#96

Mel Bosworth
1989 Chevy Blazer

178K miles. One owner. Black & Silver. Red interior. Two-door. V6 engine. Strong 4X4. New tires. Trailer hitch. New stereo/CD player, one year old. New catalytic converter. Minor upholstery damage on driver’s seat. Minor rust in wheel wells. Small crack on windshield, no spider web. Could use new starter, and front end alignment. Reliable daily driver. Available for viewing/test drive anytime. $500, FIRM.

 

Craig Terry
Crawfish Cookout

There is char on the silver metal bars
of the stove-black Weber Grill.
Blue flames sear the hamburger being
flipped and stabbed, served and eaten.

A goatee catches Heinz Ketchup
as a tongue goes to lap it up.
70’s and 80’s guitar solos blast from amps
and grass flattens under moving feet.

Plaid lawn chairs line the pavilion
and a pool filled with bikinis and tiny trunks.
The wind pushes against the blown up
bounce house that has gotten muddy.

An apron yells, “Louisiana Crawfish!”
The standing men start running.
Coors spills and later that night
a grown man falls in front of his sons.

Just as the band starts for the van,
and The Tony Chachere empty carcasses
start to mix with the bulging trash,
does the stench becomes deafening.

Women and children have already
started pushing strollers back to homes
that line up parallel on streets. As if each one
stands Henry Ford-Made, just like little boxes.

 

 

Clare Fisher
A Flash in the Pan

‘Are you ok?’ asked Sarah, her face to the screen and her hands skipping across the keyboard. Amy couldn’t give the unconvincing ‘yes’ required. Sarah may have forgotten the phrase they’d just read but it hadn’t forgotten Amy. It had fried her voice to a cinder and she could only reply by rushing out of the flat into the teasing cold street.

A flash in the pan: the phrase slimed between Amy’s legs. She tripped over a loose paving stone. A flash in the pan. So that’s what Dan thought of her. He thought it every time she day-dreamed of him throwing her into the air. In the myopic corners of the night when she was drunk and his kisses meant love, he was thinking it. The thought was so thoroughly soaked into his mind that he’d squeezed it out, into an otherwise plain and slangy Facebook message. Now it was Amy’s turn to scrub it away.

She looked around the street. A few men were approaching, enthusiastically biting into hamburgers. She flicked the phrase in their direction but – a flash in the pan! – she was too slow. The men passed, trailing crusts onto the pavement. The wind scooped the crusts into the air; they bounced and they hopped and so freely and easily that Amy ran after them.

But the wind had no patience for her plodding footsteps and she quickly lost sight of the dancing crusts. A flash in the pan was all she saw. And no one else could see it. No one else wanted it. She ran and she ran. A flash in the pan. A flash was slick. She ran harder. It never grew old or stale. She ran faster. It could surprise people. She was running out of breath. It could even blind them.

She stopped and keeled over, panting. When she looked up, she was surprised to see the peeling windowsill of her flat. She went inside.

‘Are you ok?’ asked Sarah, still staring at the computer, still tapping at the keyboard. ‘You’re a bit red.’

‘No,’ replied Amy.

‘What?’ said Sarah, turning around and removing her hands from the keyboard.

‘I’m fantastic!’

Panic and confusion trickled across Sarah’s face. She opened and closed her mouth but no sound came out. Laughter jolted from Amy’s scalp to her toenails. A flash in the pan indeed!

 

 

Ajay Vishwanathan
Bhangi Business

We are Bhangis, low caste Hindus, at the nethermost rung of that deplorable ladder.
My mother leaves early every morning
To scour refuse from city streets and latrines.
My father goes only by invitation –
To scavenge dead animals lying mangled by the side of merciless roads,
Or carry human bodies or parts of bodies,
Usually ripped apart by a running train.

Every other night, as I try to sleep by the foot of their bed,
A lonely lantern swaying incompetently in a corner,
I hear discreet groans as they start to make love,
The keys on her waist jingling.

Mother remains silent and
Father says the same thing every time.
Sheela, you stink today.

 

 

Charles P. Ries
The Light of Fields
By: Michael Kriesel
31 Poems / 68 Pages
Price: $5 (includes shipping)
Propaganda Press / “Pocket Protector Series”
P.O. Box 398058
Cambridge, MA 02149
Book Information: http://alt-current.com/pp/pp_item.html#the_light_of_fields

“The Light of Fields” by Michael Kriesel was originally published in 1982 by Jump River Press, Inc. out of Prentice, Wisconsin when Kriesel was just twenty years old. It was one of Kriesel’s first books of poetry and gave me the opportunity to visit this writer early in his career. One can certainly see the same careful, spare, almost Haiku quality to many of Kriesel’s poems, and one also finds his wonderful ability to extract unique and unfolding metaphors from the heart of rural Wisconsin . I don’t think any poet writing today can draw image from the rural farming environment like Kriesel. But what I also found was a young man focused on romance, reflecting on marriage. I often think that first poems are the most personal. They are the fertile ground from which art grows. If one reads Kriesel more recent books of poetry, we see him dancing between forms, extending forms, getting us lost in his numinous meanings, but in “The Light of Fields” we find Kriesel looking around and discovering his world for the first time.

Here is his wonderful title poem, “The Light of Fields”: “Wholly knowing the grasses sure / growing / the earth holding green breathing / beings toward morning / against the far dark between stars / and supporting each separate stem / bent away from the sun / Knowing these by the earth in you / deep with the nights of our sleep / and the light of these fields in you / easy I rest in your grain / Wholly knowing these grasses grow / over all death / and the delicate skeletons covered by / green raising past them / I love you / and lie down in your fields / unafraid of grass rising to cover me.”

Let me also say this is a tiny book of poetry – just two inches by two and three quarters inches square. Leah Angstman who is the publisher of Propaganda Press calls it her “Pocket Protector Series”. This is the seventh in her “Pocket Protector Series”. And while this book is tiny, it is packed with poetry. This was a wonderful opportunity to visit a writer as a young man and discover that his early work foretold the bright future Kriesel continues to have.

 

 

AN INVENTORY OF LOST THINGS
By: Karla Huston
32 Pages / 23 Poems
Price: $8
Centennial Press
P.O. Box 170322
Milwaukee, WI 53217
Book Information: http://www.centennialpress.com

Women have a distinct view of the erotic and love’s secrets. In reading Karla Huston’s new book of poetry, An Inventory of Lost Things, I enter into the ebb and flow of feminine romantic imagination. While not all of twenty-three poems of this collection focus on the heart’s yearning, a good number do and comprise the central theme of this eloquently written book of poetry.

Huston approaches her topic from a number of angles. In final stanza of her poem “The One on The Left” she says, “But you can’t take your mind off the boy, / barely twenty, going on the rest of his life – / going off for an afternoon at the shore. God knows / what they’ll do on the blanket / when it’s floated behind the vine-covered fence.” And again these lines taken from the closing of her poem, “Your Marie”: “You should know her hair was chestnut, / a flag of copper stars glittering / against the curve of her neck / and the strand that kissed her cheek / I knew you’d kissed when she left you / for the last time while her hips rolled / when she walked away / and her breast swayed in dreams / even now the ones you prayed into.”

Her book of poetry would easily fall into the category of great chic lit. Huston poems are thoughtfully narrative and carefully designed. There is no spare air in these poems. Each is complete from beginning to end.

I am reminded, as I read this collection, of the seminal book on women’s sexual fantasies, My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday. Our two genders reflect so differently on the erotic and on romance. Huston is masterful at understanding the sensual wonder world of the woman. As in this section from her poem “Rewind” demonstrates, “If she could, she’d take the first / bus out of happyland, find her own / little place and read sweaty novels / for the rest of her life. He’s weary / of the honey-I’m-homes / and the honey-dos and the honeyed / hams.” And again from this section of her poem, “The Plastic Surgeon’s Wife”: “When they make love, she fears / how he’d like to improve her – / a little lift there, a little tighter there, / fill her breasts with vanilla, / admire the suction in her soul — / his reservoir, never full.”

This is a wonderful exploration of the feminine mind, by a writer uniquely suited to explore this undulating landscape of passion, yearning, and lost things.

 

 

Philip Nagle
Non-Objective Depiction Of Karma

The rain felt like how he had thought it may feel to be born again. Born again into a religion or a new life, freeing and serene. Untarnished by the world and its many nightmares, all of which he had experienced. His life had been a patchwork of disease, failure, horror and casual humility since his conception. That is what makes his redemption all the more significant. Walking slowly down the dark street he watched. He was able to view everything around him from each side and directly in front; often he knew what was occurring behind him although that was more based on awareness than sight. He noticed the children playing in the puddles, rubber balls much too big for their small hands held tight against their chests as they jumped up and down. He saw the young woman in the car at the stoplight tapping her fingers impatiently. He also saw the young child lose grip on the ball and run after it as it rolled towards the street. He saw the woman staring at the street light begin to accelerate with her eyes fixed on the red light eagerly awaiting its change of hue. Then something he had no expected happened. His legs began to pull him forward and within the blink of an eye his hands were outstretched and he felt the wet jacket of the child beneath his fingers. His arms jerked the child backwards as the car pushed him forward abruptly. He lay on his back seeing only the reflection of the street lamps in the raindrops that had landed on his open eyes. He didn’t attempt to wipe them from his face, as they were beautiful. The woman driver stepped out of the car and knelt down beside him, frantically looking from him to the child and back again. The woman began to sob as she dug something from her purse. Small footsteps rippled water, which he felt run under his neck. It was the small child, holding her ball and looking with tiled head towards him. She knelt down besides him and laid a palm on his forehead. “Thank you mister, bless you.” She then ran off towards he friends to continue playing. It was a whisper; it was a secret from her mouth to Gods ears. For the first time and years he was content. With a wince of pain he smiled as his life slipped from between his lips; and he ascended.

 

 

Jude Dillon
Accidentally on purpose

The moment; oranges kiss basket;
Apples hover far away;
Find trembling gravity;
Abandon green visions

Perceptive streets; supply purple immensity;
Linger restless traveler, Hesitate slow ocean;
Doubt smooth octopus;
Heal grey element
Embrace wet underbelly;
Avert strangling hand,

Laughing clever bells; arouse ripe dessert;
Time grips moon; forest listens
Same scent learns different kiss;
Inhibits useless maidens; splatters idyllic trees
Fading blonde temptations; ooze perfect sofa;
Ignite sudden suburb;
Spark weird peril

Question three drunks; explain utter contentment,
Decide, enough passion;
Marry, every bicycle

 

 

Russell Jaffe
Copenhagen

Downtown
There was a tree, there was a bus, and there was red, yellow, and blue.
Wednesday was more like a Tuesday and bedtime, this time, invented itself around me.
It spoke:
“A red bike is more like a decision.
           with an implication. What’s more,
if I were to eat a jar of Faggots in gravy, would
I offend or invite awkwardness, or would I speak to pictorial clarity?”

I remember gray, a hill, and being tired. Those earlier things I mentioned were fond as well, but sparse and confusing.

Someone out there over the phone on a direct line to a place I really knew told me about a hermit crab in a tank.

This is a metaphor
The crab is always, always confused, sleepily aware, but lost in location.
Like a child lost in the corner of her bedroom, paying too much to see the Rundentaarn
or the museum of erotica
or being trapped under the covers by my own traitorous captor hands.

End
I was awake at 4 am and thought about willing myself to sleep, but really thinking about frozen love and about thawing it, when, how, and hoping it would drip. I saw drips on the tarmac outside colorfully gray boxes. I brought boxes upstairs downstairs. I heard that Legos come from here, and the boxes click together: this is the unnecessary direction of houses. I climbed the hill and went back down to see the mermaid statue. Humor, love(s), and myself hanging out with what I was thinking told me to pie the mermaid in the face. I smelled a countryside window pie; an expensive image. I saw a bird in the windowsill. I saw red, yellow, and blue. I saw love, too tiring a subject for what is happening now, but I will say I saw a red bike too. I saw birds now.

 

 

Garrett Calcaterra
Drink With Me

Danny removed his last shirt from the closet and placed it in the chest. He pressed the lid downward until it latched, then hollered out to Chet.

Chet lumbered through the doorway and let his big eyes scan the spare bedroom—the white daybed, the lace valence above the windows, the now empty closet. His gaze settled on the trunk. “What?—you need help with that?”

“It’s heavier—” Danny started to say, but Chet hoisted it up and out the door without so much as a grunt. Danny followed him into the living room.

“Were you drunk?” Chet asked, setting the trunk down and walking to the bookshelf.

“We don’t fight when we’re drinking.”

Chet tossed the last of the excavation and tractor manuals into a box. “Any of these others yours?”

Danny grabbed two novels at the end of the shelf and threw them in the box. “That’s what I don’t understand,” Danny said. “She gets so pissed off about me drinking. If anything, I’m nicer when I’m drinking.”

“Maybe that’s the problem.”

“I don’t see how that’s a problem.”

“What about this stuff?” Chet asked, pointing at the antique bar tool set displayed on the bureau turned mini-bar.

Danny glanced at the mahogany-handled corkscrew, bottle opener, and wine stopper. “No, leave them, they’re hers.”

“Look,” Chet said, “You’re a smart guy and you’re good at keeping the boys in line out on job-sites, but with women”—Chet took the pint glasses Danny passed to him and placed them in the box—“What I’m getting at is I’ve never heard you say ‘I love you’ to Becca except when you’re drinking, Danny.”

Danny grabbed a model Caterpillar tractor from an end table and threw it in the box.

“I mean, you do love her?”

“Man, you know how I feel about her.”

“I think so, but only time we ever talk about stuff like that is when we’re drunk.”

“Why’s that such a fucking problem? I’m a nice guy. When I’m drinking I’m a nice drunk—I tell people how much I love them. What’s so fucking wrong with that?”

The front door opened and Rebecca walked in. She was in jogging shorts and a tank top, still sweaty from the gym, but paler in the face than usual.

“Hi, Chet.”

Chet said hi and turned to Danny. “I’ll take your trunk down to the pick-up.”

Chet left, Rebecca walked past Danny into the kitchen. Danny glanced around for anything he might have forgotten. She filled a glass of water from the sink.

“Sorry,” he said towards the kitchen. “I’m leaving. I’ll come back later and get my stuff from the bedroom. The door was locked.”

She stepped from the kitchen doorway. “Don’t forget your bar stuff.”

“It’s yours. I gave it to you.”

“I don’t want it,” she told him. “Take it.”

“No. I…”

“You what?”

Danny picked up his box. “I guess I want you to have it,” he said. And he walked out the door.

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