Michael Lee Johnson

Poets Out of Service

Like a full-service gas station
or postal service workers
displaced, racing to Staples retail
for employment against the rules of labor,
poets are out of business nowadays, you know.
Who carries a loose change in their pockets?
Who tosses loose coins in their car ashtray anymore?
iPhones, smartphones, life is a video camera
ready to shoot, destroy, and expose.
No one reads poets anymore. 
No one thumbs through the yellow pages anymore.
Who has sex in the back seat of their car anymore,
just naked shots passed around online?
Streetwalkers, bleach blonde whores,
cosmetic plastic altered faces in the neon night;
they don’t bother to pick pennies
or quarters off the streets anymore.
The days of surprise candy bags for a nickel
pennies lying on the countertop for
Tar Babies, Strawberry Licorice Laces
(2 for a penny), Wax Lips, Pixie Sticks,
Good & Plenty are no more.
Everyone is a dead-end player; he dies with time.
Monster technology destroys crump fragments of culture.
Old age is a passive slut; engaging old age
conversations idle to a whisper and sleep alone.
Matchbox, hand-rolled cigarettes,
serrated, slimmed down, and gone.
Time is a broken stopwatch gone by.
Life is a defunct full-service gas station.
Poets are out of business nowadays.

Joseph Farley

Scrubbing the Toilet at 6 AM

Cleaning up the mess
left behind
by someone,
possibly even me.
It’s hard to remember
what happens
in the strangeness
of night.

I take my time,
make porcelain shine,
while doing what must
be done,
putting all the new ideas
that arrive in my head
into the movements
of the brush.

It is all art
if you want to see it
that way,
everything you do.
Same as with
the old monks
who viewed
all actions
as a form of prayer.

The results from
this morning’s efforts
may be as good
or better
than anything else
I have done
or could possibly do,
and I may have 
saved the world
in the process
without ever
meaning to.

Danny D. Ford

Ooey Gooey Goodness

is what she said
after making me cum
with her hands

my dorm bed
her top off
but no actual sex
because of boyfriend
back home in the States

she really went rough
above & beyond 
previously explored 
parameters

told me the girls 
in Wales 
didn’t know
what they were doing

I silently disagreed

a few weeks later
I walked into Boots
and saw her shopping
for toiletries with her man

ooey gooey goodness
I said to myself
& walked straight back out

***

Originally published by Hickathrift Press

John Knoll

WHITE ON WHITE

I’m schizophrenic. I’m on TV, watching myself watching me. Persuaded by amoeba mind to rhythm time’s new measure I look for love in cold desert winds of prehistoric pleasure. A classic toy of delight the dildo I prescribe covered by a black mantilla and a fog-shrouded valentine.

Cancer cells chaotically repeat themselves in the clouds above my shoe. Adapted to catastrophe I dream lost cities and biodegradable mystical emptiness.

A disappearing trail through a nonlinear series of juniper arroyos where a mountain lion roars diaphanous screeches that magnify a zoo adjacent a red box in a cathedral of gothic sound where I crisscross space four times and with a perfumed delicacy fly into a dragon’s winged shadow nailed to a crucifix.

Distance disappears within my last breath a presence sensed there not there. Words pile up create a rattlesnake’s lexicon. A blind raven is my totem. I eat organic skunk. Road kill embellished with Ayurvedic herbs. Framed by sun splashed chrysanthemums, I barbecue the Holy Ghost. Blind with love I walk out the front door into the fresh rivers of morning.

Rp Verlaine

Clawing through shadows

of dreams  
to find her again 
real as a reflection 

water trades 
for depth when touching 
only the ephemeral. 

Her words, false 
as a pawned ring claiming 
absent ghosts in stolen 
photographs. 

I miss the outlaw 
she was before 
escaping the noose 
of excitement’s gallows, 
induced by narcotic 
entanglement. 

She is now  
like the others, 
safe.

It is her victory  
I do not begrudge,  
or misinterpret 
and nearly accept 
as I will 
her wedding invitation.

For only dreams 
bring her  
former lives to me. 
Most nights 
it’s all I see 
when my eyes, 
starved for magic, 
close without it.

John Tustin

Arrogance

Pity the young man who,
As he grows older,
Loses his arrogance.
Confidence? He never 
Owned any.
His insolence,
Once interesting,
Is now merely crankiness:
His resolve stubbornness.
His desires fantasies.
All he owned,
Once so indelibly carved
Into his heart and his words
Was shown to be illusion.
He considered the palpable
Tangible.
He knows better now.

Pity the man whose words were once braver,
His eyes alive with the clarity
Of the zealot.
He rarely saw choices –
He just acted.
He doubted himself
But not his beliefs that were
Imbued by the books he read
And the feelings he felt
When he would lie in bed at night,
Alone but
Just knowing things should be a certain way
And that if he were true to himself,
They would be.

Pity the young man who,
As the skin of his trust and belief
Was peeled away,
Left him just tendons and bones,
Dressed in a costume
As to appear like the rest of them
Who never believed but still cried
During the romantic movies
When the movie heroine
(her hair done, her makeup in place)
Nobly died of cancer
Holding the hand of a man
(Who appeared to spend five hours a day in the gym
And the balance of his waking hours
Staring in the mirror practicing looking handsome
Yet also caring, empathetic and concerned.)

Pity the young man, who,
As he grows older
Loses his arrogance,
Displaying, his anger in helpless rants
Read by no one
Accomplishing nothing.
He is stabbed over and over
And bleeds and bleeds
But never seems to die.
Why won’t he die?
He is jealous of the convivially vapid
And the blissfully unaware.
He hopes to join them in their blank dull reveries
Someday.
In the dark he closes his eyes
To make it darker.

Pity the young man now older,
His arrogance replaced by acceptance.
He is in agony.
It takes him longer to finish pissing
And his body aches all the time.
He sees a tired old man looking back at him
In the mirror
And he never believes a thing anyone says.
He has never owned anything
But the difference between yesterday
And today is that
Now he knows it.

It is the only thing
Which he is certain.

Kristin Garth

Fucked Up

I don’t  have to pretend to be healthy 
when I fuck you — that I like everything 
you expect me to do.  Brutality 
is something I crave — so sick of smiling, 
mimicking girls, behaved, who just to want to cum. Wandered
towards the summer camp boys for distraction 
and fun until I could run to the thunder,
your theater again, where satisfaction
includes suffering and requires my childish
tears (I should have outgrown a decade 
of years past but fear I never will). Wish
for a dangerous man to invade 
my windowsill, disrupt my buttercup
bed who could corrupt a girl foregone, fucked up.

David Estringel

Cough Syrup

Bad medicine 
going down,
doled out in loving spoonfuls,
still leaves burns
your sugar can’t temper.
What cruel apothecary —this chemical romance—
that blisters wanting lips
and scalds the tongue,
makes flush the palest cheek—
red hot—
with a heat, synthetic and caustic, 
making me hollow—this playground for echoes—
and smoke-choked.
What to do with this melted skin
that blurs the line between
you and me,
this addictive crash 
of candied pain 
that boils and bubbles 
like black tar heroin in a dirty spoon, 
leaving nothing 
but pitch in its witchery’s wake,
except wait…
…for that next opiate kiss.

***

Originally published at Fugitives & Futurists

Vivian Wyrick

Traffic

Do you remember the time I slipped myself into the lobby of your building early in the morning, without buzzing you first, when the UPS man arrived with his dolly full of packages, and then exhausted and traumatized, but relieved at how easy that was, I climbed the four flights to ding your bell and surprise you and you let me in because you knew you had to because it was the morning after I found out you were cheating on me with a woman you had been with for close to four years and even though I had suspicions, which you gaslit out of my silly-willy head, I had nothing concrete on you until precisely 7:02 pm the evening before when you finally called me back after I texted you those two photos showing the smoking gun stuff and you said in a voice I hear over and over in my head yes it’s true I’m so ashamed and my stomach mutinied and my stomach said I am going to pull some seasick queasiness on you for maybe six months and I tried to go to sleep that night when Brenda gave me three sleeping pills and said better living through chemistry and I had never in my life taken sleeping pills before and didn’t realize they were so small and that amused me somehow and I lay down in her master bedroom which she gave up for me but I just tossed and turned for hours until I finally decided to get up shivering, throw on unflattering sweats and drive my betrayed self to Manhattan and I found parking near your street and waiting until after 8 am so your son would have left for school I snuck in with the UPS guy and dinged your door and you had to let me in and I sauntered angrily into the living room and craning my head to peek around corners and down the hall I said oh I see you slept alone last night all sarcastic and you just stood there wringing your hands with your eyeballs peering left to right back and forth left to right and your mouth stretched into this lame grin like maybe the cavalry would come or something and I guess just feeling like shit and not knowing what to do or say to this woman whom of course you loved madly but mostly you just fucked pretty hard and intense and squish was a word you used to describe the sex we had once and I thought that was a bit unsettling but that was before I knew you were cheating on me for the entire length of our relationship and I sat down on your couch and you came over just standing in front of me like a derp with nothing to say so I got up and grabbed a Pretty Lady apple from your kitchen like I always used to do and you tried to make a joke and say oh you only like to come here for the apples I bet heh-heh and I didn’t think it was too funny and I didn’t even eat it in the cute way I used to do which was to bite it all the way around the middle and make a little trench belt but this time I just took bites like some hungry wounded ferret and then I said did you tell her you love her and you squeezed your eyes shut, tilted your head back and shook it to mean yes and then I said did you tell her you wanted to marry her like you told me and you shook your head no with eyes still shut and that seemed to ease my stomach a bit and then you said look I have a lot of work to do today and interviews too and I think you said you had to tape your podcast and I said go ahead I’m gonna take a bath and I proceeded to take off my clothes and take a bath because I was shivering from waiting outside for 8 o clock to come and my stomach hurt from that Egg McMuffin I bought at 6 am from the McDonalds across the street and so I turned on the hot water in that tub that I had been in so many times and looked to see if the paint was still chipping off the tub walls and it was and I wondered if sometimes she ever peeled that paint too and after I warmed my bones I hopped into your bed and tried to close my eyes because I’d been up all night and the tiny sleeping pills were taking effect but first I called Mimi and told her I was in your apartment and she screamed, I mean literally screamed into the phone get the hell out of there right now what is wrong with you bitch because I was crying to her on my way into the city that night telling her how you had admitted you cheated on me and I guess she thought I was going to go into the city to kick you in the balls or something so anyway she did not approve of me telling her I was in your bed all naked but I didn’t listen to her but I figured I should at least put my clothes back on so I did and then I jumped back under the covers and dozed a little and then about an hour later you came in and said you had to go soon but I should stay while you took a shower and maybe I wish I had gone into the shower to fuck you hard now in retrospect but I am writing this three months later and I am not sure if that would have been a good idea or not and so I just kept my eyes closed and then after the shower you came into the bedroom in your ass-tight boxer briefs with your wet hair slicked and combed back which was a look that always got me hot and you sat next to me on the edge of the bed and kissed me on the forehead and cheeks and then you said thank you for catching me and I took my hands and ran them over your slicked and combed backed hair because you were hot when your hair was like that and you had and still have an amazing head and we kissed on the mouth I think in a gentle way and you had a big smile on your face and then you said come on we have to go and I got up and with hands on hips I said what were you thinking to lie for thirteen months and you said hell I am terrified of women and I am even terrified of you and that surprised me and then you said women always end up leaving me and that made me think that you couldn’t be evil just really fucked up but it only served to upset my seasick stomach big time and then you said come I’ll walk you to your car and we held hands and the city seemed silent for some strange reason even though it was bustling with traffic and you asked me where I parked and it was up on Amsterdam and we walked hand in hand and then there was a ticket on my car because I was not in a position to read parking rule signs that morning and you said oh you have a ticket and I laughed and said oh no you have a ticket and you said that’s right and you took it and put it in one of the pockets of your black skinny jeans and then you said I am going to change you’ll see and you said I can assure you that you will never see this behavior from me again and please don’t tell your brother and you said cats can learn since you had a habit of calling yourself Cat as if referring to a third person and this was another weird thing about you but I liked it and it always made me hot when you would do the meow thing and when I got into my car and shut the door you crouched your six foot two frame down to see me sitting bewildered behind the wheel and your face was grinning like a little kid who didn’t have a care in the world and I drove home and the world through the car window seemed silent for some strange reason even though it was bustling with traffic?

Dustin King

The Unlucky

I smoke my last one, 
“the lucky” as they call it, 
in St. Louis or Louisville,
these Midwest towns that share names, 
landscape in between unchanging,
cornstalks as tight as a fresh pack, 
plastic ripped off. 

Rivers converge, widen. 
Oceanless, no coast even close,
they don’t know which way to flow. 

You lit my cigarette in 
the back of Chez Charlie’s 
on a Wednesday like 
the start of any good romance. 
Why did you have to quit?
We played a game- 
I’d hide it from you, I’d lie. 
You’d notice me ashing 
my pen at my desk, 
say you knew I missed it.

Blow smoke up my ass, 
I blow smoke in your face, 
and so on.

I snuck out of the house.
From inside you read 
the messages written in cinder, 
a wayward drill across metallic night. 
We doused it all in lighter fluid,
watched it fume across the moon. 

Now I’m heading back east,
these final few drags like 
you’re hitting the good spot,
cherry to filter like you come too fast.