Bruce Mundhenke


Chet sat on the edge of the courthouse lawn. He was a thin black man. He wore khaki slacks and a green t-shirt and had a fedora hat on his head. It had cooled off a little now that the sun was going down, but it was still hot. Chet took a drink from a half pint bottle of Jim Beam, then offered me a drink. I passed. I told him I had been working in the sun in the switchyard at the mill all day, then sat at the corner bar and drank beer after work.

Chet told me he hadn’t worked for a few days. Chet was a coal miner, but he missed a lot of work. He told me one time that coal mining interfered with his drinking. He told me he had been staying with Carolyn a few days, but she run him off. Carolyn was a black nurse that Chet hung out with at times. I had a couple of joints rolled. I took one of them out of my cigarette pack, lit it, then passed it to Chet. Chet took a long hit, then passed it back.

“You want to go to Springfield Doug?”

“Chet, you know I don’t drive.”

I lost my license 6 months ago, but Chet always seemed to forget that. He always had money in those days. The coal mine paid good. He spent most all of it on alcohol and women. Those were the two things that seemed to matter the most to Chet.

When Chet was very young, there had been a club in town that many white woman belonged to. It was called the Chesterfield Club and to be a member a girl had to have had sex with Chesterfield. I guess Chet got around pretty good when he was young. Through the years, I heard that story told by several older guys, including my Dad.

Chet spent a lot of time in Springfield in those days. He would go up there for several days at a time to drink and shack up with women in motel rooms. He had a million stories about his adventures in Springfield. They were filled with dark humor and danger. He was a very good storyteller.

He started telling me a story about an adventure he had last week. It seems he had picked up a woman in a bar in Springfield and they rented a motel room. When he woke up, she was dressed and at the door with his clothes in her hand. By the time he got out of bed and ran outside, she was pulling away from the motel parking lot in a cab with his clothes and his money. The motel clerk came out of the office and escorted him to his room. He was able to get in touch with a buddy in Springfield, who brought him some clothes.

When Chet got old, he stayed in town. He no longer went on adventures in Springfield. He would be seen drinking daily at local bars. He had a sleeping room above one of the skid row bars. His daughter managed his money for him. One time she told me that he got a social security check and a pension check from the mine. She said she would meet him several times a month to give him money, because if she gave him all his money it would not last him through the month.

Sometimes when Chet couldn’t connect with his daughter right away, he would borrow twenty dollars from me. He always paid me back. One time I walked past him while he was sitting at the bar of an establishment we both frequented without speaking to him to sit with some friends at a table. As I was leaving, he stopped me at the bar. “You ain’t getting shy on me are you Doug?” I laughed and told him no.

On Saturday nights, local bands would play at the bars and these nights would find Chesterfield out on the dance floor, dancing with the young girls. One night, I remember asking a buddy, “You think Chet ever gets any these days?” He laughed and said, “I doubt if he can shake the wrinkles out of it these days.”

Finally, when Chet was 82 years old, he became suspicious of the people who rented rooms near him. He felt they had it in for him, so he set a fire in the hallway. He was arrested and it was determined he had alcohol dementia. He was placed in a nursing home just outside of town. After he had been there for a while, I decided to go see him.

I learned that he had died. The nurse said he was a harmless soul and often very funny. She said he was well liked by all the staff, especially the young girls…

Tony Dawson

Moses Interprets the Ten Commandments

The Summons

Mount Sinai was Yahweh’s second home
where he always liked to roam
while keeping an eye on those below
so they knew that He was in the know.
He’d rescued the chosen from heathen Egypt,
and had to ensure that they stayed on script.
He’d always had Moses on speed dial, 
since he’d floated down the Nile.
Yahweh decided to give him a call
to get him up Sinai before nightfall.

Moses arrives on Sinai

When Moses arrived, he was utterly buggered
Yet Yahweh still chided him for being a sluggard.

“Christ! Where’s the fire?” asked Moses, knees creaking,
“I was having a beer. Why all the shrieking?”
“Take the name of my unborn in vain
and your future will go down the drain!
Remember ‘God the Father’, and the rest?
Well, it’s the Godfather bit that I like best!
You’re here to take down my new rules
to prevent the chosen ones acting like fools.”

Moses receives the commandments

He handed poor Moses two very large stones.
“You’re joking!” cried Moses amid moans and groans.
“Never heard of pen, paper and ink?
The Egyptians have got them. It makes you think
you’re behind the times, not up to snuff.
So come on, Yahweh, it’s not good enough!”
“Less of the lip and get down the mountain.
Cut the crap. It’s late and I’m counting
on you to spread the word and straighten them out.
Run along Moses, you’re meant to be devout.”

Moses breaks the tablets

The prophet fell on the way down and the tablets shattered.
“Shit!” he exploded, wondering if it mattered.
Yahweh did hear the oath and the stones break.
“You clumsy oaf! You make my balls ache!
Can’t you deliver what amounts to a letter?
Perhaps Aaron or Amazon would’ve done better.” 
A chastened Moses gathered up the bits,
muttering about Yahweh getting on his tits,
scrambled down the mountain and sat on the ground
where hundreds of the chosen were milling around.

Moses glosses commandments 1, 2 and 3

Moses got to his feet, as grumpy as hell,
and glared at the mob, while ringing his bell.
“Listen to me you lot. I bring rules from on high.”
The chosen ones heaved a collective sigh.
“Yahweh calls them the Ten Commandments, 
though I think they need a few enhancements.”
A voice in the crowd shouted, “What a damned cheek!
Come off it, Yahweh! You’re a control freak.”
“I’m inclined to agree with you,” muttered Moses,
wanting to come out of this smelling of roses.
“Take the first commandment: ‘no other gods but me’.
It doesn’t take a genius to immediately see 
that, followed by two, he’s just a Mafia boss
running a protection racket and doesn’t give a toss
about the rest of us. He’s invented the vendetta
until the fourth generation! And it gets better:
if you take his name in vain, like I’m doing here,
he threatens rather more than a word in your ear.”

Moses glosses commandments 5 and 6

“As a Mafia don, he’s all kith and kin.
If you step out of line, it’s a mortal sin.
So, look after your mother and father
and Yahweh won’t get in a lather.
Now six is a bummer, mostly for the Yankee
(and his armory of M16s) who’s liable to get cranky
when a shopping mall’s nearby—in fact, it sucks—
if he can’t slaughter women and kids like sitting ducks.
That would take the laughter out of the slaughter.
Yanks have to shoot people, come hell or high water! 
In a sinful world there are no innocent bystanders.
It’s no fun if you can’t fire your gun like military commanders.”

Moses glosses commandments 7, 8 and 9

“No killing? Then, how about killjoy number seven?
I say, ‘Have some adult fun rather than go to heaven!’
‘Being at sixes and sevens’, to reach the obvious conclusion,
was once about murdering and adultery, not confusion.
Eight says no stealing, so hands off the neighbor’s wife,
or Yahweh might just decide to take your life…
Nine bans false witness against your neighbor,
even if his wife’s pole-dancing with you as a favor.”

Moses glosses commandment 10

“Finally, no coveting the neighbor’s wife or his ass!
The wife’s ass, fair enough, but the neighbour’s? Seems crass
to me, unless He knows you’re someone inclined
to approach the people you fancy from behind.
After all, he’s a deity who made Adam out of clay.
Didn’t he know it’s more fun the other way?
Yahweh gives us a sex drive and then trusts to luck
we don’t covet the neighbor’s wife, for a sinful fuck!
Having sects is preferred to having sex in the US of A,
‘cos it brings in more money and is less risqué.”

Dan Cuddy

Myth of Venus

Romance comes like Venus
Riding a seashell
The zephyrs
Pushing the vey naked
Naturally curvaceous
Botticelli babe
Onto a 21st century beach
A nudist beach
And I
Am wrapped in a towel
Too much fat to fry in the sun
And a little old
None of my bathing suits fit
I just want to be incognito
Catch a peak at the women au naturelle

Venus has a dimple on two cheeks
One on the face
One in another place
And she is so tan
She wasn’t born yesterday
But her skin is so smooth
A mole here and there
Like an exclamation point
The woman is real
Just out of Penthouse’s pool
Dripping wet
Brown eyes wonderfully smiling
And I would jump up
And say
With a cock-a-doodle-doo

If I knew her
And the lifeguard
With big muscles
Wasn’t guarding her life
Her telephone number
Her email address
I turn seaweed green with envy
Watch them
Kiss furiously
As violins come from somewhere
And a voice
A smoker’s voice
With intermittent coughs
Chokes out
“that is my daughter
Watch it”

I watched her
The goddess
Of Black’s Beach, California
And I said almost out loud
“gawd, what a woman”
A disembodied voice said
“That’s right, fatso…
Only in your dreams”

Dave Cullern

Got No Time To Worry

sunday afternoon. fathers nail innocence
into wood. building future suicides from
scratch. mould flesh into weaponised
emptiness. mow grass like shaved heads.
the next door kids are groomed by minds
gone mad. clean the car. lock your bike.
cut the hedge. the garages scream with
the corporal punishment of days gone by.
pet rabbits interred in compost heaps.
dolls set alight by the sun. if you cry
we’ll have to buy you a dress. fucking
pick one. dare you to fucking pick one.
a lack of direction is palpable in the
thin summer air. they only let you dance
on the dance floor. that’s if you’re allowed
to dance at all. they pick your clothes.
clean your nose. regail your future with
limitations and close. future doors. future
dreams. the map you’re expected to
follow is exactly as small as it seems.

Judge Santiago Burdon

No Gideon Bibles

There  are no Gideon Bibles 
At the Chelsea Hotel
Many a famous artist 
Seems to know it well

Bob Dylan wrote a song there
Dylan Thomas lived his poems
Ginsberg and Kerouac stayed there
And Janis Joplin and Leonard Cohen

There’s always a vacancy
At the Chelsea
Get a room without a phone
Drinking Mad Dog in the lobby
Or get drunk in your room alone

Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel there
William Burroughs shot his dope
Diego Rivera cheated on Frieda
Sid Vicious cut Nancy’s throat

If the manager doesn’t like you
He’ll kick your ass out the door
If you’re broke but you look alright
You  can sleep on the hallway floor

There are no Gideon Bibles 
At the Chelsea Hotel
When I get back to New York City
Gonna stay there and raise some Hell

Corey Mesler

In Las Vegas

I once took
a girlfriend
to Las Vegas.
It was a gamble
but I knew
I was losing
her anyway. 
We didn’t have
much money
and the casinos
seemed peppered
by aliens. 
All I can remember
is her deathless
breasts, a topless,
blowjob on
the hotel bed. 
She left me
soon after we
got home and
I never went
to Vegas again. 
It also might
have been the last
great blowjob
I’ll ever have. 

William Taylor Jr.

If Your Loneliness Were a Flag You Could Wave It

If your loneliness were a flag
you could wave it high 
above your conquered lands.

If it were a car you could paint it metallic blue
and drive it over the cliffs of hell
into a fiery sea.

If it were a ship you could fly it
into the heart of the sun.

If your loneliness were god
you could curse it
or petition for mercy.

If it were a stranger you could turn it
away at the door.

If it were a heart you could stop it.

If your loneliness were love you could steel yourself to it
toss its letters, unopened, into the trash.

If it were a law
you could break it
or strike it down.

If it were a house you could
set it aflame and watch it glow 
from distant hills.

If your loneliness were your mother
you could pack your things and run away
make it suffer for the years of pain.

If it were a ghost you could banish it
back to the Netherrealms with a spell
or a charm. 

But your loneliness is a song
and you have an ugly voice.
The neighbors complain
every time you try and sing.