Ken Kakareka

About Mid-day

A good café 
is important 
for a writer. 
There aren’t 
many 
good cafés
or writers 
left. 
I have a good café 
that I go to 
downtown. 
It still preserves 
its important features – 
framed photos 
of when it opened, 
sturdy tables 
with chipped edges, 
and unquestionably 
strong coffee. 
There are other 
important features, 
but these are some 
that stimulate me 
now. 
It is Rialto Café 
on Wilshire Ave. 
There is not much 
seating, 
and the windows 
are large enough 
to get lost through. 
It’s important 
to be able 
to get lost 
through the windows 
of a good café. 
The only thing 
that bothers me 
today 
about Rialto 
is that 
the 3 new young kids 
working 
haven’t looked up 
from their phones 
since I started 
this poem. 
And I’m almost 
done. 
The 2 girls 
in the kitchen 
are checking out 
a new dating app 
that they’re giddy 
about. 
And the curly-haired boy 
leaning on the counter 
is watching 
the World Cup. 
I can’t say 
I blame him. 
It would be 
in good taste 
if it was in 
the right setting. 
But not while 
you’re supposed to be 
attentive 
to a sensitive writer 
whose coffee cup 
is empty. 
Maybe they’re just 
entertaining the fact 
that I’m writing. 
But I highly doubt it. 
I want to give 
these younger kids 
the benefit 
of the doubt. 
I remember a time 
when you couldn’t be 
on your phone 
at work. 
How did phones 
wiggle their way 
into everything 
we do? 
My pocket is vibrating; 
it’s my sister 
sending me snaps 
of the kids. 
Time to 
check my phone, 
see what kind of 
shenanigans
my niece and nephew 
are up to
and then get lost 
through the windows. 

Vivian Pollak

Nevermore

“Poe is so overrated” came the muffled response.  

I see. Vain, sophomoric, and one-dimensional till the end, I thought.

And as if he couldn’t help himself, “…and so are the Beatles!”

I flicked my Bic through the aperture in the door.

There he sat with that stupefied gleam of sexual anticipation in his rheumy eyes. What a bonehead. And, what a boner too! Right through his green tights!  A boy scout badge-worthy tent! Maybe I missed one last opportunity?  I’d put a lot to energy into our 17th Century European Historical Bondage costumes.  His oxford-red argyle chapeau with the craft feather was still nestled snugly on his cranium and the cobalt blue felt cape with the gold bells was fluted symmetrically about his torso.  He was handcuffed to the wrought iron turrets. Very secure indeed. My own harlequin costume with the breast holes cut out and my hard nips ready to commence full-throttle fire-drone mode, made me feel silly all of a sudden. 

Howsomever, what luck to have discovered this abandoned broken down cottage with the wine cellar, in the deep bushes of nowhere. An old swingers pad. A friend of a friend of a friend put me wise to the place. Seriously distant degrees of separation. On our way in, I spied two ceramic gnomes in the garden, their faces in freeze-frame fuck-friendly smiles. But upon closer inspection, I swear those little buggers were cheering me on. Poor dears: they appeared to have been nibbled on by desperation rabbits.  

“Now wait here, Fortunato.”  I cracked up at my sense of humor in giving the game away.

“I will be back in a jiffy.  With the belt and the riding crop!” I added.

I checked the lock one final time.  

Ah, Fortunato. 

I have thought deeply about revenge. And Poe. And narcissism. And evil. But I’m alright. I left a copy of Poe’s Complete Tales under the chair. Once he slumps, it will be his final bit of reading material. 

“Hey! Hello! Little Dove? I’m really randy!”  The bells, though muffled, jangled distinctly.

On my way out, I scooped up both weather-worn gnomes and wrapped them snugly in my ruffled codpiece.

“I shall name you Edgar; and you Allen.”

In pace requiescat.

Rob Plath

achilles heel heart 

some say the twenty-four ribs 
protect the heart 
i say the heart is an achilles heel 
always a target 
pierced no matter the armor 
even when opening & closing alone 
in a small room 
i say the twenty-four ribs is a terminal 
where the heart awaits the final blade 
& the rungs of arched bone 
become a fighting cage at last 
for worms to war over red shreds

Anthony Dirk Ray

Shenanigans in the Bushes

in front of my workplace
between two bushes
we’ve found evidence
of strange goings on
in the recent past
for example one morning
an old stained pot
latex gloves and 
drug paraphernalia
were on the ground
another day multiple
used condemns and liquor
bottles littered the area
but today…
an older white female coworker
while shaking her head said
“I don’t know how to describe
this, you have to come look”
what I observed was a half
of an oversized hotdog wiener
caked with feces beside
a pool of brown liquid
with a latex glove nearby
I nearly vomited at the site
I hovered over the turd aghast
in utter bewilderment and thought
‘where’s the other half of this wiener?’
I assume it broke off and
wasn’t eaten as a snack afterwards

I guess it’s just like
that old adage

a wiener in the ass 
is better than 
two in the bush

Donna Dallas

I’m Clean Right?

Ain’t a pill I didn’t swallow
or grind up and snort
rolled through Broadway
years 
worn little jackets
covered nothin in the cold – that I didn’t feel

Tell you I was numb
always so sedated 
as I traipsed uptown
just before dawn
found the place
to hold me until 3pm
with something to steady me
those breaking hours
took a lifetime
when the demons would kick in
the paranoid sense that everyone knew
I was high as fuck
the suffocating guilt
of shit that wasn’t even real – my imagined self
on a 48-hour binge

Thought I wouldn’t make it home that afternoon
in the blizzard
I should’ve been dead
like Sydney
that same night
we were in the same places
drove our separate vehicles
Sydney drove off the Whitestone Bridge
I drove the Bronco into a snow drift
like it was a winter dune 
and I was Mad Max
in that movie
I could never follow

Rasping and almost unconscious
I found the key under the mat
frozen fingers pawed through layers of snow
an impossible feat 
it wasn’t me 
call it kismet
angels
fate
aliens – call that shit
whatever you want

I’m clean now baby
so clean I can hike four miles in the morning
every seven years or so we re-zhuzh – our organs
our blood
all of it
I’ve done a few cycles
I’m good right?

Ken Fleckenstein

Justin

It was almost 2AM

I was parked outside my apartment waiting for a friend to grab a half smoked pack of cigarettes from my living room

A man with his hood drawn approached my car window

“Hey man, can you help me?”

I didn’t know what to say, it being 2AM and all

“It’s me, Justin, don’t you recognize me?”

It was Justin alright, with his unshaven face and matted hair with a dead gleam in his eyes

The years of heroin didn’t do his natural beauty any good

Neither did the stories of his robberies across town

“Justin, no man, you need to leave”

“I just need a place to stay!”

“Seriously, you can’t crash with me!”

“Come on!”

“Fuck off!”

My friend returned, lighting a cigarette

“What’s up, man?”

“Oh nothing” Justin sighed and walked away, defeated again

I found out later he slept in my laundry room and the landlord had to call the police to remove him

I also found out his girlfriend thought “we’ve broken up” and “he’s in rehab” were the same thing

She had a Heartagram tramp stamp that moved in sync with her hips when she was thrusting herself up and down on me

He left me a very passive aggressive birthday wish on my Facebook wall that following year

He’s sober now

Jay Maria Simpson

You Seduce Me with Your Being

Your smothering shoulders
entangle me
Your tattooed arms
embrace my hips
You kiss my open silent wound
while I hold your secret safe
in the dark darkest forest
where our blood runs pure as honey
where the earth spills its beating heart

Life and art explode in battles
where only lovers can survive
in lust and mud and undergrowth

HST: Prose in Poor Taste, Vol. 3

The long-awaited 3rd volume of HST: Prose in Poor Taste has finally arrived!

Featuring work by Jason A. Feingold, Ben Fitts, James Babbs, John Yohe, Matthew Licht, Victor Cass, Elizabeth Bedlam, Zane Castillo, Anthony Dirk Ray, Judge Santiago Burdon, Ronan Cartwright, Kiki Von Kristmass, Kevin Brown, Eric Lawson, Judson Michael Agla, Tim Frank, Stuart Stromin, David Thomas Peacock, David O. Hughes, Duncan Ros, Charles Austin Muir, David Wesley Hill, Sean M.F. Sullivan, Kevin M. Flanagan, Ve Wardh, Jonathan Woods, Earl Javorsky, and Joseph Farley.

BUY A COPY HERE

Paige Johnson

Office After-Hours 

Once the microphones have wilted, 
their laser targets disarmed dotless,
we lower from stuffy leather seats
to dusty floorboards and bean bags. 

Matches kiss candle wicks 
above blood-red mahogany, 
splattering the wall with mauve 
shadows for a friendly séance:
a meetup with old acquaintances
and enemies young enough
to find mutable, moldable. 

The crinkle of ketamine tablets
from pop-out rounds, the dig
of your long, pale fingers into
the abyss of your sable suit 
jacket, always arouses me. 

The rush starts in my heart
and heads south, like the
cells in my aorta are home-
ward bound cars on the 
Autobahn: opal speedsters.

Nobody’s as slick as you, though.
And I don’t mean the Brylcreem
part in your auburn locks or the 
starlit twinkle off your bezel head.
But the fluidity with which you pass
one tablet from tray to tongue,
from yours to mine like waves 
jostling a buoy back and forth. 

The taste should be TV static, 
cherry-peppermint La Croix,
but I only notice your cinnamon 
tin sweetness and toothpaste. 
What should overwhelm me is
the gaggy smell of baby powder 
and Rx glove oxidation from the
blister pack, but I only notice your 
cool water cologne, lint-rolled lapels,
their bursts of veranda-flower breeze.

If we keep our eyes squinted,
the room should transform
soon: from bookshelves,
storage blocks, and 
egg carton foam 
soundproofing
to volcanic sunsets 
from rice-paper windows, 
the exhilaration of entrapment 
in closed convenience stores, and
wall-carpeted step-down trip caves 
that trump ski lodges in cocoa coziness.   

If we keep our fingers threaded
while our mouths fill with moon water, 
we won’t feel so ashamed when the soggy 
rocks dribble out. Lunar larvae, you’ve dubbed it.
“Debris of the cerebellum that alter balance, took
away your natural lightness, springy space boots.” 

We reclaim it all in one ring around the midnight sun.

Gordon P. Bois

A Little Less Jarring, A Little Less Rude 

“Had I known that he used words like that, I would’ve never considered reading his book, let alone give him a review.” 

“What words did he use that made you so upset?” 

“Well, they’re just vulgar and not something that a lady like myself should ever, ever have to say.” 

“I’m having a bit of trouble understanding the source of your anger.  Now take a deep breath and tell me what specific words he used that’s got you so riled up.  I won’t hold it against you.” 

“Very well if you really must know.  The two words that this heathen, who considers himself to be well read and a seasoned writer, are none other than: fuck, and cunt.  I feel so disgusted with myself now, for having uttered those words.  I think I’m going to have to wash my mouth out with soap.  Maybe say a little prayer.” 

“Oh my. Did you tell him how upset you were?” 

“Oh yes.  I even suggested that he change the words to something a little less jarring, a little less rude.” 

“And how did he respond to that?” 

“He said that the words were fitting for the pieces that he put them in, and that he wouldn’t change a thing.” 

“How did you feel about his response?  Did you try reasoning with him any further?” 

“Of course, I did, it’d be foolish if I hadn’t.  I asked him if he cared what his readership thought. Then I pointed out to him that he should put the wants and needs of his readers first, otherwise, he wouldn’t have a readership to speak of.” 

“And did that get him to come around to your way of thinking?” 

“Heavens no, quite the opposite I’m afraid.  He went on to say that he writes for himself, and if no one likes what or how he writes, that suits him just fine.” 

“So, what happened after that, once he firmly stated his position for writing like he does?” 

“Nothing.  There’s just no reasoning with someone like that.  So, I got up from the table I was sitting at and left the room.  I could neither stomach nor stand to be seen in the same room with him.” 

“Just a few more questions and I’ll wrap up this interview.” 

“Thank heavens.  I don’t know how much more of this I can take.  I feel sick to my stomach.  I feel as though I’m going to throw up any minute now.” 

“Just hang in there.  It’s almost over.  So where is he now?  Did he lose the very readership that you warned him about?  Did he happen to change his vile, writerly ways?” 

“He didn’t change anything about the way he writes, or what he writes about.  If anything, he’s at the top of his game now.  His readership just adores him, no matter what he does or says.  Last I heard, his following has grown exponentially.  Can you believe that?  Isn’t it insane?  Even the readers are pathetic, just like he is.” 

“Well, that pretty much wraps up our interview session for today.  Any last words for my reading audience and for those who’ll be tuning into my podcast later today?” 

“I’ve got nothing more to say.  If it’s any consolation, I’ll pray for him and his readership.  It’s not like it’s going to make a bit of difference.  They’re all going to hell anyway.” 

“Well, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion.  Anyhow, as hard as this interview was for you, I thank you for your time.  And for those of you just tuning in, hit the subscribe button, and like our page.  In closing, I hope everyone has enjoyed today’s session and that you and yours have a great day!”