Photography by Shelby Griffiths
L.A. Synth wave duo LUCKYandLOVE are a prime example of what happens when you make music that you believe in. Of that camp of those who do it because they can and those who do it because they have to, LUCKYandLOVE undoubtedly belong to the latter. They are madly in love with sounds, picking them apart, recombining them anew, gossamer electronic shimmers rearranging the air one breathes, making magic of all that is at hand. Original, but also deeply inspired by the trail blazers of another age, they both manage to put their own unique signature into the heart of things, creating, ephemeral, spooky, groovy, dance inducing, and also dreamy introspective songs that are well worth the trip. So, ride along with us for a while as we talk with lead singer April Love about the bands origins and what drives the engine of this strange, beautiful musical beast known as LUCKYandLOVE.
AHC: What has this journey in music, so far, been like for you, the highs and the lows, and what life lessons do you feel you've picked up along the way?
April: Wow, our journey in music I think we have learned to try and not to let the lows get the bet of us, and to not go a day without utilizing the healing energy of music. Healing gets on much faster with music because the healing highs of music are there to discover.
AHC: What first drew you to music and what was your early musical environment like growing up? Were there pivotal songs for you then that just floored you the moment you heard them?
April: I think Loren and I both grew up spending a lot of time alone, and instruments were there to be our friend. Loren’s dad bought him his first drum set, later on played guitar and piano. I know he had an extensive music collection of his own early on. I had my piano and organ at Grandma’s house, a classical guitar was around, and I bought my own guitar and synth at 16. For me, pivotal songs were always played on our old, but very decent record player while cleaning the house. We had a nice record selection, and I just liked the way they sounded filling the room while polishing the piano. I think songs that floored me would be for example Serge Gainsborg Je t'aime... moi non plus, I don’t think I was actually allowed to listen to it, but it was pretty wild.
AHC: Do you remember the first song that you ever wrote or played? Or that first moment when you picked up a pen and realized that you could create whole worlds just by putting it to paper?
April: I wrote my first song on Hello Kitty music paper. It was an instrumental piece written for piano, I was in first grade at the time. As a kid, Loren wrote a song through drums, and recorded over and over on tape to make rhythms. Loren was primarily a drummer, but in 2002 Loren wrote a 4 song EP using synths and samples. Loren bought a piano for his home and wrote a song that he left for me at my doorstep.
AHC: Which musicians have you learned the most from? Or writers, artists, filmmakers, teachers/mentors etc?
April: I have gained a lot from amazing music teachers I have had in my life, more recently, singing lessons from Marta Woodhull, she took time to work with specific tricky notes on my demo tracks prepping me for recording, for example, on a song we have on the LP called “Full Moon”, she taught me about how to approach an “eeee” vowel sound in the word “breathe” to avoid the struggle of a flat note. The trick to singing it is by adding a German umlaut sound not available in English, the umlaut we used is written ü and sounds more like “blur” she gave me encouragement when she heard the recording of it.
I love surrealist visual artists like director like Jean Cocteau and photographer Man Ray. Surrealism always reminds me to be silly and let go of trying to make sense of things. Yoko Ono’s Acorn which is a collection of instruction poems & art really inspired me with how playful, profound and conscious she can be at the same time. There are a million things we’ve learned from online videos of course. Loren’s a fan of Cuckoo’s YouTube as well! Another artist that inspire us are Reggie Watts. We got a chance to meet Reggie Watts at Moog Fest 2016 we chatted with him over coffee, and let him know how much we are inspired by his live looping technique. Loren and I also admire Peter Murphy’s lyrics.
AHC: What do you think makes for a good song, as you're writing and composing, is there a sudden moment when you know you've found the right mix, that perfect angle of light, so to speak?
April: I think my favorite is a unique variety of arrangement which is key to a good song, the modulation of keys and balance of dynamic parts. I find spontaneity helps. For Loren, he’s really into melodies, hooks and lyrics; it doesn’t matter if it’s electronic, acoustic, banging on sticks.
AHC: What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town? On-tour, on-the-road?
April: We have so many as a band, before and after we met each other. One our many favorite shows, on tour last year, was when we performed the Love Craft Bar in Seattle. The opening band, The Secret Light complimented us well and we eventually got placed on a limited edition Love Craft Compilation on vinyl distributed by the bar owner Jon Horrid available on our website luckyandlove.com.
AHC: Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for other musicians and singer-songwriters out there who are just starting out and trying to find their voice and their way in this world? What are the kinds of things that you tell yourself when you begin to have doubts or are struggling with the creative process? Or what kinds of things have others told you that have helped push you past moments of self doubt/creative blocks?
April: My advice and I’d still give it to myself too, is to keep going, no body ever said this was easy and it’s just as hard when you don’t keep trying so why not keep going. Loren’s advice is, DON’T QUESTION YOURSELF.
AHC: Can you talk a bit about LUCKYandLOVE, how your collaboration with Loren Luck first came to be and about the debut album you've created together?
April: Sure, our collaboration came about through a purchase of some key instruments, and wanting a creative outlet that was away from the computer, and being completely excited about the songs/sounds we were writing, and we just kept going because we fully believed in the music’s potential.
By the way, we have our LP on vinyl and CD is available on our site and in a ton of local and national record stores, and if it’s not there, just ask them to order it through Forced Exposure in the US or Southern Record Distributors elsewhere. We have three shows coming up, Echo Park Rising on Friday, August 18, 2017 at 8:30 on the Trencher stage, next to The Little Joy Bar, and August 26th, a live streaming from our website luckyandlove.com (check for times) and then HM157 on September 30th.
Keep up with LUCKYandLOVE
Website | Facebook | Store | Soundcloud | YouTube | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify | Bandcamp
Albuquerque, NM singer-songwriter Jana Pochop credits an early exposure to Mary Chapin Carpenter as the catalyst which awoke the dormant creative self living just beneath the skin. Pochop's sincerity, like Carpenter's, is well-worn and deeply felt in both her lyrics and her voice, Jana carries her songs like heavy packs set to the floor. All too often a song doesn't possess the necessary gravity needed to ground the listener. To be believable as a storyteller is never something you can fake, and Jana gives new meaning to the idea of where one is going and where one has been. In You Lit Me she sings:
"If I could just hold your gaze instead of checking my goddamn phone
all the turns of all my phrases took me down the wrong road
but we can scrape stuff out of mountains to power this city"
In an age where the tendency is to run from ourselves and each other, to hide out in artifice, Pochop craves genuine connection. As we all know that is the place where spirit meets the bone and the road is bumpy as hell, Jana's songs seem to live in that space where the messiness is preferred rather than avoided, the real thing, which leaves us sometimes both full and empty, is also what fills the song to its breaking point. You can't feel a song unless its broken.
Lightening, Jana's latest single, recorded at Rubicon Studio in South Austin, carries on the theme of genuine connection, of how feeling another human being like lightening can be a grounding that is so hard to get at and yet so necessary to pursue. Brian Standefer adds a beautiful cello section which becomes like a tether to the song, anchoring it in deep waters. It's the kind of song you wish radio stations still played, a tireless labor of love created by people who go deep with a song, because the surface is not a place of truth, and as Pochop sings: If I could just open my mouth, tell you straight what I'm thinkin', every thing big and important stems from that jumping off point where the real thing comes through, eyes meet and feeling another person like lightening becomes the ground, the gravity of both life and love, the poetry of the song taking us to new, unfakeable heights.
Lightening Available to Buy:
Direct download: http://janapochop.bandcamp.com
iTunes/Apple Music: http://bit.ly/jpo-lightning
Google Play: http://bit.ly/googlelightning
Streaming on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/3YV99IqnUm5nxse4ffk06f
There are More Ways to Love Me
There once was a time
I could trap who I was
and fight her off -
be a new person
more amazing and much improved
over all the others.
the all of it came undone
married the versions
- my dysfunction with the ire
and still went about knowing
I should not have let -
the monsters in - me
that I would not change.
My brain is not something fluid
it will only entertain
what I am
take that face value
or fight its clown makeup
the rest of my life
or ultimately throw
in the towel
to alcohol and self-annihilation
to annihilate is my war crime
against me, a small Jew
I was burning her shoe-less
If there is
anything left in my heart.
I want to show you that place
with its worms and skeletons, its
it isn't far from here, just a continent
where we already
staked one home site
but it also is a free museum
filled with lace and china
glued together from
shards and bits
where we smell the
homemade cookies burning -
mothers wipe hands - wee tots
play blocks on gritty floors
filthy clothes piling up
some husband comes home
and we hide refugees with
poetic dust emoting
some form of hope
or desire to go on
- liberated and fed
My claim to fame is knowing you
my blue ribbon is your star
I wear it pinned on the breast
I'm inadequate if nothing else
but being far from perfect
means you love me even though -
I am all those preventable diseases
I am the shattered glass
do you know this roof
I'm falling down from
the train that carries me away from -
the pavement hard
the tracks disfigured -
Can you invent a new basement
below the terra firma
and then we can know
if the all of it
was a dream
or we, such nightmares;
monsters with the dogs and whistles
so if I don't burrow down
nor splay on wire
and if the rain has stopped
and if something green
is growing in the earth
like a weed defiant
can you put some glasses on me
or at least shelter me in shadow
with your strong, wide back
- standing unafraid
That way the beautiful rays of sun
can't hurt my eye sockets either-way
as I ascend up, up
into your happy arms.
The Ways I Walk
Can any disease
really be fought off
Like keeping the sun
out of our eyes
light gets in through our fingers
and does something to our brain
arms over play their reach
and a broken bone here
looking both ways
the road is littered
with cognitive land mines
I don't mind the nuclear so much
but it's the fall out I fear
how it lingers in the lungs
and the high wire
is the most daunting show
under this tent
but it's no act
suffering is a feat of mercy
I've had to learn to love
the length of what I could not contain
and I hated too what I kept in
it's my skin
and I cannot simply let go
I've wanted to be something else
so many times
on my heels
terrified of the mirror
even shattered glass holds pools of light
I haven't enough hands to change that fact
I am cut by sun
and bled dry in dreams
I think I want to hold you
while you scream
because there were those
who held me
and because human touch
matters and the night is long
goes on forever
and there is nothing
quite like a hand
on someone else's
in the midst of terror
it's what poetry
Just Nearby to Me
You are wrong
so wrong like I
The poetry hit me right between the eyes.
Your poetry did it to me.
Those were your words.
Like lightning in my spine.
Like CPR in desperation.
Hand held paddles co-reviving on a chest.
determiners of late;
blasted me back from the ledge of fate.
My autopsy report disrupted
the keen obit
and small animals.
That undeserved celebration of my life
changing mid typing to
she's still here folks.
All because of you.
Because you held my carcass.
Also my frail hands with
their ghost squid pinkies
in your stronger hands with
their dilapidated highways.
Because you cared enough
to give a shit
and write down some guessing words.
I'm still here
and I'm not running anymore.
I'm fighting for once -
all the broken I did;
the broken I am.
Won't you risk the stitches it takes
to accept the knowing of me?
Risk the husky
epi pen assaults
chemo, by the ton
hallucinate sailboat rides anyone?
I will quiet
perfect the screaming
some small defiance
not in the sick bed
but watching over -
just nearby to me.
This Light Always Hurts A Little
Yes, I will stay nearby
I'm listening deep
the breathing routine
I watch the shallows
the dip in the water
when it comes up
against the intangible
the broken stone
what it means to be tossed
to be caught
to be loved
I've seen what stitches
torn out become,
blood on the wall
real ones, tiny threads
pulled with one's teeth
because you can only crane
your neck so far when you're in the jacket
and I don't think that boy survived
he never came back to the ward
and the nurses had a deep sadness
in their eyes the next day
and I knew
he was gone
though they didn't say it
that was long ago
and I am ready to admit
that I still don't know much about my own body
what light does to a room
drenched in darkness
I've done to others
but I've also
taken the sun
out of the sky
I am dual
where the wind
is coming from
and how fast
but from you I learn
how much our pain
we are cousins
of our experience
and I trust, no, strike that word-
which is only a word
and not deep enough-
I feel that we are sometimes the same
different but not so different,
both struggling for air
and water and
when the sky goes dark
we do too
are bigger than light
I've measured it
oh intangible thing that it is
I am not so far from you
I am listening
to every move the wind makes
I am counting the blessings
even the ones that are in disguise.
The Little Girl Who Stood By Watching
I miss that boy too,
I bet he fought really hard and I love him.
I wish I knew him.
Maybe I do.
I remember the empty pit in my stomach
like dragon bile on that day I felt you struggling,
I knew you were going under the knife.
the little girl who stood by watching?
She died too.
The day her daddy said goodbye
and went to a new house
and a new lady person
and for some reason
without me -
And I knew in that moment
he wouldn't marry me, instead
would probably marry her -
I guessed, at age 8
Then he did.
I stopped trying on rings
ashamed of my vanity.
All other hardship superfluous to
the death I died
that sunny August day
as I squinted in the sun
and nodded my head dumbly,
Yes daddy - I understand
when really I never never would.
Funny a straight jacket
can be imposed upon a little boy
while a little girl
who could have flown to the moon
chose not to
but rather checked herself in for being sub par.
She did unthinkably stupid things
she fell off porches on purpose
like a fainting goat
crashed her car into an oak
took a few extra Tylenol -
no one was paying enough attention
I was invisible except to the predator
who eats alive the little girls
who hate being little and virginal
who hate being little and adorable
who long to be lanky blonde rich sexy cool smoking wearing tight jeans
making out with Stevie by their locker -
Just with lips, not yet tongue.
One day I bought Ipecac
from a hungover pharmacist
and almost died
by the interstate
in a ditch.
It didn't work
Daddy didn't come home
Stevie never dated me
I am still the little girl vomiting
her insides out trying
to purge the hurt
the assault of a best friend’s brother
on my lower body
The dragon bile of loss and self hatred
that comes when she thinks all this was her fault
That comes when little virgins are convinced by
best friends and helpful policemen
that they asked for it
But you know, these words?
These frantic words that editors like?
The first things that ever, ever been good enough,
that daddy finally took notice and said
Good girl -
Maybe, if I am careful never to stop writing
he will finally come home.
The only person still waiting there
in her little yellow bedroom with
the yellow paisley wallpaper
It Is No Act, To Love You Here
round the root
I rot, you call-
I come running
feel the furrow
scan my insides
all rut and ribbon
say this life
will not escape us
will turn into
a porch light
in the deep
and when you cry
an angel loans its wings
we beat the earth
we drink deeply
from that ground
open up- something is coming
bigger than light
higher than dope
come drop these chains
come hold this wheel
break the night
and our hearts wide
our instinct for love
the retching along the highway
spilling its own light,
and such hands as these to catch it.
Bio: Elisabeth Horan is a stay at home mom in Vermont, caring for her two young boys, protecting the animals and writing her heart out. Her goal as a writer is to bring attention to issues that she cares about and has dealt with personally: mental illness, sexual abuse, the plight of nature and the environment, and those suffering in isolation and in pain.
She has recently completed a collaborative manuscript with James Diaz from whence come these honest words -
Follow her @ehoranpoet
Bio: James Diaz is the founding editor of the literary arts and music journal Anti-Heroin Chic. His work has appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, Quail Bell Magazine, Foliate Oak, and Psaltery & Lyre. His first book of poems, This Someone I Call Stranger, is forthcoming form Indolent Books, Fall 2017.
In The Temple She Became, Rachel Custer writes from a place where growing up was often less about what one wanted to do than what one had to do. Family and childhood, the surrounding fields, dark woods, crop land, the house itself, all require some heavy lifting, some wild howls and growing pains, questions of faith and vice, fear and bravado, wonderment and containment, casting out, reeling in.
We are drawn into a world where "The children set tiny fires inside their mouths." We find a possum named after George Jones, in "those spaces between buildings, filled with night" we locate fear when it is young and full of awe, attentive, dreaming at windows, listening for what moves underneath a house and might possibly even find its way in.
Still, Custer reminds us, younger/older, the distance between the two, "there were those spaces, large and dark as the distance between a word and what is meant." A father's reassurance there is nothing to fear from this thing, but there are so many floorboards beneath which fear finds a place to stay.
How do children rework their world, what draws them in, like a moth around a flame, to the mysterious skin of life that they find, both fascinating and scary, and, perhaps, some unnameable place between the two?
in Softly Spoken we read:
"whisper a cornfield
whisper water disappearing
whisper a girl
curling herself into a dust mote
dinner will require
a good deal more killing"
A lot of heavy, necessary lifting, adults and the oldest siblings confronting a harsh landscape, where things must be tended to in order for fruit to bear out. No basket that wasn't first filled by calloused hands ever ran over with anything.
There are buzzards and Chevy's serving as altars, corncobs and muskmelon guts, compost buckets: "you learn there are things that bloom outside of choice, or even prayer - like sometimes, roots and all, you just give up."
In Schaulust, we read of
"That feeling - the pleasure in seeing what we should not."
A child aching to get at the forbidden, to crack its secret wide open and create oneself anew with both prosaic and seemingly forbidden knowledge.
"don’t touch me don't touch me
Faith moves in and out of the rooms of this temple, some doubts, some questions, but always of a love which is something like a quiet heart waiting to be touched, broken open by an unseen but absolutely felt creator. "God is in the monotony we might worship if we could just learn to sit still."
And then a rebellious teenager's voice:
"Jesus, I want a cigarette.
I want a cigarette.”
Or want Jesus, or
anything, really - I keep searching for punctuation"
A concern for the place of the poem, its credentials, its deserving, crop up occasionally, enough to make us want to ask why the doubt in oneself through the poem, are the people and place thought to be undeserving? By whom?
"When we were children, my Daddy made us a play room
out of a meat locker. You see?
Who am I to write poems?"
Another question arises with the title Nothing Happened That Was Worthy of Poetry, not exactly of needing permission, but of wondering if this world is what they mean when they speak of the lyrical vocation:
"we ran one after the other toward a gas station -
ended up locked against the night you fucked me for thirty-eight minutes the exact length of history’s shortest war"
This may be a place where there were neither many poets or people who read poetry, but weren't their lives already something like moving poems, if all these experiences ended up here on the page, and the lovers, the misadventures, the father who build's a playroom out of a meat locker for his kids to romp and giggle in, the thick dark woods of the country, and something or someone, here in this place that says, though unbelievable, in the end, because one has survived to write this poem and deny the vicious, nay-saying voice
"Again, and again, whispers the world,
you are nothing special, you are common as a household
But no. One is more than that. Custer insists that there is so much to see here if we only dare or care to see it. Do we care? The question arises can you see, feel, this place? I mean really see/feel it? Will you let this place be a poem? No, your permission isn't needed, but doubt is nonetheless infused into life, cigarette or Jesus, where is the need located in this moment, and now, a second later, has it already become something else?
"You say to yourself I am not a carp"
You turn your head another direction when the world begins to whisper "you are nothing special"
"this is what you do: say no" This place and I are temples in the making. A lot of hard work built this world, so too this book. These poems live their experience and cannot apologize for what is hard to take; life itself. No life is gotten through without calloused hands, no book ever ran over with poems that felt right and real as this without effort. This is a book worth reading because the lives in it are not carp, they are something special.
The Temple She Became by Rachel Custer is available for pre-order now from Five Oaks Press five-oaks-press.com/2017/07/18/the-temple-she-became-rachel-custer/
Writing What I Don’t Know
I open my mouth and out pops
danger. I snatch it back, not all
brave, at best only partially woke,
most likely still sleeping, dream-kissed
by privilege. I type and delete,
bending over backwards to be only
myself, no other gender, color, class,
circumstance, probing the blurring
of my own edges, trying not to make
white of oppression. I remember,
decades ago, the shocked pleasure
of seeing my secrets reflected
in the words of lesbians, fat activists,
bulimics, those brave enough to reveal
ostracism and ambivalence, bad
choices, self-harm. I want to do that--
and free someone from shame.
The smallest of mammals, I poke
my nose out and steel myself
for a mad dash across the page,
praying for an absence of raptors.
“Woe to him who seeks to please
rather than to appall!”
I see you, you butter-dripping flatterer,
liming the corpses, spackling over rot
reaching deep to foundation, see you
dashing about with the skinny mirror,
strewing likes and emoticons, polishing
scuffs till they shine to blinding, know
you for a laudatory lick-spittle, drool wiper,
photo-shopper, redactor, head-nodding ass-
kisser, fawning over the naked emperor
and his whole entourage; I see you averting
at the approach of jackboots, the rumble
of the windowless vans, bolting the door
and cowering, all quivering whiskers, behind
the dropped shutters of my own eyes.
Things Never Done
“Going to Taulkinham. Don’t know nobody there,
but … I’m going to do some things I never done before,”
Hazel Motes from Wise Blood
You feel life careening by,
want to grab on somehow, slip
into its jetstream and cling,
think what the hell, tattoo a reminder
to yourself on shin or scapula,
come inside a stranger or let him come
inside you, not careful, no Plan B,
drink recklessly, puke over the bridge rail
leaning so far out, you may plummet
like a dark angel into water
black as asphalt, then stagger, head ringing
carillon to the floor of someone
whose name escapes you, always going
to Taulkingham but never
arriving, the city shimmering like a desert
mirage before dissolving
in the flat light of morning, you awakening
alone with a mouth full of ash.
Bio: Devon Balwit writes in Portland, OR. She has five chapbooks out or forthcoming: How the Blessed Travel (Maverick Duck Press); Forms Most Marvelous (dancing girl press); In Front of the Elements (Grey Borders Books), Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders Books); and The Bow Must Bear the Brunt (Red Flag Poetry). Her individual poems can be found in Poets Reading the News, Taplit Mag, The Inflectionist, The Fourth River; The Ekphrastic Review; Noble Gas Quarterly; Muse A/Journal, Rattle, and more.
One Hundred Ghost Tales
In my time I’ve been chilled by 100 ghost tales.
Tentacles whip around me.
In my time I’ve been shivered by 99 shipwrecks.
Underwater claws come at me.
In my time I’ve been torn by 90 spare bullets
from Romanov cells and Ceaușescu courtyards;
I’ve squinted, locating the Lorca within me
lit by 89 headlamps.
In my time I’ve been caught under outpatient cloudbank
blearied by a choir of 80 vocoders.
With tendrils of tree root hobbling my footsteps
I’ve battled against the unholy alliance
of 79 hangovers marching.
Together, they beat me from 17 to 70,
man and boy and back again. Whatever.
I dreamt in the gutter of 69 lovers
displayed in a gallery of 60 crucifixions
and 59 luminous nativities.
In my atheist anorak I’ve carried up to 50
diving bricks of science fiction.
In rags I’ve been panned by 49 diggers,
sifted for gold and found deceptive.
In my prime I’ve been cautioned by 40 officers
and loosened my lip at merely 39.
In my prime I’ve been kissed by 38 summers.
The other 16 it rained.
In the first golden era of home computing
I nursed a headache, defragmenting
a hard drive that hated my meddling.
I will chew your files with relish,
a Biblical beggar
tossed a leg of lamb.
In the last great age of Fostex recorders,
I played the same sequence over and over
on tape that insisted on crinkling.
It knew what I heard in my head and fought me:
I will take my rogue chisel, Oddjob teeth,
your hammering neighbours
and leave you nothing by morning.
In the last stubborn flush of youth
I cashed my dole check for an easel.
Confronted by a blank canvas
my paintbrush shed its bristles
and snapped its brittle stem in two.
You can’t paint, you can’t draw.
You hold too tight but can’t grasp
you’ll never find your medium.
In the last great coda of printed paper
I turned my attention to this.
Finger the button that snaps up the blinds,
find two views from the same landing.
Left view: absolute blue.
Right view: cumulonimbus.
Invite yourself to breathe like a Buddhist.
Favour neither window.
The Daylight Line
Sunlight smears dawn tread
on stacked-up chairs and tables.
Café closed to dancers.
Red brick factory;
chimney tapered, stiff, regal.
Murk brings odd clatters.
No hammers shake the sailboat
jacked up on stilts.
Paint in turpentine,
wet clouds swirl round, deciding
how to blight the park.
the Traffic Calmed Area.
Fences are mended.
No books without coffee,
no songs without beer,
no anything minus a cigarette.
Yes, you had your rituals.
No set piece occasion,
no special event
minus making a coruscating row.
I had my rituals also.
Bio: Born in Edinburgh of Canadian heritage, Roy's work has appeared in the likes of And Other Poems, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Lighthouse Literary Journal and the anthology Neu! Reekie! UntitledTwo. He now lives in Dunbar, East Lothian. His website is www.roymoller.com
Night is a Dark Fabric
Night is a dark fabric, torn,
patched, that she wears like wings.
Star or streetlight, she knows no distinction,
each glow bulbing like spittle on lips.
Where drops dip down, seduced
by gravity, they disappear, absorbed
in feathers and fibres. Scab-heeled,
she runs down mantled streets, trailing
blueblack billows and something like language.
Stood on his soapbox, shouting the odds,
raising Cain, summoning fire and rain,
a plague on the land; he’s a one man band,
out of tune with times he doesn’t understand.
He’s been here so long, he’s a statue
with a worn inscription no-one reads,
his Verdigris complexion a witness to neglect,
his guano-spattered brows raised in perpetual shock.
A clock with no hands, his chimes ignored
at each dull apocalypse, he rings no changes,
never changes his tune, just loudly fiddles
as the burning world speeds past in soapbox cars,
blazing downhill to some destination
he’s always promised, but doesn’t remember.
A Postcard Undelivered
There are lights on a coast I barely remember,
a harbour hoarding waves and reflections,
Mooncast and magnificent, challenging my adjectives,
winning every time; there are hands holding hands
in a circle round a fire that draws all eyes
in on themselves, to deep space
where that first foot still edges to Tranquillity,
that first kiss still hangs in air
scented with ink and ozone, quivering
like that first unimagined loss, and everything
that will tumble after; and there are dead friends
skimming stones in the dark, singing to the Moon,
eyes wider than the whole damn ocean,
lighting up the pier, short lives blazing.
I’m not as scared of the stuffed animals
as I was when I was young. Glass eyes
glimpsed through glass are dull, holding
no malice for me or the hunter, himself
Instead, they are alleys,
tossed in a game with arcane rules
made up by kids with long shorts
and home-made jumpers; they’re stained glass
windows of a profane structure. They don’t
stare, just sit, neutral, in coarse pelts,
rough coats for sawdust.
There’s so little to see here, it scares me.
Bio: Oz Hardwick is a writer, photographer, music journalist, and occasional musician, based in York (UK). His work has been published and performed in diverse media: books, journals, record covers, programmes, fabric, with music, with film, and with nothing but a nervous voice. His new poetry collection, The House of Ghosts and Mirrors, will be published by Valley Press in September 2017. Find out more at: www.ozhardwick.co.uk
I worry about the wildfires. I make flames
in my mind, send them rolling through
the dry to your apartment: inside.
I used to invent the shape of your home,
but now I am here, and I know. The place
reeks of what I hope is the former tenant’s
smoke. No sunlight to speak of, and the sliding door
sticks. Your pillow is a sweatshirt. Out on the patio,
your avocado tree promises that living things
exist (when Dad told me how expensive it was,
I didn’t tell him I know where you make your
real money). You carry the reaching tree in and
out of the sunlight; you water it with a hose and
brush bugs from its branches. I don’t ask you
when the avocados will grow. In that old
t-shirt, your shoulders are new. A balled-up
sun dries out the day behind the curtain; the kitchen
hums. I send myself to WalMart to buy you
a bathmat; the bags I bring back are full of
manly-looking homewares and those
granola bars you like. I unpack it all slowly,
so you’ll have time to thank me. Space Fills. You
look back at me and you don’t roll your eyes;
I guess you don’t do that anymore. Fires build.
When I think of you here, alone, after work, I pry
California from the map and carry you home on my back.
Bio: Molly Johnsen received an M.A. from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, where she participated in a poetry workshop with Tracy K. Smith. She has also worked with Natalie Shapero at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop.
a part of me will always be broken
once you told me
apologizing for the same thing
over and over meant you
weren't really sorry
so i can only assume that you
were never truly sorry for all the ways
you consistently hurt me
time and time again,
and you have no idea how much i regret
that we couldn't be closer or have a loving relationship
like a father and daughter should;
but i put this ocean between us because you really
dove into the wreckage again today
found that little girl buried in her tears and her anger
wedged between a rock and a hard place
bullied at school even by some of her teachers
uprooted from happiness at home
she could find no refuge
except in books and in writing,
and you held her in contention for not being like everyone else;
like individuality were a bad thing
you always put a sour taste in my mouth
sometimes you still do--
i see the way you treat my sister and it hurts
because you show her all the love
as if i was never worthy of your kindness,
but i know in order to find peace
i must forgive you;
sometimes i don't know if i can because you wounded me so
deeply i will always be broken.
you can count on me to feel everything
you can always count on me to bring the intensity and heat, to fall in love too quickly, to stay in love with all the people who have broken my heart for eternity; you can count on me to be loyal even to people who don't deserve my loyalty, you can count on me to give too many second chances until i have no chance but to walk away from a friendship that only serves to break me; you can always count on me to second guess and overthink everything, to find hidden meanings in things that may not even have them—i try so hard to be strong, but sometimes i'm not strong; sometimes i need someone to hold me but they never do; they only tell me i am strong as if my tears scare them, as if my emotions will somehow break them—i need someone who will love me as deeply and profoundly as i love, but i don't know if such a person exists; i am terrified that i'll never find them, i don't want to settle for anything and so i fear falling hard for the wrong person—just don't want someone who doesn't know how to love me to hurt me again because you can always count on me to dig up the wounds of the past, and find a reason to hurt; long after people say it is in my past because i'm never past the pain—i have to feel so much that sometimes i think this blessing is more a curse.
the girl who cries oceans into existence
i've shed so many tears today that i couldn't count them all, thinking of all the bullies in my past; why do wounded people think it's okay to damage others simply because they're hurting? i'll never fathom the logic in that because hurting someone shouldn't make you happy, it should make you feel worse;
i have thought of all the tears i cried and i still don't understand the insensitivity toward my sensitivity, and their need to get a rise from a girl who was always lost in a sea of words deep inside of her; maybe they just wanted to see me feel something, but i always felt everything more deeply than they could ever know--
won't pretend that i was always innocent, i know i snapped like a snarling dog at people who didn't deserve it; but i was also hurt by people who should've known better and should've been more gentle with me, people who claimed to love me treated me as if i were trash and scum;
i have never known where to put this pain so sometimes i put them in poems hoping if nothing else someone can see that it is okay to be a wreck and a masterpiece all at once because we're all works in progress, and sometimes we fall apart at the seams; beautiful things can come from the broken--
flowers will one day grow over all these empty patches of soil in me, but today the wounds are salted and they burn; and that's okay, i will find a way to survive the day, hoping tomorrow will be better and more beautiful; hoping that the world will remember a kinder heart than i once knew.
Bio: Linda M. Crate is a Pennsylvanian native born in Pittsburgh yet raised in the rural town of Conneautville. Her poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has three published chapbooks A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press - June 2013), Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon - January 2014), and If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications, August 2016). Her fantasy novel Blood & Magic was published in March 2015. The second novel of this series Dragons & Magic was published in October 2015. The third of the seven book series Centaurs & Magic was published November 2016. Her novel Corvids & Magic was published March 2017.
trussed in a harness: ass spat upon and slapped with lube. velvet sockets lock on the velvet sockets lock on the velvet sockets and on and on we conjoin without cease, poured together viscous and oozing, one cyclic digestive tract without form or end.
a bog-man torso slips above me, a lamprey in the dark. I am dissolute and washed apart from each molecule of myself in the grease of his worn-down face, the slick fluid which runs from his balls, the gaseous flutter of his delicate eyelids. his suction-pumped cock turgid beyond all logic, plunging into me and expunging all excess liquid into the cracks behind my eyes where a cockroach could crawl and die and he pulls wholly out and crams the poppers to my nose and returns grinding into my utmost gut, sending all parasites and foreign bodies flooding into the red-tinged darkness of the night. suffusion of that body into this: temporary cessation of fear: confluence of mucophiliacs in hot wet congealing pools.
drowning men grasp at one another gorgeously amid torrents of a bitter, viscous drug, sold as paint stripper and stripping away much else, the lining of my throat and gut, the fretful tension of my ass, the years’ studied distaste in the clinical baptist hall with its mural of two lions and two giraffes and one man and one wife and the bright-eyed sun reaching for the boiling earth with grasping and tentacular solar flares, exerting occult influence after all on the butchery of blackened waves which lift the beat-up and covenantless craft towards a candy-cane rainbow, towards g_d. all this and all these thoughts effaced as that o was effaced by the ancient submission of men & my anus likewise tenderly collapsing below the influx of mass from on high, giving way in a cacophony of nerve endings and womanly gasps, o, o, oh my god.
swiped, the grindr homepage rebounds and the obscured faces and bared breasts of men within a given radius swirl and reappear, as though the shock of contact was too hot or too sweet and their flesh is recoiling momentarily from the flesh it is straining for. with a touch I can open up the bare fingernail’s span of an oily and instagrammed chest as wide as a gaping mouth, a sucking rectum, a whole torso torn at the waist and made hollow and the cocks of both the dead and the living plunged into it, bundled together as dead and green wood are bundled for burning.
a sweet and purifying smoke rises and I rise with it, departing the club and drifting eastward among the towerblocks of hackney which teeter but do not fall, frozen in the moment of their collapse by the wintry white flash of riches detonating from the ground zero of the city. I condense on some road or other beside a low concrete rise where i kneel and fumble a cracked card from my wallet, tamping out what little cocaine still clags to the turned-out sweat-soaked baggie I stole from some grad scheme half-wit blundering bloated around a back-room pub blowing scented vapour from his nostrils, a fattened heifer raised up and roasted on a bed of sage and fresh green faggots. come now. come soon? coming.
the towerblock in question rears before me, gaudless in the sodium light, a mighty and foreign object turning roughly in my rectum. I snort a line. this estate is called the palace but I count no kings, only some heavy-set youth up against a wall getting wanked off by his girl and watching the road for cops, his gaze bearing down on me and lifting the tower’s mass with it as he glances elsewhere, the iron-framed bulk collapsed, grown limp. to be borne upon by the weight of men. to be brave, or at least to be high. in my mind I bow to him as I pass.
pharmaceuticals conveyed darkly after dark by some other youth on a moped, his skull visored, his hands flaked with dead skin. google search: tetramethylene glycol as substitute for ghb. google search: inducing vomit to reduce wait time for initial dose. the youth a runner, dispatched by some distant druglord behind a cracked touch-sensitive screen, as responsive to the pressure of my fingers as the hard thighs and braced calves of the man whose cock I will presently bow before, as unyielding, as hardened with bliss. the dealer has grown hard off the bliss of others, I mean, dispatching young and acned soldiers across the city to peddle methamphetamine to the soft and the rich. the old men buy the drugs and we take the drugs and the old men take the drugs and we all die a little and are reborn, phoenixes writhing like rats through the muscular ring of a shaved and washed-out rectum, emergent from a corona of lube. google search: how much is too much.
the trite call it la petite mort, and they have it precisely wrong. there is nothing small about his load or the fatal ghosts that are in it, slobbering down my throat, dripping out of my ass. fainting fits and nervous spasms; growing light-headed on black market truvada and mistaking nausea for a buzz; the burst of white oblivion across the cortex at the dinner table two days after swallowing six bitter flaking valium: all these have the flavour of death, the gradual cessation of consciousness. here and now is something other, not some ecstatic and deathly break with reality but rather a divine upward vault of sensation and perception revealing what lies beyond, revealing precisely what lies behind, the roulette plunge of cocks yet to come and that impossible inevitable fatal load crouching toadlike in some balls yet unlicked.
they died. we do not die. we lock sockets and the fluids run and we drip with fluid and we do not die. thirty five million tiny skeletons emanate from the straining slit at the tip of his cock and my rectum must be stretched wide enough and wet enough to accommodate their bony joints and the bare ribs scratching at their translucent rotting skin and at the lining of my gut and throat, so many and so unique and boney-white and blinding that they overwhelm my vision utterly and become one blackened mass, as pixels form an image, as cells constitute the human form. only in this one moment are we alive, and then only since we are thrown into contrast by the innumerable dead who proceed us, a suddenly dark and ectoplasmic backdrop across which we are cast, shards of methamphetamine broken out of an electric skillet. we are exhausted, we croak meth from the pipe, i slap at my recalcitrant veins. lubricant floods from my out-turned anus. all liquid and all the skeletons in it, of which he is one or soon to be, swept wetly into the roaring dark.
their sores broke open and their cankers swelled for us. for this? this surrender of peer-reviewed logic, this gutless acquiescence to the plague which bore so many howling into the aforementioned dark? I suppose so, though it does not feel like it. thin blue and pink and antiretroviral line broken in by many cocks. the virus suffered sanctuary to mutate by my inability to complete a 28-day course of post-exposure prophylaxis without lapsing. kaposi's sarcoma to my thoughtless ear sounds like an ape, an orchid, a fancy parakeet. erotic murmur of cassius on the eve of battle: antony, the posture of your blows are yet unknown. honey greases the passage conjoining reason to death.
a gentle man soaps me. g sags my limbs and I touch my lip to his metal-clenched nipple. dry shit is scoured from the cracked walls of my innards, worked loose by hot jets of water and expelled in stinking brown gushes as I rock a little unsteady and he blows back a hot cheekful of meth smoke into my soft wet mouth. with it fall the dissolved ghosts of those who went before and the ghostly egg sacs they implanted in my roiling gut, shaken loose and terminated. we touch and continue to touch and are alive and the more heavily we press upon one another and the more weight we bear the less we are and the lighter, our bodies I mean, the more we press and writhe the more we are not there. by the gush of crystal through my chest, by the spatter of the hot water across my sore back and shoulders, I am compelled to surrender all resistance. he soaps my anal cavity, my chest, my feet.
he is amazed that I sleep with women. perhaps revolted, certainly aroused. when? he asks. did you enjoy it? he fucks me doubled-over on the balcony, both smoking cigarettes. he washes his hands in me like a real man washes his hands in his woman. he shoots photographs from behind on his iphone and I say no face no case and I cry high feminine cries as he thrusts upward through coils of muscle and presses down on the arc of my back till it snaps and precum bursts from the rupture. later I will steal his versace jock strap and he will wander into the bedroom moments after and I will pretend I am slipping him the phone number I use in my waking life and he will pretend to believe me. he is kind to me, as I do not deserve. he keeps moving the g from my reckless grasping hand and takes no advantage of my condition beyond sliding his fist up my anus as I stoop sloppily to snort drone. what do you like he says I’ll do it to you. what makes you hot. anything.
what makes me hot? so many things. the branding of my cheek with hexagonal mesh as I am forced against it by the blows of his shanks. the miserable splendour of the high-rises around liverpool street, their ommatidiac glass, their blistered lights. the way these sights grow waxy as tears leak across my eyes, ground up from my gut by the ceaselessness of his cock in me and his rough hand at my smooth back. the cold space before me and the sensation of falling into it and being torn apart by the youths selling drugs hand to hand around the frosted grass far below who rise up like raptors and claw apart my skin, by the gushes of cold air on which they coast carefree but which chill my flesh, by the way he whispers do you want pipe and I dont know if he means meth or dick I dont know I dont know.
the leatherman comes, so suffused with lust that his skin is turned to leather, his hide soaked, limed, bated, bleached, by g, t, whips, drone. his cock pump wheezes and blood rushes into it, his cock I mean, not the drained space around it, the vacuum which I must fill. did anything dirty happen to you when you were younger he whispers. did anyone touch you when you were small. slung in the harness, spun back and slippering across the seam-split binbags sodden with lube. hot consanguinity of pores and glands. they did he whispers they did. transferred from one to the other to the other to one, sucked up through the seal of the heaving penile pump into the void within from which all sweat and precum and pollutants are effaced, drawn out by the rushing rushing air which sucks me with it, into the fleshless soundless dreamtime, into the airlessness, into the dark.
viagra when taken with cocaine can stop the heart, but do all things not have this effect, in their own way, in their own time?
time reddens infernally through the windows, as unbearable as the welts raised across my buttocks, as suffused with blood. inadvisable dosages. sockets applied to sockets. mechanistic inducement of penile engorgement. google search: can you get high on doxycycline. google search: how to get home.
stepping from the chillout into the white-gold light. foxes cross the frosted grass, as bright as the drops of blood in the white seat of my pants. flecks of spat blood, disseminating viral load through the cuts of the city, scratching at one another in alleyways and yipping demented at the noxious moon.
young clear-eyed and high on the most incredible mdma on a similar bright white night in oxford, we clambered into the university parks as the sun rose. at this time I was struggling colossally with the expansion of that underscored blankness in the heart of g_d to my outermost extremities and I was hungry for any vaguely humanist substitute, I suppose, desperate to take anyone and anything waferlike on my tongue in absolution for unreal sins. in any case I was so powerfully overcome that I wept at the sensation of all the living things around me, grass bugs bacteria men, all straining though they do not know it to survive, to persevere, to be. fresh frosted green blades without consciousness or reason reaching up blindly towards the surpassing holocaust of the sun hung so far from us in the chill blankness of space for no reason other than their desire to pass on their bundled genes, to give life to generation on generation of future grasses to do the same, the life that does not know it lives, the life that lives only to live.
looking now across the unsanctified span of the common, still spun out and starry on the methamphetamine, it comes to me as though always known that the very mechanism of this eyeless, grasping urge is death. Coetzee has O’Hearne make an error: dying is, for an animal, just something that happens, something against which there may be a revolt of the organism but not a revolt of the soul. and the lower down the scale of evolution one goes, the truer this is. to an insect, death is the breakdown of systems that keep the physical organism functioning, and nothing more.
the insects will outlast us. that much is commonplace. decapitated cockroaches can respire for weeks through the thorax and do not systematically drink to excess. but their plodding dominion over the earth was not achieved through mere force of will. it was bought, terribly bought, with microliters of invertebrate blood spilled across three hundred thousand crawling millennia. just something that happens? it is precisely through the death of cockroaches that the cockroach can thrive and endure. no breeding organism could ever revolt against this most necessary condition of the soul’s onward passage, not the animals, not the grasses, not the pink-cheeked couple sleeping snug in their marital home. each blade and each bug and each bridal suite is haunted by the million million succeeding and exceeding it, each faint evolutionary flicker and each false trail to oblivion bought with the mown-down heel-crushed lives of so many, so many, uncandled and not sung for as they wink into the dark. flies laying eggs in the carcasses of flies: all we are, all we can be.
those who go forth and multiply have killed and will kill again. did you enjoy it? the gentle boy asks. there is no answer. witless, blind, it cannot be helped. here and now, far from such husbandry, we elide fleshly in the dark. we may die or we may not die and we caress death’s mystery regardless in every gasping and abased and life-giving touch of skin, of sockets. for this we are called sinners, revolting of body and soul. when a man or men discharges a load of unknown toxicity in my throat or gut, I moan these words: breed me. breed me.
here on these lube-drenched binliners the bleak w_rd handed down from the high places of the fertile crescent to that mural-painted baptist hall in the drab west midlands to that green and living park alike is finally unwritten, the procreative function refused as more deathly than any virus and effaced in a deluge of saliva and semen. the breakdown of systems that keep the physical organism functioning, and nothing more. what more could there be? for what else do we live? like everything else alive we are fucking to our death, and our sorcery which so sickens the world is that we alone accept it, we alone harbour no delusions and kiss through the liquefying flesh to the hard and immobile skull below, we alone feel those who have gone before us crawling under our skin, flooding out of our wet and open sockets into the sockets of those still living, whom we love.
Bio: At the time of writing Matt Broomfield was living in a warehouse in Tottenham, North London. He was smoking methamphetamine and having unprotected sex with strange men: he sometimes vomited. He currently lives and works in Lesvos, Greece, supporting the thousands of refugees still trapped there in their own struggle for bodily autonomy.
His prose has been published by Litro, the Mays and Cherwell, and his poetry by the National Poetry Society, the Independent and Bare Fiction. His work was last year displayed across London by Poetry on the Underground, and he is a Foyle Young Poet of the Year.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.