note from editor:

"I'll just tell you what I remember because memory is as close as I've gotten to building my own time machine." 

— Samantha Hunt (The Invention of Everything Else)

"con-trails" by jennifer l. tomaloff

Writing a poem is like transcending space and time, especially if it's based on something true. And they're all sort of true. I turn old lovers in to sea monsters and haunted European forests. It feels like rewriting history the way it happened in some parallel universe. I should have known from the beginning things were going to go wrong. There's an unexplored sense that is always active, like power lines hovering above you that you fail to notice. It hums to you all the possibilities that are existing at every moment, and just because you choose one outcome, it doesn't mean the others stop existing. They are running the course of your veins, and sometimes when you sit down to write, remembering the beginning of some love story, your hand picks up a pen and tells a slight variation of that story, but it never means it's not true. 

Claudia Lamar 

February 2011

note: jennifer l. tomaloff's photograph is the inspiration for ed makowski's poem featured in this issue. 

Dave's Con-Trails

by Ed Makowski


Working in a basement
computer warehouse 
with one other man 
who was hired
before me, so
                   naturally
he had seniority 

and played
conspiracy theory radio 

We worked between
40 and 60 hours per week
listening to radio shows about
time travel, chupacabras, 
grays (slang for aliens),  
poisonous con-trails, 
the bloodline of Christ,
werewolves and vampires,
unidentified flying objects, 
abnormalities in weather 
and
everything was caused by
government experiments.

A dusty decades old 
basement with poor lighting
on land that had been  
Native American marsh.
Deforested, drained, filled. 
Then paved and built to become 
new retail opportunities 
in mid-century America. 

When Dave started seeing men
walking about in loin cloths,
and vanishing, I wondered
what had taken them
so long. 

Preserve the Lies

by Ben John Smith


Bach composes violoncello minute
and at thirty-eight seconds
she walks into my room
and cringes at the sight of me
pouring wine into a pint glass.

And her eyes break
like Christmas tree
decorations.

Or a plug that has
never been
unplugged.

She says,
“What in GOD'S name are
you doing?”

And with an ugly truth
I lower my head
like a child with dirty palms
and say,

“I'm pretending to be famous.”

She whispers to God.
The cat brushes past her
bare
feet.

I don’t know what
she said

or if he heard

but I bet
he doesn’t
need her
as much
as I do.

 


It's All in the Wrists, Said Ted Bundy

by Donal Mahoney


The others, of course, are more rabid than I
but less apt to show it. 

Whenever I strike, I never romp off. 
I stand with the wrist that I've snatched

from the lady locked in my teeth
as I wait with a smile for the wagon.

As one of the few wrist-snatchers 
still on the streets of Chicago,

I make all of my rounds in old tennies.
I dive for the purse hand, give it a whack, 

and sever the wrist without slobber,   
then stand like a Vatican Guard

with her wrist in my teeth until
I am certain I have no pursuers. 

In my dreams every night I can see 
all of those women whose wrists 

I have had in my teeth. 
They stand at their bus stops 

like Statues of Liberty,
shrieking and waving their stumps like flares 

as I wait for their screams 
to bring to a frieze 

the patrol cars glowing  
in the middle of the street. 

 


lost dialog

by Helen Vitoria


let’s say that there was no Ghost−
let’s say, all the small conversations
are with you
& somehow you carried them back to the
 
Ghost, outside, on the front walkway
near the magnolia, because that is where the
Ghost would be, waiting for me to open the door
& let him in.

 

Graveyard Nights

by John Grey


The only white he knows
is tombstones,
your neck,
another moonlit canvas
to mark with dates, with death,
for pointless flowers
to rhapsodize
as they wither
in the shadow
of your decay.
Even touch does not fool him,
the cemetery bed
pandering to
his dark expectations,
your life sucked out
through grave-digger lips,
as bitter cold marble
rises up into his fingers,
your flesh stiff and pale
as the bone
it clings to.

Hibiscus Tea

by John Swain


Field became another sky
when snow fell
over the first winter night.
In the drift on the hill
we warmed beneath my coat
and sipped hibiscus tea
from a silver bowl I carry.
Trees floated from the ice
as she polished a rabbit jaw
and dropped prayer beads
to mark our path.
Fear darkened my heart
so I kneeled on my teeth
gone away to rejoicing her.


The Pornographer's Daughter

by Laura Hardy 


Lets go to the moon and dig a giant hole.
So big in fact only our arms will penetrate the surface,
we will reach out just at the top,
our fingers will dance as blue flowers for our graves.
Then we will walk downstairs to Beirut
and laugh, as the men we have been inside stare,
trying to remember why our hands look familiar.
We will answer seductively, “Monsieur, do you not recall?
I performed your colonoscopy” and he will glare,
looking down to see his hands are sewn to dull gold cymbals.
We will drink as he serenades us,
Bang, Bang, Bang.
Then it will start to rain.
So we will pull down the roof and build a house of cards to stay warm.
One hand inside our coats and another up our skirts, because
lesbian porn is all that works
and we swore we’d never be wives but only sleep with their husbands.
Then we will hear a cry.
The pornographer’s daughter, she stands tall in the mirror
unable to gaze upon her naked self.
Touch and feel are so very far apart.
We will climb her tower walls with suction cups made
with the chicken cutlets we left in our brassieres.
And take her down, down, down,
to the bridge, where guards shelter her shy cunt.
Even they will trade kisses for liberty,
and the pornographer’s daughter will turn red in the cheeks,
I’ll press my finger to her rouge, spread it on his lips whispering,
“Freedom Rings!”

Because out here we know that:
Bare feet tell the best stories,
Sand can often be unkind,
Heat determines how much you smoke,
Rain cannot tear down a house of cards,
And you, like me,
Fall asleep with one, two, three,
But prefer to wake up alone.

We Are All Haunted

by Megan Kennedy


She wanted to die young.

Her theory was, 
All the enlightened and spiritually
Significant people
Didn’t need to live that long.
To her, it was a badge of honor
To leave this place early.

She had formulated this 
From hours of reading:
Philosophy, religion, biographies
Crime statistics, metaphysics
And fiction of the loftiest kind.
She said, I believe I have it figured out.
The Hindus had it right.
Your soul will keep coming here
Over and over
Until you’re ready to rejoin 
The universe at its highest understandings.
Those who die young
Well, they didn’t need to be here
Any longer.

All the kids beaten and murdered 
By loved ones and strangers.
All the angelic teenagers
Killed in traffic accidents.
All the world-changers 
Who barely had time to 
Give us their message,
To show us the light,
These people were, somehow,
Finally finished.

Martin Luther King.  Jesus Christ. 
JFK. RFK. Abraham Lincoln.
Dimebag Darrell.  Some prodigy
Drummer from a metal band
I’d never heard of.
Heath Ledger. Princess Di. Anne Frank.
Jimi Hendrix. Hank Williams. Mozart.
Bob Marley. Joan of Arc.

She had a list
Longer than my arm.

                       I would point out some flaws in her theory:
                       Gandhi.  Mother Teresa. Pope John Paul II.
                       Newton.  Einstein.  Galileo. 

Her arguments were:
The scientists were smart,
Not enlightened.
Gandhi just stood up for a cause, 
And so do a lot of stupid people.
And Mother Teresa, well,
According to her own letters, 
She couldn’t even feel God anymore.
But she kept helping the poor anyway.
Wonderful, yes, but disqualified
In this particular running.

                      She is the only person I know
                      Who could trivialize Mother Teresa 
                      And actually make you stop and think about it.

And so, this is why, she,
My best friend and my own personal
Piece of enlightenment
Wanted to die young.
Because it would mean she was
On the right track,
Not only for her own ascension,
But for the overall well-being
Of the universe
And mankind.

                     I said, why don’t you just kill yourself then?
                     Guarantee it?

But suicides don’t count, she said.
It has to be an accident, or a murder,
Or some natural cause.
You can’t cheat your way
Into that great gig in the sky.

And so she waits, every day,
Wondering if today is it.
Reading her Aurelius and Dali Lama,
Nietzsche and the Bible,
Aquinas and the Satanic Bible,
Alchemy, occult, fundamentalist Islam.
She keeps learning, and searching,
And by now, she can debate brilliantly
With anyone of any religion, 
Any belief.
Now she is a force to be reckoned with.

                   I tell her, why don’t you teach?
                   Write a book?
                   Keep a record of all these ideas. 
                   Who knows what may come of them?

But she just smiles from under
Her ratty old blanket
In her favorite armchair.
Sometimes she will reply:
Maybe I will.  
But with any luck,
I won’t have it finished
Before I go. 

Voodoo Dream

by Ron Koppelberger


Spun by ebony threads in a voodoo dream,
By perfumed Hyacinth blooms and burlap cloaks of
Scarecrow design, the pin and needle by
Garlic seed and horseradish flavor,
The breath of a witch and wicked measures of
Bat blood.