“Cheap Fish” by Addison Reilly

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I’m not really above it
like I like to think that I am –
I don’t ever put change in the
Salvation Army
buckets outside grocery stores,
Santa hats notwithstanding;
I’ll shoot a wasp
out of the air with a thick rope
of pesticide
for sport;
And I love the feeling of your
failure
because it makes me feel better.
But I’ve taken a moral stance
concerning the frogs.

You might never have seen the frogs.
I don’t see them in suburbs or the city
as much as I saw them in my hometown and all the little podunk cities
nearby.
But you’ve seen the cups of
solitary beta fish
at pet stores (cohabitation not advised)
and it’s the same idea.
They’re generally translucent,
long-fingered, webbed,
staring dumbly
in a plastic container with
nothing else
in it.
Totally still.
Until some jackass kid shakes the
plastic to-go universe they inhabit.
They scurry, nowhere to go
and then
eventually
settle back down.
Still.
Always.

Walmart.
$3.99.
Buy two get one free.

When I was a kid, I thought about
how boring that must be:
stuck in that see-through world.
How many frogs lived their
whole lives
there? Never finding an algae-frosted
home aquarium
replete with suckerfish and African cichlids
(the cheap fish).
But now that I’m older,
I don’t think that way.

I think about the horror.
Do frogs have that existential
terror of loneliness?
Of insignificance?
Of suffering so deep that
you can only detach and float away?
Ambivalent.
Amphibious.

I am afraid of the frogs.

 

Addison Reilly is a writer and ghostwriter based in Dallas. She received her Bachelor’s in Religious Studies from Southern Methodist University. Her writing has appeared in Black Horse Review and under various pseudonyms.

 

3 Poems by Josh Olsen

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Road Trip

Gas station cashier
told me my change
was $6.66. 

I said,
“I hope that’s a sign
of good things
to come,” 

& he replied
with a hearty,
“Hail Satan.”

 


 

On the 5th Anniversary of Taking My Daughter to Warped Tour 2013

“Sell out … with me, oh yeah” – Reel Big Fish, “Sell Out”

I was informed at the gate that I wouldn’t need a ticket to enter, because I was accompanying my 14-year-old daughter, & several of her underage friends, so I tried to sell my extra ticket at the door & was almost immediately arrested for scalping, but thankfully, I was not apprehended, which allowed me the opportunity to witness a Stefan Struve doppelganger get knocked out cold in a parking lot moshpit fistfight, while Reel Big Fish covered A-Ha’s “Take On Me.”

 


 

the big rig ladder

[found/erasure poem]

 

some people weren’t cut out
to be cooped up

maybe you’re one of them 

you want to climb
the big rig ladder
know what it is like
to swing up into a big rig cab 

show it who’s boss
make those 855 cubic inches
of raw diesel power
behave 

tame them 

drive trains
transmissions
braking systems 

move on to the real thing 

three tough weeks
on the driving range
& on the road 

backing
docking
coupling
reverse serpentines 

then taking the big rigs out
on the interstate 

you got what it takes
to take on the big rigs?

if you want to climb
the big rig ladder
start with the pros

Source: Ryder Technical Institute mail-in advertisement, 1975

 

 

Josh Olsen is a librarian in Flint, Michigan and the co-creator of Gimmick Press.

3 Poems by Brian Rihlmann

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MOSTLY TRUE
Those two…you ever seen
the movie, “Waiting?” Or maybe
more like the real life Beavis and
Butthead…always together,
clowning around, hiding out back
passing a joint before and
after the dinner rush.

Well, one day T shows up by himself,
goes straight to the kitchen, and starts
doing his prep, all quiet and withdrawn.
So I ask someone, ‘Where’s M?”
“T shot him!” “What?”

But it was true—they’d gotten
hammered after work and were playing
around with a nine, and….well,
accidents happen.  But before long
M was back, showing us the hole where
the bullet had passed through the love
handle fat and missed every vital organ.

He held up his shirt proudly, as T
reached over and flicked at the
scar tissue with his finger, then
ran laughing out the back door,
throwing a trash can in his path.
M chased him, and we all laughed.


LIKE SOUP
It was 2009. Mid-recession.  I was
still blessed to have I job I hated.  My
neighbor was enduring the gauntlet of
I’ll-take-whatever-I-can get.  We stood
on our balconies, ten feet away from
each other, drinking tallboys.

“Man…I dunno if I can do this much longer.”
“What?” I asked, “The telemarketing?”
“Nah…I had to leave that.  They wanted me
to bully old ladies into buying their crappy
timeshares.  But this new gig…I’m picking
up bodies for a funeral service.  Last week
they found an old man, dead in his
bathtub for like a month.”

“Jesus!” I said. “What was that like?”
His face wrinkled as he lit up, took a drag,
and exhaling smoke, said—“Like soup.”


LIVING URNS
we sit around telling war stories
and watching a grainy VHS tape
of a show we played 20 years ago
while the twenty something kids
grin, and roll their eyes when we’re
not looking, and the grandkids
play air guitar and bang their little
heads in imitation of the guys onstage.
guys with less grey. guys who could
play half the night, and party til dawn.
guys who had life firmly by the balls. guys
who could get away with anything, who
stole the reaper’s scythe and ran away,
laughing, and was that us? a resemblance,
yes…but as the night lengthens, as we
stand in the driveway still talking after we’d
said goodnight two hours before…
(It’s almost midnight, and we’re tired!)
as I’m reminded of taking over a small
town, how we terrorized the locals,
how we arrived like barbarians at that
spot on the river yelling and pouring
beer over each other’s heads, how we
scaled the razor cliffs and jumped
50 feet into the icy green water below…
(just how drunk and high was I?)
as I’m reminded of this and other
crazy times I barely remember…
I’m not quite sure, though they
assure me it’s true. I love these guys…
they’re like the living urns for the
ashes of my immolated, completely
taken-for-granted youth.

Brian Rihlmann was born in New Jersey and currently resides in Reno, Nevada. He writes free verse poetry, and has been published in The Blue Nib, The American Journal of Poetry, Cajun Mutt Press, The Rye Whiskey Review, and others. His first poetry collection, “Ordinary Trauma,” (2019) was published by Alien Buddha Press.

“Bleach And Cats That Are Black” by Ryan Purcell

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I woke up with your black cat curled up dead on my feet.
The black cloud was over me and I pretended she was asleep
and nudged her away and went back to depression sleep.
When I woke up she was right where I left her so I took her to the trash freaking out and the furry weight and her empty food bowl made for a fucked up midnight morning.
I drank tall boys until the pharmacy at CVS opened
and bought syringes for my diabetic mother but the clerk and I both know that judgy bitch is healthy as an ox and needs no insulin.
She could use the sweets if anything.
If I shoot enough electricity
I can sanitize this 600 sq ft apartment with bleach
that’ll reek out the building and make
that witch that lingers in the hall ask me
“What the fuck is good with that bleach?”
And I’ll say
“Fuck off Juanita, I got no time for your shit.”
But I’ve got nothing but time.
And echoes.
It moves slow and black through me and I clean the outside because I can’t clean the inside and don’t even ask me what’s in the fridge.
I haven’t gotten to that yet.
Just don’t open it.
You’ll miss the smell of bleach.
Not all my compartments are hollow but we keep them separate.
I put water in the cats bowl then remember and leave it anyway cause fuck, I might have
nightmared it,
and I could’ve sworn I heard a meow two seconds ago.
The oven.
I should really clean that oven.

 

Ryan Purcell is a poet and writer from the New York Metropolitan area. He writes about heavy topics like depression and addiction with the light hand of someone that has walked through them and come out the other side. A decade of bartending and eavesdropping has given him a special interest in communication, language and their inherent breakdowns/limitations.

“Eyes Ahead” by Kim Kishbaugh

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Past pitted buildings the boy tramps sidewalks by day
sandals padding hot pavement
loneliness icing his soul
he has learned to walk alert but calm
claim his space
look at no one
look away from no one
The dog that paces beside him
has no name
but has learned to wait for scraps
in exchange for the snarls she directs
at anyone not the boy
At night they bed together
mostly in silence

 

Kim Kishbaugh is a former journalist whose poetry has been published or is forthcoming at Escape into Life, goodbaad, Headline Poetry & Press, and Tiny Seed Literary Journal.
She wanders through the world looking for magic and sometimes finds it. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @kkish.

3 Poems by Stuart Buck

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little ants

i am sorry that i used to collect you in matchboxes
in my pocket, far away from the rest of your family

i was young and had yet to discover how cold life can be
without the soft crawling of other bodies

 

little poem of hope

on my way to kill myself i met
a very friendly cat, so i turned around
we are all decomposing slowly
so that is of some comfort
we are all semen/blood/dying stars
so that is of some comfort

 

when i was young my mother told me i could choose the colour of the sky

so i chose invisible because i wanted to say hello to god but when the infinite is transparent you do not see god or the end of all things, you see yourself staring back and you are full, so very full of everything

 

STUART BUCK (HE/HIM)  is a visual artist and award-winning poet living in North Wales. His art has been featured in several journals, as well as gracing the covers of several books. His third poetry collection, Portrait of a Man on Fire, is forthcoming from Rhythm & Bones Press in November 2020. When he is not writing or reading poetry he likes to cook, juggle, and listen to music. He suffers terribly from tsundoku—the art of buying copious amounts of books that he will never read. 
Twitter: @stuartmbuck

2 Poems by Ryan Bry

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Greenland

I’m crying about Greenland again,
and it doesn’t have anything to do with you, the mountainous static
has nothing of me, its buzzing snow crackle in Greenland
where everything happens.

My water coils in clouds
above Greenland, flinching at the incestuous pop of the hilltops.
Another day for my water to be above Greenland,
which I know nothing of and yet harbors my love
for you.

A sweetness is somewhere
there are rivers of sky for deja-vu canoes and I’m crying again, Greenland,
knotting my water over you.

 

 

A Brief History of Electricity in Chicago (while listening to Wire’s Pink Flag)

My electric death-flinch brought me to Chicago
and left me.

The buildings couldn’t let me go and the summer thunder
couldn’t take me.

I’m a little bit lost living without
my electric death-flinch.

 

Ryan Bry, currently residing in St. Louis, Missouri wishes to bless all his readers with a mysterious grace that they can carry with them. The fool, jack-of-all-trades, a dreaming piece of work on his way to glory. Author of Information Blossoms out on Expat Press and member of the outsider artist band Penis Grenade.