John Flicker ~ John Kearns
M.E. Lerman ~ Susan Moorhead
Trois par Trois
Hollandaise and the Emulsion
The architect threaded a figure eight knot
through the eye of a pin hole
while the dead walked their closets in my sleep
with their black jacks at the ready
We place augers in the tinder brazier
when ice is the most prevalent object:
We watch the floating tatters of wood
the most irreversible of circumstances
Time moves in a single direction
never folding or inflecting
we become the gray in the heart of auburn
the insect in the gold of amber
The weather moves in rapid motions
flailing in the croaking, cricket midnight
the twilight of our waking hours
that peels back the covers of our modesty
Our embellishments are coaxed out by the sun
and draped in gowns of flowered laurel leaves
Jefferson Airplane and Summer Carroll
I can still hear the long haired people
shouting about door knobs and rabbit holes
and the free-your-head demographics
asking words from Alice through the looking glass
Well the white pill box still hangs around
and everyone one is ten feet tall like normal
but they have no politics like Aristotle
and their dreamscapes are empty visions
The Summer of Love died in a hard Autumn
according to the man named Lennon
the washboard collected all the soap
scum to dry out in the falling winds
Strung out bodies collected on the Haight
and none of the questions they asked Alice
had any real meaning for those left behind
who built their homes out of sticks and tarps
The Backlash came in like the Queen of Hearts
and all the shouts became billboards
the movement died. They cut their hair.
They wore their chokers taught up to their necks.
And now we want to die behind the pickets
the needles of white fences in the leaves of grass
the model of the suburb in the eye of Eisenhower
the coffins lined in the gilded silvers and inflated golds
Flood lights line the rows of the city highways
open air over the underpass in the village of the earth
and the sky towers climb up into the night
while all the diligent workers descend their spiral stairs
running the length of the come down like helicase
Down through the Interstate 405 and the Royal Road
to the old world of Toluca and Lankershim
where the cymbals crash out of old garages
the instruments in the closet are missing all their strings
the brass section is wired up to the amplifier
and the trumpet player makes his own distortion
A hard case violin came out in a lining of red velvet
with its patina forming on the old locks and slim keys
I found the violin my father played: Only eight years ago
with its strings made of aluminum and silver
and the Paganini rosin still has all his old markings
All the trappings of the dead in the horse hair bow
and the E string is low and broken
As a token from the old one and the ancient death mask
something in the way of eggshells colored in memories
John Jay Flicker writes out of the bitumen under the buildings of Los Angeles. He has previously published poetry in Haggard & Halloo, Egg Poetry, Carcinogenic Poetry and LabLit Publications. He currently works in the veterinary industry as a doctor’s assistant and holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cell biology from the University of California Merced.
Winter's white-knuckled grip.
A plane's gruff mumble in the wind.
Flags disappear from empty weak-kneed buildings.
Not a pillow to be found
Nor a fire to be seen.
Sacred spires grow tired and lean
Against the coming night.
Objects in Mirror ...
A car with wings and the hot embrace of a frantic radio.
The gates to summer locked behind us.
Its waters still, untouchable, cold.
For we've all lost
A young and fresh
At your face in the mirror
And watch the years melt like your bones
And mix in one communion.
Now you see the real. You see the hidden:
The spirit in the melted face.
Distorted and stripped of pimples.
Then more added.
Look at me.
Then look away quickly.
And you’ll see the shadow of my soul.
John Kearns writes from Ireland.
M. E. Lerman
I’ll See You in Hell
One morning in June in Red Onion Saloon in Skagway way up in the north,
Buxom good-time lasses and good times in glasses as usual for me spilled forth,
’Til Deadbeat Dave Abel sauntered past my table, slight bronze with a midnight-sun tan.
Three weeks he’d been gone, headed for the Yukon, but before me that day stood the man.
A ten-dollar loan, towards food and a roan, and he’d pay me back once he struck gold.
As he slipped through the bar, I snatched him by the arm and demanded what to me was owed.
He sneered, “You forgot, you miserable sot, ‘Neither lender nor borrower be’:
A wise word for you, friend, don’t ever depend on getting any interest from me.”
If each wish in my heart was an iron-tipped dart, in one round the scoundrel’d have been dead:
If my gun wasn’t stored up in my dresser drawer, he’d have swallowed six capsules of lead.
But since I’d never pined to be jailed and confined in the sheriff’s dark musty old cell,
Just as well that I sat there without my gat, but I spat, “I’ll see you in Hell!”
Now the sweet ale tastes sour and it holds no power to ease you from your woes,
And your gal’s shapely thighs won’t give you a rise when your focus is upon your foes.
The best honky tonk tune in your favorite saloon’s like a rusty funeral bell
When each sight in your brain is polished and trained on a man you’d see in Hell.
Dave decided to take a walk to Dewey Lake one morning to unclog his mind.
I was hungover too, and forgot my six shooter, but followed some distance behind.
I stopped on the tracks and took aim at his back, while a steamwhistle cried out in vain.
My hearing did fail and my blood greased the rail of the oncoming Yukon-bound train.
Now the sweet ale here’s sour and has the awful power to bleach your bones beneath your skin.
And the gals’ shapely thighs wrapped ‘round you widthwise will crush all your bleached bones within.
The best honky tonk tune in this cursed saloon is an eardrum-busting rusted bell.
Inversion toward pain is the perverted game played the same way each day here in Hell.
The barflies play darts with my body parts: I’ve no strength to put up a fight.
If one player nails two bull’s-eyes I wail and can’t see for the rest of the night.
I’m their target practice, more pins than a cactus are covering my sorry frame.
In sober perspective, it seems damned excessive: for what misdeeds am I to blame?
One morn I awoke after brimstone dawn broke, and open the tavern door swung:
A crimson-skinned thug with Dave’s ugly mug walked in — holding my gun.
“The sheriff’s arrived, so don’t flee for your lives,” with a hyena’s tenor he sang,
“Look to your sin, miserly miscreant! Let justice begin with a bang!”
Before I could shout or skedaddle out, I swallowed six capsules of lead.
Though the bullets all stung and they tore up my lungs, still I fought through the pain and I said
“How do I deserve this cruel sentence to serve? I committed no murder, no crime!”
Dave said “You’re no saint just becausin’ you ain’t had your pistol on you at the time.”
Deadbeat Dave was right, but for chance I might a murder conviction have faced.
A killer in mind isn’t worthy to find the gold behind the Pearly Gates.
Through troubles and strife, strive for a goodly life, forgive and move on and live well.
But if you freeze your heart cold and begrudge in your soul, then most likely I’ll see you in Hell.
Besides being the ghost editor for horror novelist Stephen Kozeniewski, M. E. Lerman has been featured in the British Fantasy Society Journal and has also published in venues as diverse as DM, HelloHorror, Belleville Park Pages, and the Jewish Literary Journal. With a love for the arcane and archaic, he has a noted fondness for vinyl records, obscure musical instruments, Proust, and kitsch of all colors. He can be found in Rockville, MD, where he lives with his partner, Donovan, and their cat, Sa$ha, or at his site, thenewgodofhellfire.wordpress.com.
the folding chair in the middle of the road
death does not care if you are eight years old
or eighty or eight months, or forty-seven with
your novel unfinished and a list of to-do's
on the notepad next to where you sit and take
your coffee in the morning. death has its own
to-do list. death is the old friend you lost touch
with, the eager employee that wants your job,
the sly sociopath greeting you at the door, the class
clown. death is the b-grade movie, the folding chair
in the middle of the road, your last unhinged desire,
that moment before you get the joke. death
does not care if you are inconvenienced or compromised.
death likes a good story as much as the next guy, better
still, an ironic one told with a shaking of the head
and a muttered denial. Prompt as the first of the month,
carrying in his kit of no rhyme and no reason, certainly
no regrets, but just the will to serve and the word "next".
Who death serves is not what matters here. Who is next
isn't your business. Unless, of course, it's you.
The Woods appreciate your interest in them. A few green buds,
a sprawl of skunk cabbage, and you pull your car over, enchanted.
At first you can't find your way in, all those fallen branches
no one has gathered up. How to get closer to that clutch of yellow
some-kind-of-flower to capture on your cell phone camera and post,
with something witty or poignant, so very Mary Oliver, about Spring.
The Woods are amused by your enthusiasm, hiding a chuckle
at your drunken duck-footed walk as you discover the muddy
ooze that hides beneath the carpet of leaves, a vampiric sucking
mess that sends your sneakered feet sliding into a graceful
cascade of slender branches that you realize are thorns.
It has been a rough winter, so thanks, the Woods needed a laugh.
The Woods are charmed by your insistent pluck, climbing
through a congress of decayed tree limbs towards something
promising, only to unearth a half buried, empty, Jack Daniels bottle
under a clump of moss. You climb on top of a rock and stand proudly,
surveying your kingdom. The Woods would like to note your clear
superiority and mention that no human being has ever done that before.
As you wander out of the Woods the same way you entered,
the Woods invite you to come again. Next week they are featuring
further blooming, a haze of insects, and the alarming barks of distant
dogs. You step out of the woods, feeling connected and grounded,
and you slowly realize that this is not where you came in, and that
distant speck at least a half mile down the road is hopefully your car.
If I should lie in the belly of the whale,
I would know the story told. Hearing
of the sea split wide and the roar of a
mountain being born from it. The parting
of waters, the picket teeth, the rushing
pull not one man aboard could resist.
When the whale swallowed us, lifted us
out of the sea and swallowed us, whole
mast and riggings, the boards screaming
like the men as they snapped, I fought
with the others, thrashing in the violent
murk. The sky became the height of him,
our land the long sponge of his tongue.
Others wailed and buckled, mouths open
for the salt, the fear-ending hurl and push
beneath. All about me was the tumult,
oaths and cries, limbs and grasping, but
the tidal gluttony of his swallowing held
me up. I was lulled there, struck dumb
by the power of him, rocking in the slosh
and churn like a child held. When he released
me to the shallows, jaws held wide by the hand
of God, and spit me out to the foam- rimmed
broth, I tried to return, scrambling through
the green water back to where I'd been.
I cannot tell you why, except the eye he fixed
upon me as he parted held no pity or remorse
as he sank to the wonder of unimaginable depths.
The sand held the heap of my shape on the empty
beach, the bleach of the sun so terribly kind.
Susan Moorhead's work has appeared in DM, JMWW, Crab Creek Review, Otis Nebula, and Lowestoft Chronicle among others. Nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, her chapbook, The Night Ghost, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.