Daniel S. Irwin

The Human Race

Marita touched my ‘Very Merry’
And that led to the poppin’ of a cherry.
Which was good…so good.

Now if God is love and Satan sin,
Whose idea was it that a bottle of gin
Should get me happy first, later sad,
An’ in the mornin’ make my head hurt bad?

You know, Jesus, he’s a friend of mine,
So’s his sidekick, Frankenstein.
We get together, change some water to wine,
Chitchat ’bout women fine.

Life can be good, like that Marita I had,
But sometimes life can drive you mad.
Is there an answer?  Are we garbage in space?
No need to worry, it’s just the human race.

Casey Renee Kiser

We Live in That 80’s Song We Love

I dreamed you were on Jeopardy!
( our love’s in jeopardy, baby…. )

You got every single question 
except
the one in which the answer was
emotion

Of course on Jeopardy,
the answer IS the question 
and emotion, for You, 
certainly is

I thought
this is the most real moment 

I’ve ever seen on television
Then it caught fire

It wasn’t even plugged in

and I wasn’t even asleep

Casey Renee Kiser

The Narcissist

How the narcissist cured me
of my addiction to him

When I told him I knew
he was a cheater,
he replied:

‘Now baby, you know
I’m too lazy for that’

All I could think
in that moment
was how much
this creature’s shit
fucking bored me

A rush of anxiety overcame me
cause I just couldn’t wait
to get back home,
light candles

And masturbate to old videos
of Christian Slater
and put away my laundry

Michael D. Amitin

Ride

i died last night
swept away in some dirty shack,
dark sea storm
faces and places shipwrecked pasts
crashing into my night waves

i feel good when i go there
tonight
bottle of sweet red wine,
or king louie’s can-can oil

ma earth giving humanity sharp right hook 
fog smacked world, fuck it

dr sargebait dropping medicine bombs
on pretty docile dolls,
sweet swab queencakes

eskimos laying out welcome mats
sea polar bears took a wrong turn

swig my way to the night burgundy shores
well-lit wharf rats,
fudge sundae carnivals
past the sword swallower’s den, 
speed of night,
rebirth of a moment
a quasar 

… ride

David Calogero Centorbi

If It’s Not Saint Laurent Leather

When I saw him in his Lululemon Athletics, drinking a bud light, and standing in a Juul cloud at the end of the bar, I decided it meant that living and lazy could live happily ever after: we ended up with a Peloton, two Peterbald cats, and a greenhouse full of Hart’s-tongue ferns.

When I left, I took the Peloton. 

After that, I decided it would be much easier to live my life in dreams: as long as my mind stayed firm I could say things like, “We’ll always have Paris” and “My tastes are very singular.” My lovers would always know what that meant and every morning we could fly to the Grancaffè Quadri in Venice for brunch.

That plan burned out quickly: I knew I could only dream for so long until my Hulu and Amazon Prime were canceled and Siri taken away because my love-dreams couldn’t pay the bills.

I fought that truth for a bit, but I got it together.

I even met my new neighbor in the Whole Foods parking lot. He was in Gucci and his cart was full of Bud Light seltzer. I decided that meant flash and sweet could be the mix that lived happily ever after.

The next day he introduced me to his new, no-one-knows-what-breed-it-is, rescue dog. I went on walks with them. He and I would indulge in the centuries-old custom of ice cream in the park on a bench near a fountain. 

And, once again, that thing started to slink its way back into my life. Don’t call it by its name I kept telling myself, not yet. 

So, I gave it some time, but finally said its name, and he cried, “I was waiting for this, but I wanted you to say it first.”

Our decision was Eastside or Westside. He decided Eastside because it was closer to the park. 

To celebrate our first year his friends and family gathered around his enviable RH dining room table ready to enjoy his version of Chef Alexis Gauthier’s Vegan Foie Gras and Beetroot Terrine, even though none of us were vegan. 

Before we ate he decided there should be candlelight, and there was Owen Drew. 

During the meal he decided there should be music: there was a cello, a violin, and Beethoven’s Duet in C Major.

And then, the next morning, over Presco Mamassos, I decided to say goodbye and thought: from now on it will be sunlit brunches at Grancaffè and moonlit strolls through the Bois de Vincennes in Paris, and all my lovers will be in Saint Laurent Leather and drinking Mitchter’s Bourbon.

Curt Last

The Stripper, Part Deux

Don’t let anyone tell you
a stripper is better in bed
than a regular woman…
possibly because they know
they can work less
for more returns—
like a Ferrari—
you can put time
and money into them, but…
take them out on the street?
All looks and high performance
that breaks down quickly
and is constantly in the shop
for repairs as your soul
dwindles.
Mine was hot, 5’2”
petite with curves
for a skinny girl
and what other strippers told her
was “a pretty pussy.”
I never said shit.
She rode me in reverse cowgirl one night,
turned and said,
“Do you like that?”
I wasn’t into the visual,
only when watching good porn,
as sex is the ultimate
spectator sport—
as evidenced by the fact that
so many think they’re good,
but on game day
reality hits them in the face;
though for me,
straight, deep fucking
with only a few positions changes
always works well,
and they get loudest 
when one goes deepest
and hardest
and their moans and screams can’t
hide that fact.
Acrobats and showmen
are just that, while true performers
are athletes—and often women 
can’t even understand this fact;
But we’re talking about this one
and that one
and keeping it hard has never
been an issue,
even after it’s all done
and the cum is dripping
off a still-swollen head…
yes, to me the real thing 
needed less than games
and play—the simpleness
of penetration
and just right angles
activate all the moving
and only moving-through-
specific-action parts, and
her action was alright,
though I felt trapped in
by that question.
Damn this writer’s mind
of mine—
it makes one hard to impress
with stale bedroom
stereotypes.
She yelled out “This pussy 
is yours!” on another night.
All I could think to myself 
was, “Shut the fuck up,
I’m trying to get off!”
Bullshit lines never
did anything for me.
She even gave me
a blow job after a shift
one night, and I fell dead
asleep.
The next morning 
I was greeted by her anger
and the statement,
“I can’t believe you fell
asleep while I was
giving you a blowjob.
I’ll never give you
another one.”
I just thought, “Good,
if that’s all you got,
I don’t need it.”
A stripper
who couldn’t give
a decent blow job—
that’s just my luck in life.

Curt Last

The Stripper

She said she was 23…
turned out she was 19
and it showed more
and more as the days went on.
She was epileptic and bipolar—
I wasn’t too fond of the mania,
as she would often jump
me and wrestle me to the ground
until I had to forcefully overpower
her by twisting her wrists back
until she was in enough pain
to stop fucking with me.
Met her at the strip club,
she was dancing to Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable”—
it should have been her theme,
better yet, Erykah Badu’s “Baglady.”
She sat in my lap while talking
to my best friend,
said it was the only way to get
through to me, but my stoic hardness
always seems to attract these women.
Then it was late nights at Denny’s
after her shifts until she suddenly moved in.
She blazed chronic everyday,
I learned through her exactly
what a heaven Huntington Beach
was to a 420 loser since there were
5 head shops within a 2-mile radius
of my apartment, and I got to know
each one and the ugly ceramic
“water pipes” she bought at them.
She was loaded always, and the epileptic fits
made me sit and freak out—watching
her body contort on the ground,
making sure her tongue was in her
mouth and that she wasn’t going
to hit anything. 
She danced to Jack Johnson
in my living room—
it reminded me of Juliet Lewis 
in Natural Born Killers,
the scene when Robert Downey Jr.
visits her cell, and she’s flowing
and dancing, completely gone,
let go, and ready to strike
like a wild animal if bothered.
She would dance, and it disturbed me,
because I would always think of the movie
and that character and how unstable 
the character was, and how
it mirrored her instability,
how she would grab me
out of nowhere
and try to wrestle me to the ground.
I usually gave in and let myself drop,
but if it was hurting, or if she was
going to far, trying to put a hand up 
my ass, trying to push the humiliation,
that’s where I would grab the wrists 
and push them back until she cried,
until she left me the fuck alone.
She was fun the first two weeks
of this 6-month storm
and when we dosed on E
rolling hard on an ocean
in my living room,
but that was brief
and the long spells
and learning her background
just made it feel more and more
like a death I couldn’t escape.
She would dance, laugh,
try to put me in a choke hold—
all in the same moment sometimes.
I had to take her to an island
to shake her. It wasn’t me,
it was something in my subconscious.
Got her on the other side of the Pacific,
took her to a strip club one night
and later she would tell me,
“You took the crackhead to the crackhouse.”
And I left her there.
I went home alone,
and she left Guam a few years later
with a husband
after screwing over the bouncer
at her club, who I actually liked.
She hit me up a month short of
boot camp, and I listened 
to the message and just said,
“Fuck that,”
as I was a month away from
going into the Navy,
head-first on some crazy
writer’s pursuit of experience,
and I had had enough of flawed women
at that moment.

William Taylor Jr.

A Reprieve

It’s the plague times, California’s on fire
and most everything you can name
has gone to shit.

Each day we wake to learn how easily
200 and some odd years of more
or less democracy can be dismantled 
like a makeshift stage by a television 
con man, his assemblage of toadies
and an indifferent population.

The days are are dreary, nebulous
and each the same.

But Jon comes by in his old car like some
broken saint and he takes us 
to North Beach where the sidewalk cafes 
are just opening again after months 
of being shuttered.

We sit outside Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store 
across from Washington Square Park
drinking wine and beer and the world 
feels nearly right again.

The air is filled with good talk and laughter
as we look at the girls and shoot shit about the poets
and you can imagine the neighborhood 

how it was back when Kerouac got dead 
drunk in the alley that now bears his name
and Brautigan sat in the park with a jug 
of wine and one of his pretty girlfriends.

It feels like the day after the end of a war
and the giant sky and the lazy sun
and the people alive beneath it all miracles 
you thought you’d never see again

but in truth the war’s just gearing up
and the afternoon just a quick gift of light, 
a tease to give us something to maybe 
remember or fight for, and me and Jon 
we’re like prisoners on a holiday sucking 
it all in as best we can before everything 
goes dark again.

J.J. Campbell

drowning sorrows

boredom is always
a concern for me
 
too much time on 
my hands leads to 
endless thoughts
of death
 
drowning sorrows 
in liquor
 
and dreams of pissing 
on my father’s grave
 
i remember when 
my imagination
still had a sense 
of wonder
 
of course, i had 
money and drugs 
during those days
 
now i have neither
 
soon, i feel like they 
will be taking me 
behind the old 
barn
 
and we all know 
what happens
there

Hank Kirton

Pictures of Lela

They finally found Lela at the cemetery. Her body at least. They’d been searching for her ever since she disappeared three days before. It took the police three whole days to find her and they didn’t even find her. A couple of doom-laden teenage girls discovered her. They were hanging around the graveyard taking pictures of antique tombstones, dressed in black, smoking thin cigarettes and they came upon Lela. They weren’t expecting to find dead people on top of the ground.

They looked at the body for several stunned, silent minutes and then began to greedily take pictures. They both posed with the corpse.

“Okay, look up at me. Big smile.”

“She’s starting to smell.”

“Hey, if she’s gone all rigor mortis maybe we can pose her. Like a Barbie.”

“I don’t really want to touch her.”

“Yeah, me either.”

And then they came to their senses and called the cops. They had seen stories on the news about Lela, the latest missing blond chick, and figured they’d gain local fame for finding her.

Poor Lela had a clear plastic bag over her head but when they completed the autopsy they learned that she’d died as a result of too much fentanyl. The plastic bag suggested foul play but wasn’t the cause of death. A precaution maybe? Overkill? They also found traces of semen in her deceased vagina.

The two teens, Cassie and Maggie, were questioned but they had airtight alibis. They were both working at Max’s Candle Stand when Lela met her fate and had the timecards to prove it. Besides, they couldn’t have been responsible because semen. They were dismissed as suspects. Cassie and Maggie were relieved of course, but thrilled to have been briefly suspected of murder. They both felt the experience gave them some kind of morbid credibility. Of course they were pissed that the cops had confiscated their beautiful pictures of Lela. They got a stern lecture and were told they were lucky that the police decided not to charge them with tampering with evidence.

“Homicide is not a laughing matter,” they were told.

They both had to restrain themselves from rolling their eyes.

Lela had died at the tender age of twenty-four. She had lived with her grandparents and worked as a physical therapist. Her grandfather, Roscoe (62) was also questioned as a person of interest because he had a history of violence and access to fentanyl (he had cancer in his knees and used fentanyl patches for pain) but since he was bound to a wheelchair, he was quickly omitted as a suspect.

“You got me all wrong, fellas, I ain’t violent. I just used to get drunk and beat my wife. Because of my bad legs I can’t even do that no more.”

“Domestic abuse is not a laughing matter,” he was told.

Eventually, they determined that Lela had committed suicide, choosing the cemetery as some kind of black ironic statement. Those who knew Lela were shocked and puzzled:

“She was an upbeat, people-person.”

“She was so cheerful and could light up a room. A real people-person.”

“She was a people-person. Nobody ever saw an anguished side of her.”

“It’s tragic whenever you lose a people-person.”

There was a tiny local radio station (WZIP) in town and the morning DJ, who went by the moniker of Lizard P. (nee William Zecker) was notorious around town as a womanizer and heavy drug user. He bragged about his sordid exploits on the air. He was the little town’s own shock-jock/morning-zoo type celebrity. He was fifty-two years old and wore a brown, curly wig and gold medallions.

Acting on a hunch, police sampled his DNA. When the results returned from the lab, they found it matched the semen from the crime scene. They brought him in for questioning:

“Yeah, we had sex together. But it was totally sensual.”

“I’ve never even seen fentanyl let alone kill somebody with it.”

“You guys want me to confess to something I didn’t even do! At least accuse me of something I did do! That I could understand!”

Eventually they had to release him due to lack of evidence. He went on the air, called the cops “pigs” and threatened a lawsuit. Most of the folks who listened to his show thought he was guilty and his ratings plummeted.

Eventually, Lela’s death was officially ruled a suicide and the case was closed.

Zeke Vorte (38) lived one town over, in Headly. He lived alone, enjoyed sports and opioids, and got away with murder. Again.

***

From Everything Dissolves