Thursday, August 30, 2012

Javed Baloch (Leviathan)

PERDITION

Colton stands among the leaves in the quiet motion of their own, and looks deep into the bleak woods, in silent understanding of the invitation at hand, his only means for escape. With three days of running in the wild, somewhere by the river he has left behind hordes of huntsmen hard at work; ambitious, wild and with eyes gone crazy, ravenous for all the stray souls of this world.
With their badges shining from a distance, God’s hunters and lawmen proliferate like rabid beasts in this neck of the woods.
They have managed to overcome three uniformed enemies confronted in the course of the last three days, the murder of three local police officials leading to a raised bounty on their heads and an intensified search. They are wanted: dead or alive. Now, going back, all Colton can recall is a blind state of panic and the dance of the trigger back and forth.
“Rain is comin’,” says the old man next to him, the fear in his voice pressing down on Colton, to convince him to take the way to the woods. “And it will be hard, it always is in the wild, and we will be nothin’ but a couple of wasted rags with all that downpour.”
“We go down them woods.” Colt mutters. “We might survive.” Pauses. “Or we might not”.
“But it ain’t the same if we stay. Ain’t the same back where we runnin’ from”. Old Man replies.“Stayin’ will do us no good, if you ask me”.
“But there ain’t no comin’ back once we are in that primate zone. If you get the hang of what I am sayin’ to you, Old Man. No God will whisper through those trees, no fallin’ to your knees, souls ravin’ and cryin’ out loud to Heaven.” He pauses. Then, adds, “You up for that?”
The old man was a preacher of some sort in the days before the chain and the sentence that came with it; the heavy laden metal on your conscience for that one moment of criminal intent punishable by life or noose.
The old man nods and says, “You askin’ too many questions then I can see to, Colton. I am done bein’ a preacher. I am done killin,’ and am sure as hell done savin’ souls.”
Colton nods, without words, understanding the significance of every word that he has uttered, knowing that in the end, given enough time, we all go down that lonely corner, to embrace the darkness, wishing to be cured of our sentiments.

          ****************

He looked deep into those fading eyes of the victims and wondered. Admitting little guilt to himself, or trying hard not to.
“So what happens now?” He asked the old man.
“When?”
“After you're dead.” Colton said. “Now that these proud men have bitten the bullet.” Not knowing where the question within him came from. Not caring to. Colton just felt that he needed to talk, if only to keep his hold on sanity.
“Don’t nothin’ happen.” Old Man said, giving him a deep thoughtful stare. “You're just dead I reckon.”
“You ain’t a believer no more, are you Old Man?” Colton asked, feeling the strength within his voice slowly leaving him.
“Maybe.” The old man shrugged. “Maybe I am, or maybe I ain’t. I just can’t put any part of myself together. Not anymore. And I just don’t believe I have an answer.” Paused. “Sorry to disappoint you, but that is the plain truth. I got no answer for nobody”.
“Any regrets?”
“Say again.” Old Man said.
“You got any regrets in your life.” Colton said. “You regret savin’ them souls.” Paused, his voice now a whisper. “Regret takin’ any of these men here.”
“None I can remember”. Old Man replied. “And I saved nothin’ worth takin’, or ever took nothin’ worth savin”. Paused. “Folks are either droppin’ down in graves or cradles these days. The times we live in, and I ain’t makin’ it any worse then it already is”.
“Is that so?”
“I’d like to believe that, yes.” Old Man said. “Just puttin’ in my two pence, that is all”.
“Do you now regret not killin’ that little nigga’ as I told you”. Colt squinted at him. “You old fool, what were you thinkin’ back there? Fuckin’ redemption?”
They ought to have killed that boy. Colton thought and felt miserable. Would have saved lives in the long run. And bullets too.
Back there, they left a shadow behind. The old man had made a mistake, letting that black kid go living the way he did.
Though Colton didn’t think that he himself would have done any better than the old fool when the moment arrived. Pulling a trigger didn’t come naturally to them, and least of all when it came down to blowing the brains of a twelve year old son of a whore, a bastard who was born special. A deaf and mute.
One act of righteousness. Colton thought bitterly to himself. Is all it takes. And their world was no longer defined by mere black and white.
All around them, God’s hunters and lawmen lay sprawled with their dust smacked boots against the horizon, the drowning sun, and the dying light of life’s fire prematurely fading in their eyes. Bodies slowly growing motionless and their minds perhaps drawing the last mental images of how different their lives could have been. Useless analogues of dying men’s hope.
In despair Colton and the old man had reached out for the only object of faith at their disposal, their .32 Winchesters. Turning ruthless against the shadowy lawmen chasing them down, shooting and killing men, men just like them and yet so different.
Neither of them ever had to kill before. Never was death so close, so personal in their lives. Till now, they were just couple of angry inmates wanting to escape the yard, and hopefully never look back.
The old man spoke, as if reading Colton’s mind. “I was afraid I was goin’ to die.” The smoke whirling off the gun hung in his hand, facing down. “I reckon I was… just ain't easy to be so sure". Paused. "I guess I was just afraid.”
Colton nodded gravely, trying to catch his breath, his finger pressed firmly still against the trigger. Realizing that if you keep the finger pressed for long, it doesn’t feel so cold anymore.

          ****************

“Them braggin’ fools who follow the law”. Colton whispered, shaking his head slowly, as they walked away from the scene. “To stink in servitude and smell coiffeur and wormwood on their death. There ain’t no sense in that, if you ask me”.
The old man looked at him, in quiet before replying. “There ain’t no answers. Colton, like I said. We all expect to be told some mystery. And there ain’t none to speak of.”
“I don’t care, Old Man.” Colton replied. “Men like me can’t afford mystery. I ain’t justifying nothin’ because there ain’t nothin’ to justify.” Paused. “Them folks back there had it comin’.”
The Old Man remained quiet.
Colton continued. “And I ain’t goin’ down that easy. Nay, not me Old Man. Ain’t nobody to decide what happens to a man except the man himself. Let them call it the Law all they want, its tyranny pure and simple. I ain’t lettin’ myself be chained up for the next ten years of my life because some expensive lookin’ God in a high chair says so. I say let no man be the judge of another. How can they judge a man like me, from so high up there? There is a context missin’. How can they accuse me of any wrong doin,’ wearin those shiny glasses and a fancy cloak, and then call it justice? Show me the justice in that, and then you dare take me down that hole.”
“I killed them folks to stay alive, Colton”. Old Man replied. “Don’t be fooled by the white hairs on an old head. I ain’t ready for anythin’ else except to go on livin’ yet.” Paused. “And you are too much of a fool tryin’ to justify killin’ and all. It needs none of your reasonin’. It never did”.
The old man and Colton had quietly walked into the woods sometime back, having finally divested themselves of that little thing called hope; the loneliest thing that a man can do, to no longer believe in the supernatural for help.
Deep in the woods they sensed a mystery, a humming of the universe, a private habitation filtered with dancing gray lights and surrounded by the absolute truth of the woods. The inner darkness impeachable for thousands of years of the earthly womb, and the blind trees masquerading the great god sun, paving way for a black vacuum, a miniature universe preserving life older than Colton, than the old man in constant fear of death, or the crazy huntsmen with shiny badges and dead eyes.
With each step they gave up the world they had learned to live in and understand, and entered the plain--not constrained by any human conception, with slowly dawning knowledge deep in their hearts that something within the woods knew of their existence. Something that could neither be escaped nor destroyed.

© Javed Baloch 2012

Though a software engineer by profession, Javed tries to spend most of his free time reading and writing down whatever comes to mind. He enjoys brooding over and seek inspiration from the works of Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, John Steinbeck and Stephen King.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Townsend Walker

Prose Poems

What He Knows
     George is lying in a pool of water.
     When he regains consciousness he will not feel his right foot. He will wriggle his toes, but he will not know if they moved.
     He will see rocks and sprouts of green. He will not know he is on a deserted cobbled street.
     His skin will feel numb because the water is cold. He will not know the water has a pinkish hue.
     His mouth will have a coppery taste. He will not know what is in it.
     His nose will be assaulted by an acrid rotting smell. He will not know he is responsible for the odor.
     He will hear an irregular lapping sound above him. He will not be able to raise his head to see the mongrel dog drinking the water.
     He will be able to turn to see another dog approaching.

A Life?
     Charlie was a mean lad. Charlie was a mad lad. Charlie was rad bad.
     Charlie clubbed a buddy, then his aunt.
     The judge said, “Jail or Army, lad?”
     Charlie got to go to war. Charlie got to kill. Charlie saw lots of things.
     Charlie got a medal. Charlie got to come home. Charlie is the man.
     Charlie’s on the street now. Scuffed boots falling off his feet now.
     In the throat, Night Train. Up the nose, cocaine.
     Charlie was the man.

Facing Down Danger
     Danger hung around O’Neil’s florid face. Like it wanted to be invited in. “Come on,” O’Neil said. He wanted it, wanted to look it straight in the eye. That’s the kind of man O’Neil was. Adrenaline, fist on flesh. Pounding out his heart’s despair, abandoning mind to body.
     It wasn’t clear to those in McSorley’s why O’Neil didn’t notice that danger had half a foot on him, was twice as wide and was holding a knife.

© Townsend Walker 2012

Townsend Walker is a writer living in San Francisco. His stories have been published in over forty literary journals and included in five anthologies. Two of his stories were nominated for the PEN/O.Henry Award. His website is www.townsendwalker.com.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bill Lapham

THE POWER OF HER WORDS

   She got into my head with the power of her words and twisted my thoughts in pretzelnovel ways. The Samizdat of Mid-Twentieth Century Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: An Analysis of Popular Dissident Literature in a Modern Communist State moved me. It forced me out of my seat to walk in nervous circles, twitching. I felt anxious, like in that moment before delivering a speech when you come to realize there will be no substitutions.
   The power of her words came from the library. From their distribution and consumption, from the inspiration they fomented. I had stumbled on the title while binder-browsing with my head bent. From the moment I received her words inside me I understood them. It was then that knew I was fucked.
   I pictured the words flowing from her brain to her fingertips, across the electronic divide, and into the wide world with no defined destination. The blackness of the print blotted out the light and their shadows found comfort in my eyes. They got converted into signals my brain could understand, and produced meaning. She got one shot at making herself clear or leaving me behind forever, and she had gotten it right, at least for me. Ambiguity is an unstable state where meanings are lost. She made me think and I think she meant to.
   She flung my thoughts in diverse directions. Ideas were like her discarded lace clothing floating through the air and falling on lampshades in her bedroom. Her words have spanned time to take up residence in my head. Did she sit in her room to write during a summer morning thunderstorm in her pajamas? Did she sip piping hot Colombian coffee and breathe in the supercharged Leningrad air?
   She and I had been intimate, I knew. She shared her thoughts with me and I had agreed to go along. But it had been years since she had written them; could her meaning have been warped by war or her intentions perverted by the pause between them?
   Or maybe the breeze was just a breeze.
   She transmogrified herself, entered my head, influence me, persuaded me. Once she got inside, her words changed me, fucked with me, made me think about things I would not have considered in the absence of her agency. Her words wielded power and transformed me forever. I cannot undo this thing she has done. Now I know and I have no way of not knowing it.
   I am a gentle human being, impressionable and willing. She could do great harm or great good in the matter that was me.
   And that’s what made her a target for tyrants, the builders and keepers of gulags and starvation camps. To kill her words – their power and grace – they had to cancel her voice. To counter the danger of her immortality they shredded her books and burnt the shreds. They spilled their powdered ashes across the black northern sea.
   They thought they had to stop the flow of thoughts from her mind to mine. The greatest danger that they might be spread. But they couldn’t do that; the splendor had already been wrought between the teacher and the taught.
   A skeletal tree with rough bark armor, standing mindless and alone, snow drifting in its lee. They chained her to a place where bars set in stone guarded her uneasy sleep. A barren place of bare cells, crowded graves and flat gray light.
   But she had gotten in my head with the power of her words. She was in me. The damage had been done.

© William Lapham 2012

Bill Lapham is a student in the Goddard College low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program. His flash fiction and short stories have been featured here and at MudSpots, and at Six Sentences, Thinking Ten—A Writer’s Playground, and the Molotov Cocktail. His work has also appeared in several Six Sentences and Thinking Ten print anthologies, as well as Goddard College’s own peer-reviewed literary journal, the Pitkin Review. He lives in Brighton, Michigan.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mitch Grabois

He’d Never Met a Skinhead Hater

Thirty years ago
gentle Singh opened a jewelry box
to reveal eight kinds of pot
Sikhs are not too different from Rastafarians, he said
He grinned, and his long hair fell from his turban
He took a long toke
and reminded us that he was from a warrior class
With great pleasure he described ancient hand weapons
and their gristly uses
He’d never met a skinhead hater
with an automatic weapon


Tossing the I Ching

Careaga visits the same fountain
every five years on his birthday
It’s like tossing the I Ching
or asking God to write his name in the
Book of Life on Yom Kippur
Will he finally be recognized as the genius he is
and be hoisted in a chair above everyone’s head
like a Jewish groom,
or will he have to go back to the mailroom
and schlep mail?


He's Hardly a Robin

A bleached robin pulls a worm
from a brown spot on my lawn
I’ve applied Revive three times
but the blazing sun has its way
Drought has its way
I’m no tender green blade


© Mitch Grabois 2012

Mitch Grabois’ poetry and short fiction has appeared in over seventy literary magazines, most recently The Examined Life, Memoir Journal, Marco Polo Arts Mag, and Haggard and Halloo, all published this Spring and Summer. His novel, Two-Headed Dog was published in April by Dirt e-books, founded by NY agent Gary Heidt. He was born in the Bronx and now lives in Denver.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Brian Barbeito

NASCENT TALK WITH THE GYPSY

She was having a laugh, but I didn’t know what about. We were sitting in a big house that was on the top of a large incline. All these books were scattered around, and the walls and the kitchen, the doors and the quarter round and every other thing, was old and betrayed. But I liked it. There was this subdued intense energy there, and maybe it was the energy of the past, fading out, but still making a signature on the present. I was glad to be speaking to her because she was fat and homely looking. Some of the others of her large group, one especially, were thin and beautiful and mysterious. But they were sketchy in their own ways with a type of stain of unleavened self importance. This one laughing was on the level, and we just talked about a few things with no ulterior motives or vested interest on either side.
“What is the funny thing?” I asked her.
“The radio yesterday. The man drove us in the car. They were playing a song that you have about a Gypsy woman. We were all laughing.”
“That is not a song I have. That is an old song.”
“Gypsy woman, gypsy woman, gypsy woman...”
She looked out the window and laughed some more. I said that some people said her group was supposed to be called Roma. She brushed her hand down across her side like she was discarding something and the movement said, ‘Please, don’t patronize me. Such things are silly...’
“What makes a gypsy....a gypsy,” I asked.
To this she held up her arm and pinched her skin, to denote that the skin contained her blood, and said in seriousness,” Gypsy is in the blood. Gypsy is the best blood.”
I asked if it had been hard where she had been.
“They killed my brother. And then they killed my cousin,” she said.
“Why?”
“Because Gypsy.”
“Who killed them?”
“Skinheads. At nightclub. After nightclub. One year ago only. Don’t like gypsy. Much trouble for gypsy people.”
We looked out the window. The house seemed to be able to hold any emotion, as if its joints and stucco and brick were now transformed into a strong person, a present person yet one whose face we could not see. The hydro lines and telephone lines stretched through rural hills outside like elastics that never broke, and if one did break, there were others that kept up the work of going along and along and along. In a moment a group of about two or three entered the room and broke the energy, the almost sacred place that a conversation can be with the wind going outside and the night coming. She winked at me, as if to say it was alright and not to take her too seriously, and she called to the others because it was their joke of that week, ‘Gypsy woman, gypsy woman, gypsy woman!’ I shot a glance outside. Tops of septic tanks were overgrown with wild bushes, and the alarm panels rose up and up affixed to metal poles, a series of mechanical and industrial sprouts that received the splashes of sun in the days and heard from the windows the stories relayed at nights from the house.
The other women laughed back while the old books and quarter round absorbed and took the collective noise in stride.


© Brian Barbeito 2012

Brian Barbeito is a resident of Ontario, Canada. His short fiction has appeared in or is forthcoming at various venues such as character i, MuDJoB, MudSpots, and Thrice Fiction.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

John Grey

SUDDEN DUST STORM

In the particles of dust, some of the face
gathers filthy pink and grubby-blue-eyed.
The day is willful. Human flesh is on trial.
A tempest hums inside this fog of dirt. Shards
of petal, waxy and green, surrender to the
imposition of some distant desert. In dead of
lake, water cries out to be saved. Wind whips
up the haze. Skin croaks froglike. The
earth crouches back inside its hovel of oxygen,
refuses to remember the better days. A solitary house
disappears in a powdery flood. !f only it would rain
but moisture has been warned off. The sun is cruel,
joins the rampage, rides roughshod over shutter
blinking air. What happened to paradise? Eden fights
for breath, its lungs clogged. Sorry, it says. I never
meant for this to happen. The map just laughs. You never know
what's coming when you live next door to the devil.

Inside, you frantically shut blinds, tape windows,
as if the weather's coming for you. A bad dream
finds itself with feather duster in one hand.
The determined gray splatters the bedroom,
screams underneath the kitchen door. It knows
no human laws. Brows knit with grit. Appetites
cower before the mighty horde. The artificial
perfect lawn is the first to go. Roses die, praised,
at the end, for their shriveled candor. 'The world
convenes as an army of whips. Drunken ash grows wings.


ON THE DEATH OF LUELLA

Something huge and luminous fell out of the sky,
The earth surrendered, somewhere in its oceans.
Lower depths ran for their lives.
The sea-bed rose like a sudden heaven-bound tide.
You sat on your veranda, watched the bleak horizon
fire hoses at the stars.
The harsh red of the following day flung itself backward
against the bars of night's dark dungeon,
exploded in a scream of strontium and blood.
The moon dripped like a wax candle.
Orpheus gathered everything he could
from the crumbling underworld,
streaked across the wretched firmament. .
And a great tsunami headed your way.
You were on your third rum.
Your chestnut hair did nothing to discourage
your throat from sighing softly.
It was that night when it happened.
Your lips lay like a lovely child
in the cradle of your mouth.
Your eyes were at the height of their ascendancy.
And your skin announced to all and sundry pearlers:
dive here.
But your dog licked your fingers
like no man could.
And you laughed at the belligerent burst of water.
The sound of your voice did nothing but tree you.
Long after you were swept away,
you poured yourself another rum,


THE DRUMMING OF THE ETERNAL

Eternity lacked blue eyes and long blonde hair
despite what the nuns had told me.
Sure, it stretched farther than any time had a right to

but it was missing the touch of a soft hand on my wrist bone,
the attentive breath inches from my ear.
And if feeling couldn't see reason, then what could reason feel?

First Communion threw up its hands at all physical law.
Gravity? What is that? Evolution? Who invited it to the ritual?
It was wafer and wine or nothing. And there I knelt,

all body and blood and, despite the priest's exhortations,
unable to taste the likeness.
And there was eternity, the ultimate reward,

the payback for the childhood bullies, the dud romances,
the lousy jobs, the pain in the gut.
But what of those who lived among equals,

who loved the here and now, who wrote for a living,
whose health ticked blindly on.
Heaven, for all its scrubbed walls and floors,

its blissed out angels, was more nursing home than shining apogee.
I still had a life to lead, a good one. It would be nothing compared to all of time.
But something sure could learn from nothing.


© John Grey 2012

John Grey is an Australian-born poet, who works as a financial systems analyst. Recently published in Poem, Spindrift, Prism International and the horror anthology, "What Fears Become" with work upcoming in Potomac Review, Hurricane Review and Pinyon.
http://www.carcinogenicpoetry.com/search/label/John%20Grey

Double or Nothing

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