Thomas Parrie

Dog Head Park

 

When he gets drunk, Larry tries to kill himself
because he says he would rather die in battle
than grow old, but we all know
he stole the line from War Party

                    (in which the Indian heroes charge
                     the national guard with tomahawks
                     and clubs they stole from a museum).

One time, he got his ass kicked in a fight he started
when he came upon a group of drunks in the woods
and attacked them with a log. He said they fought
like dogs and their teeth

were as white and foul as the stars and tore
off most his skin that will never grow back.
They left him to die in the brush and the mud.

One time, when we were all drinking
he told us our ancestors ate their dogs.
And that they deserved to be conquered,
so we tore off the rest of his skin.

 


Anthropology

 

Wild horses gather at midnight around
the fire of the local bar where they drink
from trough beer and talk crazy dreams in a
language even they can’t understand. When
they tell us their stories they punctuate
them with hoof beats. They look for broken twigs.
They speak broken English. When the sun comes,
their carcasses are eaten by buzzards.
After the bones are cleaned, the skeletons
sink into prairie grass to be dug up
by anthropologists who glue and stitch
and wire them back together. In order
to preserve horse culture, they save the bones
and sell them back to the horses at midnight.

 


Thomas Parrie

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Christine Kitano

A Leaving


Some country is changing
shape, these people fleeing

those people. It is difficult
to name what these people

leave behind. They might open
closets and dresser drawers

but then close them: the wool
coat, so long saved for, too

bulky, the lace underwear still
wrapped in tissue. They might

carry bundles on their backs,
or bags in both hands. Or,

they carry children, wailing
infants swaddled in cotton,

runny-nosed toddlers who
would otherwise fall behind.

By sunset, they walk or run
in orderly rows. Their path

barely lit. The sky a slate on which
no stars dare write a name.

 


Christine Kitano

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Vincent Toro

“Insolvency”

 

Insolvency

 

Callow.                        I once wore you like a limp.
You were throttling and you clung to my waist.
I crowded around the fire exit to the theater

hoping flecks of star carrion might flake off
and pollinate my mouth, and I would find myself
no longer mortified by the persistence of hunger.

Certain there was more than one way
to stop the water from rising,
I hunted down keys for the canal locks.

My ear canals inflamed, I coveted
totems I had no part in sculpting. I devoured lampposts
and out of tune bicycle racks.                        Maimed.

I limped in honor of your cellophane blush
and the rats roosted
in asphalt that threatened

to unveil me and denounce the rehearsed crimp
in my posture.                                     I was frigid
beneath sycamore sewer lines where we last

pretended to be thunder.
I wanted the floor to rise
without having to pay

the debt in bouts of nausea. I wanted to not need
the weight of compliments and I wanted to be
the melody that warded off

the catcalls of accountants
and traffic wardens.             Wingless.             I caroused
through convention halls hocking sofa covers

and commemorative plates like a dry-docked
salmon on probation.                         Defaulted.
I slipped on the epoxy of the ballroom floor
and into parrhesiac moss.


 “The Unscathed”

 

The Unscathed

 

gather in silos of saltshakers
and folded linen. They wait impatiently

for another round of green pills and butter
pats, as if there were no such thing

as a precipice. In a few minutes the factory
will receive a rush order for more artificial

limbs, carafes filled with antidotes
are served to the un-afflicted. The Unscathed

take leave of their plans to inhabit Montauk
for the month of August. Robust delivery

trucks obstruct the view of plasma drying
out on the boulevard. The Unscathed wonder

if it is too late to catch the metro north back
to the musicals they attended in the last

century. The bistro’s grade is pending,
and starlings collude upon the bell

tower, waiting for the Unscathed to drop
their pastry crusts off at the nursery.

Tea pot. Meat grinder. Cyanide kiss.
A vale of eloquent vultures. School will

let out early this afternoon. The Unscathed
will receive a message reminding them that

blood is not thicker than pixels. Undulation.
Sigh. In just a few moments someone

at the bar will complain that they have
waited far too long for their check.

 


Vincent Toro

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James J. Siegel

“Gay Cancer”

 

Gay Cancer

 

When men died of gay cancer
I was only five — preoccupied
combing the manes of
purple ponies,
bending Barbie’s legs to fit
snug in her pink convertible.

The nightly news was a montage
of pale skin and pitted cheeks —
thin, thin bodies and fevered eyes.
Then back to regular programming —
Sequined Solid Gold dancers
twirling to the week’s top ten.

I twirled in my driveway like
Linda Carter in her star-spangled shorts
while the white hot sun bleached
the neighborhood streets
and the GRID sparked to life.

That was the summer a sick boy
took a dip in the city pool.
So they drained the water,
scrubbed the tiles clean
and waited for the all clear.
No one could be too safe.

So we made due with the Slip ‘n Slide,
grape Kool-Aid and Rocket Pops,
our mothers with their menthols,
lawn chairs and lemonade,
deconstructing the perfect Hollywood male —
Tom Selleck versus Burt Reynolds.

And sometimes they whispered
Theories on transmission — saliva, blood,
soft men — loose-hipped and high-heeled
wasting away in San Francisco, New York,
one or two in Toledo, Ohio,
if the gossip was true.

I left adult talk to adults
and helped by best friend wrap
her hair in Princess Leia buns,
ignored the debates on disease, disappointment,
a boy’s unnatural desire to slip
his bare foot in a sheer stocking.

The years that followed brought us
the great nail polish panic,
licorice red fingers and toes,
Ryan White in Kokomo,
bullets shot through his living room window.
We could never be too safe.

So my mother locked up her makeup case
and my father pulled me under
the remains of a rusted Chevy Blazer,
pointing out car parts like constellations,
slowly, patiently teaching me
the importance of fixing damaged pieces.

 


“Massillion”


Massillon


If you are boy

born in Massillon, Ohio,
you will be visited
by the booster club.
They will come baring gifts —
a little rubber football
placed in your basinet —
Go Tigers!
emblazoned on the side.

It’s a simple gesture,
a gentle push that says
God damn it,
you will learn to throw.

You will be baptized
in driveways and backyards
during that winter-waiting period
before the pre-season,
when boys learn the fine art
of the wrist snap,
when their frozen breath
is thicker than the smoke
spilling from the mills.

There will be penance
for the things your father did,
for the things he couldn’t do —
the incomplete pass,
the sideline sack.
You will need to do it better
than generations before.
Charge the defensive line
with 100 years of history
stacked on your padded shoulders.

You will eat of this,
drink of this and pray for this
in the locker room,
in the huddle,
in the months before the big rivalry.

Our Father, who aren’t in heaven
let us beat the bulldogs,
let us kill McKinley.
And you will taste this

when those scoreboard seconds
tick off another victory,
another head bowed,
another knee touching the field. 

And if all goes as planned
you will fall in love with this,
commit yourself to the autumn clatter —
young bodies colliding,
the formations on the field,
the coaches whistle.

You will fall in love with Friday nights
when the stadium lights burn
brighter than Venus and Jupiter.
You may settle down
with a scholarship at State
or settle in for your life
bending steel at the plant

But if the opposite is true,
if you go long for that Hail Mary pass
and it fumbles from your fingers,
letting down an entire town —
Remember, you can cut back
past bleachers,
past parking lots
with their crepe paper floats,
past Republic Steel,
the Family Farm and Feed.
Rush to the Lincoln Highway,
that famous road
that charges through Massillon
to other territories,
to other states
on its way to another coast.
Keep going and thank the Lord
you learned how to run
as soon as you learned to walk.

 


James J. Siegel

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Chen Chen

“Church on a Wednesday”

 

Church on a Wednesday

 

Laid out on the long wooden table, the donuts.
You may laugh at this, but it’s true.

They were better than all the crumbly cereal,
the stiff little packets of tea, instant coffee.
I couldn’t think charity with those donuts before me,
sweetness swollen to the size of baseball gloves.
& bursting—pink, white, even purple.

Can you remember something as wonderful?
My mother let me carry one home, the one I liked best.
At home, I couldn’t wait. I got down on the naked floor.
Yes, I knelt, I held the treasure, its perfect
purple-filled weight in two hands,
my hands.

& my mother glared at me.
Don’t eat, she said, like a poor person.

& the jelly oozed out, a drop fell to the floor.
But purple isn’t, can’t be poor.
I know from books what purple is:
the color of kings, the royal dye
Hercules discovered, the secret gold
of sea snails on an ancient coast,
the mountains & their majesty,
the heart, its bravery.
Believe me.

 


 

“Irreducible Sociality”

 

Irreducible Sociality

 

No need to remind me of our mutual
friend, the professorial candidate, who’s
steeped in the most thoughtful

of French thought, like a plum
in sweet wine, & who thus tells us how
we must bow before the Other or else risk

our own dehumanization. I know.
But must we really go, on this hellishly
cold winter’s night, to your co-worker’s

going-away, in a tiny downtown bar
where all must jostle for a spot, & nothing
good is ever played on the jukebox?

OK, OK. With great humanitarian effort,
I too put on my heavy coat, ready to step
out. But then you kiss me, & we fall, flop,

our altruistic gesture dropped, giving way
to cuddling, again. It seems tonight
that neither of us can embrace more than

one Other, no matter how fine it sounds
in French. So can’t we just stay in bed,
in our coats, pressed against each

(singular) Other, & otherwise adhering to
Sartre’s l’enfer c’est les autres, till we fall asleep
& dream that we went, that our

dream-throats drank down an appropriately
wild amount of beer, & our dream-hands
threw, one stunning fluke round, a winning

dart? & afterwards, we texted everyone:
Don’t be a stranger, but be
strange. Come by often for a cup of tea,

in all your unbridled unknowability.

 


Chen Chen

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Laura Da’

 “The Haskell Marching Band” & “Passive Voice”

 

The Haskell Marching Band

 

In the basement of Haskell Indian School,
she was one of the girls standing assembly style
pressing flour into pie tins.

Long hours at the school’s foundry made him crepuscular.
Accustomed to seeing his shadow in waxy pre-dawn light,
he would pause near the basement bakery’s vent,
warmth blossoming around his ankles as he placed his boots in the slush
and stomped out a tune that she’d recognize
from the last night’s band rehearsal.

After graduation, they married:
the band had to find
another trumpeter—
the quartet a new flutist.

Thirteen summers of work release—
eighteen-hour days and humid hayloft nights
allowed him to buy his trumpet from the music instructor.
The flute stayed behind.

 


 

Passive Voice

 

I use a trick to teach students
how to avoid passive voice.
Circle the verbs.
Imagine inserting “by zombies”
after each one.
Have the words been claimed
by the flesh-hungry undead?
If so, passive voice.
I wonder if these
sixth graders will recollect,
on summer vacation,
as they stretch their legs
on the way home
from Yellowstone or Yosemite
and the byway’s historical marker
beckons them to the
site of an Indian village— 

Where trouble was brewing.
Where, after further hostilities, the army was directed to enter.
Where the village was razed after the skirmish occurred.
Where most were women and children.

Riveted bramble of passive verbs
etched in wood—
stripped hands
breaking up from the dry ground
to pinch the meat
of their young red tongues.

 


Laura Da’

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Tiffany Midge

 A Love Story

 

The blood stain on the towel.

After making love left.

The impression.

Of a perfectly shaped pair of cartoon lips.

The cartoon kiss a shock of crimson.

I took a photo.

It reminded you of your first time.

With Midori, your then-wife.

In a love hotel rented by the hour.

Which virtually populates every corner.

Of Tokyo.

Your imprint on the sheet celebrated.

The Japanese flag.

It was a thing of beauty, you said.

Our love inspiring flawlessness, you said.

Round orb of brightness.

Or panic.

Your then-wife rushed to the bath to scrub it out.

 


 

Distress

 

The waiter refills my glass
then a crash
almost collapses the awning.
Rain staccatos the roof,
and bullets come to mind
because earlier on the phone
inviting me to dinner,
telling of the details,
I imagined a murder
to rival Capote’s opus, but it wasn’t,
rather your brother-in-law who owned too many books
took his old mother with him,
natural causes, the police
told you, heart panics, heat strokes,
or loneliness and your husband’s
away, so here we are.
                                    In Kosovo, little boys
ran after your interpreter’s
VW Rabbit begging for cigarettes. What is a Newark
house with too many books?
What is a torn country? They love Americans!
Because we bombed the Kurds.

                                    In Newark, a double death.
It pours outside.
The sky’s a fist of tobacco,
and the night smells like pennies and blood,
our first rain in months.
From my current read, The Bookseller of Kabul,
I tell you that the Taliban outlawed

kite flying but not polygamy.
                                    My windshield wiper breaks.
I drive home with your bath towel
in my lap, Scotch tape holding
the blade together. You fly to Newark
to see to burials and a labyrinth of books,
unforeseen rain that surrenders
to gravity, a luminous source of light
trailing from war-torn cities.

 


Tiffany Midge

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Kelly McQuain

Biography

Kelly McQuain is the author of Velvet Rodeo, the winner of  Bloom Magazine‘s annual poetry chapbook. His writing has appeared recently in The Pinch, Redivider, Weave, Chelsea Station, Assaracus, Kestrel, Mead and Chelsea Station, among other journals. His work has been collected in such anthologies as Men on Men, Best American Erotica, Skin & Ink, The Queer South, and Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books. McQuain’s occasional columns on city life appear in The Philadelphia Inquirer. He teaches at Community College of Philadelphia.