It’s cool like a generation gap
between the window and the sill—
we keep it ever so slightly open
so the bedroom won’t smell like
stale cigarette smoke tomorrow—
when the cold wind acupunctures
itchy skin, where goosebumps
look like needlemarks and blood
still races away from deeper wounds,
we knew it would happen soon
enough, but enough was always
so elusive like speaking the same
language learned in a different
region, how we don’t understand
each other’s intonations and can’t
come to terms with the time zones
between us—now is always an hour
away, and I always get so into
whatever I’m doing that I always
miss the turning over of hands when
standing at attention doesn’t lead
to surrender the same way that
all roads lead to a way to get
somewhere, to a place where we
can prove motion or a continuum—
I wish I could continue on, but
I slept through Calc 1 because the
class met so early in the morning,
and my coffee was still too hot
to drink—in those sorts of abstract
sequences that don’t use universal
codes of symbolism, it isn’t the
math that’s the problem, it’s the
way a memory is like re-reading
your favorite book, how the deeper
themes get uncovered in the
revisiting, but the familiar lines
of dialogue comfort your loss
of the first time about as well as
sleeping on an air mattress during
the winter time brings feelings
of being well-rested, especially
if the blanket you’re nested in
has too many holes from falling
asleep with a cigarette still tucked
between your fingers—fire safety’s
important so never close your eyes
even to stop the burning in a smoky
room—and if the window’s still
opened ever so slightly to bring
in the needed relief, remember
it gets cold like a generation gap
between the window and the sill
when the fall makes you feel
like it’s been too cool for too long.
On those nights when thoughts of dying
swarm like cicadas—hissing, flapping,
bumping and pelting against the pane
(pain cloaked in old dented dusty
venetian blinds) failing to keep out
the percolated sunshine burning
eyes like dried grass in the summertime—
I search for the cooler side
of an already twice-flipped pillow
wheezing from the smoke billow
recently ingested, still smoldering
in the cheap plastic Budweiser ashtray.
Led astray, somewhere along the line,
there were decisions that became actions
that produced results,
and some of those results formed habits
and hung out in boys rooms like
youth gang members wearing
bandanas like old west bandits
trying to act like the image
they had collected from the societal collage
of what it means to be a man.
And now I am left reading the
clipped out letters from magazines,
multicolored torture sentences arranged
in judgments like super glue
to form ransom letters,
and now I am left deciding what
is worth keeping even though the universe
will find in the end that I am not.
I guess maybe love really is all I got,
and why can’t that be enough? Why not?
Stroll through muddy graveyards looking down
on headstones like an angel from heaven looking down
on naïve belief systems created from collective fears
of lonely deaths. Leave legacies counted in red flowers—
placed carefully on top of green grass like permanent markers
scrawling inadequacies on poster boards soaking up
the leftovers from the last time Satan beat his wife. This is
what it means to atone. To be afflicted with Stockholm syndrome.
To have bloody fists evidence willingness to not go out
silently in fights in mirrored rooms where broken shards
do not create thoughts of bad luck, just proof that certain elements
don’t perform like they’re supposed to when placed under
too much pressure. When placed behind squats’ golden-chained
locks that couldn’t possibly survive the force of a properly placed
steel-toed boot to the midsection if battery rams run out
of alkaline, and megaphone voices remain indecipherable.
Make them take you by force, but still go fetal if the
riot-gear robots storm your inner sanctum. It’s only noble
like the tear gas being choked on and coughed out on the floor.
I’ve got dyslexia like that kid in The Shining
riding his big wheels on the big screen
through the giant oligarch era of late night television.
Asking who the fuck is Ed Sullivan? And why
is Johnny here, and what has he done with
daddy issues? Don’t pass me a tissue.
I’m not sad, I’m doomed like Oedipus Rex.
I’m haunted like different versions of
the same ghost story. I’m spooked by realizations
that all stories are ghost stories. Spirits of former lives
with forward trajectories. Captured thoughts bound
in super glue. Hegemony came with a binary
zero and one, but forgot about two while I forgot
about shivering on hot nights when television
and movies hadn’t yet told me how to feel.
And yet there were always books, and romantic
crooks undressing me like a banana peel
that never even hid the bruises or the yellow
belly. Because it’s not the image so much that’s
important, but the reaction to a sensation. Like
starvation, art ceases to cause hunger pain when the
body goes into shock like therapy. Like the
heresy I feel when I refuse to participate in
a fixed game plotted like a word deliberately
spelled backwards. Distilled, and packed with
sugar. Poured over ice, melting frozen
intentions. I sat back and listened to the booms
of Dolby digital inventions, and still there must
have been a point when it went the other way.
The other side is alright, not great, but
alright like right turns versus left turns.
The simple pleasure of getting to go when
you’re supposed to stop. Of breaking rules.
Of reminiscing about the old school. Tradition
is so hard to break because it’s made out of
polypropylene, out of manmade dreams
that stink like dead bodies when they burn.
That stink like speaking out of turn when you
know you’re just supposed to listen.
We could be friends but the distance between
our experience doesn’t shift like magnets.
Like polar opposites. It’s too similar
for me to tell you you’ll have to go through
hell. A place designed for us by books,
but look, some of us weren’t meant to live
life. Only to survive it. To multiply it
with an exponential that is nondescript. Ineffable
sadness that isn’t so ineffable when you
just sit down and write (ride) it out.
Months of impassivity. Creativity
has to come again like a porn star.
It’s contractually obligated that you
stay hard like life. Like strife. Like
five minutes that can change your
whole life. Accident prone except
when it’s done on purpose to hurt us,
and three hundred sixty degrees still
doesn’t bring more pleasure than a
single slice. Pepperoni paradise
where the smoke is more a flavor
than an intoxicant, and still you get
hooked on it like a parasite hoping
deliverance doesn’t die. Your life
depends on it like adult diapers. It
gets shitty when you miss me. When
you forget that sometimes there is a key
that’s not metaphorical. Only shiny
metal that won’t rust if it doesn’t get
rained on like a parade. The shade
came from a shadow. It’s not callow
to point that out if it’s still a direction
It’s hard to describe what it feels like because I’m a writer, and I’m not supposed to use overused terms, clichés, obvious images, and the like. This is how I’ve been trained. Both in the academic sense and the artistic sense. I’m supposed to do something fresh, something new. That’s how you create art. That’s how you explain yourself. That’s how you create metaphors and similes. That’s how you go down as one of the greats. By offering something relatable in a way that no one has thought of before, or at least in a way that only a few have thought of before, and if you want to do this in some capacity as a way to earn a living as I do, you had better aspire to be great. Even if you don’t turn out to be, the belief in a possibility of achieving greatness is essential. It’s what creates the endurance to go on through the rejection letters and the poverty and the school loans and still want to pursue an ultimately low-paying, high-hour demanding, completely solitary way of life. And then you read, and you read, and you read, and you read some more because this is also what you’ve been trained to do. Maybe so you know what’s fresh through a process of elimination. Maybe so you learn the rhythm, and the sound, and the style, and the chops through a process of absorption. But when you’ve read as many classics as I’ve read, you can’t help but wonder if there is even anything new to say. And right now, I just can’t think of a new way to describe this.
At least I can say that I don’t believe in being stuck. In stuckness. At least it’s not that obvious. And it’s not writer’s block. The words always come when I sit down and give myself the time. They always start right up because they never exactly stop. You see, the words on this page at some point in time were shuffling through the interior space in my skull, probably through some fluid and some neurotransmitters, but it feels more like flotation and explosion, like an oil fire with enough fuel to feed it indefinitely. Like yap, yap, yap, YAP! YAP! YAP!, yap, yap, yap, YAP! YAP! YAP!, ad infinitum where yap = words and YAP! = MORE FUCKING WORDS! And so sitting at the keyboard is just a way to turn the internal yap into the external YAP! And judging by the ridiculousness of this paragraph, that’s exactly what I’ve just done, and so I’m not stuck. I’m not in stuckness. I’m not blocked. And so I’m not trapped in that cliché.
But I’m moving in another one. I’m in motion because I’m always in motion. I’m composed of atoms with electrons just like everything else, and if the smallest particles are always moving, than so am I. And so this is why it’s hard for me to put this on paper, because I’m moving backwards, and it feels like falling, and it feels like drowning, but people have been writing about falling and drowning since The Epic of Gilgamesh. But that’s what it feels like, like that leap off the roof of the house I made when I was twelve years old thinking it didn’t look that far down, and then feeling that infinity in the middle of what could have only been a second of freefall where your heart jumps into your throat and you can say a lifetime of prayers in an instant. It feels like diving down to the bottom of the deep end to do an Indian Tea Party, and then knowing that somehow you stayed under too long, and then the panic kicks in as your legs cannot seem to swim to the sunlight fast enough. And it’s true that I didn’t break my leg, and I never drowned, but infinities encapsulated in seconds still feel like infinities, like never-ending doom that has always already been there.
And the crazy thing is that I know it hasn’t always already been there, that’s just what it feels like. Four months ago, I graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s in English and a minor in Creative Writing. Considering I failed out of school the first time when I was eighteen years old, and then did a fuckton of drugs while I drank like all the alcohol in the world would evaporate if I didn’t get it in my gut in a single night every night, and considering I somehow made it back to school at twenty-five, and then left again at twenty-seven for a year to do more running out of style drinking, and then somehow made it back again and graduated with honors, well I couldn’t have been prouder of myself for finally having done something positive with myself. For finally having accomplished a long term goal despite all my self-destructive tendencies.
I was good at first. I made a decision that I want to go to grad school to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. I did all the research. I found the programs I wanted to apply to. I got professors to agree to give me letters of recommendation. I studied some for the GRE. I was working on my first book, and I was producing at record speeds. And then I lost my shitty waiting tables job a couple of months ago. Or I should say I walked out on it, in a rather immature fashion. Something that the crazy early twenties me would have done, but something I thought I had gotten over by now. And I realized it as a regression. And it somehow triggered something in me, something that’s always been lurking, that notion that I’m not prepared for the real world, that I wasn’t built right for it, that whatever combination of genome and environment that makes a good man got too many parts amotivation and too many parts bullshit detector to follow the rules, and that my plans for grad school and my plans to become a novelist are only a further symptom of this problem. I keep thinking that I’m a smart guy, and if I could just find a way to use my academic ability in a business type job that I’d be okay, that I could finally be successful, that I could make a lot of money, and I could finally ask my girlfriend to marry me, and I could help support her family financially because that’s what adults are supposed to do, and this extension of my childhood dreaming has gone far enough, and then I realized that this is just the bullshit American Dream route to unhappiness, and then I thought why do I feel so depressed that I can’t have this thing that I acknowledge as bullshit? And despite the fact that I found another job within a week of walking out on the first one, it was still another shitty waiting tables job, and it still felt like further regression, and then for some reason I can’t quite understand, I stopped writing, which was an even further regression that has waterboarded me in a Guantanamo mind prison for the past two months.
You see, ever since I really decided that I wanted to give this writing thing a full-tilt shot, I haven’t stopped. Every day, I’ve sat at my desk and written and edited and submitted to journals and read amazing novels. I’ve done all the things they’ve taught me to do in school and I’ve done the things I’ve learned on my own. I refer to myself as a writer because normally I write, and I write a lot. I have journals and computer files filled with my recorded thoughts. I have bookshelves and my kindle files filled with the right study material. I’ve been ready to do this. And I’ve needed to do this. Because writing has been the only thing that has ever pulled me out of a downward spiral successfully. When I don’t get my thoughts on paper, well, again with the stupid shitty cliché, but I feel like my thoughts are drowning, losing oxygen, becoming unclear, and paper is the surface where they can take a deep breath again.
So, I guess I have a confession to make, ugh, the trite phrases just keep coming, but it’s true, and I don’t think I can get back to my book until I put this on paper, and until I evaluate it, and until I decide once again that pursuing my dreams is a noble endeavor in a world full of sell-outs who just don’t understand. And until I can look at that next rejection letter and know that it’s not an evaluation of my talent. That for whatever reason my chosen expression of neuroses qua career choice is worth the effort I put into it. And so I guess this isn’t just a confession, but an attempt at a desperately willfull three-point turn. A chance to re-commit. A chance to change my motion.
I hope it has worked, but as any writer can tell you, the ending is the hardest part of the story, and this one doesn’t have one yet, but it does finally have a new beginning, and for that, I feel just a little bit better, and for that, I know that the process however torturous it becomes is sometimes always already worth it.
Hot fingers nimble down
a piece of color-changing glass—
black and scorched now—
he ran out of green
the last go round
and so he puffs
an empty bowl slowly
trying to put the leftovers
in a brown doggie bag.
Where’s the Smoke?
Dried up resin in a reservoir
ceasing its burn,
and now all that’s left are
the thoughts in a butter churn.
round and round, or
side-to-side like the sizzle
sound of inhaled butane.
Reasons that answer why
his throat is the only
gas again, an expression like
where there’s smoke,
keeping his hot fingers
nimbling always down
a piece of color-changing glass—
in only one direction.
Where’s the Smoke?
Staff Note: Just a little primer story to get the blog going! Submissions open July 10th for our first issue. Also, anyone interested in writing a single story or serial for the blog (separate from the issues), email email@example.com with your idea. Do not submit to this address. This is simply a point of contact. Submissions to this email will not be responded to.
Creepy Willis sat on all fours wearing a creepy cream stained wife-beater and otherwise remained naked from the waist down leaning ever the more slightly forward, towards the Macbook screen on the floor displaying the creepy photos—cleavage shots and upskirts—he’d taken at grocery stores and bars and the Laundromat across the street from his creepy apartment complex in the creepiest part of town—creepy photos taken from the creepy extra high definition extra digital extra high-strength zoom lens on his extra expensive camera. Next to the computer sat the source of the trackpad’s sticky sheen coating—a bottle of extra long lasting lubricant—purchased at the extra creepy adult bookstore with the extra jumping midnight parking lot full of other creeps like Creepy Fred and Creepy Joe and Creepy Larry. Creepy Willis’ face was turning blue just above the belt wrapped around his neck and tied to his bedroom door’s knob.
Bluer and bluer it turned as each beat of his fist grew faster and faster, and then it morphed again into a deep purple when Creepy Willis’ release happened. It was as if a year old golf-ball sized cyst in his soul had been punctured, and finally all the fluid was pouring out in droves and taking the pain with it. It was as if he had spent years obsessing on the perfect singular feeling, and then he found it, what he’d been waiting his whole life for. The completion of that life’s work. His opus. The perfect orgasm. Body, Mind, and Soul all combining and blending into a potency of paralysis and drool.
And then, well there’s no other way to describe it than floating on a cloud of double-D titties, bouncing up and down gently as if he were lying on an otherwise dormant trampoline. Up and Down, Up and down, up and down, each bounce growing shorter as he began to hear a train whistle in perfect C major, a sweeping sound that—along with the room emitting the smell of fresh garlic—left joyful tears running down his bloated cheeks. His jaw clenched, his teeth began to grit, and then he became blind as if he had just opened the exit doors to the movie theatre just after a matinee showing.
With the blindness came the realization that only pain could produce a pleasure so great. He knew it when he started to feel the stabbing in his gut—the pleasurable stabbing—the glimpse at femininity—what he’d never understood before. And then there was no more understanding.
Just the end of shame—caked into the carpet fibers with his last human creation.
Scientists will point out how
technically, we never touch
like magnets pushing and pulling
on forces they hardly understand.
When I was inside of you,
I was only inside of your atomic
forcefield, inside of invisibility,
like the words we whisper
to each other, “I love you
more than words can possibly
express” when “words can possibly
express” expresses “a whole
fucking lot” in a language
that moves like electrons
and feels like your lips
pressed against my chest.
We are frozen on tops of ponds
of liquid water like Jesus walkers
crying out, why have you forsaken me?
Why haven’t you found the key
I left under the mat? The most usual
trap. Stuck in between easy and
supposed to like Christopher Columbus
in 1492, carving out destiny
like a five-finger turkey drawn with
a purple marker. Sharper than
a razor blade cutting through
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.
He shuddered when he realized he
was all alone with the lights turned
down way low like a druggie’s eyelids.
She hid in the top of a tree before he
even counted to three. By the time
it was ten, the crickets sounded like
men weeping in a garage after
the children have gone to bed. Thinking
he was Better Off Dead like John Cusack.
Like the Muzack playing in the elevator
with curly pretentious hair. Stinking
up the air with sulfur. The celebrations
of independence floated like once-burned
paper while we were still there
melting away like a polar ice cap.
This is part of a series. Each piece can be read separately, but if you would like to read it in order, click here.
What the fuck are you doing bitch, Red Dodge Ram yelled as he revved his engine two inches away from Blue-Grey Civic’s back bumper, but she didn’t seem to even notice him there sniffing her exhaust fumes like a dog waiting to pounce. Just like a goddamn woman, never listens to shit, he honked out of the side of his mouth as he imagined putting his front end into her backseat without permission. If only that kind of thing were still legal. Like it was in the Good Ol’ Days. Red Dodge Ram wished he could have lived back in the Good Ol’ Days. The ones his grandfather told him about. The ones he honored with his retro body style and The South Will Rise Again bumper sticker he wore. The ones where it was still okay to put a woman in her place. Because that’s what a man was supposed to do, and Red Dodge Ram was definitely a man. He even had the steel testicles to prove it—hanging just underneath the trailer hitch from his heavy-duty black iron bumper. He wished he had the owner to prove it. That dainty little sad excuse for a cowboy with those pristine pleated expensive pearl-snap shirts and that goofy little bolo tie. And despite the tightness of his Wranglers, the man’s package still hid like camouflage against the flat denim zipper. At least he liked to go fast, and he treated Red Dodge Ram like a race car. Red Dodge Ram wished he could have really been a race car as he looked up to see Fast-Black Corvette sitting in the lane left of his and as he heard that stunning deep bass roar of a voice. I mean sure, Red Dodge Ram probably could pull about the same horsepower as Fast-Black Corvette, and Red Dodge Ram might even be able to compete in a drag off the line, and so he was certainly every bit of the man that Fast-Black Corvette was, maybe even more so, what with the steel balls and all, but Red Dodge Ram certainly couldn’t handle curves like Fast-Black Corvette, and his exterior simply wasn’t smooth. He wanted to be smooth, like a race car. Maybe if he had been smooth, he could have parked next to a whole lot of different cars, exotic cars, but he was stuck with that same plain goddamn smelly bitch old lady, Mercedes Diesel Wagon, parked next to him in the driveway every night for the rest of his fucking life. Proponents of arranged marriages always talked about how you get used to a person over time, but he didn’t think he’d ever get used to hearing that annoying voice every night. Why do you always have to drive so fast? Why don’t you clean that mud off your fenders? Would you mind not leaking oil in the driveway? Red Dodge Ram revved his engine again and sighed, motherfucker, as he looked at all these cars on the freeway. He just wanted to go, to go faster. Of course, he wasn’t so sure what he was in a goddamned hurry for. To go home and sit next to that cunt all over again? He signaled and moved into the exit lane two exits earlier from his normal exit deciding to stop off at Bubba’s Ice House to cool down a bit under the tree in the parking lot during happy hour before returning home to listen to more nonsense. He only hoped today that his owner would grow the liquid courage to go home and tell his own wife what he really thought of her, so maybe that might mean they could get a divorce, and maybe he could get a divorce. Jesus H. Christ! Would you goddamn move?, he yelled, this time at an old Classic White Cadillac in front of him, who was not moving despite the line of cars ahead picking up speed as they traveled off the ramp.
This is the first part to what will be a new series called “Foulmouthed Cars on a Freeway in Traffic.” It can be read chronologically or as a series of separate vignettes. Keep on the lookout for more!
Blue-Grey Civic let out a desperate squeal as she engaged her brakes and sputtered in a click-staccato, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. Her owner was already running late for work, second time this week, and now this. Blue-Grey Civic was carrying doomsday scenarios in her backseat like screaming children. Are we there yet? No! Goddamn it! No…What…Don’t Cry…I’m sorry honey, I didn’t mean to yell. It’s just about two more miles to go (and two-million fucking assholes in my fucking way). Every minute on her dashboard clock ticked towards the inevitable unemployment of her owner, towards the non-payment of the car-note her owner could no longer afford, towards the Scary Larry Tow Truck and its Gap-Toothed Repo Guy violating her undercarriage with hooks and chains and pulleys, towards the gravel and dirt parking lot where she would sit, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, her vital fluids thickening until some bald-guy in horn-rimmed glasses and a black-and-white suit at the finance company would realize she was no longer making them any money, towards the auctioneer putting her on a block like a plantation slave and fast-talking about her exterior to salivating slick sweaty stinky white men in plaid leisure suits who would be smoking cigars while touching their earlobes hoping to get a hot-wax cleanup of a bargain, towards one of these used car lot owners taking her to another parking lot—this time, a smooth, hot, concrete one—where she would again sit, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, for the first schmuck willing to shell out the two-grand above blue-book value that her sticker price asked for. She could only hope it wouldn’t end up being a drunk or a drug addict or even worse, some sixteen-year-old boy. She could just imagine the constant slamming of his foot on her poor aching gas-pedal or even worse his premature ejaculate all over the upholstery of her backseat, the remnants of nights she was parked at Make-Out Point unable to defend the poor naive redhead who would soon get the first of many disappointments with an immature human male. No, she had to, she must get her owner to work on time—if only these goddamn idiots would get out of the way—because despite the burning wake up call she got every morning when her owner would splash hot coffee onto her center-console and despite her owner’s horrible mismanagement of time, otherwise, she was an alright lady. Blue-Grey Civic flicked on her blinker, and not fully paying attention to the road, cut off the giant fucking Red Dodge Ram behind her as she moved into the right lane trying to get closer to an exit.
A year marks another passage
of the earth around the sun,
but a year is not a unit of measurement,
not a way to see how far we went,
just a reminder that we got there,
and nowhere is this phenomenon
better observed than on those dates when
we celebrate what happened the last time
we were at this exact place
in the solar system.
I remember when I walked you
to your car, and asked you if I could
see you again, and you shrugged slyly
and smiled as you drove away,
leaving me to only hope, hope, hope.
And this is exactly what I was doing
a year ago, and what I am doing now
because bright futures are built on the foundation
that the best days are yet to come.
So I hope, hope, hope to see that
beautiful smile again at the end
of the next trip around the sun.
Stuff I Like
some deaths are
so slow they are almost
silent and forgotten -
death came to me”
in the form of
73 missed calls and
- Real Life Choices Begin at Medium Level
I feel like I should have learned the piano when I had the real volition to do so
instead of wasting much...
There’s a special kind of hell
reserved for people like you.
Dante called it the inner circle.
I call it an awkward silence with me.
- she has a way with words
poetic license / metered motorboating
the coin of soul
a single man
i am familiar
in its odds
a pickle in a jar, pissed
vinegarous and glassy-eyed
Haley drinks piggish,
a mug of brown sipped dirty