David Kowalczyk

Take this word
out for breakfast
at Denny’s every
Sunday morning.

Let this word dance
upon your tongue.
Let it fox trot.
Let it fandango.
Let it polka.

Buy this word a perfectly
preserved Edsel to drive
and cartons of Gitanes to smoke.
Let it listen to The Kingston Trio
and guzzle bottles of Chivas Regal.

Let it twist
and slide and
slip and stumble
across your lips.


Brandon Kamins
A World of My Own™

          Last Christmas—or was it my eleventh birthday?—my Uncle Alex got me a planet for a present. I hadn’t asked for a planet or even wanted one, but of course I couldn’t tell Uncle Alex that. Planets are expensive. This one came in a starter set called “A World of My Own™.” I’d never heard of this brand before. But after looking at it through its plastic covering, I got curious…I wanted to open it. But Uncle Alex asked me not to. He told me, warned me, actually, that this particular present wasn’t a toy at all. It was a big kid’s gift. He told me it takes a lot of responsibility to care for a planet, no matter what its size. I said I was up to it. He said I should read the instruction manual first. I said I would.
          It took me three days reading that manual—the thing was hundreds of pages thick! It was very technical, too (like my sixth grade science book). Basically, all it said was that this little planet was a lot like our big planet, only much, much (you get the idea) smaller. There were millions of tiny people on this tiny planet. But of course you couldn’t see them with your naked eyes. It’d take a microscope the size of a refrigerator to make them all out. Anyway, they were there, it said. I wasn’t so sure. How are you supposed to know something’s there if you can’t see it?
          Description of the planet: the planet itself is about the size of a golf or ping-pong ball, and comes encased in a clear plastic cube, like one of those very valuable autographed baseballs. And it’s suspended inside this cube on both ends by a thin plastic wire, so it looks like its just floating.
          But you can’t even touch it on account of you might—accidentally of course— wipe out an entire country. So what’s the gag, you ask? What are you supposed to do with this thing if you can’t touch it?
          Well, about the only thing you can do is control the weather. You can make it rain or sleet or snow. The kit comes with this weather-making machine that looks a lot like tiny vacuum cleaner. You just snap it in ventilation holes on the top of the cube.
           But even that, too, is a huge gyp…there’s this weather schedule you have to follow. So, if you did something extreme, like made it rain 40 days straight, not only would you kill off all the people, but you couldn’t get a refund.
          This isn’t even the worst part about the set. The set unfortunately includes this little, tiny two-way radio over which you can communicate with the leaders of each of the many nations.
          These leaders are a bothersome bunch. They have so many problems and they want yours truly to solve them all. They want more food or more raw materials, or they want thermonuclear weapons. I tell them I won’t give them thermonuclear weapons. Weapons are sold in separate accessory packs and are very expensive. (That’s how they make their money, with the bleeping accessory packs.)
          Anyway, they tell me, there is war, there is famine, there are evil despots, and communist regimes. These people have a lot of problems! I mean, really…communism?
           I think Uncle Alex made a big mistake getting me this planet. Probably it’s meant for older kids, maybe fourteen year olds or older.
           I’d be happy with a football.
           Anyway, I don’t really know what to do with it now. I might put it in the kitchen sink and fill it with water. I’ll make the whole planet like the lost city of Atlantis or something. Or maybe just stick it in the freezer and see how long it takes to thaw out, or if anyone would survive.
          If my Uncle Alex asks about my planet, I’ll just tell him I lost it. I’m really a pretty irresponsible kid and am well known for losing stuff. So I’m pretty sure he’ll probably buy it.



Carisa Allen
Lost Perfection

I know the true embitterment
in the wake of lost perfection
(the disarray of distinct angles
and the skewing of straight lines,
like a beautiful note that soared,
but then finally wavered and broke).

I know purity and innocence
because, once, we met:
the terrible world was still for one second,
and everything was perfect —
until one of us spoke.



David E. Oprava

can’t open my eyes. I am sure I’m not ready for sobriety, the first
sunny day in months and all I want is that depressive mix, the fix of
lager-bubbly-mood between smokes on the dock watching the river fill
in this man-shaped basin till I no longer care about the tides. The
only tune I can stand is the new slang, happier with a different
mind-set, my banger is still grinding me down, apparently readjustment
plans start at just an ounce of willpower per month. Too expensive,
cheaper to buy an anchor and let flow watching the river go…

      Three-year-old son on
      a scatological bent,
      everything is poo.

Woke up post noon, been staring at vicarious life-long TV, coffee
cold, good for soothing the fag-raw throat, and wondering why I was up
at six to get the kids off to school but let seven hours boil away on
the coffeemaker hotplate before getting off the settee, lost until the
thirst decided it needed some air and there I am, slutty to its call.

      so sad she says that
      pulchritude died on my door-
      think I stepped in it.

The world has more mirrors than Beelzebub’s barber, reflecting the
nature of everything and there I sit, a blot below clouds heaven-like
in their bog roll advert fluff, sky is blue like the shit they clean
toilets with, and air as stewing thick with oestrogen, I reach down
and feel my man-tits. This is our world, and were I a gawker I might
not see me sitting there, drinking sloppily amidst the
orgasmic-god-fuck beauty of it all.

      Her note said, I love
      you, -me, xoxo. Burnt
      crosses and donuts?

A few beers to keep me sane, the marriage alive, the sobriety of the
drive back and forth between obligations, can hack it most of the
time, but there are too many questions outlined by my silhouette in
front of the dim fridge light. What if I don’t love her anymore, when
I’m sober?



Kumari de Silva
Kumari “gets” Sciatica

I could handle the harm of my ragged emotion,
Alone, without voice to cover my thoughts.
Or wait until I fabricated courage of the soul
Re-knew my self in the midst of this turmoil.
Honestly, opening and unfolding myself to you
Can it staunch this throbbing ?

At what point did I dare push past acute pain,
And accept from you comfort and warmth?
First spooning to your back, later face to face?
Gracefully, under winters of blankets, you reached me.
Awakening stiff, ill stretched, clumsy feelings.
That first shamed me, then grew hard.

It was sometime after I had already grown comfortable
With rubber banding your mail to mine,
Tossing it without thought on the counter by the phone.
Definitely after I had mixed the laundry. Because I recall
Folding clothes with a sense of decent satisfaction:
Cotton boxers on the left, silky bras on the right.

But I remember it was before I got twisted:
Fearful of intimacy, and raw wool possibilities.
Ripped from my pattern of sweet fragile habit
Boiled to a clean new core by,
Sciatica’s shuddering distress,
Broidered with apprehension, trembling
Shattered, shredded, anguished, vulnerable.

Like it wasn’t difficult enough when I knew
What I brought to the table.
Now I’m struck dumb.



Holly Day

15 and you get your first guitar, spend hours practicing
before the full-length mirror in the bathroom, before your sister finds out
rats you out to dad, who the hell do you think you are
and you’re wasting your life
on pipe dreams and fantasy
all the good kids
are going to college
18 and you’ve got your own place, got your own
full-length mirror to make angry faces into, and sometimes, late at night
you plug your amp in, play it loud
because your neighbor will never top the things your dad used to say
and you’re wasting your life
with the wrong kinds of people
all the good kids
are out getting jobs
24 and you’re a big enough star
that the little shit gigs are finally paying the rent
people are saying enough good things about you
that it looks like you might get to record your own album
and then your break your own rule and make a call home, to find
you’re still wasting your life
on pipe dreams and fantasy
all the good kids
are now doctors and lawyers
when are you going to get it through your head



Richard August
A Swift Half

His mother came home today and smiled at him with sickly teeth. He left, he could not stand her laughter and her yellowing teeth any longer. He had not missed her in her absence. He had not missed the shrill tintinnabulation of her laughter. He smoked a cigarette outside his house and dropped the spent end in an empty flower pot. He set off for the pub.

Once inside he ordered a drink and sat down. He did not read the papers. He did not speak. He thought long, long thoughts. He thought mostly about the void he saw each night from his seat by the window. He thought of that void, that great sucking void often. He would look at it and think of what lay beyond it.

He ordered another drink and began to feel desperate. He did not want to see his mother. He did not want to listen to her laugh. He did not want to see his father, his father with his horrible beard; his horrible beard and his horrible fingers which smelt of raw meat and onions and oil. He did not want to see his parents, who would smile at him and ask after him. He did not want to hear his father tell a joke and his mother laugh. He did not want to hear that shrill, insistent laugh. He thought again of that void, that replete blackness that lay each night outside his window. He wanted to look beyond it. Sometimes, if he stretched his neck and strained his eyes he could see that the void was not complete. Sometimes he saw a light. A light like a lighthouse.

He left the pub and listened to the traffic until it began to sound too much like his mother’s laughter. Then he walked along the row of shops and takeaways until they began to smell too much like his father’s hands. His father liked cooking and he always smelt of raw meat and onions and oil. Whenever he patted his shoulder, whenever he hugged him, whenever he handed him the paper, his hands were steeped in the smell. He hated the smell like he hated the laughter. Sometimes, when he was tired of looking into the void and could not see the light at the summit of his vision, he would listen to them sleep. They grumbled and thundered in their sleep like a Tennyson poem. Sometimes he tried to imagine them when they were young and full of lust. He tried to imagine them making love, but all he could see was two greasy hands wringing with shrill laughter.

He began to walk home. He wondered if his mother would still be laughing at the repeated comedy show. The comedy show she had watched dozens of times and at which she laughed relentlessly, like the sound of jack-pot coins dropping into a fruit machine tray. He smiled. That was what her laugh sounded like. The sound of jack-pot coins. The sound of a hollow victory, she always laughed at nothing his mum. The sun glanced against his cheek and made the pavement near him autumnal with the shadow of leaves. He reached his home and had another cigarette. He could not hear his mother laughing, he could not smell cooking. He entered the house slowly. He took off his coat and thought about hanging it on the peg. He took it up stairs with him instead. The peg seemed too cold and unfriendly. The coat had been warm today. The two or three drinks made him feel better, he felt much better, felt more human. He looked out of his window, the void was gathering and he stretched to see if the lighthouse was illuminated yet. It wasn’t. His parents hated him staring out the window. It made them anxious they said. People would think he was daft, his dad said. People will think we don’t care, his mum said. He sat by the window and thought about the void. He thought about his mum and dad watching television downstairs. He preferred watching the window. He preferred watching the night gather and thinking about the void. He liked looking into the void and looking for his lighthouse. That always made him feel better.



Echezona Udeze
An abstract: a sestina pantoum by Geoff

I sit around kick the can
And this can I kick can
Take its lick like it can
Tick can tick can it can
Man that kick can it can
Can I kick the kick can

And the can I kick can
Can man I can kick can
Tick can tick can I can
I can man do kick can
Do can can man I can
Can kick can man kick can

Can man I can kick can
I can yes yes I can
I can man do kick can
I am man yes I can
Is this repetitive yes man can
Can seem repetitive yes it can

I can yes yes I can
Do the can can can can
I am man yes I can
I can do it man can
Sestina I can sestina I can
Repetitive man can do sestina can

Do the can can can can
I can try anything I can
I can do it man can
Woman can as well they can
Anybody can try yes they can
I can man I am can

I can try anything I can
Can can can can can can
Woman can as well they can
Can can can can can can
Can can can can can can
Try at least can you can?

Man kick can man kick can
Kick man can can kick can
Can can can yes try can

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