James Diaz

No Small Mercies Here

Spare change
spare change

out here
I’m always asking 
for what I need 

ain’t it what they teach you
out there in the valley
speak up little miss
gotta get your needs met

it’s like this for me
if I don’t make myself small enough to be pitied 
I’ll go to cement hungry tonight

I’ve never had what I’ve never had
how ’bout you?
have you felt it too?
the cold sidewalk fucking up your back?

I don’t need your pity
I just need your change 

pity’s just a clever word 
for the guilt you feel 
at things being this way

just dig down in your pocket for me 
and see what’s there 
might be nothing to you
but it’s everything to me

the pigeons know 
what it is I’m feelin’ tonight
right, pigeons!! 
you; you haven’t got a clue, 
do you?

it’s like this
the whole world is yours 
except for everything in it

I know I scare you 
I scare myself 
sometimes 
catch a glimpse 
in a shop window
and I think it must be a ghost
what I am now 

Jesus died 
cause he said take care of folks like me
and the whole damn world 
said we’ll have none of that
and here we are
and winter is coming on 
and I don’t blame you for being scared
you should be
this is the world you made
me, I’m just scraping by in the shadows
staying small enough 
to not break your goddamn heart 

it’s ok, I won’t hurt you
but you gotta live with this

can you live with this?
cause I sure as hell can’t—
not for long, mister,
not for long.

Devlin De La Chapa

do not disturb my vagina sign 

He swore she tattooed a blade across her chest 
and hung elephant bows on her nipples 
causing a ripple in his testicular’s gravitational pull
’cause  her womb hung off hinges
with a do not disturb my vagina sign  
dangling from a brass knob resembling a penis
I thought to knock twice, room service, my dear 
but the reply came back unresponsive

I pictured her busy applying lipstick
and shaving her armpits with a machete,
so I leave her lunch on the floor 
in front of her door and from across room Four 
where a man had attempted to score
with her the night before 
but she blew him off like a dirty flake 
lingering on her shoulder

I figured that maybe it was 
the color of his hair that reminded her
of darkened days and those filthy romps
under a thrash metal moon

Or maybe perhaps it was the cheap suit
with its pricey tie  
that set the mood into an orgy
of prohibition whiskey 
and dying stars like roustabouts working a circus

Or maybe it was just her bitchy air
acknowledging the cuisine then sticking
a pedicured toe into the clam chowder
as if testing the fahrenheit in a pool
of second-hand water before diving in
head first then opening eyes to a scene
trapped in emptiness only left with the sound
of her eardrums taking her lobes hostage

Shift’s over 

And I say this isn’t a poem of horror, my love,
and I spend  the rest of my dinner spending
the last of my toilet tokens in a Wendy’s restaurant
on an old woman who wouldn’t stop peeing
my fortune into a porcelain pipe 
where shit dreams awaited to be flushed

Servitude is a nightmare that never ends,
and you, dear shrink, cannot think of alternate 
ways to charge me for your expertise in the nothing 
that only exists in a placebo pill

I’m breathless, you’re not crazy
he’ll go on to analyze, scribbling on his tab, 
thinking of alternate ways to stuff me into his nut house
but the bees are going into extinction, I rant, and I feared 
who’d be left to make me my honey?

And he’ll just snicker and construct
a constellation forged by dragonflies 
whom only add to the insult

The knock is the same,
the cuisine is the same
but the men are different 
they appear like various shades of balloons
determined to make her happy

There’s a man weeping through a peep hole   
an hour later he opens the door to me standing there 
with clean linens in hand, I wanted her,
he said, what’d you think? 

I just shrug my shoulders and say
sometimes men need to cry, 
particularly over the things
they can’t have

Casey Renee Kiser & Co.

Shark Week comes early this year with Casey Renee Kiser, slaying any predators in her ocean who have her on their snack menu.

A protective water sign, she doesn’t appreciate surprise bites from her pasty flesh while she’s drinking and laughing it up with the mermaids. And they are equally protective over her. It does seem as though the stormy daze of only men and sharks being in control is clearing up and those one-track mind swimmers find themselves on the other side of intimidation. Bullies will not have an easy ride in the new age and this hardened-heart indie is here to give fair warning.

As captain of USS Gutter Kisses, she’s boldly explored the waves of complicated relationships and the cunning currents of her own mind. But the Love Ship has certainly hit a few glaciers. Still, this poetic surfer girl tries her best to thank the sharks for entertaining her and ultimately, saving her from the sharpest teeth of all, writer’s block. Let’s revisit a HST classic, an unapologetic gem and be sure to check out the new collection featuring our own associate editor, India LaPlace!

Will to Flutter is available from RaVenGhost Press 1/21/21.

BUY A COPY HERE

Is John Travolta Really Gay? And Other Existential Questions…
Nope. Just That One.

Random lyrics come to me 
in the bubble bath-
‘ah ah ah ah , Stayin’ Alive’
Maybe because I fancy drowning…
I ride the wave of that irony for a while 
and count how many sharks I’ve killed
in my life, FUCK-
they can’t just let a lady drown in peace!!!
… I wonder how many times 
‘Is John Travolta really gay’ 
has been googled…. I wonder….
HMMM… More than shark attacks?
I simply must know. NOW.
I scream bloody murder till someone comes
to check on me in the tub
THEM: ARE YOUUU ALRIGHT!!!??? 
ME: Yep. I just need you to check on 
some statistics for me and I NEED A DRINK. 
And maybe… could you call the pharmacy?!
Thank you DARLING. You’re beautiful.

https://soundcloud.com/76-88-76/and-other-existential-questionsnope-just-that-one

Photos by Jasmyn Taylor Givens

Harris Coverley

The Madhouse

I think I am in hell, therefore I am in hell
—Rimbaud, “Night of Hell”

The walls still bleed
When the night is so hot
And the walls are carved
Like the flesh of an arm
By the passing years
Cruel as I am

(ha, ha)

You can hear the screams of the others
From the adjoining chambers
But really
To be true
It is the screams you cannot
Hear which keep me awake

(ho, ho)

Grim and not too lively
Subtle like the flies ‘round a dead rodent

Christ, that takes me back…

And to think it all started
On that fateful day
On which I was born…

(tee-hee)

Thank God for these rusted bars
As the wind whispers:
“…murder…”

(ha!)

Willie Smith

Moneyshot Lapse 

Abigail tosses her head, 
cornsilk hair pale and flowing as buttermilk 
poured from a pail. She, about to go down, 
flashes the camera one last smile, 
assuring the acetate she is, 
for this, up and more than up. 
She knows the look the suckers crave: 
Enthusiasm in the face of depravity, 
eager, with the angriest of pricks, 
to cram her buccal cavity. 
Throws half a heart into the work, 
through her mind her own movie playing 
of re-arranging in her flat the furniture: 
Slide the couch over to the window; 
haul from the hall closet the throw-rug; 
redo the kitchen orange…?
“Hey, Gail!” the director squawks. 
“You’re losing us – keep the eyes open!” 
And so Abigail sprays her heart with gilt, 
sheathing the dagger, suppressing a gag – 
baby-blues on the lens glued – to the hilt, 
performing single-mindedly the job. 

David J. Thompson

Graceland

Holy shit. Jesus came back.
Yeah, no kidding. He showed up
at Graceland in Memphis.
People started gathering around him
outside the gift shop as he waited
for his tour to begin. God gave me
some time off, Jesus told everyone,
so I came here as fast as I could.
I’ve been an Elvis fan forever –
skinny Elvis, fat Elvis, every kind
of Elvis. Nobody can sing like Elvis –
rock n’ roll, country, gospel . . .
Goddamnit, he was the real King.
That got a round of applause 
from the growing crowd,
but Jesus, always comfortable
talking in public, wasn’t done.
And his movies, he went on,
aren’t they great? I mean, seriously,
all that coded gay stuff in Jailhouse Rock,
the corny songs and dance routines,
and the sixties chicks like Ann-Margret 
and Shelley Fabares. That shit’s awesome.
We watch those all the time up in heaven,
even the crappy ones like Kissin’ Cousins
and Harum Scarum. Jesus stopped then 
for a second to exchange high fives 
with some of those pushing up close to him. 
And the clothes, he continued, if I had worn 
a cool jump suit like Elvis in Las Vegas,
those asshole Roman soldiers who nailed me 
to the cross would have really gambled 
for my clothes. Everybody cracked up at that, 
then Jesus excused himself, hurried over 
to get in line with a bunch of Korean tourists 
for the van ride across the street to the mansion.
The last thing people saw through the window
was Jesus waving goodbye and adjusting his headphones, 
for once now just another humble pilgrim headed for a holy site.

Giovanni Mangiante

Snob Dogg

I write with the sounds of barking dogs,
screaming babies, and angry, unfulfilled neighbors
fighting in the background.
Occasionally, there will be cats fighting
on the rooftop because life loves to be cliché
like cups of coffee in Paris held by snob hands
who wish they had read
as much as they advertise they have.

I reach half the poem and everything falls quiet,
still, ominous, silent, 
as if a dagger were about to shoot out of the dark
and lodge itself in the back of my head.

From behind me, I hear the sound of my dog
licking its ass, vigorously and unrelenting.

I stop writing and turn
“Goddamn it, will you stop it?!”
and the dog stops.
I turn towards the laptop once again
and the licking resumes even louder.
“GODDAMN IT!”

I bet my dog would love to spend the afternoon
at a Parisian coffee shop, licking its own ass 
for everyone to hear.

Charles Rammelkamp

Urban Legend

“I don’t know,” Del hesitated,
offered a hit of LSD.
Friday after classes,
the weekend looming.
“They say it causes genetic mutations.
Ten years from now, your wife
might give birth to a kid with gills,
an eye growing out of his forehead,
or webbed feet.” Who knew what?

We all counted on having a family
sometime in the future, but,
what about today?
We were in college! Carpe diem!
“It can’t stay in your body
all that time, can it?”

“You’ve heard of flashbacks?
Stuff stays in your spinal fluid, I’ve heard.
Causes chromosomal abnormalities.”

“‘Chromosomal abnormalities!’” Ricky scoffed.
“Sounds like something you read
in one of those news magazine scare stories.
You with us, Del, or not?”

“Sure,” Del agreed reluctantly, after a pause.
He didn’t have a girlfriend.
None of us did.
“Give me a hit.”

David Centorbi

Sure It’s Ok When I Buy The Cascadian Farm Organic Raisin Bran, But When I Bought The Nature’s Path Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs, That’s When:

“You’re 54, that cereal is for kids.” 

“But I mix it. So I’m half and half, sweet and bran.”

“It’s just gross.”

“But maybe it’s a metaphor: sometimes you’re peanut butter, creamy and smooth. Sometimes you’re bran, crunchy, and takes time to chew.”

“And sometimes you’re an ass and say stupid things.” 

“You see, that’s what I mean, and…”

“AND I hate the way you smash down your cereal in the bowl, clinking your spoon against the side.”

“I’m introducing the cereal to the oat milk, spreading it around so each piece starts to soften equally.”

And you look at me and shake your head.
Maybe you have words or maybe, really, there is just

surrender. You decide it’s better to leave
the room and turn on the television

and watch The Real Housewives Of Wherever 
bicker. At least none of their husbands

mix cereal, or clink spoons
on the sides of bowls.