Potluck

 

T H I S    W E E K

The Theorist by Bo Fisher

 

Romeo & Juliet of Port Authority

To be on the road at eighteen was like looking at life through some soft focus lens. Add Peter Pan Bus Lines to my weird little dream, and life just seemed more than perfect and more than appropriate; I mean, it was the cheapest way I’d found to go from Connecticut to New York and then to Chicago. I was off to see this prospective art school there, but more so, it was an easy way out; one of many strange escapes I’d taken as both an aimless teenager, and or a somewhat less than well planned out young man.

My Gus Van Sant themed bus cruise really was the best I could’ve done for myself at the time. I mean, me, all by my lonesome when I had no car, nor job, and very little money to my name? I guess the cheap bus ride was the best/only way to get out of my formerly Nowheresville suburban Connecticut life that soon became so old hat that, I’d take off on any bus to nearly any growing, shiny urban Mecca of my liking, for nearly any reason.

Unfortunately today, my trip was mostly over because I’d run out of both money and a place to stay, so it was only my own inevitability that I was going back to a Connecticut-like version of hell, via nowheresville.

My last few ounces of freedom were only when I’d just arrived in New York’s famed and (yes, Jim Carroll was right) smelly Port Authority around Midnight. It was only after a seemingly endless 24-hour plus ride back from Chicago to New York. None of my wild semi-random trip to investigate art school life had went as as I’d planned; regardless of that, I still enjoyed all of it: those shitty bus seats, living on bags of chips and recalling those stolen hotel vodka nips, that low rent hotel, and then that ill-prepared Art School Admissions Advisor, who was both great and terrible all at once. At least I’d recorded it all in my little brown journal and reviewed while inside that piss-smelling station.

And for a few minutes I thought again that maybe I’d just stay right here in this cruddy station and be homeless, which kind of seemed like a nicer alternative than to deal with the violent dysfunction that awaited me at the every end of my trip at the end of this fucking shit family rainbow. Truth be told, if it wasn’t such a cold Spring, I might’ve considered staying on the streets of New York and or somewhere else even less interesting.

As our wobbly yet economical ride finally entered that monolithic gray stone bus and train station I sat up to experience those gray walls and that carbon monoxide-filled station air all over again. I’d have to switch buses again which meant I’d switch to another dust-caked red, orange, and blue striped bus with warn interiors made of red velvet seats. Or again, I could just stay right here, in such a smelly steel and stone station with all of the other lost boys and girls. Sometimes life’s choices didn’t really feel like choices, but more just the lesser of a couple of lame evils. Either way I’d just have to patiently wait around, smoking cigarettes, blasting my walkman and scribbling in my journal, waiting for a newer yet equally disappointing, gassed up Peter Pan bus to come to take me away.

So, while my free time eked away from me, I took the escalator upstairs and scoped out my limited options for New York that might feed for just 3 dollars. Got myself a soft pretzel and leaned up against the outside walls and enjoyed the vibes of New York’s romantically yet still seedy and weird 90s skyline.

Random people of course had panhandled me, until they realized that they probably had a lot more money than me. I smoked a few Kools and watched the varied people come and go: Not some commuter crowd, but more so those night people: street types, rent boys, and sexy street walking types in high heels.

Some guy tried to sell me cheap Broadway Show tickets until he gave me a closer look. I finished my pretzel up just as some transit authority cops stepped up to me to tell me that I couldn’t really ‘loiter’ (or as Pigs like him called it some sort of: semi-runaway please help me solicitation in exchange for monetary ‘help’). He questioned my ID, and made sure I wasn’t some sort of underage runaway (not that he’d really do anything anyways) and then told me:

 “In or Out buddy.”

I was made to show him my transfer bus ticket and as he pointed out that I’d missed my transfer bus to CT and it almost felt like he’d gotten off on making me panic, while he then told me in due time that another shitty bus would be coming along soon enough. He walked me to the escalator and then wandered off to bother someone else. Downstairs, I went off to quickly and carefully use the Port Authority bathroom; as even in suburban Connecticut I’d heard about those NY Port Authority bathroom stall stories again all of that was mostly via Jim Carroll.

At that time, I didn’t know shit, but at least I hadn’t forgotten my last bus trip lessons I’d learned only a few months ago in Massachusetts; some hell night that was best saved for another decade or so in and out my therapist’s office and various psyche wards; so that dark of the soul was with a rather complicated and misunderstood creature.

For now, I’d just be in the now of Manhattan, and deny any such trauma. I’d just enjoy that cold and beautiful night coming to an end in NY. So now, it was just me and my personal guard up; I had some crapy Swiss Army knife unhooked and in my pocket. Damage or not; me and my dull blade were surly going to make sure that no one was gonna fuck with me like they did poor ole’ Catholic Boy Jim. I took a long piss inside a stall and told whoever it was that had followed me in and or was knocking on my door to please go take a number somewhere else.

After I zipped up and shook off the paranoia off me and my cock; and went and washed my face, my hands. I then smelled my armpits which weren’t exactly smelling so great. I washed up a bit more and then smacked my own tired face to help keep awake.

 

It was in that mirror that I’d looked back at myself and saw it; the truth of my current scene-fucked but not quite ballsy enough to go wander off and live in Central Park like some off kilter Disney knock off movie, but still not yet ready to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.

After I dried my face off and left the bathroom, I made my way back down the stairs and over to terminal 10-B and grabbed myself a seat on the chilly concrete ground in order to fully enjoy my layover in hell.

A few minutes into a second cig was when I first saw them: this beautiful horror-show couple. Both of them, were oh so very over-excited and skinny: He had jet black hair and might’ve been in his early-30s, and she had bleached blonde and in her mid 20s. She was equally if not a bit more skinny than he was, like some an overtired skeleton punk rocker; and somehow from that; the two hypnotized me. I let my NIN Broken album play and blast into my ears:

(Remember that?) It was this remixed album of Pretty Hate Machine. It was as if Trent Reznor’s dark and moody music seemed to compliment the couple’s actions and motions quite nicely, but after a short time-I just had to know what they were saying to each other. 

I mean it was obvious that they were angry by the way the way they moved, shook their arms and danced around each other. I got as close as I could while others stepped away from them I stepped closer at they shouted at each other; arguing about something that was a some sort of mystery. As I eavesdropped I found out it was about whose missing”  crack pipe it really was. The young woman seemed to notice a teenage me watching her and then winked at me, which prompted the man to turn over to me and to tell me to "mind my own fucking business" and so, like a the skinny suburban mouse that I was-I apologized and backed off into the surrounding crowd.

Sooner than later that dark conversation got louder and louder and it all seemed to go nowhere but down, down below the stale smokey air that surrounded us. I nervously lit another smoke while watching them. 

I had to admit that despite it all there was this sort of deep romance to the two of them and at time, the only literary reference I could’ve thought of was that of some sort of drug addled version of Romeo and Juliet.

As I inhaled my menthol cig, I wondered what these two fuck-ups had in-between each other? Was it love? Or just a mutual hatred of being alone? Or maybe it was just nicer to waste away with company?

Then again, I thought to myself: If they were some sort of normal, boring jerk-wad couple would I still have wanted to watch them? Probably so, as even at my own 18-knew nothing about love, nor what a real relationship was. I mean who knew about love anyways?

Besides all of that, the real only thing I’d actually figured out of these two weird and wiry lovers, was that: one of them had either lost some score of crack or maybe had secretly smoked it up and then just lied about losing that said crack-pipe; your typical 90s romantics gone awry, and as their moments of conflict moved along, they took longer and longer pauses to kiss and or light each other’s cigarettes while they also subtly and not so passive-aggressively debated with each other about the merits of either ‘going all the way to Las Vegas’ on some Greyhound bus for what sounded like a honeymoon, or just ‘staying the fuck right here.’

As I watched and listened in: my time and theirs seemed to move slower and slower as they imploded in on each other as he repeated again:

  “It’s gonna be Vegas or you can stay here, for fucking ever!”

It was from that phrase in which I pictured them forever stuck inside that concrete gray bus station; forever drinking out of small brown paper bags, getting high via glass pipes and or panhandling for just enough money to keep them smiling or at least just numb and high.

I’d thought that maybe one day soon after that maybe she’d probably have some sort of miscarriage, and then maybe he’d do some jail time for causing it, and then; they’d go right back to it; right back to that magic and timeless corner of Port Authority while getting older, more wrinkly and or even gray haired-as if their years turned into seconds and or minutes.

Within a half hour, that skinny manic man’s voice got so loud that some chubby silver-badged train cop came up and broke it all up, and in two minute or less those cracked-up lovers became as quiet and as complacent as they could be, until that same cop walked away from them.

By that time, it was my very very last chance for that last early morning bus to Connecticut that had come and I’d decided to just go away and back to hell.

And no, that couple didn’t influence my choice to go, but I did get this kind of an unknown sadness in that, I just wasn’t able to watch; whatever it was that had happened to those leftover lovers and I’d just have to settle for my own memories of this and or just recall my dear old dad’s drunken rants at my then stoic and withstanding mother’s tolerance as a substitute form of deranged love and entertainment as they too had already separated only to get divorced soon right afterwards.

And so, as my petrol-infused chariot pulled away, I wanted to see those two drug addled lovers hug it out or something else so profound, but that never really happened, so I’d just have to settle for imagining their shouts into the chalky air:

 “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou crackpipe? Deny ye stole it and refuse my name, you fucking piece of nothing?”

And then he went and said: “It is not here-Death be my Father.”

 “We will never be Capulets. We will never leave here.”

And then like theatrical magic those two would then swallow that poisoned wine over and over again, until it simply killed them-and or did something else as equally important to them. And as I looked out into that glimmering, and hopeful yet hopeless New York night; I thought to myself that it was all so very sad, yet still held some sort of small thimble of hope somewhere in there alongside that danger and the weariness that all time held for us.

Every now and then, I escape my LA home and I somehow wind up in New York, and when I’m in the city, I’m tempted to go look for that loveless yet loving, silly flightless birds and imagine them as they were; just so eternally lip-locked and or squawking at each other like some shadow play stuck inside of some fragile yet never ending wormhole of space and time. 

 

Carmelo Valone is an author, artist, and future therapist.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania

Jillian Hepner was one of those perfect members of a fantasy race who walk among us but are very, very rare, and only glimpsed briefly from across the cafeteria or in passing in the hallway or in a tiny square black and white photograph in last year’s yearbook that you can look at as much as you want when you’re alone in your room, but it’s not as good as the real thing. Her skin was completely smooth and all the same color, and her clothes fit her body exactly like they were supposed to. Clothes always looked very, very weird on me, thick and bunchy in places where there weren’t supposed to be any bunches.

Jillian Hepner had freckles under her eyes and her voice was sleepy-sounding, and she was also so nice that it was almost unfair for her to be so good. I’m almost positive that no one didn’t like her. Her hair was shiny and she pulled it up on top of her head and tied it together in a messy bundle that was so many different colors of gold that calling it blonde seemed unfair to Jillian Hepner’s hair.

I was intensely jealous of whatever future boyfriend Jillian Hepner would have someday who would actually get to touch her and kiss the freckles under her eyes and hear her sleepy voice all the time.

She was so perfect that whenever there was a possibility of actually being in close proximity to her, I hoped very, very much that it wouldn’t happen. And although it hadn’t happened yet, the idea that we might one day be some situation in real life where we would have to talk to each other was entirely terrifying and intensely undesirable.

In my head though, it was not terrifying at all. I had imaginary conversations with Jillian Hepner while I walked to the bus stop, while I waited (as long as there was no one around), while I was in my room. Sometimes I played Tetris on the computer and talked to Jillian Hepner for an hour or so. In my imagination I was always very funny and made lots of jokes that I imagined vaguely, and whatever I said made Jillian Hepner laugh hard and bend over and put her hand on my arm. Stop, she would say through her laughter, You are too funny.

And we didn’t just talk, in my imagination. I liked to imagine situations where I needed to rescue Jillian Hepner. Like if a terrorist held the whole school hostage and made us all go into the gym and sit on the floor, and aimed a machine gun at us and said he would kill one of us every hour until his demands were met, then I would make eye contact with Jillian Hepner, who would be crying softly, and I would say with my eyes, I’m going to save us, don’t worry. And her eyes would be all red from crying but she would signal back to me No, don’t try to be a hero, just do what he says. But I would stand up and the terrorist would aim his machine gun right at me but I would make an impassioned speech (this I also imagined only vaguely) and he would drop the machine gun and beg for my forgiveness and Jillian would come right up to me and take my face in both of her hands and say, out loud, You are amazing.

Or I imagined a pipe might burst in the basement and they would call us all into the cafeteria to keep us safe from the rising waters and someone would shout out, Jillian Hepner is missing! And then someone else would shout out, I think she was in the basement! And I would slip away in the commotion and hurry down into the basement where I would see Jillian Hepner, her messy bun all wet strands, holding on to a light fixture for safety and I would swim through the rushing waters to save her, and she would hold on to me and gasp in my ear while we swam back to safety. And also, by the way, the reason she couldn’t just swim by herself was because in the flood something had floated by and hit her very hard on the kneecap. I added that part in later.

Jillian Hepner wasn’t usually in my Biology 1 class, but she had missed her Biology 1 class during an earlier period because she had a doctor’s appointment, which I learned because when she was there at the start of my Biology 1 class someone asked her why she was there and that’s what she said. One of the things I didn’t like about Biology 1 was that it was taught by Ms. Cheever who liked to assign pairs herself instead of let us pick. If she had let us pick then I would have been with Karen Yim every time, because Karen never talked.

But Ms. Cheever chose our pairs that day, and we were supposed to be cutting planarian in half to turn them into two planarian, and every pair had to come up together and get their little dish, and of course Ms. Cheever called me up with Jillian Hepner. And right away I started sweating and I felt like I had drunk about a hundred cups of very, very caffeinated soda because my heart was racing so much, but Jillian Hepner just said This will be fun in her sleepy voice and smiled at me. She carried our little planarian in its dish back to a table and we sat there with our heads close together and I watched while Jillian Hepner sliced it in half with a tiny blade. I took detailed notes in our lab journal and Jillian Hepner laughed about how small our two brand new planarians were, sloshing around together, suddenly startled to be different when they used to be the same.

It wasn’t at all as bad as I thought it would be, except that the smell of her shampoo was very sweet, like a box of pears, and whenever it came floating over to me I wrote extra good notes in our journal. But I laughed at the right times, and always said yeah or no to what Jillian Hepner asked me. The bell rang faster than I thought it would, but when I left Biology 1 I was exhausted.

Then, exactly twenty-one hours later Jillian Hepner and I were standing in the same line for milk in the cafeteria and she said Hey, how’s it going just like we were friends, now that we had made a new planarian together. And I said Good just like we were having a normal conversation. And then I got a rush of energy and excitement and I felt like it was my chance to say something perfect to Jillian Hepner so I started talking but I hadn’t really thought it all the way through because what I said was Well it’s going okay considering we’re probably just in a computer simulation of Earth.

And Jillian Hepner said What?

And I said Well if you think about it there can only be one Earth but there can be infinite computer simulations of Earth so the odds are that we’re probably in one of the simulations and not the original Earth.

And then Jillian Hepner said Okay then, and laughed and we both looked straight ahead towards the front of the milk line.

When I got home that day I ate eleven Oreos and got to level thirty-nine in Tetris and thought very, very hard about what I wished I had said to Jillian Hepner. 

 

 

 

 

Anna Swartz is a writer living in Brooklyn. She channels her painful adolescent memories into short fiction. She hopes to one day compete on a reality TV cooking competition. Find her on Twitter as @Anna_Snackz.

 

Three Poems


Summer Birthday
 

Earlier I shot a gun full of neon light.
Middle of Missouri, right in the chest.  We played against children. 
They called us teenagers.  Two nights into a nauseous August.
Lazer Runner. Nascar Speed Park.  Outlet beauty supply store.
We keep to basements and shopping malls,
air-conditioned cars.  Thighs stick to the leather.
Bud Light sticks to the Twister mat. Stick a key in that can
and gulp.  Jam a candle in a pink frosted sugar cookie. 
Happy fucking birthday.  Hold me close and let me spew visions
of the future. Prom night kiss me.  Timing is everything. 
I know you like the sum of an identity is a hand on a knee
in the booth of an IHOP. I now have two existences. 
Help me justify keeping the one. Feed me tomatoes
off the vine after hours of sobbing into your mattress.
This humidity has become a cold sweat fever dream
that is melting me into the fabric of these sidewalks.

 

 

 

 

The Sun Is Sick, A Pink Magritte
 

Peony blossoms bowed on chrome countertops, light angles from your cheeks. 
I tongue the thin cut across my index finger: plasma, your oils. 

I sense this violent bond in matter, and in architecture when windows reflect the sea.
Your eyes, wet, salty, reflect the car parts. 

I live by the ocean and when you’re gone I watch the surface
and the cars, tongue wagging mad.

 

 

 

 

Were We Memory Or Were We
 

It is not enough to be wise.  The season communicates in symbols, yellow
smears against dark green skies, heat lightning ripples edges of thighs. 
In this new element, she knows she feels pleasure
not in her flesh, but in something immaterial. There is nothing static
about her being. The lake’s surface is a mirror that breaks the sky
against itself, cuts the breast at the horizon line.
The diner was closed so we just drove home. Ate ham on white bread,
crusts cut off. She dreams what’s going to happen to us, the way a speck is swallowed
and the seed is a source, connected in chiasmic unity. There is grit in the bend
of her knee. How long has the window been left open?

 

 

 

 

Allison Goldfarb studied English and Critical Theory at Macalester College. Find her at allisongoldfarb.com.

 

Three Poems


waiting for a baby
 

half past sex
in the evening of Arizona suburbs, I rented

time out from a personal calendar

to wait with you for the birthday
of your unborn 

Son, my father called me, and I wore overalls and cropped hair to match

the part

where you tell me not all's lost, a life can still
be made.

fifteen minutes in and you cry out
Again.
I'm impatient but nothing compared to you.

One miscarriage and one abortion sit in the ditches
of my own tall tale. I told you this although
all evidence pointed toward silence.

I follow road maps
but rarely. I explained. You held

your head up. You follow them
to the T.

I cannot compare you
to summer days or myself.

lost, hungover, hands hovering over
your abdomen, I repeat a word till it has lost

all meaning:

Push.

 

 

 

 

The feeling of a thing is not the same as the thing itself
 

I’m overlooking the city, and this is
what I write: 
the truth is that things
become more beautiful, and more
interesting
. Like coins, I could spend
my life (or longer) studying
your face, or the moon’s.

I’m overlooking the details, and so
I write this quickly, before
it is too late. Like dollars and sense,
time flies when you’re having

fun: your smile, down how many rows of people.
We are both of us distracted. I smile and
smile, even when
people are unhappy.

I’m over looking and not being allowed
to touch. Like rules in a museum:
there for a purpose, but
you have to remember, there’s a reason

theft occurs. 
It isn’t any different, stealing paintings
or glances. Sometimes, it’s the only way
to make something that isn’t yours

yours. Nothing is inevitable, or
everything is. I look down, and a note appears
on the screen: check your settings and
try again.

 

 

 

 

still, looking
 

can it be both. I asked her
why am I always the other
option. it’s as if people think
I am immortal. forever
dangling on a stick – either
just out of reach, or
always around. in case
something changes. I cried
a little about this and then
I sucked it up. I wrote
a poem instead and then
a book. I thought of making it
historical but there have been
enough passes at the past.
I’d like to try something new
but first I’d better go
see a therapist. someone to
reassure me of my rightness,
to co-direct this single and
breathtaking life of mine. 
one day, I think (and often) – 
one day I will be free.

 

 

 

 

Erin McIntosh is a writer and actress currently living in Los Angeles. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including Bone Bouquet, Lavender Review, Hawai’i Review, Plenitude Magazine and Speak Easy Mag.

ONE: EEJ

West Coast Artist Eric Ernest Johnson
American Painter/Filmmaker/Poet/Coyote (spirit animal)
BFA Painting/Film 1992 San Francisco Art Institute

Eric Ernest Johnson’s paintings are individually captured moments unlike the next, each work is unto its own world, its own vision, an Eric Ernest Johnson exhibition is almost like seeing a group show. Far Out and into retelling the stories of his mind’s eye, Johnson’s visions are often from a Bird’s Eye View. Impossible towers to the sky, or machines lost in nature, “I am obsessed with towers and steel, machines, things we’ve made living in the company of wild nature, trees, flowers, animals, monsters, the sea.”

A Millennial's Short-Term Goals: A Comprehensive List

  • Excel at my job quickly and efficiently enough to pay off undergrad loans.
  • Record an exemplary voicemail greeting and overcome fear of talking on the phone; but first, perfect the voicemail.
  • Find a coffee shop reminiscent of Monk’s Café or the Central Perk to write in and spontaneously meet with friends.
  • Have a culturally impactful piece published that creates national brouhaha but does not negatively affect my image.
  • Gracefully overcome sibling rivalry in a manner that makes my sibling sensationally jealous.
  • Engage in an intellectual debate about the 2016 race with a stranger in public; it’s a polite exchange, but onlookers unanimously agree I win.
  • Run into an ex-flame on the street while looking extraordinarily attractive and successful; ex-flame is instantly scorned.
  • Acquire an ex-flame.
  • Maintain a healthy body with minimum effort without depriving myself of baked goods and obscene amounts of caffeine.
  • Faultlessly explain my passion for women’s rights without tearing up, yelling, or throwing an object.
  • Decide whether or not graduate school is feasible; if so, attend, graduate, and immediately reap the benefits.
  • Pay off graduate school loans.
  • Take a flawless selfie.

 

Emily Marchant is a freelance and creative writer.

Three Poems


Adolescent Romance
 

At her white columned high ceilinged white house
we dropped backpacks
sank between couch cushions
raised the arches of our feet. 
Her little brother was       in fact
everywhere. 
Her sisters         like lions        without dinner. 

Her mother fished us out. Offered pizza. 
We ate pizza. The dog barking. The birdcage full of shit. 
Mom apologized for the way her hair was. 
Her clothes. The pizza. The bathroom. 
Shut up mom.

She led me with a hand to her bedroom,
the pink carpet of her room. Sat me down. 
Said please tell me why you love me. 
The oak        outside          the window.         Thunder.

I gave her ten reasons: The time you took to tutor that kid the
smile after you burp the cardinal you drew on my hand. I went

on and on until the storm broke. Blue black fields. A Razor Scooter. 
Her brother fleeing down the drive, flocks of geese, 
tearing wind—the sucking sound.

On our knees we prayed for more of everything. 
For the clock on the wall, which seemed to slow,
for our hands, which moved in reverse. We lay back

and let the storm swirl through an open window, blowing
wind like smoke into our mouths. She touched my face.
My back. When we sighed it was the shape of ourselves.

 

 

 

 

In the Bathroom
 

I step to the window and stand in steam like a hawk alighting in cirrus and fog—
it’s Tuesday, September 15. It’s going to be a hot one, 
so if possible, I’d like to be water rushing off the side of a cliff. 
I’d like to be a mosquito dancing in the mist.

When I step under the multi-head shower contraption I’m left alone with the body: 
ass, a pimpled cushion. Hair, a poorly worded caveat. I sing a song,
the kind of song that walks into a bar and sits alone for hours. 
There is no living way out. There is nowhere but torso and toes. 

Up, I wave a loosey-goosey question mark into a sea of pleading hands. 
Is there homework? Is there anything we should be doing? 
Excuse me, is there one thing to stop us from finding blanket and beach?
I want to roll on my back and dry out. I want to fall asleep like this.

 

 

 

 

Remembering a brief friendship
occurring on a beach in Mexico

 

You sip tequila on ice and say
There is no wrong way to be alive. 

You say Dylan discussed the mother vine
and Duncan too. 

You say the greys do dishes
and speak in reptilian digital. 

We pull chairs
along the wet sand. 

You say you’re leaving. I say no and smile
like a bride with cake. 

Beware the hollow earth, you say.
A sail boat drops anchor. Mazatlán. 

We break for the taco stand.
A Canadian sells us five corn dogs.

I like this.
I like you.

The Canadian offers hot sauce, 
dijon, his podcast about fajita origins.

I watch the wheels tuck
into your belly.

I say the sea is churning quick
let’s take a dip.

It’s a sad moment for you. 
We don’t swim. 

Andy Earl sends a text from
his tiny porch in Fishtown.

He’s on the bong,
says he counts 100 billion visible galaxies;

everything is .8 milliseconds in the past. 
Which is what I’m getting at, you explain.

I don’t know. I repeat a line from earlier
about my car being stolen.

You wonder away while I take myself
to the water where I still have a surfboard. 

I paddle beyond the breakers
and lie on my back.

The water is warm. My body begins
to burn in small expanding circles.

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher Gaumer's creative writing has appeared in McSweeney's, The Rumpus, Ruminate Magazine, Belleville Park Pages and more. He earned an MFA from Hamline University. Born in Iowa, he now resides in Virginia where he is faculty at Central Virginia Community College and curator of the non-profit, The Poetry Group.

FOUR: Tica Douglas

 

i heard it all, i heard it from my friends
they spared no detail, from beginning to end
there was a party last night where you used to live
and i wanted to go
but i didn’t

the birds started singing, i didn’t sleep tonight
how late it is in the early morning light
and i’m thinking those slow, dripping thoughts
and i could have made sense of them
but i did not

i made my escape, i’m lying in tall grass
i’m staring into space, the sun is coming fast
and i’m taken by the gentlest thing
and i wish i had stayed with you until morning
but i didn’t

i like the way that the tall buildings look, oh oh
from the traffic on the bridge
it gives me the chance to sit, be still, and think
of things that i didn’t

 

 

 

 

Tica Douglas is from Portland, Maine and now lives in Brooklyn. After years of releasing bedroom recordings, Tica took a collection of songs to a farm in Maine and recorded Joey in a week during the summer of 2014.
 

Off to See the World

As I gulped thick night and reached for the comfort of its humid reign, I remembered how open-armed night-smells had healed me in times past. Just then your scared and scattered way-of-being came into my thick-night-ness and I breathed in the Life of It All, way in, much deeper than I’d been able to before.

I inhaled every nuance of Your Leaving.

I was driving fast in the dark and thinking of losing you.  Well, okay, really my mind raced on about how a mother never really thinks her son will go, but I always knew you’d have to someday and now I had to face facts.  It was the first time I’d heard that song, you know, the one about the angry warrior, the one who needs to see the world and find an old-fashioned girl. You know, that one?  

The wind smelled sweet like just-cut grass smells when the air twirls deep August-dark and that smell brought you onto my lap. That scent placed the back of your 5-year-old neck in front of my mommy-lips and I kissed your little nape, right where your black hair tickled your skin. I kissed you again through the tears of my night air.

When that viscous breeze blew back through my open empty lap I worked hard to lap up the loneliness with the beat of thanks for having your self snuggled little once against me, once upon a time. While the sky fell wet and I pounded down upon the wheel to the song beat, I heard the echoes as you beat it another step closer away.

You, My Son, go. See the World.

And those words of that song continued to fly across the ocean of my eyes and then came a vision of you⎯now nine⎯and standing next to your golden dog holding a sweet-day air-smelling dandelion just for me.

And then twelve and in Spain. Together, feeling cozy cloud of storm envelope us an hour before our first bullfight. Later, in our mucked-blood spirits, standing odored in united desire to appear strong in the face of cultural propriety.

And then your graduation night with the condensed worry of your expectant future, your fluttering fears falling about like ash upon our last flittering fingers. Strains, sounds, and resonant dark songs tingled to the tune of the empty threads inside of me as they untwirled; unneeded, unknowing.

As now you’re gone and gone there now. Not here now.  Off. To see the World.

 

 

 

Mary Parker is an established freelance feature writer and non-fiction book author, and holds an MA from the University of Texas’ School of Communications.  She is just about to complete her first novel, a Southern lite-lit titled Kaylee, Texas. In spring 2016, Texas A&M University Press will release her non-fiction book, Explore Texas – A Nature Travel Guide. Her fiction and creative non-fiction pieces have appeared in Sheepshead Review, Pacific Review, NIB, Iridum Sound, and Main Street Rag, among others.

THREE: Tica Douglas

 


you close your eyes at the end of your night
surprised that you find it alright
as for sleep, as for you, there’s not much i can do
but i’m here so that maybe you might

if you promise not to dream in black and white
i promise to still be here when there’s light

you wake up late for the second year straight
dazed by the days and the days
that roll on ahead, you can sleep when you’re dead
at least that’s what my dad used to say

if you promise not to dream in black and white
i promise to still be here when there’s light

i know you like to see it coming
i know you like to see it through
but don’t you think it’s rather stunning, darling
running for the hills when everything you know falls through

you gotta know that i love love love you so
and i’m sorry for making this hard

if you promise not to dream in black and white
i promise not to leave you in the night

i promise to still be here when there’s light
if you promise not to dream in black and white

 

 

Tica Douglas is from Portland, Maine and now lives in Brooklyn. After years of releasing bedroom recordings, Tica took a collection of songs to a farm in Maine and recorded Joey in a week during the summer of 2014.

 

Three Poems

 

Water well
 

I fell in a water well once/ there were mould chips everywhere/ in a pit/ in water/ it was almost empty/ I yelled & yelled but it started to rain/ & it started to make tiny homes/ in my lungs/ no one came/ & I had tiny asters growing, like mildew/ in green/ growing in my ears & in my throat/ aster faces/ like smiling ant babies/ broken in yellow skin/ taking my voice/ in my throat/ making cities/ making love/ crying for monarchy/ in ant-fashion & where young lovers/ taking shelter under my eyelids/ so that rain drops can afford a single pause/ or maybe more/ pauses/ so that young love has one orgasm of its own doing/ in wetness/ without the help of rain sheds/ vermin in love & working hard on my flesh. I fell in a water well once & I stayed there/ rain didn’t come/ & you stood at the end of the hole/ sunken decay/ you stood & blamed tiny pebbles taking shape on my hair/ you stood there and checked for sex noises/ blaming the wrong foot & putting me in your mouth/ like me, like clumsy.

 

 

 

 

 

Drinking & sleeping in a field when you’re not drunk enough
 

Waking up in tall grass, I regret not dealing with last night’s fists, wrapped in ramen orbs/ fisting/ punching in turns, inside my stomach. That’s when I see your feet, taking a stroll/ in the tall grass/ looking down, that’s what I see & your cashmere pants make me want to pass out. I realize I’m taller than the tall grass/ my torso is like the Bermuda triangle/ authentic, but paid for, barely/ but above wood planks/ on your shoulders/ like I’m on a prayer mat & that’s when I hear your voice/ from under rabbit like/ rapid footsteps/ “monsoon is a lover never returning from a broken war, never waiting for any trees to mature in the sun.”  That makes me so sad & I feel/ other than my stomach/ & I have so much salt/ existing/ in so many fingernails/ existing like spices/ tiny tadpoles swimming under my shirt & I become the plague/ I feel the plague/ I scream & throw tiny frog babies on the tall grass/ for shelter/ for the lack of juvenile showers in this region & I fear as frogs become greener than all the grass & I fear as the sun touches/ as the sun leeches every leafy infant & turns lifeblood to yellow/ crisp & smoking like nothing much happened at all except feelings.

 

 

 

 

 

I love Tokyo
 

I try so hard to be that girl with perfect hair, preferably pink hair a la bangs, that always walks on crowded streets in downtown Tokyo. I mean I’d wear a gas mask gladly, whether I surgically had my smile removed or not. I mean, I love people & I love not talking. I’m a big city girl. Rain is nothing when you have plastic shades that mutter single syllable words on an endless basis, loopy, in monotone & customizable for only $4.99 but in yen currency. 

Plastic shades protect my pink hair. Über grand. 

My big city dreams are not harsh memories from any pray-pray room & I have a profound love for Tokyo. I want to have candy while 100ft pixels smile at me & tell me it’s not too late to be a perfect space alien that loves all & shoes are not as important as species of every kind.

I want to eat sushi at 3am, if I want to & have respect for strangers even when sake makes roadblocks on a childhood of broken toys.

I love Tokyo & I wish I was far enough to catch it from the opposite side of the left ear. I love Tokyo & I wish giving out enough fucks could buy a plane ticket.

 

 

 

 

Nooks Krannie is a girl/person poet from Canada. She's half Persian/half Palestinian. Her words have appeared in Alien Mouth, Wu-Wei Fashion Mag and Uut Poetry. She loves a lot and too much.

TWO: Tica Douglas

 

forty-four more sunsets
until you and me baby
we make it out west

where people go to see mountains
i’ve been promising you this day
since the day we met

oh late have i loved you
beauty ever ancient
and ever new

early will i seek thee
you can tell me all the things
you’re dying for me to do

the hours slip past
and the years move fast

it’s hard to see your friends change
you see it happen
in the smallest ways

and only then do you realize
the small things are all the things
you miss these days

so all meanness be gone now
you ain’t got nothing
to do with me

my weakness is my own
my own to hold
my own to keep

the hours slip past
and the years go fast

i remember the morning
he said that he realized
where you must start

you don’t have to be injured
to still feel the tearing
you love in your heart

it’s okay not to suffer
you don’t have to be broken
to make heartbreaking art

the hours go fast
and the years slip past

 

 

 

Tica Douglas is from Portland, Maine and now lives in Brooklyn. After years of releasing bedroom recordings, Tica took a collection of songs to a farm in Maine and recorded Joey in a week during the summer of 2014.

Fake With Your Left


Far away and long ago stuff happened in Gramps’ life that he’d like to forget but he can’t, even though he can’t always remember what he had for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

But anything that happened 40, 50, 60 years ago he remembers clearly. His grandson, Patrick, is in grammar school and has to write an essay about an event that shaped Gramps' life when he was a kid. Patrick keeps asking Gramps to tell him about it. In two weeks he has to hand in his essay. 

“Tell me something good," Patrick keeps saying. "I have to get an A."

Gramps remembers many childhood events that might make a good essay but the one that stands out is not something he should tell Patrick about. His parents would disapprove. 

It happened during WWII, when Gramps was Patrick’s age, and although it had nothing to do with the war, it created commotion in the family home. Gramps was in grammar school himself back then. 

Young Gramps was a good student, earning straight A’s in his first three years of school. His behavior at times was a problem but the nuns usually gave him a pass because he was good in his studies and did well on tests, something unusual among the boys in his class. 

The girls always did well but they studied. Young Gramps studied too because he couldn’t go out to play until his homework was done. He would be quizzed in the kitchen by his mother while his father sat in the living room listening to his answers. His father would yell when he could go out. 

Then young Gramps’ handwriting became a problem. In the transition from printing to cursive, his penmanship was so poor he brought home a grade lower than an A in penmanship and that disturbed his father who despite little formal education in Ireland had a signature that would rival a calligrapher’s art. 

What’s worse, young Gramps' father could sign his name with both hands at the same time. One of the signatures would be written backwards and when held up to the mirror it looked exactly the same as his regular signature. He had been a prisoner of war, a guest of the English, after the Easter 1916 rebellion in Ireland and had plenty of time to practice signing his name backwards with his left hand. This was during his two-year confinement on Spike Island, off the coast of Ireland, where the British housed Irish prisoners. 

Young Gramps’ father had been 16 when imprisoned for running guns for the Irish rebels and 18 when the British freed him as long as he left Ireland. He chose to come to the United States.  

Unlike his father, young Gramps had trouble writing legibly with just one hand. It was a big enough problem that he was made to sit at the dining room table after supper and practice his writing.

But a nun then discovered Gramps couldn’t read the blackboard from the third seat in the middle row. Speculation began that perhaps poor eyesight was affecting his handwriting. 

A visit to Dr. Max Erman, an optometrist and the only medical professional in the neighborhood, determined that Gramps was nearsighted and would have to wear spectacles the rest of his life. This news turned out to be a greater tragedy for his father than the news about young Gramps' bad handwriting. 

“God help us, Mary,” Gramps remembers his father saying to his mother. “The boy will be in all kinds of fights at school. Glasses aren’t something boys should have to wear. That’s how the other boys will think.” 

His father was right in some respects. Spectacles on boys in the Forties were not common in grammar school, at least not at his school. Girls wore glasses and had no problems. Boys didn’t pick on girls unless they wanted to stay after school for the rest of their lives, as the nuns were quick to tell them. 

When Dr. Erman put the new glasses on young Gramps, he had to admit he saw stuff he didn’t hadn’t seen before. His little sister, he discovered, had freckles. He was happy about being able to see better but in light of his father’s attitude about a son wearing glasses, young Gramps kept quiet about this new advantage. 

When they got home, however, his father decided young Gramps needed to be ready for any teasing that might take place at school. Despite protests from his mother, he took the boy down to the basement and told him to take his glasses off. Then he showed him how to put up his fists. And, as young Gramps remembers well, his father got down on his knees and put up his own fists and proceeded to teach Gramps how to defend himself.

Young Gramps quickly learned how to fake with his left and cross with his right, a standard maneuver his father had used to advantage as a boxer after emigrating to the United States from Ireland. It seemed to be a nice trick, but young Gramps didn’t think he’d have to use it. The nuns patrolled the schoolyard during recess.

But during the lunch hour on the first day young Gramps wore his glasses, Larry Moore came out of nowhere looking to have a fight. Fights back then were always fair. No kicking or anything like that. Only fists were used. The fight would go on till one boy quit or the nuns broke it up and levied their punishments—something just shy of staying after school for the remainder of life. 

Young Gramps beat Larry Moore that day. The fight didn’t last long and no nun saw it. Young Gramps faked with his left and crossed with his right and Larry Moore got a bloody nose. And young Gramps beat Billy Gallagher the next day using the same combination. 

But the following day Fred Ham, a boy big for his age, came looking to have a fight as well. He didn’t know young Gramps but he knew that he beaten Larry Moore and Billy Gallagher, both reputed to be pretty tough, although Fred had won fights with both of them. 

Against the much bigger Fred, young Gramps faked with his left, crossed with his right, and hit Fred in the eye. There was no blood but Fred got a black eye that brought an end to other boys looking to have a fight with young Gramps. 

Much to his surprise he caught no flak from his father who took the phone call from the nun who had called to report the fights young Gramps had been in. In fact, his father, while verbally deploring such behavior over the phone, seemed rather pleased to discover his tutelage had worked out so well. His mother, however, was obviously disgusted.

“This isn’t Ireland, Tommy,” she said to his father. “We can’t have a boy going around beating up other boys just because he has to wear glasses.” 

Those memories were all clear in Gramps’ mind but at the moment he didn’t know how to explain to his grandson how this event—having to wear spectacles and learning to fight at an early age—had been a seminal event in his grammar school life. 

His grandson was alive now in a new day and age at a time when mothers wanted sons to play soccer out of fear they might get hurt playing football. And schoolyard fights in the suburb where his grandson lived were probably unknown. At least Gramps had never heard of one. 

The only real competition his grandson faced at his age was largely in the classroom where boys and girls tried to get the best grades possible. The hope was that one day they would win a scholarship to college. 

As a result, Gramps finally told his grandson he’d have to think about what to tell him for his essay because his mind wasn’t as sharp it used to be. 

"If all goes well, Patrick,” Gramps said, "I should have a good story when you come home from school tomorrow.”

But probably not as good as the one that had just run through his mind after more than 60 years. 

Gramps knew it was the best he could offer. 

But not to young Patrick.

 

Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune and  Commonweal.  Some of his work can be found here.

Three Poems

This Is How I Get Bitches
 

Not looking my friend in the eyes, I said, 
“Do you want to have bad sex?
The worst sex, 
Awkward, boring, silent, short, non-eventful
sex?” 

My friend responded, “When I give you a blowjob,
I’ll just put it in my mouth, and instead of moving
my head, I’ll just stare at your abdomen, 
with a neutral facial expression.” 

“I might start crying.” 

“I might ask you to do something,
something weird.” 

“I might not be able, 
to find the hole,
or maintain an erection.” 

“I never know, when I’m
supposed to spit.” 

“I will demand you cum, and
if you don’t, I’ll accuse you
of thinking I’m ugly.” 

“When we are going really hard, 
my uncut toenail will slice into your leg.” 

“My dog will sit on the bed, 
and watch us the entire time.” 

“Before we have sex, I will spend
ten minutes accusing you
of having a disease.” 

“I only have sex, 
with Seinfeld playing in the background.” 

“I won’t gasp, 
when you put it in.” 

“I will not say one thing, 
that differentiates you, 
from any other person.” 

“You have to choke me, 
the entire time.” 

“If you ask me, 
to kiss your neck, 
I’ll say no.” 

“If you ask me, 
to hold your hand, 
I’ll say no.” 

“If you don’t, 
want to cuddle my dog, 
get the fuck out.” 

“You will never feel loved,
during the whole event.” 

“At some point, I will suddenly
go silent,
and you will wonder why? 
But I’ll never tell.
I’ll get angry,
you wonder why? 
I won’t tell.
I’ll lay beside you,
looking blankly at the ceiling,
you will hate yourself,
and that is my sex, 
getting you, 
to hate yourself.”

 

 

 

 

Porn Scenes I Would Like to Direct
 

Someone pokes a mons with their finger, 
just poking softly, looking at it, 
pushing down, smiling. The woman, 
who has the mons, is on her iPhone
talking to Sallie Mae
about her student loans. 

The camera angle is on
the person being penetrated,
people doing it missionary
man or woman trans (doesn’t matter)
the penetrated has their eyes closed, 
making whimpering noises, 
the thruster says, “I really like you, you know, 
I really really like you.” 
The penetrated smiles, a big goofy smile. 

Two people are watching Netflix, 
on a couch, 
the person from behind, lightly massages, 
the other’s genitals, 
they don’t have sex. 
Nothing happens, except Stabler
and Olivia catch the perp. 

It is a small apartment, one of the lovers is going to bed, 
because they have to wake up early, and the other doesn’t. 
The one that doesn’t have to sleep, goes into the bedroom, 
slowly undresses their lover, smiles while looking at their naked body. 
They both are naked, they cover each other with Aveeno Lotion, 
sit on each other, rubbing their hands and bodies into each other. 
After five minutes it is done, the one that needs to get up early, 
goes to sleep feeling loved. The other one, goes back to the living room, 
plays video games, reads a book, dances, who cares. 

It is Christmas morning, two lovers wake up in Maine, 
there is snow everywhere, so much snow, crazy amounts of snow. 
The two wake up, and scream, “Santa!!!” 
They run outside in their pajamas, dancing in the snow, 
Screaming, “Santa!!!” 
Then they go inside the house, sit by the Christmas Tree, 
they give each other awesome presents, 
then fuck like maniacs by the tree. 
The scene ends with both of them in the car
driving to one of the lovers’ parents' house, 
and one lover says, “I really hate your mom, I’m going
to make a snowman with the kids, so I don’t
get into too many talking situations.” 

I think, this is the porn scene, that men
who search “brutal” “grope” and “abuse” really want. 
There is a ten-year-old boy, he is doing his math homework, 
he looks visibly frustrated, his face red, little tears
on his cheeks. His mother notices, she looks
at the boy, eyes full of sympathy. She sits down, 
pulls her chair real close to him, so close their arms
are touching. 
She helps him do every problem, she says she will help him, 
every night. And it's true, she plans on helping him. 
After the math homework is done, they play a game together
in the living room. She carries the boy to his bedroom, 
even though the boy is asleep, his body feels her love, 
every particle of the boy, knows love at that moment. 
The mother lays the boy down, she smiles at what she had made. 
The boy feels her smile, the mother covers him.

 

 

 

 

At the Bottom of the Amazon
 

There was once a piranha,
he was pretty, he was swift, 
but he kept getting disoriented
when the other piranhas would
attack food. 

The piranha would say, “Why
does everyone need to rush, where
are we going? The animal is dead, 
we don’t need to shove each other, 
and bang our heads for something, 
that is already dead.” 

The piranha swam away, “No matter,
how far I swim,
This water, 
never ends,” 
the piranha often said giggling. 

The piranha, alone, swimming, having
deep thoughts. 
Other piranhas said, “That piranha has funny eyes, 
his forehead is wrinkled, pensive, yes, thoughts, what
can a person do with a thought?”

The piranha dad always told our pretty piranha, 
“Food is all that matters, who cares about your thoughts.” 

One time the piranha dad looked at his son and laughed
hysterically and said, “You look like the thinking man, we don’t
think in the Amazon, only the Orinoco piranhas are allowed to think, 
you will ruin yourself.” 

The father piranha had the best intentions. 

One day, the young piranha met a river dolphin, 
but this river dolphin was different, his one fin
was smaller than the other one. 

Everyone expected the river dolphin to die, but
the river dolphin, felt no need
to fulfill anyone’s expectations. 

“Is this how you ended up?” The River dolphin said. 

The young piranha replied, “I couldn’t handle, 
the bureaucracy, everyone wanted rules. And
I couldn’t compete, I became disoriented, and felt
a beautiful sound in my piranha chest. I liked the sound, 
so much I couldn’t stop listening. Now I’m starving.” 

The river dolphin replied, “You have no food, 
little piranha?” 

“No, only the sound in my chest, and I cannot eat that.” 

The river dolphin, felt sad for the piranha, it was the first time
the river dolphin ever truly felt sad for another creature, 
the river dolphin knew the feeling was true, and said, 
“Do you want to eat me?” 

The piranha, strangely felt fine with eating his new friend, 
and began chewing on the river dolphin. We can imagine, 
the sight, blood everywhere, guts bobbing in the waves.

 

 

 

 

Noah Cicero has several books published; recently The Bathroom Reader and Bipolar Cowboy have come out on Lazy Fascist Press. Noah Cicero has a Twitter