Variations on Desert Life
He sidles up, flicks his tongue
Between the words: What do you want,
A nice gig, a nice house, a yard, a basement
You can do over, a car for your wife, one
For your daughter, one for your son, a big
TV to watch the game, hi-definition
Popcorn for the whole gang, a dog and cat
That hug the couch, is that it? Why not
Say so? Why not get something like that,
Safe and traditional, comfortable, easy,
Something real that makes it worth it, that
Provides the kind of certainty you can touch,
Listen to, you can see. You can always pay
Later, stretch it through the years. Even if
Something goes south, you lose your job,
You come down with something, you
Can always get something to keep yourself
Going, flipping burgers, watching shadows,
You can always make money. Well? You
Only live once. What do you say, huh?
I want my little seed
Of money to grow a tree
That come hard times
I’ll shake for its dimes
And dollars and splurge
Which rhymes with urge
To be replaced by stuff—
If that’s all there ever was,
It’s just not enough.
Richard Chetwynd is the author of two full length books, Heroic Age and Turkeys & Peacocks, and four chapbooks. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and teaches literature and writing at Emerson College.
Clare’s in the Joint
Clare’s the one woman in the audience at a strip joint.
On stage, it’s all bouncing breasts and G-strings
while she’s bundled up in a winter coat
sipping on a chilly bottle of Coors.
Don’t look to her for pole-dancing,
to shove her butt in the bulging eyes
of the fire-breathing front-row clan.
No lip-licking, no thumping the air
with her sideways thighs.
There’s no tease in her, no shamelessness.
Her body’s not for sharing,
not with the guys, not even with herself.
She just wants a drink
and this is the only place that’s open.
And she goes unnoticed.
To this clientele, a woman’s a woman
if she’s dancing on a table, not just sitting at one.
That doesn’t bother her. In her past,
there’ve been men that have tried it on.
Even a woman as butch as bulldog.
She’s never been sure what they want of her.
What’s up on the stage? Then they’re wasting their time.
Or what her mother gives to the bully she married.
She’d rather keep company with a toad.
A dancer sidles up to her, spies the bulge of
her breasts, steps discretely away.
The stripper wonders what’s a woman doing in a place like this.
Then forgets all about it. Clare’s not part of her routine.
John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident. His work has been recently published in Hawaii Pacific Review, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty Magazine, with work upcoming in Blueline, Willard and Maple and Clade Song.
The Dutch talk with a hot potato in the mouth,
while Danes are gargling with porridge.
Spanish is pebbles rattling in a tin can;
Portuguese the same, half filled with water.
The Queen’s English is sharp hail on a greenhouse —
at least it’s clear, to compensate for the chaotic spelling.
Americans are sloppy; especially in the South,
mouths anaesthetised by corn liquor.
Jamaican patois is sinuous women and Hawaiian guitars —
but Bahamian is an angry chef chopping carrots.
Robin Helweg-Larsen’s poetry is published internationally. His chapbook Calling The Poem is available as a free download from Snakeskin Poetry Webzine, issue 236. He is Series Editor for Sampson Low’s “Potcake Chapbooks — Form in Formless Times.”
Icarus In Our Time
Down, down he sails, arms out,
legs spread, screaming toward the ground
at terminal velocity. How does it go
from here? He hits the ground
like a pheasant full of buckshot,
gets up, brushes himself off, then
struts over to his girlfriend’s house
before waking to light through
thin curtains. Such dreams are
the most exciting part of his day.
Or, he pulls the ripcord and
a gaily colored canopy pops
above him, and he drifts gently
swaying down. Or it doesn’t.
Or, at the “last minute,”
a bungee cord plucks him from
“certain death,” and he bounces
like a sine wave with decreasing
amplitude. Or it breaks.
Or just before the big ledge
the rope comes taut, and
he can laugh about it with his
climbing partner. Or there is no rope.
Or he simply splashes into
the bay from the bridge. The body
doesn’t surface for some time.
Joe Fitschen taught writing and philosophy at Lassen Community College in northeast California for many years until he retired and moved to New York to marry the fair Rosamond.
A Glorious Mystery
in so many ways
the voices lie
but you never know this
until you do
it could be a man
whose throat your mind crushed
in its bloodless fingers
a hundred times . . .
but he begins to fall
from a ledge
and something reacts
to pull a string
to reach out your hand
to grasp his wrist
and feel the panic pulse
just beneath the skin
as you brace yourself
Brian Rihlmann lives in Reno, Nevada. He writes about the inner and outer worlds, and the fuzzy intersections thereof. He has been published in many magazines. His book, Ordinary Trauma, (2019) was published by Alien Buddha Press.
Did you carefully select your skirt?
And did you carefully select the stones?
Did you rub each one, feeling its smoothness
against your skin? Did you put them
carefully into your pockets, making sure
the weight was even? And as you made
your final walk, did the words you needed—
words that the rest of us still cannot find—
float through your head? Or, for once,
were you without words, allowing yourself
to flow downstream for the first time?
Diane Elayne Dees has two poetry chapbooks forthcoming. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana, also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women's professional tennis.
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