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The Ninth

by Paul Corman-Roberts

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There’s a feeling
perhaps you know.

That feeling one gets
upon having made
the almost perfect creation.

The poem that started
as pomegranate gnawing in the bosom
swelled to encompass the heart
and poured out of your wrists
in ten minutes or less.

Your almost perfect poem
that needed only one edit
& even that one questionable.

Such an almost perfectly crafted poem
like it wasn’t even you who wrote it.

Your almost perfectly crafted poem
quickly made the final round
of an esteemed local lit-mag contest

Your almost perfectly crafted poem
quickly made the final round
of an esteemed local poetry slam.

Your almost perfectly crafted poem
quickly garnered you an orgasm
with the most beautiful person
with the most beautiful genitalia
you could hope to share an orgasm with.

That’s not the feeling I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the feeling the day after
when the most beautiful person
with the most beautiful genitalia
has gone back to their life

And the esteemed local poetry slam
is looking for a new champ

And the esteemed local lit mag
has a new deadline

And you are all alone with
with your almost perfectly crafted poem
and all the space on the page left after

That is how God felt on the eighth day
and why war was created on the ninth.

*

Paul Corman-Roberts is the fiction editor for Full of Crow Quarterly and a co-founder of the Beast Crawl Literary Festival. He received his MFA in Poetics from the New College of California.

photo by o.kvlt

Ode to Oakland

by Hollie Hardy

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In my neighborhood
Hooded figures stalk the midnight periphery

And for the first time in 20 years
I feel the heat of fear
A boa constrictor tightening its grip

Oh Oakland,
Robbery Capital of America
You dirty city, you shadow sister
With your perfect weather
Trendy restaurants, and cheap apartments
The string of pearls lighting your lake
Your legacy of violence
Looming and rearing

One step forward, two steps behind you
Three fatherless teenagers are armed with guns

Because why stand on a street corner
When you can make $300 bucks in 30 seconds
Stealing cell phones from drunk hipsters
And 86 year-old women
And mothers unloading their groceries
And waiters on their way home from work
And cashiers at 7-eleven
And you, walking home from the bar
Just three blocks away

The police are non-existent, of course
Like city funds

In the illusory safety of the dining room
We debate the merits of vigilante justice
Guardian Angels, Hells Angels, East Bay Rats
Roving posses of business owners armed with ball bats

Meanwhile, on a bench nearby
Four more people are mugged at gunpoint
One girl is shot in the leg, another is severely pistol whipped
A friend’s car is stolen, for the second time

Oh Oakland, you asshole!
This is why we can’t have nice things

*

Hollie Hardy can teach you to survive anything. Her first collection of poetry, How to Take a Bullet, And Other Survival Poems, is currently looking for a home. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, and teaches writing classes at both SF State and Berkeley City College. She is a core producer for the Beast Crawl literary festival in Oakland, co-host of Saturday Night Special, An East Bay Open Mic, co-curator of Litquake’s Flight of Poets, and a former Editor-in-Chief of Fourteen Hills: The SFSU Review. Her work has appeared in Eleven Eleven, sPARKLE & bLINK, The Common, Parthenon West Review, Transfer, Milvia Street, and other journals. She lives in Oakland, California.

photo by David Sifry

Inventor Reflects

by Chris Crittenden

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the higher you go, the less you breathe,
and the more beautiful the air.
a why beyond dirt and sweat,
peace mulled by floatation,
reclusive as Lao Tzu’s clouds.

nerve endings took eons
to sprout out of bacteria and perceive this.
more quickly we ruined our awe
by inventing flight.

we praise no god now,
only mechanical wings.
whether brilliant or damned,
only the angels we replaced could say.
too many tricks
have been played on our ideals.
too much thimblerigging
between judges and thieves
knotted in warrens
in the switchbacks of the metropolis.

we weren’t created
to see where we’ll go,
only to get there lost.
to suffer chains of puzzles
in doglegs of whys.
the gods need us
to unfurl like opium rings,
waft from their fickle rush.

if you invent something
it’s just the gods
using you as a mirror.
you’ll be dropped
and then no more insight,
just a ;brief ritual of shatters:
the giving of yourself
to the glow.

*

Chris Crittenden writes from a small town on the coast of Maine, fifty miles from any traffic lights. He blogs as Owl Who Laughs and is pretty well published.

photo by MultiplyLeadership

A Song I Remembered from 1979

by A. Razor

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when wanda coleman sang that night
every atom in my heart did a do si do
turning it’s partners round & round
my heart would never be the same again

when wanda coleman sang that night
the music was the truth in every word
the way she gave it all out in every breath
the way breathing would never be the same again

when wanda colemn sang that night
I found a new form of courage
that did not require smoke or drink
as it eased my lonely heart that was
barely surviving a missing adolescence

when wanda coleman sang that night
I forgot about my girlfriend turning tricks
all night long on hollywood blvd. alone
I forgot about how far away I felt from hope
with no idea where I would sleep that night
I missed home & wanted to travel far away
all in the same precious moment of breath
I learned more about fear & love as she spoke
her honest beam of song words into my heart
than I had learned from any source of knowledge
from before that night or any source of knowledge
ever since

when wanda coleman sang that night
I heard the song in the words of her poems
the singing has never stopped
the music has never stopped
it is a song that sings loudest
when I take my most labored breath
as I sing along with the song that comes in words
never to forget the song I heard back then
when wanda coleman sang that night

*

A. Razor is a writer who makes art, photography and music based on his experience growing up in the streets of the world, living outside the common margin and off the grid most of his life. He tries to celebrate and memorialize this experience and the many people, places and things that have been like living signposts along the way.

photo by stefan karpiniec

Untitled

by Grant Maierhofer

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I have to write something right now
and no matter what it is, it must be finished—
right now—
and upon finishing I’ll do something new
say something maybe to my cat, he has a name
right now, but telling him anything or telling you
his name, would be useless.
I have to write something new something that
isn’t everything else I’ve written and even
sitting down to do it feels so similar that I
fear I’ll slow down too much until it leaves me—
the words they leave me—
I let them leave most often and I let my cat
fall asleep on my chest rather than
trying to get it right…
I think out loud and this become the process of
writing something, a story maybe,
right now.
It isn’t so much about creating something for
the outside world to appreciate, it isn’t
about them; but rather the act of doing something
that only a few thousand people on earth
are really doing anymore,
right now.
Tomorrow I’ll wake up to convention and I’ll
eat it every second of my day and live by their
rules, tomorrow I’ll be a pincushion for their
ideas and I’ll fall victim to it time and again until
I’m able to sit alone in a too-full bathtub and the room
grows quiet and the voice of one person—
the writer—
takes over, then I’ll be alright, but tomorrow for
many hours I’ll be this way, having nothing of
my own and having the world’s shit shoveled
into my lips and I’ll have to beg for it just to
stay alive and thus right now—
right now—I embrace the pressure of
existence and non-
and understand that I am little more than a person
clack-clack-clacking away at something
and even though I’m only a part of the puzzle
thousands, millions even, men and women and
children far more gifted than I,
in countries more remote and more dire
and hence their words far more pertinent,
more pressing than my own,
even though all these things weigh on me
staring me in the face and eating through
my skin like acid.
I’ll still do this a moment longer to assuage
another pang, of living—
another sitcom, cartoon, show,
show/show—
I’ll avoid it a moment longer and through
escaping, be that much closer to the ‘he’
the ‘I’
the ‘me’ who wrote this thing.

*
Grant Maierhofer is the author of Ode to a Vincent Gallo Nightingale, he blogs at miredingriefmiredingrief.com and lives in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin.

photo by Joanna Bourne


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