Slower by Paul Tristram

There were three of us in a four man Dorm,
they brought a new timer in.
We were all alright, he’d got lucky.
We just carried on with our conversation,
when the Screw had locked the door,
and let him settle on in.
We’d gauged and judged him within the first few minutes,
there was going to be no problems,
unless he was a ‘Grass’, time would tell,
until then he’d only see slight things.
He seemed quiet enough, and didn’t blag straight off the bat,
but knew what was ‘His’ and how to say ‘No’, I liked that.
Straight after Association that evening,
once we’d finished shaking hands with Landing Dealers,
and got yelled at “Fucking Lock-Up Now!”
a few times by irate Officers awaiting their shift-change.
I strolled past his bunk, and saw him sat there
scrawling a prison calendar mark
upon the back of a ‘Dads Behind Bars’ leaflet.
“Throw that in the bin.”
He just looked at me, questioningly.
“Trust me, it’ll only do your fucking head-in.
It slows down time, keeps you focused upon each day…
and you don’t need that, especially in the beginning or middle.
You need to just ‘Be’ for now.”
“But I thought that’s what everybody did?
You see it in the movies and read about it in books.
They scratch marks into the walls.”
“This isn’t a film, or a novel (Yet!)
They used to do that back in the day, fucking dungeon times,
when the cunts told you fuck all
and threw in bread and water once a day.
You know what ‘Day’ it is today
and you’ll know what ‘Day’ it is tomorrow,
don’t think about it anymore than that.”
He put the leaflet away, and I never saw him fucking about with it again.
A month or so later, they were shipping me out to a Higher Cat,
to start in on my sentence properly.
He came up to me the night before and gave me an apple from his dinner.
“Thanks for that little talk in the beginning, it helped a lot,
it took a large chunk of the head-mess away…
and I didn’t realize just how big it was until it was gone.”

paul smoking - Copy

Paul Tristram is a Welsh writer who has poems, short stories, sketches and photography published in many publications around the world, he yearns to tattoo porcelain bridesmaids instead of digging empty graves for innocence at midnight; this too may pass, yet. Buy his books ‘Scribblings Of A Madman’ (Lit Fest Press) http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1943170096 ‘Poetry From The Nearest Barstool’ at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1326241036 And a split poetry book ‘The Raven And The Vagabond Heart’ with Bethany W Pope at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1326415204 You can also read his poems and stories here! http://paultristram.blogspot.co.uk/

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Scheming and Snow by G Emil Reutter

Sometimes people will steal anything. For some it is about the thrill, the rush of endorphins. For others it is out of need and yet for others it is about a bigger plan. It doesn’t mean it’s a complicated plan, just a plan to get something for nothing.  David and Albert were the type to scheme for what was always a small payoff. Their only concern was to score enough to get food and meth. Today was one of those days, it was 5 degrees out and the day before ten inches of snow had fallen. David and Albert were walking the neighborhood over clean sidewalks and sidewalks full of snow. Opportunity knocked. Two shovels were resting on a porch, they ran up the walkway and grabbed them.

As they made it to the middle of the walkway a large bang alarmed them.

“You bastards! Drop the shovels!”

A large bulky man in long johns and no shoes was rumbling down the porch steps toward them. The guys ran, he was hot on their heels but gave up after 20 yards or so. They ran through the alleyways until arriving a few blocks over. Winded they discussed their plan. Get someone to agree for them to shovel their walkway and when getting paid grab a purse or wallet and get out of there.

They found a house with no footprints on the walkways. Albert made his way to the front door and banged on the screen door. An older small framed woman answered the door.

“Do you need your walkway shoveled?”

“Yes young man I do. How much do you charge?”

“Ten dollars will do. We’ll give you the senior rate!”

“Oh thank you, yes clear the walkways.”

Albert returned to sidewalk along the street.

“Let’s do this David.”

“How much did you ask for?”

“Ten bucks.”
“Dumb ass! You should have asked for twenty!”

“When she comes to the door with the money we can grab her pocketbook!”

They shoveled the sidewalk then the walkway to the porch, shoveled the porch and the walkway to the backyard. Albert and David walked up to the front door located on the porch and knocked. She opened the screen door just a bit and slid the ten dollar bill through the space. Albert grabbed the ten as she closed and locked the door. The woman smiled at them.

“Thank you boys!”

She closed the door. Albert and David stood there arguing with each other. They didn’t notice the man standing at the bottom of the steps.

“Give me my fucking shovels dumbasses!”

Albert swung his shovel at the man from the top step, the man grabbed the end and pulled him down the steps until he fell on the walkway. David dropped his, ran off the porch right into the man, both fell on the walkway. The guys got up and ran to the street, the man was on his back like a turtle on the back of its shell. David looked into the street and saw the man’s car, running. The man got to his feet as he watched the guys jump into his car.

“Jesus fucking Christ!”

David and Albert looked at the man, hooting and laughing Albert floored the gas pedal. Slipping and sliding down the street the car picked up speed. Albert ignored the stop sign. They never saw the snow plow as it rammed the car crunching it against a car in the street like a compactor at a junk yard.

g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. Nine collections of his fiction and poetry have been published. He can be found at:
https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

What River Is This? by Jeff Bagato

Say it again, isn’t there a river to cross?
An old willow there
who sheds all the light
on your neighbor’s empty blood—
you test yourself, reaching
into an arm with thirsty fingers
and examining an artery
minutely, rolling a nerve between
two fingers and the blood drips
on your leg, the forked end
slithers in the air with fanning
wind and thus all the voices
you hear are quiet and direct

If your skin is scraped away
on concrete, examine the wound
for whispers; these may be
your walking papers—
your influence to pick up
a real gun,
                action
afforded by the word—
that is necessary—
action—the death of an enemy,
the life of a friend—advanced
by a spell

An old willow who matters
and there you sell your soul—

this river to cross

Crossed in death by the word—
and this is the spell,
the bridge—
go back desperate to notebooks
saying nothing—
looking for a river—
in your failure you keep swimming

A coin or a word is passed

A poisoned river in Guyana—
maybe it’s right,
as those who are to blame
may drink cyanide
and also die with the forest—

They perform rites to take
many with them,
of the wrong species

We’ll never give you a silent world,
one that knuckles under—
you will have to bring more
than cyanide to our banks—
we too have our tools—
odors and the heat,
the density of jungles to drive
men mad until they drink
first of the poisoned wells

Bastards, stay away from the trees

No, I’m just too tired
to fight today:
It will have to come later

I wish I could remember

Jeff Bagato 2

A multi-media artist living near Washington, DC, Jeff Bagato produces poetry and prose as well as electronic music and glitch video. Some of his poetry and visuals have recently appeared in Empty Mirror, Futures Trading, Otoliths, Gold Wake Live, H&, The New Post-Literate, and Midnight Lane Boutique. Some short fiction has appeared in Gobbet and The Colored Lens. He has published nineteen books, all available through the usual online markets, including Savage Magic (poetry) and Computing Angels (fiction). A blog about his writing and publishing efforts can be found at http://jeffbagato.com

Strange Days by Alan Catlin

“I can hardly wait.”
             Juliette Lewis

Pay at the door, End of the World party
or been down so long like up to me losers,
for Pynchon‘s whole sick crew, V leftovers
and assorted  headbangers, spike haired Mohawk
millennial monsters, walking wounded mosh
pit mauled survivors of blunt forced traumas,
adrenaline junkies and light show losers,
four shades of drunk and disordered, drugged
and deformed by unidentifiable pains, internal
injuries no X-Ray, no CAT Scan, no magnetic
resonance exam will show.
Revolutionary roadies, protest signs written
in Braille, in day glo orange fighting the front
lines of mental exhaustion, of freedom’s last
chiming bell descending into the pit of Blake’s
most vivid hell, at come as you are parties as
characters in documentary filmed Heaven of
Earthly Delights: Times Square at turn of new
year celebration.
Cross picket lines at your own risk, drag the body
of your dead familiar with you to Armageddon’s
firing squad, “let’s do it”, Gary Gilmore style
execution of justice American Gothic style:
the devil wears high heels and the Joker rides
on top of a tank: police work is for pussies,
murder is for professionals.
Resurrection men and dead rock star cover bands,
artists and wannabees, decades gone but refusing
to admit defeat, knock knocking on heaven’s door
with fire axes and riot sticks, let the games begin.
Fire bomb burn scars and high water marks on gold
paved streets, on the let’s paint all the banks and
brokerage firms plague year yellow for the coming
economic collapse; even the politician’s jumping.
Sex in the streets is only the salvation: limousines
converted into makeshift hearses, Cosmopolis made
Apocalyptic, all the white noise that fits, we broadcast,
the streets are fields that already died.
All the bleeding edges, cyberpunk dreams about to implode;
all of tomorrow’s parties are filled with virtual light,
negativity won’t pull you through.

acatlin multi

Alan Catlin is a widely published poet in the US of A and elsewhere. His most recent book is “Books of the Dead: a memoir with poetry” about the deaths of his parents. He is a retired professional barman and the editor of the online poetry zine misfitmagazine.net.

The Poetry Reading by Rob Plath

all the poets
were so glad
to meet
each other

soft palms
cupping
more
soft palms

hands that
never strangled
the abc’s

that didn’t have
the indelible
black juice
beneath their
cuticles

i walked out
before the
the first reader
hit the podium

those palms
a prediction
of the poems

rob-plath

Rob Plath is a 46-yea-old poet from New York. He has over a dozen books out. He is most known for his collection A BELLYFUL OF ANARCHY (epic rites press). He lives alone with his cat and stays out of trouble. See more of his work at http://www.robplath.com

New Orleans #1 by Grant Guy

I am coming with my hand outstretched
Fuck it    I am coming to embrace your virtues and sins
Like a naughty lover warmed by the sultry night sky

We will bust the windows of our protection
Break open a dance made of stars and sweat
Straight up Straight down

Our song of love will fall between Heaven and Hell
We will be the fluid of one

We will both wear proudly our grass stains

Grant Guy

Grant Guy: Canadian poet, writer and playwright. His poems and short stories have been published nationally and internationally. His books are Open Fragments, On the Bright Side of Down and Bus Stop Bus Stop. He received the MAC 2004 Award of Distinction and WAC’s 2017 Making A Difference Award.

Evening Wear/ Three Masks by Nate Maxson

A dark sky sanctuary/ where they don’t let the light in without a permit
In earlier days the philosophers talked of angels and needles and endangered species
All the self-important people who say they built the world
Now it’s all something about: how many ghosts can fit inside the machine?

The first time we ever touched the moon
A clown car paradox
While we’re still laughing

A still and snow covered field
When the sun’s going down
Windless
At night
I never feel the cold

Nate Maxson

Nate Maxson is a writer and performance artist. He is the author of several collections of poetry including ‘The Whisper Gallery’ and ‘The Torture Report’. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Calvary Greetings In The Name Of Our Lord by Paul Tristram

She sidewinders and that’s not a sexual technique nor compliment.
He’s refusing to ‘Talk To Frank’ until the drugs kick-in properly…
we could be here awhile and I have nothing to do somewhere else.
I finger-scrawled ‘Your Symptoms Are Showing’ in the ceiling dust.
How did I get up there? Rage, mostly, and walking over other people.
She told me to tie her to the bed and then do whatever I wanted…
besides therapy twice a week, she now hates socks and tight sleeve cuffs .
He breaks things on purpose and waves at strangers to confuse them.
I once etched a Francis Bacon portrait onto a Vim container
and gave it as a Valentine’s Gift… I haven’t clapped eyes on her since.
You were obviously born to be a ‘Cold Caller’, take that as you will.
“It’s exactly thirty three and a half steps down the garden path”
explained the blind man “But, I never ever go that way myself.
How do I know? I’ve been informed by the people I’ve sent down it”

paul smoking - Copy

Paul Tristram is a Welsh writer who has poems, short stories, sketches and photography published in many publications around the world, he yearns to tattoo porcelain bridesmaids instead of digging empty graves for innocence at midnight; this too may pass, yet. Buy his books ‘Scribblings Of A Madman’ (Lit Fest Press) http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1943170096 ‘Poetry From The Nearest Barstool’ at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1326241036 And a split poetry book ‘The Raven And The Vagabond Heart’ with Bethany W Pope at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1326415204 You can also read his poems and stories here! http://paultristram.blogspot.co.uk/

Hard Knocks by Steve Carr

Waves of pig stench flooded over the nine foot tall wood fence. Heated by the mid-afternoon August sun, Jake’s back yard smelled like cooked rancid pork. On the plastic fold out lounge chair, Jake rolled onto his back and placed his arm across his nose and inhaled the scent of the coconut oil on his bare arm. While sniffing, he stared up at the cloudless sky and counted in his head the number of days that it hadn’t rained. Forty three.
A chorus of squeals from the pigs was carried into the air from the other side of the fence followed by a series of loud thuds, then silence.
Jake sat up and with both hands wiped sweat from his enlarged stomach. A thin layer of the oil had collected around the waistband of his Speedos. Feeling the tingle of sunburn on his back and the back of his legs, he suddenly remembered he had forgotten to apply lotion to any part of his backside.
He grabbed the bottle of water from the white plastic table next to the chair and unscrewed the cap and tilted his head back and poured water into his mouth. He quickly spit it out and grabbed his throat. The water’s temperature was near boiling. He put the cap back on the bottle and hurled it over the fence. Several pigs squealed, followed by thuds.
“Poor bastards,” he said.
Rising out of the chair, he placed his left foot on the sun baked concrete of his patio and let out a “yelp” and quickly raised it and sat back down. He looked at his watch. It would be three hours before his wife got home.
*
As Claire rubbed sunburn ointment on Jake’s shoulders she looked out their bedroom window and watched the pigs that were squeezed into a small square of bare dirt surrounded by a low metal rail fence. She kicked aside the empty green beans can at her feet and kneaded the ointment into Jake’s skin with renewed vigor.
“That hurts,” Jake said. “You’re just supposed to apply that stuff, not fuse it with my body.”
“Do it yourself then,” she said, dropping the ointment tube into his lap. Kicking empty vegetable cans aside, she walked to the bed and sat down on the edge, crossed one leg over the other and began to hum.
Jake squirted some of the ointment into the palm of his hand and unsuccessfully tried to reach around to the middle of his back. “What’s got into you?” he said.
She stopped humming for a moment and said, “Pigs,” then began humming again.
Jake glanced out the window. Two men carrying sledge hammers were entering the pig enclosure. “I wonder how necessary pork is to anyone’s diet?” he said, watching the men.
“If you’re Jewish it’s not necessary at all,” she said.
One of the men opened a small gate and led a large pig into a narrow separately enclosed walkway that extended off from one side of the main enclosure. He closed the gate and the other man raised his sledgehammer and brought it down on the pig’s skull. The pig immediately fell to the ground as blood squirted from its eye sockets and snout.
Jake quickly re-swallowed the vomit that had shot up into his mouth. He turned away from the window. “What I find a true mystery is that some living things are born pigs and some are born spiders or goldfish. If things had worked out differently that could be me or you down there getting our brains knocked out so that some slob in New Jersey gets bacon with his eggs in the morning.”
*
Sitting in a green lawn chair with a rose colored handkerchief that had been doused with perfume to her nose, Claire stared up at the star-freckled night sky and hummed.
Jake came out of the house with an open can of peas in one hand and a large spoon in the other. He sat on the lounge chair and shoved the spoon into the peas and brought out a spoonful. “The ointment didn’t help,” he said. “Blisters have formed. I can feel them busting and the liquid inside them running down my back.” He put the spoon in his mouth and sucked the peas into his throat.
“We have to do something,” Claire said.
“About what?” Jake said as he put another spoonful of peas in his mouth.
“The pigs,” Claire said. “We have to stop the slaughter.”
Jake took the spoon out of the can and laid it beside him. He raised the can to his mouth, tilted his head  back and poured the peas in. Without chewing them he made loud gulping noises as they slid down his throat.
“I’m pretty sure someone already thought of that and whatever they tried, failed,” he said. “Besides I like the cans of pork and beans.”
Claire stood up and gazing at the fence, said, “I don’t think I can take hearing another pig being knocked on the head.” She went into the house.
Jake threw the empty can over the fence and shivered as a stream of blister juice slid down his spine.
Claire came back out of the house carrying a shovel and a bandana.
“What are you going to do with that?” he said.
She went to the fence and tied the bandana around the lower half of her face. “Getting the pigs out.” She pushed the shovel into the dirt at the bottom of the fence.
*
Sunlight began to break through the morning cloud cover. Jake pulled the tab on the top lid of a can of okra and tossed it on the heap of dirt Claire had shoveled from under the fence. Using his fingers he took out a single okra and put it in his mouth and ran it around on his tongue before swallowing it.
Claire stuck her head out from under the ditch she had dug under the fence. “I think even the biggest pigs will be able to crawl through this,” she said.
“How many pigs are there?” he said.
“About fifty.”
“What do we do once they’re all over here?” he said.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” she said. She withdrew her head and a few minutes later a squealing pig was pushed through the hole. Then another one. Then another.
At last, when Claire crawled under the fence she sat panting on the edge of the hole and said, “Quick, help me fill this hole in before the head smashers arrive.”
The pigs were busily scrounging through the piles of empty tin cans. They had brought their stench with them.
Pinching his nostrils, Jake said, “I’ve been up all  night and the blisters on my back are killing me.”
She glared at him as she stood up and grabbed the shovel and began to fill in the hole. Just as she patted down the dirt, making sure it was firmly in place, the sound of one of the men in the slaughter yard was heard, saying, “I could have sworn there were pigs in the pen when we left last night. Oh well, bring out the next bunch.”
*
Sitting at the open bedroom window and watching the pigs bathed in moonlight squealing loudly and fighting with each other for a few piles of canned vegetables, Jake held a washcloth drenched in aftershave to his nose and said, “They’re noisier and stinkier up close and on this side of the fence.”
On the edge of the bed and dabbing iodine on a bleeding wound, Claire said, “I never knew that pigs bite.”
Jake shut the window and turned.  “What you and I learned from the school of hard knocks didn’t include anything about pigs,” he said. “They’re getting pretty worked up out there. Are there many cans of food left?”
“A few,” she said. She took a large bandage from its wrapper and placed it on the bite then stood up. “We better feed them again or they’ll keep us up all night.”
Going down the stairs to the kitchen, Jake moaned several times.
“What’s wrong with you?” Claire asked.
“My sunburned skin feels like it’s being ripped apart every time I move,” he said.
Claire flipped on the kitchen light as they entered it. She kicked aside empty cans and grabbed a tin baking sheet from the drawer at the bottom of the oven and placed it on the table then retrieved the can opener from the sink drain board.
Jake went into the pantry and came back out a few minutes later with his arms full of cans. He placed them on the table. “This is it,” he said. “I hope they like squash, artichokes and Brussels sprouts.”
Claire began opening the cans and pouring the contents onto the baking sheet and tossing the empty cans on the floor as Jake shaped the vegetables into a volcano. After tossing the last can into a corner, Claire said, “That’s not a lot of food for fifty pigs.”
Jake groaned as he lifted the tray. “We saved their lives and have fed them all the food we have in the house, what more could they want?” he said.
Going out the back door, Claire followed Jake down the back stairs. He had the baking sheet held above his head. They walked a few feet into the crowd of pigs before the animals started to attack.
“They smell the food,” Jake yelled as he dropped the baking sheet which was quickly trampled on by the agitated pigs.
“We have to get back inside,” Claire yelled as several pigs began biting her legs.
Jake grabbed her hand and tried to pull her to the steps. His foot slipped on an empty tin can and he fell to the ground, pulling Claire with him. The pigs consumed them.
A half hour later the pigs were hungry again.

Steve Carr, who lives in Richmond, Va., began his writing career as a military journalist and has had over a hundred short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals and anthologies. His plays have been produced in several states. He was a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee. He is on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012966314127 and Twitter @carrsteven960

Don’t Mess with Ouija by Jeff Bagato

Ouija you maniac, you fiend,
how can you keep spitting
words on the table
like that—pure, harsh
words that numb some
minds and make others uncomfortable—
you should be more polite,
more considerate, perhaps
more dainty or just more sweet,
and when I ask Ouija
to spell me a fortune,
some slim contact with a destiny
of desire, all I get is noise,
a string of letters like
Z-Z-Z-Z-Z or K-K-K-K-K,
like snoring or choking on her
own vomit and bile,
‘cause Ouija’s a wild thing,
independent of mind & clearly in touch
with a bad mojo, staring
too long into the wormholes of time,
the lairs of demons and failure
and pain, ‘cause those who consult
the oracle should already know
they were born to lose
from money to sanity and all
success in between—
Ouija lays it down hard
with a screech of stiff
legs on lacquered wood:
can’t see the forest for the fire;
can’t see the fire
for the smoke;
can’t see the smoke
for the retina burn of raw
ego need shining with
an inner glow of a soul
in hell

Jeff Bagato 2

A multi-media artist living near Washington, DC, Jeff Bagato produces poetry and prose as well as electronic music and glitch video. Some of his poetry and visuals have recently appeared in Empty Mirror, Futures Trading, Otoliths, Gold Wake Live, H&, The New Post-Literate, and Midnight Lane Boutique. Some short fiction has appeared in Gobbet and The Colored Lens. He has published nineteen books, all available through the usual online markets, including Savage Magic (poetry) and Computing Angels (fiction). A blog about his writing and publishing efforts can be found at http://jeffbagato.com