Best of 2016

WANDERING SAVAGE

Proposal for an Empathetic Surveillance State by Rene Franco Book Trailer




ACE KINGSLY


POKE

i can never remember
how old i am
when people ask
i throw a dart
somewhere between
twenty-three and
twenty-nine

                        (married life
                        is like that)

my wife is a
homely black
leather seat cushion
named peggy or anne

                        (or something)

we’re in a toxic relationship
the two of us
she’s too clingy
especially on
sunny summer days
my skin fuses to her
in return i bathe her
in my literal toxic fumes
from arm pits to ass

                        (an ass that gets jealous when
                        other asses sit on her)

i don’t really like talking about her
i don’t like talking about work either
or my weekend plans
or what I want for dinner

                        (doesn’t leave much to talk about)

when I’m with the people
i love the most
instead of talking
i like poking them
in the arm
            the face
                        the ribs
                                    the nose.
no talking

                        (just poking)

when i poke
i’m reminded
of a time when
a plate full of broccoli
was the worst thing
that could happen

when i poke
i’m reminded
of a time when
a kiss on your
scrapes and cuts
really did make
it all better.

when i poke
i’m reminded
of a time when
monsters were slain with
a plastic sword in the
in the back yard

so i poke
            and poke
                        (and poke)

sometimes
when i’m driving
i see
            bullseyes
                                    on
the freeway’s
center divider

                        (but I go forward)

and when my fingers
twitch on the steering wheel

                        (i hold them steady)

and i keep going forward

                        (and always will)

as long as
            someone out there
                        is poking me back



GABBY MCCULLOUGH

The Knife

Subject/Title                          The Knife
List of Functions                    The knife slices neatly
                                               through flesh and bone,
                                               glistening sharply as it
                                               bathes in fluorescence.
                                               It thunks heavily against
                                               wood, tracing deep, thin
                                               lines into the damp pine.
                                               The blade partitions the
                                               wholes into halves, halves
                                               into quarters: draws and
                                               quarters deep in the board.
Summary                                Separations made, each
                                               cut is definite, permanent;
                                               each incision is irreparable
Statement                                lacerations made can never
                                               be sutured; wholes chopped
                                               into parts never revert
                                               left to diminish.

Dreamscapes (I-V.)

I.
Undefinable,
though you will ask for some
careful and cogent precision
regardless.

Should I tell you
through the odd tilt of hours and pixel,
or incise the leather and pulp
with some new miracle of acumen?

When you are no longer
flattened to a laughing hologram
frigid to touch and sad to hold,

or the moment when we need
to hear and say it most?

II.
A girl on a fishing dock
looks east and whispers
to the bodies sleeping underwater.

Schools of silver flick
and twirl in cavernous skulls
masked in feathered green,
in the white cages dissolved
of any lasting substance.

Do you see them too ? she asks,
looking to the mob of tooth and claw
slinking along the foothills.
Call out to them, hold out
your palm and whistle soft.
They can’t hurt you anymore.

I like to picture her in white,
a modern Emily Dickinson with
a pocket of scrap and petal
sewn above her thigh.

III.
A thousand origami hearts
hung from heaven by thread
and twine, celestial ramparts
athrum with the creased thud
of our boundless epicenter.

Yours is quiver and sigh,
weak tremor of
ventricle and pulse.

I cannot snare the rhythm,
though I claimed to know it well.

IV.
When I was a child I often drew
the optical illusion of two faces
fading as a vase as twin
silhouettes as a black candlestick,
an hourglass, and so on.

A sly indentation, and there
a nose, ornate
metalwork, a bulge of lip
or porcelain, it always
depends on what you want to see.

V.
You, in the cold western
valley, slumped at your
writing desk while I read
to your dreams endless
verses, poetry and the stars:

here is my formal redress,
left where I believe you’ll find it.


MELANIE SHERRI SHAW

Silence

after Eduardo C. Corral

I roll forward                he packs underwear, toothpaste
sneakers soiled of city debris                folds shirts evenly

smelly                 his stress troubles him through sweat

the number 22 marked on shoulders                a faded black
greyed a faded shade

some wounds are long lines like whip to skin                some wounds diamonds
reflecting arms holding iron shields                 against the sun

I run away, always                  alone with dry sprigs of dying trees
a vagabond in breath of ironed flesh

withering on his tongue his silence                uneasy “you
should do more, you know…”

he likes it when I hurt                strangers again

slowly he rolls socks into his bag                slowly his
words grow ancient to me


FlatLine
mercurial atrophy,

a sudden drop in passion;

laxative inaction transmuted from day to day,
week to week.

Weak knees and romantic emptiness
becomes concrete incompetence and endless banality.

You find yourself unable to see the hard lines
anymore.

The corners of polymorphous door-frames
overwhelm the senses with their meaninglessness
until the abundance of minutia become inconsequential in their Pynchon-esque heterogeneity.

There is so much white noise flooding your synapses
that each chemical misfire is an unsexy blank,

and the unthinkable occurs:

the meaningless becomes truly meaningless;
and you hope the wave will drown you quickly, and that the suffering is short,

and
that the flatline can still be final and purpose-laden,

and that the days wasted 
can add up to more than the sum of their
disparate
platitudinous components. 

LAURA KHAYAT

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BRIAN ANDRADE


I Don’t Want to Write

It’s not ink that spills in pages
But blood, my blood
Garnished from limbs
Splattered into words

Do you want to hear it?
How I chase after each hard-on,
Stick my dick into every guy
To fill what? A dark hole of passion
Implanted on my torso
From a fuck who never called back

The pastor damned faggots to hell
His words directed at me
Neither the masturbator, nor the drunk
Nor the disbeliever will be held
By the delicate hands of Christ

Neither will the delicate hands of
My mother, brother, father
Or of a lover
The only hands I feel are my own
That bruise after every poem
Bleed after each climax

Do you love hearing that?
Depression, fear molded into one
Boy framed into a body of man
And is my art of gods or of damnation
Or of methamphetamine factories?
Does my pain make you sigh
Make you cry, get your dick high?

I don’t want to write
I make a whore out of myself
Wrapping out the pain from my liver
Blood-stained tissue pulled out of me
Like endless confetti
You can pull too, until I am no more
No organ no bone no fat
Only shredded skin and a vague memory

I don’t want to write                  (It’s scary)
You scare me
I scare me
Words scare me
Existence damns me
You damn me
I damn me
For loving writing – the grand pain
Inflector
That vomits lust and fear
That will never end
Until I end.


JENT GARRISON

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DEREK CHILDS

Comeuppance

I unsubscribed from her affection this past day.

It was not as easy as I’d hoped. The blissful ignorance
made me immune to my conviction,
but once I ended our enjoyment, everything, all that anguish,
came sprawling through the cracks, the canvas
having snapped beneath the weight of unrelenting sorrow.

Never had I anticipated such fierce comeuppance.

I was unappreciative when I held her in my arms,
but now that my hands taste emptiness,
and acknowledge the nakedness of my surrounds,
that were once kept warm by her, I drape myself
in wretched cold, and wish instead for those savory nights
during which she warmed me with her kiss.

I began pondering about the beginning, the moment
I was consumed by the end, and though I was the instigator
of such unfortunate fate, where it had pleased me to imagine myself
requesting the termination of our heart’s connectedness,
the serenity I convinced myself would come,
was wrought instead by a teary eyed conclusion.

I trained myself from a young age, to never cry
in front of strangers – or family for that matter,
who behave like strangers when the emotions flare,
seldom understanding the phantom pain that took flight within.

A sudden burst of scrutiny, from my cerebral cortex
to my heart, relegates any ambrosia insufficient,
in tending to my wounds.

Sometimes I wish it was she who ended things,
then I needn’t damn myself with thoughts
of wickedness. The truth however is, I snapped
a woman’s happiness in two, and no happy fibs
will dislodge the calluses inflicted on the memories
I made with her.


R. MILLER

In the Passage Toward the Light

We view each case with avid interest,
as they leap from darkened furrows
into clean, poignant light.
Trees in heat dropping wretched fruit
to the ground.
The sound of revelry dying in the street.
We treat ourselves to levity,
and the brevity of our project
falls into our laps. One
snaps photographs with her phone.
Another communicates
a fear of loneliness.
I roll my tongue across my teeth,
feet bitten by shards of glass
in the passage toward the light.
Once, I might have preferred
to find a damp, unseemly place
where I could hang my head,
a place abounding
in dead letters and shame,
cold blood and the names
of towns I’ll never see.
A green fog floods the brain tunnel,
bringing funnels of perversity
and rain on every corner,
where mourners mass in madness.
We, in unison, wring
feral grins from our lips,
slipping undetected into grace
to drown beneath the light.


HOLDEN LYRIC

falling in love with the night

the night’s skin smells of stale smoke and ocean.
once, i kissed the air with my tongue.
i tasted salt and cherry blossoms.
you hold the nape of my neck as
i drink our surroundings. you make me
laugh over something simple. i spit the last
drops on your naked abdomen.
it drips from my nostrils.
sorry, i say. you wipe away the snot and shrug.
when the night blooms, i lose my footing.
city lights wink in our direction.
i’m drunk on the little things.
like the language/i don’t have/to speak
when telling you with closed eyes
and my heavy head on your humble chest
you are my yellow-trimmed suburban home.

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