Thursday, April 30, 2020

new heights of confusion. By Ben Newell

I’m already rather drunk
when somebody from the leasing office
slides a note under my door.  

The roofers will start work 
tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. 

I’m instructed to move my car
to give their truck adequate clearance—

I should be thankful
to finally have the Chinese water torture
of rainy days vanquished
but all I can think about is tomorrow’s hangover.

New heights of confusion
as I try to differentiate the pounding on the roof 
from the pounding in my skull. 

Ben Newell dropped out of the Bennington Writing Seminars during his first semester, eventually resuming his studies at Spalding University where he earned an MFA.  His first full-length collection of poetry, Fuzzball, was recently published by Epic Rites Press.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Night I Got Out by Zvi A. Sesling

My last night in the Navy
and there was a big party

Forty of us slammed together
in the barroom

Three double scotch on the rocks
the Chief said to down them

I did so he handed me a tankard
with beer

Chug-a-lug he said til you see through
the bottom

I did and he gave me three more
double scotch on the rocks

That’s all I remembered but the
next morning I was ex-Navy

Zvi A. Sesling is the Poet Laureate of Brookline, MA. He has published numerous poems and flash fiction. He edits Muddy River Poetry Review, He is author of four poetry books, War Zones, The Lynching of Leo Frank, Fire Tongue and King of the Jungle and three poetry chapbooks Simple Game, Baseball Poems, Love Poems From Hell and Across Stones of Bad Dreams. His first book of flash fiction is due from Cervena Barva Press in early 2021.  He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize four times and his books have been nominated for national and local awards. He lives in Chestnut Hill, MA with his wife Susan J. Dechter.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

THE HEAD IN HIS FEDORA HAT by Strider Marcus Jones

a lonely man,
and music
is a poem
not knowing-
a caravan,
whose journey does not expect
to go back
and explain
how everyone's ruts
have the same
blood and vein.

the head in his fedora hat
bows to no one's grip,
brim tilted into the borderless
so his outlaw wit
can confess
and remain
a storyteller,
that hobo fella
listening like a barfly
for a while
and slow-winged butterfly
whose smile
they can't close the shutters on
or stop talking about
when he walks out
and is gone.

whisky and tequila
and a woman, who loves to feel ya
and outside
when ya move
and live as one,
brings you closer
in simplistic
muse Babylon.

this is so,
when he stands with hopes head,
arms and legs
all aflow
in her Galadriel glow
with mithril breath kisses
condensing sensed wishes
of reality and dream
felt and seen
under that
fedora hat
inhaling smoke
as he sang and spoke
stranger fella

Strider Marcus Jones – is a poet, law graduate and ex civil servant from Salford, England with proud Celtic roots in Ireland and Wales. A member of The Poetry Society, his five published books of poetry reveal a maverick, moving between forests, mountains, cities and coasts playing his saxophone and clarinet in warm solitude.

His poetry has been published in the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Wales, France, Spain, India and Switzerland in numerous publications including mgv2 Publishing Anthology; And Agamemnon Dead; Deep Water Literary Journal; The Huffington Post USA; The Stray Branch Literary Magazine; Crack The Spine Literary Magazine; A New Ulster/Anu; Outburst Poetry Magazine; The Galway Review; The Honest Ulsterman Magazine; The Lonely Crowd Magazine; Section8Magazine; Danse Macabre Literary Magazine; The Lampeter Review; Ygdrasil, A Journal of the Poetic Arts; Don't Be Afraid: Anthology To Seamus Heaney; Dead Snakes Poetry Magazine; Panoplyzine  Poetry Magazine; Syzygy Poetry Journal Issue 1 and Ammagazine/Angry Manifesto Issue 3.

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Why I Despise Leah Convention by Leah Mueller

The gymnasium is packed to overflowing. Clusters of people chat as they stand underneath overhead banners. Signs bear slogans like “Wasn’t There For Me When I Needed Her”, “Said Something Insensitive and Never Even Noticed”, and “Didn’t Pay Rent on Time.”

The 61st annual “Why I Despise Leah” convention is the biggest ever.
An angry, twitching man speaks first. His unkempt gray, mutton-chop sideburns splay in all directions like errant Brillo pad strands. Poor guy looks like he’s been through hell and desperately needs a cigarette. “Leah dumped me at the lowest point of my life,” he spits. “My 12-step group said I don’t need to forgive her.”

Loud moan of disapproval from the crowd. A woman grabs the mic. “Let me tell you the truth about Leah. She made a joke about the state I’ve lived in my entire life. Sure, I criticize the place every chance I get. But your state is like family—you can trash it all you want, but if someone else does, you need to cut her out of your life immediately.”

The crowd murmurs, and an older woman snatches the microphone. A well-kept, upper-middle-class psychiatrist, she has analyzed exactly why Leah remains beyond redemption. “Leah and her husband rented a house from me. Leah got upset when the building became infested with rats and hired an attorney to demand that I fix the problem. Can you imagine?”

The crowd rumbles with anger, and a shy middle-aged man takes the mic. “Is this on?” he asks. “I’ve known Leah for over thirty years. We’ve traveled across the United States together. We’ve gotten drunk at the lake and wandered into alleys to have sex. In other words, we go back a long way, so I can speak with authority when I say the best way to deal with Leah is just to ghost her for a minor infraction, refuse to answer her emails, and tell her mutual friends what a pain in the ass she is.”

The crowd bursts into applause. Their morning is off to a great start. The convention will resume after a short intermission, followed by a small group/breakout session, then a plate lunch with gluten-free options. The afternoon schedule promises to be even more exciting.

Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Bisbee, Arizona. She has published books with numerous small presses. Her most recent volumes, "Misguided Behavior, Tales of Poor Life Choices" (Czykmate Press), "Death and Heartbreak" (Weasel Press), and "Cocktails at Denny's" (Alien Buddha Press) were released in 2019. Leah’s work appears or is forthcoming in Blunderbuss, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and other publications. She won honorable mention in the 2012 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Last of Annie by Ron A. Kalman

It’s been years
since I last saw Annie
in that basement bar
her sun–bronzed hair
cropped short
when she cried
“You scum!”
and stormed out.
I sat stunned
felt the whole bar
staring so I
sipped my beer dry
then walked up
some concrete stairs.
But Annie was gone
and I looked out
onto a night-lit park
where a guitarist
sat strumming

Bastard. I hate
street musicians.

Ron A. Kalman’s poems and translations have appeared in The Exquisite Corpse Annual, The Main Street Rag, The Somerville Times, Muddy River Poetry Review, Beacon Street Review and other publications. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Spy Story You Never Heard by Walter Giersbach

            The reporter crossed the park and followed me into the bar.  Amazing how my tip about murders in the government spy game motivated him.  I was feeling kindly.  Christian even.  I could be charitable anticipating that Amy would soon be back in my lovin’ arms.
            “Okay, I’ll tell you what happened,” I said when he’d sat down next to me.  “And, don’t use my name in your story or I’m dead meat. ” 
            He nodded.  Reporters will do anything for an exclusive, until they get subpoenaed, and then they’ll give up their mother. 
            “So tell me about this Amy you mentioned,” he said.  “Who is she?  Where’d you meet her?”  The reporter was about 30 and I knew he’d get my story into his Internet news site.   That’s how things work today.  Innuendo, rumor, hearsay. 
            I pointed to him when the barmaid came over with the drinks.  My Jameson and his Chardonnay.  He coughed up the money.  In other circumstances, I might have kneecapped him just for ordering Chardonnay.
            “I last met Amy at the Peninsula’s bar in Kowloon.  She’d just come in by train from Shenzhen.  I was debriefing her.”
            “Wait, you’re going too fast.  She’s Chinese-American and was leaving the Mainland to meet you at the Peninsula Hotel?  Was she CIA?”
            I resisted an urge to break my glass over his nose for interrupting.  “NSA, CIA, Defense Intelligence.”  I sifted memories of Amy in her yellow silk cheongsam with the mandarin collar.  “We moved around a lot, landing at an agency you never heard of.  It was both professional and personal.  Nothing like love in the afternoon with Amy.  Until I discovered her lovers were a sequential thing.”
            “We all have a bit of that.  Keeps us on edge.  She’d just eliminated the terrorist who placed that bomb in that Bangkok night club.  Remember?  Jammed a pen into his eyeball and brain.”
            “She killed him?”  He cringed.
            “Amy had become what you’d call a sociopath.  Beautiful, talented, charismatic.  And a stone cold killer.”
            The news guy drained his wine and signaled the barkeep.  I could see he was a sucker for drama. 
            “You also mentioned a judge named Rothenberg and called it ‘pay back,’” he said.  “He turned up dead in Washington.”
            “I’ll get to Rothenberg, but first you got to understand Amy.”  What memories, what pain, I thought, remembering being kicked out of her love life.  “Amy Huang with her degree from Columbia.  And me, a Boston boy, we were a sure and certain thing in the years following 9/11.”
            This young newsie needed educating.  “You know there’s more than a million Americans with top secret clearances, working as consultants, contractors and Christ knows what else?  There was a bit on 60 Minutes.  How tough it is separating the patriot from the pathological.”  I emptied my glass and caught the barmaid’s eye.  “He’s still paying,” I told her, pointing to the newsie. 
            “You said she loved you.”
            “Until she met a foreign national, guy name of Theodor Rajic who freelanced.  I’d met him once or twice.  They fell head over heels in love.  They’d meet at airports, bars, any place you could drop your bags.  Rajic was a technology hotshot whose talent was hacking.  Did a number that screwed up the Iranian banks.  Looked Irish, except for his eyes, like staring down a rattlesnake. 
            “Then Rajic made a major mistake.  He was supposed to take out a Pakistani guy, a wizard who’d opened up a new level of secure communication among the prayer-rug population.  This Mohammed guy…”
            “Aren’t they all named Mohammed?” the reporter muttered.  “By the way, I never got your name.”
            “I told you, my life depends on anonymity.  There’d been a quid pro, apparently.  The Paki had given Rajic a pass instead of killing him when he had a chance.  Later, Rajic punked out, looked the other way and let his target escape.  The Agency got highly pissed and wanted to have Rajic deported back to Serbia, as a traitor at least or a terrorist at worst.”
            “I still don’t see where Judge Rothenberg got involved.”
            “You’re getting ahead of the story.  Rajic was an embarrassment.  Worse, he was a naturalized American, so ICE wanted to send him back to Belgrade.  But Rajic had a top secret crypto clearance.  They worried he’d pull a Wikileaks, so they settled on a secret trial.  Would he have ratted out the U.S?  Become another Edward Snowden or Julian Assange?  ¿Quien sabe?  I tried to get the word up the line that Rajic was loyal to America, but….”  I let that thought hang for a moment.  “Rothenberg was the judge in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court who got the case.  Rajic couldn’t put up a defense because, obviously, there’s no defense counsel in a secret trial.”
            “Else it wouldn’t be secret,” the reporter said.
            “You’re learning.  So — poof! — Rajic disappeared.  Locked up in a detention site outside Washington.”
            I let that sink in and savored my whiskey.  Jameson is for Catholics, Bushmills for Protestants.  This was as close as I was going to get to God.  
            “You haven’t brought in Amy’s part.  Her connection to Rothenberg.”
            “Thing you have to understand is motive.  Amy had become totally infatuated with Rajic.  When I ran into her, she told me what she knew about Rajic’s loyalties.  I told her what little I’d heard about Rothenberg ramrodding the trial.  She went ballistic that the Agency made him disappear.  God knows, I still believed she was level-headed, that our mission was to keep America strong.  But, Rajic was convicted.  A week later, the good judge got into his car to get the Sunday bagels when — ka-boom.”
            The reporter snapped his fingers.  “Something similar happened to another guy in Washington a few days later.  Killed in his own driveway.  Guy’s name was Scalzo.  John Scalzo.”
            “He was Rajic’s case officer.  Who d’you think had a motive for the two killings?”  I waited a second for him to process the connection.  “Amy.  Payback for making her lover disappear.”  I smiled sympathetically.  “See now why you’ve got a tough murder story to pitch to your editor?  No sources, no attribution, no Rajic.  And no Amy, an assassin who’s gone to ground.” 
            “Well, I thank you.  I’m going to try substantiating some facts if I can.  I’m not letting this go.”  He got up.  “I appreciate you talking to me.  I still don’t know your name.”
            I saluted him with my glass, feeling like a Raymond Chandler hero.  “Thanks for the drinks.  I don’t have a name.”
            The nice reporter walked out the door.  He’d renewed my confidence in the Fourth Estate and faith in the American Way.  The story would start circulating about the mad spy who got even.  This called for another Jameson. 
            Half an hour later I felt a tap on my shoulder.
            “Amy, darlin’.  Thanks for coming.  I was just talking with a good man who wanted to sell me burial insurance, but it’ll have to wait till I’m buried.  After I’m dead, of course.”
            “Jamie, dear.  Always meeting on short notice.” 
            Her kiss was a benediction.  Amy was as lissome and inviting as a flower in springtime, a girl to die for — or kill for.  With my competitor gone and her the chief suspect she was free to swing back into my arms.
            “Any idea how long you’ll be in town?”  There was invitation in her voice.
            “Just a day or two.  I’m going off the grid, to Rio.  Permanently, and live like a rajah.  Join me?  Oh, and did you know Rothenberg and Scalzo have gone to pieces?  Literally.”
            “No!  I’ve been on this other thing.  What happened?”
            “Something about the way the bomb that killed the judge was wired same as the Agency taught you.  Scalzo got it with a sharp instrument in his eye, the way you did that guy in China.  Word at the Agency is that you killed them as payback because they made Rajic disappear.  Perhaps you should be worried.  Even more so when you think of how crazy they are about the Chinese, Fu Manchu, the yellow devil and all that.  The media will have a field day.”
            Her fine Asian skin went white.  She picked up my drink and drained it.  Thoughts were going around in her head like ice cubes in a blender. 
            “Dammit!  I’m their suspect?”
            “Number one, darlin’.  You’ll disappear like Rajic if you stick around.”
            “After all my goddamn years, after putting my life on the line….”
            “There’s no loyalty anymore, in love or war.”  I waited ten seconds, and then offered, “I have an idea.  Why don’t you join me in Rio?  We had a good thing once.  You know those lunatics in the Agency make up their rules as they go along.”  I’d made up my own rules, too,  Getting rid of Rothenberg and Scalzo was a means to my own end.
            “Maybe I will, Jamie.  You’re saying I shouldn’t go back to the office.”
            “No one’s in your corner anymore, Amy.  Except me.  We might even have stories to tell our children, God willing.”
#  #  #

Walt bounces between writing genres, from mystery to humor, speculative fiction to romance with a little historical non-fiction thrown in for good measure.  His work has appeared in print and online in over two score publications including Rye Whiskey.  He’s also bounced from Fortune 500 firms to university posts, and from homes in eight states and to a couple of Asian countries.  He now moderate a writing group in New Jersey, a nice place to visit, but he doesn’t want to die there.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Junk Mail. By Cord Moreski

Even now you tell me  
that whenever you see it all  
scrunched inside your mailbox 
the glossy advertisements  
for credit cards and personal loans  
or coupons for fast food chains 
and life insurance policies 
it gives you this strange sigh of relief  
as if you were nine years old again.  
That year you held your breath  
whenever the postman arrived. 
Your father always passed out  
on the couch from working  
the graveyard shift at QuickChek  
while your mother fanned out  
the envelopes like a poker hand  

to see if it was pork and beans  
or leftover spaghetti
for the fourth night in a row,  
or if the batch of cookies baking  
in the oven was for you  
or for the lender as a sign of mercy  
before they eventually took your house.  

It all taught you the difference  
between the victory of a battle  
and the victory of a war  
before any history textbook 
or grandfather with a purple heart could.  

And on those days of just “junk” 
you’d watch from the kitchen  
as your mother toasted with a sigh  
while you tended the oven for her 
making sure the cookies didn’t burn. 

Cord Moreski is a poet from New Jersey. His work has been featured in As It Ought To Be Magazine, Alien Buddha Press, Silver Birch Press, Eunoia Review, The Rusty Truck Press, and several other publications. He is currently working on a new project for late 2020. You can follow Cord here:

Thursday, April 23, 2020

repentance. By Jenny S.

last night i was drinking Jameson
at an irish pub, laughing at the big cross
hanging on the wall above our table,
thinking about how much i sacrificed
to be able to afford the good stuff

and today satan is sitting beside me,
laughing at the sight of me kissing
your porcelain ass
thanks a lot, god

Jenny S. is a poet from Chicago. She currently resides under a rock and only comes out when she can smell the coffee brewing. Her work has been sparsely published in various e-zines and print journals. She also reads and records other poets' work, which she shares on her YouTube channel, Jenny S. Poetry Readings.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

So Many Men. By Ed Meek

As the sun rises, so many men
rise from bed each day 
longing for death.

As we brush our teeth
  and spit in the sink,
we know death hides like a secret 
in the pills behind the mirror.
And death shows his face 
when we clean our guns,
the bullets--messengers 
always ready to deliver the mail,
an announcement written in lead.

After dinner we reach for death
who floats in bottles sitting in the cupboard
waiting to be downed in shots.
And death drives our car at night,
half-asleep at the wheel,
gas pedal to the floor, lights off.
We like to keep death close by as we age
and wonder why we’re still here.
Long after the sun goes down we close our eyes
and dance with death in our dreams.

My new book, High Tide, is coming out this summer. I've had poems recently in Into the Void, Constellations, The Sun.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Young Man Dead in a Parking Lot by Hugh Blanton

They gather - sitting - standing - reclining -
on the fecal-stained sidewalk next
to the Del Mission liquor store.
Men - and  few women too - with nothing.
They can't afford even the airline bottles of liquor
on the other side of that wall -
but they sit there nonetheless - beseeching passersby -
'Spare any change?'
The more ambitious ask - 'Spare a dollar?'

One has separated himself from the others.
About a half block down the walk
in a slim strip of blacktop that serves as a parking lot -
right smack in the middle of the entrance - he sits cross-legged -
head slumped - chin in chest.
He has that special brand of sunken cheeks
that only crackheads can achieve.
The bits of dried grass and leaf clinging to his back
say he lives in the canyon at the end of 3rd Avenue.

A motorist exercising her right to park
honks her horn.
He doesn't lift his head -
doesn't even flip Ms. Motorist off.

Ms. Motorist on her cell phone demands
the police department get here this instant
to remove the obstruction.

Cops and paramedics arrive in short order.
They get lots of calls in this neighborhood
and are never far away.
One cop tells his radio handset that subject
is deceased - no identification.
No-name dead guy is covered and shoved
into the back of the Rural/Metro ambulance.
The form of the sheet over him indicates
rigor mortis in its beginning stages.

Ms. Motorist finally parks and walks away -
her rights fully restored -
a rapidly cooling cup of venti Starbucks in hand -
heels clicking on pavement.

Hugh Blanton is a truck loader who combs poems out of his hair during those times he can steal away from his employer's loading dock. He has appeared in Bottom Shelf Whiskey, The Dope Fiend Daily, Terror House Magazine and other places.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Driving a Second Hand Legacy by Tony Pena

I dreamt I turned
my ankle dancing
a jig on James
Joyce’s grave.
An ambitious
pirouette drilling
for the oil
of Celtic creativity.
A Charley horse
shook my slumber
with the throbbing
calf clearly reminding
me the 1.3 percent Irish
as deemed by the DNA
test used up on a taste
for Guinness and the music
of the Pogues so the ghost
of the lion of Irish literature
can sleep in peace tonight,
bones and heritage preserved.

Tony Pena was selected as 2017-2018 Poet Laureate for the city of Beacon, New York.  
A new volume of poetry and flash fiction, "Blood and Beats and Rock n Roll," is available now at Amazon.  He also has a self published chapbook, "Opening night in Gehenna."  His publication credits include “Chronogram,”  "Dogzplot,"   "Gutter Eloquence," “Hudson Valley Transmitter,” "Red Fez," "Slipstream,"  "Underground Voices," "Zygote in my Coffee,"  and others. 

Colorful compositions and caterwauling with a couple of chords can be seen at:

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Saturday. By Alyssa Trivett

The sun wakes up.
My writing hand tic erases
once I pour reheated coffee
down my throat.
I pine around to 
throwback songs 
as I wait for the ratcheted 
hour hand to strike lightning 
at 7pm as my man waltzes 
out of work around then.
My floss rounding mind dances around words 
I can't piece together today,
perhaps better left stuck 
in a vending machine as 
someone's fist pummels it 
for the 1.95 they lost 
on overly salty chips.
But I find the words again 
and piece them together,
clearing off the battery acid.

Alyssa Trivett is a wandering soul from the Midwest. When not working two jobs, she chirps down coffee while scrawling lines. Her work has appeared in many places, but most recently at Ex Ex Lit, and Duane's PoeTree site.

Rituals XIV. By John Doyle

A sullen amen for scattered fruits
that leer in vine-yard sands,
Sesame-Street sunshine,
tarmac treacle-like on sneaker's soles
in Daly City -
a sighed glory be 
for the lost-side of Heaven 
I pee-shoot my simple prayers to;
I bite before I get bitten -
therefore I am.
I raise my thumb
like veterans in closing tv sequences
from the mid 1980s when America
stopped fetishizing that war;
a car pulls in - arachnid posture,
tattooed bare-knuckled boy
that music leaves another man to sing about.
I've found a new muse,
I'll keep it sealed under lock and sun-dried lip,
this, my beautiful America, is the new curriculum  

John Doyle became a Mod again in the summer of 2017 to fight off his impending mid-life crisis; whether this has been a success remains to be seen. He has has two collections published to date, A Stirring at Dusk in 2017, and Songs for Boys Called Wendell Gomez in 2018, both on PSKI's Porch.

He is based in Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland. All he asks is that you leave your guns at the door and tie up your horses before your enter.

For The Mourner By Alec Solomita

For the mourner only one thing is: things like business, cooking, seeing birds stir the spring air, falling snow, even watching the home tea...