Dave Cullern

Homesick

there’s no kids left in the parking lot
no hidden porn in the woods
no stolen kisses beneath the wooden roof
of the playgrounds lonely slide

there’s no mistakes which need to be lived with
no gum to drown out old cigarettes
no pretend friends sleepovers
covering up for dangerous nights

there’s no circus to run away with
no vans waiting at the gates
no threats to the spaces of safety
where the playing is played for free

there’s no chance of getting lost here
no judgement, no curses,
no questions left to ask,
no unknown facts

there’s no fuck ups, no fights
nothing much left to hide
from past generations,
whose ugliness is seen through ironic eyes

there’s no dirty floors left on the high street
no art left on the walls
no home made bombs to wow whispering parents
from their easy chairs

there’s no sex
there’s no hate
there’s no fire
there’s no pain
there’s no need for excuses
when nothing’s left out
in the rain

Andy Seven

Skyscraper Soul

This boy is six feet tall
feelin’ like a runt
in front of the drug store
tall, thin pretty black girls
putting the touch
putting the bite on me
for their high school basketball team

I love statue chicks
so my heart 
nearly burst
out of my sunken chest

Pulled out pieces of eight
from my sunken chest
I’m just a pirate primate
for a tall, skinny girl
Statue of Libertines
they need to dribble
need to free throw

Beautiful ostrich ladies
you stole my heart
and my buried treasure
here’s five dollars
and they leaped like
Birds of Paradise
only twice as nice

Willie Smith

Darkness Light

Dad didn’t teach me shit.
Except how to wipe my ass, 
how to throw a rock, drive a nail 
and tell a Phillips from that other kind of screw. 
Dad prized his couple dozen LP’s of symphonies, 
symphonic poems, opera picks. 
On the leadup to his nightly soak, 
he would shake the house 
with – cranked – the New World Symphony, 
rattle the windows with the Ride of the Valkyries, 
clatter the crockery with Caruso arias. 
My earliest memory is: 
in the living room, fantasy sword fighting 
to the Romeo and Juliet Overture; 
then hiding in my bedroom closet 
when the music ceased, and Dad, 
through wolfing his pint, 
rampaged through the house slamming doors, 
punching holes in walls, kicking the dog, 
screaming obscenities, curses, damnations, 
threatening my mother with divorce, 
to see how she liked being penniless 
without his daytime breadwinning skills. 
Had Dad left the vodka alone, 
and done everything else about the same, 
I might have come to respect him as much 
as the music he so diligently, 
if accidentally, inspired me to love. 
The ogre, as it was, scared me nuts till age twelve; 
after which, when I began finding bottles 
all over the house, and I grew taller than him, 
I hated the son of a bitch’s bastard.
Ever since he croaked, 
over twenty years ago, 
and I put on the Brahms, the Vivaldi, the Bach, 
and I hear the mad old fuck’s rising anger sing, 
I thank him, from the bottom of my wretched heart, 
for all the light into my life he cast.   

Bogdan Dragos

dead and unfazed

217 days
without speaking
or seeing each other
and suddenly she shows up
knocks on his door and says,
“Hey, we’re still together, right?
Still a couple?”

He didn’t answer,
just ushered her in
through a curtain of smoke
and moldy smells.
His small apartment
looked more like a cave
than ever before.
The walls were dark and irregular
with buildup of grime.

The cockroaches were long dead,
poisoned with cigarette smoke
and ashes

26 years her senior,
he was a modern caveman
Still lived in a cold, dark,
and gross cave,
but he had a laptop
and internet connection.

The screen
was the only thing
alive in the cave.

It showed a compilation
of short videos
featuring brutal executions
from all around the world.

“So how have you been?”
she asked.

His reply was a grunt
as his gnarled hand
reached into his breast pocket
and fished out the pack
of cigarettes and a lighter.

He placed one between
his lips and lit it
and then offered her one.

She took it
and as she stretched
her hand for it
a neat row of self-inflicted scars
shone from her wrist to elbow

“I take it you still haven’t
managed to publish
your writings,” she said.

It drew another
grunt from him,
a louder one
this time.

“So nothing’s changed
in all this time,”
she continued.
“You didn’t make it,
I didn’t make it,
and the world made it
without us.”

Another grunt from him.

He sat down at the desk
and paused the gore videos
that ran with black metal music
playing in the background.
The image that froze onscreen
portrayed a naked man
on his knees, hands tied
behind his back,
while a chainsaw was about
to dig into his belly.

“I was thinking,” she continued,
“you know how people make
those silly promises
that sound something like,
‘if we don’t find partners
by the time we’re so and so years
old we marry each other’?
Well, I was thinking,
what if we make a promise
just like that?
Only, not about marrying
each other.
Rather, if in two years’ time
we don’t make it.
That is, if you don’t get published
as a writer and I still can’t
find a good man to marry…
we suicide together.
What do you say?”

Puffing on his cigarette,
he watched her,
studied her from head
to toe and back,
and after another grunt
and a much needed clearing
of his throat he said,
“Aren’t we already dead?
What’s the point of
suicide now?”

They were both silent
for a long while
and then she said,
“Did I tell you about
the time I aborted
your child?”

He shook his head.
“Pretty sure it wasn’t mine.”

“It was yours,” she said.

He dismissed her
with another grunt
and a slight shake of his head.

Then they smoked
in silence and finished
the whole pack,
letting the ashes fall
straight to the floor
where they joined a gray desert.

He resumed the gore videos
but turned down the volume.

“Some days ago
I slept with a guy
only so I could use his computer
to check out stories of yours
on the internet,”
she said eventually.
“Aside from three or four
very short ones
there was nothing new.
Why did you stop posting?”

“I stopped writing,” he said.

“Oh…”

She came behind him
and they both watched
some poor homeless man
being held down
by a gang of teenagers
as two of them used a brick
to hammer a long screwdriver
up one of his nostrils.

He turned the volume lower.

“Well, I haven’t stopped looking
for a good man,” she said.
“I just hadn’t found one yet.
I thought that maybe if we make
that two-year promise…
maybe it’ll motivate us both,
but I see you’ve already given up.
You are already dead,
aren’t you?
I’m speaking to a ghost.”

He grunted
and lit another cigarette
from a new pack
and offered her another.

They watched gore videos
for the rest of the night
and smoked.

At some point
she said that she
had a loose tooth
and fiddled with it until it
came out of the socket.
There was no blood
and no pain.

She placed it on the desk
and he silently
took it and put it
into his breast pocket
with the pack of cigarettes.

In the morning,
she was ready to leave.

She borrowed
fourteen dollars
and two cigarettes
and stopped by
the corner store
to buy razor blades.

The cashier wasn’t any
more alive than herself
and the modern caveman
she’d left behind
for the final time.

“Say, you wanna marry
in the near future?” she asked
from across the counter.

The cashier just replied
with a grunt.

Bruce Fisher

Gotta Get Back to LA

I gotta get back to LA
With my new old car,
Rusty of empty beer cans
And dentine wrappers
Stuck inside  paperback 
Shakespeare third acts of
Endless stabbings of villains 
And fatal flawed heroes,
Losing its whiskey soaked
Pages in the back seat under 
Dusty memories of what I 
Should have been,

Where I was drunk in sober life,
Longing for a buzz
At Bukowski’s San Pedro
Dream house, writing his mad
And beat poems till the end
Of no unglad post office pension 
And cat lover mysticism, in his
Punch drunk of barfly skid row
Flop house craziness, undone 
By death but never dying,

Where the clarity of smog
Induced sunset blvd call girl 
Lust sings sweetly of soft
Inner thigh promise, where
Miracle mile tattooed legs in 
Thought are cold in the youth
Of Echo Parks murky water,
Rowing chinatown boats to 
Groovy back lots at Paramount,
Before rushing to the next
Sexual conquest, trying to
Find the perfect end line for 
My new spy novel,

When purple evenings
And mid August moons 
Woke me to cobblestone 
Depression remedies with vodka
Inspired early morning shots
Of Silver Lake blue dawns
Before shooting scenes 
With the ghost of sad and stoic
Clara Bow, angel now of
No time silent film heaven
And my invisible love on
Nights when the streets
Were empty of women,

Where Chavez Ravine
Evictions and cries of no home
Latino heart of holy Mary
Became my drunken home
Team fan’s dodging of old
Sadness with ball park beer,
Cheering riot of blue until
Fernando came with his
Mythic screwball, throwing
No hitter pop ups, shutting out
All hate of gringo heart with 
His quiet ways, 
Seeing the lie of countries,
Like a vision suddenly widened,

Where I couldn’t be a hippie
And pet a stray dog’s lonesome 
Head without crying for eternity,
And tears of noble failings drifting
In high places, letting go
Of ancient hate, but
Haunting my own living body,
Seeking forgiveness from whores
And whiskey and penance
In hangover mornings not 
Knowing where I was or how
I got there.

I gotta get back to LA
To remember the song of the
Prophets who sang to me
During all lost years of drunken
Fucking in the cheap hotels
Of Santa Monica boulevard doom
Washing ashore on the fancy
Beaches of Marina del Rey 
Where angels kept me warm,
Wrapped in wings of love,
Whispering softly that I was
An angel too, fallen but not
Forgotten, for LA is the city of
Angels in truth and only angels
Are there living, breathing, walking
The streets, making movies
And playing baseball,
Selling tacos downtown,
The best you can eat
This side of heaven.

John Knoll

Andre Breton’s Massage Parlor

The Head of a Hungry Man

In my favorite massage parlor
Almost Heaven
a razor sharp pendulum
swings above my neck
Riding me
like a Texas cowgirl
a hooded prostitute
takes it slow and easy
tantalizing slow
excruciatingly slow
the pendulum drops

Timed perfectly with my orgasm
the pendulum stops an inch from my jugular
If I desire to have the pendulum tickle my
neck with a hint of blood the price
goes up which just makes sense
If I want to die having an orgasm
it can be arranged and I’ll be a
life time member of the Suicide Club

The pendulum severs my head
blood splatters the prostitute’s face
I stagger around the mirrored room 
look in a mirror my head is still there

I give the temple prostitute a reverent tip
drive home to an empty farmhouse
next to a corn field
Before slipping into bed
I turn my dead wife’s picture to the wall
The house will burn to the ground tomorrow
luckily I wasn’t home at the time     

When I awake in the morning
and look in the bathroom mirror
my head’s reflection is not there
My wife runs from our burning farmhouse
shouting “Surrealista Surrealista
get thee away from me”
I hold my head in my hands
run away from the flames
down a dead end street
named Camino sin Nombre

…………………………….

I am the Prostitute
The lover
The john
A gazelle
The taste of skin
Made of tree

Joe Surkiewicz

Sex Life of Birds (abridged)

Setting: A forest glen 
Scene: Two robins sitting in a tree

Robin number one: Sing me a song.

Robin number two: Quack.

(Beat.)

Robin number one: You’re fucking another bird.

Robin number two (terse): We’re not geese.

Number one:  Mother was right.

Number two: The best part of your mother is now in an Eddie Bauer down vest.

Number one (hopeless): I don’t know what you ever saw in me.

Number two: You got the cutest cloaca.

Number one: Really?

Number two: You put the breast in red-breasted robin.

Number one (swoons): I’m gettin’ a hormone surge.

(They DO IT.)

Number one: That was fast. Even for you.

Number two (irritated): Performance pressure. All those other birds watching.

Number one: They’re forming a line. . . . Thanks for stopping by. Good luck!

Number two: That’s it?

Number one: Remember, we’re not geese.

Donna Dallas

My Kids Wanna Know Why I Have a Metal Pipe Next to my Bed 

I like shiny things 
I love the cold smooth surface
of this three-foot pewter toned
steel goliath
people have different things next to their bed
like a book
crucifix 
perhaps a vibrator 

Me, a pipe
I don’t wanna bust their bubbles
as we safely sit 
under this cathedral ceiling
in our five thousand square foot space
lined with trees 
and pruned bushes
when the doors or windows open
our alarm announces
front door open
patio door ajar……technology is wondrous these days 

But the pipe…..
goes back to 
growing up in Queens
the back of our home adjacent
to the schoolyard
the crackies finding
their way into our basement
to steal tools
or shimmy into the kitchen door
the many strange men
our mother tried to rescue 
reform
salvage
who wandered around
with a menace in their eyes
that kept us awake for years

When shit went south
as it always did 
just never knew
what you would wake up to
Mom in a pool of vomit
piss on the floor
two or three “friends”
seated at the table
sprinkling lines 
Jack and coke 
a cig burning the formica
someone sitting in the torn up
brown chair
staring into space
sweats
low mumbles
night tremors
or when someone 
threatening
would blow out a windowpane

Many times 
when 911
took too long 
we had no choice 
either swing or die

Gwil James Thomas

A Performance Poet

He told me that he was 
a performance poet, 
he had three poems 
under his belt – 
but each one of those 
had been tweaked 
to perfection, 
over a series of 
painstaking months. 

I asked him 
where he’d performed? 

He’d told me that he’d 
visited several places, 
but was looking for 
the right venue. 

I asked him if he’d 
submitted to any journals? 

He told me that, 
that wasn’t really his thing – 
but he’d uploaded several 
videos to instagram 
and then deleted instagram. 

His focus wasn’t really 
on writing new material – 
as he told me,
it was to read his poems 
on the festival circuits to
start making some cash.

A performance artist 
he most definitely was. 

Jonathan Hayes

If Bukowski Worked at Trader Joe’s

If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
We’d know who ate all the hash browns
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
He would never make coffee in the breakroom
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
He’d call out sick all the time
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
The CEO would commit suicide
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
Its stock would go up after he died
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
He’d crap his pants just like I did writing this
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
The Horse Racing Form would replace the Fearless Flyer
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
He’d sell booze to everyone without an ID
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
The restroom would be flooded with beer shit
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
There’d be no health insurance
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
Everyone would transfer to Safeway
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
Two-Buk-Chuck would become One-Buk-Fuck
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
He’d call HR and ask to speak to Sean Penn and Bono
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
A “Wow” customer experience would be throwing up on them
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
His name tag would be a shame tag
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
You could sample the new products off his shirt
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
There would be porn mags at the registers for an impulse buy
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
Your receipt would be typewritten and contain a poem
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
The grocery carts would have whores in them
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s
He’d only last as long as a short story
If Bukowski worked at Trader Joe’s

The sales floor would look like a cheap hotel room
with the room lights permanently off

And there would always be classical music 
and cigarettes to smoke, until…

“You’re fired!”