Wednesday, July 11, 2012


They scraped up enough money to buy butcher paper and flipped the one remaining coin they had between them. He swallowed hard. She removed her nail polish, piercings, jewelry, and clothing. She shaved her entire body. Her once erotic tattoos now made him queasy. Hopefully, he’d find work within the month. That was the plan, anyway.

Bruce Harris

Bruce Harris enjoys relaxing with a Marxman.

My Dolls Had Names

When I was young, we lived next to a kid who used to torture his dog. One day, my older brother Terry, my doll Miss Peaches, and I, were outside and watched him as he threw rocks and cursed loudly at the dog at the same time. He was merciless. Sometimes a beaten dog will run away and sometimes it will even turn on its owner, but this dog just sort of gave up. He would curl in a ball and take it. I think dying was the smartest thing that dog ever did.

Miss Peaches had a tiny smile offset by large, innocent eyes. That night, Terry disemboweled her right in front of me. It was the first time I had ever seen a doll bleed. Or seen her entrails. Or heard her scream. He told me that she was very sad after watching the dog, but being cut open would make her feel better. After he was finished Terry said that her little smile was brighter now. I gently placed her in a shoe box and put it in the back of my closet under a blanket Mom had bought for me last summer.

I had other dolls.

A few weeks later, Mom and Dad got into a fight after I had gone to bed. Dad would usually drink after work and complain about what a prick his boss was. That night he had been especially loud. I heard glass breaking, furniture being pushed around, and words like whore, drunk, slut, and bastard, used over and over. When the fighting ended, Mom came into my room. Her hair was messed up and there was a trace of mascara that had run halfway down her cheek. She told me she had to leave and began to sob because she couldn’t afford to take Terry and me with her, but promised she would be back. She gave me a long hug and quietly left my room.

I heard her walk down the hall and out the front door, the screen door closing hard behind her. I didn’t move, hoping to hear Mom come back to Dad. Hoping to hear Dad go outside for Mom. Hoping to hear them talking again. Hoping that they would find a way to patch it up. Instead, there was only silence. Eventually the headlights of a taxi shone through my window. A car door opened and closed, a motor droned and eventually faded into the night.

After she was gone, Terry quietly came into my room and grabbed Dr. Seltzer off my shelf. Dr. Seltzer was my one and only Christmas present from Santa. He had a stethoscope around his neck and a shiny, round, reflector on his forehead. He looked the way I would want a doctor to look, with his pleasant smile and cheery green eyes. Terry took out his razor blade and cut open Dr. Seltzer. Terry said that Dr. Seltzer was crying because he couldn’t make things better for us. Dr. Seltzer was braver than Miss Peaches and didn’t scream, but he bled just the same. When Terry was finished, we looked at Dr. Seltzer’s smile and realized that he wasn’t crying anymore. We took some comfort in it.

I placed Dr. Seltzer with Miss Peaches in the shoebox. Lying side by side, they both looked happy together.

One autumn night, Dad beat Terry to a pulp. Terry had been suspended from high school for using a razor blade on his arm. The principal told my Dad that Terry needed help. Dad helped Terry the only way he knew.

My doll, Mrs. Smithers, and I watched as Terry tried to defend himself against Dad’s cursing, shoves, and slaps. For a short while, Terry was just like that dog, curled in a helpless ball on the floor and just taking it, but eventually, Terry ran out of the house and was gone the rest of the night.

Later that night, I heard Mrs. Smithers weeping over what had happened, so I cut her open. She screamed and bled, but when I was done her smile was brighter, just like Miss Peaches. I placed Mrs. Smithers in the shoebox with the other two, hoping that they would all be happy.

The next day, Dad and I were in the kitchen when Terry came home. There were no words or glances exchanged as Terry passed quietly to his room. Mom showed up moments later. She was there to take Terry and me with her. She tried to push open the door, but Dad wouldn’t let her in the house. There was so much screaming and shouting, I plugged my ears to make it stop. Terry came charging from his room and tried to shove Dad out of the way, but Dad shoved back. Terry went reeling into the refrigerator and collapsed on the floor. Mom was not strong enough to get past Dad, so I tried to help her by pulling on the door.

In the flash of a moment, Dad gasped and fell to the floor. Terry stood over him, his hand firmly gripping a carving knife. Cut wide open, the stuffing in Dad’s body pushed out in lurches and floated about the room. It settled on everything and stuck like glue. Dad just laid there with a blank look on his face, his deflated body in a heap.

We buried Dad a week later. Terry was sent to prison. Mom and I moved to a house nearby and we visit Terry often.

I buried my dolls in the yard.

Jon Beight

Jon Beight lives and works in Western New York. He has been published in Red Fez, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Feathertale, The Cynic On-Line Magazine, First Stop Fiction, Spilling Ink Review, and forthcoming issues of Apocrypha and Abstractions and Ascent Aspirations.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Queer Organs

     Somewhere between the prawn cocktail and the boiled tongue my impetigo flares up and causes Mam to drops her fork and cry out, “Oh, Jesus, your poor face is destroyed.” Mam wipes my chin with a bit of wet tissue paper and says, “There now, you're game ball.”

     Whether it's the pink sauce on my cheeks, or the glaring red pustules, Mam says not to put a finger on my face until she washes it with a wet cloth and applies Sloan's Horse Liniment—the Old Man's cure for everything from the common cold to the Black death.

     The Old Man works a piece of gristle between his false teeth and a low growl comes from his mouth as he struggles with the meat. As I lick the Marie Rose sauce from a prawn he resorts to putting the knife in his mouth to loosen some meat from his teeth and Mam sighs the way she does when I do something wrong. He raises a bushy eyebrow and continues to worry away at his teeth, daring Mam to say something.

     “How many valves are in a prawn's heart?” I ask Mam, afraid I'm eating all sorts of queer organs I know nothing about.

     “Do you know I haven't the foggiest notion,” she says. “But I do know their hearts are on top of their heads.”

     “God, that's fantastic,” I say, amazed at all the wonderful things Mam knows. She learns lots of them from her set of Everyman Encyclopedias on the bookshelves in the dining room. I love the green covers and the gilt numbers on the spines of the encyclopedias, or is it encyclopediae? I think Father Declan said something about Latin plurals ending in —aie in class a while ago.

     When we go home I want to explore the volume that has lots of stuff about astronomy, the formation of suns and how they travel through the universe at dizzying speeds. But the Old Man is our sun and Mam and me orbit about him like two helpless planets, the anger he shows when he's unhappy pitched at us the way he launches the small white golf ball into the stratosphere. But for now I resist the urge to scratch my impetigo and fork another prawn with its dead heart into my mouth.

James Claffey

Bath Time

     Friday night is bath night. Auntie Martha balances me in the sink, her lips pursed, the Pears soap in one hand, my arm in the other. There's not much room in the kitchen because Mam is frying the tea for the Old Man who is at the pub. Eggs cracked in lard sizzle and cigarette smoke mingles with the darker smoke from the stove. Mam is angry because she bangs the skillet about and says “He's worse than fifty children. Away all month and spends all his time nestled up to the bar.” Martha soaps my skinny bones and washes under the place my testicles will be in the future.

     Martha knocks the blue glass ashtray off the edge of the sink and it bounces on the linoleum floor. “Ah, you're as clumsy,” Mam says to her. I wriggle about and Martha drops the soap on the floor, too. “For God's sake, please would you be careful?” Mam cries, rattling the wooden spoon against the stovetop. “Sorry, he's wriggling too much,” Martha says, tightening her grip on my arm. “Stop acting the maggot,” she tells me, and folds me in the towel to dry me off.

     Mam grates the orange Galtee cheddar and crushes the cigarette butt out in the ashtray. The cheese is Da's favorite and he likes to sprinkle it on his eggs with Worcestershire sauce before he forks it into the hole in the center of his face. He doesn't skimp when it comes to food, that's what Mam says when he's away. A man of simple pleasures, she says, too. I only want him to play with me, to hoist me up toward the ceiling and to feel the thrill and the fear of flying in his arms. Instead, Auntie Martha cuddles me in her lap and rubs my head with the rough towel. The Old Man's place goes unfilled as we eat our tea and Mam glares into the emptiness.

James Claffey


     Emer and the girls play hopscotch in the chalked grid on the footpath. Four and seven are rest squares and you can put both feet down before continuing. From the corner of my bedroom window I watch her in the evening sunlight. Her brown shoes are scuffed at the toes and there's a wrinkle in her burgundy school skirt. She goes to Loreto on the Green and gets the bus early in the mornings. Sometimes I walk with her as far as the traffic light and then I make my own way to my school, which is in the opposite direction.

     She says it's okay if I want to take her to the flicks on Saturday morning. It's always a matinee in the Kenilworth and they're showing re-runs of Flash Gordon. The last time we went to the cinema I touched her face and it felt like the sand on the beach at Bettystown—all soft and warm. I was afraid to utter a word, and if we go this week I'm going to try and kiss her. Downstairs I can hear Mam rattling pots and pans for dinner. The Old Man is still away and we're having boiled chicken and cabbage tonight.

     Emer tosses the Mansion Polish tin onto the grid and hope, splits, and hops again before stopping on the seven square. She's playing with Nettie Hanratty and she doesn't like me at all. Mam says her parents are left-footers and not to be trusted. The two girls talk as they play and the stones in the tin rattle as they throw it ahead of them. Emer's wrist is narrow as a twig and the sun catches her wristwatch and sends a stream of light toward the ground. There's a moment of silence in the bedroom as I linger at the window, imagining the kiss we'll share on Saturday morning in the darkness of the Kenilworth. Mam calls me for dinner and I let the muslin curtain trail through my fingers before going downstairs.

James Claffey

James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA, with his wife, the writer and artist, Maureen Foley, their daughter, Maisie, and Australian cattle-dog, Rua. He is the winner of the Linnet’s Wings Audio Prose Competition. He received his MFA from Louisiana State University, where he was awarded the Kent Gramm Prize for Non-Fiction. His work appears in many places including The New Orleans Review, Connotation Press, A-Minor Magazine, Literary Orphans, and Gone Lawn. You can read him at

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Monologue at 4:00 am

When you're starting to crash, you got to hang onto something. That sorrow comes rushing down to the bone as your tongue gets sandy and you suddenly have nothing left to say. Your brain starts to play tricks on you like it's a sworn enemy, and your muscles twitch and twist into knots.

Nope. That sorrow doesn't level off until hours later when you've already botched your hook-up with yet another Internet girl in another room of some other motel on the road to hell. After she disappears out the door in her pajamas, all you can remember is your fingers playing like claws over damp skin that felt as lumpy as popcorn tossed on a blanket, dull, black hair, a spider tattoo as big as your fist covering one breast, and your dick wilting under the drugs and the tactile disgust.

It's a cosmic joke, this feeling of perfection the shit gives you at first snort in return for dark hours of tooth-grinding, head-fucking fear. It's like being on a trampoline you can't get off as your chest fills with helium in the middle of a party full of assholes that speak Esperanto. You look past the plastic-backed curtains and notice it's another fucking sunny day and the bitch stole your sunglasses. You turn your back to the light and lick the tiny mirror clean, then the dollar bill, hoping to capture another minute or two of glory.

Put me in a line-up and I promise you, I'll get fingered every time.

JP Reese

The Danger of Talk Therapy

I hate to admit it, but that vocal trill of hers drenches the waiting room in a coat of neon-green paint. That frosty excuse for an upbeat attitude affects me every time I hear it like a dose of salts. Who does she think she is, a cross-dressing Freudian Maria Callas? Shit.

Sometimes, I hear her voice at home in my bedroom like an off-key whistle in my head that just won't quit right when I'm trying to sleep. There's no real music quite like it. It's like an aural drug, but not an antibiotic, not like one of those tangerine flavored syrups that actually fixes anything. Nope, it's more like a screeching hit of meth that sizzles through my synapses like hot match heads. I'm telling you, that woman's noise sinks deep into my chest and rattles me like a phlegmy cough you can't spit out

I haven't slept in days. Look at the stubble on my fuckin' chin! Maybe I can fix it, walk in there tomorrow before her receptionist gets there and complain of insomnia, really push it so I look pitiful, and as the bitch is scribbling a prescription for Lunesta, I'll count to ten, measure the distance between her body and that plate glass and push her ass out the window.

Maybe screaming her way down seventeen stories will give her better pitch, and me? I might just get me a good night's sleep.

JP Reese


Her Welch's jelly jar of pond water surrounds tadpoles scooped from the Madison arboretum's spring plenty. Tiny commas, each glimmers with possibility beneath the pierced aluminum lid. It is 1960. TV commercials show astronauts flying from the earth, sweating glasses of Tang grasped in their male hands, while on Saturday, Johnny Quest saves the world as small cartoon companions mix multi-flavored Fizzies and eat Cracker Jacks during commercial breaks. She wants her own Johnny Quest adventures, but knows they're not for girls.

Monday, bigger brothers in school, she becomes The Lone Ranger in a skort. The concrete of the backyard stoop seems a good spot to place her cache of tadpoles when the Russian Olive tree beckons from the corner of the yard, its branches low enough for a four-year-old's grasp. Lilac flowers perfume the breeze, and violets dot the grass as she climbs. Hand-holds become more and more stick-like. Below, the tadpoles swim round and round, patient in their transformation.

Each new branch dances under her toes. Finally, the wind whisks her hair at the top of the earth.

China, she knows, is only a short glance over her shoulder. She imagines Tonto waiting for her below, amusing himself by plunging face first down the sliding board, war-whoops trailing behind like a red satin sash.

The faint whoosh-wump of the Amana drums faintly through the screen as mother, skirted and Peter-pan collared, irons father's pinpoints; an unfiltered Pall-Mall, its damp end kissed by Avon's pretty in pink, smokes from the ashtray on the dryer. Queen for a Day keeps mom company in black and white from the RCA console as she busies herself polishing Dad's wingtips. Outside, the girl becomes Flash Gordon pursued by Ming the Merciless as her tadpoles swim round and round, growing green skin.

Mother's face lights in the glass for a moment; the screen door shrieks open, scrapes the jar over concrete, and tips it off the edge of the world. Heels divot the damp grass as she lurches forward, arms upstretched just as her girl's shimmering shape takes flight. The tadpoles, past recall, join sharp shards of glass, their prospects as broken as bones set in casts.

JP Reese

JP Reese has poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, book reviews, and writer interviews published or forthcoming in many online and print journals such asMetazen, Blue Fifth Review, A Baker's Dozen: Thirteen Extraordinary Things, and The Pinch. Reese is a poetry editor for THIS Literary Magazine,, and Associate Poetry Editor for Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, She has been a guest fiction editor forscissors & spackle. Reese's poetry chapbook, Final Notes was published by Naked Mannekin Press in 2012. Reese's flash fiction has won the Patricia McFarland Memorial Prize and her poetry The University of Memphis Graduate School Creative Writing Award. Her published work can be read at Entropy: A Measure of Uncertainty,

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hula-hoops, Boys, and Bottle Rockets

She didn’t write about what I had said to her, or what I had done to her.

She only wrote about who I would never be.

It was a summer day. Hotter than hell-fire, mom said before she sent me into town on my bicycle. That’s when I first seen her, the new girl. She was swinging her hips around the inside of a hula-hoop on the sidewalk in front of the local five and dime when I spotted her that first time. I thought she was a little flaky just standing there all alone swizzling that pink plastic around her tiny waste while the summer bees swarmed the bottle of soda she had left in the sun to get warm. I said “Hi,” and she said “Hi” back, cracked her gum, and kept on swizzling. I was with the brass band at a school practice earlier. Was still in my uniform. It was itchy and tight, and I remember how small her toes looked in the little plastic grocery store flip-flops she was wearing. I remember thinking that bare feet were romantic. My mom had got me new shoes for practice. They were shiny, but they were tight and made my feet feel hot and cramped. I had to get the laundry at the fluff and fold. Mom would be angry if I came back late, wasted her time and her money if the clothes were crinkled up, but I couldn’t stop staring at this girl. The hula-hoop had ball bearings or something inside of it, and it made this shucking sound as it swung in circles around her. With the laundry money, I thought, I could get us both some ice cream.

“Would you like some ice cream,” I asked her. She didn’t even look at me, just replied, “What kind?” and went on swinging, her tan summer toes gripping the concrete beneath her feet as if the hoop might spin her out into orbit.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Whatever kind you want, I suppose. We could go down to the marsh, sit in the shade for a bit.”

“I don’t go with boys,” she said all matter of fact like, scrunching up her nose at my boy stink, but I wasn’t a boy. Not in my uniform. Mom said I looked like a man in my uniform, so I told her that, pointed to all my shiny buttons and stuff. She smiled at me and said, “Ok.” The marsh was warm, quiet, still, and she didn’t scream that much when I hit her. It was really hot that day. I felt feverish. I don’t remember what she said to me, or much after she said it, except her ice cream, melting clotted milk into the mud.

That girl doesn’t hula-hoop outside of the five and dime anymore. I go there every day, and I wait, change for ice cream jingling in my pocket. I wait there alone; sometimes so long I forget what she looks like. I still see her sometimes, though, at the back of the schoolyard, in the shadows, writing in her little book. She has this look in her eyes as she scratches and tears at the pages, and I just know she isn’t writing about me.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

When she isn't writing, Cheryl Anne Gardner likes to chase marbles on a glass floor, eat lint, play with sharp objects, and make taxidermy dioramas with dead flies. She writes art-house novellas and abstract flash fiction, some published, some not.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Deaths I'm Losing Count Of

Last night I was a suicide
in the faded blue
of your eyes.

Everywhere I turned
I could see myself.
in walls of air.
And the blood
crying in desire
on the floor.

The cries filled me.
As I filled you.
And felt your relief
as you watched
me draw
that familiar dark smile
with your razor
across my throat.

A.J. Huffman

Acts of Attention

She stands
on a rusting throne
with her wrists opened.
Using the blood
like glue
to tack paper treasure
to the walls
of a cell.
Designed by an angel.
To allow her
to welcome death
with the levels of her eye.

A.J. Huffman

A Bride for the Gods

You cannot reach heaven
on your knees.
But you can on mine.
See the scars.
I can prove it.
I have proved it.
I have delivered many men.
On a carpet.
A red carpet.
with blood they never earned.
But claimed.
Again and again.
In the force of my will.

A.J. Huffman

A.J. Huffman is a poet and freelance writer in Daytona Beach, Florida.  She has previously published four collections of poetry: The Difference Between Shadows and Stars, Carrying Yesterday, Cognitive Distortion, and . . . And Other Such Nonsense.. She has also published her work in national and international literary journals such as Avon Literary Intelligencer, Writer's Gazette, and The Penwood Review.  Find more about A.J. Huffman, including additional information and links to her work at and!/poetess222

Mango Avocado

     “Monster, This is bob. Tim introduced us, “Bob’s a poet.”

     Monster’s hand was huge and greasy. I took it. We shook. “I don’t care if he is a Polock. Polocks are alright with me.” His enthusiasm sprayed a fine mist of chewed tobacco and beer. His face was broad. An untrimmed beard merged into the disheveled mass. Everything was black with Monster, black hair, black beard, black t-shirt. Even his blue jeans were black with motorcycle grease.

     “Not Polock-- Poet.” Tim corrected him. Monster looked confused.

     “Well. I don’t care if he is a poet. Poet-- Pollock what’s the difference?”

     Tim tried to explain it, but there was no explaining it, because I had just published a few poems in the local rag. Now, everybody knew that I did it. Poetry at the back of the Pocatello Rag, right there after a full page ad to enhance your life through chiropractic health, three poems, three bad poems; they were poems about dogs and motorcycles that should have remained buried in my ancient journals. Now, an unemployed roofer was reading poetry to the mechanic from Gerald’s Hog Shop:

wind filled vacant places
erased everything but smell

only molecular reason defines
the thrill. hill crested at a hundred
bottom dropped,
everything dropped
universe dropped into the dip of cool air
where the low pool pools
liquor on the blossoming wind.

     They didn’t really get it. But, who does? So it goes for the unwitting author. It wasn’t like I really wanted that poetry to get published. I had new poems. I had poems about war and love, unemployment and recession, ignorance and artifice. I had just given a poetry reading and really, I was kind of famous if you can be famous in a really small way. That’s where I met her. She said her name was Mary. She had dark hair, freckles and a Mona Lisa smile.

     “I put out a weekly newspaper.” she said proudly. She went on to tell me how tough it was being a single mom, working two jobs and still getting the rag out by deadline, “What I really want to do though is to change it, to run fewer ads and get some art in there.” She was enthusiastic about it. I was impressed. Where did she get all that energy? She must be running on Nitro, I figured.

     “Want to get a beer?” I offered. We wandered over to Jimmy D’s and talked about all the things we had in common. Of course I didn’t tell her about my fiancĂ©. She didn’t tell me about her boyfriend. I found out about him after the newspaper came out and he found out about me. There was a knock on my door and he wasn’t collecting for the paper. Anyhow, it was just a friendly beer, or so I told him.

     “What I am most interested in,” she told me, “is erotica.” the word hung in the air like a mythical landscape. I wanted to go there but I worried about the price of the ticket. Was this real or am I imagining it? Is she some crazy nymphomaniac? Does such a disease actually exist? Is Erotica a genre?

     “That’s a coincidence,” I told her. ”I’ve read everything by Henry Miller,” I bragged

     “Oh yeah.” she challenged, “ What’s his middle name?”


     “Of Course.” she agreed. “It was Val in Tropic of Cancer. Or was that Tropic of Capricorn? Which one came first?

     “Cancer was the erotic one,”

     “I thought they were all erotic.”

     “Only if you consider every one of your senses to be sexual. I mean, The Colossus of Maroussi, was a fricking travelogue.”

     “Yeah. Well. I only read the erotic ones,” she admitted.

     Jimmy D’s was packed as usual. We tried to find a quiet place but that’s impossible.

     “I’d really like to put your poetry in the Rag.” she started up again. We were wedged in between the pool table and a hallway leading down to the bathrooms. We were seated on two bar stools, no bar, no table, no place to lean or put your arms. I rested one arm on the back of her stool. One of her hands fit comfortably between my knees. We were close. She was talking about poetry. The most amazing scent was rising up from her. I leaned in as though to hear better but really, I was just trying to get closer to that smell. What was it? I lay my forehead into the soft skin below her ear. Small rivers, dark ripples, follicular currents swept under the dark cloud of her hair, moving down to the source. I wanted to follow it there, to smell that smell forever for it was truly the most naked thing I have ever experienced. The way my cock popped up in the middle of that crowded bar, I would have to say, it was primal. Had I been Henry Miller, I would have taken her right there, right then. Society be damned. I would have had my end in. Everything else is meaningless. There is only this moment, this life and this life exists only to our senses.

     I am not Henry Miller. Henry Miller was not a poet. Poetry is fueled by compassion and empathy. Contemplation, extrapolation, metaphor, these are tools of the poet. A certain lingering is required. It takes time to absorb every situation. Still more time to condense it, to strip away the unnecessary, to focus it, to sharpen it, to hone it into its most essential form. It just takes too long. The moment had passed. Manuel Alverado had arrived and she was no longer talking about poetry

     “That sounds great.” she was telling him. ”Your pen name could be, Mango Avocado.

     Mango this is Bob,” she introduced us, “Bob is a poet.” 

Mango Avocado

Los Angeles

I try to hold my breath
every time I drive through you:
the breath of your busy life
exhausts me, clubs me
with broken tail pipes, clouds
my vision like clouds rise
puppet strings over the refinery

I’m sleeping it off in the alley
behind Crazy Irene’s. Outa Gas.
Steve finally got a blow job
from that tall transvestite at the end
of the bar. And I thought she was a god.

Armondo Stiletto

Under Sunglasses

You say you’ll scrape and it will come to you again like that summer you always wished would be lost. The ghost was ready to pounce and chew.
“I don’t like it. I feel like it’s no longer about what I do, but how I look. That was one of the very things I first set out to rebel against.”
So she said, blinking tears from her ever-artistic, noble eyes. Or she could have just been tearing up from the flash.
How could I have known? That blue was blackened out by the tint that blocked out the sun.
Maybe she never had eyes to begin with.
There used to be glass pieces to walk on. They carpeted all of that down.
As soon as they stopped thinking the world went right again. Days aged with the skin. Expanding plot through otherwise plot-less scenarios. Making mountains move while no one was watching.
Every morning, normality would reign.
And everyone knows we don’t like it. Those fantasies we coddle and nurture with blood from our teats.
You say we heal and dreams come true all the time. There are always men waking up to pigs with butcher knives at their throats and women who wake up to dead husbands just like they’d always hoped. Reality is always making switches. Blurring edges. Stiffening girdles.
So you say.
Dots on my chest. The noun that verbed its way up to the adjective.
Pretentious eyebrows thick as your cock, darker than day.
Resolution. Charming epilogues. Feeling that for once, the mysteries of the world are known to you. Realizing that it’s all going to be alright.
Hoping it’s not all another dream.
“More than anything, I want to reach people, maybe even help them. That’s what makes all this shallow, masturbatory self-promotion worthwhile. ...Plus, I need the money.”
Cue laugh-track.

Caitlin Hoffman

Caitlin is a ball of neuroses morphed into human form. If you hunt around you might find her work in a few publications. You can follow her depravity @CHWrite on Twitter but are in no way obligated.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Sink photo albums–into
Sink silhouettes–into
Sink antique painting–into
Let solitude envelope/caress you
Until skin–your is enough musty
So musty
That age–your
Sees it–through me
That I it was
Who enveloped/crinkled/caressed
{Who} caress you {now}
Sink, sink 

Andrew J. Stone

Andrew J. Stone sleeps in the sunshine. Recent work has appeared in Danse Macabre, Blue & Yellow Dog, and Short, Fast & Deadly, Among other places. He recently finished a chapbook of poetry titled, "Teenage Angst & the Ekphrastic Exercise." He's now seeking publication. Find him where the graveyard is always full at:

Vanishing Point

It calls again... the road...
I want to take my car and just go.
Far as it will go...
I want to drive it till the engine falls out and the tires burn.

Then get out of the smoking wreckage and kiss it's white metal frame...
...and keep walking.

Hat... jacket... boots... old military shoulder bag full of secrets and faded old pictures and writing books.

Light a smoke... hand cupped in the breeze... light contrasting the last light of day against my face...
Boot heels on the road. Walking towards the setting sun.

Till I see desert sky and desert stars.
Till I am further than the horizon.
Further than the map.
Further than memory

Where my shadow and I will become one in the moonlight...


Myogen Muscular Organ

Myogen Muscular Organ. Piece of flesh pumping all that red through thousands of miles of circulatory. You keep me alive. You keep me full of breath as you carry that breath around in the deep dark rivers of blood. Repeated rhythmic contractions like orgasms of life. Made of muscle unique unto you. You hold a strength unlike any other. Four hidden chambers in which you flow through. Four dark and hidden rooms. If I were to tear open my chest would a name be written upon you? Would I see all of the memories and dreams come pouring out of you? Would you pump long enough for me to see? To see that I still love you…



Looking at the body was like staring at a still life. So beautiful in its everyday nature. So full of form and texture. The delicate curves. The haunting reminder of the passionate sex to which they had only so recently shared. It was an amazing thing. Something to be painted. And so it was. In oils. Before the body was even cold. The scent of the oils mixed with the scents of incense and candles and their recent lovemaking. No paints were spared for this art piece. Tubes of ivory white that were purchased at such a dear price… for they were over three hundred years old. Paints of period were preferred. To this was added spit and tears and blood and spent orgasm. Sweat and burnt umber and black as dark as the European night itself. The body under the sheets in it’s last pose of repose.
        The painting only took a short time. Yet it would catch a magnificent price for the study of light was one that would have shamed even Rembrandt. The curve of the now lifeless body. The skin a perfect tone. The muscle and bone in its rest was perfectly captured. The claw like scratches on the back sang out upon the hand stretched canvas in shades of red and pink and olive.
        The scent was miraculous and beautiful. The paints and the night. The love that had been shared for hours. Raw animal sex that one could smell in the room mingled with it and the scents of their bodies adorned with perfume and oil. The tang of sweat and orgasm and the night’s air. The deeper scent of the oils. All of this somehow went into the painting as easily as the soft light of the candles playing on the exposed skin under the sheets. It would be another masterpiece. And that body was so beautiful. When the painting was done at last and left to dry, the dead was rolled over. The eyes still vibrant and open. Lost in the final moments of pleasure. The mouth still a shade of pink. Those lips which had kissed and tasted and sucked and been so amazing to touch. The soft cheeks…
        The sheets were pulled back to reveal the final pose of delicate desire. The body rolled over now asprall with a seeming need for more play and joy. It was still warm. It was still vibrant. And pleasure could still be had from those hands as well as those lips and the rest of it. And so pleasure was taken. Again and again. Until the painting was at last dry and the body began to feel stiff and turn cold and dark.
        It was only then that she decided to dispose of him and get another to create more beautiful art with.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Last week we got together, us grown kids
fisting beers in a booth
harmonizing your praise to the key of
Joe Bag O’ Donuts, Drewbie, Boush and Abs.
None of us knowing the words
other than you let me
have your last bite of steak, explaining
(with patience) the curved swords of Narnia,
wakening me for our bike ride,
whole NJ bird book singing
More than the greatest love the world has known.” 

Abby Tjaden


Averted, I stare at the gray-green of ocean
each new wave extracting color from my eyes
until all my latent secrets lay leeched,
their shadowy vignettes exposed.

Focused, you accept the palette of my cheek
deciphering fortunes in pink freckles
whose patterns dance hope, absolved
of the occipital connection.

The sun shifts its round orange shoulders
under the burden of descent,
curiously contented. Invariably
stand the statues of wisdom and virtue
traced in the white childhood of moon.

That night, I cast our net over the horizon
took your bones out of socket
and left you paralyzed on the beach
calling my name.

Abby Tjaden

Abby Tjaden, is an avid reader of poetry and is perusing a degree in English in order to become a professor. She is originally from Toms River, New Jersey, where the ocean has long served as an inspiration for her writing. 

Under The Heavy Moon

The telephone rang
  the other evening
and it was my father there,
if everything was
all right, and I said
the street outside is wet,
the sky is blue.
Not one word about
  the empty spoons
sitting naked on the table,
silver cups cradling damp
cotton puffs, pressed down
into disks, a strange
Not one word about
the sore arm,
the stained song,
or the exploded mind.

Just me,
sitting on the porch,
in that orange street of light,
  under the heavy moon,
 inhaling the unfinished scream
  in the iron night,
watching these late black ants just run
in circles over my arm, up and down
  my arm.
  As if
all they had to do was run
and keep running,
and I could never catch them.

Christopher Celestina

The Look

     John’s face is tense, his eyes staring off at nothing.
     “I . . .”
     There’s a quiver to his voice as he shakes his head side to side and looks deeper into that nothing, staring downward.
     “I . . . I don’t know.”
     Smoke rises from the cigarette that he’s holding but not smoking anymore. The ash is growing and leaning. For some reason, I can’t take my eyes off this ash that sits there, teasing me, mocking me. Fall mother fucker. C’mon. C’mon!
      “I mean, I thought this . . . was our last resort,” John keeps on.
     His hand hasn’t moved but when it does, that fucking ash is coming down. I feel my anticipation growing. Blood pumps through my heart more viciously. C’mon!
     “It’s like plan A and plan B went out the fucking window.”
     He’s still talking on about whatever, but I all I can think is, move that hand, John. C’mon you mother. . .
     “And now we’re stuck, man. I . . . I don’t know what the fuck to do.”
     The ash falls and for some reason I feel a sense of relief, but really don’t understand why, and then get thrown back into reality and our situation at hand. I look up at John. His eyes are now dead-set on mine.
     “Dude, are you fucking here, man?!” His hand waves in front of my face.
     “Uh, yeah, man. I’m here.”
     “Good. You fucking better be. You are in on this, too.”
     Hearing the words, “In on this too” makes it hard to breathe for a second, before laughing.
     John stands up and starts pacing frantically back and forth, saying, or more like pleading with no one, “Ah man . . . I’ve got a fucking wife and family.”
      He covers his mouth and looks at me, then turns back around. I hear what sounds like tears in his voice.
     “I’ve got a little girl,” he says.
     He looks at me, his eyes like he’s seen a ghost, his lungs swelling, his head tilting back, chest out and in. I can now see those tears I thought I heard a second earlier beginning to run onto his face.
     I’ve only seen that look once before—that look of complete and utter fear and desperation-turned-despair. Actually, I remember seeing a program on Discovery a while back about these lions in Africa or wherever and they chase down this . . . I don’t know, wildebeest. The young wildebeest gets separated from his herd, and after a valiant effort, there are simply too many lions. The lions surround him and trip him down and start biting at his legs, as he is kicking and bucking and doing everything in his power to survive . . . really fighting desperately for his life. They finally get him down all the way. There’s three or four of them, and they claw into him and keep biting his legs, and the wildebeest is just tired and had expended all of its energy—every last ounce—and there’s just too many. It knows what’s coming next, and you can see the sadness in his wide open eyes—a look of total hopelessness, not desperation because it was beyond that already, but just . . . despair, as he gives in and falls over to the side. You can see the lions reflected in the helpless wildebeest’s wide open eyes as they bite into him and start to tear away at his flesh.
     That look, the same look John has now.
     So I guess I‘ve seen that same look, now . . . three times?
John sternly grips my arms and turns me to face him, his eyes flooded, his mouth sagging, his hands shaking, his nails penetrating my shirt and says, more intensely than anyone has ever said anything toward me, “You . . . are . . . fucking . . . in . . . this . . . too,” wrapping his mouth around each word to further enunciate what he’s trying to imply. His nails dig deeper into my skin.
     “Yeah, man, I fucking know! I know!” I laugh.
He releases his grip and stands up tall and straight to compose himself and slowly backs up from me, removing his eyes from mine after a few seconds. He looks off at nothing again and resumes pacing.
     He paces slowly for a few seconds more, pauses, then kicks the bound girl on the floor in the stomach as hard as he can. She’d cry out but her mouth is duck-taped. He kicks her again.
     “You fucking cunt!”
     Small whimpers protrude from behind her sealed mouth.
     “And you!” He points at me. “You wanted a fucking hostage. This was your fucking idea.                And for what? So you could fucking rape her? Well . . . you got what you wanted.”
     John paces frantically, again, stops and peers at me. I can’t keep from sniggering.
     “It was a simple robbery, and now,” He pauses to compose himself. “We have a witness to our little crime . . . Fuck!” He yells.
     “Calm . . . the fuck . . . down.” I tell him, leaning further back in my chair.
     He shakes his head in disgust and leaves the room.
     The girl’s eyes are fixated on mine, locked, and have that same look of hopelessness that John and that wildebeest had had from that show—that look of total despondency. And I think that this one certainly didn’t give up as easy as that wildebeest, or nearly as easy as John, and it was only till she had been tied up, gagged with tape, beaten relentlessly, then violated from behind over and over again, because what else are you going to do with her, now, did her eyes shift from a begging desperation . . . to despair.
     With John in the other room, I get out of my chair and lie down on the ground in front of the girl, staring into her eyes.
     She starts crying behind her taped up, muffled mouth. Her wide open eyes are pleading with me, trying to find any scrap of human compassion left inside. But there is none.
     “Shhh . . .” I tell her.
     I pet her head.
     “It’s all over. I’m gonna get you outta here.”
     Her eyes close and tears of relief flood out of her and down her cheek to the floor, as she cries and cries. I can only imagine how she feels, thinking that she is going to survive, that I am going to let her survive.
     “It’s ok. Everything’s gonna be ok.”
     I place my thumb and index finger on her nose, softly closing off her air passage. Her eyes open back and panicking, she tries to thrash about, but she is bound and exhausted. Her fight is short lived. I hold her head firmly in place with my other hand, grasped tightly onto her hair.
     I think to myself, this one had fire. She just took it and took it and took it.
     After what must have been thirty seconds or so, her begging eyes staring deep into me, pleading, her desperate look shifts again into a hopeless . . . despair. And then, after one last, final, unsuccessful attempt to breathe and a concluding kick, or spasm, or more like a jolt, pulsing from her abused, failing body, her look of desperation-turned-despair, transitions to . . . acceptance. Her body goes limp.
     “See? Good girl. It’s all over.”
     Her eyes—still locked on mine—are now emptier than they were before. All I can see is my smiling face reflected in them. I smile back.

Matt Micheli

Matt Micheli is a transgressive fiction writer out of Austin, TX, Author of MEMOIRS OF A VIOLENT SLEEPER: A BEDTIME STORY. His analytical, sometimes satirical, and often blunt views of love, loss, life, and beyond are expressed through his writing. For him, writing is an escape from the everyday confines of what the rest of us calls normal. 

Recent publications in Red Fez, Linguistic Erosion, and Slit Your Wrists eZine.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Addicts Excuse

I have walked you to your door and it is dark,
not dusk as in that brown drought summer
when you plucked a wood tick
from my hip and laughed,
rolling it like a swollen white bead
between your fingers before
snapping it with a quick red pop while
smiling with the left side of your mouth
under that needle embroidering new stars.
I never asked any questions then
and the oracle in your eyes spoke
in deep ocean tides that threw out golden
rings of foam, so the yellow dropping sun
would go down smooth
like a shot of liquor poured
between your lips first
then mine.
And it made death

But tonight I pull the blue throat of my coat tight
above the hard stone under my tongue.
I do not try to smile
as you pass into the warm light
of your living room
turning to me and the dark 
with that same grin
as if you
had just plucked me
from below the chestnut line
at the nape or your neck,
and were rolling my empty head
between your fingers,

giving it a playful squeeze
before you gently shut
the scratched
white door.

Christopher Celestina

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Some Beach

Is there, deep in your mind/heart
the rhythm of the waves
so low and slow
its more felt
than heard.

Some Beech
Is there within you as well
It's leaves held tight
Through darkest, coldest winter's night
To shelter that one thrush
Who overwinters to be the first
Song to herald the spring.

Some bitch
Who licks and suckles her pups
Whose sweetmilk breath could soften
The most cold hearted warrior criminal
Lives in your breast as well

As climate change
Covers the beach beneath the waves
And kills the trees with wild swings
Of rain ,heat and cold
That bitch will give voice to sounds
Would cow a Rebel or a Banshee
Before she rips your heart in two.

Peter Peteet


Well then, 

Must be answer enough.
No address, or redress just
A thing of varied length
and tension.
Energy stored up and pushing, 

waiting without patience, without a clock or time.
Spring is and thinks not of what was or will,
could be,
but it is not me.

For I ,yes I -that is the not everything, the not you,
not blossoms or remembered love or half forgotten dreams,
not stories told or names come loose from bodies
burned and scattered in the wind.
This I, much like any eye
is moving while constricting or relaxing
seeking unless dead or drugged;
moving even in sleep, in dreams,
to drink in light
just enough
to engage the world, admit your gaze,
and not be consumed

When death, that rhythmic lover of us all
I will no virgin be.
Just as a spring is born in heat and has compressions and extensions numbered
but unknown.
So is the Iris of my eye,
sprung from a bulb within my chest,
A thing of springs.
And so perhaps even from that rhythmic lover
I will rise

Peter Peteet

Peter Peteet is 54 years old and lives in Atlanta,Ga.His poetry has been published in Flycatcher.

Mucho Trabajo (Too Much Work)

     Every time I pull up on his arms, his ass sinks deeper to the ground. I say, “Push. Bobby. mas rapido,”  I tell him, “I’m doing all the work here.”  
     Bobby has an ankle tucked under each arm pit, but he’s too short, too weak to lift coach’s ass off the lawn. Keys fall out, jingle on the sidewalk, and for some reason I think about my father getting home, the way he throws his keys on an end table like they’re not a ring of janitor’s keys, but the weight of the world that has lifted and now we can finally eat dinner. I look at Bobby.
     I whisper loud as I can. I tell him, “ stop ” We both let go and I can hear bobby’s low blubbering. His eyes shine and he whimpers like a small animal. A sprinkler chatters like a machine gun over near the baseball field. The sun is down and the School Grounds are empty. “Man up.” I tell him.
     “Coach.” he says. “we’ve killed coach.”
     “Get over it.” I say, “ Coach is gone. We got to get rid of this body..”
     “But, shouldn’t we just call somebody? If we told the cops what happened?”
     “Forget it man. It’s coach and your just some skinny wet-back. What are the cops gonna do?”  
     “Nicho,” he says, “Nicho” he  calls my name, and I think I hear my mother’s voice waking me up. I can smell green chilis; they’ve been simmering.  I taste her tortillas, just a little burnt, the way I like it, and my stomach makes a noise louder than the keys. I look around, but nobody’s there.
     “Let’s try rolling him.” I tell Bobby, then I pick up the keys and we start rolling coach’s dead body to the cafeteria. 
     Bobby pops the window. We get coaches body inside. I know there is nobody here. The cooks clean this place and leave early. Enrique is still cleaning the girls locker. I know his routine; there’s time. It’s just me, bobby and coach. A small light on the dish washer guides us through the heavy pots and the stacks of plastic trays. It’s still warm near the machine, The steel sink sparkles and smells like bleach. 
     “Be careful man. Don’t knock anything over.” I tell him.
     “Now what?” Bobby says and I can smell his sweat.
     “The knives are over there.”  I point him to the cutlery. “Get me a big serrated one.”  He bumps into a empty stock pot, A deep gong vibrates through the kitchen and into the empty lunch room; my heart stops.
     Bobby’s eyes go wide. He grabs a knife. We wait for footsteps. Nothing happens. Then, he looks relieved and asks me how I know so much about this place.
     “I work here,”  I tell him. I think about how long we’ve known each other, but he doesn’t know shit about who I am; how I work lunch while he’s clowning at the pic-nic tables.  
     Bobby hands me a bread knife. “bigger.” I tell him. “There’s a carving knife in that rack near the ovens.” 
     He hands me the knife.
     I get the scullery aprons, the plastic caps and yellow gloves. The cap crinkles then smoothes as I stretch it on. We don’t talk, and you can just hear the knife sawing through bone.” Hold on to his arm.” I tell him.
     He throws up
     “Pull tight, so I can work the knife in.” I tell him.
     “This is fucked up.”
     “Yeah right.” I agree,  “like we have a choice?  Like what happened didn’t happen and I am not holding Coach’s arm.”
     The same arm that grabbed Bobby, and Bobby’s mouth was pushed into the metal so hard that his screams sounded hollow and tin. When I first heard it, I thought some kid was stuck in a locker. I figured that I was just going to break up some foolish prank. Then I rounded the corner and saw coach with his pants down and bobby bent into the locker and shit just happened.

     ‘It isn’t what you think.” coach said.
     I didn’t say anything. He pulled his pants up and turned towards me. I heard keys jingle, and loose change. I saw that big arm, and his hand. Then, I felt the heft of those books: the biology and chemistry I had been so hopefully struggling through; they now felt heavy and dangerous. My back pack swung and coach was tumbling and there was a flicker at the end of bobby’s hand like a needle. like he was sewing something into coach’s shirt, but it was a small knife and I wanted to stop it, but when I grabbed bobby’s hand it trembled empty, and the knife was now in my hand and coach’s face  was close and open; not pain, but wide and silent like he couldn’t believe that everything could pass so easily away. 
     There is just the three of us in scullery now -- Bobby, me and the dead guy.
     I put coach’s arm in the garbage disposal. His hand is sticking out of the sink like a drowning man. I flip the switch and the hand turns slowly as it sinks into the machine. “I’ve cleaned up worse.” I lie. But it is true that I have made things disappear.
     “What if they find out?” Bobby asks me.
     I can feel the keys poking . They’re heavy and my pants feel different with their weight.
     “No body. No crime.” I tell him, “There’s a mop and bucket in the janitor’s closet. The bleach is underneath the stairs.”

Armando Stiletto

Friday, February 10, 2012

Reticence -- A Love Poem

I need a brick to fill the empty face
your cunt left in my wall. The place
is falling apart. I haven’t slept in years.
I’ll fill the gap and paint the fence in crap
set house plants on it; topiary
sculpted to Ulysses. A pageant
of nic-nacs,  When

you return,
you will follow crumbs.
I’ve ripped up all my best
tee-shirts. Written dumb
haikus on em, tied
love notes like prayer flags
Hung bow-ties high and
lived among the elderberries

I’ll walk the town in house coats
wear slippers, slip bawdy notes
slip my toes in sloppy places, 
place your face in every mirror I find
I’ve broken.

Bob Putnam


Last night’s rental bed was 
wider than an ocean, my 
wife stranded by a hot flash
way over on the other side. I
woke up half past midnight
wanting comfort but was spurned by
climate change.

I walk sidewalks.
I am growing 
more invisible
with each step. I

food-less hearts of cities, 

groceries gathered 
to busier avenues. What
do you eat when
you are homeless?
Where do you go for food? 

No wonder
we are alcoholic

in this town were food stamps
trade at two for one. 
The liquor store
on Stone Street sells 
MD 20/20 for
two ninety nine.

This asphalt is
not as comfortable as
the Holiday Inn. Wide,
still warm, I roll
across the center line
drunk with dreams of being young. I
reach to find we are together, still
connected though the rest 
has come unwound.

Bob Putnam