Alan Catlin

Brain Drain

“It was like being in hell -the stage version.”
Marianne Faithful

She wants to whistle
the mad chords of
‘All Along the Watchtower’
but the tune sticks
to the gummed edges
of her cracked teeth
broken by the fist
of a male nurse
who caught her sneaking
a stash of blow onto
the closed ward of
an enforced, involuntary
detox, “Getting clean is
easy,” she says, ‘All you
need is ten blankets and
a rubber room to freak in,
the first seven days
of the shakes.” Staying
clean is the hard work,
especially with no known
reason not to live the life
of a Honky Tonk Angel
hooked on the smoke,
the pills and juice that
gives your singing voice
all that character none
of the others have.

Paul Green

Every Roach Washes Ashore

hell bent
aching tooth
of the city.
every roach
washes ashore.
summer sleeps
like a fly
on its belly.

a whore
is bottomless
and picking
at her vagina.
a store keeper
cocks his shotgun.
pigeons scatter
atop project buildings.
the old lady
is swinging
her tits again.

the world
is numb,
once more,
as some kid
pulls into
his grave.

Joseph Farley


I went through through the turnstile at the 8th Street Station for the Frankford-Market El. The El runs underground in the Center City section of Philadelphia, emerging north and west of downtown to ride on steel trestles to the ends of the line. I saw the crowd in the platform was bigger than usual. I hoped that they were just a lot of people like me who had left work early, but knew there was small chance of that. Yes, it was a Friday, but it was a normal Friday, not a holiday weekend. I stared down the tunnel searching for the lights of a train. There were none.

I saw the crowd was even bigger across the tracks on the westbound side. Equipment failure? It would not surprise me. SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, also known as Schlepta and the Septic System, was notorious for frequent breakdowns. Be it bus, trolley, subway, El or regional rail, a rider had to rely on luck to get anywhere on time. A coworker, a fresh transplant from Virginia, had caught on quickly. Within a few months of moving to Philadelphia she began referring to SEPTA as “the bane of my existence.” This was when everyone knew she had become a true Philadelphian.

I leaned out over the track and took took another look down the tunnel. Still no lights. A loud horn blared. I heard the rumble of wheels. I stepped back just in time before getting my head clipped, probably ripped off my body, by a train heading westbound on the eastbound side. The cars were crowded. The train came to a halt. The doors opened. People tried to push their way on while others tried to push their way out of the doors.

A voice came over the loudspeaker.

“All westbound passengers board on the east platform.”

Most of the commuters on the west bound platform stood where they were. They might as well. There was no chance of getting on this train. It was packed. The train pulled out leaving sullen crowds on both the east and west bound platforms.

The voice was on the loudspeaker again.

”All westbound passengers board on the eastbound platform.”

Nothing was said about trains going eastbound.

A guy in his twenties was standing near me. He was getting upset. Real upset. He asked me, “Am I on the right side? I’m trying to go east. I need to get to Tioga.”

I told him, “You are where you should be. It’s SEPTA. It looks like they’re running both eastbound and westbound trains on the same track.”

“Damn. I’m already late.”

He took his cellphone out of his pocket made a call. He explained to someone that he was running late. Told them about the situation with the trains.

Another train came westbound on the east track. The crowd on the platform was growing. The time I hoped to save by leaving work early had evaporated. It was full rush hour madness with trains only going one way.

Another announcement about boarding on the east side to head west. Grumbles. Anger. Strangers became instant friends, united against the common enemy, SEPTA, the bane of our existence.

A woman in her fifties said to me, “I left work five minutes early. Begged my boss so I could leave. Now I’m stuck here. I should have stayed at work.”

I told her, “I left early too. Been here twenty minutes.”

Another west bound train. Then another. No trains eastbound.

The young man on my right made another call. Pleaded with someone to understand.

I was about the same age as the woman. We shared our misery.

“Broke down yesterday morning.”

“And last week.”

“Three buses went by me Monday morning. Ignored me standing at the stop.”

Another man on the platform burst out, “I only need to go two stops to Second Street. This is crazy.”

I told him, “Hey. This is SEPTA. If you can walk the distance, walk it. Never rely on SEPTA to get you anywhere on time.”

The woman nodded.

The man said nothing. He just walked off, exited through one of those egg slicer turnstiles. He could walk the six blocks. Should have done so to begin with. I mean, it wasn’t snowing or raining. It was 47 degrees. If I didn’t have to go all the way to the end of the line, I’d walk it. Anything up to two miles. Get the exercise.

Another westbound train on the east track.

The announcer came back. This time with more information.

“Due to a medical emergency between 5th Street and 15th Street all trains are running on the eastbound side.”

Medical emergency, I thought, did someone have a heart attack, fall and break their leg, or was it a euphemism for a jumper? There were always “jumpers” somewhere along the line. Happened a few times a month. Though not all were true suicides. Some just fell on the tracks. Maybe got hit while looking for a train as almost happened to me. No one from the transit authority would tell you straight out anymore that it was a suicide. It was always “a medical emergency.” Sometimes a cop would tell you the truth, if there was a cop around. I once asked a cop standing on a platform with a crowd of delayed commuters if it was because of a jumper, and he said, “Yeah. Heard it on the radio. Nothing can run until the sponge crew is finished.”

It wasn’t always like that. I was 18 the first time I had to deal with a jumper delay. That was in the 1980s, when I commuted between college and a job at the Central Library at 19th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This was before death by light rail became such a common occurrence. SEPTA shut the train down for hours. I saw the ambulances rushing to 15th street station. At first no one said anything, then one of the fare-takers told everyone, “It’s a suicide.”

It was all a bigger production back then. Television crews, firetrucks, everyone talking. There was always a small article in the Inquirer the next day. But that was a long time ago. There was only a jumper a few times a year. Back then it was always shuttle buses. Getting on and off of buses until you could get back on the train further down the line.

Nowadays there’s rarely shuttle buses. Less production. No TV cameras. No blurbs in the newspaper. Times have changed. There are so many murders, so many suicides. It’s all so commonplace. The opioid crisis, stress, bad romances, poverty, the job market, global warming, politics, pimples. There’s so much that can push someone over the edge. There’s so much death to cover and only so much news to fit into a half hour broadcast. Newspapers barely exist and are much smaller, thinner, lighter with coverage of world, national and local events. There’s not enough room in the pages for stories like this.

Besides, no one wants to say it anymore. Jumper. Suicide. No one wants to upset anyone, or encourage them to imitate. Don’t do it for the fame boys and girls. We’re not giving you the five minutes anymore. Still, they are much faster with the clean up these days. Get the trains back and running a lot quicker than in the good old days.

The woman next to me voiced my thoughts.

“Do you think it’s a jumper?”


The young man became more upset, emotional.

“A jumper? You mean a suicide? Someone jumped in front of a train? How do you know that?”

“I don’t know for sure. It just looks that way. They used the magic word ‘medical emergency’ and shut down a lot of track. “

The guy got in his phone again. This time video chat. I could see the face. A young woman. Girlfriend probably.

“I’m sorry. It’s a jumper. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

His girlfriend sounded sympathetic, not like before. He was safe now. Out of trouble.

The announcer came on again. The faceless voice of SEPTA.

“They’ve finished cleaning up the track from the medical emergency. Trains will now be running west on the westbound side.”

“That’s it,” I said. “Jumper. They finished ‘cleaning up’, picking up the pieces, putting them in plastic bags, wiping off the track.”

“Thank God,” said the woman. “Now when will we get an eastbound train?”

A train arrived on the westbound side heading west. Ten minutes later the first eastbound train arrived. SEPTA made it an express. Some passengers got off, but not enough. Too many wanted to get on. I had to wait for a couple more eastbound trains before I could get on one.

I put it out the jumper of my mind. That’s what you do. You can’t break down because others do. You take the train. You go home. You go to work. Go home again. Know it will happen again. You just don’t think about it.

Less than a week went by when it happened. I worked late, and went to board the El at the 5th Street Station, near Independence Mall. There wasn’t a big crowd, but something was off. The wait seemed too long. It didn’t mean anything unless they said the magic words. Otherwise it was just normal malfunctions. I saw a guy, young, under 30. He was wearing blue overalls, the kind construction workers sometimes do. He was acting strange. His knees were bent, and he was nodding and bouncing from side to side. He had what looked like a thin brown cigar in his hand. Lit. He took a puff now and then. There may have been some tobacco in it, maybe even some weed. But there was something else as well. A more acrid smell.

My first thought was it was against the law to smoke on the platform. Of course that never gets enforced. There are too many more serious crimes to occupy the police. Then I began to wonder, as I sometimes do, why they had decriminalized smoking marijuana in the city and legalized vaping of weed at the state level, for medical reasons, but did not legalize edibles statewide for any reason. It would be a lot less distracting to see someone eating a brownie at a bus stop or rail station than to have to inhale second hand anything.

While I was going through this social and political debate in my head, the man in blue decided to hobble over to the edge of the platform and wobble and bounce there. Then he turned around. His toes on the platform. His heels over the edge. Bouncing to music only he could hear.

I had a bad feeling about this. I hurried over to him.

“Hey. You might want to get away form the edge. You could fall.”

He looked at me then looked where he was standing. His eyes got wider, waking up a bit, realizing how close he was to falling over. He grabbed a pillar and pulled himself forward. I backed up towards the wall. The man in blue came towards me with his bouncing swaying walk. He held out a hand. I shook it.

“Thank you,” he said. “I hate working. Hate my job. I swing a hammer all day.” He took a last drag on his smoke and threw it on the ground. “I tried to hold off. Tried to wait until I was home. But I couldn’t. The train was taking too long.”

“It’s okay. Do what you do, but try to be safe.”

He was still bouncing around. It looked like he was going to stumble back towards the tracks.

“Put your back against the wall.”

I showed him by doing it myself. Back to the wall. Arms spread out pressing against it.

He listened and did the same.

“Feel the wall. Solid. Stay against it until the train comes.”

He nodded. He stayed against the wall until the train pulled in.

The cars were crowded. We both stood for one stop. He looked like he could fall down at any moment, couldn’t keep his balance. I saw someone getting up to get off. I steered my ward into the seat.

“Sit. Take a rest.”

A man standing nearby spoke.

“I can’t understand this country. I come from Croatia. Why so many people do that stuff? Always someone like that on the train. There’s so much here. So much easier than where I came from. Why be like that?”

“Be easy on him,” I said, trying to keep my voice down. “He almost fell on the tracks.”

“Really?” Mr. Croatia was surprised. “You saw?”

I told him what happened.

“Jesus, we’d have all been late getting home.”

I told him that’s why I did it. To prevent another long delay.

But that was only partially true. Gallows humor. An evil joke. I didn’t want to have another long wait, sure. But who wants to see a man die in front them, maybe fall on the tracks and touch the electrified third rail, or fall and get run over by a train. I may be a cynic, a calloused bastard, but I’ve never seen an actual or accidental jumper do it, only gone through the inconvenience that they cause. I never want to see it happen. Who needs those kind of memories? Who needs that kind of guilt? I could never be the driver of that train. I could never be one of the clean up crew. I could never be someone who just stood on the platform and watched.

My ward got off at Somerset station and staggered down the stairs. The Croatian gentleman got off at the next stop, Allegheny. And me? I rode to the end of the line, hoping a bus would be waiting for me, in working condition, with space to sit or stand. A bus that would not catch fire or collide with anything, one able to get me home without further damage and at a reasonable time.

God, I thought, if I did anything good tonight, can you just grant me that?

And it came about just as I’d prayed. SEPTA or the Almighty must have been listening.


The Night One

He dreams of her beauty,
she dreams of her sacred duty.

He dreams of love,
she dreams of blood.
He dreams of loving her,
she dreams of eating her
fill of him.

He dreams of romance and knowing,
of nudity and showing,
what he can do for her, to her, with her,
and inside her.
Of impregnating . . . her,
of his child growing inside of her,
as she pouts with pleasure
smiles at his apologies for making
her fat for a while.

She dreams of ripping her claws through his belly,
of pulping his guts into jelly.
Of laying her eggs inside him,
while he begs her to kill him
before they hatch and kill him anyway.
The taste of his bloody flesh on her tongue,
while her feathery blue wings beat
and her lips form a song,
a melody to Death and destruction.

He dreams of happiness,
but she dreams of sadness,
darkness . . . of the void beyond all things,
where the Forgotten Ones dream.

He dreams of kissing
Of loving and missing
She dreams of pissing
poison into his veins,
of driving him insane,
with the pain of his impossible desire,
for the unholy and the profane.

Brian Rosenberger

Dead Guy in the Basement

Mom willed the house to me. Unexpected.

Ours was a strained relationship. I’d runaway twice before I could legally drive.

My biological Dad was absent more days than Santa Claus and seldom discussed. My few male role models were the dudes Mom dated. Those relationships were short term at best.

Whatever family values I learned came from basic cable TV.

The dead guy, Harold, knew Mom. He never goes into detail.

Judging by the dent in his skull, I figure Harold wronged someone. Mom had a temper. One that I inherited.

How he came to be in the basement, Harold hesitates to discuss.

“Things happen,” he shrugs what is left of his decaying shoulders.

He tell me things – scratch-off lottery numbers, never a big pay-off, but enough to pay the utilities, days to stay home to avoid a traffic accident or being fired from work, dudes not to date again.

On that, he’s been spot on. Imagine that, dating advice from a corpse.

Sometimes I read to Harold. He likes those old detective magazines – stories with titles like “He Strangled Woman with their Panties” or “Nude Model was Too Sexy to Live.”

He likes story time. Me, not as much. I like that Harold enjoys my readings but can’t shake the feeling that maybe Harold’s skull could use another dent.

But then I think about the bills to pay.

The Sounds of Samsara, By John D Robinson


Born in 1963, John D Robinson is a UK poet. Hundreds of his poems have appeared online and in print. He has published several chapbooks of his poetry and 3 full collections. His work has appeared in such publications as Raw Art Review, Rusty Truck, Misfits Magazine, Poetic Diversity, Hobo Camp Review, Eunoia Review, Tuck Magazine, Poems-For-All, and The Sunflower Collective, to name a few. His latest collections include Hang In There (Uncollected Press), A Hash Smoking, Codeine Swallowing, Wine Drinking Son Of A Bitch (Alien Buddha Press), and The Sounds of Samsara.

Publishing February 15th


Josef Desade

Corpus Dilecti

Shadows flickered across the walls, as the flames protested to the breeze, created by the violent disruption the towel had caused in the air. Teeth chattering, as the ice cold water spiraled slowly down the drain; a slow drip echoing around the small bathroom, as the damp fabric slightly relieved the chill, as she ran it along her backside. Moving closer to the two candles on either side of an ornamental full length mirror, she could see goosebumps along her flesh. They reminded her of an untold story, written in braille, indecipherable without the proper eyes, or lack thereof.

A rivulet of red wax slowly wound its way around the shafts of the candles, as her body blocked out her view of the one that rested behind her; its motion almost phallic in her mind, as she placed the towel onto the toilet, its pink velour in sharp contrast with the ivory porcelain. The scent of disinfectants drifted through the cracks around the wooden door behind her, interweaving with the scent of lilac and jasmine, that wafted from the tub, and for a moment she felt lightheaded as she stepped forward into the light to grip the edge of the sink. She lifted her head slowly, her auburn curls framing her face, so that in the dim light her features seemed to almost blend seamlessly in with the darkness, her eyes gemstones that reflected the fire.

What are you doing…you don’t even know who he is.

Her reflection stared back, a glimmer of doubt in her eyes, as she slowly scanned her body. Her eyes traced scars that ran along her skin, remembrances of the cause of each and every one flirting with her mind. She felt her nipples grow hard, and her gaze fell upon a snakelike design that crisscrossed from one breast to the other. She felt a thrill of pleasure as she ran her fingers across it’s length, the violated flesh glistening like fat on a steak. She closed her eyes, the voice of the author of that story, whispering in her memory.

Such a good girl…

The air around her felt electric, as she picked up a puff that had been dipped in loose powder and began to apply it to her skin. It felt strange on her, as if it were an armor that helped brace her for this, as she took on the pallor of death. She could hear him in the room behind her, preparing the chamber in which she would portray a corpse for his pleasure, as she lined her lips in a crimson shade. It was as if a different person looked back at her, as she analyzed herself in the mirror; exposed, yet hidden by the facade created by the makeup.

How did fate bring me to this moment…in the arms of such a strange vice, that I wonder if I look deathly enough to arouse the passions of a faceless man, who craves the comfort of the grave, over those of the living?

The room behind her had grown as quiet as a crypt, as she gave herself another glance, hoping that she had done a satisfactory job for him. She turned and looked towards the door anxiously, a tremor of fear running through her, as she waited in the oppressing silence that had fallen; broken only by the slow, steady drip of the faucet in the tub.

How did I ever talk myself into such a thing…what if he doesn’t intend me to leave here as anything but what I’m about to portray…

She could feel her nerves getting out of control, as doubts began to voice themselves. A million questions ran through her mind, as she chewed nervously on a fingernail, when the silence was broken by the sound of a fan turning on. She was taken aback by a burst of icy air from the ceiling, as the candles were extinguished, and she found herself in complete darkness, as a forlorn melody began to play in the room outside the door. Grasping at the air in front of her, she stumbled forward until she felt the cracked wood before her, and ran her fingertips carefully down until she found a brass doorknob, that felt frozen to the touch. With a deep breath, she found herself oddly aroused, and with a turn of her wrist, entered the chamber beyond.

The room she found herself in was as cold as a morgue, as she felt a cool breeze being pumped throughout, from ventilation on the ceiling. It was wholly unfurnished, except for a four poster bed, that took up the center of the room, and lay naked, but for a single white sheet. Two candelabras illuminated the bedchamber, and as she padded closer it dawned on her that the bed was composed of blocks of ice, that had taken the place of a mattress, beneath the thin shroud that adorned it.

Her initial response was to flee this scene; to run back to the bathroom and lock the door, she was in over her head. But how could she of come this far, just to retreat like a wounded animal. Rent was due, and without this she would be two months behind, and her landlord was not going to be as forgiving as he was last month. She closed her eyes, and conjured up the image of her past lovers; the beautiful pain of the lash, the exhilaration when she heard them praise her for her submission…the harsh words as they chastised her, that brought her euphoric joy. With a tentative exhalation, she opened her eyes, and slowly walked to the bed that awaited.

Heart racing, she ran her fingertips over the sheet, the ice underneath biting her skin. Heart racing, she lowered herself onto the pedestal, letting out a gasp as her skin came into contact with it. The sheet was hardly protection, and it took her a moment to adjust, before she could stop her chattering teeth. She leaned back, fear gripping her body, as she felt the ice beneath slowly molding to her form. Regaining control over her breathing, she turned her eyes to the ceiling, and was greeted by grotesque visions.

Safe word…safe word!

Her brain screamed at her to end this, as she traced the images painted above her. A devilish scene played out in the heavens, as demons tortured their hapless victims for unspoken crimes. Their blood forming a spiral that wrapped itself towards the edges of the molding, like a river draining out into hundreds of little tributaries. A wave of nausea rippled through her stomach, and she fought back the acidic flow that threatened to scald her throat, as she narrowed her vision to one image on the ceiling.

A pale white figure, bent over on bended knee, its back exposed to the creature that stood over it. The demon held a lash in one hand, and its victims hair in the other, as it looked down upon its handiwork. Four red stripes across the woman’s back, tiger stripes, as she took the punishment meted out, and exposed her frail body to her judge and jury. The demon had long black hair, as it dripped saliva, and more offensive fluids onto her lowered head.

Concentrating on the scene above her, she found her stomach at ease, her breath shallow. She traced the curves on each of the figures, and felt a warmth inside as she immersed her thoughts in the fantasy world inspired by the artist’s hand. The warmth spread throughout her body, and she felt her muscles relax as she sunk into a complacent state of mind, a rush of euphoria consuming her as she closed her eyes. A click echoed throughout the room, and the flames of the candles danced behind her closed lids, as an unseen door opened, and heavy footsteps broke the silence.

Panic overcame her thoughts as the footsteps fell closer, her mind telling her to call an end to this before it was too late. She pictured the fantasy on the ceiling, as she tried to maintain steady shallow breaths, and steeled herself for what was to come. His footsteps seemed massive in the frozen room, commanding. She fought the urge to crack her eyelids just a little bit to take an innocent peek, knowing that if she did it would break his fantasy.

This is just role play…just an act. There is nothing to be afraid of, we negotiated all the terms. The safe word is always there…calm down…it is just the room…just the ambiance of this scene getting to me…breathe…it is all in my head…

She heard his footfalls at the foot of the bed, the scent of hospital disinfectant, and aftershave flooding her senses. A wave of nausea threatened to overtake her, and she focused on her breathing to keep it back; the temptation to peek becoming an urgent need in her thoughts. He had stopped before the bed, his breathing growing heavier, and as she heard his breathing she found it harder to keep her breathing shallow. She felt as if drowning, as she fought the urge to break her role. She could feel her body rebelling, her mind panicking, as she found a pinprick of light on her eyelid and forced all her thoughts towards it.

A heavenly pinprick of light in the darkness, breaking the terror that was trying to force itself into her. For a moment she felt weightless; a free falling body that focused inwards, putting herself into a trance like state, as she felt her yearning to submit begin to take control. The sudden touch of his hand upon her foot, slowly sliding its way up her leg came as a shock to her body, and she twitched, as she heard a noise of disapproval come from the unseen face above her.

Shit, I blew it. Shit…shit…shit…I am such a fuckup…

She held her breath, not daring to move a muscle, as she could feel his eyes analyzing her body. His breathing like a great beast that lurked just beyond vision, prowling the darkness that huddled around her, as it looked for the smallest sign of life. He dropped her ankle against the ice with a hard smack, stars dancing behind her eyelids, as pain rippled throughout her body. She concentrated on the sound of his breathing, as she managed to stay calm. He was moving along the side of the bed, the sickening scent of soap threatening to drown her.

She heard him turn back towards her feet, and quickly took a silent gasp of air. She could feel her heart beating rapidly in her chest, and for a moment she feared that he would hear it. She felt the blood begin to rush to her head; when all of a sudden her body violently spasmed, as he roughly gripped her ankles and threw her legs apart. Her head hit the ice, and for a moment she felt an odd pleasure from the way he had manhandled her, and then she fell into an onyx ocean.

Pulsing..rhythmic waves…strobe light vision…where am I?

The pain felt like hundreds of shards of glass sliding through her face, her body in shock as the cold seeped into her bones; the ice forming a sarcophagus to entomb her in. She fought the urge to blink as she took in her surroundings. She felt a wetness along her skin, traveling from her calf up to the inside of her thigh, as an uneasy pleasure derived from the sensation. The loss of consciousness dawned on her, as she realized that her leg was lifted upon his bulk, and fear overtook her. She parted her lips, intending to yell out the safe word, when his tongue came to its goal. She felt her back slightly arch, as the warmth touched her frozen body; stifling a whimper as she played her part.

It was an accident…I can still move…I’m not really hurt…just a mistake…but…oh…but if it happens again…

The pleasure was overwhelming, as she felt his tongue delving into the depths of her. She involuntarily put her head back, a sleepy smile across her face as he devoured her. She could feel herself wet beneath him, as he forced her other leg onto his shoulder, and lifted her up to the heavens; his nails digging into her soft flesh. She wanted to scream out, but she regained her senses, and resisted the urge.

A corpse wouldn’t do that. Good corpses lay still…corpses don’t feel…corpses don’t feel…corpses don’t feel…

Without warning he dropped her legs, the abrupt impact on the ice causing her ankle to crack.

Corpses don’t feel…

A hand across her throat, the other forcing her leg to the side.

Corpses don’t feel…

A strange mixture of pleasure and agony as she feels him force himself deep inside her.

Corpses don’t…

She felt his fingers tighten around her throat, the world was swimming as she felt his thrusts begin to tear her.


The ice…the damn ice…her vision began to go bright.

Red! Red, red, red!

She gasped the safe word as she struggled to breathe, his hand pressed tightly around her throat. She felt him thrusting harder into her, and she cried out as his hand loosened it’s grip. Gasping, she sucked in as much air as she could, to have it struck right from her as his palm connected with her jaw.

Her vision sparked to life in brilliant hues, and then a rush of reality hit her, as her body contorted. She wished the blow had killed her, as she felt his hand grip her breast, squeezing until she let out a sudden moan of pleasure. Sheer terror, as she began to struggle against him, her icy limbs refusing to cooperate. His hand came down again, the impact causing her head to bounce off the ice, as he grabbed her by the waist, pulled back, and flipped her onto her stomach.

How did I get into this…he is going to kill me…red…red…please don’t kill me…

He knelt between her legs, his hand on her back. The shock of the ice against her breasts caused her to kick her legs wildly. She tried to struggle, but a sudden calmness began to overtake her, as he slid his hand up to her neck; lightly gripping it, as if a collar. She lay still as he forced himself back into her, her head falling limp to the ice, as a silent moan escaped her lips; the only sign a puff of breath. She closed her eyes, the weight of his fingers around her neck causing an unwanted reaction.

Good girls lay still…

The voice thundered out from behind her, as if guidance from the gods. She fought back the urge to moan with every motion of his body, and then opened her eyes. There was something in the shadows…something hidden behind a sinister veil. She tried to ignore the ripples going through her body, as she squinted to see into the gloom.

She began to make out shapes, strange outlines as her eyes adjusted. She could feel his hands grabbing her ass, as her body betrayed her; the spreading warmth melting the ice beneath her. She struggled to keep focus, and then the picture became clear. She let out a scream, her cries bringing him to a frenzy, as she realized what she was seeing. Against the wall, putrid flesh, bits of skeletal material, and decaying eyes that swam in a stew of rot. The girls were lined up, sitting against the wall; their legs spread apart, touching toes. Their necks were bent at unnatural angles, and their mouth, and eyes sewn shut with a thick twine, that was coated in congealed flesh. Their hands had been positioned to cover themselves between the legs, as if in a mock show of the modesty that would of prevented them falling to this fate.

Please..don’t kill me…please I will do anything…corpses don’t feel…corpses don’t feel…

She felt his seed filling her up, as her body spasmed, her mind empty except for the mantra that ran through her head. She heard him let out a cry of ecstasy, but it seemed as if it came from a far away land; as she looked at the ceiling, and the dark fantasies it hid. His weight lifted from her body, as she felt him slide to the edge of the bed, pushing himself to his feet.

Corpses don’t feel…

His hands slid beneath her, lifting her up like a child. She felt her head roll against him.

Corpses don’t feel…

She swam on distant shores, pleasure sweating out of her pores, as the candlelight faded into the darkness.

Corpses don’t feel…

Cold tiles…blood trickling from her nose…her eyes gazing towards another realm.

Corpses don’t feel…

The sound of running water…warmth…comfort.

Corpses don’t feel…

Footsteps fading away. The sharp sound of a bolt sliding into a lock.

Corpses don’t feel…

A smile crept onto her face…she was home…she had found her grave.

Mike Zone

Hunger: A Confession

We were looking for stolen cocaine
at the time
I was living out of my car
three months
eating once a day
I needed a job
we went to the dilapidated house
waving unloaded guns
the acquaintance who would soon be my friend
used his fists like hammers
the guy and his girl
kept pleading
kept denying
until something snapped
as the middle-class kid
in the hoodie and bling
pretending to be gangster
clean, well fed and smooth
bellowed and shrieked
tears streaming down his face
a swift kick from steel toes behind his knee
buckled and broken
I sat next to him
a sinister Buddha
removing my mask
he started talking
knowing what it meant
I ate well, that day

Alan Catlin

Leper’s Head

She asks if you’ve
got a light and you
say that you do as
she leans in close
almost touching your
hands with her face,
looks up at you
as you strike a match,
cup the flame protection
from sudden breezes
inside this three sided
bus shelter box, snow
outside impelled by
the wind on Central Avenue;
as she inhales her
eyes meet yours,
the smoke snaking
from her nose as she
whispers, “I like a man
who can light a girl’s
fire.” Leans closer still,
cigarette forgotten for
the moment, says,
“I can tell you’re a man
who likes lighting girl’s
fires. How would you
really like to light mine?”
opening the top buttons
of her coat revealing
a see-through blouse,
breasts, “How would
you like to come
inside with me?
All the way inside.”
She seems like some
thing left over from
a dream, a distant
memory so vivid
and distinct you almost
forget to notice the
arrival of your bus.

Vapor Vespers: One Act Sonix


New York multi-instrumentalist Sal Cataldi (aka Spaghetti Eastern Music) partners with Alaskan playwright/poet Mark Muro for a triptastic slam of storytelling and genre-skipping sounds

New York/Anchorage, January 7, 2020 – It’s a sonic funhouse that draws upon everything from Fripp & Eno ambience and Krautrock space explorations to 70s Miles Davis funk-jazz-noise bromides, acoustic folk and baroque classicalism, all to season a world of surreal spoken word ruminations. These narratives explore scenes that are as varied as their musical backings – dramas, large and small, that take on “big think” spiritualism, romance, lust, obsession, death and the petty splendors of daily existence – with recitations that are part Eric Bogosian hyper-monologue, Bukowski/Henry Rollins poetry slam and, occasionally, a little un-PC Rudy Ray Moore party record bawdy.

Welcome to the world of Vapor Vespers, an edge- and button-pushing transcontinental collaboration between acclaimed NYC & Hudson Valley-based multi-instrumentalist Sal Cataldi (aka Spaghetti Eastern Music) and Alaskan playwright, actor and slam poet Mark Muro.

Drawing inspiration from music-powered spoken word icons like John Cooper Clarke, The Last Poets, Lord Buckley, Joe Frank, Henry Rollins and beat god Jack Kerouac, and the O.G. of monologues, Ruth Draper, the Vapor Vespers are unwrapping their ambient, industrial, funk, fuzz and jazz noise-flavored brew with One Act Sonix, a 13-track collection now available for digital download, streaming and in CD via CD Baby, Spotify, and other services. Sample via tracks below:

Cataldi and Muro’s partnership goes back to when they met in their teens in Queens, New York. Here, in the heart of blue-collar New York City, they formed a lifetime friendship and creative bond over a steady diet of Carvel Flying Saucers ice cream sandwiches, Sundew Jungle Juice, Sun Ra, Henry Miller, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa and the original spoken word recordings of the 50s and 60s from Caedmon Records.

A longtime denizen of the New York City and now Hudson Valley/Woodstock music scenes, guitarist/keyboardist Cataldi is most recently known for his solo project, Spaghetti Eastern Music. Here Cataldi fuses Eastern beats, Spaghetti Western film soundtrack ambience, Krautrock spaciness and psychedelic and funk/fusion flavored electric guitar instrumentals with gentle acoustic vocal songcraft, straight out of the John Martyn/Nick Drake songbook. Time Out New York writes: “Cataldi’s largely instrumental, Eastern-influenced jams are infused with some delicate guitar work and hauntingly moody atmosphere,” while The New York Times proclaims he has “a beat unmistakably his own.” Called “truly excellent” by The Village Voice, “a jazz virtuoso without the need to prove it” by Aquarian Weekly, “beautiful and unique” by WFUV’s Mixed Bag, “wonderfully melodic and off-center” by WFMU and “part Sergio Leone fever dream, part Ravi Shankar raga, a whirling dervish of musical creation” by Hudson Valley One, Cataldi keeps up a steady schedule of performances at leading venues in the Big Apple and the Hudson Valley.

Bronx-born Mark Muro has been a cultural force in Anchorage, Alaska since relocating in the mid-1980s. His short stories and poetry have been published in anthologies including North of Eden and The Anchorage Daily News and he has produced and performed in a series of one-man shows including The Bipolar Express, Indistinct Chatter and Not Marketable at theaters including Cyrano’s and Out North, and also at the annual Alaska One-Minute Play Festival. Muro has acted in numerous independent films and commercials, performed standup comedy, represented the state of Alaska in The National Poetry Slam. He also served as host of the PBS radio show, Stage Talk.  His newest one-man show, Bug Boy: Curse of the Ant Queen, premiered in November 2019 at Anchorage’s Cyrano’s Theater.

One Act Sonix was recorded and engineered by Sal Cataldi about the studio aboard his houseboat in Port Washington, Long Island, Houseboat Garlic Knot Studios, and Sonic Garden Studios in West Saugerties, New York (1/4 mile from the legendary Big Pink house made famous by The Band). All tracks were mastered, and several remixed, by Grammy-winning engineer Bob Stander at Parcheesi Studios.

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