Jay Passer

Toasting the French Symbolists with Phony Absinthe at Vesuvio’s on Columbus

I hate poets, I said.
why do you write poetry then, she asked.
because I’m one of a kind, I said.
what about the Beats, she asked, what about Emily Dickinson.
you want Chinese? I asked. Yee’s is good, and cheap.
you said you idolized e.e. cummings, she said, when you were in high school.
I’d rather talk to a painter any day, I said. poets are filthy animals.
but one of a kind, she inclined, like from Noah’s Ark.
don’t be funny, I said. let’s have a toast.
why’s this stuff green, anyway, she asked.
the leaky brain of Verlaine, I said, with a hotshot of Rimbaud.
how about some pasta, she said, how about Little Joe’s.
I’d commit suicide, I said, if I could afford to.
you could jump off the Golden Gate, she offered.
but that would tarnish my renown, I pointed out, as a maverick.
I guess it’s easier than getting a job, she said.
fuck the police, I said.
speaking of, she said, how’re we gonna pay for this.
toilets don’t clean themselves, I said.

Marc Blackie

Inevitable Silence

Inevitable Silence – A cold dose of erotica for the discerning insomniac.

‘Inevitable Silence’ is the new short film from Marc Blackie, who has graced the pages of HST more than a few times in the past.  For those who may be unaware of his work it has, rather inelegantly though not inaccurately been described as ‘…though directed by David Lynch with a hard on’ and can be thought of as an uncomfortable stew of despondent erotica, with a dash the surreal and awkward.

The current film, which features ten performers largely shot in their own homes during the 2020/2021 lockdowns is a critique of sorts of a dozen condescending sleep hypnosis sessions, with a pessimistic narrator guiding the listeners through a murky unconsciousness:

Allow me to guide you as you drift off, like a discarded prophylactic in an overflowing gutter.

Downwards to a level that will help you to sleep, to relax, to cancel and void.

Focus on the words, allow their meanings to pierce and burrow into you. 

You need to remember that nothing can save you. 

Prepare yourself for total abandonment. 

Be like a fatherless child. 

Be as alone as you possibly can be and then find a way to increase your isolation. 

Think of the slight sound your mother let escape from her mouth on the moment of the first kiss upon your father’s lips and how it is implicated in the dirt beneath your fingernails and the teaming bacteria in your saliva. 

These words drift over a series of scenes involving various UK adult performers, models or friends of the director as well as two cats, a dog, several snakes and a talking inflatable Japanese sex doll.

The film will be premiering at the Polish Post Porn Film Festival in June before getting an online release with further information and a trailer available at http://www.inevitablesilence.co.uk 

John Patrick Robbins

The Death of Sobriety

Frank awoke to the smell of Boozer’s putrid breath blasting him in the face as the rotund bulldog mix just glared at him from his neighboring pillow. Frank said nothing, as like a car wreck victim after the initial shock of impact. He waited for the pain to arrive—along with the rumbling that preceded his initial stomach cramping—which always surely summoned his dash to visit the porcelain God. But as the pain slowly crept in, the lard-ass little dog just stared at him as he burped, letting out an elongated fart that was followed by an enormous shit on the pillow where so many part-time loggers had once rested their heads.

The dog just stared at Frank as it slowly got up, heading out before the flavored aroma hit the room. And Frank, if not in the mood to purge, was given some high inspiration as he ran to the restroom, emptying out his stomach’s contents as the most intense pain hit him in the gut.

A drunk becomes accustomed to puking and seeing his stomach’s blended contents on full display. But as he continued to wretch, Frank noticed a sight most all true drunkards are familiar with. Blood is normal from straining, and when you turn your gut into a nightclub it just goes with the territory from time to time. But when that said blood appears like coffee grounds you know you’re in trouble.

Frank was about to release yet another onslaught when the pain hit like a freight train. It was if a damn Mack Truck had just crashed the party and parked itself upon his chest.

“Oh shit!” Frank managed to blurt out as he strained. Trying to make it to his feet as the room began to spin, he soon felt his body begin to crash to the floor as everything went dark.

Frank had no idea how long he had been out. He choked in pain as the distant sound of the heart monitor awoke him. He was beyond weak and it seemed like there wasn’t anything upon his body that didn’t hurt.

“Mr. Murphy, you need to try to relax. You have suffered a heart attack. I know this is all alarming, but you’re in the hospital and you suffered a heart attack.”

Frank struggled to remove the oxygen mask, but even that action seemed impossible as the words the nurse had just spoken resonated in his head.

The moments after would all seemingly blend together as doctors did what they did best: bitched, fussed, and racked up the bills as they attempted to put your highly intoxicated ass back together again.

Frank’s head was splitting. Apparently, on his visit to embrace the floor, he had collided with the thunder mug and busted open his skull.

Days later, Doc Miller stared at his ever-so-frustrating patient, shaking his head. “You know, I’m amazed you are alive, you prick.”

“So tell me, Doc, what’s the bad news? I mean, besides the bar here being permanently closed. I mean, really. First you don’t allow my sister to visit me, then you tell me no drinks either. You are killing me, pal.”

Miller didn’t even seem to notice his patient’s humor as he looked over his file.

“That wasn’t your sister, that was a hooker. And being your liver looks worse than an old piece of charcoal, I think your drinking days are behind you, Papa.”

Frank attempted to laugh, but the pain in his ribcage only served to drag him into yet another coughing spell.

“How did you know that wasn’t my sister?”

“Because no female in her right mind would ever mourn your ass. And you forget about that party? We both shared Amanda.”

“Yeah, I thought you looked familiar. Hey, you pay an escort enough frog skins, she’ll pretty much be anyone you want her to be there, old sawbones.”

Miller just stared at Frank; for once in his existence, unfazed by his friend’s sarcasm. He took a seat, then stared out the window.

“You know, I wouldn’t wish this fucking job on my worst enemy, dude. Every day, I have to look at people with a straight face and tell them, sorry, sir, but your train’s leaving and no matter what I do, or how much money you do or don’t have, there isn’t shit I can do about it.” 

His friend and doctor fought back the tears as he looked off into space.

“I see people all looking to me for answers when at best all I can do is throw them treatments. I hate this fucking job! And now I’m treating a friend I can do absolutely nothing for. Trying to figure out just how the hell I’m going to break all this shit to you.”

Frank for once did not have a snarky reply, but he honestly felt bad for the man he knew outside this environment.

It seemed like forever until Frank broke the awkward silence.

“So, am I, like, bad enough to get, like, one of those Make A Wish requests? Like you give these dying dwarfs, or whatever?”

His friend fought back the urge to laugh. “Sure, you heartless prick. What will it be?”

“Well, I was thinking maybe they could shut down The Magic Kingdom for me. Maybe hire Ric Flair to hang out with me, and some Russian hookers with a sack of blow. I mean, sure he looks like a piece of beef jerky, but fuck, he is still The Nature Boy, after all.”

“Wow, and you call yourself a writer. Honestly, I expected more.”

“Well, I figured, being it’s a kid’s charity, asking if they could sequester Sofia Vergara to sit on my face would be a bit much.”

“Would you settle for a Snickers bar and a hand-job instead?”

“I swear, you’re really not my type, you tubby bastard. But if I can have your stethoscope and prescription pad, you got a deal.”

They both cracked up at that one as Frank broke into yet another coughing spell.

“Look here, Bill Hicks, you gotta take it easy as possible. I’m serious. Your body has been through hell. I’m shocked you even got through this shit.”

The two friends continued to talk about all the usual shit that goes along with having a heart attack, the ‘dos and don’ts’ that Miller largely knew his kamikaze friend would pay little to no attention to.

“You know, that batshit agent of yours has been here the entire time.”

“Has he been miserable and distraught?”

“That kid’s been a total train wreck. I swear, he seems to never sleep, and lives off coffee and cigarettes alone.”

“Nice.”

Miller shook his head at his friend’s reply as he stood up, making his way towards the door.

“Hey, you want me to let him in?”

“Yeah, sure. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t been through enough hell. I can’t wait to listen to this dipshit complain about page counts and other crap I could truly give a fuck about.”

His friend didn’t even bother to reply as he headed out the door as no sooner his high-strung agent, Simon, was in the room.

“Fuck, man. How are you?”

“Well, I suffered a heart attack. Just about cracked my skull and got more tubes running out of everywhere, minus my ass. So, yeah. I’m doing great. And yourself, dumbass?”

“Fuck you, man,” Simon replied. “You know I don’t word things right. I was kind of worried about you.”

“Come here, kid,” Frank said, his arms open as his awkward agent-slash-best friend opened his arms in return, moving towards him.

Just as they were about to embrace, Frank landed a hard nut-shot as his agent—and literal punching bag—doubled over in pain.

“Fucking weirdo. Look at you. I always knew you wanted to blow me. I swear, I think you were semi-hard, you nutcase. Hey, you got a flask on you?” Frank asked his doubled-over agent. “I’m thirsty as a motherfucker in this place.” 

“You fucking asshole! Why do I even give a shit? Goddamn, that hurt.”

“Stop being a pussy. It’s not like I popped your cherry there, princess. Hey, you think this bought us some slack with the publisher?”

“Being you owe them five books and haven’t delivered one in almost three years, I think it would have been easier had you just died, you bastard.”

Frank had to crack up at that, and as Simon finally took a seat the two friends largely spoke about everything but what loomed upon the horizon. For Simon, he knew it was largely pointless. His client and friend was always one foot in the grave, so to speak. He had grown as jaded as Frank himself. But no matter the assured destination, Simon knew he would go down with the ship.

And as the hours passed, they went over everything; from reflecting on the miles behind them, to the shitstorm that lay ahead.

“Dude, I got to ask, what the hell kind of shit were you doing that you took a crap on your pillow, man?”

Frank looked at his semi-braindead agent, and marveled at how he literally existed on this plane of existence.

“Well, I tell you, kid…sometimes you just get tired of having sex with beautiful women and enjoying the best drugs, so you got to mix it up. I mean, you wouldn’t believe how far Shelia got her hand up my ass. At least, I hope that was her hand.”

Simon looked at Frank, his demented brain working overtime as Frank knew full well his agent was a full-blown pervert unlike any other.

“Yeah, man, but what about the shit on the pillow?”

“I meant to let it cool, then I was gonna stick it under the pillow for the Poo Fairy to give me some money for it, you dipshit.”

“So it wasn’t some strange sex thing?”

Frank just rolled over on his side, not even bothering to reply to his friend’s question. He knew soon enough what awaited him at home, and although he hoped Simon had the sense to have cleaned up the mess, he knew that was really placing a high hope upon someone who at best was a subpar low standard.

Frank would soon be sitting once again at his desk facing the ocean, attempting to pen his last few pages as Simon kept the wolves at bay—who by now would smell the blood as the critics circled the waters like sharks. The true game was on, with the highest stakes possible. 

Sure, Frank could slow down and try to milk what last few days or months, or even years, out of whatever he had left. But instead, he preferred to pour another drink, press the gas pedal, crank the music, and pen his truths; going down in flames with glee. Much like the heroes of his past, he knew there truly was no easy out for people like himself.

Anyone could silently fade, but the best go up in flames, casting the illusion to inspire those to live in spite of the odds.

Life is a gamble, and the house always wins…so they say.

Harley Claes

Reflections on Willing Affliction

I pick and choose my captors
make them a merciless muse and a dear of a drug
i like to be captive to that endless flow
of literary jizz from the collective jazz mind
that is the backdrop to teacup terrors
smashing plates as i avoid mirrors

I adore the toxic defined
and refined me as little I as can be
the guardsman of my heart keeps me in check
and travels away from me not more than a sec
so i do not have to fend on my lonesome
for heart scraps and sympathy
like the victim complex they labeled me
pity PITY!
I do not want your pity,

I’ll keep to his pride and tend to it
like an overgrown garden
because i pickpocketed this project
it keeps me busy and writing
effortlessly in my journal,
with inspiration riveting
from every isolation

Those hard-hearts had left me
i’m content with this burial i arranged,
they already fashioned the hole
and pre-ordered the flowers
i liked for my gravestone

And now the knight is mine
he felt it was safest in my tower
if he was there
and placed me in his lap
his pride and joy
his queen the spazz

Kristin Garth

Plastic Girl 

She could have been a plastic girl.  Left bruise 
blue sheets for an artificial world of 
synthetic putting greens, some lighter use 
by an aged man of means.  He might love 
her if she would submit to rhinoplasty,
breast augmentation or at least a lift,
a tummy tuck, nutritional regime.  The 
nude photos she DM’ed  show an adrift
corn fed abused nineteen year old he’s consoled
so many nights via chat room/telephone 
in her childhood bed.  Could she give control 
to some old man in Hilton Head who’d own 
a waif or a synthetic blowup doll 
just not the ordinary girl he saw?

J.J. Campbell

such luxuries

a parade of rain

high heels on a 
freshly tiled floor

like fingernails 
digging into 
your back

this is why you 
work the extra 
hours

so, you’ll be able 
to afford such 
luxuries

the pain is a gift

enjoy, lean in

with any luck
she’ll give you 
a discount

another punch 
on the card

three more visits 
and you’ll actually
get to use your hands

John Tustin

RANTING AS THE CLOCK STRIKES THREE

It’s another night where it’s too hot
But not so hot that I can comfortably 
Sleep naked
So I don’t sleep and the fan overhead
Whispers almost imperceptibly 
Whir whir whir whir whir

Tomorrow will be another morning
With either the sun like a cudgel
Coming down on my body
Or the rain an endless rasp of tears
Crying down to the oblivious earth
Or, worst of all, both alternating

Sometimes I think no one wants me
Sometimes I can’t be alone enough
Sometimes I wonder when they’ll come 
To get me
And now I can hear them trying to get
Deep inside

They’re in they’re in
I feel like they’ve gotten in

They’re going to kill me because they think
I know too much
And I want to die
Because I think I know nothing

I’m floating in the river of shit
I feel right at home

I’m falling asleep

Danny D. Ford

Waiter Poem #10

you hear all sorts
in kitchens
tall tales
of chefs
fingering 
women
without 
washing 
their hands first
fire! fire! fire! 
mythical sirens
wailing through the ages
passed from employee
to employee
you hear 
of elite professors
& their imaginary dogs
about train drivers
speed stripping naked
of fathers pretending 
to be homeless
about the seemingly homeless
out of breath 
& blotched red 
losing their clothes
in the name 
of Christmas 
hilarity

you hear of spice girls
in hotel rooms
& second hand 
cars that come with 
dinner plate sized 
spiders
free 
of charge
you hear 
all sorts
of weird ass shit

and sometimes
you hear something useful
about wine

Harley Claes

The Divide

I want to taste the perfume of your mouth 
until I go numb with pleasure and pain
I have become
An echo of past reckoning
The un-being of a person
Pleasured by my own undoing
By a boy with a vendetta
Against the many wombs
Who conspired against him 
and his brotherly abode
In the world of men this was an unspoken treaty
That man and woman
Lived on separate islands
Bridged between their only similarity
The sex:
That new beginning

Brian Fugett

SHHH…LISTEN TO THE EKKO

 Tuesday. Mostly sunny. High of 92 degrees. Enough humidity to sink an aircraft carrier. A man has no business drinking coffee in this weather; it’s murder. But here I am sweltering in this dingy little truck stop, knocking back coffee number three, waiting on a hot little broad/number who calls herself Ekko. I’m pretty damn sure that’s not her real name, especially since I first met her in an internet chat-room. You know how that goes. 

Ekko is a nineteen year old, peanut butter blonde endowed with a perfect set of 34 C’s. I met her in an internet chat room three weeks ago. 

I glance at my watch and scan the joint one last time. The place is swarming with truckers, bikers, and Mexican itinerant workers. All of them full of hard looks as they feast upon heaping stacks of flapjacks and ham steaks. I can feel their eyes on me, probing me, sizing me up. I must look like a foreigner to them, sitting here decked out in my Armani suit and tie. Shit, listening to them talk in their cryptic CB lingo about Harleys and rest-stop whores makes me FEEL like a foreigner. I don’t think we even speak the same language.  Why the fuck Ekko picked this place to meet is beyond me.  

I knock back the remainder of my coffee. Meanest fucking brew I’ve ever had. The shit scours my bowels like a fiberglass enema. Gonna’ take a quart of Mylanta to douse that fire. I wave down the waitress and order a tall glass of chocolate milk with a matching donut. 

A minute later she shuffles back with the grub, and just as I take a bite, I notice the woman outside peering in the window. Shit, just to look at her: the ski-mask, the trench coat, the burgundy moon boots with feathers tacked to them; it’s the kind of exquisitely creepy fashion ensemble that announces, “Look at me! I’m psycho!” 

I watch as the strange woman scans the place, her eyes slowly drifting from one table to the next. I try to avert my gaze but it’s too late. She catches me watching her and the edges of her eyes pucker as if she is trying to place me. She taps the window and waves. A bit unsure, I point to myself and mouth “who me?”

The woman nods.

I reply with a tense wave, hoping like hell that will be the end of it.

No such fucking luck. 

The strange woman darts for the entrance, eyeing me the entire way, then shuffles inside. As she weaves her way through the maze of tables and booths, my body shudders with the nauseating realization that this is Ekko, the woman who was supposed to be here two hours ago. I take a deep breath and brace myself for the impending drama.

Ekko seats herself across from me, plucks the donut from my plate, wipes off the chocolate frosting, and slams it onto the table.

 “Damn, another breakfast murdered,” I remark. “Does this mean we’re still not on speaking terms?”

A tense silence prevails. Then very slowly, she presses a finger to her lips.

“Shhh…listen to the echo,” she whispers, tilting her head to the side as if straining to catch some distant voice. That’s her quirky little way of greeting people. She thinks it’s clever. I, on the other hand, think it’s annoying.

 “Come on Ekko, cut the bullshit charade. Okay? Just tell me what this is all about.”

She stares vacantly at the ruined donut for a moment then fishes a Marlboro from her pocket, lights it, and lets the smoke tumble from her lips. “Nathan…I have a slight problem.”

 “No shit? The whole ski mask and moon boot ensemble was my first clue. You look like a fugitive from the fucking loony bin. Why don’t you take that ridiculous mask off?

 “Can’t do that, Nathan.”

 “Why the hell not? Is it stapled to your head or something?”

“Just forget it. You wouldn’t understand.”

 “Wouldn’t understand? Come on babe, try me.”

She shifts restlessly in her seat, takes another hit from the cigarette, then leans in close as if imparting a dark, shameful secret. “I lost something when we were fooling around at that motel last Wednesday.”

“What do you mean ‘lost something?’ You promised me you weren’t a virgin.”

“NOT my VIRGINITY, you arrogant cockhead.”

 “What then?”

 “My right nostril.”

“I’m sorry, run that by me again.”

 “I lost my right nostril.”

I take a deep breath and hold it for a moment, fighting like hell not to laugh. “Is that why you’re wearing the mask?”

She nods.

Unable to contain my amusement, I reach across the table and pull the old “got your nose” trick, jamming my thumb between my fingers. “Hey look, here it is. I found it.”

 “I’m being serious,” she hisses, extinguishing her cigarette on the donut between us.

“Okay, fine. Let me see your nose.”

 “No. It’s too hideous.” She hangs her head shamefully.

 “Ekko honey, you just don’t lose a nostril like you do a set of car keys. It’s physically impossible. Maybe you need professional help.”

 “I don’t need professional help. I need YOU, Nathan. Please spend the night with me.”

 “Fuck that! You know I can’t. My wife is onto us, Ekko. She found those e-mails you sent. Her and I have been fighting for three days straight because of them. I got two kids to think about. I can’t put them through this. It’s not fair.” 

 “What are you saying?”

 “I’m saying you and I are gonna’ have to cool it for a while.”

 “Please don’t do this, Nathan. I can’t bear to be without you.”

 “I’m sorry, but I told you once things started to get ugly that it was over. It’s not fair to my family.”

 “Your family? What about me? Can’t you see I’m pining away for you? Every day we are apart I lose a little more of myself.”

Don’t know if it’s all the bad coffee or the humidity, but I start to feel dizzy and disoriented and everything suddenly seems so unreal, Ekko, the mask, the missing nostril, the burly truckers, even the ruined donut. I don’t want to be here anymore. I want this over with. “Listen Ekko, I got an eleven o’ clock appointment. I really have to go.”

I rise to leave and she snatches me by the wrist, yanks me back into my seat.

 “Don’t leave me,” she says, her eyes welling with tears. She strokes my hand for a moment, then flies into a nervous rage and begins clawing at her head and pounding on the table.

 “Shit Ekko, calm down. People are staring.”

She shakes her head and sneezes violently three times. A rope of blood and snot streams through the mask, oozes to the table.

 “Oh god. I can’t breath. I can’t catch my breath,” she mutters, fumbling through her pockets. A bottle spills from her hand, scattering tiny yellow and green pills across the table. I try to help her, but she pushes me away. Then she cuts loose with a dreadful howl and buckles to the floor, a motionless heap of trench coat, snot and blood.

A creepy stillness grips the joint. I can feel anxious eyes probing me from every direction.  I plunk a $10 bill on the table, weave my way to the door, and step out into the stifling August heat.