Jay Maria Simpson

The Clothed Truth

Something bad just happened to me
and I really threw myself into it

It was the day before yesterday
probably a Sunday
the sky remembered to write to the moon
in fairy floss across the sky
like crimson ribbons floating away
wondering why

The moon seemed happy
whistling a tuneless lullaby
to the remembered future
the forgotten past

To me, it all looked rather joyful, hopeful
The sky doing its thing,
hanging out with the contented moon
I walked home, found you there

UNINVITED

I can still hear your pleading prophecy whispering with your déjà vu 
come write with me and be my love and we will all the pleasures prove
try the elixir
suck my blood
I’ll devour your
DISSONANCE

Music will paint our murals
writing will feed our sacraments
fucking will excite the loving hurting healing
PROWLING

Fly your kite into the abyss
WRITE YOUR NAME IN THE MUD

Stuart Watson

Driving and Drinking with Dracula

Drac needs to talk. Urgent. 

I’m getting drowsy, just about ready for bed, when Drac calls. His full name is Count Dracula, but we go way back, so we’re down to nicknames. I call him Drac. Drac calls me Ray. 

“Let’s drive,” he says. “And drink.”

“It’s bedtime,” I protest.

“Not for everyone. Just a little while? No all-nighter. I’ve got work.”

He picks me up in his old ‘54 Nash Metropolitan. Funky, for a guy of Drac’s stature, but as he told me once, “Who cares? I only go out at night.”

I’ll give it to him. He comes prepared, a short case of Burgie on the seat between us. Stubbies. “Wow, these are chill,” I say, using the opener on his dash. 

“I sleep with them,” he says. “Advantages of being … well, you know.”

We met at the blood bank. We were both lying there, needles in our arms, draining into the bags when I realized who he was. I asked what he was doing there, in the middle of the day.

“All that daylight-turns-me-to-ash stuff is horseshit. It’s what they tell you, in vampire basic, but it’s just not true. We gotta get out. Mingle.”

I asked him if he didn’t think it was a little contrarian for him to be giving blood, instead of taking. 

“It’s not like I need it all,” he said. “I’ve got more than I can use, to be honest. I’m an aggregator. And a giver.”

Decent kind of guy. Now, tipping his Burgie, he says he’s been having trouble sleeping. Nights come around, no energy left for popping in on the ladies, sharing a few pints.

I love the way his fangs embrace the bottle mouth, like it’s a kiss and he could chomp down, but he doesn’t, because the kiss is good and besides, who kisses glass? 

He reaches down, punches a button on the radio. He likes oldies rock, always tuned to ‘50s doo-wop. “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “In the Still of the Night,” “Blue Moon.”

“You’re into irony, right?” I asked one time. 

“Who, little-ol’ flittin’-around-in-the-bat-shit me?” 

He smiled and his incisors twinkled in the light. Then he laughed harder, longer, so much he urped. 

“Reflux,” he said, and reached into the tub of Tums on the seat. “I gotta see a Doc, but who would take a guy dead six hundred years?”

“Six?”

“Do the math. If you start at Vlad.”

Just a regular guy. Not sure what this night is about, killing time, I ask him to drive by Lenora’s house. 

“Sweet on her?”

I nod. 

“Maybe I shouldn’t say this,” he says, to preface what he wants to say,  “but I tried to suck her neck one time.”

I wait. There’s more.

“Not so hot,” he says. 

I tell him I’ll compare notes, if ever I get past first. “Is she a vvvv–?”

“Vampire? No. She had a crucifix around her neck.” 

I nod, happy she’s still available.

“She’s nice and all,” he says, “but she wouldn’t shut up about her Barbie collection. A  woman in her twenties? I never knew.” 

He pulls up in front of Lenora’s, his motor running. I stare at the window of her room. The light is still on. I see her shadow, moving around. Then her arms extend. She’s holding something, a doll maybe. Or a phone. The light goes out. I wish I were in there.

Drac puts it in gear and we head off. We finish the beer, talking about taxes and repairs to his water heater, and he turns toward home. 

“I called for another reason,” he says. “I’ve got news.”

“Oh?”

“I’m going back to school.”

“Seriously? For what?”

“Accounting. I’ve always had a head for numbers.”

“Really? I would’ve guessed phlebotomy. Don’t want to be too obvious?”

“Right?” he says, chuckling. “Hey, what about mortuary science?”

I blow a spurt of Burgie out my nose. 

“I just want to be normal. No more nights. Spend more time with the wife and kids.”

That’s a big reveal, that he has a family. I don’t ask about them. I’d hate to run into them on the street and start wondering if they were gonna jump me.

I steer it back to accounting.

“When I took all the paperwork to my tax guy last year?”

I nod.

“He was so calm. Adding and subtracting. I loved the desk lamp with the green shade. It’s me. A spot of light in the dark. Believe it or not, but I like light. My eyes aren’t cut out for the dark. My nose is my eyes. Keeps me from crashing into things.”

I want to support him, but hold back. Who wants to talk Drac out of being Drac? 

“Wouldn’t you miss the percs?” I ask.

“Like what?”

“You get more neck than anybody I know.”

“You think that’s cool? Dude, it’s neck. There’s more to sex than neck, but not in my line of work. It’s pretty stifling, frankly.”

Then he goes on a rant, about all the limits, how he wants to go out to dinner and have a steak and a glass of wine. Or a salad. 

“Do you realize, for the entirety of my curse, I’ve had nothing to eat but blood? No crackers. No cheese. No Lunchables. No kale. Believe that shit?”

 He tells me change is hard. He’ll have to see a dentist, lose the fangs. Slowly work his way into Italian food, with all that garlic. 

“Talk about indigestion,” he says. “And — I know this sounds whiney — but imagine trying to get a good day’s sleep. All these idiots out there, vampire hunters. They’ve  seen too many movies, running around looking for castle cellars with seeping walls, so they can terminate me. If just one more person drives a stake through my chest, I’m gonna scream.”

He says he would love health insurance without the cardiac risk rider.

I think of Drac in his new gig. Probably have to lose the cape. Shame. I’ve never needed one. If you’re Drac, you need a cape. If you’re not Drac?

Two thoughts hit me: One, an accountant with a cape would attract clients like … I dunno, Bela Lugosi? Two, if he’s not Drac, then who? 

I could do it. Maybe he would cut me a deal on the franchise? Maybe time for something new?

It would be interesting. Meet new people. Working nights? Not my favorite. But that would leave my days free, to go on walks with Lenora, who surely would say “yes” to getting married if she knew I, her husband, was about to become The New Dracula. 

Ha! 

How’s that for a business card? And I could see the fun building my LinkedIn.

Drac pulls up in front of my house and stops. I get out but lean on the roof and look back in. I am wondering if they make queen-size coffins (room for Lenora), even as I give him my best advice.

“Follow your bliss, Dude.”

Turns out, he does. 

Me? I pass on the whole Drac thing. Ugly hours, no upside, and Lenora wouldn’t hear of it. But I got the cape anyway. I wear it for yuks, when we go out driving and drinking. Not for Halloween, though. I know where to draw the line.

Vivian Pollak

Choose Venus

Pink swirl tattoo
the skin of Venus.
Her arms and heart and legs
open wider
than Nefertiti, Aphrodite and Hera,
those mean girls.  

When my conjured flowers 
need to feed
I boast they are damned 
strong
and impervious to absorb ammonia.
Don’t be afraid. 

My pipe smoke rises
from phoenix fires.
Rain is not made of foolish tears,
desire 
and disaster season this water –
no salt here.  

I churn and flare mighty
like a constant glowing liar,
a hot green house fire.
Venus shows herself
to be the truthful 
God of Love. 

John Grey

The Saw

Its most common use
is pruning those pesky branches
that encroach upon the house.
Or chopping down the whole tree
if required.

But a saw can also be a musical instrument
Bending and unbending,
an onrush of glissando,
replicates a theremin. 

Another common practice 
with such an implement 
is removing the head of an enemy
whom you’ve drugged 
and bound to a parlor chair.

The instructions saws come with
only mention the first of these applications. 

But there’s no reason that
you shouldn’t wield a saw
to decapitate some guy.
You can even play a tune or two
while you’re doing it.

Nadja Moore

By the altar

I flung my jacket by the altar
undid my tie my squeezed
arteries freed at last
beneath the cross
and the priest
undid my shoes my swollen feet
gasping and smelling
of sweat and progress
hung over an open shirt
I lift up your skirt
and listen to you shriek
I lift you from the earth
and listen to you squeak
like a small dog in the echo
of the church your mother’s
gaping mouth and that big old hat
she’s had since the seventies
at a horse show looking gawky
looking sly in a moment she’ll prepare
her speech she’ll prepare to
reduce you to ashes!
her index finger jittering mid-air
her wobbly skin in a convulsive tremor

hey baby
what do you say we place our cards
on the table and say
I do.

John Tustin

Deb

I keep thinking of her,
just one of many who ghosted me,
to use the 21st century parlance.

I keep thinking of her,
so-so looking,
incredibly stupid,
nice thighs in the pictures,
sturdy fleshy body.
That’s the way I thought about her –
like chicken parts,
something I wanted to tear into
just because I was famished.
I imagine the things I would do to her
if I was confident and there were no consequences:
things I would do with my hands
and with not-my-hands.
Rude things I would do
while she told me she didn’t like it
but secretly did like it.

I keep thinking of her.
Among all the ghost-wreckage,
much of it unremembered,
for some reason it’s Deb
that keeps crossing into my mind
while I’m lying here.
It’s bestial. 
I’m a real animal
and she’s still pretty stupid
but she wants me now
because she knows what I’m for
and I know what she’s for,
so it doesn’t matter how dumb
or otherwise useless she is
and I get to getting to it;
putting her to use.
Really getting it done.

Kristin Garth

littlest

littlest hearts live in littlest towns 
lopsided labia in leftover 
liminal playgrounds lunatics loll around 
in lieu of a libertine’s life, laid over 
in the land of nod without lunesta 
or knife but rife with a violence 
towards anything small. fashion a 
weapon from a corroded see-saw, glints 
in the sunlight, similar steel he once rode 
in his own lackluster park when he was
less, long ago, dark, looking to implode
in a stark public treehouse, midnight— does 
not believe anyone innocent climbs
at this time.  littlest parts are all they find. 

Harry Whitewolf

Jubilant Jubilee

Johnny Rotten’s putting up bunting
For the cunting queen’s jubilee.
Don’t get me started on the street parties 
And all the bonkers bank holiday glee.

Troops are colouring in your minds
With lies to feed your loyalty.
Andrew’s sweating like a ham.
Fuck all the fucking royalty.

Queen and country’s a fan club
And a symbol of all that’s wrong
With this land of hope and glory
And the buying-it throbbing throng.

Celebrate with burgers and beer, 
And a sunny day off work.
Me? I played God Save the Queen
LOUDLY, with a smirk.

Charles Rammelkamp

Too Much Monkey Business

“Monkeypox likely spread by sex
at raves in Europe, experts say.”
The headline in the local paper 
read like a grocery store checkout line tabloid.

Weary from all the Covid drama –
a million dead in the United States alone! –
we now had another 
disaster movie scenario to contend with.

A WHO scientist cited raves in Belgium and Spain.
“We know Monkeypox can spread
when there’s close contact with lesions 
of someone who’s infected,” he told the reporter.
“Now it appears 
sexual contact has amplified the transmission.”

Seeking to tamp down the hysteria, 
the “expert” went on:
“There haven’t been any deaths.
Typically, the virus causes fever, chills, rash,
and lesions on the face and genitals.
Most people recover within weeks,
without having to go to a hospital.
Also, it’s not spread through the air,
and we do have vaccines.”

Whew.

Phoenix DeSimone

The Whole World in Her Hands

​I don’t know how I got myself into this situation. Well okay, that’s not true. It wasn’t like I was just moseying along, and accidentally stumbled into a church. Her name was Christina and I met her at a bookstore a few weeks back. She was reading some Artaud translation and happened to peer up while I was checking her out and holding a Robert Parker novel. We smiled at each other, and the next thing I knew we were getting coffee around the block and then out of nowhere we were snuggled up on the couch in my apartment. She straddled me and started to push her tongue down my throat. I started sliding my hands up her back and she removed her tongue from the inside of my mouth, pushed my hands slowly back to my sides, and readjusted herself. She kissed my neck and whispered in my ear:

​“I don’t sleep with every guy I meet, Nick.”

​I watched the crucifix hanging around her neck sway back and forth.

​“You aren’t saving it for marriage, are you?”

Christina laughed.

​“No. I just don’t like to jump into things.”

​Well normally, that would have been it for me. It wasn’t that I was some misogynistic pig, but I didn’t see the point in wining and dining someone, for weeks on end, just to maybe, possibly, end up sleeping with them (perhaps I am a misogynistic). But there was something different about Christina. She had long, red hair that looked like it had been dyed, but wasn’t. There were freckles that ran across her face, and an innocence that could only belong to someone that counts for less than two-percent of the earth’s population. The two of us kept making-out like a couple of middle-schoolers. It took some effort, but I tried not to get too excited when she dry-humped me. This was starting to become a daily occurrence, and I didn’t know how much longer I could put up with it.

​I was fighting off an erection one night when Christina was sitting on top of me, and I started working my hands up her back. When they reached her bra-strap she released herself from my lips and pushed my hands back down.

​“You’re no fair,” I said resting my hands on her hips.

​“I know.”

​“Don’t you feel that?”

​I thrusted my pelvis ever so slightly upward. Christina laughed and bit her lip.

​“I’m sure you have plenty of girls who would take care of things like that. I’m just not the one.”

​She went back to poking her tongue down my throat. What Christina was implying felt nice, it really gave the ego a good stroking, but it simply wasn’t true. My luck with the ladies was running out and had been for some time. The world was moving on to new and enlightened things, and the perpetual bad boy was not winning the war the way he used to. I started sliding my hands up her back again, and when I wrapped one of my fingers around her bra strap she unclenched my lips and raised one of her eyebrows at me.

​“What would it take?”

“For what?”

​“You know.”

“Hmmm. I don’t think I do.”

​“To fuck you,” I said kissing her neck.

​“You really want to know?”

​“Yes.”

​“Okay,” she said hopping off of me. “But I don’t think you’re going to like it.”

​And that’s how I ended up in a church bright and early this Sunday morning. I had found a wrinkled, white button-up and black tie I was sure I had worn to a funeral a few years back. Christina was dressed in a red sundress with yellow roses on it, and if it weren’t for the fact we were in a house of the lord, I would have jumped her bones right then and there. Christina and I found some open pews and sat down. They were as far in the back as possible, per my request.

​“I’m so glad you came,” Christina said.

​“I’ll be glad when I cum too.”

​“What’s that?”

​“Nothing, nothing. Anything for you.”

​She smiled, and the congregation started making their way into the chapel and filling in all of the empty pews. I watched a short, elderly man in a black robe start walking up to the pulpit. A group of young girls, all blonde and about seven or eight, walked up on stage behind the preacher and started singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” People around me started clapping in rhythm with the song and I tried not to throw up in my mouth. I don’t know what it was, but organized religion and I had never gotten along. Maybe it was knowing that it was all a sham or knowing that the elderly guy standing before me right now probably had a better house and car than anyone out here. Christina’s bare knee pushed against my slacks and I felt as though I was going to lose it. It was weird. I’d spent the last few weeks acting like a middle schooler and now my threshold for attraction was at about middle-school level. A smile could have gave me a hard-on at this point. It made me want to reach my hand underneath Christina’s sundress and try to slide a finger in, but it didn’t feel right with the children singing: 

Hes got the tiny little baby, in his hands.

Hes got the tiny little baby, in his hands.

Hes got the tiny little baby, in his hands

Hes got the whole world in his hands.

​Everyone around me started to join in singing with the girls, including Christina. I never understood why this level of devotion and faith got under my skin. But in that moment, I was starting to think it had to be the nuns. I went to a catholic preschool and the nuns told my mother I wasn’t mature enough, so they held me back a year. I suppose I’d never forgave them–or religion–for that. Not that they were wrong. I mean here I was attending a church service in the pursuit of pussy. If that’s not immature I’m not sure what is.

​The children stopped singing and the preacher waited a bit for everyone to settle down. I swallowed some saliva as Christina’s knee was pushing even harder into mine. The elderly man cleared his throat into the microphone.

​“Good morning everyone. I’m so glad you all could be here. I see some new face, some old. But isn’t it just a great day on God’s planet?”

“Amens,” rang out all over the place.

​“If you love the lord, let me hear GOD IS GREAT.

”GOD IS GREAT,” everyone said in unison without me.

​“Today I’m going to talk about something that I think needs addressing,” he said opening up a binder in front of him. “I’ve been talking with Brother Johnson and he brought to my attention that many of our young people are starting to sin at an early age.”

​There were gasps all around the room.

​“Yes, yes. They are sinning early and having PREMARITAL SEX.”

​I felt the sweat start to drip down from my forehead. The last thing I needed was some preacher fucking this up for me. They fucked up enough of the world as it was – altar boys, marriage for gays, and even abortion. I looked down and noticed that Christina had placed her hand on my thigh.

​“Brother Johnson was informing me that at St. Mary’s we have four young girls that are pregnant. We must teach our children that for everything there is a time and place. As the Bible says, there is a season for giving, and a season for loving.”

​“AMEN,” rang out again.

​“I figured I’d spend some time today talking about what the Lord thinks of premarital sex. If we could all open our Bibles too…”

​Everyone opened their Bibles to the verse he asked, and he started explaining how this was God telling us not to fornicate. I personally couldn’t understand how this verse had anything to do with sex at all. But that’s how most of the Bible was: someone telling you what something meant, even though they weren’t around and never met the person who wrote it. It was a complicated thing. The preacher stopped his sermon and gave a large smile. He seemed to be looking directly at me. Christina’s hand was completely on my crotch at this point. She had wrapped one finger through a belt loop. The preacher took his gaze away from me and closed his binder.

​“Let’s all pray.”

​I watched everyone bow their heads and close their eyes. He started with the usual – thanking the lord, repenting for everyone’s sins they may have committed, how the thing goes. Then out of nowhere, I felt it. Christina had reacher her hand under my trousers and was grabbing my half-chubbed cock. I sucked my lips in as she started stroking back and forth, back and forth. I tried to hold it together while the preacher, and her, and myself, were finishing up. I don’t know how I kept the grunt in, but I reached release just as the old man said “Amen.” Christina wiped her hands on my briefs, pulled her hand out,  and said “Amen” in unison with everyone else.

​The children started singing again and everyone got up and went into the lobby. There was food and talking and coffee, but I didn’t want any of that. I wanted to get hell out of this place. I started walking for the exit and Christina followed after me. I unlocked Volkswagen and swung the door open. I put the key in the ignition and dangled a Camel from my lips as I turned the motor over. Christina placed her hand on my thigh again. I shook my head and looked at her. It seemed like her green eyes had grown three sizes.

​“I have to ask,” I said shaking my head.

​“What?”

“What was that exactly?”

​“Have you never had a handjob before?”

“C’mon now. Men do that to themselves,”I said flicking an ash out of the window.“But in a church? Don’t you think that was a little risky? The old fucker could have noticed.”

​Christina Laughed.

​“That ‘old fucker’ is my father.”

​“Oh.”

“He kept me locked up and in the house when I was a kid. Now that I’m grown, I take every chance to piss him off I get.”

​“Oh?”

“Yup. So I bring as many boys as I can to his Sunday services. He really doesn’t like knowing I do that in there.”

“I see,” I said heading out of the parking lot. “Good thing his eyes were closed while it was going down. That might have really pissed him off.”

“He’ll know.”

“Is God going to tell him or something?”

“No, silly. I’ll tell him over dinner tomorrow.”

“Oh.”

I held in a laugh. Christina started unzipping my trousers.

“Can we go to your place?”

“If that’s what you want.”

I watched her head go down to my waist as we made it to the first stoplight. A man with hole-y jeans and a baggy black shirt with the words JESUS SAVES sprawled across it was crossing in front of us. I couldn’t help but laugh. The light turned green and I took off, knowing that for everything there was a season and a time to every purpose under the sun. Time was looking good for me under the sun. I didn’t know how long it would last. Christina would probably be gone soon–she would need a new guy to parade around the church pews – but for this season it was me, and I’d take the laugh while I could get it.