Joseph Fulkerson

 Stonks!

The experts are convinced
it’s a bull market
or maybe a bear market,
either way 
they’re certain it’s a mammal
with four legs, possibly hooves 
but just to be safe 
they’re not ruling out claws.

They are convinced
trickle-down economics does work
but only if you have a white collar
or 
if you’ve ever attended a
three martini lunch meeting, 

even more so if you can
write it off as a business expense.

Choosing to buy into this 
provides a guarantee of residual income 
and a lifetime of resentment
and complacency.

The fix is in;
I’d be remiss if I didn’t state the obvious.

A metric shit-ton of regret is in store for you, mister.

You can’t deny
the devil has the best deal
when it comes to plea deals.

He’ll get you prime real-estate
on the 9th green of the
9th circle.

You’ll be a scapegoat,
the fall guy
caught red-handed 
holding a red herring.

You’ll be first in line for an ass-whooping
and last in line for your parole hearing.

If the road to hell is paved with 
good intentions, then the road to heaven 
is littered with anal fissures.

The saying goes “if you mess with the bull 
you get the horns.”

They failed to mention the bull cock.

You’re prime ass, prime meat
in prime time 

delicate sensibilities are a delicacy
in the prison yard. 

You’ll be sewing golden parachutes
into white collars 
in your sleep
in no time.

It’s a bull market after all.

Or was it bear?

Elizabeth Bedlam

Simon/Simone

Simon and Simone had to take turns in the mirror. It was only wide enough for one and half of them. Simone took the longest, painting her face, drawing on eyebrows that otherwise wouldn’t exist. “What do you think, brother?” She’d ask, her eyes unmoving from the reflection. “Do you think I look old?” 

Simon would sigh, Simone asked these questions nearly every morning. “We’re the same age, sister.” 

Simone would pout and finally glance to her right, “but you look old. Your hair is thinning, see right there.” She’d attempt to reach over and point out a spot, always in a different place, but Simon would jerk his head away. 

“No, no, you’re not old. You’re beautiful Sim, you know that.” 

“I love it when you call me that.” Simone would lean over and kiss her brother on the cheek, before shuffling three steps to the side, letting him have the mirror to shave. There was no way she’d let him have a beard. It would scratch her when they kissed, while they slept. 

After the bathroom, the two would turn sideways to fit out the door, walk down the wide short hallway, and then turn again to go into their small bedroom. They had their clothing made special, a blue suit coat and a blue dress. A black button-down shirt, and a black silk blouse with lace. All patched together, just as they were.

 The two never looked at themselves below the shoulders if they could help it. The place where their bodies smeared into each other. A full breast, a flat nipple. A small cock and a puckered cunt. No one had ever derived pleasure from the twins, except the twins themselves. 

Lying in the dark, side by side, Simon would feel, hear, Simone’s breath quicken in their chest, as she massaged her clit. Soon she was begging him to put his hand into her cunt. “Please, just touch me. We’ll do you after, like always. Please, brother,” she’d moan in desperation. Both would feel a spark igniting deep within their shared pelvis. Simone glanced over, seeing her brother stroking his own flame. “No, me first, please, Simon!” She gasped, the urge to be penetrated as she orgasmed was overwhelming. 

Simon sighed, as always ignoring his own pleasure to assist his sister. He leaned his hand over and thrust three fingers hard and fast into Simon’s moist cunt. She went rigid, and rubbed faster, gasping, moaning, a bitch in heat. “There, there…” she trailed off, falling down the other side of orgasm, finally relaxing. She turned her head to her brother, her breath still rattling through their shared chest cavity. “Now you go, love.” 

His fingers lubricated with Simone’s white mucus, her wet gash, Simon pulled on his knots and strings. Simone kissed his tense neck beside her. “Yes, brother, like that.” She said, the words hot and wet in his ear. At the end Simon grunted, leaking white lust on his hand. “There, brother, there…” Simone whispered. Simon, knowing what she wanted, gave her his hand. She sucked on his soiled, salty fingers, crusted with her sap and his. They tasted the same, different meals made from the same scrambled ingredients. 

When they had finished, both looked up at a splinter in the ceiling. “Good sister.” 

“Good brother.” Then silence as they dropped off to sleep. They knew they would always lay beside one another, even in death. Their insides so entangled, so as never to be undone by surgeon blade or God himself. 

After dressing, the twins sat on the bench in their kitchen. Next Thursday would be their fortieth birthday. They saved their pennies all year to buy a gift for the other. Whatever the other wanted. 

Together, sitting side by side, the twins browsed through a cheap glossy booklet. “They’re getting younger and younger every year.” Simone clicked her tongue. “She looks like she could still be in high school.” 

“Maybe we’re just getting older, sister.” Simon said, his voice flat. Simone shrugged, and the two continued to shop. Simon picked a redhead, tall and thin. “She’s probably not natural, but I don’t mind so much anymore.”

Simone shrugged, looking over at her brother’s selection. “She looks real enough to me. Just check her cunt.” 

“She probably shaves. All the girls do these days.” 

Simone giggled into her coffee cup, “Then check her asshole, Ha-ha.” 

Simon grinned at this. “You are wickedly filthy sister. You get worse by the year.” The two sat in quietly, waiting for Simone to pick out her gift. 

“Her. She looks fine enough.” Simone circled the profile of a pale brunette with black hollow eyes, wrapped in the lust of buckles and leather. 

Simon nodded his head, “She looks like she’d give a good tongue lashing alright. Think she’s pierced?” 

“I don’t think that’s a trend anymore.” Simone said without emotion.  

Simon shook his head, “I just can’t keep up with these things,” he muttered. In his youth, girls were clean. Then a few years older they became gradually infected with more tattoos, more metal in their faces. But that seemed to be winding down as plastic surgery took hold. Pumped up tits and sucked in hips seemed to be the thing now. Simon didn’t care, as long as they kept their cunts open and wet, that’s all he needed. Simone always had higher standards, but she was a woman, Simon expected as much. Her prostitute always cost more than his. But it was their birthday, so he didn’t complain. 

The two girls, Lennon the redhead, and Cori the brunette, giggled in the elevator up to the third floor of the shabby apartment complex. They hugged their nondescript coats around their frames. Only their heavy make-up and higher than average heels hinted at their profession. In the long, silent hallway they turned a corner and stopped at the door in the middle of the wall, 36C. 

Lennon and Cori had never been here before, but Misty had. She remembered 36C. She told them what to expect inside. Not just a brother, not just a sister, but a distorted mesh of flesh and bone. Three legs and forth curled down the middle, a misshapen serpent. The apartment, and a sickening smell of turpentine and butterscotch. 

“Do you want to do it?” Lennon asked. At least she was getting the brother. She felt worse for Cori. Cori sighed and pressed the buzzer. The women waited in silence, hoping Misty had been lying. They heard a chain slide across inside, then the door open before them. A dim triangle of yellow light stretching out into the hall. 

“Welcome ladies.” Cori and Lennon stepped inside. They tried to look anywhere but at the twins. The brother, red and beaming. The sister with a sour look on her face. Both had the same black beads for eyes, resembling more fish than humans. Faces round and pale.

Simone’s eyes moving up and down Cori. “Take those coats off,” she said. The prostitutes looked at each other, then back the twins, slid their coats off. Simone took them in her sweaty hand. The pair shuffled over to hang the coats on the back of a chair. 

“Cake?” Asked Simon. He picked up a fork, pushing a spongy hunk into his gaping mouth. A smudge of brown frosting littered with yellow crumb sat at the corner of his lips unnoticed. He smiled. 

“No, thanks.” The two women echoed each other. 

“Of course they don’t want cake, brother. They’re paid professionals on the clock. They’re here to fuck, not eat.” 

Simon dropped his fork onto the plate. “My sister is right, as always. Apologies, ladies. Shall we go into the bedroom?” The pair limped just slightly down the hall. Their feet heavy on the thick green carpet. They turned sideways and entered, standing in front of the bed. 

Simone was already unbuttoning her trousers, struggling to push her side of the pants down. “Come on, brother, we don’t have all night. I’m sure these girls have other appointments.” 

“Oh right, right. I was just so transfixed by their radiant beauty.” The prostitutes were good at forcing smiles, but found at the moment it was harder than usual. “Maybe you can give us some help?” Simon asked, eager to the feel a hand that wasn’t his own or his sister’s. 

Cori had been working longer. She took the lead and stepped forward, helping slip Simone’s pants over her narrow ass. Lennon moved forward, doing the same. Neither woman wanted to look at the leg. But there it was glaring up at them, twisted around a middle of a well formed third leg. A misshapen toe with a cracked yellow nail wiggled, making Lennon turn away and gather herself. “Something the matter?” Simon asked from above her. 

“No, no, just fine. Can we turn off the lights?” She asked. 

“No, I like to watch,” Simone snapped. Now undressed from the waist down, the twins sat on the bed. The old metal frame cracked as they wiggled and laid back, each spreading open a leg to expose their underdeveloped sex. “Just lick, none of that fancy stuff.” Simone told her hooker. 

“Same for me, darling. Well, maybe a little sucking as well, Ha-ha.” Simon laughed at his own joke. Lennon swallowed, kneeling between his legs. On the other side, Cori did the same. 

“We don’t have all night.” Simone grunted, lifting her head to watch the pale brunette come closer to the angry mouth of her gash. “We paid for an hour. That’s ten minutes wasted while you look at my cunt. I wait all year for this. Your ad said you do women, so are you going to look at it or eat it?” 

Cori put her nose into the sour, musty hole between Simone’s legs. “That’s it, lovely little thing, that’s it….” Simone gasped. The sound of the prostitute’s tongue lapping against the folded skin of Simone’s sloppy cunt made Simon grow harder still. 

Lennon didn’t have to be asked. She watched the man’s undersized sex inflate, a slight bend to the left, among a sparse nest of wiry hair. If she thought about it, she’d gag. The smell of sweet sweat inflamed her nostrils as she moved closer. She pinched the cock between two fingers to hold it in place, more a slippery noodle than an iron rod. “Yes, put it in, please. Use your tongue, lots of warm wet tongue.” Simon gasped, leaning his head back and sighing. He waited all year to feel a woman’s mouth engulf his cock. He wanted to revel in it. 

Beside him, he heard Simone’s pleasure ragged and quick on her lips. Inside their chest he felt her heart beating as rapidly as his, their lungs in sync. The room hushed but for the wet licks and sucks of the whores devouring their sex, the moans of the twins. “I’m close, brother, I’m close.” Simone gasped. 

“Me too, sister.” He reached across their wide chest and grasped for her hand. Simone interlaced her fingers with his. 

“The leg, please…. kiss the toes,” Simone told her prostitute. 

Cori stopped and looked up, “What?” She asked, realizing now there was something worse than the pucker old cunt she’d been eating. 

“You deaf girl? The leg. Right there.” Cori looked over to see the elongated toe, the small webbed ones glued down to the skin, as if melted by summer heat. They wiggled at her, and she fell back. “Lick it, now….” Simone’s voice ached for the finish. 

“You too, honey. Touch it, run your… tongue down it.” Simon fought to get the words out. His cock fell from the hooker’s mouth. He was on edge. “Now.” His word carried heavy urgency. 

Lennon nodded at Cori. Both women moved to either side of the gnarled limb. Lush lips running over skin, sucking, taking the salty brine taste of the underdeveloped biology. “The toes!” Simone wailed again, feeling herself at the top of orgasm, ready to plummet down the other side, harsh and fast. 

Simon turned his head to Simone, “Sister,” his words hot and damp in her ear, “happy birthday.”  

Simone wailed, feeling the brunette whore plunge her tongue between the stubs of toes and splintered nails. “Brother… oh.” As Simone exhaled her pleasure, Simon felt his dribble from between his legs, smearing in Lennon’s fox pelt locks that brushed against his skin. 

“Happy birthday,” Simone finally managed to gasp. She turned her face to her brother’s, kissing his mouth with a quick flick of her tongue. He tasted like chocolate frosting. 

Ve Wardh

Shitting Bricks

Keith had been shitting bricks since he was 15. He’d left school and under the guidance of his father, had started the daily grind on the building sites. It’s what he was destined to do. Every man on his father’s side dating back six generations had been a labourer, and Keith was no different whether he shat bricks or not. And he did.

His first brick passed on his first day at his first site. He was helping his father unload the van when he was suddenly doubled over in pain, an anguished scream disrupting the monotonous drone of the cement mixer. His father rushed to his side, both out of concern and embarrassment at his son causing such a scene. As pain rippled through his abdomen, Keith felt a heavy drop in his pelvis accompanied by a scraping as though his innards were being slowly shredded. He fell to the ground, his skin breaking out in a cold sweat, his face flushing red.

His father bundled him up in the van and made a beeline to the hospital while Keith wailed and thrashed in the seat beside him. Blood vessels burst in Keith’s eyes and the air squeezed from his lungs as the heavy deposit in his abdomen shifted and forced its way downwards. His father swerved the van, gasping as he noticed a rapidly growing red stain blooming from his son’s crotch and soaking into the van’s interior, staining the seat a deep maroon. He narrowly avoiding ramming another car as Keith gestured to his father to pull over, arms flailing wildly.

The minute the van stopped, Keith opened the door and let himself fall to the ground. His father watched on in horror as he staggered, hunched over, to the side of the road while simultaneously tugging down his trousers. He crouched, shaking hands grasping a garden fence to steady himself. They both ignored the curtains twitching in their peripherals. With a final agonised scream to the heavens, a solid mass appeared under Keith’s exposed ass, hitting the path with a solid thunk. The boy dissolved into tears as a series of airy farts escaped his bleeding ass, his sobs broken with gasps of relief. His father stared at the mass under his son, willing his eyes to be deceiving him but no, he’d been a builder for 30 years now and knew his way around a brick more than most. The brick was fully formed and presumably fully functional, the only imperfection being a slight chip on the corner from the impact and being sodden and slick with his son’s ass blood.

Noticing the growing crowd gathering in the street, Keith’s father yanked the boy up and ushered him, still sobbing, back into the van before speeding away. When they’d disappeared, the odd brave onlooker walked up to examine the brick yet when hit by the smell recoiled quickly back into their homes. There it stayed, untouched.

Twenty years had passed since then, and now shitting bricks during the workday was part of Keith’s life. His asshole had become so ravaged by the bricks it was as smooth as a fish’s underbelly and the bricks just slipped right out. He had however, become increasingly malnourished over time. The constant brick shitting had ripped his intestines to pieces, leaving him resembling nothing more than a leathery skeleton in a hardhat on his good days. Digestion was a reasonable sacrifice in exchange for producing ass bricks in Keith’s eyes though. He’d built many a proud house using his ass bricks intermingled with the regular ones and his clients were none the wiser. He had, in his older age, come to appreciate his brick shitting a great deal more than he thought he ever would. Every time he’d feel the familiar drop in his stomach, he’d drop trou, and after a brief strain and a grunt would produce what each time seemed to be the most perfect and functional brick which he’d lovingly place alongside its brothers and sisters ready for construction. With ass bricks, it was always a job well done. 

Everson Thomas

The Final Determination

In the final determination it was calculated with some certainty that each time a citizen of earth failed to masturbate when presented with an opportunity to do so, it was a crime against the wellbeing of the species as a whole. This wasn’t the question that the newest and most sophisticated thinking machine had been tasked with, but it was the answer it gave. It would be fair to say that the findings were a surprise to the assemblage of politicians, business leaders, philosophers and artists gathered to hear the final profound dictat that had long been expected, though not necessarily an unwelcome one, since it validated the previous shameful activity that had hitherto taken up so much of their time. The rows of polished tables inhabited by scrupulously elegant bodies twitched like tickled leaves in an urgent breeze as a wave of comprehension dawned on the room. It was a tense moment, made more so by the fact that the entire proceeding had been televised, with every awkward glance and fidget caught in precisely the kind of vainglorious high definition close-up that had been insisted upon by the broadcasters and attendees alike. The objective of the thinking machine had been to formulate the crucial nudge that humanity needed in helping it achieve the next stratum of social evolution necessary to be regarded as a race of notable utility among the great intergalactic sentient menagerie. It had been decades since any progress had been made in the matter. It was one thing to discover that aliens did indeed walk among us, and had done for some time, but quite another to learn just how disappointed they were to be here. Their final visitation and unsolicited evaluation had been fleeting and impolite, and even through the veil of cross-species miscommunication it was perfectly obvious that Earth’s ambience could charitably be described as ‘undesirable’. It was an unpleasant encounter that excited a significant wrinkle in the collective pride of the planet. The attention of Earth was focused, and in an unforgiving mood. And so as the summit delegates were caught in the fluttering blaze of ten billion eyes and the intense crossfire of arousal and inadequacy, it was decided that the best possible course of action could only be arrived at after a brief but essential adjournment. 

James Diaz

No Small Mercies Here

Spare change
spare change

out here
I’m always asking 
for what I need 

ain’t it what they teach you
out there in the valley
speak up little miss
gotta get your needs met

it’s like this for me
if I don’t make myself small enough to be pitied 
I’ll go to cement hungry tonight

I’ve never had what I’ve never had
how ’bout you?
have you felt it too?
the cold sidewalk fucking up your back?

I don’t need your pity
I just need your change 

pity’s just a clever word 
for the guilt you feel 
at things being this way

just dig down in your pocket for me 
and see what’s there 
might be nothing to you
but it’s everything to me

the pigeons know 
what it is I’m feelin’ tonight
right, pigeons!! 
you; you haven’t got a clue, 
do you?

it’s like this
the whole world is yours 
except for everything in it

I know I scare you 
I scare myself 
sometimes 
catch a glimpse 
in a shop window
and I think it must be a ghost
what I am now 

Jesus died 
cause he said take care of folks like me
and the whole damn world 
said we’ll have none of that
and here we are
and winter is coming on 
and I don’t blame you for being scared
you should be
this is the world you made
me, I’m just scraping by in the shadows
staying small enough 
to not break your goddamn heart 

it’s ok, I won’t hurt you
but you gotta live with this

can you live with this?
cause I sure as hell can’t—
not for long, mister,
not for long.

Devlin De La Chapa

do not disturb my vagina sign 

He swore she tattooed a blade across her chest 
and hung elephant bows on her nipples 
causing a ripple in his testicular’s gravitational pull
’cause  her womb hung off hinges
with a do not disturb my vagina sign  
dangling from a brass knob resembling a penis
I thought to knock twice, room service, my dear 
but the reply came back unresponsive

I pictured her busy applying lipstick
and shaving her armpits with a machete,
so I leave her lunch on the floor 
in front of her door and from across room Four 
where a man had attempted to score
with her the night before 
but she blew him off like a dirty flake 
lingering on her shoulder

I figured that maybe it was 
the color of his hair that reminded her
of darkened days and those filthy romps
under a thrash metal moon

Or maybe perhaps it was the cheap suit
with its pricey tie  
that set the mood into an orgy
of prohibition whiskey 
and dying stars like roustabouts working a circus

Or maybe it was just her bitchy air
acknowledging the cuisine then sticking
a pedicured toe into the clam chowder
as if testing the fahrenheit in a pool
of second-hand water before diving in
head first then opening eyes to a scene
trapped in emptiness only left with the sound
of her eardrums taking her lobes hostage

Shift’s over 

And I say this isn’t a poem of horror, my love,
and I spend  the rest of my dinner spending
the last of my toilet tokens in a Wendy’s restaurant
on an old woman who wouldn’t stop peeing
my fortune into a porcelain pipe 
where shit dreams awaited to be flushed

Servitude is a nightmare that never ends,
and you, dear shrink, cannot think of alternate 
ways to charge me for your expertise in the nothing 
that only exists in a placebo pill

I’m breathless, you’re not crazy
he’ll go on to analyze, scribbling on his tab, 
thinking of alternate ways to stuff me into his nut house
but the bees are going into extinction, I rant, and I feared 
who’d be left to make me my honey?

And he’ll just snicker and construct
a constellation forged by dragonflies 
whom only add to the insult

The knock is the same,
the cuisine is the same
but the men are different 
they appear like various shades of balloons
determined to make her happy

There’s a man weeping through a peep hole   
an hour later he opens the door to me standing there 
with clean linens in hand, I wanted her,
he said, what’d you think? 

I just shrug my shoulders and say
sometimes men need to cry, 
particularly over the things
they can’t have

Hank Kirton

My Last Halloween

My urine looks like root beer. That’s a good bad sign, I think. It ain’t from eating rhubarb. My doctor once told me, “Your organs are not happy…” and I rushed straight home and put away a quart of whiskey. I already have hepatitis. The whites of my eyes are yellow. I was putting a brave strain on my liver and kidneys and (probably) pancreas. My pee was now brown. The end was near, thank Manson. I’m feeding the champion within with beer and bourbon. My abdomen is swollen. My face is decorated with ruptured blood vessels, little Braille scabs that describe my disordered life. I look like a Wolverton cartoon.

I don’t sit at my kitchen table anymore. Sitting there makes me feel like a sack of puppies about to be drowned. I don’t need that. I patiently await my hemorrhage on the loveseat. The cushions are pocked with little burn holes. I can’t afford to smoke anymore. Cigarettes have become too expensive.  Lung cancer was taking too long anyway. I used to cough like a helicopter. There was this girl named Colleen. An anorexic albino, she looked like a vaporous, woeful ghost. Pale and spooky and willowy. We only had sex once. She said intercourse with me was like fucking a fishing rod.

I used to know a coke-dealer named Ivan, a big Russian with a mustache and a laugh like galloping horses. I once bought a gram from him and gave him too much money. Those were the days. Ivan noticed the error and gave me the extra twenty back. He said, “Honesty is the best policy,” in his deep dark forest of an accent. I thanked him and returned home to find that the coke had been cut to within an inch of its life. Colleen laughed about it for hours. That was the start of her nervous breakdown.

I haven’t had company since Colleen left. They were all her friends. I didn’t like any of them but at least they drank. We used to stand around the kitchen table, filling our livers. I felt a reluctant kinship. I felt like a character in the AA book. One night three people had to race to the bathroom to puke. We were drinking bubblegum vodka. The smell got to be obnoxious.

Why are all these sour memories crowding in on me? I pour another shot of bourbon. I don’t know why I don’t just drink straight from the bottle, hobo style. Etiquette? I’m only an obscene animal with a thirst like a plummet. I urge my liver to fail. The next time I piss I want it to be inkjet black. I want to drown in my own blood like Kerouac and W.C. Fields.

They’re dead and much happier than I am.

***

From: Everything Dissolves

Casey Renee Kiser & Co.

Shark Week comes early this year with Casey Renee Kiser, slaying any predators in her ocean who have her on their snack menu.

A protective water sign, she doesn’t appreciate surprise bites from her pasty flesh while she’s drinking and laughing it up with the mermaids. And they are equally protective over her. It does seem as though the stormy daze of only men and sharks being in control is clearing up and those one-track mind swimmers find themselves on the other side of intimidation. Bullies will not have an easy ride in the new age and this hardened-heart indie is here to give fair warning.

As captain of USS Gutter Kisses, she’s boldly explored the waves of complicated relationships and the cunning currents of her own mind. But the Love Ship has certainly hit a few glaciers. Still, this poetic surfer girl tries her best to thank the sharks for entertaining her and ultimately, saving her from the sharpest teeth of all, writer’s block. Let’s revisit a HST classic, an unapologetic gem and be sure to check out the new collection featuring our own associate editor, India LaPlace!

Will to Flutter is available from RaVenGhost Press 1/21/21.

BUY A COPY HERE

Is John Travolta Really Gay? And Other Existential Questions…
Nope. Just That One.

Random lyrics come to me 
in the bubble bath-
‘ah ah ah ah , Stayin’ Alive’
Maybe because I fancy drowning…
I ride the wave of that irony for a while 
and count how many sharks I’ve killed
in my life, FUCK-
they can’t just let a lady drown in peace!!!
… I wonder how many times 
‘Is John Travolta really gay’ 
has been googled…. I wonder….
HMMM… More than shark attacks?
I simply must know. NOW.
I scream bloody murder till someone comes
to check on me in the tub
THEM: ARE YOUUU ALRIGHT!!!??? 
ME: Yep. I just need you to check on 
some statistics for me and I NEED A DRINK. 
And maybe… could you call the pharmacy?!
Thank you DARLING. You’re beautiful.

https://soundcloud.com/76-88-76/and-other-existential-questionsnope-just-that-one

Photos by Jasmyn Taylor Givens