Alyce Absconded


I feel fingers grasp my forearm and I am swallowed by the crowd.

Smiling faces surround me like circling sharks; neon signage and stage lights burning my retinas like sea salt. The dirty, sticky floor of confetti, glass, and trampled beer cans like jagged coral. I am drowning in a claustrophobic ocean of sweat and people, and I just want to swim back to shore for a single breath of cool air.

I scream, but I am stopped from being heard by the pounding of the bass.

Fingers grip tighter and yank at my wrist. I follow a trail of black chipped nail polish, light brown arm hair and a cascading shoulder tattoo of a male peacock to see a browned face giggling at me — crooked teeth barred with nicotine stain yellow. I have no idea who this person is but she pulls me on to the seat of a Ferris wheel and lowers the steel bar to lock across our waists.

Finally my arm is free and my forearm feels cold with the cooling patch of sweat made by a grimy, clammy hand. Before I take a moment to breathe, the Ferris wheel shifts upwards and the arm grabber looks out across the festival — a reflection of the lights below caught in the beads in her brown dreaded hair and making her look like a Christmas tree.

“Hey,” she says in a friendly tone as she turns her head to the left to face me.

“Are you okay?”

My furry brain tingles with chills of confusion and I say “P-Pardon” with a stutter.

“You look worried,” she says “Your forehead is all crinkly.”

“Oh… no… I’m fine,” I say, still having no idea who the fuck is sitting next to me.

“Good” she says, and her olive shaped green eyes squint a little as she widens her uncleaned smile and makes her fatty cheeks look like half-toasted marshmallows dropped in to a pile of dirt by the campfire, “Have you had a good day?” she asks.

She sounds so friendly and casual but I can’t remember her face at all. I blink my eyelids together hard and hope that I wake up somewhere else, somewhere not trapped with whoever this is, wherever I am, climbing higher and higher above the crowd that now looks like a mob of poisonous jellyfish bobbing around under fluorescent light.

“When was it day time?” I respond. “It feels like day time was forever ago.”

“Oh Jesus,” she says. “…You are fucked up.”

She leans in to kiss me and I pull my head back as her big, puckered, red lips come towards me like a loose vagina, flakes of chapped skin looking like fish scales on labia. I have nowhere to go but back down in to the ocean of monsters so I must kiss these scaly lips coming forth. I purse my lips together and squeeze my eyes closed. Her peeling skin tickles against mine and soon it is over. I re-open my eyes and she is still there, a loose thick dread drooping over her acne scarred forehead.

“How cool is it up here?” she says, as she peers over her feet at the crowded festival below and the vast blackness of empty fields that expand beyond it.

“How the fuck did I get up here? Why am I up here?” I shout, my heart thumping out of my chest and my brain spinning in circles. Suddenly I can think of nothing better than being on the ground. It’s as though I was never even down there. Who is this person who brought me here and why is she kissing me?

“Yesterday was nice, wasn’t it?” she asks in a half-rhetorical tone that makes no sense to me.

“Yesterday? What day was it yesterday? Why can’t I remember yesterday? It was just yesterday…”

I realise that I just said that all out loud and I turn to face this girl staring at the side of my face.

“We met yesterday,” she says. “…You were pretty scattered.”

“Oh,” I say, and I become transfixed on the pretty fairy lights below — they look like golden stars…

“Fuck. I don’t ever want to go home,” I mutter.

“No-one does, babe,” she says.

Matthew Licht

Big City Dreams, Part 2

My enemy Lester and I started out in the same place. He’d been the new boy at the zendo before I showed up. Roshi must’ve taken him on as a hard case. He wore cologne, couldn’t bring himself to cut the labels out of his zen robes. 

Curiosity is an attribute I couldn’t eliminate. It’s become a job, sort of. Upon request, for a fee that’s whatever the client thinks is fair, I snoop other people’s lives, locate and remove whatever stands between them and serenity. 

Back then, at the zendo, Lester Frills couldn’t achieve serenity. I wanted to help him, honestly. I snooped his inner and outer lives. Wasn’t hard. 

Lester had built a career in advertising on other people’s backs. Lester bit backs, chewed them, stabbed them. He got where he wanted to be by jumping on backs. To give him his due, he wrote brilliant copy, created unforgettable campaigns. His spots sold product to the tune of millions, billions. The emptiness of big numbers must’ve scared him, or the ghosts of the potential careers he’d trampled. Maybe he got hung up on coke. In any case, one day he left a note on the desk in his duplex corner office. He broke his lease on a Central Park South dream pad with terrace, walked away from a walk-in closet as big as the Waldorf Astoria. He turned up at the zendo with a cool million in cash, wrapped in rice paper crafted by a human living treasure in Kyoto, with a daisy from Central Park taped on top of the package. The daisy got him in. At least I hope it was the daisy.

The way is hard. Lester snapped. It’s possible he found his true vocation as the Pope of Black Zen, but his mincing, giggling devotees don’t call him Serene Highness. 

Paranoia isn’t zen, but it’s human. Lester Frills is a genuine enemy. He’s sent his adepts to beat the crap out of me on several occasions. Paranoia said Lester was sending the Deco dreams to turn me on to Black Zen. Intuition carries weight, more or less equal to a photon’s. Lester Frills wanted in on my dream life, or was already there. The usual dreams of garbage, ground into clean white sand blown by fragrant breezes into the Northern Lights, were replaced by streamlined decadence. Whether I wanted to be or not, I was on a case. The case was personal.

Know yourself. Know your enemy. Is your enemy your self? 

Lester and I used to go out for beers, post-meditation. He was a funny guy, great talker, good listener. He had style, paid his rounds, bought drinks for total strangers who looked like they could use a freebie. Beered-up Lester usually had a good-sized crowd around him by closing time. My thirst shifted from beer to ginger tea. I dropped the bar scene. Or the bar scene dropped me. 

Lester worked the zendo scene. He shaved his head, did the kneel for days on end, placed himself in abstract mental locations, began to phase himself out of the world and into the Big Picture. He nearly made it. But achieving oneness with nothingness requires one terrifying step. There’s no going back, and it’s better not to look down. Lester might’ve opened his eyes at the wrong moment. The universe rushed in to fill his near-empty space. The resultant Big Bang rattled windows city-wide. 

Effete but muscular Deco warriors dropped their Dunand shields and Ruhlmann spears, screamed and ran. But they ran towards imploding Lester instead of away from him.

There are material things human beings need. Particularly those who live in New York. Clothes, for instance. The winters here are rather rigid. One shop-window always caught my eye. 

There was a SoHo zendo, before real estate in the urban industrial wasteland skyrocketed. Wandering around SoHo at night was eerie, especially in front of a seamless sidewalk-to-ceiling window. Translucent fiberglass mannequins on invisible strings glowed from within, levitated and almost imperceptibly spun in shop space, as if set in motion by the breath of big city ghosts. A cloud of desire passed overhead at the sight of those perfect zen duds. I wanted to be seen wearing them, wanted people to know where I shopped. One day I waltzed in to have a look at the price tags. Disbelief bent me double like a baseball bat. I shimmered out. 

The cute Japanese shopgirl whispered farewell.


Big City Dreams, Part 1

In The Barrel of a Beautiful Wave, By Gwil James Thomas


In The Barrel of a Beautiful Wave,
By Gwil James Thomas
Holy&Intoxicated Publications

Gwil James Thomas is a poet, novelist and inept musician originally from Bristol, England. His written work can be found widely in print and also online. He is the author of the poetry chapbooks: Gwil Vs Machine (Paper & Ink), Hidden Icons & Secret Menus (Analog Submission Press), Romance, Renegades & Riots – W/John D Robinson (Analog Submission Press) and Writing Beer, Drinking Poetry (Concrete Meat Press). Other work can be found widely in print and also online. He was also once a member of the Spanish/British band Irreparables (Nominal Records). He currently lives in San Sebastián, Northern Spain.

$5:00 / £5:00 / €5:00

Sales and inquiries:

“Gwil shoots from the hip and pours out barrels of heart onto each page of this new collection. His unique and nuanced perspective will make you want to read each poem again and again. Gwil’s writing continues to get stronger and stronger and this is another great addition to what is becoming a fantastic bibliography of work.”

— Martin Appleby, Editor of Paper & Ink Literary Zine

Thumper Devotchka


When I spend nights in,
reading celebrity news,
am I avoidant or
the smartest girl

World news
is killing us all,
Sneaky murder,
weird ideals.

Thank you, internet.
Now I know in real time
that all the weed
won’t ever cure me,
nor will food,
beer, girls, or
even lovely

We are doomed.
Life is futile,
and beautiful people
are even sadder
than the mentally ill
on long-haul flights.

What a nuisance
we have to bother
staying sane,
staying sober.

I will map out
playgrounds in my head
where everyone is team Kayne

Ian Shearer

Spilling Blood

They had been beating this guy for hours, and still they had gotten nothing.

Frank McCarthy had skipped town four days ago and nobody had any idea where he was. Nobody but this guy – Tom – Frank’s brother. Frank had been a fucking nonentity until his older brother Tom brought him in. Fucking Micks and their brothers. Frank was Tom’s soft spot. Unfortunately that also meant covering for Frank would be one of his strong points. He was ready to let these goons beat him to death, and by the look of him they were already about halfway there.

‘Tommy,’ I said. He was slumped forward, bleeding onto his own knees. His feet were bare and charred around the edges from where they had used the blowtorch on the soles earlier. ‘Tommy!’

He finally looked up and noticed me standing there for the first time.

‘Fuck,’ he muttered. He knew what it meant, my being there. He slouched forward again.

‘Untie him,’ I said. The two guys just looked at me. That goes to show what a tough bastard Tom was. Even beat to shit and outnumbered three to one, these guys didn’t want his hands free. ‘If I have to say it again, I’ll tie you to a fucking chair,’ I said.

They untied him as ordered and retreated to their posts on either side of the door.

‘You want a drink, Tommy?’

He looked up at me, held one nostril shut, and blew a clot of bloody snot at my feet.

‘I’ll take that as a yes,’ I said, handing him my flask. ‘Careful now, that’s the good stuff. You might not be used to it.’

‘Fuck you,’ he said and took a hit. He grimaced and wiped his burning lips, smearing blood across one cheek. ‘Just get it over and done with already,’ he said.

‘You know I can’t do that Tommy,’ I said. ‘I’ve got a reputation to uphold. I at least have to try my best.’

‘Won’t make any difference. You don’t get to Frank, you still lose face.’

‘Looks like you’ve already lost half of yours,’ I said. ‘Luckily for you, I’m not in the mood for any more violence tonight.’

‘You gonna fucking talk me to death?’

‘Actually I was gonna say I could go for some pussy,’ I said. ‘How ’bout you boys?’ I said, turning to the big bastards at the door. ‘How long since you had a nice piece of ass?’

They just chuckled in response. Beavis and Butthead on gear.

‘Reason I ask is, I bumped into Frank’s ex on the way down here. Ellie, isn’t it? I mean I figure she’s his ex. He sure as shit didn’t take her with him when he lammed it.’

I had his attention now. He went for another swig and I smacked the flask out of his hand.

‘I say I bumped into her, but really it was her front door. Bumped right into her pretty face when I kicked it in. She’s a real firecracker. How the fuck did a guy like Frank ever get a piece like that?’

He dove out of his chair at me, figuring to tackle me to the ground. I met his face with my foot and sent him sprawling back, falling over his chair. Then the boys were on him again, and he didn’t bother struggling.

‘I decided to bring her along,’ I said. ‘Maybe take her out for a drink after we finish here. Problem is we were in such a rush to get going, she didn’t have a chance to put any real clothes on. Must be getting cold now.’

‘You’re full of shit,’ Tom said as they tied him back into the chair. ‘They’d never let you touch a woman.’

‘Who the fuck’s gonna know? Who’s gonna say anything? These guys? I’d put a bullet in both their fuckin’ heads if I even got a whiff they might rat me out. And you know you’re not walking out of here.’

He was starting to believe it.

‘I told you I have a reputation, Tom. I always get what I want. Now you’ve got one more chance to tell me where Frank is, or I’m sending one of the boys next door for the best piece of ass he’s ever had.’

‘Fuck you,’ was all he said in response.

‘Fuck me? Really Tom? You’re gonna let this chick take herself down to the A and E to get stitched back together just because your brother can’t pay his fucking debts? You going to the grave with that kind of guilt?’

He didn’t say anything. He was weighing it up. Just a little more would tip the scales. I dug a coin out of my pocket.

‘Alright then. Call it fellas, heads or tails? Or maybe I should send them both in, eh Tommy? Let one get some head and the other get some tail?’

They called it and I flipped the coin. Heads.

‘You’re up,’ I said, and Mr. Heads left.

There was silence for a few seconds, then the screaming started. Panicked, frightened screaming, just hoping someone would hear and come to help.

That’s when Tommy finallt cracked.

‘Alright, call him off,’ he said, hanging his head low. I sent the other goon next door, and the screaming shortly stopped.

Tom gave Frank up and I put a bullet between his eyes. Eighteen hours later, over a hundred miles away, Frankie got the same.

I know what you’re thinking – did I really have the dame in the other room, or did I just pay one of my girls to scream on command?

Well shit, Tommy never found out.

Why should you?

James Diaz

As Much as We Are Able

I wanted a poem to carry me
Thus far
I have only been hurled
By every sentence I could not give full birth to

My friend has cancer
And has lost her sight
Lives alone in a cold trailer
Hasn’t spoken to her son in years 

I can’t make that okay 

I wanted a poem to carry her
But she is only thrown
Every day
To her end

I can’t make sense of it
Why we’re always given more
Than a poem (we) can carry 

Why nothing makes anything okay
Why We’re just thrown
Every day into our lives
Like a bullet with no one’s name on it

We carry as much as we are able
And we are not able to carry
Very much at all. 

James Hippie

Death By Misadventure

Most of his friends had sold out. Once they hit their thirties they started dropping out of the scene; women, careers, children, the whole lame adult checklist. He was one of the few that stayed the course. He was in it to win it. Rock and roll.

Some days he had his doubts. He knew most people considered him a loser. They looked down on the unemployment scams, hocking his gear for drugs, the trips to jail for petty hustles and expired warrants. It hurt to know that people thought he had wasted his potential and turned into a lowlife drug addict, some fucking wastrel that was stuck in a pathetic adolescent fantasy world. He was on the wrong side of thirty and still passing himself off as a musician, still waiting for that big break. What a joke. But when he had his shit together, high and kicking it in a room somewhere, he knew he had made the right choice. He never sold out. They were the ones that traded their youthful ideals for the safety of their parents’ path. He was living the dream. He was going down with the ship. It was all or nothing.

One night he managed to score some 80mg oxys from some guy he met in Long Beach, a so-called fan that remembered him from “back in the day” but still charged him full price for the drugs. They picked up a twelve pack and a pizza and he got a room for the night. They drank and bullshitted while they worked on the pizza, then they crushed up the pills and started doing lines. He was watching something on the History Channel when he nodded out. The guy from Long Beach relieved him of the remainder of the drugs and $17.00 from his wallet and left him there, comatose but technically still alive. Later when he barfed up the pizza, the vomit pooled in his windpipe, choking him to death.

That was how the maid found him the next day, purple and bloated, his head wedged between the bed and the nightstand. The coroner attributed it to “death by misadventure,” which was also the title of a shitty Ted Nugent song. He would have approved of the irony.

When word of his death got out, a few people that remembered him and his band left flowers and candles on the curb outside the motel. It was his best performance ever. Always leave them wanting more. Rock and roll.

David Estringel

Coffeehouse Romance

I see you,
reading Raymond Carver
at a table for two.
Straight, black hair—
lightly greased—
falling in your face.
You brush it away,
saving a page
with your right thumb,
I notice
the smoothness
of your hands,
the fullness
of your fingers.
Your eyes
are lost in ugly life—
I think they are brown.
The angles
and curves
of your face
in their own silent poetry.
You turn a page.
I long
to dip my face
into your cupped hands
and drink in
the smell of you.
To taste the sweat of your palms.
To kiss the fingertips
that have touched
the sum of your parts.
You catch my eye
so I look away.
You keep reading.
I wonder—
for a moment—
what it’s like
to be that chair.
You close your book
and get up to leave.
Passing me by—
of faded cologne
and sweaty jeans,
I devour you
at every inhale.
You leave me,
that for a moment
were everything
that mattered—
my cathedral—
and with the ghosts of fingerprints
lingering upon my tongue.


(Originally published at Cajun Mutt Press)