil above the incomprehensible blur of worktime commuters
A left, a quick right, four blocks up then another left and a loop around the one way
Will there ever come I time when I cannot recite those turns from memory?
Gunshots, and the still night air trembles in fear
I am unfazed
I have my dope, but no hard
This is unacceptable
No regard for the terrors swirling about the Cadillac, parked close enough for the muzzle shocks to seep into ligament but far enough for the mass exodus of panicked souls to appear as ink dots on a spreadsheet of inner city gang violence
Save his only son whose dukkha seeped, hyper-Machiavellian brain may have finally burst out the back of his skull, glistened in the dim streetlight and settled upon the filth encrusted pavement
I walk through the panicked back alleys in search of someone with enough business sense to not let a body get in the way of an easy 20 bucks
Months later, the visiting area of the Hartford Correctional Center
Wap with his dreadlocks and molten granite eyes pounding and waving from the other side of the glass asking my father how the Caddy is doing
The Saṃyutta Nikāya
As a dog bound about a post runs the same circle again and again, so too do we bound in Saṃsāra run through an endless cycle of thoughts until they give birth to action and pull the chains of human misery into a taut spiral
But I do not have to let my thoughts corporealize
They are only thinking
That parking space just far enough to avoid Jon Jon's ire
Beneath the basketball hoop in it's motley coat of rust and scratched paint
Always open. Always waiting for us
Me and Kieth and Mark and Rob pulling out our stems to see which of them has the least grime and resin
Then absolute bliss
The Dhammapada, Verse 1
Manasā ce paduṭṭhena, tato naṃ dukkham anveti, chakkaṃ va vaḥato paddaṃ
Having a mind with such corruption, suffering follows him as a yolked cart follows an ox
I saw him today
Not on Flatbush or Bond or Ward
But the meticulous groutwork of a suburban deli
I don't recall his name
But a year of vivitrol and therapy can't erase the visions of his ashen merchandise tumbling from the yellow Gucchi stamped waxpaper
Cut sizzling on the periphory of black, bubbling oil
He shows his teeth
Not the pitbull clamped jaws of one whose 50 bucks is yet again a day away
Nor the overdrawn greasepaint smile of a shark as microscopic rivulets of weakness filter through his spectrometer nostrils
Today it is nothing more than a warm hello
I stand within the outer darkness
And I can feel the lion's fangs perforating the skin
Severing the tension of taut muscles as my mind returns home
To a subterranean world where souls claw out personal labyrinths to circle around the backs of friends and loved ones
Where I ripped my nails from the beds as each pair of eyes reflected my own machinations
Abused, assaulted, subdued, and broken
Endless litanies met with Epictetian torpor
But from the smile of an old connect
Comes a quaking of the foundations
With Dreams, with Drugs, with Waking Nightmares
Another fucking dope dream last night
Setting: Deformed offspring of the Chinese place where Maple meets Wethersfield and the Top Kat laundry near Sisson and Farm Ave
Immigrant workers keep their faces in profile as the Minotaur, unwanted bastard offspring of institutionalized oppression and the bull of Wall St., roams freely through the maze of utopian menu item photos and Greek tragic chorus washers whirring out a commentary to my existence
Devouring the GDP of a million drawn and quartered families alongside 35$ bodega pawn shop streetcorner transactions, and excreting pebbles not too different from sea salt and a soft brown powder that slides out of the wrapper as if craving union with spoon, foil, or paper
My man slides through the cracked glass door with a wisp of frozen air, an aggregation of a hundred of similar faces, each eager to be the final stop in a Mussolini timetabled daily journey that, etched across a map, reveals a decade long criminal record
He may be unreal, but his gestures are being acted out by thousands of pneumatic repo men at the very moment you read this:
The coiled stride marking his station above the trap jawed bottom feeders lining every entrance to the outer darkness
The smile purpose built to belie how every gift is really careful consideration regarding the fiscal returns brought to the city each day in a trembling Impala pockmarked with the blows of bats, tire irons, and C Town bags stuffed full of bolts and visions of ascension
The shifting of hands and a tightly bound blue bundle is cradled within, that old jostling motion to stop the sweat of my palms from soaking through.
I do not head for the nearest blinking light on an internal atlas that could, even a year out of the game, lead me unerringly to the closest unlocked and monitored bathroom from anywhere in Hartford
I suppose that's some progress
But neither do I follow the urging of my great retinue of therapists, doctors, probation officers and other such sting leavers and prison guards at the impenetrable gateway beyond this abyss, and dispose of my precious treasure
I simply clutch my waxpaper aegis and mill about aimlessly until trumpets of warning announce the new waking day
*Image: Flickr jesse hlebo CC
Bio: Patrick Jenkinson has spent nearly half his life in active addiction, five years in the violent grip of heroin, getting thrown about from living in sober houses to his car to jail like the winds from Dante's second circle, and as of now has a little over a year sober. These poems are his means of coming to grips with what has transpired in his life.
A Grammar of Want
He wrote poems inside me
Muscles, nerves contracting,
a slow electric current.
His fingers on the flesh of my letters,
my thighs, sentences he’d form
embracing the chaos held within.
Moans, like questions raised,
amplified among the heat and arch
of my spine.
Each story, twisting upon the other,
setting tissue and sinew aflame.
The ashes of him remain,
slick along my lips.
Bio: A New Jersey native, Lisa Sisler is the editor of Knocking at the Door: Approaching the Other, a poetry anthology from Write Bloody Books and the author of Creative Writing Workshop, a textbook for beginning writers. Her poetry has appeared in print and online at Connotations Press, Contemporary American Voices, The Writing Disorder, Adanna, among others. She teaches writing at Kean University.
The sky, white as a bloodless heart
Opaque as an uncracked symbol
So many meanings contained in a heart
Anyone can magic up a symbol
Snake, apple, pocketwatch, skull, eyeball
I take a beautiful face and mar it: behold a symbol
A golden key hidden behind an eyeball
A locked door of amethyst
The mirror’s silver eyeball
Fireflies preserved in amber, love immortalized in amethyst
A golden leash for my stupid heart
A pale wrist shackled in amethyst
Hollow vault, devoid of gold, in my heart
Silent as an ancient symbol
So many eyes and only one heart
Bio: Lydia Friedman once went on a blind date with a marble statue in Vienna. She lives in New England. www.crookedbutinteresting.wordpress.com
lo-fi the rhythm of our footfalls in a dream
bitter winter the warmest in human memory
lo-fi the imaginings of a heart watching smoke-
stack belches dissipate in the rain, lo-fi the
same song of a heart in a world so quiet
you could hear a needle drop
breathe in, sweet succor of the seemingly happy death
surround my cradled arms in a world defined
by do no harm Kant recedes to a sour-tasting
corner and bleeds longing for hierarchy into
a plastic cup
collect the essence of generation
blood is left in the shelled land
call the blood-letter
solve leftover longing
like clipping purple flowers
--water their thirsty veins in a windowsill vase
as the cold sets in, try to save
them, do not let them die
a good death at first freeze--
will you call the blood-letter with me?
will you drown the last vestige
of the flower in the freezing rain, will you
strangle the spirit of a tiger doomed in
his cage to misery?
your answer melancholy:
dilute this blue
pumping unreachable vein with
clear water, blood will dissipate
it will no longer taste bitter to lick your open wounds
wilting brown-tinged rotting stinking petals
matted snow and shit-stained pens
we cannot abide the stench
we will not abide the stench
as with a flurry of birds taking flight in the morning
leaving the place of congregation for the sky,
the enslaved will escape by edicts of nature
from the crowd that calls them nigh unto death
but isolation grows its own morphed and jagged
leaves, though there is no freeze
in the south, on the plain, flowers of perpetual summer
float the subtle fragrance of submission, put
the petals in a pot and brew up once again
sweet succor of the seemingly happy death
i pray the dirge begins while we yet
have breath in our lungs, yet blood in our limbs,
for nothing could be more beautiful, you said,
nothing could be more beautiful than
the glory of a lost cause and the lament
of a tragic end
epiphany and the endless march of time
remember the cold of december has passed
the worst is all behind us
i grow older not smoothly but with tantrum
i miss the plains, i miss the almost-desert-never-rains
warm-in-winter, i miss one particular sinner
i fear will never repent with the force
of a whirlwind tearing through the silent cattle-fields
at the turn of spring to summer
this is to my warm young season coming to
an end, i do not grow old gracefully
but with a fury i learned in the lion's den
of lances and tourniquets, medieval tournaments
slap the crook of your arm can you feel life there
can you feel it? rushing and floating
danger. i am in danger, of growing backwards to
will verse ever progress beyond
now i see as in a mirror dimly
will you clear away the grime
accumulated in a million capitulated conversations
will you, my queen and my mother
let me fall formless into a mass grave
dug for all those who chose and opposed
of a generation
while the old man sits by his hearth and
his field which demeter will tend,
and never fail, forever and ever.
i danced and thought i was beautiful,
i danced and thought it was beautiful
silhouettes of skeletons underneath models’ skin
in magazines-- depravity in everything,
graffiti the flesh of young fresh people peeling away
baring iniquity to the face of the blind world
i danced and thought it was beautiful
my body unfurled in ribbons,
thwarted violently were the arms
of all god’s guardian angels
Bio: Frankie Spring is an undergraduate student at Indiana University South Bend majoring in English Writing. She has never understood a single joke, or the elusive art of social networking, but likes to think she's a nice person to hang out with anyway. So far, her poetry has appeared in her college's literary journal. It will also soon appear in Retirement Plan, a zine showcasing South Bend artists and writers.
Bullets bibles blunts
3600 hundred dollars out my pocket
And I can’t
Figure stress and struggle make twigs bend and don’t break
Little nappy nazarite long locs Locked around love in the form of Delilah’s hand
Demons whisper to trade bible for bullet
33 the full amount that pack chambers of sacrifice
Little boys run through double mirrors
Fighting the reflection of child staring at man
Broken mirrors burst with pride
Trading bibles for blunts hoping to pack a swisher sweet with anthrax and anxiety
Knowing that heaven lays at the end of my life’s sunset
Trying to dream of home before long car rides
The look undesirable
I hate em
The finger around a trigger is taking too long
Make sure to pack the Bible bullets and the same blunt I bet my life on
A picknick blanket
Bases covered and I don’t know if I should steal home or wait for a base hit
But felonies seem familiar as the confessionals I write in the darkness under a blind moon
Listening to screams coming from walls that read county
I’m not even from this real county
I know the system is still counting
43 out of 100 of us will see these same walls
But in these walls I fell in cover I found shelter
Beating fist against brick I learned determination
Animals backed into a corner have no choices
And i fell in line with a destiny destined before I was born
I was a statistic
I fullfilled my obligation
I don’t owe you nothing more but a nod to your worries and a prayer
But your love will chill the air that wraps around my lifeless body
I’ll let you be a judge
I’ll play executioner
Bio: Preach the Poet comes from Chicago. Utilizing religious text and pop culture to create stories to share. He’s performed in AL, TN, FL, and TX. He currently represents Lucha Dallas and you can find him some where in the community lending a helping hand.
the lies I tell
you to keep you
when there is no
and the wind
our hiding places
and turns them
into turtle shells--
when we find
on our backs
I’m counting on you
like a rosary
the beads all worn
and my fingers
like the first
word of a new
of sacred thoughts
and the brokenness
of sacred votives
and the temple
than the tearing
all the found
things are dull
while the shiny
things were never
but wouldn’t have
one table over
in the café
in great gasps
and I can’t
the last time
and as her
so badly that
I need nothing
Bio: Adam Hughes is the author of four full-length poetry collections, most recently Allow the Stars to Catch Me When I Rise (Salmon Poetry, 2017) and Deep Cries Out to Deep (Aldrich Press, 2017). Born and raised in Central Ohio, he now resides in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains where he is pursuing an MFA at Randolph College. Should you google him, he is not the Adam Hughes who draws near-pornographic depictions of female superheroes. This particular Adam Hughes cannot draw.
Perambulating in the track one might’ve left on the side
of the road
If the road were not concrete but dirt and the shoes soft
Horsehoof, un-animal, as if narrow deerpaths beside
streets and sidewalks
Through incandescent neighborhoods alive with children
On bikes and sketchy motor scooter riders. I knew
I’d changed when a blonde mother with her young children
Saw me walking and said hello, some mask of illness lifted
Or manifestation of brokenness unseen, shed like a jacket
On a 70 degree day in February celebrating greatness
Two Saturdays ago at the morning meeting the Wise Man said
we are all
Of us Broken Toys, every one of us. As if God were a Child
Who loved us recklessly, who mangled us with love
I am confused about my place in all this and I don’t know
If I’m meant to be awed or upset, frightened or mystified
Or having an experience that once we called religious – is that
what this is?
It seems so self-congratulatory to suggest these things
Were here for us all along to experience if only we’d say
we wanted them
And mean it. When young we used to pluck dandelions gone
Fashioning the stems and heads into a kind of gun and pop it
Mama-had-a-baby-and-her-head-popped-off, right here
In this neighborhood, in this backyard I’ve never left but circled
And returned to, wide circles stretching to the coasts – I wasn’t
But I have taken up residence like a Lion in a children’s book purported
The Way, The Truth, and The Light and don’t we know real lions
Would just as soon bite your head off as save your ass from a white
And so now I can really start asking questions: Is God
Like a dictator or benign like a tumor or malignant
Like the thoughts leading my thoughtless legs to the bar
on a Sunday afternoon? I am trying
To make sense of things, I am trying for an acceptance
That doesn’t feel like a submission
– this happened once before, the world
Felt as if it would surely go on beyond my puny self without asking
Or caring either way, unconcerned with reward or punishment
Simply sloughed off the walkway like an insect with broken legs
Is this the blessedly depressing gift Mind had in Mind? Is this my
. . . we are Lightyears removed, we are Eons removed from the Center
of the Universe.
In the 1990s in Indiana and probably across
The Midwest a neverending cavalcade of Jeremy’s
tromped the halls of high schools and middle schools,
newly-minted alternative schools and juvie halls,
they slung fast food in Arby’s and Wendy’s,
they went out wakeboarding on Winona Lake
with six Purple Passion beverages
for their sexually inexperienced teenaged admirers,
The Jeremy’s like an ooze, a blob, a Blob of Jeremy’s
oozing from the painted cinder blocks that led
from Math to Science to History to English,
the Jeremy’s oozing and creeping and
insinuating themselves into everything,
the scuttling Jeremy’s like cockroaches
gather and disperse, collect and scatter,
some of them hoisting up three pointers
under Friday Night Gymnasium Lights,
some of them pissed off beating cheap drum heads
in a rented parks department building playing a punk show,
the righteous Jeremy’s, the angry Jeremy’s,
the Jeremy’s of ubiquitous understated retort,
the ever present Jeremy’s, the Jeremy’s
of the kingdom the power and the glory
forever and ever amen, fumbling
with the bra strap of their Saturday dates
parked near the boat ramp at Carr Lake,
the Jeremy’s sitting at home staring at the wall
masturbating to full blast Danzig,
the horrible Jeremy’s, the terrible Jeremy’s,
the Jeremy’s like fascist soldiers goosestepping
their way door to door in Student Council community service
leaf raking, the Jeremy’s smoking marijuana seeds
from a jerry-rigged pipe of assembled miscellaneous hardware parts,
the Jeremy’s trying to stone themselves infertile
on a spacetrip into light,
the Jeremy’s escaping the basement via easement
to climb into the night, the Jeremy’s
walking the highway to Dad’s house high
on half a box of Dramamine with a Robitussin chaser,
the Jeremy’s with their never-stated questions,
the Jeremy’s with their quiet rage, their misunderstood
understanding, the Jeremy’s with their weary vows,
the Jeremy’s with the girlfriends they try hard
not to knock up, the useless Jeremy’s,
the ugly Jeremy’s, the Jeremy’s waiting
and waiting and waiting to get out.
Bio: Steve Henn wrote Indiana Noble Sad Man of the Year (Wolfson Press, 2017) and two other books of poetry. He teaches high school in northern Indiana.
Wet Blue Baby Eyes.
I wish, my friend,
you could’ve seen
and the way it made the dazzling orange plastic shine.
“I never thought I’d bury my son.”
Then wept the phone full of fuzz.
Her eyes round and swollen.
Stones in frozen earth.
I can see you throwing punches in the cinderblock corner of a basement.
what is called modern medicine
down your throat.
Where it all bubbles up. I’ve seen it,
a dark cliché taking the top off.
The skin literally vibrates, and loosens the joints. It unhinges the knuckles.
Insects dance on pointed toes between the layers of your flesh--
Nerve endings swing like a tail, so you chase them with burned finger tips.
An object in motion, stays in motion
until it stops breathing.
It just dies on the kitchen floor.
With what looks like shame--
and the last thing you tried to do was cover your face with your hoodie.
Wide nose blue.
You could’ve tried tying off with guitar string
pulled tight like tendons.
Til the flesh moves.
Til the chords pop.
Until they glide to the bone.
Crab walking with a shotgun, handcuffed, and coughing blood-- Pop Tarts,
and tiny dogs.
Should’ve found a piece of that.
Wish I could’ve found the trail.
The tiny dots
mark the spot.
Bio: Klae Bainter received his BA in creative writing from the University of Washington in 2015, and will begin master's studies in the NEOMFA program in Cleveland in the fall of 2018. He currently resides in Seattle, WA.
Lexi practices her times tables by
the number of knuckle shaped bruises
on her forearms:
five times five is twenty five,
plus two times sitting in the darkest
corner of her room counting the number
of teardrop stains on the scuffed carpet.
one, two, three, four, five.
She keeps her voice low, so that it never
rises above the television, never interrupts
any conversations over cellphones or social
media. Lexi wears the same clothes for three
days straight, and her teacher calls home
to ask if everything is ok—Lexi gets one hard
twist of the right arm, two backhands to her
small mouth. After the lights are off, Lexi
counts coins and dollar bills saved in an old
jar that she hides underneath a pile of stuffed
animals, subtracts the years left before she
can leave on her slender fingers--
eighteen minus eight is ten.
One hundred fifteen thousand two hundred
heartbeats a day. Twenty times a day holding
my breath, waiting for the pain to stop.
Bio: Kendall A. Bell's poetry has been most recently published in Philosophical Idiot and Work to a calm. He was nominated for Sundress Publications' Best of the Net collection in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015. He is the author of twenty four chapbooks. His next chapbook, "Chasing The Skyline", will be released in June 2018. He is the founder and co-editor of the online journal Chantarelle's Notebook and publisher/editor of Maverick Duck Press. His chapbooks are available through Maverick Duck Press. He lives in Southern New Jersey.
Riding Out #1
Never know when they’re coming for you
but it’s always early
still the dim-light hours (“lights out” is never really)
before the brights
pop fizzle hum
remind you where you are
on cold-rack mornings when some runaway dream
has you back free fucking around where you
Then the hard ratchet and clang
metal doors banging open
and a leaving behind.
A brown paper sack and greasy slab of
white bread and orange drink
half a dozen jump suited in a van
body funk fuming
rappin’ dudes and nappin’ dudes
fields whipping past
spring long sprung and jacked by summer
sun and blue skies
it never felt so untouchable as this.
Cuffs cutting wrists
that old bone groove.
County lines and long ass roads
the first of many fences.
slapped by the noise of
to become a number.
Some things just come easy:
Like thinking it could have been different
this particular last stop,
though just how much when there’s
the domino that caused the cascade?
It’s easy to say it was the planets
or the stars.
To say, Maybe if I woulda stayed in school.
Maybe if I woulda gone back.
It’s easy to see the faces of ghosts
when you close your eyes.
In the hard surface of the world
when they’re clear and wide open.
By now, the ones who had a chance,
the ones who had the right names,
are out there living, and it’s easy to think,
I coulda been a doctor or a lawyer by now.
But there’s school and there’s learning,
and it’s easy to light a cigarette
with two batteries and a razor blade.
It’s easy to make a tattoo machine
from a CD player, a spring, and a ballpoint pen.
Ink from ash.
It’s easy to bust a lock.
It’s easy to make a weapon
from a toothbrush
or a sock.
In school, they never taught us to
microwave a cup of baby oil and shaving gel
to strip a man’s flesh off like wet paper.
They never taught us how to survive
with next to nothing.
And sometimes it’s hard to accept.
How easy it is.
Bio: William R. Soldan lives in Youngstown, Ohio, with his wife and two children. He has work published or forthcoming in Bending Genres, Anomaly Literary Journal, EconoClash Review, Tough, and Open: Journal of Arts & Letters. You can find him on social media or at williamrsoldan.com if yu'd like to connect.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.