Copyright 2022 The Parliament Literary Journal, ISSN 2767-2158 (print); ISSN 2767-2166 (online) is published quarterly in November, February, May, and August. All correspondence should be sent via email to email@example.com. All rights are reserved by the arsts and authors. All works in the journal are conal. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imaginaon or are used cously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is enrely coincidental. The Parliament Literary Journal and logo design are registered trademarks. Submissions are accepted for our themed issues and contests via Submiable; details on our submission requirements can be found at our website. www.parliamentlit.com
4/5 Nikki Gonzalez 6/7/8/9 Conor Barnes 10/11/12/13/14 15/16/17 Stephen Kingsnorth 18/19 Alyssa Cressotti 20/21/22/23/24/25 Greg Sendi 26/27/28/29 Alan Bern 30/31/32/33 Doug van Hooser 34/35 Beth Kephart 38/39/40/41/42 43/44/45 David Earl Williams 46/47 Cli Saunders 48/49/50/51 Edward Lee 52/53 Ivan de Monbrison 55/56/57 Lisa Rhodes-Ryabchich 58/58/60/61 Stephen Sossaman 62/63 Laura Zaino 64/65/66/67 Mark Evan Chimsky 68/69 Kirsten Baltz 70/71 Michele Mekel 74/75/76/77 Paul Tanner
Anger Like Dust, Happiness Like Soap* I admit: I struggled with the layout of this issue. Sometimes the imagery of the pages exist in my mind the minute I select a theme. Others I ruminate. I stew. I sweat. I’ve been sweating over this one for some time. And, I confess, I’ve accosted people. I’ve insisted, “Close your eyes! Think of ecstasy! Now tell me: What do you see?” (What do you see?) Ecstasy and despair. When I shut my own eyes, I can conjure both of them into my body. I can FEEL them both, recreating them physically. Ecstasy sends my eyes rolling backwards, my chest filled completely with a breath that holds there, waiting to burst. And as ecstasy is expansion, despair is, of course, it’s opposite. It’s closing in on myself. My shoulders curl inward, my body draws itself together to its center. It would be so easy if I could be there, sitting with you now to perform these for you and, with that, ready you for what’s to come in the pages that follow. But, alas, we are where we are. In my days as an undergraduate, I was fortunate one semester to happen upon a course called “The Psychology of the Arts”. It was a class that investigated the experience that the arts, in all its forms and colors and textures, has on the mind. What memories; what emotions; what sensations are provoked in our individual encounters -- and why? This class culminated with presentations; my own (very successful one) on synesthesia, the occurrence, in some people’s minds, of the senses cross-wiring. There are a number of types of synesthesia. In some cases the senses cross between themselves; in others, objects (numbers, letters, and even other people) produce a sense reaction; and with others, still, emotions are met with a sensory experience. For example, tasting a particular flavor could produce for synesthetes corresponding sensations of vivid color -- actually seeing color. Hearing various musical notes might elicit various taste experiences. And emotions, both experienced by the synesthete, themselves, and perceived in others, can also call forward colors, smells, and sounds. I turned to synesthesia in researching a concept for this issue and I came across this: Asked to describe their experience with synesthesia, one poster on Reddit 4 hps://www.reddit.com/r/Synesthesia/comments/jeg20y/anger_tastes_like_iron_and_dust_happiness_tastes/ 1 1
wrote, “Anger tastes like iron and dust, happiness like soap and the color yellow.” But! But the experience for synesthetes are individual, just as is the experience of interpreting a poem or a piece of art. And so, I decided this: Save for a few soap bubbles in a nod to this lovely comment, I’ve left the pages rather bare. For this issue, I invite you to sit with each of the works presented within and paint the pages for yourself with the sensations and imagery they provoke. I won’t bias you with any of my interpretation; rather I call on you to be conscious of what manifests. I have one more bit of psychology to share before I turn things over to the extraordinary contributors of this issue. I’d like to share a perspective -- some words of advice, if you will -- that I offer the students in my Psychology of Death & Dying class. Despair is an awful, awful thing. You can feel the struggle it brings to many of the writers in these pages and you, no doubt, have crossed paths with it yourself. But Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who witnessed the filthiest depths of despair, and the author of internationally acclaimed Man’s Search for Meaning, created Logotherapy, a perspective in psychology that posits purpose at its core. Says Frankl, even in our darkest moments, even when despair looms large over us, even when everything else has been taken from us, what can never be taken is our perspective. If we can harness the strength of our minds to see meaning in any situation, despair need not win. My wish for all of you, dear readers, is that despair never win. See you have purpose. Finally (I am nearing the end of the page!), a last note about the pages that follow. I do very much mean to jar you with them. I want to scatter you, to take you up and down through each of the varied interpretations of this theme. My contributors are always free to understand and express the theme I give them as they choose, be it aching or humorous or even a bit raunchy. Who am I to judge anyone else’s experiences with ecstasy and despair? Who am I to tell you how either of those should look and feel? I can only take your hand and encourage you to walk with us through these experiences, drawing on them what you may. Nikki Gonzalez 5
In a Nightmare In a nightmare I had forgotten your name and you had forgotten mine and when we kissed it meant something I did not understand. 6
7 Somebody You Once Found Beautiful Isn’t Anymore Somebody you once found beautiful isn’t anymore. It isn’t because his voice has become halting and confused. It isn’t because of his dirty clothes, which never bothered you back then. It’s because his eyes can no longer focus on anything anymore. It’s because he can no longer burn your soul.
Tell Them beloved I was wrong tell them you’re a communist beloved tell them you’re a coward I don’t need you to be brave or strong or good I thought about it I thought about it the words I said were wrong and the ideas I gave you were wrong tell them you’re Amish tell them you’re a woman tell them they can’t take you from me beloved I couldn’t sleep and husband just dreamed away while I begged every god beloved tell them they can’t have you darling tell them your body isn’t theirs darling darling darling tell them it’s mine 8
Conor Barnes is a Canadian writer living in Halifax. His fiction has been published in the Apple Valley Review, Literally Stories, the Metaworker, and elsewhere. His poetry has been published in Modern Haiku, Frogpond, and Puddles of Sky Press. 9
Clime We mostly oversaw sweep swathe, grey harbour curl of skips and rope, wallow ketch, coils, lobsterpots surveyed, calf ache kept at bay by sloping backwards up the hill until we reached the cobbled steep; steps, our own St Michael’s mount, parish church and smugglers’ rest - greaseproof leak from thermos flask. Red apples - before lingua franca brand - delicious stored in khaki bags - haversacks with buttons, brass - crunched as climbed, receding shore, heather, ling on hanging moor; 10 (continued)
11 distant belch seen silent stretch, tracks towards the sea-stop line, hidden yarn and castle tip guarding alabaster cliffs. On the strand - I flinch at thought - metal spade edge thrust on toe, after tears, a ‘Daddy boat’, dug and raised, on sand afloat, draggled feather, mussel shells prod on prow, the pride of fleet, launched as tide recedes, row before firm powder dries, flutter flagged, interest, awash with waves or sniffing dogs.
Today Today, when nothing happened much I rested, news, not bothered such, am soon to bed after my doze, ensuring pills take toll, respite./repose Then dawn, when nothing happen much. 12
13 Inaccurate assessment, but catch feels like twenty two. I am retired, no longer role of leadership required. I have poor health, must accept limitation of my strength. I have ideas, but not the means to action them myself. The only left for me to do pass wisdom of my years. But dare not bear inevitable stress that radical implies. And so I muse what might have been, and indeed what was not. I end with inner turmoil that the dreams unmatch the real. The book not read, not written; the church too good to be true; I fear if I get too involved, the spirit will be wisp. I versify which helps so much, like father, so like son. But cold fronts buffet frequently, the long term forecast bleak. Cold Front
Life’s a Drag Dissipation, my purple mood, bruised by Parkinson, I see raw my habitual style, whisky mac; fish coarse unsuitable to eat, though no gentle crawl, ungenteel, no flies on me, vaguely astute. Maudlin, bridge from sane to silly, sounds pouring nard wastefully, both; while bike above and punt below - I have negotiated both - there's little cast betwixt, between. The decadence I crave is sit when others stand, excuse engage with radical, enamel plate, spoon for knife, postprandial drag, for beneficial nicotine. 14
15 Furtive, creeping up, without the courtesy of shoulder tap, grief and sadness, dare not name, a welling, smarting globe of shame. Furtive
The Snicket I walked hedged in, the uniform, longed for school grounds, too long for run; inviting thump, in chest, on ribs, caged in, the strain for flight not fight, adrenaline, hormone within but all about. Face front, two privet edge, alone, onward, knew paired, voices behind, told sniggers dare not look or turn. I heard cleared scouring mouth for spit, and knew the score, gob land in hand, its filter, fingers, slow to land. Steadfast unaltered gaze and pace, slight swing of arms, chain necklace chime, aware its drip, strings to the slabs, that snicket path, where dawdled fast. 16
17 Composed by those who crossed my path, please help me leave when I am lost - this living will while sense retained, as shadows fade I would be shade. Why drive worn pulse when spirit drained, breath into flesh past score of years? And why retain frame, mummified, my blood, fuel pump, preservative? When those who love find I have left, though bones remain entombed in skin, and those I loved have left my stage, the curtain dropped, their act complete, accept permission for the wake. My Last Post Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church due to Parkinson’s Disease, has had pieces published by on-line poetry sites, printed journals and anthologies, including The Parliament Literary Journal. His blog is at https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
The Last Frontier You’re drunk again and the room smells of mildew. The blanket on the bed is brown and itchy, probably dirty too. This doesn’t stop me though, from stretching out my hand and touching the back of your neck. “Fuck off, Steve,” the words come out all garbled and you sound like the nothing you are. I don't move my hand. Instead, it drifts into your hair. It looks soft, but it’s really greasy and it smells like skin, and winter, and beer. You’ve been drinking a lot more, since this whole thing started. I get lost in the texture of your once-short kittenish hair and the feel of the thick blanket. I don't know how we ended up like this and I don't know how my hand got under your waistband. It’s four in the morning but it’s bright out, Alaska can be like that. You don't try to stop me, and I know you want this more than I do. So stupid. “What are you doing?” you still sound like you're asleep, maybe even a little heartbroken. I don't answer you; I don't need to; not really any way. The room feels smaller, and I realize that no matter what we put in front of the window, it will never be dark enough. Not for this any way. You’re hard, and I'm drunk too. In fact, as far as tomorrow is concerned, I wasn’t thinking straight. My hand is getting slick with spunk and it doesn’t matter. I stroke harder and I watch as your back tenses. Come on, come on, you can do it, I'm goading you on silently now, and I wouldn’t dare actually open my mouth. I'm pulling at you almost violently now; all I want is for you to shoot your load and for this to be over. You come with a grunt and my hand retreats. I wipe the stickiness off on the already dirty blanket. Don’t matter. “Thanks,” you say. And my stomach churns. 18
Alyssa Cressotti is a writer, editor, and media maker in New York City. With a cup of coffee and an eyeroll, Alyssa channels classic Bea Arthur (if Dorothy Zbornak spent her daylight hours cooing at baby animals being cute on the Internet). She wavers between fierce sarcasm and sweet, girlish charm; her nails will be painted, but she is not to be taken lightly. Additionally, she plays caregiver to one fat rabbit. Her published work includes profiles, reportage, feature stories, Q&As, book reviews, poetry, and fiction. www.clippings.me/alyssacressotti 19
The Peshaman Fragments Following the highly publicized disappearance of Elias Peshaman late last year, this unfinished manuscript was found among a small number of cloud files authorities have reviewed for possible information related to his whereabouts. FRAGMENT 1 It is a mouth radically different from other human mouths — infused with an eerie otherworldliness. The mouth attracts attention precisely because of its unsettling difference. It seizes the attention of others because, like a catastrophic car accident, we can’t look away. To some, this mouth is hyper-real and in its weird fleshiness, suggests an authenticity, the way a blood-rare steak suggests “real food.” When at rest, the mouth often does not relax but returns to a puckered, circular kissing shape that suggests it is at once both open and closed, an orifice of both inbound and outbound potential. Let’s be honest, this mouth also has an anal quality to it and is always pantomiming an expulsion of waste. It is always conveying the ejection of impurity, mirroring his promises to eject things and people. There is also the tongue. Disabled by the neuro-impairments that prevent its full control, the tongue throbs, bends and extrudes in ways that reinforce the expulsion conveyed by the lips. 20 (continued)
21 In its totality, the shape of the mouth as an emblem of disgust and discharge is also connected to his frequent interest in what comes out of human bodies, especially the bodies of women. It enacts his revulsion at excretion, for example, or menstruation or breast feeding. FRAGMENT 2 altogether ill at ease about what is happening with us FRAGMENT 3 The water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a large aquatic plant native to the Amazon basin. It is known chiefly for its ability to overwhelm the surface of bodies of water, pushing out native species and depleting its water ecosystem of oxygen, suffocating all fish, water creatures and other plants. So too, all the things he is — liar, chiseler, malignant degenerate, traitor, deadbeat, daughterfucker wannabe, child rapist — may be viewed as precisely evolved for indifference to the question of what a “pond,” is actually for. The old blackhats (Ratched, Moriarty) are quaint by comparison. FRAGMENT 5 His skin, like the fixtures around him, in the primitive way imaginable, conveys that he cannot escape how gold rushes in (continued)
upon him, following him like a cloud of gold dust seeking the man who is both its source and its destination. He is Chrysos, Xipe Totec, Midas, Shen Wanshan, Goldfinger, communicating with every image not that “I’m like my people” but rather “I’m radically unlike my people or any people.” But in its obvious artificiality there is more. With his skin, he is sending us a message deeper than, “I am a golden man.” The message also says, “I am wearing a me-shaped golden suit.” His skin invites you to imagine an inner creature, but simultaneously humiliates you for accepting the invitation. To some, the skin is an alarm light alerting to a dangerous duplicity — the way the coloration of certain animals alerts other animals not to eat them. To others, the situation is more complex. Via its alchemy, broadly speaking, there can be a gratitude, even a love, engendered by the ways he affirms the fundamental duplicity, and the inevitability of the way things are. The skin serves both as camouflage (allowing him to blend in with the other perceived liars — like certain poisonous toads blend in with a pile of leaves in the forest) and as a beacon calling attention to itself as camouflage (providing a basis of assurance and trust — as if he might be the one true leaf in a pile of poisonous toads). FRAGMENT 6 read marcus aurelius of each particular thing ask what is it in itself what is its nature what does he do this man you seek 22 (continued)
23 FRAGMENT 7 In totality, we know this as “The Uncanny Valley,” a term coined by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori to describe the phenomenon by which robots become deeply disconcerting to us at the point where they come closest to mimicking human features. The Uncanny Valley teaches us to think about how we are different (if we are) and how we are the same (if we are). Perhaps it teaches an instinctive revulsion at the not-quite human — an instinct that may have prevented our early ancestors from breeding with apes. Though perhaps also (if not instead), it teaches us revulsion at ourselves, at what we are capable of. Perhaps it forces us to ask: When face to face with a monster masquerading as your companion, what do you do? Mirroring the nausea created by our experience, his experience as a sociopath may be one of looking at us across his Uncanny Valley, where he is unable to see or feel the full humanity of any person — to distinguish emotionally between a chair, a car, a bucket, a fish or child. To operate across his Valley, he creates simulacra of human engagement to deal with people because he is unable to generate actual human responses. Little by little as he deprives our pond of oxygen, he becomes less able to conceal the fact that when he looks at us, no matter who we are, he sees the same lifeless mask we see when we look at him, useful to him or useless, using our own shames and weaknesses and hatreds against us the way serial killer might use the skin of his victim to make a lampshade. (continued)
FRAGMENT 8 my god my god to be haunted by the end of everything we are and have created together it is like choking finally after all it will be like choking my god they are gouging his eyes with a flagpole i think Here Peshaman’s manuscript ends, providing scant basis for development of a general synthesis. While pleased to share this important manuscript with specialist and lay audiences, overall, we urge caution in the extrapolation of broad-brush conclusions from what was clearly a work left unfinished and in disarray at the time of his disappearance. 24
25 Greg Sendi is a native Detroiter who lives in and writes from the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago where, according to a recent headline, only the weird survive. His career has included poetry, fiction, essays, and short plays as well as broadcast and trade journalism. In the early 1990s, he served as fiction editor of Chicago Review. Most recently, his work has appeared in a number of literary magazines and online outlets, including Apricity, Beyond Words, The Briar Cliff Review, Burningword Literary Journal, Clarion, Coffin Bell, CONSEQUENCE, Eclectica, Great Lakes Review, Kestrel, The Masters Review, Plume, San Antonio Review, and upstreet among others. His cat Domino may not like him, but he respects him . . . and that’s what matters.
I love you still 26
another rusting 28
29 such imprisonings Retired children’s librarian Alan Bern is a published/exhibited photographer and the author of three books of poetry. Alan is cofounder with artist/printer Robert Woods of the fine press/publisher Lines & Faces, linesandfaces.com. Recent awards include: honorable mention for Littoral Press Poetry Prize (2021); flash fiction finalist for Ekphrastic Sex (2021); first runner-up for the Raw Art Review’s Mirabai Prize for Poetry, 2020. It is clear that Alan favors both hybridity and complex collaboration: he performs with dancer/choreographer Lucinda Weaver as PACES and also with musicians from Composing Together.
Hope never took the bait I have so many things I haven’t done that I need to discard Old newspapers stacked like accomplishments Unread books staring out the window Learning I never learned everything there is to know Bright as the sun blinded me I caught one pass over my head, it took two hands I got lucky more than once Unlucky more than twice Worked like a dog, rewarded like a rat Pats on the back left a bruise Knowing the heavy branches did not bend under my weight Top of the pile is not top of the pyramid Myopic in one eye, the hyperopic one drifted off Focused on stratocirrus desire, cumulous satisfaction Achievement in small bites, disappointment in gulps Threads twisted in knots too tough to unravel Concentric circles orbit the years Intimacy afraid to touch me Dalliance sour milk Shame a pair of mittens Confidence rarely takes a chance Loneliness a raked pile of leaves Depression has no depth perception I am sewn in patches Simplifying is survival of the fittest Casting without allure I caught what I expected Shuffled the cards and repeated the error My mistake: optimism, hope’s grindstone 30
31 Still, I tug on the sword in the stone Look to the horizon and swear it is closer Leave footprints in the sand every time the tide goes out Sharpen the knife and test its edge Go forward without looking left or right Bargain with the devil but refuse his best offer Convince myself the water is not that deep I cannot swim but manage to float Now I know the secret The key I was given never fit the lock
Lemon ecstasy Before it became synthetic, a pill one could pop, I always wanted to swallow ecstasy. But in my script, I am a minor character. My lines honeybees, not hornets. No trumpet solo but a tuba’s repeating two note thump. Time worn words are shadows that wash through gullies and fill the retention pond. Actions that walk to the cliff’s edge and peer into a twisted, rock-strewn canyon. A tailless meteor looking to burn bright and become meteorite. Highlights are incandescent bulbs. The filament flickers and dies. The Forever Stamps cancelled, the envelopes sealed. I dwell in the well of the past. A dank musty place where the only light shines at the end of a tunnel. Why isn’t it the tropics where I sleep in a room with a high ceiling, a fan propelling a welcome breeze. Instead, I am in a tent, curled inside a sleeping bag. Rain pelts the canvas begging to drown me. Lemons take their time to ripen and are not bitter but sour. 32
33 Doug Van Hooser's poetry has appeared in Roanoke Review, The Courtship of Winds, After Hours, Sheila-Na-Gig online, and Poetry Quarterly among other publications. His fiction can be found in Red Earth Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Bending Genres Journal. Doug’s plays have received readings at Chicago Dramatist Theatre and Three Cat Productions. More at dougvanhooser.com
Wide Awake at the Dog Hotel What? I knew I could do it. Drive the EZ-Pass highways, the strewn, the bridge arch, the back streets, pull up, park, check in—just me, circa the two-night holiday. Woman on her own and the room vinyl and blonde, knobs on the wall for the clothes I didn’t bring, bathroom so big I wished I’d remembered roller-skates, no view. Big money for a place like this, but it was the sea I had been rooting for, the parabola of boardwalk dreams, the named In Remembrance losses on the paint-grit benches, the off-season of the tent colony, the bravado of the Stone Pony, sea upon sea and wave slap, by which I mean the room itself couldn’t bother me, it was nothing but caesura, the place in between. I was leaving things. It was only at night, when the wedding party people who had booked all the other rooms left their dogs behind for their marathon of matrimony, only when the dogs broke down in their miseries, bark to bark, room to room, hound to hound, exotic with despair and wet in want and utter with cacophony, only when it was me alone in my vinyl room, one more among the scorned in the dog hotel, did I begin to howl myself for things we finally leave. 34
35 Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of three-dozen books in multiple genres, an award-winning teacher, co-founder of Juncture Workshops, and a book artist. Her new books are Wife | Daughter | Self: A Memoir in Essays and We Are the Words: The Master Memoir Class. She can be found at bethkephartbooks.com and etsy.com/shop/BINDbyBIND.
Let’s take a minute to just breathe here, eh? You’re doing alright. You’re gonna be alright. Just lean on me if you need.
It Was Fried Wonder Day: The day before Satyr Day— “Count up your affirmations”, they all said— “It’s like a Thanksgiving!”... “One, you have a good theRapist”... 2)... We got stuck right there... on — 1 — (kind of jaw dropping— that ONE... ) So Fried Wonder Day is a couple of days late... most days it is, except once’st a week— when theRapist is actually in— O!!!! DEEP FRIED WONDER...extra long in the fryer... Ummmm... Mmmmm... mmmm... Fryin’ it UP!--- Until Satyr Day— ! ... the day we refill the prescriptions— YAAAAY! 38
39 Zombies of Xmas Past Past-Due (and Future) in the 21st Century Sotheby’s has Frieda Kahlo Lover of Trotsky Mexican Marxist Artist Pimping for MasterCard (copyright-trademark) Terms and Conditions And zero Restrictions On dis interning And animating On enslaving even the dead @ 29.99% per annum Times eternity Eat your brain Eat your Ever’ Lovin’ Ever’ Thang A-Gaaaah! Christ Mes$ & ((!!! & @! New Yeer$ & (!!! & @!) ChompChompChomp
40 ##1 and #2, (AFTER GRAYSON AND THE OTHER POST-SUCCESSION & CIVIL WAR SOUTHERN POETS & WORDIFIERS... ) #1, I REMEMBER TH’ FILTH... i remember th’ filth, depravity, th’ shorn cussed- ness, th’ flunkyism, feudalism— th’ poverty, th’ degradation, th’ homelessness, land-lessness an’ lawlessness— fer a few, th’ earth en-tire, th’ money, th’ fat sit-ye-ations, life station— trade an’ what-not— clubs, culture, grandeur, po-lice, gen-tocracy an’ what-all— ever’ modern thing-a-ma-jig— th’ horrendifyin’ hoggishness— but i forgets th’ century whut i’m a-thinkin’ on— #2, AN’ABJECTION AN’ARROGANCE... an’ abjection an’ arrogance in th’ proper proportion... th’ right hand a th’ hangin’ God... th’ huntin’ a o-possum an’ wild turkey... fishin’ an’ a-boatin’, giggin’ an’ a-floatin’... June an’ th’ moon, hoar-frost a-sparklin’ on th’ foliage... the lil’ courthouse square, th’ gallows a-goin’ up... (continued)
41 th’ oak an’ th’ elm in th’ night, wooden crosses a- burnin’ bright... th’ choir of a-Sunday a-singin’, “I’d rather be daid, daid, daid... an’ over yonder...”
Interregnum Everytime, says Jack o the Jack Tales, the old King of Transalachia dies they call all of the Princes n Warrior Princesses from all of the counties of Transalachia together who gather and bellow and howl and mourn and drink and pose and speechify and have drunken fistfights in front of the open coffin for three days and 3 nights And then on the 4th morning they send up a little smoke signal and get themselves a new King from out among’st em once the bankers have decided who’s the biggest, loudest, sneaky-meanest most popular fool Then all the rest of the Princes n Warrior Princesses go back to their principalities to keep track of their parts of the on-time, non-union, tax-rebates, slag-heaps, n etc. crop and everything goes back to normal the people get on with their root hog or die n come fall the youngest Princes n Princesses go on back to Yale and Wharton Vandy or U. K. n such as that— n it’s just like the feller says 42 (continued)
43 up there at the coronation as he puts the crown on the head— “Looky Here!— Hokey Pocus, You All!!!!” ...And it sure as beat hell is, says Jack or, I don’t understand it at all... And I don’t
My Nature 100% unnatural thank-you-very-much all preservatives, said Cecil, sitting under a scorching sun, actually, just six inches from its surface, no sunglasses, nothing— reading a burning newspaper, eating a raw side of bloody Superman— all by himself— (I could only just hear him because his— AMAZING!--- Telepathic-Telephone Mind was calling me)--- and all the while shrinking, was he like the Atomic Man. And when he was done he gathered up all his very tiny luggage put it under one arm pulled the Fable Curtain closed and— poof!--- he was UNnaturally gone, and so was all the silverware, the bonds, the gold coins— and all our happiness, so like a God was he. 44
45 David Earl Williams has been his alias since birth and he's not changing it. To be sure, you'd have to ask his mother and grandmothers to know the truth. But you can't ask them--- they're sleeping now with the Hopewell and Adena who want their land back from the Cherokee and the Shawnee once they've head-tripped it back from the, mostly, but not exclusively, European rejects who are sitting on it now. All that can be said about the alias for sure is that that it's a little like Mike Fink, King of the River Pirates--- it's fluid--- half water snake, half beaver, half bear, half alligator, half Blevins, half Fyffe, maybe, half Williams, maybe a little bit McCoy, (yes, those McCoys... and Bad John Phillips), if you can believe the 3rd cousins twice removed--- and probably, you can't...) Anyway, his I. D. is just like everybody else's--- it's being made up daily, cut like a suit to fit the dummy wearing it---or at least it is until somebody cries bullshit--- that doesn't belong to you, you narcissist !--- and makes it stick.--- But until then, David Earl Williams, he's just like you, Dear Reader--- he's one of a kind, and a representative of millions and the vessel of all their grievances and glory.
Keeping Quiet There’s music hurtful and helpful pouring into my skin. Sounds like one fine mystery inside another. Sounds like silence making glass. To the moon I will jump with a pot of harvest in my hands. To the moon I could cry or scream! I’d just like to know how wishes are burdensome to each other and how to catch yard balloons miles from home. I’ve changed my mind about trying to escape the subject, but I still remain silent when the oil of human suffering inches closer to my kitchen like the sound of soaking rains on Tuesday nights. 46
47 Cliff Saunders is the author of several poetry chapbooks, including Mapping the Asphalt Meadows (Slipstream Publications) and This Candescent World (Runaway Spoon Press). His poems have appeared recently in I-70 Review, Plainsongs, Stone Poetry Quarterly, Packingtown Review, Book of Matches, and The Flatbush Review.
Stripped of All We Know 48
49 To Reach Beyond Limits
A Hidden Delight 50
51 Edward Lee is an artist and writer from Ireland. His paintings and photography have been exhibited widely, while his poetry, short stories, non-fiction have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll. He is currently working on two photography collections: 'Lying Down With The Dead' and 'There Is A Beauty In Broken Things'. He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Orson Carroll, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy. His blog/website can be found at https://edwardmlee.wordpress.com
Untitled (with Translation) Тень прилипла к спине Но голова начала смеяться, Есть следы на потолке Твоя мать в клетке и там Лает как собака, Но образ безголового змея очень быстро сползает в угол. Театр кукол, Сумасшедший ест хлеб Что он сделал из собственной плоти И который он приготовил в горле, прежде чем сразу убрать его. Ты рвешь каждое свое слово Твои предложения ничего не значат, И певец поет свою песню Чью музыку я уже забыл, После моста Я бросил пустынный берег, Куда приходят мертвецы Пить воду, которую они не могут там найти. 52 (continued)
53 Shadow stuck to the back But the head started to laugh, There are footsteps on the ceiling Your mother is in a cage Barking there like a dog But the image of a headless serpent very quickly slips into a corner. Puppet Theatre, A madman eating bread Which he made with his own flesh And which he cooked in his throat, Before pulling it out. You rip off every word Your sentences mean nothing And the singer sings his song Whose music I already forgot After the bridge I left the deserted shore Where do the dead go To drink A water which they cannot find. Ivan de Monbrison is indeed a basket case. He actually enjoyed cutting off his own tongue recently in order to give it to the little fish of the nearby river. He has also lost his right leg in 1914 on the German Front, but found it back recently in perfect condition. He generously decided to donate this old bastard of a leg to a Delicatessen down the block, in exchange for small a bite of the owner 's wife tits.
54 I kissed P. in the rain. I only ever kissed P. in the rain. And I didn’t like the taste of him. I still, however, love the rain.
Clowning I sit here on this sandy beach next to a stray dog. A brown furry creature with sad brown eyes Looking for a mother, or a lover to pat his head into sleep. How I want to swim in the beaches muddy waters, unclean For the body to languish in its liquid, lit up by a starry sun. And I know to stretch my laurels, lean & gloriously in love Underneath the canopy of Malaga with its peace of mind. The empty beach leans into me like a circle of strange friends. No one is alone— the wind rubs against my hair blowing sand Into my lips, kissing a soft yellow light like a silk scarf, warming my skin— A brown Malibu Barbie-doll like skin, getting browner. I’m immortalized. No one stays sad— the disease of racism hasn’t won. I’m irradiated, the son of God has reached my bones, holding Onto them like a firmament. The hostel concierge, a clown hasn’t won. I’m not scared of his seeming kindness, the way he unlocks the hostel room door— And the way I’m relieved; he hasn’t sullied me. I’m God in my universe; he isn’t God in his. 55
56 (continued) A black withered glove waved in the pool of water Left over from storm along the Piermont pier. A broken heart rain-stain appeared on the pavement Alongside it. I imagined this was a message That a soldier had tried to fight as hard as he could To end the Russian invasion— But his heart was broken over the devastation. My dead ex-husbands worries of “is my mother still alive” Surfaced the air like a missile. I thought, I don’t know. I think she’s in Lviv—I received a phone call One day from there, but I couldn’t pick up. I was bombarded with calls from everyone. Hers just got caught in the flurry of frantic messages— Nerve impulses trying to regain life. I felt flattened and disarrayed— Life and all its people needed help. I was on-call to save the world. Where was the savior Jesus? Why hadn’t he returned my call— Maybe I needed to call him collect. Does anyone have his number? A Message from the Other Side
57 Lisa Rhodes-Ryabchich is an adjunct English professor at Westchester Community College, author of the short story "Retribution On Cash Street" published by Not Your Mothers Breast Milk & another short story “Sunday’s At Yankee Stadium” by Kairos Literary and “Moving On”forthcoming from Drunk Monkeys. She has two poetry chapbooks “We Are Beautiful Like Snowflakes” & “Opening the Black Ovule Gate” & in 2021 a full-length collection of poems "Breaking Out of the Cocoon" was published all with http://www.finishinglinepress.com. Another full-length poetry book "Peripeteia" was published in 2020 & a third full-length collection "How You Get to There" in 2021 & in 2022 “Dear Blue Harp Strumming Sky” all from CyberWit.net. She is writing her second novel “The Yellow House Of Unpardonable Ghosts.” She was a 2016 fellow at Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She has a MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Some of her poems are forthcoming or have been published by Support Ukraine Anthology, Sunflowers, Ekphrastic Literary, Artemis, Dash Literary, Chaffey Review, Journal of Poetry Therapy, Kairos Literary, Medical Literary Messenger, Better Than Starbucks, Obsidian III, Phantom Drift Literary, Prachya Literary, Destigmatized: Voices for Change, Talking Writing, Gather Round, The Literary Nest, Burning House Press, & elsewhere. Her poetry blog is http://www.lisarhodesryabchichpoetryblog.Wordpress.com
58 You’re Next Get the fuck out of my life, she sang, and this time I almost sensed that she meant it. She sang it softly, and her fellow baristas didn’t seem to notice or care. Today she seemed to sing it to some tune that might have been an old Ella Fitzgerald standard, well before her time but still played at some retro coffee shops. Usually she sang these same lyrics to some heavy metal tune, more appropriate to her own age, or a show tune or country song. Whatever the psycho manager’s music mood was, she always sang the same lyrics, so far as I know. The other baristas were used to her singing those lyrics, or were in their own worlds, and the other caffeine addicts never seemed to notice. I was in my usual coffee shop in West Hollywood, so I knew most of the others were too intently writing screenplays to listen outside of their earbuds. Thank you, I said, when she slid my double espresso to me. She did it slowly, with her hand shaped suggestively, a surprise, which I knew instantly was a flirtatious gesture, wild and impetuous. After all, she was a sometime actor, and actors like to practice nuanced close-up symbolic acts, as if being filmed. I might be unattractive, but some women find that attractive. I think she did, totally. When I said thank you, she seemed to understand that I meant it at multiple levels from some deep place newly revealed to her alone. I could see her profound understanding in some micro-expression around her downcast eyes. All those months of wearing covid masks made me look hard for emotional tells in a person’s eyes, and in slight changes of tint in their ears. I lifted my espresso with both hands, signaling Zen assurance with overtones of erotic response. Buddha meets Brando. That must have been subtext dynamite, as she seemed hot and bothered when she looked up over my shoulder to the next caffeine addict and sang, what, to the tune of I don’t know what.
Chasing Lamborghinis This year’s Algotoona High School’s mock stock-picking contest wasn’t exciting — at first. Mr. Putter convinced two local stockbrokers to offer $100 to the winner from their marketing budgets, so the stakes seemed modest. But the stakes were far higher than Mr. Putter realized. Word in the boys’ restrooms was that Miriam Lombardo promised to give a hand job to the contest winner, if the winner was a guy, other than Aaron, obviously. The boys in the class did not call Miriam Lombardo Miriam. They called Miriam Lombardo Lamborghini, because she was totally hot and completely out of their league. Two boys in class turned the contest into a personal death match. Billy and Dajuan made one of those silent side-glance challenge bets with each other on who would win the contest — and win the Lamborghini. Mr. Putter had told his Math and Money class about Warren Buffet’s advice to only invest in companies whose products you knew. He also warned against selecting any over-the-counter penny stocks, since most OTC stocks were not real businesses, just scams to fleece people who wanted to get filthy rich without bothering to learn investing basics. But Mr. Putter was just an old teacher, not a young influencer, so Billy selected a OTC cannabis stock, BUZZD. He figured that any stock priced at 1/1000 of a penny per share had a monster load of upside, and no downside. Not with all the weed smokers burning through inventory in high schools across America. Even the chess club nerds were all stoners, which is why Ms. Hinky, the chess club advisor, finally gave up on speed chess. Dajuan had developed crippling difficulties concentrating after puberty, at least when there were girls in the room or on his mind, so he selected XOXO, a can’t-miss OTC company that would disrupt solutions or revolutionize stuff, whatever. He had learned from his English teacher that appearance and reality, like Larry and Janet in his biology class, were not at all interested in each other no matter what people wanted to see. Both Billy and Dajuan had learned in their communications class to “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” Dajuan planned to update his pick-up lines 59 (continued)
accordingly, once the stock-picking contest was over. Like Dajuan himself on the dating scene, XOXO was flying under the radar, with its stock price quietly bobbing between $0.0001 and $0.0002 for the last decade. All the students turned in their choices in sealed envelopes. As soon as Mr. Putter posted the choices, the trash talking began, each student ridiculing the others for making a stupid choice. Nathan got a lot of grief for selecting the boring Kroger grocery chain, but he knew that he would have access to insider information from a friend on the inside, a shelf stocker who knew a lot of stuff. The only students not doing any trash talking or playing grab-ass were Dajuan and Billy. They were focused investors now. They wanted that Lamborghini, and the Lamborghini bragging rights, really, really bad. The first week was volatile, with a girl in the lead who selected a rent-to-own and auto-equity-loan franchise chain that she often heard her parents quarreling over. Her stock pick rose two percent in the first week despite a choppy market. Both Billy and Dajuan panicked at the thought of losing out on the Lamborghini, and both knew they had to up their game. Billy first tried to get the other kids to start buying BUZZD gummy products, but he discovered that the company didn’t actually have any products yet, just a brand name and a big slam dunk dream. That didn’t matter much, because all of the social media buzz predicted explosive share price growth really soon, maybe tomorrow. Urgent social media commenters with account names like BzzBoss and Weedwallah posted several times a day, so they probably knew a lot about the product and the sector, and could be trusted. By the second week, that loser named Laverne was ahead by a wide margin, having chosen FUKU, a patent troll company that just announced their intention to maybe sue Tesla, Meta, Alphabet, IBM, and Congress. Hungry sharks on social media wanted to get in quickly, before the price collapsed, and that drove the price up. Billy and Dajuan were determined to be masters of their own fates, just like that character in that stupid novel they were too busy to read for English class. “Protagonists make things happen,” Mrs. G told the sleepy class. “Maybe you should try it.” 60 (continued)
61 Mr. Putter explained to his class about how FUKU and other OTC meme stocks were pumped and then quickly dumped, mostly by fake social media commentary. Billy and Dajuan paid attention. By that evening, both were frantically and secretly posting fake social media commentary of their own, using dozens of aliases, trying desperately to burst the FUKU bubble. FUKU collapsed fast. Billy now turned his attention to pumping BUZZD and trashing XOXO. Dajuan was diligently doing the opposite. Both stocks rose a little but wavered, then quickly sank under a barrage of bearish posts attacking the bullish posts. On the final trading day of the contest, BUZZD and XOXO had slumped back to $0.0001. Miriam’s parents saw to that, using their secret side hustle, which was running a boiler room employing dozens of paid pumpers and bashers from around the world. The contest winner? Miriam Lombardo won easily, having selected Goldman Sachs. To reward and encourage her, her parents bought her a new Mercedes. Stephen Sossaman is the author of Writing Your First Play (Pearson), and his stories and poems have appeared in such journals as Paris Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Military Review. He is an emeritus professor at Westfield State University in Massachusetts, now living in Burbank, California.
Nothing Was Ever Really the Same Again The first time I realized who I’m really not I was tripping on mushrooms. I had a wordless conversation with the sky – there was this one fluffy cloud I was really vibing with. I laughed out loud, I cried a little; we really understood each other. It was something I had intellectually known for years: I am you/ are we/ are nothing and everything all at once but it’s a truth you can’t grasp entirely, can’t quite believe or understand, like the sheer size of the universe or the near impossibility of our existence. On that day looking up into the shiny blue sky from my 6th floor patio in Brooklyn, in that moment that transcended time and space, what i am/ who i am not danced and swirled and smiled at each other, gentle friends delighted at the thought of a cloud, of a building, of a human with a thinking brain. I rested on the pulse of the universe, I rode its vagus nerve, I felt the weightlessness of being. 62
63 Laura Zaino is a lover of life, finding beauty even when it’s hiding. She has a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from The City College of New York. She’s a wife and a mother of one (one is plenty!) who is getting pretty good at vegan baking. She teaches yoga in NY’s lower Hudson Valley, where you can also find her on the hiking trails. Her self-published poetry collection, Hindsight Notwithstanding, is available on Amazon and can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09SBZ4694?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860 Her work has also appeared in Big City Lit, The Metaworker Literary Magazine, Green Ink Poetry, and Moss Piglet. Follow her on Instagram @onlyhappensonce.
I. I want to know the unrecorded trivialities, who you were in the spaces between everything you left behind, the small moments when you were not great or lost in thought, but when you cut the nib of the dulling quill or washed your stockings or gazed at a face with desire that you were too tired to describe. I want the moments of you that were private then and are irretrievable now, the glances and gait and gossip and the times when you could not fall asleep. I want to bring you back from the dead for one ordinary day, not the days that others seek, when you scratched the words we have memorized fragments of. No, I want the unknowable hour when you wept over the young son gone, the bills to pay, the play undone, or laughed at the unexpected jest, the whispered request, all the minute things that also made you who you were: the harried moment when you did an act of goodness that others did not see, or the way you peed or jerked off in the solitary night. 64 The Unrecorded Hour (continued)
65 I want you with the greediness of the glutton who can never get enough, but I want a meal of all the things that history casts off. II. I want you in the same way I want him, for you, too, are unknowable even though I have sat across from you on bright mornings and late nights and watched your wary glance. It is possible to be near you and yet feel like you are floating, like him, in some dim and distant century. Even when I think I have caught you by surprise, you escape somewhere else so that even the habits I do see only hide you more from me. The raised eyebrow, the groan, the solemn look don’t begin to bring me closer inside or cut through what you feel you must conceal. And even if I saw you in some casual hour of some idle day, when you are who you are only when you know no one is watching, would I know you any better, would something in your eyes give you away? Or would you stay unknowable, too, not wanting to be seen, the you afraid of you? This poem was first published with RavensPerch
Wife Observing Husband After a Night of Not Making Love He is more at home with a hand. The glass door is all concentric impressions going drowsy with the gradual steam. I try to identify the water-dropped shapes— the outline of his fist in a steady slide is the only obvious motion. I am no part of this sex. The mirror, stealth accomplice, reflects his image back to me. His body sways brief as a gasp. Is this enough? It is everything. The glass turns blind as a shade, a white amnesia. I practice my way into sleep, Perfecting my place in this bed. The shower’s rush is loud; like any embarrassment, it is the only sound. Full force, the waters are indistinguishable—one cannot separate the hot, the cold. It is the same with marriage; after years of ironies the difference between what is and what is meant to be blurs with gentle sting like fine water from a spigot. 66
67 Mark Evan Chimsky's poems and essays have appeared in The RavensPerch, Rabble Review, The Poet, Bard & Prose, Poetry for Ukraine, The Jewish Literary Journal, Kind Over Matter, Bullets into Bells, Wild Violet, The Maine Sunday Telegram, The Oakland Review, JAMA, Mississippi Review, The Cincinnati Judaica Review, and The Three Rivers Poetry Journal. Mark is excited to have his poems published in The Parliament. His poetry will also be appearing in upcoming issues of Blood & Bourbon, The Healing Muse 22, and The Sunlight Press. Mark is a recipient of the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award as New/Emerging Poet.
Ocean Gospel I. I will never remember the first time I smelled the ocean. My first breath was so full of brine, pulled down deep into screaming lungs that wrote their own gospel in the salt of mother’s blood that I have forgotten; everything is not a warm sea breeze on a Sunday morning sunrise. II. I run out the red door, framed on two sides by empty planter boxes whose life is held in stasis below ground in places I cannot go. Dressed in Sunday’s best, I forget my rainboots and ruin white tights in the shifting sands, trying to catch octopus in salty pools 68 (continued)
69 abandoned by the tide. III. When my heart broke (the first time) a breeze spun the North Pacific into a frenzy. I stood too close to crashing waves screaming a hurricane from lungs too tired to whisper. Pushed back from the brink with brine and salt, ocean gospel swallowing my tears. KB Baltz was born in a Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea a month early and sideways. She has been doing things backward ever since. You can find her other work in Atlas and Alice, All Worlds Wayfinder, and Bullsh!t Lit.
Quadriptych of Loss I. Estranged The world reopens. Uninvited, I watch from the window. Love blooms on the other side of glass. II. Hollow My hands, head, heart were emptied—but just not in that specific order. III. Specters Ghosts in the garden —tears unwept, words unspoken— haunted my stone heart. VI. Colors of You Don’t worry, my love. I’ll write your poem with marking pens in rainbow hues. 70
71 I swipe— left, left, left, left, right —until the faces look the same, contemplating for whom these algorithms were designed. At the piano bar, Friday night fades, with me in uncomfortable shoes, a vacant smile, composing the grocery list in my head. All this to find Schrödinger’s elusive cat in the desired state, warding against that constant specter: ambiguous loss. Modern Love at 50 Living in Happy Valley, Michele Mekel wears many hats: writer, editor, educator, bioethicist, poetess, cat herder, witch, and woman. With more than 150 published poems, her work has appeared in various academic and creative publications, including being featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac and nominated for Best of the Net. Her poetry has also been translated into Cherokee. She served as co-principal investigator for the Viral Imaginations: COVID-19 project (viralimaginations.psu.edu).
73 Does he choke her still? Is she fighting back, throwing things? Has another window broken? Are his things scattered across the floor? Are more clothes torn? Are the neighbors intervening yet again? And this: How do their minds contrive love from hurt like this when it’s nothing of the sort? Have they taught their children to love and be loved like this? I think of them sometimes but not often.
tit for tat she was just under six foot. she stood curling over me like a tarted-up insect. stringy hands dangled at her lumpy upside-down triangle pelvis. there was the stubbled clam, punching out between concave thighs the same width as her calves. but then there were these two sudden round globes, way past her arm pits, halfway down her rib cage. they hung aloft either side of my head. tiny pink indents for nipples, high up on them, like she had bulging eyes on her chest, with dilated pupils looking up at her, asking “why are we here?” those aren’t real? I prodded one. they can’t be. they are! she said. I slapped one: nothing. no wobble. it didn’t even flinch. was like smacking a small pumpkin or a big apple or some other hard fruit. they’re rock solid, I said. what can I say, she shrugged – made those balloons slide up and down her long bony body – god loves me. god hates you, I said. he made you to be raped. why did he make you? she got down on the fists of her knees. to be raped, she said. now was she kneeling, we were face to face. now those tits were suspended parallel to my dick. I put it between them … you big skinny rape doll, I rutted against her chest. I cupped them, tried to squeeze them together … you’re so fucking insecure you lie about getting a boob job. they were too far apart. I couldn’t get them to meet. it’s obvious, you know. my dick was stranded. it just slapped around in the gap between those 74 (continued)
75 globes. I know it’s obvious, she looked up at me. so why’d you lie about it then? because, she said. I like to pretend god made me this way. It makes me feel better about what I am. like this is my purpose in life. oh yeah? there was no friction, but I was nearly there … and what’s that? what’s your purpose? to be a skinny insecure rape doll, she said. with really fake tits. I started to shake … but you know deep down that god’s really ashamed of you, don’t you? uh huh, she nodded. just like my daddy is. I splattered up her throat, uppercut her chin with seeds … I went off script at the end there, she said. I loved it. thank you. you’re welcome. you well come, he he. yeah, thanks to you, I said, rolling over to face her. you know, the more I degrade you, the more I need you. you know that, don’t you? she didn’t say anything. doms always need subs more than subs need them, I stroked her hair. don’t they? she didn’t say anything. I’m probably patronising you here, but since you did so well, I just thought that you deserved to know that I know that. that’s all. she got up. her hair fell from my fingers. what’s the matter? I said. she went over to the dresser. ripped open a king-size Mars bar and tucked in. being so tall, she ate six or seven times a day. there was always food everywhere. she was always just reaching out and finding something to (continued)
gobble on. it was endearing as hell. she chewed, looking away from me … your daddy pays me to fuck you, I said. she looked up, a bit shocked, cheeks full … sorry, I said. was that too – mmm, no! she swallowed. no! she threw the wrapper away and got back on the bed. does he? yeah, I sighed … well, only a fiver, like. you’re not worth much more than that, are you? ooh my god, her spider hand crawled up her wide fuzzy triangle … daddy sells me cheap, huh? yeah. I video it, so he can watch while your whore mummy sucks him off. oh daddeeee … her knuckles were white at her opening … while I stifled a yawn and I wondered if there were any Mars bars left. 76
77 Tanner was born tomorrow. He's been earning minimum wage, and writing about it, for too long. In fact, he’s so busy slogging away as a working class hero that he probably wouldn’t even notice if his editor mucked up his bio just for taking the piss.
My secrets are my despair and my ecstasy, both. Can I tell you? Would you be aghast? Or would you hold me and laugh with me and feel the elation like a drug? Our little blue pill.
Your words were all I ever needed.