Rob Plath

achilles heel heart 

some say the twenty-four ribs 
protect the heart 
i say the heart is an achilles heel 
always a target 
pierced no matter the armor 
even when opening & closing alone 
in a small room 
i say the twenty-four ribs is a terminal 
where the heart awaits the final blade 
& the rungs of arched bone 
become a fighting cage at last 
for worms to war over red shreds

Anthony Dirk Ray

Shenanigans in the Bushes

in front of my workplace
between two bushes
we’ve found evidence
of strange goings on
in the recent past
for example one morning
an old stained pot
latex gloves and 
drug paraphernalia
were on the ground
another day multiple
used condemns and liquor
bottles littered the area
but today…
an older white female coworker
while shaking her head said
“I don’t know how to describe
this, you have to come look”
what I observed was a half
of an oversized hotdog wiener
caked with feces beside
a pool of brown liquid
with a latex glove nearby
I nearly vomited at the site
I hovered over the turd aghast
in utter bewilderment and thought
‘where’s the other half of this wiener?’
I assume it broke off and
wasn’t eaten as a snack afterwards

I guess it’s just like
that old adage

a wiener in the ass 
is better than 
two in the bush

Donna Dallas

I’m Clean Right?

Ain’t a pill I didn’t swallow
or grind up and snort
rolled through Broadway
years 
worn little jackets
covered nothin in the cold – that I didn’t feel

Tell you I was numb
always so sedated 
as I traipsed uptown
just before dawn
found the place
to hold me until 3pm
with something to steady me
those breaking hours
took a lifetime
when the demons would kick in
the paranoid sense that everyone knew
I was high as fuck
the suffocating guilt
of shit that wasn’t even real – my imagined self
on a 48-hour binge

Thought I wouldn’t make it home that afternoon
in the blizzard
I should’ve been dead
like Sydney
that same night
we were in the same places
drove our separate vehicles
Sydney drove off the Whitestone Bridge
I drove the Bronco into a snow drift
like it was a winter dune 
and I was Mad Max
in that movie
I could never follow

Rasping and almost unconscious
I found the key under the mat
frozen fingers pawed through layers of snow
an impossible feat 
it wasn’t me 
call it kismet
angels
fate
aliens – call that shit
whatever you want

I’m clean now baby
so clean I can hike four miles in the morning
every seven years or so we re-zhuzh – our organs
our blood
all of it
I’ve done a few cycles
I’m good right?

Ken Fleckenstein

Justin

It was almost 2AM

I was parked outside my apartment waiting for a friend to grab a half smoked pack of cigarettes from my living room

A man with his hood drawn approached my car window

“Hey man, can you help me?”

I didn’t know what to say, it being 2AM and all

“It’s me, Justin, don’t you recognize me?”

It was Justin alright, with his unshaven face and matted hair with a dead gleam in his eyes

The years of heroin didn’t do his natural beauty any good

Neither did the stories of his robberies across town

“Justin, no man, you need to leave”

“I just need a place to stay!”

“Seriously, you can’t crash with me!”

“Come on!”

“Fuck off!”

My friend returned, lighting a cigarette

“What’s up, man?”

“Oh nothing” Justin sighed and walked away, defeated again

I found out later he slept in my laundry room and the landlord had to call the police to remove him

I also found out his girlfriend thought “we’ve broken up” and “he’s in rehab” were the same thing

She had a Heartagram tramp stamp that moved in sync with her hips when she was thrusting herself up and down on me

He left me a very passive aggressive birthday wish on my Facebook wall that following year

He’s sober now

Jay Maria Simpson

You Seduce Me with Your Being

Your smothering shoulders
entangle me
Your tattooed arms
embrace my hips
You kiss my open silent wound
while I hold your secret safe
in the dark darkest forest
where our blood runs pure as honey
where the earth spills its beating heart

Life and art explode in battles
where only lovers can survive
in lust and mud and undergrowth

Paige Johnson

Office After-Hours 

Once the microphones have wilted, 
their laser targets disarmed dotless,
we lower from stuffy leather seats
to dusty floorboards and bean bags. 

Matches kiss candle wicks 
above blood-red mahogany, 
splattering the wall with mauve 
shadows for a friendly séance:
a meetup with old acquaintances
and enemies young enough
to find mutable, moldable. 

The crinkle of ketamine tablets
from pop-out rounds, the dig
of your long, pale fingers into
the abyss of your sable suit 
jacket, always arouses me. 

The rush starts in my heart
and heads south, like the
cells in my aorta are home-
ward bound cars on the 
Autobahn: opal speedsters.

Nobody’s as slick as you, though.
And I don’t mean the Brylcreem
part in your auburn locks or the 
starlit twinkle off your bezel head.
But the fluidity with which you pass
one tablet from tray to tongue,
from yours to mine like waves 
jostling a buoy back and forth. 

The taste should be TV static, 
cherry-peppermint La Croix,
but I only notice your cinnamon 
tin sweetness and toothpaste. 
What should overwhelm me is
the gaggy smell of baby powder 
and Rx glove oxidation from the
blister pack, but I only notice your 
cool water cologne, lint-rolled lapels,
their bursts of veranda-flower breeze.

If we keep our eyes squinted,
the room should transform
soon: from bookshelves,
storage blocks, and 
egg carton foam 
soundproofing
to volcanic sunsets 
from rice-paper windows, 
the exhilaration of entrapment 
in closed convenience stores, and
wall-carpeted step-down trip caves 
that trump ski lodges in cocoa coziness.   

If we keep our fingers threaded
while our mouths fill with moon water, 
we won’t feel so ashamed when the soggy 
rocks dribble out. Lunar larvae, you’ve dubbed it.
“Debris of the cerebellum that alter balance, took
away your natural lightness, springy space boots.” 

We reclaim it all in one ring around the midnight sun.

Donna Dallas

Field of Daisies

When the first stray “borrowed” 
my sterling silver belt buckle
along with my gold diamond pendant 
I knew I was making this sacrifice 
for his happiness and accepted this fate 
knowing full well these precious items
would never return to me

What returned?

Stone cold eyes 
seeking more valuables to pawn 
vicious fists to prove the road to sobriety 
was non-existent 

He was broken to the point of leakage
and I was in love 
with filling his cracks
I’d anoint the ooze 
to stop his bleed
my endless gauzing and soaking
the bleed disguised 
as an uncontrollable spigot 

The battered path to hell is glorious 
when hell is disguised as a sweet two room apartment 
with a petite backyard 
while stray number two lingered in the dark corridor 
waiting to be saved 
by yours truly 

We were homeless by the following spring 
I was prostituting to support our habits
I lovingly accepted this affliction 
because A. I was never taught how to say no 
and/or B. Not enough belief that I truly own
the right of refusal 

Fast forward to my arrest
central booking 
plead of insanity 
I was escorted to B-block at the institution 
and happily underwent rehab
I say happily as a complete lie 
it was death over and over 
I would have preferred to have been hit by an eighteen-wheeler 
over and over

And yet the lessons lay like a field of daisies I refused to enter into

Anytime I felt hurt I would fuck someone 

Later when wandering the streets
I ventured upon the next stray 
who became my loving pimp 
we engaged upon a merry-go-round of bandaging 
plugging 
shooting up and fixing 

Shit…I fixed no one  

I am so broken I’m a cracked piece 
of some bigger thing that is shattered 

So I’m trying to fix this last one 
when I ain’t even found my missing parts

no glue or magical cement gonna work

I’ve accepted this…..
I go to the bathroom 
pull the band-aids out 
of the wrecked and peeling medicine cabinet 
salve his ooze
tell him it’s going to be ok
we will kick this 
again

PJ Grollet

basic cable

I walked the clothes dryer repair 
guy through the living room and 
we both stood transfixed before 
the TV show my dad watched on 
basic cable. alternating scenes 

flashed across the screen: three 
gorgeous women, classy women, 
in different bedrooms, laying on 
beds in various stages of undress—
lacy negligees and panties. the same 

nude man walked into each room.
his huge uncircumcised dick engorged, 
he approached the women and the 
sexual encounters cycled through 
until climax—the women’s faces and 

breasts covered in cum. the camera 
then panned to a priest with curly 
black hair who stood inside one of the 
rooms. dressed in cassock and clerical 
collar, he smiled into the camera with 

sinister intent before the show cut to 
commercial. “damn, what are you 
watching, pop?” I asked. “just a dumb 
soap opera that takes place at the Vatican,” 
he said. I showed the repair guy to the dryer 

and hurried back to watch some more. the 
program resumed. in the next scene a woman 
snuck up behind a man and bashed him over 
the head with a handle of vodka. she wailed 
on the guy until his head came undone. 

C. Renee Kiser

Beholden

Joke is
on him…

Added me to his collection
crooked cabinet, another shot glass
I vowed to forget his erection
and his clown shoe up my tiny ass
Sold me a smile and a fantasy
Every laugh so calculated
But I went hunting for a story
Served my heart, so he ate it

Now I don’t blame a dog
for being a dog,  lessons tethered
But a dog can’t beat a wolf
He’ll be sorry he ever endeavored
Took the bait and seemed convinced
that he raped me of my sanity
Joke is — a poet’s born unhinged
to report the punchline of society

(walk the dog or wear the collar…)

zig zag reality, how long can we
drown in self-deception, open
the doors of perception… and we
(wolves) accept and howl, beholden

Cheers to the hungry, lost dogs
I hope you find a home, you know
I hope you get a good bath —
Get shined up one day and glow
I used to be a lost dog in gloom
but I’ve been a wolf for a while,
returning my hunger to the moon
I don’t beg and I hunt with style

Ken Kakareka

William Taylor Jr. 

There’s a poet 
I admire, 
William Taylor Jr. 
He’s kind of like 
the underground voice 
of San Francisco. 
He’s not aware 
that he’s on 
my radar 
but maybe after 
this poem. 
If I get a chance 
to talk to him 
I’ll say 
listen, 
enough with 
the references 
to the old writers – 
Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, 
and Bukowski. 
I’m guilty of it, 
too – 
I know 
you miss them. 
But all this 
name-dropping 
isn’t going to 
bring them back. 
It’s up to 
you and me 
now 
to carry the torch. 
We both live and write 
in California. 
You cover the North 
and I’ll cover the South. 
We’ll be correspondents 
for the written word. 
And if you get 
a collection published 
with City Lights, 
would you mind 
name-dropping 
for me?

***

Originally published at The Beatnik Cowboy