I hug my mother, try to put
a twenty into her hand,
convince her to take a taxi
home. I feed him a few
spoonfuls of cherry jello,
hold the cup as he sucks
a bent straw. We both feel
better when he falls asleep.
We love each other, but ran
out of things to say last
Monday. We stopped talking
about the time I was five
riding on his shoulders
as he carried me up
the ramp for my first look
at the Yankee Stadium infield
as green and magical as Gates
to Emerald City; or at nineteen
when he changed his seat
at the dinner table, told
my mother he couldn’t keep
his food down while looking
at me and my friggin’ long hair.
I kept staring into my plate,
ate faster. I must have sighed
or raised my eyes to the ceiling
because he charged around the table,
grabbed the back of my hair,
yanked on it and held me there,
balanced on the back legs
of the chair, daring me to make
one more friggin’ sound
as my mother kept yelling
his name, yelling to let me go.
Instead, I watch Seinfeld
re-running on the monitor
hanging over his head,
try to anticipate the lines
that always make me laugh.
Later, I sit by the window,
stare at the buildings
lighting up, kitchen after
kitchen. I nod to the daughter
of the man in the next bed
as she walks in. He’s dying
too. I watch her ass, wish
this was a movie. We’d go
for dinner, linger over
coffee in a nearby cafe,
hold hands while we wait
for a light to change, end up
in her cramped apartment.
But no, there’s nothing to say
or do. Our fathers are racing
in slow motion toward
whatever comes next or nothing
at all. Neither of us sure
if the winner is the one
who fights to stay alive,
or lets go, dies tonight.
NOT THE WORST THING
At dinner, Don’s new girlfriend
talks about the one time she hit
her son. He was five and screaming,
squirming loose of his seat belt harness.
She kept half turning, reaching
behind to strap him back in, begging
him to stop as cars sped by, horns
blared. When she started to pull out,
he grabbed the back of her hair
and yanked. She turned, smacked him
twice. Two years ago and her eyes
show she isn’t close to forgiving
herself. Don strokes Sue’s hand
with his thumb. She’s separated
from her third husband. Each one
sounds more abusive than the one before.
Don stopped speaking to his parents
years before he started to suspect
they did unspeakable things to him.
Somewhere, deep down, he’s measuring
those two slaps and what they mean
to his girlfriend, her son, their future.
I dip a chip in the salsa, ask if
her son ever pulled her hair again.
I agree it’s not the point, but I’d bet
he hasn’t done anything like that again.
Sometimes, a good well-timed smack
across the face isn’t the worst thing.
When I say this, they glance at each
other. The waitress brings the check,
I have to hurry, meet my new girlfriend
in fifteen minutes. She’s half my age
and we ended up in bed too quickly.
We’re learning about each other,
finding out how we fit together
while she lies against my chest
and waits to see if my cock will get
hard again. Last time, she talked
about her white trash Jersey childhood,
the night her next door neighbor called
the cops and her dad was arrested.
Her head had swelled big as a watermelon.
She said it was her fault and she still
feels bad. She kept sticking her face
into her dad’s face and asking him
if he felt good beating up a girl,
daring him to try and shut her up
every time he was ready to stop.
I didn’t know what to say. I shifted
position, leaned on one arm. I touched
her hair, kissed her closed eyes
until she started to kiss me back.
My father hit me four, five times.
I can still feel the weight of his hand,
the sting hitting my skin, flashing
down my spine. I remember trying
not to cry until I made it to my room,
my little brother sitting on his bed,
asking if I was alright and telling him
to leave me the hell alone. Probably
I put on headphones, played the loudest
music I owned and filled my head
with scenes of torturing my father
as he wasted away in a nursing home.
Hours later he would knock on my door
or call me down stairs to talk. I think
we’d apologize, make promises. We might
have hugged, or maybe we didn’t touch
at all. Still, I always felt better, almost
closer, as if we had forgiven each other
something terrible because I loved him
and I knew he loved me more than anything.
I’m up early folding the mattress
back into the couch. My wife is asleep
behind our closed bedroom door.
My stepson is sliding the first
of today’s maybe two hundred videos
into the machine’s slot. Even though
no one in this apartment has any reason
to believe in Jesus, last night
we pretended everything was good.
Jesse wasn’t autistic and Helen
wasn’t falling out of love with me.
We sat at the kitchen table, dipped
hard boiled eggs into plastic cups
filled with colored water. Jesse
crouched, his eyes level with the edge
of the table and he jumped in delight
every time we dunked an egg
beneath the surface. Helen
caught my eye a few times
and neither one of us could keep
from smiling. When Jesse lost
interest, walked back to his room,
we finished the dozen, hardly
talking. She then said goodnight,
took a book to bed while I played
the radio softly, thought about
how hopeless I felt as I bent
down, hid a purple egg under
the bed, leaned over to kiss Jesse
while he slept so perfectly.
"Vigils" was published in Poet Lore and "Not The Worst Thing" was in The Ledge and "Easter" was included in THE LAST LIE
"Empty Nest" was first published in The Poet's Haven in December 2013.
clash and clatter
a misguided life.
the pots and pans,
the blunt force
wailings of the
door you slam,
took but five days for me
realize how much I enjoyed
my car in the garage,
me to clean house,
stock, sort through, let go.
cleared the closets of all you’d left behind,
personal items to charity,
the furniture on Craigslist.
tools I gave to a neighbor,
the books I kept for myself.
food, I ate. The wine, I drank.
mail I sorted, then forwarded
every decision logical,
choice perfectly sound.
broken walls in your study
I couldn’t restore,
foundation cracked beyond repair
your unprecedented haste to leave.
stayed but a few months more,
quickly moved on as well
a new home across town,
all that had come before.
the spring of the first full year
the day you walked out,
found a pair of sunglasses
away in a near-hidden
in the console
my car. Never used by me,
eyewear was yours,
all this time, but
held them but a moment,
dropped them to the ground,
them with the heel of my red Payless pumps.
air was crisp and healing
I finally drove home at last,
radio blasting, Let it Bleed, by The Stones.
A. Gruber has had work featured in numerous magazines, including: North American Review, Writer’s Digest, The
Endicott Review, The Homestead Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, Miller’s Pond,
The Penwood Review, Poem, Thema, The Tule Review, and Westward Quarterly. Her
first full-length collection of poetry, Lifeline, was released by
Infinity Publishing and is available from Amazon.com.
Bio Denny E. Marshall has had art and poetry published, some
recently. He does have a website with previously published works. The
web address is www.dennymarshall.com. He also has a “Guest Artist Page” on his dot net site if any artist would like to submit. (See Guidelines)
not enough time to think of all of them as naked fools just dying to hear me speak
sweaty palms and a dry mouth
just vomit and get this shit over with
and since when did you start drinking the hard stuff
chasing ghosts will only get you to the asylum
you have to become one to run the damn place
J.J. Campbell (1976 -
soon) lives and writes on a farm in Ohio. He's been widely published
over the years, most notably at Thunder Sandwich, Chiron Review,
Fearless, Zygote in My Coffee, and Underground Voices. his latest book, Sofisticated White Trash,
is available wherever they happen to sell books these days. You can
find him most days whining and complaining about something on his blog,
evil delights. (http://evildelights.blogspot.com)
“You wanted me to prove my love for you, Well I have! You wanted to know how much I love you? I love you this much!” He held up both hands bandaged and with finger splints before her gobsmacked face. “I walked in ‘The Swansea Jack’ 5 hours ago and declared my eternal love for you to your brothers, yes, all 6 of them and in front of the entire gasping pub. I had to used my bloody elbows just now to knock on your front door, Jesus Christ! Well, don’t just stand there gawking like an idiot it’s raining, let me in or I’ll get pneumonia as well!”
Those Drunken Heights Of Absurdity & Glory In Between Hangovers!
The scars, bumps and lumps. Fractured, broken, flaked and chipped teeth and bones. The tattoos both decorative and gang related. The days ticked away in different prison cells in different prisons. The countless nights dragged in through and kicked out of the ‘Wooden-Pillowed Hotel’ revolving police station doors. Fighting the system, each other or whoever came along first both winning and losing loads of times. Running team-handed down back lanes well past midnight escaping the flashing blue light menace. Nights freezing in skips and bins, shivering under a thin blanket of loose cardboard and paper. The first Roast Dinner and pint of Ruddles Bitter after a 4 day walk to get home, ah! Bedding down with deranged, psychotic women nearly half as crazy as your demented self. Smiling bravely or sometimes idiotically through the torrential rain and pain of it all. Waking up and sharing a flat flagon with those 2 rigid fingers that have been sticking up in your face ever since the hour of your birth. Insanity, nervous breakdowns, addictions and excess. The complete fucking derangement and self abandonment of the mind, body and soul. The punk rock, the adrenalin, the energy and the vice. Realizing that both losing and winning are part of life’s game and not slowing down because of either. I would not change any of it, nor spare the rod once. For on my deathbed I’ll smile because I will know that I did not waste my life at all, I experienced it and lived it to the full and squeezed out every last drop before leaving.
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.