John Tustin

EYES STUCK OPEN

My eyes are stuck open.
My eyes were blue.
My eyes are marbles now.
I look like a taxidermy,
This expression frozen on my face
Almost life-like.
My stuffed body behind the glass,
Hunched over the typer,
A glass half-filled with amber
At the side,
My hair a little wet and down into 
My face.

My eyes are stuck open.
My ears rest beneath my hair.
This museum is made of paper
And there is graffiti all along her walls.

Sometimes I am alone
But I always feel like someone is watching,
Even when the lights are dimmed,
The doors locked.

I see the people who come to gawk
In the silty air of day.
I hear what they say
But I cannot reply, argue,
Confess, agree
Or refute.
None of them know who I am
But many pretend
That they do
Because it is embarrassing to be ignorant
In a place of learning
Even though to learn
Is why they came.

My eyes are stuck open.
At least where my eyes
Used to be.

Stephen Baily

BET YOU CAN’T EAT ONE

–So, madam. How long were you and your husband together before you left him?

We were married a little over two years, your honor.

—And prior to that? Did you live with him for any length of time before your marriage?

My religion forbade it, or I’d have discovered the truth about him in time to call off the wedding.

—In your petition, the reason you give for seeking release from your marital bonds is your husband’s vulgarity. Would you mind being more specific? How did this vulgarity manifest itself?

For one thing, in his way of disposing of his—forgive me, but I can’t think of a more respectable word for it—his boogers.

—Just to be clear, you refer to bits of solidified mucus picked from the nose?

That’s correct.

—And what did he do with these? Flick them on the floor?

Not that I noticed.

—Fix them to the bottom of his chair?

I never caught him doing that either.

—Then what? Surely you’re not going to tell me he ate them?

The use he put them to was even worse than that. Try to imagine how I felt when I discovered—concealed behind the curtain on the windowsill by his side of the bed—what I at first sight took to be a rather dirty ping-pong ball. Except it definitely wasn’t made of—whatever ping-pong balls are made of.

—Do I understand you to mean—?

You do, and not only did he threaten me with physical harm if I dared to throw the thing out, but he kept adding to it every day, till it grew to the size of a peach, then of a grapefruit, and finally of a basketball. It was all I could do to stop him from exhibiting it at the county fair, he was so proud of his creation.

—Something tells me this wasn’t the  extent of his offensive behavior.

Unfortunately, no. He proved to be similarly devoted to preserving his toenail clippings.

—What for? He could hardly hope to mold these into spherical shapes.

Of course not, but he was religious about storing them in an old shoe box he liked to open and sniff whenever he was feeling blue. 

—I see. And is that it?

Not quite. What repelled me about him more than anything else was—not so much the loud belches he was in the habit of emitting even in mixed company but the disclaimer he invariably followed them up with.

—Feel free to quote it for the record.  

“Pardon me, I meant to fart.”

—In light of all this, I wonder you managed to stay with him as long as you did.

What made things easier was that his job—he’s regional sales manager for Bumfree and Sons, the toilet-seat manufacturer—took him out on the road every other week. That left me ample opportunity to swap horror stories with Mr. Rubson, our next-door neighbor, who was trapped in an equally unhappy marriage.

—His wife specialized in vulgarity, too?

Just the opposite. In her morbid fear of fleas, she never let him enter the house or sit down on the sofa without vacuuming him first from head to toe.

—I assume your religion, that you spoke of earlier, prevented the relationship between you and this sympathetic neighbor of yours from crossing the line into impropriety?

Till the day we made the mistake of drinking a gallon of Chianti together. I don’t remember which of us took the first step, but Elmer had hardly begun to unbutton when we were startled by the sound of a key in the front door. 

—Why is it adultery is so prone to interruption?

I couldn’t say, but I managed to keep my wits about me and, in a flash, bundled Elmer into the closet, just before George—pale from the bug he’d come down with—entered in a sweat.

“Fix me a pot of tea, will you?”

When I returned from the kitchen with the tray, George was sitting on the edge of the bed in his BVDs, painstakingly clipping his fungus-riddled toenails.

“Do me one more favor.”

With my heart in my mouth, I opened the closet door and, crouching to remove the shoe box, observed with relief that Elmer had concealed himself so well behind the hanging clothes only the tips of his tassel-toed loafers could be seen, if you looked really hard.

“Ah, that does a body good. I think I’ll try to get some rest now.”

After I restored the shoe box to its place, I tucked him in and left the room. I was confident I’d be able to sneak Elmer out once George—ordinarily the soundest of sleepers—drifted off, but, every time I looked in, he was tossing under the covers, no doubt because of the fever he was running. Hours later, when I had no choice but to climb into bed alongside him, he opened a rheumy eye and looked at me wearily.

“Maybe if we talked a little,” he said. “Have you heard the one about the proletarian buzzard who inherits an old mansion and determines to join the upper crust?”

Like the dutiful salesman he was, George was always trying out new jokes on me, with a view to incorporating them into the line of patter he used on prospective customers. 

—That’s all very interesting, but if you could get to the point?

The point is that the first thing the buzzard does is to hire an old friend of his, a rabbit down on his luck, to help him revive the mansion’s neglected garden. 

“We’ll need fertilizer,” the rabbit says after tasting the soil. “I’ll take your new Bentley and get some.

During his absence, a camel in a tuxedo appears at the front door.

“You advertised for a but-laire?”

So aristocratic is the camel’s bearing that the buzzard at once puts him in charge of the house, before resuming his exertions in the garden. He’s busy clearing weeds with a hoedag when the rabbit, toting a heavy sack, returns and rings for admission.

 “Who the hell are you?” he demands when the butler opens up.

“I’m Mr. Ca-mel. I answer the bell for Mr. Buz-zard, who’s out in the yard.”

“Oh yeah? Well, do me a favor.”

“Certainly, monsieur, if I can.”

“Tell him Mr. Rab-bit is here with the shit.”

At this, I laughed so hard George took it for a tribute to his knack with a narrative, but the truth was I feared I’d heard giggling in the closet and was doing my best to drown it out.

—Did you succeed?

Beyond my expectations, because, soon afterwards, George and I both fell asleep.

In the morning, he was feeling so much better he let loose with a long contented fart.

“Pardon me, I meant to belch.” 

—That’ll do, madam. You can stop right there. The court has heard more than enough about your husband, and is persuaded to rule in your favor.

You’re saying my petition is granted? I’m free to marry Mr. Rubson?

—If he’s free to marry you. What happened to him anyway? Did he escape in one piece?

As soon as George bounded from bed into the shower—where I knew he could be counted on to spend at least ten minutes perfecting his yodeling—I hastened to extract Elmer from the closet.

“Poor darling, you must be starved.”

“Not a bit,” he assured me as I hurried him out of the house. “Those potato chips you smuggled in for me were delicious!” 

J.J. Campbell

floozy

she was a heavy set
blonde with curves 
in all the right places
 
piercing eyes and a
tattoo on her left foot
 
as she told my mother
about her recent cardiac
event, i was undressing
her with my eyes and
wondering if her panties
were edible
 
i’m sure she noticed me
as our eyes met once
or twice
 
she was the kind of doctor
that probably has fucked
a patient or two
 
or maybe that’s just one
too many porn movies
i have been watching
lately
 
when we got back to 
the car my mother told 
me she didn’t like her
 
i chuckled and 
said i understand
 
mom said she looked 
like a floozy
 
i laughed
 
that was exactly 
why i liked her

Scott Simmons

Tears Of An Editor 

I rejected an aspiring poet today.
There’s a bad feeling in my stomach.

Maybe it was wrong to crush their dreams.
Then I burped and now it’s gone.

I’m oh so very remorseful about it. 
Time for the next one.

Donna Dallas

Fascination Hallucination

I open up 
spill out the sea 
with it all the lies  
and all the fake leads 
float in
sand castles flattened by heavy boots 
slide down as I erode 
under your fist 

I long to be crushed by something larger 
than a tidal wave of goodbyes 
and the flaccid vacancy of hellos 

We’ve succumbed to the Netflix gods 
they seduce us with their series upon series 
I’ve yet to feel anything 
even if it’s a pin prick 

When I feel something other than numbing delight 
I’ll be sure to call you in – 
to share this fascinating hallucination 
if it takes you over 
we can plug the holes of our treachery 
with our stubbed toes 
our tears 
and our ripped $2 bill 
each torn half tucked into our wallets
centuries ago
written in black marker on each: 
when all hell breaks loose 
tape here

Daniel S. Irwin

Tuesday’s Child

Tuesday. 
I was going to kill my neighbor’s dog.
Somehow, I never got around to it
And it slipped into Wednesday
Thursday, I had lost the mood for it.
Friday, I couldn’t remember why
I wanted to do it in the first place.
The weekend was wonderfully
Wild and crazy, ups and downs,
One of the usual weekends for me.
Monday, I sunk back into normality.
Tuesday,
I was going to kill my neighbor’s dog.
Of course, I never got around to it.
That’s crazy, I’m due for a change.
Now Wednesday… by Wednesday,
I was back in the asylum by then

Jonathan Hayes

Hanging Out the Window

Still, in our underwear,
we yell, “Murderer!” 

at the man hanging out his window
– next building over from us,

as he knocks the pigeon nest 
off his brick window ledge.

Yet, we will support his store
in the morning when I buy 

my $1.50 24oz Budweisers, 
and you will comment 

on how the shelves have dust 
and the prices are almost at cost.

Paul Tanner

dog-ended 

you stupid piece of fuck meat, I told her
and smacked her tit. I don’t even love you. 
you love me though, don’t you? 
uh huh! she nodded. 
why? I asked her. 
because I’m a stupid piece of fuck meat! she said. 
atta girl, I slapped her tit some more …

afterwards we passed a cigarette back and forth:
I don’t think I liked that, she said, staring at the ash.   
don’t worry, I’m not saying you raped me or anything. 
I wanted to try it too. I just mean, it’s not for me.
she held out the smoke. is that ok?
of course, I took it off her. sex is about communication.
we’ll do what you want next time. and thank you for telling me how you feel. 
she hugged me as I toked on the last of the dog-end …

I’m pregnant, she said, pressing her heel into my scrotum. 
urgh, uh, I squirmed. whose is it?
your brother’s. and you’re going to raise his baby, she said
twisting the heel. won’t you?
urgh! yes! I said. yes mistress! 

I enjoyed that, she said afterwards, taking a deep drag. 
can we do it again? 
if you want, I said. 
she laughed.
what? I said. what’s so funny? 
but I don’t think she heard me.

I adjusted the bag of peas between my legs 
and waited for her to pass me the smoke. 

Leah Mueller

Baseball Before the Apocalypse

Cluster of bodies, soap
bubbles at a Cubs game:
1983, our bicycles shackled
to poles outside, entwined in

a steel snare. To saw through
tempered metal would
give thieves the pick of several. 

We smuggled imported 
beer in white bottles, eight 
bucks a pack, and salads 
in sturdy plastic containers
from the Bread Shop.

Bleacher seats three dollars, 
nicknamed the “Animal Section.”
No one at the entry gate
ever checked for weapons.

We were good to go, unless
bottles protruded from the 
sides of our backpacks, 

or we spilled marijuana 
on the sidewalk by mistake
as we entered Wrigley Field.
A friend once said,

“If you were one of the lucky
people who got to change 
the scoreboard by hand, you’d
be so fucking cool by default.”

We drank beer, passed
joints, ate salads, and
when the game was over,

we took our trash home
and disposed of it properly.
We were good citizens.

No one patted our thighs,
thrust their hands up our shirts,
groped under the waistbands of 
our shorts, searching for explosives. 
No one checked our health records

for evidence of compliance.
It was just a goddamned Cubs game,
a few 23-year-old kids,

and a summer that would end
like all the others after.

John Grochalski

supermarket tough guys

his cart
is practically up our asses

he’s angry, obviously
for having to grocery shop

or whatever white, male malaise
has caught his eye that day

maybe his sports team lost

he clearly wants to run over us
though we are no meanderers 

when he passes us, my wife says
run up my ass, why don’t you

he stops and turns around
with a practiced clint eastwood glare

the kind that used to scare his wife or his kids

he says, did you call me an ass?

my wife says, no, i was talking to my husband

she points to me
so, of course, i have say,

and even if she did call you an ass
there’s not a goddamned thing you can do about it

he doesn’t seem to like that
starts ranting and raving at us

until my wife says, why don’t you calm the fuck down

his eyes bug out

like no woman 
in the history of his white, male reign on earth
has ever told him to calm down before

he takes a step forward
so i do the same

almost nose to nose in the fresh meat aisle

as people around us pick pork chops 
and plan their evening meals

supermarket tough guys on a monday morning

middle aged men
doin’ the toxic masculinity rag

i tell him why don’t we take this outside

though i don’t think
i’ve ever told anyone
to take something outside

it seems funny to me to even say it

he glares at me a moment, contemplating

then he says,
as soon as i finish my grocery shopping, pal

storms away with his cart
full of red meat
and potato chips

while i stand there
chest puffed and fists clinched

heart beating a mile a minute

until my wife snaps me out of it
and says to me

now, where in the hell in this place

do they keep
the goddamned chicken?