#107 – Poetry

Poetry by John Grochalski, Vera J. Lee, BL Pawelek, Spiel, Constance Stadler, Joanna M. Weston, Stephen Williams, Yassen Vasilev, and Fredrick Zydek.

Disordered Soldier

He knew she knew
about us from the outset;
the tacky ring was a misfit
And he knew I knew
he barely knew her
when he trusted me
to hand him the ring.

But the way he had it figured
when he wrapped up his
third deployment in Iraq,
townfolks would think
better of him if
he nested in with her. But

he’s just two days back home,
twitchy and grieving
in this shithole bar.
Just him and me doing shooters.
And he tells me he’s
thrown his boot at her,
pinched that crummy ring
into her knuckles.
He says he craved the stench
of men in the trenches and man,
he gets wild-crazy about the rush
he got in the white-hot heat
of brute combat.

But he’s gripping my groin
like iron jaws on a bench-vice,
admitting he knew all along
how wrong he’d been about
going back for more war,
he knew all along how wrong
he’d been about her,
how his lust for men
has brought him back to me.
Yeah, one more time.

Can I help him, please?
Can I hear him?
Do I think he might be losing it?
He thinks he’s got worms
in his brain.
And I tell him,
“Yeah, bro, I always knew.
She knew too.”

We douse pity
in a few more last call shooters
and another bucket of dark brew
then slip out back to an alley so black
I don’t know him from me.
Not like when he and I were boys,
fresh, discovering each other,
growing hair on our legs
and I’d carved a heart in the bark
of a cottonwood tree in Colter’s Park
but was scared to include his name
so I scratched it on the head of my bed
and my mom asked why.

But right now
we are simmering flesh,
so long apart I’d forgot
how sweet the sweat from his neck,
how I yanked
coarse curly hair through my teeth
as I sucked his nipples
before the first time he was deployed.

But he yelps my name
to remind me
I am here,
then draws blood
as he bites my tongue,
and just like when we wrestled
in our high school years
he quick-pins me flat
to this cold hard dirt.

I am ecstatic to be his bottom man.

“Yes!” I shout. “Yes, oh yes!
A trickle of warm spit
splatters down on my lip
as I reach for the throb of his bone
but he shoves my hand away.

“Oh no ya don’t!”
he commands
then lifts me into his arms
with the kiss of my lifetime.
“You can go down on me if ya want”
he whispers into my mouth
“but if ya really wanna give me a rush
I beg that you bind me and cut me
then set me on fire.”




Vera J. Lee

Dusty crates piled roughshod on a street.
Strangers stealthily approach, observant.
Ambivalent hands sift fragmented
memories.  Twelve years of intimacy–

Muted conversations.  Strangers among
abandoned relics.  Immune to heartache.
Miles Davis and his Bitches’ Brew
lay face down on Sarah’s aching ballads.
Love forsaken. Impervious to
Mara’s grief-stricken gaze fading
behind an arched window covered in
tiny handprints.  A faint outline of
impish faces—unfazed.  The spectacle
hovers over their father’s remnants.

Giggling and pointing—Daddy’s things lay
discarded in a jagged, broken line.
Faint sounds of laughter drift from the home
Sunday school songs and the soft cadence of
swelling staccato footsteps prick the ears
of circling vultures, preying on lost dreams.

A Father’s Day plaque raised with taloned
fingers.  Predatory eyes find a bigger
prize.  “I Love My Daddy” is thrown back
into the hatch.  A half-open hard drive
with innards spilled out wets their appetite.
The choice piece collected, carefully lifted
and dropped on a flatbed lair.  Two vultures
spread their portent wings and disappear.

Dusk descends on the deserted site.
Crates are overturned.  Large gaping holes in
plastic bags gripped by frenzied fingertips.
The dying sunlight reveals a silhouette
on a cracked glass pane.  A wedding photograph.
sits stiffly with nostalgic trifles.
Naomi, a euphoric, smiling bride.
Her elated face darkens as bats flit to
and fro.  Above the scattered remains
twenty feet below.  Chasing ethereal
mammoth moths.  Orchestral darkness eclipses
the earth.  Leaving the remnants to rest.
A once vibrant home awaits dawn’s presence.
As a new group of predators arrive.  To
clear away the carrion, and all that remains.




John Grochalski
-for ally malinenko and daniel vernola

this pint glass
tight in my pocket
that extra
pitcher of beer
underneath my shirt
the street sign that i stole
the coaster
that held our beers
resting in my back pocket
and the no smoking sign
from the bar
this isn’t stealing
to steal
any fool can do that
no, this is just a different way
of remembering
a sort of commemoration
of the nights
we run wild
in the city
while the safe sit in parks
nursing air
and the jaded and dead
cramp themselves
in living rooms
gazing at the television
telling each other
how bored they are by
mimicking the laugh track
of a sitcom
or catching up
on the next great drama
while we set matchsticks
on fire in small candles
feast like romans
in illuminated diners
and wonder
why the rest of the world
has yet to catch up
to our genius
our blessed angel madness
yet knowing we never needed
any of them at all
in the first place.




Stephen Williams

Mind swollen

compressing vastness
into a small place

we believe
like a frog in a can

water movement
keeping us entertained

a way out
up there

suspected sky
buzz of a fly

eventually jumping
for the prize

so surprised
our legs are tied.




Joanna M. Weston

Mother wears the word
on her hands

licks and tastes
her marriage

which leaves its imprint
on Father’s body

to take
to his new wife




Fredrick Zydek
Inside the Dream

Sometimes the universe disappears.
Islands of black moons, imaginary
animals and melodies filled with all

sorts of cultural immanence awaken
the very best instincts I‘ll ever own.
I met a man in there once who went

from pimp to pulpit without changing
suits.  He often sold gallons of guilt
to the highest bidders and proved that

some people don’t even know enough
to figure out they should keep their
mouths shut so no one else will find

out they haven’t got a clue about how
most things work or that when they
lie, the edge of the world slips closer

to the edge of the dream and all our
trustworthy connections slip on a beam
of light somewhere below another sky.




BL Pawelek
the florida sick children

the camera rolls the steps
one after another
the egret splashes away
and the night orlando lights
shine the child joy
of the sick

the red points
on the top of the world
bring god a bit closer
before they chase him away
with justified guilt

the non eye to eye look
the hand on the child’s head
the tear falling
from the cheek to floor




Yassen Vasilev

(Editor’s note: This poem first appeared in The Oddville Press)

I don’t want to live forever
in this impossible city
where directions are perverted
the years furiously turn
and everything is incurable
where stairs are inverted
pyramids built upside down
steps lead nowhere
and streets turn in a circle
where yards have no entrances
corridors end in walls
and there are balconies
on which no one ever stood
where doors are made of stone
and windows closed forever
with their nothingness
opening inwards
I don’t want to listen to the voices of the walled
I don’t want to be walled
in this impossible maze
of false rebirth




Constance Stadler


The divisor
between numb
and spare proficiency

White August sky
beclouded purpose.

Diurnal driftings denied
tick-tock accomplishment
verifiable worth

Repudiation is evident
For the cognizant

For the listless

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