Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Three Poems, Joshua Merchant

Sun Dial

a woman cornered finds a tooth to sink even
if they’ve been whittled down for others’ comfort.

I knew I truly hurt my mother when she held the belt.
I crumbled watching her let loose silent tears in search of comfort. 

praxis creates the muscle for self-care. she wasn’t always 
a cherry stick lit hospital; she sucked her thumb for comfort.

she wasn’t a heavy drinker. Enjoyed a nice wine. a spritzer. 
don’t recall a lot of water bottles. she chewed ice to my discomfort.

we were all as sensitive as my teeth. three cancers in one house.
the other? two and the reason I see geminis and seek comfort 

because we all get a bad wrap eventually, I try to show my true 
nature first. don’t ask about my bite if you want comfort 

ask Her. see if the wind howls a cheat-code for my nerves. she 
gives what I try to- patience for your comfort.

if I show you my browser history, the amount of receipts tethered 
to the corner down the street, will you show me your comfort?

maybe I’ll learn something. give me an interview to try, an error
bottled, a carrier blood vessel sifting through clouds to your comfort.

if not off; if not away- the ledge as fashion statement. ignore 
the spaces seen through me. all my greats have this comfort. 

the bruise we joke about being invisible; the many ways we learn
to clean a cut: I lay by the pool sweating in discomfort





The Headless Horsewoman

in another poem from another
world ago I mention 
an axe in my face. 

I never told you about the hands that threw it
there. funny story, a woman with a raincloud 
for a head actually believed her mother

when she was told I was a dirty 
motherboard. when I survived her 
I asked of what another bark-toned

nose like mine did to hers. 
her head dispersed. I don’t know if 
my eyes melted but I could feel my face 
painting my toes red. told my momma;

she said my mouth was closed and sent 
me back to her- I asked the headless woman 
what happened. she said I blew on her 

too hard and wielded her sword. 
I would’ve popped her but there was nothing 
there. I had no weapon, no tools 
from another poem with an axe in my face





Pack A Day

She sits on the patio holding a dollar’s worth of life.
or maybe tapping the opposite; the cool breeze 
meant to air out the house splitting the smoke 
between grass and couch is more honest. If I 
asked for a list of names leaving her face drifting 
in furrows she’d giggle. somewhere an ungrateful 
farmer became a tool rusting in the rain. Gods laugh
at those who think themselves lightning; caress 
the scorched earth with two fingers knowing 
somewhere the soil is still good. 

the scorched earth caresses Her with two fingers; still, 
the soil is good. She is held on the patio. sitting. a dollar’s 
worth of life. or maybe believes god is laughing at Her 
lightning. the cool breeze slamming the door 
between the living room and outside is just as honest. 
being outside reminds her She’s free to cry but a halt 
cannot exist where rust will take its place in the rain. 
when I asked for the location of hands to be crafted 
into good luck charms she giggled.

I’d drape the living room with the hands of bill 
collectors like christmas lights just to hear more giggles. 
next, the palms promised as thrones - two fingers 
snipped; shoved into the scorched earth - She’ll caress 
during the rebirth of the good / die wicked. the wild die quiet. 
the scorned and depleted are born outside waiting for rain. 
She is a patio holding a dollar for safe keeping for life. 
at least natural disasters are honest. torches have 
no reason to complain to lightning. 

ever ask a fool the difference between a solar beam 
and a strike of lightning? She asked me this; nervously I giggled. 
one has already lived fully, the other, spur of the moment; both 
are honest. one’s impact is based solely of that, a force, the other’s 
not seen as bad or good. just a necessary experience, a part of life. 
I guess both are, huh. you smell that? finally, rain.

somewhere an ungrateful farmer is putting a rabbit’s foot to shame - 
his hand dangling around my neck as I play in the rain. my mother 
sits on the patio waiting for a second strike of lightning. She is a god. 
a majician. almost feral; testing one of her theories about life. 
when she finished her cigarette and nothing happened 
she giggled. I ran to the patio excited, how’d I do? my first 
attempt at flying. you did good. even when she lied, he was honest. 

in her eyes I won’t always be honest. I don’t think she minded 
if it meant I wouldn’t have to be a souvenir in the rain, 
or dead to be good, passionate without the lightning. 
to be - to be the face - to be in the face of fire 
and softly giggle. to be - to be in the eye 
of any storm and still in awe of life. 

the cool breeze slamming the door between the living 
room and the child who smells like outside is just as honest 
as them laughing like a god discovering lightning.

being outside reminds them they’re free to be dirty 
and laugh about it in the rain. they tell their mother 
they already showered. she giggles.

the child soaking the carpet doesn’t make 
them good or bad. it makes them young. 
She remembers that life.





Joshua Merchant is a native of East Oakland exploring what it means to be human as an intersectional being. They've had the honor to witness their work being published in 580Split, Eleven Eleven, and The Rootwork Journal.

Shampoo, Laura Stamps

Turn, turn, turn. In this dog magazine. To the next page. An article. How to give a dog a bath. It’s about that. But this. This I wonder. Bathing a dog. Is it like giving a cat a bath? Or trying to. I mean, let’s face it. Trying is all you can do. With a cat. Just ask Paula. My best friend. Last year we gave her cat a bath. In the kitchen sink. A blood bath. That’s what it was. For her. For me. But not for her cat. Never her cat. That crazy boy! Although, he was hyperventilating. He was. I swear. By the time we finished. He was. But dogs. They love water, don’t they? If I had a dog. (Okay. I don’t. But maybe. One day. Maybe. I might. Possibly.) I’d give him a bath. Every month. I would. Just like this article says. Plus, there’s dog shampoo. And so many kinds to choose from. Lavender and mint. Oatmeal for sensitive skin. Deshedding shampoo. (Really?) Whitening shampoo for white dogs. (What? What?) Probiotic shampoo for dogs with hot spots. (Are you kidding me?) Green tea. Bergamot. Honeysuckle. Shampoo, shampoo. It can change your life. It can. Seriously. This. This I know. Because, because. On that day. Years ago. When I arrived in Wilmington. All I had was my purse. And my car. That’s it. No clothes. No luggage. Nothing. But when you escape. You grab what you can and run. That’s what you do. And I did. But in Wilmington. I stopped. For necessities. You know. Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, comb, shampoo, makeup. That stuff. And there she was. A woman. At Walgreens. In the shampoo aisle. Talking on her cell phone. Placing an ad in the local paper. A furnished apartment. Hers. For rent. It sounded nice. Really nice. So I grabbed the shampoo. And turned toward her. “I’m interested,” I said. That apartment. Saw it. Loved it. Still love it. Still live there. Ten years later. And I’d do it again. Leave my ex. That is. Start over. With just the clothes on my back. And no shampoo. I would. Again. In a heartbeat. 





Laura Stamps loves to play with words and create experimental forms for her fiction and prose poetry. Author of 43 novels, novellas, short story collections, and poetry books. Most recently: CAT MANIA (Alien Buddha Press 2021), DOG DAZED (Kittyfeather Press 2022), and THE GOOD DOG (Prolific Pulse Press 2023). Winner of the Muses Prize. Recipient of a Pulitzer Prize nomination and 7 Pushcart Prize nominations.  

Murder Or This, Kristin Garth

after Lori Vallow, “The Doomsday Mother” and “Twilight” 

Explain to a bishop it will be murder 
or this — divine rites of the temple (not 
teen vampiric kiss scribed by girl latter 
day saint, a hundred million or so bought,
alternate scripture, eternal bodies 
perfected by blood a bikinied 
martyr imbibes with pressure-canned purple hull peas 
from your year’s supply.   Any female you heed 
you learn by eight to deny like all the rot 
and dark thoughts behind a cheerleader smile,
the incest you fought, acquiesced and then sought 
to fashion an executioner you have beguiled. 
Deem you immortal. the temple spirits,
and no one believes you would murder for this.)





Kristin Garth is a womanchildish Pushcart, Rhysling nominated sonneteer and a Best of the Net 2020 finalist, the author of THE MEADOW (a novel from Alien Buddha Press, October 2022) and 26 more books of poetry and prose.  She is editor of eight literary anthologies. 

Four Poems, Sneha Mohidekar

 seal-skin

skin in/side means
viscera/l lee-side protects
interstitials buttoned/interstitial
buttons protect
the biting wind/she
eats/the skin off her lips
eats her lips eats her skin
enamel enables
whispering/requires the means
to close your mouth





cut fruit

she douses her hands in orange juice
pretends it’s blood
pretends to have slayed a giant, harvested its heart
pretends the empty chambers are whisper galleries
pretends to hear secrets, technically articulated
pretends they’ll slip on a technicality
pretends that was the question

she sucks blood off her teeth
pretends it’s orange juice
or, doesn’t pretend—
preens





end of the world as we knew it 

the fish are tilting at windmills
the pigs have bulked up and backwards and sprouted feathers
like a dinosaur, or a chicken
we stay inside and watch
and try to keep our siblings from escaping out the bathroom window
to tilt their heads back and stick their tongues out and close their eyes
trying to catch scraps of sky
falling as brown-bottle sea-glass

the atmosphere is fracturing along ley lines and 
we were wrong about them
(their placement not
their existence)

all the perforations in the earth
(oil wells, water wells, well, well, well)
are singing best of the 2000s
I can hear you harmonizing

one of your sisters asks if we can go get milkshakes
my brother asks if he can drive
he isn't licensed, though, I remind him
and he laughs so hard I think he's folded his lungs into origami shapes
shooting star, airplane, butterfly

when we leave the drive-thru, I have a foot out the window
and one and a half fingers on the steering wheel—
my body has become liminal
you have an arm and half your torso out the window
reaching to pet the wind's soundwaves
you raise your whole chest to ask me
voice curling gentle between the cupholders and the gearshift
will it hurt
I pretend not to hear over the sound of the smog ripping into composite parts 
you don’t ask again
our siblings are in the back
they're so big
expanding into the space and then expanding it
they're making shapes out of the clouds
and dripping hamburger juice onto my seats





in/set

the cartographer draws
fractals and eats them
the wind brings her erosion
the cartographer carves her face
of the cliff with her maps of the cliff
hangs reality on record
there is salt in the water
and in the wind and in the way
displacement is a vector and
is loadbearing caves walled in water
carry the cliff





Sneha Mohidekar (she/her) reads poetry theory and queer space operas on the train. Her work can be found in The Indianapolis Review and Ghost City Review.

Selected Works, Tamiko Dooley

 Eros

are you here

again you love

can I see you





SHOWER TIME.

There are things you learn

From doing the same job every day

Tasks you repeat OVER and over

Like, aren’t we all the same?


Plugging in the hose 

The brushes out for meticulous scrubbing

Pulling the hazmat on MY legs

Elasticated cap, gloves, rubber boots


Nothing to be afraid of

They’re already DEAD

Pressure-wash them down

Blast that Stravinsky, something dramatic 

Vaseline in the nostrils

Doesn’t help with the smell


You leave, throw away the suit

The smell penetrates through


When you take a shower that night

You sniff it on your skin

So you scour your naked BODY clean

I mean, 

Isn’t that what you’ve been doing all day, anyway?





Helios

On a bright autumnal afternoon
When the sun’s behind me
And my back begins to warm

I think of you

That shaft of afternoon light
That used to reach the middle of your bedsheets
College house, single dorm
Your desk lumbered with
Tacitus and Virgil, Sallust and Homer

On a Friday after double Greek was done
I’d find you there
Eyes closed, smiling
Your skin glowing

When I leaned in towards you
The heat would hit the nape of my neck
With the strength of blazing rays
That scorched Icarus’ wings
To slowly melt the wax.





Tokeru (Melting)

you watched me catch with my tongue
the drips that threatened to
slither down the cone onto my hand
and laughed, kimi ga waratta

ahead kite surfers and jet skis roared across the Okinawa skyline
the Pacific tide was creeping towards our toes
waves pounding the shore louder and closer

and when you leaned towards me and
licked a drop of my matcha ice-cream 
to save it falling

the icy fingers of the umi gripped my legs





Tempest

I glimpsed you from the shore
Footprints leading to the water
Blurred sand and gritty salt

I had been stumbling through 
The thicket for hours
Losing my sense of direction
Aiming for the open sea

I kept thinking I saw you
In disguise, hidden behind palm leaves

When the branches finally parted
You appeared
Waving from your broken boat
A battered shipwreck

It started to rain 
As the drops began to lash down on me
It became harder to see
The wind seemed to take you away

I thought I saw you
Blurred and gritty drops
Began to sting my eyes

I was losing my sense of direction

I glimpsed you from the shore

A shipwreck


Aiming for the open sea





Tamiko reads Latin and French at New College, Oxford. She was the winner of the BBC Radio 3 carol competition 2021.

Excerpt from THE DIRECTOR'S CUT, John Yamrus




he was 

drunk 
and more 
than a little bit crazy 

and 
made the mistake 
of leaving the live video feed 

on 
his computer open 

and when 
he was done reading his poems 

all that 
was left was this sad 

drunk 
old man 
and the sound 
of him walking from room to room 

trying 
to see where 
the magic had gone.





i

made
the mistake

of 
complimenting him 

on 
his poetry.

on
the strength

of 
one poem,
he wanted me
to introduce him to

my 
publisher.

when 
i refused,
when i said
i’m sorry, but
i just don’t do that,
he went crazy on me.

instantly,

went from

hit 
to shit.

more
than anything
he so desperately

wanted 
his fifteen minutes

of 
fame.

well...
here you go, buddy...

here 
you go.





puke-green

was 
his favorite color.  

it 
was also 
his favorite word 

(or, 
words, if
you wanted to 
get technical about it). 

anyway, 
it was kinda sorta fitting
that he had already turned his
favorite color that Sunday morning 

when 
they found him
face down under the Penn Street Bridge.





Tony The Lip

was 
older than he looked,

was 
impressed 
by the smell of his own farts,

lied 
about everything,

never 
held a job for long,

ate 
everything,

drank 
anything,

and 
changed his shorts

no
more 
than once a week.

Tony had
3 bad marriages,

4 shack-ups,

and 
that one month he
never cared to talk about.

always 
liked Tony.





you lay in bed and

there’s a train whistle somewhere
off in the distance and
it takes you back 
to a place and 
a time you 
don’t
even care to remember 
where it was or
when. 

back to a place with dirty sheets 
and dust in the corners and 
under the bed and you 
start thinking about 
why and who and 
where and 
how 

and you know it doesn’t really matter 
because there will always be trains 
and beds and sheets and the sun 
coming up as you wait 
for another day 
that’ll bring you that much closer to
whatever it is that’s out there, 
waiting to
finally 

do you 
in.





in dog obedience class…

for once, 
my little Abby
did everything right.

for 
once, 
she didn’t 
bite, jump or pull.

this time
she paid attention

and sat 
and stayed

and came
and listened…

just like all the other dogs.

i can’t tell you how much
i hated 
that.





he was 

drawn 
to this bit 
of graffiti he saw 
written in white paint
on the side of a building. 

it was 
in an alley, 

and it read: 

“fuck the world – 
and fuck you if you don’t love it.” 

later that week, 
looking to get the words just right, 

he 
went back, 

and 
when he 
got there, it was gone – 

not 
just the words

and 
the wall, 

but 
the whole 
damn building. 

torn down. 

gone. 

and, fuck you if you don’t love that.





These poems can be found in John Yamrus’ recent collection: SELECTED POEMS, THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (Concrete Mist Press, 2022), available for purchase here.


In a career spanning more than 50 years as a working writer, John Yamrus has published 35 books (29 volumes of poetry, 2 novels, 3 volumes of non-fiction and a children’s book). He has also had nearly 3,000 poems published in magazines and anthologies around the world. A book of his SELECTED POEMS was just released in Albania, translated into that language by Fadil Bajraj, who is best known for his translations of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bukowski, Ginsberg, Pound and others. 
A number of Yamrus’s books and poems are taught in college and university courses. His most recent book is SELECTED POEMS: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (Concrete Mist Press, 542pp).

Selected Works, Howie Good

Rumored Whereabouts

There was nothing I could do. I was under a car, sheltering from the debris raining down, bricks and glass and chunks of concrete. Until that moment, the state ideological apparatus had obscured the real conditions of our existence. I resolved to henceforth be like the unruly drunks you read about who are unaffected when tasered by a cop – even when tasered again and again. In the meantime, the boat in the nearby slip was on fire. Smoke engulfed my head. I swear I could hear the phone bot saying, “All our representatives are resisting other customers at this time.”





The Little Voice in My Head

People with a history of using LSD are more likely to see faces where there are none. The EMT in the ambulance with me had mint green hair. She was trying frantically to undo some knots in the IV tubing. A little voice in my head said, “What have you learned, and whom have you helped?” The acid I’d taken earlier had lasted longer than expected. It was as if I’d stepped through my eyelids. But the potato chip really did look like Elvis. 





Street Song

A skateboarder in a black T-shirt and holey jeans and backwards baseball cap rolls down the sidewalk under tall leafy trees, and with his arms extended like wings, clutches the top of a brown lunch bag in one hand and, for a kind of counterbalance, a cup of pink strawberry ice cream in the other, and on his face as he passes through splashes of sunshine and shadow not a smug smile precisely or a frown of intense concentration, but a little of both, like something seen in the only ever photograph of a dream.





Death by Emoji

I receive a postcard in the mail guaranteeing me a chance to win one of 1,000 prizes. Me! A man who thinks clouds look like things! Meanwhile, a new study has found frequent emoji users “Wear civilian clothes, pass messages, kill.” It’s not unlike what happened at the world premiere of the Moonlight Sonata. Beethoven played the piano with such violence that the strings snapped and became entangled in the hammers. There have been nights I’ve been woken up by sirens and screams and thought, “You’re in the middle of history now.” Even the worst weather cannot stop it or prevent a personal Jesus from selling counterfeit tickets to heaven behind the KFC. 





Me Being Me

There’s bad shit going on. An unexploded rocket sticking out of a field. Wildfires capable of creating their own weather. Supply chain problems. Often one has to make things oneself in order to have or see them. Just ask meth cooks what that means. Meanwhile, the ground is wet with rain, and yet a book is lying there dry. I pick it up. It’s called Closer to the Light, about the near-death experiences of children. The universe instantly seems smaller, almost claustrophobic. I would construct a bigger universe if I could and insist that there be an “e” in lightning.





American Century

A van drove up with 20 of them, all armed. The police couldn’t – or wouldn’t – do anything. Somehow you slept right through it, the end of the American Century, dead bodies strewn in the road, a few already bloated. 

&

The air is colorless but charged with virus. “Imagine you’re lying in the shade of beautiful trees,” the meditation instructor on Zoom encourages. The coffins keep arriving. 

&

Now I understand what Jeremiah, aka the “Weeping Prophet,” father of orphans and the inventor of mental funk, was saying. He was saying, foreswear this world, if only to not disturb the birds nesting in its empty eye sockets.





Follower 

A man in Warrenton, Missouri, posted a video of himself licking deodorant sticks at the Walmart and asking, “Who’s a coward now?” I was like yes, yes, yes, I want to do that. In those days I would frequently experience such sudden enthusiasms. It was a furious time, with popular pundits preaching that you must kill what is in order to bring about what is not. I didn’t stop to consider that others might be as important to themselves as we are to ourselves. And so the wind rushed in, and the forest swayed, and an army dump truck packed with corpses backed up to the burial trench. 





The Infernal Machine

People would just repeat the same phrases – “Thank you,” “I love you,” “Awesome!” – over and over in the mindless manner of talking dolls. Then the war started there. They took your passport, phone, and money, and locked you up in a room. Now it’s also started here. “Name,” the stern older woman behind the glass commands, hands poised over the keyboard. She doesn’t look at me but focuses her severe gaze on the computer screen. Most of what she says I can’t or don’t want to understand, and they beat me for that. Everything goes dark. The infernal machine has its own internal illumination.




Howie Good's latest poetry book is The Horse Were Beautiful (2022),  available from Grey Book Press. Redhawk Publications is publishing his collection, Swimming in Oblivion: New and Selected Poems, later this year.