13.

My jaw is

a hornet’s nest

a cotton ball knotted into
teeth filled with tiny slivers
of glass tipped with fire ants

the handlebars of a bicycle
turned inwards

a seesaw of cracked tilt

chronic pain

wig glue

knives

a grenade with a pulled pin

tweezers not smart enough
to find the problem rooted
deep inside of me

a hangnail plus a paper cut
times one billion

chronic pain

one Tylenol, one muscle relaxer,
some numbing cream, a mouth guard
away from sleeping
for a couple hours

anti-nausea medication

anti-migraine medication

chronic pain

maybe it isn’t really there

maybe it’s all in my head

every night my jaw becomes
fire

no proof the pain existed

no proof the fire took everything

just a mouthful of hurt


12.

White Rabbit

“I’m on my way to Wonderland,” 
the man with whiskers exclaimed.
A frantic look crossed his face
as if he had forgotten something
and he would be blamed
for it if he did not find it.

The girl next to him looked concerned,
“I think I’ll ride along with
the wind today instead of
fighting it,” she whispered to herself.
Something in the pith
of her being shattered, exposed.

She spoke to him at last: “You know,
this charade of waking up
every day has really gone
on long enough.” Her face translucent,
cheeks like paper cups,
filled with vulnerability.

The man with whiskers fidgeted. “An odd
juxtaposition, aren’t we?”
He seemed a giant to her,
crushing her notion of truth. She asked,
“Is this fantasy?”
Then, the ground gave way beneath her.


*

11.

Antumbra

What if, when you go, you have to sit
through a powerpoint of your life?
A year-in-review kind of thing,
the lows, the highs--if you were so lucky--but mostly
just the in-betweens.
Slide after slide of indecision,
of stagnation,
of little flickers of yourself
with a finger in your nose,
waiting, watching, snoring: passive.
You’ll start to wonder
if the sun ever really did shine.
Can you recall actually feeling
the concussions of all those summer thunderstorms?
What was it like to feel the spring grass
between your bare-footed toes?
The bright December sky,
cloudless and brilliant,
becomes an abstraction.
On March 22, 2012, the greatest friend I never met died.
I didn’t know him then. Well, not completely.
See, I created him, curated from bits and pieces,
spit, liquor, rusted out guitar strings, little blue pills, bubble gum & duct tape,
he was all fragments really,
named him after light and shadows,
an occluded body appearing shrouded in light,
a less than shipshape image of the Wanderer,
the Seeker, the Seer. And what does any of that mean?
Should it go ahead and come with a grain of salt?
Will it be on the powerpoint
as a footnote you really have to squint to even make out?
And will any of this be on the Final?
Or is this just cumulative? God, I hope there’s a curve...

~A.S. Coomer~

*

10.

Flirting with Disaster

My mother lost everything
she owned
--twice--
in house fires.
She smokes like a goddamn chimney.
Always has.
I guess, we all flirt with disaster
in our own terms.

I tend to spend too much time alone.
I’m not good on my own;
you see, I got these itchy fingers
and bad ideas. I got this circling mind
and backload upon backload
of misplaced time and it all makes me
cringe.
I guess, we all flirt with disaster
in our own terms.

I know people with fixations,
addictions come in many shapes and sizes,
it’s not all brown bottles & little plastic baggies.
They tend to bumper-car through life,
shielded, however scantily, by ideology, belief,
substance or everyday wishful thinking,
leaving a little tread here,
a little rubber bumper there,
until they’re skating,
as the old proverb goes,
on thin ice.
I guess, we all flirt with disaster
in our own terms.

And isn’t this sounding like a song?
Something loud, bluesy, abrasive,
sweating right along with the cheap,
domestic light beer on top of the rattling, busted amp?
I’d make it one if I could play lead
but I’ve always been out here,
on the off-beat,
in a jerk and sway rhythm section
no one wants to listen to anyway.

“Sing it, brother.”
Yeah, all right. Just not tonight, ok?

~A.S. Coomer~

*

9.

The Right Ones

Word for word,
line by line,
longhand,
the dripping pen scratching the thing out
on the hotel stationary, already dogeared
from the heat and the humidity.
I’ve got most of them memorized now:
Plath, Hemingway, Thompson, Woolf.
The list is endless:
Wallace, Smith, Cobain.
I’ve got a notebook of the ones
I haven’t burned into memory.
You’ll see me refer to it from time to time
but not as often as you’d think.
And it’s funny, not hahaha funny, but funny
that with every afternoon,
with the setting of every day’s sun,
I sit down to do what I know must be done,
to do what is inescapable.
And yet, I’ve got nothing to contribute,
nothing to offer up, alongside my life,
the meager, meaningless thing it is.
What could I possibly add to the death cannon?
What could I possibly say that hasn’t already been said
--and with much more poise and poignancy?
So, here I sit. Night after night.
Somewhere on the road. Somewhere in the great,
seedy underbelly of a forgotten America wasting away.
Looking for the words, the right ones.
Reading and rereading the suicide notes of better deaths,
more meaningful lives gone by.
It’s every bit the studying for some black exam
you know you have no chance of passing, try as you might.
But I know they’re in there somewhere, the words,
The Right Ones.

*

8.

Fire Sale

I had the strangest dream last night.
I was being lead by a small child
to the scene of an immense accident.
The overpass was crowded with overturned,
burnt, wrecked cars.
Charred bodies and fragments of industry
were strewn about,
glass shards and ripped plastic crinkled under foot.
The boy brought me to a car
on its side, smashed against the railing.
I looked at the bottom of it,
all dark, greasy mechanics,
the only thing I could actually recognize
besides the tires
was the muffler,
and it reminded me of a winter’s ankle
first spring exposure.
The boy motioned for me to follow him
around the vehicle’s underbelly
to the front bumper
and the shattered windshield.
Through the spiderwebbed cracks
I could make out a person,
not moving and burned a bit
but the clothes appeared
to be almost brand new.
“We’re having a sale,” the child told me.
I looked down at him and his eyes were shining.
“The pair for five,” he motioned to the man’s blue jacket.
“Or five for separate tops and bottoms,” he turned on his heels,
and, with a sweeping gesture of his small hands,
took in the entirety of ruined city.

~A.S. Coomer~

*

7.

What are you Retarded?

My stepfather home by eight
barley able to stand, would lean over my shoulder

slap the pencil from my hand and slur
“what the fuck is this?”

Fear pinched my bladder

urine seeped through my footsie pajamas
and trickled from the garage sale chair to the floor. 

“What are you retarded?” he yelled

his body swaying an unwelcomed dance
before tipping my chair and

watching me fall
into a puddle of my own piss.


*

6.

Sex with a Stranger

An awkward hello,
murmured through pale lips.
The sweat was welling
on the side of your forehead
“come here often?”
you drew in a breath
realizing how stupid you sounded.
“Not really,” I uttered between dry lips
thinking of the tequila that would soon burn my throat.
You half fell from your seat,
trying to offer it to me.
I sat and your palms
fell to your ripped jeans
you rubbed them back and forth
for a few moments
out of habit I suppose.
Your cologne lingered
in the crowded space
of a college bar,
where frat boys
watched dancing girls
trying to find the courage
to say something clever.
Sweat rolled down your neck
I almost wanted to trace it with my tongue
and let my teeth sink
into the soft spot
between your chin and ear.
I let you press your body
against my shoulder
I wanted to reach between your thighs
and trace my fingers over the bulge
that was pressing against your jeans.
I wanted to fuck a stranger
who offered me his seat.  

*

5.

Faded into Oblivion

Entering the shelter cautiously
hearing a low groan in the distance
a few candles giving off just enough
light to make out bluish-gray men
shirtless and hanging upside down
from the roof of the dank cave
about twenty of them asleep and
sporting duct tape covering mouths
so no one will know what happened
watery catacombs filled with
dirty water and washed away hope
leading her to quite a site indeed
a clownish-white woman in a corner
wearing rags and a blood-red skirt
holding tight on to a long spear
upon closer inspection it is clear
that glued on to the clothing
are the dried up lips of victims
when asked why she did it
she murmured something about
bat men not being allowed to bite her
making the zombie connection
it seemed like a safe enough place
to spend the night and get some rest

~Lorraine Cipriano~

*

4.

You Know I Never Like To . . .

But complaining about complaining is complaining
And I hate to complain but this constant complaining
Really drains my energy and frustrates me
When you complain about everyone’s complaints against you
So, cut to the chase and other stopgap sayings
Do it already, blame a third party
For what we’re singly and collectively liable for
And then we can discuss with great dignity
The finer points of the generic interior design
Or landscape or architecture, depending on where we are
It doesn’t really matter too much as long as we can act
Like we can actually stand each other
We can’t complain


*

3.

Jeweled / Cut & Clarity

Diamond Truths, Ruby Rants, Sapphire Songs, Emerald Fables
Amethyst Ejaculations, Cubic Zirconium Quotations
Gemstone Words, but missing a gold ring of meaning
To perch upon for their display and setting
They’re loose stones, precious or semi-precious, they’re loose
A palm full of star twinkle
Relevant only if we really force it
If we cast our own rings
With our daydreams overtaking our nights
Overhanging our days
A collection of set pieces
For when there’s energy to spare to do more
Than grin and bear it
In silence
Picking at the walls
Of the coalmine’s dark galleries


*

2.
 
On The Casting Couch

Wealthy enough to inspire aspiration
But hard-working enough to be broken in enough
To mis-project myself into bed with you
Sure thing, that body’s sexy enough in this light
But you knew
You’re a character I could enjoy watching suffer
Sincerely concocted tribulations
When you meet your avatar
Of pampered, scented skin
And flatteringly cut cloth
Making dramatic facial expressions at us
With words that aren’t yours or mine
Unbelievable, but
I want to fall into those eyes
And die there 
At least two or three times

~Joseph Robert~

*

1.

LULLABY (2)

Oh I’ve had enough of these ambulatory angels
 ingots spun in the maiden’s

one free eye

In a crypt with the cracked
marble sarcophaguses
He plays acoustic hearts for her
they break in glass, embedded in his palm
He hides them and licks the wounds

crumbling to the sound
of a three dimensional muzak
Spread-eagle in Tron lasers

Oh I’ve had enough of these ambulatory angels
the universal children throwing ninja stars
at the needy who hear crib death

from the morning pipes
and the ill blue beauty
masquerading in microphone popcorn

The syllabuses melt in sheet music
Idioms of the advanced and networking
all night and all day

This is the finish of gold’s ruin
and too much sight rolled into one
cyclops

catching the ants in our news

wriggly with screams and flypaper
and the drowning alouette scream
of her voice


~John Thomas Allen~