John D Robinson

Way Back When

I’d undo my school trousers,
she’d be wearing her short
school skirt and we’d find
some discreet place and let
our hands freely explore
one another: we barely
spoke: there was nothing
to say: our eyes screamed
as our innocence began
to melt, our fingers wet
with lust and something
we didn’t understand
but couldn’t stop: we’d
lean upon each other,
feeling guilty about
something we didn’t
know of, but we were
damned if that was
going to stop us.

Dave Cullern

Modern Shelves

Base lives
Based on lies
Disguise
Tiny moves
Amongst the forests
Of old gods

The words of
Dead generations
Carved
Into the wood
Like sigils
Flashed behind
The lids of our eyes

The force of legs
Forced to walk
Into fires
Made of printed words,
Alight behind stop signs
And directed turns
Without touch
Without loss
Without flames

Witch trials
Tried on lies
Try to hide
The hidden hooves of Pan
In amongst fat tomes
Of underwhelming prose
Underneath cages of thick clothes
And the grey,
The thick, constricting grey,
Sitting atop of the
Sucking
Fucking
Laughing
Violent
Truth.

Joseph Fulkerson

You Got Moxy, Kid!

As a writer, or as in any noble pursuit,
from time to time you find yourself
at a point of desperation.
Which is not a bad place to be,
creatively speaking.

On the contrary, being within
these confines seem to activate
a whole new skillset for the individual.

It will make you think differently.
It will make you do abnormal things.
You’ll do what you need to do,
say what would normally go unspoken.
You’ll say what you feel.

For the stark reality is
desperation doesn’t give a shit.

Desperation is the divorced child
of opportunity and talent.

The bastard child of restlessness
and hopelessness.

If desperation was a house,
it would be a single-story ranch
on the corner of Impossible Way
and No Choice Loop.

Desperation finds a way
because there’s no other choice.

It does not care what it looks like,
sounds like,
tastes or smells like.

It prefers to work alone, but at times,
you will find it amongst its friends
chance and luck.

It don’t care about anything
but doing the deed.

Desperation rolls up its sleeves,
pushes talent aside
and does it his damn self.

It seeks out the how and where
and says fuck the why.

It cares very little about your
inconvenience, or your opinion
for that matter.

It pinches its nose, grabs a shovel
and scoops up the steaming pile.

If there isn’t a shovel, he’ll pick up
great big handfuls of it and hurl it
in everyone’s smug little faces.

It doesn’t care.
It doesn’t give a flying fuck.

It takes to the streets and demands
to be heard.

It will march all the way
down main street
to the steps of city hall
to get it done,
Grassroots style.

It will kick in the door
snatch you out of bed
and drag you by the ankles
kicking and screaming into the night.

It’s relentless.

Desperation will either make a fool
or a hero out of you-
your choice.

There’s a razor’s edge
of a difference anyway.

It will either get down on one knee
to propose
or leave you bruised
and bleeding in the gutter,
wrists bound with electrical tape.

Any given day of the week,
in every city of the world
you can watch it play out.

Desperation is the single mom
working three jobs to keep the lights on.

It’s what sends the unemployed dad
out of state looking for work.

It’s what makes the quiet kid
stand up to the bully-
fists clenched; knuckles scraped.

It’s in the eyes of the wrongly accused
or wrongly incarcerated.

It’s on the lips and faces of those
who can’t stand another 12-hour shift

another soulless, bone-
grinding week of menial work
affording only a meager existence.

It fills the bars on Saturday night
and the church pews on Sunday morning,
and sometimes
it is hard to tell the difference
between the two.

It is easier for a man
to stomach failure
than to die with regret.

Pay attention to the man
who has a limp in his walk
and a tremble in his talk,

for that man has wrestled with
success and failure
and his body bears the
scars to prove it.

He has searched
the alleyways and bars,
roamed the midnight streets
howling to the muse for inspiration,
cursing the night
for giving in to the sunrise
of a meaningless new day.

Mark J. Mitchell

Ozone

The wind tickles leaves without moving them and
Your clothes cling cool and damp to your skin and
You’re still too warm for comfort and
All the trees on this block seem unfamiliar and
Your shoes scrape rough against smooth concrete and
You’re sure you’re not on the right block and
You scan the clouds to see if the moon bleeds through and
You try to glimpse lightning rods on deserted roofs and
That song you don’t know just won’t leave your ear alone and
Someone disappears around that corner just ahead and
You’re sure you know her but she never wore that dress and
A week old newspaper clutches at your ankles and
The air smells like a lake you remember but have never seen and
A bus hisses by red and orange in the darkness and
You only want to reach your home safely and
Fall to your knees to pray for rain to pray for an end

Craig Podmore

Colonoscopy of God

Oh, my lover,
Vertical cosmos of salacious flesh!
Foetal Adam writhing in
The curves of your thighs,
Chants of distaste;
Fragments of apple
Dressed in maggot vein.
The heart of your desire unchaste!
The seeds that you’ve planted
In our mother I despise,
Vermin gnawing at the thesis of faith
But despite the deafening cries
And the butchery of Cain
We can all pray in this
Wound of fallacy.
We’re the colonoscopy of God –
The anatomy of a bad idea.

Donna Dallas

Breathers and Breakers

Can we just stop talking about trade tariffs
sex scandals
diseases and typhoons?

the world will repair itself
one plastic water bottle at a time
we are a species (I think)
a clan
that sat under the moon a billion years ago
in mad wonder
now we pack pistols and blades

I saw a woman lying
on the ground
in the subway staircase
she wore a hospital ID bracelet
she had grey sweatpants
with blood caked and muddied at her crotch
I knelt down to touch her
to see if she was alive

I wanted to ask the wretch what happened to her
how did she ever get
here

she felt my hand
and lifted one glazed eye
she drooled in anger
snarled
and mouthed fuck off

I stepped back
and thought
this was once someone’s child
that was carried in a belly
maybe she was loved dearly
or not at all

all the gray whales are dying
their carcasses wash up on the shores
of Oregon and California
scientists huddle together on the beaches
to autopsy their plethoric bodies
to understand
find a way
to save
preserve….

the human body is an uncanny mystery
I can barely roll out of bed in the morning
half a dead whale inside this skin
a lazy eye
dead mind

this wretch got out of a hospital bed
blood oozing from the sacred place
of her once ripe body
to lay full out on a dirty subway
cement ground
people scurried about
not one person gave a shit

all I want to understand is
where all the recycled garbage goes
and if that
is what’s killing our gray whales
these days

Leah Mueller

Seven Ways of Looking at Toilet Paper

1. Bleached white and insubstantial as the word of an ex-lover. Rip it in squares, swab your private parts, examine the paper’s surface, toss it into the swirl. Repeat as often as necessary. The bathroom is your laboratory. Sometimes two or three squares will do, other times it takes 10 or even 12. Much depends on your solid food intake. Do the math.

2. If you go to Morocco, don’t expect toilet paper as a matter of course. You stupid fucking tourist. Next you’ll be wanting a throne for your pampered American ass. Purchase a roll at the market and carry it around in your backpack or purse. It won’t be Charmin, you pompous WASP. Moroccan tp is grey and scratchy as an elderly wino’s three-day-old beard. Shut up and be sure to buy several rugs before you fly home.

3. The 2004 Portland Rose Festival had a Charmin trailer with posh bathrooms. People stood in line, waiting for the chance to excrete waste. They looked bored. At the doorway, uniformed attendants handed rolls of toilet paper to everyone. “Welcome to the Charmin building!” they sang. “Enjoy yourself!” Inside the bathrooms, happy music played while cartoon videos of dancing animals flickered onscreen. A devious and effective ploy to win over potential customers to the wonders of quilted Charmin.

4. Your goddamned roommate didn’t position the new roll properly. Everyone knows the end is supposed to go over, not under. Defection from this rule is grounds for homicide in some states. “Your honor, I tried to warn him, but he wouldn’t listen.” You hated your roommate—his taste in music, the disgusting way he got food all over his teeth while chewing. Good riddance.

5. Coffee filters work in a pinch. A friend of mine taught me this back in the 90s. A few weeks later, she became homeless. I always wondered whether there was a connection.

6. There’s a toilet paper shortage. Folks fear they’ll reach into their cupboards and find them barren of tissue, so they’re buying entire pallets of toilet paper. Housewives laugh maniacally as they drive away from Walmart, fresh rolls secured with bungee cords into their overflowing SUV trunks. How could we have let this happen? Is this who we are as a nation?

7. I go to bed and dream of toilet paper. The dream is like the Charmin trailer, only with better music. At first, the rolls are soft and soothing as clouds. Then they begin to multiply like the brooms in “Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” As soon as I grab one and put it in my cabinet, six more appear. The music speeds up and becomes increasingly sinister. Everything is out of control. I wake up in a cold sweat. Thank God it was just a dream. But morning is months away.

Mitch Green

Icarus Machine

Lustful creatures in tumor heavy skies. Castle weary air heavy to wear. It is all we are known for in these pacific currents, pooling like death around and around the valleys and veins of uprooted nuance. Be it the mistress in cold blood of all the lizard dogs that slither her carcass. Mutinied, they pleasure paralyzing paradise with wispy caress to annihilate the god of human.

Shapeshifting shiners blur the cheekbones to once more color the stratosphere a new shade of black. The icarus machine knows not how to fall forever, but bares the scars of what it takes to burn infinitely. Like a chameleonic actress harking to thieves should they steal her soul, turns blue of wretchedness, and wrings the temper from the forehead of damned intrusion.

Falsifiers unclothe the deathbed paramount and we become moths to flame before the disheveled lair of Carthage. No better are we if we rapture the carnal sin of youthful wanting, than lustful creatures who are now as feverish as a carcass in cold blood.

Moaning earth, ejaculate the lure.

John D Robinson

The Alphabet Advice

Now, after 4 decades
I cannot remember
his name but
I remember some
advice he offered:

‘When you go down
on your woman,
write the alphabet
with your tongue and
by the time you
get to ‘M’
she’ll be satisfied
no bullshit’

He was right,
and I’ve kept
to this advice
ever since,
never reaching
beyond the letter J.