Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Guest Writer: J.O. Vaughn


物の哀れ. It’s written with a silver sharpie pen on top of Bethany’s latest sketchbook journal. I don’t know what it means but I have to admire the patience it must have taken for her to write out the characters, this means something important for her. I only hope she remembers when she looks at it again. Bethany is resting on the chaise in the living room but all her research materials are scattered around the floor. She’s had another tantrum and by the looks of things it was serious. Inside the 物の哀れ notebook is a small sketch in the bottom right corner, a tree losing its blossoms, they’re being carried away by some majestic current and I can’t be sure but something tells me the drawing is incomplete; there is something missing that should be between the roots.
Picking up another notebook – the one I’d seen her carrying over the last few days – I can see just how difficult things have been: what use to be delicate calligraphy now looks like something a third grader would scribble on a good day. A lot of the words and sentences – most are incoherent and misspelled – have been scratched through, some so harshly it has torn the page, and where her ink pen had been left to bookmark her last page the last thing she’d done was draw several pictures: what looks like a hospital bed, mail with dollar signs on them, and a frowning face, the art doesn’t begin to measure the quality in the sketchbook but this wasn’t meant to be a work of art and when I look back at the sentences I know what it means now.
Having finished my duty, a sense of pride for having been able to do it without waking her, I move to gaze at my queen. She looks flushed, a soft rose color in her cheeks which, under normal circumstances, would have been flattering with her soft brown complexion, except I can see where the tears ran down her face. Her glasses were on her laptop and so tracing her steps she must have quit trying to hand-write her ideas and after it got too difficult to even type them, perhaps the brightness of the screen was just too much, she tossed it all aside and decided to cry herself to sleep. It has been a very rough night for her.
I’m drowning in memories of the last few weeks – she is beginning to lose comprehension not only of words but more simple things like when the water is scolding hot against her skin; she says she feels cold and can’t get warm. Her decline accelerates but she never shows me this side, she always manages to give a smile whenever I’m around but she hasn’t noticed she doesn’t sing anymore so I know just how truly depressed she feels. Thinking of this morning when she sent me off to work with a kiss and a smile, embracing it for a second, I don’t notice she’s been awake, perhaps for some time, and staring at me until she rests her hand on my knee, “I’m not going back to the doctors.”
She voice is passive but determined and knowing her the way I do and seeing her recent work I understand she rather die than leave me bankrupt as well as alone. If she weren’t looking at me with her empathic brown eyes, that transcended look of hers, I would have allowed myself to rage but there’s nothing I can do, “I was going to make myself some coffee. Cranberry juice?”
She shakes her head, “Mono no aware,” she says barely audible as she sits up and points at her sketchbook which is sitting on top of the rest of her reference materials.
I’m not sure if she is speaking coherently or if this is another episode of hers, “What,” I ask nervously.
“On the sketchbook, that’s what it says, ‘Mono no aware’.”
“Which means?”
“Wiki says it means ‘the pathos of things’. It’s Japanese. I had to look up a lot to understand that I already understood it. It’s what I’ve been feeling lately. More and more lately,” she gestures for me to give her the book.
I can’t begin to fathom what she’s talking about, she has always had the upper hand when it came to anything academic, I’ll have to look it up later after she’s fallen asleep. I don’t want to seem ignorant – lately she hasn’t had the patience to put up with it – I just don’t want her to stop talking, “Where did it come from?”
“A friend. Sebastian. We were talking and I told him about a dream I had. It’s a dream I’ve always had when I was a child but it’s back and been haunting me lately. I dream about sakura. Laying in a bed of sakura, cherry blossoms. The petals swarming around me, burying me, but it’s so peaceful. I don’t ever want to leave it and I get mad when I have to wake up. Sebastian says sakura is associated with death. I looked it up for myself and that’s when I saw it: Mono no aware.”
Her eyes are losing focus, and she’s lost grip of the notebook, I can’t let this happen before she tells me everything. In the morning she will have forgotten it all and right now she looks so content, she needs to remember about the sakura, “And?”
“And what?”
“Mono no aware.”
It’s too late, I know before she even asks, “What’s that?”
I can’t bring myself to tell her it’s happened again, “Nothing,” I stand, bringing her along with me, and carrying her to our bed I just let her have peace, “Just something I heard about, thought you’d be interested being the family genius and everything; something to do with sakura. You can look it up in the morning.”
She murmurs as she presses closer to me, “I want to – sakura,” and she’s gone.

© J.O. Vaughn 2011

J. O. Vaughn lives in Winston-Salem, NC where she spends most of her time researching having a passion for knowledge which she uses for her writing. Feel free to check out her website Inkslingers Anon. She appreciates constructive criticism.

Guest Writer: Cath Barton

Heading for Lake Titicaca

My left shoulder felt like someone had punched me, a bright light was hurting my eyes and there were rustling noises all around. It was not meant to be like this. I had planned it all out in my mind the previous night and by this time I should have been on a bus heading south. Instead of which I was stumbling upright in a cornfield, barely out of a dream in which I was sitting at a restaurant table with Laura and all was as it should have been. Before it happened. I shook my head and bent forward, squinting in the effort of listening. Nothing. There were probably all kinds of small creatures living in the field. Just as well they had woken me because I needed to move on. Although only the sun’s rays could see through that ripening corn, there would be people out looking for me.
I pulled on my jacket and plunged my hands into its deep pockets. There was something hard and smooth in the left-hand one. My breath bubbled in my chest. Surely I hadn’t picked up that...? Trembling now, I pulled the object out. Chocolate. I started shaking with relief and stupid laughter, broke off two squares and forced myself to eat them slowly. Wrapped the rest of the bar carefully and pushed it to the bottom of my backpack, under my few clothes.
Two hours later I was on the bus, squashed between a woman with a basket of squawking chickens and an old man chewing coca. This was fine. They were not people who were going to ask questions of a dishevelled white man. They’d think me just another backpacker. I dozed as the bus bumped along the badly-made road. Next thing I knew I was being elbowed by the woman. “You deaf or stupid or what?” she was yelling. Then I realised that she was trying to stand up and that we had entered a built-up area. Small dusty houses with small dusty gardens in front of them. I grunted at the masticating man and we both edged into the crowded gangway for the woman to get off the bus, which was shuddering to a halt with an agonised squeal of brakes.
Pushed against the window now by the man’s spread legs, I peered through its grime at the crowd. They were gathered round a small group of women wearing tiered dresses of many colours with fringed shawls and bowler hats. My neighbour was pointing at them. “They’re wrestlers,” he said. “We have this tradition in Bolivia.” It seemed a weird costume to wear for wrestling, but then lots of things about this country were turning out to be weird.
Images flashed in front of my eyes. Of that man coming into the restaurant the night before. Of Laura standing up as he came towards us....
“How long you staying here? You want to see the wrestlers?” The man was dragging me up and before I could protest we were off the bus. “You’re looking pale, man,” he said. “You want some coca?” In my confused state I thought he was offering me drugs, and the last thing I wanted was something else the police could try and pin on me. “No, no,” I protested. But he persisted. “It’s too high up here for you white boys. You chew the coca and you’ll feel better.”
So there we were, me and this old guy, crouching on the ground in a small town on the Bolivian Altiplano, chewing coca leaves and watching women in fancy dress wrestling. “You want to see Lake Titicaca?” he asked me. “Sure,” I replied casually. But my heart was thumping. The lake was where Laura and I had been heading. Till that deranged man had come into the restaurant. But I couldn’t say anything about that to this guy. “I’m going up that way tomorrow,” he continued, “Got a reed boat at a place called Suriqui. I’d welcome some company. Travelling alone you must get lonely too, don’t you?”
I’d never heard of Suriqui, and I was sure it hadn’t been on our itinerary. So although the police might head for Lake Titicaca, it was one hell of a big expanse of water and they would not be expecting to find me in the company of a Bolivian fisherman. Now that the whole of life had become a gamble, this sounded as good a one to take as any. The guy told me his name was Fortunato and offered me a bed for the night in his little house.
I slept comfortably, and when I awoke next day I turned to tell Laura. But of course she wasn’t there. And then I remembered the man rushing up, shouting, and pulling out the knife, and dropping it before most people saw, and people surrounding me, and me running and running...
It took a full day to get to Suriqui. There was a group of English people there, come to see these reed boats. There was a buzz going on about something. I was curious, in an anxious way, so I hung around near the group. Sure enough, I heard the name Laura. “Excuse me,” I said, with foolhardy bravado, “Has there been some accident?”
“Not exactly,” one of them said, “Seems a guy thought his girlfriend was being attacked and ran off. Now they can’t find him and she thinks something’s happened to him.”
Not dead then. My Laura. So now I could go back. But the funny thing was, I suddenly wasn’t sure whether that was what I wanted to do. I flipped a coin in my head. Heads I stay. Heads it was.
So that’s how I came to be spending my life on the shores of Lake Titicaca, mending the reed boats , taking the tourists out for trips and chewing coca leaves with my friend Fortunato. I count myself very lucky to have met him.

© Cath Barton 2011

Cath Barton is English, of Scottish descent, and lives in Wales. She blogs on the 6S Social Network and is published here and there, including in 100 Stories for Queensland (forthcoming).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guest Writer: Elliott Cox

Lightning Strikes

"Where do I go from here?" I asked. I was driving through an unfamiliar part of the state with my friend Matt, who guaranteed me that the trip was worth it. Matt said, "You go straight, where else would you go?" I said, "What? Drive right through the gate?"

"No, Einstein, you see those tire tracks that go AROUND the gate? Use em." After a knowing nod from Matt, I drove through the ditch and around the gate that had a sign attached to it with barbed wire. The sign bore the spray painted words, Jesus forgives trespassers. I make sure he stays busy. I said, "Are you sure that this is okay?" He said, "Jeez, man, I've been out here in the county dozens of times. Trust me for once would you?" He was laughing as he said it, so I drove on.

A few minutes later, Matt and I pulled into a driveway that led to nothing but trees. I asked, "Are you sure this is it?" He was already out the door and walking backwards toward the edge of the woods, which I thought was a bit odd, until I saw the huge man wearing overalls aiming a double-barreled shotgun at him. I hadn't completely sorted that vision out in my mind before Matt muddied it up even more by smiling in my direction and waving me over. I've never had a shotgun shoved into my back, but I don't think that my first reaction would be to smile and wave my friend onto the battlefield; I've known Matt long enough to know that the crazy prick mostly knows what he's doing, so I followed suit.

When I backed up beside Matt, all questions of what I would do if I ever had a gun shoved into the small of my back were answered: I peed a little bit. Matt said, "Lou, Phil...Phil, Lou." The man that I assumed was Lou said, "The hell you boys doin owcheer?" Matt said, "Come on, Lou. You remember me don't you? I've bought at least three jugs of shine from you. Matt? Come on, man."

Judging by the increased pressure of the twin twelve gauge barrels digging into my back, Lou wasn't impressed with Matt's reply. He said, "Dunno no Matt. You boys is the po-leese ain'tcha? Coupla narcs, huh. Musta dint read the sign when you come past my gate." After he said "come past my gate," Lou made a sound like “uh-huh” that I thought was him clearing his throat, until he clicked his teeth twice. When I made the connection that Lou had such an audible nervous tick, I almost laughed...despite the gun pressed against my tenderloin. I looked over at a wide-eyed Matt, who was pleading silently for me to let it go. The combination of seeing Matt scared almost to death and the hillbilly spitting on the back of my neck made things easy for me: I let it go.

Matt said, “No, Lou. No, man. You’ve got it all wrong. You really don’t remember me? Matt? We’re just looking to buy a couple of quarts from you. We’re not the cops, Lou, I swear.”

Uh-huh click click. “Why’nt you boys lead the way,” Lou said, gesturing toward the wood line. I followed Matt’s lead because it looked like he had been through this drill before. About a hundred-fifty yards into the woods, we walked into a clearing that held but a small wooden shack and a contraption that was about the size of a Buick, but looked like an old steam locomotive. When we rounded the corner between the locomotive and the shack, we saw two old, frail-looking men sitting in chairs that were leaned against the side of the shack. The one with the beard down to his gut asked, “Whatcha got here, Lou?”

“These here boys say they wanna buy some lightnin. Say they ain’t po-leese.” The beard looked to his right and told his buddy to pat us down before turning back to Lou and saying, “Christ, Lou. Put yer gun down offem. They look too scared to run.” He looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, “They wouldn’t get too far if’n they tried, anyways.” Note to self: If we get out of this alive, kill Matt. After our uncomfortably thorough pat down, the beard said, “So you boys wanna buy summa Carolina’s finest, huh?” Matt said, “Yes, sir. We would like to get two quarts from you, if you don’t mind.”

“Boy, don’t you never call me sir again. I bet you’s just a couple a college boys, ain’tcha?” Matt cleared his throat and said, “Yes, si...ahem, yes, we are.” The beard lit a cigarette, looked straight at me, and said, “Mmm-hmm. An I betcha boys wanna impress all that college tail by tellin em how you came out to the hills and got some moonshine from the hicks owcheer. I bet you tell em how we was sittin round the liquor still in our overhalls and pickin a banjer, won’tcha. All that ‘purty mouth’ stuff an all. That whachoo gon do, boy?” Matt started to speak, but the beard kept his eyes on me, pointed a finger at Matt, and said, “I weren’t talking to you, boy. I wanna hear what blondie here has to say bout it.” From behind me, I heard uh-huh click click.

I turned Don’t say sir, don’t say sir over and over in my mind before I said, “My friend here told me that he knew where to get some really good moonshine. The pure stuff. I’ve never had any before, you see. We’re having a party this weekend and thought that it would be cool to have some there. We do want to impress the girls, but there’s no way in hell that we are going to tell anybody where we got it.” I realized that I was rambling because I was scared almost to death, so I cut myself off. The beard held my gaze and I saw his eyes soften a bit. He said, “Get em two quarts, Lou.” Matt and I both sagged a little from the rush of relief. Matt said, “So how much do we owe you?” I could’ve slapped him.

The beard’s eyes hardened again. He said, “Gimmee your wallets.” My hand was immediately in my back pocket, but Matt hesitated until I dug my elbow into his ribs. He handed me his wallet, I handed both of them to the beard. He opened mine, looked at my driver’s license, and closed it. As he opened Matt’s wallet, the beard said, “Goin rate’s twenny five a quart.” He thumbed through Matt’s cash and pulled a hundred dollar bill out and put it in his shirt pocket. “But I think you’re a little asshole, so you pay you buy both of em.” He nodded toward me and said, “Don’t you never ask him for his half, neither.” The beard pulled Matt’s driver’s license from his wallet and examined it before putting it in his shirt pocket alongside the money and said, “If we get raided by the po-leece in the next month, me an Lou will see you after our bail gets posted.” He handed my wallet back to me and threw Matt’s on the ground in front of him.

Lou came around the corner holding two mason jars filled with clear liquid and asked the beard, “They squared up, pops?” The beard nodded and Lou handed us a quart each. The beard said, “Nice doin bidness with ya, boys. I reckon you can see your own way out.” Without a word, that’s what we did.

After thirty minutes of silence on the ride back home, Matt asked, “So are you going to give me half?” I laughed and said, “Why don’t you just consider it a ‘stupid tax’ and take that as a lesson in keeping your mouth shut.” I made sure that Matt was in charge of passing the quart jars around at the party that night, and I made an extra effort to let everyone in attendance know that we had some “real stuff” available, “All you have to do is go ask Matt for a snort and he will hook you right up.” I followed each and every person that staggered up to Matt that night seeking a taste of Carolina’s finest. Like clockwork, every person brave enough to take a taste would say, “You got a purty mouth, boy” before turning the jar up. Matt would screw his face up almost as much as the person that was experiencing moonshine for the first time. Without giving Matt a chance to recover, I would say, “Hey, Matt, you have to tell them how you got the shine! You guys are going to love this story, uh-huh click click,” and I would walk away. A hundred bucks and a driver’s license says that he will never give me any grief about it.

© Elliott Cox 2011

Elliott Cox is a father, son, aircraft mechanic, college student, writer, and musician. Not always in that order, and never all at the same time. Elliott writes in both of his spare minutes, but never without the help of his friends.
Editor's Note: A very special thanks goes to Elliott for his putting together of a terrific video helping MuDJoB celebrate its first anniversary of Guest Writes. The video can be seen here.

Guest Poet: Stephen Torelli

The Ironic Garden

Born in a garden the plans begin;
the courageous commander submits to sin.
He plans his carnage and promotions too
within the garden’s quilted hue.
Fountains, flora, and fauna galore,
warring warriors at destiny’s door.
Death and horror are his show…
it ain’t TV or radio.

Peaceful gardens it may seem
are the center of mankind’s dream.
And though the General drafts his plan
without the help from any man,
what are the garden’s astounding sights
that assist this soldier with his plight?
Is it the roses, and violets too,
or the spangled sunlight’s hue?

Popping poppies in this patch,
posing posies here to match.
Tangled tulips for your eye,
budding blossoms make you sigh.
Willowy willows on that site,
brilliant buttercups shine at night.
Pungent peppers for your taste;
Poisoned pears…don’t make haste.

Hatched in a garden, the plans are complete,
twisted tombstones at your feet.

© Stephen Torelli 2011

Stephen Torelli teaches Citizenship in a New York City High School and frequently contributes to The 6S Social Network.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guest Writer: Barry Basden

Three Short Pieces

In the City of Ruined Cathedrals
She puts on white makeup, a white gown and shawl, then leaves her room in the pale early morning. Like some virgin specter, she drifts past the abandoned kaserne, searching for movement at empty windows, certain of enemy soldiers lurking there.

South Oak Cliff
Four of us kids in my weedy front yard. Mayes and Fergie, a year older, watch Jimmy Pickard pound my left arm as I circle, try to keep my guard up. We wear boxing gloves my father gave me last Christmas, thin maroon leather. Make a man outta you, he said. I skirt the shade of the chinaberry, move steadily away from Jimmy's fistful of asps. He grunts, lunges again, his eyes rat fierce.

How to Make It Through the Night
Don't answer calls from your ex-husband. Hold yourself in your arms, rock gently. Hum something soothing. Don't think about Bobby on his tricycle behind your van that day.

© Barry Basden 2011

Barry Basden lives in the Texas hill country with his wife and two yellow Labs. His writing has appeared here and there. He is coauthor of CRACK! AND THUMP: WITH A COMBAT INFANTRY OFFICER IN WORLD WAR II and edits Camroc Press Review.

Guest Writer: Eric G. Müller


I sat at the back of the packed hall, waiting for my turn to perform a duet with the resident flautist. We were last on the program, the highlight of the evening – the finale. It would be my formal debut into the new school community, both as a teacher and accompanist. It would also be my debut playing a classical piece after ten years of rock and roll, but that bit of info I kept to myself.

Financial desperation and a tad of hubris led me to take the job as a piano accompanist at the school where my wife had graduated. There was an opening and I auditioned. As a kid I’d taken piano lessons for a couple of years, but I gave that up to play guitar. I went back to the piano when I noticed most rock bands needed keyboardists. I played by ear and improvised, emulating maestros like Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Vangelis and Chick Corea. After my stint as a rock musician I resumed my academic studies, going to grad school where I met my wife. She played the violin, and in order to accompany her, I decided to learn how to read music again. By the time I auditioned I could play two pieces by heart. I only pretended I could read the music, and my renditions of Schumann’s “Von fremden Ländern und Menshen,” and a Chopin nocturne were only so-so. But they loved my improvisations. I got the job and now had to pay my dues.

The air was stuffy, the program too long, and my solar plexus shot nervous currents up my spinal cord. I hadn’t wanted to play with Mrs. Googlin. She was the best flautist around and I didn’t feel ready to play publicly yet, especially not a piece by Bach; the driving polyphonic texture confused my fingers. But she assured me it was very simple and that I would have no trouble at all. She’d heard me play a few times at different events – coffee houses, parties, cabarets, weddings – but each time I’d played by ear, or improvised. She thought I was brilliant, and besides, she couldn’t find anybody else. I yielded.

And now I was mentally preparing myself, going over every note in my mind, imagining my fingers flitting with precision over the keys. The children were getting increasingly restless and the program was never-ending.

I’d practiced like mad. I learned the whole thing by heart (my third piece). I played it ad nauseam, to the exasperation of wife and neighbors. But when I rehearsed together with Mrs. Googlin I still faltered. She assured me that I’d be fine. “And you still have a few days to perfect your playing.” We hadn’t practiced since, and now I was stuck in this stifling concert hall, waiting to go on.

At last our turn came. Amidst applause we stepped on stage. As I sat down by the grand piano she whispered to me, “Whatever you do, don’t stop. Just keep on playing.” I nodded. The expectant silence set in. My head was filled with noxious smog after the long wait and the lack of ventilation (too much carbon dioxide). Mrs. Googlin nodded and I began.

Not three measures into the piece and I made my first mistake. I should have stopped right there, smiled, breathed deeply and started again (after all I had rehearsed it hundreds of times), but I didn’t, because she’d told me not to. At the flute entrance my blunders began to multiply, and my clammy hands started trembling, but I didn’t stop – just like when I used to play with the band, Tokolosh. I was their keyboardist and frontman. We were an unstoppable sonic avalanche even when we witnessed fights and melees erupting in the mosh pit, or when tables, chairs and bottles went flying in clubs and bars. I used to strut across the stage like Jagger and scream like Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant. I postured and played the part of the proverbial rock star; I was a demigod backed by an arsenal of amps and a towering PA system. And who cared about mistakes, anyway? It was part of the metal grit we hurled at the gyrating mass beyond the blinding spotlights. But now I cared, each blatant error drawing blood.

She played beautifully, though her silvery notes did not coincide with mine. I was not even sure whether we were following the same measures or tempo. The hall had become a morgue, and I was hyper perceptive to the audience’s sudden attentiveness as they listened to the gradual tonal implosion. Her words propelled me forward. So I adhered to the credo: the show must go on!

By now I was utterly lost, though I scurried around the key of E flat major like a beheaded turkey, hoping to find my way back to the melodic path – anywhere along the way would do. Pleadingly I glanced up at the formidable Mrs. Googlin, but she tooted right on, playing with fierce determination – no stopping this iron-woman. And where was that flagrant rocker, oozing with self-confidence? By now Bach had morphed into an atonal collage of chance encounters between distorted sharps, flats and accidentals crashing into one another – 4’33” of noise. Children began to snicker, which underscored the expanding, oppressive mood surrounding the inexorable butchering of Bach.

I leaned forward, swaying with the music, as if it was heart-wrenchingly moving. All the while I felt the sweat run down my face and neck, seeping through my scalp, draining into my collar, trickling down my chest and back, soaking my shirt. The piece in its entirety was hardly five minutes long, but I’d begun to understand the concept of eternal hell and damnation. As heavy metal macho-men we used to conjure forth doom and gloom images for show, but now I was living it – payback time. I was plunging down a precipice, head first, feeling the fatal pull of gravity.

At last I heard Mrs. Googlin play the final long, soft notes, and I knew we’d arrived at the end. I played the last chord in unison with her, but even at this moment I struck a minor instead of a major chord. At least it was played molte piano.

Amidst isolated and perfunctory clapping, Mrs. Googlin walked off in a huff. I, in turn, got up, grabbed my score and took cover behind the black grand, fumbling with a plastic bag I found on the floor. Thus occupied, scrunching my music into the dusty bag, I waited till everybody had left, before sneaking out the back entrance – a fallen rock star. For a moment I'd thought of apologizing, of seeking her out, but then her voice resounded in my ears, "Whatever you do, don't stop."

© Eric G. Müller 2011

Eric G. Müller is a musician, teacher and writer. He has written two novels, Rites of Rock (Adonis Press 2005) and Meet Me at the Met (Plain View Press, 2010), as well as a collection of poetry, Coffee on the Piano for You (Adonis Press, 2008). Articles, short stories and poetry have appeared in various journals and magazines.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Guest Poet: Brad Rose

Arrow of Time

No one prepares you for this, certainly not at school,
but when you turn fifty,
the arrow of time reverses.
Everything spools backward:
your best deeds shrug undone,
echoes ricochet back into throats,
volcanoes bury their heads in sand.

In sifting sieves, the hours empty themselves,
their hour-glassed seconds, vacant Saharas.
Your memories become children,
infantilized at the mere thought of now.
Zeno halves the distance,
until next to nothing remains,
zero’s empty egg.

When, at last, you reach the gleaming bead of origin,
a tiny speck in the chromosomes of clocks,
you are nothing, again,
ciphered and concentric,
waiting for your fathers to be born,
your mothers to be loved,
waiting for something taut and true
to take slow, deliberate aim at you,
and with perfect point and pitch,


© Brad Rose 2011

Brad Rose's poetry and fiction have appeared in: Third Wednesday, Off the Coast, Barely South Review, San Pedro River Review. Tattoo Highway, Boston Literary Magazine, Imagination and Place, Right Hand Pointing, FutureCycle Poetry, Unfold,, Six Sentences, Fiction at Work, Monkeybicycle, Up and Under/QND Review, Getting Something Read, Espresso Stories, SMITH Magazine, SpokenWar, Pow Fast Flash Fiction, Six Little Things, Short, Fast and Deadly, Staccato, and Blink Ink.

Guest Poet: William Doreski

Three Poems

Lyra, Cygnus, Libra, Scorpius

Documents litter the table. Charts,
graphs, memos. Nothing important,
but the clutter lends dignity
to the meeting of our minds.
You look rumpled by intellect,

the wrinkles of your summer dress
corresponding to the powerful
convolutions of your brain. We nod
over competing data and frame
criteria to assess. The moon

basting the lawn outside rebukes
our slackened postures, our lack
of prowess. I’m too old to name
myself after the summer stars—
Lyra, Cygnus, Libra, Scorpius.

And you’re too reflective to share
my love of nighthawks cackling
through the humid dark. Extinct
in most of the state they thrive
still in Keene for some reason

ornithologists haven’t discerned.
We have to complete this proposal
if it takes all night. Lightning flares
a hundred miles north, gilding the sky
for an instant. I gather a mess

of papers and shuffle while I think.
You fix your brown gaze on me.
With a rustle of your cotton dress
a surge of will exudes to force me
to accept your proposition;

but I don’t understand its language,
which isn’t Indo-European
but something fevered by the dark
matter of the universe, which bulks
so mightily between us.

Tossing Your Room

Tossing your room for contraband,
I find underwear large enough
to decorate a rhino, glasses
thick as plywood, three huge wigs
clumsy as shag carpeting. Whose
are these? Not yours, not anyone’s,
but planted to bemuse me.

Light thickens in the window. Storms
approach with their petticoats flaring.
A siren razors the avenue
as police respond to famous crimes.
I’ve bundled these silly objects
into evidence bags. Evidence
of your improper irony,
your groping, speculative mind.

I’ve also stolen your sex toys,
whether plastic, leather, or bone,
bagged your bags of marijuana
and the vials of crack and crystal meth
you hid behind the wainscoting
in your spare bedroom where lovers
disgruntled by your humours hide.

The first sheets or rain shatter
against the side of the building.
Your room smells like the closets
where families keep their skeletons.
For years you’ve expected me
to search it, leaving your door unlocked
and shouting down the hall as you leave
for your wild nights in vodka bars.

Now I’m sorry. The wigs suggest
beheadings, the glasses muddle
rather than correct my eyesight,
and the underwear would transform me
into the saddest of transvestites
if I were fool enough to wear it
even with no one looking.

Magic Easy to Believe

Arguing at the grave of a witch
hanged in the seventeenth century
you deny that magic can heal
the ruptures in the social fabric
and the leaking oil well in the Gulf.
I want to bring back the stigma

if not the fact of black magic
to frighten our smug politicians
into cleaning up the planet.
You deny, but when you spotted
that car parked at the graveyard
with license plate reading ZOMBIES

you doubted your own denial.
A man toting a tripod with no
camera or telescope attached
may have been the zombie-master
who oversees nightly excursions
in search of edible brains.

Voodoo, you agree, is magic
easy to believe. Its followers,
if they actually attempt to live
on brains, would probably starve
in these united states. None the less
I argue that faith can resolve

the wounds the planet has suffered
if the politicians fear powers
that lobbyists can never bribe.
The witch’s gravestone bears
an hourglass and a curse to keep
the creature dead and decomposed.

You laugh because I want to claim
her powers had some currency
in her era, but the wind in the pines
speaks her language, and the lilt
of a song sparrow by the river
elegizes us as well as her.

© William Doreski 2011

William Doreski's work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently Waiting for the Angel (Pygmy Forest Press, 2009).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

MuDJoB Guest Writes: First Anniversary


Two small people carry one large thing and an argument ensues,
It ends with the big thing left on the street when one of them blows a fuse.
A patient sues his doctor and the lawyer sports new shoes,
The doctor makes excuses, saying, “I’m always the one they accuse!”
Fans at the game are anxious to see the visitors lose,
Though the leading player rolls on the ground and rubs a swelling bruise.
Mom and Dad watch a crime in progress on the local news;
A hateful man in an interview hurts with the words he spews.
Three competing suitors are hoping the beauty will choose
Against a backdrop of music and hearts of pink in varying hues.
The tenants default on their rent with excuses by ones and by twos,
And complain of the neighbor who stinks up the hall with the garbage that he strews.
Eli propounds on Kate’s erroneous definition of clerihews;
In order to get her to see the light, he gives her a book to peruse.
The church falls short on worshippers who can’t sit in predestined pews,
And Masons turn out their membership for failing to pay their dues.
A husband abandons his wife in aborted attempts to amuse;
Her demeanor is drowned in pot luck casseroles, soups and stews.
A detective sifts through the ashes searching remains for clues;
He’s found an earring, a tooth and a nail, but he doesn’t know whose.
Teenagers wooing, say they aren’t smoking. They are. It’s only a ruse.
They’re thinking of eloping because her father is turning the screws.
Workers waiting for jobs are standing outside in queues,
While the hardnosed factory owner seeks alternatives to use.
Someone is at the zoo with a child his ex-wife would abuse,
And an old man who’s lost a fortune regains it by singing the Blues.

© Michael D. Brown 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Guest Poet: Sandra Davies

Circle of Celebration

© Sandra Davies 2011

Sandra Davies is an artist and printmaker and recently-emerged writer of fiction, with a long-established interest in family history. Born on the Essex coast, she now lives in Teesside in the north east of England, both places having the flat landscapes and sea-edged horizons considered essential for a sense of well-being. More writing can be found at lines of communication and some prints at Print Universe
This piece can be found in Sandra's excellent book Edge which comprises Curve of Early Learning, Arc of Adaptation, and Circle of Celebration

MDJB at GoodReads

Michael D. Brown's books on Goodreads Bastille Day reviews: 2 ratings: 3 (avg rating 5.00...