‘Two Poems’ by Justin Karcher

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The Patron Saint of Law Students Who Want to Change the World

There are microscopic radio stations
stitched into every American flag in town
you can’t see them, but they’re there
broadcasting an endless series of encoded messages
“this is the law of the land”
or “no one cares if you live or die”

one day, well-meaning law students lose their minds
because of the hopelessness
they break into janitorial closets
in downtown office buildings
they take all the mop heads
& rub them in piles of bad cocaine
until they kinda look like powdered wigs
then they put on the wigs
& march to the sea to start a revolution
but it’s not really the sea
just a large parking lot
that’s been painted blue & covered in salt
suddenly their well-made plans unravel
before their very eyes

so they gather their frustrations
& take aim with stylus pens
they pretend to shoot seagulls
walking along the beach
looking for taco scraps
but it’s not really the beach
just a small strip of sandpaper stapled together
they get on their hands & knees
& touch the imposter sand
they ask one another
“When was the last time you touched sandpaper?”
they all agree that it’s been awhile
that it’s probably similar to intimacy
that you kinda forget how it feels
& when you touch somebody you actually like
it feels totally weird
like you’re not meant to do it

after some awkward silence
they take a motorcade of Ubers to Target
where they loudly cry
while wandering through Dorm Room Essentials
they sit on cheap couches & kiss the air
at invisible friends that were once flesh
they ask one another
“Remember when making out on a couch
was the best thing ever?”
they all agree that tongues don’t taste the same
that it’s probably similar to a lobotomy
that you kinda forget you miss something
until you find out that somebody took it away
that when we sleep
there must be a concerted effort
from a hungry memory vampire
who sticks straws in our ears
& sucks out the small memories
that mean the world to us

the law students are losing
their collective mind
they buy all the pillows, X-Acto knives
& Elmer’s glue at Target
they go into the parking lot
& start cutting up all the pillows
they ask one another
“We need all the feathers
do pillows even have feathers anymore?”
they all agree that it’s best to be optimistic these days
that it’s the only way to fly
they take off their shirts
& whatever feathers they do find
they glue to their shoulder blades
they try to fly
but don’t get very far
so they sit on the asphalt
& wonder what to do next
they tell one another
“Let’s sue evolution
because we never sprouted wings
let’s sue the American dead
that still control the land
their voices do terrible things
let’s sue the night air
for turning us into terrible lovers
all we know are flings”

by nightfall, there are law students
jamming X-Acto knives in their ears
& when their blood hits the ground
well-meaning flowers bloom from the asphalt
& they spend all their nectar
trying to save a dying sun
but eventually they realize
no one else cares if it lives or dies
so they go into debt
deeper into dirt
& wither away

but no one weeps for them

The Patron Saint of Valedictorians Who Become Junkies

All over America
they’re reciting the speeches
they wrote years ago

standing behind makeshift podiums
in vacant lots
where their high schools used to be

the broken glass
the deflated basketballs
but they’re still optimistic

they were supposed to be
the saviors of their families
straight-A students

who crafted science fair volcanos
out of old beehives
and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos

using rusty box cutters
cutting open each Cheeto
draining lava from its crunch

then taking all the sting
from their families’ backyards
and stacking it like a mountain

the heat of their potential
melting the hallucinogenic honey
on the lips of everyone around them

but something went wrong

look, no matter where you’re from
there’s always a fistful of scarecrows
aimed at your heart

nights of waking up
in abandoned libraries
surrounded by piles of dusty old books

and dirty underwear
still searching for the right words
that can undress the world

‘November Story’ by Mike Lee

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It was in the beginning of November, on All Souls Day, when Eliana became sick.

This illness came upon her as a sudden malady, as if being struck by a loose and crumbling brick that had fallen from an inner urban tenement windowsill.

The sickness made its presence known, heralding with a short, sharp shock of pain that flowed from the front of her brain, down her spinal cord and straight to her lower abdomen.

She stood up in her cubicle, with an explosion of sweat. Then she ran down the carpeted floor in stockinged feet to the bathroom, barely making it to the stall in time.

Eliana sat on the commode for nearly twenty minutes, feeling corrosive while expunging disgusting bile. After she was finally finished she told her boss she had to leave, and took a Lyft home.

On the way to her house, she visualized the scrambled eggs she had at the morning buffet. This prompted another wave of need, and the last three blocks were pure hell, but she did make it in time for a much longer evacuation of bowels after she arrived home.

After pulling the keys from the front door, texting her boyfriend to say she arrived and to come with meds and herbal tea, she showered, wrapped herself in a bathrobe, and pulled the comforter out of the closet.

Half-dragging the comforter to the living room, she spread it on her daybed and curled underneath it, sweating from a miserable fever.

Her boyfriend, Anthony, texted he was stuck in traffic. In the midst of typing her response, Eliana felt another rolling wave of pressure and gas. She made it to the toilet on time, but found little relief. The aching and fever was coming on strong.

“Stomach fever,” she murmured, distraught. “With eggs on the side. Ugh.”

“Thank you, fucking eggs.”

Eliana leaned back against the pillows and closed her eyes.

How long she slept until reaching the dream stage is unknown, but Eliana opened the curtain of sleep and entered a soft delirium of delightful sensation, framed with hypnopompic hallucinations.

She cut the delicate fabric with her fingernail, slicing through with a shimmering that echoed around her. While coming through the opening, Eliana found herself falling upwards above an endless plain of field grains, its orange color burnished by multiple suns.

The fields soon vanished into endless desert sands under a tourmaline sky, speckled with stars.

Eliana floated above it all, her colorful, striped bathrobe transforming into Technicolor wings. Immediately upon their formation, she tested her newfound means of flight, unafraid of falling. As luck would have it, or fate, Eliana was caught up in a slight current of air from a westerly direction. This she used to her advantage by confidently turning to her left to gently glide above the endless desert.

She dared to look below, and found a green dot. Spreading her arms outward Eliana began to swoop downward toward the oasis.

When she landed, soft-footed in the undergrowth, Eliana was overwhelmed with the fragrance of teak, tamarind and palm; vespertine flavors surrounding her with the blossoms of unknowable flowers growing impossibly high for such a tiny garden in the wasteland.

This oasis garden granted her a tranquil moment, stealing from her the sickness she endured, and erasing discomfort as she stepped over the soft ground toward the sound of water, a spring surrounded by a wall of ferns and herbaceous plants. The spring was fed by an underground fossil river, which provided enough water for heavy vegetation, including a grove of eucalyptus.

She made her way to the water, cupping her hands and drank the clear fluid. The waters acted as an opiate and Eliana leaned on her side and rolled over into the deep, lush green, staring at the eucalyptus looming above.

This felt too good. It’s pleasure forbidden, like symbolic adultery. Or symbiotic, parasitical, its messages carved in stone with vermiculated script. She wandered endlessly in her mind as she stared into the treetops.

***

She was startled by Anthony’s face looming above her. He was pulling her comforter closer to her chin.

After drinking a glass of water, she started talking about her vision, hoping by doing so she would not forget it.

When she was done, Eliana asked him. “Have you ever dreamed of anything so wondrous and weird?”

Anthony paused briefly in contemplation, stroking his chin until he responded.

“I dreamed I was being suffocated by multitudes of dog snouts,” he said, with a shrug.

Eliana closed her eyes, nodding as desert sands blew over the comforting singing waters of the oasis.

“I am at a loss for words,” she said, feeling ill again, a little more so than before. When she closed her eyes, she tried to remember the oasis, yet as it is with all dreams, her vision had already begun to fragment those internal memories into precious bits, floating away.

Anthony sensed he inadvertently did wrong.

“Sorry,” he said.

With that, he glanced out the window, watching the cardinal fly to the birdhouse in the backyard to feed worms to her chicks as the autumn breeze carried the first fallen leaves swirling into the air.

Mike Lee is an editor, photographer and reporter for a trade union newspaper in New York City. His fiction is published in Soft Cartel, Ghost Parachute, Reservoir, The Alexandria Quarterly and others. Website: www.mleephotoart.com. He also blogs for the photography website Focus on the Story.

‘Work Weeked’ By Roy

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it’s a thursday night & ive listened to 32 hours of audiobooks this workweek scifi novels there’s gold
in the audiobook content mines. there’s all that stuff about novels being bourgeois, you know the stuff,
what does that mean for audiobooks tho and what does it mean that ive listened to dozens of hours of trashy scifi this week
thru my apple™ earbuds but not the disposable airpod kind working on the spreadsheet farm escapism
is the real escape how else are academics gonna pursue their true passion of yelling at activists on facebook, defending rapists, and donating to kamala harris there’s no time for doing the reading!
the fucking teens are out of control! they don’t want to be learned by war criminals!

Alas it is Thursday tho! No Time! Woe! There are serious matters to discuss! but it is a Thursday! No Time! The teens are mad at JK Rowling! No Time! Australia’s on fire! No time! Fuckaroo!
Tis a Thursday and my eyes grow bleary from the fatigue of pretending to work while posting all day.

Thinking about doing some ‘real poetry’ right now about work like

“floating through an office at eye level / cubicle / trash can
slightly askew / legal box full / of rejections.

Ant traps stacked three high / Newman’s Own pizza box
Thru the window: Squirrels sorting / flower petals.

In the breakroom / a coworker
boiling tap water. Studiously
avoiding the squirrels / outside the window”

you want to know if the squirrels were ‘real’ well well well an artist never tells ok they weren’t real. the flower petals
were damp brown & smelled like mulch the squirrels were stamping on the browning flower petals waiting
for french fries but this isn’t what anyone wanted to hear even in a twenty (20) first (1st) century poem let’s pivot to YouTube the true MVP of Thursday nights
on the couch with a tuna melt & the french fries the squirrels weren’t fed giving dril’s adult swim show a chance

‘i’m an independent journalist covering my own life’ describes a fair number of poets except they don’t understand the ‘independent’ part:
“i’m an independent journopoet theorizing my own locality cosmopolitanally sponsored by the Ford Foundation i’m the Judge Doom Professor of auto-poetics at the Koch School of arbitrage prose”
but it’s a thrusday! I don’t have time to read the Judge Doom Professor’s ode to the American consultants who made a spreadsheet showing touchscreen ordering would be more profitable in western european fastfood franchises!
No time!

There might be time for a quick joke or a quick citation of a poem I read recently uh let me twitter search myself real quick for an appropriate quote to close this poem… Quick!
“Medvedev likes to quote Brecht on writers who “imagine that they have got hold of an apparatus which in fact has got hold of them.”
is listening to audiobooks a ‘lifehack’ or bourgeois affectation? will the poets ever spot their own contradictions? Hit that subscribe button to find out if our sci-fi hero
can speculate himself into & out of a worse poem to finally kill batman & redistribute his wealth!

Fuck it let’s kill batman right now! Boom! Dead!
Enough waiting around for heroes
write your own poem below:

__

write your poems in the reply and follow Roy @creepingmraxist

‘Two Poems’ by James Stelzer

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Breakdown

On Saturday the Car and his wife held a dinner party for their neighbours.
After three drinks the Car began to leak toxic fumes,
choking everyone present.
“You’re exhausting me!” exclaimed Becky, the Car’s wife.
The room fell silent.

Later, under the covers of their bed
the neighbours discussed the events of the evening:
“Oh, how awful”
“How do they continue to live like that”
“Won’t somebody think of the children”

Nobody called a mechanic.

19th . October. Saturday.

I’m rewatching The Terminator in 2019
and thinking about the mechanics of time-travel.
It’s unfair
that the product placed on Kyle’s feet feels perennial,
but every dog with a role in this movie is long-dead.
Hang on a minute…
Did Arnold Schwarzenegger invent deepfake technology?!
Fuck you, asshole.

James Stelzer is a writer/vocalist who hails from a British town that isn’t quite London. Outsider art fills him with hope (and some other emotions that are weird and deeply confusing). You can find him on Twitter at @ABadIdeaMachine.

‘Increasingly Volatile’ by spacemortuary

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I come from a sleepy little hellhole that churned out a couple more humans than it knew what to do with, so it took their lives: some with shotguns; some with bricks; or maybe

just maybe

they took them of their own accord.

It’s hard to say what’s predetermined and what isn’t.

I guess it’s all a matter of what you believe, but there isn’t much left to believe in anymore –

just the shadow of a man etched into the back of that old decrepit farmhouse you’ve driven past 100,000 times but God Damned if you still can’t remember the color of the front door.

And whether or not you think you act upon this world or it acts upon you doesn’t matter, not in the slightest,

because either way, a relatively undesirable target is to blame for the things that happen to you that you wish just wouldn’t.

But they do. And they will.

And the door’s still closed, it’s always been closed (what fucking color was it?)

and nobody has ever gone in because you’ve never seen it happen and you’ll never know who or what lives in there or why and someday it will burn down or just be gone and their eyes are on you they’ve always been on you and their eyes never close and lord knows your eyes can’t look away fast enough –

and there’s nothing here for any of us
and none of us are here enough
for anyone


spacemortuary is an aspiring tattoo artist from the Pacific North West who’s just out here tryin to draw as many flowers and spread as much hope as possible. pancakes and strawberries and twitter @spacemortuary

 

‘His Favorite Bookless Poet’ by Prince Bush

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He had read it through the gates
Of ivory, less, like a smaller

Amount of, or not as much as
Him—but yet at least his

Favorite. And lower rank is
Archaic, thought Prince the Less,

Apis of Argos. Phoroneus,
Bringer of a price, wasn’t telepathic,

Was proud and worshipped with hell:
That which Apis was thankful for,

Else he’d inherit nothing, and
What’s worse than being

Bookless—far-off, or of the pear
Tree, or contract-less, which is

More important than his name, more
His name than his name—unthankful.

Prince Bush is a poet in Nashville, TN with poetry in Cincinnati Review, Cotton Xenomorph, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Pleiades: Literature in Context, SOFTBLOW, and elsewhere. He was a 2019 Bucknell Seminar for Undergraduate Poets Fellow and a nominee for The Pushcart Prize.

‘Two More Poems’ by Tom Snarsky

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MANAGORGER

The air was fragile and traveled so fast
into and out of the cat’s lungs. I felt so sick
then didn’t, light headache, manageable.

That was almost managorger if Autocorrect
had had its say, but I said no w/my thumb
so it came out correct, not corrected

but still changed a little, since if I hadn’t
done anything a hydra would’ve burst
through my head for only two colorless

plus one green mana, starting small as a 1
/1 and then getting bigger every time a spell
hit the stack, eventually trampling everything

including the cat and probably me, my
life, my phantom sicknesses, all the beauty
I’d ever come to know, including the ambiguity

of whether that ’d in line 15 meant had
or would and why, like was it trying to hide
something, or believe it or not trueing

to hide something (when did I type that?
Do you have to type something for it to appear
in the autocorrect dictionary? I don’t know,

nor do I know why it’s sometimes uppercase
& sometimes not) the way lies sometimes do
everyone a favor by keeping a hard truth

obscured from ruining everything under wraps
soft? fuck it no words come close to my lover
’s spit / and I’ve only ever tasted it / in ash

In the quiet water of subtidal habitats,

you have enough breathing room to misread
subtidal as suicidal, your brain predicting
what it sees now will be like
what you’ve been googling, low in your cove
of grayblue feeling. All the arts,
all of them, have led us to this ice. You
mix paints for the sea slush
and you’re out of green—you squeeze
the tube and it gives you nothing, the sides
touching through a thin layer
of dried paint, and instead of giving up
you leverage colorblindness as an asset
and mix in red instead, so the little
cove you’re painting starts to look like clay
so rich and malleable you could almost eat it.

Tom Snarsky teaches mathematics at Malden High School in Malden, Massachusetts, USA.