KB Ballentine – 1 poem

Living Like This
in Ireland’s West Country

The swans are gone from Coole Park,
the corncrakes from Shannon’s banks.
Gorse tumbles the hillside to the river’s edge,
but Yeats’s nation of believers no longer kneels or even prays.
Rain hides scars chafing under the damp, under the thorns.
Reflected sunset washes coral and sky-blue houses.
Broken slate, sagging thatch buckles under this need
to snag everything before it rushes past.

Music riddles the pubs in a fusion of Arabic, Indian, and French –
Johnny Cash with a twist, but Pour me another, Liam
ricochets the night. Rent is due, and the lights blink
out one by one by one, gorse gleaming in the dusk.
What’s left of the peat crumbles into incense,
an offering of sorts.

🍃

KB Ballentine’s sixth collection, The Light Tears Loose, appeared this summer with Blue Light Press. Published in Crab Orchard Review and Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, among others, her work also appears in anthologies including Carrying the Branch: Poets in Search of Peace (2017) and In Plein Air (2017). Learn more at

www.kbballentine.com

David Punter – 2 poems

Mars, Phobos, Deimos
 
Mars, the god of war, is followed through the universe by his twin moons,
the hounds of fear and terror, Phobos and Deimos.
 
Mars is now mined to its core
     the vast glowing space-drills
never stop, never slow; demand
     is insatiable: uranium, iron,
the rarest of rare metals, some never
     seen elsewhere; raw materials
for brake pads, satellites. The god
     of war is fostering his own.

 

Phobos is one huge strip mall;
     everything you could possibly want
is here – electronics, clothing, games,
     McDonalds’s, Kentucky Fried Greed,
Costa Coffee, all the brands now
     banned earthside, all discounted –
from what, nobody knows. The hound of
     fear now tells us what we need.

 

Deimos is dark, except for the red lights
     of the observation towers
glinting in the wild blackness, overseeing
     the worst of criminals in chains
(or so they say); but who can tell what is
     locked up by the hound of terror;
who can say, any more, who is or who is not
     a terrorist. Except by their remains.

 

🍃

The Census-Taker
 
T’ang Dynasty; in the wildlands
 
Rust-mottled yurt, a four-day ride
from Ulan Bator, a sabre-toothed youth
gives an ambiguous welcome from their side
but I can’t understand a single name
which makes it difficult counting up to truth.

 

Yellowish-green stew steams with game
pleasantly enough; then they produce
fiery liquor in a bronze flask
and pass it till my tongue is loose.

 

Waking fearful to the morning’s task
broad as the sun and empty as a stream
I fear I have insulted the imperial dream
or that of some official. I need not dread;
they’ve understood no single word I’ve said.

 

🍃

 

David Punter

Toti O’Brien – 1 poem

FASHION WIZARD

 

Blue-haired sorceress

drapes around sleeping bodies

naked Emperor’s clothes

with fingers like spider webs

trapping shadows

head tilted backwards.

Clients’ waists

shrink under her touch

hips dance, come alive

breasts protrude and loins arch

legs and thighs stretch thin

arms curve while self-conscious

hands strike a pose.

Fingernails emanate

discreet lunar glare

or else sparkles of gold

accordingly to apparel.

Toes are pointed while

heels imperceptibly

lift as she buckles a belt

ties a scarf, pinches a dart

dents a cleavage

pins a rose or a brooch

pulls a hat slightly

sideways, her hands

faster than desert wind

lifting whirlpools

of impalpable sand.

Her eyes are implacable.

Painted mirrors

stage curtains that-have-seen-it-all

choking wishes and fears

within folds of velvet

wells of shameless deception

chilly caverns

of complicitous lies.

 

🍃

 

Toti O’Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. She was born in Rome then moved to Los Angeles, where she makes a living as a self-employed artist, performing musician and professional dancer. Her work has most recently appeared in Aji Magazine, The Spectacle, Goldman Review, and Poeticdiversity.

Charles Rammelkamp – 2 poems

Susan’s Suicide

 

My wife was six months pregnant
when I read the news about
Timothy Leary’s daughter’s suicide.

September – our second daughter due
right around Thanksgiving.
I was still with the insurance company,
though they’d be bankrupt in April.

Susan Martino, a few years older than me,
hanged herself with a shoestring
in her Los Angeles jail cell.
A shoestring? Really?

Arrested nearly two years earlier
for shooting her live-in boyfriend
while he slept on the couch,
she’d been ordered to stand trial,
but twice the Pasadena Superior Court
ruled her incompetent,
the last time just days before she died.
Her mental health’d been deteriorating,
the spool unraveling to a thread –
to a shoestring!
They’d moved her
from the jail dorm to solitary.

Leary’d visited Susan regularly at the jail –
he lived in Beverly Hills at the time –
had no complaints about her care
at the jail or at Patton State Hospital.
But, a second girl on the way,
I could only imagine his devastation.

 

🍃

 

 

Lydia McCullough’s Depression 

 

“I’d been diagnosed with cancer.

The shrinks told me I’d developed

“end-of-life” anxiety and depression.

I felt trapped, lonely, afraid.

Food didn’t taste good;

I could never sleep long or deeply enough;

driven like leaf in a windstorm

into almost complete isolation.

 

Then I took psilocybin and things changed.

At firsts I felt panic.

What have I done?

But then an overwhelming tranquility

swept me up like a mother hugging her newborn.

I swear I became a new person,

reconciled to my husband and son, loving.

 

The whole “me” thing just dropped out,

like a stone in a canyon,

into a more timeless, formless now.

The trip kick-started

a whole new approach to life.

Now I’m – I’m present.

Don’t know how else to say it.

 

🍃

 

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Me and Sal Paradise, was published   last year by FutureCycle Press. Two a full-length collection are forthcoming in 2020, Catastroika, from Apprentice House, and Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books.


Ken Poyner – fiction

THE RENTED SUPERHERO EXPLAINS

I am not the leap over tall buildings type.  I am not the hold two locomotives from smashing each other to shocked metal fragments variety.  I don’t fly, except by airliner.  If that is the sort of superhero you need, then you need to move up the price scale.  What you want is available, but it comes at a cost that, if you are looking at me, you can’t pay.

I come with a great costume, a textbook swagger, burnt in good looks – but that is about the range of it. I’m basically your garden variety show superhero.  My contract says no shooting, no stabbing, no burning, no punching, and this superhero is not going to change the course of anything, alter no history, make no intercessions.

Someone might rent me hoping whoever they are trying to impress will be taken in, be ignorantly intimidated, come too quickly to agreement.  Sometimes, I am all a customer can afford; then again, sometimes I am the cheap alternative – if I don’t fool anyone, then the purchaser will go back, put out serious money, rent a superhero who can be a menace or a savior, a bender of the scales.

Sometimes the gig is just an ambience thing.  A couple thinks it will add to their cachet if they have a superhero show up, fawn over them a while, make a great pose when everyone is watching, quietly hail a cab to get back to the store and clock back in.

Actually, I get more work than many of the superheroes who can fly and bend steel and race at light speed.  Those are really expensive.  If you are going to rent one of those, you have to hold both serious cash and serious need.  And, when it comes down to it, often it is cheaper to recover from an untoward event or circumstance than it is to have a superhero prevent it.  You might get lucky – things might not go so badly, or perhaps could be set right for less cash than a superhero could set you back.  Events are variable, superhero rates are posted.  Rich people are adept at making calculations like these.

Yes, a lot of my more capable superhero friends sit idle, waiting for the big payoff.  Building collapse prevention.  Boat collision mishap deterring.  There are just not that many disasters dreadful enough to merit their hourly rate.

Me, well, I keep a steady trade on the cheap.  Amaze your even lower income friends by being able to afford a superhero.  Let me rush in to hold the office door for you.  I will hum my theme music when I go pick up your cat at the vet.  I will pop a perplexity of muscles as I bring in your groceries.

Half your neighbors at their torn screen doors or cluttered office desks will say oh my, it is to be the superhero again:  everyone has to know we have caught on; the other half of those neighbors will say, gee, I wish I could afford to rent a superhero:  renting your own superhero must be really nice.

In the end, the door is opened, the cat collected, the groceries delivered.  All the disapproving onlookers should know is that there is no job too trivial for a conscientious superhero, even if he is not the grade of superhero the customer wants everyone to think he is.

As I do my superhero chores, I will wink at the watchers who hold either opinion, stop by on my way out and clandestinely drop off one of the agency’s candy-colored cards.  The real magic is in the downward personal touch.  We are not as expensive as you might think.  Come on, treat yourself.

🍃

After years of impersonating a Systems Engineer, Ken has retired to watch his wife continue to break world raw powerlifting records.  Ken’s two current poetry and four short fiction collections (just released:  “Engaging Cattle”, mini-fictions) are available from Amazon and elsewhere. www.kpoyner.com.  www.barkingmoosepress.com.