“Allergic To” By KKURRRTT

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allergies and nose drugs don’t work super well together / doing ketamine in my friend’s apartment but they have a cat and I’m also snorting cat hair right up the old ding dong left right take me out back behind the shed and shoot in me in the back of the head / because its like are they even working am i even working? / why are drugs but allergies even and now i’ve got this psychedelic head cold or cloud hanging over my head and I’ve got to blow my nose but it’s all stuffed up and it’s like maybe I shouldn’t have taken drugs in a house where I’m allergic to a cat / normal people don’t get themselves in this situation do they? / but drugs are for taking so what does it matter if the place they are taken isn’t pristine perfect ideal conditions / this is just one life but which we live it / and now my nose is stuffed and my head is weird and this was all part of the plan so what am I even complaining about? / like I signed up for three months of a subscription service for good old stuffhead nose powder and I might as well do it exactly where it’s going to have the worst possible sensation for the passageways that run in and around and behind the skin of my face / blow it all out in a tissue and it feels really good for a second like really good like you didn’t blow all of the drugs out but you did blow all the bad stuff out and you’re clear minded for a fraction of a second and you remember how to do your taxes or at least that they’re due next week and you haven’t done them yet and then it’s all stuffed up again / clogged drain / pulling out a strand of hair so long that by the end it’s completely gray, and not just like a slight gray but a full and healthy not salt and pepper GRAY and eventually it keeps going and comes out as bone-chillingly stark white / snotty child boogies hanging off his face like somebody help him / he’s at the park and oh god doesn’t anybody have a tissue for that boy? / this is what I feel like right now / I’m this boy dripping non stop snot from his nose and it wont stop no matter how many tissues we give him or me / they dont have enough tissues they dont make enough tissues we need to turn factories into tissue making factories because this kids fucking nose is so runny it just wont stop not matter how many tissues we hand him and he blows and it keeps going / should we develop a plug for nostrils because this country is going into an economic depression just making booger paper for this boys nose? / oh please thank you for your service I know we didn’t solve anything but at least we addressed the issue / was it worth it, you ask? on the other end of the short high / yeah sure / snort a little kitten dander with a bit of kitamine and it’s like whatever it takes to get you out of your mind, right? / some people sniff jenkem so it’s like I can take a little bit of pollen in my powders, it’s all part of the process or the problem / Look it was an accident / I didn’t think about it alright? / I’m still gonna do it next time / Keep blowing my nose til morning.

KKUURRTT is glad you read his thing. He can be found on twitter at @wwwkurtcom

 

“That Firecracker Summer” By Mike Lee

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That Firecracker Summer

By Mike Lee

“Ouch. Damn. Damn. Damn!” Sarah muttered, knocking her water jug against her thigh, as she walked toward the Farm and Market road that led to the town named for her mama’s family.

The grass blades cut into her bare ankles. Sarah wore half-broken flip-flops; borne from teenage hubris and indefatigable obstinacy. This was of no surprise: she is the one and only from a family where the principal rule was do as much as you can get away with. Getting by and over it while picking up what falls off from trucks, with drug store sunglasses and cheap makeup easy game when the cashier is distracted, the topper moments later getting extra cash at checkout with the magic of using fast talk, slicked with sweetness and distracting sparkling gray eyes expressing words in honeysuckle bullshit artist hailing from dirt road 

“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but I gave you a ten.”

“Are you sure, sweetheart?” The cashier was already self-questioning her actions, her wedding band hand already hesitating over the open drawer.

“Yes ma’am…. It’s five, six, seven, and ten. I think you are a little short. Yes, ma’am, I gave you a ten.”

Sarah lowered her forehead to maximize sincerity. Not using eye shadow was a nice touch: this made Sarah look younger and more acceptable to born-again Christians obsessed about being so good that getting into their heaven was greased on the rails of their gullibility.

Always works—until it doesn’t. In this little town doing the chump change shakedown you can only do once, because you know how the country ladies love to talk.

Sarah reached the hillock and clambered over the wire fence by the two-lane asphalt ribbon cutting toward the town. Summers with grandparents were at once an agony and escape from bullshit. It wasn’t as if she was missing anything. Her life at home was too controlled to do anything beyond early curfews and vetted friends. Daddy, dope paranoid and cop shy saw trouble in everyone.

So it was mornings with flapjacks and bacon on the griddle. Afterward, wanderings across the grassy fields with cedars and mesquite spit by the devil’s angels cut across by gravel tracks and trails, and the two-lane blacktop that began at Dripping Springs, with a junction with the main Hill Country route out of Austin at the town square, before terminating in Bourne. When she was a child, Sarah was on that road late at night huddled under the blanket in the back seat staring at the night sky driving back from picnics and extended family get-togethers.

Sometimes Sarah brought a book to read, and always she carried her teddy. This summer, though the bear was back at home, placed on her bed pillow directly below the poster of Robert Plant. She felt she was too old to bring it to her grandparents this time around.

Her parents were old hippies, and the music on the old Realistic cassette deck reflected that. Dylan, Janis, The Weight by The Band.

Ah, and Pure Prairie League. That song. Amie, whatcha wanna do? It evoked that day when Sarah waited out front of the school waiting for the boy she wanted.

Yes, Sarah standing there waiting for that boy, all the while soaking in the rain of her favorite dream. Yeah, that is what this was like, and remained so.

The heat turned Sarah pink before the sun burned her dark, and she walked along the road on the edge of the shoulder because the hot asphalt—even in late morning—would melt the soles of her flip flops.

She passed the tire yard, and the old stone-built gas station turned into an antique store that no one seemed to stop by to shop. Corrugated tin garages selling farm equipment and aging pickups, no beer joints because this is a dry county, no alcohol available except at the clubs Sarah was too young to be allowed to enter.

But the Baptists and the Seventh Days tolerated cigarettes, so Sarah got her smokes at the convenience store, lighting one as she walked toward the town square.

The paperback bookstore and the café beside it were Sarah’s haunts. The bookstore didn’t open until noon, so Sarah had an hour to sit in the shade outside, smoking cigarettes and thinking of getting a fresh stack of science fiction. Currently she was into Le Guin. 

She drank her coffee, the queen of the concrete bench when Bobby arrived. He pulled up in his black top, cherry red Buick Skylark. While Bobby wasn’t the boy back in Austin, he offered freedom from flapjacks, had weed and did stuff she liked well.

She thought he’ll do as he leaned for a sloppy kiss.

Amie, whatcha wanna do. She thought about the boy she had waited for. But—black top, cherry red.

“Hey baby, the firecracker stand just opened up in Blanco. I want to pick up some Black Cats before they run out,” Bobby said.

“No M-80s, please,” said Sarah. “They scare the fuck out of me.”

“They’re illegal,” he said. “They ain’t gonna have them.”

Sarah did not believe him, but watch can she do. Behind her she heard the bookstore door unlock.

She flipped her cigarette spinning to the pavement.

“C’mon,” Sarah said, nudging Bobby. “There’s a book I want to buy. Then, we can go get the firecrackers.”

“Boom,” Bobby said, spreading her fingers in front of his face and stretched his arms upward toward the sky.

With a shudder, Sarah had a premonition. But she forgot about it until she remembered later, for forever.

Boom.

“Pale Cobalt Blue” by A.S Coomer

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Nethers put in the lowest bid, by far, so he got the job of repainting the Philpot water tower. He’d overheard two county engineers talking about the project at Hattie’s Tavern and it felt too preordained not to be done. He’d spray-painted a dick on it some twenty years earlier and here then was an opportunity to not only work his idle hands but make amends for a previous transgression. 

He remembered stealing warm beer from his father’s boat then the long rickety ladder up to the top of the water tower, wrung after wrung of dissolving paint under his sweaty hands, dusk setting on quicker all the time. On top, he drank two of the beers as fast as he could then edged himself down the tank to the point where he just knew he’d slide off if he scooted another inch. Pinpricks of needles blossomed on the bottoms of his feet as he worked. He drew the five-foot dick slowly, carefully. He scrambled back up to the top of the tower then popped the tab of another warm Stroh, studying the cartoonish penis which glistened, still wet under the new moon. 

He’d never gotten caught for the dick. Nethers finished high school, by the skin of his teeth, then moved away immediately, first: a four-year stint in Louisville, then: eight in Nashville, the rest: wandering place to place always looking but never finding. He got word of his father’s passing at a truck stop in Tucson and rushed home to spend three years in a single February at the poorly insulated house, the one in which he was raised, in Philpot, settling his father’s affairs. His father left him the house and since Nethers didn’t have any place better to go he moved back home. 

Nethers decided he was going to hand-paint the water tower. He’d gotten a rock-climbing harness and set of rappelling ropes off Craigslist. He knew it’d take longer than spraying but he’d seen a video on the internet that got him started thinking about pollution and his carbon footprint; it’d showed oil covered chicklets and baby turtles. Nethers imagined the sun shining down on each of his languid brushstrokes cleansing the murky slate of his heart. He’d taken for so long he’d forgotten the healing power of giving. After snorting the Xanax, Nethers felt more comfortable with his place in things. He was making amends. 

Nethers cringed and shook when they lowered his father’s casket into the ground thinking of the growing population and all the space cemeteries wasted and the fact he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen his father, not entirely. They’d both been drunk, Nethers to the dripping inkiness of another blackout, his father probably not far off his own self. Nethers thought they’d embraced, a rare show of physical affection, but wasn’t sure. 

His hands were shaking. Though he acknowledged his boredom with life, had wondered why he kept on living when he had nothing to hope for, still he was terrified of falling from the water tower. He popped a Klonopin, washed it down with a sip of warm Stroh he’d found in the cooler of his father’s john-boat, then adjusted the harness. He made sure the ropes were in order then took each tentative step backwards slowly, his heart hammering around in his chest. He leaned forward in the harness and realized he had not thought things through. He was going to have to affix the can of paint and paintbrush to his overalls because he needed the use of his hands for repelling. He tried this, then that, finally deciding to put the can of paint inside the front of his overalls, the paint brush would be carried in his teeth. Before he started, Nethers smoked half a joint just enjoying the view and trying not to think about how high up he was.

On the way down for his initial coat of pale cobalt blue, his legs became entangled, the can of paint shifted inside his overalls, and he nearly cried out in absolute terror. Nethers regained control of himself and got the first brush strokes of the job on there. He’d painted something like a tenth of the water tank’s surface when the first can of paint ran dry. He pulled himself up, decided to smoke the other half of the joint before starting back again.

Nethers woke twisted in the harness. The moon had long been in the sky. He couldn’t feel his legs; he tried to move them but couldn’t get a response from either leg. Panic gripped him, yanking him out of his benzo haze. 

Nethers looked down; he couldn’t help it, and for a moment he felt held in place only by some cosmic accident. He’d nearly slipped free from the harness; it was slung almost off his thin hips. He punched his left thigh but felt nothing. 

He yelled but no one came to his aid ‘til the morning.

Nethers spent a few weeks in residential treatment then, long story short, he left AMA. He went back to his father’s frigid house, his now, the wheelchair making coming and going a problem. Nethers waited for the use of his legs to return, the doctors unsure why it hadn’t already happened. He spent his afternoons writing, wheeling himself onto the little back patio for smoke breaks, where he could see the progress of the painting of the Philpot water tower. 

At the base of the tower, Nethers looked up at the scaffolding, afternoon sunshine hitting the huge droplets of paint that hung and dripped. There was a robin’s nest at the foot of an oak, knocked down by the powerful paint-sprayers the Dressel brothers used. Three of the eggs had cracked but one appeared unbroken. Nethers wheeled himself closer, reached down and plucked the egg from the nest. He turned it over and saw that it’d been half-sprayed pale cobalt blue.

 

A.S. Coomer is a writer and musician. Books include MemorabiliaThe FetishistsShining the Light, & otherswww.ascoomer.com 

“I Just Don’t Get the Hype Over the New Star Wars Movie” By Madison McSweeney

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The last half hour has been nothing but flashing lights, neon lines and retro zings of defanged future bombs and swishing lightsabers. The villain, redeemed but not forgiven, flees to the mountains where his former mentor once hid. His troops, however, fight on. 

The alien desert has been ravaged by shelling; through the dust that pervades the atmosphere, we can just barely see the outlines of airships swirling in combat. On the ground, the expendable villains and indispensable heroes fight hand to hand. Limbs are separated from bodies in kaleidoscopic bursts. 

Former Stormtrooper Finn cowers before one of his former colleagues, before Poe swoops in to blow the soldier’s head off with a blaster. The men embrace. Meanwhile, the film’s female lead – Rey – is fleeing the battle. Unbeknownst to her comrades in arms, she’s just been entrusted with her most vital mission yet. She holds the fate of generations inside her.

Seconds before she can reach the escape pod, an explosion rattles the blasted earth, and she hears the ominous whirring of an Empire shuttle. Tears in her eyes, she scuttles underneath the shattered wreck of the pod. The sky above her is choked with dust.

Our heroine cowers as the enemy ship passes over her, a slender hand resting protectively on her stomach.

Cut to black.

The picture fades back in, not the crisp neon cinematography of a 21st century Star Wars movie but the slightly faded blur of a dated period drama, like one of the Historica Minutes that the government of Canada makes. A balding man with curly white hair is sitting at a heavy oak desk, writing with a quill pen. Based on the last scenes before the time jump, he’s some sort of great grandchild of Rey. He looks familiar. 

The theatre falls into reverent silence as the man on the screen bends over his notes, his hands at work but his mind elsewhere, dreaming of doing great things, if he has not done them already. Railroads. Unity. New beginnings and new nations. 

He doesn’t look up before the screen once again falls dark. As the credits roll, I look around to see how everyone else is reacting. There’s not a dry eye in the house.

I’m confused. 

At the risk of appearing ignorant, I lean closer to my movie companion. “I don’t get it – who’s he supposed to be?” My friend, a history buff as well as a Star Wars nerd, upbraids me for not recognizing Sir Wilfred Laurier, Canada’s seventh prime minister.

“That’s a strange and very Canadian-specific ending,” I say, gathering up my coat from the folded seat beside me. As we shuffle out of the aisle and begin to descend the stairs, a man in a cowboy hat going the opposite direction locks eyes with me. “Like, how are Americans reacting right now…?”

My friend is scandalized. “The man was Prime Minister for fifty years!” 

“Yes, I know,” I retort, although I’d forgotten that Laurier had served for that long. I haven’t brushed up on my Canadian prime ministers since middle school. “But I just don’t see what it has to do with the Star Wars ennealogy.” 

My friend looks at me like I’ve grown a third head. “How do you not get this? Rey embraced the light, and her descendants went on to greatness.” 

“But why Wilfred Laurier?” I cry. “In all the annals of history, why would a major international production decide to use Wilfred Laurier as a self-explanatory symbol of greatness? And are these movies even set in the same universe as us?”

My friend raises an eyebrow. “You just don’t get Star Wars, do you?”

I sigh. “I don’t know. I guess I’m just more of a Planet of the Apes girl.” 

“I bet you are!” calls the man in the cowboy hat, fighting his way the wrong way through the crowd to get a spot in the emptying theatre. I look his way, surprised, and he gives me a look that wouldn’t be out of place from a fading rocker at a backroad dive bar. But the crowd pulls me inexorably forward, and his leering eyes are off me. 

Meanwhile, my friend is trying to make me understand why this ending was so impactful. Laurier, he says, was a beloved side character in one of the crossover novels that came out in the 90s, into which the Canadian government pumped a lot of funding.  

Around us, people are still sniffling. They clearly see this as the love letter that it is. 

“Do you get it now?” my friend asks.

“I guess,” I say, looking back up into the theatre. The cowboy is leaning against the stair railing, his body silhouetted against the star-dotted screen, which is still blasting a subdued version of John Williams’ iconic score, snippets of the national anthem skillfully interwoven into the melody. The cowboy winks at me.

 

Madison McSweeney is a Canadian author and poet interested in the macabre and fantastic. She has published horror and fantasy stories in outlets like American Gothic, Cabinet of Curiosities, Unnerving Magazine and Zombie Punks F*ck Off. She blogs about music and genre fiction at www.madisonmcsweeney.com and tweets from @MMcSw13. 

“Owning Your Shit” by Tucker Lieberman

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Accountable, you are, on a summer day
While your clique picnics under a tree;
You’re discussing debacles with someone else,
But you’re not recollecting with me.

You are owning your shit with your new best friend!
You are owning it in therapy!
Likely you own it in solitary bliss
In a hammock alongside the sea.

You’re having a drink, or you’re quitting the drink,
And sobriety will set you free.
You are having a chat with your life coach,
But I don’t hear you chatting with me.

You’re finally living your true best life!
You’re the person you were born to be!
You’re sweeping your messes with piety.
You’re not owning your shit with me.

 

Tucker Lieberman created a blank journal called Flip the Finger at Despair. He is on a life quest to determine the proper forms of owning his shit. www.tuckerlieberman.com Twitter: @tuckerlieberman

2 Flash Pieces by Cody Pease

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MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION

The conversation resembles how a professor introduces a new topic: with great enthusiasm, fabricated and pandering, until a student interrupts with a crude though fair joke, and then the professor must deride the joke (and sometimes the student) to regain the students’ attention (and approval). The professor, for a brief moment, feels useless and questions the decision to become an educator (when he could have been a librarian like his brother). The student who made the joke will see this humiliation in the spasm of the professor’s lower lip, the pinch of his eyes, until frustration settles. The student will understand his own embarrassment (and frustration) when the professor harasses him, his choices, and (sometimes) the way he dresses. Their mutual destruction exists because the two men (though different in age and lived experiences) are the same man. The student will grow up to become a professor; the professor will die being able to count on one hand how many students he slept with. 

 

TWO BOTTOMS IN A TOP’S WORLD

In preparation for their fourth date, both men avoided caffeine, showered twice, drank a pineapple and mango smoothie, trimmed their toenails, popped a little pill. A normal routine for bottoms in heat. Both men wanted to be fucked. I mean, tonight was their fourth date, which is too many without seeing each other naked. It should have happened sooner, perhaps the second or third date, though neither one would have opposed it if it had been the first date. If it didn’t happen tonight, then it would never happen, and they’d leave disappointed, testicles throbbing, in search of another last-minute cock.

 

Cody Pease is a senior B.F.A. Creative Writing student at Truman State University, where they serve as a news writer for the university’s radio station. Their work is forthcoming in the March Issue of Brilliant Flash Fiction. 

2 Poems by Jeffrey L. Taylor

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Coyote 6

Coyote is an untrustworthy guide.
He’ll abandons you half way
through the desert.  There are
things to eat here.  I see him knock
the fruits off several kinds
of cactus, raid a saguaro
for water.  He sees
I can make it
to our next rendezvous
without his help.  He is needed
elsewhere.  He has my money.
Guides through this desert are scarce.
I am on the right path with
sufficient momentum.  He’s shown me
enough desert wisdom to make it
to an urban desert
further up the road.

See him there, soliciting
under a No Panhandling sign.
I have the remains
of a cactus fruit
for his hat on the ground.

 

 

Coyote Vanishing

Coyote, sly old devil, rejoices
in the untelling of the old stories.
“Of course,” proper people say,
“he doesn’t really exist.  He’s
just a myth.”  It’s
an invisibility cloak
he didn’t have to pay for.

Coyote never has
a dime to his name.
It never stops him.
Nothing ever stops Coyote,
except Coyote himself.
All Coyote does
is about himself.
He originated
ironic self-reference.

 

Jeffrey L. Taylor’s first submitted poems won 1st place and runner-up in Riff Magazine’s 1994 Jazz and Blues Poetry Contest. Encouraged, he continues to write. Serving as sensei (instructor) to small children and professor to graduate students has taught him humility.

“Shoemobile 13” by Maura Yzmore

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I shuffle through slush and ice
in a vast parking lot
hauling a prized possession
on which I spent too much time  

box with a pair of black boots
waterproof, warm, and clunky
to be worn by a boy
soon 13, just like his shoes

I see a GMC truck
it’s black, speeding and roaring
it really needs a wash, but I
shouldn’t judge, weather’s shit

and I am struck by how much
this truck looks just like a boot

yeah, I know I’m supposed to
think something profound, such as
how cars and shoes make us move
escape or disappear

instead, I wonder why cars have
engines in front, so I google
most cars are front-wheel drive
front engine yields good traction 

mostly I’m sad and I’m angry
13’s the largest store carries
maybe my last time shoe shopping
for young boy who rolls his eyes

huge future feet live online
where I will move my worries
waterproof, warm, and clunky
dirty boots, speeding, roaring

 

Maura Yzmore lives and opes in the American Midwest. She writes computer code, research papers, and some creative stuff. Her poetry has appeared in Elephants Never, Fourth & Sycamore, and Neologism Poetry, and her short fiction hither, thither, and yon. Website: https://maurayzmore.com  Twitter: @MauraYzmore  

2 Poems by Stephen Ground

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Running

strips of flesh running like broken
flapping in heat of endless breeze

please
paint them like black cats playing skunk
stitch tight with fish line or spears
lull meat to sleep in the sun
let it sizzle
burn
let it suffer and learn
that actions cause pain
and there’s safety
in torpor

 

Next Door

in the house next door
hairless chimps observe
painted zeroes and ones
stick tines in sockets be
cause it seems good and
theoretically feels it and
the chimps feel it too in
their tines and sockets
in the middle of the night
ogling glittering rectangles
in basements washrooms
perched on bowls like self-
waxing gargoyles silent and
still though they’re sure the
others on their ledge are
asleep but they’re not just
like hairless zeroes and ones
painted gargoylezees self-
waxing alone and together
in the house next door

 

Stephen Ground graduated from York University, then skipped town for a remote, fly-in community in Saskatchewan’s far north. He’s since returned south, and co-founded Pearson House Films. Find more at www.stephenground.com, or his tweets @sualtmo.

3 Poems by Tom Snarsky

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Moral Desert

 

Laura Jensen’s blog is called
spice drawer mouse and her avi
is a selfie with her flip phone

I long for this Game Boy
Advance SP energy renewable
battery pak no one start yet

damn I still have all these CDRs
left even though I used
like 40 to burn everything I had

by Lil Wayne for a stupid
reason at least I gave them
away no one need know

about the hours I spent
nor that this act was just
a placebo for the music

I wanted to burn and give
to you instead your whole face
your body on the roof with me

your mouth full of ropes

 

 

 

Theory of Suicide

 

I finger the airlock switch like
It’s a small, inconsequential thing

Life is way harder than reading
Wikipedia pages for trees

I watch porn on my phone instead
Of dancing and feel bad about it

It is funny and complicated
To be a window into grief

I have done almost nothing
All week and the sunrise is imminent

Hey let me borrow your shirt
The universe is about to begin

 

 


Psychometrician, Among The Flowers

I expect the love to end
Because instead of looking
At you I’m looking down

At the gladioli wondering
How they got so tall
And look so strong like

Two to five feet of
Worry + water isn’t nothing
Their riot of colors how

They flower every year if
Treated well if you got
Sick I don’t know what I’d

Do become a casualty
Of morning wash my hair
In secret I owe so much

Debt to your heartbeat’s
Chamber music arr. a
Mother with love from a

Piano piece that’s less
Well known now the tune
A warm memory when

You hear its new timbre
You become aware
Of a debt hand in the

River testing the water
In the dream I fall off the
Horse instead of talking

To the Dutch boy so you’ll
Be happy the pictures
I take will come out well

Terza rima will be re-
Instated starting now and
The belt you buckled

Round my throat’ll tighten
Like a shot of the lake
Moored boats like grave

Stones standing at
Attention walking on water
We need not rehearse

These debts recorded in
Pictures in the ledger
Of life a box somewhere

Unopened for years
Not hiding a secret   but
Not not hiding it either

 

Tom Snarsky’s chapbook Recent Starred Trash comes out soon from marlskarx.