Jon Bennett

The West Is Dying And There’s Nowhere To Go But The Sea

After coffee the day stretched out before me, impossibly long, like a desert I’d die in trying to cross. I wished I didn’t have a month sober. If I didn’t have a month sober going down to pill corner would be fine, just another day, but I did so getting drugs would represent a major failure.

I pulled on my pants and put on my hat. 

As I walked a woman I thought I loved texted me from Illinois. She had moved and gotten sober. Now she was doing great all the time. She was on a handful of psych meds and going to 12 Step meetings. It was a race to see who would start dating first but I knew she’d win because she was much more attractive than me.

“How’re you doing?” that was her.

“Fine. Have you started dating again?” I knew not to ask how she was doing because it was always “Great!” 

“Yes!” she wrote, and stabbed in a picture of a bouquet.

I thought angry thoughts. I thought what’d you ever bring to the table besides that body, she never read anything or wrote anything and her paintings weren’t that good. I guessed I had loved her for years but I didn’t know, maybe she was only a reason for getting high, maybe I needed someone to forget and she happened to be that person.

But then I loved her again, I loved my princess and now she was dating and since she was sober chances were this boyfriend would be permanent, because that’s what happens when 40 year old women who are still pretty get a boyfriend, they marry him. It had happened enough that I knew.

I let the text thread die.

At pill corner no one had anything.

“You got anything small?” I said. They never knew what I meant.

“What?”

“Any Vicodins, Percocets, like 5 mgs?”

“I got heroin.”

“I have Xanax.” 

“All I got are 80s.”

An 80 mg oxycodone is a pill they give people with terminal disease who have already been on painkillers for a long time. It’s a hospice drug. An 80 mg for a normal person is suicide, like taking 16 Percocets at once. If you don’t puke it up you’ll stop breathing.

“How much?”

“100.”

“Fuck!”

“Want it?”

“OK.”

Or maybe Illinois girl was my muse. A muse is somewhere for a lonely person to put all their emotions, like a UPS guy filling up a truck. I take all those pent up feelings that need to go somewhere and put them in the truck, I write them down and the truck drives away. Plenty of metaphors there about sore backs, flat tires, packages I can’t lift. Stupid shit.

As he gave me the pill we coughed Covid in each other’s faces. Maybe. The air was smoky.  It was fire season. Down in Las Vegas the lie of ample water was crushing the South West and in San Francisco the fog was burning off. And every time I did drugs I knew there wasn’t much brain left either, that it too would soon be a cinder.

“Take care, bro.”

Yeah, right.

Since I was on foot I could go to a bar. I wouldn’t drink and drive anymore because I’d nearly killed some DoorDash motherfucker on an electric scooter, and anyhow driving around the Tenderloin was dangerous, people walked in front of traffic as a way to end their addiction to fentanyl, at least that’s how it seemed.

I decided on the old merchant marine bar. They didn’t open until 4 but it took a while to get there, a couple bus rides. My fingers found the switchblade I carry and as I rode I opened and closed it inside my pocket, and my fingers found the round green pill, the size of a gem, a topaz, and I thought about it sitting there waiting for me.

At the bar I looked at the Jewish bartender. She was obviously Jewish to me as I am also Jewish. She was pretty and her shirt revealed her midriff which was pale and flat and reminded me of the low-hanging paunch beneath my layers of clothes that I hate so much. I drank 2 shots of tequila too fast and then I wanted something better and went to the bathroom.

You’d think 80 milligrams would be a big pill but it was the size of an aspirin. I decided I’d have to cut it into 8 slivers. There was also a 50/50 chance it was actually fake, fentanyl instead of oxycodone, which would make me extremely sick.

I wasn’t drunk enough to try the operation on the toilet paper holder. So I held off and went back to the bar and tried not to look at the bartender’s naval.

In my life I had good friends I didn’t see that often and one very good friend I used to see a lot, but her life had gotten busier and so I didn’t see her much anymore either. She was another woman on a short list of ex-girlfriends I could’ve married. I was grateful I still had her as a friend but I missed hanging out with her and when I got drunk sometimes I got angry about it. I was always angry at myself but when drunk it turned into being angry at other people. I drank two tequila sunrises for the sugar and the 80 milligram started heating up like a little sun in my pocket. But I still held off.  Instead I texted my good friend even though I knew she was busy.

“Will you come get me? I took a fentanyl,” I lied.  “I think I’m going to be sick.”

She got back to me pretty fast.

“I’m working on my thesis.”

“?” I said.

“Fine.” 

I told her where and she came and got me in her fucked up Prius with the Bernie Sanders sticker. She didn’t know how wholesome she was.

“Hi,” I said.

“Do we need to go to the ER?!”

“I’m not really sick.”

“How much did you take?”

“I didn’t take anything,” I said. “Are you hungry?”

“John!”

“You aren’t hungry?”

“Do you realize how much work I have to do?”

“You should get a medal,” I said.

She knew I wasn’t doing well. Lying was as close as I could come to asking her for help.

“Where do you want to go?”

“Golden Boy Pizza. Thanks.”

We went and got cheese slices and sat in Washington Park because she was afraid of Covid. The sun had gone down already and it was cold. The pizza was cold too.  And I was not a golden boy, not to her, not to anyone. I was almost old. But at least the 80 mg oxycodone stopped yelling at me. It was just one more thing with potential that would probably never happen.

Damon Hubbs

Amsterdam

the potato eaters is on loan
peeled & disrobed 
from the museum wall

& then the mushrooms
the magic ones, not the trip truffles 
which are magic-lite & 

the little printed card from the hotel lobby 
cheerfully suggests the bad feeling will pass
coca-cola can help, fruit juice, a walk

dredging thought-shards the next day
like drowned bikes from the canal
we bench it, drink Heineken tallboys

could be worse
(dead after jumping from a bridge near IJ-tunnel—)
(Frenchman stabs his own dog after eating hallucino—) 
could be. But

bereft, we wonder if Amsterdam is bust 
until the girl in the lobby of the Anne Frank House 
asks if we want to party 

the poor taste 
of animal shamelessness 
fumbling at a moral-zipper

twenty years on
I still feel bad saying yes 
but the bad feeling will pass, 
always does

Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Full Nudity 

We sit down to dinner 
and a movie
that promises some violence
and full nudity.

I pause the movie
and see that the running time
is 2h and 7mins.

That means everyone is naked 
for the entire movie,
I say.
Over 2 hours in the buff.
Anything less would be
“partial nudity.”

She laughs
and says she doesn’t think
that’s what it means.

When the first clothed person appears,
I tell her we should stop it 
because they have lied yet again.

But she wants me to keep it going.
Like laryngitis running a four minute mile.

They’re not even topless,
I complain.
We’re not even halfway 
there!

Brian Rosenberger

Awful things happen to good people

Car wreck. Cancer. Lightning strike.
Stray bullet. Shark attack. Bee sting.
Eaten by alligators, cats, or some flesh-eating virus,
Or by a neighbor.
You’ve seen the same headlines I have.
You know it’s true.
War. Disease. Natural disaster.
Death by mudslide. Death by Bologna sandwich.
Death by Botox. Death due to shopping.
Why do you think it’s called Black Friday?
Wrong place. Wrong time.
Victim after Victim.
You know it’s all true.
Assuredly, they are all awful things.
But good people…
Assuredly. Probably. More often than not.
But I’ve been around. You’ve been around.
Some of the awful things were, in fact, awful people.
They had it coming. Had it happened sooner
You and I, the good people, or at least us,
Making the attempt would be better off
As would the World.

Alexander Poster

Murder, We Wrote

When we played Clue as a family,
Miss Scarlet always was the killer.
It was my mother’s warning 
about a certain type of woman.
As a young Professor Plum
In the study with a candlestick
Guess who I pursued?

I don’t like to dedicate poems
But this one is for the harlots
In the room.
The ones who don’t yet want to kill me.
The ones with scars where they shouldn’t be.
The ones that actually need the unpoetic trigger warning I should 
Have just given.

Passion by both its definitions
Is a form of consideration
And the passion you gave me was a roll
Of the dice.
Through laughter and lacrimation
Verity and vulnerability 
Your crazy intertwined with mine
As we took each other’s meds
Which were the same.

I suspect
It is a crime
Against all genders
That the game lacks
A character, masculine and moonstruck,
Easy and wild.

Make an accusation,
Open the envelope
And pull out the card I drew of myself.
My mother hated when I did that.

Jeff Weddle

Into the Wild

The limp of the tiger 
stalking the ragged ape 
under a dying moon. 

Nothing lasts. 

Even the kudu understand. 

They don’t run. 
They don’t even skitter. 

The limp of the tiger, 
the puzzle of a dead man 
beside a dirt road, 

a man roaring 
just yesterday. 

His woman will never know
the truth. 

The ragged ape
turns to face the tiger, 
sizing up the limp. 

In a small house
miles away
a woman
who does not yet know
she is a widow
makes hard love 
to a boy half her age. 

Everything is vicious. 

The boy basks in his good fortune 
as the ape continues on his way
and the tiger gives up
and looks for a place 
off the beaten path
to sleep.

Waking up
or sleeping forever,
each is just the same. 
The tiger is ready for what comes. 

The widow screams in ecstasy.

The boy believes he 
understands something  
he had not known before, 
but he is wrong.

Love is a possibility 
but, as even the most ragged ape 
will tell you, a good death
is less certain 

and definitely matters more.

Daniel S. Irwin

So Cool

Aw, man, you are so cool.
At least, that’s what you tell everybody.
Some people are goofy enough to believe it.
You spout some words that don’t mean shit
Tryin’ to entice some ho to wrap her long legs
Around your head and koochie-koochie her
Taint in yo face so she can alternate pressin’ her
Cunt and her asshole in your face.
You don’t mind if she’s not all that clean
And don’t wipe away her crap so well
That it smears across her butt cheeks,
In turn, smearing across your face.
Jizz leakin’ from an encounter before you
Just tastes like prison juice.
Yeah, bitch, you so cool, you deserve
A face smeared with shit while you profess
To be better than everybody else.
Talk shit, loser, crawl back under your rock.

Damon Hubbs

Not with a Whimper but a Bang Bot

it turns out 
the Swiss futurologist 
was right

the Autoblow robot 
was the beginning 
of the end

Harmony 
Nova
Serenity & 

the rest of the TrueCompanions 
have left the lab
to take over the world

the question 
of whether it’s ethically dubious 
to force a toaster to make toast

is of no concern
when Wild Wendy & 
S&M Susan

fuck us to death 
while quoting Shakespeare

Kristin Garth

Star Power 

If you strip long enough in a small town 
even ghosts of sexual assaults past 
are eventually found at the round
end of a phallic shaped stage being flashed
by some “sexy librarian” in cat-eyed 
glasses, reminiscent of college girl you,
tormented in his daddy’s McMansion, pine 
forest views.  Sneak past three piece suits
to the dressing  room.  One hour to ply baby lotion,
perfume, plaid skirts, kneesocks, pigtails 
conjure innocent skin he has never been in — 
college stoner cum businessman.  Want details,
how he wailed when ejected from this bar.
A body broken by him makes you a star. 

John Yohe

autogynephilia

I have worn women’s underwear at night
I have looked in a mirror and wondered
my nylonned legs smooth and shiny in black
worrying if I even look alright
identifying my greatest asset
telling myself I’m still not good enough
but feeling sexy in panties and bra
feeling how women can dress for themselves
wondering if they desire themselves too
I have wanted to fuck myself somehow
while wanting to be fucked by a real man
I have wondered 
what would happen for real
wondered what for real for me even means