Matthew Borczon

Death in the Modern Era

When you learn
a friend died
on Facebook
you stop to wonder
if he was alone
at the end

Were we all
too busy typing
to hold his hand

And you imagine
the last moment
when the very last
breath shook out
of his lungs

You feel a boot kick
right in the center
of your chest

Then you click
the sad face
emoji and
sigh

Damian Rucci

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year for Narcotics

and bad decisions, a Christmas snow storm 
a slap of talcum powder in the face of Missouri
we’re exiles, we’re bruised soul bohemians, we’re
far from home and our actions bare no consequence
in God’s country, our daily bread is amphetamines
our sacrament is the blood we spill, the teeth we lose
the poetry we sing drunk on the back porch 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for

a taste of the sun, the drugs have run out 
now we lay stupid, now we’re sick 
but God takes and God gives 
we’re in the art gallery and the only art alive 
now is Milo cooking DMT in someone’s silver spoon 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for 

a dance in the snow, spinning on Alvorado avenue
like the samaras falling from heaven, would they still  
spin so free if they knew the concrete beneath them?
If they knew the street is where they go to rot? 
From the couch, the Christmas light projector
paints us portraits of our past decisions 
it casts the mountains we’ve built to hide behind
You say, “it’s so romantic getting caught up in it all, isn’t it?”

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
to piss it all away.

Daniel S. Irwin


Playing the Actor

Playing the actor,
I once tried Shakespeare.
That amounted to
Throwing myself to the
Elizabethan wolves.
Monty Python, it was not.
I guess they understood
That crap way back when
They chugged ale and wine
And pissed in the Thames.
Oh, right, they still do that.
For myself, I’m more of an
“Intercourse the parrot”
Kind of guy.  Clearly a
Product of our times.
Italian opera could have
Been my forte.  But, I
Don’t sing all that well and
My Italian is doubly severely
Limited to random syllables.
Which invariably causes the
Rest of the cast to turn and
Stare daggers at me when
I open my mouth…but,
Happily, most of the audience
Doesn’t speak Italian either
And just assumes I’m the
Bad guy everyone hates.
Somehow, I managed two
Performances before being
Cast out with very colorful,
Seemingly angry words,
Which, of course, I didn’t
Understand.  It was the
Accompanying gestures that  
Made my expulsion acutely clear.
That much Italian, io capisco.

David Estringel

Street Flowers

Night blooms push 
through the cooling bustle 
of footsteps 
and concrete street corners,
unfolding, blue, 
from sidewalk cracks 
under streetlamp moons and
the twinkle of city lights.
Savage beauties 
with perfumed petals 
and shapely stems 
pale against the night sky 
and their nectared dapples of scarlet.
So delicate. 
So sweet.
So thorned to the touch.
Look, 
how they flutter in winds of
passing taxi cabs and
heavy-soled feet,
candying the air with 
kisses and promises, ephemeral,
in lure of lotus-eaters
and forgetful exchanges 
in dark alleyways.
The night 
(and dance) are long
within the wall-less confines of
their cement gardens,
‘til the break of day and
heavy rumbles of delivery trucks
send them scattering—tattered and torn—
into the shadows
of their morning slumbers.

***

Originally published in Terror House Magazine

Bogdan Dragos

fruit flies and eternal love

sunny day outside
streets full
of people seeking water
and cold beers

overcast day inside
the cold, irregular walls
of the basement 
in the abandoned building
The clouds are alive
and very annoying

She slaps his forehead
with a sloppy hand 
soaked in vomit

“Ouch!” he screams

And she says, “I can’t stand
these fucking 
fruit flies. Why must 
they follow everywhere we go?”

He turns around 
on the wool blanket and 
shoves away a few empty bottles
of cheap wine
and 
drops his head onto
her naked lap. “Because, baby, we’re
putrid. You and I, we’re both
dead on the inside
and out. And the fruit flies
love the smell
and taste of our bodies. Especially
when they come 
together and sweat a lot.”

His hand grabs at
her upper thigh
and the fingers 
tap playfully along the 
piano-key-like cut marks
that adorn it
from crotch to knee

She tries to squash another
fruit fly
on his back

fails 

gives up

drifts into sobs
and cries

“Noo, don’t cry,” he whispers

“Darling,” she says through
sour tears that 
get immediately assaulted by
the fruit flies, “are we
really dead?” 

“Yeah,” he says after 
two full minutes
of struggling to open his eyes. 
“Dead to them all 
who walk outside in the warm
sun and go to jobs
to feed families, and dead
to our own families. And 
to God. We’re dead, alright.”

She wails and 
moves her vomit-soaked
hand before her face
to chase away 
the fruit flies

achieves the opposite
effect

wails some more

looks around for
her favorite razor blade

doesn’t find it

wails some more

grabs a bottle and swings
it against the wall
behind her back
but not strong enough
to break
just drops it

And she wails some more
until 
he grabs her hand and 
holds it against his
face and 
starts sucking on her fingers

It tastes not very
different from 
the wine they drank
so he keeps sucking
and tells her, “Don’t worry.”

“What?” she asks

“Don’t worry, I said. Even if
we’re dead, at least 
we’re dead together. And it’s 
a thousand billion times
better than
being alive and apart. We’re still
better off than those
walking outside in the warm sun.
Those fools stay together
till death does ‘em apart. Pathetic. 
We’re staying together in
death itself, dear. Our love
is eternal!
We got each other
and our cool grave
and our thousands of flying children
here roaming about
and the sweet nectar of each
other’s bodies. What else
could one ask for in life
or in death?” 

“Aw, you sweet talking
failure of a poet,
come and kiss me!” 

He did 

and not even the 
vomit or the 
coughing of blood could
break their lips apart

and the 
fruit flies
joined in

and outside people still
walked in
the warm sun 
oblivious of what true love
looked like

David J. Thompson

Lip Gloss and Laxatives

I got caught shoplifting lip gloss
and laxatives yesterday. 
I pleaded with the judge
that I was too embarrassed
to pay for those items
at the register in front
of everyone, but she shook
her head, gave me sixty hours
of community service down
at the county homeless shelter.
I don’t mind too much, though,
at least there’ll be nobody there
I’ll feel like kissing, and I know
I can help myself to a big bowl
of the bean soup I’ll be ladling out
which will solve my other problem, too.

Kristin Garth

Pavlovian 

When you write to me “darlin” I run a bath,
scalding and scented, flesh perfumed, punished
on your behalf. Far away masters have
local effects between the shorn sluttish 
succulent lips and the cervix.  You saturate 
me on the inside.  This flesh arid, clothed 
is duplicitous pride you would berate 
if you could see.  I am a beast you exposed 
obsessively until I learned to spurn 
humanity myself, to proffer pink skin,
a wet wishing well.  Conditioned to yearn, 
wait my turn until summoned again, 
with a prim presentation playing pretend —
just a trained animal, Pavlovian. 

Noel Negele

Nietzsche

You think of Nietzsche 
that famous dour profile of his,
like a man appearing angered
as if someone owes him money
some time now and he’s just seen them
walking around with new sneakers on
or something,
and you think of him in his later years
getting bitterer and bitterer 
and lonelier and lonelier still
as he lost work left and right
and you think of him walking home 
cloaked in failure, with dark dark thoughts 
just tap dancing their way through his head 
and as Aurelius said:
Your thoughts paint
the color of your soul

And you think of Nietzsche’s soul
how black it must have been in that
cold German weather —
and you think if only he’d got some good pussy
every now and then, not saying a lot,
or if that cunt in high school hadn’t broke his heart
or if Salome, a woman he instantly fell in all with
upon seeing for the first time in Paris,
which sounds dumb when you think
he’s supposed to be a genius or something,
she’d agree to become his wife,
and take that bitterness off his shoulders
with a hot meal every night 
and maybe, if she gorged on his balls
and shoved his dick so far down her throat
her eyes would go crossed

And maybe, if at night
she’d caress his tormented brow
and whisper in the darkness of their room 
that her precious Friedr was respected
and appreciated though not fully understood
for his unparalleled genius, and that
she loved him and that she would 
always be there for him
and that next time he went down on her
he’d better have his mustache
combed upwards

Or whatever they said back in those times
But then again, who was he of all people
to land an angel like that

David Estringel

Evening Machines

Painted ladies duck
from fiends under velvet skies,
‘round corners and doorways,

as God’s chosen saves
souls of passersby and
dogs in search of scraps.

Shirtless boys show’r girls
on stoops with shucks and jives to
clanking coins in cans

of bums, patrolling
slices of concrete, splashed with
piss and hot dog wat’r.

Street kids linger ‘round 
fronts of liquor stores with fists 
of cash, cruising dupes,

for ill-gotten smokes
and cheap beer before managers 
close shop for the night.

‘lectric lines crackle
and neon signs hum above,
overseeing the chain-gang.

***

Originally published in Terror House Magazine

Joseph Farley

Theater of War

The first mistake was to believe
that things would stay the same.
The second was to think
that things would change.

In between scenes the players
try on new costumes
and practice new words.

Masks and makeup
can alter features,
but underneath 
the characters are the same,

archetypes of politics,
power and murder.
All wars, little and big,
are fought with the same armies.

And the dead? Well,
they’ve said their lines
and moved on to other plays
on other stages,

still waiting 
for the applause
and curtain calls
that never seem to come.