Wes Janson

The Bicycle Ride

I woke up this morning
And washed my face
Then I stepped outside
Willing to embrace…

Another day
Shining bright and clear
With beautiful memories
That I hold so dear

The day was too lovely
To stay inside
So I decided to go
For a bicycle ride

I felt so happy and so complete
As I peddled my bicycle
Down the street

And the warmth of the sun
Made me feel so free
With blessings of hope
And endless glee

And the feeling inside
Was ever so bright
As the coming of dawn
Had taken over the night

And I knew there was something
From which I had gone astray
Something I missed
Because I had looked away

But I found it again
And words couldn’t explain
How the rays of light
Had shown through the rain

Because I already knew
All the answers I sought
So I cast off the burden
Of my repetitive thought

And there was no longer a need
For me to look to the skies
Because it was only the light
Reflecting off of my eyes

And I no longer question
The absolute presence
Of the formless truth
Behind eternal essence

And I remember the past
Because I can finally see
That I took many roads
On my way to destiny

And as the light and the love
Kept growing inside
I began to realize
That I can no longer hide

For what we all have
And the reasons we care
Points to our main purpose
Which is to selflessly share

And when inner-love
Is outwardly projected
We know the truth
That we are all connected

And then I began
To be honest with Wes
And I had an Epiphany
That words can’t express

A realization
To which I’d been blind
Always known by my heart
Never known by my mind

And when I knew the truth
I felt free as a bird
But I didn’t realize
That I had run into a curb

I flew off my bike
And smashed into a wall
Only scraped one of my knees…
But punctured both of my BALLS!

David J. Thompson

It’s Come True

I was in the delivery room for the birth,
couldn’t tell there was anything wrong-
the baby just a gooey, crying mess. Later, 
after they cleaned it up, the nurse turned
her head when she handed him to me.
When I pulled back the little blue blanket
to see my son’s face for the first time,
I was ready to coo and make silly faces,
but instead all I said was, Oh, shit, walked
quickly over to the bed and shoved him 
at my wife. Goddamnit, I said. It’s come true.

It was a Friday night about nine months ago,
we were both worn out by the work week.
We were feeling silly, watching a Tarzan movie
on TCM, and drinking way too fucking much
of my homemade banana wine. We started
horsing around on the couch as we watched
Cheetah laughing and dancing around clapping
when the always near- naked Tarzan and Jane 
disappeared into their tree house love nest.
We, too, then shut off the tv, grabbed the rest
of the yellow nectar, and bounded into the bedroom. 
I helped her pulled off her jeans in a hurry, and 
she got on top of me with my pants still around 
my ankles. Oh, my God, she said when we were 
finished with each other and sharing a cigarette.
Your banana wine is going to make a monkey out of me.

Carrie Magness Radna

The Sapphire Room 

On Friday afternoon, after  
crossing the Queensboro Bridge  
into Manhattan, 

I’m too distracted by 
Britney Spears’s super mega hit 
“…Baby one more time.” 

Looking down from the Queensboro Bridge, 
I feel a little sinful riding an Uber 
as I imagine half-naked women hitting it— 

Next door to the 
Primal Cut Steakhouse  
is the Sapphire Room. 

Steak, ass & tits a-plenty  
each Saturday night  
by the East River— 

Can you imagine  
seeing these girls 
bump, grind & shake? 

I am somewhat curious  
about these women 
born in the ‘90s 

strutting with their God-given gifts 
(later in silicone) to “It’s Britney, bitch!” 
when they were little children. 

Now they give all the Johnnies hard-ons 
before they can dig in 
for some hot, red meat. 

How easy is it 
to captivate  
their attention? 

Even ordinary girls 
need some action 
& a tender touch— 

Leave Britney alone. 
She’s a grown woman  
with a lotta shit to do. 

We can dance 
to the steamy beat 
with our own moves— 

J.J. Campbell

a dylan song come to life

i used to be able
to dream in colors
now, it is simply
despair
 
this beautiful woman
once told me i would
look better if i could
smile more
 
i once tried that
but only frightened
little kids
 
now i look like
someone who lives
in the creases of time
 
a poet
 
a dylan song 
come to life
 
the romantic notion
that stringing together
a few words can evoke 
change
 
somewhere in that pile
of dark thoughts a little 
boy first saw a rainbow 
and thought of magic
 
the balloons became a 
dog and if he imagined 
enough
 
that dog spoke spanish
and told him the secrets
of the world

Jeff Weddle

Lost motel

I would stay with you in a lost motel 
along a forgotten highway. 

I would stay with you always
and eat what we forage.

I would stay with you in a lost motel 
with black mold and wolves  

and strangers who sometimes come 
but never leave. 

I would stay with you in a lost motel 
happy as a raven and in love,

hidden in your dwindling flesh 
and silent as a stone.

Steve Slavin

The Legend of Sonny Williams

You’d have to be as old as I am to remember when a very menacing looking boxer named Sonny Liston knocked out Floyd Patterson in the first round to snatch away his heavyweight crown. He followed up with another first-round knockout of Patterson in a rematch.

His next fight was with a young challenger whose ego appeared to tower far above his own formidable boxing skills. Sonny Liston was a heavy favorite not only to beat Cassius Clay, but to completely demolish him as he had done Patterson. 

As you may know, Clay outboxed Liston, knocking him out in the eighth round. He would soon change his name to Mohammed Ali, and to reign as the heavyweight champion for much of his career.

But this isn’t a story about boxing. Sonny Williams was not a boxer: He was a lover. As so many of us back in the sixties and early seventies used to chant, “Make love – not war!”

But before he gained some measure of fame, if you tried to envisage what Sonny Williams looked like, you might have pictured a tall muscular black man. In a way, it was that image that indirectly gave him his start in a long and happy film career. 

Can you remember the1969 movie, Putney Swope? From time to time, Sonny Williams is mentioned, but he doesn’t actually appear in the flesh until the very end of the movie. 

He turned out to be not at all what you might have expected.  A very pale five-foot-four balding white man with a longish beard, thick glasses, and a very shy manner, he appeared completely naked, except for a raincoat. Whatever else you might have said, he was no Sonny Liston.

Without uttering a word, he opened his raincoat, fully exposing himself.  Within weeks, his acting talents would be in great demand.

***

No one could have guessed that this cameo would mark the beginning of a long career in cinema for Sonny Williams. He would become an instant porno star.

Conventional porn movies back in the 1970s were essentially ten- or fifteen-minute sexual encounters, either between a heterosexual couple, or two women. There were, of course, porno movies for gay men, which were shown in different theaters. 

Some porno filmmaker must have seen Sonny in Putney Swope, perhaps glancing at his massive schlong (Yiddish for very large penis). And so, a porn star was born.

Sonny had not recently cultivated the Talmudic scholar look. Brought up in an orthodox family in Brooklyn’s Borough Park, he faithfully attended Yeshiva all the way through high school. His name back then was Perry Gewirtz

But after moving out of his parents’ house and ending up on Manhattan’s Lower Eastside, he quickly drifted away from the faith. He began eating traif (non-kosher food) and was soon dating shiksas (gentile women).

At first, he returned to Borough Park on weekends to spend the sabbath with his family. But since his social life centered on weekends, those visits became less and less frequent. His parents and his brothers and sisters knew better than to try to talk him out of his disappointing lifestyle, hoping that he would soon come to his senses.

***

Immediately after he had been “discovered,” Sonny was put to work. He could not believe that he was actually being paid for doing what he gladly would have done for nothing. But don’t get the wrong idea. You won’t get rich being paid twenty-five dollars for each cum shot. 

Now, some women could have made a small fortune using that pay scale. But for Sonny, who often took home over a hundred dollars for a day’s work, that was a lot of money for a guy living in a seventy-dollar-a-month-apartment in a tenement on East 5th Street off Second Avenue. 

Sonny’s downstairs neighbor and closest friend was a very affable guy named Marshall Anker, who had long been an aspiring actor. Clearly jealous of Sonny’s success, he was always talking about the roles he was “up for.”

For weeks before an audition to play W.C. Fields in some movie that never saw the light of day, Marshall went around imitating Fields. But almost everyone who heard him thought he was just drunk, or perhaps insane.

Then, out of the blue, Marshall was cast as the sheriff in Last House on the Left, an exploitation horror film that was a commercial success. It would be his only movie role. 

Marshall also envied Sonny for all the women he scored with – on the movie set and off. As small as Sonny was, Marshall was large. About six-three, with a big pot belly, he cut quite a figure walking along Second Avenue. 

One night, he did get lucky. He met Marsha Handelsman, the three-hundred-pound poetess. They had both gotten drunk at a party, and as Marshall walked her home, his hopes were high. 

She lived on the top floor of a five-story walk-up. But she was too drunk to climb the stairs. She said, “If you can carry me upstairs, you can fuck me.”

Did he manage to carry her up four flights? Yes! Did he have his way with her? Here, the story gets somewhat muddled. All he could remember was that he had to visit a chiropractor for months until he recovered.

***

Sonny and Marshall, along with another six or eight kindred spirits, would often party together. If you invited one of them to a party you were having, it went without saying that the whole bunch of them would show up.

I lived on Norfolk Street, about ten blocks from Sonny and Marshall. When their entourage arrived, they all started eating and drinking as though there were no tomorrow. Marshall even stuffed potato chips in his pockets, perhaps out of food insecurity. Sonny was too busy eyeing the women, none of whom seemed to know about his exploits on the silver screen. 

Marshall, on the other hand, talked almost nonstop about his career in film, although that didn’t appear to impress the young women he was hitting on. Still, he was happy to be at the party, where at least there was some infinitesimal chance that he might get lucky.

About two am, a contingent of us headed down to Chinatown. Obviously, the pretzels, potato chips, cheese, salami, and onion soup dip I had put out were just the appetizers. 

Down the block from me, Sonny and Marshall found an abandoned baby stroller. Sonny hopped in and Marshall pushed him all the way to Canal and Mott Streets. 

They were quite a sight, and passersby often stopped to stare at the two of them. Both bearded and disreputable looking, they must have been taken for a demented father and his severely retarded bearded son. 

***

Sonny loved his work so much that many times, he and his partner would keep going at it even after the allotted filming time had passed. The director, who had been about to yell “Cut!” just signaled the cameraman to keep shooting. 

At first, the director thought Sonny was just trying to make more money, but he soon realized this was truly a labor of love. Look at it from Sonny’s perspective: Going to work was like going out on a great date. And not only did it cost him absolutely nothing, but they even paid him.

Soon he was truly a porn star. But he never let it go to his head. He knew, of course, that all good things must come to an end, so why not make hay while the sun was still shining?

People would approach him on the street and ask for his autograph, or to be in a photo with them. Once, a very attractive woman came up to him and asked him exactly how big it was.

He lived just around the corner, so he took her up to his apartment. They spent the rest of the day in bed. Then, she apologized and starting dressed. She needed to get home to make dinner for her husband and children. 

***

By the time he was in his late forties, Sonny’s career as a porn star was clearly coming to and end. He decided that maybe a change of scenery would be nice, so he moved into a larger living space. He found a very reasonably priced storefront on East 9th Street just off Second Avenue. 

It was long and narrow, with a big glass window at the front. People could see in, but he hung curtains a few feet from the window. When his friends visited for the first time, they often thought it was a used bookstore. Except that less than half the books were on bookshelves. The rest were in piles on the floor.

Once, I asked him why he needed so many books. “You realize that you could not read all these books in ten lifetimes.”

He smiled.

“So why do you need so many?” I persisted.

“For reference.”

I just looked at him. Nearly all of the books were fiction. 

When I thought about that exchange years later, I realized that maybe he was beginning to lose it.

One evening, when my girlfriend and I came by to take Sonny to dinner, we saw a woman in the store. She didn’t say anything, and Sonny didn’t bother to introduce her. 

Who knows? Maybe she was a rare book buyer.

At dinner, Sonny didn’t mention her. But he must have trusted her, because he left her alone in his apartment.

***

Sonny had two tabby cats who enjoyed sunning themselves in the store window especially during the winter months. But this created problems with some of the passersby who knocked on the door, demanding to know if the cats were trapped in the small space they occupied.

Sonny grew tired of explaining that the cats were fine, so he taped a huge sign in his window that read: The cats love the warming rays of the sun. They are where they are entirely voluntarily.”

Not only did the sign actually work, but people came by just to look at it. The East Village Other even ran a series of photographs of the cats sunning themselves just below Sonny’s sign.

Although most of the people who viewed porno movies were reticent about ever mentioning this to even their closest friends, occasionally people would stop Sonny on the street to ask for his autograph. Marshall suggested that he sell his signed photos for ten or fifteen dollars apiece, but Sonny absolutely refused to do so. 

“It would be as if I were prostituting myself!” he declared.

“Excuse me!” replied Marshall. “But isn’t that what you were doing in all those pornographic flicks you made?”

“Not at all! What I did, I did for my own pleasure… And of course for my partners’ pleasure as well.”

“Yeah, well I wouldn’t have minded pleasuring a few of those women myself!”

***

The last time I would see Sonny alive was when I took him to dinner on his fifty-first birthday. He told me that he was vey worried about Marshall’s health, and that he had been urging him to see a doctor. 

“He can barely make it up the stairs to his apartment, and he is constantly wheezing.”

When my girlfriend and I went back to Sonny’s storefront, the same woman was there. This time she was much more friendly, although in a very negative sort of way. 

“Can you believe the way he lives like this? Books all over the place. I told him a million times to just throw the whole lot of them in the garbage.”

She went on like this for at least ten minutes. Sonny had disappeared to a small cleared area in the back of the apartment, and as soon as we could disengage ourselves, we followed him to the back of the apartment.

Sonny put a finger to his lips, signaling us to whisper. He confessed that the woman just turned up on his doorstep one afternoon and never left.

“You mean she’s a squatter in your apartment?” I asked.

“I guess so.”

“Why don’t you throw her out?”

“I don’t know where she would go.”

“Sonny, that’s her problem,” said my girlfriend.

“Maybe, but it would be on my conscience.”

***

Just a month later, Sonny died suddenly from a severe stroke. I later learned that he had had a series of mini strokes months before that, but like Marshall, he never went to a doctor. 

There were over a hundred mourners at his funeral. Conspicuously absent was Marshall, who had just gone into a nursing home. Most of us were aging hippies, neighbors, a whole contingent of current and former porno actors and actresses, and a few of his relatives.

His older brother, Ben, who remained an orthodox Jew, gave a wonderful eulogy. I sill remember his line, “Sonny wanted to make it small in the movies.”

That really summed him up. Unlike so many aspiring actors, Sonny never wanted to be a great movie star. He just wanted to have a really good time. Very few people truly love their work. Whatever else might be said about Sonny Williams, no one could deny that he was happy in his work. And yes, he did indeed make it small in the movies. 

Stuart Watson

Bedtime Story

After I adjust the pillows on the sofa to make room, I tell the kids to turn their games off and come cuddle up next to me and leave a space for Mom. 

I’m gonna read you a story.

Awwww, Da-ad!

You’ll love it. It’s about the first time your Mom fucked me with her ass.

The kids rush right over. It’s a good story, Dad, but don’t you know any others? Ben says. We’ve heard it like nine times.

I ignore him. Bets? You gonna join us?

She comes in, wiping her hands on a tea towel, and settles in next to Lacey. 

OK, here goes. Your Mom and I had been talking about it. We had agreed we had waited long enough. Are you sure? I asked, and she said, I want to give you what you want.

It was like standing outside St. Peter’s, after the flight, the train from the airport, after dragging my backpack up four flights to the marble room, after the slow, touchy fucking to the sound of bells beyond the window, barking dogs, kids squealing, all of it a weirdly celebratory chorus to our manic pursuit of union, all of it prelude to the grand finale, holy grail, visit to the greatest apse in the world. 

We were going to do it. Or, rather, she had invited me to fuck her ass. 

YOLO, right? she said, us so tangled in Roman sheets we might never escape. 

We were like athletes, nightly practice at the other thing, pretty relaxed now, pretty sure of the playing field, what was off limits, what wasn’t. I was always very oral, and turns out, she was waiting to be extremely grateful. I hear there are guys who can’t imagine eating a woman, their woman, and it leaves me slack-jawed. 

Dumb-ass, get down! You do not know what you are missing, motherfucker.

I never expressed any overriding desire to take my poker down that last mile, but my index digit made passing reference to her rosebud. Maybe last mile isn’t the best way to think of it. Isn’t that the execution walk? Stick with that metaphor, and I will be thinking, Who’s gonna die tonight, and I sure hope it ain’t either one of us, or all this anticipated bliss will be for …. Well, the word that came to mind there was way too close to the subject at hand.

I guess she sensed a curiosity about that port of entry on my part. So she offered. I sure wasn’t going to say, Nah, I don’t think you really want to so let’s pass on that, some things are best left unexplored, what if it turns out you really love it, what if you realized you’ve lived to the age of 47 and could have been stuffing your butt all these years for levels of ecstasy few humans ever achieve? And now we finally get there, and you tip off the deep end into profound despair and regret about opportunities lost? What if? 

Me thinking, Lost with whom?

Talk about a mixed message.

So, now we were stepping it up. I didn’t want her to know, but I was terrified. After all this anticipation, what if I biffed it? I didn’t want her to think I didn’t care, that it didn’t turn me on, that it maybe even grossed me out. I wanted her to enjoy it, too, and if she didn’t, I wanted her to lie to me that she did, because if she cried out in pain, that would shut down my boner faster than a goathead in a road bike tire.

I would be lying if I said the thought had never crossed my mind. It was one of a couple of possibilities, although we spent most of our time on the one, and not the other, which is how we got kids. Duh. 

Make no mistakes, she liked pussy sex and I did, too, but in the back of our minds, always lurking there beneath a streetlight with a fedora slung low over its eyes, her ass curled a finger my way.

Psst, hey, buddy, wanna try something … different?

It was all so mysterious, right? Like a roadside -OTEL, with a locked room at the end of the walkway. You could book a new, clean Holiday Inn Express, but no. You had to stop and visit Mr. Bates. 

Cobwebs between the windows and the drapes, but you want it. You want past the door, to the musty, dusty inside. Ask the manager. 

Nope, we don’t rent that room.

Not because it’s reserved, or booked to someone else. Just that it’s permanently off limits. Which makes it all the more a curiosity, all the more alluring. Sin is about denial. If somebody named Pope doesn’t want you going there, you can quickly slip into obsession about how you need to book passage. 

Now, on my knees, her on hers, I was in it. She had me in it. I expected to see gift wrap and ribbon by the wayside.

Wow, this is cool, I thought, even as I also thought, but … maybe not as good as the other place, the neighbor, the girl next door.

Went there. Did that. Not sure what all the fuss is about, but for my money, I’ll stick with the way god intended for us to get it on. As if I’ll ever know what she actually intended. Just making this shit up as I go along. Just glad your Mom is the sharing type.

I let the last line hang in the air, maybe room for questions. Nothing. Then I look around. Everybody has collapsed into me, sound asleep. One by one, I carry them to bed. Even Bets. After lights out, I lie in the dark, bummed. Either I need a new story. Or a new audience.  

A. Lynn Blumer

The Little Things

reeling dialog
reeling scenes
to long for without
any more promise

reeling happy thoughts

reeling dialog
reeling scenes
for longing

happy thoughts

Ghosting over the abyss
that gazes also—

reeling scenes
reeling portraits
of being pinned
to something unshakable

reeling pleas unheard

grabbed at the throat
locked down at the hip

happy thoughts

reeling dialog with you
an abyss
I want to look in to.

Jason Melvin

gray pube

I found a gray pube
while taking a piss
coarse and thicker
then the rest of them

Aging has never 
been a problem for me

Better than the alternative

The beard’s been graying for years
chest hair sparkles with it
if I had any hair
on top
I’m sure it’d be gray

The pube though
gives me pause

Even my dick’s getting old

Leah Mueller

Mutual Masturbation

From 2300 miles away, I hear the slapping sound 
of your fist against your thigh, as you
reminisce about that winter night when 
you squirted whipped cream in my ass.

Due to a dairy allergy, I insisted that it be vegan.
You, ever eager, went to the co-op
and paid an exorbitant price for pleasure:

mostly yours. I felt like a car with a too-full tank
spilling gasoline from its insertion hole.

I fantasize about your mouth 
on my nipples, the time you slid your cock 
between my lubricated breasts,

your spilled ejaculate across my chest.
My whispered assurance that the lotion was organic.

Ten years later, I own a different bottle
of organic lotion, and I rub it between my legs
with brisk motions, until finally I come
in oceanic undulations, minutes before

my cell phone battery dies. 
Fifteen percent charge means I must 
make the most of my orgasm. 

We have a knack for climaxing together, 
even across three time zones. 

Afterwards, we speak in familiar tones, 
as you lie in the puddle of your own effluvium, 
just as you did when we were together. 
It’s both comforting and sad,

the after-sex intimacy of long-distance lovers, 
two sets of genitals in solitary rooms. 

I tell stories about old paramours, and you listen: 
your ears wide open, relaxed as my vagina,
damp and glistening on my living room chair.

Our beds finally claim what is left of our bodies.
Both of us will plug our phones into sockets,
then fall asleep on separate mattresses. 

This is the way we have always been.
We will never be any different.