by Tantra Bensko
i i i i
how many times can we use the word i i i i
enough that we become other other other,
the old mexican man on the train
who chuckles from time to time
while continually playing his mandolin
with only broken strings
crammed up together
along its neck in a rambunctious bundle,
as he sits so close to me his smell
becomes me, the boldly dissonant sounds resonate
as everyone looks at him annoyed,
and sees me smiling at the beauty–
i other i other i other
plunk plunk plunk smell smell smell
Tantra Bensko’s work recently appeared in an anthology called Women Writing the Weird (Dog Horn Press). She has had a few books published including Lucid Membrane (Night Publishing). She teaches fiction writing and runs Exclusive Magazine.
photo by Andy Squires
by Les Gottesman
Cold is the breeze of concussion
at first, a sucking cube, city-size
of 3-dimensional litter, while
the guitar player is beautiful without eyeballs.
Infected vampire bats are
unremarkable compared to
the shocking horror of what I am
a part of, but the guitar player is beautiful without eyeballs.
With history this close to close I say to her: Stay away. Stay cool.
Maybe the burning city is a torch song to the love we made.
In a shale nightgown her skin rises to the needle’s tooth.
The guitar player without eyeballs is beautiful.
Les Gottesman’s poems have appeared in print and online journals and magazines including Juked, FutureCycle, Anamesa, Beatitude, Harper’s, Antioch Review, and Columbia Review. He received an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts in 2011 and has been a teacher in San Francisco for over 30 years.
photo by Joanie-21
by Molly Kat
She tries to level with the word, tries to define it, tries to find a way for it to fit into her; a way to not be so broken or a way to make broken beautiful again. Today it was spelled across her forehead, carved in big red bleeding letters. Today the sky fell around her and everyone else scratched it up to rain. Today the world ended all over her, and she was stuck in one of those dreams where you can’t scream, because screaming for no reason means you’re insane… but she has a reason. It means your body is stolen. It means everything you in the book of everything that ever was disappears and is replaced with something foreign and horrible and guilty and the only synonym is theft. Only theft doesn’t cover the heartbroken, and heartbroken is too cliché, and the word just doesn’t fit, like her skin no longer fits, like the clothes start to grow baggy, and it’s weight loss and identity loss and “how can I cover up a body that’s been broken into?” The birds fly overhead and she can’t tell if they’re vultures or doves, and by birds I mean men, and by men I mean shadow-boxers. She may never be post trauma. She may never ride the fourteen alone at midnight again. She may never get past the first letter. She sits down at the solid oak table. No. She sits down on her bed. No, she doesn’t have a bed, or a solid oak table, or any furniture at all. Nothing in her life is that stable or comfortable, and she sleeps on a foam square on the floor. She sits in the dark, by the glowing screen of her dying laptop, and hopes the outlet splitter from the dollar store doesn’t start smoking until after she’s gotten this down. She writes “in April of 2005 my body was a crime scene.” She writes “in May of 2008 my body was a crime scene.” She writes, “the summer of 2011 my body is my body, my body is not my fault, my body is brown sugar, my body is burning. My body is a fist. I have never thrown the first punch. My body has never learned how to block.” She writes, “I am too much surface area, too much wind, and so much sun.” She writes, “the West Coast is burning.” She is spit and wildfire. She wears a moonstone on her middle finger for every time she was offered a diamond. She writes “colder than the dead body in the east river.” She writes, “more hallow than the well that runs dry to the center of the earth.” She writes “dear Matt. I cut my legs open with a piece of broken glass. I thought you had left something inside me. My veins burned heavy with the lead of a story I didn’t dare to look in the eyes; I rained so hard I put myself out. Dear Matt. I lay down on the double yellow lines on Lexington Avenue, not far from your house. I wanted you to finish the job. I carried the corpse of a seventeen year old inside my lungs for three years. The first time I breathed it happened again. Dear Matt, the world is a white circus tent collapsing.” She sits in the top room of City Lights Café opening books to smell their spine. She cries because there’s still something beautiful about her. She can feel it. She cries because he saw it. She cries because the world is small and painful and beautiful and she can’t pretend there’s anything more than the fights on the back of the bus. Three men followed her from the bus stop and she didn’t go for her knife, she didn’t go for the pepper spray. She went for the double yellows; she ran. She slammed the gate, locked the door, trembled up the stairs and collapsed on the foam square. She could still feel you around her neck. She writes, “the hardest part is that I’m supposed to be the victim, and I feel so much like the attacker.” She writes, “I miss the wrought iron of your smile.” She writes, “the hardest part is that the idea of being raped turns me on.”
Molly Kat is a graduate student at Binghamton University studying American Literature and Literary Theory. She has had work published in Muzzle Magazine, Pedastal Magazine, Ragazine, and several print anthologies and other literary magazines. She has work forthcoming in Foothill Poetry Journal as well as Corvus.
photo by Barnaby_S
by Frederick Pollack
When I enter
the musty, worse than mediocre
dayroom, someone has taken
my red vinyl chair.
Chrome companionably flaky;
but whole enough to retain
its ancient foam –
as the stuff of a sulfur asteroid …
for a time longer than time.
Mine: more important
than the nothing view
it shares, or the shuffler
in faded jammies
now sitting in it.
Should I stab him? with what? Let’s review –
should I stab him
or punch him? The powers
would disapprove, and send me
farther from that chair.
Should I talk to him? Politely? Perhaps
it’s a test.
One knows that tests are more frequent
the less they entail advancement.
I may not even be rewarded
with my chair.
When life cracks, there’s always
someone to ask you
“What’s your next step?” and think
he serves life thereby.
He does. It doesn’t care.
A lucid voice among gibberers,
if I can stop hovering
I’ll go beyond words …
sick and officious eyes
will turn and find I am no longer there.
Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness, both published by Story Line Press. Other poems in print and online journals. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.
photo by splorp
by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
I walk alone, but the rocks are present,
replying to my thoughts. There is a
rock bird statue in the green fountain.
It sings spurting water from its beak.
The rock bird statue answers me
as my thoughts scatter. The water pours
out of its beak splashing into the green
fountain soothing the voices in my head.
Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal is a California-based writer. He welcomes your comments at cuatemochia[at]aol.com.
photo by Sebastian Mary