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Emerge Literary Journal, Issue One – February 2012
by Ilya Prints
His world has been crowded
with strange images and symbols.
Blue-and-white angels over wretched land.
The sage with the eyes of the saint and martyr,
with Torah scroll in his work-worn hands.
Purple lovers with twisted heads,
floating in blue dreams over the shtetl
with winding streets and squalid sheds.
Ridiculous bird, the donkey, or cows,
with human-sad eyes …All that is our
inverted world – in fireworks of colors!
And, the climax, as the singing soul of the artist –
the sobbing but not downhearted violin!
Who can yet love or feel for another,
stop for a moment in your bustling whirl.
Close your eyes. Open your heart.
And you will see and hear this world.
Ingrown in the ground,
lopsided small houses,
uneven crooked windows,
and fences, and roofs,
And floating over
the rooftops in light mist,
clutching with green hands
a violin with a bow,
the fiddler plays,
a violet violinist,
and sad and joyous
It flies over the country,
from bygone age to the future,
born in the violet-
of the naive dreamer
in ridiculous robe,
the song of love,
the song of hope.
Ilya Prints lives in Lynn, MA. Some his other works, poems and flash fictions, have been published in the several literary magazines, Calliope, Exercise Bowler, Danse Macabre, and Fine Line.
A star-filled night-
You listen closely
To the freezing drape
Of silence January brings,
Then enter the warm home
As an icicle falls into the snow.
You remember summer
How the warm breeze
Flickered the candles of the cafe,
And then came the thrilling food, pungent
Trite New England winters…
Yet now, In Morocco,
You could be dreaming
You don’t want the strange to become
Commonplace, and so you leave
Some mystery- lurking in alleys,
In the strange prayers-
In the beauty,
Veiled like a woman whose eyes alone
Tell you everything they wish to reveal-
And you remember
How you fell in love with a city
Michael Christani is a previouslly unpublished writer from Massachusetts.
of infinite beauty
by Jay Lance
I stood in the woods at the base
of a towering Aspen pine covered in snow,
just after dusk under a night
sky at elevation and beyond
and I tell you it was beautiful
of a sort that cannot be photographed
because the image is without
the cold air, the hushing
sigh of wind through the woods,
the weight of snow stuck
to my gaiters and boots.
The sky itself was beautiful
and possessed a transcendent
depth that man has known
since dawn and constantly forgets;
we now know empirically
that the sky transcends
even depth, for there is no bottom,
no furthest point from the Aspen pine,
merely points we have not yet
seen with our telescopes.
Out there we have all stood
before the pine and have
written of its beauty
but because space is infinite
and language is not,
we have each written ugliness
instead, and all manner
of wretchedness, and felt
despair instead of awe
and sometimes burned down
and so the sky disappeared
in the storm of light
Take my weathered,
back, web shed
threads, try staying
gray past redwash
pine by six,
to burn once
sawn, but instead
dry to flat-stack
lead blue as blood
Jay Logan Lance is a science teacher and poet from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is currently an MFA student at National University. He has been published in The New Verse News and will be featured in the spring of 2013 in Cactus Heart and SOFTDOWN.
The city calls you
to live a life of rut
and you oblige, happily.
thinking of the malls
and the cars,
of the offices sparkling clean.
And of the amenities the easy life;
You come to the
squalid street, gutter
with leftover crumbs.
The ten by six apartment
with a single window,
a block of concrete
blocking your view
of the sunset.
You visit numerous offices,
land a task that pays.
Until you realize
past sins in a
hardly ever sleeping,
never breathing right.
You stare listlessly
at the dusty sunset
at Marine Drive,
hang around till
the coastal air
turns damp and cold, inhaling
pungent fumes of squalor,
of a shared,
A man keeps talking, arguing
a child holds roses
dying in full bloom,
with yesterday’s tears
watches girls wearing
pink ribbons play
catch me if you can.
You start walking
searching for home,
go to the nearest station,
board a train.
And then another.
Tejaswini Kale is from Mumbai, India.
And when I turned down the recruiter
Deciding not to place my body
the box felt cold
But, strangely, right.
I could move
Within it freely and there was no lid.
Sometimes the walls changed
Like when I went to college
Where buses ferried the students
Like produce from one store to another
And placed them in rows.
For some reason
The box seemed smaller but more colorful.
At that age
I kicked the corners
To see what noise I could make.
While the noise was loud
Where I was
I’m not sure anyone
Else ever heard it.
When I finished school
I could barely make out
The ends of the box but the sides
Closed in tight and I walked
In some direction
taking care to avoid
Brushing the burnished aluminum-like walls.
I heard singing
but could never locate
With each choice made
The box reacted like a lung.
Exhale, inhale, puff, puff, puff…until
Other things over which I had no control
Seemed to change the box.
Seemed to fill with junk and
I couldn’t throw any of it over the top
Of the walls.
I would stumble and trip
On other peoples’ dreams or anger.
It was despair I couldn’t handle
Tried to walk around it
By its rancid stench.
It followed me
Like cigar smoke in a dark room
Thicker and darker until I could not
Wash it out of my hair.
Over shit that was not mine until I
Realized that it was all mine.
Allowed it in with each decision I made
With every turn-away of my head
Every unkind thought.
I took to polishing
The sides of my world
When I could
listening to the breathing
Pushing the walls until I could barely see them.
as the colors of fall swirl into the box
I will allow them to accumulate until I can
Climb upon beauty and over the top.
Brad Garber has published poetry in Cream City Review, Alchemy, Fireweed, “gape seed” (an anthology published by Uphook Press), Front Range Review, theNewerYork Press, Taekwondo Times, Ray’s Road Review, Flowers & Vortexes (Promise of Light), Emerge Literary Journal, Generation Press, Penduline Press, Dead Flowers: A Poetry Rag, New Verse News, The Whirlwind Review, Gambling the Aisle, Dark Matter Journal and Mercury. Nominee: 2013 Pushcart Prize for poem, “Where We May Be Found.” His essays have been published in Brainstorm NW, Naturally magazine and N, The Magazine of Naturist Living. He has also published erotica in Oysters & Chocolate, Clean Sheets and MindFuckFiction.
How the Story Ends
by Walter Beck
We were gonna burn it down
And rebuild it
In our image.
We laughed at “bad press”,
Soaking up the gritty glory
Of being seen as freaks and outlaws.
Doc was right,
Five or six years ago
Seems like a lifetime.
Now we sit around
And share stories of scars and victories
That nobody really remembers
Or cares about anymore.
No longer dunking our heads
Into the fiery punch bowl,
As others are shocked
By how much we consume.
Our throats have atrophied,
Just one shot is enough anymore
To get our heads spinning.
We smile and joke
About the dead-end paychecks
We ended up signing for,
Speaking endlessly of finding something better;
When we know
Nothing better will come for us.
We are forgetting how to live
And slouching towards existence.
Walter Beck is from Avon, IN and is graduate of Indiana State University. His work has appeared in Assaracus, Paradigm, Burner, Citizens for Decent Literature, Among the Leaves: Queer Male Poets on the Midwestern Experience and others.
by Jack Hill
I drink a Slurpee and stand in front of the Broadway Wash and Dry waiting for my clothes to stop spinning and watch two guys throw a screeching foam football back and forth in the parking lot. The hundred degree heat showers me and I think about a story a friend told me a while ago about returning from summer back country hiking in Utah.
After being gone for a week or two, this friend emerged from some Zion National Park trailhead, sweaty and covered in dirt and dust, dried blood on his knuckles and face. He said shirtless and spike-haired Old Spice model men strutted by stabbing hiking poles into the paved path with blue hydration tubes dangling from their mouths, their hairless chests glistening.
I remember how my friend laughed when he told the story, the cigarette clinging to his lip. He chuckled and frowned simultaneously. The next thing he said he saw was a kid screaming, crying, and yelling because this kid had dropped his personal sized pepperoni pizza on the paved part of the trail. Pepperoni, my friend insisted. “The red circles bounced all over the asphalt,” he’d said. “Like tiny basketballs.”
I’d laughed and pushed my dead cigarette into the wine bottle at the end of the porch.
“I felt like such a clown,” he’d said. “I felt like someone that wasn’t real standing there at the edge of the back country trail looking at all the people passing by, lunging forward with hiking poles and polished hiking boots. Most people didn’t look at me. Like I was homeless and begging for money at a street corner. Maybe two or three people smiled and looked away. They seemed scared or weirded out.”
Now I stand in front of the laundry wondering if this friend is still tracking desert tortoises and recording bat sounds in the middle of the night, allowed to camp where the tourists were prohibited from going like he told me he did. I haven’t talked to this friend in a long time.
I rub my eyes and go into the laundry to check the time on the washing machine. A man wearing camouflage pants runs past me, his flip flops slapping the tile floor. He slips and falls onto his back close to where I stand. We make eye contact. I walk by him and toward the sliding glass doors to the parking lot. He hollers and the attendant approaches him and offers her hand. He tells her he can’t get up – he yells, “I won’t get up!”
The attendant asks him if he wants her to call 9-1-1.
“I’m going to sue this place,” he yells and rolls onto his side.
I watch him from the outside.
He smirks and shouts that the attendant has to give him twenty dollars or he’ll call the police.
The man looks at me and I look away at the trees across the street, shaking my Slurpee cup and moving the straw in and out of the dime sized lid hole, listening to the wawmmp-wawmmp – the plastic rubbing against plastic.
Jack Hill works in litter abatement, edits Crossed Out Magazine (http://www.crossedoutmagazine.org), and lives in Northern California.
the windows Defy Words
by Jude Conlee
NOT like radiance
or amber or diamonds or however
you decide to paint them;
my dear friend,
because you’ve seen eyes
tell me what they look like
[ if you can; but that’s untrue
and a lie
you are not so skilled. ]
I can only laugh at your
dialectic on good days,
squint on the others,
there’s no agreement
here anymore, and
when we argue about things such as
“colors” and “shading” and
what words writers use and how you
put them together –
that’s when I know we are going
too far again.
Really, when I look into your
eyes, what I see
isn’t a pretty
nickname for shade;
even a special tint or anything
that makes them different.
I don’t even remember what color they are.
I just know
that requited look
that you always claimed was not.
and it makes me so,
Jude Conlee is from the West Coast of the U.S. (which is possibly irrelevant) and writes SF and poems (which is possibly not irrelevant). Some of the aforementioned SF and poems have been published in Breath & Shadow, Nazar Look, The Fast-Forward Festival, and Linguistic Erosion. Other than the writing, Conlee enjoys drinking tea, learning and thinking about the universe, and making other people’s days slightly more surreal.
Here’s to Reminiscence
by Jacob Murray
We met at Coco Bongo. The smaller one in Playa del Carmen. Coco Bongo
is owned by Jim Carrey, it’s a place that affords tourists the luxury of having a
Dos Equis in the middle of a gymnastics performance. She told me I was too
young for her as men and women spun acrobatically above us. I mumbled some
cliché about age only being a number as I tried to keep my vision in one place. I
won her over eventually. Or the booze and atmosphere did. Either way, we left
the bar with the same destination.
We strolled along the disheveled streets and the encroaching puddles.
Playa del Carmen was originally a fishing village. On the way to her hotel I
watched partygoers vomit freely in the streets while men offered prostitutes like
they were selling the evening paper. She remained on my arm. She didn’t care.
She was looking for nostalgia. I was looking for a story to tell later.
Her lobby was full of sun stained people who had been drinking watered
down liquor from an open bar all day. A woman in a sequined dress belted out a
Mexican song about an outlaw. Reverb and an uneven singing voice made it
difficult to listen to. The drunks all clapped at the end of her songs because they
were drunk and enthralled about getting a typical Mexican experience. When we
got to her room, she gave me a tour by holding her hand out and waving an arch
over her king sized bed. We had sex. I went outside, smoked a cigarette and
considered the ocean.
In the morning we laid with our heads on the pillow and told each other
the things we were comfortable sharing. She lived in a plain sounding town and
had a job she disliked. She was on vacation by herself so she could ‘have fun and
sleep with young men’. I was one of those younger men, but it didn’t bother me.
She had sadness about her, a sadness only brought about by loneliness and
regret. It was likely irreversible, judging from her demeanor. And it appeared as
if she had made her decisions and intended to live with them. I could have told
her an adolescent fairy tale about how easy it was to change things. Instead I
thanked her for the sex and put my pants on.
She didn’t say a word when I left.
This is Jacob Murray’s first publication.
A quick slice,
Made by deft hands.
Without the spare tire
Of middle age in the way.
Hope in the opening,
Then the treasure.
A cavern filled with pearls,
Glistening and thriving
In the dark coils.
The oysters far off
In their deep beds
At the bottom of the sea
Would be so filled
With jealously if they knew.
Scalpel put away,
No more cutting,
Nothing to be done.
Kate Swinson lives in Charlottesvile, Va and works a mishmash of jobs to support her writing aspirations. She reads obsessively and writes to maintain her sanity. She has been published in Poetry Quarterly and Boston Literary Magazine.
You used to push
your mittened hands
into my jacket pockets
when we walked
on chilly days.
when I said
your wool-wrapped fingers
felt like cold, wet beasts
boring their way
into my warm earth.
I rarely say
the first time,
I speak them
only in my mind.
I feel as if
is a warm pocket
on a great,
when I try
to release it,
all that escapes
Emily Troia attended Wesleyan University and Ursuline College and holds a B.A. in Studio Art. She is pursuing an MFA in Poetry from the NEOMFA Program in Northeast Ohio and currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio.
The mini skillet,
clean after last night’s wash cycle,
nests in the bottom drawer
with others twice its size.
I always reach for it first.
I tap the shell of an Eggland’s Best
on the counter, the liquid protein pools,
expands, dances on the Teflon.
I like how white and yolk are walled in
by the edges, secure.
The sunny yolk, framed in the middle,
diminishes the day’s gray as it promises
lutein, Vitamin E, Omega 3.
The nucleus, the last to give in
to the heat, charges nothing
for making plain the beauty
of staying centered.
Gail Goepfert is a Midwest teacher, poet, and nature photographer. She has been published in a number of anthologies and journals including Avocet, Off Channel, After Hours, Caesura, Florida English, Journal of Modern Poetry, Poetic License Press, Cram 11 and 13, and online such as Brevity Poetry Review and Bolts of Silk. She was a featured poet. Two of her poems were selected to ride a PACE bus in Highland Park, Illinois’s Poetry That Moves contest. She recently was a runner-up in the Contemporary American Poetry Prize sponsored by C.J. Laity on Chicagopoetry.org
A Cup Well-Shared
by Donna Ogle
Bring me the sunset in a cup
and let us sip it slowly together,
cradling it in our hands for warmth,
the blues and purples rising like steam
to tickle our noses
with their scent of sweetness,
the deep reds swirling the brew
onto our tongues
in glorious abandon,
the fleeting hint of yellow
dipping below the brim
until the final drop disappears.
We will linger,
savoring the rare blend
basking in the afterglow.
Donna Ogle’s work has appeared in The Journal of Kentucky Studies, Appalachian Heritage, and ALCAlines. She currently teaches English composition to seniors in Southwest Virginia, where she lives with her husband and two sons.
The problem with solving problems
by Gary Glauber
The problem with solving problems
is that when the hours are in,
and appropriate formulae applied,
the calculations made and answers
double and triple checked,
it still doesn’t change the facts
of this unforgiving economy,
that which cannot be fathomed.
Even smart and engaging candidates
have long odds in this equation,
particularly those seeking to land
any career-track position
without an insider’s edge.
What is the sum of
doing more than what is asked
and getting no positive reward?
This short shrift society
is configured in ways that
defy logic, that rely on exceptions
to prove the rule, but very little
deviates from the frustrating standard.
And so, after hours of careful
solutions derived and recorded,
the larger problem still looms,
like Goldbach’s conjecture,
or odd perfect numbers,
or more aptly, the elusive determination
of the smallest number
of points in a plane,
the happy ending problem.
Gary Glauber is a poet, fiction writer, teacher, and music journalist. His works have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and one was named “A Notable Online Story” by StorySouth’s Million Writers Award panel. He took part in The Frost Place’s conference on teaching poetry. Recent poems are published or forthcoming in Manor House Quarterly, Corium Magazine, Petrichor Review, Forty Ounce Bachelors, The Whistling Fire, Xenith, Tilt-A-Whirl, Sparkbright Magazine, Red Fez, Fade Poetry Journal, OVS, Quantum Poetry Magazine, Poydras Review, The Legendary, Prompt Literary Magazine, Red Poppy Review, Thoughtsmith, Ginger Piglet, Stone Voices, Heavy Feather Review, New Mirage Journal, and StepAway Magazine.
Dad Walking to the Candy Store
by Richard Fein
Dad Walking to the Candy Store
He proposed yet another the bet; I took it.
Sucker’s bet, for he could still walk,
always could and he knew it.
But that was the last time.
Down on the street he walked into a world of borders,
sidewalk slab edges, street curbs,
and the shadow cast by the high rise
sweeping like a late afternoon sundial.
He stopped exactly at the dial,
half in light, half in darkness,
his mouth hidden by shadow
and his hand waving in sunlight,
as he yelled up with a surprisingly strong voice,
that I was a vulture ready to swoop
down with unwanted help.
He won the bet, made it on his own
as he walked briskly into the high rise shadow.
Richard Fein was a finalist in The 2004 New York Center for Book Arts Chapbook Competition. A chapbook of his poems was published by Parallel Press, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has been published in many web and print journals such as Cordite, Reed, Southern Review, Roanoke Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Mississippi Review, Paris/atlantic, Canadian Dimension, Black Swan Review, Exquisite Corpse, Foliate Oak, Morpo Review, Ken*Again, Oregon East, Southern Humanities Review, Morpo, Skyline, Touchstone, Windsor Review, Maverick, Parnassus Literary Review, Small Pond, Kansas Quarterly, Blue Unicorn, Exquisite Corpse, Terrain Aroostook Review, Compass Rose, Whiskey Island Review, Oregon East, Bad Penny Review and many, many others.
by Michael Estabrook
I don’t know what it was or why,
but suddenly after I had finally
gotten myself removed from myself,
able to relax for an entire hour
watching the end of “Egypt’s Golden Empire”
and most of “Finding Bigfoot,”
a light-hearted (and unintentionally humorous –
Bigfoot, really?) romp
through New York’s Catskill Mountains
in search of the elusive misunderstood brute
(maybe Neanderthals never died out, really?)
flinging me back 40 years
to our date at the Catskill Game Farm, her
feeding the deer hesitantly and haltingly
through the fence looking so
in her white headband
and tight black and white striped top –
Michael Estabrook is a baby boomer who began getting his poetry published in the late 1980s. Over the years he has published 15 poetry chapbooks, his most recent entitled “When the Muse Speaks.” His interests include history, art, music, theatre, opera, and his wife who just happens to be the most beautiful woman he has ever known.
by Richard King Perkins II
The moon is a pile of ocher crystals and splashdowns of ash,
hastily swept together after a crash. No one can distinguish
between shoreline debris and a calamitous dune filled with
weeping. It is true that water hates to be ignored, drowning itself
with itself, subsuming its curriculum vitae. Your mouth pulls poetry
from my lips without being hurt. I deny you the most obvious
means of peace and any possibility of stasis.
Ignorance works this way: Knowing everything means nothing.
The surface of windswept water reflects the confusion in your
eyes, breathless witness to a lunar resurrection. Driven by
mirrored light, upheaving calm, the mind of the ocean is the
ocean’s savior. Whether walking on water or walking without
footprints, one thing is certain: All humans are interlopers,
exposed by the coalescent elements of unbreathing.
Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He has a wife named Vickie and a daughter named Sage.
Seven Autumns After
by Rebecca Leo
The sound comes from the trees,
stirred by the passing footsteps of an unlucky cat.
It is full like a bell,
the howling voice of all that is left
the giant gong of calamity,
that was oh, so subtle,
you’ve grown rusted.
Each resounding crash merely makes holes
in your form.
Your cry becomes a groan,
sifting through the leaves on the ground,
and your words are obscured by time
like old empires echoing in the sands.
All you are to me is an old feeling,
a deepening orange,
burning year by year
You are no different than a wandering spirit,
groaning in branches,
sifting to the ground with the unlucky cats.
Only a vague resemblance of what you once were.
Every ghost just wants to remembered.
Rebecca Leo creates things. Her poetry is inspired by how past experiences influence daily interactions, the odd pixilated image on tumblr.com, and the idea that beauty and talent are both easily overlooked.
Winter Giving Way
by Jessica Scott
I inhale and my lungs feel like they’re being punctured with a thousand tiny icicles. It should taste coppery, like pennies, but it tastes like freedom. At one in the morning, I’m sitting on a tree stump at the edge of a snowy field lit up by headlights and a fat, full moon. On the far side, Shelly and the boys are tossing snowballs.
Our parents don’t know we’re here. The lake is off-limits, but it’s open season in the rest of the woods as long as the sheriff doesn’t show up.
Jane is huddled next to me, shivering. Her down parka is heavy, but she’s thin skinned. She has a hat and ugly, mismatched mittens. She flicks at the puffball on the left one.
“Better than frostbite,” she says.
These are not my friends from before. Before junior year, before I cut my hair and dyed it blue-black, before my mother got sick. They’re all kind hearted, but don’t overwhelm me with condolences.
I hunch down and my breath is moist against the folds of my mother’s old wool scarf.
Chris and Kath are wrapped in a blanket on the hood of his car, their voices too soft to hear. It’s hard to look at them sometimes. They understand each other effortlessly, extensions of a single entity.
“He’s barely said a word to me all night.” Jane digs her heel into the frozen ground.
Sam’s in the middle of everyone, his blood red jacket standing out against the grey and white of the clearing. No hat, his black hair hangs in damp clumps. He can’t know we’re watching him when he tosses his head back and laughs. It echoes off the pine trees.
“If you’d quit picking stupid fights with him, it might lead to more civil conversation,” I say, winding the loose string on my cuff of my jacket around my finger. My thighs are getting numb.
Jane has liked Sam for ages, but she thinks letting him close will make her weak.
She’s an immovable object; he’s an unstoppable force.
Jane doesn’t know that the days she doesn’t drive me home, Sam usually does. Sometimes we drive for hours and talk. Sometimes, we don’t.
Her answer is cut off because Sam starts coming toward us, the snow making his long strides careful. He runs cross-country in the spring. Crouching down, he wraps his hand around the end of my scarf and tugs.
“You should come out and play. We’re one person short.”
His face is flushed and there are bits of ice clinging to his eyelashes. He is the anomaly in this group – besides track, there’s Physics, Student Council. He has plans to get out of this town. Everyone else’s ambitions only extend as far as planning their Spring Break road trip.
“There are plans for an anatomically correct snow woman – it needs to be outvoted.”
Jane scoots closer to me. “We’re good here, thanks.” Her voice is disdainful and I wince. Over Sam’s shoulder, everyone’s watching us. I don’t know where to look.
His eyes cut to her for a second. “You’ll warm up if you get your blood moving,” he says, touching my cheek. The bare tips of his fingers feel scalding on my skin. The moment seems to stretch like taffy, pulling until it’s sure to break. The corner of his mouth curls up. “Trust me. I’m going to be a doctor.”
That breaks the tension. Jane snorts rudely, Chris laughs. I could turn him down and he wouldn’t be upset. It’s what I should do. Jane is my closest friend, the one that shepherded me into this little circle when I thought I needed to be alone.
I want to be selfish. I want to stop thinking and take what’s being offered, let the force of him carry me for a while. I want him.
I stand up, brushing off the bark stuck to my jeans. Sam is still kneeling in the snow at my feet. “Okay. Let’s go.”
“Awesome.” He gets up and takes two steps backward, almost like we’re dancing as I follow him out toward the voices in friendly debate on how best to create snow breasts. My legs are shaky and half asleep from sitting in the cold and I stumble. Sam grabs my hand to steady me.
“Thanks,” I say. The smile he gives me back is brave and bright.
I don’t look back at Jane.
Sam doesn’t let go of my hand.
Jessica Scott is currently a 2nd year MFA candidate in Fiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago and was a Riggio Honors Writing Fellow at The New School in New York City.
at my window sill
forcing me outside
with a stare through
fathoms of sky
in the deep sonar
of light years while
hail my vision
down the roofline
of my neighbor
eclipsed by cedars
Greek symbols in
dangling atomic glare
in my pupils with
as our atmosphere
chops starlight like
these cauldrons slice
up an appetite
for the outdoors.
Dane Karnick grew up by the Colorado “Rockies” and lives in Seattle. His poetry has recently appeared in Electronic Monsoon, Ginosko, Jellyfish Whispers and Alba. Visit him at http://www.danekarnick.com.
I Break My First Heart
by Steven Ostrowski
Sixteen will end badly when the waterfall-haired girl with full-moon eyes announces early in the summer that she can do without me. For weeks, every gull-screeching morning, I’ll orbit Silver Lake like a broken-off hunk of planet in the shape of a slouched kid. (I’ll only cry on the weedy far side where nobody else goes but horny lovers). Nights, I’ll join my friends, the sleeveless and clueless aimless, smoke dope like a fiend, swill pissy beer and piss it back into the lake and ache for her with the four chords I can sort of play on my brother’s warped guitar.
I’ll turn seventeen in cotton-thick August, and that night a girl, a pretty wisp, fifteen, all sugar and lips, will want me–God knows why. And she’ll get what she wants, a sullen man-boy, a practicing mute, a bowlegged sadsack with hair like an overturned basket of snakes. Maybe it’s the blank fantasy screen of my eyes, or my proximity to being eighteen, or my mumbled, self-myth-making lies: hitchhiked all the way to the Grand Canyon when I was 15; ran away from home for two months when I was 9 and lived under a train trestle with a homeless guy named Thomas Masque who was wanted for manslaughter. She’ll be willing to believe it.
So, yeah, yeah, I’ll take her. For showing up, for being so stupidly happy, so easy to amuse (easy as sweat when we’d tangle and grope in the humid weeds). She’ll say to me one afternoon as we lay in the high grass, “I’m, like, obsessed with you. I like you so much I wish I had two hearts to feel it.” I’ll have never heard words like that. I won’t respond. I’ll stand up and push my hands into my pockets, sniff the air for rain. Rain’s coming.
Sure enough will arrive the drizzly night late in August when I’ll tell her I’m not into her anymore. It must seem to her to come out of absolute nowhere (though it was there all along, if she’d only looked). She’ll stare at the blur of my eyes, turn, walk away. I’ll hear her weeping and concentrate on nothing.
A few nights later, in our woozy camp of misfits, I’ll play a song I’ve learned by careless design called “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” (“no, no, no it ain’t me, babe”) though I’ll struggle with the cruel change from G, which is pretty easy and sounds like energy and faith, to B minor, which requires everything of my clumsy fingers, and which is a chord full of heartbreak, a chord I’m certain I’ll never master.
Steven Ostrowski recently published pieces in Lunch Ticket, Literary Orphans, Sleet, Citron Review, and The Prose-Poem Project.
by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens
Cradling your cup of yogurt in the shade.
All I can see is your orange camp shirt.
We are all tied to things.
The white tennis shoes now smudged with dirt.
My anger fevered pitch,
Dwindling down to toothpaste goop in the sink.
I don’t particularly like it.
Small steps to big ones.
Holding hands to not.
Giggles to laughter
Messy lines to straight ones.
Absent vowels to whole words.
Holding hands to not.
But I want to keep you forever!
I growl at you and at no one.
Afraid, you grab my waist and hide your head there.
Combing out the tangles in your hair…
Jennifer MacBain-Stephens is an emerging poet who has two poems published in the upcoming December issue of Superstition Review.
Get Down Here
by Elizabeth Schmuhl
We lived on your grandpa’s farm for about a year. He was dead and the house was empty, waiting to be fixed. Your daddy didn’t have the money to sand the scratched wood floors or replace the refrigerator, so he cut us a deal on rent. On the farm the sand was in our eyes and eventually crawled into our hearts. The same damn town: we could never draw a map to get out. All roads led right back to where we grew up, in the dust and squalor, where trash smoke hung around rusting barrels. The fumes were in our blood and there was nothing we could do to drain it out. The desire to leave was slimy pink like an earthworm, only coming out when it rained.
I asked you to come in me a million times, but you were nervous. There was so much in blossom on the land, you thought it would be catching, that we’d make a kid with no effort; we’d blink and there it would be, a hard little knot in my womb. Neither of us wanted that so you came in my mouth. Thick love, just like peach nectar.
Sometimes you would pull me out of bed and we’d go on night rides. The layers of our town were peeled back and everything was raw and earthy and dark. Remember when we stripped down to our underwear and climbed the snow pile in the Meijer parking lot? We had sipped whiskey on the drive so the cold didn’t cut our cheeks. I ran up the steep side of the hardened sludge in my salmon-colored undies, spread my arms wide, and opened my chest to the ceiling of sky. I breathed in the stars. I could smell their white light: trillium. All the endangered flowers bloomed underneath my closed eyelids, and I wanted to cry, but didn’t.
That was the first time I felt transcendence, that there was a way out of this place, and the direction to move was up. You said, get down here, MaryEllis, and I climbed down the snow pile mountain, back into your silver Ram. The cloth seat itched my naked thighs as you passed me the flask.
Take a swig, you said, and I did. The liquid anchored me, into the car, into the dust, into this drunken dusty town. I sat still, not humming along to the song coming through the warm radio speakers. I looked ahead, onto the road, our headlights dimly lighting the asphalt; I kept thinking we’d run into a coon or a deer or some warm blooded four-legged thing. Until we reached home, I fixated on the inevitable blood, its warm, unavoidable foil smell, and held your hand.
Elizabeth Schmuhl‘s short story, “Belief” is published in Wayne State University Press’s Ghost Writers: Us Haunting Them, as well as in The Hopwood Manuscript at the University of Michigan. She is a serious writer who is currently enrolled in VCFA’s low-residency MFA program. She also teaches high school English and modern dance.
Of Slides and Potatoes
by Michael Cadmus
Of Slides and Potatoes
The slide warped me back
The creek flowed under our feet
While the rocks shook
You climbed the tree
As I watched
We swung the swings
Forgetting what we were to become
Remembering what we used to be
We knew what we wanted
But couldn’t find it
The pool hall hidden in the back
The arcade the mask
The lanes were empty
We both went potatoes
While listening to the American swag
The slide comes to the end
My jeans are dirty
Caulfield died you know
And we do too
Michael Cadmus is an English Education major at Montclair State University in New Jersey. This is his first publication.
by Mark Rosenblum
Last night your lesbian lover said you were Barbara
Stanwick–clad by the reverie wardrobe department like Errol
Flynn in WWII fighter pilot attire. She’s a cinema major, and
her studies edit themselves like quick-cuts into her subconscious,
storyboarded and star studded scene by scene within her dreams.
You ordered a bombardier to drop bombs on her father’s homophobic
church. She awoke in a sweat after seeing your plane lose altitude
over Berlin. You wanted to know how it turned out, but tonight’s
silver screen sleep production is different–she never dreams
in sequels–so you remain missing in action.
This evening’s entertainment involved a tornado heading
toward her parent’s house. You were not Judy Garland–too
obvious–you were Marlene Dietrich wearing a silky black blouse,
gleaming white pearls, khaki hunting pants and sensible shoes.
You were both sitting on her parents front porch swing. She
said her father peaked from behind window drapes looking
horrified. Not because of the approaching tornado, but because
he was watching the two of you French kiss. You remind her that
her parent’s house doesn’t have a front porch; she says it was
her dream so she had poetic license on set decoration. She said
she’s not on the imaginary porch long because Tallulah Bankhead
rode up on a motorcycle, called you “Dahling”, and you jumped on
and rode off together. She was furious with you. She broke into
a sprint across the lawn and used primal scream therapy, yelling
the words to the song, Hooray for Hollywood at the top of her
lungs. All this occurred while the tornado whipped up leaves
and propelled flyers across the neighborhood advertising a
revival house showing of Gone with the Wind. You ignored the
visual pun and asked her if she was running away from the
tornado in an attempt to leave a stormy past for a brighter
future, or if she was running toward the tornado to embrace the
devil she knows. She looked at you and said nothing for a
moment, then started to laugh. She kissed you, and then asked
why you never share your dreams with her. You lied and told her
you never remember them.
Mark Rosenblum–a New York native who now lives in Southern California–misses the taste of real pizza and good deli food. His work appears in Tiferet, Boston Literary Magazine, Six Minute Magazine, Short, Fast & Deadly, Sleet Magazine, Pure Slush, Monkeybicycle, Vine Leaves, Apocrypha and Abstractions and Penduline.
by Amit Parmessur
She feels wonderful peace,
staring out into the vast reaches,
looking at the trumpet flowers and
stroking them with her nails
and snake-like fingers.
She has thousand wishes that life
were a huge grain of sand,
never to fall from
the hourglass she is.
than the prison life of her garden.
Seeing the kids going to school she
when there was the ambition
that the girl of prostitution wouldn’t
follow in her mother’s footsteps.
When each morning she woke safe,
forgetting the terrors of the night,
for getting the new sun’s shine
her mother bought for her.
She now sees a leaf turning yellow.
She adjusts her spectacles
and plucks a marigold for mother.
should prune her nails.
Convinced she should start
whistling like a bird or the breeze
dragging the scent
of the nearby street to her,
the place where her mother died.
She will always trust.
Born in 1983, Amit Parmessur, for someone who once hated poetry has been published in over 100 literary magazines, like Ann Arbor Review, Salt, Crack the Spine, Hobo Camp Review, Misfits’ Miscellany, Black-Listed Magazine, Damazine, Poetry Bulawayo, Jellyfish Whispers, Kalkion and Red Fez. His book on blog Lord Shiva and other poems has also been published by The Camel Saloon. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Award and Best of the Web Anthology. He lives in Quatre-Bornes, in Mark Twain’s paradise island Mauritius, with his cat and three dogs. As long as he gets published he knows he is on the right track.
This must be what a tree
splitting open feels like.
A sudden crack that stabs through life,
a river of destruction running upwards,
drowning out sound
until sap spills,
thick and sticky on
the upturned roots.
Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time either writing or reading. Her works have appeared in Exercise Bowler, Blinking Cursor, Theory Train, Cartier Street Press, Berg Gasse 19, Precious Metals, A Handful of Dust, The Scarlet Sound, The Adroit Journal, Perceptions Literary Magazine, Welcome to Wherever, The Corner Club Press, Death Rattle, Danse Macabre, Subliminal Interiors, Generations Literary Journal, A Narrow Fellow, Super Poetry Highway, Stream Press, Stone Telling, Popshot, Golden Sparrow Literary Review, Rem Magazine, Structo, The 22 Magazine, The Black Fox Literary Magazine, Niteblade, Tuck Magazine, Ontologica, Congruent Spaces Magazine, Pipe Dream, Decades Review, Anatomy, Lowest of Chronicle, Muddy River Poetry Review, Lady Ink Magazine, Spark Anthology, Awaken Consciousness Magazine, Vine Leaves Literary Magazine, Avalon Literary Review, Caduceus, White Masquerade Anthology and Perhaps I’m Wrong About the World. Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Web and the Pushcart Prize. You can find her here: http://carabosseslibrary.blogspot.com
After the first few times,
we would talk about the Moon,
trying to name as many maria
as we could:
Sometimes even Mare Crisum.
I assumed our little game
was purely from nervous sexuality,
like watching daytime TV in bed,
but I soon found myself
on the patio every night,
looking up at its dirty glow.
Jordan Jamison is from Phoenix, Arizona. He is unable to buy a pack of cigarettes until 2015. His poetry has been featured or is forthcoming in Red River Review, Eunoia Review, Carnival: An Online Literary Magazine, The Camel Saloon, and a few others.
An 8 at the end of it
by Victor Luis Zamora, Jr.
The coffee was being made without coffee;
I know that now,
But I will fix it later.
Outside by the damp floor mat
A spider hangs commonly on a thread,
Even dangling, but clinging,
Like a bat.
Further down the cold sidewalk,
Past windows and doors,
Up top perched—a cat,
Staring at me unmoving and still—ceramic like,
With spots painted on by a kid in art class.
And I sitting upon the wet trunk of my car,
Ratting my mediocre lunacy on a scale of 1 to 10,
Wishing it to be way pass,
So I know what I am;
But nothing more in the depths of negatives,
Claiming only a fidgety hand and near watery eyes.
I run in the morning dew,
Even though I smoke,
Making it hard for me to run,
Without that pain in my chest;
And in the crisp night,
I drink to past the time quicker,
Though it only makes it that much slower.
I drink coffee because I can’t go to sleep,
And lay in wrinkled sheets,
To make sure I have wasted a day.
And I tell her that everything past was OK,
And that it wasn’t her,
‘That God knows I love you,’
And I hope that she could remember the good in absence,
To forgot the miserable piece that she perceived at present.
Victor Luis Zamora, Jr. is in his second year of law school in Orlando, Florida.
My very own body electric
by Felix Maple
Morning in crimson,
not to reality,
to a dream.
I sleep in my bed
the way you leave it;
Feeling thinking your
presence in the
of nightly starry
A comfortable place
for sense and
from the soul;
Working its way
and blind faith. Down
pathways known only
to the hand:
motions on a blank
page: from pen into ink.
Back into eyes.
A poetry of place.
Should I sleep to wake?
A faintest gift
Felix Maple is a professional geographer living in Paris, France. He teaches geography at the University of Paris 8 (Vincennes – Saint Denis) and writes poetry whenever he can. He spent his childhood in Italy, The UK and the US before moving to France.
The cold air on my naked back
is a memory of you
You who left
never to return
How many of you shall I know
Not nearly as many as will remain a stranger
And I am someone who wakes in the night
plagued by strange dreams of being stabbed and eaten
There is always some task I cannot complete
I tell myself it’s about inadequacy and consumption
The world devours me piece by piece
Children get excited
They do not feel the beast
that chews their toes
But they do fear him
in the night
Alan Haider is an emerging writer who currently resides in South Florida, where he was born and raised. He has been featured on the cover of Nazar-Look, and his work has appeared—or is forthcoming—in print publications such as Turbulence, The Main Street Rag, Star*Line, and The Rusty Nail.
every machine gunned word (stutter)
by Kate LaDew
every machine gunned word
from my mouth is evidence of their failure,
tongue spattering against clenched teeth, syllables splayed in two,
blood dripping down my chin, watching them watch me,
forced twin smiles ripped in half,
clenched teeth, clenched fists,
clenched teeth, clenched fists,
weary heads nodding along to the clips and starts, eyes blurring,
hoping to reveal a prettier picture–
my mother took me to classes after school
waiting with other dumbstruck kids, the room filled with distractions
anything to keep the hands occupied, limit speech
my life has been stutters and stumbles to compensate,
afraid to say what I want when nothing comes easy
I’ve managed to become nothing, and been so slow doing it–
but what have I done to them?
this beautiful little girl they once had,
reduced to close lipped mutterings
this beautiful little girl grown up, unable to look anyone in the eye,
afraid to see the pity, the nervous laughter.
I will never give an acceptance speech,
never wave at my mother, my father from a stage
all my words have bled out, there’s nothing to reward, and all I am is afraid
curled up inside myself, waiting for the gunfire to die down–
hands grasp mine, old hands, tired hands, veins coarsing with matching blood,
we three are dying together,
felled at the knees and I’m sorry.
if only I could tell you, if only my lips could form the notes–
the rat a tat tat of consonants and vowels hits your chest,
leaves blood like a star over those old hearts, those tired hearts–
I didn’t want to fail, I wanted to give you something, anything at all,
if my breath would only fill my lungs completely for just a moment,
I could tell you what I’ve been saving up all my life–
I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry
Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art.
would be meaningless
without her voice, I write that down
checking behind my back,
see, I prefer to write in secret
and I’ll hide
that note in my pockets
until it crumples into obscurity
on the next laundry day
because it isn’t supposed to rain
for the next few weeks
Thomas Pescatore grew up outside Philadelphia, he is an active member of the growing underground poetry scene within the city and hopes to spread the word on Philadelphia’s new poets. He maintains a poetry blog: amagicalmistake.blogspot.com. His work has been published in literary magazines both nationally and internationally but he’d rather have them carved on the Walt Whitman bridge or on the sidewalks of Philadelphia’s old Skid Row.