Bluff City

A poem by David Lohrey


An idle tree wants cutting down.
If we apply the rules of thermo-
dynamics, growing radishes in one’s
back yard makes no sense. Let
it be raspberries on prickly bushes,
not dirty little roots in the ground.

This is a treatise on good sense.
Like Swift’s argument in favor of eating
children, mine is a defense of watching
too much TV. Let’s distribute footballs
to the redskins; let’s send the whites back
to Europe.

I once knew a fat chick named
Trish whose boyfriend knocked all
my teeth out. My braces held them
in place as the blood ran out of my mouth.
Even at 16, young men in the South
fight over women’s breasts; only in my
day, we called them tits.

Peaches bruise easily in the heat.
I wouldn’t leave the pool gate open
at mid-summer. The neighbors might
walk in on an afternoon orgy. One
forfeits one’s right to privacy when
one makes oneself available.
I wouldn’t advise working for a company
that withholds anything, least of all
one’s lunch money.

Pecan pie is overrated, like a lot of
Southern dishes. Half of sales go
to tourists who haven’t a clue.
They’d buy a bottle of molasses
with a ribbon tied around its neck.
Hell, they’d go down on a dick painted
red. Most tourists are out and out liars,
like first-time home buyers and
presidential candidates.

The squealing never stops.
There’s a lot of commotion.

Our President’s been caught with his pants
down; our priests have stopped smoking.
My best friend built a yurt with a marble floor
and a padded cell for throwing tantrums.
The transformation is now complete.
The destroyers are triumphant; the victims,
silent; and the observers, transfixed. Is it
time for advancement or retreat?
I’d say, where are the people of color?
That’s always the question; or that’s the always
question.

Rose bushes will snag. They’ll catch if you don’t
watch it. It’s not just your stockings that’ll run.
Roses draw blood. I’d get to work, and while
you’re at it, prune the damned bird of paradise.
After that, you can head for the basement.
When all the work is done, you can lay your
head down in the oven.

Different strokes for different folks;
we are all part of this tale.
For reasons that cannot be easily
explained, the author is distraught.


David Lohrey is from Memphis, Tennessee. He graduated from U.C., Berkeley. His poetry can be found in Otoliths, Stony Thursday Anthology, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, and Boxcar Poetry Review. Some of his recent poems have appeared in the U.S. publications Poetry Circle, FRiGG, Obsidian, and Apogee Journal. His fiction can be read in Crack the Spine, Dodging the Rain, and The Broke Bohemian. His book, The Other Is Oneself, a study of 20th century literature, was published last year in Germany. David’s first collection of poetry, Machiavelli’s Backyard, was released in August by Sudden Denouement Publishers. David lives in Tokyo.

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Drive

A prose poem by Clyde Liffey


A lattice – what lattice? – of light dappled my dusty windshield, it should have been a poem, it wasn’t a poem, how could it, what could? Drive, she said, but she didn’t care where I went, I went away, alone, towards work. I was of course overstimulated. First there was the coffee, morning’s dehydration. Water flowing south, knots forming in my forehead, mouth already dry I listened to the radio, two stations on the dial, one news, one music, the news station playing its theme, the music DJ recounting
what was played or about to be played, maybe it was vice-versa, hard to tell, I had to squint to keep my eyes on the road, I am the subject (all senses) of all I survey, my right, there are no rights, I digress eyes still half-closed, tearing, not tearing. Squint-eyed she called me, I can’t help it, it’s not so much the lack of sleep, it’s the lack of focus, the need not so much to multitask as to abandon tasks, there’s a living to be made, I’m out here living it, not making it, I was thus distracted when I first saw the black grill of the advancing jeep, felt the familiar urge to collide. Mostly I stay between the lines, viz. the yellow line of the road and the edge of the asphalt bordered too close in spots by trees: they create the false grids. Still I stay within them excepting sidesteps for small animals, mice and the like, the safest way to advance. The jeep hove more completely into view – these winding, hilly, leafy roads, the true highlight of my day! – its close end hovered over my side of the yellow line, my focus shifted, I turned the wheel toward it, recovered just in time to hear its horn blaring over the muted trumpets on the radio, I’m well past it now, a momentary lapse, an evasion of temptation, I’m on my way, someday I may have a true destination, a final goal, round and beautiful, ripe for decay.


Clyde Liffey lives near the water.

Avihs || Vishnu

A poem by Yuan Changming


Mornings || they disperse || beyond || the corn
_________________Fields, || separately. ||Sunday

She || throws

Her partner’s computer || (midnight)
________Into the garage.|| George ||who
In many || a city || upgraded || his software

_______________Upgraded || hers.
They will || stop over || an island
_______Separately.|| Your son

________________Hated || all || mushrooms
George mentions – do you recall || yourself?
To a single mind,|| their spirits || evaporate


Yuan Changming edits the online poetry blog and publication Poetry Pacific with Allen Qing Yuan. He has been nominated for a number of Pushcart Prizes.

History Lesson

A poem by Gale Acuff


From the attic window I see my school.
My bedroom’s up here. I’m sick today–flu,
maybe, or a virus. Right about now
we’d be looking in our history books.
The Gettysburg Address, I think. I’ll miss
it again. Of, by, and for the people.
I can just make out the Flag, and the state
flag fluttering beneath it but with it.
I wonder what we’ll have for lunch today.
For a quarter it’s not that raw a deal.
The lunchroom ladies tell us it’s balanced.
That means it’s equally bad all around,
the meat, the vegetables, bread, and dessert.
At the dinner table my parents say
Clean your plate–there are children starving
in China, India, Africa, and
on the reservations
. They can have mine,
I said one time. It was the only time
–after supper Father licked me but good.
I still don’t understand how eating all
my meal means other kids don’t go hungry.
I’m afraid to ask. Otherwise, my folks

aren’t bad. Soon Mother will climb the fourteen
steps up to my room. She’ll bring saltines and
Coca-Cola and hope I keep them down.
I want to read my comic books but they
won’t sit still. I get dizzy. They move and
move in circles. Somehow Batman is up
and then he shifts to the right and then he’s
down and then to the left, and then he’s up
again. He won’t keep to the center and
Robin and Ace the Bat-hound move with him.
They may as well be dancing and then I
want to throw up. I have a radio,
a transistor, but the battery’s weak
and I don’t want to use the juice that’s left.
Even looking out the window makes me
sick. I can’t be where I’m supposed to be
and I’m missing Lincoln’s famous speech, or
at least what my teacher’s teaching of it.
I can get into bed but there’s nothing
to do but stare at the ceiling, or close
my eyes and stare at their ceilings, the backs
of my eyelids. Still, it’s easier to
imagine that way. There’s the President,

tall, and ugly and handsome all at once,
maybe with his stovepipe hat removed and
reading his little speech that was so big
and then finishing in only a few
minutes and all the people looking at
each other as if to say, Holy cow,
that wasn’t a speech but a recipe
.
And Honest Abe leaves because he’s got work
to do, he’s got to end this war that he
started. I’m from Marietta, Georgia,
and that’s what they teach us. But whatever
the truth is, he was great enough to be
assassinated–a pretty long word
all to mean to get your brains blown out. If
I wasn’t afraid of throwing up now

I’d find that Superman story where he
breaks the time barrier into the past
and stops John Wilkes Booth from shooting Lincoln.
Sic semper–ulp! is all Booth says before
the Man of Steel cuts in right before ulp!
Then Lincoln thanks him. Later Superman
returns to the present but everything’s
the same–he thought he changed history but
no dice. Then he discovered he was on
some other earth, maybe a parallel
universe. Boy, was he disappointed
–who wouldn’t be? He’s as super as heck
but not enough to stop evil before
it happens because it already has.
I think I’d rather die from kryptonite
poisoning than a broken heart–I mean,
if I have to die at all, and I guess
I do. I hope it’s not real soon. I hope

it’s as far away as never having
to die at all, almost. I’m not selfish,
just afraid. Dying is the kind of thing
that, if it is the end, should happen in
the past, where ends belong. Not the future.
Tomorrow, I hope, I’ll go back to school
but it’s not like I didn’t learn something
today. I just won’t get it on a test.


Gale Acuff is an assistant professor at the Arab American University in Palestine. He has taught English in the Palestinian West Bank, the U.S., and China. His poetry has been published in Ascent, the Ohio JournalDescant, Poem, the Adirondack Review, the Coe Review, the Worcester Review, the Maryland Poetry Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse Press, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse Press, 2008).

Religious

A poem by Gale Acuff


When my dog dies I hold a funeral
for him, but when nobody’s looking, so
I won’t be embarrassed at taking life
so seriously. I’m only seven
and shy anyway and he’s my dog so
I can do anything I want. It’s like

my birthday, or Christmas morning, or good
grades on my report card. I’m not happy,
of course, that he’s dead, Caesar, I mean. No
sir: I cried when I found him so and he
didn’t move when I called him and called him,
not even when I poked him with a stick
right in the ribs, where he should have felt it.
I screamed like a girl, too, to see his face
looking alive but being not—his eyes
open and looking—at what?—and his mouth
agape and his tongue out, just like panting,
which kind of figures because he did that
when he was hot or tired or both and now
he’s dead and that’s like being hot and tired
beyond how panting could ever help. I

run to the house and find Father in
front of the TV and Game of the Week
and a Schlitz in his grip and I yell, Hey,
Father, Father, Caesar can’t move and I
think he’s dead. Hurry! He puts the brew down
on the table and misses the coaster
and he’ll catch it if Mother finds out and
he follows me out though I’m way ahead
and waiting about a yard from Caesar
when he gets there—Father, I mean. Well, well,
he says—I still mean Father—for pity’s
sake
, he says. He’s gone, sure ‘nough. I’m crying
now and he says, Father says, Don’t take on
so, boy, but let’s go get the wheelbarrow
and shovel
, so we walk, side by side, to
the barn, not that we own any livestock
anymore, and get what we need. Then we
come back. I watch Father lift Caesar in

-to the wheelbarrow. Soon we’re rolling, down
through the garden and onto the terrace
below. Let’s see where we can put him, boy,
he says. We find a good spot near the pines.
I start to dig but he takes the shovel
and says, Better let me get it started,
so he cuts through the grass and weeds and
lets me dig some and then he digs what’s left.
He lifts Caesar out of the wheelbarrow
and into the hole—the grave, I mean—and
my job’s to pile all the dirt and grass and
weeds back in. And I never see my friend
again, but that’s death for you, also life,
so maybe they’re really the same thing, but

I’m still a little boy and Father knows
the truth and I’d ask him but I don’t want
to make a pest out of myself—he works
hard and it’s Saturday and he’s missing
the baseball game on the tube. And his beer.
Well, that’s that, he says, when we’ve finished. He
was a pretty good ol’ dog
, he says. Yes,
I say. Well, I’ll go in now, I guess. You
come soon, you mind?
He says it as if there’s
something to be afraid of out here but
he’s not going to question my courage,
not at a time like this. God does that, too,
I guess. So after he leaves I don’t know
what to do, exactly, but cry some more
and look at the flowers and trees around
us—I mean Caesar and me—then stare at
the grave, which is new, and death, which is old,
but no older than life, I’ll bet. I sing

Jesus Loves the Little Children, and say
a few words on top of that that I learned
off TV, something like Lord, this dog was
a good dog and please take him into Thy
bosom, whatever that means—I thought just
ladies had bosoms, but God is special
so anything’s possible. Now I’m scared
so I turn and run back to the house and

that night I dream that Caesar digs himself
out and comes into my bedroom and jumps
onto the bed and starts licking my face.
I wake and my face is wet—tears, not licks.
I cry a little more, or that’s whimpers,
the way Caesar did when he was a pup
and too small to jump on the bed and if
I lift him up there then he might fall off
or I might roll over him in my sleep
and squash him. So I got down on the floor
and slept there with him. And we were happy.

But the next day death is a day older
and so am I but it’s a day ahead
of me. One day it will slack up for me
but if Caesar can stand it, so can I.
Once you’re dead you live again, but for keeps,
is what they say at Church. I hope they’re wrong.


Gale Acuff is an assistant professor at the Arab American University in Palestine. He has taught English in the Palestinian West Bank, the U.S., and China. His poetry has been published in Ascent, the Ohio JournalDescant, Poem, the Adirondack Review, the Coe Review, the Worcester Review, the Maryland Poetry Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse Press, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse Press, 2008).

Clip-on

A poem by Gale Acuff


At church they say that when I die I’ll go
to Heaven—and they should know, I guess. I
have to be good, though, and when I sin, I
have to pray to be forgiven. And I
can’t sin on purpose and get off the hook
although I’m not sure why—something about
being a hypocrite. After Sunday

School I walk back home and take off my clip
-on bow tie and put it in my pocket
and pull my shirttail out and blow bubble
gum and step into the woods to pee. I
come out again and can make out our house
at the top of the hill. I can’t live there
forever. I’ll have to graduate from
high school and maybe go to college and
graduate from it, too—hope it’s not hard
—and find a job and get married and have
children and then retire and be old
and play with my grandchildren and then die.
That’s when I’ll meet God—or meet Him again,
if I knew Him before I was born. I
don’t remember now but maybe I will
when I see Him. Or maybe I’ll just hang

until the Judgment Day, which means
lying and shriveling up and rotting
in my pine box in the ground until all’s
up. And then I’ll see Him. I’ll be a soul
by then, however—invisible, but
God will know it’s me. Without eyes I’ll see
Him as clearly as day. Into the Lake
of Everlasting Fire, he roars. Sure thing,
I say, but I was really hoping for
better. Suddenly I’m neck-deep in flames
—maybe they will purify my spirit.
And if it’s Eternity then there’s no
time to worry about. A soul can burn
—I know that now. Brother, do I ever.

Gale Acuff is an assistant professor at the Arab American University in Palestine. He has taught English in the Palestinian West Bank, the U.S., and China. His poetry has been published in Ascent, the Ohio JournalDescant, Poem, the Adirondack Review, the Coe Review, the Worcester Review, the Maryland Poetry Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse Press, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse Press, 2008).

First Contact

A poem by Holly Day


The dolphins at the zoo have begun to realize
the errors manifest in trying to communicate
with humans. Too many attempts at peaceful negotiations
have been met as requests for more fish.

The people in the cages have begun to realize
that the aliens regard them as only
pets or fresh meat. Any attempts to engage in serious conversation
have been met as requests for more corn chips
and snack cakes.


Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Tampa Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities (Wilderness Press, 2009), Music Theory for Dummies (Wiley, 2015), and Ugly Girl (Shoe Music Press, 2015).

My Night’s Two Hands

A poem by Paul Brookes


against exits and entrances,
eyes cornered by sleepdust.

Riff raff cast offs witter
as they’ve seen better.

Day is two rats in a bag
snotting one another.

Light, light against the living of the rage.
Life measured out in how many
plastic carry bags for your shopping.


Paul Brookes was and is a shop assistant. He was previously employed as a security guard, postman, administrative assistant, lecturer, and performer in the Rats for Love poetry troupe. (His poetry has been included in Rats for Love: The Book (Bristol Broadsides, 1990).)

His first chapbook, The Fabulous Invention of Barnsley, was published by Dearne Community Arts in 1993; his second chapbook, The Headpoke And Firewedding, was published by Alien Buddha Press; his third, A World Where, was published by Nixes Mate Press; and his fourth, The Spermbot Blues, was published by OpPRESS.

Brookes has read his work on BBC Radio Bristol, and hosted a creative writing workshop for sixth formers (grades 11-12 high schoolers) on BBC Radio Five Live. Some of his written work has recently appeared in Clear Poetry, Nixes Mate Review, Live Nude Poems, The Bezine, The Bees Are Dead, and other publications.

Feel free to visit his website!

Latvia, 1861

A poem by Matt Dennison


A cord of blood sausage wrapped
within his throat, he spat a suet pile
and slipped into the sod-house unseen
by his wife. Never having tried to fire
the crockeries of their time, he squinted
through the mud-slots as she lumbered
about, finally to settle beside a sickly
calf to study its urine pool for signs.
They worked for different sovereigns:
hers a cauldron of entrailed darkness
imbued with bleak idiocy—that biblical
humbug hung fast about their necks—
his a vodka panacea for the pigsties of
their lives, never raised upon the same pike
as the other’s. Nearby, the boy stood
stupid in the sunflowers as an eel-slide
of curses welled his loins to burst upon
them from the sod-house. Fury spent,
he stopped counting and swam into
the sun. Remembering he once had dined
on lobster while his fishwife, frightened
by the cutlery, keened for chum, the sight
of old lemons on the sod-shelf roused him,
crouched behind the serving girl, tonguing
her fresh mustards: delicious, faint, ripe.


After a rather extended and varied second childhood in New Orleans, Matt Dennison’s work has appeared in Rattle, Bayou Magazine, Redivider, Natural Bridge, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and Cider Press Review, among others. He has also developed short films alongside Michael Dickes, Swoon (Marc Neys), and Marie Craven.

The Postman Does Not Deliver

A poem by Paul Brookes


insists she break the law,
stuffs his heavy, packed bags

around their home, under the stairs,
in the loft. Other folk’s messages

and parcels never arrive
as he sups pints in the local,

pots balls over the green baize.
She sees him chat up lasses

in the pub, online, changes
his FB profile to single,

She coddles their new bairn
till he returns to her why.


Paul Brookes was and is a shop assistant. He was previously employed as a security guard, postman, administrative assistant, lecturer, and performer in the Rats for Love poetry troupe. (His poetry has been included in Rats for Love: The Book (Bristol Broadsides, 1990).)

His first chapbook, The Fabulous Invention of Barnsley, was published by Dearne Community Arts in 1993; his second chapbook, The Headpoke And Firewedding, was published by Alien Buddha Press; his third, A World Where, was published by Nixes Mate Press; and his fourth, The Spermbot Blues, was published by OpPRESS.

Brookes has read his work on BBC Radio Bristol, and hosted a creative writing workshop for sixth formers (grades 11-12 high schoolers) on BBC Radio Five Live. Some of his written work has recently appeared in Clear Poetry, Nixes Mate Review, Live Nude Poems, The Bezine, The Bees Are Dead, and other publications.

Feel free to visit his website!