Thirteen Myna Birds

The morning

There is a tree in my backyard from which pus-filled boils hang. I’ve seen birds break them open, and I have eaten one myself. They all have hard tapioca pearls in them that punish me for biting down, so I bite until I bleed. Sometimes I forget that I have the power to kill myself.

It’s such a relief when I remember.

I have hung so many nooses in my dorm room, but my laptop charger is the only one that could have worked. At home there are no good places to hang myself.

When I go walking, sometimes I suddenly hear a freight train barreling towards me, and the earth before me splits open. Hot water, red with clay, drowns me and I hope someone will hear me now.
~Abigail Denton~



If Not When

When I kill myself, I will tenderly carve uneven ribbons from my flesh and let the blood rush from me until I am an empty husk surrounded by my own filth. I will stand in my freezing cold apartment, fingers fumbling with my dull paring knife, and cut and cut and cut and cut until I can grasp each ragged rectangle and drag it screaming from my body. I won't go into shock because if I can push myself through the undying light of every morning and the corrosive darkness of every night, then I can be here and do this, and my body doesn't get to make that decision for me I will be there every moment and feel it all because I will choose who I am and what I mean and it is this and now and here and blood and gone. 

~Abigail Denton~



The Rabbit Hole

She asked don't you ever
look inside your mind?
I know what's there that's
why I don't

anger, rage, hate
paranoia, insecurity
fear, self loathing

mental illness
control of the weather
control of your mind
control of nothing
swallow a pill and
fall into the hole

can't stop the racing
of rabbits racing through my mind
take one pill and it does nothing
take the rest
beauty, friendship, love

~Darryl Shupe~



Question and Undermine

every decision she makes.
Mock every indecision.
Bully her every choice:
take an old rusty nutpick, scratch
hopscotch lines into her armpits,
then dig, like a hygienist
scraping away plaque,
until you violate her joints
and smile when you do it,
throw her a psalm, like it's the ball from an old jax set
that lost its bounce but smacks like hard cement on her
right eyelid, silencing her wink.
She writhes in pain, injury insulted when she trips on a wrench
you place in front of her feet.
She's breathing your moves,
the antichrist to her cheer section.
You reach down, yank out her bangs
as if they were a clump of grass,
blow them into your breeze, make a wish
for yourself that she'll morph into instant dead dandelion,
but she dares whimper. You tell her please
get some mental help. You add, make it credible.

~Sandra Feen~



Facial Landscape

~Sandra Feen~



The Lot

A rough little guy
built like a fireplug
chased a favorite girl home
through the lot
on Lefferts Avenue
where there was always
something unpleasant in the weeds:
drippy cans of beer, a dead pigeon,
bleeding newsprint. He must like you,
her mother said.

Moving through childhood for me
hopeful. Now I watch from here
like watching hatchlings in a nest
on the internet via webcam.

(Is the internet a secondary habitat
for the bird? For the watcher?)

I can see the lot
the girl who ran through there
and others that maybe ran through there
and lot could be happy
this lot could be happy.

~Linda Umans~




The bones of my brother

were stashed around the house

his hair was in the drain

his toy truck was under the bed

his shoe in the closet

I heard his giggle on the lawn

and his breathing in the night

I thought I could escape him

but he was everywhere

in my mother’s irritation

and in her false smile

behind her tipsy laughter

in my father’s distance

and his rigid rules

my sister was haunted

and useless to me

they were all so busy with him

with all the little tender bits of him

his mischief and his sweetness and the happiness he gave them

I wanted them to see me

but I was no match for him

no one could help me

get rid of him

because he wasn’t there

~Janet Kinaird Parker~



Keep Elevated

~Sandra Feen~




Born a bundle of recessive traits
no reflection from anyone
who wasn’t in a book.

I became dominant in spite.
This took a lot of time.
And now my furniture is dying.

At night I hear creaks
coming from my dresser
no termite invasion
but the sound of glue
terminally drying.
When I heard a piece of wood
drop to the floor, I knew.

My life did not walk off like Gogol’s nose
to accumulate memories
to commit its own mayhem.

It hangs about
sometimes a shawl of albatross
sometimes a warm hoodie.

Lovely man at a reading
the other night, really young
seated a folding chair away.
We smiled at the same times
same things.

Oh, if…

Have a single malt, I say
and take your shards
for a stroll in the subjunctive.

~Linda Umans~




nobody told me

(they didn't say much)

that when I was sixty and a widow

that such a longing would be there

this longing for touch

this longing for muscle and sinew and skin

for beauty, for youth

this hunger within

for the feel and the scent of silky clean hair

nobody told me I would miss it so much

the permission to feel and the smell

of young breath

stroking the round

and the soft and the hard

the chance to be wild

and desired and free

nobody told me

the fire would still burn when

the world had moved on

and the nights had turned cold

my big bed was empty

and my body was old

~Janet Kinaird Parker~



Missing Ease

~Sandra Feen~




What you say, you say.
You have been accused of keeping
Your weather close.  So
When now and again you let
Some rain out, it is curiously noted.
Yet, people should know:
You are not an eco-system –
You are a farmyard, and each
Part of you fits into the economics
Of robbing chickens of their eggs,
Killing the rats in the barn,
Sealing that oil leak in the tractor.
Hear that tractor roar!   If we
Ignore it, your economy goes south,
Chickens withdraw and fear stewing.
And then you let loose the sleet.

~Ken Poyner~



Here is where we make the animals.
Each to order, the genetic strips
First assembled in huge scale,
Checked for accuracy, then reconstructed
With the proper ratios, put in
The nutrient soup and, just

Like that, you have a new
Animal.  We often make more
Than one, just in case
A bad connection creeps in.

If all goes well, we offer
The other to the customer
At reduced price.  Otherwise,

It is an operating expense write-off.
People are so pleased
That usually they want the seconds.
We disassemble afterwards
The code, so each client
Can be assured that his or her animal
Is totally unique.  In some cases

A customer has actually married
The beta-tested animal, our efforts having
Constructed the perfect synthetic
Mate.  Dream well, and we

Will make your dreams come
True.  And our guarantee
Is always in effect: if ever
Your animal performs to less than
Stated specifications, bring it back.

It will be returned to the soup,
And we will construct another, free.

~Ken Poyner~



Black Bear Soup

“The mind is not a machine,” Oma said. “The body
not a repository—or   a factory,   even though your
grandfather smoked like seven smokestacks.”

I didn’t remember him, just the fables, the praise and
his  hair  the  color  of  straw—oh,   and one   strange
quirk; he  loved mosquitoes  and all their bother, and
the  smoke  that  gathered  in  his own Siberian wood.
And from somewhere  I know he liked to eat what he
could  forage  and scrounge.“And what else,” said he,
they said, “but to end it all deep in black bear soup.”

 ~Marc Vincenz~



Fearless Rain

Torpor trapped beneath fish scales.
Flash fried, freeze dried, essential.

Find a flagon and pour yourself one,
So said the butcher to the undertaker, and then:

“Feed yourself!” Imagine the end of a rift
Where the upwardly mobile reside

In the middle of a cloud of expectations.
Oh to be spoken to vicariously, no favors done;

Oh no, God no, a dazzle gives us no undue fish.
No one finds favors, you trigger-happy folk.

Yes, we are undone, we are another condition.

As the fire dances and that thin mist
Lazes, we rest on our morning laurels.

~Marc Vincenz~



Jaywalking on Joy

                        for John Wieners

    It was one of the happiest times in my life. Without knowing
    it. I could have given it away. The usual anagrams descended
    like light remained on the hot, perfumed sidewalks. A bruising kiss.
    In love, so completely in love, with latitudinal meditations.
    A kind of heaven. All that makes the bird’s song, trembling,
    oddly graceful and pretty suggesting never-ending replication and growth.
    I want to forget everything I ever knew about poetry. Tiptoe away
    across thin wet grass. Foliage clogged. Nonetheless I may be spared
    the monocular sameness of the nameless pedestrian jaywalking on joy.
    Except in the poem. A slight rhythm and twist that seems to say,
    “I know you are looking and... I don’t care!” That are we not
    mere metaphors we might suddenly feel the need to underline
    these meticulous misanthropic sensibilities as they spark and buzz.
    The myriad faces dulled and coarsened by the elegant fluster of traffic
    signals. A little happiness. In you. On you. With you. We edit out
    our errors. Where our dreams become blurred, we hesitate
    as if it were the first time. A network of passages always photographic
    negatives of immeasurable impact. Rain connecting endings
    that nobody likes. Where one turns, often. Self-consciously pulling off
    the cloth from the bird cage. Pouring it all out on the straight and narrow
    lanes. As one now going goes. Endowed with the heavy semblance of sirens.
    Boutiques and delicatessens resting in glum puddles. The penetrating gaze
    of little windows envying the skyscraper’s monumental erection. Spectral
    blue pressed into the pecking shadows of early June where I continue
    pleasing myself in this cryptic heterodox by writing poetry regardless
    the spectacle of pathos, the road eating the universe as a summer stroll
    sways her libidinous hips and those little shifting sounds like scissors
    trimming away the watchdog of my heart. Deviating from a closed shutter,
    the splatting drips of an air conditioning unit, the sound a grapefruit makes
    when pried apart by the poetics of space until we are more than eyes
    with only one story. The one comforting thing is that I can do my penance
    from this balcony between the perfunctory hum of convoluted shapes,
    only the cosmic hello of an hourglass passing through a flashing yellow
    light. My eyes dominated by the vain desire to be young and the charms
    that take us back pressing intimately deeper into daydreams a little more
    beautiful, a little more distressed with each passing breath. Hissing hot.

~Joseph Cooper~



Once Had a Job

There’s money in it     if you keep moving
through the empty heat     your brain is wired

to a singular focus     directional into rust
and carpentry     there is wood everywhere

painted     or stained with mud     there is music
and a sense of relief     but dust is mostly made

from skin cells     and your breath is a language
danced by reptiles     from a floating mouth

that once held teeth     but now spits out the seeds
and cores of any kind of fruit that you can think of

we name your story fiction     and tongue
the depth of labor     as it crosses time.

~Paul Ilechko~ 



Fire in the Elephant Museum

It was the trumpeting
the padding steps of the ones with stuffing
the cranking of the wind-ups
the screeching of the trunk-shaped horns
the dripping of the soaps and candles
the desperation of the effigies

that awakened him.

He was next door dreaming of acquisition
a new estate jeweled miniatures
ticket to Las Vegas already in hand.

Then the smoke
the ghastly metaphor,
the prototypes
mostly struggling
some completely captive
some past endangered.

He thought of this intermittently,
the objects so alive
were still so far removed.

And now he looked to salvage,
many of his favorites gone
some barely singed,
the scarred but viable
gave him hope for rehab,
on the brown lawn
a trailer would do.


In Bandhavgarh I rode an elephant
to see a tiger as was the custom in the park.
My traveling companion was moved to say,
"We are so privileged.
I hope her life is good here.
I hope they treat her well."   

~Linda Umans~