F. S. Symons

On the mat in her hut Maria caressed her baby girl’s cheeks, and then playfully tickled her, lightly running her fingers behind her ears, and along her neck below her jaw. Squeals of delight from baby, who she kissed and handed to “yaya” – her grandmother – before heading for the railway.

She jumped the train. She needed her iron will to pull her wounded body upwards onto this train, teetering like it would go off the rails any second. Maria’s friend Ana Pilar, already aboard, stretched out her arm and hauled Maria up and onto the boxcar. People, animals, and freight jammed the narrow space. No roof. No windows. Passengers sat on the floor, leaned on goats and boxes of chickens, while the teeming fauna of the jungle turned to watch the train pass. This train was her world.

The guards sneered at her because she was one of “los subnormales”. She wasn’t bitter. Her physique was her weapon. Her father had attacked her, leaving all four limbs twisted at unnatural angles but functional, so tourists would pity her and give her food, jewelry, and money to stay alive.

She scrutinized the scene. Her friends said she was like a puma stalking its next meal, but Maria thought of herself as a person, with human powers of analysis. Her eyes lingered on a white woman who gripped her white companion’s arm, and her thumb kneaded a gold chain. The woman’s grip was gentle, sparking thoughts of her dead mother, never mind the bright yellow hair and blue eyes. She’s not my mother, she thought, but she’s looks the same age. Maybe it’s an omen.

Another of Maria’s friends, Pedro, his eyelids welded shut with bits of skin, faced the white woman. He was barefoot, and bright green and orange rags covered his body. He clutched a battered radio blaring chants by singers in terrible pain. When the woman dropped coins into his hand, he skittered away like a monkey with stolen food. At least I’m not like some of my friends – they act like animals, Maria mused. I’m human, and I’m dignified.

Ana Pilar’s toes winked out of shoes worn off in front. She walked as if on a tightrope across the shifting floor of the car. Like an owl seconds before its talons break through the skin of its prey, she assaulted the white woman’s ears with her piercing cry. “I am Ana Pilar. I am certified insane. Look at my official certificate! MINISTERIO DE LA SALUD – INSTITUTO NACIONAL DE PSIQUIATRIA. Look at the pills I take! So they don’t take my children away from me. Christians! For the love of God, help me!” Fright in her eyes, the woman instantly gave her pesos. The woman is a soft touch, Maria figured.

Her friend Chaco, another ‘subnormal’, thrust out a photograph of his head, blood dripping from a bullet wound. He screamed: “Look at me! Shot by the terrorists clean through my head. But I lived! It’s a miracle!” The skin over the hole in his forehead opened and shut when he wrinkled his forehead. He made his ‘extra eye’ wink at the woman, who handed him her pesos.

Maria figured the woman had no ready cash left. She focused on the woman’s gold chain necklace and cross, gripped in her hand like a good luck charm. A valuable piece, worth weeks of food, she calculated. She sidled over to the woman and kneeled, her mangled hands out with a finger missing on each, head bent back. She implored with beseeching eyes, “I am Maria de la Concepción Imaculata. I am bruised. I am twisted. My bones are broken. For the love of God, help me!!”

Maria watched the woman’s eyes water. She locked eyes with her, knowing her eyes and voice and body had connected. The woman understands I am one of the wounded ones. Does she picture my parents, deformed themselves, as they hold me down, their own child, and hit me? Does she picture her own child, maimed like that? Possibly, she reflected, because the woman’s body shook like a leaf. I’ve hooked her, but I’m not yet in control.

“No llores senora. No me duele mucho, de verdad,” Maria said (“Don’t cry madam. It doesn’t hurt all that much, really”), and her eyes shifted to the chain. She extended her crooked fingers with pointed nails and caressed it. She kissed the woman’s hand, and then stroked it with a loving touch. “Vos teneis manos tan fuertes, tan bonitos (You have such strong, beautiful hands),” she said. The chain slipped into her hand, and she walked to the next boxcar – with her head held high.



Jack Ohms
Die Peacefully Good Jack Donne

No – I want to cough out

reams of final golden sputum
stringing my parched throat,

my eye, a coward’s eye blinking,

for one final mounting
and the shadows of

wild oats
thrown deliciously

across the yellow blanket
of my humped bed.



Chris Major



John C. Goodman
rules for sleeping naked

rigor mortis

labouring under delusions of denial
it’s a condition of conditioning
gross understatement

making the ordinary extraordinary

          – short sleeved sports shirts
          – clip on ties
          – ferocious monsters

making the real surreal
          – short sleeved sports shirts
          – clip on ties
          – ferocious monsters
          – bosses with fins

it’s not that easy
coercion through pain
let us now honour violent men
before it reaches critical mass
when no one’s decided on the length and breadth
before somebody’s ass gets kicked from here to buggery and back

“I don’t want to be the one who tells her.”

everything is broken
broken hearts            broken promises      broken lives
broken windows       broken bones            broken dreams

broken streets replete with broken cars
lame buildings stutter through the day

          ((as it was yesterday so it will be today
                    only worse))

broken bread broken morning broken bicycles broken teacups broken memories broken blisters broken dodecahedrons broken intentions broken methods broken clouds broken signals broken relationships broken communication broken steps broken voices broken branches broken light broken ankles broken journeys broken gutters broken

broken off
a clean break


clouds encumber the sky
bringing the rain no one else wanted
          (sure, go ahead, dump it on us, what do we matter, who cares)

what we call erotic
          a helmet in the sand
                     a life gone by

[backspace] [backspace] [backspace]

they brought the funeral forward
           and postponed the wedding
           (something to do with a broken hymen)

the wind went thataway
oligarchies of ephemera placate insouciant mnemonics
under duress

“…some good will come of it…”
“…will some good come of it…”
“…of it some good will come …”
“…good will come some of it…”
“…it some come good of will…”
“…come will some good of it …”

the magnitude of the whole thing is daunting,
I mean, how does one even begin to formulate rules for sleeping naked?
It flies in the face of reason.
It is irrational = illogical = absurd = real
= @#//, **\\{{]]@—)-::: = ridiculous = meaningless = real
= phffft!! = ignrognard = frintbalu = obnoxious = incongruent = life

“but then we are plunged into relational questions about nihilism, anarchism, identity and meaning.

“…some blood will come of it…”

                         [let’s not go there]
          [can we talk about something else]
                         [are we done]

the naked shore sleeps
beside the waves,
rocks sighing in the surf,
fingers of foam
soothe the troubled sand

(extra punctuation, to be used with discretion, no responsibility will be assumed for injury or death resulting from the misuse of the marks provided: ???!!,,,…;;?:::::!,,.)



Diana Magallon and Jeff Crouch




Justin Hyde
looking at houses

as we pulled a right off university
i saw a human figure
face down
on a basketball court
behind the grade school.

hey turn into the school
looks like
somebody might be hurt,
i said to my wife.

probably just
a drunk
homeless person,
she said
and kept going.

no seriously
go back there,
i said.

no seriously
we’re not
going back there,
she said

i looked at her
for a second.
then i grabbed the steering wheel
and said
let me out of the fucking car.

she stopped.
i got out.
she kept going.

it was a young
black kid.

you alright man?
i asked.

he looked up.
his eyes were
red with tears.

i’ll be alright,
he said.

i saw you from the road
just wanted to make sure
you were ok,
i said.

he said
and dropped his head
back into his arms.

i stood on the corner
a good five minutes
before my wife pulled up.

she asked coldly.

i don’t know
some young black kid,
problems at home
or something.

we drove in silence
then she said:
you could have been killed
it could have been
some crazy person
then what?
you leave your wife
and son
with no husband
or father.

i told her:
you have no heart.
you’re what’s wrong with
the world.
you have no compassion.

she didn’t say anything,
but her knuckles
got tighter
on the
steering wheel.

i told her:
what if that had been
our son
wouldn’t you want someone to stop?
don’t we owe that
to each other as a species
at the bare minimum?

get out! get out! get out
of the fucking car,
she said.

i got out
amidst heavy traffic
on university avenue.

it was a good
nine miles
back to our apartment.

i walked back
to the basketball court.

the kid was gone.

i laid down
in the spot
where he had been.

and i waited.



Roberta Lawson

The velvet moss – the sound of the enchanted cicadas.

On the floor of the forest, she lies. The afternoon croaking of the tree frogs, the overhead branch canopy. Into the water she slides like a swallow. Out of the water she moves in a slither. The fresh thick grass, the teeth of the flowers gnashing carnivorous. The overgrowth-dash of overgrown cats, paws padding in-out of her vision’s corners. The copulatory nuzzle of snakes against leg-flesh. Lazy late afternoon light, she tries to dart the tongue from her mouth. Her tongue is a snipped thing, stopped from uncoiling. What falls out is only a stilted bird mewling. The free birds cry back but they are full-volume. Her tongue a fork-point back in her gullet. She falls back to the lake side, her tears trickle silent. Water splashes over ancient sunk pebbles –


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