I was standing in front of Bar 107 on 4th Street in Downtown Los Angeles, smoking. A man approaches me, admits he’s homeless and asks if I would like him to write me a poem for a modest contribution. The idea struck me as sad and beautiful (although, admittedly, if you are going to offer your services, writing poetry for strangers is probably not the most sought after service; maybe if he could sew or cook, he’d be better off, but, alas, some talents you do not ask for; they follow you forever like an unwanted child). I politely refused and we both walked away, but I am bothered, nagged by a feeling that things should not have ended this way.
It’s getting unusually colder, especially for LA, with temperatures dropping below 40, or at least it felt that way. Cold, bitter winds numb my feet and hands. I can only imagine how those without warm rooms or homes to go to feel; I think of the poet in front of the bar.
Then, I see him. For a second, he doesn’t remember me and begins to ask if I’d like a poem for a modest contribution. I stop him. He remembers me. I let him know that although I have no money, maybe if his poems are good enough, I can publish one on this little Internet magazine that I volunteer for and ask if readers, if so moved and able, can contact him directly and see if anyone can help through this arrangement.
So, that’s the story. His name is Kenneth Towler. His email address is: email@example.com. If anyone can help in any capacity, please do.
The rest of the poems in this issue supplement Kenneth’s story: loss, defeat, desperation and beauty and our attempt at crystallizing it by using cold, restrictive barriers, by using the fascism of words.
Poetry Editors at Gloom Cupboard
By Kenneth Towler
This is my plight, and
it isn’t right—what has
become me. I see all beings
and I know what grows in
the realm that finds no
I grind the wickedness into
nothingness and in my
ignorance, it loves me so.
This I know, that I am
worth a million you’s,
and you are worth a
memorized for the sake
Bio: I was born in Evansville, Indiana in 1969. I was a very serious child. My mother told me that when I was very young, if I didn’t like the problems that the math teacher put on the board, instead of solving them, I would make up my own problems to solve. I moved to California in 1979, to Los Angeles, then, very quickly to South Pasadena. I went to Marengo Elementary School, and South Pasadena JR. High and High School. I went back to Evansville for my senior year and graduated from Harrison High School. My greatest loves are the pen and the piano. I love to write music. Poetry is my first love though, and always will be. I went to college sporadically, majoring in Human Services. My hope is to be able to sell my music eventually, on a regular basis, as a supportive income. I would like nothing more than to be in a studio all day every day, creating music for the rest of my life.
Bio: Keith Charles Dovoric is always up to something. New Jersey born-and-based, he is/has been a writer, teacher, musician, songwriter, singer, would-be poet, dutiful husband, and expectant father. His credentials are solid: Poems published in national anthologies as well as on the internet. Songs registered under Federal Copyright. A prize from the prestigious George A. Jones Writing Award for the poem, “Slaughterhouse Hooks.” CD recordings with local NJ rock ‘n’ roll bands such as the SUDs and Palomino. Countless videos of his works-in-progress on YouTube.
By Kristina Moriconi
We are gapers, wide-eyed,
I stole glances of my daughters’ faces:
will never forget
Bio: Kristina Moriconi lives and writes in a small suburb outside Philadelphia. Both of these facts keep her from sleeping at night. She has published her work most recently in The Smoking Poet and Splash of Red.
The Shape of Everything Else
By Peycho Kanev
I will wake up when the sun is high in the sky,
and I will drink nothing but water.
And I will walk under the trees
until they become indignant of my eyes.
I will enter some old and big house with 22 doors
that will lead to nowhere.
And after that, I will go back to the point
where it began.
The old books give me some minor relief
that evaporates slowly in time.
I promise to all the small gods that I will be different,
and I will not carry too much cash in my pockets.
When I start to write all the words of the future,
I will not pray to Buddha or Christ, but to the potted plant.
In some holiday, I will go to the cemetery
to light a candle for all the dead of the future.
The sea will befriend me only as the deep water that it is
and not like the place where I engaged old age.
And this lonely view through the windows of the world
will not make me shiver any more.
Let me mention all of my former loves and tell them
that I don’t remember anything else but the quietness.
Because the poetry of silence, my dearest,
is all that you have received, but never deserved.
Bio: Peycho Kanev is the Editor In Chief of Kanev Books. His poems have appeared in more than 500 literary magazines, such as: Poetry Quarterly, The Monongahela Review, Steam Ticket, Midwest Literary Review, Third Wednesday, The Cleveland Review, Loch Raven Review, In Posse Review, The Penwood Review, Mascara Literary Review and many others. He is nominated for the Pushcart Award and lives in Chicago. In 2009 his short story collection Walking Through Walls and in April 2010 his poetry collection American Notebooks both were published in Bulgaria. His poetry collection Bone Silence was released in September 2010 by Desperanto, NY. A new collection of his poetry, titled Requiem for One Night, will be published by Desperanto in 2012.
By Elias Van Son
when i was twelve, my older brother
got a flat tire on his bike.
he made the mistake of taking my bike,
and when he returned, told me
with his right foot
that i was to fix his flat.
i walked into the yard,
unhooked the dog from his line,
and began to swing the chain over my head
in broad circles.
when he turned his head toward the sound,
i swung the chain full-force
and knocked out his right eye.
it was hanging off his face,
dangling by the optic nerve,
and he screamed like a woman being raped.
after that day, he never raised his voice or asked me
About the window
By Krishna Balachandran Nair
shut my window,
i opened it.
when i kept it closed,
keeping it open.
–i want it shut.
I am glad
the window is there
either opened or closed.
what time is it?
Bio: Krishna Balachandran Nair writes poetry and short fiction in English, Malayalm and Tamil. A one-time news journalist, he draws from the fading memory of his news-hunting days to fuel his creative engine. He lives in Thiruvananthapuram, a quaint historical town by the sea in Kerala, in the southern tip of India, the original spice country where miracles never cease to happen.
Customer Service Representative
By Matthew Byrne
Your voice looks like a brunette
with a repressed domination fetish.
Oozing like ectoplasm from some strange
dimension, your words expose blistered
heels, arches aching for massage.
I can’t help but notice a dark blastula
gestating inside your cheeriness,
but that is for another time. Now
the picture flowing into my ears reveals
earthy eyes above flaring nostrils you find
ugly, but I disagree. I hear freckles
slithering suggestively in places even
your own gaze has yet to traverse
until you transfer me to the party
you call “appropriate,” and disappear.
Bio: Matthew Byrne has appeared in some journals, most notably Best American Poetry 2007, edited by Heather McHugh. He received his MFA from the University of Montana in 1999 and, naturally, now works in insurance.