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

Dave Cullern

Got No Time To Worry

sunday afternoon. fathers nail innocence
into wood. building future suicides from
scratch. mould flesh into weaponised
emptiness. mow grass like shaved heads.
the next door kids are groomed by minds
gone mad. clean the car. lock your bike.
cut the hedge. the garages scream with
the corporal punishment of days gone by.
pet rabbits interred in compost heaps.
dolls set alight by the sun. if you cry
we’ll have to buy you a dress. fucking
pick one. dare you to fucking pick one.
a lack of direction is palpable in the
thin summer air. they only let you dance
on the dance floor. that’s if you’re allowed
to dance at all. they pick your clothes.
clean your nose. regail your future with
limitations and close. future doors. future
dreams. the map you’re expected to
follow is exactly as small as it seems.

Harris Coverley

The Madhouse

I think I am in hell, therefore I am in hell
—Rimbaud, “Night of Hell”

The walls still bleed
When the night is so hot
And the walls are carved
Like the flesh of an arm
By the passing years
Cruel as I am

(ha, ha)

You can hear the screams of the others
From the adjoining chambers
But really
To be true
It is the screams you cannot
Hear which keep me awake

(ho, ho)

Grim and not too lively
Subtle like the flies ‘round a dead rodent

Christ, that takes me back…

And to think it all started
On that fateful day
On which I was born…

(tee-hee)

Thank God for these rusted bars
As the wind whispers:
“…murder…”

(ha!)

Willie Smith

Moneyshot Lapse 

Abigail tosses her head, 
cornsilk hair pale and flowing as buttermilk 
poured from a pail. She, about to go down, 
flashes the camera one last smile, 
assuring the acetate she is, 
for this, up and more than up. 
She knows the look the suckers crave: 
Enthusiasm in the face of depravity, 
eager, with the angriest of pricks, 
to cram her buccal cavity. 
Throws half a heart into the work, 
through her mind her own movie playing 
of re-arranging in her flat the furniture: 
Slide the couch over to the window; 
haul from the hall closet the throw-rug; 
redo the kitchen orange…?
“Hey, Gail!” the director squawks. 
“You’re losing us – keep the eyes open!” 
And so Abigail sprays her heart with gilt, 
sheathing the dagger, suppressing a gag – 
baby-blues on the lens glued – to the hilt, 
performing single-mindedly the job. 

David J. Thompson

Graceland

Holy shit. Jesus came back.
Yeah, no kidding. He showed up
at Graceland in Memphis.
People started gathering around him
outside the gift shop as he waited
for his tour to begin. God gave me
some time off, Jesus told everyone,
so I came here as fast as I could.
I’ve been an Elvis fan forever –
skinny Elvis, fat Elvis, every kind
of Elvis. Nobody can sing like Elvis –
rock n’ roll, country, gospel . . .
Goddamnit, he was the real King.
That got a round of applause 
from the growing crowd,
but Jesus, always comfortable
talking in public, wasn’t done.
And his movies, he went on,
aren’t they great? I mean, seriously,
all that coded gay stuff in Jailhouse Rock,
the corny songs and dance routines,
and the sixties chicks like Ann-Margret 
and Shelley Fabares. That shit’s awesome.
We watch those all the time up in heaven,
even the crappy ones like Kissin’ Cousins
and Harum Scarum. Jesus stopped then 
for a second to exchange high fives 
with some of those pushing up close to him. 
And the clothes, he continued, if I had worn 
a cool jump suit like Elvis in Las Vegas,
those asshole Roman soldiers who nailed me 
to the cross would have really gambled 
for my clothes. Everybody cracked up at that, 
then Jesus excused himself, hurried over 
to get in line with a bunch of Korean tourists 
for the van ride across the street to the mansion.
The last thing people saw through the window
was Jesus waving goodbye and adjusting his headphones, 
for once now just another humble pilgrim headed for a holy site.

Otto Burnwell

The Camel’s Dick

You didn’t say no when your wife asked if you were okay with her taking a casserole over to her ex-husband’s place. He’s laid up with a bad back, she said, and had to take time off from work.

Instead, you asked why he didn’t have his new wife do it.

His girlfriend, and he says she’s not very good. It’s just a casserole, she said.

It’s the camel’s nose, you said.

We’ve got plenty.

Wouldn’t hurt him to miss a few meals.

How would that make us look?

Can’t argue with that.

You didn’t say no when your wife asked if you were okay with her running a load of laundry for her ex-husband. He’s finally back on his feet, she said, and needs something clean to wear for work.

Instead, you asked if his girlfriend is lousy at laundry, too.

She left him. It’s just a load of laundry, she said.

It’s the camel’s nose, you said.

There’s always plenty of room in the washer.

Wouldn’t hurt him to spend an hour at the laundromat doing his own laundry.

How would that make us look?

Can’t argue with that.

You don’t remind her that she’s the one who told you her ex- was an asshole and a parasite. She’s not stupid. She dumped him for a reason. But she is kind-hearted. That seems to trump everything now that he turned himself into a charity case.

You didn’t say no when your wife asked if you were okay with letting her ex-husband use the home number for messages. They turned off his phone, she said, and he needs a number to give out while he’s looking for a job.

Instead, you ask what happened to the job he has.

They let him go and cancelled his insurance. It’s just for messages, she said.

It’s the camel’s nose, you said.

We hardly ever use it anyway.

There’s a payphone at the Cash and Go that still takes incoming calls.

How would that make us look?

Can’t argue with that.

You didn’t say no when your wife asked if you were okay with letting her ex-husband sleep in the back room. He needs a place for a little while, she said, to keep his stuff and get cleaned up so he’s presentable if he gets an interview.

Instead, you asked why one of his neighbors at the trailer park can’t put him up.

They went in together and took out a restraining order on him. You’re gone all day, she said, so you’ll never see him.

It’s the camel’s nose, you said.

He’ll keep to himself so you won’t even know he’s there.

I’ll loan him a sleeping bag and he can sleep in his car.

How would that make us look?

Can’t argue with that.

You do care what people think. Even though you resent how it makes you the bad guy if you object to your wife’s empathy toward guys who trade on their self-inflicted wounds for sympathy.

That’s why you didn’t say no when your wife asked you to make up a cot for yourself in the garden shed over the next few days. It’s the way you treat him, she says, makes him so depressed he can’t get out of bed to go look for work.

Instead, you asked how that was possible since he never saw you.

It’s just for a couple of days, she said, while the weather’s still nice.

It’s the camel’s nose, you said.

A little kindness won’t kill you.

He can sleep in the garden shed.

How would that make us look?

Can’t argue with that.

You trust her good heart and keep to yourself when you’re not at work, and only run into the house to grab a beer.

So, it surprises you how not surprised you are when you come in to find them both naked in the kitchen, him boning your wife as she’s folded across the dining table.

Her butt cheeks ripple with each blow of his pelvis against her tailbone, scooting the table across the linoleum. He stutter-steps to keep up with the drifting table. A boner ballet of step thrust-thruststep thrust-thruststep thrust-thrust, your wife’s arms spread wide, holding on, toe-walking as they drive the table across the kitchen floor, until it collides with the refrigerator.

She realizes you’re there and gives out with a yelp, but he’s got one hand planted in the small of her back, and the other hand pinning her head to the table. She’s twisting under his palm, looking back at you, her cheek mashed against the tabletop.

If he heard you come in, he gives no sign, the way he’s got his head thrown back, eyes closed. He’s feeling himself shoot all he’s got into her. There’s no way he’s going to let her up before he’s done.

He slows, taking longer between each thrust, then holds himself against her, making sure to leave it all inside her. He exhales and draws out.

When he does notice you, he gives a nod, says hey, and heads for the bathroom, doing a hop-step kind of dancing, like he’s doing you a favor not dripping on the floor as he edges by you. Your wife strains to reach a dish towel to cover herself before she straightens up off the table, as if you’ve never seen her this way before. Which, when you think about it, you haven’t.

You don’t know what to say when your wife asks if you’re okay with her giving her ex a turn. It’s kind of creepy for him, us having sex when he can hear every little thing.

Instead, you ask why he can’t jack off to porn like everyone else.

Do you want that showing up on our browser history?

You realize it’s lame to bring up the camel’s nose again.

I’ll let him go first because he’s a lot smaller than you, she says.

Why can’t he call a hooker?

How would that make us look?

Can’t argue with that. 

She puts the dish towel between her legs, scurrying off to join her ex-husband cleaning up in the bathroom.

You pull the dining table away from the refrigerator so you can get your beer.

You might as well take both six packs with you because you’re going to be in the garden shed a long time from the look of things.