‘Omega Point Station: A Terry Southern-Flavored Homage to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’ by Warren J. Cox

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I was walking one day recently in the old-fashioned downtown area of one of these cute central Virginia towns, just taking a pleasant stroll, and I remember being fairly hypnotized by a great locomotive passing by more or less parallel to the sidewalk I was traveling on. It was pulling innumerable faded black and yellow freight bins that were beautiful in a way, and I marveled at how the chain of industrial boxes seemed to stretch on semi-forever. They had the responsible clean markings of the companies and plenty of unauthorized graffiti also. It was like a hobo Berlin Wall mega-tramping through the land.

But the containers finally ran out and when they did my ears picked up on another heavy though more organic sound. I traced it to a tall lean old man standing across on a street corner about two blocks down. He was speaking to no one in particular, maybe preaching. The man appeared to have made of himself a cardboard and prophet sandwich, as he wore a stiff dress fashioned out of two pieces of brown board held together at the tops by a long cut of sturdy red twine threaded through four holes and knotted. There were neatly printed messages in bold black ink on front and back.

As I moved closer I realized he was probably blind since he wore dark glasses and a white cane was standing against the big blue mailbox near the curb. I sidled up further and took position against the brick façade of the post office.

He was reciting what sounded like poetry in a deep southern accent, one I fancied could have been forged in Biloxi, Mississippi or Alvarado, Texas or some such far down place. Though his manner of speech might have indicated a charming old black man, he was white, while the inflectional flourishes seemed somehow to belong to a bygone era, like the 1920s or 30s I imagined. The man appeared undernourished, definitely on the skinny side. He was bald in front and up top but elsewhere sported longish hair, with strands of silvery white from the head’s upper back and high sides dancing intermittently in the breeze, sweeping back and forth across his shiny pate and briefly standing, as if in salute, before lying limply back down. He had at least several days’ worth of same-colored facial hair.

The front of his sign read: THE 1990s DID NOT INAUGURATE THE END OF HISTORY, DUH, DUH, DUH. WATCH AND SEE.

The man turned in slow circles, and I soon glimpsed the words on back: OUR DAY AND AGE IS BETTER CONCEIVED OF AS: STILL PRETTY CLOSE TO THE BEGINNING OF HUMAN HISTORY, WHILE CIVILIZATION IS NOT EVEN PUBESCENT YET. JUST WATCH, OVER THE NEXT TEN THOUSAND YEARS OR SO, AND SEE.

By now I was beginning to appreciate that this particular man was unlike many of his counterparts in that he did not intend to announce, or otherwise commentate on, any kind of Armageddon or pending catastrophe. He was not, so to speak, your stereotypical sidewalk wacko.

Continue reading “‘Omega Point Station: A Terry Southern-Flavored Homage to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’ by Warren J. Cox”

‘Heaving Homage to Abstract Expressionism and College Drug Dealers’ by Haley Holden

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Somewhere between shot five at Ethan’s apartment and shot eight at the party, I had passed my limit. Limits are important, they’re the framework of societies, but occasionally the real art and the real truth lay outside of the limits. Unfortunately, outside of the limits there are also heightened senses and the leftovers of heartbreak I thought I had purged the last of months ago. The heartbreak rested at the back of my throat and it burned, but I wanted to keep it down. Keeping the pain down was better than having to deal with it coming up.

“I love him,” I sobbed into the toilet bowl. “I don’t understand how he can just sit there and look at me and not miss me like I miss him. It’s like a—”

The second half of the simile was lost into the toilet bowl as Fireball crashed up my throat. We had run out of the vodka before getting to the party and I had been too drunk to refuse whatever was dropped in front of me.

When the wrenching stopped I pressed my forehead against the toilet seat. The water settled and looked almost like a yellow and orange Jackson Pollock painting.

Continue reading “‘Heaving Homage to Abstract Expressionism and College Drug Dealers’ by Haley Holden”

‘Missing Piece’ by Elizabeth Eidlitz

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And I’m still looking for my father, two weeks after his death at 92—searching among his closeted clothes and dresser drawers for confirmation that an unrecorded event, more than two decades old, really occurred, proof that my imagination didn’t invent the roadside timothy grass and what happened there.

Memory’s poignant snapshot of my father bears no resemblance to Bacharach’s stiff-backed view: that formal portrait on a living room end table where a trial lawyer stares from his medieval office chair, its cordovan leather cloak outlined with giant brass thumbtacks.

What am I hoping to unearth as I go through his things?  What splendid secret waiting to be surprised? Something that, like a zoom lens, would zap the airspace in our distant kinship.

Perhaps an envelope inscribed in his elegant penmanship, “To Be Opened After My Death.” Love letters from a mysterious woman, breath-tightening as the rubber band around them. Even one of the birthday cards I’d drawn for him every year since I was five. Or—impossibly of course—a jigsaw puzzle piece.

Yet a mahogany box, cornered in a bureau drawer, assaults me with empty space. From jacket pockets, I harvest two sealed toothpicks, one torn theater ticket stub, three broken golf tees and a penny—the flotsam of a long life.

Continue reading “‘Missing Piece’ by Elizabeth Eidlitz”

‘Cuba on the Brink: 1957-1958’ by Clark Zlotchew

clark 1958 Havana.png
Clark Zlotchew playing guitar in Havana, 1958

After years of guerrilla warfare, with their base in the rugged Sierra Maestra mountain range of Oriente Province, Castro’s victorious troops triumphantly marched into Havana on January 8, 1959.  On the eve of this historical event –during 1957 and 1958– I had been in Cuba on four different occasions, twice as a civilian on vacation and on two other visits as a crewman on a destroyer-escort for training with the U.S. Naval Reserves.  The experiences as a civilian were not the same as those with the Navy.

I had joined the Reserves in my senior year of high school. A friend and I had joined at the age of seventeen purely to experience adventure and to see something of the world outside Hudson County, New Jersey and the City of New York.  As a member of the U.S. Naval Reserves, I was obliged, and privileged, to take part in one two-week training cruise annually, as well as to attend weekly meetings at the Naval Reserves Station in Jersey City for instruction. I loved the training cruises because it was exciting to be on board a naval vessel on the high seas. Even better, I had the opportunity to visit places I had no possibility of seeing through my own financial resources in my youth.

Every training cruise brought me out of what was then a humdrum existence.  Learning more and more of seamanship aboard a naval vessel provided a side of the work world I never would have experienced otherwise.  Participating in the daily routine on board a naval vessel was a combination of drudgery (for example, chipping paint from the decks) and exciting activities. In the early years of my training, I was given the lookout duty as my watch.  Whether day or night, this involved scanning the horizon with binoculars from an outdoor position on the bridge. We needed to report anything we saw and report our findings to the Officer of the Deck.  In addition, we had General Quarters drills, practice for battle, at any time of the day or night, in which each man rushed to the specific position assigned to him.  My first training cruise, in 1950, was to a naval base on the fogbound coast of Newfoundland and to St. John, a city in the Canadian Province of New Brunswick, on the Bay of Fundy. On that voyage, my General Quarters station was in the handling room of one of the six-inch guns.

Detectives, Ten-Cent Rum and the Den of Sin:

One of my experiences ashore was entirely outside of my comfort zone. It also provided me with excitement, with the risk of danger, the possibility of violent action, as well as a series of learning episodes.  Our port of call was Havana, Capital of Cuba. For one hot day in January of 1958, I was assigned duty as Shore Patrol, which is Naval Police duty, in a combination bar/brothel. That day is memorable.  Four pairs of sailors with SP duty were under the supervision of one Chief Petty Officer.  We used local taxis, at the expense of the U.S. Navy, to arrive at our first destination:  Havana Central Police Headquarters, where the American Navy had been assigned a desk. The U.S. Government had an agreement with the Cuban Government in which the U.S. Navy would police our own men. This arrangement freed the Cuban police from attending to any unlawful behavior on the part of our sailors and avoided having our men arrested and placed in local jails or being subjected to appearances before Cuban judges. Some of our men could become involved in mayhem, especially when under the influence of alcohol.  It was at our desk within the Havana Police Headquarters that we received our orders and instructions for the day.

Seeing the mustached Cuban detectives in their double-breasted suits reminded me of movies I had seen that took place in Latin America.  Especially the film, We Were Strangers (1949), in which Pedro Armendáriz played the Havana police chief.  In those days just about all American men, especially in the military, were clean-shaven, so that these Cubans with dark moustaches seemed somewhat sinister to me.  This gave me a real charge, and provided me with the feeling of truly being in an “exotic” locale.  This was adventure, something I had craved since high school!

Continue reading “‘Cuba on the Brink: 1957-1958’ by Clark Zlotchew”

★ ‘The Hook I Hang On’ by Thomas Gordon Reynolds

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So I said to her when we were in the car, “One thing I’ve learned about myself. I can’t be trusted. Not that I’m a liar or anything. I’m not. Though I lie sometimes, everybody does sometimes. And not because I’m always mistaken; I’m sure I’m not always mistaken – though I could be mistaken. It’s just that I have no other experience to measure life against than my own. Even someone — you, say — telling me about your life, is still just me experiencing you telling me about your life. You see? It makes relationships between the sexes difficult.”

“Is that what does it?”

“Yes. I feel I should tell you that my mental health may not be good.”

“You look okay.”

“I hope so. I run two miles every day in a circle. Kind of pointless really, getting up extra early to run two miles in a circle. The thing is, wherever you start your approach to life, and you have to start somewhere, someone will ask you what led you to that point and you will not be able to answer, because if you could, you would have started there. Still, you have to start somewhere. I start by observing that at some point we find ourselves alive in this world, and the question is always what is the correct response.”

“Um, speaking of starting — the engine? If you turn the key…”

“Right. Where do you want to go?”

“You said dinner and a movie.”

“Dinner? Don’t tell me you eat. If you didn’t eat you wouldn’t have to shit – excuse my French. I ask you, is that a fair trade?”

“The car?”

“All right.” I cranked the engine. “We’ll go downtown.”

“Good.”

“I can drive and talk at the same time.”

I pulled out of her driveway. It was still early evening out. Or late afternoon.

“It all begins, every date begins, with science,” I said.

“Yes, chemistry.”

“No, not chemistry. Well, yes, chemistry, but philosophy. The aim of the process of science is to take a long sheet of paper and write down every fact there is about the universe. The theory of everything. Complete and total knowledge. And what will we do, when we have this?”

Continue reading “★ ‘The Hook I Hang On’ by Thomas Gordon Reynolds”

Four Poems by Elizabeth Reames

soft cartel may 2018

102.5

my legs
strain
to stay
still
with enough
potential
to launch
me
from under
my brain
sizzles
under electric
tears
a hazy
monsoon
fueling forest
fire
with gasoline
it breaks
banks
and it
spills
and I
want
and I
want
and I

and I fall into a dream
and I smell lilacs
and they are everywhere
and the trees stretch back
and back
and back
and the veins of the land
are shot through with cherry cordial
and the land is drunk
good drunk not bad drunk
because I’ve never seen bad drunk
organized in such beautiful rows
the land is fruitful
and flits like a flipbook
one still sketch after another
with the illusion of motion
just as I am under the illusion
of being in a car
without a roof
and you want to know
how I know

because the wind
is kind

I reach the lighthouse
at the end of the road
and through the shadowed verdigris
cool to the touch
and I follow the gray boards
down to the sand
and keep going
and bury my feet
in the rocks
but they don’t hurt
I do not bruise
they roll against my skin
and the water rolls
around my ankles
like a discarded dress

and I think of the fish
silken kites
eyes always open
mouth always drinking
perpetual motion
brush strokes
with paint
that disappears
when it dries

Continue reading “Four Poems by Elizabeth Reames”

‘Rust’ by Sally Larsen

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Rust.

That’s what I see when I think of him. Rusty like his old red truck that growled through the streets of suburban Connecticut, brazenly followed by a thick black cloud covering everything in its path. The old leather seats were peeled and musty exposing a dirty cushion beneath. He was filth masked with small town charm and friendly greetings.

 

21 July 2004

It’s the peak of summer in New England. The trees are heavy and green, the sun bright and the air so hot it almost looks like the pavement is steaming. I am back in the old truck that I can’t help but despise. My thin, adolescent thighs keep sticking to the torn, flaking seats. His arm is pressed up against me, sweaty, and I wonder if that is really necessary. I try to scoot to the right, closer to my friend, but I let out a grunt as my legs peel off the leather.

“Sit still, will you, kid?”

I stop for a moment before trying again. He exhales as he glances out of the side window, ever-so-slightly shaking his head. I had attempted to walk the brief fifteen minutes it takes to get to their house, like I always do, but he insisted on picking me up, like he always does. And a few short moments later, we pull into the driveway, stopping only inches from the bright yellow wood of their house. Barbecue smoke soars over the rooftops, carrying old rock tunes and laughter with it. I climb, painfully, out of the truck on Jen’s side, turning back to find his eyes on me. I slam the door shut. The loud clash of metal on metal makes me wince. His gaze shifts as he follows the sound of his friends’ crude calls.

Continue reading “‘Rust’ by Sally Larsen”

‘Events in the Elsewhere’ by Faustino A. Guerrero

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She is dreaming that she is awake and writing down what she has dreamt.  But the dream is her words as she writes them on sleep’s cumulus parchment.  The whisper of ancient deities holds aloft that runic cloud, and presents it before Wind’s clown-god, Bluster.  Blustery, Bluster scatters this vernacular confetti to the Five Zephyrs of Chance, Choice, Coffin, Cunt and Cock; on the rug, like a slug, dreaming drug:  it’s Kafka’s bug:  she is me and I am she and we are all together.  Come . . .

The magic carpet of steel and wheels soars down a preordained path, over an immutable route through the labyrinth of night.  Chaos nips at their metal rug’s exhaust pipe, snorting that vaporous speed ball.  They are larks twittering in this wheeled cage; Elaine, a husky-voiced chatterbox, sits doubled-over in wracking mirth beside Mike as he, nearly gleefully incapacitated, drives.

“You fucker,” Elaine says, rushing a hand in front of her mouth too late to stem the spitball that splats wetly against the dash.  She slaps his shoulder and cries:  “Goddamnit, Mike, you made me laugh so hard I peed my underpants!”

“Can I chew on ’em?”

“You asshole.”  She slaps him again; but, after looking at Mike for a time, shrugs and hands them to him though she hasn’t taken them off.  This is a dream, after all.

Elaine watches while he sucks her little red briefs up into his mouth like linguini.  He licks a carmine fleck from his lips, munches seriously for a bit, then slowly slavers filmy crimson cotton over his chin.  Her panties dangle from the toothy, leering grin biting hungrily at their narrow isthmus of cloth.  “Ooh wow, who’s been burning rubber recently?”  He swings his head to the side and then back toward her, lofting her little underwear into the air and tossing them onto her lap.

For a moment what Mike just said doesn’t jibe with what Elaine had expected him to say, so she just sits there staring at him, as his actual words chase their imagined interlopers, and her moans of theatrical rapture, away.  Then:  “You fucker—

“How would you know, baby?” he cuts in, turning a smile and a hand onto her.  She returns the smile and the hand, daintily plucking it from its kneading perch upon her thigh.

“Oh I know,” Elaine says, “I know:  you’ve got the kind of prick that tickles a woman’s fancy—”

“And her uvula!”

Elaine says, through her husky, honey-dripping-over-an-erection laugh, “Yeah, everything.  You’re like a pillar of lust burning next to me . . . and you’re getting me sooooo hot.”  She rubs her hands lightly down her breasts and stomach and over her legs.  “Ooh, babe, you incinerate me.”  Languorously stretching, Elaine slides a hand behind his head, tugs on his hair, then pinches an earlobe.  He winces as if she just pricked him with a needle.  “Oh, I’m sorry, Mike, but I needed a little rouge.”  She smears his blood on her lips, wets them with her tongue, and bends across to french-kiss him, putting a hand to his cheek and pulling his reluctant face toward hers.

Continue reading “‘Events in the Elsewhere’ by Faustino A. Guerrero”

Six Poems of Mothers by Jessica Lopez

soft cartel may 2018

A Mother’s Manifesto

I am afraid to smoke my entire cigarette, so I puff quickly like a frail train and snuff it into the dead bottle of an empty bottled beer. The amber glows neatly, quietly and without a hiss. Where did sound go? I am tucked neatly into my corner pocket bed of the attic. A room I created to escape my family. But my daughter still tramples loudly up the stairs to demand money. My husband’s snores still creep through the walls. My dogs still amble up the stairwell and shed their hair upon my bed. I pretend I mind, and my meticulous habits sweeps up their aftermath. Sweep. Fold. Lament. Polish the wood-paneled floors. I do resent being a family woman, but also love it.

So, here is the story if you would like to hear it. I wake every day and brush my teeth, commute, punch the time-clock, wait for my child to be relieved of scholarly duties and scoop her up when the bell rings. Sometimes I cook a healthy dinner. Most times not. I put on weight. I drink the beers I know I should not. Make love once a month. My story is not uncommon.

Once, when I was thirten years old I stared into the mirror and acknowledged my beauty. My eyes were glowing almonds. Precocious rabid animals.

Knew I would be rich or famous or scandalous one day. I am none of those things.

Still I am happy. Smoke cigarettes when the house has retired. Snuff the smoke. The dogs breathe their dream-heavy sleep. The daughter and husband tucked into their cotton sheets. And I tinker away. An impotent Tesla. Juggling electricity. Scrawl words. Silly happy housewife words. Snub out half-lit cigarettes, so as not to poison the house.

The cherry tip of it, a red-lit beacon. Guiltily exquisite. A small memory of my best addictions.  It is all I can hope for.

I never hurt nobody but myself and that’s nobody’s business but my own.
-Billie Holiday

The Mother

I haven’t written a poem in your likeness for some time.
I tried. I took the broom and beat the cobwebs.
Lit one hissing cigarette after hissing cigarette,
let a dish fall to the floor, a porcelain scream.
I let the quiet shattering happen but could not eek it out.

Then I thought of this. You the young mother,
a knotted belt at your waist, slim and attractive
in photos. Your teeth gleaming and straight
like a string of pearls.

You hosted one birthday party in honor
of me my whole life. I was four years young
and it was a California Easter Sunday.
The kind of Sunday people move to the West Coast for.

You drew caricatures of rabbits and fashioned
yellow tufts of baby ducks. Dressed me in
my best cut-off jeans and plaited my hair.
Posed me in front of the cake, the cousins,
the wrapped gifts.

Picture after picture reveals that I was happy.

Mother, you were perfect as a plum.
Slicing the cake. A knife just a knife in your hand
and nothing more.

I am ten years older than you then.
A whole decade and more of misdirected men
have come and gone for me, a daughter
of my own. Many birthdays since that I
care less to remember.

And it took me this long to notice
the one thing missing from those
Easter photos that long ago day.

The father.

Continue reading “Six Poems of Mothers by Jessica Lopez”

‘Emmaline (A Good Dog)’ & ‘The Aging Actor’ by John S. Green

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Emmaline (A Good Dog)

Who made your eyes so bright,
Inviting hearts to open
Like time-lapse flowers in some nature film
Flickering on an old fashioned movie screen?
Your joy fills me with the driving pulse of the Universe,
Calling me to run and play fetch with you in the yard,
Making me want to rear back my head and howl like a wolf.

Take me back to the pack,
To the heart of evolution
When your ancestors followed mine
From camp to camp,
Village to village,
Asking for nothing but left over scraps
And a pat on the head.

THE AGING ACTOR

The aging actor arrives at the theatre early,
Roaming the stage, reciting his lines,
Praying to remember or at least have the courage to stay on track.
Past productions swirl about him –
Hamlet, Barefoot in the Park, Mother Courage.
So many characters,
So many lives,
So many fading butterflies fluttering towards the Sun.
“Who is it,” he asks “that played these roles,
That crawled inside the muscle and bone of these conflicted souls
Aching to live,
Longing to take flight,
Lifted on the wings of language
Imagined and perfected
By some wounded writer
Sitting alone in an empty room
Longing to be heard?”

John is an award-winning actor,  writer, and musician. His play, The Liquid Moon, won Chicago’s Jeff and After Dark Awards and was nominated for the Pulitzer. He won the Guild Complex: Leon Forrest Prose Award for his short story, The Me Zone. His poetry book, “Ordinary Light” represents a life-long search for peace in the middle of chaos.You can find it on Amazon or at Xlibris.com.