Category: Featured

Featured: Jealousy

a hunger that
will split a hair—
then hunger till
the head is gone—

 

 

Laura Wendorff is professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. She has been published in several journals, most recently Spillway and Schuylkill Valley Journal. Wendorff’s essay “Worth The Risk: Writing Poetry About Children With Special Needs” was nominated for a Best of the Net Award and the Pushcart Prize.

Featured: Watch Her Sleep

Endika Sangroniz

 

 

 

Endika Sangroniz is a 21-year-old singer/songwriter and poet from the Basque Country, Spain. Last year, he wrote his first full-length collection of poems entitled ‘Songs That Can’t Be Sung’, which is still to be published. Endika’s poems tend to be much rawer and darker than his songs, shattering the classic structures.

Featured: The Invitation

Paul Hostovsky

Being white and having attended a few
racial justice meetings where the talk
is of cultivating authentic relationships

with people of color, I asked a black co-worker
if he’d like to come over for dinner. He answered
my question with a question of his own: “Why?

I mean, it’s not like we’re friends or anything.”
“Well, I’m trying to cultivate,” I recited,
“more authentic relationships with people

of color.” He made a face. “Cultivate?
As in, your garden? As in, you want some more
purple eggplants, some more token negritude

in the pale, pathetic, privileged patch that is
your life?” Ouch. He wasn’t going to make this
easy. Lean into the discomfort, I remembered

them saying at the racial justice meetings
in the suburb where I live, where a person of color
is as rare as a white eggplant among the aubergines.

“Not token,” I said, smiling and wincing
at the same time. “For real.” And it felt a little like
asking someone out on a date, someone

a little out of my league. “The real question,” he said,
stroking his chin in a pensive attitude, then twirling
his imaginary mustache while sizing up my imaginary

chef’s hat, “is what’s for dinner? Something
toothsome, I hope.” And he gave me his beautiful teeth.

 

 

Paul Hostovsky‘s tenth book of poetry, LATE FOR THE GRATITUDE MEETING, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net awards, and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. Website: paulhostovsky.com

Featured: Contemplation

Jay Carson

All food is 80 percent water,
a doctor once told me.
When you think about it,
it has to be.

I thought about it:
I didn’t think it had to be.
I’m a theological libertarian:
God could do anything she wanted.

All food could be like Jell-O,
which might be a better plan
for no toast stuck in the throat;
or bricks, for that matter;
Bad BBQs prove we’d survive that

If you think about it.

I had a smarty girlfriend
who used the same phrase,
like: Marriage is the most
logical manner of living for humans,
if you think about it.

I thought about it.
I didn’t think it had to be.
I live single and alone now.

 

A seventh generation Pittsburgher, Jay Carson taught at Robert Morris University for many years. He is the author of the books, Irish Coffee, (Coal Hill Review) and The Cinnamon of Desire, (Main Street Rag) as well as more than 100 poems and 4 short stories in journals, magazines, and collections.

Featured: Book of Gates

Barbara Daniels
Floodgate Road closed. You can
drive over to South Otter Branch.
But the road is closed to Otter Brook.
Garden State Scooters is located
there now. Rent or buy. Birds call
through the smoke-filled light.
Small trees, new houses, highways
crowd in. Work used to begin
at dawn with singing and cursing.
It wasn’t better—jobs broke
workers’ bodies. But brown thrashers
flew back and forth to their nest.
A neighbor boy secretly kissed a girl.
Clouds were egoless. So were
swathes of blond grass. Violets
in rain. Moon and its sister stars.
The Book of Gates leads down
through death to the underworld,
arms us with passwords and codes
for the perilous journey. At Otter
Brook, women still walk in gardens,
their arms full of crepe myrtle.
The floodgates will open. I’m
my mother now, waiting to pray.
 
Barbara Daniels‘s Rose Fever was published by WordTech Press and her chapbooks Moon Kitchen, Black Sails and Quinn & Marie by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. She received three Individual Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and earned an MFA in poetry at Vermont College.

Featured: Spontaneous Generation

Vicente Huidobro
Translated by Jonathan Simkins
Ask for your death
Here is the grave by the trail of nocturnal planes
The spontaneous generation of words on the open sea
The glitter of their modulating passage
In the cross’s metamorphosis lighting the air with bright colors
In the city of our echoes
The unchained storm slays her spouse
Herbs grow from the coordinates of fire
Or the miseries of gloveless autumn
You will arrive still
undone between the dark cloaks
Of shivering death
The dream opens to the squalls of precious metals
For you ladies
A pilgrimage to the chimneys of echoing echoes
The spectrum of the mystery beyond all danger
The only spectrum enlarged by the world’s kiss
For three days only
In the kingdom arising from the sea
The simple oblivion of the woman of the festival’s elixir
It frees your legs from the flags of death
And follows the trail of the shrouded root
Chilean writer Vicente Huidobro (1893-1948) was a major figure of 20th century avant-garde poetry. Founder of the literary movement known as Creacionismo, he was a multilingual poet, playwright, novelist, war correspondent, screenwriter, and candidate for the presidency of Chile.
 
 
 
 
 
Jonathan Simkins is the co-translator with Kimrey Anna Batts of El Creacionismo by Vicente Huidobro (The Lune, forthcoming). Recent translations have appeared or are forthcoming in The Chattahoochee Review, Eclectica Magazine, Ghost Town, Gulf Coast, PANK, and Vinyl. He is the publisher of Cigar City Poetry Journal: https://www.cigarcitypoetryjournal.org/

Featured: Vertigo

David Anthony Sam
You turn and turn,
animate flesh,
quickly forgetting
the knowing part of you.
We speak towards you
but you do not hear
as the gray clouds
that descend to gray fog
do not hear.
Outside, jonquils and tulips
test the light
with green shoots.
I cry out against
their rising into a world
soon absent of you.
But you lie in your final
bed fearful of each turning−
the vertigo of mortality
spinning you away.
 
David Anthony Sam lives in Virginia with his wife and life partner, Linda. He has four collections and his poetry has appeared in over 70 journals and publications. His chapbook Finite to Fail: Poems after Dickinson was the 2016 Grand Prize winner of GFT Press Chapbook Contest.

Featured: The Wicked Witch to the West

Zan Bockes
 

            “That witch needs her head examined!” roared my father after yet another confrontation, evidently hoping his shout would carry out the screened window to Mrs. Hokinson’s pointed ears. I could see her in her backyard, fuming as she pruned a bush with quick chops of a hedge clipper, which was almost as sharp as her nose. Her angular body jerked with each snip, a few stray locks from the bun of gray hair dangling over her waxy face. Our family thought she looked exactly like the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz,” with an identical personality.

            My mother, father, five-year-old brother and I lived in the Dundee area of Omaha, Nebraska, from 1960 to 1966. Our decision to move to another middle class neighborhood was partly influenced by Mrs. Hokinson’s lack of hospitality. At six years of age, I understood little of the arguments she and Dad carried on over the back fence, but the tone of their voices told me everything I needed to know.

            The Hokinsons’ brooding bungalow squatted to the west, close to our basement garage, and it seemed to loom over the wire fence into our massive catalpa tree, which shed long cigar-like pods that Mrs. Hokinson frequently complained about. All the windows of her house were sealed by heavy curtains, like shut eyes.

            Mr. Hokinson, some sort of engineer, appeared so infrequently that we doubted his existence. The children in our neighborhood whispered that he was chained in the basement, and that if you listened closely on summer nights, you could hear him scream. They had a teenaged daughter, Monnie, whose rare presence contributed to the myth. Sometimes I caught a glimpse of her walking off to high school early in the morning, carrying her books in the crook of her arm with her head lowered, as though she needed every bit of concentration to move her feet. Some afternoons I watched her walking back with the same demeanor, climbing the stairs to the front porch, tugging herself up the rusted rail like an old woman. Rumor had it that her mother and father regularly deprived her of food, evidenced by her frailty and bony physique. She baby-sat for my brother and me once, reading in a dark corner and paying no attention to us at all. Because we ate a whole package of chocolate Ex-Lax under her care, she was never asked back.

            “Next time I’m going to tape record that Hokinson witch,” my father threatened again and again. He set the reel-to-reel on the back porch, ready for action. But the arguments flared up so quickly that he never had the chance to turn it on.

            Each “discussion” (my mother’s term) seemed to last hours, though they were perhaps ten to fifteen minutes long. Mrs. Hokinson’s shrillness seemed to carry for blocks, though only a few houses on either side heard.

            Every week or so, I saw her and my father leaning at each other over the dilapidated fence, their faces so close they could have touched noses. My father’s shouts sounded like gunshots, Mrs. Hokinson’s like a crashing piano. From my secret perch in the catalpa, I watched my father’s red face shake, his hands clenched at his sides. The Wicked Witch gripped the frail fence, her reptilian body ready to spring, the loose skin of her neck flapping every time she uttered an epithet.

            I had never known my father to use foul language, and to discover that he cursed liberally with his neighbor shocked me. “Watch your tongue!” I wanted to yell. “I’ll wash your mouth out with soap!” With their loud and venomous voices, I often feared that Dad and Mrs. Hokinson would trade blows. Although they never did, on one occasion Mrs. Hokinson spat in Dad’s face.

            As far as their many differences went, I never thought they warranted this level of animosity. Most topics struck me as ridiculous. Several times our dog got loose, digging under the fence to explore the Hokinsons’ yard. Occasionally the dog barked briefly at night. Sometimes my brother and I lost a baseball in their bushes, or the lawn sprinkler accidentally doused the side of their house.

            Our other neighbors to the east pleasantly chatted with us every time we saw them. The elderly couple behind us exchanged cookies and pies with my mother. But they had their own difficulties with the Hokinsons. Secret alliances formed between all of us unlucky enough to live nearby. My friends from up and down the street believed the dark bungalow was haunted, that Mrs. Hokinson, an escaped lunatic, had blood under her fingernails and a hatchet under her pillow. We tiptoed past the house, lowered our voices whenever we were near. A Frisbee over the fence was forever lost.

            One ongoing source of conflict became the property line, an invisible divider that Mrs. Hokinson asserted was eleven inches further into our yard than my father claimed, the line supposedly running across the top of the driveway wall instead of giving us a little more space. The sagging wire fence, which looked like a snake from one end, just caused more confusion. Yet because of its wandering nature, it provided a “demilitarized zone” of approximately eleven inches, appearing to belong to no one.

            One winter my dad shoveled the basement driveway, heaving heavy, wet snow atop the seven-foot rock wall on the Hokinsons’ side. This drew another protest from the Wicked Witch, who shoveled the snow back down onto the driveway. The two of them shouted at each other from our front porches, Mrs. Hokinson shaking a ruler to demonstrate how far our snow had encroached on her property.

            The next spring, after a night of pouring rain, the wall collapsed, sending armies of roaches into our house. Dad suspected the Witch had done something to it–perhaps stomped her feet along the edge or undermined it with a shovel. We wouldn’t have put it past her.

            While my father made the repairs himself with cement and cinder blocks, Mrs. Hokinson notified the authorities that he hadn’t gotten a building permit. He spent the night in jail and had to pay a $100 fine, a sizable amount back then. This served to bring the conflict to a fever pitch.

            Soon after, our family finally got the opportunity to move to a newer neighborhood. I would miss our old clapboard house with the big kitchen and dusty attic, the upstairs screened porch where I spent warm days in the hammock. I would miss my friends–the games of “Hide and Seek” and “Crack the Whip,” the humid summer nights catching fireflies–and I would miss Dundee School, with its yellow wood floors and smell of wax. But moving to a new place excited me–the houses stood farther apart and the neighbors were more friendly.

            As we packed the U-Haul, Mrs. Hokinson stood watching from her sidewalk, arms barricading her flat chest. Once the last box was put into place and we all piled into the car, the Witch’s screech shattered the sticky afternoon:

            “Good riddance!”

            My father twisted the key and pumped the gas pedal. “Same to you!” he yelled as our tires squealed. My brother and I watched her disappear in the back window. Just as we rounded the corner, Mrs. Hokinson tripped as she climbed the stairs to her front porch. We didn’t stop giggling until we’d driven all the way across town.

 
 
Zan Bockes, (pronounced “Bacchus”), earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana. Her work appears in numerous publications and she has had four Pushcart Prize nominations. Her first poetry collection, CAUGHT IN PASSING, was released in 2013 and her second, ALIBI FOR STOLEN LIGHT, appeared in 2018.

Featured: Free Surge

Ross Hargreaves
 
Right before lunch in the West Junior High band room when the overhead tells us about the Surge truck parked by the cafeteria ready and waiting to give us all free Surge. “Hurry up,” the overhead said. “Because it’s first come first served.”
No way was this ending civil.
Surge was all the caffeinated rage. On the news parents were saying that it had too much caffeine, that along with Marilyn Manson CD’s it was driving kids crazy. And these parents hadn’t had to deal with Red Bull or Monster yet. Surge actually had less caffeine than Mountain Dew. And if it seems dumb to get so excited about a new soda, a Mountain Dew rip-off, remember that this was the mid 90’s. Cobain was dead, Rivers Cuomo had gone back to Harvard, Seinfeld was ending and the best Simpsons were behind us. Movie-wise, beside maybe Men in Black, the whole period was a real dump.
Anticipation ceased all conversation in the band room. Instruments were quickly put away. I lugged my tuba down to the band storeroom and by the time I got it hooked in the bell rang. I hurried to catch up. I though Surge was like drinking Gak but it was free and everyone else was doing it. Classes with a majority of cool kids had been let out early and were already mobbing the truck. I caught up with the group racing across the outside basketball courts with the Sprite backboards. Someone pushed me, someone kicked me in the back of the knee and someone spray-painted a dick on the back of my sweatshirt. That slowed me down a bit.
The Surge truck was parked behind the cafeteria. So many kids surrounded it that the Surge spokespeople couldn’t get out of the back of the truck. They were tossing out single bottles into the crowd and when that didn’t give them enough breathing room they tossed out whole cases. Most were caught. Some exploded on the asphalt, sending up a Surge mist that would last the rest of the day. Skaters were picking up broken bottles and using them to spray at girl’s chests. Other kids took intact bottles, shook them up and tossed them into the air.
I held back. Sure now that I wouldn’t get any. One kid, a sax player in the band and supposed child genius who would dedicate his life to pot smoking, ran out of the crowd, his arms loaded down with Surge bottles. “Look how many I got,” he shouted at everyone.
Another band kid, Casey, a trumpet player, came and stood by me after getting his own armful. Casey would alternately annoy me and be my friend throughout Junior high and high school. I couldn’t stand his hair, styled after the lead singer of Silver Chair. But these days we share a really funny back and forth on Facebook so you never know how these things are going to turn out.
“Casey,” I said. “Can I have one?”
“No,” he said.
Those throwing bottles were starting to take on targets. One exploded on the wall between me and Casey. Both of us sure that we had been the intended targets. “Screw this,” I said but did not go anywhere.
The Surge spokespeople began to apologize. All out of Surge. The last cases were already on the ground being fought over. The truck door was pulled down and the truck shrieked out of the parking lot.
At this point another group of cool kids showed up. Their leader was the tallest white kid in school. The basketball coaches loved him, ignored that he double dribbled every time he got the ball. He was also one of the only kids who drove to school. So every lunch his group used his car to smoke weed or cigarettes, listen to CD’s and even go to McDonalds, though they weren’t supposed to leave campus. That day who knew what they were doing, only that they had to hit the car before free Surge because the Surge would wait for them. Obviously.
“Not fair,” a blonde girl in the group said.
Some of the group entered the fray over any remaining bottles.
The tall kid pointed at me. His face was red with a recent outbreak of acne. “Did you get one?” His voice already full of rage. Sure that if a loser like me had managed a bottle of Surge it proved how unfair this whole situation was.
Casey had disappeared. “I didn’t get one,” I said. The tall kid spit on my shoes and walked away. I twisted my ankle the best I could and tried to wipe the loogie off on the ground.
The cool kids, when their friends wouldn’t give them up, began to pick out the weak kids. A plump kid from my math class gave up all six Surges held against his chest for the unlikely promise of being left alone.
It wasn’t enough, of course. Soon enough a real fight broke out. The tall kid who’d just spit on me vs. Puck, the diminutive lord of the skaters. A kid beloved for his sexual aggressiveness. The rumor was he’d attempted to fuck a seventh grade girl in the very band store room where I kept my tuba. Apparently she was too tight for him to finish. All the band teacher would tell us was, “There is stuff going on you guys can’t understand.” I wondered how involved my tuba was in all this. But what could I do, I emptied the spit valve and washed the mouthpiece out in a drinking fountain.
Puck and I had had run-ins before. The time that sticks out most, some early morning, he was standing in front of my locker talking to this Mormon girl who one day would become a tattooed bartender. I said, “Excuse me.” He ignored me. Then when he deemed it was time for him to move on, he turned to me and said, “There you go, faggot.”
The Mormon girl said to me, not unkindly, “Don’t worry about him. He’s high.”
The politics of this shit.
Feel sorry for those that do the things that really matter; drugs, drinking, fucking too early. Forgive the fuckers who have victims. All so one day you can jump into a pool fully clothed with a bunch of people on a day of celebration. Or hate them until college when you can become just like them. Sit in a room full of your awesome friends watching a home movie projection of you sitting in a room full of your awesome friends.
Is it too much to consider that we are all fascist?
The fight was mostly shoves. The crowd circled before the first punch. Some people backing a particular fighter. Others jumping back and forth to be seen as rooting for both. I wouldn’t root for either. Fuck both those guys. If they killed each other, cool.
A few punches were thrown and then Puck slapped the tall kid in the face with a full bottle of Surge. The sound reverberated throughout the now silent crowd. Then they replaced it with unanimous groans. Half the tall kids face was a slimy yellow mess of popped zits.
I remember the whole thing in super slow mo. In a way it never could have happened. That sound was the most satisfying I ever heard, until years later while working at a CheapFoods I witnessed a security guard whip a shoplifter in the back of the head with a bag of apples.
That ended the fight. Teachers came out and dragged Puck and the tall kid away. Everyone else scattered. Losers to their hiding spots. Cool kids to the basketball courts to be seen. Surge bottles kept getting sent up like fireworks. After lunch everyone returned to class covered in a sticky film.
The next day the overhead gave the whole school a stern talking too. How we didn’t behave the way young adults should, didn’t save any Surge for the seventh graders lunch. Our privileges would be limited from this point forward and if they ever allowed an opportunity like this to happen again, they hoped we would conduct ourselves in a manner befitting our situation as students of West Junior High.
No blame for themselves of course. Sending us out there like the animals.
 
Ross Hargreaves lives and writes in Idaho.