Pulling Your Own Life out of a Hat

A poem by Richard King Perkins II


Most suicides begin like a magic trick—
preparation, a few props, the intent to impress.

All a friend of mine needed was a rifle,
some beer and an audience of trees.

When the show was over, there was no applause
because he had only made himself disappear

into the ground, which isn’t much of an illusion
since anyone can do it.

The real magic is in making yourself reappear
before the act is done.


Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, Illinois, United States with his wife, Vickie, and daughter, Sage.

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Remembrance

A poem by Valentina Cano


I’m an expert at shadow-boxing.
At boxing shadows
until they are piled and classified.
Labeled with arthritic capitals
that lean against each other
and rub knobbed joints to keep uptight.
Shadow-less syllables,
carrying a sun on their heads.


Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time she has either reading or writing. Her works have appeared in numerous publications, and her poetry has been nominated for the “Pushcart Prize” (Pushcart Press) and “Best of the Web”. Her debut novel, The Rose Master, was published in 2014 and was called a “strong and satisfying effort” by Publishers Weekly.

Ernst Junger

A flash piece by Mike Lee


We share a table in the outdoor patio at the office tower where we work, quietly eating our respective lunches. She keeps hers simple: a banana with a cheese sandwich. She bought them, along with a crème soda, from the deli across the street, on the corner.

I first saw her last week at the bookstore, in the fiction section. She held a copy of On the Marble Cliffs, by Ernst Junger. She was a medium height, mid-thirties, with long, wavy brown hair, and glasses that were large for her face. I fell in love.

I let her wordlessly pass. I am shy.

Today, she wears the white silk blouse she did at the bookstore. Her hair is pulled back. She’s wearing a pencil skirt, and high heels. I’ve worked in this building for eleven years, and never knew she existed before last week.

I plan to ask her what she thinks of Junger. I read his books. I intend to bring up that Roberto Bolano mentions him in two of his most important novels. She will speak, and I will respond. We may agree to meet for lunch tomorrow.

She finishes her sandwich and eats half of the banana, before placing the remains and wrapper in a paper bag. I finish my salad and lay it aside while she pulls out her iPhone to check messages, sipping her crème soda. Her lips are voluptuous.

I sit with folded hands as she rises and returns to the building.

Loose ends are never tied together to one’s satisfaction. Instead, events usually unfold so as to contradict the hoped-for conclusion. Nothing ever happens the way one expects. Therefore, the individual is left holding the frayed end of a rusting cable, with the plastic-coated, colored wires hanging askew like a dog-chewed bouquet of flowers.

Later, at work, I write this down.


Mike Lee is a writer, labor journalist, photographer, and a managing editor at a trade union newspaper. Some of his fiction pieces, as well as other types of work, have appeared in The Ampersand Review, Paraphilia, Sensitive Skin, Visions Libres, Glossolalia, Dime Show Review, Peacock Journal, Third Street Writers, Corvus Review, Violet Windows, and The Potomac. His stories are also featured in several anthologies, including Forbidden Acts (Avon Books) and Pawn of Chaos (White Wolf Publishing). Lee’s story collection, titled All Your Ambition, is available from Blurb, and published in Germany by VL Editions.

Lee’s photography has been included in several group shows, including those at the Museo della Grafica in Pisa, Italy, with his photographs featured in the Museo’s collection. His photography is currently being exhibited at Art Thou Gallery in Berkeley, California.

Lee lives in New York City.

Shirley, Reading

A poem by Robert Beveridge


Your voice, small
as if you recited to yourself
as if the bar
weren’t full of followers
who hung on your every word

in your way
you say what the men
in the room can’t

tell this room
of younger-than-you
stuffed shirts
and ineffective flower poets
what it’s like
in the middle of a Compton inferno
while Daryl Gates
and his band of dead Confederates
on trial for the assault
of various Union soldiers
look on amused

you more venerable
more wise than any two
of us put together

still tries—and succeeds—
to shock the world awake
with your soft voice

in a way
the desensitized of us
have failed to do
again and again


Robert Beveridge makes noise (check out his Bandcamp page) and writes poetry just outside Cleveland, Ohio. He went through a messy divorce with Facebook some months ago, and as a result his relationship with time is much improved. His work has made recent/will make upcoming appearances in Ghost City Press, minor literature[s], and Barking Sycamores, among others.

Wine

A flash piece by Mike Lee


“Wine! You’re drinkin’ goddamn wine!”

Mom on my left, with Dwayne on the right, sitting on the sofa in the house Dwayne shared with his mother and his screaming younger sister…

Her high-pitched words were brutal. Dwayne is an alcoholic, and my mother never seemed to care. Years later she admitted she was one, only because she thought about drinking all the time. I did not believe her. At least she was private about it; I never saw her drink in front of me. Perhaps in my dim memory she did. Or maybe I was inattentive. I nodded in acknowledgment, moving on, which I did for real several months later, one month short of my nineteenth birthday. I only saw her twenty times before her stroke nearly fifteen years later.

That aside, this was a situation I never asked to be involved in.

The sister yelled, “Goddamn wine!” again before flinging the quart bottle of MD 20-20 into the fireplace, glass shattering against the brick, shards flying onto the carpeted floor.

This was a trinity: mom, boyfriend, and me in the middle; though someone else’s son—another drunk—was with us, too.

We all sat quietly, heads down in shame.

I leaned over and gathered the pieces I could reach, and then got up to get the rest. I pulled open my shirt and dropped them in, harvesting Dwayne’s sorrows. Mom’s as well. After gathering all the glass I could find, I walked to the kitchen, passing the raging sister. I tossed the shards into the garbage.

Dwayne died two years later. I was fourteen. Mom got the call late at night during a snowstorm. The phone awakened me.

It was a bad year for her. I did not go to the funeral. Instead, I shined his boots, which they would bury him in. His aged mother watched, understanding.


Mike Lee is a writer, labor journalist, photographer, and a managing editor at a trade union newspaper. Some of his fiction pieces, as well as other types of work, have appeared in The Ampersand Review, Paraphilia, Sensitive Skin, Visions Libres, Glossolalia, Dime Show Review, Peacock Journal, Third Street Writers, Corvus Review, Violet Windows, and The Potomac. His stories are also featured in several anthologies, including Forbidden Acts (Avon Books) and Pawn of Chaos (White Wolf Publishing). Lee’s story collection, titled All Your Ambition, is available from Blurb, and published in Germany by VL Editions.

Lee’s photography has been included in several group shows, including those at the Museo della Grafica in Pisa, Italy, with his photographs featured in the Museo’s collection. His photography is currently being exhibited at Art Thou Gallery in Berkeley, California.

Lee lives in New York City.

Helter Skeleton

A poem by Robert Beveridge


Another zombie army troops
in to see a greying Paul
McCartney sit on stage and strum

while hardcore glassy-eyed
Lennon fans sit
in Strawberry Fields
and make their own demented music
sobs and wails and Give Peace
a Chance melt into a morass
of chaos, noise

while Henry and I
front row at a George Harrison gig
in some nameless midwest city
throw nacho boxes
and ice from our beers
at George’s guitar
try to make him miss
a beat or two (as usual).

And Ringo,
fresh from Tom Petty
and Shining Time Station
hasn’t seen a stage
since he got sober
just plays with his wooden
toy trains and Tom.

And, oh yeah, Pete Best?
Remember him, the 1963
Quarryman who never
fit in? Isn’t he the maraca
player in a Carnival Cruise
Ship band, same grey suit
and hairstyle?

Some LA noise band Henry knows
put out this record a few years back
called Helter Stupid then went
on to get sued by Island Records
for a later release.
Their label’s motto is “corporate
rock sucks.” Yeah, the Beatles
and Island Records (U2’s label)
thought so once, too.

This noise band, Negativland,
got sued by their label for court
costs after the whole Island
thing blew over, and that label,
SST, changed their tagline to
“corporate rock still sucks.
Kill Bono.”

Then Negativland started
hanging out in small
midwestern towns
to throw popcorn at Paul
McCartney and Island
Records A&R men.


Robert Beveridge makes noise (check out his Bandcamp page) and writes poetry just outside Cleveland, Ohio. He went through a messy divorce with Facebook some months ago, and as a result his relationship with time is much improved. His work has made recent/will make upcoming appearances in Ghost City Press, minor literature[s], and Barking Sycamores, among others.

Government Domme

A poem by Robert Beveridge


“Hello,” she said,
“I’m from the IRS
and I’m here to help you.”

The knee-length leather
skirt should’ve given
her away
but he was too busy
lost in her cleavage
and grey eyes

He thought
he was fucked
after the audit
but her makeup
was still perfect

so he couldn’t tell


Robert Beveridge makes noise (check out his Bandcamp page) and writes poetry just outside Cleveland, Ohio. He went through a messy divorce with Facebook some months ago, and as a result his relationship with time is much improved. His work has made recent/will make upcoming appearances in Ghost City Press, minor literature[s], and Barking Sycamores, among others.

Writing Poems That Sell

A poem by Jack Belck


NO:

It’s Time For My Breakfast.

 

YES:

Brown Wheaties

and

blue windmills

dance and

frown against

the purple ceiling

as Pompeii’s

Princess Penelapea,

pulsing with

congealing

feeling,

cries,

“Lava’s going to kill me.”

 

Meow!

Two blueberries, a bit of cereal,

ten laps of milk left

in the red bowl.

Down it goes.

Pompeii can wait.

Kitty comes first.

Seventeen-Year Itch

A short story by Donal Mahoney


Marcia was 17 the first time thousands of locusts rose from the fields of her father’s farm and filled the air, sounding like zithers unable to stop. Her father was angry, but Marcia loved the music the locusts made. She was in high school then, and chose to make locusts the focus of her senior paper.

At the town library she learned locusts spend 17 years deep in the soil, feeding on fluids from roots of trees that make them strong enough to emerge at the proper time to court and reproduce. Courtship requires the males to gather in a circle and sing until the females agree to make them fathers.

Courtship and mating and laying of eggs takes almost two months and then the locusts fall from the air and die. Marcia remembered the iridescent shells on the ground shining. She was always careful not to step on them. She cried when the rain and the wind took them away.

Now, 17 years later, Marcia is 34 and the locusts are back again. Her dead father can’t hear them, and Marcia no longer loves the music the way she did in high school. Now she stays in the house and keeps the windows closed and relies on the air-conditioner to drown out the locusts. Marcia has patience, however. She knows what will happen. She reads her Bible and sucks on lemon drops, knowing the locusts will die.

In the seventh week the locusts fall from the air in raindrops, then torrents.

“It is finished,” Marcia says. She pulls on her father’s boots and goes out in the fields and stomps on the shells covering the ground, but she stomps carefully.

At 34 Marcia’s in no hurry. Before each stomp, she names each shell Billy, John, Chuck, Terrence or Lester, the names of men who have courted her during the 17 years since high school. They all made promises Marcia loved to hear, promises she can recite like a favorite prayer. She made each man happy as best she could. They would grunt like swine the first night, some of them for many nights. But then like locusts they would disappear.


Nominated for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net and Pushcart Press’ Pushcart Prize, along with hundreds of others, Donal Mahoney has had poetry and fiction published in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Some of his work can be found at his poet profile page in Eye On Life Magazine.