‘Afloat’ by Eric Burbridge

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It rained for twenty-four hours before Emory decided to get high.  The cast on his shattered left leg and hip itched like hell. He needed relief and waved the flame under the spoon.  He drew the heroin into the syringe, pierced his vein and watched the blood mix with the chalky white fluid. Thunder and lightning exploded outside and in his head.  He fell back on the bed and his arteries were on fire. Oh, no, fentanyl mix, they lied…they killed him.

He was cold and wet, darkness his only companion.  Focus. He passed out, but how long was he out, twelve hours, a day?  He splashed water on the bed the place was flooded. He managed to grab the headboard.  What do I do? An eerie silence fell over the place. The rain had stopped, but the window was open and the stench of sewerage in the water turned his stomach.  A splash in the other room, what was that? Contaminated water soaked into the cast; the itch returned. His lower half would be infected if it wasn’t already. Emergency flashing lights danced on the walls.

People in boats, it had to be!

He scooted to the opposite side and grabbed the chair before it floated away.  If he could only get on it and scream for help. The lights faded, then darkness.  But what were those glowing spots in the water?

Spots!  Those weren’t spots, but eyes just above the water.

A gator!

He snatched his arm from the chair too late. The gator’s teeth sank into his biceps as it tried to swallow his arm.  The pain was unbearable.

“Help!!”

Emory jerked back and forth and the reptile’s grip loosened.  He’d almost got his arm out when the gator moved with lightning speed onto the bed.  Emory punched its mouth. “Get back!” It didn’t. Instead its mouth snapped up his arm again, spun trying to flip him. The more he pulled the farther his arm went down the gator’s throat.  Flashing lights reappeared and revealed the black bumpy scales of the predator determined to kill him. The sickening smell coupled with panic made him puke. The contents of his stomach splashed in the water and face of his assailant.  Emory scooted back on the bed and so did the gator, locked on his arm, but the tingling stopped.

“Help…help somebody…please help!!”

The gator’s eyes popped open.  Oh shit.

A mandatory evacuation is in effect.  Please go to the upper floors of your residences if possible.”  A male voice with a heavy southern drawl shouted through a loud speaker.  Waves of water rushed through the window as a boat circled the house. He managed to move his arm in the gullet of the gator and felt boney ridges.  He opened his fist; his fingers would prevent his arm from going any further. The reptile wriggled one last time.

“Dead…you’re dead.  Help!!” The waves in the water started to rise and cover his face.

After all this, now he was going to drown.  A boat bumped into the house? “Anybody in there?”  A guy slipped through the window his helmet light shined in Emory’s face.

“Jesus, Willy there’s a big ass gator in here…he got a guy’s arm in his mouth!!”

“Help.”  Emory tried to scream but only whimpered.

The rescue worker waded through the putrid water opposite the gator.  “Be still guy…be calm. Your arm stuck?” Emory nodded. “Willy, get your fire ax, hurry.”

“OK.” The worked poked the gator with the axe and pushed it further on the bed. “It’s dead, Willy.”  He shouted. “Ok guy, I’m gonna chop its head off, relax…be still.” Emory nodded and closed his eyes.  He still couldn’t feel his arm. “Be still.” The sound sickened him and blood sprayed in his face. Chop, chop. He wanted to scream, “Don’t cut off my arm,” but couldn’t and lost consciousness.

Eric Burbridge has been published in numerous literary journals. He started writing at a young and continued through his retirement.

‘WHAT A GLORIOUS END’ & ‘OVERRATED: CONCERNING PRUFROCK’ by Sophia Kelly

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WHAT A GLORIOUS END

This is the fear of
This is the fear of
This is the fear of being hated.

Welcome to the death of Apollo.
The star shines down on Dionysus.
They have done their time here.
Paint your masks and watch them fall.

This is the end of
This is the end of
This is the end of complacency.

Wielded tongues meet their makers
at the arcane Hotel Eden.
Cut flesh with curiosity.
Screaming angels fall like sidereal awes.

This is the hope of
This is the hope of
This is the hope of a new era.

The sun will set in a fortnight.
Let us see these illegitimate jewels.
In between we shall give our thoughts.
How the prickly pear is the American Dream.

This is the love of
This is the love of
This is the love of ambiguity.

The wind blows as skins flow
away from their winter shells.
Life creeps as blood seeps
into the gaping earth.

This is the cost of
This is the cost of
This is the cost of one more season.

Concerning tastes it must not be disputed,
yet bones cry for a fight.
Plato slays for his maiden
Truth as the subjective beast-

This is the death of
This is the death of
This is the death of thy paradise.

Diamonds melt into tears
as lions run for cover.
Even legends tend to die
when fire comes to play.

This is the sense of
This is the sense of
This is the sense of a glorious end.

OVERRATED: CONCERNING PRUFROCK

Overrated
is the man who
cannot seem to face
his own anxiety.

Falls into
a bad state of a
mbiguity;
How human

Is the one who
shall not attend
the party life
has to offer mankind.

How peachy.

Sophia Kelly is a recent graduate from The Vanguard School in Colorado. She has five published poems, and awards for two other poems in the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition. Her poems can be found in Haiku Journal, The America Library of Poetry, The Live Poets’ Society of New Jersey, and Poetry Nation. She has also written about four short stories, none of which have yet been published. Sophia strives to write in many different styles and genres. When she is not putting her pen to the paper, she crochets a wide variety of animals, where she then sells at her local artisan shop.

‘So what then do we do when the sea is boiling’ & ‘prayers’ by Ogunkoya Samuel

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So what then do we do when the sea is boiling

Or how do words leap off our mouths
Like curses to the new gods for
Making delicate flower gardens become graveyards.
Or a plea of help to the old ones
While we expect them to reply
With a concerted silence
Like ever before.
Still, we prayed,
Till we fled from our burning houses.
We made worship out of war songs
By God, there is never a rhythm to being homeless
What lyrics are there in crying?
But what else can we do when they tell us
Asylums aren’t designed for couples.

prayers

every time there is a rain
fall
it reminds you of the night your father drowned
and how he left ten blank pages for you
to write poems
bad poems.
shitty poems.
good poems. but never
love poems.
the sound of your back breaking drowned
in the hum of a road
into a bus filled with mothering women
into the cackles of a baby
into his mother’s thought
it found a home there
becoming a groan & blue prayers to the name of a faceless god.
and the memories of your father & you
is a street too wide for a city to swallow.

Ogunkoya Samuel is a Nigerian physiotherapist. His poems have been published in Kalahari Review, AfricanWriter and Best New African poets anthology 2017. He writes from Lagos.

‘The Next Day’ & ‘Eye Contact’ by J.L. Smith

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The Next Day

Alone,
I felt the bed sheets for the first time,
rough like the 100-count fibers they are,
made coarse like a cat’s tongue
on tender skin,
itchy on the naked hip.
Last night the sheets felt supple,
camel hair,
buttery suede,
when I was under you.
Burgundy in color,
not faded as they are now
with the sun penetrating
through cheap curtains,
squinting eyes.
Color fades,
drained,
like you from me.
A cheap imitation
that longed to be something
it will never be.

Eye Contact

He looks at her as he strokes her,
like a cat: good kitty, good kitty.
But, the blonde is a mixed signal:
part receptive to his cuddles,
wet kisses on the neck;
part not,
pulling back
as much as his grip
around her waist will allow.

She sees all around her
in the java line,
but dares not make eye contact,
does not ask him to stop either,
as he looks behind him
to you,
seeking eye contact,
a notice,
but you look at the gluten free cookies instead.

Coconut gluten free cookies.

You won’t give him the validation,
even as he smooths his hands
over the rear of her jeans,
to remove her cell phone,
so that she can pay with it.

As he walks away,
his eyes remain on you.
You stare at her back,
urging
praying,
that she leaves him
and never looks back.

J.L. Smith has published two collections of poetry: Medusa, The Lost Daughter and Weathered Fragments, Weathered Souls. Her work has appeared in many literary journals and magazines. Follow her at her blog jlsmithwrites.com or Twitter @jennifersmithak.

Three Poems by Mugabi Byenkya

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Grayson

we’d been drinking

wind whipped up an icy frenzy around us
white icy sleet sheets sliced micro-tears in our unexposed skin
visibility was near zero
all I could see was your girthy billowing dark frame
amidst an off-white seething haze

we stumbled forward
my size ten boots
awkwardly landing into your size twelve boot-prints

trudging onwards through the blizzard
we approached closer and closer to home

the combination of:
– alcohol in my arteries
– adolescent angst
– and the assaulting air

uncorked the inhibitions off my repressed anger

“Where were you, when I needed you?”

Rose

She was always the tomboy
But what comes with the territory
doesn’t always come with joy

Raised by her Father
as the Boy he wanted
Who never realized
the extent this would damage

Older Brothers perpetuated Father’s wishes
Always one of the guys
she responds with –
“EEEEW!”
to kisses

But that didn’t matter

Before

puberty

Before

the myth of cooties
Was lifted, do you see?

So she,
hung out with her group of guys
Always one of the guys
Never realized
the key difference

Times change
people change
people grow ambivalent

But she didn’t see it coming

Hormones started raging
boys started cuming

Realized the girl in their midst
was more than a friend
She was

SEX
Incarnate
all their lustful

Desires

In the flesh

Desires

To grope breasts

Desires

To mesh

With another human being

Desires

For meaning-
less physical pleasure

No justification here for violent measures
So they all came
Together
to play a ‘game’

Quotation marks
harken the presence
Of ulterior motives,
as the moon slivers into a crescent

The game was 5 against 1

I cried the first time
I lied when I tried

Is there something wrong with me?

Is this what it’s supposed to be?

Raimah

“So, like when was the first time you did it?”
“Haha, well, you know, there was this cute guy at the club”
“Uh-huh”
“And, um”

what I’m about to say next is an utter fallacy
For you see
My lips lie
As my soul cries

Woke up the next morning in his bed
Naked
Violated
Mistaken

Mugabi Byenkya was born in Nigeria to Ugandan/Rwandan parents and is currently based between Kampala and Toronto. He spent his life across Africa, Asia and North America. Mugabi was longlisted for the Babishai Niwe Poetry Award in 2015, has been featured on Brittle Paper, The Good Men Project, African Writer, Arts and Africa and The Kalahari Review amongst others. His writing is used to teach international high school English reading comprehension. His debut novel, ‘Dear Philomena,’ was published in 2017 and he recently concluded a 30 city North America/East Africa tour in support of this. An advocate for the intersection of arts, chronic illness and social justice, and literacy, Mugabi leads workshops in effective writing, poetry, performance, vulnerability, mental illness and chronic illness for youth and adults.

Three Poems by A.E. Weisgerber

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FOH

Those two square slants of roof, that wisp-of-smoke
chimney, that door with the window in it,
that shining window with the panes in it,
them geraniums and eyelet curtains,
winking me a welcome home but for this:

what are these hearts in the turf, these indents
in the yard, this moss, that memory stone
a poured concrete circle, a date drawn with
a stick, below it the impression of
a wife-sized hand and a cloven heart?
I’m fucking dead?

STFU

I dropped the call with a crisp acrylic tap, knowing exactly who waited for my arrival at Café La Croix. So, I called Chekr from my bedroom where I am allegedly getting ready to meet friends at a St. Tropez-style brunch, but really was going for, you know. While I practiced my shade-filled deadpan in the mirror, my Chekr arrived, and it waited outside, and I knew I was going to be, like, at least another fifteen minutes. I cancelled the Chekr. Maybe it was rude, a little, but I thought I am thoughtful. After another twenty minutes I was, you know, ready, so I called another Chekr and guess what? It was the same guy. He kept accepting my request and cancelling. I can’t get another car. I saw my Chekr idling under the maple across the street. How rude. By the way: My gel tips are fucking coming off in case anybody gives a rolling fuck. Chekr is soooooo much rudeness.

EMFDYSI

Hello. Very happy to meet you. Delighted. How is it going today? You are touring with your son. It is a pleasure to travel by car. How to say mine is with me and not here. What? I have a room downtown. What about you? Great, buddy. Thanks. When is your vacation? In July? Sun. Warm. Hot. Will you go to the beach? How do I say windows, or it doesn’t make one bit of difference? At home, everybody is all right? A son? Very good. Go to the door, please. I had one son, a boy. (He left a note, left it in his father’s office.) Excuse me, sir. Could you please help me? Can you help me please? Who is that guy? Do you know him? (How you say? Overdose. Easy. Peaceful.) Yes, I am from Barcelona. Is this a good idea? It’s not going too well, thanks. I I need helping.

A.E. Weisgerber is a 2018 Chesapeake Bay Writer and 2017 Frost Place Scholar. Stories in Heavy Feather, Alaska Star, SmokeLong, Essaying Daily, FLAPPERHOUSE, great weather for MEDIA, Matchbook, DIAGRAM, Collapsar, and Zoetrope Cafe’s Story Machine. Follow @aeweisgerber or visit anneweisgerber.com

‘The Sensing Element for Man’ by Steven Genise

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Hegel, in 1822: No man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also is own spirit.

In the dying wetlands of the North Bay, there are these flocks of starlings that zip back and forth on the wind in great clouds or like a school of fish, but for starlings they call it a murmuration. Hegel thinks time moves the way a murmuration of starlings appears to move: in unison and unanimously. But watch these these murmurations of starlings; first one bird changes direction, fights the momentum of the group, recruits others to his cause, and if enough of them do so, the entire group moves. If he fails, he returns to the fold.

By necessity, then, it is not only possible for a man to surpass his own time, but for time to advance at all, it is required.

And Hegel would say, in 1807: This self-preserving Now is, therefore, not immediate but mediated; for it is determined as a permanent and self-preserving Now […] it is still just simply Now as before, and in this simplicity is indifferent to what happens in it.

And I tell Hegel That’s certainly how Everyone feels, isn’t it?

___

I stood on the balcony of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory with my colleague.

You know the sun doesn’t set in the West, I told him.

I can see it right now, he said.

No, only twice a year, on the equinoxes.

I can see it right now and it’s February.

I know. But the Golden Gate isn’t due West of us.

Yes it is, he said.

No, I told him. It’s almost one minute South of West.

So what.

Today is the day the sun sets directly behind the Golden Gate from where we are.

You took the time to figure that out?

Every year it’s February ninth and November first.

Huh.

___

You can reflect the sun completely in a glass of water the same way you can reflect it off the ocean if the ocean is still enough. In that way it’s like a fractal, isn’t it. You can take a still thimble and gaze at the reflection of the setting sun and then place that thimble in a field of millions of thimbles and watch the same setting sun. You can sit in the cupola of the International Space Station and watch that same setting sun. In the Bay we have two suns. I watched the two suns embrace at the horizon just below the bridge and disappear together.

I was waiting for a train at the Rockridge BART station listening to Moby when I caught a glimpse of the city reflected perfectly in the fractal water. I walked to the edge of the platform and felt the flow of cars on either side of me move on one side like a glacier, the other like slow and gentle lava. The cars were dangerous in the way galaxies were dangerous: The Milky Way and Andromeda don’t move fast through space, but they have mass. The Milky Way and Andromeda will slowly intertwine and destroy each other. They are not dangerous because they move quickly, but because they have momentum. It’s how a murmuration of starlings moves you when you’re fighting the group: Slowly but irrevocably.

“Scream Pilots” played in my ears; I placed my hands on the railing as the music and a land breeze took me.

Sorrow for the gentle lava: All they can do is drive their cars to wherever their destination—the night shift at work maybe—apathetic or unaware of the beauty around them. That only a few miles away from where they are they could be on top of the hills, looking down over the Bay as the suns hugged across the horizon, they could be removed from the bustle of the 21st century to admire things living and breathing.

And yet of course at the same time they create the beauty by being a part of it, and when I go into the city I do my small part to create it to, hoping that somewhere might be someone like me standing on the Rockridge platform or up in the Berkeley Hills admiring the beauty in the same way. I used to think this was the great paradox of life: Being unable to both witness the beauty and help create it at the same time. I can stand on the Rockridge platform and watch the city unfold before me, but by necessity there must be more people creating the city than observing it.

I don’t think this anymore because it’s not fractal in the way water reflecting light is fractal. We sit at the edge of the Milky Way and remark on the beauty of the galactic bulge because it makes us realize that we are not the center of things. So too did I stand on a train platform in Oakland remarking on the beauty of San Francisco realizing that Oakland is not the heart of the Bay. But where the people in San Francisco can’t look around them and remark on the beauty of their own city because they can’t observe it from the outside, I can only imagine that planets within the galactic bulge have only more stars to see, that the closer you are to the galactic center, the more beauty there is to behold.

Thus this perceived paradox is not a paradox at all, it’s just something we’ve created. It isn’t natural, nor is it necessary.

Continue reading “‘The Sensing Element for Man’ by Steven Genise”

Three Poems by Moinak Dutta

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Last mermaid

She had been the last mermaid
She told me,
I did not believe her words,
Inebriated I must be,
Or she,

But then she had eyes emerald green
And she held me tight, like a seahorse,
My mane she tied by her ribbon red,
And into my ears she sang a lullaby,

Before I slept, she showed me how
In the depth of the ocean
Pearls are always kept under wraps of shells,
And how starfish always take rest on rocks.

A black gel pen

It was like an intricate doodle
Done by a simple black sharp pointed pen,
Having two distinct parts,
On the upper part
There were those musicians with shehnai and other musical instruments
They were surely creating a happy festive song,
On the lower part,
Before the fire sat the bride and the groom,
On their both sides had been their relatives,
Priests and brahmins,

And she wrote at one end of the sketchbook
‘ missing that black gel pen for ages,
Can someone lend me one?’

Letter from her

After twenty eight days and seven hours
Of her last call,
Received a letter from her,
She had reached a port town,
The weather there had been lovely,

All the day she spends watching seagulls
And in the evening she sits on the deck
And watches the sun coming to bathe naked
Like a child,

At night she becomes the mossy land
And dreams of horses and lambs grazing quiet.

Three Poems by Andrew Paul Wood

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OZ

Where does the Red Brick Road go to?
The one in the Munchkin village in the ‘39
movie that swirls in sinister sympathy
with its yellow sister – where does it go?
Back to the small-town Kansas of the mind?
Had Dorothy followed that, would she
have been as friendless as the beautiful boys
strung up on wire fences and bleeding
in alleyways? Where did it lead to?
Streets of hisses and accusatory stares
far from the Emerald City’s understanding?
Does it lead out of the 1980s and the field
of Karposi’s red poppies? For millions
it didn’t, and they never got to Oz.

MELANCHOLIA

You were new to town, we met
for coffee, sight saw, then you wanted
to find a supermarket and I led
you to one close to my house so
you could get some things and I
never realised such a place,
bright and silent, could be beautiful.
The day before you left we went
to another supermarket to buy
fixings for the last supper, your hand
brushed mine on the cart and the
muzak was an orchestra, oranges
like suns, tomato hearts, that’s why
supermarkets always make me cry.

À LA RUSSE

Surely your grey and sainted babushka
told you that the hardiest of flowers
is the perennial pansy, scorning powers
greater than yours, tsarevich Vovochka;
their small bruised faces purple, mascara
blurred running with the tears of wounded hours,
can’t be eradicated. Soft sun-showers
see them splitting asphalt as before.
Pale moth and puppet master doesn’t have
a fraction of their virtue in God’s eyes.
Louder than your prayers, Tchaikovsky’s sighs.
Pansies will spring up from your narrow grave,
higher than Saint Basil’s domes that gleam,
like the tuttifruttiest ice-cream.

Andrew Paul Wood is a writer and independent scholar based in Christchurch, New Zealand. His most recent books are Three Worlds / Drei Welten (with Friedrich Voit), a translated collection of selected poems by the German-Jewish poet Karl Wolfskehl (1869-1948) (Cold Hub Press, 2016) and Dunediniad: A Psychogeographical Ode (Kilmog Press, 2018). He is Art and Essays Editor for Takahē magazine.

‘You Don’t Need To Care To Drink’ by Carl Gercar

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The beer went past your table. It was deep enough to hide in, deep like the dimple where your collarbone meets your shoulder. You have these dimples all over your body and often don’t notice them. You are afraid to look over yourself too long in the mirror. You are afraid to look at yourself and see something you don’t like, or maybe you are afraid to see too much you do like. Maybe you are afraid to like yourself. Either way, you avoid mirrors when you get out of the shower. She spends plenty of time in front of them, and she doesn’t, and she sometimes does just to get her makeup right. You like girls without makeup. You like girls who look good, too. You like girls who like themselves and girls who are afraid of themselves. You like girls who remind you of you. You want these girls to like you.

That is why you are sitting across from her. You want to live sometimes. It’s worth it to try, at least, so you are here and she is here and oh look that man is drinking your beer. She is in front of you and talking. She is wearing too much makeup, and she’s wearing no makeup at all. She has on a dress and a flannel shirt and a flowing blouse. She has a big purse and a small purse and a backpack. She took a rideshare and caught a bus and biked here. She is beautiful and she is cute and she is very normal looking in an attractive way. You are wondering when the beer you ordered will get here. You remember ordering a beer. You should have ordered a beer before you got here, had it ready, been halfway done when she walked in the door or you walked in the door or both of you walked in together because you met outside. You are not good at planning these things out.

She is talking about herself a lot. You are thinking about your grandmother’s kitchen and how easy the air is to breathe when she is cooking and only barely aware of you. You are thinking about the elementary school therapist’s office and your doctor’s office and that one time you had a very sincere emotional discussion with your friend Pete doing psychedelic drugs on the train tracks just after midnight. You have goosebumps. They force the sweat to run in zig-zag patterns. This, you think, is how a bee flies. Bee-lines.

You ask a few questions but only because you are not very interested. You let her do the talking. The man has finished your beer. Your beer has yet to arrive. You are nervous. She is standing up. She is going to the bathroom and she is fixing her makeup and she is climbing out of the bathroom window. You are boring and you are strange and you are frightening. You want to say something as she stands and collects herself. You don’t say anything. You are a coward. You are thinking about your bedroom at your father’s house. You are thinking about being afraid. You are thinking about beer. You are thinking about beer. You are thinking a lot about beer.

She does not come back. It has been two minutes and it has been fifteen minutes and it has been half an hour. You get up and walk out of the restaurant. You did not get your beer. You put on nice pants and a clean shirt and combed your hair and cared about yourself, and you never even got your beer. You watched some other man, who probably does this all the time, who probably cares a lot about himself, drink your beer. You wonder if she would have liked you more with that beer. You wonder if you would have liked her at all.

You are walking and you ride the train and you are bus-hopping. You don’t know where you’re headed. You pass a bar. It doesn’t look great. You go inside. There are lots of people, but very little conversation. Everyone has a beer. No one is looking at you. No one cares about you. You order a beer. You get your beer. She will not call you back. You drink your beer. It’s easier this way.

Carl Luther Gercar is a Chicago-based writer, born and raised in Illinois. His work has appeared in Fluland, Occulum, A Void, Here Comes Everyone, and Soft Cartel. Carl is reachable via email at clgercar@gmail.com