haiku

by Gerard Sarnat

the good thing about
being lame is that you do
not forget your cane



Gerard Sarnat’s recently been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He’s authored four collections: HOMELESS CHRONICLES (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014) and Melting The Ice King (2016) which included work published in Gargoyle, Lowestoft, American Journal of Poetry, and Tishman Review, amongst others.

@CRAFTBREWSNBUDS69

by Thomas Mundt

NSFW asks if there will be snacks so I ask him to take a wild guess. It’s a funeral, I remind him, so it’s probably BYO but almost certainly disrespectful. That doesn’t stop him from taking a Snickers out of the inside pocket of the linen sportcoat I lent him for the occasion. @CRAFTBREWSNBUDS69 would’ve wanted him to look good and keep his blood sugar up for the occasion, for his legacy.

The family seems normal, no visible scars or ankle monitors. Lots of Irish-looking cousins in khakis, checking their phones. Per NSFW, @CRAFTBREWSNBUDS69 was a huge White Sox fan and insists they’re tracking Chris Sale’s pitch count or adding Robin Ventura’s landscaper to their LinkedIns. I watch as the huskiest of the brood shows another a clip of a man on crutches advocating for a U.S. withdrawal from NATO and subsequent invasion of Luxembourg. “Sitting duck,” the hawk proclaims, and before losing his balance and falling face-first into a Weber grill. They proceed to lose their shit and are promptly called a pair of period panties by, presumably, an aunt, who then crosses herself.

“Community meant the world to him,” NSFW offers, the words trudging through nougat and caramel.

***

The priest who delivered the eulogy didn’t delve into his résumé as deeply as NSFW would’ve liked. @CRAFTBREWSNBUDS69 was a ride-sharing pioneer, prepared to take his act to the Chicago River once the investors and Kyrgyzstani strongmen queued up. According to NSFW, humankind is innately drawn to water, will leave no intergalactic stone unturned until we find more with which to cleanse our souls and open our pores.

“He was a still waterbirth,” NSFW explained. “Got revived by a miracle. No one felt that connection closer.”

I asked what he intended to do with the fleet of kayaks bequeathed to him by @CRAFTBREWSNBUDS69’s live-in girlfriend, Bianca, who just wanted them the hell out of her employer’s basement. She was already on thin ice with the salon, didn’t need NSFW’s bullshit during prom season. There were interested parties in Colorado, he insisted, an uncle with a skeleton key to a Mayflower facility in Fort Collins and 13 credit hours shy of a Class A Commercial Driver’s License.

“It’s an exciting time to be in the business,” he confirmed.

***

People were waiting on the cathedral steps to give @CRAFTBREWSNBUDS69’s widow the handshake where you sandwich the aggrieved’s hand between both palms. I yelled for NSFW to join me but he’d been drafted into a pickup volleyball game on the temporary court set up for Vacation Bible School. I watched him demonstrate proper overhand service form for one of the pallbearers, the emphasis on contact with the palmar surface versus the fingertips.

When it was my turn, @CRAFTBREWSNBUDS69’s widow asked if I had anything to mix with Crown Royal Regal Apple, preferably something brown and carbonated. I said I had a sleeve of Caffeine-Free Diet Dr. Pepper in my Wrangler to which she could help herself; the passenger side door doesn’t lock, I explained, so there was no need to click the button afterward. I thought I had a roll of Spree in the glove box, too, if she needed an upper.

There were bees everywhere and @CraftBrewsNBuds69’s widow hit one with one with a program from the service, knocking it to the sidewalk. It sounded like the crunch of cereal when she dug the heel of her pump into its thorax.

“What I need is to be out of this bra and into my whirlpool tub.”

***

His Followers count was 87, down from 94. It was indicative of the times, NSFW submitted, that a man’s online presence could take a hit before the man himself could find peace beneath the soil. There were apps you could run, he insisted; you could track down the Unfollowers and get to the Why? of it, the velocity with which @CRAFTBREWSNBUDS69 and his words were disposed. Sure, NSFW would have to get permission from the estate to serve as the feed’s administrator, perhaps even seek some sort of General Webmaster status with the courts, but wasn’t that owed a friend? Our Monterrey Pizza Dippers arrived, however, so the investigation was tabled indefinitely as our appetizers were served.

I suggested he stand down, recommended the high road or, if still under construction, the path of least resistance. Escalating any web conflict at this juncture would only throw sand in the gears of emotional machinery already replete with moving parts.

“I’ll roundtable it with my people.”

There was tomato basil marinara in NSFW’s goatee but I said nothing. DiMuzio’s had mirrors everywhere you looked and it would be revealed in due time.

***

Thomas Mundt is the author of the short story collection You Have Until Noon To Unlock The Secrets Of The Universe (Lady Lazarus Press). More stories and Twitter tomfoolery can be found at jonathantaylorthomasnathanmundtdds.com and @Jheri_Seinfeld, respectively.

a love poem for a northerner

by Silvia Oviedo

Bespectacled you
Come to me with that sparking
Dual destiny one shall not deny or renounce.
Elitist, your music evolving as steadily through my ears as through the landscape of vit
you call eternal
Your forehead I have learned to love indistinctively in spite—or because—of the force of
the years,
Gradually slipping into this conglomerate of consciousness we have glued together:
How did this happen, alhaja
How did my tongue become heavier and how did my words learn to lift
themselves from the haze?
Ay, something I have yet to learn is how to read into your advances, requiring
Just the right amount of justification,
Key to the strange ways of our perpendicular hearts.
Let them liaise till they find the light, or the love, or the language,
Min skäraste: [thus I start my letters].
The notion of naming us in any vernacular I pick: nosotros, digo, nuestro, digo, nous.
Cariño, I tell you and I say cosas ñoñas and anchor myself to the tongue that is mine
when feelings burn: yo también llevo la pena dentro.
Pursuing the curves of your lips, plump like the curves on a map when there is a plosive
involved,
Quaint, your mouth a quiverful of harsh echoing arrows,
Rivers crossing the plain, crossing the lines I write when my hand rattles.
Surprisingly, your own name is my svenska shibboleth,
Traversing that landscape of thistled terrains, my mouth, a trujumana,
Unequivocally calling u, u, u.
Victory is the achievement of unpreoccupied learners I say, now verbalizing the insides
with the appropriate volume, out of the vortex leading to the vocabulary vacuum of the
uninitiated. [Also, the notion of naming us in the languages of your side: vi, vi, vi]
You told me that there is ingen w in your mother tongue, holding my left hand (me, an
untranslatable wishful wench — how would you call ‘you and i’, then?).
Extraño, I say about the lack of letters in your alphabet, the overflow of extravagant
dots. Extraño, digo when I miss my homeland but:
Why don’t I recognize that my home are our languages?
Zeugmas, both in language and love, that is what we are, zalamero.

 

Och under allt detta pågår febern, och pennar löper, löper rätt fram…
[August Strindberg]

 

Silvia Oviedo is a translator and writer originally from Spain. She has been based in San Francisco for the last 6 years, after some time in Madrid and Berlin. Silvia received her MA in Translation from Universidad Complutense. Her writing has appeared in several journals, collections and live events in Spain, Mexico and the US (El Perro, El Salón Barney, La manera de recogerse el pelo, SXO, among others), and she has been the recipient of the ‘Ciudad de Aranjuez Young Poets Prize’ in 2006, and selected by Jack Hirschman for the 2016 San Francisco Poets 11 group.

The Boneyard

by Michael Gentry

Dry cattle bones were scattered on each side of the dusty road. I wondered how the living cattle felt as they maneuvered around the remains of their ancestors. They didn’t seem to mind.

This place was called the Boneyard. It was a piece of property that included several small ponds. To a mosquito abatement employee, small ponds posed a problem. The murky, standing water could provide a home for millions of mosquito larva which, with time and the proper climate conditions, would become millions of adult mosquitos. Our job was to find them and kill them before the complaints.

The boneyard was located just beyond a farmhouse and a large, locked metal gate. We were provided the keys or combinations to the locks. It was customary that the mosquito abatement worker in the passenger seat would unlock the gate for the truck to pass through and lock it after.

On this particularly hot day, I was working with my cousin Scott. The county-owned, white Chevrolet truck was clean, always clean, because Tom, the county’s only full-time mosquito abatement employee, made us wash the trucks at the end of each work day.

As we approached the metal gate, a brilliantly white stallion in an adjacent pasture raced over to greet us. This wasn’t uncommon as animals often confused us with their handlers, hoping for a meal. Scott jumped out of the truck and fiddled with the lock.

The stallion danced an excited circle, stomping his hooves into the dirt, producing clouds of dust.

I glanced and saw it. The stallion was erect, an upside-down, wooden baseball bat between his hind legs. I looked closer, harder. Never had I imagined one could be so long. I wanted to look away. I was repulsed. I couldn’t.

I’d watched, in horror, the process of gathering semen from a horse in my high school agriculture class. But that was on a small, colored TV from the back of the classroom. What I was witnessing now, this was live, high definition, full-size viewing.

Scott stood at the edge of the green metal fence, waiting for me drive through. He saw me staring and looked toward the stallion, still trotting side to side, back and forth in front of the truck. He saw it. His eyes grew large.

I drove through, and Scott locked the gate and climbed into the truck. Our startled silence paved the road to uncontrollable laughter. We drove through the bones and on to the ponds. After treating the ponds, we drove back toward the gate. Again, from across the pasture rushed the white stallion. Again, he was happy to see us.

I wonder what it was that impressed the stallion. Was it the strong, bright white truck? Was it a distant memory of a beautiful stud fee moment? Was it Scott?

We drove away, the stallion prancing around, tossing his mane, clearly feeling cheated.

 

Michael Gentry lives and works in Eastern Idaho. He received a B.S. in English Education from Brigham Young University-Idaho, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from National University, and an Ed.D. in Education from the University of Idaho. Michael teaches basic writing courses at BYU-Idaho. He has been published in Animal Literary Magazine, The Casserole-Literature and Art Magazine, Apeiron Review, amongst others.

suicide sneaks

by Joan McNerney

thru blue bedroom, a chair
falls across bedspread
spins along random floor
i wander up wall hang
suspended from light bulb
objet d’art

phone rings we speak into
plastic wire did you know
how dizzy i am i am i am
in bathroom blushing curtains
razor blades near sink
now polishing landlady’s
scarred furniture vanity
table cut in my arm
how white!

ahhh furnishedbluebedrooms
insides of existentialessays
televisionscreens
perfectpatchesdepasto
caja caja caja
something hiding important
under coils in back of brain
only this makes me happy
insects busy night&day
i hear them.

 

Joan McNerney’s poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, Blueline, and Halcyon Days. Three Bright Hill Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Kind of A Hurricane Press Publications have accepted her work. Her latest title is Having Lunch with the Sky and she has four Best of the Net nominations.

Oscar’s Blues

by Gerald Kamens

The nurse left work at five o’clock. By the time she’d arrived in their driveway, her husband had already started digging, after the July heat had begun to fade.

“I was reading about political prisoners in some godforsaken country,” her husband shouted, when she came into the yard. “Forced to dig their own graves. Then, afterwards, the soldiers would shoot them on the spot. Fell right over into the holes. Jesus Christ!” Carving out a tiny grave for Oscar, her husband muttered snatches of curses and bellows as he sweatily dug down into the hard ground.

As she watched him, Martha thought about Roger’s rough childhood, their rough marriage, the second for both of them. She could barely make out his words, so disconsolate was she about her faithful cat, who’d befriended her, in his own sweet fashion, for going on sixteen years, twice as long as she’d known Roger.

Until yesterday, when she found little Oscar, lying under their bed, silent, barely moving. And this morning, he was dead. She hoped he’d have a better life in the feline hereafter, and wondered if it were true, as she’d heard from a friend, that departed pets came back to this earth as angels.

“I’ll get us some lemonade,” she said to Roger, a smallish, thinnish man, except for his incongruous paunch, which hung over his belt, as he hurled his pickax up and down, to make a big enough dent in the rocky ground out by their back fence. “Least,” he said, “we didn’t have to take him to the vet’s to put him out of his misery!”

She walked up to the kitchen, trying to recall exactly what had drawn them to each other initially, and into what wormhole that attraction must have disappeared a while back.

“Hey, wife, this is hard work. Squirt a little gin in that lemonade!”

Those were the last words she heard from him. When Martha came out from the kitchen and onto the back porch, carrying the tray with the two glasses, she saw one point of the pickax rooted in the earth, and her husband slumped over on that ground. The beginnings of Oscar’s grave could contain only the man’s hand. She walked over to her husband slowly, and, kneeling down, saw that he didn’t seem to be breathing. She took the pulse in his right wrist, the one hanging down in the half-finished grave. In her ER work, she’d taken many pulses.

Knowing for sure, since she was a professional, that he was dead, she walked slowly back up onto the porch, and slumped down in a chair. She sat there, immobile, for what seemed a long time, but probably wasn’t, wondering about mighthavebeens. Martha knew at some level that her customary state of feeling lonely had been replaced by one of being really alone, adrift in the ocean of the world. Finally, moving to the kitchen phone, although she realized it wasn’t really an emergency, she punched in 911.

 

Gerald Kamens has worked in a mental hospital, the White House, the U.S. Senate, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Most of his recent works are children’s stories, essays, and short plays. His last acting role was in Chekhov’s The Seagull.

 

A Dead Shark Isn’t Art

by Howie Good

All it takes is that one guy asking, “What if there’s a fire?” And now that room is on fire. The really strange thing is that no one thought this was strange. It’s like you’ve lost your car keys at night in your backyard and you’re looking for them through a toilet paper roll with a flashlight. It’s a horrible way to search. It’s hellish for the hand, if you’re not careful. My daughter asks me, “So, how does the story end?” I want to sound like an organ, to have this regal sense. But it’s just another day in my life. They shot seven people in the head, and then they took the people’s cars and left.

 

Howie Good is the author of The Loser’s Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize from ThoughtCrime Press, and Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements, winner of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry. He co-edits White Knuckle Press with Dale Wisely.