Thursday, May 31, 2018

Three Poems by Eric Evans

Our Lady of the Perpetual Calendar

Bow down before
the almighty alter of

Embrace the to-do list
as gospel,
as scripture,
as legally-binding
under penalty of
examination of your
suspect motivation
and dubious level
of commitment.

Make way for the crown prince
of the checkmark, his path strewn
with the shreds of memos past,
his head festooned with a paperclip
crown, his wrists adorned with
binderclip bracelets clacking
their dull administrative song.

But most importantly hush and
mumble as we cancel all noise
for our lady of the perpetual
calendar, each grid a brand
new chance to get things done,
to fill the blocks to overflow,
seemingly unaware that each
thing done has its way with each
thing still undone, the unattended
clamoring like the desperate
faithful with outstretched hands
hoping for a mere graze of her
rapidly passing robes.

Mercury Cougar, Circa 1973

There sits, in a Northwest parking
garage, a Mercury Cougar, circa 1973,
its tires flat, its luster long dusted
over -- was it pea green?  a shade of
gold?  a mustard hue?  who can tell
after all this time?  a matchbook
sits atop the dashboard, tickets
and a ballpoint pen nested in the
passenger-side seat, its owner
20-odd years passed after locking
its doors and setting off for what
became the beyond.

When the doors are finally opened,
and they will be, in the name of
commerce or progress or curiosity,
when this Michigan-made time capsule
spills its deep-seated secrets, what
will it share?  The last plume of
smoke from an unfiltered cigarette?
The final strains of a then-new,
now-classic song?  The news of a
celebrity death, another disaster
gone too far, another war?  Will you
hear the raspy laugh of an off-color
joke, the pissed-off rant of the
over-taxed and under-served, the
catch in the throat of a man broken
one too many times?

At the pop of those long-pinned locks
will they traffic in fact or fiction,
actual or mystery, what was, what
is or what maybe, possibly might've
been?  Does the story simply exist
in insinuation now, fragmentary,
jigsaw pieces that will never fit
together no matter how much you
bend and shape and pound.  That
orphaned Mercury Cougar, circa 1973,
is its own answer now, the drive-in
screen for everything we project
upon its faded, dented hood.

Theatre of War

"Would you exchange
a walk-on part in the war
for a lead role in a cage?"

                -- "Wish You Were Here,"  Pink Floyd

It's an odd phrase, isn't it?
Theatre of war?  I mean,
the similarities abound, of course--
both traffic in directors and producers,
in leading roles and ensemble parts,
in production values and the easy
     applause that follow,
in uniform costumes and the messages
     they convey,
in a universe of props so heavy
     with symbolism,
in a story to tell and a complicated
     relationship with the truth, lies
     and obfuscations their building
     blocks and craftsman's tools.
And both, without fail, depend upon
     the inherent illusion of resolution
     but the thing is, at the end of Hamlet
     all of the dead rise from the stage,
     remove the blood and head out
     to the bar.  Dead men may tell no
     tales but those who play them most
     certainly do.

Eric Evans is a writer from Buffalo, New York with stops in Portland, Oregon, and Rochester, New York, where he currently resides.  His work has appeared in 1947, Parody, Steel Bellow, Decades Review, Dead Snakes, decomP magazinE, Red River Review, Posey, Xenith Magazine, Anobium Literary Magazine, Pemmican Press, Remark and many other publications and anthologies.  He has published eight full-length collections and three broadsides through his own small press, Ink Publications, in addition to a broadside through Lucid Moon Press.  He is also the co-editor of The Bond Street Review.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Poem by Michael H. Brownstein

November Evening, Rising

November evening,
distant Apache thunder calls in the dead
and I leave one classroom to go to another,
the lightning branding the housing projects
and I who knows better
decided to take the shortcut instead of the well lit
street from Division to Halsted,
late already for my next assignment,
the classroom in the building a block away,
the rain not yet overhead.
If I hurry, I will be on time.
I step into the black black darkness,
move quickly to the building well lit
when suddenly a short little man jumps in front of me:
Hey, Mister, this is a robbery, he snarls,
I want your wallet, your watch and your shoes
and I want them--my shoes?  I think,
why my shoes?  They cost me five dollars at Payless.
I don't wear a watch, but my wallet--
Hey, Mister, are you deaf or something?--louder--
I want your wallet, your watch and your shoes
and I want them right now.
He's a short little man and I know
I can bowl right over him
and make it to the next building before he gets up,
but he must be thinking what I think
he jumps to the side.
Listen, Mister, if you don't give them to me
Right now,--a whisper--I'm going to pee on you.
Did I hear him right?  I mean
I've heard of robbery by gun, of course,
and knife, baseball bat and fist.  Even by car,
but I never heard of anyone robbing someone with pee,
and then he pulls it out in one quick action,
and lets out a thick stream.
I'm glad I took up a bit of basketball in high school,
and a bit of soccer.  I dodge him easily,
but he keeps coming dribbling down the blacktop.
He must have drank twenty glasses of water just to rob me.
And so it goes.
He forces out a squirt, I dodge to the side.
When we make it to the division of dark and light,
the door to my classroom yards away,
I step into the light.  He pauses in the dark.
Then he makes one grand lurch, fails,
says, "Sorry, bout that, man," and disappears
into the blackness,
November evening rising.

Michael H. Brownstein has been widely published throughout the small and literary presses.  His work has appeared in The Cafe Review, American Letters and Commentary, Skidrow Penthouse, Xavier Review, Hotel Amerika, Free Lunch, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Pacific Review,, and others.  In addition, he has nine poetry chapbooks including The Shooting Gallery (Samsidat Press, 1987), Poems from the Body Bag (Ommation Press, 1988), A Period of Trees (Snark Press, 2004), What Stone Is (Fractal Edge Press, 2005), I Was a Teacher Once (Ten Page Press, 2011), Firestorm:  A Rendering of Torah (Camel Saloon Press, 2012), The Possibility of Sky and Hell:  From My Suicide Book (White Knuckle Press, 2013), and The Katy Trail, Mid-Missouri, 100 Degrees Outside and Other Poems (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2013).  He is the editor of First Poems from Viet Nam (2011).

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Poem by Sanjeev Sethi


There is a verbal gore.  Kris
of words slit our skin.
Lesions as raw as another's
revenge look back at us.
Carmine flood of feelings
sinuate over the napery.
But there is no burn.
The hood of sapience
cushions us, vulneraries
come by and by.

Sanjeev Sethi is the author of three books of poetry.  His most recent collection is This Summer and That Summer (Bloomsbury, 2015).  His poems are in venues around the world:  The Broadkill Review, After the Pause, Horror Sleaze and Trash, Former People, Stickman Review, Ann Arbor Review, Neologism Poetry Journal, Home Planet News, London Grip, Morphrog 16, Postcolonial Text, Communion Arts Journal, and elsewhere.  He lives in Mumbai, India.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Three Poems by Karla Linn Merrifield

From Underground

My self-identity mashed
like rutabaga pulp
in the serving bowl of being.

I spoon globs of once-was lumps
and will-be puree onto my daily
plate of hours, sample

a tramp vamping, tramping, trampolining
the globe between intellect and impulse
wither I go goes the root vegetable

as alter ego.

Pi Day 2018

          in memoriam Stephen Hawking

subauroral ion drift
subauroral ion drift
subauroral ion drift

ion rivers
hot dense rivers flow
in streams of charged particles
strewing narrow ribbons of light

named proton arc
named Aurorasaurus
named an unusual borealis artifact:
Steve--of colorful shimmer
whose mysterious heart
glows purple
spouts unstable greens

something new in our skies


Somebody said
you don't have to forgive everything

Somebody else said
you is an act of resistance

another Somebody said
linearity is always a problem

Somebody or other said
the form forms us

some Somebody said
move beyond facts       commune with an object

the last Somebody said to them all
I'm not supposed to be here    but I am

Karla Linn Merryfield, a nine-time Pushcart Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, has had 600+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies.  She has 12 books to her credit, the newest of which is Bunchberries, More Poems of Canada, a sequel to Godwit:  Poems of Canada (FootHills), which received the Eiseman Award for Poetry.  Forthcoming this fall is Psyche's Scroll, a full-length poem, published by The Poetry Box Selects.  She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye.  Visit her blog, Vagabond Poe Redux, at  Google her name to learn more; Tweet @LinnMerrifield; https:/

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Two Poems by Robert Halleck

Rental Dog

The beach house had ordinary views
of the sea, dunes, and sea oats.  Inside

were sandy floors, blankets that smelled
funny, and the usual pots of dead Geraniums.

The old New Yorkers had parts 1&3
of a 3 part John McPhee series.

There was rain on planned beach
days and always the sound of waves.

There was a dog.

Every morning brought the
Shepherd mix they called Pismo.

His giant tail swept the sand
and grit from the screened porch

as he begged for leftovers
and kibble from WaWa.

Than a short nap, a bark
at the door and gone.

The Box

My wife found it in the attic
after her father's funeral.

A dusty, ribbon-tied box
stored and forgotten.

She held a corsage pressed
in a dance card from a prom

as she read a love note scrawled
by the drunken thief of her virginity.

Robert Halleck is a retired banker living in Del Mar, California with his muse Della Janis.  He has been writing poetry for over 50 years and has published three collections of his work.  He has appeared in a number of Kind of a Hurricane Press publications.  His recent work has appeared or will appear in The San Diego Poetry Annual, The Patterson Review, Third Wednesday, Chiron, Halcyon Days, and Rusty Truck.  He has a weakness for open mics and loves to race Thor, his old but sturdy Porsche.  He will be attending Kenyon College's summer program for the second year during the July session.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Three Poems by JD DeHart

Confessions of the Ice Beast

It's tough being
on the outs with the whole
world, but doable.

It's even tougher being
a creature of ice
because all eventually melts.

Social media and surface
relationships with past lives
offer little solace.

A striking resemblance to
seasonal claymation characters
is the only saving grace.

One has to get through the
holidays somehow, after all.


Taking the uniqueness
of the universe, language
racks on descriptors
in a series of watered down

I saw the walls
on the faces of the young
when they encountered
something new, long
before any election.

Long before any demogogue
or pundit returned
to options for exclusion.
We are good at small
and even large spaces
to provide distance.

From the Bone

From the bone
of one person, another,
from an organic seed,
a universe.

One word spirals
into a sea we call
a novel, one kiss
slaps onto another
like sloppy building
blocks.  Soon, there's
an emotion.

One step multiples
into a plan we try to
work out in minds
bleary with midnight.

JD DeHart is a writer and teacher.  He publishes book reviews at

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Three Poems by Jo Simons


A busy airport, microcosm of our country,
reveals who we are.

The sea of faces, all mixed together
is a beautiful multi-layered work of art.

Our creator, whoever she is,
has a sense of humor with artistic flair.

She wants her "palette" filled with many shades
representing all corners of her earth.

Blacks and browns, sprinkled with hints of yellows and reds
contrast gratefully with the colorless ones that we call white.

Each "tint" brings with it a rich and different experience
that we can absorb, research and celebrate.

How uninteresting our lives would be without the uniqueness
of other-colored people blending and bringing new hues into us.

We are a many-faceted puzzle of blessed cultural diverseness;
music, food, dance, song and art from far and wide.

How tragically misguided, the thought to make America great (white) again.
We're just learning how love really works!

Acceptance, inclusion, waltzing out of our tired comfort zone.
America, you're beautiful just the way you are.

Let's not fuck it up.

Breaking Fast

toss flavorful words together--
scramble them

let them sniff each other--
get familiar

simmer over a low flame
until the aroma wafts

the hungry reader
who eats poetry
for breakfast.

Love Is


it can also


love is best

into it

Jo Simons is a piano and Music Together teacher in Madison, WI.  She is also a first-time author of a biography of her musical parents, My Father Wakes Up Laughing.  She started writing poetry in 2011 when her 94-year-old father announced his life was over.  He's still here and the oldest orchestra conductor in the world.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Three Poems by Michael Keshigian


They did what they desired,
pursued a dream until it evaporated,
relinquishing then
to the arduous commerce of acquisition,
allowing sorted perspectives
and temperaments of trophy representations
to infiltrate an idyllic affection
that long ago dwindled
behind the guise of co-existence.
And now, they are here,
at a table of ruin,
years of routine impossible to amend.
Dinner is served,
the baked salmon drowns
in the clear glass lake of the plate,
the wine's bouquet has wilted.
It has been decided,
the present has its promise,
it yields a blessing,
no expectation, no loss,
yet a place to go,
vague reasons to remain.
Creature comforts have
no hearts to break.

Home Again

Abandoned house, are there
only spiders and rodents
residing amid your rooms?
I see my distorted image
upon the fogged glass
of the old storm door,
and feel like a prowler,
appraising the value of items
upon your walls
or tucked in your corners,
when, in truth, I seek
to rekindle precious memories
and reconstruct pictures
the recent days
have begun to obscure,
events the rain of years
are washing away,
trickling indiscernibly
through the pitted window
of my mind's eye
as I rap my fist
against the glass,
hoping the ghosts will answer.

Hoarding Life

His home was full of collectibles,
paintings, books, crafts,
possessing various degrees
of monetary worth and desirability,
yet what he cherished most
were items of menial worth
but considerable sentimentality,
items that pulled him back in time,
a large coffee can
he painted green
for his three-year-old son gathering rocks,
elementary songbooks,
a dilapidated grandfather's rocking chair,
springs so rusty
they would snap if weighted upon,
the old Doberman's chew toy,
his father's tools.
All buildup
from previous generations
he hopes his children
will have the courage to discard
as he did, devoid of thought,
with his mother-in-law's mementos
when his wife
was lost in remembrance,
grasping old photographs
and birthday cards
she once sent with their children's
infant signatures attached.

Michael Keshigian, from New Hampshire, had his twelfth poetry collection, Into the Light, released in April 2017 by Flutter Press.  He has been published in numerous national and international journals including Oyez Review, Red River Review, Sierra Nevada College Review, Oklahoma Review, Chiron Review and has appeared as feature writer in over a twenty publications with 6 Pushcart Prize and 2 Best of the Net nominations.  (

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Poem by Edgar Davis

That is

Love her not for her flesh-
but for her spirit.
Protect and preserve
her soul,
keep her in line
to receive the
grace of promises . . .

The cat that is.

Edgar Davis is a semi retired bloak who lives happily with his wife in Boise, ID.  His work has appeared in numerous online publications to include Leaves of Ink, Gold Dust, Poydras Review, Scarlet Leaf Review, The Pennwood Review and other websites.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Three Poems by John Grey

Perfect Guy

He seemed like the perfect guy
but then he got angry over nothing,
slapped you across the face,
damn near broke your jaw.
He said sorry a thousand time.
He didn't know what came over him.

He bought you a cute little puppy
and then shot it with a BB gun.
He asked for your forgiveness,
blamed in on his medication.

So attentive, so caring,
but he stole the money
out of your dresser drawer,
lost it at the track.
He claimed a gambling addiction.
And he agreed with you
that it needed taking care of.

And then he met someone else
and walked out of your life.
His apology arrived via his voice
on your answering machine.
He closed it out by saying
that you were much too good for him.

He was the perfect guy all right.
To be who ho was,
he couldn't have done better.

No More Chance

Streets are empty
but for empty people.
Weather's cold.
None of them need to be
formally introduced
to the chill in the air.
It's winter everywhere
but it's more than winter here.
I lift my head, risk a glance.
Their stares are as icy as the river.

Cop car rolls by.
So how much futility
do you need to feel
before it's a crime?
And what about the likes of me
who's just passing through?
Does sympathy give me a pass
or get me arrested?

There's people out here
who've forgotten their own narrative.
They've got nothing
they can put their signature to.
They go by the names
that other people give them.
Their memories are tied up
in some long-running family court.

I don't need reminding
that the world is broken.
But I get the picture anyhow.
It's rough-haired, red-eyed
and huddled in a ragged coat
handed down from a trashcan.
I leave them some of my uselessness
to go with their hopelessness.
Maybe they can appreciate it.
I don't.

Congratulations, Your Village is Next

villagers trudging through tall grass--
mosquitoes gather
always faceless
slither like the wind

that blows this way
detailed with carcasses
and their kind--
dirty deeds and dirty water

soldiers on their way,
chest high in swamp
dragging artillery
aiming for higher ground

mortar and shell--
the world is old enough
corrupt enough
for dissolution

villagers halfway up a hill
strain their eyes to see
where the next few hours
are coming from

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Three Poems by H. Edgar Hix


We're toward the end for us.
Who would have thought it,
you with your hippybeads
and bell bottom jeans,
me in my cowboy hat
and long, purple, knitted vest?
Who would have seen
you with your black cane,
knees bending and not
bending the way you want them,
me with my back too weak,
my belly too big?
Pushing that golden anniversary
like a walker with daisies painted on it.

Ms. Yazzie is Leaving

She is leaving the desert.
The wind does not leave.
The sun only retires to the moon.
The sand is the sand
and the cacti the cacti.
The turtles and snakes never leave
because there is no exit from the desert.
But, she is leaving
with sand in her soul,
wind in her will,
the sound of rattlesnakes in her rain.

No Precious Daughter

I have no precious daughter.
Once, I came close
but having the scent of the lilacs in the house is only precious,
not a daughter.
The glimpse of purple before continuing down grey concrete
is not caressing the blossoms,
washing the leaves,
feeding the roots.

The neighbor's lilac is growing over my yard.
Its limbs are almost in the telephone wires.
The odor is overpowering.

H. Edgar Hix is a senior poet writing from Minneapolis, MN.  He is an egalitarian whose poetry appears regularly in the magazine Mutuality.  His wife, Julie, and he are the crazy cat lady in the white house on the corner with their six cats.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Three Poems by James Babbs

This Morning I Woke Up Missing Her

this morning
I woke up missing her
the birds fluttering in the trees
right outside my window
I heard them laughing at the sun
I leaned over the edge of the bed
feeling around on the floor for the bottle
but I couldn't find it
so I fell back against the pillows
and gazed at the ceiling
I watched the ceiling fan
turning for a little while and
I thought about the time
when we went to the lake
and the way she laughed at me
I didn't want to put
my feet into the muddy water
I told her
if I couldn't see the bottom
then I wasn't going to
stick my feet in there
she laughed and took off her shoes
before running into the lake
while I stood on the shore
waiting for her to return

Love Again

I was thinking about love again
driving alone
on a rainy Monday morning
spiderwebs of lightning flashing
against the dark gray sky
I kept thinking about
the things that came between us
the small things that kept us
from being together in the end
heavy sound of thunder
the rain falling harder then
until I had to increase
the speed of the wipers
watching them move back and forth
a little faster across the glass

Apartment Number Four

I lived in an apartment for two years
Before moving into the house I live in now.
There were four apartments in the same building
And I lived in apartment number four.
Each apartment had its own entrance
With the kitchen and living room located on
The first floor and the bedrooms and bathroom
Up on the second one.  Apartment number four was
Where I was living when the planes crashed into
The World Trade Center buildings in New York.
I remember it was a Tuesday morning and hearing
The report on the radio about the first plane
And how, at the time, it just seemed like
Some kind of freak accident until the other
Reports started coming in and, then, the whole day
Unfolded like some kind of strange map, a map,
Which made less and less sense the closer you
Examined it.  I remember the landlord's brother
Lived in the first apartment but I hardly ever saw him.
He left early in the morning and didn't come back
Until late at night.  A mother and daughter lived in
Apartment number two.  They were always quiet and
Never seemed to go anywhere.  There was a young couple
In apartment number three.  Almost every night I heard them
Having sex through the wall we shared.  When they
Moved out a few months later an older married couple
Took over their apartment.  They were always friendly to me
And they never made any noise.

James Babbs is a writer, a dreamer, and a non-competitive eater who likes everything that isn't good for him.  James is the author of Disturbing the Light (2013) and The Weight of Invisible Things (2013) and has hundreds of poems and a few short stories scattered all over the internet.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Two Poems by Felino A. Soriano

A Moving Self

    Dance of what we're doing,
   dance of delusion of
       a miracle of music--

                                       of miricles I said
                                to the listener of prophecy,
                                   a truth was said from

                                                                     the tongue of momentum,
                                                                  bravery and speed to get
                                                                          elsewhere, a where

  to what acknowledges
truth as a valid self,
     far from what it once
   moved away from,


Sameness Or Of It

   Sway section in the mood
  to hear it, mood to lose an anger
      brought toward me,
     interior when I hear voices
  wander and awaken
 Sway is what I thought
    instead of swing . . .
each meaning can splay or
 to an interpretation of hearing
land and what brings gifts
   to my lasting listening--
   what's said and encouraged
  said and
      alleviated when music hears
 my unaltered version of interrogating

Felino A. Soriano was awarded the 2017 erbacce-prize for poetry.  His writings appear in CHURN, BlazeVOX, 3:AM Magazine, The National Poetry Review, Small Po[r]tions, and elsewhere.  His books of poetry include A Searching for Full Body Syllables:  fragmented olio (2017), Aging within these syllables (2017), Acclimated Recollections (2017), and Vocal Apparitions:  New & Selected Poems:  2012-2016 (2016).

Monday, May 7, 2018

Three Poems by J.J. Campbell

young lovers set adrift

old visions of
those soft lips
dripped in the
neon soul of
a fleeting love

forever was as
distant as death
appears to be
to a child

i seriously wanted
to die in your arms
and forever rest in
that warm embrace

you chose a future
that didn't seem
as fatal

young lovers set
adrift into an ocean
of unknowns and
crazy miscalculations

happiness is the last
rock i could never

going to find rock bottom

one of these days
i'm going to walk
right up to a pretty
woman and say

one of these days
i'm going to be the
change the world
wants to see

one of these days
i'm going to get
enough sleep that
i actually feel

one of these days
i'm going to find
rock bottom and
realize the pain
never goes away

not even the sunshine

yet another morning
where i feel dead inside

not even the sunshine
and a splash of color
coming from new
flowers growing
out of the ground
brightens this dark

therapy doesn't

and they have made
sure that the poor
can't afford the
right drugs

which epidemic
do i embrace

J.J. Campbell (1976-?) is currently trapped in the suburbs.  He's been widely published over the years, most recently at Horror Sleaze Trash, Synchronized Chaos, Yellow Mama, The Beatnik Cowboy and In Between Hangovers.  You can find him bitching about something someone will find trivial on his mildly entertaining blog:  evil delights (

Thursday, May 3, 2018

A Poem by Yuan Changming


could mean the book of change
'runoff sperms,' 'already,' or 'as
soon as' in Mandarin sounds, but
here it refers to 'creative conception'
'artistic landscape,' or literally
'meaning scenery,' as suggested
in a traditional Chinese painting of
a realm of ink, brushpen and ricepaper, where

a white horse is charging swiftly
across the point of two meeting hills
or a whole mountain range
highlighting itself beside a pine tree
reaching out as if to welcome
visitors, or level against the whole world
as in one of Wang Wei's poems, Su Dongpo's
ci, Mao Zedong's handwritings

Yuan Changming edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan and hosts Happy Yangsheng in Vancouver; credits include ten Pushcart nominations, Best of the Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, and 1,419 others worldwide.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Three Poems by John Grocholaki


i was
made for concrete

but my parents shipwrecked me in the suburbs

it was preferable
to be p before dawn
hustling the morning newspaper to make a buck

getting chased by rabid, orphaned dogs
and drunks swerving home out of shame and guilt

or it was preferable to be broke
hiding my head under pillows
as the mowers revved in anticipation

rather than touch a single blade to grass
for any kind of allowance

my old man
always tried to get me to mow the lawn

like it was something i should want to do
a right of passage that would serve me well

i did it once and then never again

but my old man
he cut the grass nearly ever saturday
when the weather would let him

he cut the grass on saturdays
because god was a selfish prick and he stole sunday
from working people too

the old man cracked a beer before noon
and joined the cacophony of exhausted patriots

avoiding their wives and kids
pushing their weekend morning away

over those little patches of golden green in god's good earth

getting callouses from lawn mowers brought on credit
that worked right 60% of the time
when they worked at all

rumbling half-assed machines with john wayne names

that were made in america
but burned middle eastern gas

out into reagan's ozone layer of american hypocrisy

all for what?
the satisfaction of doing it again the next week?

another self-deluded cog
dying of smoke inhalation in the burning city on a hill

i didn't realize it then
but the suburban lawn made me
a city dweller and an apartment dweller
before i ever realized it

the suburban lawn was a noose one had to escape
like most creatures of comfort in america

honestly i had no choice but to save myself

and to this day i prefer the scent of newsprint
and piping hot tar
over that of freshly cut grass

the sound of my feet slapping pavement
as i sail from one endless block of neon to the next
past the car horns and car exhause

dodging dog shit
while thinking up some monumental urban triviality

hell, to be honest
i don't even like to walk through parks

frank o'hara never did this

i settle
on the dried-out turkey burger
and tepid bottled water
in the basement of the job
on a hot wednesday afternoon

february is dying
the climate is dying
something is always dying
either a beloved pet
or democracy
or love

the burger is worse than i thought
parched to the point of no returnb
the cheddar cheese on it melted and cold
it looks like mucus

and i can't understand giovanni papini to save my life

all i know is that he started out looking for genius
but became fascinated instead

in a perfect world he'd celebrate the fourth of july

on the phone a moment ago
a perky lady at the bank told me
that i'd been approved for a credit card
with a seventeen-thousand-dollar credit line

she said it as if it were a good thing, i think

in the end i push the burger away
and put down the book of papini
i try for a salad whose vegetables
are so warm and wilted that i can't eat them either

so i push it away too
and sit back staring at a small american flag
with a hatred so vibrant and edible
that its power of suggestion
could bring about
a new
black death.

the last man without a smart phone

the flip phone is dying
but the winter won't end

my wife and i stand outside the apple store
watching the sculpted philistines
hunger to get inside

to drop god-knows-what
on another chinese slave-labor suicide
that will fulfill them for about an hour
before the void starts creeping back in

for right now
i am the last man without a smart phone

i don't pay for minutes or data
or the precious air that i breathe

i have to remember things like usernames and passwords

i can't look up the meaning of life on a whim
or photograph my lunch or a pretty tree
or some cute dog rolling around on the pavement

i don't know what celebrities are thinking at every moment of the day

i'm a walking, talking, living, breathing relic
and i like that about myself

but the flip phone is dying
it's dropping calls and not taking messages
from our families and my wife's doctors

it's a piece of ten-year-old tech
that wants the dignity to die

even the ringer sounds like it's on its last legs

so here we are outside the apple store
big glass windows and doors

showcasing all of their little metal gadgets

a whole genocide of gleaming devices
being molested by scarf people right out of j. crew catalogs

and i feel it creeping up inside of me
the void or something else slipping away

the desire to turn tail and run

i think if i go inside this place
soon i'll be like the rest of them

taking pictures of tacos
and scrolling through hundreds of selfies to find the right one

steaming shitty pop music
and retweeting actors tweeting about their bad movies
or dumb jocks musing about the big game

texting nonsense
and talking data plans with the tax man

a smart phone shoved so far up my ass
i'll have to look up my own goddamned name

in order to remember
who in the fuck it is
that i thought i once was.

John Grochalski is the author of The Noose Doesn't Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press, 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In the Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), and the forthcoming The Philosophers' Ship (WineDrunk Press, 2018).  He is also the author of the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press, 2013), and Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press, 2016).  Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where the garbage can smell like roses if you wish on it hard enough.