25 February, 2019
All works reprinted herein are the property of their creators
We Sleep in a Bed Canopied / Cassandra Dallett
in the gauze of memory
sometimes late in the night he tells me details
shins banging bed frames,
the painting on the wall he escaped into
and I’m right there with him
I place myself behind his father
I carry my biggest kitchen knife
long and sharp like scalpel.
I separate his father’s flesh.
I’m the surgeon now, not my boyfriend
who literally learned to take people apart
and sew them together again
even as part of him went missing.
I’ll not forgive,
I’ll not smile or shake hands.
I’ll not say polite words or attend weddings.
I will cut them. On sight.
I’ll cut out kidneys and intestinal rope.
I will tell them to smile, to clean themselves up now.
As if what I just did didn’t happen.
Tell them put on your church clothes, Sunday’s finest,
your coach hat and whistle.
Hemorrhaging? I hadn’t noticed.
You look quite lovely in scarlet
and what a fine son you have.
I will whisper in their ears as they sink to their knees.
I will ask about their big house and the Ivy leagues,
dreams we have for our children and ourselves.
I’ll ask her just how she lives with that picture,
that bed frame, that man
in her house.
Tell her that house should burn
like it does in his dreams.
When he’s locked in with them
and the flames,
the neighbors just watching
no one coming to his rescue.
He is trembling beside me, heart pounding.
Even in my sleep I know I must save him
and how could you not? I will whisper.
How could a mother not?
save her son?
I will ask
with my knife
First they came for the shit talkers / Zephir O' Meara
First they came for the shit talkers and I said nothing
I did nothing
I did not speak out
Because I am not a shit talker
Well not in public anyway
If you happened to hear me talking shit one time
That was a private moment of trust
Please don’t tell anyone
Then they came for the rabble rousers
And I said nothing
For I am no rabble rouser
Sure I’ve thrown a few bricks
Sure I’ve started a few chants
Or at least a clap
A slow clap
Then they came for the free thinkers
And I said nothing
For I am no free thinker
Three fingers in salute
My lock step behind your boot heel
I love big brother
All day every day
Well I have a crush on big brother anyway
i'm big brother’s secret admirer
Then they came for the unruly
And I very explicitly can be ruled
Tell me what to do
Have I not made that clear
politically speaking i am a bottom
So I said nothing
I did not speak out
Because that is not me
The unruly can speak for themselves I said
then they came for the fat sarcastic star trek fans
and I haven't really liked anything since DS9
and besides i've lost a lot of weight
and really fat i mean come on cut it out grow up
Then they came for people who wear all black
I mean maybe something
A t-shirt with a little color on it
But basically all black
And I did not speak out
Because I’ve been introducing some color back into my wardrobe recently
Mostly Navy blue and muted greys
A rainbow of introversion
Next they came for people with outsider complex and imposter syndrome
And while I consider myself unique
A loner at times
Who has always faked it til I make it
I just don’t like labels
So I said nothing
Because that didn’t really describe me
At least not grown up me
Teenage me maybe
Then they came for the wannabe woke-ish normcore lubersexuals with dad bod
Grey flecks in their ginger beards
never lived up to their full potential
Forty somethings with thinning hair
a useless bachelor’s degree in creative writing
Plenty of pretty good forgotten band name ideas
like servicables ones that you could see headlining a nice mid-size venue maybe
Pretty mellow but not total pushovers
I said nothing
Closed my eyes
Maybe when i open them this will all be over
Maybe everything will turn out okay
I certainly hope so
An excerpt from "Shlomo the Strongman and the Uninvited Guests" / Colleen McKee
After the small town shows, were the circus performers not quick enough in getting to a wagon, they would be besieged by kids. This annoyed everyone but Shlomo, who couldn’t resist playing with them.
“These kids!” Gitl muttered. “Did G-d give them nothing but questions?”
She was tired and couldn’t even remember the name of this little town—it was something like Shmattavisk—and people were so poor that after the show, instead of money, some tossed garlic bulbs or half-burnt candles in the hat. The performers and fans were standing around a cold muddy field near a sodden little marketplace. All Gitl wanted to do was snuggle up in her fur coat with a hot brandy by some fireplace at an inn. But here came the kinder, each with more questions than the last.
“Are you really a bird lady, like there is in the Torah?” This was from a boy around nine with a patch on his coat. Next to him was a little brother, also with a hole in his coat.
Gitl glanced at Sarah as if to say, “Where is that in the Torah?”
“I am the Goldene Feygele,” Gitl said, remembering to be theatrical, waving her spangled arm with the long sleeves evoking wings. “I am unique, never seen on this world.”
“From the book of Isaiah?” squeaked the little brother.
“From the book of--! What a question!” she said.
“Can I have a cigarette?” the little one asked.
“No! Go bother your mom for a cigarette!” snapped Gitl.
A tall girl in braids, shyly gripping her apron pockets, approached Gitl. “Froy Feygele, I think you’re vunderbar.”
“A groyse dank, sweetie.”
“Where do you buy your lipstick?”
“At Reb Varshovsky’s shop in Bialystok.”
“Could I go on the road with you and help you with your makeup and costumes?”
“We don’t need that, sheyne. We need people with real circus skills. Can you perform?”
“I can sing. And I can spin plates—sort of.”
“Do you break them or do you spin them?”
“I spin them, mostly.”
“Then go talk to Froy Rosenblum.”
“Of course! Thank you! Which one is she?”
“The manager.” Gitl pointed at Sarah, who was discussing a broken violin string with the other musicians.
“You mean, the one with the beard?” whispered the girl.
“I mean the lady with the beard. The manager.”
The girl just stared.
“If you’re afraid of a beard,” said Gitl, “this isn’t the job for you.”
Shlomo lunged over to Gitl. The plate spinner got out of the way, for Shlomo was burdened by boys. Several were attached to his legs, slugging him. When Shlomo stopped walking, one boy hopped off his leg and ran around to Shlomo’s front. “Can I punch you in the belly, mister?”
“Sure, kid,” Shlomo laughed.
The boy threw a couple of weak punches.
“All right,” Shlomo said, “Thank you, sir, but I didn’t feel a thing.”
“Are you magic,” the boy asked, “like Houdini?”
“Houdini!” yelled Shlomo. “Don’t compare me to that pisher. That man is not magic. Forget magic. You have to learn to be strong. I am strong because I strengthen myself. Do you understand, boy?”
The boy just looked up at him.
“Listen, you have to be strong. Lift things. Run. It’s important.”
“Houdini plays tricks. Houdini changed his name even! What’s wrong with an honest Jewish name like Weisz? We’re an honest circus. We work hard to be strong, all of us. You can be strong too!”
“But Houdini says—”
“Forget Houdini!” said Gitl. “Go home, nudniks, show’s over.”
SUPPLY SIDE HOMEOPATHY / Paul Corman-Roberts
It’s not so bad
the neighbors just need
us to be a little more
We even tried it
for a few minutes.
But it was too much
like giving birth
to a loaf of Wonder Bread
& something sickly
that too warm
gluten sweet smell
something that never
should have been given rise
inside the body.
We pondered how this could happen
until Big Pharma told us
it was all good, that they
weren’t just in the healing biz
but they are also invested
in evolving the whole species
into perpetual bliss
even if it kills us.
Still Life with Potatoes / William Taylor, Jr.
She paused from the chopping of carrots to gaze out the kitchen window. It was late afternoon in early November, the day bright and cold. The grass and the small trees were in various stages of dying. Looking out upon them gave her a feeling of pristine desolation, and a yearning for something lost. Something she had no name for. Henry, her five year old son, was playing in the dirt beneath the sad little apple tree. He seemed to sense her gaze upon him and paused from his game to look her way. He gave a little wave. She smiled and waved back.
Despite the coldness of the day she opened the window. She took a pack of cigarettes and a book of matches from a drawer, and took the old glass ashtray that had belonged to her mother from its place on the kitchen table and put it on the windowsill. She poured some cheap cooking wine into a mug and set it on the windowsill alongside the ashtray. She stood there drinking and smoking and watching her son.
She could hear the sound of the television in the other room. When her husband was home the television was on. The constant noise of it frustrated her. It was always there, and she believed it had the power to prevent her from thinking about things she could be thinking about if the television wasn’t on. She felt full of stillborn thoughts. She wasn’t sure exactly what things she would be thinking about if not for the television, but she imagined them somehow worthwhile.
Her husband’s voice called from the other room. “Are you smoking in the kitchen?”
“No. The window’s open.”
“It makes everything taste like ash.”
“I’m done,” she said, “I’m done.”
She stubbed out the remnant of the cigarette in the ashtray, then emptied the contents into a plastic pail that sat on the patio beneath the window. She closed the window and turned back to her cooking. She dumped the chopped carrots into the pan with the roast and started in on the potatoes. She remembered sitting in the kitchen as a child, watching her mother chop potatoes. Her mother always made nice, nearly perfect cubes to be boiled or cooked with the roast. She looked at her own potatoes. They were cut haphazardly in random shapes and sizes. Her potatoes were ugly and made her feel inadequate but she dumped them in with the roast nonetheless. She chopped some onions in a similar fashion and added those to the pan as well. She poured some more of the cooking wine in her mug, and into the pan with the meat and vegetables. She put the lid on the pan and slid it in the oven.
She sat at the kitchen table with her wine and the noise of the television drifting in from the other room. She stared at the oven, trying to think about something. Henry walked into the kitchen from outside. She looked at him. “Are you done playing?” she asked.
“It’s cold,” Henry replied.
“Yes, it’s cold.”
“Will you make Megatron talk?” Henry asked, holding out a plastic robot with a missing arm.
“Not right now,” she said.
Henry looked at his mother, and surveyed the kitchen, slightly confused. “Busy with what?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Go get ready for dinner.”
“Is dinner ready?”
“No. It’s going to be a while.”
“Then why do I have to get ready now?”
“Stop asking me questions. Go to your room.”
She watched him leave the kitchen then turned her gaze back to the oven. Again, her husband’s voice called from the other room. “What’s in the oven?” She didn’t immediately reply. “What’s in the oven?” her husband repeated, louder.
“My head,” she said, not truly loud enough for him to hear.
“What?” he asked.
“My head,” she said, louder now. “My head in the oven.”
“I can’t hear you.”
“Do you want another beer?”
She sat at the table for another minute, and then took a can of beer from the refrigerator and brought it to the living room where her husband sat with the television. She put the full can of beer on the table by the reclining chair among the four empty cans that were already there.
“What are you watching?” she asked.
“What are you watching?”
“Oh. I don’t know.”
“Then why are you watching it?”
“Okay. I’m cooking a roast.”
“Remember not too cook it too long, like you did last time.”
She went back to the kitchen, opened the oven and checked on the roast. She poked at it with a fork; it still felt very tough. The smell of it was not as appealing as she imagined it should be. She closed the oven and drank the rest of the wine from her mug.
She walked down the hall and into Henry’s room. Henry was sitting on his bed, looking at a book. She picked up his robot from where it sat on the dresser and stood it before Henry on the bed. “I am Megatron,” she said in her robot voice, “from the planet Megalopolis. I am here to destroy the earth. Who would dare oppose me?”
Henry looked up from his book and smiled. He rolled over and took an action figure from the table at the side of his bed. He made it leap from the table to a place on the bed in front of the robot. “I am the Incredible Hulk,” he said in his Hulk voice, “and I am here to smash you!”
“Foolish mortal, I will crush you!”
“Hulk is no mortal! Hulk smash!”
The two toys then engaged in fierce combat, until the robot finally fell before an exceptionally mighty blow from its nemesis.
“Hulk is the strongest on there is!” said the figure, as it leapt back to its place on the table by the bed.
“Curse you,” groaned the robot as it expired.
She put the robot back on the dresser and kissed her son’s forehead. “Is dinner ready yet?” he asked.
“No”, she said, “soon.”
She returned to the kitchen and poured another mug of wine. She sat back down at the table and resumed staring at the oven. When she eventually checked on the roast once more it was still tough. But the potatoes and carrots seemed overdone. She turned off the heat and left the roast inside. She went into her bedroom and opened the closet, pulling a bag down from the top shelf. It was somewhere between a large bag and a small suitcase, heavy with the things packed inside it. She took a winter coat from the closet and put it on. She went back into the kitchen and set the bag on the floor. She took the roast from the oven and set it on top of the stove. She went into the living room and stood behind the recliner the held her husband. “Can you tell Henry that dinner is ready? I’m going out for a bit.”
Her husband grunted in reply, and then asked, as an afterthought, “Where are you going?”
“Cigarettes,” she said.
“Okay,” he said, not looking from the television.
She stepped out the front door and into the shining coldness of the day. At first she had to shield her eyes from the sun, but the crisp air felt good in her lungs. It felt good to be away from the smell of the cooking meat and the sounds of the television. She walked the three blocks to the liquor store. She went inside and put her bag on the floor as she took money from the ATM. She bought a pack of cigarettes and walked back outside. She stood on the corner, smoking and breathing in the cold air through her nostrils. She flagged down a cab and rode it to the downtown Greyhound station. She went inside and looked up at the departure schedule upon the wall. The next bus was leaving in fifteen minutes, to Galveston. She approached the woman at the ticket window.
“Can I get a ticket for the 4:30 bus to Galveston?”
“Round trip, or one way?”
“One way, please.”
She paid for the ticket and boarded the bus. She took a seat in the back and sat with her bag in her lap, waiting for the bus to move. In a few minutes it pulled from the parking lot and soon they were on the freeway. She breathed the winter air and listened to the sounds of the engine. She looked a while on the handful of others scattered about the bus. She gazed out the window at the trees and houses as they passed and couldn’t think of anything to think about.
THREE TRAVESTIES (and then many…) / Garrett Murphy
From the whole of Africa they were snatched by raiders,
Random without regard to region or clan or family,
Shipped away far from connections to home or to culture,
To be split further and further from legitimate names.
Today most names are the same as those of the captors
And connections are to this day irrevocably lost
thru years of splitting and mixings and mix-ups;
They had to make an all-new culture like a jigsaw puzzle
with least half of the pieces lost stolen or destroyed.
In many ways for oppressors theirs are the ultimate result.
Already on the land was another cultural group
Who nonetheless was also believed illegitimate.
They were ravaged and savaged and wiped out by invaders,
And as if that was not more than enough,
Their families were also deliberately torn asunder,
Carted off to “good” Christian (white!) families
to learn the “Real” culture in place of their own,
Wiping out the connections through intermingle or starvation.
Took an act of Congress to put a stop to that,
Though the damage will and has lasted much longer.
Now the notorious mentally truant delinquents known as
little jeffrey sessions and little johnny kelly
Dare to deliberately pull migrant children from their parents
Under the usual tactic of a “tough deterrent.”
T-Rex tactic or Tyrant decree
Are the more apt monikers for that diabolical plot.
The goal is of course
a reprise of the usual quixotic desire
of making Amerika lily-white.
The adage “what does not kill you makes you stronger”
conveniently neglects to add the postscript “and ages you.”
Which of course is another desire of the would-be enforcers,
Namely the figurative and literal elimination of culture.
Couch Poem / John Dorsey
this couch smells like watergate
like linda lovelace’s worst fears
like billie jean king in her prime
after a whole afternoon spent broiling in the sun
on a warm spring day
this couch smells like the gas shortage
like an unpaid mortgage
like a failed marriage
like a key party
where everyone came on foot
like the iran hostage crisis
like high school sweethearts
who will never find true love again
this couch had lunch with jimmy hoffa
this couch knows
where all of the bodies
& it isn’t
The Silence of Self (S.O.S) / J de Salvo
It’s not things themselves
that still hurt,
but their contexts
Chocolate and Peanut Butter, for instance,
is still delicious, but
until I have eaten more of it
alone than I ate with you
doubly bittersweet and dark
For some time, now, somehow,
every song is about you
Only instrumentals are safe, except
Beethoven, whose beauty now cuts me too much
Reminds me: there is no one
to make breakfast for, but
myself, now somehow insufficient
I guess you’re just what I needed…
Drinking didn’t help like it used to
It reminded me of drinking with you
and that I was drinking alone
Now more than ever, I limit
myself, overcautious of drowning in
sick, syncretistic, joy
I’m having the hardest time of my life
finding the pieces of the shell I broke for you
I don’t open easily and
when I let you inside
I thought you’d stay awhile, now
there’s an empty room, hell,
a whole wing of condemned synagogue,
sealed off, but unprotected
a monument to could
a picture of what disappointment looks like
Something people ask about
because it’s so obviously there
not knowing any better they
flap their speculative tongues
too sad to be mad, I find it easy
not to overreact or over-elaborate
An accidental tact
The eventual rebuild and retrofit will
likewise, be, likely, an unlikely happenstance
a re-shaping and interlocking of found objects
that must be forced to fall into place
If I could I would let someone else
come to my rescue, but,
these types of structures
allow only one architect
one demolitions expert
The phases of their
construction, deconstruction, reconstruction
cannot be contracted out,
only put off for now
I’ll have to face these walls one day
when I can pardon the dust
Try to rediscover the
silence of self
the absence of
the sound of you
Why There Are More Trees Than People / Marie Lecrivain
“How are you?” I asked him, expecting the same answer
in the usual manner; a whisper from above the grave,
packed with dirt and desperation. “Oh, I'm fine,”
he informed me while he shucked his shoes, shirt, and gray
flannel pants to reveal a body already burled and barked
by age and the elements. “I breathe air,” he replied,
as he planted his feet firmly in the soil. “I absorb the sunlight.
You know, just like everyone else. One day at a time.”
He held out his arms, which sprouted tiny buds.
An enterprising pair of crows appeared and began
to build their nest in the basin of his left palm.
I watched his face sink back into the fork between
what had been his shoulders. His shadow lengthened
to provide cool memories for hot romantic afternoons.
Why Every Person Lives in an Echo Chamber / Marie Lecrivain
I like the way, he says,
you were playing with time. -The “She” Series/Holaday Mason
There’s different ways to describe it,
like the characters in Rashomon.
I distracted her with witty conversation
while her husband made his escape.
I sang silly love songs and danced
my way out of date rape.
I swam to the bottom of the sea,
and into another titan’s arms.
But none of this matters.
In the end, I was punished
by her public relations team,
the ones who wrote history
and rendered me a sound byte
that reverberates down through
time, and floats beneath the choppy
seas of a person’s consciousness.
I’m that voice, the one who stirs to life
the morning after a night of passion,
when one wakes up wrapped in
their enemy’s embrace. The voice
that questions the foundation of one’s
existence as they extract themselves
from sweaty limbs and sheets,
stumbles to the bathroom and stares
horrified, in the mirror - the voice
who gives back the same answer as
the question asked… Why? Why? Why?
Full Metal Rectifier / Cassandra Dallett
The dog gives me body weight,
the TV language,
a book in my hand,
My love calls on a recorded line.
An inmate at the California Institute for Men
I press 5 & press 5 & press 5
want to choke her automated throat
for calling him inmate.
he’s my best friend and more.
When connected, our conversation flows.
The dog’s ears bumping Volume Unit Meter.
The serial killer on tv
slices off digits and limbs with strong wire.
The dog’s lips & mouth
are raw with electrical wire burns.
The recording bitch warns,
we have 60 seconds left.
We are rushing & gushing love yous,
best times to call back,
30 seconds she says.
One more goodbye
and he’s gone.
Dog ears flatten,
poetry book is cast aside.
Edited and curated by J de Salvo in Oakland and San Francisco, CA.
All original artworks by Paul Pot.
(Pleeaase don't hit me...)