Category
  • High School Night by David Masciotra


    Up against the wall

    We polluted the air with every exhale

    Fumes of alcohol and tobacco

    Dancing to the punk band

    Underneath our noses

     

    It felt good

    To live as

    Criminals

     

    Later in the car my father owned

    You invaded my jeans

    Your delicate hand

    Your nail polish

    The same color as night

    Chipped and messy

     

    I arched my back

    And howled

    At an old man’s open window

     

    Back inside

    The band and their mob

    Like ants out of a sandhill

    Collapsed

    Moving Moving Moving

    I put my arm around you

    Your smile was

    Like cotton candy

     

    Your hair smelled like pot





    David Masciotra is an author, lecturer, and cultural critic. He is the author of Mellencamp: American Troubadour, from the University Press of Kentucky, and Metallica by Metallica, a 33 1/3 book from Bloomsbury Publishers. In 2010, Continuum Books published his first book, Working On a Dream: The Progressive Political Vision of Bruce Springsteen. His newest book, Barack Obama: Invisible Man, was published by Eyewear Publishing in 2017.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Desert Liminal is the Chicago-based dream pop duo of Sarah Jane Quillin and Rob Logan. “Flashbacks” comes from their most recent EP, “Comb For Gold” (Fine Prints, Aug 2018).

  • (for what we are worth) by Chris Barickman


    out-wrought, with-out
    right (ed), and lee-ward
    leaning, blown, left
    ward of this state
    less, establish-ment
    meaning, meant, I
    did, mean and miser
    lee-ward, learnt
    to lean,
    mean, I
    meant, I ween
    off-road, off-hand,
    I comment, relent
    less, than leaning,
    lain, and lied
    to, and fro'
    and from
    me to you, too wise,
    two eyes, plus two
    more is lense to lense-
    -to fly, to swim, at
    four, a pair, one
    to one, and two
    by two, are you
    and me are we
    and us, together?
    ➳ birds, a feather
    dropped, falls, lighter
    in ruffled, up
    turned, crippled wind
    and sin and grains of
    cut glass, a mote
    a mottled-chip
    twisted, spark
    of re-upped, clicked
    flint, a strike
    I might repent,
    return, to send
    me, scuttled, pockets,
    less our change, equates
    two weights, suspended.

     
    This Zine Will Change Your Life previously published deconstruction by Chris Barickman. Check it out.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Grapetooth is the fun Chicago-based duo of Clay Frankel of Twin Peaks and Chris Bailone (aka Homesick), and "Violent" is just the second single of this fairly new pairing.

    We are also happy to share some bonus Barickman drawing and music inspiration below.



     

  • Surveillance by Johnny Fuentes

    Grandpa spits into his mug with a little coffee left inside and watches his phlegm curve into a grin as he tilts it forward. He doesn’t know who I am anymore, but he doesn’t get upset with me either, so I take it there is a fraction of me still left in there. He likes to walk to the river behind our house. He sits at the edge and talks to it and drinks from it. When he walks in, all the way up to his knees, the experience becomes something holy for him. He whispers things that sound like prayers, but if everything were on mute he’d look like he is singing, he’d look like there should be some huge voice coming out of him.
         It’s my job to watch over him ever since he saw my sister wearing a towel and swung at her from his seat in the kitchen when she was pouring herself some OJ. After she locked herself inside her room, he took an antique dueling pistol from the cabinet and stuck the barrel into his eye socket and fiddled with the hammer, dry-shooting it, and then put it over his eye again, pointing the butt of the gun at me while looking down the barrel like a telescope. I was trying to find the words to calm him down, but all I could do was put my hands in the air like I was surrendering. My dad had to put all of his guns inside a safe in the garage.
         I've been taking care of him for months now, the longest job I’ve had— my dad pays me. I fuck up a lot too, and I don’t have something like war or old age as an excuse. My ex said once that watching me trying decide something was like watching a boxing match. She cringed when she said it as if she could see the brutality playing out on my face.
         One day I picked her and her friend Kimmy up and they wanted to go to the beach. I said
    alright, but I need to go to my place to get my shorts, but when we got to my place, instead of getting my shorts I got into bed. It was hot out; I felt the heat from the window sink into my chest, and it was like I was a kid again, feverish and staying home sick from school. I’d miss weeks at a time and puke into double-stuffed grocery bags and my mom would rub my back at night because I had just watched Alien and it felt like something was about to eat its way out through my shoulder blade. Each time I dreamt I saw its miniature face chewing away inside my lung, not in a big rush like the movie, but slowly, as if it were dining at a fancy restaurant. My girlfriend was standing in the doorway in her bathing suit asking me if I was ready yet. Her top looked like it was made of black rubber ribbons that lashed across her chest, and the bottom pressed into her hips, bundling her ass together into a bubble. I asked her to come over. I was facing the opposite direction in which I slept, with my feet at my pillow. Come over here, put yourself against me, I said. I tilted my head back, looked up, and watched her body above me and the way she looked down on me. She looked huge and god-like when the black fabric around her crotch rubbed against my forehead.  
         We all watched an action movie instead of going to the beach, they were still in their bathing suits. Kimmy was kind of pissed and retaliated by biting her nails and spitting them quietly on the floor, and I sat on the couch and stared at the screen and waited— sometimes their bodies sprayed blood like they were punctured cans of aerosol and sometimes they whispered things to each other while crouched in strange places, and I waited.

     
    Johnny Fuentes is a writer and graduate student in the MFA Creative Writing program at Miami University. He lives in Oxford, Ohio with his ferret, Olivia.

    Street Artist is possibly Banksy (but it's equally possible that it's Jerry Saltz and/or accomplices pranking him).
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Deeper is a post-punk band from Chicago and "Pink Showers" is the first single from their forthcoming self-titled debut album (Fire Talk Records, May 25th).
  • history ever repeats (a brief history of six relationships) by Jim Warner


    “If you really wanted to screw me up, you should’ve gotten to me earlier.”

     ~ Rob Gordon (High Fidelity)

    1.
    A field trip. Rittenhouse Square.
    Picked a daisy; pushed it through
    a buttonhole.  Blue coat.  February
    weather.  You were glacial.
    Hands froze to your collar.  You.
    Detached. Contract like veins.

    2.
    A plural possessive.  Our dorm room couch.
    Petals wilting in waterless bottles. You
    were drunk.  Your father’s birthday. No
    cake.  Just candles.  Listen to Dead
    Flowers; turnover like vinyl in my sleep.  

    3.
    A coffee cup found in the grass.
    Overtaken. High tides and ragweed.  Your
    sewing machine hums unfamiliar songs. My
    car. Picture of Provincetown sewn into hems.
    Poems in spilled wine and broken dishes.

    4.
    A borrowed pickup truck.  Thirty-three.  
    I had already been to Stillwater. Camped
    in the shadow of St. Louis.  Their diamond
    anniversary. We grow, contract. Expand.
    Returned my heart to the stripmines.  You
    dated flea markets and auctions.

    5.
    A cancer left nothing but an empty bed.

    6.
    A pigeon feather.  Fire escapes into blind alleys.
    Roses in a dumpster.  Broken vase smashed
    into fake diamonds.  Iceless fingers. Muzzle flash.
    We got quiet.  Like snow still falling.  I’m awake.
    It’s just coffee.  Blood dries like ink. Contract.
    A different you.

     

    Jim Warner's writing has appeared in various journals including The North American Review, RHINO Poetry, Heavy Feather Review. He is the author of two prior collections, Too Bad It's Poetry and social studies (PaperKite Press). Warner is the host of the literary podcast Citizen Lit and teaches poetry in Arcadia University's MFA program.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Fyans is a London-based R&B band and "Two Birds" is debut single. 


    "history ever repeats (a brief history of six relationships)" was published in its original form/title (Six Flowers from Now) in the Dr. TJ Eckleburg Review back in 2014. We're honored to reprint it in its current form in celebration of the forthcoming release of Warner's new poetry collection Actual Miles.

  • Shifting Junes by James Croal Jackson

    you forgot my name in the white smoke of phantasmagoria
    every transparent slide a memory under blankets of sweat
    my voice the fan’s whirred whisper
    and you the sun every season

     


    James Croal Jackson is the author of The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). His poetry has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Rust + Moth, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. He has won the William Redding Memorial Poetry Contest and is founding editor of The Mantle. Find him in Columbus, Ohio or here.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Darlingside is an electro-folk band based in Cambridge, MA. This is the first single from their forthcoming LP, Extralife, which is due out in Feb. 2018.

  • Early Morning Train by Alex Kudera

    The night before, I became someone I once vowed to never be—the enraged consumer, returning a twelve-dollar burger twice to the kitchen. In protest of its eternally rare pink midsection, I refused to pay. I told the manager, a wide and hostile woman, I wanted a burger perfectly medium well for the significant sum of twelve dollars. She said “fine,” snarled at me, and strode away. In shame, I left the bar.

    Before you accuse me of being a big fat liar, I wanted to admit I turned 36 last June. This all happened early in the morning. Too early. It took place on public transportation. I was late for class. On the crowded trolley, close to the back, I sat by a man manipulating himself—but a stab of flesh exposed—and so across the aisle I shifted and sat in gum. Blackened by dirt, it was the kind that stuck to the pants my mother had cleaned and pressed for me a couple weeks back. This was the second time I wore them. I said, “Fuck,” softly but aloud. I noticed the crusty punk next to me seemed pleased by this. Was she pleased a grown man in his mother’s pressed pants would curse aloud? Or was she merely pleased I sat in the kind that stuck? I can’t answer that, but I can tell you I sat there with an overstuffed book bag and all of my weight on one thigh until the crowded trolley emptied out at 30th Street Station. After that I moved to an empty two-seater and waited my turn. As the crusty punk departed at 19th, I could read all but the last half letter of the words on the back of her green tee: “College is a scar” is what I saw. Yep, she had the book on me.

    At 15th, I descended, turned right, ascended, turned right, descended, and walked all the way down, past the elevated line to the furthest steps for the Northbound local of the Broad Street subway. Subterranean Philadelphia stunk. Down the final stairwell, I missed my train and saw a SEPTA guy guarding an innocent book bag, which in this case was labeled a suspicious package. He told me to move ten yards back. So I did, where I looked for gum on a silver metal bench and then sat. A minute later, I took out a pen and napkin and started scribbling notes about gum adversity on the Green Line, and a minute after that, a man blasting music too loud for his headphones showed up with his 5-year-old son. They plopped down right next to me. The father was grooving to the beat, physically moving his body to the music coming out of the headphones. His elbow occasionally knocked against mine. The son was on his other side. I couldn’t see him.

    The son said to the father: “Dad.”
    He said it again, louder, “Dad.”
    He said it a third time, maybe even grabbing Dad’s arm, or so I imagined.
    “What is it?”
    “Can I listen too?”
    “No, son. No way you can listen to this music.” Dad put the headphones back on and returned to the groove.

    On the other side of my brain, I was mulling over an old expression, which may even be a cliché to some, but has been an endless puzzle to me: “Always treat children like adults, and adults like children.” I turned to the twosome and tried to see if this saying would help me understand a grown man blasting music in his ears while ignoring his small child. Did the father do the right thing by telling the son he couldn’t listen to the music? Was the father preparing the son for a lonely world in which you have to bring your own tunes on public transportation? Was this then treating him like an adult, the way you’re supposed to treat a child? Or did the father do the wrong thing by censoring the music, telling the son he was too young, a child, and that the music was for adults only. Should he have let the son
    listen to the music, and then explain all of the lyrics and why they were inappropriate to share with children?

    I peered as far as I could without appearing too obvious. I tried to get a look at the kid, to see his expression. The boy looked sad. I thought of my own father who split at three but almost never wore headphones and blasted music throughout his house while smoking pot aplenty right in front of me at five, and then to discourage me from smoking sharing regular cigarettes at seven, and even by accident taking me to see Barbarella by age nine. The authorities, my older sister anyway, claim “breast” was my first word and maybe that’s why Jane Fonda with wings made perfect sense to me. Indeed, when I was a child, it was the age of real ones, and my father often treated me like an adult.

    I got out another napkin and started scribbling notes down about parenthood. Little things I wanted to do better. So I wrote, “Avoid divorce at all costs.” Then, I remembered that at 36, I’m childless and I haven’t even the measliest bush, I mean bird, in hand, and somehow precisely that fact brings photographic images of virginity lost over 15 years ago, when I was 20, to a generous Jewish woman and in fact, five years previous to that, at 15, I first got tongue, again from a Jewish girl, and even fifteen years previously, I sense a pattern here, as you now know, I was practically born a boob.

    So I changed strategies and upon the napkin began scribbling, in
    1000 characters or less, what I first wanted the wife to know about me. On my jdate profile. I’d set up my account after reading in a conservative periodical that due to False Idols in reconstructionist synagogues there were free radicals in copious quantities-- liberal Jewish women that is—highly educated and earning good bank. It was time to leap away from the early a.m. hustle, and over to a suitable house-husbanding gig.

    I wrote, “I do not believe listening to loud music while ignoring one’s 5-year-old is an effective parenting strategy. But I’m extremely grateful for the lost virginity, the teenage tongue, and the tit from Mom. Although I’ve been out in the world for a while—caught up in the usual pan-Asian cuisine, East or South, 7—11, my first gig and so allowed to say it, work, overtime, the real-estate game, grading papers, even the blonde, blue-eyed traditional infatuation which upon our second date, in our fourth hour together, I’ll argue stridently against; okay, no, I will not admit to two timing, any sort of ménage a trois and there was nary, a red hot Latina lover, and the closest I had to rough trade was a talented and cultivated African American princess, but yes, okay, there were strip clubs and men’s clubs, maybe one or two true-blue fag joints in between but the lone barroom brawl was only to protect my good name. What? Can’t you use that sixth or seventh word back on the World Wide Web? I didn’t mean cigarettes or marijuana or any other dating simulation—Oy Vey! It’s so confusing but in conclusion, I’m your typical casual male, mixed up, mixed ethnic, a bit unsettled but interested in settling down—not particularly so much on this subway bench—God damn it all! I owe everything to Jewish women! I can produce! I will deliver! I think.”

    And then I crossed out “I think,” and not only because I wanted to end
    on that lightning rod of a note but because I could hear the train approaching, I shoved my pen back in my book bag, stuffed the napkin deep in the pocket of my gum-stuck pants, sprung alert from my seat and read on the billboard, “Labels are for packages, not people” and saw that McDonald’s depicts fresh, leafy lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and fine slices of unblemished apples in their advertising, as I stepped forward to gain good position for boarding the train. But in doing so, lusting over those apples, their browning apparently airbrushed away, I tripped over an old lady’s walker, which I noticed as I turned back to figure out why I was stumbling
    too quickly forward and about to fall flat in front of the train. Death on the
    tracks. Staring back at the survivor of my accident, I saw the old lady shared my look of guilt and horror--at what her walker had inadvertently caused or what my last writing on napkin would be? (All that pejorative filth and 7—11 absolution.) But just in the nick of time, Headphones Dad leaped up, grabbed both sides of my jacket and pulled me right into him. We stumbled back against the bench, almost but not quite directly into his son.

    His son was okay. I was okay. I didn’t even look at the old lady. The train stopped. I thanked the man. Profusely. Three more times. People left the train. He said, “No problem” every time. I told him I really meant it, I really, really meant it and was about to offer free conversation or tutoring for the kid when I realized this would call attention to the aforementioned parenting concern. “I never wanted to offend anyone” was all I said. The father looked at me quizzically and then helped his son board the train. The boy saw the whole thing and clearly recognized that his father saved a stranger’s life. “You okay, little man?” was all the father said to the boy. The
    boy beamed proudly. Proud of Dad.

    On the platform where my life was saved, I vowed never again to
    become someone I didn’t want to be. In fact, from that day forward, I planned to leave twenty minutes earlier, to slowly and methodically journey on public transportation, to smile at those impressionable minds as I strode into class each morning on time. I would become more like my savior; even during rush hour, he could see what was important and knew how to live.

    Back to literature, I tried to reconcile with myself over whether or not I should depict the man as a good father in the story. Should I leave out the headphones? Maybe not in the story version, but certainly to sell the script? I couldn’t decide.

    Whew.

    Life sure was one heck of a near-death situation. And then, just in time, I remembered to board the train.



    Alex Kudera is the author of the original adjunct novel, Fight for Your Long Day, and a comic crime novel, Auggie's Revenge. He has taught literature and writing in Pennsylvania, Ohio, South Carolina, and China.

    Street Art by Reddymade.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Formed in the Winter of 2016, the Chicago-based, grunge-influenced Bunny, fronted by Jessica Viscius, is already impressing local listeners with their debut EP, Sucker.
  • the star would come by bl pawelek

    on no moon nights
    i could see it
    from the west
    past the glow venus

    not burning through our sky

    but coming slowly and direct

    unnoticeable


    the star would come
    to rest in my hand
    as i asked


    you would be tied to it
    pulling it away
    you would be tied to it
    but i would stay

    staring into the darkness beyond

     

    bl pawelek's bio once read in part, right now bl pawelek is hiking in the Minnesota woods thinking of you, glaciers and the quicklysetting sun. We think that still works.

    This Zine Will Change Your Life previously published santa rosa / larkfield by bl pawelek. Check it out.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Maggie Rogers is a Maryland based singer/songwriter and "Alaska" is taken from the ep "Now That The Light is Fading."

  • I Was Thinking Of You by Michael Onofrey

    I’d been watching the weather channel for a couple of hours when I got a phone call.

    Hi, James. I . . . I was thinking of you. How are you?

    Fine. And you? I was thinking of you too.

    Really? Oh, I’m okay. You sound different.

    Well, it’s been awhile.

    Your voice. Is something wrong? Do you have a sore throat or something?

    Maybe. No, I don’t think so. I feel fine. Hey, you want to get together? I moved. I’m over here in Ocean Park now, near Main and Pier.

    I think I have the wrong James.

    No, you have the right James.

    Who am I?

    You are you. Who else could you be?

    What’s my name?

    It’s right on the tip of my lip. If I saw your face, I’d remember. Or we could meet at your place. My place or yours, either one is fine with me. Or, if you like, we could meet at a neutral place. How about sushi? It’s a balmy night. What could be better than sushi and beer, Japanese beer? My treat. Or, if you like, we could split the bill. You know, some people like to do that.

    I got the wrong number.

    No, you don’t. You got the right number. By the way, how old are you?

    You must be sick.

    I told you. I feel fine. Listen, I don’t remember how old I was when we last saw each other, but I’m forty-one now. Does that put us in the correct ballpark? Anywhere from eighteen to about forty-four would work.

    You’re one of those sick weirdos. I’m going to hang up.

    Hey, wait a minute. You called me. You can’t hang up. I was sitting here, watching TV, and my cellphone buzzed. You said you had been thinking about me, and, as it was, I had been thinking about you. So what’s the problem? Let’s get together. It’s only seven-thirty.

    I can’t believe it.

    I’m a nice guy, and you’re a nice woman. I don’t mean to rush things, but just to reassure you, I firmly believe in safe sex. And, I’m not a racist or anything. I happen to be white, but I don’t have any sort of problems with brown or black or whatever.

    How about with white?

    Of course white’s fine. Are you white?

    You mean, you don’t know if I’m brown or black or white? I thought you knew me.

    I’m so nonracist that your race slipped my mind. I don’t pay attention to someone’s skin pigment or race or ethnic background. I don’t even care if they went to college or not. I hardly pay attention to someone’s name. After all, what’s in a name? I pay attention to who a person is.

    Do you pay attention to sex, as in male or female?

    Well, yes, I do. I’m male and I like females. I mean, I like males too, but not in a sexual way. And I’m glad you brought up the subject of sex. I’d like to get back to that real quick, but for now I want to say that I imagine you know that I’m male, and I can tell your female, right?

    How about weight?

    Weight? Well sure, if you want to get into dimensions. I’m six-one and weigh one-seventy. How about you?

    Silence . . . I got an idea.

    What’s that?

    If you give me your number, although I kind of already have it, but anyway, if you give me your number, I’ll think things over and maybe I’ll call you back. Then it’ll be kind of like a real phone call.

    I see. Okay, here’s my number . . . Do you got it? Repeat it back to me, just to make sure.

    . . .

    That’s right. Okay, I’ll be waiting for your phone call.

    Right. But what’s your name?

    We don’t need to go over that again, do we? How about you, what’s your name?

    If I call you back, I’ll tell you my name. So . . . goodbye.

    Goodbye. I’ll be waiting for your call. I really will. But just one more thing.

    What’s that?

    I love you.

    I sit, and I look at the TV, which is on mute. I always keep the weather channel on mute because it allows me to think better.

     

    The End


     

    Michael Onofrey grew up in Los Angeles, or so his age, regarding "grew up," would indicate. Currently he lives in Japan, as his surroundings attest to. A novel, "Bewilderment," was recently published by Tailwinds Press.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Swim Good Now is the music of Jon Jasper-Lawless and this is the first single from his forthcoming LP Daylight which will be released on Ryan Hemsworth’s Secret Songs Label.

  • COMMISSIONERS FOR LOST LOVE by John Grey

    If you want to see
    the commissioners for lost love,
    better have her photo handy,
    before and after if you have them.
     
    Grievances, details,
    don't mean a damn thing.
    It's all in the voice, in the face.
    We commissioners
    are expert gleaners.

    If you've written poetry,
    so much the better.
    Bring that too.
    Your lies say so much.
    Your wounds, your scars,
    are tattletales from way back.

    Now, keep in mind,
    we're not gravediggers,
    or forensic scientists,
    or witches, wizards, casting spells.

    We just make pronouncements,
    some silly, others profound,
    usually unrelated to your problems.
     
    We're merely a sounding board
    that's deaf to most of what you tell us,
    pontificators with theories
    untested and untried.

    We were like you once, heartbroken,
    came to see the commissioners.
    We stayed on.
    You should too.
    We're always hiring.

    The pay?
    Remember,
    if you've got this far,
    you've paid already.

    ;



    John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Front Range Review, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Naugatuck River Review, Abyss and Apex and Midwest Quarterly.

    Mural in Queens, NY by multiple artists.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Michael Nau (Page France, Cotton Jones)  released a solo LP earlier in 2017, but this month has dropped a new EP called The Load. “Diamond Away” is one of the standout tracks on this soulful EP. 

  • Stop Me If I've Told This Before by Emily Butler

        It was the last day of the semester, the first time we said goodbye. I was helping him move out, an easy task given how little he owned. Transferring piles of his clothes to a hamper, I found a pair of girl’s underwear. Knowing him, they’d been sitting on his floor since before we started dating.
         I tried to give him a chance to hide them but heard his voice echo against bare walls:  “I found a pair of your underwear.” He handed me the lace panties. I put them in my back pocket. Touching a stranger’s underwear bothered me but seemed like the best option. 
         “Those are yours, right?” he asked. 
         “Yeah,” I said.  
         “That would have been bad,” he said.  
         We laughed.


    Emily F. Butler is a high school librarian by day, stand-up comedian by night. She lives in western Massachusetts and her work is forthcoming in Bone Parade.

    Street Artist unkown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Chicago’s Pixel Grip is the electro-pop duo of Jon Freund and Rita Lukea, and “Golden Moses” is their latest single.