Literary as hell.

Category: Writing (Page 1 of 48)

Poems by Zebulon Huset

Transmogrifying Honey Battered

Muddily the morning crept.

Though rain often causes fowl lungs 

to top off with droplets, drowning so many 

of the raised-head dummies—

Chucky the chicken, rooster to some,

cocked his head, juked or jived

at a too-inopportune time

and startled a sting from the resting 

transmogrifying bee.

 

This was how Janet skipped 

into the scene upon waking:

the broken syringe, dangling

microscopic bits of bee belly-flesh, 

plugging the swell of purple—the sundered 

venom sac pulsing in toxins like an IV—

which caused Chucky’s clunky heart

too much issue with tissue constriction.

 

Janet wept for her perished pet,

mourned the morning, played 

devastated Dr. Frankenstein with two 9-volts

through lunchtime. Her cries even survived

as eggs and flour and honey and paprika

were whisked together for a batter

that could staunch any tears.

That would stop her tears.

 

No crying at dinner, Janet. Enough already.

What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar?

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.

-Isaiah 10

 

I hope Mitch McConnell dies

of natural causes when his time 

 

comes. And it will come, and soon—

yet the stain of his sonic boom,

 

his pattern of non-work so emphatic

is the shade of a tree unplanted. 

 

If society grows when old men plant 

trees whose cool shadow will never land

 

on their hands, where are we now, Mitch?

We’re pitching heaters at the kid 

 

in the batter’s box full of doubts

whose dad got his three strikes and is out 

 

of the picture. While he’s at bat 

they stole the wallet from his backpack

 

and someone burned down his house

for good measure. Is that where we are now?

_____________

Zebulon Huset is a teacher, writer and photographer. He won the Gulf Stream 2020 Summer Poetry Contest and his writing has appeared in Best New Poets, Texas Review, North American Review, Meridian, The Southern Review, Fence and many others. He publishes the prompt blog Notebooking Daily, and edits the journals Coastal Shelf and Sparked.

Poetry by David M. Harris

Rep. William J. Pascrell

 

Dear Mr. Pascrell:

 

Before you were the Honorable (D, NJ),

back when you taught history and psychology

at Paramus High, you were one of the foundrymen 

who melted down our formless minds and gave them

rough shape. Detail and polish were up to us.

You told a story, about leaving for the prom,

your father said, “Be careful.” Eventually,

I think, I got the point. Did any of us

understand? Later I decided we were not

meant to understand, not then, but to

ponder and find our own meanings. 

It was a rare peek into the personal.

one that other teachers never granted us.

And what was a social studies teacher doing

as one of the advisors to the high school

literary magazine? Something else to mull.

 

Changing the world, one student at a time,

must have seemed too slow. We needed

a good example, so you made yourself one.

But how different, really, is governing

from running a classroom? So much 

patient explanation, filing down rough edges

for the easier acceptance of complex machineries,

so much talking to people who won’t listen.

And the greatest failure is surrendering the effort.

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“Across The Street,” a short story by Katharine Grubb

I watched the house from the time the sour old owners, the ones with the massive credit card debt, had moved out. For a couple of weeks, through the dappled shadows of the maple tree growing between the sidewalk and the street, I monitored the side-stair colonial as realtors and their client toured it, wondering if the inspector caught the foundation trouble in that one corner. 

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“A Mind Like a Steel Trap” By E.O. Connors

A few days ago, I scrubbed the sink clean and lifted the steel trap out. As I knocked the trap against the trash bin to dislodge the sopping wet food particles that had collected there, it occurred to me that I made an egregious error in judgment in August of 1995.

I’m quick like that sometimes.

It was three weeks after our wedding. My husband, Tim, was mercilessly scrubbing the kitchen sink of our new apartment. It was clear he was angry about something. He didn’t do anything vigorously. Except, perhaps, drink Diet Coke and program his computer. Anything that might cause him to break a sweat was anathema. Cleaning the kitchen fell into that category. 

It wasn’t laziness, exactly. He was generally tidy, avoiding the making of a mess so as not to have to clean one. But he was also raised by a lovely June Cleaver type. She kept house and said things like, “Oh, Timmy, leave those dishes for the women,” when, one year, he rinsed some mashed potatoes off his Thanksgiving plate and tried to put it in the dishwasher. 

Tim and I had already had the very first domestic squabble of our marriage that same sink-scrubbing morning. Standing in the galley kitchen in the light of the refrigerator, I plucked the orange juice carton from the door to accompany his breakfast cereal. Overnight, it would surely have settled. I didn’t want him to drink juice from the top that was too thin, nor from the bottom that was too thick. Only Goldilocks orange juice for my husband. 

So I shook it. Hard. Up and down for a solid five seconds to mix it perfectly. 

Tim’s face pinched with anger. “What did you do that for?” 

“What?”

“You just ruined it.” I looked at the carton trying to figure out what he meant. He let out a huff of disgust. “Now it’s all full of pulp and the junk that settled to the bottom. Why would you do that?” He said it with the same bewilderment and grief as though I had hit the gas pedal to commit vehicular rodent homicide on an innocent squirrel in the road.

So just before lunch when I saw him come dangerously close to breaking a sweat at the kitchen sink, I wondered, Now what?

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Poems by Kika Dorsey

Horizon

They say the closer you come to something, the further away it can seem. As if it’s all a horizon. As if the horizon could ever be your lasso, your tightrope spanning past and future, your thread to sew closed what tore. 

I’ve been so near to my father’s death that my eyes blurred with more than tears. I’ve been so far away from my children’s birth that they disappeared like March fog when the sun buckles down and does its work of rising from a line I called my life, a line I could never trace. I’ve traveled so far that nothing has looked familiar—not the white marble statues of gods, the banyan trees, the dancing Lipizzaner, the cobblestoned streets, the cock fights in jungles, the foreign seas. 

Now I am home and what is close to me presses against my legs, wraps its arms around my waist. I’ve learned that you can never know what lies behind its mystery—a day lost in the woods, a dream of galloping horses, a fire built with twigs, a funeral, a birth—everything so near it has become their flesh, their journey toward a horizon forever receding. 

 

Petroleum

1

When he was zooplankton, buried beneath sedimentary rock in Texas and Iraq, he slept like the poor merchant under threadbare sheets next to algae, on bales of straw. He awoke and woke up the bees while he took their honey. He pulled out his own rotten teeth. 

 

2

Rock has a way of condensing poverty, of solidifying the earth so that it is harder to dig our graves. Rock can press our sight with mountains against the sun, can flatten and skip on water, can crumble when the sea catches it with salt, can sail from the bully’s slingshot, can teach us to be still. 

 

3

We have always been restless. We’ve burned whale oil, then promised the whales as they sang that we’d take from stone instead. We’ve created drills that bob their heads to a ground where we have kneeled, always begging our gods for a second chance. We’ve knocked down flasks of oil from a shelf when we dreamed of wealth and cursed the son we have yet to have. We’ve awoken to spills that coated the wings of seagulls. 

 

4

When he was living with us, he promised us planes and cars and oil for our dry faces. He fueled the ships in the seas. The whales were confused about the sound of the motor. They didn’t know how to make it a percussion of their song. You see, here is the paradox of music: to write a symphony you need silence. 

 

5

There is a little girl. She has a nightlight. It’s a purple fairy with blue wings. Without it she opens her eyes to the dark and feels scared. She needs to see that the shirt draped over the chair is not a killer. She needs to see that the dark is not dark. Outside the motors of cars rumble. She wonders where they are going, why they, too, are not sleeping. She falls asleep and dreams of squirrels. She dreams of lakes. She dreams of ladders reaching so high into the sky even the birds cannot nest there. They are too busy singing.

__________

Kika Dorsey is a poet and fiction writer in Boulder, Colorado, and lives with her two children, husband, and pets.  Her books include the chapbook Beside Herself  (Flutter Press, 2010) and three full-length collections: Rust, Coming Up for Air (Word Tech Editions, 2016, 2018), and Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man and Daughter of Hunger (Pinyon Publishing, 2020), which won the Colorado Authors’ League Award for best poetry collection. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times. Currently, she is an instructor of English at Front Range Community College and works as a writing coach and ghostwriter. In her free time she swims miles in pools and runs and hikes in the open space of Colorado’s mountains and plains.

Poetry by Colin Webb

Refractory
spastic filter of branches

catching dusk clouds 

 

side-swiping indiscriminate thru 

a line of others more distinct in their 

 

trajectory—

then the obstructed lengths 

 

unpossessing downhill too, or the 

bristly blind of snow up to Here

 

that’ll curb your cigarette break bound 

by slush overlooked too, and the dirty 

 

distillation of static that’ll obscure all 

the breakup songs to come 

 

straining from car’s radio 

for you to love thru

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“Dreams Come True” by P.C. Scheponik

It was an old three-story brick house

in one of America’s dying towns,

but we could afford the apartment

on the second floor.

And though it was a disaster:

the plastic Woolworth’s dish drain

melted onto one of the electric stove’s

burners, the bed’s one foot propped up

on the Bible, the fish tank with its three

inches of green water and window drapery

lying inside, drowned in algae and neglect,

and though we had to scrape and toss the

water-stained wallpaper, refresh and repaint

the entire place, to me it was the best—

with the stained-glass window that turned the

living room gold in the afternoon with its sliding

wooden doors that divided the living space into

two separate rooms.

And though the roaches finally forced us to move,

I still remember those nights, in the living room,

sitting together

on the sofa of the first living room set

we bought as young bride and groom,

so happy to be together, on our own,

living proof that dreams really do come true.

_________

P.C. Scheponik is a lifelong poet who lives by the sea with his wife, Shirley, and their shizon, Bella. His writing celebrates nature, the human condition, and the metaphysical mysteries of life. He has published six collections of poems: Psalms to Padre Pio (National Centre for Padre Pio, INC), A Storm by Any Other Name and Songs the Sea has Sung in Me (PS Books, a division of Philadelphia Stories), and And the Sun Still Dared to Shine (Mazo Publishers), Stained-Glass Faith (Alien Buddha Press) and Seeing, Believing, and Other Things (Adelaide Books). His work has also appeared in numerous literary journals. He is a 2019 Pushcart Prize nominee. 

“Vignette” by Claire Fitzpatrick

The paths wove through the vignettes like veins, around the koi pond, the stone retaining walls, the avenue of white pebbled and sandstone pavers, and down to the creek, where an arched bridge linked to a small island with a treehouse encircled by hundreds of daisies. Rebecca and Stephen had no ambitious landscaping plans when she’d inherited the estate. But after close inspection, they’d discovered the bones of the existing garden, uncovered its harsh lines and soft curves, and, after three long years, had opened their botanical paradise to the public. 

Rebecca believed gardens created themselves. Where trees had grown over time and brought more shade, the plants struggling to prosper beneath were moved. Where seeds were dropped, self-sown, and thrived, they were left. Advertisement brochures referred to their garden as ‘a living work of art’. To her, the garden was a structure to sustain life and was in some ways more important than her own. And while she and Stephen won awards for their landscape designs, and were featured on gardening shows and in magazines, there was one vignette of their garden that visitors were forbidden to enter. 

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“How Are You” by Maria Tolosa

Oh please. Not that question.

No, I am not fine, I twisted my ankle leaving the bus, I have two dentist appointments this week, the ATM swallowed my card and I have a headache. I am not fine at all but I have to put on a brave smile and say that I totally am.  

Or: Yes, I feel great today, I got brand new teeth, a promotion, and I won 10 euros in the lottery. Again, I have to clench those brand new teeth and rave that I am fine and parrot the question back. It reminds me of the ritual dance of the red-crowned cranes. 

You may say that people are asking because they are polite and they care. Not at all!  I mean, yes, they are polite but they obviously want to hear only “I am fine”, so no, they don’t care. 

Actually, they don’t want to hear any details, good or bad. Well, I don’t expect them to care, everyone has problems of their own. But then why ask and spend time on this dance?

You may also say that to argue with the language itself is silly.  “How are you” is used as a friendly greeting. But still, I cannot understand why usual greetings like “hello” or “good morning” are not good enough.  If we want to add something else, why not make it more personal or more specific, for example: “Today is very hot, are you feeling well?” Just to show that we care about each other.

I don’t know why it bothers me now more than before. Probably, because of the pandemic. People revalued a lot of things, including communication. All those formulas, rituals, and clichés bubbled to the surface and became more visible.  

In my opinion, asking a question without any interest in the answer is hypocrisy, plain and simple. Tell me, why it is such an essential criterion for good manners? I help people in need, collect and separate my recycling, and donate to charities. Am I good enough? Or without the proper “I am fine, thank you, and you?” I am not part of this great civilization and should be sent to a remote village where I belong?

I see it as a game. Or a kind of password that helps polite people to recognize each other in a crowd, like spies.  For me, the world is already weird enough, sorry.

Mondays are even worse, like it being Monday is not enough.  On Mondays, another question is added to “How are you?” – “How was your weekend?”Come on, do you really want to hear about my weekend, or you are trying to distract and soften me before asking me to do something for you? 

After this ritual of exchange of pleasantries, it is not so easy to say no, is it? Without realizing it, you feel obliged, even before the real conversation starts. Very clever. Now it is not only insincere- but also- manipulation. 

This is why I developed my personal answer to “How are you?” 

“I am fine so far, but it will depend on what you say next“.  

You will not believe how fast the boundary is set. 

Well, I need some kind of shield in this brutal world. 

_________

Maria Tolosa lives in Luxembourg and sometimes thinks she can write something better than a grocery list.  English is not her mother tongue, so she is still fascinated with it, poor thing.

Poems by Kathryn Kopple

Epidemics 

I can’t recall why.  Or when I bought

Hippocrates’ Epidemics.  I was on  

a tangent that should have taken me east

of Athens to Perinthos on the Sea of Marmara.

To get there, I would have to stop over

in Crannon. About Crannon, I know

nothing, which is basically how I’ve

always traveled. Floundering from 

country to country.  Blind to where I was going.

After Italy, why not Hungary?

I passed the time surrounded by

Soviet architecture. Buildings

stripped of ornament uniformly at war

with old world charm.  My host, a woman

and her boy. He didn’t walk, couldn’t feed

himself.  His silence. Her patience.

I felt oddly blessed and cursed. Lightning.

I’ve been struck more than once. Spinoza’s

famous question: What can a body do?

Bite my tongue. The toll it takes

to come back from the dead.

On the phone, I hear my partner offer

his sympathies. There’s been a significant

uptick in requests for advance directives.

The neighbors left for Charlotte a week

after the schools closed. To read the mail,

we put on gloves. The house reeks of chlorine.

We’re still under orders to hunker down.

For how long, no one knows.

When this is over, I hope to visit Perinthos,

a hanging cliff-town in Turkey, overlooking

a luminous sea, harboring every

ounce of light the heavens will spare.

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