River House Blues, By Mendes Biondo

MB1 GR

River House Blues,
By Mendes Biondo
49 pages

A carousel of surreal characters flowing along a river of souls. Lovers, hunters, gamblers, and even lady death herself all make an appearance in this powerful new book of poems from Mendes Biondo.

Mendes is the Mount Vesuvius of poetry, the lava burning every page, smouldering with honesty and sex and dreams and characters from the Wild West. The smoke of humour and insight permeate throughout this chapbook. Mendes Biondo is a poet of flames and every stroke of his pen scorches, delights and sometimes shocks the imagination but always snares the reader’s attention. A poet whose reputation continues to grow.

—John D Robinson, Holy&intoxicated Publications

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Earl Javorsky

Cat’s-Eye Bullet

The old man says, “Cancer’s like having termites in your house,” sitting there in his shitty bathrobe with his skinny legs. “I’ve been tented and fumigated twice and it’s no fuckin’ picnic.” He rattles a giant vial of Norcos and tilts two into his mouth. He squints at me with one eye while he chews them, then he takes a hit from a bottle of Tanqueray and breaks into a coughing fit.

Frank is the sickest of my five cancer clients, with stage-four lung cancer. He lives on Dilaudid patches, Norcos, and booze, but tells me that the weed I bring him is the only thing that quiets the pain. The rest he’s just stuck with ’cause it’s too hard to stop. Most of my clients are healthy: stockbrokers and gym trainers, a restaurant manager, some housewives, and a few teachers at the local community college.

He fires up a pin joint and takes a long hit. It crackles a bit, which is odd. When he hands it to me I say, “Is this mine?” He waits until he’s ready to let loose a billow of white smoke and then says, “Yeah, kind of,” which is also odd. I take a hit, even though it’s earlier in the day than I like to start.

Something strange happens right away. The room contracts and then stretches. I have tunnel vision and there’s a buzzing in my head, like hornets in an echo chamber. I look at Frank, who seems far away, and say, “What the fuck?” but I’m not sure if real words come out of my mouth or if I’m just beaming the thought. Frank is chuckling, chuckle chortle chuckawalla Chick-fil-A—Jesus! What the fuck is wrong with me?

For some reason there’s a gun in Frank’s hand. “What did you do?” I beam at him.

“DMT,” he says. “It’s good for you. Clears the mind.”

“What are you fucking talking about?” I manage to say.

“It’s been preparing me for the big event,” he says, “and now I’m ready.” He puts the gun barrel to his mouth for a second, then thrusts it out toward me.

“But why me? I thought you were my friend.” I try to get up, but it’s not happening. My heart sounds like a basketball pounding on a gym floor, but I can’t make my body do anything. The hole at the end of the gun looks big enough to shoot marbles. I imagine a tri-color cats-eye flying at me, and for some reason start cracking up. The world goes dark and I see a glowing cobalt sphere; I envelope it and perceive it from all angles at once and become the sphere and shoot out a ray, like a laser, and another and another. I am a glowing cobalt sea urchin whose spines shoot out like questions into the Universe and then retract, unanswered.

“I am your friend,” Frank says, and now he’s squinting at me again. He’s laughing like an idiot and pointing the gun at me. “Fact is,” he says, “I just don’t want to do this alone.”

For a brief second I see myself through Frank’s eyes and then the gun goes up and turns and Bang! Frank’s brains are on the wall. My mind is infinitely elastic; there is nothing it cannot accommodate. The questions go out and come back unanswered. The rays go out and retract like breathing. The breathing accelerates, it pulses, it oscillates, it hums, it harmonizes, orchestral now, and a voice—Frank’s—says, “Hey, fuck, Robert, come back, what the fuck?” He’s trying to hand me a black glass pipe, but I’m in love with the music.

Ruby Sue Lyons

nothing happened

we stand in the corner of the club his hands are down my pants then I’m invisible hiding behind roses in the cab, he laughs and says he’ll drop me off the motion makes me sick the driver thinks I’m going to be sick and won’t turn the air on I stick my head out the window and do not throw up and the air comes on as his hands return to me at my building he gets out with me I’ve kept him away from my apartment until now it was the last defense but when he comes up and sits on the couch I insist that he follow me to the bedroom he turns me on my stomach and yanks my boots off lowers my pants I take my shirt off unhook my lace bra he bites my nipples kisses my stomach sticks his tongue in my pussy before yanking my pants off at some point I’ve opened his belt and pulled down his zipper and I want him to fuck me he says he doesn’t know if he can get hard but he does and he kisses me the first real kiss we ever had and fucks me with his clothes on I’m naked he’s hot afterwards kisses my back says he has to go can’t stay I can’t figure out how to call him a car still drunk so he puts his guitar on his back and says he’ll get a cab there are never any cabs down here, but I can’t figure out how to communicate that either, I do the drunk thing where I promise to never do the drunk thing again sleep for a few hours wake up and text him ask if he got home ok and he answers all good calls me at 10 AM, asks if anything happened last night I tell him no, he says I just dropped you off, right? I laugh and say of course and he’s relieved because of course nothing happened if you don’t remember it and if that’s what he needs to hear his black-outs are not my problem my denial is not his problem and if I had any doubts there is evidence, the leopard boot on the windowsill, the sock hanging from a lamp, the upside down Dylan poster on the wall, my panties on the bathroom floor, my shirt and pants inside out, the other boot on the couch, the second sock in the garbage, the sheets streaked with cum and shit, the quilt under a chair, but as far as we know nothing happened.

Bogdan Dragos

cartoonist

Dad was fat all his life
Obese
He couldn’t do a lot of things.
Walk without special help
Bathe
Climb stairs
Sit in a normal chair
Drive a normal car
Sleep in a normal bed
And say “I love you, son.”

To draw those words out
of his dad he became a cartoonist,
but that also failed.

And now that his father
was dead,
collapsed face down
on the kitchen floor,
blood seeping out of a head wound,
he struggled to turn him over
on his back
and dipped his finger in the blood
and drew a speech bubble
next to his father’s head
and wrote in it the famous words.

Finally.
“I love you too, dad.”

Matthew Licht

Big City Dreams, Part 4

Jena sprawled on her bed, partly covered by a China-yellow blanket. Dawn light shone through the wooden Venetian blinds on the windows of her room. I let myself out of her townhouse and entered Central Park to meditate.

Dizzying Deco spires were like the bars of a stylized urban cage. Kudus with corkscrew horns peered timidly from the bushes of The Ramble, and a first edition of The Green Hills of Africa. A white whale leapt from The Lake, and Rockwell Kent’s inkwell. I thought I was losing my mind, so I headed up to Harlem for an emergency Deco exorcism with Roshi.

Lester Frills cackled and gurgled like a loon over the sound of rice-straw flip-flops that flapped on fresh snow.

Roshi’s rosewood staff beat a syncopated drum solo on my shoulders. Whack, smack, crackety-crack! Roshi lost his almost otherworldly reserve and split his pole of discipline on my spine. His Queens accent rose to the surface when he suggested we knock off and head out for beer.

“You oughta leave the city for a while,” he said. “Look at some hills, trees, rocks. I’ll give the Saugerties roshi a buzz, tell him you give good garbage koan.”

Roshi doesn’t know about my investigation and removals sideline. It wasn’t the right moment to enlighten him on that score. Instead, I told him about Jena, omitting the hairless details.

“So take the tasty redhead with you. It’s not against the rules. Besides which, there are no rules. Except no whistling. Or tap-dancing.”

“Can’t do it, sensei…I mean, Sal. Someone…there’s trouble. I can’t explain. Don’t press me on this. Can’t leave town, either.”

Reverend roshi sensei Sal dug into his hooded sweatshirt, came up with a pair of perforated disks. One was milky jade, the other brushed brass. He handed them over.

“Last time I was in a spiritual jam, these got me through. I can’t explain it, and there’s no guarantee. Past performance is no indication, and all that shit. Look, there are two sides to everything, except in the alternate universe of uni-dimensional singularity. Usually, there’s more than two sides. Things, people and ideas are more than they seem, or less. Multifaceted. Layered. In and out. Try to see the problem from all possible angles before you draw conclusions. How ‘bout whiskey chasers, next round?”

“Sure, man. But this one’s on me. Thanks, Sal. Loads.”

Sometimes booze makes the universe more clearly ponderable than hours of za-zen.

***

The phone rang when I got back to my vehemently non-Deco pad. Someone was watching the place.

“Whoa-ho! The Zen Garbageman swings again. He shoots his unaimed arrow, and scores! That little Jena Panhard is one tasty piece of chicken tail, aka the Pope’s Nose. Hot-cha! You’re getting warm, streetsweep. I can feel it. But you need to work faster. Furthermore, I can practically taste your minimal brain cells grinding out a scheme to cross me in this affair. Don’t even premeditate it. Erase it from your thoughts and dreams, or I’ll erase someone who’s meaningful to you. I’ve got Rei.”

The meaning was unclear. “Ray of hope? Ray of light?” Lester Frills might’ve turned into a conventional religious nut, and shifted his headquarters to a baroque church. He raved, swathed in satin finery, a jewel-encrusted tiara on his head. “Corvette Sting-ray?” Lester zoomed off in a curvaceous hot-pink getaway car.

“Rei Kawakubo, you fucking dolt.”

Rei means take a bow, in Japanese. Rei Kawakubo was admirable, no doubt about it. There is a zen of clothing. Some fashion designers have Buddha nature. The world would be a less interesting, more totalitarian place if everyone dressed the same. Think of Mao’s blue pyjamas, Adolf Hitler’s brown shirt-and-armband look. Rei suggested possible, peaceful, well-dressed worlds.

A thoughtfully-dressed Japanese woman was handcuffed to a radiator in a lunatic’s overdecorated lair. Gagged, frightened, her almond eyes bulged and darted nervously behind thick black glasses.

Too many boilermakers had gone down. This was no time to run out and rescue captive clothing designers. Better try to talk Lester out of it, slur him away from his evil plan, whatever it was. I thought he might listen to reason. Man, I was bombed.

“Let her go, Les. I haven’t found your theater yet, but I’m on the case. I…I got a hunch I’m real close.”

Maybe he had a polygraph machine hooked up to the other end of the line.

“You lie, trashman. You are nowhere near. You have not got fucking clue one.”

“Well yeah, OK. But, kinda let her go anyhow. I wanna help you, Lester. I’ll locate the theater of your dreams. Or is it the theater of my dreams? In either case, I’ll track the place down. But what do you want it for? You’re not going to blow it up, are you?”

Penn Station, going down. Doors slammed shut forever on another of New York’s shambolically convivial taverns. A boulevard of indecency transformed into a bland Disneyland in the name of real estate development.

“Well, what does anyone need a theater for?” Lester’s tone had changed. For a second, he sounded human again. The second passed. “I want everyone to see my show, you silly ass. Everybody must see my show!”

Lester’s maniacal rant turned into a yelp of pain, distinctly female.

“Have you ever tweaked a top fashion designer’s nipple, trashboy? Oh, it’s delicious. The feeling of power, elegance, power over elegance, overpowering elegance. Find my theater.”

He hung up, hard. Telephone buzz became an instant hangover.

Find a forgotten theater in the big city, in the dead of a cold night, like a needle in a haystack of skyscrapers, a pearl lost among theatrical swinishness. I couldn’t even walk a straight line. Perfect. There aren’t many straight lines, in nature, or in Art Deco. I hit the bricks.

Bip, bop, beedle-ee-oh. Broadway, the electric boulevard of Broken Dreams, with a white light for every broken heart, a purple heart for every wounded soul, from the Assault & Battery up to Albany. Twee-oh! Shoop-de-woop. Times Square! Fresh air! Pubic hair! None there. Oh yes there is. Dig it, we’re on the Deuce.

 Not much left of its former scabby glory. Fast food and T-shirts all over. Can a city be turned into a T-shirtburger, sold and consumed? Little monastic Rei Kawakubo fusses and frets over how long is too long on a long-sleeve T-shirt. Long-T to reveal, not conceal, the body underneath. Long-sleeve T-shirts sold in the former Longacre Square cheaply turn you into the Statue of Liberty, a dancing skeleton, the Empire State Building, a sexy naked woman or dime-store Fred Astaire in a 100% cotton XL tuxedo.

 Costumes peel to reveal the body of a Broadway baby, a dancer, actor, singer. Skin sells tickets to Oh, Calcutta! Talented young people who think they got what it takes show up in the big city to make it there so they can make it anywhere. They show up, show off. And another hundred people just got off of the bus and they’re looking at us. We got off of the bus only yesterday, at the Port of Authority Bus Terminal. Seems like yesterday. Now the bus station’s lightened and brightened of pimps and pushers, cleansed of bums who dragged their asses across the linoleum leaving shitstain slug-trails and make the tourists wish they had flamethrowers. City of strangers, beset by the dangers of greed and ambition. Lose your soul, your self, in a hall of funhouse-mirror shop-windows. And another hundred people just got off of the train, to stand in the rain and blow out their brains.

Grand Central glittered in the taxi-light night. Soul-dead real estate developers conspired with politicians to blast train stations to kingdom come. Penn Station’s downfall didn’t satisfy their sick cravings. They plopped the Pan Am Building on top of Grand Central before Jackie O flashed beams of preservationist sanity from behind her big black glasses. Save that train station! Jackie, oh! Stu-dee-o! Studio 54. Gone. Oh no! Yoko. Ono. She’s behind big black glasses too. Skeedle-ee-woo. Jackie! Yoko! Ah! Ooh! Rei! Hoo-ray! New York’s a ballsy, gutsy, crazy lady. Alex Katz got it right, with giant billboards in the night. Pix of ambitious lady-faces strung out along the Deuce to greet those who just got off of the bus into the filth, the grime, the crime. Cardboard glory fizzes like cheap champagne when you pop your cork in New York.

The Chrysler Building’s the biggest bottle of cold bubbly there is. The isoceles triangular skylights on top are like the spikes in Lady Liberty’s crown. Liberty enlightens the world, then plants her torch in Jersey and sits za-zen to enlighten herself. Liberty in flowing green robe, severe Buddha smile flitting on her full lips. Without a care. And without a hair, like Jena. Oh, Jena! Have you seen her? Holy lotus-blossom jewels in the sky! Jena, Jena, Jena, they cry! Skat-tat-tiddly-wop.

Nearly knocked the Chrysler doorman down. Only wanted to get close enough to whisper in his ear. “Hey mac, there’s twenty bucks in my hakama says you’re gonna let me in to ride the bas-relief, nickel-plated, mahogany intarsio elevator all the way up to the mythical Cloud Club for drinks with the cool, crazy Art Deco ghosts.”

“You’re drunk, chief. Back the fuck off.”

He shoved. Could’ve grabbed his wrist, sailed him out onto the Deuce in front of a bus that bops to the beat of the dance of death. But I backed off, as ordered, looked up. An airship was moored to the chrome needle. Circular searchlight beams played on her silver skin. Chrysanthemum fireworks flew and blew, dangerously close to her hydrogen filling. The frozen flashes sparkled, as Heaven frittered away its glittering snow. That was the Chrysler Corporation’s way to greet important guests. Hop a zep, sail through cotton-candy clouds, come sink a cocktail or two at the Cloud Club. Seal the deal. Connive and steal. Blow blue smoke-clouds from a fat cigar, sit back in your broad-shouldered pinstripe suit, look up at the zigzag ziggurat ceiling from the comfort of a bulbous club chair with cream-colored leather piping at the seams. Exhaust clouds from chrome Chrysler tailpipes means you make millions, baby.

Mob-linked wrecking crews dismantled the Cloud Club years ago. Interior Deco-rators raided the loot. A city’s treasure, dispersed by avariciousness. High winds that blow down broad boulevards make approach by zeppelins an impossible dream.

A phantom dirigible plummeted to the on the terrazzo-, palazzo- and chrome-inlaid sidewalk, bounced away, unscathed. The revelation came: the theater’s in there. In the Chrysler Building. In the basement. Underground, like a cave.

A stop-light blipped from red to green on Lexington and 40-Deuce. Traffic rumble rose to a bass-note and washed past.

“Sorry, guy,” I said, to the doorman, hands up in a peace gesture. “Just an idea, that’s all.”

Uniformed Chrysler goons won’t let you in for a nocturnal snoop. Skip-bop-doodle-dee-shoop. What you need is a lady on your arm. Namely, jingling carrot-topped jazz baby Jena Panhard.

For a sobering effect, take a walk down the Deuce to the Hudson. The river, not the streamlined automobile.

The Deuce was boarded-up XXX porno dives, peep shows with permanently closed eyes.

The Deuce was crowded with ghosts, like the Cloud Club in the Chrysler Building’s attic and the unseen phantomatic theater lurking in its basement. The river was frozen nearly solid. I could’ve walked across to New Jersey. Or uptown, home. But it was too cold, too far.

Jena wasn’t too thrilled about being roused at 3 a.m.

***

Big City Dreams, Part 1
Big City Dreams, Part 2
Big City Dreams, Part 3

Anthony Dirk Ray

Never Getting to Pensacola

I left work one evening
and stopped to get gas.
while I was pumping gas,
I observed a man wearing
a fedora, leather jacket,
and pajama pants trying to
get a ride by hitchhiking.
I saw what looked like a
puppy on his shoulder.
then I noticed the red cone,
beak, and feathers.

I thought, this fucker
will never get a ride
with a goddamned live
chicken on his shoulder.
I lost sight of him

and walked inside to
buy an espresso beverage.
upon exiting,
I heard a voice say,
“hey my man, can I
put gas in your truck?
I’m trying to get close
to Pensacola.”
I’m sure he noticed the 5
on my tag denoting that
I lived across the bay
in that general direction.
I looked at the man.
I looked up at his chicken,
then back at him and said,
“I’m sorry, I’m not going that way.”
then,
I got in my truck
and went that way.

Luka Harrison

Pray

Not since Jack the Ripper has a serial killer held London in its hands as this one. Each morning edition splashed with the latest gory details of the murder, with every tea house conversation rife with suppositions about the meanings of the delicate murals created with the victim’s blood. At first the nation was taken with terror, but as time wore on, that terror was replaced by intrigue and bred amateur detectives in their hundreds.

The first murder will always be remembered as the most graceful. The victim lay peacefully upon white sheets, each crease in the wedding dress she wore perfectly smoothed out. Her hands had been placed upon her chest and her lips pursed in a contented smile. The very fact that she had been murdered seemed to amuse her, and that smile had been burnt into the minds of all who saw her.

The voices of the newspaper boys permeated the stillness of the morning as a darkness descended upon the streets, entering the hearts of the people as the story roused curiosity, gossip, and fear.

The papers had sensationalised the murder, fearing that they would never see such an occurrence again. Secret meanings were attached to the care attended upon the body of this young girl, scouring books and mythology for an understanding of the murals carefully painted with the victim’s blood.

Intricate patterns flowed across the walls, describing untamed forests, unscaleable mountains and lakes of fire. The female population shuddered collectively as each envisioned themselves in her position; the men took up arms as vigilante bravado spread with each drink downed to accompany the gossip that continued in the taverns.

For Mother, holed up inside her little home on the outskirts of the city, these portents could only signal the end of everything. Staring outside for hours on end, she waited, hoping to know her enemy as either man or devil before being consigned to the oblivion she was so sure awaited us all.

I approached her carefully, unsure as to how all this gore had affected her mentally. My fear was unfounded as she turned to remind me, as always, to pray.

The second murder took place on the eve of the new moon. The victim dressed exquisitely in the robes of the nobility lay prone against a wall with an oriental fan clutched tentatively in her left hand. The murals loomed over her as a macabre backdrop to this latest murder. The stolen blood swirled around itself in a vortex, each curl carrying a menagerie of animals walking towards the centre where a man sat cross-legged.

Many animals were recognisable; others strange creatures only found in the imaginations of the insane with a penchant for hellish creation. The police announced the work of an occult serial killer, and public fear reached its peak as the women hid and the men belittled the killer to quell the rising terror residing behind their strong words.

Back home Mother’s fear heightened.

‘They will come for me!’ she cried, begging the god she believed would protect us, if only we requested it.

For hours she pleaded, leaving me afraid to move lest I break her trance. As dusk settled upon the rooftops of the neighbouring houses she stopped, turning to me to once again remind me to pray.

The mural that accompanied the third murder was a grim rendition of civilisation; a multitude of houses, churches and even a castle were beautifully rendered in the now familiar bloody medium. It was like no place anyone had ever seen, curiously arousing in many the dream of travel. The victim was hung from the roof, dressed in a revealing nightgown and supported by ropes bound to the wooden rafters – forever flying above the city staining the ground below.

When officials considered the nature of the women’s attire they asserted that the killer was a man obsessed with the very things that define femininity. Of the murals there was no interpretation adequate enough, nor were there enough witnesses willing to discuss this obscenity due to the inclusion of a near naked woman.

As the city waited with baited breath for the next killing a letter arrived at the police station. The letter told them the murders were almost over, and its contents held the entire city’s population captive as the days dragged on without news. No longer did fear force people inside as darkness fell, it was as if they wanted to witness this final monstrosity first hand. The thought that they could be the last victim did not occur to them as they trawled the streets attacking any and all who looked at them askance. Chaos reigned as the foolish masses ignored the letter’s sage advice. It had told them that tonight was the night to hold your loved ones and consider your sins. To understand that god will forgive you if only you ask.

The letter told them all to pray.

The killings stopped at the fourth, for Mother’s work was complete. As I kneeled facing the walls, I prayed, as I was always instructed to do. With a careful hand mother drew the landscape of heaven upon the walls. She drew the clouds, the sun and the omnipresent form of the god she promised will save us all. The girl whimpers softly, gasping as Mother lets her blood into the old chamber pot. The herbal concoction is strong enough that the girl is barely aware of her predicament, lying naked across the bed as her veins are drained of life.

We waited as the blood turned dark, for the people to come.

The papers announced our capture, and the murals revealed their secrets: the ascent of life to redemption. I never understood the true meaning behind this, nor will I ever, for our execution date is today and the baying crowd awaits my dear mother at the gallows.

The chains around her wrists and ankles drag noisily across the prison floor; I can hear her approaching my cell as she is marched to the oblivion she knew was coming. At the exit, before the light of day enshrouded her form, she turned to me, serenity etched across her face as she whispered:

“You must pray”

And I did.

Thumper Devotchka

Could Have Been

Everything looks nicer
from the outside,
doesn’t it?
Coloured pillows
and layers of blankets,
warmer than it really is.

Inside, underneath
things are covered
in who we could
have been.

Everything looks pretty
from the outside,
doesn’t it?
Coloured lips
and layers of friendship,
colder than it could
have been.

She tells me this is dirty:
the lack of space, the way I taste,
the clothes we forgot to wash
while trying to wash
away our sins.

There’s never enough time
or length between
the last mistake
and that’s why
you sleep next to me
and not with me
anymore.