The lines of children were cognizant
of an uprising. This was evident in
their diffidence to the wind and the way
scars healed from the inside despite
a continuous onslaught of moral beatings,
the noble bullies barely having time to adjust.
Fatalistically, the swooning became the resolve.
CHOKING ON AFFLUENCE, THE COUGH SYMPTOMS
I watched some human like insects
scale my foot and drill into
the bone above the ankle.
I felt nothing.
Waist bent anomalously
ears, eyes closer.
They climbed higher
voices, not pronounced words.
They reached the top of my head
just as the sun was giving up.
I went cross eyed trying to explain,
this was not substantively organic.
Colin James has a book of poems Resisting Probability from Sagging Meniscus Press and a chapbook A THOROUGHNESS NOT DEPRIVED OF ABSURDITY. He lives in Massachusetts.
I sneaked another peak at her across the bar, trying my best to not look like I was looking, but it was too late, she had seen me already. Why was I trying to avoid being seen? Because I was shy? Not hardly. I was lonely, and I didn’t want to look like it.
More than that, I was horny, REALLY horny. The only problem was, she was fat: hippopotamus fat. It was nothing a few more beers couldn’t take care of, however, and anyway, there’s no shame in being lonely.
She looked familiar. Maybe I had seen her before. She just had that look about her, like I knew her from somewhere. I looked in the other direction, but it was too late; she was already on her way over.
“Excuse me,” she said, “but you look so familiar. Do I know you?”
“I’m not sure,” I said, still trying to pretend like I hadn’t been looking. Loneliness is a hideous bitch.
“I’m sure I do,” she said. “Do you come here often?”
If a man had said that, it would have been a line.
“Not really,” I said, “at least, not anymore. It’s been fifteen years since I moved out west.”
“It’s just that, you look so familiar,” she said.
“Where do you live out west?”
“Aspen?” she said. “Cool. I’ve always wanted to go to California.”
So she was dumb. So what?
“Are you from here originally?” she said.
“Yes, just down the road.”
“Did you go to Briardale Elementary?”
“Small world. Me, too.”
“Small world,” I said. “Would you like another beer?”
Stupid question. Turns out, the fat cow could drink me under the table.
She said her name was Kelli. Kelli, with an i. Kelli with an i ? That did sound familiar.
“My name is Jeffery,” I told her. “Jeffrey Joe Paul.”
“Jeffrey Joe Paul?” she said. “Of course. I knew I knew you. Kelli Kirkpatrick. We went to McKinley High together.”
“Yes, silly. Mrs. McGonaguill, homeroom. Don’t you remember?”
“In the flesh.”
As we continued talking, drinking more and more beer, it all started coming back to me, where I remembered her from, and it surely wasn’t Mrs. McGonaguill’s homeroom. It was here, right here at this very same bar. My only hope was that she had forgotten all about it. The problem was, elephants never forget.
“You don’t remember meeting here?” she said.
“Not as such,” I said. I was lying.
“Granted, it was a long time ago,” she said, “but I remember it just like it was yesterday.”
Of course you do.
“It was the night of the big fight, remember?” she said. “You and I ducked out just in the nick of time. Then we went down to Lazy Dave’s, then back to your place. Still don’t remember?”
I told her sorry, but I did not.
“We made love until the sun came up,” she said. “Of course, I’ve lost a lot of weight since then. Maybe that’s why you don’t recognize me?’
Lost a lot of weight? Sweet Jesus.
“You told me you would call,” she said, “but you never did.”
That’s because it was a line, you stupid cow.
“I tried calling you for weeks. I called your house, I called your work, I called your mother, I came by your apartment, I left notes on your door, I sat on your porch all night waiting for you.”
Of course I remembered. It’s the whole reason I moved to Aspen in the first place.
“So what happened?” she said. “Why didn’t you call? You said you would call. I was waiting for you to call.”
You’d think at this point a guy like me would have enough sense to get the hell out of there. You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. Remember what I said about loneliness? It’s a hideous bitch, and it’s no goddess.
I decided to deal with it the same way I deal with most of my problems: by drinking more beer. By morning I realized, I was going to have to move again. I hear Atlanta is real nice this time of year.
Philip Loyd loves fat chicks and cheap beer, though not necessarily in that order. His first novel, You Lucky Bastard, is represented by New York Literary Agent Jan Kardys. Loyd lives in Dumbass, Texas.
Incautious, still, and breaking the peace
Of the lake, I hear the swan’s unease
And sense, in its startled trumpetings,
Time is measured in the beating of wings.
Across the brown veined beds of reeds
Now rippling and dropping their silver beads,
There comes the sound of whisperings,
“Time is measured in the beating of wings.”
Coerced from shadows into light
And tense with the need to take to flight,
She knows, caught in the water’s transient rings,
Time is measured in the beating of wings
And, so, on the heard puffs of air,
She rises, high and higher, where,
Expanding and blue, the sky sings,
“Time is measured in the beating of wings.”
from Bird Song
I cannot replicate the sweetness of those notes
I heard at dawn; the player’s joy
Is his alone. But, yet, in hearing, floats
A raft of memories to buoy,
Persist, but never cloy
And so, on the fading edge of dusk and thought
There remains an echo of a song and the joy it brought.
There was a flautist jamming in the stars, and I used to sit watching, seated on air. He made me cry one day but I wasn’t really that sad. His tunes were just too good, they had me skating around upside down all over the icy place. Didn’t know which way was up, so it rained.
Well it was just too bad.
One day I was doing my thing in the rainy cold sky when I cast my binoculars to the shoulder of Orion. There were attack ships on fire, but where was the Music Man? I couldn’t hear anything, there was only silence and then you’re sobbing.
Who are you and what have you done with Jammin’ Sam? Why am I now crying too? That skull in your uplifted palm, who does that belong to? Ah, I have detached my self from myself again, it is only my humbly decaying corpse who intrudes upon my pleasure.
So is this the skull of that musician? Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.
No, it cannot be, for…
It be. How sad.
The stars are out in force tonight, they form a – a skull. So that is where you got to, you flutey fellow of infinite zest. Your body has been broken down into carbon, which has been then gravitationally sucked into a super-hot funky party. It seems that they have now exploded into a strangely sinister silhouette. That’s how you would have wanted it, Jammin’ Sam.
I best be off now. Intransient water-based beings like my good self haven’t any time for such trivial blowings-on of some jazzy musician.
I am crying.
Where did the music go? Your songs?
But up there, kicking it with the stars, I would listen all night. Now your skull smiles down on this ethereal dude. I don’t mean to be rude.
In my mind’s eye I still hear the tunes. Rhythm and blues. So take off your shoes and salute to the flautist who jammed, the soundtrack to the universe.
To that superheated constellation (who used to be Sam), which now grins fatally at those mere mortals who dare to jam.
To the mortals who dare to jam, salute.
To the end of time, play on, play it again, and don’t stop playing.
You may fall quiet (as Sam did), but others will play on.
For the past I weep, for the future I laugh. Aint it always the way. Till another day. To the flautists I say do continue to play. It is the price you will continue to pay, immortality for eternal musical appreciation, because I will remember.
From a window.
Colourlessly, ghosts of cars, trucks, buses,
relentlessly, into and out of the sight-line, cross the bridge.
Silent puffs of cloud, discreet molecules, almost real.
They are cloud, they come from cloud, go into cloud, elevated.
Beneath them is the grey insipid sky of the river
and above and beyond the slate rivers of the sky.
I know that they are peopled.
Muted against the whirring constant of the sound of the bridge,
some semblance to the music of the spheres.
From west to east, from east to west, circuitous,
humanity in motion, enclosed in nebulous vessels,
goes from shore to eternal shore.
Some years ago a man and a woman sat looking out this same window.
It was early evening. They noticed as a transformation
a pause in the music.
They wondered if they heard instead, or just prior to,
the sound of a heavy, urgent shudder,
as though steel and concrete were in pain.
They blinked and thought they saw the bridge itself pause.
What had happened was that the circle was broken.
In the gap, a black, bleak thought pre-empted the next
startling set of images that they saw.
Cars, some cars, flowed over the edge of the gap.
Their headlights tipped and projected long streaks of white light
down to locate a place of entry into the dark depths of the water.
Picking the spot, the cars drove down to drown.
One car, travelling at high speed, hurled up the rise and set off
magnificently to traverse the gap.
But the gap was great and the car, high octane propelled, albeit,
had no answer to the grave insistence of gravity.
But two cars slowed in time and had minds of their own,
one, called a GTS Monaro, with its two front wheels, spinning,
had tested the feel of the cold, dark gap, and then resisted,
hurting its underbelly, by scraping to a heavy halt.
(That car went on a world tour. Or, at least, its photo did,
shunted down the wires, to make many a front page.)
The man and woman saw all this, that night in 1975,
looking inexplicably up in time from ‘Some Came Running’, through the glass.
Time was, as it is sometimes, slowed, but eventually they slid open the glass door
and stepped out onto their treated pine balcony, to find in the January night
that the air was still bending, that the bridge was still humming,
that the two brave cars’ headlights were still crossing the gap.
They listened. They could hear their own heartbeats.
But otherwise all was still.
They could not hear the wailing, tearing agony of the suicidal vessel,
‘Lake Illawarra’, she that had interrupted the bridge of humanity.
In the blackness that was the river, there were no ripples they could see
and no visible upsurge or ebb of displaced water, as she quickly sank,
for even a drunken, humping lady of the oceans, of ten thousand tons,
can be inconsequential in deep estuarial waters.
So they went back inside their lounge room, shyly clutching each other
and clutching to the hope that their companionable TV would comfort them,
with strokes of Sinatra, Martin, Shirley MacLaine, bulwarks in the night,
and eventually with an interrupting, hush-inducing News Flash,
to confirm that what they had seemed to see was indeed so,
namely, that the city itself had had a stroke, a debilitating stroke,
and all up one side was paralysed.
“What you come to love will surprise you,” said,
my father straightening my bow tie. “I
need to go to your mother.” His bent head
brushed my cheek, his lips grazing slightly my
forehead and eyes. In the pictures, he smiles
with my bride and his, with his mother, arm
comfortable and sure for this short while,
round what he loved, safe beyond the world’s harm
and his own charm or anger. What I love,
and come to love, my wife’s just fury, Dad’s
longing, Mom’s maddening strength and lack of
ire, my grief, palpable as his wild, sad
words on my skin. These don’t surprise me. I
surprise them, turn, return and meet their eyes.
After an hour or two, you might worry,
certain I will call and reassure you
I’m driving home. You will say, “No hurry,”
and I will speed, glad to know that these few
miles of interstate are the sole distance
stretched between us. I see you busying
yourself paying bills, taking this night’s chance
to watch a film I’d hate. High, dizzying
constellations I cannot name bless the bright
black sky without trying; their age old light
so unconcerned with its slow travel. Space
takes up space. The phone sits silent. Our face
contorts with fear and fury, already lost
when I arrive, with galaxies to cross.
With our child at Sunday School, we act young,
or younger than we feel. Sly jokes, soft touch
of fingertips on cheek or breast, your tongue
curling a seductive twist, not too much
because this coffee house is public. Part
of the lust is risk, the chance someone will
see; someone we know, or don’t, might just start
to hear us plan an afternoon of still
unrehearsed, untried adventure without
haste. I whisper, hushed but good as a shout,
my hope for you to reach a place of rest,
a Sabbath prayer of the flesh that our best
hour lies ahead. We check time and leave
to fetch our child. She’s learning to believe.
To pay attention constantly without
swerving from a single glance or sore word
was all I asked. To never really doubt
the value of an instant, each uttered
syllable or joke. Go ahead and laugh,
again. You lasted a year and a half
into this demand for constant presence,
sustained the effort until the nonsense
I’ve learned from parents, television, friends
who stayed always on like suns or moons, blends
of light that lurk high and constant, had drowned
whatever will to love without complaint
you’d saved. Rest now, I say, without a faint
worry. Both worn to peace, we must lie down.
Sunday Afternoon in the Universe
Your Grandmother’s bones are turning to powder. After ninety
years, they become unreliable and strand her in a bed she
wants to leave. One way or another she will leave her bed,
with old or resurrected bones. My God, she lies, restless,
miles away, and we make love with shades drawn,
television loud enough to keep our small child
from hearing wonders and tragedies, to keep her
from waking too soon. She rests. She grows her
body’s own way. I want to tell someone who needs
to hear how our bodies, these flawed, fair bodies might come
together on Sunday afternoons, even when other bodies fail.
How strong and fragile human bones and skin
and breath make us, leave us. I would tell you,
but you know better than to believe me. I should make
the words for another woman, a man, a girl, a boy.
Perhaps they have forgotten or not yet found their form
is not theirs. It belongs to universes of cells, of blood,
of oxygen, of stars, of dust, of molecules like galaxies,
of galaxies like molecules that swirl and mingle to save
and kill, love and forget, find and lose us, suddenly,
in our own or others’ bodies, on Sunday afternoons.
feeling dampened pillow,
turn on the light,
and see the pillow and
sheets rusty blood red,
soaked through from my
arm, which hasn’t stopped.
The wife’s going to be
because I enjoy it.
My doctor says it’s an
endorphin release and
substitute for other
things, such as drinking,
taking drugs, impulse
I have a different theory.
I am on Paxil
leave you with the ability
to chafe yourself to death
but never attain release.
I am one of those affected.
Perhaps the spill of blood
replaces that other need;
seeing it run down my arm,
drip into the sink, plop
onto the cat box; seeing the
blood dampen the ground I
walk on, oozing, spilling,
trails of it,
big lumpy clots
it turns me on.
Call me sick, perhaps
you’re right, but the
pain eases the other
pains and perhaps
this „issue“ as well.
do think it ironic
to see myself
using a paper I
Self Injury – you
are not the only one –
to dampen the flow,
leaving a darkened
souvenir for future
everyone, I need
to get off – this is
the only way I can.
So be it.
you came out to be my
mini-savior after Lisa
went back to Phoenix.
You drove me to Cedars,
to the drugstore, the
grocery store, the post
office, you let me rest
up – you, too, were a
pillar of strength,
you and Aunt Ethel.
I often feel like I’ve
come to the end of the
world and the rocks are
biting sharp as I drift
toward the edge; I see
the harsh glaze of
blood surrounding me,
my cuts have become
at these times,
I stand in front of the
dirty bathroom mirror,
often with blood
dripping from my arms
into the cracking sink,
and I think of your
smile, your strength,
your inner presence,
and I know
what little peace
aside from my pills,
and my rage subsides,
if only for a moment,
are holding me
in my dreams
they look at me
like I’m the
f l i c k e r i n g
pewter and lime green
not of the old days
sometimes so many
I just really can’t remember
don’t really want to
could I really be manic
let alone ADD & OCD
share this moment
not through touch
brilliant, shining, willing, wanting to know
feel the pain, understand,
dead to the world, a bleak history of empty files
Let this cocktail do its job
alleviate the danger
temper the turbulence
I never dug getting stoned in college
here I am stoned out of my gourd
they say it should be for me
I want healing
want to keep you
in this moment
My playing fields
were comprised of a
black and white
Lord knows I did,
but something was
in the back of my
fires of hell
the rose petals
dripped to the
and I felt heat
the kindling was
just the beginning;
soon more logs
and I was ablaze
I earned a
I tortured my
my mind went every
yearned for violence,
sought it out,
on my way to a
the signs had been there
no one knew
no one gave a shit
to be a
They ran out in the street
in front of me
two Huck Finn types headed for
a morning’s adventure
the smaller one I hit, a terrier more
or less, with a black spot
on its side, a female too, and a follower,
safe here, she’d be
thinking, with her protector, a leggy red
part-setter part-other things, but a dear friend,
surely, a decent guy, her next-door
neighbor, always good for a laugh, always up
and out before she’d had
her breakfast or said good morning to the old
man she lived with, who sometimes
forgot to open the door until she’d scratched
paint to remind him it was time, and today
than usual (she’d told
her friend) couldn’t even get the old guy out
of bed until she let go her manners
finally, and barked out loud to tell him what was
but now it was this, lying by the curb all
broken up inside, staring at the blurred elm
in the front yard, leafless,
and her friend still on guard
in the street, stiff-legged, his nose
lifted and quivering
as the salt-rusted car glided
away like a dark barge low in the water, headed
down to Natchez
to unload the whiskey or grain or whatever
they’re hauling nowadays,
the pilot’s eyes
the wheelhouse mirror,
burning, the past
behind him in the Big Muddy
dead as Paris
or Miss Kitty, dead as all
and the last
thing I saw before I turned off onto Kerr
Street was the old man
himself hobbling out to the scene
crying No No No No
and the terrier’s friend
around in circles
yapping like crazy this
the red thinks get
up come on now we gotta get out of here
before he makes you go
but by the time
I’m back home to tell about
it, rehearsing excuses
for not stopping (wrong
tag, no insurance, my fear of cops, queers,
close encounters) Donahue
is already half
over with and some
paraplegic woman is trying
to put her arms around
the daughter she left on a stranger’s
years ago, speaking
to the camera like it was
a person, saying don’t hate me
you think I want
people to see me like this why
understand, what I did I did it
because I don’t
I read a cowboy piece once
about bobwahr about how it had a mind and feelings
of its own and how
it resented calves and people and thought
of blackberry thorns as kin
shit like that
and yes shit like that is definitely stupid
but what is certain
is the scar I got from the stuff when I was eight
years old such an ancient
scar now that most of the time I forget I even have
it until one of those days
when I find it in the mirror and touch the thing
how the years went by so fast and there it is
still hanging there
like the dark corner of a gibbous moon
as familiar, as faraway as childhood itself and jesus
it may not can think but if you’re running
and looking back the other and you turn into it at just
the exact wrong moment
the goddamn motherfucker can gouge you with its bobs
and make you scream worse than the worst enemy
you ever had
worse even than the matinee when you were ushering in the *colored*
balcony at the old Cabarrus Theatre
and one of them came at you and damn near stomped
you to death
well fuck death if death
was so bad you wouldn’t say death where is yr sting
you’d say o where is yr bobs
Does No One at All Ever Feel This Way in the Least
wd take the prettiest Amherst
freshmen to his decadent
drenched candlelit homo abode
on Amity St
and read them dirty books
aloud in the hope that some aroused
swain would get
excited enough to butt-fuck him or at least offer
a pulsing hunk of frosh
meat to cram
down his throat
hoping to get his colleague fired but when pressed
cd never come up with the facts
and at any rate wd never drop his Puritan
mask to say anything
so explicit to Pres Meiklejohn
nor reveal to anyone (not even the pun-loving
the „stark crazy“ finis
to his recurring dream where the brazen
Young wd walk up close
to him on the st and pass him candy
from his pockets
about his desire that Frost wd awake
with a gasp hd as a rock
his cum gushing hot and melan-
down the back
of his snoring Elinor’s
and detailed than any
dream they come
tumbling forth, glowing like
some of them, or hanging
black in the water
as motionless as trout while
by overhead like debris in
the stream, and now
and then, as if to point up
really significant, the camera
moves in and holds
on some frozen blurred
thing, your horse
in a photo finish, let us
say, but when you
ask Am I the winner?
Is it me?
maiden dissolves to Christ’s
away over some evergreen-
lake in Wisconsin, and don’t
forget the stupid
cornucopia that appears every
out its contents in grand
or the cup that runneth over
and over, or the woman
in stiletto heels
on a polished oak bar, Janis
Joplin, maybe, at the old
but who can say, for the whole
is like dropping
in at some stranger’s house
and every time
you ask his name, or try
to find out what town you’re
in, the fool just
smiles and goes on eating his
his wife, who refuses to
join you or say
anything in the slightest,
the fire, her back to the table,
of us, dreaming her own
a mud-chinked cottage in a book
she read once
as a child, where the people
till the fields and go to
in big horsedrawn wagons
Olaf would lift his rosy-
down to the plank sidewalk
big block letters Now we buy
Gingham Now we
buy tobacco my beloved Now
I remember that summer
when she’d pull out Charlie –
which was what she affectionately
called my prick –
& being an artist,
she’d draw a face on it.
Then, without moving her lips,
she’d go to work:
„Hello, how’re you?
My name’s Charlie.“
The first time, I laughed.
It was like meeting a stranger.
We stared at each other.
„What do you do?
What’s your name?“
I couldn’t take my eyes off him.
After a while,
Charlie started taking over.
He was the center of attention,
the life of the party.
He’d stay up all night.
Next morning, she’d ring me:
„Are you looking after him?“
Sure… sure, I’d say,
giving him a reassuring pat.
He was the picture of confidence.
He gave me a helluva time.
One day, inexplicably,
she added eyelashes, a beauty spot
& bright-red lipstick.
The transformation was remarkable.
Charlie had changed into a woman.
It called me „big boy“ in a squeaky voice;
it pouted & pulled faces.
The rest of me was speechless.
Then it became political.
Overnight I became a total shit;
a chauvinist pig.
It wanted to know
what kind of relationship is this, anyway?
It chastised me for not being able
to see beyond the end of my dick.
Later, the ventriloquist split,
taking her paints, her pens,
her mandolin & clothes.
„You never talk to me anymore,“
She left Charlie behind.
He slept all day;
the old eloquence was gone.
I couldn’t put words in his mouth.
Then his face disappeared
It was a shock at first, but
Now, taking a piss, sometimes,
I actually smile, remembering
those days & nights of indelible lust
when love was neither deaf nor dumb
nor altogether blind.
Stoneking gnashing his teeths by Christina Conrad Acrylic with gel, impasto and paper mache on unstretched canvas, 18″ x 12″
There is no desire suffering is not heir to.
Every trap the heart makes catches itself in mid-flight.
We fall into each other’s cages so easily;
wingless birds in a gullible principality:
a constituency that understands bread crumbs
but cannot sing.
The arms, the legs, the wizened heads,
the wisps of feather hair gone grey,
flap over collars on a windy day.
The tide goes out,
the tide comes in;
the older we start;
the younger we end.
Pushed from the nest, we learn to fly
then fall to earth.
Memory is no salvation.
Every death begins at birth.
Scavengers with hollow bones
migrate the unmappable.
The vast excursions of summer
must be put to rest
before the humours of winter
are allowed to burn.
Prescription for Long Life
Fat is not
a four-letter word.
Stop terrorising yourself.
Power walking is not the answer
If you want to live longer,
Habits are carcinogenic.
Take a leaf out of Walt:
„go freely with uneducated persons…
& with the mothers of families“
Use salt sparingly.
Get up with the sun.
Do the unexpected.
Trees are good. Music helps.
Be kind to animals.
Talk to the earth.
Be mindful of the dead.
Avoid people who speak
endlessly of God,
go to the dentist
It is what we do
We cannot stop
There is nothing else
We will not be contradicted
We have the right
Our faith is unshakeable
When things don’t fit
We are afraid
We seek our box
Crouching in darkness
Holding up small pieces
Against the light
We have committed
So nothing will be lost
So nothing can be found.
The Old Lies
The Old Lies aren’t going anywhere.
The Old Lies have always lived here.
The Old Lies will not be ignored.
They take everything in their stride
and will never disappear.
The Old Lies we grew up with…
The Old Lies are just like us.
They thrive on affection,
and will not be hurried.
You’d have to be crazy to think
they meant you any harm.
They are visited by their children,
Yea! Unto the last generation!
They are a force to be reckoned with.
The Old Lies go on forever.
Don’t pretend you don’t know them.
The Old Lies have always worked here.